"We can go neither east nor north, except at peril of meeting the very army we evaded."
"But if the tracked become the trackers, we could be of aid to our brothers."
"We have elf-maids, and little ones. And others who will not lift a sword," Curufin added, casting a dark look upon his son.
"Also, there is the balrog."
"That, too. We do not even know if Himring still stands."
"Maedhros will stand."
"Still, we cannot go that way."
"South, then. Or west."
His lips twisted in a half-smile. "Those would seem to be the choices left to us, seeing as we have ruled out north and east. Unless you imagine another direction - up, perhaps? You always did confuse that with north."
"Your humour is as foul as your odour, dear brother." Celegorm took his water-skin and stood up.
"Do not go into the river, Turko."
A bath would serve him well, but he could not wade into the Aros for the Girdle of Melian and the Celon ran red with blood and debris. Days of wearing mail with a dirt-encrusted undervest had rubbed his right shoulder raw. He unfastened the buckles that held the mail in place. He could see movement in the forest beyond the river as Celegorm knelt to fill his water-skin. The Iathron meant to be seen. (1)
Celegorm stood. "Is the enchantment of your witch not enough? You would sooner raise arms against Elves than against the foul creatures of Morgoth. You call us Kinslayers, but you are no better."
An arrow whistled overhead, close enough to stir Celegorm's hair in its draught. Celegorm reached for his sword and started forward.
"Stop him," Curufin said to Celebrimbor, "before he does something more foolish than usual." Gingerly, he loosened the mail from his raw shoulder.
Celebrimbor descended swiftly to the river bank and took Celegorm by the arm. "Had he intended to hit you, his arrow would have found its mark," Curufin heard him say. "Still, I think he would let a fool drown himself in the river."
Celegorm twisted out of his grip. "It is not enough that we must protect you as an elf-maid or child, but you will be insolent, too."
Curufin laughed. "You probably should not have called their queen a witch." He threw his mail at Celebrimbor. "Do something about this."
By noon, Celebrimbor had set up a forge for repair of swords and armour. "Work the weaponry most in need of repair. We shall not tarry long here," Curufin ordered. Ignoring Celebrimbor's sarcastic retort, he went in search of the lieutenants to see that all was well and that their camp was well guarded. He had not seen Celegorm - who should have made these rounds with him - in hours. He had gone off to sulk, most likely, or to chase some maiden. Considering his luck at the latter, his skill would be better used at the hunt.
He was not to be found with the elf-maids doing the wash along the banks of the Aros. Beyond a cloak hung for privacy, he could hear the giggles of maids pouring water over one another in an attempt to wash off the dirt.
"Give me your clothing, híren, and I will wash them," an elf-maid called. (2)
"I fear that without the dirt, nothing would remain of them," he laughed. Clean clothing would have been small comfort against dirty skin. He could hardly bear his own stink, but the discomfort fuelled the fire in his heart. He would have a bath when he had a tub of finely-hewn marble in which to bathe. Their people would not become a wandering folk, led by dispossessed lords pretending to a greatness lost.
In a clearing not far from the edge of camp, two youths had made a target of sorts and were taking turns at a game of pelicorma. The game was near to its end and the young archers now vied for the tiny circle at the centre of the ring. Several older elves stood by, watching or wagering on the game with extra boots and cloaks. (3)
The taller of the youths hit the middle of the target, to the cheers or groans - depending on their fortune - of the onlookers.
The second youth lifted his chin and took his place. "You have not yet won, Cristiúl." He took aim, held his breath, and shot. His arrow sliced neatly beside Cristiúl's arrow, knocking it to the ground. "I vellphen gritha i vabed!" (4)
To the strong go the spoils. Curufin smiled grimly to himself before addressing the party. "Your arrows would be better spent in pursuit of game, and your hands more useful at the forge."
The youths and their elders dispersed, perhaps spurred by his dark and brooding frown. In truth, he had already forgotten the indolent elves - but not their game.
Celegorm had gone hunting after all - with success, if one were to judge by the bloodied rags left in a heap by the fire. Engrossed in the balance of some fletching spread out before him, he sniffed with disgust at Curufin's return. "Oh, it is only you, Curvo. I feared an orc had come into our camp."
"Do you remember the game taught to us as children learning to shoot?"
"Pelicorma? What of it?"
"Another arrow has taken the eye of the target, but we have the last shot." He looked slyly at Celegorm. "If the runner from the western front told the story aright, we shall find Nargothrond without King or successor."
"I hardly think our cousin would refuse us succour, even were he present. But I am not of a mind to grovel and stoop to his steward like a beggar."
Truly, his brother was as slow to think as he was quick to rise. "Does our House not own the eldest blood?" Curufin said with a thin smile. "We stoop to no one." (5)
Celegorm twirled a feather in his fingers. "What fortune, if lords in need of a kingdom should find a kingdom in need of a king."
"Indeed. I think we shall go west, brother." He sat down on the tattered cloak that served as his bed. "I think west will suit us very well."
(1) Iathron (S)
This is presumably the male singular of the collective plural Iathrim, people of Doriath.
(2) híren (S)
my lord, from hîr, lord and -en, my (suffixed form)
(3) pelicorma (Q)
'around the ring', from pel-, to go around and i corma, the ring. The game is loosely based on 'Around the Clock', a darts game.
(4) "I vellphen gritha i vabed!" (S)
To the strong go the spoils, lit. 'The strong one reaps the seizing': vellphen is constructed from bell, strong (lenited to vell following i, the), and the liquid mutation of pen, one; gritha (lenited from critha as a verb following its subject) is the present tense of critha-, to reap; vabed (lenited from mabed following i) is the gerund of mab-, to seize.
(5) "Does our House not own the eldest blood?"
This was inspired by Curufin's words in 'The Lay of Leithian':
'but one by right
is thine (and ours), the jewel of light;
another may be won-a throne.
The eldest blood our house doth own.' (The Lays of Beleriand p 284 pub Ballantine/Del Rey)
Curufin loses a great deal of his importance and character in The Silmarillion. In the earlier lay, Tolkien notes that the outing on which Lúthien was discovered was intended to intercept Felagund - in other words, the brothers quite wilfully intended Finrod's death. Further, Tolkien writes, it is Curufin who put evil into Celegorm's heart. (Ibid p 293) Christopher Tolkien makes an interesting observation with regard to the relationship between the brothers: It is clear from line 2324 ff. that Celegorm has some authority - or is felt by Curufin to have some authority - that Curufin lacks. (Ibid p 294) Lines 2324 and 2325, found on p 284, read as follows:
'At least thy profit it would be
To know whether dead he is or free (emphasis mine)
Hence, the need to prod his brother into taking action - evidently, as the younger of the two, Curufin is subordinate to Celegorm, at least in the eyes of the Nargothrondrim.
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