They said I very much resembled my father. But the one who is swallowed alive cannot really be like the one who is doing the swallowing, however lovingly it is done.
'Our brother has come home', said Tyelko to me, as I came in.
There was that familiar slight stress on the word our again. Our brother, our mother, our grandfather... Not mine, he seemed to be saying—as if because I was Atar's favourite, I wasn't going to be allowed a share in anyone else.
I certainly wasn't allowed a share in Nelyo. Apparently, when the others were my age, he had basically been around all the time. Now he was often away—at the palace or, sometimes, all over Valinor. When he came home, they pounced on him, each in their own way. Macalaure, for example, would quietly attach himself to him like glue for a day or so. But of course everyone else's reactions to Nelyo's arrival would pale before Atar's. Either there would be a rapturous welcome, followed hard on its heels by thunderous disapproval, or it would be the other way around; Atar's feelings regarding Nelyo were always mixed nowadays and never anything less than vehement. They rocked the household.
Whatever all the fuss was about—and mostly I didn't even know and wasn't told—I was on Atar's side, of course. I had never really been offered any other side to be on. I tended to view Nelyo with rather a distant sort of regret.
This time was no different. That evening there was shouting to be heard from Atar's study. The atmosphere over supper was strained, Nelyo looking distinctly subdued.
In the morning I got up early; Telperion was fading and Laurelin only just beginning to blossom. Nobody else was around, and the house was quiet and peaceful. I wandered out into the garden and decided to climb the apple tree. I found an apple that was almost ripe and a comfortable bough and sat with my back against the trunk, meditatively chewing.
There were stirrings in the house. Nelyo emerged from the back door, his hair still tousled. He leaned against the kitchen wall and blinked thoughtfully. Then, it seemed, he spotted me. Slowly he made his way across to the tree and stood beneath my bough. I looked at him and went on chewing.
He tentatively smiled at me and began: 'Ah, Curvo...'
'Nelyo!', yelled Tyelko from somewhere in the house.
'Curvo!', shouted Atar from another room.
Nelyo winced and ran his fingers through his hair, trying to tidy it.
And that was basically how it went. We acquired a long history of conversations that had not taken place. They practically all ended before they had properly begun because somebody wanted something from Nelyo. For a long time I didn't even notice that he had also practically always been the one who tried to initiate them.
When I finally did realize, I thought about it for a while. Then I picked the very best of the jewels I had made in my lessons with Atar in the forge. I managed to find Nelyo on his own, for once, and showed it to him.
'Why, Curvo, that's brilliant! You've already outdone by far anything that I could do at that age!'
Ouch. But his praise was knowledgeable, Nelyo's grasp of the theory considerably surpassing his practical skills, and seemed sincere.
'You can have it, if you like', I said casually.
'Yes, I've made lots more like it.'
'Why, thank you, Curvo!'
But he gave it away almost immediately. I was there when it happened. It was at some kind of party or gathering, a lord that Nelyo seemed to think important.
'Did you know how talented my youngest brother is? Look, this is one of the jewels he made.'
Admiring noises from the lord.
'You can have it. Yes, certainly you can. He's made others like it, and he can easily make more.'
Atar, who was within earshot, looked at me quizzically.
At that moment, I was furious, although I said nothing. But almost right away I started getting commissions, a little like Atar himself, if on a very much smaller scale. I calmed down considerably after that. So, a while later, I made up my mind to try again. This time, I didn't choose something I'd already made. By then, I was working more independently and didn't spend all hours in the forge directly under Atar's eye.
It turned out to be even more difficult to get Nelyo by himself this time. When I finally managed, I held the copper circlet out to him with the words: 'Don't give this away. It's specially designed for your hair.'
He gave me a quick look, opened his mouth and shut it again. He studied the circlet. Then he reached up and untied his hair.
'There is no mirror in this room', he said. 'Will you put it on for me?'
I carefully set it in place and stepped back. I had used no jewels or any other extraneous ornaments, but the circlet was as intricate as I could make it, its filigree almost as fine as his hair and woven from several shades of copper alloy. It looked exactly how I had imagined it would look.
'It looks just right', I said with pride.
Nelyo, who had been watching me carefully, smiled.
From then on, he wore it almost every day; in fact, he wore it always, unless Atar had given him something to wear for a major feast day or he was engaged in an activity that might have damaged it. I hadn't counted on his doing that. Almost it felt as if he had turned the tables on me again. I had meant to make him obliged to me for the gift, but now it was as if I was obliged to him for wearing it. But this time it didn't matter—this time I had gained what I really wanted, a stake in him. However many conversations we failed to have—and we regularly continued to fail to have them—I would look at him across the table, across the room, and he would be wearing the copper circlet I'd made for him. My brother, mine, not just Macalaure's and Tyelko's and Carnistir's.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.