Curunír sat on the workbench beside the elf named Fëanor, turning his latest invention over in his hands. They were child's toys, he realized, but cunningly made and patterned after animals he had once seen in the south of Valinor. He guessed that one was for Maedhros and the other for the child Nerdanel would soon give birth to. Made from pounded tin covered in cotton-wool and clothes not unlike what a child might wear, he could have almost mistaken it for one of the stuffed dolls one could buy from the street vendors in Tirion. Almost, but not quite, for it had a great key sticking out of its back. Turning it slowly, Curunír heard the gears turning within, and when the monkey's arms moved clanging its symbols together, he laughed in surprise.
"Ingenious," he said as he set the mechanical creature down on the work table – only to be surprised once more when the toy's legs moved up and down. Curunír clapped his hands together as it wobbled across the table. "I have never seen something so well-engineered," he said. Reaching out, he set it on the table so its gears could run out without the monkey marching off the table. "But why expend so much energy on a child's toy?" he asked. "Surely there are artisans who would be well-pleased to have their tools driven by cogs? They would have paid you handsomely."
"Spoken like a man who has never held a child in his arms," Fëanor said. Curunír studied him, then; the elf fairly glowed with joy. He had never seen Fëanor thus, for all he had seen him beam with pride over one new creation after another. Then, as if he remembered his companion was one of the Ainur and he but elf-kind, he bowed his head. "I spoke with the headiness of a lover," he said, "and of a father. I am sure your kindred know the feeling all too well."
Curunír waved those words away as he turned Fëanor's words over in his mind. "We don't," he said after a moment. "Know that feeling." Seeing that the monkey's legs had stopped moving, he set the toy aright again. "We do not have children after the manner of elves. We were born – if birth you may call it – much as we are now." That was not true, strictly speaking, but he decided it was true enough. He had of course heard of Lúthien, the child born to Melian and the elf-king of Doriath, but he considered that a quirk of Melian's assuming an elf-like body for such a long stretch of years. She had become almost an elf herself, and Lúthien was only half-maian in any event.
"I am not even sure you can say we grow, truthfully," he continued, "for all that we ever can be is within us. We simply realize it and give that potential its proper form. I never learned how to alloy tin to copper, for instance; I only... came to know what I had always known." He frowned to himself. "That is not particularly helpful, is it?"
"Not especially," Fëanor said with a smile, "but I believe I understand you. You make it almost sound like a memory you have forgotten but that something later calls to mind. You do not precisely learn what you have lost, but neither could you call it to mind before the re-remembering."
"That's it, more or less," Curunír agreed. "Since we cannot grow old, we were never really young. Anything that could be young would be wholly other than we are." Reaching down, he ran his finger along the buttons of the monkey's wool-vest, almost caressingly. "I envy you in that."
Fëanor's breath caught in his throat for just a second longer than it should have. The elf was too well-trained in the proprieties of court to betray his surprise any other way, but Curunír was skilled in spotting such small gestures. "Yes, envy," he repeated. "Is it really so strange that one who only ever can be might yearn after one who might become as well? I envy your holding your son in your arms and knowing that he might live out who you are in a way you never would have imagined."
Fëanor turned that claim over in his mind, apparently not quite sure how to respond. At last he said, "I remember a song Vána once sung at a festival – this would have been years ago, when I was but a youth – about a great song that she and all the rest of your kin took part in. How a vision arose in your mind, a gift from the One, and you brought forth that vision first into song and then as the world we now see. Might not the whole cosmos be like a child born of your loins?"
"But it is different, is it not?" Curunír asked. "You cannot bounce the whole universe on your knee. And my 'child' is not really mine at all. Maedhros has your wife's copper hair and her nimble fingers, but he also has your easy smile and the glint in his eyes when presented a challenge. Things are not so simple among the Ainur."
"We shall make it simple, then," Fëanor declared. "Maedhros is too old to be bounced on the knee, but this new babe won't be. You must come to our house once he is born, so you can teach him all your favorite songs."
A part of Curunír longed to smile, for he knew this was a rare display of familiarity that only a few of the Ainur were ever granted, but he guessed Fëanor would not thank him for such sentimentality. Instead, he reached across the worktable for a wrench and handed it to Fëanor along with the toy. "I will come when I may," he said. "As for now, you promised to show me how the gears work. Shall we get to it?"
Fëanor looked at him, and Curunír thought he saw a glimpse of comprehension in the elf's eyes. That unnerved him; it was as though Fëanor could see straight through him, at times. In the end, though, Fëanor took the tool Curunír offered him, and the two turned at last to the task at hand.
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.