First Five Holiday Drabble Series
Additionally, this series will be posted at HASA (members' side) and the Pit of Voles.
This first drabble series “Curiosity” was written for Angaloth, who I know fancies Fëanor and Nerdanel above all others. It is a series of three hundred-word drabbles about what might have first inspired their love…and led to their demise.
This series contains some very mild sexuality but should be suitable for teenaged and adult audiences.
As a child, my father said, I was but a pair of wide eyes peering over tabletops. Under tables. Into hidden nooks and corners. My fingernails had crescents of dirt beneath them from putting my hands where they did not belong.. I inspected the lock and built a key and used it to enter my father’s forge, curious about the wonders I might find there.
He warned me, “Careful, Nerdanel, for your curiosity will burn you!” catching my small hands reaching for a chunk of coal that—still black on the outside—upon being broken glowed red within, with fire.
Fëanáro served opposite me as an apprentice, and I would watch his hands as he worked: slender and pale and quick as spiders, hypnotizing to watch, making nimble work of the most complex tasks.
But he was careless and would cut or burn himself in his haste—his curiosity—fingers welling in blisters that pained me to see. “But Nerdanel,” he told me, “it is worth it!” Lifting a finger to his mouth to cool the pain. I watched his hand. I watched his lips and envied them, for possessing his hand.
And envied his hand, for possessing his lips.
On the day he put light into stone, he pressed it into my palm, and I claimed light.
He folded my hands in his, always warm and no longer scarred, for he was too skilled for that now.
Curiosity: it fluttered inside of me, plunked with a hot and heavy weight into my belly and burned there.
I reached across the space between us, only my father was no longer there to warn me of my curiosity, from unseen fire within the body that I touched in reverence, closed my eyes and kissed.
Stone—light—forgotten, we claimed each other.
This series is for ladyelleth, who asked about how Nerdanel and Fëanor perceived their strange fourth-born son Caranthir. In the Felakverse that I use in the majority of my stories, Caranthir has the special gift of osanwë—or mind-speak—and perceives people interestingly as a result. While he remains dark and strange, his special gift also gives him extraordinary insight into the hearts and minds of those closest to him. This series of four double-drabbles explores this idea.
I dreaded the most the birth of my fourth-born son Carnistir, for his brother Tyelkormo had been a difficult delivery and I feared for my wife’s health and safety. On the day that she told me that she again carried my son, we pressed together—forehead to forehead—nearing a kiss, but it wasn’t only joy that we shared. There was fear too, something dark. The way that doors used to always close in my presence, when I was small, before the loss of Þerindë my mother. A room full of light but a dark space beneath a door that was all I could see. So was my wife’s fourth pregnancy: a time of joy darkened beneath, annoying and relentless and shameful.
But yet not entirely. I’d lie beside her at night with my hand upon her belly. Upon Him, our son unnamed, and it was strange: It was as though a hand had reached back, soothed me into peaceful dreams, twining my fingers with His. It was as it had been when I’d been very small and always knew when Atar had come by my bedside for the lack of nightmares.
How, amid my fear, I slept in peace.
My father had a strange gift. I’d come upon him once, sitting with Ingwë the King of the Vanyar, and they had been opposite each other as though in conversation, yet words were not exchanged. I’d watched for a long time, thinking myself hidden beneath a table covered with a long cloth. For hours, they did not speak, yet the air was busy between them, in the same way that a room alive with voices and laughter will seem to swell, like the joy cannot be confined in so small a space. I felt voices, yet I did not hear them.
But decisions were made that day. My father was to be wed again, and he and Ingwë clutched each other in joyful farewell yet spoke no word of salutation. And I understood that those awakened by the Waters of Cuiviénen were indeed the Children of the One and spoke in voices alike to that of the One that passed as rain and wind and simple laughter. Words upon a breath, wrapping a heart, raising the hairs on my arms even as they smiled, secret and silent, in an understanding that I—for all of my gifts—seemed to lack.
I went to my father when, by Carnistir’s first begetting day, he still had not spoken. In fact, he acted utterly contrary to what I asked of him. Clutching my legs and pushing his face into my knees when I’d become angry with his mother and asked him to leave me, to find his brother. Putting a small hand over my mouth before the words in my thoughts could wound Nerdanel further.
And she came. And embraced me. And forgave me.
And Carnistir: he scurried away and found his brother, as I’d asked.
My father laughed at my worries and lifted my strange fourth-born son. Carnistir stopped wordlessly babbling and let his forehead fall against Atar’s, and for a long while, they sat that way, as though I was no longer there. Irritation tickled my thoughts, and my father’s eyes opened. He laughed.
“He understands, Fëanáro, far more than you know. I expect that he will speak any day now.”
On the ride home, Carnistir laid a hand alongside my face, and—strangest of strange—spoke at last in a voice clear and practiced, “Atar…” like he was the father and I the son, the one in need of comfort.
“This one is special,” Nerdanel had said on the day Carnistir had been born. “This one is different.”
Indeed, he was. Carnistir alone did not to weep when she left us, even in secret, the way we caught tears with the backs of our hands before they could shame us. When I was small, my father used to tell me that I wept because I did not yet understand the reason for pain. The connection between hurt and healing. Pain and hope.
I insisted: There was no connection. It was all senseless misery.
But Carnistir, he sat beside me as I wept, thinking myself alone. His fingers twined with mine, and he did not look at my face, understanding my shame, my vulnerability. He did not weep, as though he understood Nerdanel’s heart better than I, her husband.
The day my mother had died, I’d sat against my father’s chamber door, staring at the black space beneath. It stayed dark for so long—then a flicker. Then light.
Or Carnistir’s hand in mine, warm where I was cold. His thoughts heavy against mine, recalling love, not betrayal.
He held my hand until the tears stopped.
And I began to understand.
“Effortless” was written for angelica_ramses. Earlier this year, we had a conversation about my character of Maedhros (Nelyo) in my stories Another Man’s Cage and “Essecarmë” and his quiet strength that I have tried to capture in these stories. While Maedhros has done his share of noble deeds, equally important—and probably more difficult—was the task of reuniting the Noldor and playing damage control for his little brothers.
Yet the conundrum always arises that what is most skillfully done seems to be most easily done. This series of four drabbles explores this idea, from the point of view of Maglor.
For readers unfamiliar with my other stories, Vingarië is Maglor’s wife.
I. The Father
On the day that Nelyo told our father that he would no longer study lore but would serve as a court page in Tirion, Tyelkormo and I pressed our ears to my bedroom wall—adjacent to our father’s study—and listened, fists clenched, cringing in anticipation of the explosion that must surely come.
It did not.
Nelyo rode back to Tirion, and for a long while, Fëanáro would not speak against him, though surely, he must have believed that he’d been betrayed. The air was heavy and hard to breathe around him, but he did not speak out against Nelyo.
II. The Minstrel
As one of the best musicians in Tirion, I played in the halls and homes of the most respected of the Eldar. Nelyo came when he could, but the life of a page is simple and arduous, and he hadn’t much time to spare for joy.
I was miffed, though, because my skill was rarely praised as loudly as the others. Vingarië laughed at my offense. “My dear, that is because your music is so effortless in its joy that we forget to marvel. We forget that such beauty is a gift and not simply the way of the world.”
III. The Diplomat
Nelyo ascended, as did I, each in our own station. He was one of Grandfather’s councilors, and his work was easy, I often thought: much walking-about in gardens and fancy suppers with lords. And smiling. Always smiling. Whereas I came home late each night, reeking of sweat, my voice raw, and my fingertips tender from the harpstrings.
“Do you practice smiling,” I would tease, “in front of mirrors? To be good at what you do?” For I was slightly sickened by his success, even as he was unfailingly proud of mine.
Though he never came to hear me play anymore.
IV. The Brother
I came home one night and found Nelyo in my music room, waiting by a guttering fire with a glass of wine pressed to his forehead. “I am exhausted,” he whispered. “Our father—”
Then he stopped. And smiled.
“But no mind that, little brother,” he said. “I am exhausted, and all that I wish is to fall asleep to the sound of your singing, as I used to do when we were young.”
Despite his exhaustion, his eyes were bright; his face untroubled.
And I knew that whatever darkened his heart would not be permitted to yet darken mine.
This series of three double-drabbles was written for Ellfine, who is a fellow Finarfinatic and believes—as I do—that he was not the wimpy, soft-hearted king of fanon lore. “Sense of Swords” follows Finarfin through his decision to travel to Middle-earth at the end of the First Age to join his people in fighting Morgoth. The line about this in The Silmarillion is rather ambiguous about whether he joined the other Noldor in this battle, but I like to think that he did.
Sense of Swords
We arrived in the Outer Lands by night, while all slumbered below deck. Except me. I stood at the railing and teased apart the blackness that was the sea and sky on a moonless night and the space between the two of them: the Outer Lands. Middle-earth. Beleriand. Those reborn among us spoke of this strange, dark place caught between the night sky and the ink-black sea. Where all five of my children had gone.
I recalled the candles carried by Eärwen after the Darkening when visiting her sister-in-law. I would sit, pressed to the glass of our window, and watch the flame flicker smaller and feebler until the darkness had claimed all sight of her. I wondered how my children had appeared from the shore: five tiny lights, going out one by one?
I wore a sword at my side: heavy and foreign, like it did not belong. I had studied with it, yes, but it was like dancing with a stranger: practiced and rigid. Holding my children, speaking with a friend, making love to my wife—those belonged.
But my hand gripped the sword as though we were familiar, the shore growing large and dark in my sights.
Eärwen had not wished me to go. She never said as much but I knew. I knew in the way that she would touch me without reason; linger longer in a kiss. She’d hated my sword from the day Nolofinwë had given it to me—still more after the Kinslaying—yet she bade me to practice and even watched. Praised me.
No, I said, do not learn to love this art or my skill in it.
And she had replied, Perhaps had the children been trained….
Catching me in a wordless embrace, amid the darkness to which we’d become accustomed.
Eärwen had not wished me to go. Yet she accompanied me to the harbor and strapped my sword to my side, as all of the wives were doing for their husbands. Four candles snuffed; four children lost. Would I be next? She must wonder. Yet her hands smoothed my tunic without trembling, and her smile was resolute.
You are very brave, she told me, and I held her close and neither had to see the terror—or the tears—in the other’s eyes.
She released me first, and as she stepped away, I whispered, Nay. You are braver than me.
Standing upon the soil of this “Middle-earth,” it was impossible not to superimpose the present with imaginings of the past. This river called “Sirion”: had my Findaráto knelt here to drink? Was this earth pressed by the boots of Angaráto and Aikanáiro? And those flowers that looked a bit thin, perhaps because Artanis had gathered of them to twine into Artaher’s hair as he slept, to annoy him?
I found myself lifting fistfuls of earth to my nose. I could smell them! My children! The pang deep in my gut, of loneliness for home and times long passed: the powder we’d put on infant Findaráto’s skin; Aikanáiro’s toys left in the garden to become filthy during the mid-afternoon rains; the clay bowl shaped by young Artanis’s hands, ugly and adored.
I cupped the dirt in my hands; made mud of it with my tears.
For the earth smelled of metal also: of blood and swords and torment in dark places, and surely, I had not allowed my beloved children to come to such grievous ends?
It smelled of the sword at my side that I held tighter now in muddied, ignoble hands as I marched, fearless, forward, into the darkness.
My dear friend rhapsody11 adores Celegorm and Maglor, so gifts for her always involve trying to fit them together into a story. In “Of Love, Mischief, and Flowery Prose,” young Celegorm realizes the gravity of the pranks that he plays on his older brother Maglor and seeks atonement for his misdeeds.
The relationship that might have existed between these two contrary brothers is a source of endless speculation for me “Of Love, Mischief, and Flowery Prose” is set during the same year as my novel Another Man’s Cage, so Celegorm is equivalent to a seven-year-old and Maglor is a young adolescent. The ficlet is a quibble, so it is exactly five hundred words.
Happy Sinterklaas, Rhapsody, and thank you for all that you do!
Of Love, Mischief, and Flowery Prose
My brother Macalaurë is in trouble with our father most often of any of us. I am rambunctious, Nelyo is contrary, and Carnistir is downright mean (or so Atar says), but it is boring Macalaurë who is in trouble the most.
Occasionally, it is my fault.
For I adore—absolutely adore, in the same way that I adore strawberries, swimming holes, and newborn hound puppies—annoying my second eldest brother. Annoying him until his ears turn red and he wastes his pretty voice on screaming not-so-nice words at me. That Atar inevitably hears. And punishes him for.
Then, later, I think of it with regret, for Macalaurë is kind (usually) and rarely deserving (truly) of my mischief. Like when I knew that he was to meet his girl-friend on the morrow and spent the whole day washing and pressing his best clothes and even wiped the mud off of his boots, only to have me trip the next morning while running from Carnistir (who was trying to bite my hair) with a cup of grape juice and—
Well, it was an accident that I tripped. It truly was. However, I could have aimed for the big expanse of floor that would have been easy to wipe up instead of Macalaurë.
White tunic turned purple and grape juice dripping off the tip of his nose, Macalaurë called me “cur of Oromë” and other things that I am too young to hear, much less repeat.
So Macalaurë did not see his girl-friend that day. He was permitted to make his excuses and send a letter of apology, though Atar read it first and made him rewrite it three times for whining too much or being senselessly malicious or being too sentimental. Macalaurë’s excuse for the latter complaint was that he merely wished her to know that he loved her. “She knows,” Atar said, “without flowery prose.” For my role in the hubbub, I was to deliver the letter to our neighbor, who was going to Tirion and would see the letter received by Vingarië.
I was sent to Macalaurë’s bedroom to collect the acceptable fourth attempt at a letter. His eyes were red-rimmed, and he shoved the letter into my hand without a word or glance. He was back to wearing his boring gray tunic and trousers, and the ones I’d ruined—made clean and pretty the day before—were balled up in the corner.
I will admit: I felt bad then. But my stubborn tongue would not twist into an apology, and I left Macalaurë alone, letter in hand, to go to the neighbor’s.
It was a beautiful day at the start of autumn, yet I’d ruined it for my brother. Skipping along, enjoying the warm breeze and midday Treelight, this gave me pause. And when I paused, I saw that the autumn orchids were in bloom, nodding violet heads over the road.
Carefully, I affixed one to the letter. So that Vingarië would not doubt that Macalaurë loved her.