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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

"Paper"

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

"Paper"

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art lives
First of all, I need to get some personal business out of the way:

Happy Birthday, fanged_geranium!

...and...


Congratulations, arandil13!

Okay, now that I've done obnoxious big!fonts and marquee for the day, onto the story!

Actually, I wrote this story for the aforementioned fanged_geranium's birthday. It always seems, when I want to write a birthday story, that I have this amazing drought of inspiration. So I spend the better part of the two weeks leading up to said birthday, wringing my hands and sometimes the necks of my muses, trying to come up with something that fits their preferences, my preferences, and my abilities. (Because I am a totally selfish author. I will not write characters for whom I feel little or nothing. Not even as an experiment.)

So, driving to Subway for lunch on Monday, I was assaulted once again by the mantra: "S***. fanged_geranium's birthday is on Wednesday. I have to write her a story. Something. I've had some of my best Sil discussions with her. She spends so much time on and selflessly shares such wonderful resources."

And this little inkling of an idea came to me....

As with all my birthday stories, it is very raw and a bit experimental. I appreciate any and all comments, as usual.

Also, it's cross-posted to silwritersguild. Apologies to friends of both for the redundancy.

On a completely unrelated note, I haven't forgotten the daily drabbles for yesterday and today. They'll probably be posted tonight. I am sickeningly far behind on my beta/review work, still have to eat lunch, and ARGH!!

Where's the 36-hour day??

Okay, the story. For real :)


Paper


Stepping through the gates and onto the road to Tirion, Curufinwë, the fifth son of Fëanaro, feels relief like shedding a set of too-tight clothes.

Air cools his lungs like he’d been smothering all this time, pent up inside his father’s house. His very skin seems to expand; he feels larger here than he does at home, in the presence of his brothers and, of course, Fëanaro.

It had been Fëanaro who’d sent him on this mission, thus granting him freedom. Purchase more parchment: such a simple task but so tedious to the others, who wouldn’t wish to be called away from work or leisure to take a half-day for something so ordinary. But Curufinwë loves the parchment shop, and his feet are light upon the path. He has to restrain himself from running, fearing that if he leaps too high in his mirth, he might dangle among Varda’s stars and never be recovered.

He’d be beyond even the reach of Fëanaro, then.
~oOo~

Paper.

So delicate and easily torn, ephemeral, almost, disintegrating over the centuries, the inscriptions upon its surface wearing away with the years. So easy to destroy, to burn!

Yet Curufinwë presses a sheet of it to his face when the shopkeeper is not looking, and he inhales the dry-dusty smell, so bland, as though asking to be overtaken by something else. This close, he can see the individual fibers that make it whole, and he smiles, wishing to write an ode to each. So easily overlooked!—but without a single one of them, there would be a hole, and the paper would be worthless. There is a tiny blue thread squirming among the rest, possibly from the shopkeeper’s robes, Curufinwë surmises—glancing over the top of the paper at the man who is, indeed, wearing blue—and he smiles to think that the paper already tells a story, before it even soaks up the words that he will place upon it. His story.

And so the paper is itself a loremaster, he thinks, like me. Each story containing a story within and without, spiraling toward infinity in both directions.

Only his lore has never happened and likely will not. Hopefully will not, he forces himself to add, knowing the wickedness of the words that he has committed to paper in times past, at times burning the paper in lieu of burning himself, who is certainly more deserving.

As though knowing and protesting the fate of its predecessors, the paper nicks his finger, a hairline cut that oozes blood. Curufinwë pops it into his mouth before it can mar the paper. No, this page will bear a story that has nothing to do with pain.
~oOo~

Fëanaro never denied his young namesake all of the paper he could desire. Even as an infant, charcoal stick clutched in his fist, Curufinwë wrote and drew—or rather, attempted to write and draw—raking the paper in his frustration, tearing it and leaving charcoal marks upon the floor to be dimpled by his dripping tears. His Tengwar were wriggling snakes; his attempt to draw his father yielded nothing but a worm-eaten apple upon a pole.

But the drawings were carefully repaired by his father and hung in the laboratory, overtaking the sheet music for Macalaurë’s acclaimed ballad first, then the awkward sketches done by Tyelkormo and Carnistir for one or another of their father’s assignments, and finally, even Maitimo’s treatise on the structure of metallic elements that had been the subject of much discussion all the way to the Halls of Aulë.

Fëanaro acquainted Curufinwë with the Tengwar much younger than he had his other sons, even Maitimo. They would sit together in the heavy golden light of afternoons—Curufinwë upon his father’s lap and his small hand in Fëanaro’s much larger one and, within that, the quill—and Fëanaro would guide Curufinwë’s hands through the proper strokes. He marveled at how much more beautiful his letters were with his father’s guidance—not a single wobble, not a single stroke missed or done in reverse. He would close his eyes and fall asleep to the sound of his father’s voice and the warm comfort of his embrace. When he awakened, there was sheet after sheet of Tengwar in front of him and, awed, Curufinwë began to believe that this was the stuff of dreams.

They were fated to meet, the children of Fëanaro’s thought and the child of his body. Sometimes, Curufinwë believed that he liked his brothers-in-thought more than his brothers-in-blood. Jeering words could be struck through, but when he raised his hands to Carnistir for the first time, he awoke minutes later with a buzzing numbness in his head that flourished into pain in the same way that a quill left carelessly upon a page will spread its stain. There had been fear in both Carnistir’s and Tyelkormo’s eyes when Curufinwë first awoke—as though they believed Carnistir had killed their little brother—but that quickly hardened into something malignant when they saw that he was nothing more than bruised, and Tyelkormo had sworn to tell their father that Curufinwë had fallen if he’d dared to tell of Carnistir’s actions. “And you shall know your first taste of Atar’s wrath!” Tyelkormo had said, and Carnistir had laughed and said, “It is bitter too, little brother, and lingers across decades.”

And so, throat thick with tears, Curufinwë had turned to his brothers-in-thought for consolation. To them, he told the truth, and they believed him, and together they constructed beautiful retribution.
~oOo~

Carnistir, eyes glowing like a fiend, drove his fist into Curufinwë’s head. And they both laughed, and the sound was like thunder.

They didn’t see their father watching, but Fëanaro son of Finwë saw ALL.

His wrath was awful. He drove Tyelkormo and Carnistir into the night. He renounced them as his sons. “You are no blood of mine!” he said. He told them that he HATED them for what they had done to Curufinwë.

And he hugged Curufinwë and promised to never, never let such a thing happen again. And Curufinwë couldn’t cry, not in Fëanaro’s arms. His tears burned away before they even existed.

~oOo~

The marks on the paper were vicious gashes in ink, certainly not the meandering, graceful characters that his father had created, reminiscent of the wind and the waves of the sea.

His tears plunked onto the page and smudged the ink. It was barely legible, but he knew the weight of what he had written, comprehensible to others or not.

He stole Fëanaro’s flints and burned the paper. The smoke stung his eyes and coaxed tears from him; if he leaned over it and let it burn his eyes, that didn’t change the reason for his tears. The fire drew his parents to him and Fëanaro was angry—but for the fire, not the words.
~oOo~

His brothers treat him differently than they do each other. Curufinwë can’t help it: He didn’t ask to be given the same name as his father.

Even Maitimo, who is the only of his brothers whom Curufinwë truly likes, laughs less freely in Curufinwë’s presence. There is a minute tightening of Maitimo’s body: shoulders stiffen, knees come together, and hands wrangle each other in his lap. He gives tiny, wincing smiles that make Curufinwë wonder if someone is jabbing Maitimo with a pin in the back.

Recently married, Macalaurë pays little heed to Curufinwë. He barely glances from his wife’s face to even give a greeting, and if Vingarië is not present, then he speaks to Maitimo. The two are rarely apart.

Tyelkormo and Carnistir drift perpetually on the periphery of Curufinwë’s life, two satellites whose orbits occasionally intersect and exert a greater-than-usual influence. They are masters in subtle cruelty and wide-eyed innocence. Once, they’d waited for Curufinwë to leave the library for a drink of water and had rearranged all of his books and papers, negating the hours of work he’d done to arrange his desk appropriately. He’d gone to Nerdanel, but Tyelkormo and Carnistir had appeared then with leaves in their hair and the smell of fresh winds about them, supposedly back from a hunting trip, and Nerdanel had been fooled, not seeing the glint of mischief in their eyes.

“Aww, poor Atarinkë,” Tyelkormo had said, drawing his tearful little brother into an embrace, but Curufinwë had ripped himself away and fled to the library, while Tyelkormo lamented to their mother, “I try to be his friend….”

And so Curufinwë had no one but Fëanaro. And the self-fulfilling prophecy came to fruition.
~oOo~
Fëanaro gave to his young son the task of copying all of his letters before they were sent, so that he might keep copies in his own records.

Fëanaro’s script meandered with the fickleness and grace of the wind, letters devolving into superfluous flourishes, promenading across the page. He was recognized as the best calligrapher of the Noldor and, despite his superior station, the lords commissioned him to scribe the invitations for their important events.

Maitimo was also excellent at lettering, but his was proper and controlled and looked like a sample from a textbook. “It is useless!” he’d said of their father’s excess once, in a rare show of defiance, and Fëanaro had replied, “You find beauty to be useless?”

I do not,” Curufinwë—omnipresent in his father’s study to the point of invisibility—had interrupted. Maitimo had tensed and looked away.

Curufinwë labored over the letters, always feeling a pinch of fear when he first held a loaded quill over an unmarred parchment, trying to mimic his father’s beautiful style. He copied orders for marble and iron ore as he might copy a masterpiece painting, bent over the page, tongue poking between his lips, quill clenched so tightly in his fingers that they ached. “At your earliest convenience, I should require three hundred pearls for use in a chandelier to be given to Olwë the King for his wedding anniversary. The pearls may be of varied size, although I prefer a uniform, rounded shape….”

When Maitimo’s treatise on metals came under discussion and debate, Fëanaro penned a letter to Curufinwë’s uncle Nolofinwë in Tirion. To please their father, the brothers had begun a regular correspondence, the acidity of their words now cleverly concealed beneath overwrought prose and swirling Tengwar. Curufinwë copied the letter dutifully and sent the original, but a second copy he made, a wicked copy, with some of the names changed and with which he slept, pressed beneath his pillow, at night.
~oOo~

My dearest Nolofinwë,
As you have surely heard, ensconced as you are in the heart of our throbbing, noisy civilization, my son Curufinwë has met with the greatest of honors for his recent labors concerning the patterns exhibited by various metals in their raw, elemental state. Indeed, it seems that Curufinwë’s prodigy is being discussed in as high of places as the Halls of Aulë, and his work is being heralded as one of the most valuable contributions to the field of metallurgy.

I am sure that I do not need to describe to you the thrill of pride one feels for his child’s accomplishments, as I should hope that Findekano and Turukano have given you reason to indulge in the pleasure of such unrestrained pride, as it is not demeritorious when it pertains to one’s own son. Indeed, to think of myself as the artificer of one such as Curufinwë lessens the light of my other works, which until now, have been my greatest accomplishments, yet I feel no regret to be so bereft.

It is my fervent hope, Nolofinwë, that such blessings shall also visit your House in the form of that granted me by my dear Curufinwë. Until then, I remain your most beloved half-brother,
Curufinwë Fëanaro Finwion

~oOo~

Fëanaro had chosen Curufinwë’s name, yet his brothers faulted him for it.

He was not too young to perceive the agony in Maitimo’s eyes when it was pronounced:

“I will call him Curufinwë.”

Of course, he also had Atarinkë, but out of defiance of his brothers’ misguided resentment, when it came time to choose his name, he looked into Maitimo’s eyes and said, “I will be called Curufinwë.”

Maitimo had flinched.

Writing of it later, in the secret haven of the library: Let it be known, I have claimed my destiny as the favored son of Fëanaro.
~oOo~

And so the paper shop is a place full of potential for Curufinwë: ream after ream of paper—and what shall be written upon them? He selects the fine, gilt-edged paper that Fëanaro prefers and then lingers in his own decision, ghosting each with his fingers, fearful of leaving a premature smudge.

Normally, he is happy to lose hours in the selection, but today, his heart patters with a renewed vigor and his legs feel as though they possess coiled springs with the power to propel him, running, for leagues, if given the proper motivation. For, at home, slipped between the pages of a book on the physical properties of matter that he knows Tyelkormo and Carnistir will never read, is the beginnings of a new tale, this one of a different, more exciting sort.

The sort that makes Curufinwë blush for no reason and select the same coarse-grained paper that he’d procured last time, in his eagerness to get home.
~oOo~
Tyelkormo and Carnistir acted entirely differently when their sweethearts came to visit.

Curufinwë would pass their bedrooms on his way from retrieving a new essay or a book from his chambers that he wished to show Fëanaro and pause to wonder at the ruckus emanating from behind his brothers’ closed doors. There seemed to be a good deal of scuffling and splashing and slamming of doors, punctuated by arguments of a most bizarre nature: “You made me look like a girl! Your legs look like stilts in those shoes! Your backside hangs out of that tunic like a baboon!”

They would eventually emerge in their finest clothes, the likes of which they never wore otherwise, with their hair unusually neat and even smelling better than usual.

Curufinwë paid them no heed except to wish fervently for their success with their sweethearts, so that they might marry and move to Tirion with Macalaurë and Maitimo.

Curufinwë walked into the library once and was greeted with a frightened squeal and found Tyelkormo sprawled across the chaise with his current flame pinned beneath him. “Shh! It’s just my brother!” he had said, and there was a flurry of scrambling hands and clothes being rearranged, and Tyelkormo had looked pointedly at Curufinwë and hissed, “Get out!” and Curufinwë, terrified, had no thought but to do exactly as ordered, fleeing and not daring to stop until his level of exertion seemed a worthy reason for his pounding heart.

He found himself sketching the girls his brothers brought home, taking a perfect nose from one and adding to it the thick, chocolate-colored hair of the one who had dined beside Carnistir the night prior. Sometimes, he altered the features slightly, striving towards a vague vision in his mind, dancing constantly out of reach and into the undelved shadows. Frustrated, he sometimes captured the tip of an ear or a tendril of hair and cried out at the perfection of it, only to realize that the rest of the picture was unacceptably ordinary.

When she was perfect, he knew, she would step from the parchment and into reality.

His father called Curufinwë to his study once, in the midst of sketching, and he’d carelessly abandoned his work on his desk. At his return, he saw Carnistir standing over it, angling the latest drawing in his direction, wearing his dark, ugly hunting attire and a blank expression upon his face.

Curufinwë had run and snatched the sketch from Carnistir’s fingers, and Carnistir had tossed his hands in a gesture of surrender. “No need for that! It’s not a bad drawing!” But before Curufinwë could relax into his brother’s rare benevolence, Carnistir’s innocent expression twisted, and he added, “Except for the eyes. No woman has eyes that color, green eyes.” He scoffed and trod from the room.

That was the closest Curufinwë had come with his sketches: the thick, chocolate-colored hair and delicate nose and high cheekbones. And green eyes.
~oOo~

He wrote of random encounters, meeting the green-eyed woman and knowing in that instant that he loved her. And seeing, in her green eyes, that she returned his love.

He stepped into the street dappled by afternoon light and shadow, and a voice asked behind him: “Would you like an apple?”

He savored these tales, closing his eyes in the languid heat of afternoon and allowing his books and studies to be forgotten, letting the quivering-strange feeling overtake him as he imagined taking the apple from her hands, the softness of her skin beneath his callused fingers, while his quill bled, forgotten, onto the paper.

She always had apples, apples the same brilliant green color as her eyes.
~oOo~

The shopkeeper did not make conversation with the fifth son of Fëanaro, knowing him to be not as gracious as Maitimo or polite as Macalaurë or as brashly loquacious as Tyelkormo and Carnistir. Curufinwë’s fingers trembled as he’d fumbled the stones that had been the agreed price between the shopkeeper and his father; already, he imagined himself holding the quill and disappearing in the blissful emptiness of fantasy.

Curufinwë took his bundle in his arms and turned for the door. The afternoon light was seeping thickly through the door, and he cringed in anticipation of being blinded after the dusty dimness of the shop.

He stepped into the street and was not disappointed: The brilliance was almost painful. He blinked in Laurelin’s brilliance, shielding his eyes with his free arm and, so blinded on one side, collided with the maiden carrying the basket of apples.

She knelt to retrieve them before they were trod upon and, stunned, his mouth dangled open in a silly and churlish manner, as the paper slipped from his arms and into the dust of the street and his thundering heart drowned all reasonable thought.

For a moment.

Then, collecting himself, he knelt slowly, wishing desperately to see the color of her eyes beneath the spill of chocolate-colored hair.

She smiled at him, lifting her head, as he crouched beside her. Green.
~oOo~

There, he ran out of paper.
  • Wow, the emotional minefield that house is to grow up in! This was disturbing in a very clever way. Curufin is not a favourite of mine, but you portrayed him so well. I wasn't certain how to react to him which I think was part of your intent. Very, very well done!
    • Wow, the emotional minefield that house is to grow up in!

      Oh, yes :) As much as I love the Feanorions, I would not want to be one. Just when I think I have every emotional wound thoroughly inspected and catalogued, someone points something new out to me that deserves further exploration....

      Last week, frenchpony and I were talking about Maedhros' reaction to Curufin being given his father's name, and she said, "For Macalaure, it must be like seeing a god tumbled from on high." Which I admit to never having thought of before!

      But this is, in part, why that family is so fascinating to write.

      Curufin is not a favourite of mine, but you portrayed him so well. I wasn't certain how to react to him which I think was part of your intent.

      Yes, it was :) I'm working on his character for the piece of the epic to follow AMC, and while I don't want him to be wholly sympathetic (and non-canonical), I don't want him to be cop-out evil either. So it's a tricky balance, to show that he was both privileged and unfortunate in being Feanor's obvious favorite.

      Very, very well done!

      Thank you! :)
  • There's a style of art that I think would be right up Curufinwe's alley. It's a particularly Jewish style; at least, I've never really seen any other ethnic group make quite so much out of it. It's pictures created in a kind of pointillist style using Hebrew characters as the dots. Usually, the examples I've seen have been skylines of the Old City in Jerusalem. The intent behind it is to dodge around a very traditional set of restrictions on art, but the result is wonderfully intricate and almost always just gorgeous. With Curufinwe's skill in both writing and drawing, he'd probably like that a lot.

    Interesting thoughts on the fragility of paper in the beginning. The fascinating thing about paper is that, though is is indeed easily torn and damaged, it's surprisingly durable. There are books made of paper that are five hundred years old that are still in amazingly good shape. And there are books that are eighty years old that would crumble if you looked at them. I asked a librarian about that, and she said that the difference was acid-free paper. Acid-free paper will last for centuries. . . but you can still destroy it in an instant.

    I also like the implication that the brothers are starting to form factions within the tribe. Feanaro's favoritism won't help that in the least. So far, he's got two nicely brought up, well-mannered kids, two thugs, and he's hard at work on raising a sneak.
    • There's a style of art that I think would be right up Curufinwe's alley.

      Hmmm.... *envisions this working with the Tengwar*

      I think I've what you are refering to. There is a wonderful little calligraphy shop in historic Ellicott City that has a cityscape scene in the window, only it is "painted" using Hebrew characters. Every time I see that, I think of "illustrating" passages of The Sil using Tengwar.

      One day, when I am a successful business owner of independent means and unlimited time, I will do all that I am inspired to do! ;)

      The fascinating thing about paper is that, though is is indeed easily torn and damaged, it's surprisingly durable.

      True. This is something I didn't consider, when I wrote that passage in a rush, two days ago, but is something to keep in mind for revision.

      One of the essays in HoMe--and I can't remember which!--talks about how the Elves didn't generally record things in books. I've made Feanor's family different in this, under the assumption that he (and Nelyo and Curufinwe, to a lesser degree) is so hungry for knowledge that he can't bear to wait to be taught in a proper manner but needs a means by which he can teach himself.

      Although, this produces the conundrum of Elves being deathless and books wearing over the centuries. (Along the same lines, I've wondered also about the deterioration of their buildings and how they manage that.)

      I also like the implication that the brothers are starting to form factions within the tribe.

      The brothers eventually, of course, overcome the animosity they feel for Curufinwe. But this takes a bit of work and the help of some pretty drastic events, the sort that either divide or unify families.

      (Like having to fight balrogs and Dark Lords and that sort ;D)

      In the meantime, though, they--and I--have some work to do!
      • (Along the same lines, I've wondered also about the deterioration of their buildings and how they manage that.)

        I believe it's by regularly having Kinslayings, fleeing the continent, and then having to rebuild, only to be chased and hounded from settlement to settlement by angry relatives. This method also provides plentiful opportunities to redecorate a room that's just lost its oomph over the years.

        One of the essays in HoMe--and I can't remember which!--talks about how the Elves didn't generally record things in books.

        There's probably a fascinating story in there about a culture wavering in the liminal area between oral and written.
        • I believe it's by regularly having Kinslayings, fleeing the continent, and then having to rebuild

          *snork* True. But then, of course, there are those pesky Vanyarin drones (as my Feanor likes to call them), hanging out on a snowy mountain for millenia on end.

          There's probably a fascinating story in there about a culture wavering in the liminal area between oral and written.

          Oh, don't tempt me. I have just enough steam left to (hopefully) finish my Arafinwe/Earwen fic in the next week-and-a-half, then onto NaNoWriMo....
  • Making me like Curufinwe

    Good story, liked the element of inevitability and causality, very existential. Raises a good question, did the action of Fëanaro determine that Curufinwë would end up the way he did, or was it the actions of his family in response to that action? Good mental exercise, love it. Do you mean to imply that this apple girl is the one whom Curufinwë is going to marry? If so I like it, because it makes Curufinwë like his father in more way than one, or am I reading to much into it.
    • Re: Making me like Curufinwe

      Nope, you are definitely not reading too much into it. The apple girl is Terentaule, who is Curufinwe's wife in my Felakverse. This story actually fits in that verse perfectly; it was written to do so. Probably my best treatment of Terentaule so far comes in "By the Light of Roses," but I won't recommend that one to you since it's slash. She also appears in The Gift.

      Raises a good question, did the action of Fëanaro determine that Curufinwë would end up the way he did, or was it the actions of his family in response to that action?

      I'd say it's a variety of factors and impossible to pin the evolution of Curufinwe's character--or any of them, for that matter--on any one influence. For example, it is in his nature, I think, to be creative and curious and like to work with his hands. After four sons without an eager pupil in forgecraft, I think this endeared him to Feanaro. We have one testament that Curufinwe was Feanaro's favorite (I, personally, have my doubts to the actual veracity of this, though I've no doubt that it appeared that way), so I count this as close to canon as canon can be. :) But then, you have the events of the Years of the Trees and the First Age, the same traumas that affected all of the Noldor and the Feanorians particularly: Finwe's death, the theft of the Silmarils, the Darkening of Valinor, and so on. You've read the book. ;) I've no doubt that some of these things--namely the destruction or theft of beautiful things--struck Curufin in a way that it might not, say, Amrod or Caranthir. And his wife left him to stay in Aman; what did that do to him at an already difficult time? His beloved father was murdered not long after. There's a confluence of a lot factors, and we get the Curufin who sent Finrod to his death, schemed to overtake Nargothrond, and aided in kidnapping (and tried to force marriage upon) Luthien.

      I am showing my background in clinical psych again, I know. :)

      But in my own version of the events, Curufin wasn't particularly well-liked by the rest of his brothers, so as you point out, that shaped him too. And that was caused because he appeared to be the favorite of his father. I hate to keep pointing to more and more stories that expand on the ideas of what you've already read, but Essecarme deals with this. (When you consider how many stories I've written, it's scary that I've only begun to scratch the surface!)
      • Re: Making me like Curufinwe

        Well you do have something like a couple thousand years to play around with, and thats just before the exile of the Noldor!
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