"The Small and Secret Things"--21 through 25
Almost caught up! Still more drabble-type things, written on a somewhat daily basis.
Finwë, upon returning to his people from Valinor, ponders the difficulty of putting into words what he has seen. I've gone for a slightly surreal feel here in hopes of maybe conveying what it was like for the early Elves, dwelling in a world where so many things are new to them and there is much still to understand. This is a tribble, 300 words.
Words to Tell
We pause before reaching Cuiviénen, standing in the shadows--for once without fear--watching our people. Fire we found shortly before departing, and upon the dark lake, it sparkles like a scattering of rubies and topaz.
Ruby. Topaz. I taste the new words upon my tongue, recall colors seen for the first time, in Light, sifted through the broad hands of the one called Aulë.
I feel the others recalling it too. And unease. They are--we are--uneasy. For how to express to our people the splendor of this place we have been? How to convey Light to those who have known only darkness; color to those whose world is painted only in washes of gray? Language is new to us, and there are still so many things for which there are no words. We turn our hands a certain way, let expressions writhe upon our faces, convey it with a touch, a kiss. The words for these things take longer to come, murmured and sighed on a sudden, into the darkness between us.
But there are no words for this. Not yet. How will we--wayworn from our journey--describe what we've seen? Yet unless we persuade our people to come, the words will never be; so many possibilities will be doomed into silence, never to be whispered into the dark spaces between us.
We watch a bit longer. They are celebrating, for it is Darkest Night, and it is almost over. The fires leap high, and the people whirl faster, dancing, and lift their voices in song.
These things they know: joy and hope. Despite the darkness and the gloom, these were among the first words we crafted.
And so maybe there is a chance of understanding? Ingwë steps forward. Elwë and I follow.
We must try.
Morgoth attempts to persuade Maedhros into encouraging his brothers' surrender. Please be forewarned that this piece contains torture and violence, nothing graphic, but possibly bothersome to some readers.
This piece is a drabunculus. As far as I know, I invented the drabunculus form; at the very least, I invented the name drabunculus. Drabunculus is like homunculus: It is a single drabble with drabbles inside of it. In this particular piece, each number of the count (One, Two, Three) marks the start of a new drabble, a new introspection from Nelyo. The "container" of these three drabbles is also a drabble, bringing the word count for the piece to exactly 400 words.
It's not a particularly easy form to write, and I always swear that each drabunculus will be my last. But the form seemed well suited for this particular piece, so I brought it out again.
This is going to be the last, though. ;)
Persuasion in Three Drops
Yanked up by his hair, Nelyo tries to draw a desperate breath but only gags.
Water plinks from the stalactite.
It remains a possibility, bringing his brothers to the gates of Angband. Not to save him, of course, but what he could impart--in secret, naturally--might spell Morgoth's undoing. He sees them coming as he had done, ready to fall on knees. Eyes lowered. Submissive. Swords sheathed at the back, out of sight.
It could be Morgoth's undoing.
And where he was naïve, they are now wiser. He has been here for ten years by the marks inside his cell. Ten years of starvation, whipping. Face submerged in this brackish pool until he was sure he would die.
"You know the routine," comes a cold voice behind him.
A drop quavers from the stalactite.
Not even possible, he thinks. Advisable.
The water is webbed with spit and snot, for he is never resigned to drowning, even when forced underwater, hands bound, by Morgoth's strongest captain.
He imagines the white flag against the star-studded sky. Macalaurë's damp eyes, lowered in shame, and Morgoth's captain--this wretched beast that holds Nelyo now, counting drops from the stalactite, three until he is submerged again--with a dagger slipped inside his ribcage, piercing his wizened heart.
A battle cry drowning for once the tormented screams within Angband.
Yes, he thinks, the final droplet awaiting its fall. Advisable.
"This could end."
Nelyo sees in the periphery of his vision a parchment, awaiting his signature. Bringing his brothers to surrender.
But there is another thing, a vision unbidden that dampens hope. He sees his brothers inside the fortress. He has "escaped" enough times to know that enchantments confound its labyrinthine hallways. He hears their hopeless cries swallowed by the hungry black rock.
And Macalaurë, his brother, made to watch, to agree to some other indignity else another blade will be placed in his brother's body. Which one? Telvo, probably, Macalaurë's favorite. Nelyo is dead. Telvo's death will be slow, Morgoth promises. Like Nelyo's. Trailing an icy blade along the trembling inside of Telvo's thigh, a cold voice reminding Macalaurë,
"Only you can end it. Only the king."
There is water his lungs yet. He chokes upon the words he wishes to say.
The parchment, too large in the edge of his sight, awaiting signature.
The roar of water fills his ears.
This is one of those double-purpose series again. It is first--like all of the ficlets and series here so far--inspired in part by the word of the day. It is also a birthday gift for Anglachel in response to her request on HASA for a story about a building.
I've chosen Fëanor's house in Formenos. I will make a quick note on canon interpretation before offering the story. In the Felakverse that I use for my stories, Formenos did exist before Fëanor used it as a fortress for hiding his treasures. It began as a mining town that developed a reputation for serving as a safe haven for craftsmen with extraordinary talent and eccentric tendencies. Hence Fëanor's attraction to it. He spent summers here for many years before his exile from Tirion; hence his decision to live and store his treasures there during his banishment.
The note that Formenos was built after Fëanor's exile was made my Christopher Tolkien, and I don't consider it canon as I have never found writings from J.R.R. Tolkien backing it up. The word Formenos does mean "northern fortress," and that is the only--and rather flimsy, in my opinion--evidence behind CT's addition to the index that I have found.
So here are three drabbles and three double-drabbles about Fëanor's house in Formenos. Happy birthday, Anglachel!
ETA: This ficlet became immensely popular after I first posted it on my daily drabble on SWG and on the birthday-card forum on HASA. It's one of my favorites too, though, so I'm not complaining!
The House of Unexpected Light
I began as earth and rock, and these remember the days before the Elves came. These remember the hooves of Nahar striking sparks upon them as Oromë chased his quarry. These remember the heavy boots of Aulë as he raised the hills, and these remember the tender hands of Yavanna making the wild things grow in a great green snarl, fed by Light.
These remember the first Elves and the houses they built of strong, black stone from my land. Formenos, the Noldor called it, a name that carried a shiver of unease they hadn't left behind, over the sea.
When he came, he came alone but for his wife, who was red-haired and laughed a lot and held her swollen belly with two hands. He spread his arms wide and turned in the middle of me. "I will build us a home here, away from Tiron, away from the pressure and politics, away from--" She caught him and silenced his next words with a kiss.
They had to hasten back to Tirion, so imminent was she, but first he lifted great pieces of stone and marked the bounds of what I would become. He came not with architectural drawings, nor the tools for surveyance that his predecessors had brought. He measured with footlengths and placed his rocks on instinct alone. Hand in hand, he and his wife walked through me, and he named the rooms bound so far only in air and imagination.
"This is the parlor; here, the kitchen. This"--a kiss--"is Nelyafinwë's room."
He knew not--and she did not notice--how he'd cut his hands on the rocks that he'd placed. But I noticed. Throughout my confines, each path in my labyrinthine corridors was traced in his blood, soaked quickly--hungrily--into my earth.
He brought his most trusted lords, and they built me with bare hands and crude tools alone, speaking little as they worked but sitting inside my walls at night--the sky their ceiling--drinking spirits stronger than wine that made their merriment lift as high as the heavens.
So from the first, I was filled with laughter.
He was long in building a roof. He lay at night with his wife and their year-old son between them, gazing at stars needle-sharp and brighter than those in Tirion.
"I would live like this forever," he said, "but for the coming rains."
The architects of Tirion scorned me. They liked not the illogical, winding hallways that might lead to nothing but a blank wall or stairs that dove out of sight into secret passages accessed by touching the correct stone or rooms tucked within rooms like hidden treasure. They liked not that I was built of the stone native to that land, that I hunched amid the hills, black like shadow congealed. They liked not the turrets that stabbed the sky with little regard for logic or beauty.
"All of those things are true," said Fëanáro to his father once. "But can they not see the beauty when, ascending the path and seeing the house like a blight in the valley beneath them, Nerdanel or maybe Nelyo open a curtain, and suddenly, light comes most unexpectedly from deepest darkness?"
From the beginning, I was a house of secrets, a house of unrestrained laughter, a house strong enough to bear even the temper of the notorious Fëanáro, a house of obsession with the blood of my creator beneath my foundation and pressed beneath my stones, a house with the audacity to have scarred his perfect hands.
I was a house of unexpected light.
There is a Noldorin proverb that a house shall have a memory for each stone. Perhaps that is why Fëanáro--with the birth of each son--added to me. To make room for more memories.
Nelyo had his first kiss, Tyelkormo left to ride with Oromë, Macalaurë presented a ring to Vingarië here, in the courtyard. Curufinwë and his wife conceived their son. Carnistir met a girl called Taryindë. Ambarussa became enamored of the briar-tangled wilderness of my grounds.
But even scores of stones are finite. The end did come for me, for us.
My final memory: Finwë died here.
The tangle of my hallways might have saved him had he been less brave. Foolish. Many are my secrets, and the sons of Fëanáro had grown adept through the years at exploiting my hiding places. Would they have thought Finwë less courageous had he hidden beneath the stairs where Macalaurë fled his father's wrath over poor marks in mathematics? Or in the narrow space between rooms where Carnistir hid sweets?
Finwë tried to bar the Dark One from Fëanáro's door, and when he failed, the tumult of their battle laid my walls to ruin. In the labyrinth of hallways, he ran and the Dark One pursued. Their screams of rage and pain ran deep, to all my secret places. I quavered with each blow. The Dark One fell five times … but Finwë fell six.
The sparks from their swords were the only light in the darkness.
When the Dark One tore his sword from the barely-living body of the King, I was crumbling, and the sky was the ceiling once more. Only the stars were occluded behind the filth of Ungoliant. Darkness reigned.
And no one would want to live forever in the confines of what I have become.
A silly little ficlet in 700 words. Celegorm gets stuck in a window, and Caranthir helps him out. Featuring hedgehogs, neglected laundry duty, and a bit of bathroom humor … literally. You've been warned.
How Carnistir Fixed the Towel Rack
Tyelkormo has gotten himself stuck in the window of the lavatory between our bedrooms. Sleepy still but with a bladder full to bursting, I encounter him early in the morning, with one arm stuck inside the window and one out, a disheveled head, and legs (I imagine) dangling fruitlessly on the other side.
I have to rub my eyes to believe it. There is an unusual quantity of grit in them. I squint at it on my fingers.
"Well don't just stand there studying your eye-bogeys!" he hisses. "Help me!"
I don't appreciate his tone. I narrow my eyes at him. "I have to piss."
"You can do that after you help me."
"No. I can't. I have to piss, now, or you'll be getting a mop." I go over to the toilet and raise the lid. Behind me, I hear my name through gritted teeth. "Carnistir …"
He is not so small anymore, my brother Tyelkormo. He doesn't realize his size when he kidney-punches me for splashing water on him during a rainstorm. Or when sitting on my head until I blacked out for telling Atar that he'd copied his lessons. Or, apparently, when choosing windows through which to sneak back home after an illicit dalliance with one of his girl-friends.
I take a good long time relieving myself, squeezing out every last drop. I'm sure to shake myself completely dry. I watch the water spin in the bowl until it's completely gone. I even wipe up the few drops that I have gotten on the rim--Amil would be pleased--before turning back to him.
"Help me," he says again. There is a note of desperation in his voice. Atar will be about soon, and this is his favorite lavatory to use since the twins decided to put a cactus garden in his basin.
I sigh and grab Tyelkormo's arm, the one on the inside of the house. I pull. Nothing happens. However, I do notice an unusual reddish tinge to his mouth that confirms my earlier theory about illicit trysts.
"Have you been painting your lips, Turko?" I ask, letting his arm go slack. He despises the name Turko, and oh, do I know this. His body shimmies forward a little as (I imagine) he frantically pedals his legs on the other side of the wall, trying to get at me. But he's still stuck.
And Atar is about.
"Cursed cur of Oromë--" Atar must have found the hedgehog that the twins put in his boot. They claim it's the only place it will sleep. "Manwë's holy flatulence--"
Tyelkormo's face has gone white. "Moryo!" he squeaks. "Do something!"
But what to do when one's largish brother is protruding from the window? I scratch my head and find a cocklebur that the comb must have missed. Annoying, that. But it doesn't solve my problem--or rather, Tyelkormo's problem. There is only one thing--
I fling a none-too-clean, mildew-smelling bath towel over his head. Tyelkormo and I have been in a standoff over whose turn it is to wash the towels since last New Year.
Atar stumps into the lavatory, hedgehog in hand and boots untied. "Carnistir," he grumbles in greeting. He puts the hedgehog in Tyelkormo's water glass and sets about washing his face.
"Atar," I reply. I watch as he washes his teeth with Tyelkormo's toothbrush and gives his hair a few perfunctory swipes with Tyelkormo's hairbrush. He dries his hands on the towel hanging by the window, apparently oblivious to its offensive odor or head-shaped holder.
"I see you've fixed the towel rack," he says. Ah yes, the towel rack that was knocked off the wall with my head when Tyelkormo pushed me into it. I'd forgotten about that. He fetches the hedgehog from Tyelkormo's glass and claps me on the shoulder. "Good work, son."
And he's gone.
I whisk the towel from Tyelkormo's head. He's gone a bit blue from holding his breath. "My sweet Valar it reeks under there," comes his rush of words.
"Well," I say, taking a hold of his arm and giving it a good strong tug, "I certainly think this means it's your turn to do the laundry."
Just after Fëanor's birth, before Míriel's condition is revealed, Finwë is tormented by unease. A perfect hundred-word drabble.
Behind diaphanous curtains drawn across the bed they sleep: my wife and my son in her arms. Night is deep outside the window, yet I am wakeful. Why? Sitting and turning a gilded letter-opener in my hand, letting it lie in my palm like a weapon, as though there is something dark beyond the palace against which I must guard them.
Behind diaphanous curtains, my wife and son sleep. I should join them. Yet I cannot dispel this feeling, this foolish hysteria, weighing heavily upon my restless heart.
That I will part the curtains, and they will be gone.