dawn_felagund (dawn_felagund) wrote,

"The Gift," for rhapsody11

rhapsody11 missed my initial invitation to request stories, but already, I had in mind that I would write something for her, because she posted a holiday wish list, and one of the items was a request for holiday-themed stories.

So here's my best attempt at a nice story that includes both Feanorians and holiday themes, as Celegorm ponders gifts given and received on the journey north to Araman.

May you get all your wishes and more. :)

The Gift

We are almost to Araman when Terentaulë’s footsteps cease, yet Curufinwë and I walk for a while before turning. We are in charge of guarding the belongings that travel on the carts, and we wear our swords at our sides, our cloaks hooked on their hilts to show them off, as threats. Once, we gave freely that what we possessed. Once, gems and gold were trinkets that could be made anew and the smile upon the face of the one to whom they were given was worth more than they were. Now, we guard against the treachery of our own kin, wearing swords as silent threats, valuing gold and gems above the lives of those who might seek them.

I stop first and tug Curufinwë’s arm, thinking that perhaps he hasn’t heard his wife’s footfalls cease, but when he turns, I see that he has heard but does not wish to acknowledge it. If he does not turn, then perhaps she will begin walking again. He pleads with me with his eyes, but it is too late.

I shout for the carts to cease and take Tyelperinquar from her. She does not look at me as I do so, but our hands brush, and we both flinch. I danced with her at her wedding, assuming that she would be my sister forever, a sister in a family of brothers. Goodbye is not something you expect to ever have to say, not in Valinor.

Their discussion begins in heated whispers, with my brother’s hands sketching shapes in the frozen air that become more and more animated. The fogs of their breath mingle as their bodies never will again, and I watch Terentaulë’s trembling, gloved hands rise to swipe at her cheeks. Tyelperinquar begins to cry when their words become loud enough to hear, and I see our company turning away, pretending not to hear, blowing on fingers that have never known such cold. “I will leave, Curufinwë,” she says adamantly. “I am leaving.”

With Tyelperinquar in my arms, I walk further away, listening to the crisp sound of the snow beneath my boots, concentrating on my burning-numb toes, so that I do not have to hear their voices, do not have to hear my brother’s voice crack with tears. I must be strong and brave for little Tyelperinquar in my arms if no one else, even if not for myself. I point at the sea and try to get him to look but he only cries harder. The sea—once silver tinged with rose—is a scary sight now, an endless smudge of ink with the stolen ships surging upon it, groaning as though in protest of our crimes or in memory of their captains before us, those whose spirits have fled behind us. Eventually, sickened, even I turn away.

At last, I hear Curufinwë shout for the carts to resume again, and I turn to find him already striding toward me, to seize little Tyelperinquar from my arms. Terentaulë does not join us again, and I do not ask.

We are relieved that night by the twins, and we go to sleep aboard our father’s ship. My bedroom is next to Curufinwë’s, and I am kept awake the night by Tyelperiquar’s relentless sobbing. I hear the creak of footsteps as Curufinwë paces the floor, futilely shushing his son. Do not cry, do not cry. But how? He is barely more than a year old, and his mother is gone. And his father weeps too, this I can hear in his voice.

Do not cry, do not cry.

I hear footsteps in the hall and a sharp rap on the door, then Maitimo’s voice. Curufinwë mumbles something largely incomprehensible, and Maitimo’s abrupt reply is “But what do you expect? He has lost his mother.”

Exhaustion has settled deep into my bones, dragging me to sleep, but I find myself rising from the bed and crossing the floor that lurches, adrift on an angry sea, to my door and then to Curufinwë’s, which stands open. Maitimo is pacing now with the wailing Tyelperinquar, but even his beloved uncle will not quell the child’s tears. And Curufinwë sits on his bed, head in hands and shoulders shaking, the light feebly ghosting the golden wedding band that—for all of the years of his life—he will never remove.

Maitimo sighs and looks at me. I hold open my arms and take Tyelperinquar so that Maitimo can go to Curufinwë, to sit beside him on the bed and circle him with his arm and press his chin to Curufinwë’s shoulder, to whisper to him words that possess no special magic but have soothed each of us at times in our lives, for they are whispered always with love.

As I leave them in peace, to take Tyelperinquar to my own cabin with the hopes of coaxing him to sleep, I hear Curufinwë sob to Maitimo: “Do you know what is today? It is the day of the Winter Festival—and what have I given him?”

She was a farmer’s daughter from outside of Tirion, and there was nothing special about her, really, but Curufinwë and I both fell in love with her, in the days leading up to the Winter Festival, ten years ago.

Curufinwë had met her over the summer, I later came to find out, although Curufinwë abided always in our father’s shadow, and so none of us noticed that he was rife with the signs of infatuation, even as he eagerly ran to Tirion for the silliest of errands, always on the third day of the week, the day when she went to the city to trade her father’s apples (I later came to learn). The remaining days, he spent in the forge and I spent riding in the forests with Carnistir, and there were days when I did not speak to Curufinwë at all, my own brother, with his bedroom adjoining mine, as though our parents possessed some futile hope that we might be friends. But that door was always kept locked, from both of our sides.

It was not secret that Curufinwë was making for our father a ring of extraordinary splendor, hoping to give it to him at the Winter Festival, when in the tradition of the Elves of Cuivienen long ago, we exchanged gifts with each other to secure safety and prosperity for the new year. Carnistir had come upon him making it in the forge, for Carnistir was the only of us who still worked there on occasion, and he went straight away to tell me of his discovery. I had been making for Atar a set of red-fletched arrows designed to fly further than any he’d ever shot before, hoping that—for just one year—my gift would be the one that he loved the best.

I waited for Carnistir to leave before breaking the arrows over my knees one by one, letting the glistening wood stab at my hands and make me bleed, letting that serve as an excuse for my shameful tears, throwing them into the hearth to be consumed by the fire.

And—two days later—she had arrived.

Curufinwë was off with Atar, looking over a supply of gold coming from the north, and Carnistir had gone to Tirion for new boots with Amil, and the twins were fishing in the creek. Maitimo and Macalaurë lived in Tirion in those days, and I was alone in the house, lounging with my hair unbound, still wearing the tunic in which I’d slept over a pair of old breeches worn at the knees. I was supposed to be reading—and I even made the appearance of doing so, although there was no one home to see me—but really, I was mulling miserably over the Winter Festival and what gift I would now give to Atar. I hated the Winter Festival, I decided, despite all of the professed joy and merriment it brought because it reminded me each year of my inadequacy, of the disappointment that I surely was. It was on these things I’d been brooding when the knock came at the door.

Expecting a messenger from Tirion, I went to the door with some annoyance at having been disturbed and threw it open impatiently, only to find a small maiden at the threshold, a girl with pale brown hair and long-lashed green eyes, whom my heart loved upon sight.

“I—I seek Curufinwë,” she said. “Is he home?”

We walked in the bountiful gardens of my father’s home that day, talking of everything but Curufinwë. Her father had an orchard to the east of the city, and she spent most of her days picking apples. Her hands, when I dared to hold them, were as callused as my own, and she blushed and tugged away. Her name was Terentaulë and she went to Tirion on the third day of each week, to trade apples in exchange for the supplies that her family needed.

She had a simple life, but her voice was as reverent as if she had been a lord of the King, and suddenly, I could imagine no life better than to live in a small house among the orchards, with four rooms—a kitchen, sitting room, bedroom, and a room for our child—waking up each day to the peace that ensconced her, letting her drown my anger and jealousy with the simple joy of a good harvest or a warm kiss at day’s ending. When the Mingling came and Curufinwë and Atar had not returned, she had to leave lest she be late for supper, and I drifted back to my rooms, regretful of her departure and able to think of naught but her.

I rode often in those days to her father’s orchards, and we would sit in the tops of the trees, out of sight to all but the birds in the sky and Eru above even them, and she let me hold her hands and, once, even kiss her, shyly and tenderly, as though I’d never kissed a maiden before, and the memory alone of this kiss—recalled in the dark safety of my bedroom later that night—was enough to steal my breath for joy.

The Winter Festival drew near, and it was the time when all of the young, unwed Elves of Tirion were aflutter with anxious eagerness about who would escort them. For me, though, there was never a question, and when I went to the orchards that day—the fourth day of the week—it was with a feeling as though I ran along the tops of the grasses, so happy that even gravity could not afflict me.

We sat facing each other in a tree she’d plucked clean of apples, reclining on two strong branches. There was something odd about her face that day, and when I teased her to the point of confession, she admitted, “I have been friends with your brother Curufinwë, as you know. But yesterday—“ and her green eyes reluctantly met mine—“he asked me to accompany him to the Winter Festival. And he—he professed also to love me.”

It was not until I was halfway home that I realized that I had forgotten to ask her, and somehow feeling that now I never would

When I entered my rooms that day, I met with quite a surprise because Curufinwë was awaiting me, pacing restlessly across my floor, the door between our bedrooms swung open.

“Tyelkormo,” he said, and his voice had been strange, quivering, “I beg you not to ask her.”


“Terentaulë. To the Winter Festival. I asked her, and she would not answer because she said that she suspected that you might ask her first. That you had made—“ he swallowed hard—“overtures of affection to her, and she did not think it right to suddenly forsake you.” His voice had broken then, and with amazement, I watched my brother’s face crumple into tears, the brother who had had so much when I had nothing, now weeping as though I sought to take his life from him.

“I love her, Tyelkormo,” he said. “I didn’t have your confidence to tell her, but I love her, and I beg you to let her go. You could have any maiden in Tirion but I can only have this one. And I will give you anything to let her go. Name your price, and it is yours.”

Five minutes later, Curufinwë having left my bedroom through the door adjoining to his, closing it gently behind him, I held in my hand the ring he’d made for our father. It was just as splendid as Carnistir had said, truly fitting one as beautiful as our father, and I suspected that it would look likewise lovely on my hand.

But this, I never knew for certain, for I hid it in the depths of my jewelry box before even slipping it once upon my finger, surprised that it did not make me happy as I thought it would.

Now, it is the night of the Winter Festival, but we are far from Tirion and far from the merriment of festival. The times are so dark that we have all forgotten this day, and we have no gifts to exchange, if we could even muster the selflessness to delve into our possessions and give to another that which we covet for ourselves. The night is bitterly cold as though in lament, and—Tyelperinquar snug in my arms—as I turn my eyes to the sky, to the solace of the stars and the only light left in the world, a flake of snow lands upon the tip of my nose with an icy kiss.

More and more flakes fall, clinging to my eyelashes and dusting Tyelperinquar’s velvet-dark hair. He grabs them in his tiny fists and, opening his hand to find them melted, miraculously, his tears cease and he laughs. My exposed ears burning with the cold and my throat tight with unshed tears, I open my mouth to tell him that we are going in from the cold, and a snowflake falls onto my tongue.

And I laugh too.

I can no more sleep this night than I could on the first night after meeting Terentaulë, stretched in my narrow bed with Tyelperinquar curled in my arms, who has found the heavy sleep still possible for one so innocent. The room is strewn with my possessions, tossed from my trunk in my haste to find a single item, buried deep in my jewelry box, for I would not let my brother-son have his first Winter Festival without a gift. And I am surprised to find that, in his hand instead of mine, the splendid ring intended for my father, used instead to buy my brother love—the love of which has given me the brother-son whom I hold in my arms—does make me happy after all.
Tags: celegorm, curufin, holiday gifts, short story

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