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The Fire and the Hearth by Elleth

Author name: Elleth
Recipient's name: Iavalir
Title: The Fire and the Hearth
Rating: PG
Request: Anything with the House of Fëanor (especially the sons but could be anyone.) Genre and era is of your choice. I love stories that center on families and ones that include interactions between characters we usually don't see interacting in canon and fanfiction, but I will be thrilled with anything.
Author's Notes: 2857 words of Maglor and Curufin – I'll have to admit not knowing how frequently they are written in fanfiction, but I hope the story will nonetheless work for you. It certainly was a treat to have an opportunity to explore these two. :)
Beta: grey_gazania and moetushie - thank you both!
Summary: An evil winter has come upon Mithrim, and it is Makalaurë's responsibility to look out for his brothers – in particular for Curufin, who is nursing a strange remnant of their father.



The Fire and the Hearth

Tyelperinquar was sucking on an apple core with disturbing determination and focus. The boy edged away from the fireplace when another gust of icy wind swept in through the chimney, and the embers shuddered into a nest of fiery tongues before shrinking back to smouldering remnants. This winter was hard on them all, Makalaurë thought – Mithrim had never been so unkind, the lake had never completely frozen over before, the snows had never been so deep, and provisions never been so scarce.

He crossed the distance from the darkening window and bent down to scoop up the boy. Even though he was approaching the end of early childhood where this became an easy feat, Tyelperinquar still showed a strange propensity for clinging, legs around Makalaurë's hips, arms around his shoulders, small head tucked snug underneath his chin. He did not let go of the apple core, but continued gnawing on it, and Makalaurë could find no blame in that – they were all hungry, and the boy's limbs especially had grown so stick-thin that bearing it was hard enough without outright heartbreak.

"So, where is your father?" he asked, steering his thoughts away from the matter of hunger, and Tyelperinquar, around his apple core, mumbled something unintelligible.

"I'm afraid I did not catch that," Makalaurë said. He tried to muster up a smile and felt it falter before it ever reached his eyes. The boy's cheeks, too, were far too hollow.

"I said, 'don't know'," Tyelperinquar replied, with a note of petulance at the repetition – much like his father. If Curufin had been the young elf in his arms, he would have likely added a pithy remark that a minstrel of all people ought to be able to listen and understand before, nonetheless, enunciating more clearly. It had happened often, and indeed had even become something of a game between them when they had both been younger and the greatest cares in the world had been nothings.

"Shall we look for him?" No answer, though Makalaurë thought he noticed the boy tensing, perhaps even a miniature headshake. "'s been tending grandfather's flame," the boy confessed eventually, still mumbling. "'s warmer here, and 'm hungry. So I left. He was angry."

'Here' was the kitchen hall of the compound, with a large fireplace and a collection of chairs around it; six for Makalaurë and his brothers, the healers' grouped away to one side where they would often sit in study or discussion, and the places of a few of the more sociable captains and nobles. Stoves and ovens dominated the further part of the room, and though few were running at this time and the usual clatter of pots and pans as well as the much-loved smell of fresh bread was absent, it was indeed warmer here. The place had in many ways become the hon-maro, the Heart of the House, a fire that sat at the center of the household, and to find it so empty was troubling. Especially in these days, short and nearly inconsequential in terms of light – and how quickly they had embraced that again! - he would have expected everyone to gather in a refuge against the dark and the biting cold. As it was, only the domestic clutter that had accumulated – books and tea glasses, toys, a hairbrush, and Makalaurë's own cedar-and-walnut harp that he had finished and strung mere days ago – kept the boy company.

"Ah," he said, somewhat belatedly. "But you know that that is not your fault, is that not so?" Tyelperinquar, by his own admission, barely remembered his grandfather as anything but a commanding presence in a few, first, fuzzy recollections, and as such did not wholly comprehend Curufinwë's attachment to him, nor to the ridiculous flame that he kept tending. Makalaurë could feel his lip curl even now.

"But he was angry, 'n said I was a disgrace to grandfather and grandfather's name," the boy repeated, now looking thoroughly unhappy, and Makalaurë gave the thin body a careful squeeze.

"It is not your fault. You see, he loved your grandfather very much, and he doesn't understand that other people may not love him the same way. You were far too you little to remember him well, and..." he let a moment elapse in silence, conspiciously leaning closer, and darted his eyes to either side, only breaking the quiet when Tyelperinquar bit down on the apple core to stifle a giggle. "... and sometimes, Tyelpo, your father is a very, very strange man. Let us seek him, come. Perhaps we can raise his spirits." He tugged Tyelperinquar's sheep-wool vest closed, wrapped his cloak snug around the both of them and stepped out into the cold.

Tyelperinquar shivered against him, burying his face in the fur collar of Makalaurë's cloak, and clung a little tighter. The cold was beastly and biting, as though the winds swept in sharp as glass straight from the world's end seeking to freeze and shatter all living things. He had long repented of the Burning of the Ships and begged forgiveness of Nolofinwë and his kin for all their losses – even paid reparations such a they had been able to give - but could not help feeling a sting of the guilt as sharp and cold as the wind again. In some ways it seemed just that the host of Fëanáro should be suffering similar pains to the terrors of the Helcaraxë, but with a shivering child pressed against him, he nonetheless quickened his step through the once more knee-high snow on the paths that had been shovelled from house to house. Beyond those, the snow piled undisturbed and hip-high, if not higher, and Makalaurë was glad to hurry into the private wing of the house, where he and his brothers had their rooms.

They found Curufinwë in his own quarters, where Tyelperinquar had left him. The rooms were icy cold and dark, lit only by the meagre glow of their low-burning fireplace, and Curufinwë had wrapped himself in blankets, sitting hunched over a flickering light between his hands, only occasionally reaching for scraps of the small pile of kindling that lay next to him on the table. He was murmuring, too, but Makalaurë failed to understand what he was saying, and privately thought that perhaps his description of Curufinwë as 'very, very strange' had been too kindly put. He was a picture of utter madness, and had never even noticed them entering, focused on his task as he was.

"Curufinwë," Makalaurë said eventually, after observing the repetitive spectacle in front of him long enough for Tyelperinquar to begin to squirm. Curufinwë's head snapped up, but he did not turn around.

"Makalaurë. What do you want of me?"

"Will you not come into the kitchens with us? You will freeze to ice in here before long, and what end would that be for one of us?"

"Don't jest with me, I am in no mood for it. Make yourself useful and bring me more kindling, I cannot leave father's flame alone."

"Curvo, please, come into the kitchens. Tyelpo is hungry, you are nearly frozen, and you will both be less miserable once that has been amended. Besides, we need to conserve the stores of wood and kindling until spring. No one knows how long the snows will last this year; the weather is evil beyond precedent."

"I care little."

"Be glad you have that liberty. I have to care, and I do. It is my responsibility to keep everyone alive, as far as that is within my power! That includes the five of you, little though you seem to like it. At least I know for certain our brothers are coping!"

The sharper their voices became, the more Tyelperinquar began squirming, and Makalaurë set him down with a kiss to his hair. "Please do me a favour, Tyelpo; run along to Mistress Estelindë and find out if she has any Rosin Rose left. I daresay that will do your father good," he said. The boy, certainly glad to be given an escape, nodded and sped from the room, and once his footsteps had receded down the corridor, Makalaurë stepped up to his brother.

Curufin turned to him. "Are you looking to drug me? Well, I hope the healers won't cooperate, because that is unnecessary. I am fine. Do not foist your guilt over Maitimo on me, I am not him!"

"And no one said so!" Makalaurë snapped, pausing to force down the sudden, painful lump in his throat. The reminder stung, and the guilt that Curufinwë was so aptly pointing out was very real. "I thought you agreed that we should offer Moringotto no quarter, even at the cost of Maitimo's captivity?"

Curufinwë, too, took his time with his response, and eventually he said, "Yes. I agree. But you have to admit that he makes a fabulous chain to yank you around on," he confessed. Makalaurë's eyebrow rose. It was not surprising that Curufinwë was seeking to win a potential advantage from the situation, but to admit to his machinations so easily was strange and unlike him.

"Sometimes I think I could not possibly understand you, but even a blinded man could see that you are taking all this rather hard. This winter, Maitimo's loss, and especially father's," Makalaurë said quietly. It was one possible explanation, and the one that seemed to make the greatest sense. He stood behind his brother and watched the shine of the flame in the little brazier flicker between Curufinwë's hands. "And this is still his; it hasn't gone out ever since?"

"And now you seek to yank my own chain," Curufinwë said, half-turning, with a surprised look on his face. "I give you too little credit sometimes. But yes – it is his, and I never let it go out since I caught it. I carried it with me since he died, and now it is mine to tend; especially now that it is so cold I cannot leave it unattended. You do not think that I would let an ember from father's spirit go out, would you?" Curufinwë explained in a low voice, his eyes once more fixed on the flame.

Makalaurë shook his head. "No. You would not. But you must not forget, there is more than that to life. Look at yourself, when did you last wash your hair?" Makalaurë said gently, and lifted up a greasy strand between two fingers to let it drop again. Curufinwë said nothing, dipping down his head to the the brazier, his shoulders hunched. He was, usually, scrupulously perfect with every aspect of himself, including hygiene and hairstyle, and finding him neglect all of that was unsettling beyond words, especially with the display of subdued demeanor.

"It must have been a week, longer than a week," he replied eventually, but instead of lashing out, he hunkered down further in his chair.

The imprecise answer, only barely disguised, told Makalaurë more than he needed to know – that his brother had lost count of the days and was reluctant to admit it. But he even failed to muster the enthusiasm for the minor subterfuges that he usually took joy in to avoid admitting something that directly went against the perfectionism that he commonly wore so snug around himself.

"When have you last eaten?" Makalaurë pressed on. Their father had sometimes been struck with such moods, never emerging from the forge for days on end, but he had been working feverishly on projects and simply forgotten about the world, leaving the running of the household to their mother, and Nerdanel, an artist herself, had accepted it with thin-lipped, displeased grace.

But Curufinwë was not working, and he had a young son to care for – even while there were uncles, healers and other members of the household to look after him, all those could never replace the attention of the only parent the boy had left on this side of the sea. Almost Makalaurë opened his mouth for that final reproach, when Curufinwë finally replied.

"Yesterday. I ate yesterday. Tyelkormo had me break my fast with him and would not leave me until I had eaten to his heart's content. What must I do to have you leave me to my own devices?" The words were, certainly, intended to bite, but they lacked the scathing heart that had always burned at his brother's core. It was no laughing matter, but Makalaurë chuckled nonetheless, trying to dispell his concern.

"Your bite is about as terrible as an old, toothless dog's. The wind has sharper teeth, and I would you had, also. Which is precisely why I have no intention to leave you, and every intention to lure you out of this ice chamber. Father's flame is not going to keep you warm, nor is it going to last in here – come to the kitchens, see to Tyelperinquar getting more to eat, and warm up."

"And if I do not?"

"I will call you a petulant child, and have everyone see that your boyhood brattiness never left you. And as your lord and the head of the family in Maitimo's absence I am going to command you to come to the kitchens, whether or not that is going to endear you toward me. You swore loyalty to me, if I must remind you, and our being brothers is not enough to do me a favour."

Pulling the blanket closer around himself, Curufinwë rose. Whether it was the display of authority or something else, Makalaurë could not guess. He took a step back and waited for his brother to answer.

"You are not wholly useless, Makalaurë, if you put your mind to it. It is a shame that you let drink addle it so often," Curufinwë added, now with a hint of his normal spark in his eyes. "Let us strike a bargain – you steer clear of that and come to me when Maitimo's fate weighs too heavy on your mind, and I will come to the kitchens with you once Curufinwë returns."

As if on clue – or perhaps he had been listening outside the door - Tyelperinquar inched into the room, and took several hesitant steps toward his father. He still carried the apple-core, now gnawed within an inch of its life.

"Is there any more food now?" he asked. "And Mistress Estelindë said that she is a healer, not an apothecary and I was supposed to tell you that, and that you should both keep that in mind, or she will give you both a talking-to. And she will talk to you anyway before she gives you any herbs. When she has time."

Makalaurë saw his brother smile, half-triumphant and half-mocking, and he patted his son's head. "Well done, Curvo." Makalaurë found himself smiling as well; their Master Healer sounded as cantankerous as ever, and it was heartening to find that the winter had not availed to change some people.

"Come, let us go to the kitchens," he said. "And find you something to eat." Hoisting Tyelperinquar up once more, Makalaurë wrapped him into his cloak again, and once Curufinwë had gathered up his brazier, cupped safely between his hands to protect it from the wild winds howling outside, he threw the remaining edge around his brother, pulling him close too.

"There."

Curufinwë nodded, once and briefly, but raised no objection, least of all when they ventured out into the weather and hurried back to the kitchens, quickly pushing the door shut against the wind as they crowded inside. The snow had begun falling in heavier flakes than before.

It was nearly time for dinner. A handful of servants had come in while Makalaurë had been gone. They had stoked the fires, and even left a hawthorn bundle by the fireplace before beginning to prepare an -- albeit meagre -- meal. The kitchens were awash in a warm glow, and Curufinwë, after a furtive look around, appeared almost relieved to have come. Carefully, he set the brazier down by the fireplace and rubbed the cold out of his fingers, and then, with what seemed a carefully considered motion, tipped some of the embers from the brazier into the larger fireplace, where they vanished in a trace of sparks. The fire licked up briefly toward his hands, and Curufinwë's face lit up.

"This one, at least, will never go out," he said.

"Now it truly is the Heart of the House," Makalaurë answered, and reached for his harp. "Although that will hardly be necessary. We are all upholding his legacy, and not all of it is evil. Just remember to pass it on to your son in more than name only."

Curufinwë sat down on the chair beside him, and Makalaurë rested his head on his shoulder. Tyelperinquar soon came pattering back from the servants, where he had pilfered a piece of bread to tide him over until the food was ready, and climbed onto his father's lap, leaning against the both of them. The door clapped, and accompanied by another gust of wind, their brothers, too, filed into the hall, shaking snow out of their hair.

Softly, Makalaurë began to sing.

End Notes:

As the story takes place in the early First Age (after the arrival of Fingolfin but before Maedhros is rescued and Thingol's Quenya ban), I decided to use Quenya names where applicable. Unless I have made a mistake somewhere, Mithrim is the only Sindarin word in the story, and that was deliberate as the name of the land originally was an autonym of the Sindar living in the area, and thus would be unlikely to have a Quenya equivalent (if it existed, that should be Mistarimbë), especially given the ethics of appropriate language use among the Noldor.

Tyelperinquar – Celebrimbor. His fanonical father-name is often given as Curufinwë (Curvo), and I decided to adopt the idea for the purposes of the story. His canonical age is uncertain, but since he has a Quenya name and did not participate in the taking of the Oath of Fëanor, he may have been born late in the Years of the Trees in Aman, and was perhaps too young join the rest of his family in that particular endeavour.

Fëanáro – Fëanor
Nolofinwë - Fingolfin
Maitimo – Maedhros
Makalaurë – Maglor
Tyelkormo – Celegorm
Curufinwë – Curufin

Moringotto – Morgoth

Hon-maro: A fireplace as the Heart of the House, a notion that I believe is first put forward in the Lost Road as an element in Tolkien's earlier ideas of Númenor. This and the idea of the tale-fire that is frequently described as the social center of a house in the Lost Tales (as well as my own ruminations on Eldarin cultural traditions and a particular family's affiliation with fire that I'll elaborate on if anybody is interested) gave rise to the idea of having a similar thing in the Fëanorians' Mithrim settlement. The form I used here is Quenya as suggested on Ardalambion, rather than the originally occuring Qenya from the texts, which puts the form as hon-maren with a different formation of the genitive.

Rosin Rose: Another name for St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum), a herbal remedy that is often used to treat mild forms of depression. I wanted to steer clear of any names with overtly Christian associations as that would be rather out of place within Tolkien's legendarium.

Hawthorn: Makes for good firewood that has the tendency to burn slowly and generate great heat.

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
blslarner
Jan. 1st, 2013 05:05 pm (UTC)
At least they now come close to appreciating what those who came by way of the Helcaraxe endured. Curuvinwe is trying to keep alive his father's fiery spirit via a brazier? Interesting, but in keeping with what I understand of his nature.

Interesting depictions of the two of them as well as Celebrimbor as a small child. And so appropriate to the theme! Well done!
ladyelleth
Jan. 3rd, 2013 08:45 am (UTC)
Thank you very much, I'm glad you enjoyed reading this. :) Curufin is definitely holding on to that ember he caught with an unhealthy obsession (the brazier is just the vessel to keep it); he always struck me as someone who would easily go to extremes - well, he is Fëanor's son.

Either way, thank you for the lovely review! I'm sitting here grinning at the computer screen right now. :D
dreamflower02
Jan. 1st, 2013 05:53 pm (UTC)
I think my favorite part of this, aside from what a sweet child young
Tyelperinquar is, is the effort Makalaurë makes to see that his brother does not neglect his son for his work and his oath--like their own father did.

Beautifully done!
ladyelleth
Jan. 3rd, 2013 08:51 am (UTC)
Eeeee, thank you so much for commenting! You picked up on some key ideas that I tried to discuss in the story - Maglor is definitely not going to stand by and watch his family fall apart because Curufin is trying too hard to be like his father.

Thank you! :)
rhapsody11
Jan. 1st, 2013 06:57 pm (UTC)
Oh such a dysfunctional family and with a young elf that needs more that food to grow. Both brothers are strong characters in their own rights, very different from each other and yet they know the weakness of the other. That Curufin would keep his father's fire kindled is something I never thought of, but it makes utterly sense to me!
ladyelleth
Jan. 3rd, 2013 09:28 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, Rhapsy! :D I always love hearing what readers get out of my stories, and you are - as usual - being uncannily astute! :D And as for being a dysfunctional family... they would not be the Fëanorians we all know and love without that.

I'm so glad the idea with Curufin's obsession makes sense to you as well - I carried it around as a sort-of headcanon for a while and decided to let it out to play for the first time here. :)
isasolan
Jan. 1st, 2013 07:21 pm (UTC)
Wow. The idea that Curufin keeps Fëanor's flame alive is the best thing I've read in a very long time. Thank you for an excellent story.
ladyelleth
Jan. 3rd, 2013 09:34 am (UTC)
Thank you for an excellent and very lovely review! I was wondering if the idea was not too out there to pass, but I'm really happy to hear that you're receiving it so enthusiastically. Thanks again! :)
engarian
Jan. 1st, 2013 09:11 pm (UTC)
The ever-burning flame was quite interesting. I loved seeing Tyelperinquar as a child, usually we only see him as an adult. All in all, a story that made me feel the cold temperatures I live in right now.

- Erulisse (one L)
ladyelleth
Jan. 3rd, 2013 09:43 am (UTC)
Thank you very much, OneL! :) I'm glad you found the story interesting, and I'll have to admit that little Celebrimbor came as a surprise to me as well, but if his later relationship to his father is any indication he would be (speaking in storytelling terms now!) an excellent source of conflict. :)

I hope you're managing to stay warm despite the freezing weather!
iavalir
Jan. 2nd, 2013 12:51 am (UTC)
Elleth! I love this so much! :) The idea of holding onto to Fëanor's fire was an awesome idea, and it matches so well with my theory of Curufin being unhealthily obsessed with his father. Letting go can be one of the best things to do for someone we love for their sake and ours, but it can also be incredibly painful and hard to do. And to see Curufin acting this way, utterly mad yet so human. It's a wonderful look into both his personality and his humanity.

I loved both Maglor and Curufin here! So glad to see more interaction of my BroTP in fanfiction! :)

Overall I love this immensely. The imagery, mood, and characterization are all outstanding. Thank you! :)
ladyelleth
Jan. 3rd, 2013 11:23 am (UTC)
Lórien! :D It's such a relief that you enjoyed this! I spent, uhm, quite a while stalking your Curufin tag on various websites for ideas and aversions (that's where the characters for this, as well as Celebrimbor's father-name is from as well, though I've seen it around other places, too) and it really was a treat to write for you! Our ideas intersect in a lot of places, and playing around with that before it shaped itself into your story was as much of a treat as receiving your fic. :D

Also - I'm glad Curufin came across as human! You know I don't subscribe to the aloof, perfect Elves notion, so deconstructing him here to get a glimpse underneath - and offer something of a happy ending (for now) was one of the goals, and I'm very happy you picked up on it. :)

Thank you so much for your lovely review. It definitely made my day! ♥
wood_elf
Jan. 3rd, 2013 06:10 pm (UTC)
It's a wonder Tyelpe grew up so well adjusted. Oh, wait...

Likethis. Very educational author's notes too. :)
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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