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The Gift
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1
The Gift

This story takes place in Valinor; accordingly, I've chosen to use the characters' Quenya names, which are as follows:

Nelyafinwë or Maitimo - Maedhros
Kanafinwë or Makalaurë - Maglor
Turkafinwë - Celegorm

For the meaning of the names, see the Author's Notes at the end of the story.

I would like to thank Tyellas for providing me with invaluable information regarding glassblowing, and the various things that can go wrong during the process.

Disclaimer: The characters and the setting are gratefully borrowed from the works of J. R. R. Tolkien (except for Carmandil, who's a gift from Finch). I own nothing.


~~~

"It's beautiful," Carmandil said as he examined the glass figurine, a delicately crafted bird cast in the act of taking wing, glittering with the refracted light of Telperion. "A very nice piece of work." Definitely not expert craftsmanship, but more than acceptable for an apprentice, especially such a young one, the master glassworker thought to himself. But what else could be expected from him - his father probably began teaching him almost as soon as he could walk.

"I'm glad you think so - I've done my best. I spent weeks just designing it," the young elf said quietly. "Thank you for letting me work here. I could never have completed this without your help. Father practically lives in his workshop; it would have been impossible for me to work in secret at home, and I want to surprise him. Do you think he'll like it?"

"Of course, Nelyafinwë." Carmandil replied. "A gift reflects the heart of the giver - and your love for your father Fëanáro shows in the loveliness of what you have created for him. Now, take it home - and after you present it to your father, please give him my regards, " he concluded, handing the fragile sculpture back to its creator.

"Thank you so much for your help," Fëanáro's firstborn said again as he began to leave. Perhaps he could be persuaded to return one day as an apprentice, when he's of an age for his formal training to begin, Carmandil speculated as he watched the handsome youngster depart. Assuming, of course, that his father would permit it. I know Fëanáro is nearly as skilled with glass as he is with metals and gems, but it is often better to learn from a teacher less closely related, at least in the beginning. I will have to remember to talk to him about his son's future one day.

*******

As Nelyafinwë walked home, he kept marveling at the delicate sculpture he had created, now nestled inside a box where it rested securely on a protective bed of soft fleece. He'd helped his father in his workshop many times, of course, learning through example the basic techniques of shaping and casting glass as well as metal, but this was the first piece he had ever created entirely by himself. He hadn't been sure he would actually be able to make it, but he had persevered, and now here it was in his hands. It's almost as beautiful as one of Yavanna's real birds, he thought. Father has always said that our people are meant to create beauty; perhaps I shall become a glassworker for real one day, and spend my life shaping many such marvels. His brother Kanafinwë, still hardly more than a baby in his older brother's eyes, had already begun to live up to his mother-name of Makalaurë; his musical talent was obvious even at his tender age, and Nelyafinwë admitted to himself that he was sometimes a little jealous. His own mother-name, Maitimo, referred to his appearance only, and not to any noteworthy abilities he possessed; if he had any great talents, so far they had not revealed themselves. Surely there must be something he could excel at! He had actually enjoyed the process of creating this gift; perhaps he'd finally found his talent after all.

When Nelyafinwë finally arrived at his family's house, he found Kanafinwë playing in the front courtyard, swinging from one of the lower branches of their mother's favorite tree; the branch, covered with fragrant pink blooms, was sagging alarmingly under his younger brother's weight. "Kanafinwë, you'd better get down," he scolded gently. "Mother will be angry if you break that tree branch, filit*! And besides, you might get hurt."

"Mother never gets angry," Kanafinwë replied as he let go of the branch and dropped lightly to his feet. "And when have I ever been hurt? Why do you always treat me like a baby?"

"Because I love you, silly brother, and I'm supposed to look out for you. That's what older brothers do."

"Oh. Who looks out for you, then?" Kanafinwë asked as he walked over to his brother's side. "You don't have an older brother. What's in the box, Maitimo?" he said abruptly when he caught sight of the package in his brother's hands.

"It's a present for Father; I made it. I'll show it to you later, before we go to bed, but you'll have to promise to keep it a secret," Nelyafinwë replied quietly.

"I promise," Kanafinwë said. "I won't tell anyone! Can we go play now?"

"Sure, little brother. Let me put this in our room, and then we'll go play. Would you like to go into the woods? We could climb trees to look for birds' nests, and pick some flowers for Mother, and maybe even find a fawn, if we're very lucky."

"Okay, Maitimo."

"Wait here for a moment, then, and I'll be right back."

When Nelyafinwë returned, after carefully hiding the box in the room he now shared with his little brother, he found that Kanafinwë was once again swinging from the tree branch. He sighed and shook his head ruefully, then called out, "Come on, brother - let's go exploring now!" As the two of them left the courtyard, Kanafinwë, his hand held securely by his older brother, began to sing a song about the sea.

*******

"Mother, Maitimo made a present for Father!" Kanafinwë promptly announced the following day at breakfast. "He showed to me yesterday - it's awfully pretty."

Nelyafinwë groaned; fortunately, Fëanáro had arisen earlier than usual and was already out working in his shop. "Kana, you promised not to tell anyone, remember?"

"I'm sorry, Maitimo," Kanafinwë replied. "I forgot. Are you mad at me?"

"No, filit, I'm not mad. Just try to remember not to tell anyone else - especially Father!"

Nerdanel, who had been trying in vain to tempt her youngest son Turkafinwë to eat, looked over at her firstborn. "That 's very thoughtful of you, Maitimo. What did you make?"

"It's just a small piece of glasswork, Mother. I'm going to give it to him after the festival is over. Father's made so many beautiful things for all of us - I thought it would be nice for me to make something lovely for him for a change. Isn't that what our people are best known for - creating beautiful things?"

"That is what some of us are known for, Maitimo, and their skills have made the Noldor famous. But not all of our people are the same. Just because your father is -" but at this point, Nerdanel was suddenly interrupted by the sound of breaking crockery. Both Nelyafinwë and Kanafinwë had been paying attention to their mother, and Nerdanel in turn had been focused on her oldest son; Turkafinwë had taken advantage of this rare opportunity. The hated cereal, which his mother had been attempting to get him to eat, was now instead smeared all over his face, on his clothes, and in his hair, and he'd somehow managed to push the bowl off the table and onto the floor, where it had shattered. Seeing that he once again had his mother's attention, the youngest son of Fëanáro began to howl. "Oh, little one," Nerdanel laughed, "whatever am I going to do with you? You're twice the handful your brothers were at your age. First things first," she continued as she picked up her sticky son. "It's bath time for you now. Maitimo, can you and Kanafinwë clear the table for me while I clean up your brother?"

"Of course, Mother."

"And I would appreciate it if you would watch Kanafinwë for a while, Maitimo."

This request was met with two simultaneous protests - "I'm not a baby, Mother!" from Kanafinwë, and "But Father's expecting me to help him!" from Nelyafinwë.

"Then why don't you take your brother with you, Maitimo?" Nerdanel responded as she wiped the cereal from Turkafinwë's face. "Just be careful, and see that he doesn't get hurt."

"Mother says I can come with you!" Kanafinwë crowed with joy. "Let's go, Maitimo! I want to see Father's forge. Is it awfully scary?" he asked, his voice suddenly becoming a little hesitant.

"No, brother," Nelyafinwë replied, resigned to the inevitable. How am I supposed to help Father, or learn anything, if I have to watch my little brother? "It's not scary, really - just hot. And I won't let anything bad happen to you. Come on - let's get the table cleared. I'm running late already."

*******

"You're late, son." The dark figure bent in front of the glowing furnace spoke without looking up.

"I'm sorry, Father, but I had to stay and help Mother clean up. Turkafinwë managed to make a real mess at breakfast." Nelyafinwë replied. He felt his young brother pressing tightly against his side, trembling slightly. "It's all right, filit, it's just hot in here because of the furnace. You'll get used to it. Father, Kanafinwë's come to watch today."

At that, Fëanáro turned and came around to where his two sons were standing. "So, you're ready to start your apprenticeship, are you?" he said good-naturedly to his smaller son. Reaching down, he lifted him up into his arms and laughed. "Soon you'll be forging gold in truth, Makalaurë," he teased gently, and tousled his small son's hair. "But for now I think you'll just watch. Today we're making necklaces for King Olwë and his wife, and you can see how we apply the colors." He carried Kanafinwë over to a worktable, and sat him down on a stool there. "Now, I want you to sit there, and promise not to move. Your brother and I have to work near the fire for a bit, but soon we'll both come over here, and you'll be able to see us paint the colors on."

"I promise, I won't move," Kanafinwë replied.

"Good." Then Fëanáro turned to his older son. "Nelyafinwë, come over to the furnace. I want to you to watch how I cast this pendant. Then we'll start the next layer of enamelwork on the figures we made yesterday. Remember - the final results should be even. You're still not applying the pigment uniformly enough."

"Yes, Father. I'll try harder."

"You need to."

*******

"Maitimo, why was Father picking on you so much today?" Kanafinwë asked that evening, after they had both gone to bed. The house was comfortable but small, and the two brothers had begun sharing a room shortly before Turkafinwë's birth, when Nerdanel said Kanafinwë's room would be needed for the new baby. At first Nelyafinwë had objected, but to his surprise he'd found he enjoyed his little brother's company, at least most of the time. But there were times...

"He wasn't picking on me, Kana - he's just trying to teach me how to do things right," Nelyafinwë replied. "Crafting jewelry is difficult, and I have a lot to learn. I'm not very good at it. I'm better with glass."

"But he didn't pick on me when I painted my bird," Kanafinwë replied, clutching the small pendant Fëanáro had fired for him, "and I only just started today."

"That's because he doesn't expect much from you yet, silly brother, and that bird is just for you to wear around the house. The jewelry Father was working on today is for King Olwë, the leader of all the Teleri, to be given to him at a big festival next week, and it needs to be perfect or Father's reputation will suffer. It's different when you're making something that will be seen by other people - it has to be done right. You'll understand when you're older, and start your training with Father."

"Do I have to? I think I'd rather write songs," Kanafinwë replied. "I'm scared of the furnace, Maitimo - it's too hot."

"That's just because you're still little, filit - you won't be afraid when you're older. And Father will want you to work with him, at least for a while. But if you decide you don't like it, he'll probably let you quit and write songs instead, if that's what you really want to do."

"Do you ever want to do something else, Maitimo?"

"Why are you being such a pest right now, little brother? No, I don't want to do something else; I want to be a good craftsman, like Father is. I'm his heir, after all, the oldest of us. It's only right that I should follow his lead. I just have to practice more, and try harder, that's all. Now go to sleep."

Kanafinwë yawned. "I'm glad I'm not the oldest. I want to sing instead. Happy dreams, Maitimo." He put his thumb in his mouth and rolled onto his side, and his eyes began to glaze as he began to dream.

Nelyafinwë watched as his younger brother finally fell asleep. "I'm glad you're not the oldest, too, Makalaurë," he whispered, "for your sake. I hope one day you'll get to sing your songs." And then he lay back and let his own mind quietly drift into peaceful dreams.

*******

"Father, I have a gift for you. I hope you like it." Nelyafinwë rarely interrupted his father when Fëanáro was in his study, but it was growing late, and this was the first chance he'd had that day to give him his gift. The festival at Alqualondë was finally over; Olwë and his wife had been delighted with their jewelry, everyone had enjoyed the dancing and singing (especially Kanafinwë, who'd been so ecstatic over the music he'd nearly sung himself hoarse), and the food was wonderful, with the guests leaving pleasantly stuffed. Father has been pushing himself so hard this past week, to be sure the jewelry was finished on time, Nelyafinwë thought as he handed his father the carefully wrapped box, but now that the festival's over, and we're back home, he can finally relax. After all that hard work, he deserves something special for himself. "I made it myself," he said proudly as he watched his father unwrap the box. "Carmandil let me work at his shop, so that I could surprise you. He gives you his regards."

"That was indeed generous of him," Fëanáro said as he opened the box and began to carefully remove the fleece. "But you should not have imposed on him, Nelyafinwë. You could have worked in our shop easily enough."

"But then I wouldn't have been able to surprise you. A present is more fun when it's a surprise." Nelyafinwë replied. He stood in silence as Fëanáro carefully removed the delicate glass bird from the box, holding it up to examine it more closely, watching as it caught and refracted the light when his father turned it back and forth in his hands. "Do you like it?" he finally asked softly.

"Well...yes," Fëanáro paused for a moment, considering, then continued. "But it's a bit slumped, isn't it? And here, on the left wing - see, the feathering's not quite perfect. You need to work harder on your latticino coloring technique, Nelyafinwë. You've had enough practice at it that I'd have expected better. Here," and he handed the sculpture back to his son, "why don't you keep this for now and study it; then bring it out to the shop tomorrow, and I'll help you craft another piece properly. You should go to bed now. It's late, and we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow. Pleasant dreams, Nelyafinwë." He bent over and gently kissed his son's forehead, then left the room.

Nelyafinwë stood there, turning the glass over in his hands. He hadn't seen it before, but his father was right. It did have a slight slump - not much, but noticeable, if you looked closely. And the feathering on the left wing wasn't traced properly, not like the right wing was. I tried my best, he thought sadly, I can't do any better than I did - and it's still not right. It's flawed. It's...it's ugly. He remembered Carmandil saying to him, on that last day in his shop when he'd taken the now-cooled figurine out of the annealing oven, "A gift reflects the heart of the giver - and your love for your father Fëanáro shows in the loveliness of what you have created for him." He scarcely felt his hands opening, and watched almost with indifference as the lovingly sculpted crystal tumbled to the floor and smashed into pieces.

"You broke your bird!" Nelyafinwë, surprised, looked up to see his brother Kanafinwë standing in the doorway, staring at him.

"I... it slipped from my hands," he replied to his brother. "What are you doing here, Kana? Don't come in," he warned as he saw his little brother, barefoot, prepare to step across the doorway, "you might cut yourself on the glass. I'm coming out to get a broom." Carefully, he walked past the shards of glass over to the door where his little brother was standing.

"No, you dropped it - I saw you. Why did you drop it, Maitimo? It was pretty."

No, it wasn't, little brother, not really, Nelyafinwë thought as he took his brother's hand, but I'm glad you thought it was. "You didn't tell me what you're doing here, filit. Shouldn't you be in bed by now?"

"I was looking for you. Mother put me to bed, but I can't sleep. I don't want to be in our room by myself; I had a bad dream. Can I sleep with you, Maitimo?" Kanafinwë asked plaintively.

"All right, little brother - we'll both sleep together in my bed. Now go back upstairs. I'll come up as soon as I've cleaned up this glass." But Kanafinwë refused to budge until after Nelyafinwë had finished sweeping up the sad remnants of his bird and discarded them; then they ascended the stairs to their room together.

Once they had both climbed into Nelyafinwë's bed, Kanafinwë promptly curled into a snug ball in his older brother's arms. "No more bad dreams now, all right?" Nelyafinwë said gently, stroking his brother's silky black hair. "Think about the wonderful songs you heard the Teleri singing today; how lovely their voices sounded..." He continued to talk abut music until he was sure his brother had finally drifted off into sleep. But when Nelyafinwë finally allowed himself to dream, it was not music he contemplated.

It was birds, and wings, and freedom.

Notes:

*filit - Quenya for "little bird"; an affectionate nickname Maedhros has given his brother Maglor.

How old are Maedhros, Maglor, and Celegorm in this tale? Since Elves don't become fully mature physically until at least age 50, but mature mentally faster than humans do, and since at this time there's no sun or moon to measure time by (just the Trees), it's hard to give exact ages for any of them. Suffice it to say that Maedhros is about the equivalent of a human 11 year old, and Maglor is about 6 or 7. Celegorm is about the equivalent of a human 10-month-old. As for the other 4 brothers - at this point, they're still just a gleam in Fëanor's eye (and when they soon arrive, the family will definitely need a bigger house!).

The Quenya father-names and mother-names of Fëanor's sons can be found in "The Shibboleth of Fëanor", The Peoples of Middle Earth (History of Middle Earth, vol. 12), pp. 352-3. The meanings of the names are as follows:

Nelyafinwë - "Third Finwë (in succession)"; Maedhros's father-name, given to him since he is the first of Finwë's grandchildren.

Maitimo - "Well-shaped One"; Maedhros's mother-name, given to him because "he was of beautiful bodily form."

Kanafinwë - "Strong-voiced (or Commanding) Finwë"; Maglor's father-name.

Makalaurë - "Forging Gold" (referring to light or the color, not the metal); Maglor's mother-name. The name is prophetic, referring to his ability as a musician.

Turkafinwë - "Strong or Powerful (in body) Finwë"; Celegorm's father-name.

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