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It was entirely dark outside when I left the healer's tent. I raised my eyes to the sky; it was long past midnight. The breeze had driven away the clouds, and stars glittered overhead, but their light seemed cold to me, and their beauty brought no comfort.
Bewildered by all that had passed today and heavy of heart, I turned towards the tent I shared with my father, but when I reached it, I saw that it was dark and empty. I stood in the doorway for a while, yet it was clear that I shall find no sleep now. Also Findekáno's words rang in my mind, and I thought that I should indeed seek my father, even though I did not know whether he wished to see me, the son who gave him nothing but disappointment. Still, I stepped back into the night and turned towards the forge, one of the most likely places to find Curufinwë.
The forge was one of the few stone houses in the camp, a low building slightly apart from the tents, so that the ringing of hammers would not disturb the dwellers overmuch. It was quiet now, yet there was light within. I drew a deep breath and pushed the door open.
The room was lit with several lamps hanging over the workbench. My father was there, but he did not turn towards me as I entered. He sat still as stone, his back towards the door, his face was hidden in his hands and even though I did not see his expression, his posture spoke of such hopeless grief that compassion stabbed my heart. Hardly thinking, I crossed the room in a few swift strides and laid my hand on his shoulder.
Slowly he turned and raised his head towards me, and I saw that my stern, swift-tempered father was crying and had done so for a long time already: his eyes were red-rimmed, and tears were still flowing over his face.
I braced myself for words of reproach, for I half-expected his grief to turn into anger towards someone who had witnessed his weakness, towards me maybe even more so, but my father rose from the stool and embraced me tightly. And so we stood there long, holding each other, giving each other whatever strength and comfort we had to give, even as in Tirion, in the hallway of our house, after the sound of my mother's light steps had fallen silent on the white stone stairs as she had departed from the city. At length my father released me, took a step back and brushed away tears.
"Where have you been?" he quietly asked, but from his eyes I saw that he guessed that already.
"There… I helped the healer."
"Then you are more brave than the rest of us." Yet there was no reproach in his voice as he said that, only sadness.
"Merely more stubborn. I did not allow Aldanwë to throw me out."
"I would give much to see the one who could throw you out of a place where you wished to remain." My father's lips twitched in a half-smile that did not reach his eyes.
I smiled faintly in return. He now turned away briefly as if to summon his courage for the next question. I knew what he wished to ask and answered at once, to spare him sorrow.
"He lives, father. We tended his injuries, he did not wake while we did that, and he sleeps still. Aldanwë said that all we can do now is wait. The healer remained there. And Findekáno too."
Curufinwë sighed in relief and nodded. But then a shadow of shame and guilt passed his face.
"He went after him and brought him back. While the rest of us… We are useless to him even now."
"There is nothing any of us can do now, father."
I saw that he will in a brief while descend into bitterness and self-loathing and desperately sought for something I could say to prevent that. My gaze wandered around the room, and suddenly I noticed on the workbench two sketches that had not been there in the morning. I took them up. These were sketches of a sword and a matching scabbard, rich and ornate, possibly the most beautiful things my father had ever drawn. The sheets of paper had wet marks on them. I looked at him.
"What are these?"
"They are for my brother," my father replied with a slight note of challenge in his voice. "He will need a new weapon when he will recover." He looked at me defiantly, as if expecting me to oppose him.
I flinched inwardly. I had not the heart to voice my doubt whether my uncle will ever again hold a weapon at all. Instead I turned back to the drawings. He must have spent most of this time making them, so elaborate they were. I noticed that the sword was one-handed and the fastenings of the scabbard – reversed.
"You are right, father," I raised my eyes." He will need a new sword. And this is the most beautiful weapon I have ever seen drawn. If you need help in making it, I will be glad to assist you." I handed back the sketches.
My father took them and nodded. "I may need your help, son," he replied. Then he smiled sadly. "I will make it for him, even if he may never carry it. I know it may be so, I am no fool."
I stood yet a while by the workbench, uncertain what to do, and suddenly I felt faint and dazed. My father noticed this and laid his hand on my shoulder.
"You are beyond weary, Tyelperinquar," he said, concern in his voice. "Have you eaten anything today?" I shook my head. Any thought of food seemed terrifying. He nodded his understanding. "Go and take rest. I will remain here and do some work. But you go to sleep. Even though," he added quietly, "you may have nightmares." I took my leave from him, returned to the tent, cast myself on the bed and attempted to find some repose. I fell asleep soon enough, but my father had been right. I did have nightmares. I saw Nelyafinwë in the dungeons of Angamando, and I watched again and again how the wounds I had tended were inflicted. And I was there too, a mute and invisible spirit, helpless to do anything, helpless even to cry out, and when at length I found my voice, I awoke with a scream of horror. Pale morning light was streaming through the open door, my father was sitting beside me gently stroking my brow, and my face was wet with tears.
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