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The winter had come to an end. One day a strong wind from the West came bearing dark clouds of rain, and when the downpour abated after three days there was no more snow on the ground, save in the shadows of woodlands and in high places. But that too was melting fast. Spring waters, foaming over the stones, rushed down in swift rivulets towards the lake, already free from the ice, its surface shimmering in the Sun that now gave some true warmth. After a few clear days the mud dried, and new grass appeared in patches, painting the lakeside in gentle green. Willows by the water blossomed golden, sweet scent rose in the air, and the bees were busy amid the branches, gathering the first nectar of the year. Small flowers opened amid the grass and even in the rocky crevices of the encircling cliffs, painting the grey stones purple, yellow and pure white, and I marvelled again, like every spring, at the persistence of life and renewal that this land harboured.
Nelyafinwë was restless. Even though he was likely the most patient of the seven brothers, he was irritated by how slowly his strength returned and by the restraints that Aldanwë laid on him to prevent him from exerting himself overmuch. He never spoke against the healer, nor did he disobey him, but occasional frown or flash in his eyes betrayed his impatience, and sometimes his brothers heard a sharper word. His pride showed itself; he firmly refused to leave the tent ere he could walk without support, even though he would go out on clear nights to look at the stars, leaning on my or Aldanwë's arm.
One morning I was in the healers' tent, by a small table copying some notes about healing herbs as Aldanwë had requested. Makalaurë was there too, softly playing his harp, and the rest of Nelyafinwë's brothers came and went, some lingering longer. Nelyafinwë himself sat in a chair, attempting to comb through the tangles of his hair, still damp after washing. He had refused our help in this, but now, when the comb again and again caught in the dishevelled strands, he grew impatient and then – angry. In a while he cried out in exasperation, and the brush flew across the tent and landed on the floor. The melody stopped for a while, then started anew. Nelyafinwë turned towards his brother, gathered his hair in a fist and yanked it sharply.
The harp fell silent again. Makalaurë looked at him with wide eyes.
"I said – cut it!"
"I will do no such thing!" Makalaurë's face blanched. "Are you mad? Do you indeed think that I would agree to disfigure you thus?"
A heavy silence fell, and when Nelyafinwë at length spoke, his voice was quiet and cold.
"As to your first question – maybe so. But I believe that things I have seen during the preceding years give me some excuse for that. As to the second – you, my dear brother, you have not the faintest understanding what it means to disfigure someone! Your kind heart is not able to conceive such things, nor your hands – to accomplish them!"
Makalaurë sprang to his feet, seized his harp and stormed out of the tent in fury. Morifinwë who had been reading in the corner, now set aside the book, rose and took up the comb from the floor.
"Sit still," he said calmly, starting to pull it through his brother's hair. "You are unjust towards Makalaurë," he went on after a while. "It is but for him that we stand united. Through all this time he has held us together, despite he took the leadership against his will. And, despite his kind heart, he is neither weak, nor cowardly. I have seen him fight more times than you have, brother, and I would not wish to be on the side of his enemies."
A shadow of regret passed Nelyafinwë's face, but he said nothing. Morifinwë too spoke no more. But when he had finished brushing, he turned towards me.
"Hand me scissors, Tyelperinquar."
I froze, and the terror on my face must have been apparent. Nelyafinwë sighed.
"I cannot braid my hair with one hand, surely you understand this, brother-son!" he said impatiently. "I can hardly brush it as it is! I will not always have one of you close to help me!"
After a short while of silence I nodded and handed Morifinwë what he had asked. I could perceive the reason in this, but when I saw the first russet strands fall to the floor I turned away, took up the quill and bent my head over my work attempting to shut out the sound of scissors. At length it fell silent.
"There!" said Morifinwë. "It will be easier for you now. And in truth…" He fell silent, as if considering, "In truth this length becomes you, brother. It looks good on you."
"Do you indeed think that I care how I look?"
At my uncle's bitter reply I dropped the quill on the table and hastened from the tent, leaving my work unfinished. I did not look at Nelyafinwë before rushing out. I did not want to see.
I fled to the forge. It was empty today; my father was away hunting with Tyelkormo. Anger and hate towards Moringotto flared up in my heart, and I brought my fists down on the workbench with all my strength, once, then again and again. All our misfortunes were his doing, fruits of his deceit and malice! It was his fault, merely his, that we were now here, trapped in this hateful land, in this miserable camp, without hope, without healing and consolation! In Valinórë, in the gardens of Lórien, birds sang, and wind rustled in the leaves of trees, boughs bending low over softly murmuring waters of small streams, their banks overgrown with sweet-smelling grasses and bright flowers. In Valinórë, there was peace and Light, while here…
My thoughts came to a sudden halt. Peace and Light? There was neither in Valinórë anymore. The peace of Aman was shattered, the Light was destroyed, and I saw before my eyes the torchlit square of Tirion. 'Be he friend or foe, or demon …' The words of the dreadful Oath again rang in my ears, and then came the memory of the shadow-wrapped haven, drawn blades flashing fiercely in the dusk, clamour of metal, singing of bowstrings, screams of wounded and dying. The dreadful silence that had followed afterwards, ripped apart only by wailing of the seagulls, as if the birds were mourning for the mariners of the Teleri. My own hands and garment, drenched in blood. The moveless figure of Mandos on the cliff, speaking the words of doom. And then later, white timbers catching flames, smoke rising towards the starless sky. We had not drawn blades and set fire to the swan-ships at the command of Moringotto. We had killed and betrayed by our own choice. The lord of Angamando had no part in that. And, overcome by despair, I sank on the stool, laid my head on my hands and wept, long and bitterly.
But tears would run dry in the end. I drew my hand over my face and looked around. On the workbench in front of me lay the ornate sword, now finished. The folded steel blade had a pattern of stars upon it: long had my father pondered how to achieve this. The hilt and crossbar too bore an ornament of stars and were set with white and red gemstones. I looked and, as always, admired my father's work; this was the mastery that I too strived to achieve one day. Yet suddenly a desire came over me to make something entirely different.
I rummaged in the chests of the materials and there I found silver, a roughly cut piece of jet and several white crystals. I laid all that in front of me and contemplated what I wanted to craft, when sunlight suddenly fell on the stones through the window, and one of the crystals flashed with a sudden light. I took it up and looked at it closely. I took up the piece of jet as well and laid it alongside the crystal upon my palm. And then I knew. It was almost as if the gems were speaking to me, telling me in what shape they wished to be wrought. The stones in my hand felt alive, aware of my thoughts. Fear took me suddenly, and I stood there a while, frozen. My grandfather had done this, he had conversed with metal and gems. He had felt the material he worked with like a living thing. I did not want to become like him! But the gemstones in my clenched hand had a strange power over me, and the desire to craft them was stronger than fear. I set the jet and the crystals in a simple silver frame, and they became a snow-tipped mountain range. I made a figure of an eagle out of silver, and it spread its mighty wings over the peaks. I made the fastening for the cloakpin and polished the frame and the stones. A ray of Sun fell through the window, the crystals blazed white, and suddenly I felt great delight, and my heart sang for the sheer joy of creation. But then my eyes strayed to the sword that lay before me, to my father's work, and at once my joy was swept away. What I now held in my hand did not even remotely match the carefully planned pattern, the perfect symmetry and delightful proportion of the thing crafted by Curufinwë Fëanárion. What I now held in my hand was wild and crude, and its making had not followed anything I had learned being apprenticed with my father. In bitter disappointment I considered destroying my useless work, but the pain I felt at the thought made me change my mind. I put the pin in my pocket. I would not wear it, but it also seemed to me that I will not be able to cast it away. I tidied the workplace, extinguished the forge and left the smithy.
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