Coming of Age.

Maedhros looked at his reflection in the mirror. He was vaguely dissatisfied with his appearance. Not his clothing, which was new and lovingly embroidered at the neck and cuffs by his mother, Nerdanel. Nor with his jewellery; necklace and circlet all made equally lovingly by his father. It was his hair, he decided. He'd never liked the colour except as a very small lad when he liked that it was the same as his mother's. As he'd grown up and his younger brothers and cousins had teased him for not having a 'proper' hair colour he'd grown to dislike it. Still, it was his, and he couldn't change it, and he had to accept this difference. At least, as his mother had once pointed out, he was very unlikely to be mistaken for someone else with that fiery copper hair.

He stared at himself again, wishing he hadn't insisted on braiding his hair in an adult's fashion for the first time by himself. It was harder than he'd thought! And he should have used copper ties, not gold. He sighed, unwilling to admit there wasn't time for him to properly re-do his hair by himself. A knock on his door startled him out of his inner thoughts.

'Who is it?' he called, hoping it was not Father, who had been in a decidedly odd mood today, very likely because Mother and her parents were due soon, and that was unsettling Feanor. He had no idea what to say to his wife, the woman who'd left him and returned to dwell with her parents.

'Just me,' came the clear and beautiful voice of Maglor, the oldest of his brothers, and the one he was fondest of.

'Mmm, it's as I thought,' continued Maglor, 'I had my doubts about you braiding your hair yourself, shall I do it again for you?

Slightly relieved, Maedhros thanked his brother. Maglor, like Curufin, had great skill in his hands; unlike their younger brother Maglor's skill was turned to playing musical instruments, or painting and sculpture. Curufin, however, loved to work with metal and gems, he bid fair to rival Feanor's skill when he was an adult.

So, very soon Maedhros' hair was braided, neatly this time, and Maglor used copper ties this time, and Maedhros agreed that it looked better with his hair than the gold did.

'You look perfect now, Russandol, shall we go down now?'

'You look perfect too, brother, and thank you for your help.'

Maglor shrugged, 'you have helped me all my life, so why would I not help you? I would never have finished my smith's apprenticeship this year without your help. Do you think Father knows?'

'No, but both our grandfathers and Mother do. Don't let it worry you, everyone knows you are a competent smith, it's just your music gets in the way sometimes, and you can't concentrate on anything properly until you have removed the latest tune or song from you mind. I understand, so does Mother and our grandfathers. Father wouldn't and I couldn't bear to see you punished for something that is not your fault.'

Maglor embraced Maedhros then, 'I guess I'm just very lucky to have the best older brother in Aman!'

Maedhros laughingly thanked his brother, and the two then walked downstairs in companionable silence. Feanor was impatiently waiting for his oldest sons' arrival, pacing up and down the tiled floor. His expression cleared when he the two were dressed and ready, quite presentable actually. The rest of his sons were outside, playing in the gardens, with strict orders to stay clean and not fight with each other.

The boys were clean, barring their hands when Feanor checked but Huan was in disgrace for rolling in a mud puddle. By the time guests started to arrive Celegorm had the big hound reasonably clean, however.

The first to arrive were Nerdanel, with her parents Mahtan and Linde. Maedhros it was who greeted his mother and grandparents on behalf on the household, Feanor was outside trying to get one of the twins out of the silver birch tree. He'd climbed up into the tree and was now to frightened to come down.

Distracted, Feanor was pleased to see Nerdanel, 'perhaps you can entice Amrod down, he won't move for me.'

So everyone trooped outside, and there was little Amrod stuck up the tree, and refusing to move even though Caranthir, the best tree climber of the brothers was there, trying to show him how easy it was to climb down. But the child refused, then he saw his mother, whom he and Amras adored.

'Mother!' he cried, leaning out of the tree at a dangerous angle.

'Stay still, my dear,' responded Nerdanel. 'We shall discover how to get you down.'

Mahtan stepped forward to stand behind his son-in-law. 'If he jumps, you and I could catch him, Feanor.'

Feanor looked up at the tree, calculating the height Amrod would have to leap from. 'Yes, that would be possible. Amras, please come away from the tree, and stop crying. We shall have your brother down soon.'

Maedhros exchanged glances with his mother, and walked forward and took Amras by the hand, 'come and stand with Maglor and I.' Amras went quietly with his brother, and settled down when Maedhros knelt down and hugged him.

Now, however, Amrod was too frightened to jump. Curufin handed a small package he'd been carrying to Celegorm and tugged on Feanor's sleeve. 'Father, if Caranthir goes first, and Amrod sees how easy it is, he'll follow I'm sure.'

Mahtan and Feanor glanced at each other, and then looked up at the boys in the tree. Caranthir was grinning delightedly, pleased to be the centre of attention as he launched himself from the tree. His father and grandfather caught him easily, and he scampered off to stand beside Celegorm, who gave him the package the Curufin originally had. Maedhros and Maglor noticed the exchange, and exchanged worried glances, what were the younger boys up too?

Amrod by now had been convinced to follow Caranthir's lead and was safely on the ground, being fussed over by Nerdanel and his twin. Soon enough it was established the only harm that had come to the adventurous twin was a scraped hand, and the family went inside to await the next guests.

Next to arrive was Finwe, and his youngest son Finarfin and his family. Gifts were given to Maedhros, books, jewellery, and most magnificent of all, a stunning pearl that Finarfin had obtained from Earwen's family.

'Better than anyone else, my brother will know how to set this for you, my nephew,' said Finarfin as he embraced Maedhros.

'This is magnificent, Uncle. It is too much,' said Maedhros, awed by the beauty and size of the perfect pearl.

'Nonsense,' said Finarfin, 'it is a just gift for the first of King Finwe's grandsons to come of age.'

Finarfin's children by now were playing with Maedhros' brothers. The little girl, Galadriel, had the most beautiful hair, and Feanor was fascinated by it, declaring the mingling of the light of the two trees could not be more beautiful. The little girl was oblivious to her uncle's admiration as she played a simple game of cards with the twins.

'Where is Uncle Fingolfin,' the clear voice of Finarfin's eldest son, Finrod, broke Feanor from his thoughts. "He should be here soon,' Finarfin answered his son.

Maedhros was also eager for Fingolfin's arrival, but for a different reason. He was close friends with his cousin Fingon, and longed to see his friend, but he became apprehensive when he saw his father scowl at the mention of his brother.

'Mother,' Maedhros whispered to Nerdanel, 'Father wouldn't start a quarrel with Uncle Fingolfin, would he?'

Nerdanel shook her head slightly, 'No, for Finwe has had words to both Feanor and Fingolfin. Both have promised not to start any quarrels this night. But that shouldn't be your concern, my son; tonight you should relax, enjoy the festivities, and go and speak to your grandfathers. They both have something to say to you.' She watched as Maedhros obediently crossed the room to speak to Finwe and Mahtan, who were deep in conversation. To Nerdanel's relief she saw the edge of tension leave Maedhros, he had been worried about all his family gathering together, she knew.

Fingolfin and his family arrived, his mother and sisters with him. To Maedhros' astonishment, not only his aunts brought gifts, but Indis too. Laughing, she claimed a fondness for him since he was a small boy, and why should she be the only person not to give him a gift?

To Maedhros' distress, his friend Fingon was nowhere to be seen, but soon the mystery was solved as a gang of yelling children burst into the house. All of Maedhros' brothers except Maglor had been outside with their cousins, and they were excited by the gift Fingolfin had brought Maedhros. Surrounded by the children, he had no choice but to go outside, and see his gift, which was being held by Fingon. It was a magnificent coal black stallion, restlessly trying to eat the herb garden, much to Fingon's annoyance.

'He's beautiful,' breathed Maedhros patting the horse's neck and admiring the gorgeous gear he wore.

'Take him for a ride, try him out,' called Fingolfin from the doorway, where he stood next to Feanor of all people.

Maedhros smiled as he mounted the stallion, who all eagerness to move, and they disappeared down the road quickly.

'That is a kind gift,' Nerdanel remarked to Fingolfin.

'I arranged it some time ago with Feanor's approval,' said Fingolfin, smiling at his older brother. 'The harness is a gift from Orome, as he knows your family well due to Celegorm.' Feanor smiled back, and Nerdanel wondered what it is was that made those two almost friendly this day. If she was of a gloomy nature she might be worried, she thought.

Soon Maedhros was back, delighted with his horse. The younger children gathered around, making wildly inappropriate suggestions for the stallion's name. To them all Maedhros laughed and said a name would suggest itself as got to know his horse.

Non-family guests were now arriving for the great feast that would be happening soon. Four of the Valar attended, Orome, who was amused by Maedhros' slightly self-conscious thanks for the stallion's harness, and his Lady, Vana, sister to Yavanna, who also attended with her husband, Aule. The Ladies brought gifts of flowers and plants, and Aule a sample of a new blue stone he had just finished perfecting, he called it turquoise.

'I am honoured, that I have such mighty guests in my home, as is my son,' said Feanor to the Valar.

'Nonsense,' said Yavanna, ' we all know you and your family quite well, it is nice to visit you in your home on such a happy occasion.'

'You are always welcome, Lady,' said Feanor; slightly smug that four powerful Valar had come to his son's Coming of Age feast.

And a grand feast it was. The cooks who'd been hired specially for the occasion had excelled themselves with dishes of everything from fruits and vegetables, roasted meats, and delicious sweetmeats and other delicacies. The wine flowed, and the guests marvelled at the hospitality of Feanor, who was known to favour his own company, or that of his family. He had few close friends, but there were many who admired the eldest Noldor Prince, and they were loud in his praise this day.

The minstrels too, were excellent, and silence fell as Maglor stood to present his gift to his older brother, a song he'd been working on for weeks. Maedhros felt sightly embarrassed as Maglor praised him as some sort of ideal, but that he reflected, was Maglor. He liked to see the best in any situation or person. So, as Maedhros listened, he found the only way he could really enjoy his brother's song was to listen to the purity of Maglor's voice, not the words. In the last year Maglor's always beautiful voice had improved tremendously as he grew, and Maedhros could only guess at the majesty and power his brother's voice would achieve when the owner reached adulthood in a few year's time.

Maedhros applauded with everyone when the song finished, he could think of other gifts he might have preferred from his songbird brother, but he appreciated the hard work Maglor had put in to craft a truly magnificent song for him.

It was time now for the speeches. Maedhros groaned inwardly, first his grandfather Finwe, then Feanor, would speak, presenting him to the assembled guests as an adult for the first time. This meant two things: he would have to speak publicly for the first time, and he wasn't looking forward to it, and that as he was now eligible for marriage he would be more besieged than ever by maidens looking for a well-placed husband. It wasn't that he didn't like the maidens; really, but too many of them became irritating. And if he married he wanted someone that would love him, not his position as a prince of the Noldor.

Finwe had risen from his seat and was about to commence speaking. Maedhros looked affectionately at his grandfather, Finwe looked his best tonight. Commanding and full of authority, as befitted a King, yet wise and kindly too.

Then KA-BOOM, a great explosion rocked the building. Frightened people fled outside, but Feanor looked at his father-in-law grimly.

'It wasn't me, Feanor, I've been no where near the forge you keep for me,' said Mahtan, puzzled. For that, now they were outside, was clearly what had exploded. Aule, Valar that he was, had been one of the first at the scene of the explosion, and had rounded up the culprits, three dishevelled, dirty and frightened boys. A large hound stood by, looking faintly disgusted. Several people recalled Huan trying to get their attention earlier in the evening; most had simply assumed the big hound had wanted food.

Feanor was beside himself with anger with his sons, and Nerdanel and Finwe were desperately trying to calm him. The situation was finally saved by Orome, who burst into loud laughter when he saw the cause of the fright now quaking with fear themselves and stammering excuses. Even Feanor unbent enough to chuckle a little, and soon the celebrations were back in full swing, only outside now.

Maedhros never did make his speech, nor did he find out exactly what Feanor said to Celegorm, Caranthir and Curufin. He did enquire many years later about the punishment given by Aule and was told he didn't want to know. All he knew was that he and Maglor had to supervise the three chastened pranksters as they cleaned up as much of their mess as they could, and that poor Maglor had been punished for not watching the mischievous younger ones properly. Which didn't seem quite fair, but as Nerdanel always said, who said life was fair?