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- Baudelaire

Silence

By Le Chat Noir

- Interlude One: Art

"One day, my son, I swear you are going to suffocate in this place."

Even through the thunderous sound of the blows from his hammer and the deafening roar of the fire, Celebrimbor had perceived the slight click the forge's door made when being pushed open, and recognised the soft, muted footfalls that trod on the hard ground of the smithy. He made a subtle show of being too engrossed in his works to have heard, hoping that Curufin was not yet too far gone to understand his need not to be interrupted, and at first, unbelieving, thought that he had succeeded; the other elf had, after some idle wandering around the place, fingering the tools and laying a criticizing eye on the workmanship of various objects left there in wait for a final touch, gone to seat himself on one of the various benches that cluttered up the workshop. Those benches were actually one of Nargothrond's artisans' complaints of choice: often, a newcomer to the forge yet unfamiliar with its complex geography would prove to be a tad too distracted by the completion of his works and rush about heedless of those pieces of furniture, and eventually end up face down on the ground with very little idea of exactly what had just happened to him. However, no one had yet taken up the task of properly rearranging the place, and the elder smiths were rather hostile to the project, who already knew the room by heart and loved it as it was, along with the pleasant memories of previous achievements it brought.

From time to times, he snuck a peek at the other, to find the latter lazily staring at him work with his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands.

"You work too much," he had once said. "You wear your hands out and weary your body, with the touch of fire and the breath of fire; one day you'll become as bent and twisted as that Moriquendi come from the dark forests." [1]

And that night, Celebrimbor had hardly kept from weeping for his father, and only hardened his resolve to make the smithy his asylum, the fire's roar against untruthful words.

Curufin had dropped by the forges often lately, even more so after that Felagund had gone forth from the gates, though his visits were quite pointless in Celebrimbor's eyes. The son of Fëanor generally found things to say, small pretexts for which to cross the threshold of the heavy doors or simply lean upon the window-frames and let his gaze wander vaguely inside the smithy. These intrusions used to upset Celebrimbor greatly, for some reason he could not quite grasp; and he wondered why his father insisted on visiting him when it was made so clear that his presence was not welcomed.

"Upsetting your last sanctuary?" Orodreth had offered, on one of the now rare and precious moments when they could meet as mere friends, but Celebrimbor had shaken his head and said that he thought it not so. 

He bent closer to the worktable, and frowned at the artful chiselling the pendant he was shaping required.

It was a pendant made of gold, a material he preferred to work with despite the supposedly prophetic name his mother had bestowed upon him as a child. Gold was one emblem of his grandfather's house; and maybe the thoughtless nis [2] had in some way willed to mark a point by naming him the Silver-fist, but he believed that she had not known his heart as he had not known her at all.

A faint crease appeared between his eyebrows that seemed largely out of place among his fair features, as somehow disturbed by his straying thoughts his chisel had slightly –oh so slightly- slipped in its meticulous trajectory upon the metal. At that, a moment's hesitation stayed his hand: to begin entirely anew or try to conceal the unnoticeable mistake with an altered design?

"No. It is only those who come from the outside who are shocked by the heat."

Curufin looked almost startled out of his reverie by his son's abrupt reply, and that fact which he acknowledged out of the corner of his eye annoyed Celebrimbor intensely, though again he was unable to pin the exact reason behind his irritation.

"Speaking from outside," Curufin promptly regained his usual composure.

"No."

"Why not?" The older elf lifted a thin eyebrow. "The winter is gone. One would almost believe you preferred this beastly roar and heat to the mellow songbirds of spring."

And in his heart Celebrimbor answered, though he refrained from voicing his comments aloud, and even letting any hint of them show on his countenance.

What if?

The nightingales' songs are artful and pleasing to the ear, but there is no passion to fill their charming frame. He would trust only the singing swan and the roaring hearth, and the raving madman's words; at least they do not lie from the depths of their fever.

"It has been long since the people of Nargothrond have seen you clad in the lordly way that belongs with your name; you always appear to them wrapped in this apron of yours and with coal all over your face."

It is not to become like you, Father. I know I look like you, and my eyes are like yours, my hands like yours; but let me hope that the soul behind those eyes and the gift behind those hands will not become as yours. This bearing is mine, and I find my joy in this common guise; for your robes of silks and velvet are not a masquerade in which I wish to take a part. How has it come to pass that the son of Fëanor, the most skilled and loved, has now to invent worldly pretexts to excuse himself for entering the forges? Your hands take up the heavy tools, and still you are expert and able in their handling, but gifted no more. You have perpetrated the most terrible of crimes, to still the counsels of your heart; to forget, force yourself into forgetting that you remain yet an artist. For it is your nature as such which you have thereby denied, by twisting your gift for words and beauty to create lies instead of truth.

"Is it the sun that offends your eye, accustomed to the darkness of your surroundings? No matter, most of the City is well sheltered from the daylight, and even outside the forests are lush and scarce can sunrays pierce their shield. Have you not been owing your young friend Orodreth a visit for a while?"

I do not listen.

Those words you speak are no more than words to fill the Void you've wrought yourself, spoken though nothing is said.

"Come with me, we will walk together."

He thought that maybe he would be able to manage concealing the small flaw of his carving by bringing an utter change into the outline he had originally intended, but he was not sure. It should not prove to be too arduous of a task.

A hammer had however found its way into his other hand. Would he tolerate this imperfection, and weave it into the shape as if something of his design, overlooking the first inspiration of his heart? Would he take it as a slight to his pride as a crafter, a sign of weariness and apathy, that long hours of toil could not be sacrificed to a whim of his art?

His heart wavered as his gaze shifted between one hand and the other.

"Maybe."

A cold draught of air caught him square in the face, and he looked up in surprise.

Quietly, without his son noticing, Curufin had slipped out of the smithy during the long silence that had passed between them, leaving the doors hanging wide open.

Celebrimbor remained staring at the opening for a while, then cursed; and his hammer came down upon the yet malleable gold.

"You work too much," he had once said. "You wear your hands out and weary your body, with the touch of fire and the breath of fire; one day you'll become as bent and twisted as that Moriquendi come from the dark forests."

That night, Celebrimbor had hardly kept from weeping for his father, and only hardened his resolve to make the smithy his asylum, the fire's roar against untruthful words, a dam to searing flames.

~

1 – Eöl, who happens on Curufin when he crosses Himlad in the wake of Aredhel and Maeglin.

2 – nis = she-elf