Disclaimer: Everything mentioned herein belongs to Tolkien, not me. The concept of Santa doesn't belong to anyone as far as I know.
A/N: In response to a challenge at the Silmfics group, a childhood tale adapted to Tolkien's world. I even went so far as to take the option of Santa and his elves… *shudders*
I can already hear people going "Why in the name of Eru is Ereinion living with Maedhros??" It's explained here. I do realize that I'm twisting canon, but the Silmarillion only says that Ereinion had fled the Havens by ship. It never says what he does afterwards *grins*.
If any of you are wondering why I'm using everyone's Quenya names but not Maedhros', I suggest reading Ithilwen's excellent fic "The Glitter of Metal".
Maedhros drew his cloak about him. It was Yuletide, and although they were quite far south – near to where Círdan had once dwelt – it was still cold. One year ago, he had been sitting in his fortress at Himbiringë, watching the snow fall outside and listening to Makalaurë sing a song of Valinor. Those had been good times, full of laughter and joy, warmth and good cheer. Now he had no fortress – for Himbiringë had been overrun – the survivors lived like Moriquendi in the wilds, Makalaurë sang only laments, and laughter was scarce.
Maedhros sighed, breath forming clouds in the chill air, as he approached the fire and saw the figures seated around it. Beside tall, grim Elven soldiers was one small form, slightly off to the side with its arms drawn tightly around its knees. One year ago, Ereinion had been a happy, inquisitive child, pestering his 'Uncle Russandol' with questions whenever he made the long journey from Himbiringë to Hísilómë. Now the young Elf was withdrawn and silent, staring off at nothing most of the time. His childhood had been cut off violently – Ereinion had lost both parents in a cruelly short time and had had his safe world torn down about his ears. Maedhros worried dreadfully about his best friend's son, for Círdan had told him that Ereinion had nearly died of grief after they had had to flee from the Havens. 'Twas for this very reason that Maedhros had taken Ereinion to live with him, saying that years of hiding and running from Orcs were better than weeks of slowly fading away with grief, and was he not the only remaining one whom Ereinion felt close to? And truly, the young lad had improved after Maedhros had taken him in, but he was far from healed.
Maedhros slipped onto the log next to Ereinion, seeing that the child turned to look at him instead of continuing to stare into the flames as he had but a week ago. He was growing steadily more responsive, and that could only be a good sign.
"It is cold today, no?" Maedhros said, trying to start a conversation. Ereinion blinked, then nodded hesitantly, as if he had not noticed it. Perhaps he had not – Maedhros had grown more sensitive to temperature after Thangoro-
Do not think of that.
"Well, cold for good reason – it is, after all, Yuletide," he continued awkwardly, fishing around in his cloak. "Here. A Yuletide present." He drew out the small, sheathed sword.
Maedhros remembered how he and his brothers had received presents every Yuletide back in Valinor. The presents had most often been toys made by Fëanáro, ingenuously designed and lovingly crafted. He had never been given a sword. Swords were relicts out of old tales of Cuivenien and the time before Valinor, to be stared at and treated with care. Young Maitimo would never have wanted a sword. Yet this child examined his present with care, a smile making its way onto the too-thin face as he hefted the weapon.
"Thank you, Uncle Russandol!" Ereinion's voice was more lively now, Maedhros noted with delight. And he had called him Russandol for the first time since... Maedhros bit his lip. The grief was still near.
Would the gift of an instrument of war serve to return some of Ereinion's lost childhood? What a horrible place Endor is, indeed, when swords are as toys. I almost wish I had not given him this weapon, but the important thing is that Ereinion is happy, and I should not care about the means to that end.
"Uncle Russandol?" Ereinion was looking at him with shining eyes. Truly, he had not seemed this… alive… in a very long time.
Maedhros gave a small smile in response, reaching out to ruffle the child's hair. "Yes, Ereinion?"
"Why do we give gifts on Yuletide?"
Maedhros' smile widened and he leaned back. He is asking questions again! Ereinion was an inquisitive elfling, and it had broken Maedhros' heart to see him so withdrawn.
"That is a very long story, young one…"
"Yes, Russandol, do tell." Makalaurë sat down on the other side of his brother, also smiling. It gladdened Maedhros to see his brother so joyful, for gentle Makalaurë had grieved much in the past year.
"Very well then, young ones. Gather 'round and listen." It had been a long time since Maedhros had told bed-time stories, but the words came easily to him, and for a moment he thought he was in Valinor again, the silver light not that of Varda's stars but of Telperion, and not Ereinion but Ambarussa looking at him expectantly.
"A long, long time ago, ere the rising of the Sun and Moon, the Eldar came to Valinor. The Valar rejoiced at their coming, for the Ainur had long awaited the First Children of Ilúvatar. Many of the Valar mingled with the Elves in these times, teaching but also learning. The Vala Aulë was one of these.
Aulë marveled at the Eldar, for their ways were strange to him. He spoke with many, yet it seemed to him that there was something missing, something he needed to learn but had not found yet, as if the greatest wonder of all remained hidden. So he wandered far, leaving behind his forges, searching for this wonder.
Then one day, he came upon a group of children playing in Laurelin's light. He was delighted, for surely this was what he had been searching for! The Valar are timeless, and they have always been fair and wise and powerful, ever since they were born out of Ilúvatar's thought. The idea that the Eldar were born infants and blossomed into adults over time was wondrous to Aulë. Furthermore, he looked into the children's hearts and saw joy and innocence unmarred by sorrow, for the Eldar knew sorrow even in those golden days.
So Aulë was glad, for he had found what he sought. He approached the children, and they were not fearful or awed as the adults had been – for they were, after all, children. Instead, they spoke with Aulë freely and showed him what they were doing, and Aulë stayed and played with them.
But Aulë is a craftsman, and he sees not what is, but what can be improved, and thus he saw the children playing with their few toys hewn roughly out of wood, and he realized how crude they were and how fragile, and how much more joy the children might gain if he fashioned them better toys. So he left the children and returned to his forges, where he labored for many months in secret, creating dolls and marbles and games and other marvels of craft which you would wonder at, so intricate and yet so simple. And the children he had left were sad for they missed Aulë who had been so kind to them and had played such wonderful games.
The day before Yuletide, Aulë's works were complete. And he went to his friend Oromë, for he had fashioned many toys and wished to give them to all the children in Valinor, but there were many even in those early years and Aulë feared that he would not find them all. So Oromë called the animals together, and in the dark of the night the birds and the deer and the dogs and all the other animals there were ran silently through Valinor, bringing gifts. And when the children woke up the next morning, they were gladdened, for next to each of their beds lay a new toy, much better than their old one – if they even had one! – and there was much laughter and joy in Valinor.
Aulë continued making toys, and every year he gave them to his friend Oromë, and Oromë's friends brought them to the children of the Eldar. But soon there were so many children that Aulë could not make enough toys, and thus he allowed his most trusted apprentices to aid in the making. Among them were Mahtan, Nerdanel and Fëanáro, greatest of Aulë's students."
Maedhros looked down at the Elf-child who had asked for the tale and smiled again. Ereinion's head rested against Maedhros' arm; his eyes were unfocussed in sleep and his thumb tucked securely into his mouth in the manner of Elven children much younger than he. Carnistir had had the same habit and it had been a source of much embarrassment for him and hilarity for his older brothers. Ai, but if Ereinion derives comfort from much a simple thing, who am I to mock him?
Makalaurë also regarded the sleeping Elfling, then turned back to Maedhros. "A pretty tale, brother; the words slip smoothly from your lips."
"I have had much practice," Maedhros countered. "I seem to recall a young filit who came into his brother's room near every night, too frightened to go to sleep, so the brother had to tell him tale after tale until he finally drifted off."
"How strange, I do not seem to recall that…. at any rate, this is for you." Awkwardly, Makalaurë put something into his brother's hand. Maedhros lifted it, surprised – Yuletide gifts were for children, not adults. But in these dark times, even the adults needed something to bring joy into their hearts.
It was a wooden pendant, Maedhros noted, apparently made by Makalaurë himself – unusual, for Makalaurë did not overly enjoy crafting. In the middle, two faces looked out of an abstract pattern of spirals and whorls. One was Maedhros – no, Maitimo, for the face was smiling and free of the scars that Thangorodrim had left. The other was Findekáno.
Maedhros blinked back tears. It was too easy to focus on day-to-day life in the wilds, hiding from Orcs, planning raids and ambushes. Too easy to imagine that it had always been this way – running, attacking, running again, listening to Makalaurë's laments, watching Ereinion with worry. Too easy to forget that there had been good times, that little more than a year ago he had laughed with Findekáno, let Ereinion pester him with questions, left Himbiringë to wander freely.
"In memory of happier times," Makalaurë said softly. "Happy Yuletide, brother."
Himbiringë – Quenya "Himring", unattested
Makalaurë – Maglor
Moriquendi – Dark Elves; Elves that never saw the light of the Two Trees
Russandol – Maedhros' epessë, meaning "Copper-top"
Hísilómë – Hithlum
Ereinion – Gil-galad
Fëanáro – Fëanor
Maitimo – Maedhros' mother-name, meaning "Well-formed" (guess why he isn't using it anymore)
Findekáno – Fingon
Ambarussa – Amrod and Amras
Carnistir – Caranthir
filit– "little bird", an affectionate nickname Maedhros has given his brother Maglor (I don't know who to attribute this to…)
Regarding the pendant: Even if Maglor wasn't the most skilled of the sons of Fëanor, we have to look at it relatively. He was probably still extremely good when it came to crafting (I can't imagine Fëanor not giving his sons the best possible education in this regard), just not in the same league as Curufin or his father.