Written for the C-O-D-E egroup's 'Dissed Elf of the Month' challenge.
A Family Trait.
Outside the small hut snow came down, softly heavy. The grounds and the trees of Imladris were already burnished by it, and the door stood wide open on a view of dark pines, the shiver of waterfalls whose lacework of ice rang like small bells in the wind. The sky was as white as the inside of a pearl.
Within, the light was a wash of poppy red over the walls, flaring now and then to gold. White sparks flew, strangely festive, a counterpoint to the cold outside.
"Bellows a little harder, Elladan, this needs just a touch more." The smith leaned carefully over the crucible, silver hair knotted out of the way around one blackened fist. The plait gleamed as though it were a handful of moonlight, strange in that hot dimness.
Elrohir looked away from the snowdrifts and brought his mind from the thought of sledding to the lesson. His arms trembled from his turn on the bellows, but still he was proud to be taking these first steps into an arcane art which, one day, he intended to master fully. "How do you know?" he said.
He went with both eagerness and awe, thinking of the great smiths of old - Feanor, Eol, Telchar. There was something disturbing and majestic about his teacher's face, lit from below by strange fire. A strength he was not used to seeing, a power in the wise eyes that was more usually veiled.
Looking down into the crucible he saw the copper and tin had lost their different shapes and become one, a roaring, fierce mirror of metal, surrounded by glorious green flame. "You will see when it goes... ah, yes, when it goes that colour, then it is ready. Now Elladan, Elrohir, speak to it with authority, tell it what you wish from it. Ask it - ask it nicely."
Elrohir had considered the words carefully all last night, knowing what his lesson was for today. Now he leaned as close to the scorching updraught as he could bear and whispered, "May my father be happy when he looks at you." His words trembled the surface of the liquid.
But Elladan said, "He'll be happy anyway, because we made it." Then, smugly, Elrohir thought, he commanded the molten brass "Never tarnish, and never go out of shape."
Both of them looked up for approval, but the smith had clamped iron tongs around the crucible and was lifting it with a frown of concentration. Glory filled the small building as the metal went into the mould, and Elrohir laughed with a kind of happy delirium at the pour of seething light.
"Elladan is right." From the bench in the corner where he sat, whittling the tuning pegs of a lyre, basking in the heat like a cat, their grandfather, Celeborn, finally showed the first signs of interest he had shown in the whole process. "You cannot put happiness into a jewel. Better to concentrate on things that metal understands, like shape and brightness, a keen edge for weapons, a good fit for crowns..."
The smith put the mould aside to cool awhile, hung up the tongs in their place and came from behind the fire, stretching a back stooped all morning over the forge. She took her leather apron off, and wiped the charcoal from her elegant hands. Seeing her change at once from tutor back to mother Elrohir leapt out of his student stance and ran to fling his aching arms around her waist. Celebrian chuckled and stood with a son under each arm for a moment before reaching over her father's head to select one of the heavy hammers which hung on a rack there.
"You were never tempted to take up smithcraft yourself Adar?"
Celeborn laughed, but he leaned forward with as much eagerness as anyone else when she poised the hammer over the mould. "Your mother tried to teach me at one point," he admitted, easily, "But I was her despair, and soon gave up. Utterly without the desire or skill. You have it from your Noldor blood, I guess."
She brought the hammer down, shattered the clay into a hundred pieces. The armring lay among the debris, and because it had been asked not to tarnish it was bright as curled gold. The forge's light slid over it, catching in the intricate design like an inlay of rubies. Overcome with pride, Elrohir felt that his father had nothing finer, not even from among the works of the exiled Mirdain, who had settled in Imladris after Eregion's fall.
"I have it too, Daerada!" said Elladan, his face shining.
"And me!" Elrohir was quick to add, annoyed that Elladan tried to usurp all the glory. "I'm going to be a famous smith, just like Celebrimbor."
A wary look passed between Celebrian and her father, and Elrohir wondered what he had done wrong. "What will you make, then?" Celeborn asked, in a light tone which did not go with the worry in his eyes. "Jewels?"
Elrohir looked at his brother. Annoying as his twin was at times, it would be worse to be drawn apart by their ambitions. What he saw made him smile - they were of one mind, as always. "No. Swords!"
"And I will teach you myself," said Celebrian, with a solemnity which seemed out of place, as though their mother and grandfather were having some second, more perilous conversation over their heads.
Elrohir stirred, disconcerted by the shadow which seemed to have passed over both adults. But the next moment it was gone, and Celebrian was unbraiding her long, mithril hair and smiling. "Then we'll file the sharp edges from Ada's present later, and I'll show you how to work iron. Iron and steel is what you need to know to make swords. Perhaps, by the spring, you can have made yourselves a knife each. Would you like that?"
"Oh yes please!" Elladan gasped, and Elrohir nodded in emphasis, sure that nothing could have made him happier. But then Celebrian reached out of the door and brought in a wooden sledge with shiny metal runners.
"Now how about we take the afternoon off lessons and go and get ourselves into trouble?"
And in the squabble about who was going first Elrohir forgot all about grownups and their strange reservations. Whatever it was, it did not matter, all that mattered was that he had the cleverest and the best mother it was possible to have. There was no one to match her in all the world.
It helps to understand why Celebrian and Celeborn are getting a little worried at the end, when you realise that most of the great Elven Smiths of the past were more than a little mad.
Feanor (who made jewels) was responsible for several acts of elven genocide. Celebrimbor (who made jewels) was
responsible for Sauron's forging the One Ring, and all the trouble that came of that. By contrast Eol (who made swords)
was only responsible for murdering his wife (by accident - he was aiming for his son, but his wife got in the way.)
As a result, the grownups feel marginally happier once the Twins decide to make weapons rather than jewelery.
Rather ironic when you think about it ;)