"For Feanor was driven by the fire of his own heart only, working ever swiftly and alone; and he asked the aid and sought the counsel of none that dwelt in Aman, great or small, save only and for a little while of Nerdanel the wise, his wife."
~ Chapter Six: Of Feanor and the Unchaining of Melkor, pg. 66, The Silmarillion
"Then Melkor set new lies abroad in Eldamar, and whispers came to Feanor that Fingolfin and his sons were plotting to usurp the leadership of Finwe and of the elder line of Feanor, and to supplant them by the leave of the Valar; for the Valar were ill-pleased that the Silmarils lay in Tirion and were not committed to their keeping."
~ Chapter Seven: Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor, pg. 69, The Silmarillion
Breaking stride, and leaving his angry reflections, Caranthir, the fourth son of Feanor, son of King Finwe of the Noldor elves, turned and saw his younger brother, Curufin, leaning lightly against one of the many stone pillars in front of the house where his family dwelt. "What?" he said, perhaps more harshly than he had intended.
"What ails you, brother?" Curufin asked quietly.
Caranthir made as if to reply, but he was stopped by the sudden expression of understanding that flitted across his brother's face. He remained silent, his stormy thoughts reflected on his furrowed brow.
"What has Father done now?" inquired Curufin, seemingly wearily.
"Done now, Curufin?" Caranthir mocked, causing Curufin's features to harden. "Nothing, that is what he has done. Why must you always assume the worst?"
"Of course. Foolish of me. Good night, Caranthir." Curufin answered curtly, and turned, stepping off the porch where he had been standing, and walking across the starlit courtyard. As he reached the center of the courtyard, with its fountain of the maiden holding songbirds aloft in her hands, his brother's voice at his elbow stopped him.
"There was a rumor repeated to him tonight."
Curufin turned and faced his brother, schooling his face to its usual calm appearance. He thought he knew what was coming.
"The rumor was about Uncle Fingolfin," Caranthir continued. "You know Father has never liked him. . . ."
"Ai, indeed," murmured Curufin thoughtfully.
". . . . and he believed this readily enough."
"What rumor?" Curufin asked softly, when his brother stopped, his eyes glittering with suppressed anger.
"Oh, just the one where Uncle plans to supplant Father and place our cousins on the throne after him," Caranthir answered with a false lightness.
"Oh, that one," Curufin returned flippantly in like manner. "But I thought you were not so doubtful of that one yourself?"
"It is not that, little brother," said Caranthir. He swallowed, as if his throat were tight, and Curufin nodded in understanding.
"Maedhros was not pleased."
"Neither was Mother. Father. . . . would not listen to them."
Curufin started to run his hand over his hair, but ceased the gesture and dropped his hand listlessly back to his side. Caranthir's sad expression turned somewhat sardonic. "What? No great words of wisdom, little brother? No inspired insights on how to keep our family from killing each other?"
Curufin stared at him sharply, his own expression turned to annoyance. "I have not yet achieved the knowledge of a Vala, as you are fond of reminding me, elder brother," he said coldly.
They stared at each other in silence, ignoring the sweet song of the night birds and the rustling of the night wind through the great trees.
"Mother would have likely held her tongue, if that were all that was said," Curufin said at length. "She chooses her battles now. What else was said?"
Caranthir turned away and placed his hands on the rim of the marble fountain, staring broodingly into the rippling water. Curufin, ever patient with his brothers, stood beside him, waiting until Caranthir was ready to speak.
"The servant who told him said that Uncle would supplant him at the will of the Valar. . . . and that the Valar are ill-pleased with Father for keeping the Silmarils from them," Caranthir answered.
Curufin sighed disconsolately and Caranthir tore his gaze from the water, watching his face.
"These Silmarils will bring us great grief, ere the end of this dispute," Curufin said, his intense grey eyes faraway, as though seeing something that Caranthir could not. "I would sooner see them cast into the ocean or the depths of the earth, than see them destroy our family, as indeed they must if Father keeps them."
"Odd," said Caranthir, intently watching his brother, "Maedhros said much the same thing. Though I wish he had the good sense to stop at that."
"What did you say to Father?" Curufin turned to his brother curiously.
"I said that if the Valar want them, they can try and take them. Are we their servants, that we should surrender our greatest treasures at their behest? What gives them the right to demand the three great jewels of the Noldor from Feanor, son of King Finwe? Surely, Curufin, you can see that, at least?" Caranthir demanded of his brother, his hands grasping the rim of the fountain until their knuckles turned white. "Would you so easily surrender your prize, merely because the Valar wish it?"
"I said not so," replied Curufin, his eyes flashing dangerously. "Rather, they may bring a great evil upon our people. My heart forebodes the outcome of this feud with the Valar. Nor do I believe that Uncle Fingolfin seeks the throne. I believe he is content enough as second son. That the Valar are displeased, I can readily enough believe, but these rumors of Uncle and our cousins, these are not so credible."
"Uncle Fingolfin has never liked us," Caranthir answered carelessly, forcibly relaxing and turning back to the flowing water. "Fingon and Turgon would follow their father if it came to that. They are our friends, but their father comes first. It is not so hard to see."
"Nay." Curufin's brow furrowed in thought, and he shook his head. A strand of hair, lightened thus, and blown by the night breeze fell across his face and he absently pushed it behind an ear. "Fingon would first die. He loves Maedhros as his own brother."
Caranthir turned back to his brother again, this time giving him his full attention. Curufin met his gaze steadily, and Caranthir shrugged, confused. "I am at a loss, little brother," he admitted. "It is possible, but so unlikely for either Uncle or Turgon to attempt to supplant us. And as you say, I doubt Fingon would be ruled by his Father if this came to pass. Father says it is so, but, between you and me," he lowered his voice, "I do not fully trust Father's judgment these days. The Silmarils. . . . It seems to me that they possess him, more than he them."
"I know, Caranthir." Curufin's troubled visage, quirked into a sudden smile. "Besides, Father has forgotten one thing. Such a plan of the sons of Indis would not see completion."
Caranthir gave him a querying look.
"Lady Aredhel would never countenance such a thing, and I daresay Uncle would soon forsake the plan, if it meant being forced to endure her ill-temper."
A slight smile appeared on Caranthir's face.
"And if Fingon allied with her," Curufin continued, watching Caranthir closely, "well, remember what happened when we were younger and you decided to tease Aredhel by putting a young serpent down the back of her dress? And Fingon felt he had to revenge his sister?"
Caranthir's was smiling broadly now. "How could I ever forget? Though I do not remember the incident as well as I remember the three months spent sitting in my room, brooding on my wrongdoing, while writing drafts of letters of apology to Aredhel." He paused. "Are you trying to distract me or cheer me up?" he asked.
"That depends on whether you are distracted or cheered up," Curufin smiled back at his brother. "Whichever it is, that is, of course, the result I was trying to achieve."
Caranthir shook his head, still smiling, and turned back to the fountain. Together they watched the water rippling and bubbling for a long moment, while the moon rose and shone through the cloudless sky onto the water. They wind ruffled their dark hair, but they ignored it, each lost in his own cheerless thoughts. Caranthir lowered his hand and played with the water's surface. Finally, he broke the silence, though his own voice was scarcely to be heard.
"Is it just me, Curufin? Father simply makes no sense sometimes. The things he said to Maedhros and Mother. . . ." he trailed off listlessly.
Curufin sighed. "No, it is not you, Caranthir. Words can be a crueler weapon than a sword. But you must understand, he meant no true harm. But he values the Silmarils above all his other works, and he is not always rational when it comes to them. You must try to see it through his eyes."
"I have seen it," Caranthir answered bitterly. "He cares for nothing but those jewels now. His own family is nothing compared to a little light in a crystal." He broke off and stared moodily at the water.
"Nay, you know that is not true," Curufin said quietly. "I know it seems like that sometimes, but it is not so. He. . . . is protective of the Silmarils. He wishes to destroy any perceived threat as soon as he hears of it." Curufin placed his hand on his brother's shoulder. "You can not feel the fire that burns in his spirit, Caranthir. I know I can not. And yet, we are his sons. If you try, it may happen that you can feel his fear as he does."
Caranthir was not watching his brother, but Curufin could feel that he was listening to him.
"Have you ever made anything Caranthir, in which you put so much of yourself, your time, your life, your spirit, that you felt that to lose it would be to lose yourself? That there would be nothing worth living for without it? That is how Father feels. He would sooner lose his right hand than lose the Silmarils. He will never make their like again, for what he put into them is gone forever; a part of his own soul. He does not love us the less for that, Caranthir. You have to feel his dread, to see why he will at times speak as he does."
Caranthir finally met his eyes, and watched his brother inscrutably. "And tell me, little brother, can you feel his dread?"
"Sometimes." Curufin began running his hand over his hair again. Suddenly, as if becoming aware of his movement, he ceased the restless gesture, deliberately placing his hand at his side again. His gaze roved over the court as though seeking something he could not find. "Sometimes, I understand. I can feel his fire, for it burns in my spirit as well. But its flame is not as bright. It is as if I can almost touch his thought, but it remains just beyond my reach." He fixed his intense gaze on his brother. "Can you understand what I mean?"
Caranthir nodded; then he added acerbically, "Then tell me Curufin, what made our Father bid Mother to run home to Grandfather Mahtan, if she feared to war?"
Curufin's response was immediate, as if he had already thought of the answer. "He did not want to lose her."
Caranthir arched his forehead, and drew his eyebrows together doubtfully. "How exactly did you come to that answer?"
Curufin's gaze began to rove again. "He wanted her to affirm that she would stand with him, whatever he did, I think. I am not sure. I was, but now. . . ." He shook his head, and then snapped his eyes around to his brother again. "You do not think so?"
"I do not know, and unlike you, do not truly important," Caranthir answered impatiently. "I cannot fathom Father's mind, and that seems a fairly imprudent way to keep Mother by his side." So low that Curufin could hardly hear, he muttered, "I cannot bear to see them quarrel."
"He may fear to lose the Silmarils," Curufin said, shaking his head, "but he fears to lose us more. Father loves Mother. I know, it does not seem so, but he does. He will listen to her when he listens to no one else. You must try to understand."
"Why is it not his task to understand?" retorted Caranthir, his voice rising angry.
"Shh, not so loud." Curufin's voice was lower still than before, and he leaned closer to Caranthir. "Because he cannot, Caranthir. He has never wished to understand others, for he has seen no need to. It is not in his character to care."
Caranthir turned back to the flowing water. He seemed to be deliberating whether or not his brother spoke truly. Curufin smiled wryly.
"Perhaps in this I am more like Mother," he said.
"She would rather understand than rule." Caranthir rolled his eyes skyward, before turning his gaze back to his brother. "Understanding is more maddening than it is of aid, I think. Beware it does not distort the truth, little brother."
"Ah, but to understand is to rule, Caranthir. Tongues are sharper than swords, are they not? If you keep them properly sharp." Curufin's smile was distinctly crafty.
Caranthir looked at him askance. Curufin was reminding him unpleasantly of a snake coiled to strike, and he found he did not at all like the effect.
"A word of advice from one brother to another," Curufin went on, with his strange smile. "Say nothing to Father. Weather what comes to pass, and whatever you do, hold your tongue. That is a lesson Maedhros has never learned well, nor Celegorm for that matter. What was it Mother used to tell us? 'If your words are not courteous, be silent?' Perhaps more appropriate would be 'If you have no knowledge of what you speak, endeavor not to reveal your foolishness to all who hear you.' Your sword is sharper than your tongue, brother, beware."
"Curufin," said Caranthir with a seeming lightness, "A word of advice, from one brother to another. I rather like you the way you are, but at this moment, you are reminding me somewhat alarmingly of Father. He entrapped himself with his own wisdom at forming the Silmarils, and great trouble yet will come of it; see that you do not entrap yourself with your sight into others' minds.
"One can but try," Curufin answered, availing himself of the same light tone.
"Sometimes understanding is not worth the price paid for it, little brother," Caranthir said, his tone still light, but a note of concern evident in his voice.
"I know," Curufin said simply.
They held each others eyes for a long moment, and then turned back to watch the sparkling fountain, each lost in his own thoughts. After a time, Curufin left, but Caranthir remained in the courtyard, long pondering his brother's words. Nor did he soon forget them, much as Curufin had known he would not.