Disclaimer: Property of JRR Tolkien, mostly. Apologies for the formatting, too: but you know who to blame.
FLINT AND FIRE
Caranthir ought to have been Curufin.
He ought to have been Curufin. He ought to have been Maedhros, for that matter; Maedhros who threw his heart and mind open to the world and received all its gifts in return. He ought to have been Maglor, whose music was the core of his being, inseparable from him. He ought to have been one of the twins, who needed no one but each other. Celegorm - above all things it was unfair of him not to have been Celegorm, who had not only bravery and brashness and beauty, but a whole world into which Caranthir could not follow, where he could talk to plants and animals and everything was comfortably black and white. And he had not just these things – Celegorm had Curufin. And Curufin had everything.
Caranthir tried. He sang, he hunted, he smote metal. He strove to charm the world and found he was nowhere nearer happiness than he had been when he curled into himself and tried to shut everyone else out. He could have continued in one or other vein if he wanted, he supposed. But he did not want any of it. He remained, for a long time, dark and sullen and disappointed in all things. Not that all things cared very much. Who was he after all but Morifinwë the dark, the forgotten, the middle child?
Sullenly and darkly Morifinwë grew up and was disappointed with adulthood. Sullenly and darkly Morifinwë followed his father into sin and exile. Sullenly and darkly Morifinwë tramped all over East Beleriand until he lost his brothers. Sullenly, darkly, Morifinwë sulked himself into staying put, waiting for them to remember him and come back to fetch him.
They did not come back.
Morifinwë sulked a little more.
Still they failed to come back.
Morifinwë grew a little afraid, at first. Soon he grew very afraid.
There was no sign of them.
He gave up and sulked himself into the ownership of vast lands, and was disappointed into staying right where he was. Time passed, and his people came to settle with him. Soon they busied themselves with little tasks here and there, and he was pressed into joining them. They ate and drank and began to compose music. He accepted this gaiety with a long-suffering sigh.
One day, as the sunlight flung itself over the wide, open grasslands and crept into his dark, sullen heart, much to his displeasure, he screwed up his face to scowl at it. And failed.
Caranthir was, contrary to his own opinion, a very intelligent elf. So almost as soon as his mouth curved itself into a round 'o' of wonder, things became beautifully clear in his mind, almost as though they had been there for a long while and were merely made obvious by the warm gold light of the Sun.
In all his darkness and sullenness, he had neglected to notice that, finally, he was free.
The idea struck him with the force of a million thudding hooves, shaking the firm earth in which his soul was grounded. Caranthir was an earthy sort of elf. And now, thanks to his intelligence, he was also free. He jumped a little as the thought kept thudding into his brain. Then he jumped a lot. After sulking very minimally for having failed to have noticed the key fact of his freedom before, he jumped a little more, in happiness, and went out into the sunshine and smiled at everyone and everything.
The smile changed his face wonderfully; it lit him up, and all the fire and passion of his loyal, earthy soul was illumined. His people wondered at him, but could not keep from smiling back. He was intelligent, he was free, he was happy, he was – why, he was irresistible.
He turned back, stunned at being spoken to by a rock, which he soon noticed was not a rock, but a strange, stony little creature. Dust covered it from strangely-covered head (for elves had never heard of hats) to hair that spilled darkly from chin to chest, right down to grubby, stubby toes, with only a pair of gruff twinkles to indicate what Caranthir wildly guessed were its eyes.
"Bloddy great nances, don't let a body sleep where it finds sleep," the stony thing said again.
Now is it difficult to believe that Caranthir, with Calaquendi, Fëanorian High Quenya bred as it was into his very bones, understood every word of this? Perhaps it is. But other creatures have been known to have the musical, resonant tones of the Elven-tongue linger in their mind until it forms lovely, nebulous meanings that pierce their souls in shafts of light. How infinitely easier it would be for a High Elf to hear this deep, rumbling ground-speech and be reminded of the smithies of Valinor, where fires roar and metal clinks, and lord Aulë with his great earthquaking voice watches over all! And so it was with Caranthir.
The Morifinwë of old might have done one of three things: stood there and scowled sullenly, walked away ignoring this new and strange entrant into his worldview, or drawn his sword and driven it into the small grubby body. However, the Caranthir who met this Dwarf was no longer that elf.
"I'm sorry," he said politely. "I didn't see you."
"'Didn't see yer!'" the creature mocked. "Bloddy right ye didn't see. I suppose it would be too much to ask for one of ye eagle-eyed Lamp Folk to see a humble Dwarf in yer way."
"Dwarf," Caranthir repeated, and then "Dwarf," more confidently. "Dwarf. So that's what you are. Thank you, Dwarf. And sorry again."
"SORRY!" the dwarf shouted. "Sorry! I should think so. How'd ye like it if I went around calling ye 'Pelf' or whatever it is ye Lamp Folk are called."
Caranthir was intrigued at being called one of the Lamp Folk, but he went in order and corrected, very politely, "Elf, not pelf. The name's Caranthir." He bowed and held out a lean, work-roughened hand.
The dwarf looked at his hand for a while, and then nodded, still gruff, and put out a small, dirty paw to shake it. "Kíla."
"Kíla," Caranthir smiled. "That is a lovely name."
"Sure," Kíla retorted, "and a darn sight easier to pronounce then yours."
Caranthir laughed, and said simply, "Perhaps you can find an easier name for me, then, if we are to be friends."
The small twinkles flared into piercing adamantine light. "We're not to be friends until I find ye worthy, Ca-ran-thir. A Dwarf's hand is not given lightly, and neither is her favour."
"I see," Caranthir said, refusing to be riled, and then, "Her!" he started.
That set off a long and heated quarrel that shall not be reproduced here in full, for Kíla was indeed very sensitive about her feminity. Needless to say, they parted firm friends, and Caranthir extracted a promise from her to meet him again, and soon.
As he walked away into the sunset, things seemed to become clearer and clearer to Caranthir; the vision of freedom that had stayed bright in his mind after that sunny morning so long ago flared once more into a beautiful, fiery brightness. And to match it, there came to him a spontaneous music; it sounded of metal and stone, and above all things, of the earth he loved.
Months passed, and the music played on. Kíla might have seemed grim to the gregarious and flighty elves, but she was much-loved and powerful in her own underground community for her sharp tongue and flashing eyes, and the fact that she was the daughter of the leader of the Dwarves of East Beleriand. With her friendship to back him up, Caranthir soon made the acquaintance of other Dwarves, and it was not long before his intelligence coupled with theirs understood how fruitful and productive it would be to cement their friendship with business deals. And so they did.
Soon, Caranthir's lands were humming with industry, and the earth and stone of his dreams echoed his own song, louder than ever. The clink of money added a much-appreciated accompaniment to the symphony. More and more elves began to flock to him in search of hard work and success. Celegorm and Curufin wrote to him, Amrod and Amras announced an impending visit, and Maedhros actually deigned to take notice of him. Caranthir's happiness grew and grew, and he went so far as to sing in public one day (much admired by the Dwarves and applauded in polite horror by his own folk.)
One day he was lying in the grass on a hilltop, breathing in the sweet scent of his accomplishments. The weather was balmy, life was good and Kíla was sitting beside him. Caranthir was perfectly content for the moment.
As he moved to inform Kíla of this fact he found her sitting moodily on her haunches, digging her knobby knees into the ground, viciously picking at the grass.
"Ai, don't do that," he said, frowning a little, and caught her wrist.
He felt a flash leap from her to him at the contact.
Briefly disoriented, he raised himself on one elbow, looking at her. She looked up at him. He wondered dazedly why he had never noticed how her eyes possessed the depths of Aul's own.
"Everything is terrible," she said, blinking hard to stop the tears that threatened to spill over into her beard.
Caranthir was aghast; he had never seen a Dwarf cry before, much less stoic, brusque Kíla, whose good judgement and solid, common-sensical humour he had come to depend on so greatly since the day they had first met in the grasslands.
"No, Kíla," he said softly, daring for once to raise his hand to her face and stroke it gently. Her skin was smooth and unlined beneath its perpetual layer of dust. "Everything is wonderful."
"I'm happy for ye, then," she said, and burst out crying. Caranthir sat up and gathered her small form into his arms. Her soft curviness surprised and pleased him. Gently he stroked her hair and kissed the top of her small, hard head. She smelt of grass and dust. Her sobs subsided slowly. She wiped her face on his tunic, leaving a round, black mark on it, and looked at him again.
In that moment Caranthir fell in love with her.
It was both a pleasure and frustration in succeeding months to pursue her. Caranthir, as might be expected, was a painfully obvious sort of being and could not hide his feelings from her. He was also stubborn and patient, and finally, on a beautiful starlit night, managed to extract a confession of her own love for him from her lips, which were pliant and warm and soft beneath her dark braids. But, as Kíla said inexorably, it was all there was to be. Her father and brothers would never allow a marriage between a dwarf-woman and a man of the Lamp Folk.
"Why are we the Lamp Folk?" he asked at last.
"If it isn't obvious," she chided gently. "Look at how much light ye have about you. I could go down this mine with naught but ye by my side and I'd be able to find my way quick as anything."
"I do want to be at your side," Caranthir said. "For all your life." He knew, by then, that Dwarves were mortal. "I would give anything I have to walk beside you."
"If ye found these Silmarils yer brothers were talking of the other day," she said thoughtfully, "having recaptured it from the Dark One – would ye promise to give one to me father?"
Caranthir was silent. Kíla looked at him with dark, sad eyes and smiled.
"They will not give me up either, Caranthir," she said. "It's best we part. I'll leave and go elsewhere."
"Where?" he asked in a small, miserable voice.
"Oh, somewhere," she said with false bravado, waving her hand at the world outside the mouth of the silent, dark mine. "World's full of foolish Lamp Folk who want money for their metal, if I guess right."
He felt hot tears spill down his cheeks, and was too ashamed to say anything. She kissed him and wiped them away.
"Don't start with that now," she said. "Yer too brilliant – too full of light to cry. Leave that to the other creatures, the sullen and dissatisfied ones, like the Orks. Ye ought to be angry or happy or just plain mad, which ye and yer folk are always bloddy good at."
They spent the night lying in the hollow, half-protected by the earth they loved, half-open to the stars that were his birthright. They spoke softly sometimes, and stayed silent more often, and she gave him a name in the secret tongue of the Dwarves that we do not know of. But it must have been something that sustained in him the light that she valued so much, for though she was gone by daybreak, never to return to Dor Caranthir, he kept her and the name she gave him in his heart, and, no matter what came to pass, he was never, ever Morifinwë again.