Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters of J. R. R. Tolkien, nor any of the various dramatic incarnations thereof. No profit is being made from this work.
Greetings! Welcome to this story. There really isn't all that much to say about it. I was noticing just how many time Tolkien mentions Fëanor's creative genius -- the guy seems to have invented just about everything, from a new and improved alphabet to the Palantirs, all sorts of pretty artificial gems, swords, the Silmarils, civil war, what have you. All this in addition to punching out more sons than any Elf ever had. Honestly, one wonders where poor Fëanor ever found the time to go berserk.
Anyway, I decided to let him "invent" just one more feature of life in Arda. . . and then I ran with that idea to see where it might lead me.
Enjoy the story. I'll see you at the end.
"I think," Macalaurë said slowly, "that I would like a little sister."
Carnistir grinned. "Then you will be disappointed," he said. "Tyelkormo and I both wish for another little brother, and there are two of us against one of you. We will win."
"Perhaps not," Macalaurë replied. "I am bigger than you are. Perhaps my wishes carry more weight."
Tyelkormo snorted. "I do not think so. You have wished for a sister for years, and see what you have gotten from it? Me and Carnistir and Curufinwë. It will be another boy, and there is nothing that you can do about it."
"Perhaps this time will be different," Macalaurë said amiably. "Maitimo, what do you want? Another brother or a sister?"
Maitimo looked up from the idle sketches he had been making. He glanced at the corridor that led to Fëanáro and Nerdanel's chamber, then back at his brothers. He made an effort to smile, though he could not erase the worry from his face completely. "Mother has always produced boys, and there is no reason to think that she will do otherwise now," he said. "At this point, I do not especially care whether it is a brother or a sister. I just want it to be born and for everyone to be safe."
The others fell silent. Maitimo had just voiced the fear that they all shared. Nerdanel's sixth pregnancy had taken an alarming turn early on, as her belly had swollen far too rapidly. In the last months, little Curufinwë had been sure she would burst. Fëanáro had assured him over and over that this was extremely unlikely, but he could not hide his own fear for his wife.
"The baby must be enormous," he had confided to Maitimo one night. "And she is so exhausted from carrying it. I cannot see how she will ever manage to give it birth."
In the end, there had not been nearly as much time to worry about that as the family had expected. Nerdanel's labor had started at Telperion's zenith, far sooner than was expected. "I do not mind in the least," she had declared while she was still able to move around the house a little. "I have grown so round and heavy that it will be a relief not to be pregnant any longer." Fëanáro had made the effort to laugh at that even as he dispatched messengers to fetch the midwives and inform both Nerdanel's parents and High King Finwë of the impending birth.
After the midwives had arrived and cloistered themselves with Nerdanel in her chamber, Fëanáro had vanished to his forge, making it clear to his sons that there would be no lessons that day. Ordinarily, they would have been overjoyed at the prospect of a day to themselves, but none of them thought of playing today. Instead, they sat in the drawing room, bickering idly so that they would not have to concentrate on the cries of pain that emanated from their mother's chamber.
Curufinwë had been sitting on the floor holding his special blanket and sucking his thumb. Now he removed his thumb from his mouth and glanced around at his brothers, an expression of growing distress on his face. "Where is Father?" he whined. "I want Father."
Maitimo sighed. "Father is in his forge, Curufinwë. He will come when he is finished there."
"I want him now!" Curufinwë scrambled to his feet and tugged at Tyelkormo's shirt. "Take me to the forge, Tyelko. I want Father."
"No," Tyelkormo said. "Were you not listening to Maitimo? Father is busy right now. He would be very angry and yell at you if you interrupted him. You will just have to make do with us." He reached over to pick Curufinwë up, but Curufinwë jerked away from him and sat down on the floor again, just out of arm's reach of his brothers.
"What is Father doing in the forge?" Carnistir asked. "It does not seem right that he should be there as if it were everyday. Mother is having a baby."
"That is why he is in the forge," Macalaurë said. "He is making something for Mother."
"What is he making?"
Macalaurë shrugged. "I do not know. A piece of jewelry. I think he has done that each time Mother had one of us."
"Perhaps it is a reward for giving birth," Macalaurë suggested. A series of short, sharp cries issued from the corridor, and the boys were silent for a few moments. Carnistir's lower lip trembled, and he screwed up his face to prevent his tears from falling.
"It is not fair," he said. "Father can make jewelry any time. Mother is having the baby right now, and she is frightened, and she wants him. He should go and hold her hand."
"The midwives would not permit it," Maitimo said. "I think that it is far better for Father to have something to occupy him. He is not good at sitting still and waiting."
"I am not good at waiting, either!" Curufinwë declared. "I want the baby to hurry up so that Mother will not cry any more. It is scary when Mother cries." He clutched his blanket, and stuck out his lower lip. He did not protest when Macalaurë laughed and lifted him onto his lap.
"Poor Curufinwë," Macalaurë said. "You are the youngest, and you have never been through this waiting before. Do not worry. It will be over eventually, and then there will be a new baby in the family."
At that, Curufinwë broke down and howled. "It is not fair," he sobbed. "I do not want a new baby! Mother does not need a new baby. She already has me! She told me that I am her baby!"
The others looked at each other with varying degrees of comprehension and amusement. Macalaurë smiled. "It is too late for regrets now," he said. "Mother will have that baby whether you will or no. But would you not like to be someone's big brother, just like the rest of us?"
Curufinwë sniffled a little as he considered the question. "A big brother like Tyelko and Carni?"
Macalaurë nodded. "And me and Maitimo as well. We all of us had to give up being the baby so we could be big brothers."
"I gave up my status four times, myself," Maitimo put in. "There is much to like about being a big brother, Curufinwë. You will be able to teach the baby new things."
"And Mother and Father will treat you more grown-up," Tyelkormo said.
"And you can play with the baby, too!" Carnistir added. "Not right away, but if you are good, Mother will let you hold him."
"Or her," Macalaurë said.
Curufinwë hugged his blanket and leaned against Macalaurë's chest as he considered everything his brothers had told him. "Will Macalaurë still sing to me?" he asked. "Even if I am not the baby any more?"
"Of course I will sing to you," Macalaurë laughed. "If you like, I will sing you something right now. Anything you want to hear."
Maitimo groaned and dropped his head into his hands. Carnistir looked terrified. Tyelkormo jumped up from his seat and whirled to face Macalaurë. "You would not!" he cried. "You know what he wants to hear!"
"I do," Macalaurë said calmly. "And if that is what Curufinwë wants, then I will sing it for him. What do you want to hear, Curufinwë?"
Curufinwë's face split into a wide grin. "Sing 'Whoop whoop whoop!'" he demanded.
"Not that one," Tyelkormo begged. "Anything but that one."
"That is what he asked for, and that is what I will sing," Macalaurë said. "You do not have to listen. You can go play somewhere else. Anyway, I do not understand why you dislike that song so much. It is about hunting after all."
"It is a silly song," Tyelkormo grumbled, but he did not move from the room.
Macalaurë smiled, bounced Curufinwë on his knees, and began to sing. It was a song he had made up himself, about a village's hunt for a clever fox that had broken into poultry pens and stolen various small objects from people's houses. It had a light, skipping refrain that described the chase in a long rush of nonsense words. Curufinwë loved the song, and little Carnistir enjoyed trying to sing along with the refrain. Maitimo and Tyelkormo found the song irritating, although Maitimo was less likely than Tyelkormo to leap on Macalaurë's back and wrestle with him to make him stop singing it.
The present performance was special, however, and Macalaurë knew that none of his brothers would try to fight him as he sang. He took advantage of the day's truce to improvise several new verses. Curufinwë crowed with delight at each one. Tyelkormo stuffed his fingers in his ears, and Maitimo looked more pained each time Macalaurë sang the refrain.
"With a whoop whoop whoop and a heigh-ho, along the narrow stretch," Macalaurë sang. Suddenly, Maitimo kicked his leg. Macalaurë stopped singing and was about to complain, but he heard the footsteps on the stairs and fell silent.
All the boys sat up straighter and turned to the doorway in time to see their father enter. Fëanáro's shirt was filthy and stained with sweat, his hair was disheveled, and his eyes were hollow. He held a small pouch in one hand. He surveyed the five upturned faces blankly.
"Father?" Maitimo asked.
Fëanáro seemed to come back to himself. He blinked, and the old spark was back behind his eyes. He gave a hollow little laugh and flung himself into his favorite chair. "What are you all doing in here?" he asked, with a lightness that seemed forced. "I would have thought to find you running wild in the gardens, since I have released you from lessons today."
"It did not seem right to spend the day playing," Maitimo said.
"We were scared for Mother," Carnistir said. One by one, the others nodded their agreement. Maitimo remained still, and Fëanáro turned to him.
"What about you, my brave one? Were you also frightened for your mother?"
Maitimo blushed, the color in his cheeks making his red hair seem even more fiery than usual. "Yes," he admitted.
Fëanáro nodded. "I fear for her, too."
"You, Father? You are never afraid of anything."
"Do you really think so?" Fëanáro's mouth twisted in amusement. "I will have to tell you my secret, then. Gather around, all of you." He reached over and tugged at Maitimo's wrist. Maitimo followed the tug and sat on the floor, leaning against his father's leg. Carnistir scrambled into Fëanáro's lap, and Tyelkormo perched on the arm of the chair. Macalaurë, his lap still full of Curufinwë, compromised by wiggling his chair a little closer to Fëanáro's. Fëanáro stroked Maitimo's hair and looked at his children gathered around him.
"I have never been more terrified in my life than when Maitimo was born," he said. "And since then, there have been only four times in my life when I have felt terror equal to that moment."
"Those were the times when the rest of us were born, right?" Tyelkormo asked.
Macalaurë swallowed. "Is it because of what happened to Grandmother?"
Maitimo bit his lip and looked stricken. Fëanáro nodded. "That is always in the back of my mind while your mother is giving birth."
"What happened to Grandmother?" Curufinwë asked. "She is at the palace where Grandfather lives."
The older boys shifted uncomfortably. Fëanáro smiled, but the smile did not reach his eyes. "Grandfather's wife is not your grandmother, Curufinwë," he said. Curufinwë looked confused, so Fëanáro elaborated. "The Lady Indis is not my mother. She married my father when I was just a little older than Tyelkormo is now."
"Where is your mother?"
Fëanáro sighed, and glanced down the corridor to the room where Nerdanel was. "She died. After I was born, she was very tired, and did not recover her strength. She traveled to the gardens of Lórien to sleep, and she never awoke. Much later, my father married Lady Indis, and she bore him your uncles."
"Are you afraid that Mother will go to sleep and never wake up?" Carnistir asked.
Maitimo's face twisted, and he let out a cry that was half a sob and swatted at Carnistir. "Be quiet!" he cried. "Do not speak of such things! You will. . . you will frighten Curufinwë."
"Maitimo!" Fëanáro wrapped one arm protectively around Carnistir and pinned Maitimo's hands with the other. Maitimo choked, and two large tears slid down his face. The others were silent, awed as much by Maitimo's loss of control as by Fëanáro's story. Fëanáro released Maitimo's hands, but the expected scolding did not come. Instead, he brushed awkwardly at Maitimo's tears.
"We all fear for your mother. You need not be ashamed of showing your fear openly."
Maitimo, even though he was nearly grown, buried his face in Fëanáro's leg. He did not make a sound, but he trembled and shuddered, and the others knew that he was weeping. Fëanáro rubbed his shoulders and stroked his hair. No one spoke.
Behind the door at the end of the corridor, Nerdanel let out a long, wailing cry. Maitimo jerked his head up, his face red and wet. Macalaurë clutched Curufinwë close and dived from his chair to sit on the floor near Fëanáro's other leg. Tyelkormo flinched, and Carnistir threw his arms around Fëanáro's neck. Fëanáro turned pale and patted Carnistir's back.
"Never again," he murmured. "I will sire no more children. I have not the heart to make any of you endure this waiting again. Six children is enough for anyone."
"I will like six," Macalaurë offered in a shaky voice. "Six of us will fit nicely around the dinner table with you and Mother."
"I am glad that my plan meets with your approval, Macalaurë," Fëanáro said.
They sat in silence for a while after that. No more noise came from the bedchamber. It seemed as though time itself was standing still, waiting.
The quiet step of the assistant midwife in the corridor startled them all. "My Lord Fëanáro," she said, "please come with me." Her face was clouded with tension, and she did not seem to notice any of the boys. Fëanáro took a deep breath and slowly disentangled himself from his knot of children. Curufinwë whimpered and clutched at his ankles.
"It will be all right," Fëanáro said. "I will let you know what has happened as soon as I am able." He flashed a brave smile at them and followed the assistant midwife down the corridor. The boys watched him go.
"Perhaps Mother really did burst," Carnistir said. Maitimo slumped against the chair and hid his face.
As soon as Fëanáro stepped into the bedchamber, he knew that something was amiss. After the other births, he had always entered the room to see Nerdanel neatly tucked into bed, lying against a stack of pillows, looking weary but immensely proud of herself and eager to show off the new baby. This time, Nerdanel hung naked, limp and exhausted, in the arms of the chief midwife. She did not look up when Fëanáro entered, but writhed and moaned. The assistant midwife hurriedly thrust a small, squirming bundle into Fëanáro's arms.
"May I present your son, my Lord," she said quickly, then turned back to Nerdanel.
Fëanáro pulled back the blanket and beheld not the oversized child the family had anticipated, but the tiniest baby he had ever seen. The little boy was wrinkled and purple, and had a tuft of hair that was such a bright red that Fëanáro could make out its color even though it was still damp from the first bath.
"Are you my son?" he asked, jiggling the baby nervously. "You are the smallest Finwë of all. Your brothers were giants compared to you." He tucked the baby more securely into the crook of his arm and turned his attention back to Nerdanel.
"What is wrong with her?" he demanded. "The baby is born. Why is she still in pain?"
"That is what we are trying to determine, my Lord," the midwife snapped. "If my Lord would hold his son and keep out of the way, we may yet discover what afflicts my Lady."
Fëanáro retreated to a corner and cradled the baby against his chest. The baby snuggled close, seeking the heat of his father's body, and Fëanáro wrapped the blanket around him. It had been some time since he had held a newborn, but he found the old skill returning to his hands. He could do this, he told himself desperately. Even if. . . even if the worst should happen, he would be able to care for this child on his own, if need be. He squeezed his eyes shut and wondered if his own father had felt this way.
Nerdanel let out a groan that seemed to come from deep within her still-swollen belly, then began to pant. The midwives looked at each other in surprise. "My Lady?" the chief midwife asked. "What is happening to you now?"
Fëanáro watched in astonishment as Nerdanel's belly rippled. The assistant midwife probed gently with her fingers and turned to stare wide-eyed at the chief midwife. "I feel hair," she said. "And a little head. There is another baby inside!"
"Twins?" Fëanáro gasped, not sure that he had understood correctly. He knew that sheep and cattle and horses sometimes produced twins, but he had never heard of an Elf woman bearing more than one child at a time. He also knew that when such animals had twins, the babies were small and weak, and one would often die. He looked down at the baby in his arms and wondered if it was as strong as it appeared.
"Twins," the chief midwife agreed. "And it appears that the second one is well on its way. Gather your courage, Lady Nerdanel, and lean on us. Your labor is not yet at an end. You must push once more."
Nerdanel took a deep breath, gritted her teeth, and pushed. Fëanáro stared, astonished, at a sight he had never seen before. For the first time, he would witness the birth of one of his children. His legs shook, and his stomach churned. Barely remembering not to drop the child he held, Fëanáro sank into an armchair in the corner and tried to prepare himself to see the second, unexpected birth.