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Chapter Two - Warmth of the Hearth

Fëanáro named our firstborn Nelyafinwë, third of the line. I named him Maitimo, for he was perfect. From the moment I held him to my breast, weary from the birth, yet gazing in wonder at the result, I knew that he would be beautiful.

Later, my father would bestow the epessë Russandol upon this child in honour of the red hair of our family made known once more, but for now, two names were quite enough for so tiny an infant.

I could have marvelled for hours at the little hands as they opened and closed. I could have lived in the dark a week and still felt illuminated by the sleepy little smiles of my son.

Fëanáro was equally enchanted, though he expressed his feelings less directly. A wondrously-crafted cradle, and a little rattle that chimed like bells; these were his gifts to his first child.

Then, of course, there was the day that Maitimo was formally presented to King Finwë. I dressed my little boy in fine clothing – at the last moment, of course, in hopes of minimising the chances that it would be soiled before he could be seen in it.

Even Fëanáro was in a good mood, despite the need to stand before the lords of Tirion and to meet with those of his kin that he disliked. "They have no son like our Nelyafinwë, and can only envy our good fortune," he'd declared, almost exuberant, so unlike his customarily sullen look when necessity compelled him to be around Lady Indis and her children.

The sight of Maitimo sitting on his grandfather's knee, little hands clenched about folds of an ornate robe, his hair gleaming almost golden in Laurelin's warm light, would have melted a heart of stone, and King Finwë was possessed of no such object. He held my son so long, smiling and talking quietly – which required some effort, for he, like Fëanáro, possessed a strong commanding voice best suited for great volume – that I half-wondered if he wished to keep him.

It was perhaps inevitable that Maitimo make some mess, as is the wont of babies, during that afternoon. He did not soil himself, as I had feared. He did, on the other hand, gaze sleepily up at Nolofinwë while held by him, and promptly proceeded to moisten his uncle's court robe with spat-up milk.

Fëanáro laughed for much of the way home.

My husband has seldom been one for convention. For some, the custom of having a husband wait elsewhere during childbirth is preferable. Fëanáro, however, was by my side at every birth, doing his best to encourage me despite his own fears – not all of my children were born as swiftly as Maitimo, and as time went on it became harder for me to find the strength needed in labour.

Still, each child was a joy to see.

Macalaurë, my little dreamer, was a quiet and gentle child; he would go still at the sound of a bird, and then try to whistle its tune, and I found him at times beside the nearest stream, listening to it, seeming enthralled by what he heard.

I asked him, once, "What do you hear there?"

He simply replied, "The water is singing to me."

Some nights he would creep out to the stream, and sing quietly, his voice untrained but sweet. When I asked him why, he told me that he was afraid it would be lonely, singing by itself forever.

It sings for the Sea, Macalaurë. It will never be truly alone, for its voice flows to the Sea and joins a greater song there. Eventually, I persuaded him that what he heard was not a song of loneliness, and thereafter rested more easily, knowing he would stay inside at night.

Tyelcormo, on the other hand, was not possessed of so quiet a nature, even when very young. Fair-haired like my mother, he proved difficult to contain. As soon as he could walk, I took to dressing him in the most brightly-coloured clothing I could find, to better see him when he sought to creep out and explore.

I lost count of the times that Fëanáro brought him home again, having intercepted his little form in its gaudy tunic on an unerring path into some particularly intriguing mischief. At this point, Tyelcormo would pout, widen his eyes, and do his best to look so pitiful that we would not punish him. At times, it even worked.

He always seemed happiest outside; he loved to listen for the sounds of the animals, and tell us, gravely, what he'd heard, and what he imagined the animal was doing and thinking at that very moment. Much to our surprise, he was frequently right, when not indulging in fantasy.

His gifts for knowing the ways of beasts only grew with time, and it was a great honour, though not necessarily a surprise, when he began to ride with Oromë to hunt. My husband and sons developed a startling array of recipes to serve wild game, on those days in which Tyelcormo's enthusiasm for hunting yielded results.

Some may think it strange to hear that Carnistir, the next of my sons, was in the earliest years of his life a child of sweet and generous nature. So be it, however; I hold their disbelief at little worth beside my memories of the children I have borne.

Carnistir did not love to explore after the manner of his siblings; he was happiest in my arms or Fëanáro's, or watching us closely from some spot nearby. At one point when he was still very young, he lost sight of me while I was carrying linen away to fold, and could find no trace of me. It was then that I discovered to what extent he could not bear to be left alone. He screamed and wailed, and I rushed to him to find his small face flushed with temper and anguish. He clung to me, and I did my best to soothe him.

My little dark son... his emotions touched him so deeply that both joy and anger could overtake him in a heartbeat, for he felt so strongly about all things that no feeling in his heart failed to move him. And he could not bear to be divided from those he loved, or have them slighted in any way, as though any brief parting or insult cast a cloud over the depth of his affection.

A young man who made a teasing jest between friends to Maitimo, suggesting that he was too tall and bright of hair to go hunting without frightening his quarry, and should pursue maidens more closely instead, was startled indeed as a bundle of fury and tiny fists attacked his legs. Maitimo, peacemaker that he was, lifted his brother swiftly, only to hear him declare in a defiant tone, "Maitimo can do anything, and he'll hunt better than you."

Ah, my Carnistir... I was by the door when I overhead this exchange, and when given back my wayward child, could scarcely find it in my heart to punish him for his impassioned and loyal defence. Love moved his temper so greatly, and he seemed ever-ready to muster anger as a shield for those he loved, whether we deemed the protection necessary or not. And always, afterward, he would tightly embrace the one he had defended, as though reassuring himself they had taken no hurt.

Perhaps too heavy a burden was placed upon the next of my sons; Curufinwë Atarinkë, his father in miniature. I knew as I gazed down at him that one day it would be for my husband akin to seeing a reflection in water to meet the eyes of our fifth son.

I was so tired after his birth; I think some feared that history would be repeated, and that another Curufinwë would weary his mother of life's embrace. But though he would be Fëanáro's reflection, my son was yet no perfect mirror – he had not the whole of his father's fire, for I could not have nurtured it and lived.

It is fortunate that Carnistir's love of his family extended swiftly to its newest member, easing my fear that he would react poorly to the attention given to Curufinwë. My other sons had all adjusted over time to the siblings claiming the position of the youngest, but it was the first such experience for Carnistir.

My fears, however, were averted when I found my fourth son asleep beside the cradle of my fifth, having crept from his bed to watch over his younger brother. I held them both, that night, and my weariness was soothed and lessened by love and the silent rejoicing over my beautiful sons.

As he grew older, Curufinwë took to mimicking his father's mannerisms, delighting in their resemblance. Fëanáro doted upon him. At last, he had a son whose mood and goals were akin to his own, a son to whom he could readily teach all of his crafts. That is not to say they did not argue; favourite or no, any son inheriting Fëanáro's strong will could not fail to hold his opinions strongly, and defend them fiercely. Yet after each argument ended, when the anger had passed from their faces, there was always such pride in Fëanáro's eyes for the boldness of his son.

Fëanáro was named the greatest of our people. It is for this reason that I fear it to have been a burden upon Curufinwë – a burden upon all of our sons, but he most of all, the most like his father, for how can one aspire to impress or please one who has already been placed at the pinnacle of esteem? To forever be his father writ smaller, even when grown... a bitter thing, perhaps, though tempered and sweetened by a love that sets aside comparison in the face of the familial bond.

The blame – or credit – for the continued growth of our family has been placed at times with Fëanáro. Yet the truth is not so one-sided; in all honesty, despite the cost to my strength, I too longed for more children. Love does not measure in finite quantities, and I was in no danger of having too little left. And thus Pityafinwë and Telufinwë were born; my twins, so alike that it seemed they were one soul in two bodies, the two halves of Ambarussa.

Fëanáro and I quarrelled over them, yet neither of us doubted that the other sincerely believed they were doing the best for our youngest sons. And so Telufinwë became Umbarto, for the chill presentiment that touched my mind, and thence Ambarto at Fëanáro's wishes, yet I too hoped that he was right in doing so.

Both twins, on the other hand, called each other Ambarussa, and in the face of their close bond the formalities of their precise names seemed far less important; we used the name for both even as they did, making use of their other names only when it was truly necessary to distinguish which of them we meant.

It proved an issue less often than one might think; united in peace and in mischief both, if one needed praise or reproof then it was almost certain that the other would have done the same deeds and earned the same return. Two active boys of a single age, seemingly united in thought and deed... it was a mercy that my older sons were of an age to help me. Two arms for two children only seems an equal equation when one does not take into account the boundless energy and enthusiasm of the young.

They had the hair of my family, like Maitimo, and it seemed fitting to me, that the first and the last of the sons I had borne would ever after carry the sign of our kinship like a banner. Hunting with Tyelcormo, listening as Macalaurë sang to them, chattering quietly in their own private dialect as they shaped necklace-chains under their father's watchful eye... there are countless memories, yet the one clearest in my mind is of them both, face to face, in the home of their grandfather, playing a clapping game in such perfect time that all who passed wondered at a sight that seemed a single child playing games with his reflection in a mirror.

Many tales are told of my sons in later days, and the knowledge most bear of them has not my fondness. So be it; my memory stands, and my stories also, to hold close the truth of my sons and my husband in the years of happiness, like a hearth-flame's warmth set against the winter chill beyond a quiet home.