Warnings:        - Slash, though no love involved.

                        - Disturbing Psychopathy

                        - Heavy Cynicism/Sarcasm/Irony

I know Curufin and Orodreth make a weird couple. I hold that this story is not a romance whatsoever. Well, that was kind of obvious. Knowing Curufin…

I never understood a lot about nobility titles in Tolkien's world. Apparently, Gwindor was considered a prince of Nargothrond. That always left me kind of perplexed, but, I thought I'd just stick along.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters, nor of the settings. They all belong to the Professor Tolkien, though I think he would be happy to discharge the contents on me…

Intrigue

By Le Chat Noir

Chapter one

Orodreth was displeased.

Most highly displeased.

He did not usually have much time away from the paperwork and all the official stuff that generally comes with ruling a kingdom. Today, he had looked forwards to a nice little stroll in the City, and had originally planned to visit some old friends of his in the most common and unpolitical of manners.

Someone, apparently, had decided otherwise for him.

The Lord Guilin had always been a good friend. Gelmir and Gwindor, his sons, were about Orodreth's age, and had been his playmates since early childhood. Though they were separated for some centuries when Orodreth was left in Tol Sirion while the two young princes followed their father to Nargothrond's safer shelter, there had been some visits on both sides, and their friendship lasted. However, their late reunion had been embittered by Gelmir's loss in the Bragollach, and Orodreth's defeat at Minas Tirith, and often Finrod's nephew could not bring himself to look into the grieving and mildly reproachful eyes of his friends.

Today, he had wanted to surprise the father and the son by an unannounced visit, and he had smiled when turning the corner of the street where they dwelt, thinking of the pleasure they would have in each other's company. That, of course, was before the grin was literally wiped off his face by the sight of a silhouette that looked rather too much like the Lord Celegorm calmly stepping out of their door. Disbelieving, Orodreth had taken some steps closer, and acknowledged that the figure was, in fact, Celegorm.

Celegorm who, upon seeing him and guessing his shock and bewilderment, had very kindly smiled, and bade him good day, before casually walking away.

Orodreth had later realised that he had felt the fleeting need to punch the other elf in the jaw, would it only be to stop him from smiling that way…

He had stood there at the door for some times, unmoving, lost in thoughts, before Gwindor, coming out and seeing the look on his face, had blushed a light shade of pink, only so slightly, but enough for Orodreth to know of his former friend's embarrassment. Gwindor had begun by inviting him in, and when the Steward had obstinately refused, had given very confusing explanations and made equally confusing apologies, about his father or something Orodreth did not even wait to hear.

So he was betrayed.

Even by his closest friends.

Heavily irritated, and also somewhat angry at himself for being so easily mocked, he had stormed away from a very guilty sounding Gwindor. Luckily, the weather was not too bad, so a walk in the woods could easily amount for one in the underground City. Not that Orodreth took much notice of the landscape, however much he tried.

There were just other things on his mind.

Celegorm and Curufin had begun as honour guests of the City, highly enough considered, respected as cousins of the King. They had gradually grown in the esteem of the people and the other Lords, and Curufin especially was thought to be a wise adviser. Orodreth did not believe those things. The two sons of Fëanor -They were sons of Fëanor. How trustworthy could one of those be anyway?- generally disregarded him totally, and, after literally forcing Finrod's pride and patience to the bitter end, acted as if they were themselves the Lords of the City. Celegorm was noticeably good at being arrogant. Maybe it was because of that that Orodreth mostly despised him, while he was always wary of the Lord Curufin.

He had stayed. When Finrod had gone away at last, not being able to bear the two brothers' constant presence and manipulations of the Court anymore, he had stayed, because, he admitted shamefully, he had been a coward. He had been frightened. The reason he gave himself later was that it was for the people's good. However, that was only much later. At the moment, the only reason he could have given if asked was that he was a coward.

The two brothers he had hated with a passion, especially in those days immediately following Finrod's leave. Now, all that remained was a very, very strong dislike. He would not admit that they were even worth his hatred.

Of course, Curufin and Celegorm might just have been thinking the same of him, except that they never deemed him worthy of the slightest concern.

He inhaled deeply, and slowed down his pace. It was a beautiful day, he told himself, a very beautiful day, and there was absolutely no reason for wasting it in dark brooding and uncomely thoughts.  Not even that he had just seen the Lord Celegorm emerge from his best friend's house, looking very satisfied with himself indeed.

A shy ray of sunlight happening through the thick  foliage caught him square in the face, and he smiled, leaning his back against a tree, determined in profiting of his spare time as well as he could. A slight rustle of leaves above him was however too slight to catch his attention.

Something fell out of the tree.

He started, and yelped in surprise.

"Greetings, my friend."

The thing in question landed smoothly right before him, and turned out to be not something, but someone. After a closer examination, that someone turned out to be the Lord Curufin, with several dried leaves stuck in his otherwise perfectly braided hair.

It took a certain amount of willpower to suppress the groan that wanted to escape his throat.

"Hail."

Curufin seemed not to notice his annoyed expression, and looked up with a smile on his face. The dark-haired Lord had a very unsettling capacity for perpetually smiling. Otherwise, his face was a perfect mask of moderated cheerfulness, that seemed to melt into other kind of expressions only when he wanted it to. It was bizarre, and also strangely disturbing, to know that not only was he a master of words, but also of the subtleties of facial language. And also managed to look like a very distracted kind of person.

After all, Orodreth wanted to think highly of the people of Nargothrond, and surely it was easier to get persuaded into doing any kind of things by such a person as Fëanor's fifth son than just any random elf.

"The weather is beautiful today."

There goes my day, he thought. It was also amazing how the other Lords seemed to adore small talk. They could talk about such trivial matters as the weather or the well-being of families for countless hours. Orodreth, of course, was generally bored out of his mind, though he did his best to follow the conversations, and strike up some words once in a while. It seemed to please the others. However, he did use to think that the Lord Curufin was different in that matter. Apparently, it was not so.

"It is indeed, my Lord. Do you always do that?"

The older elf raised one eyebrow in a query that seemed almost too sincere to be true.

"What?"

"Just drop out of trees?"

His voice slipped. He had wanted to hide his frustration at being interrupted in his musings, and especially interrupted by that very person. It did not work. He sighed and scolded himself inwardly. Maybe it was true. Maybe he was just too young and inexperienced in matters of -dirty-politics for being a ruler of a kingdom.

Immediately, Curufin looked a little hurt, and concerned.

"My my, you do seem to be in an awful temper… I direly hope it does not mean ill news?"

It was definitively uncommon. Orodreth was sure that the other elf was not hurt or concerned in the least, and yet everything about him seemed to state otherwise. Of course Curufin was such an alluring person for the people. Of course.

But now Orodreth was even more furious with himself, and he shut like a clam.

"No, it does not." he nearly snapped.

Curufin returned to smiling his eerie, unsettling smile.

"I am relieved. What troubles you then, my friend?"

Orodreth turned away.

"I believe it is a solely personal matter."

But it certainly does not matter to you what I believe, huh? You *know* what troubles me, you know it, but you are just too much of an actor and just want to toy with me…

The dark-haired ElfLord sighed, and looked truly sorry.

"I wonder… why do you dislike me so?"

Orodreth was taken aback. He thought fast. He knew the conventional answer, of course. No, no, I never disliked you, by the Valar, where do you get such ideas?

He blinked.

"Could it be because you are a Son of Fëanor,' he begun, looking suitingly puzzled 'and I was a child on the Helcaraxë, because you to whom my uncle has given shelter in a time of need, seek now to turn yourself from guests into hosts? Could it be because you sent my uncle away from his very own City to a certain Death, because you are now trying to usurpe even my place as a Steward, of your treacherous brother's thirst for power?' He paused. 'Could it be because you are a traitor, my Lord?"

Curufin shrugged.

"Now, big words…"

"In such a small mind, you mean to say, my Lord?"

He was shocked. At the same time, he was feeling extraordinarily light and pleased with himself. He had never known he was able to say such words, and to say them with such easiness. He had never known he was able to insult someone the same way he was being mocked every day. It felt good.

Definitely.

"You are putting words into my mouth, my nephew."

"That I do. I know your kind, my uncle."

He nearly startled himself. When had he begun to get so aggressive?

"You think you do?"

"I am not as stupid as you seem to deem me to be."

"Well, that is hardly to be considered a bad thing, is it"

Orodreth laughed lightly.

"My uncle, I will say that you look hardly very impressive with those twigs on your head."

However, Curufin did not seem to notice the mockery, and sighed with a slight smile playing on his lips.

"Oh, I really must look horrible, don't I?"

He reached up, and carefully removed the four dry leaves that were stuck in his hair. That being done, he looked at Orodreth with an inquiring expression. Then, his face serious and not showing amusement in the least, he bent forwards, slowly passed both arms around the blonde elf's neck, reaching to the back of his head. One second later, he showed the younger elf one dead twig that had somehow come twined with his golden hair.

Orodreth, perceiving  the derision in that gesture threw him a furious look.

"What exactly do you think you're doing?" he hissed.

However, Curufin did not pull back, and instead began unbraiding the soft, blonde hair. Orodreth, half-disgusted, half too disbelieving to even be disgusted, stepped back, but found that his back was already directly against the tree's rough bark.

"Playing with your hair?"

"Why do I not think so?" He would have spat, but found his face to be much too close to the other elf's to do so.

Curufin's grasp around his shoulders tightened slightly, and he nibbled teasingly at his ear.

"Come on, don't tell me you have never done this. Or is your charming little daughter really not your own?"

With an outraged cry, Orodreth jerked away. Without his brain even commanding it to do so, his hand came down, aiming for Curufin's cheek.

"I forbid you…" he began saying.

The hand stopped in mid-air. It was a somewhat disturbing fact that Curufin's dagger had jumped into his hand with such speed as he never seemed to have moved, and that dagger was actually pointed at his stomach.

A dagger always has to be thrust upwards into the stomach, so as to reach the vital organs without risking to be stopped by the ribcage.

His old master of arms had taught him that. He winced. It was not something pleasant to remember at that moment.

"That is something you do not wish to do." Curufin whispered.

He cocked an eyebrow, trying to maintain composure. Curufin's face did not seem to show any emotion at all. Even his voice was soft and casual, as if he was just inviting him to come down to tea one day.

And then, Orodreth had always thought that one needed to sound just a slight bit more cheerful to issue such an invitation.

"What? You would kill me?"

What a stupid question, a nagging little voice in his head said. Of course he would kill you without even blinking. He only does not do so because you are still of use to him… whatever use that can be.

The dagger was back to Curufin's belt.

"No. I wouldn't."

Aha. He was so reassured. A kind of morbid curiosity filled him.

"And why not?"

Fëanor's fifth son took one or two steps away from him, all the while still fixing him with his dark eyes.

"There are better ways of destroying a man, you know."

Orodreth snorted.

"And more painful for the victim, you mean?"

"Something along those lines, yes. You are not as dull as I thought you were. Good lad."

He spat. Of course there were no limits to the amount of affront he would accept from those two. If it had been Finrod, he would surely have just left him there as soon as he had seen him, which was actually rapidly becoming a developing option.

"And do not tell me you still consider yourself enough of a menace to me that I would want to kill you." Curufin said.

Orodreth looked up, and put as much scorn as he could in his stance and words.

"You consider me destroyed already?"

Curufin seemed to be genuinely surprised.

"What, are you not?"

"I am still the Steward of the City."

It meant nothing. They both knew it.

"Well, I would call that somewhat of an official title." Curufin mused, his eyes wandering somewhere near the treetops. They fell back on Orodreth again.

The silence hung. There was the occasional chirp of a bird, and the rustle in the bushes caused by some small animal scurrying by. A squirrel stooped down from the trunk, looked at them for a second, then, bothered by the sheer amount of tension that hovered in the air, swiftly ran back up into the foliage.

Very, very slowly, Orodreth gave Curufin a slight nod of the head, though without breaking the eye-contact.

"I'm sorry to have taken so much of your precious time then, my Lord. Surely you would prefer to spend it spying on innocent by-passers and dropping off on them."

"Hmm. One never knows… however, the dropping part was a privilege you could consider claiming"

He would have shrugged, but clenched his teeth instead, trying to appear as natural as possible.

"I must be leaving. I, on the contrary, have more important duties to attend to."

Curufin bowed slighlty.

"I am sorely disappointed. I was looking forwards to your company."

"I do not doubt you will soon find solace in other more interesting activities."

"To another time, then, my nephew."

"To another time, my Lord."

He strode away, looking dignified.

The sound of Curufin's soft, clear laughter followed him insinuatingly, sneaking disturbing thoughts into his mind.

~