Disclaimer: The characters and settings are gratefully borrowed from the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. I own nothing.
As this story takes place in Valinor, I've chosen to use the characters' Quenya names. If you are unfamiliar with these, a list of the names, along with the equivalent Sindarin names used in The Silmarillion, is found at the end of each chapter.
Hide and Seek - Part 1
"What story would you like to hear tonight, Ambarussa?"
"The Great Journey! Tell us about the Great Journey, Mother! And how Grandfather became the King!"
"No, it's my turn to choose! I want to hear about how Father learned to make jewels!"
"I think I will choose the story this time, Ambarussa. Tonight I will tell you about the Valar, who guide us and protect us. And this story involves your Grandfather and your Father and me, because all of us came to be who and what we are through their guidance and love. Now be still, and listen..."
"Manwë Súlimo lives in the lofty airs at the very top of Taniquetil, and Varda Elentári among the stars she made for us. Ulmo loves the ocean's deeps; Oromë and Yavanna, the leafy glades. And Aulë dwells in the mountains' roots, where he teaches our people the secrets of the earth..."
* * * * * * *
The yelling frightened them. They would listen to it while they lay in their bed, their hearts racing at the sound of the angry voices, clinging to each other for comfort. Father and Mother never yelled in front of them, but after they thought their sons had gone to sleep, they clawed at each other in ugly tones, inflicting bleeding wounds on each other's spirits with their harsh accusations. Ambarussa did not understand exactly what all the shouting was about; they only know that the following day, their mother's face would be sad, their father's mood dark and cold, and their older brothers subdued. That was always how it was after the yelling. And they would be ignored; "Go outside and play now," their mother would say listlessly, or Maitimo, or Makalaurë. "Go play with your brothers." And so they did, and when they asked their brothers Carnistir and Curufinwë why their parents fought so, the answer was always the same - "You're just babies, you're too little to understand." And so they played with their older brothers, and at night they held each other close, and listened to the screaming voices, and worried.
Then one day Mother took them aside and told them that she would be going away now, to live with their Grandfather Mahtan. Mother said she loved them both very much, and would miss them. "Your father and I have decided that you will stay here, with your other brothers," Mother said in a soft, sad voice.
"But we don't want you to go!" they both cried. "We want you to stay here with us!"
"I know, Ambarussa," their mother replied, sounding tired. "But that's not possible. I have to leave, and that can't be changed. I know you don't understand why, and I can't explain it to you, not really. Sometimes people don't get along, even though they love each other very much, and they have to live apart. It's hard to accept, but that is the way things are. And you cannot stay here with your father and also be with me at Grandfather Mahtan's house - you can only be at one place at a time. Sons belong with their father, so you will stay with him, and he will take good care of you." And then she kissed each of them softly on the forehead, and said, "Be good now, Ambarussa. Remember that I love you."
And then she was gone, and the world became cold and empty.
* * * * * * *
"What song do you wish me to sing to you tonight, Ambarussa? "
Before the world had ended, Mother used to tuck them into bed every night; sometimes (especially when they had been very little) Father would also come in with her, but when the yelling had started he began to stay away. Some nights, now that Mother was gone, he would be the one who would put them to bed, telling them strange stories about his jewels that glowed like the Trees. They did not like those stories, because Father's eyes had a scary light in them when he spoke about his pretty jewels. But on most nights it was one of their older brothers who helped them get ready for sleep, and who told them their bedtime story. Tonight it was their brother Makalaurë's turn. Ambarussa liked it when Makalaurë sang to them; he had a pretty voice. But tonight they did not want a song; they wanted a story. One story in particular.
"Tell us about Grandfather Mahtan! Please!"
"All right, if that is what you want to hear, silly little brothers. I'll tell you about Grandfather Mahtan. What do you want to know?"
"What is he like? Where does he live? Is he very tall, like Grandfather Finwë?"
"He lives far away, near the dwelling of Aulë. Did you know that when our father was young, he studied with Mahtan and Aulë? That's where he first learned to make jewels, and that's when he met our mother. You saw Grandfather Mahtan once, but you were too little then to remember him - he came to see you right after you were born. He has red hair just like yours, and a big booming voice, and..."
Makalaurë kept on talking in his pretty voice, and Ambarussa pretended to grow sleepy as they listened. Eventually, their big brother's voice quietly trailed off, and he whispered, "Asleep at last. Sweet dreams, little brothers." And then he left. He did not know that Ambarussa were not asleep.
After a long time spent intently listening for any sounds, they quietly got back up out of bed and carefully crept out of the house. Finally they knew where they needed to go.
Grandfather Mahtan, Makalaurë had told them, lived near Aulë. And Aulë lived at the mountains' roots...
* * * * * * *
It's strange how the enormity of our loss simply leaves me numb, but the small changes retain the power to cruelly pierce my heart,Makalaurë thought as he slowly wandered into the kitchen. The sweet perfume of freshly baked bread wafting on the morning air had delighted his nose as long as he could remember, and now its absence served as a cruel reminder that nothing in their lives would ever be the same. Their mother was gone, and with her the easy, familiar rhythms of their lives. Now there was no one in the household who could make bread, for that was a task assumed by women alone; neither he, nor any of his brothers, nor their father had ever baked it. I suppose one of us will eventually have to learn, or we will need to hire a baker, Makalaurë though gloomily as he watched Tyelkormo slicing fruit for the morning meal. But that will only bring the bread back into our lives; what will ever replace the love our mother kneaded into each loaf? I may be near my majority, but in truth I miss her every bit as much as the twins do. "Just fruit again?" he said aloud. "I had hoped in all your forest roamings, you might have found some eggs."
"No such luck," Tyelkormo responded angrily, "and I'm not likely to find any in the future, or any game for our table either, if we have to keep doing Mother's work as well as our own. I'm tired of mending and cleaning and playing babysitter." He brought the knife down savagely, chopping furiously, as if the fruit had offended him.
"It can't be helped," Makalaurë replied softly. "You know that as well as I do."
"Do I? She never should have left. If she loved us, she wouldn't have," Tyelkormo replied in a bitter voice.
Makalaurë sighed. "Brother, it's not that simple," he replied. But Tyelkormo made no reply; only the tightness in his arms as he wielded the knife revealed his continued ire. I know that you and Carnistir and Curufinwë are angry at Mother for leaving us, Makalaurë thought, bewildered by his younger brothers' reactions to their mother's departure, but can you not see past your anger to appreciate her feelings? Do you not realize how much pain our mother must have been in, that she would make such a decision? And don't you see that Father is not completely innocent? It takes two people to fight so, Tyelkormo. But he did not voice his thoughts aloud; his younger brothers had already made it quite plain that they viewed their mother's recent departure as a betrayal, and they were not willing to extend to her either their understanding or their forgiveness. "Where is Father?" he asked as young Carnistir and Curufinwë strolled in to get their breakfast.
"Out in his workshop, where else?" Tyelkormo replied as he placed the sliced fruit into bowls, then handed one to each of his brothers. "He said he wasn't hungry."
"No, he never is these days. He's lost interest in everything..." Except for the Silmarils, Makalaurë thought to himself. When Mother left, it wasn't only her love she took from us. She took his as well - ever since she left, he's had no interest in anything except those jewels. Is their radiance the only thing that eases the pain in his heart? Father, why don't you go to her? I don't know everything that happened between the two of you, but surely there must be some way to make things right again! It's clear to all of us that you still care for her - why did you let her leave without protest?
His older brother's voice brought Makalaurë out of his ruminations. "Filit, have you seen Ambarussa?" Maitimo absently grasped the bowl that Tyelkormo thrust at him; his grey eyes were filled with worry. "They're not in their room; I checked. I thought they might have come out early for breakfast, but... " He gestured helplessly.
"No, they've not come out here," Makalaurë replied. "They're probably off playing, you know how they like to hide and invent their own private games... Don't worry, Russandol, I'll help you find the little scamps."
"If they've climbed on top of the roof again..." Maitimo muttered. "Younger brothers are definitely more trouble than they're worth."
Tyelkormo scowled, and Curufinwë and Carnistir protested bitterly that they had never caused any trouble; Makalaurë merely laughed and replied, "I'd apologize for all the pains I gave you when I was little, Maitimo, but in truth you deserved them all! Let's go and find our smallest brothers, before they cause more mischief than even you have coming to you. Tyelkormo, I know it's my turn to teach Curufinwë and Carnistir their lessons, but until we find Ambarussa, you'll have to do it - I doubt Father is in any mood to be disturbed."
"But I'm supposed to be meeting with Oromë today!" Tyelkormo protested, but his protests were silenced by a glare from Maitimo. "You'll just have to wait until after we find Ambarussa before you can go. Live with it, brother," Maitimo replied sternly, and then, placing his uneaten breakfast aside, he and Makalaurë set out in search of the twins.
* * * * * * *
The silvery light had waned, and slowly changed hue, and now everything was brightly lit with a brilliant golden radiance. Ambarussa had been walking for a very long time now, and they were getting hungry, but they had forgotten to bring anything to eat with them when they set out on their journey. They looked longingly at the brightly colored berries on a nearby bush, but remembered their brother Tyelkormo scolding them once before when they had picked pretty berries to eat. "These will make you very sick!" he'd yelled angrily, quickly snatching the berries out of their hands. "Never eat anything you find without showing it to me, or our older brothers, or Mother and Father first!" Since none of those people were here now, Ambarussa decided after a moment's temptation not to try the berries. They still had a long way to go; they couldn't afford to get sick now! Makalaurë had said that Grandfather Mahtan lived far away, and although they'd not stopped walking, the shiny white mountain still seemed a long way off. It would probably take until lunchtime to get there, perhaps even later. It was going to be hard to go without food for so long, but they knew they could manage it if they had to.
They steadily marched on, occasionally stopping to climb a tree to make sure that they were still heading towards the pretty mountain. It was hard to keep going the right direction, with all the trees surrounding them and blocking their view. Once one of them got a foot stuck in a crack when climbing back down to the ground, and almost couldn't pull it loose. He was limping slightly, and both of them had many small cuts on their feet, for they hadn't taken the time to change out of their bedclothes or to put on shoes. But that was all right. When they reached Grandfather Mahtan's house, Mother would put her special salve on their cuts and help them get dressed in their real clothes, and then they would take her back home, and everything would be all right again.
Then suddenly the trees began to thin out, and Ambarussa heard the sound of rushing water. As they stepped out of the forest, they saw to their dismay that there was a river sitting between them and the shiny mountain. Ambarussa had been in water before, when they took their baths, but this looked much deeper and scarier. It was moving so quickly! But Ambarussa were brave, and very determined. If the river lay between them and the mountain, then they would simply have to find a way to cross it, no matter how scary it might be. They stepped forward and began to look for a way to reach the other side.
* * * * * * *
They had looked in all the usual places; then they had started checking the unusual ones. By midmorning, their initial exasperation had given way to worry and fear, as Makalaurë and Maitimo realized that their small brothers were not simply hiding, but were in fact missing. There was only one place they had not searched yet; they had saved it for last both because it was unlikely that Ambarussa would have gone there, and because they both dreaded the confrontation that visit would bring. But at last they were left with no choice; Fëanáro's workshop was the only area they had not looked in.
After a moment of hesitation, Maitimo finally spoke. "I'll go tell Father the news," he said, and Makalaurë heard the thin note of fear in his older brother's voice. Their father had grown increasingly moody and short-tempered in the time since Nerdanel's departure; what his reaction to Maitimo's announcement would be, Makalaurë did not care to imagine.
"Father is going to be angry when he hears that our brothers have wandered off," Makalaurë acknowledged, "but it's not our fault! Surely he'll realize that." But in his heart, he feared otherwise, and a sudden swell of pity for his older brother filled his heart. "Do you want me to go with you? " he asked.
"No," Maitimo replied. "You should go back to the house and tell the others that Ambarussa are gone - we're going to have to start organizing a search." And he turned and slowly, reluctantly, headed towards the workshop, to tell their father that his youngest sons were missing.
(To Be Continued)
The names used in this story are Quenya, and their meanings can be found in the essay "The Shibboleth of Fëanor", published in The Peoples of Middle Earth (History of Middle Earth, vol. 12). When more than one name is listed for a character, the first name is the father-name, the second is the mother-name, and the third is an epessë (a nickname). The names are as follows:
Curufinwë Fëanáro - Fëanor
Nelyafinwë Maitimo Russandol - Maedhros
Kanafinwë Makalaurë - Maglor
Turkafinwë Tyelkormo - Celegorm
Morifinwë Carnistir - Caranthir
Curufinwë Atarinkë - Curufin
Pityafinwë Ambarussa - Amrod
Telufinwë Ambarussa - Amras
Findekáno - Fingon
Turukáno - Turgon
Írissë - Aredhel
Nolofinwë - Fingolfin
Arafinwë - Finarfin
Filit - Quenya for "little bird"; an affectionate nickname Maedhros has given his brother Maglor.