Written for the LOTR Community challenge for June
Theme: Bunny Hutch
Elements: (no. 57) First Age, Children of Húrin: Sador's first encounter with the child Túrin. How did the old thrall and the young child become friends? (prompt by Dreamflower)
Banner made by Winterwitch. Photo credit: Winterwitch.
The Mormegil’s step, usually so confident, faltered midstride. Before them arose a cluster of vines and slender branches, so lifelike, so delicately entwined that it was difficult to recognize that together they formed a pillar that supported the ceiling. And in the midst of this, positioned carefully so that passers-by would spot it only at second glance, the sculptor had added a mouse that seemed to be scurrying upwards and away—but the tiny animal, too, was motionless, captured in stone.
‘You are admiring the skill of the sculptor, Mormegil?’ asked Finduilas.
It was outstanding work, of course. Nargothrond was as elvishly splendid as Menegroth, but without a forest around it to roam free in.
‘His skill is truly admirable,’ responded Turin. ‘But I fear that was not what I was thinking of…’
It had stung, that reproof over time wasted. It had hurt even to listen to.
‘Now, Morwen,’ Rian had protested, rather weakly.
Little Turin was already used to Aunt Rian occasionally protesting and often being ignored. She was only a visitor, after all. But he had noticed tears in Sador’s eyes. A grown man, crying! And it was easy to see the physical pain he was in as he dragged himself away on his crutches.
Turin said nothing to his mother. Morwen, unlike Turin, unlike Sador, never, ever cried, no matter how much things hurt. But when there was honey cake for afters that night, he kept some of it back and, after supper, he crept out to find Sador, quiet as a mouse.
He got a little lost, but just when he thought he would have to give in and ask someone, he saw Sador sitting in front of his hut—and to Turin’s astonishment, Sador looked calm and content, peacefully whittling away at a piece of wood, not brooding over the events of the day, as Turin himself would have done. Almost, Turin turned away. But that would have been to leave his errand undone, even if it was not as necessary an errand as he had thought, so he walked forward.
‘Hail, Turin!’ said Sador, lifting his head and recognizing him. ‘You are out late tonight. Where are you going?’
‘I was coming to find you,’ said Turin. ‘I brought you honey cake.’
Sador’s dark eyes met his, entirely surprised. And suddenly Turin was abashed—so greatly that he could not rightly understand what Sador answered. A stream of words washed over him, engulfed him and lifted him up—and then he found himself sitting beside Sador, eating the rest of his honey cake—for Sador had accepted no more of his gift than a polite small bite—and watching Sador’s hands as he went on whittling, while Sador talked about this and that to put him at his ease.
And it did succeed in putting Turin at his ease, perhaps more than he had ever been. This was, Turin supposed, dawdling, as much as the delay Sador had been scolded for earlier today. Although it pained Turin to disagree with Morwen about anything, he could not help feeling, even on that first evening, that dawdling might be a good, a helpful thing to do—sometimes at least, if you knew how to do it, as it seemed Sador did.
‘Look,’ said Sador, eventually. ‘Can you see what this is?’
‘A mouse!’ said Turin.
It was indeed a mouse. It had a neat pointy face and a sleek curly tail.
‘Who do you think it is for?’ asked Sador.
‘Lalaith,’ answered Turin, with certainty. In his world, all such things were for his little sister or perhaps, sometimes, for Aunt Rian. But Sador would not be giving presents to Rian!
‘No, Turin, it is for you!’ said Sador.
Turin thought he might give the mouse to Lalaith anyway. He liked the thought of having a present to give Lalaith. But he slept that night with the mouse under his pillow, and in the morning he found he had decided to keep it.
‘I thought Sador amazingly skilled when I was a young boy in Dor-lomin,’ said Turin. ‘But Sador’s mouse was just a simple wooden toy, nothing like this…’
‘I do understand, Mormegil’, said Finduilas. ‘This mouse and the pillar were carved by my uncle. I love them because they are the work of his hands as much as because they show his skill and his art. And yet, among his works, this is not the one that is closest to my heart. Let me show you...’
She caught hold of Turin’s hand and, after a startled moment, he let her pull him along, deeper into the heart of Nargothrond. He gazed at the back of her head, her golden hair. So fair—like his long-dead sister—as fair as an elf-child, they had called her, before she died...
‘See?’, she asked expectantly.
He was not sure at first what she was talking about. She had been going to show him something, he remembered. He began to take closer notice of his surroundings. The walls of this chamber were mostly unhewn but, on one wall, the sculptor had begun to depict a nocturnal forest. At the edge, there was an owl, hovering and struggling, it seemed, to take flight, but its left wing was still encased in stone.
‘Do you see?’ Finduilas repeated. ‘This is where my uncle Finrod stopped working, just before he went away with Beren...’
Chapter End Notes:
The story as Turin would actually tell it to Finduilas would probably omit a lot of details, most crucially his and his relatives' names. The flashback is therefore supposed to represent his memories, which he is editing as he speaks.