Written for the 2010 Gen Fic Swap, for Fae Touched and Jaiden. Beta: Smaug
It was dark, from the lack of windows and from the layers of ash and soot from the constantly lit fires within the forge. It was bright, from the fiery flames in the four corners, where Feanor practiced the craft taught to him by Mahtan. Here, Feanor trained apprentices of his own, including some of his own sons. In the first hours of Laurelin’s golden light, it was Feanor who worked in his shop alone. Curufin was always next to enter, while Maedhros and Caranthir usually did not arrive until well after having their morning meal. His other sons were hunters and harpers, but this he accepted, for he wished them all to find their own way and happiness.
Therefore, it was unexpected that Feanor would have someone knock on the door so early, or even at all. His sons all knew they were welcome to enter at any time, and neither his father nor his wife would ever think to knock, nor would they have to. Feanor narrowed his eyes as he heard the knocking again, wondering if one of his siblings had decided to stop by to ruin his day. “Enter,” he said in the midst of the third knock.
The door swung open, the visitor grabbing for the handle as it unexpectedly swung too fast and hit against the wall. “Oh, dear! I would say I hope I did not break it, but my word! It looks as though it could stand to be broken to be replaced!” Into the forge walked an elf Feanor had never seen before. The unknown guest was petite, though he wore a long amber-colored coat with ivory ruffles at the sleeves that helped minimize this feature. His dark hair was left long, bangs helping to frame his face. Matching dark lashes fluttered as curious green eyes took in everything there was to see in the forge. “My, my, my... how long has it been since you painted these walls? Oh! So drab...” muttered the elf to himself as he reached out one golden gloved hand and touched a finger to the wall. “Oh... oh my...” He shook his head sadly.
“Excuse me, but who are you and what are you doing here?” Feanor had a funny feeling that, despite his hopes that this fellow was in the wrong place, this was exactly where this unusual fellow meant to be.
Indeed, he was exactly where he intended. “Elebrin, your highness.” He rubbed his finger tips together in order to lessen the mark from the sooty walls. “Your wife hired me as a consultant.”
“A consultant?” The term sounded slightly familiar. Feanor knew he had to pay more attention to his wife when she would speak to him before bed, but it was so much easier to nod and ignore her. Apparently, this was one of those things he had chosen to ignore. “Just what are you here to consult about?”
“The state of the estate,” answered Elebrin. “I am here to draw up a plan to reinvigorate your home! And, home is where the hearth is!” Elebrin laughed at his own joke. Feanor said and did nothing. After clearing his throat, Elebrin added, “She said you might not be very receptive of the idea, so I took the liberty to draw up some ideas ahead of time!” The elf happily sashayed up to a table that was used for looking at diagrams and placed a stack of papers upon it. “My first choice in the one on top. I think we could really modernize with a touch of velvet and some strategically placed suede chairs, perhaps in little clusters around the windows.”
“There are no windows,” said Feanor, eyeing up the stack as if it were a dead, bloated cow that had the misfortune of going belly-up in the middle of his walkway. “I do not wish anyone to spy upon what goes on in here.”
“That is what the velvet curtains are for!” All the while as he spoke, Elebrin’s dramatic vocalizations were second only to his overzealous gestures in giving Feanor a splitting headache. “I shall return in but a moment – I need to take some fabric samples up to the house for your wife. We need to be sure that the cloth on the dining table matches the napkins perfectly. How embarrassing it would be if guests were to notice such a flaw! Just a teeny weeny moment, and I shall return!” He trotted through the doorway, the tails of his long coat flapping happily behind him.
“Take your time.” Feanor picked up the stack of papers, curiously looked at the first three or four, and then tossed them into one of the roaring fires in the corner. Without a second thought, he returned to his work.
It was not too long before he heard someone enter the forge. Though he did not look up, he could tell from the familiarity of the footsteps that it was not Elebrin. There was a slight rustle as a leather apron was removed from a hook. “Good morning, sir,” said Maedhros, a greeting parroted by Caranthir and Curufin once they had also taken protective cover from where it hung at the doorway.
“Good morning.” Feanor’s belief was that as apprentices, his sons show him the same respect others did within the forge. At home, the atmosphere was much less formal. On occasion, he was known to drop the etiquette just a bit, and today happened to be one of those times that he did not begin with a set lesson or project for them to complete. “All of you saw the intruder before you left, I wager.”
“The rather, uh, flamboyant gentleman mother was speaking to in the kitchen?” queried Maedhros. “Why do you think Caranthir and I are here so early?”
Feanor’s request was blunt. “I need someone to delay him in the house for as long as possible so that he forgets to come back out here.”
“I am uncertain if he will, no matter how long he is detained,” said Caranthir. “He had a whole checklist on a fancy little scroll with tassels coming off the sides.”
“Tassels?” Feanor groaned and shook his head. “One of you must go inside and offer to ‘assist’.”
“Assist meaning, make sure he does not convince mother to sew tassels onto anything,” guessed Maedhros.
“No tassels. No pink. NO PINK,” repeated Feanor in case anyone thought this debatable. “And if he goes anywhere NEAR my chair—“
“I will go,” said Curufin. He was already untying the straps of leather that kept the apron in place. “If Celegorm has not yet gone off hunting with Aredhel, I shall enlist him as well.” There were a few things that came to Curufin’s mind that he could see his mother finding an excuse to be rid of, including the old leather chair that sat prominently in the parlor. It was excessively patched and smelled of whiskey on one side, for Feanor had a tendency to take a nap while holding onto a half-glass of his favorite drink, and Nerdanel did not always notice in time to take the glass out of his hand.
“Perfect.” Although Feanor trusted Curufin to know his will best of his sons, he knew that Celegorm was more prone to winning arguments (and loved to engage in them). He smirked to himself as he thought how quickly the unexpected troublemaker would be run off the estate, and happily turned to his work.
- - -
It was a particularly productive day, with very little conversation and the completion of many projects. Work continued for many long hours, with Feanor taking his meals in his shop to belay the probability of being intercepted indoors by the decorator. When at last he had tired himself out, he left the forge, the last to leave, and hurried to the house. He was up the stairs and in bed in record time, even slipping past Nerdanel, who he noticed to be in Maglor’s room chatting with him about a song he was writing. Feeling his forge was safe and secure, he fell asleep almost immediately.
He awoke to find that he had slept in, a rarity that he could practically count on one hand. The spot beside him was cool to the touch, but he was doubtful that Nerdanel had stayed up the entire night. More than likely, she had risen early to take care of household business. It was only now that Feanor noticed the curtains in the bedroom. New, made of crushed velvet on the facing side, and swept back to either side with those horrid tassels. “At least they are not pink,” he muttered to himself as he got out of bed.
Downstairs, he found over half of his sons gathered in the kitchen with sour looks on their faces. Huan was there as well, looking as unhappy as his master. Feanor did not need to bend down to scratch the giant hound behind the ears on his way to the counter where a bowl of apples had been placed in expectation of his arrival to the kitchen. “Do not tell me – your mother allowed him to change the décor in your rooms as well.”
“Worse than that,” replied Curufin.
“He came back when we were all sleeping,” Celegorm growled. “Mother must have known our intentions at keeping him in the house yesterday.”
“Did he do something to my workshop?” Feanor looked around the room as Huan settled his head upon his front paws and whined.
Very slowly, Maedhros nodded.
“And you are not going to like it,” said Caranthir forebodingly.
Feanor selected an apple from the bowl and took a bite out of it. “I appreciate the warning.” He briskly walked through the house and continued to eat his breakfast as if it were just another day in the manor. Despite this, servants must have been warned, for they stepped out of his way swiftly and kept far out of his path. The apprentices who were not counted among his progeny were gathered outdoors, sitting on the wrought iron benches near the gazebo. Feanor did not greet them, for they dared not make eye contact with him. This, more than anything, made him believe the situation dire.
Once he reached the forge, he hesitated only momentarily before taking hold of the door, which swung both ways, and pulling it towards him. He looked around without moving, and the apple fell from his hand.
After five or six minutes, he shut the door. The apple he kicked away towards a tree, where it smashed against the trunk. He took a deep breath, counted to twelve, and then began to walk to the stables. On his way, he passed the group of apprentices. “Dismissed,” he said sharply as he went by, and the group scattered off, some towards their nearby homes and others to the little barrack-like apartments behind the manor where those who had been recruited from further away now lived. Feanor himself rode off only minutes later, telling no one of his intentions or his expected return.
- - -
“Before you say anything, this was not my idea.” Feanor and his guest had just relinquished their mounts to the stable hand and were walking towards the forge. It was dark, no glow beneath the door, nor smoke billowing from the chimneys. The door was opened, torches lit, and one of the four hearths was brought to life to create light and warmth in the smithy. “Not my idea,” he repeated as his long-time friend slowly made his way into the room, taking in the pleated skirting around the base of all of the workbenches and the pair of plush chairs with a table situated between them adorned with a decorative candelabra that displayed honeycomb candles.
“Good. Because if it was, we would need to have a very serious talk.” Erestor lifted up a piece of pottery that held a bouquet of fresh flowers. “Gift from your father’s current wife?”
“No. I wish it was,” admitted Feanor. “Then I would feel no remorse for destroying it.”
Erestor set the vase back down. “Why do you have to destroy it?”
“You have to ask?”
Next, Erestor wandered to the velvet drapery that hung from ceiling to floor. There were tassels decorating the billowing valances. “I had no idea there were windows here,” he said.
Feanor joined him and pulled back one of the offensive lengths of fabric, revealing the brick wall it covered. He let it drop as he glared at the tassels.
“Ah. Sale on velvet?”
“My wife either hates me, or is clueless as to what goes on in here,” Feanor said.
“Doubtful that you married an idiot,” said Erestor as he continued to investigate the room. “However, you did get her pregnant six times.”
Feanor narrowed his eyes. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Turning your shop into a place suitable for her next tea party seems as good of revenge as any. How did she take your insistence she change Telufinwe’s name so that it did not mirror Pityafinwe’s?” asked Erestor. Feanor muttered something that was not discernable. “Well, there is your answer.” He moved to one of the unlit hearths and fingered a ribbon that decorated the brickwork, culminating in a bow that merrily clung to the side. “Nice. So, what did she do, drug you and set her maids upon this place?”
“She hired a consultant.”
“Oh, lord.” Erestor rolled his eyes. “Who is it? Not Elebrin, I hope.”
The color drained from Feanor’s face. “How did you know?”
“Mahtan’s wife did the same thing to him just recently. From what he said, Elebrin was persistant. Luckily,” continued Erestor as Feanor sat down and rubbed his head, “Mahtan only had his house to deal with. Elebrin never set foot in his forge.”
“Well, that explains who Nerdanel learned of him from,” said Feanor.
Erestor sat down in the other chair. “You have to admit, these are very comfortable.” He was met with a glare from his friend. “So what is it that you need me to do?”
“Help me destroy all of this,” explained Feanor. “I cannot have the children help me – their mother would know it was them. Perhaps not Celegorm, he excels at lying, but I swear sometimes that dog of his snitches on him.”
While Feanor babbled on about how his sons could not possibly aid in this task, Erestor took a more in-depth look at the furniture and draperies that had been added. “Why not just tell Elebrin that this is excessive for a blacksmith and have him remove it?” asked Erestor when he finally had the chance to interrupt.
“That would not go over well. I certainly do not wish to hurt Nerdanel’s feelings,” Feanor said. “She will think that I do not like her choices.”
“Alright, but, you must admit, that is exactly what is wrong,” reasoned Erestor. “Her choice of Elebrin, and their choices of what to do in here do not suit you. There was nothing wrong here, nothing that needed to be fixed, but they thought there was. Unfortunately for them, they do not work here, so what they think does not matter. However,” Erestor added, “it seems rude to destroy what someone else made – this furniture, despite what we think of it, is his craft. As an artisan yourself, surely you can respect that.”
Feanor’s response was simple. “Are you going to help me or not?”
“Of course. I am... just giving you my opinion,” said Erestor.
- - -
“Good morning!” Elebrin’s cheerful voice rang out well before the door started to swing open. Feanor ignored it and continued to pound away at the heated chunk of metal held firm between the tongs held in his other hand. His anvil sang for him, a sound that covered the shocked gasp that came from Elebrin once he entered. “Oh... oh no... oh dear me! Oh my!” Elebrin raced from the charred curtains to the dented table, to the torn fabric. Even the bow upon the hearth had not been left untouched, and still smoldered from the work that Feanor and Erestor had completed not long ago. “What happened?” asked Elebrin as he sat down upon a chair so as not to faint, not noticing the thick layer of soot and ash that covered it.
Feanor shrugged, not bothering to turn around. “I guess the new furnishings could not take the heat,” he replied calmly. “Sparks flying, heavy pieces of raw materials being carried around – accidents are bound to happen.”
“I see,” said Elebrin, his lightheadedness affecting his voice. “Well... there is only one way to solve this,” he said, more to himself than to Feanor as he steadied himself back onto his feet, fanning his face.
There was a nod from the master of the forge as he shouted over his hammering of the metal he worked on. “I understand that you will need to remove it all.”
“Oh, good gracious, yes. Everything is ruined,” declared Elebrin sadly. “Fear not; I will have it replaced with sturdier fabrics that are resistant to flame, and harder woods that will not be as susceptible to breakage as these were. It will take a few days, but your satisfaction is worth it, your highness!”
Before Feanor could make any further suggestion as to the matter, Elebrin had scurried out of the forge and theoretically in the direction of his own workshop. Feanor, dumbstruck about the entire situation, could do nothing more than stare into the flames as the mangled piece of metal he had been working on became ruined.
- - -
Once at the estate, Erestor had been invited to stay rather than travel back immediately. Firstly, this was to keep Nerdanel from realizing that Erestor had anything to do with the ruining of the first set of furniture in the forge – which was rather silly, because Nerdanel knew exactly what had happened without having to be there. Secondly, Feanor expected that there might be need for further advice from his friend. Unluckily for Feanor, that assumption was correct, for now his forge was filled again with pieces he himself would deem undesirable, yet would be far harder to destroy by any means which might be explained away as an accident.
“The trouble is that you are making up a problem and not addressing the real issue,” said Erestor. He was settled in a wooden chair that had been created with split logs. It was not as comfortable as the plush wingback chairs he and Feanor had destroyed only a few days earlier, but it was better than the stone bench that had previously inhabited the space.
Feanor shook his head, a bottle of whiskey set beside an empty glass that contained residue of the amber liquid were sitting on the worktable he often used. It was the highest of the tables, meaning it was the one with the longest stretch of heavy canvas draped down from it. “I am too far in now to try to convince him otherwise.”
“Too stubborn,” corrected Erestor, one of the few who could get away with making such a claim and not finding themselves with a bloodied nose right after. “He is trying to correct the wrong problems. He will not understand what is wrong until you tell him. If you do not want to tell him, consider this: Ask him to come and observe a day of work here. Then, he can see what goes on and will hopefully conclude on his own that velvet curtains and all the rest are a disaster for a smithy.”
The glass was refilled. “And if he does not?”
“We... ask him to take a trip south to redecorate your summer home on the coast.”
“There is no summer home on the – ah.” Feanor grinned for the first time that week and threw back his head as he gulped down his drink. “I like that.”
“I thought you might,” said Erestor. “By the time he figures it out, he may well be frustrated enough to give up the whole endeavor. It may not come to that. Ask him to spend a few hours here, and I think he will see the light, so to speak. Besides, it cannot make it any worse.”
“I certainly hope not,” said Feanor.
- - -
There was a certain comfort to the rhythm of the hammers as they hit their marks. Feanor took a deep breath of the warm air, the scent of the fire, of the metal, of the wood as it burned, and it pleased him. There were well-trained smiths at each of the four corners of his workshop, strong arms pounding steel, forging silver, taming gold. It was music to him, not the music of the Ainur, but the music of the Noldor, and he delighted in the hiss of the steam when the newly made creations were plunged into the deep vats of water.
Only one thing seemed out of place in the forge today. Perched atop a stool sat Elebrin. He had had enough sense to dress for the occasion, and while he had not given up his dainty leather gloves, green to match his eyes, he had chosen sensible leggings and a shirt without fancy sleeves for this day of observation. He had agreed to remove everything he had brought in until after seeing the forge in action to determine the best course of action.
Feanor strolled over and tapped the consultant upon the shoulder. It nearly caused Elebrin to leap off his perch. “Did you have any questions?” asked Feanor as he had often done throughout the day. Elebrin shook his head. “Well, if you do, I will be in there,” he said, pointing to a door that had been locked since the day Elebrin arrived. The petite elf nodded in understanding.
Elebrin waited until Feanor had gone into the secret room and shut the door before he left his safe haven and approached one of the groups that were working. It so happened to be the hearth that Feanor’s sons favored. “Pardon me,” he said quietly, not wishing to be a nuisance.
Maedhros and Caranthir both looked up, though Curufin was deeply concentrating on the object he was hammering upon the anvil. “Did you need something?”
“Actually, I just had a question or two,” he said timidly. “Is it always this dirty?”
The brothers glanced at one another, silently deciding that the elder would fend the questions. “Depends. Often it is.”
“And is it always this hot?”
“Usually,” said Maedhros.
Elebrin nodded thoughtfully. “I see.” He looked across the room to the door that was ajar. “What goes on back there, where your father has gone?”
“That is where darkness turns bright,” answered Caranthir. “He cuts and polishes rocks, and discovers the true jewels hidden within.”
“I see. Thank you, both of you,” said Elebrin. He waited until they were once more deep in conversation about their duties before he made the decision to venture back to the room where Feanor had gone.
Caranthir’s description was not so very far from the truth. When Elebrin peeked into the small room that adjoined the forge, he saw first the glimmering gems along one wall, each color, shape, and size sorted into its own little wooden bin. On the left wall were bins of stones, rough and dull, in larger bins and probably only separated by color from what Elebrin could figure. He was drawn to those on the right wall, for even in a room lit by a few candles at the table where Feanor sat hunched over with tiny picks and chisels, the many facets of the jewels lit the room with such a multicolored glow it was breathtakingly amazing.
“Can I help you?”
Elebrin tensed upon hearing Feanor’s voice. He stepped fully inside of the room and hung his head. “I was only coming to say that I am sorry to have wasted your time. I do not think there is anything I can do for you.”
Feanor tapped one of the chisels with a tiny hammer until he reached the desired result and blew away the unwanted bits with a puff of air. “My wife has been pleased with the work you have done inside of the house. I am certain if you speak to her, she can recommend your services to some of her friends.”
There was a small nod, but Elebrin turned his attention again to the sparkling gems that lined the wall. “Did you make all of these?”
It was Feanor’s turn to nod. “I tried to train a few apprentices, but they all tended to ruin whatever they were working on. Even Curufin does not have the patience for it – they all want fast results, smashing as they go along. Better to have them work in there,” he said, making a motion to the door where the muted sounds of hammer on metal still rang out. “Much less chance they might break something.”
“Are you working on one now?” asked Elebrin as he took a step closer to see for himself.
Feanor did not know if his sudden thought was a brilliant idea or a leftover folly from the whiskey he had been drinking regularly throughout the week. “Would you like to watch?” He moved a box of assorted rocks off of the spare wooden stool and pulled it a little closer to where he was working.
Elebrin sat down carefully, his eyes watching Feanor’s hands and the stone that was slowly but surely being carved into one of those jewels which would in ages to come be spoken of as lore. “How do you know what to remove without ruining it?”
“That begins before you start to work on it,” explained Feanor. “You have to... feel it, listen to it, imagine what it will be. These hidden treasures, sung into existence... waiting to be discovered.” He carefully positioned a tool with a thin, clear piece of stone on the end before he picked up a small hammer and expertly hit it hard enough to slice the stone as he wished, but not hard enough to break away unnecessary pieces or crack the emerging jewel. “All it takes is patience.”
“What is that on the end of the tool?” asked Elebrin.
Feanor held up the chisel. “An adamant. Diamond, in this case. Lots of little tools to cut things with, and things to polish up the facets, but I have found diamond usually works best.”
“How long does it take to make one?”
“Hours. If I am lucky, I might finish... seven or eight in a day,” guessed Feanor. “I never really count, though. This is not a race. This is a trade... a talent.”
“It looks difficult,” admitted Elebrin.
Feanor gave another tap of the hammer, and the ruby he was working on sparkled despite the raw stone that still clung to over half of it. “Show me your hands.”
Elebrin splayed his fingers out. “I wear gloves to make them look bigger than they are,” he admitted.
“Well, take them off,” insisted Feanor. He waited until Elebrin had done so, and then looked at each hand individually. “Large hands are good for metalwork – holding a hammer, pounding an anvil. My sons all have large hands – even Maglor does,” said Feanor. “Tiny hands are not something to be embarrassed about. If we all had huge hands, we would be stuck wearing jewelry made of rocks and sticks.”
To this, Elebrin laughed. “Are you saying I have a future in the jewelsmithing business?”
“There is only one way to find out,” said Feanor as he handed the tiny hammer and chisel to Elebrin.
- - -
“So you adopted him as an apprentice.” Erestor was lounging on a pale blue flocked settee in the parlor – one of the many improvements that Elebrin had made to the house. It matched everything in the room, from the curtains to the rugs to the doilies on the tables.
Everything, that is, except for the chair that Feanor was sitting in. There was a glass of whiskey comfortably situated in his left hand, and a polished ruby held in the other. “He is a fast learner. There were a few times he was so nervous that he hit the hammer so gently that nothing happened, but he will get over that with time.”
“No more curtains in the forge, then?”
Feanor sighed in relief as he shook his head. “No more of that nonsense.”
“Too bad,” teased Erestor. “I was really beginning to like the idea of burgundy velvet draped ceiling to floor over there – accented with matching tassels, of course.”
“If you want,” said Feanor with a smirk, “he is going to be back tomorrow. I can just direct him straight over to your house with about thirty meters of crushed velvet if you like.”
“Thank you, no,” replied Erestor quickly.
Feanor chuckled. “You certainly changed your mind quickly.”
“No, I just happen to have enough velvet at home already.”
With a smug look and a quirk of his brow, Feanor tipped his glass to Erestor. “You would.”