Maedhros stopped there. The possibility that one of Fingon's siblings - or worse, parents - might read this letter was only too real. He couldn't afford to raise any suspicions. So, was "dear" too affectionate? Should he instead say "cousin", or "my friend", or simply "Fingon"?
He tapped his fingers against the table as he thought about it. Perhaps "dear" would do. Mother always started her letters with "dear", even if she disliked the person she was writing to. She said it was simply good manners. Father, of course, disagreed. His disagreement had led to a few unpleasant incidents.
A knock at the door interrupted his thoughts.
"Nelyo? Are you there?" Maglor called through the door.
Maedhros hurriedly pushed his letter out of sight. "What is it?"
"Do you know where the spare harp strings are?"
"Wherever you left them." Maedhros felt rather annoyed. Why was Maglor coming to him about harp strings?
"I can't remember where I left them."
"Then look for them!"
Maglor left, and Maedhros retrieved his letter.
I heard you returned from Valmar. I -
Celegorm stormed in, not even bothering to knock. Maedhros jumped violently. His hand slipped and left a line of ink down the paper.
"What do you want?" he snapped. "Can't you see I'm busy?"
Celegorm didn't seem to notice Maedhros's increasingly bad temper. "Have you seen Huan?"
"No," Maedhros said through gritted teeth.
"He stole the chicken off the table and ran off with it and now I can't find him."
"Ask Maglor," Maedhros said, not truly listening. It was only after Celegorm left that he realised what he'd just heard. "Wait, do you mean the chicken we're going to have for dinner?"
There was no answer. Maedhros went back to his letter, hoping that Maglor could sort out whatever Huan had done.
I apologise for the ink stains. Blame my brothers. Would you -
Maedhros set down his pen and took a deep breath. Why was it, he wondered, that the house had been perfectly peaceful an hour ago, but now everyone wanted his attention?
Caranthir stalked into the room. A single glance told Maedhros what the problem was.
"Moryo... why are your clothes covered in paint?"
The reply was loud, angry, and contained words that Mother would never have approved of. Caranthir had been painting one of Mother's statues when the twins ran into the room, kicking a ball back and forth. Amrod gave it a particularly vicious kick, it sailed through the air, and it landed in one of the paint cans, showering Caranthir, the statue, the floor and the twins with blue paint.
Maedhros sighed. "Where are the twins now?"
"Cleaning the paint off the floor. But Mother's statue is ruined! I'll never be able to clean it properly!"
"Do your best to clean it. I'll explain to Mother when she leaves her workshop." Experience had taught the sons of Fëanor that it was best not to distract their parents when they were at work. Fires or irreparably damaged carvings might result. "Send the twins to me when they've finished cleaning."
Caranthir left. Maedhros went back to his letter. Hopefully there would be no further interruptions until the twins arrived.
Would you like to have a picnic in the woods beyond our house? You -
Curufin walked in, his eyes glued to the book in his hands. He looked blankly at Maedhros, as if he'd never seen him before.
"What do you want?" Maedhros asked wearily. It was too much to hope for a minute's peace today, it seemed.
"Father said I could help him in the forge when I finish this book about accidents in the forge." Maedhros wondered what Father was thinking, letting a child of Curufin's age read about accidents that happened around fire and sharp tools. Simple common sense said that such a book would contain extremely unpleasant descriptions. "I'll have finished it when I reach the forge. That's where I'm going now. I didn't mean to disturb you. I wasn't looking where I was going."
Maedhros eyed his little brother suspiciously as he turned and left the room, his nose still stuck in his book. Such politeness from Curufin always preceded a minor catastrophe. Sure enough, a catastrophe followed.
Curufin had hardly left the room when there was a scream and the sound of glass shattering. Maedhros ran to see what had happened.
There were certain disadvantages to reading while walking. The most important was, the reader couldn't see where he was going. Curufin had discovered this. He had walked out of Maedhros's room and into a table. Sitting on the table was a vase Grandfather Mahtan had given Mother on her wedding day. Table, Elf and vase went flying, and Mother's wedding present was now in pieces on the floor.
Maedhros took a deep breath. "Clean that up. No, wait, I'll do it." Annoying as his little brothers were, he didn't want any of them to risk cutting their hands on shards of glass. "Go and tell Father what you did." Let Father tell Mother; Curufin was too young for Maedhros to willingly send him to face Mother after this.
Curufin fled. Maedhros went in search of a brush. So much for finishing his letter.
When the remains of the vase were cleared away, Maedhros didn't bother going back to writing. The twins would be along soon, so he might as well wait until they arrived. They appeared soon enough, in clothes still splattered with blue paint.
"We didn't mean to!" they chorused in unison, before he had a chance to say anything.
"I know you didn't. But didn't Mother tell you not to play indoors?"
"We weren't playing indoors," Amras said. "We just chased the ball."
This didn't measure up with what Caranthir had said. Maedhros wondered briefly who was telling the truth. Then he dismissed it. This sort of thing happened frequently in the House of Fëanor. When his brothers were involved it was entirely possible to hear six (or seven, or even nine) different versions of the same event, some of which bore no resemblance to each other. Thinking too hard about something relatively minor would only give him a headache.
"Next time, try not to let the ball go indoors."
"We won't!" Amrod assured him.
The twins left. Maedhros turned back to his letter, grimly determined to finish it no matter what happened next.
The letter was finished. Maedhros could hardly believe it. He would have to put it in an envelope and send it to Fingon, but first he was going to take a moment to be thankful. The letter was finished, and everything was peaceful. No brothers demanding attention, no vases being broken, no...
A scream rang out from downstairs.
"CELEGORM!" Mother yelled. "Why are there paw prints in my kitchen? Why isn't the chicken where I left it? WHERE IS OUR DINNER?"