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The Perfect Son

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“Father! Thou trusteth me not?” The gleam in Celegorm’s eyes was made even more terrible by the fire, the reflection of the flames appearing to dance in his pupils.

Fëanor wiped sweat from his chin and brow with the back of his hand. His clothes were singed, his hair a wild mess. “Your Írissë yet remains upon the other side.”

“Where she likely shall stay,” spat Celegorm, his lungs choked by the smoke-filled air. He coughed with his mouth shut, determined to show as little weakness as possible. “Did I not make oath to you, father?”

“Father… I do doubt it.” They were the first words spoken regarding the ongoing uncertainty Fëanor had regarding the paternity of his third child. Fëanor stepped around and around where Celegorm stood, lifting his sword to flick a lock of the fair hair. “Your mother’s cravings were different with you.. her mood harsher.. her eyes averted me, she would shy from my touch, and she made sure she was with child again so soon after – from the guilt?” Fëanor stopped again, facing Celegorm.

More than once in the past, Celegorm caught snips of the fights that his parents had when all civility was lost and Fëanor’s words of fire were met with blazing retorts from Nerdanel, and an occasional chisel thrown at his head. Near the end, it was no longer about all of the other things from the past, but about him and his origins, and not once had his mother denied it directly. Not once had his parents known he was listening, sitting hidden in the rafters of his mother’s studio, behind stores of marble and clay and half-finished statues. If he was spied, perhaps it was only thought he was one of those lifelike statues.

And so, never once had the accusations been addressed to him directly. For years, Celegorm thought it only a hurtful jab from his father to his mother with no substantiation. Now, hearing the words on his father’s lips, they cut deeper than any knife. Everything had been given up for his father: Everything. He thought of Aredhel, abandoned despite his promises. Lost to him, after so many years of happy memories and blessed expectations. He thought of all of the teasing and torment he endured from his elder brothers, and how they must have known that he was little more than that word that became a curse when his father said it to his uncles: Half-brother.

For a moment, Celegorm watched in his mind how the scene could unfold. He would first slap his father, then steal the sword and run him through – or would he punch him so hard to knock him to the ground, then leap upon him and punch his face until it was broken and caved in. Instead, Celegorm took a deep breath and said, “You are the only father I have ever known; the only father I have. Have I not been a loyal son?”

Fëanor lowered his sword, but said nothing.

Celegorm lowered himself down upon one knee, then looked upwards at Fëanor. “You are my father. My lord. My king.” In his mind, the words ‘I hate you I hate you I hate you’ echoed over and over. “If you doubt me, father, then I lay my sword aside. Kill me now and ease your mind.” He bowed his head, pressing the side of his neck to Fëanor’s blade.

With gritted teeth, Fëanor moved the blade away. “Get on your feet… my son,” he added thrusting out a hand to help Celegorm up. “Ready yourself. We must make plans for our attack.”

Celegorm took hold of Fëanor’s arm, rising up fluidly. He embraced his father tightly, then said in a low voice, “There is no stopping us now – no stopping you. The prize is within your grasp… so close. We should press on now; take back what is ours!” He stepped back to look Fëanor in the eyes. “We should go now – do not stop to plan! The enemy is close! Do not give him the time to strike at you with greater force.” He looked around and lowered his voice. “If you succeed, victory will be great. If you fall, you will be hailed as a hero against the oppression of the Valar and the vileness of Morgoth. Great songs will be sung, and deeds done in your name and honor.”

“But I shall not be defeated,” proclaimed Fëanor. He raised his sword in the air and called out a rallying cry to the others.

Celegorm stepped back and turned on his heal to hide his smirk. He knew that there was no way for his father to fight through the hoards on his own, but that he would try. And if he did manage it, there were great beasts of darkness and fire, some stomping the ground afar, others seen flying in the sky, who would surely fell him. And if he did succeed, then there would be Morgoth.

As others around prepared for battle, Celegorm took in the terrain and stole an apple from a basket of meager rations that was left momentarily unattended. Once Fëanor was gone, Maedhros would be his successor – and Celegorm was already plotting in his mind how to convince him to avenge their father. He would have to hope that the enemy would capture or kill him. Then there was Maglor; it would be easy to place self-doubt in that brother’s mind, and if it came to it, Celegorm decided then that he was not above using poisons if he had to. He turned so that he faced the way most of the others did, watching his father making a speech while standing on an overturned crate. “Long live the King!” shouted Celegorm in unison with others around him, a smile curling his lips.