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I Equessi Fëanáro

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“I suppose you’re going home for Turuhalmë?”

“Hmm?”

The assistant librarian fixed Curufinwë with a sickeningly cheerful grin. “I asked if you had plans for the holiday. You’ll want to spend it with your family, of course. Oh, I dohope you don’t have an Argument scheduled, it would be so –“

“That will be quite sufficient.” He nodded at the scrolls in his arms, by way of explanation. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting with Master Rúmil in half an hour.”

He didn’t, as it happened, and was taken entirely by surprise when Rúmil cornered him in the library courtyard not ten minutes later.

“Curufinwë!”

“Uncle.” He inclines his head respectfully.

Rúmil slaps him.

“None of that, now! You know I can’t stand formalities, curse of so-called ‘civilized’ society – what’s that, then?” Before Curufinwë can react, he snatches a scroll from his grasp. “What could you possibly want to know about land apportionments during and after the construction of Tirion?”

“Nothing, I – “

“It’s just a list of deeds! You haven’t come down with a bought of civic-mindedness, Curvo? Your family will be so disappointed.”

Curufinwë snatches the scroll. “I couldn’t care less for land apportionments. I needed a sample of written language from the period for an analysis I’m doing. There’s no need to worry, Uncle, I’m still a useless academic.”

“I’m surprised you can read Sarati.”

“It’s of great historical interest.”

Historical interest?” He places a hand over his heart. Theatrically. “Please, I already feel like a relic.”

“Aren’t you?”

Rúmil stiffens. Curufinwë realizes what he’s said. “Uncle, I’m sorry.”

“Is this how your father teaches you to behave? He would never have created the Tengwar if he hadn’t had my work to build on.”

“Leave him out of this,” Curufinwë snaps. “I spoke without thinking. That’s all.”

“Someday, the Tengwar will be obsolete. Have you thought of that?”

“If anyone were to improve on the Tengwar, it would be father.”  

“I’m not jealous – don’t think I am – but that’s the way of things.”

“What is?”

“For them to change. I suppose you’d call it improvement.”

“You wouldn’t?”

“To a point. Certain parties can’t leave our language well enough alone.”

Curufinwë blinks. “I don’t even think we disagree on that.”

A scholar in slightly moth-eaten presentation robes – scurrying to or from a debate – catches sight of them from across the courtyard. It takes him a moment to recognize Curufinwë, and when he does, he scowls and turns away.

“We don’t, do we?” Rúmil shakes his head. “It’s been a long week. For both of us. No reason to be at each other’s throats.”

never raised my voice.”

“Go home, Curufinwë.”

***

Sometimes, in the paler seasons, while Telperion wanes but before Laurelin waxes, Formenos is almost dark. Curufinwë sleeps more easily on such nights. It’s almost an hour before he’s woken by the sound of barking.

By the time he wraps himself in blanket and makes his way downstairs, Tyelkormo is already in the kitchen.

“I thought you were supposed to control that animal.”

“What? Did he wake you?” Tyelkormo laughs brightly. “Must’ve seen a shadow, that’s all. Huan’s still a puppy, he’s not used to the nights this far north.”

Huan obediantly rolls on his back and lolls out his tongue.

“Big puppy.”

“Isn’t he?” Tyelkormo flops down on top of him. “Hey, Curvo – remember when we used to play Outer Lands on nights like this?”

“Yes. You got into the forge. Macalaurë broke his arm trying to find you. Mother was furious.”

“Admit it, you had fun.”

“It was childish.”

“You were a child.”

Curufinwë sniffs. “I’ve always been very mature for my age.”

The response comes from the stairwell behind them. “I suppose you could call it that.”

“No one asked you, Macalaurë.”

“Joyless, perhaps.”  Macalaurë crosses the room and begins to riffle through the cupboards. “Stiff. Concieted.”

“I think the term you’re looking for is ‘Insufferable know-it-all’”

“Tyelkormo – “

He throws up his hands. “Just trying to help.”

“If you’re after the honey, it’s in the cabinet next to the wash-basin.”

“Thanks, Curvo.”

“What are you doing up so late?”

Tyelkormo somehow manages to grin apologetically. “Huan’s fault?”

“No, I was working.” Tyelkormo rolls his eyes. “What? It’s not that late. So’s father.”

Curufinwë pulls his blanket tighter around his shoulders. “I can’t imagine he’d have missed dinner for any other reason.”

“And on the day you arrived, Curvo!”

Macalaurë kicks him. “If he’d known Curvo was here, he’d have come.”

“No one told him?”

“I don’t think he’s heard a word anyone’s said to him for three days, now.”

“That’s unusual.”

Tyelkormo shrugs. “It isn’t, not really –“

“I meant it’s unusually long. Has he eaten?”

Macalaurë glances at Tyelkormo. “I think so. I’m sure mother would have insisted.”

“I’ll go talk to him.”

“Curvo, it’s late.”

“You just said it wasn’t.” He finds half and loaf of bread, some cheese, and a small knife.

Tyelkormo looks up from his dog. “It’s usually better to let him burn himself out, when he’s like this.”

Curufinwë slams the door behind him.

***

The workshop is never locked. There are always apprentices, messengers, various offspring, all running in and out a dozen times a day. And any of the above might need access to their notes, or a project in progress, at any hour of the day or night – Curufinwë open the door a crack. It’s not locked, and the room seems mostly deserted.  His father is sitting at one of the long tables, fiddling with some delicate machinery. He doesn’t notice Curufinwë approach.

“I brought you some food. In case you were hungry.”

“Hmm? Dinner’s in an hour.”

“Dinner was eight hours ago, father.”

“It was?” He looks up. “I didn’t know you were home, Curvo. Help me with this?”

Before he can protest, Curufinwë pushes the bread in his direction and grabs the device – on closer inspection, one meant for cutting and polishing lenses. It’s complex – his father’s own design – but he understands enough to repair it.

For a while, he works quietly. Fëanáro rambles about the details of his latest project and mechanically feeds himself bits of bread for lack of anything else to occupy his hands. The workshop has tall, broad windows, spaced regularly on the southeast wall to let in the pale Formenos light, and both of them are bathed in silver. It takes him a few minutes to realize that his father’s stopped talking.

He taps his shoulder, gently. “I asked you about your research, Curvo.”

“You did? It’s – ah – it’s going well.”

“That’s good. I’ve heard some troubling things from my friends at the university.” He wraps his arms over his chest and begins to rock back on his heels. “Few as those might be.”

“The Lambengolmor are losing influence.”

“I’m not worried. They’ll outlast the other schools.”

He’s always admired his father’s decisiveness, however improbable its cause. “Why’s that?”

“Not tied to Valinor.”

It’s a familiar exercise. The sons of Fëanáro played at words the way other children played at marbles. His father would introduce a subject, usually drawn from his studies, and put forth some point of contention. He’d counter, Fëanáro would respond. Frequently, one or both of them would reverse their positions, and wasn’t unusual for them to do so more than once in the course of a debate. Always, the game ended when they were in perfect agreement. Maitimo’d found it tiresome. He preferred clear, direct speech followed by immediate action. Macalaurë could never be compelling to take it seriously, dragging debates out over hours or days with increasingly lovely and convoluted chains of logic. Tyelkormo never bothered at all, and Carnistir preferred to plod through an argument with a quiet, mathematical sort of progress. Curufinwë loved it best.

“I should think the Quenyangolmor or the Tarquestangolmor are just as capable of moving their offices as anyone else.”

“Oh, physically, yes, but not ideologically. If the Valar are the source of all perfections, material, spiritual, and intellectual –“ Fëanáro unconsciously assumes the pose and tone of a loremaster-priest, and Curufinwë is forced to hide his smile behind his hand “- if the Valar are the source of all perfections, it follows naturally that Valarin is the perfect language. The Tarquestangolmor can hardly conduct their research anywhere else, and if the world was just they might spare the rest of us quite a bit of trouble by leaving Tirion altogether and setting up in Valimar.”

Curufinwë frowns. “Material?”

“Hmm?”

“I didn’t know the Tarquestangolmor believed the Valar were the source of material perfection. All matter is corrupt – at least, that’s the orthodox line.”

“It is. That’s why the Tarquestangolmor haven’t spared the rest of us quite a bit of trouble by leaving Tirion and setting up in Valimar.”

“They’re not welcome?”

“Ingwë has – strongly discouraged them.”

“Incredible. And so they inflict themselves on us.” Curufinwë supposes he should feel a certain vindictive pleasure. He thinks of the snub that morning, the scholar in threadbare robes who wouldn’t meet his eyes. It’s impossible to be too glad of anything that keeps the sanctimonious twits in Tirion. “I don’t suppose you’d show them your notes on Valarin?”

Fëanáro smiles. “If they asked politely.” The Tarquestangolmor are known for their especially vehement hatred of his school, his teachings, and his person.

“For all the success they’ve had, they might as well study Valarin from middle-earth as anywhere.”

“Leaving Aman would be a tacit admissions that the decision to bring us here was imperfect – which is perfectly orthodox, of course, but try convincing anyone who isn’t a professional theologian – and thus inconsistent with their ideology.”

Curufinwë thinks it best to concede the point. “The Quenyangolmor, then. They only talk about returning to Cuivienen every other week or so.”

“Too provincial.”

“I thought we liked the Quenyangolmor.”

“We do, when they’re standing next to the Tarquestangolmor.” Fëanáro shakes his head. “Still provincial.”

“They’re highly localized, yes, - or rather they care about localization - but that location isn’t Aman.”

“They only think they believe that every language develops with respect to a specific place and a specific people.”

Curufinwë raises an eyebrow. “Don’t they?”

“Well, yes. But it’s not ideologically central – their belief in linear, positive linguistic progress is much more significant.”

“A belief we share – “

“Linear, positive, necessary, and isolated linguistic progress. The next stage in the development of a language must be superior to the previous; cross-contamination with other tongues must be avoided to prevent regression –

“- that much I knew – “

“so they can’t actually want to go back. It pleases them to appeal to a Cuiviénenyar identity because they’re politically invested in Ñoldorin independence, but you’d never catch them speaking a word of Tatyarin. That’s to be consigned to the records. If any of them ever saw Cuiviénen they’d have to admit that there are actual Tatyar who live there and speak an entirely different language. No. The development of Quenya is in Valinor, and when we go –“ his father likes to speak of this event as if it were happening next week, not at least a century away “- when we go, there won’t be a single Quenyangolmor coming with us.”

“You should tell Rúmil. He’d be relieved.”

“I can imagine.” The last of the bread is gone. Fëanáro reaches for more, and, finding none, starts to play with a loose gear. “Did you see him before you left?”

“Yes. We had a fight.”

“About what?”

“I’ve no idea. This, presumably.”

“The likelihood of various schools of linguistic theory and practice to survive the necessary migration of our people?”

“The Quenyangolmor.”

“Oh.” Fëanáro rubs his temple. “What happened?”

“Master Eärrámë – who has, unbelievably, been appointed the new clerk – had him entered among their number. Presumably because they prefer the Sarati to your Tengwar.” Curufinwë takes a moment to make sure his grimace reflects the depth of his disapproval. “He’s furious.”

“He thinks they’re a bunch of uselessly modernizing busybodies with no respect for tradition.”

“Father, he thinks we’re a bunch of uselessly modernizing busybodies with no respect for tradition.”

“Yes, but we’re his uselessly modernizing busybodies.”

“Why did you leave the university?” Fëanáro sits up. He hadn’t expected the question. “The Lambengolmor might thrive in the long term –“

“-might?”

Will thrive, you’ve convinced me, but in the short term we’re losing ground. If you came back –“

“-I’d alienate half the allies we do have. They know what I think, Curvo. And anyone who supports us because they’re overawed by my brilliance isn’t worth keeping.”

“That’s –“

“What it is is true. You’re better at politics.”

“I was going to say, that’s not your real answer, and you know it.”

“I’m not wrong.”

Of course you’re not wrong!” Curufinwë realizes that he’s standing. He catches himself on the table. “I didn’t mean that. I’m sorry.”

“Curvo.” His father turns to face him. “You don’t have to do this.”

“Very well, then, I’m not sorry and I did mean it. I love my work. I love it, and I am endlessly grateful to you for giving me that capacity to love. Even when it seems like there is an endless academic bureaucracy dedicated to obstructing me because I’m my father’s son. I’ll never stop defending you, they’re not good enough to work in the same field, father, let alone use your letters, but you treat your temperament like it’s an insurmountable obstacle. I don’t expect your help. But you were told that it was impossible to trap light in glass or amplify osanwë in crystal or survive on the other side of the Belegaer, and it didn’t stop you. Would it be so much harder to be polite to your enemies?”

Fëanáro looks down at his feet. He’s rocking back and forth deliberately, now, which usually means he’s hurt. Whatever Curufinwë wanted, it wasn’t that. He reaches out to steady him. “Father?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. Please. Don’t. I can handle this on my own, I didn’t want to upset you. Please, father, I’ll be alright.”

Fëanáro smiles. “I never doubted that. I apologized for lying to you. Or sharing the less important part of the truth. You deserve more.”

“No, I –“

“Curvo.”

“Yes. I do.”

“I burned out. You have a capacity to tolerate infighting that I never did. And when they attacked me, at least it was for what I’d said and done. This situation I’ve left you with isn’t fair. I would go back, if you thought it would make a difference, but I don’t want to and I don’t think you want me to.”

“Actually, I’d prefer to do this on my own. But I wanted to hear you say that.”

Curufinwë blinks. The room seems brighter, and Laurelin’s light is glinting off the machinery. He can smell smoke from the kitchens.  I can still get a couple hours sleep.He stands and stretches. “You should rest, father.”

“You’re right.” Fëanáro yawns. “Good morning, Curufinwë.”