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A/N: Birthday present for Talullah, who gave my ficcies a home, is an all-round adorable and great person and plays the most wonderful filthy-minded peeping tom of a Maedhros in all of Arda. You rule, hon!
The book slid from his hands and dropped with a papery thud to the white pavement. The book's owner, however, was oblivious; his brilliant hair tumbled over the edge of the flat roof as the sun warmed his back. It was one of those long, idle afternoons on which rushing anything felt almost like a sin. Dreams shimmered gently before his sleeping eyes and the rumours of unrest in this fair realm fled far from his thoughts.
One arm slid from his side, hanging lazily against the wall as the sunlight played on strong yet slender fingers. Laurefindė's father often joked that his son was idle and, watching him now, the jest was not hard to take seriously.
The roof on which he was lying was a gatehouse to his father's property, a small but elegant building into which an exquisitely wrought gate had been set, the metal curling into intricate forms of birds and wild animals. One of the lesser entrances, it lay on a broad avenue that made its quiet way up to the main boulevard leading to the Palace of the King.
As it happened, another Elf had elected to take this very route that afternoon. His stride was firm and fluid, his hair unbound and falling thickly over the deep purple cloak he wore over an embroidered indigo shirt and leggings. His brow was furrowed slightly with intense thought and his lips moved silently as he walked, giving those thoughts form of not voice.
Consequently, he had very nearly tripped over the book by the time he saw it, which was not the best tonic to his currently rather unpredictable mood. He picked up the book from the ground and opened it, scanning the pages with dark, contemplative eyes, a momentary twitch of wry amusement quirking at the corner of his mouth.
The eyes travelled up the wall, alighting on the hand with a stare intense enough that it could almost be imagined to burn. Indeed, the hand twitched uncomfortably. The dreams seemed to laugh mischievously before retreating back into nothingness and Laurefindė raised his head, looking down at the other Elf. His face, normally a soft tan that set off his stroking hair perfectly, paled to the same shade of white as the roof on which he lay. "My Lord Fėanįro." He scrambled to his feet before realising that bowing from several feet above the Lord's head was deeply disrespectful and instead dropped to the pavement, making a formal obeisance there. He raised his head then, to find himself met by an expression of utter boredom on Fėanįro's face.
"I did not write that book and arrange for scribed to make over one hundred copies so that ignorant youngsters could fall asleep reading it and use it to decorate the pavements." Fėanįro impatiently indicated several points on the cover where the leather had been dented and scratched. "I would thank you to take better care of this in future." Dusting the spine meticulously, he offered the book back over.
Laurefindė felt the blood draining from his head as his hand closed on the object, bowing his head meekly. Lord Fėanįro's reputation had always terrified him and the eldest son of King Finwė was by far the most intimidating sight he could ever recall having beheld. Fėanįro was tall, taller than most Elves Laurefindė knew, and his shoulders were broad and strong from all the hours spent toiling in his famous forges. His hair was perfectly black, heavy and incredibly thick, but shone in the sunlight, reflecting it in a spectacular manner. If Laurefindė had been asked to draw the perfect Elven face, it would have been Fėanįro's, yet the fire in the intense black gaze made him drop his eyes after only a moment.
He nodded slowly to Fėanįro. "I will do, my Lord." He glanced at the book, struck by the momentary irony of being rebuked by the author himself for having dropped it.
Fėanįro's head inclined slightly, his expression unreadable. "So am I to take it that smithcraft interests you?"
Laurefindė felt the first traces of an uncomfortable blush creeping across his cheeks. Fėanįro had been speaking to him for barely a minute and already had managed to touch on one of the most awkward subjects in Laurefindė's household. "I am, my Lord," he answered quickly. "The creation of beautiful things has always intrigued me. Unfortunately, my father feels otherwise and has determined that I am to become his partner in managing our family's lands and expects me to dedicate my time to accounts and legal documents - so it is for interest only that I read."
Fėanįro's lip curled almost imperceptibly. "Then I would suggest that your father possesses an extremely small mind, believing that one cannot be both a lord and a smith." He turned away without further comment and continued on his way.
Impulsively, Laurefindė tucked the book under his arm and set off after him. "My Lord "
Fėanįro halted, irritation flashing obviously in his eyes. Laurefindė shrank back, instantly regretting his audacity. "Speak, if that was your intention - rather than merely gawking at me, as you currently appear to be doing," Fėanįro prompted impatiently. Laurefindė's feet shifted nervously as he realised he was doing exactly that. "Some of us desire to spend the remainder of the afternoon doing something other than falling asleep on rooftops."
Laurefindė was normally well-known for his seemingly irrepressible locquaciousness, but the gaze resting expectantly on him now seemed to make the words disintegrate and vanish before they reached his tongue. "I you are I was wondering what the forges are like to work in, and so on. I have always wondered what it would be like to visit one " He coughed, about to bolt the other way, waiting for Fėanįro to look at him in disgust and tell him to take his questions to someone who had time for stuttering youngsters. Whatever had possessed him to approach the notoriously difficult son of Finwė with such banal questions?
Fėanįro's expression surprised him, a mixture of amusement and pity, as his eyes scrutinised Laurefindė intently. "You have never seen the inside of a forge? No doubt another machination or your small-minded father?" Laurefindė's nod was hesitant. "Follow me; I can probably spare a few minutes to indulge you now."
"Really?" Laurefindė blurted, inwardly wanting to kick himself for acting like an overeager adolescent - and a dull-witted overeager adolescent at that.
"Yes, really," Fėanįro replied with an audible sigh and set off again, not checking to see if Laurefindė was following. Hoping he said nothing else stupid, Laurefindė broke into a jog to catch up, finally falling into step beside the taller Elf.
Fėanįro mostly ignored him as they walked, save to ask Laurefindė his name (and arching an eyebrow in apparent amusement at the "impressive imagination" of Laurefindė's parents). He naturally knew exactly where he was going and so he rapidly seemed to lose himself to introspection once again. Laurefindė tried to keep from staring, but Fėanįro's striking appearance, coupled with the way his lips twitched and the occasional odd flickering of his eyes, was altogether rather unnerving. If Fėanįro realised what the younger Elf was thinking, he did not seem to care; he certainly made no further remarks on Laurefindė's behaviour.
Fėanįro's forges were located a surprising distance away from the inhabited parts of the elegant and glorious city of Tirion. Indeed, Laurefindė noticed that the road was winding downwards; they were descending the hill some way. Laurefindė had developed an image in his imagination of what the most famous forges in Aman must look like, based on what others had said, but he was to be utterly surprised. His mind had conjured up a vision of a hideous, dark edifice with no windows, hulking and foreboding, possibly including chimneys belching grey smoke. By contrast, what he actually saw was a well-organised arrangement of small, immaculately-maintained individual buildings in light grey stone. Between the buildings ran channels of water, clearly purpose-built, with pipes linking them to several of the structures. The boundary wall that surrounded the land was tall and imposing; it was clear that trespassers here would not be well-received. In fact, it was the sense of perfect order here that made it so intimidating.
An Elf bowed to Fėanįro as they passed through the gateway, greeting the Lord with respect and also, Laurefindė thought, a trace of wariness. He ignored Fėanįro's golden-haired companion, apparently not questioning his Lord's decision to invite a guest to visit the forges. As they crossed the area, other Elves greeted Fėanįro in an identical manner.
"I believe Morifinwė is elsewhere at present," Fėanįro said disinterestedly as he turned between two buildings and opened a door, quickly descending some steep steps into an broad and well-ventilated underground corridor. There were narrower water channels running down here too and, as Glorfindel stepped near one, it seemed to be faintly warm. "Since his forge is nearby, I shall show you around in there. It tends to be better kept than some of our apprentices'." He approached a closed door and drew a large ring of keys from a pouch on his belt, selecting one and unlocking the heavy door. "Keep your hands to yourself; I do not expect to have to replace my son's tools because you were clumsy enough to knock them from their places, not to mention some of the projects on which Moryo is working."
Much like the exterior, the interior of the forge was clean, well lit and tidy. Laurefindė looked around with rapt fascination, walking slowly between the workbenches, observing shelves of metal, buckets containing silver rods of varying lengths, and the great, smouldering forge fire in one corner. In spite of the hood which drew the smoke from the fire upwards and presumably outside, it was hot and rather close in here; Laurefindė pulled restlessly at the high collar of his tunic. He imagined spending hours at a time here, perhaps all day, and wondered if one grew accustomed to the heat.
His eyes slid back to Fėanįro, wondering if he was allowed to ask questions. Swallowing, he pointed to one of the tools hanging on the wall. "What is that one used for?" he asked in a small voice, not recognising the tool from the plates in his book.
"Give me the book," Fėanįro replied, flicking quickly through the pages. "Its purpose is exactly the same as that of this one." He held out the book towards Laurefindė, open on a diagram of a large pair of tongs.
Laurefindė compared the two tools at length. "Why are they so different?"
Amazingly, Fėanįro gave a short, dry laugh. "Moryo designed it himself last year. He was recovering from a broken collarbone sustained in a hunting accident - his own fault, I might add - and wanted something less heavy than the normal tongs of that style. The design he came up with is original, so I must say I experimented with it somewhat myself, and I believe I have managed to improve it further." He folded his arms and moved to the corner of the room, as if waiting for Laurefindė to decide he had seen enough and declare that he was now ready to leave.
Laurefindė has already resolved to push his luck. This would almost certainly be his only opportunity to investigate a forge, never mind one so well looked after and owned by none other than Fėanįro's fifth son, and here was the greatest of all the Noldorin smiths apparently prepared to answer his questions. He was determined to take best advantage of this chance.
He moved around in the forge, hands itching to touch the tools and half-finished items. Sometimes he asked questions, and was always amazed to hear Fėanįro answer immediately, succinctly and sometimes expressing passionate opinions on the best techniques. It was clear that he thought little of many of his contemporaries and, indeed, many of his predecessors. The elder Elf's voice, however, was starting to show the first traces of boredom, so soon Laurefindė approached him and bowed. "My Lord, this has been truly fascinating and I have learned more than I ever would have thought possible. I am very grateful for this opportunity."
Fėanįro did not answer or show any recognisable facial expression, merely nodding. He seemed about to speak when he was interrupted by the sound of a key clicking in the lock and he moved out of the corner into the centre of the room. Morifinwė walked in, shrugging out of his light cloak and overtunic, hanging them on pegs just by the door before taking up a heavy forge apron and putting it on. "Atar," he said in a deep, disinterested voice as he crossed to the forge fire, working the bellows to heat the coals, "who is the child and why is he in my forge?"
"I am showing him the forges; his parents seem to view them as some kind of abomination and so I am ensuring that he knows enough not to believe any strange ideas about smithcraft that they may try to inflict upon him. You need not take notice of him; I wish to see how your current project progresses."
"It progresses," Morifinwė replied sceptically, proceeding to take his father's advice and ignore Laurefindė *completely*, to the extent that Laurefindė had to move rapidly out of his path before the son of Fėanįro walked right over him. Morifinwė set to work almost immediately, lifting a long strip of dark metal from a shelf and setting it in the tongs in order to move it into the fire.
Fėanįro pulled out a stool from under one of the workbenches, sitting down and stretching out his long legs. Laurefindė glanced at him uncertainly, receiving a shrug in reply as Fėanįro gestured to another stool. He was being given the chance to watch a skilled smith at work; ecstatic, he found himself a place to sit out of Morifinwė's way and made himself comfortable. Fėanįro's son was magnificent to watch, powerful muscles tense as he held the metal in the brilliant coals. Firelight glowed on his cheeks, highlighting the defined features that clearly came from his father and making his hair shine almost as red as his elder brother's. His eyes squinted against the heat and sweat formed in a faint shimmer on his forehead and upper lip as he moved a little closer to the forge fire.
"You are not heating it evenly," Fėanįro remarked, rising and looking irritated. "You have allowed the tip to cool." Morifinwė cursed, moving the metal so it buried itself deeper into the coals. "You had better hope that it has not compromised the strength of the metal." Fėanįro snatched up an apron, joining his son by the fire and taking the tongs, taking charge of the metal being heated.
"Next time," he told his son as he returned to the stool, "pay better attention to the temperature of the metal and less to whatever daydreams you were having for the love of life, Morifinwė, *not like that*!" He sprang to his feet, grabbing the tongs from his son's hands and quenching the metal himself. "You know full well that it must be quenched immediately, not some time tomorrow!" It was then that Laurefindė finally realised what Morifinwė was working on - a sword. The rumours that Fėanįro was experimenting with the making of weapons had never been properly confirmed, and Laurefindė had always found the thought extremely unsettling. Fėanįro's obsession with his famed Silmarilli, and his almost fanatical protectiveness of them, was one of the greatest objections Laurefindė's father had expressed when his own son had explained his interest in learning the same art.
Fėanįro's criticism of his son's technique was growing harsher and more relentless even as Laurefindė looked on; Fėanįro's temper was even more intimidating to watch firsthand than hear about in gossip. Morifinwė's eyes betrayed his suppressed urge to meet the sharp words with defiance but his answers were meek. "Practise," Fėanįro finally ordered. "I will request more of the good steels for you when I trust you not to waste it."
"Yes, Atar," Morifinwė replied. There was a hint of frustration in his tone, Laurefindė noted, and he looked as if he would have argued had the command come from any other. As it was, however, he turned back to the fire and worked the bellows once more, causing the coals to glow a brighter orange-red.
Fėanįro strode out of the door, paying no attention to Laurefindė, as if he had forgotten the young Elda's presence. This left Laurefindė in something of a dilemma - to remain in Morifinwė's forge or to leave and go back home. The decision was pushed by Morifinwė's question. "You," he began curtly. "Are you intending to stay here or go?" His tone implied that he was utterly indifferent to Laurefindė's preferences.
"If my Lord if you would not mine, I would like to watch for a while, please. Your family's art fascinates me." Laurefindė's voice was timid and somewhat unsteady.
Morifinwė answered with a grunt and a shrug. "If you get in my way, I *will* send you out," he warned, and Laurefindė detected the implication that the method of being sent out would not necessarily be gentle.
"Yes, my Lord," he replied, and almost shrank into the corner in an effort not to intrude on Morifinwė's work space.
He compared Morifinwė's actions to the techniques he had read about, finally seeing what was meant by some of the terminology and noticing some of Morifinwė's apparent quirks. The forge was growing still hotter as time went on; Laurefindė ran his fingers though his hair, feeling the normally wavy locks contracting into damp curls. Slightly drowsy from the heat, it was easy to lose track of time as he watched Fėanįro's son work, and it was only when Morifinwė pause and crossed the room to take some plain bread and what looked like white wine that he thought to check how long had passed.
With concern he approached the high window that let in natural light from the surface and craned his neck to look out, judging the time of day and realising that his family would be starting the evening meal very soon indeed. Although free to come and go as he pleased in his spare time, Laurefindė knew that an unexpected absence from the family dinner would leave his father displeased and an explanation would be sought.
He turned and bowed formally to Morifinwė, as he had done earlier to Fėanįro. "My Lord, thank you for letting me watch you at work. I must take my leave now, but I will be sure to remember today with great gratitude."
Morifinwė looked somewhat amused by the younger Elf's formal courtesy and snorted slightly. "You have the sense to know when to keep to yourself and not make a nuisance of yourself; most apprentices need shouting at a few times to learn that lesson." He shrugged indifferently. "I barely noticed you, and Atar seems to tolerate your presence here. If it pleases you, I would not object to your visiting again." Turning away, he returned to his work, leaving Laurefindė rather speechless. It was possibly a good thing that the son of Fėanįro had chosen to direct his attention elsewhere then, as it cut short the torrent of "Reallys" and "Thankyouthankyouthankyous" that Laurefindė would have produced otherwise. He bowed again several more times before backing out of the door, distinctly overwhelmed by his afternoon.
He turned left, sure that it was the way he had come, and retraced the route he had taken with Fėanįro. However, a few turns later and it was becoming increasingly apparent that this was not the way he had entered at all. No more doors were opening off the wide hallway and the floor here was less worn. He was about to turn and retrace his steps when he saw a lone door just ahead. There were noises of hammering and bellows coming from within and it seemed like a sensible idea to ask whoever was inside for directions while he was here rather than trying to double back and getting himself lost yet again. He knocked once, loudly, and then entered, inclining his head respectfully before even seeing who was in the room.
He looked up and saw Fėanįro staring at him with an inscrutable expression.