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Title: The Fey and the Fallen
Author: Enismirdal firstname.lastname@example.org
Betas: Innocencest and Rei
Disclaimer: The Elves belong to Tolkien, not me. I just play around in his beautiful world. No insult is intended to him or any of his works, and naturally no money is being made from this!
Summary: Love can find all Elves - even the strange ones.
The Fey One, they called him, and treated him as a slightly backward child at times. While his brothers’ childhoods were spent learning to ride and hunt, climbing trees and playfully wrestling with peers, Macalaurë had always preferred solitude, time to himself with pen and parchment, maybe a small flute or a lyre. He loved to create just as they did, but his skill was with the ephemeral elements of word and song rather than tangible metal.
Those his own age often chose to avoid him, finding his habit of speaking aloud what others were thinking but refraining from saying unnerving. They were wary of the way he would watch from a distance, absorbing all that went on without participating. Macalaurë missed the companionship at times, but his own mind was friend enough, providing him with playmates of his own - and, later, sweethearts. He soon learned that even the adults looked down on him for speaking to those playmates in front of others, insisting that it was not wholesome for him to hold conversations with those who were not real.
But they were real enough to him. He could picture them all: tall or short, dark-haired or golden, shy or outgoing. After being discouraged from addressing them openly, he took to conversing in his mind and, of course, they still answered.
Few of his peers ever accepted his oddities, but Maitimo was always tolerant. Teasing, as elder brothers invariably are, and sometimes downright infuriating, but Macalaurë knew in his heart that Maitimo loved his little brother no matter how fey or peculiar he may be. The quiet, undemanding company was there when he needed it, and he never lost sight of that kindness.
His childhood, therefore, was rather lonely, but he found his own contentment in this. Crowds, busy, chaotic and noisy, had never been to his liking anyway. With the time he spent in solitary study, he was able to excel in lessons. And it was often said of him that he saw more than most, a remark which it took him many years to come to understand. Perhaps he simply saw in a different way, beginning with the details rather than ending with them. Large structures springing from small beginnings - that was his thought.
Such was the case when he composed; he often started from a single note or chord, building around it, linking a few notes here to another there, eventually creating a whole song, rich and deep. The music tutor - soon abandoned when it became clear that he could learn more from Macalaurë than Macalaurë could from him - insisted that the young Elf’s technique could not possibly work, that the result would be disjointed and discordant. Yet Macalaurë saw only order in the method, as he constructed melody around chords, harmonies emerging from a scattering of notes. In his mind it brought the focus to where the music would be most profound for both performer and audience.
Much of his time was spent alone with his paper, pens and instruments as he grew older. Father, realising the only part of his passion that Macalaurë shared was the love of song, word and language, sought to encourage these interests as much as possible, freely providing Macalaurë with any instrument he desired and setting aside rooms with excellent acoustics for the young Noldo’s practice.
He devoted increasing amounts of his time to the pursuit of music. His first instrument, a flute, was a gift for his fifth birthday. It was a simple instrument in plain wood with six holes bored into it, small enough to be covered by his tiny, slender fingers. Its sweet, shrill sound was a delight to him but he outgrew it quickly, finding the spacing too close for his fingers within a few short years. The second flute was more elaborate, engraved with leaves and flowers along its length, and the sound was richer and mellower.
That was how Macalaurë’s flute collection started. Seeking different tones and qualities to the sound, he lost faith in the instrument makers and began to make his own. Wood worked well, but so did tubes of silver and once he made a gold flute just to prove it could be done. He even tried ceramics, though he often found himself disappointed. His father allowed him to arrange them all on brackets in a small room in the house, neatly lined up on the walls in chronological order. Of course, he kept lists as well. Three lists, in fact: one was stored in the Flute Room, as it soon became. Another resided, pinned to the wall, in Macalaurë’s own bedroom. The third, he folded up and hid under the floorboards in his bedroom, in case the other two should perhaps go missing. He needed to have a record, just as a precaution, and because it seemed like the organised thing to do.
His talent for making flutes was nearly as great as his talent for playing them. He took pleasure in finding ordinary pieces of wood and hollowing them out to make beautiful instruments, decorating the surface and drilling precisely-placed holes for his fingers. People sometimes brought him miscellaneous items, challenging him to make flutes from them. The crooked branch proved difficult; it took several attempts before he found the right places for the finger-holes and by the end there were numerous patches of resin from sealing up the mistakes.
The dried gourd was an interesting challenge and the sound was rather odd, but it worked. The length of copper piping from the water supply made him laugh out loud when the Elf - whom he barely knew - handed it to him. It had a bend at one end and, consequently and much to his amusement, made a different sound depending on which way up he played it. The snail shell, though, was his pride. It was a pretty shell, pink and yellow, with streaks of black, and he did not think Tyelkormo really believed he would be able to get a tune from such an item. He managed it, however. It took a few practice runs, experimenting on ordinary brown shells he found abandoned around the house’s extensive grounds, but in the end he knew exactly how and where to make the holes and just how to blow to gain sharp but perfectly pure sound from the tiny instrument. It was awarded pride of place among his collection of flutes, occupying a little shelf on the wall which Macalaurë dusted daily - even when he could not see any dust there. His instruments were his joy and as dear a friend to him as any Elf.
Long evenings he would spend with them and his pen and paper, oblivious to passing hours and lost in the distant, sheltered world spun from the shimmering threads of his compositions. After a while, he would see the woods and rivers, the blushing maidens and prim suitors, rolling hills and thunderous storms, that the music described. He would hear the harsh voices of arguing Elves, or the whispered words of lovers, and start to forget that they were not just the shades of his own imagination.
He was not *always* alone, though. Maitimo, already half-grown when Macalaurë was still an infant, quickly came to recognise his younger brother’s potential and delight in his skill and creativity. Accepting Macalaurë’s many eccentricities, he often sat in the corner as the younger Elf worked on his songs, refraining from comment but wearing an expression of deep thought on his finely sculpted features. Like all brothers, they argued and disagreed at times - and like all brothers, they knew that ultimately neither would ever willingly let the other down.
Faithful Maitimo. Macalaurë made mistakes growing up, applying his own peculiar brand of logic with the very best of intentions but often as not landing himself in situations which would have enraged Father, had Fëanáro ever got wind of them. But he so seldom did, and on most occasions that was due to the work of Maitimo, covering up the evidence of Macalaurë’s well-meaning blunders and several times, in fact, taking the blame upon himself.
Macalaurë grew used to his brother’s undemanding presence on the afternoon of every third day, as the sun filtered into his spacious rehearsal room through gauzy curtains, made from a fragile dark blue fabric of his own choosing. He started to feel a sense of satisfaction and rightness when Maitimo was there, feeling comfortable with the steady, predictable routine. Maitimo would arrive as he was tuning his instruments - even when they did not really need it, Macalaurë liked to tune them anyway, though he never truly understood why this was - although he always had suggestions of explanations.
Then the elder brother would take a stool from the stack by one wall and place it in the corner furthest from the door, and he would sit, watching and listening with a kind of attentive peacefulness, until Macalaurë’s renditions were finished and the music was returned to its proper drawers, shelves and files. At the end of the session, he always returned the stool to the stack before leaving, congratulating Macalaurë quietly and thanking him in mild, polite tones.
Therefore, on the day that Macalaurë set down his lyre after tuning, expecting to see his brother sitting in the corner as he rightly should today, his reaction consisted of confusion followed by another feeling to which he was unaccustomed. He had always found such strong feelings uncomfortable and predictable, rising and falling beyond his control, so he generally tried to keep them away; when they crept upon him anyway, he preferred to manage them by talking to his secret friends about them. Together, they could usually establish what was wrong and rectify it.
He spoke to them now and they suggested that maybe it made the room look wrong, unbalanced perhaps. Macalaurë agreed, so out of a sense of necessity he took the top stool from the stack and placed it in the corner where Maitimo always sat. Still, it was not all quite right and to Macalaurë’s ears, the music sounded different without the quiet Elf in the corner.
They discussed it some more and wondered if perhaps he would be more at ease were he to find out where Maitimo was. This took longer than he hoped; Maitimo’s rooms were empty, as were the practice grounds. Macalaurë preferred to avoid the practice grounds: the harsh clangs of metal and shouts and occasional growls of feigned anger hurt his ears and made him want to retreat to somewhere calm, deserted and still.
Macalaurë walked all the way round the outside of the house, twice, just to make certain, and then methodically searched the inside of the house too. He was beginning to wonder if perhaps Maitimo had turned invisible like his friends, or left the grounds altogether, when he looked out of the window in the high tower he was searching and finally spotted his elder brother.
Maitimo was walking in one of the formal gardens, hand in hand with a slim, dark-haired nís. They were smiling, but it did not look like they were doing anything particularly important. Macalaurë leaned on the windowsill to watch them, frowning. Whatever they were doing did not look urgent enough to warrant Maitimo skipping the practice without even sending notice. Perhaps he had found that the nís made better music and Maitimo was not interested in his younger brother’s compositions any more…
Macalaurë went to his room after that and began to compose again. He was determined to make this better, more beautiful, more intricate than anything she could create. He wanted Maitimo to like him again.
He worked on the composition for the next two days, tirelessly absorbed in it to the point where his mother had to come and fetch him to meals - and more than once he fell asleep on the freshly inked paper. He worked with a kind of frenzied single-mindedness, notes scattering themselves over sheet after sheet, and by the time he next expected Maitimo to come and listen, it was very nearly ready.
Maitimo came with the nís.
Macalaurë was quiet. Had she come to listen and laugh at him? Maitimo took his stool to the usual place and sat down. The nís looked at Macalaurë, smiling and greeting him as if he knew her already. Macalaurë did not reply. He was playing for himself and his brother, not for her.
“I am sorry about the last practice,” Maitimo was telling him. “I completely lost track of time.” Macalaurë nodded slowly. The friends discussed it between themselves and concluded that Macalaurë was feeling let down and more than a little betrayed. They all agreed that Maitimo needed reminding that he would enjoy his third afternoons here much better than with the nís.
Therefore he played with everything he had, well enough to leave both Maitimo and the nís in stunned silence. They applauded at the end, smiling, and he sketched a neat little bow to his brother. Maitimo came and hugged him, offering congratulations.
As they left, Maitimo touched his lips to those of the nís, in one of those strange, affectionate kisses he claimed to enjoy. It was then that Macalaurë’s secret friends simultaneously gasped and then sighed. For some reason, that small gesture made Macalaurë…jealous. That was *his* Maitimo, his brother. He wanted to be the one to make his brother smile.
Maitimo still came to listen to his music after that, sometimes with, sometimes without her. When she was not there, Macalaurë found he could concentrate far better, and he made sure to play little special pieces as a treat for his brother on those occasions, sweet solos with flute or lyre.
“What is wrong?” he asked Maitimo quietly, coming in and seeing his brother slouched in a chair, staring vacantly at the wall. Like a concerned mother, he checked his elder brother for fever and signs of discomfort.
“You would not understand, my little fey one,” Maitimo replied. “Which is why I came here rather than going elsewhere. I never feel like I have to justify myself to you. You just…accept.”
“Is it her?” Macalaurë did not know why he asked this, except that his brother was wearing his hair loose, and he had learned that the nís liked him to braid it normally. “Has she made you upset?” He ordered wine for his brother and then hugged him cautiously. He was careful about hugging Maitimo; the elder Elf seemed to think it was not a good thing to embrace in public and sometimes seemed uncomfortable about doing so in private as well.
“No, little one. I made myself upset. She and I…our friendship is over, one might say. She is not fond of our father, and I told her that I would be loyal to him even when he acted impulsively and occasionally unwisely.”
“We are all loyal to Father…” Macalaurë tailed off. “He is…not like me, or like you, but he teaches me, supports me. He has never refused me anything I need for the music. And he gives better lessons than my governess used to…”
Maitimo smiled. “Yes. And he loves you, even though you are not like him. He is always impressed by your skill.” He paused. “But you know that Father and I do not always agree?” Macalaurë nodded, having heard their arguments on occasion - his usual response was to flee to the far end of the house, covering his ears with his hands and singing to himself until he was quiet sure they had stopped. “Still I stand by him. Family care for one another, even when mistakes are made.”
Macalaurë nodded again as his brother continued, “She could not see this, so I suggested that perhaps we ought not continue our friendship if she would not accept my loyalty to Father and might one day ask me to choose between her and him.” Macalaurë’s response was to hug his brother once more, this time without a trace of awkwardness. He was glad, now, that his brother was no longer being ‘borrowed’, yet oddly saddened by the expression on his brother’s face.
After a while, Macalaurë whispered, “I will always be loyal to my family.”
“I know, little one.”