Choices
by Lara
May 2003

This is an amateur effort and not intended to infringe on the rights of J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien or any other copyright holder. No monetary profit is being made.

Time: F.A. 465

Characters: Celebrimbor, Curufin

Thanks go to Lis for beta reading.



That Curufin would seek him out did not come as a surprise.

After the events of the day it had to be expected, and it had provided Celebrimbor with a welcome excuse to stay away from Nargothrond's halls that were bustling with talk and nervousness. He had been able to avoid it, claiming a need for solitary reflection and also the obligation to speak to his father. Nobody had argued with this, although there were only very few anyway who would have been interested in his company this day.

There was the familiar sharp knock, and the door to his room opened before Celebrimbor could invite the visitor inside. It was something he had become used to with his father, and something he knew to be less a sign of impoliteness and more one of impatience for small gestures when more important matters occupied his mind. It nevertheless tended to grate on his nerves.

"Father," he said as a greeting, rising from his chair and laying aside the dagger he had been examining to pass the time. The blade had not turned out well, and it would take more experimenting to get the technique entirely right. But there would be time to think about this later.

"Good that you are here." Curufin shut the door, then came closer. Celebrimbor gestured for him to take a seat, even though he knew only too well that the offer would be declined. It was obvious that his father was ill at ease and too restless to settle down. "I was looking for you."

"I had to be at the forge for a little while," Celebrimbor explained.

Curufin's eyebrows rose a fraction. "Now? What for?" he asked, his expression somewhat puzzled as his gaze fell on the blade Celebrimbor had just laid aside.

Celebrimbor shrugged instead of answering. He knew that if anyone would understand a need to check on a piece of work in a critical stage, it was his father. But sometimes priorities had to be set, and he suspected that right now Curufin's differed from his own.

Reaching for the dagger on the table, Curufin weighed it in his hands for a moment before he unsheathed the blade and began to examine it. Celebrimbor watched with some unease as his work was scrutinized. He had not yet had the time to properly do so himself, and he did not want his own first impression tainted by his father's observations. Curufin was good at spotting flaws, perhaps even better than at fixing them.

"You need to pack." Curufin was slowly running his hand along the flat side of the blade as he spoke. It was obvious that his attention wasn't focused on the weapon, even though his examination seemed as thorough as ever.

Inwardly Celebrimbor sighed. He had known that this would be unavoidable, but he had hoped against reason that Curufin would not come for him. This discussion was not something he was looking forward to at all, and he wished he knew a way to avoid it. For a little while he had contemplated hiding - his father would not have had much time to search for him, and perhaps they wouldn't have had this talk then. But inviting as the thought was, Celebrimbor had decided against it. He'd have to explain at some point, and doing it while Curufin was occupied with handling a lot of other things as well presented him with an opportunity that shouldn't go unused.

"We are leaving before sunset," Curufin was saying, distinctly displeased at the lack of response. "It cannot be helped."

Celebrimbor shook his head. "I am not coming with you," he said, hoping that his voice and body language did not betray the nervousness he felt at uttering these words.

Curufin looked up sharply, eyes narrowed. "Of course you will."

"No, Father. I will not."

"Don't be a fool. There is no time for this now." Glancing at the dagger again, Curufin stepped closer. Celebrimbor had to concentrate on not moving away; he could sense the tension in his father, something he had always been wary of. And that Curufin was currently holding a weapon was not doing much to put him at ease, because he no longer felt that he knew his father well enough to be sure no harm would come from him. "You cannot stay here."

"Why not?" Celebrimbor asked, struggling to remain calm. He knew that if he wanted to explain himself and justify his decision, he needed to avoid letting his temper flare and keep his discomfort under control. Getting angry and upset would only make it easier for his father to convince him that his refusal was foolish and childish. Curufin was talented when it came to words, a lesson Celebrimbor had learned only too well over the years.

"You were in the hall when that upstart boy declared that our presence is no longer welcome. Or did you fail to understand his words because you were too occupied with thoughts of petty toys like this to concentrate?"

The dagger was returned into its sheath, and Curufin spared it a last disdainful glance before he laid it back down onto the table, careful despite his obvious disappointment with it.

Eyes narrowing in anger at those words, Celebrimbor met his father's gaze. "Quite the opposite, Father. I listened very well. And I did not hear Orodreth cast out anyone but you and Celegorm."

Curufin looked at him, briefly silent before he spoke. "You are my son," he said, his voice deceptively calm. "If I leave, you will as well. Just like those who have come with us from Himlad. Celegorm has gone to tell them to prepare, and they will be ready within the hour."

Celebrimbor shook his head. "They are staying here, Father. Did you not speak to them yet? They are frightened of what will happen to them if they go with you." He had seen their faces in the halls, and he had heard the whispered conversations, and he had no reason to doubt that what he had heard was true. Their people no longer trusted the sons of Fëanor to lead them.

The only sign that his words had startled Curufin was the moment of hesitation before his father spoke again, his voice still even and calm. "They have sworn their loyalty, and they are bound to me and to Celegorm. They will not desert us. And neither will you."

Celebrimbor straightened, focusing on not letting old habits of avoiding confrontations with his father rise. "I am not leaving," he said. "Call it deserting you if you like, but I have made my decision. I will not go with you."

A frown settled on Curufin's face. "I do not have the time to argue with you about this. You will come with us. So pack your things, or you will have to leave them behind. And do not waste space with useless little toys and pretty rubbish."

"This is not rubbish," Celebrimbor protested, despite his resolve not to let his father's opinion matter.

"You are losing your skill if that is the best you could do. The blade will shatter at the slightest impact."

"It is the alloy. The proportions of the metals are not perfect."

"Then you should not waste your time on it. Or did you not recognize that the material was inferior?"

Celebrimbor bit his tongue to refrain from replying that he had known very well, and that he had consciously used the alloy to see whether his skill would suffice to turn it into something beyond its suitability.

"I was not wasting my time," he eventually said.

Curufin glanced at the blade of the dagger before his eyes met Celebrimbor's, daring him to deny that the weapon was worthless.

"You know that I can match you easily by now," Celebrimbor said, not entirely keeping his pride out of his voice at this assessment. Smithcraft was one area where he could beat his father, and it made him feel an odd spark of satisfaction to think that this family talent was running true. There were many aspects of the house of Fëanor he did not agree with, and he knew he would never stop wanting to distance himself from the Kinslaying and the burning of the ships. But his house had also been known for better, more beautiful things in the past, and it was one of the few parts of his heritage that Celebrimbor felt he could accept without shame.

"Not if you waste your ability like this. Your grandfather crafted the Silmarils, and you settle for badly made daggers."

"It is not badly made. The technique is sound. It is the metal that is not quite right."

Curufin raised an eyebrow, reaching for the dagger again and unsheathing it. He examined it with more concentration than before, weighing the weapon carefully as he watched the light of the fire reflect on the polished surface.

"If you use that method, you need a more malleable metal. And that would render the blade useless."

Celebrimbor shook his head. "There is a metal somewhere that fits this method. It's just a matter of finding it."

"Either you have the material, or you adjust your methods. Surely you have learned by now that you have to work with what you have. Or are you too stubborn to adjust? But then again, you don't seem able to accept that we need to leave either."

He felt indignation rise at the patronizing tone. "I told you that I will not leave," he countered. "What will you do? Tie me to your horse and force me to come? There is nothing you can do that will make me go with you out of my own free will. Not anymore."

Curufin's expression darkened. "You are a fool, Celebrimbor, if you think that what you are doing is a wise thing," he said. "You will be safer with us than you will be here."

Celebrimbor looked at him, incredulous for a moment. "I wish I could still believe this," he said, inwardly shivering at the conviction in his father's words. He had not thought that their positions were so different; in a way he had hoped that after an initial protest Curufin would relent and see his son's reasoning. "What you and Celegorm have been doing took away the last remnants of trust I had in you. How can you expect me to have faith in someone who watches others die and who abducts maidens?"

"Should we have left her to wander in woods infested with Orcs?" Curufin asked sharply. "And what happened to Finrod is regrettable, but I do not see how you can blame me for the fact that he was captured and died."

"Finrod's death is your responsibility. You tried to usurp his throne, and you made sure that he would not have the support he needed for his task. Can you deny this? Can you say that it is not your fault that your cousin has died when you were abusing his hospitality?"

"Watch your words," Curufin warned, eyes narrow. "I will not listen to such nonsense from you."

"Somebody needs to say it," Celebrimbor countered defiantly. "Is it that hard to hear the truth? You sent Finrod to his death. And you wonder why everybody is scared of you?"

"Tyelpinquar, enough!" The old form of his name, spoken so sharply, made him fall silent. Celebrimbor couldn't remember being called this for decades at least; the name was connected to a happy childhood in Aman, when no worries and no Oaths had troubled his life. He resented being called so now because it seemed to soil the name and take away the purity it carried for him. Tyelpinquar had stayed in Aman. He was not responsible for all the bad things that had happened after the death of the trees; Celebrimbor was the one who had been at Alqualondë, in Araman, at Losgar. In Nargothrond, where he had not done anything to stop his father.

"Are you so afraid of hearing what you have done, Father?" he quietly asked after a moment, focusing on the situation at hand again. "Do you need someone to remind you of your deeds? I can do that for you if you want, because I remember them all only too well. Take me with you, and you will hear the tales from me every day until you no longer flinch from them."

The glare Curufin shot him was icy, and he had to make a conscious effort not to look away.

"You owe me allegiance. Have you forgotten that?"

Celebrimbor shook his head. "You are not the head of our house. But if Maedhros says something about this, I will not disobey. If you wish, ask him whether he will order me to come with you." Celebrimbor knew that this was a somewhat risky suggestion since he couldn't predict his uncle's view on this issue with complete certainty. But the same was true for Curufin, who looked decidedly uncomfortable at this statement before tugging a calmer expression into place again.

"There is no need to involve him in something that only concerns me and you," he said firmly, his gaze fixed on Celebrimbor's face once more. "I am your father. You will obey me."

Like Curufin had obeyed Fëanor, Celebrimbor realized. His father expected him to act just like he himself had done. There was no question about whether a son should agree or disagree. It didn't matter. What counted was that in the end the father's wishes were met, not if they were wise or foolish.

"No," he said, quiet and calm although it took some effort to keep his tone even. "I will not obey you in this. Not when I cannot see what good will possibly come out of it."

"Do you truly believe that you will be better off here than with your father?" Curufin asked, some of the strain of the situation finally creeping into his voice.

They both fell silent after this, watching each other with wariness as they both became aware that they had reached a point where there would be no turning back once a decision was made. For a moment Celebrimbor found himself wishing that he had never even tried to argue. If he had simply packed and followed his father's lead, this would not be happening now. He would not be feeling as if his choice were ruining far more than it was worth.

But was it fair that he should be feeling like this? He was no longer a child, and Curufin should not order him around any more. It had been bad enough that his father had decided to take him to Middle-earth rather than leave him in Aman with his mother. At that time he had been a child, unable to make such a decision on his own. But he was old enough now to realize the consequences his actions would have.

Besides, could he even trust Curufin any longer to make justifiable and reasonable decisions? His actions had been horrifying in their cold-bloodedness, and Celebrimbor no longer truly recognized his father in him. This was not the one who had told him stories at night when he had been a child, who had patiently taught him so much and who had never been truly angry with him. It was something Celebrimbor had been aware of to some extent for a relatively long time. But he had never thought that he would ever believe that the person his father had been in the past would ever disappear.

The first doubts had come when he had been old enough to fully realize what had happened in Alqualondë. Even then he had still hoped that it was just a nightmare that would be over soon. But it would be nothing but naive to still cling to that belief now. Perhaps it was time that he admitted it to himself that Curufin had changed. And perhaps he himself had changed too, because he could not find anything anymore that connected them.

Curufin was looking at him, and he wondered what his father was thinking. Perhaps he was regretting it that he was wasting time with Celebrimbor. Or maybe he was waiting for him to give in, like it had almost always happened until now. Bu this time it wouldn't happen, because too much was at stake. Celebrimbor knew what it would mean if he went with his father. There would be no going back this time; this was the last chance he had at distancing himself from his house's actions.

And he felt certain that Curufin knew this, and that his father was only waiting to see whether he had the courage to actually turn away. It made him strangely angry to be tested in such a way, because he knew that the only way to pass was to do what Curufin expected. And no matter how much he wanted to get away from the deeds of his father, he still could not help wanting his approval.

Curufin stepped closer, grey eyes searching his face. "Do not be a fool, Celebrimbor," he finally said. "You will come with me. If you cannot see that it is the wise thing to do, then you will come because I am your father and I tell you so."

Suddenly it was easy.

"You are not my father," Celebrimbor replied, his voice completely toneless as he spoke. "Not any more. I repudiate you, and I repudiate your deeds. I will have nothing to do with your actions any longer. And I will definitely not come with you."

Silence stretched between them once more as they watched each other. Curufin's eyes were stormy, and Celebrimbor had to focus on holding their gaze without flinching away. His father's eyes had always been the best sign of his feelings, and what he could read in them in this moment was a frightening intensity. His words had struck deep, and Celebrimbor briefly caught himself wondering whether it would not have been better if he had not said them.

He pushed that thought away with determination. There had not been another possibility, not if he wanted to save himself from being drawn into the darkness that was weaving its net around his father. He did not want to go that way; it frightened him to think that the Oath that dictated the life of his father could seize his own life as well and bend it to its purpose. It had lain dormant for years, but that state had ended. The awakening Oath had claimed its first victims already. And Finrod, innocent, kind Finrod would not be the last to die because of it.

Celebrimbor had never seen visions of the future, and he could not foretell what would happen. But he knew that no matter how everything would play out, he did not want to partake in anything connected to the destiny the sons of Fëanor had called upon themselves. There was no doubt in his mind that nothing good could possibly come from it. Perhaps he had been born into this house, but that had not been his choice. It was his choice, however, whether he wanted to share their fate or not.

"You do not mean this." Curufin's voice was soft, but there lay a hidden edge in it that betrayed the tension of the moment. "Take your words back, and we will not mention this again."

"No." Celebrimbor crossed over to the fireplace, his steps slow to make sure his move would not be seen as a retreat to a safer spot. "I do not want to have anything to do with someone who can send another to his death as calmly as you and Celegorm have done. Do you expect me to be proud of an uncle who was ready to force a maiden into marriage? A father who arranged matters and smiled approvingly? I do not want to be associated with such deeds in any way. And if it is my house that commits such crimes, then I am no longer part of it."

For the blink of an eye Curufin looked absolutely incredulous. "Do you have any idea what you are saying?" he demanded, stepping closer. "This is not something you can reject like a passing idea you no longer like!"

Celebrimbor moved away again, not managing to prevent the instinctive retreat from his father's angry figure. "It is not a passing idea," he protested. "I had enough time to think about this, and I know that I must do this."

Slowly exhaling, Curufin visibly tried to calm down again. Celebrimbor knew that particular expression of focusing, and he was glad to see it. His father was not prone to losing his temper, but it could happen. And the results tended to be unpleasant.

"You cannot reject your family. Have you forgotten who you are, Celebrimbor? Whose blood runs in your veins? You have been born into the house of Fëanor, and you will be part of it until Arda ceases to exist."

"Maybe I'm part of our house, but that does not mean that I have to follow whatever foolish things you decide to do." He smiled grimly. "And our house is prone to rebellion anyway, so perhaps I am simply continuing a tradition."

"This is madness, not rebellion. These elves do not see you with friendly eyes. If you know what is good for you, you will pack your things and saddle your horse."

"No."

"Why would you stay here? To grovel before the throne of that upstart king who can give you nothing? You know that he will only tolerate you because you can make pretty jewelry and toys for him."

"Maybe that is what I want. Did you consider this? I never asked to be a ruler of a realm or a warrior. I am happy when I make those pretty toys because I am not killing anyone in the process."

"Aside from yourself," Curufin said darkly. "This will be your ruin one day. If you have any wisdom left, you will come with us."

Celebrimbor shook his head, and for a moment he imagined that he could see a flash of sadness in his father's eyes.

"Are you truly so blind?" Curufin asked, not quite as firmly as before. "Orodreth is not fit to govern a realm. Nargothrond will not stand long under his rule. I don't need to have a talent for foresight to know that. So do not tie yourself to his fate."

Celebrimbor glanced at his father again, and for the first time he saw the paleness of his face. Curufin looked tired and weary, as if he had pushed himself past his limits somehow. It was a strange appearance. Celebrimbor could not remember seeing him like this before. To him his father had always been an epitome of stubborn endurance, someone who would never admit defeat in something and to whom it never came.

But something had changed now. Celebrimbor resisted the urge to blame this on the Oath as well; it would make sense, but it was too easy an explanation. Besides, he did not want to credit the Oath with more power than it already held.

No, this was not the work of that terrible vow. It was the result of the strain this situation was putting on his father. Apparently not even Curufin could simply disregard such rapid changes and continue as if nothing had happened. Being cast out of Nargothrond had never been part of his plans, and Celebrimbor wanted to imagine that maybe there was also at least some remorse over Finrod's death. Hearing that his son was not intending to accompany him to wherever he would go now was probably not making it easier either.

It was defeat his father was witnessing, and it was not in a battle with the odds against him. This was on a personal level. And it seemed that Curufin did not quite know how to handle the fact that he had lost for once.

"I will stay in Nargothrond," Celebrimbor said again, his voice calmer now. "It is my decision to make. And if it is an error, then let it be. But I believe that I am making the right choice."

"Your understanding of a right choice leaves much to be desired," Curufin returned. "When did you stop being able to notice that you are making a mistake?"

"When I grew up. I am not a child anymore, and I make my own decisions. And if they are wrong, so be it. But still they are mine."

Curufin looked at him, and for a moment he appeared torn between resignation and anger. Both were emotions Celebrimbor did not normally associate with him. His father was never resigned, and he usually managed to keep his anger quite firmly under control.

"Nothing I can say will make you change your mind." Shaking his head, Curufin stepped away, towards the door. "I wish you were wiser, Celebrimbor."

Raising his eyebrows at the comment, Celebrimbor watched as his father opened the door. He was not entirely certain whether he should allow himself to relax, even though it seemed quite plain that Curufin had acknowledged defeat.

"I will not ask you again to come with us. But if you happen to see reason, come to Himring. We will be there."

Celebrimbor nodded, not knowing what to say in reply.

"Watch over our people. You are their lord if they stay here. Unless you decided that they are beneath you as well. And start forging better weapons. You will need them."

Again he nodded, and told himself not to give in now. It was strange; while Curufin had tried to convince him to follow, it had been easy to resist. But now that his father had stopped trying to make him change his mind, he suddenly did not want to stay behind. He did not want to be alone, he realized. But at the same time he knew that if he left Nargothrond now, he would never forgive himself later.

Curufin was still looking at him, but then he slowly turned away. "Maybe I am no longer your father," he said quietly as he walked through the door. "But you will always be my son."

 


The End

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