Mystery of Vowels, The
1. The Mystery of Vowels
The furniture, in the form of elegantly carved benches and soft rugs, was scattered throughout the room with fine taste, and artwork of wrought metal strung with jewels adorned the white walls. There was a low dais surrounding the hearth, and on top of this platform a nest of woven blankets and rugs had been built, delicate tassels dangling from the edge and embroidered wreaths of flowers decorating their hems. Stretched on his stomach in the middle of this cozy heap was a small elf, his brow furrowed and his expression fierce. A hand crept up to tuck a dark braid behind one ear, and then the scratching of his quill resumed.
Spread before the elfling was a thick book of hastily bound notes and a long roll of paper tied to a writing board for studying in comfort. He appeared to be very serious about his learning and did not look up from his copying until a log cracked in the fire and the whole of it nearly collapsed. He paused to reach for a fire iron and prodded the logs until they were burning appropriately and returned to his work.
“Twenty-seven and twenty-nine are independent; the others between twenty-five and thirty-six are not.” The young elf’s voice was surprisingly melodious; the words, though prosaic, rolled off his tongue as though they ought to be a song. “The tehtar are signs to indicate vowel sounds, used in the high speech to modify existing consonants.” He paused and stared at the book suspiciously, so absorbed that he did not hear the soft click of boot heels in the corridor that ran outside the hall. The clicking stopped abruptly, and then turned towards the youngling, slowing as they approached him from behind. “What’s a vowel, I wonder.” It was a curious statement, tinged with a healthy amount of skepticism.
He was reaching for the page to turn it when a larger hand descended on his and guided it through the book, to a page written entirely in the new system rather than the familiar tengwar of Rúmil. “There you go, little one,” said a voice that carried a trace of faint amusement – but was more thoroughly colored with fatherly pride. Maglor was, so far, the only of his sons to show a true interest in learning his new system of letters.
“But this page is in your writing,” Maglor said in disheartened dismay, his dark head lowered. “I haven’t learned enough of them yet.”
Feanor chuckled and sat down next to the child, taking the book from him and smiling at the page. “So it is, little one. Well, we’ll have to do something about that, won’t we?” The light from the window and the fire glinted of a bright gem that was bound to his forehead by a thin fillet of silver.
Maglor sat up eagerly, his elbows propped on his father’s knee for a good view of the book. Feanor’s first instinct was to shift him aside, but the light of eagerness in his son’s dark eyes made him hesitate. Instead he brush edthe elfling’s hair back from his face in a rare gesture of affection.
“A vowel, it is written here, is a sound differentiated from the consonant – those are the regular letters, little one – by the method of pronunciation.”
“Pronunciation?” Maglor’s face was the very image of hushed excitement and his perfectly pitched voice carried just the right degree of incredulity. Feanor nodded seriously and put an arm around the elfling, drawing his second into his into his lap and leaning over his shoulder to continue the reading. Maglor listened with rapt attention, sometimes repeating the words under his breath and sounding out the words that his father suggested.
By the time Laurelin’s light had been replaced by the silver sheen of Telperion, Maglor was well on his way to being an expert in the Feanorian tengwar. However, he was but a small elfling yet and it was late. His head rested against his father’s chest and Feanor had shifted so his back was against a bench, his arms around his son and his chin resting on the little one’s dark head. As Maglor drifted into the land of dreams, his head undoubtedly filled with some new song – using all the wonderful words he had learned that afternoon – the great smith and prince of the Noldor smiled down at the book which had been the long result of his first great labor. “Without language there is no voice for the fea, little one. I’m glad… That you would learn something from me, when your heart lies not in the forging of metals and bright gems.”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.