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Tales of Thanksgiving: A Drabble Collection: 2. Strange
This series is for Lady Elleth, who asked about how Nerdanel and Fëanor perceived their strange fourth-born son Caranthir. In the Felakverse that I use in the majority of my stories, Caranthir has the special gift of osanwë-or mind-speak-and perceives people interestingly as a result. While he remains dark and strange, his special gift also gives him extraordinary insight into the hearts and minds of those closest to him. This series of four double-drabbles explores this idea.
I dreaded the most the birth of my fourth-born son Carnistir, for his brother Tyelkormo had been a difficult delivery and I feared for my wife's health and safety. On the day that she told me that she again carried my son, we pressed together-forehead to forehead-nearing a kiss, but it wasn't only joy that we shared. There was fear too, something dark. The way that doors used to always close in my presence, when I was small, before the loss of Þerindë my mother. A room full of light but a dark space beneath a door that was all I could see. So was my wife's fourth pregnancy: a time of joy darkened beneath, annoying and relentless and shameful.
But yet not entirely. I'd lie beside her at night with my hand upon her belly. Upon Him, our son unnamed, and it was strange: It was as though a hand had reached back, soothed me into peaceful dreams, twining my fingers with His. It was as it had been when I'd been very small and always knew when Atar had come by my bedside for the lack of nightmares.
How, amid my fear, I slept in peace.
My father had a strange gift. I'd come upon him once, sitting with Ingwë the King of the Vanyar, and they had been opposite each other as though in conversation, yet words were not exchanged. I'd watched for a long time, thinking myself hidden beneath a table covered with a long cloth. For hours, they did not speak, yet the air was busy between them, in the same way that a room alive with voices and laughter will seem to swell, like the joy cannot be confined in so small a space. I felt voices, yet I did not hear them.
But decisions were made that day. My father was to be wed again, and he and Ingwë clutched each other in joyful farewell yet spoke no word of salutation. And I understood that those awakened by the Waters of Cuiviénen were indeed the Children of the One and spoke in voices alike to that of the One that passed as rain and wind and simple laughter. Words upon a breath, wrapping a heart, raising the hairs on my arms even as they smiled, secret and silent, in an understanding that I-for all of my gifts-seemed to lack.
I went to my father when, by Carnistir's first begetting day, he still had not spoken. In fact, he acted utterly contrary to what I asked of him. Clutching my legs and pushing his face into my knees when I'd become angry with his mother and asked him to leave me, to find his brother. Putting a small hand over my mouth before the words in my thoughts could wound Nerdanel further.
And she came. And embraced me. And forgave me.
And Carnistir: he scurried away and found his brother, as I'd asked.
My father laughed at my worries and lifted my strange fourth-born son. Carnistir stopped wordlessly babbling and let his forehead fall against Atar's, and for a long while, they sat that way, as though I was no longer there. Irritation tickled my thoughts, and my father's eyes opened. He laughed.
"He understands, Fëanáro, far more than you know. I expect that he will speak any day now."
On the ride home, Carnistir laid a hand alongside my face, and-strangest of strange-spoke at last in a voice clear and practiced, "Atar..." like he was the father and I the son, the one in need of comfort.
"This one is special," Nerdanel had said on the day Carnistir had been born. "This one is different."
Indeed, he was. Carnistir alone did not to weep when she left us, even in secret, the way we caught tears with the backs of our hands before they could shame us. When I was small, my father used to tell me that I wept because I did not yet understand the reason for pain. The connection between hurt and healing. Pain and hope.
I insisted: There was no connection. It was all senseless misery.
But Carnistir, he sat beside me as I wept, thinking myself alone. His fingers twined with mine, and he did not look at my face, understanding my shame, my vulnerability. He did not weep, as though he understood Nerdanel's heart better than I, her husband.
The day my mother had died, I'd sat against my father's chamber door, staring at the black space beneath. It stayed dark for so long-then a flicker. Then light.
Or Carnistir's hand in mine, warm where I was cold. His thoughts heavy against mine, recalling love, not betrayal.
He held my hand until the tears stopped.
And I began to understand.
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