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Fic: Foolish, Clever, Wise
thranduil
dbalthasar
Because we all needed more elves...

Celebrimbor’s hands ache, and there are burns on his face and forearms that sting even in the soft breeze, but he is profoundly pleased with the day’s labors.  Its result stands proudly on the sanded bench, bright in the twilight: a golden flower the size of a child’s fist, filigreed petals closed tight above its jeweled base.  If you hold if just so, the petals open slowly, and at its heart a carved topaz glows with captured sunlight. It is made of a hundred delicate pieces, each one fitted just so, metal bend and curved to infinitesimal tolerances, the cause of his sore hands, but it is the best thing they have done since he began to work with Annatar, and the first time he believes he has matched the Maia’s skill. He glances sideways to where Annatar pours the wine to see if he has noticed.

Annatar smiles and brings the brimming goblets. He sets them down and before Celebrimbor can reach for one, Annatar takes his aching hand between his own.  The Maia’s hands are warm and hard, callused in familiar patterns; his fingers work at bone and muscles, finding the points of pain at the base of each finger, pressing to the bone.  Celebrimbor winces, and Annatar’s touch lightens instantly, stroking Celebrimbor’s palm in mute apology. Celebrimbor rests his head against Annatar’s ribs, and Annatar settles companionably on the broad arm of his chair.
They smell of the forge still, smoke and sweat and coal and the tang of worked jewels; Annatar has loosed his hair and it falls in a sheet of ruddy gold over the dun tunic he wears for working. Celebrimbor’s hair is still partly bound back, but long strands have come free, and Annatar takes one, twists it together with a lock of his own, black against the gold.

“We need a precious metal the color of jet,” he says thoughtfully.

Celebrimbor catches the same image, as though a spark leapt from mind to mind:  a twisted rope of metal, gleaming black and pure gold, a collar-necklace flaunting bright against fair skin.  Made properly, such an alloy would serve for armor as well — done well, it could be as strong as mithril, as the shirt of mail Orophor has commissioned, a princely toy for his infant son.

And he is not sure yet if he wants what Annatar’s jewel would mean:  Annatar is fascinating, yes, enchanting, a brilliant craftsman and beautiful, fair of form and clever of hand, but there are so many other beautiful things in the world. He does not wish yet to cleave to one alone.  In time, perhaps — and time they have, even if the Maiar come and go at their own whim. Perhaps that is a future he could treasure, to make a haven for Annatar, the place he can come to like a homing swan. But it is too soon to speak of that, and he smiles.

“You are welcome in my bed and my workshops,” he says, passably light. “More than welcome, and if I grow dull, there is a city full of elven smiths who would gladly serve your every need. What more is there to want?”

“Your heart,” Annatar says, with that wry smile that says he knows he asks too much.

Celebrimbor’s breath catches. “You have a share of it,” he admits, and Annatar kisses his palm.



It is evening in Khazad-Dûm and Celebrimbor has spent the day in the dwarves’ smithy, working mithril and missing Narvi with increasing sharpness.  He comes into Durin’s great hall sketchily bathed and hungry and in no real mood for the politesse and politics of the court, so to see Galadriel rising willowy above the dwarf-lords is like a breath of summer.  He greets her gratefully, and Durin, who has known them both many years, seems glad to let him take her aside to an alcove where the dark stone has been worked into a ceiling of flowers, natural inclusions carved into startling blossoms.  She looks up at them with a smile as he settles her on silver-embroidered cushions, but there is an unexpected sorrow in her, and he holds her hand longer than is merely courteous.

“Is all well?”

“Well enough,” she says, and rests her head on his shoulder.  He waits, offering companionable silence, and after a moment she sighs. “It’s of little matter. A grove of trees in Lórinand is failing, and I loved it as it was.”

“That is the way of this world,” Celebrimbor says, cold comfort.  If he closes his eyes, he can see Narvi at his forge, young and strong and red-bearded, the firelight gleaming from the gold rings that bind his braids.  He died old even by dwarven standards, a good end, great-grandchildren crowding to pay their respects and pile his bed with their best works, but Celebrimbor wishes he were still there.  If dwarves return to stone, he would be purest diamond.

“So it is, but I would not have it so.” Galadriel’s tone is sharp, but she does not pull away.  Celebrimbor thinks she is glad of his presence solid at her side. He pours wine for both of them, sharp and cool as the stone around them, and as he expected she invites him to her bed before they travel on to Ost-in-Edhil together. After, he lies awake at her side, her golden hair tangled between them; his fingers itch to braid it, to make it neat and whole. If there were a way — well, perhaps there is, if he applies what Annatar has taught him.  He rises silently from her bed, and in the glow of captured moonlight begins to sketch a plan.

It is midwinter in Ost-in-Edhil by the time he finishes his work, but the workshop is full of summer light, flickering and twisting above the forge flames. This last step is his alone, and he draws it down, shaping it with breath and belling metal, until at last he lifts the stone from the fire and the light enters it, filling the forge with coruscating brilliance.  He plunges it in pure water, and the steam smells of flowers and thunder and summer skies.

The setting waits, mithril silver, the only thing he is sure will contain the stone and its energies, and he moves without haste, placing the stone in its bezel.  It settles, poised and potent; he takes the waiting flower, six petals curved to form a cage, and speaks the words that seal it.  It will fit the hand that wears it, like all his Rings, but it is made for Galadriel’s, to preserve and protect the land she loves.



“I have made you something,” Celebrimbor says, and feels Celeborn stiffen beside him. They have had many conversations that begin like this, with varying results, and Celebrimbor doesn’t hide his smile.  “No, no, you’ll like this.”

The conversations that continue that way have been less successful, and Celeborn’s hands twitch on the sheets as though he suppresses the desire to pull them over his head.  “Will I?”

“Yes,” Celebrimbor says firmly, and rises naked from the bed.  His hair hangs loose to his hips, tangled from their love-making. He knows Celeborn enjoys the sight and so does not catch it back impatiently as is his habit, but crosses to his workbench where the sword lies sheathed.  He has made it over the course of the long summer, trading for the finest ore, smelting the steel, drawing it to a bar and a blade and finally the pure leaf-curve of the greatest elven swords.  He used no magic, only his art, but this is a masterpiece and he knows it as he draws it from the embroidered sheath.  He turns back to the bed, holding it out in both hands, and Celeborn draws a gratifying breath.

“Lovely.” He sits up to take it, turning it in its hands, the polished steel catching the lamplight, then rises to make a few experimental strikes at imaginary foes. Celebrimbor watches the play of muscles beneath his skin: the sword was made to fit not just his hand but every familiar movement, each well-known strength. Celeborn sights along the curved blade, and Celebrimbor smiles at how perfectly the leaves at the base of the hilt curve to protect his fingers.

“So lovely,” Celeborn breathes, and then glances warily at the smith.  “What does it do?”

“It’s a sword,” Celebrimbor says.  “Nothing more, or less.”

Celeborn smiles. “Certainly nothing less.”  He swings it again, savoring the way it comes back to guard like an extension of his arm.

“It will keep an edge longer than most,” Celebrimbor says, “but that’s the virtue of the metal, no enchantment. It’s stronger, too, but flexible —“

“And it’s made for my hand and none other,” Celeborn says. He lowers it reluctantly to embrace the other.  “It moves like thinking. I’ve never dreamed of such a sword. Beautiful and deadly and astonishing — but why?“

Celebrimbor leans against him, skin to skin, black hair and silver mingling.  “Because you will need it,” he says, “and because I can.”

There is truth in both, but as he’d hoped, Celeborn hears only the pride.
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Elves! Oh, Celebrimbor. This is lovely.

Thank you! Not everything can be repaired at the forge....

Oh Celebrimbor! You break my heart. You love so much, and sometimes with such little wisdom. Oh. One foolish, one wise, one necessary. I love all the sections. Annatar's is creepy but only because you know what will be. Galadriel's is lovely, and the mildest and sweetest, oddly enough. And Celeborn -- a sword for the man who wishes he didn't have to use one, but will. Is this the one he gives Aragorn?

Thank you! He is open-hearted, and he wanted to make things right, with an emphasis on craft and making. But not all his choices are good ones.

I wanted Annatar's section to have that undertone - nothing that Celebrimbor could possibly see, but that hindsight makes dubious. And I think that moment with Galadriel is high summer, the zenith of Celebrimbor's power - when he truly can make Rings that will preserve Middle-Earth, and there's nothing to stop them. And the un-enchanted sword for the one who will most need it, as the world turns toward winter. I think it is that sword, though Celebrimbor would want to make another, one that would be perfect for Aragorn...

I see that he made things to give, not to horde. But oh.

Yeah, Annatar's is creepy for exactly that reason. And Galadriel's is indeed high summer, maybe the most amazing thing he ever made. And yes, as the world turns toward winter...

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Thank you! I am apparently away with the elves....

Achingly gorgeous, sharp-sad, and fitting perfectly into my headcanon.

Oh, Celebrimbor, why so amazing and also so doomed?

Annatar - creeeeeeepy. (Is that shirt of mithril the one that ends up Bilbo's?)

Galadriel - glorious. (and yes, those three rings are the peak of skill. Plus, Narvi!)

Celeborn - the Smith's art, and all the more true for being made without arcane/magical skill.


Thank you very much! Celebrimbor is the kind of character I find fascinating, so... yeah.

I'm glad Annatar works. It's dependent on knowing what happens later, but he's just that little bit off, I think. And, yeah, that's the mail shirt that will be Bilbo's. amenirdis suggested it, and that made total sense to me.

I love the friendship and collaboration between Celebrimbor and Narvi, and between Eregion and Khazad-Dûm. It's another moment when things are at their best, and losing that is one of the many tragedies.

And it seems to me that Celebrimbor is a smith first and foremost - that he is a true master even without magic - and that when he thinks things are beginning to turn to the dark, he resorts to that skill as the one that won't fail him.

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