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Fic: First Lessons
Three
dbalthasar
Curufin and Celebrimbor, The Silmarillion (and others), approx. 1095 words. Father/son relationships.

Curufin sends his son to the forge to teach him patience.

Curufin sends his son to the forge to teach him patience. Celebrimbor has grown from a silent, biddable child to a restless youth, quick to pick up sword or bow and as quick to abandon them for another toy. He spends too much time with the Sindar, and with the Green-elves, comes home with questions about the Noldor and their ways. Curufin does his best to answer them at first, but his patience runs thin, and Celegorm scowls and grumbles, and the boy seems unable to remember the virtue of silence. Maglor brings him a harp, with strings of silver; Celebrimbor learns enough to pick out a tune, but in a year it is abandoned and instead he disappears into the forest with his age-mates among the Green-elves. Celegorm points out sourly that this is a good way to find them saddled with a Green-elf grandchild, and swears he’ll none of any such. Curufin thinks his son’s tastes haven’t matured that far, and he is unsurprised when one day Celebrimbor comes home silent and there is no sign of the Green-elf boy who has been his most constant companion.

It’s time he learned a craft, Celegorm says, with heavy meaning, and since there is no way that Curufin can hear that as an offer to take the boy hunting, nor any chance that Celebrimbor would agree, he drags him to the keep's main forge and gives him into Dringol’s charge. He leaves them eyeing each other, Celebrimbor with suspicion, Dringol without illusion, and later in the day he hears the hammers stop and Dringol swear, and cannot suppress a certain satisfaction.

Celebrimbor is silent that night at dinner, rubbing sore hands when he thinks no one is looking, his expression unreadable. Curufin doesn’t question him about his work, though after a month or so he has to tell the boy he must wash before presenting himself in the hall. Celebrimbor obeys without complaint, which is an improvement, and for the next few years, Curufin is glad to leave him in Dringol’s charge. There is enough to do to keep their lands safe and whole without having to worry about one sullen elfling, and if he hears whispers of Celebrimbor’s skill, it’s easy to forget them in his own work.

It is spring again when he passes Dringol’s forge, and hears the sound of someone working silver. That is not Dringol’s craft, and Curufin glances in the doorway in surprise, to see Celebrimbor bent over his bench, carving intricate detail from a disk of silver smaller than a child’s palm. Dringol sees him and steps to the door.

“Lord Curufin. A word with you, if I might?”

There’s no refusing. Curufin nods.

“Your son — he’s very talented.” Dringol is choosing his words with care, an iron-smith, little better than a dwarf, describing the skills of Feanor’s grandson to Feanor’s favorite son. “There’s not very much more I can teach him. Already he’s got the feel for silver. It might be best if my lord would take him into his forge.”

Curufin tips his head to one side, and tells himself that the chill on his neck is just the cold spring breeze.  “When he can bring me a decent prentice-piece, I’ll consider it. But don’t waste my time with anything but his best.”

Dringol bows his head. “Very well, my lord.”

Curufin hears no more about it as the seasons turn toward summer, and then winter. Spring comes again, and he decides Dringol has reconsidered. Or perhaps Celebrimbor has: he hears no more of the boy’s talent, and guesses Celebrimbor has found his limits.

It is the first day of autumn, the trees blazing gold on the distant hills, when Celebrimbor appears in the hall at noon, Dringol at his back. The boy has washed and put on his second-best tunic, and Curufin is startled to see that he is as tall as Celegorm. His hair has darkened, almost black in the hall shadows, and his body is no longer a boy’s, but shaped by the forge, broad-shouldered and muscled as a man grown. For just an instant, Curufin sees his own father standing there, and shakes his head to banish the thought.

“Well?”

“Father.” Celebrimbor’s voice has deepened, cracking alto turned to low tenor. “You told me to bring you a prentice-piece when I was ready. Here it is.”

He holds out his hand, and Curufin takes the thing. It is small and delicate, a ring of silver carved with lines that make a stylized star — eight points, of course — and in the center of that star is a fleck of topaz-gold. It’s a tiny stone, nearly worthless, but as he lifts the ring, he can see the light flickering at its heart, sunlight bound to jewel. He lifts an eyebrow at his son.

Mirdan,” Celebrimbor says, jewelsmith, and the ring explodes with light, shards of gold chasing each other around the room like a flock of swallows.

Dringol has not taught him this. Dringol could not, he doesn’t have the knowledge or the skill, nor does any man outside Curufin’s own workshop, and in any case none of them would dare — Curufin’s breath catches like a man wounded. Celebrimbor has taught himself to do this. Presumably he had books and tales to draw on, whispers that even an iron-smith might know, but the fundamentals are his own discovery. Curufin remembers Feanor guiding his hands at the bench, teaching him the words and the songs that forge the great gems, and knows he could not have done any of it alone.

He turns the ring, seeking flaws. There are a dozen, of course, all immediately apparent, and probably more that are not so obvious: the boy may be clever enough, but no one can invent the craft whole on their first try. He turns it in his fingers, noting a slightly crooked line here, a bit of scale left there, then closes his hand over the whole and breathes a word. He feels the fire go out, and opens his hand to reveal the stone cracked and dull. Celebrimbor lifts his head, his face tightening, and Curufin stares him down.

“You’ll have to do better than that,” he says.

If the boy had apologized, had begged to be taught, it might all still have been well, but Celebrimbor’s eyes narrow, and he plucks the ring from his father’s hand. “So I will,” he says, and the words ring between them like a clash of swords.
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Oh, dear. Curufin, not winning any father of the year awards ...

No. Curufin's parenting leaves a great deal to be desired. Though I think that if Celebrimbor had asked for help at this point, Curufin would have agreed to teach him. but Celebrimbor already has an accurate idea of his own worth, and the older he gets, the less he likes his father. I think that if Maedhros hadn't been so shell-shocked, he might have been able to broker some sort of peace between them, and I think Maglor tries, but they are both really stubborn, particularly where smith-craft is concerned,

Curufin is a terrible parent, but he's the ideal narrator for this, because the reader can see how brightly Celebrimbor shines through it, and why he rejects his father later at the same time he embraces his craft. He's so much better, and not just as a craftsman but as a person, and he doesn't yet know it. I love this look at why!

Curufin really is. And he and Celegorm bring out the worst in each other. And Celebrimbor... In my head-canon, he learns most of his craft in Nargothrond and Gondolin, not directly from Curufin, because he's not actually willing to back down and keep his mouth shut. Which is hardly an uncommon parent/child dynamic, and I think later in life Celebrimbor isn't particularly conflicted about it. He may wish Curufin had been a better father, better teacher, better person, but it's not something that consumes him.

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