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And hell to pay again

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Curufin first took the creature that appeared before him to be some strange guise of a Maia. One of Námo's, perhaps, if it would claim ownership of such a device and go about in such an eerie form. "Hardly," the creature said, gazing at him with an unnerving half-smile and running his fingers along the jewelry lain out upon Curufin's desk.

"The power to see names even of strangers, for half my present lifespan?" Curufin inquired, eyes narrowed in evaluation, when it presented the offer to him. It was not, he considered, something he could see immediate need for - how often did he come upon people whose names he did not know, or could not find out with ease? And yet he would not be so quick to turn away any potential advantage simply because he did not presently require it.

"It's a deal then," he agreed, and clasped hands with the creature.

A mortal Man might have a lifespan (and this creature of death was surely most acquainted with them, if he would offer such a deal), but the Eldar were no mortals.

----

The day that Curufin had wrote came and went with not so much as a breath from the north. No news, not a single piece; and he certainly could not ask if Angband still stood, but the lack of any sign to the contrary seemed to him evidence enough.

He poured over the words once secluded in the solitude of his own room, a hundred possibilities racing through his mind. He'd not been stupid enough to write out Morgoth; the only name pronounced it might be, but one given later nonetheless. What should he have done differently? Reversed the changes in sound that had occurred in the ages between Cuiviénen and the Flight? Written in Sarati instead of his father's letters?

But that thought jogged loose a memory, of some of his father's work back in Aman, strange and unusual and undertaken by almost none other among the Eldar, and he could hardly see then why it had not occurred to him that the strange notebook would only have responded to the name of a Vala when given in Valarin.

Unlike his father, Curufin spoke no Valarin.

Finrod, curse him, could somehow sense his mood hours later, and inquired several times as to whether he had something weighing on his mind. The third time, Curufin was pleased enough that they had finished their meal in the outer halls and retreated back to his cousin's quarters, for he stopped their conversation regarding the progress of the marchwardens mid-thought to shove his cousin back against the wall with a snarl, fingers tugging at his golden hair and teeth and tongue at his soft mouth.

----

He had not taken them from Himlad when they fled.

Curufin hadn't searched yet through all of his belongings, but the knowledge settled over him sure as any doom even so.

"Might I have left some of my possessions amidst yours by mistake when we arrived?" he asked Celegorm in tones too strained for his liking, as he opened his brother's desk drawers and peered within. Celegorm only looked on in some confusion. "I am missing Father's documentation of his study of the Valarin language."

Celegorm shook his head and let out a bark of laughter, shutting the next drawer even as Curufin opened it. "Do you truly think I would have overlooked you leaving a bunch of your stuffy papers behind in my rooms, Curvo?"

It was not much matter. Maedhros had been waging campaigns all across the north of late. He would return to Himlad on some pretense soon enough; find his father's notes; decipher the true name that was required. He would manage it in time enough. There was no hurry.

----

"Beren son of Barahir is deceased," Curufin said solemnly to the maiden clad in blue. He made his face the picture of abject sorrow, and his brother followed suit (genuinely, Celegorm did, and so made Curufin's all the more believable). "He was slain by orc-arrows when he rode out hunting not days after he arrived amongst our people. Yet we would offer you solace in the halls of Felagund King, however, if you would take our friendship."

Even in her grief, Lúthien was radiant at the feast that Nargothrond held for its guest; and if weeks past and she found herself comforted, charmed, by Celegorm's presence (so like Beren, he was, in some ways, and he spoke to her in tones of loss of the brief days they'd known each other, growing fast in friendship as was possible)... Curufin could hardly find himself displeased.

----

Doriath refused them regardless. Curufin instructed Lúthien to write missives urging them to rethink their position; and he himself sent another to Himring telling Maedhros of the news.

You will not win them with your words this time, little brother, the reply had come. But we have the might of every other kingdom besides. We shall fight without them if we must - and sooner rather than later, lest Morgoth's spies learn of our plans.

----

The orcs hewed off the prisoner's arms and legs and head, and Lord Gwindor charged, and their neat and well-thought plans sank into a bubbling fen of disorder and hectic bloody slicked ground between a crush of enemies.

The king, he saw, the king was near surrounded, and even if he resented that title and the man it was attached to now, he resented the idea of his slaughter by the Enemy's forces even more.

The Balrog struck him from behind with his whip, and though he burned with pain Curufin struggled back to his feet, sword and knife raised to meet that awful spirit's crushing blows. They were not a pair matched in strength, though, and Curufin's speed and finesse did not make up for what he lacked in power, or for his fatigue as the battle raged on.

When his sword-arm faltered, the Balrog's mace crushed his chest, bone and blood into the trampled squelching mud and he fell and laid there, wheezing and coughing red from punctured lungs.

He spoke his last words but to the din of the battle; his brother near a field away, and his spirit left; left a body failed, a body grown cold in death.

 

----
----

 

Neither heaven nor hell, the spirit had said to him concerning a fate after death, and only now did the words become clear. A fëa was to come to Mandos after the destruction of his hröa, and await a new body born in Aman - but he had come not to Mandos.

"What is this?" he asked a silver-haired woman, as she wove the tapestry that stood before them. His own body, yes, crumpled, but with carved stone and trees about him and a sword through his belly.

She turned her eyes on him, and he felt a regret more powerful than any he could recall. "A world that could have been," she said, and he thought her eyes might have filled with tears if they had not long ago wearied of the task. "But perhaps better that the son of the House of Bëor brought no Silmaril to Doriath."

Curufin stared at the half-woven tapestry with a hollowness in his gut, but he could not find the words he would have wished to say.