( Disclaimer. All characters are JRR Tolkien’s. References are from The Silmarillion and HoME 12.)
It had been a time after the celebrations for mettarë, and after those games that had almost seen his father come to blows with Nolofinwë! They were sitting in the gardens, Nelyo lying on his back, on the open grass, making most un-princely sounds of snoring. Even then, being just over five years of age*, Nelyafinwë was very tall, but half a head shorter than their father, and with the promise that he would grow even further in height before he came anywhere near his full strength. Káno had watched in amusement as a bee hovered close to his elder brother’s open mouth, and an arm was waved unconsciously to move the creature away. Should he wake him? He thought not!
Not far from him, his mother sat under the shade of a tree, Turko curled up on her green gown like a sleeping pup, for he was little more than a babe to be carried. She herself was drawing, making sketches of her eldest child that would doubtlessly be the basis of a new sculpture or painting.
Peace in the garden. It was often so, for his mother endeavoured to see that there was a place of calm for them all, and sometimes a place of adventure! But then his father had joined them. Not that this was a regular occurrence, for Fëanáro was too busy, too restless to spend much time sitting with his family while they dozed in the light of Laurelin.
Káno put his own head down, and pretended to be asleep himself, but he watched as his father sank down upon the grass beside his mother, and took her hand, briefly, nodding `thanks’ to her. She smiled in return, a look of understanding in her eyes, as she put down her creation and leant against her husband, seeking rest and refreshment. It could have been otherwise, Káno was old enough to know!
~ ~ ~ ~
Nolofinwë, older than Nelyo by five years, had done very well in the competitions, besting all but one of the athletes of the Noldor. His riding skills were exceptional, and, at the close of all events, he had ridden back and forth on his white horse before his King and father, and his mother, the golden-haired Indis, proudly acknowledging their deserved praise. Káno had called out acknowledgement himself, for that was what most folk were doing, but his mother had caught his eye as he was about to wave, and she whispered “Makalaurë!” as her own eyes spoke, `discretion, my son.’ He knew instantly what she implied, and turned to look at his father, who was barely concealing his rage, white knuckled hands grasping tightly the arms of the chair he sat upon.
With a sudden, impulsive movement, his father pushed back the chair and was on his feet, but with equally sudden movement, his mother’s hand was upon the silken sleeve of her husband.
“Wilt thou not stay, Finwion?” she whispered with soft determination, using that more intimate name and form of address that usually caught his attention. Her eyes were still on the arena, however. Turko, knowing what was likely to follow, got down off of her lap, and made for the relative safety of Nelyo, as his father, eyes flashing with impatience and perceived grievance, yet halted momentarily. But the she-Elf continued without giving her husband chance to speak. “What valour would there be in giving challenge to a youth, in showing that thou can overcome him in any event, for thou most assuredly would?” She looked up now at her husband, her eyes calm, gentle, “Why, even to walk onto the field of contest would make some think thou perceived Nolofinwë as a challenge to thy own strength and skill, which is foolishness indeed, my lord! Nolofinwë is but thy younger brother, and half-brother at that. To let him have his day shows only how far beyond him thou art, and how much more beloved by thy Sire.”
The slightest smile touched the corner of his father’s lips, and he nodded, the tense anger seeping from his body as his mind cooled under his lady’s ministrations. “As you say, Nerdanel!” He touched her cheek lightly with his fingertips and returned to his seat, still ostensibly grim faced, but with a light of amusement now in his eyes. He applauded then, as one would applaud the first, halting steps of a babe.
What would have happened had Fëanáro decided that the competitions were not over, that he would match himself against Nolofinwë, was beyond thinking! Of course his mother had been right, and such action would, far from demonstrating his father’s superior abilities, have shown him to be but a jealous child! Káno had reflected then that his father need prove nothing to him! Fëanáro was, in his eyes, beyond all others in everything he put his hand or his mind to, even though he did sometimes seem insensitive to the love and need of his sons.
~ ~ ~ ~
“Káno!” His father, now seated in quiet reflection amongst his own family, had noticed he was awake, had probably never thought otherwise. He made a gesture that his second son should move closer to him. They were the only ones still awake, as Nelyo had turned over onto his face, but was still making those disgusting sounds, and his mother and Turko were both resting against his father, eyes open, but unfocused in dream. He had moved as close as he felt comfortable, which was not that close, for once out of infancy he had appreciated soon enough his father’s volatile nature.
“Something troubles you?”
Káno sighed. What to say?
His father held out a hand to him. “Come, my son. I will help if I know the problem!”
Káno sighed again! There would be no eluding his father’s perceptive gaze, so he may as well confess his concern. “Mother said that Nolofinwë was but your younger brother. Half-brother!” he corrected himself quickly, as his father raised an eyebrow at his mistake in use of words. “She implies he is of lesser value to the King than you are, Atar!”
“She is right. Your mother’s words are often wise!” replied Fëanáro.
“But,” Káno continued, “I am your younger son! Turko and I are to Nelyo as Nolofinwë is to you. We are insignificant, Atar!”
Fëanáro sighed in turn, and lowered his head in consideration. This was not at all the impression he wished his children to have! After a few moments, which seemed as an Age to Káno, he spoke. “Hear me well, Káno, for you are young and know not all the complexities of our family, since Finwë was lead astray. We are the elder house of the Noldor, and as such, each of the three of you are of great value, both to your mother and myself, and to the King. Each one of you will accomplish more than any half- brother of mine, for you are my sons.”
Káno smiled to himself, partially understanding, though the memories of Nolofinwë’s victories made him wince at the thought of accomplishing more than his half-uncle.
“Do you understand, Káno?” his father continued. “It is important to me that you know who and what you are, and what you are capable of.”
“I shall try hard to understand, Atar! Though I am not as strong as Nelyo, nor as skilled, I shall try!”
He was too young to really understand the family politics, and he felt as if he should move away from his father’s presence now, and amuse himself with his harp. But Fëanáro had a surprise in store. Suddenly he took hold of this middle son, this more sensitive, musical child, and hugged him closely.
“You are my son, as much as either of your brothers. Let your skill be in creating song, if that is how you will it! But let your song be the best, your music something to be passed on through all generations! Though I say it not often, I am proud of you all.”
It was no small gesture on behalf of Fëanáro. Káno loved and admired his father, and remembered those words, and that fierce hug from that moment on. He remembered them long into the First Age, when none of their family save Nelyo and he, and maybe their mother, in Aman, still lived.
Nolofinwë = Fingolfin
Nelyo / Nelyafinwë = Maedhros
Káno / Makalaurë = Maglor
Turko = Celegorm
Finwion = `Son of Finwë’, an early name of Fëanor.