"It looks like you're in trouble here," a melodic voice interrupts his thoughts. "Can I help?"
Fingon's breathing stops when he looks up from his book and spots the most beautiful man he has ever seen. Dark black hair falls in long waves over his back, hiding beautiful greyish eyes behind long bangs that capture Fingon's attention. He swallows dry and blinks a few times before he can trust himself to speak.
"I'm not sure what you're talking about?"
The beautiful man leans against the table Fingon is using and points with his long, elegant fingers at the crumbled papers. The pile is rather big and Fingon blushes, embarrassed with his futile attempts to understand the topic. Since they're in Tirion's Royal Library it's not unusual that he has gathered some attention, it's available for everyone. Yet Fingon didn't expect to be approached here in this rather remote section which is located in the third floor and far less frequently visited.
"The Higher Arts of Oswanë is a difficult subject," the man tells him. His smile is kind and understanding. "I've suffered through this volume myself. It's vastly frustrating how the author tries to describe a colourful world to the blind."
"Oh dear Eru, yes," Fingon cries and throws his hands in the air. "Finally someone who understands my plight. I've reread this chapter countless times and I've not experienced the enlightenment yet the author continues to ramble about. But it eases my worries to know that I'm not only despairing over this topic."
A rich, deep laugh is the answer and Fingon's new friend draws himself a chair before settling down.
"Oh, trust me. I'm well aware of the cries of horror this book induces from those reading it the first time," he says, clapping Fingon's back in sympathy. "I've always argued we need a better, simpler version for beginners yet I've fallen only on deaf ears so far."
"Can you help me? Please, I'd owe you a huge favor," Fingon begs. He points at the volumes and his notes spread all over the table. "My father wishes me to decent at it for the celebration at the King's court but I've yet to make progress. Nothing I tried so far has worked."
"The woes of fathers and the expectations they lay on the shoulders of their children." The pained expression of Fingon's friend is genuine. Since he seems a bit older Fingon imagines that he's the son of noble Lord as well, ready to share his experience with a younger fellow. "You don't have to say anything else, my friend. I can see the desperation in your eyes and I'll sleep better at night if I can save a soul from the dryness of this work. Simply tell me what you've understood so far and we go from there."
Fingon is honestly relieved. He nearly cries he made enough progress by the end of the day to feel the brush of his teachers mind against his own.
"Oh thank you," Fingon breathes when he collapses on the table. He feels the faint amusement of his friend in the back of his head. "This is a dept I can never repay. I might actually impress my father when I keep this up."
The celebration of little Artanis tenth birthday is still a few weeks away yet Fingon's troubled heart his eases at the thought that he won't embarrass his father in front of the other Lords. His grasp on Oswanë and the other forms of magic has never been the best. It's not unusual for some elves to never master it. Large part of the population never does but for Lord Nolofinwë the second son of the King it was out of question that Fingon would be successful sooner or later.
"Go and put all dinner guests at awe, young one," his teacher says, nudging Fingon to hurry off. "If you need help, I'm here all week. I've a project of my own to conduct so if you have question I can answer, never hesitate to ask. Simply ask around."
"I promise I'll visit again, Lómorë."
Fingon's smile is bright, lightening the entire room with his joy. He hurries to collect his notes and put the books back before he waves at his new friend good bye, certain to see him again. It's not often he makes friends outside his usual circles and activities which means Lómorë at least hasn't been ordered by his family to socialise with Lord Nolofinwë's eldest.
"I'll be waiting. We're going to have so much fun together, Findekáno," Lómorë purrs. Fingon chuckles at the little flirting. He certainly doesn't mind. Lómorë is pleasant to look at, the embodiment of Noldorin features.
Then Fingon is gone, leaving his new friend and mentor behind who is pleased with himself. Nolofinwë's son will come back, as soon as possible with the boy has been acting. The features beneath the long black hair melt away, revealing another form Fingon might have been more familiar with. Yet it's late and the library is empty so no one witnesses the change.
Unwatched by anyone, Melkor smiles and is pleased with himself.
Nolofinwë is genuinely impressed. Fingon wouldn't really believe it if weren't for soft happiness dancing through his head as his father's mind brushes against his. It's dazzling. Fingon is glad is already sitting down or else he'd have been to weak to keep himself upright. In the past he never knew what to do with father's 'Well done, son.' For him it always sounded it a bit empty, devoid of lacking visible pride. Nolofinwë's features still don't show much change but now Fingon can feel his father's warm smile.
Nonexistent fingers brush over his cheek before something warm and soft is pressed against his forehead.
His father doesn't say a word. He just looks at Fingon and then ...
Well done, my son. I'm proud of you.
Fingon smiles, his grin nearly splitting his face. He can't remember when he felt so happy.
When Fingon gets out of bed the next day he feels groggy. The light is too bright and hurt his eyes. His movements are sluggish but he wills himself downstairs. A maid brews him a strong tea. He drinks only half of it because it doesn't help against the headache pounding in his head anyway. Breakfast falls to the side.
Fingon returns to the library. He feels better when he reaches the building.
When Lómorë finds him at their table three hours later, buried in books and new notes Fingon greets him with a shy smile.
"My father said he's proud of me," Fingon repeats the words in front of Lómorë. His chest nearly bursts with happiness when he says it, barely believing that the conversation yesterday wasn't a dream. "He said it into my mind. I could feel it."
Lómorë studies Fingon with a pointed look. He asks, "Do you want say it back?"
Fingon's smile is dazzling and makes space for Lómorë. His sister is the only one who comments on the fact that Fingon disappears into the library with dusk and returns at dawn.
"I see you found a new playmate."
Írissë's smile is more cynical than teasing. She's rarely good-natured and Fingon prefers to avoid his sister since they only get along when their mothers forces the subject. Anarië grants her daughter the freedom she desires. Hence why Írissë is dressed in thick cloaks once again and only returning home on occasion. For the most part of the year she's exploiting the privilege of living with Oromë's riders who are responsible for bringing meat into the city of Tirion.
Fingon only grinds his teeth and walks by his sister without saying another word. Yet it doesn't keep him from being jealous when he spots a new fine bow on her back. Compared to him who lives still in his home of childhood and works in his father's household, Írissë is rich and independent. Common people are forbidden to ride into the woods and kill animals as they please, just to fill their stomaches. Oromë's Riders have the sole right to it and the goods they sell on the market are expensive.
"Írissë should marry," Fingon tells Lómorë off-handed. "It's not proper how she still forlocking when Turukáno is courting his bride already."
Lómorë agrees and Fingon forgets his hypocrisy. Marriage he's often discussed with his mother and every time she curses his stubbornness while his father frowns in disapproval. So he throws himself into his studies and doesn't notice the worried looks of his family.
On the great day of the feast Fingon is barely keeping himself upright. A headache throbs against his temples and while his sensitivity has gotten better, the room is filled with people crowding together and always, always brushing against his mind. Since he can't scream at father's dear friends to leave him alone, Fingon smiles, glad he's so practiced at faking them.
He's fine until Artanis tells everyone the buffet is open. She's tall for her tender years and while Arafinwë stands next to her, pride written into his face in a way his own father never bothered to, Artanis' has a presence on her own. When her words slide into his head, clear and perfect - Please enjoy yourself. You're all my guests. - a sharp pain makes Fingon's knee buckle. Before he had only deal with nausea and tears in the corner of his eyes. Nothing what he couldn't chalk up to the lack of fresh air.
Yet the reason for his anguish is unmistakable when Artanis is asked to demonstrate her mastery of Oswanë by Lords and friends, all eager to praise the child with such an affinity and natural talents for the mind arts. The pain hits Fingon's head again before the words even register into his mind. With a broken moan Fingon clutches his head and attempts to get away from Artanis. Perhaps fresh air is all he needs. But Fingon doesn't even make to the stairs. Moments later he faints and the last thing he's aware of before his world goes black is his father's voice, crying out in horror.