“Ambarussa!” his father cried out in anger. “Put the damned tong inside the forge!”
It should not be so hard, Amras told himself. His father did this every day with never an injury, and his brothers Maedhros, Caranthir, Curufin, and even Amrod all were used to this. But each time he took an inch forward the flames danced higher, and the sight sent Amras reeling back.
“Ambarussa! The forge - now! Fear not the fire, child!”
But the tong slipped from Amras’ fingers, and he fled his father’s forge, his eyes stinging. Tears were still rolling down his face by the time Maedhros and Curufin his brothers approached him. Uncaring of his juvenile behavior, he embraced them both, weeping into their leather aprons covered in soot from the smithy.
“Not all our brothers were meant for smith-work, dearest Telvo,” Maedhros said as he embraced him back. He settled him back onto the bench Amras had been sitting on, rubbing circles over Amras’ shoulder.
“But Pityo has learned in the forge before I ever set foot in it,” Amras said. “Father did not see me fit to enter for many years!”
“Do not expect yourself to share the same talents as Ambarto simply because you once shared the womb at the same time!” Curufin said, laughing. “We are each born with our own talents.”
The words did not comfort Amras. “Father still calls me child. I no longer hear him say that to Pityo.”
“And what does that have to do with Father’s love for you?” Maedhros said. “Turco discreetly made his disdain for smithy known early on, choosing Oromë over Aulë, yet he is well loved still by our father. As for you, brother, you were the last to enter this world. Even if you shared our mother’s womb with Pityo, he left first several hours before anyone was even aware Mother carried another little elfling inside her. It was a new day when you arrived, and for that we each will forever see you as the youngest, even Pityo, though he might not outwardly show it. That is the curse you must bear for all your life, but all things considered that is not such a bad thing, is it my little love?” He smiled and ruffled Amras’s hair, very much like his own.
Amras wanted to believe his eldest brother, whom he greatly admired. Maedhros spoke always words imbedded with the wisdom he was blessed with, but Amras’s doubt was a shadow greater than any wisdom could shed a light on.
“But I thought Father will hate me if I did not follow in his foot steps,” Amras confessed, knowing too well how much Fëanor favored Curufin and Amrod above all.
“The only gold Kano forges are the songs which he sings, but Father does not hate him,” Curufin said. “And Moryo, bless him, is as much a smith as he is a trader.”
“But I know not how to sing or harp,” Amras said. “And I don’t like counting money all day.” And, in his mind he added, he did not wish to be second best like his other brothers but to be as cherished as Curufin and Amrod were.
“Then that simply means music and business is not the talent Ilúvatar has bestowed upon you,” Maedhros said. “Come, brother, we will both help you find your passion.”
“Yes, come with us and look for other things that may interest you,” Curufin said, grinning. “For all we know, perhaps work in the culinaries will appeal to you.”
Amras shoved Curufin playfully, but he followed them. Maedhros’ hair billowed behind him, and Amras’s heart froze in brief shock, thinking he was back at the forge. He shook his head and silently chastised himself, willing himself to not fear the fire.
Yet it haunted him in the years following this incident. Though he submerged himself in other activities, taking joy in reading and hunting with his brother Celegorm, Amras never forgot the forge nor the fire that seemed to reach for him, to clasp him and pull him into its depth. He dreamt of the flames reawakening while all of Valinor were asleep, the fires bursting through the smithy and making its way into Formenos, consuming the stronghold till all inside were killed by the inferno. Even waking, he could still see the fire, just beyond the corner, waiting to claim him.
Seeing his eldest brother walk by, he always felt his heart drop. He could not stop staring at the bright coppery shade of Maedhros’ hair. This same hair which he too possessed. This same hair which they inherited from their mother, a sign of their kinship to Mahtan. Many saw the hair with envy for its uniqueness among the Eldar, but to Amras it only reminded him of what he wasn’t - a smith like his grandfather - and it reminded him of fire.
How Amras detested fire! He detested his hair, from which his father and mother at times lovingly called him Narfindil - “fire tresses.” He wished his hair would darken to the amber tone such as that of Amrod, but it seemed he was doomed to wear the color he most detested.
But most of all he detested the smell of burning material and of the promise of death that came of it. In Amras’s dreams the stench came to him vivid and vile, and with it was mingled a new smell of something Amras could only call burning flesh. Even when the scent of the meals cooking in the kitchens reached his nose, he felt his stomach twist with the reminder of what it entailed. In time he consumed less flesh, a change that took notice of his family though he never openly shared the reason for his behavior. How could he relate to them what bothered him?
It was shame which prevented him from speaking. An elf should not fear such a natural thing, yet he could not change this reality in his life. He hated fire and the thought of having his skin burned. Even the Two Trees became a source of fear rather than awe. Should he touch their barks, would he get scorched from the light?
Only once did any of his family confront him of this fear.
“Why do you sit far from the campfire?” Celegorm once asked him. They had camped out together several times before, and each when there was need for warmth or food Amras sat as far as he could as his brother prepared the fire.
Amras simply shrugged and attempted to go back to his reading, but Celegorm was not the sort to drop the subject as easily. “You fear this fire. I am no fool to have not noticed this. You even look upon the Two Trees with trepidation in recent years. Tell me brother, what of this frightens you?”
Knowing his elder brother would not leave him till he answered, Amras looked up from his book and confessed. “I fear getting burned.”
“It will burn you only if you are clumsy. Come closer, you must be cold sitting there.”
“No…I fear death.”
“Death? Death as in how our grandmother Míriel had passed?” Celegorm chuckled. “Fire brings no death, Telvo.”
“Fire consumes everything it touches,” Amras said, standing up. He would not let his brother make light of this!
“Only because wood is weak. Not my brother,” Celegorm said. He stepped forward and before Amras could fight him off he took hold of Amras and pulled him closer to the campfire. Amras struggled against him, but Celegorm was always the far more physically strong between them. With his large hand he gripped Amras’s wrist and brought his hand over the fire. Amras yelped.
“Do you feel this, Telvo?” Celegorm said. “That is life you feel. Fire is life. It awakens by only our command. Life begets life, never death.”
“Please,” Amras begged. “We’re too close!”
“Do you not feel how your hand grows warm? The blood inside flows with more ease. That is life, little brother.”
“I hate the smell!”
Celegorm loosened his grip, and Amras staggered forward, screaming as he almost fell into the campfire. He struggled to regain his footing, jumping back as far from the campfire as he could. Then turning around he glared at Celegorm, who regarded him emotionlessly.
“The smell hurts no one,” Celegorm said. “Fear it not, brother. Let it haunt you no longer. That which you fear will only take advantage of you. You are better than that. You are of the House of Fëanáro. You are fire. Remember my words.”
At this thought, Amras moaned in his sleep, wishing the smell of burning wood would cease. This night bore to him many memories of that which he detested and feared most. The scent of burning flesh now surrounded him. He squirmed uncomfortably, wishing the meal - perhaps dinner, though he was not certain - would be done with so he could be spared from the stench.
He thought he heard someone call his name, far away, before being joined by several more voices.
And for a moment he was back in the forge on his first day, hearing his father’s cries, but this cry was not anger. None of the voices - of Maedhros and Celegorm and Maglor - none of them held the tone of disappointment or anger. There was worry and fear in their voices. Amrod too his ears could pick up on, screaming, his voice hitched as he wept. Caranthir and Curufin went from arguing with one another to calling out his name. Yet all this was muted, as if the cries were far away, muffled by thick walls.
It was his father’s cry which jolted him awake.
All around him were flames as tall as trees that consumed every inch of the walls and ceiling. He was inside the forge, his mind told him. He had fallen in and death will soon claim him.
Another moment passed, another cry for him, and Amras became aware of where he had been sleeping in. The memories of the kinslaying at Alqualondë rushed back to him, and his eyes widened, now fully awake.
Inside the ship was where he was trapped. No inch was spared for him to slip through into safety, and even then he realized he would not be able to escape. It wasn’t just the fear that paralyzed him. The fire was already consuming him. The stench he smelled was his own body - his right arm and his left foot - eaten by the flames. He could not speak, could not cry out. His body was strangely still, pinned down in place by the sheer terror of the inferno’s presence.
He wept for his brothers to comfort him, for Curufin’s crude jokes to make him laugh and forget the sight, for Celegorm to take him horseback riding in the open land, for Maglor to share with him a book and to sing to him. But his family were no where to protect him, barricaded against him by this devil. He opened his mouth to cry out for them, only to get thick black smoke in his lungs, suffocating him. How could there be life in a thing so terrible?
In defeat he closed his eyes shut and wept for his life. That which he most feared now overtook him, just as Celegorm had warned him. A flick of flame brushed against his face, white-hot against his sensitive skin, scorching him and bringing out a gasp of pain that soon filled his lungs with more smoke.
Just as debris began to crumble from the ship’s walls, the floor beneath him gave away, and he plunged into the cold water below. The currents took him, far from the sight of his family as they looked on in horror at their youngest’s demise. Weakly Amras attempted another cry for their attention; but he fell unconscious and the sea swept him away.