Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards

Charcoal

Author: SurgicalSteel
Nominator: pandemonium_213
2011 Award Category: Cross-Cultural: Gondor or Rohan - Third Place

Story Type: Story : Length: Short Story
Rating: Mature -- Reason for Rating: Disturbing Imagery/Themes,Mature Language/Themes
Summary: Set in an ongoing AU: in which a certain golden-haired Balrog-slayer pays a visit to an injured Serindë (my OFC surgeon). When he asks her if her injury hurt, she responds by asking if it hurt to be turned into charcoal by the Balrog and is surprised by his answer.


Reviewed by: pandemonium_213 -- Score: 10

Of late, I've come across complaints of a trend toward deconstructionism in Tolkien fan fic. I would say that [Charcoal] deconstructs the legend of Glorfindel and the balrog, and from the one who experienced it first hand. Steel's take — a look behind the legend, the poetry and the ballads — offers a "delving deep" moment. [Charcoal] finds Surgical Steel's compelling character, the surgeon Serindë, in the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith, marking apprentices' Mastery papers, including two of those well-known to her, even though their identity was allegedly to remain anonymous. That's irritating enough for her, but her frustration is exacerbated by the slow recovery from an ankle injury of some significance. It is then that a visitor knocks on her door, and in walks Glorfindel, who is in Minas Tirith to attempt to round up workers and supplies for the rebuilding of Ost-in-Edhil. He presses her about the severity of her injury, and true to form, Serindë snaps at him: [So. Tell me, Laurefin, did it hurt to be turned into charcoal by a Balrog?] Well, after a pause, he tells her — honestly and free of poetic embellishment. It's a stark tale of what became legend, but told by the one who actually experienced it. Furthermore, Glorfindel recounts what happened when he awoke after his death, and we get a glimpse of Elvish reincarnation, which is not at all facile, according to Glorfindel's allusions, and in fact, rather frightening. So if deconstructionism is wrong, especially as Steel frames deconstructionism here and in her other offerings, then I don't want to be right. [Charcoal] is a very satisfying look at the concept of the reality behind the myth.

-- You've made me blush, Pande. This was another one of those things that it was really fun to both think aobut and write. On the deconstruction thing - I've been in the military and I've worked in a few VA hospitals, and most highly decorated war heroes protest that they were just doing their job, just saw an opportunity and took it, and that what they did was likely not the brightest move from a self-preservation standpoint. With that in mind, I'd seen an awful lot of fic featuring Glorfindel Nobly Taking On The Balrog and wanted to do something different, something that echoed what I'd heard from decorated war veterans. The version of Elvish reincarnation was heavily influenced by the reboot of 'Battlestar Galactica' and Cylon reincarnation. It was just too tempting for me to not mix the two. I'm glad you enjoyed this!

Reviewed by: Erulisse -- Score: 8

I don't recall when I was introduced to Surgical Steel's writing and her marvelously-realized OFC Serinde, but whoever recommended it or whatever link I followed, I never looked back. This short story of an interaction between an injured and recovering Serinde and Glorfindel, discussing the events and feelings that can overtake a person's good sense on a battlefield, is priceless and rings true in every respect. People and elves can be caught up in the moment and do things that they will later look back on with wonder and a shake of the head. Serinde has never been known for a less-than-sharp tongue, and that is evident when she asks Glorfindel "...did it hurt to be turned into charcoal by a Balrog?" Who else would have the temerity to ask that particular question? But instead of going off, losing his temper, or leaving the room, it begins an interesting and heartfelt discussion between the two of them that increases the depth of their individual characterizations through the pen of this talented author. Highly recommended.

-- Thank you, Erulisse, I'm glad you liked this!

Reviewed by: Thundera Tiger -- Score: 6

I love SurgicalSteel's Serindë, who is never afraid to say what she thinks and who manages to treat everyone the same way, whether they be serf, peasant, friend, enemy, or reincarnated elven hero. Her conversation with Glorfindel is inspired, and I love his reaction to her growing frustration. He's definitely taken aback but not so much that he can't respond in kind. At the beginning of this conversation, it's a sure bet that Serindë never imagined she would having a frank conversation about the consequences of immolation by balrog. Timing is key in a story like this, and SurgicalSteel proves more than able at finding exactly the right rhythm of words and pauses. Emotions ring true as a bell, and the characters are solid. A wonderfully blunt conversation as only SurgicalSteel can write.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower -- Score: 6

A rather stunning conversation between SurgicalSteel's Serinde and Laurefin (AKA Glorfindel); when Serinde's temper gets the best of her, she finds herself asking a rather rude question-- and is surprised to get a very candid and honest answer. One gets the feeling that this may be the first time he's actually confessed this story to anyone, or at the least it's not one he tells often. But it's clear he told it for a reason, that he *understands* his friend's querulous reaction to his own questions about her injury. But what is most stunning and rather disturbing to the reader may be what he describes. It's not the usual interpretation of Elven re-embodiment, and brings forth even more speculation about the whys and wherefores... A great conversation, and an intriguing story.

-- Thanks, Dreamflower! I confess to being somewhat inspired by the rebooted 'Battlestar Galactica' in my version of Elvish re-embodiment - the Cylons describe being downloaded, memories intact, into a new body. The first time I saw one particular episode, I remember thinking that someone should write Elvish reincarnation as being like what they seemed to experiences - something really frightening and disorienting and somewhat creepy. I'm really glad it worked for you!

Reviewed by: Larner -- Score: 5

Serinde is recovering, far too slowly for her own desires, from a combination of a crossbow bolt to the ankle. a series of procedures to deal with the complications, and pneumonia. Perhaps asking Glorfindel what it had been like being reduced to charcoal in the wake of his action involving the Balrog might not have been the most politic question, but the answer was given—and in far greater detail than she’d imagined. And certainly the responses to the story are as interesting as the story itself. A fascinating addition to her “Happy AU” thread, which holds its own pains, of course.

-- Thanks, I'm glad this fascinated you!

Reviewed by: obsidianj -- Score: 4

The unfortunate apprentices. Grading papers in Serinde's mood is bound to garner some butchering. Trying to disguise who is how by removing the names is fruitless, especially if the papers are handwritten. I could always recognize the handwriting. I like the description of Glorfindel. It is very different from most stories I have seen so far. The resurrection story and waking up ion Namo's halls was creepy.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon -- Score: 4

Intriguing vignette starring Glorfindel and the indomitable Serinde, Surgical Steel's acid-tongued original character surgeon. I loved the interchange about the quality of their injuries; the weaving of a Great Moment in First Age history into the less magical but no less intense early Fourth Age. Myth becomes realism, at least in the way it is discussed by these two friends. And there are forays into the murky/mystical mystery of Elven rebirth in Mandos that are just plain nifty, for want of a better word.

-- Thanks Raksha! I was somewhat inspired by Cylon reincarnation in the rebooted 'Battlestar Galactica' when I wrote my verison of Elven rebirth - I'm glad it worked for you!

Reviewed by: Nath -- Score: 3

Only Serindë could ask that particular question, and only Glorfindel would answer it in style. Another well-done (pun not intended!) episode of Serindë’s story.

-- Thank you so much!