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Comments For A Fragile Chalice
My MEFA 2011 review:
There's so much drama within this story, highlighted by the banter and merryment of the lavish dinner party, that it's almost impossible to grasp everything in a single read. As much as I enjoyed the aristocratic gathering (almost decadent, maybe reminiscent of pre-revolutionary France in my mind, perhaps due to the parallel tragic ending) and the fabulous poetry contest, it was the undercurrents linked to the wider "Pandë'verse" that made me both cheer with glee at meeting familiar, well-loved characters, and gasp in horror at Tyelpo's foreboding. I deeply sympathised with Mélamírë, a young woman recently promoted to Master of the Míretanor after harsher then average trials (how could it be otherwise with such a demanding father?) Despite this achievement she lacked confidence and felt awkward outside her own circle (though she could bite, as Lóremin and even Erestor found out) when "in loco parentis" Tyelpo invited her to join the company of his refined friends. Pandë's prose flowed as easily as the delicious wines during the dinner, crafting witty conversation, exquisite food, blatant flirting, and even under the table action that made me chuckle. I was dazzled by the beautiful setting, which served to trigger Tyelpo's reminiscing leading to a harrowing glimpse of foresight which took me to the heartwrenching scene of Broken Star, lived too vividly from his POV.
This is an absolutely must read, a key piece in the complex jigsaw painting the magnificent picture that pandemonium_213 is building as a rich overlay on Tolkien's world. I'm afraid this rambling babble of a review can't do it justice.
Hi Pande, I'm reposting my MEFA review here, although I wrote it rather quickly and do not feel it does your story justice.
What a rich world Pandemonium gives us here with a gathering of her characters at an elegant salon in Ost-in-Edhil. We are treated to witty banter as well as darker undertones as Celebrimbor has a brief vision of the future. I have to say that I am immersed enough in this whole scene, that I would dearly love to have been there enjoying the repartee and the poetry contest. I loved Erestor in this with his under-the-table flirtation with the elf with whom he was trading verbal barbs, as well as Pandë's wise character Mélamírë, who knows full well what he was up to. The title of this fic is an apt description of Ost-in-Edhil itself, with the chalice that cuts Celebrimbor’s fingers, as symbolic of the fragility of the world that Pandë depicts here, that will soon be broken like glass.
Wanting to go on record here about how much I like this story and what an insightful and lively addition it is to your storyverse on these characters. I love Celebrimbor here and the stresses and foibles and quirks and talents you manage to reveal to the reader so seemingly effortlessly. This is how good writing grabs me and will not let me go. I love plots or scenes that show me new or deeper aspects of the personalities of the characters and a world surrounding them that is vivid enough to cause the reader to think about the influences that would have helped create the person we feel like we have learned to know so well. This story has that in spades.
I am, of course, delighted and also flattered by your use of my little bits of background from not only my stories, but from other writers I love. The possibility of cross-fertilization is one of the aspects of fanfiction writing that is so uniquely rich. I love following inspiration that I get from others and get such a thrill if anyone gets any of that from me.
Your world of Ost-in-Edhil is one of my absolute favorite fannish creations and embellishments of the original canon. This story is a wonderful further chapter in it. (Sorry if this isn't coherent or is filled with typos. I keep getting pulled away from writing this and losing copy as a result. Writing in a review box is never a good idea.
Erestor is fabulous! Forgot to say that!
Thanks, Oshun. I'm glad you enjoyed this, and that you didn't mind a bit of poaching from your fic.
I really enjoyed this glimpse of life among the Rich and Famous of Ost-in-Edhil in its heyday. Your Tyelpo rings true for me as a work hard/play harder kind of guy. The feast with its banter read like a comedy of manners. I like the glimpse of a younger, less sure of herself Melamire than we see in later Ages - the sweaty palms, the not being certain if her attire is appropriate, the hoping for approval from those older than she is. Her remark about her mastery examinations - I remember feeling like that after my oral general surgery boards, like someone had just bruised my brain.
And of course, I need to work on a bit more of Haldanar after the fall of Ost-in-Edhil. >:)
This was a great read!
Hey, thanks, Steel! I'm glad you enjoyed this. The darned thing practically demanded to be written. A few guys I've known professionally made their way into the work hard, play harder aspect of Tyelpo, but one in particular *see my reply to Raksha). I tend to think that in later years (after three millennia or so), she's learned to either deal with those incertainties or mask them effectively. Maybe a bit of both.
Re: Haldanar. Our email exchanges regarding his background contributed to Fragile Chalice in a big way (many thanks!), so I am looking forward to see you detail his story after the fall of Eregion and beyond.
A delightful glimpse of Celebrimbor as the life, and the host, of the party. I loved the dueling poets, and the Elven-chef. Celebrimbor's vision of pain, darkness and fire and a 'bittersweet' voice cuts through this pleasant evening brilliantly; a reminder of the evil lurking beneath the glittering surface of the Jewel-Smiths' domain (sob! Poor Tyelpo!). And an interesting ending - Erestor. Celebrimbor gets around, doesn't he...
Thanks muchly, Raksha, for having a read. This was one of those fics that demanded to be written for whatever reason. Glad you liked the poetry duel. That was a lot of fun to write. I'm looking forward to Steel's continuation of Haldanar's (the chef) story. You also hit exactly one of the meanings of "a fragile chalice" -- Ost-in-Edhil itself: a glittering jewel of elven civilization that will be shattered like Tyelpo's glass by the evil that lurks within and knows so much about its people.
Re: Celebrimbor getting around. He's not unlike a chemistry professor on the Stanford faculty I met a few times. Prof. B was brilliant (still is) and in his youth, he was drop-dead gorgeous: tall, golden Vanyarin looks with a keen Noldorin mind. ;^) Before he settled down and got married, he, uh, "got around."
Nice to see more of Celebrimbor, Melamire and the people of Ost-in-Edhil. I get the impression from this story and "Cat's Paw" that Celebrimbor sometimes drank more than was good for him. Am I wrong?
Ha! No, you are not wrong. You are absolutely right. I wouldn't say that Celebrimbor drinks to excess frequently, but he does on occasion. After all, there is a Quenya word for "carousing." ;^) I am taking a cue here from Real Life™: quite a few scientists I have known not only work hard, but play hard, too. In the midst of writing this story, the Dark Muse huffed and sneered at me and noted that I needed to get his colleague out of dinner parties and into his natural milieu -- the forges. I do have a bit of a rough draft that deals with Tyelpo's crafting of one of the Elven Rings of Power so hopefully that will satisfy both the Dark Muse and Tyelpo.
Thanks for reading, Aiwen, and glad you enjoyed seeing these folks again.
This is wonderful Pandë. The dinner scene with is repartee and verbal crossfire could be something out of Ellen Kushner, or a more gutsy Georgette Heyer, but with these people and there history, all they have done, all the weight of it behind them is very present.
Whatever your Tyelpo thinks, I think myself Mélamírë looks gorgeous in those colours. :) and I found his reflecting on her likeness to both their dead kin poignant. Also Aulendil's *created* heritage shows how completely he has been accepted - who is to know, as so few on Middle-earth knew his *father?*
The waking dream was beautifully written, but soon delved into deep waters, and changed the mood of this piece entirely. His premonition:
He struggled to move his arms and legs, but he was bound fast. Darkness choked him, and the iron taste of his own blood spread thick in his mouth. Lips pressed against his forehead while a voice at the edge of recognition murmured bittersweet words that he could not comprehend, knowing only that they elicited in him a resolve hard as granite.
That was masterly, and more than upsetting, future events casting their shadow backward. No wonder he could not settle later.
Erestor coming to him - that was surprise, but after just a few words, it became something that had always been there.
Loved it :)
Sorry, deleted the first review, to add something:
When Erestor speaks of Gil-galad's premonitions:
Gil-galad perceives that it derives from another source, a shifting one that is just beyond the reach of his knowledge, sometimes distant, sometime close at hand. But he cannot pin down any specifics, and he admits as much.
Mélamírë is troubled at this, and from previously when Tyelpo pushes her away. She is a strong-minded and very intelligent woman, (although as he sees, under it, she is vulnerable) and that comes across in everything I have read of her, and is shown in this piece, but here, for whatever reason here, when something strikes her deeply, she seems to go into herself, and not speak of it. If I were reading this and had not known before who Mél is, I would think that she had seen something or sensed something in her father that she does not want to examine too closely. She does seem the sort of person who notices, thinks, and files everything away in her mind -- like her father, in fact. Again, in everything I have read of her, she is a character who easily stands alone and is not just 'Sauron's daughter.' but of course, me being a lover of pathos, I cannot help both admiring her and pitying what is to come.
Thank you so much for the thoughtful review, Spice, and the high praise in being compared to Kushner and Heyer, although I did snitch a bit from some famous personages (see end notes). ;^)
"Whatever your Tyelpo thinks, I think myself Mélamírë looks gorgeous in those colours."
She thanks you for that and notes that Tyelpo feels he can be overbearing when it comes to aesthetics. Remember how he straightened the statue in 'Cat's Paws' and criticized the triteness of the sculptor?
Re: Mélamírë's discomfort at Erestor's remarks. Yes, indeed, there are many facets to this, including those that she doesn't wish to scrutinize too closely although it's only when he "slips" that she can get a real but quick glimpse of something that is "off". Also, as you know, there has been at least one vivid and frightening incident that occurred when she was a child, now a suppressed memory. But as in our primary world, these memories can resurface.
Thanks again for reading and the kind words. I'm thrilled that you liked this!
Hooray for elven poetry slams and Feanorian plumbing! All the essentials of civilization for Ost-in-Edhil. Fingon eating black lobster seems to have a touch of cannibalism to it, considering the original context...
So Melamire is Sauron's daughter? Was she all along? (I am sorry I haven't caught up with all of your stories about her yet.) Poor woman, how devastating for her when she finds out...
Thanks for having a go at this and the comments, Himring.
"Fingon eating black lobster seems to have a touch of cannibalism to it, considering the original context..."
Strictly speaking, that would be "autosarcophagy." ;^) However, even when the original context is taken into consideration, that macabre association strikes me as being a bit of a reach. Given your comments regarding my "indulgence" in Eau de Olórin that somehow made their way into your review on MEFA of Dawn's Hastaina, I can only assume you possess delicate sensibilities.
"So Melamire is Sauron's daughter? Was she all along? (I am sorry I haven't caught up with all of your stories about her yet.)"
Throughout the compendium of my ficcery (all of which is interconnected), I have strived to craft such a scenario without the vulgarity of slapping the reader in the face with the concept. After all, I'm hardly the first to come up with this progeny of Sauron idea, although I'd like to think mine is a considerably different take. I have carefully scattered breadcrumbs of clues, starting in Trinity, which would lead the intrepid reader to this conclusion. However, I knew I ran a risk of such face-slapping by posting this as a one-shot. With Celebrimbor and Erestor listed as characters, more "traditional" readers unfamiliar with my heresy might be drawn into reading this and experience a stinging sensation accompanied by "what the heck" moment. All I can say is that in the story notes, forewarning of spoilers is given, and only one of those referenced (Risk Assessment) as background is specifically about Mélamírë. Even then, I am cagey about her precise familial connections in that story. I will also note that there are readers of my work have felt that this OFC stands on her own merits (I first introduced her with no obvious connections to canon characters), which is the highest compliment they can pay her and me, her creator. Yes, she will be devastated, but the theme of betrayal in the Pandë!verse is as much about the cost to the one doing the betraying as those betrayed, e.g. Alberich who foreswears love to gain power.
Well, since I read your new story earlier today I've been going over a proper review in my head, on and on, pondering what to tell you. Granted, I'd like to point every aspect of the story that I liked -- which would end with me quoting all of it I guess ;-)
Even if we see the events unfold as seen by Celebrimbor, I think this story is more of a tribute to Mélamírë -- one of the most wonderful original female characters I've ever met in ficdom, and in this way a tribute to the House of Feanor. In her figure, the entire family reflects as if in a mirror, causing Tyelpo to muse on what once was and what he's lost. And as we can see, the memories can be an explosive mixture, especially if one has such a turbulent past as Tyelpo does. And no less turbulent future.
I love the society and how you describe it, bringing the differences between the guests to the front and making good use of them (the banter at the table is both humorous and poignant). It is a vivid picture of a rich culture, painted with such excellence that I had a feeling I sat at the table among Tyelpo's guests.
Your Celebrimbor is an amazing character that makes me think about the greats of the Romanticism, with their intriguing, often tragic biographies.
Lastly, you made me think about writing Silm fic again, and I thank you for the inspiration. :)
Outstanding story, Pande. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks so much, Binka! Yours is more than a proper review: it's a gift, and a much appreciated one. I'm thrilled when a reader picks up on nuances I have deliberately woven into the story, and you invariably find these. I have to admit I love visiting Ost-in-Edhil, which in my mind constitutes an eccentric mix of ancient Rome and 18th/19th century technology...with scientifictitous elements thrown into the mix. ;^)
"Your Celebrimbor is an amazing character that makes me think about the greats of the Romanticism, with their intriguing, often tragic biographies."
Excellent! And thanks! My interpretation of Celebrimbor is but one of many, but he's influenced by a number of historical figures and men of science I have known personally.
"Lastly, you made me think about writing Silm fic again..."
Ohpleaseohpleaseohplease do! If this fic prompts you to do that, then it has done its job and then some. You know I love Opiate, My Blood, Your Blood, and all your Sindar-centric work, and The Good, the Bad and the Queen is brilliant! I'd love to see you jump back into the pond. :^)