Silmarillion Writers' Guild A Minor Talent by Lyra

Chapter One

My tutor sighs. I understand her disapproval, but I still cannot help feeling resentful. For once I am showing some enthusiasm for music. She should be encouraging me instead of sighing pointedly.

Not that she isn't right, of course. It is frustrating, and we'd better stop before either she refuses to teach me further (not that I'd mind, but Father would be very angry with me) or I will have what Mother calls a tantrum. I keep hearing that I am a peevish and rebellious child anyway, even though my aunt Nerdanel says that I am very sweet-tempered and who is a better judge of children, Aunt Nerdanel or my childless tutors?
But of course that sort of arguing isn't getting me anywhere, except to threats that I may not visit my cousins if I misbehave.

My tutor sighs again, louder, and says, "Very well, my prince. Shall we start over?"
She plays the opening scales, which I must have heard about a dozen times today, and begins to sing, "Upon dark waters mirrored were the stars... Prince Findekáno, I cannot hear you!"
It is no wonder that she cannot hear me, for I am neither playing nor singing along, instead staring down at the sheet before me. The notes are clustered impossibly tight, and if I had not heard other people play this tune before, I would assume that it is necessary to have three or four hands in order to manage.

There is yet another sigh. "I did warn you that this song might be challenging." What she actually had said was 'somewhat beyond your capacities'. Not that it makes much of a difference. It is challenging, and I my capacities are clearly not up to the challenge yet.
"But you insisted," Caliën rants on. "So do not blame me if you find this lesson cumbersome. You have only yourself to blame – or Macalaurë perhaps." Her lips are very thin after she says the name, because a while back Macalaurë has bested her in a musical contest even though he is a lot younger. It does not matter that Macalaurë bested the other contestants too. Caliën is taking it as a personal affront.

She is twice – no, thrice unfair, I think. Firstly it's not Macalaurë's fault that he plays better than she. Secondly I am not blaming anyone except for myself, so she doesn't have to tell me not to blame her. Thirdly, if I were blaming anyone but myself, it should not be Macalaurë.
When I expressed my desire to learn to play Rúmil's Song of the Trees, my parents asked why, and I must admit that I was not entirely truthful. I said that I had heard cousin Macalaurë play it, and that I found it very beautiful, and wanted to learn it.
And it was true that I'd heard Macalaurë play it, and it was beautiful, but then I find everything beautiful that Macalaurë plays, even the silly things, without wanting to learn all of it. And I wouldn't have wanted to learn the Song, either, if Russandol hadn't leaned back and closed his eyes during Macalaurë's performance, and afterwards said, "You know, I do think this is my favourite."

I could not tell my parents this, for Father has previously told me to 'stop idolising Russandol'. I could not answer then, because I did not know what 'idolising' meant and I could hardly ask Father, who obviously thought I knew. I had to wait until I was visiting my cousins again, and then I asked Uncle Fëanáro, who knows everything about words and likes to explain them. Uncle Fëanáro said that it meant 'to adore someone or something excessively'.
I thought I understood, but asked just in case, "Like the Valar?"
Uncle Fëanáro has a special smile when he is delighted (although Aunt Nerdanel calls it devious), and he smiled that smile then and told me that I was a very clever boy.
(And my parents wonder why I like these visits to Uncle Fëanáro and Aunt Nerdanel and my cousins so much.)

I am not adoring Russandol like I adore the Valar, but if I had been truthful and said that I wanted to learn Rúmil's Song of the Trees because it was Russandol's favourite song, they would surely have accused me of idolising him anyway. I am not idolising him, not at all. I just want to be able to play his favourite song at his next begetting day celebration, as a gift. I know that it was wrong to lie, but I did not want to be admonished yet again. It was not a very big lie at any rate.

"Are you even listening to me?" says Caliën, her eyebrows contracting threateningly, and I realise that I got lost in thought and haven't heard what she last said.
"Yes, sorry, Mistress Caliën," I hastily say, and her brows grow smooth again.
"Well, then," she says in a somewhat less angry voice. "Again. One, two..."
I try to keep up with her, but even though she is playing slowly for my sake I don't stand a chance. The tune is beyond my capacities, not just 'somewhat' as she so politely said but far, far beyond. This will go on for weeks if not months. My fingers will look like Macalaurë's do, with hard, callused fingertips, by the time I finally master this tune. I know that Macalaurë's fingers hurt a great deal when he began to take up the harp, and though I try to picture Russandol's surprised delight (he has a smile much like his father's when he is delighted, but it is sweeter) when he hears me play this tune, even that cannot overcome my momentary despair. Something in me tells me that even if I play my fingers raw, I will not manage to play this song even half as well as Macalaurë did. So it would be pointless pain, and this is pointless frustration.

I am no longer playing. I botched it before we even reached the end of the first stave. Caliën's lips are pressed very thin again to keep all her words safely inside, and her breath is pointedly even. Russandol taught me how to breathe very slowly when I am on the verge of exploding, so I know what Caliën is trying to do. She is trying not to snap at me. I feel sorry for her and also sorry for myself, although I know that this is my fault.
I wonder what Russandol would do if he had maneuvered himself into a situation like this. He probably wouldn't have because he is much smarter than I am. But if, if... he'd try to find what he calls 'a compromise'. He'd find the honourable way out. I try to find the honourable way out.

The honourable way out, I suppose, is to admit that I overreached myself, to apologise to Caliën for wasting her time and wearing her out, and to forget this stupid idea until I am older and can play the harp well enough to consider tackling this song again. That may be never. I have no talent for the harp. Caliën is a very good harpist and she does her best to teach me, but it doesn't do much good. Father always says that I will learn it in time, but he looks a little disappointed whenever I have to demonstrate my skill. Now that probably is Macalaurë's fault; he has given Father expectations that I cannot fulfil. I don't have that sort of talent. I am not Macalaurë.
I am not Russandol either, but I nonetheless try to do what he would do, even though I hate admitting that I am wrong. "I am sorry, Mistress Caliën," I say, and she frowns. "I don't think I'll manage to learn it properly at the moment. Perhaps it is better if I waited a few years, and then maybe you're still willing to teach me?"
A surprised smile creeps onto her face. She puts her harp aside, and brushes her very fair hair back behind her ears, and says, "That is a very good idea, Prince Findekáno." She doesn't even try to mask her relief. She is happy, I think, because I gave in and she did not have to offend me or Father by saying that I'm no good. I try to smile in return to show that I am not angry (or peevish or rebellious).

"I am sure that you will find it a lot easier in a few years' time," Caliën says, and she makes it sound as though she believes it.

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