The High King of the Noldor pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers, hoping to stave off what was threatening to turn into a headache.
Yet another thing they hadn’t even known was possible in Aman.
He missed Aman, not that he could ever admit it to anyone, not even his own children. As the King, he had to set the example, had to stand firm and be an inspiration. Kings couldn’t have moments of weakness where others could see them. As a father, he needed to stay strong for his children. But the missing was there all the same.
He missed Treelight. He missed safety. He missed his darling Anairë, who had been far too wise to follow his deranged half-brother. He missed the days when he wouldn’t have dreamed of appending ‘half-‘ to brother.
He missed a million and one things about his old life, but he missed his family most of all – his family as they had been, imperfect and fractious but whole and undamaged.
No, that was unkind, for he understood Fëanaro better now that he has also lost a parent. Valar help him, he missed Fëanaro, too. He’s not sure his brother had ever been whole and undamaged, certainly not within Nolofinwë’s lifetime. But it’s hard not to be unkind when his idiot big brother, who was supposed to be leading this mad venture had gone and gotten himself killed, sticking Nolofinwë with trying to pick up the pieces.
It had been quite the glorious smash this time – the headlong charge against an Enemy that far outmatched him, the self-immolation, the parting flourish of committing his sons afresh to his unfulfillable Oath.
Nolofinwë would find it much easier to forgive his brother had Fëanaro damaged only himself, but all the rest of the family were hopelessly tangled in the wreckage, their followers helpless bystanders with no way to avoid the consequences. He could forgive his brother much, but he is not sure he can forgive him this: the irreversible damage done to their family – and to his nephews in particular.
Intellectually, he could say that Fëanaro had been unhinged by their father’s death, with no other parent to help him process his grief. But as both son and father, there was much about his brother’s behavior he still could not wrap his head around. He had grieved his father also, but he had not turned his thoughts to leading all their people on a quest for vengeance, or forsaking all bonds of family and friendship.
It had been a secret relief when Findekano snuck away from their camp in search of Maitimo, and certainly not a surprise. While as a father he had feared for his son, as an uncle and as a prince, he had felt it right that someone should at least try. His oldest nephew they might still be able to save; the youngest they could only sing laments for.
That he does not think he can ever forgive his brother – or think his brother should forgive himself. Telufinwë’s death might not have been at his father’s hand, but it had certainly been at his father’s order.
Having lost a son himself, Nolofinwë cannot conceive of how Fëanaro had not kept track of his sons. Barring Finno’s trip to Thangorodrim, he has known exactly where Finno, Turvo, Irissë, and Itarillë were at all times since they lost Elenwë on the Ice. He did not sleep unless he knew where they slept – or if they did not sleep, why they did not.
There are days when he thinks he would happily trade places with his brother, and be the one in Mandos. (If, indeed, that is where his brother is, and not in the Void he swore himself to.) Whenever he thinks such things, though, he pulls himself up short with the reminder that if Fëanaro could not be trusted with his own sons by the end, he certainly couldn’t be trusted with his nephews, nieces, or the rest of the Noldor.
He wonders, too, what news their mothers have heard of them since the Exile. Anairë was not the only princess of the Noldor who had watched with set jaw and a face gone bloodless as all her children marched away. Did she know that she had lost a son? Did Nerdanel? What of his own mother – did she know that Fëanaro, a son of her heart if not her body, was dead?
What he would not give to turn back relentless time, to return to the days when his people were happier and his family if not exactly whole, at least more united than they were now.
His family, reunited.
He was not sure such a thing was even possible. And yet…
The idea would not leave him.
If the Noldor could not stand united, what hope had they for any alliances? The other elves of Beleriand looked on them with varying degrees of suspicion and skepticism. Even his father’s great friend Elwë held them at arm’s length, sensing that something about their host was not as it should be.
He can’t turn back the clock, but perhaps they can begin anew.
They will have a feast. They will reunite. They will pick up the pieces and mend what can be mended. And then…
If they can do that, there may yet be some hope in these shadowed lands.
When his father had first announced the idea, it had crossed Findekano’s mind that perhaps Atto was losing it. It wouldn’t exactly be a surprise, would it? Uncle Fëanaro had gone mad, what if it ran in the family?
Yes, he missed the family gatherings of his youth as much as anyone else. But under the circumstances, he couldn’t see putting all his cousins, his brother, sister, himself, and their father all in the same place at once as anything but a recipe for disaster.
You practically had to draw diagrams of who couldn’t be allowed near who to keep fights from breaking out! (At last count: Tyelko had to be kept away from Irissë; Ango and Aiko separated from Moryo; Laurë wasn’t supposed to be near Tyelko, Kano, or Moryo; not let any Fëanorion encounter Turvo; and Artë wasn’t terribly keen on her ‘half-cousins’ either, though she had reluctantly allowed that it was really only Tyelko she wanted to kill – and as far as anyone could tell, she meant it.)
But as the time drew closer for the Feast of Reuniting, he couldn’t avoid noticing that everyone seemed excited about it, from the servers who bore the food into the hall at meals to the noblest of the lords. The Sindar they interacted with the most were eager as well, chattering happily about friends and kin making the journey from more distant villages or from the Falas to attend.
Perhaps his father was onto something. People needed more than just vengeance and the promise of new lands to explore. Most of the Noldor had not come for his uncle’s promise of freedom from Valarin interference; they had come out of respect for Finwë and his sons, or love of them, or worst of all, love of someone else who was coming.
The steady bleed of lives has taken its toll. They’d lost people in Alqualondë, before they’d even set foot outside Aman, never mind the cruel trek across the Ice. By the time they’d reached Beleriand, they had been but a shadow of the proud Noldor of Tirion. Finery, treasures, manners, and pride alike had been cast aside along the way – the only things that made it to Beleriand besides the people themselves had been that which was necessary to survival.
For those used to the comfort and finery of Tirion, life on these harsh shores had been a shock. That the Fëanorions were suffering also had been of little satisfaction – especially not when much of their suffering was self-inflicted. They certainly hadn’t known deprivation or cold the way the rest of the Noldor had.
That his uncle was dead had been something of a smothered relief, for few in the host that had braved the Ice had any trust left in the once-vaunted genius of the king who had left them to either be reviled as faithless traitors in Aman or die on the Helcaraxë.
The uneasy détente between Nolofinwë’s camp and the Fëanorions had not grown any warmer or more comfortable in the years since Nelyo had abdicated in favor of Atto. He has scarce seen Nelyo since he and his brothers moved east after that disastrous council several years back, for generally Kano, Tyelko, or Curvo were sent to represent him in Mithrim – and even then, only briefly at need. Moryo seemed to be on something of a time-out in the furthest reaches of East Beleriand, and Ambarussa can’t be sent anywhere on his own.
So it was with some satisfaction that Findekano entered his father’s tent at Ivrin to announce that the final preparations were complete, and the first guests were expected to arrive shortly to find they have been looked for and their places prepared.
His father smiled.
“Excellent. You have been a great help these past few months, Finno. I thank you.”
“It is no less than you should expect from me, Father,” he said.
It was true – his father should expect that much of him. After all, he was now the Crown Prince of the Noldor, uncomfortable as the title sat on him. The title – and the expectations that went with it.
In Tirion, where politics had been more a hobby than a business, marriage was personal, and the begetting of offspring not open as a subject of polite discussion outside of one’s immediate family. Here in Beleriand, marriages to cement alliances were not unheard of among the moriquendi. It could not be ruled out that the Dark Elves might expect something similar for the heir of the Noldaran.
Findekano had no interest in any such match, and had thus far managed to avoid the topic. But he had no illusion that he would be able to dodge the issue forever – certainly not when they expected ambassadors from many of various groups of Sindar and Nandor to attend his father’s feast.
And no matter who he married, everyone would expect the Crown Prince to produce an heir, for it was impossible to overlook that death was a constant possibility for any king or prince here.
His father sighed.
“Finno,” he said quietly. “Look at me.”
Findekano reluctantly looked up, unwilling to have his father glean his thoughts – something direct eye contact would make easier. At times like this, he was devoutly thankful Uncle Ara had remained in Aman.
“This is not just about politics,” Nolofinwë said quietly. “It is also a time for us to try to regain some of what we lost. A time for family, and for old… friends.”
It was the closest he imagined his father would ever come to putting into words the relationship he must have long suspected to exist between his eldest son and his eldest nephew – one which even moderate sections of society in Tirion would have disapproved of, and the conservatives outright denounced.
“I will not stand in the way of whatever joy you can contrive for yourself here, Findekano,” his father continued tiredly.
Findekano’s eyes widened in shock. Surely his father could not be saying what he thought he was hearing. Prince Nolofinwë could not possibly have given his blessing to such a pair, nevermind King Nolofinwë. Quite aside from the protests that would be raised to two neri declaring themselves mates, relationships between first cousins were taboo.
“I would, however,” his father told him, “ask that you remain discreet.”
He held up a hand to forestall any protest on Findekano’s part.
“There are many who will object to Nelyo being perceived to have any influence on the Crown Prince, or whisper that he manipulates you,” Nolofinwë said flatly. “And you, my son, do not have the temper to suffer such slurs on your beloved quietly. If you are truly set on this course, I would advise you to put more serious effort toward governing your tongue than you did as a youth.”
Findekano could only blink and wonder if perhaps he were in some odd sort of waking dream.
“As to heirs, I do not think it wise for the two of you to contemplate parenthood just yet.”
Findekano’s jaw worked soundlessly, because that wasn’t something he had even realized was possible.
“As much time as you two ostensibly spent in the Royal Library, and you never once noticed… oh, nevermind, what does it matter now? You will think on what I’ve said?”
Findekano nodded mutely, still shocked that his father – his wonderful, amazing father – was saying any of this, let alone that he seemed to think it all so perfectly obvious.
“I… thank you, Atto,” he managed at last.
“You are not the first, Finno,” his father assured him, “nor do I think you will be the last to find that the heart that beats in time with your own happens to lodge in the body of a ner rather than a nis. I can see no point in adding to the misery of exile by forbidding you this. Besides, you would only do it anyway.”
“Wouldn’t,” Findekano muttered mulishly.
His father laughed.
“You would, and what’s more, you’d then behave as you used to as a child, when one of your grandparents or uncles had slipped you some treat you knew you shouldn’t have had but took anyway.”
Nolofinwë embraced his son.
“You are my son, and I know you and love you – and I would see you seize what happiness you can find here, for I fear it is likely to prove short-lived.”
“Thank you, Atto,” FIndekano murmured, resting his head on his father’s shoulder.
Just for that one moment, he felt as he had when he was little – as if his father could and would protect him from all harm by the fire of his fëa alone.
When he lifted his head, his father straightened his circlet for him and patted down his robes, a gesture that reminded him painfully of Ammë.
“Remember, Finno, discretion,” his father repeated sternly.
Findekano nodded, and with a smile turned to leave. He could think of one guest in particular he was eager to greet.
“Oh, and Findekano?” his father called after him. “When you’re not otherwise occupied, do try to keep Tyelkormo away from your sister.”
With a laugh, Findekano went to find a place where he would be able to spot Maitimo arriving, all but bursting to tell him about the extraordinary conversation he’d just had.
He can’t believe they are doing this. Worse, he can’t believe he’s expected to go along with it as if he’s happy to see the sons of Fëanaro, as though he can forget what they did. He’ll never be able to forget, not ever.
His memory is as flawless as any other elf. He can still hear it, still see it, still feel it.
His beloved Elenwë, slipping beneath the freezing water – no, colder than freezing, but the salt of the sea kept it from freezing as fresh water would – their darling daughter too cold and exhausted from her ordeal to even scream when she felt the breaking of the bond between them. Itarillë turning blue, her limbs stiffening even as her frantic aunts worked to warm her, to keep her among the living.
He’d nearly lost them both.
And then had come the horrific realization that there was no help for his child on the Ice. There was too little light, too little warmth, too little food. Despite all their best efforts, they were unable to heal her properly. Itarillë’s damaged leg had worried him every long step of the way to Beleriand, wondering if she would ever walk again.
His wife is dead, and his child still carried the scars of that day, yet his family thought he could stand to break bread and make merry with the faithless killers responsible for it?
Even Ingo doesn’t seem to understand that he has less than no desire to see any of their half-cousins, not even Curufinwë. Actually, especially not Curufinwë, who looks so like the father whose name he shared.
He’s latched onto Ingo, despite knowing that it means there will be no avoiding the third member of their once indissoluble trio. At least if he has Arafinwë’s oldest son as a buffer, he won’t be expected to be talkative or make conversation. Ingo can talk enough for both of them.
His father, of course, had brushed off any objection he’d attempted to raise to Itarillë spending time with Tyelperinquar.
“Be reasonable, Turvo,” Nolofinwë said, and Turukano could hear the patience his father was straining to hold onto in his voice. “The boy is a child – he is not to blame for the actions of his grown kin. He sees other children no more often than little Rillë does. Let them play! There will be time enough for the harsh realities of the world when they are grown.”
If they are lucky enough to live so long, he was startled to hear his father add, really more to himself.
He’d given his grudging permission, and reluctantly admitted his father might be in the right when his daughter’s face lit up like a sunrise at the idea of a playmate.
There had been a time when they would have naturally been the best of friends, his Itarillë and Curufinwë’s Tyelperinquar. Tyelpë was only a few years older than Itarillë, and Turukano had chided his then best friend severely for not giving him warning before begetting a son – they were both born in the same year as Ingo, and been inseparable all their lives. He would have wished the same for their eldest children. Curvo – for he had still been Curvo then – had laughed and promised to give him fair warning for the second child.
Neither of them would be having a second child. Curufinwë’s wife Tyelpesilmë had accompanied him to Formenos, but when it came to the Exile, refused to leave Aman. She had objected to her son leaving, but been powerless to prevent a prince of the Noldor determining his son’s fate. Elenwë had refused to be parted from her husband while she had any choice, but the Ice had left her none.
He wonders, sometimes, what Silmë thinks. Did she regret her choices as he did? Did she know what her husband had done, what he had become? Did she worry every minute of every day for her only child? Or did she give thanks that she was still in a land of safety, beyond the reach of Morgoth?
He would send his daughter back to that safety, if he could. Even if he could not go himself. Fine, and he’d send Tyelperinquar, too, were it possible, for Silmë’s sake if nothing else. But it was not possible. Among the other things he cannot ever forget are the words of the Doom.
He will never forgive his cousin for putting their children in such danger.
Nor will he forgive himself.
Finno told her, as a confidence, that Atto has asked him to make sure Tyelko is kept away from her.
That suited Irissë just fine, because she wanted nothing to do with him. She might have been able to overlook one of his major sins. But not all of them together. He tried to kill Artë. He abandoned her to walk across the bloody Ice. And he didn’t even keep Ambarussa safe.
He’s as dead to her as if she’d seen his corpse – and thanks to him, she’s seen plenty of those. She’ll never be the girl who was stupidly, heedlessly, head over heels in love with him ever again. That girl died in Alqualondë with Artë’s uncles. She drowned in the blood with screams ringing in her ears.
What was left of her heart had frozen on the Helcaraxë, one dead child at a time, until there was nothing that hadn’t turned to Ice except the space occupied by her brothers, Artë, and Itarillë. She hadn’t even had room for Atto for a time, not when he hadn’t been able to protect them.
She’s managed to absolve her father, and to some degree herself for failing so badly. She hadn’t been able to hold onto her anger at Atto after Aryo was killed. Forgiving herself is still a work in progress, and maybe someday she’ll manage it.
But Tyelko’s crimes are beyond her forgiveness. Especially when she remembers that it wasn’t just her he left. Every single one of their dead is as much his doing as his father’s.
It’s hard to believe now that she’d ever trusted him with her body, let alone her heart.
So between her brothers, her true cousins, and her own self, Tyelko won’t get within spitting distance of her – which is good, because spitting is the least of what she’d do to him if he came bounding up to her with that stupid hopeful grin as if all that lay between them was some minor spat over who was the better rider or something equally inane.
She deliberately dances with as many of the Sindar and Nandorin men as she can, not because she’s trying to make him jealous so much as to prove the point that she can and will have a good time and a good life without him. She doesn’t need someone who didn’t think of her when she needed him most. Not as a friend, and certainly not as a mate.
Artë was a great help – after her time in her great-uncle’s kingdom, she spoke the language of the Sindar nearly as well as those born in Beleriand. It was probably easier for her to learn anyway, related as it was to the tongue of her Telerin kin. So she was able to perform introductions, to translate at need, and to point out those most likely to be of interest to Irissë – and to take an interest in her, as well.
She was also able to bring Irissë the news that mattered most.
Tyelko wasn’t even here! Maitimo had ruled that he was likely to cause quarrels if he came, so he hadn’t been allowed. She could relax and enjoy the feast. There would be no fear of a scene. She’s relieved, really.
Ok, and maybe just a little disappointed. She’s quite curious to see if Artë will actually kill him.
She’s so excited that they’re finally having the wonderful feast that Grandpapa promised. And not just because there have been so many cakes and pastries and other special treats on top of her favorite dishes being served at luncheon.
For once, she is not the only child her age. Her cousin Tyelpë been allowed to come with Uncle Curvo – and permitted to play with her, though she can tell that Atto isn’t entirely happy about that for some reason. But Grandpapa had insisted they be allowed.
Even better, Tyelpë is not her only playmate today, for the Sindar and Falathrim have brought children as well. Grandpapa had thought of that and invited other children specifically so she would not be stuck sitting at the table with the grownups, trying to be on her best company behavior and look as though it was fun to listen to them talk and talk and talk all the day long.
The Sindarin children know songs and games that she and Tyelpë have never heard or played before, and they were curious to see Noldorin games and hear more about the marvelous trees they’ve heard their parents speaking about. It took Itarillë some time before she realized that they don’t mean just any trees, but the Trees. She is sorry to have to tell them that she really doesn’t remember much of the Trees before they died.
To her surprise, these children clearly regard trees being destroyed as a tragedy on par with people being killed - she is offered sincere condolences on the deaths more than once.
There were also some Nandor children, who were very jolly to play with but hard to talk to, for their tongue was not the same as Sindarin. (And even Sindarin is new to her, but her tutor gives her lessons and she has plenty of chance to practice, for they see plenty of grown Sindar at Nevrast, and none of them ever seem to mind talking to her.) Fortunately, some of the Sindarin children appeared to know a bit of the Nandorin tongue, and a few of the Nandorin boys knew some Sindarin, so with good will and a little patience on all sides it was enough to get by.
She giggled as she watched Amroth explaining by a combination of word, gesture, and facial expression to one of the Nandorin boys that he was definitely ‘out’, for he had been tagged fair and square by Tyelpë in the game they were playing. Itarillë herself had been ‘out’ quite early, for she still didn’t run quite as fast as the others, but she could run now, and she’s sure soon enough she’ll be able to outpace any of them.
“Are you young ones getting along?” came a friendly sounding voice.
She looked up to find a tall silver haired man, one of the Sindar, but not anyone’s parent that she recognized, had joined her.
“Oh, yes!” she told him happily. “It’s so nice to have other kids around!”
He smiled, but it was one of those not entirely happy smiles she often saw on Atto. She wasn’t sure what exactly she’d said that he wouldn’t smile properly, so she tried again.
“They know so many new games, and Tyelpë and I are happy to learn,” she said.
She decided it was best not to mention that they probably wouldn’t have a chance to play the games again anytime soon, since there weren’t enough children at Mithrim, Nevrast, or at the stronghold Uncle Curvo was building in a place called Himlad to make most of the games they’d learned work.
There were a few skipping or dancing games that the Nandorin girls had shown them that might work for only one or two though, Itarillë reflected, using that thought to keep a real smile on her face.
“Are you somebody’s atar?” she asked, remembering that Grandpapa had said part of the reason for this feast was to get to know their new neighbors and allies.
The man smiled.
“No, not yet, but perhaps someday,” he told her. “My name is Celeborn. The rascal out there playing referee for your game is one of my young kin, and it is my turn to be sure he is remembering his manners.”
“A star shines on the hour of our meeting, Celeborn,” Itarillë replied, making sure to show that it wasn’t just the young Sindar who were remembering their manners. “I am Itarillë Turukaniel. Amroth is being very polite, and explaining the rules of the game to all of us no matter which language we speak.”
This time Celeborn’s smile seemed genuine.
“I do not believe I have met your father yet, but looking at your hair, I would guess you are also kin to Artanis Nerwen?” he asked indulgently.
“Yes, she is my aunt – do you know her?” Itarillë asked, thinking to herself that it would be good if he did. And if he did not, well, she could do introductions!
Aunt Irissë had been dancing all the day long. Aunt Artanis had not, but she should dance. She needed cheering up, for she had the look on her face that would not bother anyone who did not know her, but meant that she was out of sorts to those who did.
“I have seen her from time to time in Menegroth,” Celeborn replied.
Itarillë’s eyes went wide, for she had heard some of Uncle Ingo’s tales of the magical caves, and secretly hoped that maybe, even though she wasn’t Great-Uncle Arafinwë’s granddaughter, she might get to visit them.
Unless… she chewed her lip. Uncle Ingo exaggerated sometimes when he was in what Atto called a ‘poetic mood’.
“I can see there is a question you are trying very hard not to ask for fear of perhaps breaking some rule of etiquette,” Celeborn said gravely. “I suggest we make a deal – you ask your question, and in return for me assuring anyone who might ask that you have been the very model of what a Noldorin princess should be, you will help me find your aunt. Does that sound fair to you?”
Celeborn was wonderful – he was offering not one, but two things she wanted, and without her prompting him at all. She was sure if she brought him to Aunt Artanis, maneuvering him into asking her to dance would be simple!
“It is a bargain,” she announced regally. “I wanted to ask you if Menegroth is as spectacular as my uncle tells me it is?”
“Which uncle?” Celeborn asked. “If it is Angarato who has been speaking to you, perhaps. He is a man of few words, but I have always found them to be honest ones.”
“Uncle Finderato,” Itarillë said nervously.
Oh dear. Uncle Ingo must have exaggerated, or Celeborn would have said him first instead of Uncle Ango…
“Finderato probably does not do Menegroth justice,” Celeborn replied with a laugh. “He has seen only the smallest fraction of it. He has yet to glimpse the butterfly room, or the rainbow chamber…”
Itarillë’s eyes went wide with wonder.
“There is a whole room for butterflies?” she squeaked.
“Indeed, they are particular favorites of Princess Luthien,” Celeborn told her. “She insisted on a room just for them, with all manner of flowers that they like.”
Itarillë sighed wistfully at the thought. She just had to visit!
“As to the rainbow chamber, Finderato has not seen it, but if we find your Aunt Artanis, she can tell you about it, for she is rather fond of it.”
He held out a companionable hand.
“Yes, let’s find her right away!” Itarillë agreed, now plotting not just to get Celeborn to ask Aunt Artë to dance, but to get Aunt Artë to sing her the rainbow chamber.
“Tyelpë!” she called across the field. “I am going to help Lord Celeborn find Aunt Artë, but I will be back soon!”
As long as someone here knew where she was – for when Atto came looking – it would be all right.
And if she could get Aunt Artanis to smile for real, it would be even better.
With Galadriel’s niece as his guide – and how unpleasant it was to have to call her by that harsh Noldorin name, rather than the one he had given her! – he knew he would find her.
He had met the little girl by chance. His errand had been to see that the young folk of their party, in particular his kinsman Amroth, were behaving creditably. It was meant to be a merry occasion, after all, and the last thing he needed was to have his uncle wroth with him and the others from Doriath who had seized the opportunity to learn a bit more of their new ‘neighbors’. So long as everyone comported themselves appropriately, their presence at the golodhrin feast need never come to the king’s attention…
Happily, the child didn’t seem to mind helping him. He’d noticed that she’d been out rather quickly in whatever variation of tag the children had been playing, so her peers were unlikely to miss her until it was time for a new round. And he thought that Galadriel might appreciate him taking an interest in her niece, unless the Golodhrim looked for very different qualities in potential mates than his own people did.
Little Itarillë, or Idril as she said Amroth had told her she would be called in their tongue, was a charming child, but he noticed she did not walk quite normally, and shortened his own long stride to allow her to keep a more comfortable pace. She seemed quite thrilled by the presence of so many others her own age, from which Celeborn gathered that there were very few children among the Golodh.
He was aware the Mithrim, whose lands were where the girl normally dwelt, had for the most part sent their children to kinfolk in safer places when the influx of golodhrim had come down upon them. He knew those living closest to the newcomers had been slow to bring their youngest ones back, a decision which made more sense to him in light of the lack of golodhrin children – the Mithrim had doubtless not known quite what to make of such a large number of folk without children among them.
She chattered gaily as they walked, pointing out things that took her fancy, and Celeborn couldn’t help wondering if this was what Galadriel had been like as a child. Idril wasn’t very like her aunt in face, but they were both unusual in their light hair among their darker kin, though Idril’s was golden where Galadriel’s meshed the sun and moon, and they were similar in manner.
Idril, it transpired, was enjoying the feast greatly, not only because it gave her the rare chance to not only play with others her own age, but also because it had let her finally catch a glimpse of the Laegrim she’s heard so much about. He managed to smother a laugh when she confessed to being disappointed that the Green Elves were not actually green.
“I am called a Grey Elf by your people,” he could not resist pointing out. “As are Amroth and his friends. Surely you did not expect we would be grey?”
Idril shook her head decisively.
“No, I thought we called you Grey Elves after your king, for he is Elwë Greycloak, is he not? So you should wear grey, just as Grandpapa’s followers wear blue.”
Celeborn had to admit there was a certain logic to that. He saw no need to enlighten her that her people had rather less kind reasons for the name, reckoning all peoples they encountered by the Journey and the Trees as they did. She would discover that soon enough.
“But would the Green Elves not be named for their king’s color also?” he asked.
Idril looked vexed.
“I thought so at first,” she replied. “But no one ever spoke of them having a king, or even a lord whose color was green. Besides, we learned the name from your people, yet you do not call yourselves the Grey Elves. So I thought if you called them the Green Elves, when so many other names I learned in your tongue were literal, it must be because the elves themselves were green.”
“I suppose elves with green skin would be quite a sight,” Celeborn admitted. “I can see why you would find the actual Green Elves something of a letdown with such expectations.”
“Oh, look, there is Aunt Artë, speaking with Uncle Maitimo!” Idril exclaimed, pointing toward Galadriel before dropping her hand guiltily, as if pointing were somehow bad manners.
He caught her hand before the girl could rush over to them.
“Perhaps we should wait until they’ve finished their conversation,” he suggested. “You uncle may not appreciate the interruption.”
“You mean you don’t want to go over to them,” Idril replied sagely, peering intently at him.
“You’re not scared of him,” she said thoughtfully. “Some people are, you know, even though Uncle Maitimo is one of my nicest uncles. So if that’s not why you don’t want to go over- are you doing something naughty by being here?”
The look she gave him was somewhere between thoughtful and reproach.
“Not naughty, exactly,” Celeborn replied. “Have you heard the grownups speak of King Thingol?”
“He is the king of your Menegroth,” she said, and did not quite suppress a sigh.
Celeborn smiled. Between the rainbow chamber and the butterfly room, it was clear the little girl’s dearest ambition was now to see the Thousand Caves, and she was certainly old enough to have heard that it was only Galadriel and her brothers of her people who had Thingol’s permission to enter his realm.
“He is not only the king. He also my uncle,” he told her conspiratorially. “And officially the only Iathrim charged to attend this feast are Daeron the bard and Mablung the marchwarden as his guard for the journey here and back…”
“You will be in trouble if your uncle finds out!” Idril finished, pleased with her own cleverness at putting it together.
Celeborn smiled at both the child’s pride as well as her quick wit.
“Grownups have to worry about getting in trouble too?” Idril asked uncertainly.
“From time to time,” Celeborn replied. “But while I should greatly like to speak to your aunt, I would rather not put the rest of your kin in an uncomfortable position – particularly since I should probably not come to your grandfather’s attention.”
“Because grandfather would have to tell your uncle?”
“Something like that,” he agreed.
“I won’t tell,” she said solemnly. “It doesn’t seem wrong for you to be here when everybody was welcome to come. Grandpapa will want to hear about the other children, anyway, so as long as I tell him all about Amroth and Lossen and having great fun with Tyelpë, he will not think to ask about grownups. It is Aunt Artanis you should worry about.”
“Oh?” Celeborn asked.
“She is not very happy.”
Celeborn waited, suspecting she would tell him more.
“Not all my uncles were allowed to come.”
Celeborn privately thought it sounded rather as if her absent uncles were in trouble, but decided it was better not to raise that notion with a little girl. Getting in hot water with his own uncle he could handle, if it came to that. Stirring up trouble of unknown dimensions with the golodhrim was another matter.
“And your aunt is disappointed?”
“I do not think so, at least, not exactly. Uncle Curufinwë and Uncle Maitimo are here, and they are the ones she most wanted to see. I am not sure why she is not happy. But she has been out of sorts all day.”
“Aunt Artë likes to dance, you know,” she said meaningfully. “She’s very good at it.”
“I shall see what I can do,” Celeborn answered gravely. “Look, there goes your uncle. We had better catch your aunt’s eye before anyone else claims her.”
Idril tried to wave, but she was too small to be seen easily with so many full-grown elves about. Celeborn hoisted her up onto his shoulders, drawing a squeal of delight from the girl – and drawing Galadriel’s eye.
She blinked in surprise at seeing Idril so much taller than usual until she saw why. Celeborn was pleased to see her smile as she came toward them.
He grinned. It wasn’t often he succeeded in surprising her, but he’d managed it this time.
“I thought you would be off with the other young ones, Itarillë,” she chided as she reached them.
“I was, but I found a new friend,” Idril answered cheerfully. “New to me, that is.”
Galadriel smiled indulgently.
“And what has your new friend been telling you?” she asked archly.
“Butterfly room!” was all Idril could manage.
Galadriel shot him a look that was only slightly reproachful.
“I see now what song you’ll want to hear tonight,” she told Idril. “I’ll tell Irissë I’m to sing you to sleep, shall I?”
“Yes, please, Auntie!” was the excited reply.
“Run along, sweetling, Tyelpë will be looking for you,” Galadriel said.
Idril gave him a pointed look before she took herself off – though he suspected she wasn’t going very far. That comment about dancing had been not much shy of a command. He wasn’t certain why Galadriel dancing was so very important to her, but as she had her heart set on it he wasn’t about to deny the child. Particularly not when it was something he wanted to do anyway!
Artanis frowned as Maitimo – no, Nelyo now, he did not care for Maitimo anymore, she must remember that – moved off.
Though she knew her uncle had hoped all his kin would attend this feast, she could not help but think her oldest cousin was right to bar Tyelko and Moryo. If the aim of the gathering was to mend fences and bring them closer to their new allies, those two were a risk.
And maybe Maitimo had known that she and Irissë still burned with anger at Tyelko. Irissë might scoff that she didn’t want to see him, but if he had been here, there would surely have been a scene of some sort.
Artanis is honest enough to admit that scene would likely have involved her. Nor is she sorry to have avoided it, this time at least. They can’t be kept apart indefinitely. Banishment had been a novel idea on the Valar’s part, but that wasn’t how the House of Finwë fought among themselves.
But that was not the reason she frowned.
Had she not known that only Daeron and a single guard had been sent from Doriath, she would have sworn that Celeborn was about somewhere. But that was impossible. Elu Thingol wanted as little to do with the Noldor as possible – which meant his grandnephew was certainly not here, no matter how his grandniece might wish it.
Her eye was suddenly caught by little Itarillë towering above the crowd – though not as high as she would have if it were Turvo carrying her on his shoulders.
No, the face that grinned back at her, smug at having surprised her, was definitely not her cousin – at least, not her first cousin.
Celeborn did not wait for her to come to him, but met her halfway, sliding little Rillë back to the ground with a bow that made the girl giggle.
She could not help the smile that crept onto her lips at the easy rapport between the two of them, the tall prince of the Sindar and the littlest princess of the Noldor.
She was less pleased to hear that Rillë was full of enthusiasm about the charms of Menegroth – at least, those charms that would hold most sway for a child. What had Celeborn been thinking, filling her head with tales of wonders she had no hope of being admitted to see for herself? Or had he not kept in mind that for all her golden hair, Rillë was her cousin’s child, not her brother’s? Only Olwë’s kin were welcome in Doriath.
Nor did she miss that the girl only scampered far enough away to think herself not obvious.
She raised an eyebrow at Celeborn.
“What mischief have the two of you been cooking up?” she asked.
“Mischief?” he replied, all innocence. “I don’t know what you speak of, my lady.”
At her skeptical look, he relented.
“I am not quite under orders, but it seems your niece feels you have not been dancing enough of late,” he told her. “I must confess that is a surprise, knowing how fond you are of dancing…”
“Most men,” she said tartly, “ask a woman to dance plainly.”
He grinned, and offered her his hand.
“Would you care to dance, my lady?”
She gave him a sidelong glance as she took his hand and allowed him to lead the way toward the open area where the musicians held court. Later in the evening, there would surely be a competition between Kano and Daeron – the wagers as to who was the better singer were being conducted with the fierceness of a bloodless war, and her brothers had so far refused to publicly commit to either side – but for now it was dancing tunes.
“How are you even here?” she demanded as they drew together, moving with the music. “I hear my uncle express his disappointment that Doriath sent only Daeron to represent them.”
He smirked as he stepped a touch closer than most of her cousins would consider appropriate.
“We Iathrim are the king’s people, not the king’s prisoners. We may come and go as we choose. And as most of your people have never met more than a handful of Grey Elves if that, my silver head means nothing to them.”
While light hair was not unknown among the Sindar, in Doriath it was primarily found in those closely related to Thingol. Though Luthien had the dark hair of her mother, Celeborn and his cousins were all silver haired.
“They would have to be blind to miss that your clothing is not much different from Daeron’s,” she pointed out.
“Have they seen enough Grey Elves to know the difference between our garb and that of the ones you call Mithrim?” he asked. “It seems to me most of the golodhrim do not know one Grey Elf from another. And while I have been making merry and observing your people, I have not been introduced to many. So long as my name and my relation to the king does not come to the attention of your king or his sons, I am free to make merry as a simple Grey Elf.”
She gave him a reproachful look.
“This is supposed to be a feast of-”
“Re-uniting,” Celeborn cut in smoothly. “Your uncle may have had his own kin in mind above all others, but in the spirit of re-uniting, must I confess it was primarily Galadriel the lady of light I thought of.”
To that she had no answer.
“It seems a shame to quarrel over the differences in custom between our peoples,” Celeborn continued. “I acknowledge that I was at least as much at fault as you when we parted, if not more, and I apologize for it. I will not press you further on the matter.”
“That may not be enough.”
The dance continued.
“Enough to make up, surely?”
“It will not be the last time we run into differences between your people and my father’s,” she said crisply. “That needs no foresight to recognize, only common sense. If we’re going to fight over it every time, we might as well part ways now.”
“I did not think you the type to give up so easily, my lady.”
“This lady, Prince Celeborn, does not care to spend all her life wondering if she is but a word away from a quarrel with her husband at any given moment,” she replied, trying to keep the bitterness from her voice. “And she has had more than enough of being caught between peoples.”
“I am truly sorry, Galadriel. It will not happen again.”
She would have pulled free, except that he acted first, drawing her closer so that he could speak more quietly. Not that it should matter – most of the Noldor dancing around them would not understand Sindarin well enough to follow their conversation.
“Part of trust is speaking honestly with one another. I trust you. I am being honest. I can’t promise we will never disagree again, but I can promise I won’t call your people’s customs foolish when we do. If we agree to respect each other’s ways, no matter how odd they seem to us at first, we should be able to talk out our differences civilly.”
She frowned, but then Celeborn twirled them, and pointed her to where she could just catch a glimpse of Itarillë, clearly thrilled to bits, though whether at the sight of the pair of them or at the cake Curvo had just brought for her and Tyelpë was up for debate. (Turvo was going to be livid.)
“There is no reason why we should not be able to pick and choose which customs to follow, as makes best sense to us,” Celeborn added in her ear. “Rather than say that your people or mine do it thus, we will decide what is right for you and I. Together.”
She could also hear the thought he had not spoken aloud, and might not realize that she had picked up.
And eventually our children.
“That all sounds wonderful, Celeborn, but what do you suggest we do when our people’s customs are diametrically opposed, as they are in this case, and we both think it is the custom of our own people that is right? Besides, if we cannot resolve the difference that caused the quarrel in the first place, we’ll never get to the marriage part.”
“Then we agree to disagree until we can find a way to resolve the matter to mutual satisfaction.”
“Until one of us gives in, you mean? We could be waiting a very long time,” she pointed out. Both of them were strong-willed and reluctant to back down when they felt themselves in the right.
“Until one of us finds a compromise acceptable to both. I am confident we can do that,” Celeborn replied. “Or do you wish to be rid of me?”
“If I wished to be rid of you,” she snorted, “all I had to do was tell my brothers or my cousins what it was we quarreled about. You wouldn’t have gotten within fifty leagues of Ivrin without being trussed up for use as orc bait.”
“I shall take my continued good health and lack of golodhrin princes roaring for my expulsion from this festive occasion as proof that your temper has cooled then, shall I?”
“Indeed,” she replied loftily. “But, as you are here, and in the spirit of the gathering, I accept your apology and your offer.”
This had not been the sort of reuniting her uncle envisioned when he proposed this feast, but she had a feeling it may be the best thing to come of it.
He was pleased to see that Artë and Celeborn appear to have made up. He’s not entirely sure what it was they’d fought about – no telling, really, with two such strong personalities – but given that stubbornness seemed to run in the royal houses of both the Noldor and the Sindar, he’d feared it would be the end of them as a couple.
He’s rather glad to see his fears had been unfounded. He can’t remember the last time he saw his baby sister as happy as she was in Celeborn’s company. Not since the destruction of the Trees, at least. Maybe even longer. He’s even glad enough to stomach the idea that they may behave more as the Sindar do rather than keeping to Noldor traditions about courting and marriage.
Besides, he was relieved to only be wrangling one family problem at a time.
Turukano has emphatically not forgiven Curufinwë.
And to think, they’d all been worrying that Tyelko would be the one who would be at the center of any violence… Though unlike Tyelko, Curvo hasn’t done a blessed thing to provoke it. At least, not that Finderato can see.
He’s been playing buffer all day, but particularly for the last hour, after Turvo nearly blew his top when he found Curvo sitting companionably (and perfectly peaceably) with Tyelperinquar and little Itarillë. He’d brought them slices of nut cake, and glasses of apple juice, and so far as Finderato had been able to tell, been happily listening to both children tell him all about their day so far. (There had been a great many emphatic adjectives in use.)
Curvo has always doted on his son, and was no doubt pleased to see the boy getting on so well with Turvo’s daughter. Given half a chance, he’d probably dote on Rillë just as much as his own boy. Finderato could see no harm in it, and actually thought it rather sweet. But Turvo had seen red.
Finderato had managed to drag Turvo away before he could do anything drastic, or even make a scene, mostly by hissing at him to think of Itarillë and for Nienna’s sake not do anything stupid or unpardonable in front of the children.
They’ve been drinking ever since. It’s not an ideal solution, but Finderato reasoned that if Turvo was legless, he couldn’t very start another Kinslaying. It’s rather difficult to kill your cousin when you can’t even stand up.
And while he’s sure he’ll hear about it later from Uncle Nolo and Aunt Irimë, he’d much rather his uncle scold him for getting his second son drunk than his uncle be shattered by his second son murdering his nephew at what is supposed to be a feast about putting the family back together.
He had no worries about the children. Artanis and Irissë would look after the two little ones when they discovered that the two fathers were the worse for the wear.
He’s not sure how it came to this. They’d been the best of friends once, Turvo, Curvo, and him. Before the Exile, the closest they’d ever come to a fight was when Curvo was so hurt that Turvo hadn’t told them he and Elenwë were planning to beget a child. Itarillë would otherwise have come into the world the same year Tyelperinquar had, for he wanted his children and Turukano’s to be as close as they themselves had been as children.
If it weren’t for the Darkening, Turvo would have been perfectly happy to see Rillë and Tyelpë being friends. If they’d stayed in Aman, it would have been only natural. As it was, though…
“Can’t understand why Atto would even want them here,” Turvo muttered darkly. “Can’t trust them.”
“I don’t think they’re quite as bad as you’re painting them,” Finderato murmured soothingly.
“What part of treason of kin unto kin did you not hear, Ingo?”
“I heard fear of treason also,” Finderato said quietly. “So I will not allow fear to keep me from my dearest friends, kin though they be. Besides-”
He never got to finish the sentence, because Curvo chose that blessed moment to plop down next to him. He hoped Curvo had not caught the topic of discussion. He seemed happy today, for the first time that Finderato had seen in Beleriand.
Thankfully, he chose to keep Finderato between him and Turvo. There was only so much Finderato could do to keep one cousin from killing the other if the cousin who would end up dead insisted on being a bloody idiot…
“Enough of that swill,” Curvo announced cheerfully. “I know you in Mithrim are quite proud you’re pressing your own now, but I’ve got something special.”
The crate he laid on the table was still stamped with the royal seal. Unbroken. Unopened.
“That’s never…” Finderato gasped.
It was only a split second later that his brain caught up with him and he realized this would inevitably remind Turvo that their cousin hadn’t had to march across the Helcaraxë, that he’d been able to carry such a treasure not only to Beleriand, but all the way to his camp at Himlad and back.
“The last from Grandfather’s vineyards,” Curvo confirmed. He sounded more melancholy than proud about it.
He waved a server over and requested a bar to pry open the crate.
“How many bottles are in there, Curvo?” Finderato asked, hoping to stave off whatever outrage Turvo was working up.
“Not sure. Depends on how much straw they packed in around them, I suppose. I think a dozen was standard, but who knows? This was originally meant to be carted to Valimar, but I appropriated it when I was packing.”
“Smart of you,” Finderato said. “Uncle Ingwë can get good wine whenever.”
“So can you,” Curvo snorted. “The Sindar aren’t bad at it, but they won’t trade with us.”
Finderato chose to ignore the not so quiet ‘can’t think why’ from Turvo. Thankfully, so did Curvo.
“We can’t get it often,” Curvo continued, “but there are some remarkably good varieties from the southern reaches of Gelion, or possibly further south still. I’m not quite clear on where the best one comes from.”
The return of the server with the bar and a set of glasses provided a welcome distraction. Curvo liberated the first bottle, relieved to find it undamaged after all its travels, and poured generously for all three of them.
“To family,” he proposed, raising his glass.
“To family,” Finderato repeated, relieved to hear Turvo join the toast, albeit grudgingly.
Perhaps there might be hope they could put the pieces back together after all, he reflected as they drank. To his surprise, Turvo reluctantly offered the next toast.
“To old friends,” he muttered.
“To old friends,” Finderato and Curvo chorused.
Yes, Finderato thought, they could still fix this.
“To reunions,” he proposed.
“To reunions,” his best friends repeated.
And if not… well, at least there was plenty of good wine. As long as Turvo passed out first, it couldn’t turn out too badly.
About the Author
Grundy has been hooked on Tolkien since first seeing the Rankin-Bass animated Hobbit as a kid. (Yes, it’s something of an insult to Thranduil, but the songs are awesome.) Stumbled into writing Silmarillion fic by the unlikely way of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer-Lord of the Rings crossover which prompted thoughts about the First Age. Loves the entire House of Finwë in all their dysfunctional glory. Would be an elf if they waive the height requirement.