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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

AMC--Chapter 45.1

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

AMC--Chapter 45.1

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muses
I call this Chapter 45.1 because it is shorter than most of my chapters, and I am probably going to include further sections in this chapter when I revise. Alas, this is what I have for now, after too many hours of rewriting and reworking this chapter. And do I need to say that I'm still not happy with it? Of course I'm not. So any suggestions for improvement would be most heartily appreciated.

I should have mentioned this prior to posting Chapter Forty-Four, but it slipped my mind. For this entire section from Macalaurë's PoV, I owe a lot of thanks to frenchpony for answering my myriad of questions concerning music and music education and helping me to construct a music school that is somewhat believable. Or, at least, I hope it is! I have, of course, derived a bit to fit more how I see education in Elven society, but this whole chapter was inspired and based off of a conversation we had last week pertaining to placement auditions (which Felak the Musically Challenged didn't even know existed) and the bureaucracy of education.

This has probably been the most challenging chapter I've had to rework so far. Yes, even more so than the notorious Feanaro chapters that needed rewriting and the Magically Disappearing Chapters 42 and 43. I really don't know what I was thinking when I wrote this original chapter--the version that shall never see the light of day--and I'm painstakingly working through all the kinks. So, like I said, if something sounds/feels weird, please let me know. I'm hoping that a few months away from these chapters, once they're posted, will enhance my ability to find out what's missing, what's wrong.

Until then, I give you a (rough) 45.1, without any warnings for once. Thanks, as always, for reading. :)


Chapter Forty-Five
Macalaurë


Nelyo awakens me only two hours later. He is dressed already in light robes, near to what the Teleri wear, and his hair is neatly secured away from his face. He appears as every bit of the prince and scholar that he is supposed to be: proud, dignified, impeccable. But I, who know him, note the paleness of his skin and the bluish circles beneath his eyes and am not fooled by the clean, stately façade he presents.

“Come, Macalaurë,” he says, nudging my shoulder gently. “You asked me to wake you.”

I had expected to be exhausted but I fairly spring from bed and feel a little guilty for my enthusiasm when Nelyo can only manage to shift backwards to escape my flailing arms and clasps his hands at his waist and appraises me in what I think of as a most lordly manner, with his eyebrows raised and an insincere smile on his lips.

“I take it you had fun last night?” he asks, wandering over to his bedside table to retrieve his books.

“I did.” I hesitate. I could gush for hours about Vingarië, about my love for her and my certainty that a few decades will see us married, but it is hard to for my levity to weasel past the somber shroud Nelyo has wrapped around himself. Finally, after many long moments of silence where neither of us speak—and I sense that he is waiting for more details with the dutiful obligation of one who has taken many such liberties and now must grudgingly return the favor—I add, “I met her brothers.”

“Ah. Yes. Turonén and Tindanén. Many times did we meet, during Atar’s and my stays here, during the construction of the quayside. They are great companions. Relay to them, if you will, my fondest wishes.”

You could do so yourself, I think, but do not say it. Nelyo is here to study and will not have much time for socializing.

Swiftly, hoping he will not notice, I change the subject. “When will you go to Taniquetil?”

He notices. He smiles. “When I am ready,” he says. His expression changes, and he resembles more the brother I left behind in Formenos, the brother who—briefly—appeared to me at the sea. “Look at you, Macalaurë, with your hair in disarray and still in your nightclothes. You will not do well to be late on your first day.”

My first day.

My stomach clenches, and I remember that my reason for being here is not Vingarië or her brothers or the wide sea roaring beyond our balcony; my purpose, for once, is much like Nelyo’s: I am supposed to be the proverbial sponge, soaking up knowledge and lore as though it is the reason for my creation. “To bring my music beyond mere instinct,” my tutor once wrote to me, and I’d wanted to scrawl back that I had had instruction, and no, it wasn’t from anyone eminent in music but Atar, and he’d taught me with his warm hands over mine, and for those short moments every week, the songs that sprang from my mind as ideas for craft spring from his had been important enough to warrant his attention. And obviously, I would write, if you believe that music born of mere instinct, is somehow inferior, then you have never had to capture and hold the elusive attention of Curufinwë Fëanaro.

Of course, I had not written those things, and I had—in fact—been loud in my desire to come here and learn among my peers rather than squeezing my lessons between the “Noldorin” pursuits in my day: sculpting, forging, penning endless diatribes on inane minutia. I dwelled on those same bad habits my tutor was convinced exist and Atar’s unsuitability as a music teacher until he gave in. But—here at last—I am not so sure that I belong in either place.

Nelyo has gone to his bed, to sit and open one of the books amid which he’d slept last night. But I see his eyes lifting constantly to watch me removing my robes from the armoire with considerable care, turning my back to him so that he doesn’t see my hands shake. “Macalaurë?” His voice is barely a whisper, but I whip around to face him, as though he’d shouted. “I will walk with you?”

Even as I open my mouth to say no—I am almost forty, after all! I’d arranged this myself! I hardly need my hand held on my first day of lessons!—my chin betrays me and dips into a hasty nod, eyes lowered, quickly turning away to hide my gratitude.

Breakfast is delivered while we dress, and Nelyo makes me sit and eat and keeps up the chatter so that I do not have to. Of course, my thoughts trickle beneath his loquacity, and I am keen to the possibility of failure. I do not belong here. Neither the Teleri nor my own father wanted me here, but my “gift” is such that they felt I should not be denied. So why am I here?

Today, I will be assessed, or so my tutor had said, to see how I will be placed amid the other first-years. And unlike the admission audition—which was done as a performance in the public square, on the instrument and song of my choosing—this will be done with my tutor alone, in a room small and close with perfect acoustics so that I cannot dismiss errors as the play of the wind or being mired by an impertinent burst of applause. I will be made to play the same songs as my peers, and without my father’s warm hands over mine, my slovenliness will be exposed for scrutiny.

I am eating the kiwi that Nelyo put into my hands, and with a quivering panicked squeeze of my stomach, I almost regurgitate the whole thing, saving my clean robes—and Nelyo’s across from me—only by swallowing violently until the nausea passes. I set the fruit aside, any vestige of appetite gone. “Macalaurë,” Nelyo’s hands cover mine, “you belong here. You must know that.”

I do not, but I nod. “I am just nervous.”

“Why? You have played hundreds of times for audiences of lords and kings…and Atar who—for not knowing a whit about music—is quite a formidable critic.” He winks, squeezes my hand. I am not assuaged.

“Yes, but—”

“I know. Anxiety lives in a place where logic does not exist.” Glancing at the light in the window, Nelyo folds his napkin and stands. I follow him, locking my knees to keep them from trembling. Standing in the pale gold light of morning, Nelyo appraises me and smiles. “But you are ready.”

As we pass them on our way out of the palace, the servants bow to me and wish me good luck. I imagine—hope—that I had replied in an appropriate manner, but I find that I take two steps and cannot remember. Nelyo and I walk without speaking; the streets are cast in pale gold light—feather soft and soothing upon my skin already grimy with nervous sweat—and I wish that I could breathe it in, let it wind its way through my blood and my body. I imagine that I would be weightless then and my hands would be as fast and light as rain upon my harpstrings. Faultless.

We walk with a distance between us, and we do not speak. Passersby might think us companions by happenstance only, certainly not brothers (not with my brown hair and slight build and his imposing height and red tangle of plaits; we look nothing alike) if not for the fact that this Alqualondë, and we are united by our strangeness: fiery eyes and oddly colored hair tall above the silvery sea of Telerin heads milling around our shoulders.

The conservatory is at the end of the street, a building—like the palace—designed by my father. I know this by the logic of its structure and the senselessness of its beauty, by the way it is built and situated to capture the Treelight upon its windows and throw it forth like the sparkles on the sea. I wonder, when he made it, if he ever envisioned that his son would attend here. Or did he even envision a son, my father who was adamant for a long while that he did not want children, who set his thoughts against the possibility, even? Would he have laughed at the notion of a Fëanorion in its long halls…or would he have smiled and built it for me?

This is something I dare to never hope. No, he wouldn’t have imagined me at all; even if he believed in my existence, I would be inconsequential to him. Even in the recent months, as our reluctant companionship has bloomed into something that closely resembles friendship (sometimes, in the reverie of weariness, in the silvery night, I dare to hope that it is friendship), I do not believe myself a significant force in his life. His life would be no less without me.

My heart lies now like a brick in my chest; any anxiety of the imminent audition overwhelmed by thoughts of Fëanaro, as Fëanaro has—chief of his many gifts—the power to overwhelm nearly anything.

We stroll toward his building, Nelyo and I, pressed close by the crowd and slowed to meandering. Fishermen are already in the streets, waving about the morning’s catch and trying to entice the sharp-eyed cooks and servants to wander their way. “Swordfish! Grouper!” one calls. His eyes happen on me, note my harp and student’s ledger, and skip away within the space of a second. A moment later, he is bartering with a maid, who wrinkles her nose at his offerings but presses pearls into his hand and flits back in the direction of the royal quarter. The whole transaction takes all of five seconds.

“Watch it,” Nelyo says, catching my arm, guiding me around a kettle of blue crabs a vendor has set out on the sidewalk. Engrossed by the sights of downtown Alqualondë—so different from demure Tirion, where besides the playful fountains, one is apt to hear only the distant sounds of the forge—I would have fallen right over them. “Uh,” I say, grimacing at the slow-wriggling creatures, as I step carefully around. “They look like spiders.”

“Oh, come off it. How do you think the crab salad you adore so much begins?” Nelyo holds fast to my arm and navigates me through the crowd, bringing me closer and closer to Atar’s building, and—pressed involuntarily close to him—I cannot elude the sharp nudge he gives me with his elbow beneath my ribs. I nudge him back, and like two small children, we carry on that way for some time: our faces portraits of dignity; our childishness hidden by our voluminous robes and our close-pressed bodies.

Shortly, the crowds are thinning and most of the other pedestrians appear to be students, like me, with instruments upon their backs and music ledgers in their hands. They greet each other in loud, joyful voices—Telerin accents brighter than the song of the water playing in the fountain in front of the conservatory—but they ignore Nelyo and me, two Noldor not like to them at all and inconsequential in this world.

Nelyo laughs softly as a tiny maiden pushes past me to embrace her friend and fellow student, as though I am invisible, insignificant at least. “They have no idea, do they?”

“No idea of what?”

“Who walks among them.”

I look at him, my heart prodded into frenzy once again. “I do not deserve that, Nel—”

“Do not tell me—who heard your voice at your first cry and every song after—what you do and do not deserve.” Our steps, made languid in the crush of bodies earlier, hasten. He still holds my arm, less for guidance, more for companionship. We have stopped nudging and walk like Noldor, with a purpose, toward the jewel-bright conservatory, briskly, our feet loud and important against the cobblestones. I hold my music ledger tightly, until I can feel my pulse fluttering as fast as butterfly wings against it.

We do not need to climb any steps to enter the conservatory, and this feels strange to me, to step into one of the biggest moments of my life so far without having to first endure a wearying climb. The Noldor feel the need to preface the entrance to any important building with long flights of stairs, offset by brief plateaus with statues and tasteful gardens. Always a fountain. But the pathway to the Telerin conservatory is just wide enough for two to walk and is lined with lamps, not the oil-burning variety common around the city, I see, but Fëanorian lamps, those that glow perpetually with the light of stars. It is practical, I think, how the buildings of Alqualondë are designed. Constantly tramping up and down marble steps becomes tedious after a while, and I’m not sure that my quivering knees could take it.

We pass another student, a Telerin boy a bit older than me. He nods gravely at me, and I nod gravely back. On the path to the conservatory—Noldo or not—he must assume it is obvious that I am a student. If he is surprised by me, his face does not show it, and when I turn to watch him hasten down the path and into the street, he doesn’t likewise look back. We are at the door now, and Nelyo is holding it open for me to step into the vast foyer beyond, soaring ceilings and breathtaking seascapes making me gasp with the briefest forgetfulness that I am not beside the sea but am nervous, heart pounding, inside the Telerin conservatory at last.

A soft-voiced woman directs us down a hallway where other students wait, some playing softly, agitatedly at instruments. Nelyo does not ask if I want him along, and I do not tell him to leave. We stand beside each other, leaning against the wall (for the few benches have already been claimed), and before I can think better of it, I press my cheek to his shoulder and whisper, “I am afraid.”

We leave my harp and ledger and stroll down the hall, where we are afforded more privacy. “Of course you are.” He fixes one of my plaits behind my ear, smoothes the collar of my robes. “And you have every reason to be. So, then, you must convince your body that it is not afraid and hope that your mind will follow.” Without giving me time to reply, he pushes me against the wall with a hand at the center of my chest. “First, breathe. You have not breathed properly since we left the palace this morning, and—although I am no expert—I suspect that this is important for a singer like you.” He winks at me. “And when you breathe, it slows your heartbeat. Now close your eyes….” Ghostlike, tender, his fingers brush my eyelids shut.

I let air sink to the depths of my lungs that—Nelyo is right—I have starved all morning. I cannot see him smile but I hear it in his voice. “See?” My heart, pounding against the flat of his hand, has indeed slowed.

“Now relax each of your muscles in turn, starting here.” He rubs my forehead, moves his fingers over my cheeks and jaws, down my neck and to my shoulders, rubbing from my arms to my fingertips. “How did you learn to do this?” I whisper, opening my eyes to ponder him.

He smiles wryly at me and does not cease his work on my fingers. “Do you think I never feel afraid?”

Once I would have insisted, no, I do not. Now, my gaze skips away from his haunted silver eyes, and I believe him.

From down the hall, my name is called in a Telerin voice, beautiful and terrifying in its pronunciation: “Macalaurë Fëanorion?”

Nelyo does not hug me or squeeze my hand or any of the things that I would expect; he wrings the last bit of tension from my shoulders and opens his hands as though casting it away, then steps aside, already moving toward the foyer and the exit. He will not be here when I am done; I am alone.

“Breathe,” he says over his shoulder and smiles, turning for the door.
~oOo~

Diligence and discipline, I learn, do not belong solely to the Noldor, and many hours later—shoulders aching and fingers hot with the beginnings of blisters—I make my way up the palace stairs in the meager light of evening (how can my legs be aching, after spending a day seated in front of my harp?), my arms laden with a pile of parchments that must be completed by tomorrow, to evaluate my understanding of theory and history.

I fumble the doorknob and, with great relief, step into the bedroom that I share with my brother. The room is dark except for the quivering halo of a gas lamp on Nelyo’s bedside table: a dark room opening to a dark, heaving sea, sparkling faintly with Telperion’s weak light. Nelyo is curled beneath his blankets in bed, propped on his elbows and reading a thick, formidable volume filled with inscrutably small text. He looks up when I enter, eyebrows raised, face pinched with inquisitive concern.

“So? How did it go?”

I go to my bed and dump tomorrow’s assignments upon the neatly-made bedclothes. “I placed well,” I say.

“Good! Have a few assignments there, it seems?”

“Yes. It seems that what I have spent the entire spring, summer, and autumn doing is inconsequential and I must prove again that I know the material.” I want a cup of tea, a hot bath, and to sleep between cool sheets, but at least three hours of work are sliding from my bed onto the floor. My neck aches and my mind rebels at the thought of music.

“Ai, welcome to academia, Macalaurë. Proving yourself once is never enough. Why do you think I am here? You would think that somewhere between the books I’ve written that I would have proven that I know Eldarin history. Or at least the language in which they are written. But no, it is never enough.” I hear the rustle of bedclothes as he rises; the whisper of his feet inside his slippers. A moment later, he is pressing a goblet into my hands. “Here. This will help your headache.”

I do not even care how he knew that my head hurts (and it does); I gratefully sip the beverage—expecting the fermented sweetness of wine—and nearly spit the liquid across my bed when I discover it is only water.

Nelyo laughs at the surprise on my face. “You may have a glass of wine when you are finished with your work. It will only make you sleepier and your head hurt more. Have you eaten or drank anything since breakfast?” Delicately, I shake my head. “That is why you are uncomfortable. Sit down and begin your work. Sip the water, and I will bring you something to eat. I saved you something from supper.” He gives me a quick kiss on the temple between dashing out the door in his nightclothes.

But I am hungry, and if he is fetching me a meal, he can do it naked for all I care.

I peel my boots from my feet and settle onto the bed with a sigh, uncorking a vial of ink and preparing to follow Nelyo’s instructions and beginning work on my first page. For each question that I answer, I reward myself with a sip of water. I think of Vingarië—of whom I barely had time to think, much less see—and wonder at my foolishness in thinking that we would have droves of free time to spend together, that this experience would somehow be a break from the discipline demanded of me by my father. I begin to wonder at my wisdom in wanting to take the one thing that I have unquestionably loved—music—and make it something more than “instinct.”

Nelyo comes back then with a tray: more fruit and a plate of something that smells divine as he draws closers. I sit up straighter to see what it is, and with a wicked smirk, he sets down the tray and says, “Crab salad.”

Together, we laugh so hard that I collapse on the bed and rumple my pages without even knowing it.
  • Okay, these comments were written hastily and if I beta’d this chapter I would do better and be more specific. I think I sense a detachment in this chapter which has not occurred in the others. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because I believe that it nicely parallels the way that Macalaurë is feeling prior to his audition because of nerves.

    Some of the sentences in the first four or five paragraphs are, I believe, rather short and choppy, especially for you! And where are the beautiful metaphors? And this is the first chapter where you have not mentioned the Mingling of the Lights! I always get a little butterfly flutter in my stomach when I read about the Mingling of the Lights, so I missed that (although you don’t have to write about them if you don’t want to!).

    In the second paragraph, I think that Macalaurë doesn’t notice enough about Nelyo’s depression. There seems to be a disconnect between the brothers in the major part of this chapter – the early parts, anyway. Compare this chapter to Ch. 36 where they connected so beautifully on their way to Osto-Ehtelë, and you’ll see what I mean. But after the break, when Macalaurë returns from his first evaluation, then we get a glimpse of the old camaraderie between them.

    So basically, that’s what I think could be corrected here. Lengthen the choppy sentences, add some metaphors, write more description of Macalaurë’s thoughts about his brother in Paragraph Two, and consider whether you should show less of a disconnect between the two of them in the rest of the chapter. I would recommend that you reread Chapter 36 to remember how these two were with each other before their brief falling-out. That’s only my humble opinion.

    The chapter was otherwise wonderful, even if brief!
    • Thank you! :) You're saying a lot of the things that I sensed/feared without any specific reason why or any clue how to fix them and this helps so much to clarify my thoughts. So thank you, thank you, thank you!

      This whole PoV section felt disconnected to me, and when I remember back to writing it, I think I know why. Usually, for AMC sections, I'd start with a vague idea in mind, e.g. "I want Nelyo and Annawende to watch a meteor shower and she tells him the truth." That was the extent of my "outline"; after that, I let the characters wander where they would in the chapter, doing the little things that lead up to the actual purpose of the chapter. It seems that people like those "little things" a great deal, and I'd put them in with the hopes that they would characterize, set mood, etc. However, in this section, I skipped the "little things." I had so much that I wanted to do and was basically writing to connect the dots. This chapter was literally one page before I started working on it at the beginning of the week with frenchpony's suggestions in mind.

      It is still a lot of "connect the dots." The characters are on the move a lot, for one, and that is one of the hardest things for me to write. (I need to do my own "Journeys" challenge for SWG, apparently!) I rely on sedate scenes where I can go off on tangents without having to worry about what's going on action-wise in the meanwhile or having to write that awkward transition between "okay I just mused about Nelyo's depression" and "I am walking down the street in Alqualonde."

      I have no feel of Alqualonde in this chapter either, and one of the things I like to do is to capture a "feel" for each place: for Tirion, Formenos, Alqualonde, the House of Feanor...I started trying but never got it from "description" to "mood," so this is something on which I will work, complete with pretty metaphors. ;)

      Thanks again and sorry for the ramble! It helps me to work out my thoughts like this, in light of your comments. Chapters will probably be really short in the meanwhile because this whole section is one big mess. I'm trying to avoid complete overhaul and rewrite but it's frustrating and hard to sit for any long period of time working on it.

      And I'm hoping that the last section--Nelyo's--is not this bad.... :^/
      • The chapter wasn't bad at all - just not really consistent with what you wrote before. However, it is a partial chapter as you said, and maybe Nelyo's section will make a difference. Actually, I think all of the main problems with this first part are in the first section. The rest of the chapter is fine.
  • I have t agree with Jenni when she says that there is a sense of detachment in this chapter. Between the brothers in any case and only in the beginning, Because we do get a few glimpses of their usual interactions when they nudge each other, when Macalaure nearly trips over some crab (Nelyo bringing him crab salad at the end of the chapter is priceless), when Maitimo tries to soothe Macalaure's anxiety (that bit was so very beautiful) and when Macalaure gets back from the Conservatory.

    You have also done a great job in bringing Feanaro into the chapter and I was moved to tears by Macalaure's memories of his first music lessons with his fater. Also, it pained me to see the young Elf thinking: His life would be no less without me. Ah, thouse two should sit down and have a long, meaningful conversation, so that Macalaure can cast his insecurity aside and realize just how much he means to his father.

    It was interesting to see the young princes in a crowd that did not acknowledge them as such. Otherwise, the others (in the conservatory, at least) would have surrounded them and inquired about their family, knowing that the entire building and everything about it is Feanaro's creation. It's also strange to see that Macalaure does not feel pride to walk into a building that was designed by his father but insecurity and doubt.

    Another thing that I was impresses by were Macalaure's thoughts on "music by instinct". I tend to agree with him when he wonders whether his gift needs to be refined and worked on to be more than instinct. Especially knowing that it will serve him little in the hundreds of years in Beleriand.

    But it's also nice to see him and Maitimo acting like tired, students, with lots of work to do and getting head-aches just by thinking about it. :)

    The chapter is very good, despite being brief and I look forward to reading more.

    I hope that you are getting better. I have read your other posts but have not had the chance to leave comments. I've been trying not to catch a nasty cold and, so far, my body seems to be hanging in there. Did you have your leg examined by a doctor? Maybe it's more than a muscle, though I certainly hope not. Take care! {{{hugs}}}
    • Yeah! Since Alina mentioned it, I was struck by that too - that the Telerin people didn't seem to notice the two gorgeous Noldorin princes in their midst. But I thought you had done that on purpose to show the Teleri's self-absorption and maybe that they tend to take the Noldor for granted. It's like Feany said, eh?

      "Yet you were glad indeed to receive our aid when you came at last to these shores, fainthearted loiterers, and wellnigh emptyhanded." Hehe! Ya gotta love Feany! That's one of my favourite quotes!
      • Ouch, that's a little harsh, even coming from Feany. I agree with you when saying that the Teleri are quite absorbed by their own lives and pay little attention to the others. Tolkien himself gives the same impression, saying that they were to enamored by their home and the sea to become involved in the business of, say, the Noldor. They certainly don't seem to notice Maitimo and Macalaure but, if I'm to be evil, they will notice them in the more or less distant future.

        As for Feany's quote... perhaps the Teleri do thake things for granted. I mean... ships from the Valar(even if they bulit them, but following strict instructions), buildings and many other riches from the Noldor... But when it comes to giving back... Nope! I think they should have just given Feanaro and his host the ships without bloodshed and let them be gone. Much of the tragedy that followed was their fault as well.
      • Actually, I didn't expect that the Teleri would recognize Nelyo and Macalaure without their princely raiment on. They're dressed like ordinary Noldor--Nelyo, actually, is sort of quasi-Teleri--without their circlets or anything extraordinary. I view it sort of how I wouldn't recognize foreign princes, even though they might be very famous in their own countries. Likewise, most non-Americans wouldn't know the Bush twins. (Actually, neither do I! :^P)

        If anything, I wanted to show that Nelyo and Macalaure are really just ordinary young Elves at their essense. I've never been fond of the notion that Elven royalty acts like human royalty does, with the snobbery and sense of entitlement. I simply have trouble believing that immortal beings would content themselves to grovel before kings and princes in the manner of a human peasant. Hence the fact that Feanaro cooks for his family and worries about spoiling his sons. :) This is just my take on things.
    • You have also done a great job in bringing Feanaro into the chapter

      But of course. :) Once a hopeless Feanatic, always a hopeless Feanatic!

      It was interesting to see the young princes in a crowd that did not acknowledge them as such.

      I didn't expect that the average Teler would recognize them as princes, since they are not dressed in any way that would label them as such. I think of it kind of like recognizing, for example, the children of the Canadian prime minister. There isn't a reason for me to know them, so I don't. (Truth be told, I wouldn't know the Bush twins, either. :^P)

      If they had on their circlets and their royal regalia, they might be more obvious, but as it is, they are just two Noldor in the crowd. :)

      The chapter is very good, despite being brief and I look forward to reading more.

      Thank you. :) These chapters couldn't have come at a worse time; they are the hardest work I've had to do yet on this story (and I'm counting writing it in that too!) and being sick, exhausted, and in pain hasn't helped inspire my enthusiasm. Usually, I can just let go and write; every word had to be wrung out of this chapter, and judging by the comments, that is clearly felt by readers too.

      I'm actually strongly considering--when I feel better--rewriting parts of it. I'll have to see if I think it's salvageable or not. :^/

      I hope that you are getting better.

      The virus has subsided, but the cough is still there and so my leg can't heal. Every time I cough, I pull the muscle again. It was getting better, but I woke up this morning with it worse than it's ever been. Thanks for the warm thoughts. :) *hugs back*
      • Oh , you poor thing. I know how hard it is to write when you have to pull the words out of you. Especially since you are not feeling well, either.

        You can work on the chapter if you like, but it really is not bad at all and you should be pleased with it too, after some minor tweaking.

        I'm really sorry to hear that your cough does nothing by aggravate your muscle problem. You should have someone to take a look it, if you have not gone to the doctor already. In the mean time, hang in there and I hope we'll beth be doing better soon.
  • and wonder at my foolishness in thinking that we would have droves of free time to spend together, that this experience would somehow be a break from the discipline demanded of me by my father.

    It must be quite a shock to realize Feanor isn't the only task master. ;-) Though I am a bit shocked the Teleri music master kept him there all day and never offered a meal. Poor Macalaure.

    I also noticed a disconnect between the brothers, but I figured it was on purpose. It works with the story. Macalaure is floating on cloud 9 and Nelyo is still trying to crawl out of the pits - you just can't expect the two of them to be all cuddly. Nelyo worked at it, but it's almost painful to watch him pretend to be all there. They seemed to get on much better when Macalaure came back at the end, which also fit. Macalaure didn't come back very happy and the two had their heavy work schedule to bring them together.
    • Interesting points. :) Having read all the comments, it seems that the sense of disconnect is there, and readers are divided as to whether it works or not. Which means that I'll have to do my own work and think it through a bit. ;)

      After I feel better and my mind no longer has to function through a haze of pain, of course! :^P
  • He gets take-home exams? Lucky bastard. I did my freshling placement exam in the music library, surrounded by books but not allowed to look at any of them. It was the most frustrating thing.

    The teachers are right -- Macalaurë does need to be taught. Even the best instinctual musician will improve with teaching. One only need look at the works Mozart produced at age six and at age thirty-four, after he'd had a lot of education and experience on the job, to see the amazing improvement. Child prodigy he may have been, but he could not have written Don Giovanni or the Requiem when he was six. Instinct will only take you so far. There's so much oral tradition to music, so many little tricks that a teacher can show you, so many little quirks of form they can correct, so many insights on repertoire.

    I think that, as you go further into Macalaurë's first months at the conservatory, you'll want to focus on two things. First, what is he hearing? Music schools have banks of little practice rooms that can never be fully soundproofed. They've also got orchestras, choirs, and ensembles practicing in bigger halls. Music schools are noisy places, with endless different themes and snatches of melody and warm-ups echoing through the halls. And if a class is doing homework individually, you could walk down a hall and hear the same fragment of tune being played slightly differently, over and over and over again. As my friend Dan put it, "Oh, God, not that damn Wagner phrase again! I've been hearing it for a whole week!"

    Second, this is the one place in all of Arda that Macalaurë wants to be. He's probably built up quite a fantasy in his mind about it. Show me how overawed he is to be here, what he thinks of the other students -- you'll always, always find people at a school like this who are really good. Maybe he's realizing that, for all his talent, he's still a first-year, and the older students are way ahead of him, or doing things like solo degree recitals that just terrify him. But they're musicians, they're his people, and he can learn from them as much as teach them. Does the school live up to his fantasy? Or are there portions where it reveals itself to be just a place filled with ordinary people? Maybe there's one subject that Macalaurë is an absolute rank beginner at, and he's in a class with really little kids, or maybe he's right up there with the seniors in another subject. How weird is that? And how weird is it to be taught by someone who's not related to you?

    You've got a pretty good start here, but it's a little thin on description, and that's always such a strong point with you. Keep up, and this place will really come alive as you get a better sense of what it's like there.
    • Thanks for all of the wonderful suggestions. My first read-through, I even felt my muse twitching, saying, "Yes! Yes! Let's write!" Unfortunately, that muse is easily subdued these days, but I look forward to revisiting these sections, keeping your perspectives in mind. :)

      This section was about a page and a half before I decided to have another go at it to add description. It was four pages once I'd finished, and I still feel like there's so much more to do. It's just been hard to muster the enthusiasm to write. I'm tempted to put off anymore work until I feel better, not wanting to ruin what could be a nice chapter, once I can put the work into it. We'll see.

      I really can't thank you enough for all of the help with this story, particularly with kicking my ass into shape with regard to keeping accurate musically. ;)

      By the way, are you posting regularly on your story? I recall that "To Save the Whole" was posted on Mondays, if I recall. Anything like that for this story?
      • Thanks for all of the wonderful suggestions.

        My pleasure. One thing about us academics is that we loooooove to share things we know with other people. In this case, I do happen to know something useful to you.

        By the way, are you posting regularly on your story?

        Yes. Wednesdays. There's a second chapter up, and the third will be up this coming Wednesday. It will be the last thing I do, after forking Le Thesis over to my committee, before crashing for a very long nap.

        I recall that "To Save the Whole" was posted on Mondays, if I recall.

        Was it Mondays? You have a far better memory for that than I do, it seems.
  • I follow him, locking my knees to keep them from trembling.

    Wouldn't that make it worse?? *thinks about all the people she's seen do this and fall over*

    I can't say much about whether this is detached or not, because I'm pretty detached myself right now. 2 1/2 hours, eeeee!!

    I begin to wonder at my wisdom in wanting to take the one thing that I have unquestionably loved—music—and make it something more than “instinct.”

    Heeeey, that's why I quit!! Lol, only it wasn't about "instinct", it was about "my life being ruined" stress. Anyways...won't go there. For now.

    And at least I didn't have band all day. Usually. During school, at least. (Band camp is entirely different story...) Of course, my director loved telling us, he'd "love to keep [us] here until midnight." O.o

    I think I might be jealous of Makalaure. *more O.o*
    • Wouldn't that make it worse?? *thinks about all the people she's seen do this and fall over*

      *sperfle* You're right, I think! I think I need to revisit this section. Thanks. :)

      I wonder what Macalaure would think of marching band. Then again, he is Feanor's son; he'd probably find the obsessiveness and the yelling pretty normal.
      • You're right, I think! I think I need to revisit this section.

        Well...*imagines Makalaure falling over* *snicker*...Maybe you should! ;P

        I wonder what Macalaure would think of marching band.

        Probably something like "Did you say you do...WTF? It's GENIUS!!"

        Then again, he is Feanor's son; he'd probably find the obsessiveness and the yelling pretty normal.

        Haha, true. Especially for your average not-my-marching-band, it's almost the same, right? Lol.
  • This is self-obsessively interesting to me, as my Ecthelion went to that school for several decades--or, at least, to its equivalent in my universe. It was a somewhat less regimented place, though, and not built by Feanor. I look forward to seeing how Maglor progresses...


    Small nitpick:

    He smiles wryly at me and does not cease his work on my fingers. “Do you think I never feel afraid?”

    Once I would have insisted, no, I do not. Now, my gaze skips away from his haunted silver eyes, and I believe him.


    Shouldn't Maglor be thinking "No, you do not" or "Yes, I do"? Agreeing with Maedhros' assessment? Or am I misunderstanding?
    • This school exists in the Tehta-verse too? Interesting!

      Unfortunately, I totally bombed this whole section. I have so many ideas of his experiences and now need to write them. I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote it the first time. (Probably, "Let's finish this damned endless story sometime in the next year." Argh.)

      Shouldn't Maglor be thinking "No, you do not" or "Yes, I do"?

      Yeah, I can see how that makes sense. Thanks! :)
      • Well, it just makes so much sense to have a music school in Alqualonde, doesn't it? I had Ecthelion think about it when remembering the Kinslaying in F&F, but since then it's developed into a significant element of his biography, and has popped up in various random vignettes.

        I hope you do write more about Maglor in Alqualonde. I always love to read about all the ignored non-Noldorin parts of Tolkien's universe.
  • I enjoyed the chapter. :) I agree that it'd be nice to see all the little details and lots more description.

    That last line, where they're laughing at crab salad--something about it didn't seem to rub me right. I'm not sure, but I think I'm kind of wanting something in between the "Crab salad" and the laughter... some description of Macalaure snerking, or trying not to laugh but failing, or some joke about them being spider meat, or something... bleh, once again, my own mind has deserted me before I could sufficiently clarify my thoughts. >_<

    Most of the disconnect between the brothers didn't really bother me much, at least for this chapter... something makes me feel I really only need to see the connection between them here just before Macalaure goes to his placement trials (throughout the part where he tells Nelyo he's afraid, and Nelyo helps him relax), and towards the end, once Macalaure comes back to the room. (I didn't feel too much disconnect in those parts as they are now, it's just that what disconnect between them there was throughout the rest of the chapter didn't strike me as being too odd or anything.)

    I can't help but be fascinated in the way the Telerin calls him in with “Macalaurë Fëanorion?” Being called in to be tested with his father's name attached to his (or his name attached to his father's) like that... and, of course, there's the quote any anxiety of the imminent audition overwhelmed by thoughts of Fëanaro, as Fëanaro has—chief of his many gifts—the power to overwhelm nearly anything to go along with that... very interesting how Macalaure has his own gifts and his own desires, but throughout his life, he'll never really be able to escape his father.
    • I'm not sure, but I think I'm kind of wanting something in between the "Crab salad" and the laughter... some description of Macalaure snerking, or trying not to laugh but failing, or some joke about them being spider meat, or something... bleh, once again, my own mind has deserted me before I could sufficiently clarify my thoughts. >_<

      Eek...I know the feeling. I will certainly revisit this section with this in mind. :)

      The whole notion of spiders is inspired by the common Baltimore insult against steamed crabs that are small or skimpy; we call them spiders! :)

      Most of the disconnect between the brothers didn't really bother me much, at least for this chapter

      Yeah, I'm getting mixed reviews on this. As I told Niothwen, this means that I have to think about it and decide for myself. Damn. Here I thought I'd get off easy and get y'all to do my work for me. :^P

      very interesting how Macalaure has his own gifts and his own desires, but throughout his life, he'll never really be able to escape his father.

      I've always felt for the Feanorions in this. It seems common for children to want to exceed their parents in some things; to do better where their parents made mistakes, etc. But the Feanorions are fated to be inferior; they are being told, "No matter what you do, you'll never exceed him. You'll always sit in his shadow." That they are immortal makes this worse; he's ever-present too, overshadowing them.

      It makes me wonder how this may have affected their later deeds. "Oh, look, dad's taking a heretic's oath. Should we do the same? Well, since we'll never be any better than him, I don't see where we have a choice."

      "Oh, look, dad's slaying the Teleri...." Et cetera.

      It seems a lot of weight for a young Elf to carry and not at all fair.
  • I do not think this chapter is bad. If you want to know what's 'bad' take a look at the 'Just in' section at ff.net. That's bad.

    When there was anything 'wrong' with this chapter it was the fact that it was probably a bit lacking the AMCish feeling though I could not really lay my fingers on the reason for this (I'm really having a problem with this: I always say what feels a certain way, but can't point out why). But other people already had smarter things to say about that than me and so I'll leave it with that. I've enjoyed reading it nonetheless. :)
    • I know the "AMCish" feeling. :) It wasn't written with an AMCish feeling either. There's a certain way I feel, writing this story, different from other stories. Working on this chapter--which was basically a skeleton this time last week--I couldn't get into it. Usually, the story seems to almost write itself. This time, I felt like I was simply connecting the dots, taking the Elves from place to place using the shortest route possible.

      Thing is, I'm excited about the ideas and potential for this chapter. But with the illness/injury of the last week, it's hard to concentrate enough to fall into that AMC feeling. I'm hoping this week will be better, for the story's sake at least. :)
  • As Digidil already said, there are bits and pieces that doesn't flow as it used to do, but those are things you and your beta can work on. Maybe you just felt as insecure as Macalaurë himself, I always know that when I do write Maglor, I crawl under his skin and see it through his eyes (or attempt too). This is almost always the case when I write, the character uses me to speak. So where is your Nelyo who can give you strength, calmness and courage where you need it :)

    But.. I loved it, I got the feeling of uncertainty of Macalaurë incredibly well. Not only about his audition, but he's searching, searching for his place in life, like as you wrote: to prove oneself beyond instinct. I started to realise that your Macaularë won't feel at home in Alqualondë because of the Music, but because Vingarië gives him the sense of being home and being truly loved for who he is. Anyhow, ahem.

    “I did.” I hesitate. I could gush for hours about Vingarië, about my love for her and my certainty that a few decades will see us married, but it is hard to for my levity to weasel past the somber shroud Nelyo has wrapped around himself.

    This caught my eye mainly because to me it feels like Maglor is sparing his brother, by not telling him to much about it. It is not that he is denying his brother to share in the joy, but Nelyo won't see the joy. I have been there recently, not being able to see the happiness of others. Still Nelyo is there for him, trying to help his brother to succeed, but that comes nowhere close than to open yourself to the brother most close to you in heart.

    This is something I dare to never hope. No, he wouldn’t have imagined me at all; even if he believed in my existence, I would be inconsequential to him. < snip > His life would be no less without me.

    This part, I felt so sad for him, if I thought Nelyo would stand in his father's shadow, how about Maglor. Thinking about this more, to me it feels that only Celegorm knows how to be himself (even though he wants his dad's approval), but he simply takes the spotlight :)

    I look at him, my heart prodded into frenzy once again. “I do not deserve that, Nel—”

    “Do not tell me—who heard your voice at your first cry and every song after—what you do and do not deserve.”


    Yeah Nelyo, yeah!! Combined with the phrase that they started to walk like Noldo, these parts made me smile broadly. I could simply envision them walking like Noldo: tall, handsome and confident. Nobody tells a Noldo what they should or can't do.

    *sighs happily* I loved this brotherly chapter, I loved that Nelyo was there for his brother, to go through this rite of passage (especially with the bit of going out in the hallway to calm his nerves).


    • Maybe you just felt as insecure as Macalaurë himself, I always know that when I do write Maglor, I crawl under his skin and see it through his eyes (or attempt too). This is almost always the case when I write, the character uses me to speak.

      Me too! :) The problem with this pseudo-chapter came, I think, because I wrote it differently than the others. In the others, I didn't really have a clear path; I knew where the characters needed to end up, but no idea how they'd get there. So, as I wrote, it was like living the experience with them.

      But this whole Macalaure section, I knew exactly where to go and how to get there. I knew what needed to happen every step of the way, so there was less a sense of discovering things with Macalaure--and writing what he saw as I also saw it for the first time--and more a sense of jumping from rock to rock to cross a river, if that makes any sense. But with every segment finished it was "Oh, okay, onto the next!" more so than becoming immersed in--and enjoying--the experience.

      Plus, this section covers a whole month--more than any other--so I think I was afraid to ramble too much. :^/

      It is possible that I might break away from this chapter and return to Tirion for a while (maybe to Turko? ;^D) to lessen the feeling of rushing through a month in Alqualonde. I haven't decided quite yet.

      Thinking about this more, to me it feels that only Celegorm knows how to be himself (even though he wants his dad's approval), but he simply takes the spotlight :)

      Celegorm's character has always fascinated me for how different in interests he is from his father but how alike in personality.

      Maglor, I perceive, is different in both. Although he has strength and will fight if necessary, he strikes me as much more rational than his brothers and his father. Except maybe Nelyo...I waffle on that one!

      But Maglor's divergent interests and calmer personality separate him from Feanor...although they are both perhaps the most talented artists in the family, so I think that they have more in common than they think. ;)
      • But with every segment finished it was "Oh, okay, onto the next!" more so than becoming immersed in--and enjoying--the experience.

        Hmmm, yeah that must have been weird. I never ever have written a story that went structured. Even when I wrote my mystery fic... when I got reviews and feedback most thought that evil creatures 'had' done it and were delightfully surprised with the outcome. So was I when my muse wanted me to go that way.

        Plus, this section covers a whole month--more than any other--so I think I was afraid to ramble too much. :^/

        Honestly I think you have a solid reader (& reviewer) base who will tell you when you do that. So don't be afraid, just let those fingers fly over the keyboard.

        It is possible that I might break away from this chapter and return to Tirion for a while (maybe to Turko? ;^D) to lessen the feeling of rushing through a month in Alqualonde. I haven't decided quite yet.

        Oh!!!

        Celegorm's character has always fascinated me for how different in interests he is from his father but how alike in personality.

        Yes I totally regree, in that sense he feels like the rebel son to me, doing the exact opposite of his father, simply because he can. This is another part what makes me wonder what people have against him. Maybe that being a rebel like he is is a flaw or a sin and should be looked down upon? To me Celegorm is a free spirit, in order to be with him you have to set him free and simply trust him. The more you want to tie him to you, the more he will oppose you. This is all my take on this character though.

        Maglor, I perceive, is different in both. Although he has strength and will fight if necessary,

        Imho, you can leave the if necessary out of it.

        But Maglor's divergent interests and calmer personality separate him from Feanor...although they are both perhaps the most talented artists in the family, so I think that they have more in common than they think. ;)

        To me, when I see Maglor: silent waters run deep. He might be all collected and calm, but once unleashed... I would make a run for your life if I was a foe of him. If not I'd stick around for the wild ride. In that sense my Maglor is different from yours.
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