dawn_felagund (dawn_felagund) wrote,

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AMC--Chapter Fifteen

Well, it's that special day of the week...posting Friday!

I'm going to keep it short for once: We're still in Tyelkormo's point of view. We're still in Formenos.

Warnings for the chapter: Nelyo!gropage. Again. The boy can't keep his hands to himself. Also, Tyelko mentions "spawning." Yes, really, if you thought I was kidding in the Ask My Characters a Question Meme when I said that Tyelko learned about sex through spawning, I was not. Oh, and there is a really bad song. Apparently, Nelyo and Macalaure like to get drunk and write bad songs. Unfortunately, I was entirely sober when I wrote it, so I have no excuse.

Macalaure is still injured in this chapter (since he hurt himself less than a week ago). It is my personal thought that I kind of neglected it, but it becomes an issue in the *next* chapter, and so I am well aware that when I hunker down for Hardcore Revision™, I am going to have to add a bit more about that in this chapter. Just as reminders.

Okay, that's all. Not as short as I wanted it to be, but okay. As usual: Comments, suggestions, and criticisms are all welcomed, both signed and anonymous. And thank you for reading :)

Chapter Fifteen

Supper is held in the great room at the center of the house, a room larger than even our dining room in Tirion. At the center is a long table made of rough mahogany that contrasts the delicate carvings around its edges and the soft bluish light from the lanterns strung overhead. The chairs are high-backed and draped with green vines delicate enough to be real, until reaching out to touch them, one discovers that they are carved from the wood and adorned with bits of colored stone that make them shine in the light like real leaves. The smell of food wriggles into my nose and down my throat and into my stomach, making me realize suddenly how hungry I am.

Ada leads Carnistir and me by our hands, and I hear our guests draw involuntary gasps of breath when we enter. Suddenly, I do not mind so much the clothing that Ada has chosen for me.

Ada is resplendent himself, wearing blue so dark that it is nearly black—a short-sleeved tunic that betrays the arms of a craftsman, not a prince—and a plain silver armband and matching bracelets, perfect in their simplicity. Around his neck is the symbol of our House, the Star of Fëanaro, with a clear gem set at its center that throws a different color from each facet, lit beneath by the Nelyo-stone, as he calls it. On his hands are no adornments, only the thin gold wedding band that I’ve never seen him remove, even while working in the forge.

That he is wed is plain from the contentment in his eyes, but that does not stop the wives of the lords from watching him cross the room, and I imagine that they are wondering, What if it was I who saw him first? and looking at my mother, who is very plain beside him, with her full breasts flattened against the cloth of her gown and her hair already beginning to spring out at odd angles from her head.

We are welcomed to our own table as though we are guests rather than hosts and given glasses of wine and bits of cheese on crackers. I look around for Nelyo, but he is missing—as is Findekano—and Macalaurë is sitting at the opposite end of the table from us, talking eagerly to the daughters of the lord with the red banner trimmed in green and nearly finished his second glass of wine. The wife of the lord with the golden banner stops before us and offers each of us a small bowl of fruit salad. “You sons, my lord Fëanaro and lady Nerdanel, are beautiful and well-behaved as usual. You have truly been blessed.”

At that moment, Nelyo comes through the door, and I hear the conversation falter again, and the maidens who have been so interested in Macalaurë turn away from him in mid-sentence, their lips parted and their eyes wide and staring.

My brother is clearly unwed, and it is not just the heads of the maidens that swivel to watch him walk across the room. He holds the hand of our cousin Findekano—my heart gives an involuntary, jealous squeeze—and he nods and greets the maidens and the wives of the lords but does not stop to kiss them, as he did upon our arrival earlier this afternoon. He comes up behind us, and I have to force myself not to turn and look at him—I don’t want him to know how much it hurts to see him holding Findekano’s hand instead of mine—and he plants kisses on Carnistir’s cheeks and the top of my head. “It is good to see that you have emerged from beneath the grime, little ones. I had forgotten how lovely are the natural colors of your skin and hair.”

“Likewise to you, Nelyo,” Ada teases him. “You have commanded the attention of every maiden in the room this night.”

Nelyo sighs. “But I am not here for romance, for she whom I fancy does not intend to join us.”

“Does not—why, whatever do you mean?”

“She says that she does not feel it is her place to dine with the families of the lords when she is but your apprentice.”

“Is she mad?” Ada springs to his feet and rushes for the door to retrieve Annawendë before the supper is served. Nelyo sits down in Ada’s chair with a sigh—between Nana and me—and lifts Findekano onto his lap. I notice all three of the male apprentices have no qualms with dining with the families of the lords and are helping themselves to second helping of hors d'oeuvres.

“Your heart is truly set on her, then, Nelyo?” Nana asks softly.

“I fancy her deeply, yes. I had hoped to ask her to court tonight.”

At this, I become alert. The romantic lives of my older brothers have become intensely interesting to me ever since I discovered how secretive they are. Suddenly, the long years I envisioned with my brothers, growing up beside them, dutifully learning the lore of metals from Nelyo and music from Macalaurë, seem tenacious, and I grieve at the thought of our house with only Carnistir and me to add a child’s life to the halls.

But, as though he knows it pains some of us to hear of him falling in love and marrying so soon, he says nothing more on the subject and rests his chin in Findekano’s hair and watches Macalaurë drinking wine and talking with the lord’s daughters.

By the time the supper arrives, I have been tantalized by the delicious scents from the kitchen for so long that it is hard to restrain myself from reaching across the table during Eruhantale and tearing off a handful of roast duck or shoving a fistful of corn into my mouth. Ada—who returned with Annawendë reluctantly in tow five minutes ago—notices my restlessness and watches me with increased vigilance from the corner of his eye. In Formenos, apparently, there are no rules for seating because Ada and Nana sit together at one end of the table with Carnistir and I across from them. At the other end, Macalaurë talks still with the lord’s daughters, who perked up when Nelyo sat down with them—but only after pulling out a chair for Annawendë and seating her first—and then wilted again. Findekano sits between Nelyo and Macalaurë and stares at his plate, oblivious to the lively commotion around him. Between us, the lords and their wives and the rest of their children arrange themselves, and there is none of the decorum observed in Tirion—where one can speak only with companions within two seats of oneself—and the lords shout to Ada and he laughs and shouts back, and their sons are already yelling down the table to Nelyo—making plans to go hunting tomorrow—and soon the room is filled with the roar of voices.

They have prepared for us tureens of thick stew and ducks—killed just this morning—roasted in a sweet glaze until the outside is crispy. Bowls of vegetables form a colorful patchwork across the tabletop: corn, squash, zucchini, and others still beyond my reach, cold-weather vegetables that we rarely get to enjoy at home. There is bread taken from the oven only moments before by the wife of the lord with the purple banner, and this we tear off in great bits and dip into the stew. And then, of course, there is the wine, thick, bittersweet stuff the color of blood that I can drink until I’m sick—although I am limited to one glass, as usual—that makes Carnistir’s face scrunch up with displeasure.

I finish my wine before I am even done with my stew, and when Ada and Nana are distracted, I switch my empty glass with Carnistir’s full one, and he beams at me with his sharp little teeth showing on the top and bottom and takes a hearty swig from his mug of hot cider, which he loves. In fact, he has been so preoccupied with the hot cider that he has neglected to take a single bite of the food on his plate and dawdles until Ada gives him a stern look and commands, “Eat,” in a voice that doesn’t allow for argument. Carnistir gives me a pleading look—as if I might wish to trade my empty plate for his full one too—but there is no chance of that, as he has already mixed a few spoonfuls of stew into his squash and mashed the duck into unrecognizable bits.

When supper is finished, Ada, Nana, the lords, and their wives go into the sitting room to make up for nine months of separation and we, their children and apprentices, are expected to clean up before dessert is served.

The task is overwhelming, but Nelyo breaks it down into small, simple tasks—one for each of us—and with so many of us helping, the work is done in no time, allowing us to sit at the clean, empty table in the dining room and talk and joke until our parents are ready for dessert.

The lord with the purple banner has a young daughter who was born in the same year as Carnistir—she was born in the late summer and he was born in the autumn, two months later—and she has clung to him since they first met the summer after their births, when neither was a year old yet. Poor Macalaurë has been left in charge of them, and Carnistir sits on his lap, using every tactic he can think of to keep the little girl from climbing up beside him—I feel a vague pride because many of his techniques he has learned from me, when I am trying to keep from having to share Nelyo’s lap with him—and Macalaurë’s one good arm is kept very busy with trying to keep our youngest brother from tipping himself onto the floor. The little girl is not dismayed by his unwillingness and eventually weasels her way onto Macalaurë’s lap, standing on his thighs and gripping his sore shoulder to keep her balance—making him cringe with pain—and leaning over to kiss Carnistir, who shrieks and rolls onto the floor with a loud thud.

They take off around the room, the little girl chasing a caterwauling Carnistir, who manages to keep a few strides ahead of her, and poor Macalaurë pursues them to keep them from running into the other room and disturbing our parents and manages to catch Carnistir and lift him up with one arm—wailing like it is molten lava leaping at his toes and not a tiny slip of a girl only two months older than he is—and calls me over.

“Do me a favor and find your brother,” he says.

“Which one?” I ask. It is fun to be obstinate with Macalaurë, to tear at his saintly placidity, especially when he is already frustrated. I have only seen him lose his temper three times—twice with Carnistir and once with me—and it is comic to behold how high his voice can get when he’s angry and how flushed his pale cheeks become. And he always cries when he’s done—great, gulping sobs that better suit distress than rage—and Nelyo or Ada have to physically restrain him from pounding at things until his fists bleed. He is still quite a ways from reaching this extreme, but with Carnistir screaming in one ear and a leaping little girl shouting with laughter and falling so hard against his legs that he nearly topples backwards, I figure it can’t be far off.

“Seeing as how two of your three brothers are already here…” he begins, then must have realized what I was trying to do—did I let slip a betraying sliver of smile?—and suffices to bark, “Nelyo!”

“Where is he?”

“He went to the roof-deck with Annawendë. Tell him that I need one of them down here right away.” He jerks his head in the direction of the male apprentices, who are standing in a loose circle with goblets of wine in their hands, tossing stones. “Those goons are about as much help as—” Carnistir gives a sudden lurch in Macalaurë’s arms and ends up halfway over his shoulder. “Run, Tyelkormo!” Macalaurë begs.

I pound up the narrow spiraling staircase that leads to the roof-deck that Ada built over the great room. As Macalaurë promised, Nelyo and Annawendë are up there, standing by the railing. I pause in the doorway, but they don’t notice me. The wind cuts like a cold ribbon across the rooftop, but they stand close in each other’s arms and give no mind to that either.

When Nelyo got into trouble with that maiden in Tirion, Nana and Ada made up rules by which he had to abide when courting. Carnistir and I hid in Ada’s armoire to witness it, and as far as I could tell, most of the rules were Nana’s. There was to be no removal of clothing, she said. Not a single snap or a single tie was to be undone on either Nelyo or the maiden he was courting. He was to be respectful with the placement of his hands. “If you wouldn’t touch me in such a manner, then it is not proper that you should likewise touch her.” Kissing was permitted but not below the neck. “When you’re tempted, remember that those are the same lips with which you kiss your baby brothers goodnight,” she said. “That might give you pause.”

Watching them now, they kiss with open-mouthed ardor, and it is doubtful that Nelyo would caress Nana’s breast the way he does Annawendë’s and I am sure that Nana wouldn’t approve of Annawendë fidgeting with the ties on Nelyo’s tunic either. I let the door slam shut to avoid having to announce my arrival, and they spring apart.

“Turko!” Nelyo cries, and I can see his eyes brighten with relief that I am not Nana, then cloud with suspicion. “What’s going on?”

“That little girl is chasing Carnistir and the other apprentices are drunk and are being goons and Macalaurë asked me to come tell you that he needed you to help,” I say in a rush. “Or Annawendë.”

They exchange slow glances and laugh. “I’ll go,” Annawendë offers, “if you want to—” She glances at me, and I know by the familiar nature of her offer that she is now courting him.

“Yes. I do. Just take Mirimakú’s daughter into another room. Keep her head over your shoulder and do not let her see Carnistir. She’s crazy for him, and she’ll fight you until she can get to him. One day, he’ll be crazy for her too and he’ll marry her, but for now, he’s little and daft and thinks her an orc.”

They laugh again and kiss, pecking each other on the lips with their eyes open, then lingering, then closing their eyes and kissing harder, until Nelyo pulls away and twitches his head in my direction. “Annawendë….”

“I know!” She tears her hands from him and dashes for the door, looking over her shoulder at him as she goes, smiling widely and colliding with the doorframe. “Ai…” she moans, and we hear her footsteps subsiding down the stairs.

Nelyo lifts me under my arms and sits me on the railing. The ground is three stories beneath us, but I am not afraid because his arms are around my waist and I know that he would dive over the railing himself before he’d let me fall. Telperion is waxing, and this far north, the light is faint and spreads over the land like silver gauze. The wind huffs again, pressing on my back like icy hands, and Nelyo cuddles me close before I can start shivering.

His red hair swirls around my face and his body warms me. I have been left here with him for a purpose, I realize; I can feel it in his rigid shoulders and in the silence made busy by his thoughts. At last, he caresses my cheek and tucks my hair behind my ear. He says, “You know I love you, Turko?” His fingers on my face leave little trails of warmth like the light that streams behind comets in the darkness.

I look into the perfect face of my brother. Why does my heart seize when he speaks his endearment, words I hear one hundred times a day? “Of course, Nelyo. I love you too.”

“I know you do, little one.” His arms tighten around me; my head is on his shoulder now. I hear him take a deep breath, like he does before he gets ready to duck underwater. “But also, I love Annawendë,” he says. “I have asked her to court me tonight, and I suspect that, when the time is right, I will ask her to marry me.”

He stands back to look at me, to read the expression on my face. I am torn between confusion and the pain of sadness like a throbbing red wound opening inside me. Is he telling me that he is leaving? Tears burn my eyes.

“Do not cry, little one,” he tells me, and I am lost again in his embrace. “Do you not see that the love I have for you and Macalaurë and little Carnistir rests in a different place in my heart than my love for Annawendë? The love of a woman is different than the love of kin, and a man needs both for his spirit to lie in contentment. You know this, Turko?”

I came across Nana and Ada in the forest once, lying together in the soft grass of a clearing, their clothes scattered on the ground around them, and Nana bit her lips as if in pain and dug her nails into Ada’s back, and I thought that he was hurting her and cried out and they sprang from the ground, seizing their clothes as I stood trembling. They dressed with a shamed haste I’d never seen them use before—we should not be abashed by our bodies, Ada says, for we were gifted with the pinnacle of physical perfection, and it is more an affront to Eru to be ashamed of this gift than to be comfortable in our nakedness—but they faced their backs to me now and tugged on their clothes. Once dressed, Ada held me at arm’s length and wiped the tears from my face—he smelled different, richer somehow, like soil that has been turned in the spring—and explained that he had not been hurting Nana at all. “Each of us is destined to find a mate in our lives,” he told me, “and when we do, we bond our bodies in marriage.”

“Like the salmon? Like spawning?” I asked him because Nelyo had explained all about that last year during a lesson in the lore of nature.

Ada hesitated and thought for a moment, then said, “Yes and no. Yes, in that, like the salmon, such bonds may produce children. That is from where you and your brothers came.”

“You too?” I asked in amazement because surely someone like Ada couldn’t have such a humble beginning, the same beginning as a fish.

“Yes,” he said with a wry smile, “me too. But it is not like the salmon, in that we do not bond only to produce children but also to strengthen the bonds between our spirits, for our people alone of all the living beings on Arda are capable of bonding our spirit to that of another. We are fortunate in that, for with such bonds, we are never alone.”

I am unsure of what to say to Nelyo, and he closes the uncomfortable, silent gap between us with more words. “This is years still from happening, Turko. It is not the way of our people to rush into marriage, and Annawendë and I are still several years from our majorities and so will likely have a long courtship and at least a yearlong betrothal. But, Turko,” he says, and his tone changes until he is almost pleading with me, like it is I who is the bigger and more powerful of us, “I hate the look on your face when I mention marriage—even in jest—and I want you to understand that I will always love you and I will always be your older brother, even if I marry Annawendë and we have five children of our own, those children will get a special place in my heart that is different from the place I have given you. Never can anyone threaten your place in my life, Turko. I want you to understand that.”

“You want to have babies with her?” I say, and my voice is so tiny next to his, and tears simmer in my throat. This I dwell on—the spawning salmon, not the bonding of spirits—because I cannot bear the thought of my brother’s warm spirit tying itself to a single other, never mine to share again.

“Of course, I do, Turko. Of all the ambitions Ada has, I share but sparks of them. When I close my eyes and dream, I wish only for a small cottage near our home, with my wife and our children around me, a shelf for my books and a desk for writing, and a table to which I shall always welcome my little brothers.”

“You will make a good father,” I tell him, echoing the words Macalaurë spoke that gave him such joy, and collapse into his arms and sob against his shoulder.

When we return downstairs to the great room, he has dried my tears and they exist now only as a heavy ache behind my eyes. Dessert is being brought to the table—frozen juices, a treat we never get in Tirion where the weather is too warm—and Nelyo makes it a point to sit me at his right side, my accustomed place, even when Findekano stares at us with naked envy. At his left is Annawendë, who holds the little daughter of the lord with the purple banner sleeping in her arms. Nelyo meets her eyes and they smile; I wonder, do they wish their first child to be a daughter or a son? I wait for pain to stab me deep within, but when it comes, it is only a low ache, like that which afflicts deep scars—the like of which I have not yet known in my life—more the memory of pain than an actual affliction.

We are given flutes of golden mead as sweet as candy and bitter pieces of chocolate molded into the shape of the star of our House. Even Carnistir eagerly consumes such treats, and before the conversation can rise again to din, Nelyo stands and addresses the group with an announcement.

“Long have I suffered with affections for my dear friend and sister in scholastics, Annawendë, but tonight, she has soothed my heart, for she has given me her hand in courtship, and I have given mine, likewise, to her. I would like to call my kin and our friends to witness this, the first night of our love.”

It is Ada who raises his glass first, standing opposite Nelyo with pride glowing in his eyes, and says, “Blessed be their love!” and we all raise our glasses and drink to the blessing, even me. My arm is not as heavy as I expect, and as I sip the sweet mead in toast of my brother, I meet his eyes and he winks at me, as though we share a secret.

Ada circles the table to kiss Annawendë on the cheek, an affection that, coming from her master, makes her blush and mumble her gratitude. Nelyo he crushes in an embrace and kisses on the mouth, and our guests, giddy first with wine and now with mead, laugh and applaud the obvious joy of one usually so collected.

Later, as we gather in the sitting room for tales and music, I sit in Macalaurë’s lap as he tunes his harp and converses with the eldest son of the lord with the golden banner. “An announced courtship!” the lord’s son whispers to my brother. “They must be serious!”

“Oh, they are. Maitimo has been dire since her arrival this spring.” His voice is dark, as though announcing a grave injury, but his eyes dance and he laughs to lighten his words. “Now I have reason to pull my best white robes from hiding and press them, for I sense that I shall be standing at a wedding soon.”

We are not long in the sitting room before the lord with the red banner bordered in green brings in a wooden cask filled with a light brownish liquid. Macalaurë is playing a spirited song and most of the young people are singing along, and the lord pours small glassfuls of the liquid and passes it around to the other lords and Ada. “Nerdanel?” he says to Nana, and she gets an appalled look on her face and says, “I think not!”

“Come now, you cannot be carrying another child so soon! I remember a day when you could out-drink all of us.”

“Those days have passed,” she says coolly, but a smile teases her lips, and she consents to sip from Ada’s glass when he offers it, before grimacing and pushing the glass back into his hands. “It is just as awful as I remember it!”

Nelyo is offered a glass, which he accepts, as are the older sons of the lords and the apprentices, even Annawendë, which gives me a measure of relief because she would not be drinking something so potent if she expected to be carrying my brother’s child anytime soon.

Ada pours another glass, and when Nana gives him an inquisitive look, he says, “For Macalaurë,” to which Nana exclaims, “Oh, Fëanaro, I don’t think so!”

“Why not? He will be forty years old in a few months time. And I find that such brew makes music not only more pleasurable to hear but also to play.”

Macalaurë seizes the glass with eagerness, and I see him trying not to cringe as he sips from it.

Once, last year, while Nelyo was regaling the group with the tale of the time that Macalaurë nearly shot him while they were hunting—accidentally, of course, but leaving a puckered white scar on his hip—I sneaked a sip from his glass, and for an hour after that, my chest burned as though it was on fire and the room listed like one of my toy ships in the bathtub with Carnistir.

Macalaurë’s music does become lighter and livelier as the volume of drink in his cup decreases. He is the quietest of us, and one might even believe him to be shy, were one to meet him for the first time, but with his harp in hand and at the center of everyone’s attention, Macalaurë has a presence that none of us can mimic, except, perhaps, Ada. Within minutes, he has the entire room singing along with him, and one of the more ambitious daughters even strikes up a dance with one of Nana’s apprentices. Nelyo is working on his second glass of the golden liquid, and he sits cross-legged on the floor and draws Carnistir, Findekano, and me into his lap, bundling us together in his arms. Carnistir is laughing but Findekano looks unnerved by all of the revelry, and I suppose that his stiff, proper family never celebrates this way. Nelyo is singing along with the music—it is rare when Nelyo sings, a shame, given that his voice is rich and beautiful—and Annawendë’s higher voice joins his, and I am surprised that someone with such coarse features could be blessed with a voice so light.

The song ends, and one of the lords takes over, telling a funny tale about his son’s first experience in the forge that makes the said son blush. Macalaurë kneels behind Nelyo and nestles his chin into his shoulder, and the two of them whisper in voices so low that even I cannot hear them, and we are passed to Annawendë so that Nelyo can stand and follow Macalaurë across the room to kneel beside Vorondil, who also endures their whispers and wears a silly grin on his face. Finally, Nelyo stands and announces that he will be singing a duet with Macalaurë in fifteen minutes, and the two of them run from the room.

Nelyo and Macalaurë’s duets are famous, for they only occur after they have both had more than their share to drink. Last summer, they did a rousing round, their voices oscillating and twisting around the other’s, called “The Rock and the Stone” about geological romance that made Ada laugh so hard that he fell out of his chair. (I, personally, was puzzled by most of the jokes.)

The lords continue telling tales, until Nelyo comes in—dressed in a plain tunic, trousers, and his hunting boots—and drags a chair to the front of the room and sits down. As if on command, Vorondil sits on the floor beside him and takes up Macalaurë’s harp and begins plucking a bright ditty that comes with surprising ease to his strong smith’s hands.

Nelyo begins to sing. His voice is not nearly as beautiful as Macalaurë’s—he lacks our brother’s extraordinary range and is constrained to the lower octaves—but at times, his voice swells into splendor that makes all of my senses liven, much as does the rich scent of roses or a shivering breeze on a hot day. Even for this song, a teasing tune written long ago to soothe the boredom of the long rides in the Hither Lands, his voice is graceful and proud.

He sings a bit lower than is usual for him and adopts a masculine swagger that is most unlike my gracious, noble brother.

By sweet Cuivienen I awake, and in the first look that I take,
I see the stars, the waving trees, but no maidens quite as fair as she,
Lying sleeping by my hand, the fairest in this fairest land.
I say, “My love, I plead to thee to please, please, please, please marry me!”
And she consents, but from afar, comes the thundering hoofbeats of Nahar,
Bringing Oromë and his strong bequest to join him on a sacred quest,
To travel to Aman oversea, with this maiden who will marry me.
Yes, she said she would marry me!

Macalaurë enters at that moment, mincing with the shyness of a maiden, and everyone in the room roars with laughter when they see why, for he is dressed in pale blue robes cinched at the waist to simulate a gown, and his hair is done away from his face in the manner of a woman, held back with Nana’s hair clips. His legs are bare beneath the robes, and he nances in a pair of our mother’s slippers. Stuffed in the front of his robes—which have been left partially open to simulate the V-neckline of a gown—are two melons.

He bats his eyes at Nelyo and prances delicately over to his chair, turning shyly from the laughing audience and curtsying politely. Nelyo looks suitably intrigued and tries to seize Macalaurë and draw him closer, but Macalaurë skips out of reach and giggles teasingly. He eases closer, until Nelyo claps an arm around his waist and pinches his backside, making him shriek and melt into Nelyo like a lovestruck maiden. He sings next, in a high, wavering falsetto.

My dear, my love, please pardon me, but did I hear you say oversea?
Distance and death our love would withstand, but my body won’t bear leaving land.
Splashing, churning swells and swills—the thought alone could make me ill!

Nelyo sings back, and they alternate verses from then on, at times, overlapping as though in an actual argument, Nelyo swaggering and Macalaurë arching his back to flaunt his melon-breasts and the audience laughing so hard that, at times, the words to the song became nearly incomprehensible. Nelyo sings, “My dear, true love, would you ignore a plea that comes from Valinor? A plea from the great Valar themselves, offering hope unto we lowly Elves?”

Macalaurë swats him with feminine indignation. “My fairest, good husband-to-be, don’t you know that I get sick at sea? Besides the fear that we might drown, the Valar won’t keep my suppers down!”

Nelyo sings, “My dearest betrothed, I can think of worse—” and Macalaurë interrupts him and pulls from his arms, trilling, “Then it’s on you that I shall vomit first! If you think it so easy to bear, then see if you still find me fair!”

Nelyo falls to his knees and clutches Macalaurë around the waist. “My dear, my love, a few weeks at most, of sailing with King Finwë’s host….”

Macalaurë huffs and flutters away. “If my illness is what pleases you, then maybe our marriage makes me sick too!”

Macalaurë flips his hair and storms away—a bit awkwardly in our mother’s slippers—and stands to the side with his arms crossed under his melons and his lips pushed out in a pout. Nelyo falls back into the chair, his masculine swagger gone and his hands hanging dejectedly between his knees.

Away I went, both sad and sorry, to have fallen in love with an Avari.
Yes, I fell in love with an Avari.

They wait for the laughter of their audience to die while Vorondil loyally plucks the harp. Macalaurë turns and slowly saunters in Nelyo’s direction, swaying his hips and giving an absentminded twirl with every few steps. Nelyo straightens and begins the next verse.

But hope is fair and hearts stay strong, and I met a maiden before long,
Who loved the song of sea and coast and traveled with King Elwë’s host.
I said, “My love, would you go along on a boat, a quest, a wedding bond?”

Macalaurë takes Nelyo’s hand and gazes into his eyes.

My dear, what is it that thou asks of me? Do you ask if I will marry thee?
A Telerin maid, I love the sea, and I’m blessed with perfect loyalty.
There is just one little tiny thing: My first loyalty is to my King,
Blessed to rule by the divine. Before him I’d kneel most anytime!
I thought that I’d be straight with thee, and tell thee of my loyalty.
My perfect subject’s loyalty.

Nelyo springs from his chair into a gleeful leap.

Loyalty? I could do worse! I never thought it’d be a curse,
Until King Elwë disappeared and from our path my betrothéd veered.
I should have known to be wary of
Her professéd loyal “subject’s” love,
And how overlong she would abide, staring at her King’s backside!
Now I am forlorn; my hope is gone, and without her, I’ll be moving on,
And my leaden heart will never again be merry, for I fell in love with a Teleri.
Yes, I fell in love with a Teleri.

Now I abide in Aman fair, to live my days in lone despair,
Dreading the arrival of each tomorrow, until I held counsel with prince Fëanaro,
And he said, “You have no reason to despair, for I can tell you where you erred!”
(Not rare from the son of our King, who believes he knows most everything.)
“Forget the Moriquendi, Telerin kind. What you need is a Noldorin mind!”
The inns of Tirion I began to prow, and it was happiness there that I found.
The maiden I knew I would wed; I knew she was mine when she said:

Macalaurë sings:

My dear, my love, I’ll be your wife and make you happy all your life.
I have Noldorin mind, Noldorin might and know how to hold your hammer right.
And when to bed we do retire, I am not afraid to play with fire.
And I won’t be scared, I won’t be bored, when your wish is to unsheath your sword!

And Nelyo replies:

My wife, our marriage shall be blessed, for Noldorin hands are still the best.
And when I unsheath my scimitar, I’ll let you win, when we spar.
And if I know a Noldorin maid’s desire, then it’s me who shall not fear the fire.
I vow, I shall not fear the fire.

Together, they join their voices in perfect harmony:

My dear, my love, please do not tarry!
The sooner we bond, the sooner we marry!
Now take my hand, take me to wed,
Take my heart, then take me to bed.
My dear, my love, please do not tarry!
For you are the one I wish to marry.
Yes, with Noldorin love, I wish to marry,
So you’re the one that I shall marry.

Nelyo pulls Macalaurë onto his lap, tips him backwards, grabs one of the melons, and kisses him on the lips. Everyone in the room gives a shriek of laughter, even little Carnistir—who surely understood even fewer of the jokes than I—and Ada grabs one of Macalaurë’s bare legs, making him scream and kick with delighted surprise, sending one of Nana’s slippers careening across the room, and Ada says, “May my sons marry well and marry maidens with less hair on their legs!”

“And breasts that aren’t crooked!” the lord with the purple banner chimes in—draining the last of his cup as he spoke—because the melon that Nelyo grabbed is drooping precariously.

Macalaurë stands up, swaying on his feet, and gives his melons a haughty heft. “I think that I have fine legs. And breasts,” he says indignantly. His voice sounds strange, like Carnistir’s when he tries to talk with his thumb in his mouth. Macalaurë sways and Nelyo has to hold him around the waist to keep him from pitching into Ada’s lap. They walk, holding each other, and collapse onto the floor beside us.

Carnistir scrambles onto Nelyo’s lap and immediately plugs his thumb in his mouth and closes his eyes. I settle into Macalaurë’s embrace—after he removes the melons and finishes fastening his robes—and his scent stings my nose, like the liquid that Ada pours over our wounds before bandaging them. Findekano kneels and looks from Nelyo to Macalaurë and back again, his already tiny body clutching itself—as though afraid to touch any of the revelers that he seems not to recognize as his kin—until Annawendë, laughing, scoops him into her arms and cuddles with him next to Nelyo. I meet his wide, terrified eyes over the raveled legs of my brothers and Annawendë and try not to look too smug as I nuzzle into Macalaurë’s shoulder and let the sound of laughter and revelry lull me to sleep.
Tags: amc

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