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(Fic) Tying the Knot

18th January 2016 (17:03)

This is a direct sequel to Rite of Passage, the story I posted just before Christmas. That fic covered the day before Nerdanel's marriage to Fëanor, as seen from the perspective of her chief handmaiden. This fic involves the same characters, one day and one Royal Wedding later.


Title: Tying the Knot
Fandom: The Silmarillion
Characters: Lissiel (OFC), Nerdanel, Fëanor, Nienna, and many hundreds of wedding guests
Wordcount: 3075
Rating/Warnings: General, no warnings needed. Some minor references to sexual behaviour, the consumption of alcohol, and dancing.

Tying the Knot

The formal part of the ceremony was over. Lissiel's best friend — the humble blacksmith's daughter who'd recently been making a name for herself as a sculptress — was now officially Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess, Nerdanel Istarnië Aranel Ñoldoron. She was standing beside her new husband at the centre of a slowly moving spiral of honoured guests, coming one by one to present their respects to the royal couple.

As far as Lissiel could tell from this distance, she looked to be an odd combination of radiantly happy and utterly bewildered. Nerdanel had never been one to enjoy crowds and formal social affairs, though after seven years of betrothal to Prince Fëanor she'd at least learned to put up with them as a necessity of her new life.

Lissiel herself loved parties and celebrations like this — or at least she remembered liking them. Right now, though, she felt little more than exhaustion, and a kind of tired relief that everything had gone smoothly. As the Princess's chief handmaiden, she'd been given the job of organising this whole affair — everything from overseeing the catering arrangements to sending out invitations to all the guests. Not all by herself, of course; the Palace employed hundreds of staff. But she'd been the one at the centre making sure everybody else did their jobs properly and on time, so it would all come together perfectly on the day.

The fact that it had done could be considered a small miracle. Perhaps. Unless calling it a miracle was blasphemy. Would The One concern Himself with such trivial matters? Perhaps she could ask. Perhaps she could ask Lord Manwë himself, since he was standing right there, Lady Varda at his side as the guests of honour, smiling benevolently at the newly-weds. Why not? He would know if anyone did.

It occurred to Lissiel that she was a little light-headed right now.

Or possibly even on the verge of hysteria.

She took a deep breath. One of the other ladies-in-waiting standing next to her noticed, looked her way and gave her a sympathetic smile. Lissiel managed a crooked smile of her own in thanks. Her colleagues had rallied around her wonderfully: she couldn't have done it without them. Of course each handmaiden had her own job to do, and Lissiel was officially in charge of them all (under the Princess's ultimate authority); but they'd gone above and beyond their duty in helping to make her own life smooth so she could concentrate on the wedding.

They'd even dressed her, this morning.

Lissiel had played more than a small part in the design of the outfits worn by the Crown Princess and her handmaidens for today's ceremony. She felt a smug sense of pleasure at the thought that Nerdanel's wedding dress would probably define fashion in Tirion for the next twenty years at least. Her own clothing, and that of her fellow ladies-in-waiting, mirrored that worn by Nerdanel herself, with a similar if less elaborate design but a contrasting colour. When the bride had entered the Great Hall flanked by her maidens, she'd shone like a red-golden jewel against a backdrop of silver. The effect was visually quite stunning; people were still talking about it hours later.

Nerdanel herself, unlike her friend, had little interest in clothes beyond their purely utilitarian aspects, but she did have very strong opinions on how shapes and colours could combine to produce a striking visual effect. That part had been entirely her contribution; Lissiel had translated those abstract ideas into the practicalities of fabric that people could actually wear. Then she'd gone out to find dressmakers able to produce something that matched Nerdanel's vision — and negotiate with them when the princess very politely, but firmly rejected their first three attempts as not good enough.

The chief handmaiden naturally had the honour and responsibility of helping Nerdanel to dress, do her hair, and all the other vital preparations on the morning of her wedding. It had taken hours to get ready, and there was no way Lissiel would have let anyone else take her place. The catch was, she also had to get ready herself; and how would she find the time for that?

The other handmaidens had the answer. As a noble of the third rank in her own right — elevated to that position just a few years earlier when Nerdanel gave her this job — Lissiel was fully entitled to body-servants of her own. As someone not born to nobility, she'd felt uncomfortable with the idea of being waited on hand and foot, and not really taken advantage of the privilege. Of course, that hadn't stopped her from arguing strongly with the equally non-aristocratic Nerdanel that her friend had a duty to accept all the honours and privileges she was now entitled to as a Princess of the Noldor. Lissiel hadn't seen this as hypocritical: it was different for Nerdanel, she was becoming royalty of the highest rank.

This morning, however, her colleagues had finally turned her argument back on her. As Chief Handmaiden to the Crown Princess she too had a role to fill, they said; and the only way she could do that was if she acted like the high noble she now was. And so they'd trooped into her bedroom at the first light of Laurelin, all five of them, and got her ready for the day. They'd bundled her into the bathroom and taken off her nightclothes and run her bath, and even scrubbed her back. They'd done her hair and helped her on with her ceremonial robes. They'd done everything, and she didn't have to lift a finger. It would have taken her at least two hours by herself (those robes were complicated); with teamwork they had her ready to face the world in just forty minutes.

Then together with Lissiel they'd all gone and done the same for Nerdanel, only with slightly less brusque efficiency and haste, and rather more respect. (Not that they'd been disrespectful to Lissiel, of course; but she was still, ultimately, on the same plane of existence as them. They could talk back to her. Nerdanel was royalty, and only Lissiel herself among the household staff — thanks to special dispensation and the privilege of old friendship — enjoyed the right to tease her when necessary.)

It was thanks to them that Lissiel had actually managed to squeeze enough extra time into the day to avert at least one potential crisis (what had the palace cook been THINKING?!) and still be standing here, outwardly calm and serene to all who didn't know her well enough to sense her inner turmoil—

<< You did well, Lissiel. Your efforts have made a lot of people happy today, including your friend and her husband. That's something you have the right to be proud of. >>

The ideas came into her mind directly, without the intervention of her ears. Once she might have started with alarm, but she was familiar with the sensation now, and even recognised the mental 'voice'. Her eyes travelled around the room until they saw the tall, dark-haired woman in a simple white dress standing a little apart from the crowd. The other guests seemed to circle around her unconsciously, leaving her in a pool of stillness.

Their eyes met, and Lissiel bowed her head in a gesture of respect.

<< Thank you, but I was only doing my job. I couldn't have done it without your teaching. >>

Her own mental voice was weak and faint by comparison, but she knew the woman in white could hear her perfectly.

<< Modesty has its place, but you should not diminish yourself unduly. Didn't I teach you that too, or have you forgotten? >>

There was a tone of whimsical humour in the reply, which might have surprised someone who knew of her only by reputation as the Lady of Sorrows. But Lissiel had spent six years as her student, and knew her well. She smiled back at her across the room.

<< Forgive me, Lady Nienna. I meant to say: 'I did an amazing job, didn't I?' >>

Nienna chuckled. << Don't take it too far. But I thought a word of reassurance would help you. We'll be leaving soon, except for Yavanna and Aulë, they're staying for the feast of course. I'm sure you'll all be able to relax more without our intimidating presence.>>

<< Well, except for the cooks. They'll only relax when my lord and lady have enjoyed the meal they've prepared for them. You know, ma'am, when I first told them who they'd be cooking for they thought I was joking with them. They didn't even realise that the Powers can eat! And, well, to be honest I didn't know that either, until Lord Aulë told me when he accepted the invitation...>>

Lissiel trailed off, aware that she was rambling. Luckily Nienna did not take offence, though her reply was brisk.

<< We can eat. Normally we don't, but we can. I'm sure Yavanna could explain it to you in much more detail; biological processes are her thing, not mine. Anyway, we're about to formally thank your King and Queen for their hospitality and make our departure, but I wanted to personally thank you too. >>

She turned away - but then glanced back over her shoulder at Lissiel and grinned — mischeviously, if such a description could be applied to one of the Powers of Arda.

<< And since you were wondering; of course The One concerns Himself with everything in Arda, down to the tiniest raindrop and blade of grass, or the wedding of two of His Children. And everything in Arda happens in accordance with His Will in the end — but none of us, not even the Elder King, can know His Will with regard to every little thing that happens. The Father of All wants His Children to grow and think for themselves, and shape the world around them according to their own abilities. Akašân. >>

Then she winked at Lissiel, and left her stunned and wondering if she ought to find a loremaster and recite Lady Nienna's words back to him to be preserved in the Eldar's books of scripture.
o0o

Three hours later, she was indeed feeling rather more relaxed. The meal had passed off without incident, and now the dancing had begun. She was officially off duty for the rest of the evening. Some of the other handmaidens were out on the floor, twirling and spinning their way through the partners on their dance cards. Once Lissiel would have been out there too, laughing and flirting and enjoying herself; but tonight she was just too tired to join in. She hoped it wasn't old age creeping up on her.

She'd found herself a comfortable seat on the edge of the ballroom to watch the fun, and one of the palace staff had brought her (unprompted) a glass of her favourite wine. It seemed to be an enchanted glass, too: because every time she put it down, whenever she turned back to it again, it had mysteriously been topped up once more. Apparently all the servants had reached a group decision that today, Lady Lissiel wouldn't need to lift a finger for herself. She felt quite touched by the solicitude.

She was also starting to feel rather dizzy. It was good wine. In fact, Lissiel was beginning to suspect that even if she'd had the energy to dance, she'd now lack the coordination. Still, for the first time in what seemed like months she didn't actually have to care about that. It was over, she could finally relax...

Twin whirlwinds of energy flung themselves down onto the arms of her chair on either side of her, and her peace was irrevocably shattered. They were talking to her, to each other, and apparently to the entire world around them, non-stop. Excited and delighted in each other's ideas, finishing each other's sentences and challenging each other's opinions in a kind of all-encompassing, never-ending intellectual ferment.

Lissiel sighed and sank down in her chair. Nerdanel was usually fun when she got in this mood, even if Lissiel sometimes couldn't understand half the things she was saying. Fëanor was worse; he somehow managed to be even more abstruse and incomprehensible than she was. The two of them seemed to understand each other perfectly, though.  When they got going together, lesser immortals could only take cover.

They really were perfect for each other, Lissiel thought plaintively, but couldn't they just go and be perfect somewhere else and leave her in peace?

Finally Nerdanel spared a thought in her direction.

"What's up, Lis? You're being very quiet tonight."

"That's because you're not letting her get a word in edgeways, the poor—"

"Me? You're the one who's talking non-stop, you big loud—"

"Big loud what, exactly?"

"I'm not saying."

"As your husband, I can order you to tell me."

"And as your wife, I can tell you where to stick your orders. In fact—" Nerdanel gave a husky giggle that made Lissiel's ears turn pink, "As your wife, I can stick them there myself now. It's allowed."

"No it's not!" Fëanor sounded alarmed, but then gave a lascivious chuckle of his own. To Lissiel's unutterable relief, his next comment was spoken directly into his wife's mind using ósanwë, so Lissiel didn't hear it. She did, however, see Nerdanel blush fiery red in response, then lean over to kiss the bridegroom.

It was quite a long kiss, and given their positions, the two of them were leaning together directly over Lissiel's head. She sank down even further into the cushions of the seat and whimpered. After what seemed like forever they broke for air.

"Lissiel, are you sure you're alright? Fëanor, stop, we're bothering her."

"I'm sure we're not. Lissiel, are we bothering you? See, she's fine. Kiss me again."

Lissiel sighed softly. She'd already learned that when Prince Fëanor had decided on a course of action, trying to change his mind was a losing proposition. She'd only met one person who'd ever even dared to try challenging him — and unfortunately that person was currently in his arms and in no mood to say anything to Fëanor except 'yes'. Or even 'Yes yes yes'.

She let herself sink even further into the chair, then wiggled out from under them onto the floor with a bump. "That was extremely ungraceful of me", she thought, and her legs wobbled under her when she tried to stand up. And then, because it suddenly seemed like a hilariously funny idea, she pushed the precariously-balanced Nerdanel off the arm of the chair down into the seat she'd just been sitting in. Because Nerdanel's arms were currently wrapped around her husband, she dragged him unexpectedly down into the chair on top of her with a cry of surprise.

The sudden noise attracted more than one pair of eyes. From a moment a flash of anger passed over Prince Fëanor's face, and a cold shock ran down Lissiel's spine and rather abruptly sobered her up. But then he saw the funny side of things, and burst out laughing, and everybody relaxed.

Nerdanel wriggled around until Fëanor was sitting in her lap — which was, Lissiel thought, surely the wrong way round? But she gave Lissiel an apologetic look and said, "I'm sorry, we were being inconsiderate. It's just kind of hard right now to resist my, um, irresistible man."
Fëanor grinned. "We could always leave the party right now."

"Fëanor, behave! We can't, there's still all sorts of things scheduled for the rest of the evening. Isn't that right?" That last question was directed to Lissiel — who, of course, was the one who had written out that schedule.

She gave them a considering look — saw where Prince Fëanor's hand had strayed, and how Princess Nerdanel's own hand had covered it, pinning it in place — and sighed.

"Yes, there are. You're supposed to be here for the next three hours. But... I'll tell you what. I'll move forward the firework display. One of Lady Nienna's Maiar is organising it, and he's a friend of mine. The noise and lights will distract everyone, and the two of you can slip out. You know which bedroom we've prepared for you?"

Both of them blushed pink and nodded, then exchanged a warm lingering look with each other. Lissiel pressed on hastily.

"I'll let the King and Queen know you've gone after you've left, it'll be better that way. I'll tell your parents too, Ner, they'll understand. No-one else needs to know you're not here. The night attendants won't be on duty yet, but I'm sure we can round them up — unless you want to take care of that yourselves?"

The job of the night attendants was to prepare their master or mistress for bed — help them undress and so forth. As the son of a king Fëanor took their presence for granted; Nerdanel had taken a while to get used to the idea. Husband and wife looked at each other, then turned back to Lissiel.

"I'm sure we can manage. Some of us, mentioning no names, actually did learn to dress ourselves as children."

"You mean undress. And I'm pretty sure I can undress you." The temperature rose a few degrees.

"Are you sure? This dress is pretty complicated. You'd probably tear it, or get the laces tangled."

"I could get a knife and cut it off you, and you'd be naked in five heartbeats." The temperature was now distinctly heated.

Lissiel cleared her throat, then giggled, for the first time since forever. Tucked into her sleeve was a small sheathed knife; she'd been using it as a letter-opener as the flurry of wedding-related correspondence had turned into a blizzard, so much that she'd taken to carrying it around with her. She pulled it out and solemnly handed it to Prince Fëanor, hilt first.

He looked at it, then at her, dumbfounded, then burst into laughter. Nerdanel turned redder than her hair and buried her face in his shoulder.

Fëanor took the knife and bowed to her. "My thanks, my lady." Then to his wife, "I approve of your chief handmaiden. She definitely has potential."

Nerdanel, still blushing, peeped around Fëanor's shoulder at Lissiel. "Just you wait until it's your turn to get married", she said. "I'll get you back!"

Lissiel dipped a curtsey.

"Yes, your highness", she said demurely.

Comments

Posted by: curiouswombat (curiouswombat)
Posted at: 18th January 2016 22:10 (UTC)
Cheshire Cat goes Whee!

Perfect!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th January 2016 02:33 (UTC)

Thanks!

Though I just noticed that for some reason LJ got rid of the paragraph spacing I'd included when I posted it. Grr.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th January 2016 03:01 (UTC)

Author's notes

Nerdanel Istarnië Aranel Ñoldoron
'Istarnië' was one of the alternative names for Fëanor's wife that Tolkien experimented with. I've repurposed it as Nerdanel's mother-name. Aranel Ñoldoron = Quenya for 'Princess of the Noldor'.


Yavanna and Aulë, they're staying for the feast
The other Valar have come to pay respects to the marriage of Finwë's eldest son, but Aulë is there as a personal guest of the bride's family. Yavanna is his +1.


Akašân
One of the few words of the Valarin language known to the elves; it literally means 'He says' (the 'He' being Eru) but in context could be translated 'This is the word of the Lord' or 'Thus it is written' or even 'Amen'.


ósanwë
Elven telepathy. It's also how Lissiel was talking to Nienna earlier.

Posted by: engarian (engarian)
Posted at: 19th January 2016 15:56 (UTC)
Howl

Oh, love the aftermath - weddings are such high intensity, confusing and multi-layered events. The small knife was a perfect touch. Great fun!

- Erulisse (one L)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th January 2016 14:38 (UTC)

(Sorry for th late rreply)

I actually had to think about that scene: why would someone in the Undying Lands be carrying a weapon around with her at all? Nor is she going on a camping holiday, and she doesn't work in the kitchens. So I had to think about why she'd have it as a tool at all...

Thanks!

Posted by: Garth St.Claire (Garth St.Claire)
Posted at: 22nd January 2016 15:16 (UTC)

Finally got around to read this. Once again you have managed to breath life into the nebulous world of Eldamar. So I guess the chief cook mentioned here (who apparently had some sort of creative idea Lissiel didn't approve od X-D ) is the same one mentioned in the other fic. one of the original 144?
I love your Nienna more and more :-)
As I have written before I can only find one little blemish in this masterwork. I just can't get over the idea of Elves saying things like "What's up" but that does not take away from the nejoyment much.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th January 2016 14:53 (UTC)

Thanks! And yes, same cook.

(Her 'idea', for the record, was that serving a simple garden salad of fresh vegetables to Yavanna would be an insult to the Valar and show the Palace kitchens in a bad light, so she ought to make it more fancy with special dressings and decorations and so forth, so it would be 'worthy' of such an honoured guest. Lissiel had already double-checked that no, Yavanna really would prefer the simple meal, even though she'd have been too polite to insult her hosts by complaining if they'd served something more elaborate.)

(Aulë, on the other hand, would be interested in seeing what sort of fancy cooking techniques the Eldar had come up with since he was last invited to dinner. He's interested in craftsmanship, not raw nature. He and his wife thus have different tastes in food.)

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