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(Fic) Rite of Passage

30th November 2015 (15:09)

I've written fic!

This is a story I've been wanting to write for a while, but found difficult because i'd keep going off at tangents instead of sticking to the main storyline, and had to ruthlessly prune them away again...

It's a sequel to A Matter of Perspective, a story I wrote last year about the night Fëanor and Nerdanel first met. That story introduced the OFC character of Lissiel, Nerdanel's best friend and the one who dragged her to the party where she met Prince Fëanor.

Then in July of this year I put together Meanwhile, Back in Tirion, a story set 3,000 years later after Fëanor and most of the Noldor have left Tirion to recover the Silmarils; and Nerdanel and her royal sisters-in-law are left behind in the City trying to work out what to do next. This story included Lissiel as Princess Nerdanel's Chief Handmaiden; and as someone asked and I confirmed; yes, it's meant to be the same person.



There are numerous references to handmaidens in Tolkien's work — Varda, Vairë, Melian and Galadriel are all specifically mentioned as having one or several — but little detail is given as to what the job actually entails. In some ways they're servants: Galadriel's handmaiden is sent to bring her a cup of wine when the Lady of Lórien wants to toast farewell to the Fellowship. On the other hand, Varda's handmaiden Ilmarë is noted as being 'chief among the Maiar of Valinor', more important than, say, Melian or Olórin. It's clear that if they're servants, they're very senior and illustrious ones.

Note that in our real history, a Queen's ladies-in-waiting were often chosen from among daughters of the highest nobility, and it was considered an honour to be chosen; not least because handmaidens and ladies-in-waiting had regular personal access to talk to the Queen, at a time when royalty were not merely symbols but had actual executive power. It should also be noted that in bygone days being a personal servant to someone was not necessarily considered demeaning; it was just a job like any other, and a perfectly honourable one. Finally, bear in mind that in a palace with hundreds, if not thousands of staff, being a servant in charge of other servants and running a department of the royal household would be a very responsible position, similar to a manager in a modern company — i'm assuming that given their general belief in gender equality, elves would not expect handmaidens to be merely decorative!

As such, I became interested in exploring Lissiel's backstory; how she became a royal handmaiden, and what the job might entail, and what she thought about it. This also gives an opportunity to look at Nerdanel's story from a new angle. Her marriage to Fëanor is a familiar part of Silmarillion lore; but something that I've not seen mentioned as much is how much of an upheaval it must have been for her to go from being a humble blacksmith's daughter to being the wife of the Crown Prince and heir to the High King of the Noldor. Plus, I like stories being told from the perspective of someone else, not the major and well-known protagonists, giving a view from outside.  And so:

This story looks at the preparations for Nerdanel's wedding to the Crown Prince from a ground-level point of view; through the eyes of her newly-appointed chief handmaiden who's been given the job of organising it all.

Title: Rite of Passage
Fandom: The Silmarillion
Characters: Lissiel (OFC, Nerdanel's friend), Nerdanel, Fëanor, various Elven and Ainur inhabitants of the Blessed Realm
Wordcount: 4758
Rating/Warnings: General, no warnings needed.



Rite of Passage



King's House, Tirion
One day before the wedding of Crown Prince Curufinwë Fëanáro to Lady Nerdanel Istarnië


Lissiel paused at the bottom of the stairs and took a deep breath. Several deep breaths. Her knuckles were white on the banister as she tried to stop the room from spinning around her. Focus, she told herself. Remember your training. Remember your duty.

Focus.

Then she straightened up, made a microscopic adjustment to the fit of her chemise, and opened the double doors and swept through them like a queen. Two servants bobbed curtseys to her as she went past; she smiled back at them graciously. A measured glance out of the window to judge the brightness of the light told her it was still only the second hour: so she had time to see the Master of the Royal Music first, before going down to the kitchens to double-check the catering arrangements. But if she did that, it would mean...

By fortunate coincidence a servant wearing the livery of the Outside Staff walked past at that moment. Lissiel stopped him, asked him to take a message to the Chief Gardener; could he delay their meeting until after Laurelin's fourth hour?

The man nodded, said, "Of course, my lady" and hurried off on his errand. Lissiel watched him go, keeping her face carefully immobile to keep it from betraying her glee.

She still hadn't quite got used to the way people treated her now. How she could give people instructions — no, orders and they'd obey her. Without question. It was an unusual feeling; part of her revelled in it, part was afraid she'd start to enjoy it too much...


Seven weeks before the wedding

She'd discussed her thoughts on the matter with Nerdanel, a while back, and of course her friend had teased her and said she'd always known that Lissiel would turn into a power-mad dictator the moment she became a royal handmaiden and was thus raised to the aristocracy. Power corrupts, and Lissiel was proof.

Which was a bit rich – Lissiel retorted – coming from someone who in less than two more  months would become Crown Princess of the Noldor and (depending on which protocol expert you talked to) either the second or the third highest-ranked woman in all of Tirion. Give her a year and the Eldar would all be puppets dancing to her whim.

They'd been eating cream meringues at the time, prepared for them by the palace pâtissiers, which was unfortunate since they made excellent missiles for Nerdanel to throw at her newly-appointed Chief Handmaiden. Lissiel hadn't hesitated for more than a moment before picking up another and throwing it back - which, Nerdanel warned her between her giggles, was high treason and she could have her executed for it.

Lissiel had scorned this threat: if Nerdanel had her killed, who would she find to pick out her clothes for her in future? Surely she didn't think her own lamentable fashion sense was good enough for a princess of the Noldor?

Nerdanel had replied archly that Fëanor was marrying her, not her clothes; and if necessary she'd go to her wedding in the nude. The image this conjured up stopped Lissiel in her tracks – a meringue poised to throw lying forgotten in her hand – as she imagined the effect it would have on the more strait-laced Noldorin nobility. Let alone what the Vanyar guests would think!

"Actually, the Vanyar probably wouldn't mind," Nerdanel had commented when Lissiel shared her thoughts. "They're more, um, close to nature than we are. They think we rely too much on artifice; we're too much in love with the things we create."

"Including clothes?"

"Well, I assume so. The ones I've met all wore normal clothing, but you never know..."

Lissiel remembered that Nerdanel was more well-travelled than she was; after all, she went on those weird walking holidays far from the civilised delights of Tirion. The very idea made Lissiel shudder. (And the thought that as a royal handmaiden it would probably be her duty to accompany Princess Nerdanel on any future such expeditions was not a comfort.)

"Speaking of clothes..." Lissiel looked down at her gown. It was covered in bits of cream and sugar-dust, and was going to pose a challenge to the palace laundry. She sighed. Nerdanel's dress was just as bad, and the floor was a state. "We probably shouldn't have done this."

"No, it was funny. But we have made a bit of a mess; I suppose we should clean it up..."

Nerdanel half-rose from her chair, but Lissiel - already more attuned to the nuances of palace life thanks to the fact she'd, *ahem*, been working there for the last few years instead of gallivanting around with her dashing and handsome fiancé - looked up at the two servants who, inevitably, were hovering silently at the edge of the room.

There were always servants in the palace, everywhere you went; it was a fact of her new life. These two were wincing with looks of acute distress, which they attempted to hide – too slow – when they realised Lissiel was looking at them. But she called them over with an understanding nod, and restrained Nerdanel from getting up.

"Let them do it, Ner. It's their job."

"But..." Nerdanel looked rebellious, but subsided, much to Lissiel's relief. Training her to be a proper princess was a far harder job than her own training to be a palace handmaiden had been. The fact was that the servants – and, for that matter, most of the population of Eldamar – were natural royalists. The idea of 'their' princess having to do anything for herself, when they could do it for her, pained them; it hurt their pride.

Lissiel herself had once found that hard to comprehend, even though she found herself instinctively sympathising with the viewpoint. But the psychology of it had been explained to her by the highest imaginable authority on empathy, compassion and understanding in the entire realm of Arda, and she finally understood.

Which was also Nerdanel's doing, indirectly.

Seven years before the wedding

Lissiel would never have presumed, or dared, to approach the Valar themselves to request training, even though she knew that Lord Aulë accepted many of the Noldor as students. But her talents lay in other directions than craftsmanship and smithing, so she had never really considered the idea as applicable to her. Then Nerdanel had reminded her that the Valar themselves had interests in other fields too – including much more abstract areas of knowledge and skill – and one of them might be willing to teach her. Lissiel had stored the idea to one side of her mind, as something she might think about later. Until, that is, the day her best friend, newly betrothed and ennobled (as an engagement gift from her future parents-in-law)  had called her in to tell her she wanted Lissiel to be her official Chief Handmaiden, so that she'd see at least one familiar face at her side in her new life at the palace.

The job would not be a sinecure. A Chief Handmaiden (or the masculine equivalent, for the males of the high nobility) was a combination of personal assistant, chief of staff, social secretary, wardrobe manager, head of intelligence, counsellor, confidante and companion. She counted as a noble of the third rank in her own right, with the perquisites and privileges that entailed. She was in charge of the other handmaidens (who were nobles of the fourth rank) and the non-noble servants who were assigned to her principal. She controlled a significant budget, and was entrusted with her noble's Privy Purse as well.

The offer filled Lissiel with an overpowering mixture of delight and terror. Queen Indis's Chief Handmaiden was over 1800 years old and had been born beneath the stars of Cuiviénen; Lissiel was 51, barely out of adolescence by Elven standards. How could she possibly take up such a position in such exalted company? How would the other palace staff ever take her seriously?

The solution rose up in her mind and astonished her with her own audacity. They'd have to take her seriously if she was properly trained. Trained by the Valar themselves, in, in, she wasn't exactly sure... people skills? Management and organisation? Politics?

Then she'd been worried that this was hubris speaking, that her motives were pride rather than the desire to do a good job. The Valar would see right through her and turn her away. She'd have failed Nerdanel before she even started...

She'd gone out onto the terrace to think things through, walking slowly down the silver-lit gravel path; and there she'd met Prince Fëanor himself, taking the evening air. He'd given her the friendly but slightly cautious smile she'd come to recognise. After a lifetime of being the centre of attention, he was now going to get married and was discovering that his intended wife had her own life, and her own interests, and her own circle of friends which did not revolve around him. This was a new and – let's face it – not entirely enjoyable experience for him. However, he was quick on the uptake (almost disturbingly so) and it was obvious that he genuinely and deeply loved his fiancée; and so he seemed to have made a conscious decision to be pleasant to Nerdanel's friends.

He already knew about Lissiel's job offer – it was no surprise to her that Nerdanel had discussed it with him first. He asked what she'd decided to do, and nodded in a slightly uncomprehending manner when Lissiel said she'd come out here to think it over. Thinking things over was not one of Fëanor's strong points, at least according to his fond but often exasperated fiancée. Taking the plunge, Lissiel had asked him what he thought about her approaching one of the Valar to become their student.

He'd not been as sympathetic as she'd expected, giving the distinct impression that he wasn't sure there was much to learn from them – or at least, that it was better to find things out for yourself. Still, he was quite blunt about the fact that if Lissiel wanted to do it, she should go right ahead without hesitation. Then his mood turned right around, and he grinned broadly, and he said that none of Queen Indis's handmaidens had been trained by the Valar, so maybe Lissiel should learn what she could from the Powers and then give lessons to the other royal handmaidens, and wouldn't that be a turn-around!

Now it was Lissiel's turn to force a hesitant smile. If there was one thing she hated above all else, it was being made to take sides in someone else's argument. Luckily, she was either good at hiding her feelings or the Prince wasn't paying attention to them, because now he was encouraging her to approach the Valar as soon as possible, so her training could be finished before the wedding, so she could be put in charge of making the arrangements for it as her first big job as his future wife's Chief Handmaiden...

It was quite overwhelming, but Lissiel forced down the feeling of panic that threatened to engulf her and asked the Prince if he knew the best way to approach the Valar. Fëanor waved a hand airily – "I'm told they can hear you anywhere, but probably best to go to the Máhanaxar, make it formal. Why not go first thing tomorrow? I'll lend you a horse. Comyandur—" this was addressed to the attendant who was waiting dutifully on his master a few paces back "—Please prepare a letter of introduction over my signature for Lady Lissiel; she can stay in the Noldorin embassy in Valmar as my guest. 'Please extend all courtesies as you would to myself', etcetera, you know the drill".

She'd stammered out her thanks, then fled before he – or more to the point, she herself – could change their minds. And so in the morning, much to her bemusement, she'd found herself perched on the back of one of the finest horses in the royal stables, its long strides eating up the leagues between Tirion and Valmar; and a week later she'd been standing on the cool grass of the Máhanaxar awaiting her audience when a gentle voice behind her had asked, "Why are you nervous?"

She turned, and saw only an ordinary-looking elf woman in a plain white dress, such as one might meet every day on the streets of the city. She bore no obvious sign of power or majesty; but some sixth sense told Lissiel that there was a strength within her, the strength of a tree that bends in the wind but does not break; and so she did not hesitate to tell her the truth.

She spoke of her ordinary, everyday nervousness; that she felt awe of the Valar, and was afraid she would offend them or embarrass herself before them. That they might judge her unworthy, and turn her away. Encouraged by the patient smile and warm eyes of her listener – though she spoke no further words – Lissiel opened her heart further. She spoke of her doubts over her own motives, that she worried that perhaps she only wanted to study under the Valar out of pride and ambition rather than a genuine desire to learn. That she was afraid of letting Nerdanel down and falling short of the trust she'd placed in her. That she was terrified that after Nerdanel got married she'd forget her old friend and move on into a new life where Lissiel could not follow...

As she stammered out those last words Lissiel finally fell silent, astonished that she'd confided so many of her deepest secrets to this stranger. But the woman gave her a kindly smile and said, "Thank you, Lissiel".

And while Lissiel was still wondering, "How do you know my name?" the woman had added, "I would be delighted to have you as my student, if you desire it."

And then her eyes saw clearly who was before her, and Lissiel sank to her knees in reverent awe and said, "I do, my lady." But another part of her couldn't resist asking, "Why did you appear to me the way you did, just now?"

Nienna extended a hand to help her new student back to her feet. Her voice was still kindly, but now there was a brisk tone underlying it. "As your first lesson, I'd like you to explain that to me..."

Seven days before the wedding

"Why Nienna?"

"Hmm? Lissiel had her back to the room, writing on the Big Board. The cook was riding out to Alqualondë to personally organise a delivery of fresh seafood for the wedding banquet, so she had to reschedule their meeting tomorrow, which caused a cascade effect to ripple though every other appointment she'd made that day... She didn't realise Nerdanel had spoken until she repeated the question.

"Why Lady Nienna? You never did explain."

Reluctantly she turned away from the board, the chalk still held between her fingers. Nerdanel was standing in the middle of an explosion of cases, bags and boxes, all the drawers and cupboards of the room lying open around her. She'd insisted on doing her own packing, and for once Lissiel wasn't in the mood to argue. She'd dismissed the servants with a quiet nod, knowing they'd still be within call if Nerdanel changed her mind. A week before the Royal Wedding, the tension was starting to leave its mark.

Lissiel was, in fact, very glad that Nerdanel had decided to spend her last week of singledom at her parents' house.  Maybe it was cowardly of her, but if the Crown-Princess-to-be went into full emotional meltdown from pre-wedding nerves, Master Mahtan and his wife would probably do better than Lissiel at picking up the pieces. They'd known their daughter a little longer than she had, after all.

Lissiel opened her mouth to answer, then closed it again with a grin. She pretended to study the chalk held in her hand for a moment, then asked, "Why don't you tell me why I became her student?"

Nerdanel gave an exaggerated scowl. "You're not a Vala. Don't try that answer-a-question-with-a-question stuff on me!"

"You've got to admit it's a good teaching technique."

"I know. Lord Aulë does it all the time. But I don't want my brain stretched right now, I want a nice relaxing time before my big day."

Lissiel refrained from turning around to indicate the board crammed with finely-written text detailing all the plans, appointments and schedules that she and the rest of the palace staff were immersed in so that Nerdanel could enjoy her 'relaxing time'. Nerdanel, however, was not stupid; she had the grace to look a little abashed.

"I'm sorry. I'm just curious. I mean, if you wanted training in management and organisation, wouldn't Lord Manwë have been a better choice?"

Once Lissiel would have been horror-struck at such presumption. Now she just shook her head. "The Elder King is much too busy for that sort of thing; though he did give me the honour of a short audience—"

"Really? You never told me!" Nerdanel sounded fascinated, and a little envious. Lissiel shrugged awkwardly.

"I think he was curious to meet me. You must know, the Valar saw me as, well, something of an experiment. They've been teaching us the practical arts – agriculture, animal husbandry, architecture, and so on for years, and of course there's astronomy, theology, mathematics and other areas of abstract knowledge. But can you teach someone the kind of skills a handmaiden needs? Or do you have to be born with them?"

"Well, can you?" Now she looked genuinely interested.

Lissiel grinned, "You'll be the best judge of my skills yourself, my lady soon-to-be-Princess! But Lady Nienna did teach me a lot. I feel different, you know, in myself? More self-confident. I feel like I understand things a whole lot better now; about the way people act, why they say the things they do. My lady was always asking me to explain why; why I thought someone reacted this way, why they said that, why they did this; and so on, and so on. To question everything."

"Hmm. You're saying she made you introspective? I wouldn't have thought that was possible."

That made Lissiel laugh. "Oh, she praised me for being spontaneous—"

"Is that what they're calling it now?"

"*Ahem*. Lady Nienna says that while self-knowledge is good, it's wrong to be constantly second-guessing yourself. Compassion is active, not passive; you can't help people by sitting quietly on your hands worrying if you're going to do the wrong thing."

"Well that's good. Because I can't imagine you sitting quietly, on your hands or otherwise, for more than three minutes at a time."

 "That's not true! I sit quietly for hours sometimes when you're bashing at rocks with a hammer!"

The woman who was already being hailed as the Eldar's greatest sculptor refused to rise to the bait at hearing her art described in such terms. She contented herself by saying mildly, "Do you? I assumed you were always still chattering away, but the noise was just drowned out by the sound of hammering".

Lissiel stuck out her tongue.

"So, your apprenticeship with Lady Nienna taught you to be spontaneously introspective? Or introspectively spontaneous? And that's useful?"

"I've seen Carondo at work, you know. I visited his studio while I was in training."

Nerdanel blinked at the apparent non-sequitur. Carondo was, well, he had been the most famous sculptor in Tirion. That status was now in doubt. Nerdanel asked warily, "Did he know you're my friend?"

"Oh yes. Don't worry, he was perfectly gracious, though I did get the impression he was hoping to impress me to make a point. He is very good... but you know how he works?"

"No."

"Slowly. Painstakingly, even. I was in his studio for five hours, and in all that time he only struck his chisel eight times. I counted."

"What kind of piece was he working on?"

"Hard to tell, it was barely more than a lump of rock when I was there, and he didn't tell me what he was planning."

Nerdanel thought for a while. "This was what, two years ago?"

"More like six."

"Really? Because the only statue he's unveiled since The Party—" (there was only one capital-P Party in Nerdanel's vocabulary: the one where she first met Fëanor) "— is that big monumental piece of Imin, Tata and Enel he did for Mountainside Park. You mean he was already working on it six years ago?"

"I told you he was slow."

"Slow? With eight chisel-strokes in five hours, it sounds like he was working extra-fast to impress you!"

Lissiel giggled. "Probably. But that's my point, see? How many times would you strike your chisel in five hours?"

"I've, um, never really counted..."

"Could you finish a life-size statue of three people in five hours? You could, I bet."

"No! That's ridiculous. Well, not unless it was really, really abstract and impressionistic. Huh. Actually, that might be an interesting... " She looked thoughtful. "Maybe I could?"

"I've seen you, Ner, bashing away. Lumps of rock and stone-dust flying everywhere, non-stop. It's pretty spectacular, actually. I can watch what you're carving emerging from the rock in front of my eyes."

"Yes, but that's only the statues I make for fun. I take longer over the commissions." She sounded a little defensive. "Anyway, what you don't take account of is the months of preparation and planning and sketching I do beforehand. I only pick up my chisel when I've got everything perfectly fixed in my mind."

"Exactly! That's my point!" Lissiel exclaimed gleefully. "That's what Lady Nienna taught me. You prepare carefully in advance, so when the time comes you can be spontaneous! Except you're a person being spontaneous who actually knows what she's doing, and understands how people think, and can foresee the effect she'll have on people."

Nerdanel considered this. "It sounds a little, I don't know... manipulative?"

Lissiel nodded and said frankly, "You're right. It can be. But listen: do you remember Master Rúmil's story about crossing the Big River?

Nerdanel nodded. It was a familiar part of elven folklore, a tale of the Great Journey taught to all their children.

"So they built the rafts, but everyone was afraid to get on them because the river was so wide and fast-flowing. So then King Ingwë jumps onto a raft himself and challenges the Vanyar to follow him, and then King Finwë does the same with the Noldor. Do you remember what Ingwë said to them?"

"Of course. 'How can we call ourselves Minyar if we are not the first to cross this river?' I remember being confused because they're not called Minyar, they're called Vanyar."

"You weren't confused, Nerdanel, you were angry. I remember that day. You made Master Rúmil interrupt his story to explain to you, while the rest of us grumbled."

"Well, if you're telling a story you should include all relevant information so people understand it."

"Mm-hmm. But anyway, why do you think Ingwë used those words?"

"Well, to inspire them to get on the rafts. Appealing to their sense of pride."

"'Inspire' or 'manipulate'?"

"But they're—" Whatever else she may be, Nerdanel was never slow on the uptake. "All right. I take your point. It's all a matter of perspective."

"Yes. Or motive. You can use words to persuade someone to do what you want, or what's in everyone's best interest including their own: but they’re often the same words. Words are powerful and dangerous things."

"Which makes you a powerful and dangerous person?"

"Of course. I'm a Quende; it's right there in the name."

"Is that even a word?"

"Sure it is. What else do you think the singular of 'Quendi' would be?"

"I've never actually heard anyone say it, and I'm marrying a linguist!"

"I'm sure Fëanáro will back me up if you ask him. He'll also explain to you exactly why the Teleri say 'Pende' or whatever it is they say over there, with a side dissertation on the word's derivations in five different dialects of Proto-Eldarin, three of them imaginary."

Nerdanel giggled. "He would too. Is this the voice of experience?"

"Not directly. I have received similar lectures, uh, I mean conversations before though."

Nerdanel pretended to scowl. "I hope you're not being rude about my almost-husband."

"I wouldn't dare." This was actually true. Prince Fëanor could be pleasant, even charming when he wanted to be, but when he was angry he was a terror. She added in a more whimsical tone, "But I wish you'd ask him to stop changing my board. I know the Tengwar are still a work in progress, but that doesn't mean he can rub out and redraw the letters I've already written when he decides they should be a different shape! He'd listen to you, if you asked him."

She half-turned to indicate the board behind her. Nerdanel walked over to look at it with her, a finger tracing the line that marked today's date. "Only eight more days" she said in a voice gone suddenly shy.

Lissiel gave her a companionable squeeze around the shoulders, then gently lifted her finger aside before it smudged the chalk.

Nerdanel stood in silence for a moment, then turned to face Lissiel. Her face was solemn, though there was perhaps a faint glint in her eye.

"So you're saying that for your training you went to Nienna... because she's the Vala of empathy and understanding?"

"Well, yes."

"And not because she's also the Vala of sorrow and pity?"

"No, I, uh... What are you getting at?"

"That I'd hate to think my new Chief Handmaiden thinks that the primary qualification for her job is knowing how to show pity to the afflicted!"

Lissiel burst out laughing.

"Hardly. You do know you're the envy of every woman in Tirion right now.? Well, nearly every one. And probably some of the men too. You're marrying your prince — both figuratively and literally."

Nerdanel tried to look modest, and failed. Her smile was radiant and slightly smug.

"I'd still marry him if he were a street sweeper. You do know that, right?"

"I do. But admit it, Ner, becoming royalty and having a small army of servants at your beck and call —" she pointed at herself with the hand holding the chalk and swept a curtsey, "does have its advantages, yes?"


Now

The general-in-chief of Nerdanel's small army of servants came out of her meeting with the Master of the Royal Music feeling accomplished. They'd reviewed the programme for tomorrow's wedding, incorporated a few minor changes and one major one — moving back the firework display meant that an extra twenty minutes of music had to be found to fill the gap. As Lissiel left she made a promise to double-check that the palace kitchens had made proper arrangements to supply refreshments to the orchestra during the evening reception. Apparently the catering arrangements had been rather lacking in this respect at previous formal social occasions — at least in the Master's eyes; the Cook refused to accept that there was a problem.

The Cook was a most formidable lady, the absolute ruler of the palace kitchens, and few dared to challenge her. She was one of the Unbegotten, the original 144, and refused to accept that any elf born of woman could ever know more than her about cooking, catering or managing a kitchen. It had to be said, she was very good at her job – so long as you were happy to do things her way.

And talking to her was next on Lissiel's agenda.

Gulp.

Seven years ago, Lissiel would probably not even have dared speak to her, let alone argue with her. But now she was Nerdanel's Chief Handmaiden — well,  strictly speaking, a Royal Handmaiden on secondment to Lady Nerdanel until after her marriage; but Crown Prince Fëanor had personally put her in charge of organising this wedding, and that made Lissiel very senior indeed in the hierarchy of palace servants. At least equal to the Cook, and in this particular case, with the theoretical right to give her instructions...

No, not 'theoretical' right. Actual right, damn it.

Lissiel took a deep breath. Her hand went to the amulet she wore under her blouse for good luck, and held it.

"I can do this," she said to herself. "I can." Then sighed. "Nienna have pity on me..."

Comments

Posted by: Garth St.Claire (Garth St.Claire)
Posted at: 30th November 2015 16:17 (UTC)

Again this is simply marvellous! I think I said before, and I'll say it again you really manage to breath life into the characters from the Silmarillion and have them behave in a way that's perfectly true to what we know about them.
Like Nienna here, she's my favourite valar and I could not think of a way to portray her better than you did here. Feanor, is of course, perfectly done as well again.
Lissiel herself is always a joy to read about, the more we learn about her, the more interesting she gets.
And finally you manage to make the blessed Realm seem alive and "real" with the little details you add; Mountain Side Park, Carondo (help me again here with the name does it come from Cor "to build, make"?) and the "natural" Vanyar. That last one is particularly funny; I enjoy making up my own details about Eldamar as well and in fact imagine that some of the Vanyar who live in central Valinor are rather lightly dressed. It just sorta makes sense :-P
The tale of the Great River was a nice touch as well and the confusion with the ever-0cahnging language of the Elves (and Feanor re-drawing letters X-D)
Good job as always!
Edit: Oh and another question. Nerdanel being the "second or third highest ranking woman in Tirion" does this mean Findis is already born, but Irime not or does this hierachy include Miriel or Ingwe's wife?

Edited at 2015-11-30 16:25 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 30th November 2015 16:43 (UTC)

Thanks!

I think it's easy to think of Nienna as kind of wet and ineffectual, but then you have to remember that she was Gandalf's mentor. I see her as 'compassionate' in the way a nurse is: brisk and businesslike.

Yes, 'carondo' means 'stone-maker'.

Tirion and Valmar are on the Equator, so you probably wouldn't want to wear too many clothes! Though I dare say elves are naturally resistant to both heat and cold, much more than humans are, so dress more for display and modesty rather than protection.

The idea of Fëanor and his "five different dialects of Proto-Eldarin, three of them imaginary" was a tongue-in-cheek reference to Tolkien himself...

As I picture it, Fëanor is actually hypothesising how the dialects of the Sindar and Avari would have changed during their years of separation.

Your final question; yes, I'm assuming that Irimë hasn't been born yet, and the debate is whether the wife of King Finwë's oldest child should rank above or below his own second child. Spoiler: Fëanor will insist that Nerdanel should have a higher rank than any of Indis's spawn! Nerdanel herself doesn't care (she finds the whole question embarrassing), but she's wise enough to know when not to oppose Fëanor.

Posted by: Garth St.Claire (Garth St.Claire)
Posted at: 30th November 2015 20:48 (UTC)

Of course Feanor would insist on that :-P
Yeah I imagine the Elves to dress vaguely Greco-Roman since the descriptions of Arwen's and Galadriel's clothing in the LoTR. None of those heavy fabrics and dramatic sleeves form the movies for me.
For Aman I just imagine the same, only more so. The Vanyar I imagine like the Archaic Greeks, mostly light tunics ir even just cloaks. The Noldor I imagine as more colourful Romans with lots of gems and the Teleri kinda Egyptian.
It of course stands to reason that the Elves of Middle Earth dressed a bit warmer than that X-D

Posted by: curiouswombat (curiouswombat)
Posted at: 30th November 2015 22:57 (UTC)
El 2

Oh excellent. I really do feel as if I know Fëanor and Nerdanel better as people when you write them - and I really like Lissiel. I think it is a friendship that Nerdanel will continue to value over the coming centuries. I like to think Fëanor and Nerdanel had many years of happy marriage before things went pear-shaped, or silmaril shaped if that is not the same thing!

Also, I can absolutely see Nienna as 'compassionate' in the way a nurse is: brisk and businesslike.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 1st December 2015 12:40 (UTC)

Thanks!

I think of Silmarils as being more or less spherical, not pear-shaped. :) *the thrice-enchanted globes of light / that shine until the final night".

As for F/N, this is from an unfinished story fragment I have on my disk about Nerdanel at the start of the Fourth Age, talking to Legolas and Gimli (they haven't recognised her; she's only a name in the history books to them):



Without turning her head she said in a flat tone, "I'm a widow". Then she moved the chisel slightly and hit it again, and again, the slam reverberating through the forge as she swung the hammer and cracks spread through the hard stone. (...)

"Forgive me, my lady!"

Her hand paused before bringing the hammer down. "For reminding me of my husband? Don't worry about it, it's been a long time. I'm over him now." The hammer fell with a crack and a piece of stone the size of a fist sprang off and clattered to the floor. Then she added in a tone of wry honesty, "Mostly over him".

Posted by: curiouswombat (curiouswombat)
Posted at: 1st December 2015 13:22 (UTC)
El 2

I would really like to read that story.

Mind if it is like unfinished fragments on mine it might take a while :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 1st December 2015 13:47 (UTC)

A while? I wrote that fragment in 2013. :)

As too often happens, I ran out of steam and never worked out how to end it, so it just cuts off abruptly.

Posted by: engarian (engarian)
Posted at: 2nd December 2015 02:57 (UTC)
Dancing with Joy

I love the fact that Feanaro is changing the Tengwar even as she is writing the lists and compiling her order of attack. I think Lady Nienna is an inspired choice of Vala for her training and love the fact that you brought the challenges facing a royal wedding to the forefront. The Silmarillion may minimize the idea of the marriage between Feanor and Nerdanel, but Feanor was Crown Prince and yes, there would have been some serious ceremonial trappings necessary in this wedding.

Wonderful and enjoyable read.

- Erulisse (one L)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 2nd December 2015 10:50 (UTC)

Thanks!

The discussion between them represents my own thought process to an extent: if you wanted training in, to use the modern phrase, management studies, which Vala would be most appropriate? I could see several possibilities, and when I eventually decided 'Nienna', so did Lissiel. :)

I can imagine the Noldor in Tirion inventing all sorts of elaborate celebrations and rituals and classifications and hierarchies to fill the time, and even for fun; most of them would be abandoned when they went into Exile.

I'm imagining the setting here as something like a cross between the court of Louis XIV of France and Heian-era Japan, except that while some people are privileged, nobody in the Blessed Realm is actually poor or oppressed.

Posted by: samtyr (samtyr)
Posted at: 2nd December 2015 18:18 (UTC)

This is just fascinating. I adore the world-building you have done here regarding Nerdanel and her Chief Handmaiden Lissiel.

I am anxious to know if she is able to command the Head Cook. I have known many such ladies, and while they are quite happy to instruct you, they seldom take kindly to being instructed. (Otoh, they usually *do* know everything so it is best to just let them have their way. ;)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 2nd December 2015 19:28 (UTC)

'Command', almost certainly not. Be firm and assertive while remaining polite and respectful, knowing the right things to say, when to compromise and flatter and when to stand firm: yes. She's had seven years of being trained by the Valar in person, so a mere elf should (in theory...) hold no terrors for her. :)

(Not to mention that Lissiel is a Noldo, one of the Firstborn Children of Eru, born in the Blessed Realm with the Light of the Trees in her eyes. Okay, so are most other people around her, but it still counts for something!)

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