Discrete Elements by pandemonium_213

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Author's Chapter Notes:

A birthday fic for Oshun, April 2015.  Many thanks to Elleth for allowing me to borrow her master healer, Estëlindë.  Inspired by Ramin Djawadi's magnificent The King's Arrival from the Game of Thrones, Season 1 soundtrack and by one of my favorite scenes in GoT Season 1.

On the day the King arrived, the rains stopped, and the sun rose high over the storm clouds that retreated to the East. Culinen breathed in the fresh scent that wafted in from an open window of the guest quarters. The air smelled so good after the rain, and the sky was so blue.

"Come on! Can't you hear it?" Mornilin leaned so far out the same open window that she was afraid he'd fall out.

"Morni, no! Mama told us to stay put until she sends for us and to keep out of trouble!" Culinen already had been scolded roundly after one of the keep's servants discovered her poking around in Master Estelindë's apothecary. She was not eager to be punished again. Sitting all afternoon among the noble ladies of her uncle's retainer while they gossiped and embroidered was not her idea of fun, let alone anything that engaged her curiosity.

"I don't care!" Morni pouted. "It's the King! I want to see him. I've never seen a king before."

That was why they were here: to meet the High King of the Noldor. Their uncle had sent word this past winter that the monarch planned to visit Himring in the spring. Papa received the summons to appear, and he decided it was time for her and Morni to introduced to the King.

"Neither have I, but..."

Mornilin waved his hand at her. "Shush! Listen. There it is again. They're coming!"

This time, she heard the distant peals of a horn that carried through the freshly-washed air, a crystalline call that was almost immediately drowned out by the rumble of voices, the barking of hounds, and the clatter of footsteps in the courtyard as the residents of her uncle's fortress erupted to prepare for the King's arrival and bustled about in earnest. She left her chair where she had been fidgeting and joined her brother at the window.

"Let's go watch for them. Up there." Morni pointed at the parapets along the northern wall.

"We'll never get out of the keep. Taerwen will catch us." Earlier that day, after she and her brother bathed, had their hair combed, and dressed in fine clothing, Culinen heard Mama give strict orders to their nursemaid to keep an eye on them. However, Taerwen left the guest quarters to go to the kitchens and still hadn't returned.  The nursemaid, rosy-cheeked and a little plump, was fond of food, and Uncle Maitimo's kitchen staff set a good table.

"Sure we will. We'll climb out!"

"Climb? We can't!"

"We can, too! Right down the vines. There are lots of them by our window, and it's not that far down." Morni leaned out the window further to grab at the ancient ivy, pulling it. "And they're strong."

Culinen peered over the thick ledge of the window. They were three stories up, and a fall from that height could mean a broken arm or leg or worse.

"I don't know, Morni. If we get caught, if I ruin this dress, Mama will make me sit with the ladies all spring and summer, until we leave to go back home."

"We won't get caught, and that's a stupid dress anyhow. C'mon! You're a good climber. Almost as good as me! Or are you chicken?"

That did it. Culinen could not stand the idea of her little brother outpacing her. Within moments, she led him down the thick ropes of vines that twined up the stones of the keep.

It helped that their rooms faced away from the courtyard, where all the activity was. That let them scoot along the wall until they dropped down to the ground, which was soft from the rains. It was also muddy. Morni landed on his feet, but stumbled and fell back onto his butt. When he stood up, his trousers and tunic had a big wet splotch on them.

She laughed at him. "Looks like you peed yourself!"

"Shut up! You're not so clean either."

Culinen looked at the skirts of her fancy new gown. The hem was dragging in the mud, and brown stains seeped into the fabric. Still, she lifted the dress, not to keep it clean — it was too late for that — but so she could race her brother to the stairs that led up the western wall, where there were fewer people.

"Race you!" she cried, and they were off.

Mornilin was behind her at first, but put on a burst of speed and charged ahead of her. He was only three years younger than she was — "My Avarin twins," Papa called them — and already was catching up to her in height. Sometimes (but not always), he could beat her in a race. It didn't help that she had this dress flapping around her legs and too-tight shoes on her feet. He reached the stairs first, and she followed. They reached the walkway along the north wall, nearly out of breath. Morni's dark hair stuck out all over his head like a mop, and his face was bright red.

"You look like a beet!" she teased him again, but he ignored her and pointed toward the road that wound away down the hill and through the northern hills, now green with new growth and dotted with grey sheep and their lambs.

"Look! There they are!"

Beyond the hills, she could make out the plains of Ard-Galen, where emerald fields of winter wheat waved in the spring breezes. A flash of silver sparked in the distance, and again, the call of a horn sounded, to be answered by the golden peal of Himring's huge bell in the high tower.

Soon, she could make out the figures of riders on horseback carrying banners of blue with devices on them – the king's heralds — and behind them rode a tall man, clad in silver and blue, seated on a grey horse. The sunlight glinted off the white jewels bound to his brow. Beside him, another man, similarly garbed, rode on a bay. Many others on horseback streamed behind them, including soldiers in bright mail. There were a few wagons drawn by teams of heavy-boned horses, too.

"That's him!" cried Mornilin, who was now standing on the wall. "That's King Nolofinwë! And that must be Prince Findekáno!"

"King Fingolfin and Prince Fingon. Remember, we're supposed to speak in the Grey tongue when we're not at home."

"Who cares? Just you to hear. Aren't they splendid? I want to be one of the King's knights some day! Do you suppose Papa will let me?"

Her brother continued to chatter about knights and daring deeds while they watched Fingolfin and his people make their way along the winding road, their approach slow, thanks to the mud. The journey with her family and their servants from Thargelion had been muddy enough, but this looked even worse. Well behind the King and the Prince, she saw one of the wagons bogged down in the mire, the horses pulling and men pushing to try to dislodge the wheels from the muck. She wondered if there were any children among the people who traveled with the King. She hoped there might be, but she doubted it. Although there were a few youngsters among her father's retainers and tenants in Thargelion, she and Morni were the only children here in Himring.

When the King was maybe a quarter-mile or less distant from the open gates of the fortress, Culinen turned away from the view to the north and looked back at the courtyard where she saw many people milling about. A clear voice — that of her Uncle Maglor — was raised, and a line began forming. Near the center of the line were Mama and Papa, just a little behind Uncle Maedhros, who stood ahead of everyone else, his auburn hair shining in the sun. Mama was looking around anxiously, her face creased by a frown. It was then Culinen realized that she and Morni were missed.  By now, Taerwen must have torn herself away from the kitchen and was searching for them.

"C'mon, Morni. We'd better go."

"Not yet!"

"You had best listen to your sister, although it would seem that you two rarely listen to anyone."

Culinen jerked around with a start to see not Taerwen, but Master Estelindë, who must have been able to step along the walkway as silently as a stalking cat.

"Come along with me, now. You don't want to get into any more trouble than you already are." Then the master healer looked out toward the King's train. "I can't blame you though. The House of Finwë always knows how to make a grand entrance."

They followed her down the stairs and joined Mama (who immediately fussed with Culinen's messy hair), Papa (who looked at them sternly, then gave them a little grin), and the others just as the King and the Prince rode through the gates. They watched Uncle Maedhros step forward as the King dismounted, followed by the Prince. Her uncle bowed his head, just a little, then clasped the King's arm with his single hand. The Prince waited before he approached Maedhros. They greeted one another formally, but it was easy to see all the cares that etched Maedhros' face fall away as soon as the Prince smiled, and he did have a wonderful smile. Then the two men embraced, slapping one another on the back heartily.

While all this was going on, Papa stood straight and tall, his face peaceful but masked somehow.  From scraps of conversations between her parents that were not meant for children, but that she overheard anyway, Culinen knew that Uncle Maedhros' refusal of the kingship did not sit well with her father.

Mama, on the other hand, was smiling and had forgotten to be angry with her, as she so often did. She leaned over to whisper in Culinen's ear.

"Aren't they magnificent? Here they come!  Now don't forget to curtsy."

And so she did when she was presented to King Fingolfin, his face grave yet kind, and who truly looked like a king, and to his son, Prince Fingon, who gave her that wonderful smile, too.

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