Tittlepin by elwen of the hidden valley

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Faerwen and Gilraen were sitting on the sun-washed balcony.  A large table was placed between them, strewn with pieces of fine fabric in several shades and tints of the same blue-green colour.

Gilraen was setting neat stitches in a long seam joining two pieces of dark figured silk, her needle moving with the precision and economy of one much experienced in the craft.  She smiled softly as she felt the shiny fabric slide through her fingers, pleased that for once it was not the strong wool of her son’s garments.

Faerwen held up an almost complete gown in a transparent tissue of paler blue.  “Should I put some embroidery along the hem to match the neckline?”

Gilraen set down her own work to survey the delicate under-shift.  The low, almost off-the-shoulder neckline was delicately embroidered with a tracery of green leaves and pale blue flowers.   Initially, Faerwen had wanted to add pearls and crystals but the fabric was so fine that it could not take the weight.  Gilraen marvelled that her friend had even managed to get the diaphanous fabric to support embroidery.  Now she grinned, her eyes twinkling.  “When he sees you in that the last place he will be looking is your feet.  Any work on the hem will be wasted.”

Faerwen blushed and giggled.  “You have a point.  I can embroider the hem on the overskirt instead.  Everyone will see that.”

Gilraen returned to placing her stitches as Faerwen started to pin the hem of her garment.  She was surprised to hear a note of uncertainty in the much older elven maiden’s voice when she asked, “Do you think he will like it?  I have never felt the need to dress to suit someone else but I want this gown to appeal to him.”

“I remember worrying about the same thing when I made my own wedding gown,” Gilraen replied wistfully.  “But I need not have been concerned.  Arathorn married me, not my gown.  And beyond the first glance as we met before my father, he looked no further than my face.”  She paused for dramatic effect before continuing, “Until he had to remove the gown.  Then he noticed lots of things and they had very little to do with embroidery.”

Faerwen laughed now.  “I am so glad that you agreed to help me with this.  I have many friends but few are married and fewer still would be willing to speak as openly as you.”

“Oh dear.  Do I sound too uncouth?  My people tend to be rather more down-to-earth about such things.  I suppose it is because we have less time for subtlety than elvenkind.  My mother often interspersed her stitches with marital advice.” 

“Not always helpful, no doubt,” Faerwen ventured.

“She did make the marriage night sound a wee bit frightening, I must confess.”  Gilraen laughed.  “Everything she told me about what goes where and how to please flew completely from my mind as soon as Arathorn and I were alone.”

“I hope I do not sound too forward, asking this, but did it go well?” Faerwen asked tentatively.

Gilraen set down her work.  “Faerwen, Erestor loves you deeply and you love him.  Anyone with half an eye can see that.  Whether or not your first night goes well, you will work it out together eventually.  So much love will not be denied its’ full consummation.”  She touched her companion’s wrist.  “My best advice to you is to forget everything anyone tells you and simply explore together.”  She winked.  “One thing I would ask you to remember, however; the journey can be as much fun as the destination.”

Both ladies laughed now as they picked up their work once more.

“Have you attended any elven marriage ceremonies?” Faerwen asked around a mouthful of pins.

“None.  But as I understand it they are very similar to the practices of my own people.  I suppose that is because our ceremonies hark back to the days of Numenor.  I note that you wear the silver promise bands, as do we.  Can I also assume they will be replaced with gold in the ceremony?  Will your parents be attending?  I don’t remember ever having seen them and they are not amongst the guests that have arrived so far.”  Gilraen snipped off a thread and measured out another length between her hands.

Faerwen set the last pin in her hem and selected needle and thread.  “Both my parents travelled West some years ago but I could not leave without Erestor and he will not leave his post here.”

“Surely Lord Elrond could find another Seneschal easily enough if you both truly wished to depart for the Havens?”

“A Senechal?  Oh yes.  I am certain someone would come forward.  No.  I was referring to his post as Counsellor to Lord Elrond.”  Faerwen snipped a length of thread and Gilraen watched with envy as she threaded her fine needle at the first attempt.

“Counsellor?  I did not know, although I felt he was much older than you.  I suppose a disparity in age makes little difference to elves.”

“Not physically,” Faerwen replied as she made her first, almost invisible stitches in the fine fabric.  “Erestor is actually older than Lord Elrond but I have only recently come into my majority.  It is not usual to have so much difference in ages but it happens.  Elrond is much older than his wife too.  Elves mate for eternity, even beyond death, so we wait for as long as it takes to choose wisely.”

Gilraen worked in silence for some time as she wondered whether she and Arathorn would be reunited somewhere beyond death.  Estel was her joy and reason to continue; the physical embodiment of her love for Arathorn.  But she missed the feel of her lovers’ strong arms in the night.

Faerwen interrupted her reverie.  “Gilraen, would you consider taking the role of my mother in the marriage ceremony?  You have been as a sister to me and I can think of no-one I would rather have to bless the marriage cup.”

“I would be very honoured.”  Gilraen snipped off another thread before adding, “As long as you tell me exactly what is involved.  I would hate to spoil the ceremony for you.”

Faerwen smiled.  “You could never do that.”

-0-

Estel looked up from his lesson to stare out of the long library window.  It was not the first time his attention had strayed that morning and Elrond cleared his throat pointedly.  Blinking, Estel returned to his simple Sindarin grammar but although his eyes followed the flowing script his mind refused to co-operate and he may as well have been reading dwarvish. 

Elrond withheld a smile when he heard his distracted pupil sigh again.  “Is something troubling you, Estel?”

It was all the encouragement the child needed and he closed his book firmly, before Adar could withdraw the opening.  “Why are so many people visiting, Adar?”

“We often have visitors in the valley.  You know this.  Many elves pass through on their way to Mithlond.”

Estel was learning that Adar Elrond was very good at answering a question without actually answering a question.  “But these aren’t “passing through”.  They’re all staying.”

His foster father could only admire his tenacity.  “They are staying for a little while and then they will all leave together.  They are friends or family, but they come from many different communities so they agreed to meet here before making the last part of the journey together.”

“Oh.”  Estel could see the advantage in that.  If he were making a long journey he did not think he would want to travel alone.

Elrond cleared his throat again and tapped the closed book on the table in front of Estel.  With one last longing look at the summer garden through the library window, Estel sighed and re-opened his grammar.

-0-

Estel crept into the largest of Rivendell’s kitchens for his mid-morning snack and came to a sudden halt just inside the door.

The kitchens were always busy, providing food for the main dining hall, but they usually had an air of controlled calm.  Today the large space seemed to hold twice the usual number of people, all dodging about each other with bowls and trays.  Large racks of portable shelves were chock full of delicious looking cakes and pies.  Estel inhaled, identifying sugar and butter and many more delicate spices and fruits that made his mouth water.

One of the younger elves, who always managed to find him a honey cake and a glass of milk, spotted him by the door and bustled over.  “Good morning, Estel.  I am afraid you cannot sit in here today.  If you go into the dining hall I will bring you a cake and a cup of milk in a moment.”

Estel pointed to a tray of little buns, which one of the other cooks was busy piping with pale yellow butter icing in the shape of a flower.  At his side another was taking the iced buns and edging the yellow petals with pink so that they looked, for all the world, like one of the fine roses in Adar’s garden.  “Can I have one of those?”

“I am sorry Estel.  Those are for the wedding feast.”  The cook patted Estels’ head.  “You will get to try them tomorrow.”  Even as he spoke the last bun was iced and another assistant covered the tray and swept it away to one of the huge cold larders.

Estel watched rather wistfully for a moment before retreating to the relative peace of the dining room.  It was not until he sat down at one of the long tables, almost empty at this time of day, that he realised what his friend had said.  “Wedding Feast”.  But who was getting married?

Now all the extra people not “passing through” made sense.  Unfortunately, it also made sense of his mother’s insistence that he be measured for a new set of clothes.  Estel hoped those new clothes did not entail the wearing of the long robes that elves seemed to favour for special occasions.  Mama once made him wear an ankle length robe for his birthday party and by the end of the afternoon he had managed to rip several holes in it.  The robe never made another appearance, a fact for which he was immensely grateful.  But now he considered tomorrow with a growing dread.

-0-

Estel stopped swinging his legs when Adar Elrond tapped the top of his head gently with the comb.  “Sit still, please, Estel.”  The object of his mild censure let out an explosive huff but remained still as Elrond caught the end of Estel’s plait in a fine silver clasp.

Laying the comb upon the dressing table Elrond patted his shoulder.  “Stand up and let me look at you.”

Estel was only too eager to comply.  It felt as though he had been sitting for an age while Adar messed with his hair.  In truth it had been only minutes.  Such tasks did not usually fall to the lord of the valley, so he had chosen a simple style.  

Now that he had the leisure to consider it Elrond was uncertain how the task had come to him in the first place.  As representative for the groom’s father he would usually be sipping a nice glass of wine with friends and family about now.  It seemed that everyone else had some pressing task to perform when it came to placing the final touches to Estel’s toilet, including Gilraen, who was assisting the bride.  Elrond suspected no-one else felt up to the task of dealing with the squirming little edan.

Estel jumped down from the stool and allowed Adar to lead him to the long mirror.  Only then did he see the full effect of his new outfit and his mouth dropped open, for before him stood a little elven lordling.  “Oh my!”

The figure staring back at him was dressed in a knee length blue velvet tunic over a silver silk shirt and grey breeches.  A belt of silver leaves sat loosely about his slender waist and blue suede shoes with silver buckles comfortably encased his feet.  His dark hair, simply swept back from his temples into a single plait at his crown, hung past his shoulders in shining tamed waves that almost hid his ears.

“Indeed,” Elrond concurred as he tugged at a cuff on his own elaborate robes.  “Do you think you could manage to stay clean and tidy until at least the end of the ceremony?” he asked with little hope.

“When does it start?” asked the little edan, worriedly.  He was well aware of the effect that he had upon clothes.  Despite his best efforts most outfits seemed to attract mud or rips . . . sometimes both.

Elrond took pity on him as he steered them both toward the door.  “Have no fear.  It will start as soon as we arrive in the garden.  You will be standing at the front, between Elladan and Elrohir.”

-0-

Estel tried not to fidget as he waited for the bride and groom to arrive.  He had never been to a wedding before and it seemed an awful lot of fuss to go through.  He had told his mama as much, even as he bemoaned to her the fact that he had no memory of his parent’s ceremony.  His mama had only laughed, falling back on the comment he was getting very fed up of hearing.  “You will understand more when you are older, Estel.  Now go and stand with your brothers.”

His reverie was broken by the sound of a horn, blown by an elf perched high on the roof of the main house.   Elrond and Gilraen stood together beneath a canopy of blue silk, a small table between them and now they looked to left or right and smiled.

Erestor strode confidently from the left to stand before the table, his hair a shining black fall against the deep blue-green velvet of his long robes.  Faerwen drifted in from the right to join him, crystals at the neck and hem of her gown catching the sun and scattering it in a mesmerising display of stars at midday.  Young as he was Estel stilled, suddenly aware that this was more than just the prelude to a feast.  The image reminded him of drawings of the Valar from his story books.

He watched proudly as mama lifted a silver goblet and, letting her hand rest over it, asked the blessing of Varda upon the marriage.  With a smile she handed it to Faerwen, who took a sip and passed it to Erestor to do likewise.  Now Gilraen stepped forward and laid Faerwen’s hand in Erestor’s.  Elrond took up a long white ribbon and bound together their joined palms as he asked for the blessing of Manwe upon their union. For a moment it seemed to Estel that their hands glowed.  Then he blinked and Elrond was removing the ribbon as both he and Gilraen pronounced the couple joined in the sight of Eru.

The elves all around Estel began to sing in a language he did not yet understand, although he had heard it sometimes in the Hall of Fire.  Erestor and Faerwen removed each other’s silver rings and replaced them with gold ones upon their right index fingers, then leaned in to kiss for what seemed to the child to be an excessively long time.  Estel wrinkled his nose in distaste at such an exhibition.  He wondered if Mama and Papa had ever kissed and vowed that if he ever got married when he grew up he would never behave in such a soppy way, especially in front of so many people.  He noted that the grown-ups seemed to find it funny.

The song came to an end and another horn sounded.  The couple finally parted as everyone surged forward to congratulate them. 

Estel tugged at Elladan’s hand.  “Can we eat the buns now?”

 

 

 

 




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