Nothing as precious
It was midwinter, the solstice was that very night and the elves of Valinor had sort of adopted the custom of celebrating it from the humans of Middle earth. It had become very popular to celebrate yule as it was called and it had spread far and wide. Elrond was sitting with his family and he was having a very good time. He has enjoying some very nice wine and some even nicer cakes a friend of Celebrian had brought over and the house was packed. It had become tradition to gather family and friends for this celebration and Elrond was very glad to see that everybody were having a very jolly evening.
One of his old friends were present, it was an ellon who had served under Gil-Galad just as he had and Taragorn had been a soldier in the cavalry. Right now his friend was a wee bit tipsy and was singing along to a tune somebody had learned from the avarin tribes. They did take the celebration even more seriously than the noldor and had many very odd rituals which didn’t make much sense. Elrond had been confused by more than one of them, but he didn’t judge anybody, it was their way of celebrating so why should he question it?
Taragorn did finish the song, the house was dominated by one of those avarin customs, a huge spruce tree had been uprooted and brought inside and candles were attached to the branches. The avarin elves said it was meant to represent the stars at Cuivienen. It was a beautiful custom and Celebrian had embraced it fully. And it did bring a very nice smell to the house although she was less than happy with the bugs the tree also brought inside. Elrond did finish the wine and Taragorn did grin rather widely. “I remember the first celebrations at Imladris, they were…interesting”
Elrond rolled his eyes, interesting was one way to describe it. He had wanted to adopt some human customs just to show respect and the yule celebration had started very modestly one winter. But it had caught on since it was such a dark part of the year and the many lights did chase some of the shadows away. Before a decade was gone Imladris was famous for its beauty during this time and many came to visit and watch. And therein lay the problem…The humans did often allow their kids some more slack than usual during this time of the year and so had he…against better judgement. Elladan and Elrohir had absolutely loved the celebration and even more the fact that it was common to give each other gifts. They had quickly discovered that this fact opened new and completely novel pranking opportunities. Elrond could still remember that one time Glorfindel had received a massive packet, wrapped beautifully in some very expensive paper. He had been very curious as to what it could be and when he opened the package he found another one inside of it. And one inside of that again…In the end there were no fewer than twenty boxes inside each other and he had been fuming when he found the last one…which did contain a hairband.
Elrond had to grin remembering this. Glorfindel had been ready to strangle whoever it was who gave him that gift. And then they had the wonderful evening when the twins was convinced that the mulled wine they served had been “tame” and added something of their own to it. Everybody had been completely drunk before dinner and poor Lindir who wasn’t used to strong alcohol had ended up trying to play for the guests but he couldn’t control his fingers so the flute did sound like an animal somebody were torturing.
Taragorn patted Elrond on his back. “Memories?”
Elrond nodded. “Oh yes, I have seen many yuletides, but I find that the ones I have lived through after I came here have been the most interesting ones”
Taragorn did refill his glass. “Really? Nothing really happens here in Aman?”
Elrond almost choked. “Oh…you have just been released from the halls, believe me, things do happen here and when they do…whooo-boy do they happen!”
Taragorn tilted his head. “Really?”
Elrond did grin, a somewhat tired grin. To an elf memories are like walking straight into the past and he did take a walk down memory lane now, and what memories they were…
It had been the day before the solstice and Elrond had been visiting Formenos to help one of the local healers with a difficult operation. One of the stable workers had fallen on some slick ice and damaged his knee and things had gotten torn so badly they had to be sewn back together surgically. Elrond had been very pleased with the progress of the patient when he got a call from the royal household, and he immediately knew that trouble was waiting.
The royal residence was a huge one, with several buildings and they did include work shops and forges and everything the huge Finweian family needed to live a good life. Maedhros had decided to celebrate the season there with her son Rusa and he had some good friends there, children approximately his own age. Elrond would probably use the word “Hellions” to describe these lads but he didn’t really blame their somewhat rambunctious behaviour on them but rather the fact that there wasn’t that much to do for elflings at this time of the year. That very year had seen a lot of snow further south than normal and it meant that the kids had to stay indoors way more often than what was recommendable.
One of the buildings on the property was a shed placed at the very back of the yard, it wasn’t that large but closed off and to a kid it held an irresistible attraction. The door was bolted but there was a window and somehow the kids had managed to open it and get inside. And Elrond had learned that this was where Fëanor had stored all sorts of half finished projects and insane ideas he hadn’t managed to finish. The stuff in there included a pedal driven washing machine which did wash the surroundings, instead of the clothes within it. It did also involve a saddle with springs in it which should make for a smoother ride but did the opposite, and caused some very upset and spooked horses. Fëanor was a genius but sometimes the border between genius and madness is very thin indeed.
Whilst inside the kids had found something very interesting and pretty, a sort of hollow cylinder covered with enamel and it wasn’t that thick. Rusa had never seen anything like it and neither had the others, it was a bit larger than a pen and it was obviously meant for something to be put inside of it but what? It was very decorative and it had a neat pattern of vines carved into it and it was a work of art but neither Rusa nor the others there understood what it was. So in the end Rusa and one of the other lads did put his middle finger into it, for it did fit a finger rather well.
And when they had putt their fingers inside they suddenly realized that there was no way they could get them out. They were stuck, very stuck and the fingers hurt so bad that the other kid started wailing and the kids did panic. One of the older boys hauled the two over to an anvil which stood there and placed the cylinder on it, fingers inside and did proceed to bang it with a hammer. The cylinder didn’t relinquish its grasp of the two and from being round it now turned rather flat, fingers still inside. Needless to say the panic didn’t get any less due to this fact and the kid who was stuck with Rusa was afraid that they would have to cut his finger off. Rusa was more stoical but he didn’t want to be stuck with that other kid for the celebration. It was kind of awkward.
One of the others had some brains left working so he climbed out the window again and ran to get the adults and five minutes later several adult elves were trying to pull the two loose, resulting in an awful amount of shrieking and wailing. The fingers had started to swell and Maedhros was terrified that her son would loose a finger, elves don’t regrow lost limbs like a salamander and what in the name of Eru was that goddamn thing?
Fêanor wasn’t present , he was at court and in her panic she did send for Celebrimbor and his dwarven wife Narvi. She was well skilled in the art of metalwork and so was he. Celebrimbor and Narvi had caused quite the uproar when they had revealed that they were married, some of the more stiff necked vanyar elves had almost fainted when they heard about it, imagine, one of the eldar, marrying a dwarf?! The way they reacted one would perhaps imagine that it would have been way less offending if Celebrimbor had married a balrog.
Narvi had never seen such a contraption before, what she did realize was that there were tiny wheels inside of the thin walls and they had moved and sent several jagged teeth inwards and if one tried to pull the finger out the teeth did dig into the flesh since the teeth were facing forwards, towards the end of the cylinder. There was a mechanism there to release the teeth, but it was jammed very well because of that very ill advised hammer punch and she couldn’t imagine how to release the two kids. Rusa was just pouting, the other kid named Varion was yelling louder by the minute and one smart head did send for Elrond.
Elrond could still remember it, very well. The sight had been surreal, tiny Rusa scowling like the warg rider he had once been and the other kid covered with tears and snot. The parents were frantically trying to calm the lad down but little Varion was convinced that the healer would cut his finger off, and tried to squirm and twist himself away from Elrond and that in turn lead to Rusa shrieking in pain since it pulled on his stuck finger. It could have been very funny if it hadn’t been so confusing. Narvi said that the goddamn contraption was made from very solid thin steel, to cut it away would be impossible without using tools none of them had there and Elrond was afraid that the thing did cut off the blood supply to the trapped limbs. They had to get the kids free soon, before they suffered permanent damage.
Elrond didn’t want to spend the yule celebration in the operating room and Maedhros was so angry she was fuming. That shed was off limits and Rusa knew it so darn well, many of his grandfather’s inventions were dangerous and she did still with horror remember her mother’s reaction the one time Fëanor did try to invent a machine which did spread fertilizer more efficiently than you could do by hand. It was handcranked and he had tested it out…in the family livingroom. Nerdanel had almost caught fire since her spouse had filled the machine to capacity to check what it could handle and there had been drops of manure everywhere, even in the ceiling.
Elrond did examine the trapped fingers, they were stuck somewhere between the last joint and the fingernail and in the end he had found some very nice wood shavings from another shed and slid them inside the cylinder along the fingers. It had pressed the teeth up and the fingers were freed but rather swollen and blue and both the kids were not happy. But they didn’t suffer any long lasting effects and Maedhros did promptly throw the cylinder into the heat of one of the forges and let it melt, enamel and all. Elrond did hear that she did tear into her father when they met again, demanding what on Eru’s green Arda he had created and Fêanor had just shrugged and said that he didn’t know. Which was probably true.
When Elrond did think about it, the kids in that family had always had a tendency to interact with his yule celebration. One year Celebrimbor and Narvi’s daughter Freja had found an unguarded tankard of dwarven mead and she had drunk it all. Elrond had at first not believed it to be physically possible for the girl wasn’t that large and the tankard held a full two gallons of very sweet strong mead. Apparently she wanted to show everybody that she was a big girl now and able to drink with the adult dwarves and unfortunately for her, she wasn’t. Able to drink that was. Elrond had to sit an entire night to comfort a puking and very drunk child while Narvi had to calm her husband who was terrified that their child would die from alcohol poisoning. Elrond had given the kid some charcoal to absorb some of the alcohol and since charcoal isn’t exactly the tastiest thing on earth she had tried to spit it all out. The entire bedroom was black and brown and Elrond was spotted like a Dalmatian dog in the end. But it did save Freja, and she did stay away from mead and ale from that day on.
Elrond had to grin, the girl had managed to make quite an impact on the society there, Finwë had started a tradition, an annual feast held just before the solstice celebration and everybody were invited. The palace was decorated with lights and bright colours and the children present all got a gift. Narvi and Celebrimbor had still some problems being accepted by everybody but they had chosen not to bother with it. Freja on the other hand wouldn’t accept that somebody did talk about her parents in a bad manner. She had walked up to a particularly nasty vanyar noble who had said that Celebrimbor was a pervert for bedding such a “thing” and she had simply grasped those long lanky legs and lifted the entire ellon. She was very strong and the ellon had been so flabbergasted he just stood there, suspended by a foot, not really knowing what to say until Freja tipped him sideways into a fountain, claiming that he was a very “bad elf” for speaking like that , and that he should wash his mouth with soap.
The amount of laughter had been amazing.
And when he thought about it, Rusa wasn’t the only kid of that family with a tendency to get stuck, Maglor’s daughter Lindë had once managed to get her fingers stuck in her father’s most precious harp and Elrond had been called to that accident too. The harp strings were very taught and sharp and Maglor had been terrified that his daughter would get severe cuts and lose her dexterity. She was a promising harpist and she knew that that harp was off limits but her father hadn’t been there so…Maglor had in the end gone to the step of cutting the strings, it was an obvious sign of how deep his love for his kid was for the strings were extremely valuable and also very hard to come by.
Those were fond memories for sure. He allowed himself to grin thinking about that one time when Rusa tried to make breakfast for his parents and ended up filling the entire house with smoke. At least the kid had tried his very best but fell a wee bit short. But culinary disasters had been rather common in that household. Cüwen and Yüe had tried to make some dinner once, when Yûe had been only five and the result had turned the entire kitchen into a no-go zone until the cook had managed to clean out all the burned plates and kettles, and scrubbed down the entire room. The entire family were his friends since he had become very close to them. He had often been over to help Yûe when he had his asthma attacks and Maedhros did think the world of him. Which of course reflected in the yuletide gifts he would receive from her each year, they were usually not very large but always just what he wanted. He could still remember, with fondness, the exquisite brandy he had gotten last year.
He had a feeling that this yule would become one they all would remember for a long time, the Finweian yule party was the next day and they were all invited. Elrond hated the fuss Celebrian did cause the days before the event, she was always trying to make sure that their robes and jewellery and everything was perfect and her own dress had been sewn months ago and hung in a closet with mothballs and she would check in on it every day. This year she had bought all the Ellyn of the family a set of matching new circlets and the sight had caused Elladan to snort like a horse and Elrohir burst into uncontrollable laughter. Lindir had dropped by the day they were revealed and he claimed that the design was the most horrendously glaring thing since Fëanor forged those goddamn silmarilli.
Elrond could just wonder what on earth she had come up with robe wise, she was perhaps a very sweet and loving wife but her sense of fashion was somewhat odd at times. He did remember one such party when the lady Maedhros had worn an absolutely stunning dress in deep green velvet with trimmings in gold and deep violet and it had looked amazing on her. Like all the other ladies of Tirion Celebrian wanted a similar in her own colours and although the gown was absolutely gorgeous it did nothing for Celebrian. The blue colour was too hard and made her look pale and she had only worn it once, females and their love of fashion. He rolled his eyes and Taragorn did admire the yule tree, someone had to use a ladder to attach the candles to the branches and they had to be replaced too, even if one used slow burning ones.
Maedhros youngest one, Lowen had once gotten the brilliant idea of trying to climb the tree at the annual feast and other elflings had found that the idea was brilliant and joined the chase to the top. It had become a rather frantic scene where parents tried to retrieve their kids from the tree and avoid catching fire at the same time and Dior and his wife had been there too and as usual their giant black cat had sort of tagged along within the carriage so Ancalagon had sauntered off into the great ballroom at that very moment. And it didn’t exactly calm everybody down when that overgrown piece of fluff suddenly decided to join the kids trying to reach the very top. That the tree didn’t topple over was a miracle, but Celebrimbor had sort of constructed a foot the roots lay in and it was heavy enough to stabilize it, although just barely. The tree was swaying as if it was trying to dance and the servants were running around like headless chickens trying to avoid a disaster since it suddenly was raining lit candles.
But not everything had been disastrous, one celebration Rusa had behaved perfectly and so had his siblings and young relatives and one of the vanyar kids on the other hand had caused quite a scene since he very loudly did exclaim that the yule tree was “pagan” and that the whole celebration was “disgraceful” and that they ought to go home and pray instead. He didn’t get a gift that evening, that was for darn sure and Finwë himself had wandered down from his seat at the top of the table and told in very clear words that the celebration was sacred and a good thing and whoever wanted to discuss that would have to discuss it with him in person. Nobody did argue with that.
The feasts were famous for the excellent cuisine served and Elrond started to feel that his mouth was watering just thinking about the dinner last year. One of the maiar of Oromë had come across some odd birds far south in the woods and he had discovered that they were delicious even though they did look rather funny. The cooks had gone to work with those birds and the result was amazing, so tasty and different from the rather heavy pork which was usually served at such events. One year they had served venison and the meat had been both dry and tasteless since the animal had been both old and lame and the cooks hadn’t managed to get their hands on another one in time. And the desserts, ah Eru, they were always wonderful and works of art and one time they had made a model of the palace in marzipan and it had been almost a sin eating it. Almonds were common but sugar was more pricey than gold and the amount used there was the kings way of showing off his wealth for sure.
This year the entire Finweion family would gather and Elrond was looking forward to meeting them again, you could say a lot about that clan but life was never dull when they were around. As the evening wore on Celebrian started to discretely usher the guests out the front door, she needed to prepare for the next day and Elrond knew that she shared that trait with other females too. Maedhros had once complained that Rog would have showed up at family gatherings in his forge clothes if she didn’t keep him on a tight leash. Her father had been the same way and Elrond knew that Nerdanel once had grasped her spouse, carried him over to the horse’s water through, dumped him inn and then scrubbed him mercilessly before throwing some clean robes onto him. He had still been rather wet when he arrived at the palace, and so angry he was steaming.
But he wasn’t the worst one, Celegorm had arrived at a family feast once more or less naked, with his hair in knots and covered with mud and blood. And once the twins had gotten hold of a bottle of their grandfather’s best wine and were so drunk their father had to carry them from the table. Elrond had often believed that his sons were a real handful to master but at least they were just two, the idea of seven like that made him shudder.
That evening Celebrian was running around in a frenzy and Elrond was getting a wee bit annoyed by her energy so he simply grasped her and carried her off to bed, it was the only way to calm her down.
The next day started way too early with breakfast and baths and Celebrian did really insult the twins since she insisted on scrubbing them as if they still were elflings and not grown Ellyn. The robes she had picked out this year weren’t too bad, just a wee bit too long for Elrond’s taste and Elladan rolled his eyes and proclaimed that they made him look like an elleth. But Celebrian did look amazing in a dress made from silk dyed in a warm violet colour and her jewellery was made to match.
The drive to the palace was fun, there were many carriages arriving at once which did lead to a bit of a queue and Elrond did snicker, the drivers were cussing at each other and the horses were impatient and also carrying tack which was extremely heavy and shiny, it did look magnificent and all but a horse is still a horse and the last carriages would usually have a fine coating of horse shit and smell like a stable.
The guests did arrive one by one and were presented by an ellon Elrond knew had worked as a herald for Turgon. He had the voice of a foghorn and could be heard to the farthest back of the great hall. Those seated near the entrance started to wince whenever he did announce the arrival of people. The first part of the yule celebration was always very formal, people were given seats according to rank and status and there were toasts and speeches and whatnot. Elrond found it dreadfully boring and Celebrian entertained herself with comparing her dress with those of the other ellith present. The twins were foot wrestling underneath the table and the servants sent them some glares which could have frozen the sundering sea but the two just smiled innocently and continued.
The dinner was served at the end of the formal part, and this year it was both fish and birds. It was wonderful as always and Elrond saw that Maedhros and her husband Rog were seated near the top of the table with their children seated near them. Rusa had been married for some years now and he sat there chatting with his wife while Yüe was sitting next to his fiancé Saira. They were a sweet couple, the wedding was to happen in a few months and Elrond was rather proud of the young ellon. It was very rare for elflings to be born prematurely but Maedhros had been poisoned while carrying him and it had affected her unborn elfling, causing him to become both frail and albino. He was also a mute and some felt that it was silly of him to want to get married for someone that weak couldn’t possibly make a good husband. Elrond hoped that he would prove them wrong.
After the dinner the deserts were presented and this time it was a castle made from jelly and it was carried to the table by several servants, it was wobbling from side to side like a ship in rough seas and Elrond just waited for it to achieve the velocity needed to topple over. But the servants managed to control the shivering mass and it arrived at the table in one piece. Some servants did cut it into suitable pieces while others poured sauce over them and served it and the kids got some extra. There would be many very happy sauce covered faces that night for sure. As well as kids so hyped up on sugar they would be bouncing off the walls.
Some musicians started to play and the tables were moved, now people could sit wherever they wanted to and the groups did churn around, chatting and exchanging gossip and family news. Elrond did see some ambassadors from the Avarin tribes and they were wearing some very elaborate robes but he knew that underneath they only wore loincloths and high boots. The first times they were invited they hadn’t worn the robes and some of the more sensible vanyarin ellith had almost passed out from the sight of the tattoos and piercings and body paint these elves used to decorate themselves. Taurion had been there once but it was many years ago, it was still not that many who knew who Rusa’s sire had been, or the fact that Maedhros had been chosen by the dark lords to become a breeding slave, just as Taurion had. The similarities between Taurion and Rusa were too great to be ignored so they tried not to be seen together.
There had been some ambassadors sent to the avarin elves too, and they had been less than eager to partake in the customs of the locals so Taurion had made sure that they were served food which did make them return to Tirion rather fast. Fermented fish was a delicacy among the avarin elves but not something those not used to it could stomach.
As the evening turned into night there was dancing and the atmosphere was a very relaxed and nice one. Elrond saw that Freja was dancing with an ellon bold enough to not bother with the fact that she was of mixed race. She was too young yet to court but due to her dwarven blood she was rather mature and well developed for her age, and since Narvi had sewn her dress it was rather different than those worn by the elven females. Elrond had a suspicion that Celebrimbor would have to place armed guards outside of his gates in a few years for the young lady was both charming and pretty and her exotic features made her stand out in any crowd. Narvi and Celebrimbor were very proud of her and they ought to be, she was a very promising sculptor and Nerdanel was sure that her work one day would surpass even her own.
The most unusual thing which did happen that evening was that a servant slipped carrying a punch bowl and spread the content all over a fruit bowl so the fruit got a bit more interesting than before. Elrond was happy and relaxed and he sat with Celebrian and Dior when he did notice that he was being stared at. He could feel it and turned around, behind a corner he could see that Saira was looking at him and she caught his gaze and gestured for him to come over. Elrond frowned, could there be some problem? Yüe was fragile and too much food could upset his stomach so Elrond did excuse himself and walked over. Saira and Yüe did enter a side room where people could sit down and relax and they were both a bit red in the face and looked very embarrassed. Elrond stared at them. “Yes?”
Saira did chew her lower lip. “Ah…I was wondering…”
She blushed like a spring rose and Yüe did squirm like a worm on a hook. “Is something wrong dear?”
Elrond tried to keep his voice low for there were always ears everywhere during these events. “Ah…we…have had a small…accident…I fear”
Elrond frowned. “Accident?”
Saira did look down, her fair face was very red now and Yüe did look very guilty. “Mhm…we don’t know how to tell our parents though, I mean… it is a scandal”
Elrond blinked, he finally realized what she had meant by accident and he almost gaped. Scandal indeed, but it was actually wonderful news for everybody had been wondering if Yüe was able to father children. And now he had knocked up his fiancé, before the official wedding. Oh this would be a yule to remember, most certainly. He smiled. “Well, I say screw the expectations and I am sure that your parents will the thrilled, their first grandchild!”
Saira did make a sheepish smile. “We didn’t really mean to but…we were alone and started kissing and then…”
Elrond did clear his throat. “I get that part yes, but do go to your parents and tell them, I bet you cannot hide it much longer?”
Saira shook her head. “No, it is just a couple of weeks but they will soon notice that we have bonded already and…”
Elrond felt a wide smile spread across his face. “It is nothing to worry about, like I said, go to them and let the happy news be known. Do not let anybody tell you that you ought to ashamed for there is no shame in this”
Saira reached up and kissed his cheek in gratitude and the two took off, heading for Maedhros and Rog. Elrond stood by the door and watched as the young couple did bend over and whispered something to Maedhros. She gaped, tilted her wine glass and got up so fast she almost knocked over a servant. Then she let out a shout of joy and hugged Saira and then Yüe and everybody stared with open eyes. What now?
Maedhros did raise her glass and Rog was wiping some tears from his face. “My friends, my family. I have very good news for you. My son and his now wife is already expecting their first child.”
Rog got up too, a bit drunk but not overly so. “So to all you sorry sods who think that my son is unable to be useful in the bedroom I say a loud and clear SCREW YOU!”
He sat down and a cacophony of voices could be hear, Finwë was laughing out loud in sheer joy, Fëanor sat there with his chin almost touching his chest and Nerdanel was racing over to hug Saira. Celebrian was grinning from one ear to the next. “Oh wonderful, I know that the poor lad has had so much trouble over the years, it is great that something good comes his way at last”
There was some commotion by the door, one of the more pious vanyarin lords there was shouting something about sin and inappropriate behaviour and hopelessly depraved Finweions and it came as no surprise when Freja appeared out of the blue, promptly lifting the shouting elf and tossing him into the decorative fountain. She did wipe her hands and grinned widely “Creepy crawlies do belong in water, so stay there and do yourself a favour, I do not wish to dunk you again thank you very much!”
Everybody laughed and Rusa was grinning too, he and Maeglin had been under scrutiny since they hadn’t become parents yet and now the pressure was taken off them, at least for a while. That his younger brother was this virile was unexpected but absolutely welcome.
The feast did reach new levels now, a new baby in the family was always good news and the celebration became one which would be remembered for a very long time. Elrond would store that memory among his most dear ones, for nothing is as precious as sweet memories of a yule celebration with friends and family and good news on top of it all.
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