Fish and Shrubs
Running as fast as his little legs could carry him, Fëanáro sharply turned onto the path that led to the garden. She can't catch me now, he thought triumphantly. Today was a special day, at least in his father's mind. The king and queen of the Teleri were coming to visit and that meant fish. Oh, how the fifteen-year-old elfling hated fish. Disgusting, wiggly, and too fishy were some of the terms the young prince would use to describe all varieties of seafood. It also felt strange to eat something that had been unaware of its capture. At least deer knew when death was approaching; to them it was usually welcome.
All creatures would simply be reborn in the coming months – that was, if they were the animals of Oromë. Animals here did not die permanently. If they did, why would it be called the "Undying Lands?" Admittedly, that meant fish would be reborn as well, except Fëanáro refused to accept that fact. He was simply looking for another reason to not eat fish.
"Curufinwë Fëanáro Finwion, where are you?" Niquessë called in the hope that the young prince would respond. Pausing, she heard rather loud, deep breaths coming from the shrubbery to her left. Smiling, the young nursemaid pretended to not know where the elfling was hiding.
"He must have disappeared. That boy is much too clever for me and he knows how to hide very well. Or maybe he turned into a star and flew up to the sky," she said, rubbing her hand through her dark hair in an exaggerated manner.
The elfling rolled his eyes as Niquessë pretended to be lost. He knew that she was pretending to make him trust her. That was something that all adults did. They would pretend at his cleverness; he was clever, but why couldn't they see that?
"You are no fun," he grumbled as he came out of the shrub. "You knew I was hiding there, didn't you?" The elfling rolled his eyes in disgust. "Why does everyone treat me like a baby?" he whined, folding his arms across his chest he slumped to the ground in defiance.
"Maybe it is because you sometimes act like one," Niquessë said with a smile, sitting next to the prince. She noticed his deepening scowl she laughed and continued, "Or it is because I like to be silly every once in a while."
"As I never act like a baby, it must be that you are silly." Fëanáro allowed a grin to form on his face as he looked at his old nursemaid. "I like you," he decided, "you're not boring like everyone else is, and Rúmil is the worst of them all. His writing is even worse than he is!" he remarked, being quite proud at the fact that he had been able to vent his frustrations clearly. Most of the time it came out in a mess.
Niquessë smiled fondly at the young prince beside her. It wasn't often that Fëanáro would declare affection for anything or anyone.
"I like you as well. Although, you shouldn't say call other people boring." She admonished, "even if his writing is boring."
Fëanáro looked up in surprise. "You don't really think that, do you?" he queried, unsure if she truly thought that or was just pretending to make him feel better. Grownups were weird like that. For some reason they believed that it made children feel better; it was partially true, but Fëanáro would never admit that.
"I do indeed, little master." She ruffled his hair, taking in the sorry state of his clothing. "But now it is time for us to stand up, wash up, and ready ourselves for the feast." She picked up the young prince, tossing him over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes. "You don't have to eat all the fish on the table, you know – you only have to eat what is put on your plate. If they offer you more, politely decline and take a drink of water."
"I never thought of it that way. Are you certain it will not embarrass Atto?" he questioned, trying to maneuver himself onto her shoulders.
"I am certain. In fact, it is polite to not finish it. That is what allows the chef to know how much of each dish he must prepare. It also lets him know that he made enough food to fill the bellies of hungry princes," she laughed, repositioning him so he sat quite comfortably atop her shoulders.
"Well, I suppose that makes sense," he said thoughtfully, resting his hands atop his nursemaid's hair. "But what happens with the rest of the fish?" He wrinkled his nose at the thought of that greasy, fishy food.
"Well I suppose that King Olwë eats it – he loves seafood. Not everyone hates fish, you know. I myself am quite fond of seafood, and abalone is my personal favorite," she answered.
"I know he eats a lot – but you?" His eyebrows rose in surprise. "You're a nís!"
Niquessë laughed, ignoring his comment on her gender. "Do not be surprised at how much a nís can eat. Occasionally we eat more than even Rúmil."
Fëanáro wrinkled his nose. In his opinion, no one ate more than Rúmil. "You jest." He paused thoughtfully. "Well, if you do speak the truth, can you tell me the secret to eating that disgusting food?"
"My, my, you are full of questions, aren't you?" She paused to remove him from her shoulders as they entered the palace. "Drink lots of water, and don't smell the food until after you have taken a bite because the smell is half the taste," she instructed him. "Soon, the fishy scent will no longer bother you."
The prince seemed to consider this novel idea for a few moments before responding, "Do you promise?" His deep grey eyes turned towards his nurse. She was the one adult, excepting his father, that he trusted to speak the truth.
"Yes, that is, if you allow yourself to enjoy it." Rubbing his nose in an attempt to remove the dirt, she continued, "Come, we must get you cleaned up. The feast begins soon, and if you are to enter at your father's side, I am quite certain that appearing as a terrifying mud monster will not make a good impression."
"I suppose you are right. Why are grownups always right? I can be right too. You know that, don't you?" he asked with a slight raise in his voice.
"Yes. Now, let's clean you up. Hurry now and don't doddle."
Fëanáro smiled as his nursemaid took his hand to guide him to his room to clean the mess he had created. She may be annoying, and slightly infatuated with Rúmil, but she wasn't half bad. He laughed at the thought that she was unaware that half the palace knew of the tryst between the two. A tryst is a secret meeting, so why did those in the palace make such a fuss over the 'tryst?' They most likely engaged in deep conversations on the merits of abalone and boring letters.
That was something about which Fëanáro did not know, even though he had attempted to ask his father why everyone continued to gossip about a boring meeting. However, it had not gone over the way he had planned. Atar had simply laughed, saying, "That was when he was too young to understand."
Everyone said that he was too young for this or too young for that. If that was the case, then why could he ride a horse by himself or write his own letters? He was not too young for that. Perhaps he could find someone and inquire as to whether they would have a tryst with him. Maybe then his father would not think him too young. Yes, that was a very good idea – though no fish or letters would be involved. Maybe cheese.
He smirked as a guard approached them. This guard was new. The young boy could tell by the tapping of his left hand finger that beat in an erratic tempo. Judging by his appearance he was not quite one yén, though that was nothing in comparison to Fëanáro's mere fifteen years. No, this guard would not do for a tryst; he probably did not even know what a secret handshake was.
Smiling an innocent smile that only children can muster, he approached his new subject. "You must not have slept well last night because your hair is slightly mussed, indicating that you were pacing most of the night in apprehension of your first day. Due to your pacing, you must have fallen asleep just as the light of Telperion faded, which resulted in you waking up late. If you had woken up at the proper time you would have had time to properly comb your hair. Personally, I do not blame you for being nervous. Most say I am a handful." Fëanáro smirked, causing the young nér to look to the prince's nurse for assistance.
"Crown Prince Curufinwë is a very brilliant child," she said, invoking his title, "although he does tend to show off for new people. I apologize." She looked down reprovingly at Fëanáro, who simply smiled back at her, raising his palms in innocence. "My name is Niquessë. If you have any questions please ask anyone, they will be willing to help. If you will excuse us, I must ready the prince for tonight's feast. Thank you."
Nodding his head, the nér stepped aside, allowing the prince and his nurse to pass through. Turning to look at the still-smirking prince, she remarked, "You should not startle people in that manner. It is most impolite."
Fëanáro enjoyed figuring people out; that was something that all who knew him knew to be a fact. Most people were very easy, and the guards were usually the easiest. After a while they caught on to his shenanigans, making a deduction quite impossible because they expected it. That was why new faces were always a pleasure. "Yes, nurse. I apologize." False contrition was one of his specialties. "We must not doddle or I will be late," he said, echoing her words from earlier.
Hurrying out of the hall they left a very confused, insecure young guard who quickly smoothed out his hair while wondering what sort of position he had found himself. Personal guard to the crown prince. "This will be interesting," he mused to no one in particular.