Title: Lady of Colored Light
Theme: Merrie Month of May
Elements: Are you mad?
Beta: LC - Invaluable Lizards, all
Author’s Notes: One of my Helyanwë stories, placed in her youth
Summary: A plan is hatched to break the calm demeanor of Indis and cause Fëanáro to laugh
Word Count: 3516
For many years afterwards, the phrase “Are you mad?” was cause for hearty laughter among the friends and relatives who had been present during that summer’s trip to the Lake House. Blame, if there was any, was usually apportioned to the older ones of the quartet, specifically Artanis and Turukáno. Laurefindel was much younger than the older two, and Helyanwë, the youngest, was generally considered to be too young to be the instigator and was thought to have only followed the suggestions of her elders – elves who should have known better. But the other three friends knew better. It was she who had come up with the idea, planned each stage, and convinced the others to carry out the entire plan. The goal, as Helyanwë said, was two-fold. To get a reaction from her great-grandmother, Queen Indis, and to eventually get a laugh from her grandfather, Fëanáro, who had, she said, been working too hard in the forge that season. But whatever the end goals, that golden summer and the phrase, “Are you mad?” passed into family history.
It was in the halcyon days when the Trees still shone and evil was but a whispered word on the wind. It was Indis’ habit to invite the mothers, sisters, aunts and their children (and whoever else wanted to join them) to the Lake House for several weeks at the end of Cermië, the height of the summer season. The adults loved either sitting on the porch enjoying the lake breezes, or swimming in the refreshing lake. The servants were unobtrusive and helpful. The older women were able to take their ease, knowing that their children were able to play safely around the lake and in the woods and hills surrounding the water. The older boys and some of the more daring girls even jumped from the cliff top into the deepest part of the lake. The littlest children would play on the shore where there was a gently sloping beach and in the warm water by their beachfront. They were watched over by their nannies and relations.
The four elves featured in this part of family history, had struck up a firm friendship. Turukáno and Artanis were cousins and were older than the other two by more than a yen. Helyanwë was their second cousin, the younger child of Fëanáro’s son Curufinwë. Laurefindel was the Vanyarin ambassador’s oldest son and a close friend of Turukáno’s. Although Turukáno was old enough to join the men at the Hunting Lodge, he had joined the others at the lake because Laurefindel was still too young to join the hunt. This summer would be the last Lake House holiday that the four of them would spend together.
On this lazy day, the four of them were amusing themselves by skipping stones across the lake and throwing small pebbles at each other, generally getting into each other’s way. Tempers were starting to heat up when Helyanwë spoke.
“I have a plan,” she said. “I want to do something so remarkable that Indis will either be struck dumb or will lose her temper.”
“How are you going to do that? Grandmother is known for being an ice maiden. Nothing ever causes her to lose her temper or her control.” Turukáno opined.
“I have a plan”, she repeated. “But to do this, I need your help. All of you.”
Artanis, already doubting the wisdom of this unknown plan, queried, “This won’t harm anyone, will it? I won’t join in on anything that may hurt any of us.”
“No, Artanis. It won’t hurt anyone physically. My pride may suffer for a while, but I spend most of my time in the forge and Haru doesn’t care what I look like, only the quality of the work that I produce.” Helyanwë responded. “In fact, he has been working far too hard lately and I hope that my plan will not only get a reaction from Indis, but will cause Haru to laugh out loud. He needs to laugh again.”
“Look like?” questioned Laurefindel, catching and hanging onto that one small bit in Helyanwë’s words.
“Yes, Laurë. I want you--all of you--to help me paint my hair red-violet.”
“You want us to help color your hair?” “You want us to what?” “Huh?” the other three began questioning, each one talking over the others simultaneously.
Finally one voice prevailed. “Whatever for?” asked Artanis, flipping her head and causing her celebrated blonde locks to bounce. “Admittedly, there isn’t much color to your hair…”
“What color?” Laurefindel asked from Helyanwë’s other side. Unconsciously, he grabbed a lock of his own golden strands while he was talking. Turukáno, the third golden head of hair in the group just sat, shaking his head as if he was stunned by the suggestion alone.
“That’s exactly the problem.” stated Helyanwë. “I love color. My name even means colored light. But my hair is my mother’s – pure Telerin pale.”
She sighed. “All of you have wonderful rich, blonde hair. My Atar and my brother have the dark hair of Haru, and my other uncles have a variety of color ranging from Uncle Maitimo’s red to Uncle Turkafinwë’s pale, dark blonde.” She turned around a few times so that they all could see her long, wavy, winter-pale blonde hair. She continued, “But my hair is almost white. It belies my very name. How can I be named for colored light if I have no color? With your help, I can make up for that lack and this summer will go down into family history.”
She stood up again and took a position where she could look at each of them. “We will be leaving to return to Tirion in one six-day. This will take several days to accomplish and I will need the help of each of you. Will you help me? Once we begin, you will be committed and you can’t back out. I need each of you to promise me.”
“I’m in,” said Laurefindel with a huge grin on his face. “This sounds as if it will be fun, even though I have no idea how you’re going to do this.”
“Turukáno?” she said next. “How about you? Will you join Laurefindel and me?”
“All right. I haven’t gotten into trouble for quite a while, so I guess I’m probably about due,” he laughed. “I promise, little one. I will help you color your hair and support you by sneaking food into your room when you have been confined to quarters after this stunt is complete.”
Artanis looked at the other three carefully, and then slowly nodded her head. “Yes, I will join you. I’ll probably regret this, but it has possibilities.”
“Excellent! Now, here’s what I need you to do,” Helyanwë began to explain.
* * * * *
The next day’s mingling showed a clear blue sky. Helyanwë was waiting for them with baskets, a pot, a stone chisel, a mallet, cloth and string. Handing each of them a basket, she placed the other materials under a tree where they could get to them later and they headed out to the upper meadows where the berries were ripening.
“I need blackberry berries, roots and canes, but mostly the berries. That will give me a nice purple.” Pointing towards the far side of the meadow, she continued. “Along the edges of the meadow are chokecherries. I need as many berries and some roots from those also to add some red tone to the mix. If you come across any plums, those also give a nice red, and wild grapes will give a medium purple. Pick as much as you can, but don’t get greedy. What we don’t use I’ll return to the cooks and they can use them in dinner or for breakfast. Make sure to leave some for Yavanna to thank her for her bounty.”
Picking up her own basket, she headed towards the closest blackberry thicket, pulling gloves out of her pocket. The others followed her example and spread out across the meadow, harvesting as they went.
After several hours, the baskets were filled with a variety of berries, roots, canes, a few plums, some grapes, and an occasional insect that had become too curious. The young girl led her friends back to their beach and cleared an open space.
“Please build me a small fire here, Turukáno. I’ll get the berries prepared for the pot and if you other two would collect dead wood for me to feed the fire, I’ll get the berries packaged and start the infusion. It will take several hours for the infusion to get properly concentrated, so after I have things going, you can go and swim, get lunch, and play while I tend the fire.”
She opened up the scraps of cloth she had brought and began portioning berries into each piece, adding a spoonful of a powder along with the berries and roots. Then she bound each cloth into a tight bundle. Responding to a questioning glance from Artanis, she explained “Ground limestone. I'm dyeing my hair here, not fabric, so I can't exactly boil my head," she laughed. "This will help the dye color become more stable and, hopefully, allow the color to last longer."
For the remainder of the day, while her friends played in the sunshine and brought her some lunch when the lunch bell rang, she carefully tended the fire. It was important that the infusion of berries not boil, just stay in simmering hot water. While she was tending the fire, she used the chisel and mallet to chip a channel out of a flat stone. When the channel was shaped, she periodically pulled each bundle from the water, and crushing it gently in the stone channel, poured the juices back into the pot, returning each masticated bundle to the hot water. In this fashion she worked through all of the plant materials several times over a few hours, while the amount of liquid in the pot decreased and the color became stronger. Finally the infusion was ready.
Her friends came back up the beach towards her, laughing at a joke that Laurefindel had just told them. “How is the cooking going?” Artanis asked.
“Excellent, it’s finished. Now it needs to cool overnight and we can start the application tomorrow.” Helyanwë looked at the two men. “Help me move the pot to the hole I’ve prepared nearby. I'll put a stone on top of it to keep it clean, and it should cool quickly in the moist sand.”
The four of them moved and covered the pot so that it could remain in the hole overnight. Then they cleaned up the fire, making sure it was completely out. Gathering up the extra berries to give to the cooks, they headed back to the Lake House for dinner and a restful night.
* * * * *
The next mingling, the four gathered on the porch in the early morning after they broke their fast. This time Helyanwë had a basket of assorted implements: sticks and brushes, a container of thickened oil, and a folded oiled cloth with string. The other three raised their eyebrows when they looked into her basket, but they followed her to their beach and helped her to dig out the pot of infused berries she had prepared the day before.
She added the thickened oil to the infusion and mixed it up thoroughly. Then she handed a brush and comb to each of them. “First let me show you what I want done.” Taking a stick from her basket, she drew stripes on the moist sand. “I want each stripe to be one finger wide, except at my face where I want it two fingers wide. I want alternating color/no color around my head. Only the top few inches will actually be dyed, the remaining hair will be covered by the cloth.”
“I think the easiest way to do this will be like this. Take the top two inches of my hair all around and pull it out of the way. I’ll tie on the oiled cloth to protect the hair below those two inches. Then, using the smooth sticks, separate my hair, pulling the parts that will remain white underneath the cloth and leaving the parts to be dyed hanging over the cloth.”
“After you’ve got my hair separated, you can each take one of the brushes and begin applying the dye to the hair. The tricky part will be making sure that you don’t get too much color on the parts that should stay white. Cover each stripe really well and I’ll let it dry. Then I’ll rinse it out and we’ll see how well it worked and how many coats we’ll need to do.”
Laurefindel had a big grin on his face. He was obviously enjoying the entire concept. Turukáno was also starting to enjoy the idea. Artanis asked once more “Are you absolutely sure you want to do this, Helyanwë?”
“Oh yes. I hope that it lasts for a while. Who knows? I may start a new fashion in Tirion.”
The three of them got to work. They separated the hair carefully, tied on the oiled cloth, and began painting on the dye infusion. The four friends sat around talking for another two hours while Helyanwë’s hair dried thoroughly. Then she got up. “All right, time to go swimming and wash this out of my hair. Let’s see if this worked or if I have just wasted more than a day in an experiment.”
They all raced each other to the water and dove in, splashing each other gaily as they swam into deeper waters. They ducked each other beneath the water, pulled on each other’s legs, and played “catch me” with each other. In this process, the oil infusion was washed away. When they left the water to dry off on the beach, Helyanwë’s hair was wet, and it wasn’t very apparent if the dye had taken or not. But as it dried, it became evident that there were lightly colored violet stripes in her hair.
Looking at the color with critical eyes, all of them agreed that it would take at least one more application, and perhaps as many as three more applications before the color would be outstanding. They had time to do a second application that day, so they immediately began reapplying the colored oil to her hair. It was no time at all before she once again had painted stripes of hair drying in the diffused light of the trees.
By the time they left the beach for dinner, having once again buried the pot for the night, Helyanwë’s hair was starting to show decided red-violet stripes. To cover them up, she put on a scarf for the evening meal. The four friends had agreed to apply the dye infusion again the next day until they had used all of it up. Whatever color her hair was at that point would be her final color.
The following day, the three friends dyed her hair a total of three more times before they ran out of the berry infusion. At the end of that time, as she emerged from the water after having washed off the final dye and cleaned out the pot and tools, it was quite apparent that she had striped hair. When it dried, it was a striking red-violet color against her normal pale, almost colorless, blonde. Once again she covered her hair with a scarf as they returned to the Lodge late that afternoon.
* * * * *
That evening’s dinner was a formal occasion. The following day would be reserved for packing and the day after that would be the beginning of their return journey to Tirion. It was a tradition for Indis to preside over a formal dinner at the end of each Lake House stay. It was an opportunity for each adult to dress up, even though they didn’t wear full court garb, and also time for each child to show one thing that they had found or made over the summer vacation to the adults and the Queen. Each child would be given time to tell about their treasure or crafted item and receive the praise of the Queen and their elders.
Helyanwë dressed carefully. Her flowing gown was in the violet and white tones of her father’s house colors and her earrings and bracelet were gold with her own glass enamelwork adorning them. She fixed her hair carefully, braiding some parts and adding gold beads to other parts, and then, once again, placed a scarf over it. She carefully positioned a golden circlet featuring an enameled disk on top of her head over the scarf. Leaving her room, she was met outside her chamber door by the other three conspirators.
“Are you ready?” asked Turukáno?
“Absolutely ready,” replied Helyanwë, laughing. “I can’t wait for my chance to show the Queen what I did this summer.”
The four of them were laughing as they entered the dining chamber. Although it was a formal dinner, rather than sitting and being served, it was tradition to have the food available on the sideboard and for each person to help themselves to whatever they wanted. After everyone had eaten and had a beverage before them, juice for the young ones and fine wine for the adults, the Queen clapped her hands and asked for the children to please line up with their treasures from the youngest to the oldest, and share their treasures with the others. Helyanwë joined the others at the end of the line.
The line moved slowly while each child showed his or her favorite rock or feather, or explained the craft they had learned. Each child was praised for their find or their effort, and each was given a small gift by the Queen. Finally it was Helyanwë’s turn.
Queen Indis looked questioningly at her. “Helyanwë, dear, you are not holding anything. Do you have a treasure or a craft to share with us this evening?”
“Oh yes, my Lady. With the help of my friends, we brought color to my life. Look!” and Helyanwë pulled off her scarf and twirled in place, causing the colored stripes in her hair to raise up and then fall back down upon the white bank of hair beneath them.
There was absolute silence in the room for a moment. The Queen slowly rose to her feet, and opening her mouth silently a few times, found her voice and screeched, “Are you mad?”
Helyanwë burst into laughter. In fact, she was laughing so hard she lost her balance and sat down abruptly in front of Indis. “Nay, Lady. I am not mad; I am the Lady of Colored Light. I am Helyanwë.”
She was subsequently escorted back to her room and her maid was ordered to wash the color from her hair, however she was unsuccessful. Indis, having recovered her temper and her pride again by the morning, refused to speak to Helyanwë during the entire four day trip back to Tirion.
* * * * *
Helyanwë had done her research well and the color, although slightly lessened, was still evident when she returned to her grandfather’s forge a six-day after the infamous dinner. She crept into the forge early, building up the fire in her kiln area and uncovering the pieces she had been designing when she had left for the Lake House. She could hear the early morning birds outside the forge walls. This early part of the day was her favorite time of day. The morning quiet, she felt, was the time she felt closest to Eru and the time when her creativity was at its best.
She was so absorbed in placing glass into the cells of her latest project that she didn’t hear her grandfather come up behind her. “Welcome home, child,” he said, while looking over her shoulder.
“Haru!” she squealed, and turned, throwing herself into the arms of the one person she loved more than any other relative.
“Sweet one, what have you done to your hair?” he asked, with a lilt in his voice.
“Haru, I colored it so that I would truly be a Lady of Colored Light,” she responded. “See? Watch how the colors gleam in the lamp light.” She twirled around, letting her hair fly out and then settle down again.
Fëanáro burst out in laughter, and pulling her close, gave her a hug and kissed her brow. “And what did Indis say to this?” he asked.
“She said ‘Are you mad?’ And then she didn’t speak to me again for the entire journey home.” The two of them laughed together as they positioned fire shields around her kiln fire to protect the forge and then went to join the rest of the family in breaking their fast. Helyanwë had succeeded in both of her goals, the Queen had commented, and her beloved Haru had laughed again. She was content.
A/N - Quenya: Haru = Grandfather
Helyanwë with striped hair...