Title: A Single Celebration, a Yule Exchange Fic for astris_eldalie
Theme: Yule Exchange
Elements: "I would like something featuring any of the sons of Fëanor as kids," as requested by astris_eldalie. Well, I tried my best, but when you're writing with Fëanor as part of the theme, he tends to take over a bit. So, you've got the kids, but also the parents and even a Vala.
Beta: None. Any and all errors, etc. are solely my own responsibility.
Word Count: 4200
Summary: The habit of grand celebrations for all natal days within the royal family has started to get out of hand. Nerdanel has a suggestion, but it is up to Fëanáro and Lord Manwë to make the changes happen that will allow private parties to become socially acceptable once again.
Author’s Notes: Disclaimer: Tolkien built the sand box; I only play with the bucket and shovel that he left for me. No money, profit or non, is made from the publication of this story.
Fëanáro stood in the doorway, leaning against the doorframe and watching his family working together to make Curufinwë's natal celebration a joyful one. His wife, always beautiful but now radiant from her current pregnancy, organized their sons into a scene of chaotic domestic accomplishment.
Nerdanel looked up to survey her troops. She was mixing cake batter in a large bowl, a smudge of flour on the tip of her nose. Her long hair was braided into a single plait hanging down her back. The oven behind her was radiating heat, awaiting the batter. She sighed, took another quick look around the room and spotted her husband leaning against the wall, without an assigned task. "Fëanáro, come here and take over for me."
"What? Darling wife, I have apprentices calling me from the forge. I can't …"
"On the contrary, you most certainly can!" she spat back. "You gave your apprentices the day off to celebrate our son's natal day, so you have no reason to escape this time. Now get over here and start mixing this batter for me. It's heavy and there's a lot of it."
He walked over, passing a giggling Maitimo holding a scroll and reading a list of ingredients for cream frosting aloud. "No laughing, after all, I am 'High Prince of the Noldor'," he whispered as he passed his oldest son and gave him a wink. He heard the soft giggles move into true laughter behind his back as he walked by. By the time he reached Nerdanel, Maitimo had resumed his serious mien and was once again reading the ingredient list to Makalaurë who was collecting each one as listed, gathering them near a smaller mixing bowl.
He stepped forward to his wife. A stray lock of her hair had worked its way loose from her braid and she had attempted to move it back with a puff of breath. Instead of moving the lock back along her head, it now hung directly down the line of her nose. As she looked crossly at it, she grumbled under her breath, reminding him of how adorable she could be when vexed. Perhaps a little annoyance this afternoon might lead to some bedroom delight, he thought as he reached her side. He tucked the stray lock behind her ear and kissed the flour from the tip of her nose.
She handed him the spoon and he set to work with a willing arm. As he mixed the batter smooth, he looked around the large kitchen.
“Things seem to be going well here,” he commented.
“We need a change, Fëanáro. You have to think of something.”
“Of course, dearest,” he responded automatically. Then he stopped mixing and recoiled. “Wait. What needs to change?”
"Stir, dear," Nerdanel directed.
She continued, “The more children your brothers and we have, the more interminable natal days we have to celebrate. It is starting to get tiresome. Even your father has started to hint that either we stop having children or we change to a single annual celebration. He said," and she lowered her pitch and pinched her nose, the better to approximate the sonorous tones of the Noldorin King. "The banners from one prince's natal celebrations barely have time to get weather-worn before they are being replaced by the next one's colors. It's beginning to exhaust the decorators and groundskeepers, not to mention the drain on the treasury." She removed her fingers from her nose, leaving another dusting of flour behind.
Fëanáro looked at her serious demeanor and couldn't help himself. He burst out in laughter. “Did he really say that?”
“Word for word,” she replied as she examined the consistency of the batter in Fëanáro's bowl. “Carnistir, are those pans ready?”
Her fourth son looked up from the corner where he had been greasing and dusting the pans with flour. He gathered a haphazard stack of greased and floured cake pans and carried them carefully over to the table, spilling them onto the tabletop in front of her. Each pan had a few pieces of butter sticking up from the sides as well as several bald patches missing the flour covering.
She looked at the pans and sighed. “Dear heart, I know you've tried your best, but could you make sure there are no bald spots? Spread the butter evenly along the sides. Here, take one pan at a time, work on it and bring it back then start the next one. It won't take long at all." She saw the hint of tears starting to form in the young boy's eyes. "This will be even better because it will let me pour the batter into each pan as they are ready, and I'll have the time to knock out any air bubbles before we put the pans into the oven." She leaned over and kissed the top of Carnistir's head. “Go on with you, you're doing fine. Just pay a little more attention and all will be well.”
She returned her attention to her husband. "Now, Fëanáro, you really must do something about this constant celebration of natal days. It is getting quite tiresome. Come to think of it, why are there no anniversaries that all of Valinor can observe together?"
"What do you mean, my love?" He passed the batter over to her and she began pouring it into a beautifully greased and floured pan that Carnistir had brought to her.
"Birthdates should really be commemorated within families, but because we are related to Finwë, everyone in Tirion is encouraged to celebrate our natal days alongside us. I think festivals for the Noldorin populace should be restricted to recognition of the births of Finwë, Indis, you and your brothers only. All of the other family members should have private parties. And yes, I know that Finwë doesn't have a true natal day, but he's made do with a substitute for these many yeni."
"Hmmm, there need to be times throughout the year for the people to gather together. But you are right; there is nothing that is celebrated throughout Valinor."
"Think of something, Fëanáro. Go walk in the gardens and come up with a solution." She gave him a swift kiss on the cheek and pat on the butt as she pushed him toward the arched doorway leading to the kitchen garden.
As he walked between the rows of vegetables and savory herbs, he began thinking about the situation. They lived in Valinor - the Uttermost West and the land of the Valar. The light from the Trees structured their days, the two blendings and the two apexes creating the rhythm of their days. He walked through the garden gate and stood outside the compound wall, looking over the gentle hills and planted fields surrounding their family compound. In the distance, one stand of trees were dressed in scarlet colors, the grove next to them in the newest of green. Farther along the horizon he saw workers harvesting grapes from the vineyards and to his left, closer to the house, others were planting a crop of grain. 'It's all jumbled up,' he mumbled softly to himself. 'The Trees and their never-ending cycle have given us a life of complete predictability but it's a lifetime of beautiful boredom. We need some challenges, and a cycle of weather patterns that will allow us to have gatherings that aren't dependent upon natal days. If Manwë could establish a cycle of seasons, we could celebrate the times of planting, growth, harvest and rest.'
He turned abruptly and walked back into the kitchen. Nerdanel was placing the batter-filled pans into the oven and the boys were roughhousing in a corner, rolling together in an impromptu wrestling match. "Stay away from the oven, boys," he called out and walked by them without further interference. "We need seasons!" he declared as he came to a stop in front of his wife. The boys stopped their campaign of tickling Makalaurë and sat up, looking owlishly at their father while Nerdanel placed the last pan into the oven and turned to face him.
"Seasons? You mean like garlic or salt?" she asked.
"No," he said as he took her into his arms and danced with her around the kitchen table. "More like agricultural seasons. A season to plant, another while the crops grow, a season of harvesting and finally a season of rest. Each of these could have their own specific festival that all of Valinor would honor. What do you think?"
"It's actually a good idea, Fëanáro," Nerdanel answered.
"Well, you needn't sound so surprised that I could come up with a good idea once in a while," he responded with a pout.
She laughed gaily and put her hands alongside his head, looking him directly in his eyes. "Silly husband of mine. You reworked the alphabet, giving us a new system of writing. You made gems that captured the light of Varda's stars within them. You have made metals that the world never dreamed existed. Of course, you can have good ideas every now and again. But how can you accomplish this one? You are not the Valar. You can't change the weather."
"Are you going to change the weather, Papa?" Maitimo asked.
"It would be really nice to play in the snow for more than a day," Carnistir added. "Maybe the water would freeze and we could slide on it. That would be so much fun!"
"A time of rest would give me the opportunity to work on new compositions, and would be an ideal time to see plays and concerts. The rest time should be the time we spend in Tirion," Makalaurë said softly, rubbing his side where the tickling had gotten out of hand.
"But to return to the point of the problem," Nerdanel interjected, "How can you accomplish this, my darling? You are only an elf. You do not have the power to change the weather across Valinor."
"Very true, my love. After the feast tonight, I'll pack some things up and tomorrow just after blending, I'll begin a journey to Taniquetil and ask to speak with Manwë. Only he has the power to institute this type of change, but he might be agreeable to it."
"You're not exactly fond of the Valar, dear heart," Nerdanel pointed out as she gathered the boys around her to begin making the frosting for the cakes.
"True, but there is no question that this is beyond my own abilities. Only Manwë can make seasons, but we would all benefit in many ways. I must try to convince him."
"That's good, dear …" she turned her attention back to her sons who were working on a cream filling. "Whoops! Now you have to get that piece of eggshell out of there. The easiest way to do that is with the part of the shell still in your hand. Try it, Makalaurë."
"I'll get out of your way," said Fëanáro as he headed for the kitchen door "Send one of the boys to my study to get me if you need my help." He left the kitchen quickly before he had to join the small workforce in the kitchen. He wanted to think about what he would say to Manwë in more detail before he left the next day.
* * *
The celebration that evening was a great success. They had a smaller staff at their country estate, but there was still a nice crowd around the dinner table to feast and to throw shredded colored paper bits and sing songs honoring the youngest son of Fëanáro.
Turcafinwë had brought down a deer earlier in the week and it had been smoked and marinated to perfection. It was cooked just the way Curufinwë had requested and was served with dilled rolls to soak up the savory gravy. There were fresh vegetables from the garden and for dessert, of course, the cakes. The fact that the cakes were slightly lopsided and the frosting a little bit uneven only lent to their charm. By the end of the evening Curufinwë was a sticky mess and ran off to the stable as quickly as he could to introduce his brothers to his new horse. Fëanáro had also presented him with a full set of tools for working alongside him in the forge. Between the two gifts, the young elf had been almost speechless with delight.
"That was successful," Nerdanel said as her husband embraced her late that night. "I think it all came off very well, and having the party here meant we didn't have to be visited by an endless stream of visitors from each house of Tirion."
"Yes, that was a relief," rumbled Fëanáro into her hair. "And one of the best things is that we could all see the fireworks that Finwë had set off in Curufinwë's honor without actually being in the city."
They snuggled into bed, spooning together and Fëanáro's hand moved protectively over the swollen belly of his wife. "This one may be born into a changed world, my love," he said as she drifted off to sleep.
* * *
Before the blending ended the next day, Fëanáro was already on his way toward Taniquetil. It was a leisurely three-day ride to the foot of the mountain, and he had no guarantee that Manwë would be willing to meet with him. 'I must try. Something has to change.' He rode for several hours until the evening's blending was beginning, and then looked for a good place to camp. Hearing rushing water, he followed the noise and shortly rode into an open glade edged by a small, swift stream. An elf was standing in the water casting a line into the shaded, sheltered pools of the stream. The rhythm of the fishing elf's actions were calming, almost mesmerizing.
Just as Fëanáro had decided to continue riding and look for a glade where he wouldn't be interrupting another's solitude, the fisher-elf called out to him. "If you are looking for an opportunity to relax your horse for the evening, you are welcome to share my fish and my fire."
"Thank you, but I don't wish to put you to any trouble. I'll just continue on to the next glade."
"No, no, I insist. It's no trouble at all. You see?" The strange elf began wading out of the water, gathering up a string of fish he had kept in the chill waters as he climbed the bank. "You see?" he repeated. "I have the fire already laid out and wood for the night. I have fish," and he held up the string of fish freshly caught, "and I'm sure that my horse would appreciate the companionship. Come, come, Fëanáro. Join me for the night."
"You know who I am?" Fëanáro asked as he got down from his horse and walked toward the strange elf.
"Of course. You are a very public figure, after all," the elf responded. "Come. My little camp is just over here."
Cresting a small rise, Fëanáro saw a cozy little camp near the eaves of the forest. A bedroll was already set out near the fire pit and hot coals had formed from a first burn, and then been carefully banked. A small tripod held a pot of steaming water and a spit awaited the fish his host was carrying over.
"I'll just clean these fish quickly while you take care of your horse and set up your bedroll. It won't take long." The elf deposited his fishing pole near his bedroll, then turned and walked over to a large rock near the stream where he began cleaning the fish he had caught. Fëanáro began unpacking his horse and brushing him down thoroughly. He led his horse to get a long drink and moved him next to his host's steed. The two animals seemed to get along well, so he picketed his animal for the night.
The other elf returned from cleaning the fish and efficiently speared them onto the spit, placing it over the hot coals. He blew the coals back to life and coaxed a small flame from them that gently caressed the fish as he turned the spit. "Here, Fëanáro. Take the spit and turn it while I check on the rest of the food."
Shortly afterward, Fëanáro was squatting next to the small, hot fire while his host set out two trenchers and started digging into the hot coals with a small shovel.
"Keep those fish rotating," his host reminded him, and Fëanáro quickly refocused on turning the spit, which had slowed while he had been watching the other elf.
"Ah ha!" the elf exclaimed as he uncovered two potatoes that had been baking in the coals. He put one onto each trencher. Unhooking the small steaming pot from the tripod, he pulled cooked green vegetables from the pot and distributed them along the bottom of each trencher. Reaching into a pouch hanging from his belt, he pulled out some herbs and sprinkled them atop the steaming food. "That should be just about enough time. Go ahead and pull the spit from the fire and bring the fish over here." Within minutes, Fëanáro was eating one of the best meals he had in many yeni.
"So, why is Fëanáro traveling through the wilds of Valinor instead of in his halls in Tirion?" his host asked as he passed a wineskin over to him. They had finished eating and the washed trenchers were drying, propped against a nearby rock. The two elves sat on top of one of the bedrolls passing the skin of excellent wine back and forth between them.
"My people are getting partied out," he said.
"What do you mean?"
"There are so many celebrations for all of the people that they are becoming a burden rather than a time of joy. Now we honor the natal days of my entire family as a people, and with my brothers, their children, my own family and the King, not to mention the High King and the days we set aside to honor each of the Valar, it's too much. Every few days it seems that there's another festival."
"But isn't it good to have the people come together in jubilation?" his host asked.
"Of course, but I think they should celebrate things that matter most to them. I think we need reasons to come together for festivals that have nothing to do with any individual person. I thought perhaps we should celebrate seasonally, coming together as a people for the four aspects of a full season - the planting, the time of growing, the harvest and the resting time." He shook his head as he passed the wine back to his host. "We don't really have seasons, though," he continued. "The Trees are ever constant and their illumination cycle never truly changes, so there are no true seasons in Valinor. I am at a loss. I can see a solution, but no means of implementing it. I am traveling to Taniquetil to speak to Manwë about a new framework for our lives, because only the Valar have the power to change the weather."
"Well, young Fëanáro, that is an interesting idea and I look forward to seeing what the rest of the Valar will say when I propose it to them."
"Why would you propose it to Manwë when I am on my way to do that very thing?" Fëanáro spat. "It is my idea, not yours. Wait a moment…what do you mean by the rest of the Valar?"
There was a shimmer in the air and his companion's appearance wavered and altered, becoming more regal and imposing. Fëanáro quickly jumped to his feet, then knelt in obeisance. "Lord Manwë!"
"I doubt we would have had so pleasant an interlude in my halls, Fëanáro. They tend to be a bit more formal," the Vala responded. "Stand. Let's walk and talk about your proposal. I think it has merit, but it will be tricky to implement."
* * *
The changes were small at first. A longer winter snowfall was the beginning of a colder season. Flocks of birds began migrating in large groups, sometimes darkening the skies with their numbers, and animals began birthing their young at specific times of the year instead of more randomly. Although crops still grew abundantly, they only ripened a few times a year, holding to a more specific cycle. Within a yeni, new cycles were established.
Word came from the High King. "By the decree of Manwë and the Valar, a new framework has been established for life throughout Valinor. Henceforth, we will live and celebrate within a cycle of seasons, numbering four - a season for planting, a season of growth, a season of harvest and finally a season of rest. Honor each of these with a festival of six days' duration throughout all lands, cities and towns. After several market days featuring entertainers, musicians, merchants and storytellers, the final day will be a joint celebration for all who live throughout the land. These occasions will allow all people to gather in small or large groups and share meals, music, dancing and entertainment; generally enjoying the companionship of friends and family. The first of these festivals will occur in twelve days to celebrate the season of rest."
Finwë further recommended that each family honor the third day of the Festival of Rest by opening their doors and inviting any who wanted, to share their celebration, joining the family at their meal. When the festival had started, the populace filled the marketplace, purchasing foodstuffs and banners for their Opening Night. The King and his wife, Indis, opened their doors, as did many others. Mansions as well as smaller homes beckoned passing elves with warmly lit interiors and the smells of rich food and drink. Following his father's example, Fëanáro also threw open his household's doors, inviting those who desired to join the family in a meal and good companionship. Late that night, as the table was being cleared and the food was being put into storage, a final visitor arrived at the door and knocked for admission.
"My Lord Fëanáro, please forgive the interruption," the door warden said as he entered the kitchen, finding the elf with his arms deep in wash water, cleaning the dishes. "There is one last visitor at the gate."
"Invite him in, by all means," roared Fëanáro. "Bring him here. We'll feed him and we can talk while we clean around him. That should be good entertainment - to see a Prince of the realm with his hands full of soapy water and dirty dishes."
In a short time, a distinguished elf dressed in well-made but nondescript clothing sat at the trestle table and was served a plate of hot, steaming food and a frosty ale to drink. "So, Fëanáro, what do you think of the seasonal changes and this first feast?" the guest asked as he began eating.
Fëanáro washed a dish and handed it to Maitimo for drying. He turned around to face his guest. Startled recognition flooded his face. The visitor placed his finger across his lips, requesting silence.
“It's wonderful, actually,” Fëanáro responded, handing the washrag and dish duty over to Turcafinwë and striding over to join his guest. He sat across from the stranger and continued. “I enjoyed spending some time with other elves, many of whom I had not spoken with in depth before. It was good to share the joy of the larger occasion, and now we can have family celebrations within our own smaller group without the obligations placed on us by the general populace. It will allow for natal day parties to be more intimate, and the boys are happy as they think about sharing their birthdays with their friends and relations instead of the entire population.”
“Good, I am pleased to hear it. Walk me out?” the visitor said as he got up from the table.
“It was a good idea you had, Fëanáro; but I fear you will not receive recognition for it,” Manwë commented as they reached the outer courtyard.
“I need no recognition, Lord,” he responded. “I merely had the idea after being inspired by my wife's request. It took all of the Valar to bring the idea to life. Although I dislike being beholden to anyone, I am in your debt.” Fëanáro bowed deeply to his visitor who reached out and gently raised him to stand facing him once more.
“We will not see each other eye-to-eye often, young prince, but if you ever want to escape for a time, return to that valley where we first met and we'll share a few hours catching fish and talking across the firepit.”
Fëanáro escorted his visitor to the main gate where they shook hands. Manwë turned and walked down the cobbled street toward the city's entryway. As Fëanáro turned back to his courtyard, he nodded. 'Yes, I might just take advantage of that invitation. Fishing with Lord Manwë would allow for easier conversation.' He walked back into his house and rejoined his family, a soft smile on his face.