“But you mentioned feasting.” Parnard brought us back to the present.
I nodded. “The evenings are chill, but not bitter. So should we be in the Hall or have a fire outside? What do your folk do?”
“We need a long feasting table, or maybe more than one.” Parnard was remembering, “And then we lay out the viands: roasted joints of all sorts, a variety of fowl, then a dish of sweetbreads, and cabbage with apples, and potatoes…”
“Estarfin wanted a rabbit and pigeon pie,” I ventured, “and I would not refuse pheasant and venison.”
“That is right, he did..” Parnard said thoughtfully. “We have much hunting to do. It is best to set traps for rabbits.”
“We can do that. Or I can ride a hawking? I have not flown the birds since we returned. Then we need vegetables, but there are many in the kitchen garden, and Filignil will know what is ready. She has been in a bit of a mood since Estarfin’s actions when we went to the beach, but she is softening again. She likes him really. And we can forage for berries…”
“Tripe cooked with vegetables,” Parnard said.
“What is it?”
“The lining of the stomach of a beast, lady.”
“Oh…” It did not sound that appealing to me, but I would respect Parand’s traditions and give it a try.
“I suppose you know how to cook it?”
Parnard nodded. “All the tender portions that will spoil quickly are eaten at the Autumn Feast. The tripe, the sweetbreads, the liver and the heart. We can use what is left towards supplies for our journey? Blood puddings…”
“If Estarfin agrees,” I made a reminder.
Parnard nodded, “We will smoke the rest and press into blocks with fruit.”
“Will you be able to butcher the main meat again, cousin?” I recalled what a good, if messy, job Parnard had done at Midsummer.
He nodded again.
“Flignil and I can look to the vegetables and to making pastries, pies and sweet deserts. And maybe a mixed berry cordial? She has Elderberry wine made last year. It will still be rather rough, but flavorsome.”
“What berries are in season here?” the wood elf asked “Juniper..and we can use previous preserves, I suppose?”
“Indeed. There are blackberries, blackcurrants and still some raspberries in the woods. And Filignil has already been preparing for the darker months. Roasted chestnuts and dried mushrooms a plenty have been prepared in the larder.”
“The summer has been good, and there are many berries on the vine. Perhaps the wine will be plentiful as well,” Parnard turned to a subject close to his heart and stomach. “We are low on supplies again here.”
Between he and Estarfin that was no surprise, I thought. I would still limit my own imbibement as I had since that unfortunate time I had almost told Parnard that Estarfin was a kinslayer. Until I could speak freely, if that was ever to be, I would limit my intake. “We may ride to Duillond soon,” I suggested. “They always carry a lot of Limael’s wine, and can order from elsewhere.”
“We can take a wagon and get provender,” Parnard suggested. “ We need cases of wine, cousin. Cases and cases.”
I knew he would want a lot, but it was sounding excessive. I raised a brow.
“The Autumn Feast is not just one evening. It must last at least a week. T’is a Festival, and festivals last and last…”
I was thinking ‘and I would we crossed the Hithaeglir well before Yule rather than feast all the way to mid-winter.’
“For us to be comfortable I think we should hold the Festival outside, on the lawn. What do you think cousin? If any passersby see us, they are welcome to join in!”
I was trying to take it all on board, along with the now four rings to make, and the general provisions for winter. “Yes, of course,” I said. “I would include the Household, as they choose.”
“Filignil needs no invitation,” Parnard said.
“Nor Barahirn,” I added. “And I have a letter from my student, Aearlinn. She wants to ride up from Mithlond to spend a little time with us.”
“The maiden Aearlinn, eh?” I thought Parnard was struggling to recall her. There had been many maidens in Pillar at the time he was Lord Ambassador, but only one was my student.
“I would be glad to see her again. I remember her dreamy, grey eyes.” Parnard said.
I was touched he remembered her. “She does often have a faraway look, I grant you. And she is a bit of a dreamer. But she is kind by nature, and has an inquiring mind.”
“Like Hingalas friend.”
I pondered a moment. She was not that much like Hingalas. Her dancing was demure and elegant. “Yes, these Falathrim are more like your kindred than we Noldor, I would say.”
Parnard grinned, and I found myself chuckling, and wondering how Hingalas was getting on with oiling his metal rope.
“We should invite Hingalas to the Festival, but I doubt he will be parted from his rope.”
“He has to see to its daily oiling,” Parnard said with a grin. “I would not be tethered to a rope, cousin. I would not oil it daily. The rope has tied Hingalas.”
“I will not be tied to aught, unless it is my choice,” my thoughts went back to my words to Estarfin in Mithlond. If I chose to be bound, that was a very different matter. And in manner I suspected, Hingalas had so chosen.
I sighed. “We have a lot to be about, cousin. But we plan the festival, and the hunting. I shall work on Estarfin’s ring first, then yours, then the ones with virtues to lessen Sea Longing. And as soon as we may, we shall set out for Mirkwood, and have a talk with this Captain Brethenel.” I wiggled my fingers, showing an eagerness to get started.
“I wish not to be captivated by any Sea Longing,” Parnard said sudden and thoughtfully. I must stay here with Brasseniel. And you cousin, and Estarfin friend.” he ran his hand along the edge of my work table.
“And I think of this as home now. No longer a place to treasure old artifacts, but a warm and supporting dwelling with a family...you and Estarfin. And friends, and even a few neighbours who will still talk with us until we toast King Feanor.”
Parnard grinned at me. He could see I was happy.
“I have almost all I have ever wanted you know, and now back to my art again.”
Parnard took my hands in his. I almost thought he would turn me in a celebration dance.
“I am glad you and Estarfin will be betrothed soon,” he said with such warmth. “It will ease his heart…”
“It will ease mine too. I have waited so long for him. But I do believe Tintalle watches over us. All we need now is for Brasseniel to join us. Let us hope and work to that outcome.” I thought ‘if it be her wish’, but did not speak that to Parnard. There was no reason to suspect matters were otherwise.
“I shall speak with her,” Parnard said rather bluntly, “and see if she will come with me regardless of what her father says. That is what I wish to speak with Estarfin about.”
“I think he will understand.” I replied. “My father is long dead, so he has no similar concerns. My father always approved of him anyway. Had we sought betrothal back in Thargelion he would have had to ask the Prince for me.” I frowned at that thought. “I think this Captain will be easier than Caranthir.”
Parnard looked as if he were considering my words.
“We must find the cause of his thoughts to delay, and remedy it. A fine ring will show you have the influence to provide for her.”
Parnard nodded. “We shall get to the bottom of this if we can but speak with the Captain.” He paused a moment. “Is it but a plain silver ring, these betrothal rings? I have never seen one.”
“Basically yes, and there is naught wrong with that.” I tried to elaborate. “But they oft have an engraving, words, a special symbol, a House emblem. Something of that kind, space allowing. And some carry a gem, or gem fragments.” I pointed back at my book, and the betrothal ring I was working on. “More slender for a lady, usually.”
Parnard looked over my shoulder. My design was not yet completed to my liking, but it gave him some idea.
“Peradventure you have a star-sapphire?” he asked. “If not, a tiger’s eye. Brasseniel is a tigress….ahahaha.”
“But the sapphire would match her eyes..hmm”
“I am a jewel–smith. I have quite a few stones here. I have at least one of the first, and several I think of the second you may choose from.”
Parnard looked back at my design.
“You are writing something inside the ring?”
I hastily closed the page. “Yes, but I am afraid that is not for you to read.”
He grinned. “Just Estarfin?”
I nodded. “Some few things are private, even though I would withhold little.”
Then he said..”A beryl! A blue beryl….well it would be aquamarine but the colour is blue?”
“Yes, I have a few, but I may need to send to Mithlond if none are to your liking.”
“A single blue beryl, clear and bright, cut to reflect the light, set in silver..”
I nodded. “I can envisage it.”
Parnard bowed to me.
“And alas, you must tell me what words, if any, you wish engraved, or I shall not know what to write.”
“I shall think upon it. Will the words have any….power? Any dweomer?”
“I will not enchant betrothal or wedding rings. Their power is in the meaning of the words you choose, the dweomer is love, if you will. I can only put that into the ring I make to give.”
My wood elf friend nodded, understanding what I meant. “We have lots before us cousin, and it is all good!”
I was so pleased Parnard was happy, my only concern that we could manage to overcome any objections to him becoming betrothed. But one thing at a time.
“If you do not mind, I should like to make a little progress on Estarfin’s ring. I cannot be certain when he will speak further, but it will be soon, and I shall be ready.”
Parnard took the hint. He bowed deeply again to me. “Thank you my lady. I shall see you soon about the lists for the Festival. Until then…”
And he departed.