I tossed and turned in my sleep. Peace did not come as easily as it should have. A mind full of memories of home carried me still. Memories of certain people….certain events…
(Thargelion 305 FA)
“Arise, child. Show me your face.”
The general chatter of those around us in the great Hall lessened. The eyes of many were turned upon me in curiosity. Who was I to be shown such favour?
‘’T’is the daughter of Urundir?”
“She has the look of his mother.”
“A learned child. She studies with my daughter.”
“What is this child doing here? He should be speaking with his Captains and Advisors.”
I overheard many a comment that perhaps I should not have. Most folk there were indulgent of me, because he was. Though also I had done naught to earn any displeasure, save that of jealousy from a very few. And I did not feel like a child. Though I stood there with my parents and tutor, I was 23 years of age. No toddler to be fawned over and picked up and coddled. Though not yet a woman, it was true, I was tall for my age (then) and walked with the carriage of a noble, as I had been taught. I was already learned in history and our lore, and showing great promise with my skills with gem craft. I was the pride of my parents.
But it would not do to keep him waiting. Swiftly I did as I was bid, rising from the deep curtsy due him that he could look clearly upon me. I ran a hand over the silk of my scarlet skirts that they sat straight about my form. I tossed my head slightly, that my copper-red curls fell in place.
Tall was he. Taller by far than my father, and most of the Captains who frequented our hall. Broad of shoulder, dark of hair, ruddy of face and bright of eye. Even without the skillfully crafted gem upon his brow, or the sparkling rings on four of his fingers, without the elegantly embroidered silken scarlet robes, he was every bit the Prince.
Some feared his moods, for he could be capricious. I did not, at that time. I was young, I was naive, but there was also this: from an early age my appearance had reminded him of certain of his family. His younger brothers, yes, but more specifically, and as I grew, of his mother. The blood of Mahtan, her father, my great-grandfather through her sister, Istarnie, ensured I had a more favoured place in the court of Prince Caranthir than my parent’s rank alone would warrant.
He looked at me, a piercing gaze to discern any unknown flaws. Having found none that mattered to him, he nodded approval. My parents breathed a small sigh of relief and both took a step back.
“All is good with you then, since last we spoke, Carnifinde? I see brightness in your eyes, a love for learning, a firmness about your lips and chin that will not see your will overridden easily. I see growing strength in your form that you will stand against opposition. It is pleasing.” He glanced at Quentaro, who stood back behind my parents. “You do well, tutor. See that she continues to advance in all her studies. Naught she desires shall be denied her.”
Sable-haired Quentaro bowed deeply. A true Feanorian, he would not disappoint our Prince.
I met Caranthir’s gaze, closing my ears to the sound of musicians preparing to play. I would not be distracted from my purpose, and now he had said I should be denied naught, I would tell him of my desire. “Indeed, my Prince. I thank you for your support and patronage. My parents encourage me in all I would pursue, save my father will not instruct me in the art of the sword.”
My mother gasped at my outspokenness, my father sighed. I knew both of them loved me dearly, but neither would support me in this matter.
Prince Caranthir could have shown displeasure at my words. But he did not. He smiled. Later did I realise he understood my father’s reticence better than I did.
“So alike. Why she could be be your very own, my Lord Prince,” said a passing and foolish courtier. I felt those words upon the Prince. It was no insult to me, but his gaze hardened as he looked down on the speaker. The courtier paled and took a swift step away.
Caranthir turned to my father, who stood firm before him. “She does you credit, Urundir. She does Thargelion credit. Let nothing be denied her, for she asks from admirable motives. Yet the art of the sword must wait a few years yet. I will suffer no harm to her.”
My father then bowed low, his expression one of pride tinged with disbelief of my words.
“As you order, my Prince.”
“Come to my study at midday on the morrow, Urundir. I must speak with you further concerning the reinforcement of the northern hill-forts.” he said, then turned and inclined his head to my mother and I.
My ‘audience’ was swiftly over, and my Prince and advocate moved on to speak with his Lady (a) and some guests from the retinue of Ambarussa.
Turning me away from that wide hall that I no longer watched the Prince, nor could easily be watched, my father spoke softly but firmly.
“Sword, Carnifinde? Have we not already explained. It is no game you ask to play, but a matter of life and death.”
My mother stood behind me, her small hands resting lightly on my shoulders. “We do not wish to deny you training in any art of self defense, Istarwen, but would that you wait just a few more years. Do not rush to be an adult, with an adult’s responsibilities. Enjoy this Winter Feast, and we shall talk again of lessons in swordcraft in due course.”
“Enjoy the celebrations…the dancing,” My father encouraged. He noticed my expression at his suggestion, and sighed again.
“Atar, it is not that I wish to be a warrior,” I began. “But I have heard you say that all our nisi should be trained to defend ourselves at need.”
My mother moved to stand before me. She lay hand on my father’s arm. As usual, they were of one mind in their decision. “They are wise words, but unless a nis has a will to train in military arts, we usually wait until fully grown. Soon enough that shall be the case, dear one. Can you not wait with us a few…”
And of a sudden there was a shout that had the eyes of many turned to look.
It was one of my father’s fellow officers. One I knew by sight, rather than in person. He was striding from the dance floor, anger in his movement as well as his voice.
“Is it true then?”
“I turned to look in the direction all others were looking in, and beheld a pale faced youth with a large bruise on his cheek, very dark and unruly of hair, opening his mouth to speak.
Despite the bruise he was beautiful, I thought in astonishment.
“Silence! You disobey my command? I have heard troubling report that instead of mastering your craft with Forodhir, you waste your time with squabbling; with rolling in the dirt and coming home to your mother and me with lies about accidents in the stables?”
My father lay a hand on my shoulder and turned me away. He must have known what was coming. “Let us not add to Estarfin’s embarrassment by looking upon this.”
“Estarfin?” I whispered, never having heard the name before. “You know him, Atar?”
My father nodded. “I know of him a little.”
“I am sorry, Father,” the youth spoke with a clear but distressed tone. “But I wish to be a warrior, not a smith. I only want…”
There was the sound of a sharp strike, a blow that would brook no excuse. I gasped. His father had struck him in front of all!
“You will obey my commands, Estarfin, even if I have to beat such a lesson of obedience into you. You will finish your training, you will work the forges, and you will forget this yearning for battle and blood that is within you.”
The sound of chatter and of musicians striking up a new song overtook the exchange. It seemed many had acted as my parents and I, and had turned their backs, returning to their own matters.
“Why is the father not proud of his son’s courage and determination?” I whispered with confusion. And I turned back, just briefly, to see the struggling Estarfin being dragged to the door by the collar of his robes. There was blood from his nose, bright red against his pale face, his reddening face as embarrassment overcame him. I turned away again, less he thought any from the dais were laughing at him. Not that I would have laughed. He was one with such strength of character that he could endure what he had and yet not appear in any way broken. He was strong. He was willful. And I admired that.
“Such a pity,” my father was saying to my mother. “He will not easily be broken though. Would that I had more like him to train in the Guard.”
The doors to the Hall slammed shut, and Estarfin was gone from my sight, but certainly not from my thoughts. I wished I could help him, but knew any interference from an unknown child would likely cause more issues with his father.
My tutor, who had stood silent through the incident, approached me.
“All is well with you, Lady Carnifinde?” he asked, seeing my own face had reddened slightly in temper.
“I do not think that was fair,” I replied.
Quentaro was silent a moment more. “If this Estarfin had managed to remain, and ask you to dance, I think you would have finally said ‘Yes’’?”
I looked up at my tutor and smiled. He knew me well.
The sheets were cast aside as I opened my eyes with a start and looked up at the star-painted ceiling. It seemed as if that happened yesterday…..it seemed it happened over six and a half thousand years ago. Much later it was, and that upon our ride from Imladris to Falathlorn, that Estarfin told me about his parents, and I understood his father, and his prohibitions on Estarfin speaking with me. I understood, but it had cost us both dearly.
There would be another Winter Feast in but several weeks time. That would be far different. We would exchange our betrothal rings and look to a new and blessed future together for as long as we were able. Was that what the dream was about? That we could finally be together? Strangely, although I felt no threat, I wasn’t quite sure that was all it was about.
- The only reference to Caranthir being married is in HoME 12. The History of Middle-earth, Volume XII: The Peoples of Middle-earth. Of Dwarves and Men, note #7.