My parents loved the mountains. My Noldo father for their fine stone and metal ores, my Teleri mother for the the tall trees and cascading streams. And so my younger brothers, sisters and I were brought up in a small settlement nestled in the western slopes of the Pelori some distance from white walled Tirion in the great pass of Calacirya.
Of course I had visited the City, twice in my more than forty years of life,(1) but now I was going there to live in the house of Prince Feanaro as a companion to his daughter Miriel Istafinde.
He'd sent two men of his household and a serving woman, very grand in their azure and scarlet liveries, to bring me to the City. All three were mounted on fine horses and one of the men led a fourth, of a beautiful pale golden color, for me.
Of course I could have walked to Tirion all by myself in perfect safety, this was Aman not darksome, monster haunted Middle Earth. But that wouldn't have been proper, or so the serving woman Alatea told me.
According to her it was also improper for me to help with gathering wood or cooking our meals. But it was proper for the men to spend nearly an hour putting up a small tent for me at each of our three rest stops. And for all three of them to call me 'Mistress' instead of Davnie. Alatea was kind but she made life in the City sound very complicated, full of rules that made no sense but had to be followed. I worried that I'd never be able to remember them all and bring disgrace upon myself and my patron.
We arrived at the hill of Tuna just as Laurelin was fading on my fourth day from home. The horses were left in the Prince's stable at the foot of the Western Stair but before entering the City Alatea took me to a room in the stablemen's quarters and made me wash my face and hands, combed and rebraided my hair and had me put on my best gown, a sea blue silk sewn all over with tiny pearls, the only one of my dresses she adjudged 'proper' for a lady of the Prince's Household, (meaning me). She just sighed and shook her head over the others.
I understood why after we'd passed through the city gates. The streets were full of people who seemed, to my countrified eyes, to be dressed fine enough for a festival all glittering with jeweled ornaments. And as we went up the terraced levels of the City the people became grander and grander and I felt timider and timider.
We climbed all the way to the Court of the Kings at the very top of Tirion. The great square was paved with colored mosaics and adorned with fountains and statues, and in its center Galathilion, seedling of Telperion, grows tall and white, his rustling leaves dark green above and silver below.
The Mindon Eldalieva, once the residence of Ingwe High King of All the Elves in Aman, faced the palace of Finwe Noldoran across the square. Each like a mirror image of the other save for the soaring silver tipped spire of Ingwe's lofty tower.
The great houses of the Princes lined the other two sides, with Prince Feanaro's at the southwest corner. It was very tall, for in Tirion they build upward rather than out, with tiers of windows and balconies rising to a glittering crystal dome and six gold tipped towers.
The front doors were of some red-golden metal inset with large jewels of milky crystal shot with colored lights, and flanked by strange towering beasts carved of white stone with horns and hooves sheathed in that same red-golden metal.
The tall doors opened onto a great pillared hall, the largest room I'd ever seen, with a ceiling that seemed as far overhead as the skies above Valinor. It was full of people, most dressed in azure and scarlet, going briskly about their business and paying us not the slightest attention.
The two menservants gave me a final bow and smile before vanishing into the crowd. Alatea didn't turn a hair just said, "Follow me, please, Mistress." and led the way briskly through an open archway into a flower filled courtyard then up a flight of steps and through another door into a big room full of women working at looms of all sizes.
A tall lady in a golden gown with gold braided into her long dark hair came to meet us. "This would be the the Lady Istafinde's new Maid of Honor?" she asked my guide, then turned to me without waiting for an answer: "Welcome, my dear. Thank you Alatea, take the lady's belongings to the Maidens' Quarters and you may have the remainder of the day to rest from your journey."
The serving woman shot me a quick smile and then the only person I knew in all this great house walked away leaving me with the strange lady - and I had no idea who she was. Not my new mistress apparently, perhaps her mother the Princess Nertanie then? (2)
"You look tired, my dear, was it a hard journey?"
"No, my Lady," I stammered, "just long. Alatea and the men made me very comfortable."
"That's good." she smiled. "But you don't call me 'my Lady', child, I am Romellie the Looms Mistress.(3)
"Oh." was all I could find to say, but she seemed to understand.
"Your Lady is away at the moment." she smiled reassuringly. "We never know quite when she'll be back, but it won't be much longer I'm sure."
I just nodded, still wordless.
"Now let me show you where you'll live."
Romellie led me up many flights of stairs to a long room at the very top of the house richly furnished with tables, chairs and couches of fine woods inlaid with precious jewels and metals, and hung with marvelous paintings and tapestries. But it was also cluttered with half finished pieces of needlework, paintings, carvings in wood and stone, musical instruments, sheets of paper covered with writing and sketches, and many, many books and scrolls.
"Where are all the other girls?" I asked.
"Sweet Yavanna only knows," the Looms Mistress sighed. "They could be in the library or the smithy or the still room or the kilns. Or gone out of the city altogether to the Princess' pleasance to practice their latest dance." she pulled aside a tapestry figured with birds and stars and ships revealing an alcove furnished with velvet cushioned couch and large inlaid clothespress. "You'll keep your things here." I pulled out the drawers, one after another, and saw not only my own dresses and other things from home but a number of beautiful gowns, each with a small box of jewels to go with it.
"I'm sure you'll feel better for a bath and a change," Romellie continued, studied the contents of my press for a moment before choosing a soft velvet robe in shades of rose with flowing, lacy sleeves. "Put this on. Then have a little lie down and I'll send Findorie, her Ladyship's chief Maid of Honor, up to you as soon as I can lay hands on her." and off she bustled.
I found the bathing room adjoining the Maiden's Quarters and washed myself and my hair, then put on the velvet dress and the silver and pearl ear and finger rings and neckchain that went with it. The skirts were longer than I was used to, trailing on the floor, and the lace sleeves netted with tiny pearls fell over my hands. But the bodice fitted me exactly and remembering how both Romellie and Alatea had been dressed I realized the overlong skirts and sleeves were City fashion not a mistake in my measurements.
Then I went back to my little alcove and curled up on the couch as Romellie had ordered. But my mind soon wandered to thoughts of home filling my eyes with tears. I got up hastily, not wanting to found weeping into my pillows by this Findorie, and looked around for distraction.
There was a window embrassure at the back of my alcove, glittering with devices in colored glass. I knelt on the seat below it and looked out onto a fine view of the shining white terraces of the City falling away to the west gate.
The nearby streets and alleys were thronged with busy people, many in brightly colored liveries, going about their mysterious business. Why, for example, was that procession of gold and blue clad men carrying saplings in pots from one house to another? And who wanted those barrels of crushed rock and for what? And why were those women polishing that wall?
Eventually I tired of looking out the window and wandered back into the main chamber to examine the various unfinished projects scattered about, being careful not to touch. My heart sank for the craft that had gone into their making was far beyond my meagre skill to match.
The short end wall of the long room was nothing more than a double row of sleander pillars with transparent curtains blowing between them. I stepped through and found myself on a high terrace overlooking the great square.
The Court of the Kings was thronged with royal looking Elves either strolling in pairs or standing in groups talking animatedly. A very tall golden haired lady clothed all in dazzling white caught my eye. Her throat and hands glittered with jewels of adamant and pearl, and she stood beneath the boughs of Galthilion surrounded by a knot of lordly admirers.
Then I heard a door open behind me and a buzz of womens' voices punctuated by the opening and closing of drawers and casket lids. Suddenly one voice rose above the others:
"But where is the new girl? Romellie said she was up here waiting."
Nerving myself I stepped back through the blowing curtains and was confronted by a battery of staring eyes belonging to a bevy of girls, all dressed in shades of rose. I felt myself blush pink as my gown and fought an urge to turn and run.
"Davnie?" the tallest of the girls asked. Her dark hair and diaphanous gown of palest rose were both powdered with crystal beads and she glittered as she moved towards me. "I am Irilde Findorie, the Lady Istafinde's foster sister."
I wondered if I should curtsey but Findorie didn't seem to expect it. "Come out onto the terrace," she continued holding back a curtain, "and we'll talk."
She sat down on one of the couches scattered over the tesselated floor and waved me to another. "Sit, relax, you have nothing to be afraid of here."
"Yes, my Lady." I whispered.
She frowned. "You don't call me or anybody but the two Princesses 'Lady'. I am Findorie."
"Yes, Findorie." I said and sounded scared even to my own ears.
She stopped frowning with a visible effort, said patiently: "I am told you are from the country and so our City ways may seem strange and intimidating to you at first."
"Oh yes, m - Findorie." I agreed wholeheartedly.
"But you musn't go around looking like a scared fawn." she scolded. "You are an important person now, Maid of Honor to a princess of the Noldor. You must bear yourself with the dignity and pride due to your new station."
"I - I'll try." I faltered.
"Each of us was chosen by the Prince himself for our skill in an art or craft that we are to teach to the Princess and her other companions." she continued. "Laniel (4) for example is a weaver of surpassing finesse. Helianwe (5) a maker of the most beautiful colors, paints and glazes and dyes. Lindele (6) can play sweetly upon any instrument. Ammalien (7) is a smith," Findorie held up her arm to show a bracelet of delicate golden chains strung with tiny glistening leaves. "she made this, she likes best to work in gold. Kentanie (8) molds fine vessels and figures of clay. And the others will tell you what they do when you meet them.
She leaned back on her couch. "What can you teach us, Davnie?"
I couldn't think of a single thing.
"Come," she said with a touch of impatience. "the Prince would not have had you brought here if you hadn't some gift."
"I - I collect stories and new words." I offered hesitantly. Findorie seemed a little impressed and I continued more confidently. "My grandmother was among the Teleri who came last to the Light. She knows many strange stories of the Wide Lands and has taught me words used among the latecomers that we Noldor have never heard."
"That would be it then." Findorie said nodding. "The Prince is very interested in such lore. No doubt he wishes to learn from you too." crossly. "Oh don't look so scared! he is very kind and likes nothing better than learning something new. Do you write?"
"No." I was forced to admit. "There was nobody to teach me where we lived."
"I'm not surprised, it's not a common skill. Prince Feanaro taught Istafinde and myself when we were children. It is one of the things we will teach to you. The Princess is also a painter."
Findorie smiled suddenly in a way that made me realize how very fond of her foster sister she must be. "She tries to teach the rest of us but we will never be her match."
"I'm not very good with my hands." I admitted shamefacedly. "My father used to say that's why I loved stories and words so."
To my surprise Findorie just shrugged. "Don't worry about it. Nobody expects you to be good at everything. No doubt you'll do well at poetry and song. Olliante (9) will like that. How is your dancing?"
"Good enough for our country dances." I said a little doubtfully.
She looked mildly interested. "You may have something to teach us there too. You must talk to Quessetal (10), she's our dancer. Do you play an instrument?"
"Tambour and viole, not very well."
"No doubt you'll improve with teaching from the Prince's musicians." Findorie said dismissively. She straightened on her couch and fixed me with a stern eye. "We were brought here to teach and to learn but also to amuse the Princess and keep her company. We do what Istafinde wants to do. If she is merry, we are merry, is she is serious we are serious. She is not to be troubled with our problems, we are here to divert and entertain her so she forgets her own."
She smiled scornfully at my look of surprise. "A princess of the Noldor has many burdensome duties. Have you ever seen one of the Valar up close?"
I shook my head.
"You will now. From time to time Istafinde must attend upon the Great Ones, representing King Finwe and our people, and of course we go with her. Sometimes she has a gift to present, other times we dance or sing before the Holy One."
I think I went pale, I know I must have looked appalled.
"Oh it's not so bad as all that." Findorie said impatiently. "Most are very kind." she laughed suddenly. "And whatever you do don't look frightened in front of Astaldo (11) or he'll try to comfort you and then you'll really have something to be frightened about!
"Istafinde is away right now on a visit to her patroness, the Lady of the Flame. She goes alone because the heat of Ancala's halls is uncomfortable to the rest of us but she was hardened to it during the days of her service at Cullulin (12).
"The Feanori are great travellers, Istafinde wanders all over Aman from the bay of Eldamar to the shores of the outermost ocean. Usually she takes a few of us or even all twelve with her. It can be exhausting but we do not complain. Always remember, Davnie, we are here to wait upon our Lady's pleasure. Everything we do is for Istafinde."
I swallowed. "I'll remember."
"She'll be coming home soon and have a little free time to enjoy herself with her chosen companions before ceremonial duties claim her attention again. We'll go to her pleasance outside the city to dance and play games, maybe even out to the bay to swim in the sea and look at the stars." Findorie smiled happily at the thought. "She'll want to talk to you no doubt, and hear your tales of the Wide Lands. In the meantime learn our ways and try to settle in. And lose that frightened fawn look, I don't want Istafinde feeling sorry for you!"
"I will do my best." I promised, wondering if my best would be good enough - and if it wasn't and they sent me home would I really mind?
1. These are Years of the Trees, each of which is roughly equal to ten Years of the Sun. Thus Davnie is over four hundred of our years old, early adolescence in Elven terms, roughly equal to a Mortal girl of twelve or thirteen.
2. My own Quenyanized form of the Sindarin name 'Nerdanel' by which Feanor's wife is known in the records of ME. I have assumed it is an epesse, a compound of Ner 'men' with Tano 'maker' given a feminine ending. The whole meaning something like 'maker of men' an appropriate nickname for the mother of so many sons.
3. Traditional title of the head of the womans' side of a formal household. Romellie is in charge of the women servants and maids of honor as well as the making of clothing for the whole household.
4. 'Daughter of the Loom'
7. 'Golden Maiden'
8. literally 'Earth Worker' meaning potter.
10. 'Feather Foot'
11. Astaldo, the Strong, is one of the names of Tulkas a bluff and hearty Valar whose kindness might very well be alarming to timid young Elf maidens.
12. Ancala the Bright is the sister of Manwe and Melkor, her domain is Fire and for a time the destructive side of her nature dominated and she followed Melkor but she repented. She is keeper of the Flame of Anar, (Gandalf's Flame of Anor, the purifying fire before which evil and falsehood wither). Don't bother to look her up in the Sil or HoME, like Istafinde she is entirely my own invention.