1. Questions of Autumn
"Nana?" I called out, playing with the sleeves of my dress impatiently. "Nana, why is it that the leaves change color? And why is it that they change right before they fall off and die?"
It was ten minutes before dinnertime, but these were burning questions that simply could not wait. I had been watching her get ready for nearly twenty minutes now, quietly, as the servants bustled about and prepared the queen for the meal. While she was usually eager to answer my many questions, I found that the troubles of the day had left her especially impatient. Rather than prattling on like I usually did, I proceeded to sit there in silence. However I have never been the best at sitting still and silent, and a question just seemed to pop out.
"Hush; can you not see that she is busy?" One of the handmaidens scolded as her fingers deftly braided my naneth's black hair. I lowered my head slowly, realizing that this really was one of those times when it was better for elflings to be seen and not heard.
"It is no bother, Tala." A half smile crossed my face as my naneth spoke, her fingers tentatively reaching out to touch the new form that her hair had been arranged into. "I'm almost finished, and then I'll have time to answer as many questions as she desires to ask."
She then smiled devilishly and flashed me a small wink, which made me giggle. Tala just continued to look cross, obviously annoyed that the queen did not agree with her idea of discipline.
I crossed my arms over my chest to keep from fidgeting as the last touches were put on. I had heard her complain many times before about what a burden it was to have to impress the elves of the kingdom. I saw firsthand how much she had to endure to give off that royal glow, though I much preferred her without all the shine and glory.
Her silver promise-band was slipped onto her ring finger and a necklace of a dove affixed around her neck carefully, as though the slightest disturbance might fracture the beauty. Finally, a silver and gold circlet was placed upon her ringlets of curly hair. I loved that circlet more than anything else that she wore, for the swooping metals and delicate swirls reminded me of the sea.
The gown they had chosen for her was no less beautiful than the jewelry she wore. My father had brought back the fabric long ago, yards and yards of the most perfect shade of deep red. It had been woven into a dress with highlights of golden trim mixed in, a soft look that was both regal and complimented her form.
I smiled as she came over and extended her hand to me, admiring her for the beautiful vision that the handmaidens had turned her into. Despite everything, she was still my naneth. And, besides Ada, there was none who knew her so well as I.
"Now, what was it that you were asking?" She said, taking up her hand in mine and linking our arms together.
"I wanted to know why the leaves change color right before they die." I replied, not at all ashamed of having to repeat my question. There were things that she had to get done, and I was old enough to understand that there was wisdom in the priorities that she set.
"They die because that was the way that Iluvatar designed it to be. Besides the elves, the Firstborn, it is said that nothing can live forever." She stated simply. "And they change because that was the way Yavanna, the Giver of Fruits, said that it must be. She looked only to create beauty in this world, and seeing the trees change is but another reminder of that."
I took a moment to let all of the new information sink in.
"But why did she make them that way?" I questioned back. "Why? What made her want to see the leaves turn into such colors? Was it not torture to watch them turn so beautiful and then die?"
"I have no answer for that." She said, a small sigh escaping her lips. "Elwing, will you ever tire of asking such questions? I swear, someday you will become a scholar and finally have the means to answer every last one of your wild thoughts."
"I am only seventy-five." I retorted, playful indignation lingering in my tone. "I've got another fifteen years before I need to decide what I desire to do with life."
"Fifteen years is not as long as you think." For a moment, I could swear that I saw a look of remembrance pass over her face, but it was quickly gone. "And someday, it will be you who will get dressed up and sit beside your brothers to have rule over Doriath."
"Yes, and I am thankful that someday will not be coming too soon." I said, holding back a snort. "I am not sure that I would want to see Elured or Elurin as king right now."
"Well...." She said, chuckling. "They still have much to learn before that happens. Now come, we're already late."
The wooden door to the hall was flung open before us, revealing a busy scene of clattering silverware and lively chatter. My Ada sat at the head of the table, wearing one of his finest tunics and a crown upon his head. To the right were two seats for my naneth and I, and my two brothers sat to his left. Further down sat various other important elves of the kingdom, along with a few advisers and a strange elf that I did not recognize.
"Nimloth." My Ada said, standing up to guide my naneth to her seat. His eyes were kind as they gazed upon her, clasping her hand with the gentlest of touches. I smiled; it was obvious to everyone present that they were still very much in love. Elured made a small gagging noise, which he covered up as a cough when I shot him an annoyed look.
"And my Elwing." He said, turning his attention to me as he touched me lightly upon the back. I smiled, sitting down and carefully tucking my gown around me so as not to tear it. While some elves desired to have only male children, my Ada had been excited at the news of my birth. He had his heirs in Elured and Elurin, and now he had an elleth to pamper.
Dinner proceeded on with few problems. Usually we just ate quietly in one of the smaller dining halls, but today was one of those days when we were required to eat with a larger audience in the great hall. I could not shake the feeling that it had something to do with the unknown elf who lingered towards the end of the table.
"Who is he?" I mumbled to my mother, pointing down the table at the stranger. I tried my best to be subtle, but I felt his eyes raise to meet mine as I attempted not to look like I had been staring.
"Earendil. He is Tuor's son, and the new ruler of Arvernien." She replied, quietly dipping her spoon into the bowl of soup that had been placed at each of our spots. "I believe he has come here to talk with your father about something."
I nodded in response, returning my attention to the steaming broth. My Ada liked to keep things quiet and rarely told me what was going on in the nation politically, so the fact that there was a stranger at the table didn't trouble me in the least. I did know that he must not be very important, since Ada had not even bothered to introduce us.
Slowly, I sipped my soup and buried my questions, turning my eyes back towards my family and away from the unknown.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.