Canamírë did not come home that night. When Silarië woke in the morning she was still in her chair by the faded fire, stiff and cold from a night of poor sleep. She could hear Hanessë's voice carrying from upstairs as Alcarwë came down. Before he left, he offered little more than a quick nod in her direction. Hanessë followed a moment later, wearing a falsely bright smile and carrying a small but handsome wooden chest.
"Well!" she said cheerily as she set the chest down on the table at Silarië's side. "Alcarwë is off to attend to matters at the Court Hall, and that leaves us to ready the house! I was thinking we should do the beds first, as the linens will take all day to dry. Alcarwë said he would stop and summon our Sindarin ladies on his way, so they should be arriving soon, and they can do the washing. You should probably start in here with the sweeping and dusting, because this room will be the first thing the New King sees when he arrives. For myself, I must get ready to be a hostess, so I will have a bath immediately. But don't you worry; I can manage my own bathwater, so there's one less thing for you to do!"
Hanessë smiled again, the same fiercely radiant pose she usually reserved for charming Alcarwë's rivals, and Silarië choked down the urge to slap her. Calmly, she stood. "That's lovely, Hanessë, but don't you think-"
"Oh no, no, but thank you, that is very kind of you to offer," said Hanesse, and she clasped her hands around Silarië's, as she might do to a small child. "I think I can do it all by myself. I know how to boil the kettles. It's no trial. I can even pour them. So you needn't worry about me, and just concentrate on your own chores. I will be perfectly fine on my own."
She tossed her head back with a flippant giggle and gave Silarië's hands a quick squeeze before flitting from the room with the speed of a hare. The door to the back room, where the bath basin stood, swung shut behind her to make a final sort of sound, rich in its echo through the small house. But she opened it again almost immediately to shout a further instruction.
"Oh, and be certain you don't touch the silverware in the chest I brought down. If it's touched by dirty hands, it will tarnish. I will set it out myself once I've done my bath, and the table linens and supper service too. You just do the cleaning."
Then the door slammed shut again, rattling on its hinges. A second later, Silarië could hear a scraping noise from beyond, as if someone were trying to push something heavy across the floor.
Hanessë had barricaded herself in the bathing room, moving the basin so that it blocked the door and prevented anyone from disturbing her. She sat in there the entire day, with nut butter on her hair and sweet oil on her hands and feet, while Silarië and the Sindarin women prepared the house for the New King's visit. Silarië said nothing when she finally did emerge, but continued to scrub the floor with dedicated violence. Hanessë chattered meaningless pleasantries in return. She sighed and groaned with the effort of carrying the silverware chest to the dining table, as if an excess of noise would redeem her work ethic, and discussed aloud the difficult task of picking out the best cutlery for the New King to use. A King could not be given a bent knife, she said, no matter how pretty it might be.
Hanessë was famous for her silverware. As the only child of a gem-cutter father made rich by the wealth of Tirion's jewels, she had brought a considerable dowry into her marriage with Alcarwë. The silver set was only a small part of that. Originally there had been sixteen full place settings of dishes and cutlery grand enough for Finwë's own table, but over the years, this had been whittled down to three plus a few odd pieces here and there. Half had been given to Alcarwë's sister, who stayed in Tirion. Half of what remained had been abandoned on the shores of Araman when Fëanáro limited what could be brought aboard the ships. Somewhere between Araman and Hisilómë, another plate had disappeared, along with a fish fork and a salt dish. Hanessë blamed the quick fingers of the Sindarin porters Alcarwë had hired to carry their belongings over the mountains.
She draped the table with a dark red cloth, and set out her three full sets of dinnerware at one end of the table. "It is very lucky that I have three left," she said. "That's one for the New King, one for Alcarwë, and one for me. You and Canamírë can use the wooden plates in the kitchen. I know you don't mind, do you? You and he aren't accustomed to finery, as we are."
The timely arrival of Alcarwë in that moment prevented Silarië from having to say anything in reply, or having to stop herself from saying anything in reply. He burst through the door like a wild animal, hair tangled and flying about his head in a windy crown, and fixed panicked eyes on Hanessë. "New King's coming," he said. And then he shot past them to take the stairs up at a double stride.
Hanessë dropped her carefully folded napkin and followed him, and Silarië, both eager to hear news of the King and dreading it, followed Hanessë. They found Alcarwë in the bedroom upstairs with his overclothes already pulled off. "I've put out your best outfit on the chair by the window," Hanessë began, but Alcarwë dismissed her with a frantic wave of the hand.
"No. Wrong colour." He flung open the wardrobe doors and began searching through the shelves, finally pulling out an unbleached linen tunic and a dark grey jerkin.
"Oh, you can't wear that old thing!" said Hanessë. "It looks like you stole it off the back of some peasant farmer!"
"It's the only neutral clothing I have."
"And it's plain and ugly!" Stepping forward, she pulled both items out of his hands. "Look, the tunic might as well be a nightshirt, and this jerkin-"
"The jerkin is made of kid leather," Alcarwë interrupted, "and, despite being plain, was also very expensive. Now I will gladly ornament it with whatever excessive jewellery you see fit, Hanessë, but for the love of the stars give it back to me! The New King's boat is halfway across the lake and I need to get dressed!"
Hanessë sniffed, pushed a bit of hair behind her ear, and grudgingly handed back Alcarwë's jerkin. "But not the tunic," she said. "You're not wearing dull linen under dull leather. Use the gold one from your good suit."
"Hanessë..." he hissed, but Hanessë kept her chin stubbornly high.
Alcarwë looked ready to snap with the frustrated rage that roiled behind his eyes. But he held Hanessë's gaze only a moment before turning around with a muttered curse, clearly having decided that time was too precious to waste on arguments over clothing. He grabbed the gold tunic from its chair and pulled it roughly down over his head.
"Isn't that nicer?" Hanessë asked sweetly. "You do look very handsome in gold. Then if you wear that wide gold chain with the amethyst pendant, and your rings, and that cloak pin my mother gave you... Yes. That should be good."
"Whatever jewels you want me to wear, get them out now," he told her. "I don't have time for..." His voice trailed off into an indistinct sound of exasperation as he put on the jerkin and fumbled too hastily with its clasps. As soon as it was fastened, he stood at the window with a hand over his damaged right eye, spying out toward the lake.
"Is the New King-" Silarië began, but an exhalation of relief from Alcarwë answered her unasked question.
"Still halfway. His boat has slowed. He may be trying to delay the arrival. Good. That's good. Hanessë, jewellery?"
Hanessë handed him the few pieces she had set out on the table. "The chain and two rings, but that one with the three garnets must be in a different box. And the cloak pin must be-"
"It's on my old black wool. Never mind it or the garnet ring. This is fine."
"I will get the pin from your cape," said Hanessë. "I know where it is. You can't wear your new cape just tied; it looks cheap." And she left the room with the smug look of the self-important upon her face.
Silarië dared not look directly at Alcarwë in the moments after Hanessë left, but glanced at him only carefully from the corner of her eye. He stood rubbing his hands against his forehead.
"Silarië?" he asked quietly.
She had to look at him to answer. "Yes?"
"Is the house clean at least?"
"Yes. The Sindarin women and I washed the floors and hearth and all the bedding, and dusted the sitting room and dining room. We beat out the carpets and I put all new candles in the table fixture."
"Thank you. And Hanessë? Did she...?" He paused, as if trying to think of anything Hanessë might have done.
"She set the table," Silarië said. It took a good effort to keep the cut of bitterness from her voice. "She was very concerned with giving the New King the best silverware."
Alcarwë dropped his head back and sighed. "I suppose that is something, at least. Now what about the supper?"
"Everything is prepared. A goose is already cooking, and we have two large fish to add to that. Bread dough is ready to bake so we can time it to serve hot. Soup and dumplings just need to boil."
"Canamírë is tending the goose?"
Silarië's heart did a strange leap and twist at the sound of her husband's name. "He's..." she began, but the word acted as a stopper in her throat, and nothing could come after it.
"He's not yet returned," Alcarwë said quietly.
She must have turned as pale as she felt, with a cold and damp forehead and bloodlessly numb cheeks, as Alcarwë regarded her with a look that edged away from his usual inscrutability and bordered on concern. Woodenly, she shook her head.
"Then I will send someone from the Council Hall to look for him. I can spare a man or two once the New King is here. I am sure he is fine." The last he added in a forcedly warm voice, accompanied by an empty smile. "Now come with me downstairs. There is one more thing to do, and I need to you do it."
Silarië followed Alcarwë from the house with Hanessë close behind her, complaining mightily. "I can't see why you want to take her, Alcarwë," Hanessë snapped. "If anyone should go with you to meet the New King's boat, it should be me! I am your wife! She's wearing a dirty apron and hasn't even combed her hair!"
"Silarië is not going to meet the New King," groaned Alcarwë. "At least, not until after you do, my love."
"Then why am I-" Silarië began, but Alcarwë interrupted.
"I need you to get the flag."
"From the Council Hall. Nolofinwë's banner flies on the roof. I need you to bring that banner back here to hang alongside ours above the fireplace. But not until after Nolofinwë sees it at the Hall. Now come on, walk with me." As he started away, he called back over his shoulder, "Hanessë, we will be back shortly. Make sure the house is pretty."
Hanessë huffed, but said nothing. She slammed the door behind her as she disappeared back inside.
"Now here is what you must do," Alcarwë continued. He had set a quick pace down the road to the Hall, and Silarië struggled to stay at his shoulder. "You may line up with the others to watch the New King's boat land, but you will not be introduced yet. You will wait there until he and I have departed and are out of sight of the Hall. I have a man waiting on the roof to take down the banner, and he will give it to you. You must then run as quickly as you can back here to hang the banner above the fireplace. This way, to Nolofinwë, it will seem as if I keep one of his banners in my own home as well as where it is required at the Council Hall, and the proper respect will be shown."
"Will I have enough time?" Silarië asked. In her old shoes and heavy skirts, running would be difficult. It was trouble enough walking alongside Alcarwë.
"I will delay as much as I can, and take a scenic tour around the town. If you run, you will have enough time to hang the banner before we arrive." He paused, a look of consideration crossing his face. "Hang the new banner on the right," he decided. "A blue banner on the right to symbolise a new king in the east. Our allegiance to Fëanáro remains behind in the west. Or so it will appear."
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.