Silarië stood near the end of a long line of observers congregating on the shore of the lake to witness the New King's arrival. She was close enough to see him, but not so close that he might notice her among the hundreds that had turned out for the spectacle. As per Alcarwë's instruction, she was not to be seen by the New King until he arrived at the house and had been introduced to Hanessë.
From the surprised whispers running up and down the lines of people, it seemed as if all of them, not only Silarië, had expected a grander entrance. Instead, the New King came with only one small boat. That boat contained only four bodies: the New King, two rowers, and another man dressed all in black. No courtiers followed, no guards, no musicians, no ladies, and no officers. The New King climbed out of the boat and onto the dock with the help of his companion in black, and none of the pageantry of Tirion was there to support him. It was embarrassing, in a way. One thing Silarië had always loved about kings was the ways in which they knew how to put on a good show. Finwë, who had frequently paraded down the streets of Tirion under a shower of fragrant petals and herbs, smiling grandly atop his grey horse, would never have appeared so poorly.
She watched as Alcarwë bowed to Nolofinwë and spoke his words of welcome on the dock. She was too far to hear, but had listened to enough similar speeches from him to guess at the contents of this one. He would say how honoured he was to be in the presence of the New King, offer some meaningless compliments, and feign admiration and deference while inserting little half-hidden comments meant to glorify himself. He would certainly mention how difficult it was to live in the north shore settlement, and how tirelessly he worked to keep it habitable.
As Alcarwë spoke, he led the New King up from the dock and to the square in front of the Council Hall, where a horse waited. There appeared to be a short exchange, full of bowing an wide arm gestures, on the appropriateness of the New King riding while Alcarwë walked, though Silarië knew it to be only for show. A moment later, Nolofinwë sat up on the horse, and Alcarwë once again led the way. He turned away from the town square and into a path through the trees that would take him around the perimeter of the settlement.
Silarië ran to the Hall the moment they disappeared from view. Already, a man on the roof had unfastened the banner, which he rolled snugly and tossed down to her. She tucked it under her arm, lifted her skirts to the knee, and ran as fast as she could manage down the muddy roads that led back to Alcarwë's house. It must have rained in the night; murky water still filled the deepest of the wheel-ruts. Poking out from under her arm, the banner looked dirty and damp.
She ran up to the front door, throwing it open but not daring to step inside with her muddy shoes. "Hanessë!" she shouted. "Hanessë, I need your help!"
"I'm busy!" came the reply from kitchen.
"This is more important. It's the most important! Please, get out here, now!"
Hanessë poked her head around the corner from the kitchen, a hard scowl on her face. "What?" she snapped.
"The banner," said Silarië. She gave a frantic wave toward the banner hanging above the fireplace. "Get it down, and give it to me. And I need some nails and the hammer. Quickly! The New King is on his way!"
"The banner?" Hanessë asked with a frown. "But it always stays there. Alcarwë said-"
Silarië could have smacked her. "I don't care what Alcarwë said!" she shouted. "Hanessë, we have no time! Just listen to me! Pull the banner down! I'm hanging it outside instead."
"It can't go outside!" argued Hanessë. "It will be filthy out there."
With a frustrated grunt, Silarië unfurled the Council Hall banner onto the floor. "Look! This one is already filthy! We can't hang it inside as Alcarwë wanted, because the New King will know it just came in from outside! The best we can do is put them both outside, on the front of the house. Do you understand?"
"I suppose..." Hanessë said slowly.
"Then pull Fëanáro's banner down! Hurry! Please! They could be here any moment!"
Hanessë huffed and sighed like a martyr, but at least she hurried to grab a chair from around the table and drag it over to the fireplace. Standing on her toes and stretching up, she could just reach the nails fastening the banner to the stone chimney. She worked them loose and pulled the banner free, then tossed it to Silarië before climbing down.
"Nails for Nolofinwë's banner," said Silarië. "Hammer. In the toolbox to the right of the hearth."
With another sigh, Hanessë fetched the hammer and nails. "Now can you do it on your own?" she asked as she brought them to Silarië.
Silarië took the hammer and nails, and ran back outside. "Yes, fine!" she called back. "You can go back to what you were doing!" Hastily, she held up Nolofinwë's banner against the wall on the right-hand side of the front of the house, and drove a nail through each of the loops at the top corners. Once it was secure, she ran to the left side and fixed Fëanáro's banner in place. Made to hang indoors, it was lighter than Nolofinwë's, and far too clean. "Oh no..." she muttered. Only one solution presented itself. It was a treasonable offence, but one that she hoped could be overlooked in light of the urgent circumstances. Offering a quick prayer for forgiveness to the memory of Fëanáro, she squatted down beside a puddle in the grass to swipe her fingers through the wet earth. Then she stood, and ran her muddied hands down the corded edges of the banner.
Watching from the doorway, Hanessë shrieked in alarm. "Silarië! What are you-"
"I'll wash it tomorrow!" Silarië called back. "I'm sorry, but I must do it!" She bent down again to gather a cupped handful of puddle water, which she flung at the banner's edges. Hanessë shrieked again at the sight.
"Alcarwë will skin you alive, you wicked little spider!"
"Alcarwë will understand!" She threw one more handful of water at the banner's bottom, then wiped her hands again down its edges. "The banner was too clean. The New King would have noticed."
"Too clean!" Hanessë spat. "How can it be 'too clean'? It's meant to be clean!"
"Look at it. Alcarwë wanted a matching set, as if both banners continuously hung at this house. The blue banner is dirty, and ours clean, so it's obvious that they come from different places. To match them, we need to either wash that one or dirty ours, and we have no time for washing."
"Then you should have thought of this sooner!"
For the second time that day, Silarië had to clench her fists against her skirt to keep from striking Hanessë. "You can air your complaints to Alcarwë," she said quietly, though her voice wavered with frustration. "I am only trying to do the best I can, with his interests in mind."
"I will certainly tell Alcarwë that-" Hanessë began, but froze before she could say exactly what she would be telling. The sound of carefully controlled laughter fluttered up from the forest path, followed by the steady step of horse's hooves. "Oh!" she gasped. "They're here! Inside, quickly! You're covered in mud and your dress is filthy!"
Silarië wasted no time. She kicked off her shoes and carried them into her bedroom, shutting the door behind her. Her dress, while not as filthy as Hanessë made it sound, was nonetheless wet around the hem and far below the standards of a royal visit. She pulled it off and changed as quickly as she could into her faded green gown: a dress that had once been elegant but now simply looked old and worn. The sleeves had been mended too many times and there were ugly patches at the elbows, but she could cover those with a little fur shoulder-cape. And her slippers, though scuffed, would mostly stay hidden beneath her skirt. She pulled her hair back with a ribbon and looped a belt of soft, grey fur around her waist. It looked better than nothing, and would have to do. All of her jewellery had disappeared some time ago, as payment to Alcarwë for his varying favours.
By the time she returned to the sitting room, Nolofinwë had been given a place of honour in the best chair by the fireside. Alcarwë sat opposite him, and Hanessë stood behind Alcarwë with an insincerely radiant smile on her face. Nolofinwë's attendant had wandered away to examine Alcarwë's meagre bookshelf.
"Which is unfortunate," Alcarwë was saying, "because I was certain we were due for a turn of good luck."
Nolofinwë held up his hand in a gesture of understanding. "Yes, it is a shame, but we mustn't lose hope. We have been here such a short time, after all, and have not yet explored even a fraction of the land."
"Very true," Alcarwë agreed, almost too readily. "Very true. That is something I hope to encourage in the coming years. We must find out what this new land of ours has to offer." His good eye caught sight of Silarië, and he glanced over to her. "But!" he said. "Allow me to interrupt for a moment to introduce my sister, Silarië."
"Silarië," said Nolofinwë, acknowledging her with a slight nod.
Silarië stepped forward to curtsey before the New King and kiss the signet ring on his right hand: a ring that had once belonged to Finwë and then Fëanáro. "My Lord King."
"Silarië is Alcarwë's younger brother's wife," she heard Hanessë say from behind, adding the necessary qualifier to their relationship. Of course Silarië was not good enough to be Alcarwë's true sister.
Nolofinwë, though, appeared to have no interest in either Hanessë's clarification or Silarië at all. He turned back to Alcarwë to resume their conversation. "The expeditions should be organised, though," he said. "We need to ensure that your men and mine will not be wasting their time exploring the same areas."
Thusly dismissed, Silarië did not bother to listen to Alcarwë's response. She pretended not to notice Hanessë's twitchy little hand flips, which she supposed were meant to summon her to stand behind Alcarwë's chair like a good wife of a younger brother, and instead slipped away to the safety of the kitchen. There, the Sindarin women were squawking and flapping like agitated birds, bread rolls and dessert cakes abandoned. Silarië followed their gestures out through the back window.
She had not even noticed the New King's attendant leave the sitting room, but he must have done so just before she did. He must have escaped through the kitchen and into the back garden, upsetting the Sindarin women with his soldierly presence in the middle of their baking. Silarië did not blame him one bit for taking the opportunity to leave the burdensome presence of Nolofinwë, Alcarwë, Hanessë, and their incessant talk of politics. Out in the garden behind the house, he wandered in lazy circles, swinging his sword and tossing it from hand to hand. He could spin that sword around with only a flick of his wrist, whirling it under his arm and around his back before catching it over his head, as if it were no more dangerous than a piece of driftwood on the lakeshore. Fascinated, Silarië had to pause and watch him.
He turned to face the house, and Silarië looked away too late. He grinned as his eyes locked on hers. Blushing like a fool, she cursed under her breath at being caught staring, and did the only thing she could think of to salvage her dignity.
"Welcome to the home of Reeve Alcarwë, sir," she called, as if she had been trying all along to attract his attention. "You must be thirsty after travelling all the way from the south town. May I offer you a drink?"
With the formality of any courtier, he bowed to her. "Thank you, lady. That is most kind."
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.