1. Chapter 1
The Coimas War
Arafinwë stormed out of Olwë's study. His mien foretold a painful fate to anyone foolish enough to dare cross his path.
Fortunately it was his wife who, calmly, confronted him. She had been engaged in pleasant conversation with her mother while waiting for her husband to complete his business with the King of the Teleri. Clearly the outcome had not been to his satisfaction.
'Well?' Eärwen asked.
Arafinwë bowed stiffly to his mother-in-law and growled a hasty farewell. His wife raised a meaningful eyebrow, kissed her goodbye and followed her husband outside the palace by the shores of the Great Sea, once her childhood home.
Their horses were brought by a couple of stable hands. Their escort awaited the king's orders, and Arafinwë barked a command to leave without delay. Soon they were riding away, but only when they were outside Alqualondë did Eärwen get her answer.
'Your father is as stubborn as a mule!' exclaimed the Noldóran. His feisty mount was unsympathetic to his bad temper, and Eärwen watched in silent amusement as they annoyed each other. After a lengthy battle of wills Arafinwë persuaded his horse to stop kicking and rearing and he was finally able to resume his ranting.
'I was once forced to beg his forgiveness, and everyone else's, for my brother's sorry deeds. Now, an age later, no matter what I do, he keeps reopening the wounds and rubbing salt on them. I have had enough of stooping to him! Let him eat his pearls!'
When Arafinwë's wrath subsided to a level that allowed him to engage in coherent conversation Eärwen finally heard the whole account of the kings' meeting.
After the Kinslaying it had taken over a yén of patient diplomacy to forge anew the ties of trust between the Teleri and the Noldor that had remained in Valinor after the Darkening. A recent proof of the restored Telerin goodwill had been the lending of the ships that had carried the hosts of the West to Beleriand and back.
The relationship between both Elvish peoples would have been perfect after the War had it not been for the ban against the returned Noldorin exiles to step upon Telerin lands. This matter had been a bone of contention since they settled in Tol Eressëa, a good twenty years in the past.
During the last few months it had almost become a full-blown dispute between the realms. Three Noldorin exiles had been discovered and arrested by Teleri guards after barely surviving the crossing from the island in a flimsy rowing boat. They had wished to visit kin in Alqualondë in defiance of the prohibition. Olwë had them languish in prison for a fortnight until the trial took place, despite numerous pleas from their Noldorin family and friends. Then he publicly banished them under dire threats if they were ever found within Telerin boundaries again.
To make matters worse, he posted a permanent guard along his Southern border, between the impassable Pélori and the Sea, with orders to reject entry to anyone without a valid permit. Those of his captains mooring in Tol Eressëa received strict commands not to ferry anyone to Alqualondë unless they were in possession of written authorisation, signed by himself or one of his counsellors.
This time, after reaching agreement over other less thorny matters Arafinwë had breached this delicate subject once more. As in previous occasions the King of the Teleri had listened sympathetically to the Noldóran's objections at these rigorous rules but had firmly stood his ground. His people, he said, had no desire to reawaken painful memories at the sight of the kinslayers and their followers back on the docks of Alqualondë.
Before the meeting Arafinwë had been optimistic about swaying his father-in-law; to the negotiating table he had brought concessions on long sought demands for higher tax on Noldorin imports and the agreement to accept the outrageous price of pearls demanded by the Teleri. But Olwë had, in his view, unreasonably rejected these generous offers, claiming that the matter of the ban was not for bartering but one of principle.
In retaliation, as soon as Arafinwë arrived at Tirion he suspended all trade contracts with Telerin merchants and with immediate effect banned all unauthorised Teleri from entering the region under Noldor authority.
The undesirable consequence of these measures was a growing hostility between both peoples over the following weeks, fed by the long memories of those who had lived through the times of the Darkening.
Eärwen repeatedly mediated between both kings, using every available argument to her, but they remained entrenched in their inflexible positions. She had begun to despair at the apparent impossibility to resolve the conflict when a completely unrelated event fortuitously triggered a most unexpected plan of action.
Two months had passed since the fruitless visit to Alqualondë when an anonymous informer accused one of Eärwen's maids of "engaging in acts of an indecent nature with her betrothed while performing the sacred ritual of baking coimas". The couple concerned was summoned to the King's court and, after some questioning, they admitted having indeed been engaged in mutually pleasurable activities while the aforementioned coimas dough was in the oven under her supervision.
Though coimas as a nourishing food was no longer a necessity, its making had become a hallowed tradition amongst all the Elves of Aman, a solemn ritual to honour Yavanna in gratitude for her gift: the bread that restored their strength during their Long March through Endórë.
Arafinwë sighed in despair. All the Elven realms were ordered by written laws and customs that instructed their people on what was deemed as appropriate conduct within their society and towards the Valar. This disparate collection of ancient rules and lore included all matters concerning betrothal, marriage, childbearing, and the antiquated, highly controversial and by many ignored or ridiculed norms regarding intimate relationships.
The King was convinced that this was not the first time, nor would it be the last, in which ardent passion had led to neglecting propriety to Yavanna, and he was certain that the beloved Valië would have watched with indulgence over the couple of young lovers, but he could not condone their disrespectful, irresponsible behaviour.
Therefore he banished the couple to Tol Eressëa for twelve years of the sun, after a stern admonition and a warning that he would not tolerate further infringements and would hear no appeals. He thought no more of it after the next session started, a complicated land dispute that demanded all of his attention.
When he removed his ceremonial robes at noon and walked into his private chambers he was not expecting the thorny reception he received from his wife.
'Are you out of your mind, Arafinwë?' she tore at him furiously. 'After humiliating them in front of the whole of Tirion did you have to ruin their lives?'
'Hardly, my love,' he tried to placate her. 'Twelve years will be over in no time. Tol Eressëa is an exciting place compared to Aman and they will enjoy their stay. I was as lenient as I could.' He truly believed so but her frown spoke of the inaccuracy of his assessment.
'He was about to start an apprenticeship with Aulë. His place will be taken by another. Aulë only takes apprentices every two yéni.' Her voice was colder than the breezes of Taniquetil.
Arafinwë disappeared discreetly into his changing room. But he was mistaken if he thought that would be the last he had heard on the matter.
'Lamb chops again?' he complained, most imprudently, when lunch was served to them. So far the Queen had remained silent every time she had missed the presence of fresh fish on her table, but her patience had endured enough.
'And who would you hold to blame for this inconvenience, oh wise King?' Eärwen retorted in a tone that made her husband flinch. 'All imports of decent fish are suspended due to your pig-headed argument with my father.'
The insult was too serious to be completely ignored but he proceeded with caution, nevertheless.
'Be careful, wife,' he jested.
'Or what?' she cried. 'You will banish me for twelve years on charges of treason, Your Highness?'
Despite the blatant provocation of her mocking tone he tried to appease her with some conciliatory endearments.
'Eärwen, my love, calm down. I had no choice, my flower…'
'Námo's balls, Arafinwë!' He froze at the most unexpected and outrageous profanity coming from his wife's lips.
'Just revoke that load of idiotic regulations that pretend to dictate how heartless, passionless people should live their lives in awe of the Valar. Why, you and I would be sentenced straight to the Void, were you to add together all our transgressions of that Laws and Customs nonsense.' Her fair face was flushed with anger.
Arafinwë's fingers twirled the stem of his glass goblet while he remembered several recent occasions during which they had, indeed, deliberately broken a considerable number of rules. His lips curved into a smile and he placed his hand tentatively on hers, but she just slapped it away.
'You know it is seldom enforced,' he protested in his most placating tone. 'This case was unfortunate, in that a spurned lover brought it to the attention of my counsellors and demanded justice…'
'But it just makes no sense!' Eärwen argued. 'Where is the logic, if what we seek with honouring Yavanna is to bring our people prosperity and plentiful crops? We should actually be promoting an orgy, not abstaining from acts of pleasure that tend to lead to procreation. And if these laws are seldom enforced why did you not dismiss the case?'
Arafinwë courageously but foolishly defended his corner, unaware of how he was digging himself into a deeper hole.
'It was my duty as Noldóran to give judgement. I can't be seen to take sides with your maid and his lover.'
'You took sides with intolerance and bigotry against your own people.' Neither would Eärwen back down.
'Are you opposing me?' Arafinwë's patience was beginning to thin out. His knife clattered on the plate, next to the lamb chops that lay cold and forgotten.
'I am, when your decisions are unjust or unreasonable.' Eärwen raised her chin in defiance in the way that her husband knew well as preceding a battle of wills. 'Like your childish games of war against my father.'
'War?' cried Arafinwë. 'And what would you know of war, woman?'
As soon as the words left his mouth the Noldóran knew he had spoken unwisely. There was nothing that irked his wife more than being patronised.
'I mean, war is the province of men.' He made a valiant attempt at repairing the chasm that had opened between them. But the damage was irreparable.
'I know enough of war!' huffed the Queen. 'We women,' she gave heavy emphasis to the word, 'may be left to wait for you beyond the battlefields, but our suffering is no less than yours. We live in fear during your absence, then we have to cope with your sulking mood and night terrors on your return. If you return.' Eärwen corrected herself coldly and then slammed her hand on the table.
'You ask what I know of war. You are about to find out.' Without waiting for his reply she walked out of the room.
Later the Noldóran found out that she had summoned Nerdanel and both women had been closeted in the Queen's chambers for the rest of the day. Eärwen did not share his bed that night.
She also avoided him during the following day. Again Arafinwë espied Nerdanel and his wife chatting animatedly under a tree in the garden, near the gurgling fountains, which masked their words. After the wife of his brother left, her arms filled with scrolls bearing the Queen's seal, Arafinwë dared approach Eärwen, in a noble attempt to promote their reconciliation.
'Why is Nerdanel here so often of late?' he blurted, after some small meaningless chatter about the weather.
'It is none of your business,' replied his wife smoothly, 'but I will tell you, anyway. She is my strategy advisor.'
'Strategy advisor?' wondered her husband aloud. 'For what strategy?'
'For war, of course. Or have you forgotten already?'
'Don't be ridiculous!' He chuckled. His wife smiled sweetly and joined in his merriment.
This was Arafinwë's second serious error, and one that would have guaranteed the immediate dismissal of any of his captains, had they been unwary enough to underestimate their enemy.
Had he paid more heed, he would have noticed the paragraph on his daily guard's report about the unusually high number of women hurrying along the streets of Tirion that afternoon and early evening, and about the riders, also women, who had traversed the city gates in haste. Unfortunately he was too busy with important matters of estate to dwell on the serious threat this apparently insignificant anomaly might portend.
The signal had been sent and the Queen's Pledge was made and acknowledged, even beyond the boundaries of Arafinwë's realm. All was ready for war.
 Coimas (Quenya) Life-bread of the Elves, equivalent of lembas (Sindarin).
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.