Afternoon Tea by Talullah

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Story Notes:

Notes: Sindarin names from http://elf.namegeneratorfun.com/
Camaeniel: Skilled Hand (cam+maen) Daughter of / Girl (iell)
Haerelon: Distant Star (haer+źl) Male (on)
Ialien: Call/Cry (ial) Daughter of / Girl (ien)
Laerwen: Song (laer) Maiden and Virgin (gwend)


Author's Chapter Notes:

Written for the lotr_community May challenge, under the theme "Adolescent Angst", element "Embarrassment at family"


Ost-en-Edhil, 1300 Second Age

Celebrķan was excited. Her newly-made friend was coming for tea. It was not always easy, making friends. Everybody was kind to her on the streets, on the markets, on the halls where her parents granted audience, and in that sense, she had plenty of friends. Even the animals were kind and sweet to her. But when she saw groups of girls her age giggling together and sharing secrets, she wished she had friends like that, close friends.

She had tried with Celebrimbor’s daughter. Her cousin, older only by two years was the perfect choice. But Camaeniel was only interested in the forge and her father’s secret projects and acted as if Celebrimbor was better than Celeborn… That, Celebrķan could not abide, and soon she had stopped visiting her cousin.

She knew other girls her age, of course. Her parents received many guests from Lindon and all over Eregion, and they often entertained merchants and officers from Ost-en-Edhil. Celebrķan had trouble connecting, though. The children, as the parents still called them, were supposed to be prim and silent while the parents talked endlessly about politics and taxes and appointments. Once in a while, she invited one of those girls to the gardens or the library, but as soon as they were starting to connect, it would be time for the parents to leave, and they would return only months later, if ever.

When Celebrķan ambled through the streets of Ost-en-Edhil, she kept her eye out, hoping to see them, but on the rare occasions she did meet one of these acquaintances, they were chaperoned and in a hurry. Celebrķan was aware that she had much more freedom, in that way, than the other high-born girls.

She had tried making friends with the daughters of the artisans and bakers and tailors, the girls who giggled on the streets. They were very nice to her, but they would never stop calling her ‘my lady’, no matter how much she begged. And they wanted to give her ribbons and fruits, and rolls, whatever their parents sold. Galadriel had warned her to gracefully avoid these gifts, to avoid injuring the economy of the girls’ families. The only way to ‘gracefully avoid’, Celebrķan had quickly figured, was to stay away.

But then, Gil-galad had sent a new legate from Lindon and she had brought her husband and children with her. The youngest was precisely Celebrķan’s age. They had taken to each other right from the very first formal introduction, eyeing each other brimming with curiosity. Ialien was the classic Noldo girl, athletic yet elegant, fair skin made lighter, even, by the pitch-black hair, grey eyes always inquiring.

Like Celebrķan, Ialien was also used to more freedom than the girls in Ost-en-Edhil. They had met for riding two times, quite a few to explore the city, especially the markets, and Celebrķan had visited Ialien’s home for tea, once.

Now it was Celebrķan’s turn to have Ialien over for tea. She could hardly wait! Her first friend coming over. Everything was set to perfection. Galadriel had smiled, when Celebrķan had asked, and had called the cook. They had cucumber sandwiches, scones, strawberry jam, and clotted cream.

Ialien arrived wearing a light-pink dress that did nothing for her delicate complexion and that looked like something her grandmother might have owned at one point in time. Celebrķan paid no heed – fashion in Lindon, after all, was quite different from Ost-en-Edhil’s – but it was certainly different from the more practical clothes and bright colors her friend normally wore. As soon as they were alone, Ialien started apologizing.

“My mother… She made me wear this dress because it’s silk from Tirion upon Tśna and she wants to impress your mother, but it’s so horrid!”

Celebrķan smiled at her friend’s predicament. “It’s not your color, but it’s not horrid.”

As soon as she had said the words, Galadriel and Celeborn walked into the room.

“Ah, Ialien!” Galadriel cheerfully greeted, as she kissed Ialien on the cheek.

Celeborn bowed his head slightly. “Are you enjoying Ost-en-Edhil, young Lady?”

Ialien blushed. “Yes, my lord.”

“Ah, but you must miss your friends from Lindon,” Galadriel said. “What a lovely dress. It looks like silk from Tirion.”

Ialien blushed even futher. “It is, my lady. My grandmother brought it over as dowry.”

“My, she was a determined lady, not to burn it for warmth during the crossing.”

Ialien’s blush positively glowed. “Mm… I’m not sure that was how she crossed over,” she all but whispered.

Celebrķan cleared her throat. Her friend’s embarrassment at turned into her own. There were some questions that everybody knew should not be asked, especially those dealing with the old days.

“Mother,” she started.

Celeborn came to the rescue. “Well, well, all that was an age ago. My darling,” he added, addressing Galadriel, “shall we go? Please excuse us, Ialien, but we have a council meeting.”

Ialien curtsied. “Of course, my lord.”

Galadriel waved her hand. “Darling, we have time.” She smiled at Ialien. “It was so very nice to see you, Ialien. I do hope you come around more often. Celebrķan has so very few friends her own age.”

Celebrķan slumped and bit her lip. Her mother seemed set on saying the wrong things. Now Ialien would think she was some sort of social disaster.

“I do have some friends,” she chimed in, knowing it was not quite true, but not wanting Ialien to think she was not a normal girl.

“Of course you do, darling,” Celeborn said. “What was the name of that girl, Haerelon’s daughter?”

“Laerwen,” Celebrķan answered, blushing. Ialien would either think that Celeborn had so little interest in his daughter that he could not remember the names of her friends, or she would figure the truth, that the single person her father could think of, was not indeed, close to her.

“Well, Ialien,” Galadriel said, “I hear you like horseback riding.”

“That is true, my lady,” Ialien replied with a bright smile.

“Well, I have to say you do remind me of my cousin Aredhel, tall and pale. I can just see you on a horse, like her.”

Celebrķan shrank. Even knowing it was not likely Ialien knew her mother’s opinion of her cousin, this was not really a compliment. Everybody had read the history books. Aredhel was not a favorite.

“Well, shall we have some refreshments?” she hastily offered, silently praying for her parents to leave instead.

“Of course,” Galadriel said, enthusiastically.

“My dear, the council meeting,” Celeborn gently reminded. “And the girls might want to be alone to gossip about boys and the other things girls their age like.” Celeborn winked at Celebrķan.

“Ah, yes, yes,” Galadriel said. “There, my darlings, be good and have fun.” She kissed Ialien on the cheek again, in farewell, then turned to Celebrķan and ran her fingers through her daughter’s hair, before pinching her cheek. “My doll, you grow more beautiful every day.”

Galadriel turned and left so swiftly that she missed Celebrķan’s wince. Celeborn followed with a nod to Ialien and a kiss on Celebrķan’s forehead.

Celebrķan exhaled slowly as she watched them leave. First, her mother had pried into Ialien’s family past – something against the most basic etiquette. Then, her father had made it evident that she was some kind of friendless social disaster. Then the Aredhel incident, which had not gone too far, thankfully. Then, her mother had talked to her as if she was a small child – and to pile upon it there had been cheek pinching! Celebrķan blushed so hard her cheeks hurt.

She eyed her friend. Ialien was looking up, to the ceiling. “Your home is so beautiful,” her friend said, unfazed.

“Thank you. Shall we go and eat,” Celebrķan proposed, hoping the food would be a distraction for both of them.

“Yes.” Ialien took her hand and smiled. “That painting in the ceiling is wondrous. Are those your parents?”

“Yes,” Celebrķan replied, a new wave of embarrassment washing over. Celeborn had insisted in commissioning the scene of their engagement, in Doriath, and had it painted on the ceiling for their anniversary. They walked silently to the parlor where tea was served.

“This smells amazing!” Ialien said, crossing over to the tray.

“Thank you,” Celebrķan said. “I made the scones myself.”

“My darling Celebrķan,” Ialien smiled. “You are so gifted! And you have the best parents.”

Celebrķan raised her eyebrows. “Thank you.”

“No, really,” Ialien insisted. “Your mother is an inspiration for all the girls in Lindon. Everybody wants to be Lady Galadriel. We used to play, when we were children, pretending to be her and Lord Celeborn.”

“Really?” Celebrķan sat and poured the tea.

“Oh yes, absolutely. And everybody wanted to find a prince in the likeness of Lord Celeborn when we grew up. He’s so handsome and brave.”

“Please, have a scone,” Celebrķan said, pushing the porcelain dish over.

“I am so honored to have met them more closely,” Ialien said, picking one scone up and piling it with clotted cream and jam. She put the scone down and reached over the table to take Celebrķan’s hand. “But I don’t want you to think that’s why I’m your friend.”

“Of course not,” Celebrķan replied, still processing the wealth of information that had been dumped on her.

“Mmmm, these scones are the most perfect thing I ever ate! Will you teach me?”

“Of course,” Celebrķan replied. “The secret is in the flour.”

“Oh, really? Before I forget, I have new books arriving tomorrow from Lindon. Do you want to go over to my house and we can open the crates together and see what Uncle has sent?”

Celebrķan beamed. Books. She loved books. Ialien did not knew her for long but her friend already understood so many things about her.

“Ooh, new books!” she exclaimed. “I’d love to.”

“Awesome!” Ialien beamed.

“You know, sometimes I dream I will marry a man who owns a copy of each and every book ever written,” Celebrķan confided, giggling. “I just don’t know if such a man exists!”

Ialien giggled with her. “Oh, that sounds like Lord Elrond, the king’s herald. You are related, are you not?”

“Very distantly,” Celebrķan replied. “I have never met him. And he’s positively ancient!”

“Oh, but he’s so strapping and sultry and … mannish,” Ialien countered, licking the jam from her finger. “All the ladies swoon when he walks down the king’s halls.

“I definitely must see that for myself,” Celebrķan said, winking.

Both girls giggled, as they finished their tea.

Finis
May 2015




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