Finwë regulary hosted dinners to which he invited all his sons and their families. It was his hope that by being forced into the same room and spending an evening in a civilised manner, his large family could be kept from splitting apart due to the tensions within. But it was never very easy to have so many children running around the house and their fathers arguing over any trivial detail they could possibly think of, and Finwë knew this so he spent the whole day preparing for the occasion. It was as if getting ready for one family-dinner was ten times more troublesome than leading the whole clan of Noldor from Cuiviénen to Valinor.
As the time for the arrival of the guests drew nearer, he twisted his hands and a frown of worry lined his brow, and he looked at me questioningly. “No, you have not forgotten anything, dear,” I said reassuringly.
“I do hope so, Indis,” he said with a small smile. “But remember last time when there were one too few of the honeycakes and…” He was interrupted by a knock on the front-door, but neither of us had had time to make a move to open it before it already was swung open, and Carnistir strutted in, saying ‘grandpa never locks it anyway’, while I could hear Nerdanel’s reproaching voice him in the background.
Finwë bent down to peck a kiss on Carnistir’s forehead before the boy would dissappear too far away in the house, but he was immediately delayed by the Ambarussa who both greeted their grandfather by hugging his knees, effectively keeping him from moving. With the twins in his arms, Finwë rose up and met the rest of his eldest son’s family. Each of the children greeted me courtly with Nerdanel following suit, and even Fëanáro gave me a brief nod, which was some improvement from the last time, I thought as I greeted him back.
At that moment there was a new knock on the door, and Macalaurë, who was then standing the closest, opened it to reveal Nolofinwë and his family. The noises in the room merely became louder now that there were so many people in such a small space, and the children greeted each other and us. Findekáno went off to talk with Maitimo as soon as he noticed him and Fëanáro made a remark at the lateness of his half-brother.
“We came a bit later because Arakáno had muddied his clothes,” Turukáno muttered to me when he hugged me.
I laughed. “Well, I hope he is clean now,” I said and turned towards Arakáno instead.
The boy glanced at his big brother with an angry frown. “We were late because Turukáno” (here he pointed a finger at said brother) “was writing a letter to his girlfriend instead of dressing up in time.”
“Actually we are late because of both of these reasons,” Nolofinwë said, coming to the scene and putting a hand on Arakano’s pointing finger. “I do hope I was never like these children of mine, mother,” he said with a small smile. I reassured him of that his hopes were in vain, and Anairë laughed.
It did not feel as if a long time had passed before the doors were once again opened and Arafinwë’s family thronged in. Apparently Angaráto and Aikanáro had had some kind of race to the house, because Angaráto had already been jumping victoriously half a minute before the rest of the family entered.
“Did you see that, did you?” Angaráto laughed. “And Artaresto said I couldn’t race Aikanáro.”
Artaresto rolled his eyes. “I believe I said that you shouldn’t race Aikanáro, because it’s obvious that you would win since he’s younger than you.” Angaráto pouted at him, and Arafinwë told them to stop bickering. I felt a small tug on my dress and looked down and saw Aikanáro with a small pout on his lips.
“I think you did very well, sweetheart,” I said, and kissed him. “I would say you and Angaráto ended in a tie.” He looked a bit happier at that, but slipped away nonetheless when I attempted to smooth his eternally ruffeled hair. Rather I got to pet the locks of Nerwen, who beamed up at me and started telling me about her day so far.
At that moment Finwë announced it was due time that we were seated around the table, so we all entered the dining room where our longest table had been made ready. There was the usual rush of everybody getting to seat at their usual seats. (Maitimo and Findekáno always sat next to each other; Irissë had started insisting on being seated between Atarinkë and Tyelkormo; Turukáno and Findaráto also preferred each other’s company; but Angaráto and Carnistir, however, should not be seated next to each other. And Fëanáro, naturally, did not want to sit beside me. He chose a chair at the right hand-side of Finwë, while I sat at the other end of the long table.)
Thankfully, when everybody had found their places and got food on their plates and wine or nectar in their glasses, and began to eat, the atmosphere loosened up. The children, of course, helped a lot at it, the way they chatted away cheerfully.
“My father has invited our family to stay the next season at Alqualondë,” Eärwen chatted amiably with Anairë and myself. “I know Nerwen is already excited about it, saying she wants to set sail and go to the lands of Uncle-Elwë…” She laughed, as did Anairë. Nerwen raised up her chin.
“To specify,” she explained gravely as the young lady she was, “I said I wanted to explore said lands.” Her mother laughed again, saying ‘of course’, and the discussion went on to the latest ships that the Teleri had designed.
The Ambarussa were technically around the same age as Nerwen was, but far less trying to appear grown-up. They were currently animatedly telling Arakáno some wild story about how they had been on a hunting-trip yesterday, and they used small chips of the beetroot casserole to illustrate the scene where the beetroots was the prey and the knife and fork were the hunters themselves. The story ended up with a piece of beetroot somehow hitting their oldest brother in the forehead.
“Leastways it was not on your clothes – that stain would have been worse,” Atarinkë said to Maitimo while Findekáno used his napkin to wipe away the purple mark from his friend’s face.
“I suppose you are trying to prove your excellent aim,” Maitimo addressed Pityafinwë, “but hitting the head do not earn you any extra points at the dinner table.” Pityafinwë, from whose fork the piece of food had flown, merely grinned at his brother. Telufinwë and Arakáno were giggling.
“Can you believe we face dinners like this every day?” Nerdanel said with a sigh to Arafinwë who was seated next to him. Fëanáro on her other side sipped his wine and gently commented on how at least their sons saved play for outside of studies. He then went on to proudly tell a story of how Aulë had complimented Atarinkë on the boy’s latest scabbard. Atarinkë himself was busy in a discussion with Tyelkormo and Irissë at the middle of the table.
“Just because I don’t cook doesn’t mean I can’t!” Irissë insisted. “Besides, I can bake. I bet you can’t.”
“Don’t push it, Irissë,” I reminded her from the other end of the table. I guessed that it was once again one of the trio’s eternal debates of who was the best at a talent. Last dinner it had been about who was the best at riding a horse, but the winner had of course been Tyelkormo, “but only because he can speak to animals better than he can speak with Elves,” Atarinkë had concluded smugly. It seemed as if they were always at it, bickering playfully, and yet they remained the best of friends.
“Hmpf, I’d like to say that I would like to see you try,” Tyelkormo teased his cousin, “but I fear I’d be the one who would have to eat up whatever you would burn.” He and Atarinkë laughed and even Irissë’s lips twitched.
“Actually, Irissë baked bread the other day and it tasted rather good,” Findaráto pointed out tactfully from the other side of the table, and Turukáno beside him nodded in agreement.
“Baking is girly,” Irissë whined. “I want to cook.”
“You can cook all you want,” Turukáno scoffed, “but you’re never home when we should be preparing dinner, so I have to do all the cooking.”
“You are such a family-man,” Atarinkë said with a mock-swoon and took a swig from his glass.
“Oh, that reminds me of something,” Tyelkormo cried out with glee: “Atarinkë has someone he fancies!” Atarinkë’s face reddened to the shade of that of Carnistir and he spluttered into his napkin, while Irissë begged for Tyelkormo to tell more of this intriguing turn of events.
In some unfortunate way Carnistir had wound up sitting not next to but opposite of Angaráto. I wondered for a while how come they were both so quiet and not quibbling, but then I could see how tensely they were sitting in their seats.
“Angaráto, please, stop kicking him under the table,” Eärwen called out to him when we realized what was going on. Angaráto made a grumpy face, but dared not to disobey his mother. Also Carnistir’s kicking stopped as Macalaurë beside him put a hand on his shoulder and whispered something in his ear. For a moment a brief smile lit up the boy’s face. He was a sweet child when not agitated (though he was agitated fairly easily), and he now went on to humming some small melody with Macalaurë plucking a few chords from his harp that he was always carrying around with him.
Aikanáro observed the brothers with an interested look on his face. “Ish ‘e ‘elpin’ yo comboshe?” he asked Macalaurë with his mouth still full of bread, as Angamaitë pointed out. Aikanáro swallowed the food and repeated the question. “Is he helping you compose?”
“You could not guess how much he helps me coming up with what to write songs about,” Macalaurë said proudly.
“The last one was a ballad about how much a pearl costs in Tirion compared to the prices of Alqualondë,” Carnistir pointed out, looking a bit pleased by himself.
“The Price of Thy Pearl that song was called,” Macalaurë said. “I am experimenting with new themes for songs,” he explained to the puzzeled faces of the sons of Arafinwë. “An artist always seeks for creative challenges.”
“I wish my brothers would help me to do something artistic,” Aikanáro sighed. “But Angaráto isn’t much up for art and Artaresto says my art does not qualify as art.”
“Combining ingredients to make explosives, is not art,” Artaresto pointed out gently and reached out to smoothen his brother’s hair. Aikanáro attempted to slink away, but somehow Artaresto managed to flatted at least a few of the golden spikes.
“You don’t understand,” Aikanáro pouted and shook his head to settle his hair into its original (unnatural) shape. “If Nerwen’s going to sail across the Sea, then so am I, in case there might be some people who’d appreciate me over there.”
“I don’t think any Elf could fully appreciate you,” Angaráto laughed, but ruffled his little-brother’s hair for him, making Aikanáro smile.
The desserts were brought in and compliments were paid for the excellent dinner, and one by one those who had finished their meals withdrew from the table to find other seats in other rooms where they could continue with their discussions. Everybody had visited this house so many times they felt at home the moment they came in. I walked through the rooms exchanging a pair of words with each and everybody who had something to say, before I finally reached Finwë where he stood observing his family.
“A succesful dinner, would you not agree?” I said with a smile.
“Very much, dear,” he said with a smile, clearly relieved of that everything had so far gone so well. He kissed my cheek and handed me a drink. “A cup of good-luck for that the next one will be as good as tonight.”