Maitimo and his brothers arrived at the site of Nolofinwë's begetting day celebration at nightfall. A cool breeze stirred the grayish haze at the edge of the water silvered by the rising moon. Beyond the dark silhouettes of pine trees, a single dim light was visible on the other side of the lake. Maitimo, hanging back with Macalaurë at his side, noted how their brothers strolled, casual and apparently at ease, among the gathering elves in the open center of the encampment.
Maitimo's younger brothers ignored puzzled, hostile, or encouraging looks as though all were equal. Even Pityafinwë and Telufinwë, the least imposing, looked regal, flawlessly fair and untouchable, as though their divergent kinsmen still ranked them among the pride of the Noldor as they had when they were both youths in Tirion. Maitimo overheard one follower of Nolofinwë say, "Fëanáro's youngest do not appear to know where they are or how they are regarded." He thought he heard the word "betrayed" from another.
Looking across the open glade, Maitimo noticed that Turukáno, who stood in front of the dais with his sister and his father, was the first of Findekáno's immediate family to note the arrival of the seven brothers. Yet, even Turukáno gave his head a slight shake and twitched the corner of his mouth in a gesture that Maitimo recognized from long familiarity was not entirely negative, but rather bitterly appreciative. Turukáno lifted his chin truculently when he sighted Maitimo, a rather lethargic signal of his habitual antagonism.
The crowd that had assembled in the center of the settlement included nearly all of the Noldor from both sides of the lake and the largest number of native Sindar that Maitimo had seen in one location since he had arrived. The gentle din of overlapping conversations abruptly stopped as all eyes fixed upon the sons of Fëanáro before resuming at a higher, more intense pitch. Maitimo disregarded renewed antagonistic looks from those of Nolofinwë's supporters who had only recently begun to view him with guarded indifference. Each Noldo there surely recognized the legendary crown of his grandfather. Maitimo caught the words "Finwë's crown," once in a tone of shocked disapproval and again later, wistfully, from a staunch supporter.
Maitimo registered the reactions of his own loyal followers, whose faces showed a range of emotions from pride that he had chosen to present himself as the High King of the Noldor, to doubt that he had the support to back it up, to sadness that they were a minority in this setting. It was all Maitimo could do to stay his hand from reaching up and touching Finwë's crown. Since everyone knows I cannot hold onto it, he thought, I must look a perfect fool. Perhaps I should have waited to make an appearance until the speeches and presentation of gifts had already begun, but that could have been construed as disrespectful.
Macalaurë slid a reassuring hand through the crook of his elbow and whispered, "I think they are nearly ready to begin." Maitimo's brother nodded in the direction of the elevated dais, which had been constructed directly in front Nolofinwë's house.
At that moment, like the sun breaching a cloud-shrouded sky, Findaráto broke through the mass of people, and embraced Maitimo and Macalaurë. Maitimo mused that Findaráto looked exactly as Findekáno relished in describing him: exceedingly blond and handsome and seemingly unaware of the impression he created. Maitimo, however, believed that Findaráto, clad that evening in a sky-blue tunic heavily ornamented with gold trim and shining gems to a point just short of flagrant ostentation, was not only acutely aware of his appearance, but also deliberate in the impression his effusively friendly greeting of Maitimo and Macalaurë would have on the assembled company.
Findekáno left his place in front of the dais and approached his three cousins. Shoulders back and head high, Findekáno projected unselfconscious nobility. His full, sensual lips curved in a restrained smile as he spoke and clasped hands with guests as he wended his way toward his cousins. When he reached them, he leaned forward slightly, his mouth drawing close to Maitimo's ear, his breath teasingly caressing his neck, and said, "You look calm now. Unassailable. When you entered the enclosure here, you reminded me of how your father always looked when he walked into court in Tirion."
"I can assure you in complete honesty that I am anything but calm. Wonder if he ever felt as anxious as I do. I doubt that he did." Maitimo gave a low mirthless chuckle.
Findekáno surreptitiously squeezed Maitimo's upper arm, keen, quick blue eyes immediately focusing back upon the dais. Maitimo studied Findekáno's mercurial face, which suddenly had turned grave. He appeared so like Finwë at that moment that it took Maitimo by surprise. Maitimo had nearly forgotten, since they had spent so much time on their own over the past two months and so little in a formal public setting, how far removed was this stately Findekáno, from his persona as best friend and lover: tall, proud, impeccably groomed in formal darkest blue robes, his ebony braids tightly bound with golden twine, the perfect Noldorin prince.
"Well, you will be fine. The effects of all of those years of working with Grandfather are evident. You could fool even me." Findekáno placed his hand on Maitimo's shoulder, as though to assure himself that he had his undivided attention. "I would like to go over the sequence of speakers and presentations tonight with you before we start. I've told everyone that I will first say a few words, and after that it would seem appropriate if Turukáno and Irissë were to congratulate Atar. And then, well, I was wondering if you had an opinion about when you would like to make your announcement . . . " Findekáno paused expectantly. Maitimo signaled by a shift of his shoulders that he wished to hear the rest of Findekáno's assessment before commenting.
Findekáno took his wordless cue. "Either you can come forward after Turukáno and Irissë, as his eldest nephew, or perhaps it would play out better if Macalaurë and your brothers greet Atar, followed by the rest of the cousins, and then you come up and say your piece. I have a feeling that after you make your unanticipated offer there will be no possibility of orchestrating any of the rest of the evening. Maitimo?"
"I am of the same mind. I should wait. Don't you agree, Ingo?" asked Maitimo.
Findaráto laughed, which caused the tense onlookers surrounding them to startle or wince. "I dare not disagree. Not when Káno is in a dictatorial mood."
"I thank Eru then that I picked the right answer," Maitimo said, finally relaxed enough to reach up and touch the crown resting so heavily on his head. "I would not want Káno to throttle me right now."
Macalaurë reached out and grabbed Maitimo's hand, gently lowering it to his side. "Don't fidget before a performance where people can observe you, Nelyo. Remember how many times you have told me that? Take a full slow breath and then release it. Just the way you taught me."
Findaráto chuckled. "I am amused at Macalaurë turning the tables on his older brother." He threw an arm around Maitimo's shoulder. "The brilliant performer Macalaurë suffers from stage fright, but Maitimo never."
"Ha! Don't be so sure of that, I have only worked harder at hiding it." Maitimo cocked an eyebrow. "A performance is it now? I must admit that it is hard to stay anxious under the tender care of the three of you. Would that someone were looking after my younger brothers."
Macalaurë responded quickly, "Excellent observation. Ingo, could you ask Aikanáro and Angaráto to keep them company for now and perhaps you could keep Artanis away from them yourself?"
Findaráto grinned and nodded to Macalaurë. "At your service, maestro. I'll speak with all of you after the solemnities."
"Go on, Káno," Maitimo said. "You are needed. I see both Turukáno and Irissë headed over here now. You are the purported host of this austere gathering, are you not?"
"And a piss-poor one at that, if one were to listen to either my brother or my sister. They don't understand delegation. One doesn't have to do everything oneself, simply see that it has been done." He clapped Maitimo on the back, before shooting him one of his cockiest grins, eyes glinting with amusement. "But don't worry about me. I can keep them under my dictatorial thumb."
Findekáno took his place alongside his father, brother and sister, looking out over the crowded square. In the moonlight, the encampment looked similar to any one of several small villages in the north of Valinor that he recalled visiting with his grandfather and cousins, so far from the light of the Trees yet still gleaming silver in the hours of Telperion. Oh, but it is not. It could not be farther away, Findekáno thought, if it were positioned among the farthest stars in the firmament.
Maitimo stood out among the crowd: taller by nearly half-a-head among the tallest of those who parted to permit him to pass, his hair as bright as the flames that lit it, his pride of carriage mitigated only by his charm of face and form so familiar to any present who had known him before. His arm in the black sling did not lend him any vulnerability but rather greater authority. Those who survived the Enemy were either mad or hopelessly crippled; he was clearly neither. Maitimo nodded with innate grace to the right and left of himself as though he walked through his grandfather's halls and not a largely, at best, semi-hostile multitude. Macalaurë accompanied Maitimo to the front of the gathering. Once the most loved among their brothers by their people, the two now held the dubious honor of being the least mistrusted. However, the pure audacity of wearing Finwë's crown appeared to have gained Maitimo respect even among those who most begrudged him it. He is magnificent, Findekáno thought as he met Maitimo's eyes and smiled warmly for all to see.
Findekáno completed his welcome speech and gave his father his affectionate best wishes. His brother and sister, followed by the sons of Fëanáro and the offspring of Arafinwë, offered their congratulations to their uncle. Findekáno assumed that the amiability with which those greetings were offered and received sent an unmistakable message to the Noldor that the divided branches of the House of Finwë had put their differences aside, that this begetting day feast was at the very least a semi-official rapprochement of the previously alienated factions.
After Artanis finished congratulating her uncle, the last of Arafinwë's children to do so, Findekáno nodded quickly to Maitimo. He wanted Maitimo to take advantage of the moment before a whole series of additional well-wishers and supporters began to file forward to offer Nolofinwë their compliments. Maitimo walked up to the dais and embraced Nolofinwë, kissing him on both cheeks, fondly, yet still formal. He turned momentarily from Nolofinwë to hug Findekáno, then Turukáno, and finally Irissë, stopping briefly to kiss her on the forehead, before asking quietly of his uncle, "May I speak? To everyone I mean?"
"Yes, certainly, Russandol." Nolofinwë's voice bordered on self-conscious, and surprisingly to Findekáno, his father bit his lower lip as he nodded to Maitimo, his only outward manifestation of an excess of emotion.
Maitimo whispered to his uncle, "Thank you. I won't take long. No dramatics, I promise you." Maitimo let a brief uncertain smile slip, squared his shoulders, drew a profound breath, and turned to face the crowd.
"I am here tonight to extend to my Uncle Nolofinwë the heartiest of best wishes at this celebration of his begetting day. He is well aware of my regard, my love, and respect for him that extends back into my youth, despite the misunderstandings and strife that have marred our relationship throughout recent years."
As Maitimo slowly began to speak, he projected his resonant voice to reach the farthest corners, while managing not to sound in the least strained. He alternated phrase-by-phrase, first in Quenya and then in perfectly accented Sindarin, proving that he was every bit the language genius he had been celebrated as in Tirion, second only to his father. His simple ploy ingratiated him to the Sindar while reminding the prideful Noldor that he was not only a warrior and a leader but also the most erudite among them in both letters and science.
"I also wish to address myself tonight to all of my kinsman, both those who have stayed stalwart and loyal to me beneath the banner of the House of Fëanáro and, more importantly, those from whom we have been separated, those we have wronged, and to whom I extend my sincerest and most heartfelt apologies, and of whom I beg forgiveness, on behalf of myself and my immediate family and our followers. I also extend condolences to our estranged brethren for their grievous losses. We grieve with you and for you. I am able to express regret for what has been done and cannot be undone, and I accept the blame that is due me. However, I am unable to argue that I, or we, deserve your tolerance. Despite that, I am emboldened by circumstance to insist that such tolerance is necessary.
"What I wish to address here tonight may, at first consideration, seem of consequence primarily to the ranks of the Noldor. In fact, I would argue that this could not be further from the truth. We must all, Noldor and Sindar alike, join together as friends and allies. Separately, we will inevitably fall one-by-one to the Enemy. Together, we may contemplate the possibility of victory."
Findekáno was unable to absorb every word of the next few minutes, so overcome was he by his preoccupation on Maitimo's behalf and anxiety about the reaction of the majority. From the phrases he captured here and there, he did recognize that Maitimo spoke briefly but eloquently of the shared history, ideals, and motivations of the Noldor.
A pause and then a lift in Maitimo's voice captured Findekáno's full attention again. "In response to that need for unity, I came here tonight to offer to Nolofinwë Arakáno, as the eldest surviving son of King Finwë, this crown passed to me by my father as his acknowledged heir. I greatly cherish this heritage, but I cannot hold it to the House of Fëanáro. As most of you are acutely aware, we are bound by a previously sworn oath, which prevents us from dedicating ourselves first and foremost to the governance and day-to-day well being of our people. I believe that Nolofinwë will bear this symbol of the unity of the Noldor in honor and with wisdom and use the authority it grants him to help reforge all of us into one strong and powerful people who will struggle together to rid this world of the fell forces of darkness."
Maitimo turned back to face Nolofinwë. Pulling his arm from its sling, he removed the crown and extended it to Nolofinwë, who accepted it without a single word and placed it upon his own head. Maitimo dropped to his knees and repeated a vow of fealty in words identical to those they had used, with the coming of each New Year in Tirion, to swear allegiance to King Finwë.
After Maitimo once again rose to his feet, the complete hush of the crowd was finally broken and then only by murmuring and shuffling movement. All of Finwë's grandchildren came forward to pronounce the same pledge. When they had finished, Findekáno proposed an acknowledgement by acclamation of his father's acceptance of the Kingship of all of the Noldor in the Outer Lands.
The roar of acceptance rang loud. In the aftermath, Findekáno heard not a single dissenting voice. However, studying faces throughout the throng, Findekáno noted that, although most looked relieved and some even joyful, there were enough in both camps who looked stunned or displayed ill-concealed animosity to tell him that the reconciliation of the royal houses of the Noldor might be officially resolved, the reality was far thornier. Despite the palpable tension, he observed enough greetings and embraces among the long-divided kinsmen to give him a measure of hope. Clamoring clusters of people immediately surrounded both Maitimo and Nolofinwë. People laughed, talked and argued all around him.
At a signal from Findekáno, a clarion blare of trumpets momentarily silenced the crowd. He announced there would be neither formal service nor ceremonial, that all should eat and drink their fill, and musical entertainment would follow. Even at the table on the dais, Nolofinwë sat with his oldest friends and colleagues with no consideration for rank or stature, still receiving commendations and tributes. Servers had already begun loading the tables edging the periphery of the open square. The three siblings, having deemed it would be impossible to provide tables with seating for such a crowd, had arranged for long benches to be provided all around the grassy clearing and its closest environs. People immediately approached the tables laden with platters of gilded fowl, spit-roasted haunches, and enormous trays of crusty pies, fresh fruit, and vegetables.
Artanis approached Findekáno. "Impressive bit of political theatre that the four of you organized for us." Findekáno failed in maintaining his initial charade of wide-eyed innocence and laughed.
"The four of us?" he asked.
"Don't toy with me, Káno. Ingo has already admitted that you and Maitimo, along with him and Macalaure, began planning this almost as soon as Maitimo could sit up without assistance. A valiant effort and I agree that it will serve us well, unless, or perhaps more accurately, until the dreadful Oath comes into play again. The entire thing reeks of Maitimo's penchant for diplomacy and yours for idealism. Not that those qualities are necessarily always bad."
Findekáno laughed again. "Your optimism is reassuring as always, Artanis."
"And your romanticism and capacity for trust is endearing," she answered.
Findaráto approached the two of them and slipped his arm around his sister's waist. "I hope you aren't needling him."
Findekáno answered, "Not at all. She was merely expressing her limitless enthusiasm for our attempts to ensure a future for our people."
At that moment, Maitimo caught Findekáno's attention from halfway across the clearing and sent him a fond glance. Findekáno thought Maitimo looked as he had at about fifty, when he had first fallen in love with his eldest half-cousin.
"If the two of you will excuse me, I want to see how Maitimo is holding up."
"He looks well enough from here, all radiant and glorious and more than a little self-aware. Scribes will no doubt write him into history as the most handsome king the Noldor ever had, aside from noting the shortness of his reign and its lack of support," said Artanis.
"Ingo, can you see about finding her something to eat. I think she is growing peckish with hunger?"
Findekáno left his cousins and quickly reached Maitimo's side.
"We have taken the first step, Káno," Maitimo said.
"No, you did."
"I could hardly have followed through without the support of you and Macalaurë, and Findaráto as well."
"Of course, you would have. It just might have taken you longer and been less easily done."
"If you say so," Maitimo said, laughing softly. "Look at Findaráto. He's finished with scolding Artanis and now is talking with your brother."
Both men shifted to get a better of view of Findaráto and Turukáno. The tall blond appeared to be earnestly explaining something to Turukáno, leaning in closely and gesturing emphatically as he spoke. Turukáno stood with his arms folded firmly across his chest and a sour, unrelenting expression on his face. At last, Turukáno relaxed a little and met Findaráto's eyes. Findaráto grasped his arm and clasped his hand. Turukáno permitted himself a reluctant smile and nodded his head as though in compliance.
Findekáno laughed. "Findaráto is always up to something. A lot more goes on inside of that golden head than he would lead one to believe. He is assuring Turukáno's support for our plans now I expect."
"Grudging and conditional support I suspect," Maitimo responded.
"That may be the best we can ever achieve with Turukáno. My younger brother truly does love me. He simply has odd ways of expressing it." Findekáno chuckled. "But he certainly doesn't love you, does he? Never did. Not even when he had no conceivable reason not too."
"He always felt he had a reason not to. You were just oblivious. He always was jealous of your attention to me from childhood."
Findekáno shrugged and laughed. "I am weary of hearing from Atar how I have not been an attentive enough brother. I want even less to be rebuked for it by you. You have always been the paragon of older brothers. I could never have hoped to compete with that."
"I certainly didn't intend to admonish you but only to say that he was envious in his youth that you spent so much time with me and so obviously sought to do so at every opportunity. But don't you have to attend to some musical something-or-another that you have been organizing? Macalaurë is looking restive for his turn."
Findekáno all but leapt forward from his position of reclining against the paddock fence.
"Blast it! Thank you. I almost forgot the Sindarin dancing, to be followed by Macalaurë." Findekáno stormed off.
Earlier in the week, when the news of the upcoming celebration of Nolofinwë's begetting day had spread, several musicians among the Sindar had suggested that they be allowed to perform traditional dances of their people. Findekáno was pleased with the idea, as had been Irissë. Turukáno had been less than smitten with the offer but had assented, not wanting to be accused again of stuffiness by his more adventurous brother and sister.
When the dancing began, most of the Noldor moved back to cluster around the periphery of the clearing, lit only by lanterns and the occasional sputtering torch, seemingly mesmerized by the Sindarin dancers. The warm and close, humid air added to an ambience of near-feral sensuality.
The supple moves of the dancers, whose lunges, stomps, and swivels, executed to the primitive thump and strum of struck and plucked instruments, could not affect one as anything but dangerously erotic. It appeared to Maitimo that the Sindarin revelers clearly entranced their Noldorin audience by movements that would have been considered too blatantly sexual in Tirion, yet seemed natural, nearly innocent, in the circle of torchlight with a backdrop of ancient pine trees and a dark star-studded sky.
Maitimo looked about the crowd, noting that the Finwëans, as he might have expected, were among those most enthusiastic for the novel explicitness of the form. Even Artanis leaned against Irissë, whispering something obviously approving into her ear. Macalaurë fumbled in the pocket of his robe for a folded piece of parchment, scribbling notes quickly with a pencil, his eyes flickering rapidly from dancers to musicians. Findekáno returned to Maitimo and took hold of his arm, without looking up, but fixed upon the dancers enthralled.
"I could do that," Fingon said, with a sinful smile, his voice revealing both confidence and admiration.
Maitimo chuckled at Findekáno's utter lack of timidity and willingness to explore the untried. "I am absolutely certain that you could, and do it well. Why don't you?"
"I intend to. I am only waiting for this one to end. When they begin again, I'm going to ask your Sindarin girl to show me how. Did you see her? She is surprisingly proficient at this."
"If you mean the healer's apprentice, she has a name. It is Tadiel. Despite her fondness for both of us, I doubt she would appreciate being referred to as 'my Sindarin girl.' I'm not sure either why you would be surprised that she dances well. We heard that she grew up in the court of Thingol in Menegroth. I am sure they have music and dancing there."
"She hardly seems the type for this. She is usually so serious and reserved, I mean. Look at that." Findekáno's eyes widened at the sight of a man grabbing a woman around the waist, pulling her against his body, and then bending her back nearly to the ground. "I wouldn't have imagined they have this sort of dancing in Thingol's court. We certainly had nothing like it at court in Tirion or even Alqualondë."
Maitimo restrained a laugh. "Well, it does not appear to have intimidated you."
"Exactly the contrary. Just watch me." The music ended and the musicians appeared to be preparing to begin a new piece. Findekáno sloughed off his formal outer robe, handed it to Maitimo, and hurried off to persuade Tadiel.
Maitimo watched Tadiel and Findekáno talking. Her unusual, to Maitimo at least, brown hair hung loose down her back, reaching beyond her hips. The torchlight picked up its reddish and gold highlights. Tadiel's cheeks were rosy from exertion. Findekáno said something to her that immediately had her laughing. They both turned to look at Maitimo. Tadiel's smile with a widening of her eyes at Maitimo seemed almost a request for permission. Maitimo nodded approvingly to them.
It took only moments for Findekáno to relax into the dance. Findekáno's innate musicality and lack of restraint or self-consciousness enabled him to acquit himself impressively. When the dance had finished the two joined Maitimo.
"How did I do?" Findekáno asked.
"You know you did well." Maitimo laughed. "Both of you did. You dance well together."
"Would you like me to show you?" Tadiel asked. "I would like to dance with you too."
"I think not. I don't believe I could perform nearly as well."
"Finno told me that you love to dance and are most accomplished. This is not complicated court dancing. There really are no rules or set steps."
"But with one hand . . ."
"Nonsense. I've seen your sword-work with one hand. I can hold onto you here." Tadiel grasped Maitimo's forearm firmly. She giggled and turned to Findekáno. "Aren't you going to help me persuade him?"
Findekáno wrinkled his brow before smiling again. "Not sure I want to. That music and that type of dancing are stimulating enough for me, and Maitimo has always been attracted to women."
"Stop, Finno!" Tadiel all but shrieked. "Oh, sorry." She covered her mouth with her hand. "I've had entirely too much to drink. He is a terrible flirt and tease, isn't he?" she asked, turning to Maitimo.
"Yes. Yes, he certainly is," Maitimo responded, grinning.
Findekáno began, "Ah, but you know nothing of his history relating to this kind of thing. Let me tell you about a stunt he pulled not that many years ago, when we were not getting along well, at gathering much like this one..."
"That's quite enough, Káno. I think you are the one who has had too much to drink," Maitimo said.
Tadiel, by then helplessly laughing, said, "Well, there is only one solution for this, Maitimo. We have to find you another drink. Then I must hear Finno's story, and we can discuss whether it is safe for me to dance with you or not."
Nolofinwë's eyes were drawn to Maitimo and Findekáno, leaning against the fence that separated the open area from the horse paddock. Under the gleaming torchlight, he saw one head crowned with an unruly shock of blazing red hair tilted toward another covered with sleek, night-dark plaits. Simultaneously languorous and imposing, the two looked relaxed and relieved. A closer examination revealed to Nolofinwë a detail that anyone not specifically searching would never have found. With their elbows resting on the planks behind them, their hands appeared to be close but not touching. Nolofinwë watched as, nearly completely hidden in the shadows, the smallest finger of Findekáno's hand linked with Maitimo's matching finger. They did not so much as glance at one another to acknowledge the connection, but continued to appear outwardly absorbed by the milling, noisy crowd before them. The faintest blush of heightened emotion, barely visible in the dancing torchlight, suffused Maitimo's face, while Findekáno's responsive visage flared briefly with pride of possession tempered by the joy of one who seemed to scarcely dare trust his own good fortune.
Nolofinwë had long wished that they had not chosen to be together. When he had watched his young son grow into an intellectually gifted, warm-heartened, spirited, and stunningly handsome young man, Nolofinwë had begun to dream of what beautiful children his eldest would father. That fantasy had been long ago crushed and cast aside. Nolofinwë allowed himself a sigh of infrequently entertained disappointment.
The voice of Pilimor the healer interrupted his reverie. "Nolofinwë, High King of the Golodhrim, they call you now, do I offer congratulations or condolences on your new position?"
Nolofinwë liked the healer. His penchant for directness was refreshing if at times a bit disconcerting. "I would accept either or both, although overall, I think it is a positive step for our people and will mitigate the worst of old rivalries and disagreements and help us move forward toward building a new life." He turned to face the insightful eyes of the healer before looking back in the direction of Maitimo and Findekáno.
"Then I offer you both, King Nolofinwë."
Nolofinwë lowered his voice. "My nephew would have made a brilliant king under different circumstances. He and my eldest son always shone, even among the exceptional grandchildren of my father."
"My people are fascinated with those two." Pilimor said. "It started with the eagle, of course. That was a spectacular show. I unfortunately missed it being away from here that day."
"I saw it and it appeared equally startling and unpredictable to those of us who have dwelt among the silver and golden light of the Valar's trees and were tutored by those Shining Ones."
"They are regarded by natives here as the most remarkable among the bright Princes of the Golodhrim. If their height, their contrasting, surpassingly fine looks and that fire in their eyes, astonishing even among your people, didn't provided distraction enough, then the mystery of the nature of their companionship has fueled a whole new source of gossip and speculation."
Nolofinwë laughed at Pilimor's blunt words. "My son told me that you understood and accepted their peculiar circumstances. Ai, I suppose I should not be surprised that preoccupation with the intricacies of their personal life has followed them from Valinor to here." They both observed Maitimo reach out to touch Findekáno's arm reassuringly and Findekáno respond to the gesture with a dazzling smile.
Pilimor's sharp features softened into kindness at the undertone of regret in Nolofinwë's remark. "If they had not attracted such interest on this side of the lake, it is likely their relationship would have been largely ignored here, except as a matter of disappointment to many maidens. As the confidant of many, I know that it is not as rare as one might be led to believe."
"Indeed," Nolofinwë remarked. "I had never heard of another relationship such as theirs."
"Then you led a sheltered life on that distant shore, King Nolofinwë." Pilimor chuckled lightly. "Of course, a healer eventually hears at one time or another of most variations of intimate personal interactions. Does the responsibility of this crown make it harder for you to accept their relationship? Even in the far reaches of the east, among the peoples who live the life our ancestors lived among the trees and under the stars, where crowns, kingdoms and political factions have no meaning, their chieftains think of heirs. It is a natural impulse in this Arda Marred where we are only guaranteed surety in the present."
"Perhaps, but I learned to accept what I cannot change long ago. Although, now more than ever, I would be far more at peace with the tasks that face us if I knew that Findekáno had an heir."
A feeling of sympathy for these two princes overwhelmed Nolofinwë, along with a renewed appreciation at Maitimo's decency and courage in handing over the Kingship to him. He thought as well, with despondence, that if all the Noldor struggled against the doom foretold by Námo, the weight of it lay doubly upon the eldest son of Fëanáro and, linked so closely as Findekáno was to Maitimo, by association upon his own firstborn son. He shook his head, desperate to banish such thoughts from his mind.
Why must I think such morbid thoughts? What can I know of what brought these two together? Nelyafinwë faced the Dark One in his stronghold and survived, and my own Findekáno, as bold and courageous a son as any father could have, went alone into the shadows of Thangorodrim alone and brought him back. How can I underestimate what fate may still hold in store for them?
The evening's festivities had lasted until the dawn's light had begun to reveal the mists rising up over the shimmering lake. Irissë insisted in dragging off the twins and Curufinwë to find them accommodations within her father's house. Nolofinwë had entirely maintained his composure at Irissë's preemptive offer of his hospitality, while Turukáno had been less than ebullient in welcoming his cousins. No one was certain as to where Tyelkormo had vanished; he had last been seen in the company of a silver-haired Sindarin woman whose energy at dancing, sauciness, and high-spirited flirtation had rivaled his own. The pleasantly tipsy trio of Findekáno, Macalaurë and Maitimo had escorted Tadiel back to her lodging in the House of Healing.
A thoroughly soused Macalaurë slept on a comfortable divan at the far side of their tent, safely tucked in by Maitimo and Findekáno, only after they had teased him into an hilariously inebriated furor at his purported blushing when Tadiel had favorably compared him to the renowned Daeron of Doriath, who, before hearing Macalaurë, their Sindarin acquaintances always had claimed was the greatest bard of all the Eldar.
They waited until they believed that Macalaurë surely must have fallen asleep.
"Thank Eru for Irissë and that Tyelkormo has trouble keeping his trousers on and that Macalaurë nearly always drinks too much after he has performed for an unfamiliar audience," Findekáno said. "I had almost resigned myself that I would not be able to make love to you tonight. I want to take you tonight. You have totally indulged me since you have felt strong enough. I want to . . ."
Maitimo interrupted him with a kiss. "You underestimate your appeal. I have pleased myself. I delight in the way you offer yourself to me. The mere sight of you . . ." Findekáno laughed.
"Even though I demand so much?" Findekáno's voice was thick and hot against Maitimo's ear.
"Especially, your demands. But, yes, tonight I want what you want, to feel you inside of me." Maitimo's eyelids, that had fallen closed at Findekáno's gentle touches, fluttered open again, as he felt Findekáno's hand encircle his hardened length. Maitimo supported himself upon his lower arms and raised his back up from the bed. He wanted to watch what Findekáno was doing to him. A smile, fey and tempting, swept over Findekáno's face when he realized what Maitimo sought. A twist of Findekáno's hand, then a stroking motion, was followed by a dip forward of his head and the pink tip of his tongue reaching out to barely touch the glistening head of Maitimo's erection.
With movements, calculated and slow, Findekáno shifted his body backwards to bring his own member up against Maitimo's. He stroked them together slowly, languorously, Findekáno's darker in color and slightly thicker in contrast to Maitimo's paler, somewhat longer erection. Maitimo continued to watch, his breathing growing heavier and louder at the sight.
"Ah, Káno, harder now," Maitimo gasped.
"Have you changed your mind then about what you want?" Findekáno's roguish smile gave lie to his soft, tender intonation.
"Well, then. Turnabout is fair play." Findekáno caressingly turned his hand and bent over Maitimo to give another lick, too quick, too light to have any effect but to torment. "I'm going to make you beg, the way that you always make me. And, anyway, you'll be like an untried virgin again tonight. It's been a while for you, love. So I don't want to rush."
"Not so long ago. I don't care."
"Now you want to argue, do you?"
"No. No. Please. Do you have something, some oil? Anything you can use?"
"Of course I do. Right here." Findekáno pressed a bottle of oil into his hand, grinning. "It's open. Can you reach to put some of that on me? Now can you understand what you do to me?" His smile had turned from teasing to tender. "You are so beautiful, Nelyafinwë Maitimo. I love you so." He leaned forward to give Maitimo a wide, open-mouthed kiss. At the same time, Maitimo, his hand trembling and spilling a good deal, managed to coat Findekáno with a liberal amount of oil and pass the bottle back to him.
"There, now. Please?" Maitimo asked, trying to sound patient but hearing a squeak and a break in his voice.
"Awww. You sound so sweet when you say please like that."
"Please, Findekáno." Maitimo's voice once more betrayed his desperation. Findekáno began to rub against the entrance to Maitimo's body with oil-coated fingers.
"Again. Say it again, nicely. I love to hear you say that."
"Please. Please. Please."
"Perfect," Findekáno said, finally inserting a finger into him, shallowly and gently as though he intended to take his time. At that point Maitimo, jerked against him with an urgency that would have made Findekáno's habitual impatience seem lethargic by comparison.
"Enough," Maitimo growled, his voice no longer petulant or whining. Findekáno moaned, sighed, kissing Maitimo again neither teasing nor tender, but incendiary.
Breaking his mouth away for the briefest of moment, Findekáno said, "Fine. This is killing me anyway." He pushed forward into Maitimo in one long, determined movement.
"Káno, Káno, Káno, Káno," Maitimo chanted against his lips, unable to stop himself.
Maitimo had not fallen asleep easily. Findekáno had drifted to sleep first, while Maitimo's mind remained active long past their lovemaking.
It must have been near dawn when Findekáno tossed in his sleep and groaned, startling into an upright position. Maitimo immediately awakened and sat up as well, pulling him into his arms, thinking of how many nights Findekáno had comforted him in just that way.
"You had the bad dream this time. Are you well? Are you awake now?"
"I am well. But it was truly horrifying. I was waiting and watching for you. You said you would come. I knew you were coming. The lines of warriors, of the Noldor and many others, stretched on all sides of me, nearly as far as I could see, and then . . . oh, never mind. It was only a nightmare, if an extraordinarily hideous one. I don't know how you are able to endure them so often."
"I tolerate them as well as I do because you are here to wake me."
Findekáno's head drooped against Maitimo's chest, his thick, dark lashes resting against flushed cheeks. Maitimo felt his heart clench in his chest at the sight of him. Looking at Findekáno never grew ordinary or expected; he never failed to stir Maitimo, and that night even more so than usual.
Maitimo whispered, leaning forward to lightly tongue the still reddish mark on Findekáno's neck, "I love you so much that it frightens me."
"Me too. I feel that way as well."
"You too? Findekáno the Valiant?" Maitimo asked. Findekáno rolled his eyes in a comical way.
"Obviously." Findekáno scowled and arched his eyebrows in exaggerated disbelief. "I thought at this point that was rather transparent. In fact, I think the only remaining thing that in any way frightens me now is the possibility that I might lose you again."
"I love you, Findekáno." Maitimo touched his face.
Findekáno's expression relaxed then, wide blue eyes gazing directly at him. "And I love you, well beyond anyone or anything that I have ever cared about. There are days on end when I cannot even glance at you, across a room or the practice field, without imagining what you feel like hot and hard and pushed all the way up inside of me. I would burst my heart for you."
That Findekáno mixed reverent tenderness and wantonness in the same breath was just another of the things about him that Maitimo adored. In Findekáno there was no dichotomy between the sacred and the profane but one indivisible and unquenchable passion for life and a splendid capacity to love.
Maitimo laughed quietly, unable to stop smiling. "You would. I know you would. And without you I would have no heart; my heart would shatter."
"Don't say such awful things, sweet Maitimo. We would never be separated long. Wherever I might go beyond these shores, you would soon enough follow. I share your sins and your fate."
"Ai, Findekáno, and you dare chide me for saying dreadful things."
Findekáno only grinned and looked up at him, before biting his own lower lip seductively. "Kiss me," he said.
After a sweet but molten kiss, Findekáno spoke. The quality of his voice, soft in its reluctance, revealed a begrudgingly offered warning. "So, after all the arguments with your brothers, the pressure, are you still planning to stay with me on this side of the lake until winter? Or might you feel the need to leave a little sooner?"
Maitimo chuckled, although he felt a sharp pang of desolation at the thought of what it would be like to sleep alone again and wondered if his nightmares held at bay by Findekáno's presence would overtake him again. "I understand how much it costs you to raise that subject. You'd like to lock me up and keep me here, but now you are trying to tell me that you think I should not leave them alone. I have a better idea. Until winter comes, you and I can ride or row over there once a week or so, without giving them advance warning, and stay for a day or two."
Findekáno choked back a laugh. "That will make it much more difficult for anyone across the lake to think of fomenting a rebellion."
"I was not contemplating the possibility of anything nearly that dire. I think the pledge they made to me will take care of that for now. But, my brothers are relatively leaderless at the moment. Macalaurë has no taste for that role now that I'm about. Yes, I think that would be an excellent plan."
Maitimo pulled Findekáno more tightly against him, content that they could remain together for a while longer at least.
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.