28. Left-Hand Man
"Grandfather, why was Prince Nolofinwë sitting to the right of the King? Is that not Prince Feanaro's place?"
The times were not entirely untroubled, so Vanwë considered his answer carefully.
"You have seen me seated at Ingwë's right hand. Is it not Ingwion's place?"
"But you're Ingwë's own brother! Besides, Ingwion was away."
"And Feanaro is in the North, seeking gems. Nolofinwë, as second in line, serves in Feanaro's stead, as I serve in Ingwion's. It is entirely proper."
Laurefindel seemed satisfied, and the two continued walking back towards the High King's tower. But the boy was ever curious when it came to matters of lordship, and Vanwë eager to teach. Who could say, after all, that the young one would not someday lead his own House?
"And did you not wonder who sat so quietly at Finwë's left? That is the Queen's place, is it not?"
"Lord Arattorë, of course! Queen and Heir are as the left and right hand of a King, but the High Counsellor serves in the Queen's absence."
"You are correct, but that was not Arattorë. It was Lord Bruithwir."
"A lesser counsellor, then?" The boy's face wrinkled. "But that would be … against protocol, would it not? Should the seat not rather have been left empty?"
"Finwë never errs in matters of protocol, penneth nin. Think. Who is a lord's right hand?"
"His heir, of course. My father sits at yours, and I at his."
"Just so. Ingwë's and Olwë's fathers remained in the Outer Lands. Finwë's followed him here."
"Bruithwir is the King's father?"
"Indeed. You wonder why you have not seen him before, and did not even know who he was?"
"Has he been away from Tirion since before I was born, Grandfather?"
Vanwë laughed, not entirely merrily. His old friend never ventured far from Tirion these days - for good reason.
"Consider, Lauron. A wise lord never withholds advice from his heir. A wise heir does not gainsay his father. Yet Finwë is the King, and must rule all of the Noldor according to his own will. What would you do in Bruithwir's stead?"
The boy thought as they walked, allowing several minutes to pass before replying.
"I would stay away from councils, or at least stay silent in them. I would give my son advice, but no one would ever know whether he took it."
"Just so, penneth. Remember that. A day may come when our people establish new realms. Ingwë and the senior princes are all content with what they have, so if that day ever comes, it will be our sons or grandsons, or perhaps their sons, who become Kings."
Vanwë winked and smiled at the boy, but did not fail to mark the eerie similarity of this day's lesson to one he'd received from his own grandfather Imin not long before Oromë had made himself known to the Elves of Cuivenien. He wondered once more whether he would ever see the Outer Lands again, but for the first time, the thought gave him a chill.
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