*waves to all reviewers*
Yes, you are wonderful, if slightly insane, people.
Vairë had long since come to the conclusion that she rather liked being incarnate. Certainly, it meant that she had to put up with having her feet trodden on by hapless Teleri fishermen, and her hair pulled out by her son, but there were distinct advantages… The Valie burrowed deeper into her spouse's embrace, enjoying the sensation of skin sliding against skin. Námo pressed a kiss to the top of her head, and, with unusual practicality, made her nightgown disappear. She shivered as he coiled his long legs around her waist, and trailed his fingers down her body. Very distinct advantages…
A small brick wall landed on them in the form of their son, and bounced several times. Námo cursed fluently in seventeen different languages and pulled a pillow over his head. Vairen, however, had different ideas. Sitting on his mother, who was trying to recreate her robe at the same time as regaining her composure, he tugged at one exposed black lock.
"Get up, atar."
"What do we say?" Vairë reprimanded him.
"Try again, pityo."
"Please get up now, atar," Vairen corrected himself. "You promised me that you would show me around the Halls today…"
The Valie looked askance at the trembling pile of goose feathers better known as the Doomsman of the Valar.
"Did you say that, husband mine?"
"Ummm…" He could not have frightened a pigeon, let alone the fëar of the dead, as he was, a few stray feathers clinging to his sleep-rumpled hair, and guilt written clear across his face.
"Do you think that it is appropriate to expose our son to madmen?"
"Fëanor should not be a problem. He is…" His eyes unfocused. "Ah, yes. He is currently amusing himself with tormenting one of those 'fangirls'. She arrived yesterday, having decided rather rashly that she was able to fly. The ground rather disproved that, yet still she insists that she is an Elf, and should take up residence in the Halls. The Spirit of Fire is persuading her otherwise."
"I do not think that we should give Vairen any ideas about responsible behaviour towards any of the Free Folk."
"You call these creatures 'Free Folk?" he asked incredulously.
Vairen, bored by his parents' argument, began tracing lazy designs on the coverlet. Alas, with the Weaver for a mother, and a Master of Spirits for a father, his creations were a little … lively. One nervous warrior, clutching a misshapen spear, skewered the Vala's knee.
"Aiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!" Námo screamed, and all the re-embodied Elves in the Undying Lands winced, wondering what the eldest son of Finwë had done this time. "Desist."
The Valarling looked up at him with guileless black eyes as the warriors executed a victory dance.
"Very well," Vairë relented. "But only once you have had breakfast."
Even before she had finished speaking, the Valarling scampered from the room, his bare feet slapping on the tiled floor as he began to make porridge. It would only be right, he decided, if he also made breakfast for atar and atara, especially on this day…
Vairë calmly selected a robe of rich, embroidered burgundy and shrugged herself into it. She seated herself before the mirror – not that she needed a mirror, but it was so shiny that she could not resist – and began to brush her hair.
"Is that not rather … indecently cut?" Námo inquired, coming to stand behind her.
"Jealous, my dear?"
"I see not why one of the Valier should array herself as an elf-maiden for the delectation of all."
"So you disapprove?" she asked archly. "I should swathe myself to the neck in veils? So neither you nor any other can see my flesh?"
He shifted uncomfortably.
"Would you prefer that none should see this?" She brought his hand round to rest on the bodice of her dress, and his fingers began to move seemingly of their own accord, dipping under the luxurious fabric.
"Aiii … no."
And it was a very long time before they made their way downstairs to breakfast – which was a mistake, albeit a pleasurable one. The kitchen was decorated liberally with swirls of sugar syrup, and crystallised fruits adorned the floor … the walls … the ceiling … Vairen's hair … a sparrow perched on the windowsill…
"Oh Eru…" the Vala groaned.
"No, dear, I do not expect that He did this. Our culprit is rather nearer at hand."
Vairen was sitting inside the bubbling pot of porridge, making it arc into graceful loops around him. When he noticed his parents, he let the gloopy substance fall with a squelch to the floor. Námo winced as it spattered all over his robes, and Vairë wiped absent-mindedly at her eyes.
"See, atar, and atara: I made porridge." There were, indeed, three bowls of congealed food set on the worktop. However, they could not exactly be called porridge, considering the amount of fruit, syrup, and, the Valar suspected, chicken soup mix added to them. And they were more solid than the roots of Taniquetil itself. Alas, they did not have time to consider this culinary disaster in any detail, for the Valarling had flung himself out of the bubbling pot, across the intervening distance and into their arms. Not for the first time, they wondered how such a small creature could cause so much mess.
"Happy Yuletide," he burbled, pressing sloppy kisses to each divine face.
//…forgot// Vairë finished succinctly. //You take him to the Halls; I shall arrange gifts.//
Finrod Felagund awoke with a splitting headache, and pondered for a moment the idea that he might still be in the dungeons of Tor-in-Gaurhoth. A wolf would be a nice fate, nice and simple, and it might make the Naugrim with hammers who inhabited his skull go away… But the lump asleep on his chest was not a creature of Morgoth (although this was a question which had sometimes plagued him), but the son of Irmo and Estë. Really, mountains moved more in a day than he would in a hundred years. And the gentle sprinkling of water falling on his aching brow testified to the presence of Ulsson.
"How are you this morning?" An amused voice asked from the doorway.
"Go away." He tried to turn over, but fell off the couch on which he had been resting and crashed to the floor. Irmin continued to sleep, oblivious to everything.
"That bad?" The elf-maiden did not sound sympathetic. "I shall persuade my husband to concoct something to alleviate the symptoms, although I fear that the cure will be almost as bad as the malady."
Finrod cracked one eye open and pushed himself upright, shoving his tumbled golden hair from his eyes. A bemused starfish landed on his head, and he looked up to see Ulsson swinging from the chandelier, holding a pail of seawater and a very confused dolphin. And then he looked down.
"Why in the name of all the Valar am I wearing Olórin's robes?"
"I do not see what atar and atara have to do with this," Irmin mumbled, and then turned over and went back to sleep.
"You both lost a game of poker with Olwë, who demanded that you switch attire with our Istar friend. And then you turned up here at three in the morning, singing the Ballad of the Seven Swinging Sea-Captains. Somewhere along the way, you had acquired these two Valarlings."
"Would you really like me to explain, uncle?" Celebrían inquired politely.
"It cannot be any worse."
"You wished to ask Elrond how he managed to … I believe your words were 'capture' me…"
At precisely that inopportune moment, the aforementioned elf-lord strode into the room, humming contentedly, and engaged his wife in a kiss long enough for Ulsson to begin lobbing starfish at Irmin's slumbering form.
"El-nîn," she warned him, drawing back only reluctantly, playing with his high collar.
"What, melethril? Oh, I see that at least one of our guests has awakened."
Finrod glanced across at the other couch, only to see the Istar, still clad in the form which he had worn in Middle-earth, but in garb which the Elf knew he himself had donned the previous morning.
"Oh Eru." He staggered upright, clutching at the furniture to prevent himself collapsing into a heap on the floor like a fangirl after one too many sightings of Thranduil's daft son. "What … what did I say … I pray that it was not too much…"
"Well, you tried to make miruvor pancakes, and then…" Elrond grinned, assuming an appropriately inebriated demeanour. "I believe it went like this: 'How d'you capture a lady, kinsman? I mean … I mean … it goes like this … it goes … how d'you get her t'like you when she does not?' Mithrandir made some rather off-colour remarks at this point. 'But I like her, El … El … El … Lúthien, I really do. You know that I like her, do you not, sister-daughter. So, so pretty, my little Vanya, my Amarië. No, you d'n't understand … you see… you see… she is a bit like the sea … did I ever tell you that? Did I ever tell her that? V'much like the sea: v'pretty and v'dangerous. But y'see the point is … the point is … it is a very pointy thing … I really like her … more than like her: I l've her. I really, really, really do. But she does not love me. I am dooooomed."
"Enough." The Maia had levered himself up unto his elbow and was regarding them blearily. "One rendition of that was quite enough."
"I agree." Finrod was as white as the sea-foam with which Ulsson was adorning the walls. "Oh Eru … What brought on this fit of insanity?"
"Why I believe 'tis simple." Olórin looked particularly out of place in flowing verdigris robes, like a deer wearing a coronet, or Nienna with a cheerful smile. "Happy Yuletide, my friends."
Finrod leapt for the door, muttering something about having to return home before his mother shoved roast goose on his head, and a trout up each nostril.
Ulsson disappeared with a pop, his dolphin companion looking rather relieved, and Irmin slept on.
In the halls of the Lord of the Breath of Arda, there were two very happy Valarlings giggling among mounds of paper the size of oliphaunts. Varda picked a piece of gilt ribbon from her midnight hair and looked ruefully at her husband.
"Perhaps we should have forgone the gifts, and simply given them rolls of paper."
Eleno was busy trying to entangle a toy eagle in his brother's hair. Melno, his eyes as bright as a solar flare, set fire to his brother's tunic. Manwë leapt forward to put it out, and found himself inundated with sheets of paper, a tiny solar system whirling around his head.
"What is this? The greatest of the Aratar kept prisoner by his own sons?" The newcomer's voice was fair and clear, yet mockingly sharp. Varda stiffened almost imperceptibly and glanced around for a blunt object – such as her husband – to throw.
The Valarlings peered out from behind their curtains of black hair and shrank back, shielding their blue eyes with identical toy horses.
"Have a care, brother," Manwë snarled. "Your current form is not conducive to anyone's mental health."
"I have no choice about it," the hideous scarred creature complained.
"Oh, for today…" The Vala waved his hand negligently, and the other shrugged casually into the form of an Elf, tall and marvellously handsome, golden hair caught up in intricate braids. "But what are you doing here, in the name of Eru? 'Tis not yet the ending of days."
"Do not speak that name. You know that I like it not."
"And I find that I care not what you like, Melkor. And I repeat: why are you here?"
"How could I miss Yuletide with my nephews?"
"You managed it well enough for the last dozen years."
"Ah well, that chain is difficult to lug anywhere." Melkor grinned wolfishly. "It took some time. And I did not wish to return to Eä while my bird-brained lieutenant was still prancing round the place pretending that he was the best thing since sliced lembas. Ha! To think that he assumed he was as good as I…or rather as bad…"
"Go back to the Void from whence you came, Morgoth."
"Really, brother, it becomes you not to use that name. It pains me, it really pains me hear such syllables issue forth from your lips." He settled himself into the nearest chair with an air that suggested that he did not intend to depart any time soon – meaning before at least the next Age had passed.
"Yet maybe not as much as this would pain you." Varda pressed one of Vairë's discarded darning needles into the flesh of his throat.
"My dear sister-in-law." He plastered a lecherous smile across his face – rather like a Sindar archer who has just been presented with a fangirl only wearing hotpants and stiletto heels - and pressed a kiss to her free hand. The Valie shuddered. "Surely you would not perpetrate any violence in the presence of your dear, innocent little sons." He gestured to Eleno and Melno who had crept forward, each clutching a fluffy cloth hedgehog in protection against the Dark Lord. "Come here, my darling nephews. Would you not like to know what Uncle Melkor has brought for you? He makes very nice things for little Valarlings in the Void that is Without."
Ignoring their parents in the manner of small children everywhere, they plonked themselves on his knees.
"Now what have I here…" There were chocolate Elves (albeit that they seemed to be tethered by their wrists to an unseen rock-face); orc-shaped jellybabies; tiny harps that gave off a discordant music, and that suddenly caught fire. Manwë whistled innocently and smiled at his wife from behind his hand. And finally, with a triumphant flourish, the fallen Ainu produced a pair of perfect spears from the folds of his black robes. Alas for his evil designs, the Valarlings seemed more interested in investigating whether they could use them as tent-poles than poking each other with the sharp ends. Varda reflected that the ruination of her rugs was a small price to pay compared to Valarlings who looked more like fishing nets than children. Melkor smiled a little sourly.
"Well, dearest brother." Manwë looked like the proverbial cat that had not so much got the cream as the whole herd of cows and the franchise for making Valinor YoghurtTM. "Would you care to join us for a meal?"
As the Dark Lord was pondering his response, there was a wild noise of small shod feet in the corridor outside and a tiny body tumbled into the room.
Maedhros remembered his manners and bowed hastily to the Valar.
"Happy Yuletide, my lord, my lady." He paused for breath and tugged at his rumpled tunic. "Atara said to bid you have a wonderful midwinter, and can I play with Eleno and Melno now? And is Fingon here?"
"Happy Yuletide, Nelyafinwë Maitimo." Melkor rose suavely from his chair and smiled down at the elfling. Maedhros, clutching his right hand, fainted dead away.
"What have you done to our friend?" The two Valarlings, enraged, charged. 'Twas one thing to face all the hosts of Men and Elves, but quite another to try to overcome two small semi-divine beings whose collective height was rather less than that of a squirrel. He collapsed to the floor, and resigned himself to being bitten rather hard.
Fingon arrived only moments later, and was in no doubt as to the identity of this strange grown-up. Having your father killed in single combat tends to rather reinforce your memory of such things.
"Halt! Halt!" Aulë boomed from the doorway, clutching his daughter, who was, as ever, slightly charred, to him. Melkor grinned gratefully. "Oh. 'Tis you. Worry not children. Let us have a competition as to who can bite him the most."
Ora appeared out of mid-air, holding the hands of a frazzled-looking Fingolfin and his wife, shortly to be followed by Irmin and the former Lord and Lady of Imladris. The Dreamer's child had finally woken up and decided that if this was the case, then no one should be in bed. Even those who were not exactly asleep. Elrond and Celebrían hastily readjusted their clothes – or what little was left of them. Varda took pity on them and produced a blanket large enough to cover seventeen Hobbit elders after a feast that could have fed all Middle-earth for the next five centuries. The Valarling threw himself into the fray with sleepy abandon, while Fingolfin lunged ineffectually for his son's flailing feet. After having been caught in the eyes one too many times by wheeling planetoids courtesy of Eleno and Melno, he sat on the floor and began to chew absent-mindedly on a slice of ham which had somehow made its way onto his hands. Elrond might have looked pityingly at his great-grandfather, but he decided instead to turn his attentions to his wife's lips.
"Five hundred years is far too long even in the reckoning of the Eldar."
"Three times last night, meleth-nîn. Two times this morning: once in the bathtub."
"Has my lady complaints?"
"Nay. I was merely pointing out…"
"…That 'tis far too few times," he growled.
"Far too few." She began to lead him towards the door, but a gas giant the size of a thumbnail, courtesy of Eleno blocked their passage, chattering angrily.
"I think it means to say that you must stay for dinner," Varda explained, watching her husband, who had entered the fray.
"Who with?" Celebrían's heart sank. She had rather more … interesting plans for the afternoon, involving no roast fowl but a considerable amount of whipped cream and honey.
"Oh, Manwë and I," the Valie said blithely. "And Eleno and Melno. And Aulë and Yavanna – if they are on speaking terms today – and Aula. And Ora and Irmin, and Fingolfin and Anarië, and Fingon and Maedhros and Melkor."
"Must we?" He fiddled with the ring on his left hand, its faceted sapphire sending brilliant sparks shimmering across the ceiling. "I mean…"
The peredhel lord regarded the dinner table with dismay, gnawing on a chicken bone to relieve his frustration. Fingon and Maedhros had their heads together, plotting some devious scheme involving piles of mashed potato as props. Manwë and Melkor were engaged in a heated argument on experimental theology and why it could be a Bad Thing, entailing much waving of cutlery and the occasional levitating jug of gravy. Irmin was asleep in the sausages. Fingolfin, much to his wife's amusement, was attempting to brain himself with a tureen full of sautéed carrots. Aula was refusing to eat her peas, and Aulë and Yavanna were locked in an argument, which had obviously already lasted several years, as to whose fault this was.
"I bet I can eat more stuffing than you," Melno proclaimed.
"Oh really?" I am the eldest. I bet I can eat more than you."
"Really? Well then, the loser must put slugs in Nienna's bed."
Elrond decided that it might be a wise idea to drown himself in the mushroom sauce that surrounded the trout.
"Ooh, mushrooms!" A
Hobbit popped up from Eru knows where, and was hastily sat upon by Aulë.
"Being left in a room with Erestor and the collection of the tax records of Lindon and Imladris would be preferable to this," the peredhel groaned.
"Really?" A slender hand creeping into his lap soon changed his mind.
"Stay, celeb loth nîn, stay."
She pouted, and then leaned closer, whispering into his ear. "Do you not think that Morgoth looks rather like a beached haddock crossed with a hairdresser?"
"I had never seen it like that," he mused. "But now you mention it…"
"No! No! No!" The entire table looked up, and even Irmin removed his braids from the sausages, expecting some profound statement from Manwë on the Music. "You cannot put cabbage in stuffing, my brother: the whole wretched bird will taste like a swamp."
"Precisely. Imagine all the horrified looks."
Finally the Lord of the Breath of Arda had has enough. He threw a half-eaten goose in his brother-in-Thought's face. The evil and dripping Ainu arose in a huff, setting the curtains alight. His dread demeanour was rather impaired by the green beans clinging to his shoulders.
"Well, I see I am not wanted here."
"You never were." Maedhros waved all five fully functional fingers of his right hand at the Ainu.
"Aaargh. Humph. I am going back to the Void."
Elrond smothered a laugh in his wife's silvery hair. There was a howling wind, and then a deep silence only broken by Aulë's resounding laughter as he thumped his fork on the table.
"Really, dear…" Yavanna protested.
"I have wanted to do that for years. Well done, Maedhros. Would you like to learn smith-craft once more at my side? Celebrimbor is already demonstrating the talent he had once…"
Maedhros shuddered and crouched lower in his chair. "No. Please no. Nasty shiny things … too bright … too hot…"
Fingon began to pull silly faces in an effort to cheer him up. "What do I look like now?" He was balancing peas on his eyebrows and had a carrot wedged up each nostril.
"Like a narwhale, child," Anairë said tartly and reached over to extricate the abused vegetables. "I am sure Maedhros does not wish to be friends with a narwhale."
Unfortunately, Eleno and Melno had decided that this was a very good idea, and were busy trying to fit the chicken carcasses over their heads. Aula had been banned from playing with Celebrimbor for two weeks, having accidentally imprisoned him in a giant gilded birdcage, and was feeling left out. She began to transmute the potatoes into solid gold and use the elders for target practice. One hit Elrond solidly on the ear, and he ducked under the table, drawing his wife with him.
"There is more peace in Bree than in all the Undying Lands," he muttered.
"Poor little scholar." Celebrían giggled, smoothing his dark hair. "Might I be able to assist your state of mind?" She trailed a delicate path down the front of his ceremonial tunic, grazing her nails across his nipples. Elrond let out a muffled whimper and arched into her touch. The voices of the Valar and Elves seemed to come from a great distance.
"Manwë, I leave it to you to pry that dead bird from your eldest son's head, while I attend to the next course."
There was a shuffling of feet, and pair of silver slippers disappeared, but neither of them noticed that any more than they noticed Eleno's strangled yelps as two Valar wrenched his head from its gravy-soaked resting place, or Melno's cries as Ora, sitting atop the no longer pristine tablecloth, attempted to wedge a platinum corncob in his ear.
They did, however, notice the blinding flash of light, similar to a blue giant in a very bad mood that flashed through the room.
"What. Did. I. Say. O. Husband. Mine?" the enraged Valie yelled.
"I know not." Manwë tried to appear innocent, which was a little difficult considering that he was supposed to know everything.
"How charming." A previously unknown black hole threatened to swallow up several inhabited planets in the next galaxy but one. "Perhaps you should have your ears checked so that you do not find yourself thus inconvenienced the next time He wishes to tell you something. I told you that the steamed pudding should be set on a low heat, not one so high that it could be used to forge mithril. Behold the fruits of your labours."
There was a crash like the fall of Thangorodrim, and blackened fragments spun across the room. One landed at the peredhel's feet and he picked it up dubiously. There was, he saw, what might have once been a raisin embedded in it. Now it looked more like a deep-fried orc toenail. Celebrían caught his eye.
"Mayhap we should busy ourselves. 'Twould be best not to become involved in matters that are far above our comprehension."
"You are wise indeed, hervess-nîn." And he returned to the far safer contemplation of the tip of her ear, nipping it gently between his teeth while the maelstrom roared around them.
"…did you think you were doing?"
"You are upsetting Aula."
"Be quiet, Yavanna, unless you wish to spend the next six yéni picking gas giants out of the shrubs."
"Do not speak thusly to my wife…"
"Who are you to stop me Mr. Bad-choice-in-Maiar?"
A small face appeared under the table, upside down, black hair falling around pointy ears.
"Elrond is K.I.S.S.I.N.G Celebrían. Elrond is kissing Celebrían."
"Elrond is…" Eleno joined in. "Why are you kissing Celebrían there?"
The elf-lord blanched. As Celebrían fumbled with the fastenings of her bodice, he felt sure that it could not get any worse – that was, until Yavanna Kementári lifted the hem of the tablecloth and stared at him with shocked blue eyes.
They scrambled out from under the table to be confronted with a circle of beings whose expressions ranged between shock, amusement and ill-disguised envy.
"Oh, quiet yourself, beloved." Aulë chuckled. "I seem to remember a not dissimilar occurrence in Almaren."
"That was a mistake. I knew not the potency of the liqueurs Namo brews, and I thought you were more wearied than you were… And think not that you shall be enjoying of those delights ever again if you persist in reminding me of them."
"I am sorry, melmenya." The Elves were treated to the sight of the great Smith going down on bended knee before his imperious wife. "Will you accept a gift for me in proof of my love?" He produced a glittering necklace from one pocket, tiny emeralds entwined in perfect silver oak leaves.
"Hmpfh. I suppose it is sufficient." But she could not entirely repress the smile that curved the corners of her lips.
"I do not imagine why you cannot simply produced another pudding," Manwë persisted. Being Lord of Arda is perhaps not conducive in teaching one when it is wise to stop. "We are Ainur after all…"
"And once again you fail to see the point," Varda snapped. "I told you that is was dangerous to have that feast in Almaren as respite from our labours, and you failed to see the point then. You said that 'twas simply that I was not much fond of parties." She sniffed melodramatically. "And you fail to see the point now. I do not wish our children to grow up thinking that they can simply make such things happen; I wish them to understand a little of that which the Elves know."
"But we are not Elves, and they can simply make things come into being."
Fingolfin looked pointedly at his wife, and Anairë sighed. She left the room and returned a moment later clutching a gilt-wrapped box.
"My lord." She curtsied prettily. "I beg you to take this as a gesture of our deepest love for all the Valar." She held out a box of sweetmeats, and added in an undertone, "Although they were intended for Finarfin."
"Do not fear." Fingolfin pulled her down into the chair next to his and kissed our hand. "From what I have heard from the elfling here…" Elrond grimaced at the term. "…My brother will be rather too busy preventing his son making any foolish gestures for the sake of his Vanyar sweetheart to notice one missing gift."
And at least it seemed to have prevented a civil war among the Valar – although that could have had something to do with the extraordinary density and stickiness of the toffees.
One by one the Valarlings slipped into a contented doze, watched over by their gooey-eyed parents.
"Just look at them," Aulë cooed – an interesting prospect at the best of times. "Are they not the most wondrous of creatures…?"
And Elrond and Celebrían finally made good their escape, vowing to bar themselves into their bedchamber until the Gates of Summer with a plentiful supply of cream and honey. And never to answer the door to anyone, however young or however mighty.
Celeb loth nîn – my silver flower.
Melethril – my lover (female).
Hervess-nîn – my wife.
El-nîn – my star.
Meleth-nîn – my love.