Thou Master of Mischief
"But if I invite one, I should have to invite them all."
"No, it's alright to insult the lot," said Círdan. "You already have."
Thingol shook his silver head. "How impoverished would my mind be without your advice!"
They lounged on cushions in a small but airy chamber, Thingol beside Melian and across from Círdan. The lord of the Falas sat crossed-legged, slurping tea, a habit he'd adopted from the dwarves and one he'd failed to convert Thingol to. A steaming pot sat beside him on a low table. At the king's elbow, though, sat a beaker of matured wine.
Thingol tapped his glass, fast growing a headache at the notion of entertaining foreign guests. He jerked to another topic. "You attended their feast last spring. Yet never do you act with a single purpose. So tell me, why?"
"To observe, of course," Círdan said. "You know, playing the friend rather than the inhospitable tyrant gives much more in return."
"Ah, so it wasn't only to frolic on the lawn?"
"Nay, I studied each of them, their habits, their tempers, their failings. Are my poor recollections any interest to you?"
"I'd value them. Mablung and Daeron have given me of their observations. But Mablung lacks imagination and Daeron possesses it overmuch."
Círdan refolded his legs. "Very well! I'll try to find the Boring Mean. The Mereth Aderthad was the first opportunity I had to see so many of the Noldor princes in one place. Too good to resist, for 'in wine lies the truth' – a wise saying. And the landscape also aided in the loosening of tongues. Sweet and cool were the pools of Ivrin. On the shores we traded gifts and danced – ach, such dancing! Too much for me. Still I am dizzy. The people of Ossiriand declined most the food, but they made up for it in singing-"
"But about the princes?" Thingol gently prodded.
Círdan took a long sip and held his cup to his knee. "Liars, all of them."
Thingol raised an eyebrow. "I did not see deceit in Angrod son of Finarfin when he spoke with me."
"I amend that to valiant liars. They've integrity and daring enough. The better term is, they are excluding a chunk of the truth." He met eyes with Melian. "Am I far off the mark, my lady?"
Melian held up a hand. "I will not prejudice you with my beliefs."
Círdan dipped his eyes and continued, "Their whole bearing seems without substance. They are messengers without messages. Envoys of masters they speak nothing of. True, most the talk was the garble of merrymaking, and if not, on forging leagues. I thought better than to press them with too many questions just yet. Save one. I said Olwë is my dear and very near kin, and surely he would send a greeting. But no! There's not a word from Olwë or Finwë…"
"I also thought that strange," Thingol said quietly.
"But there may be explanations. Perhaps they simply forgot. Or they reason their rustic relations are not worthy of contact. Or they believe us all to be dead. Or the Noldor left in such haste they had no time to inquire for a message…"
The king sighed. "Your explanations are worse than the problem."
"Perhaps." Círdan nodded. "Did your two lackeys speak of the sons of Fëanor?"
"Daeron did not in great detail."
"Naturally. Maglor beat him in harping as the favorite." Círdan quivered at the memory. "No, I trust those brothers least of all. The eldest, Maedhros, is civil enough… Maglor too… but in them something lacks. Eyes they will not long meet –not mine at least. The five younger brothers I've yet to see, but it's common knowledge that their brows are much swollen and Maedhros keeps them separated from their cousins to keep the peace."
"Then Fingolfin himself. He reminds me of Finwë, and his sons Fingon and Turgon stand like him. Once their minds settle on something, they cannot be pried off. Fingolfin has a daughter too. Hard to control. Hunts with her kinsman, the sons of Fëanor. I understand she was too occupied with her horses to attend."
"Angrod brought a few as a token. Attractive animals. Although I still prefer to walk."
"Say that not too loud. The Noldor are much enamored with their beasts. Where was I… Yes, Fingolfin… Fingolfin's brother Finarfin, the one who wedded Eärwen the daughter of our Olwë, came not out of the West, though their five children have. Angrod you know. He and Aegnor follow Fingon's lead in all matters, so look to Fingon first as a gauge. Orodreth cannot stomach a quarrel. Another helpful gauge: Finrod aligns himself with Turgon, and Turgon with him. Of all the princes, I judge Finrod the most honest."
"Mablung too thought well of him."
"Yes, and doubtless Mablung told you of my oaths – cringe not! Alliances with a few strong swords cannot be bad and I owe them the health of the Falas anyway. I have sworn friendship to Finrod and the brothers Turgon and Fingon. Finrod, an optimistic soul, has looked at my unfortunate city and deems he can fix it." Círdan paused a moment. "I'd say the Noldor breed has three common traits: happy in battle, keen for exploration, and mindful of no logic but their own. Much like you, Elwë."
A cushion flew at Círdan's face and thumped harmlessly off his raised arm.
"So you believe," Thingol leaned forward, his voice cynical. "They have a secret of some importance?"
"I do. And I mean to find it out."
Thingol gave him a cunning smile. "With your web of spies, I suppose."
"My lord, you credit me with too much."
"I know. You have but to put your ear to the puddle and you hear the gossip of a thousand leagues off."
"And anyone could if they just knew how to listen. Think not that I haven't tried! The waters are silent these days. I can learn little of far places. It's as though the waters have all been bewildered. Or told to keep quiet. It's been a bother. To find out anything anymore I must go in my own person."
Melian shook her head. "It's not you only, Nowë . Also in my thoughts hangs a mist, obscuring the Noldor's errand and their origin.
"That lightens my heart. I thought it was age." Círdan took a deep breath and set his cup on the little table. "I won't say that is a good omen. I am now made the more curious what these princes have been up to."
He went silent and drummed his arm while his thoughts sprung from this to that.
Then the chamber opened and she entered, a vision of purity and loveliness. Her twilight hair, cascading behind her, captured the lamp-light and reflected it back infinitely times more brilliant. Under the dark curls, her skin shone pure as a first snow. Her light tread paused in the doorway, then sparked into a run.
"Uncle Fasse! Why didn't you tell me you were here?"
Lúthien pecked his cheek and plopped down beside him.
"Where's my gift?"
Círdan rummaged in his pocket, watching her warily, and then raised a clenched fist over his head. "Why would I bring you a gift, thou withered nightingale?"
Lúthien reached high as she could without coming off her knees. "Salty seagull!"
Círdan stretched his shoulder to its limit. "Oily toad!"
With that, Lúthien grabbed hold of his fist. He unlocked his fingers, his palm quite empty.
"Here, you little wretch." Círdan's free hand plucked a pearl bracelet from his sleeve.
He tossed it and it fell clinking into Lúthien's hand. She examined the tiny pearls as she slipped them onto her slim wrist. "I am glad I'm not spoilt."
She turned and shined her smile on him. "Thank you, Uncle Fasse."
She took up a cup and poured herself tea.
"Don't drink that stuff, my sweet, you'll grow hairs on your chin," said Thingol.
"I'd like that!" Lúthien took a loud sip.
"Lord Círdan here has just proposed to spy on the Noldor princes," said Melian.
"My lady reads the thoughts of many hearts," Círdan said gravely.
Lúthien clasped her hands around her cup. "How fun! You could disguise yourself. Trim those face hairs and claim to be a minstrel!"
"A minstrel?" Cirdan said slowly, rubbing his furry chin.
Her voice became solemn. "Today Daeron submitted to me his new masterwork – his own words – an hour-long rhyme about the sun and moon, so minstrels prance in my every thought."
"All my best ideas come from you, my songbird." He tweaked her nose.
Lúthien gave a pinch in return. Her fathomless eyes shined even while her face kept on a mask of sobriety. Melian smiled openly.
Only Thingol looked upon Círdan grimly. "You are not serious."
His comment went ignored.
"There is something to this idea." Círdan rolled his cup in his palms. "And, excuse my breach in humility." – Thingol snorted. – "I am a rather competent singer of ditties."
"All my best songs come from you, Uncle Fasse," said Lúthien.
"I know, songbird. Well!" Círdan dared Thingol with a glance. " I cannot abide an unanswered question. I'll tell you everything of course."
"How Nowë loves his games," said Melian.
"Master of mischief. I could renounce you as my kin," the king warned.
Thingol played his last card. "Would you willingly cut off that thing?"
Círdan proudly stroked the silver tassel. "It grows back."
"Whatever its place in your schemes, its removal would be an improvement to your appearance."
The lord of the Falas sniffed. "As your wife has often related, and will concur for me again, beards are all the rage among the Maiar, and not excepting the Valar, you and I both as witnesses. So I don't know what you have against it."
He sounded most grievously hurt. Lúthien clutched his arm and pouted at her father.
"You two, always overruling my counsel." Thingol threw up his hands.
Melian waited for a discreet time to lapse and said, "Have you any more to your commentary on the children of Eärwen? I counted but four of the five."
Círdan rapidly forgot his wound. "Oh yes, also present was their sister, Artanis." He brought his cup to his lips and finding it empty, set it back down. "Tall. Yellow head. She is one lady I would not insult. You would get along." He moved his eyes between Melian and her daughter.
"I would like to get to know our kinsman from the West," said Lúthien. "Please Father, you will allow them at least to visit us?"
Círdan chimed in. "You could invite the children of Eärwen, and them only. That would look right."
They waited, Lúthien confident because her father had never denied her a whim. Melian too, who always knew what her husband would say before he himself knew it.
And Thingol stirred, much aware of the three pairs of eyes on him. "They may come, if they will. But only for the sake of my brother Olwë. And because Nowë deems them worthy of his interest. Though I see little good to be gained from these princes from the West-"
"That's fine. You won't have some tea now, will you?"
"Good!" Círdan emptied the pot into his cup.
Fasse, meaning "tangled hair or shaggy lock" from "The Etymologies," The Lost Road.
Nowë being Círdan's prehistoric name from "Last Writings," The Peoples of Middle-earth.
And Artanis being Galadriel's father-name in "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn," Unfinished Tales.