Bore yourself with elvish menus in this short piece, written more as an exploration of what Elves eat than anything serious.
Summary: A small insert into the series One Ring to Bind Them, in which Celeborn raises taxes, Elves eat food, Celeborn meets Annatar for the first time and realizes something important, and we find out what Annatar thinks about food.
Disclaimer: These characters and Middle-Earth are the copyright of the Tolkien estate and this fan fiction is not meant to infringe on that copyright in any way.
Story Warnings: There is one moment of slash towards the end, rated PG. And you may be hungry afterwards.
Before our story begins, as noted in Unfinished Tales, Celeborn and Galadriel are the rulers of Eregion in the Second Age, a center of elvish culture, and Celebrimbor is the lord of the Jewel-Smiths, the Gwaith-i-Mírdain. Annatar (really evil Sauron in disguise) has come to Eregion in the past few months and joined the Mírdain. And it is noon, time for the main meal of the day.
Celeborn was relieved at Celebrimbor's response when he, as the Lord of Eregion, contacted the Mírdain about increasing their tithes. Celebrimbor invited him to the jewel-smiths' daymeal the following noontide, and said they would resolve the matter after they broke bread together.
Celeborn decided to advance his own cause by bringing along his daughter, Celebrían. Celebrimbor was a fool for spoiling the little girl, and having her to make much of would be a useful distraction. Celeborn could scarcely bear to be parted from the tiny lass himself in the short years of her childhood - it seemed like only yesterday she had been a babe in arms, and soon she would be learning to read. With her going through a phase of being mad about horses, she would delight in the farrier's yard at the Mírdain's hall.
When he arrived, the Lord of Eregion exchanged a courteous greeting with the Lord of the Mírdain. The brittle energy between the elf-man who had won Galadriel's hand and her yearning, spurned suitor was softened by the way Galadriel's daughter jumped with delight to see Celebrimbor. After the child's chatter was settled, Celebrimbor could not resist showing Celeborn the latest works on display. Celeborn was so absorbed in calculating their worth and the time put into them that Celebrían took the opportunity to wander away. When her father looked around for her, he saw her being shooed out of one of the jeweler's studios near the Mírdain's foyer. She was munching a wide slab of toast smeared in honey.
"Where did you get that?" he asked.
"A nice person," Celebrían said, happily. "He was in one of the rooms where they make things toasting toast and I came in and he said I should go away because the fire was too hot but he gave me toast. Papa, it was the fastest toast ever! He said it was because--"
Celeborn frowned. Now the child would sit and fuss at table, and not want the Mírdain's meat, and Celebrimbor might take offense at it. "I suppose that will be your daymeal, then. Come along." It never occurred to him to tell the child to throw the toast away; such a waste of sacred bread was unheard of. Nor did he think to scold her for accepting it. They had taught her to always be pleased and thankful for what she was given, even if another child handed her a flower, and what child would refuse a honeyed treat?
To his further irritation, Celebrimbor next led the way not to a private salon, but out across the farriers' yard, towards the common cook-house and the eating hall beside it. "We Mírdain do not set one above another; I always eat thus," Celebrimbor noted, adding, "It is thriftier of both food and fuel thereby."
Celeborn, determined not to be provoked, patted his daughter's silver head and said, "Go tell your uncle about the fellow who gave you toast." She skipped ahead and told her story. Celebrimbor only laughed and laughed, and hoisted her up onto his shoulders.
Celebrimbor did not even go to a table aside in the eating hall, but joined the queue around the long table where food was set out. Glancing around the hall, Celeborn drew a deep breath when he saw dwarves seated at several tables, mingling freely with the Mírdain, and went ahead of his daughter and her indulgent kinsman in the line, determined to seat their party far from any Naugrim. "The plates are all different! How pretty!" Celebrían cried. So too were the utensils, spoons of many shapes, forks (everyone carried their own meat-knives), and strange picks and tongs for specialties. They were held up for several minutes while Celebrimbor indulged the child by showing her every plate for her to choose. Her choice was one with a design of a twining tree, and Celeborn smiled. Celebrían was his scion, no matter how the smiths' toys glittered, he thought.
There were several kinds of bread, the traditional fair white loaves set beside heavy, honeyed rye and a seeded flat-bread. Both of the latter kept long and were often traded to the Naugrim. Arranged alongside for the taking were butter, salty white cheese, a great dish of barley and onions with herbs, and a salad of greens and blooms. At the very end of the table was an indulgence. A tin tub of writhing fish were set there, drawn from the Mírdain's wheel-turning stream, and a cook as smug as any gold-smith was ready to sear the blue trout over a brazier. In typical Mírdain fashion, he made a spectacle of it.
Even as he made sure his little daughter did not go too close to the brazier, Celeborn grudgingly had to admit that they set a good table with little fuss. The fish and herbs were garnered from the land behind the Mírdain's house, and the bread and cheese and pottage were Eregion's own produce. They might have spent more for a hunter's game or a spitted deer or lamb to roast. There were not the goods imported from Lindon, dried fish and eels and sea-plants, smoked sea-birds, strange sauces based on fish or clams, fruit preserves, and red wines. Nor were there the trade-goods that Men brought from the South, spices, strange grains, dried apricots and plums, most precious of all oranges and citrons. It was all civilized food, though; no bulrush-roots, acorns, raw fish, or squirrels or coneys, as wood-elves ate, no tree leaf-buds or sweet tree gum (this last, considered very vulgar, was a secret vice of Celeborn's).
As Celeborn hustled them to a dwarf-free table, he noted a few mortal traders talking with some of the Mírdain, all of them eating with gusto. One of the mortals was saying, "No, Master Smith, you don't understand, this is the most delicious…" It was not the first time Celeborn had heard mortals effuse over plain elvish food. Having eaten some mortals' food in the War of the Jewels, he had great respect for the folk who fought so valiantly on poor, half-rancid rations, and bowed slightly in greeting when they looked his way.
Once they were seated with their plates, there was a touch of service as someone brought them sharp yellow wine. The blue trout of the highland streams consoled Celeborn greatly for the irritations of the Mírdain's hall. Celebrían, placed between the elf-lords so that they would not have a political conversation surrounded by half the smiths, chattered, bounced, and ignored her plate. "Why was the nice person making toast?"
"Not everybody comes to the daymeal, pet," Celebrimbor explained. "If they are hard at work, or not of a mind for company, they get something from our steward in the morning and are not seen all day. Some people work the night through if they are inspired, and then they want to eat at a strange hour. And some people like their own food best, so they set a pot to simmer alongside their furnace, or over their forge, as they work."
Celebrían nibbled a flower petal from her bit of salad. "What do they make?"
"Usually a pottage, or stewed meat, or soup. One of the fellows has had a soup going for six months; he says it gets better as time goes on. It's got everything in it except diamonds at this point. I think they added a mithril ring at one point, to see if it made it taste better than a gold ring did." As the little girl giggled, the two elf-men's eyes met over her head, Celeborn cool and knowing, a stubborn glint in Celebrimbor's glance.
It was not long after that when Celeborn agreed to have his daughter entrusted to two farriers. As the child was taken in one direction to be amused watching the horses, the elf-lords went to the oak table in Celebrimbor's study for their negotiations. As if to honey the discussion, Celebrimbor poured out hazelnut liqueur and opened a box of sweetmeats for them. The dainties were a contrast to the Mírdain's plain fare; squares of crushed walnut mixed with honey; tiny, dry aniseed biscuits; diamond shapes of dried pear gelee; marzipan adorned with silver leaf; and balls of honey nougat dusted with spices and sparkling flakes of gold. The pair sipped, and picked, and managed to disagree amicably. By the time the aniseed biscuits were gone, they had worked out a compromise neither of them were happy with, but that would get what was needsome done. Celebrimbor refilled the tiny crystal glasses after they finalized the agreement with words of honour.
Before they could drink, someone knocked at the door, a patterned knock. Celebrimbor put his glass down with a broad smile. "Ah. He always knows the best moment for this sort of thing. There is a guest amongst us of rare kind, a Maia of Aüle, and it is meet that I introduce you." The door, which had been locked, drifted open without a touch. When Celeborn saw the stunning being that stood in the hall, he believed the lord of the Mírdain, and knew that he looked upon the rumoured Annatar.
The gold-haired, tawny-skinned Maia made an obeisance when introduced, bowing deeply, as the Sindar did, and speaking with a soft, sibilant voice that was more like the Sindar's accents than many in Eregion. Obscurely pleased by this, Celeborn was guarded nonetheless, Gil-Galad's message against Annatar fresh in his mind.
"I missed you at the daymeal," said Celebrimbor to Annatar.
Annatar touched Celebrimbor's shoulder with a light caress. "I am not fond of eating. The bread of the Mírdain suffices me." He looked Celebrimbor over from head to toe and smiled. "Though the meat of the Mírdain is also fair."
Celeborn was wise enough to recognize a lover's meeting, even when the signs were subtle. He averted his eyes, scrutinizing the box of sweetmeats instead. He would have been disturbed if the male Maia flirted with an officer of Ost-in-Edhil, but he did not hold the Mírdain to very high standards in manners of morals, as long as they were tolerably discreet. This affair shed new light on Celebrimbor's ease and willingness to bargain that day. And it was a wave of relief that his wife's former suitor now desired another.
The tension was broken by Celebrían's return from the farrier's yard. The child, now thoroughly overexcited, said a rote an-honor-to-meet-you-my-lord to Annatar and then shrilled, "I rode, I rode a horse! A horse not a pony! And I had apples and chestnuts." Annatar crossed his arms and stepped back against the wall as the child hopped about, his beautiful face an impassive mask.
"That's lovely, pet," said Celebrimbor, turning to alarmed Celeborn to add, "I'm sure it was quite safe."
Celebrían said, "I love horses more than anything. And there's a horse that's all splotches and spots in black and white and they let me ride her. Can I come back and ride her again?"
The elf-lords both glanced at Annatar, Celebrimbor seeing that the child irritated the being who was his lover, Celeborn remembering again the warning of Gil-Galad. Neither of them answered the child's question.
Celeborn stood and placed a hand on his daughter's shoulder. "Celebri has given us enough of his time today, my dear." He took a pear sweetmeat and handed it to the girl - if she would have any appetite left for supper, he was an orc - and then began their formal farewell.
Story and Writing Notes:
Really bad story-telling technique here! Usually, for example, I'd just say "As if to honey the discussion, Celebrimbor poured out hazelnut liqueur and set out a box of sweetmeats" and not go into the details of what the sweetmeats were.
Acorns - Humans need to soak acorns to get rid of the tannins before they are eaten. Maybe Elves didn't have to do this.
Tree leaf-buds or sweet tree gum - Again, a "maybe elves could eat this" with the leaf-buds, and the tree gum Celeborn sometimes chews on the sly was the congealed sap of pines, spruces, or birches. Elves probably used birch syrup, made like maple syrup is, from boiled tree sap - it might even have been a major trade item for wood elves. I just couldn't work it in here anywhere.
Feedback or comments on this story are welcome - email Tyellas here.
Please do not reproduce or repost this story without permission from the author. First posted August 5th, 2002.
For more stories with these characters, see the series One Ring to Bind Them - but read the warningse