When Stars Align by Zhie
Summary: Coming of age story in Valinor. Features Fėanįro, at age forty-five, and his companions, Eresse, Amarie, Mahtan, and Enedrion.
Categories: Stories of Arda > Bunniverse (PPB-AU) > Pre-First Age Characters: Amarie, Erestor, Feanor, Mahtan
Awards: None
Challenge: None
Genre: Dramatic, Romantic
Special Collection: Tween Tales
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 4 Completed: No Word count: 10550 Read: 26440 Published: April 29 2014 Updated: May 01 2014
Story Notes:

1. Chapter 1 by Zhie

2. Chapter 2 by Zhie

3. Chapter 3 by Zhie

4. Chapter 4 by Zhie

Chapter 1 by Zhie
“I have an idea.”

Eressė looked up without moving his head. His fingers continued to dance across the strings, his bow effortlessly drawn down, then pushed back up again with such smooth, resigned movement. Amariė did not even look, her concentration upon the notes she was pulling from the bass viol, while Mahtan played with sharp, staccato on his cello.

"I said--"

"We heard you." Amariė's words were drawn together quickly as if they were one, fitting between two beats. She said nothing when there was a sigh, and when a foot kicked something across the room, she did not look up to see what it was.

Mahtan barely blinked at the sound of someone practically throwing their own body into one of the chairs. Eressė only frowned when he heard said chair scrape the wooden floorboards. He began to half sing, half speak the words to accompany the song he and his musically inclined companions were playing.

Sitting several feet away, the fourth in the group was in a seated sprawl, one leg lifted up over the arm of the chair, his back rested on the other arm. He lifted his hands and began to motion them as if he was conducting, and then, uninvited, he opened his mouth, singing over Eressė, causing the fiddler to focus upon his instrument. Where Eressė's voice was polished from years of practice and parents with little patience for error, the Elf who sang now was less refined. His voice may not have flowed as prettily as a gently flowing stream, but it impacted like crashing waves on the shore, and caused the other musicians to play louder and more passionately. At times he whispered, and then nearly screamed the words, but still one could tell from technique that he was not unlearned, only that he was one prone to taking risks.

He slid from the chair, weaving his way around the trio, sliding his fingers down the bow of the violin as he passed by Eressė, whose pace had quickened, the notes darkening as the singer's voice dipped deeper to bass. The bassist had given up her bow, ripping notes from the strings, palm slapping their attempts to vibrate longer than she wanted them to. Mahtan stayed consistent, offering the harmony as a hand rested a moment on his shoulder, then slid away. The singer swayed around behind the chair that Mahtan was sitting on, and lifted his arms into the air, adding movement to the music.

Fingers snapped, the noise lost amid the slapping of Amariė's hand on the neck of her viol. Feet did not glide as those of so many of the Eldar did; his *moved*, knees, legs, and all. There was no mistaking his dance for mere movement to or fro. His hair, unbound and wild, added a dimension to this private performance.

He spun, leapt, nearly worked himsef to a frenzy, but not once did he distract his companions. Their performance was perfect, almost too perfect, but they, too, were full of youth, so new to life for those so long lived. They may have played every correct note, but they played it with the excitement that ran the risk of becoming boredom in years to come.

But not yet. Not quite yet. For today, they were still innocent. They were still free.

The song ended, but Amariė kept playing, offering a continuation or the beginning of something else. Eressė had lowered his fiddle already, but he listened, and then played along, matching the bass notes with lively pizzicato off the beat as Mahtan clapped along.

Their vocalist turned on his heel, abruptly bringing himself to a stop. He repeated the last few lines of the song, voice slowing, drawling, certain of the words, uncertain of technique, uncaring of either. He wove around unseen obstacles, back to his companions, snaking around them as well, stopping them with a triumphant thrust of his fist into the air as he shouted out something sharply and only half intelligible.

He looked back down, first to the floor, then to his companions. "I have an idea," he repeated.

"You always have an idea," stated Amariė.

"Sometimes several," added Mahtan.

They both looked at Eressė to confirm this. He opened his mouth, then closed it and shrugged. "Some of them are good."

"Thank you!" But the reply was premature.

"Some of them are utter crap."

He was met with an icy glare. "I thought we were friends."

"Where have you been the last forty years?"

Once again, there was a sigh, a self-imposed shove into a chair, and then, "Fine. I will just keep it to myself, then," he muttered.

Eressė lifted his violin back under his chin and started to play a solo, though it was doubtful it was anything he had practiced or even heard before. He had a knack for knowing how a song should sound, if what he played were even songs at all. So often they seemed like thoughts put to music, the notes flowing one into another, like a stream of consciousness. Sometimes, Amariė swore she could 'see the color' of what he played, but the other two disagreed, and since Eressė always played with his eyes closed, he would only shrug.

"No one? Nobody wants to know?"

Amariė heaved a sigh, and Mahtan shook his head. Eressė was lost in his music, swaying, conducting himself with his entire being. "It is.. golden-orangey right now," she said softly, watching Eressė's aura. "It happens to be that color a lot," she added.

"Probably just the firelight," came the disgruntled voice. He still sat in the chair, but he pushed his feet forward while they were flat on the floor, causing the chair to shove back, scraping the floor. After doing this a half dozen times, he added, "You know, when he plays medium like this, it is gold. When he plays slow, you say it is blue. I bet he cannot play fast. Bet you cannot play red, Eressė."

Without pause, Eressė started to saw at the strings, playing up and down scales a few times. He switched to plucking a few notes from the strings, thinking of his next move as he stepped closer and closer to the chair, which was vacated.

The bow came back up, and Eressė drew it down, the thought fully formed in his mind. He started at the pace he had played earlier, but soon the notes were tumbling, scattering around the room as he drew something so fast, so furious from the strings, all the while coming closer and closer to his naysayer, who stood his ground and tapped his foot in time to the beat.

When they were standing face to face, Eressė poured every ounce of energy he had into his music, notes spilling from the fiddle. He made his point, crescendoed, and abruptly stopped.

Amariė opened her eyes suddenly. "Oh!" She looked embarrassed. "Sorry.. I had my eyes closed." She bit her lip, and someone knocked sharply on the door.

It was always Eressė who answered it. Mahtan was still seated, but the other two peeked round the tallest of the group, one on either side, so that when the door was opened, the ellon on the other side looked confused and bowed his head with a tip of his hat. "Pardon," he said, sounding confused. "I believe I have the wrong house. I did not mean to wake the entire household, sir."

The trio remained at the door, and when they did not return in a moment, Mahtan joined them. The stranger was midway back down the path that lead to the three room cottage where the quartet was currently living. 'Finding themselves,' as Finwe put it to anyone who asked just what his son was doing with his three companions. Seemingly knowing he was being scrutinized, the ellon looked over his shoulder, startled to see another set of eyes upon him. He began to hurry down the path, but then turned around once more. "Sorry to bother you at this hour," he called out, "but would any of you know the way to the house of Curufinwė?"

"No," shouted said Elf back.

"Oh." The ellon frowned.

"But you may speak to me as Fėanįro," shouted Curufinwė before he disappered into the cottage and out of the stranger's sight.

The door remained open, the stranger on the path. Soon, both Amariė and Mahtan turned away to see where Fėanįro had gone, and for what purpose. Only Eressė remained, and he clarrified. "That is Curufinwė, though I advise you do as he suggests."

The stranger returned up the path. "Ah! Then I have found the correct house." He paused, no doubt noticing the crude construction. "Charming," he said.

Eressė blocked the stranger's path. "I also advise you not to offer idle compliments, especially those you do not sincerely mean. Fėanįro prefers honesty to pity."

"And you are..?"

Bow in one hand, Eressė now retrieved the fiddle from where it had been held oh so gently under an arm so that his hands were too full to extend in friendship. "Curious. You have yet to offer your name."

"Rśmil." The ellon bowed. "And your name..?"

Eressė was still planted in the doorway, and showed no sign that he was going to move. "You also neglected to offer your purpose."

Rśmil tilted his head. "How old are you?"

A muscle in Eressė's jaw twitched. "Old enough to know you are trying to sidetrack me."

"Mmm. Young enough to tell me you know what I am trying to do. Smug. Confident. I approve of those qualities." Rśmil opened a small pouch he had with him. From within, he drew out four envelopes. One was embossed with the name Curufinwė; the others were plain. "Are there any more of you in there?"

"Just four," said Eressė.

"One for each, then." Rśmil held them out. "Please, take them. And my regards to Fėanįro."

Eressė tucked the violin under an arm again, cautiously taking the letters.

Rśmil nodded. "That will explain my purpose for visiting. I shall not keep you longer. Good day." He flicked the brim of his hat to tip it, and then turned to walk away.

Eressė looked at the envelopes in his hands, turning them over once each before he stepped back inside and kicked the door closed.

“Good job.” Fėanįro was at a counter pouring glasses of brandy when Eressė returned. “I was not feeling particularly social at the moment. Did you tell him to come back in the morrow?”

Eressė shook his head. Instead, he held out one of the plain envelopes to Fėanįro, doing the same to Amariė and Mahtan when they approached. He tucked the last into his vest as the other three tore open their letters with varying degrees of destruction. It was Fėanįro, of course, who made the production out of reading the summons aloud.

“You are hereby invited to audition for the Sarati School of Valimar, premiere educational something something excellence something something…” He sighed dramatically, skimming, then spoke once more. “…for those whose talents in music, art, literature, craft, alchemy and invention are far superior, in order to foster a creative learning atmosphere and work side by side with other bright minds. If you so choose to partake in this honor, be present on the first day of autumn at the open auditions. Be advised that special consideration has been made for individuals with an expectation to succeed, and that there may be no openings at the time of the auditions. You are welcome to share this information with anyone between the ages of thirty-four and eighty-eight. Signed, Rśmil, Headmaster, Sarati School.”

“Sound like a scam,” said Mahtan.

Eressė, who had been putting his fiddle away in the case, looked up. “How so?” he prodded as he loosened the bow before sliding it into the case as well.

Mahtan shrugged. “He said he was Rśmil. You do not really think the Headmaster would come all this way out to give us invitations.”

“He only wanted to talk to Fėanįro,” Eressė reminded the others. “It is not so unlikely that a Headmaster would want to speak directly to a pr--“

“Do not say it,” warned Fėanįro.

Eressė pursed his lips, thought a moment. “To a prrrrospective student—“

Fėanįro nodded. “Very good…”

“—whoooo… is a prince.”

Fėanįro closed his eyes, and bowed his head slightly. “And… the moment is gone,” he said with a groan.
Chapter 2 by Zhie
Fėanįro did not expect to find Eressė awake in the parlor when he emerged from the larger of the two bedrooms. When the cabin was built, one smaller bedchamber was constructed for Amariė, and the other three occupants shared the second bedroom. It was larger, and contained two beds on the ground level, and a third loft area. It was more of a crawlspace, really, but Eressė had liked the idea of sleeping well off the floor where snakes and rodents were less inclined to go. It did mean hearing the rain beating down loudly just inches away from him when there was a storm, but he claimed to like the rain. Thus, with his hidden sleeping arrangements, there was no way for Fėanįro to know whether or not he had still been awake. The younger elf joined his companion on the sofa, his back against the elder’s shoulder. “What are you thinking about?”

Eressė turned his head just slightly, nose tickled by the wild strands of black hair. “What makes you think I was thinking?” He could see that Fėanįro had been crying, and he did not need ask why. They had known each other for many years, and it had been Eressė, not Finwė, that the young prince had run to the day he realized his mother would never return. Instead, Eressė placed a comforting arm around him with his hand resting over Fėanįro’s heart.

“I suppose you could be not-thinking,” he conceded, “but every moment I am awake, I am always thinking. I just assumed you were thinking.” Fėanįro wiped at the corners of his eyes. “You want me to go away?”

“No.” Eressė, who was still dressed from the previous evening, produced the envelope he had hidden in his vest. “Here. This is yours.”

Fėanįro sat up straight, stretching with his chest forward until something made a cracking noise. He moved his neck one way, then the other, and when he was satisfied that he was limber enough for it, took the letter and studied it. “So why did you—oh,” he said, noticing the version of his name on the envelope. “Well, fuck that,” he said, drawing back his arm to fling it into the fireplace.

His wrist was caught by Eressė, and the invitation tumbled to the floor. “You should at least open it,” he suggested.

“You open it.” Fėanįro picked it up from the ground and handed it to Eressė. “Come on,” he insisted, shaking the envelope.

“They sent it to you,” argued Eressė, though he kept his voice down so that they would not awaken the others. “Are you not the least bit curious?”

“Me? No.” Fėanįro looked at the envelope for a moment, then made a growly sort of noise and tore it open. This envelope was thicker than the others, and contained several sheets of paper, including a private audition time, information on lodgings, and a detailed list of what was expected. “Should have burned it,” decided Fėanįro after he finished reading and passed the information on to Eressė.

“Amariė was thinking that she might audition,” said Eressė as he skimmed through the documents. “Mahtan told her if she did, he would try, too.”

“Figures. We finally get this place all set up, and now they get bored of it.” Fėanįro picked up the envelope, smashed it into a ball, and threw it into the fire, where it never fully ignited, but instead popped and twisted until it was little more than a bit of soot.

Eressė handed the pages back to Fėanįro. “Just because they audition does not mean they will be offered a spot at the school.”

Fėanįro read over the papers again. “I suppose... we could go with them. For support.”

“Aye.”

“Of course, it only makes sense for us to audition then as well,” he added.

Eressė nodded slowly. “If you think so. Maybe we should see about some long-term lodgings. Your audition would be a full six weeks prior to the open auditions.”

“Oh, no,” corrected Fėanįro. “If I do this, it is not Curufinwė who is coming to audition. It is Fėanįro, and he will ignore special opportunities. If I get into this school, it will be on my merit, not my name.”

“In that case, would you like me to see if I can gather any information about the school so that we know what we are getting into? I would suspect there is something about it at the library where my mother works,” offered Eressė.

“Good idea,” answered Fėanįro, though he now seemed lost in some private thoughts of his own.

---

It had been a few years since Eressė had been a regular patron of the library in Alqualondė. He once knew the aisles well, but now some things looked out of place. He wandered the maze of shelves, then finally approached one of the reference librarians. “Excuse me, would you be able to help me find something?” he asked timidly, not wanting to interrupt her work.

The elleth glanced up from her work for a moment with a smile. “Well, good morning, Tatannin. How have you been?”

“Oh... fine, thank you.” He shoved his hands in his pockets as he recognized the lady as a neighbor of his parents, but could not recall her name. “How are you?”

“I am well, thank you. What can I help you with?”

“I was wondering if you had any information on the Sarati School.” He felt the envelope in his pocket, and withdrew it. Fėanįro had given him the plain envelope and contents to bring with him on his fact finding mission, and Erestor unfolded the letter for the librarian to look at.

She took hold of the documents and looked them over. “You should talk to my son about this. He tried to get into the school a few years ago.”

“Oh?” Eressė tried to remember the name of the unknown elleth’s son, but that, too, was escaping him. “Where might I find him?”

“Eneuron is working on the second floor,” said the lady, handing back the pages she had looked at. “For the most part, he gives lectures, but I do not think he had any today. You should be able to find him on the balcony, writing poetry.”

Eressė tucked away the letter again and bowed. “Thank you.”

“You are welcome. Say hello to your mother for me,” said the elleth as Eressė bowed again, and then walked to the stairway that wound upwards to the second floor.

---

Meanwhile, Fėanįro had his own personal mission. He, too, was in a library, but this library was full of personal memoirs, scrolls containing family genealogical charts, and legal documents of various types. There were also maps, and bundled stacks of leaves with pictures drawn on them, and stones kept in boxes with the same. During the journey, no scrolls existed, nor was there a formal written language, and so these mementos were the documentation of the path taken by the Noldor, and were guarded carefully by Finwė.

All of it was meticulously organized, a project that had been jointly undertaken by Finwė, Tatiė, and Rśmil. Few ever came into the room, though it was known that all were welcome in the home of he whom the Noldor called King.

At present, the King’s primary duty was listening to his son. Fėanįro waited patiently as his father tidied the oaken desk so that the only items upon it were three separate quills, one made for him by each of his children, and a covered ornate container that was shaped like a duck and contained ink.

“It is always a delight to have you visit,” said Finwė fondly. Though he would never say so publicly, it was Fėanįro who was his favorite. He may have loved Indis, but the match to his soul was Mķriel, whom his thoughts still lingered upon. Fėanįro always brought back memories of a life that might have been, of a time of innocence lost, but not all of these memories saddened Finwė.

Fėanįro, however, was not very fond of Indis. Whether he tried to like her or not was a question unasked, although those closest to him would assume that any positive feelings he had towards her turned to hate upon hearing that his nanny was to become his father’s new wife. Even now, as she passed the doorway and waved to him, he glared past her and ignored the gesture. “Father, I wish to seek your opinion.”

Finwė nodded. “As always, I shall advise you in whatever ways I can.” He leaned across the desk a little, hands folded. “What troubles you?”

“Not a trouble, per se. I have been approached by Lord Rśmil, of the Sarati School.” Fėanįro produced the invitation he had been especially given. “I wish to know whether you believe this is a good use of my time.”

Finwė smiled and opened a drawer of his desk. “It is interesting that Lord Rśmil should approach you. He made a stop here just a few days ago.”

Fėanįro raised a brow as Finwė brought out an envelope very similar to the one that had been delivered to him. This one, however, had a different name embossed upon it, and Fėanįro narrowed his eyes and shook his head. “No.” He shook his head again, and then snatched back his own invitation. “How? Nolofinwė is too young!”

“He will turn thirty-four during the auditions. Rśmil has even given him special consideration,” said Finwė.

Fėanįro continued to shake his head as he stood up. “Then he can go and audition and you can be proud of him instead!” As Fėanįro made his way hastily to the door, Finwė moved abruptly around the desk and stopped him at the door.

“Now, now… I have not yet given him permission to do so,” soothed Finwė. “Perhaps he should wait until he is a little older; I have not decided about him yet.” He placed his hands on Fėanįro’s shoulders and steered him back to the overstuffed chairs near the windows. “Your sister received an invitation as well, but we have already decided that she should wait.”

Fėanįro sat, but did not look very relaxed. “I do not care if Findis is there,” he mumbled, and while he might have cared a little, he was much more concerned with the brother who would displace him. “Nolofinwė and I fight all the time,” he reminded his father. “If I am there, I would need to concentrate on my studies.”

“I do respect that,” assured Finwė, “but I must think of the entire situation before I make my judgements.”

“You could let Findis go this year and you could let Nolofinwė go next time,” suggested Fėanįro.

Finwė nodded. “I have considered that, but we must think of the whole of it. Just because you decide to try out will not guarantee you a position,” Finwė warned. “There are many factors involved.” He paused. “What of your companions?”

“If I audition, they will do the same,” said Fėanįro.

“How will you feel if one of them is accepted, and you are not? What if all three are?” Finwė rubbed the back of Fėanįro’s neck as the youth bowed his head. “I know how much those friendships mean to you. I assume that you all wish to be there together. The question is – how confident are you about it?”

“I hardly know what goes on there,” admitted Fėanįro. “At the same time.. I hate stupid people. I know for a fact my friends are not stupid. We should all easily be able to get into the school.”

Finwė sighed. “There is more to it than intelligence. If you really want to be accepted, I think I can help with that, and with getting your friends in. Realize, however, you are making a long commitment.”

“Twelve years,” said Fėanįro, holding up his special invitation.

A nod came from Finwė as he took the papers and looked them over. “You will be required to work hard, to study, to be inventive, to.. deal with stupid people at times, and to listen to your elders.” He stressed this last point.

Fėanįro shrugged.

“Would you like me to speak with Lord Rśmil? I am sure he could arrange special audition for all of you,” offered Finwė.

“No.” Fėanįro tugged the invitation away again. “I do not want any special consideration at all. In fact, I need a general invitation.”

Finwė looked confused. “You want to make it harder on yourself and your companions?”

“We want to excel. We want them to want us. We do not merely wish to be ‘good enough’.”

“Very well.” Finwė held out his hand, and Fėanįro handed him the papers. “I will obtain what you wish.”

“Thank you, father.” Fėanįro frowned. “And Nolofinwė?”

Finwė studied Fėanįro a little while before he went to the desk to retrieve the invitation which had been sent for his younger son. “When have I ever been able to deny you anything?” asked Finwė, kissing Fėanįro’s brow as he held the invitation out to him.

Fėanįro took the envelope, concealing a smug look as he stood to embrace his father. “Thank you, father. I promise, I shall not disappoint you.”

“I would never expect you to,” confirmed Finwė. “I am already very proud of you.”

Fėanįro stepped back. “I do not mean to leave so quickly, but I would like to return to the others. We will need to ready ourselves for the auditions.”

“Of course. Perhaps you might all come over for dinner in the near future. Once you are engaged in the auditions, and with the school, you will not have the ability to do simple things as easily.”

Usually, Fėanįro would have declined the offer. His distaste of his step-mother and his half-brother kept him away from the house of his father more often than not. However, he did miss his father, even if he would never admit to such a thing. “We could come over tomorrow.”

Finwė’s expression brightened. “I would like that very much.”

---

Erestor waited until Eneuron was alone before he approached him. “So, your mother told me that you once tried to get into the Sarati school.”

Eneuron nodded. “That is correct. Twelve years ago, I believe.” He nodded again. “They have very high standards.” He paused, then said, “You might be able to make it. I was too old at the time.”

“You still fit into the age range, even now,” said Erestor. “Or did those change.”

“No, they are still the same, I believe. They still prefer to have younger students there. It helps the creative flow of ideas, and it keeps them from having those who have too many experiences from being there.”

Erestor mulled this for a moment, then said, “I suppose I do not understand what that would have to do with anything.”

“Someone who is young is still adventurous. They will be more inclined to try things that are unusual. Someone who is older, well, they are older. Set in their ways. Even at our age. But then, you just seem old,” he added. Eneuron shrugged. “I am sorry; I mean that as a compliment.

“I think I understand.” Erestor sighed. “Well, I best explain it all. Three friends and I will be trying to gain entry, but we have decided that we will either all be accepted, or none.”

“That seems like a very high bar you have set. I wish you luck.” Eneuron paused. “You came to me to find out what you need to do to get in.”

Eressė nodded.

“I fear I can only tell you what to do to not get in,” he said as he chuckled and rerolled a scroll. As he was carefully tying the strings to keep it from unfurling, he added, “I know some things, just not everything. If I knew everything, I would be in Tirion right now.”

“I hate to be a bother, but do you think you would have time to stop by the cottage? Just to give us some idea of what to expect?” Eressė bit his lip and gave a pleading look. While he knew that Fėanįro would not use his position to his advantage, Eressė used what little clout he had as the son of Alqualondė’s chief librarian and the first awakened Noldo turned abstract philosopher to gain whatever favor he could.

Eneuron’s parents had been supporters of Tata and Tatiė since the Awakening. “I suppose I could. As far as I know there is nothing against the rules about that. When do you want me to stop by?”

Eressė smiled. “I was just about to head back there now. If you would like, I can show you how to get there,” he offered.

“Is that the cottage on the road to Tirion?” asked Eneuron. “Because I think I know where it is.”

“Yes. I came by carriage, and I would be more than happy to take you.” Eressė stopped himself from cringing at how overly eager he sounded.

Eneuron smiled the sort of smile an adult gives to an overly excited child. “I think I can find my way there. I will ride over as soon as I am done here,” he promised.

Eressė nodded. “Thank you. Thank you so much – this really means a lot to us.”

“You are welcome. It will make my mother happy to see me do something other than read or write for the evening,” he explained. “I will see you soon.”

“Yes. Thank you,” Eressė repeated again, and then he left the library, strolling leisurely through the aisles. He took note of his mother down one of them, deep in thought, and almost approached her. He thought better of it; she was always scolding him for interrupting her, and he certainly did not want Eneuron in earshot if she released her wrath.

---

Fėanįro was leaving as well, with hopes to return to the cottage before supper. He was in the courtyard of his father’s estate checking over his horse to be sure the stallion had been properly rested when he was approached by his half-brother. “Good day, Fėanįro!”

With a scowl, Fėanįro turned to look at the youth. “It had been a good day,” he snapped back.

—olofinwė’s shoulders slumped. He stood quietly as Fėanįro tightened the saddle and mounted the dapple grey horse. “Why do you hate me?” he finally asked.

“I do not hate you,” replied Fėanįro. “I just wish you had never been born.” With that, he rode away.
Chapter 3 by Zhie
When Eneuron knocked on the door he was greeted by Mahtan. Amariė, Fėanįro, and Eressė were sitting near the window when he arrived. Everyone stopped what they were doing when Eneuron entered, stood, and gathered around the fireplace. “May I offer you some tea?” asked Amariė.

“Thank you, that would be lovely,” replied Eneuron with a little half bow to the eager hostess.

“I know who you are,” said Mahtan as he offered to take Eneuron’s cloak for him. “You teach at the scholar’s enclave in Alqualondė.”

“Yes, most of the year I do. In the summer, I travel to Tol Eressėa and I teach there.” He looked at Mahtan curiously. “Forgive me, you look a little young to have been one of my pupils.”

“You taught my sister, Amani,” he said. “She is older than I am.”

“Oh, yes, I know Amani.” Eneuron took the seat he was offered and removed his gloves so that he could drape them over the arm of the chair. “How is she?”

“She is well. She moved to Tirion.” Mahtan looked questioningly at the odd look that Fėanįro gave him, then amended his statement. “Oh! Well, right, actually, my family moved to Tirion, but then I moved back here.” He excused himself to help Amariė with the tea.

Fėanįro watched Mahtan leave and then asked, “So what is all this about?”

Eressė flinched. “Uh.. sorry.. I thought you wanted more information about the Sarati School.”

Eneuron cleared his throat. “I am sure Eressė has already told you about my failed attempt at trying it to gain admission to the Sarati School. While am not sure exactly what they’re looking for, I can give you some advice based upon my own experiences.”

“Ah.” Fėanįro sat down on the sofa. “It has been a busy day, and I have not been fully informed. I just returned from Tirion myself.”

“That is quite the journey,” remarked Eneuron.

“I have the fastest horse in Aman,” Fėanįro replied casually as Mahtan and Amariė returned, not offering that he had left when most were still at rest.

“I see,” Eneuron said. He waited until Amariė poured his tea, and then continued. “I am not sure exactly how much you want to know. It was about twelve years ago when I tried to get in. From what I have heard, it is more difficult to get in now. When I was trying to get accepted, I think there were about seventy or eighty of us. Last I heard they are expecting several hundred for this round. That does not mean that you will not have a chance. All of you come from affluent families, Fėanįro especially. I cannot think they would give up a chance to have you in the program.”

Fėanįro sighed. “I would much rather be accepted upon my own a merit. That being said, I am still not sure I would go unrecognized. Do you think I will be able to disguise myself, or at the very least, be given an audition without them knowing who I am?”

“That is very unlikely,” said Eneuron. “First, they will ask that information of you when you audition. Second, this is not a brief audition which takes place in a matter of minutes or even hours. I was there several weeks while decisions were being made. It begins with an interview; I sat before a panel of five. There were three instructors and two senior students. It was a little intimidating, since those students were the first graduates from the school, and they had the right to be smug about it.”

“Alright, well, that is out. What about not taking the special invitation, and going to the open auditions?” asked Fėanįro.

“I think you could do that,” reasoned Eneuron. “Of course, if I had a special invitation, I would use it. You bypass the interview.”

“Is that the only thing?”

Eneuron nodded. “As far as I am aware.”

“Then what happens?” asked Mahtan.

“Following the interview, the real tests began. If I am recalling correctly, the next two days were about our musical abilities. We were given a chance to audition vocally and instrumentally. They made it seem like it was optional, but everyone who did not audition in both manners was automatically cut at that point. So if you do not play an instrument, learn one. If you do not like to sing before an audience, practice. Those are two things that can get you removed early. ”

Amariė looked excited. “We should do well in that. Mahtan, Eressė, and I play almost every day, and all of us sing.”

“What instruments do you play?” asked Eneuron.

“Cello,” spoke up Mahtan, while Amariė pointed at her bass fiddle on the other side of the room.

“Violin,” answered Eressė.

“And harp and bass and flute and even a little viola and cello.” Fėanįro yawned and gave Eressė a sideways look. “He only says violin because we can never pry the fiddle from that boy’s hands,” added Fėanįro. Eressė smiled, but looked a little embarrassed.

“Make sure you note that,” advised Eneuron. “That would be one of those things they would look for, some sort of multitalented ability.” His focus turned onto Fėanįro. “What do you play?”

“Chess,” he added cheekily.

“If you do not play an instrument, that could hurt your chances of acceptance,” Eneuron reminded him.

Fėanįro stretched a bit. “I have been known to dabble a little with the harp.”

Eneuron looked at the others for confirmation. Eressė nodded. “He actually plays very well, but it is the one thing he acts modest about.”

“Untrue,” shot Fėanįro back. “I am very modest about my charm and good looks.”

“Oh, yes, very modest,” agreed Amariė as she rolled her eyes.

“And you all sing?” prodded Eneuron after taking a sip of tea. All four heads bobbed up and down. “Excellent. Following that test, they were interested in our crafting skills, and with our reasoning skills. I do not remember exactly what those tests were, except that I made a few crude wooden carvings in the short time I was given, and then sat with someone who would read different problems to me and I would have to solve them.”

“What sorts of problems?” asked Mahtan.

Eneuron thought for a moment. “Things like, if you have a basket with ten apples and ten friends before you and each one wants an apple, and you give each of them an apple, and yet one apple yet remains in the basket, how is this possible?”

“One of your friends is holding the basket,” droned the lot of them.

“Yes, it is an old one, so they will likely use other problems like that, but you get the general idea,” said Eneuron.

“So, riddles,” defined Fėanįro. Eneuron nodded. “Eressė should be fantastic with those. He has a knack for solving them.”

“I like riddles, too,” spoke up Amariė. “What other tests will there be?”

“Our next task was something to do with teamwork. At the time, I was rather shy, and so many of those who were left were younger than I was. I was fairly intimidated, and I know I failed that part. I was allowed to go on to the literary portion; we had to create a poem in a certain span of time, using a set of seemingly random words. I did alright, but because I had scored so low with the team portion, I was done. Unfortunately, that means I do not know what happens after that,” said Eneuron apologetically. He smiled in thanks as Amariė warmed his tea for him. “The tests you can prepare for, but only to a certain extent. Of course, I do not know if they have changed them.”

“What about the school itself?” asked Mahtan. “I have heard people talking about it before. I understand it is an honor to get in. But… why?”

“First of all, it’s Rśmil. Everyone thinks he is the most intelligent person this side of the sea, excepting the Ainur or Eru. Studying with him is quite an honor – it always had been. My mother would talk about that for hours and hours. She was very disappointed that I was not accepted – not in me, but with the way the school was being run. She could not believe that they would have passed up the chance to have me there. I guess, I would have liked it, but my heart was not set on it then. Now… well, that was the past,” he said, scolding himself. “The commitment is twelve years. You would spend six years of learning and researching and six years of applying and crafting. After that, you might have the ability to stay longer, as Rśmil now only chooses scholars and workers and trainers from those who made it through his school. Some of the teachers you would encounter might be from the original group who founded the school, but many of them are former students.”

“Beyond Rśmil, why would we want to go?” asked Amariė.

“It is not structured like anything you have ever experienced. For starters, there are only one hundred and forty-four on the estate at any given time. The thought is that it should emulate the original awakened Elves at Cuiviénen. Seventy-two males, seventy-two females. Each house has exactly twelve people in it, and there are twelve houses,” explained Eneuron.

“What do you mean by houses?” asked Fėanįro.

Eneuron set aside his cup and looked around. “Do you have anything to write with?”

“Eressė does,” offered Fėanįro before the older elf could. Eressė nodded and found some small sheets of parchment and a stick of lead. Eneuron took them and began drawing, then held up the sketch to show them.

“There are twelve houses. Each house specializes in something. Four of them have literary concentrations, things like poetry and dramatic works. Four of them are houses of crafting. There are jewelers, smiths, cooks, and woodworkers. Then there are three houses which are reserved for those who are performers. Musicians, actors, that sort of thing. Finally, one house is left for nature and alchemy, and that one is the most difficult of all of the houses to gain entrance to. They each have an animal that represents them, and a colored banner. The thought that went into all of it is very impressive, I must say.”

“Do you happen to know anything about the judges?” asked Fėanįro. “I would like to know a little more about what it takes to gain admittance, and to worry about these houses and animals at a later date.”

“The judges change each time,” Eneuron said. “Your best course of action would be to concentrate on the various sorts of tests I described, and to practice your music and any other craft or whatever you plan to do to impress them. I can try to help to prepare everyone by asking some of the questions I was asked and I heard of others being asked, but that is about it.”

Fėanįro nodded. “It is more than most will have; hopefully, it will be enough.”

“Will you ever try again?” asked Amariė.

Eneuron began to shake his head, but Fėanįro was already standing and nodding. “Yes, that would make sense. With you there, we can ask your advice as we progress. And, since you know what to expect, maybe you will gain admittance as well.”

“I have obligations,” interrupted Eneuron. “I am not sure I have the twelve years to spare.”

Fėanįro looked unconvinced. “How can you not make the time? In another twelve years, you will not have this opportunity.”

“Actually, in another year I would not have the opportunity. This is the final time I would be able to try out,” corrected Eneuron.

“In that case, you must attempt it once more,” agreed Amariė. “If you do not, you may always wonder of what might have been.”

“I am not overly concerned about that,” he assured the group.

“Now you are not,” agreed Fėanįro. “In a few years, when the next set of invitations is sent, are you sure you will have that same view? You can always teach in Alqualondė and Tol Eressėa, but you literally will not have another chance to try to teach in Tirion, unless you teach privately. With your experience, Rśmil is certain to choose you to stay there if you are admitted to the school.” He paused, but not long, and then lamented, “I know that if my mother had requested it of me, I would try for her sake.”

This seemed to have the desired effect on Eneuron. “It would not hurt to try once more,” he decided.
Chapter 4 by Zhie
Author's Notes:

Good day to you, dear reader. I hope you are enjoying the tale thus far. In my haste to share it with you, I realized that Enedrion (aka Edrahil) is so very Sindarin of a name! After serious consideration (and discussion with his Nana and Ada, because you never want to mess with the names of Elves without consulting with their parents), you will notice that he is referred to now as Eneuron. Same great introverted future companion of Finrod, just a few different letters. On with the show!

“Your attention, your attention!” Lord Rśmil stood atop a platform that had been erected on the side of a hill. Consequently, his voice carried down to those sitting and standing at the base of the hillside, and he was far above their view so that all had to look far up as he spoke. “Welcome to the auditions for the Sarati School. As of this time, we have filled several of the places, but we are still in need of thirteen gentlemen and seventeen ladies.

“I would like to begin by addressing anyone who has come in support of a candidate. Lord Lamandil will be escorting all of you shortly to a location where you may await to hear the results of the auditions. These auditions are expected to take two weeks to complete. During that time, only the candidates are allowed to be on the premises. If a candidate is rejected, he or she will immediately be returned to the waiting area. While candidates are awaiting the various parts of the auditions, they will be lodged by the Sarati School. Lord Lamandil will be able to answer any questions you might have, provided that they will not affect the outcome of the auditions. Lord Lamandil?”

Rśmil stepped aside, and Lord Lamandil stepped to the center of the platform. “Thank you, Headmaster. Parents, sisters, brothers, friends, supporters, and onlookers. We thank you for joining us for the ceremony of welcoming. We must now ask that we be allowed to fully concentrate upon these talented youths before us. Please follow me,” he stated clearly. He then walked from the platform again, and down to join the crowd that had gathered. Mothers and fathers gave last minute advice, and siblings hugged brothers and sisters who would either soon be praised in letters from afar, or consoled when they returned home.

Tata and Finwė approached the quintet. “I think we shall begin our journey back and await your letter there,” said Finwė with confidence. He clasped Fėanįro on the shoulder, and Fėanįro nodded.

Eressė looked to his father, unsure of whether he would receive similar assurance. Tata wore a frown, but that was not particularly unusual. “A moment,” he said, and walked a few paces away. Eressė followed after him.

The walked down the slope, further from the mass of people and the platform. “I want you to know, I am proud of you no matter what happens,” said Tata once they were far enough away from the others. “As is your mother.”

Eressė frowned at that. “Um, thank you.”

Tata shook his head. “I know,” he corrected.

Eressė smiled a little. “Right. I know,” he parroted.

“Because you are intelligent and clever,” added Tata. “And if you do not get in, it is because Rśmil himself is a fool.”

Eressė’s smile widened. “Then I suppose you shall hear from me when I write to you.”

“Your mother and I look forward to your letter.” Tata let his guard down for a rare moment and embraced his son. “I would say good luck,” he added, “but—“

“You do not believe in luck,” finished Eressė for his father as he noticed that most of the other family members were halfway down the trail. “Let mother know I will write to her soon,” added Eressė.

“Not too soon,” suggested Tata. “Have a little fun at the school first.”

Before Eressė could dispute that ‘fun’ and ‘school’ did not necessarily go together, his father was being herded off as kindly as possible with the rest of the straggling parents. Eressė walked back to where Amariė and Mahtan were standing. “Where are—“

“Oh! You need to get going,” prodded Amariė, pointing to where a group that consisted of the older students was being led a little ways away. “Some lady just said for anyone who was under fifty to assemble over here, and someone else was leading the older group off..”

“Ah... well, I should go join them.” Eressė began to jog away, but turned back around. “Where is Fėanįro, then?”

Mahtan pointed along with Amariė. “He went over there.”

“Oh, honestly.” Eressė took off again, dodging around others who were walking until he caught up to Eneuron and Fėanįro. “Going somewhere?” he asked Fėanįro.

“Shhh,” he hushed.

“Since when did you turn fifty?” asked Eressė.

“Since I decided not to be put into the ‘children’s’ group. Now, shut your mouth. If anyone asks, I was born—“

“In Valinor. You were born here,” stated Eressė firmly. “It has nothing to do with your ‘age’.”

Fėanįro did not answer. Instead, he walked a little faster, but Eressė gave chase. “If you really want to do this fairly, go back over there!”

“It is going to be more difficult in the older group! Now, hush!” scolded Fėanįro.

“What is all this?” A firm voice made them both turn around. Eneuron kept walking, but slowed a little and looked over his shoulder. A matronly elleth approached the pair, sweeping her gaze from one to the other. “We do not tolerate arguments here,” she stated reproachfully.

Eressė looked down at the ground, but Fėanįro squared back his shoulders at the confrontation. The elleth raised a brow. “We also do not look kindly upon liars.” She stepped before Fėanįro and asked, “How old are you?”

Fėanįro’s mouth twitched, and he gave a sideways glare to Eressė before he answered, “Sorry. I thought this was the under fifty group.” He walked past the elleth to rejoin the others at the hillside.

“And you?”

Eressė looked back up. “Oh, ah, y-yes, I am certainly in the right group.”

“How old are you?”

“F-fifty.” He blushed slightly. “Al-almost four months ago.”

“Hmm. Better hurry, then, little one.”

Eressė looked over his shoulder and noticed that he had been left far behind. He bounded off without another word to the elleth.

This time when he caught up to Eneuron, he was acknowledged. “I wondered if you were just going to tattle on him,” mused the older Elf.

“No. I just—“ He shut his mouth as Lord Rśmil was suddenly here now with them, upon another platform that jutted out of another hill.

“I wish to personally welcome you all and congratulate you for taking this first step. You are the best and the brightest, and now, we shall see who is the most suited to partake in the next junior class at the Sarati School. Ladies, you will follow Lady Alassėa over there, and she will direct you to where you shall begin with the interview portion of our auditions. Gentlemen, please, follow me.” Rśmil walked off of the platform, and Eneuron and Eressė joined the rest of the young men who were there, walking down yet another dirt path.

As expected, the first order of business was to register. Eneuron received just about the same reply from every person he encountered: Welcome to the auditions! You know, it was so close last time. Glad you came back for another try!

Words of encouragement aside, Eneuron found the impromptu meeting with the Noldorin Prince and his companions enlightening. First, it made him think that he stood a chance against the younger group of prospective students. Second, he had asked for a leave of absence, which he had been granted – more than likely due to the fact he was aiding the son of his supervisor. This meant that he had spent the better part of several months not only practicing his own skills, but acclimating himself to an environment where he was working with his peers. As it turned out, it was less intimidating than he had anticipated.

Following registration, he was split away from Eressė, and led with seven other hopefuls to one of the tents which had been set up to facilitate the large number of prospective students who were applying. Each of them was given a number at random; Eneuron had ‘four’. After three students were taken behind a curtain, spoken to, and dismissed, Eneuron made his way behind the curtain.

“Good morning, Eneuron,” said the ellon sitting behind a table. Eneuron bowed to him, but did not yet take a seat in the empty chair in front of the table. “I see that this is your second attempt at being accepted.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Alyon is my name. You may refer to me as such.” Alyon motioned to the chair. “Please, have a seat.”

Eneuron sat down, keeping eye-contact with Alyon. “Thank you, sir.”

Alyon smiled. “I have five questions to ask you, and then you will have an opportunity to ask me any questions you might have.” Eneuron nodded. “First question. Why do you want to study at the Sarati School?”

“The first time I applied, it was my mother’s idea that it would be a good experience for me,” explained Eneuron. “I think I was not exactly sure what I wanted to do with my life at that point, so it was probably for the best that I was not chosen. Now, having taught for a few years, I see Sarati School not only as a chance for me to better prepare myself as a scholar, but also to collaborate with others who are like-minded. The best teachers are those who acknowledge that they must be lifetime students. Only then can they truly impart knowledge”

Alyon nodded and marked something onto a sheet of paper. “Some would say you are too old to participate. What is your response to that?”

“I would remind them that I am still within the cut-off. If my age is an issue, then they have clearly not read the entirety of the invitation which explains the qualifications. However, I would simply educate them about the requirements. If they still had issue, I would suggest that they contact Lord Rśmil. He is very wise. If he believes 88 is the correct cut-off, then that is the correct cut-off,” finished Eneuron.

“Alright. Question number three. What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?”

“My greatest strength is my willingness to learn new things. I have always made my talents available when a new project is initiated or when something needs to be researched that no one had yet seen to. My greatest weakness is that I prefer to work alone. I am very suspicious… perhaps that is the incorrect word. I am very cautious when other people are helping. I want to be sure that everything is done correctly. That means I will often take on more than I should, or I do not allow others to help.”

A smile played on Alyon’s lips. “Funny you should mention that. It leads into my next question. Tell me about a time when you were happiest working alone or working as part of a team.”

Eneuron smiled. “Funny you should ask,” he countered. “A few months ago, I would only have been able to talk about my solitary experiences. However, I recently made some friends, and I all but moved in with them. It was an adjustment for me, but there was something rewarding about some of the tasks that we completed together. For instance, the house that they were in really only accommodated three people, though there were four living there. When I started to spend the night from time to time, that meant that there were five of us. We soon decided that it would be best to put an addition onto the house. Together, we planned it, gathered the wood, constructed it, finished it, and moved the rooms around in the house. It was hard work, but in the end, I was very proud of what we accomplished together, and I believe they were, too.”

“Very nice.” Alyon took a little longer to write things down. “The final question I have is whether there is anything which will impede you from fulfilling a twelve year commitment to this school.”

“No, sir. I am ready to commit myself to this project,” stated Eneuron.

“Thank you. Do you have any questions?” Eneuron shook his head. Alyon took a small blue piece of paper and scribbled something on it, and then handed it to Eneuron and stood. Eneuron did the same. “Congratulations. You have advanced to the next stage of the auditions. Please exit to the right and you will be directed as to where you should go next.”

Eneuron bowed as he took hold of the blue paper. “Thank you, sir.” He pulled back the curtain to the right, only to find he was in a connected tent. Here, there were others holding blue tickets, and one of them was Eressė. “Congratulations,” he said as he approached the younger elf.

Eressė looked up and smiled weakly. “I was frowned at a lot, but I think generally I must have answered the questions right.”

“If you did not answer them as they hoped, you would not be here right now.” Eneuron sunk down on the bench beside Eressė. “How many questions did they ask you?”

“About nine, I think,” answered Eressė. “I thought everyone had the same questions.”

“No, I only had five,” said Eneuron. “Maybe it was because they remembered me from the last time,” he guessed. “Either way, we have moved on. I think that is one of the harder parts, because you are really only competing against yourself. Do you recall the name of your interviewer?”

“Uhm.. Lamandil?” guessed Eressė. “I think that was it.”

“Lucky you,” was all Eneuron would say. “I am just trying to figure out how many people are the same as last time.”

They sat for a little while, quietly listening to others emerging into the room. Some of them chatted happily, others were silent like they were. One thing was certain – only one or two per group were making it past the interview.

“They need to be selective,” said Eneuron after he heard the sixth person come through and complain that everyone else was being cut. “They have less than twenty slots open. If they allow more people through now, it will take longer for the next portion, and there are several prospects in the younger group as well.”

“Oh... I forgot about the younger group,” answered another person.

One of those who had been sitting in the room for a while huffed. “Bringing in children seems like a waste of time,” he stated. “I think they should stick to adults, like us. Maybe they should think about raising the age limit. There are so many people who are just too young for this.”

As soon as the words left his mouth, a flap of another of the connected tents was pulled back, and a stern looking elleth stepped in. “Who said that?”

Most of the gazes in the room went to the culprit or to the floor. The ellon stood. “I did,” he said cautiously.

“You are dismissed.” The elleth held back the flap of the tent and waited until the stunned ellon walked through. She then disappeared behind him, leaving the others in the room silent.

“I suppose he is not coming back and I can take his seat,” decided one of the ellon who had been leaning against a tent pole. A few others smirked, but for the most part, the room now remained solemn.

It was nearly another hour until all of the interviews were finished. Of the original four hundred and twenty-three in the majority group, only thirty-one men and twelve women advanced. This group of forty-three were led back to the platform area, where they found Rśmil waiting for them. “Nicely done, everyone! Know that even if you do not make it through the rest of the tests, you are what we would consider ideal candidates for the Sarati School. If you do not make it through to the end, and if you are of eligible age when we are next looking for students, we invite you to return and audition again. However, I hope that some of you make it to the end and become part of the next class.”

Rśmil brought another of the teachers to the stage. This time, it was a musician, and her name was Yavindė. “Good afternoon! Before we continue, we will serve lunch. Following lunch, we will require that everyone choose whether they will audition musically with their voice, with instrument, or if you will perform with both. Vocalists will then take the stage this evening. You will be permitted to perform three pieces. One should be a lament, one should be a song of prayer, and the third is of your choosing. Instrumentalists will perform tomorrow and will be allowed to play two pieces of their choice.”

Eneuron and Eressė spent the luncheon going over the pieces that they planned to perform. As discussed, the only way to successfully compete was to partake in every test. They both put their names on the vocalist list and on the instrumentalist list. Eneuron chose to play harp, while Eressė decided that one song would be on the flute, and the other on violin.

It surprised Eneuron that once the vocalists were finished, Yavindė and Rśmil took the stage again to make cuts immediately. It was not surprising that all of those who declined to sing were cut; a few others who did perform were cut without a chance for instrumental performance. Everyone who remained was taken to a makeshift barracks. They were served supper at picnic tables while Yavindė entertained them with her singing, which was far superior to anything that had been heard that day. Following that, Rśmil spoke to the group, offering a very motivational talk.

“Even if I get cut, this will have been worth it,” said one of the potential students nearby.
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