The Winter Solstice Ball hosted by Finwë.
It began with a dress and a formal tunic. White silk, the embroidery in silver threading and beads to create a icicle appearance along the edges of the sleeves.
They had the same intricate brocaded silk, the same embroidery, the same seamstress and even the same delicate toggled clasps at the neck.
Both stared at one another, raised fingers to their clothing and then their eyes narrowed.
“What a perfectly matched pair,” some uneducated court twit cooed at them.
The war began that day, as unobtrusively as possible, with this single social gaffe.
“Artanis?” Findarato looked at his sister who was helping a maid put the final embroidered touches on her ballgown.
“Yes?” she asked sweetly.
“I thought you were wearing a fully yellow dress? That is what you usually wear to Ingweyë’s Soiree.”
“Turquoise is my colour,” Artanis replied with a sweet smile, touching the panelling of that fascinatingly bright colour.
Ingweyë’s Spring Equinox Soiree.
“Thief,” Tyelkormo muttered at her.
“Someone stole some of the marigold cloth at my seamstresses, so that I did not have enough to complete my dress,” Artanis smiled.
“Well someone stole enough turquoise cloth from my own workroom that I had to put inserts of marigold cloth to complete my tunic.”
“Oh look, it’s Irissë.”
“Her mother has dressed her in lilac again; she looks ready to shank someone.”
The Summer Carnivale at Valmar.
“I can see your navel,” Artanis commented, staring at the long, low v of Tyelkormo’s tunic that took it from being a slightly open tunic to a crime against humanity.
“I can see the sides of your breasts…small as they are.” Tyelkormo sipped his drink.
“Not very creative though Artanis, I think I’ve seen about three others with as much cleavage as you.”
To the side of them Turukáno had his hand clasped firmly over Arakáno’s eyes.
Curufinwë and the twins were not bothering to hide how they were ogling Artanis’ chest.
Findaráto was staring between his sister and cousin, slightly pasty and hoping their grandfather didn’t look over because the amount of flesh on display surely broke a public decency law or two.
He could see right down between Artanis’ breasts! And Tyelkormo…
His cousin’s bellybutton was pierced.
So were his nipples.
Findaráto could have done without that knowledge.
The Summer Solstice Ball hosted by Olwë.
“Did you shave?” Artanis stared at the low v of Tyelkormo’s gauzy summer tunic with an indulgent, patronising smile, “your pubic hair I mean, to get it that low.”
“Waxed,” Tyelkormo eyed her, “you win this round. Does your father know you are basically wearing a scarf you have attached to your nipples then tied the spare ends off around your hips?”
There was a sudden scandalised scream.
“He does now.”
“And what does your mother think?”
“She loves it, it’s a Teleri design. She helped me pick it out.”
“Your mother is a gift. Well before your father sends you to a convent, I love the colour.”
“Thank you, I thought emerald green was a bit of a gamble myself.”
“The gold embroidery pulls it through.”
“ARTANIS!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU WEARING? EÄRWEN LOOK AT WHAT OUR DAUGHTER IS WEARING!”
“You want me to what?” Carnistir leaned back and stared at Tyelkormo who was tapping his fingers against his lip.
“I simply need to strike a final decisive blow. She thinks she’s winning after the summer solstice. I can’t let her. This is my pride that is at stake Carnistir! You are the broiderer in this family, and a great tailor.”
“Don’t you tell father,” Tyelkormo could see Carnistir wavering though. He rarely got attention or praise beyond what he did with the family accounts, though the fact he threw knives at the heads of people who interrupted his embroidery might have been a influencing factor.
“Father doesn’t care so long as you’re not making clothing for our cousins.”
“Well Eru forbid you lose your pride,” Carnistir rolled his eyes, “fine you prat. But I expect payment for this.”
“Isn’t escaping all those wonderful, enthusiastic mothers with their eligible daughters enough?”
“Not for this.”
The Autumn Equinox Ball hosted by Ingwë.
Angaráto noticed first and elbowed Findaráto. Carnistir had just entered the room with a woman on his arm and such a woman at that.
Her hair was luminous pale silver, woven into an elaborate crown made of hundreds of tiny braids and liberally adorned with gold set rubies and garnets strung together with hematite and onyx beads.
Her dress was the colour of the deep, rich damask roses that grew in the gardens of the Palace, a dark ruddy red that seemed almost a purple, almost a brown in some lights. It made the woman’s golden flesh glow in the candle-light.
The skirt was much like a rose too, the bell of it swelling out in layers and intricate folds where delicate golden embroidery and adornment tempted an observers eye. It was a good choice of skirt, Findaráto thought objectively, for it gave the impression of ample swelling hips which this woman needed with her barely-there breasts; clearly helped along by ample padding, and her slightly too-wide shoulders.
The bodice was covered in a vine pattern made from cut outs of samite; something even Findaráto with his little knowledge of tailoring knew was a tricky feat to accomplish. Cloth-of-gold was not easy to work with.
“There go the hearts and fortunes of several families,” Angaráto muttered, looking strangely angry, “where did Carnistir find a woman willing to put up with him?”
Matimo was right out as a husband, and Makalaurë elusive. A few tried for Tyelkormo but Carnistir, strangely, was the most targeted of their fey cousins for marriage prospects. As Angaráto said, many hearts and hoped for fortunes had been dashed this night.
They watched Carnistir escort his partner up the receiving line, watched the pair bow and curtsey respectively to the three assembled Kings, and heard their grandfather laugh softly at something the woman said.
“Well..” their mother came past, “Nerwen is that not the silk we looked at for your autumn dress but it was all gone by the time we returned?”
“Yes,” Artanis sighed sadly.
When their mother was gone Findaráto turned to his sister. “Well you know I do not know much about women’s fashion but my condolences on the silk sister.”
“No it is no upset,” Artanis waved it away, “she has done far better with the material then I would have. Have you seen Tyelkormo yet?”
She ran a hand over the shimmering diamond-cream silk of her dress which appeared white before flashing with small glimmers of other colours. The bodice was tight, though modest for the sake of their father, and embroidered heavily with kingfishers and hummingbirds in sapphire and cerulean silk, sapphire and lapis beads catching the light.
“No,” Findaráto shook his head. That was odd in itself. Usually Tyelkormo was on time and made a point of coming over to talk to them, especially when Irissë was about. Irissë herself was currently occupying the time by playing ‘how many glasses of mead can I drink before my father catches onto me?’
The musicians were warming up and couples were taking their places for the first dance. Carnistir and his partner stepped into position near them.
“Cousins,” Carnistir greeted almost cordially, a smirk on his face, the freckles upon his cheeks so numerous they melded together in this dim light and made him seem flushed.
“Carnistir,” Findaráto inclined his head.
“Who is your partner Cousin?” Argaráto asked.
“How is Eldalottë?” Carnistir asked instead of answering.
His partner glanced at them, her face partially hidden behind a delicate black lace fan.
Artanis suddenly screamed; a sharp ugly noise of rage she throttled into silence but not before people heard and glanced at her.
Findaráto glanced at Carnistir’s partner who was watching them with laughing violet eyes peeking over her fan… quite lovely eyes actually and…
The fan snapped back and Tyelkormo blatantly leered at Artanis with roughed lips, a dusting of pearlescent powder on his cheeks making his entire face glow.
“Cousins,” he chortled as the musicians played the opening bars.
“Brother that’s our queue,” Tyelkormo placed his hands on Carnistir’s arms, Carnistir took him by his clearly corseted waist and they waltzed off.
Findaráto wriggled, finding his trousers too tight, which was odd because they’d been tailored and had been most comfortable up until now. Beside him Amairë was delicately fanning herself, high colour on her cheeks.
Irissë began to laugh, a long and genuine peal of amusement.
“His hair is amazing,” she choked between giggles, reaching for a new goblet of mead.
“Mother helped him,” Ambarussa said, coming up to their group for they had a good vantage point for which to watch the dance floor. Ambarto nodded, “he just wanted a normal braid crown but she said that was not worthy of his dress.”
“Your mother is a gift,” Findekáno said, having followed the twins with Matimo in tow.
“I know,” Matimo nodded.
“What I said earlier…” Artanis began, glancing at Findaráto.
“About the dress?” Findaráto hazarded.
“I never said that.”
“I. Never. Said. That.” Artanis growled.
“I did not commission this tunic but she insists that I did.”
Makalaurë stared at the black velvet confection with dark gold embroidery and rubies flashing at strategic points. The back was almost entirely cut out of it, to display the musculature of Tyelkormo’s back.
“What did you commission?” Makalurë picked up the draping sleeve. It was a magnificent piece of clothing though, and his brother would catch eyes in it, not that Tyelkormo did not catch eyes all the time. The dress incident came to mind especially.
Their mother had taken Tyelkormo to task for not wearing a shift under it, whilst simultaneously praising Carnistir’s needle work.
When people asked if Nerdanel ever regretted not having any daughters Makalurë had to say no, not when two of his brothers were doing their damn best to make up for the lack.
“It was a similar shape though it had a back; dove grey and light blue embroidery; square wave patterned.”
“Quite modest for you,” Makalaurë had to comment, for a tunic like that seemed almost …drab in Tyelkormo’s standards.
“Just to make a point that I’ve won.”
“Ah,” Makalaurë rolled his eyes and watched his brother turn the tunic over in his hands.
“What are you going to do?” he asked.
“Well wear it of course,” Tyelkormo shrugged, “such a tunic was made to be worn.”
The Winter Solstice Ball hosted by Finwë.
“Artanis,” Tyelkormo purred, gliding across the ballroom floor towards his cousin.
Artanis, dressed in a gloriously striking dress of black velvet, its gold embroidery and ruby adornments identical to Tyelkormo’s tunic, gave him a triumphant smile and gave him her hand to kiss.
“I believe I won at the Autumn Ball, sweet-heart, and even if the game isn’t over, dressing us alike doesn’t prove anything.”
“I thought since the game was over, we should finish as we started,” Artanis replied and glided forwards to meet him.
“Well I suppose that is only fair,” Tyelkormo smirked, “if your dance-card is not already full cousin, would you give me the honour of the first dance to celebrate an interesting year?”
“I was hoping you would ask that,” Artanis’ smile was like a cat who has just seen the mouse walk into a trap “I was in charge of the music this year you see. Grandfather was happy to let me take some of the responsibility away.”
The musicians, done warming up, were playing the opening strands of the passionate dance the Noldor called Liltayúrë; the dance of smouldering-heat.
Artanis was already taking Tyelkormo by the arm and swinging him against her body, taking the male stance against him and forcing him to lightly bend back by virtue of her superior height.
Tyelkormo’s pulse sped up and a flush rose across his skin.
Lovely, Artanis thought.
“Well cousin you certainly have good taste,” unashamed to be dancing the female position, Tyelkormo moved through the first few sharp steps with her, their bodies keeping the same axis and a close embrace before loosening so Artanis could spin him through the first measure.
“I hope,” they twisted close again, chest to chest and Artanis bent him back easily, “you do not think to humiliate me. It would work on my brothers, but you and I,” his hand slid up her arm to clasp the back of her neck, “we belong to the same circle.”
Out he span again, they moved around one another in slow, calculating steps, fingers barely hooked. She reeled him in and he came easily, his hand now pressing up against her chest; over her heart, in manner acceptable if she were male and he a female.
“If on opposite sides of that circle.”
Neither cared for the shocked voices or the murmurs.
Nerdanel was giggling into Fëanáro’s shoulder as she watched. Nolofinwë had located Irissë and was covering her eyes though his desperate attempt to preserve his daughter’s innocence was waylaid by her drunken laughter. Finwë was having a much more successful go at preserving Arafinwë, keeping his youngest son turned firmly away from the dance floor.
“The thought occurred to me tonight,” Artanis admitted. His hand gripped her hip for a moment, she used it to glide her hand up his arm then trail fingers down his bare back. Her delight at his resultant shiver made Tyelkormo grin knowingly, “but everything was already in place.”
“Got a little carried away by a gem of an idea?” Tyelkormo inquired as they moved in sharp lines across the dance-floor, legs almost intertwined at times, and his body lax and pliant against hers. It was wonderful to be allowed to take control of a dance, Artanis though with regret.
“I may have become a little excited at the prospect of forcing you to dance with me,” she admitted, “I liked the idea of it. I forgot about your inclinations for a moment, for men like you are rare.”
“Men like me are more common on the ground then most would think,” Tyelkormo raised his eyebrow, “you should know that given our circle.”
“Not men with silver hair,” she dragged her hand down his back again and then grasped at the nape of his neck, twining fingers through his long braid which had been threaded through with gold thread and black silk thread. He made an agreeable noise, "I've given up even contemplating silver-haired men in such a way."
"Oh so that's where your tastes lie," Tyelkormo chuckled.
Artanis gave him an aggrieved look.
“Poor Artanis. No giving silver-haired Teleri men at your beck and call cousin?”
“If they have silver hair they are all cousins like you,” his fingers toyed up her bared spine, the back of her dress just as low and revealing as his, “and I’m considerably closer to them. I can’t even make myself contemplate it.”
“A pity. Well one day cousin,” Tyelkormo let her spin him a final time as the music played its final bars, and bend him over her arm, “one day you will get your pliant, silver-haired man.”
She bit down on the rapid pulse of his neck.
He gasped in delight.
Finwë sat his family down.
The whole motely lot of them looked awkward. Some were hungover (Ambarussa, Ambarto, Angamaite and Carnistir); severely hungover in Irissë’s case. Some were sporting love-bruises all over their necks, and sat uncomfortably for being ridden hard by amorous lovers, ( Fëanáro, Matimo and Arafinwë.)
Some were smirking, uncaring of the scandal they had caused, happy with their new and terrifying truce (Artanis and Tyelkormo.)
“I’ve hushed up what I could, not that I could hush up much,” he glared at his two grandchildren who only grinned wider. He couldn’t help himself, his glare faded and his mouth twitched in delight. “Indis is horrified at you both.”
Artanis managed to look vaguely guilty for Indis was her grandmother. Tyelkormo clearly gave no shits about Indis and her horror. Finwë sighed and gave up on that cause. Fëanáro had schooled all his children well; even Matimo with his impeccable manners had a clear disdain of Finwë’s second wife.
“What we are going to do,” he said with a finality in his voice that had the entire family sitting up and listening, “is never speak of this again.”
“Yes grandfather/father” murmured the group.
“I did not hear you,” he glared at them all.
“Yes sir!” came the slightly loudly and firmer reply.
And long the truce of Artanis and Tyelkormo lasted. Verily they came to be friends, though to Prince Findaráto’s eyes it was a friendship in which poison and daggers were likely to come into play at any moment