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Tales from Vairë's Loom  by Fiondil

Mid-Summer Reflections

Summary: During the siege of Barad-dûr some of the warriors in the Last Alliance compare their Mid-Summer celebration customs with each other. First Place in the ALEC contest ‘Mid-Summer Frolicks’.

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Mid-Summer, S.A. 3436, before the gates of Barad-dûr:

"Damn!"

Isildur looked up from polishing his sword, giving his middle son, Aratan, a mild look. "What is it? Did you nick yourself?"

"Nay, Adar," the young Man said with a scowl as he polished his own sword. "I’ve just realized ’tis Löendë and here we are spending yet another year before the gates of Barad-dûr." He grimaced. "Two years and we’re still besieging the blasted place. How much longer is this damnable war going to take? I never thought we would end up...ah.... vacationing in Mordor." he grumbled.

There were snorts of amusement among the others but before Isildur could answer his son, Lord Elrond spoke up. "The Valar laid siege to Utumno for nearly seven of their years."

"And how long is that?" asked Ciryion curiously. He was the youngest of Isildur’s three older sons who had accompanied their father to the war.

Elrond’s gaze went distant, as if he were attempting some calculation, then it became more present. "If Anor had been in existence then, it would have been about three sun-rounds less than seventy."

"Seventy years!" more than one Mortal in their group cried out in surprise. "That’s a long time even for us of Númenor," stated Elendil.

Elrond shrugged. "Perhaps. The War of Wrath lasted nearly forty-two years. At least two generations of Men were born in that time."

"Born and died," Elendil said with a snort.

There were murmurs of agreement among the Men who were there. They were congregated before Lord Elrond’s pavilion, most of them cleaning weapons or repairing armor, while others simply sat back with a mug of ale or a goblet of wine, enjoying the long approach of night on this, the longest day of the year. Besides Elendil and Isildur, Isildur’s three sons were there, along with Anárion and his son, Meneldil.

The Elves in the Alliance were represented by Lord Elrond, Gil-galad’s herald, along with Lindir and Erestor, who had accompanied Elrond from Imladris. The other Elven realms were represented by Amroth and Celeborn of Lórinand and Thranduil, now king of the Great Greenwood with the untimely death of his father, Oropher.

The lone Dwarf in their company was one Azaghâl from Khazad-dûm. He and Elrond had struck up a friendship after the Dwarf had saved Elrond from certain death on the battlefield and the two were often in each other’s company, much to the dismay of many of the Elves, especially Celeborn and Thranduil, who remembered the part Dwarves played in the destruction of Doriath.

Aratan gave a sigh. "Would that we were home with our families celebrating this day."

"And how do you Edain celebrate this day?" Lindir asked as he idly played a slightly melancholy tune on his lap harp.

"Hmmm... well, usually we wake just before dawn and foregather in the court before the Tower of the Dome in Osgiliath," Aratan explained, "and as the first rays of the sun breach the Ephel Dúath, all sing a paean in praise of the Light and..."

"What do you sing?" Lindir interrupted, his expression one of professional interest.

"Oh... um..." now the Man looked embarrassed while the Elves exchanged amused smiles.

"From all that dwell below the skies, Let the Creator’s praise arise, Let all the Valar’s deeds be sung, Through ev’ry land by ev’ry tongue. They gave us Light for all to praise, Anor, Ithil and stars ablaze; We thank thee, Lord, for this great Light, we thank thee also for the Night. Praise Eru from whom all blessings flow, Praise him, all creatures here below, Praise him who dwell in Aman blest, Praise him in whom we shall find rest."

Everyone stared at Elendur, Isildur’s eldest son, as he sang the words in his deep baritone. As the final note was sung he shrugged at the bemused expressions on everyone’s faces, then went back to repairing the chainmail he’d been working on, patently ignoring all.

"A... um... very interesting song," Lindir finally said in the silence that followed.

"Meaning, you find it naively simple and unworthy of your great talent," Erestor said with a wicked grin. Lindir merely sniffed but made no other comment.

"It was composed by Elros Minyatur," Elendil said in mild defense, "and sung in Númenor at every Mid-year’s Day, at least by the Faithful. In later years such practices fell out of favor among most of the populace, especially in Armenelos."

Lord Elrond looked at Elendil with interest. "My brother composed it, you say."

Elendil nodded. "For his children, or so the story goes. So, you see, Master Lindir, it is indeed a naively simple song as Master Erestor has said, for it was composed with children in mind."

"I think it quite lovely, myself," Erestor said, "and very apt for younglings who, I imagine, sing it quite lustily and with abandon."

"And mostly out of tune," Anárion said with a laugh, casting a fond gaze upon his own son who blushed slightly. There were friendly chuckles from all.

"Do the Elves celebrate Mid-Summer?" Ciryion then asked shyly.

"Yes," Amroth answered, "though our celebrations differ from one place to the next, I believe. In Lórinand we remain awake throughout the night before, spending the time in dancing, singing and the telling of tales. This continues throughout the day and there is usually much merriment with games and contests. Then when evening finally comes, we hold a great feast which lasts until the next morn." He gave them a bright smile. "And then most of us sleep for a week afterwards."

Everyone laughed loudly at this.

"That’s because you drink Dorwinion until it’s coming out of your ears, Amroth," Thranduil said as they all continued laughing.

"And who’s fault is that?" Amroth rejoined mildly. "You Elves of the Great Greenwood are even worse, so I am told."

"Aye, but we know how to pace ourselves," Thranduil retorted, his eyes gleaming with mischief, "while you of Lórinand swill the stuff as if it’s going out of style."

Laughter continued for a while and there were other comments, some ruder than others, but all taken in good humor, for none of it was mean-spirited. Finally, they calmed down and there was a companionable silence for a time among them. Then Elrond spoke, his voice quiet. "We of Imladris follow the customs of Lindon where Gil-galad comes before the people and sings a hymn of his own composing, and it is always a new one every year. Then there is a city-wide celebration where people gather in the various squares and eat and sing and make merry. We of the Court gather for a great feast with fourteen removes, each one dedicated to a different Balan."

"How long did it take you to eat all that?" Anárion asked.

"What did you eat?" Aratan asked almost at the same time.

"And do you truly dedicate a remove to the Lord of Mandos?" Ciryion, the youngest among them all asked in surprise.

Elrond lifted an eyebrow. "All day, everything in sight, and why not?"

There was a brief silence and then the Dwarf, Azaghâl, who had remained quiet throughout the discussion, being intent on carving a new haft for his axe, snickered and then they were laughing, the three Men looking embarrassed. "And how do the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm celebrate this day, if indeed they do?" Elendil asked the Dwarf politely.

Azaghâl nodded. "Oh, indeed we do celebrate, Lord Elendil. It is much as is done elsewhere from what I gather: singing and dancing and feasting and the swilling of large quantities of drink, though in our case, some very fine beers and ales. I think only Men would appreciate them, however. Elves, I deem, are too delicate of constitution to enjoy them."

There were many eyebrows raised at that statement and not a few affronted looks among some of the Elves, though Elrond’s expression was more one of fond amusement for his friend’s acerbic tone.

"Well, you obviously have never had Dorwinion, Master Dwarf," Thranduil said somewhat huffily.

"Indeed I have, my Lord Thranduil," Azaghâl retorted affably, "and I find it rather... weak, myself, though my son, Bóri, enjoys it." He gave them a sly grin. "As they say, there’s no accounting for taste."

There was a sprinkling of laughter and the previous tension among them lifted. Isildur was about to make a comment when all looked up at the approach of a golden-haired Elf.

"Ah, Lord Glorfindel," Azaghâl exclaimed cheerfully as the Balrog-slayer reached them. "We have been entertaining one another with descriptions of how our people celebrate Mid-Summer. I understand you originally hail from Gondolin. Pray, tell us how your people celebrated this day."

There was a sudden intake of breath from more than one throat and an uncomfortable silence hung in the air, especially among some of the Elves as they waited for Glorfindel’s response. Glorfindel stood there, blinking once or twice at the Dwarf, as if he were not quite sure he’d heard correctly. Azaghâl, for his part, began to realize the inappropriateness of his question and started to stammer an apology, but Glorfindel forestalled him with a shrug.

"By dying, Master Dwarf," he said calmly enough, then turned to Elrond. "Gil-galad wants a word with you, Elrond, and you, too, Elendil." Then he turned and walked away without so much as a bow to any of them.

That seemed to be the signal for the group to disperse, each to his own place, as Elrond and Elendil stood to follow Glorfindel. Azaghâl looked worriedly at the retreating figure of the Balrog-slayer. "I did not mean to...."

"It is all right, my friend," Elrond said kindly, laying a comforting hand on the Dwarf’s shoulder. "We have all learned not to mention ‘Mid-Summer’ and ‘Gondolin’ in the same breath around Glorfindel. It’s a rather touchy subject for him."

"And I thought vacationing in Mordor was bad," Aratan muttered to his brothers in an attempt at levity as they were taking their leave.

Isildur, having heard, rolled his eyes and whacked his son on the back of his head with the palm of his hand. "Just for that, you get to sing the paean of praise before the entire troop before we sit to sup," he admonished Aratan.

"Alone?" the young Man practically wailed, his eyes widening in distress.

"Do not worry, Aratan," Elrond said with a wicked grin. "I’ll have Lindir accompany you." And with that he and Elendil headed for Gil-galad’s pavilion while everyone but Lindir and Aratan laughed.

****

Words are Sindarin:

Adar: Father.

Lórinand: An older name for Lothlórien.

Balan: Vala.

Notes:

1. Vacation may appear to be a modern term but it came into existence around 1350 with the meaning ‘freedom from something’, i.e. from work or study.

2. In the Gregorian calendar, the mid-point of the year is 2 July (Day 183). According to Tolkien, the Númenóreans began the year on our 22 December, which they called Yestarë (Beginning-Day), the day before being Mettarë (End-Day). Löendë, or Mid-year Day, would then fall on 21 June, the day of the Summer Solstice. See ‘Appendix D’.

3. The hymn sung by Elendur is an adaptation of ‘Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow’.

4. Azaghâl (this story’s only OC), and his friendship with Elrond, is described in my tale Elladan and Elrohir’s Not So Excellent Adventure.





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