“I have an idea.”
Eressë 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. Amarië 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.
"We heard you." Amarië'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. Eressë 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 Eressë, causing the fiddler to focus upon his instrument. Where Eressë'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 Eressë, 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 Amarië'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 Amarië kept playing, offering a continuation or the beginning of something else. Eressë 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 Amarië.
"Sometimes several," added Mahtan.
They both looked at Eressë 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.
Eressë 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, Amarië swore she could 'see the color' of what he played, but the other two disagreed, and since Eressë always played with his eyes closed, he would only shrug.
"No one? Nobody wants to know?"
Amarië heaved a sigh, and Mahtan shook his head. Eressë was lost in his music, swaying, conducting himself with his entire being. "It is.. golden-orangey right now," she said softly, watching Eressë'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, Eressë."
Without pause, Eressë 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 Eressë 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, Eressë poured every ounce of energy he had into his music, notes spilling from the fiddle. He made his point, crescendoed, and abruptly stopped.
Amarië 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 Eressë 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 Curufinwë?"
"No," shouted said Elf back.
"Oh." The ellon frowned.
"But you may speak to me as Fëanáro," shouted Curufinwë before he disappered into the cottage and out of the stranger's sight.
The door remained open, the stranger on the path. Soon, both Amarië and Mahtan turned away to see where Fëanáro had gone, and for what purpose. Only Eressë remained, and he clarrified. "That is Curufinwë, 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.
Eressë blocked the stranger's path. "I also advise you not to offer idle compliments, especially those you do not sincerely mean. Fëanáro prefers honesty to pity."
"And you are..?"
Bow in one hand, Eressë 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."
"Rúmil." The ellon bowed. "And your name..?"
Eressë was still planted in the doorway, and showed no sign that he was going to move. "You also neglected to offer your purpose."
Rúmil tilted his head. "How old are you?"
A muscle in Eressë'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." Rúmil opened a small pouch he had with him. From within, he drew out four envelopes. One was embossed with the name Curufinwë; the others were plain. "Are there any more of you in there?"
"Just four," said Eressë.
"One for each, then." Rúmil held them out. "Please, take them. And my regards to Fëanáro."
Eressë tucked the violin under an arm again, cautiously taking the letters.
Rúmil 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.
Eressë looked at the envelopes in his hands, turning them over once each before he stepped back inside and kicked the door closed.
“Good job.” Fëanáro was at a counter pouring glasses of brandy when Eressë returned. “I was not feeling particularly social at the moment. Did you tell him to come back in the morrow?”
Eressë shook his head. Instead, he held out one of the plain envelopes to Fëanáro, doing the same to Amarië 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 Fëanáro, 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, Rúmil, Headmaster, Sarati School.”
“Sound like a scam,” said Mahtan.
Eressë, 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 Rúmil. You do not really think the Headmaster would come all this way out to give us invitations.”
“He only wanted to talk to Fëanáro,” Eressë reminded the others. “It is not so unlikely that a Headmaster would want to speak directly to a pr--“
“Do not say it,” warned Fëanáro.
Eressë pursed his lips, thought a moment. “To a prrrrospective student—“
Fëanáro nodded. “Very good…”
“—whoooo… is a prince.”
Fëanáro closed his eyes, and bowed his head slightly. “And… the moment is gone,” he said with a groan.