Something needed to be done about the lady Artanis. It was a fact understood by all the household servants, even mentioned sometimes while they worked at their various duties. But when they talked, the Two Problems eventually arose. First: someone needed to tell Arafinwë; second: none of the servants wanted to.
It wasn’t that they were afraid of their employer, the servants all agreed. (Certainly not!) Rather, none of them wished to be the one to mar the man’s image of his daughter, which was...shall we say, a bit out of date. As many great and noble qualities as Arafinwë possessed, it could not be denied his normally insightful views into a person’s true character were somewhat dim when it came to Artanis.
So against their better judgment, the household staff held their collective tongue. But as has always been true, none know better the inner workings of a family than that family’s attendants. And so the servants bore witness as Lady Artanis grew from a sweet child to a fiery girl. Her sporadic “awkward moments” grew more frequent, until even Eärwen’s legendary patience grew thin.
Then came the Trying Time, when even Arafinwë had to admit the truth: something needed to be done about the lady Artanis.
It all started when Lady Artanis took it into her head to wear her brothers’ clothes. Ambaráto’s rose-colored ceremonial tunic disappeared from his clothes press, which sent the laundry maids into a tizzy. The tunic reappeared when Artanis made her social debut at King Finwë’s court later that month, complemented by a pair of sturdy work books and a leather belt. (No one dared ask what she wore beneath the tunic.) At event after event that spring, Artanis continued to turn up in mannish attire, and she remained unmoved by her mother’s stern lectures, which devolved into begging as the season progressed and the good ladies of Tirion began to take note.
The servants wrung their hands in misery. Nothing looked worse for a domestic staff than when the young lady of the house galumphed into the public sphere wearing baggy trousers and unlaundered doublets. Their own reputation was being called into question, and that would simply not do.
Next came the drinking and the brawling. Respectable young ladies did not drink to excess, and they definitely didn’t grow intoxicated in dark alleys, surrounded by members of the Lower Orders. Respectable young ladies certainly did not gamble; nor did they lose all of their quarterly allowance to suspicious-looking butchers who couldn’t be found by light of day. Neither did respectable young ladies challenge other youths to fisticuffs at midday, in the spice market. And above all: respectable young ladies did not, under any circumstances, ride naked through the Great Square on the back of an ostrich just as King Finwë was making another of his stuffy speeches. (Luckily, Arafinwë and Eärwen were out of town visiting relatives that afternoon, and Artanis’s elder brothers mitigated most of the damage before word reached them.)
Really, the servants agreed, it was nearly too much to be borne. Somebody ought to do something.
The last straw was the Fountain Incident. The staff didn’t like to talk about it aloud, and for years would only reference it with furtive hand gestures and discreet whispers behind raised palms. They all knew the power of gossip, and they were loyal to the House of Arafinwë down to the last scullery boy.
But if you asked the right person on the right day, you might hear a story like this: Melwë (that’s the downstairs parlormaid) was polishing the glass in Lady Eärwen’s favorite salon when she heard a noise like splash or a crash or “something terrible” in the courtyard. Melwë went out to have a look, and that’s when she found Lady Artanis, in the fountain, without her shirt, tangled up with one of the groom’s assistants. One of the groom’s female assistants, who was also missing half her clothing. So Melwë screamed, Lady Artanis screamed, and the groom’s assistant (poor girl) burst into tears. Ténon the majordomo was summoned, and he had the unpleasant task of telling Arafinwë. It took Arafinwë some time to wrap his mind around Ténon’s story, but once he did, Lady Eärwen was consulted in private, and together they developed a course of action.
All were in agreement: something needed to be done about the lady Artanis.