Findekano looked around his cell and sighed. A rescue attempt had seemed like a good idea at the time. He had figured out quite a few ways to sneak into the palace over the years, and he was fast enough to outrun anyone who did spot him. He hadn’t counted on twice the number of guards, or them apparently using palantirs to coordinate and alert the guards on the gate when he was found in the kitchen. So now he imprisoned by Feanaro, the de facto king of the Noldor.
It had started when word of Finwe’s death reached them from Formenos. Every had been shocked, but the city was in crisis and needed a strong leader. Nolofinwe had been running Tirion for years, and did his best to maintain normal order. Feanaro declared himself king, and announced that everyone should prepare to leave to fight Morgoth.
Nolofinwe had ignored him.
Findekano wasn’t clear on the details of what happened next, but Feanaro entered the palace, and shortly after announced the imprisonment of the traitors Nolofinwe and Arafinwe, and the stripping of their titles, for usurpation and collaboration with the enemy. Where this left their offspring, or their sisters Findis and Irime, was anyone’s guess. Findekano’s mother Anaire had told her children not to leave the house, and sent home all except a handful of their servants.
Findekano had obeyed, until he thought he had a good plan for getting his father out. It had failed, and now he was waiting for someone to announce his fate.
He tried to reach out with his mind to Maitimo, for the dozenth time in the past week. Neither of them was greatly skilled with osanwe, but perhaps the proximity would help.
Maitimo reached back. It was just a burst of alarm, but he knew Findekano was there.
After a moment, Maitimo opened his mind more fully. They had little practice with sending specific thoughts, but seeing through each other’s eyes (and every other sense) was a skill they had practiced frequently when the whole House of Finwe gathered at the palace for festivals, and they were close but there were too many people around to sneak past.
Maitimo was speaking with his father Feanaro, who looked angry, even more so than usual.
“Why else would he be sneaking around the palace with a dagger?” Feanaro said.
“I can’t explain the dagger, but - he may have been coming to visit me.”
“You’d share our plans with the son of a traitor?”
“Of course not. We’ve been having, ah, assignations, and I think he’s in love with me.”
“You’ve been literally consorting with Nolofinwe’s son?!”
“Literally only, I assure you. And not since Nolofinwe spoke out against you in front of Grandfather.”
“What do you mean?”
“Findekano may be in love with me, but I have no plans of marrying him, and he knows it. He is merely someone who can help me relax. If I find a woman I want to marry, he will go away.”
“You don’t expect him to make trouble when you get married and leave him?”
“No, he’s convinced enough of his love for me that he’ll do whatever makes me happiest.”
“Why would he be coming for an assignation now?”
“This is the first time we’ve been in the same city in years, and I told him to wait for my return. He’s probably thinking with his cock more than what brain he has.”
“You don’t sound like you particularly esteem your lover. Indeed, I can hardly think of a reason for you to choose him.”
Maitimo shrugged. “Findekano’s not intellectually stimulating, but I can rely on family for that. He is gorgeous, athletic, and willing to do whatever I say. I don’t want to go into any more details with my father, but you can surely understand the appeal?”
With that, Maitimo closed his mind, and Findekano became aware of footsteps approaching down the hall. He had perhaps a minute to figure out how he was going to play this - being lust-addled over Maitimo would be enough of an excuse to get Feanaro to release him, but not to speak with him.
So he glared, and when Maitimo and Feanaro came around the corner, he turned it into a smile of relief. “Maitimo! You’re alright!”
“I was worried sick about you, and all you have to say is of course you’re alright?”
“What in Arda do you think would be a threat to me?”
Findekano glanced over to Feanaro. “I’m not sure if I should say…”
“I’ve told my father about us, and there is no longer a need to keep secrets from him. Anything you can say to me you can say in front of him.”
“Your father seems to be eliminating anyone else who could rally the Noldor behind them, even if they, like uncle Arafinwe, never tried to. Everyone knows you were Grandpa’s favorite grandchild.”
“I’m not going to lead an uprising against my own father.”
“I know you aren’t, but you could. And everyone knows Feanaro’s paranoid, I wasn’t sure he’d give you the chance to prove your loyalty.”
Maitimo’s eyebrows drew down and his arm twitched, as if he wished to strike Findekano but recalled the bars in his way. “Do not insult my family again.”
Findekano ducked his head. “I’m sorry. Anyway, I was worried, so I snuck in to try and see you, and get you out if needed. If guards were sent out looking for you, two people would be less interesting than one traveling alone. Or I could create a diversion of some sort. And if you didn’t need help, I’d sneak out before morning like usual”
Feanaro spoke then. “I see what you mean about his devotion. Unfortunate that he’s willing to commit treason.”
“Even though I don’t need rescue, the number of people who would be willing to risk their lives to do so is quite low. I know we can’t trust him as my bodyguard after that little speech, but as you can see he’s no threat to me.”
“No threat, but I still hardly see the appeal.”
“You have us to be devoted to you above all; devotion combined with a nimble mind is incredibly rare.”
“And so you settle for some devotion and a pretty face.”
“Not just a little devotion, and more than his face is pretty. Findekano, take off your clothes for me.”
Findekano was blindsided by the request. “Right now, in front of your father?”
“It’s been a decade since I last got to see you, are you really going to make me wait longer?” Maitimo kept his tone tone even as if this was a completely normal request, but his eyes were pleading.
“Sorry, of course not Maitimo.”
Findekano took off his tunic first, letting the light play across his muscles. He knew he was, if not quite as well formed as Maitimo, strong and handsome enough to get appreciative looks. He had no reason to feel self-conscious about his appearance.
Boots and socks were next. Findekano was not any less dressed than he had been at the athletic field, in front of far more people than now. There was no reason he should feel uncomfortable yet.
Findekano focused on Maitimo as he bent to remove his hose. Usually when the two of them met up it was a rush to kiss and touch as much as possible before anyone noticed their absence, but there had been occasions when they had time to slow down and show off for each other.
He paused for a moment then, but took off his breechcloth as well. He didn’t cover himself, but he could at least turn to face Matimo more than Feanaro. The part he had to play was obedient, but not to the king.
A soon as Findekano was completely bare, Maitmo smiled and said “Beautiful.”
Findekano let himself blush and noticed Matimo’s hand was near the bars of the cell. He bowed over it and kissed it. “A high compliment coming from you.”
Maitimo smiled, and cupped his lover’s cheek a moment, before withdrawing his hand and turning to his father. “See? He will obey me, and I give you my word I will not let his presence distract me from my duties.”
Feanaro said, “Fine. He may stay in your quarters rather than the dungeons for now. He is not, however, to go wandering the castle.”
“Thank you, Father.”
“Thank you, your majesty,” Findekano echoed.
“I suppose having Nolo’s son here could be useful for calming some of the idiots.”
“It would be good then for him to have some more formal clothes. I’ll have a servant fetch them from his house.”
“I won’t have anyone parading around displaying the usurper’s symbol.”
“Redoing the embroidery will be faster than tailoring an entire new wardrobe. And for now,” Maitmo turned to Findekano, “give me your tunic.”
Findekano bent to pick up his tunic from the floor behind him, acutely aware that he had not yet been told to get dressed.
“You’re not going to have him walk there as he is and appreciate the view?”
“As nice a view as it is, I’m a bit possessive. I’m not going to share my treasure with the whole guard.” As he spoke, Maitmo used his dagger to neatly cut off the emblem on the center of the tunic. “You can go ahead and get dressed, I woke up in the middle of the night for this and I’d like to go back to sleep as soon as possible.”
Findekano did so quickly, noticing that the tunic he took back from Maitimo now let his chest quite exposed. But his lower half was covered again and he was not going to be locked in prison with no key, so there was a bright side.
Feanaro unlocked the cell door and left. Neither Findekano or Maitmo spoke during the walk back to Maitimo’s rooms. Maitimo walked quickly, looking at Findekano enough only to be sure that he was not falling behind. Findekano for his part made sure to be smiling at Maitimo whenever someone crossed their path, though he didn’t bother to completely hide his embarrassment - he was in deshabille after all.
As soon as the bedroom door was closed and latched behind them, Maitimo practically collapsed against it. Not looking up, he said, “I’ve got spare tunics hanging up in my wardrobe, one of them should fit you.”
“Thank you.” Findekano had never felt vulnerable being undressed in front of Maiitmo before. He refused to hurry now as he stripped off his torn tunic and put on one that was a little tight across the shoulders, but intact.
“You look rather beat up. Do you want me to send for someone to draw up a bath?”
Findekano bit back I wouldn’t know, you didn’t give me a mirror for the show . “A bath can wait. First I’d like to know the plan or what happens next.”
“What makes you think I have a plan?”
“I’m in your bedroom indefinitely rather than back at home, possibly after a week or two in a cell.”
“Back home was never an option. My father had you arrested for attempted assasination.”
“I thought it was out of character, but I could hardly make the argument to him.”
“I was coming to talk with my father, and get him out if possible. I figured the fewest changes from the truth would be the easiest story to keep straight.”
“I thought similarly.”
“Well, I’m not scheduled for execution, or locked in a cell for the next yeni, so thank you I guess.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t think of a better way of demonstrating your loyalty.”
Findekano sighed. “It’s what we’ve got. What do we do from here?”
“What do you want? I can’t do a lot, but I could claim boredom of you in a month or two and send you out of the palace.”
“For now, I want to not be killed, not to have sex in public, and not to have to expose myself. I want to keep my family safe, including them knowing I’m safe so no one tries to rescue me . A light at the end of the tunnel that whatever we do now goes back to a normal relationship at some point before one of us, or your father, dies.”
“What I actually want is to run away with you to a cottage halfway up the Pelori and ignore politics altogether, but our families would assume we kidnapped each other and burn the city down on. And I know you won’t go for it unless I actually did kidnap you, which is impractical at best.”
“Yes, let’s not do that.”
“Before we go any further, I have to know. Is my father…”
“He’s alive. He was scraped up a bit during the arrest, but not much worse than you are. He’s being given food and water, but no visitors except my father.”
“Is there any chance I could see him?”
Maitimo considered for a minute. “Not unsupervised. If you’re willing to be accompanied my a guard and myself, probably within a week, as long as we can convince my father that he’s flaunting how I ‘conquered’ you.”
“That would still be long enough to see that he’s alright, and to tell him we’re all safe.”
“We told him you were, but I don’t think he believed us.”
“He has no reason to.”
“Fair enough.” Maitimo sighed. “I can see two ways to play it from here. Option one, you’re too stupid to be a threat, or to be manueverable for politcal purposes. I could probably let you go home soon, just have you summoned here on short notice once a week or so. Or else, you’re smart but just so incredibly devoted to me. You’d make approved speeches to the people, probably about how my father’s high king and everyone should obey him. If you’re a political figure like that though, you won’t be allowed out where you could stir up an uprising.”
“If I’m capable of pacifying the Noldor, will Feanaro realize he has no further use for my father and kill him?”
“I don’t think so - gloating to Nolofinwe about how unnecessary he is will always be fun. My father is more likely to decide that unrest means people need to be shown an example.”
“Well then, I suppose it’s the second option and try to unify people. Or option one and go straight to planning a revolution, but no one’s died yet and I can’t think of how to keep a rebellion from going overboard.”
“What counts as overboard?”
“Killing your father if he can be captured, killing anyone else especially you or your brothers, spilling over into general anti-craftsman or anti-Formenos violence. I thought about it for a while before deciding to break my father out of jail.”
“I believe you did.”
“Thanks. So, option two, smart but so incredibly devoted that I don’t mind you just using me for sex and politics.”
“I’ll call for the servants to send someone for your things first thing in the morning. You’ll need to look the part - maybe even keep one or two of Nolofinwe’s emblems. You can start attending meetings once you’ve got something to wear other than my borrowed things.”
“I do actually own clothes without anyone’s insignia on them, even if you don’t. In the meantime though, I haven’t slept yet tonight, and you could use some more if you’re going to outmaneuver your father.”
“Right. I’ll take the couch, you can have the bed.”
“Is there a reason we can’t share?”
“I didn’t want to presume, after ordering...”
“It would be presuming to try and talk me into sex right now. But I’d like to hold you.”
Maitimo let out a breath and stopped moving so carefully. “I’m so glad that didn’t ruin everything between us.”
“It might’ve, if we’d had to act any further. I will not have sex in front of someone just to prove how little you care for me.”
“It won’t come to that.”
“Good.” Findekano climbed into the bed. “Besides, it would look odd if a servant came in with breakfast and saw your bed warmer not even literally warming your bed.”
Someone knocked at the door of Nolofinwe’s house. It took awhile for someone to answer, as everyone was frantically trying to figure out where Findekano had gone without letting anyone outside the house know he was missing. It had been over a day, and Lady Anaire was beginning to hope he was stuck halfway up a tree somewhere, like when he was a child.
A maid glanced out the window and ran to Lady Anaire rather than open the door herself. Royal guards accompanying a servant in Feanorian livery were not a good sign.
“What can I do for you gentlemen?”
The servant said, “This is the residence of Findekano, son of the traitor Nolofinwe?”
The question wasn’t really necessary; every guard in the city knew where each of the princes lived. Anaire answered anyway, “Yes; I am his mother.” Findekano was at least not being called traitor yet.
“He will be staying at the palace for some time. I am here to pick up some of his effects.”
“Oh! If I’d had a little notice I could have packed up a bag and spared you the trouble.”
“It’s no trouble at all. I’d have to look through the bag anyway for security reasons - I’m sure you understand.”
“Of course. Come in then, and I’ll show you to his room.” She only looked at the messenger, but wasn’t surprised the guards came as well. Anaire noticed the cook watching from a nearby doorway. “Would you please put on some tea for our guests? I assume you three have already eaten breakfast.” The last she’d seen the rest of her children they were in the kitchen, having given up on finding Findekano in the house and brainstorming other places he could be. The cook would spread the news, and hopefully keep Irisse and Arakano from doing anything rash.
“If you’re sure. What is Findekano doing in the palace anyway? I know you have to look through everything, but he’s impulsive enough he might’ve forgotten to ask for something I’d remember.”
“Findekano is the personal guest of Crown Prince Nelyafinwe.” The servant did not elaborate further.
“They’ve always been close friends, I’m glad they’ll have each other to rely on.” At that point, even taking the longest route possible through the house, they were at Findekano’s room. “I’ll leave you to it. I apologize for the mess; we were worried when he didn’t come home last night.” The servant didn’t acknowledge her, merely closed the door behind him
Lady Anaire immeditaely ducked into Arakano’s room. It had a window on the same wall as Findekano’s room, and with both windows open sound traveled very well.
There were rustling noises, and then one of the guards spoke. “I don’t see why we’re bothering. It’s not like he’ll spend most of his time dressed.”
“Prince Nelyafinwe ordered it.”
“Maybe the prince likes ripping things off him. I saw the two of them in the hall the other night, with the minx’s tunic slashed half to ribbons.”
“I guess that’s why they asked for nearly his entire wardrobe.”
The servant cut in. “We should stop this discussion right now. We’re already seeing his underclothes. If we start speculating on him wearing them and Prince Nelyafinwe notices, we’ll be in real trouble. Or do you want to bet your life that the crown prince is more forgiving of people coveting his property than his father is?”
The conversation died with that.
Lady Anaire tried to see a bright side in all this. Findekano was alive, and seemed likely to stay that way. That was better than she feared when the guards first showed up. Maitimo would… she couldn’t guess. His behavior lately was so far from what she knew of his character. Maitimo would never attack anyone, but he had been involved in capturing the palace. Maitimo would never force someone like that, but he apparently was. Thoughts like ‘Maitimo would never hurt Findekano’ were less than comforting.
She tried again for the bright side. Everyone was pretending Findekano was a guest, despite him probably not being allowed to leave. Guests could get letters, and go visit family, and receive guests of their own. She’d write a nice, motherly message scolding Findekano for not letting her know before going off to visit friends, and when he wrote something back she’d know more.
If he wasn’t allowed to write back, she’d try something else. Maybe have lunch with Lady Nerdanel, even though she and Feanaro had lived apart for years. Or see if Carnistir was willing to talk with her - his embroidery and Anaire’s quilting were rather different, but they’d need more of the latter if they wanted to survive in the Outer Lands. If neither of them would speak to her, Indis was still a princess of the Vanyar. Ingwe had stayed out of Noldorin politics, but a letter to the so-called King Feanaro requesting a meeting with his grandnephews might help.
By the time the guards were done ransacking Findekano’s room - no, Anaire reminded herself, packing for his visit with a friend - Anaire had made a bundle with his harp, a polite note, and a few of Maitimo’s favorite candies that she found at the back of the cupboard. She poured tea and served bread with jam to the visitors who were of course welcome to stay as long as they liked and not at all reminders of the lurking danger to her family.
Nolofinwe heard people approaching down the corridor. He’d been fed perhaps an hour ago - telling time down here was difficult - so it must be Feanaro coming to gloat. His half-brother had last visited four days ago, with a cock-and-bull story about Findekano having come to the palace purely to sleep with Maitimo. Feanaro had refused to elaborate more, leaving Nolofinwe frustratingly short of information. Nolofinwe could never win an argument like this, where Feanaro could storm off when ahead and he couldn’t, but perhaps he could choose the topic if he fired the opening salvo. He readied himself to rage at Feanaro.
And his breath left him like he’d been punched in the gut. Maitimo had accompanied his father once before, but then he had been silent and nearly emotionless. Now Maitimo was smiling as if he was strolling through the park, and his arm was wrapped around the shoulders of another elf, cradling him against his side. And that elf was - “Findekano?!”
“Father! Are you well?”
“As well as I can be.”
“That’s very good to hear,” Findekano answered. He reached his hands through the bars of the cell to hold Nolofinwe’s hands.
“What are you doing down here?”
“I asked Maitimo if I could come see you, to reassure Mother and my siblings.”
“It was that easy?”
“Well, Matimo had to convince King Feanaro. And of course I had to persuade Matimo, but that was actually rather fun.” Findekano kissed Maitimo on the cheek, who looked like his puppy had just offered him it’s favorite chew toy.
“WHAT?” Nolofinwe had been gearing up to argue, and that anger did not quickly dissipate.
“Maitimo and I have been dating for decades. I hid it from you because I knew you’d disapprove.”
“Of course I disapprove! He’s Feanaro’s son! Feanaro humiliated me in front of the whole court, held a sword to my throat twice now, and locked me in this jail cell!”
“I’m not going to blame Maitimo for his father’s actions - you know even Grandpa Finwe can’t control Feanaro!”
“He still spends time with Feanaro, who is power-mad, paranoid, and violent! Getting closer to him is not at all wise.”
Maitimo’s face hardened at that. “I don’t have to stand here and listen to your insults.”
“I never asked to speak with you!” Nolofinwe retorted.
“Indeed. Findekano, come along. We’re leaving.” Maitmo turned away.
Finedkano said, “Please Maitimo! I’m sure he didn’t mean it, and is just upset at being alone so long.”
“He does mean it, and delusional insults to my family are still insults.”
Findekano dropped to his knees, and kissed Maitimo’s hand. “Even if my father does mean it, he won’t convince me. You know I’ll never leave you.”
“I don’t know, some of those ideas sound quite a lot like what you said yourself.”
“You explained to me the error of those thoughts, and I will not forget again.” Findekano shifted his weight. “Please, I would speak with him a few minutes longer.”
Maitimo sighed. “Fine. A few minutes, if you can keep the conversation civil.”
Findekano smiled and kissed Maitimo on the lips. Maitimo deepened it as he kissed back, turning the quick peck into something hungry. Eventually, he pulled back and leaned against the wall.
Findekano turned to address his father. “So, I’d appreciate if you’d refrain from insulting my boyfriend or his relatives, but I do miss talking to you. When Feanaro took over, Mother told us all not to leave the house. Turukano hardly seems to have noticed, but Arakano’s getting antsy and Irisse was doing handstands in the living room.”
“And you went out to see Maitimo.”
“I love him. It’s not strange to seek out and spend time with your love when life is troubled.”
Nolofinwe bit back several remarks about how much of the trouble Maitimo caused, and several more about whether Findekano’s love was returned. Eventually, he said, “I still have misgivings, but you are grown and can make your own decisions. As long as this makes you happy, I shall not forbid it.” Mostly because forbidding the relationship would only drive Findekano away, possibly literally. “Now, tell me more of what your siblings are up to - is Turukano obsessed with an architecture text again?”
“Something to do with city planning this time.” And so they talked of trivial matters, until Maitimo straightened up. Then Findekano said his goodbyes, and walked off, leaving Nolofinwe alone with his thoughts.
“So, I think that went well.”
“Very well. Well enough for me to visit on my own?”
“I doubt it, you could be plotting against the king. I think we demonstrated my power over you well enough that we could just ignore the whole thing next time though.”
“True, or I could have a different escort. I wouldn’t have to act so servile around the Ambarussa.”
“Probably not until you’ve been obviously harmless longer.”
“I wish I could just speed this up. I bet that if I thwarted an actual assassin, that would do it.”
The first thing Maitimo said when he returned to his room the next evening was, “You have to change your hair.”
“I’ve worn it this way since before my majority! I admit it’s a rather Vanyarin style, but since I’m not trying for the throne I don’t see why it matters. Surely your father doesn’t really care that much about trends.”
“The style is fine, it’s that you wear gold ribbons.”
“I’ve done that for nearly as long.”
“Which is why I didn’t think of it until my father mentioned it at dinner today. Gold above the chin is reserved for the royal family.”
Findekano nodded. “Because it resembles a crown, I know, I had the same etiquette lessons as you did. Wait, am I not counted as part of the royal family anymore?”
“Due to their treason, the lines of Arafinwe and Nolofinwe have been strpped of their titles,” Maitimo quoted. “Your mother is still ‘Lady’, and Aunt Earwen is still a princess of Alqualonde. But even if Nolofinwe’s title hadn’t been taken, you’re not a descendant of the current king.”
“So what, I’m supposed to burn all reminders that anyone other than Feanaro was ever king?”
“Not literally burn, but at least stop wearing them for now.”
Findekano sighed. “And what can I wear in place of them? I really don’t want to wear my hair loose, and I think your father would take blue and silver ribbons nearly as badly.”
Maitimo chuckled at the image. “Let’s not. We can’t go with green, that’s uncle Arafinwe, and white’s too close to silver. You could do black I suppose, but it would hardly show. Yellow and orange are both too close to gold. I suppose I might be able to find purple.”
“No, purple is royal in Alqualonde. They’re going to hate you enough without it looking like I’m usurping Findarato. That doesn’t leave we with many options, does it?”
“Red would be fitting for a vassal of house Feanaro. Or copper, as mine.”
“If I can’t wear my own colors, I’d much rather wear yours than you father’s. Do you have copper colored hair ribbons on hand though? I’ve never seen you wear them.”
“I actually do - Carnistir made them when he was first learning to spin. I don’t wear them because they really don’t show up against my hair.”
“Well, at least they’ll be distinct on me then. It’ll take me hours to redo all these braids; should I start now or can it wait until morning?”
“It’s better if I can truthfully tell my father than I saw you properly adornes to fit your station, sorry.”
“Alright. You go find the ribbons, and I’ll go into the bathroom and start.”
“You don’t have to hide away; I’m perfectly willing to help you with the braiding.”
“That’s sweet, but I’ll be up half the night.”
“There’s no reason you need to be bored by yourself rather than talking with me while you do your hair.”
“Actually there is. I can sleep half the day away tomorrow, and you can’t. Can you start looking for the ribbons now? If you haven’t worn them since Carnistir was a child, I doubt you know where in your room they are any better than I do.”
After two weeks, Findekano’s life at the palace had settled into a routine. He would eat breakfast with Maitimo, who would leave immediately after to attend council meetings with King Feanaro. At lunch time, a servant would come by either with food, or to take Findekano to lunch with Maitimo and councilors, where Maitimo would be handsy and Findekano would gaze adoringly. If plans were discussed over lunch, Findekano could provide context, but any suggestions he dared to make would be vetoed by the king.
In the afternoon, Matimo went around the city preparing for the Noldor to pursue Morgoth. Maitimo had dinner with his father and brothers, and then would come back with a plate of the same for Findekano to eat while he finished up the last bits of paperwork for the day. Maitimo would apologize for whatever way he’d been rude to Findekano that day to keep up the ruse, and Findekano would forgive him. They would have sex if they could keep any sort of interest in it, and would hold each other afterwards for hours until they fell asleep.
And in between, Findekano was locked up in Maitimo’s rooms by himself. Feanaro had not yet decided to trust him with any speeches to the populace. Findekano had spent the first day rearranging Maitimo’s furniture, and closet, to carve out a space for his things. Maitimo had a few books in his room, but within a few days Findekano had read them all. He could do some calisthenics, but there was no room to run and of course no one would trust him with a bow or sparring sword. He wrote letters to his family every few days, but there as little that happened to him and less that he could tell, as he left out both anything that could get him accused of spying and anything that would worry them. Making up new outfits fit for the crown prince’s lover was amusing at times, until it shifted abruptly into depressing. The servants who brought his meals refused to speak with him, either because Nolofinwe was a traitor, or because Findekano was little better than a prostitute, or because they didn’t want Maitimo to think they had ill intentions.
In short, Findekano was bored. It felt like a petty complaint, with Maitimo running ragged to keep everyone from killing each other, and his father and Uncle Arafinwe locked in small dark cells with no one to trust. But bored he was, and he worried that if he kept this up for too long he’d start thinking that helping Maitimo relax really was the best use of his skills.
So when there was a sharp knock on the door before a key turning in the lock, Findekano felt more curiosity than fear. Feanaro coming with guards to lock him in the dungeons would at least give him an excuse to run - running to find Maitimo could look loyal, and though he’d lose any chance of influencing policy, it wasn’t like he had much opportunity to do so now.
“Put on some clothes, it’s me, not your dear Maitimo.” Macalaure entered the room with a hand dramatically covering his eyes.
Findkean rolled his eyes at his cousin’s antics. “I’m already dressed, the servants don’t always knock when they come by to clean.”
Macalaure dropped his hand. “So you are. Odd, as I heard stories about the crown prince’s lover hanging out with it all hanging out.”
“That was or the first day when we were waiting on my clothes to be brought! Your brother is too tall, and none of his clothes but his tunics fit me at all.”
“Is that all there is to it?”
“Yes. Now what do you want?” He wouldn’t be so brusque with Curufinwe or Carnistir, who would take it as insults to their station newly elevated above him; or Tyelcormo, who used everything as an excuse for a dirty joke; or the Ambarussa, who he still thought of as his baby cousins despite having been full grown for decades.
“None of the musicians in town will talk to me.”
“I can’t believe that; it’s impossible to get musicians to shut up.”
“Oh, people will still talk about their own latests project, and listen to me talk about mine, but it’s artistically dead. No one will say a word on how to improve my songs, all of them are perfect, even when I deliberately play flat notes. And any advice I give causes a complete rework of the song.”
“I would’ve thought you’d like it. Your artistic genius is finally being shown the respect it deserves.”
“Oh, give it a rest. They’re not acknowledging my skill, they’re just terrified of my father.”
“A completely unpredictable consequence of imprisoning people randomly.”
“It’s not random, Father and Nelyo have a complicated strategy. The point is I needed someone who wouldn’t be scared to talk back.”
“Of course. My father is locked up in the dungeons and I’m locked up in here, so I’ll give honest feedback because I’m completely safe. The logic is so simple”
Macalaure rolled his eyes. “You can’t argue that you’re scared of arguing with me. Especially not while you’re arguing with me more now than anyone other than my brothers has dared to in weeks. You’re safe because as long as you don’t physically attack me, I can’t convince Nelyo you’re a threat. Breaking into the palace didn’t do it after all.”
Findekano sighed. “Fine, what do you want?”
“Do you have your harp with you? If you don’t, you can borrow one of mine. Come on down to the conservatory and we can practice, this room has terrible acoustics.”
“Sure. Let me leave Maitimo a note, I don’t want him to worry if he comes back while we’re gone.” Findekano rummaged through the desk, and made a note that was bright and cheerful and implied he’d be writing love songs. Maitimo was far from the only one with a key, after all. And if this was a covert execution, proof that Macalaure was involved would be useful to someone.
“Your brother visited me today.”
Matimo froze. “Which one?”
“Oh, that explains his comment at dinner. He said that he was glad to finally have another artist to talk to in the house. I’d worried he was teaching Tyelperinquar the flute.”
Carnistir came by the next day.
“If you’re going to make more work for me, you can at least help me with it.”
“Hello Carnistir, it’s nice to see you, please come in.”
“Don’t try to distract me! I’m already designing and sewing my father’s regal robes, and clothes fit for a long journey into somewhere that’s probably cold without us all looking like balls of fluff. And now I have to redo the embroidery on all your things!”
“Not all of it, I’ll supposedly give speeches as the head of my father’s house sometimes.”
“A lot of it! And then I hear from Macalaure that you’re lazing around, bored , while the rest of us are preparing frantically. Now, you can do the tunics and I’ll do the robes, they’ve got more detail work.” Caranthir shoved one bag at Findkano’s chest and sat on the couch.
“I can’t actually sew,” Findekano pointed out.
“Seriously? Not at all?”
“I can mend a rip in work-clothes, but that’s it. I’ve got a lot more practice working with leather.”
“I’m here for your assistance in sewing, not to hear about the perverted things you and my brother get up to.”
“I make my own tack for riding, get your mind out of the gutter.”
“I’m sorry, being in a room devoted to the pleasures of the flesh must have distracted me. If you can’t sew, you’ll at least be useful ripping out the old emblems. It’s tedious and requires a lot of focus but no skill or intelligence whatsoever.”
“Thank you so much.”
“You have Maitimo to give you compliments. Now do you know where he keeps a spare pair of scissors?”
“Check his desk, but they might’ve been taken away. Most of the sharp objects in this room were.”
“Your father is concerned for Maitimo’s safety.”
“And I’m concerned for your strength if you need a knife to threaten someone who sleeps next to you. Or does - nope, I’m not thinking of that.”
“Not thinking of what?”
“You are going to sit here with these scissors and these tweezers. Start with this robe, it’s far too gaudy and even If I just add a one-inch emblem it won’t look too bare. I’m going back to my room to get a second pair of scissors, and perhaps some yarn for you to untangle if you’re completely incomeptent.”
“Hello Findekano, I’m back with dinner.”
“You’re in a good mood tonight.”
“Yes, after dinner I’ve got something to show you.”
“What is it?”
“For years, we’ve been talking about what we could do to reflect how serious this is. Something so that if years from now someone tries to tell us it was just a bad decision we made in the enthusiasm of youth, we can point to it and say ‘I chose him. I wanted him forever, and I still do.’ The only reason we’ve never done anything is because of the secrecy, and that’s gone now.”
“You know I’d marry you if we could.”
“I know, and I’m not going to propose until we can. But I can do something so that everyone who sees us will know we’re Maitimo-and-Findekano, and that if they have foolish ideas of rescuing me from from you I won’t allow it.” Findekano started unlacing his shirt. “For now it’s just writing ink, but I know the elf who did Celegorm’s tattoos.”
There on his chest, was Maitimo’s name in perfect Tengwar.
“It’s off center,” Maitimo whispered.
“It’s centered on my heart. Do you like it?”
“It’s beautiful. I love you, this is so much, you’re willing to do this even given everything,”
“Findekano,” Maitmo said breathlessly, and proceeded to kiss him.
When they paused for breath, Maitimo said, “Is this tattooist discreet?”
“Very much so, she knows that a lot of her clients have to deal with the old guard who feel we’re defacing Eru’s creation, or limiting our own creativity for future ornamentation. I have no idea how you’d get her into the palace though.”
“I can think of a few ways. And it wouldn’t be such a big deal if my father found out she’d been here, as long as he thinks she just did the one on you.”
“As opposed to?” Fidnekano’s voice rose hopefully.
“Your name on me, of course.”
“Maitimo,” Findekano breathed.
“The answer is yes. Yes, I’ll be yours, forever. Your name on me, and mine on you, belonging to each other above all else.”
“You aren’t worried about Feanaro’s reaction?”
“I won’t start attending family dinners shirtless, but if he finds out, he finds out. If he can’t stand knowing I hold sincere affection for someone other than immediate family, he wants thralls and not sons after all.”
Findekano smiled. “That tattooist goes by Metimoro. She lives in the northeast of the city, near the corner of Andesine and Cardamom.”
The two of them made love, for the first time in months forgetting all else, with no thought given to listening ears and gossipy launderers and fathers and crowns.
The door to Maitimo’s room opened with a bang. Findekano looked over, then sprang up from his seat on the sofa. He immediately went into a low bow. “Your Majesty.”
After several moments in which Feanaro said nothing, Findekano glanced up. His uncle was glaring at him. “Maitimo is in a meeting at the moment, sire.”
“I am well aware of my son’s whereabouts.” He then pushed at Findekano’s shoulders. “Stand up, you look ridiculous.”
Findekano did, though he kept his gaze down rather than challenging. Feanaro walked around him, looking at his hair with its copper ribbons and his red tunic with a Finwean sun. When Feanaro completed the circuit, he grabbed Findekano’s chin and pulled his face up. Findekano flinched for a moment, then stilled. Feanaro started moving his head from one side to another like a jewel he was examining for faults.
“Your majesty? I am very confused by what you’re doing, and would be grateful if you would explain what you want from me.”
“You have bewitched three of my children. I am trying to figure out how. You are barely skilled at any craft, not a particularly gifted speaker, not exceptional at hunting. The only thing you have going for you is your looks, and even then there are dozens more beautiful in Tirion. So what has them so focused on you?”
Findekano tried to think though the adrenaline. “Your majesty, I must admit don’t understand what you’re talking about. I assure, I am loyal to Maitimo. I would not betray him by laying with another, especially his own brothers.”
“Don’t play stupid, it comes naturally enough to you on it’s own. Macalaure and Carnistir have both been to visit you frequently.”
“Macalaure discusses music with me, and Carnistir has been showing me the basics of embroidery.”
“Why? You are hardly the only harpist in the city, and I have heard nothing of your sewing.”
Findekano did not say Everyone else is completely terrified that you’ll kill them if they upset your sons. “I am convenient for Macalaure to practice with, being already in the palace. And Carnistir considers it only fair for me to learn embroidery, as much of his workload at the moment is redoing my wardrobe.”
“So Maitimo is the only one who has fallen for your physical charms, as little else as you have to offer?”
“I am in love with him, and I desire the touch of no other.”
“I am surprised that everyone has been willing to let your willingness be the last word, as beautiful as you are.”
“Your servants are loyal, and will not trespass on Maitimo’s claim. If any were not, I could fight off most who would try to take me unwilling.”
“You would fight, even though you have no standing here, even against one of my councilors? Even though they could have you thrown in a cell for the rest of your days?” Feanaro seemed amused as he asked.
“Your majesty, Maitimo is the love of my life and I will not lie to him. If any tried to have sex with me, I would tell Maitimo the truth of it, even if it means my death.”
Feanaro moved closer. “What would you do, if I asked you to yield to me? Would you obey your king’s order?”
Findekano shivered. “I will not be disloyal to Maitimo, even on your orders. But if I attacked my king, no matter what provocation, executing me as a traitor would be just. I would run to Maitimo in hope that he would talk you out of it. If you kept me from escaping, I would scream at the top of my lungs. But please your majesty, do not test it.”
Feanaro looked him in the eye. “You are brave, I will grant that.” With that he left the room.
When all was nearly ready for their departure, Feanaro spoke with his eldest son.
“I see no reason to bring Findekano across the sea. I suspect his loyalty is divided.”
“You are not ordering Tyelcormo to leave Huan behind, though Huan was one of Orome’s own hounds.”
“Are you saying I should?”
“Of course not. Huan has chosen a new master, and would kill or die for Tyelcormo. It would be a waste to leave him behind. I’m saying that Fingon is just as loyal to me as Tyelcormo’s hound is, despite his father.”
“Huan is one of the maiar, and the power he has may be useful. Findekano is just one elf.”
“Just one elf who thousands more will follow, even those do not acknowledge the rightful king.”
“All the more reason to leave such a threat behind, rather than invite an insurrection.”
“He will not lead an uprising.”
“No? Even if I command you into battle, he would not defy me to keep you captive and safe instead?”
“If you order me into battle and Findekano to stay behind, I expect he will disobey to come to my side. He would not lead an army against you for my safety, not unless he thought I was being tortured. And I know you love us too much for that to happen.”
“You truly believe that he will be a benefit militarily, not just in you bedchamber?”
“I do believe it.”
“Very well then. He shall come along, but I will not spare him the front lines.”
“Thank you father. If I am wrong and he betrays you, I will of course not stand in the way of whatever sentence your impose.”
“I never doubted that you would.”