The King of Flames @katie_tran
Chapter 11

Chapter 10

Author's Notes: Thank you so much to yzrafell, n.k (always) and OctaviaMadness for reviewing the last chapter!

oOo

"Master Elrond. Do you have a moment or am I disturbing you?"

The severe Imladris ruler looked up from his piles of notes from his office corner.

"Of course not, Khánh. Come on in," He beckoned her inside whilst rubbing the bridge of his nose, tiredly.

She strolled over and sat across from him at the grand table.

"Now," Elrond sorted his materials and put them away. "What can I help you with? Are you doing well, Khánh?"

She nodded.

"I am doing quite well. I believe Fëanor seems content with my work for him. I asked for a report, but he never cared to give me any official feedback on my performance other than the occasional offhand comments."

"How is Fëanor faring?" Elrond quirked a brow. "His body?"

"His body has much improved and that is where I am perplexed, Elrond," She sighed. "Fëanor's strength is practically immeasurable, and I do not find myself able to help much these days. I am not exactly sure why I am still here."

"Has Fëanor expressed that he has tired of you?" Elrond asked, concerned.

"Well, no. Quite the opposite in fact," Khánh flushed and looked away. "I fear that I might be living in luxury here. This is very unlike my previous stations you see."

"Indeed…And are you happy about these turn of events?"

"Of course, I am. You know how much I treasure Enedduin. But I am afraid I am being paid a salary for nothing, Elrond," She confessed.

"Now that is where you are incorrect," He adjusted his robes and leaned back to stare at her.
"You were specifically assigned to the role of Fëanor's assistant and healer. As a mortal, you are probably used to the term in the most literal and physical sense as in healing one's physical hröa. But healing is so much more than that. It also pertains to one's fëa or soul."

"Soul?" Khánh uttered. "You want me to help Fëanor recover mentally and spiritually. How can I do such a task?"

"Believe me, child. He has much changed for the better since you have arrived. Still demanding and a force of nature, but he has been opening up. Maedhros informed me just how surprised he was with you the other day," Elrond smiled.

"Maedhros? About me?"

Khánh was incredulous and recalled how Fëanor had warmly treated her recently. He had opened to her during that camping trip and then there were the hot springs.
Remembering the Elf's piercing, grey eyes and irreverent smile sent a shiver of pleasure down her spine.

"Yes, Khánh. So, if you are happy here, then please stay with us – With Fëanor a little longer until he bid you go."

Bid her go? The thought was unbearable.

"Elrond, I came here to ask you something personally."

Interest glinted in the older man's dark eyes.
"Yes? I am listening as I figured you had not asked to see me without key reason."

Khánh swallowed. She was suddenly at a loss on how to word her question right without sounding queer. She pondered how Elrond would react.

"Is hair important to the Firstborn?" She inquired, lamely. The Elf blinked.

"Hair?"

"Hair. On our heads. Every Elf I know, male and female, have long, lustrous locks that are well kept and styled," She clarified, cringing at herself.

Elrond was not sure where she was going with this. Why the mortal girl was touching on such a topic, he had no idea, but he nodded.

"Yes. The Eldar generally appreciate and seek beauty. The longer one's hair is, whether it is remarkably coloured like Galadriel's by way of example, the more lovely it is considered. We Elves value such things, among others. Why do you ask?"

Khánh twiddled her thumbs and with a red face, she continued:

"Then is hair washing another Firstborn custom by any chance?"

He gazed at Khánh. There was consternation in his eyes.

"Khánh, did anyone do that for you?"

She grew anxious and wary. If Elrond was worried, there must definitely be something amiss.

"Ah, erm – No," She lied. She was disgusted with herself. It was not often she was deliberately dishonest and when she was, it felt horrible.
What was worst was that it was to a highly respectable individual this time.

"I may have read about it somewhere in a book and was curious," She finished.

Elrond gave her a thoroughly unimpressed look.

"If you do not wish to tell me, very well," He sighed and she reddened, ashamed. "But the practice of an Elf cleansing and touching the hair of another is an intimate act reserved for husband and wife generally speaking. A ritual before the bonding art between two close bodies if you will. So, if anyone has done or attempted that on you and if it is unwelcome, you need to notify me, Khánh."

The words registered in Khánh's head slowly as she stared at Elrond in a daze.
A bonding act between a husband and wife. Then, yesterday in the hot springs with Fëanor, he was very well aware of this custom and proceeded with his ministrations.

Khánh blushed deeply. She stood up, making the chair behind her topple over raucously.

"I understand. Thank you for explaining to me, Master Elrond," She quickly set the chair back up.

"Khánh? Are you certain something did not happen?" Elrond repeated his question with furrowed brows.

When she did not respond, Elrond looked disappointed but switched to a different subject.

"You should have a short break this week. The Master of Enedduin has gone on a trip to Tirion."

"Fëanor in Tirion? For how long?" She asked.

"Who knows? I did tell you Fëanor came and went as he pleased. He never stays for long, and I am afraid this is one of those times," Elrond nodded. "Now that he has separated from Lady Nerdanel and is newly a bachelor, he shan't be home much longer."

"Oh…"

Khánh felt a bitter bile rose to her throat.

"Is Fëanor out to seek another wife then?" She asked prudently, hoping desperately that she was wrong.

"I assume so," Elrond answered. "After he left Valinor in search of the Silmarils in Arda Before, he had been alone for a very long time. I believe he has every right to search for a lovely Elven woman of good status, demeanor and bearing to be his companion. In Arda Remade, everyone deserves to heal and find love."

An Elven woman, was it? That would make perfect sense. Fëanor was a great and beautiful Elf who did a great many achievements. His partner should be a fair, immortal complement to that; Everything Khánh was not save for the immortality bit…

Elrond stood up from his seat and led her to the window to look outside. Looking around the yard beneath, she saw the figure of Fëanor's broad and brawn physique tending to the plants and trees they grew.
But then she remembered Fëanor had gone away from the castle and the figure was no longer Fëanor's, but simply a look alike. One of his sons perhaps that she had not met.

"He is a great singer. Did you know that?" Elrond smiled. "My foster Atar, Maglor, often spoke of his Atar's great tenor voice. He sometimes accompanied Maglor's harp after supper."

"I did not know that. I have never had the luxury of hearing him sing. There is a lot about Fëanor I do not know about," She replied.

"You just might get the chance to hear it as long as he continues to stay in Enedduin. Recently, a lady has begun to join him at feasts and celebrations; Lady Elvinia has a lovely tune as well, fine of character and look well-matched with him."

Khánh did not know who this Elvinia was, but she disliked the woman already. She mentally slapped herself. What right did someone like her have to be jealous?

"This Lady Elvinia," She murmured. "Is she beautiful?"

"Oh yes. I play favorites with my own daughter, however. She is not as fair as my darling Arwen, but Elvinia is devastating. I mean that in the best sense. Her hair is as dark as dusk. Her complexion is as white as snow. Her eyes shine bright and blue," Elrond shook his head. "Another likeness to Lúthien and Arwen, I would say."

"If she is so lovely, does she not have her own company of suitors?" Khánh asked, waspishly.
Elrond's brows raised.

"Well, of course she does. Not that she entertains any of them as they are too low of stature for Elvinia's tastes."

"Fëanor and her then?"

"Yes, well. That is what everyone is hoping for. They suit each other and once you get a glimpse of Elvinia, you would agree surely."

Khánh was afraid Elrond might be right. She did not want to see this Elvinia lady at all. Elrond glanced back at her and concern washed over his kind, grey eyes.

"Khánh? Are you alright? You look a bit pale. Have you not been eating well?"

"I am fine. Never been better," She mumbled and excused herself.

oOo

For the next month or so, life without Fëanor's presence was terribly bleak. She spent her days taking aimless walks, reading or cleaning to distract herself. The constant thought of him dallying with another woman was a dull itch that would not disappear.
Was he whispering amusing words in her ears? Giving her his impish smiles, he often directed Khánh's way?

Or an even worse thought, giving Elvinia sensual baths and washing her hair in such an erotic and intimate way like he did for Khánh?

She broke her feather pen in the midst of writing an herbal remedy down.

"I am always bored when Atar is not home," Celegorm told her one day when they were all out having a picnic for luncheon.
"The worst was when he left for forty winters. I had to find entertainment in Curufin. Curufin. Did you know how inane that was? The only thing he would blabber on about was the mechanics of arithmetic and forgery. There is no fun in trying to find company from someone who is just trying to suck Atar's –"

As Celegorm vented, Khánh thought bleakly. Forty winters…In Arda Before, she would most likely have passed the circles of the world by the time he returned.

Elrond had joined them with some scrolls and mails in his possession. He poured himself a glass of sherry.

"Great news," He announced and cracked open an egg. "Your Atar is coming back first thing on the morrow, Celegorm. Khánh, you are to resume your duties."

She fought down the silly smile threatening to split across her face. Fëanor was returning!

"Most of all, I must inform Maedhros to have the whole of Enedduin spotless, pristine and with enhanced ornamentation as soon as possible."

Elrond looked at everyone seriously.

"Fëanor informed us that we are hosting a one-week banquet. Lady Elvinia and her whole family have been invited to stay with us for a week to enjoy the celebratory occasion."

oOo

Names and Translations

Hröa – Physical Body

Fëa – Spiritual Soul

Eldar – Elves

Atar – Father

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