Author's Notes: Guys, it's Khánh. Not Khaan or Kann or Khann. The Vietnamese translation for the name means 'precious stone.'
By the time Khánh returned back to Enedduin castle, it was storming heavily. She was completely soaked when one of the servants opened the door for her.
Khánh feared Elrond would be upset with her muddied state of dishevelment. Sneaking off to her washroom, she was stopped by Elrond himself.
Thankfully, Elrond for once did not notice. He looked to be distracted in an almost frenzied haste.
"Lady Khánh! There you are," He sounded uncharacteristically impatient.
"Well? What do you think?"
"The flowers," Elrond pointed to the new vases of lilacs and daffodils she finally saw.
"Lord Fëanor has returned and we are trying to set ourselves and the castle to rights."
Dazed, Khánh quickly followed as Elrond paced around inspecting everything and barking out orders to every maid and servant that rushed by.
"Lord Fëanor has returned?" Khánh asked again, bottling down her excitement and dread.
She was finally meeting the mad Elf that created the legendary Silmarils – the jewels that helped revive the Two Trees which lighted up their beloved Arda right now.
"Yes, yes. That was what I said," Elrond replied testily. The Lord of Imladris looked back at her sharply.
"Lady, why are you soaked to the bones? We do not have time for a bath, but you will have to change your dress to something more fine and appropriate at least before you can meet the Master."
It was the first time Elrond had ever remarked on her appearance. Looking around, Khánh saw even Maedhros and Maglor dressed in clothes more formal than what they normally wore. Maglor's long, black hair was braided away from his face and Maedhros' was clubbed back neatly.
They, too, looked occupied in their preparations for Fëanor's arrival.
"Lady Khánh? Why are you so wet and covered in mud?" Maedhros asked, worriedly. Khánh blushed.
"Nemiriel here will help you find something a bit more suitable," Elrond introduced one of the Elven maids whom tsked disapprovingly at Khánh.
"Come on, my lady," She took Khánh's hand, pulling her into the bed chamber. "We cannot have you meet the master looking like a kicked, wet dog."
Khánh winced and gave the maid a sheepish look.
Nemiriel went through Khánh's closet looking practically horrified. Khánh had packed all that she owned which meant other than her black cloak and brown dress, there was only one other shabby, grey gown inside the wardrobe. It was not an improvement at all seeing as how that one had patches and overfilled with lint.
"Are these dresses all that you own, Lady Khánh?" Nemiriel looked back at her dubiously.
"Unfortunately, yes. My old school discouraged materialism and vanity other than basic needs."
"Well," Nemiriel closed the closet doors. "We will have to send you some new and finer gowns. You are in Elven home now and it is not good habit to live like a commoner here."
Before Khánh could protest, someone knocked on the door and opened it. Maglor poked his large head inside, looking tired and apologetic.
"Ladies? I apologize, but there has been a change of plans. Lord Fëanor, my Atar, won't be seeing anyone tonight. He just wants a private meal, go back to work, and then retire for the night. Carry on as you were, Lady Khánh. Nemiriel."
He then left.
"That man-!" Nemiriel grouched out. "How like the titular Fëanorian to change things at the last minute."
The unhappy female Elf zoomed out the room.
"We are going to take your measurements and order you some new clothes," She warned Khánh before leaving down the stairs.
That woman was quite formidable, Khánh had to marvel.
Relieved, Khánh found time to give herself a bath; taking advantage of all the fragrant oils and soap bars to scrub her skin clean and wash her hair.
Damning herself for forgetting to take out a fresh, clean nightgown, she wrapped a towel around herself and stepped out of the bath.
Out of the washroom, she saw something that almost made her slip on her buttocks.
It was the large, white wolf that had traveled with the mysterious, Elven stranger she encountered in the forest outside of Formenos.
The wolf looked just as shocked to see Khánh for he froze in the midst of sniffing around her wooden floors. All sorts of questions and conclusions jumbled inside Khánh's head then, and she forced her slack jaw to snap shut.
The wolf hound, despite having no humanoid features whatsoever, had the most expressive black eyes Khánh had ever seen. It gave hints to what he must be thinking.
In this case, he looked extremely embarrassed and dismayed.
His furry, white head bowed apologetically to Khánh and then ran out of the room.
"No…It couldn't be!" Khánh exclaimed.
The next day, the morning and afternoon went by deceptively similar like any other day that Khánh spent at Enedduin.
She went about her usual duties, but if she really paid attention, the whole environment and general mood of everyone had changed; not just in Enedduin but Formenos as well according to Elrond.
The entire castle was much more polished and poshed than before, but peculiarly, with less servants than before with the exception of Nemiriel and Callas, the cook.
Elrond was calmer, but still a little on edge. Maedhros and Maglor went about their usual activities and laughing at each other's inside jokes such as normal.
Later that evening, Nemiriel pulled Khánh back into her room again.
"The master has asked to see you, Lady Khánh," She spoke primly.
"You must change. I brought a new gown for you to use temporarily before we have your new wardrobe ordered."
"Are my own dresses that bad?" Khánh felt a bit defensive of her own humble belongings. They might not be pretty or anything of value, but they were still hers, and they clothed and kept her warm just fine.
Nemiriel gave Khánh a look without needing to say anything.
"Here," She placed the folded gown in Khánh's arms.
"Wear this. Quickly now, my lady. Lord Fëanor is not a patient man."
The dress had a lower neckline than what she was normally accustomed to. It was a nice shade of olive green and to Khánh's relief, it was modest but much lovelier than the two dresses she owned.
Meanwhile, Nemiriel battled her hair that was slowly growing out from the neck into plaits pulled back and eventually won.
Truly a formidable woman indeed.
Maedhros was the one to lead Khánh to the master of Enedduin that night after supper. To her amazement, she was brought to the office she snuck off to explore last evening.
Knocking on the door and opening it, Maedhros spoke:
"Atar, I bring you Lady Khánh."
Khánh peered inside. It was dark saved for the roaring fireplace that lit the room warmly.
The master's chair was faced towards the fireplace so that the participant sitting on it was half obscured. There sat the white wolf. He perk his head up as Khánh came in.
"Let the Lady Khánh be seated," A familiar, male voice spoke. A long leg kicked the smaller wooden chair out for Khánh to do as was demanded.
Swallowing dryly, Khánh moved to sit on the chair.
In another spot on the floor sat Celegorm. He was toying around with a broken arrow and looked to be stitching it back right.
"Ah, Lady Khánh. I see you are here to greet, Atar," He gave her a little smirk. "Atar, did you bring home a welcoming present for your newly received mortal assistant?"
"A present for Lady Khánh?" Fëanor asked skeptically. "She has only been here, what? A week or so? She requires a gift, already does she?"
"Excuse me, my lord?" Khánh quickly replied startled and put off.
"Does the healer expect a present from my travels even though I hardly know her?" Fëanor spoke louder and crisply.
Khánh glared at her feet.
"No, my lord. Of course not."
"What are you doing inspecting the floors over there? You find my choice of tiles interesting I see. Scoot your chair closer so that I can see you better."
"Would you like me to straighten my posture and square my shoulders while I am at it?" Khánh asked mildly.
Celegorm suddenly found whatever was behind him rather fascinating.
Fëanor's mouth quirked up: "No, that won't be necessary, but you would be surprised at the wonders that does for mortal back pain I sometimes hear about."
Without his rain cloak, the mysterious Elven stranger from yesterday did not look so cryptic. He wore his hair long that fell to his waist. It was carelessly tied back with a leather strap and even though he was a Noldorin Prince – King once, his clothes were very casual and so commoner looking. At least they had that in common.
The injury of his fall was apparent for there was a crutch for his use on the side.
But his eyes. She would always remember those silver eyes that shone with a red fire – gazing at her intently like they were now.
"Are you fond of presents, Lady Khánh?"
It appeared he was very fond of this topic.
"I frankly do not know, sir. I have heard they are generally thought pleasant things," She finally replied. Fëanor rolled his eyes at her lackadaisical answer.
"Yes, generally thought, but what do you think?" He pressed.
Khánh contemplated the question. Se grew up in a life with nothing and was given nothing without her working her bloody tears off for it.
Why should she have to let this spoiled Noldorin man interrogate her in this manner?
"I have never received a gift in my life therefore have had little experience with them, my lord."
"Drop the 'my lord,' if you will. Just Fëanor should do it; Or sir if you want," He waved a hand.
Khánh looked at him oddly.
"Yes, my lor- Fëanor then, sir."
"So…You have never had a present? That is absurd," He shook his head incredulously. He gestured to Celegorm.
"This coddled, third son of mine had been indulged and spoiled rotten since his begetting day in his mother's womb."
"Atar…" Celegorm flushed and glared at his father who ignored him.
"Our resident Vala, Oromë, even gave him this beast here," He signaled to the white wolf laying on the ground. "Huan. But my son was kind enough to lend the beast to guide me around in case something unfortunate happens."
Huan's ears twitched and Celegorm stayed red. He shared a look with his father before storming out of the room. Khánh watched the scene feeling more uncomfortable by the moment.
A second later, Celegorm came running back with a huge grin on his face. Two more big, brown hounds trailing behind him barking enthusiastically.
"Two?! Really, Atar? Thank you – thank you," He actually smooched his father on the cheek hard.
Fëanor looked smug but shoved his son away.
"Quiet while I talk to Lady Khánh. Get gone, will you?"
Celegorm did as Fëanor bid and left for good this time.
"So, where did you work before coming to Enedduin, Lady Khánh?" His attention returned to her.
"Woodcreek School, my lor-sir."
"Woodcreek School? Even to my Firstborn ignorance, I have heard only the hardiest could survive that hellhole," He snorted, pouring himself a goblet of wine from the cask left on a tray for him.
"How long were you there?"
"All my life until only a few weeks ago, sir," Khánh was chagrined that she had not much of a life compared to this worldly being.
"All your life?" His greys widened. "In Arda Before and After?"
"Well, Eru be damned," He sighed and demanded. "Have you no aspirations for your life? Did the Valar find amusement in giving me an indolent healer?"
"It is not like that," She argued and tried to simmer down her indignance.
"Forget it," He interrupted. "That is a malady we will just have to change soon. Back to Woodcreek, I am appalled you survived. Even by Edain standards, you are very small. Did they not feed you?"
"Hardly," She answered after a pause. "My lord."
"And after all this time, why are you here with me deeper in Formenos and not there?"
"Well, I made known of my availability for hire, my lord."
He laughed at that and took a sip of his wine.
"Right. Of course, you did." He looked away from her and stared into the fire.
"And what of your family?"
Khánh pursed her lips. He would go there, but she would not let his probing and fire touch her.
"I have none. I have no attachments to any that existed in Arda Marred or Arda After."
Fëanor froze, absorbing the distinct heaviness of her words. His eyes settled and then went back to her slight form.
"Normally, I would have scolded," His deep voice softened. "But when it comes to matters of family and blood kin, I have no right to lay judgment on anyone."
And Khánh knew what he was referring to almost immediately.
"You are fortunate, Lady Khánh, if you do not have anyone to ardently love," He shifted closer to her in his seat to the point that she could feel his hot breath. Swallowing, she stared at him head on.
"If you do not love anyone," Fëanor spoke. "Then you will never be angry…Or disappointed."
Khánh did not want to, but as she processed his sudden, anguished declaration, she felt a sort of pity for the master of Enedduin she once thought ludicrous.
"Yes, sir," She nodded. And she agreed with his statement. One just had to look at fools like Andreth or Túrin Turambar to never wish their trials and fate on themselves.
Fëanor stood up and went to his worktable to look over some files. She recognized her records and references from Creekwood.
"So, Lady Khánh," His abrupt, booming voice made her jump in her seat. "Did the school teach you and the students instruments such as the harp? It is one of the most basic instruments to learn out there."
Yes, but it is not a basic instrument for the Edain to learn!
"I only play a little, my lord," Khánh did not tell him it was because his musically-gifted son taught her a few scales and chords for the past few days she stayed at Enedduin.
"People always say that as false modesty," He brushed off. "I don't believe in it."
He shuffled around underneath his desk and pulled out a small, oak harp. "Ah, here is one left by Maglor when he was just an elfling."
He hobbled over with his crutch and handed the precious keepsake instrument to her.
"Go on now. Play."
Left with not much choice, Khánh started playing the general C and B scales from memory of Maglor's patient teachings.
When she was about to play one of those basic, four-note melodies with her stiff fingers, Fëanor blatantly rolled his eyes.
He suffered through it, however, and continued to look through her files and herbal notes.
His grip and movements were very weak and rigid. She caught him almost dropping his wine a few times.
How did such a person become the most skilled and mightiest in both Ardas?
He interrupted through her reverie again.
"Enough," He paused, but then looked to forego any kind of honeyed words altogether.
"You were right. You do play a little."
Khánh inwardly snorted and handed the harp back to him.
Fëanor held up her herb recipes that she's created for years.
"Do these belong to you?"
She went over to his table but did not dare to come too close in case it was disrespectful.
"Yes, my lord."
His ink brows frowned and he analyzed her piles of work.
"And you have researched and tested these all on your own?"
Was he suspicious or doubting her credibility?
Khánh steeled her nerves.
"Yes, Fëanor sir," Her voice quivered a little.
"Hmm…" Then he asked her a strange question that caught her off guard. "Were you happy when you created these?"
Once again, she had to think hard on the answer.
"I – Well I did not think of whether I was happy or not. I was kept busy and that was all there was."
Fëanor looked dissatisfied with Khánh's answer.
"So, you don't even know if you love your work or not."
"I did not say that. It is just that whether or not I love my work is not the priority. I am content," She said. "Is that not enough?"
He intruded close into her personal space; his crutch by her foot and her own breathing hitched.
"It is never enough," He spoke intensely – his eyes boring down on hers. "You have to love your work more than anything in this world or why do it at all?"
"Even if it ends up consuming you in the process that it destroys your family and you as well?"
They were caught in a stalemate. Fëanor blinked at her in wonder and Khánh wished she had held her blasted tongue. She would surely be let go for her audacious behavior now.
To Khánh's astonishment, the master of Enedduin did not grow furious with her. He only gave a pondering hum and went back to examine the next page in her herbs book.
A second later, he tossed her book across the table waking the sleeping Huan up.
"My hands and fingers burn like Melkor's anus," He cursed foully. He glanced at her sharply.
"That will be all, Lady Khánh. Why are you still up? Go to bed."
Khánh quickly stood up. With a bow, she darted out of the room.
Vocabulary and Translations
Atar – Father
Edain - Humans