The Undying Lands - Nabroning (part 12)

As the sun rose Ariengil awoke, her heart heavy from her dream the previous night.
After a brief breakfast, for she was not particularly hungry, Ariengil mounted Silmewesta and they rode on. Presently, a village came in sight. It was very cosy, with small houses with chimneys billowing out smoke, a market was set up near the entrance of the village, with vegetable stalls, fruit stalls, toy stalls, clothes stalls and many more. As the rider and horse slowed, they observed the happy life easily.
Almost every person in side had long, red hair. This was very unusual for elves, and so Ariengil presumed that they were the Vanyar-Noldor elves because the majority of red haired elves had all left for the Undying Lands many ages ago. They were descended from both the Vanyar and the Noldor elves and so their hair became toned to a stunning red ginger. A beautiful elf looked up as Ariengil approached.
`Stay here, Culnan,' said the elf to a little child as she gave her an apple to eat, then she introduced herself. `Hello, my name is Nárfin. I am pleased to meet you, what are you doing in Caranlad. Would you like me to show you around?'
`I would be delighted Nárfin. My name is Ariengil and I am very interested in exploring this haven, that is why I am here.' Although she was mostly telling the truth, Ariengil still felt guilty for lying slightly.
Nárfin started by introducing Ariengil to Culnár. Culnár seemed very shy and hid behind her sister, pulling on her tunic. They walked towards the centre of the village where there was a beautiful fountain. The statue in the middle of the fountain was of Arien, the Maiar who guides the Sun in the sky, Ariengil was named after this great holy being, for she was called `Sunlight star'.
Culnár spoke up at this point, `I like your name, it is very pretty.'
`Thank you Culnár, and I think that you are very pretty, but why do you hide behind your sister? Come out and walk with me.'
Culnár stepped forward and held Ariengil's hand. Culnár had lighter hair than Nárfin, for it seemed that it was slightly blonde although it was fiery. Culnár's eyes seemed to have spirit in them for they gleamed a hazelnut brown in the sunlight. Culnár was small but was only eight years old, so she had a while to grow yet.
Ariengil met many of Nárfin's friends on the way through the village and stopped every other step to shake a hand or nod her head in acknowledgement. To her embarrassment, many of the young men stopped and admired Ariengil. Nárfin found this incredibly funny and they joked about for a while.
`Tonight there is to be a ceremony where a young lady here will become Nabroned. Will you come and watch it?' asked Nárfin.
`I would love to, but what is a... Nabroning?'
`It is called a Nabronage. Have you never heard of it?' Ariengil shook her head, so Nárfin continued. `It is where the teen becomes a woman, it is on her twentieth birthday.'
`But how does she become a woman from this?'
`It is very hard to explain, you will just have to wait and see.'
They walked on, Ariengil admiring the houses, the gardens and especially the trees. Ariengil was fascinated with trees since her meeting with the Entwives. The trees here had cherry coloured bark and their leaves were forked in three directions and were orange with red streaks on them. They not only looked nice but they smelt heavenly too.
Nárfin led Ariengil to her house and Ariengil met Nárfin's parents. They were very tall with livid red hair and stunning blue eyes.
`Father, mother, this is my new friend Ariengil,' Ariengil felt privileged to be called a friend so soon, but Nárfin turned to her and said, `Ariengil, these are my parents, Anormalta, my father, and Andúnë, my mother.'
Náfin's parents were very kind and offered Ariengil a place to stay while she lived in Caranlad. Ariengil was very appreciative and accepted. She was to stay in the room that was adjoining Nárfin's younger brother's bedroom. He was to return later that day.
The family, apart from Bragol, Nárfin's brother, ate together in a lovely dining room with Ariengil. They ate salsa bread, which Andúnë had baked, with a salad from their own garden. Ariengil was offered wine, but declined for she disliked this man's drink.
When Bragol entered, it was dark outside and the fire was lit. He ran in, shouted hello and ran towards his bedroom. Suddenly he stopped, turned back and walked into the room, shocked to see that they had a visitor- and a beautiful one at that.
`Hello, I am Bragol,' he stuttered.
`Hello Bragol, I am Ariengil, pleased to meet you.'
`Likewise. Goodbye then,' he stammered and left quickly for he was worried he would become embarrassed.
Very soon it was time to leave for the Nabronage and everyone withdrew to his or her rooms to prepare. Ariengil washed herself thoroughly and took a look at her dress. It was in a terrible state- the once cream dress was now covered in grey hair from her horse, there were grass stains and patches of mud from walking with the Entwives, and there was even a red patch near the top from where she must have spilt salsa earlier. She could not possibly go to a village meeting, the first one she would ever attend, dressed disgracefully. Ariengil decided to excuse herself and went to find Nárfin.
Nárfin was very sympathetic, but would not let Ariengil miss the ceremony, so she asked her mother for a dress for Ariengil to wear. Andúnë rummaged through her wardrobe and found a lovely pale blue dress for Ariengil. `This was mine when I was your age, you keep it, it will suit the colour of your eyes,' said Andúnë kindly.
`I could not take this-' Andúnë cut her off.
`Of course you can, now try it on and I will do it up for you.' Ariengil did so and then turned to face Nárfin and her mother. They both seemed pretty impressed and complemented Ariengil thoroughly.
The dress was low slung, very different to the dresses which Ariengil normally wore; it reached to the floor and flowed well. There were no sleeves, just thin, dainty straps. The straps and the top of the dress were decorated with tiny roses, made out of rose petals. The dress was incredible and Ariengil looked stunning.
The family set out towards the village centre where the market stalls had been earlier. There were three grand chairs in front of the fountain and a young lady, the Nabroner, sat in the middle one, her ginger hair plaited with ribbons entwined into it.
The villagers were seated on the floor or on walls separating houses. As the family arrived, a trumpet sounded and a masked man and woman stepped out from behind the fountain. `Hurry, we are late,' whispered Nárfin.
The masked people began to dance and sing whilst the crowds clapped in time. A loud crash of a cymbal was heard and the dancers stopped in mid-air and the Nabroner stood up. She walked to a wooden board which was leaning against a tall wall and stood, shaking visibly.
The dancers now took three throwing knives each and stood four metres away from the maiden. The man drew himself up completely straight, threw two knives to the floor and stretched upwards with the knife directly to the sky. The girl shut her eyes but was told by a person nearby to open them. She did so just as the masked man threw his knife towards her.
The knife stuck in the wall barely a bow's width from her head. She whimpered but did not flinch or move. The man did this twice more, but the blades went either side of the Nabroner's neck.
It was now the masked woman's turn. She lay on the floor, stretched out as a cat does in the sun, and rolled over. The lady picked up a knife, went up onto her knees and kissed the blade. As fast as an eagle, the knife flew towards the Nabroner and was fixed by the girl's thigh. Twice more, the lady picked up a knife and hurled it towards the girl. Once stuck by her other thigh, and one between her legs. The poor girl was petrified but did not move for fear of death.
The whole village erupted into cheers of joy for the young girl had succeeded. There were cries of congratulations and a young man ran up to her and gave her a hug as she stepped away from the knives.
`What would have happened if she had not succeeded?' asked Ariengil.
`It is vary rare for it not to happen, that has only happened twice in the past hundred years. She would have had to become a nursemaid,' replied Nárfin.
`A nursemaid? That does not seem to bad.'
`It is a terrible life for those who do not want it. You are not allowed to love or marry, you must always help other people- never help yourself- you must live in a place sacred to the Valar and you must pray every day. Men call them nuns.'
`And what do your men do when they come of age?'
`They do nothing. They have no need to.'
`Why not?'
`They are male, they are considered more powerful. I disagree with that though, I wished I could fight while I lived in Middle Earth, but I was never allowed. I was taught to swordfight, but I was never allowed to do anything else.'
To celebrate the ceremonies success, there were festivities to follow. Singing, dancing and feasting reminded Ariengil of her time in Calenarda. Thinking of her friends made her sad, but she had no time to dwell on this for many men were asking her to dance and so she was dancing from one partner to another. After a while, Ariengil became very tired and sat to watch her newfound friend dancing with the men, for she too was popular among them.
`You are a very good dancer,' came a voice from next to Ariengil- it was Bragol; Ariengil had not noticed him approach.
`Oh, thank you. I have not seen you dancing yet,' she replied.
`No, I was actually waiting until you were free, then I would ask you to dance- will you?'
`I would love to,' Ariengil actually preferred to rest, but did not want to offend Bragol, so they started to dance to the Foraltica, which was very fast but, when correct, it was amazing to watch.
The food was announced and everyone wandered over to the long tables and helped themselves to some food. `I think my brother has the hots for you!' whispered Nárfin.
`Dînhith?' asked Ariengil as she turned around, for her best friend had said something very similar to this the other day.
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