Envinyata: Cultural Exchange

Dafydd Illian leaned back against the console. "The thing you have to understand," he said, "is… um."

"Yes?" Constance Sims was perched on the table against the opposite wall. "What?"

Dafydd shook his head and tried to organise his thoughts. "Look," he tried, "part of the problem here is that I'm stuck between two cultures. On the one hand, I'm a Noldorin noble of Valinor and Beleriand, with all the implications that has. On the other, I'm an Assassin with the PPC, a human-oriented organisation. It's a vast difference."

Constance nodded. "I see your point. So are you saying you feel, what, split?"

The elf sighed. "No. That's just it. I don't. But I should. Um." He ran a hand through his hair. "For myself, I'm quite happy giving up on Valinorean culture entirely. Maybe not the architecture," he glanced around the Response Centre, taking in the grey walls, "but the culture, yes. I already have, with…" He gestured vaguely. "Well, you know."

Constance nodded. "I know. So what's the problem?"

Dafydd shook his head. "Connie, it's not… it's just that I keep wondering what my family would think of this. Of us."

There was a moment of silence before Constance replied, and Dafydd closed his eyes, expecting the worst. It didn't come. "At a guess," said the human woman, "your father would want to kill me, as would most of your brothers. Maedhros would be fine with it, and your grandfather wouldn't have a clue what was going on. Oh, and your mother would see that your father was against it, and therefore support it on principle."

Dafydd opened his eyes cautiously to see that Constance had left the table and was sitting in front of him, her expression calculating. "As for your extended family," she continued, "I suspect the Finarfinions wouldn't object – consider the example of, who was it, Aegnor, or of Finrod helping Beren and Luthien, or even of Galadriel, whose granddaughter married a Mortal – but as for Fingolfin's branch, I-"

"Enough!" He held up a hand to stop her, but his voice was amused, not angered. "You've made your point, Connie."

"But have I?" she asked, curiously intent. "You're still concerned about what others will think. And I'm not just talking about your family," she added. "The only way you'll acknowledge me is when we're alone. This isn't a relationship, Dafydd, it's a, a holiday, a diversion, an aside, something you can visit every so often but then give up on when you find something better to do."

Dafydd winced. "Connie, that's not true. You know it isn't."

Constance shook her head. "I wish I did, but… you're hiding me, us. You may not even realise it, but you are. You're afraid of disapproval from the other agents, possibly of rejection – oh, don't look at me that way," she cut in at his disbelieving look, "it hasn't escaped my notice that you, as an elf, are very attractive, and that all your partners are female. You know that at least some of them are attracted to you."

Dafydd bit his lip. "Yes," he admitted, "it's possible."

"It's fact," Constance countered. "But it has to stop. Either you're committed, fully committed, to this relationship, and willing to tell everyone you meet – not saying you have to do it, just be willing to – or you walk out of that door right now and never come back."

He stared at her. "You're serious."

She nodded solemnly. "Extremely. I won't go on living in the shadows, elf."

"I…" Dafydd sighed, closed his eyes again, and leaned back against the console. "How can I…?"

"Prove it to me?" The other shrugged. "You can't. You could lie to me, if you wanted. I trust," her dark eyes sparkled on that word, "that you won't."

He nodded, feeling his thoughts spiralling away from him. Was she right? Of course she was. Now that it had all been spelt out for him, it was as clear as silima. But could he do what she asked – demanded, really? He didn't know. He'd spent untold thousands of years hiding his name, his nature, from everyone he encountered. Even at the PPC, he hadn't told very many - although, he reflected, it seemed as though everyone except Selene knew by now. But now this woman – this Aftercomer, this Usurper, a part of him whispered, even as another responded, the most important person in my life – was asking him to lay his feelings open for everyone to see.

In fact, it occurred to him, she was asking him to retreat from the secretive culture of the PPC - where everyone had something they keep hidden, and you didn't pry or even ask if you knew what was good for you - and return to the openness of Valinor, where if you didn't let everyone within a mile of you know what you'd been doing all day, down to the last detail, you were looked on as a strange recluse.

He doubted she understood the irony, but the chords of his thoughts formed an unexpected harmony. There was a way he could do what she asked, a way he could square things in his mind, but whether she’d go for it was another question entirely.

Dafydd shook his head slightly and opened his eyes. Though he knew he’d been lost in introspection for a good two minutes, Constance was still sitting patiently, waiting. "I… I'll try my best to do as you ask, Connie," he said, "but there's one thing I need to do before I can. I…" He shook his head, suddenly unable to say it.

Constance looked amused. "You what, Dafydd? Perhaps you need to ask me about the quality of my silverwork?" He looked up, startled, and saw her wide grin. "What," she said, "did you think I'd go into this conversation without knowing everything I could? The Canon Library has the full History of Middle-earth in its archives, including Morgoth's Ring."

The name of that book had always made Dafydd shudder a little, but he knew what she meant. LaCE, or to give it its full, Tolkien-approved title, 'Of The Laws and Customs Among The Eldar Pertaining To Marriage And Other Matters Related Thereto'. She'd been reading up on his people, and had manoeuvred him neatly into a corner. "So," he said, a slight smile creeping onto his face, "how is your silverwork? And does this mean we have to go to the trouble of gathering our two houses?"

She laughed. "It's good enough, but I think we can forgo the massacre that would result from the other. Of course, we'll have to bend tradition a little anyway…" She gestured at his right arm.

He looked down at the stump, where his hand had been burnt away by an exploding Ring of Power. Traditionally, a year from now, Constance would place a thin golden ring on the index finger he no longer had. “Yes,” he said, swallowing past a lump in his throat, “I rather think we will.”


Disclaimer: Middle-earth and everything in it was created by J.R.R. Tolkien. The PPC is the work of Jay and Acacia. Dafydd is mine, and Constance belongs to Kaitlyn.

 

Author's Note: According to LaCE, an elvish engagement begins with the couple forging silver rings and giving them to each other. When they are married - traditionally after a year - they return the silver rings, replacing them with gold ones. The silver rings are treasured thereafter.