WOMEN OF EDAIN:part III » “We also are daughters of the great, and we have wills and courage of our own. Therefore do not bend. Once bend a little, and they will bend you further until you are bowed down. Sink your roots into the rock, and face the wind, though it blow away all your leaves.”
“I know you don’t intend to go to Aunt Mairen’s wedding dressed like that."
Silmariën turns another page in her book. Isilmë, sighing, steps back into the room. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there.”
"Then why were you trying to sneak out?” Her voice is infuriatingly calm.
“I was not sneaking! And if I was, is it too much to ask, to have just one party, or council meeting, or anything, without listening to disparaging comments on my taste, my comportment, my gown -“
"I never said anything about your gown.” Silmariën closes the book and sets it on the dressing-table with an audible thump. “Turn around."
Isilmë does not know if it is possible to turn grudgingly (it occurs to her, along with a sour feeling in her stomach, that Silmariën would), but she is reasonably confident that she has managed it. “If it’s the necklace, I’m not changing it.”
"It was a gift from grandfather. Even you can’t complain about that.” She raises a hand to the clasp, protectively.
Silmariën bats it away, and twists a lock of Isilmë’s hair around her finger. “Wildflowers? Really?”
“I think they’re lovely.”
“So do I."
"And if you’re going to raise a - wait, what?” Isilmë wheels around to face her.
Silmariën laughs. “I find your flowers perfectly charming, and I’d like to know where you found them. But you can’t wear them to a wedding.”
“Worried they’ll think I’m more beautiful than you?"
"Oh, little sister. There’s nothing I could do to help that."
Isilmë flushes. She spins her bracelets, absently, in her hands. “Why can’t I wear them, then?”
"Because children plait their hair with flowers, and go about barefoot. Children, Isilmë. Not future queens. No one will ever doubt that you are beautiful. But they will love to pretend that you are soft, and innocent, and brainless. I don’t need to tell you that the issue of the succession is - delicate. Your habit of affecting a certain rural simplicity is no help. To either of us."
On the lawn beneath the window, an attendant adjust the canopy, under which the marriage will be conducted. Before they can steady it, a post collapses, burying him in white silk embroidered with orange blossoms.
"This isn’t about me at all, then. It’s because you want the crown."
“No! I told you, it’s for both of us, I - “
Isilmë breaks into a wide grin. “Why didn’t you just tell me?”
Silmariën blinks. “You’re happy about this?”
"Of course! All this time, I thought you were insulting me. You’d be a brilliant queen, Silmariën."
"You’re not angry, then?"
"Of course I’m angry. And I’m wearing the flowers. But I would also be honored to be your living propaganda.” She bows, theatrically. “I have a gold and garnet clasp that will do nicely. Do you think I could borrow your hair band, the one with the portrait medallions?
"Of course. And I have something better.” Silmariën reached for her jewel-box. For several minutes, she picked through it, leaving a small pile of detailed gold and silver-work, pearls and emeralds and cameos carved from agate and sardonyx. Finally, she selected a simple diamond chain. “Said to have been Elwing’s. I’m not sure I believe that, but it’s always been my favorite piece. Here.” With uncharacteristic gentleness, she fixes the jewels in place.