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Title: "It's Only a Paper, Moon"
Summary: Erestor abandons his chief assistant to night duty in Rivendell’s libraries. Merineth and Gilraen discuss history and explore the Noldorin archives.
Author's Note: This fic is a companion, of sorts, to [livejournal.com profile] zopyrus's story When the Moon Hits Your Eye, and she deserves great thanks for the inspiration, beta, and poaching allowances. Thanks also to [livejournal.com profile] sigridhr for the beta.

(Cross-posted to the Archive here!)

TA 2934

Merineth emerged from the lower levels of the archive at sundown and groaned aloud at the sight of a stack of old scrolls on her desk, with a note beside them written in Erestor’s impeccable script. Once again, it appeared that Elrond’s chief counselor had waltzed off early to the Hall of Fire for a night of revelry and song, abandoning his assistant to at least two hours’ worth of work relabeling before she might be free to do the same. Luckily, Erestor did not prioritize the backlog of tasks left for her, and she chose to occupy herself with transcribing some of the older Edain letters first before turning to the more tedious task of relabeling and re-filing.

At least she had company. Gilraen sat sprawled in one of the library’s armchairs across the room, bare feet dangling over one armrest, her shoes cast off on the floor below her. A book lay open in her lap, but her eyes were closed, and for a moment Merineth wondered if she had not lost her friend to the tedium of night duty after all.

She smiled. When she had first met Gilraen, she would not have imagined the reticent young woman capable of such a casual display. It had taken no small amount of coaxing on the part of Merineth and her friends to bring Gilraen out of her shell, but their patience had paid off. The winter months had brought distance, if not closure, to her husband’s death, and she had finally reached the point where she could move about Imladris with an unguarded ease. The mother of Isildur’s Heir held hidden reserves of mirth beneath her calm exterior, and Merineth found herself looking forward to the evenings that Gilraen conned Elladan or Elrohir into watching over her son while she joined her newfound friends for a glass of wine or a game of cards.

Or, on nights like tonight, keeping Merineth from murdering Erestor out of pure exasperation.

“How did you become an archivist, Merineth?” Gilraen asked now, flipping lazily through her book.

“How did I what?”

“Become an archivist.” Gilraen propped herself up on one arm. “Occupations are so different in Rivendell than they are in the Angle.”

Merineth screwed the cap back onto her inkwell and turned to face Gilraen, her curiosity piqued. “Different how?”

Gilraen paused and swung her legs back over the armchair.

“Everything we do, we do for survival. Well over half our men enter the ranks of the Rangers, and the rest are blacksmiths or farmers or cobblers. It is much the same with the women…our duties are divided based on what is needed, or if we have some special skill. My mother is a healer, and I had one friend who joined the Rangers, but she was an unusual case. Your duties here, Ravennë’s duties as concertmaster…”

“Would be deemed a luxury among your people,” Merineth finished, feeling suddenly uncomfortable. She had never given much thought to the daily lives of the Dúnedain—Gilraen spoke of them so rarely still.

Gilraen nodded. “Our records, what few we have, are stored in a room of the Chieftain’s house. And we certainly cannot afford to spare someone to look after them as their sole duty. When I was married to Arathorn, it fell to me. But it was hardly my only job, or even an important one.”

“Indeed,” Merineth murmured. Her hand twitched at the thought of such valuable records lying untended in a sun-soaked room off in the wilds of Eriador.

“So how is it decided, who takes on such tasks? Were you trained from a young age? Is it allotted to you based on the positions your parents held before you?”

Merineth snorted at the thought of her mother setting foot in the great libraries of Imladris for anything other than necessity. Bainel had been a handmaiden to the lady Celebrían, and had never quite understood her daughter’s bookish instincts.

“Family has little to do with occupation in Rivendell,” she said. “Otherwise I would be in Lórien with Lady Arwen right now. No, I got this job because I asked for it. I am a child of the Third Age, as Erestor is so fond of reminding me, and I have not had the same brushes with history that so many of my forebears have. So I look to find them in the pages that have been left to us, and to preserve what we have."

“So it is the legends of old that drive you,” Gilraen smiled. “It is not enough to hear them from the mouths of those who lived through it themselves?”

Merineth shook her head. “You are new enough here still, to think that it is always enjoyable to sit through Glorfindel’s flourishing accounts of Gondolin. And there are some tragedies that you simply do not ask about. Some songs we do not sing. Besides…one can never quite trust the accuracy of some memories, no matter how much one might trust the storyteller.”

“How so?”

Merineth sighed, trying to think of an appropriate example. Her passion for the archives lay less in the secondary accounts that filled the shelves of the upper levels, and more in the ancient letters and scrolls that filled the stacks below. To have touched a letter that had been written by Melian herself…

“You know, Lord Elrond was raised by the sons of Fëanor, for a time,” she finally said. “If one is bold enough to ask, he is quite free with tales from his childhood. I believe he has gained enough distance that the old grief does not bother him as it once did. But his stories are still biased, and colored by time. It is not the same as reading the words of the men themselves. These archives…they give that to us. We can make them live again."

Merineth stared up at the ceiling in thought, and she counted backwards from the next full moon. Is it tonight? It may be…

She finished her mental calculations and looked back up at Gilraen with a wide grin. “Can I show you something?”

Gilraen’s brow furrowed in confusion. “What is it?”

Merineth didn’t answer, but merely lit one of the lamps that were used specially for the stacks and walked down the narrow aisles until she reached the Noldorin archives. Holding the lamp above her, she peered at the small lettering that labelled each box or scroll. For reasons unclear to her, Erestor had insisted on the files organized in the original Quenya rather than Sindarin, which made finding anything far more complicated than necessary. ArafinwëFeánaro

“Got you,” she murmured in triumph as she beheld the small box that read Nelyafinwë Maitimo. She opened the lid carefully, gingerly lifting out the files one by one until she found the pieces of parchment she sought.

“Maedhros Fëanorion burned the majority of his letters,” she said to Gilraen when she finally emerged. “Not surprising, given the end he met. But his cousin Fingon kept several, and we've located a good number scattered over the ages. I uncovered this, oh…two hundred years ago? It was mixed in with some old military correspondence. Likely they thought it carried some strategy secrets long rendered irrelevant.”

Gilraen frowned. “There’s nothing on the paper.”

“Moon runes,” Merineth smiled. “The ancient art is lost to us, but it was just being developed when the Noldor reached Middle-earth. And if the moon is high on just the right night…well, you can see for yourself.”

She opened the door for Gilraen with a flourish, and Gilraen giggled as she stepped through the archway.

Merineth led them out the library and down the path to the waterfalls. It was a clear night, and the moon shone on the paper, illuminating the runes. Gilraen’s eyes widened.

“Here.” Merineth brought out the sheet of paper with the translation. “It took me upwards of a day to make sure that was all accurate.”

Gilraen took the paper and began to read aloud.

“…you will be shocked to learn that my good-for-nothing brother Caranthir is good for something after all…don’t I know how that feels,” Gilraen rolled her eyes before she kept reading. “He has somehow, incredibly, established trade between his people and the Dwarves in the Blue Mountains…”

“Hence the moon runes,” Merineth supplied.

We can use them for long-term planning--and for more personal correspondence. The most recent packet of letters from Hithlum contained some rather questionable (if, thankfully, unsigned) verses that I can only assume were meant for me…Fingon was a poet?”

“An amateur one,” Merineth answered. “Verses written for his own pleasure, and for those closest to him. I have always wondered how he would have reacted knowing Maglor had gotten his hands on his songs meant for Maedhros…”

“‘Beginner’s Guide to Poetry’…I trust you will find it useful, and that any future verses will be at least as well formed as their subject…oh, he’s awful!” Gilraen laughed. “I never would have fallen for Arathorn if his letters had been so self-centered!”

“We all have our different tastes,” Merineth said. “No doubt Fingon found it endearing, otherwise he would not have continued to write such verses.”

Gilraen chuckled, and stared back at the letter, looking suddenly wistful. “He loved him, didn’t he?”

“That he did,” Merineth said softly. “We can hear it from those insipid songs Lindir composes, or we can see it on the very page. You tell me which you prefer.”

Gilraen fell silent, lost in thought, before she finally turned back to face Merineth. “Did any of Fingon’s verses survive?”

“It is unclear. We have none in the official records, and before I discovered this I assumed they were all lost in Beleriand. But Erestor turned a rather odd shade of red when I showed this to him the first time, and I remain convinced that he or Elrond has the original verses on hand in some unmarked drawer. Hidden for propriety’s sake, and all that. It is considered unseemly for historians to be interested in gossip.”

“Then you make for a rather unseemly historian,” Gilraen remarked, and Merineth laughed. “Have you ever tried to find the verses yourself?”

Merineth shook her head. “I usually make an effort to remain on Erestor’s good side. He has been…quite indulgent of my whims, and I intend to keep it that way. It’s the only way I’ll ever bring him around to eventually switching to a record-keeping system that actually makes sense.”

Gilraen nodded slowly. “Well, if he discovers them missing, you can always blame it on the innocent mortal who wanted hard evidence for herself. Besides, he is likely on his third glass of wine right now…”

Merineth gave a slow grin, and she held out her arm. “You’re going to be a terrible influence, aren’t you?”

Elrond was going to regret that he ever encouraged their friendship.

***
Endnotes:

1. I deliberated long and hard about how the Noldorin section of the archives would be organized, and in the end decided that Erestor likely shelved everything according to the way it was originally labelled—thus, everything coming out of Hithlum stayed in Quenya. Not the most cohesive or efficient system, hence Merineth’s long-term goals.

2. Would the ancient art of moon runes actually have been lost to Rivendell? Elrond appears to be more than a bit of an expert on them, but the ink that creates them had to have been hard to come in their particular time and place. I imagine knowledge of their workings and properties has been relegated to historical/academic rather than practical use.

on 2014-04-18 03:30 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] heartofoshun.livejournal.com
Oh, what a fun story! So thoroughly entertaining. I would really like to be set loose in that library. I always hated physical filing though. I guess I would want to scan everything so I could I could sort it on a computer. Never mind me! I am very tired and babbling now.

I'd love it if Merineth would find some of Fingon poetry.

on 2014-04-18 11:02 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] suzll.livejournal.com
Thank you!! I'm so glad you liked it. I would looove to be set loose in that library. I had a summer where I had to go through boxes upon boxes of paper files for research on my undergrad thesis, so can sympathize with Merineth on that score!

And I think they're going to find that poetry at some point in the future :D

on 2014-04-18 11:47 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] heartofoshun.livejournal.com
And I think they're going to find that poetry at some point in the future :D

I cannot wait.

on 2014-04-18 07:28 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] tehta.livejournal.com
This is really fun. (And I do love now you mix serious info about the Dunedain in with the fun, ha. Not to mention issues of first-hand witness reliability...)

Also, I like how you have developed Merineth, and admire her long term goals.

I cannot help thinking, however, about the implications of elven immortality for such record-keeping. Like, do they have a file on Glorfindel? Did they give it to him when he showed up? And what about those who are reborn in Valinor? Is Erestor planning to take his archive there when/if he sails?

on 2014-04-18 11:39 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] suzll.livejournal.com
Thanks you! One of the things I really like exploring w/r/t Gilraen's time in Imladris is the cultural differences aspect--at this early stage of her friendship with Merineth they still have a lot to learn from each other. And I was happy to finally get a chance to write something from Merineth's POV. From a professional/academic/historian's standpoint, I relate to her on a lot of levels.

Will comment on the elven immortality/record-keeping at a later hour when I'm not rushing off--I have Thoughts!

on 2014-04-19 08:26 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] zopyrus.livejournal.com
I also have many library-related questions! (And I am hoping [livejournal.com profile] suzll will weigh in with her answers to yours.)

I wonder if the custom of including dead people's letters in libraries was established before or after Glorfindel returned from over the Sea...before that happened, wouldn't people have generally assumed there was no coming back? Not to mention doubt about the fate of those who had died in Exile and thus might not be allowed out of Mandos?

Also, I wonder about elvish record-keeping even before the parties concerned have died in the first place. How much attachment do you think they have to a piece of paper they wrote (or received) a few hundred years ago? To take the Fingon/Maedhros example, even if they only wrote to each other once a month, and the Seige of Angband lasted about 450 years, that is thousands of letters (and that is just between two people). Even sentimental types like Fingon must have destroyed a lot, just to avoid getting buried in memorabilia... So I wonder how many frivolous documents an elvish library, assembled hundreds of years after the era being studied, would even have in the first place.

on 2014-04-19 05:17 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] suzll.livejournal.com
My thoughts on your first question are in my comment to Tehta!

I think we talked about your second question at one point, but I can't remember what conclusions we came to? (legit, the number of times this week I've thought about a headcanon piece we've discussed at dinner and wished we'd written some of it down...). I imagine that the kind of frivolous letters that get kept and survive all the way to third-age Rivendell are entirely the luck of the draw. Maybe Fingon would go through periodic weeding, but would keep a few sentimental frivolous letters because they made him smile? So, in the end, you'd probably still be left with a greater percentage of quote-unquote "important" letters, but then still a fair smattering of some goofy stuff.

on 2014-04-19 05:50 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] zopyrus.livejournal.com
I can't decide between epic spring cleaning bouts (every decade or so) or just a culture of not saving things! I bet the Noldor are more prone to hoarding documents than the other Elves, though.

on 2014-04-19 05:13 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] suzll.livejournal.com
Okay, post-Friday-night-madness commenting time:

Going off of what Zopyrus has said below, I envision the custom of including dead people's letters in libraries as having been established before Glorfindel returned from over the Sea...as, before that, they had no way of knowing if anyone would ever be able to come back, and likely assumed not? So when Glorfindel did return, I image they told him that they had all of this stuff, and it was at his discretion whether he wanted to keep it there or take his papers back for himself (and, in my headcanon, he voted on keeping them in the archives for posterity's sake. And then he's not the one who has to worry about keeping them organized :P). And I haven't thought about whether or not Erestor would take the archive with him if/when he sails! On the one hand, it seems like a lot to transport, on the other hand, I see him as wanting to make those records available to those who are reborn in Valinor. If he did chose to leave them behind in Middle-earth, I think there's high potential that they get moved to Gondor, or whatever satellite city Aragorn establishes in Eriador in the Fourth Age (which I see as something that had to happen? Maybe the Angle finally starts to thrive, lol. But I digress).

I also do wonder about the status of archival materials for Elves who are still living, like Elrond himself...in that case I sort of see it at the discretion of the various Elves? I'm basing this mostly off of my knowledge of famous(ish) people who are still alive who will donate their papers to University archives for the sake of Knowledge and Learning for the next generation. It's still a bit different, but the same general principle applies, I think.

on 2014-04-18 06:15 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] curiouswombat.livejournal.com
Oh I am so pleased that you show us more about the life of that manuscript!

on 2014-04-19 06:00 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] suzll.livejournal.com
Thank you!! I had fun exploring it :D

on 2014-04-18 09:39 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] zopyrus.livejournal.com
Again, it is so nice to be surprised by your fic posts! :D

I already told you this but my favorite part is the little cultural exchange moment when they talk about professions. The contrast between Merineth's seemingly limitless options and Gilraen's existence (hemmed in by mortality, circumstance, and early choices) is so stark. Of course your readers are in the odd position of for once understanding Merineth's position better than Gilraen's!

And I also love the moment where Gilraen realizes that Fingon had terrible very different taste in men than she does, lolol.

on 2014-04-19 06:01 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] suzll.livejournal.com
Ahahaha yea, Arathorn is (surprisingly?) underdeveloped in my head, but from what I do have he's about as far apart from Maedhros as you can get...

<3 <3 <3

on 2014-04-20 12:39 pm (UTC)
hhimring: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] hhimring
Very enjoyable!
(And, more or less, what the others already said!)

on 2014-04-21 05:54 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] suzll.livejournal.com
Thanks so much, I'm so glad you liked it! :)

on 2014-04-21 02:28 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] cairistiona7.livejournal.com
Finally got some time to read fanfic this morning and this was the first one I went to. I love the quiet tone to this--I really do feel the dusty weight of time as they walk through the stacks and then outside to read the ancient moon-rune letter. I also adore the idea that Aragorn got his "mirth beneath the surface" from his mother... that just seems so right. And I had to chuckle at Erestor insisting on filing things under the Quenya names. As someone who struggles to keep the Sindarin names straight, I *really* get thrown for a loop and a half when I read a story that uses only the Quenya names. I'm learning, but my brain is getting slow in my old age, so I feel Merineth's pain. :P

on 2014-04-21 05:57 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] suzll.livejournal.com
Hee, thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed! And I'm glad you like that I gave that trait to Gilraen...it feels very right to me, based both on my understanding of her character and what little I've thought of Arathorn's.

And Merineth is on a Mission to standardize all the files in that library, lol! Time will tell if she's actually successful... :P

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