A Fragile Chalice

Author: pandemonium_213

Nominator: elfscribe

2011 Award Category: Elves: General - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Medium Length

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: Sexual Content

Summary: In spite of weariness, Celebrimbor hosts a gathering in his home: a supper followed by what we might call a salon for the elite of Ost-in-Edhil. Musicians, rival poets, and lively conversation among the guests provide the evening's entertainment. An elven poetry contest causes him to become immersed in deep memories — some poignant, some painful, and one dark yet vaguely familiar.

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Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 10

Pandemonium has a wonderful talent for bringing not only the Elves of Second and Third Age Middle-earth to life, and certain other great names of Tolkien's legendarium, but she is an outstanding creator of original characters. In this fascinating look at the social life of Ost-en-Edhil, she focusses on Celebrimbor, a leader and one of the two most influential forces in that great Elven city of the Second Age. Celebrimbor gives a party, an elegant evening with exquisite food and sparkling conversation. One of the guests is the visiting Erestor, another is Celebrimbor's young cousin, the original character Naryen Melamire (a young lady of many talents and an awesome pedigree), who appears in many of Pandemonium's works. The story is a tapestry of the beauties of Ost-en-Edhil; the intelligence, the sciences and poetry and joy in learning, the poignant yearning for the West that some of them remember and the promise of the new generation of Elven scientists and smiths, and beneath it all, a strange and sinister something brewing that none of them understands but will eventually despoil their works and destroy their homes and themselves, especially the powerful and magnanimous Celebrimbor. It's a story that is comic, poetic, poignant and also chilling. Pandemonium and Celebrimbor are a great team!

Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 10

Oh, the humanity of it! I do love how you are able to take Tolkien’s canon and characters and interpret them in light of the emotions, drama, the foibles, etc. that we know had to have existed in personalities strong enough to have inhabited the spectacular successes and failures which he has assigned them in his history. There is so much I love about this story—large concepts and small. I adore tiny details like the expressions of snarkiness related to the use of Valarian and the underlying Nolodrin sensitivities that reveals. I love Tyelpo throughout. You were kicking in an open door with him as a choice of protagonist. I say this over and over, but as much as I love to read about characters that I love to think about. The big drawback is that it doesn’t work if I do not like the interpretation. I love your version of Celebrimbor. Love the references to the encounter between the boy Pengolodh meeting young Celebrimbor from Dawn’s story. (This story is a sterling tribute to cross-fertilization in fanfiction writing!) Tyelpo has never had an easy life in some ways, but it other he has been so blessed—just so damned smart and with so many opportunities. I feel like you really GET him. I personally can forgive him a boatload of arrogance—clearly my attitude toward the Finweans in general. I am flattered beyond believe at the parts you took for me and how you handled them. I adore Erestor as he appears in this story. Love the way he crawls into Celebrimbor’s bed to comfort him; love his flirting earlier; love the fact that one cannot help but sympathize with Erestor (and his awful choices in men, which also, for me at least, are so understandable!). Of course, I love what you did with the story book. I love the references to Alqualondë, the whole painful flashback. I love looking at your OC Mélamírë in this story. We have had the opportunity to see her at so many different points in her life and she always works. This one is going to go on my short list of favorite stories. Please forgive the horribly incoherent and scattered review. Kind of a nudge-nudge wink-wink version of story review--we share so many interpretations of the canon (the correct ones, of course!); research and personal preferences come together in this story to present a really strong and convincing world view that is actually are closer his most important canon characters than the vast majority of pious fanfiction interpretations bowing to the Master at every turn of the phrase. Another unrelated reflection, you make a wonderful use of the salon setting, the unmasking of a admired, clever people of a given society, revealing them to us with all of their flaws and glories. I am reminded of scenes in authors from Tolstoy to Jane Austen to Ellen Kurshner in the look you give us that those gathered around this dinner table. I love, love, love this story. I want to live in it. I’ll take my chances at surviving the fall of Ost-in-Edhel.

Reviewed by: Spiced Wine  ✧  Score: 10

I copied this review from the SWG, and as it still says what I want it to say, I will post here, without the quotes. This is a wonderful fic within Pandë's 'verse. The dinner scene with its repartee and verbal crossfire could be something out of Ellen Kushner, or a more gutsy Georgette Heyer, but these people and their history add an intense depth. Tyelpo's reflecting on Mélamírë's likeness to both their dead kin is very poignant. Also Aulendil's *created* heritage shows how completely he has been accepted - who is to know, as so few on Middle-earth knew his *father?* The waking dream was beautifully written, but soon delved into deep waters, and changed the mood of this piece entirely. It was masterly, and more than upsetting, future events casting their shadow behind them. When Erestor speaks of Gil-galad's premonitions Mélamírë is troubled, and and previously when Tyelpo pushes her away. She is a strong-minded and very intelligent woman, (although as he sees, under it, she is vulnerable) and that comes across in everything I have read of her, and is shown in this piece, but here, for whatever reason here, when something strikes her deeply, she seems to go into herself, and not speak of it. If I were reading this and had not known before who Mél is, I would think that she had seen something or sensed something in her father that she does not want to examine too closely. She does seem the sort of person who notices, thinks, and files everything away in her mind -- like her father, in fact. Again, in everything I have read of her, she is a character who easily stands alone and is not just 'Sauron's daughter.' but of course, me being a lover of pathos, I cannot help both admiring her and pitying what is to come.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 10

I loved this so much, I wanted to nominate it myself, but someone else beat me to it. Pandemonium has created a fascinating setting in Second Age Ost-in-Edhil, where the Noldorans have created a glittering society, all unaware of who has come to dwell among them. Pande's OFC, Melamire is young here, new to her Mastery in the Guild of Smiths, and her cousin Celebrimbor is intent on showing her off. We are treated to a salon of sorts, in which various artists and others have come at his invitation, some to actually enjoy an evening among friends, others with ulterior motives of jockeying for status and position. There follows some wonderfully brittle conversation that kept me chuckling. When the host, rather annoyed by a particularly supercilious poet with pretensions of courting his cousin, challenges him and another poet to an impromptu poetry challenge both rise to the occasion. The poetry leads to more than just a mood of introspection, and we are given more hints of the background behind all this splendor. This story bewitched me, and took me into a part of Middle-earth I had never visited before, made me feel I was there, an onlooker to it all. And the final verse of poetry held such a wealth of meaning and imagery-- it made me want to know more about Lady Saeri's place in the Pande!verse.

Reviewed by: Russandol  ✧  Score: 10

There's so much drama within this story, highlighted by the banter and merryment of the lavish dinner party, that it's almost impossible to grasp everything in a single read. As much as I enjoyed the aristocratic gathering (almost decadent, maybe reminiscent of pre-revolutionary France in my mind, perhaps due to the parallel tragic ending) and the fabulous poetry contest, it was the undercurrents linked to the wider "Pandë'verse" that made me both cheer with glee at meeting familiar, well-loved characters, and gasp in horror at Tyelpo's foreboding. I deeply sympathised with Mélamírë, a young woman recently promoted to Master of the Míretanor after harsher then average trials (how could it be otherwise with such a demanding father?) Despite this achievement she lacked confidence and felt awkward outside her own circle (though she could bite, as Lóremin and even Erestor found out) when "in loco parentis" Tyelpo invited her to join the company of his refined friends. Pandë's prose flowed as easily as the delicious wines during the dinner, crafting witty conversation, exquisite food, blatant flirting, and even under the table action that made me chuckle. I was dazzled by the beautiful setting, which served to trigger Tyelpo's reminiscing leading to a harrowing glimpse of foresight which took me to the heartwrenching scene of Broken Star, lived too vividly from his POV. This is an absolutely must read, a key piece in the complex jigsaw painting the magnificent picture that pandemonium_213 is building as a rich overlay on Tolkien's world. I'm afraid this rambling babble of a review can't do it justice.

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 9

I liked A Fragile Chalice very much. The scene was perfectly described and staged, and it added to the story's overall effect on the reader quite a bit. There is no doubt that the author is talented, a fact that made the story all the more pleasurable as the plot unfolded. The backstory and gap-filling elements were skillfully interwoven with fact, leading to a result that was truly wonderful. As a reader, I had never before considered the whys and wherefores of Celebrimbor's life, but even so, this piece explores his character so brilliantly that I would certainly like to read more. The poetry contest was a perfect vehicle to further along the ensuing flashbacks; certainly, it seemed like a very Elvish thing to do at a dinner party. But beyond the central plot, I loved the hints at more the author interspersed throughout the piece. The mention of the cook, the hinted relationship between Erestor and Tyelpo, Aulendil's disagreement with Gil-galad. All those things added the the overall impression that this was just a scene in a full and complex world. I think that was what I liked so much about this piece.

Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel  ✧  Score: 7

When I first read the author's story 'The Apprentice,' I remember thinking that yes, this is how things must have been in Ost-in-Edhil. This tale is another look into the day to day lives of people in her version of that ill-fated city. Her Celebrimbor (named Tyelperinquar in her story) is a man much like any other, whose days are filled with the onerous tasks of governance, of making certain his workshop has adequate supplies, of trying to instruct the next generation of craftsmen, and still pursuing his own research. He's invited family members and other important people of the city to his home for a dinner party. The details of dinner conversation and of the meal itself give us a nice peek into what their society and lives would have been like. Celebrimbor's apparent flashback to the exile from Valinor seems appropriate in context of the story, as does the comfort he receives from one of his guests. A fantastic look into an intriguing and rich society.

Reviewed by: Marta  ✧  Score: 6

The idea of a salon in Eregion is simply inspired. It's the closest thing to true high civilization that I think we see in Middle-earth (at least an urbane civilization), and the mix of different cultures gives the place a truly Parisian feel to it. The original characters were all wonderfully drawn and it reminded me in some ways of a Georgette Heyer novel - a definite compliment in my book. I think I have a particular soft spot for this piece because of the character Melamire. My first fanfic was a novel revolving around a Gondorian, Melamir. That piece has all the bad habits of a first fic, but reading Melamire I saw my character as I would have liked to write her: self-assured, to be sure, but with the hint of nobility. I can truly see the child of that particular father having just those traits. All in all, she was wonderfully charming (and not alone in that respect).

Reviewed by: DrummerWench  ✧  Score: 6

My favorite genre is Fantasy (you knew that!), but my second favorite is Comedy of Manners! Pandemonium has joined these two genres in an excellent Fantasy of Manners tale of her appealing OFC, set during Mélamírë's gawky and untried youth. The witty conversations and flirtations, the barbs hidden and displayed, the subtle and open rivalries all conspire to make this short story a compelling example of prime Comedy of Manners interaction. Combine that with Pandë's scientifictitious view of Tolkien's universe, and you have an engaging, fantastic read. Of course, it's well-written, compelling, and entertaining, and Pandemonium does an excellent job of interweaving wonderful, appropriate poetry into her terrific tale.

Reviewed by: elfscribe  ✧  Score: 6

What a rich world Pandemonium gives us here with a gathering of her characters at an elegant salon in Ost-in-Edhil. We are treated to witty banter as well as darker undertones as Celebrimbor has a brief vision of the future. I have to say that I am immersed enough in this whole scene, that I would dearly love to have been there enjoying the repartee and the poetry contest. I loved Erestor in this with his under-the-table flirtation with the elf with whom he was trading verbal barbs, as well as Pandë's wise character Mélamírë, who knows full well what he was up to. The title of this fic is an apt description of Ost-in-Edhil itself, with the chalice that cuts Celebrimbor’s fingers, as symbolic of the fragility of the world that Pandë depicts here, that will soon be broken like glass.