Lothirien sighed contentedly, slowly coming back to the waking world, but unwilling to fully return as she let part of her mind remain in the bliss of her dreams.
Once again she was reliving the scurried preparations of the previous day, as Lady Galadriel, and her maids rushed about her at a frenzied pace while she alone sat as still as a slender tree in the midst of them. She remembered the glittering white gown that had been her own mother's wedding dress, scooped in front, and hanging delicately from her soft shoulders, while the long silky sleeves tapered down her arms, ending in a point on the backs of her wrists. The waist was tight enough to accentuate her form, but not restricting, and the skirt was full, shimmering in the soft blue light of the lamps as Galadriel's maidens helped her into it, and then brushed her long, golden hair until it fell about her like shimmering silk.
Then the Lady of the Galadhrim had placed a plaited circlet of blue and gold flowers draped with a long, gossamer veil, upon Lothirien's hair, white and transparent, hanging long over her face and her shoulders, the last touch before Galadriel had helped Lothirien to her feet, and led her down the steps from the talan where the Lady and her maidens had readied her, and onto the lush grass of a green lawn spread before a white, vine entwined bower. Elves, dressed in their finest gowns and robes, and each holding a slender silver wine glass, stood expectantly to each side forming an aisle down which Lothirien would pass, their heads, as in one body, turning as the Lady of the Galadhrim led Lothirien into view.
Lothirien paused nervously, and Galadriel turned, offering her a smile of gentle encouragement. Lothirien returned it, before she turned her eyes forward, and her gaze became lost in Haldir's eyes where he stood beneath the bower, waiting for her.
Lothirien forgot all else but his eyes as Galadriel led her forward through the crowd, then released her hand and joined Celeborn who stood nearby as Lothirien ascended the few steps alone, into the quiet shade of the bower and slipped her hands into Haldir's, her eyes hardly blinking, never leaving his own.
"You are so beautiful," she remembered Haldir murmuring beneath his breath for her alone before he squeezed her hands, and spoke aloud for all to hear.
"Lothirien," he said, speaking slowly, his voice low, though it rang with conviction and joy, "in free will and in love, I bind myself to you before Ilúvatar, the Valar, and before the eyes of our people, for all eternity, through all our joys, and all our pains, never to be parted from you except it be by-,"
Haldir suddenly stopped here, and a worried look came into his eyes as he gazed down into her own. The word he should have spoken, was death. But somehow he could not speak it. The word would not come to his lips.
Celeborn and Galadriel cast a questioning glance at each other, but said nothing.
"Haldir," Lothirien began quickly, speaking in a smooth, clear voice, "in free will and in love I bind myself to you before Ilúvatar, the Valar, and before the eyes of our people for all eternity, through all our joys and all our pains." Here she ended the pronouncement of the tradition wedding vows of the Galadhrim, and leaning closer, whispering for only Haldir to hear, "And, Ilúvatar willing, I will only love you better, should death ever take one of us."
A mist formed in Haldir's eyes, and she smiled her love up at him as at the base of the steps, Galadriel raised a silver wine glass, and called in a clear, joyful voice, "Hail, Haldir and Lothirien, may your love be great, and may the blessings of Ilúvatar and the Valar rest upon your union."
Celeborn, and the rest of the gathering raised their glasses as well, and in one voice, repeated Galadriel's blessing.
Lothirien caught a breath in her throat now, as Haldir released her hands, and took hold of the edge of the veil, lifting it reverently away from her face. Galadriel had drawn closer, and he turned to the Lady of the Galadhrim, taking the silver wine glass she offered him, then carefully set it at Lothirien's lips as she took a sip of the sweet liquid, then took the glass into her own hands, and offered him a sip as well before she handed the glass back to Galadriel who took it with a smile, and stepped back to Celeborn's side. Lothirien looked upward once again at Haldir who smiled now, and bent his head downward toward hers.
"I love you." He murmured before their lips met in a warm, gentle kiss, sealing their vows.
Lothirien slowly opened her eyes, gazing up into Haldir's face, and the sudden realization that he was now her own, her husband, gripped her heart, and brought tears to her eyes. Haldir, she could see, was feeling as she was, for his eyes were shining with tears of his own.
"And I love you, Haldir." She returned softly. And then, with a laugh that was half a sob of joy, Lothirien cast aside the quiet restraint of her nature, and flung herself unashamedly into his arms. She could feel his arms circling tightly around her, and could feel his warm breath against her face as he kissed her again. The kiss was at once both fervent and gentle, conveying to her the same caring passion that he would later, when they found themselves at last alone, together in their own bed chamber, the one she would share now with him, for the rest of the ages of the world.
Lothirien smiled at the sweet dream, and stirred, sighing contentedly where she lay against Haldir, feeling the rise and fall of his even breathing, and the steady murmur of his heart. One of his hands covered hers where it rested upon his chest, and the other was entwined in her golden hair that lay beneath her head in a tumbled mass. Slowly, the remnants of her dreamscape blurred, and the waking world came into focus.
Morning sun streamed generously through the fluted screens and plaited branches above their bed, telling her that it was well into late morning. She raised her gaze to his eyes, and found them focused upon her.
"Good morning, Haldir," She murmured, and smiled sleepily.
"If one could call it `morning'," Haldir grinned back, lifting a hand and softly tracing the lines of her face with a touch that was softer than the brush of a feather. "We are being terribly decadent."
"Mmm." She agreed happily, running her small hand over his smooth chest. "One would think we did not get enough sleep last night."
"Sleep?" Haldir whispered softly. His arms, warm and protective, tightened around her as his eyes grew soft and dark. "Night, my little flower, is no longer for sleeping. Not for us."
"Haldir!" She laughed, coyly pushing his arms away as he tried to put them around her. "What of your poor wife? When shall she find her rest, feeble weakling that she is?"
Her gentle teasing only charmed Haldir all the more, and he finally encircled her in his arms and pulled her against him. As their eyes met, Lothirien's smile faded, and her flesh shivered warmly.
"From what we shared last night, I have seen for myself that my wife is neither weak, nor feeble," he whispered, the words carrying a meaning that sent traces of pleasure shivering along her skin. "I am glad you are mine, Lothirien," he finished in a warm whisper.
"And I am glad you are mine," she murmured.
At this, a knock sounded at the main door of their house, down several steps, and through an arching entryway upon their front talan where steps encircled their tree, spiraling down toward the ground. The sound was soft and hesitant at first, then after a lengthy pause, louder with more purpose.
Lothirien groaned and buried her face against Haldir's neck, wishing the sound would stop, but it only increased in intensity, and this time a voice, Rumil's voice, accompanied it.
"Haldir, forgive me. Lord Celeborn asks that you come meet him and the Lady immediately." His younger brother's voice sounded distant.
"It was Lord Celeborn who said you had a few days leave," Lothirien moaned, lifting her head. "Rumil and Orophin can lead the border patrols."
Haldir's eyes found hers. "I know. But when our Lord and Lady need me, I must go."
Lothirien frowned and sat back as Haldir drew away from her and rose from their bed.
"Very well. I am coming," he called to Rumil as he threw a robe about himself. Lothirien frowned and rolled over to her own pillow, tucking her arm beneath her head.
She could hear him going through the preparations of dressing, and her frown grew into a scowl as she muttered angry curses at Lord Celeborn under her breath.
"By the Valar!" Haldir chuckled, at last coming into her view, and sitting beside her upon the bed. "I am astounded that my gentle wife knows such language!"
He was fully dressed, down to his light, doe-skin boots, and Lothirien's scowl only deepened.
Haldir shook his head and laughed outright at this. "I feel as you do," he said, his smiling fading quickly, and his voice growing tender. A table beside their bed held a bowl of fresh red berries, and he plucked one up, popping the single berry into her willing mouth. "I wish that I could stay here with you," he murmured. "But I will be back."
"Do not be gone long," she murmured, her hand reaching for and catching Haldir's hand, so it would not escape too quickly as she slowly licked the traces of berry juice from his finger tips, her eyes ever fixed on his.
Haldir's finger lightly traced the curve of her lips, then followed a line down her face, along her throat, and to her smooth, bare shoulder.
Haldir grinned, and bent lower over her, their lips meeting in a lingering kiss that spoke warmly of promise. He could still taste the sweetness of the berry he'd given her against the moist warmth of her mouth. "I will be back soon." He pecked the end of her nose with a quick kiss before he straightened and stood, one eyebrow arching upward mischievously. "Nothing could keep me away from you, long."
Lothirien smiled as he gave her a parting wink then turned away. He closed the gilded door of their bedroom behind him, and she heard his departing steps descending down the trunk of the great Mallorn tree upon which their house was perched, heard his muffled words as he greeted Rumil, and then there was silence as the two departed together. Alone in the stillness, she smiled to herself and folded her hands behind her head, raising her eyes to the ceiling that was little more than a thin screen, gracefully intertwined with leafy branches.
Kneeling in front of her tapestry, Lothirien lifted her head when she heard Haldir's returning footsteps enter their house. But she did not turn. His footsteps, heavy and weary, paused in their bedroom, then moved on, following the steps that had been set into the very branches of the tree wherein their house was perched, up toward the room where she sat, the room they had decided would be the baby's when one came.
His footsteps drew near, until they stopped at last directly behind her, and still she did not turn. She was angry. He had said he would not be gone long, and she had waited but he did not return.
The morning had grown late. So she had risen, dressed, and had swept their home clean, still waiting for him, and yet he had not come. As the golden light of day faded softly to the muted silver of night, she had prepared the evening meal, the first she had prepared for Haldir in her new home, and had waited with eager expectancy to share it with him, only to find herself eating alone, watching the rest of it grow cold.
Finally, knowing she could not sleep in their bed without him, she had assembled her loom, and had fitted her tapestry upon it, one which she had been slowly stitching at since the night she had promised herself to Haldir. The colors were bright, chosen to match the unbridled joy she had felt when she had first learned of his feelings for her.
The border was woven to imitate a golden vine trailing along a crimson trellis, while the portrait within, carried the images of three Elves. A man stood over a seated woman, upon whose lap, the image was beginning to appear of a small Elfling's golden head, but whether the child was a boy or girl yet, he could not tell.
Standing behind his wife, Haldir easily recognized his own image, as well as hers. That Lothirien's image bore a child upon her lap, brought him both comfort and misery at once, and as he gazed upon the blissful joy within the faces of the little family woven into her tapestry, he lost all the remaining vestiges of his strength, and collapsed heavily into a wrought silver chair beside the doorway.
"It is a beautiful tapestry you weave," he said softly, as Lothirien, clearly aware of him, still did not turn.
"You're angry with me," he mumbled, dropping his face into his hands.
"You said you would be back soon," Lothirien clipped in return.
"And I meant what I said." He sighed, wishing she would turn, aching that she did not. "But I did not realize the import of the summons."
"So you were gone from your new wife all day? Or did you simply forget that you were no longer a carefree bachelor, with no one waiting at home, longing for your return?" she asked, her eyes fixed determinedly on her tapestry. Now Haldir would know what it was like to be ignored.
"Lothirien, I beg you, do not be angry with me. Not now." Haldir's voice sounded weak and depleted, and at these words, Lothirien's heart at last began to soften.
"Forgive me Haldir." She sighed as she began at last, to turn. "I do not mean to be angry. But we were only married yesterday. I was so lonely for you, and I had hoped-,"
Her words melted into silence as her eyes found him. His head lifted from his hands to meet her eyes, and he saw the confusion in them, and the questions.
"Haldir," she asked quietly, and his heart felt as if it would break at her soft question, "why are you wearing armor?"