The Choice of Elros

By Lalaith

Romance / Fantasy

Chapter 25

Chapter 25

"Master Hathel," Andreth breathed, aware that her breathing had suddenly quickened. "Lord Elros." As much as she wished not to hurt Hathel's feelings, her eyes were drawn irresistably to Elros, drinking him in as greedily as she would a pitcher of water after days in a desert. "You have returned." With effort, she tore her eyes back to Hathel, and dropped in a graceful curtsey to the two men. It is good to see you- both."

...oOo...

Andreth dropped her eyes, studying the gown she wore, linen, cream colored, flattering the soft curves of her slender body. The embroidered throat of her gown clung delicately to her slender shoulders, scooping low below her delicate collarbones. Her long sleeves fluttered faintly in the gentle breeze that washed the veranda and that caught also at her long, honey brown hair which fell unbound about her shoulders save for a single white Tindómiel flower tucked in above one ear. She had not considered how she looked a moment ago, but now-

"Your journey was fair, I trust?" Gil Galad asked, his glance cast swiftly toward Andreth telling her clearly that he sensed her discomfort, and wished to help.

"It was, your highness," Hathel said. "I am- grateful for the help of Lord Elros, and Lord Círdan. We would be there still, if not for their assistance. Lord Círdan has tools that can cut through granite as easily as through wood."

"And where is Lord Círdan now?" Aelin asked where she sat beside Andreth.

Both Hathel and Elros shifted their weight uncomfortably and traded a guilty glance.

"He is in the stables seeing to our horses," Elros admitted. At last he lifted his eyes and met Andreth's. A quivering tension seemed now to fill the air between them, thickening, growing almost palpable, and Andreth's heart quickened, her blood stirring with a mingling of excitement and sorrow as it ever had since she and Elros had first met. Andreth felt her sinews tighten as she held herself back from rushing across the space between them, and throwing herself into his arms.

"We heard your music," Elros continued, his voice smooth and warm, "and Lord Círdan bid us come hear it better. He insisted that he see to our mounts."

"Good. I am glad he is back," Gil Galad said. "There were a few matters I wished to speak of, with him. I beg your leave, my lords." He offered a bow, and turned away starting for the door.

"I will come as well," Aelin said, to which Gil Galad turned and waited as she rose and moved toward him.

"And when you have a spare moment, it would perhaps, do me good for us to speak of our memories of Indilwen," she added more softly now as she took the arm he offered to her. "I know I have not spoken of her often before."

Gil Galad smiled faintly at this, and nodded to Aelin, the sister of the maiden he had loved. "I have all the time in the world to spare for that, dear sister," he said. "I think it would do us both good." The two of them stepped through the door into the house.

Andreth watched them as the shadows within swallowed them, then let her eyes trail to the stone tiles at the feet of Hathel and Elros.

Of the two men, Hathel was the first to speak. "I did not know you could sing so beautifully, Lady Andreth," he said, his words soft. She lifted her eyes to his. "Your voice is lovely."

"Thank you, sir," she returned, offering the mortal man a faint smile. She studied Hathel's eyes for a few moments. He was kind to her, and handsome, but Andreth could not pretend that her heart felt the same stirrings it felt when her eyes met Elros'. Andreth swallowed. Elros already knew she could sing, she remembered, recalling how he had stumbled unwittingly upon her when she was washing clothes at the pool near Firiel's house. She had been clothed only in her thin shift, thinking no others were nearby. Noblehearted as he was, he had turned his eyes away when he had seen her thus attired, but not before his gaze had told her well enough that elf though he was, he had still been stirred by her beauty. She still remembered Elros' eyes that day. For while she had seen desire there, she had also seen tenderness, as clearly as she could see the smooth stones at the bottom of the clear pool. Even now the memory warmed her soul.

Her gaze now strayed to the dark-haired elven lord a few lengths away from Hathel. Elros' eyes had fallen, and despite his passions of a few moments before, his attitude now betrayed a willingness to let Hathel continue to have the first word.

"Tomorrow the Harvest Festival begins," Hathel continued, and her eyes shot again to his. He shifted his weight. "I had hoped you might be willing to accept me as your escort to some of the festivities."

Andreth felt her heart quiver within her. This was what he had intended to ask her, a week ago, though now it seemed like so many ages.

At her side, Elrond shifted his weight, but she dared not look at him. He knew of her heart, what it held. She did not love Hathel. She never could, for her heart was already lost. But to one to whom she dared not confess her love, fearing he would chose mortality if he knew she loved him.

Nevertheless, Hathel was a good man. She was certain of it, and Andreth drew in a breath determined to be kind.

"Thank you, Master Hathel," she said, managing a smile despite her throbbing heart. "I am grateful for your offer. But I do not intend to promise myself to any one man during the Festival."

Hathel swallowed, and his jaw visibly stiffened. Andreth drew in a breath, praying that his hurt was not great.

"Though I hope that I will see you there," she continued pleadingly. "And I promise you now, I will save you a dance in the evenings."

Hathel's lips parted at this, as if he would speak, but he did not, and dropped his eyes, his aspect becoming much like Elros' did now. At last he managed a brave smile and lifted his eyes. "Then I shall look forward to the dances, my lady. Thank you."

Andreth returned his gracious nod with a slight curtsy of her own, knowing well that she had done little for which he should thank her.

"I, ah, should return down to the city," Hathel said. He made an effort to sound cheerful, but Andreth could hear the hollow tones in his voice. "If I do not go stop him, Círdan will have my horse curried, fed, and bedded down, and the poor creature won't want to come back with me."

He drew a deep breath, and released it brokenly before he turned away, and started for the door.

"I will come with you, Hathel," Elrond offered, catching up the harp, and hurrying after the young mortal. "I pray you stay at least for supper, my friend. No doubt you're weary beyond words-" Elrond's voice faded as the two men vanished into the inner chamber of the house. The door, whether by accident, or design, fell slowly shut behind them.

Andreth dropped her eyes, aware that she and Elros were now alone upon the veranda. Her heart thundered within her, and she wondered if he, with his elven senses, could hear it. She knew something now that she had not known the last time she had seen him, and spoke. For Elrond had confessed it to her that Elros was indeed in love with her. And the mere passage of a week's time would not cool his feelings or turn him to seek out an elven maid. Andreth knew that, and the thought thrilled her and filled her with sorrow at once.

His boots scuffed the stone tiles as Elros strode near. And though she wanted, with all her heart, to fling herself into his arms, Andreth remained where she was, and did not dare to lift her eyes.

Why did this elven man, beautiful as the stars, tall and strong as a Vala, but yet as real, and warm and kind as a true friend, love her, a mortal maid? What did he see in her that stirred his feelings?

"You have had a pleasant week, my lady?" he asked.

Andreth lifted her eyes, meeting his. Grey as the sea, and soft was his gaze. "It was eventful, my lord," she returned, lost in his eyes. How she wished she could lose herself to her desire to rush forward and embrace him!

"You need not be alarmed now, but-"

From behind the fold her her skirt where she had held it, she brought forth her bandaged hand.

Elros' brows rose.

"Andreth what happened?" Elros said, striding nearer to her, and cradling her bandaged hand in one of his own, as tenderly as if it were an injured bird.

Her heart jumped at what she saw now, in his other hand at his side. A flat wooden box, somewhat larger than his hand. What was in it? Her dream prince had told her that he would be bringing her a gift. A necklace that looked like the one she wore in the dreamland where she always found herself with her vision of Elros when she fell asleep.

Andreth swallowed stiffly.

"It is a long story, Elros," she said. "And would take much time to tell."

"I have as much time as you need to tell it," he breathed. "Will you come walk with me along the shore? Perhaps even to the cave?"

Andreth dropped her eyes. Be strong, she whispered in her thoughts. Be gracious as you were to Hathel, and thank him for his kindness, but refuse him.

"Oh, my lord Elros," she heard herself whisper, and her heart quivered even as bright joy lit Elros' face. "I would like that very much."

"Come, then," he offered, and took up her uninjured left hand, led her down the steps off the veranda, and toward the stone steps sloping down toward the water. His hand was warm, and strong, and her skin tingled with pleasure at his touch. But oh, what was she doing to him?

...oOo...

Elrond folded his hands behind his back as he walked, the clatter of horse's hooves the only sound in the quiet as elf and mortal descended the hill from Círdan's house down toward the walls of Mithlond. One portion of the city, because of the rising cliffs that jutting into the bay, was already in twilight, and he could see sparks of lamps flickering one by one amongst the houses and towers below him.

He glanced askance at Hathel, whose steps were of one thoroughly dejected, his eyes down, his mouth set in a tight line.

This is my fault, Elrond thought to himself. He fell in love with her, because of my encouragement. If I hadn't tried to push the two of them together as I did, he would not be so miserable.

"This isn't your fault, you know, Lord Elrond," Hathel said at last, almost as if the mortal could read his thoughts. "It is mine. I should have expected such. What have I, to compete with your brother, after all? I saw the way she looked at him at our first meeting. I should have bowed gracefully away then, knowing I could not compete. Instead of letting myself begin to hope. If given the choice between sweet cake, and rough bread, what fool would take the bread?"

Elrond flinched at the mortal's bitter tone. "There's nothing wrong with you, Hathel," he said. "You're a good man. You work hard; you are trustworthy, you have an honorable, useful skill-"

Hathel snorted at this, his voice rough. "But I have no wife. No children. And I am nearly thirty years old. That may seem as nothing to an elf, but-"

"Someday you will-"

"What will you do," Hathel said, his voice grown thick and bitter, and his eyes shadowed, "if you return to Círdan's house, and find that your brother took her down to the seashore and wedded her in some- some copse of trees on the beach?"

At this, Elrond's feet stopped so quickly that his feet scraped to a halt. "What?" he demanded.

Hathel stopped as well. His jaw had grown tight, and trembled. He did not lift his eyes, but Elrond thought he saw wetness in them. "You heard me," Hathel grated. "I know the laws and customs of your people. It isn't unlawful for a man and a woman of your race, if both are willing, to wed one another simply by-"

"What sort of man do you take my brother for?" Elrond demanded. He was glad his hands were behind his back, else he would have taken the impudent mortal by the front of his tunic and shaken him. "And Andreth, whom you claim to love and honor? What do you think of her, by saying such a thing?"

Hathel stood his ground, face downcast, unmoved, though his jaw continued to tremble.

"It may not be unlawful, but to marry in such a way, is abominably contemptuous!" Elrond continued, his voice fierce. "And no man who truly loved a woman would ever even ask her to wed him in such a way. Not in a time of peace, as we have now! It is a custom of my race, as it should be with yours, that if such a thing were to happen, they would be married indeed, to keep their foolishness contained-"

Elrond stopped, knowing he would only grow more agitated if he continued, and say wild, angry things he would later regret.

He drew in a swift breath and held it a long moment. "My brother would never dishonor Andreth in such a way," he said in a soft, though fierce voice. "Nor would she even dream of permitting it. Their respect for one another is too great."

He stepped closer to Hathel, who looked up only when he was a hand's span away. Hathel's face was angry and pained, his eyes wet with tears he was too proud to let fall.

A pang of pity smote Elrond's heart, helping to soften his words.

"I believe you to be an honorable man, Hathel," he said softly. "And I think you spoke the words you did out of pain, and frustration. But I will ask you, never to question my brother's honor again, nor Andreth's. For our friendship's sake, if nothing else."

"Then I suppose this is where we part ways," Hathel choked. He turned away. He spoke over his shoulder. "Tell Andreth that Elros can give her instruction in weapons, now. Doubtless that is what she wished from the beginning."

He continued on down the hill, his horse's hooves clopping obediently behind him.

"Hathel," Elrond called. "Don't be this way. Your life is not so bleak as it may appear." But the mortal did not turn, nor even acknowledge that he had heard.

...oOo...

"I suppose the story begins when you left the first day of the week," Andreth said with a sigh, her eyes down as her feet, bared of her slippers, pressed indents into the wet sand, leaving behind footprints that filled with water as she passed. Beside her, Elros' soft doeskin boots made only the barest of impressions in the wet sand. "I came down here alone, and as I walked along the shore, I heard music."

Elros' brows lifted as she looked to his face. His eyes too were upon the sand, his expression thoughtful.

"It was harp music, and it came from the cave you showed me." Andreth drew in a breath, her lungs filling with the sweet aroma of the sea. "So I went to the cave to see who the maker of the song was."

"Who was it?" Elros asked.

Andreth drew in another breath, and stopped. Elros' own steps paused, and he turned to face her.

"The harpist-" Andreth swallowed, "was Maglor."

Elros' expression widened into one of surpreme surprise and joy mingled together. "Maglor?" he gasped. "Is he still there?"

"No, he is gone," Andreth sighed. "He left this place after Aelin-" Andreth paused. "You know what happened to Aelin's sister."

Elros heaved a sigh, and nodded, clearly disappointed. Their steps resumed, the jutting cliff of stone growing ever nearer before them.

"Do not be angry with her, for it truly was an accident," Andreth began.

"I did not know he was Maglor at first, for he called himself Linnod. All I knew was that he was a very kindly, honorable elf, and that he was willing to teach me to play the harp. I could see in his eyes that there was no evil in him, and that I could trust him as I trust you. He said he did not plan on staying long, but that he would remain here near Mithlond for a few days for my benefit. And he did. When my hand is better, I will play for your, and show you what he taught me."

Elros smiled at these words, and nodded. "I would like that very much, Andreth," he murmured, his eyes fixed upon her face. "Please. Continue your story."

Andreth smiled and sighed. "Aelin despises the sons of Fëanor, and suspected something after I described my teacher Linnod to her. I went to find him the evening of the day before yesterday, for I had accidentally taken his harp with me. She followed me. I went first to the cave, but he was not there, so I climbed the hill to the top, and searched through the trees. I followed the stream, and at last I found him. He showed me a hollow tree where he stayed and rested when he was not teacing me. Elrond seemed to know of it, as you will see in a moment. I returned his harp, and we were talking, when Aelin came."

Elros hardly breathed, though she was conscious of his thumb brushing over the flesh on the back of her hand. His eyes showed that he was thoroughly engrossed in her words.

"Aelin threatened to kill him with a knife she had brought, and when Elrond came, riding upon Maidh, for the lady Galadriel had sensed that something was amiss, and sent him to help, I tried to take the knife from Aelin. But she accidentally cut my palm."

Elros drew in a sympathetic hiss of pain. "Perhaps that was why-" he muttered, but he fell silent, and nodded to Andreth. "What then?"

Andreth sighed. She did not wish for Elros to worry further, and decided to omit, for now, the story of the venom, and the athelas that Maglor had, which had saved her. "Maglor and Elrond treated my wound, and when they were done, they spoke to one another for a few minutes, but then Maglor went away. Elrond said he did not see him go. He turned his back only for a moment, and Maglor was gone."

"But that-" Elros said, struck with a sudden thought. He pointed up the slope of the grassy hill beside them "That harp that Aelin played, that Elrond took back inside- that was Maglor's harp!"

His eyes lit with sudden hope. "He would not stay away forever, without his harp! He will return for it."

Andreth smiled, for Elros seemed almost like a child in his hope. "He said he would," she agreed. "The strings were damaged, and Elrond promised to have it repaired. He said that Maglor had promised he would return for it."

"Good," Elros grinned. "Then I will see him."

Elros looked ahead, and Andreth followed his gaze. They had reached the rising bluff, and rounded the corner, the arm of the forest where it marched down the slope of the hill, nearly to the sea coming into Andreth's view.

Her uninjured hand tightened in Elros' as she studied the forest through which she could see now the waterfall and the pool, from which the stream at her feet issued, and the cave behind it. Her mortal eyes were not required to strain as they had the night she had first come here with Elros, now that the light of the setting sun gleamed behind her, shining through the trees of the forest in a bright, warm glow.

"The last time we were here, you bid me to carry you, for you feared the rocks would not be kind to your bare feet," he said, turning to her.

Andreth could see the hope in his eyes. And though she too wished for any reason she could find, to let him lift her into his strong arms, she smiled, and shook her head. "But since then, I have been this way many times, my feet bare, and I have been fine."

Elros grinned and ducked his head, playfully chagrined. "Of course," he said. "Come. You will love the way the setting sun shines through the sheet of the water and sets the walls to dancing in the red light of the setting sun. It is truly marvelous."

Wordless, Andreth followed him, her hand within his, as he led her along the path. She smiled as he looked back at her, even as uncertainty bit at her heart. She should not be coming this way. She should pull her hand from his, turn, and flee back the way they had come. What if the beauty he promised was as marvelous as she imagined? What if she was overcome by everything, and weakened, and told him she loved him? She knew he loved her, but he did not know of her own feelings yet, so there was still hope for him, wasn't there?

The clatter of the waterfall grew amplified as they entered the trees, and the stone path beneath them was kind to her feet.

On he led her, along the path through the trees, beside the stream that ran to the sea, and to the stones that bordered the deep, clear pool, and up, turning along the rocky wall and behind the waterfall.

"Ah, indeed," Andreth agreed as the cavern opened before her. Behind her, the face of the reddened sun, nearly touching the water on the horizon, shot a beam of light, straight as an arrow, through the wall of water, and the effect was just as Elros had promised, for the walls danced as if alive with red light. Her shadow, and Elros' cast by the sun streaming through the dancing wall of water seemed to flutter over the floor.

"It is just as beautiful as you say."

He grinned at her words, "I am glad you are pleased, Andreth."

Elros released her hand, and moved to the small table and chair, the same where Maglor had been seated when she first met him, and set the small box down upon the rough wooden surface. With his back still turned to her, he drew and released a breath. Then he turned, meeting her eyes where she stood near the sheet of water, and smiled.

"You are wearing one of the Tindómiel, in your hair," he said.

"Not for much longer, I fear," she answered, turning her eyes from his, and studying the smooth sheet of water. She reached out a hand, and touched the smooth sheet, breaking its perfection for a moment. The water broke over her finger, dividing one way, then the other. But as soon as she withdrew her hand, the smooth sheet reformed. "For the lady Galadriel says with autumn coming on, the flowers will soon be going to sleep for the winter."

"If you keep them in water, the blooms will endure all winter, until spring."

She turned her eyes to Elros, meeting his gaze. "May I ask you something, my lord?"

"Anything," he said, and his hand fell to the box, which he had yet to open.

"Did you leave the book outside my door the second night I slept here in Mithlond?"

"Yes, I did. I found it upon the veranda, and knew it was dear to you."

Andreth nodded at this, her lips parting slightly as her breath quickened an little. "And did you leave the cluster of Tindómiel outside the door of my bedchamber the first night I slept here in Círdan's house?"

He dropped his eyes to the floor. "Yes," he said, lifting his eyes again.

"I see," she answered as a whisper of sweetness stole through her soul.

"Did they please you, my lady?"

"They did, my lord." She paused. "Why did you, give them to me?"

Elros smiled, and glanced away again. "I wished to welcome you," he murmured softly. "To let you know we were glad you were here. And also-"

He paused, and Andreth took a step toward him. "Also-" she urged.

"Also, I must confess, I was somewhat- envious of Lord Hathel. I saw-" Elros cleared his throat. "I saw him give you the flower before he parted from your company late after supper. I supposed I wanted to-" he drew in a deep breath that swelled in his chest. "To- outdo him. To do more for you than he." A penitent look crossed his face. "It was a boyish, foolish reason, now that I think on it."

"The gesture itself was wonderfully kind, my lord," she said. "For so very long I did not know who left them. I hoped-" Andreth hesitated, fearing to speak the next words, though her heart wished the words to be spoken. "I had hoped you had been my benefactor. I was very honored by them. Thank you."

At her confession, Elros' face softened, and he placed a hand upon his chest, inclining his head to her. "I was honored to give them to you, my lady, Andreth Tindómiel."

At the sound of her name, spoken with the epessë he had given her only a week before, Andreth's legs trembled, and a hand went to her heart as she looked away from him.

"And now, my lady," he said with softened eyes, "I have another gift I wish to give you, which I hope you will like as well."

The soft creak of the lid drawing back, let her know he was opening the small flat box he had brought with him. She dared not look. She wanted to see the necklace she had worn in her dreams, and yet, for his sake, she did not want to.

For what would it mean if they had shared their dreams these past months? Such a marvel could only be the will of the Valar. Why would they do such a thing? Did they wish for her to wed Elros? But why? Surely the Valar knew that for Elros to love a mortal, could lead only to misery. Or perhaps not. If the Valar wished for them to wed, then surely good would come of their union. But then why did she fear to look at his gift? If the Valar wished for a love between Elros and Andreth to be, then their will was as Andreth's. Except that she knew she did not wish for him to choose mortality. She did not want him to die.

She lifted her eyes now, and met his gaze, studying the honed angles of his face, the gleam of his smooth, dark hair, and the captivating shape of his strong, lean body.

He should stay thusly forever, Andreth mused. Unchanging and beautiful, for all the ages of the world, not bent and shriveled as one of her own race before death siezed him. And that would be his fate, were he to choose mortality.

"Andreth Tindómiel, I pray you, take this gift as a token of my esteem for you," he murmured, and lifted, before she could look away from him again, the very necklace she had seen in her dreams, silver gleaming as if the light of the moon was captured in it, with a thinnest of silver wires twined round a tapered pearl. The very pearl he had shown her the first day he took her riding.

"Oh, dear Valar," she breathed as her heart stopped within her.

Then it was true.

She had to go before it was too late for him. She had to turn and flee from him, fly away down the path, over the sand, up the steps to Círdan's house, away through the woods, and along the forest paths, back to Firiel, back to the haven of her childhood home, so that she might save Elros from the fate of mortality.

"Do you like it?" he asked, his eyes pleading for her acceptance.

Andreth stayed where she stood, still, hardly breathing, as Elros held up the necklace in both his hands.

"May I put it on you?"

She met his eyes, fraught with adoraration he made no effort to disguise. Did he see the love in her eyes as well?

"It is beautiful," she breathed, and Elros smiled, and drew near until he stood a breath away.

Andreth did not move, though she closed her eyes, her body growing warm as she felt his hands slip about her neck, and beneath her hair. The soft warmth of his breath caressed her face, and her own breath quickened.

A soft click, and the latch of the necklace was fastened at the back of her neck, though he did not yet withdraw his hands. She looked down.

The necklace of pearl and gleaming mithril lay against the smooth flesh of her bosom just above the scooped hem of her collar just as it had in her dreams. But now it was real.

"Tindómiel," he breathed, and she opened her eyes, finding his face hovering so near above her own, that his lips were just a breath away from hers. "This necklace, fair maiden, daughter of Beldir of the house of Bëor, is but a token, a tribute to your beauty."

Flee, now, he mind told her. Turn and leave him, if you wish to save him.

Instead, Andreth drew in a breath. "Elros-' she whispered. She reached out a tentative hand, and touched Elros' chest.

In her distraction, the hand she raised was her injured hand, and she flinched slightly as a ragged pain knifed down her forearm from her palm.

"Your hand," he murmured, letting his eyes fall to the bandaging. he caught and cradled her hand tenderly. "It hurts?"

"Yes," she admitted. "A little."

"I am not as skilful in the healing arts as my brother, but I know a little. May I?"

"Yes," she answered, wishing not to lose the touch of his hands upon her own.

Gently, his free hand worked the knot undone, and he gingerly unwrapped her hand, drawing in a breath as the red mark upon her palm was at last revealed.

"My brother has done well, for a cut two days old," he said. "But perhaps there is something I can do-"

With that, Elros lifted her hand, and as he had done so often in their dreams, moved to press his lips against her palm.

"But-" she protested, and stiffened, fearing the sting of the touch against the still healing wound. But then, as his lips made contact with the red flesh, instead of pain, a wave of cool sweetness flowed through her hand from his lips, the faint pain that lingered there, fading at his touch.

"Tell me. Does this hurt?" he breathed, the warmth of his lips washing over the flesh of her palm.

"No Elros," she breathed, closing her eyes, and surrendering to the sweet feel of his lips against her skin.

"Now?" he asked, moving his lips gently over the line of reddened skin where the cut had once been, the pain fading away as if his lips were a balm from the Blessed Realm itself.

"There is no pain at all," she breathed as he finished, and he looked up, finding her eyes.

"Good." Elros' eyes searched hers, pleading with her as a man pleads for his life. "And now, I must tell you something, Andreth, before my very heart bursts with the unspoken words."

His eyes were so filled with pleading, that Andreth could not but ease closer to him, lifting her hand, upon which only a faint scar of red remained, to touch the warm, firm flesh of his jaw.

"Yes, Elros?"

"I love you," he breathed.

At the words, so soft and simply spoken, her heart burst in an ecstacy of joy and agony. Her hand began to fall away, but he caught it and held it, his eyes bright and pleading.

"All that you are I love, my beautiful Tindómiel, daughter of the morning twilight," he continued. "Your beauty, your form, your wisdom, and goodness, and I would choose not to be parted from you-"

She staggered a little, but he caught her arms, and held her, seeking her eyes, seeing, she was certain, her pain for him, within her soul.

"Tell me," he breathed, his soft breath teasing against her parted lips, "does this hurt?"

And gently, tenderly, but with an insistence that stirred her blood, Elros drew Andreth to him, and pressed his warm, sweet mouth against her own.


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