The Choice of Elros

By Lalaith

Romance / Fantasy

Chapter 33

Chapter 33

All about Andreth, the world faded into a blur of music and light as Elros touched her waist with one hand, and took her hand in his other.

The cloth was thick at Elros' shoulder where her hand came to rest, yet still she could feel the subtle shifting of his muscles as he began to guide her in time to the soft, sweet music, his steps graceful, and his hand at her waist strong and sure.

Beneath the torchlight, his deep sea grey eyes swallowed her, and Andreth let herself drown in them, her hand at his shoulder trembling and tightening, knowing that she was safe in his embrace.

At this, Elros smiled. His own hand at her hip tightened, and pulled her closer to himself.

Andreth's heart quickened at the sensation of his hand sliding gently from her hip around her waist to the small of her back. Her own hand slid over his shoulder to his back, where the sinews of his shoulder blade moved and shifted beneath her fingers.

"Ah," Elros said at last, his voice low and warm beneath the music to which they danced. "This is much better."

Andreth's brow furrowed. "Than what?"

Elros tipped his head as if the answer should be clear. "Than being parted from you," he said. Then with a grin, he added, "After all, you are far prettier than my brother, or Lord Círdan."

Andreth laughed lightly at his words, and at the playful gleam that now danced in his eyes. To this, Elros' smile eased, though the look of admiration still lingered in his gaze.

"I love the light that shines in your eyes when you laugh," he murmured. "It is like light in the forest, dancing on the green of young leaves."

Andreth's heart softened at this, warm desire flooding her at the softened tones of his voice. "I am glad the light in my eyes pleases you," she whispered.

"Everything about you pleases me," Elros breathed, his voice deepening, and growing softer.

Against the small of her back, his hand trembled slightly, and Andreth grew aware of the mighty restraint he was using. Yet the closeness of their bodies, near, but not touching, was not helping his strength of will.

Sliding her hand back up to his shoulder, she gently pushed him back so that his own hand moved from the small of her back, back to her hip. His hand trembled slightly, his brows quivered, but he honored her silent request, and remained at the distance she had dictated.

"Everything?" she queried.

"Everything," he confirmed. "And much of what pleases me, is not at first visible."

Andreth smiled. "Explain," she said, though she already guessed what he meant.

Elros grinned in return. "As you wish, my lady."

He did not press closer to her now, but he bent his head down nearer to her own, so that their brows nearly touched, and softly murmured, "Since the day we met, something about you drew me to you. That first day, I thought it was only pity. You had been through a terrible ordeal, and had nearly been robbed of your maidenhood. And, as it was clear to me that you were also wonderfully lovely, I thought that much of what drew me to you, was your beauty." Elros sighed and confessed, "While your beauty is intoxicating, I was drawn to you for far more than that. For I discovered quickly, your inquisitive mind, your love of learning, and your- ah, Tindómiel the raw purity of your goodness, and honor! You had made Firiel's life so wonderful, simply by being in it. By being so good to her, and kind."

"She made my life wonderful," Andreth sighed, suddenly somber, and missing her friend.

How was she? Was she well? Was their neighbor Lómë better? She had been ill in Firiel's last letter, written by the hand of Baran, Lómë's husband.

"Nothing but your own choices made you be kind in return. You could have been bitter at your lot," Elros explained. "In truth, Firiel has but little in the way of material goods. But you do not care for such things. Because of who you choose to be, you can be happy in a shepherd's cottage, or-" his voice softened, "or in a king's palace."

Andreth smiled at the praise, struggling to check her breathing, and bridle her own rising desire, kindled all the more by the beautiful things he was saying.

"I confess," Elros continued, "that the day Elrond and I left your dwelling, I was eager to go. Aside from my admiration of your beauty, I did not understand what I felt, and feared it."

Andreth's brow furrowed, and she began to open her mouth, though Elros quickly cut her off.

"It was not your mortality I feared, it was something more. The goodness of your heart, the nobility of your character and bearing, though you lived in a tiny hut and cared for an old woman who was not even of your kin astounded me, and I felt- I felt- lowly compared to you. Unworthy of what I was beginning to feel-"

Elros closed his eyes and shivered a little. "And when I returned with the basket you had dropped, and saw you there at that silvan pool, my heart grew all the more tangled. But it would not have been seemly to stay and explore what I felt, and so I had to turn and leave you, though it felt as if I were tearing my heart out to do so.

"But my thoughts of you had burned themselves in my mind. I knew I could not forget them, though a thousand years passed." He drew in a ragged sigh, and released it. "That night in Círdan's house I begged the Valar either to root out my memories of you altogether, or show me something, anything, a sign of some kind, that we were to be together."

Elros smiled, his eyes brimming with wetness, and gleaming like stars. "And it was the next day that you and Firiel came to Mithlond."

An expression as at a sweet memory touched his face. "I still remember the moment I saw you again. I had been working at the tower, the heat of the sun, and the sweat upon by back, the strain of my muscles as I worked, your face ever before my thoughts, and then- feeling something. I remember turning, and seeing you walking beside Maidh, with Firiel riding her. I was so pleased, I had to hold myself back from rushing to you, and taking you in my arms. And it was that night that our shared dreams began. I did not know we shared them. I only knew they were very real to me. And that I had my faculties, and reason, for which I was grateful. I would never wish to betray, or dishonor you, or to be in any way less than what you deserve."

Lost in his eyes, Andreth was only faintly aware that somewhere, far away, the music had stopped. The steps of their dance halted, and her hand released his, only to move to his chest as his hand lowered to her waist.

"Andreth," he continued, his breath washing her lips, "I have so much to tell you, but first I must-"

He paused and touched his chest, fleeting disappointment entering his eyes. "The ring I meant to give you-"

"I have it," Andreth gasped. She reached into the pocket on her belt, and withdrew the silver betrothal ring. "I've had it since-"

"Oh," he murmured as Andreth gently lay the small silver ring in the center of his palm.

"You did- give it to me," she said, her voice small. "But I-"

"Shh," Elros breathed, his eyes gleaming. "All is well, now. Let us speak no more of regrets."

From within his jerkin, he withdrew an identical ring, though slightly larger, and placed it in her palm, closing her fingers about it.

"Andreth," he said, his voice growing swift and breathless, "before I ask you this question that is weighting my heart, I must tell you something, for I do not wish for you to speak your answer without knowing what I have learned."

Elros drew in a deep, ragged breath.

"Last night, after you woke and I was alone in our dream land, someone came to me."

At the expression in his deep grey eyes, Andreth felt a stillness descend upon her, and she strained closer to him, sensing the import of his next words.

"Lord Irmo himself," he continued in a whisper. "He said that the dream land where you and I have been meeting is a vision he has created for us, of a blessed land which is being raised up out of the ocean far to the west. As a gift to the faithful of the Second Born. It will lie between this land, and the Blessed Realm, and will be called by several names in its life and history, Elenna-nórë, Westernesse-" he drew in a ragged breath, "Númenor."

Elros smiled, his eyes afire as Andreth studied them, hardly daring to blink for the wonder that was filling her at his words. "He said that I am to go there, with all the faithful Edain that will, who have served the All Father and the Valar and that I am to be their first king."

Andreth's lips parted in wonder before Elros withdrew a step and lowered himself to one knee as he had in the cave, gazing up at her with eyes that glowed with ardor and devotion.

"You would make a wonderful first queen of this blessed land, for your goodness and your wisdom would benefit our people in marvelous ways." A deep breath swelled in his chest. "But more to me than that, I love you, and desire you as my wife. Andreth Tindómiel, daughter of Beldir of the House of Bëor, will you take this ring, betroth yourself to me, and take my troth in return?"

She closed her eyes, struggling to calm her breathing. She swayed a little, and reached out, grasping his shoulders to steady herself.

Beneath her hands, Elros rose again to his feet, his strong hands coming to rest against her hips. Through the cloth, she could feel his fingers trembling.

"Will you marry me?" he whispered.

Andreth opened her eyes, and looked up at him, losing herself in the depths of his sea grey eyes, the feel of his arms beneath her own, and his hands at her waist.

"Yes," she breathed, and through the cloth of her gown, his hands trembled, and his breath swelled in his chest. "Yes, Rau amin, I will. I want nothing more than to be yours, and to take you as my own."

Elros smiled, and lifted his hand, brushing his fingers against her cheek.

Her own hand strayed along his shoulder to his throat, touching against the wild throbbing visible beneath the warm flesh. For a moment, she studied the rhythmic pulse.

The sound of a masculine voice clearing its throat sounded nearby, and drew Andreth back to reality, remembering that she and Elros were not alone.

"If you would kindly indulge your friends and kin for but a moment, Lord Elros, and Lady Andreth, we would be most appreciative."

Drawing in a breath, Andreth stepped back from Elros, and turned toward Círdan's voice.

The silver haired elf sat upon a carven chair not far away, with Aelin at his side, and Elrond not far away. And to Andreth's surprise, so also were the lady Galadriel and her lord Celeborn, as well as the high king Gil Galad, and Oropher. And about the square, all other revelers were now facing them, smiling beneath the dancing torchlight. And the minstrels' music was still.

Humor danced in the eyes of the silver haired shipwright. But what caught Andreth's attention in an instant, was the figure coming now from the street leading into the market square; a bent, silver haired mortal lady, leaning heavily upon the arm of Oropher's son, Thranduil.

She did not look remarkable; clad in simple garb, her back bent from age and work. But at the sight of her, Andreth caught a gasp of emotion and delight.

As their eyes met, Firiel's eyes brightened, and a smile that filled Andreth's heart with light, drew up her wrinkled lips.

"Firiel!" Andreth cried, darting from Elros' side and flying into the welcome arms of her old friend.

"Oh, my dear one!" Firiel cried, her thin arms pulling Andreth to her with surprising strength. Andreth pressed her face against Firiel's shoulder, drinking in the scent of her, the sweet, earthy smell that she had loved so well, and had missed these long months away from her.

"Lavaniel, our goat? She is well?"

"Baran and his good family are looking after her for now," Firiel returned. "But come." She pushed the maiden back to arm's length. A soft laugh escaped the aging mortal lady as glad tears filled her eyes. "I have interrupted your betrothal ceremony, and torn you away from the side of Lord Elros."

Andreth tightened her fist about the silver ring she still held in her fist, and looked questioningly into Thranduil's eyes.

"Lord Círdan bid me go fetch her this morning, saying that the exchange of rings would be tonight, here," the young elf explained.

Andreth opened her mouth, and turned back, seeking the ancient shipwright who smiled, but did not speak.

"Madam," Elros greeted, his voice warm and welcoming as he came to Firiel's side, and took her hand, bowing over it as if she were a queen. "I am honored to see you once again."

"And I you, my goodly lord," Firiel pressed a hand to her heart, her eyes bright as they moved between elf lord and mortal maiden. "Especially at such a blessed time as this. I am so pleased that you have come to love one another. "

Her smile trembled as she turned to Andreth now. "I never dreamed that you would find love with an elven lord, but I should have known it would be. Your name, my dearest, has proven itself to be prophetic."

"But unlike her namesake, she will not be bereft." Elros vowed, his voice deep and even. "I have ask her for the honor of becoming her husband, and she has accepted me."

"Then I beg you," Firiel said with a laugh, withdrawing a pace to Thranduil's side, and laying a hand upon the young elf's arm, "please, continue as you were."

Elros nodded his head to Firiel's words, and turned to Andreth now. She lifted her eyes to his, smiling as she felt his fingers brushing her wrist, then slowly, almost shyly, weave through her own slender fingers before lifting her hand.

"Andreth daughter of Beldir," he said, his voice echoing across the square as the silver ring glimmered in the torchlight. "With this ring, I give myself to you as your promised husband, and take you as my promised wife."

Across the square, absolute silence reigned now. Only the faint crackle of torchlight found her ears as Elros slipped the cool metal onto her finger.

Her eyes uplifted to his, to see his gentle eyes and soft smile. "Now it is your turn," he whispered.

Andreth smiled, and opened her fingers curled about the ring she held for him.

"Elros, son of Eärendil," she said, her voice trembling in the stillness. "With this ring, I give myself to you as your promised wife, and take you as my promised husband."

With trembling fingers, Andreth slipped the silver ring onto Elros' lean finger, then drew in a shaking breath, and looked up at him.

A cheer rose up across the square at this, and as she smiled into the eyes of her newly betrothed, she felt his hands cupping her face.

"Tindómiel," he murmured, bending over her, and a moment later, his lips touched hers, tentatively, shyly, before drawing back a breath, his eyes seeking hers in the space between them.

He smiled apologetically, "Forgive me for ending our kiss, but-"

"We are being watched Rau amin-" she blushed. "I understand."

He nodded. "Ai, Tindómiel," he murmured. "One day, I promise you, I will give you a proper kiss, but not here."

"Are you willing, at least, to hold me?" she queried softly, and his gaze soften at this.

"Of course," he breathed, and his arms encircled her, gathering her gently to him, and she sighed, contented against the sturdy warmth of his shoulder, enjoying the feel of his strong body against her own.

Andreth closed her eyes, vaguely conscious of the singing and laughter and music that once again filled the square, aware only of the strength of his body pressed against hers, the gentle motion of his hand running tenderly up and down her spin, and the warmth of longing for him that simmered in her blood.

"Will you become my wife one year from today?" he breathed now against her hair.

"No," she murmured back, lifting a hand to brush against the warm flesh of his throat. Sensing his confusion, she added quickly, "I do not wish to wait a full year."

To this, Elros chuckled softly, a sound which reverberated in his sturdy chest.

"But the customs of my people-"

"Let it be a year from the day of our first meeting, if it must be a year from something."

Gently, Elros' hands cupped her shoulders, and again he stepped back from her, seeking her eyes.

"In nine months? In the spring?"

"Yes, if it cannot be sooner."

Elros smiled into her eyes, cupping her chin with his thumb, his breath sweet against her lips. He turned and looked toward the shipwright, whom they could see was talking with Firiel and Elrond, and a small group of others.

"Tindómiel," he breathed, gathering her hand with his own. "Come. Let us go speak to Lord Círdan and Lady Firiel."


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