The Choice of Elros

By Lalaith

Romance / Fantasy

Chapter 45

Chapter 45

Andreth sat upon a fallen log, alone in the light of the setting sun, twirling a small green leaf in her fingers. The light green gown she wore, clinging to the edges of her shoulders, the sleeves and skirt fluttering in the breeze, matched the color of the leaves about her. The sylvan cave to which Elros had brought her, that night in autumn, oh, it seemed a lifetime before, when she had first realized she loved him, rose up among the trees not far away. The ever cascading sheet of water spilled before the cave's opening. Where she sat, the red sun touched the ocean upon the horizon, shining through the trees before her as through a tunnel, the light dancing off the glimmering sheet of water that spilled over the cave's mouth.

Tomorrow-

Her mouth moved with the word, but no sound came forth.

She sighed, and pressed her hands to the rough bark of the fallen tree she sat upon. "Firiel, I wish you could have stayed long enough to see me wed-,"

Andreth released another sigh, and bit back her words. Firiel would see her wedding. It mattered not that Andreth would not be able to see her. She would be there, and Hamar, and Andreth's own parents. They would be there as well. Andreth knew it in her heart, but even so, her heart still hurt.

She dropped her eyes to the small leaf between her fingers, an oak leaf, enraptured at the delicate, simple beauty of one of Yavannah's creations. Intricate veins laced across the leaf from the main stem, reaching out to the three serrated prongs. The sun was disappearing, setting upon the last day she would be a maiden. A last flare of brilliant red light danced off the leaf in her hand, and then was gone. And twilight was upon her.

Andreth looked up toward the horizon where the red light of the faded day smouldered beneath the blanket of the horizon. And with it, a figure came walking toward her along the trail. A smile touched her face at the sight of her betrothed as he drew near and stopped a pace away from her.

"Elros," she greeted, lifting her face to gaze into the softness of his gentle grey eyes.

"I thought I might find you here," he said, his voice warm as he straddled the fallen log an arm's length away from her. He smiled at her, then looked away and reached out, picking up a fallen twig, studying it with the same interest she had shown the leaf.

"Yes," she said. "I have been watching the sun set. It is a pleasant place." She smiled and added, "But more pleasant with you here."

At this, Elros reached out, and clasped her hand. His smile caressed her, as warm as his strong grip.

"We will be wed tomorrow," he said, his fingers squeezing her own.

Andreth's eyes moved past him to the horizon where spears of red light still shot up into this sky. This time tomorrow, she and Elros would be husband and wife.

The thought set her heart to thumping, and a sudden wave of shyness washed over her.

"Yes, we will," she agreed, turning away from him, and withdrawing her hand from his, clutching her hands together in her lap.

"Andreth," he soothed, and she felt him drawing near her from behind, his hands finding her shoulders. "How are you?" His voice was thick with compassion. "That is to say- how is your heart? It has been three weeks since Firiel departed. I do not doubt but that you still grieve. I do, and I did not love her as you did."

"Of course I still grieve for Firiel," she sighed, leaning back until her shoulders rested against his chest. She smiled as Elros sighed against her ear, resting his jaw against the side of her head.

"A part of me always will," she confessed. Her voice trailed off as she partly turned her head to feel the softness of his breath against her cheek.

"The burial was so peaceful," Andreth said. "I am glad we revisited her lands once more. I was sad to see the buildings gone, but it is so green now. And I know she had wanted to be laid to rest beside Hamar."

Elros eased more closely to her. His firm chest warmed her back. She could feel the steady rise and fall of his breathing against her shoulder blades, and it stirred her blood. "Andreth," he murmured, "if your heart is still too sad, we can wait. I will give you the time you need, to-,"

"No." She shook her head. "I do not wish to delay our wedding."

To this, Elros sighed, and turned his face, kissing her hair. "Are you certain? I will agree with what your heart wishes."

"I do not think Firiel would want us to wait." She paused, "I do not want to wait." Andreth lifted one of her hands, and rested it upon one of his where his hands clasped her shoulders. Gently, she stroked the backs of his fingers with her thumb. "You have blessed my life in so many ways, Elros. You are honorable, and kind, and-," she blushed before she spoke her next words, "wondrously beautiful."

Elros shifted behind her. His cheek nuzzled against her own, and though she could not see his face, she imagined him to be smiling.

"I want to be your wife," she finished at last.

A warm breath washed against the upper curve of her ear sending quavers of warmth through her blood.

"And more than anything in this world, I want to be your husband. Forever." His lips and his soft warm breath gently brushed against the rounded curve of her ear. "And, like Firiel and Hamar, I want my bones to rest beside yours when I die."

A short stab of pain lanced through her heart at this. When I die- he had said. Though she did not speak, Elros seemed to sense the emotion in her, for he shifted behind her, and she felt his hands tremble a little through the thin cloth of her gown. "Andreth Tindómiel, hear my words."

Andreth's heart thundered in her at the sweet words and plaintive tones in the voice of her betrothed. "I am listening," she breathed.

To this, Elros eased forward, more firmly against her until his lips brushed her ear. "I will never regret giving up immortality," he whispered, his voice gentle, yet beautifully commanding as he guessed her silent thoughts. His hands upon her shoulders gently squeezed, before trailing down her arms. One hand paused at her elbow then trailed back up to her shoulder. The other continued down her forearm to her hand, finding and gripping it where it rested on her stomach. The fingers of his free hand gently rubbed against the skin of her shoulder through the cloth of her gown.

Andreth's breath quickened.

"I would rather spend one lifetime with you, than endure all the ages of this world alone," he breathed, his voice deepened, as his free hand found the back of her neck. Gentle fingers slid the curtain of her hair away from one side of her throat, and he bent his head.

A soft, indrawn gasp parted Andreth's lips as she felt Elros' mouth gently touch her throat. Though the first contact was but a gentle caress, as light as the touch of a butterfly's wing, it sent a wave of delicious warmth washing through her body. But with the second touch, and the third, his caresses gradually deepened, growing more insistent. "My beautiful one-," he breathed against her skin, his voice deepened, the words warm and delicious as his lips trailed from beneath her jaw, slowly down the length of her throat as his strong, warm hand trembled upon her shoulder, squeezing gently. The fingers of his other hand tightened within hers where they rested entwined, upon her abdomen.

She closed her eyes, tipping her head back against his shoulder the more easily for his mouth to stroke her throat as she reveled in the sweetness of his beautiful words, and the feel of his warm breath and trembling lips against the sensitive flesh.

"My queen-," he murmured, " every day, every breath, I will strive to bless your life as richly as you bless mine."

The soft warmth of his breath against her skin was as enticing as the touch of his supple mouth, and Andreth found herself wanting to melt into his warm caresses. "One night with you in my arms," he whispered, "will be worth more than an eternity in the Blessed Realm, bereft of you." The strength of the passion she sensed in him, still as yet contained, filled her with fire.

"Elros," she breathed, her voice trembling. And at the soft sound of his name, he sucked in a sharp breath, and drew back, releasing his hands.

"Andreth," he murmured, as if coming to himself. Andreth sighed and opened her eyes, feeling as if she had been jarred from a deep sleep.

Andreth pulled herself away from him and turned, meeting his eyes. Elros looked chagrined, his gaze fraught with apology.

"I am sorry," he muttered, the sinews of his jaw growing tense as he looked away, balling his hands into fists. He slung his leg over the log so that he was turned half way from her. "I should not have- my chivalry was overthrown- and I-,"

"No, it was not," she stood, and turned to him, offering her hand.

Elros took it willingly to rise, though his eyes still studied her with deepest apology.

His brow furrowed. "But just now, these past moments, I took liberties that-,"

Andreth could not help but smile at the contrition in his eyes.

"Elros," she soothed. "You have ever been nothing if not chivalrous. You did nothing dishonorable. And I-" she felt warmth climbing into her cheeks. "I did not find it unpleasant."

He sighed, and studied her eyes adoring her, saying no more.

"Come," she murmured, weaving her fingers through his. "Let us go back to Lord Círdan's house. The evening meal should be ready." She smiled, squeezing his hand. "And tomorrow will come soon enough."

Elros smiled at this. A deep breath swelled in his chest. "Tomorrow," he agreed.

She smiled up into his eyes. Then hand in hand, they started down the path toward the wide ocean, and the warm glow of the fading daylight they could see through the trees.

…oOo…

Aelin strolled with hurried calm along the north side of Círdan's house, her arms laden with a basket weighted with a variety of freshly picked flowers, most of them little tindómiel flowers, Andreth's favorite. Aelin's feet barely felt the cool of the grass beneath her, though they were yet bare. The morning was still young. The sky cool and blue but for a hint of distant clouds in the north, pink and gold before the trailing rays of the sun which had not yet shown her face above the eastern rim of the world.

She shuddered against a brief chill as a morning wind-swept along the high bluff toward the sea. A ragged sigh filled her lungs. Thallon, she breathed. Were he beside her, he would have circled an arm about her, drawing her to his side as he so often had in their youth. But Aelin shook her head to herself, turning her thoughts to the present. For today was Andreth's wedding day. And Aelin did not wish to miss a chance to aid the maiden in her preparations. Her thoughts raced merrily along as her feet scurried in swift silence.

"Mistress Aelin?"

The voice behind her was so near and so unexpected, that Aelin drew in a sharp gasp, dropping her basket of flowers before she spun to see the dark haired minstrel, Maglor not ten paces behind her.

Involuntarily, her heart tightened, as did her teeth before she forced her expression to ease.

"I did not mean to startle you," he said as she bent to gather up her fallen flowers. He stepped forward as if he wished to help her, before stopping, and falling back. Only a few had spilled from the basket, and she gathered them back with little effort before rising.

"What do you wish, Fëanorion?" she asked, her tone less harsh than it had been in the past, though her heart still felt guarded to see him. The last living son of Fëanor bore a heavy, shapeless pack upon his back, and wore leather boots, and dark brown breeches, overlain with a tunic of lighter brown. He did not wear his jerkin emblazoned with the silmaril. Whether he had abandoned it, or had simply tucked it away in his shapeless pack, she could not guess. But for his face, she would not have known him to be who he was.

Maglor dropped his eyes. "Nothing, in truth. I merely wished to say thank you for your help."

"You are welcome," she said, drawing in a sigh. "What you did for Elros and Andreth was very kind. I am glad I was able to do what I could."

"All is in readiness, as you and Elrond and I have planned."

Aelin nodded. "Good."

Maglor sighed, and nodded his head before he began to turn away. But he stopped himself, and turned back. "Mistress?"

"Yes?"

"What-," he hesitated as if uncertain, then blurted, "what was your sister's name?"

Aelin swallowed stiffly at his question, and a momentary flair of anger welled in her heart. How dare he? her first thoughts snarled before she gathered her emotions back to herself, and met Maglor's gaze. His eyes were heavy with a guilt he would never throw off.

At this realization, her anger gave way to a flicker of pity, and Aelin sighed. "Indilwen."

Maglor swallowed at this. "Indilwen," he sighed. "I think you will see her again, and soon." He turned away.

"Where are you going?"

Maglor turned back. "For now, I will be nearby, looking out for Lang. I do not think he has gone away, entirely. But then, after they sail, after you sail with them, I will go- I know not where, yet."

"I-," Aelin paused. "I wish you good fortune, Maglor."

A ghost of a smile touched Maglor's face. "Thank you, Aelin."

Then he turned and was gone, running, like a deer, away over the grassy bluff. In a moment, he was gone over the rim of the knoll, down the steep slope toward the beach.

Turning away, Aelin caught up her skirts again, and hurried all the more swiftly toward Andreth's chambers.

…oOo…

Andreth stood, studying herself in the polished glass of the mirror, Aelin's face, and Galadriel's beaming as their reflections met hers in the mirror, adding their final touches to her gown, or to her hair. Behind her, Talia sat upon the bed, watching, her eyes alight with admiration and wonder. The younger mortal girl held upon her lap, a single silken pillow, and upon that, something that glimmered in the light of the lamps. Something delicate and fair, but which she had not yet caught a clear look. She caught the young woman's eye in the mirror, and smiled. Talia smiled back before she dropped her eyes, and Andreth's eyes returned to her own reflection.

Her hair hung in a twisted, glimmering rope against her neck, tucked with many small tindómiel flowers, and twined in a delicate whorl that was gathered to her head in a single comb of glimmering silver.

Andreth blushed when she thought of the quiet exchange between herself and Galadriel not many minutes before as the elven lady was gathering up her hair into the delicate twist. The effect was beautiful, Andreth had said, reluctant to hurt the lady's feelings, but Elros, she had quietly whispered, preferred to see her hair hanging freely and unbound.

To this, Galadriel had smiled, a faintly playful, teasing smile, and had whispered back that Elros would have the chance to see her hair hanging unbound, once they were alone, and she had given him the pleasure of removing the silver comb that held it all in place. Andreth had then fallen silent, imagining the warmth in the eyes of her dear one as he removed the comb, loosing her hair as it tumbled in a smooth cascade about her shoulders when they found themselves alone as husband and wife for the first time.

Her hand shook slightly as she touched her fingers to the smooth fabric of the gown that graced her, her fingers sliding slowly from the cloth of the dress to the silver chain of the pearl necklace Elros had given her not long before their betrothal. The jeweled metal was cool against her flesh.

The silken fabric shimmered like a cloud, as if it had been woven from the shining threads of a nimbus.

Small, delicate clasps of wrought mithril gathered the cloth at her shoulders where it tumbled down her arms in glimmering swathes, like the shimmering wings of a delicate, white bird. The throat of the gown, embroidered with silver threads, scooped low, exposing the soft ridges of her collar bones, and clung about her young body in a way that accented the beauty of her maidenly form. The cloth clung smoothly to her slender hips where hung a loose belt threaded through with strands of silver. Beneath this, the skirt cascaded down her legs in folds of shimmering white. Beneath all this, simple white slippers graced her feet, soft and comfortable.

Elros would be no less majestic in his own robes, Andreth thought, imagining what sorts of preparations he was going through, now. She could only guess, for she had not seen him once, not since her waking that morning. The last she had seen him, had been the night before, when he bid her goodnight at the bottom of the steps that led up into the wing where her bedchamber waited. They had been kept apart, all day. But now, in but a few moments she would see him at last, and her heart tumbled in anticipation for that moment.

Beyond her window, the red light of the sun eased and faded into a gentle afterglow, indicating that the sun had fallen at last, beneath the horizon. Out there, in the wide grassy meadow beyond Círdan's house, she could see a bower, a white bower awaiting her and Elros. She could see it through her window, an intricate shelter of woven branches, open to accommodate the view of all who would gather. A pair of elven maidens were giving it some final touches as they wove armfuls of flowers through the many intricate weavings. Some distance away from the elven girls, long tables were being arrayed with many varieties of what looked to be delicious dishes. And out upon the grass, many guests were already gathering, elves and mortals alike, the Edain, who would sail with her and Elros, and be their subjects, whom she did not know, not all of them, but whom she already felt kinship toward.

"I remember the day I wed Celeborn beneath the trees of Doriath," Galadriel murmured as she tucked one last flower into Andreth's hair and stood back, admiring the maiden in the mirror. The lady, adorned in a flowing silken gown of light grey, stepped back to join Aelin who wore a soft gown of rust colored red. Talia stood then, the soft green gown she had been gifted by Lady Galadriel for the wedding, shimmered as the young woman moved.

"I too remember my wedding day," Aelin sighed softly, her voice that that of a besotted maiden. "Thallon was so handsome."

"Aelin," Galadriel murmured, her voice pleased. "This is the first time in so very long, you've spoken his name."

"Indeed, my lady," Aelin murmured, her voice soft and thoughtful as she fasten a last delicate silver clasp to the fabric at her shoulder. "I hope to have more reasons to speak it, in the days to come."

Andreth met the gentle gaze of Aelin in the mirror and her heart warmed at the tender smile upon the elven woman's face.

"There, I am finished," Aelin announced, stepping back from Andreth and making way as Talia moved forward, lifting a glimmering circlet of mithril from the small pillow, a delicate pearl hanging from the fore of the diadem to match the necklace at her breast.

"Here," Galadriel purred, taking the circlet from the smiling maiden's hands, and carefully tucking the shimmering, circlet into the twined gold of her hair, the dangling pearl resting in the center of Andreth's smooth brow.

In the dreams she had shared with Elros, Andreth had never seen her own image, and could not say if the diadem was a match for the circlet Elros had seen upon her brow. But this felt so very like the delicate crown she had worn, that Andreth wondered that perhaps it was a match to the diadem she had worn in her visions of Númenor.

"You're lovely, my lady," Talia murmured.

"Thank you," she said, warmed by the girl's admiration. She sighed, and met Galadriel's gaze in the mirror. "Would that Firiel could have been here today."

"But she is here," Galadriel murmured. The lady's fair, slender hand touched her shoulder. "Can you not feel her presence, Andreth?"

At the lady's room, Andreth grew still, as the other women did, and she dropped her eyes, listening to the silence. Firiel? She questioned in her mind. Are you here? As she said?

And then, in that moment, Andreth felt a presence at her side, and a gentle hand touching her own. So real, that she was almost surprise when she glanced up into the mirror, and did not see Firiel's familiar form standing beside her in the mirror's surface.

Need you ask? A gentle voice seemed to laugh within her thoughts. I am here. I will always be here.

"Yes," Andreth sighed, and reached up, feeling the cool grip of the elven lady's hand slide into her own. Galadriel smiled, a knowing look in her eye as if she knew of the silent exchange between Andreth and her departed friend. "You are right. She is."

Galadriel's eyes gleamed with compassion as Andreth spoke. "Come," she breathed gently. "Let us take you to your betrothed."

And with these words, Andreth's heart lifted, light as a soaring bird, and with Galadriel's hand clutched in her own, and with the other women surrounding her, turned to the door of her bedchamber. And though her steps were sedate and unhurried, her heart flew like the beat of a hummingbird's wings.

...oOo…

Elros perused himself in the high mirror, studying the silver-grey robe that fit snuggly over his shoulders, and hung open down the center of his chest, revealing the silken tunic beneath which was belted loosely at the waist, hanging over breeches of the same color. Calf high boots of soft, sun bleached leather, completed his wedding attire. He tugged softly on the silver broidered hem of his robe, though the robe already hung smoothly over his chest. He drew in a deep and shaking breath, wishing to still the hammering of his heart, though it did little. He glanced in the mirror at the other men over his shoulder who sat about the room, or stood pacing. Elrond who wore a dark blue robe, sat upon the divan, leaning forward, his elbows upon his knees, and his hands clasped. His eyes studied the ground, and though his face was peaceful and content enough, his brother seemed slightly despondent. Círdan, in robes of blue and sea green, stood at the shoulder of Elros' brother, and Gil Galad, in robes of dark grey, stood not far away. Celeborn, however, the only married elf of the group, stood nearer, clad in silver robes, his hands behind his back. Silence filled the room.

Elros glanced toward the window where the red glow of the setting sun shone through, the light creeping slowly up the wall, the nearer the sun fell toward the horizon.

He swallowed, and reached up, for perhaps the seventh time, and touched the crown of twined silver that graced his brow. His hair hung down, smooth and dark over his shoulders and down his back. Nothing seemed out of place, even so, he was not ready to go.

It was nearly time to depart, Elros knew, but he hesitated. His eye caught the glance of Círdan in the mirror, and the ancient shipwright smiled, and offered a nod of his head.

"Come, Ereinion," Círdan said, speaking to Gil Galad, "and Elrond. Let us go and see to the preparations."

Soft murmurs of assent escaped the two younger elves. Elros glanced over his shoulder and Elrond rose, offered him a faint grin and departed after Círdan and Gil Galad. Elros and Galadriel's lord were left alone in the chamber, and as the door closed behind Círdan's back, the tall silver haired lord, released a deep breath.

"I too, felt much trepidation on my wedding day," Celeborn said, and as he turned and met Elros' eyes, the younger elf read the understanding there.

Círdan, despite his ages of wisdom, had never wed, and though his compassion was great, he did not understand Elros' sudden uncertainties.

"I fear, suddenly, my lord, that I may not be worthy of her," Elros breathed. "That I am too young and untried to be wed, that I have little, if anything, to give to so great a lady as Andreth."

Celeborn grinned at this, and in his eyes, Elros could see that his words had struck a cord of understanding. "So I too felt, and still do, on occasion," Celeborn said, his voice warm.

The silver-haired elf grinned faintly, and reached out, jostling Elros' shoulder with a firm, though gentle shake. "But if you do this one thing, your life with her will be ever be full and content, and she will always have joy in her heart."

"What is it, my lord?" Elros asked, his heart thumping within him.

Celeborn drew in a deep breath and smiled. "Love her," he said. "Every day, every hour. Simply love her. Cherish her, and remember always, the treasure that she is. I know that you will be king, where you will dwell, but she must be, to you, above all else. Her happiness must be your first and last, and chiefest duty, and if you remember that, all other duties that will be yours, you will fulfill as you should. Women, Elros, are the crowning gem in the diadem of the All Father. They are his dearest, most treasured jewels. So she must be to you. Live your life to serve her, and in time-," Celeborn paused, and a thoughtful softness came over his eyes. "And in time," he repeated, "the children she will bear you."

Elros dropped his eyes, dampness filling them at Celeborn's words. The elven lord's hand tightened upon his shoulder, squeezing reassuringly.

Beyond the window to his balcony, the fierce rays of the sun flared and faded, and he knew the sun had fallen below the horizon.

"She is waiting for me, isn't she?" he said.

Celeborn chuckled warmly. "Perhaps," he said. "Should we go, and see?"

Elros drew in a deep breath at this. A confusing wave of fearful excitement surged in his heart.

"Very well my lord," he agreed, and with Celeborn's hand upon his shoulder, turned toward the door.

…oOo…

The main hall was quiet, though the sounds of voices, mingled with the scent of flowers, filtered in from outside as Elros made his way down the stairs at Celeborn's side. He was grateful for the presence of the silver-haired elf, as well as his wisdom. He intended to love Andreth every day of his life, to cherish her, to treasure her. Yet to hear the words spoken by one who had loved his own wife for so long, the understanding sank even deeper.

Andreth was not in the main hall when he reached the bottommost step. But beyond the door, a subdued cheer arose from a gathering, congregated in the forecourt as they saw him through the door. Mortals, the Edain, waited for him, buzzing in their excitement. He could already see through the door, the bright faces of those who would be his people. Tall, noble looking men, clad in the livery in which they had fought in the great war, torn, perhaps, or stained, but proud. And beside the men, gentle, bright faced women, garlands of flowers in their hair, or in their hands. And just within the door, Elrond stood, a faint grin upon his face. And at the approach of his brother, Elrond stepped away from the door, and started toward him.

Elros' jaw tightened softly as Celeborn's hand dropped from his shoulder. Celeborn stepped away as Elrond approached, and Elros gulped, noting his brother's eyes gleaming with unshed tears. Elrond threw his arms about his brother as Elros neared, holding him close in an embrace that was almost fierce, as if he feared to let him go.

"She loves you, little brother," Elrond choked softly as he drew back, his hands firm upon shoulders. "With all the strength of her fëa."

"And I love her, with all the strength of mine," Elros returned softly.

Elrond smiled kindly. "Come, Elros," he urged gently. "Your people are waiting."

"Has she not come down yet?" Elros asked, following his brother's lead toward the door.

"She will yet," Elrond grinned. "Come, speak to them a moment, before she joins you. They have waited for you, and would be honored by a few words."

Elros sighed, and grinned as he strode through the door behind Elrond, who stepped aside, so that Elros could pause at the top of the steps alone, and study the faces of those who would be his people, their eyes uplifted to him. The three houses of the Edain, his kindred. He smiled at the thought, and raised his hand in salute to them.

Smiles and applause filled the air of the forecourt at this.

"Thank you, my brothers, my sisters," he managed to say, hoping his voice carried out far enough despite the sudden choke that had clenched his throat. "My heart is warmed by your desire to share this day with me, and my lady, Andreth, she who will be our queen in the blessed land where we will soon sail together."

Smiles and warm cheers filled the evening air as Elros, with Elrond and Celeborn flanking him, began to descend the steps. As he descended, the people, as one, dropped to their knees, their heads bowed. One of the first men, the chieftain of one of the small clans of the people of Hador, Elros recognized. The man, seeming to sense eyes upon him, lifted his head a little.

As their eyes met, Elros smiled. He reached out, and with his left hand, took the man's arm, raising him up again as he clasped the man's hand with his right.

"Your majesty," the man breathed.

"I am grateful to you," Elrond managed to murmur past a catch in his throat. He clapped a hand on the man's shoulder and turned toward the others who were rising slowly to their feet like their Hadorian chieftain. He lifted his voice. "I am grateful to all of you. Together, my friends, we will make the land which the Valar have gifted to us, a wondrous place, and a blessing to our children, and to their children."

The man before him smiled, though tears filled his eyes, and his hand tightened briefly within Elros'. A moment later, though, the man's grip fell away as his eyes lifted to the doorway behind Elros. The eyes of the men and women about him all lifted as one, and grew bright. A reverent hush fell over the gathering.

Andreth had come at last. Elros drew in a breath, and swallowed fiercely, his heart thundering now in his chest, savoring this moment of sweet anticipation, before he turned, and lifted his eyes.

From the first realization that he loved her, that he wanted her as his wife, Elros had envisioned this moment, had pictured Andreth, adorned in a wedding gown, her eyes seeing and adoring only him. But nothing had prepared him for this consuming fire that raced wildly through his blood as his eyes came to rest upon his bride where she stood poised upon the crest of the steps, her eyes fixed upon him, her gaze at once both fierce and consummately sweet.

There were others beside her, he realized, the lady Galadriel, and Aelin, and the mortal maid, Talia. But Elros saw no others but Andreth. The white gown that adorned her resplendent young body, seemed to bear a silver glow as she descended toward him, like a seabird with starlight on its wings as she glided smoothly down the steps.

But no, she was a woman. A woman who had no wish to fly away from him. A woman of supple flesh, and warm blood, a woman whose eyes adored him, weighted with sweet secrets. Her fair cheeks warmed with color as she neared him; the rapid beat of her pulse visible beneath the pale flesh of her delicate throat. And her soft, perfect breasts, concealed by the silken fabric of her gown, which rose and fell fervently as Elros placed one foot upon the bottommost step, and waited for her as she came.

…oOo…

Andreth's heart trembled with anticipation as she descended the steps drawing ever nearer toward her dear one, her gaze ensnared by his, her eyes unable to leave the wondrous image of Elros as he moved with the grace of a Vala to the base of the steps, and placed one foot upon the bottommost step, his eyes uplifted as he waited for her. The exquisite robes that adorned him did little to disguise the firm strength of his young, muscled form. How beautiful he was, she thought to herself, how fiercely beautiful as his lips turned up in a timid, endearing smile even as his eyes, as grey and as deep, and as turbulent as the sea, devoured her. His lean chest rose and fell all the more deeply the nearer she drew to him, until at last, she forced herself to stop two steps above him.

"We are well met, my lady," Elros murmured, his eyes plaintive despite his formal words as he lifted his hand with a short bow.

"Well met indeed my lord," she returned as she extended her hand, and slipped her fingers lightly into the warmth of his proffered grip. A murmur of approval rippled through the crowd before them even as tongues of flame crackled through her body as he bent his head and pressed a chaste kiss against her knuckles.


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