The Choice of Elros

Chapter 61


Beyond the high doors before her, she could hear the muffled murmur of Olórin's voice echoing through the wide chamber that would be their throne room. He was addressing the people gathered there, preparing them, no doubt, for the entrance of their king and queen. But she could not hear the Maia's words.

"You look beautiful."

Andreth turned her eyes from the high oaken doors before them to look into Elros' eyes beside her.

He smiled when their eyes met, and squeezed her hand already woven through his own. The ceremonial robes he wore glimmered in the light that spilled through the high windows on either side of them, deep blue, hemmed in silver. He looked truly kingly.

Her own rich gown was fashioned in the same tones as his own, but her gown was silver, and edged in deep blue. And about her throat, she wore the necklace of mithril and pearl Elros had given her, the day he had first asked her to marry him. Her long tresses, plaited in intricate ropes, hung against her shoulders and down her back in elegant, glimmering loops.

"Thank you," Andreth said, her face blushing like a maiden. "You look quite handsome yourself."

"I am glad you approve," he murmured, shrugging his shoulders. "For my part, I must confess, these robes are a bit heavy. Though perhaps it is not the weight of the cloth, but rather the weight of all the eyes that will soon be upon us." He heaved a soft breath.

"Forgive them this bit of pomp," she murmured, squeezing his hand. She smiled, recalling Círdan's dear face the first night she had supped in Mithlond, and the words he had spoken, much like the ones she did, now. "Our people wish to see you take your throne."

"I know," Elros said and turned to her, his smile penitent. "And I'll not begrudge them this. Even so, I will be relieved when it is done."

He leaned near her, his shoulder touching hers. "I am glad you are here."

To this, Andreth smiled, leaning near to rest her cheek against his arm. "Always."

At the touch of her cheek against his arm, Elros heaved a deep breath, and turned, pressing a kiss to the intricately twined braids of her hair.

"Hathel mentioned this morning that only three weeks remain before his bachelorhood is but a memory," he said, a smile in his voice. "He did not seem reluctant to bid it farewell, though."

Andreth grinned at this. "Indeed," she agreed recalling Talia's face as she and several other maidens had helped their new queen don her clothing for the ceremony. "Talia fairly glowed this morning."

"Hathel offered me the honor of overseeing their vows," Elros said, to which Andreth turned to him, her brows lifting in delight.

"Oh, wonderful! Of course, as king, such authority to perform weddings will be yours. You said yes, of course?"

"How could I not?" Elros returned, his eyes bright. "I told him I would be more than honored."

Andreth released a pleased sigh. "Good."

In that moment, an echoing creak interrupted their thoughts, and the doors before them began to swing open, drawn by guards within.

A great chamber lined with pillars opened to her view, lined on one side and the other by rows of the Edain, and here and there, elves of Tol Eressëa, their allies.

"Do you remember what Olórin rehearsed with us?" Elros whispered.

Andreth drew in a deep breath. "I think so."

They exchanged a last look, then turned forward, and hand in hand, started into the room.

Amongst the faces of the crowd, Andreth caught the eyes of Aelin. The elven lady beamed as their eyes met, a light in her face that Andreth had not seen in all the months they had known one another before Aelin's reunion with her husband. Blinking wetness from her eyes, Andreth smiled back, hoping her gaze conveyed her profound pleasure for her friend's renewed happiness before she turned her eyes forward again toward the high dais of many steps at the far end of the hall.

Olórin stood at the crest of it clad in regal grey robes two carven thrones behind him. Aelin's reunited husband Thallon stood at the Maia's shoulder a half step behind him. A sceptre of wrought silver with highlights of gold, rested in the strong hands of the reborn elf while to his right Talia stood, and her betrothed, Hathel upon Thallon's left. Talia, her face alight, wore a garland of new flowers as many of the other women did, her light blue gown catching in the light that spilled through the chambers' high windows. Her eyes fairly glowed, while upon Thallon's left hand, Hathel's face was no less bright, reflecting the happiness of his betrothed.

Each carried a small cushion on which sat a crown. The crowns were not so notable as the sceptre, which Andreth understood would be the true symbol of Elros' power. Still of themselves, the crowns were wonderfully wrought. Elros' crown, borne by Hathel, was of silver, wrought like a swirling vine with highlights of gold, small plumes hinting at the wings of a seabird, encircling the gilded circlet. Upon the cushion Aelin carried, rested Andreth's crown, of elegantly twisted mithril wire, accented with inlaid pearl; delicate in appearance, but strong, for Olórin had let her handle it earlier. "Beautiful, but strong like you," he had said, his eyes twinkling with pleasure, "fashioned for one wise and noble, as a queen of men should be."

Across the space between them, she met the bearded Maia's eyes, and he smiled.

Their footsteps echoed as side by side, Andreth and Elros strode toward the dais. Despite the numbers of Edain and Eldar, no sound could be heard aside from their own feet upon the stone tiles beneath them.

At the foot of the dais, Andreth stopped. Elros looked at her, his eyes filled with a fleeting look of pleading. She squeezed his hand and gave him an encouraging nod to which he smiled, then turned and continued alone up the steps.

As he went, Hathel stepped nearer to the Maia.

Elros reached the crest of the dais, and stooped to one knee before the bearded Maia who smiled down at him, then turned and lifted the king's crown, turned back, and settled it gently upon the young Peredhel's brow.

A murmur rippled over the crowd at this as Elros rose, and with a deep breath, turned to face the room again. His eyes gleamed brightly, proud and regal, and Andreth's heart gave a painful throb of pride and of love as murmurs of reverent approval rippled through the room. Olórin smiled, and drew back as Talia now stepped forward to the young king's side.

Drawing in a deep breath, Andreth started up the steps struggling to still her shivering limbs. Lifting her eyes, she fixed her gaze upon her husband's. Elros watched her come, his hands at his sides. His regal aspect of moments before eased into a look of familiar adoration as she ascended. His smile was warm, and his gaze tender as she stopped three steps below the crest of the dais, her limbs straight, her chin lifted, though she shivered a little with the solemnity of the moment.

Drawing in a deep breath, Elros turned, and lifted the crown from its resting place in Aelin's arms. Gently, he settled the crown upon her head.

The metal was cool at first where it touched the flesh of her brow, before it warmed to her skin, and it was more weighty that it appeared. She lifted her gaze to his, to see his eyes glowing with love.

Elros extended his hand, Andreth lifted her hand and took it, smiling a little, comforted by the strong warmth of his touch. With her own hand sheltered in his warm grasp, she rose the last steps to the crest of the dais to her husband's side. Their eyes met briefly, and she returned his faint smile before they faced the Maia, and knelt as one before him.

Their robes whispered about them, the cool of the stone seeping into her knees through the cloth of her gown. Behind her, the room shifted and whispered. Andreth drew in a tremulous breath, and silently squeezed Elros' hand as Olórin turned to Thallon. The elf offered the sceptre with a bow of his head, and the Maia accepted it as the elf retreated.

A heavy silence fell over the room, even the air seemed still as Olórin turned, stooped, and offered the sceptre to Elros.

Andreth's eyes watched the side of her husband's face, seeing in his expression the gravity of what he was about to do. Elros' eyes, unblinking, fixed upon Olórin's before he reached up, and accepted the sceptre with both hands.

Olórin's lips trembled a little behind his beard, his eyes gleaming with wetness as he spoke in a faintly broken voice, "Rise, my young friends, and take your thrones."

Elros' hand tightened about her own, and together, the new king and queen rose in a whisper of rich cloth.

In silence, Elros guided her to the throne that would be hers, then with a gentle squeeze, released her hand to move to his own. Together, they turned at last, to faced the vast room, and in silence, save for the whisper of her skirts, the new king and queen lowered themselves into the carven thrones, the stone of her arm rests cool and smooth beneath her hands.

At this, Olórin stepped forward to the edge of the dais.

"Newly come people of the noble Houses of the Second Born, the Faithful," Olórin called in a voice that filled the chamber and echoed warmly, "To you, I give your king, Elros Tar-Minyatur, High First Ruler of Númenor, and Andreth, First Lady Queen of Númenor."

With a sweep of his hand, the Maia gestured to the seated king and his queen, and stepped aside.

At this, cheers filled the once silent chamber, echoing off the walls, spilling, she did not doubt, into the streets of their capital, Armenelos, the streets beyond now filled with rejoicing.

But she did not speak, and instead, turned her head, blinking back her tears as she found Elros' eyes.

He smiled, still her husband, her beloved and her friend, even with the sceptre in his hand, and the crown upon his head. His face softened at the tears in her eyes, and he reached a hand over the arm of his great seat. Andreth in turn extended her own hand, which found and touched his, encircled in a moment within his strong, warm fingers.

"I love you, Elros," she breathed, and he smiled.

"And I love you, Andreth," he murmured, his voice low, but carrying easily over the sounds of merriment. "My fairest Tindómiel, my own Blessed Realm."

His fingers gently squeezed hers, strong, and gentle at once, and his eyes grew tender. "And you are, and ever will be more precious to me than all the bright jewels of Tirion. More sweet to me than unending life. And so will our children be."

Andreth drew in a breath, her eyes swimming at his fair words. She touched a hand to her stomach where she could feel the stirring of their son's budding fëa, and Elros smiled, noting the gesture, his grip gently tightening in confirmation of his words.

How blessed she was, to have him as her husband. How blessed their people. And how blessed their children would be, and their grandchildren, until the ending of the world, because of the choice of Elros.

A tear, one of joy and of hope, spilled over the rim of her lashes, and trailed a line down her cheek.

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