The darkening of hearts

Crimson and white, darkness and light

The palace was overfilled with elves, there were guests coming from near and far and they had to be given rooms and the servants were running around with wild eyes and the chaos was almost perfect. Lerina and her family were placed in a suite and it was grand and beautiful and Lerina wished that she could have enjoyed the view and the gorgeous rooms but she couldn't. This the last night before the wedding the bride to be wasn't allowed to be alone and so she was surrounded by her mother's friends and other nissi she didn't even know. They did paint her feet and hands with beautiful patterns made with a paste that left a golden color on the skin and they brushed her hair until it shone but she felt completely alone.

The valar had abandoned her for sure and she just sat there, and let the other females tend to her like she was some mannequin doll. Her mother was constantly repeating the words she had to say at the ceremony and she knew them by heart now but she still had to repeat them again and again. There were other elves dropping by to say their blessings or to leave gifts and she tried to appear grateful but it was so very hard. She saw that some members of the family of her fiancé dropped by too, his uncles and aunts and some of his brothers. She was sure she looked like some moron, she was too numb to really care.

She felt their eyes upon her and she did notice that some of them looked a bit shocked, or rather in doubt. No wonder, she was not born to become a princess, and she didn't want this at all.

When she finally was allowed to sleep it was in a room filled with others and she wished she could cry herself to sleep but knew that it was impossible. They would all see it and her mother would scold her for making her eyes puffy and red. The only good thing about this was that she wouldn't have to listen to her mother's constant nagging again. When she did fall asleep she was so mentally exhausted she didn't even dream, she just prayed that she wouldn't wake up again.

In another part of the palace the groom was preparing for the grand day, he stood in the middle of the room while his mother adjusted the belt for his robes. He was staring at his reflection in the mirror with a frown and Nerdanel sighed and lifted her arm, caressed his cheek gently. " Please, do at least try to look happy? If not for his sake then for mine. I cannot bare to see you thus."

Maedhros sighed and lowered his gaze, a sad grin appeared on his face and he closed his eyes. " I cannot lie mother, I do not want this!"

Nerdanel embraced him. " I know, oh Eru I know and I am so sorry I couldn't make your father change his mind about this."

He breathed in the scent of his mother and the safety she always had represented to him. "I know, I do not blame you, I would never blame you."

Nerdanel caught his gaze with her own. "He is not doing this out of malice my dear, he is doing it because he cares."

Maedhros shook his head. " No, he is doing it because he is scared! That is the truth! Scared of loosing influence, of having his family regarded as anything less than perfect."

Nerdanel got a very saddened expression on her face. " But he does love you my Maitimo, he loves you all!"

He bit his lower lip, felt trapped and pulled in several different directions at once. " I know, but he has an odd way of showing it."

Nerdanel smiled, her eyes distant. " Your father has always been better at practical things than showing his feelings, but do try to forgive him."

He tried to smile, a real smile. " I have forgiven him mother, but I cannot say that I in any way want this marriage to happen. It is a charade, a lie. I cannot love that nis, she will never have my heart."

Nerdanel grasped onto his robes, her hands rough and hard from hours of work with hammer and chisel. " Then at least let her have your friendship, remember, she is innocent in this, just as you are. I know how hard this must be to her, do not crush her with indifference."

Maedhros just shrugged. " I will treat her well mother."

Nerdanel let out a sigh once more.. " Of course you will, now, turn around so I can see if that seam is straight"

When his clothes were perfect he was left to himself and he knew that he ought to spend the night praying but he just scowled at the statues of the valar and grasped a bottle of wine. He wanted to get drunk but knew that he couldn't. It would be a scandal so he just had one glass, out of respect for his mother. He had been visited by his grandfather earlier that day and Finwë had seemed very nervous and a bit sad too. It was rather apparent that he didn't share his son's view upon certain matters. But Maedhros felt good knowing that his dear grandfather was on his side in this, and he suspected that many others too shared that attitude.

Maglor had visited the bride to deliver some gifts and he told Maedhros that she looked absolutely terrified and that she appeared to be underage even though she was way past her hundredth begetting day. Maedhros cringed and swallowed the wine, felt it soothe his nerves. He had to go through with it, there was no turning back. He did it for his family, not for his father for in this he didn't agree with Fëanor at all. Why should he have to hide the way he felt about his cousin? He knew that Fêanor and his younger half brothers didn't see eye to eye but why should that affect the rest of the family? In his eyes his love was as pure as it could be and stronger than mithril.

He was getting ready for bed when there was a knock on the window, he frowned and went over to it, pulled the curtains aside and blinked when it saw Fingon perched on a branch of the huge maple growing outside of the palace walls. He opened the window and Fingon jumped inside, smelling of tree-sap and dirt. " I couldn't stay away from you, I am sorry, I…I"

Fingon was clearly distraught and Maedhros sighed and embraced him, felt the warmth of his body and closed his eyes. Holding Fingon always felt like coming home, as if the world finally had become just perfect. He sniffed the familiar scent and knew why Fingon had come, after all, they were already bonded and his beloved's feelings were strong. "It won't change me, worry not."

Fingon lifted his face, stared up at Maedhros with eyes that were wide and wet. " Do you swear that?"

Maedhros kissed his brow gently, rocked him in his arms. " I swear it by Eru, it will never change the way I feel about you."

Fingon made a sobbing sound. " I see it all, the preparations, the splendor, the guests and the whole thing and I cannot help but thinking that it ought to have been ours, all of it! This is not fair, it is we who deserve this, we who do love each other, who belong together. Why can't they see that?"

Maedhros just let his fingers slide through his cousins silky dark locks, he had those same thoughts but he was older and knew that sometimes you have to bend, or else you will break. " Because they refuse to, they want everybody to fit inside of that small box they deem as normality, because that feels safe and familiar."

Fingon scoffed. " And if everybody had been thinking like that back at the awakening nobody would have left Cuivienen in the first place but stayed and become Morgoth's playthings."

Maedhros grinned. " You always cut straight to the core now don't you?"

Fingon nuzzled his neck, standing tippy toed. " Can I stay with you tonight? Why can't we pretend as if this is our wedding night?"

Maedhros sighed. " The idea tempts me but no, they will find out about it for sure. I have to be alone love, I am sorry."

Fingon seemed to shrink out of sheer disappointment. " I see, but tomorrow when everybody is cheering and smiling and wishing you well I will be crying inside."

Fingon seemed so fragile and Maedhros embraced him again, very gently but with passion. " So will I love, the smile I will be wearing will be a mask, naught more."

The dark haired ner grasped his hand, kissed it with fervor. " I know, grandfather gave you a house, when will you be going there?"

Maedhros held Fingon close, it felt like real comfort, as if the problems diminished into something indifferent and small when he stood like that. " Probably the day after the wedding, or the day after that. I am not sure yet. "

Fingon pressed his lips against Maedhros neck, wanted to taste him, to mark him in every way, to make the whole world see that this ner was his, and his alone but he couldn't and it broke his heart into thousands of tiny fragments. " Then prepare for visitors, really soon."

Maedhros smiled and knew that this meeting had to end, before they did something silly they both would regret afterwards. " I am looking forward to it, but now you must leave, get some rest and promise me you won't cause a scandal tomorrow. See this as some sort of game, a play perhaps, a diversion."

Fingon sighed. " I will, I promise I will behave myself. "

Maedhros gave him a swift and rather chaste kiss. " Excellent, and now, do use the window for there are guards in the hallways."

Fingon nodded and Maedhros opened the window again, the soft treelight made everything look as if it was covered with silver and he had barely seen anything as lovely as Fingon as he jumped back onto the branch and blew him a kiss goodbye.

He shut the window, closed the curtains and walked to the bed, sat down and stared into nothing. He refused to see the day to come as anything except a pretty orchestrated lie, to fool everybody. He was no idiot, he knew what his father feared and he just wished that Fêanor could have been a little bit less paranoid. Yes, the Vanyar had great influence and Indis was after all a vanya but Finwê would never replace Fêanor with Fingolfin, no matter what she said. Maedhros had sort of seen what his father couldn't. Finwê didn't as much love his new wife as he loved certain things she did. He knew that there were parts of Indis personality that Finwë just loathed and that wasn't real love, not the way the eldar were supposed to love. He wondered why Manwë had agreed upon letting his grandfather remarry but maybe the high king had been so broken there had been no other choice. They had perhaps thought that Indis could heal him but she hadn't. If anything she had created a diversion from the grief that was eating away at his strength but it was naught more than that.

Maedhros sometimes thought of her as a broodmare, and he suspected that she had had that same thought. Those who had known Finwê and Miriel said they had shared a connection and a harmony of which there was nothing to be seen when they visited the high king and his new wife. Yes, he showered her with attention but treated her like a child in many ways and he didn't really listen to her advice or see her as anything but a pretty thing he could spend time with and who would bear him more children. It had to hurt a lot to know this and he didn't really blame the nis for being a bit of a bitch at times. She was clawing for power in whatever way she could and sadly she was falling short in almost every way when being compared with the first queen of the noldor.

Maedhros knew that it was mostly because of her that Fêanor had insisted upon this wedding, the vanyar were so darn pious and the y were making laws and rules they thought the valar would approve of but truth be told, they didn't seem to matter much to the valar at all. If it was some sort of competition trying to become more and more controlled and like the valar it was one without a winner nor a prize. But the vanyar saw the kind of relationship he had with Fingon as an abomination, as something sick and twisted and he just knew that there were many among them who shared his fate and hid their true nature in shame and self loathing and pretended to be like everybody else. And that was a very sad thought indeed.

These vanyar had been just like the rest when they left the lake of awakening, they had danced and laughed and known no such thing as rules and laws? They had been the masters of their own fates and now that worship of theirs had become a cage threatening to throttle that within them which made them elves! Maedhros couldn't really believe it but he knew that Fêanor was at least partly right when he said the valar didn't care about the firstborn that much, that they all were just pawns in a play and that the vanyar were acting the way they were in desperation, to create a response, a reaction. It was like a child begging for the attention of a busy parent, and not caring about the consequences until it got it.

He undressed and got into bed, tried to sleep but it was hard, he felt restless and sort of nervous and he twisted and turned around for a long time. Normally he would have thought of Fingon and touched himself since he felt drowsy and tired afterwards but he felt that he couldn't. His mind wasn't in on it and he just resigned and lay there, staring at the ceiling. Everything would change the next day, and he feared it. He could only pray that this didn't end in an utter disaster.

Lerina was awake when the maids came to wake her up and prepare her. They were giggling and singing and Lerina had a headache and felt absolutely terrible. She was dragged along into the bath of the suite and they bathed her, rubbed her with sweet smelling ointments and perfume and did her hair. Her mother had picked out the dress she was to wear, it was a very expensive thing made from silk and some other flimsy material and it was dark green with some silver color added along the edges of the sleeves and skirts. She was being dressed and styled and felt as if she was in the middle of a tornado, there was chatting and noise and colors and people everywhere and she felt nauseous and sad. She got some jewelry put on, an emerald necklace, some earrings and bracelets and sandals with gems attached to the straps but she felt like a wreck. With make up on she didn't even recognize the nis she saw in the mirror but her mother was beside herself with amazement. She had succeeded, this was her triumph and Lerina had never seen her more radiant, more alive. She was beaming with joy and Lerina had to admit that her mother in fact was very beautiful and could be pleasant too, when things went her way. Several ner sent her some admiring glances and Lerina saw her blush and batter her lashes. Perhaps her mother would have been a better person if she had been allowed to choose with whom she wanted to live?

Lerina just wanted it over with, but she had a long day in front of her. First they went to eat, and two nissi she didn't know but presented themselves as cousins of her mother were feeding her so she didn't soil the dress. It felt weird and awkward and just wrong. Then they went to the palace chapel to pray for two hours straight and then the whole group went to the huge hall were the wedding was to happen. Lerina was numb, she felt as if she really wasn't there, but in some peculiar dream. The hall was wonderful, decorated with flowers and golden leaves and there were elves everywhere. She managed to walk tall and smile but she felt hunted. She saw that her mother was enjoying the day to the full, this was the grand wedding she had dreamed of but never had had and so this was her day more than Lerina's. Lerina didn't want to ruin it for her, after all, her mother had never been that nice to her before and tomorrow she would be a wife, and follow her husband.

The hall was separated into two areas, one for the royal family and one for the courtiers and everybody else who had come to witness the grandest wedding for years. She saw the high kings of all the groups and also some valar who stood in a small group at the head of the hall, surrounded by a few maiar and elven servants. The atmosphere was electric and she felt a shiver running down her spine. This was it, it was happening. Her father took her hand and leaded her down the stairs and up towards the altar and she felt hundreds of eyes upon her, not all very friendly but there was a quiet mumbling to be heard from every corner of the hall. The bride was indeed beautiful but she was so child –like and had she really come of age?

Lerina lifted her gaze, she saw her husband to be standing next to two of his brothers and his father by the altar and she felt her heart beating like a drum. How could anyone be that tall?! He was huge! He was dressed in green as well but his clothes were even nicer than her dress and he looked amazing but she saw the expression in his eyes and knew that he didn't want this any more than she did. At least they were to share that fate. The ceremony itself was a short one, the actual wedding was the bonding of the two that was being wedded and that was to happen when they had retreated for the night into their own room. Lerina couldn't even think of that, she tried to focus solely on the moment. Her father delivered her over to her groom with some words she didn't even hear, there was a buzzing in her head, like a million bees was hiding in there.

Maedhros took her hand and she cringed, her hand disappeared into his huge one and she saw the concern in those grey eyes. He looked a bit shocked, as if he hadn't anticipated this. One of the maiar was leading the ceremony, there were prayers and songs and it was all very lovely but she felt as if the noose was being pulled tighter and tighter around her neck. Then there was time for their vows and she said the words her mother had taught her but she didn't really hear what she said, her mind was elsewhere. She didn't hear what he said but she was aware of his deep dark voice and his presence at her side. His brother, was that Maglor, brought forth the rings and she trembled as he put the ring onto her finger, it was to symbolize love but to her it was a symbol of imprisonment more than anything else.

She managed to get his ring onto his finger without dropping it and then it was time to kneel and receive the blessing of the valar. The maia put a hand on top of their heads and she noticed that even when they were on their knees he was more than a head taller than her. She was a midget compared with her husband and the very thought of the things that would happen when they were alone made her sweat and shiver. She felt cold to the very core of her soul.

The maia declared that they from now on were to be regarded as one fêa and one hrôa and everybody cheered but she did notice that a very handsome dark haired ner standing among the family of Fêanor's brothers looked as if he was close to tears. Maedhros had to bend down quite a lot to kiss her and it was just a peck, very chaste and barely a touch at all. The ceremony was over and he took her hand and she let him lead her down to the table that was prepared for them. Now there was to be a feast and she wasn't hungry at all.

Her parents were placed on her side of the table with the rest of her relatives and his family was on the other side and before long there was merry chatting going on and a lot of entertainment were prepared as food was being served. Lerina barely touched her plates, she drank lots of water instead and tried to smile and look happy because her mother had told her that it was important. She felt that the tall ner by her side ignored her, he tried to pretend that this was some ordinary feast and so did she. She stared at the acrobats and listened to the minstrels and kept her mind occupied every second so that she wouldn't have to think of that which was to come.

Maedhros had been truly shocked when he saw her, she was tiny and looked as frail as a thin crystal vase and although she had a truly stunning face she did look prepubescent, just like his brother had said. She was also shivering and scared and close to tears and he felt a sense of pity growing in his heart. Her mother appeared to be a real she-dragon and Maedhros knew that this poor nis had been forced into accepting this, she hadn't been given a choice at all. It was really quite sad and he wondered why his father had chosen her as his bride. It could perhaps be that she was known for her obedience and docile nature, or that her father was rather wealthy.

Her hand was so tiny and cold and he cursed to himself, they expected him to bond with her? To take her to bed and make her his wife? No way in hell! She was a child and there was nothing about her that he found attractive in the carnal way. He would never desire her, and the very idea of having to couple with someone that immature was sickening. No, she would remain a maiden and he could live without heirs, he didn't care what others were thinking. He saw that Fingon stared at her and hoped that his true love didn't hate the poor nis, she was not to blame for this misery and he already knew that her family was hungry for power and influence and wanted to become a part of the court. His father had given them permission, and this poor nis was the prize.

There was dancing and lots of merrymaking and even the most pious of the vanyar present seemed to enjoy themselves. Maedhros saw that many were more than a wee bit tipsy and dessert hadn't even been served yet. Many came forth to congratulate the couple and Maedhros managed to smile and act as if this was something he really had wanted. Lerina smiled too but her eyes were dark and he felt her tremble next to him. She was truly scared and he had to admire the fact that she managed to control herself so well. Indis came over to chat with Lerina's mother who seemed overwhelmed by the attention and she was clearly fawning up to the queen. There was a hint of sympathy in Indis eyes when she looked at the young bride and Maedhros realized that she probably understood what Lerina was feeling.

The newly-weds were supposed to dance but Maedhros had managed to avoid that part of the traditions. He hated to dance and he knew that it would look ridiculous too. He was so much taller than Lerina that it would be hard to dance and so they just sat there and watched the others. Lerina tried to appear as if she was enjoying herself but she wasn't. It was just too much for her, too many impressions at once. She felt like a horse for sale at a market and wanted to run and hide but she managed to stay put with a hand in his and a seemingly happy smile on her face. Her facial muscles ached and she felt cold sweat running down her spine.

There were speeches, some short and funny while others were long and elaborate and pompous and Fêanor did also make a speech about how glad he was that his son finally had found a good nis to spend his life with, and he made jokes about grandchildren too. Lerina cringed, what if Maedhros was as fertile as his father? She didn't want a whole herd of children?! There were toasts made in their honor and Lerina toasted in water and knew that she would spend some time on the privy getting rid of all that fluid before the night.

The gifts they had been given were displayed and it was everything from furniture and other useful household objects to rolls of expensive cloth and jewelry. It seemed as if the vanyar were exceptionally fond of giving away huge tapestries with woven images of the valar on them and some of them were ghastly. At least Lerina though so but she smiled and thanked the givers whole heartedly and she even managed to thank one of Finwê's counsellors who gave them a very elaborate crib complete with blankets and everything. She had to play her role and play it well.

Fingon sat with his family further down the table and he could barely look at them, his heart was aching and he felt as if he was barely able to breathe. There was no way back now, they had said their vows and gotten their rings and it was done. They were married and he and Maedhros would never have the future they had hoped for. Maybe it had been just a foolish dream but a beautiful dream nonetheless and one he loathed to have lost. He knew that this nis never would take his place, and he also knew that she wasn't the one he ought to blame but it was hard not to, and yet, when he looked at that sweet young face with the huge dark eyes he did not hate her, he did pity her. It was impossible to hate her, but he did feel anger churning in his chest when he thought of his uncle and his smug smile. And he felt hatred towards her parents too, for having agreed with the crown prince, they could have said no, but then again, Fêanor would easily have found some other nis and Maedhros would have had to marry anyhow.

There were a lot of entertainment and the day seemed to fly by, the atmosphere was relaxed and nice and the servants walked back and forth with more wine and food and even the elflings seemed to behave themselves. Maedhros two youngest brothers would usually try to do some pranks during social events but this time they hadn't, Nerdanel had probably warned them of the consequences if they dared to ruin their brother's wedding. When Curufin had gotten married just a few years earlier they had poured some strong liquor into the punch bowl and added a strong laxative to some of the food. It had been a mess.

The light from the trees started to mingle and Fëanor got to his feet, he looked as if he was a bit drunk but he stood straight and lifted his goblet one more time. " To the bride and groom, may their wedding be truly blessed!"

Everybody cheered and toasted and Maedhros sighed and felt how his bad mood returned. This meant that it was time for the couple to retreat back to their chamber and he dreaded this. Lerina went paper white and she looked as if she was about to swoon. Some maids came to take the bride away to prepare her and the bride's mother followed them. Maedhros was grasped by his brothers and dragged along too and he just had to go with the flow.

Lerina was taken to the huge room that was theirs for the night, it was a beautiful room with a large bed and it was warm and cozy but she didn't see that. The maids removed her jewelry and her dress and put a white nightgown on her and her mother stood there and looked very proud of herself. Lerina wanted to disappear, to shrink into something infinitely small so she could hide but she couldn't. The maids were making silly jokes about what she could expect to happen and she wanted to yell at them and tell them to keep their piehole shut.

Her mother helped arrange her hair as they put her into the bed, she cocked her head and made Lerina sit up straight against the huge pillows. " Now, remember, you must not resist him in any way. Your place is beneath him at all times and remember to pray the whole time. Keep your legs spread and do not scream or dishonor yourself with tears. This is something we all must endure, think of all the lovely children he will give you."

Lerina felt sick again and her head felt like a balloon. She could barely breathe and she trembled so bad her teeth were clattering. Her mother smiled and arranged the covers a little more. " Make us proud dear, bear him heirs and your future will be secured."

Lerina just nodded, absolutely terrified. She wasn't stupid, she had learned more than her parents knew and she knew the most important things about what was to come. She knew it would hurt, and she knew that it probably would be terrible. She had to fight back her tears and the maids giggled and pulled the curtains, lit some lights and then she was left alone to wait for her husband to arrive. She grasped onto the covers with both hands, her chin trembling and her whole body felt ice-cold. She remembered what she had heard others tell her of this, and that he was impatient and liked it rough.

She couldn't stop the tears anymore, they descended down her cheeks like small rivers and she sniffed and tried to remain in control of herself but she couldn't. The dam was broken, and she was helpless. She wept for a good twenty minutes before she heard voices approaching and she squeaked and wished that she would pass out so she didn't have to know what he was doing with her.

She heard that it was Maedhros brothers and some of his friends and they were making jokes and rowdy remarks about the night to come. " Make sure to break her inn well, such silvery fillies are known to buck you off if you are too generous with the reins"

She heard a muffled answer that sounded a bit angry and the door opened. Maedhros was more or less shoved into the room and the door was closed. He wore a long nightshirt and his hair was unbraided and reached past his waist. He did look angelic but she couldn't even look at him. She sobbed and trembled and wished she was dead.

He saw her sitting in the bed and he saw that she was crying, damn it. What was he to do now? He had to make her calm enough for them to talk and he approached the bed slowly, with steady movements, the way he would approach a skittish horse. " Lerina?"

She whimpered and her eyes were enormous and she was so pale, Eru, what did she think he was going to do to her? Murder her? " Y…yes my lord?"

He sat down onto the bed and she winced and started shaking even worse than before. " Lerina, do not call me that. I am Nelyo, that is what my family calls me and you are family now aren't you?"

She swallowed and her chin shivered again. "What…what …are you going to do…"

Her voice was but a broken whisper and he felt such pity, such sadness. Those darn parents of hers had sacrificed her on the altar of their ambitions and he wished that he could rip their heads off. He smiled and sat down next to her, felt silly like never before. A night shirt, he had never worn one before and it felt unnatural since he normally slept in the nude but he was rather certain that the sight of him naked would have sent her into shock right away. " I am going to talk to you Lerina, about this…arrangement."

She didn't look at him, she looked so much like a scared kid and he wanted to do what he used to do with his younger brother's when they were small and something had scared them. He usually held them close and rocked them in his arms but he feared that she would collapse if he touched her so he didn't. Instead he just held her hand and tried to look calm and non-threatening. "I know you didn't want to marry me, and I didn't want to marry you neither, uh, I mean…"

He knew he had made it sound as if it was something wrong with her and he grimaced and sighed. "Listen, it isn't you alright? It is just that…I am already bonded!"

She turned her head around, a bit confused. " You are? But…why…"

He swallowed hard, he had to trust her, since they after all would have to spend their days together from now on. " My father doesn't approve of our relationship, and he fear that there will be a scandal if it becomes publicly known that I am in love with my half cousin. So he forced me into this, just for the sake of our family honor."

Lerina gasped, she stared at him and blinked a few times. "Your cousin? But…he is male?!"

Maedhros nodded, now she was probably going to think he was a perverted and sick thing. " Yes, but we do love each other nonetheless."

Lerina swallowed hard. Her mother had always talked about people with such tendencies with nothing but contempt and disgust but Lerina didn't want to be that sort of a person. "And yet you let your father arrange this?"

He nodded. " Yes, I had to. So I have to be honest with you, you will never have my love, but I will be your friend and I hope I can see you as the sister I never got. Is that alright with you?"

Lerina stared at him in disbelief, she swallowed hard. " So…so you aren't going to…to touch me?"

Maedhros squeezed her hand. " No Lerina, I am not going to touch you. Not tonight, not ever. I am not some bastard who forces himself onto someone clearly too immature. You are too young for this Lerina, and to be honest I am not attracted to your hroa at all."

She bit her lower lip, there was a weird light in her eyes. " But all the ladies claim that you have had so many partners and…"

Maedhros dared to put a lock of her silky hair back behind her ears. " It was a trick, a diversion. If they all think I am a hopeless libertine they won't suspect that I really love someone for real and that that person is a male like me."

She nodded slowly, there was some sort of relief showing in her eyes and it was getting stronger by the minute." That is smart, they all think you are very fond of the nissi"

He had to smile. " Yes, that is correct. I have made quite a reputation for myself but it was needed. "

She looked bit less pale. " But what am I to do then? I…I do not know what you then will want from me?"

He leaned against the pillows, tried to relax. " I would very much want you to become my friend? We have gotten a really wonderful home from my grand father and it is lovely."

She looked so relieved she probably could have cried just out of sheer relief. She had to have been absolutely terrified of him. "Tell me more of it, are we going there soon?"

He nodded and pulled the covers aside, slipped inn underneath them next to her. She looked nervous but relaxed again when he didn't try to get closer to her. " Tomorrow, or the day after. It is a huge house with a large garden. It has a stable with horses and a library and many rooms."

Lerina suddenly looked eager. " A library?"

Maedhros nodded. " Yes, a library. It is rather nice with copies of the books in my grand father's grand one. "

Lerina bit her lower lip, her eyes were fixed upon the pattern of the duvet. " May…may I visit it?"

Maedhros frowned. " You do not need to ask for permission to use the library? It is yours as much as mine, of course you can visit it. Whenever you want to."

She held her breath, let go of it with a hiss. " Is…is that true? My…my parents doesn't know that I know how to read and write, they think it is unbecoming for a nis."

Maedhros tilted his head. " What?! Eru, what is becoming then?"

Lerina tried to smile. " To embroider, sing and raise children"

He scoffed. " Oh to heck with them, believe me, I will let you do whatever you like and spend your time the way you want to. You can use the horses all you will and ride too."

She blushed. " I do not know how to ride a horse."

Maedhros didn't believe his own ears. " I beg your pardon?! Really? And why not?"

She stared down again. " My mother claims that it can make a maiden…be less of a maiden…"

He rolled his eyes in disbelief. " Your mother beats even the most pious of the vanyar housewives. She sounds like a real …goose!"

Lerina had to giggle, she got a mental image of her mother waddling around like a goose and it was so wonderful to be able to think like that without having to feel guilty afterwards. He touched her hand again. " I will teach you how to ride, and whatever else you like too. Just promise me that you will let me meet my bondmate whenever I can."

She nodded, rather vigorously. Things had suddenly started to look good again, maybe this would be a good thing after all. She would be free, and she craved that freedom with an intensity that was almost frightening. "Yes, I will not stand in your way, I will not tell anyone of you, I promise."

Maedhros sighed with relief. " Oh Lerina, you do have a warm heart and a gentle soul, bless you little one. But sometimes we will have to pretend as if we are a normal wedded couple doing what wedded people do, is that alright with you? Can you pretend to be in love with me?"

She looked a bit uncertain again. " I will try, but what exactly do you mean?"

He smiled and laid down, found a comfortable positon and she followed him, a bit reluctantly. " I mean that I will have to touch you, perhaps kiss you too. And sometimes we will have to spend the night together and let the servants see us in bed, I may even have to pretend to be making love to you. Can you do that?"

She blushed and covered her face with her hands, then she nodded. " Oh, I…I will try! Just warn me in advance"

He chuckled. " You are brave Lerina, do not let them tell you otherwise."

She was rather sweet when she was blushing and he touched her cheek gently. " Worry not Lerina, I will be kind to you and protect you, you will be an honored member of my family and nobody will dare to harm you in any way. "

She looked down again. " Thank you,"

He smiled and blew out the candle on his side of the bed. " Do not thank me little one, thank the valar that I am capable of understanding what you have been through and that I already have found my one. If you one day meet the one you are meant to be with I am sure we can find some arrangement so that you can be with him or her."

Lerina blushed again, feeling very weird. What should have been a terrible night turned out to be a chance to really live. It was wonderful. She felt so grateful and she was so relieved she wanted to weep again. Maedhros gave her a swift peck on her cheek. " Now I think it is time for some sleep, it has been a long day now hasn't it?"

She nodded, she was so tired but she feared that she wouldn't be able to sleep. The bed was wide but she had never slept with anyone else in the bed with her and she felt the warmth from him and his masculine scent and it was all so very alien. " It has, thank you. I was so afraid and now I have hope again"

He just smiled and pulled the covers up. " I know, so do I. I was afraid of losing him but with your acceptance we can meet in safety. "

Lerina felt a strange feeling in her heart. It was actually very romantic and she felt good knowing she was helping him. " Yes, I think it is tragic that you have to hide your feelings but your father was actually smart who arranged for us to be married. You can keep meeting your mate and I can get away from my parents."

He laughed and yawned. " Yes, maybe it was a blessing in disguise after all. Sleep well little one."

She felt strangely comforted by his soft dark voice and suddenly she felt tired, very tired indeed. "Sleep well too, Nelyo"

She put her head down onto the pillow and suddenly she was fast asleep, and she didn't even dream anything. Her emotional stress had taken its toll of her and she was more tired than she had been aware of , she had made it through the day on sheer adrenaline and now that she relaxed it disappeared and she had nothing left. She slept like a log in spite of not being alone and Maedhros slept too, in the knowledge that things would be alright from now on.

The next morning they were awakened by some maids who came to help the new wife getting dressed and they were chatting away like a flock of hens until Maedhros shooed most of them out. Lerina felt better, much better. She felt safe and protected and she knew that her life would change to the better from now on. She and Maedhros went to have breakfast while the maids packed everything they had gotten and prepared for the journey to the new house and Lerina was looking forward to seeing it. She was sure she would love it and he would allow her to read and ride and everything else she had longed to do. It was wonderful. There were many elves gathered in the hall to eat and many saw the sparkle in her eyes and the color in her cheeks and made their own conclusions. Some smiled and others made some jokes but nobody disturbed them and they were left to eat alone. Maedhros would often touch her hand but it didn't disturb her , she now knew that it was all a show, that he didn't mean anything by it and that he didn't feel anything for her except hopefully friendship.

That he didn't want to sleep with her had been a shock but one which was positive and she knew that she now was seen as his wife and she was safe. It was an insane thought but it was true. Nobody would ever bother her again, and her parents would no longer have any power over her. It made her heart swell with joy and it made her eyes shine. Maedhros had to go to talk to his father about their departure for their new home so she went back to their chamber on her own. On the way back she stopped by one of the many small gardens to admire some very beautiful lilies and she didn't hear that someone approached her before a hand grasped her upper arm rather brutally and swung her around with such force she lost her balance and would have fallen if that person hadn't held her up.

It was her parents and they had never looked that angry before. Her mother was pale and her lips thin and white and her father's eyes were dark and his expression one of rage. Her mother lifted her other hand and slapped Lerina across her face, hard, and the force of it made Lerina's head hit the wall beside her with a thud.

She was confused, what was this? Why were they so angry? Her mother tried to claw at her but Lerina managed to get a hand up as protection. " You whore, do you know what you have done? You have ruined our reputation, they will be laughing behind our backs!"

Her mother slapped her again and Lerina felt more terrified than ever before, she didn't understand., what had she done? Her father grasped her by the shoulders and his strong fingers dug into her flesh and had to leave bruises, it felt as if he was about to snap the very bones themselves and she let out a gasp of pain but didn't scream. Somehow she couldn't scream. " Oh be sure I will find out who you have been with, I will find him and have his hide!"

Lerina felt nauseous, her head hurt and he almost growled and slammed her head against the wall, grasped her throat so hard she couldn't breathe and saw stars and dots. Her mother screeched. " They will all know it, that I have raised a slut! Oh Eru, I wish you were dead!"

She clawed at Lerina again and her fingernails tore into the delicate skin of her face, blood started running and Lerina gasped for air, her father hit her in the face and she felt bone break. " You are no longer of our blood, of our family. I will forbid everybody to ever speak to you again, to us you are dead! Dead! I will never see you again you cursed thing!"

He just dropped her and she fell down, like she was boneless. Her mother spat at her and walked away, Lerina's father right behind her and Lerina felt her consciousness slipping away. She felt tears starting to form in her eyes but they were swelling shut and she felt like retching. What had she done? Why did they call her such terrible things? They weren't even true! She was as pure as the day she was born? What was this? She just let go and allowed the darkness to take her and the last thing she heard was a startled voice who called out and then other voices shouting something about a healer and help. Then it was all black.

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