Humid summer mist spilled across the silvery green slopes in the fading light of Laurelin. Voices hummed, filling the great feasting hall. The guests from Tirion were departing in the morning, including her dear older brother Náretarnon.
Luimëníssë’s mother and father had announced that they were to have a child in the next year. Even though her mother’s smile seemed a little strained, her father pressed a kiss to his wife’s temple and tears of joy filled her mother’s grey eyes. Despite the shadow of what her mother had confessed to her, Luimëníssë was certain all would be well with her family.
Slipping out the corridor that led to the kitchens, Luimëníssë escaped onto the balcony that overlooked the fields leading inland. The gentle hills and sparse woods of their country were illuminated by the unfurling of Telperion, the constellations brilliant overhead. Crossing an arm over her chest, she pressed the pearl ring to her lips and closed her eyes.
“You need a reprieve from all the conviviality as well?” A toneless voice spoke from the shadows.
At a corner, under the curved spine of an ancient apple tree, a shadow moved. Curvo hopped down from where he reclined with his back against the wall and strolled to her side. The satin sweep of his midnight hair swayed across his chest. He was clad in his usual black raiment with silver accents.
Luimëníssë stiffened. She’d wanted to sneak away for her tryst with Rembano, but now she was stuck. She forced a smile as the Fëanorian twirled a downy, apple blossom between his nimble fingers.
“It is a lovely evening,” she said, tapping her hands on the railing, calculating how she was going to slip away. She was a miserable liar.
“Those ruby hair pins are very fine.” He motioned to her twists of silver hair held up by the ornaments. “Where are those from? Or did you just happen to find them on a cliff somewhere as well, like your little bauble there?”
The familiar serrated edge to his voice set her on guard. Luimëníssë chose to pretend she didn’t hear it and gave a bright laugh.
“Oh no, these were a gift from my brother. He made them, he said you helped him a little as well so thank you.”
Curvo swirled around, pressing his back to the railing, his inquisitive gaze hard on her face. “I said before that you weren’t what I expected, Luimëníssë. But I never took you as one for dabbling in falsehoods.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about that ring. You didn’t just happen to find it, did you? I could tell in your eyes when we spoke two days ago. Did you steal it?”
Silence permeated the space between them, broken only by the song of a nightingale and the chirp of insects in the meadows beyond.
“Perhaps once but then- then it became a gift.”
It was a weak answer and his acidic scoff was understandable, if infuriating.
“How does a thing like that occur, hmm?” he asked, picking the ring off her chest and holding it to the starlight. “I knew I recognized it. This is the craft of another smith of Tirion, a very skilled one from dubious origins, who is possibly in league with my father’s mortal enemy. Do I need to say the name or do you know it already? Rembano?”
Luimëníssë snatched the ring, feeling tainted by his words. “You know nothing of this, you are only making guesses. I can’t understand why you feel this pertains to you.”
She strode away from him, her movements jerky with anger. As she moved down the steps into the garden, Curvo came alongside her, easily keeping step with his long legs.
“I speak harshly only because I am concerned. You are untried in the ways of the world. Things are not as pleasant everywhere else as it is here in your home. I dread the day you must discover this for yourself and I only hope to shield you from it,” he explained in a hurried tone.
“I have enough family trying to shield me from life, I don’t need someone else.” She threw her hair over her shoulder as she lifted her chin. “Besides why should you care for a lowly, little Telerin maid like myself? I have no place in the grand halls of your kin with your even grander pursuits-”
He halted her, grasping her elbow and peering down into her face. His expression was not his usual of sardonic pride. His brown eyes were wide with sincerity. His lips, full and sensual, parted as he took a fevered intake of breath.
“Because I have found that I... appreciate your company. And I hope, with your permission, to come and visit you again.”
Luimëníssë drew a step back and he released her. She let out a breathy chuckle and rubbed a hand over her chin.
“Are you proposing that you wish to... court me?”
“In a way. Yes.” His voice was firm, the same way he had sounded when he agreed they should jump off the cliff together. “I am proposing that we start something. Only a beginning. Things being the way they are at home, perhaps it is not the most appropriate timing but I had to make my feelings known before I leave tomorrow.”
He closed the distance between them again, taking her hand in his and placing the other gently over it. His gaze searched her face in quiet panic.
“I’m sorry, you have caught me by surprise. Yes, perhaps we have reached a place of better understanding, but I never thought that you would consider someone like myself.”
“Believe me, I am certainly more surprised than you.”
“Aren’t there any maids among the Noldor that have drawn your interest?”
“A few, but none as keenly as you. And I don’t believe any will suffice after that day on the cliffs when we jumped into the water. When you... saved me. I don’t believe I ever properly thanked you for it.” He lifted a hand and rested it at the crook of her neck. Luimëníssë was too shocked to move away. “I know the objections from my family will be strong, mostly from my father, of course. You are far from the kind of maid I was raised to find suitable-”
“I believe you’ve explained yourself enough on that account,” Luimëníssë snapped. She tore herself from his touch. “Have you heard a word of what you have said? You have done nothing but insult me.”
Curvo blinked and wet his lips. “I apologize, I didn’t think as I spoke.”
“How funny, because you seem to be the kind of person who always thinks before he speaks. You weigh each word, each insult like a fletcher crafts an arrow, divining which one will hurt the most. You have a tongue as sharp as the blades you craft, even when you try to tell someone you care for them.” Luimëníssë turned her back on him. “I must bid you good night and good bye. I wish you safe sailing on the morning tide.”