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Journey's End: 9. The Wedding
"Ada! What did you bring?" Elumeril's voice called out in anticipation. She bounced off the bed and ran to her father, who was situating a bottle and two goblets on the bedside table.
"The Dorwinion," Ada answered with a smile.
Legolas burrowed down into the covers as he felt Ada's glance turn to him.
"Legolas," came the stern yet loving voice.
Legolas covered his ears with his hands and buried his nose in the quilt, his eyes squeezed tightly shut.
"Legolas, I see you," Ada informed him.
Strong hands grasped him about his middle and lifted him high into the air, so high that when he dared open his eyes he found himself looking down at his ada. He grinned.
Legolas giggled. "I see you, Ada."
"Where are you supposed to be right now, elfling?"
Legolas thought very hard for a moment. "In bed?"
"Yes," Ada agreed. "Your OWN bed. Not Tathiel's bed."
A look of disappointment crossed Legolas' face. He thrust out his lower lip and sighed. He had hoped Ada would see that he was in a bed, and therefore he really had not disobeyed. Ada lowered him to his shoulder and Legolas quickly wound Ada's braid around his fist and snuggled close.
"Legolas, I know you are excited. But you do not want to be too tired to come to the wedding, do you?" Ada whispered in his ear.
Legolas shook his head, then laid his cheek on Ada's shoulder. No, he did not know what a wedding was, but everyone was so happy about it he was sure he did not wish to miss it. He sighed as Ada walked out the door, waving sadly to Elumeril and Tinánia as he was taken away.
* * *
"Adar!" Lathron called, a smile on his face, as he saw his father carrying a rather sleepy looking elfling towards him. "Here, let me take him," Lathron offered. Sleepy eyes met his and he laughed as he disentangled his father's plaits from the small fist. "Come, Legolas. You can pull on my hair for a while." A yawn was the only answer from the elfling, who willingly let his brother take him from his ada. He grabbed a handful of loose hair hanging about Lathron's shoulder, and snuggling up close, he closed his eyes.
"Thank you, Lathron," Thranduil said, relieved. "He is more tired than he realizes. He did not sleep much last night, and I fear I will need a guard at his door to keep him in his room again this night."
Lathron laughed. "Nay, Adar. He is my responsibility for the rest of the day and tonight. You have enough other duties without having to worry about this little one interrupting the dû-o-gwaedh."
They both laughed at the picture that presented - the marriage night was special and they would not allow Legolas to interrupt Rawien and Tathiel on their first night together!
"His special clothes are laid out on the chair by his bed," Thranduil directed. "Have him practice saying his words too."
Lathron nodded as he continued back down the hall to Legolas' room. He pushed open the door, and sat down on the bed, then gently disentangled Legolas' hand from his hair. He laid the elfling down and watched as he snuggled into the pillow. He sat there for a few moments, gazing at the little elf as he considered how the child had wiggled his way into their hearts and lives. He was the picture of innocence while sleeping; awake he was a bundle of energy, curious and playful, happy and content. They were gradually lessening his dependence on Tathiel, and all involved thought her marriage to Rawien would ease that transition. Rawien himself had suggested moving the date up, and Lathron knew it was because he hoped to strengthen Tathiel's feä and because their marriage imposed limitations on her time. They had gradually extended the amount of time Legolas spent away from Tathiel, and now he only became discontent if he did not see her before bedtime. If he went to sleep without seeing her, he often roused during the early morning hours and crawled in bed with her. Lathron smiled, for he knew that despite their best intentions, Rawien and Tathiel were going to wake up with him in their bed at some point.
Lathron lay down next to Legolas and watched in amusement as the toddler immediately sensed the warm body and cuddled up against him, small fingers finding his loose hair and grabbing a fistful to nuzzle against his cheek. He could think of worse ways to spend an afternoon than watching this elfling sleep.
* * *
Tathiel turned to see Thranduil standing in the doorway to her room. He normally knocked but this time he had not or she had not heard him. She was wearing her dressing gown over her shift and just preparing to put on the gown she would wear for the ceremony.
"I knocked but you did not hear me," Thranduil said kindly. "I have something for you."
Tathiel's gaze traveled to the gown hanging over his arm. It was a stunning blue silk, the color of water shimmering in the light of the sun. He stepped to her and held it up in front of her.
"I had the seamstress alter it to fit you," he murmured as he fingered the material lovingly. His eyes rose to meet hers and he smiled. "This is the gown Narawen wore on the day we married. I know she would be pleased if you would wear it this day."
Tathiel gasped and drew back slightly. She smoothed the material with one hand as tears filled her eyes. "Oh, my Lord, I . . ." her voice trailed off. "I do not know what to say."
Thranduil laughed good-naturedly. " 'Yes' will do for most things today - but do not forget the words of promise to your captain or he will be most disappointed!"
He held the dress as she slipped into it, and he buttoned it up the back. He straightened the neckline and then stepped away from her. "You look radiant, Tathiel," he complimented her. He turned and picked up a small, carved box from where he had laid it on the dresser. He opened it and took from its velvet lining a necklace. "This is my gift to you." He fastened it about her neck, noting with pleasure how the sapphires enhanced the color and shimmer of the gown. He laid clips of similar design on her dressing table. "Have Ethiwen weave these into your hair."
He took her hands in his and held her at arm's length. He studied her thoughtfully, then smiled. "You are a beautiful bride. I am glad to see this day arrive, tithen gwathel."
Tathiel wrapped her arms about his neck and hugged him, tears still glittering in her eyes. "Thank you, Thranduil."
He kissed her on the forehead. "I will see you in a little while. I must go see that your groom is kept amused while he impatiently waits for you."
He slipped from the room as Ethiwen entered, Tinánia, Elumeril and Eärundra trailing behind her.
"Tathiel!" Ethiwen cried as she saw her. "Oh, Narawen would be so happy this day. You look beautiful in her dress!"
Elumeril had picked up the sapphire hair clips and Tinánia was admiring the sapphire necklace. "Tathiel, were these a gift from my adar?" Elumeril asked curiously. When Tathiel nodded, she asked, "Did you know that they also belonged to my naneth?"
Tathiel's fingers flew to the necklace. "No, but now that you say that, I do recall Narawen wearing them."
Elumeril took her hand and held it tight. "My adar gave these to my naneth the day that they conceived Legolas. It was his gift to her in honor of Legolas' begetting day," Elumeril explained. She saw tears fill Tathiel's eyes. "I think it most appropriate that you have them."
Tathiel sat down at her dressing table, her hand still clutching the necklace. She felt Elumeril's hands on her shoulders and then the elleth kissed her cheek. "Do not be sad this day, Tathiel. Naneth would not have wanted that," she said with wisdom far beyond her years.
Tathiel hugged Elumeril. "Thank you, Elumeril. Your naneth would be very proud of the young lady you have become."
"Enough, enough!" Ethiwen broke them apart with a smile and gentle touch. "We must fix your hair. It is nearly time!"
She braided small plaits into Tathiel's hair, drawing hair away from her temple and letting it flow down her back. The braids were clasped with the sapphire clips, and then a thin wreath of dried white flowers set upon her head.
"You are beautiful!" Eärundra proclaimed.
"And we are done just in time," Ethiwen admired her work as she pulled Tathiel to her feet. "Come, your meleth is waiting!"
* * *
Lathron smoothed the soft tunic down over Legolas' leggings and straightened the plaits he had braided in the style of Thranduil's house. He grinned as Legolas preened in his fine clothing, turning slightly this way and that as the light caught the silver threads of his tunic. He looked in the mirror and touched his braids, and a smile lit his face.
"I look like you and Ada and Bregles and Duil!" he proclaimed.
Lathron laughed and scooped Legolas up in his arms to stand before the big mirror. Indeed, their clothing matched in color and style, and the hair plaits were the same too. Bregolas and Thranduil both wore the warrior braiding as well, but Legolas was too young to notice the differences yet.
"We are brothers, Legolas, of the House of Oropher. Elenath and Elumeril will wear gowns that are similar in color and style today too, for these are the colors of our house," he explained.
Legolas leaned against him, their heads touching as he looked in the mirror. He watched in the mirror his own hand twirling the end of Lathron's braid and smoothed his hand across his brother's chest. "Brothers," he murmured softly.
"Brothers," Lathron agreed. He squeezed the elfling close for a moment. "Are you ready, Legolas?"
"Ready!" Legolas answered enthusiastically.
Lathron set him on the floor and drew two gold rings from his pocket, each with a ribbon tied through it. He knelt down and pinned then both to the inside of Legolas' pocket and tucked them inside.
"These are the gold rings that Ada will ask you for. I will take the pin out just before the ceremony starts. Then, when Ada asks for them, you pull them out and give them to him," Lathron reviewed the procedures. "Do you remember your blessing?"
Legolas took a deep breath, stood up tall and straight, his chest stuck out, "May Ebereth's stars shine on you."
"Elbereth," Lathron corrected.
"Elbereth" Legolas repeated slowly.
"Very good," Lathron hugged him again. "I think you are ready!" He reached for Legolas' hand, but Legolas turned before him and held up both arms. Lathron swung him up on to his hip and smiled as Legolas leaned against him and wrapped the end of a braid around his fingers.
"Brothers," Legolas whispered softly.
* * *
Thranduil stood beneath the canopy that had been raised in the center of the Great Hall and watched with pleasure as elves began to fill the space. Minstrels sang and played, many weaving in and out amongst the guests as they entertained. The hall was gaily decorated, with garlands of flowers and vines strung across the room and down the walls. He was pleased with the decorations, with many living plants brought from the indoor nurseries that were lovingly tended all winter. It was not usual for elves to marry in winter; a few more weeks and they could have held the ceremony outside, but Thranduil approved of the timing of this wedding.
The great doors had been flung open and the cool air flowed in with the rays of the sun. It was a beautiful late winter's day; it was also nearly a year to the day since Tathiel and the ellyth and his Legolas had been rescued from certain death at the hands of orcs. For that anniversary alone there was reason to rejoice; to celebrate a marriage made the day more poignant.
Elves danced and sang merrily between the tables set up for feasting. Some had taken to the outdoors and were playing in the snow, snowballs flying through the air and into the trees, seeking targets of other elves or staging impromptu contests to see who could throw to the greatest height.
The tables were prepared in a traditional manner, where the families of the bride and groom would sit intermixed as a sign of the union of two houses. Neither Tathiel nor Rawien had immediate family in Middle-Earth, thus representatives sat this day in their place. Thranduil watched with pride as his own children entered, six figures dressed in the green, silver and brown of the House of Oropher. His eyes rested on his smallest elfling and he smiled at seeing so tiny a figure so alike to the older siblings around him. He seemed wroth to leave Lathron's arms, as oft was the case when Lathron cared for him. The bond between them was special, and Thranduil suspected that Lathron could still sense Legolas' thoughts and feelings.
His family would serve in the stead of Tathiel's own parents, her mother sailing west after her father perished in a battle that had preceded the start of the Watchful Peace. She had only just come of age and begun serving Narawen then. For all of her adult life she had served the family of the king, and on this day they would serve her. He smiled to see Elumeril and Tinánia arm in arm, and it was only fitting that the ellyth Tathiel had mothered for two years, and their parents, would also serve as kin to her on this day.
Warriors began to enter next and they seated themselves at the family table as well. Rawien was not young; he himself had fought under the banner of the House of Oropher when Oropher still led it. He also was alone, his father and brother dying at Dagorlad and another brother perishing earlier in the second age. His grandfather had come east with Oropher after the War of Wrath and served him from the earliest days of his reign as king of the wood-elves. Rawien was tied to the elves of this realm through bonds of service to its defense. The warriors were his family, and on this day he had chosen the captains he served with and the warriors who had witnessed his betrothal to Tathiel at Dorwinia the previous spring to represent his kin.
Thranduil watched the hall fill and listened as the minstrels sang and played their instruments, his eyes taking in each detail with perfect memory. These were his people.
He saw Rawien standing with Galithon and Galithon's wife, Nelladiel, in the shadows to the right of the hall and then Tathiel appeared with Ethiwen and Urithral on his left. He motioned for all to be silent except the minstrels and then he nodded for both parties to approach each other to begin the ritual giving of gifts and welcoming to the family
* * *
Rawien walked forward, Galithon and Nelladiel on either side, and felt his breath catch as he saw Tathiel step from the shadows. She was more beautiful than he had ever seen her, although the day he found her half starved and freezing in the hills near the Sea of Rhûn came in a near second. On that terrible day, her beauty had nearly been extinguished, but it had lit up anew when she saw him, her eyes reflecting both a love for him and the utter relief that he had come for her.
Today her beauty radiated about her - the dress and jewels were ornaments that merely reflected the beauty that poured out from within her. Her eyes, her smile, her spirit - all shone with love and on this day she offered them all to him.
His eyes saw only her and his mind was torn when he heard other voices speak around him. He realized they had stopped under the canopy in the center of the Great Hall. He tore his gaze from her to look upon Ethiwen, who was speaking.
"Rawien, I speak for Tathiel's naneth on this day. On her behalf I welcome you as a son to our family. We will cherish and love you as we do our daughter," Ethiwen recited the words of welcome and pledge normally spoken by the mother of the bride. "The gift of our family to you is this sword, which belonged to Tathiel's great-grandfather. May it serve you well." Ethiwen presented the sword to Rawien and drawing his head down, kissed him on the forehead.
He took it reverently, for he knew it to be a treasured family heirloom. He bowed to Ethiwen and Urithral. "I thank you for your welcome. I promise to love and cherish your daughter, and serve your family as a son of your household."
Rawien's eyes drifted back to his betrothed and he watched her with love and hunger as she turned her attention to Galithon and Nelladiel.
"Tathiel, I speak for Rawien's adar on this day. On his behalf I welcome you as a daughter to our family. We will cherish and love you as we do our son," Galithon recited the words reserved for the father of the groom. "The gift of our family to you is this shawl, which was a gift to Rawien's mother the day she married his father. May you feel her presence and love surround you when you wear it," Galithon stepped forward and wrapped the silver silk shawl about Tathiel's shoulders, then leaned down to kiss her forehead.
Tathiel arranged the shawl about her and then bowed to Galithon and Nelladiel. "I thank you for your welcome. I promise to love and cherish your son, and serve your family as a daughter of your household."
The families now pledged and bound, the two married couples lifted their hands to the gathered elves and Galithon called, "May all who are gathered eat, drink and be merry with us on this joyful day!"
The minstrels changed to a merry dancing tune and food was served by elves who danced merrily from table to table, helped along by the occupants who joined to help and make merry with them.
* * *
Tathiel walked to their spot at the family table with her arm securely held in Rawien's and thought she had never felt safer or more secure than she did at his side. He radiated strength, and all she wished to do was melt against him and let him take her in his arms, where she would happily stay forever. She thought the smile on her face might reside there permanently, and it only brightened more as they approached the table and she gazed upon those who represented their families on this day.
As she scanned the table her eyes were quickly drawn to Legolas, for he stood upon his chair, bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet, a bundle of barely contained enthusiasm straining to be released. She smiled at him and felt her heart catch as she saw him with his siblings - for he looked very much a child of the king in his matching clothing and plait style. She saw him break loose from Lathron's grip and jump to the floor, hitting the ground with feet running.
"Tafiel!" Legolas cried as he leapt into her arms. He gently touched the flowers in her hair and the gems that were woven into her braids. "You are beautiful!" he proclaimed.
"And you, tithen caun, are handsome," Tathiel admired his tunic and braids, laughing when he preened happily. She looked from the child to the merry faces all watching her expectantly, and she thought if her heart could burst with love it would at that moment.
Lathron waited patiently for Legolas to inspect Rawien's sword, then he scooped up the elfling in his arms. "Are you ready to eat, tithen muindor? What would you like?" Lathron carried the properly distracted hungry elfling off to direct the filling of his plate and left the betrothed couple to eat their meal in peace.
* * *
The feast was ending when Thranduil stood and all fell quiet as he walked to the canopy. He stood in the midst of his family and his people and with a smile motioned for the two 'families' to gather round him.
"It is the custom of our people for the father of the groom and the mother of the bride to pronounce the blessing on the bride and groom," Thranduil began as he looked out over the gathered elves. "Rawien and Tathiel have asked me to stand in place of their parents and perform this ritual, which I do with both pride and gratitude," he said looking down at the happy couple, "for they are a part of the extended family of my House."
"Rawien and Tathiel, the joining of two feär is a significant occasion in the lives of two of Ilúvatar's firstborn. Do you both come of free will to this marriage?" Thranduil asked.
"Yes, my Lord," they replied in unison with brief glances at each other.
Rawien and Tathiel turned to one another and each slipped the silver ring from the hand of the other. They turned to Legolas, who Lathron was holding fast by the back of the tunic. He grinned when he realized they were looking at him, and when Lathron released him he darted forward. He remembered his role before reaching them and slowed to walk sedately to his father. The smile of approval from his ada nearly undid the child but he remembered to bow. When he looked up at his father, he found arms held out in welcome and he gladly reached out his to be picked up.
Now at eye level with all the adults, he smiled and pulled the gold rings from his pocket. Thranduil set Legolas to stand on a small table that was at his side, and then deftly slipped the rings off their ribbons. He covered Rawien's and Tathiel's clasped right hands with his own.
"With Eru as our witness, Rawien and Tathiel exchange these gold rings as a symbol of the binding of their feär in love and commitment to each other until the end of Arda," Thranduil intoned as the couple each took from him a ring and slipped it on to the right hand of the other. "May Elbereth, in whom the light of Eru still resides, hear any call you make upon her name. May Manwë, greatest of the Valar, provide you with the wisdom of Eru, spoken through the birds of the air and the wind in the trees."
Thranduil turned to Legolas and pulled the child back into his arms. Legolas watched his father carefully until Thranduil nodded, then turned to Rawien and Tathiel and drew in a deep breath.
"May the stars of Ebereth shine on you!" Legolas said. He grinned and clapped as all watching began to clap and cheer and sing.
Rawien turned to Tathiel and wrapped his arms about her, then kissed her soundly. He pulled back from her for a moment and they turned to face the crowd, missing the scowl on Legolas' face.
Legolas struggled in his father's arms briefly and all standing close heard his plaintive cry, "I want to kiss Tafiel too!"
Tathiel spun around gracefully and held out her arms to the toddler, catching him as he dove into her embrace. He wrapped both arms about her neck and kissed her on the cheek, then hugged her tight.
"I love you, Legolas," Tathiel whispered in his ear.
"I love you, Tafiel," Legolas whispered back.
Legolas allowed his ada to take him back as Rawien and Tathiel walked into the crowd and joined in the singing and dancing. The wine flowed and the music played and the elves made merry long after the stars had made their appearance. They minded the chill not and danced in the snow under the light of the stars and Ithil until morning.
* * *
Tathiel giggled as Rawien tugged her arm, leading her away from the laughing, dancing elves. He pulled her into the shadows of the Great Hall and wrapped his arms about her, his mouth claiming hers hungrily. She felt herself melt in his embrace and he pulled her against him, molding her body into his own. She finally pulled away. Looking into his eyes she saw hunger and passion of an intensity she had not seen before. She traced his lips with her fingertip, which he caught between his teeth with a growl.
"No dunk in the cold river for you this night," she whispered breathlessly.
He swept her into his arms and carried her wordlessly to their new chambers. The corridor was clear, as all remained yet in the Great Hall, and he opened the door and entered, then closed and latched it firmly behind him. They both gazed in wonder at the rooms, decorated by their friends for their wedding night but also with many household gifts given in honor of their marriage.
Rawien grinned at her. "We can look at them tomorrow," he said impatiently. He nudged open the door to their sleeping chamber and carried her inside, then set her on her feet and closed and latched that door behind them.
For a moment they stared at each other, then Rawien stepped to her and tenderly brushed a strand of hair from her face, tucking it behind her ear. He removed the wreath of flowers, then the clasps holding her braids in place, setting aside the gems and using his fingers to loose the hair from their plaits. He carefully tugged his mother's shawl from her shoulder and neatly folded it. He drew her into his arms then, his tongue tracing the outline of her ear then nibbling the lobe before leaving a trail of kisses down her neck to her shoulder.
Enraptured by the tingling sensations spreading through her, she was surprised when his fingers brushed her shoulders and her gown and shift fell to the floor. She felt the cool night air caress now bare skin and then warm hands began an exploration of her body independent of the lips currently staking a claim on her sensitive ear.
"You are still clothed," she tugged at his tunic weakly, nearly undone by the powerful sensations he was causing in her.
His clothing seemed to fall away without aid, as his lips did not leave her, nor his hands. She pressed herself tight against him and heard him gasp. Her hands began their own exploration and she knew she now led the dance as he arched and moaned.
She did not lead for long, as he skillfully maneuvered her so that the bed was at her back, and then she was flat upon it and he was braced atop her and she thought his weight the most comfortable thing ever to press so close against her.
And as their bodies joined in the physical pleasures of marriage, their feär bonded as well and at long last they were husband and wife.
* * *
Legolas yawned and stretched, finally focusing his eyes and waking fully. He stared at the ceiling and then rolled to his side and sat up. The room was strange. He heard a soft sigh next to him and looking over at his brother, he suddenly remembered where he was. He dove at Lathron without warning and felt his brother jump slightly before strong arms wrapped around him.
"Good morning, Legolas," Lathron yawned.
Legolas lay sprawled on top of his brother, his elbows on his brother's chest and his chin propped on his hands. He kicked his foot once, but a sharp intake of breath told him that he had caused pain to his beloved brother so he stilled his feet.
"Lafron, will you play with me today?" Legolas asked.
"Yes, I am yours all day," Lathron shook his head to chase away the sleep that lingered there. "What shall we do today?"
"Swim!" Legolas bounced upright to sit on Lathron's chest. "Play blocks and read stories and visit horses and …," he stopped to think and then patted Lathron's cheek. "Play in the snow and …."
"Hmm, tithen muindor, any time left in there to eat and take a nap?"
"No naps!" Legolas said, his arms crossing over his chest and his brow furrowing as he glared at Lathron. "I slept all night and do not need a nap!"
Lathron sighed and covered his face with his hands. "Not for you, Legolas, for me. I shall need a nap if I have to keep up with you all day."
Legolas giggled and pulled Lathron's arms down. "I will sit with you while you nap," he offered generously.
Lathron roared as he sat up, knocking Legolas on to the bed and then diving to tickle the squealing elfling. "I will wear you out and you will beg for a nap, elfling!" he challenged the child.
"No, no, no!" Legolas giggled. "I will wear you out. You cannot keep up with me!"
* * *
Bregolas and Thranduil exchanged glances at they passed by Lathron's chamber and the sounds of giggling and shouting drifted out to them.
"A bottle of Dorwinion," Thranduil bet.
Bregolas arched a brow at his father. "That he will or he will not?"
Thranduil looked pained. "I have faith in my son, even if you do not in your brother," he replied dryly. "Lathron will succeed today, and Legolas will not cry for Tathiel."
Bregolas thought for a moment. "Who gets the bottle?"
Thranduil laughed and clapped his son on the shoulder. "I have already decided Lathron will receive one just for making the attempt, whether he succeeds or fails!"
They walked silently past the quiet apartments of Rawien and Tathiel. "He will ask by dinner and need to see her by bedtime. A week of hearing petitions."
Thranduil stuck out his hand and they shook on it before continuing on to breakfast.
* * * * *
dû-o-gwaedh-------------------- night of bonding
tithen caun-----------------------little prince
tithen muindor------------------ little brother
tithen gwathel-------------------little sister
Author's Note: For the wedding, I have followed most of the information outlined in LACE (Laws and Customs of the Eldar) HoME Vol X: Morgoth's ring. These are Noldor customs, so I did make some changes to make the ceremony a little more unique to the wood-elves.
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