Midsummer was approaching and the sense of excitement was growing at the thought of the celebrations. Luinil had made many pointed references to the festivities and the attentions he wished to pay to Celinn on midsummer night, but Celinn had not allowed himself to be drawn in too far. He knew and loved the pleasures of the body, but something in him yearned to engage his heart more deeply than he had so far. He knew he would probably submit to Luinil’s invitation, but it would be a warrior’s comfort that they shared rather than the embrace of bound lovers.
Celinn mused on Luinil’s advances to him as they sat outside their talan on Midsummer Day while Aiglin filled his quiver with new arrows. In Celinn’s hands was a scrap of parchment on which he had written some words for a new song.
‘I cannot hear a melody for these words. Caranfir will need them for tonight and I am not ready,’ he said, looking up through the canopy, eyes unfocussed as he tried to capture a tune to match them.
‘There will be more happening tonight than singing, I venture,’ said Aiglin, glancing at him.
‘Will there?’ said Celinn, ‘and what diversions have you in mind for yourself, brother? Alfirin tells me one of the young maidens is quite taken with you.’
Aiglin did not blush. ‘I am not talking of maidens, brother, as you know, even those known to our sister. Nor am I speaking of myself.’
Celinn stretched himself out on the grass and sighed, dropping the parchment on to his chest.
‘I will never find the tune if you ask so many questions,’ he said irritably.
‘You know there are many who admire you, especially now that you are a captain,’ persisted Aiglin.
Celinn did not answer at once. Then he said, ‘Many may admire me as you say, but few know me except in their imagination. My heart still waits to be kindled, brother. Until then I will enjoy the pleasures of Midsummer, as I am sure will you, but with friendship rather than love.’
‘Luinil cares for you,’ said Aiglin.
‘He is a friend,’ protested Celinn, ‘we are not bound.’
‘Maybe he wishes more than friendship from you, brother,’ ventured Aiglin.
‘He has not spoken of more than friendship, and he knows I do not seek it from him,’ said Celinn, pushing himself up on to his elbow and looking at Aiglin.
‘Take heed of my words,’ said Aiglin. ‘I have seen his face when he thinks he is unobserved: his heart is engaged.’
Celinn let himself fall on to his back in the grass and gave a deep sigh.
‘Maybe I should not meet him tonight. I cannot give him a binding love when I do not feel it,’ he said. He turned his head to look at Aiglin again. ‘Thank you, brother, for your warning.’
Aiglin nodded and went back to sorting his arrows. After a while Celinn said,
‘Do any speak of Gwirith?’
‘Only to say he is a steadfast warrior. It is difficult to know him, particularly since he does not wish for any to come close to him.’
‘Still Luinil will not tell me what trouble caused him to mistrust friendship so much, and of course Gwirith will not speak of it.’ He grimaced and put his hand on his stomach. ‘My gut aches when I think of him. Something deep is there, within him, and I fear it works against his good to hold it there.’
‘You can do nothing but wait to be told,’ advised Aiglin.
‘I may be waiting until the next Age,’ said Celinn.
‘Yes, you may,’ said Aiglin. ‘Let him be now, Celinn, and tell me instead, how do you think Aragorn will find our festival? Do you think he will find us a poor substitute for Imladris?’
‘I do not know how he will find our festival, but I do know that Alfirin and Siriel are helping him to prepare, and that Siriel’s sister Falariel has offered herself as his partner.’
‘I wonder what it is like to be with a Man, especially a Man of Numenor,’ said Aiglin, his hands lying still in his lap. ‘Do you think they are…different from us?’
Celinn shrugged his shoulders. ‘I have never seen a Man unclothed, although from what I saw of Aragorn when he was in fever, he seemed very like us, except for the hair.’
‘More on the body and less on the head?’ said Aiglin.
‘Yes. And…on his face. I watched Galadriel…shaving him. How strange that must be.’
‘How did she learn the skill?’
‘I am told that there is an elf in Lindon who has the same hair. I think it is called a beard.’
They both laughed, then Aiglin said,
‘Well, my gear is in order. Now I may prepare myself to dazzle all who look on me this evening,’ and he pushed himself to his feet.
‘Remember what I said about Luinil, little brother,’ he said looking down at him. Celinn sat up and held out his arms, and Aiglin embraced him.
‘Thank you, Aiglin,’ Celinn said against his shoulder. Aiglin kissed him on the side of the head, then climbed up the ladder to their talan.
The sky above Lorien glittered with stars and the warm breeze was scented with every flower and tree that bloomed at midsummer. Celinn could hear music coming from the lawn of the fountain in the centre of Caras Galadhon, and when he turned the corner he saw the Lord and the Lady were descending from their flet. A soft but powerful light gleamed from Galadriel’s face and clothes, and Celeborn’s silver hair shone like a halo about his face. Both were smiling as they took hands and entered into the dance that was taking place on the lawn of the fountain. Many lights were strung in the trees and around the lawn, and Celinn could see the delicate rainbows that shone in the water of the fountain as it danced above the silver basin. He realised that his heart had been heavy, but the beauty of the night and of those who enjoyed it lightened his mood, and when the dancers came by and took his hand, he entered willingly into the dance, weaving with the others around the court of the fountain and among the trees of Caras Galadhon.
He knew nearly all the couples, but at the far corner of the lawn was someone he did not recognise, tall and broad and dark, dressed in night blue silk. It was only when the couple turned that Celinn saw that it was Aragorn, with Falariel on his arm. His hair was no longer a dull dark brown but sparkled with red lights, and though it fell across his face as before, it swung lightly and he had to put up his hand to push it back behind his ear. Falariel was looking up and smiling into his face, evidently well pleased with her unusual choice of partner for Midsummer night.
The music came to an end and he heard a voice calling his name: it was Caranfir, carrying several musical instruments.
‘Celinn, the song is marvellous, come and sing it for us.’
‘But I wrote it for you,’ protested Celinn.
‘You are the Swift Singer, dear Celinn, and we must hear your voice on Midsummer night.’
Celinn allowed himself to be led to the small dais on which many elves sat with their musical instruments. He waited while Caranfir spoke to the musicians and saw that Galadriel and Celeborn were seating themselves so that they could listen to the music, inviting Aragorn and Falariel to sit beside them in the place of honour. Many other elves also began to gather round. He felt a little nervous, but before he had time to worry, Caranfir touched him on the shoulder and said,
‘We are ready.’
Celinn nodded and composed himself, and the musicians began to play.
Celinn opened his mouth and sang, and his voice soared out purely into the air of Lorien. He sang of the love of Amroth and Nimrodel, and of their search for a place of peace, and of their loss of each other before they could reach a safe harbour. Each note rang true and beautiful, and the music flowed from his throat like balm, healing those who heard it and felt it vibrate in their bodies. All about him had fallen silent, and he lost himself in the music as he always did, feeling the tingling energy of the One in his body as he let the melody flow unhindered through him.
The final note sounded in the air, and Celinn stood, lips slightly parted, coming slowly back to himself. For many moments there was a deep silence, then Galadriel stood, tears in her eyes, and said,
‘Thank you, dear Celinn,’ and she came to him and kissed him on the cheek. Many others came to him to embrace him, and one of them was Luinil, his eyes shining.
‘The Valar have given you a great gift,’ he said, taking Celinn’s hands and pressing his lips to them. Celinn smiled at him, remembering Aiglin’s words. He glanced up, wondering if his brother were here, but instead his eye fell on Gwirith, standing far back from the fountain, almost in the shadows of the courtyard. His face was dark and sombre, and he was dressed in grey and blue so deep it was almost black, unadorned by any ornament.
‘Your brother is here,’ he said looking at Luinil, but when he turned to show him where Gwirith stood, he saw that he had gone.
Caranfir’s hand was on his shoulder. ‘The Lady asks that you would sing for us again,’ he said, his eyes sparkling. ‘Will you, Celinn?’
Celinn glanced again at the place where Gwirith had been, as if he did not believe he could have gone so quickly. But indeed he had. He gave his attention to Caranfir.
‘Of course I will sing,’ he said, and together they chose the songs.
Celinn sang of the Awakening at Cuivienen and of the founding of Lorien before the Great Journey, and then he sang songs not of lore but of love, since this was midsummer night: of the love of the body, whether it be with nis or ner, and the love of the heart, and the joy of finding one in whom both loves are joined.
His words and his caressing voice soon began to have an effect, and before he had finished singing, many elves were embracing each other, and some pairs had begun to drift towards the darkness of the forest to take their pleasures privately.
Finally he finished the last song, and this time the Lord and Lady both embraced him, then they too turned and began to walk slowly into the forest, greeting those they passed. The musicians packed away their instruments and Caranfir thanked him warmly.
‘Celinn,’ said a breathless voice beside him. Celinn looked into Aragorn’s white face. ‘I cannot do it,’ whispered Aragorn. ‘How can I tell her without causing her pain?’ He glanced round to where Falariel was talking to her sister. She caught Aragorn’s eye and smiled warmly at him, but he turned away with a groan.
‘Celinn, you must help me! You know I have never…I have no idea what…Oh, gods, I should never have come back here for Midsummer!’
Celinn smiled and rested his hand on Aragorn’s arm. ‘Aragorn, this is not torture, but pleasure! There is nothing for you to do but enjoy yourself. Falariel will show you the way.’
‘But…won’t she expect me to…what if I…if I fail her?’
‘Fail her? Aragorn, this is not a test, it is a giving and receiving of whatever you both desire. You cannot fail her!’ He leaned close then and whispered in Aragorn’s ear. ‘Your first joining is a great gift to give to another, and I am sure she will be delighted to wake your body from its youthful sleep.’
Aragorn’s cheeks were suffused with a tide of crimson, which ebbed away leaving him even paler than before.
‘Celinn, Aragorn is already promised to me,’ said Falariel’s mirthful voice behind them. ‘Do not try to entice him away from me.’ Her dark hair sparkled with exactly the same shade of red as Aragorn’s, and her green eyes gleamed softly in the many silver lights that hung from the trees of the lawn of the fountain.
They exchanged a conspiratorial glance, then Celinn bowed deeply to her.
‘Then let me yield him to you, Falariel,’ he said. ‘Take good care of him.’
Falariel took Aragorn’s arm and began to lead him away towards the forest. Aragorn cast Celinn a final desperate look, then turned away, as dejected as if he were being taken to his own execution.
Celinn stretched his arms above his head, yawning hugely, then felt a hand rest on his waist from behind.
‘It is too early for sleep, Celinn of the golden voice, there is much to be done yet,’ Luinil’s voice said by his ear.
Celinn turned, smiling, and in the relaxation of the moment, took Luinil in his arms. The other elf yielded easily to his embrace, resting his head on Celinn’s shoulder.
‘My throat is as dry as the plains of Caladhon under the midsummer sun,’ said Celinn.
‘Then come with me, and I will give you refreshment,’ said Luinil, taking his arm.
They made their way down to where many stalls had been set out on the banks of Celebrant bearing delicious foods and drinks, and they ate and drank their fill. Celinn removed his shoes and dipped his feet in the cool water, which seemed to sparkle with tiny bubbles like wine. Celinn and Luinil talked companionably together, and as the night wore on, only they and a few others remained on the banks of the river.
‘Come,’ said Luinil at last, and his voice was deep and soft.
‘Luinil,’ began Celinn.
‘Come,’ said Luinil again, taking his hand. ‘You can talk to me as we walk. It is too beautiful a night to stay here. Let us go under the trees.’
So Celinn rose and let Luinil lead him away from the centre of Lorien and deep into the forest. The floor of the forest was covered with a carpet of fragrant leaves and pine needles, and the warm breeze whispered in the leaves of the tall mellryn above their heads.
Celinn felt his body soften and melt in the tenderness of the night of Midsummer, and he knew he wished to be held and touched with desire. But he feared that Luinil wished for more than he could give him, and he wanted to of it speak to him, but he could not find the words.
At last Luinil stopped in a small glade by Celebrant. He dropped Celinn’s hand and, taking off his shoes, walked into the water.
‘Ah,’ he breathed, ‘it is like silk, so cool and fresh.’ He turned to Celinn. ‘I think I will swim. What do you think?’ Before Celinn could answer, Luinil stripped off his shirt and leggings and stood naked on the edge of the river. Celinn looked at him, and then his gaze travelled down Luinil’s strong, slender body, and he felt his sex stirring with desire.
Luinil saw his look, and he turned and came to him.
‘You know that I desire you,’ he said hoarsely, not touching him, and Celinn saw that his sex too was hard.
Celinn looked down at the ground. ‘Luinil,’ he began.
‘We are friends, Celinn,’ Luinil interrupted him, ‘and this is midsummer night. I know you wish for pleasure, and I wish to give it to you.’
‘But I cannot give you my heart, Luinil,’ said Celinn, ‘and if you wish for more than I can give you, it would dishonour us both to share our bodies tonight.’
Luinil’s gaze was soft and deep, and Celinn could not read him.
‘I am not asking for your heart, only for your body in the embrace of friendship,’ he whispered. Tenderly he took hold of Celinn’s cheek, and his thumb grazed his lips. ‘Your heart is safe, and so is your honour,’ he said softly.
Celinn looked deep into his eyes, and something within him told him that Luinil was not telling the truth. He fought the waves of desire that shook him, and he opened his mouth to refuse Luinil. But the warm wind touched his face, and Luinil’s fingers were on the lacings of his shirt, and then a bolt of exquisite pleasure went through him as the tip of Luinil’s tongue touched his skin, and he was lost.
Luinil pushed him back against the broad trunk of a mallorn and Celinn leaned back against it, gasping with pleasure as Luinil’s tongue laved his chest and his fingers twisted the tiny points of pleasure.
‘I want to feel your skin, Celinn,’ said Luinil hoarsely, and he pulled his shirt over his head, crushing his mouth to Celinn’s, arms round him so that there was nowhere that their bodies did not touch. Celinn parted his legs and Luinil pressed against his thighs, rubbing his erection against the bare skin of Celinn’s stomach, then his hands seized Celinn’s breeches and pulled them down roughly and cast them aside.
‘Luinil, you are impatient,’ gasped Celinn, and he wound his fingers in Luinil’s hair and kissed him deeply, groaning into his mouth and biting him. Luinil jerked with the pain of it, then bit him back, so that they both tasted each other’s blood. After that tenderness was forgotten, and they wrestled passionately with each other. Celinn’s hands were on the swell of Luinil’s buttocks, and then his fingers went down to the hidden opening and fondled it. Luinil arched his back with pleasure and took hold of Celinn’s shaft, circling the soft tip with his thumb.
‘I have some oil,’ he said breathlessly, but Celinn said, ‘No!’ and covered Luinil’s mouth with his. Then he broke away from the kiss and turned Luinil so that he was pressed against the tree. Quickly he went to his knees and Luinil gave a harsh gasp as Celinn took his shaft in his mouth and suckled it, tasting the salt juices that flowed from its head. With one hand Celinn pressed against Luinil’s thigh to keep him still as he writhed against the tree, and the other he used to stroke the hot tight opening between his buttocks.
Luinil began to tremble, and when Celinn sensed that he was about to come, he thrust a finger hard into him. Luinil gasped and thrust several times into his mouth. Celinn felt the warm fluid of his seed fill his mouth, then heard Luinil say his name softly. He released Luinil and moved back, but Luinil pulled him up and kissed him, tasting his own essence as their tongues danced languorously together in pleasure.
Luinil was breathing hard as he looked into Celinn’s face.
‘So singing is not the only talent of your mouth,’ he said lasciviously, and Celinn smiled at him, wiping his lips with the back of his hand.
‘But I have not served my captain with sufficient devotion,’ said Luinil, and he pulled Celinn round to sit on his thighs, then reached in front of him for his shaft and began to fondle it, pulling back the skin covering the velvety head with his thumb. Celinn closed his eyes and abandoned himself to the pleasure of his body, all his doubts forgotten. Luinil’s hand gripped him firmly and the fingers of his other hand began to enter him from behind. Soon Celinn began to rock in rhythm with Luinil’s caresses, and then Luinil’s tongue flicked into his ear and around its sensitive tip.
Celinn cried out and jerked wildly forward and he felt his seed spurt out of him into the air. His vision exploded in a million stars, and tingling currents of exquisite sensitivity flowed from his groin to every part of his body, so that from his fingertips and his toes he felt bathed in sparkling warmth.
He gave a deep sigh and leaned bonelessly against Luinil, so relaxed that he felt he could slide to the ground and lay looking up open mouthed at the stars. Luinil sensed his languor, and came round to face him and held him gently, Celinn’s head resting on his shoulder.
Celinn felt himself smiling, his body glowing with satisfaction and completion. Luinil guided him to lay down on the fragrant carpet of leaves, and they rested, Celinn’s head on Luinil’s chest. For a long time they did not speak, but then Celinn became aware that Luinil was trembling slightly, and he turned his head and looked up at him. Luinil’s face was wet with tears. He tried to smile at Celinn, but there was too much sadness in his face for him to do it.
Celinn sat up. ‘Luinil, what is the matter? Did I hurt you? Tell me!’
At first Luinil could not speak through his tears, but finally he said, ‘I fear I have deceived you and myself.’
‘Deceived me?’ said Celinn. ‘How?’
Luinil’s voice was no more than a whisper. ‘I told you I did not love you, that our touching was merely pleasure given by friends. I told myself that was true. But I know that it is not.’
Celinn looked at him in silence.
‘I thought it would be pleasure,’ said Luinil. ‘but it was torment.’ His voice broke and he wept, his hands covering his face. ‘I am sorry, Celinn,’ he said, his voice muffled.
Celinn took him in his arms and held him close, feeling his body trembling against him. The warm wind of midsummer seemed suddenly chill, and he stood up and went to collect their discarded clothes. He brought Luinil’s to him, but as Luinil reached for them, Celinn said,
‘You wanted to swim. Maybe the water can wash away some of our sadness.’
Luinil looked at him through red-rimmed eyes. ‘Yes,’ he said, and let Celinn lead him to the bank. Together they walked into the river, the water cold enough to take their breath away, even this midsummer night. At first they swam close together, but then they moved apart and swam in silence under the stars. Luinil wept as he swam, his tears mingling in the waters of Celebrant. Celinn’s heart was heavy. He knew his body’s need had driven his brother’s warning out of his mind, and now he and Luinil would have to bear the pain of their touching. After a while they came close to each other again, and Celinn held Luinil gently.
‘Luinil, I have wronged you,’ Celinn said sadly. ‘My body wished for yours, and I let my will for pleasure silence my doubts. Aiglin told me he believed that you cared for me.’
‘Your brother has better eyes than both of us,’ said Luinil.
They came out of the water and dressed themselves in silence, then with one movement they turned to each other.
‘You will understand if I stay away from you for a while,’ said Luinil, avoiding Celinn’s eyes.
‘I would be surprised if you wanted to see me after this,’ said Celinn bitterly.
Luinil looked up at him then, his eyes bright. ‘Don’t speak so,’ he rebuked him sharply. ‘My heart is open to you, Celinn. There is nothing I want more than to see you. But for now there is too much pain.’ He was silent for a long time, then he said, ‘I know your heart has not been touched by me, Celinn. But if ever you feel…’ he hesitated. ‘if ever you begin to feel anything for me, know that I am constant, and will not change soon for another.’
‘Luinil,’ Celinn began, but Luinil held up his hand.
‘Do not speak,’ he said, ‘there is nothing you can say now that I want to hear.’
He looked at Celinn with eyes full of unutterable sadness, then leaned forward and tenderly kissed his lips. Celinn sighed against him and his lips parted, but Luinil pulled away. He stood with his eyes closed, his tongue circling his lips as though to remember the taste of the kiss, then without another word he turned and walked away.
‘Luinil,’ Celinn called after him, but Luinil did not turn.
Celinn stood watching him until he disappeared under the shadows of the trees, then cast himself down on to the ground, his head in his hands. Self loathing burned through him like acid and he cursed himself for his selfishness while hot tears seared his eyes and his gut ached with guilt as he thought of Luinil’s sadness. For a long time he lay motionless, caught in the anguish of what had happened to him and Luinil.
But at last he felt the light of the stars shining on him and the gentle blessing of Elbereth came to him, and he hated himself a little less.
He wiped his face with the palms of his hands and picked himself up. It was deep night, and he had no wish to sleep, so he turned the opposite way to where Luinil had gone and began to wander through the trees. Gradually the voice of the trees soothed him and his heart rested in the pulsing of the breathing earth beneath his feet. After a while a song began to weave its way into being in his mind, and he did not push it away. It was a song of loss and sadness, and the notes wound themselves around his heart and gut and eased them a little. He walked for many hours, and it was at the darkest hour before the coming of the dawn that he stopped suddenly, because a little way ahead of him in the forest sat a dark haired elf, asleep beneath a tree.
‘Luinil?’ said Celinn in disbelief. The elf stirred at the sound of his voice and slowly roused himself, but when he turned to Celinn it was not Luinil’s face looking back at him.
‘Gwirith,’ he said in surprise. ‘You are far from home.’
‘And so are you,’ said Gwirith irritably.
‘I have hurt your brother,’ said Celinn humbly, unable to look at him.
‘Hurt him? Where is he?’ Gwirith stood up and loomed over Celinn. ‘Tell me!’
‘I have not hurt his body,’ he said quietly. ‘It is his heart.’
Gwirith’s face darkened, but he did not speak.
‘I am sorry,’ said Celinn quietly. ‘I have told him I am sorry, but maybe he will believe it if you tell him. He trusts you.’
Gwirith’s body folded suddenly and he knelt beside Celinn.
‘He cares for you,’ he said, half to himself.
‘I did not know. At least I did not look hard enough, and nor did he. If my heart would be commanded, I would return his love. But I do not feel it, here.’ He pressed his hand to his chest.
‘I warned him not to look for love where it could not be found,’ said Gwirith harshly. ‘Love brings pain with it, as surely as the sun bows to the stars every night. And you could not return his love.’
‘No.’ Celinn’s voice was almost inaudible.
‘It is a pain he will have to bear. And so will you. You are young, you can bear pain. You have lived in peace in Lorien all your life. Now you will understand a little of the shadows.’
‘But this is not the shadow of evil,’ protested Celinn.
‘Love unfulfilled can turn to evil and to death,’ said Gwirith darkly.
Celinn was about to argue further when he caught sight of Gwirith’s face.
‘You have known this kind of love,’ he said, beginning to understand the bleakness in Gwirith’s eyes.
‘I have known love, and I have known the losing of love. A long time ago. It is only because of the Lady that the grief did not send me to the Halls of Mandos. I know what love can do: it can heal, and it can destroy,’ he said, and his voice was trembling.
Celinn put out his hand to touch him, but Gwirith pulled away before it reached him.
‘Be careful of my brother, Celinn,’ he said, and his dark eyes were threatening.
‘But to close your heart to love is to tell the rain not to fall in Lorien: it would become a desert.’
‘Then a desert is better than the pain of losing that love, a love that is like your own self, your own body. Be glad you have never known this love, because it can break you so that you no longer know even your own name.’
And he, like his brother, stood up and walked away into the forest.
Much earlier that night, Aragorn walked under the trees in the dreaming woods of Lothlorien, the skin of his wrist seeming to burn where Falariel’s fingers rested on it. They had been walking for some time, and Falariel had told him the story of the Golden Wood, and the tall silver-trunked mellryn that kept their golden leaves throughout the winter, dropping them in a shimmering carpet in the spring. Now she was speaking about Amroth and Nimrodel, and how they had sought each other in vain, and how Nimrodel’s voice could be heard singing in the stream that bore her name.
But her voice was faltering a little now, maybe because Aragorn had said nothing at all since they had left the lawn of the fountain, and his arm under her hand was as cold and stiff as stone.
They came to a bench under the trees, sheltered by a tall weeping birch tree that trailed its branches in a stream that flowed through this part of the forest.
‘Shall we rest for a while?’ said Falariel, glancing at Aragorn. He nodded without meeting her eyes and sat down heavily, then got up again, waiting for her to seat herself before sitting down again beside her.
‘Aragorn, there is no need to be so unhappy,’ she said gently, taking his cold hand and rubbing it between both of hers. ‘If you really wish it, we can return to the lawn of the fountain and bid each other farewell.’
‘No,’ said Aragorn, breathlessly. ‘I am sorry, it is just that…I am not very good at…conversation.’
Falariel smiled at him sweetly. ‘I had not noticed,’ she said kindly. ‘Did you have many guests to talk to at Imladris?’
Aragorn’s eyes lit up. ‘Oh, at home we often had visitors, from everywhere. My father…my foster-father is very hospitable, and welcomes travellers, those who know where to find us, that is.’
‘You must miss your home, now that you have been so long away,’ said Falariel gently.
‘I do miss it,’ said Aragorn, sadly. ‘But now that I am a man I must do my duty, whatever it costs me. It is right that I have left my father and my brothers,’ he said, forgetting for once to correct himself. ‘I would like them to be proud of me,’ he finished, so quietly that she had to lean closer to hear him. He bent his head slowly and his newly washed hair fell in a heavy red-brown wave across his face.
Falariel looked at him with compassion, and she reached out and tilted his face towards her gently.
‘Let me teach you a way to find joy in the midst of sadness, Aragorn. You are at the beginning of your journey, and though many will try to hinder you, it is good to recognise comfort where it is offered.’
Aragorn looked into her green eyes, and he said fearfully, ‘But I do not know what to do, Falariel.’
‘You must do whatever pleases you,’ she said, moving closer to him so that their thighs touched. Aragorn drew in his breath sharply and made to move away, but she took his arm and held him back.
‘Why are you afraid? What do you think will happen if you let me near you?’
He stared at her, his grey eyes wide. ‘I…don’t know,’ he said.
‘Do you think you will displease me in some way?’
‘Yes,’ breathed Aragorn. ‘I do fear it.’
‘Then fear not,’ she said, caressing his cheek tenderly. ‘You please me very much, Aragorn. You are strong and fair and gentle, and I am honoured to be your partner for this sweetest night of the year.’
Her face was very close to his now, and he could feel her breath warm on his cheek.
‘Will you kiss me, Aragorn?’ she said softly.
For a long moment he stared at her, unable to move, but her face was so kind and welcoming that he found himself drawn towards her, and he closed the small space between them and gently touched his lips to hers. The shock of meeting her mouth sent a tremor through him, and he felt it ripple downwards towards his groin. She tasted like strawberries, and her lips were cool and soft. Aragorn closed his eyes and putting one arm around her, leaned against her, feeling her hair flowing over his shoulder and down his back, and he remembered what Luinil had said on the night of Celinn’s braiding about elvish hair.
Falariel made a little sound and then he felt her tongue flick against his lips. Aragorn gasped, surprised, and as his lips parted she gently sought to taste him more deeply. Aragorn’s eyes flew open and he sat up very straight, pulling away from her. She regarded him calmly, although her cheeks were a little flushed and a lock of hair had fallen across her face. Slowly she put up her hand and pushed it back.
‘Did I do something you did not like?’ she said, watching him carefully.
‘No, it was…it wasn’t that I didn’t…I just…I’ve never done that before,’ he stammered. He tilted his head a little, then said quietly. ‘But I think I would like to do it again.’
A quiver of amusement crossed Falariel’s face. ‘That is fortunate, because I would too.’ She smiled at him, and surprised at his boldness, he took her face into his hands and began to kiss her again, but this time he continued to look at her, and he could see the little gold flecks that sparkled in the green depths of her eyes. This time when she sought entrance to his mouth, he did not resist, and he felt the heat flood through him as they tasted each other deeply. He let one hand slip round to hold her head while the other went round her waist and pulled her against him. Falariel sighed and leaned closer to him, and he felt her breasts rising and falling through the soft cloth of his shirt.
At last they moved apart from each other, their breathing fast and erratic. Aragorn took Falariel’s hands and held them tightly, as if he feared she was about to leave him.
‘Falariel…I never knew…I have never felt this before,’ he said.
‘Your body is waking, Aragorn,’ she said, her eyes bright, ‘and there is more pleasure yet to come.’
She turned over his hands and pressed kisses into their palms, then left them lying upturned in her lap while she reached back and undid the lace that confined her red-brown hair, shaking her head gently so that it rippled over her shoulders like a fragrant curtain. Aragorn stared at her, and after a moment he reached out and tangled his fingers in her hair, filling his hands with its abundance. Falariel smiled at him, then leaned forward and kissed him while she began to undo the laces of his shirt. The silk rustled softly as she pushed it off his shoulders. Torn between shyness and desire, Aragorn moved his arm suddenly, meaning to help her, and there were several moments of confusion as the dark blue cloth became tangled around his elbow. Aragorn blushed scarlet and when he was finally free, stammered an apology, feeling suddenly uncomfortably naked.
‘It is no matter, Aragorn,’ she said, laughing. ‘I am sure you know already that the path of love is never smooth, but a little unlooked-for obstacle need not divert us.’ And she took his hand and placed it on the laces of her bodice. He loosened them with trembling fingers, but could not bring himself to do more.
‘Do you not wish to touch me, Aragorn?’ Falariel said in a soft, husky voice.
‘Yes, I do,’ said Aragorn, wretchedly. ‘It is just that…I am… unsure how to do it.’
‘Then do it like this,’ she said, and taking his hand, she slipped it within her bodice on to her breast. Aragorn let out a gusty little breath, his fingers rigid on her creamy skin. Falariel leaned towards him so that the soft weight of her breast pressed against his hand, but he drew away so that he was barely touching her.
‘Let me show you what to do, sweet boy,’ she said, and gently laid her hand on his bare chest, caressing him lightly and tangling her fingers in the springy brown hair that grew there, her thumb moving gradually closer to his flat pink nipples, then flicking them with tiny feather-light touches. Aragorn groaned softly and pressed closer to her, and then she leaned down and took one between her lips, sucking on it gently and pulling it between her teeth. Aragorn arched his back and his hand closed around her breast, feeling its warm curved heaviness and the exquisite contrast of the hard little nipple that tightened and grew under his fingers.
Falariel gasped and her breast rose into his hand, and he found he knew now how to part the shimmering mint green cloth of her dress so that both breasts were free from its constraint. And he knew also how to bend his head and press his mouth into the warm sweet-smelling shadowed space between her breasts, tasting her skin with his tongue, and then taking the nipple like a sweet hard raspberry between his lips and sucking it, so that Falariel cried out softly and tangled her fingers so tightly in his hair that he felt it tug lightly against his scalp.
Nor did he need showing how to push her dress off her shoulders and down to her waist, so that her hair lay like a cloak against her skin, and how to run his big hands down her back, pulling her close to him, close to his mouth that wanted to taste her lips and her white shoulders and the plunging curve of her neck, to find her breasts again so that his hands and lips were full of their creamy flesh.
And Falariel’s hands knew their way also, grazing the long muscles of his sides and travelling back up each step of his ribs so that, absorbed and lost though he was in her, he waited for the moment when they were on his chest again, and when she caught his nipples with the edge of her nails, causing him exquisite shivering pain.
But although he was lost, more deliciously lost than he had ever been, and longed for her to touch him even more intimately, he felt himself go rigid with fear when her hand began to travel down and come to rest lightly on the hardness between his legs. For a moment Falariel did not notice, but then her green eyes opened and she looked at him, a clear attentive look, and she took her mouth from his.
‘Sweetheart, tell me, what do you fear?’ she said softly.
‘I…don’t know,’ said Aragorn. ‘I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to…’
But Falariel had not removed her hand, and the laces of his breeches were undone and her fingers were on his hard shaft, and her eyes widened with pleasure as she took the whole length of him into her hand, her thumb circling the sensitive tip, coaxing the sweet juices from the tiny hole in its centre. Forgetting fear, embarrassment and everything else, Aragorn closed his eyes and his head fell sideways on to her shoulder, and she leaned over and kissed him deeply, then withdrew a little and flicked at the edge of his mouth with her tongue, filling him with delicious fire.
Then, without removing her hand from him, she rose and let her dress slip off her onto the ground, and he looked at the swelling curves of her womanly body as she curled up beside him on the bench, and his hand was on her soft belly, and then tangling in the dark red hairs between her legs. Falariel sighed and pressed herself against him, parting her legs a little so that his fingers were able to slip between the soft, moist lips that opened easily to him.
‘You need no teaching, Aragorn,’ she gasped, as he caressed her tenderly. ‘You are a most considerate lover.’
He looked into her eyes, dark and wide and full of pleasure, and for a moment he saw Arwen before him, but before he could feel sorrow or longing or any other thing, Falariel had straddled him and guided him into her body, and he was gripped tightly within her. And his hands were holding her hips as they rolled back and forth, riding him unrestrainedly; and he felt his own hips begin to thrust, felt the heavenly friction as his shaft moved hard against her, losing himself in the rhythm of their bodies, until the sensation became so powerful that there were lights like stars before his closed eyes, and he heard himself cry out with a hoarse, abandoned voice, and felt the rush and throb of his seed spill itself within her. Falariel gasped softly and he felt her body tighten on him even more and then squeeze his shaft with tight little rippling waves, and he opened his eyes and looked at her, and her lips were parted and her face soft at the peak of her pleasure, and a warm flush of colour rose from her belly and washed over her breasts and throat and touched her uptilted face, her long magnificent hair flowing over her skin like silk.
Aragorn gazed at her, and he saw that she was open to him, trusting him, filled with the pleasure he had given her, and he pulled her into his arms and kissed her breasts, burying his face in their soft moist flesh, glad beyond words that she had been the one to teach him the secrets of his body, and of hers.
Falariel rested gently against him, and he could feel her quick shallow breaths and the slight trembling of her body, and her hair fell across him like a curtain, tickling the skin of his back and shoulders.
It was a long time before either of them could speak, and at first all they could do was say one another’s names. Then Falariel said,
‘There is a power in you that I have never known before, Aragorn.’
‘It is because I know that I will die,’ said Aragorn suddenly, surprising himself. She looked at him curiously then, unsure what he meant.
‘I know I must live every moment,’ he explained, to himself as much as to her. ‘Maybe because of that I feel things more intensely than you, for whom nothing is ever the last time.’
‘We know death too, Aragorn,’ said Falariel seriously. ‘I have seen it with my own eyes.’
They looked at each other, wondering how they had travelled so quickly from the moment of abandoned pleasure they had just shared to this place of shadowed darkness. Then Falariel smiled and kissed him, and as she moved Aragorn realised that he was still held inside her body, and the shadow slipped away from him as he felt the tingling energy of their joining still coursing through his skin.
Later when they were dressed again and sat close together on the bench, Falariel said,
‘Tell me about the one you love, Aragorn.’
He turned to her in surprise, but she said softly, ‘You called out to her, my dear.’
Aragorn hung in his head. ‘Falariel…’ he whispered, ‘I am sorry…’
‘But why?’ she said, smiling. ‘We are partners for the night, Aragorn. I gave myself to you willingly, and received a great treasure from you. But I have not asked for your heart. I hope our joining will be the beginning of your own life of bodily pleasure, whoever you choose to share it with.’
Then Aragorn told him about Arwen, and how he had seen her walking in the woods of Imladris, and had mistaken her for Luthien, and how he had loved her at first sight, but that he feared he would never be worthy of her.
‘I was one of her handmaidens when she dwelt here with her grandparents,’ said Falariel. ‘It does not surprise me that you love her, Aragorn. I wish you an answering love from her.’
Aragorn put his hand to her cheek. ‘You are kind, Falariel,’ he said, his fingers drifting back into her hair. ‘I will never forget this Midsummer night, however many years I am given before the One calls me.’ And he leaned forward and buried his face in her fragrant hair.
It was full daylight when Gwirith came back to the talan he shared with Luinil. He found his brother sitting on the floor behind the curtain of his sleeping chamber with his body curled into a corner of the room, his black hair falling across his face like a curtain.
Gwirith came to his side and shook his arm. ‘Luinil, do not grieve so. He will not love you.’
Luinil did not reply, did not move.
‘Brother, I have seen him in the forest.’ Luinil stirred at that, but he did not turn his head.
‘You have seen him? How came you to see him?’ he said, his voice muffled by his hair.
‘I was asleep, and he found me, thinking I was you.’ Luinil pushed the hair out of his face and looked at Gwirith.
‘What did he say to you?’ he asked.
‘He said that I was to tell you he was sorry,’ Gwirith said. ‘though how that will avail you, I know not.’ He pushed himself to his feet and sat on the low bed beside Luinil and rested his elbows on his knees. A deep sigh escaped him. ‘I warned you, Luinil, love brings pain. Do not look for it where it cannot be found.’
‘Gwirith,’ said Luinil, and his voice was cold and bitter, ‘if I had the strength I would fight you for those words. Because you have let your heart become cold and withered, you forget that the choice of where it is bestowed is not always in your power. When you loved Alcarion, it was your heart that led you to him by its own wisdom, not by your will’
He heard Gwirith draw in his breath sharply, but he did not repent of his words.
‘If it is only cold comfort that you bring me, better you bring me no comfort at all,’ he said.
Gwirith swung round to face him, his eyes blazing.
‘It is because I feel the pain of that love every day that I wish to save you from it, Luinil,’ he said. ‘If I had known what love would do to me, I would have turned from him and walked a thousand miles away from him to save myself. It is only because of Galadriel that I am able to bear it even now,’ he said, his voice sinking almost to a whisper.
The anguish of the moment filled the room, and for a while there was silence between them. Then Luinil spoke, with some difficulty.
‘You are able to bear it because you have let your heart die,’ he said. His words dropped into the silence like stones into a pool. Gwirith became completely still. Luinil found that he was speaking again, the words pouring inexorably from his lips.
‘I would rather go to Mandos than tell my heart not to love Celinn, even were it within my power to do so. I would rather feel this pain than never have known what it is to touch his skin and kiss his mouth, to have had him in my arms even for this one time, and to have seen his pleasure as I held him close to me. I would tell my heart to love him even if he never loves me in return, not even for one day. If I turned my heart from this love, I would be turning to the Shadow, and I would be more truly dead than if my fea left my body and dwelt for all the ages of the world with the unhoused ones who wait for the ending of time which Eru alone knows.’
Gwirith’s face was so pale that his eyes were like pools of darkness, and his lips were tight with pain. When at length he spoke it was as though the words were being forced out of him.
‘And if he did love you, and you knew the touch of his skin every day, and the taste of his mouth was as sweet as honey to you, and your fea and his were twined like the vines that grow on the trees for a thousand years… and then you lost him…’ He stopped abruptly, choking on his words, staring with unfocussed eyes at a horror Luinil could not comprehend. The silence that fell between them was stretched so tight that neither of them could break it. Luinil heard his brother’s ragged breathing as he fought to control his emotions, and he knew that if Gwirith’s heart was buried, yet it was not dead. He reached out his hand to comfort him, but Gwirith flinched away from him.
‘Gwirith, I am sorry, my words were merciless. I hurt you out of my own despair.’
But Gwirith did not respond to him. Instead he stood up stiffly and the emptiness in his eyes shook Luinil’s heart and made him forget his own sorrow.
Gwirith went over to the other side of the room and picked up the tall jug which held the water for washing. He looked into it to see if any was left, then poured some into the big basin that stood beside it. Luinil watched him cup his hands in to the water, then wash his face thoroughly before taking up the drying cloth and covering his face with it for a long moment. Then he straightened up and though there were dark shadows under his eyes, he had regained his composure. In silence he went to his own side of the room and removed his festival clothes and put on his everyday gear. Luinil watched him hang up the clothes carefully and smooth out the creases, and the steady movements seemed to calm him.
Finally he turned to Luinil. ‘I have some things to do in my workshop,’ he said. His voice shook a little despite the effort he made to control it. ‘I will see you at our next duty. Will you be all right?’
Luinil nodded. He opened his mouth to speak but Gwirith’s eyes stopped him. He watched Gwirith walk to the ladder with long strides and heard the sound of his feet die away outside.
For a long time he sat, too drained to move, then with an effort he pulled himself up on to his bed and lay face down, not bothering to remove his clothes. He pushed his boots off his feet and heard them thud to the floor. After a long while the tears came, and he thought of what he had said so bravely to Gwirith about accepting the pain of love, and he wondered how he would endure this pain which was so much less than that which he had seen Gwirith suffer for so many years. When he finally slept, it was with the image of his brother’s white face before him, and strangely after so long, Alcarion’s face was there also.
I know Aragorn had just fallen in love with Arwen, but he’s a young man of twenty-one and I for one can’t believe he was a virgin until the age of eighty-eight so I have put this scene in as part of his education.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.