26. To Dream or To Portend
A sudden bright flash of sunlight burst through the leaves and shattering the other-worldly sense of timelessness and lack of orientation as to place that Lothíriel had been experiencing. Galadriel held her gaze, not with her wise, unnerving, ancient-Elf-Lady-of-Aman intensity, but once again as the grandmother of Elrohir and Elladan.
"Well, you are young and I am foolish," Galadriel said with a light laugh. "I do find myself drawn to mysteries. The afternoon wears on and Arwen wants you to meet others close to our family and doubtlessly will want to consult with you about your attire for our feast tonight."
"I have little to choose from but Aragorn told me that Arwen would want to dress me," Lothíriel said, greatly relieved to return to more mundane concerns than prophecy or foresight.
"He knows his lady. She comes by her interest in apparel honestly--an obsession of the Noldor--but then I am sure you have heard that. It is a tiresome cliché in the books of tales. Yet closer to the truth than I am pleased to admit," Galadriel said.
"Arwen is a bit fuller-figured than I am," Lothíriel said in a voice that hinted of envy.
"Bosoms were never my strong point either," said Galadriel, laughing. "It has been two ages since I worried about that. But it did cause me pain when I was young, and, if that were not drawback enough, I inherited the Finwëan rather overwhelming height."
"Do you think Arwen's curviness a trait of the Edain?"
"Well, I suppose it could be. But among Eldar I have known voluptuous women as well," Galadriel said. "Nerdanel is certainly bosomy. Although Fëanor, of course, was quick to remind everyone that he loved her for her mind. Could not seem to keep his hands off her though."
"Fëanor, the Spirit of Fire, oh, my. Of course, you are his niece," Lothíriel said. "You had your marvelous hair. Surely that must have made you stand out--even in Aman. And what about the story of you refusing Fëanor even a single strand of your hair. Please, tell me that story." Galadriel laughed aloud.
"My child! It is astounding to believe that an intelligent girl in the late Third Age is still infatuated by his glamour. The story of the hair is pure nonsense, of course. He barely gave me a second glance. Although he did tolerate my father better than he did his brother Fingolfin. But he did not care a fig for any of his nieces or nephews except my cousin Fingon, who was close to his eldest son. And it was impossible for anyone, even Fëanor, not to love Fingon the valiant."
Lothíriel was overcome by fascination and thoroughly entranced by speaking of history with one who had lived it. "This is so exciting. To hear these stories from you, my Lady. So where did the story of Fëanor and Galadriel's hair come from?"
"The only memory I have that had anything to do with Fëanor and my hair occurred when one of the youngest of Fëanor's son--I think it was Telvo, the one you call Amras in your tongue-wrestled me to the ground and sat on me pulling my hair. Fëanor yelled at him to let me up. He stopped and we ran off but I heard Fëanor said to Nerdanel. 'Annoying brat. She teases the twins non-stop. If I were one of them, I would want to pull her hair out too.'"
"That sounds like me and my brothers. I was smaller, a girl, and aggravating, but they were always scolded for hurting me," Lothíriel said giggling.
"You take Fëanor's side in this ancient dispute then?" Galadriel asked with threatening growl in her elegant voice.
"Not if you can tell me, my Lady, that you were a sweet, placid child."
"Lothíriel, you are uncharitably wise in your assessment. I was a terror among my younger cousins. It is well that we are alone, princess, because my grandchildren moan when I speak of any of these things. 'We have heard it all thousands times,' they say. Nor do they please my husband, because they remind him that I am determined to sail soon. I must see my home again and he says that he will follow, but he is not happy about it."
After a long, long walk they finally neared the center of Caras Galadhon again. Lothíriel heard voices drawing closer to them in the wood, definitely masculine, but with that purity and clarity of tone that she was learning to describe as unmistakably wholly-Elven, so unlike that of her brothers or Elrohir and Elladan or even, she now knew, Lord Elrond. A peal of laughter, joyous and filled with hope, grabbed her heart and lifted her spirit-a bit like the first time she had heard Legolas release a full-out laugh. There, in the golden late-afternoon sun, stood two tall Elf-lords.
"Ai, little one, you are in for a pleasant surprise," Galadriel said. "Some dear friends approach who will satisfy your craving for history and lore and enable you to practice the Ancient Tongue."
"They are beautiful," Lothíriel said.
"Do not tell them that. Each one of them is, in his unique way, nearly as vain as my grandsons. Glorfindel! Erestor!" she called, raising her voice just enough to carry down the shallow hillside into the clearing below.
Lothíriel remembered that Legolas and Elrohir had teased her that Éomer, after she had convinced him to shave his beard, reminded them of Glorfindel. She could see the resemblance. Both had a wild mane of hair of a rich gold, although Glorfindel's was Elven long while Éomer's barely reached his shoulders. The famous warrior had the same dark, bright blue eyes as her horse lord.
She searched her memories, bits and pieces of old stories and verse in the ancient tongue flitted through her mind-he had the tall, strong physique she had learned to associate with the Noldor. But the hair. Where did he get the blond hair? Erestor. He was easier to place. He was the quintessential, storybook picture of a Noldor-raven-dark hair, silver grey eyes, perfect in form and face. He could have been Feanor himself. And they both had those eyes. How did the ancient scrolls, brought from Numenor, in library of the Dol Amroth keep, describe them: "the light of Aman was not yet dimmed in their eyes." How she wished Faramir were here to meet these two legends with her. But he would see them soon enough in Minas Tirith. They truly did live in a time when legends sprang to life before them. She flushed furiously and closed her mouth, which she belatedly realized hung open.
Both of the magnificent Elven warriors smiled benevolently upon her. Glorfindel spoke first in a voice, clarion clear and filled with mirth, "My lady, are you not going to introduce us to your young companion?"
Galadriel gracefully took her hand and guided her forward. "Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth of Belfalas, I present to you Glorfindel chief of security of Imladris, formerly of Gondolin, Tirion and various other places both here and across the Sea and Erestor, also now of Imladris, chief counselor of Elrond, formerly of Lindon, Himring, Formenos, Tirion, etc., etc."
The Elf-lords stepped forward to greet her, nodding, hand-upon-heart, before each respectively took her hand and bowed to kiss it lightly.
"It is an honor, my Lady," said Erestor, with a sharp, but not unfriendly, examination of her face.
"It is my pleasure to be of service, Princess Lothíriel," said Glorfindel, flashing a brilliant, cheerful smile.
Lothíriel could barely choke out a faint, "Your lordship," to each one in turn. Never one to be left speechless and feeling she had the honor of Belfalas, indeed, all of Gondor to uphold, she struggled to add. "Please excuse my awkwardness. I must explain that I never expected to have the pleasure of meeting any of the illustrious actors of the tumultuous and heroic events of First Age of Arda."
"The princess was sent to us by Estel as a representative of Gondor to succor and guide us through the intricacies of the court of Minas Tirith. Her father is the ruling prince of Dol Amroth and she is cousin to Faramir, Lord Steward of Gondor," Galadriel interjected. "From what she tells me, curiosity for the history and lore of the Elder Days has been kept alive not only in the North, but in the South as well."
"I think I speak for both of us when I say that we would enjoy answering any questions the Princess may have," Glorfindel said. "Erestor can give you the historian's view and I can extrapolate on the parts that are not written down." He earned an exaggerated glare of mock umbrage from Erestor.
"The cataloguing of dinner menus and concert programs of a hidden city separated from the struggles of the greater part of the Beleriand against the encroachments of Morgoth's hordes are without a doubt a fascinating, if somewhat narrow and arcane, part of the history of that period," Erestor replied, not succeeding in controlling a wicked grin.
"Ai, yes," Glorfindel responded with jovial equanimity, "My esteemed friend is correct in noting that the construction of Gondolin, which rivaled Tirion itself in beauty and grandeur, and the preservation from annihilation of a significant part of the Noldor, certainly does not provide the prurient titillation of accounts of the personal proclivities, endless feuding, and jockeying for position among the sons of Feanor and their allies."
"Comport yourself with a little dignity in front of this young woman, please," Galadriel said, her tone sharp but her expression betraying an Age-old affection for the two of them.
Lothíriel said, "I want to know it all-the inspiring as well as salacious."
"Well, then, fair lady, you will have to spend time with us over the course of the journey to Minas Tirith as well as while we are all the guests of the Lady Galadriel here in Lórien," Erestor said.
The late-afternoon sunlight lit the open area, at the base of the tallest tree that housed the dwelling of the Galadriel and Celeborn that Lothíriel had visited the afternoon before. A three-sided, delicately-carved lofty hall, constructed around the trunk of the great tree, bustled with the trudging to and fro of carriers bearing fruits, breads, barrels of wine, and roasted meats. The fragrance of broths simmering wafted from within it its sheltered depths. The sound of laughter reached Lothíriel's ears, so like that of another, but particularly and indefinably belonging to Elrohir. She pivoted to see Elrohir approaching them, guiding his sister by her upper arm, with Elladan walking a few paces behind them.
"Wait! Lothíriel, please do not make any promises to either of those rogues without consulting my brother and me," Elrohir called out.
Elladan passed Elrohir and Arwen to reach Lothíriel first. He bent and kissed her hand. "I see you have met the two who are largely responsible for making us what you see today. Glorfindel instructed us in the arts of war, while Erestor, by his own choice and not any lack of skill, limited himself to the transmission of history and lore." Each of the brothers in turn grabbed the legendary Elves into rough bears hugs, followed by enthusiastic, noisy kisses.
Elrond appearing behind Galadriel, accompanied by Celeborn, interjected, "As their father, of course, while I appreciated the care my dearest friends and colleagues took with my challenging sons, I did what I could to overcome the negative influences of their mentors' personalities and prejudices."
Lothíriel fought hard against speechlessness. She recalled how the handsome King impressed her, yet she still found the spirit to tease him when he danced with her at his coronation. Her brothers had often dipped their heads to hide silent laughter when a grim look from her Uncle Denethor had been greeted with a roll of the eyes by their plucky sister. A certain awe in the presence of the brothers Elrondion the first time she met them dissipated quickly as soon as they addressed her directly. Legolas the first full-blooded elf she had seen filled her with wonder, not only then but still. Yet his company delighted her rather stunning her into silence. She had already begun to feel easy with Galadriel who had spoken with her that afternoon as though to another woman--a younger and far less experienced one indeed--but cajoling her with personal details and confidences.
However, this august company, all together in this mythical place, left her momentarily tongue-tied. She spoke, willing her voice not to falter, "Good afternoon, Lord Elrond, Lord Celeborn."
Celeborn grinned and nodded, with the ease of man who loves women, but knows he is remote from having to deal with any unwanted flirtation. Elrond's mobile features lit with an open, kindly smile, "So, you have met the rest of my household."
"I was just ready to explain to Lothíriel to take care with our golden warrior who is well known to harbor an attraction for darkling, young princesses, who have scarcely left childhood behind," Elrohir said cheekily.
"Must you always confuse rudeness with humor?" Arwen asked, with a marked lack of ire.
Elrohir continued, "Other the other hand, Erestor, unless his recent taste of battle has reawakened baser appetites long held in check, is likely safer company."
"Arwen is right," Elladan sighed. "You are acting a buffoon. Check yourself." Turning to Lothíriel, he added, "My brother reverts to childishness when confronted with this particular indulgent grouping. In the absence of Estel, he has to be content to trifle with Glorfindel and Erestor and try to make you blush."
"I appreciate your attempts to defend me, Elladan. But I think I will have to learn to endure greater challenges than your brother's teasing if I am to survive in our demanding new world," Lothíriel said. "In any case, I suffer far worse torments from my own brothers, although in a more familiar setting and less intimidating circle," she added, looking from Erestor to Glorfindel, hoping that Elrohir's cheeky prattle would not cause them to shun her companionship.
Erestor said, almost as though he could read her thoughts, "I assure that we are less capricious and more tolerant than the lords of Gondor and Belfalas, especially in presence of a fair maid such as yourself. We have far less opportunity to consort with a young woman like you also, so you will find we will exert ourselves to be as agreeable as we can."
Arwen moved to take Lothíriel by the arm, saying, "Meanwhile, there will time enough to become better acquainted later. The princess and I have a project. Estel tells me in his letters that you travel light and he promised to reward your good judgment by assuring you that I will see that you are garbed to suit your station for any social functions while we remain in Lorien. What a lovely figure you have, tall and slender, a seamstress's delight. Shall we take our leave?"
"Thank you, Lady Arwen," Lothíriel replied.
"If you are comfortable addressing my brothers and the Prince of Mirkwood without titles, which I am told you are, then you should be at ease calling me Arwen." Elrohir poked his tongue out at his sister. Elladan flushed slightly, which appeared to amuse Erestor, Glorfindel and Arwen.
"If you like," Lothíriel answered, feeling at ease again, but sparing a sympathetic look in the direction of Elladan. "But only in private. For once we reach Gondor, it would not be fitting for me to address you publicly in such a way."
Arwen and Lothíriel nodded to the others as they walked away. "We will see the rest of you shortly after sunset," Arwen said. Elladan joined them.
"I am sorry," Arwen said to Elladan with a small, affectionate smirk. "You are more sensitive than I remember you." Turning her attention back to Lothíriel, she continued, "So, tell me how do you address your cousin the Lord Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien?"
"Well, I call him Faramir, of course, when I speak to him. If I refer to him among those who are not intimate or in a public place, I would refer to him as the Steward or even Lord Steward. Perhaps, later when there is more society in Ithilien, in similar circumstances I would call him the Prince."
"Good. Then you will call me Arwen to my face and speaking of me in company, you can chose whatever form is considered correct in Gondorian society. And I will expect that you will instruct me on the niceties of protocol. We are all most informal, except for Erestor, whose use of formal titles dates back to Tirion. Despite what he may think, it in no way masks his highly-developed, or some might say over-developed, sense of self-worth."
"Arwen, shame on you," Elladan said. "You are not coaching some fragile, shy, young maiden here. She needs no goading from either you or my brother to deal with Erestor or Glorfindel."
Lothíriel luxuriated in the temperate breeze and fragrant air, while observing to her delight and wonder the similarities and differences between the peredhil brother and sister. She had already decided that she thought Elladan and Arwen were more like one another and their father than Elrohir was. She had also determined that while Elladan most resembled Celeborn in face and form--although certainly not in coloring--that Elrohir had his grandfather's manner.
She was eager to dig out her sketchbook from her luggage before she slept that night and record some of her impressions of all of these glorious examples of the Firstborn. In her imagination, she had begun to think, since arriving in Lothlórien and meeting Galadriel and Celeborn, that Elrohir was more the Sinda and Elladan the Noldo. Silly speculations no doubt. And what does that make me? She recalled how Elladan and Elrohir loved to tease Legolas and call him the Wood-elf, but now she categorized him as well: Sinda also, like Celeborn--slender, tall, strong and light of skin and hair, more alien and remote even than the Noldor, perhaps more open and merry in some ways and yet less transparent and obvious in others.
"Lothíriel, my love," Elladan said, lifting her hand to his lips. She looked up into his eyes and smiled, happy to realize that he had followed them simply in order to a few minutes to be with her away from the searching eyes of the rest of his family and friends. "You are far away. Arwen asked you a question."
"Please forgive me, Arwen. I was lost in my thoughts."
"It is not important. I only asked if you have a color that you prefer. But you can decide soon enough when I show you everything. I have far too many dresses. There will be a color and style to suit any whim or taste," Arwen said, laughing.
"Do not let her force you to do anything, or most particularly, wear anything that makes you feel uncomfortable," Elladan said, his eyes glinting with merriment at Lothíriel's apparent uneasiness.
"Ai, vanya vendë, then we shall see you tonight at the festivities," Erestor said.
"Come with me, Lothíriel," Arwen said, pulling her along by the hand. "We will have a long evening and night to listen to this chatter. Elves can be solemn indeed when it suits their purposes, but have a seemingly infinite capacity for nonsense when they desire only to make merry. See how these two Eldar affect even my solemn oldest brother."
It did not take long given Arwen's decisive taste and the large selection of gowns available to them to find something that would suit. They had jointly decided upon a simply cut tulle-over-silk gown of the palest rose for Lothíriel. Arwen had decided upon a light blue gown for herself, with a slightly more structured bodice. "More support," Arwen has said. "Which you, of course, happily do not need."
Lothíriel then explained to Arwen's amusement that the simple, flowing freer style was referred to as "Elvish" in Minas Tirith and much more popular among fashionable ladies of Dol Amroth, who were quick to use any means at hand to call attention to the legend of their lauded Elven ancestry, than it was in Gondor's capital city.
The younger woman had prattled on about how Arwen's emergence into Minas Tirith society would doubtless case a rise in the star of supposedly Elvish Dol Amroth in fashion, if not politics. Lothíriel sought to explain how Dol Amroth had fallen in favor during last years of the regime of Denethor. She asserted all of that was history in this new epoch in light of Dol Amroth's role in preserving Gondor's coastline and ports and the compliment of Swan Knights so visible in the defense of Minas Tirith.
Lothíriel claimed not to know if this was based upon Denethor dislike in treating with Dol Amroth in this later years was because he was loath to be reminded of his lovely wife's untimely demise or if it was in fact a political question based upon a balance of power between Minas Tirith and the Falas and the Steward's mistrust of his younger son as a "wizard's pupil"-something he had been heard to call Faramir more than once. She explained how Faramir had always been closer to his uncle Imrahil and how Boromir was more trusted by Denethor.
The last thing the princess wished was to appear to lecture Arwen on the political affairs of Gondor. She initially used a method she had developed in her young life of communicating information through gossipy chatter, having noticed that those who considered themselves older and wiser than such a slip of a girl often found it more palatable. She swiftly realized that Arwen saw through her technique when the Elf-lady asked her a series of pointed and thoughtful questions that cut right into the meat of the political points that Lothíriel had tried to make. After that Lothíriel felt more comfortable and Arwen appeared most interested. They briefly discussed economic strengths and weaknesses of the region and worried a bit about any lingering military crises that might arise in the next short period.
Arwen provided more information about the members of the Grey Company in their party than Lothíriel had discovered traveling with them for several weeks. The princess blushed to admit that she had been preoccupied first with Éomer and later with Elladan when she might have learned to know them better. They were both laughed at Lothíriel's descriptions, some flattering and some distinctly not, of the principal players of Gondor.
"My cousin is more of a scholar and statesman than his older brother. Although they both spent their entire adult lives in warlike pursuits," Lothíriel stated. "But you must have met Boromir when he passed through Imladris, did you not?" she asked Arwen.
"I met him briefly," Arwen answered. "But I really did not have the opportunity to draw any strong impression of him. I noted he had the presence of one used to exercising authority and was a fine-looking man."
"Physically, Faramir resembles him strongly but has always been the more handsome of the two. I like to draw. I will show you some of my sketches later. I bought them with me precisely so I can show you what some of the protagonists look like before we arrive in Minas Tirith."
Finally the two returned to the open grassy field surrounding the large Mallorn that held the talan of Galadriel and Celeborn. Twilight was nearly full upon them. Deepening shadows were lit by countless glittering crystal lanterns. Lothíriel caught her breath at the shards of light reflected jewel-like within the leaves of the surrounding Mellyrn. She was reminded of the glory of the starry host described in hymns to Elbereth sang on the beach of Dol Amroth at various festivals throughout her childhood. She recognized snatches of melodies and lyrics in the Silvan tongue that Legolas had shared with her in Minas Tirith. The magic and otherworldliness of her surroundings once again drove all practical thoughts from her mind and when she spotted Elladan walking toward her his flushed cheeks, piercingly silver-bright eyes and dark hair, braided by her own hand, beset her with their beauty. Within this one person she saw an exhilarating blend of the blood of Eldar, Edain and Maia that spoke to her of a unique perfection. She feared her desire for him too prideful to be tolerated, that to reach for him could be to taunt fate. What could she possibly offer?
He took her by the arm and led her away from the center of the gathering. Insisting that they grab drinks and plates of food from the long tables laden with every form of refreshment and find a place where they could sit and talk alone for a while.
"Lothíriel, I heard that you went with my grandmother and looked into her mirror." Elladan said, his face shining with a desperate hopefulness. "Did you see us? Together?"
"Tell me only what you saw of us, my love. You need not reveal everything," Elladan pled of her. The cursed mirror that muddled and confused and revealed nothing before its time--the folly of foresight understood only in hindsight he had often complained. And how much less reliable it must be now in the absence of a ring of power of augment it. But it was the only shred that he had to cling to and just a bit of hope would be comforting.
"Yes, I saw us. We stood high up on a hill in a city of white walls, terraces and towers. Your arm held me firmly against you and your face shining with the brightest light," she said in a quick jumble of words, anger and frustration evident in her voice.
Elladan struggled to control his jubilation, while refusing to give credence to her irritation. Softly, and as cautiously as though he spoke to an armed and dangerous foe, "And what do you think that might have shown you?"
"I am no fool Elladan. I am well read and I have an imagination. I memorized the description as child. I know you know it as well. She recited for him in High Elvish: "'. . . on the green hill of Túna the city of the Elves was built, the white walls and terraces of Tirion; and the highest of the towers of that city was the Tower of Ingwë, Mindon Eldaliéva, whose silver lamp shone far out into the mists of the sea.' Sound familiar, Elladan, or were you too busy wrestling with your brother and fighting with wooden swords to do your lessons?"
"Of course, I recognized it. But I wondered if you did. I might have hoped you found the image pleasing," he said, his voice dropping to barely an anguished whisper.
She grabbed both of his arms, her fingers cutting into them. "That was not all I saw," she answered. "I saw Rohan and Éomer and a child, clearly mine; he resembled both Éomer and my father strongly. There you have the whole thing. What can I make of those visions? They tell me nothing. I do not deserve you, Elladan. You deserve someone far more exalted and grand," Lothíriel said.
"Do not be silly, my love. You have everything I have missed in the last yeni of my life. You are funny, frank, fair and joyful. But I have the unmitigated temerity to try to win you from a valiant, great man, who offers you the future of Arda while I am naught but an agent of its past. Yet I would try to make you happy, take the chance that I could."
"Indeed, glorious Elf-lord, part-Maia, destined to live out all the Ages of Arda in Aman, you expect that I would ask you to give that up?"
"I do not have to be an Elf," Elladan said laughing. "I can be only a Man. The choice is yours."
"I get so tired of that refrain: "only a man." You say it so that I will plead with you that you are so much more than either Man or Elf," Lothíriel said.
He couldn't argue with her. Elladan knew that he did say it far too often, but not for the reasons she suspected. He wanted to remind himself that he could offer her neither a kingdom of Men, nor the peace and immutability that an Elven lover might. Elladan took her hand, so small, but strong, and as yet as unmarred by any mark or scar as that of any fully Elven. "And you, Lothíriel," he said, "you are like me, neither wholly human nor Elf. If we were simply Elves and could do whatever we pleased what would you want . . . then would you want to stay with me?" Suddenly he felt a child or a fool; he felt his eyes clouding and he heard a tremor in his voice.
He forced his gaze to remain on Lothíriel and not to waiver. "What would you choose?" She looked into his eyes and held them with her own. A small hand lightly caressed his cheek. The very last ray of sunlight, shifting through the trees, cast a golden hue upon her unturned face. The smile that she gave him turned bittersweet, while with a single finger she touched a tear in the corner of his eye and wiped it across his cheek.
"Then I would be wholly, completely, unconditionally yours and would beg you to choose for both of us. I would gladly stay with you here or go West with you, because nothing else would matter to me but you."
Elladan's sighed deeply. "If you were not a princess of Gondor and were not loved by the king of Rohan, and I were not Elladan Elrondion, and beholden to my sister and to both of my brothers. . . " he said, his voice now clear and strong. "And, if you did not expect to become a queen, if you had no ambition, and no dreams except of love, who then who would we be? It's all nonsense. Would we even care for one another if we were not all the things that we are?"
"It is too late," Lothíriel said. "Too late for me to change how I feel about you and yet too late for me to turn my back on all the promises I have made. And I do love him." Elladan took a step back, sought to control his breathing, and his facial expression. He did not speak for a time, more than certain he could not control his voice. Finally, he released a sigh and took a chance.
"So, you will go back to Éomer." Of course, you will. I knew you would and you knew I knew.
"If he will have me."
"Oh, he will have you." Silly, foolish girl. Your bright, young king took a brave gamble and he won.
"But what of us?"
"You tell me." He would not permit himself to touch her, although he longed to do so. The point beyond which he would attempt to impel her had passed. Pain swept over him at the realization that she feared as well to reach for him. The next move is yours, princess. But, you have never lacked for courage have you? As he thought she would, she jerked her chin upward and spoke.
"We still have this. We have Lothlórien. Two more days." Her voice quavered as she choked back tears.
Elladan laughed. "Yes. We have two more days. Who is dafter? You or I?" He pulled her into his arms and held her against him, pressing her head against his chest, inhaling the light, fresh scent of her hair, aware of a new sweetness in her uncertainty, that touched him at least as much as the clever self-assurance, unusual even among Elleth he had known, that first had caught his attention. "That is not a fair question. I am far older, but I am no wiser, which undoubtedly proves that I am even madder than you are."
"From whence comes your madness, my gorgeous, adorable Elf-lord? I know my own well enough, but I do not understand yours?"
"From the first time I saw you in the Houses of Healing, when I did not know if you were a woman grown or still a child, an Elleth or a Mortal, I loved you. Your face so beautiful, yet smeared with grime and gore, and your gown and apron as blood-soaked as those of a butcher's assistant on market day. Your kerchief had slipped to one side revealing the color of your hair and one Elvish ear." The animation returned to her eyes and the color to her cheeks. Irrepressible--that's part of why I love you.
Then Lothíriel looked up at him, her visage radiant, and said. "I well recall. That was one horrible night-of death and its revolting stench. You and your brother came straight in from the Pelennor seeking to help Aragorn. Ai, I'll never forget the sight of the two of you, as far out of my reach as a pair of stars. I had never seen such fearsome beauty. You especially in your Elvish battle gear. Elrohir had a somewhat milder look but you, with your blazing eyes and grim expression, wearied but still determined and proud, looked like a Fëanorian warrior of old to me."
He jerked his head back in surprise and took her face in his hands. She looked as innocent as babe of the impact of her remark. He could not restrain a deep laugh.
"And you found that appealing?" he asked, feeling an uncontrollable grin spread over his face.
"I am embarrassed to say I did. Remember I was still quite a girl the first time I saw you. When I heard the tales of Fëanor and his sons, I always found them so attractive in their determination, not to mention the descriptions in the ancient manuscripts of their physical attributes."
"Lothíriel, please do not repeat any of that to my grandfather; my father might tolerant such remarks better. Indeed, he might even be persuaded to tell you of the fire and beauty--even in their decline and despair--of Maedhros and Maglor." He laughed again at the sight of her furrowing brow and exaggerated pout. "So that is what interested you in me? I believed you loved me for myself. Now I discover it is only my Finwean blood that interests you. That you thought I might be similar to one of Fëanor's sons? Which one did you fancy I resembled?"
"No. You're infuriating." She punched him on the upper arm. She then raised herself up onto her toes and took his face in her hands to give him a teasing kiss. "No. You walked up behind Aragorn and touched him on the shoulder. When he turned, you kissed him on temple, so gentle and tender, as though he were but a boy. The love in your eyes took my breath away. I thought of how I had always wanted someone who could love with such intensity."
"So, it was my love for my foster brother that made you love me?"
"It was your capacity to love. And I have never loved you less from that day to this, even on the days when I find it hard to like you." She tried to adopt a teasing tone and make light of the emotion of the moment, but a single tear betrayed her.
Faramir entered his bedroom agreeably tired. It had been a challenging, if difficult week, ending with both the Steward and the King in high spirits, pleased with one another and themselves at their accomplishments. One young and one old warrior, each with an inclination to intellectualism, through wits, charm and cajolery had been no match for the motley mix of soldiery, diplomats and bureaucrats they had been forced to engage. He dined alone with Aragorn and stayed to drink for a while. Faramir had left the King's quarters moderately intoxicated. I must remember next time that Aragorn has a far better head for alcohol than I do. Aragorn expected his bride within a few weeks and had spoken of his elation at the thought in an unembarrassed and frank manner. Faramir missed Éowyn, but a quick calculation earlier in the day revealed to him that he also must only wait another three weeks or so for her return to Minas Tirith. I will sleep well tonight.
He did fall easily asleep. The dream found him in an unrecognizable environment of moonlight and golden leaves. He leaned over his cousin Lothíriel, looking down upon her face transported with desire, her arms reaching up to him. Even in a dream he recoiled from the thought of making love to his close kinswoman before almost immediately realizing that he was not the lover in the dream. The man in the dream, however, had nothing about him of the fëa of Éomer that he occasionally had sensed. At that moment his body became his own again and the face he gazed upon transformed into that of Éowyn.
Faramir woke up suddenly, completely sober and perspiring, with his night clothes twisted uncomfortably around him and his legs tangled in the sheets. The experience of such dreams dated back to his early childhood becoming more vivid as he aged. He only spoke to Boromir of them, after he had first mentioned them to his father who scolded him--a gruff but affectionate attempt at reassurance--saying they portended nothing beyond an overactive imagination and a fondness for eating sweets too late at night.
Boromir comforted him when he would wake up crying as a child after one of the more frightening ones, like the dream of the great wave. The brothers began to call the good or neutral ones dreams of foresight. The negative ones they referred to as dreams of foreboding. In time they recognized some of them as a reflection of a collective memory of those whose ties to Numenor were strongest.
Their inability to interpret the vast majority of them until the event they foreshadowed loomed upon them resulted in endless speculative, frustrating discussions. This time he would speak to Aragorn or Mithrandir who perhaps knew more of such things than he did. He left his bed to wash his face and drink some water before returning to sleep until dawn.
vanya vendë - Quenya - beautiful maiden
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