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Stardust - Book I: 10. The Weight of Choice, Part 3
Despite her pique and her ill feelings toward Hiranion, Terisda began to venture out from her rooms more often. She took most meals with her husband's kin, made appropriately indulgent comments about their little orcs where necessary (although the children were perfectly aware of her insincerity and stuck out their tongues at her when their parents weren't looking), and tried to temper her impatience as she waited for the King's pronouncement regarding her fate. She was especially gentle, or as gentle as one of her variable temperament could be, with Andina, for the other woman appeared very fragile. Occasionally Terisda wondered if Andina, too, regarded Hiranion's future plans with suspicion.
After the evening meal Hiranion would escort her to the door of her suite, but she did not open it until he took his leave and no matter how loquacious he was feeling that evening she waited in the hallway until he ran out of words to speak and was forced to depart. He was simply being solicitous of the widow, she told herself, opening the door as his footsteps creaked back down the stairs. That was all there was to it. Still she doubted, and so remained cautious in his presence.
Then she would close the door, and like as not her lover would be there, and Hiranion would become the least important thing in her life for a few hours.
There were still times when she cried in his arms, for doing this with anyone other than Hirgon would sporadically strike her as very peculiar. Legolas would simply hold her close and stroke her hair and murmur to her in Elvish, and peace would come over her heart again. Yet he would never tell her what it was he said.
This evening she at first thought he was not there, but she was not disturbed because he always came before the night was done. She went into her bedroom, but caught some small noise as soon as she crossed the threshold, and quickly turned. This time when she scanned the outer room Legolas was leaning against the window with his hands behind him, and she did not know if he had just come in or if he had been there from the first but chose not to be seen. Terisda set one fist at her waist and tried to be severe. "One day the person who walks in will be a maid, or even Hiranion, and then where will you be?"
"Long gone," the Elf laughed. "I can tell when it's you, Torrey."
She started to ask how, then paused. He might say something sweet about the lightness of her footsteps, but it was equally likely he would claim to be able to scent her through two doors -- and there were some things about the keenness of Elvish senses she would rather not know.
"The stars are bright in the sky tonight," he told her with just a touch of yearning, and when she thought on it she realized it had not been so very long since she had lain under the night sky with him. "I do not want to waste them cooped up in here. Come out with me."
She regarded him sourly, mindful that she was dealing with someone who could shimmer with light one minute and disappear without a trace into the darkness the next, and who therefore was not likely to appreciate the limitations of movement that bound a mere mortal. "And how do you propose to go? I do not have your delicacy of step, and those stairs will give me away."
"It would be a difficult thing for even an Elf to tread those silently," Legolas agreed gravely. "It will have to be the window, then."
Although she said nothing, she crossed her arms and tapped her foot, and her expression spoke volumes. Humor danced across his features, and he placed one hand over his breast. "I promise you will take no hurt."
"Can you also promise we will not be seen?"
"Yes," he answered promptly, and he brought out his other hand from behind his back, and in it was a small cloth square which, when shaken out, proved to be a gray mantle very like the one he often wore. He cast it about her, and it completely enveloped her. Standing back, he nodded in satisfaction. "There. It is a cloak of Lothlorien. None will see you come or go. We can walk through the halls, thumb our noses at Hiranion, and he will never notice as we dance out the front door."
"If he manages to ignore the squeaking stairs, he might still be cognizant of the door opening and closing on its own." She gathered handfuls to hold the hem off the floor. "Of course, when I trip over this and fall at his feet, that might also provide some small inkling."
"None of your contrary thoughts, Torrey. We can be as free as we like tonight. All you have to do is trust me." He held out his hands to her.
"Oh, is that all," Terisda gibed mildly, making no move towards him.
But he was suddenly next to her, although she did not see him move, and his hands closed about her waist. "Close your eyes, faint-hearted one."
Terisda meant to keep them open for spite, but he leapt up on the window's edge with her in his arms, and she gave a small shriek as she looked down into the dark street, and her eyes scrunched shut of their own accord. There was a breath of a chuckle in her ear, then a strange sensation as wind hit her face and fluttered the cloak about, before all became still. She opened one eye, then both, staring about in amazement. Legolas yet held her, but they were in the middle of the street underneath her window. Apart from the sensation of wind she had not felt as if she were falling, nor had she been aware of the sensation she most dreaded, that of stopping suddenly at the end of the fall. She looked on him with awe. "Your kind can fly, can't they?"
Legolas laughed his soft laugh. "Perhaps we float a little, but only birds fly." Setting her down, he took a moment to adjust the cloth about her face. "Now don't trip! If you go sprawling I shall have to laugh at you, and that will give us both away. Come!"
He took her by the hand, and it seemed he was right about Lothlorien cloaks, for although they sometimes came very near people in the streets and paths, none saw them. Even the soldiers guarding the different levels appeared unaware of their passage. Indeed, if not for Legolas's fingers around hers, Terisda would have lost him a time or two, for though she knew where to look there were moments when she could behold no demarcation between the Elf and the shadows through which he walked.
In time they stood without the walls, and turned back to look up at the torches ringing the edges of each of the city's great circles, and the light from the torches reflected off the great white tower so that it gleamed in the night much as it did during the day. Minas Tirith had become a brighter place since the arrival of the King. She mentioned this to Legolas, and the Elf smiled. "Aragorn seeks to take away the gloom of too many dark years, and perhaps to create a bit of Elvish luster. He was raised in Rivendell, the most sparkling of all Elven cities, and he misses its white walls and bright gardens."
Terisda looked at him sharply, for she suddenly recalled his speech when they first met, about bringing birds and plants to the city once Aragorn came into his own, but she never before equated this Aragorn with the King. "You travel among great company," she told him, and he smiled again, and brought her fingers to his lips. "When I am with you, most certainly," he said easily, and she blushed, but she also laughed and slapped his arm and told him sternly to stop being silly.
He pulled on her hand, and she followed him again, and he brought her to a place she recognized from the night before he left for Mordor. There he divested her of her cloak, laying it carefully to one side, but he was more careless with his own, tossing it on the ground and then catching her up in his arms, gently laying her down upon it and reclining at her side. Reaching up, she pulled the single tie at his neck, and gold spilled around his face. She ran her fingers through the shining strands, marveling again at the fine texture, and he closed his eyes and nestled his head against her hand, a small pleasured hum in his throat. Such simple things please him. Actions that would drive a Man to madness leave him unmoved, but just skim fingers in his hair and he melts. Smiling, she stroked to the nape of his neck and gently smoothed the skin there, and he arched up and moaned softly. "I think I have your measure now, Lord Elf. As often as you did this to me, I finally realized it must be something that brought pleasure to you."
He dropped his head and caught her mouth with his. "You may have my full measure, and soon," he promised against her lips, and delighted shivers coursed through her.
She looked over his shoulder at the bright sparks in the sky, and the pale moon hanging low over the mountains. "You don't want to see the stars?" she teased lightly.
The ends of his smooth hair brushed back and forth against her as he shook his head. "What need have I of stars when you shine--so bright." He drew one of his fingers down the side of her face, curled a knuckle under her chin as he smiled softly down at her. "I have always been drawn to the light." Then his smile was against her mouth again, and his hands traced gently from her face to her throat and shoulders and parts beyond, and she closed her eyes and let her own hands wander where they would.
His care of her was exquisite. He held her until she thought she was dissolving from pleasure, and the moon over them began to vanish into the deep darkness, and the stars shone more brightly, although she did not see them even when her eyes were open. But Legolas saw them reflected there, and the sight fueled his ardor, so that there was no strength left in him when passion peaked, and he rested against her heavily, deep breaths brushing her ear. Spent, she soothed the back of his neck once more with lazy fingers, and he shuddered and stretched and smiled with his mouth against her skin.
"I wish we could stay like this forever," she finally murmured.
"Do you, little one?"
"At this moment, yes. Then dawn would come, and we would be wet with dew and cramped from sleeping out in the open, and I don't care what magic is woven into your Elven cloaks, they would be hard put to get us unseen through Minas Tirith in the broad daylight."
Laughter shook him, although he tried to muffle it against her neck. "Well, I suppose we must leave before these dire things come to pass, but we can linger a little yet." He turned a bit so that she no longer bore his weight, and put his arm under her head for a pillow, shifting her into a more comfortable position. With her knees across his thighs and his body curved around hers and his hand resting cool and heavy just under her ribs, she felt protected and well cared for. She marveled, not for the first time, at how considerate he was after coupling, and thought more women should have an Elven lover at least once in their lifetimes.
After a while, he began to sing softly in Elvish. She was close to slumber, and his lilting voice kept her from it. Thinking ruefully that women with Elvish lovers got very little sleep, Terisda decided there was something to be said for Men as well, since they did not need quite so much company once bedded. Yet the song was pleasant, and though sleep eluded her the words gave her peace, and she was content. "What are you singing?" she asked, not expecting an answer, but after a pause he began again, only this time the words were in the Common Tongue:
His breath caught. Legolas broke off, and his hand on her stomach clenched.
"Don't stop," she protested sleepily, half-dozing. "I was listening. Does he find her?"
His body was taut as a bowstring. At first he muttered in Elvish, the words wondering, then he swallowed, hard. When he spoke again, it was in the Common Tongue, and his voice shook. "It's happened, Torrey. It is done."
Her mind was so fogged still she did not take his meaning. It was sometimes a little too easy to forget, in his care of her, that there was cold purpose behind their lovemaking. But the import came to her in a rush, and she was suddenly wide awake. She pulled away enough to be able to see his face, and she nearly cried out, for he was shimmering with light, and it hurt to look upon him. Then the glow faded to a soft glimmer, and she was able to gaze into his face and voice the question that burned in her. "Are you sure?"
His hand stroked over the soft curve of her belly, then his lips touched her temple. "Yes. Quite sure. Where there was one bright spirit before, now there are two." His voice was steadier, and his next words were as practical as any Terisda ever spoke herself. "I can wish a son for you, since your kind set so much on this, but I cannot promise one."
"Any child will be a comfort."
"I am glad," he murmured, and he was quiet for a time. Then he set his mouth against her ear and breathed into it: "Already it is hard to let the two of you go." And her heart almost stopped at that, for although she did not love him, and could not think that he loved her, they had gone through much together in a short time. There was a delicate bond between them, but with the accomplishment of their goal it was already tearing, and she too felt the bitter pang of the coming parting that would completely sever it. Then Legolas spoke again, and there was a musing quality to his tone, as if he thought out loud. "I am considering bringing some of my people to Ithilien." At her glance of alarm he gave a rueful grin and hastened to reassure her. "I do not mean to camp under your window, Torrey! But I have heard much of the forests of the southern regions, and I think tending the trees there may be a good life for one of my kind. It is still a couple of weeks away from your lands at hard canter, so do not fret. I will not trouble you without reason."
Touching his fair face gently with her fingers, she thought sadly it might be the last time she stroked his smooth skin. "I have oft thought I chose well when I chose you."
The corners of his eyes slanted up with his amusement, and he pressed his mouth softly against her palm, and despite her satiation that made her shiver anew. "Yes, you did, didn't you? Come, my lady; now we must be off. There is a window to heft you through, and taking you up will be far more difficult than getting you down."
The outer walls usually had an Elf present first thing, but this morn it was one of the sons of Elrond who stood tall in the early morning rays, his dark hair streaming behind him, his eyes cast not upon sun or gull but looking afar, toward the Elven land of Lorien. There was a relaxed air about him, and he hummed a bit as he gazed into the distance.
"'Lúthien and Beren'?" queried a voice from the stairs. "That's a melancholy lay for such a bright day, Elladan."
"I must have heard it recently, for it's been on my mind. And a 'good morning' to you, too, slug-a-bed."
"Hardly," said Elrohir dryly, stepping into the light where Elladan stood, and his eyes followed the same line as that of his brother's. "I've been abroad this past hour. It's an odd thing, but the cloak that I had from Grandfather when last we visited Lothlorien has walked away on its own."
"It will find its way back. Anyway, 'tis a mild morn. You have no need of it."
"Well, in my search for it, I came across Imrahil and spoke with him for a time. It was Mithrellas."
Elladan appeared blank for a moment, then his face cleared. "Nimrodel's handmaiden, wasn't she? I remember her. She went over the sea about the time Grandmother and Grandfather became Lord and Lady of Lorien."
"Evidently she left a pledge or two behind ere she crossed," drawled Elrohir. "Although he seemed to assume she simply died at some point, Imrahil knows her name and claims descent from her. He finds the old family legend that she was an Elf quaint and amusing. More like that she was a simple maid, says the Prince, and the story made up by his forefather to give her status. Given that, there is no reason for him to even suspect she still lives."
"I suppose death is the sensible assumption for a Man to make," murmured Elladan. "But mortality is not a choice offered to many Elves."
They turned as one, and both propped their hands against the wall and leaned back, arching their necks and studying the gulls, the expressions on their faces so matched that, in that moment, even their closest kin would have experienced difficulty in telling them apart. "Anything?" one finally murmured to the other.
"Nothing," came the response. "They are just birds. Extremely loud, extremely messy birds."
"How odd it is, that none would mistake us for Men, and we do not consider ourselves as such -- and yet, it seems the mortal blood is strongest in us, after all."
That brought a silver-toned laugh. "Nay, I think it is that we are more venturesome than our fellow Elves, brother. Few of our kind travel beyond the lands of their birth, and those that do go only to the Grey Havens to take ship to Valinor. We, however, have spent most of our long lives roaming Middle Earth, hewing orcs and undertaking quests."
A rueful smile turned up the corners of a chiseled mouth. "Very true! If we went to Valinor, we would like-as-not be the first Elves to ever die of boredom, and then we would end up in the Halls of Mandos for our pains and be more bored than ever! If we are to die anyway, it is better for it to be here. Perhaps there will be more adventures waiting for us past the veiling shadows of Man's Doom."
"Our uncle did think it was Gift, not Doom."
The dark heads turned, and the two regarded each other, but after a brief somber glance neither appeared the least disturbed. One smiled brightly. "We are in accord, then?"
There was a soft answering smile. "We can be mortal without being Men," agreed the other lightly. "So. That decided, I think we might consider Estel's request to go to Lorien. He is more tolerant than others of his kind, but that does not make him the most patient of beings."
"I await to see what he will do about the widow."
And, though there were many widows in Gondor after the wars, there was no question in the other's mind about which widow was meant. The gaze he leveled at his brother held as much warning as amusement. "She has directed her own fate in part, brother, although whether it be gift or doom only time will tell."
"Yet I am curious. And so I will tarry a while longer. Let us tell Estel we leave when the Riders do, and that will satisfy him for a bit."
1. Whether or not Elves are so sensitive that they can tell someone is pregnant just by looking at her is sheer speculation on my part. Likewise, whether or not they decide consciously to make babies is also speculation. The idea(s) came from Elves celebrating the date of their conception rather than the date of their birth. I sorta wondered how they could possibly *know* the *exact* date of their conception, and a lot of this story stemmed from that!
2. Legolas is singing a fragment of the story of Lúthien and Beren. Lúthien was an Elf, Beren was a Man, they had lots of adventures together, and eventually one son. Beren is where the "half-elven" part of Elrond's (and Elladan's and Elrohir's) heritage comes from, although it's really more "seven-eighths" or so elven. ;;^^
3. The twins have only a small bit to do with this story, but they have their own agenda and keep insisting on being involved! Damn sneaky elf brats...
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