1. Giving to Gain
Well I have known this for so long, so very long. Her hair is long and straight and shines with health; she releases it from the catches that hold the locks in place upon her head and I watch them tumble down her back. She turns her head to pull her hair over her shoulder and her profile is delicate and pale, the rouge upon her cheeks stark against her skin. Her pink lips are drained of color now, pursed together; her grey eyes, so unique, beautiful, and calculating, are cast downward.
These are not expressions suited to a newly wed wife.
I will not be angry.
I touch her pale shoulder and trace the curve to the back of her neck, and feel the stiffness there. “You are troubled,” I murmur, lowering my head to the crook of her collarbone. She smells of yavannamírë and the oils she uses to soften her skin. “We are already married; there is no need to remain so cold towards me.”
I have loved her since the first time I saw her. Every curve of her body, every movement she makes is a joy to look upon. She is so beautiful and refined; I cannot stop watching. I wish to touch her fineness, and I do, stroking her hair, slipping a hand to her waist.
But she shares not my passion. She shifts upon the bed, flinching carefully away from my hands. “Only a fool would call this marriage,” she says in a voice flat and hard. “You are married only to my beauty.”
Her words are sharp and cruel, and a stab of anger flashes through me. “Think you it wise to speak to your husband so, Inzilbêth?” I say with more vinegar than I mean to.
“I care not. I married you only because you demanded it of me, and of my father,” she replies, turning her head away. “I do not know you; I do not wish to know you.”
My fingers tighten on her side and I gently fist a hand in her silken hair; I grit my teeth. But I force myself to stop and consider her words. I want to understand my lovely Inzilbêth, so long admired from afar. I want her to love me. I want her to desire me even as I desire her.
But is it just as I was cautioned? Is she so stiff-necked that she will not accept me, even when we share a bed? All day she was so cold, so silent; her gaze was venom for me. She spoke her vows with a sharp tongue and saved her bittersweet smiles for her family and the wine. She said nothing to me, but I dismissed it at the time; we both had our responsibilities as bride and groom. But now I wonder if perhaps she is angry at more than simply being taken from her family and friends. Perhaps her grievance against me is more personal.
Perhaps it is true that she is one of the Nimruzîrim.
It matters not; they will be rooted out in time, and this one is pinioned if it is so. But if she considers herself a captive here in my palace, my bedroom, my arms, I will have her a willing captive. She is my beautiful Inzilbêth, and I love her.
“If you do not know me, how is it you can be so certain you do not wish to know me?” I murmur, my fingers unclenching. “Here, you must be sore and tired from standing so long in such a dress today.” And such a fine dress it was, billowing and accentuating, setting off her pale skin and fine figure gloriously. “I shall massage your neck.”
She wavers as if unsure of what to do with my offer, and I take the chance to gently press my thumbs against the place where her neck joins her shoulders; she sighs. “Stay your hands, my lord Gimilzôr,” she says with little force. “I have not yet given you my consent.”
“What have you to fear?” I ask, sensing a breach in her cold exterior. “I am no monster. I will not force you to anything you do not wish to do.”
“Except marry you,” she says bitterly.
I press my fingers into her neck carefully, and move them in circles; she shrugs her shoulders and leans forward, away from my fingers, but does not protest. “Forgive me,” I say. “You may consider it my first and last demand.” And I mean it. I will not force her. It will only make her hate me more.
She considers this. “I do not trust you,” she says after a moment.
“Let me earn your trust,” I reply. “We must both give a little, or nothing can be gained.” It is one of the wisest things my mother ever told me.
There is a brief silence, and then she raises her hands behind her, pressing them against mine, forcing them to still against her neck; she turns to meet my gaze, and her eyes are deep and fathomless, and considering. She lowers her hands slowly into her lap, and I let mine fall from her shoulders. “I have given you much already,” she says. Her voice is quiet, but there is steel in her tone. “I have given you my word that I will live with you unto the end of my days. Now, it is your turn to give me something.”
I find myself balking briefly. I am a prince of Númenor, and the successor to the king, and this woman, my wife, demands that I give her something besides my hand in marriage and the honor of being the future queen? But perhaps to her fair eyes the first was something stolen from her, and the second is an unworthy gift. I again quell my anger. I want her to love me; I will not drive her away. “What is it that I must give? Ask and it is yours, if it is in my power to give.”
A tiny smile as if at a private joke graces her lips. “It is in your power,” she says. “I ask that you give me your patience.”
I open my mouth to speak, but she raises a hand to silence me, and I wait. “I say I do not wish to know you, but you say, and with more wisdom than I had credited you with, that we must both give something to gain. So, I will try to come to know you, if you will wait to know me intimately.”
She is suggesting that we wait to consummate our marriage! Again I start to speak, and again she gestures for silence. “Hear me out! You wish to have my trust, do you not?”
I am angry, but she is right. “This is foolishness,” I say, keeping my tone cool to hide my roiling emotions. “The consummation is vital. To put it off is to invite discord!”
“You will have discord if you force me,” she replies evenly, her expression blank and controlled. “Perhaps I can love you, my lord Gimilzôr, and perhaps I cannot, but do not drive me away before I have found out.”
I tremble with rage for a moment, but I cannot decide if I am angry with her, or angry with myself, or angry with her beauty for making me desire such a cold woman so much! But perhaps there is hope. I soothe myself with the notion.
Nonetheless, it is some time before I can speak again. “Then stay no more upon my bed tonight,” I say when I find my voice. “You tempt me cruelly with your beauty.”
She nods, gathers herself with dignity, and wraps her silk robes around herself, rising to her feet and crossing the room to the door to ask for an escort to her chambers. I admire her ankles, her feet, and her hands – indeed, all that is visible of her. She slides her feet into her slippers, and I mourn the loss.
Someday we will know each other, and she will desire it.
“My lord,” she says when her lady in waiting comes to escort her, “I thank you for your kindness. Perhaps my father was wrong about you.” And then she is gone with a whisper of cloth and a shrewd smile, and I am alone with my desire and the scent of yavannamírë.
“And regarding you, my lovely snowbound wife,” I murmur to the empty room, “Regarding you, perhaps my father was right.”
* * *
yavannamírë - a red, round fruit that could be found in the southern lands of Numenor.
Nimruzîrim – the Faithful of Numenor. Inzilbeth was part of a Faithful family, but Gimilzor, like his father, hated the Valar and sought evil ways.
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.