5. Day 11: Freedom of Religion
The day had been long and filled with tension and great anxiety from the start-- at long last the culmination of many long weeks of deceit and lies and subterfuge. If he had to be honest with himself, he felt entirely drained. Since Elenwe's announcement of the warrant placed upon her brother, he had been unable to sleep properly, or eat, or work. In the Numenor they lived in, treason by the one was taken to be treason by all, and devising ways to distract Pharazon away from the rest of the family had been intense labor.
One that he would undertake a thousand times over, he thought as he looked across the room at Elenwe-- his wife, heavens!-- who sat by the window undoing her elaborate braids. It was impossible not to smile, and trying to appear dignified all day had been a strain. He did not want the King to think he was marrying entirely out of convenience, but he could not let Sauron know the extent of his feelings lest he endanger her. As he watched her fumble with the pins and get frustrated he noticed, for the first time since that morning weeks ago, just how weary and tired she seemed.
"Here, let me," he said, walking to stand beside her, then undoing one of the hair clasps for her. It took only a moment before he noticed. "Are you shaking?"
Her hands fell upon her lap, but even then the trembling would not be stilled. He knelt beside her then, took her hands in his.
"I never thought Pharazon would believe us," she finally said. "And Sauron... All through the ceremony I could feel his eyes on me... He knows we've hidden Emeldil. He knows you've done it to save my family from death. I told you, Anarion! I was prepared to accept my fate, but you had to be brave and noble, you had to be hopeful--"
"I would have never let them take you, Wen."
"I should never have told you in the first place!" she cried, removing her hands from his grasp and covering her face. "The only reason I did-- I thought-- I wanted to say goodbye if they came for us... Parting would have been bitter if I had not seen you one more time."
"Do you think your hiding it from me would have been enough to stop me from doing something?"
She let out a bitter chuckle, more akin to a sob.
"How your grandfather convinced the King to give his consent, I shall never understand," she said. "He must still care for him very much. Oh, that ridiculous law! You would think that one's dowry would be one's own business."
"Well, once the King understood we knew of his grazing his cattle in your property, he could hardly back off the deal. With myself supposedly controlling the estate now, he seemed to think it would remain hushed."
"You bribed the King... I still cannot believe you would do something like that."
"It's not the first time--"
"Do not even tell me, I have no wish to know... Too many dealings with the King and his right-hand man are enough to upset the easiest of tempers, and mine is not one of them."
"Your own fault for being related to him and having to ask for his consent," Anarion said, letting his fingertips trail up her waist to twine in that glossy tendril that had escaped her braid. "You see, now, there is hardly anything in this world that power cannot overcome. I knew our King could not resist the allure of adding those covetable pieces of property your father left you to his own, eventually. We'll have to let him have them now, but I promise you I'll make it up to you."
"Make it up to me? I owe you my life, Anarion, my whole family owes you. Do you think the King would have let us live for Emeldil's treason? That fool does not know what he has done to us, to you," she said. Was it his fancy, or had her voice lowered to a whisper? "Can you be proud of your brother, and hate him at once?"
"I do it all the time," he whispered in her ear in turn, but she only rose to stand by the window.
"You are as much a fool as he," she said, her voice colored with a strange emotion Anarion had never heard in it. "By allying yourself to me you have put yourself and your family in the wolf's eye. He will be watching you now, waiting for you to trip."
"Would you stop that?" she cried, turning to watch him as she pounded her fist against the wall. "Since we were children I have been in awe of your self-assuredness, but this is not child's play, Anarion. You could die! All your family could die for this deception--"
"What deception do you mean, Elenwe?"
"Sauron knows," she said, turning fully to him. It was clear now that she was crying. "How could I let you go along with this, ruining your life so selfishly... Sauron knows. He knows this marriage is a sham and he will hunt you for it, hunt you to find out why you did it--"
"What's a sham is that ridiculous mockery they made us perform. That is no marriage."
Another one of those choked chuckles and he, truthfully, could not believe his good fortune. Crossing the distance between them, he took her in his arms as he had always wished, smiled to himself when he found her willing.
"Maybe you went along with it because you love me too?" he said as he nuzzled against her neck, smiling as he heard her choked laughter. At least it was progress. He ran his palm over her cheeks, wiping away tears.
"I would die for you, Elenwe, and suffer any sort of torture or humiliation, but I think I prefer this," he said, cradling her against him. "I was rather fortunate marriage was one of the legal routes that helped us save Emeldil. This plight only hastened my choice, but did not make it for me. Don't you know how I've always loved you?"
"And I you, my darling fool," she said, nuzzling more tightly against him, "After all we've gone through, I thought this would never happen. I gave up hope years ago..."
"Only because I am a crazy rebel like your brother. You don't deserve this sort of life."
"I would not have it any other way."
"Marry me, then."
She looked up, puzzled.
"Marry me, properly, the way the Powers intended for Man and Woman to be joined," he said, taking from his pocket two golden bands and hastening to remove the band he now wore, the one that false official had bestowed upon him that morning. Elenwe quickly followed suit, the smile she beamed his way reminding him how wrong he had been, thinking he could make it through this life without her near him.
Releasing her, he rushed to close the windows, first making sure there was no one about to hear them when they spoke the Pledge, then walked to the center of the room, held out one of the rings to her.
"We do it now in secret," he whispered, "hoping that some day all our sacrifices will buy us the freedom to do it publicly for our children."
"Let the One hear you," she said, and reached for his hand.