The Undying Lands - (chapter 38)

In Tarma's room, the dark elf lay on his bed, his head pounding as he thought of all that had happened since he had first seen Ariengil. Flashes of visions of the past came into his mind.
Harma and Tarma as children, the two on a trip to Rivendell with their parents; Harma and Ariengil meeting for the first time in Lothlórien, while Tarma watched jealously from the trees; Harma being told that as he was older than Tarma, by minutes, he would inherit all of the family's riches, while Tarma listened jealously; the twins' mother being slain by their father's friend; their family grieving, and Harma being comforted by their father while Tarma watched silently; Harma and Tarma leaving home, and Harma being given a sword by his father while Tarma was given a dagger; Harma receiving honours for fighting while Tarma stayed as a foot soldier; Harma being honoured among the King's men, while Tarma was asked to become a messenger; Harma's love leaving to the Undying Lands and not even saying goodbye to his twin; Tarma murdering his twin brother as Ariengil screamed for him; Ariengil crying for Harma and hating Tarma.
All of his life, Tarma had been jealous of Harma, and nothing changed now although he had the most important thing to his twin. As Tarma thought of Ariengil, she knocked on his door and called his name.
`Tarma,' came the gentle voice, `I would like to ask you something.'
`Come in, my dear,' he replied, as he promised himself that he would not use any violence, but would make Ariengil fall in love with him through her own accord, as she had done for Harma.
`I was thinking it would be more interesting if the ball was a masked ball, would that be possible?'
`Of course, but I have something I would like to ask of you.'
Ariengil cringed, but looked up into Tarma's eyes, trying to threaten him. `What do you ask of me?'
`I would like you to be my partner to the ball, if you would agree.'
`Oh,' exclaimed Ariengil, surprised that this was the only request. `Of course.'
`Great,' replied Tarma with genuine affection. `Your dresses will be here in a little while, would you like something to drink while you wait for them?'
Ariengil accepted and Tarma walked to his cupboard, which contained wine- a man's drink- and goblets. He poured to cups and offered one to Ariengil. With cautiousness, Ariengil took the cup and made as though to drink.
However, the girl did not drink as she was worried, but when she saw Tarma take a gulp of his drink, she too drunk some. The wine was sweeter than any she had tasted before, but it seemed stronger too and she was worried that she would have no control over her actions if she drunk too much.
Luckily, Ariengil was saved by a knock on the door and a large lady walking in. The woman, who did not seem to be an elf but a human, was carrying two dresses- one in pink, and one in blue. They looked spectacular and Ariengil gasped as the woman held them up.
`Thank you so much,' gasped Ariengil, turning to Tarma with a smile on her face.
`Any time,' replied Tarma happily, `you have not long before the ball, you had best hurry to your friend. Send her my regards. I will send along two carved masks soon.
`Also, I will meet you outside your friends room soon, for I, too, must prepare for the ball.'
Ariengil left with a smile on her face and the two dresses over her arm. Just before she reached Nieninque's room, the lady who had given her the dresses called to her.
`Young lady,' she called. `I figure you would like some help to dress and to do your hair. So I'll help you.'
`Thank you very much,' replied Ariengil as she opened the door to the room.
Nieninque and Eala, who had been seated on the bed, stood up as Ariengil came in, and both smiled. Eala was about to speak, but the lady entered and gasped, throwing her hand to her mouth as she gasped.
`A man!' she screamed. `In your room.'
`Not to worry, madam,' replied Ariengil sweetly, `he is just a friend who helped us. Goodbye Eala, see you later. Bring a mask.'
Eala bowed to the lady, Nieninque and Ariengil, and kissed Ariengil's hand before he left. Nieninque turned to Ariengil, squealing, and took the pink dress, holding it up to her and spinning in a circle.
`It is gorgeous,' she cried happily. `Who made it? It is a work of art.'
`Thank you,' replied the woman. `It was I who made it.'
`And who are you?' asked Nieninque.
`Humph.'
`I'm sorry that sounded rude,' interrupted Ariengil quickly. `What she meant to say,' she continued, glaring at Nieninque, `was what may we call you?'
`That's alright dear,' answered the lady, although she still scowled at Nieninque. `You may call me Hana. Right, you two get your dresses on and I'll shut the door.' Hana walked with a couple of strides to the door, peered outside, presumably for more men, and shut it quickly.
The two beautiful elves struggled into their dresses then regarded each other. The dresses were wonderful and really complimented the girls' figures. Nieninque's pink dress flowed to the ground in a soft, silky material as the skirt. The top was of the same material, but was tighter; there was no strap for the neck, and no sleeves, but the dress rested pleasantly a few inches below her neck. A pair of pink shoes waited for Nieninque by the door.
Ariengil wore a dress that also had a flowing skirt and tight top, but her dress had a halter neck strap, which was quite thick, and it shaped a kind of square neckline that was very flattering. The skirt was lovely, with an embroidery of white flowers along the edge.
`You look lovely,' complimented Hana. `Now for your hair. You first, Nieninque.'
Nieninque sat in a chair and Hana looked in the drawer in the desk nearby- there was everything they needed for their hair, and their faces. Hana took a brush and dragged it through Nieninque's hair, possibly slightly harder than necessary.
Nieninque gasped, but did not scream out and turned, instead, to Hana. `I'm sorry I sounded rude earlier,' she said.
`That's fine, dear,' replied Hana with a smile. She turned Nieninque's head back again and continued to brush her hair, less vigorously. After a while, in which Ariengil looked around the big room, Nieninque's hair was done.
Nieninque looked stunning- her blonde hair fell in ringlets to her shoulders and some of it was fixed on the top of her head, with a small, pink bow to hold it. How Hana had managed such a spectacle, neither girl was sure.
It was Ariengil's turn next, but Hana did not take as long, as Ariengil's hair seemed to be required to stay down, as it flicked out to the sides slightly as though the wind was blowing through it.
Hana was impressed with her handiwork and finished their hair just as a knock sounded on the door. The two girls suddenly became flustered as they ran around looking for their shoes, or for other such things. Therefore, it was down to Hana to open the door. She did so and looked up at a tall elf.
Neither girl was sure who had come to the door, until he raised his mask slightly. It was Eala. He looked very smart, in a long, black robe. Coming up the corridor behind Eala, was Tarma, looking equally smart, in a midnight blue robe.
Nieninque made an action to tell Eala to put his mask down, which he did immediately, just as Tarma grasped his shoulder. The two girls stood around the corner, out of sight of the two men as they prepared themselves completely for the ball.
Tarma spoke to Eala. `So you are the lucky elf to take the other beautiful girl to the ball.' Eala nodded silently as Tarma spoke again. `Who would you be then?'
`My name is Aglar, sir,' replied Eala in a deeper voice than normal.
`Good to meet you, Aglar.'
`Will you two go outside, please,' shouted Hana, `we have not finished.'
`Of course, madam,' replied Tarma as he handed her two masks. He bowed formally to her, then left. Eala copied Tarma and stepped outside.
`Girls, girls,' screamed Hana. `We have not done your faces.'
`Fear not, Hana,' replied Nieninque, `for we are to wear masks.'
The two girls took a mask each from Hana, as she sat, flustered, in the chair, fanning herself. The maidens placed their masks to their faces and helped each other tie them on, with a piece of silk that was attached.
Nieninque had picked a mask that was carved just to cover her eyes, but was decorated with stars and moons and a rose. Ariengil's mask was much more intricate, and was shaped as a cat.
The door opened again and Tarma stepped in. He stopped and gasped as he stared at Ariengil and Nieninque. `Nieninque,' he began, `you look stunning.' Nieninque giggled and curtsied. Tarma then turned to Ariengil; his mouth was gaping open as he stared at her. `Incredible,' he murmured, `absolutely incredible.'
Tarma stepped forward and swept his arm across his chest and bowed. He looked up and offered his hand to Ariengil, who accepted with a smile, as he kissed her fingers gently.
Standing upright, Tarma took Ariengil's arm and placed her hand on his arm as he stepped forward and left the room. Ariengil looked back at Nieninque, who giggled as they walked off. Ariengil, however, did not see the look of disgust that Eala gave the two of them. He turned to Nieninque, bowed, and took her arm too. Hana sniffed and wiped a tear away as she watched the four elves leave.
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