Arwen strolled with hurried calm along the sheltered veranda, her feet barely feeling the cool of the stone tiles beneath her, though they were yet bare. The morning was still young. The sky cool and blue but for a hint of distant clouds in the north, pink and gold before the trailing rays of the sun which had not yet shown her face above the eastern mountains.
She shuddered against a brief chill as a morning wind swept along the veranda, and she missed the comforting strength of Aragorn’s arms, and the warm, sacred haven of their bed. But today was Lalaith’s wedding day. And while Galadriel would act in the place of the maiden’s mother in the ceremony, Arwen did not wish to miss the chance to aid her beloved kinswoman in the bride’s preparations. Her thoughts raced merrily along as her feet scurried in swift silence. She wished above all, to be the first to Lalaith’s chambers to waken her on this most blessed day. A soft smile came to her lips. Her sister was being married today. Her sister. So indeed, Lalaith had always been.
Arwen sighed plaintively to herself, lost in happy thoughts, though her feet came to an abrupt halt as her ears caught upon the distant sound of a baying wolf. The sound was far and away, faint, and perhaps to mortal ears, it would have gone unheard.
Arwen had heard the cry of wolves before, but this struck her as a strange thing. Were wolves not night waking creatures? And this beast was calling out even as a golden sliver of the sun touched the tips of the eastern peaks.
The balustrade was cool to her fingertips as Arwen caught her hands against the silver railing and strained her eyes and ears westward and south, from whence the sound had come. But she could not see the slightest shadow moving there in the distance, nor did the sound come again to her ears.
Arwen sighed and shrugged to herself. Doubtless, it was nothing. She smiled again. And she had other things, far more important to see to. Turning away, she caught up her skirts again, and hurried all the more swiftly toward Lalaith’s chambers.
The arched ceiling of the chamber flickered with the light of many lamps, and echoed with the hum of women’s voices as Lalaith stood in the midst of them, patiently allowing them their final pampering.
Her hand shook slightly as she touched her fingers softly to the gown her friends and kinswomen had adorned her in, sliding slowly from the cloth of the dress to the chain of the medallion that disappeared beneath the scooped neckline. The jeweled metal was cool against her heated flesh.
Lalaith sighed and dropped her hand to her side, her eyes fixed upon the gaze of the maiden in the mirror. Her heated skin was flushed in a delicate shade of rose pink, her color heightened by the cream white of the gown she wore which shimmered like a cloud, as if the very fabric had been woven from the shining threads of a nimbus.
Intricate clasps of mithril gathered the cloth at her shoulders where it scooped below her throat in soft glittering folds exposing the soft ridges of her collar bones, and tumbled down her arms in generous swathes, like the shimmering wings of a delicate, white bird. The fabric clung about her young body in a way that accented the beauty of her maidenly form, smooth to her slender hips where hung a loose belt woven of gold and silver threads twining in a pattern of curling vines, the trailing ties of the belt hanging loose down the front of her gown as it flowed down her legs in folds of shimmering white.
Legolas would be no less majestic in his own robes, fashioned to complement her own, Lalaith thought with a small smile before she furrowed her brow briefly as a wave of childish impertinence seized her heart. Curse the foolish traditions that had kept them apart, all day! She had not even seen him, not once! But now, in but a few moments she would, at last, and Lalaith’s heart tumbled in wild anticipation for the coming feast when her eyes would at last rest upon him. And then they would they would join each other beneath the bower with Lord Thranduil and her grandmother to join their hands and bless them, uniting them at last as husband and wife, before their people, and in the sight of the Valar, and Ilúvatar. Ai, what blessings awaited them!
“I felt as flustered as you, the day I wed Thranduil,” Aseaiel murmured gently, smiling at her in the mirror where the queen of Eryn Lasgalen and Galadriel sat by with Lothriel, the three of them working over a shining sheet of gossamer that rested in the laps of the three, the ladies looking on now and again with merry eyes at the last of the preparations. Arwen and Calassë both adorned in flowing silken gowns of dark blue, had yet to complete the delicate plaits that draped about Lalaith’s head that were to join at the back, and trail down in a single braid over the golden cascade of hair that remained hanging free. Miriel who wore a soft gown of rust colored red, and Ithilwen clad in the soft greens of her home in Eryn Lasgalen hovered near, waiting in patient anxiety for the task to be completed, that they might place the twined circlet of mithril into her hair that would mark her as a princess of the Green Wood. The circlet rested in Miriel’s hands, wrapped in a cloth and cradled as if it were a priceless treasure. Indeed it was, Lalaith smiled to herself, gazing at its shimmer in the mirror.
“As was I, when Celeborn and I were bound beneath the trees of Doriath,” Galadriel sighed softly, her voice that that of a besotted maiden.
Lothriel smiled pertly to herself, caressing the small curve of her belly with the fingertips of one hand. “All new brides are,” she murmured.
Galadriel smiled softly toward Lothriel, and glanced over the folds of gossamer to the queen of Eryn Lasgalen with a thoughtful look in her eye. “Yet you, my friend Aseaiel, had not the luxury of peace that these maidens have, now.”
“Indeed, my lady,” Arwen murmured, her voice soft and thoughtful as her careful hands, and Calassë’s met at last, and the maiden of Gondolin surrendered the flaxen strands to Gondor’s queen and Arwen continued working swiftly, her task nearly completed. “As I have been taught, you wed our Lord Thranduil but one day before he marched to battle. You had no great feast, nor lavish celebration as is afforded lovers who are blessed to wed in times of peace.”
“You were taught rightly I fear,” Aseaiel sighed thoughtfully, pausing briefly in her work. “His father and mother, as well as mine, did not dwell in Arda, and it was a time of dark uncertainty in the days before the Last Alliance against Sauron. I had loved Thranduil long, though without hope. For though we had known each other from childhood, I was no great lady, and thought myself beneath him. But when I learned he was to depart for what I feared was certain death, I went to him before he marched away. I wept like a child as I spoke to him of my love, yet he did not censure me. In truth, he took me in his arms and wept with me, confessing as he did, that he had long loved me, as well.”
“And you bound yourselves to each other, that very day,” Calassë murmured dreamily, her eyes large and reverent where she had dropped upon a nearby chair, gazing worshipfully up at the queen of Eryn Lasgalen. “The day before he marched away to battle.”
Aseaiel nodded, beaming toward the maiden of Gondolin, before trading a soft look with Lothriel. “It was but a brief ritual, with only he and I to speak our pledges to each other. No others but Ilúvatar Himself, and a small number of our closest friends, hastily gathered, witnessed our vows.”
“But it was no less hallowed in the eye of the Valar, than this blessed union,” Galadriel breathed softly, a thoughtful look in her eyes as she traded a brief smile with Lalaith’s reflection.
“Indeed,” Aseaiel agreed quietly. “Yet how glad I am for these dear young ones, that they might wed in a time of peace, and safety, and in the midst of beauty.”
Lalaith met the gentle gaze of her future mother in law in the mirror, and the two traded a tender smile.
“There, I am finished,” Arwen announced, stepping back from Lalaith, and making way as Miriel moved forward, and with Ithilwen’s aide, carefully placed the shimmering, circlet into the twined gold of her hair, where it tucked smoothly beneath the delicate braids, the shimmering mithril curling gracefully across her fair, white brow.
Lalaith smiled at her friends as they completed their task and grinned as they stepped back.
Aseaiel stood then and moved forward, feigning to examine the maidens’ work in the mirror as she touched a hand to Lalaith’s shoulder and murmured in her ear, “And your lover shall not have to leave your bed on the morrow, when the sun comes.”
Lalaith ducked her head, flushing softly at this as Aseaiel brushed a motherly hand against her cheek, and moved back. Lalaith turned her head and lifted her eyes meeting Aseaiel’s to offer her a silent smile of gratitude.
“Shall we go, now?” Galadriel murmured, and Lalaith felt the cool grip of her grandmother’s hand slide into her own.
“Yes,” she sighed, and turned at last, meeting Galadriel’s gaze. The lady smiled, a gentle golden smile and Lalaith’s heart felt nothing but ease as the Lady of the Golden Wood, flanked about by the shining faces of the other women, led her out the door onto the pillared veranda. The warmth of the setting sun washed about her, the sky streaked in striations of red and gold in the west where the sun, glowing like a copper disk, lowered in a blaze of glory toward the purple hills.
A young maiden of no greater than fifty years, one of the maid servants of Aseaiel from Eryn Lasgalen, was standing outside the door in an attitude of weary, girlish boredom, yet she came swiftly to attention at the appearance of the ladies. Her eyes turned to Aseaiel expectantly as the women emptied onto the portico.
“Greetings, Laerien,” Aseaiel greeted the maiden cordially, and cast a brief, pleading glance toward Galadriel that did not go unnoticed to Lalaith.
“My lady,” the girl returned, glancing nervously toward Lalaith.
“Come, Lalaith, do you approve of these garlands?” Galadriel queried suddenly, leading her charge away from the others to inspect the twined flowers wreathed along the railings of the portico as it marched away down the edge of the House and curved about, hidden partly by high green trees. “I hoped you would like the mix of colors.”
Away and down from the house, there were hanging lamps swaying from the trees in the garden below the Hall of Fire, where Lalaith could see the Elves through the trees beginning to gather about the tables that had encircled a tree bordered glade and hear their merry talk as they awaited her wedding. Her wedding!
“I do,” she returned, touching a hand to the plaited rope of flowers, running her fingers over the petals of one, her gaze focused on the flower. “I think they’re beautiful.” But Lalaith could not help but overhear the hurried words between the young girl and the queen of the Green Wood behind her, and she turned curious eyes to glance back at them.
“Yes, Laerien, it is ready,” Aseaiel murmured softly, pushing the folded gossamer veil into the maiden’s hands. “You know-,” Aseaiel cast what seemed a brief, nervous glance toward Lalaith who quickly dropped her eyes, “where to take it.”
“Yes, my lady,” the girl Laerien returned, casting an equally covert glance toward the young bride before glancing again toward her mistress. “My mother says the preparations are nearly finished.”
“Tell your mother she has done her task admirably.” Aseaiel finished warmly. “As have you all.”
Laerien smiled. “Thank you, my lady. I will tell her, and the others.”
And with that, Laerien turned and cast a brief smile toward Lalaith, a smile that made a poor effort of concealing the secret that she hid behind it as the girl turned and hurried away, the folded swathe of gossamer cradled in her arms.
Lalaith dropped her eyes again to the flower beneath her fingers, struggling to hide her smirk, understanding well enough that the curtain of gossamer was bound to the chambers that she and Legolas would share that night, tucked away in some hidden corner of this fair vale. But she said nothing, wishing they not know her understanding of their secret.
With her eyes downturned, Lalaith failed to note the quiet smile that graced Galadriel’s face.
“Come,” Galadriel encouraged at last, her voice low and soft. “Let us take you to your betrothed.”
And with these words, Lalaith’s heart lifted, light as a soaring bird, and with Galadriel’s hand clutched in her own, and with the other women surrounding her, Lalaith moved down the portico with slow and measured steps, away into the cool blue shadows of the deepening evening.
Legolas perused himself in the high mirror, studying the creamy white robe that fit snuggly over his shoulders, and hung open down the center of his chest, revealing the jeweled necklace that Galadriel had given to his keeping for Lalaith in anticipation for this day. The twined jewels upon their chain, rested against the cream tunic which was belted loosely at the waist, hanging over breeches of the same color. Calf high boots of soft, sun bleached leather, completed his wedding attire. He tugged softly on the gold and silver broidered hem of his robe, though the robe already hung smoothly over his chest. He drew in a deep and shaking breath, wishing to still the hammering of his heart, though it did little. He glanced in the mirror at the other men over his shoulder who sat about the room, or stood pacing, waiting for him. Elladan who wore a soft, rust colored robe, sat upon a bench near the door, answering in hushed tones the questions Pippin posed to him concerning the fare they would expect to eat at the feast. Pippin, like the other Hobbits about the room, had donned a merrily colored robe fashioned for an Elfling, though it suited him well. Merry sat nearby, though he did not join the conversation, content to tilt his head back, and stare at the ceiling, occasionally blowing soft breaths out between his lips as his hairy little feet swung back and forth. Bilbo sat a space away from Merry, twisting his little walking staff in his gnarled hands, and glancing occasionally at the Legolas in the mirror. At Bilbo’s shoulder, Frodo stood, and beside him was Sam who seemed slightly despondent. Frodo’s arm was about Sam’s shoulder, listening sympathetically to the stout Hobbit’s quiet musings over a Hobbit maiden named Rosie. Glorfindel in a robe of forest green, and Elrohir in a dark blue robe, sat a short distance away on chairs in the center of the room near to Gimli who was slouched against the back of his chair, his expression wavering between boredom and impatience as his thick boots wiggled back and forth where they dangled a fraction above the floor.
The unmarried Elves, Glorfindel, Elladan and Elrohir, were nervously smoothing their hands down their robes, or glancing toward the lattice over the window where the red glow of the setting sun shone through, the light changing slowly as it crept up the wall, the nearer the sun fell toward the horizon. Elrohir released a low sigh as he glanced down, paused, and quickly flicked a fragment of lint off of the embroidery of his robe. Clearly, though this was not yet their turn to be wed, they were as concerned for the approval of their ladies as Legolas was for Lalaith’s, which brought him some small comfort. And his smiled as he briefly touched his hand to the golden sapphire ring he had worn upon his smallest finger since the day they had plighted their troth.
Thranduil, Celeborn, Aragorn, and Haldir, the married men of the group, paced before the door, like a group of troubled sentinels, pausing now and again to cast thoughtful glances toward Legolas, though no words were spoken. The grey and silver robe of the Elven king of Green Wood caught in the still air as he moved, catching in the light of the lamps that hung about the dressing chamber. His hands were clasped behind his back, a circlet of twined silver and gold drawing back his golden hair from his brow. Celeborn was adorned in robes similar in hue to those of Thranduil, though no circlet adorned his brow, and the embroidery and style of his robe was fashioned in the manner of the Galadhrim. Haldir was clad in a robe of darker grey in similar form as his lord Celeborn, while Aragorn wore dark blue robes of Imladris, and on this day, wore no crown upon his head. Legolas drew in yet another deep breath of air, reminded of the days long before the Ring had been found, when Aragorn, like Lalaith, was but a young ward of Elrond, youthful Estel, not yet the heir of the kingship of Men. And Lalaith had been but a young Elven maiden, fair to him above all others. Though Legolas did not know yet that she was a child of Valar, or capable of such fearless deeds as she truly was.
A smile twitched the corners of his lips as he thought of her, readying herself for their ceremony in another chamber elsewhere, his mother and Galadriel aiding her in her preparations. She would be beautiful when they met in the garden he did not doubt, and his throat grew dry to think of it. And of the feast that he hoped would pass swiftly to the marriage ceremony, when the Lady Galadriel and his father would join their hands and bless them. And then after-,
Ai, Valar, let me please her, his mind pleaded. In-, all things.
Legolas swallowed again, forcing his thoughts back to the present, and his eyes back to his reflection. He reached up, touching his fingers lightly again to the silver circlet upon his brow, adjusting it slightly.
“Augh!” Gimli exclaimed from behind him, shattering the heavy quiet as the Dwarf threw his hands in the air, and rocked forward where he sat, his hands slapping his knees in exasperation.
Thranduil glanced up at the Dwarf’s expletive. His countenance bore a look of calm serenity on his face as Legolas met his gaze in the mirror, and the two traded a humored grin, though Thranduil’s lower lip trembled slightly. Legolas tightened his jaw at this, swallowing at a fierce lump in his throat. He was his father’s only child, and Legolas could only guess at the sundry emotions that were roiling within Thranduil’s heart, now.
“That’s the seventh time you’ve done that, Legolas. You look fine!” Gimli wailed as he threw himself back, slouching heavily in the chair, his arms flailing as he continued, “From what I understand, it is customary in Elven weddings for the bridegroom to arrive at the feast before his lady. Lalaith is going to think you’ve sailed off to Valinor without her!”
Legolas smirked softly. “And the Lady Galadriel is going to note your rumpled robes from all your slouching Gimli,” he returned, grinning toward the Dwarf’s image in the mirror.
Gimli straightened suddenly at this, his expression struggling to suppress a look of alarmed concern as the others chuckled softly about the room.
“I-, I don’t-, think she’ll care,” he returned defensively, even as he hurriedly smoothed down the front of the dark blue robe that had been woven for him as a present. It had been tailored to his shorter stature, and fitted for his broad, thick shoulders. The Lady Calassë who had taken a great liking to the Dwarf, had, amid the frantic bustle of preparations for so many weddings, made it for him, and had even found time to embroider the hem of the robe with shining threads of mithril in a pattern of uniform angles rathering than twining vines, which appealed to his Dwarven nature. And though Legolas dared not admit it aloud, he suspected Gimli was quite proud of the gift.
“Indeed, Legolas, we should depart, if you are ready,” Thranduil offered at last with a low sigh.
Legolas drew in a deep breath at this. A confusing wave of fearful excitement surged in his heart.
“Very well, Ada,” he agreed, and turned away from the mirror, striding to where his father stood.
Gimli released a loud groan of relief as he hopped up, and the other men tall and short, rose to their feet as well, releasing deep breaths, and exchanging nervous looks as Thranduil clapped a strong hand upon Legolas’ shoulder and pushed the door open. The warm red light of the glowing sun rushed in upon a gentle wind scented of sweet flowers as Thranduil drew his son onto the veranda, the others following behind.
Garlands of sweetly scented flowers hung from the silver railing of the portico as Legolas, with his father’s hand resting supportively upon his shoulder, strode steadily along toward the Hall of Fire. The garlands had been twined down the banisters, slanting down the stone stair that led to the garden below the steeply roofed Hall of Fire, where the feast would take place. The sky opened above them as the roof of the portico fell behind, and Legolas paused to lift his eyes to the many shaded canvas, warm violet in the east, stretching into striations of gold and crimson into the west where the sun had only just fallen below the distant hills in the west. Eärendil had not yet appeared, but he would, when the afterglow faded, and the flames of sunlight burnt down to softer embers. Legolas smiled softly, and turned his gaze down the broad steps to the glade below him. The feet of Gimli and the Hobbits clattered quietly as they dropped down the wide steps to the green grass of the garden where lamps flickered amongst the trees, and long carven table tables set with plates and goblets, encircled the center of the glade that was quickly filling with Elves, their soft voices humming with anticipation.
Elrond, with Gandalf beside him were visiting quietly with a small group of Elves, but as they noted the approach of Legolas and his companions, they offered brief farewells, and turned away to greet the nearing bridegroom. Behind the Wizard and the Elven Lord, upon the edge of the glade, stood an arching bower of smooth wood carved to imitate the twining of vines, countless new spring flowers of varied shades were ribboned through the weavings of the wood, growing upon their own living vines, the air of the garden heady with their sweet scent.
Legolas’ jaw tightened softly as his father’s hand dropped away from his shoulder. Thranduil fell back a pace and Legolas drew in a deep breath as he turned his eyes toward Elrond and noted the trembling line of his smile, and of Celeborn’s as well. Elrond’s eyes shimmered with mist as he drew away from the table and came to greet Legolas, clapping his hands upon the younger Elf’s shoulders, before pulling him close in an uncharacteristic embrace that was brief, yet heartfelt.
“She loves you, Prince Legolas,” Elrond choked softly as he drew back, his hands firm upon Legolas’ shoulders. “With all the strength of her fëa.”
“And I love her as well my lord, with all that I am, or ever will be,” Legolas returned softly as he dipped his head to the man who was soon to be his father in law. “I swear to you, I will endeavor to bring delight to her for as long as the life of Arda endures. And to whatever unseen blessings await us after the ending of the world.”
Elrond smiled kindly. “This I know,” he assured Legolas in a tone of warm gratitude. “And I am grateful to you.” His countenance, tortured yet hopeful at once, turned now toward Aragorn who shifted where he stood, and sighed quietly.
“I am grateful to you both, my sons,” Elrond managed to murmur past a catch in his throat as a broken smile again made its way across his face and he reached out a hand, clapping it upon Aragorn’s shoulder as he had upon Legolas’.
A short breath broke out of Aragorn’s lungs at this, and he offered a soft, tentative grin.
“The Valar made you for my daughters,” Elrond choked softly, speaking to them both, though his eyes focused upon Aragorn. “They are happiest with you as they would be with no others. And because of you, they will live in joy.”
Elrond swallowed softly and his hand tightened briefly upon Legolas’ shoulder, then fell away as the eyes of the Lord of Imladris lifted to the balustrade that looked over the open glade. Elrond’s eyes grew bright as he gazed past Legolas, his countenance suddenly awe struck even as misted tears again touched his eyes. A hush fell over the garden in that moment, silencing the low hum of the gathered guests as all eyes turned toward the crest of the steps that led downward to the garden.
Even before he saw her, Legolas felt the sweet peace of her presence, the dulcet, silent voice of her soul calling to his, and his heart caught upon a beat as he drew in a low breath, savoring the moment of anticipation before he turned at last.