So, this is it! The last installment of the long long S&S story, a tale that has changed from what it was in a very great degree. I am hoping that everyone who has read it has enjoyed the ride; thank you so much for the comments that did push me at times to making adjustments and what I hope was also making the story better.
What more to say – oh, the epilogue is very long but I did not want to cut it in halves so it is here in all it’s length and “glory”.
Again – thank you everyone for reading!
Disclaimer: I am only borrowing from JRR Tolkien’s wonderful work and making no money. I do however claim ownership of Aurelin, Laswing, Calenloth and Belegorn.
The sun of early Ethuil could ever be deceptively hot on your face but this year the warmth was not a faint glimmer of warm spring weathers to come but a true blessing of warmth. Aurelin’s face bore a small smile and she created patterns of ripples with her hand trailing in the turquoise blue water over the pearly white side of the little elegant and soothingly faintly rocking boat.
“I missed that smile of yours!” Gilgaer observed briefly laying his fingers rest on her sun-bathed cheek. They were, well he was, sitting in the boat with Aurelin lounging on her back, head in his lap and eyes looking far away, beyond the dome of the sky.
How she liked the Bay! Ever since she had settled in Mithlond, she could not be separated from the waters for longer than a day and at least once a week, better twice, Gilgaer and she rowed out to the bay in his small boat. Once Aurelin had even persuaded him to venture out during a snow-fall, an experience they would not be repeating again!
I love you! she whispered in his mind, outwardly still with eyes taking in the cornflower blue of the sky and the limestone white clouds.
I love you more! Gilgaer replied to her with a mental twinkle of amusement added to the sending. He guessed it must be melancholy that had rendered Aurelin so listless for days now. It had to happen sooner or later, for their sailing to the West had been agreed upon and appointed for the beginning of summer. For her it still must he hard to let go and Gilgaer himself did not escape the twinges of regret, but then again Aurelin had always been radical, burning a flame the brightest and hottest or not at all. The sadness of having to leave Middle-earth and all she knew must have not been the greatest, instead the fact that the places she regretted leaving did not exist anymore. For him, Laswing thought ironically, that had become all too familiar and this final departure therefore less painful.
He was right about what bothered Aurelin and there was no secret what had triggered the realisation that everything had changed from the times she knew and had felt comfortable in. A messenger had arrived from Fornost Erain to relay tidings of the wedding of Barahir, Faramir’s grandson and Eldarion’s daughter Rían. It was a very romantic story with all the elements of fairy-tale in the making, namely a five-day masked ball in the honour of the coming-of-age of princess Rían and a mysterious dashing young man capturing her attention during the first day and their love at first “sight”. Barahir and Rían had been friends in childhood but they had not met each other for years as the lady had been in Fornost, getting acquainted with the affairs of Arnor more closely while Barahir was immersed in his studies in the libraries of Minas Tirith.
Aurelin was happy for the two and it was touching that the story of Éowyn and Estel had reached a happy ending with their grand-children’s wedding. But more sharply than anything so far, the wedding had brought it crashing down on Aurelin how much had changed of what she now was to leave behind at the start of the next season: friends who had sailed or died; the diminishing of the old realms of the Elves were – Lothlórien dead a long time ago, Imladris a pale shadow of the place of lore and respite it had been, Eryn Lasgalen peopled without exception by Nandor who had no desire to sail West; Mithlond and Lindon had changed the least but the dwindling numbers were clearly noticeable.
Her feelings were so conflicting that she had left the tangle like a hopeless bundle of gold-threads – impossible to untangle but too precious to be thrown away. There was happiness and anticipation of all that was waiting for her and Gilgaer in Valinor, gloom of leaving Ennor and all that she was familiar with behind, along with the realisation that nothing besides Laswing and Mithlond was anymore how she knew it – all her friends dead or gone, her homes of Imladris and Eryn Lasgalen, no more, the world itself a different place with a glimpse of Dwarves having become a rarity, Orcs nearly all wiped out and Men everywhere, doing good but also evil, the latter – horrible to think – with quite the same effectiveness and cruelty as Sauron. Yes, that might be it, sparked in the muddled depths of Aurelin’s mind like a ray of a sun in a murky day battling its way through a tiny gap in the clouds – in a way she felt like the eyes, ears, conscience and memory of all her kin and friends who were here no more and she did not wish to be witness to Men wreaking havoc and spreading evil as black and perverse as the Gorthaur’s or Morgoth’s in the self-same world and used against their own people that the Elves had fought to keep safe and entrusted to the hands of the Second-born. It would be enough to break a heart if you witnessed the whole process and Aurelin wondered why Laswing was not weeping with the grief for Middle-earth daily for he had been here from the time of the March of the Elves!
She got more sleepy with the sun on her face and the urgent need to take her mind off the morbid contemplation, finding nothing and therefore roaming idly just on the edge of clearly formed thoughts. As if she was falling in slow-motion through a bank of fluffy clouds, her consciousness drifted off to dreams.
Why did her heart flutter so from the moment her bare toes touched the sand and the larger lumpy things that were half-buried in the sand, not rocks but of equal hardness?
“Keep the blindfold on!” Gilgaer told her from somewhere over her right shoulder where by the sounds of it he was letting the anchor of the sailboat in. It was all very mysterious! The couple had not arrived in Tol Eresseä a week ago and already Laswing had acquired a light single-masted boat from somewhere and they had sailed around the bay of Avallónë a couple of times. At the apricot-coloured dawn this morning he had told her he had a surprise for her and produced a slip of blue silk that he had tied over her eyes as soon as she had boarded the swift and petitie sailing boat. From the time they had taken he could have taken them around the island and the shifting wind had not helped her to understand the bearings.
It felt a bit silly to stand on some strange beach, unable to see anything, hearing only the lap of the waves, Gilgaer’s movements and her own shuffling feet in the sand.
“Come!” Laswing was suddenly by her side and put one of his arms around her waist to guide her safely to wherever he was taking her. Sand, sand, some more of it, less packed the further from the water they got. The wind that had been enough to whip her skirts around abated after Aurelin thought they had walked a hundred yards, so something had to have cut it off. A gurgle of a stream came from somewhere ahead; and Gilgaer’s heart was beating as if he was afraid of whatever was to happen, which did not make any sense.
“Is something amiss, my love?” she queried when he lifted her over a merrily gurgling stream, speaking most probably in the wrong direction.
“No, not at all.” The tone was utterly unreadable and Aurelin bit back another question and another. Clearly she was not to find out anything before he had planned she would.
The sand under her toes had been replaced by sparse grass on the other side of the stream and then there were flagstones.
“Be careful, there is a step here,” Gilgaer announced and let Aurelin explore with her foot where it was.
All right, Aurelin thought, they were in some kind of a house for the breeze came in from the doorway behind her while the other three sides felt walled and there was a roof over it all as well.
She was propelled to turn and Gilgaer’s fingers came from her shoulders to the knot at the back of her head. Light at last! Aurelin squinted and tried to get her eyes to adjust.
She had been right – it was a house, not big but there were some side-rooms evidenced by two doors, a window looked out at the stream, stubble of grass and dunes, the latter sight granted also by the second window – dunes surrounding the building, accounting for the absence of the gusts of wind. Dunes that glittered somehow unnaturally for sand.
“Where are we?” She looked over her shoulder at Gilgaer who had been standing a few steps behind her, viewing her taking in her surroundings. His face was showing that he was in the grasp of strong emotions and Aurelin gulped with premonition. The hand he gently lay on the small of her back in passing before coming to stand before her sent a fire-bolt through her and there came a dozen more when he took her hands in his and lowered himself on one knee. Tears sprung in Aurelin’s eyes and she gulped some more, trying to manage a smile at the same time. She felt that she would be burnt to cinders by the blazing love in Gilgaer’s eyes.
“Aurelin, will you wed me?” He too had a hard time reigning in his feelings.
Aurelin fluttered down to kneel with him.
“Yes, of course I will!” she said joyously and threw her arms around his neck. He knew that she would, but the gesture charmed Aurelin to be utterly be-spelled by love. Why all the secrecy if he meant to ask her something he had known for yéni?
Gilgaer’s breath on her earlobe made her shiver as he whispered, “You have made me happier than can ever be put to words by the finest Vanyar poets. And so we shall!”
He rose and drew Aurelin up with him. The last comment was somewhat unexplainable to her but the fact that she was leaning into him, faces inches apart might have had to do with her confusion. Frankly she was waiting for a very long and passionate kiss right then, and so she felt cheated when he stepped away from her. Arms becoming un-twined and the clasped hands last to part, Gilgaer walked out of the door with a “I shall be back immediately”.
Aurelin began to examine the anteroom of the building with a shrug at the strange behaviour men could sport, although truth to tell there was not much to see of the room for the furnishings consisted of a couch by one of the gauze-curtained windows with a table set before it and an armchair under the window opposite and a clothes’ rack by the front-door. Maybe there was something more worthwhile to see beyond the closed doors?
Footsteps came from outside. Expecting it to be Laswing, Aurelin took her hand from the door-handle and spun on her heels, the little smile ready to bloom into a blossom, … and stopped dead-still. It was her betrothed but he had not come alone – behind him Aurelin saw a face she had not seen for centuries – silvery hair and green eyes glowing, lovely smile on her rose-red lips – her mother, Calenloth, walked over the threshold. Aurelin was speechless and her hands that had fallen to her sides started to shake. She just remained there, across the small hall from the front door disbelieving while Gilgaer stood off to one side, not wanting to disturb Aurelin’s reunion with her family.
Tears formed and ran unchecked down Aurelin’s cheeks. Her father, Belegorn, whom she had lost and mourned for so long, had been released from the Halls of Mandos, and was there, resplendent as ever and the happiness in his eyes to see his daughter was over-brimming. The shakes spread from her hands to all over her body while her heart was in her throat. She made a strangled sound and wavered on her feet and in the blur of tears she only able to percieve a vague fourth figure surging forward to catch and steady her. Strong hands but the arms seemed more slender than Laswing’s. Blinking back the tears Aurelin’s gaze focussed at last on the face of a young Elf, not long ago come-of-age. “Oh, Elbereth!” she whimpered. Eyes the same shade of grey-blue as Belegorn’s, hair silvery like her mother’s. Her brother. Her younger older brother, she babbled to herself in her head. The child who had died before he was born. His sprit must have travelled to Mandos’ Halls, though not having born, his life had already started and so he had waited in the Halls until he was released. The hröar of the Elves who were to reborn were created anew by the Valar but his brother had died as an unborn child and therefore Aurelin supposed that rare as it had to be, he had to have been truly reborn as her younger brother after her mother and father had been reunited.
She hadn’t known she had been holding her breath during the mental process, but she had. The released breath came out in a sigh of “Muindor!”. The steadying hands left her and her tall brother took a few steps to the side to study his flustered sister who suddenly seemed to come to life with an exclamation of “Adar! Naneth!” that was uttered while she ran into the waiting arms of her parents. She was laughing and weeping and so were they. Aurelin tried to talk to them but it all came out more as a babble because she was laughing, crying and gulping at the same time. After they had hugged and kissed in a tangle of arms, Belegorn let go of his daughter, who he was glad was so tiny or she would have crushed him with her exuberant greeting, and reached out his hand to draw the silver-haired youngster closer.
“This is your brother, Ithilinden Eilian. Son, this is your sister, Gwingloth!”
Aurelin looked up into the blue eyes of Eilian(meaning Rainbow, Ithilinden could be rendered to Common Speech as Song of Moon or Moonlight, a match for her name Aurelin, she noticed – Song of Sunlight). He was as tall as her father and that meant quite a lot taller than she. Eilian’s blue eyes were laughing as he lifted her from the ground to give her a huge hug.
“Gwingloth, muinthel meleth nín, I have heard so much of you!” Aurelin couldn’t take her eyes off him, her brother, her handsome full-grown brother!
“I can’t believe it. How? I’m…I don’t have words to describe what I feel!” she told them all, brushing tears from her eyes with the back of her hand like a little child.
“We are near Alqualondë, sweetheart, the city is just behind the dunes. But I think there is someone else here who can explain what is going on to you better, Gwingloth,” Belegorn told his daughter, who was beaming up at him, afraid to blink and find him gone, and stroked her hair.
Aurelin half-turned to Gilgaer whom she had not entirely forgotten in her joy at seeing her parents. He had been smiling a little way from the four and now as Aurelin looked at him and held out her hand, he approached the four.
“Mother, father, Ithilinden, this is Gilgaer Lindil. But I don’t know – it seems you all know each other already?”
Aurelin twined her arm around Gilgaer’s after he had formally bowed to Belegorn, Calenloth and Aurelin’s brother and looked up at him with eyes wide with puzzlement.
“Yes, we do know him, darling. Not four days ago he came sailing out of the east in a little boat, landed at the quays of Swanhaven and appeared on our doorstep speaking of a wedding,” Calenloth told Aurelin with a wink.
Gilgaer was amused by the exchange, and the similarity of the shade and the fire of life in the green eyes of both the ladies present. “Aurelin, I know I have acted behind your back in all this but it seemed to me that a surprise was the best way to handle it. Ithilinden agreed.” Aurelin was surprised to see the conspiratorial smile between her betrothed and her brother. Well, it looked as if no trouble would arise there. Wedding – what was he talking of?
“Gwingloth, these past few days preparations have been made for our wedding feast that will take place tomorrow if you can forgive me for catching you off-guard.”
He had turned her towards him and three pairs of eyes were looking at him and her with the most amused expressions while Aurelin’s eyes had widened so she looked like a deer facing a charge of Wargs, whites showing all around the emerald of the pupils. Oh Valar, the next day!? Her knees would surely give way for the third time this day. “Tomorrow!?” she said incredulously and waited for everyone to proclaim it a joke and laugh at her gullibility. But they did not and even her knees did not in fact give way as she wordlessly nodded her “yes” to the proceedings after realising that it was not a big laugh at her.
Gilgaer’s smile was highly contagious and she found she was grinning like silly as he turned back to her family and drew himself up to speak in a more tempered tone.
“My lords, my lady, sadly I could not ask this properly before all the wedding preparations began, before one day prior to the wedding, in fact as it turns out – May I ask for your daughter’s hand in wedlock? She holds my heart and if I may speak for her, I can claim to have her heart as well. I love her more than anything I have ever loved and I will always cherish her! Will you accept me as her spouse and account me as a member of your family?”
“That we indeed will!” Belegorn put his hand on Laswing’s shoulder to give it a strong squeeze. A fond look was cast at the couple standing with arms around each other and he went on, “Aurelin has always been smart and has shown it in accepting your proposal. I may not know you for long but I know of you and from what I have gathered from those who have seen you two together, all concur that you are perfect for each other. She will need someone of your age to deal with her temper.”
“Father!” Aurelin protested but her father only grinned.
Ithilinden stepped forward and with a “Welcome to the family!” and a thump on Gilgaer’s shoulder. Calenloth gave her blessing with an expression a mirror of her son’s when she kissed Laswing’s forehead. Aurelin was glowing with joy.
She grabbed her brother’s arm and held on to Gilgaer with the other hand, gazing speculatively at the doors leading to the other rooms.
“Come, everyone! Since it seems it has all been planned to the utmost, let us see if my sweet brother and dear betrothed thought of including berry wine in the setting up of this house so that we could make a toast!”
Aurelin felt as if floating on a big and extremely fluffy cloud. For an hour she had been surrounded by her family and talking of this and that, legs curled up under her on a chaise in a comfortable living room, and although most of it had been a recounting of the days they had spent apart, by the end of it she found it hard to believe that those years had not been anything but a strange dream.
She had come to realise that her brother was a lot less fiery in his temper than she and resembled very much her father in temper and mother in the looks. Gilgaer had been effectively engaged as if they all, and not just Aurelin, had known him for years rather like a few days. Silently she had offered her thanks to Manwë and Varda that her parents and brother accepted her choice and genuinely seemed to delight in the company of the Elf she had given her heart to. It would have been very difficult if the situation had been different and she was glad she had not been put to that test of reconciling your parents with your betrothed.
Ithilinden was relating how he had always pictured his big sister would look (and had gotten it all wrong!), when Gilgaer rose discreetly and bade to be excused. Aurelin scrambled up, asked her family for a few minutes too and caught Gilgaer before he could leave the little house.
“Oh, my love, I cannot still believe it all!” she whispered against his shirt, clasping him to her and vice versa. “How did you manage to arrange it all with me none the wiser?”
She felt the laughter bubbling in him even before it was uttered. “It was not that difficult for you were so engaged with catching up with old friends that I could sneak away and half the time I think you did not notice my absence at all.”
By the Valar, he was right! “When shall I meet you family, Laswing?” she craned her neck back to look in his eyes and experienced the all too familiar feeling of being helplessly drawn in.
Gilgaer’s hands had crept to caress her cheeks, that were lightened by the blush of excitement and happiness of reunion with her kin, with his thumbs. “They will come to visit soon. But, dearest Aurelin, as much as I delight in being with you now, I need to go and though the delay is sweet, I cannot afford it.” Slowly and extremely reluctantly he took a step back.
“Go?” Aurelin squeaked and grabbed his hand before he could get any further. “You are leaving me alone to meet them? Oh Elbereth, you cannot! I need you or I shall just swoon at the sight of them and they will tell you to end our engagement immediately for you have no business wedding a silly maiden apt to fainting-spells! I will make a fool of myself if you are not here!” Her green eyes pleading and bringing to mind a leaf caught in an unexpected snow-fall, Gilgaer hesitated but did not give in besides producing a small smile.
“You forget, Aurelin, I did exactly that.”
“Well, that does not count, for I knew naught of it and besides I did introduce you, if a little late.”
“I have the same opportunity. Once we are wedded!”
Any moment now she would stamp her foot like a petulant girl.
“Laswing, you are pure evil. The right word for what you are doing to me is torture.”
“Do not start to weep on me now!” he exclaimed and bestowed a kiss on her right eyelid and then the left. “I cannot stay, for I need to prepare.”
“For what?!” she was incredulous.
“For the wedding, silly! It is noon and tomorrow is about nine hours away. Dusk is the appointed hour for the ceremony.” That produced a startled blink from Aurelin.
“Oh, Valar, I almost forgot! Well, I did not forget, but I still find it impossible to believe as something actually happening. There has been no time for me to prepare and what of the clothes and the rings and….” Choking on the flood of words, she stopped and the grip she had on Gilgaer’s hand must have been close to painful.
“That was the idea. I know how you worry over things and a wedding would make you mad as a cat in water over the slightest details. So, in my infinite wit I thought to spare you of it and quite frankly, myself as well, for you are not the only one who has weak knees right now. Yours and my family has done everything. I gathered you had discussed a wedding-gown of dreams with your mother long ago and therefore I think you will be delighted with what the seamstresses of Swanhaven have made for you.”
“That, that was just make-belief and spinning incredulous stories! Wedding, tomorrow!? I have no words.”
Laswing gave a little peck on her cheek and smiled his impish grin. “I hope you will find some for tomorrow or we will be stuck in a very embarrassing situation, will we not, you and I, my love and my life! Farewell, fair lady, until the first hour of tomorrow!”
And off he went, down the flagstone pathway, leaving the still unbelieving and swept off her feet Aurelin to be collected by Ithilinden and brought back to the living-room where her father announced his intent to leave as well and assist Gilgaer. Ithilinden would accompany him.
Belegorn took both Aurelin’s hands in his and looked down on her with the stillest of faces. “Gwingloth, my daughter, before I go. I just wished to ask if you are certain of all this – of the wedding with Gilgaer?” Aurelin was caught completely off-guard and her mouth hung open and she cast puzzled looks at her mother and Ithilinden (who for some reason had his back to her, seemingly immersed in making out the pattern of the flower-carvings on the opposite wall).
“I…What? Of course – I love him and if it is to be that we are to we on such a short notice, then so be it, for given the chance I will not waste it. I guess this balances out the long betrothal.”
“But after all, he is even older than I am and perhaps what you think is love, is in fact just…”
“Adar! Are you supposing I took him as some kind of replacement when I lost you? How can you think that? At heart he is as younger than you, in fact he seems as old as I am most of the time and that is what matters.”
“Oh, thank you, my dear! And who said I did believe that?”
Aurelin felt like groaning – to be stuck with cryptic answers from two smirking men she loved more than her life in one day was too much. Especially a day of such surprises to make her jump out of her skin. Frustratingly the grin on his father’s face only got bigger. “Fooled you, did I not? I was just trying out your resolve!”
Aurelin only gaped and then gibbered, “Do you realise how impossible you are making it for me to make sense of anything this day, or to remain calm with those jokes and surprises and whatnot?”
Calenloth had been the silent but amused spectator up till then but seeing her daughter completely bewildered and overwhelmed, she had risen and lay her hand on Aurelin’s arm calmingly.
“You are quite right, Aurelin. So, off you go you two trouble-makers and let us women prepare to look our best at the wedding.”
A few shooing motions got the men’s-folk moving and after another set of congratulating hugs, Belegorn and Ithilinden went to join Gilgaer wherever he was getting ready.
Calenloth took Aurelin’s hand and talking chit-chat, led her to the bedroom where upon the wide bed was her dress. Wait – dresses! Aurelin would have loved to see them closer but Calenloth bundled her off to take a bath behind a painted silk screen that had been set before the south corner of the room.
“You can tell me how you met him while you bathe, dearest,” her mother prompted Aurelin after she had slipped off the simple yellow muslin dress and slid in the water up to her chin.
A long soak and a lengthy tale later, after drying off of herself and her hair, Aurelin was in a blue robe, ready to start dressing when a knock came from the door.
“Enter!” Calenloth called out.
Four Elves walked into the room and Aurelin saw them from the mirror. Her hand fell from fiddling with her hair, coiffing it up experimentally. She pushed back the stool and rose to greet the arrivals.
“Our son told us where we could find you and meet you before the ceremony,” the tall dark-haired Elf spoke in a strong voice that somehow reminded Aurelin of the sea although how could she create a muddled comparison like that was beyond Aurelin.
It took a moment to sink in.
“You are Laswing’s parents!” Aurelin exclaimed and hated how her face was reddening in answer to her flopping heart.
“Yes, though he did not have that name when we saw him last. I am Mistelen and this is my wife Nieninqe, Gilgaer’s sister Eithelwen and brother Alphros.”
Aurelin felt uncomfortable greeting her soon-to-be-spouse’s kin in a robe but there was no way around it, so she gathered her courage and what stateliness you could summon up in the situation and went to them to offer her curtsey, studying them from under her eyelashes as she did so.
“I am honoured and most pleased to meet you, my lords and ladies!”
Mistelen had eyes only a little lighter than the velvety brown of Gilgaer’s and raven hair. Alphros was blonde like her brother and mother but resembled more his father when Laswing’s features were a mix of Mistelen’s and Nieninqe’s.
Aurelin felt a bit awkward – you are usually not meant to meet the kin of your husband-to-be only a few hours before your wedding. But Eithelwen, the lovely willowy lady, taller than her and with incredibly beautiful sapphire eyes, raven hair and a sweet countenance side-stepped her brother and gave Aurelin a big hug.
“You are so beautiful. My brother has chosen well!” she whispered in Aurelin’s ear but loudly enough for everyone to hear in the room. Aurelin blushed and gave her a thankful smile.
“I don’t know if or how much you know of me,” she let her eyes meet the other three’s one after the other, hoping she did not look too much like a lost lamb.
“My dear, if you are worrying whether we like you, or approve of you, you have nothing to worry about. We wholeheartedly welcome you, my dear,” Nieninqe spoke up, her voice melodious like a ripple of water like her daughter’s and a soothing smile on her lips. In a row she was embraced by her, Alphros and Mistelen. From the companionable nods they had exchanged with Calenloth when they had entered the room, Aurelin deduced that after the tidings had reached both families of their children in love with each other, they had developed friendly relations long before this day.
“We give you our blessing with all our hearts, daughter!” Mistelen told Aurelin as he kissed her forehead. “Pardon us for intruding, we shall now go and find Gilgaer and get out of your way, ladies.” He bowed to the women and left with Alphros who gave Aurelin a wink of boyish joy similar to what she had seen in Ithilinden’s eyes.
Calenloth simply smiled at Eithelwen and Nieninque and ushered all back to what was at hand with the experience of someone used to it. That was probably due to having a daughter like Aurelin. “It is wonderful to have you here. But now, we have to hurry. Aurelin, you do know you are getting married in a few hours, do you not, so don’t dawdle!”
The older women began to undo the buttons on Aurelin’s under-dress to help her get into it. Eithelwen had settled beside Aurelin who had started to like this elleth from the moment she had hugged her. They would get on very well, Aurelin guessed.
“Call me, Írimë, Aurelin! It is shorter and I am more known by this name,” the raven haired and blue eyed maiden informed Aurelin with a bright smile. She indeed looked worthy of the name what meant Lovely in Quenya. And there was a ring of gold veined with silver on the index finger of her right hand. Aurelin’s eyes widened.
“So you did make up with him!” she breathed in admiration.
“Oh, of course – you know him and he and Gilgaer must have acquainted you with our history. Yes, Herendil and I have been spouses for some years now. He is waiting outside, to sail us to Alqualondë and the Court of Pools for the ceremony, not wishing to intrude, needlessly of course for he could wait in the ante-chamber, but that is Herendil!”
Aurelin bit back an exclamation. She had seen the Noldo when he was already on the road back to his old self of the Bliss of Valinor but it seemed that he had changed a lot more or Írimë must see him in a much mellower light. Probably both!
“I am very happy for you!” Aurelin squeezed the hands of the gently smiling Eithelwen and the expression on the maidens’ faces was one of acknowledging the other’s happiness and tying it into a bundle with their own. “I saw that he was deeply in love with you and the sight of him was heart-wrenching when he spoke of how he had discovered you did not hate him. I hope you do not think me prying!”
“No, of course not. We are a family now, or soon will be and there shall be no secrets between me and my new little sister, are we agreed?”
Aurelin’s nod was exuberant.
“How I wondered about you when we first heard that you and Gilgaer were in love. Herendil’s account of course helped a lot but imagining a faceless and vaguely described lady betrothed to the brother I had never seen in my life, for myself and Alphros were born in the Lonely Isle before our people built Alqualondë, and who was quite a misty a character, was rather a task.”
“I think I know what you and Alphros feel at seeing him. I saw my younger brother today for the first time too and I still can’t believe it.”
“Enough of chatter!” Calenloth told the girls and handed Írimë Aurelin’s underdress. Aurelin untied and slipped off the robe, offered it to Írimë who in exchange lay the first dress of three in her slightly trembling hands and held up Aurelin’s hair as she donned it. The dress had a leaf-shaped collar, tight sleeves that came to points on her hands. The dress was of aqua coloured silk velvet and had quite a train. The sleeves were embroidered from shoulder to fingers in tiny flowers and leaves, on the collar were holly branches and on the train sparkling flowers formed of sea-foam. All the needlework was in silver.
Then followed the overdress – boat-collared lavender-chiffon dress, somewhat shorter than the underdress, with sleeves slit from the back down from the elbow down, tight around the upper arm, wide and trailing on the ground from the elbow, the sleeves lined with a shade lighter aqua chiffon than the underdress. Írimë spread out the wide sleeves for Aurelin to see the embroidery – stars and flowers above and in waves. On the skirt and bodice were both flowers and leaves of foam.
Aurelin turned herself in front of the mirror this way and that, wondering how the crafts-people had managed to produce something that exquisite and giving the whole of the needlework meaning – the underdress had symbols of herself – hollies because of the forest her parents first met, foamflowers because of her name Gwingloth. The overdress symbolised the union of her and Laswing, it had both hers and his emblems – waves and stars because of Gilgaer, Star-sea, flowers of foam again and leaves of spray for Laswing.
“Aurelin, I have something for you!” he mother spoke up and produced unfolded the third dress that had lain strangely small over the foot of the bed. Aurelin could not believe her eyes, never did she think it possible for her to wear that particular dress and it had only been a part of her wedding-clothes in the dreams she had weaved when she was just come of age and gripped from time to time by very romantic notions and plans for her future. It was the replica of the dress her mother had been wedded in and what had been destroyed when the Fëanoreans attacked the Haven of Sirion. Silvery white and very light, the over-gown must have resembled in looks the great webs of the spiders of Beleriand or Shelob, but there was nothing evil or sticky about the fabric. Aurelin supposed that it was cloth although it was hard to put a name to the substance – the strands were stronger than silk and reflected more light, these had been hand-spliced to form a web-like structure.
Aurelin had a bit of trouble donning it over the lavender dress but Nieninque and Eithelwen managed get her through it after a few cramped poses as she tried to get the wide sleeves to go through the tight ones, however that did not account for her speechlessness when she saw her reflection in the long oval mirror. The tight sleeves of the silver-white dress ended at her elbow but not evenly – the strands forming the sleeves were of different length and hung down, ever longer until at the elbow the filaments reached the back of her knee, little diamonds dangled at the ends of the strands, adding weight and chiming as they clinked together. The dress was slit from a little way down from the boat-shaped neckline, from under a flower of pearls. The slit’s edge was again fringed as was the bottom, all strands ending in tiny diamonds. This dress was as long as the lavender one and the slit let the embroidered skirt be seen.
“Oh, thank you all so much! How can I ever say how beautiful the dresses make me look. Mother, I never dared truly dream that I could wear your dress.” Aurelin breathed and beaming like the Sun at the three women who were standing back and studying her with expressions of remembering themselves in their wedding-gowns and whirling before the mirror just as Aurelin was now.
“I let it be remade in Alqualondë for you, little star!” Calenloth had tears in her eyes, for memories of her own wedding and the circumstances under which she had lost the dress and the sight of her daughter at present.
The aquamarine coloured slippers were the last clothing-articles but that did not mean the preparations were over – Írimë combed Aurelin’s hair with a silver and lapis lazuli brush while Calenloth approached her daughter with another treasure – a circlet. It was Calenloth’s and from Menegroth where she and Nimloth had worn these as the princesses of Doriath, granddaughter’s of Thingol’s brother Elmo. She and Nieninqe put it on Aurelin’s coppery slightly curled hair. The circlet was again of silver (the favourite of Teleri and Sindar), on Aurelin’s forehead was already the moonstone that she always wore and this headpiece incorporated it into itself. The moonstone became the fourth petal of an otherwise emerald flower. From the top of the green petals grew out tiny blue flowers of sapphire – the image what was also on her family badge. The emerald petal that was pointed straight up was connected to the other two with silver strands, these strands multiplied from the top of the blue flowers to the left and right and became an intricate weaving incorporating pearls in the shape of moons and diamonds cut like stars. When these strands reached the back of her head, they came together again, only to separate and fall on her hair as long fillets ending in pearls. With something like that in her hair, there was no need for further embellishment with braids or pinning-ups.
The bride was just overwhelmed, for all those wonderful gifts made her head spin, resulting in a light-headedness that Aurelin guessed would get more and more intense as the wedding itself drew closer – she will be a wreck by the end of it, surely! Her mother brought her a silken cloak that hid her dress for the little trip by the sea and once Calenloth, Nieninque and Eithelwen had changed also – the latter two ladies in simple black with obsidians at the neck, hem and wrists of their gowns and Calenloth in white and pearls, the colours as customary for the kin of the families of the wedding couple, black for the bridegroom’s and white for the bride’s family – the four emerged outside into the sunset where Herendil greeted Aurelin warmly, offering compliments and smiling affectionately all the time, especially when his coal black eyes lit on Írimë, making it hard for Aurelin to recognise the battle-weary and having-his-heart-broken-and-mended Noldo she had met in Imladris, seeking the pardon of Gilgaer for slaying his and Herendil’s betrothed’s brother. He looked dashing in black, the colour nothing new for Aurelin but she supposed this was still for the wedding and that during other days the Noldo had relinquished his habit of wearing black and only black in Valinor.
The boat had been refitted with a new sail Aurelin would have never believed would work as one for it was as insubstantial as a sheet of woven mist and moonbeams. Two lamps of the Noldor (as the Sindar called them) were glowing with a blue-tinged white light from the vaguely swan-shaped prow and the curving “tail” of the aft.
The little group embarked on the sailing-boat and after Aurelin had been settled with her train safe from the salt-spray under the folds of the cloak in the middle of it, Nieninque and Calenloth went to the prow while Herendil manned the boat with Írimë.
The sail caught the northern breeze and started to glide along the beach with Herendil at the tiller and Eithelwen with her head on his shoulder sitting by him. All reasonable thought was leaking out of Aurelin’s head and all she could take in was the darkening sky and disappearance of the golden glow that flooded the land of Valinor at sunset. The ceremony was timed to start exactly when Eärendil strode to the sky, at dusk, the start of the new day and time of twilight that was dearest to the Elves.
Aurelin was gazing mesmerised into the lamp in her lap and somehow a picture of Gilgaer with his back to her formed in her mind’s eye. His undershirt and pants of dark aqua had leaves and waves on them and the coat of lighter aqua had the same foamflowers and leaves on the sleeves like on Aurelin’s dress and on the front holly leaves and rays of the sun shining upon a sea of stars.
She wondered whose idea it had been that both the underdress and -shirt be with their personal symbols and the over-garments show their wish to share their lives with them, incorporating the other’s insignia, but she could not but applaud the simple but elegant thought. The braid at the back of his head was clasped with an image of Aurelin’s badge. It must be a sending from Nessa to make her heart flutter even more strongly than it already was, Aurelin thought but it might have just been the strong ties of love and close to be unified fëar that enabled herself to see Gilgaer while she was in the middle of her journey to him and he was somewhere in the Swanhaven, awaiting her arrival.
The Court of Pools was a marvellous place – the biggest pool had an outlet to the Sea where a small vessel could sail or be rowed and the whole Court was an elf-made mere with fountains, trees and shrubs sprinkled between the some score of pools of various sizes and shapes, carved and airy bridges joining the patches of dry land together, arching over the streams, canals and some of the pools.
Herendil, Írimë, Nieninque and Calenloth had left the ship when they reached the tiny quay at the mouth of the outlet from the centre pool of the Court and their company was replaced by Belegorn’s, taking his place in the official delivering of the bride (it had been decided to this time hold the wedding feast after the ceremony and not before as was customary. Aurelin had ever wondered herself of the practicality of the old tradition for she would have not been able to eat anything out of nervousness) while Herendil and the ladies hurried to take their appointed places in the Court.
All that registered in Aurelin’s befuddled mind was how the Court was lit with little glowing lamps of flickering shades of opal and that there were people ahead left and right of the outlet she and her father were gliding down in the boat before the vessel reached its destination and Aurelin’s eyes were drawn exclusively to the wide bridge over a near-eyelet curve of a leaf-strewn stream right across from the landing-site for the water-born vessels. The elegant bridge was lit from its two ends by a faintly flower-shaped lamp, the centre expanse illumined by the stars twinkling down from the sky AND the resplendent tall blonde and, similarly to her, aquamarine-clad Elf who had gravitated towards her, the most beautiful and heart-stopping brown eyes Aurelin had ever seen blazing like two stars as they took in the sight of her gliding in the boat to the natural “quay” and descending out of the vessel with her father carefully assisting her in order to avoid any tears or fussing-ups of her dresses. Her heart had been fluttering like a mad magpie inside her and it nearly jumped out of her breast when she had seen Laswing. Forcing herself to breathe, she leant on her father’s arm, the lamp held in her left hand and Belegorn began to slowly lead her to the bridge, Aurelin feeling during the process as if her feet were not touching the ground on their way to her love and fated companion in life.
Vaguely, as through cotton she heard the approving gasps of the guests at the sight of her and her father’s under-the-breath observation that she looked more lovely than a spring day. Aurelin herself had never thought of herself as a beauty because of her short stature, too-pale face, strange-coloured hair and huge eyes, but she felt like one this day.
Nieninque was standing by her son with Írimë, Alphros and Herendil one beside the other on the right; Calenloth as the mother of the bride and Mistelen as the bridegroom’s father were to lead the ceremony and therefore Gilgaer was standing before them in the middle; on the left side was Ithilinden (with his mouth almost to his ears and glancing from the corner of his eye at a pretty girl with grey-eyes and ash-coloured hair – was there another wedding in the air?).
Belegorn escorted Aurelin to Laswing (the two had not broken their eye-contact from the moment she had disembarked), and Nieninque came to take the lamp from Aurelin’s hand. Together with Belegorn they joined their children’s hands before they retreated one to the right and the other to the left. Aurelin’s eyes shone like emeralds when Laswing had taken her hand in his and twined his fingers around hers. Mistelen started the proceedings.
“We have come here this hour of aduial for two amongst ourselves are expressing their wish to join themselves, fëar and hröar, with ties of wedlock.”
Calenloth let the statement echo in the complete hush before she uttered the traditional ascertaining of the persons and purpose of the bride and bridegroom, who in this case at the moment had half an eye on each other’s faces and half on their parents.
“If it is indeed true, Gilgaer Lindil of house Starwater and Aurelin Gwingloth of house Greenmere, speak your acquiescence!”
“We do,” Gilgaer and Aurelin intoned together, the squeeze of the other’s hand as mutual in timing.
“Gwingloth, Gilgaer,” Calenloth nodded at her daughter and then at Laswing, “you have already proclaimed your desire for a union through betrothal and you bestowed each other with rings to signify your intentions. Those rings you have worn with love, faithfulness and in trust of the other keeping something of yours. Before you will be wed, the circle of the bond of trust needs to be tied and therefore I call you to return the rings.”
Reluctantly the couple let go of each other’s hands. Alphros had stood forward with two long silver chains. Gilgaer slid her foamflower-shaped ring from his finger and took the fillet his younger brother was offering him, put it through the circle of silver and turned back to Aurelin, hands gingerly and slightly trembling while he reached past her neck, wrists resting on her shoulders as he clasped the chain, Aurelin’s face beaming up at him.
Then she took off the leaf-ring, accepted Alphros’ chain and raised her arms to clasp the fillet behind Laswing’s neck. She fumbled for a second with the unfamiliar clasp and almost unperceptibly Gilgaer tilted his head so that his cheek touched for a fleeting moment her wrist and that was enough to steady her.
“Our families welcome this joining of our Houses.” Mistelen’s voice called Aurelin back to remember there were others present besides Gilgaer. “In the name of Manwë, I bless this couple and we take Gwingloth under the protection of our House as our son-spouse! More so, I, Mistelen of Starwater am honoured to present the lady with a gift, from both his kin and Gilgaer himself, of a cherished heirloom as is customary.”
Írimë, stunning with her raven hair in the black-tight sleeved and high-necked gown, shook out a black silk cloak with a flourish and spread it over Aurelin’s shoulders. She reached out for Aurelin’s wrist and clasped a bracelet there. The bride had seen it once in Mithlond when Laswing had shown it to her – it had been first his mother’s and depicted a slightly altered device of Gilgaer’s family – waves of the sea with stars in the water and above it with a leaf or flame-like form in the middle was their symbol but this bracelet had instead of the flame something that could be taken as a snowflake (for Nieninqe meant Snowdrop) or as occasion permitted – a flower as in Gwingloth. Gilgaer’s mother had left it to him when she and his father had sailed with the other Teleri.
Once Írimë had resumed the place between her mother and brother, Calenloth continued by invoking Elbereth.
“In the name of Varda I bless this couple and we take Gilgaer under the cloak of love of our House as our daughter-spouse. I, Calenloth of Greenmere, am honoured to present ours and Aurelin’s gift.”
Now was Ithilinden’s turn to lay a white cloak over Laswing’s shoulders and then he produced and closed the cloak with a brooch of aquamarine petals in the silver twining wires, forming a flower as if of water or foam. It was the gift of Thingol Greycloak’s to Aurelin’s mother.
Mistelen gestured to the wide skies. “Aurelin and Gilgaer, raise your faces to the stars and pledge your bond under their blessed light! Gilgaer!”
Herendil had silently appeared on Gilgaer’s side offering him the wedding ring.
As the Teleri loved silver, so was their wedding ring of the same metal but unlike the simply shaped silver ring of betrothal, this one was a plain circle that had an opal swan-inlay in the middle.
Laswing reverently took it and with a touch as light and tender as if she would shatter to shards of crystal any second, he lifted Aurelin’s right hand.
“Aurelin, with this ring I give all my love to you. My heart is yours and my soul. Dearest, I promise to love you, as I have for centuries, through all times, to respect you and make you laugh.”
Aurelin had been engulfed by his eyes as he said those words, only when she felt the ring of her finger did she rip her eyes away from his face, realising it was her turn.
“Aurelin!” Calenloth gestured and Aurelin smiled and turned to the Noldo to retrieve the second ring.
“My love, with this ring I pledge myself to you. You are my light, my life, more precious than the stars or the Moon. Eriant, Daybringer, you brought me back to life more than one time and in more than one sense. I am yours for ever!”
Mistelen and Calenloth raised their arms and cast their eyes upward, gazing through the dark blue of the sky to what lay beyond the dome of menel.
“In the name of Eru Ilúvatar, the Allfather, may they be blessed!”
Laswing’s eyes were full of joy when looking at Aurelin, the playful and merry light she loved so much twinkling just under the surface and Aurelin’s eyes were shining for she was close to tears. “In the name of Eru Ilúvatar, we pledge ourselves joined as spouses!” they intoned together and bowed their heads to the Allfather in reverence. And then it was time for probably the most enjoyable part of the whole proceedings – Aurelin timidly lay her hand on Laswing’s tunic-front when he drew her closer with an arm around her waist, the other hand on her jaw, to kiss her.
Aurelin surged up from the lounging position and bumped her elbow against the side of the boat, sending it rocking on the bay of Lhûn. She blinked her eyes since for a moment she had not know where she was.
Laswing had also been startled out of his day-dreams and he was trying to stay Aurelin from hurting herself or overturning the boat in any further trashes.
“Is something the matter?” he queried worriedly, searching her face for answers but her expression was that of someone with her mind far away. “What did you dream of?”
“I…I cannot recall!” Aurelin searched her brain for the memories but there were none which was strange for an Elf. A sense of calm was spreading through her and forgetting how queer it might look to Laswing that she could not even explain her sudden surging-up, with bliss in her eyes and face devoid of the shadow of remembrances of the “good-old days” and regret that had been there before, she wore a small wistful smile and wrapped her arms around him.
“Eriant, my love, I have a feeling everything is going to be all right!”
A/N: That seems to be it!
A little note on the rings – I have taken a liberty of sorts with the metals from what JRR wrote in the “Laws and Customs”. Since those were of the Noldor, I felt that changing a few things for Aurelin and Laswing would not be too much of a blasphemy.
Just for the fun of it I made up a “system” for the wedding rings for Elves of the three kindreds so that they would incorporate both the bride’s and groom’s kin.
For two Noldor, it is obvious the rings were golden, that was a fact.
For two Vanyar I devised rings of white gold with a little yellow diamond set in the simple band; for a couple of two Teler – silver bands with a little opal swan; a Vanya and a Noldo would have bands of gold and white gold; a Teler and a Noldo – of gold and silver and a Vanya and a Teler – white gold and silver.
Another note concerns the cloaks – that comes from GRR Martin’s ASOIAF, an idea I liked but modified for my story.
That seems to be it!