A Midspring Morning's Dream
Disclaimer: The Lord of the Rings and all related properties are copyrights of J.R.R. Tolkien, et al. This story is written for entertainment purposes only. No infringement is intended.
Warnings: Rated G for pure, unfiltered WAFF.
Beware my usual Alternate Universe scrambling! This piece is set after the War of the Ring in an alternate TreeHugger universe, one in which Tanglinna and Brethil survived Beleg Doron. Happy Valentine's Day!
Dawn melted the early morning's cool grey haze with a glorious display of Anor's gossamer gold, shedding roseate beams over the wispy clouds and washing the land in the day's first warm glow. The forest of Mirkwood—recently rechristened Eryn Lasgalen, but once again known more commonly as Greenwood the Great—sang in the full flush of springtime; little birds twitter-peeped at each other, hopping exuberantly from twig to twig, while the massive trees to whom the twigs belonged stretched their winter-wearied boughs up and out, letting their small, budding leaves drink in the morning's radiance. Petite white flowers tethered to creeping vines peeked from beneath their green bonnets, whispering excitedly to their teardrop-leaf neighbors, proudly displaying their pale faces to the hosts of butterflies and hummingbirds that came to call. The glistening evidence of the night's gentle rainshower hung from every leaf and petal and stem; the air smelled of sun-warmed grass and rain-dampened leaves, and in places the scent of woodland flowers caressed the skin of passers-by with sweet, delicate fingers.
One dew-sparkled glade, in particular, lay awash with the fragrances of the woodland's rebirth. The sprouting boughs that enclosed the clearing had been draped with freshly twined garlands of flowers, in hues ranging from the pure white of first snowfall to the vibrant pink and gold of the sunrise. A light breeze tickled the hangings and set them to a gentle swaying—indeed, one could almost hear the draperies giggling their merriment, so bright and cheerful were they. A pair of yellow-throated warblers perched in one of the branches suspended above the clearing, chattering and trilling at the proceedings below.
The Lord of northern Greenwood stood in the exact center of the glade, facing the brightening eastern sky. He shifted his bare feet in the damp grass, savoring the feel of lush greenery between his toes. Simple pleasures, Thranduil sighed to himself, a deeply satisfied smile tugging at his lips. He had just about decided that he would never again wear shoes during the spring and summer months, when the grass grew so delightfully thick and springy. "They could not have chosen a lovelier morning," he remarked aloud.
Nearby, two young Elven warriors stood side-by-side and fidgeted restively with their formal clothes. "When are they supposed to be here, Ada?" Legolas asked, fussing with the embroidered sleeves of his pine-green over-robe and unintentionally elbowing Tavor in the process.
Thranduil's emerald gaze slid to the right just in time to see Tavor return the elbowing, and he raised one dark brow. "They will arrive at any moment," he replied. "Let your sleeves alone, Legolas, they look fine. Tavor, for the Valar's sake, tugging at your collar is not going to make it disappear."
"My grandmother makes me wear the stupidest things," Tavor muttered at Legolas, shrugging his shoulders uncomfortably.
Greenwood's youngest prince gave a sympathetic grin. "At least you aren't required to wear stupid things at every formal function the royal family attends," he whispered.
"I heard that, iôn nin," Thranduil said archly. "You can both change after the ceremony, if you are so inclined. For now, stand up straight and at least pretend to be glad for your best friend's good fortune."
Legolas gave a final surreptitious tug to his sleeve, but dropped his hands to his sides at his father's annoyed glance. "We are glad for him, Ada," he said, his grin broadening. "I don't think I've ever been happier for him in my life!"
Tavor shook his head, his own lips quirking upward. "Brethil, that lucky fox. Who could have guessed that he would be the first to marry?"
"I wouldn't have guessed it," Legolas answered with a chuckle. "Actually, I always thought you would be the first."
"I would have been, if Grandmother had had her way," Tavor shrugged. "It's funny, though; I always assumed you would be the first. Perks of being a prince, you know," he added, grinning slyly.
Legolas elbowed his friend for a second time, this time purposefully. "I would be married and raising children by now, if Ada had his way," he said, smiling fondly at his father.
"You like Gimli well enough," Tavor observed dryly. "Perhaps you should marry him."
"Tavor Heledirion, if you suggest such a thing in my hearing ever again, I shall have Tanglinna escort you to the next available feast dressed in the loveliest ruffled pink garments I can find," Thranduil warned the younger Elf, his tone inordinately severe.
Legolas snickered under his breath. "Did he mean you were going to be dressed up, or Tanglinna?" he whispered to Tavor.
The latter elbowed his friend, his face much paler than normal. "Shut up, Legolas," he hissed. A wicked grin flickered then, and a devious glint shone in his dark grey eyes. "After all, I certainly don't want a troop of Orcs falling in love with me and singing an ode in my honor!"
The prince returned the elbow, glaring at Tavor's muffled snickers. "Shut up, Tavor."
"What? It isn't my fault you're the Singing Orc Princess," Tavor answered through his chuckles, elbowing Legolas for good measure.
Legolas elbowed his smirking friend again, with a little more force. "Shut up, Tavor!"
Thranduil resisted the urge to place his fingers to the bridge of his nose. "Legolas, my princeling," he murmured in an overly cordial tone, "would you like to remain in those clothes for the rest of the day?"
"No, Ada," was the subdued answer.
"And you, Tavor?" Thranduil persisted.
"No, your Majesty," Tavor replied meekly.
"Then for sweet dignity's sake, be quiet and stop elbowing each other!" The king punctuated the command with a sharp glance at the two younger Elves. The effect was immediate: both sets of arms slackened at their respective sides, unwilling to risk further discipline. Thranduil gave a curt nod of satisfaction, then tilted his head, listening to the leaves' growingly excited murmurs. A smile blossomed over his features once more. "They are coming," he announced.
Expectant eyes turned to the break in the trees cradling the verdant glade. Within minutes, three figures appeared round the bend in the path and made their way into the clearing. The tallest of them was robed in dark grey trimmed with muted violet and indigo; long hair fell in silver waves down his back and over his shoulders, framing a lean, strikingly chiseled face. Master Archer Tanglinna's familiar countenance retained its natural composure, but his eyes practically glowed with pleasure. The lovely Lady Glaurhunant kept easy pace with the archer, her bare toes peeking from beneath her deep lavender gown. Thick tresses as pale as the full moon were pulled away from her fine features by an assortment of carven silver combs, leaving the remaining length to flow unrestrained to her slender waist. Between the two elder Elves, then, was…
Tavor and Legolas stared unabashedly. "Is that Brethil?" Tavor muttered under his breath, his eyes wide with amazement.
Those assembled in the garlanded glade beheld a vision of utmost grace and splendor as the young warrior strode from the path, flanked by his elder escorts. He carried himself as a prince of lore, sweeping across the clearing on light feet, leaving scarcely any impression on the lush grass as he passed. His garments were of the deepest, richest blue, embroidered with scrolling silver vines and leaves, and his over-robe fell in luxuriant folds about his slender frame. Straight locks of white-gold hair spilled down past his shoulders, contrasting stunningly with the azure robes. His fair face was flushed with exhilaration, and his pale grey eyes glimmered jubilantly.
"Good morning, your Majesty," Brethil greeted Thranduil, smiling brilliantly as he gave a low bow.
Thranduil returned the smile. "Good morning to you, pen-neth," he replied, inspecting the younger Elf with raised brows. "Elbereth's glory, Tanglinna, Glaurhunant, you have certainly outdone yourselves. He is marvelous."
Brethil's cheeks took on a self-conscious rosy hue. "Am I really?" he asked, his smile quivering shyly.
"Yes, nin meliôn, you are," Glaurhunant assured her son with a smile, brushing a stray lock of his pale hair back and tucking it behind his ear. "Quite marvelous."
"Indeed," Thranduil added, glancing slyly at Tanglinna. "Your lady may be tempted to swoon for the mere sight of you!"
The young Elf's blush deepened most becomingly, and his gaze dropped to the grass. "Thank you, your Majesty," he murmured, plucking at his robes with a nervous hand.
"Aranhîr, I just finished assigning him some much-needed confidence," Tanglinna muttered reproachfully, batting at Brethil's fretful fingers. "Look, you have made him fuss at his clothing again, and I only managed to halt that an hour ago!"
Greenwood's king gave a warm chuckle. "Hold your head up, Brethil," he said kindly. "Truly, you look splendid. Now, go shake your friends out of their trance. The lady will be here at any moment!"
As Brethil gave a hasty bow and glided over to meet Tavor and Legolas, Thranduil glanced at his Master Archer out of the corner of his left eye. Tanglinna stood as straight as a young mallorn, his robes falling around his slender build like storm clouds around a mountain's snow-sprinkled peak. The silver-haired archer watched Brethil with eyes shadowed by bittersweet memory. Thranduil sighed inwardly, knowing full well the sorrow that surely haunted the elder Elf's thoughts. "Fatherhood suits you, mellon iaur," he murmured, the words pitched for Tanglinna's ears alone.
Tanglinna's thin lips quirked in a somewhat melancholy smile, and he gave a small nod of acknowledgement. Customarily, Brethil's father, Bronadui, would have been the one to join Glaurhunant in dressing their son and preparing him for his wedding ceremony. Likewise, he would have then escorted his wife and son to the clearing, and pronounced the blessing on the marriage, and given the young Elf's hand into that of his bride. Bronadui, however, had been tragically slain many years past, and so Tanglinna had offered to serve in his stead.
He has long regarded that child as his own, Thranduil mused privately, watching Legolas and Tavor greet their blushing friend with broad smiles and enthusiastic compliments. Tanglinna had always been most taken with Brethil's sweet nature and childish innocence, despite the youngling's exasperating tendency to ramble. The oft-stern Master Archer of Greenwood had reserved his warmest glances and kindest words for the chattery son of quiet, gentle Bronadui, even going so far as to address the child as tithen min from time to time. Thranduil knew that Tanglinna loved each one of his young pupils and wished only the best for them; but from the very beginning, Brethil Bronaduion had thoroughly melted the prickly Master Archer's lonely heart.
Brethil returned to stand beside his mother and Tanglinna, half-facing Thranduil, half-facing the mouth of the pathway. "Is she coming, your Majesty?" he asked breathlessly.
Thranduil shook himself from his reflections, swiftly reorienting his attention. "The trees sing for joy, Brethil," he said softly, his smile lightening. "Yes, she is coming."
Lady Glaurhunant tipped Brethil's face down so that she could lay a tender kiss on his cheek. "My heart sings for joy as well, my son," she murmured, her eyes misting above her smile. "Your Ada would be so proud to see you today."
Brethil's pale eyes shimmered in reply. "Thank you, Nana," he whispered, wrapping his mother in a brief embrace.
Glaurhunant pulled away, her gaze sparkling with unshed tears. "Now, you enjoy yourself," she told him, tapping his nose as though he were a small child again. "And don't forget to smile after you kiss your lady, hm?"
"Naneth," the younger Elf muttered, his ears reddening at his mother's knowing smile.
Thranduil stifled his own mirth as Glaurhunant moved to stand at Tanglinna's right side, which placed her to the king's far left. Brethil stood closest to the lord of Greenwood, and Tanglinna remained between the young Elf and his mother, for he was to voice the marriage blessing on behalf of Bronadui.
Brethil's eyes remained bright with anticipation, but his teeth worried his bottom lip. "What if I can't remember what I'm supposed to say?" he murmured, one slender hand straying to fidget with the small buttons on his tunic. "What if I forget some of my pledge? What if—?"
Tanglinna's bemused chuckle hummed through the air, effectively halting the anxious inquiries. "Young one, I assure you, you have never had difficulty remembering to speak," he said softly, his hand closing over Brethil's fussing fingers and stilling their nervous movements. "Calm yourself. 'Tis a lovely morning, and you are set to wed a lovely maiden. I promise, when you take your lady's hand, the words will come of their own accord."
Brethil smiled and obediently dropped his hand to his side. "I'm glad you're here," he told the Master Archer, his voice low and sincere. "I don't think I could do this otherwise."
Tanglinna's answering gaze remained open and filled with warm amusement. "Of course you could, pen-neth," he replied quietly, quirking one silvery brow. "But I am not certain your clothing would survive your fidgeting if I were not here to subdue it."
"There she is," Thranduil murmured beneath his breath, his deep green eyes flickering with anticipation.
All eyes in the glade converged on the path, and six breaths were drawn in unison and held as the small delegation approached the flower-bedecked clearing. Firstly came a pair of dark-haired, white-skinned maidens of slight build and shining eyes. They were the bride's sisters, come to stand witness to their younger sibling's marriage. They moved on buoyant feet to bow before Thranduil, then shifted to the furthest left and took their places across from Legolas and Tavor.
Behind the two maidens, then, were Brethil's lady and her parents. The mother, Lady Fimlothiel, was a trim Elven woman with raven hair and regal bearing. Thranduil had spoken with her the evening before in preparation for the morning's ceremony, and had found her to be an intelligent, thoughtful lady of gentle wit and fierce devotion to her family. Her husband was dark-haired, grave-eyed Aerlindë, the son of a mariner at the Havens. According to Tanglinna, who had spent far more time in the raftsman's company than had Thranduil, Aerlindë was a quiet, decent soul, one who prized his wife and three daughters above all else. And between the two elders walked—nay, floated—one of the most enchanting creatures the Greenwood had to offer.
Thranduil smiled to hear Brethil's slight intake of breath as he beheld his intended, and a single name fell in sweet, hushed tones from the young Elf's lips: Tirithien…
She glided across the verdant grass as lightly as the scent of flowers carried on the morning breeze. Petite in form and feature, with cascading tresses as dark as a moonless night in the shadowed forest, Tirithien Aerlindiel appeared positively luminous in the sun's first gleam. Her gown was of flowing yellow to match the cheerful buttercups garlanded about the clearing, and a silken band of like hue bound most of her midnight locks away from her delicately formed face. Eyes as resplendently green as Thranduil's own lit from within as the maiden caught sight of Brethil, and her smile flashed white in contrast with her rose-blushed cheeks.
Tirithien, Lady Fimlothiel, and Aerlindë bowed low to Thranduil, then stepped back into line with Brethil, Tanglinna and Lady Glaurhunant. Thranduil regarded them all for a long moment before he began. Six faces shone in the growing sunlight; six pairs of eyes gleamed expectantly. Brethil and Tirithien stole flickered glances at each other, their cheeks flushed, eyes sparkling with joy. Tanglinna radiated paternal pride, while Glaurhunant smiled through eyes already streaming tears; Fimlothiel's smile was no less joyous, and Aerlindë's dark olive gaze thrummed with contentment.
"Tiro nu tenn'met, Ilúvatar menelesse a beleg Fëar númenello," Thranduil intoned, his rich voice resounding in the hushed glade as he uttered the ancient appeal that preceded most Elven ceremonies. He granted those assembled a warm, bright smile, and his eyes blazed a vivid emerald. "I welcome you all, dear friends and family, parents and children alike. We have assembled on this glorious morning to witness the joining of two young souls in the bond of marriage: Brethil Bronaduion and Tirithien Aerlindiel."
Greenwood's king allowed the cheerful announcement to linger in the air for an exultant moment, taking in the various enthused reactions from those gathered in the clearing. He then fixed a serious, intent gaze on the two young lovers themselves, and continued, "This is a day of much rejoicing, to be sure, for such a profound commitment between two persons is cause for great celebration; yet it is also a day of reverence, for such a union of souls is no trivial undertaking. It is a choice of the heart, a choice of the mind, a choice of the spirit, and a choice of the body. And so, on account of its all-encompassing nature, marriage must be entered into with due reflection and sincerity, lest it should lack the foundation that will sustain it in hardship.
"What is that foundation? It is more than mere physical passion, for such desire seeks to satisfy only the body, and will not serve to anchor the heart or the mind or the spirit. Too, it is more than simple infatuation, for such is no more than a feeling, an ephemeral mood that drifts with the tides and fades as quickly as the Sun rises and sinks. Nay, the foundation of a marriage must be more than these. It must be built upon wholehearted selflessness, allegiance, and above all, perseverance. Selflessness will foster devotion and trust between you, so that you may delight in one another without anxiety and strife born of conceit or neglect. Allegiance to each other will sustain your strength in times of trial, so that you may stand secure in the knowledge that you are not alone in your struggle. Perseverance, then, will see you through the darkest nights, so that you may look on the coming dawn with hope, confident that your difficulties will serve to reinforce your devotion to each other.
"The ancient tongue names this all-embracing foundation ilúvemel, All-love, an unmitigated harmony between hearts and minds and spirits; the blessed accord shared by two souls wedded—either by rite or by bodily union—in the sight of Ilúvatar. A marriage that is not rooted within the fullness of ilúvemel may wither and fail, just as a flower that is left to grow in thirsty soil without tending will perish. But heed: even a marriage assuredly built upon ilúvemel is not to be entered into without guarded reflection and absolute certainty, for once sealed, the bond may never be severed, save perhaps by death irrevocable."
Once again, Thranduil paused to allow his words to pervade the thoughts of his listeners. Then, he trained a solemn, piercing stare on Brethil, inwardly chuckling at the young Elf's surprised blink. "Brethil, son of Bronadui and Glaurhunant, child of the Firstborn Children of Greenwood, will you step forth in confidence, knowing that the oath you will speak is of utmost gravity, and thenceforth present your pledge of ilúvemel before your intended, your family, your king, the Lords of the West, and Eru the One?"
Brethil's voice was muted and tremulous, but he nodded and managed, "I will step forth, my lord."
Thranduil mentally nodded his approval. His gaze swung to Tanglinna and Glaurhunant, the latter of whom had managed to stem the tide of tears for the moment. "Who stands with Brethil this day?" the king queried.
"I do, nin aran," Tanglinna said clearly, and Thranduil could have wept for the long-denied joy in his Master Archer's glowing silveron eyes.
"I do, my lord," Lady Glaurhunant echoed, her lovely eyes brimming once more.
"And do you agree with Brethil's assurance that he is of sound mind and spirit, and that he indeed understands and accepts the magnitude of the vow he will speak?" Thranduil asked them.
"We do so agree," Tanglinna answered evenly.
"Then step forth, Brethil, and prepare to speak your pledge," Thranduil commanded. The young Elf did so, sparing Tanglinna the most fleeting of nervous glances and receiving an encouraging smile in return.
Greenwood's lord then turned his searching gaze on Brethil's lovely bride. "Tirithien, daughter of Aerlindë and Fimlothiel, child of the Firstborn Children of Greenwood, will you also step forth in confidence, knowing that the oath you will present is of utmost gravity, and thenceforth impart your pledge of ilúvemel before your intended, your family, your king, the Lords of the West, and Eru the One?"
Tirithien nodded her assent. Her smile shone like Eärendil the Blessed in the gloom of twilight. Thranduil shifted his attention to the two elder Elves standing at the maiden's left side. He asked of them the same question as he had Tanglinna and Glaurhunant, and both Fimlothiel and Aerlindë responded in the affirmative.
"Then step forth, Tirithien, and prepare to present your pledge," Thranduil instructed. The maiden obeyed, yet silent. As she reached Brethil's side, she traded a euphoric glance with her beloved, who looked as though he might giggle or weep at any moment. "Brethil Bronaduion," the king said, his voice low and thrumming, "speak your pledge of ilúvemel, and know that your words fall upon the ears of witnesses both flesh and spirit."
Brethil took in a deep, deep breath and let it out slowly, turning to gaze down into the smiling face of his lady. Soft grey eyes met the swimming jade depths. An eternity swept past in the space of a moment. And softly, earnestly, Brethil began to speak.
"Sweet Tirithien, I think I loved you the very first time I saw your smile. It was the summer two years ago, on that day you and your sisters went to swim in the Branch Pond, remember? Legolas and Tavor had talked me into joining them in their latest scheme, so we stole all your, um, clothes." The young warrior's cheeks and ears flushed scarlet, but he pressed on, "I remember that we sat in the trees above the pond while your sisters hollered at us, and Tavor and Legolas were laughing so hard I was afraid they would fall off their branches! But you didn't yell at us, or cry, or even frown. You just watched me with a little smile, and I couldn't figure out why you would smile at me, especially since I had just helped steal your clothes, but I thought your smile was the prettiest thing I'd ever seen."
The blush faded from Brethil's cheeks as he continued; it seemed as though he had forgotten that anyone but Tirithien herself could hear him. "I didn't quite know what I was doing when I went looking for you at the Midsummer celebration a few weeks later, but I thought that if I could just see you smile again, the whole day would be just perfect. I didn't know your name, so I looked and looked, but I couldn't find you anywhere. Just when I was about to give up and go find my friends again, though, I saw you, and I thought my heart would fall out right there and run straight for you. You were dancing by the fire, twirling around and around to the music, and oh, how you smiled then, nin melhíri! How you smiled!" Brethil's eyes shone with rapture as he spoke, his voice rapid and fluidic, the words tumbling in a heartfelt waterfall from his lips. "I just stood there and watched you, I don't know for how long. It was like I'd stumbled into a gathering of the most beautiful woodland sprites, and you were their queen, dancing in the firelight, with your pretty hands stretched out and your long hair swirling like Morn Nen, and I thought I would never leave so long as you danced…"
The young Elf drew in a sudden breath as though he had quite forgotten to inhale all through his speech. "My heart was never my own again after that night," he said after a moment, his voice abruptly quiet and reflective as he gazed into Tirithien's deep green eyes. Glistening tears traced slow paths down her cheeks, and Brethil smiled gently and wiped at her tears with affectionate fingers. "It never will be again, either. The beautiful smile I fell in love with shines from the sweetest, tenderest heart I have ever known. Your spirit lights my days, wana-melhíri nin, and more than anything else, I long to share that light for the rest of my life." The young warrior drew in another deep breath, held it for one charged moment, then resumed, "So I, Brethil Bronaduion, do gladly pledge my heart, my mind, my spirit, my body, and all that I possess to you, Tirithien Aerlindiel. I will serve you, protect you, cherish you, and honor you for the rest of our lives together. Your joys and sorrows shall be as my own, and all that I am I will share in full with you. These things I do solemnly swear, in the name of Eru the One, in the names of Manwë and Varda, and in the sight of all witnesses flesh and spirit." Exuberant relief washed over Brethil's fair features as he spoke the last words; he had accurately remembered the formal pledge statement. Then, just as quickly, anxiety widened his pale grey eyes, and he added, "Oh, and I promise to sing to you whenever you like. Did I forget to say that? I think I did. But I just said it, so it's okay, right?"
Tirithien's slim shoulders shook with silent laughter, and Thranduil bit into his tongue to keep his expression appropriately serious. His eyes twinkled merrily, however, as he murmured, "Yes, Brethil, I believe everyone heard that promise as well."
"Oh, good." Brethil gave his bride a renewed smile, satisfied that his final promise to her was as "official" as the rest of his pledge.
Thranduil exchanged an amused glance with the adults clustered to either side of the couple, then turned his regard to Tirithien herself. "Tirithien Aerlindiel, impart your pledge of ilúvemel, and know that your words also fall upon the ears of witnesses both flesh and spirit."
The maiden settled her tear-sparkled, smile-crinkled gaze on Brethil's fair face. She spoke not one word. Truth be told, Tirithien had never spoken a word to anyone in her life.
She was mute.
Muteness was all but unheard-of among the Firstborn. Tirithien Aerlindiel, in fact, was the first Elf Thranduil had ever encountered who did not possess a voice of any sort. Through his conversations with Lady Fimlothiel, Tanglinna, and Brethil, the king had learned that the maiden had been silent from birth; yet, but for her lack of speech, she was in all other ways healthy. Her youth had been as bright and filled with learning as had her sisters', and she had never evinced slower development or lesser intelligence. She was simply unable to speak.
Elrond of Imladris had been as mystified as everyone else when consulted on the matter, but he had been able to lend aid in one essential aspect: communication. Using a crude Mannish hand-signal "language" as a basis, Elrond had devised a sophisticated assemblage of gestures and signals by which Tirithien could express herself. Fimlothiel and Aerlindë had readily learned their voiceless daughter's new method of communication, as had Tirithien's elder sisters. Thus, the maiden had gained her "voice," and her fingers had become as expressive and eloquent as any tongue.
So now, on her wedding day, Tirithien's slender hands lifted from her sides and began to trace their graceful patterns through the scented spring air. Though Brethil had become exceptionally fluent with his intended's mode of expression, Lady Fimlothiel interpreted aloud her daughter's pledge, for the benefit of the others in the wedding glade.
"'Dearest Brethil, hen-elenui lindë nin,'" Fimlothiel's resonant voice began, overlaying Tirithien's fluttering hand movements with sweetly audible words, "'I knew I loved you the day you sang to me under the willow tree. Do you remember? You looked into my eyes, and you held my hand, and you sang to me until the Sun's rays gave way to night's stars.'" Tears slipped from her eyes as her delicate hands danced with memories. "'I shall never forget how you looked at me that day. It was as though the entire world had disappeared around us, and there was only you, and me, and your song. Your voice was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, Brethil, as clear as the river's flowing, and as sweet as new honey. I remember wishing I could stay there forever, looking into your eyes and listening to your song, and never once feeling lesser because I could not join in…'"
A joyous, soundless sob hitched Tirithien's breathing, but she continued on, her mother's tone trembling only slightly with emotion as she lent her voice to her daughter's heartfelt pledge. "'You have always listened to me, nin lindë, whether I was speaking or not, whether my hands moved or not. More than anything else in my entire life, I want to listen to you in return, and share in your song for the rest of time. So I, Tirithien Aerlindiel, do gladly pledge my heart, my mind, my spirit, my body, and all that I possess to you, Brethil Bronaduion. I will serve you, protect you, cherish you, and honor you for the rest of our lives together. Your joys and sorrows shall be as my own, and all that I am I will share in full with you. These things I do solemnly swear, in the name of Eru the One, in the names of Manwë and Varda, and in the sight of all witnesses flesh and spirit.'" The maiden then lowered her hands, slowly and tremblingly, her shoulders shaking with scarcely-contained emotion, her gaze awash with sunlit joy.
Thranduil blinked back his own tears, surprised to feel the slight recognizable burning sensation in his eyes. Such a beautiful couple, these two, he mused. Surely their marriage was appointed by the Valar themselves! He raised his hands in a gesture of benediction, his sleeves draping like soft velvety foliage from his outstretched arms, and his voice took on a rich, vibrantly ebullient timbre. "Then in the name of Eru the One, the All-father from whom all good has sprung, and in the names of Manwë Súlimo and Varda Elentári, and in the sight of these two consenting families, and in the presence of gathered witnesses, and by the authority bestowed upon me as King, it is my greatest pleasure to declare you husband and wife." Thranduil smiled brilliantly and lowered his hands. "Brethil, you may kiss your bride."
The young Elf's tipped ears and smooth cheeks flushed a most fetching rosy hue, but he stepped in to gather Tirithien's slight frame in a loose embrace. "Ril-galad o nin cuil," he murmured, then bent his head to brush his lips against hers.
Tirithien wound her arms around Brethil's neck and pulled him down into a deeper, more fervent kiss. Stifled chuckles from Legolas and Tavor met that tactic, as well as wide smiles of approval from the gathered adults. Thranduil exchanged a highly amused glance with Tanglinna and Aerlindë; all remembered their wedding days, and all remembered the widespread tendency of Elven maidens to insist upon a proper wedding kiss. The king was pleased to note that the melancholy in his Master Archer's silvery eyes had all but faded, leaving naught but the purest, most radiant happiness.
When she at last released him, Tirithien pulled back in the encirclement of Brethil's arms just far enough to swiftly sign her reply to his soft statement. "'Lis lindë o nin gur,'" Lady Fimlothiel supplied, her smile shining as brightly as her daughter's.
Thranduil nearly laughed aloud at Brethil's flaming blush. The young Elf was smiling so widely his face looked as though it might split in half, leaving two crimson pieces lying at Tirithien's feet. "Before we all depart and make our way to the wedding feast," Thranduil announced, his clear voice ringing with cheer, "Tanglinna and Lady Fimlothiel will speak the marriage blessings of old over Brethil and Tirithien, that they might live together with joy and peace, and remain ever content with the vows they have exchanged today."
Tanglinna moved round so that he stood at the couple's opposite side, facing Thranduil. The Sun's ever-brightening presence in the east seemed to set the archer's thick tresses afire, forming an almost ethereal halo about the familiar features. He settled one long-fingered hand on Brethil's shoulder, and the other on Tirithien's, and he regarded them both in silence, silveron eyes shimmering. And softly, compellingly, he spoke. Words older than Brethil and Tirithien, older than Thranduil, older even than Tanglinna himself, poured into the spring-bathed clearing, weaving their ancient spell about the assemblage. The Master Archer's characteristic accent and lenditions, sprung from his own long-past youth in Doriath, infused the blessing with a captivating archaic tonality. In truth, if Thranduil closed his eyes, he could easily imagine that he was attending a wedding beneath the leaved awning of Thingol's mighty refuge. The Master Archer invoked the name of Manwë, calling upon the Lord of the Breath of Arda to stand as witness and guardian to the young couple, to strengthen their hearts and spirits, and to shield them from harm unto the world's end. The blessing soared up into the sky's endless blue vault, then fell as a warm rainshower over those gathered, the heartfelt appeal in Tanglinna's voice touching the hearts of all. By the time he finished, every eye in the glade glittered with tears.
Tanglinna fell silent and laid the back of his hand against Brethil's cheek, just as he had often done in the younger Elf's childhood. "Nai Vardo man alata cala tenn'tie le pella" he thrummed after a moment. "Stars shine on you, tithen min." His silver gaze swept back and forth between Brethil and his bride, and his lean features glowed with rarest delight. "Stars shine on you both."
Brethil stared into his longtime mentor's bright eyes, insight dawning in his pale grey gaze, and of a sudden, the young Elf released Tirithien and pulled the Master Archer into a fierce embrace. "Thank you," he whispered, so lowly that Thranduil could barely make out the words. "For everything. My whole life, you have always been here for me. And I would be honored to call you adar today."
A delicate shudder ran through Tanglinna's spare frame, and Thranduil choked on the hard knot in his throat. Oh, nin ereb mellonmay those words help to heal the bleeding wound in your soul! Greenwood's lord prayed fervently.
Indeed, as Tanglinna pulled back, his silvery eyes brimmed with tears, but underlying the radiant joy was a pervading peace that Thranduil had never thought to see in that tormented gaze again. The Master Archer could not bring himself to speak, but merely nodded, his forearms clasped with Brethil's in a traditional warrior's grip. After a charged pause, Tanglinna reached down and took one of Tirithien's hands in his own, then laid it in Brethil's palm and closed the younger Elf's fingers around his bride's. Pressing their hands together between his own, the archer gave them both a pleased nod and a brilliant smile, then gracefully stepped away, returning to his place at Glaurhunant's side.
Thranduil's emerald gaze glistened as he inclined his golden head to Lady Fimlothiel. Tirithien's mother glided to the position that Tanglinna had so recently occupied. Laying her white hands on the couple's shoulders, she too imparted an olden blessing, her melodic voice dancing with fluid words as she invoked the name of Varda, entreating the Lady of the Stars to also stand as witness and protector over the lovers, to keep their hearts steadfast and pure, and to bind them ever closer in harmony with one another. As Fimlothiel spoke, Thranduil watched the emotions playing over Tirithien's young features. So similar to Brenillass', on our wedding day, he mused, fresh tears blurring his sight. He cast a glance at Tanglinna, and wondered if the Master Archer was thinking along similar routes. Your beloved would rejoice to see you here, the king thought at his old friend, his heart swelling with happiness so intense it was almost painful. She would delight in the peace I see in you, and the joy…
Fimlothiel finished her blessing and laid a gentle kiss on her daughter's cheek, then did the same for Brethil. "I am pleased to call you both my children," she said softly, her smile gleaming as vibrantly as the tears flooding her eyes. "May you cherish one another as deeply as I treasure you."
Tirithien embraced her mother tightly, sighing a sob into Fimlothiel's shoulder. The two women stood still for a long moment, and then Fimlothiel pulled away, smoothing her daughter's hair and gown with utterly maternal aplomb. "Elbereth keep you, mel-dess nin," she murmured. And, just as Tanglinna had done some minutes before, she placed Tirithien's hand in Brethil's and clasped the lovers' fingers together. "Elbereth keep the both of you."
As Fimlothiel eased back into her place at Aerlindë's side, Thranduil gave the assemblage a broad smile, his eyes surprisingly wet. "I believe we are finished here," he announced. "Come, we must proclaim the glad tidings! The wedding feast awaits!"
The formal atmosphere dispersed in the wake of those cheerful words, and Legolas, Tavor, and Tirithien's sisters hurried over to join the knot of elders gathered round the newlyweds. Everyone was speaking and laughing at once, it seemed, and Thranduil laughed aloud to see it. This is one of my favorite duties as king, he thought, clasping hands with Aerlindë and heartily congratulating the raftsman.
Legolas clapped Brethil on the shoulder and gave a whoop of laughter, his blue eyes flashing gleefully. "Brethil, that was great!" he chuckled. "You should have seen your face when you talked about us stealing the girls' clothes; I've never seen that shade of red before in my life!"
"I didn't blush that much," Brethil protested, his fair cheeks reddening even as he spoke. "Did I?"
Tavor laughed and elbowed Legolas knowingly. "Yes, you did! Don't worry, though—the red matched your clothes wonderfully."
"Speaking of clothes, do you think we'll be in trouble later for the incident at the pond?" Legolas wondered aloud, glancing askance at his father.
Brethil's pale eyes widened with realization. "Oh! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to tell, honestly I didn't! Do you really think we'll get in trouble for it?"
One of Tirithien's sisters, the tall one with the merry eyes, gave a low laugh. "I certainly hope so," she muttered, trading winks with her siblings.
Tavor doubled over with laughter at Brethil's worried expression, clinging to Legolas' arm for support. Tirithien watched the two with no small amusement, then touched her husband's arm to get his attention. Her hands danced swiftly with her own commentary. Brethil chuckled and gave her an affectionate peck on the cheek, hugging her to his side. "Tirithien says she'll keep me out of trouble, but you two are on your own."
Legolas quirked one dark brow in mock indignation. "That's hardly fair, Tirithien. Since when is a lowly peasant worthy of more protection than a prince?"
Brethil laughed even more at his lady's smirking reply. "She says she likes this lowly peasant!"
Tanglinna, standing a short distance away with folded arms, overheard the young Elves' continuing banter, and shook his silvery head. "The maiden, I fear, has acquired not only one husband, but his two squirrelly companions as well," he muttered with a quiet smile.
Thranduil drifted over to stand at his Master Archer's side, watching as Glaurhunant traded warm words with Fimlothiel and Aerlindë. "Why do you not join them, mellon nin?" the king asked lowly. "Surely they would welcome you."
"I doubt it not," Tanglinna replied evenly. "But that is not my place. Brethil may call me adar—" and his voice trembled slightly on the word, "—today, but his father's spirit remains always with him, and I will not pretend otherwise." His long hand flicked outward to indicate the cluster of parents. "Do you not see it, aranhîr? Glaurhunant feels her husband's loss today, more so than usual. I will not add to her grief by standing near as a constant reminder of Bronadui's absence."
Thranduil sighed inwardly. Curse his self-effacing consideration, the king mused, even as he wondered at the elder Elf's keen discernment. "Come," he said softly, laying a hand on the archer's shoulder. "We will drink together tonight, and enjoy the children's dancing until dawn." He lowered his voice to a murmur. "And you will let Brethil call you adar for as long as he wishes."
Tanglinna gave a sigh and glanced at Thranduil, his slim features unreadable. "Do you think he would have been anything like Brethil?" he whispered, so quietly that Greenwood's lord could barely make out the words.
Thranduil smiled, nearly choking with grateful happiness. Ai, son of Bronadui, you have done more than you could have imagined, he thought. "Perhaps," he answered. "Or perhaps he would have turned out like Legolas."
The Master Archer harrumphed mutedly, but his lips turned upward in a serene smile, and a moment of quiet consideration passed. "I shall join you for that drink," he said finally.
A gout of laughter erupted from the younger Elves clustered in the clearing's center. "Ada, we are going to the palace to change!" Legolas called, waving to his father as he and the others headed toward the path.
"Make certain you keep your clothing as far from the prince and his friends as possible, ladies," Glaurhunant suggested with a grin, prompting a renewed peal of laughter from the group.
"It's not like Tirithien's going to need hers tonight, anyway," Tavor muttered wickedly, nudging Brethil, who instantly flushed the deepest scarlet imaginable.
"I heard that, son of Heledir!" Aerlindë responded, his normally soft voice severe with reprimand.
Tavor went pale and swallowed hard. "After all, she will be changing into something looser…so she can, um, dance…won't you, my lady?" he asked loudly, trying to duck behind Legolas and Brethil so as to avoid Tirithien's father's stare.
Tanglinna shook his head again. "I don't care how old they get," he muttered to Thranduil. "Those children are never going to change."
Greenwood's lord nodded his agreement. "Mayhap marriage will season Brethil somewhat," he suggested. "I daresay Tavor could benefit from a wife, as well."
Tanglinna snorted. "Certainly, if a maiden can be found who will tolerate his impudence," he groused.
Thranduil's lips quirked in a slight smile. There's the cantankerous archer I know, he thought approvingly. "Well, I suppose I only have one real concern now," he remarked with a rueful sigh.
The Master Archer's eyes slid to regard the king. "And what is that, aranhîr?" he asked, one silver brow arched inquiringly.
Thranduil's grin turned wolfish. "Why, my dear archer, I have to find a wife for my son!"
Iôn nin Sindarin, "my son"
Pen-neth Sindarin, "young one"
Nin meliôn Sindarin, "my beloved son"
Aranhîr Sindarin, "king-lord," a title of respect
Mellon iaur Sindarin, "old friend"
Tithen min Sindarin, "my little one"
"Tiro nu tenn'met, Ilúvatar menelesse a beleg Fëar númenello." Quenya, "Look down unto us, Ilúvatar on high and mighty Spirits of the West;" the opening benediction spoken by Thranduil at the beginning of the wedding ceremony.
Ilúvemel Quenya, "All-love," from the same root word as Ilúvatar, "All-father"
Nin aran Sindarin, "my king"
Nin melhíri Sindarin, "my lady love"
Wana-melhíri nin Sindarin, "my fair lady love"
Hen-elenui lindë nin Sindarin, "my starry-eyed singer"
Ril-galad o nin cuil Sindarin, "bright light of my life"
Lis lindë o nin gur Sindarin, "sweet singer of my heart"
"Nai Vardo man alata cala tenn'tie le pella." Quenya, "May Varda's blessed radiance shine upon the path before you;" a frequently-used blessing spoken by Tanglinna to the young couple.
Adar Sindarin, "father"
Nin ereb mellon Sindarin, "my lonely friend"
Mel-dess nin Sindarin, "my beloved young woman"
I don't own most of the material used in this fic. Once again, I have stepped into someone else's universe, rearranged their toys, and presented the results for public appraisal. With the original authoress' permission, of course.
Madame TreeHugger owns all rights to Brethil, Tavor, Tanglinna, Lady Glaurhunant, and Bronadui. She also reserves the rights to certain events mentioned herein, such as the Singing Orc Princess escapade. (guffaw) Y'all have to go read "In the Halls of the Woodland King"—it's an absolute SCREAM!
Tirithien, Lady Fimlothiel, Aerlindë, Tirithien's sisters, the marriage ceremony, ilúvemel, et al, are mine.
I based the wedding ceremony very loosely on the description given in Morgoth's Ring, but since these are Woodland Elves and not Noldorin Elves, I figured I was safe to fudge the details. If I'm wrong on that, um… oh well.
To Madame TreeHugger, without whose magnificent work the fandom would seem a lot less cheerier. Can anyone imagine a Mirkwood without uppity Tavor, chattery Brethil, sweet-and-conflicted Elu Heneb (who unfortunately did not appear in this piece), or the extreme wonderfulness that is Master Archer Tanglinna (yowza!)? (bows) Thank you, melaglar nin, for all that you do for the rest of us! I sincerely hope you enjoyed this little escape from "reality!"
To my dear friend LadyJea, who is partially responsible for Kate's bout with the Sap Virus™, which prompted the final crafting of this tale. (shakes finger) I'm gonna get you for this, my friend, just you wait…
Katharine must skitter off to douse herself in the Putrescent Vat Of Supreme Misery And Torment™, for she is committed to finishing her normal slate of unhappy fics, and she cannot do that while she is a Sap Virus™-infected giddy giggler.
(waves) Cheers, all!