A Meeting Under the Stars

By Gen Eveningstar

Disclaimer: I do not own Lord of the Rings. But, it is the wondrous work of GREAT TOLKIEN!

Author's note:

Hunting: I believe that elves will never hunt for mere enjoyment, for such kind and lovely beings whom hold great love to every single living creature will not pursue pleasures on the expense of another's life. Thus, my thoughts are that elves do hunt, but it is for food and not the excitement of hunting. I believe that they will be merciful to the animals and kill them in one single shot to avoid bringing pain to their prey. And I have to say that, Artanis took such delights in the notion of hunting was because she wanted to ride free, not because she loved the sport itself! I DO NOT support hunting for pleasure, nor POACHING. God I hate poachers.

Thanks to all reviewers for hitting that purple button!

Chapter Five: Imperishable Fire in the Cradle of Calm Waters

Celeborn slipped on his archer's wrist and armguards as an elf lad brought forth his bow. He eased the long bow into his hands and brought a coiled string out of his sash. With ease, he fitted the string on one end of the bow and set it upon the ground. He lifted the free end of the string and hooked it neatly upon the other end of the bow. The bow strung and in his grip, he lifted it up and turned sideways to it. Swiftly, he hooked the string with two fingers and drew it back to his ear in a smooth, practised gesture.

To his satisfaction, the wood was warm from the sun and bent willingly for the string. He slung the bow onto his back and turned to the Elven king and Noldor prince who were selecting the finest arrows for their quivers. King Thingol placed one into Celeborn's hands and smiled, his eyes twinkling. "The finest arrows of the lot, twelve in all. Use it well, for you have competition to reckon with this time."

Celeborn raised his brow in question, "Competition?"

Finrod chuckled. "Artanis."

"Ah… I see." Came the reply of Celeborn after a slight pause.

"Beware and hold her in no less regard than you should! She is one of the finest archers amongst the Noldor elves, strong of body, mind and will. Back in Valinor, she was a match to the athletes and lore masters." Finrod warned, patting the quiver in his hands fondly and grinned at Celeborn, who was listening attentively in silence. "You have your share of twelve finest arrows from the lot, Lord Celeborn, and so shall my sister." His voice dropped low into a whisper, laden with mischief. "Though I do hope that you will beat her in this hunt and draw the first blood. That will curb her pride."

Celeborn feigned shock upon Finrod's words. "Elbereth! Why does it seem to me that you two take delight in seeing Lady Artanis and I on each other's throat! Surely there is no such wicked intention?"

King Thingol laughed and shook his head when Finrod answered, "No no, Lord Celeborn! No such evilness has ever crossed my mind!"

Before Celeborn could retort in jest, King Thingol halted him and interrupted, his eyes fixed on the pathway leading to the West Wing of the palace. "Well," He began, sounding slightly amused. "I see the object of our conversation approaching this way."

Following the gaze of his king, Celeborn's eyes fell on the handsome elf lad leading a snow-white horse into the courtyard. He frowned at the sight of this stranger, having an inkling feeling of familiarity towards him. The elf was very tall and slender, and he moved with an unearthly grace and allure. Forest green was the theme of the elf's garments: a green vest over a grey tunic, with matching leggings of a darker shade. A simple black belt held a pair of twin daggers in their leather sheathes. A dark brown arched bow with intricate silver designs snaking around the body was clasped firmly to the elf's back, alongside with an empty quiver. What drew Celeborn's attention to was the elf's rich golden mane that was tied back and separated into small braids, revealing a composed face that was as symmetrical and cool as a mask. The eyes were two blue jewels, hard and piercing, which disturbingly reminded him of…

A name rang in his mind and his eyes widened in shock as the revelation of the identity of this stranger struck him. He gaped at the approaching figure, unable to believe that this handsome elf lad could be…

Artanis?

"Well well, who is this handsome elf lad?" Finrod smiled and took a step towards his sister, who was eyeing him warily, but with an amused grin on her face. "Now master elf," He began with a mocking serious tone. "Pray tell me, have you seen my sister? She is nowhere in sight!"

Artanis resisted the urge to laugh. She struggled to keep a passive face as she played along with her brother. She tucked an arm at the curve of her abdomen while the other rested on her side and bowed low, greeting in the fashion of a male-elf and smiled. "I beg your pardon, My Lords, for Lady Artanis is unable to answer to the gracious invitation of King Thingol and had sent me instead, to take her place. May I have the honour to offer my humble service?"

Instantly, her gallant gesture and gracious words fascinated and enchanted everyone present in the courtyard, with special regards to the elf-maidens and of course, captured the very heart of an elf…

King Thingol laughed heartily, amused by the Noldor siblings and said, "Let us put a halt to the jest, my friends!" He turned and stood before Artanis, appraising her, admiration and awe in his eyes. "Now now, Lady Artanis, have mercy on us! An elf-maiden you are, and yet you have put all male elves in shame with your stature and charm! Pray, lay a gracious hand on us!"

"Indeed!" Finrod nodded in agreement. "Tis no wonder that my mother had had another name for Artanis when she was born. A name that suit her none the better! Nerwen, she was named."

"Man-maiden?" Celeborn asked and quickly regretted it when Artanis's eyes darted to his.

"Yes, indeed! For Nerwen is Man-Maiden in the tongue of Quenya." Finrod replied.

Breaking his gaze from Artanis's eyes, he thought of Artanis's name and a fire rose within Celeborn, urging him to speak his thoughts once more. He was filled with great admiration for the Noldor princess and his heart was stirred beyond measure. Impulse overtook him and he spoke, "It is of no doubt then, that mothers have great insights to their children's nature even when they are only babes, for Lady Artanis truly have the distinguished mark of the masculine sex with her indomitable spirit, mind and body that is in match of one. Yet, her beauty, intellect and gentle soul override all masculinity, presenting her as a true maiden. One who holds the celebrated mark of men, and yet preserves the dearly loved sweetness of women. Just like…" He paused, searching for the perfect words that were worthy enough to describe her justifiably. When he alas found the words, he smiles in satisfaction and said, "An imperishable fire in the cradle of calm waters."

Artanis's face tinted, and the colour mounted furiously.

An imperishable fire in the cradle of calm waters?

She could not believe the words of this silver lord! Sweetness and grace had been showered upon her with his silver tongue, and his unrestrained and fiery praise had burned deep into her heart. She stood beholding him in astonishment and the memory of that starlit night invaded her mind.

The fire within you is your beauty. Rekindle that fire, Artanis, and grief no more.

This he had said and it had touched her heart deeply, his words had soothed and comforted her. She wondered at her candidness with him on that night, allowing him, a mere acquaintance who she had scarcely known for a day and had taken no liking to, a glimpse of her inner thoughts. What was it that she saw in him that made her unknowingly withdrew her defensive shields? Was it his candour that had touched her? Was it his comforting presence? Was it his silence that brought tranquillity to her heart? Was it his unspoken empathy?

Artanis…

Or was it the gentle way he had called her name? His grey eyes that drew her within, depthless like whirlpools? The velvet touch of his hand upon her golden hair?

She shuddered, suddenly feeling that she was stripped of all her pride and strength and found herself in a loss for words. Vulnerable and silent, like a naive young elf maiden.

As soon as the words left his mouth, Celeborn silently cursed his act of impulse. Such words! Such words! He reprimanded himself silently. Such blatant and bold words! Now clearly, what would Lady Artanis think of him? A frivolous elf armed with an infinite flow of honeyed words, ready to devour any naïve young maiden who come his way? A foolish and impulsive elf? An elf of…

Celeborn! He was in such frightful rage at himself. Gallant and poised you are in the face of orcs, but a wretched one in the face of a maiden! You are fighting a losing battle!

A moment of silence reigned in the courtyard, for Celeborn's words had astonished many. Alas, Finrod gave a discreet cough and broke the uncomfortable silence, "Why, Lord Celeborn! I must thank you for your kind words on behalf on Artanis." He threw a glance at his sister, who was still dazed and smiled. "She must be at a loss for words."

Or in a feat of anger. Celeborn thought bitterly.

"Dear kinsman! I marvel that such silver words shall come from your tongue, for Celeborn is more of a wielder of the sword than a weaver of words!" King Thingol exclaimed and clapped a hand upon Celeborn's shoulders. He motioned for a servant to come forward and bring him his bow, marking his interest to end the conversation and to start the hunt. "Well my friends!" He said, grasping to his bow and reaching for his quiver of arrows. "Enough of talk and praises! We must get the hunt started before the sun reaches the tip in the sky, shall we not?"

Finrod jumped upon King Thingol's cue almost immediately. "To the hunt!" He cried enthusiastically. "We'll have a competition! Let us see who shall be the first to draw blood!" And off he went, swinging himself onto his horse and bolted off towards the outskirts of Doriath. King Thingol wasted no time and mounted his horse, in hot pursuit of his friend.

Artanis and Celeborn was left behind, and in awkward silence, they mounted their horses. None showed interest to pursue the elven lords that had disappeared from their field of sight, both merely urging their horses into a trot. They rode side by side, yet none spoke, each deep in their thoughts.

Artanis desired to speak to him, to thank him, yet she knew not what to speak of and how to speak of. Celeborn, oblivious to Artanis appreciation of him, was in grave turmoil as he thought of how he should ask for her forgiveness. Long and hard he struggled within himself, battling with his pride and fear and alas, he turned to the Noldor princess by his side, and called softly. "Lady Artanis…"

She was startled when he called her name. She turned towards him, and against her will, her cheeks turned cerise in colour. She avoided his eyes, afraid to be lost in the grey whirlpools once more, but she prompted him. "Yes, My Lord?"

He cleared his throat. "Lady Artanis, I apologise for boldness and impudence. I hereby ask for your pardon for my audacity on that night and for my reckless words not long just now." He spoke swiftly, his eyes downcast. "I pray that you will not take offences by my actions and forgive me." He ended his words in a rush and held his breath in anticipation, waiting for her to speak. Long he had waited, yet the lady still kept her silence. Curious, he lifted his gaze and met her eyes. Her expression was unreadable. Astonishment? Unbelief? Amusement? Anger? He knew not!

"My Lord!" Artanis exclaimed. "I have never taken any offences with your words or actions! On the contrary, I will like to thank you greatly!" Celeborn stared at her, in disbelief of what he had just heard. Artanis's soften her expression and smiled graciously at him. "Lord Celeborn, your words had comforted me, not offended me!" She thought of his odd behaviour when she last met him and finally understood why he had averted his gaze and avoided speaking to her. She could not help but smile at his sweet and simple nature. "I believe that you have been disturbed by the notion that I harbour a wrath for you for countless days since our last meeting, is it not? Oh Eru!" She cried in exasperation and amusement.

Celeborn returned her with an embarrassed smile, his heart relieved beyond words. "Indeed," He nodded. "I have worried so. I am glad that I had not abuse you in any abominable way."

Artanis laughed and his smile widened to see her in such a good spirit. "Nay, you have not!" She shook her head. "Come! For now the troubles of our hearts had been settled, I have much desire to catch up with King Thingol and my brother! I have no wish to lose this competition!" With these words, she rode like a rider of the wind bolting off with great speed, her laughter ringing crystal bright.

"Nor have I such a wish!" In a joyous spirit, Celeborn cried in reply and urged his horse into a full gallop. "Noro lim(faster), Ithildin!" And he too burst forth, in hot pursuit of the golden elf maiden, Nerwen, whom the silver lord had held in comparison to an imperishable fire in a cradle of calm waters.