Author's Note: For Zelha. Thank you, love.

Chapter Twenty-Five

The twang of bowstrings cut through the crisp morning air. The warden trials were to be held that day. Almost all of the senior wardens had been rotated out so they could be in the city for the event. The black uniforms had been put away for the joyous occasion, but would be taken back up again upon the morrow to resume the Lothlorien mourning protocol. Azalea felt almost giddy as she let fly another arrow in perfect sync with the other five archers on the line. Elrond had cleared her to return to full duties three days ago and she had surprised the Lord of Imladris by kissing him on both cheeks in joy.

She had been out here each day at the break of dawn to help with the preparations and to re-strengthen her shoulder muscles. She turned as she heard Rumil's voice. Both Rumil and Orophin had been out on rotation for the last week. They were supposed to have arrived in from the fences late last night. Haldir had been helping her the past three days so he knew of her return to health.

Rumil stopped in his tracks and stared at her for a moment before laughing merrily. "Zal!" It was only a matter of seconds before he had swept her up into a tight embrace. "It does my fea good to see you have recaptured your glow."

"It is good to feel like myself again, Rumil."

"Elrond has released you to participate today?"

"Aye, he has. I was allowed to return to full duties three days ago as long as I don't overdo the archery for another week." She shouldered her bow and motioned for Rumil to walk with her. "I have much work ahead of me. I must find six new wardens to add to my patrol. Three have already put in transfers from the Southern Watch, the other three I would like to take directly from the trials today."

Rumil nodded. "I am pleased to hear you will be taking your own advice and mixing youth with the experienced. I too will be making my choice from the fresh crop." He smiled. "Come, let's find my brothers, and see to the final preparations."


Glorfindel groaned as he felt the bed empty yet again. Azalea had been leaving quite early each day since Elrond had released her to participate in the warden trials. The past ten days had been wonderful. After Azalea had finally grieved, she had improved dramatically. Her bandages had been taken off the next day, and Elrond had instructed him on the proper physical therapy to help her regain her strength.

She had become more and more her old self as she gained better usage of her arm. Seeing the sparkle return to her violet eyes had lifted a great worry from him. It still surprised him as to how quickly he had become attached to the young warden. For young she was, compared to him. He sighed and rolled onto his back, folding one arm beneath his head. Never had he expected to find love in such a way. It had never been as all consuming before, not that he'd had many lovers in either of his lifetimes.

Smiling, he leaned over to peek out the doorway. Erestor was up and moving about. "Good morning, meldir." He rested his head on his hands, smiling warmly at his longtime friend.

Erestor returned the smile, and entering the room, made himself comfortable on the bed next to him. "Good morning to you as well, Glorfindel." The Noldo allowed him to rest his head in his lap. He purred as Erestor began gently running his fingers through his hair.

"How go things with Cìrdan?" The archer had been leaving with Azalea each morning to tend to his duties with Prince Legolas. He watched the wistful smile cross his friend's normally stoic face.

"Far better than I could have ever hoped for. He is everything I have ever desired in a mate." He shook his head and laughed softly. "I suppose I owe Azalea a debt of gratitude, as well as yourself, meldir. Had you both not made the nudges necessary, this would not have come to fruition."

"I could not take the credit for it. ' Twas mostly Azalea's idea, meldir. She had told me her brother's hands shook each time you looked or spoke to him whilst he was braiding her hair that day." He looked up at his longtime friend. "I am so happy for you. He is an honorable warrior, and a loving soul. I wish you many happy years."

Erestor graced him with one of his rare smiles as he stood up and moved into the main room of the talan. "Hannon lle, meldir. I wish you the same. Unless you have offspring and they find it in themselves to wreck my office, then it shall be war, Glorfindel of Gondolin."

He laughed merrily at the tone in Erestor's voice, placing his hands over his heart as if mortally wounded by his words. Earning himself a cheeky wink from Elrond's Chief Counselor. "I shall keep that in mind." The thought of children with Azalea thrilled him greatly, although he would wait a few years at least before bringing it up to the strong-minded elleth.

"Oh sweet Eru, you're actually considering the idea." He heard Erestor comment dryly although there was a glint of humor in his tone and his eyes glittered with affection at the thought of children in Elrond's house once more. They both dearly missed the sound of elflings running amok in the household. "I should be on my way. Elrond is expecting me."

"Of course, meldir. I shall see you at the trials." Erestor nodded to him before leaving the talan. He lay back, wanting to take a few more moments before he too got up and went about his day. Haldir wanted to speak with him before the trials about a few tactical ideas he had come up with. His thoughts drifted back to what Erestor had brought up. Children with Azalea. That thought led to another, the making of said children. One problem led to another and soon he had a stain to deal with. He panicked for several moments before the knock came at the door and Arcamenel's tinkling voice filtered through the talan.

"Praise Elbereth, Arcamenel. Could you help me change the bedding? Saes?"

"Of course, Lord Glorfindel. Doing something nice for Azalea?" Her eyes twinkled as she pulled fresh lines from the storage trunk and helped him strip the old ones off. He could only nod and try valiantly not to blush.


Azalea watched the fields fill with spectators. All of Lothlorien would come to watch the trials. A small platform had been set up to accommodate Celeborn, Galadriel, Elrond and his family, as well as the heads of the four watches, Findaràto, Orophin, Olwë, Eärendur, and Marchwarden Haldir. Prince Legolas, Cìrdan, Erestor, as well as Glorfindel would also be seated up there. The seventy-three candidates were knelt in front of the platform in four staggered rows.

A small grin spread across her face as she looked around. Silver-grey ribbons had been woven into the trees as well as wrapped around the two sparring rings. Forty new wardens would join their ranks today. They would compete in each of three events: archery, overseen by Rumil and Ireth, a talented elleth from the Western Watch, weapons combat, in which they would spar with either Alatariel or Tathar, both well-respected commanders under Findaràto. The final ring she was overseeing personally: weaponless combat. Caranthir stood proudly by her side.

She looked up as Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel, along with all their guests, filed up onto the platform. Giving Glorfindel a small smile first, she bowed her head in respect to her Lord and Lady. Celeborn stepped forward to deliver the commencement speech.

"Before me kneel seventy-three of our kin. They seek to take the path of the warrior and become our guardians. Every ten years we offer all this chance. Some have tried before, and for others this is their first time. I welcome them all. In light of recent losses these trials are more important than ever as four of these hopefuls will immediately be taken in by commanders seeking to replenish their patrols." An excited murmur swept those assembled and many sets of eyes sought out Azalea as her patrol had taken the most damage. "Today we welcome new strength! Our time in Arda may be waning, but that is no reason not to stay strong and fight for our way of life!" A cheer rang through the clearing. He stepped back and presented Galadriel to them.

Her starlit eyes slowly swept over the assembled elves and with a gentle smile, she spoke clearly. "Let the trials begin."

The first row of candidates stood and split off to each of the three awaiting trials. Azalea checked to make sure her padding was in place. Padded armor covered her shins, forearms, knuckles, and torso. She watched silently as the first group pulled on the padded armor as well. Foregoing the soft leather mouth guard, she stepped into the ring. "A true warrior must make their entire body a weapon. You are not here to best me, only to best yourselves. Do not focus on winning, only on showing your worth." With that said, she turned to Caranthir, who tossed her mouth guard to her. "Let's begin."


Glorfindel watched as Azalea easily took down the first three competitors to enter the ring. Each time, she would help them back to their feet, then would pull them close to her and speak with them before sending them on their way. Likely, she was imparting tips and giving encouragement. After the third one, she hopped the fence and let Caranthir take over.

The commander had barely set foot in the ring when Glorfindel felt a hand on his thigh. He turned, lifting an eyebrow. It was Elrond. "My Lord?"

"I was thinking, meldir." Glorfindel gave him an astonished look. The twins caught it and chuckled, while Elrond merely gave him one of his trademark glares. "Anyhow, as I was saying. Perhaps this could be taken into account as part of the training regime in Imladris. The Galadhrim aren't the finest warriors of our race for no reason."

"Aye, Elrond. I was considering that as well. We do have our sparring competitions, yet this could give us another edge. I will work on it more closely upon our return to Imladris." Elrond gave him a pleased nod before turning back to the competitions. He had just turned to speak with Erestor, when he heard a barely audible purr come from the councilor. Lifting an eyebrow, he looked closer to discern the cause.

Smirking, he noted Legolas was seated to Erestor's right and Cìrdan had taken his customary place behind the Mirkwood Prince's left shoulder, leaving him in a wondrous position. He had covertly snaked his hand under Erestor's silky, raven hair and was now teasing the back of his neck and shoulders.

Suddenly Erestor's right arm shot up grabbing a handful of his tunic and pulling him down next to his ear. "If you keep that up, melethron, I will be forced to retaliate." He whispered tersely.

Cìrdan merely gave him a seductive smile. "I look forward to it, hìren." He purred into his ear, letting his breath wash over the delicate tip. Erestor gave a shiver and let him go. With a glance to Legolas, he rolled his eyes. The Prince was pretending he didn't hear a thing, but he could see the barely concealed smirk. Smoothing his tunic back out with a smug grin, he tossed a wink at Glorfindel, earning him a chuckle from his sister's lover.

Glorfindel turned his attention back to the rings as the groups switched up, the archers going to the weaponless ring, the weaponless fighters moving on to weapons combat, and the weapons combatants moving to the archery range.


The four elves curled up on the balcony upon their return from the baths. Glorfindel held Azalea firmly about the waist as she reclined between his legs.

"I noticed you changed our bed linens." Azalea purred. "Why is that?"

Glorfindel tried not to look as horribly guilty as he felt. "I spilled something on them is all. Since Arcamenel was due to pick up the washing I thought it best to let her at the stain whilst it was fresh."

He felt her smile against his shoulder. Erestor and Cìrdan were watching the exchange with barely suppressed mirth. "And what, pray tell, was this ominous stain?" Her head lifted up off his shoulder and he warily met her gaze. He opened his mouth to try to answer, but no words would come forth. Realizing she would figure it out anyhow, he merely gave a helpless shrug.

Expecting a reprimand, he was instead quite surprised when she moved to straddle his lap. "Do not be ashamed, maethoren. I am quite pleased I have such an effect upon you." He let out a choked whimper as she scooted closer to him, pressing up against his torso fully. Soft lips soon attacked his neck and delicately suckled the skin there. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly as she moved her assault from throat to ear, tugging on the lobe with her teeth, and running her tongue over the sensitive tip.

"Aiya. You undo me, lirimaer." He was achingly hard and wanted nothing more than to ravish her right there. A soft cough reminded him they weren't alone.

"Ah, miunthel?"

He felt her grin against his neck before turning her head to regard her brother. "Aye, gwanur?"

"Would you mind not tormenting your mate whilst I am in the room? If for no other reason than that I really do not need to see my sister engage in such activities?"

Glorfindel caught Erestor's gaze and smiled weakly. The advisor quirked an eyebrow at him.

"Ah, my apologies, gwanur. I did not think it would be that bothering to you. Perhaps if you torment your own mate, it will take your mind off what I am doing to mine."

Glorfindel's eyes widened at the look the spread across Cìrdan's face. The feral grin made him shiver. Poor Erestor. In a matter of moments, Cìrdan had slid onto the dark-haired elf's lap and proceeded to turn him into a quivering mess as well. "Meldir?" Glorfindel managed between moans.

"Aye, Glorfindel?" Came Erestor's weak response.

"Leave it to two long-time friends such as ourselves to end up with a pair of siblings as mates. Deviant siblings at that."

"Indeed, Fin. We do seem to have a knack for getting ourselves into similar situations."

" the Valar Azalea!.....I am going to take my wood elf into the bedroom and teach her some manners." He gripped her tightly and somehow managed to stand up. Feeling her legs wrap around him and grind her hips into his arousal pulled a growl from his throat. "Do not hesitate to take yours to the hammock and teach him much the same lesson. I shall see you in the morning, meldir."

"Aye, Fin. That sounds like a fine idea."

Glorfindel quickly strode to the bedroom and deposited her onto the bed. A series of muffled yelps and a long throaty moan from the direction of the balcony left little to the imagination. Crawling over top of her like a predator, he growled seductively. "Bad elleth. Now I will have to teach you a thing or two about when to properly arouse an Imladrian Lord."