"Here," Faelwen said, placing Arwen's exquisite mithril circlet upon her head and fastening it in place with small, deft braids. "You look beautiful Arwen!"
A loud knock sounded at the door. "Arwen? Faelwen?" Elrohir's exasperated voice sounded from the other side. "What are you two doing in there? You have had all morning, it cannot take someone that long to get dressed, even in a wedding gown!"
Exchanging a grin with her sister, Faelwen crossed the room and opened the door half-way. "Patience brother!" she laughed. "We will be but ten minutes more. Aragorn will be waiting for her at mid-day and it is only half past eleven now. Besides, Arwen is a queen now as well as a bride – she can take as long as she likes to dress!"
She closed the door again and hurried back to where Arwen sat in front of a handsome dressing table and mirror, fastening her beloved Evenstar pendant around her neck. Faelwen had not been lying – Arwen looked more beautiful than ever. She was dressed in a gown of pale blue silk with elegant, billowing sleeves. Her long black hair fell down her back as far as her waist, adorned with the mithril circlet on her brow. Her skin seemed to be radiating light.
"Will I do, do you think?" she asked Faelwen with a relaxed smile.
"Most certainly!" Faelwen replied, marvelling at her calmness. She suspected that she would not be nearly so calm when it came to her own turn as a bride in a fortnight's time. "I suppose we should not keep Elladan and Elrohir waiting much longer!"
Faelwen opened the door and allowed Arwen to precede her out to where the twins were waiting in the corridor. They were dressed in formal robes which, like the gown Faelwen was wearing, were a rich deep blue, the colour of Elrond's house, ornamented with silver.
Faelwen noticed that tears threatened in Elladan's eyes for a moment when he saw Arwen before he hastily distracted them by an exaggerated bow to her which made both his sisters laugh.
"Well," Elrohir said, looking the more cheerful of the two. "As this is the last time we four shall stand together as simply the children of Elrond Halfelven, I suppose one of us should say something meaningful. But for the lack of something meaningful in my mind, may I just say – you two take a bloody age to get dressed!"
Their laughter echoed through the white stone corridor and for a moment, they just stood there, hands linked. In some ways, this almost felt like a parting of the ways. From this day on, Arwen would no longer simply be their sister – she would be the Queen of Gondor; wed to a mortal man and doomed to a mortal fate.
"Please don't cry, any of you!" said Faelwen hastily, noticing that other eyes besides hers were beginning to grow over-bright. "You will set me off and I do not think I will stop! Come on, it's getting close to midday now – a queen should not be late!"
Elladan gave his arm to Arwen and they walked off down the corridor, Faelwen and Elrohir following on behind them. They made their way out of the great building which was now Aragorn and Arwen's home and towards the open courtyard where the white tree of Gondor stood.
There were many familiar faces gathered there; Celeborn and Galadriel, with Haldir, his brothers and others of the Galadhrim. Beside them were Glorfindel, Erestor, Lindir and many others from the household of Rivendell. There was Legolas, flanked by his friend Gimili and by the dear little hobbits who had risked so much that Arda might have peace. King Eomer stood with his sister in front of a number of Rohirrim and Gondorian knights. Faelwen had not yet had the opportunity to speak to them.
Towards the centre of the courtyard she saw Mithrandir, clad all in white, standing near her father. And there, under the white tree, stood Aragorn. He looked cleaner and tidier than Faelwen could ever recall seeing him; dressed in new leather, velvet and mail, a crown on his brow, his long cloak brushing the grass behind him. At his side stood Faramir, Steward of Gondor, who had made a remarkable recovery since he had been discharged from the houses of healing.
Silence descended on the courtyard as everyone noticed Arwen's arrival. Faelwen slipped into the crowd to stand with Haldir. He reached out for her as she neared him, linking their fingers together with a smile. Faelwen brushed his arm gently with her free hand, before they directed their eyes back to the middle of the courtyard.
Watching as Elrond placed Arwen's hand into Aragorn's, and as the bride and groom spoke their vows of marriage, Faelwen thought her heart might just explode with happiness.
"You are next then!" Legolas cried merrily, as he danced with Faelwen at the feast later than evening.
"Not before time!" Faelwen laughed, spinning around, her hair fanning out behind her. "It feels like we have been waiting forever. And when are you going to find a wife, pray? There are plenty of ladies here tonight who would love to dance with you – many cannot keep their eyes off you!"
Legolas blushed vividly. "Not for a while yet," he said hurriedly. "When all is attended to here and I have seen my father again, I have promised Gimli that I will travel with him for a while. Besides, after the events of the past year, I do not believe I even have the energy for courting!" He hastily changed the subject and Faelwen had not the heart to tease him anymore.
"They look so happy, do they not?" she said instead, directing her gaze over to where King and Queen of Gondor were leading the dance.
"Indeed," Legolas said. "There were times when I feared I would never again see anyone laugh or be merry! I intent to enjoy every second of tonight!
Two weeks later...
Arwen opened the door to see Faelwen sat before her mirror, hair still wet, dressed only in a shift. She looked up at Arwen's entrance and her eyes were more than a little wild.
"I don't know where to start!" she said urgently and Arwen hurried to her side.
"Well then, it is fortunate for you that you have a sister who does!" she said calmly, picking up a discarded towel and gently starting to rub Faelwen's hair dry. "Did you get any sleep last night?"
"A little," Faelwen answered from beneath the towel. "I was too excited for slumber! And when I did sleep, I kept dreaming that I had forgotten where I had stowed my dress!"
"I will not let that happen to you," Arwen promised with a merry laugh. "I will make sure you are fully dressed before you leave the room."
She finished drying Faelwen's hair in a companionable silence before speaking again. "It is fortunate that your...father...managed to arrive in time." It felt wrong for Arwen to be referring to any elf but Elrond as Faelwen's father, but what else was she to call him?
"Yes, Feredir and others are with him," Faelwen said pensively, fidgeting with something in her hands. "I am glad they could be here."
"And I have warned Elladan and Elrohir to be nice to them!" said Arwen lightly, reaching for a brush and running it carefully through Faelwen's hair. "On pain of being thrown out of the city."
"Being Queen does have its benefits then!" Faelwen laughed, distracted from her previous thoughtfulness. "I suppose we had best not keep them waiting too long today!"
"Where is your dress? I will help you with the lacing," Arwen said.
Faelwen retrieved it from the wooden wardrobe by the window. It was traditional for an elven bride to dress in the colour of her father's house. Rivendell's colours were blue and silver, but she had been born in Mirkwood and had been worried that perhaps Calannon and his sons would expect her to wear green. Anxious not to offend anyone who was important to her, she had chosen white instead. It was the colour of peace; a peace that she and Haldir had waited many years for.
"Are you ready... for tonight?" Arwen asked, taking care to keep her voice casual as Faelwen stepped into the dress.
"Yes," said Faelwen, feeling her face begin to heat up, looking anywhere but at her sister. "It doesn't...hurt much...does it?"
"No," said Arwen kindly, rubbing Faelwen's upper arms reassuringly before lacing up the bodice of the dress. "You're going to be fine. There, that's your dress done now. Where have you put your jewellery?"
Faelwen gave Arwen's hand a grateful squeeze and then hurried to fetch her jewellery; a simple silver pendant and the circlet adorned with green gems she had received upon reaching her majority. Arwen fixed it in place, just as Faelwen had done to hers two weeks ago.
"Sit still," she chided good-humouredly. "Stop fidgeting – what do you keep fussing at?"
Faelwen held up her hands, revealing what it was she was holding. It was the comb her father had given her, which had once belonged to her mother. "I've been thinking about her a lot this morning."
"I'm sure she would be very proud of you," Arwen smiled, dropping an affectionate kiss onto the crown of Faelwen's head before she took the comb out of her hands. "I will put the comb in your hair underneath your circlet. It will not upset the way it fits and this way a part of her will be with you all day today. Are you ready? I'm sure our brothers will be here to hammer on the door soon!" No sooner had the words left Arwen's mouth, then a knock sounded at the door.
"You can come in," Faelwen called, nervously fussing with her dress in front of the mirror.
Elladan and Elrohir joined them in the room, both again dressed in fine formal robes. They smiled affectionately at the sight of their sister in her wedding gown and, seeing how nervous she was, did not tease her as they had Arwen.
"Haldir is in the courtyard now," Elrohir said. "Are you ready?"
Faelwen took a deep breath and nodded, taking the arm he offered her and allowing herself to be led out of the chamber. She would sleep here no more. Tonight, she and Haldir would be given a new room together. Growing more nervous by the second, she barely heard anything Elrohir said on the way down the stone stairs, so intent was she on not falling over.
"Be calm, Faelwen," Elrohir assured her gently, squeezing her hand. "You look lovely, and everything is going to proceed as planned."
A much smaller crowd was waiting in the courtyard this time; parents and siblings and family and friends...elves from Rivendell and Lothlorien, and Faelwen's own family from Mirkwood. Most of the Fellowship of the Ring; guests of honour of the King and Queen, were also there and it was Merry and Pippin who spotted her first.
"Merry, look! Here she is!" cried Pippin, none too quietly, as he and his cousin stood on tiptoe for a better view. The small group of people parted to let Faelwen and Elrohir through so that he could walk her to the centre, where Haldir was waiting.
The minute she saw Haldir, Faelwen feared her heart might genuinely stop beating. Instantly, her nerves vanished and she felt joy bubble inside her like one of Mithrandir's fireworks. There was her betrothed, clad in green and gold, with a white jewel shimmering at his collar, like a hero from a fairy tale. Beside him, beaming from ear to ear was Legolas whom Haldir, being unwilling to choose between his two brothers, had asked to stand with him.
When her eyes met Haldir's intense, loving gaze, Faelwen felt her face erupt in a bright smile, and it seemed to her that she floated last two metres towards him. Elrohir raised his sister's hand to his lips, kissed it affectionately, and then placed it Haldir's. He held both her hands in his and they were almost unwilling to blink for fear they might miss a second of each other.
Even as she heard Elrond speak beside her, Faelwen did not glance away from Haldir, nor he from her. Their hands clutched tighter at one another as they spoke their vows and then exchanged rings, sliding the slim mithril onto each other's fingers.
Finally, after years of waiting; after trial and toil and darkness and terror, they were married.
And suddenly Haldir's lips were on hers and her arms were around his neck. She could hear Legolas laughing, someone cheering, others clapping, someone sniffing with tears of happiness...and she smiled blissfully into the kiss. Everything was right in the world.
Even as they ate together with Aragorn's new court later that day, Faelwen and Haldir barely broke eye contact. They danced together as though in a world all of their own and, when the dance required them to separate, or move down the hall apart, their gazes would lock again within seconds. To be so overjoyed, and to have so many people so joyful for them, was more than either had dared to wish for.
"I'm so happy!" Haldir exclaimed as another dance ended and they stood together on the floor, arms still entwined, "So happy, I think I my chest might burst."
"I also," Faelwen beamed up at him, resting her forehead against hers. "I love you so much, Haldir!"
The passion in Haldir's eyes intensified heatedly, and Faelwen felt her breathing quicken. "Come," he whispered, fingers linking with hers. "Let us retire."
And so Faelwen slipped out of the great hall, hand in hand with the elf she could finally call husband.