A/n: Well, my dear readers, this journey comes to its official end. :) Congratulations.

Thank you for your wonderful comments and your patience. I'm glad I came up with something you found interesting.

As I've already said, I've started a sequel, concentrated around Beleg. The first chapter can be found at my livejournal. Just go to my profile here and click the "homepage link". One thing I ask for is to give me some feedback, if you are going to read it. Thank you in advance.

And I'd very much appreciate it if you reviewed this last chapter. :) Will you? *batting her eye-lashes* Thanks!

Chapter 16

Ambivalence

I'd have you, quoth he.


Would you have me? quoth she.


...O where, sir?

In my chamber, quoth he.

In your chamber? quoth she.

...Why there, sir?

To kiss you, quoth he.

To kiss me? quoth she.

...O why, sir?

'Cause I love it, quoth he.

Do you love it? quoth she.

...So do I, sir.

- Anonymous

The last note died off sadly and quietly, but Arvrog did not hasten to put the lute aside, nor did the listeners break their mesmerized silence to reward him with undoubtedly deserved applause. The afterglow of the ballad was still lingering in their hearts, reviving faded memories, opening long-unremembered wounds, healing the new ones…

She had already forgotten breath-taking voice he had. Against all good sense, he was less than inclined to exercise his talent.

Aerwain smiled at the singer, who paid for the sign of appreciation with a reserved nod and withdrew himself from the spot of general attention with a listless, rather than modest air. She followed his walk until it ended at the far fringe of the clearing where smirking Gwilwileth stretched her hand out to him. He accepted it without a word, for a moment leaning in deeply so that the long, ever-kempt hair curtained his profile and made it impossible to say whether his lips really dwelled upon the fingers of his wife or the kiss was placed on air. Knowing Arvrog and his ways, Aerwain dared suppose he shouldn't show himself as lavish of dearness as he had already proved to be this evening, but would Gwilwileth look down on him with that discreet flash of almost a dark triumph in her eyes, if he hadn't performed the ritual of worship up to the end?

Shrugging her shoulders, Aerwain turned away not to reflect upon what she had no right to judge about.

It was late – many an hour after the midnight. She had long since unbraided her much-suffering hair, letting it fall on her shoulders freely – the web of braids and golden lace was not something she was ready to tolerate on her head for the whole eternity. If anything, it was cumbrous and hair-pulling. For a moment she wondered whether wedding hairdos were really supposed to emphasize the beauty of those who wore them, or their intended purpose was to remind the happy brides that a married life was not all milk and honey. At least, her case seemed to be the latter rather than the former.

Having made sure no one was demonstrating much need in her, Aerwain sank into her chair with a sigh of relief. Finally she could afford some rest.

The worries of the ceremony, multiplied by quite a number of sleepless nights told upon her at last, making her somewhat dizzy and a little sore-headed.

Rubbing her temples, she cast a guarded look around the clearing, hopeful to find her husband among, it seemed, a fair thousand of celebrants.

Surprisingly, they didn't spend much time side by side this evening. There were invariably some duties to attend, which scarcely gave them a chance to exchange a word. A speech to answer, a guest to give a minute to, a joke to laugh at. She danced with the younger scouts and childhood friends, and answered the gushing chirrup of the ladies, praising her looks and her choice, he gave himself to a more painstaking task of entertaining those who preferred a conversation on the gravest subjects over a light-headed merrymaking, even when the occasion called for it least of all…

Just like Gwilwileth, Aerwain held it best not to stuff either of their houses with those wishing to attend the celebration and upon the silent assent of Haldir it had been settled to move the feast outside. Now, viewing the number of joyful guests, neither of which manifested the slightest wish to leave, Aerwain once again congratulated herself on the only sane idea which she had given birth to in respect of the matter.

Strangely, there still were no traces of Haldir around. For the better, perhaps. The thought of being left in comparative solitude with him now was throwing her off her balance to an extent beyond which she knew there were only shiver, and stuttering, and a dry mouth. She didn't question her own willingness to give him whatever he felt like asking for - as far as it didn't cover the explanation concerning the last days' events.

But…being completely honest, now that everything fell into the right places, she was more than a little unsettled by the knowing that it's not just wine and dances that made the wedding feast what it was.

She had never once visioned herself close with Haldir. The times when he held her in his arms could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Both of them had always been playing the parts, which their age, and status, and story had imposed on them. Even in dire straits.

Even in love.

The courtship, which other fiancées enjoyed for a year, had narrowed to a few hours in her fairy-tale. A few hundred of minutes to get accustomed to his thirst for her and learn to answer it.

Oh, yes, she was flying the white feather.

She wished him to be hers.

But she'd never known what it was to think of giving herself to him.

…Throughout the evening he was keeping near her, but never enough for a touch, not taking into account the kiss they shared when the first toast for their love was delivered. For an hour or two it unsettled her, until little by little she began to notice that even at a distance he never quit watching her – discreetly and unobtrusively…if for one single moment, when, levelling her glass with that of another congratulator and raising it to her mouth with a smile, she had to flinch unexpectedly and refuse her intention, seized by unfamiliar discomfort.

The Warden was standing at the opposite end of the wedding table, in the circle of his fellows, yet, though they made a more than lively talk, he was far from involved in whatever they were discussing with such zest. Instead, he was staring at her intensely, his eyes fixed at her lips, which were nearly touching the silver rim of the goblet.

A shadow passed across his face as he found out that his observing her was clandestine no more. With a small start the Warden shook himself up and lowered his head a little, acknowledging his attention. Meant to appear full of decency, the bow turned out ambiguous nonetheless, for, as if to disconcert her even more, Haldir never looked down; quite on the contrary, his glance acquired a sharper, heavier feeling to it, the one she couldn't find a name for.

Confused almost into blushing, Aerwain still found no strength to turn away, but it soon appeared unnecessary. He did it in her stead - to give a word or two to one of the talkers, who finally noticed that the lucky bridegroom had been excluded from their conversation.

Since that silent exchange of stares she couldn't catch him looking in her direction anymore. Perhaps, he held it better not to embarrass her, or wished not give food to excessive gossip. Yet, something told Aerwain, that, having been exposed, the Warden simply grew more careful with his vigil.

Only that she was unable to intercept his glances didn't mean he had stopped watching her.

That is why she didn't intend to set out in search of her husband. She had a feeling he wouldn't be slow to turn up, seeing her here in complete solitude.

Aerwain put a hand over her mouth, covering a little yawn. The company had long quit paying their enthusiastic attention to the heroes of the day, and the celebration grew into a general cheerful mishmash of dancing, laughing and killing time.

She winced, as someone touched her shoulder softly.

Right she was, not having taken particular pains to spot Haldir. He was quite able to find her himself, when he wanted.

"I didn't want to scare you," said he on a note of apology.

"No trouble," murmured she, unwilling to show how much she was unsettled by the fact that his hand remained where he had put it. Moreover, light as the motion was, she still felt his fingers tighten and ease carefully, and then again till Aerwain knew it for sure she didn't just imagine all that.

"I guess I was just…lost in thoughts," ended she in half-whispers.

"Rúmil's started a tag game there," Haldir nodded in the direction of the adjoined clearing, from where short outcries of triumph and cheerful giggles were wafting incessantly, "Shall we take a look?"

Aerwain considered the offer for a short while. His blank intonation not in the least allowed her to say whether he really cared for watching his kin go round the bend in the company of ten more light heads, or simply supposed she would fall for a pretext to prolong the evening for another hour.

On the other hand, the prospect of diving into that sea of noise again did not smile at her at all. Wedding games had already served her a bad turn once.

Besides…this feast had to be over sooner or later.

"No," refused she without further hesitations, "I'm tired. Let us leave."

The smile, up to that barely traceable, disappeared from the Warden's lips completely.

"If milady wishes," uttered he slowly. Giving herself no time to change her mind, Aerwain got up with a little nod.

She had already witnessed his talent of growing from under the ground where he was totally unexpected, and vanishing as swiftly when he chose to, but it had never occurred to her that he was quite able to practice such tricks even if encumbered by more than a troublesome and tired companion. And yet at one moment they stood in the middle of a fading, though still mirthful celebration, her arm drawn within his, and the other she was already guided through the dim quietness of nightly Lothlorien, the quietness of almost a dead kind as compared to the never-ending hum that had been filling her ears for the last few hours.

His dwelling was close to the celebration spot they had chosen. Too close, in fact, to set Aerwain at rest about a possible encounter with some of the guests, exhausted by the delights of the evening and seeking hush and solitude deeper in the woods.

She held her breath, flinching a little at the soft rustle of mallorn leaves somewhere dangerously near them.

Not a soul. Just another sigh of the drowsy wind. She stole a quick glance at the Warden, half-expecting him to ask if something was wrong. He did not look at her. Torn between relief and disappointment, Aerwain peered under her feet with a slight frown.

"There's no one around, Aerwain," said he all of a sudden. Mildly.

She never managed to convince herself there was no reason for her to feel so pathetic…

Fortunately enough, the wood let out no more noises to shake her already poor self-control, and they ended the walk in silence, if for a quiet "Thank you" which she murmured out of the sheer habit as he was helping her up the mallorn with a careful hand.

He held the door open, leaving it to her to lead the way inside.

No, she didn't expect him to carry her over the threshold, but still…

The hall was dark. The house – empty.

"Some wine?"

"No, thank you," replied Aerwain stumblingly, not exactly sure whether it was not better to accept the offer and allow herself a moment of collecting her thoughts. To say she felt uneasy was not even to hint at the state of helpless disarray she was in.

The pause that followed seemed quite enough to pronounce the names of all the guests who had graced the celebration with their presence today – letter by letter.

To make sure the lump of ice that her body was could still serve her, Aerwain walked over to one of the deep chairs in the middle of the hall and took a seat, without much success trying to keep in mind that she didn't have to wait for an invitation. After all, didn't she own the owner of this place now?

"I hope the feast didn't wear you out," he spoke calmly, which made it much harder for her to persuade herself that her stay in the house wasn't just an occasional five-minute visit of politeness.

"Just a little," replied she in an absurdly indifferent tone. Haldir was still and unsmiling, holding by the door where she had left him. There was nothing in his posture that could tell Aerwain he was content, having finally obtained the hoped-for rights on her, or impatient to exercise even the most trifle of these rights.

Another minute of this courtly silence, and she could swear she would believe there had been no wedding at all.

Fairly unbearable to go on this way.

"Haldir, come up. Please."

Aerwain was relieved to discover that he was still as inclined to obey to her as he was disinclined to speak. Lingering for not a moment, he took off his post to settle in the chair next to hers. She couldn't recall whether she had ever seen him seating as relaxed before, his weight shifted to the forearms, which were resting on the slightly parted laps. His hands were brought together, with the fingers clasped tighter than they would be, were he as calm as he seemed.

Wasn't it silly to keep acting out a palace reception?

"Are you cross with me?" asked she downright.

The Warden raised his eyes at her swiftly. For a breath his face dropped all expression except a faint surprise, which almost at once gave place first to understanding, then – to mildness, unalloyed and easily fathomed, even despite the absence of a smile.

"I'm getting used to you," responded he plainly.

It wasn't something she could answer at once, if a confession such as that demanded an answer at all.

Aerwain reclined against the chair-back, listening into the silence that surrounded them, not so strained now but still plain awkward.

A ribbon of pale light tangled in the twisting maze of embroidery, which covered the Warden's collar. A small motion - and the ray ran against another silvery curl, falling into a whole constellation of dim sparkles.

"You were on thin ice yesterday," said Haldir at last.

Colour rushed to her cheeks before the phrase ended.

"I wasn't," was all she laboured out.

Not something that could be called an intelligible reaction. It was just too difficult to choose between the fine selection of admonitions someone else would surely enough produce in her place. She could say she'd never really doubted his honour. She could say she wouldn't have let him go too far. She could say there had been Beleg in the house, awake and prepared to emerge in her chamber at a single call of hers. Although the last claim was hardly appropriate under the circumstances.

As always, Haldir thought up what was missing easily – and not in a way that she could put up with.

"So it was still Beleg," murmured he with a nod of comprehension, "If perchance he needs my recommendation, I'll be sure to mention his loyalty."

"Beleg said not a word to me," protested Aerwain, resenting the idea of seeing her brother answerable for the contrivance, whose only author was her own very self.

The Warden gave her a quick, knowing glance.

"I can tell black from white, Aerwain," the bland reproach made her flush even deeper red, but she didn't give up.

"Always?" inquired she quietly.

He winced a little, looking at her as if it was the first time she had made herself heard, and then inclined his head in resignation.

"You are right," confessed he with a chuckle.

She smiled wanly, plunging into uncomfortable silence again.

It didn't feel like the poor exchange of remarks had cleared the air in any way.

Now the Warden was sitting back, too, staring at the wedding band around his finger unseeingly.

He revealed no intentions to reduce the distance between them. Neither did he ask her to do it.

Didn't he need her anymore?

She couldn't stop toying with her brooch, nearly breaking her nails against the carved amber. If the clasp gave way, she'd be sure to tear the mantle or prick her neck...if it gave way…

If she gave way to…

"Haldir, help me, please," slurred she in a thin voice, absurdly fearful of glancing up at her silent husband, "I…I don't think I can unclasp it."

It took all her resolve to stumble through the last words without taking them back there and then.

Would she ever believe she had dared say that?

Thankfully, the Warden didn't make her repeat the request.

She had never felt as small and defenseless as when he rose from his seat and stepped up to her, reaching out for the brooch slowly.

The trinket came undone without the slightest resistance, proving her guilty of deception…or shamelessness. She had no time to get terrified at her own deed, before the mantle, now held by nothing, slithered off her shoulders into Haldir's grasp.

She shouldn't have induced him to get up. Somehow having him tower above her when she herself was still shrinking in the chair made it all even worse. Suppressing the urge to curl up more, Aerwain forced a weak smile and held her hand out to take both the brooch and the mantle away from him.

Her heart shrivelled, as he disregarded the gesture in favour of catching her under the elbow softly, so she had no choice left but to stand up, too, appearing face to chest with him. With a corner of her eye Aerwain watched him deliver himself from her wearables. His hand went up again, but only to close around hers and pull it up to his heart, the motion both a plea and an order. There her palm remained, lying gingerly over his tunic, while she didn't feel equal either to taking it away, or to going further and sliding it up to his neck as he might have hoped she would do.

She had to tilt her head up at last, when Haldir took her by the chin – very carefully…though even that unassuming touch appeared enough to reduce her into numbness and wordlessness.

The very tip of his thumb brushed against the fringe of her eyelashes, drew a soft line down her cheek, contoured her mouth…

Aerwain took a shaky breath, the air burning her lips cruelly.

She wished she could make bold and ask him for a kiss, like she had once done it. Or brave a smile, when he bent over her, cupping her face to bring it against his unhurriedly. Or…

"I'd kiss you, Aerwain," claimed he in a listless undertone, "If you didn't think that begging becomes me more."

Large-eyed and abashed, she started back on instinct, but he caught her up gently, giving her no chance to move farther than a step away from him.

His pupils were wider than she thought they could be, so wide that the blue rims around them seemed non-existent.

He had always been a better master of his voice than of himself. She didn't have to wait too long till he broke in his own determination to flirt with her guilt.

Blood pounded in her ears louder than ever, but she still heard the throaty sound that he exhaled, drawing her body into him. For many a time within the last month she believed she had learnt the meaning of the word "overwhelming" well enough. The kiss that he sealed her lips with made her falter in this belief once again.

Aerwain froze in momentary bewilderment, like each time his mouth captured hers.

A silly shred of a thought passed through her mind, unbidden, yet striking in its clarity.

It still was not what Gwilwileth had described it to be.

Or was it?

It was hard not to let herself imagine what he was thinking about, when she couldn't but sigh her defeat, yielding to the strength of his embrace.

How many times had he been picturing it to himself?

The Aerwain that he'd seen with him then had surely been more responsive than the panicking nonsense of a bride he was kissing now. Like those he had held in his arms, perhaps, long before she was born, for the skill, he was basing at her feet, could not have been acquired from a single trial at courtship.

The pang of jealousy was novel – sickening. The realization of her own clumsiness embittered her. Longing for comfort, Aerwain moved closer to the Warden to be welcomed by a remedy of a softer kiss.

For a wink it seemed to her that he smiled against her lips.

In a flash of insight she was conscious of her power over him again. Something strangely akin to cruelty woke up within her – a twisted sensation, a tingling wish to make him pay for the years of indifferent looks, and empty words, and uncaring smiles. For the last half-an-hour, wasted in unrest and self-reproaches.

Before she knew it, her hands were making a journey up his back, and now there left no doubts as of what feeling was sending him into shiver under her touch.

Wittingly she relaxed in his arms and let him savour her pliancy, making no attempts to return the kiss until his breathing was as uneven as her heartbeat.

His mouth was ardent, insistent, imploring…protesting. Hers – no more than permissive, the flow-with-the-current game teasing her pride and filling her with insufferable pleasure.

And then she kissed him, too, diligently repeating all she had learnt from him within the last few minutes. Lingering, when he persisted. Urging, when he tarried. Each trifle touch, each small pause, each stroke of a tongue. She must have appeared a good pupil - quite deserving the reward of a small moan her efforts had elicited from him.

His renewed passion tasted sweeter than his disarray.

That is why it was more than frustration when out of the blue the Warden pulled himself away with a short sigh, as if her touch began to hurt him.

Uncomprehending, Aerwain made a reach for him, but he shook his head brusquely and stepped back farther, pale and scant of air.

An age had passed before he beckoned her closer again.

Haldir didn't force her into anything. She simply missed that single gesture of his, after which she was embracing him no more. His arms were as tight around her waist, yet now he stood behind her, depriving her of a chance to look into his eyes.

Amazing how much of her composure depended on having him in her view. The illusion of control was falling into pieces like a shattered mirror.

And it still felt right to connive at his caresses - to be enthralled and fascinated by the way his hand slipped down her neck and lower…Aerwain arched her back, oblivious to anything but the twinges of delight that slowly drained her of every single thought and care…up to the moment his fingers travelled on, almost reaching the knot of her waistband.

…There were so many pins, holding that hideous dress on its place.

No bride had ever appeared as unkempt before her husband as she would when he finally succeeded in untying the girdle.

"Wait," begged Aerwain out-loud, growing cold as the words left her mouth.

Varda the great. It looked like even a wedding night was not a reason solid enough for her to cease making a fool of herself.

Haldir stopped stiff, not having touched her waist.

"Yes, milady," the blank and prosy tone was manifestly not something he could attain right now.

"Pins," she forced out in a miserable voice.

The Warden uttered a strange noise, something between a groan and a chuckle, and stooped low to bury his face in her tangled hair.

"Mercy," he breathed out hoarsely.

Aerwain didn't bring herself to stutter an apology. He would hardly have listened to one, anyway – would hardly have listened to anything.

Perhaps, she hadn't entered this house in a proper mode. Perhaps, she should have been offended by the fact that he hadn't bothered to carry her in, as the custom demanded it.

It all didn't matter. He made up for the omission to the full, having seen to it that her feet never touched the floor all the way into the bedchamber she was to share with him from that day on.

A single pillow on the unwrinkled covers. Not a perfect marriage bed, not meant to be one at all. She did a good job of convincing the Warden that suchlike preparations would be ridiculous, if not pitiful.

Her thoughts trailed off, brought to nothing by the touch of his hand against her burning cheek.

She knew they would be stepping on those pins for weeks and weeks ahead…

The dress rustled down her shoulders in a cold waterfall and fell at her toes softly.

Days later it was still impossible to remember what the several hours before the dawn had been to her. The only recollections she could afford were those of trifling, irrelevant details, floating out of her memory like splinters of someone else's dream.

…How she blushed and shuddered, enveloped by the lukewarm night air. How he stepped back, his darkened eyes intense and stormy as she braved a glance at him at last. How he clenched his jaws for an instant before a crooked, pained ghost of a smile touched his lips and vanished without a trace.

His tunic showed all but black against the glittering gauze of her dress. And the sheets felt smooth and cool to her bare skin.

And she looked at him in a daze, almost in awe, till his shadow slipped over her body, shielding it from the covetous touch of the moonbeams.

How could a simple breath scald like melted iron?

The rest was ...fever, and confusion, and yearning, and closed eyes, and gasps which he drank off her mouth…and the chilly scent of early predawn, that his skin appeared to carry, when she placed the first irresolute kiss on his chest.

A whirlwind of nothing and everything…until he came to a halt, the sudden pause bringing her back to where they lay in crumpled covers, already close, but still not bound…His hair spilling over her breast and the pillow. Her hand resting between his shoulder-blades.

"Aerwain," a forced-out whisper, coarse like sea-salt, and yet luscious to her ear, "Stop me. Say no."

She tarried, if for a moment…frightened…victorious…relieved to hear herself utter a single word – the one he'd deserved to hear from her long ago.

"Yes…"


"…Haldir, am I desirable?" purred a man's voice languidly.

The elleth broke into quiet, melodious laughter.

"No, she didn't!" forced she through the fits of merriment.

"Take my word," grinned her companion, raising his right hand in a solemn oath-taking gesture, "Punched myself not to snigger."

For a moment the lady was earnestly trying to keep a straight face – to no particular success, as the laugh came back to torture her together with an image, drawn by the sneering ellon so vividly.

"I'm beginning to feel quite inferior to your sister," sighed out she, when able to speak more or less coherently again, "Poor Haldir…"

"Poor Haldir, my foot!" groaned he with mock indignation, "I wish somebody took care of me as I took care of him."

"Oh, tell me how much you need it. So helpless and lonely," jeered the lady, smiling hardly a compassionate smile.

The statement was left unanswered. In silence the fingers of the ellon stole into the golden avalanche of his lady's hair that was flowing down his grayish vest freely. She stirred a little, settling more comfortably in the circle of his arm. Although she was apparently the luckier of them two, having his body to recline against, while he had to be content with pretty a coarse mallorn trunk.

His mouth ghosted against the silken tresses, and she turned to him slightly, yet no tenderness came to her ivory face, and his eyes were as calm and empty of fervor as hers.

"It was too dangerous, Gwilw," growing serious, murmured he into her temple, "Your wedding, after all."

"What else could I do? I've been hunting him down for three weeks and that appeared the only time when we were alone and Aerwain was watching us. We'd discussed it a hundred of times with you, what could go wrong?"

"You should have waited for me."

"And miss a perfect chance?" sniffed the lady, waving off the remark, "By the by, did you really intend to give my brother a dusting?"

"I love your trust in me," chuckled he derisively, "Someone else would ask whether I was going to scuffle with him."

"Someone else would overestimate Tarlan, then. So did you?"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"If you do not pity him, why should I?"

"I do pity him. Otherwise he would have been married to your sister."

The thin, contemptuous lips of the ellon twitched, folding into a sneer of such a deep disdain, that it was hard to believe it belonged to someone so composed and boyish.

"Like fun."

His voice was heavy, not a tang of the former carelessness resounding in its even flow.

"I won't argue. He's as bad a match for Aerwain, as she is for him."

"Good point," his smirk still kept enough poison to send to death a hundred of Tarlangions, "Besides, if he made her unhappy, I'd have his perfect guts wound around my hand."

"Yes, that was another weighty argument," nodded the beauty with utter graveness, "His perfect guts are perfect where they are."

"Be it so, as soon as they are far from Aerwain… You don't miss being friends with her, do you?"

It was she who gave a shrug this time, running her finger up and down his broad chest absent-mindedly.

"I am my brother's sister. And some things just exhaust themselves. She's sweet, but too nice for me. Although she's a quick learner," concluded she with a little sly laugh.

"Better say I got her a good whipping boy," murmured he smugly.

"Wait till you're flogged yourself."

"Oh, yes," drawled the ellon under his nose, "I shall live and hope."

The glade was discolouring slowly, drowning in thick nightly mist. Very soon the dress of the elleth appeared the only light spot, yet un-devoured by the general grayness, its lent-lily sheen merely subdued to pale waxen.

A sole bird tossed between the trees to settle somewhere above their heads and engage in self-forgetful warbling. The lady looked up without much curiosity, while her companion remained quite motionless, still keeping her close to his side. For a long while the couple was gazing through the darkness mindlessly, until the ellon broke the silence again.

"Your husband sings well," observed he in a placid manner.

"He does," acknowledged she on a disinterested note.

"Why did you marry him?"

"You didn't offer anything, Beleg," said she plainly, "And don't tell me it rendered you broken-hearted."

He grimaced mildly, almost but not shaking his head.

"As long as you do not change…"

The bird took off its place as swiftly as it had appeared and dove into the hushful wood with a plaintive chirp.

"I must be going," remarked the elleth at last, sitting up in the arms of her companion, "Arvrog should have returned by now."

"Go," agreed the ellon with nonchalant eases, detachedly calm even as she freed herself from his hold and rose to her feet in one swift motion. He himself didn't hurry to leave the glade, watching her through the leisurely narrowed eyelashes.

"Gwilw."

She turned around at the quiet call, tinted with habitual mild irony. He was smiling again, his white teeth glistening in the clear-featured face.

"Be careful around me. Perhaps, I'm planning to elope with you to Mirkwood."

Another peal of laughter came off her lips, soft and nearly affectionate now.

"May be, some day…"

"Yes," murmured he, resting his head against the tree and closing his eyes, "May be."

THE END.

Thanks for having stayed with us.