Her dance, it seemed, was practice; she stepped in a pattern of lyric movement, arms and feet consciously yet naturally placed within turns and lines, and then she stopped. She stood still a moment to run her white hands over her orange gown and smooth the fabric into a more graceful shape over her body. Then she stepped again, replaying the same dance on the grass for a few ghostly minutes until this practice too came to an end. She smoothed her hair, and passed delicate fingers over her flushed cheek, and so began again.

Some of the trees around her were far from each other, and some were close set, but they never barred her way as she whirled and coursed. He thought, as he watched, that the trees would surely move from her path if ever she chanced to come too close; her dance would command them, or she would command them. Or they would perhaps command her, and so guide her through their maze. They must have such an understanding, he thought, she and the trees, to dance together so flawlessly. She and the sun, too, for light fell over her in waves like water and drenched her hair, her skin, her clothing, so that she shone, star-like, as she danced with the light.

She stopped, and started anew. The heat of her reflecting light, or else the heat of trees, came to his face even though he stood far above amid stone and statue. He was on this terrace when he had first seen her dancing in the lower great garden, and there he yet stood, and would stand, he was sure, until her dance ceased and she passed from the garden. He would stand for hours, or days, or years, or until the end of Arda, if she danced there with the trees.

She stopped, and did not start anew. A singe of dread passed over him. His hand curled around the slim stone pillar at his side. With his fierce eyes and clenched jaw he soundlessly begged her to dance again. But still she stood motionless, filling his mind with the fear of her leaving, driving him to curse time for being so torturous and quick. He hissed aloud and leaned as far as he dared over the terrace railing, as if to conjure new movement in her through this movement of his.

If he had been willing her to dance again, his wishes were lost. But if he had wanted only movement, then her next actions pleased him better than any. Carefully, she lifted the silver circlet from her forehead and placed it on the grass at her bare feet. Her hands then set to her shining hair, which was bound in one thick plait with bands of silver. She removed all decoration and every tie and pin until the strands fell free over her shoulders down the length of her back to her waist, and still longer. She understood the wind too, he saw; it had no desire to strike up and whip and tangle that star-bright hair. She lived with the trees, and the light, and the wind, and all loved her for it.

The ornaments of her hair were set alongside her circlet on the grass in a careful arrangement, so that they would not be lost. When this was done she stood, turning her face up to the midday sun, smiling as it cast her in approving, adoring light. Her hands rested first on her cheeks and then on her neck, then they slowly slipped to her chest where the gown was fastened with a stern row of small pearl buttons. These she undid, one by one, and his breath stuck thick in his throat as he watched. She must believe that nobody is watching, he thought; she must believe that nobody would dare. The heat of shame, or else the growing heat of trees, swept over his skin.

Her gown fell in a circle around her feet, and she stood clothed only in a thin white shift, the hem of which hung no lower than her knees. Then the sun shone more gladly upon her, drowning her with soft light and making her a silhouette against the trees so that he could see the perfect shape of her body, opaque through the translucence of fine linen. She lifted her arms to the sun, either in reverence or kinship, he knew not which, and the shape of her breast against the light dishonoured his eyes. And as his heart turned mad and his legs weak, he could not force himself to leave her to salvage the remnant of her deserved mystery. So he watched still, and his thoughts became tangled in lust.

Soon she started to dance again, though this dance was new, rapid and staccato. It was not practice for court, her new dance, but something wilder. Improvised, he knew, since he watched closely and her movements were never repeated except in halves and inexact references. Her arms moved more freely than before, and she tilted her head at a less precise angle. Even her hands changed their style from rigid posing to colubrine twists. But the sweet grace of her steps was no less striking because of it. Indeed he found the new dance more beautiful, for it was entirely of her doing, and so marked with ambient sensuality. She spun faster, and then faster, weaving between the trees with such careless perfection that he could not help but forget to breathe. And as she turned the shift climbed higher on her body until he saw her pale thighs, soft in the light, bare as she danced.

He squeezed the stone under his hands as the heat of trees came into his eyes and caused them to burn with the tracing of her image. It was a fair drop, he saw, from the terrace to the garden below, but he could make it if he dared. He could jump from the cold stones to the warm trees, and be at her side in seconds. What he would do then, he was uncertain; if he could trust his voice, he would speak to her and confess. Or he might fail at civil speech and, forgetting propriety, allow his body to convey to hers, beyond all crudeness of words, his desires.

He could touch her, he thought, if he did not speak, if the time was left free of spoken stains. It could be a dream, or a whim, or a slice of ecstasy without unwanted unnecessary unsweet sound. Silence would govern them. His hands would adore her bright hair and tease her frail clothing before dropping to those soft bare thighs.

He imagined what her skin would feel like to his; surely it would be subtly warm, and satin-smooth in contrast to his own combat-worn roughness. He would be able to feel the blood in her veins running under the skin, and feel the vaguest movement of each surprised muscle beneath his fingers, and see the questioning cast to her tourmaline eyes, though she would not be concerned or unsure. He would kiss her. With his hands on her thighs, though barely, he would lower his lips scarcely to her cheek, half missing the half flush half falling on her skin- a heated pink called on by his audacity. Then maybe she would turn her face to his and bless his own cheek with her breath.

If she kissed him, it would be for only a moment, since time was dear and the dream might at any moment die. Her sugared lips would tempt him for a second, or a few, or a minute, but no longer. He would move quickly to have his hands learn all lessons of her body, if she would allow it; he would sell her his heart for the pleasure. And then he would drop to his knees before her, not to speak dull words of love but to act speeding passions in true evidence.

He could confront the scent of her fresh skin, so near to his face but separated by cruel threads of cloth. His hands would soon be beneath that cloth, at her consent, as a poor substitute for eyes. He would not see yet, only feel, her fresh, tingling skin. But he could still taste, and he would, the taste of clean water and air and linen. His tongue would circle her breast in a spiraling move to the peak, until the fabric of her shift was wet and translucent, and he could at last see her slightly dampened beauty. Her hands would be on his shoulders, then in his hair, then held high as he lifted the shift from her body. Shy fingers would fall over the edges of her shape as the fabric passed.

She would stand unclothed before him then, with her warmth and ivory radiance outshining all else in the world. He would sink lower to the ground, and his mouth would follow from her breast and the soft shadow beneath to her waist and the soft hair below. Then even lower as his breath stroked her slender leg, from hip to knee. Then back up again, then back down. The sweet smell of her arousal would sing to his well-sharpened senses as he pressed closer between her thighs, first with fingers, then with tongue, which would graze like energy across her skin and between her knees, ever upward, until her heat was ruled on his memory and her taste changed the style of his soul.

He would spare no time, and they would frighten the sky with their quickness, finding a sanctuary of a temporary kind on the prickling grass between the trees. Over and over they would protest the ground, naming it not ground but their bed, at last, and protest the trees, calling them not trees but witnesses to their union, forever. Then he would call her wife not by ring but by right of circumstance. And she could be his.

But such considerations came uninvited into his mind. There she still danced in the garden, and there he still stood on the terrace above. Nothing had passed.

He shamed himself at his thoughts. He had fouled her innocence with the things he dared think, with the violence of his impurity, as if his body could leave a scar on hers through mere fancy. He was certain it had. He could no longer look upon her with light affection or fondness, only terrible coveting lust. She had cursed him for his indiscretion, or perhaps he had cursed himself in her defense. So he turned his eyes downward and looked upon her no longer, for he could not bear the verdict of fate that he should be drawn to love her in such an unhoneyed way for ever more.

Slowly he left the terrace. He climbed the stairs back up to south arcade and passed around over high bridge to the center way. As he went his pace quickened, desiring with every step to put himself as far from the garden as possible. The memory of the heat of trees stung him.

Lord Elrond was coming down the steps when he reached north arcade. He stopped, somewhat breathless, and nodded to his friend.

Lord Elrond grinned obliviously and asked, "Have you seen my daughter?"

Glorfindel smiled faintly in return, then quickly looked down at his hands. "I believe she went to the great garden," was all he could say.