Thanks to my betas: Vicki, Marcia, Georgia Piper - lots of gratitude to Vicki on this one!
Disclaimer: Most of this is Tolkien's. I make no money from this.
Note: This is somewhat A/U, but it has to be for the premise to work. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Most of this is Tolkien's. I make no money from this.
Note: This is somewhat A/U, but it has to be for the premise to work. Enjoy!
My father's voice deep with the fathoms of the sea washes over the cliffs to where I wait. The melody he sings mourns with the sorrow in his heart, keeping time with the rhythm of the waves pounding the shore. This same water brushes another grassy shore as well, but the echoes of his lament dissipate long before they can strike the chords of any heart there. On this shore, however, his song resonates in the spirits of all who hearken to it.
All my life have I listened to my father's songs of regret and loss as they fade on the deaf wind and drown in the pitiless sea. My mother bore me to him to bring him joy, and I would do anything I could to bring rest to his troubled fëa. But my father is cursed, and his fëa shall never know peace because of it.
Seated on my favorite rock across the harbor from the dwellings of the Grey Havens, the cool water laps at my bare feet. From here, I can see every elf who stands on a balcony, walks the quays, or looks out from his seaward window. But, there is one in particular upon whom my gaze falls.
Lord Elladan, son of Elrond, comes here this time every year, garbed in the finery of his station, dark hair braided against the ever present breeze. His somber face filled with sadness, bright grey eyes full of memories, he retreats here to sooth his pain with the balm of father's minstrel song and to touch the water that touches the distant shores – shores he is not yet ready to touch himself.
Every year for the past forty years, he has come here, as has my father. Every year for the past forty years, I have come here too, to gaze upon the handsome face and beautiful form of this lonely lord. He comes to ease the sense of loss he feels for his kin who have sailed to Valinor without him, but I come here to see him. My father comes to see him too, and to offer the only comfort he can - the healing words and emotion of his voice and harp.
The lord does not know my father, but my father knew and fostered Lord Elrond ages ago. Father feels it is his duty to Elrond to look after his twin sons whenever possible. At first both young lords came here every year on the anniversary of their father's departure for the Blessed Realm. Now only the elder son still seeks this sanctuary of reminiscence, and the few remaining residents of the harbor dwellings always respect the solitude he desires. However, Elladan and I are the only ones who also know that there is something else he seeks here and readily finds at every visit.
Father's voice finally fades with the setting of the sun. He will journey home now and return mid-afternoon tomorrow to sing unseen for the lord once again. I don my shoes and silently steal away, but home is not my destination. Wrapped in my pale green shawl, I make my way to the balcony where my lord awaits.
Elladan turns when he hears me approach. A smile brightens his countenance as I fly into his outstretched arms. I practically pounce on him, but he is prepared and catches me, swinging me around in a swish of sea green skirts.
"Elladan, my love. I have missed you so much!" I exclaim as he sets me down, my unbound auburn hair settling around us and mingling with his raven locks. Wrapping his arms possessively around me, he kisses me deeply, his tongue caressing mine in a sweet dance of passion. All thought leaves me at the touch of his lips on mine.
"Liniel," he finally pulls back and whispers huskily. "My sweet Liniel. How I have missed you." I nuzzle his neck as he rests his chin on my head, the lengths of our bodies pressed together, each of us reveling in the feeling of being so close to the other. We stand thus for a long time, both of us reluctant to let go.
At last he draws me inside for a fine dinner and wine. As always, he talks of his brother Elrohir and life in Imladris where he and his brother share the responsibilities of lordship over the remnant of elves still dwelling in the Last Homely House. I listen, captivated by his voice and beauty. As always, he begs me to come and live there with him and, as always, I decline. He implores why, and I explain that I cannot leave my mother and father for I am all they have. He asks why they cannot come to Imladris and I explain that they will not leave the sea. Usually he relents, albeit reluctantly, professing to understand, but this time he answers with silence.
After dinner, we recline on a fur rug by the fire, my head on his shoulder within easy kissing distance, his hand resting on my hip and my hand on his broad, muscled chest. I sing to him softly of starlight, hope, and joyful love, entrancing him as I always do with the lilt of my voice just as my father enchants my mother with his. My song ends, but my lover does not reward me with the passionate kiss I have come to expect. This time is different.
Elladan slowly sits up, pulling me up with him, an oddly uncertain expression on his face. I tilt my head, puzzled and smiling at him curiously. He fumbles for something in his tunic pockets then leans over and rummages through his discarded robes. Sighing in relief, he produces a leather pouch and removes a colorful folded cloth from within it.
Shifting a bit so we are fully facing each other, he takes my hands in his, the cloth and its small hard contents pressed between our palms. For a few moments, he stares at our joined hands. Finally, he takes a deep breath and looks into my eyes. My heart sings, for the love and passion I see there make me believe with every fragment of my being that I would give him anything he asks of me in this moment.
He looks at me fearfully, expectantly, hopefully. "Liniel, I have loved you for a long time and I love you with all my heart. Will you give yourself to me and do me the very great honor of becoming my wife?"
He could have asked anything of me. Anything but that, for that is the one thing I cannot do. The one thing I cannot give him is myself. And when he finds out why, he will hate me and I will lose him forever.
Silently, he partially unfolds the cloth and pours into my hand two exquisite silver betrothal rings engraved with stars and sea waves. "I made these for us myself," he explains, stuffing the empty cloth into his tunic pocket, "in honor of our starlight meetings by the sea."
I stare in awe at the rings in my palm. I love him so much, so very much that it hurts. I ache when he is away from me and only feel truly complete when we are entwined in each others arms. More than anything I want to place the larger ring on his finger and tell him "yes" and feel the metal of the smaller ring surround my own finger. But I cannot. I know I cannot. It is wrong for me to love him and I never should have let our relationship go this far. I never should have fallen in love with him. And when he knows why, he will never love me again. Elladan will go away from me and I will be alone. Then, with father as my mentor, I will sing in pain and regret beside the empty waves of the unforgiving sea. Perhaps the Valar will have mercy and allow me to fade from this world as my father cannot, bound forever by his curse – a curse that hangs over me too, though I never saw it looming until now. Now that it is too late.
I feel tears spill from my eyes as my sorrowful gaze meets Elladan's hopeful one. I slowly shake my head, pressing my lips together to keep from sobbing out loud. Trembling, I pour the rings into Elladan's hand and close his fingers over them. Crestfallen, his bewildered eyes look at his hand and then back at me.
"Why..." he whispers weakly. Pain fills his voice. "Why? Liniel ... do you not love me?"
Futilely, I try to wipe the offensive wetness from my face. "Elladan," I meekly explain. "I do love you. I love you more than I deserve to be able to love. But I do not deserve the privilege and honor of loving you." His obvious devastation claws at my heart. "If you had been anyone else of any other kin, I would have said `yes' to you and married you without hesitation. If you had been anyone else, it would have been all right for me to love you." I shake my head again, the tears flowing uncontrollably now. "But I cannot love you. I am not allowed to. I am sorry. I am so very, very sorry." I cannot stay here any longer. It just hurts too much ... too much. Witnessing the pain I am causing him will destroy me if I do not leave him now. I rise and run for the door.
I run, as his ancestors ran from mine, but he is quicker; even in his grief, he is quicker. He grabs my arm and I try to pull away, as his ancestors tried to pull away when Alqualondë, Doriath, and Arverian fell at the hands of my father and uncles. But Elladan is strong like his kin who survived when mine sought to slay them - all because of the theft of the Silmarils, the holy jewels my grandfather made in the Day before days.
Elladan's arms engulf me in a tight, loving embrace, pressing me to him. I sob into his tunic, unable to stop myself. He strokes my hair comfortingly until I finally calm down. I relax against him, listening to his heart pounding in his chest. My father and his brothers silenced the hearts of most of Elladan's kinsmen and women and their friends and children. Breathing my beloved's mildly sweet musky scent, I long to stay here in his arms forever, but I know I cannot.
I knew from the beginning that this relationship with Elladan was a bad idea, but he was so wonderful I could not help myself. I feel so ashamed that I let things go this far. But, I am not ashamed of who and what I am. I am not ashamed of my father. Father made some very bad decisions in his life and is cursed because of it. But he so often tells me that making me was a good decision and I am the one thing he is proud of. And he calls me a blessing, a blessing he does not deserve. I am not a bad person for loving who I love. But my lover will never forgive me and never love me again when he learns who I really am.
Voice tight with emotion, Elladan finally pushes me away, holding me firmly at arms' length. "Liniel, I will not release you until you make me understand why you will not marry me. What you have said does not make any sense to me. Why do you believe that you are not allowed to love me? Why does my kinship matter so much to you? Why have you said nothing of this before now?"
Taking a deep breath, I resign myself to Elladan's anger and hatred for what I am about to confess. Apparently I possess some amount of the legendary pride of the Noldor despite my Sindarin mother, for I straighten my back and boldly look into his eyes as I begin to speak. "When I first met you, you were so sorrowful and in need of companionship, my heart went out to you. But before I realized what was happening, you had stolen my heart from me. I kept telling myself that you did not care for me as much as I cared for you. I was content with our once a year meetings and did not think anything more would come of our relationship than we already had. But, apparently, I was wrong as you have proven me tonight.
"Elladan, I am the child of Makalaurë, Maglor son of Fëanor. I am the offspring of the only surviving kinslayer in Middle-earth. After what my kin did to yours, I am not worthy of ... I am not allowed to love you. And I should never have allowed you to love me." My shoulders suddenly sag under the weight of this confession. "I am so sorry, Elladan," I whisper sadly. "I am so very sorry for everything." My head bows, eyes closed and averted in the heaviness of my grief.
His hands remain firmly on my upper arms. I am glad that he has not released me yet for I am certain I would crumple to the floor in a heap. I keep my eyes closed to hold back the tears, waiting in silent resignation for my words to sink in, waiting for him to react to what I have said, waiting for him to understand and release me in hatred and spite.
Suddenly he sighs, and I feel a finger under my chin, lifting my head.
"Liniel, look at me," he softly commands.
I open my eyes, but to my amazement, I do not meet the hatred, anger, or spite I had expected to greet me. Instead he shakes his head, relief in his smiling face. I am confused and do not understand.
"Liniel, my adar often spoke fondly of his years fostered by Maglor after adar and his twin brother lost their parents. Maglor is the only father figure he could recall from his childhood, and when my adar finally sailed to Valinor, he still bore your father great love. My adar told Elrohir and me that his blood sire Earendil watches over us from the skies, but as long as we hear the minstrel's voice by the sea, we are being watched over by his foster father, too.
"A year after I first met you, I asked after you, for you intrigued and captivated me as no one had before. For most of our courtship I have known who your parents are." He places his hand on my cheek, holding my gaze to his so I cannot look away. "I have never once thought of you as the child of a kinslayer, Liniel. To me you always have been and ever shall be the minstrel's beautiful daughter who healed me and supported me and loved me when I needed it the most."
He withdraws from his pocket the colorful cloth which held our rings and unfolds it, placing it in my hand. On one half is the blue, silver, and white symbol of Elrond's House, but on the other half ... My breath catches in my chest. In awe, I trace the fiery rays of the eight pointed star of Feanor, radiating from the circle within a circle bearing the iridescent image of a Silmaril – the heraldic symbol of the House of my grandfather – the dispossessed line of the kings of the Noldor.
"I have known all along, Liniel," he explains, a loving smile lighting his face. "And I still love you anyway."
I do not know what to say. Tears slip from my eyes again, but this time they are tears of joy. I throw my arms about his neck and sob into his damp tunic. I feel his arms encircle me protectively, lovingly. After a time, his arm around my waist, he takes me back to the rug by the fire and sits me down across from him.
I place the larger silver ring on the index finger of his right hand and kiss it where it rests. "Yes, Elladan, I will marry you, for I do love you."
Grinning broadly, he kisses my ring before placing it on my finger. "Let our love heal the rift between our Houses, Liniel. And may no new grief divide us."
His lips touch mine and it is bliss.
I think my father will be pleased.