||[Jul. 25th, 2006|07:02 pm]
Twenty Rings Fanfic Community
Title: Ever Fixèd Mark
Theme: Set 1, theme 6: Butterfly
Summary: Loving a prince isn't easy.
Notes: Title comes from Shakespeare, Sonnet 116. Read it ;)
The glade was filled with dancers; Elves clad in bright coloured silks moving and circling, passing one another, swaying and touching, following the sound of flute and harp like so many varicoloured flowers swirling in the breeze. Fires blazed amid the trees and lanterns shone in the branches, their golden glow complementing the silver of the stars that could be seen increasingly clearly in the indigo sky.
Some pairs of Elves had remained together all through the evening: from those who had been bonded for an Age or more, to those with silver rings upon their fingers, to young ellyn and ellyth who, by virtue of possessing eyes only for each other, remained in ignorance of surprised, indulgent or disapproving glances directed toward them by friends or parents.
Her gaze, too, was drawn to one face only among all those present. He stood among the unattached ellyn who, their hearts not yet captured by any, were free to dance with every maiden in the glade. Some of them, she noticed with faint, detached amusement, seemed determined actually to do so. She had been approached several times throughout the evening, and one of the young Mardilionnath—Lingalad, she thought it was—appeared particularly persistent, seeking her out at semi-regular intervals and twisting his face into anguished contortions that grew more grotesque with every laughing refusal. When he was not grimacing, it was a very handsome face; even features, a perfect complexion and wide grey eyes that danced with mirth were framed in hair as thick and black and lustrous as her own. Yes, he was a very pretty lad; she had no difficulty in acknowledging the fact with calm objectivity. But fair as he was, she could look at him with perfect equanimity, could admire his beauty as she might that of an especially lovely flower or jewel, or one of her own pretty sisters; she could be enthusiastic in praise, but her heart was unmoved.
Not so, however, when she turned her eyes back toward the other ellon. It was never difficult to find him amid the crowd; even had his song not called her with painful clarity, he was taller than most of those present and the plaited hair beneath his silver circlet shone golden. He, too, was beautiful, but there were others just as fair: it was not merely the symmetry of his face, or the long, strong lines of his form that so drew her. It was something in the unconscious, compact grace of his movements; something indefinable in the quality of his impulsive, sideways smile; something in the glance, mischievous or grave or whimsical, that he cast up from beneath dark lashes; something in the apparent dichotomy of gentleness and steel that existed within him; something in the astonishing depth of his eyes, a depth that had no right to be in the gaze of one so young.
She did not know when she had first begun to love him, only that she did so, intensely and perpetually. And just as it was inevitable and right that he should have been born to a place so far above her own, so it was inevitable—and right—that he should remain unaware of the feelings she so carefully concealed, should pass heedlessly by her with no more thought of being loved by her—or of loving her—than he had of the log on which she sat. He was always kind to her when they met, of course, kind and charming and funny. In the course of their acquaintance he had learned her name, knew to which family she belonged, knew where in the forest their home lay. During the time she had spent with the other ellyth, and the hours she had observed and listened to him—her presence welcomed but unsolicited—she had learned the sobriquets bestowed upon him by his noisy companions, though few of the reasons behind them. While she knew his public opinions of almost all of his relatives, she was not among those admitted to his confidence and the knowledge of his private views. She had heard him talk of what parts of the forest he most liked to visit—but had not discovered why; had listened to him argue the merits of archery versus fencing and had watched him participate in both disciplines; had heard him laugh at those who loved summer to such an extent that they could not see the beauty he loved in the other seasons. She remembered hearing him speak, long ago, of his wish for younger siblings, but knew neither why none had as yet been born, nor why he no longer mentioned the matter. Annúmír, she knew, was his foster-brother, but the forest rumours had not told her why the two ellyn, so different in manner and appearance, had become each other's dearest friend. She had grown equally adept at recognising the signs that betrayed when he was bored and those that warned of mischief to follow, but he had never explained to her why he could better endure the continuous chattering of a small child to the equally incessant babblings of some of the king's advisors. In addition, she knew that he often drank water rather than wine, that he preferred wild raspberries to cultivated strawberries and that his love of vibrant colours had been modulated—at least where his wardrobe was concerned—due to the political significance of his appearance in cobalt or crimson, amethyst or ochre. She knew that when he and the other ellyn collapsed on the grass, he naturally lay on his left side, and that while in almost all things he was right-handed, he preferred to skip stones with the other. Moreover, she had become aware that his sense of humour tended to the ironic, that he had a not-so-secret enthusiasm for history books, that he was a master storyteller but an abysmal artist and that he had a propensity for getting into awkward situations. She knew that he was swift in almost everything he did: a fast reader, quick in all his movements, good at making hurried decisions; related to this, she knew that he was impulsive, sometimes too hasty and impatient. For she was not so much in love that she was blind to his faults: she suspected that he enjoyed shocking people simply for the amusement it afforded him, and she knew that he often assumed the capabilities of others to be equal to his own, and struggled with impatience when it was proved that they were not always so. On several occasions she had glimpsed a flash of his quick temper, and others had told her that he could be as stubborn as the tales said his forefathers had been. She knew too, however, that he loved his home and friends dearly, and saw that he but rarely considered his responsibilities as merely onerous duties to be discharged, while never would the thought of neglecting them enter his mind. He accepted his obligations with the same unquestioning calm as he did the deference and devotion that he was accorded by almost all whom he met—and that attitude she could not begin to comprehend. It was the things that she knew of him that made her care for him; it was the things that remained a mystery to her that made her yearn for him.
So close he was, only a few yards away now, apparently occupied with teasing Linaeriel Lhamlend, she who was said to be as close to him as she had been his sister. Yes; now he had spun her away toward a shorter ellon she thought was named Thalion, who caught the maid in startled but willing arms. Linaeriel was borne away, still calling threats and insults, but he took no notice, only laughing at her violent gestures.
So close and yet so remote, for his gaze did not turn toward her and it was not her hand he reached for as he stepped back into the dance.
The middle hours of the night were reached, but still the dance went on and still she sat, quiet and motionless beneath the branches, on the verge of the glade and of the activity. From time to time she would see one of her sisters swept by, eyes bright and smiles flashing up into the face of whichever youth they currently held in thrall, but she was never tempted to join them.
Again the music changed, moving in a rising crescendo of sound from a slow, gentle melody to a loud, swift tune that she recognised; this dance was intended to separate the weary from the strong, the casual dancers from the dedicated. He was returning, weaving his way through the crowds of Elves who had abandoned the music in favour of refreshment and rest. She held no hope that he came for her; in such swift dances he was almost always partnered by Linaeriel, whose light feet and unquenchable energy were a fitting match for his own. There they were indeed, twisting and turning, leaping and spinning at such speed that at times green tunic and rose gown seemed one, dark hair and golden mingling about them in the breeze of their movement. As couples dropped from the dance it grew increasingly easy to keep her eyes upon the one pair who held her interest and in the end, when the panting minstrels brought the tune, unrecognisable with its speed, to an close, it was they who still remained in the centre of the glade—though as soon as the last notes faded they collapsed against one another, breathless and laughing at the applause that broke out amid the watching Elves.
However much others might remark upon the occasion, it surprised her little that, after a moment's rest and a cup of wine, he was on the move again, this time bowing with exaggerated formality to a slight girl in a trailing russet gown—one of his southern kinswomen—before swinging her easily into the air and entering the next dance, cheeks flaming and eyes bright, but enthusiasm unabated.
She was reminded suddenly of a butterfly or another of the delicate winged creatures that dwelt in the forest: bright and beautiful, graceful and apparently carefree. The butterflies sometimes would be all about her; one might dreamily circle her head as long moments passed, but always they remained elusive, untouchable, unattainable. They moved swiftly from one bright flower to another, with a degree of unpredictability that defeated her; always when she reached toward one, her hands returned empty, grasping only air.