To Dwell in Lovers' Eyes

East Beleriand
Middle-Earth, F.A.
circa 300

Ah, he had missed this. Amras claimed his beloved's mouth, relishing the feel of his mate's full lips as they opened to him. For long moments they kissed until Hîthuldir pulled back with a breathy gasp.

"Should you keep distracting me like that, I shall never finish combing your wild tangles, much less plait it as you requested."

Amras rested his broad back against his lover's chest, leaning his head against an expanse of collarbone. "I have been away too long; the thought of activities of a far more intimate nature refuse to leave me."

Hîthuldir chuckled knowingly, bringing his head down so that his black hair slipped across Amras' shoulders. "They torment me as well. We are not needed anywhere at present…" His voice trailed off as Amras took his hands and clasped them across his chest.

"Will you sit on the bed and prepare yourself, allowing me to watch?" Amras asked, drawing the palms of Hîthuldir's hands down the planes of his stomach to his groin, where his arousal was evident.

Hîthuldir's long fingers massaged Amras' erection through his loose breeches. "You know I will do anything for you, especially when it comes to our bed."

"For which I will reward you most thoroughly," Amras said, his voice raspy with long-neglected need.

"Of that I have no doubt," Hîthuldir murmured against the sensitive lobe of Amras' ear, sending a jolt of desire pulsing through Amras to his straining shaft.

As Hîthuldir disrobed, Amras was struck yet again by his lover's pervasive elegance of movement, so unlike his own. Amras perfunctorily removed his clothing before sitting back on the floor. He drew up his legs, taking himself in hand while avidly admiring the lightly-muscled expanse of Hîthuldir's frame. His pale skin was in stark contrast to his raven hair and eyes as dark as midnight. Perhaps it was because Amras was a son of Fëanor and had been born with an obsession for beauty and no small amount of pride, but he often liked to think of how they must look together, his own ruddy tones and fiery hair mingling with that of his more luminous partner. Their fëa were intertwined, their bond now centuries old, yet Amras never tired of seeing his mate's marble skin, especially when flushed with pleasure.

Amras stroked himself, gazing heatedly as Hîthuldir ensconced himself in a panoply of vibrant cushions on their bed. Their home was filled with opulent comforts, and they lacked for nothing due to the wealth of the woods and grounds of East Beleriand. With a smooth gesture, Hîthuldir poured some oil into the palm of his hand, lubricating his fingers as the rich aroma of pine dissipated into the room. To Amras it was as though his very blood had become molten, heat coursing through him until it gathered, aching and impatient in his cock. Hîthuldir seemed to sense Amras' longing for him, his hooded dark eyes unwavering as filled himself with three fingers, sliding them in and out at the same languid pace with which Amras pleasured himself. Though he had been gone for well over two months on an extended patrol of his lands which bordered those of his brothers Celegorm and Curufin, Amras relished the slow buildup to passion. When Hîthuldir's motions grew more purposeful, however, and he began paying attention to his cock jutting from its thatch of damp black curls, Amras decided it was time to join his lover.

"How would you like to be?"

Hîthuldir lazed into the pillows, deliberating his options. Nothing was new to them, to be sure, but certain ways suited their bodies to more pleasure than others. Where Amras was more solidly composed, Hîthuldir resembled nothing so much as an aspen; milky and angular, yet as strong as any metal forged by the Naugrim. In similar likeness to a tree stretching to the sky, he preferred to stand. With an eyebrow raised in invitation, he got up from their covers and walked to a set of exquisitely carved ebony handles they had fastened to a nearby wall at shoulder height, his intentions clear.

"I would like to be here, Rusgil."

Amras shook his head. "We shall wear out the pattern of those beautiful vines if we continue to use them so much."

Hîthuldir smirked over his shoulder, his feet firmly planted and his narrow arse offered for the taking. "And I shall carve new ones, as many times as need be."

With an appreciative snort, Amras strode to him, stopping briefly by their bedside table to pour a palmful of unguent into his hand and slicking himself with it. "It is a good thing that you are so skilled," he rumbled before pressing into Hîthuldir, who bit back a moan of pleasure. "Otherwise you might find splinters in your hands before long."

Amras covered Hîthuldir's left hand with his own, reaching around to grasp his erection in his right. The privilege of experience led Amras to take his lover more roughly than usual, and Hîthuldir bucked against him, demanding ever more with the language of his body.

"Rus, Rus," Hîthuldir panted, thrusting equally against Amras' thick intrusion and into his wide hand as he clutched at the wooden wall braces.

"My treasure," Amras groaned into Hîthuldir's shoulder, sucking and biting at the skin as he brought his beloved to his climax. Hîthuldir emitted a string of adulations which in turn focused Amras back to his own release. He'd held back, the tension building until Amras felt Hîthuldir's muscles clench around his cock, and warm fluid seeped through his fingers. Cradling Hîthuldir's slick sacs in hand, Amras closed his eyes and allowed his spirit to caress his bondmate, emptying himself with decreasing waves of satiation.

For a few moments they stood breathing heavily. Amras nuzzled at the small bruise he'd caused on Hîthuldir's shoulder blade and idly fondled the skin of his lover's softening cock.

"I have missed you," Hîthuldir sighed, his hands still holding the handles for purchase, neck arched backward. "Next patrol I should like to be in your company."

Amras nodded, stepping back from Hîthuldir. "We will be due out again come early autumn." He dipped a thick cloth in a nearby basin of water, cleaning himself as Hîthuldir walked over to do the same.

"I have heard strange tales, ripples of intrigue from near Gelion," Hîthuldir said, raising a dark eyebrow. "Finrod Felagund appears to have left his caves and is up to something. I suspect Amrod will soon call you to him now that he knows you've returned from your patrol."

Eyebrows furrowing, Amras finished his ablutions, wondering why Finrod was wandering around on his lands. Still, Amrod would have sent a scout to fetch him if he'd felt Finrod was engaged in threatening pursuits. "I would wish to report in to him, regardless." Amras walked over to take his lover in his arms. "You know our patterns well, after these many years."

The rueful smile on Hîthuldir's lush lips affirmed this knowledge.

"Perhaps you would care to join me?" Amras queries, though he was nearly certain Hîthuldir would say no.

After a slow, languorous kiss, Hîthuldir leaned back to give him a soft smile. "There are wild things out in your lands, and sturdy Elves who I must ensure do not get soft. Another time, Rusgil," he suggested, pulling a sweaty swath of hair behind his ear. "For now, let us rest. You have returned, our bodies are satisfied—"

"For now," Amras interrupted with a smile, drawing a line down the middle of Hîthuldir's chest with a finger. "But yes, I would very much like to lie with you. A bed of earth bears little resemblance to this one, especially when you are not at my side."

The pair climbed up to lie on the woven coverlet. Hîthuldir stretched out on his stomach and Amras on his back, his hands cradling his head. He spent a short time sending thoughts of thanks to Oromë for his safe return and then, with a fond glance at his lover's back, Amras sank into sleep.

* * * * *

"Barach. Barach!"

Barach sat up in a flash, his heart pounding as if it were trying to burst out of his ribs. His mouth was dry and he was breathing heavily as though he were still falling, screaming as he plummeted toward the ground in his dream. Somebody had called his name, and had awakened him up, thank goodness.

"What?" he croaked softly. Clouds had covered the moon's light since Barach had gone to sleep, and he shivered.

"You were dreaming," Brindal whispered from his right, his face cloaked in shadow. "You woke me up."

"Sorry." Barach waited for a few moments to pass and for the vividness of the dream to fade before lying down once again. He'd been on the back of a giant falcon, high above the earth, elated at the sensation of flight. But then, as happened every time in the recurring dream, the bird had swooped and turned and Barach slid off, hurtling through the air without hope of rescue. Now awake, he squeezed his eyes so tightly, phantom sparks bloomed like flowers behind his eyelids. He started when he felt a touch on his shoulder, followed by his friend's hurried apology.

"It's all right," Barach said in a hushed voice. "You startled me, that's all."

He allowed Brindal to drape his arm over his side, the warmth and comfort especially welcome after the cold terror of his dream. After a number of disapproving looks from his father, Barach and Brindal were no longer as physically affectionate as they had been, but the cover of night provided desired privacy.

"Was it that same dream? With the giant bird?" Brindal asked, the heat of his breath against Barach's ear causing warmth of a particular nature to travel low to his belly.

"Yes. I don't know why I have it again and again. Maybe next time I'll have grown wings myself!"

Brindal chuckled softly at that.

"We'll be into the lands of the Nómin within a few days, so father says. Perhaps once in their realm, the dreams will cease," Barach said hopefully.

Brindal planted two quick, dry kisses against Barach's neck, still sweaty from his nightmare. "For your sake, I wish that as well."

The two young Edain lay in silence. Barach listened to the sounds of his kinsmen at rest, the occasional snore or shift of a blanket, words mumbled on the edge of sleep. He'd assumed his friend had fallen asleep and was regretfully about to extract himself from his embrace when Brindal said in a low voice, "Do you think all those of Nóm's tribe are as unselfish and loving as he has been toward us?"

Barach pondered the question, and then answered honestly, "I can't begin to guess. I certainly hope so. He spoke well of his kin, spread throughout the land."

"So he did." Brindal gave Barach's hand a gentle squeeze and then removed his arm, though he remained solidly at his side. "Sleep in peace," he murmured.

"And you," Barach replied, keeping his arms inside his bedroll despite his desires to do otherwise. Perhaps in their new land he would be able to express himself fully, but he dared not dwell on that overmuch. Night was for sleep, and tomorrow it would be back to the march. Tales ran riot of what they would do in the safe haven of the vast wilds of the two Nómin lords. Hunters they were, rarely seen, with fiery hair. Most of their kin had dark hair, the Elf-lord had said, and they would welcome them even as other, lesser Elves to the south wished nothing to do with them. How he could know so much Barach couldn't comprehend, but he was drawn to the light that burned in his fathomless eyes. Nóm also wore a necklace with jewels that seemed to glow with hidden fire. Barach had not been bold enough to ask him about it, but he had noticed that when he spoke of the Dwarves in the north, his fingers caressed the luminous cabochons.

Barach let his mind wander to the songs Nóm first sang and taught to them, and found that sleep returned at last. The rest of his night was dreamless.

* * * * *

Amras patted the flank of his mare before departing the stables, smiling as Tálagor whickered affectionately in turn. As he approached his twin's house, situated on stately grounds near Gelion, he wondered what news awaited him there. Amrod had sent a letter requesting his presence for a few days, but the note had been a formality. Since their earliest years, the two of them had communicated without speech, knowing each other's pains and thoughts, able to summon one another purely by wishing it. This ability had grown stronger as they aged, though in order to retain a modicum of privacy, they had also learned how to dampen some elements in their minds.

Amrod's squire, Gelinnas, opened the door before Amras had begun to ascend the front steps.

"Greetings, lord," the young elf enthused, smiling cheerfully as he bowed, elegantly sweeping his arm to welcome Amras into the house. "My lord is so grateful that you have come."

"There is naught amiss, is there?" Amras had not felt anything troubling in his twins' silent summons, but he supposed it was possible.

"No, not amiss," Gelinnas replied, assisting Amras out of his traveling cloak before taking his saddle bag and placing it on a carved wooden chair in the entrance hall. "It is tremendous news, though my lord wishes to speak of it with you in person."

"We have returned from patrol not even four days," Amras mused, glancing to Gelinnas, whose expressive face betrayed his excitement at whatever secret would soon be revealed. "This news does not come from Maitimo, I trust?"

"No! No, lord Telufinwe," the squire said quickly, his light eyes round with surprise. "My lord would certainly have ridden directly to you had that been the case." He escorted Amras through a large, airy dining hall and out onto a greensward. These grounds had a sense of ordered chaos to them, retaining some of the wildness of East Beleriand itself. In a nod to necessity, Amrod retained a retinue of staff to tend gardens and facilitate animal husbandry.

"Where is my brother?" Amras asked, his gaze drawn for a moment to the light coruscating on the distant waters of Gelion.

"He is where he so often spends his free hours," Gelinnas said warmly.

"With his beloved falcons, then."

The squire beamed in affirmation, and Amras allowed himself to admire his limber beauty. Amrod's appetites of the body defined the most profound difference between the two of them. While Amrod kept almost exclusively male company, he did not often seek their delights in bed. Where Amras often swam in pools of passion, though now exclusively with Hîthuldir, Amrod was nearly chaste, preferring bonds of loyalty and friendship to that of a physical incarnation. Amras had long since given up querying his brother as to how he had come to be that way. Amrod simply was, and Amras loved him with all his soul regardless.

"And what of your dogs?" Amras asked to distract his thoughts away from the comely elf and back to safer topics.

"Brego sired a litter of puppies this past May," Gelinnas said, obviously quite pleased. "My lord has been taking him on short hunts, not many leagues from the estate." He turned and gave Amras an inquisitive look. "Do you have dogs, for solo hunting?"

Amras told the squire about his usual practices — which included no hunting hounds — as they walked through the familiar woods to nearby fields which Amrod purposefully kept untamed. There he trained his falcons, birds of prey for which Amras did not share a passion. Each time he visited, however, he appreciated their beauty in flight and deadly skill at finding rodents and other creatures. As they cleared a hill, Amras saw his twin's distinctive hair, gleaming russet under the sun. Given Hîthuldir's earlier speculation, he was unsurprised to see another Elf of similar stature with him, his pale hair worn in a set of simple braids running down his back. The guest had his face turned up to watch the path of one of the falcons circling the sky.

Amras took a quick glance at Gelinnas, who was trying unsuccessfully to suppress his awestruck countenance. "So Felagund is indeed visiting. Doubtless he has everything to do with this news you've been instructed not to tell me."

He picked up his pace, feeling the barest flicker of acknowledgment from his brother, a mothwing touch that Amrod knew his presence was near. Both Amrod and Finrod turned around at his approach, Amrod's expression one of gratitude. Amras walked straight to his twin, enfolding him in a firm embrace.

"Welcome back, beloved brother," Amrod said, one hand cradling the back of Amras' skull before stepping back.

"I am always glad to be invited. Finrod! What an unexpected pleasure to have you in our lands once again. How fares Nargothrond and your people?"

"They are well, thank you."

Finrod reached out his arm in greeting and Amras clasped it with both hands. The great hewer of caves possessed strong features and a spirit shaped more of sturdy earth and wind than the fire that burned in Amras and his brothers. Finrod was a driven creature, though generous of heart, and an Elf Amras respected more than a great many others. Amras' focus drifted from the Elf lord's striking celadon eyes to the necklace crafted for him by the Naugrim. It was exquisite artisanship, to be sure. Amras was suddenly struck by the desire to have a ring or necklace wrought for Hîthuldir, a token of his abiding love and desire.

"I have brought tidings to your brother of changes foretold to us, now come to pass," Finrod added.

Amras sensed a ratcheting up in the squire's excitement, and he flicked his gaze to Amrod. His twin seemed ambivalent about whatever this portend was.

"I am ready to be told," Amras remarked drily. "Poor Gelinnas here may bite through his tongue if you do not speak further. I believe it has taken everything in him not to tell me himself."

Gelinnas' cheeks flushed to a rosy shade, and Amras gave him a sympathetic smile.

"I have met the Edain, the second-born," Finrod said in a ringing voice. "I sang to them, awaking in them a desire to learn our ways and taught them some of our speech."

Amras stood for a time, startled into silence. "Where are they now? Do they dwell near our lands?"

"They had been on the eastern side of Gelion," Amrod supplied, reaching out his arm as his falcon made its descent to the sturdy leather glove he wore. "A first group of their tribe was escorted by Finrod to the eastern shore of Celon, and south of Nan Elmoth."

Amras stared at him as a flurry of unspoken words passed between them. Amrod had been perturbed initially at such a presumptive act, but the second-borns were inferior and would in all likelihood continue to travel west, not remain in their temporary encampment in eastern Beleriand. Perhaps Amras should not have been so surprised by this news. Since coming to Middle-earth, Finrod had been engaging in unexpected pursuits, but Amras still found he was reeling at Finrod's audacity outside of his own realm.

"Lord Findaráto, I find your actions presumptuous. Were I more like my brother Caranthir, I would demand in no uncertain terms that you take responsibility for the Men you befriended and deal with them in your own lands. It was indulgent of you, and unconscionable that you did not tell us before establishing this settlement within our borders."

Amras looked long and hard at Finrod to see if he was going to find it within himself to apologise for bringing these non-Elven beings through their territory, but no such remorse manifested itself. He let his ire smoulder for a few moments more before allowing his curiosity about the Edain to overtake his profound irritation.

"That stated, I am of the same mind as my twin and I expect to be taken to the Edain whom you have safely escorted through our lands."

"Of course. They are of noble character," Finrod said, tucking stray hairs caught by the breeze behind his ear. "Also of handsome face and intelligent. They are not like us in myriad ways, to be sure, but their eventual coming was long ago told to us."

"I do not debate that," Amras said, noting that Amrod was taking the falcon over to its travelling cage. He hoped they would return to his house, as his stomach had just rumbled audibly; his breakfast had been many hours ago. Gelinnas gave him a sympathetic smile.

"As Amrod has graciously taken no quarrel with you, then neither will I. You did tell them that these are wild lands?" Amras asked pointedly. "It is one thing for these Men to take up temporary residence in our realm, but I refuse to be held responsible for their safety."

Finrod looked surprised. "No, Amras. I would not dream to ask that of you and your brother and your people, spread out as you are and relatively few in number."

"They share our likeness," Gelinnas interjected, unable to keep silent about his sliver of knowledge as their small entourage began the walk back to Amrod's estate. "But less refined. They sing and play instruments, and wear rough clothing. Many of the males, they are more like the Naugrim, or so my lord tells me," he said, his torrent of words slowing to a halt.

"Like the Naugrim?"

Amras had a vision of swarthy savages, tools in hand, butchering parts of the woods to build ramshackle homes.

"With beards," Amrod said, stroking his hairless chin, and Amras then understood.

"You have not spent much time with the children of Aulë," Finrod said to Amras, keeping his tone light.

After a sharp glance to Finrod, he looked again at his twin, whose expression clearly said, He knows better than to insult us in our own territory.

"No," Amrod said, replying on Amras' behalf. "And we prefer to keep it that way. Their skills are legendary, as is the necklace you wear." He gestured at the stones glittering around Finrod's neck. "But we are content not to have dealings with them."

Finrod let out an almost inaudible sigh, his fingers reflexively coming to rest on the jewels.

"Are you hungry, my lords?" Gelinnas asked just as another loud gurgle came from Amras' stomach.

"Yes!" Amras clapped a hand on the squire's shoulder and squeezed it before looking over at Amrod. His twin held the birdcage, his eyes roving over the hills and woods that surrounded his home. After all they had suffered, they had at last come to a period of peace. Amras would be wroth if the coming of these second-born did anything to disturb that.

"They are not warlike?" he asked Finrod, startling the fair Elf's own reverie.

"The Edain? No, though by necessity they have learned to defend themselves. They are not strangers to orcs and dark creatures."


They continued on in silence for a time until Amrod asked Amras about the small enclave of Elves who lived and worked near his own home. They were more westerly from Gelion but yet a distance from Thingol's protected lands to which the twins were not admitted entry.

"And Hîthuldir?" Amrod queried as they approached wide doors to the house. Another of his staff took the falcon and heavy glove from Amrod, who spoke to him in hushed tones for a moment. They were near the kitchens. A scent of vegetable stew wafted to Amras' nose and another hunger pang clenched in his abdomen.

"He was well pleased at my return," Amras said, warmth settling in his chest, "as you can imagine."

Amrod gave him a wry smile. "I could imagine, but even between us, there are some things that it is best that I not think about in detail."

Gelinnas flushed, and Finrod raised an eyebrow.

"A paragon of virtue, you are," Amras joked, shoving Amrod's shoulder slightly. "I do not ask about your bedmates. We are allowed some privacy when it comes to matters of the heart and sex."

"I should hope so!" Finrod exclaimed, his full lips now spread wide with a grin. "Gossip sometimes runs rampant even among my kinsmen, but thankfully no swords have been drawn because of it."

The squire's face bloomed crimson. Amras wondered at once if he also preferred the company of his own gender. There weren't all that many similarly inclined among the Noldor, but given Amrod's and his own predilections, perhaps that was an additional reason why he'd sought to be in Amrod's employ. Any further thoughts along that path were subsumed by those to do with a much-appreciated lunch, featuring some of this gossip from Nagothrond. It was older news as Finrod had spent many months with the Edain, instructing them and opening their minds and hearts to the Elvish ways of the Noldor. To Amras' great surprise, these Men had had dealings with the Dark Elves to the east of the mountains and already spoke their language, though it was somewhat sundered from their own tongue.

"I had not realised how enraptured you were until now," Amras confessed, his sentence intentionally ambiguous.

Finrod's eyes shone. His animated expression revealed pride, awe, sympathy: nimble emotions that, like dragonflies, darted unceasingly across his strong face.

"I have, since coming to Beleriand, been consumed by interest in the other races who abide here. That is not to imply that we are inferior, or unworthy of study, it's simply that I find the Naugrim compelling, and now the Edain… I believe they will prove to be a boon to our kind, though I have learned that they suffer far more weakness than we do."

"As long as they do not become a scourge and they do their part in defending this realm against the dark forces to the north, I see no reason to have a quarrel with them." Amras looked at Amrod, who nodded imperceptibly. They were, unsurprisingly, of one mind on the issue.

"I invited you here for a brief spell so you can ride with us to this initial camp. Estolad, it is called. Finrod's suggestion. Many of them now speak our tongue quite fluently, though they are coarse in its utterance," Amrod said.

"Within a generation or two their own native language may be forgotten to them, as they may speak exclusively in ours," Finrod said, again defending the Edain.

A cloud of disquiet settled on Gelinnas' face. "My lord Findaráto, I mean you no disrespect," the squire said, nervously twiddling his spoon in his fingers. "But does that not trouble you? They are not Elf-kind. Language is so much a part of who we are. From the tales you have spoken of the Naugrim, they learned enough to speak with you and your people, but amongst themselves, do they not parlay in words even you do not fully comprehend?"

Amras was captivated by the interplay of thoughts on each companion's face. After a hasty look to Amrod, asking permission to speak with blunt directness to his squire, Amras received his agreement.

"Forgive me for speaking before you reply, Finrod," he said, and Finrod waved vaguely, very likely contemplating something he'd honestly not yet considered. "Gelinnas, your mind is fast and clever. Your thoughts are like some of the rainbow fish that jump out from the river, then return to swim in the deeps. My twin is fortunate to have you in his ranks."

Gelinnas looked owlishly at him, then his face relaxed into an expression of beatific pride. Lithe, loyal and a deep thinker: if Amrod didn't bed him on a regular basis, that was doubtless a loss for both. Were he younger, and not so enthralled by Hîthuldir, Amras would do nothing short of begging to discover Gelinnas' other skills.

"Thank you," the squire murmured, no longer able to hold Amras' gaze.

"Indeed, you have given me much to ponder," Finrod said as one of the kitchen staff came to the table with a dessert course of fresh fruit and pastry. "Amrod, shall we four depart tomorrow to see the Edain?"

"Yes. Amras, does this suit you?"

"Certainly. I do not know that I need personally to be introduced. Initially I would like only to observe them. If what Finrod says is true, they will not perceive our presence unless we make ourselves obviously known to them."

"I want them to know on whose lands they are guests," Amrod stated firmly, stressing the final word. "From me they will be told of the two hunters, and not to stray from Estolad without Elvish escort lest they fall prey to the beasts of the forests or any of our patrol who think them to be spies or the enemy in disguise."

Finrod chewed a bite of tart, a thoughtful look on his face, and then nodded. "That would be prudent." His expression softened, and he gestured with his fork at the fruit dessert in front of him. "My highest regards to your cook and kitchen staff! This is exceptional. So light and sweet."

Amrod smiled, glancing over at Amras before replying. "We are perhaps a more rustic group here, but we do enjoy our creature comforts. I'll be certain to pass on your compliments."

The rest of the day Amrod took Finrod around the grounds, but Amras begged off, content to spend time in his twin's meagre library. Small though it was, Amrod had more tomes than he did. Amras lounged in the room, half reading and half dozing. The irony that Amras was more book inclined than his brother was not lost on him, and he heard his lover's commentary on the topic in his head as though he were there in the room. Amras retired early, attended by one of the youngest in Amrod's staff who made sure everything in his room was to his liking. After savouring a glass of potent wine from a vintage of fifty years or so, Amras blew out the candle at his bedside and sank into a peaceful sleep.

* * * * *

A gentle knock roused Amras from a deep stupor and he jerked upright, his mind racing from the vivid dream he'd been having.

"Yes? Yes! What is it?"

"I'm sorry to disturb you," Gelinnas' mellifluous voice sounded from the half-opened doorway, "but breakfast is being laid on the table, and it is quite a feast. Eggs and fruit, roasted potatoes with herbs—"

"Enough!" Amras smiled at the squire as he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. "My mouth is watering already. I shall make my way post-haste."

"I'll ensure there is still plenty for you, lord Telufinwe."

"Amras. You are like a cousin to me. Please, use my name, not my title. Do you not call my twin so?"

Amras had risen from the bed and stretched, looking around both for a chamber pot and a washbasin.

"Oh! Well, yes, but I… well, he…" His gaze slid over Amras' nude form like quicksilver, then lodged firmly on his face. "He's my lord. Yes, lo- Amras," Gelinnas said at last, stumbling over the familiar name. "Are you in need of anything?"

"Nothing that I cannot tend to on my own. I'll be down momentarily."

As the door closed, Amras glanced down at himself. He was in a state of semi-arousal from his dream, the elements of which returned clearly. He had been driving deep into Gelinnas' shapely backside. The squire had been anchored on hands and knees, Hîthuldir's shaft sliding in and out of his mouth. Shaking his head, Amras forced the dream aside, tending quickly to his ablutions and joining his brother and Finrod for breakfast. It was indeed a veritable feast, and he ate with gusto. The ride to Estolad took a full day, giving their horses a rest at mid-morning. The weather was pleasant, though a trifle hot. Gelinnas seemed to be especially excited, and as they drew near to the settlement, Amras felt his own nerves buzzing with anticipation. When they saw the substantial forest, Finrod rode ahead to alert the Edain to his presence.

"I will go toward the western edge of the forest," Amras stated. "There I can set up our bivouac, and then come and see these second-borns from a distance."

"As you wish," Amrod said agreeably, turning his horse to follow the route Finrod had taken.

The squire rode at Amrod's side, giving Amras a jaunty wave as he galloped off. Amras had plenty of time to think on his feelings about this race of Men and to wonder what effect they would have on Elvish lands. From what Finrod had said, they were weaker than Elves in strength and had already had dealings with orcs and other dark creatures sent from Morgoth. Amras suspected their minds were softer as well, though perhaps with the influence of Elvish custom and knowledge they would be able to stand against the darkness in the north. Beleriand was vast; surely the Edain would be able to find their own place in it as the Naugrim had done. Amras guided his thoughts back to his current tasks as he found a small clearing and pitched two tents. The weather was so warm he thought about stringing a hammock to sleep in, but then dismissed the idea as folly. Back at his own house, however, he could safely sleep out of doors if he wished as it was an area well guarded.

He evaluated his work, and determined that it was camouflaged enough. Untying his horse from the tree where he'd secured her, Amras walked her slowly through the wide periphery of the woods until he could hear voices. He remained hidden from view, cautiously approaching the area where the encampment was situated. For a long time Amras gazed at the houses, their structure basic and not organic in their makeup. The Edain were sturdy enough, as were the Naugrim. They looked much like Elves, and yet not alike at all. Certainly they resembled Elves more than the Naugrim, though nearly all of the Edain who had grown beyond boyhood had beards. Most had dark hair, though there was a mixture of blond and chestnut. None had hair like his and Amrod's, however. He watched their interaction with Finrod— their admiration and loyalty was obvious even from his secluded viewing area in the trees. They were capable of tremendous depth of feeling for someone not of their own race, and Amras found that heartening. The Naugrim were fiercely loyal, but to their own. The Edain were armed and some wore short sleeves that revealed wide, muscled arms. He was just turning to take his leave when he heard a male voice begin to sing.

He sang, his voice clear but rich, reminding Amras of the stringed harp that Finrod played with such expertise. What struck Amras the most was not just the beauty of his voice, but that he sang an Elvish lay. His articulation was imperfect, and it was obvious from the lack of nuance that he was not an Elf himself, but the beauty of the song shone regardless.

Amras moved so he could see the young man who sang. He was young, though not as youthful as Amras had initially imagined. Of average height, he had brunette waves that fell to his shoulders, and an enraptured expression which revealed that he understood the words he sang. Amras leaned against a tree, wanting to close his eyes to focus on his voice, but also wanting to watch the youth, to witness his gestures and see the story of the song as evidenced on his expressive face. From a depth of spirit he'd not felt in many years, Amras felt a compassion for this unnamed second-born and he stood, mesmerized, for a time after he finished his song.

* * * * *

After a few weeks had passed and Barach realised he now thought of Estolad as home, he decided it was time to speak candidly with Brindal. On a particularly sultry day, Barach asked Brindal to join him at the stables, where he could speak freely without others hearing and giving him a wary eye.

"Come with me," he begged. "The encampment can do without you for a time. It will give us an opportunity to be alone," he added meaningfully.

Brindal considered it, seeming to understand the implication, and accepted. They had drifted apart since arriving on the Elves' land, though it was Brindal who'd spent more time with the other men, gently refusing Barach's embraces. Once they had some privacy, Brindal opened his mouth to speak, but Barach beat him to it.

"You don't have the same feelings for me anymore. No, don't feel you need to explain yourself. You don't have to. It's in your eyes."

"You're like a brother to me," Brindal insisted, clasping his hands on Barach's upper arms.

Barach drank in his friend's earnest features, seeing the ghost of regret and knowing it would pass away like shadow.

"Yes, like a brother," Barach stated, the finality a sadness for him, but he suspected it would be a relief to Brindal. "Well then, brother."

He drew Brindal into an embrace, noting that his chest was broader now, and the scratchiness of the beard on his jaw. Breathing in the familiar tang of musk in Brindal's sweat he closed his eyes, committing it to memory, then patted Brindal on the back in the way any of their men would, and stepped back.

"I don't suppose I could convince you to help Dimrath and me construct the northern fence?" Brindal asked, the gesture a peace offering, Barach assumed. "You're clever with wood. And your singing makes any toil far more enjoyable."

Barach shook his head, and wiped a film of sweat from his stubbled upper lip. "No. Another day. I don't think we'll ever run out of things to do here," he noted wryly. As Brindal quirked a smile, a thought crossed Barach's mind. "Do you think the two Hunters on whose land we are, both of them, do you think they'll visit us?"

"The one did." Brindal shrugged. He began re-tying the thong of leather holding back his hair. "He and Nóm were enough to make me quake in my boots. I think I might do something embarrassing if I saw both of the Great Hunters at once!"

His impish grin made Barach smile in return, and eased some of the hurt of his heart. "Yes, you have a point. Such hair on the one! Like a waterfall of fire."

"Elves can look quite different from one another, and obviously from our kind. Well, I'll go fill my water jug and meet Dimrath. You're going on another walk, aren't you?"

There was a note of regret in Brindal's voice, a further salve to Barach's wounded spirit.

"Yes. I'll be back by nightfall."

The woods that sheltered their establishment had called to Barach since their arrival. At times during his long walks, he half-imagined he could hear the trees speaking to him by name, giving their leafy approval as he wandered for hours, becoming familiar with their variety and growth. He felt he was guided to small open spaces, secret hideaways by trickling streams. These were sacred groves to him, and he marveled that he was the first of his kind to sit, entranced, as an occasional deer darted across the way. Brindal had joined him on some of his shorter arboreal explorations, at least at first. Despite reprimands from his father about his lack of contribution and wandering off where he might get lost or killed, Barach continued his sojourns, though now they were nearly always solitary.

"Be careful!" Brindal called, and Barach turned around, surprised.

"The woods aren't dangerous. I've only seen birds and deer, and some scurrying creatures in the trees."

"Even Nóm said not to stray too far. There could be wolves, or worse."

"I'll take my dagger. And bow and arrow," he assured his friend, and Brindal's handsome face relaxed.

"Common sense for once. I'll see you before nightfall, then. I'll distract your father if necessary," he said with a wink.

"Thank you. Until tonight, then."

Barach took a strategic route to where the stores were kept, trying to avoid his father. Fortunately a woman who was sympathetic to Barach's perambulations in the woods was putting out some herbs to dry, and she allowed him to fill a small sack with dried meat, grapes, and two cakes of bread. He also filled both his water and wineskins. Thus provisioned, Barach took his favourite path to the forest, thinking that a full day's walk and respite among the trees he loved would help him in coming to a true resolution about Brindal. He wandered along, lost in his thoughts, trusting his feet to lead him to the groves and sanctuaries he had found before. If Brindal was to be brother only, did that mean that he, too, should try and look to one of the women of their clan?

For hours he walked, letting the sussurative whispers of the pines and oaks guide his steps. Deeper and deeper he was guided, though he paused at one particular grove new to him. There he saw a bush of vibrant berries, and he collected some to add to his fare. The trees here were vast in size, and perhaps fancifully, Barach believed they had many tales to tell; of large stags and Elves singing songs of their creation, before there was a Sun. After a nap at the base of a welcoming oak, Barach continued on, still absorbed in thoughts of Brindal, of the fact that he wasn't drawn to the women of his kindred. Thoughts of other men to whom he was drawn came to mind. There was Thalrath, with his laughing eyes and scarred cheek, and Briand, with heavy brows and strong legs…

Idly, Barach reached into his sack and sampled some of the berries. They were bitter, but not unpleasant on his tongue, and soon he'd consumed most of them. He stopped for a moment to wash them down with his wine and also to establish where he was. A hare darted out from behind a thicket, wriggled its nose and, seemingly uninterested in him, hopped off again. He smiled fondly at it before looking up into the tall, dense foliage above him. With a start, he realised it was fast coming on nightfall, and he didn't recognise anything around him.

All at once a severe cramp in his belly made him double over. It was as though he'd been knifed in the gut. Gasping at the pain, he collapsed to the ground, rolling from side to side in agony. He retched, but nothing came up, and he moaned, then yelled in pain. Clutching at his middle, huddled in a ball and delirious, he thought he saw a figure in the growing shadows. He tried to reach for his dagger, gurgled as bile rose in his throat, and then knew no more.

* * * * *

"It is him," Amras said, his voice hushed even though Hîthuldir had put the Man under the influence of strong Elvish medicine which assured he wasn't conscious.


Hîthuldir laid his hand against the young man's forehead, nodded to himself, and then returned his focus to Amras.

"The one who sang. I spent some time watching the encampment at Estolad, and this one had a particularly fine voice."

"Memorable, evidently." Hîthuldir cast an appraising eye at the young man in the bed and then back to Amras. "So not just his looks, but his voice as well?"

Amras gave him an innocent look. They had been together for so many ages, Hîthuldir knew Amras had an eye for beauty, but chose not to act on any passing lusts he might have.

"It was his song that made me pause. How did you find him?"

"I was not the one who did. It was one of our horsemen on patrol."

"Ah, of course."

Before Amras had departed from his twin's estate, they had agreed that one Elf from each of their respective regular patrols should visit the Edain encampment. Surreptitiously, of course. Not that their presence would go unnoticed as Finrod had said he would continue to stay with them for some yet-undetermined length of time.

"But you said that this one, Barach, was deep in the woods, nearer to our homestead than Estolad?"

Hîthuldir nodded. "Apparently he likes to venture into the forest. Alone." He twisted his full mouth to the side. "Not the cleverest course of action. I wonder what made him stray so?"

Amras took a long look at the young man, his face drawn from bouts of vomiting and other unpleasant excretions. He did indeed have a comely face, a growth of beard coming in, but not as full as the adult Edain he had seen. Finely boned, there was an appealing rough sensuality to him even in his present condition.

"That," he replied at last, "I could not begin to guess. Did you find parchment on him, quill and ink?" He looked over at Hîthuldir, now pouring them each a glass of wine. "Perhaps he wished to make a map."

Hîthuldir gave a small snort and handed the glass to Amras, who accepted it graciously.

"Who would map the woods? No. He appears simply to have been wandering around."

"Hmmm. That is a puzzle." Amras took a mouthful of wine before speaking again. "Has anyone notified the Edain? No doubt they are frantic with worry at the loss of one of their own."

A patient look settled on his lover's face. "Already done. I took the liberty of sending a messenger letting them know that one of their youths had been found ill and that he was in Elvish care."

Amras gave the other Elf an affectionate, grateful look. "You are most efficient."

"I try."

Switching his wine from left to right hand, Amras reached out to his lover, intertwining their fingers in a simple but deeply meant gesture of respect and gratitude. He stroked along Hîthuldir's thumb with his own, looking fondly into his eyes. Barach moaned and fidgeted, breaking the mood. Hîthuldir hurriedly disengaged himself, thrusting his glass into Amras' free hand in order to tend to his patient. Amras sighed inwardly when he saw Hîthuldir go to his mortar and pestle; he would be occupied for some time.

Deciding a bit of nourishment was in order, he left the glasses on a table and ventured out of their suite, down a corridor and toward his own kitchen. The Elf on duty was peeling potatoes, but stood when Amras approached. A quarter hour later, back in the master bedroom, the cook approached with two bowls of stew that had been reheated over the fire. With a gesture the tray was placed on a table near Amras' desk, and the cook departed with Amras' murmured thanks. Soon Hîthuldir joined Amras out on their balcony where he'd gone to eat. The night was warm but not stifling, pleasant with a breeze stirring.

"Thank you," Hîthuldir said, taking his bowl. The worry had been smoothed from his face, Amras was pleased to see.

"Your patient took his tonic?" he asked as Hîthuldir blew across the bowl.

"Yes. I believe by morning most of the toxin from the berries will have been cleansed from his body. He will be weak, though," he added contemplatively before taking a spoonful of his supper.

"But not so weak as to be inarticulate?"

"No. You want to ask him—"

"A number of things," Amras interrupted, then gave Hîthuldir a look of apology. "No doubt he is innocent, but what if he were actually sent out as some sort of pathetic spy?"

Hîthuldir nearly choked, laughing and wheezing all at once.

"You are the one who lauded his charms. Now you, as you and your brother would, perhaps rightly, think first and foremost that we should be on alert. I would be hard pressed to contemplate that my patient on the couch is anything other than a lost, poisoned Man."

Amras glowered for a moment, then acquiesced the point. "Well put."

He drained his bowl, then stood, stretching, easing out his muscles from his recent two day's ride. He gazed out into the gloaming, the first of the stars twinkling in the sky. A brief thought to how different that one fateful night had been, when mist had clung to the lands and he had followed the fevered cry to burn the ships of the Teleri, rose to his mind, and he stiffened.

"Shall I lay my hands on you too?"

Amras felt Hîthuldir's wiry, strong arms encircle his waist as he stood comfortingly behind him, a reminder that the past was the past.

"Is not one patient enough for you?" Amras joked, though he leaned his head back, resting his hands atop his lover's.

"You are no patient." Hîthuldir's voice was pitched lower than usual, his breath tickling Amras' ear in a way that sent a delicious warmth down to Amras' groin. Hîthuldir eased his hands beneath Amras' tunic and under the loose leggings to begin stroking his stirring organ.

"I would lay hands on you regardless," he husked, and Amras let out a shuddering groan of assent.

"I rode Tálagor for two days," Amras said, his voice growing unsteady as his lover brought his cock deftly to life. "But I have not ridden you in some time."

"Ah, Rus." Hîthuldir gently rolled Amras' earlobe in his teeth before sending his tongue into the sensitive shallow. Amras pressed back against his lover's now evident arousal. "You know me so well."

"I should," Amras rumbled. "Let us go to our bed— the oil is there."

Hîthuldir, who had been wrapped around Amras like ivy about a tree, disentangled himself and gave Amras a scorching kiss, cradling Amras' jaw in his hands. They made short work of removing each other's tunics and leggings, and soon were prone on their bed, kissing passionately as their hands roamed over the well-mapped terrain of each other's bodies. Amras pushed Hîthuldir onto his back and glanced up at the bedposts, where leather thongs for restraint were tied discreetly. No, he would just make certain his lover was hard and ready to press deep into his body.

Amras licked his lips, making certain that Hîthuldir was watching. He kissed down his lover's torso, over his trembling abdomen with its hard muscle, and down to his legs, spread with his feet planted on the bed. Hîthuldir's rosy cock jutted up from his body like a spear, and Amras feasted on it for a time.

"No more!" Hîthuldir gasped, his fingers pulling at Amras' hair. "If I am to fill you, you must first remove your mouth."

Amras wiped his lips with the back of his hand, giving his lover a heated look. He sat back on his heels, taking his own cock, hard as a stag's horn, in his palm to give himself some relief.

"And you must oil yourself," Amras said roughly, "else I'll not be able to ride for a day or so."

Hîthuldir sat up and poured some of the pine-scented unguent into his palms before liberally coating himself. Amras found he was subconsciously clenching his buttocks, rising up slightly off of his heels in anticipation of his body sinking around Hîthuldir's long shaft. When he deemed his preparations thorough, Hîthuldir opened his arms in invitation.

"I await only my rider," he said breathlessly.

Amras rose to his knees and straddled Hîthuldir's loins. His lover watched in rapt attention as Amras came down to one hand, using the other to spread open his channel as he pressed against the slick crown. It had been a long time.

"Love?" Amras said in a strangled voice, his frustration evident.

Hîthuldir held the base of his shaft and guided it in to pierce past the initial tight ring, at which point Amras slowly eased down on him, gritting his teeth until the burn of fullness changed to pleasure. Hîthuldir's bright eyes were closed in bliss, but his eyelids slowly lifted once Amras had him fully sheathed deep within his body.

"You are a furnace," Hîthuldir murmured reverently. "I burn in you. You're so tight, so perfect."

"Then now I shall stoke the fires," Amras said, his voice a rasp.

Slowly he rose up and then lowered himself on his lover's steely arousal. He picked up speed as his muscles relaxed and he was able to relish the feeling of Hîthuldir thrusting far into the reaches of his body. They soon found a fast rhythm, Hîthuldir gripping above Amras' knees as Amras fell again and again against his pelvis. Hîthuldir raised his knees and Amras leaned back as he jounced, stroking himself, the blood roaring in his ears at the sounds and scents of their sex, musky sweat and the punctuated grunts as Hîthuldir drove into his body.

Without words, Hîthuldir intuited Amras' wish to change positions. He slowed and they uncoupled so Amras could move to his knees. He took a moment to kiss his lover deeply, their tongues sliding and delving into each other's hot, hungry mouths. Once repositioned, Amras grasped at the headboard, awaiting Hîthuldir's welcome breach. Amras huffed low whines of pleasure as his lover resumed his fierce ploughing. Amras felt his cock swing with each thrust, urging Hîthuldir on to his end. Hîthuldir let out a keening cry and stilled as Amras felt his completion pulse deep in his body. Hîthuldir drew himself out gingerly and then Amras felt him kiss up the knobs of his spine.

"Thank you, love," he said into Amras' ear. "I would also like to use my mouth."

"By Eru, yes, do."

Amras lay on his back, his hand tangled in his lover's dark, silky hair as Hîthuldir began to lick and suck his arousal with enthusiasm. His skill was well-honed, and soon Amras felt a tingling in his sacs and knew that soon he would spend. Hîthuldir's head bobbed up and down, and then his tongue deftly circled around the head before swallowing him down again.

"Ai! Yes, yes!" Amras moaned as his release thundered through him, the seed spurting into his lover's mouth as his hips jerked erratically.

Panting, Amras collapsed back on the bed, waiting for Hîthuldir to join him. His lover looked quite self-satisfied, licking at his swollen lips before spooning down at Amras' side, flushed and sated. They lay in silence, Amras reaching out to his lover with his spirit, sending unspoken words of thanks as Hîthuldir rested his head atop Amras' heart, slowly returning to its more usual beat.

"What a joy you are," Amras said quietly, his fingers making patterns across Hîthuldir's back. "You complete me."

Hîthuldir made a contented, humming sound and kissed Amras' chest. "Until the world should end, we are intertwined." He shifted so his softening cock fit snugly at the top of Amras' thigh, sprawling elegantly over Amras in a manner he could never tire of.

"There are, in this world, other forces that could sunder us," Amras gently reminded him. "We have both seen battle, and doubtless will do so again."

Hîthuldir sighed, letting his finger trace a jagged scar at the top of Amras' right thigh, a physical reminder of the fight at Alqualondë when Amras had been jabbed with a dagger. Amras, too, knew where his lover's scars lay, gossamer and almost invisible against his pale skin. Ever had Hîthuldir remained with the Noldor, loyal to Amras first and foremost.

"Let us hope that peace remains on this land for many long years," Hîthuldir said, his voice hushed. "I have grown accustomed to us living together with time apart of only a month or two. There is delight and contentment in your eyes, no longer haunted by events of your long-ago past."

Amras closed his eyes, mentally noting where each of his brothers resided in Beleriand. He was closest, of course, to Amrod, though they all shared their father's fey legacy. They were also set apart from many Noldor in that only Curufin had taken a wife. As far as Amras knew, none of his brothers had a male lifemate as he had, though Maedhros was very close to Fingon and he sometimes speculated on the particular depth to their mutual respect and adoration. If a call came up for the sons of Fëanor, would he, Amras, be able to resist, remaining with Hîthuldir and those Noldor in his realm, and letting the rest of his brothers serve in his stead?

"Would that I were of another line," Amras said, the words bitter on his tongue. "Though I do not really mean that. The fire that burns and destroys also gives heat and light. It drew you to me."

Hîthuldir suckled tenderly on Amras' neck for a moment and then he got up on his elbow to look at him, his features etched with his long affection.

"Yes, your fire drew me," he observed, his dark eyes lambent with remembrance. "But it was not that fire alone, else I might have found your twin equally enticing. No, Rus, my beloved, it was you. Your love of beauty, your dogged practicality, the play of your muscles as you exercise, and the discovery that when you pressed your lips to mine, all of Aman could have vanished and I would not have cared."

A profound satisfaction bloomed in Amras' chest at his lover's words. He knew these things to be true, and the sentiment was not new to his ears. But the reavowal of Hîthuldir's love for him was always welcome.

"I knew from the first time I truly smelled you," Amras said, smiling as he saw delight dancing in Hîthuldir's eyes.

"You have always said so. You said I smelled of dreams and rain. What a romantic you were!" Hîthuldir noted wryly, his head propped against one hand and the other drawing lazy designs at Amras' hip and near his cock, soft and heavy between his legs. "How many others had you bedded before you decided to pursue me so ardently?"

Amras groaned, rolling his eyes. "That was so long ago. I don't remember. But it meant that I at last had an idea of what to do to please you when you did succumb to my charms."

"And please me you did," Hîthuldir murmured, lying down to rest his head at the hollow of Amras' neck. "I would stay with you regardless. Should your brothers take up that insane pursuit of the Silmarils, or go pick a fight with Elu Thingol to do with your family's honour, you know I will be at your side."

Amras was quiet, respecting the declaration for the incontrovertible truth it was.

"Let us bask in the peace that we have," he suggested finally. "The night is warm. Can I entice you to sleep out of doors? I will set up the hammock."

Hîthuldir sat up and stretched, lithe and graceful like willow branches waving gently in the wind.

"Yes, of course. But first I will check up on Barach."

Amras was momentarily startled— with their energetic lovemaking and intimate conversation, he had forgotten all about the youth lying only a short distance away.

"Yes, that would be wise," he heard himself say as he eased off of the bed and went to the washbasin.

Once clean, he went out to the balcony, unrolled the woven hammock and hung it up from the hooks he had installed when the house had first been built. The breeze had dissipated, and while very warm, the air wasn't sticky. He padded into their bedroom to retrieve two small cushions, noting that Hîthuldir was cleaning his teeth, soon to join him. Amras climbed into the hammock, looking out toward the east and then the sky above. It was as though Aulë himself had flung a handful of diamonds across the girdle of night. The thought of diamonds made him think of Finrod's necklace once again, and wanting to have something crafted for his lifemate. Did he dare travel to Nargothrond and ask the Naugrim himself?

Those thoughts faded as Hîthuldir eased to his side. Amras made room so they could fit comfortably, still naked and smelling faintly of sex.

"His sleep is peaceful at last," Hîthuldir said quietly through a yawn. "We shall want to have a broth and a jug of cold water brought to him in the morning when he wakes to ease the discomfort of dehydration."

"Mmhmmm." Amras placed an arm protectively around his lover, though nothing could harm them here. "I wonder how he will react when he discovers he is in Elvish care."

"We'll soon find out. Sleep well, Rus."

"And you."

Amras noted that his backside throbbed a bit and he probably should have put some salve on himself, but then decided he could deal with that in the morning. Soon he was sound asleep.

At some point before dawn, Amras awoke suddenly, though from long habit on patrol, he didn't move, only opened his eyes. Barach stood at the side of the hammock, a blanket held around his otherwise naked body. His eyes were wide but held no fear. Instead, he seemed to gaze on them with relief and delight. Amras noted that the youth was absorbed in their bodies, which struck Amras as odd since physically their races were nearly identical. When the boy's gaze finally made its way to Amras' face and saw that he was looking back at him, he started with a gasp.

"I… I…" he stammered. "I woke up. I didn't mean— I…"

He gulped and nervously pulled at the hair at his neck with the hand not clutching the blanket.

"Are you the other Great Hunter?"

* * * * *

Barach made it through breakfast, though he did so by keeping nearly silent. He was awed by the Elves, even the kitchen staff. They were all elegant and eloquent. Vocabulary failed him almost utterly. This was true especially when under Amras' gaze, or Hîthuldir's, the one who had nursed him after he'd been found in the forest, he discovered.

"Thank you," he found he was able to say, again and again. "Thank you."

"You unintentionally poisoned yourself," Hîthuldir reminded him.

"I should have known better," Barach insisted, ready to start berating himself once more.

"You could not have. Just be glad one of my scouts found you and that Hîthuldir is skilled in medicine," Amras retorted before giving his lover a fond look. The dark-haired Elf was his lover, Barach knew this from having stumbled across them lying in each other's arms in their hammock, just as he and Brindal had in their past under cover of darkness.

"I am."

Barach remained quiet after that, not trusting his own voice.

The morning passed in a blur. Elves were everywhere, busy with their tasks. Barach shouldn't have been surprised, seeing as how he'd been rescued by them, but it was all so novel. Elves. Their very skin sang with songs he could barely perceive. It was… otherworldly. He had no other word for it. Nóm — Finrod Felagund, he'd been told his Elvish name was — had sung with a voice from beyond their realm, it seemed, and yet Barach tried to emulate it. A throat had made those sounds that came from Felagund's mouth, had it not? An Elvish throat. One who had been born under starlight, before the Sun.

Barach listened attentively to the Elves of the household. The house staff spoke to one another in their tongue, and he tried to follow what they were saying. Things about food, which made sense, working in the kitchens. It was similar enough to Felagund's tongue, and the more he heard, the more he wanted to learn— everything. He knew enough to communicate passably, but he wanted to understand the nuance of their speech.

"I think you should have a bath," Hîthuldir said before lunch.

Barach all at once was aware of how dirty he must seem, and smelling of his illness.

"Yes, please." He nodded vigourously.

"Come back with me to our rooms. There we have a large tub. I will ask that water be drawn."

"Thank you," Barach breathed, a thrill coursing from chest to belly when the dark-eyed Elf gave him a warm smile.

Hîthuldir spoke quietly to one of the staff, and then motioned Barach to his side. He followed Hîthuldir through the house and up a wide staircase to where he and Amras resided. Even the curve of the pillars in the staircase was stately in comparison to their crude homes in Estolad. Hîthuldir escorted him out to the balcony to a pair of surprisingly comfortable wooden chairs.

"It will take a little time for the bath to be ready," he explained as Barach gave him a curious look.

"Oh. Of course."

He was burning with curiosity about the two Elves. The one with vivid hair was the other of the two Great Hunters, and he had a male companion. Did he dare bring that up?

"I can tell you have many questions," Hîthuldir said in a kindly voice. "I'll accompany you and you may ask what you wish."

Barach's face flushed. The Elves were beautiful, and masculine in a way he'd never seen among his own kind. The thought of being naked in front of Hîthuldir, especially given the kinds of inappropriate images that had formed vividly in his mind since seeing them together, did not bode well for him. His rescuer, however, either didn't notice, or chose not to say anything, and Barach with some trepidation trailed after him to their bathroom. An Elf with dark tawny hair stood by the side of the tub, set into the floor.

"Thank you, Amaldon. That will be all."

Barach thought he saw intrigue, or at least curiosity flicker on Amaldon's face before he bowed slightly and left the room. Hîthuldir gave him an expectant look, so Barach plucked up his courage, slid the slippers off of his feet, leaned over to take off his socks…

… and found himself in a heap on the floor. By the time he dimly recognised that he was lying against Hîthuldir's torso and there was a glass of water at his lips, he realised he must have become dizzy and lost consciousness, just for a few moments.

"I am so sorry, Barach," the Elf said as Barach drank. "I have encouraged too much activity. You are still very weak. Let me wash you."

Barach attempted a rebuttal, but it was no use. He did feel much like a wilted plant, or most of his body did. Alarmed, he put up more of a struggle as his clothes were removed, even though they weren't his clothes at all. Hîthuldir had already seen him naked. Maybe Amras too. Maybe the whole staff.

"But— but," he said feebly, trying to cover his arousal, his cheeks burning. "I must be so ugly to you. So hairy!"

To his surprise, Hîthuldir laughed, a light, infectious sound. Barach couldn't help a stifled snort in reply as he was eased into the water. Elves were stronger than they looked, given how slender Hîthuldir appeared.

"Unlike Amras, I have only seen one of the Edain, and that is you. Ugly is not a word that would ever have come to mind. You do have more hair in some places," he continued, sliding the back of his hand along Barach's jaw. "Some usually more hidden."

Barach had melted into the Elf's deft touch with his washcloth and soap that smelled heavenly. It had a mixture of the pine in his favourite hidden groves and also a faint flowery aroma. When Hîthuldir tentatively soaped his cock with his fingers, Barach stopped breathing for a moment. Unbidden, he let out a rather undignified moan.

"Am I hurting you?" Hîthuldir asked.

"No. Oh, no. But—"

"Let me join you."

Mesmerized, Barach turned around and moved away from the edge to see Hîthuldir shed his tunic, leggings and shoes before climbing in. He had no modesty, it seemed. He doesn't need it! Barach thought a bit dreamily, wondering if he would wake up and find this had all been a poison-induced delerium.

"You… and Amras," Barach said, his voice hushed as Hîthuldir came and sat behind him to soap up his back, the beginnings of his own erection brushing just under Barach's buttocks.

"Amras is my heart's love," Hîthuldir said, his soapy washcloth now cleaning Barach's most intimate places. "And a great joy to my body. He said you saw us asleep, and you gazed in appreciation."

Barach hung his head, panic fluttering in his chest. "Did I see something I shouldn't have?" he asked, his voice strained.

"No! Why would you think that?"

Barach was turned around to face Hîthuldir, concern on the finely-wrought landscape of his features.

"Among my kind, most men are drawn to women. Men are often like brothers to one another, but not… not as you and the Great Hunter."

Hîthuldir's insightful gaze was like a torch, shedding light in depths of his spirit where his shame and confusion lay.

"You would like such a companion."

Barach let out a shaky breath. "I would. But I don't think I'll ever have one." Melancholy filled him even as he tried to quash it. He should be grateful he was alive, and in the care of Elves whose healing skills were so advanced. It was indulgent to pine for another Brindal, one who wouldn't be ashamed.

"I will speak to Amras further on this matter," Hîthuldir said soberly. Barach started to protest, his gut clenching with anxiety of his true self revealed to the fiery-haired ruler.

"He'll kill me! I'm aroused by you!"

To his horror, Barach felt tears spring to his eyes, stinging and hot.

"Barach, child of the Sun, I'm flattered. Let go of your worries."

Hîthuldir's voice grew soothing, and he continued to murmur in the more complicated manner of his native tongue, all while guiding Barach out of the bath and toweling him off. Once dressed, Barach stood still, unable to move.

"Amras has always possessed an eye for beauty," Hîthuldir said, his flowing garments covering the body whose memorable form was now burned into Barach's memory. "Am I correct in assuming that you have never known the pleasure that two male bodies can bring one another?"

Barach could feel his face grow scarlet. "No. My former cherished friend, Brindal… we kissed, when younger, and felt… between… but always with clothes," he muttered, finding great interest in his feet.

"You innocent creature," Hîthuldir said gently, pressing two fingers under Barach's chin to raise his face. "Before we return you to your kin, Amras and I shall give you a taste of the joys two males may share."

Barach's mouth went dry. "I— that…" he stammered, then cleared his throat. His thoughts raced and his heart battered against his ribcage. "That's too precious a gift. It was enough by far to save my life, but to share yourselves with me…" His voice trailed off as the ramifications of such an act hit him.

"And if I did, then I'll go back to Estolad, and be alone," he continued mournfully as Hîthuldir placed his hand at the base of his spine. He let the Elf guide him back into the spacious bedroom and toward the main part of the house.

"You are young. The arrival of the Edain is new, yet. Many of your kind may choose to live and serve with Elves and there, perhaps, you will find a new companion for your heart."

"It's said that you live forever," Barach whispered. "No Elf would want me because I'll grow old and die." A profound sadness filled his heart. "I should go back without knowing, for it will only cause me to miss it. Miss you. More than I can tell I already will."

Hîthuldir made Barach take his arm for stability going down the wide staircase. "I will speak with Amras. For now, eat and rest. The staff will make sure you are tended to, as will I. You are my patient, after all, and I am pleased to see you recover so quickly."

The Elf's smile was a temporary salve, and Barach returned it. He hid his true feelings, or tried, listening attentively during lunch and trying to memorise the faces and gestures of the Elves at the wooden table, noting that the Great Hunter wasn't there. All too soon he would have to go back to the encampment, where he would probably be chained to his house by his father so he wouldn’t get lost again in the woods.

"Here. Drink this," Hîthuldir said, startling Barach away from his bleak thoughts. He handed him a glass of something that smelled delicious and fruity, and Barach dutifully drank it.

"Let us go back up to our rooms. I will string up the hammock and you can rest."

"My head is full of thoughts, all buzzing around like fireflies," Barach admitted after excusing himself from the table and thanking all of the kitchen staff.

"What troubles you?" Hîthuldir asked as he unrolled the hammock from its tucked-away space and began to string up one end and then the other.

"My father," Barach said through a yawn before covering his mouth, embarrassed. "I don't think he'll let me go into the woods anymore."

He was so fatigued! With a dampened sense of shock, Barach realised what must have been in the fruity concoction: a sleeping draught of some sort.

Hîthuldir took his arm and walked him to the hammock, helping him climb in and easing a pillow under his head. "You will rest now," he said in a gentle voice. "Your frenzied thoughts will be quiet for a time. Not for very long, just a few hours."

Barach wanted to protest, but instead he yawned again, barely able to keep his eyes open. Sleep tenderly came and claimed him.

* * * * *

"All three of us, together?" Amras clarified as he walked through the orchard at Hîthuldir's side. A scent of apples filled the air, bringing with it memories of an afternoon he and Hîthuldir had spent hidden away, enjoying each other's bodies to the fullest.

"Not exactly," Hîthuldir said, the smile evident in his voice. "Though if it came to that, I doubt you would mind, would you?"

"Mind?" Amras let his hand slide down from the small of Hîthuldir's back to cup a buttock, relishing the feel of muscle as it moved with each leisurely step. "This second-born, from what he revealed to you, he has barely kissed another. He is untouched, in every sense of the word. Do you not think it would overwhelm him?"

"You are evading my question."

Amras harrumphed, moving his arm to drape across the back of Hîthuldir's waist. "You know me in some ways better than my own twin. If you are encouraging both of us to teach Barach for one night, know that I will not feel we have in any way diluted our bond."

"Oh Rus." Hîthuldir stopped and turned to kiss him, the soft gesture soon growing deep and passionate. "Even if you bedded all of Amrod's comely staff, our bond would be no weaker. We respect our feä's exclusivity by doing the same with our bodies, but this is a unique moment."

Amras saw the mixture of amusement and love in Hîthuldir's eyes and had no doubt that he spoke truly.

"You have imagined us with others?" Amras asked provocatively, taking his lover's hand and continuing their walk to the house.

"Of course. As have you. I share your worry about Barach, though I sense in him a tremendous capacity for being a quick and enthusiastic learner."

Amras smiled widely at that. "Yes, beloved. But do not forget, he is first and foremost your recently recovered patient. We cannot so exploit the pleasures of his innocent body that he becomes ill again, this time due to exhaustion."

He could think of a great many ways to wear out the youth, and heat flooded his groin as details rose to mind. That the two of them could share their centuries of knowledge would be something new, and exciting.

"I will be certain that our affections wear him out only to the point that he sleeps soundly. And I have both salves and tonics, should he be sore."

"Should he?" Amras said, laughing as he opened the door to the back of the house, leading into a large sitting room. He switched to high Elvish for a moment, just in case Barach had been watching for them and was listening nearby. "He is a virgin, my love. That is when the soreness is sweetest. But sore he'll be, for certain."

Hîthuldir rolled his eyes, but a smile traipsed on his lips nonetheless. "We will offer ourselves, and let him decide."

"How could he say no?" Amras asked, wandering into the main kitchen to find something sweet to nibble on. "Why would he?" He was genuinely baffled, given Hîthuldir's description of what had transpired during Barach's bath.

"It could be too much."

Hîthuldir plucked a green apple from a bowl of fruit, nodding to one of the kitchen staff before taking a loud, crunching bite. Amras watched him chew, then replied, "I wager that he'll be willing to take that risk."

Amras spent the afternoon with Barach in decidedly non-amorous pursuits, showing him map after map of Beleriand, the different Elvish territories, and where his other brothers ruled. Barach seemed fascinated by all of the names, enclaves and cultures, and how vast and wild large sections of the land were. He was particularly interested in Círdan and his mariners in the western coastal lands of Falas.

"I've never seen the sea," he said, gazing at Amras with a look of awe. "Can you describe it to me?"

Amras thought back to his experiences on the waters and brought the positive memories to the forefront. Barach's expression was so earnest and curious, Amras found himself smiling.

"I assume you have seen lakes." He waited for Barach's eager nod. "The sea is a lake that goes on and on to the horizon, far off to the west whence the Elves first came into being. It is unknowable, how wide and deep the sea is. The waters are blue, or sometimes blue-green, or grey, turbulent and foaming. Ulmo rules over the ocean and all waters in the same way as Oromë is lord of the hunt."

Barach's eyes were wide with intrigue. "So have you always lived here? In Beleriand?"

"No, lómelindi, I have not. Come, let us go for a walk in the birch forest, a short walk," he amended, thinking both about Barach's strength later on that evening, but also the dinner hour, which was quickly approaching.

"What did you call me?" Barach asked as he pulled on a hat, one Hîthuldir had found rolled up in the Adan's belongings.

"Lómelindi. Dusk-singer, or nightingale. You do have a beautiful voice."

The young man blushed prettily, and Amras acknowledged to himself that perhaps he took an unhealthy pleasure in causing such reactions. During their walk, Amras told Barach an abbreviated version of his family's history, of his father and brothers, the Silmarils, how they had come to Beleriand by boat. He decided that Barach should know the true story of Amras' heritage, so he also told him of the kinslaying and burning of the boats at Losgar.

Barach had been enthusiastically munching on an apple as he listened with a keen ear until Amras came to the part where his father had acted against Fingolfin and abandoned his people to their fate.

"They are here now," Amras said, looking at Barach, whose expression was distraught. "They walked over the Helcaraxë, massive sheets of ice. Some were lost, but Elves are resilient. My brother Maitimo has only one hand now, and he wields his sword with more deadly force than he did when he was whole."

Amras began to regret having been so candid in his tales. The poor Adan stood mute, sorrow in his eyes, disbelief clinging to his features.

"When lord Felagund came to us and woke us up in a way, from our fear and ignorance, I thought all Elveswould be like him."

His voice cracked, and Amras saw a lone tear slide down his cheek before dissolving into the gleaming auburn bristles of his short beard.

"But you've fought and killed amongst yourselves. You and your brothers are exiled from parts of this land. And for all of that, I would stay with you, if I could. Hîthuldir," he said, sniffing and brusquely rubbing his eyes on the shoulder of his tunic. "He's been loyal to you no matter what, hasn't he?"

"From the very beginning," Amras said, taking the apple core out of Barach's hand and tossing it aside before enfolding him in his arms. "I wanted you to know my history from my mouth. If and when you do move on to more westerly settlements, you will hear very different perspectives on the past. I am not proud of much that I have done at the behest of my father, but I am bound to him, and I am proud to be a son of Fëanor. We are like comets, and I fear that Amrod and I will blaze and fall. I only hope that it is in battle against the evils to the north, not against other Elves."

Barach tightened his grip on Amras' tunic, and Amras rubbed his hand reassuringly against his back. "You should not carry the burdens of my kin. Your kind have only just come into these lands, and you will write your own tales. Please do not be sad of heart. Hîthuldir is going to have strong words for me, I'm afraid," he said half to himself.

The young man shook slightly with a muffled, bark of a laugh against Amras' chest, and then eased out of his arms. Amras stood still as Barach tentatively reached out a hand to cradle his smooth jaw, the melancholy in his expression appearing to change to acceptance.

"I'll go to Falas and the sea, if I can find a way, and if the shipwright will accept me," he said, letting his hand drop back to his side.

"Círdan is wise, and I suspect he would welcome men like you of stout heart and strong arm."

"Don't forget the beauty of his voice. And face," Hîthuldir said brightly from behind him, and Amras jerked his head around, having been momentarily caught off guard. "Sorry, Rus! I did not mean to startle you." Hîthuldir laid his hand on Amras' arm for a brief moment.

"Are you all right, Barach?" Hîthuldir asked with concern. "What have you two been discussing, if I may ask?"

"It started as a geography lesson," Amras said, "but then turned to history. I believe that I may have disillusioned our young guest."

"No, you haven't!" Barach insisted hotly. "And while I'm young, I'm no child, and no innocent. I haven't killed any orcs yet, but I'm trained to wield a sword and shoot arrows. I would stand by your side, just as Hîthuldir has, and defend you and your family's honour. Even if it cost me my life. You saved it, after all."

"My beloved did that. I would not have you pledge fealty to me and my house, though I am greatly moved by the offer."

Amras glanced at Hîthuldir and saw impatience in his gaze. He focused again on Barach, who looked dejected.

"There is no need to feel indebted," Hîthuldir said to Barach, his warm tones surely meant to be soothing. The youth looked at him, his lips pressed in a thin line. "What would please us both is for you to return to your people, whole and hale. Share with them what you have learned of the Elvish enclaves and realms, and when you are a bit older, venture forth to the west. Be a scholar and guide, and when you do leave Estolad, come and visit us. I believe that Amras will always welcome you with open arms."

Amras nodded slightly, pleased to see a glow of pride on Barach's face.

"My house is always open to you," Amras confirmed. "But there are many hours between now and tomorrow morn. Hîthuldir and I would like to gift you with knowledge I believe you have not yet experienced. There are skills and delights you will be able to share with another male, one who you deem worthy of your affections."

Barach looked startled at the change of topic, and Hîthuldir placed a hand on his shoulder. "We will not force you, of course," Hîthuldir murmured, and the flush Amras had begun to expect in the young Man made its telltale appearance in his cheeks. "It is an offer, and one you need not think on now. My whole purpose in finding you both was to bring you to supper. There are mouth-watering scents of veal cutlets, buttery rolls, and carafes of crisp wine."

"I am rather hungry," Barach admitted, his gaze darting from Hîthuldir's face and back to Amras. He took a deep breath, and Amras gave him what he hoped was an encouraging smile. "You've given me so much already, but I think I would regret staying alone tonight and didn't learn what you wish to teach me."

He fixed them with a coy smile. Perhaps subconsciously, he wetted his lips, the first sign of desire Amras had witnessed with his own eyes.

"Food first. Carnal romps second," Hîthuldir said dryly, and the colour again crept up Barach's neck.

"You're always so practical," Amras groused with good humour. He smiled as Barach let out an embarrassed laugh, walking close to Amras' side as they made their way back to the house where supper awaited them.

* * * * *

Hîthuldir busied himself finding the small decanter of miruvor and pouring three servings into diminuitive glass flutes. Amras opened the doors to their balcony while Barach stood, fidgeting with the hem of his shirt. Hîthuldir walked over with a glass of miruvor, noting the ruddiness of his face, heated by the wine he'd had with their meal and also doubtless by the praise that had been heaped on him after he'd sung two songs by request after supper.

"You do have a lovely voice," Hîthuldir said now, handing the glass to Barach. "Sip this. It is very potent."

Barach did, his eyes fluttering closed as he swallowed the ambrosia. "That's like nothing I've ever tasted." He carefully placed the glass on the desk at his side.

"And here something else that will be new to you," Hîthuldir said in a low voice, wrapping his arms around Barach's upper back, pressing his lips to his slightly open mouth. He sent his tongue along Barach's lower lip before sucking on it, closing his eyes when he felt a moan breathed hotly into his mouth. With tongue and lips, Hîthuldir taught Barach the subtleties and passionate dance of kissing, the lesson continuing on until Hîthuldir felt Barach's arousal, steely and pressed against his hip. He drew back and surveyed his work on Barach's glistening, full lips.

"Amras has yet another unique flavour," he said a bit raggedly. "Rus? Come enjoy him."


Hîthuldir began to move behind Barach, but Amras stopped him, kissing him soundly and possessively. Hîthuldir melted against him, their tongues darting and circling in well known patterns that never ceased to excite them both. Amras eased away from the kiss, his eyes hooded and full of short, urgent messages Hîthuldir could read as easily as any tome in their library: yours, mine, ours, now.

"He tastes of innocence, and ripe apples," Hîthuldir said, using a finger to trace down the middle of Amras' chest, his shirt unfastened and his torso bared to his navel.

"And you accuse me of words of high romance?" Amras said, his lips quirked. He glanced over at Barach, who was watching them, his fingers digging into his thighs near his groin, but not touching the obvious mound between them.

"You two," he said, struggling for appropriate words. "Two men. Warriors. Elves," he finally said, seeming exasperated with himself. "You're beautiful together. Why would anyone say it’s not just as natural as a male and female?"

"I do not know," Hîthuldir stated, his hands cupping Amras' backside. "I have only ever sought male company in matters of sex. Anything else is unnatural to me. Rus," he said, slowly rocking his hips against his lover's groin. "I think it's time our Adan sees you without hindrance of clothing."

"Indeed. I would see you both naked as well."

Hîthuldir made a pleased purring sound and stepped back from Amras, giving Barach a reassuring smile. "May I undress you? And then we'll all get on the bed. It is large enough for all three of us."

Barach nodded, his gaze riveted on Amras as the son of Fëanor quickly stripped and walked to the bed, arranging pillows against the headboard. Hîthuldir wasted no time in removing his own clothes. He was more leisurely as he undid Barach's shirt and then unlaced his leggings, easing them down his thighs and calves. Once naked, Barach seemed ashamed, highly aroused, and uncertain, a self-conscious storm of conflicting feelings.

"Should I… watch?" he asked in a hesitant voice.

"By Eru, no!" Amras declared from the bed, working himself with one hand. "Well, you can, but I would much prefer to have you join us. Intimately."

"May I?" Hîthuldir asked, letting his fingers graze along Barach's cock, which twitched in response.

"Of course! Oh, oh…" Barach choked out as Hîthuldir let his fingers play in the curls at the base before taking him in a firm grip.

"I want to taste you here, too," Hîthuldir said, pressing against Barach's torso so the hot skin of their cocks touched. "But first, let's join Amras. He is quite a skilled kisser. Between us you will discover just how much passion can be shared between two of our sex. You have brought yourself pleasure alone?" he asked, and Barach nodded, his hands still hanging at his sides as though afraid to touch him.

"Come, vibrant beauty." Hîthuldir breathed the invitation into his ear, so novel with its rounded top but evidently as sensitive as an Elf's, given the groan that escaped Barach's mouth. "Amras and I want you to explore our bodies. Obviously you find us pleasing."

"By the Sun, I do!" Barach said hoarsely.

"Then come here." Amras patted the coverlet. "Don't worry about hurting us, or using words. We will listen to the sounds you make, your sighs and gasps." He opened his arms in invitation.

Barach turned and gave Hîthuldir a deep, thorough kiss, then walked swiftly to the bed and crawled next to Amras. Hîthuldir followed close behind, wetting his lips in anticipation of taking Barach's bobbing erection into his mouth. He let Barach have a few moments with Amras, but he kept his fingers between Barach's legs. While they kissed and nuzzled each other, Hîthuldir's fingers kept busy, rolling the soft sacs with their peachlike fuzz, and then carding through the abundance of wiry curls at the base of his sex.

Amras eased Barach onto his back, still kissing him with abandon, and at last Hîthuldir leaned over and took the Adan in his mouth, the crown fitting sweetly against his palate. His excitement at pleasuring Barach with his tongue, taking him fully in his mouth until it neared his throat and humming his satisfaction at his musky-salt flavour lasted only a few moments. Sooner than Hîthuldir had expected, Barach's hips bucked and his thighs trembled. He cried out as he climaxed, a wounded and surprised torrent of sounds while Hîthuldir swallowed and then licked him clean. He slid up the bed and leaned across Barach, who lay panting, his face crimson, so he could kiss his lover, sharing the Adan's taste.

"Mmmmm," Amras said thoughtfully once Hîthuldir eased back on his side, looking tenderly at Barach. His eyes were wet, though he didn't wipe at them.

"Are you all right, precious sun child?"

Barach gulped and nodded, his gaze moving from Hîthuldir to Amras, and back again. "I've… well…" He sniffed, and Amras placed a hand on his hip, giving it a squeeze. "Touching myself never felt like that. Even imagining it was Brind— someone else. Nothing came close to how you just made me feel."

"The touch of another enhances all delights of the flesh," Hîthuldir murmured. "Due to our responsibilities, Rus and I often have spent months apart at a time, and we rely on memory and our own skill in the interim."

"I'd really like to try that myself," Barach said, his voice cracking as he glanced down at Hîthuldir's arousal. He cleared his throat and fixing his eyes on Amras' face, said more confidently, "I want to please you both, if you don't mind my inexperience."

Hîthuldir draped his leg over Barach's thigh, reaching over the youth's torso to grasp his lover's jutting cock.

"It has been hundreds of years since I was last with someone discovering such treasures for the first time. I consider this a privilege. After this night you will be an innocent no longer," Amras noted. "Whomever you take to your bed should consider himself fortunate beyond measure."

"I feel that way now," Barach said softly, watching as Hîthuldir expertly stroked Amras up and down.

"Then apply your knowledge of what felt good to you and use it on me. You and I shall trade places," Hîthuldir said, placing dry kisses on the freckles he found on Barach's shoulder. "Rus, you have the oil?"


Hîthuldir gave his lover's wide shaft a gentle squeeze, then released his grip. "Good. Then you will fuck me and Barach, use your mouth and hands as you wish. If you want to watch, that's fine. Much can be learned by observing, though you'll enjoy this night far more as a participant." Barach's expression of surprise at Hîthuldir's blunt language made the Elf chuckle as the Man crawled to Hîthuldir's other side. "It is always lovemaking because Amras is my beloved, but we don't always use pretty words."

"You two are unlike Felagund in so many ways," Barach said, avidly watching Amras as he applied a liberal amount of the unguent until his cock glistened from root to tip. "Much of what I've learned here I'll treasure as my secret. Unless another Man arrives who's like me…"

"Do not trouble yourself about the future," Hîthuldir said, using his fingers to guide Barach's gaze to his own face. "You are here now. My body is an instrument for you to learn to play, or if you prefer, you can watch us together. If you wish it, later, he or I can join you completely."

"I… maybe… thank you," Barach mumbled, scooting back so his mouth was poised over Hîthuldir's straining cock.

"Now, love," Hîthuldir commanded Amras, pulling up one knee to his chest and encouraging his lover's coupling. He closed his eyes at the familiar fullness, burning at first until it transformed to pleasure.

"I'll never forget this night," Hîthuldir heard Barach say before his lips became busy doing memorable things beyond the realm of speech.

* * * * *

In an early hour of pre dawn, Hîthuldir woke up, needing the chamber pot. As he returned to the bed, he gazed at the form of his lover holding Barach in his arms, the youth's mouth open slightly as he breathed in sleep. Hîthuldir was sore and a bit tender, but that would pass in a day or so. The enthusiasm of both Amras and Barach was worth any discomfort. He slid under the coverlet to spoon at Barach's side, careful not to wake him. He felt slightly conflicted feelings for the young Man: in some ways, he was like a son, someone he wanted to protect and instruct. But he would not have such feelings of erotic appeal to his own kin.

He was uncertain as to whether or not the Edain could receive Elvish blessings, but regardless, he sent one soundlessly to him. He invoked the protection of the Valar and the hope that he, though second-born with different customs and laws, would find someone worthy of his loyalty and affection. Hîthuldir brushed a kiss against the warm skin of his shoulder blade, and then drifted off to sleep.

. : ~ Epilogue ~ : .

Gelinnas turned his horse down the tree-lined path to lord Telufinwe's stately home. After so many decades with Círdan , his mariners and their kin with their houses evocative of the sea, the other Great Hunter's house of wood and stone seemed cumbersome to his eyes. That noted, he was certain he would adapt once again to life in East Beleriand. He heard a bird call, but recognised it to be a scout's disguised alert. Doubtless one of the household would ride out, or he would be met at the welcoming expanse of front stairs. No individual, whether friend or foe, approached Amras' or Amrod's realms undetected.

Reflexively he raised his right hand to the glass pendant that hung around his neck, his fingers tracing around the shapely dark silver pearl that adorned the stopper. Taking both reins again, Gelinnas hastened to the house, unsurprised to see Amras himself step out onto the landing as he pulled his horse to a halt.

"My lord— Amras," Gelinnas corrected himself, seeing both happiness and sympathy in the Elf lord's eyes. He laid a hand atop his heart and bowed slightly before dismounting and handing over the reins to an equerry who had appeared seemingly out of nowhere.

"Dear Gelinnas," Amras rumbled, taking the former squire into a warm, comforting embrace. "What a pleasure to see you. Amrod had notified me, so I knew to expect you some time this summer, and that you would return alone. How are you faring?"

Gelinnas gave Amras a gentle squeeze and stepped back. "Well enough. It was no surprise, though the permanence of it has added to my sorrow. I was able to share a lifetime with him. Well, his lifetime, but it was so short compared to ours, far too short. I've mourned Barach, and I don't live with regret for the choice that I made. I knew the time would pass too quickly, but I cannot help having loved him." He paused, and looked at Amras' concerned expression. "I did love him, from the depths of my soul. At times I have no consolation, for I don't believe he will be there to welcome me in the undying lands. I don't know where the spirits of the Edain go, and that sorrow I can't purge."

Amras gave him a rueful smile. "Come inside. You've had long journey, and rest and sweet wine will do you good."

"Thank you." Gelinnas felt a bit of the weight in his heart ease at being in Amras' presence again.

"Hîthuldir will return from the training ground later this afternoon. He and I both want to hear tales of your time with Círdan, what news came to you there on the western shores, and, of course, about your life with Barach. More Men came from over the mountains, swelling the numbers in Estolad. Many of the Edain have gone on to Dorthonion, and others to the slopes of the Ered Wethrin."

"He was unique," Gelinnas murmured, allowing himself to be guided into Amras' home and led to a canvas pavilion set up out on the expanse of lawn. "Such a voice, and generous heart. I wish he had been Elf-kind," he said in a rough voice, his emotions about the death of his lover at last rising to the surface. "But then he wouldn't have been himself. My life seems so long now." He turned to face Amras, feeling a hot tear slide down his cheek. "And yet I wouldn't change things. The gift was so tenderly given. I miss him, though he was so frail at the end. Ninety-four. That's all! I wonder how many years must pass before the pain lessens."

Amras let out a sigh and ran his fingers through his hair. "I dare not guess. Here, have this." He handed Gelinnas a glass of chilled wine, which he accepted gratefully. "And tell me, if it is not too painful, what life was like among the shipwrights, living on the shore of the sea."

Gelinnas felt the twinge of loss in his chest like a physical ache, but he also remembered the words his beloved had said a few days before he'd died in his sleep: "Remember me when I was young," he'd said, his voice a rasp. "When you go to Amras and Hîthuldir, tell them about our adventures, before I grew old. Keep our early years in your memory."

"I will treasure them all,"
he'd insisted, the words both a commitment and a vow.

"I've written about our time at the havens," he told Amras. "A recollection of skills learned, cycles of the seasons, of the vibrant personalities among his people. I wrote out a second copy when Barach's memory began to fade… will you keep it here, safe in your library?"

"Of course. His memory and story will become part of the legacy of our time here."

At dusk that evening he stood with Amras and Hîthuldir, the pendant holding the last of Barach's ashes cradled reverently in his hands. Per his lover's request, he was to release the final physical remnants of his life on the grounds where, as he'd said, he had come truly to know himself.

Hîthuldir chanted a soft prayer of protection and then sang a lament for the dead. As his clear voice rose into the twilight, Gelinnas took the cork out of the sea glass pendant, its teardrop shape only appropriate given the ceremony. He forced himself to remember Barach's face, beaming with pride and wonder during their first sail on the open waters, as he emptied the ashes into the caressing breeze and on the ground.

"May the Valar keep you, precious child of the Sun," Amras said, reaching out his hand to Gelinnas. He took it, looking over at Amras through eyes blurred with tears. Amras nodded, and Gelinnas put the pendant back over his head, refitting the pearl stopper, and envisioning the young Adan, the copper in his beard glinting under a mid-day sun.

"Come to me," he begged in a hoarse whisper, "when I am parted from this life. Loving Valar, let us be reunited. Until then, rest in peace, sun of my heart."

As Hîthuldir sang the last notes of his remembrance, Gelinnas look up at the sky. A star streaked across the violet expanse, and he took a ragged breath. Fervently he believed that such a portend meant his entreaty had been heard. Back in the house, he sat with Amras and Hîthuldir. With a heart that burned with the fire of remembered love, he told the tale of their unlikely courtship in Estolad and their subsequent life together.

That night he dreamed of their first time they swam in the ocean, and when he awoke, on his lips he tasted the salt of bittersweet tears.

Author's Notes
Hîthuldir= mist/fog — man (an Elvish name I made up)

Amaldon= Quenya — gentle (found via Merin Essi ar Quenteli:

According to the chapter on The Coming of Men, the Men/Edain referred to Finrod as Nóm, or knowledge.

Title slightly modified from a line found in Shakespeare's Sonnet 55.

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