It galled her that, even to this day, she was renowned less as a wise-woman and more as "that woman the Elf-prince once courted." She and Aegnor had not exactly been subtle, it was true. Subtlety was never Aegnor's strong suit, and Andreth had still been quite young at the time, and unable to see the need for discretion. Everyone in Ladros knew that one of the princes of the Elves was courting the daughter of Boromir.
That, it seemed, was how Andreth was doomed to be remembered. As the woman the Elf-prince once courted, and then jilted. And why had he jilted her?
There was plenty of speculation. Andreth knew that, thanks to her brother and to the position she held as the wise-woman of the House of Marach, relatively little of it reached her ears. No one ever dared say the things they said to her face, nor treat her with anything less than respect. But they did wonder just what it was about Andreth Saelind that had induced Aegnor to break off all contact with her without ever saying a word, without ever giving an explanation.
Because it was always about me, wasn't it? It had to be something I had done, something I had said, some way in which I was deficient, that had made Aegnor turn his back on me without a second thought. Not for one moment did anyone think that the problem may have lied with him. After all, he is an Elf, one of that race blessed with wisdom and eternal life. It had to have been some fault he found in me that caused him to spurn me. It could not possibly have been because of the fears and doubts within his own heart.
Andreth had believed that herself for far too long.
"You amaze me, Andreth," Linnedril muttered, throwing open the shutters and laughing when the older woman winced and glared at her. "It's a wonderful day outside, and you insist on staying inside, surrounded by books and dust."
To this, Andreth could only raise her hands defensively, brandishing the quill in her left for emphasis. "One of Beril's children had fallen ill with fever. I'm taking down a treatment for her; I was nearly done."
Linnedril laughed again, not unkindly. "And yet you'd likely have set someone else to take your message to your sister, and spent the rest of the day in here with your books." She took up a chair and sat down at Andreth's side, peering over her shoulder. "As you so often do."
Andreth smiled slightly. "It is my joy, Linnedril."
"Not your only joy, I hope?" Linnedril asked teasingly, an expression of mock hurt in her gray eyes.
"No, not at all."
She had wondered for so long. Had examined her body for flaws and faults, something, anything that had made him withdraw from her, and stop answering her letters. There had to be something; if the defect was not with her body, it must have been in her bearing, or her manner of speech, or in her personality. It would have been better if he had told her, if he had given any sort of explanation at all. But as he hadn't, as she was surrounded by speculation, Andreth could only wonder.
As the years went down, Andreth was left to trace the fine, delicate lines on her face and count the gray hairs as they gathered amongst the brown hairs of her head. Was this what had driven him away? The specter of her mortality, her short, marred life? For one who had never tasted the inevitable tang of death, one who had always known immortality and did not live among a mortal people, knowing that he had lost eternal life, mortality must have seemed so unnatural. It must have seemed like such a pitiable way to live; Andreth had heard some of the Elves say as much sometimes, when they thought she could not hear.
It would have been better if she could have just forgotten him quickly, but Andreth was not permitted to forget. She could not let herself forget, and neither could anyone else. Those men who wondered why she had been jilted looked at her askance, trying to see the same flaws that Aegnor must have seen. The other women were kinder, but in a way, their pity was more poisonous than the men's appraising eyes. Though Andreth became established in Ladros as a wise-woman, though she took on students to pass on her lore, she was always known as the woman the Elf-prince had once courted, then jilted, and no one knew why.
When Andreth finally did find out why Aegnor had ended their relationship, all she could do was furiously wonder why Aegnor hadn't seen fit to tell her himself.
"Andreth?" Linnedril's tone was gentler now, less certain. "Are you well? You seem so far away. Your niece's fever isn't serious, is it?"
Andreth rested her hand on top of Linnedril's, giving it a gentle squeeze. "No, Linnedril, it's not. I've just been doing a bit of thinking, lately."
"The Eldar never love but once, for all time."
Andreth remembered how Finrod would fiddle with the silver ring he wore on his left hand, looking less like a King of Elves and more like a melancholy young man who had lost his love before that love they shared could ever be fulfilled. When he wore that look, for all that he could be unthinkingly arrogant and offensive, for all that he could be so incredibly high-handed when it came to the Edain, she could not help but feel sorry for him. There was something very vulnerable about the way he looked in those moments.
The Elves never loved but once, or so Finrod claimed. Andreth knew better, knew that neither Finrod nor Aegnor would have ever been born if Finrod's claim was perfectly true. But Finrod had always been prone to such grand, sweeping (generalizing) statements, and both he and Aegnor believed it.
Finrod fiddled with that ring of his, thinking of a lover he would never see again, and yet clung to his fidelity to her like a cloak. He used it to shield himself from the prospect of having to move on, to find love again, because Andreth suspected that he did not possess the will to put the lover he had left behind to rest. He claimed that Aegnor had told him that he would remain in the Timeless Halls for all time, refusing to love any but her. It seemed the brothers were alike, in one respect.
The Elves never loved but once, or so they claimed, and if they were by any means separated from their love, they would pine over the lover they had lost for all time, until they were reunited again.
It had taken her entirely too long to get to this point, but she had no intention of living this way. She was not an Elf. (Thank goodness.)