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Lúthien’s white face shone like the Moon beneath her crown of midnight hair. It drew Artanis' eye amidst the shifting hues of shadow underneath the branches of the great beech that sheltered them, and Artanis suddenly fell into doubt.

What folly is this? Let us turn back. She thought at her friend and guide. Even you cannot spy on Beleg Cúthalion unseen!

Lúthien’s smile was a spark of brilliance in the night. Her hand, shimmer-white and perfect as the rest of her, reached out from the dark drape of a sleeve to capture Artanis’ chin and pull her in for a playful kiss. A spark of warmth seemed to soar from Artanis’ lips to a well known spot low in her belly.

My most excellent cousin will be inducted as commander of the king’s march wardens only once. This night or never, sweet Artanis, if you desire to watch the object of your not-so-hidden affections undergo the most secret of all warriors’ rites.

Lúthien was more Maïa than Elf at times like these, with her words and thoughts so rich with layers of meaning and intent. Artanis knew Lúthien loved her as a distant kinswoman, a guest and a dear friend in body and mind, after the Sindar fashion. But even as Lúthien took Artanis to her bed other intentions and lines of thought shimmered behind the silver-grey eyes.

Lúthien had not felt spurned or distraught in the slightest, the day Artanis’ eyes came to rest upon young Celeborn’s broad shoulders in the damasked silk of his court robes, his strong and dignified stance on the dais behind Elu’s throne. No doubt there was some ulterior motive to her eagerness to let Artanis witness whatever deeply secret rite of passage would be visited on the Prince of Doriath this night. Artanis shuddered in fear and anticipation both, and found a strange mixture of pride, lust and curiosity kept her from skulking back to Menegroth with her tail between her legs.

She accepted the dark green diaphanous shawl Lúthien offered her, and tied it around her head in the manner of Doriath’s march wardens so it covered both her gleaming golden hair and the pale expanse of her face. Lúthien did the same, and when they were both fully covered Lúthien sang a thrilling cantrip of Valarin. A deep shudder ran along Artanis’ back at the jarring sounds, so alien to an Elvish mouth, but when she next raised her eyes to where she knew Lúthien’s should be she saw only the great beech’s silver trunk.

Unseen and hidden, even from Beleg Strongbow. Follow me!

Lúthien ran swift and silent as a fleeing hind, and Artanis followed.

---

After several years among the Sindar, Artanis might have known that even their warriors’ rites would involve sex. The restrained, cerebral ways of the Noldor - with their laws and customs based upon those of disembodied spirits - were alien here. Physicality pervaded Doriath’s every breath.

Even so, the sight awaiting her in a remote fire-lit clearing amidst the mossy pillars of towering oaks was so shockingly erotic she all but gave herself away by gasping.

Celeborn was handsome enough when he was dressed for court or the marches, or even in the stolen glimpses Artanis had of him in Menegroth's great baths. None of it had prepared her for the sight of him sprawled on the grass, stark naked but for the spiraling ochre and hematite patterns of traditional Laiquendi paint running down his flanks and chest. On his lower belly the mystical animal figures were smudged with fluid and friction from his straining cock. Celeborn paid it no heed as he reclined slack-limbed against an equally naked Mablung, held up in his encircling arms. Celeborn’s obscenely spread knees rested on Saeros’ shoulders as Elu’s kneeling councilor thrust deeply into him. The dark curtain of Saeros’ half-braided hair fell down to the small of his back. Beneath it his muscular buttocks pumped almost punishingly hard, until they suddenly tensed into stillness as he spent himself inside Celeborn with a growl. The pair remained locked together whilst Saeros rode out his orgasm with teasing thrusts against that sensitive place inside Celeborn. Celeborn’s breath came in small, groaning sighs and Artanis was strangely fascinated by the clear drops of fluid seeping from his neglected cock to further erase the patterned white feathers of the artful diving kingfisher painted below his navel.

When Saeros finally stilled and pulled out, messily and without care for the wet stripes he left dripping down Celeborn’s pale thighs, Artanis believed this was it, they had seen all the night would involve. She briefly wondered why Saeros, of all Elu’s soldiery, had been granted this unusual privilege, when Beleg Cúthalion divested himself of his tunic and breeches and moved to take the councilor's place between Celeborn’s legs. He took time and care to oil himself and Celeborn from a flask resting in the grass, but soon he, too lifted and spread Celeborn’s legs. Celeborn’s eyes remained closed and he gasped while Mablung’s hands came around to pinch and roll his nipples in a mesmerizing rhythm. Artanis knew from Lúthien’s creative bedplay that being taken in such a manner would normally require careful preparation, but Celeborn seemed so well-used and slick with oil and seed that Beleg could sheathe his cock - not overly long but well-shaped and far thicker than Saeros’ - with one long, fluid thrust.

Celeborn’s face was ecstatic, otherworldly, and he grimaced as if in pain. For an instant of horror Artanis believed she was witnessing some unspeakable cruelty born of the darkness of marred Middle-earth, but then she noticed Mablung leaning forward to caress the side of Celeborn’s face with unmistakable tenderness, and she knew no violence of any kind had been involved in this vision of complete and utter submission.

Beleg possessed a sensuous beauty, the clean muscled lines of his slender Telerin body limned in leaping orange light as he thrust to deeply take his former apprentice and future captain. Both men groaned with the pleasure of it. Artanis suddenly understood Lúthien’s proud eagerness to share the sight of both his virile strength and Celeborn’s brave vulnerability. All she felt was awe at the immeasurable privilege of being allowed as much as a glimpse of something so sacred. In Morgoth’s slaves the devotion needed to fight to the death was created with torture and terror. Among the Elves the opposite was true. Celeborn would serve Doriath fully and without reservations as he served his warriors this night, and his oath was to be sealed, not with blood, but with the absolute essence of him.

It seemed Artanis and Lúthien had arrived only just in time. A select few of Elu’s most trusted officers sat on blankets spread on the niphredil-studded grass, watching. From their postures of sated relaxation they had already taken their turns. At the sight of the women among them Galadriel shot Lúthien a questioning look. Surely the Doriathrim would not require their new captain to complete the full act of marriage with his subordinates?

Lúthien would have chuckled if she had dared risk a sound. Of course not. He did what anyone does, to please a woman.

Artanis looked at Celeborn’s mouth, now tense with concentration as Beleg skillfully worked that place of delight inside him, and imagined his head moving between her own legs. She regretted missing that particular performance, wondering how he had looked on his knees before those women, and whether he had been as rock-hard for them as he was now, spread open and filled under Beleg. A shudder of delight ran down her spine. She could only just still her hand when it meant to stray to her throbbing sex. Lúthien noticed, and froze for an instant - poised between amused tenderness and something much like relief- before she moved to embrace Artanis from behind so she could slide her fingers into the waistband of Artanis’ breeches, expertly rubbing her pearl until Artanis was grinding her hips, wet and flustered.

He is surpassingly fair, is he not? Look, Beleg will finish it. Lúthien's breath softly tickled the sensitive edge of Artanis' ear, but she spoke only in mind.

Beleg must have felt Celeborn’s muscles give a telltale clench inside, because he raised a hand in signal, and every Elf in the clearing approached to reach out and lay a hand on Celeborn’s skin. He suddenly was entirely surrounded and held securely. Artanis imagined she could see the very air thrum with seething energy at the points of contact. Beleg wordlessly cupped his right hand and immediately someone poured oil into it. He wrapped it around Celeborn’s straining length and began to stroke. The movements were long, slow and sensuous, seeking to draw this out, make it good. Celeborn’s hips thrust helplessly, caught between the opposing pleasures of Beleg’s hand and his cock, but his eyes remained tightly shut and Mablung had to cup his face in a broad, sword-calloused hand once more, and whisper.

“Celeborn! It is time.”

Celeborn’s oath was in the most ancient form of Telerin, carried into Doriath unchanged from the starlit shores of Cuiviénen. The demanding ritual had stripped the prince of all courtly air and refinement, leaving what remained all the more solemn and meaningful. He rasped hoarsely from giving voice to the night’s long pleasure, tinged with pain, and his words only seemed heavier for it. Artanis could not take her eyes from Celeborn’s face, even for the deeply erotic sight of Beleg’s hand stroking his beautiful cock. She was moved to the depths of her soul by the certainty that he would stand by this devotion to Doriath and the promise to protect her against the Darkness by the strength of his arms until the very end of Arda.

Artanis could only feel jealous that she was not among those warriors, to lay her hands on Celeborn’s sweat-slick skin, see to his pleasure, receive that oath from his lips against hers. Instead she spread her legs and leant back against Lúthien, whose skilful caresses had fallen in with Beleg’s rhythm, and even floating in the pleasure of it some rational part of her wondered at Lúthien's intentions. Celeborn was sinking deeper into his trance, writhing under the many hands that touched and caressed him intimately even as Beleg’s hand and thrusting hips began to speed up. When Celeborn’s head lolled to the side his eyes suddenly snapped open, glassy and unfocused at first, but then locked straight into hers. Artanis startled, wholly certain that he saw her as clearly as she him, in spite of all Lúthien’s arts..

Neither of them could act upon it, both equally lost in the climb towards their respective peaks. Celeborn’s eyes never left Artanis’ as Beleg’s one hand, slick with oil, stroked his cock with precise, measured care while the other one cupped and fondled his sack. Mablung and Saeros each teased a nipple while other hands stroked Celeborn’s belly, his long muscled legs, the cleft of his spread buttocks, the swollen, sensitive rim of where Beleg’s cock sank into him. The ancient warrior’s thrusts were fast, deep and frantic now, and soon he threw his head back, eyes on the stars, and shouted out his joy as his hips slammed forward to fill Celeborn with his seed. Celeborn opened himself even further to receive it, spreading his legs impossibly wide, and they would have slid off Beleg’s shoulders had nameless hands not supported them. In the next heartbeat Celeborn’s entire body went rigid, arching like a bow drawn to its breaking point. With a hoarse, desperate shout that resounded through the expectant silence of the forest Celeborn’s essence, silver as his namesake, spilled out into Beleg’s waiting hands. Beleg immediately raised them high as he recited an archaic Telerin blessing, offering Celeborn’s seed as this night’s sacrifice to Oromë.

Under Lúthien’s skilled ministrations Artanis felt Celeborn's fiery stab of harsh pleasure as her own and she would have moaned, lost her footing and slumped forward to crash through the undergrowth into the clearing had Lúthien not had the foresight to hold her up and cover her mouth with her own.

Artanis quickly ended the kiss, because it kept her from looking at him. She wanted to miss nothing of Celeborn being gently laid down upon the grass and wrapped in blankets, tears streaming down his face in a rare, fleeting moment of complete vulnerability where she might look into his very fëa and see its essence, pure and unveiled. The way he shook in Beleg’s tight embrace with either cold or released nerves or simply from the deep touch of fate. A secret, thrilling glimpse of the slick mess between his legs as he spread them, to be washed and patted dry with utmost care, before they dressed him in his fine princely garb once more. Celeborn was a hardy man, from the way he rose to his feet and, after emptying a cup of mead, resumed his persona of the dutiful, commanding prince of Doriath to courteously receive their congratulations as if he had not just been taken apart into his very elements. Yes. Here was a Dark Elf Artanis could admire.

She turned to face Lúthien. Perhaps Artanis’ newfound fascination with Celeborn was exactly what she had intended by this strange night of trespass. Her face was sad, but determined.

You will always remain welcome in my bed, but I would gladly see you in his.

The implications of her own illicit desire struck Artanis like a blow. Finrod’s shock. Angrod and Aegnor’s disappointment in their sister’s willful debasement. Outright scorn in the eyes of her Fëanorian cousins. She could hear Curufin’s voice, dripping with disdain.

“Our cousin has gone native and wedded a savage, rolling in a bed of leaves. Pray she stops at just one of them!”

And Elu Thingol’s wrath was a terrible risk. Being turned out of Doriath would render Finarfin’s children homeless in harsh lands.

Lúthien shook her head. My father will  gladly approve the union.

Horrified embarrassment struck Artanis. Did he send you?

Lúthien laughed, and kissed her once more.

I am here by my own will only. It was my mother who suggested tonight’s outing. She is far-seeing, and you would do well to heed her counsels. Your fate might lead to greatness, but that road runs through Celeborn. You have seen some of his spirit this night. We Sindar know well enough how the Noldor look down upon us. Dark Elf is a terrible term. Tell me, is Celeborn not worth defying your brothers, your cousins? Or would you have them choose some Noldorin lordling for you?

Artanis nodded, a wild, rebellious joy kindling in her chest.

Yes. I am Artanis, and I will not be chosen for and directed. Instead of the forge I will wed the forest, and be mistress of my own fate. Together we shall come to greatness!