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The Distance of Age

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Silmarien frames her request delicately, but honestly. After all, she never could lie to her parents, no matter that she was the mistress of subterfuge and deception when it came to others. And so Aragorn and Arwen bid their daughter ride safely and fast, with a handful of bodyguards, on her mission to “renew friendship” in Rohan.

And it is certainly true that their neighbor is overdue an envoy, and that Silmarien, the crown princess, is an excellent choice for that envoy, trained almost from birth in negotiation, diplomacy, and the intrigue and etiquette of court. But it is not the ruling king of Rohan, old Theodred, who is uppermost in Silmarien's mind. Nor is it Theomer, who will be king when his father passes, and might be a fair match if she were so inclined. Oh no. Silmarien would smile and lick her lips and allow herself the hint of a shudder at the memories which come flowing back if she could. But alas, in Gondor, there is always someone to watch.

In Rohan...well, perhaps not.

***

Theodwyn stands on the battlements of Edoras as the Gondorian diplomats approach. The black and silver of their banner stands stark against the yellow grass of her beloved plains. Plains you could take a horse and ride for countless miles and never see another soul. She stretches in the sunlight and lets the wind blow a single tear from her eye. She cannot ride quite so far now, with only one good arm and old bones besides. She draws her cloak about her with her right hand and peers at the riders. Yes, she thinks, beaming, she thought the lead rider looked familiar. She cannot make out the faces, but the posture and poise are unique to one woman in all of Middle-Earth, so far as Theodwyn knows.

Her eyesight is not what it once was; the younger guards can likely point out every flaw in the harnesses by now. But she suspects the face in her memory is still a perfect match for the one riding towards her. She smirks, and awaits the stunned reactions of those who have yet to see the beauty of Princess Silmarien.

***

Theodwyn is only slightly disappointed when she meets Silmarien: the face is not quite the same, but if anything, Theodwyn thinks, it is even more beautiful, and she tells her old friend so as soon as they are alone in Theodwyn's room, door locked and bolted behind them.

“I thank you,” Silmarien says with perfect grace, and adds after a quick glance to make sure there are no eavesdroppers or other watchers, “the years have been kind to you as well, my friend.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere,” Theodwyn teases as Silmarien's fingers trace the lines of her face.

“Just because you aren't as good at it,” Silmarien counters, and the two women laugh. “I'll just have to try some other tool to get into your trousers, then,” she whispers.

“So much for diplomacy,” Theodwyn chides. “All this way for a rendezvous?”

“Well, you are a princess and adviser to your father the king,” Silmarien says, dead-serious. “I thought we might spend the winter, which should leave plenty of time for other pursuits once we've settled some timber rights and this and that.” She draws herself into a properly haughty pose—she has no time to practice a mocking version. “Think of it as your duty of hospitality.”

Theodwyn laughs. “Duty itself could scarcely keep me out of your bed. Are you sure you don't want one of my handsome, strapping soldiers or shield-maidens? Or a tender young lady-in-waiting? I've had a few of each that I can happily recommend.”

“I want my friend,” Silmarien says, kissing her. “And right now, I want her naked.”

Theodwyn yields at the press of perfect lips that need no paint against her own, chapped mouth. How can she refuse such a command, such an offer? She unbuckles her swordbelt and hangs it on a peg.

“You are lucky,” Silmarien says as cloak and boots and thick gloves and heavy jerkin follow. “You may take off your armor within the walls of Edoras if you choose. I must leave mine on save in the smallest of sanctuaries.” Like here, with you, she does not say. Theodwyn hears it nonetheless. Silmarien smiles sadly. “Oh, my friend, it is good to see you once more. It has been too long since our last proper visit.” She draws Theodwyn's left hand to her lips and kisses it along the scar. “It seems you have stories to tell, old friend. Will the wound keep you from unfastening my dress?”

“Impertinent girl!” Theodwyn bursts out, laughing, as Silmarien turns to offer the ties of her dress—and conceal her own grin. “I can dress myself, unlike you pampered Gondorian princesses. As it happens, the scar is from a would-be despot. His ax cleaved through my shield and caught in my hand; my sword cleaved through his skull and caught in his collar-bone.” She finishes with the lacing with only a bit of difficulty, and Silmarien steps out of the dress.

“Go on,” she says merrily as she plucks at the dagger-sheaths strapped to her shins and forearms. “I'll be a while with this lot: off with that tunic and those trousers! I do sometimes wish I could wear my steel openly. But it is best to keep some weapons in reserve.”

“Best never to be attacked,” Theodwyn says, and pulls off her socks and trousers, then reaches under the tunic to let her breastband fall to the floor. “Bit chill to do without the tunic just yet,” she says, curling her legs under her on the bed.

“Fair enough,” Silmarien replies, setting the last of her sheaths on a chair and wriggling out of her slip. “Are you trying to seduce me, then?” she asks as Theodwyn tugs her hair—more silver than gold, now—loose.

“I hope it's working,” she says with a laugh, and turns to face away from Silmarien to give her a coy smile over her shoulder as she pulls the tunic off to reveal nothing underneath but a mass of scars on her back.

“And how did you earn these?” Silmarien asks, stepping daintily into bed and curling around Theodwyn.

“My troop was riding through a village when one of the homes caught fire. Two children left inside after their mother and father ran out of hands, so in I went.” She winced at the memory as Silmarien ran cool fingers over the gnarled burns and the muscle beneath. “The eldest refused to leave the youngest, who was just a babe in arms. The roof caved in above them, and I dove to take it on my back instead.” She smiles, and Silmarien feathers kisses to the scars. “Spent four months in the healing houses between the burns, the concussion, the cracked ribs, and the broken arm. But both the children lived. Never knew I had the motherly instinct until then. Still don't have it very strong, but I adopted a boy after his father, one of my troopers, died and left him orphaned. He's off and grown, now.” She lays back on the bed, and for one moment, as the sunset hits her, Silmarien thinks she sees her as she was when first they met. “And what of you?” she asks. “It's been some time.”

Silmarien blushes. “I always forget how much faster time seems to run for...you. Nothing much of note to report, I am afraid. Gondor still at peace with her neighbors. Mother and Father still ruling and reforming with wise eyes and kind hearts. No gossip so important as it can't wait.” She smiles and bends over Theodwyn, and sees her in the shade, just a bit of light to glint off the water in her eyes.

“Last chance for someone else.” Theodwyn keeps her voice level, but it is a struggle. Silmarien only smiles and places Theodwyn's scarred hand on her breast; instinctively, she cups it as much as she is able. “Someone young and strong and beautiful and perfect like you.” Theodwyn's breath catches in her throat. “You're still the same gorgeous young woman as the first time I laid eyes upon you. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you hadn't aged a day. But...well, look at me,” she concludes weakly.

“I have,” Silmarien says, suddenly courtly and proper once more. “And I find that you are extremely beautiful, my friend, though,” her eyes twinkle, “ I may need to conduct a more complete inspection. Now are you going to lie there feeling sorry for yourself, or are you going to fuck me?”

Silmarien grins as Theodwyn pulls her down into a kiss, then gasps as she is flipped onto her back. “I think you'll find, Your Highness, that even with only a hand and a half, I still know enough tricks to make you scream my name into the blankets.” Silmarien shivers as Theodwyn draws two callused digits down over her dark curls. “But I have plenty of time to prove my point before dinner,” she says, withdrawing her hand. “And we have ever so much catching up to do,” she says, pressing a gentle kiss into the flesh of Silmarien's shoulder. A cruder lover might have felt the need to bite and bruise, but Theodwyn's appetite for violence does not run so deep as to do something as sacrilegious as mar Silmarien's perfect skin.

Silmarien thrills under Theodwyn's practiced fingers. Though she has a few more years to her name, she cannot afford to...practice...the arts of the bedchamber too often for a host of reasons, and she looks forward to honing her skills over the coming winter. “Let me play with you a while,” she whispers, and Theodwyn nods, releasing Silmarien's nipple from her lips as she lies back on the pale blue sheets.

Theodwyn thinks Silmarien the more beautiful, Silmarien knows. But her appearance is the result of the accidental marriage of handsome parents to the wealth of Gondor, wealth to put the polish on the raw materials supplied so generously. Theodwyn's scars mark her true beauty, that which Silmarien must often conceal within herself, so that even when she may display it, it feels like a mask. Her bravery, her strength, her devotion to her people, all spelled out clear as day in flame-bites and knife-bites alike.

Silmarien thinks, not for the first time, (nor, indeed, for the first time with Theodwyn's knees hooked over her shoulders) about proposing marriage to Theodwyn. There seem to be more suitors by the day—one excellent reason for making the trip—and none of them the least bit exciting. She and Theodwyn are good friends, and enjoy each other in bed, and as a political match there could be none finer. But that would delay the questions for a few decades at most; a pittance of time as far as Silmarien is concerned. For she has no desire to bind her long, long life to Theodwyn's, no matter how pleasantly her thighs clench about Silmarien's ears, not since she has seen the way her mother and father have found true happiness in each other, constant partners upon which they may rely amidst the strains of running a kingdom. That, indeed, is perhaps the greatest sticking point. Even leaving aside the obvious fact that their union would be childless, and so not satisfy those who are eager for the succession to be assured a generation longer, Theodwyn would be asked to rule beside her. Her parents have set the precedent, and Gondor is too large, too powerful for any one person to manage alone, and sweet Theodwyn (so very sweet, she thinks, and laps with her tongue) has no desire to rule more than a troop of horsemen. Silmarien loves her friend enough to not even suggest something which would make her so unhappy, and so she returns her focus to using her mouth for far more pleasurable and profitable endeavors.

***

“Time to get ready for dinner,” Theodwyn chides Silmarien at last.

“So early?” Silmarien replies.

“We need a wash if we don't want to reek of sex, and I should put on my dress uniform, and if nothing else, my jaw needs a rest if we are to eat anything but gruel and stew for dinner.”

“I could use a bit of a rinse after the day's ride...and the evening's ride,” Silmarien says with a laugh, and slips into the proffered robe as Theodwyn rings for soap and basins and towels.

“Don't worry,” Theodwyn adds, “my personal maid is extremely discreet.” She grins, and kisses Silmarien. “Not that starting scandalous rumors couldn't be fun...”

“Believe me, I understand entirely,” Silmarien says. Yes, a few months to fuck and gossip and chatter and spar with an old friend sounds just about right.