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Almaren
The Years of the Lamps

Eönwë relaxed in the warm fragrant grass, leaning against an inviting hollow in a tree. Mairon lay across his lap. Both of them were content and lazy, enjoying a rest from their appointed labors. Eönwë sat with his eyes nearly closed, his fingers sifting idly through Mairon's hair as it wafted in the breeze. Today it was the color of molten copper--a reflection of the work he'd been doing through the day.

The bright lazy evening drifted along.

"Sweetheart," Eönwë murmured.

A smile flitted across Mairon's face. "I'm taking a nap," he pretended to pout and turned his face into Eönwë's hip.

Eönwë tapped the very tip of Mairon's nose with one finger; then, when he didn't respond, he playfully scratched it with a wicked talon. Mairon jerked back. "Hey!"

Eönwë's eyes flew open. "I'm sorry! Did that hurt?"

"What? Yes, it hurt!" he snapped. Three little beads of glimmering golden blood welled up just above his nostril.

"Oh," Eönwë sighed. "I'm so sorry. I didn't think it.... I'm sorry."

"I know you've seen, and done, and taken much worse," Mairon grumped. "Not all of us play so violently."

Eönwë squared his shoulders. "It's not play, it's practice,” he scowled. “Training. The Herald of the Elder King must be fighting fit at all times, and I mean to be the best. The strongest. I must be! I am the first and the last defense, should disaster befall us."

"And you love it."

Eönwë softened his face again. "Do you know what I really love? Who I really-"

His attention shifted as a kestrel swooped down to land on a branch above their heads. It ducked its head awkwardly. "Hello, friend," Eönwë called.

After a brief shrill chatter, the bird leapt into the air again, shimmering out of corporeality after a few moments.

Eönwë gasped. "Mairon! Mairon, get up!" he said in not-quite-distress.

Mairon tensed at the urgency in his voice. "What is it?" he said as he leaned up on an elbow.

Eönwë's face grew solemn. "My Lord King calls for your presence."

"What? Really? Why?" A little swirl of worry slid through the back of his mind. How could he possibly suspect?

"He didn't say. But I don't think..." Eönwë's face stilled for a minute and his eyes grew translucent. "He's not angry. He's... amused? Anticipating?"

Mairon stood up, moving to brush grass off himself; it drifted off on its own as his simple, sturdy work clothes melted into a sheer russet robe, embroidered with liquid gold. He did a graceful twirl and shook his hair out. "Appropriate? Too casual? It seemed a casual summons, as such things go."

"Mmm. You're beautiful."

Mairon's hand caressed Eönwë's neck and slid down his arm. He took Eönwë's broad hand in his and kissed it, biting a calloused knuckle. "I'll let you know how it goes."

 

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Mairon wasn't as expert at folding space as he was at folding steel, but he managed to travel to the palace with appropriate speed. He was shown to a small chamber, richly appointed but arranged for intimate conversation. The Lord of the Breath of Arda lounged on an elegant chaise, apparently contemplating a picture window, but Mairon had the impression that his sight was leagues away.

As Mairon entered and made obeisance, Manwë straightened gracefully. "Mairon," he greeted, his face serene.

"Your Majesty," Mairon replied, still bowing low.

"Thank you for coming so swiftly."

"I am honored to serve His Majesty's pleasure."

Manwë smiled graciously. "Do stand up," he invited. Mairon complied smoothly, his eyes still downcast. Manwë stood as well. "Your manners are a delight."

"I am humbled by His Majesty's regard."

"Now really, you needn't stand on such formality. This is not my court, nor indeed is anyone else around to see us." Mairon raised a delicate eyebrow as Manwë's gaze flickered over his form. "My herald speaks of you often. He does admire you." He blinked twice, appraising. "I can see why." He stepped toward Mairon.

He was hard pressed not to shiver, but Mairon kept his composure. He'd never been this close to the Blessed One, and he found he was more unnerved than he thought he would be. Manwë continued to approach, quite close now. Mairon could feel his breath, though it seemed to flow from all around him. How much does he know? The thought ghosted unbidden through Mairon's subconscious. It manifested only as the slightest crease between his eyebrows.

Manwë reached down to stroke Mairon's shoulders as though smoothing the fabric of his robes. "So strong," he whispered. "Slender and taut and delectable."

Mairon stiffened. "I don't- Your... my...."

Mairon's hair still floated loosely, drifting in the heat billowing from his core. I should have fastened it back, he thought, as Manwë smoothed the cloud back down.

"No, I like it. Never restrain your hair in my presence." His hands alighted on Mairon's cheeks, fingers pressing his eyelids closed for a moment and skating across his lips. "Touch me," he breathed, and Mairon's hands rose against his will. Manwë leaned far over, and Mairon stood on his toes, compelled to cradle his strong jaw.

Now he couldn't suppress a tremor. He closed his eyes and told himself, deep inside his heart, just like my Master's face. He focused on thoughts of Manwë's near-identical brother--very, very carefully.

Manwë's hand, dusted with fluffy down, tipped Mairon's chin up to meet his face. It tickled. "Eönwë does shower you with such glowing praise. Let us see whether he exaggerates."

Mairon supposed this would hardly be the last or the greatest indignity he'd suffer in the service of Melkor. He opened his eyes to stare at nothing in particular as Manwë gripped the back of his neck and sucked his bottom lip into his mouth.