"Everything I have, and everything I am, is yours."
Soft strains of music float across the bridge. The stars dance through the ripples of the lake, bathing the sanctuary in silvered light. I take a deep breath, feeling the nerves and excitement that flutter in the pit of my stomach like tiny trapped birds. To my side, Galdorion fidgets anxiously. He is close enough to reach out and touch, but I do not move. We are both stood still, waiting.
Finally Lord Vorongwe beckons us forward, and we cross the bridge side by side. There is a crowd of people standing behind him – familiar faces alongside people I have never seen before. Old friends stand beside those I have sometimes considered enemies – all looking at us. Lord Vorongwe is almost a comforting presence in comparison, standing between us and the large gathering, a reassuring smile on his expression as he waits. The music drifts to a halt. Daegond calls out something about my robe – for a moment I am so surprised by the compliment that I forget to reply. Lord Vorongwe waits patiently for silence, then begins to speak. As he intones the blessing I realise with a moment of panic that I cannot remember what I was supposed to say. The sense of the occasion is almost overwhelming.
Galdorion speaks first, while I am still thinking. The ring he places on my finger is the colour of a dawn, full of promise and hope, and the only colour I could ever think of as associated with him. His words fall into the silence like stones into a pool, every one heavy with meaning. He misspeaks, but it is as though the mistake is what should have been said all along. What Galdorion offers in this ceremony is himself – nothing more, and it is everything I could have asked for. As I pull out my own ring for him, engraved painstakingly by Reiven with his own art, I feel a rush of joy and excitement that smothers my nerves entirely. I still do not remember the things I had planned to say, but it doesn't matter – instead I speak what my heart feels aloud, I say the words that will give Galdorion exactly what he has given me.
He pulls me close, kissing me, and I hear fireworks start up. When we break apart to look around, I see Themodir and Daegond splashing about by the lake, shouting to one another over the noise of the explosions. The sky fills with colour as our friends begin to clap and celebrate with us. I am laughing, filled with joy and triumph so great I can barely contain it. Lady Miste and Andunie play a song which I first heard Galdorion sing long ago, before everything began, and we stand together quietly for a moment, content to share this moment of temporary peace amid the celebrations. Somehow, despite everything that stood in our way, we have done it. I glance down at the ring shining on my hand – a proof that no one can ever doubt, or deny. We have done it.
The rest of the evening passes in an almost dreamlike blur. The firelight turns my ring to molten gold and makes Galdorion's hair shine as we dance among our friends. Themodir and even Daegond join in, marching about as though they are still on inspection. Later everyone crowds around to give us gifts and talk to us in small groups – I am overwhelmed by the amount of kindness and generosity our friends show. My own family is there – Sidhon, Aelaer, Himwen and Bofrid, even Halvfdan, Reeva and Tomintoul all the way from the Shire, eager to give us their traditional gifts.
I feel as though this evening could last forever, but somehow without my noticing it slips away, and the guests begin to leave us, their congratulations and kind words becoming a counterpart to the music still swirling in the hall. Eventually even the band play their last song and depart, our friends among them lingering for a few final words. Galdorion and I are left alone, in the embers of the firelight, to the beginning of our marriage.