I've heard it said that elves are the Fairest of all the children of Arda. The First-born, dear to Iluvatar and blessed to walk under sun and starlight with his favours. I know little of all these things, for they were long before my time, and far beyond my reckoning. Might be beyond yours too, for all your Elvish airs and mysterious ways. Even now, as you sit across the fire, I glimpse that maddening half-smile on your lips as you listen idly to the halflings' chatter.
Aye, it's said that elves are fairest, and now I doubt it not. Not after laying eyes on the Lady of the Wood, nor after the places and people I have seen. Not after knowing you. I know precious little of wizards and immortals, of mallorn trees and magic, and centuries that pass by like drifting seasons. Until recently I knew not much good of elves at all- and indeed, I feel now like I knew little of anything. Oft it seems like all the world has turned on its head in these strange days.
But there are things I do know.
I know strength and valour- and though it's guise is not always as in my own people, I see it in the deadly grace with which you confront our foes. It is in you in battle and in peace; in the calm determination and good spirits you maintain, even when our quest is shaken. I know the value of true friendship and loyalty- I have seen these in the words that would stand with a quick-tongued friend, in the face of a score of horse-lords- and in the silent comfort offered when grief proves stronger than words in any tongue.
I know the beauty of gold and mithril, be they polished brightly or caked with blood and filth and hardship. I see them often in the treasures of my people, but never so bright or dear as the hair that falls around you in the glow of the flames. There is no stone to compare with your eyes, though I feel certain they remind me of something I have never seen. Something I may sink and lose myself in, for I could look on you for time unmeasured.
I know love, in the joy your smile brings to my trembling heart. In the good humour of our rivalry. In the sheer relief of seeing you battle-stained, bloodsoaked, exhausted but so alive. I know it in the quiet, vicious certainty that I would destroy any who seek to harm you, even after the battle-fever cooled from my blood. I learned it in the gentle touch of a cool, dirty hand to a bandaged head that sent me giddy, in spite of the hard heads or stiff necks of my kind.
I know lust, like I never imagined. I find it burning fiercely wherever I turn - in the elegance of your limbs sprawled on the earth or the grace of your fingers as you clean your gear. I find it in the tilt of your throat as you laugh. The warm body before me on horseback, or the guilt-laced glimpse of you bathing in an icy stream- these moments haunt me until I have learned them by heart. With these hands, I might forge beauty that would make men weep, but if I could lay them on your perfect skin, I fear it would be I weeping. Ah, would that I could lay you down beside me... There is a fire in me that would flicker over all of you, to leave you breathless and glowing- if it would not consume us both.
Suddenly, your gaze strays to mine. It pins me fast, as though I were a moth caught unawares while entranced by the firelight.
Though I fear my thoughts may be writ large upon my face, I cannot look away.