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Far Beyond Mirkwood, Chapter 10/?

Authors: Mary A and Malinornë
Pairings: Mainly Thranduil/OFCs
Warnings: Adult sexual situations, rampant nudity.
Disclaimer: This is a work of amateur fanfiction of the parody type and is meant solely for entertainment purposes, no profit is made.
Chapter summary: Malinorne and Thranduil spend time together while Mary talks to Thaladir; everyone takes a bath.

~ Mal~

The Elvenking and I were halfway through our evening meal when there was a knock on the door again, only it was the wrong door. I nearly choked on my bread when I understood that the sound hadn't come from the corridor, but from behind the door leading to a closet or bathroom. Unable to pull my gaze from it I stared at the slowly opening door with horror, feeling my cheeks burn with embarrassment. Whoever was in there had heard... everything.

There was a slight pause, and then the freckled face of a young man, almost a boy, became visible in the doorway.

"Your bath, my lord, my lady," he said straightforwardly. "It has been ready for some time - ahem - but the water should still be hot." He winked and then strode to the exit as calmly as if it happened to him every day that he was trapped inside a room where people were having sex, and not in a discreet way either. I felt ready to die, or at least crawl under a blanket and not come out again, ever. I buried my face in my hands.

"What is the matter?" asked the king. I knew from his tone of voice that he found the incident amusing.

"He heard us!"

"And? The young man had the wits not to draw attention to his presence." Thranduil put his hand under my chin and lifted my face to him. "Look at me." I did as he said, but reluctantly. I suddenly felt very shy and vulnerable.

He kissed me gently, and then said, "Does it really matter that he did? Maybe the maid came back to listen, too, quietly? Or the innkeeper?" I cringed. If he thought saying things like that would put me at ease, he must be drunk on barley wine already.

"Maybe," he continued as he pulled me into his lap, "we have neighbours who went to bed early and who were kept awake by your noisiness. You did not worry about them, and there is no need to. They may be listening to us later tonight, envious for not being able to bring their women the same pleasure." Saying this last, he sounded enthusiastic, and my lips formed themselves into a smile.

"More likely," I replied dryly, "they will wonder what slut would make such a display of herself somewhere as public as this inn."

"It is true that the high-born females of Rohan are said to be much concerned with their reputation, but I have not heard them to be shy. Rather, the fearless demeanour of that boy is more characteristic for his people, of both sexes."

"Can we at least have breakfast in here tomorrow? I don't want to go the common room where they can see me. It's bad enough if they heard something."

"Ah, my concubine is afraid those hairy men will know with what reckless abandon she enjoys the pleasures of the bed? You have nothing to fear from them."

"I will feel embarrassed."

"You will make me proud; their jealousy is my praise. We shall take our meal in the common room." I sighed. "But, it is not morning yet," he continued, promise in his eyes. "I will hold you to your vow of showing me how much you missed me. You may begin now."

He let go of me and I stood, unsure of how to proceed. I wanted most of all to take a bath, but I wanted more of the king, too. And, I had promised exactly what he said.

"How may I please you?" I asked.

"For now, take off your clothes."

Guessing that Thranduil wanted to just see me naked, and soon, rather than viewing a slow strip tease, I undressed without much finesse. I did, however, make a point of staying out of reach of his long arms. He laughed when his half-hearted attempts were unsuccessful, but there was something calculating in his expression.

"Very nice," he said when I was done. He asked me to twirl a couple of times, too, which sent my hair flying, and then he grinned. "Now, undress me."

I love to do that, but it is hard to concentrate with someone's hands all over you, so it took rather long to get the king out of his clothes. His boots were the easy part, because I removed them while kneeling on the floor, so my breasts were all he had access to. He fondled them in a very pleasant way, though, so I took my time undoing the clasps.

The tunic was a different thing. Almost as soon as I rose, he pulled me to stand between his legs, and while I tugged at the laces that held the garment together at his throat, he put his hands on my behind and between my thighs. It was hard to just stand still, and untying the knot I was working on was near the impossible. I giggled at first, but then had to tell him, as seriously as I could under the circumstances, "Do you want me to continue with your clothes, or should I rather just let you have your way with me?"

"To my knowledge, mortals are capable of doing two things at a time." He chuckled, but he stilled his hands the short time it took me to lift his tunic over his head.

Then he stood so that I could begin the task of peeling his mud- stained leggings off him. It was hard to ignore his erection, but I managed, by repeating one of Thaladir's mantras inside my head over and over again: 'Patience is its own reward.' I would much rather have Thranduil and a hot bath, than risk getting splinters in all kinds of places from the floor planks. In the corner of my eyes I saw him lifting his eyebrows and smirk. So, he was peeking into my mind. He chuckled.

"I seem to have forgotten what a 'fish' you are. Let us see if that boy spoke truly. And maybe, a little patience will be quickly and well rewarded."

~ Mary~

As Thaladir drew me down the narrow hallway to my door, I prepared to lure him into my room. I had a lot to say to the elf, and I did not want him to have an easy escape route once I began. I knew that he probably had a dozen silly little tasks to personally attend to before he could pretend to rest for the night, therefore getting him to pause might be difficult, especially if he sensed that I was being frivolous with his valuable time.

Sadly, for the seneschal, I had planned ahead, during the ride back from Isengard, and he would not be able to read my intentions now. I knew that I had to be ruthless, and quick, and seemly, all at the same time. Silently, we came to my door, which he politely opened for me, and that is when I should have let go of his arm and gone in, alone. Instead, I held tight, and stood still.

"Thaladir, I beg your humble pardon, sir," I said calmly and respectfully. "I have to ask you a question and I need an answer without any further delay," Just when he drew breath to answer, I added, "It has to do with the proper form of address to use when speaking to you, these days." After visibly considering my words, he nodded at me and spoke.

"Proceed with your question, Lady Mary, and I will endeavor to answer it."

"Let me think, how should I put this? Am I wrong to assume that the term 'excellent' means something along the lines of being perfect, or never in error?"

"No, Lady Mary, you are not wrong. In truth, you would be correct in such a generalized estimation of the term."

"Fine, then what is it called when you are nearly perfect, but just miss it, Thaladir? If you no longer rated an excellent in the scoring, what would happen then? The next best is 'very good', right? Better than just plain good, 'very good'."

"Lady Mary, I do not believe that I am following your train of thought..."

"You are very slow tonight, I noticed. You must be tired. What I am talking about should be obvious. I believe that I will have to call you Your Very Goodness now that you have started to mess up and get things wrong. I am just sorting it out, now."

"Call me... your very goodness? How do you mean?"

"Well, you know, as in, 'Good morning Your Very Goodness,' or, 'Good evening Your Very Goodness, like that? Look, I am too tired to stand around all night here to explain it, can we go in and sit down? My feet still feel like ice, I bet they are frostbitten, too."

Somehow, I knew that, if all else failed, a threat to a piece of the king's property would dazzle the ever-fretful seneschal. Accordingly, Thaladir did follow me in to make sure that my toes were not in any danger of turning black and falling off. I sat by the fire and he knelt before me to help me remove my boots. I groaned a lot and even whimpered.

"They are still cold," I told him, while he held one that he had pronounced 'pink and healthy'. It was too late now for any toe- warming kisses from the king, and I knew that Thaladir would never comply with such a request, when a pot of hot water to dip my feet in would do just as well, so I leaned forward, fluttered my eyelashes, and asked him to kiss me.

While my cold toes soaked in an enamel basin, Thaladir had both fetched and poured the water by himself, I finally explained my thinking about his Your Very Goodness title.

"So far," I said, "everything that you told me about Rohan has been disproved. I met a horselord that can spell, there is a fireplace in this very room with a chimney, instead of a hole in the ceiling, and the ents are a bunch of dirty old tree-goats and are not some wise old men with branches, as you seem to have previously inferred. I don't think a person who made that many mistakes in a row deserves the highest score, do you?"

"Lady Mary..."

"Oh the horror of it, Your Very Goodness, the horror!" I interrupted him, because he appeared to be completely unruffled by my conclusions. "I shall never forget, never, for as long as I live!" To demonstrate, I put my hands over my face. "Do you want to hear what happened to me at Isengard?" I asked this from behind my fingers. "Never mind, it would turn your ears pink if I told you; it was that unseemly."

"Lady Mary, the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing, as our travels have been indicative of, and we have all learned more than we knew beforehand. When we proceed further into Rohan proper, you will see the more primitive architectural methods being employed. Indeed, many of these outlying villages were burnt during the raids of the Uruk Hai, as I do believe I informed you. His Majesty, Eomer, Eomund's son, has been a generous benefactor to his people and they are rebuilding apace in a more civilized fashion."

He went on to tell me that he was indeed disappointed, but not very surprised, to learn how curious the Isengard Onodrim might be about the sexuality of mortals and elves, and any other bendable being within their view. "However," he added wisely, "one should not infer by such personal and intimate inquiries that the ancient ones have a base prurient interest."

"Your Very Goodness, doesn't it concern you the least little bit that Treebeard tried to get me to drink one of his ent draughts, so he could watch me bust out of my clothes?"

"Nonsense," pronounced Thaladir. "The results of ingesting a single such serving has but a negligible effect on a fully grown mortal woman."

I snorted, then said, "How would you know? You were wrong about everything else."

"The Lady Malinorne was given the worthy opportunity to sample an ent-draught prepared by Bregalad during our sojourn amongst the ancient ones."

"Mal drank that green stuff!" It hit me then that had to be what was different about her. "It's like she is greener, or fresher, or, what am I trying to say?"

"Invigorated and revitalized are the words you may be seeking, Lady Mary."

"Well, of course they are, Thaladir." It made sense why the king was fascinated with her; he probably could tell immediately that she was subtly altered, and her hair was curlier. She was a brand new woman, compared to me. My heart sank.

~ Mal~

The bathroom was rather small and closet-like; there was no window and the only source of light seemed to be the water heating system - a few smouldering embers on a metal tray beneath the tub. The wooden barrel-like tub stood on a platform of bricks, which protected it from the fire. There was a full bucket beside it, as well as a step-ladder, but Thranduil lifted his long legs over the tub's edge with ease.

"Wait," he told me when I touched the ladder. "I think I shall take the opportunity to have my hair washed first, now that I have such a fetching bath attendant to serve me."

He settled in the bath - apparently there was a seat in there - and then scooted down so that his hair floated on the water, forming a pale halo around his regal face. An uneven, yellowish chunk of soap was all the house offered in the way of cosmetic products, but it smelt nicely of some sort of flower unknown to me. It gave a good lather, too, and Thranduil let out a contented sigh when I began to massage his scalp. I continued for quite a while, enjoying the simple pleasure of watching him relax.

I had to lean forward to be able to rinse off the lather completely, which placed my chest dangerously close to his mouth. Peering down, I saw a smile tug at the corner of his mouth. His eyes were closed, but he knew exactly where I was. He didn't take the bait, though, not until I had stopped dangling it and was again fully focused on my task. Then he nipped me, playfully, not hard, but the suddenness of it made me lose my balance. Immediately, a strong hand around my upper arm steadied me.

"I believe it is safest if you join me," he said. I agreed, and, with the help of the ladder and the king's arms, soon found myself in the water with him.

He looked strange with pieces of fluffy lather in his hair, and the foam floating on the surface added to the effect. In the half-dark room, I felt as if there was a magical creature in front of me, one that had just risen from the depths of the ocean. I imagined seaweed beneath my toes, and if the sea-creature would lift his arms from the water, I was not entirely sure his fingers wouldn't be webbed. His eyes were gleaming strangely, as if he was about to...

"...devour you?" asked Thranduil, breaking the spell with a chuckle. "Is an Elf-king not enough for you, so that you would rather dream up a monster?" He touched the tip of my nose with his index finger, and then flexed the hand in front of my face. No web.

"Of course not," I replied slowly, suddenly feeling a little melancholic. "I was just reminded of how different we are."

"That is of no consequence, my dear, as we are very much compatible." He grinned. "Now, if that is settled, I would have you finish your task." He grabbed my wrists and pulled me forward, until I was half lying on top of him. I had to lift my chin to keep the lower part of my face from being submerged, and then his mouth was there, catching my lips.

When he let go of me, I was ready to get up from the bath and onto the bed in the other room, but Thranduil would have none of it. He insisted on having his whole body washed by my hands, but without the soap, to eliminate the need for rinsing. There was only one bucket of clean water beside the tub, and that would be needed for the hair.

I enjoyed the process, of course, and the long, slow movements as I ran my hands over his limbs had a calming effect on me. My hot impatience faded to a simmering need, something very clear and present in my mind, but at the same time distant. I felt I could bear to wait for hours, but I knew that, when released, my need would flame up instantly. I would enjoy it, immensely, but for now, I could wait. The feeling of control made me proud, and I became bolder with my caresses. It was a new experience for me, getting to touch the king so intimately without him becoming too eager too fast. Now, he leaned back and relaxed until I had reached the limits of my imagination and was wondering if I could hold my breath were I to open my mouth under water.

Instead of letting me try to please him this way, he put his hands on my shoulders and gently turned me away from him. He pulled me to sit on his knee while his hands roamed all over me, washing and caressing my body, but not taking nearly as long time as I had with him, which was probably for the best. My sense of control was fading.

He left me in the tub to wash my hair, while he got up and poured the bucket of water over his head to rinse the remains of lather off. It was such an un-regal thing to do, and it made me laugh. Thranduil pursed his lips in an imitation of his seneschal, and then left the small room, grinning.

When I came out into the main room, he was standing by the window with a towel wound around his waist. As I vaguely wondered if there were any extra - I had used my own to wrap my hair in a turban to keep it from dripping - there was a knock at the door, just one, very distinct but not loud enough to be annoying. Thranduil answered it in the blink of an eye, and before I had even begun to look for something to cover myself with, Thaladir was in the room.

"Sire," he said, bowing his head slightly as he presented a bottle to the king. "Allow me to wish you a pleasurable night."

"Thank you, Thaladir. It has started fairly well."

"I can see that, Your Majesty. Lady Malinorne likewise appears most content." He nodded politely, as if he hadn't noticed my state of undress, and then he turned swiftly and left, raising a cloud of dust with his swishing robe. When the door closed, the king had already uncorked the bottle.

He pulled some of its contents into his mug, drained it with obvious pleasure and filled it again. Then he turned to me, still holding both the bottle and the mug.

"Some for you?"

"You said it was too strong...?"

"This is not the local mash, but Dorwinion from the north."

I realized I was very thirsty.

~ Mary~

There was a gentle thumping noise at my door, which Thaladir answered, and the innkeeper's daughter stepped in with dinner. The poor thing did not have a free hand to knock with and must have used her knee. She set a large tray down on the table, and uncovered the meal, including a squat jug of wine. After asking me if I wanted anything else, and I ordered some hot water for a bath, she left. The seneschal followed her and I sat to eat.

While I made headway with my stew, the bath was filled, the innkeeper himself helped his daughter with the buckets. They left and I made a sandwich, with some of the meat and cheese, to take into the bathing closet with me, before the water could get cold.

I luxuriated in the steamy water, munched on my sandwich, sipped my wine, and thought back on how easily I had managed to achieve this goal. I would have felt triumphant, except, after thinking it over, I was not all that sure if I truly wanted to be in a bathtub with something to eat. Where did that idea come from? A few more sips of wine later, I sat up with a gasp. The king!

Thranduil had, once again, set me up. All I had to do was cast my thoughts the king's way and we were connected. While I was out in the corridor with Anborn, right after Haldir mentioned the innkeeper's wife, which had reminded me of the king, he had meddled with my mind and sent me one of his silent messages. This time there was a series of pictures of my room to entice me, the images of hot water, solid food, and cold wine. None of that was my idea at all!

Now why would Thranduil do such a thing, what did he have in mind? Why did he want me to hide in my room? Or did he want me to just go right to sleep? After further reflection, I decided that he had probably even got me drunk on purpose the first night at the inn, just to make me that much more eager, for the peeping-tom ents' enjoyment, during the next night.

Outraged, I chewed the remains of my somewhat soggy sandwich and polished off my wine. It occurred to me that the king had probably deliberately made me sit in front of him on Amarth, too, because he knew how awful it would make me look. It was not a loving act at all. Did he want the men here to think that I was a boy? Was he trying to keep me disguised or was it all some kind of cruel joke?

My bathwater grew tepid as I sat, enraged, and tried to mentally reach Thranduil to let him know that I was on to all of his evil schemes. It was useless, he was not there, I could feel no response. The ent-draught-enhanced Mal must be keeping him busy. At least the innkeeper's wife would not have a chance to sink her claws into him tonight. It was a small consolation for my bruised feelings.

The instant I stepped out of bath, a fleeting moment of sheer freedom shot through me when I realized that I had nothing to wear with me. I almost laughed out loud and then I saw my robe hanging on a hook inside the bathing chamber. The seneschal always had me covered.

Under the robe was a nightgown, however it was one that I had never seen before and I wondered where it came from. Had it been purchased, somehow, from the innkeeper? The gown was simple, yet elegant, a sweet gauzy garment with a gathered neck that tied with a sky-blue ribbon. The long sleeves puckered in at the wrist, tied with the same ribbons, and a flowing skirt brushed softly against my shins and calves. I thought better of Thaladir, since I knew the king would not have cared if I ran around naked, and wished I had the chance to thank the old elf for his thoughtfulness.

The nightgown must have been made for the daughter of the house, I guessed, and I felt honored to be able to borrow it. Too bad there was no one around to see me wearing it. With a sigh, I covered it with the robe and stepped out of the bathing chamber and back into the sleeping area of my room. I refilled my wine cup and thought about revenge.

There was nothing to wear on my feet, but going barefoot was nice because the fire had finally warmed the floor. In fact, my room was nearly stuffy, mostly due to the residual moisture from my bath. Feeling angry did not help, and neither did the barley wine. To cool off a bit, I opened one of the window shutters, leaned out of it, and gazed out at the stars while breathing in the fresh air.

A small noise caught my attention, and I looked down below me to see Thaladir and Haldir near the stables, talking. Neither of them were going to come inside and sleep in the inn, and it made me feel a little sad to think it. A knock at my own door made me whirl around, startled. Who could that be? Was it Anborn? That rascal. If I could not have an elf in my bed, a mortal would have to do. At least he was not the hairiest man I had ever seen.

My heart pounded crazily as I tossed the robe off and called out to whoever was there to wait a minute. Frantically, I braided my damp hair in one plait and twisted that into a loose knot on top of my head. I fixed it into place by tucking the end into the center of the twisted part, and it held, and then I pulled a few pieces out to fall around my face for a girlish effect. I felt regal, and sexy. I bit my lips to make them redder and opened the door. The innkeeper's daughter gasped when she saw me.

"Where...?" she asked, as she glanced around the room, as if she was expecting to see someone else in there with me. Finally she focused on me again. "Is that you?"

"A little soap and water works miracles, doesn't it?" I put my robe back on while I asked, "Is this your gown I have on?"

"Yes, ma'am," she answered, with a dip at her knees. "I sewed it myself, do you like it?"

We chatted about the nightgown, she told me she had come to clear my table, and then I asked her if she saw a man standing at the top of the stairs. She was shocked to learn that Anborn, who was still standing guard, had no sleep, and probably had not eaten a decent meal, in days. I wrapped some of the leftover meat and cheese from my supper in a napkin and pressed it into her hands.

"Could you do me a favor and give him this, and please tell him that I want him to go to bed? I will not rest if he does not get some, too." She happily agreed and then I drew her over to the window. "Do you see that tall elf down there? Would you also please tell him that Lady Mary is going to sleep and she doesn't want him to bother her."

I listened at the door until I was sure she had time to deliver my message to Anborn, and had descended the stairs, and then I tiptoed out into the corridor. I could see the Ithilien ranger had not followed my request to go to bed, which I was sure he would not. He turned to see me. I held a finger to my lips to keep him quiet, and silently gestured at him to follow me back to my room.

~ Mal~

It may have been the wine, but when I finally found myself reclining on the bed in Thranduil's arms, I was not feeling harmonic at all. Instead, I was hit by the same feelings of reject I had experienced when he left for Orthanc with Mary without even caring to mention it to me in advance.

"Why didn't you take me with you?" I asked when he cupped my left breast. The metal from his rings suddenly seemed cold against my skin, as cold as his heart.

"Would you rather have not visited Fangorn?" The calmness of his voice as he continued to let his fingers play enraged me.

"You took Mary with you!" I said accusingly. "And you could at least have said something!"

"Would it have made you happier to worry for hours ahead?"

I hated that he was right. Knowing that he would leave with Mary for many days would have ruined my sleep, and spoilt the fun of being with him, for days in advance. He could see the answer in my mind, of course, but I refused to give him the victory by admitting it out loud.

"I have missed you, too," he said quietly, totally putting me off balance with this simple remark. I stared at him, bewildered. All negative feelings seemed to melt away in seconds as he stroked my hair and wound a lock around his finger, pulling me even closer.

"You have tasted the ents' brew," he whispered. "Now, tell me what else you have experienced in my absence."

I immediately thought about the twins, and berated myself for it. It wasn't fair that a silly dalliance, as Thaladir had called it, left a stronger imprint in my mind than all the wonders I had seen in Fangorn. I tried to push back the vivid memory of Elladan lifting a writhing crustacean from the river, and all that followed after that. Ents, I wanted to think about ents!

"No," came the king's voice in my ear, like a gentle caress. "Fangorn has great patience. The Onodrim can wait. Tell me about those depraved peredhil. Show me."

"They are almost as wicked as you. But only almost."

In my mind I went back to that night at the edge of Fangorn, and everything that happened there. I let the king see how Elladan had taken me, and then how Elrohir had done the same, and then both twins once more, and all the kisses and caresses that interspersed it. He watched with interest, but I think he liked the dirty talk the most. He stroked me lazily the entire time, but it was during the crude and detailed banter between the brothers that his passion increased. I eagerly tried to recall as much as possible, egging us both on until I felt I would surely die if I couldn't have some of the real thing soon.

"No," protested the king, laughing, when I pushed my hand under his towel, but he allowed me to continue for quite a while before he lifted my fingers off him, and said, "I want to hear more."

"Can I tell you about the ents, then? Or it will have to wait, until much later, and I mean it." I gave him a very horny gaze. He chuckled.

"Mary found the tree-herds nosy and unseemly. Does my concubine have the same complaint?"

"They were curious, and they don't seem to know or care too much about what would be proper conversation for us. But they were kind and considerate, and eager to show us everything in Fangorn that they thought special. I liked them, especially Quickbeam."

"He laughs almost as much as he talks, which is a lot for an ent."

"It was impossible to feel sad in his company, even when I thought of you." I plucked at his towel again, which made him chuckle and swat my fingers playfully.

"I do not believe you were left without anyone to comfort you." He grinned, but there was serious concern in his voice. It made me happy; I just wished I had known earlier.

"Thaladir didn't want to," I told him. "I mean," I added when he lifted his eyebrows quizzically," it was obvious that he wanted, but he said it wasn't allowed, as he didn't have direct orders from you."

"The old fool," he said gently. "My seneschal is sometimes too loyal." I could tell that he was more proud than annoyed by the fact.

"He did help me a little, though." I gave the king a peek at Thaladir's passive technique when we were alone in Quickbeam's house. He nodded.

"He takes pride in his self-control. What about the March warden? You are drawn to him."

"Yes, but then Elladan and Elrohir came..."

"And you decided that two are better than one? I am not so sure. But the sons of Elrond are known never to miss an opportunity."

"Never are you, Your Majesty."

"Indeed. I believe I have something to show you. Now."

~ Mary~

Anborn was hastily finishing his last mouthful of the slapped together sandwich I had made him, which kept him quiet while he tiptoed to my room. Once we were inside, he pulled me to him and I pushed him away. I whispered to him that we had to wait until Thaladir made his last check before we could properly say hello to each other and directed him to sit at the table.

Once sat, he found the jug of wine and set to finishing it, while I put out the candles. The room was lit only by the fireplace. I removed my robe and stood in front of the flames to make my gown transparent to his view, and smiled at the groan of appreciation he made. Again, I put my finger to my lips and then I stepped over to the window to keep an eye on the elves by the stable.

I was careful to stay in the shadows, so that I could not be seen from below, while I watched the young maid deliver my message to Thaladir. The little minx cast a few sly glances at Haldir, who was standing nearby, and he even grinned at her, that handsome devil. The seneschal raised his head to see my window. I had no doubt that he did not believe a word she said about me going to sleep now, and would come inside to see for himself, and I was right.

"Get up and stand beside the door," I hissed at Anborn and then jumped into my bed. "Thaladir is coming," I added, before I pulled the covers over me and pretended to be asleep. In my head, I mentally followed the tall elf through the inn's doors and up the stairs. He would see that Anborn was not standing guard anymore and he would be suspicious. At that point, he would probably turn around and seek out the serving maid, to ask her what she knew about the ranger's whereabouts. I gave him time for it, and for her to report what I told her to tell Anborn.

Thaladir would come right to my door after that, I reasoned, and it swung open, hiding Anborn from view, the precise moment I thought it should. I sat up, rubbed my eyes, and glared at the seneschal's silhouette in my doorway.

"I knew you would try something like this, you old lecher," I accused him, talking fast so he could not get in a word. "You had your chance to kiss me earlier and you turned it down. It's too late now, go away, I don't want to have sex wi..." The door shut before I could finish my sentence, which was fine with me.

After holding my hand up to stop Anborn from moving yet, I pointed to the gap under the door, and the shadows cast by the feet standing in front of it. With my hand cupped to my ear, I indicated what I believed Thaladir was doing on the other side and Anborn grinned at me and nodded in agreement. He was a ranger, after all, and probably knew a lot more about being sneaky than I ever would.

We waited, and finally the shadows moved away. We waited some more, and then Anborn, his ear pressed against the door, stood back and motioned to me to get off the bed. I opened the door far enough to peek out. The corridor was empty. As quietly as I could manage it, I latched it after I shut it, and then was grabbed and lifted off of my feet by two thick arms, apparently made from cast iron.

"Hello," he said, and then he kissed me, hard.

As soft-footed as an elf, Anborn moved quietly while he carried me back to the bed. Finally alone together at long last, we sat on the bed, with me on his lap, and kissed some more. At first, his hungry hands moved over my back, and then they found my front, and then they traveled under my gown, until I was moaning with desire for more than just petting.

It was easy enough to undress me, but a ranger wears layers of clothes, and a pair of boots besides, and it took a while for Anborn to be naked, too. Under the covers, we were lying on our sides facing each other, I broke off from kissing him long enough to scold him, in a whisper, for being foolish with his health by not sleeping for the last few days.

He rolled onto his back and was quiet, so I put my head on his shoulder and waited for him to answer me. After a few more silent moments, he began to snore. I shook him, and he snored louder. Discouraged and too sleepy to make a fuss, I was going to follow him into dreamland, but first I sent one last loud and clear message to Thranduil, "This is all your fault!" But I do not think he was listening.

I snuggled closer to Anborn, who turned sideways again and pulled me to lie with my back against his chest. With a contented sigh, he then threw both an arm and leg over me, pinning me in place with their dead weight. Hopelessly trapped, I closed my eyes to sleep, and then heard three light taps on my door. My efforts to shift Anborn off of me only made him grab me tighter to him. It had been ages since I had slept with a human and I forgot how annoying they can be in bed.

"Sorry, Haldir," I whispered into the night. If it was him, and if he heard me, I do not know, but I did not hear anything else for a long time, except a snoring ranger.

Because I forgot to shut the window, a ray from the morning sun shot right in unimpeded and pierced through my eyelids and tried to kill my eyeballs. It was at that same moment when I remembered how effectively I was immobilized. I could not even lift a hand to cover my eyes from the merciless sun. In pain, I made a noise between a whimper and a whine, as I prepared my throat to shriek.

"Good morning, darling," Anborn uttered hoarsely, surprising me, because I thought he was still asleep. "Did you sleep well?" His grip loosened enough to let me turn to face him.

"About as well as anyone can who has to sleep with a bear," I replied grumpily as he kissed my face.

"You will have to forgive me, my dearest," Anborn apologized sweetly. "I have not slept in a regular bed since Rivendell. I am afraid the comfort acted upon me the same way a sleeping-tonic would have done." He was really quite handsome in the full daylight and I forgot how irritating he had been during the night.

"Well, at least you are probably not as furry as a real bear," I said as I played with a tuft of his crisp black chest hair. It curled when I twisted it, and I knew it tickled him when I did. "But you sure can snore louder than a whole den full of them." Anborn laughed and began to caress me boldly.

"And how do you know what a den full of bears would sound like?" He asked me in a playful tone, while he gently pushed me over to lie flat on my back and let his hand travel at will.

"I have a really good imagination," I panted, getting excited by what he was doing at that moment with his fingers.

The knock at the door could not have come at a worse time, and from the familiar sound, I knew exactly who was on the other side.

To be continued...

A/N: Mary and Mal's visits with the Ents were much enhanced by this article by Michael Martinez:

He Shall Be Like a Tree Planted By the Rivers of Water


Thaladir's notebook will return next chapter!

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Chapter posted: March 29, 2007

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"Long live Thranduil, great Elf-king of Greenwood!"