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Far Beyond Mirkwood, Chapter 11/?

Authors: Mary A and Malinornë
Pairings: Mainly Thranduil/OFCs
Warnings: Adult sexual content, lots of naked flesh, naughty elf lovemaking practices.
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: Mary and Mal wake up, get dressed, have breakfast, and learn what is in store for them for the day.

~ Mary~

I opened the door enough for the seneschal to see my face, and then glared at him while I waited for him to speak first. It was hard to keep the frown on my face when I saw what he carried. Over his right arm, there was my riding suit, obviously clean and probably pressed, and from his hand dangled my boots, polished. I could feel my resolve to get rid of him as soon as possible beginning to melt. Until he spoke.

"Good morning, Lady Mary," Thaladir said. "I trust that you have slept well."

"Your Very Goodness," I sighed out. "I know you didn't wake me up at the crack of dawn, and make me get out of my warm bed, just to ask me if I slept well. Did you?" I was prepared to slam the door in his face if he mentioned a room inspection.

The old elf drew himself up, suddenly appearing taller than usual, and looked down his nose at me. "In truth, Lady Mary," he said, "your sleeping habits and general health fall under my official purview and are always of an utmost concern to me."

"In that case, of course I didn't sleep well," I said curtly, adding, "And I never will again, until we go back home to the caves, which isn't soon enough for me." I yawned loudly, to show him how sleep-deprived I felt, and then added, "Is there anything else you need to know?"

"His Majesty requires your presence in the common room for breakfast; he asks that you be dressed and ready to be escorted downstairs within an hour."

"A whole hour?" I had to smile, finally, even though I had an instant inclination to ask why I could not eat in my room. "Your score may have to be adjusted back to excellent now," I said in wonder. "First you bring me pants to wear, instead of a gown, and now you are giving me a whole hour to get ready, gosh, what next?" I batted my eyelashes at him. "Maybe a good morning kiss?"

"It was His Majesty's gracious suggestion to grant you the hour, Lady Mary, preparatory to delivering this into your hands." As he spoke, he reached into his sleeve and pulled out a scroll of parchment, just a single sheet, loosely rolled. "This is a revised page for your travel itinerary." He held it out for me, but I ignored it, being more interested in what he had said about Thranduil.

"Ah, I see, the king thought you could soften me up first and then you could easily foist your shackles on me again?"

"Lady Mary," said the seneschal, with a hint of scorn in his otherwise controlled tone, "I would hardly term this revision to our schedule as the equivalent to a physical restraining device."

"Well, see, your way of terming things, and that dumb piece of paper," I pointed at the scroll, "have cost you some valuable points, Your Very Goodness." I reached out to take my clothes and boots from him, therefore revealing a bare arm and shoulder.

"Lady Mary, did you not find the articles of nightwear that were made available for your use within the bathing closet?"

"Of course I found them, and the gown was very pretty, don't you remember seeing me wearing it when you tried to get into bed with me last night? You normally aren't so forgetful."

"Lady Mary, I..."

"At this rate, Thaladir, I may have to refer to you as Your Not That Goodness." Deftly, I shut the door and waited for the knock. When it came, I cracked it open again.

"You forgot to take your revision," he said firmly, holding the scroll out to me again. "Please place it within your itinerary."

"What's the point? You will probably have to write up another one before the day is through anyway... okay, hand it over." I was weary of the battle, and eager to get back in my bed, so I took the scroll, closed the door again, tossed the offensive piece of parchment over my shoulder, and then I opened the door one last time. The seneschal's back was just disappearing when I called out to him.

"You know what, Thaladir?" With extraordinary swiftness, the old elf came to a complete halt and turned back to face me. "I do have one thing to say in your favor," I continued. "At least you have never asked me any unseemly questions about my sex life with Thranduil, especially with sound effects, so you have that going for you." Before he could reply, I closed the door and latched it.

I tossed the riding outfit onto the vacant bed, the one Mal was supposed to be using, for propriety's sake. With the way the servants moved about in our rooms, by now the whole village probably knew where each of us had spent her night, and with whom.

"You can come out, now," I whispered through the bathing closet door to Anborn, moments later. Like a tortured bull let out of the chute into the bullring, the lustful ranger flung open the door and hurled himself at me.

"It felt like an eternity to be apart from you, my love," he declared, while he carried me across the room.

"We have an hour together, thanks to the king," I told him, after he threw me down on the bed and himself on top of me. With an expression of pure befuddlement, he raised up on his elbows enough to see my face.

"Your king knows that I am in here with you?" After he asked, I closed my eyes and searched for Thranduil's presence in my mind. He was there, but feather-light, unconcerned, and quite unimpressed. I opened my eyes again and smiled.

"Oh, he knows, but don't worry." I reached up, put my arms around Anborn's neck, and tried to pull him back down to me. "If he didn't want you to be in here with me, then you wouldn't be here." He resisted my embrace and kept himself lifted up.

"Why then did I have to hide in the bathing chamber?"

"You are just full of questions, for a man," I said with a pout. "Can't you think of something better to not talk about right now?" He grinned as I wiggled under him suggestively, while pulling him back down to me, and this time he stayed put.

~ Mal ~

When I opened my eyes that morning I was treated to a truly royal sight. Thranduil was standing by the window, looking out, and he wasn't wearing a thread. His hair hid much of his muscular back, but I was more than content to behold his strong shoulders and how his body narrowed at the waist and then filled out again at his hips. I caressed his buttocks with my gaze, and the soft skin on his inner thighs, too, and then I ran my eyes along his lean, powerful legs down to his feet. And up again.

As I studied him, lustful thoughts began to form in my head. Not that they aren't there when he's dressed, but he was even more irresistible naked. I sat up in the bed, pulled the blanket to the side and swung my feet onto the floor. It was cold! I pulled my legs back onto the bed and lay down again, following the Elvenking with my gaze and hoping to arouse his interest.

"Get up," he said, without turning from the window. "There is fresh water in the bathroom."

I sighed, disappointed that he wouldn't come back to bed, but did as he said. The floor wasn't that cold once I got used to it after a few steps, and after a quick visit to the bathroom I realised that the temperature was bearable and I could survive without putting on my clothes at once. So I tiptoed to Thranduil, curious to see what he was looking at with such interest.

The inn was located by the ford, and this side of it faced the river. There were no buildings on the other side, only green pastures, without a single tree. After Fangorn it sill felt strange to be able to see that far, but it was very beautiful.

The scenery outside was nothing compared to the Elvenking, though. I slipped behind him and put my arms around his waist, resting my head against his warm back.

"Do we really have to go downstairs so soon?"

"You may try to encourage me to the contrary." I could hear that he was smiling.

It would have been so easy to just lower my hands and fondle him, but I chose another path. Still with my hands on his hips, I rained small kisses all over his back, mumbled silly little words of how much I loved him and had missed him.

"I want to be with you always," I whispered into his ear as I pressed myself against him. He let out a laugh, which made his shoulders shake.

"I do not doubt the sincerity of those words; however, I find it unlikely that you would indeed choose to accompany your king in his every endeavour."

"If you let me, I will."

"I prefer to hunt alone. But there are other activities, more suitable for sharing..."

Before he had finished the sentence I found myself standing in front of him; he had shifted our positions in the blink of an eye. Now it was he pressing against my backside, his hands around my waist, only his approach was more direct. With one hand he cupped my breast, while the other dipped low to stroke the curls between my legs. I let out a contented sigh as his curious fingers grew more persistent.

Then I realised that I was standing right in front of the window. There still wasn't anybody there, only the river and beyond it the empty plains that seemed to stretch all the way to the horizon. The idea of being exposed still made me cringe, and I tried to a step backwards, and then to the side. To no avail.

"I am here," said the king. "You said you desire to be where I am, and I am here." He stilled his hands for a moment. If I wanted to go, here was a chance to do it. I chose to stay.

"You win," I told him softly, looking over my shoulder. His face emanated kindness, and lust.

He caught my lips in a hungry kiss, and then coaxed me even closer to the window. I took hold of the windowsill, casting all doubts, as well as modesty, aside. I was well rewarded for it, just like Thranduil had said, and for some time I couldn't care less if all of Rohan would ogle us in the act. But, when I did look again, it was comforting to find nothing there, nothing but green grass.

~ Mary ~

It seemed that only a few brief moments had passed, after I had finally coaxed Anborn to get dressed and go back to his room to wash up, when I heard a knock at the door. Three short raps. I hopped out of bed and ran to open it.

"Haldir!" He had come to escort me to breakfast. It was good to see him standing there, instead of Thaladir. I let him have more than a peek at me. "Notice anything?"

"You are not yet dressed," he observed, after taking a good long look. "Perhaps I should leave and return?"

"Yes, you should, darn it. But, will you do me a favor and send up that younger serving woman with a bucket of hot water and some more linens?" I grabbed up my riding suit and tossed it into the bathing closet. "I don't need another whole bath," I said over my shoulder. "Just enough water to tidy up around the edges." He left and I put my robe on. I had a plan.

The serving girl came with a cute freckle-faced boy beside her, they both carried buckets. He nodded at me, mumbling, "Good morning, ma'am," as he passed and his cheeks flushed when I winked at him. It was delightful to have someone get my gender right. I pulled the serving girl aside, to stand by the bathing closet, and waited for him to leave.

"I have a big problem," I confided to her from behind the half-opened door, while I washed myself discreetly. "I really want to try to appear more like a woman than a little horselord in this riding suit." I dressed in the pants and tunic and showed her. She agreed that it was suitable for riding, and in fact very nice, but not for feeling glamorous.

We conferred, and decided that hair ribbons would help some. She had a pair of scarlet ones that she let me use, and together we fashioned my hair with them. At her suggestion, I tried on a linen blouse, borrowed from her closet, and tucked it into my leggings. From the waist up, at least, I thought I more closely resembled a girl; but without a mirror, I had no idea.

When I came out of the bathing chamber, Haldir was standing inside my room, leaning against the wall beside the door, with his arms crossed over his chest. I felt that I was on the right track when he stood up straighter, smiled at me, and bowed, although I did giggle at him.

"Do I look better today?"

Haldir held out an elbow and said, "It is indeed my pleasure to have the honor of escorting you to breakfast this morning, Lady Mary." His words were encouraging, and so was his smile as he led me down the stairs and into the common room, I felt almost beautiful. Then I saw Mal; she was seated already, to the right of the king, who was standing at the head of the table.

She was wearing her gown, of course, which made me feel dowdy in the simple blouse I had on, but it would not have made a difference whether she wore satin and lace or an old potato sack. If she had been the picture of glowing health the night before, then she was twice as radiant this morning. I noticed it, so the elves must have been nearly blinded by her. There were horsemen all around us, and they were lifting their heads from their plates, poking at each other and grinning in her direction. She only had eyes for the king.

"Darling," I heard someone say next to me, and I felt fingers gently touching my free elbow, while I approached the table with Haldir. At that point, I was trying to decide if I wanted to sit at Thranduil's other side, or as far from both of them as I could get. "Darling, will we sit together?" It was Anborn speaking.

I had not even noticed he was in the room, so instantly blinded was I by jealousy at the sight of the ent-draughted Mal, with Thranduil by her side. I tugged Haldir to a halt, and thanked him for bringing me that far, and then I took Anborn's arm.

"You can escort me to the king's side," I whispered to the ranger. "After that, we will have to play it by ear." As we drew closer, I saw that Thranduil was speaking to the inn-keeper. There was a vacant seat on his left, and another one next to it, probably meant for Thaladir. Haldir stood behind the vacant seat next to Mal. I did not take time to glance around for the seneschal. As long as he was not directly between me and the table, he was neutralized.

"Good morning, sire," I said, smiling politely, to Thranduil, when we finally stood in front of him. "Thank you for asking me to breakfast, at least you remembered I am alive. Mal, you look nice." I added the last briskly. The king had seemed amused by the sight of me and my escort, and lifted his eyebrow at me. If he was going to say anything at that moment, he did not get the chance.

"I humbly offer my greetings of the day, Your Majesty of Eryn Lasgalen," said Anborn cheerfully. He bowed, too, with his head nearly touching his bent knee. It was quite a display and if Thaladir saw it then he had to be pleased. Thranduil nodded his head at the man and murmured, "Good day," in return. The courtly ranger was not done yet.

"I bring you salutations from your son, my lord, and have been bidden to deliver this missive into your hands." Anborn reached within his leather tunic and pulled out a tightly bound scroll. While the king opened the message, breaking a wax seal and removing strings, my escort happily greeted Mal by her full name, adding, "dear Lady of the Squirrels," which made me choke.

Thranduil glanced up at me as he opened the scroll, and gestured at us to sit, and Anborn sat right next to me, turning his chair so he faced me. No one else dared make a sound, because the king was reading to himself, and I still did not know where Thaladir was. I did not want to look behind me, in case he was there, glowering at me.

As if to reward Malinorne for listening quietly, Thranduil sat down, finally, and handed her the scroll, which he had scanned quickly. I watched her eyes dance across the page, she so loved to read Elvish script, and her smile either widened or disappeared, depending on what she read there.

"Share it with the table," prompted the king, and of course she did, reading out loud, and captivating whatever smidgen of available attention left that she did not already have. Even the horsemen grew silent. It was mostly news about the caves, the new elves from Lorien, Helca and Canath, and other things that made me so home-sick that I thought I would die.

~ Mal ~

When the king and I entered the common room, it at first appeared crowded to me, at least compared to the night before, but it actually wasn't even half full. Only a third of the tables were occupied, and most had just one customer sitting at them. The only other women in the room were the ones I had seen yesterday; the inn-keeper's wife, and a younger girl that just had to be her daughter. I warily looked around me, prepared to see a leer or at least a suggestive grin on every face, but the men were all too busy eating to even notice us. The food was obviously tasty, and it made me feel hungry.

There was someone who had been waiting for us, though. Thaladir approached us silently, and, after nodding to the king, he escorted us to a table in the far end of the room. It was loaded with food already; two kinds of bread, butter and cheese, and there was some kind of meat, too, apparently smoked, in thick slices. And jam. The thought of a piece of warm bread with half-melted butter and jam made my mouth water. It required considerable effort to sit down and wait politely.

The two elves remained standing, conversing in low voices. I heard a mention of 'Mary' and 'soon', but otherwise not much. To take my mind from the food I began to study the other guests more closely. The middle-aged man at the nearest table was a textbook horselord: blue-eyed, tall, and with a mane of honey-blond curls framing his face, which could have looked androgynous in an elf, but there was no doubt to the gender of this human. His powerful chin was clean-shaven, but his upper lip was adorned by a moustache that had run wild.

At the table to our right were four men with mud splashed up even on the front of their leather costumes, which made me think they had not stayed the night, but rather came in to have a break from patrolling duties. They were young and rowdy, and one of them made a clumsy attempt at putting his arm around the servant girl, who slipped out of his grip.

There was a rustle at my side and I glanced up at the seneschal, who was already wearing his infamous frown. But, when I turned my attention back to the men, I saw the perpetrator bowing to the girl, a sheepish and suitably apologetic smile on his face. He suddenly looked very cute.

Then there was a bang from the front door and another group of riders, somewhat grim-looking, entered the room. The newcomers had sweaty faces and dirty boots, and they looked around them before walking to the bar in long strides. I could not tell exactly what they were looking at, but I swear more than one appreciative glance was directed at Thranduil. The inn-keeper's wife hurried to their side, but I must have misunderstood what they ordered. Milk?

"The intake of the milk of goats, as well as sheep, by adults is not uncommon among the Rohirrim," Thaladir informed me. "The nutritional qualities thereof are indubitable, wherefore said habit, however curious, clearly has some merit."

I was spared further lecturing by Mary's sudden appearance, on Haldir's arm, which must have reminded the seneschal about something, as he left the room. She looked very pretty in a roguish sort of way, which made me feel a bit uncomfortable in my girly dress, but she was not nearly as happy as she should have been, considering who was escorting her. Haldir looked like he wouldn't mind having her for breakfast. And, there was a mortal man vying for her attentions, too. He was dark, very handsome and vaguely familiar.

Mary took his offered elbow, which seemed to almost make him swoon. That exaggerated reaction reminded me who he was - her persistent admirer from Rivendell, the Ithilien ranger who had serenaded her and sworn to follow her to the end of the world, or something like that. He still didn't seem too bright, but the starry-eyed adoration with which he treated her made me a little jealous nevertheless. I felt better when I noticed that Haldir now stood by my other side.

The ranger escorted Mary to the table and greeted Thranduil with many bows and intricate gestures; he even bent his knee, as if he was going to ask for the king's hand. I hoped for a second that he would ask for Mary's. Instead he produced a scroll, which he presented to the king with more gestures and flowery speech. It turned out that he had been in Mirkwood, and Legolas had given him a letter.

I was surprised to hear the man address me next, as we had barely met, and he did it in a funny way, too, but maybe that was the way people expressed himself in Ithilien. I smiled amiably at him, deciding that 'Lady of the Squirrels' must somehow be his strange way of acknowledging my status as concubine to the lord of the forest with the black squirrels.

He sat down next to Mary, at about the same time the seneschal returned. The old elf looked astonished for a fraction of a second, horrified that someone would dare to take his place, but quickly found himself when Haldir pulled a chair from another table to make room for him at the short end of ours, opposite Thranduil, who was still reading the letter from his son. His facial expression didn't reveal anything of its contents, and I wondered if he would share it with us.

I regretted that thought almost immediately, when the king placed the scroll in my hands and told me to read it aloud. Not that I minded the reading as such, but I would rather have had something to eat first. But, it was a very nice letter, beautifully penned and not too embellished - the tengwar letters were easy to discern, and most of the wording was simple as well. Legolas must have suspected that his father would want to share it, and had thus written it in such a way that Mary and I would to be able to understand without translation help.

"Siniath vaer," I read. Good news. What followed was an account of the state of Thranduil's realm, and nearly every inhabitant of it, or at least the ones with important positions in the caverns. Canath was proud to announce the amount by which the king's treasures had increased due to favourable trade contracts, negotiated by Helca on her latest, rather lengthy, visit to Lake town. I shuddered involuntarily, remembering the cold, but very bright financial advisor and her taste for mortal men with power. Her lover, the merchant Renk, was still the most despicable creature I had met in Middle-earth. But as long as they were happy... the king surely was, as the relationship was very profitable for him.

Legolas also told about the new telain being built by Lórien elves who had relocated to what was now the northern part of the joined realm of Eryn Lasgalen, and how a number of former Mirkwood inhabitants had likewise moved south. And, the part that was hardest for me to read, he said that autumn had come to the north early this year and that the trees were already putting on their brightest colours. This reminded me of when I had first arrived to Mirkwood, and it brought tears to my eyes. I blinked them away and continued reading the greetings and well wishes from everyone to the king and his travel companions.

It was a good letter, and I was happy to have been allowed to see it. Thranduil was proud of my reading, so it didn't matter so much that Thaladir pointed out a mistake I had made in the very beginning. But, it showed that I needed more practice. Perhaps the seneschal could be convinced to take up our lessons again? Maybe, if we travelled together in the same carriage, I could work on my pronunciation?

Those thoughts occupied my mind for most of the breakfast, and I paid a lot more attention to the food than to what the others were saying. But, Mary's pet ranger talked a lot.

~ Mary ~

Mal carefully rolled up the scroll and handed it back to Thranduil. From somewhere beside me, probably on the other side of Anborn, whose massive girth was like a brick wall, I heard Thaladir quietly say, "Well done, Lady Malinorne, but please remember to put more emphasis on the first syllable in the word, 'siniath', it should be pronounced..." The seneschal never did finish his sentence, the king lifted his hand, and the old elf shut up.

"I believe," said Thranduil, smiling at Mal, "that the recitation was a charming display of my worthy concubine's talents," he turned to Thaladir, "and of her tutor's masterful teaching ability." He picked up his fork and began to eat, and everyone else did too. Like a broken spell, the whole room seemed to come alive at once, and the buzz of conversation filled the air.

"I want to go home," I said, to no one in particular. "I even miss Helca, if you can believe that." Mal rolled her eyes at the name, but kept smiling. Thranduil did not even look up from his breakfast.

"Helca?" Anborn said. "You miss the ice?" He had spread some fruit preserve on an oatmeal cake, and handed it to me, I shook my head 'no' at it.

"Miss Ice?" I replied. "Well, you could say that, but, really, she could be nice sometimes, after she got her kitty," I looked into his bewildered face. "She was very pretty. The kitty, I mean." I suddenly had to wipe tears from my eyes. Anborn stared at me a moment and then looked around the table, as if he needed help.

"Helca is the name of one of His Majesty's most valued subjects, sir Anborn," Thaladir informed him. "She owns a pet cat." He said the last two words as if he was mentioning a disease. "Lady Mary will have to work harder on her pronunciation as well."

"Thank you, Your Excellency," I said absentmindedly.

Anborn nodded wisely in reply to the seneschal, but I still do not know if he understood. Not that I cared really. In my head, I was racing through the tunnels of the king's underground palace, and trotting down the scary stairs, while chasing Helca's cat around. It was dark there, and quiet, and not infested with noisy, hairy, muddy men, like this place was. And not one of them knew I was a girl, it seemed.

"Those ribbons in your hair are very pretty," said Anborn, as he offered the oatcake to me again.

"I'm glad someone thinks so," I said, waving it away again. His compliment did make me feel a little happier. I could see that some of the horsemen surrounding us were casting sly glances my way, too, and not just at Mal. They probably thought it was odd to see a boy with ribbons in his hair.

"When are we leaving here?" I asked out loud.

"Lady Mary," answered Thaladir, "our departure time was clearly delineated in the revision to our travel itinerary, which I distributed earlier. I clearly recall placing said scroll into your hands."

"Here it is," said Anborn helpfully, pulling the rolled piece of parchment out from some hidden pocket within his tunic, like he was an elf. "It was on your floor," he explained, and I wished that I could have seen the seneschal's eyebrows at that moment.

"You are so thoughtful," I mumbled.

"I took the liberty of reading it," the ranger continued, pausing only to chew and swallow the oatcake he had been holding out to me, in order that he could unroll the page. "The royal party shall be leaving after breakfast."

"You can decipher that? All of that Elvish timetable stuff?"

"It is quite easy to read," Anborn replied, but without his usual boastful undertone. He handed it to me and as I read over Thaladir's meticulous handwriting, all I noticed was who I was riding with today, and my head began to hurt.

"I think you are just saying that to be modest," I told him as I rolled the scroll up and set it aside.

"Actually, it is composed as if it was meant for a small child to read, sweetness," said the ranger, innocently, after he picked it up again. "If you would just look at it..."

"I don't have time for lessons right now," I interrupted him, perhaps a bit sharply, "I'm hungry." I picked up an oatcake from the serving platter in the middle of the table and pretended to be searching for the butter, and then the preserves, until he gave up and put the scroll down. From across the table, I heard Mal sigh.

After taking a nibble from the oatcake, chewing it carefully, and washing it down with some coffee, I finally peeked over at the king. He was looking at Mal, of course. I put the cake down, having lost my non-existent appetite. There was only one possible course of action left to me. I started to form a plan in my head.

"Darling, are you unwell?" Anborn asked.

"Lady Mary is fine," answered Thranduil, and I picked up my oatcake and pretended to care about it. The king added, sounding vaguely amused, "She is trying to think of a way to coerce you into taking her back to Isengard." I gasped at his words. "She thinks she made a mistake and wants to correct it. Her first step is to convince my seneschal to allow her to ride with you, instead of him."

"That's not fair, to tell!" I cried.

"You have the right, my dear mortal maid," declared the king, wiping his hands on his napkin, "to be upset about things that make no sense, and jealous for no reason." He set the napkin on the table, leveled his gaze at me, and continued, "You do not, however, have the right to put what belongs to me in jeopardy. You will ride with Thaladir."

"Yes, sire," I answered meekly.

"And you will not torment him."

"Why don't you just chop my head off and get it over with?"

"Do not tempt me."

~ Mal ~

After breakfast, when I returned to Thranduil's room to wash my hands, I discovered that the few possessions I had brought were already packed. I lingered by the window for a minute, smiling to myself as I saw two girls sit on the riverbank, chatting as they watched a float bobbing in the stream. They were too young to dream of elves, yet. Or, maybe not. A boy ran past and one of them turned her head and whistled after him.

Through the open door to the corridor I heard Mary's voice, and then Haldir's. It was time to leave. I picked up the cloth bag my things were in and went down the stairs. The others were there already, and Thaladir was in the middle of a mild argument with our host.

"Master innkeeper," the elf said, "allow me to inform you that one of the beds in the ladies' room has not been slept in."

"That's all right, what you do with the rooms after you rent them is your own business. I don't poke my nose into my guests' private affairs."

"My intention was to draw your attention to the unstirred condition of said commodity, thereby indicating the suitability of a small reduction of the room fee, as it has not been used by two persons, merely one."

"Excuse me, my lord, but there were certainly two in that one bed that was used, if you get my drift. It was used well, too."

"The room was hired for ladies Mary and Malinorne, one of which did not even enter said room."

"She still spent the night in another room of this establishment." He smiled and nodded respectfully towards Thranduil with a 'Your Lordship', which Thaladir immediately corrected to 'Majesty'. The innkeeper sounded annoyed when he addressed the seneschal again. "I could certainly charge twice for his room, the finest I have, if that would be more agreeable to you, master elf."

"Ah," intervened the king, "I believe the good man here has indeed done us a favour by closing his eyes, or should I say ears, to the fact that his most expensive room actually had two occupants, rather than the one paid for." The innkeeper narrowed his eyes and formed his lips into a perfect smirk as he nodded enthusiastically. Thaladir's eyes grew round.

"Your Majesty!" the elf hissed through pursed lips.

"Yes, Thaladir. Contrary to my reputation, I wish to begin this journey into the lands of men with a little generosity." The seneschal looked like he had bitten into a lemon, but he acknowledged the king's decision with a nod, a very stiff nod.

The innkeeper rubbed his hands with excitement as he waited for the final verdict. I couldn't blame him; it was too much fun to watch the old elf in a snit, provided one wasn't on the receiving end of it.

"I believe the present state of affairs is satisfactory," the seneschal told him curtly. "I bid you a good day."

He turned his heel and went towards the door without as much as a little nod, not even to the king. We all held our breath, until Thranduil chuckled. Then the innkeeper chuckled, too, and when we left the inn a few minutes later, I felt that we would be very welcome back, if we were ever to come to these parts again.

Outside, Thaladir waited with our horses, and there was not a trace of emotion on his face that could have betrayed how he felt about the situation that had just passed. The king slapped his back good-naturedly, which, if meant as encouragement, seemed to have the opposite effect. If possible, the seneschal straightened his back even further. His face was still blank when he lifted me onto Thranduil's horse. I was happy that I wouldn't be the one to ride with him. Poor Mary!

~*~ From Thaladir's Notebook: ~*~

Status of daily schedule: ?

Remarks: Upon leaving the village of men by the ford of the Entwash, I find it necessary to note that His Majesty has of late become most irresponsible with his treasure, wherefore I fear I shall have to write to Canath on the matter of procuring additional means to cover the expenses of our onward journey. The man of Ithilien can, perchance, once again be trusted with a message, thereby somewhat increasing the small probability that I will continue to be lenient regarding his interest in Lady Mary, which, despite his manners, remarkable in a mortal, must be declared most unseemly. His Majesty has, to this point, paid insufficient attention to said affair, a situation I have every intention to amend once his renewed relationship with his concubine has been well established. Long live Eryn Lasgalen!

To be continued...

Thaladir fans! Now it is possible for you to talk to the seneschal, one on one. Just click "Talk to Thaladir" in the menu.
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Chapter posted: April 11, 2007

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