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Far Beyond Mirkwood, Chapter 16/?

Authors: Mary A and Malinornë
Pairings: Mainly Thranduil/OFCs
Warnings: Adult sexual situations with one very naughty Elfking!
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: Mal and Mary attend the party and find that there are different ways to feel welcomed to Rohan.

~ Mal ~

When Thranduil finally left the bath, I was ready to throw myself at his feet to beg for permission to follow him to his room, and his bed, at the instant. Interrupting our time together now seemed so pointless – it was evening anyway, and the Rohirrim went to bed early, or so the seneschal had said.

It was the tall elf's throat-clearing sound from the other side of the door that made me regain my senses. That, and the king's chuckle. He was not going to indulge me, but my thoughts pleased him.

Thaladir, however, was not pleased. As soon as Thranduil had disappeared with only a towel around his waist - a sight worth dying for - the seneschal stepped into the room, cleared his throat once again, even louder, and held out two towels.

"His Majesty enjoyed greatly this diversion from current duties; however, a measure of haste is now required."

Mary and I recognized the seriousness of his voice and scrambled up from the bath quicker than Mirkwood squirrels. Of course, we didn't want to throw any shadow on our king by being late to the welcome feast, but there was also the added incitement of perhaps catching the seneschal off guard by displaying a bit of mortal flesh.

The elf averted his eyes, and Mary's request that he assist in rubbing us dry was met with silence.

"Ithilwen and Miriel await you in the parlour," he said dryly as he left. "Do not tarry."

We were met by two stunning beauties. The elf maidens had already finished their own preparations and after seeing them in travelling clothes for so long their appearance was overwhelming. Their dresses were simply cut, in long, flowing lines that showed their slender figures to their best advantage. Modest, rounded necklines, long sleeves that hugged their upper arms and then widened dramatically at their wrists. The material, green and white, shimmered with gold as they moved, and they had plaited their hair in single braids on their backs, with gold and silver ribbons.

"Anarion will be jealous tonight," I warned Ithilwen jokingly, thinking the young elf might not appreciate all the admiring glances his fiancée would attract. She laughed.

"Once I am finished with him, he will attract a few glances himself. We will make Eryn Lasgalen proud." She laughed.

"Haldir will not look any worse," said Miriel, "nor will our king."

"And Thaladir?" I asked. The seneschal was handsome when he allowed it to show through his carefully upheld image of strictness. A few ribbons in his hair might work wonders.

"Alas," sighed both. Miriel added; "He has insisted that no assistance is required, and that he prefers to care for his person himself." At that we all laughed, and then Miriel took Mary with her to another corner of the parlour, while Ithilwen and I stayed where we were.

First she attended to my hair. I looked in the mirror as her elegant hands moved swiftly, and in no time she had gathered my hair at the back and plaited it with ribbons the same way she wore hers. Only my ribbons were different; instead of the subtle gleaming silver and gold, I had black and white and an angry red one that ended in a bow, drawing attention to the nape of my neck.

"They will like that," she whispered to herself as she finished arranging the ribbon.

"Who? What?" I'd never say it, but I would have preferred the green and golden colours I usually wore.

"The Rohirrim," she replied. "They all go with their long hair down most of the time, so we will show them a little bit of neck. They will be so excited," she concluded with satisfaction, and we both giggled.

I put on my underwear and was filled with expectation when she held out the dress I was going to wear for the evening.

It was different. The skirt was wide and comparatively short, reaching me just below the knee. Made from the same velvety material as the black ribbon in my hair, it shimmered with a deep blue glow that made it hard to tell which colour it really was. But it was beautiful. A white, wide blouse went with it; this was cut rather low, with an elastic ribbon to hold the material in place on top of my shoulders and around my elbows, where the sleeves ended in a puff. The detail that made it really different from anything else I had worn was the vest-like bodice; bright red and fastened with a long row of crossed ribbons down my front. It ended just below my breasts, pushing them together and upwards in a manner that reminded me of a tourist brochure for a German beer-hall.

"Isn't this a bit much?" I asked Ithilwen, hinting at my inflated chest. "Deceitful advertising, I mean?"

"Those who know will not complain," she replied with a laugh. "And the others will never find out."

So true. Elves were not overly concerned with the size and shape of their lovers' physical attributes, and I wasn't going to let any of the local men get that close to me. Still, the dress confused me. Why wear something so revealing, and so far from what the elves in our company were wearing? Ithilwen had the answer.

"Our king will be the more honoured by our hosts, for having caught the attention and loyalty of not only one, but two so fetching ladies. It is the mare that does the choosing, they say, not the stallion." She winked.

I also found out that it was actually Thaladir that had insisted on this kind of wear, which, according to his research, was the traditional attire of Rohirrim ladies. I had seen no such thing on the women when we entered the town, and least of all on Lady Eowyn, whose lavish dress was cut with modesty, but if Thaladir insisted... It was fun to wear something provocative for a change, and I knew Thranduil would love it. I found myself eagerly waiting for the escort that would take us all the few steps to the central hall of Meduseld.

~ Mary ~

The table we sat at was so long that it took some time for everyone to be seated. I stared around me, impressed with the decorations. Dozens of bowls filled with cheerful autumn flowers and fragrant greenery lined the center of the table, along with baskets filled with grapes, pears, and apples. The floor to ceiling pillars closest to either side of the table were wrapped halfway up in ribbons of green and white fabric, which softened their appearance.

Hanging directly over our heads were giant chandeliers, made from wrought-iron and huge timber beams, which were studded with torches instead of candles. I could not see the ceiling, it was too high and hazed over, but I had heard there were no chimneys in Rohan and I assumed there must be holes in the roof to let out the smoke.

Although I felt massively under-prepared for my task, at least I was sitting right next to my prey, Eomer, and that was a good start. I had no choice but to learn as I went along how far I could press myself on him. For his part, the young king was stiff and formal, at first, and I thought he might be feeling inhibited by the presence of Thranduil across the table from us.

Anborn sat at my left, but he was apparently not done chatting with Captain Edric, who sat almost opposite him. After they had greeted each other like long lost friends, they took up their previous conversation, about battling the armies of Mordor, as if there had been no break in their train of thought. It would have been irritating to be so thoroughly ignored by the ranger if I was not so glad that he was not hanging over me.

Keeping in mind Thranduil's observations about the shy Eomer, and his performance anxiety, I behaved the perfect lady to put the horselord at ease. I kept my hands to myself and my eyes downcast when he made polite small talk with Mal and me. Not that he had much to say.

Our meal was bountiful, with platters of large slices of roasted meats, whole baked fish, mountains of potatoes and yams, or towers made of small loaves of bread, which were passed along, hand-to-hand, instead of served to us by any sort of formal staff. There were servants that bore tray-loads of jugs filled with honey-mead around the table. They would re-fill the tankards we were all given to drink out of. There was barley wine available for the elves, but out of politeness they all drank their mead, too.

I could not tell if Eomer had very good table manners for a horselord, or the worst table manners I had ever seen from a human, including some of the rather uncivilized folks at the Long Lake Inn. At least he did not eat with his fingers, much. Not as often as some of the other men further down the table from where we sat. There were silver finger bowls, and snowy white cloth napkins, which both seemed new compared to the other pieces of tableware. More changes to the royal house's hygiene, I assumed. I would have preferred a fork.

No one in Rohan had ever been taught not to put their elbows on the table. All the more easier to drink their mead from the largest tankards possible. There seemed to be only one way to tell the rank of the seated guests, and that was by the size and beauty of the drinking vessels. King Eomer's tankard was as tall as his forearm, and Thranduil had one of the same size. They were made from a dull metal, like pewter, and were quite ornate, with horse heads embossed on the sides and tooled leather bottoms.

Mine and Mal's drinking vessels, like Eowyn's, were shorter, dainty, and had a silvered-finish. All of the male elves, and even Anborn, had tankards slightly larger than the rest of the men at the table.

"Lady Mal and Lady Mary," said Eowyn, from across the table. "You are the very images of the dolls that my mother made for me when I was a girl." She smiled so sweetly at us, and with such friendly warmth, that I knew she meant what she said to be a compliment. It made me feel a little less ridiculous in my outfit. No other woman in the hall wore anything as revealing.

I hoped that Thaladir was as mortified over his miscalculations, about how the women in Rohan would be dressed for a ceremony, as I felt dressed up in the quirky garb he had brought. At least, with the daring neckline, flattering bodice, and short skirt, there was little chance that I would be mistaken for a boy. I turned to Eomer.

"Do I look like a doll to you, my lord?" I leaned back in my chair, as if I was waiting for his reply, and his eyes flickered over my low-cut blouse. Eomer replied slowly, as if unsure of what to say.

"I must admit, dear lady, that my knowledge of dolls is limited," he said, and then he glanced over at Thranduil. "But you make quite a charming display at my table," he finished graciously. Instead of goading him into saying more, I thanked him and then turned my attention to Eowyn, who was asking the table a question.

"Here is a puzzle," she began, and then she looked right at Anborn, her head tilted delicately to one side as if she was seeing him for the first time. "How is it that an Ithilien Ranger has become part of an Elf lord's traveling household?" I stared over at Thranduil, wondering if he would answer, but he remained silent.

"That is an easy enough riddle, my lady," Anborn answered, and he gestured at the elves. "Our paths coincidentally take the same route for many leagues, and there is always more safety in numbers while on the open road."

"Coincidentally?" Eomer asked. "It is my understanding that you rode non-stop from the Anduin to the Entwash ford to join the royal party; was this not some distance out of your way to travel home?"

"How am I supposed eat my meat?" I cried out, trying to sound near desperation. I pretended to cut at the slippery slab of beef with my knife, while holding it down with the only other cutlery by my plate, a wooden spoon. Eomer laughed.

"Like so, my lady," he said as he stabbed at a large chunk of roasted beef on his wooden plate with his knife, lifted it to his mouth and bit off a piece; his gleaming white teeth sliced easily through the meat. He smiled down at me as juices run down face, and he had the decency to wipe them off with his napkin. I tried to imitate him, but all I could bite off, without making a mess, were small nibbles. Eomer laughed harder and actually slapped me on the back. I did not dare look over at Thaladir.

The topic of Anborn's presence was forgotten, but more important to me, the young king was beginning to relax. He thanked Thranduil, who was smiling proudly, for bringing both Mal and me to Meduseld. Despite the headway I thought I was making, it was difficult to feel seductive towards Eomer while he was all greasy. I wondered how I could make him wash, first.

~ Mal ~

Mary and I were the only ones to show up at the feast in the supposedly traditional dress of the ladies in Rohan. It turned out the good seneschal was a couple of centuries behind on local fashion, but nobody thought ill of it. King Eomer's councillor, the dull-looking older man, took the opportunity to give a lecture on historic attire of the kingdom of the north, and the others present took the opportunity to ogle what was so openly demonstrated to their eyes. Including Eomer himself, when he thought I didn't notice.

Except from the odd stolen glance, the young king paid more attention to the food and drink than his dinner partners. Mary tried to engage him in conversation, but got only short replies. Maybe he was just shy and unused to talking to women who were not his relatives. To our luck, his sister sitting opposite him was more talkative and seemed seriously interested in both Mary and me.

Until someone raised the topic of battles in the latest war - that was something that engaged every man and elf around her. Both Thaladir and Thranduil had a lot to say on the subject, as did Haldir, who was sitting to my right. I had hoped to get a minute to talk with him about his promise of special attention once we were somewhere with walls and a roof, but it was not going to be now.

Fortunately, it was time for dessert. These were put on a separate table, which gave me a welcome excuse to leave my chair, and the discussion of blood and gore. Mary had the same thought; we were both among the first in line for the sweets. While I stood there, trying to decide whether the blueberry tart would be tastier than the honey cake or the candied apples, I heard someone stumble just behind me, and then I felt a hand on my bottom.

It was Eomer and though he mumbled an excuse, he didn't remove his hand at once. It was large and warm, and strangely exciting. I glanced over at Thranduil, expecting to see him with narrow eyes, but no, he was grinning. Apparently, this was an occasion when his voyeuristic pleasures took control over his possessiveness. I shrugged off Eomer's hand, but winked to him. It's strange how some men look even better when tipsy.

Back at the table, I devoted my full attention to the ice-cream. I felt guilty for encouraging the clumsy horse-lord even slightly, both because I knew Mary was interested in him, and because I was going to spend the night with my own king and shouldn't even be thinking about others, even if he had made clear that he didn't mind. Eowyn's account of ice-cream making was a welcome distraction. Apparently, snow could be preserved the whole summer by covering it with thick layers of straw.

When dessert was finished, the singing began. At first, there were solemn and grand hymns praising the past glory of Eorl the Young and the land of their ancestors, sung in their own language, which sounded like a mix of English and Scandinavian. Thaladir translated some of the many verses and pointed out the characteristic alliterations and how most of the rhymes were in the middle of a line, rather than at the end of it, as in Elvish poetry.

Another song, of a totally different character, was taken up at the far end of the table, near the doors where most of the soldiers were sitting with their wives and girlfriends. It was sung with loud voices and much laughter, clapping hands and stomping of feet. I looked eagerly at Thaladir; what were they singing? He pursed his lips and said that it was not suitable for translation; it was more than sufficient to know that it told the story of a very drunk and very lonely shepherd, and his favourite mare. He refused to say a word beyond that.

Eowyn laughed and replied that she agreed that it was probably best untranslated, but that it might be interesting to know that the song was very old, and one of the more colourful theories on how the mearas got their souls.

~ Mary ~

During the rest of the meal, I had decided to curb my flirting with Eomer until I could have his undivided attention. Eowyn had told Mal and me, during our lunch together, there would be dancing tonight after dessert. Maybe the young king's shyness would be easier to overcome on the dance floor.

If the Meduseld cooks were not the most refined in Middle-earth, when it came to preparing meat and vegetables, they did have some finesse in their kitchen when it came to sweets. There were pies, both fruit-filled and cream-filled, and cakes, and tarts, and we had special glass mugs to drink the lighter honey mead that was made for the dessert course. It was the most civilized part of our meal.

When dessert was nearly finished, music started to play, from instruments that sounded like fiddles. I heard some voices singing along with the melody. The words were not clear to me, or perhaps they were sang in a different language, but the tune was cheerful.

After the last remains of the feast had been cleared from the table, Eomer rose to his feet and lifted his tankard in a toast to Thranduil, Eryn Lasgalen, and the new age of friendships between men and the woodland elves. My king smiled right at me, into my eyes, in the way he has that makes me shiver. He was pleased. I must be moving in the right direction, and at the right speed, although it was not very easy.

I wished that I could tell Eomer how Thranduil was not only not jealous, but hopeful, nay, eager that the two of us get together. There was no way to tell the young horselord such a thing, and not scare him witless. Besides that, I knew that my king did not want this to be too easy for me, and he had warned me it would be difficult so I had no reason to complain.

The more relaxed Eomer became, and the more of the mead we both drank, the cuter he looked to me, and I already thought he was adorable. His cheeks, or what I could see of them above his beard, and his forehead grew rosier, which made his eyes turn an interesting color. They were somewhere between copper, from the torchlight, and violet. I tried not to stare into them, I knew that in daylight his eyes were bright blue, but it was too fascinating to see the way they changed as the evening progressed, and his alcohol intake increased. The singing around the table was nice, too, even though I never understood a single word.

The music grew louder and bouncy. Off to one side of the enormous hall, an area was being lit by standing torches, and within minutes several couples were dancing there, and a few small children hopped and skipped among them, clapping their hands in time with the music. It was nice to see young people after spending so much time with the ageless elves.

If Eomer had been less aware of Thranduil's presence, which might happen eventually if he kept drinking those enormous tankards of mead to the bottom, I would have coaxed him into inviting me to dance. If anything, he acted more distant and removed as the night went on.

It occurred to me that Anborn was similarly inhibited by the Elvenking, which was probably why he kept himself occupied by chatting with Captain Edric, but I was not shy about asking him to dance with me. The ranger looked over at Thranduil, who nodded at us with approval, and then he stood and offered me his hand. Before I left the table, I turned to Eomer and asked if I could be excused from his presence, which I am sure scored big points with the seneschal, and the young king laughed. With a gracious gesture, he waved us away from his side.

Anborn and I actually never made it to the dance floor, because I had some questions for my overly-chatty ranger. By the way he took me into his arms, after I pulled him behind one of the large pillars, I knew that he thought I wanted to smooch with him. I put my hand up to cover his descending mouth and he pulled back in surprise.

"Do you realize," he asked, his eyes burning into mine, "how difficult it has been to sit beside you, when you are dressed this way," his eyes raked my bodice, "and not be able to touch you? It has been sheer torture." Without giving me a moment to respond, he pulled my hands down to my sides, wrapped his arms around them, and kissed me, hard. I could feel his frustration in his embrace, and I felt bad for thinking that he was ignoring me in favor of Edric. After he finally let me have some air again, I told him that I had to talk to him.

"Why did you tell everyone here," I asked, after he agreed to stop kissing me, and had relaxed his grip on my arm, "about riding from the Anduin to the Entwash?" So far, no one had asked me how Anborn suddenly appeared within our midst, and I had not volunteered any information. I assumed that Thranduil was aware of everything I did, and I was sure he would let me know if he disapproved, so I was not worried about him.

As long as everyone else thought that the ranger had arrived by accident, then I was spared answering any questions about how he knew where we were, where he got one of our itineraries, and why he thought that he had been invited to join us. I had planned to blame it all on Legolas, but no one ever did ask me.

"I did not tell anyone about myself, my dearest," Anborn said, with a sly smile. "You did."

"Me? I haven't told anyone here..."

"Not here," he interrupted. "Back at the inn, at the Entwash ford, you told the innkeeper's daughter that I had ridden for days with no sleep. Do you remember that?"

"Um, vaguely, I might have... said something to her about you." I remembered clearly how I had told her that, plus some extra stuff, which I had made up to embellish the tale. "But, how...?"

"The day that we all left the inn, Captain Edric and some of his men arrived there, and he asked after you, if you were doing well..." Anborn stopped speaking when he saw the way I smiled at that point. "How did he know about you?"

"Thranduil and I met him on our way back from Isengard." I patted Anborn's cheek and added. "Don't be jealous of him. I think it was nice that he was concerned about me."

"The innkeeper's daughter," Anborn finally continued, "told Edric all about the tiny elf-woman's dutiful ranger, who 'rode for days', according to her, 'without a minute of sleep, a bite of food or a drop of ale', to be at her, meaning your, side."

"My goodness," I said, "she has quite an imagination, that girl."

~ Mal ~

Not long after the dancing began, and before I had the chance to even begin coaxing any of my dinner partners into taking me out on the floor - or onto the table, which appeared to be an acceptable alternative for some of the braver dancers - the Elvenking took my hand and thanked our host for the evening.

"Why leave so soon, my friend?" said the young king of Rohan. "There's still plenty of food and drink to be had."

"Some of us have other, urgent needs," Thranduil retorted with a cat-like grin. Eomer looked puzzled for a moment, and then his cheeks became a shade pinker than they already were from the mead. I directed a pitiful glance to Mary. If she was still determined to bed him, she would have to drink him under the table first.

Instead of turning down the hall, where I knew there was another series of guest rooms, Thranduil aimed for the far end, where the throne stood, now deserted. Just to the left of it, between a tapestry depicting green, rolling hills under a blue sky, and an over-sized shield embossed with the emblem of Rohan, there was a door. The king opened it swiftly, dragged me through by the hand a little quicker than was comfortable, and shut it again. I barely had time to register the dark corridor we were in, before I was shuffled through another door.

This room was lighter, lit by a fireplace and a chandelier on a table. It was decorated in a very masculine style, with flags and shields and ancient weapons. There was another door, too, and behind it part of a bed could be seen. I took a step in that direction, but Thranduil caught me again, whirling me around to face him.

"Not so fast, my comely wench," he said slowly, and at the same time he tugged at the ribbon that held together the neckline of my blouse. It collapsed, spilling open and leaving my breasts bare, hanging loose over the top of the low-cut bodice. He immediately took them in his hands, one in each, and bent his head to kiss them. His warm mouth sent well-known thrills though my body and I steadied myself against his shoulders when his grazing lips became bolder.

"The bed," I whispered, "please," when he suddenly sucked a nipple into his mouth and I thought my knees would buckle.

His reply came as a low burr against my skin, too muffled to make sense. Rather than making any sign to stop, or move us into the other room, he continued to fondle me, altering between sucking and simply burying his nose between the soft globes. The silly dress had given me a nicer cleavage than anything else I had worn in the king's presence.

"I rarely approve of my seneschal's mistakes," he said when his face became visible again, his eyes glittering with amusement. "This one, I shall hope that he repeats." He chuckled and suddenly let go of me, taking a few strides to the table, where he sat down leisurely, legs wide apart and hands on his knees.

"Now, I want to be served," he said. "Wine," he added when I didn't immediately catch his intention. "Thaladir has stuck a few bottles into the chest."

I retrieved a bottle of his favourite Dorwinion red from a wooden chest by the dark window and placed it on the table together with the metal cup I found in the same place. I had some difficulty pouring the wine while being distracted by Thranduil's hands on their way up my skirt in a delicious way, and contemplated drawing out the task to let him reach his goal. Instead, he withdrew one hand to gulp down the drink, immediately demanding more. The other stroked the heated inside of my thigh.

"Ah," he sighed contentedly when he had downed the second cup, all in one stroke. "That sweet mead is no drink for an elf. Fill it again, and come sit with me."

I poured him one more cup and then sat on his lap. He had put his knees together at first to accommodate me, but soon spread them, making me do the same. The fingers of his left hand once again began their path under my skirt, but with the right hand he lifted the cup and drank again, this time merely sipping, enjoying its flavour.

"Have some," he said, holding the cup to my lips. I drank, and then turned my head around to kiss him. It almost felt like drinking again, only softer, and warmer. My head began to spin, not uncomfortably, merely to make me feel calm, heavy and relaxed. I sighed happily and leaned back against Thranduil's shoulder. I felt, more than heard, him let out a low, rumbling sound that was perhaps a chuckle; I did not care, as long as I could sit like this forever, feeling his hands on me.

They were both on my thighs now, stroking, exploring, gliding up and down at a leisurely pace that slowly brought me from idle pleasure to impatient heat. I squirmed, trying to get those fingers to touch me higher up, but paused at the new sensation of the king's protruding sceptre now pressing against my backside. He made another sound of approval, and then finally began to caress me where I wanted, through my panties, true, but it was exquisite nevertheless. As he continued, I began to sink into that blissful state again, and when I felt the fabric being pushed aside to allow deeper exploration, I could only sigh happily.

A sudden, more demanding thrust with hard fingers made me open my eyes.

"Turn around," came a hoarse whisper in my ear, and I did my best to follow the command, being aided, and hampered, by the king's hands. Soon I was facing him, but the crumpled skirt now tangled helplessly around my legs formed an efficient barrier between us. The position allowed me to touch him through his velvety pants, but beyond the initial growl of approval, this was clearly unsatisfactory to him. Within minutes, I found myself sitting on the edge of the table, and then lying on my back between the chandelier with its nearly burnt-out candles, and the cup. Only elven reflexes prevented the wine bottle from shattering against the floor. I watched with expectation as the king took a sip from the bottle and then unlaced his leggings.

After that, my view was restricted by a blur of dark material as my skirt flew through the air to land heaped around my hips. About the same time, my underpants disappeared, but before I could feel cold, the king's warm flesh pressed against me. He leaned forward and nibbled on my breasts, but when I wrapped my arms around his back he shrugged them off with a grin and rose again. Then, with that grin on his face turning into something wilder, he put my legs around his waist and entered me in one stroke, meeting no resistance.

I loved lying there, my lack of ways to hold on to him with my hands compensated by the luxurious knowledge that I couldn't do anything but receive. Nothing was expected of me, there were no demands beyond the simple one of giving pleasure by experiencing it. There was no stronger aphrodisiac than the king's handsome face contorted by intense lust, on the verge of losing control. I was quickly losing my grip on reality as well, my being becoming fully satisfied to yield to the overwhelming mix of exquisite physical sensations and extreme emotional well-being. With a final act of will that surprised me, I managed to keep my eyes open and look into his as he became undone.

After that, I have vague memories of being carried to another room, of being gently undressed and resting between clean sheets. He may have come to me again later in the night; sweet lovemaking before sleep fully claimed me. Or, it may just have been a dream. In any case, I was wholly content with my first night, and day, in Edoras.

~ Mary ~

While we were still out of sight from the rest of the festivities, I made Anborn swear to never mention my part in his joining us in Rohan. If he was asked outright, he was to say that Legolas had asked him to find the royal party in order to keep an eye on Mal and me, and tend to our mortal complaints. I could tell the ranger was not eager to deceive anyone, so I asked him to instead view such questions as security secrets that no one had the right to ask, and to handle them accordingly. This made him feel better, and he agreed.

Pretending to be thirsty, I asked Anborn to deliver me back to the table, but we had only moved a few steps away from the pillar that we hid behind, when we were halted by Captain Edric.

"There you are, Lady Mary," he said to me, after nodding at Anborn. "I was afraid I would not see you again tonight before I could ask you to dance with me." From where we stood, I could see the dance floor across the hall, and noticed that the crowd there was much larger than before. Over at the table, Eomer was sitting and talking with Thranduil. I did not see Mal.

Whatever it was that was taking place on the dance floor, and on the top of the table at the farthest ends, was not like any dance I had seen before, in Middle-earth or elsewhere. I was fairly sure that if I was to step into the romping, stomping, reeling and whirling storm of bodies, which moved in a dizzying circle around the floor, then I would be sucked into the center, like a whirlpool, and crushed.

"I don't think I know how to..." I began, but was not allowed to finish.

"It is easy to learn," said another man's voice. I turned to see the horselord that had ridden escort to my carriage that morning, and his companion. I was outnumbered and out muscled, with no chance to decline. In the press of horsemen, I was herded expertly into the swirling mass of dancers, and next found myself being tossed through the air. Edric caught me, I caught a glimpse of his sweet smile, and then he twirled me, and tossed me to another dancer while I was still spinning, and I was caught again.

Apparently, the sight of my short skirt twirling in flight triggered a chain reaction. I was quite dizzy from being spun and tossed by the time the music ended, and I am sure that my feet never once had touched the floor. I demanded to be taken back to the table, and sank gratefully into the seat next to Eomer, while the room dipped and swayed. Thranduil was gone, and so was Mal. Thaladir was standing and talking to Freawine, and across the table from me, Haldir was arm wrestling with a horselord. The other elves, and Anborn, were not in sight.

Whatever else there was to hate about my ridiculous costume, the fact that it was not meant to be worn for anything so strenuous as dancing was the worst of its crimes. The bodice was stiffened with something hard, probably bone stays, but they felt like iron while I tried to catch my breath. I was grateful that my hair had been put up off of my neck, but I wished that I had several less layers of petticoats under my skirt; my legs felt sticky and hot.

Acting the part of the gracious host, Eomer made sure that I had a fresh refill of honey mead in my tankard, but otherwise he seemed more interested in the arm wrestling contest than in my presence beside him. The torture of my bodice prodded me to take a chance that the young king had imbibed in enough mead to make him less cautious. If I was wrong, then I was going to find Anborn and Edric, and see what I could do to get them to undress me.

"Your Majesty, may I ask you a question? " I said to Eomer, after touching him on the shoulder to get his attention. He turned to me, nodding, and I noticed that his shining eyes were still able to focus, and he appeared absolutely sober. I plunged ahead anyway. "The bathing chamber in the guest wing is new, isn't it? It is very luxurious."

"Indeed, my lady, the necessary renovations were only completed the day before yesterday," Eomer answered. "The royal builders were hard-pressed to finish in time, but they did a fine job, a noble effort." How the conversation, and the rest of my night, would progress hinged on the next question I had for him.

"Do you have a tub that large in your own chambers?"

"Mine is larger, my lady," Eomer stated proudly, and I was happy that he was not shy about discussing his private quarters. I lifted my eyebrows and smiled at him, as if hearing such a declaration was the most delightful thing that anyone had ever said to me.


"Twice as large," he said, and then he grinned. "You would be able to swim in it."

"Oh, Your Majesty, it sounds wonderful," I cooed, then added, keeping my tone more innocently curious than seductive, "Have you had a chance to share it with anyone yet?"

"Share?" Eomer said, and he put his hand to his beard and stroked it as he regarded me with more interest than he had up to then. "I have not... given it much thought, before now."

"You should think about it then," I said, keeping my voice chatty and friendly. "It is terrific fun, especially the part where you get your back washed by whoever else is in the tub with you." I mimicked the action of scrubbing an imaginary body, to demonstrate. Eomer's eyes widened and then he leaned forward with real interest in his eyes.

"Is this shared bathing a common practice among the elven-folk?" His face was close enough to mine that I could whisper now.

"Not common enough," I answered softly, and then I sighed and pouted. "You shouldn't tease me about your large bathtub, sire, it is unbearable. I think that I will die if I don't get the chance to see it soon."

"Die? Surely you do not mean that." He chuckled and sat back from me.

"Well, maybe not die," I admitted, adding, "but I would love to see your large, beautiful tub, after your interesting description of it." I beckoned at him to lean close to me again, and I dropped my voice. "Maybe you could sneak me into your chambers and I could take a quick peek at it? It sounds very magnificent."

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

Status of daily schedule: Accomplished

Remarks: Arrival in Rohan accompanied by suitable ceremony; young Eomer King shows much promise in this regard, although table manners and certain other aspects of conduct lack the refinement befitting his position. I have this day committed a most awkward mistake, thereby subjecting Ladies Mary and Mal to the lustful gazes of the commoners of this realm. His Majesty, however, has graciously seen fit to bestow his forgiveness on his unworthy servant, wherefore I am to remain in his service despite my recent shortcomings. Long live Eryn Lasgalen! To be continued...

Mary and Mal are proud to announce that Far Beyond Mirkwood has taken 3:rd place in the category Best Thranduil Story! For more details, check MPA Awards.

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Chapter posted: August 23, 2007

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