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Far Beyond Mirkwood, Chapter 18/?

Authors: Mary A and Malinornë
Pairings: Mainly Thranduil/OFCs
Warnings: Adult sexual content and language, partial nudity, voyeuristic Dwarf activities...
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: A skeptical Mary goes on a sight-seeing tour with Edric. Malinorne and Thaladir put on a performance for some Dwarves.

~ Mary ~

After Edric and I rode away from Meduseld in the carriage, taking the road that wound down the mountain behind the Golden Hall, I kept my distance from the horselord. I wanted to see what he would do next. All I could see out of the window on my side of the carriage was miles of grasslands.

"I don't see any place for us to stop and eat," I said, with my hand on my growling stomach. Although I could tell from the sun that we were traveling east, I had no idea where we were, as I knew nothing about the Rohan landscape and what was where in relation to where we started from. It almost made me regret ignoring Thaladir's interminable map lectures.

Mal would know, but she was back in Meduseld, probably taking a nice hot bath with the king, or eating something delicious with him, while I was out here in the open plains with a youngster, starving to death. Then I remembered that Thranduil was out hunting boars with Eomer, and I laughed.

"The nearest town is still some leagues away," Edric said. He bent over and reached beneath the carriage seat. "I have brought some provisions with us, to help tide us over in the meantime." Like a magician, he pulled out a woven wicker basket, covered with a cloth, and set it on the carriage seat beside us.

Under the cloth, there were small soft bundles, which Edric unwrapped for us. There were freshly baked oat cakes, slices of rye bread, a brick of soft cheese that might have been from goat milk, and cold bits of mutton. With an enormous grin, he produced a tankard of honey mead with a lid that locked in place to keep it from spilling. It was quite a generous meal, and my estimation of this young horse soldier's finer qualities rose to new heights.

"What made you believe that I was lying about Anborn and Thranduil?" When he asked, Edric's expression was a carefully composed mixture of innocence, honorable intentions, and a bit of wounded pride. He was cute, for a liar. I had to smile.

"I told you that I don't care."

"You still do not believe me?" Now he acted injured again.

"Oh, well, see..." I paused to think about how to answer him.

Again, I was at another crossroads with a Rohan mortal man. With Eomer, I had to be careful about what I revealed for diplomatic reasons. Telling the mortal king that his clandestine lovemaking with me had been at the request of the Elvenking, who was also invisibly monitoring every moment, and would eventually re-live the whole experience with me, could possibly have ruined the fragile friendship developing between the two of them.

Telling Edric that this same king was also aware of where I was, who I was with, what we were doing, and if there was any danger, would have probably ruined whatever fun I might be able to have while we were alone together. Although Thranduil could not actually talk to me in my head, I could feel him there, and I knew he was not concerned, yet.

"A mere arm injury," I said finally, "would not have prevented any Ranger, let alone Anborn, from performing his duties as my personal body-guard." At this observation, Edric straightened up and tried to speak, but I put my finger up to his nose to silence him.

"By the way, you don't know this," I added, "but that body-guard title is one that Anborn invented for himself. Thranduil had asked him to stay close to me a few days ago, because the king knew I wasn't feeling well." Now I could not even look at Edric's face as I revealed this flaw in his fabrication.

"Ever since then," I continued, but I stared out the window again as I spoke, "that silly man runs around telling everyone that he was appointed by the king to guard me." I had a feeling Anborn was searching around Meduseld for me right then.

Now I could look over at Edric. He sat very still and blew out his breath with a slight whistling sound. He did not appear defeated, however, which meant he needed more help getting there.

"See?" I said. "It was easy to tell you were lying." I kept my voice light and amused, in order to allow the horseman to laugh it off and not feel too offended. "When you told me how Thranduil asked you to take over for Anborn, I knew better. I am sure you avoided both of them all morning." At this last statement, his eyes grew wide. "Give up," I coaxed, "because I know you lied. I just want to know why."

"You say that you don't care, as well," Edric reminded me, finally giving up his rigid posture as he slumped against the carriage seat, but he was staring at me in a most unusual way. I beckoned him to move closer to me and he seemed to move toward me in slow motion. I wanted to try kissing him, and I attempted to reach up and touch his face, but I yawned instead.

"Excuse me," I said, suddenly overwhelmed with a wave of drowsiness, brought on, I guessed, by the food and the honey mead. "I didn't sleep very much last night," I said and I had to yawn again. "Or at all, come to think of it." I giggled.

The small amount of sleep that I had enjoyed in Eomer's bed happened after the sun had risen. Edric merely smiled at me, and instead of kissing me, he put his hand to my head, brought it over to lean against his shoulder, and stroked my hair. I could have sworn I heard him chuckle.

When I woke up, it was dark, and for a moment I thought that he must have closed the carriage windows. I saw stars out of them, however, and I knew that I had been asleep for hours.

"Where are we?" I asked, pushing myself away from Edric's chest, where my head had been.

"We are almost there," he said softly and he gently pushed my head back against his chest. "Go back to sleep, and I will wake you when we arrive." It was so comfortable to lean against him that I did not resist. In my mind, I reached out for Thranduil, and felt him watching. He was very interested. I could feel that he was not worried about my situation.

"But where are we going?" I asked Edric. My eyes were closed, and I could feel myself slipping back to sleep. "You never did tell me."

"You will see when we get there, very soon now."

After I drifted back into the darkness, with my head on Edric's chest, I could have sworn that I could actually hear Thranduil's laughter echoing in my dreams. Without any words being spoken, I knew that I had nothing to fear; my king had everything under control.

~ Mal ~

Strangely enough, the long ride hadn't left me drained; what I felt when I left Lightning's back was rather refreshment. If this was another effect of the mearas, then I understood even better why this rare breed of horses was valued so highly. Thaladir removed their tack and released them. According to him, Thunderfoot had told him that they preferred to roam free, rather than be stabled here, and would return as soon as they were needed.

The ruins of the fortress at Helm's Deep were dark, but beyond it began a trail lined by torches leading into the mountain. They ended at a sturdy door, which looked like it had been carved right into the rock. There was no handle. I had the word 'mellon' on my tongue, but before I could say it - and make a fool of myself in front of Thaladir by speaking Elvish with a Dwarvish door - I heard a rumble of stones from somewhere above my head. I looked up and saw light leak out from a hatch in the rock wall.

"Them?" came a surly voice from beyond it. A head showed up in the hole - that of a man with long moustaches - and I recognized the merchant from the South.

"It is I," I shouted to him, waving. His face split in a wide grin and I heard him say to someone in the room, "Open the gates; our esteemed guests have arrived."

The hatch was closed again, and we waited in silence. Nothing was heard from within until we saw the door opening without a sound. Then the little man burst forth and greeted us with a flourish of bows and welcoming gestures. Behind him loomed some equally short men, but with impressive beards.

"Malinorne at your service," I told them, and added "Thaladir, too", when it seemed like the seneschal had forgotten his manners completely.

"Dvalin at yours," replied one of the dwarves in the front row, "and Fenden, Fundun, Dilbor, Dulbor, Kwalin, Gemli, Bombar..." There were about a dozen more names that I don't recall, and then the merchant took command again, leading the way into the Glittering Caves.

"My lady, my lord, I am indeed delighted to see you," he said. "May I offer some refreshments while you prepare for the performance of this night?"

"Yes, please," I replied, "but... tonight?" Despite my not feeling the least tired, I had imagined this evening ending with something nice to drink in a comfortable chair before a fireplace, in the company of a dwarf-lord or two, who would tell about the wonders of these caves.

"Indeed, my lady. The audience is already gathering, most eager to behold a little entertainment before they begin their night shift in the gem mines. And," he added, patting my arm, "it will be easier now, before you are acquainted with them."

"I commend you on your wise words, good sir," said Thaladir, who had been silent until then. "It is indeed my experience that a duty one is somewhat reluctant to perform is better dealt with swiftly."

To this superior force I yielded, and asked just to have a few moments to eat something light before we began, and to be told what was expected of me, precisely.

"It is very simple, my lady," explained the merchant while we ate, "and nothing has been changed from our agreement. You will be taken to a room with an elevated platform, upon which is placed a bed, for your comfort. Thereupon you will recline, and, hopefully, experience considerable pleasure, whilst the good elf here demonstrates my merchandise upon you. That is all." He looked at me expectantly and rubbed his hands together, probably thinking of all the gold he would get out of this if the dwarves were happy and allowed him to sell their stone phalli. "It is very simple," he said again.

"And nobody will touch me?" I asked.

"Oh, no, my lady. None except the elf that came with you, lord...?"

"Thaladir. He is king Thranduil's seneschal and is properly referred to as 'His Excellency'."

The merchant's eyes widened and the ends of his long moustache swept the floor as he bowed to the seneschal. "Your esteemed assistance is most appreciated, Your Excellency Lord Thaladir," he said, winning the elf's approval with his speech. Then he returned to his explanations.

"So, His Excellency here is the only one who will be near you, my lady."

"Good. But, what is your role in this, then? Will you be there with us?"

"I am glad you asked, my lady. The role I will take upon myself is that of the herald, or presenter, if you wish. With my words, I will entertain the audience, enhancing their experience by appealing to their imagination," he said suavely.

"Do I understand correctly," Thaladir interjected, "that it is your intention to tell untruths? To slander the lady's reputation?" He was wearing his famous frown now.

"Oh, my lord, do not make it sound so sinister. It is all in the interest of this night's proceedings, and no harm will come to the lady, nor her reputation, nor yours or that of His Majesty the Elvenking." Adding those last words were an act of geniality. Thaladir looked somewhat relaxed, although the wrinkle on his forehead was still there.

"Nobody will know who we are," I said. "We will just be actors." The seneschal still seemed suspicious, but I knew that he would play along.

"Very good, then," concluded the merchant. "I shall leave you to your preparations, and return to fetch you shortly, when all is set up. Oh," he added as an afterthought, "it would add greatly to the drama if you were to climax towards the end, my lady. Naturally, you may choose to pretend."

"That," replied Thaladir curtly, "will not become necessary."

~ Mary ~

Instinctively, I bolted upright, even though I was not all the way awake, when the carriage finally came to a halt. Through the windows, I could see light, mellow and golden, streaming from the open doorway to a large wooden building that we were parked in front of. I believed it was an inn, there was a sign with a picture of a horse on it, above the door, but I could not read it. I think that the lettering was not in Westron. It was hard to stay focused.

In fact, my head felt abnormally fuzzy and my thoughts were hard to collect. Slowly, it occurred to me that the way I was feeling was not usual for me, even at my most tired, after having such a long nap. This was more than the after effects of honey mead; even the Rohirrim's infamous barley wine had not made me feel this foggy.

"You drugged me," I accused Edric. He was peering out the window and had not made any move to leave the carriage. I wondered if he was waiting for some kind of signal. His eyes glittered in the lamplight when he turned his head and smiled down at me.

"It was easier that way," Edric said, all business now, no flirting. "You ask too many questions, and I thought that a gag would be cruel." If he was joking with me, then it was not funny, nothing about it was even slightly amusing.

"Are you trying to kidnap me?" I laughed half-heartedly after I asked him, because I thought it was an absurd notion, and waited for him to deny it.

"You are the most exasperating female," Edric declared softly and he grasped my arm above the elbow. To my dismay, his nice smile disappeared and his voice grew cold. "Too smart for your own good." There was a sharp rap against the door, and he smiled again, but not as sweetly as he usually did. "You are about to make me a very rich man," he said smugly.

He opened the carriage door and tugged at my arm to follow him out, while I resisted and refused to budge. There were a couple of men standing just outside; they wore hooded cloaks and their backs were to the light so that I could not see their faces. For a moment, a tremor of fear shot through my spine, making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. This was not fun at all.

With my heart in my throat, and my stomach starting to churn, I wondered if Thranduil ever was paying attention to me that day, or if I had fooled myself into thinking it. He was miles away, either hunting for boar, or back in the Golden Hall, probably eating dinner, sitting between Mal and Eowyn. He did not care about me at all! I wondered if he had planned this, and was happy to be rid of me for good.

"How much do you want for the girl?" I heard one of the men ask Edric, his voice a raspy whisper, and I almost screamed. I was not fully convinced that I was in enough danger to panic, but I was getting closer by the second.

"We already agreed on the price, my dear friend," said Edric, although his tone was not friendly at all. "As you can see, I have met my part of the bargain." With a less courteous tug than before, he pulled me across the seat, closer to the doorway of the carriage, and with his hand at the back of my head, he brought my face into the light. I heard the men draw in their breaths.

"We have agreed on nothing, sir," said the other man; his voice sounded odd, too, like a strangled growl. I peered into their hoods, trying to see faces, and sent out help signals in my mind to Thranduil. I did not receive a reply; the king was gone! I could not feel him at all and I started to shake. The other man stepped closer and I could see the very edge of his face. I blinked; my vision was still blurry, because that small glimpse seemed almost familiar to me.

"We did stipulate," the hooded stranger said in his weird raspy way, "that we would both need to carefully inspect your merchandise before we pay you anything, or do you not remember clearly?" I heard the soft, sibilant sound of metal, and knew that my potential buyer had drawn a sword, hidden beneath his cloak. Now I was shaking so hard that my teeth chattered. I had my feet braced against the door jam to prevent Edric from dragging me out of the carriage.

"Let us take her with us," said the other stranger, only he did not bother to disguise his voice any more. "We want to see her naked." His companion cackled with glee and then reached his hand out to me. The hood of his cloak had slipped a few inches back from his face, and I saw him clearly. I nearly fainted, but I was not afraid any more.

"Where do you think you are taking me?" I tried to sound outraged, as I took the offered hand and allowed him to help me from the carriage. "And what makes you think that I would undress for your inspection, you villainous wretch?" The stranger had removed his cloak and put it over my shoulders. I frowned up at him.

"You will pay me now," demanded Edric, yanking me away from the stranger to stand next to him. "There was no agreement about an inspection, you knew what you were getting, now pay...."

He stopped short and stared cross eyed. With a subtle whooshing noise the only clue, the other stranger had whipped a sword out from under his cloak, and the point was poking the tip of Edric's nose before he even realized what had happened.

"You are so slow," I said to Elrohir, who had not taken his eyes away the horselord's face as he held him still with the sword.

"We wondered if you would scream and draw a crowd before we had a chance to rescue you," explained Elladan, as he put his arm around me and drew me close to his side. "Not that we wouldn't have anyway, darling, but we didn't want any help."

"I suggest we tie up this horse boy, put him in his carriage, and send him back to Edoras," said Elrohir. All this time, while the sword held him still, Edric had his hands in the air, but he was silent. I could tell that he was sorry he was not going to be a rich man after all, at least not this night.

~ Mal ~

Thaladir and the merchant left the chamber and I changed clothes in solitude. The performance called for something, if not sexier, then at least prettier, than heavy riding clothes. A short-sleeved nightgown had been provided, and though it was rather short, reaching only mid-thigh, it fit me reasonably well. The rose pattern was cute, too, in a funny way. I decided to skip the panties and spare myself, and the seneschal, the awkward process of removing them in public.

Dressing had made me calm and I began looking forward to the upcoming demonstration. Never mind the dwarves, they were just going to be a minor disturbance, but I would have Thaladir in an intimate situation again, and this time he couldn't hide behind his impenetrable wall of seemliness.

As soon as the seneschal entered the room and announced, with a slight bow, that it was time to go, my resolution waned. I felt anxious again, the images in my head of a leering audience overshadowing any delectable thoughts about the elf. Involuntarily I shied away from him when he approached me.

"My lady," he said with concern written all over his face, "what ails you? Are you unwell?"

"I don't want to do it," I told him frankly. It was true. Suddenly I felt absolutely sure that there was nothing more repulsive in the world than this.


I had expected him to begin persuading me, telling me how brave I was and how much this would benefit the relations between Eryn Lasgalen and Rohan, and, if nothing else worked, that it had been my own idea and it was my duty to carry through with it. This little utterance made me even more stubborn.

"I'm not doing it!" I pouted.

This time, the seneschal didn't bother to answer at all. Instead he reached into his wide sleeve and produced a pouch, no larger than the palm of his hand. He opened it and held it out to me. I peered inside, but couldn't see anything.

"What...?" I began to ask, but then a wonderful smell of flowers and spices hit my nostrils and the world changed. "I want you," I said instead. Without a word, Thaladir took my hand and led me out of the room.

The larger cavern that we came to seemed empty at first, its dimness hiding all outside the circle of torches that lighted up a bed not far from the doorway. It looked very tempting, and now it was I who took the lead. Thaladir allowed himself to be dragged into the circle of lights, but then he stopped abruptly. He was frowning again.

"Behold!" came a dramatic voice from the darkness, which I recognized as that of the merchant. "Behold this unhappy couple! Look at the pretty lady, see how she hungers for the pleasures of the bed!" All was silent except for that voice, and I began to wonder if there was really someone else there. But, after his next statement - "The elf cannot satisfy his wife." - there was a murmur, and even hints of discreet laughter.

Thaladir looked unhappy, but in a stoic way. I guessed he had decided that even this indignity was worth to suffer for the sake of diplomacy. I tried to look miserable, too, but what I really felt was lust. The immediate effect of the flowery smell, which I had now identified as the soap I accidentally used in Rivendell with interesting consequences, had worn off already, leaving a residue of desire that merely heightened my own, rather than creating an entirely artificial emotion.

"Alas!" continued the man. "She has come to regret the day in which she fell for the enchantment of this fairy." More laughter, less discreet this time. "But!" he shouted loudly enough to regain the audience's full attention, "The remedy is near, owing to the masterful craftsmanship of the lords under the mountain!"

Now he stepped into the circle of light and I saw that he was carrying a box. He whispered to me to lie down in the bed, which I did, now noticing the stool that was placed beside it. I saw the merchant handing the box to Thaladir, and then he vanished again. A last enthusiastic "behold!" was all that I heard from him for a long time. I was alone with the seneschal.

Thaladir brushed my hand with his lips and then he sat down on the stool and began to arrange the contents of the box on the bed. I watched his calm, meticulous movements as in trance, clenching my thighs and aching for him to touch me. Finally, he slid the hem of my nightgown up the few additional inches that were needed to bare the tingling junction of my legs. Then he touched me there, ever so lightly, and as I parted my thighs I suppressed a gasp, remembering that 'my husband' supposedly did not please me in bed, at least not enough.

He continued to caress me, teasing me with his fingers until they were slick with my wetness. Then he picked up one of the object from the bed, a rather small one, about the size of his thumb, and while still stimulating me with one hand, he gently nudged the phallus in between my legs. It met no resistance, which he must have known, but he still paused when little more than the head was in. I took it as a courtesy I had little use for.

"More," I hissed. "Move it! Please."

The seneschal proved his excellency even in this. And his temperance. When the light thrusts once again had me pleading for more, he withdrew the object and held it high into the air. It glistened quite prettily in the torchlight and I think I heard a soft sound of approval from the hidden audience. I forgot all about them when Thaladir silenced my pleas with something that felt incredibly thick, and as hard as the material it was made from.

For a few moments I just lay there, enjoying the feeling of fullness and hovering between desire and dread. What would it be like when that thing began to move?

I needed not to worry. In the seneschal's able hand, it was an instrument of intense pleasure and as I relaxed, I realized that I could accommodate it quite well. I began to moan. "Harder, please!"

"My lady," replied the seneschal calmly, "I believe that we shall enrich the experience of our audience by offering them a novel view." Not listening to my protests, he put aside the phallus, again after holding it up.

I turned around in the bed and stood on my hands and knees, which Thaladir, however, judged to be a position I would not be able to hold for long in my, as he called it 'excited state'. Two pillows stuffed under my hips made him satisfied, and I have to admit that it was comfortable.

I was unprepared for what came next. It felt so incredibly good: the angle so perfect, the depth and rhythm so very well matched to what I craved at every moment. Again I forgot about the dwarves and the merchant, and even Thaladir sank into a blurred background of my imagination. There was only pleasure now, a tingling, itching, aching feeling that became stronger as I climbed towards the height of satisfaction. I must have moaned and groaned, called out, too, but it was unimportant. I became vaguely aware of something sneaking in between my hips and the pillows, something that was wonderful to grind against.

"Very soon now," I heard the merchant's voice getting through to my consciousness.

In a sudden act of stubbornness I tried to hold it off. It was so good as it was, just balancing on that thin edge. I opened my eyes and glanced at Thaladir. His face bore an expression of utter concentration, but his lips were slightly parted and I think he may have breathed audibly, too. I realized, looking at his left arm that disappeared beneath me, that it was his fingertips I was pushing against. He seemed to have waited for that very moment. Something he did, maybe as little as flexing his thumb or bending a digit, sent me into the climax the merchant had wished to see.

"Behold!" shouted the merchant with excitement. "The famous craftsmanship of the dwarves can help even an elf!"

The applause was deafening. My mission was completed.

~ Mary ~

The twins deposited Edric, trussed up and gagged, beneath a tree that grew beside the inn. They were not sure what to do about him. He would be safe there, they told me, while they decided.

"Did the two of you arrange this kidnapping?" I would not have put it past them to do something like this, all for the fun of it, in order to see the look on my face.

"No, darling," said Elrohir. "Of course we didn't."

"We were not even sure that you were really you," added his brother. "Not until we saw you that is."

"What? Who did you think I was going to be?"

"You seem sorry to be rescued, darling," Elladan said.

"Don't call me that," I said wearily, as we climbed the steps up to the entrance of the inn. "I thought I was going to have at least a little bit of fun with Edric today, but I ended up getting drugged and slept on his chest instead." I stood still. "Now, before I go one more step with you wretched villains, you must tell me how it happened that you were waiting here for me."

"We met your good friend Edric yesterday, here in Underharrow."

"Under where-oh?"

Underharrow," repeated Elladan.

"It is a village beneath Dunharrow," said Elrohir.

They turned me around and pointed up; there was enough of a moon to show we were at the foot of a mountain range. I remembered that Dunharrow was the place where the Rohirrim had mustered before they rode off to fight in Gondor. It was located on a high clifftop, in the White Mountains. It meant that we were near to the famous Paths of the Dead.

Thaladir had been able to pound at least that much information into my head, mostly because I thought the idea of the formerly haunted mountain passage was interesting. As I looked up at the zig-zagging road that led to the mustering area high above us, the twins explained that they were currently holed up at this inn with a young woman who they had rescued recently.

"You rescued her from Edric?" I was truly shocked. Was my horselord Captain a thorough scoundrel? I was hoping that he had only been temporarily led astray by the Imladris brothers, and that my attempted kidnapping was more a prank than a crime.

"No, darling, Edric had nothing to do with her being abducted," said Elladan. "That was actually our idea."

"We lured her away from a ridiculous little merchant who was exploiting her virtue in a most shockingly lewd way," added Elrohir, although he sounded more wistful than offended. From the doorway to the inn behind us, I heard a sharp laugh.

"You claimed you were some kind of high-born gentlemen," said a young woman, with a heart-shaped face and curvaceous shape, who had stepped out to join us. She glared at the twins and then turned to face me. "But it turned out that they don't even have more than two coins in their pocket to rub together."

"You're wrong," I said. "They have immeasurable wealth."

"Then why did they tell me that they couldn't afford to buy my contract?" She had her hands on her hips and her lips were tight with fury. "Talking about how they wanted to worship me with no strings attached, what rot. A couple of vagrants with pretty tongues, if you ask me."

"Their father is a great Elflord," I explained. "He lives in an enchanted valley, in an enormous mansion, with a bunch of other famous elves."

Her delayed reaction to what I said was almost funny, except that I felt a little guilty for being the one to break this news to her, for it was indeed a surprise. Her eyes grew huge and she whipped her head around to stare at the twins, as if she was seeing them for the first time. Elrohir was smiling, but Elladan had the good sense to appear guilt-stricken

"I know they don't look elfy," I said, trying not to laugh at her slack-jawed face. "They hang around with men and horses, and do man stuff, instead of hanging out in trees the way all good elves do." I emphasized the word 'good'.

"Hang around?" She repeated it back to me, obviously confused by the term. "Hanging out? In trees? You mean by their necks, with ropes?"

"No, no ropes. I meant that they, um, they associate mostly with men." I could see that word meant nothing to her. I kept trying. "Uh, they live with, they live with men, Rangers" I offered. "They wear clothes like Rangers, keep their hair short, and carry swords; most elves don't do those things, in fact, none that I can think of."

"Let us all go inside and have some dinner," suggested Elladan, taking my arm in his. Elrohir offered his elbow to the still-stunned young woman. She seemed numb, but she took his arm and we all entered the inn.

"You still have to tell me how you came to almost buy me," I reminded the twins.

"Buy her?" The young woman had found her voice at last, and she sounded furious. "Me you made sneak out the window and you were going to lay out hard cash for this skinny little mouse?"

"They weren't really going to buy me," I told her, even though I wanted to smack her for calling me a mouse. I did not mind the 'skinny' or even the 'little' part, but I was not going to stand for being called a mouse by this chubby child. "Edric thought they were going to, and that's all." I removed my cloak, revealing my sexy peasant costume.

With my chin raised, I dared her with my eyes to call me a mouse again.

We sat to eat; the twins were grinning. They reminded me of small boys. Boys who had tied in a race to a finish line, and were both given their own trophies to hold above their heads in triumph, while all of the men in the room turned to stare at both me and the young pouting woman.

~ Mal ~

When the dwarves had left the room, the rat-like little merchant approached Thaladir and me and told with many flourishing bows how immensely successful the demonstration had been, and how immensely grateful he was. Then he took us back to the chamber where we had eaten previously, and where the supply of refreshments had been reviewed. There was also an adjacent room where we could rest for as long as we liked. With that, he bid us goodnight. He never stopped grinning or rubbing his hands.

Alone with Thaladir, I began to think back on what had just happened. Was the elf embarrassed, now that it was over? Would he rather be on his own, to cleanse himself of the unseemliness by writing everything down in his little book, or wandering under the stars?

For myself, I wanted the unthinkable. I wanted to fling off the nightgown and climb into bed, but not alone.

"Thank you for everything, Your Excellency," I told him on the threshold. "I need to... sleep, and I know that you must have other things to do now that your duties have been carried out." I smiled amiably to show how happy I was with him. "Thank you, and goodnight."

"On the contrary, my lady," he replied, rather sternly. "According to my studies, it would be most irresponsible to detach myself from your company presently."

"Oh?" My hopes began to rise.

"Indeed, it would be highly unadvisable to do so, as indications show potential risk of harm to a mortal lady's well-being, if left alone in the current situation."

"You are very welcome to stay," I told him. I very much doubted that his studies had told him anything at all about situations as weird as the one we had just been through, but his assessment of my emotional state was correct and I wasn't going to argue.

I noted with satisfaction that he not only followed me into the bedroom, but started removing his clothes, too, and when I climbed into the bed, he joined me. I snuggled close, daring a little kiss on his ear, but he seemed distant, pensive.

"What do you want to do?" I whispered. "You said I needed something."

"Indeed, my lady." He pulled off the sheet that covered us and moved to the foot-end of the bed. "I am most convinced that certain sensitive parts of your female physique require attention of a more tender kind than they have so far been subjected to this present night."

He nudged my legs apart very gently so that he could kneel there, and then he pressed his lips against my core. I responded immediately, instinctively pressing myself against him. He held me down, again very gently, and continued to kiss and lick. When I was finally able to relax enough to lie still, his fingers joined his tongue. It was total bliss.

"Come here," I whispered after a while, giving his hair a light tug. "There is something else I need there." He lifted his head, and although the room was completely dark, I was sure that he was smiling.

I tugged his hair again and then pulled him down on top of me. A low moan came from both of us as he slid in, and for a long time nothing coherent was said. Not until both of us were thoroughly satisfied.

"Now," I told him when he sat up, "that was a rather nice duty, wasn't it? I think you actually enjoyed it," I said in mock rebuke.

"I believe a small reward was in order. With His Majesty's permission."

"Of course." I threw my arms around his neck and hugged him, when I suddenly realized something terrible that could render the entire episode with the dwarves worthless. "Thaladir!"

"My lady?"

"I forgot the poor! I didn't even mention to the merchant the percentages of the profit that Eomer wanted for support to the needy of his realm, much less the issue of a general customs duty on all merchandise passing through the Paths. What if he refuses, now that we've done what he wanted?"

"Worry not, my lady. Whilst you were preparing yourself for the demonstration, I took the liberty of making arrangements concerning the proper allocation of funds, should our errand prove successful."

"Your Excellency, I think I love you." I kissed him before he could start telling me how very inappropriate it would be if my emotions towards his humble person were indeed of that nature, or something equally romantic.

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

Status of daily schedule: Accomplished

Remarks: This night has proven most difficult, seeing as it has involved the infliction of much unseemliness by myself upon His Majesty's concubine. I could not, however, refrain from experiencing a certain pleasure at the view of her exposed person, and, furthermore, from the ensuing actions performed on her orders. To my defence, I shall record that the lady showed clear evidence of enjoying said ministrations, and carried out her mission with all braveness. His Majesty has reason to be proud. Long live Eryn Lasgalen!

To be continued...

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Chapter posted: October 3, 2007

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