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Far Beyond Mirkwood, Chapter 21/?

Authors: Mary A and Malinornë
Pairings: Mainly Thranduil/OFCs
Warnings: Adult sexual shenanigans, nudity, naughty elves.
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 practices her kidnapping story on Thranduil, who is not impressed, and Mal gives a command performance for Thaladir.

~ Mary ~

"You are a brute, Sire," I told Thranduil, after he broke away from his kiss, and handed me a goblet filled with wine. At the moment, I was simultaneously unnerved and delighted to find him waiting for me behind the door. I do not know how he managed it, as if he knew exactly when I would arrive at the Dunharrow inn. Having him to myself, however, was not only a tremendous surprise, but a rare treat.

This was no time to ask questions that he would never answer; it was far better to use my time to air my grievances.

"I was all prepared," I continued, after taking a sip of the excellent wine, "once I found out that you had not even thought to send a message to me, to run off to Gondor with Anborn, through the old Paths of the Dead, which I hear is a great short cut now."

It had not been a serious plan, and I am not sure that a fleeting thought could be called a plan, but the notion of running away with Anborn had crossed my mind, and had been just as quickly dismissed.

"What prevented you?" The king drew me close to him, with his arm around my shoulder, but I resisted turning my face up to him, yet. It took all of my strength to recall the injury he had done to me, let alone cope with what it was about him that made me want to be near him every second of the day, regardless of how callously he treated me.

"I'm not sure what it was that prevented me from running away," I lied. "Probably you, somehow, directing my thoughts."

The truth was, I had realized that if what I really wanted was Thranduil's undivided attention, or even just a tiny bit of his divided attention, then removing myself from his presence would be counter-productive. He would not have stopped me, if I really wanted to leave him.

"You believe," he said, "that I control your thoughts, while, at the same time, you believe that I never think about you."

"Maybe you control me when it suits you, my lord. That is what I think. For example, I knew you were up here waiting for me, or my body knew and I just followed it here. Does that make sense?"

"Perfect sense," the king answered, and he directed me across the room and behind a lovely folded screen in a corner, which hid a large wooden bathtub, lit by a single flickering candle. It was very much like the tub that Eomer had in his own bathing chamber, and I assumed they were both made by the same Gondorian manufacturer. More of King Elessar's influence currently spreading over Middle-earth.

After the long, dusty, weary, bone-jarring day, I was happy to see the hot water, and eager to undress.

One saving grace of my borrowed servant gown's otherwise bleak style was a lack of buttons or laces. It was made to slip over the head, and was then supposed to be covered with an apron that tied around the waist, which would give it a shape. Otherwise, the limp dull-colored fabric it was made from had no redeeming features. I had grown to hate it.

"My seneschal would approve of that gown's design," said the king offhandedly, which made me gasp. He knew quite well that innocent remark was more than insulting; it was tragically true.

"I would be happy never to see it again," I said, as I pulled the sack-like garment off and tossed it aside, before stepping into the steaming bath, with the king's assisting hand. "But I do believe the visitors outside might be shocked if I walked out of this inn naked, and Thaladir would hardly approve of such behavior."

"Indeed, there is every possibility that the sight of you would startle the pilgrims from paying homage to their horse statues," said Thranduil, nodding in agreement. "Very bad form, that." He picked up the offensive garment and marveled over it. "What rag-picker did you steal this from?"

"You really weren't paying attention to me today, were you?" I stared at Thranduil, feeling shocked that he did not know what I had endured during my visit to Underharrow. I would have probably felt triumphant to be proven right, but he was undressing, which made it hard to remember what I was talking about.

"Indulge me with your point of view." He had just pulled his tunic over his head, and his hair spilled over his bare shoulders like a shining waterfall.

"You do remember that ridiculous costume that I was forced to wear to the feast the other night." He nodded. "When Edric tricked me into getting into that carriage, I was still wearing it. It was bad enough to parade around in that outfit for a few hours, but a few days was sheer torture."

"Were you mistaken for a lad again?"

"Worse, I was mistaken for a loose woman."

"Mistaken?" The king stepped into the tub, sat, quickly pulled me onto his lap, and kissed me hard to keep me from answering him. When he finally let me up for air, he was unusually sedate. His hands were gentle as he poured handfuls of the water over me. We moved slowly, almost lazily, in the warm bath.

At first, he was a very indulgent listener, and let me ramble on as I finished telling him how I ended up wearing the servant's gown, a story that grew larger in the telling. Emboldened, I tried out my kidnapping tale on him, the one I was working on to capture center stage with in the Golden Hall.

"I was so afraid," I said, laying my head against his gleaming wet chest, while practicing a convincing shudder of horror. The folded screen blocked the light from the fireplace leaving us with the single candle's glow. It gave the king's skin a sheen, like polished gold-tinted marble, only it felt warm beneath my cheek.

"You were not in the least bit afraid."

"Your Majesty! I was terrified!" I cried, sitting up straight.

"You were having the time of your life," he said, calmly, while using a finger to pull strands of damp hair from my eyes. I could tell that he was not actually paying very close attention to what I was saying. His head was tilted to the side, he had a half-smile playing about his lips, and I felt that he was enjoying watching me make my case, more than he was actually hearing me, and he was amused.

"Okay, okay, yes, I was having fun. But that is beside the point, it was still scary, a little."

"Perhaps it would be better for your traumatized state of mind," said the king, as he put his hands to my waist and lifted me up from his thighs, "if I attempt to divert your attention away from your terrifying escapade." With that said, I was turned to face him, and then settled firmly on his waiting, and willing, erection. I had to agree with him. I felt immediately better.

While I was riding Thranduil's magical, healing scepter, and not thinking at all about my ugly gown, or being kidnapped, my king grasped my face in his hands and gazed into my eyes. Without a warning, I was suddenly transported back to my night with Eomer. The added sensations of that vigorous bedding was almost more than I could bear to feel, but I managed.

With Thranduil's assistance, I was able to remember every moment as if it was happening all over again, and to also feel everything from Eomer's point of view. The dear, intimidated young king had enjoyed my patient instructions much more than I would have ever guessed. Whatever embarrassment I might have felt, from being so wickedly bold with the young lord, fled as I understood how much he had relied on my daring behavior to fulfill his own curiosity.

"He was vastly grateful," said Thranduil thoughtfully, once I had gathered myself, caught my breath, and was able to pay attention. "The young king certainly benefited from your instructions. Your patience with him was notable." As he spoke, he gently stroked my hair. I felt warm inside when I heard the approval in his voice.

"I didn't even think he liked me very much," I sighed. "He would barely look at me during the feast."

"In his world, you are extremely exotic, possibly dangerous, and that surely set him aback, while whetting his otherwise limited appetite."

"He'll make that princess Lothriel a good husband."

"Lothiriel," said Thranduil, slowly pronouncing her name correctly, "is not a princess. But she does owe you a debt of gratitude."

~ Mal ~

The orgasm that woke me in Thaladir's bed was so delicious that I simply refused to open my eyes. I had felt the night before that the seneschal was as eager to give in to his desires as was I, but I did not think his resolve would falter that quickly. The stubborn old elf would rather deny himself forever, than risk overstepping one of his self-appointed rules. I wondered how Thranduil had known that this would be the right moment to try and break his seneschal's defences.

"Still your thoughts."

That voice. Velvety, smooth, speaking both of pride and hidden pleasures unnumbered. It was certainly not Thaladir's. I imagined the smile, more of a half-ironic smirk, actually, that must now play on the lips of the only elf I had met who could talk like that. At a whim, I slowly lifted my hand in the direction of the voice. Yes! There it was, his perfectly shaped nose, perhaps a little larger than what was common for his people.

"It is I. Now, will you let me proceed?"

Many weeks had passed since I last had the pleasure of sharing such intimacy with Haldir, but I had not forgotten his tendency to make sex an almost spiritual experience, if given the time.

"Of course. I have waited for you so long, ever since that day in Fangorn..."

"The day you refused to have me behind a tree." The memory apparently amused him. "It would have been nice, but I prefer to hurry less. Nobody will disturb us this morning." I half expected him to say that Thaladir was standing guard by the door, but decided I would prefer not to know.

"I have nothing against trees, as you know, but I like a little privacy. I will try not to think too much, but can I at least open my eyes?" He chuckled again.

"If you wish."

His eyes that met mine were shockingly clear, as if I had truly seen him for the very first time. I lifted my fingers to his face again and let the tips glide over his cheeks, his nose, his mouth. His beautifully shaped ears.

"Have you never met an elf before, my lady?" he asked with a smirk.

"Now you are the one being silly." The enchantment I had fallen into was broken.

"Let us then both be quiet," he whispered. "Let us feel, and be, not think or talk." I nodded and resumed my gentle exploration of his body; his delicate throat, his broad shoulders, his powerful arms. His hands, where the fingers on the right one were calloused from hundreds of years of holding a tight bowstring. And then, his belly, so masculine, and yet vulnerable-looking.

Gently he took my hands in his and pressed them to the mattress. Then he proceeded to trace circles with his fingers around my breasts, slowly inching closer to the nipples, but never quite touching. I wanted to reciprocate, not just lie there, but when I moved, he took my hands again, holding them still. This time he did not let go of them, but instead he took up his caresses with his mouth. The softly grazing lips that moved over my skin, followed by trails of silky, tickly hair, was doubly unbearable. I whined. He responded with a deep kiss, during which he finally let go of my hands, allowing me to at least touch his hair and feel the strong muscles of his back.

He did not protest when I gave him a light push, but willingly lay down flat on his back. I gave him the same treatment with lips and hair as he had just bestowed on me, but added my hands, too. After all, one must be allowed to expect greater self-control from an elf than a mere human.

I was satisfied to see that it was not easy for him. The skin on his belly shivered when I let my little finger glide to the area below and in the corner of my eye I could see his thighs straining from the knowledge that my mouth was going to travel there, too. He held completely still as I took him between my lips. At first it seemed like he was going to hold his breath for minutes, but then he relaxed with an audible sigh, which I took as a signal that I was free to continue.

With my hands and mouth I touched and caressed him, now harder, now gentler as he seemed to prefer, and didn't stop until he grabbed my hair a little more forcefully than I expected from him.

"My turn," he panted through half-closed lips. I smiled amiably, rejoicing inside that I had not been the first to speak. Now I could let myself go without worries of risking to ruin a precious moment.

And I did. Haldir's hands were everywhere on and around me, and his mouth as well. Touching, taunting, caressing, nibbling, mingling attention to expected areas with exquisite pleasure drawn from the least expected parts of my body. Who would have known it was possible to come just from having one's toes stimulated? But then, when he entered me at last, letting me feel the full power of the member that had been so restrained in my mouth, it was clear that his slightest movement could lift me to unimaginable heights. I did not care about what I looked or sounded like. The moans, the shouts, the whining and begging and thrashing around on the sheets - in all I felt the confidence of knowing I was desired.

When we finally had enough, at least for now, and had rested for a few moments with limbs entwined, there was a sharp rap on the door, followed by a discreet throat-clearing. I giggled. Was it as I had thought, then, that someone had been there all the time, waiting to get his room back?

~ Mary ~

When I awoke the next morning, the king was not in the room, and the bed-curtains were drawn open to let in the morning sun. There was a soft package on the bed, which contained my heavier winter cloak. It felt like years since I had seen it last. Instantly, I was transported back to the Mirkwood caves in winter, and I was struck with a pang of homesickness. The next time I spent the night with Thranduil, I intended to ask him to transport me back for another brief visit.

But for now the presence of the cloak was a puzzle, as I unwrapped and shook out the floor-length garment. A sharp rapping sound gave me just enough time to pull it up to cover my naked body before the door was flung open. Thranduil entered, followed by tray-bearing servants. Breakfast was served. After I reluctantly pulled the servant's gown on, I sat to eat with the king.

"Did Thaladir give you that cloak to bring to me?"

With a chuckle in his voice, Thranduil described how the seneschal had been cringing for days, knowing that I was prancing about the mortal region in a short skirt and low-cut blouse, worn at his insistence. Thaladir had not mentioned his distress to the king, he had only passed along the cloak, wrapped as I had found it, without a word of explanation. For me, the message was clear and the irony was delicious. The old elf was sorry.

We left as soon as we were finished with breakfast, and met up with Anborn in the common room. He had slept in the innkeeper's chambers, on a pallet on the floor, but considered himself lucky for the spacious leg room. Most of the late-comers that had found no vacancies were sleeping on the narrow benches along the dining-room walls.

The three of us left the inn together, and Thranduil and I mounted Amarth, who was tied up to a post and behaving himself. We bade Anborn farewell. He was to take the stolen carriage and horses back to Edoras by the winding road down to Underharrow, and he seemed unusually cheerful about it. I had the idea that the ranger might have even been happy to make the carriage trip alone.

"He didn't do a very good job hanging on to his wits, Majesty," I said, after the king took us up higher into the mountain. Not wanting to spoil the moment, I pretended not to notice that we were headed in the wrong direction if we were going back to the Golden Hall.

"You have added years to that young man's mortal life span," Thranduil answered, with a tinge of pity in his voice.

"Oh, he can stand it," I said, waving my hand in dismissal of any suffering on Anborn's part. "You know he has Numenorean blood, and he will probably live longer, anyway, because of me."

"Why is that?"

"Anborn will make some woman an even better husband than Eomer is going to be for his princess, and his grateful wife will make sure he lives a long, happy life."

At first, I thought that we might visit the former Paths of the Dead, but the king went in the opposite direction to them, on a narrow curving path that seemed to lead nowhere in particular, except higher up into the mountain range. For a long while, he was silent as we rode along. Finally, he spoke.

"The ranger wants to marry you."

"I would not be a very good wife for him," I said, but I was barely listening. Now that we were above Dunharrow, the narrow path widened to what appeared to be ancient road-way. It was visible for miles in the distance for we were at the highest end. I could see that it traveled steadily through the mountain range, sloping slightly downwards, and would end up right in Eomer's backyard, so to speak.

A secret road, perhaps? It did explain how Edric could have traveled back and forth between Underharrow and Edoras in hours, while it took most of a day by carriage.

"And if he found another woman, the type that he should marry, would you set him free, I wonder." Thranduil said this more as a statement than a question, but I was offended enough to answer.

"Of course I would," I snapped. "I don't own him." But it gave me a chill to think about Anborn leaving me for another woman. It had to happen, some day.

~ Mal ~

Late in the afternoon I stood outside that very same room again. Haldir had accompanied me on a tour of the stables and after that I had just enjoyed being lazy, with nothing in particular to do. Our hosts were busy preparing for a farewell dinner, and so, I decided to take the opportunity to thank Thaladir for letting Haldir and me borrow his bed. I knocked on the door and entered.

"Your conduct has been reported to His Majesty," he said as soon as I had closed the door behind me. That was fast. I had heard from Eowyn that Thranduil and Mary had returned recently, but I hadn't seen any of them yet.

"If," continued the seneschal, "your current errand is identical to your previous one, you may stand here." He didn't lift his head from what he was reading, but with his hand he indicated a spot beside him.

"Not really," I replied, wondering what he had told the king. "I have come to..." He interrupted me.

"In that case, my lady, I must ask you to leave, since pressing matters require my attention."

"But I just want to talk to you, very briefly."

"I believe we had a most futile conversation no later than this passed night."

"Yes, and I'm sorry for that. That is what I came to apologize for, among other things." I took a few steps into the room and stood by his desk before he could come with more reasons to make me leave.

"Apologize, my lady?" He murmured it, as if he was still engrossed in his reading, but I saw that I had his attention now. His forehead was moving, ever so slightly, as if it couldn't quite decide whether to wrinkle up in disapproval, or relax.

"Yes, Your Excellency. Yesterday night I intruded on your time and your privacy by coming here and assuming that you would gladly go to bed with me."

"Most rude indeed." I saw in the corner of my eye that he was watching me now, but I continued to tell my confessions to the wall.

"Furthermore, I refused to leave when you told me to, even though His Majesty had not ordered me to spend the night in your room." Thaladir gasped, possibly equalling that little untruth to high treason. "And still," I continued, "you understood my needs and cared for me by sending Haldir. I feel so bad. That is what I wanted to tell you. I will leave you now not to intrude further on your time. I cannot promise not to experience desire for you, but I do swear not to act upon it." I took a step towards the door.

"My lady!" His voice was stern now, making me jump, but at the same time it bore some of the strange allure that had drawn me to the strict elf from the very beginning.

"Your Excellency?"

"Resume your earlier position." I stepped back to where I stood before and jumped again as he slapped his hand against the surface of the desk. "Bend over." I followed the command with some hesitation, not daring to presuppose what he intended to do.

Thaladir fussed with his papers, stood and placed some of them on the bed. The scroll he had been reading he put in front of my face. "Hold it," he said. I did as I had been told, now even the more confused about his intentions. "Now, read."

I began to read aloud the contents of the scroll, which appeared to be a long-winded recount of His Most High Majesty King Thranduil's visit to the Free Eorlingas and their Most Worthy Eomer King. Thaladir stood still at first, correcting my pace a couple of times and then nodding when the reading was to his satisfaction. Then he removed the long sleeveless robe he had been wearing, leaving him in tight leggings and a lose-fitting tunic that reached him mid-thigh. The robe disposed of - carefully - he put his hands under his tunic.

My eyes grew big with surprise. Was he really doing what I thought, and I what I kept longing for despite my words to the contrary?

"Read," he said when I grew quiet, too interested in what he was doing with his leggings to keep my eyes on the text. His voice was wonderfully commanding.

"Yes, Your Excellency."

For the next paragraph or so - one covering the beginning of the ceremonial welcome of the Elvenking in Rohan - the seneschal eyed me intently, and when he was apparently satisfied that I would continue, he stepped behind me. I read on. Then I felt him pressing against my backside. I read on. He placed his hands on my bottom and then slid them down along my legs, down to the hem of my skirt. I didn't miss a word.

"My lady, I believe you missed a word."

"I did not." A sudden, pleasant sting on my backside where his hand had just landed convinced me to look again. If I had missed anything it couldn't be substantial. There it was. A 'the'. I repeated the offensive sentence and the seneschal resumed his caresses to my thighs and legs. This time he lifted the skirt of my dress and draped it over my back, exposing my posterior and its silky, slinky, shiny and much too small to be useful casing. I had dressed for Thranduil, not his seneschal.

The panties came of quickly, but I don't think it was because Thaladir disliked them. Regardless of what he pretended to think about lavish garments, he eagerly stroked every area they covered, even making me put my legs further apart to allow him to do so. I continued to read, but I couldn't help making small pauses here and there, just to breathe, when his touches were particularly pleasing. He let me get away with it, mostly, only indicating with a clearing of his throat if the pauses became too lengthy.

Then I felt him again pressing against my rear and I bent over a little more, sticking out my bottom in a way that usually pleased the king. Thaladir liked it too, and when I began the next paragraph - about a visit to the stables of the famous mearas - his thrusts punctuated my words. "And... so... it... pleased... the Most... Royal... Party... to... ah... to... make... ah... visit... oh... to-oh..."

It was silly, of course, but strangely arousing and he made me carry through with the reading even to the most crucial point. His means were simple. Every time I stopped reading, he stopped moving, and he held my hips so that I couldn't cheat by pressing myself back onto him.

A short while thereafter I left him to continue his reading alone. I needed to rest a little before dinner, otherwise I would never be up to spending the night with Thranduil, something I wouldn't miss for all the other elves in Arda.

~ Mary ~

We arrived at the Golden Hall after mid-day and were greeted by Thaladir at the front entrance. The seneschal almost seemed pleased to see me, probably because I was properly covered. I stood in front of him, curtseyed, and then opened my cloak to show him the modest gown I had on. His relief was nearly visible.

We had, Thaladir informed us, only a little time to prepare for that day's dinner, which we were commanded to attend. It was to be our farewell feast, we would be leaving Rohan early the next day, and proceeding on to Gondor. I felt like we had just got there, and was sorry to hear we were leaving. The seneschal bustled off to somewhere inside the Golden Hall, lost in the shadows almost instantly, and the king escorted me to my room.

Instead of Lord Freawine, Haldir was standing guard at the entrance to the guest chambers, with Miriel beside him; she curtseyed deeply to Thranduil. After bestowing me with a brisk kiss on the forehead, the king handed me over to the pair of elves, and then went on to his own rooms. I was a little worried about Lord Freawine's absence, even though I was not sure he was properly called a lord. He was dignified enough to be called one. I hoped that he had not been held responsible for the kidnapping.

With obvious relief at my return, Miriel took me to my room to help me dress. I was whisked into a bath, and then into fresh clothes, and my hair was put into order. It felt like mere minutes had passed, but, when I left my room, the sun's rays that sent long fingers through the hazy great hall were much lower than I expected. Haldir escorted me out into the dining area, and up to the main table. From the corner of my eye, I thought I saw Anborn, further down from us. Eomer was standing at the other end, however, smiling at me, and I kept my eyes on the young king while he spoke.

"It is good to see you have returned unscathed and in sound shape to grace our hall, Lady Mary," he said. Next to him, Lady Eowyn raised her tankard to toast my 'continued safety and good health'. They were charming royal gestures, and I was touched. If I knew how to blush, I would have. They both sat, and then Thranduil took his seat, and then the rest of us. I had barely begun to unfold my napkin, to spread it on my lap, when Eomer spoke to me again.

"Lady Mary, we would of course appreciate an accounting of your alleged abduction," he said, but he did not sound overly concerned, or anxious. To refuse to do a king's bidding at his own table would be very unseemly, but I felt that I could not blurt out my story with so many witnesses around me. I still had to keep my connection with Thranduil a secret, and it would be hard to explain why I did not fight back, or even act worried, when Edric took me away, even though I knew he was lying.

I saw, with relief, that Lord Freawine was seated near Eomer, and he smiled at me. I figured that the king's counselor must not be in disgrace, and it was possible that no one exactly knew what had taken place. That morning, I was being escorted back to my room by Freawine after, well, if I told what had happened, in front of everyone, besides Freawine being unfairly blamed, everyone would know, or guess, where I had spent that night. In Eomer's bed. I did not feel it was up to me to make this revelation.

"My tale is not a pleasant enough one for dinner conversation, Your Majesty," I said. "Please, let me talk to you in private after we are finished with our last meal together."

"There is not much privacy in this hall, my Lady," Eomer replied merrily, and then he tipped his tankard toward someone further down the table from me, who I could not see. "And I would hear Captain Anborn's remembrances, as well."

In the end, Mal, Thaladir, Thranduil, Eowyn, and several high level horse men and ladies were allowed to sit nearby and listen to Anborn and me tell about Edric and the stolen carriage. Everyone else was sent to further parts of the hall.

The young king slouched comfortably, he was clearly enjoying both the dinner and ale, and I was interrupted a few times when he belched, but he listened carefully. Anborn's story was briefer, and less violent and action-packed, than mine. I had made some last minute editing in my version, leaving out knowing that Edric lied, and how the king had come to me in a dream to let me know that I was not in danger.

To compensate, I added as much gruesomeness to the alleged tasks I would have been forced to perform, for some reportedly lewd dwarves at Helm's Deep. I had to make everything up from the few clues the twins and Lily had given me, and add a lot of embellishment of my own. There were more than a few gasps from my audience.

"Forced to have sex with dwarves?" Eomer, who had either grinned or grunted inappropriately at several of my more descriptive fibs, could barely stop chuckling when he asked this. Then he sat straighter and stared right at Mal, who had made a small sound. I had not even noticed that she had a very strange expression on her face, and I was instantly sorry that I had been so graphic with my lurid descriptions of the depravity I would have been forced to endure, if Edric had succeeded. I had forgotten how sensitive she is, the sweet thing.

"The next day," I said, "Elladan and Elrohir told me that Edric bragged about how he could provide them with an elf-trained woman, and they guessed that it must be me," I was finished. There was not much more to add after that.

"Why you?" Eowyn asked.

"They said...," I began, and then stopped. I did not want to repeat what the twins had said.

"Please, go on, Lady Mary," said Eomer. He was lounging back in his seat again, happy to listen to whatever I had to say. I sighed.

"They said that the woman Edric had in mind was not above making a spectacle of herself, so that would have made me perfect for the dwarves' purposes."

"This story calls for a ballad to be written about it," said Eomer, and then Anborn and I were dismissed from the table. No sentence was handed down, Edric's name was not mentioned again, and it was Mal's night with the king.

"I don't want to go to my room," I whispered to Anborn, after beckoning him to follow me. Someday he might leave me for a proper wife, but he was still mine tonight.

"Lady Mary," said the familiar voice of doom from behind me. "You are to go directly to your bed chamber and have your rest, the hour is later than you think." Before I responded impulsively to Thaladir, I recalled the tiny balcony attached to my room, and how close it was to the ground.

"Yes, Your Excellency," I replied sweetly, while I winked at the ranger. "I will have Anborn escort me there, right away."

~ Mal ~

The dinner was bearable mostly because of Haldir and Thranduil, who were both seated on the opposite side of the table. Thus, when everyone's attention was turned to 'poor' Mary and her supposedly horrible experience in Dunharrow, or wherever she had gone sightseeing while I carried out my diplomatic mission to the dwarves, I could close my ears and concentrate on the elves, thinking back on past pleasures and others soon to come. I found it hard to believe at first, considering how I had spent most of the day, but I was aching for the king to take me to bed as soon as possible.

Despite my attempts to shut out all conversation, I couldn't help noticing King Eomer's lively interest in Mary, which in the end caused us all to endure a very lengthy, and most unlikely, story of how she had been abducted by her pet horselord. If there was a grain of truth to it - and there possibly was, as this Edric was not present for dinner - it was buried under layer upon layer of everything from exaggeration to plain lies. It was more likely that someone would snatch her away to be a court jester or minstrel, than try to sell her as some kind of courtesan. No matter how strong that Edric looked, he didn't stand a chance at forcing Mary to do anything against her will. Even the Elvenking would have an extremely hard time with that, and he was too wise to try in earnest.

I would have endured the storytelling and simply laughed it away, if it hadn't been for some rather disturbing details about a group of dwarves searching for a mortal female to provide a special service, something too lewd for the average woman of Rohan. Most of what she told didn't come anywhere near the truth - instead of a fairly innocent testing of merchandise, her tale was of fertility rites involving group orgies in the deepest mine shafts, the wearing of a false beard to arouse the dwarves further, and other such nonsense. She was having the time of her life.

Apparently, so was Eomer. He was chuckling like mad most of the time and judging from the way his eyes glittered, he couldn't have enough of descriptions of kinky sex with dwarves. The man must still be a virgin, or at least inexperienced, to take such interest in that, especially as he knew what had really happened.

To be fair, I had to admit that he had paid equal attention to my adventures the previous day, if in a less expressed way. Now he even had the cheek to stare at me while the various depravities were listed, and as he was a king, there was little I could do about it. To walk away might have harmed the newly forged relations between the wood elves and the Rohirrim, but I couldn't stifle a small sound of indignation. I looked at Thaladir for support, but he was playing his part as the perfect, untouchable seneschal with no feelings at all.

Maybe Mary realized that she was on thin ice, as Eomer was more amused than horrified by her alleged suffering, because after that she calmed down a little. She had to mention Elladan and Elrohir a couple of times, of course, and how close they were to her, and how enamoured with her charms, but that was the end of it. I let out a sigh of relief when she left with Anborn.

But then, Eomer shocked me by remarking that the story was suitable for a ballad, and a little later he added that although the official version would take considerably longer to finish, he hoped to treat the guests of his hall to a taste of the simpler version of 'The Dwarrow-bride'. He belched and then began to hum a melody. I cringed and looked at Thranduil with desperation.

"We are most honoured," said the Elvenking, smiling diplomatically, "but Lady Mal has had an exhausting day and needs to retire."

"As you wish," replied Eomer, shrugging. "I thought the lady had spent most of the day in bed. I have hardly caused a glimpse of her until now." He continued to hum. "You will rejoin us later, I hope?" he added with a wink.

"I look forward to experiencing the best of Rohan poetry." There wasn't the slightest hint of irony in Thranduil's voice, which made the remark even funnier to me.

"You weren't serious, were you?" I asked him when we were out of sight, in the corridor leading to his quarters.

"According to my seneschal, the royal library of Edoras holds precisely one poem. It was composed five hundred years ago in the honour of a particularly fat foal. Any drinking song must surpass that with ease." I agreed. "And," added the king as he opened the door to his bedroom, "I find it rather entertaining to listen to lurid details. Now, tell me of your day."

We reclined on the bed and I rested my head on his shoulder. It was very peaceful and during the whole story of my encounters with Haldir and Thaladir, he did little more than listen attentively and play with his fingers in my hair.

"So, he must finally have understood that he had your permission to touch me," I concluded, speaking about Thaladir's changed behaviour.

"My seneschal is most inattentive at times."

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

Status of daily schedule: Accomplished, with pleasure

Remarks: As His Majesty's visit to the land of the Horse-lords draws to an end, I find it necessary only to conclude that all matters have been successfully accomplished. On a personal level, however, I cannot refrain from noticing the benevolent circumstance of Lady Mary wearing a certain cloak provided to her, and, furthermore, to commit to memory a most fulfilling time spent reading in the company of Lady Malinornė. His Majesty's generosity indicates the possibility of repeating said experience, perchance even with a measure of regularity, a circumstance I shall endeavour to utilize as soon as opportunity thereof arises. Long live Eryn Lasgalen!

To be continued...

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Chapter posted: January 2, 2008

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