Far Beyond Mirkwood, Chapter 27
|Authors:||Mary A and Malinornë|
|Warnings:||Adult sexual content|
|Disclaimer:||This is a work of amateur fanfiction of the parody type and is meant solely for entertainment purposes, no profit is made.|
|Chapter summary:||Mary and Mal witness the coronation of a new Elvenking and Mal enjoys a special treat.|
As we traveled along the Harad road, while Mal napped inside the carriage and Thranduil rode ahead on Amarth, I was given the opportunity to ride on top of it with Thaladir, which turned out to be a mixed blessing. It was nice to be out in the open air, up high where the view made the company I had to keep almost worthwhile, and not confined to the four unchanging walls inside. I knew, however, that by the time we reached our destination, I was going to have a terrible headache.
Every inch along the way I was reminded by Thaladir of just what an 'ancient and historical feature of prominence', as he put it, the Harad road is. The old elf was as close to being excited as I had ever seen him to finally have what he termed as the ‘great privilege’ to see with his own eyes the landmarks of bygone years that he had only read about during his tremendously long life. He had never been further south from Mirkwood, or Old Mirkwood as he referred to it now, than Lothlorien.
“Do you realize,” he asked, “that this very road was used in the year 1944 of the Third Age during the famous Battle of the Camp against the Haradrim and Wainriders by the Southern Army of Gondor, led most gallantly by the Thirty-second King of Gondor, Earnil the Second, son of Siriondil?”
“Famous? I never heard of such a battle,” I said, but that did not slow him down.
“Of course,” the old elf continued, “Earnil was not the King at the time of the battle. No indeed, that would have been the Thirty-first King of Gondor, Ondoher, who, tragically, along with both of his sons, was killed in front of the Black Gates by a surprise assault of the enemy that were hidden in the shadows of the mountains there.”
“Is that a fact?” I murmured in response, to make him think that I was actually listening to him.
“Indeed Lady Mary, and we are close to the Crossings of Poros, just ahead, the famous ford which was the site of a battle in the late Third Age in which the illustrious Steward Turin the Second of Gondor and the courageous King Folcwine of Rohan joined forces and defeated a force of the Haradrim that had taken up residence in Southern Gondor, and were making much mischief along the shipping lanes along the coast.”
“I like the new King’s road better,” I told him, since he had actually paused long enough with his historical meanderings to draw a breath. “It was much nicer and wider than this old road.”
“Lady Mary,” he replied sharply, now with a bit more starch in his manner than earlier, “such sentiments are inappropriate when discussing the eminence of a landmark endowed with the most significant achievements of the ancient Kings and Stewards of Gondor in their noble endeavors to defeat not only the Dark Lord of Mordor, but countless assaults from enemies from the east and the south, both of whom used this very route in their ceaseless attempts to...”
“I still like the new road better,” I interrupted him to say. “But I do have a couple of questions about Ithilien that I bet you could answer.”
“Lady Mary, your propensity to place wagers on every single event of your daily life is unseemly enough to endure, but to stake the outcome of one of the multitude of less-than-well- thought-out imaginings, which flit through your head much in the manner of a rabble of wayward butterflies, on my ability to satisfy them is utterly unwarranted.”
“I still bet you know the answers, so please do be quiet for a moment with your rabbles, and let me ask you something. If it will help you to calm down and stop feeling so insulted, my questions have to do with both the river ahead of us and elves.”
With Thaladir's reluctant consent to at least listen to me, I told him briefly about my eagle-tour with Faramir. We had flown as far as the River Poros, which I was told was the southernmost border of Ithilien, as well as the location of Legolas’s new-found realm of wood elves. I did not mention that Faramir had already bored me senseless with much of the same history about the Harad road that I was being lectured about today, since it would not have prevented Thaladir from doing so.
“I noticed when we flew over the river that there were no huts being built along the edge. Will there ever be any?”
“It is my understanding,” Thaladir answered, “that the elves following His Highness to this area of Ithilien will not be building structures made from the wood of the surviving trees of the once great forest; they are too precious to waste in mere construction when a flet within their sturdy branches will suffice quite efficiently.” He appeared almost happy to hear that my question was in keeping with what he would believe an appropriate topic of discussion.
“Well, here is my next question. I was wondering if that means there are not going to be any river-elves living along the banks to keep the waterway in good order, cleaning it up after storms and the like, while collecting tolls from the people who will want to use it for trade, you know, like they did back in Old Mirkwood?”
After a very long silence so complete that I could actually hear the wheels of the carriage turning on their axles, as well as the twittering of birds and buzzing of insects around us, I realized that I had rendered the seneschal speechless. And I had bet that he would know the answer! It was a good thing that I had not bet any money.
When I woke from my nap I was alone in the carriage, but I could hear Mary’s and Thaladir’s voices. They seemed to be getting along well, which made me happy. I listened to their conversation and studied the seneschal’s map – the old elf was a well of interesting information about the area we were travelling through. When we made a sharp turn to the right I knew at once that we had turned from the main Harad road and were now going towards the port-town Pelargir on the other bank of the Anduin.
The view from the window confirmed that I was right, and also offered the rare sight of a building. It appeared to be an inn and would have been a welcome stop, mostly to get a chance of stretching my legs. I took a few wobbly steps on the carriage floor and then went back to sitting on the bed, alternately looking out the window and studying the map. We had passed no settlements, at least while I was awake, and there were none on the map. Had we continued on the main road, there would be a village a short distance further south, at the Crossings of Poros. Reportedly, the inhabitants who had fled to the coast during the dark years were now returning and Legolas had high hopes that they would be good neighbours.
Thaladir’s good mood had lasted all day. Nourished by Legolas impending coronation – an event of joy as well as many formalities – it would be quenched by nothing, not even the broken axle-tree that had forced us to stand still for many hours and thus thwarted the seneschal’s plans of an early arrival in the new elven realm. The sun was already low in the sky and we would be lucky to be there even by nightfall.
The carriage finally drew to a stop, more than half-way to the river from the main road as far as I could tell. Legolas confirmed it. He also told us that we had now reached his new home in South Ithilien. I thought at first that he was joking. Even for an outpost and one recently built at that, it was unremarkable. Or perhaps I should say the outpost was ‘invisible’, as the only sign of the area being inhabited was a few fire-places on the forest floor, but so close to the road that they could just as well have been left there by travellers like ourselves.
“We’re not quite there yet,” said the youthful prince. “The last part of the way is only a path. This is where we need to leave the carriage.”
We walked a small distance in among the trees, the elves on horseback leaving their animals in Thaladir’s care. The seneschal refused to leave His Majesty’s carriage unguarded and volunteered to stay behind until assistance arrived, insisting that his patience would likely be greater than Anarion’s. Nobody even tried to argue with him and the young guard was obviously happy to be allowed to walk with us and get a first impression of the new elven realm together with his dear Ithilwen.
Anarion, Ithilwen and Miriel ‘Oh’ed and ‘Ah’ed several times along the way, and rightly so. This part of Ithilien was a beautiful land and considering its closeness to Mordor remarkably untouched by the enemy. Legolas had spoken earlier of the trees being in need of healing, but even examining them closely revealed nothing to me. Their malady must be something only elves could feel. To me, there was loveliness all around.
The air was fresh. There was a constant breeze from the sea that set the leaves of the tall pillar-like aspen shivering, the silver side of their dark-green leaves flashing like a million tiny mirrors and the gentle rustle they made became faint silver bells in my imagination. Occasionally a seagull cried, the sound alien to these surroundings, a call from a distant shore. All was light and wholesomeness – unlike Mirkwood, where I always had the feeling that something was lurking in the shadows, not to mention the air of decay that hovered over its darkest parts. But I could still not see any elves, or their dwellings.
“Look into the canopies,” said Legolas, smiling.
Then I finally saw them. In almost every large tree there was a platform, cleverly placed among the branches so that it was partly hidden by foliage. Only a few of them had roofs – as far as I could see the others were either just a floor, or had a simple screen as a wall on one or two sides. There were elves on several of the platforms, smiling and waving at my surprise. It reminded me very much of Lorien.
“Indeed,” said Thranduil, “and it is also much like Greenwood as I first beheld it. Perhaps, when all has been accomplished, I shall return here.”
“And I hope never to leave,” said Anarion shyly, with a glance at Ithilwen.
“Really?” I asked, puzzled. “What about Minas Tirith? Will you not go with us?”
“I will remain in His Majesty’s service until he chooses to release me, of course.”
“Our king is generous,” said Ithilwen, and then continued to me, “Anarion and I will wed as soon as it can be arranged, and this is our chosen home.”
To tell the truth, the idea of the two of them staying in Legolas’ outpost surprised me more than their intention to marry. It would have been rude to ask more questions after such an announcement, so I only offered my sincere congratulations, but in my thoughts I continued to wonder if this little detour was really as spontaneous as it had seemed when Feredir had met us on the road from Edoras and made us turn towards Osgiliath rather than continue straight to the White City.
The evening left little time for conspiracy theories; once the elves in the trees climbed down there seemed to be no end to the greetings and merry welcome songs at the party that celebrated so many happy reunions.
That night I slept alone in one of the platforms, rocked gently by the breeze in the trees, almost as if I had been back in Thranduil’s carriage. Thaladir had told me earlier that night that the king would not come to me – he would devote himself entirely to talks with his son, as was only proper on the night before Legolas’ coronation. My disappointed groan was met with little understanding – rather than sympathy and the intimacies I hoped for, I was treated to part two of the seneschal’s lecture on self control and patience!
The sheer number of elves who had already followed Legolas into Ithilien was nearly overwhelming, and probably would have been if I had not been craving their company. After the carriage was parked, and we followed a barely visible forest trail to a clearing, they came swarming around us, in ever increasing numbers. It seemed as if there were hundreds of them, once they all were down from the trees in a rush to welcome Thranduil and the rest of us.
All around us there were many happy reunions with our own elves, Anarion, Ithilwen, and Miriel. Surprisingly to me, there appeared to be a great number of Lorien elves there, too. I clearly heard a few hailing Haldir by name.
Within the first few minutes, I lost track of Miriel as she was swallowed up into a particularly merry crowd of elves that appeared to be close friends of hers from Old Mirkwood. As I watched, the rest of the elves from our party disappeared into the throng. In the distance, I could hear music playing and I could smell the delicious aromas mixed with the smoke from cook-fires.
Something about the way our personal elves had been greeted started to bother me. I got a terrible notion in my head, and it was soon followed by some even more terrible images. These were not products of Thranduil’s mind, they were all my own.
The notion was that Mal and I were going to lose the services of Miriel and Ithilwen, who were most likely going to settle here with their fellow elves. The images of who would be assisting us with our clothes and hair were limited by only two real choices. I could only guess that one of them would be more likely than the other to take our personal elves place.
It would not be Thranduil, we would never get dressed properly, with every single layer in place. That left only one elf. A tall and grouchy one at that. It was possible that I was wrong, and our party would not break up, but it made sense to me that Miriel and the others had come along with us for a much better reason than dressing mortal maids. They had probably planned all along to desert Mal and me.
“Oh, no,” I said out loud. It made perfect sense.
I searched the crowd for a familiar face, but all of the elves I recognized had moved deeper into the trees. I did not recognize anyone. I returned to the carriage, where Thaladir and a few other elves were taking care of the horses, and waited for him to finish so I could ask him about Miriel, and my hair. I climbed back up to the top of the carriage, where I could watch him and not be in the way. I had a perfect view.
As usual, Amarth started being naughty and tried to bite the elves that were attempting to lead him to the makeshift corral, made from brush, which they had built in anticipation of our arrival. Thaladir took over his handling, and I lost track of him. The sun was setting, and the smells from the cooking fires were almost more than I could bear, and I decided to get down and join the rest, before I missed dinner.
As I started to climb down, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of an elf that had not followed the rest. He was not among the others that had been helping with the horses, either.
It was Feredir, the unfriendly messenger elf who would never answer even one of my questions the first time I met him. He did not look much friendlier right now. He stood with his arms crossed over his chest, near a tree quite close to the carriage, and he leaned against it while staring up at me.
“Shouldn’t you be with the rest of the elves?” I asked him, as soon as I reached the ground. “Or did Thaladir send you to spy on me?”
“Neither,” he replied.
“You do know how to answer a question!” I exclaimed, in mock surprise.
“Lord Thaladir did mention in my hearing,” Feredir continued, “that you might choose a moment such as this to be difficult.”
“Oh, he did, did he? Then he sent you to find me, I bet.”
“In truth, I came on my own to prevent any unnecessary disruption of the reunion of Legolas and his father.”
“Well,” I huffed out. “You can see with your own eyes that I am coming to join them right now.” To prove it to him, I started moving toward the trees while I talked. “Not that I didn’t know that if I just waited long enough, Thranduil would have come looking for me, but I was not feeling selfish enough to want him to leave his son right at that moment.” I turned to find that Feredir was following me very close, as if he thought I might bolt off into the trees. I stopped suddenly and turned to face him. He was deft enough to avoid crashing into me, but barely.
For a long moment, we stood still, staring at each other. He was not half bad looking, although much darker than Thranduil, and shorter in height. Then I said, “You sure are chatty all of a sudden. It is nice to hear your voice. What happened, did the cat let go of your tongue?”
“What cat?” he asked me, seriously. “There are no cats living at the Outpost.” I turned and started walking again, knowing he would stay right behind me.
“No cats?” I could not believe he thought I meant an actual cat, but I sort of liked playing with humorless elves. I had lots of practice with a certain seneschal. “I think you should get some, they might help with the squirrel problems. Only don’t get a spy kitty like Helca had back in Old Mirkwood, she was too spoiled to go hunting I would think.”
He actually chuckled when I said that, and when I turned to look at his face, I could swear that he smiled for a moment.
“I have heard of that cat,” he said, adding, “but I have never visited the living quarters inside the caves, where Helca dwells.” Once he started talking, he was rather charming.
“You were lucky,” I assured him. I was starting to feel a little bit lucky myself.
Then he said something stupid, and I changed my mind. Miriel had come looking for me. I was torn about whether or not I wanted to have Feredir continue to escort me, or not. He smiled at her, a much nicer smile than he had given me, and said, “Never fear, I have found Aran Thranduil’s pet. She was climbing on the carriage. May I hand her over to you?”
Miriel took my arm to lead me away. “Rude!” she hissed at him, and she told me not to listen to him, as he was woefully ignorant.
“I noticed,” I sighed. “A shame that. He’s kind of cute.”
Life in the new elven realm appeared considerably more relaxed than it had been in Mirkwood, at least for those of us under the seneschal’s reign in the royal caverns. Both Mary and I slept for as long as we pleased, which was followed by a lazy drawn-out brunch in the pleasant company of Miriel and a small group of other elf-women. Some of them were old acquaintances from the Elvenking’s realm, while others knew us only by sight. They invited us to pick flowers for Ithilwen’s wedding coiffure. And, as Miriel told us as we searched for the most beautiful specimens, for Legolas’ very first leaf-crown.
In the afternoon we gathered in a glade by the river for the coronation ceremony. Not far from there some of the elves had raised huts on the ground, built from driftwood and hidden so well behind the trees that someone passing by in a boat would have little chance of spotting them. This was more out of tradition than a need for stealth, Legolas explained, as the new elven realm had no known enemies.
“But there are archers in the trees, even now,” he added before he stepped out onto the meadow that sloped gently towards the river.
He was a striking sight. In his white tunic, with the vast river’s dark water behind him and his hair flying gently in the wind he looked like a hero out of a romantic fairy-tale. Silent expectation reigned all around and it was as if everyone in the crowd of elves standing in a half-circle around Legolas felt the same as I – that we would happily stand here for hours and just look at him.
Then the crowd suddenly parted to let someone through – Thranduil. He walked up to his son with the regal bearing worthy of a true king, conquering every heart with his mere presence. For the first time since we left Edoras he was wearing a leaf-crown – local ash mixed with a little of the beech and oak that predominated in his own realm. This explained why Thaladir had been absent the whole morning. He must have gone quite far to find an oak.
Behind Thranduil went Feredir, carrying a second leaf-crown in his hands. This one was familiar – I recognized the blue bell-shaped flowers I had helped to pick, and Miriel’s expert hand in combining the leaves and flowers in a perfection of beauty.
Legolas knelt and Feredir passed the crown to Thranduil, who put it on his son’s head with an expression of pride and happiness that I will never forget. It was something unheard of, a ruling monarch crowning his son a king in his own lifetime. When Legolas rose, they hugged each other for a long time while the crowd cheered. I glanced at Thaladir and hardly believed my eyes: the seneschal was smiling!
Then Legolas stretched out his hand and all became silent.
“Thank you, my friends,” he said. “I will do my best to be worthy of the honour you have bestowed on me today.”
The cheering broke out again, and this time did not stop until Thranduil lifted his chin, in mock annoyance. He was followed by hearty laughter as he and Feredir joined the part of the crowd where Mary was standing with Miriel and Haldir, but as soon as Legolas spoke again everyone was ready to give their full attention to their new ruler.
“Thank you, father,” Legolas said, drawing more laughter. “You must tell me how to do that.” This time, he had barely to lift a finger before the crowd stilled.
“My first decree,” he said, “will be the naming of our realm here in the south, which I will continue to regard an outpost of my father’s kingdom in the north. Eryn Mithren, Greywood, it shall be called from now on, in honour of the grey-barked ashes who have suffered the passage of so many villains on the road. It takes good roots and strong heartwood to remain pure on the threshold to Mordor.”
There was more cheering and a murmur of voices repeating the new name, trying out how it rolled off the tongue. It had a nice ring to it, but was a little difficult to pronounce with the voiceless ‘th’ and the rolled ‘r’. Hopefully, the seneschal would not jeopardize his good relations with Mary by making her practice saying it a hundred times over!
“My second action as crowned monarch of this land,” said Legolas, “is to announce the union of two elves I have known most of my life. Step forward, dear friends!”
“Ithilwen, my sister by heart if not by blood, I will not ask if it is your will to spend all your days in Middle-earth and the Blessed Realm with Anarion. Your eyes and your smile already speak of your union of mind as well as of body.”
Her smile widened to a broad grin as she nodded and took Anarion’s hand. Legolas continued, now addressing her companion:
“Anarion, loyal guard and now trusted brother, neither do I need more proof of your intention than the light in your eyes when you look at your bride.”
The guard blushed and nodded enthusiastically.
“Let it then be known to all that these two, Ithilwen and Anarion, are now one, never to be separated by friend nor by foe. I am also happy and proud to announce that the young couple have chosen Greywood for their home – a loss for my father, but a considerable gain for us here in the south. May the leaves over their heads ever whisper of joy and prosperity! Long live Eryn Mithren!”
The crowd cheered again, as loudly as before; for myself, I felt a little sore in my throat, but it would have been impossible not to be caught up by the wave of enthusiasm. I shouted together with everyone else: “Cuinatha anann Eryn Mithren! Long live Greywood! Cuinatha anann aran Legolas! Long live King Legolas!”
I looked from father to son, from one king to another. It was impossible to tell which of them was the happiest and for the first time I had to think hard before I could decide which elf I found to be the most attractive one. In the end Thranduil won, but mostly because he cheated. How could I even think straight when he looked at me with those glittering eyes?
Thaladir cleared his throat and pointedly looked towards Legolas, which made me do the same. The new-crowned king was making a final statement:
“My friends, the formalities end here. I’m the same elf I was this morning. If I managed to make this ceremony sound suitably official for a coronation and a wedding, then that is entirely thanks to my father’s seneschal, who’s always had an impeccable sense for such things. Thank you, Thaladir.”
“Your Majesty,” replied the seneschal, obviously touched, and bowed deeply.
The crowd seemed unwilling to disperse and now it was Thaladir’s name they shouted. Legolas chose this moment to leave his ‘stage’ and join us.
“Thaladir,” he said, “please don’t call me that – it makes me think you’re addressing someone else.”
“Pardon, Sire, but it would not be proper to forego acknowledging your new rank.”
“I guess I could command you to do just that, but it would be useless, wouldn’t it?” Thaladir’s expression was set in stone. Legolas shook his head, chuckling. “I’ll accept it from you, then, but nobody else. Prince or king, I remain Legolas, a wood-elf at heart.”
“As you wish, Your Majesty,” said Thaladir and bowed again. His look of astonishment at my giggles was priceless and did nothing to stop me.
“As you like, Legolas,” I said. “I hope I can at least say you look good in your new crown?”
“Of course. I think I’ll make a habit of wearing one. It’s beautiful and reminds me of the trust others have chosen to place in me, wisely or not.”
“Very wisely, Sire,” said Thaladir gravely. “A king should never doubt his legitimacy, nor his decisions once they have been made public. This is not, however, an appropriate occasion for lectures and I will not intrude further on Your Majesty’s time, which ought rather to be shared with your subjects. I shall therefore take my leave.”
Legolas just smiled amiably and clutched the old elf’s shoulder.
Then Thaladir offered me his elbow in the polite old-fashioned way I’d come to love, and we went to join the group of elves that surrounded the newly-weds. The official part of the ceremonies might be over but there were still more congratulations to offer before the evening’s festivities would begin.
While the last of the elves were taking their turns in congratulating Anarion and Ithilwen, I approached the newly-crowned Legolas to have a private word with him. In his pristine white ceremonial garb, the young elf seemed to shine while he moved about under the shadows of the trees, while the other elves blended into the dark greens and grays of the forest surrounding them. The only exceptions were Thranduil, who could outshine any other elf no matter what he was wearing, and the newlywed couple.
“Your Majesty,” I addressed Legolas, while I curtseyed deeply, but only because I wanted to hear him groan and then make a face at both the title and gesture. He was so unlike his father, but in a good way. “I just wanted to tell you,” I continued, “that I hope you realize how awful Mal's hair is going to look from now on, not that it should concern you, or anything, but, there it is.”
I gestured toward Ithilwen, who was glowing with happiness in the way a bride only can.
“And,” I continued, “if you think I am going to let you talk Miriel into staying here, too, well, I guess I really can't stop you, but I hope you don't! Just promise me you won't.”
“Lady Mary, the elves of this and any other realm in Middle earth are quite free to come and go as they please, they are not prisoners here and neither do they have to be coaxed into staying.”
Which, as usual for an elf, was not an answer. Legolas then grinned and said, “In truth, Lady Malinorne's hair looks particularly exquisite, as I believe she always does.” He was not looking toward Ithilwen anymore; he was looking at Mal. Her hair was down, decorated with only the flowers and leaves we all wore. Her hair was glorious, and all without anyone's help.
“Well, of course you would say that about her. Mal got to drink an ent-draught, didn't she? Did I get to? No. So, that means I need more help than she does, and...”
“Excuse me, Lady Mary,” Legolas interrupted me to say. “I will happily discuss your dire situation with Miriel, if that would help. For now, I must attend to some unfinished business.” Before I could stop him, he darted off into the forest on some private mission. I turned to look for a friendly face and nearly collided, again, with Feredir.
In order to keep myself from even glancing in Feredir's direction during the coronation ceremony, I had kept my eyes focused on Legolas. Miriel had tried to explain the wild wood-elf messenger's attitude to me, and I understood his reluctance to mingle with mortals. He was still learning, she had told me, and I should not expect much.
“Feredir,” was all I said to him in greeting. I remembered to acknowledge him politely, with a nod, while avoiding any eye contact with him. Then I stepped around him and went in search of Mal. I wondered if she knew how much a certain newly-crowned elf admired her.
Night fell gently, the darkness warded off by torches and lanterns, and the forest took on a magical glow. While the music was playing, but no one yet dancing, I pulled Mal aside for a chat. We talked for a while about the wedding. We both sniffled over how pretty the elf ceremony was, and how happy we were for the couple. Then I mentioned how Legolas was drooling over her earlier, but I did not say anything about her hair. She did not need to be reminded about how beautiful it is.
Some of the wood-elves, the wilder dark ones, were performing an intricate dance for the newlyweds, who were seated in a place of honor in a small clearing, amidst a ring of torches. The elves wove in and out of the trees while they sang. I could not understand the words being sang, so I found Thaladir and asked him to translate for me. Before he would do that, he had to tell me the ancient history first, naturally.
Apparently the song and dance were part of the wedding ceremony in commemoration of the first meeting of the Sindar elves with the Sylvan elves, back when Oropher was still alive. It was a song of 'joining', explained the seneschal, and the joy of being united with friends after wandering in the dark. Before he could tell me another word about how the original Sylvan tongue had evolved over the centuries, I shushed him. By then the dancing was finished, and now Feredir was singing a different song, and I wanted to get closer and listen.
That was when I noticed how Legolas was still staring at Mal, and Thranduil, who was standing next to him, seemed very pleased with himself. As Feredir's voice rose and fell, I felt myself paying more attention to Legolas, as if there was a spotlight on him. Although I had always thought of him as more a friendly companion to the world at large, tonight I was seeing the youthfully glowing elf in a new light.
Legolas was not the image of his father, yet, but he had transformed from the light-hearted elf I had first met, and was in the process of becoming a ruler. He would know joy and pain, loss and gain, triumph and disaster, which were the tools that the Valar used to shape the caretakers of their creations.
When Feredir stopped singing, I felt like I had been startled from a waking dream. I knew that I had not understood a word he said, but I knew exactly what he was singing about. It was the most unnerving sensation, which was a common occurrence for me when I was around elves. Mal was alone, so after we sighed over the lovely evening, I nudged her toward Legolas.
I moved into the shadows of the trees as I looked around for Thranduil, who I suspected of being responsible for the imagery in my mind while Feredir was singing, but I could not find him, or Thaladir.
“Lady Mary,” a familiar voice spoke to me from behind, very close behind me, close enough to make my ear start to tingle.
That night fires were lit under the trees and the forest floor teemed with elves – the wilder wood-elves from the depths of Mirkwood had not been visibly present during the coronation, but came down from the trees to join in the merry-making. It was as if we had somehow magically been returned to a happier, healthier Mirkwood, in the green days of Thranduil’s youth. There was singing and even Feredir lifted up his voice in a merry song with strange words that the seneschal explained was the old Sylvan tongue, now almost forgotten.
Many toasts were raised to Anarion and Ithilwen’s flourishing future as a wedded couple. Ignoring his seneschal’s protests, Thranduil even went back to the carriage to fetch his last bottles of fine Dorwinion. I had not seen the Elvenking in such high spirits since our journey began many months ago and almost wished we could all stay here.
“There’s coffee in Minas Tirith,” Mary stated, immediately putting a stop to my melancholy nostalgia. “I’m sure they have chocolate, too. And you won’t want to miss out on the mortal man you’re finally getting to sleep with.” She licked her lips in an exaggerated way that made me laugh out loud, as must have been her purpose.
“I’d be happy to forego the coffee and chocolate if I could just sleep with an elf!” I said to her in a low voice. “Thaladir...”
“I know you have a soft spot for the old grouch, but there are better options tonight. Haven’t you seen how Legolas has been casting moo-moo eyes at you? He’s grown into quite a morsel, don’t you think? If you don’t take him, I think I will.”
“You can’t be serious,” said I.
“Why not? Admit that he’s different from how he used to be back in Old Mirkwood.”
I glanced over at where the young elf sat in vivid conversation with Feredir and Thranduil. It was true that he seemed more mature now even if there was still a shy gentleness about him. Just at that moment he looked at me and smiled. I smiled back.
“See?” said Mary. “Good hunting!”
She rose and left in the direction of the ‘guestrooms’. I had no doubt someone would be waiting for her there, or would soon join her. Thranduil’s gaze had followed her every step. Left to my own devices, I chose to join the only elves in sight I knew, rather than look for Haldir or the others.
“We’ve been sitting here long enough,” said Legolas almost at once. “Would you care for a walk? There is a glade nearby where the butterfly orchids bloom at night. Mary might be interested as well,” he added as an afterthought.
“Your Majesty,” said Thaladir, “I have reason to believe the lady is otherwise occupied, or soon will be.”
“Let us make haste to the orchids, my son,” said Thranduil with a chuckle. “There are many flowers in bloom this night.”
The glade Legolas took us to was as fair as the rest of Ithilien, overlooking a brook and framed by young beeches. The air was thick with the heady sweet scent of the yellow-green orchids and it made me feel tipsy, in a good way. I sat down on fallen tree-trunk.
Thranduil whispered something in his son’s ear and then left together with Thaladir.
“Are they coming back?” I asked Legolas, rather surprised.
“Not unless you want them to.”
When I said nothing further, Legolas sat down beside me. We talked for a while, about the flowers, the forest and the beautiful night. The moon made his hair glow with the same white opalescence as the orchids and he had stars in his eyes. It was very romantic, and finally he asked the question I suddenly realized I had been waiting for, although I had not wholly made up my mind about what to answer.
“Will you stay with me here, tonight?” He sounded hopeful and very sincere.
“See if you can persuade me.” I smiled, and he leaned in for a kiss.
I buried my fingers in his luscious hair, careful not to tip the leaf-crown from his head, and noted with satisfaction the eagerness with which his hands were suddenly all over me.
He removed them with a surprised glance, as if they had moved to my breasts by their own accord.
“Forgive me,” he said. “I am not usually this forward; I do not know what happened.”
I smiled at him again and then took his hands, kissed them and put them back where they had been moments earlier. “Just so,” I purred when he began to caress me gently and with no less expertise than his sire.
“Please tell me...” I asked, with my fingers again in his hair, “have you always thought about me... like this, I mean?”
“It is a recent attraction, I must admit. But no less intense for that.”
It briefly crossed my mind that Thranduil may be manipulating all of us, without our even wanting to resist. I decided to ignore the thought. I am only human, after all. Why let a beautiful night with a handsome elf go to waste?
“Kiss me again,” I said.
Status of daily schedule: Accomplished
Remarks: The current day, as well as the previous one, has been mostly agreeable; initial disappointment with our untimely arrival in South Ithilien more than compensated for by the somewhat brief although certainly correct coronation ceremony for His Royal Majesty Legolas Thranduilion of Greywood. Furthermore I am most pleased to note that the aforementioned young elf shows much promise indeed, having in every aspect inherited his sire’s talents. Even as I write, His Majesty’s secondary purpose for this detour is in the process of being fulfilled in an audible and most satisfying manner. Long live Eryn Lasgalen and Eryn Mithren!
To be continued...
Chapter posted: June 7, 2009
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"Long live Thranduil, great Elf-king of Greenwood!"