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Far Beyond Mirkwood, Chapter 29

Authors: Mary A and Malinornë
Pairings: Mainly Thranduil/OFCs
Warnings: Adult content, some naughty Elfking 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: Mal starts to have second thoughts, Mary lets her imagination roam freely, visitors arrive.

~ Mal ~

My new resolve to not make too much of my love for Legolas too soon began to melt away as soon as I left Mary. Rather than to confidently enjoy my stay in the elven realm of Eryn Mithren I found myself involuntarily scanning every direction for a glimpse of my sweetheart. I was disappointed to find him nowhere, until Thaladir informed me that the realm’s ruler would not return until evening. This fact seemed to please him as much as it dispirited me, but luckily I was saved from further discussion – or gloating – by the message he brought me.

And so, while my heart waited for Legolas I served the Elvenking with my body. I was pleasantly surprised to find him wanting my company already at midday, something that practically never happened when he had just spent the whole night with Mary. Usually, either one of us was enough to keep him satisfied for most of the next day. Thranduil’s unexpected interest intrigued me, but questions could wait. He would not.

I gave myself to him out of loyalty and for the physical pleasure it brought us both, but he no longer held my heart as before. I did not try to hide it – it would have been no use – neither did I find it necessary to announce my altered feelings for him. For all I knew this could be what he always wanted – less human emotions to complicate our relationship.

Afterwards, I lay with my head on his chest as so often before, relishing being so near him, relishing the feel of his even breathing, of his warm heart beating and the well-known sense of security spreading through me. And yet it was thoughts of a younger king that made me smile.

“Come back to me,” said Thranduil softly as he caressed my hair. “I am the king you love.”

“I can’t,” I said with true regret as I lifted my head and looked into his eyes. “I’m sorry. It’s not something I can simply decide and make happen.”

“Then I will decide for you. You will give your love to me.” He said it as a simple statement, in a matter-of-fact way that left no doubt that he expected the order to be followed as well as any royal command issued to his subjects. If only things could be so simple!

“I wish I could obey, but it just doesn’t work that way. I think you know that?”

A moment’s hard glint in his eyes betrayed the anger he obviously tried to contain. When he spoke next, it was again with calm firmness. “You have sworn to obey me. I will hold you to your word.”

He held his hand in front of my face and moved the finger with the ring my nether lips had once kissed to seal our agreement. Images of lustful surrender swam through my head, reminding me of a passionate past that almost, but only almost, worked its magic. They were dusty memories now, lacking the freshness and life of what I had discovered with Legolas. The faintest thought about the younger elf’s smiling face made Thranduil’s sinful pictures burst like soap bubbles.

I pulled his fingers to my mouth and brushed my lips against the ring’s cool surface. Then I guided his hand to rest over my heart. “Mortals are weak, isn’t that what you use to say?”

“Used to, more likely,” he muttered. In a louder voice, he said: “I have never demanded more than it was your ability to give and neither will I do so now. But, while your human heart may wander, I will trust your mind to abide by me.”

“Mind and body, I am yours always,” I assured him in a low voice as I let my digit slowly draw circles around his nipples. “Would you like me to show you how much?” I placed a kiss on the Elvenking’s flat belly and felt a certain nearby part of his anatomy insist that my offer be accepted without delay.

~ Mary ~

There are many things about elves I have learned, one most important, they are not good for a mortal woman’s figure. Like everything else I had learned from them, this one came the hard way.

As soon as Mal left me, after blathering on forever about her delusional love affair with Legolas, I tried to continue my nap. It was impossible. Not that I was supposed to be sleeping much longer in the first place. I had promised Thaladir that I would get out for some fresh air and proper exercise if he would let me catch a fast nap first. My definition of the word ‘fast’ was possibly different from his.

Stolen sleep is sweet, no matter what, and I needed lots of it after my busy night with Feredir. Once again, I made myself comfortable and prepared to drift off when my mind produced a few quiet little questions like, ‘What if Legolas was in love with Mal?’

‘Would she stay here, then?’

‘Or was Legolas going to go with us to Minas Tirith and marry her there?’

The more I thought about Mal’s ridiculous idea about being Queen of the Southern Elves, or whatever they would call her, the more I wanted to scream. She was probably trying on crowns while I was lying there. If Mal was going to be a queen, then I should at least be a princess. Never mind that in the elven scheme of royalty, there really was no room for such things as mortal princesses, or princes for that matter. I had a feeling that if I threw a big enough fit; I could score myself both a pretty little crown and a more fitting title than 'a bridge'.

“Princess Mary,” I whispered out loud. Ah, it did have a nice ring to it. For a few giddy minutes, I imagined Thaladir bowing to me, and addressing me as 'your highness'. I would never have to curtsy to him again because I would out-rank him. That thought made me sit up straight, but I resisted the urge to give up my nap and flopped back down.

No flimsy leaf crown for me, either, I decided. I wanted one made from mithril and studded with precious gems. The king had plenty of both back in the caves. An eagle ride there and back would only take a couple of days. He could send Feredir.

Right then, I knew that I was not going back to sleep because I had too much work to do. First things first, I had to find something to draw with so I could make a sketch of exactly what I wanted my new crown to look like. I would have to take measurements, too. Once I had those in hand, I would find the king and formally present my wishes to him. How hard could it be for some of the more crafty elves to whip up something suitably glittery before we had to be presented to the court at Minas Tirith?

Minas Tirith! Just the pictures in my head of arriving in the White City as a true member of a royal court made me giggle until I had tears running down my face. In my mind, I waved to the adoring crowds of people that would line up to see the newest princess in Middle-earth.

I could have kissed Mal for getting herself made a queen.

The benefits began to add up swiftly in my new royal brain. Anborn would give up asking me to marry him, since he was a mere commoner. Faramir, on the other hand, was going to be sorry that he did not propose to me when he had the chance, now that I was a princess. Better yet, the Lady Eowyn would turn green with envy when she saw me, and any silly ideas she might have about slicing off my head would be foiled. She would never dare hack at someone wearing a crown.

I needed a robe, too, maybe made out of ermine, with a collar lightly sprinkled with diamonds and emeralds. More measurements to take and another sketch to draw; it was already hard work being a princess and I was still under the covers.

Again I rose, but this time in the dainty nature of a princess, or how I imagined a princess would do it. I had no audience to judge my attempts, however, since the flet was empty. It occurred to me that I would need a lady in waiting or two, to dress me and wait on me. I was going to need to make a list, along with my sketches, and I wondered what else I should ask for as I kicked aside a pile of my clothes and tried to find something appropriately princess-like to wear.

One thing was for sure; I was going to dress in as many layers as I could fit into. It was amazing to find out that I could not fit very many of my oldest gowns over my newer gowns, but I managed to wriggle into about a dozen. I could barely move, or breathe, so I stripped down to only half as many. I found my old travelling cloak with the hood, and only wished that I had some gloves.

While I was dressing, I remembered that I had promised myself a bath today. From Thaladir, I had learned there were no hot baths to be found here in Eryn Mithren, since a perfectly adequate river ran near at hand. I was used to bathing in cold water by then, so that did not bother me very much, but I did want to find a private place, where I could practice my new princess habits.

I also had to find Mal, and fast. I needed to make sure that she did not listen to me, change her mind, and call off her crowning. I would kill her if she did, or at least try to talk her back into it. From the starry-eyed look on her face, I was pretty sure she was serious, but I was not going to take any chances with her.

If Thranduil got a hold of her before I did, I could say goodbye to my new crown and cloak, and ladies in waiting and personal private carriage painted a pale leaf-green with brass trimmings. It was going to be simple, yet elegant. I could probably sweet talk a suitable horse for such a lovely carriage from King Eomer, for old times’ sake and my keeping quiet about it around his new wife.

~ Mal ~

In the afternoon I took refuge in Thranduil’s carriage, wanting the physical comforts it offered. I was in need of a bit of sleep in a place better suited for it than a swaying talan in a tree just over the heads of a crowd of merry elves talking and singing as they worked or rested. Ironically, seeking solitude was the reason I became a casual witness to a very interesting scene, or rather, I overheard a conversation between three elves who were either oblivious to my presence or thought I was still asleep. The third possibility, that what I heard had actually been intended for my ears, dawned upon me only a good deal after the occasion.

“She loves Legolas!” Thranduil sounded angry. “They were to bed each other, not ‘fall in love’!”

“Indeed, Your Majesty,” said Thaladir with a tinge of crispness, “it appears that the lady has given His Majesty King Legolas considerably more than her body. Allow me, however, to insist that neither party is necessarily to blame. On the contrary, current research points towards the unpredictability of the minds of mortals – particularly ladies – being far greater than previously conceived.”

“Fear not,” replied the Elvenking, “I bear no grudge towards my son, nor do I doubt my concubine’s loyalty. Yet it is difficult to accept this ‘love’ as an accident.”

The seneschal’s silence said more than words about Thranduil’s own involvement. Thaladir would never blame him for anything in public.

Haldir was less considerate. “How ironic,” remarked the captain. “It appears Your Majesty’s... ah, encouragement I should perhaps call it, was more effective than planned on. Or could it merely be that fresh arrows find the target more easily than old ones?”

“Be quiet,” warned Thaladir. “It is common knowledge that the skill of the archer is of far more consequence than the arrow’s quality. Furthermore, the products of an experienced fletcher will fly truer when tried in battle.”

“The archer I had in mind aims true enough to judge from the result,” said Haldir, his smirk almost audible. “My congratulations to his teacher of these arts.” I imagined how he bowed as he said that. Thranduil must be furious.

“Captain,” said the seneschal, “I believe you have urgent matters to see to elsewhere.”

Apparently the Lórien elf thought so, too, because he accepted being dismissed without further retorts. Again I was reminded of how wise Haldir was underneath his air of arrogance and bravery.

“Your Majesty,” continued Thaladir when he was alone with the Elvenking, “while I do regret adding to the current misfortune I cannot, however, forego noting against future need the dangers of attempting to manipulate the human mind, which, apparently is far more complicated than can readily be anticipated.”

“You mean to say that you, too, think I have myself to blame for tampering with her feelings.” The stated fact sounded like a grave accusation.

“Never, Your Majesty. I was merely suggesting a somewhat increased measure of care to be taken...”

“Make her come back to me!” I heard how he began pace irritably to and fro in the clearing, likely kicking up dirt with every step of his booted feet.

“Of course, Your Majesty.” Thaladir sounded perfectly calm now, in that anxious, insincere way one may use when attempting to appease a lunatic. “All will be well.”

The angry pacing continued for a while and then suddenly ceased. Nothing was heard and then at last came a deep-drawn sigh.

“You are right, old friend. The Lords of the West can sort out their own mess. I will not let this stand between me and my son. Nor will I accuse my concubine.”

Thaladir’s reply was too softly spoken for me to hear, but it had to be words of comfort and encouragement. When the two elves left, they were deeply involved in a discussion of the military pros and cons of Eryn Mithren’s location like the old comrades in arms they were beneath the obligations of status and titles.

I was a bit shocked to find out that my suspicions were true, but doubted Thranduil’s manipulations had had much effect, if any at all. At the time, I was much too spoilt with attention from attractive elves and too used to sleeping with whomever I wanted, as long as he was an elf. Or almost – Haldir stood out with his refusal to engage in casual sex. Thus, however surprising Legolas’ interest in me had initially appeared, I was never suspicious about it, nor had my quick responses given reason to doubt the sincerity of our mutual wishes.

I listened to the Elvenking’s angry distress feeling vaguely sorry for him but otherwise remained oddly untouched by it. More than anything I was pleased to hear that Thranduil seemed to care personally about losing my love; he did not consider it to be the minor accident or even blessing I had told myself he would. For a moment I wished things could be different between us, but then my thoughts turned again to Legolas – my prince, the new king of my heart.

I had sobered somewhat from the scene I had witnessed, and from what Mary had said earlier, and knew that calling Legolas my fiancé even to myself was premature. I needed to find out more about him, more about us and about the sincerity of my own feelings. I needed to be with him! To kiss him, to hold him, to drown in his eyes... but I would have to wait.

Thaladir had said earlier that Eryn Mithren’s newly crowned king was expected to return by nightfall. Whether Legolas had gone south or east or north he would have to pass by this way before he reached the settlement. The sun was low already, the trees’ shadows darkening the ground in every direction despite the sky still being light. I decided to wait for him, perched on the carriage roof, and be the first to welcome him home, with a thousand kisses.

~ Mary ~

By the time I navigated my bulky way down from the tree I had been napping in, it was late afternoon. I was already exhausted from all of the work I had to get done, and starving to death on top of that. The smells from the cooking fires were trying to make me forget what I was supposed to be doing. They would have been tempting to the old Mary, but Princess Mary was going to ignore her base instincts and act majestic instead. Before I could decide which way to turn, Feredir appeared.

“What, pray tell, are you doing here, elf?” I asked regally, with my chin high, after noticing that he had not bowed to me, which he should have done now that I was a princess.

“You have visitors, woman,” Feredir said, with a smirk as he swept his feral gaze over my padded body. I spun around to look behind me, but I saw no one there. For a brief, horrifying moment, I imagined Eowyn coming through the trees with her sword to avenge Faramir’s stolen virtue, and here I stood without my crown! It would not do for a princess to show fear.

“What kind of visitors?” I asked, only a little less regally than before. If I hurried, I could hide, but where?

“Peredhil,” Feredir said, but he was no longer looking at me, he was looking over my shoulder. I knew they were right behind me, and I knew exactly what I was going to say to them, as soon as I could get them alone.

“Darling, we have found you at last!” Elladan and Elrohir sang out, a regular duet, sounding as if they had been searching for me for years. Before I could turn around, they had bracketed me, like book-ends, each with one arm over my shoulders, preventing any escape. Feredir had the nerve to bow to them, with all the respect he had not shown to me. Thaladir was close behind them, and after directing them to the lunch tables, and giving me a rather odd look, he nodded, turned, and flew away toward the outdoor kitchens in a hurry.

“I do not believe Lady Mary is as happy to see us as we are to see her, brother,” lamented Elladan. Then he nuzzled my ear and whispered, “Are you not happy to see us, darling?”

“Why are you here?” I asked. “And don’t call me darling.”

“Is he your new keeper, darling?” Elrohir asked, ignoring my question. He gestured with his head. Feredir had not moved away, which I found odd. Instead, he had leaned against a tree, folded his arms over his chest, and silently watched the three of us.

“What makes you think I need a keeper?” They laughed at me and pulled me out into the forest path, leading me toward the cooking fires.

“We do not think you need a keeper, darling,” Elrohir said. “We know very well that you need two keepers, so we came as fast as we could.” I glanced back over my shoulder and noticed that Feredir was following us, closely.

For a few moments, I was offended. Why did everyone believe that I needed watching? Although, once I thought of it, having a few courtiers hovering about me like accessories made a nice princess-like picture.

“Stop calling me darling,” I hissed at them. We had reached the outdoor kitchens, and the cooking elves hurried to serve the twins as much food as they could safely pile onto their plates, while I was given a bowl of nettle soup and a cup of tea. Thaladir had me on a diet now. I stole bites from both of their plates, and drank freely from their wine bowls. Feredir found a new tree to lean on.

“What would you do without us?” Elladan asked.

“Probably starve, but why are you here now?”

“We traveled here from Rohan,” Elrohir said, and his cheerful expression turned grim.

“Anborn was there, looking as dejected as only a ranger without a mission could look,” Elladan added, with a sad shake of his head.

“He misses you, darling,” they said together.

“What about Eow..., I mean, Faramir, did you happen to see him, too? Did he say anything to anyone about me? Have you heard any crazy rumors about, um, anything?”

“Anything?” they asked together, staring at me with their eyes wide open. I gasped.

“My face just turned a different color, didn’t it?” They both nodded in unison. “Why did you never bother to tell me about this color changing glow I have?” That was the question I had planned to ask them the next time I saw them.

“You mean you truly did not know?” Elladan asked. All innocence. “We thought it was quite...”

“Obvious,” Elrohir finished, and gave me his most charming smile, with dimples.

“So, what about this ‘anything’ between you and Faramir?” Elladan asked. They were both clearly amused when I hesitated to answer. I had probably turned several colors in rapid succession.

“Nothing,” I said. “Bright green?” I asked. They both nodded in unison, again. A mask was the only answer. A princessy mask, with lots of jewels.

After I had promised the twins that I would tell them everything about Faramir, me, and the ‘anything’ I had mentioned, but not yet, we left the outdoor kitchen in search of Malinorne. I did not mention exactly why I wanted to find her, because if she had changed her mind about being in love with Legolas since I had seen her that morning, then the rest of my plans would have to be drastically rearranged. The day was slipping away too fast, and I had yet to make a single sketch.

It did not help that overeating had made my tightly bound body feel like a sausage and I would have much rather taken another nap than go anywhere. The kitchen elves were scurrying around trying to prepare the tables for the more formal dinner for everyone else and I could tell they would have liked for us to leave in order to clean up after us.

We had not gotten more than a few steps from the table, when we found Thaladir instead. As he greeted the twins, I noticed that he was looking very pleased about something, with a near-smile tugging at his mouth. Upon questioning, I learned that Mal had already been alone with Thranduil that day, although from the way the seneschal spoke, he was not pleased about it in particular.

“Well,” I sighed, not pleased either, and feeling defeated, “that’s that.”

“What is what?” the twins asked.

“Lady Mary,” cautioned Thaladir, who could perhaps read my thoughts, or could tell by whatever color I was showing that I was sleepy, “you must resist the urge to sleep off your dinner, and get some exercise instead.”

“Let’s go for a swim,” I said to the twins. “I need to relax, and get some of these clothes off before I burst.”

We never got to the river, however, as the sound of singing came from the place we had parked the big carriage, and from the sound of it, I knew who it was.

“Dwarves!” I cried, “I wondered where Gimli was during the coronation!” The twins were not surprised, in fact, they told me as we went to meet them, they had traveled the last few leagues of their way there with Gimli, who was coming from Minas Tirith, with a surprise.

Before I could ask what the dwarves were bringing, we had rounded the last corner and I saw, to my delight, two pretty carriages like Mal and I had used before. They were smaller than the king’s, but were painted a creamy white with Thranduil’s colors of green and gold used for the details, like the wheel spokes and the door frames. No one had to tell me who they were for!

“Now, all I need is a crown, and a mask,” I said out loud, to no one in particular.

~ Mal ~

My romantic plans for Legolas’ homecoming were thwarted when I heard several voices. He was not alone! How silly of me, and how inconvenient. I would have to settle for showing my feelings less overtly.

“Look, there’s Mal!” I heard him say when the road was in clear view. “Hi Mal!” He lifted a hand in greeting.

I waved back and studied his companions. Two handsome dark elves walking with a swagger – they waved back to me, grinning; one long-bearded dwarf with a gruff look but mirthful eyes, and, finally, an ethereal, ice-blond elf-woman who could hardly be farther from anything even resembling a friendly smile.

The moments it took me to climb down from the carriage, and the others to reach this part of the path, allowed me to hide my initial shock at seeing Helca. What on earth was she doing here, when she ought rather to haunt Thranduil’s halls in Mirkwood together with her spying kitten, or help Canath count the Elvenking’s riches while he was away? Mary and I had both hoped that travelling with Thranduil would remove us from her acidic presence permanently, but obviously she could not bear to be parted from him this long. Perhaps her revolting merchant friend had left her, and now she felt lonely? Poor Mary who’d have to compete with her! I counted myself lucky for having a new sweetheart of my own.

Unfortunately, I got no chances to kiss him, or show much affection beyond an initial hug, which the twins took as a signal to embrace me, too. I needed not fear that the dwarf would do the same; when Legolas introduced us to each other he removed his cap and bowed most civilly, offering me his services and his name – Gimli. I offered mine in return, delighted to meet one of Legolas closest friends.

Helca and I nodded to each other and I believe both of us were relieved that Elladan and Elrohir chatted enough for everyone as we went towards the elven settlement. A moment of inconvenient silence came when the twins broke off in another direction, merrily stating important business with someone, but Legolas was the most charming host and Gimli interesting enough to talk with that I almost forgot about Helca.

We arrived in the main glade at dinner time. There was plenty of food and drink for all, and the addition of guests turned the meal into a party. More wine was brought – a sweet-scented vintage from South Gondor, explained Legolas to Gimli and me. The dwarf gulped it down with a frown, but I rather liked it, and so did Mary it seemed. She arrived with the twins as her entourage and appearing so unusually regal that I could have envisaged a crown on her head if she’d been more able to curb her reactions to seeing Helca. Hissing and stomping one’s feet isn’t fitting for a princess, unless she’s very very young.

Thranduil was equally surprised to see the elf-woman. After greeting the newcomers, he said:

“Elladan and Elrohir, you two roam always – I will not ask what brings you here and neither will I bother the dwarf, but you, Helca? What errand does my financial advisor have in these parts? I have not lost you to my son, have I?” He chuckled, but in those last words I heard an echo of the distress he had shown earlier that day. I quickly brushed aside the pin-prick of guilt I felt. I must find out why Helca was here.

“Never, Sire,” she replied demurely. “I will never leave you. Renk has business in Gondor, a new trade with the dwarves. Very unusual, but also very profitable for all involved. He is in Pelargir, but I could not wait to pay reverence to you, my king.” She made a curtsy, the perfect image of female grace and beauty.

Her fawning made me sick. I never quite understood the exact nature of the Elvenking’s relationship with his intelligent advisor and it made me just as uneasy to see them together here as it had in Mirkwood. It did not matter that her fancies lay mostly with mortal men, the less elf-like, the better. I did not trust Thranduil around her and I most definitely did not trust her. If she could steal him from Mary and me, she would, simply as a means to get rid of us.

“Come back to Greenwood, Thranduil,” she pleaded. “We need you, your people needs you.”

“I thought my realm was safe in Celeborn’s hands. Or is it Canath who finds it hard coping as vice regent in the north?”

“Canath has risen to the occasion,” she announced with pride. “I have educated him. He landed a good deal with the ambassador from Dorwinion. Your favourite red will cost only half of what it used to with the Lake-town middlemen.”

Thranduil nodded. “Very good, and what about Celeborn?”

“Lord Celeborn is agreeable.” She smiled, but even I could see that she had more than that to say.

“You think Galadriel is not,” Thranduil stated, amused as far as I could tell.

“His Noldorin witch mostly keeps to her own wood.” An ugly veil of aversion passed over Helca’s beautiful face as she spat out the words.

Thranduil suddenly grasped her wrist. “I will not have any enmity sown within our joined realm.”

“You know, Sire, that such a thing would be far from me.” She looked into his eyes, as innocently as a baby.

“I am not so sure about that. But there are ways you could atone.” He pulled her into his lap and whispered something into her ear that made her laugh. Her icy glare became warm.

I tried to tell myself that they could not possibly mean anything but a business agreement – she would offer him a percentage of the proceeds from her merchant boyfriend’s trade or something like that – but found that I couldn’t fool myself. Neither could I bear to watch the Elvenking behaving like a turtle dove with this icy queen.

I left the party early and went to bed very angry. How dare she? How could he?! Come morning, I’d push her into the river; I could count on the twins to help me with that after they heard what she said about their grandmother. That nasty witch!

Drifting into sleep, I realized that it had been hours since I gave a thought to Legolas.

~*~ From Thaladir's Notebook ~*~

Status of daily schedule: Promising

Remarks: Recent observations have revealed most interesting insight into the mysteries of the human heart, new findings that must be shared at the earliest possible opportunity: contrary to previous belief, ‘love’ is not the strongest emotion, but can apparently be surprisingly easy conquered by jealousy. His Majesty’s mission will be carried out as planned. Long live Eryn Lasgalen and Eryn Mithren!

To be continued...

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Chapter posted: November 20, 2009

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