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Far Beyond Mirkwood, Chapter 31

Authors: Mary A and Malinornë
Pairings: Mainly Thranduil/OFCs
Warnings: Nope. Thanks to the seneschal's careful instructions, of course! (Don't tell him this is the lull before the storm, lol!
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: The royal Mirkwood travel party arrives in Minas Tirith and a shocking agreement is revealed as two kings meet.

~ Mary ~

When I awoke the next day, I was in my own carriage, which was moving. At first, after I opened my eyes and stared around me, I felt almost dizzy because I was disoriented. I had not slept in my new carriage yet, and for a few moments I did not recognize where I was, and I forgot where I had fallen asleep in the first place.

After a few moments more, I realized that Thranduil had obviously carried me back to my carriage. At least we were on our way, and the height of the sun in the sky meant I had slept through a good deal of travel already. The cloak Feredir gave me was draped over me for a cover, and I recalled that the king had promised to tell me about its magical powers today.

Thranduil had been a passionate lover during our night together, although he said something to me when I was falling asleep that puzzled me now, in the clear light of day. I had asked him how long we were going to stay in Gondor before we returned home to the caves, as nothing about our departure was mentioned in Thaladir's itinerary. I thought it was a simple enough question for the king.

”You may not want to return to the caves,” he said. ”This city of mortals we are about to visit is like no other place you have been to in Middle Earth. Compared to Lake town and Rohan, it is more civilized, sophisticated. Its amenities might seduce you.”

”With all due respect, Your Majesty, but you could not be more wrong,” I remembered saying back to him. ”The only thing that could seduce me to stay there is if you stay there, too.”

His only reply to me was a soft noise, like a grunt, but I could not recall either of us saying anything else about it.

Thinking about that conversation reminded me of something else. Even though I asked him outright, at an earlier point during our night together, the king did not have instructions for me bridging with any of the mortal men in Minas Tirith, or the high elves, some of whom I had not met. I was a little disappointed, for I would have liked to tackle a high elf, or two. However, without the king's assistance, and blessing, I would as well wish to tackle a stone statue.

The seneschal had prepared both Malinorne and me for some of the 'illustrious personages', as he put it, we would be making acquaintance with during our upcoming visit. Among the names were Cirdan, the shipwright from the Grey Havens, Prince Imrahil, with his company of Swan Knights, and an obscure elf-lord known as Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod.

I quite fancied that name, Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod, as it had the ring of a titled lord about it. Although he resided in Rivendell, when I had the chance to visit there, Gildor was always off visiting shrines and monuments around Middle Earth. On foot. I found that remarkable and I was eager to meet him. If only to thank him for having such a glorious name that it had given me a great idea.

If I could not be a princess, a notion that I had not quite abandoned, but forgot to mention to Thranduil when I had finally been alone with him, then I could at least have a proper title. I could be introduced to the lords and ladies of the White City as Lady Mary of the House of Thranduil. Why not? I would have to convince Thaladir, or shout louder than him if anyone asked my name.

While day-dreaming about how jealous the women of Minas Tirith were going to be when they saw it, I stroked the lovely cloak that covered me, and wondered again about its mysterious powers. In the patches of sunlight that entered the carriage window, the fabric shimmered, and here and there a stray thread sparkled. I also thought about the elf that made it, Feredir, and what I had learned about him the night before. I had almost felt that the king had given me clues and expected me to figure it all out on my own.

We made a few brief stops, and had one longer dinner break at twilight, which gave Mal and me a chance to view the city of Minas Tirith blazing with lights in the distance, like a giant birthday cake covered in candles. Thranduil proved elusive, and my curiosity about my cloak, and his cryptic comments about our eventual return to the caves, was left unsatisfied.

The twins could not tell me what the cloak was made out of, or why it made me difficult to see in the dark, but they were impressed with it. Their elven senses recognized the craftsmanship. Neither of them could tell me how long we were going to staying, as they were no more privy to Thranduil's intentions than I was. Haldir was no help either, although he did admire my cloak when he saw it in the daylight.

While we made our final approach to the towering city of Minas Tirith, and I put the cloak over me properly, I realized there was a reason that I had developed unexpected tender feelings for Feredir. He was the first male creature in Middle Earth who wanted only me. After all of the men, or elves, that I had bedded in Middle-earth, he had been the first to seek out my attention. Always before, I had been directed at specific men, or took it upon myself to direct myself, like with Anborn, and it was up to me to seduce or trick said man into bed. And as for the elves, well, I threw myself at Haldir, and the twins were more like tom-cats than suitors for my affection.

And there had been no funny business when I had been alone with Feredir. There was no bridging, no mind-reading, and no interference from the king. There had also been no flirting, no invitation on my part, or his, just an exercise in pure carnal pleasure. Even if it there had been something about the way my skin glowed, in the eyesight of an elf, it was my personal 'flame' that had attracted that particular moth, and that was flattering. Feredir would probably hate it that I took it as such.

For the final leg of our journey, the top of our carriages were lowered. As we approached the first, and most formal, gate of the White City, I looked around at the crowds of people illuminated by the clusters of brilliant torches, who had come to view the arrival of our royal party. There had been plenty of advance notice as Thaladir had set his usual 'snail-on-a-winter's-day-that-is-dead' pace. These throngs had gathered together to watch our carriages slowly advancing toward them for most of the day, I imagined. We certainly did not take anyone by surprise.

Some of the young women standing on top of the lowest wall were calling out to us, and they threw flowers down to the twins, or to Haldir, - who all caught the blossoms handily, no matter how clumsily aimed they were. I did notice that none were tossed toward Thranduil, who rode at the head of our procession on Amarth, by the obviously fearful maidens. That made me smile. As long as they stayed away from the king, they could throw flowers at anyone else they wanted to, until their arms fell off.

~ Mal ~

When we arrived in Minas Tirith it was dark already but the city’s lights gleamed like a thousand stars. ‘Candles on a megalomaniac birthday cake’, was Mary’s verdict when we first saw it from afar. The description fit, but seemed too mundane for the great mountain of light, which towered over the dark plain and had been our glowing guide in the distance from early twilight onwards.

The air of solemn beauty vanished as soon as we came nearer the city gates. They stood open and with the light that came from the torches around it also seeped the muffled sound of a large crowd.

”Get ready,” called Mary from her carriage. ”This is our big performance!”

I turned and looked at her, amazed by the suddenly royal tone of her voice and her queen-like appearance. Over her travelling clothes, she had put on the cloak I glimpsed her wearing the night before – voluntarily I assumed, as Thaladir was on horseback and could hardly have put the covering garment on her by force. As she moved, the material seemed to always catch the light from the best angle, which gave her the look of a princess out of a fairy-tale. I didn’t recall seeing something like it before, except that it reminded me of a dress Galadriel had worn when we met her in Lorien. It had to be a present from one of the wood-elves we met in Eryn Mithren.

”A gift from Feredir?” I asked. The peculiar elf from the depths of Mirkwood seemed to have taken a liking to Mary – I had noticed that much despite my love-haze for Legolas. She nodded and gave a quick smile before resuming her queenly expression.

I tried to do the same, but probably I appeared more of a cousin from the countryside. The cheering crowds that lined the streets were too much for me to keep my face straight. Instead I smiled and waved back and looked at people just as much as they were gawping at us.

I studied the city itself as well. Its buildings appeared grey for the most part, but wherever a torch lit the facade the wall shone a soft yellow in the firelight. By day, I knew it would show itself a pristine white. The mountain, to which the houses clung so tightly, loomed ever-present as a black shadow, a mass of darkness denser than the night sky. What impressed me the most was how the city was not simply built on a mountain slope, but incorporated as a part of the mountain: each of the seven levels, save for the lowest one, was cloven in half by a wedge of rock into which arches had been carved, one on every level.

The main street wound upwards in narrowing circles. High on the topmost level, Thaladir had informed us, the Citadel of the Kings was situated, on a flat court where a fountain and a dead tree were the very centre of the once-great Kingdom of Gondor.

We had to leave the carriages outside the topmost wall; no horses were allowed within the Citadel’s walls and the royal stables would take good care of them. By comparison, the streets were nearly empty on the highest levels – the cheering crowds had been replaced by smiling court officials and suitably grim-looking soldiers.

Yet the party that surrounded us as we entered the Citadel Court was large enough to obscure most of it from view. I heard the faintest sound of a fountain but did not see it, nor did I catch a glimpse of the famous tree. At least I could make out the impressive White Tower of the Citadel, which seemed to stretch all the way to heaven.

Mary and I were shown into a suite of guest rooms where women waited beside bathtubs, ready to prepare us for the banquet with His Majesty King Aragorn Elessar that was to begin shortly.

It seemed like no time before we stood in front of a large mirror dressed in our best gowns from Mirkwood and each of us wearing our favourite gifts from Thranduil – she in rubies and pearls, and I with Girion’s famed emeralds around my neck.

The men, who had been cared for separately, were waiting for us by the entrance to the hall of the Citadel. Thranduil was more handsome than ever in white deerskin, a young god descended from Taniquetil to grace us mortals with his presence, leaf-crown and all. His seneschal made a sober appearance in his long robe of dark grey, but the discreet silver leaves along the border lent it an uncharacteristically festive character. A faint smile graced Thaladir’s lips as he saw us and I can only assume it came from admiration of the exceptional swiftness of King Aragorn’s servants.

Mary and I entered the hall in the best way possible – one on each side of our Elvenking. Elladan and Elrohir took the lead, at ease in every situation and no strangers to pomp and circumstance. And naturally, eager to greet their sister and foster-brother. Haldir and Thaladir followed behind us at the stately pace set by Thranduil. I dared a glance at Mary – she was shining with delight and in a very regal manner at that.

I did not even try to mimic her expression. The horde of people in this majestic, sombre hall with its black marble pillars made me feel small and timid as we walked along the rows of statues of former kings of Gondor, long centuries dead. And there, at the table of honour at the far end of this vast room stood the present ruler of the realm.

King Aragorn Elessar bore little outward resemblance to his ancestors’ facial features, and I could well understand those who had at first hesitated to believe his claim to the throne. He was as tall as them and as neatly groomed, but his royal blue robe and red mantle could not hide his weathered face, nor his strong, sinewy forearms: he had the body of an experienced soldier. Calloused fingers took my hand as he kissed it courteously – still marked from being more used to holding a sword than any peaceful instrument of power.

Our eyes met the moment before he released my hand. The look that met me took me aback – it seemed far more ancient than could be expected for a man of his age, or any man at that. King Elessar had the penetrating gaze of an elf.

Then the moment was gone. More greetings were exchanged as Mary and I were escorted along the tables to be introduced to other guests from far away. Thaladir’s instructions had prepared me for meeting Lord Cirdan, but not for the sense of awe that filled me as I stood before the legendary shipwright and former bearer of the Ring of Fire. I willed myself not to stare at his hairy chin, grateful that court protocol required little of me beyond a respectful curtsey.

I was less successful with Prince Imrahil – the man with his mixed background was simply too handsome not to look at – but he seemed not to mind. His kiss on the back of my hand lasted a second too long for Thaladir, who promptly insisted that it was time to take our seats.

Mary and I had our customary places at either side of our king, but I was pleasantly surprised to find Gondor’s monarch opposite me. His Queen was on his right side and beside her sat Elladan, with his brother across the table on Mary’s other side.

King Elessar proved an excellent host as he quickly made me feel welcome, helping me to overcome the sense of timid awe that had taken me in earlier. Soon I had forgotten not only where I was, but also whom I was talking to.

Queen Arwen was a charming companion to her husband’s friendly conversation. Clad in mildness she sat beside him, sometimes adding a phrase or two to what he said, sometimes pausing him with a hand gently put on his arm. Together they entertained us with tales of Minas Tirith, the present life of the city as well as its historic past.

King Elessar nodded, pleased with what I had noted of the city during our way to the Citadel. ”And did you see the white tree?”

I shook my head uneasily. Which would be the greater offence against hospitality – lying to the host, or overlooking his greatest treasure?

Apparently I had chosen right.

”You did not see it, because it is no longer there!” The king went on to explain. ”The withered tree that symbolized the rule of the stewards is gone. I found a sapling on the slope of Mindolluin before I was crowned king and though it is the heart of this land, it is yet too tender to catch the eye. But it is growing! The power of our people grows with it and Gondor rises again to its former glory as a renewed nation!”

He paused.

Calls of ‘Long live the King! Long live Gondor!’ immediately rang through the hall. They sounded sincere, the honest praises of a proud and grateful people, not the studied gesture of a crowd eager to please its ruler.

They stopped immediately when King Elessar raised his hands. Respectful silence reigned.

”You will have to forgive them,” said Queen Arwen quietly. ”The coming of their king is so new to them – for generations they thought themselves doomed and no-one dared believed in a Renewer.” She looked at her husband tenderly and clasped his hand.

Elladan said something funny, making them laugh, and then Mary stole the attention of our host with a few more witty remarks.

I looked around the hall, studying the men present, proud and handsome faces most of them, and all worthy of attention even if I wanted no-one other than Thranduil. It was quite ironic – now that I had the chance finally to sleep with a mortal man with the Elvenking’s blessing, I did not feel eager to. If only Elladan and Elrohir were counted as men – then I would not need to bed them, because I already had. Not that I’d mind repeating the experience... Perhaps two half-elves would make one mortal man?

But if I had to choose a man or if, more likely Thranduil chose for me, who would it be? I looked at the black-haired man with elven-fair features I had been introduced to at the beginning of the dinner. I could probably live with spending a night with Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth. Or perhaps the muscular captain with the hearty laughter? It might even be fun. Or what about the slightly dangerous-looking young blond three seats from the queen? Now he was looking at me!

Thranduil’s hand on my thigh interrupted my thoughts and I looked at him inquisitively. He leaned closer and whispered into my ear: ”No. Not him or the others. Their king.”

~ Mary ~

My words to Thranduil, about never being lured into staying here in Minas Tirith without him, were haunting me while I luxuriated in the first real bath I had taken since we had visited Rohan. That last bath had been more for seducing Eomer than for relaxing in hot, silky water, so I felt that it barely counted. There was nothing to compare with Mirkwood's private bathing pools, so far. I had not, however, seen the entire city yet.

I could feel every mile of bumpy carriage travel melt away from my muscles, down to my bones, as I lay back and let the steam float over me like a veil. It would be nice to stay here for a while longer than we had stayed anywhere else, I supposed. However, the degree of privacy I had in the caves was much higher than here in this bustling, walled city.

Through the windows of the bathing chamber, which stood open to let out the damp air, I could hear the vague sounds of voices murmuring, women singing, children shouting, and, just above that rumble, the strains of harp music being played somewhere near. It was a tune I had heard in Rivendell, and I wondered for a breathless moment if Queen Arwen herself was playing it now. I asked one of the chambermaids assigned to Mal and me, and she said that Her Majesty's quarters were too far from us for me to hear her playing. I had to wonder how much she really knew about elf music.

The king had been right about the overall level of sophistication in the White City, as well. For example, the liveried soldiers who stood guard at our door were clean shaven and clean smelling. There were not too many mortal men of my acquaintance in Middle Earth that could claim either.

The female attendants were quite cheerfully gossiping with each other, and with Mal and me, which was helpful. Court intrigues bore me, so I did not pay much attention to whatever scandals they nattered on about, but I did like hearing how the previous mortal-led people were adjusting to having an elvish noblewoman as their Queen. They were unanimously in awe of Her Majesty, and her uncommon beauty and unique elvish style of dress was quickly becoming the latest fashion rage. Women were dying their hair black and putting shimmering powder on their faces to mimic Arwen's translucent skin.

Mal and I had dresses for the occasion that were made for us back in Mirkwood. I thought the young woman who was helping me dress was going to swallow her tongue when she saw mine; because she sucked in air so hard and fast in an extravagant gasp. A real elf-made dress was rare to see, among the serving class, as most dresses they could afford were made in Minas Tirith, and were sewn by mortal ladies, who were just learning how to copy the Rivendell Look.

We were fashion plates without even knowing it.

I was very happy, this night, and for the first time ever, to have an evening ensemble made to Thaladir's exacting specifications. From my underwear out, I was draped in delicate layers, just as he had always desired for me to be. I was glad. On top of my gown, I wore the extra protection of my new magic cloak. Any elf at the dinner would only have a limited view of my colorful tell-tale glowing, and that made me feel more relaxed than I had felt since the day Feredir informed me of my problem.

Making sure to finish dressing ahead of time, I rushed my attendants through my hair, which needed cutting badly, but there was no time for such niceties tonight, not with mortal women wielding the scissors. I sighed a little, remembering Miriel and her talented hands. They did the best they could, and I raced out of our guest quarters to find someone who appeared to be in an official position at court. My mission was to let the appropriate people know that my official title was not 'Lady Mary,' anymore, no matter what they might have been told. I was now known as, 'Lady Mary of the House of Thranduil.'

It was tricky, because I had to dodge Thaladir, while at least appearing as serene and demure as a member of a royal house probably would. A man who identified himself as a Head Butler promised to pass my information along the proper channels, and I had to settle for that. I raced back up to join Mal and came back to the dining hall with her.

When our titles were formally announced, and I heard ”… of the House of Thranduil,” I felt as if I had been handed a crown, it was that satisfying. I do not think Mal even noticed. Thaladir raised an eyebrow at me, but he otherwise remained silent on the subject.

At dinner, I was a little disappointed to be seated next to old friends. I had not yet reconciled myself to being unrestricted in my choice of bed partners for this first night in a royal city. There were just too many tempting choices around me for the king to leave me to my own devices. On the other hand, the prospect of getting a real night's sleep in a bed, alone, had its own peculiar appeal. How long had it been since I had slept in a large, soft, well-appointed bed chamber, without someone else next to me, stealing my covers? Rivendell, I calculated. Too long, my weary body added.

That tempting idea, of a good night's sleep, began to lose a little bit of its luster while I danced with some of the charming men and elves who were visiting Minas Tirith. Next to my elfking, none of them were as dazzling, but next to nothing -- there were some very alluring faces. The twins, dressed in their formal Ranger gear, were surrounded by a small bevy of local ladies, who hovered about them and twittered like little colorful birds. Mal was smitten with Thranduil again, it seemed, although I thought I saw her cheeks turn bright pink when she met King Elessar, a very handsome, if overly tall, monarch.

While we were at dinner, previously, I had a chance to get a good look at Aragorn, and I thought that he suited the Citadel he ruled very well. With his weathered face, lightly silvered raven hair, and imposing physique, he seemed almost as ancient and sturdy as the stone buildings themselves, and yet he, like the city, was still vital and full of life.

King Elessar and his queen floated over the dance floor as if they were one person, with four feet and two heads. They looked almost more like brother and sister than did she and the twins, but I think it was more in Arwen's elvish grace, than in her facial features. She complimented her king as if she had been made for him to dance with. It was quite stirring.

As the hour grew late, and my feet began to ache, I grew weary of turning down invitations to visit various men in their chambers afterward, and one unique request to share some starlight with a high elf, who will remain nameless, at his request, because he did not want his ring-bearing wife to catch wind of it. Accordingly, I sought out Thaladir, curtseyed, called him 'Your Excellency,' and asked him to escort me to my guest chamber, as I was ready to retire for the night. He was bowled over.

It was just the icing on my restful night to make the old grouch speechless.

~ Mal ~

After Thranduil whispered the shocking words about King Elessar into my ear it was only the many and long sessions learning courtly manners with his seneschal that saved me. Rather than the shriek of horror that threatened to escape me, I managed a light chuckle as if the Elvenking’s words had been no more than a slightly amusing joke. I dared not look across the table at the man sitting there, but pretended to be occupied with the meal that had suddenly lost all interest for me.

The dessert made me perk up – honey cake with a raspberry filling and a thin, but utterly exquisite, covering of dark chocolate. The delicious, bitter taste on my tongue filled me with life more than the sweet wine served with the cake and there was no stopping my silly, happy smile.

”My lady is familiar with cocoa beans?” enquired King Aragorn.

”Indeed, sire, and cocoa is something I didn’t expect to find in Middle-earth.”

”We have the peace to thank for this rare delicacy, as well as the good relations with our neighbours to the south.”

”Then I’m grateful to them... and to you.” I sent him a shy smile and then quickly trained my eyes on my plate again. The distraction of the cake gone, my thoughts were in turmoil.

Then music began to play and Queen Arwen led her husband onto the dance floor. I admired her fluid movements and saw the love between them. How could I possibly sleep with him, had I even wanted to? What could I offer him compared with such beauty and affection? And why was it important to Thranduil that I did bed him, when he had previously only encouraged me to be with elves? Mary had seduced Eomer, and Faramir, too. Perhaps she’d gladly fulfil our king’s wish and take care of Aragorn as well, for the sport of it?

”Do not think.”

I heard Thranduil’s voice at the same time as I felt his hand take mine and then I was suddenly in his arms, dancing among dozens of other couples. His hand on the small of my back held me firmly against him, bringing us together and making it hard to concentrate on the dance. He made it worse with a kiss, a hungry one but it was much too brief.

”I only want to be with you,” I said quietly.

”You will.” He grinned and I saw flashes of fire in his eyes. ”Tonight I will make you mine. Again.”

”Please, do!” I wanted nothing more, nothing less. I pressed myself against him closer still until I could feel every outline of his body against mine.

”Eagerness as becomes a royal concubine!” he stated with a grin. ”You will have what you ask for – as soon as I can retire from this hall without awakening my seneschal’s ire. Until then, remember this.” He held a ring-adorned digit in front of my face only the moment it took me to realize its significance. This particular ring had played a crucial role when I first agreed to place myself under his responsibility and his command.

I let out a small moan, more of a mouse’s squeak, and felt myself getting wetter still, remembering the exquisite feeling of unyielding jewel against sensitive flesh. ”Soon, please, very soon,” I breathed.

”Here?” He appeared to think it over, then chuckled. ”Much as it would please me to do so, I need to consider the consequences for diplomacy and the relations between our realms. Besides, I do not care for having to fight Thaladir afterwards – he would not let me get away with such a thing. Imagine, in public and all!”

For a few sweet moments I allowed myself to imagine Thranduil somehow managing to stick his hand under the long skirt of my dress, and then the seneschal cut in.

Thaladir deposited Mary in the Elvenking’s arms, and then discreetly danced with me into a more anonymous location by the hall entrance. I could hardly take my eyes from Thranduil, at least not until Thaladir cleared his throat. That sound was too ingrained into me to be ignored and I snapped into attention.

”Your Excellency?”

”My lady,” he began, and then cleared his throat again before continuing, ”although it does gladden my soul to see you once again enamoured of His Majesty, this is certainly not the proper place for displaying devotion in so carnal a manner.” His tone was serious; it appeared I had indeed crossed him. Unconditional surrender would be the quickest way to be released.

”I am sorry, Your Excellency.” I pronounced his title carefully, the way I knew he was fond of.

”I trust then that there will be no need for repeated reminders.”

”No, Your Excellency.” I lowered my gaze demurely, the epitome of humility. It was not all a game – there would have been no chance of him believing me had I not felt truly chastened.

”Very well.”

I dared a glance into his face. The wrinkle between his eyebrows was gone, and with it the risk of having to spend the night listening to a lecture. I relaxed and began to enjoy the dance. The seneschal danced impeccably, long, fluent motions carried out with an air of lightness and a serious expression on his fair face. As we moved along the hall I noticed the admiring glances he attracted from several ladies, more than a couple suggestive ones and at least one filled with undisguised desire.

”How improper,” I noted.

”Indeed. I assure you, my lady, that I do not have the slightest intention, nor habit, of using for my own gratification the misdirected attention of neglected wives.”

”Of course not, Your Excellency.” A less stoic elf would easily have found company for the night, but I knew his self-imposed standards of duty did not allow dalliances.

”Now, allow me to transfer you to one who has requested a dance with you.” He bowed slightly, and then smoothly removed himself from my company, leaving me with – King Aragorn Elessar of Gondor.

My initial feeling as we danced was embarrassment, but I could not for long ignore his impact on me. This close, there was something untamed about him that leaned an intriguing air of danger to the generous monarch I had seen until then. His strong hands, his arms, muscular in quite another way than the elves. The coarseness of his chin as we brushed against each other unintentionally. And his eyes, so open and smiling, yet piercing like those of a falcon. Not a man to play with. Did he know about Thranduil’s plans?

”I count myself a lucky man,” he said with a smile.

”You should,” I said.”Your wife is both beautiful and kind, and your people love you.”

”True, but it is not of them I speak. I consider myself lucky to know you.”

Then he must know. I chewed my lip nervously.

”I want you to know that though a man, I am no savage. I will do what is expected of me, and yet I will not do anything that is not your will also. Do you understand?”

I nodded. ”Sire, I...”

He lifted a finger to my lips, silencing me. ”I see your discomfort. We will speak no further of this until the time has come. Is this agreeable to you?”

”Yes, Your Majesty.” It felt strange, saying those familiar words to another. Strange to hold this man, knowing that I was expected soon to become even more intimate with him. And at the same time it felt natural in some inexplicable way, as if it was indeed meant to be. I was almost calm by the time the dance was over.

King Aragorn Elessar escorted me to the table in a most gentlemanly manner and, after a polite bow, stole his wife back from Prince Imrahil. The music began to play again and they disappeared into the crowd of dancing couples. I felt a sudden urge to get away from there, anywhere.

Suddenly the Elvenking was by my side.

”Thranduil, please! Can we leave now?”

”Soon.” He took me out onto the dance floor again, and expertly guided me back to where we left off, to my carefree mindset where nothing mattered except for him, for us.

And then, when my body burned to be with him in a more fulfilling manner, he kissed me hotly on the lips and left me with his seneschal. ”Soon,” he repeated with a flick of his wrist that called my attention to his ring.

~*~ From Thaladir's Notebook ~*~

Status of daily schedule: Excellent

Remarks: It is most pleasing to notice the cultivated manners of His Majesty’s mortal ladies in royal surroundings – additional refinement, however, may be of necessity once circumstances allow further instruction. Furthermore, the degree of efficiency of His Majesty King Aragorn Elessar’s servants is most noteworthy and serves to confirm the correctness of His Majesty King Thranduil’s confidence in this King of Men. Long live Eryn Lasgalen!

To be continued...

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Chapter posted: April 22, 2010

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