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Far Beyond Mirkwood, Chapter 33


Authors: Mary A and Malinornë
Pairings: Mainly Thranduil/OFCs
Warnings: A wee bit of 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 meets an old f(r)iend, Mal is on a quest for the truth.



~ Mary ~

After warning Lord Bard that a very mighty, and not very nice when he was angry, Elvenking would probably behead him if he harmed me, the stupid man merely smiled at me and bade me taste his wine. It was, he assured me, the finest Dorwinion that could be had. This probably meant that he had to make do with whatever Thranduil's butler, Galion, rejected when he made his yearly wine purchases, but I did not say so, nor did I taste the wine.

Lord Bard did not frighten me as much as I think he hoped he did. After handing me the glass of wine, he kept his distance on the low chaise we were sitting on; in fact he looked more than a little wary of coming too close to me, and still near enough to me to let me know that he could throw himself on top of me, if he wanted to. He was dressed for the task, as well, in a belted robe, much like one of Thaladir's.

I was not even sure that I did not want him to attack, if only to see if THAT would bring Thranduil back to his senses, and force a speedy rescue.

On the other hand, maybe I would enjoy the leap. Lord Bard is a quite handsome man, as I assume all the Bardlings of Lake Town were, with shining white teeth and dark, wavy hair. For a mortal man, who was also in a position of authority that mostly required a lot of sitting, he was in very nice physical condition. He, like his forefathers, was an archer, and had been a soldier. At the least, he probably had nicely-muscled arms.

There would not have been much I could do to thwart any assault he made on me, considering that I was still hopelessly tangled up in my cloak. Renk had basically swaddled me with it, and I felt like a mummy from the elbows down. I could not even set my wine glass down on the floor, or fling it in his face. Then I had an idea. If I could just get free, then I could run.

"Well, Lord Bard, you have me where you want me, at quite a disadvantage," I finally said, with a small sigh, as I leaned back against a cushion. I hoped that it was enough of an invitation to force him to make some sort of move toward me. My conscience did provoke me to add, "I might warn you that I do not technically belong to myself, so you are taking what you want at a very high price."

"You do have something that I want very much, Lady Mary," the Lord said, or I should say 'purred', with a very smug self-satisfied smile on his face.

I smiled back at him, and purred even louder, "Even if the price is so high?"

Taking the bait, he chuckled, moved closer, and put his hand on my knee. "My dear, if I decide to just take it, then I would already have it, without paying any price at all." He was still very bold, it was almost sexy.

The room grew very quiet, with only our breathing, his very labored, and the crackling of the fire. Even the noises of the city around us seemed to be muffled. At first, he stroked my leg gently through my cloak, and then plucked at the fabric there and finally moved his hands around my waist and pulled at the cloak until it began to loosen a little. "Why don't we just remove this bulky thing? I hate to think of you being uncomfortable."

What a fool.

"Gladly," I whispered, as I handed him my still full glass of wine to dispose of. "I thought you would never ask." I leaned forward eagerly and assisted him with the unraveling. His eyes seemed to glow as he pulled and unwound, until I could, at last, free my feet from the cloak.

We both leapt to our feet, emitting nearly identical shouts of triumph. I was set to flee, but Lord Bard was holding my cloak up in the air above his head, as if it was a precious trophy. I was too stunned to run away.

"Aren't you leaving?" Bard asked, whipping my cloak behind his back, as if I would forget he still had it. "You will find the door only a few steps behind you and it is not locked," he added, with a hopeful note in his voice.

"How dare you!" I shouted as I circled around him to grab it. "Give that cloak back to me!"

"You seemed willing to abandon it a moment ago," he said smugly, holding it up well out of my reach. "Why was that, I wonder?"

"Because I thought you were after something else!" I replied, panting from jumping up to reach it, although admitting it out loud made me realize that he was never interested in attacking me. I stopped jumping and gasped. I was even more enraged by that thought, and shouted even louder. "You had Renk bring me here just so you could steal that cloak, didn't you!?"

"Nonsense, dear Lady," Bard answered, his voice still calm, which infuriated me. "Despite your mistaken impression of my motives," he paused to leer at me and then continued, "I was perfectly willing to pay any price for this exquisite garment that you and I would have agreed upon. It was you who suggested that I just take it."

Although I was sure that I had done no such thing, I stopped trying to jump for it. It struck me that this man knew more about my cloak than I did.

"Lord Bard," I said, "I have to admit that I was a bit hasty in my eagerness to get away from you, as I had no idea why you wanted to see me, and for that I am sorry." After sitting back down on the couch, I retrieved my glass of wine, patted the seat to me to indicate that he was welcome to join me, smiled, and added, "Let's talk about it."

"Talk?"

As I sipped at my wine, a very poor quality Dorwinion vintage, although still much better tasting than any other wine in Middle-earth, I chose my words carefully. "I had no idea my cloak had any value besides functional, and I might consider selling it to you, or possibly even giving it to you, if you will just answer a few questions for me first."

"What do you want to know?" He did not sit, but he seemed willing to talk.

"The cloak was given to me as a gift by a friend of mine, but without any explanation, and no one else in the Royal Party can, or will, tell me anything about it. Obviously it is valuable to you for some reason. Can you tell me why, exactly? I do know that it makes me difficult to see for elf eyes at certain times, but not much else, really."

"Under starlight, that is when," he said with a self-satisfied smirk. "Although an interesting quality and a very secret one as well, it is nearly the least of its extraordinary attributes, as elves do not rely solely on their eyesight in the dark. I must tell you that I am surprised to see one outside of Thranduil's realm and doubted Renk's report when I first heard of it. I have only seen and felt one other like it in my life, as I was given it to wear during a fishing trip with the elves who visited Lake Town. It was a rainy day and it kept me dry."

He had flung my cloak over one of his shoulders, while he refilled his own wine glass, and it refused to slide off when he lifted his arm to drink.

"Lord Bard," I fibbed, "You have just told me more than anyone else has been able to for the past few days. For that alone I should just give it to you... at a reduced price."

"My dear lady, there is very much that you do not know, indeed. I can tell you anything you ask." At last, he sat down, warming to his tale. My cloak was now mostly in his lap, but a part of it had flopped over to the cushion, and I stroked it. There was no chance that I would sell it to anyone.

"What is it made out of, silk?" I asked, as I gently tugged at it; the slippery fabric seemed to pour over to my side of the couch. Bard did not seem to notice, he was too busy talking about it.

"Not just any silk, but the rarest, the finest, the most versatile and sturdy silk there is in the world. It is stronger and lighter than mithril when worn under armor. In fact, it is much coveted by the soldiers of Gondor, who craved for centuries to know its method of appropriation and manufacture, as they were not allowed to purchase it from the elves."

"Appropriation?" I asked, a bit confused by the term, but I was not really paying close attention. As he spoke, I had noticed a slight movement behind him, from the windows. The curtains were parted a few inches, and I could see a hand, then a face, then two faces, identical handsome faces, peeking out at me. Before he caught me staring over his shoulder, I asked, "Isn't silk spun by caterpillars?"

"Not this particular silk, my Lady, it..." Lord Bard began with a chuckle, but never finished, for Elrohir's hands were around his neck and Elladan held a sword between his wide-open eyes. I gave a last tug to my cloak as I stood up, lifted it and wrapped it around me, and bade them all farewell.

If I had been back at home in the caves, none of this would have happened to me.

"We came to your rooms to escape from some marriage-minded mothers we met after dinner, darling," Elladan told me, when he and his brother caught up with me and escorted me to my guest chambers.

"Apparently," Elrohir explained, "we are now considered doubly royal, in the eyes of the Gondorian matrons, because our father is a High Elvenlord and our sister is married to their King."

"Your door guards assured us that you had gone to bed long before and had no visitors," said Elladan. Goodness, if Renk had not left my window wide open behind us, they would have never guessed where I was.

"Your guards were astonished to find you were missing," added Elrohir, "but we were not at all surprised, darling."

"If either one of you call me darling again," I warned them, "I will spread it about the city that you are looking for virginal young women with plain faces and sturdy bodies from respectable homes to wed."

After making sure that I had doubled the number of guards both at my door and at my windows, the twins left me to finally get some sleep, with my cloak wrapped around me securely. I slept until late in the morning when they returned, bearing coffee and pastries. Bless the mortals who ran the Minas Tirith kitchens, the coffee was perfect.

Over breakfast, they questioned me about Renk and Lord Bard. I had some more questions for them, too. For what good it did me.

For many decades, during their years with the Dunedain, tracking the orcs who had tortured their mother, Elladan and Elrohir had lived like, dressed like, eaten like, talked like, worn swords and ridden horses like mortal men. For that reason, they had claimed that they knew next to nothing about Mirkwood, or what Wood-elves wore under their armor, or if they even wore armor. They swore that the name of the elf lady that Feredir had made my cloak for was a mystery to them.

I had a feeling they knew more than they were telling me, however, because of the sly glances they gave to each other when they thought I was not looking, while I told them about Renk kidnapping me and Lord Bard's attempt to take my cloak. They were both impressed with my bravery and quick thinking.

When I repeated the part about the rare and valuable type of silk my cloak was made of, they both laughed themselves to tears. Because, they said, after they recovered enough to talk again, they were remembering the look on Lord Bard's face when they rescued me. I had to admit it was amusing, but not that amusing.


~ Mal ~

When the Elvenking left for a day in council or, perhaps, to spend it largely with Mary (I preferred not to know) I was left to ponder what had happened in the early morning hours. I was clear about my decision to spend a night with King Aragorn Elessar, but still curious as to why Thranduil wanted it so much. He had answered many of my questions, although in his usual way, mostly with a question of his own, seldom giving a straight answer. I had seen in his eyes and felt in my mind that this was a matter of utmost importance for him. It was neither an example of his sometimes strange humour, nor a wager or a scene set up for his voyeuristic amusement. He needed it to happen, and I had to find out why.

Asking more questions would be pointless, of that I was sure, and neither would his seneschal reveal anything to me. The old elf was far too loyal for that, and trying to trick him was out of the question. He would be crushed if I succeeded. But perhaps there were other ways he could help me.

Then there was Mary. She'd received her own mysterious assignment from our king a long time ago, only I had been too blind and jealous to want to hear about it, let alone attach any measure of importance to it. Now what if her 'bridging' also had something to do with Thranduil's task? It usually involved sleeping with powerful and handsome men, so did that mean she'd bed Aragorn, too?

The pang of jealousy I felt at the thought surprised me. Aragorn was mine! Now that I'd made up my mind to follow through with what the Elvenking wanted from me, I wasn't at all prepared to share the King of Men.

A knock on the door interrupted my thoughts, and then Thaladir entered the room briskly. He was in an elated mood, perhaps because he had heard of my change of mind.

"Where would you like to go today, my lady?" Not waiting for an answer, he continued, "It would be my pleasure to escort you around the city, a most renowned location in the history of Men in Ennorath, and, furthermore, not without considerable interest for those of Elvenkind, seeing how the Sindarin tongue has here been preserved as a living language among those of Numenorean descent, as likewise among the..."

"The rangers of Imladris?" I was glad to see him happy, but had to interrupt the stream of words somehow before he'd give me the whole tour while still in this room.

"Indeed, and if you would allow me to finish, my lady, I would direct your attention towards the slight difference in the pronunciation of 'r', which to the attentive listener would easily reveal to which group the speaker belongs."

"Unless they can see it already, you mean? The nobles of Minas Tirith dress a bit differently from the rangers, don't you think?" I chuckled.

"My lady! This is not a joke."

"I apologize, Your Excellency. Would you please tell me why it is important?"

"That would be acceptable. I believe comparative studies of the aforementioned difference between human dialects would further enhance your knowledge of the language, providing it with the historical background I have so far failed to impart." He frowned and I followed an impulse to take his hand.

"You have taught me so much, Your Excellency. But please, if I may, there is somewhere I would like to go today the library. Would you take me there?"

"Indeed, a most decorous wish. I regret that our excursion of the city will have to be delayed, but this idea is indeed most agreeable, seeing how it would allow for my conducting some work of my own, thereby highly increasing the efficiency of time spent."


~*~

The Minas Tirith library was a massive building of the same stone as the rest of the city, cleverly constructed against the rock wall. It was located one level below the Citadel, as the enlightened king in the period of its construction wanted it to be easily accessible by all citizens without the commoners flooding the courtyard of the uppermost city level. Judging by the empty court outside it, times were different now, or perhaps new arrivals were rare and the locals had already satisfied their thirst for knowledge.

Tall, unadorned pillars flanked the entrance, where Elvish letters had been chiselled into the wall above the door. 'Coa Parmaron' I read. House of Books. Someone had thought the building important enough to name it in Quenya, the language of ceremony, rather than the more commonly used Sindarin. I pointed this out to Thaladir, who looked pleased.

As we stood there, the door opened to let out a tall, slender man, clearly an elf. He stood for a moment outside, seeming not to notice us. When the door closed behind him with a muffled snap, he strode to Thaladir's side. But it was me he addressed.

"Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod, my lady," he said as he bowed. Then he lifted my hand to his lips. "Whom do I have the pleasure of meeting?"

"Mal... uh, Malinorne," I stammered, astonished to be introduced to the legendary elf here, of all places.

"How curious," he replied, lifting an eyebrow. "One does not often encounter a name in that language in this era. No, say nothing," he added when I was going to embark on a long explanation of how it wasn't my real name from the beginning, but it was now, in a way at least. "Let it remain a riddle for now. I enjoy riddles."

"You are a fine riddle yourself," said Thaladir. "Were you not expected at King Elessar's reception yesterday?"

"Aragorn knows me too well to expect anything." He chuckled, skipped past the seneschal and walked around a corner, waving his hand.

"Will we see him again?" I asked.

"If he desires it," said Thaladir as we entered the library. "Irresponsible is what I call it. Most unworthy behaviour for one of such ancient family."

I nodded. I was thrilled to see Gildor but kept it to myself.

The entrance hall was as impressive as the outside of the building, with its tall pillars and chequered floor in black and white. A desk stood in the middle, manned by a sleeping clerk, and behind it were rows and rows of bookcases. To our right a staircase lead to a gallery that lined the room, also filled with books.

Our steps echoed in the silence as we walked across the hall to stand in front of the desk. The man continued to snore, his head resting on a thick volume, the back of which read 'The Fantastic Endeavours of Elendil the Faithful'. The seneschal cleared his throat before I thought to ask him if falling asleep over an account of the founder of one's country could be considered a crime against the state.

This sound, practiced to perfection from centuries of keeping watch over soldiers and servants, apparently penetrated the man's sleep deeply enough that he began to stir. Thaladir cleared his throat once more, startling the sleeper and making him sit up straight in his chair. The drowsy expression in his face changed to surprise and then attention as he noticed our presence.

"Welcome, esteemed guests," he said without rising from his chair. "I am King Elessar's Head Librarian. How may I be of service?"

Thaladir inclined his head in greeting. "The lady and I seek knowledge possibly housed in this building, wherefore access to the collection of volumes present is desired, and hereby requested. Do we have your leave to proceed?"

"Certainly, my lord. Access to the collection is open to all." He reached out his arm in a gesture of invitation. His face shone with pride. "I deem you prefer to browse among the shelves on your own otherwise let me know. I am at your service."

"That is correct," said Thaladir, bowed and made to leave.

"Not really," said I. "Sorry," I told the seneschal and then addressed the librarian. "Would you please show me where I can find books on human-elven relations? In general, I mean," I added when the man cast meaningful glances between Thaladir and me. "As in the relations of states, kings and the like. Not love affairs."

The man smiled amiably and lowered his voice. "Are you sure you would not rather consult the Houses of Healing? They have people who specialize in difficult relationships." He winked. "I assume this gentleman is not easy to live with."

"Thank you, but it's not a counsellor I need. Could you just show me the appropriate section, please?"

The librarian stood, rubbed his bearded chin and then led the way to a bookcase half-way into the room.

"Here, these accounts of Beren and Luthien might interest you," he said, indicating the row of books on the lower shelf. The early days of Elendil Voronda should prove useful as well, considering his dealings with the elven population of this land. And of course the entire history of Numenor and the centuries preceding it the ways of elves and men have crossed a multitude of times since our creation."

I blanched. I had not counted on going through the entire history of mankind in Middle-earth to find what I was looking for. "Do you have something on Finrod and Andreth?"

The librarian winked again. "Ah, my lady, I see. The only known affair between an elven noble and a mortal woman. That didn't turn out too well, now, did it? I assure you, the outlooks for a similar couple in present days is brighter by far, thanks to..."

"The Houses of Healing," I filled in for him. "Thank you, but for now I will stay here."

"As you wish, my lady. Now, let me fetch that Elendil volume on my desk for you... It is of course in Quenya. That will not be a problem?" He lifted an eyebrow.

"Certainly not," said Thaladir, rather curtly. I patted his arm. Without his instruction, it definitely would have been.

"Your Excellency, I think I will manage now. You said you had matters of your own to take care of?"

"Indeed I have, my lady. When last we met, Erestor asked me to take note of any recent additions to the collection, a task I believe will hardly require my attention for very long. Sadly," he added. Then he brightened and went on, "but at least now there is hope for this city to return to its former glory."

"I guess I'll still be right here, then," I said. It would take me hours to sift through even half of the volumes the librarian had advised me to look at. I was careful not to sigh until the seneschal had disappeared.

It was when I read a fairly steamy account of Luthien's wedding night that I got a new idea. Perhaps the clues to Thranduil's perceived mission were rather to be found in less obvious sources than in the chronicles of official historians. At least it was worth a try, and if nothing more, it would at least provide me with something more fun to read than all the reports that could not hint at intimate relations without immediately moving on to the issue of offspring and the legal consequences thereof. Now I just hoped there was an erotica section here, or the embarrassment of asking for it would be for nothing. I felt like I had a whole swarm of butterflies in my stomach as I found my way to the librarian's desk.

The man was startled by my presence, apparently lost in the book in front of him the same volume he had gone to fetch for me.

"Oh, excuse me, my lady. I seem to have forgotten the passing of time, which sometimes happens here. This is a very interesting account, which I believe you would indeed benefit from reading. Here, take it."

I took the book, turned it in my hands and then put it back on the desk. "Thank you," I said. "Later perhaps, but for now there is something else I would like to ask you."

"Yes?" He peered at me with such intent that I blushed. Suddenly my idea didn't seem so inspired anymore. I squirmed uncomfortably and cast a glance over my shoulder. Now would be a good time for Thaladir to appear.

"You would like to enquire about your friend? He is in the cellar, where the records are kept."

"Thanks, but there's something else. Do you have any literature on relationships of a more carnal nature?"

"I knew it!" The librarian smiled. "The ladies are usually somewhat shy around the subject, but there is no need at all for that kind of reticence. Here, we relish all kinds of knowledge. Follow me; there ought to be something to interest you and your friend."

"He's not..."

"No? Then I will show you something that could help in making him yours."

Without waiting for my answer he started walking along the rows of shelves. I followed him deeper into the labyrinth, which became more complicated when we came to a section of the room where the bookcases were perpendicular to the ones I had seen earlier.

"Here," said the librarian. "Many of our visitors in later years have been shy about exploring this section, but I assure you these shelves are a great treasure these works are all of high literary value, of course."

"Of course," I said. "I am very impressed with your collection."

He beamed. "Stay for as long as you wish. Do not worry about finding your way back the door is visible from here if you peer through the shelf." He demonstrated by inclining his head and I saw that it was indeed true. Not that I had been afraid to get lost, but it was good to know.

"Thank you," I said absentmindedly as I began to scan the spines on the nearest row of books.

When the librarian's steps on the carpet could no longer be heard, I took out a volume in random. The scandalous verses in it made me laugh they were witty and obscene more than arousing, and would obviously not hold any clues to Thranduil's mission, but it was still difficult to stop reading.

I took out the book next to it, but put it back at once. The carnal practices of dwarves were not something I cared to explore further than I already had. The next couple of volumes appeared to be educational aids and were interesting mostly because of the surprising level of knowledge about the human body. Then I found a steamy novel about a human maid in a brothel-like inn, with numerous accounts of her activities with various elves. The account of her night with Lord Celeborn was intriguing and made my cheeks heat as I read the chapter to the end. I could very well imagine him in the situations described. When I suddenly saw Thranduil's name in the book, I felt a pang of jealousy and closed the book with a snap. What nonsense!

My further delving into Middle-earth erotica earned me little, intellectually. A thin volume titled 'The flowers of Numenor' gave me some hope, considering King Elessar's heritage, but proved to be a catalogue of famous harlots. There were more training aids for the inexperienced, collections of dirty songs for late evenings, and fictional accounts of hot meetings between all kinds of creatures. I saw the most lascivious little sketches, collected in gilt-edged volumes in exquisite leather bindings. But I learnt nothing of what was supposed to happen when I slept with a human king after having bedded so many elves of noble heritage.

To distract myself while waiting for the seneschal to finish his own research, I began to examine more closely one of the books I had skimmed through earlier. The passionate meetings of lovers particularly those pairings who involved an unsuspecting maid being seduced by an elven lord affected me in the way I ought to have foreseen, but in spite of rising discomfort I could not stop reading. I just had to turn the page and see what the couple would do next. Why did the silly wench resist his advances? Didn't she realize how aroused she was, how much she in fact hoped for him to touch her?

The story was plain, but the writing so skilful I could almost feel the presence of the elf-lord in the room. Then he was suddenly behind me, leaning over me... wait! A quick glance revealed the seneschal reading over my shoulder. I closed the book with a snap, but his finger was trapped between the pages and he pried it open again. The story was just coming to the best part, where the heroine had finally succumbed to her lover's charms and was reaping the benefits thereof, all described in the most lascivious way. The seneschal should have known better than to let me read that together with him.

"Thaladir," I said in a low voice, my eyes never leaving the page. "Please, Your Excellency, touch me."

He cleared his throat, but not in the very audible, threatening way he had. I decided it meant 'yes'. I leaned into him, letting my head fall back and rest on his shoulder. His hands came around my waist and I felt his hardness begin to press into the small of my back as he began to stroke me through the material of my dress.

"My lady," he said gently as he continued to press his fingertips against my core, "allow me to remind you, that this is hardly a proper place for these activities."

"I know. Your Excellency -" I looked up and broke off when my gaze fell on the librarian at his desk, though fortunately his back was turned to us. He seemed to be drowsing again.

"I wish it to be known that I am most displeased with such behaviour in public." Thaladir's voice was still gentle, but there was crispness to it.

I nodded, happy to accept any verbal reprimand as long as he kept doing what he was doing.

"My lady, I assure you that my participation is solely an act of compassion, and furthermore, recognition of His Majesty's predictions." That said, he slid one hand beneath my skirt as the other held me against him.

I gasped as I felt his hand against my folds, a digit seeking entrance and finding it with true aim. Then he began to thrust with his fingers, occasionally flicking his thumb over my pearl.

"Oh, Thaladir," I moaned in abandon. "Your Excellency!"

"Hush, my lady. This is, after all, a library." His voice was somewhat strained now, and I loved it, as always when I would note a chink in his famous armour of self-control.

Then feelings of intense pleasure overtook me and it was all I could do not to cry out loud.

"Thank you," I said as quietly as I could.

He nodded, his usual proper-looking self again. "His Majesty has need of me, I must go. I will escort you to lunch, unless, of course, it is your wish to remain here for further studies, in which case delivery of food may be arranged."

"No, thank you, I'll come with you."

He offered me his arm and we left the library looking like a perfectly respectable couple. Thaladir insisted on saying a proper farewell to the man at the desk while I tried to look everywhere but at him. I wasn't going to give him the chance to wink at me again.


~ Mary ~

I had promised Mal that I would have lunch with her so, after dressing for the day, I went directly to her chambers. Elrohir and Elladan came with me, swearing it was too dangerous in the busy city for me to be left alone. I think they were still worried about being spotted alone by women with spinster daughters to marry off.

Mal was in a distracted mood and was not very interested in hearing about my adventures with Renk, Lord Bard, or my cloak. She mentioned having met Gildor, while on her way to tour the Great Library, but I think I was more excited about that old elf than she was. Perhaps she was regretting her decision to abandon Legolas and being Queen, now that she saw how well off Lady Arwen was doing with a crown.

One good thing about our lunch happened while Mal yammered on and on and on about how many books and scrolls and maps she had the opportunity to view. I got another brilliant idea. Or, I got maybe my first ever brilliant idea.

Together, Mal and Lord Bard had given me an alternate source of information about my cloak, or the fabric it was made out of, if it was truly coveted by the soldiers of Gondor. Their library.

After lunch, the twins took me there and left me alone, at my request. If I had allowed them to follow me inside there would have been more liberties taken upon my person, while browsing among the seemingly endless shelves, than research. After greeting the Head Librarian, I politely asked for information about exotic elf-made fabrics, Gondorian military wear, Mirkwood elf legends, and varieties of silk in Middle-earth. I was given an attendant to help me, who then loaded my arms down with several dozen books and scrolls. He directed me to a table with a comfortable chair, where sunlight shone through low windows, and I could read in private.

Except that I could not read a single word on of any of them. They were all written in what appeared to be elvish script. After banging my head on the sturdy table several times, I remembered something. Mal could read these to me! I grabbed everything up and went in search of her. The attendant tried to slow me down, but I dodged him and made it out the door before he could stop me.

After slamming and locking her door behind me, I dumped my armload of reading materials on a table, where she was sitting, staring out the window at nothing.

"I need you to read these for me," I explained.

"Did you take those from the library?" she asked, clearly shocked. "I really don't have time right now for this. What if you were followed here?"

"I guess that means you will have to read extra fast," I told her. "I have to go babysit the twins, happy reading!"

"Wait!" she cried in desperation. "I wanted to ask you something at lunch, but not with the twins listening."

"If I answer you," I replied, "will you read those for me?"

"What if I promise to skim through them quickly, and find out exactly what it is you want to know? Will that be sufficient?"

"Just find out what my cloak is made out of, and if it is magical, and why an elf would make one of them for an elf lady. Now, what did you want to know?"

"Are you assigned to, well, to, er, um, oh dear..."

"Spit it out Mal," I complained. "The Library police are probably just about to break down my bedchamber door, and I want to be there when it happens."

"Are you going to sleep with King Elessar?"

"Goodness, I hope not!" I shuddered to think what Arwen would do to me if I tried. I had heard she was just as handy with a sword as Lady Eowyn. "The king doesn't want me to do any bridging while I am here, Mal. It makes me wonder why he brought me here at all."

Mal sighed with relief, and, for the first time that day, she smiled

To be continued...


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Chapter posted: July 30, 2010

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