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Far Beyond Mirkwood, Chapter 5/?


Authors: Mary A and Malinornë
Pairings: Mainly Thranduil/OFCs
Warnings: Adult sexual situations, naughty elf behavior, unseemly ent memories, and dollops of nudity.
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: Malinorne visits Fangorn, Thranduil and Mary meet up with some old friends, the elves meet ents.


~ Mal~

Both Miriel and Ithilwen were more excited than I had ever seen either of them, now that our arrival in Fangorn forest was imminent. Their good mood and incessant chatting gradually began to warm me up to the idea that the Elvenking's abrupt departure with Mary that morning, without giving me the slightest hint of his plans to make a detour, even less leave me behind, was merely another expression of his habitual secretiveness, and not to be interpreted as an uncouth, but efficient way of getting rid of his concubine.

Ithilwen went as far as to suggest that it had been very considerate of him not to wake me up at the early hour they left. I bit back my response that he had plenty of time to say something the whole previous day, and most of the night. It was useless to discuss even the possibility that Thranduil might have done something wrong with any of the wood-elves, Anarion included. They were all besotted with their monarch, and the only thing they seemed to love more than him was trees.

The large and many windows of the king's great carriage - Thaladir had insisted that folding back the ceiling would detract unnecessarily from the royal appearance of the vehicle - offered an excellent view of the changing landscape around us. The forest that had at first been a menacing black outline on the horizon seemed to grow a shade lighter by the minute, and when we finally made a halt, it was greyish-green and did not look much different from any large tree-covered area.

That impression changed, however, as soon as I climbed down from the carriage, aided by Haldir's proffered hand. Unlike other forests, where the change of nature type is a gradual one from grass to bushes to the occasional tree, Fangorn had a clear border. The grassland stopped abruptly a few feet in front of the first line of trees, as far as I imagined their roots would go, and within that area, the vegetation was different. There was still grass, but it looked darker, coarser and more wild, if that is possible.

All was quiet. The trees seemed to hold their breath, as if waiting for something. We waited, too. Anarion set the horses free and Thaladir went to each of them. He gave them a pat and whispered something in their ears, probably to behave themselves and not stray too far. Then he proceeded to dig for something among the boxes and crates in all of the three carriages, muttering to himself about Rúmil's inadequate packing skills. He returned to us empty-handed, but the wrinkle on his forehead made him look apprehensive rather than displeased.

My mind soon turned to other things as Haldir covered the distance to the nearest tree, a very tall and imposing aspen, in a confident stride. He bowed slightly, touched his heart and then put his hand on the slender trunk. For a while he stood like that, saying nothing, but there came a rustle of leaves from the tree, and soon leaves of the ones around it began to swing, too, as if moved by a wind to faint for humans to grasp. Haldir took a step back from the tree and turned towards us.

"They know of our presence," he said. "An ent is coming."

Thaladir motioned for the rest of us to come stand beside him, and told us to straighten our backs, listen attentively to everything our host would say, and not touch anything uninvited. He also let us know that he had prepared a speech of a suitable length for an audience of ents, to which Haldir rolled his eyes. I giggled a little at this, which earned me a stern glance from the seneschal, but I just couldn't help it.

The tenseness as nothing happened, except more rustle of leaves, was unbearable. It felt like the forest was breathing heavily, waiting to lunge at us.


~ Mary ~

That first night, at the inn where Thranduil and I slept on our way to Orthanc, seemed to last forever. In my dreams, I painfully relived the last hellish hour that I had spent riding with the king. The sound made by Amarth's hooves, with the very same jarring vibrations, was the unremitting background 'music' in my nightmare. I felt every single bone-jarring inch of the last few miles over and over.

When I finally began to wake up, grateful to leave the ceaseless ride behind, the hoof-sounds continued to ring in my ears, which made my head hurt. It took me a few moments to orient myself. There actually were horses clopping around outside on the road beside the inn, of course, since we were staying with people who never walked when they could ride. There must have been many of them traveling by through the night. No wonder I had dreamed of riding.

Even though I was lying still, on my side, curled up, I could feel the ache in every sore and battered part of my body. Against their own best interest, however, my cramped limbs craved to stretch out and extend themselves. I did not dare try to move a muscle. The very thought of getting back on that horse made me feel sick.

Slowly, slowly, the urge to unfold myself over-ruling my common sense, I slid my legs out straighter, for a few inches, and then pulled them back. There was a small chance that I would never walk again, I believed. There was a dead certainty that I would never, not ever, willingly get back on Amarth. How was I going to get out of it?

"I hurt all over and I don't want to go to Isengard anymore, sire," I said. "I changed my mind." I had to talk in a whisper, because my voice hurt, too. I waited for a response. For a moment, I considered turning just my head, to see if the king was actually there, and then I decided against it. Too risky. I might scream or something, from the pain. It was best just to try to fall back into miserable sleep if he did not reply.

"Do you expect me to change my travel plans," Thranduil answered, "because you drank too much barley wine last night?" There was not a shred of pity in his voice, but at least he was there. How could he not care about the pain that I was suffering?

"No, I don't expect you to change anything, sire, you go ahead. You can leave me here and pick me up on your way back," I offered. "That shiny gem that you gave to the innkeeper was probably worth a month's stay, with room service," I added. "I will stay in this room, right in this very bed, and not move until you get back. I promise."

The resulting silence made my nerve ends prickle. Desperately, before he could try anything, I showed him a mental picture of me being carried out of the inn, by him, while kicking and screaming. For effect, I added some burly-looking Rohirrim coming to my rescue, ready to do battle in order to save a fair maiden's honor. I gave them swords, and shackles, and then I conjured up a picture of him being carried off to the local jail. I actually started to feel better.

Perhaps I was having more fun that I should have with my mental pictures, but I stopped, abruptly, when I felt Thranduil draw closer to me. His silky hair tickled my shoulder and his breath was on my cheek as he drew my hair back from my ear.

"My dear, I will merely have to inform them that you are a disobedient servant," he said, "They will believe me and not interfere." As he spoke, he slipped his hand under the covers and placed it on my hip. The weight of it was a burden for that most abused area of my anatomy.

"I hope you don't think that I am in the mood for anything... oh, that is nice." The king's hand was not seductive at all. As it moved over the sorest places, the tingling warmth that his fingers evoked spread even further, and I could finally stretch out my legs. The headache and queasiness from the wine subsided, too, and I soon felt able to move from my side to my back. "Okay, you win," I said, reaching out for him, "now I am in the mood." He caught my hands and held them.

"There is only time enough for breakfast, and then we shall depart. The morning grows late."

We had our morning meal, fresh baked trout fillets with an oatmeal crust, and black-berry tarts, in the large common room. The establishment was empty, besides us and the same woman who had served our tea the day before.

I had always thought that the people of Rohan were, more or less, Vikings on horseback. Before my stay at this inn, I had assumed that they were possibly barbaric in their customs, crude in their behavior, and illiterate besides. I was surprised to find out that they were, if this establishment was any indication, more civilized in their accommodation that the Lake Town folk. They even served coffee with their breakfast.

While we ate, another thundering group of horsemen rode past the inn, and this time I could see them out the large windows, although the swiftly moving parade was more a blur of cloaks and horse tails. The king told me that it was a full 'eored', one hundred and twenty men and horses, on patrol probably.

The town we were in was located next to one of the few fords in the Entwash river. Thranduil told me that there had once been a large fishing village here, spread out on both sides of the river, but it had been burnt to the ground during the raids from Isengard.

"Their new king, the young Eomer, is bringing in the Fourth Age along with all of this new construction. Do not let this inn fool you, it was not built by the usual Rohan standards. This is a new age and the influence of Gondor will be felt throughout all the mortal lands." He went on to tell me that a branch from the new road our carriages had been riding on would soon reach this settlement, as well, and there would be a proper bridge built.

"You sure know a lot about this place," I told him. "Why do I get the feeling that you might not have been in our bed all night?" I glanced over to where the serving-woman was standing, in front of the window, but she did not have her eyes on His Majesty, or appear to notice that either of us were there. Another small party of horsemen were riding by, and she watched them until they were gone before returning to our table to ask, without a hint of having had prior intimate contact with the king, if we needed anything else.

"Tell your husband," replied Thranduil, "to have my horse brought around, we shall be leaving."

I pitied the poor stable workers who were going to have to cope with the restless black stallion and I hoped that no one would be maimed or killed in the process.


~ Mal ~

Haldir informed us as soon as he heard the steps of the approaching ent, but it seemed to be an eternity between that and the moment I could actually hear the creaking and rustling and low rumble of something heavy moving through the trees at a remarkable speed. Still, it didn't prepare me for the ent's sudden appearance, and I involuntarily reached out for support. My hand on Thaladir's arm didn't hamper his eloquent bow, the most reverential I've seen him act ever. Not even the Elvenking himself received such demonstrations of respect from his seneschal.

"I greet the, o ancient one," he said to the tree-like creature who was standing before us. "I greet the on behalf of His Royal Majesty Thranduil Oropherion, king and ruler of the elves of Eryn Lasgalen, furthermore a most devout lover of all green and growing things..."

He continued for some time more, in his favourite droning tone, reserved for occasions of great importance and formality, but that was when my attention began to falter. The ent looked at us with his incredibly large and deep eyes, seemingly amused, or at least bewildered. Then his gaze fell at the carriages behind us and he let out a rather grumpy-sounding 'hmmm'.

"Trees," he said in his deep voice. "A lot of good trees in those... things." Thaladir finally stopped talking, mid-speech. He was obviously annoyed with the interruption, but too much in awe of the ent to be anything than polite and respectful.

"These are carriages, o ancient one," he replied. "Elves and humans occasionally use them for transportation, a necessity occurring from our relative diminutiveness of limbs, in comparison to those of ents. I can, however, assure you, o ancient one, that no sentient creatures of Eru were harmed by their construction." The ent's expression became bewildered again.

"They were made from the wood of dead trees," said Haldir. "Unfortunately, the woods of the north are not alive."

"Not in the same sense as Fangorn," added Ithilwen wistfully. "Not anymore, at least."

"And that," said Miriel in an excited voice, "is why we are so happy to be here." That answer seemed to please the ent the most, and he surprised all of us by beginning to laugh. He went on until even the king's seneschal seemed to have overcome his disappointment at not being given the chance to recite his speech in its entirety.

"Most welcome," said the ent between chuckles. "Bregalad is the name the old elves gave to me, Quickbeam in the manner of men."

Thaladir found himself on safe ground again and dutifully informed our host of all of our names and functions at the king's court, but it was a lot quicker and clearer than the version I had heard him use before. Haldir presented himself as wood-elf of Lorien, which caught the ent's interest.

"Fangorn had visitors from Laurelindórenan not so long ago," he said. "Not very long ago at all. Their names were short; Silver Tree and Flower Crowned, good ent names had they been longer."

"Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel," whispered Miriel. "They were here two centuries ago." The ent overheard her.

"That long?" He chuckled. "It is good to see elves in the forest again. Come." The ent turned and walked back into the trees, after waving to us to follow him.

To enter Fangorn was a strange experience. Just a few steps inside the outer perimeter of trees, the canopies were so thick that they seemed to shut out the sunlight altogether. It wasn't dark, but dim, a mild, grey light that was pleasant to the eye. The air became stuffy, as if it had been breathed for too long by too many creatures.

We walked for hours, but it was surprisingly easy. Our host entertained us with stories about other ents, mostly pointless to a human, but the others seemed to enjoy them. I laughed along with them; Quickbeam's laughter was quite irresistible. We saw only trees. Rowans and ashes and birches and the mightiest oaks I had ever seen. They all appeared old, even the slender rowans were partly covered by lichen and moss.

In the middle of clearing stood one single tree, so overgrown with thread-like leaves that it was difficult to see the colour of its trunk. It was strange to look at, but the idea that it could be an ent didn't cross my mind until Quickbeam introduced us.

"Finglas," he said. "Leaflock. He is the oldest ent here now, almost as old as Fangorn himself. Do not be fooled by his sleepy appearance - his mind is quite agile."

At that moment, a section of leaves moved to the side and a large eye became visible. It blinked a number of times, as if its owner had indeed been sleeping. Then a hand of stick-like fingers appeared from the foliage and waved in the air. Quickbeam told us to walk closer.

"Ho-hoom," said a creaky voice as Leaflock moved his mouth, which I had taken to be an old woodpecker nest. "Weeellcooommme." He then slowly opened his other eye and regarded us closely, one at a time. This was followed by much humming, but no words that I could understand. It made me sleepy too, as the old ent couldn't be accused of hastiness. Finally he waved in the air again, sighed contentedly and closed his eyes. The humming continued, but, to my relief, Quickbeam concluded that Leaflock would not expect hasty creatures like us to stay there until next time he woke up.

"Fladrif, Skinbark," said Quickbeam when we had walked some more and arrived in a hilly area with a multitude of birch trees. I looked in the direction he pointed just in time to see a third ent, one with smooth bark not unlike Quickbeam's, and of the same, comparatively slender build.

Skinbark studied us thoroughly, but said nothing apart from a few homm's and humm's. Miriel and Ithilwen giggled, exitedly when his gaze turned to them, and Anarion smiled wider than I had seen him do before.

"I see that you understand each other well," chuckled Quickbeam. "Fladrif will be with you wood-elves for as long as you stay in Fangorn."

The three elves from Mirkwood immediately, or rather, as soon as the seneschal had nodded his approval, went closer to their new guide. Haldir didn't move, but he seemed to carry out a silent conversation with both ents.

"My duty is with the lady," he finally said aloud. He sounded determined, and a little proud, but there was something else, too, that made me wish Thaladir would go with the others and leave me alone with the March Warden.

The seneschal stayed by my side of course, and we watched the three younger elves follow Skinbark happily in among the birches. When they disappeared, Thaladir cleared his throat.

"Allow me to express my gratitude, o ancient one," he said with a bow. "It has been a most interesting day, however we have need of returning to our carriages for the night, as it would not be proper to leave His Majesty's property unattended and, furthermore, the lady requires adequate conditions for sleeping."

I squirmed when he said those last words, because it sounded as if I was a breakable little thing who couldn't stand a night in the forest, but something in his demeanour made me hold back my protest. And, by the time Quickbeam had led us out of Fangorn, I was so sleepy that I didn't care.


~ Mary ~

"Look at that beautiful horse, sire," I said to Thranduil, after we had exited the inn and stood on the front porch. I pointed at a large black stallion, which was being led out of the stables by a mere boy. It appeared to be as mild-mannered as a lamb on a leash. "He could be Amarth's twin," I added. "Except for his temper."

"That is Amarth." The king was grinning, but at his horse, not me. I think that he might have been deceived, too, if only for a moment, and I did not feel foolish about my mistake. This was a different animal than the usual snorting, stomping beast that I was used to seeing. My estimation of Rohan people rose very high.

"Find out what they fed him, majesty," I whispered. Instead of asking; he sent the boy away.

"It was not the food, it was the company of the other horses inside the stable," explained the king, while he lifted me up on the steed's wide back. "Among the Mearas, Amarth was humbled in the presence of their genuine equine royalty."

The innkeeper and his wife waved farewell to us, and I waved back. I wondered if they knew that they had hosted a king. No one had seemed to notice that Thranduil was even an elf. I was pretty sure that the town's folk must have some natural suspicions about strangers, but we had been treated like equals. Maybe the people here were just too polite to make a fuss.

When we left the town, and the river, behind us, and rode out over the plains again, I hoped that we could come back that way and spend another night. The rest of the day was pleasant, every now and then a flock of noisy black birds would travel over head, and sometimes a few of them would swoop low as if to get a closer look at the two of us, or the horse. "Kaah, kaah, kaah!" they screamed and their shiny black feathers had a blue sheen.

"What kind of birds are those? Are they bad?"

"No, they are not bad," said the king. "There are no more bad birds in this land these days. Those are rooks. They are like crows, only smaller, and more light-hearted." He said no more about them and we traveled in silence, save for the constant wind, until near mid-day. I had been nodding off when he said something odd.

"Keep your eyes open, we should be meeting up with some old friends of yours, soon."

Old friends of mine? Here? Who could he mean? I had no old friends besides Mal. Peering around the king's back, I watched the plains ahead of us, and finally saw two black dots that grew into larger and larger black dots, and, finally, into two horsemen, pounding in our direction at breakneck speed. I was stunned when the horsemen were close enough for me to recognize.

"How did you know we were going to meet them out here?" Together, they pulled their horses up to a rearing halt in front of us.

"Good day to you, Uncle Thranduil, lady Mary," said Elladan. "What a pleasant surprise to meet you here," added Elrohir.

"Did you just say 'Uncle' Thranduil?" I was bewildered, were they making a joke about the king's age? Not that His Majesty appeared to be bothered, but neither did he seem pleased.

"Of course, darling," said Elladan, laughing. "Our Grand-parents in Lorien are considered to be his brother and sister, now that their realms are united."

"They are?"

"Very nearly so," said Elrohir. "Almost the same, for all intents and purposes. Is that not correct, Uncle?"

"Our Grandfather is related to Uncle Thranduil, you know," Elladan pointed out. "Which means we were practically cousins in the first place, sort of thrice-removed."

"It sounds positively incestuous," I said, thinking of the night the king spent in Galadriel's talan. Then I remembered that all took place before their sibling relationship was formally established.

"If either one of you calls me uncle again," said Thranduil, and not sounding amused, "I will have to take my duties as your familial elder more seriously."

There was a moment, or two, of reflective silence on the part of the twins; their grins faded quickly. The king dismounted and opened up one of the packs, which were slung over Amarth's back. He removed a large bundle.

"Would you both care to join us for a mid-day meal?" As he asked, he opened the bundle to reveal carefully wrapped packages. The innkeeper's wife had packed us a lunch and we were soon all seated on spread-out cloaks for a picnic. The twins were respectful, helpful, and far too quiet.

"Were you both just visiting in Isengard?" I asked, to loosen their tongues. They had been coming from that direction.

"Oh no, we are supposed to be in Lorien before the next full moon," Elladan answered, as if he thought I paid attention to the sky at night, and measured the moon while at it. Because they rode on horseback, the best way to travel from Rivendell was through the gap of Rohan.

"There was no time for chatting with Treebeard," explained Elrohir. "Simply saying hello to that old ent takes half the day." After we ate, he and Thranduil took the horses to a nearby stream to water them.

"Is the lady Malinorne in Lorien?" Elladan asked me. I could tell he was curious about finding me out in the middle of nowhere with Thranduil, but he did not know how to ask the king.

"She is camping out by the river Limlight," I told him. "With the rest of our party." After I explained the circumstances of the royal tour, Thranduil's desire to meet Treebeard, and Mal's possible loneliness without me there, he cheered up.


~ Mal ~

The following day, Haldir led the way into the forest in a different direction, and Quickbeam met us after maybe an hour. The ent showed us many beautiful surroundings, like a small waterfall, or a sunlit hilltop, and although I still had the feeling that the forest was a living, breathing thing that followed every move I made, now it was more like curiosity than something that scared me.

"The king's son, His Royal Highness Legolas, came here just a few years ago," Thaladir told Quickbeam when we came to a grove of beeches that was not too different from Mirkwood. "Certainly you do remember?"

"Son, son... a male child... the offspring of elves, men and hobbits." He looked satisfied with himself. Then he chuckled again. "Your method of procreation is very different indeed." I nodded politely, not knowing what to say without disappointing the seneschal. After all, I was expected to act like a worthy representative of the royal court.

"Would you like a demonstration?" asked Haldir innocently. His not-so-innocent smirk was rivalled only by the way he glanced at me. Thaladir stared angrily at both of us.

"They showed us, the ones you call Celeborn and Galadriel." replied Quickbeam, laughing. "It was most curious and very amusing. I know elves are more..." - he searched for a word - "hmm, bendable than ents, but it was nevertheless an entirely new thing to behold. How they writhed on the ground and twined their limbs around each other, and the sounds..." He hummed for a while, uttering the occasional name of a body part - obviously the couple had been thorough teachers, and with apt students.

"I am sure we are all familiar with similar situations," said Thaladir pointedly when the ent began to repeat his favourite word.

"Of course, of course," said the ent. "The three of you present, you mean?"

"Yes," said Thaladir. "However, I am sure there are more important topics for discussion. Like I said, His Majesty's son..."

"That one is hasty, even for an elf," remarked Quickbeam and laughed again. "But it would amuse me to see it again, even more amusing with three bendable creatures involved."

I glanced at my companions. Haldir looked as if he was ready to burst from laughter at any moment, and Thaladir's lips were pursed as if he had just eaten a lemon.

"That is not our way," I replied for all of us. "At least not often," I added, glancing at Thaladir, who shot me an expressive gaze back. "Also, there are certain conditions involved, like emotions, and we do not... bend and writhe just like that. The mood has to be right." Quickbeam looked wistful, and a little sad.

"Maybe this mood will arrive later?" he asked hopefully.

"Maybe," I replied quickly, before Thaladir had uttered the 'no' that was forming on his lips. Haldir grinned.

"You are less hasty in this respect than I expected," said our host. "The others were very eager, and did it several times during their stay with Fangorn."

"They are special to each other," I said. He pondered that for a moment.

"Like the king-elf and the... woman? On the horse?" Apparently, there was something funny about them, because he laughed as if someone had just told a good joke. "A horse!" I gritted my teeth. As if it wasn't enough that he had taken Mary with him, and not me, they were doing naughty things even on Amarth's back. I pouted.

"Indeed," replied Thaladir, when Quickbeam had stopped laughing. "His Majesty - the king-elf - harbours a considerable amount of affection towards his mortal subjects, the one accompanying him, as well as the one presently in our midst." I was ready to kiss him.

"Oh." For a long time our host was quiet, and he almost seemed to grow a bit tree-ish. When none of the others seemed to want to say anything either, I asked the question that had been growing in my mind, despite the seneschal's lessons on seemliness.

"Quickbeam," I said, which made him straighten a little, but he still looked dreamy. "How do ents do it? Where do entings come from?"

"We go out, in the wind," he replied, still dreamy-eyed, but with something more happening in them. "We gather, all that are not sleepy, in stormy days and nights near leaf-fall, on high hills where we can feel the fresh air in our branches, and we lift our arms together and stand there, bending and waving and humming for as long as the strong wind blows." He lifted his arms and began to stretch his long fingers, then waved them in the air in an odd, slow dance.

"That sounds nice," I told him encouragingly when he seemed to lose himself to memories.

"It is fresh and green," he said, "moisture and moss and mud between our roots. Our seeds mingle in the air and are carried by the wind, and if the soil is prepared, then entings will be born when the snow melts. All the ents will wander among the trees, seeking them out to feed them, at first with water only, and then, when the roots of the young are strong, we gather them in ent houses..."

"But that is in the past now," he sighed. "Many storms have passed since the entwives disappeared. You have not seen them, have you?"

I hated to put out the hopeful light in his eyes, but had to tell him the truth.

"Ah well," he said calmly. "The old world is coming to an end, and perhaps it is best that the time of the ents will be over also." I patted the bark on his leg, and he seemed to like it. At least he began to look like his normal, jollier self again. "The sun is low, and I should take you back to the dead-tree-things. Unless you would rather spend the night in an ent-house?"


~ Mary ~

The twins, I found out, were headed to Lorien in an official capacity. They were to appear as representatives of their mother, who was born there, and the Dunedain, who they rode with, to accompany the Lady Galadriel, while she destroyed the foundation of Dol Guldur at Amon Lanc. It was a very auspicious occasion.

That dark tower had spread misery over the Great Greenwood forest, and turned it into Mirkwood, for many long years. Its evil influence, I was often told, could still be felt on the surrounding countryside, even though the minions of the Dark Lord had been driven out. The tower was to be removed and a new city built there, for Lord Celeborn's use as part-ruler of both Eryn Lasgalen and Lorien. I wondered if Thranduil would get a new city, too, as part of the deal.

There was going to be a grand party afterwards, Elladan informed me, to celebrate both this last benevolent act by his grandmother and the establishment of Lord Celeborn's new rule there. After hearing this, I was too jealous to speak kindly for a while. In an effort to disguise my mood, I cleaned up our lunch mess and carefully packed away the left-overs.

It was bad enough that I was homesick for the caves, especially out on the open windy plains, but now I was going to miss a huge party, too. Elladan watched me tackle the left-overs and then complimented me on what he called an unusual display of tidiness. I asked him not to tell anyone that I did it, or a repeat performance might be expected.

When the king and his other nephew returned with the horses, Elladan smiled at Elrohir and said, "I have always wanted to stop beside the Limlight to do some fishing, what say you, brother?"

Neither twin is dull-witted, and when Elladan posed this query to him, Elrohir stared long into his twin's eyes before answering.

"Have you gone mad?" he finally said. "We have at least three more days of hard riding..."

"I believe we have enough time for some rod-bending sport," Elladan added quickly with a wink. It was difficult to keep a straight face and behave like I thought he was really talking about fish. Elrohir was not persuaded.

"Grandfather will bend our necks if we are late," he pointed out, exasperated with the conversation.

"Sadly, that is true," his brother replied. "Which means that we should leave immediately!" Elladan grabbed my hand, kissed it, and then leaped on his horse, and saluted farewell to Thranduil. His brother, bewildered, yet always willing to go anywhere in a hurry, followed him.

"Now will you tell me how you knew they would be coming this way?" I asked again, after the twins turned their horses east and rode away.

"A little bird told me," said Thranduil. He was not teasing, either, except I think there was more than one bird who did the talking. We were soon on our own way and there were more rooks over head, but none of them flew low to say anything. The closer we got to the end of the plains, the more brushy and woodsy the landscape became, and hilly, too.

From the top of a high ridge, we could see the Fords of Isen, and the vale of Isengard, below us. The sun was going down and the sky was golden and rosy. The river looked like a shimmering, radiant ribbon as it flowed out of the last of the Misty Mountains.

"Many bloody battles were fought over this stretch of land," said Thranduil. "Theoden's son was mortally wounded there." He pointed to where the river turned into a set of shallow steps, as it topped a small rise, a natural ford in the otherwise swift and dangerous watercourse.

The king told me that even though the tower of Orthanc, a gleaming needle in the twilight, seemed very close, it was still some hours ride away. The distances were deceitful to the eye. It was getting dark and late; we would ride down to the river's side and make camp for the night. At last, I was going to get my wish to be alone with the king, under the stars.

The innkeepers had packed us enough food to last for days and there was no need to cook. The king built a small fire just for the warmth and light, while I helped by gathering up twigs and small fallen branches to feed it. The rushing sound of the river was like music, and the surroundings were very pretty and romantic and I was loving it until the king unpacked our bedding.

"This is it?" I looked at the thin bedroll he spread on the ground. "You expect me to sleep on this? Of course you do, you like to sleep on rocks... hey!"

Thranduil sat down on our 'bed', grabbed me by the hand, and pulled me off balance, but caught me at the last minute and gently put me down on my back.

"I believe that I can make you forget your uncomfortable surroundings," he promised and his eyes glittered with self confidence.

"Mnnnnm," I answered, because his mouth was on mine, at the time, and that was the best I could do. By the time he broke away and I could talk again, my leggings had been yanked down to my knees, my tunic top was pushed up to my neck, my breasts were tingling, and other parts of me, too; and I forget what I was going to say.

The king rose up to his knees and undressed slowly. His marble skin glowed with a golden luster from the campfire's flames. One part of him seemed to shine a little more brightly than the rest, and the sight of his arousal made me speechless. Mostly because I could not resist reaching out to stroke his most royal member, and then I decided to indulge myself with a mouthful.

As usual, he tasted even better than he looked, which is to say, delicious. Everything tastes better outdoors. Even kings.


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

Status of daily schedule: Accomplished

Remarks: Fangorn forest reached according to plan. Contact with ents successfully initialized, although, regrettably, with considerably less formality than appropriate, due to a most disappointing lack of interest from our host, who has, furthermore, this day displayed blatant disregard for conversational seemliness. Our visit, however, proceeds successfully notwithstanding this matter of, admittedly, limited significance. The conduct of His Majesty's subjects currently placed under my supervision is suitably respectful. Long live Eryn Lasgalen!

To be continued...

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Chapter posted: January 17, 2006

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