The King's Vineyard, Chapter 33
|Rating:||R for mature sexual content (later chapters)|
|Disclaimer:||I am only borrowing Tolkien's elves for story-telling purposes and am not seeking profit or glory from their use. Well, maybe glory, but certainly not profit!|
|Timeline:||In the years following the Battle of the Five Armies in Bilbo's story and before the Ring Quest in Frodo's.|
|Summary:||A young woman and her uncle travel north from the inland sea of Rhûn to Esgaroth seeking employment at the Elvenking's vineyard.|
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The merry attitude of the impudent Elfprince had proved infectious, and Cella could not help but continue to tease Thranduil, although wordlessly, about helping her to undress now that they were alone together. It was harmless enough, she thought, to pretend she was suddenly helpless.
Besides that, her hands were full now with the nightgown that Legolas had conveniently handed over to her a few moments before he left the dressing room. She held the Elf-made garment to her face and enjoyed the way the soft fabric felt against her cheek.
As she stood with her back to the Elfking, she tried to imagine what it would be like if either he or his son had actually tried to remove her dress with their teeth. What such removal tactics would do to the delicate fabric was enough of a sobering counterbalance to the absurd idea that she did not pursue it very far. It could not be a very pleasant experience, she concluded.
She hoped that if the mind-reading monarch was seeing the same pictures that appeared in her mind that she saw, while she considered such a thing, that he did not think she was being too foolish. It was obvious the younger elf was being silly, and was not really going to tear her dress off. But she could not stop herself from considering it.
Across the dressing-room from where they both stood, there was a tall mirror in the corner, one of the mysterious wraiths previously uncovered by Legolas. It provided her with a partial view of Thranduil in profile as he stood behind her. Sadly, she could not see much besides his chin, cheekbone and the edge of his nose clearly, because of the way the reflecting glass was angled. But at least she could tell that he was there.
Legolas had put the candle on the same little table that had the round looking-glass attached to it, so that the flickering flame's light was doubled. Interesting shadows were thrown over the room, including the visible edges of the Elfking's handsome face, making it even more difficult to tell from his expression what his mood might have been.
"You would be better off with an Elleth to assist you, I believe," he said at last, but not unkindly. And he did not move away from her. "It has been many, many years since I have unfastened a gown." She marveled at the idea of the brilliant Elfking doubting his own abilities over such a simple task. But she was not unhappy to hear that he had not had much practice.
"If you would do me the courtesy of undoing just the top hooks," Cella answered. "I can undo the rest of them by myself." She smiled to herself as his nimble fingers worked on the garment. "I trust you more than anyone else I know, Sire," she added. "To undress me, I mean."
She thought she detected a smile on his face in the mirrored reflection, but it was hard to tell. And then it occurred to her what she had just said, and to amend it, she said, "I mean I trust you with anything that has to do with me. Or anything else." She finally stopped trying to make it sound better when Thranduil leaned forward slightly to speak to her, and now his face in the mirror was clearly visible.
"Is that sufficient?" He had opened her dress about half way down her back. She reached around herself to feel it and declared that he had done very well and thanked him. He noticed his own reflection in the tall mirror at that point, and they both stood silent for a moment, regarding themselves at the other side of the small room. She spoke to his image.
"You were going to say something else to me, before Legolas came in, weren't you?" Even though she had enjoyed the younger Elf's amusing company, she had not for a minute stopped wondering what Thranduil was going to say to her before his son had interrupted them in front of her chamber door. "Something," she reminded him now, "about having an obligation and a duty to be brave for your subjects?" He regarded her reflection in the mirror calmly for a time before he spoke.
"My son spoke true, firiel, the hour is late," replied the Elfking. He took a step back from her, and turned slightly, as if to leave.
"Wait," she said as she turned to face him again, "don't go away yet, please." She felt that if she let him go now, it might be some time before she had the chance to speak with him alone again, if ever.
"You need to rest, now." He remained standing where he was, though. If he did not want to be alone with her, he would have turned again and left at that moment, she was sure.
"In a way I wish Legolas had never come," she said. "Even though he does make me laugh, Sire." There was more she wanted to say to Thranduil, such as she was hoping that he would hold her and maybe even kiss her again, but the time for that seemed to have passed, and she had no hope of reviving it.
However, every moment he remained with her was a gift not to be taken lightly. She continued on about the Elfprince, it felt like a safe topic. "I don't know when to take the things he says to me seriously and when not to, but he does make me smile either way."
"Ever and anon my son does try my patience with his provocations," agreed Thranduil, "But always he is trying to lighten my heart, so I do forgive him, and love him all the more for that," he added with a proud smile while she took a step forward to close the gap between them.
"Then I love him, too, for trying to lighten your heart," she said. "It is always wonderful to see you smile, Majesty."
"Ah, you can never know what delight you bring into these gloomy halls, firiel, without trying to at all." And she knew instinctively, without having to think about it, that she needed to proceed with the utmost caution. As if taming a wild animal, the slightest wrong move would send him into flight.
"I know you are only being polite, Your Majesty, and I am grateful to you for being kind," she responded carefully. "However, it is clear that I have brought you nothing but troubles and difficulties, and one after the other. Having to cope with that fire and those men from the Long Lake could not possibly delight anyone."
Although by mentioning the worrisome series of events she had been involved with at the vineyard, Cella had meant to say something that would not threaten or annoy him, hearing her own words brought her up short. And knowing that what she said was truth, from her point of view at least, she realized that she had no right to press for another moment of the monarch's valuable time.
And now she did feel a bit foolish for stalling him in the little dressing room, while important affairs of his realm may be in need of his attention, which was something she had no way of knowing. Not that he behaved as if he had detected anything urgent, but she was not sure he would allow his perfect features to display any problem he may sense, beyond her chambers, while he was alone with her.
Or perhaps he wished to return to his feasting hall and spend time with the merry-making Elves, who he had been parted from for all of that time he had been at the vineyard. It made her feel guilty for being so selfish with his time that she may be depriving others of his presence. She had no right or claim on him.
He smiled at her, however, and even chuckled a little, but whether he was amused by her comments about the troubles she had caused or her thoughts about him, she did not know. But a thrill ran through her when he took one of her hands into his while he addressed her fears.
"You have brought me the type of problems that I could have only wished for at times of real strife and danger in my realm," Thranduil said reassuringly. "If only I had been given the leisure of time and the lightness of wit to wish for them."
"Was that during the time you were talking about to me?" She hoped he would forget that he had been cut short by the Elfprince, and would continue telling her now about his life after the departure of his wife, even though it was sad. She felt there was a reason he had mentioned anything at all to her regarding his state of mind during what must have been a terrible time to endure.
As she had seen him do before when talking about past battles or dangers, the light in his eyes seemed to turn inward while he withdrew into his memories and traveled back to an earlier time and place
"Almost I believed," he said, "that the gloom shrouding my forest emanated outward from my own soul. And so, to meet each day, I made a barrier around my heart, to keep the grief to one side while I served as King to my subjects and battled my enemy." He was quiet for a moment, and Cella wondered if he remembered she was there, he seemed far away in his thoughts of the past.
After a moment, the Elfking focused on her again, and said, "This Watchful Peace has its own challenges, dangers, and cares, but none that compare with all out warfare with the legions of darkness outside my gates." He quirked the side of his mouth into a tight smile and added, "Indeed, the dull-witted maliciousness of the mortals that reside in Laketown is barely an adequate diversion."
"How will I ever hope to thank you enough for all that you have done for me, and my uncle, Sire?" And she was not coy with her question, for she sincerely felt grateful.
"My chief reward is in knowing that you are safe from harm here," he said and again, as he had done earlier that night, he stroked her hair. She let the nightgown slide down to the crook of her elbow and then put her hand over his and held it to the side of her head, but did no more than smile back into his eyes. It may not have been the right moment for any more romantic behavior, but she loved him so much that she did not desire to let him leave her alone if she could help it.
Without warning, he lifted her other hand, which he still held, and pressed his lips against it. "You have done what my son and many others have tried and thus far have failed to do." He rounded her fingers into a ball.
"With a fist this tiny you have broken a chink in the wall I so carefully built around my heart, and by the light shining now within I see that it was a prison I dwelt in, and not the haven of safety it first appeared." He released her hand while she was hoping that he would not.
She listened to what he said but did not feel the impact of what she heard for many breathless moments. And with a tiny cry of joy she dropped the nightgown and put her arms around his neck to draw his head closer to her, and kissed him on the mouth. Abruptly he began to pull away, but she held on, willing him to respond to her.
And her heart surged with joy when he did. His large hand came up to cradle her head as he crushed his mouth against her and thrust his tongue eagerly between her pliant lips. With his other arm he held her to him, bending her back slightly as he pressed himself down upon her.
Instantly, Cella was inflamed and nearly breathless. His passion was almost overwhelming but she rallied and answered it with the eagerness of youth and freshly unbridled desire.
She took one of her arms from his neck and used it to pull him closer to her body as she pressed herself tightly to him. Her knees felt weak when she felt his hand at her back, slipping beneath her dress where he had unfastened it to stroke the silky shift she wore beneath it.
An unimaginably pleasant tingling warmth emanated from her breasts as they rubbed against Thranduil's firm chest and it spread down to between her legs, and she felt closer than ever before to understanding what being a woman meant. She wanted more, or she wanted to be closer, she was not sure which, but she never wanted it to end. And, at the same time, she wanted it to go farther.
When the Elfking pulled his mouth away from hers, she moaned with disappointment and tried to kiss him again, but he put her at arm's length with a hand on each of her shoulders.
"What witchcraft do you weave, firiel," his voice was rough, but his eyes were glowing with lust, "that weakens me and causes me to abandon all of my will."
"I only want to love you, Sire," panted Cella as she pressed her cheek against one of the hands that held her still. "Please, let me." And she could tell he was restraining himself, if only by a thread, but it was a strong thread.
"Please," she whispered. He shook his head.
"This is not right," he began, but she pulled back from him as hard as she could while shrugging her shoulders to make him release his grip on them, and frowned at him. Her heart was beating furiously beneath her aching breasts and she did not know why but she suddenly had the notion to strike out at the Elfking.
"In that case, I will go and find Legolas," she declared. "He wants to kiss me." And as soon as she saw, or thought she saw, the implication of her remark register in Thranduil's eyes, she felt triumphant. Without further thought, without any thought, she shot a last frustrated glare at the infuriating monarch as she attempted to step around him on her impulsive quest to explore her womanhood.
Effortlessly, he trapped one of her wrists within his hand and held on firmly, without hurting her, as she tugged in vain to release it and get away from him.
"Let me out of here," she demanded. Her boldness surprised her and made her feel even more reckless. But Thranduil seemed calmer than he had just moments before, which maddened her further, as he mildly responded to her.
"Although I trust my son, I am not sure I trust you," he told her. However, his tone of voice belied his amusement over her behavior, which did not make her feel happier being with him with no hope of immediate escape.
"Well you shouldn't trust me," Cella replied tersely. "Because I think that I might do something dangerous, although I am not sure what." Up to then she had not dared look at his face. She darted her eyes sideways to see that he was grinning at her. She did not find it amusing to be considered a joke when she was feeling both serious and dangerous.
"Blackmail," he pronounced as he pulled her closer to him with a jerk and gazed into her staring eyes. "What next?" His smile widened and showed off his perfect teeth. How could he play with her emotions with such a cavalier attitude?
"Murder," she stated simply, meaning it. His eyes flashed with mirth, or anger, she could not tell which and she did not care either way. If she could not escape him then she was certainly not going to make it any more fun for him than it was for her to be at this impasse.
"Plotting treason against the throne of Mirkwood earns a royal penalty, mortal maid," he warned. "Now that you are one of my subjects, I have the right to punish you if you do not control your tongue while you reside in my halls."
"Then do so," she dared him. "Punish me." She tugged again at her wrist. "Or let me go," she said sharply between clenched teeth.
Instead he bent his head to bring his face closer to hers. "Never," he said and he kissed her again, still holding her wrist in his grip with her elbow bent against his chest as he did so.
But Cella could not bear it anymore, she was only human, and she was not skilled in the art of romance. Perhaps one had to be an Elleth to be in love with an Elf. This time, she broke away from him.
"And this is how you punish me? You torture me with your kisses instead," she accused. "And then you will only pull away and say no again. I know that you can easily deny yourself, but why must you play with me this way?" Her voice was ragged with the aggravation she felt, as well the desperation to urge him into taking his love-making further. Before he could answer her, she kissed him again.
He released her wrist, finally, and both of his hands were in her hair as she wound her arms around him again, and felt the same heat she had felt before rising again within her. She pulled away again, but not far, just enough to speak as she looked into his eyes.
"Do you want me, Sire?" With her eyes she pleaded with him to say that he did, but she kissed him again before he was able to respond. His mouth was too close for her to resist, and as long as he would at least kiss her back, she would continue.
His hands left her hair and he embraced her, which made her feel even dizzier. She broke away again, her heart was in charge and she had long stopped thinking of what she was doing or saying. "Do you? Say it, say that you want me. Do not deny me." He crushed his mouth on hers and answered her with his kiss, but it was not enough.
"Say it, say it to me," she whispered between kisses. "Say that you want me." Her voice was hoarse and she was panting again. His hands were moving over her back, inside of her gown, caressing her while he kissed her, arousing her completely. And she thought she might stop breathing any moment if her pounding heart did not explode and kill her first. "Say it."
"I want you," admitted Thranduil, but it was not with a voice of defeat or surrender. Instead he sounded nearly angry, his eyes were aglow with a fierce light and there was no smile on his face. "And I will have you," he declared, as if there had ever been a battle about who was denying who.
But perhaps there was a battle, Cella realized, as he nearly bent her over his arm at her back with his kiss again, and then he moved his mouth from hers and let it travel down over her chin to her neck, leaving a trail of burning kisses upon her flesh. Using a tattered shred of her mind that was all she had left for thinking with, she was sure about something that she believed all along, that it was always himself he was at war with, and not her.
Her gown was slipping from her shoulders from his handling of her, and she managed to pull it all the way down to her hips between kisses. She reveled in the way it felt to press against his hard body with only the thin fabric of her shift between her and his tunic.
"I want to feel your skin," she demanded, with a boldness born on the spot with her combined desire and passion for a midwife. "I want to feel all of you against me." And somehow she knew that she was going to be getting her wish.
To be continued in Chapter 34
Posted: December 13, 2004
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"Long live Thranduil, great Elf-king of Greenwood!"