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Mirkwood and Beyond

Chapter 15 / ?
Authors: Mary A and Malinornë
Pairings: Mainly Thranduil/OFCs
Warnings: Adult sexual situations in various locations, and some nudity!
Disclaimer: Written for fun, not for profit, with characters and setting borrowed from JRR Tolkien.
Chapter summary: Mal, Mary, the king and the rest of the Mirkwood party are greeted, fed, sung to, and put to bed, Lórien style.

~ Mal ~

The end of our wandering through the wonders of the Golden Wood and Caras Galadhon was as magnificent as the beginning. The great mallorn in front of us was at least twice as big as the huge ones that guarded the entrance to the city of the Galadhrim. Its trunk was impressive, and as far up as I could see in its branches until they were lost in the foliage, there were platforms on different levels, with stairways between them.

These were not normal stairways, of course, but more of a refined kind of ladder. They looked possible to walk on, though, so even if the elves didn't really need them to get up into the trees, I guessed they were comfortable when they carried something with them. I was glad that we didn't have to try climbing ropes, and Thaladir should be too, with that long tunic and robe he was wearing.

Haldir and his brothers stopped at the base of the tree, telling us to go on without them. It was not their presence that was required, they said, and the twins declined too. 'Because we will have plenty of time to see our naneth's parents later,' they explained, but I got the impression it had more to do with an insistent urge to get reacquainted with an elf-girl or two.

Anarion, Ithilwen and Miriel stayed with us, so it was the original delegation of Mirkwood inhabitants that followed the ethereal woman who was our guide up the stairs. The steps were sturdy enough, but there was no rail except for the coarse tree trunk, so I was glad to walk after Thaladir, and with Thranduil behind me.

It was very nice to walk among the leaves and branches, and because they hid the ground it wasn't scary at all, even though we were high up in the tree. The flets we passed looked almost like normal rooms, with furniture and walls, and I thought I could probably get used to living in one. Or maybe not. Thranduil's hand on my arm suddenly reminded me of how far from the ground we were, and when we finally stepped onto an elaborately decorated platform I almost felt a little dizzy. I clung to his elbow for support, grateful to have him there.

But, I soon forgot my unease. There was simply too much to take in of the beautiful surroundings. All was different from Thranduil's underground throne room. The wood was so much more alive than the stone, and the furniture appeared to have taken shape voluntarily, rather than being fashioned by the power of a master of stone- or woodcraft. But the biggest difference was the light. All was bright and softly shimmering, rather than golden red, and there were no dark corners.

The canopy over our heads filtered the sunlight and lent a comfortable shade to the room, and there, in the centre of it, stood the most beautiful couple I have ever seen. They were majestic, but not in an aloof way, and it was as if they invited me to stare at them to my heart's content.

Celeborn, the silver lord, lived up to his name. It was as if a ray of moonlight was trapped in his hair or garments, because he seemed to shine with a silvery light that was reflected in his eyes. He was stunning - regal, handsome, powerful - and the hint of a smile gave him a slightly naughty look. I felt a thrilling surge in my belly and my cheeks suddenly heated. Then the king drew me closer and, after a quick glance at his face, I turned my gaze to Galadriel.

The Lady of Light had an even more overwhelming presence about her. She was the true essence of female beauty - her hair, eyes, skin, figure, all was perfect. But it was not a cold beauty - rather she was mild and warm like a summer morning. Looking at her made me feel calm, and there was a silly happiness bubbling inside of me. I glanced at Thranduil again, and I just couldn't understand how he could still be in such a bad mood. I took his hand, and when I looked up again, Celeborn was standing just in front of the king.

The Lord of Lórien reached out his hand, holding a slightly familiar wreath. The flowers were still alive, but barely, and they resembled more the pale specimens from the gloomy forest in the north, than any we had spotted in the sun-lit glades of this realm.

"We received your calling card," he said, turning the wreath in his hands, as if he hadn't quite decided what to do with it. "It appears to be somewhat lonely."

Thranduil made a gesture with his hand and Ithilwen came forth to take the 'card'. She put it on the Elvenking's head, and he seemed to change momentarily. Suddenly he was at least as regal as Galadriel, and as powerful as Celeborn. "Thank you, cousin," he said in his deep, melodious voice, and he didn't sound too angry.

"I had the distinct feeling that my grandsons were in your company?" Celeborn asked. Thaladir cleared his throat.

"They were not misbehaving so bad that you left them at the border, I hope," said Galadriel, approaching us. The smile playing at her lips said it all. Thranduil chuckled.

"Ah, no. It is more a case of setting priorities, methinks." She lifted an eyebrow.

"Yes," he continued. "Few have the power to resist the beauty of the females of Lórien." She just smiled amiably at that, but now it was Celeborn's time to chuckle.

"The dear boys. That was a time of running carefree from flower to flower..." He seemed lost in happy memories for a moment, and it was funny to see his slightly guilty expression when his wife gently nudged him with her elbow.

"You haven't changed much since," she whispered to her husband, but loud enough for even a mortal to hear. "Neither have you, my dear," he whispered back, and the mutual affection was obvious.

"I think we will do without the formalities," Celeborn then said, with a glance at Thaladir, who was tactful enough, naturally, to disguise the discomfort he must feel at such a notion. "You are most welcome, all of you, and it would gladden my heart if you would feel like home here. We have no caves, but our people is friendly and every talan in the realm is open for you."

I found myself wondering if his was, too, and thinking that it wouldn't be very scary at all if he would employ similar examination methods such as Lord Bard used. That was nonsense, of course. This elf-lord was no widower, and with the wife he had he could not possibly be interested in a couple of plain-looking, clumsy mortals. It made me feel both stupid and dirty thinking of him in that way in front of Galadriel. And I did not want to do anything that would be against her will.

"We are happy to wish you welcome back, Mary, and you welcome, Malinornë," she said, and then she and her husband proceeded to greet the others in our company. There was some more small talk, and an invitation to some festivities in the evening, before the ruling couple took up their original positions in the centre of the room. The audience was over.

Then, just as I turned to leave the room, I heard her voice inside my head. It was clearer than when she had spoken before, more like that of a young girl, but also completely serious. 'Have no fear,' she said.

I didn't quite understand her - fear of what? Of all my worries, what did she mean? Which did she know of? There was no explanation, only an overwhelming kindness in her eyes as she repeated without moving her lips: 'Have no fear.'

~ Mary ~

After we went through the enormous gated entrance to the heart of Lórien, we still had a lot of walking to do. The trees of the city of Caras Galadhon grow on hills and there were gently climbing stairways cut into the ground. I could hear water constantly splashing but could not tell where the sound came from.

There were many small streams that flowed down the hills for us to either step over, or, at times, cross by slender bridges, but not for more than a few steps so I did not need to be carried. Actually, I wanted to wade in them, but no one else seemed inclined to get their feet wet, so I kept my shoes on. But the noise they were making, no matter how inviting-looking they were, was murmuring, not splashing.

When we finally reached the city, I realized that the constant splashing sound came from the enormous fountain that sat in the center of the innermost circle of the largest trees. The afternoon sun was not defeated by the towering mellyrn; the clearing was acres wide and we stepped into bright daylight for the first time since we had landed.

The Mirkwood elves -- Miriel, Ithilwen and Anarion -- were stunned by the sparkling visual impact of the towering fountain spray and they seemed especially delighted by the pretty colors and soothing sounds it made. A rainbow's arch of colour, bending brightly, was clearly marked in the surrounding air, and then dissolved in the mistiness. Outside the primary arc, there was a larger, paler, secondary rainbow with colors reversed.

The fountain, while aerating the water, released millions of tiny air bubbles throughout the spray and the elves stood in the constant cool shower, which fell lightly around the edges. The grass and flowers grew thick and lush around its base.

"The Fountain of Galadriel," said Haldir proudly. "For us, the water represents the infinite freshness of life forever renewed from deep within in its sustained upleaping." While he spoke, I could just imagine how Thaladir, who stood silent for a change, probably wished he could be the one doing the lecturing.

"Indeed," continued Haldir, "like the fountain, life in Lórien is the same now as it has been for thousands of years. The outward conditions may change, but the essentials of life remain the same. Leaves fall, and new ones are born to take their place."

The fountain's water poured into a large basin and flowed out from that into a pretty, bubbling stream that we crossed by using an actual bridge that two people could walk on side by side, for a change.

Once we had passed over this last barrier, we no longer walked on the formal paths, but trod directly on the lawn. The turf was lush and springy, as if it floated on a sea of foam. The urge to take off my shoes to grip the cropped blades with my toes was nearly irresistible. However, we did not pause to enjoy the fountain, the stream, or the soft grass, but were led to the biggest tree and then right up into it. The twins and the Lórien elves stayed behind.

Thranduil's demeanor changed again. Up to that point, he had been stone-faced and silent. Neither Mal nor I could tease a smile from him. Not even Thaladir was as grouchy looking, even when I asked if I could take off my shoes. As we climbed up the last stairs and into the top of the Lord and Lady's tree, the king began to look less dour and more lighthearted, at least around the eyebrows. At one point, he flashed a sudden grin, as if struck from within by a humorous thought.

Unfortunately, I was staring at him so intently that I nearly walked off the edge of the platform into thin air. Thaladir caught my arm and redirected me so smoothly that no one, except Thranduil, even noticed. He threw a glance over his shoulder at his seneschal and nodded, with a look in his eyes that seemed to say, 'Thank you for rescuing the idiot once again, O faithful one.' Or words to that effect.

But it was not until Lord Celeborn handed Thranduil back his leaf crown, the very same one that had been set adrift in the Anduin days before, that the king finally smiled again. It was either that, or Galadriel. It became obvious immediately that she was 'talking' to him mentally, by the teasing twinkle in her eye after she greeted us and peeked at him.

And it hit me, of course, the king had been having his brain picked by her, probably for this whole day at least, and I bet it was very uncomfortable for him to be on the other side of that experience. No wonder he was such a big grouch. I wondered if Celeborn had been reading Thranduil's thoughts, too. Or, if they both, the Lord and the Lady, had been 'talking' to him using the elf brainwave hotline for the whole day.

I had to wonder if his crown, once he put it back on, cut the chatter with its Mirkwood energy. Or his relief may have been nothing more than feeling like a king again, by being acknowledged as one, even though he was not within the borders of his own realm and the boss of everything he saw there.

It was so good to see my king smile again, and I could 'feel' his relief, too, that I barely noticed anything else. The intense sensation of needing to pay attention to everything I saw had suddenly ceased, too. I wondered if Thranduil had been doing that with me on purpose, in order to prevent either Galadriel or Celeborn from reading my thoughts. By keeping my mind focused on my surroundings, as sort of a screen, all they would have seen in my mind was birds, leaves, butterflies, and the other flora and fauna of the Golden Wood that I am sure they were very familiar with. Not that I would have minded either of them viewing my thoughts, I think.

After all the welcome ceremony was finished, I noticed Celeborn was smiling at me and Mal, with an unusual look in his eyes. His eyes! That crystal blue shimmer was familiar, as was his silver hair, but like with a name that hangs on the tip of one's tongue, I could not figure out what about him was making me do a double, triple take, while trying not to stare.

Before I could speculate any further, I heard Galadriel's voice, in my head: 'Thranduil is as tempestuous and as suspicious as his father, and twice as fair.'

Great. That was all I needed, more competition, and from someone who outranked me. When it was time to be shown to our guest talan, I edged closer to the king and Mal to put my arm through his other elbow. That was just in case anyone else nearby was getting any ideas about grabbing onto it before I could, while trying not to be obvious about it. Laughter tinkled in my inner ear like a tiny bell.

'No one can fault your vigilance, my dear,' said the Lady, inside my head. She did not sound worried.

~ Mal ~

After a brief rest in my assigned guest talan, which, fortunately, was situated not too far from the ground, and had walls on all sides, Thaladir came to inform me that it was time to join the evening's festivities. Surprisingly, he was no longer wearing his long robe, but had instead put on a half-long tunic in the same unobtrusive brown colour. The cream sash around his waist gave it a somewhat more festive look.

"Courtesy dictates that visitors acquiesce to the habits of the realm visited," he said in reply to my surprised glance. "The wearing of long garments is commonly restricted to official functions, whereas the impending event was specifically noted not to be of such a nature."

"Furthermore," he continued, "my observations, together with my studies of the topic, indicate that mortals may suffer from the warmer climate if their bodies are confined in thick materials. It is therefore my duty to inform you, my lady, that lighter wardrobe is permissible, as well as appropriate."

I was happy to hear that the knee-length dress I had chosen was a good thing to wear. It was not that revealing, but still very different from what I use to wear at the parties in Mirkwood. And the red colour looked good against my slight tan.

The seating arrangements in the great hall were unusual too, with curved couches at small tables that would seat just a few people. These were arranged on separate little platforms around the large empty space in the middle, where I assumed there would be dancing later on.

Thaladir deposited me at a table where Mary was already seated, and then he sat himself, at the edge of the couch. While we ate from the food that was carried around on trays and moved from table to table in a random pattern, or just when someone shouted for a particular delicacy, he 'entertained' us with stories about the land we were visiting.

It was rather interesting, but I couldn't help listening in on an even more interesting discussion at the table next to us. It was on a flet a few feet lower, and from where I sat, I had a good view of both Thranduil and Celeborn. And the silver lord was looking at me and Mary!

"So, this is what you treat yourself to every night?" He nodded in our direction, and I quickly occupied myself with some more of the roasted fish. I caught Thranduil's smirk, though.

"I would not call you unfortunate yourself, cousin." I did not need to look at him to know that he found Galadriel beautiful. And who wouldn't? It was hard to even feel jealous.

"You acquired them from a distant realm, you say?" Celeborn sounded very interested, as if he was planning to pick up a mortal or two himself.

"Invited. They came to me by their own volition." The unmistakable pride in his voice made me warm all over, or maybe it was just the herb wine.

"How curious," Celeborn replied, and then I lost track of the conversation as they lowered their voices. But they seemed to have quite a lot to say to each other, and there were more gestures towards our tables, and a few raised eyebrows on the Lórien elf's part.

"Perhaps your... wards would care to dance for us?" At last something I could hear, even if I could have told him myself that there wouldn't be any such public display for as long as the seneschal was present. I knew Mary would have loved to perform in front of all of the elves, but I was happy for Thranduil's reaction.

"Why? You will have the opportunity for inspection that I accepted." His narrowed eyes mirrored the suspicion in his voice.

"Inspection?" He laughed heartily. "My dear cousin, I certainly do not intend to dissect your lovely flowers... merely assure myself of their well-being. And they do look content, I must say."

"Do it now, if you must. Get it over with."

"As interesting as that would be, I would prefer a more private occasion. But let us not talk of such serious matters tonight. This is a time for wine and song, and welcoming our guests, nay, our brothers and sisters!"

There were a few toasts, but no speeches, and the next time I looked toward that particular table, I saw Galadriel approach, and then leave again, after whispering something in her husband's ear. He shone up at her words, and then spoke to Thranduil.

"In fact, we have a custom that, besides being most enjoyable and serving to bring distant kin together, also alleviates the need for 'inspections' and other tiresome things. My lady wishes to invite you to her talan tomorrow night."

"And?" There was the shrewd Elvenking again, seldom accepting words just like that.

"In the name of hospitality and proper care for our exotic guests," our host replied, "I will, naturally, invite the ladies Mary and Malinornë to mine." I nearly choked on my heady drink. The Mirkwood monarch didn't say a word.

"Ancient Lórien tradition, cousin," said Celeborn with a laugh and slapped Thranduil on his shoulder. "You would know if you only visited more often."

At that point, the musicians began to play, and what else was said between the two was lost among the lively tunes of flute and harp. Some elves began to dance, but the tables were still filled with new platters, so the dinner part wasn't over. I chewed on a honey-dipped nut cookie while contemplating the conversation I had heard. I couldn't wait to discuss it with Mary, but with Thaladir still with us there was no chance of a private girl-talk. If he would only move to another table, as seemed to be the custom here.

Then Mary went to dance, and Orophin took her place beside me. He was kind and had many interesting thing to say, so it was a pity that we didn't get to talk longer. But, when I saw who had patted my arm to attract my attention, I almost forgot about him.

It was the lord of Lórien himself who stood at my side, reaching out his elbow. As I took it, I saw in the corner of my eye how Thaladir rose and bowed to him, which he acknowledged with a nod and a smile.

"You will allow me to entertain the lady for a short while, I hope?" The seneschal bowed again, and then left the table. I wondered if he was going to look for Mary now that I was apparently safe for a while. If he only knew the thoughts that had ran through my head upon seeing Celeborn earlier that day!

We didn't talk at all while the dance lasted, and I was thankful for that. It was difficult enough to follow in the unfamiliar moves, while at the same time trying to control my pattering heart. I stole a glance now and then, of his blue eyes and noble face, but most of the time, when I wasn't too occupied with the mechanics of the dance, I just looked at an embroidered silver tree on his tunic.

His hands on my waist were pleasantly cool, and I hoped that he couldn't feel how hot mine on his upper arms were. My cheeks were heating too, not from anything he did, but from my own musings. He would spend the next night with Mary and me, he had said, and I could not get the thought out of my head what it would feel like to have his hands on my bare skin. They were resting on my hips now, pleasantly heavy, and assisted in moving my body in a manner I would not otherwise have dared. I hoped Thaladir wasn't looking.

Soon thereafter the dance ended, and I was surprised when Celeborn led me back not to my previous place, but to where his wife was sitting with Elladan and Elrohir. The twins excused themselves, saying it was time for them to move on to the next table, which left me alone. What does one talk about with the possibly most powerful elf in Middle-earth? And especially as I was quickly falling in lust with her husband, despite my attempts to prevent it.

"The mallorns of your realm are wonderful," I finally said, and bit my tongue as soon as I heard myself. Mallorns! Mellyrn was the correct form, and I knew that. I groaned and wanted to sink through the earth.

But then I heard a voice inside my head, laughing with a light, glittering sound. 'Do not worry, Malinornë," Galadriel's deep voice said, "names may change, but it is the thing as such that matters.' I looked up at her and was encouraged by her smile. 'Besides,' she added, 'how could I blame you for being under the spell of my charming husband? He loves doing that to people.' I could have sworn that she winked, inside my head.

Then I felt a hand on my shoulder, and before I could even see whom it was I was drawn from my seat and into a familiar pair of arms. The Elvenking crushed me against his chest, and as his heady scent made me feel more drunk than the herb wine had, all other thoughts left my head. I clung to him, seeking his lips with mine, but after just a short kiss he lifted my chin so that I was looking right into his stormy eyes.

Although I could not determine the emotion I saw there, his gaze was mesmerising. He put both hands on my hips, and I was aware again of the music. We started dancing, slowly, but I could see and feel that his muscles were hard with restrained passion. He teased me, holding me close and moving my hips against his. I recognized the moves - they were the same as in the chaste dance earlier - but with the distance between us closing to nothing, it felt deliciously lewd.

~ Mary ~

Mal and I were given guest telain that were low to the ground. They were designed for visitors who might not suffer from a fear of heights, but are not used to sleeping in trees. They were more like rooms, with substantial walls for more privacy. Still no roofs, but one can not have everything. It was nice to be able to lie down on an almost real bed; too, even if it resembled a chaise lounge, but it was off of the floor. I had not slept off of the floor or ground since Mirkwood.

Even though the bed was comfortable, it was hard to nap as we were advised to do. The lack of a roof was bothersome; there was too much light and activity over my head. Granted, the sunlight was filtered through the canopy of mellyrn which diffused it nicely. It was just like lying under any thickly-leafed tree on a sunny day. But the branches above me were filled with elves and it was hard not to think of them up there, somewhere. I concentrated on the sound of the fountain, and slept lightly for a while.

That night, we ate dinner high up in a mallorn and reclined comfortably on couches. They were like chaise lounges, too, but with curved arms and backs, except that these were formed from living branches. They had been cleverly trained to grow sideways and the padded seats were settled onto the flat limbs. It was the first time I sat in furniture with leaves growing out of it. Or tasted wine made from herbs. It was delicious, as was the food.

Thaladir was full of boring stories about the time he lived in Lórien with Thranduil and Oropher. He explained how the largest platform in the center had been put on top of specially trained mellyrn limbs, like the couches had, and was now a part of the trees, and very safe for dancing. I was happy he was thinking of safety issues, even if it was dull dinner conversation.

When the dance music started, Elladan and Elrohir came and took me off of the couch that I was sharing with Mal and Thaladir, to sit with them and meet some Lórien elves. They sat me far from the king and the seneschal, which made me uncomfortable and yet grateful. As I was introduced to some of their friends, I noticed that Haldir and his brothers had arrived.

Everyone hushed as a quartet brandishing harp, flute, and lute, with a solo singer besides, stood on a separate nearby flet and began to play a song to salute Thranduil's arrival. I could not understand all of the words, but I did hear the king's name, his father Oropher was mentioned, and I think I heard Thaladir's name, too, at least once.

From out of nowhere, I felt something on my cheek, a kiss! I turned to see Rúmil whispering to his brother. They were both standing beside the couch where I sat with Elladan and a few other elves. And even if I could have heard what he was saying to Orophin, it was most likely in Lórien tongue. I asked the twin beside me what Rúmil had said.

"He said that he was right," answered Elladan, not taking his eyes off of the musicians, adding, "And that he should try it."

"Who was right? Right about what? Who should try what? What?"

And, from out of nowhere, Thaladir was suddenly there, frowning and clearing his throat to indicate that someone was singing and that I should be quiet. I wondered why he did not clear his throat at the kiss-stealing elf. And then Orophin kissed my other cheek, but when he backed away I stared at him, and he smiled back at me, innocently. The seneschal had not been watching.

I have been well prepared by the wood elves and their swiftness in Mirkwood. I turned away and then turned back instantly, just as Orophin was leaning toward his brother, but he noticed I was looking and paused, having not yet taken his eyes completely off of me. I turned away again and pressed up close to Elladan but did not say anything. I just held myself against him and sort of leaned away from the brothers, as if I to show them I was seeking a bodyguard from kiss stealers.

"What did Orophin say just now?" I whispered as quietly as I could to Elladan.

"That he was right, just as he said." Thaladir was still frowning, when I turned to check if he was paying attention, so I waited until the song was over to find out more. However, before I could ask, the dance music began again. Haldir came and extended his hand to me, and led me over to the largest platform to dance. It was hard not to notice Celeborn and the king's concubine who were already there. They danced very properly, the seneschal was watching them, too, and he was not even frowning.

As I watched them dance, and chatted with Haldir about his kiss-stealing brothers, I wondered where Thranduil was and hoped he had not been dragged off into the shadows by Galadriel. Not that there could have been a darn thing I could have done about it, except pout. But when the music changed, the king was dancing with Mal and now I did have a reason to pout. I could tell he was enjoying demanding her complete attention as he held her tight up against his body.

Elladan saved me, and made me smile by explaining that Rúmil and Orophin had been curious to find out if my cheeks felt hot to the touch, from the way they glowed.

"They have not been near many mortal women," he said. "And the light you give off is impressive to them."

"Doesn't Mal glow, too? They spend plenty of time stealing kisses from her."

"The lady Malinornë's glow is like that of a brilliant white lamb in the bright sun, but you resemble a skyrocket tonight." While I tried to decide if that was a compliment or not, I was taken by force from Elladan's arms and was suddenly in the embrace of my king.

"It is time for bed," he said and we were leaving, before I could say goodnight to anyone. But I was not going to argue.

The only way to Thranduil's guest talan was by yet another skinny bridge that led to a nearby mallorn. But this bridge was miles above the ground, or it felt like it anyway. The king stood behind me, his hands on my shoulders, as I stared at it.

"I think that you should at least try walking it alone," he said. "It is wider than a rope."

"Oh, I see your plan, you want me fall and break my neck and die. That's it, isn't it? I wondered why you took me away from the dance when it was obvious that you were so much happier with Mal. I think a beheading would be less painful, let me go find you a sword."

"We will discuss your petty fears about my 'feelings' at some other time. Right now I am eager to reach my bed." And the way he said 'eager' made my toes curl. His voice was inviting and promising and even a touch dangerous. I walked over the bridge before I realized I had even tried, just to get into his talan and find out what he had in mind tonight.

~ Mal ~

At some point, I registered that Celeborn and his wife were leaving, but it was of no consequence to me. Thranduil was right here, with me, and he had excited me to the point where I would be happy to let him spy on my thoughts and actions for as long as it pleased him.

I was burning for him with all of my being, but he left the festivities with Mary.

The dancing continued, and there were still a lot of elves on the other platforms, eating and laughing, singing and talking. Orophin, who had stolen several kisses from me earlier in the evening, was there too, but surrounded by a whole group of perfect elf-women. I felt all alone and decided to leave, to spend the night in my lonely guestroom, yearning for a love that seemed now denied to me forever. I suspected the strong herb wine had something to do with it, too, but that didn't make it feel easier.

Just as I stepped onto the path leading from the huge tree, I felt something, or someone, lightly touching my hair. I turned around, but there was nobody there. Then again, there was a touch, something brushing against my arm, raising gooseflesh. While I looked at my arm, puzzled, a fleeting kiss was planted on my cheek, and then an elf stood in front of me, grinning, but in a very sweet way.

Rúmil melted my heart, or at least my brain, and nearly as soon as the invitation was extended I agreed to follow him to his flet. I still have never met another elf with such an itch in his pants. The Imladris twins often seemed out of control, but this one was beyond compare. We had barely left the fountain behind us when he suggested that we rest for a while in the grass. Nobody would notice, he said, and if they did, they would be envious, rather than disturbed by the sight. It seemed a bit risky to me, but as I was more than properly warmed up, I agreed to lie down with him then and there.

It was quick, but rewarding; the lack of caresses dictated by his urgency did not leave me behind. He still promised to love me better once we reached his talan, and although I had no complaints, I told him that I for sure hoped to be well compensated. There was no reason to spoil him.

We proceeded through the city hand in hand, but we had still not reached his home when we stopped once more. There were no platforms that I could see in the nearest groups of trees, only a couple of low branches sticking out to the side like some kind of seat. We kissed, and then he whispered to me to please bend over.

"I must have you again," he added, smiling, as if that had been enough explanation. It was.

Believe it or not, but after that we actually made it to the slender mallorn that held his home. Having seen proof of his agility before, I was not surprised when he quickly climbed up to the platform. A grey rope was rolled down to me, and a moment later, a second one. Both had loops at the end, and I stuck my feet into them like he instructed.

I should have foreseen what happened as soon as he began pulling the ropes. The elevator worked, but it proved impossible for me to hold my hands together as much as would have been necessary to remain standing. Instead, the ropes parted as wide as my arms, which made my legs do the same, and in this undignified manner I made my entrance to Rúmil's flet.

Its owner hid his amusement surprisingly well, and he insisted in assisting my feet out of the loops. A he kneeled, he also stuck his head up under my skirt, kissing and lapping at my thighs for much longer than his fingers were busy with the rope. After that it was a lost cause to even pretend that the visit had any other purpose than carnal pleasure.

My observations of the surroundings were limited to what I noticed on the way to the bed: a small eating area with a table and three stools, and a larger section with a selection of bows and other attire. The far wall of the room appeared to be missing.

Fortunately, the bed stood against the tree trunk, and the branch over our heads made a cosy roof of leaves. And that was about it. All the rest that I saw was Rúmil, and the bluish light from his only lantern added an exotic shine to his lean body. He pleasured me well, and when I was at the point of protesting any more second takes, he emitted a contented sigh and flung himself on his back beside me.

Then he whistled a few notes, and a small grey bird came flying. It landed on a twig over our heads, peered at the elf and then began to sing. The serenade was enchanting, and it almost made me forget Thranduil.

~ Mary ~

"I'll be seasick," I said as soon as I saw Thranduil's guest bed.

"No you will not," he promised. "Because I will keep you too busy." Swiftly, he removed my gown, not wanting to wait for me to undress while I stood staring at his bed like it was another skinny bridge to cross.

It was not like the low couches in Mal's and my guest telain. Instead of sitting on specially trained limbs, it was suspended from large branches overhead by hithlain. It was oddly shaped too, a large oval instead of a square shape, and it swayed gently when we stepped onto the floor; just our weight made the whole tree react. It was not very high off of the floor, but that is the only good thing I could see about it.

There were no walls in this flet, but the branches grew extra thick around the area where the bed was placed, enough to screen out any sight-seers or peeping Galadhrim. A few tiny lamps, like glowworms, were hung near the entrance where the bridge ended. But the dim glow they made was not altogether as strong as a single candle flame. Even if someone could see us inside the branches, they would not have seen more than a blur, I thought.

The curiously shaped bed was covered in fluffy white bed linens and had big soft pillows. I could tell just by looking at the whole set-up that it was probably a practical joke being played on Thranduil by the Lord and Lady, who must know how much he prefers hard and sturdy things to relax on. Lucky for me. But thinking about the regal couple reminded me of something else and, once I was naked, and it was his turn to undress, I walked around the bed until it was between us.

Quickly, as only an elf can move, almost quicker than the eye, he removed his boots and tunic. His perfect marble torso was softly candescent like the tiny lamps, only the glow his skin emitted was more silvery. He looked like a living statue in the center of a leafy bower that was lit by a full moon.

"I think Galadriel wants to get into your leggings," I said. Thranduil paused in removing said leggings.

"Nonsense," he said, frowning slightly. "She is perfectly happy wearing a gown." With one smooth move he unlaced and removed them, and that right there should have changed the subject. His regal scepter stood proud, like a soldier at full attention. But, as happy as I was to see it, I was not ready to change the subject, yet.

"That is not what I meant," I told him. "She wants some of that, I think." I pointed at what I thought she wanted.

"You are jealous of your own shadow." As he answered, he came around to where I was standing. I could tell instantly that playing 'chase me' was not a good idea this high up, so I stood still and waited for him.

"Only when my shadow can get closer to you than I can," I admitted, "which has sadly been too true for the last few days."

"A kiss is a lovely trick," he said, as he embraced me. "Designed by nature to stop words when speech becomes superfluous," he added, before bending close to demonstrate.

He was right, again, about the bed and me getting sea-sick from the swaying motion. I did not even really notice getting onto it after he started kissing me. I hardly noticed much of anything else in the whole world for a while, except him. Once he had my attention, he drew up off of me, and his eyes shone bright. I kept quiet.

"Do not dwell on what you cannot change," he said, stroking my hair, my face, and my neck as he spoke. "Do not dream of what you fear. Concentrate on the present moment. Be here with me." His voice was softer than a whisper, it was almost as gentle as the mist from the fountain that could be heard even this high above the ground, as it splashed musically far below.

"Okay," I said. "Sire," I added. But the king really did not have to work very hard to get me to focus, now that I had him to myself. He kissed me again and then kissed my neck, my chest, down my tummy to that place even lower that had missed his kisses the most. He stayed there for a while.

It was only then that I remembered the bed was suspended, for he began to move around on it, wheeling around in the dim light, and before I could ask what he was doing, I felt a familiar velvet-skinned hardness bumping up against my face. Somehow, the gentle swinging motion of the bed added to the experience, instead of disrupting it.

Gladly, I wrapped my lips around my king's wide shaft while he was equally attentive between my legs with his nudging teasing tongue; indeed he had not missed a beat while he repositioned himself. We both turned sideways for more comfort, and, for a split second, I had a picture of the two of us in my head, on this swaying bed, and how the oval shape of it seemed tailor-made for this particular activity. But before I could think any further about it, the king started using his fingers to accompany his tongue, and it was all I could do to concentrate on his thrusting length in my throat.

Afterwards, he was back at my side, kissing me softly while I drifted off to sleep. I wished, however, that I was back in Mirkwood with him, in my own bed or his, it did not matter which.

"You are homesick," he said with a chuckle, as if this was the most amusing thing I had said all night. "In the midst of Lórien's shining splendor?"

"Yes, very," I said, almost asleep. "And mostly because of the shiny splendor. I miss my bed, and the quiet, and the darkness in the caves. And I miss getting to spend hours alone with you instead of never. I am not very good at traveling, you know, and I don't think that I have had any decent sleep since your last sleep spell on me during our travel through the forest, and even that wasn't decent." As I spoke, I started to wake up again, thinking about that damn carriage.

"I can tell you need another one right now," he said.

"I would rather have the other kind," I replied. Since I was awake again anyway.

To be continued... but not until July!

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Chapter posted: May 31, 2005

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