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Mirkwood and Beyond

Chapter 18 / ?
Authors: Mary A and Malinornë
Pairings: Mainly Thranduil/OFCs
Warnings: Adult sexual situations but hardly any nudity.
Disclaimer: Written for fun, not for profit, with characters and setting borrowed from JRR Tolkien.
Chapter summary: Mary talks things over with the King, Mal spends the day with Haldir, Galadriel smooths over a few rough patches, and when night falls on Lórien, both mortal women have good company.

~ Mary ~

"Jealous? Me?"

Thranduil and I were too comfortable in the borrowed flet to move even after he told me about his plans to travel to Rivendell, and his last minute decision to take me and Mal with him. Apparently he had planned to leave the two of us in Lórien, to be looked after by the Lady and her Galadhrim, and was only planning to take his seneschal, who, as it turned out, was coming with us whether I liked it or not.

It was going to be a short visit to the Last Homely House, a get there and turn right back again visit, at least from the way the king described it, but I was happy for the chance of a diversion after the traumatic events of that morning. To see Thranduil sitting cozily with Galadriel at the breakfast table had been as startling to my frazzled nerves as a slap in the face. And I had reacted to it badly, which the king pointed out to me as he reviewed my performance.

"Of course I felt jealous, who wouldn't?" As if he could not tell, but he liked to hear me say it. In fact, it was finally sinking in that the king loved to provoke an emotional response from me at every chance he could, as if I were a trained animal who would perform tricks on command. See the human be angry, see the human be jealous, see the human feel foolish...

"Are you happy?" I added, feeling a bit put out. "Did I do a good job of entertaining the high-born elves this morning?"

"You enjoyed yourself last night," the king replied, unfazed, as usual, by my complaining.

"What does that have to do with me letting you spend the night with Galadriel?" I thought that his eyebrow would hit his hairline, he lifted it so high. I giggled, knowing very well that no one ever 'lets' the king do anything, and poked at his ribcage, sort of like poking at iron.

"Okay, maybe not let, I admitted."But I could have made things more difficult, I bet."

"Oh, you did that, and you did not have to try very hard."

"But I stopped paying attention to you right away!" I felt accused of being a bad bridge after I had thought I had done a good job of not being distracted by Thranduil's peeking. And he had been very interested, I could tell. Normally, I would be asked not to interfere if I had tried too hard to show off for him and not pay attention to what I was doing. "I am sure that I stopped!" I added.

"Yes, I could tell," he said. And then it occurred to me that he meant something that I had not thought about. What if the king was jealous?

"I'm sorry." Although I was not sure if I really was, I mean, what did he want me to do? Just lie there and not have any fun at all?

"I was not the one who was distracted," said Thranduil, with his mouth quirked to the side, half-amused. If he was not the one, then who?

Oh dear, I had forgot all about Galadriel, and how she could read minds, too. Not just my and Mal's minds, either, but Celeborn's for sure. No wonder she seemed so reserved and inattentive, in the images of her that the king had shared with me, while they were in her bed. Perhaps she was not so unenthusiastic and removed, after all, but had just not been able to stop watching her husband, with Mal and me, long enough to give the king proper tender loving care?

"How many people were in those two beds?" I wondered out loud, and tried to do the math in my head. "Celeborn could read Galadriel's mind, of course." Except that I was pretty sure he was not as distracted as his wife had been. "And he could read Mal's and mine, and so did you, and you read his. Now, could he read yours, too?" I gave up and used my fingers. It had been quite an orgy.

While I was busy with my calculations, a rain shower moved over Lórien, and the king rose from beside me and moved to the side of the flet where the wind blew the rain over his face and chest. He enjoyed the feel of the weather here, I could tell. It was rare to even know when it rained in Mirkwood, down in the caves. After the sun came out again, he stood and moved to hover over me, chilly drops of rainwater from his hair sprinkled down, making me wrap Celeborn's robe around me to protect myself. The view was worth it.

"You have not eaten since yesterday," he said. "And I am thirsty, let us go seek sustenance." He began to dress, which was a pity.

"As long as I don't have to see Galadriel right away," I answered. "And then can I go find Mal and tell her about Rivendell?" I would also have to stop at my guest talan and find something more suitable to wear than the Lórien lord's robe, although I was not looking forward to returning it to him, now that I knew he could read my thoughts, too.

"One thing I can't figure out is," I said, "why is it that you and Celeborn can read my mind after, well, you know, so how come Thaladir can't?"

"What makes you believe that he cannot?"

"But... what? Wait, are you saying...? Hold it, you're kidding, right?" It would not have mattered what I said. The king had posed a question to me and it was up to me to figure it out. What made me believe that Thaladir could not read my mind? Would it not be obvious if he could?

"He never acts like he can?" I said it cautiously, and then felt relieved. The king was just teasing me, after all, probably. I hoped. He laughed.

"And what makes you believe that he would ever act like you expect him to behave," he finally asked, "under any circumstances?"

Thranduil chuckled for quite some time afterwards while I clutched my suddenly aching head and tried to remember every time when I thought I had pulled something over on the crafty old seneschal. And Thaladir had let me get away with it every time, cool as a cucumber, and all the while knowing the truth. Elves!

~ Mal ~

Haldir took another way from the bathing pools, and after a while we reached the outer perimeter of Caras Galadhon without having first passed the fountain in the central glade. The great gates stood open, just as when we first arrived. Merry voices greeted us from hidden telain in the trees, and the guards on the ground wished us a pleasant walk. One of them winked at me, and then pretended to be afraid when Haldir sent him an icy glare.

Outside the gates we turned to the right, following the path of white stones along the encircling hedge, and left it only after perhaps an hour. The new path was narrow, weaving in and out between the trees. At times it disappeared altogether, and it was only due to my companion's skills that we knew which way to choose. The city of the Galadhrim was well hidden.

"Are we going to the falls of Nimrodel?" I asked, having long since lost my sense of orientation. It was one of the places I remembered from Celeborn's list of visitor sites in Lórien.

"No," Haldir replied. "That place is fair, but it is far too long for you to walk. We would need two days, or more, to reach it." He must have seen my expression of disappointment. "If you wish to swim in a river I could take you to the Celebrant. But, there is something else I want to show you."

And that was all I could get from my noble companion until we reached an amazing hill. The green grass that covered it seemed greener and fresher than anywhere else, and the white trees that grew in a circle around it could have come out of a fairy-tale. Even the air was shimmering in an other-worldly way, and if it were possible, I would have thought we had come to another time.

There was a second ring of trees, giant mellyrn that were even taller, and even older than the ones by the fountain in the city. The place was magical, as if the essence of all things Elvish was collected here. Haldir agreed. Cerin Amroth was the name of the hill, he told me, and it was here that once the centre of realm stood. King Amroth was long gone, and now all that remained were the memories kept alive by the forest itself.

He described to me the flowers that would come in winter; the golden elanor for the joy that could still be had, and the white niphredil whose petals formed a teardrop in remembrance of what was now lost. But, despite the sorrowful memories, this was a revered place, he continued as we walked towards the top of the hill. Anyone in need of solace could find it here, and it was also customary for couples to visit before their bonding ceremony.

We sat in the grass, admiring the view, and I soon felt sleepy from the long walk. Haldir let me rest my head in his lap, and I admired the new view even more. His nose, his mouth, his eyebrows, and his eyes that are kind and vigilant at the same time. It was not hard to reciprocate when he asked if he might rest likewise.

At first he kept his eyes open, staring up into the sky, which was a bit eerie, but when he closed them he suddenly looked vulnerable. His features became softer as he relaxed and I saw something else than the noble, sexy warrior with the irresistible smirk. Tentatively, I laid a hand on his forehead. A smile.

I continued to caress his hair, brushing it out of his face, moving my fingers lightly over his skin, tracing his features. The proud nose, the dark eyebrows. The smooth cheeks without the slightest hint of facial hair. And his mouth. I touched his lips with just the tip of my index finger, half expecting him to bite. He did not. Would Thranduil ever be so lovingly peaceful?

"Does Galadriel always speak the truth?" I was not really expecting an answer; it was more of a question to myself said out loud. But Haldir replied, seriously, without stirring or opening his eyes.

"Always," he said. "No deceit is in her words, no malice in her heart. It is the Lady's blessings that keep our forest golden and our hearts filled with joy." He sounded dreamy, but soon became his usual, rational self. "Or so it is said among us, although we seldom say so to strangers."

"And the mirror?"

"It says neither yes nor no, flowing and blurry it appears to me, like the fountain water that fills it. Seldom have I seen those allowed to peer into it comforted or satisfied." Something told me that shifting and unsteady things were not to his liking. "It is truly my Lady's mirror," he continued in a softer voice, "and I believe it takes her vision to reveal its secrets."

"Have you looked into it?"

"I have been tempted. I still am." He refused to elaborate and instead changed the subject. "What is that you require of him?"


"Does he not desire your company every day, and not only in his bed? Does it not bring him joy to see you?"

"He wants to be with Mary, too."

"And, does this love of mortals that you want so much diminish when shared?"

"No, but..."

"Trust him. The old Elvenking has many faults, but he is not a liar, except perhaps in his trade with the men of the Long Lake. Such is expected, they say, a tradition among mortals." Thinking of Thranduil's shrewd expression during the merchants' visit in the autumn made me giggle. Haldir's characterization was perfect.

"Or, if you tire of him," he said, "and he lets you go, there are other elves. Or a mortal, if that is what you require to be at peace in your heart." I stared at him, wide-eyed. What did he think about me? He understood nothing!


"It is settled then." There was that famous smirk again, as he opened his eyes and studied me. He sat up and took my hand in his. When he spoke next, his features were soft, and there was compassion in his voice. "Do not hurt yourself with needless thoughts of doubt." I nodded. "Hear, the birds are singing!"

~ Mary ~

After I had dressed, I was surprised to find that Thranduil had waited for me, outside of my guest talan, to escort me to a late lunch. Instead of having to climb up into any trees, we ate at ground level, in a lovely little dining spot that nestled between the massive roots of a mallorn and was boxed in with flowered hedges, with a narrow opening for us to enter. The cozy place hummed with bumblebees.

As with all of the furniture I had seen so far in Lórien, our luncheon table and seats were not built from cut lumber, or stone, but were fashioned from some of the roots that grew out from the mallorn whose lower branches also made a leafy roof. The gnarled wood had been smoothed in places and padded over in others, but otherwise left in its natural state. No one joined us there while we ate, to my relief, although I would have liked to see Mal.

Watching the king eat is a pleasure when he enjoys what he has been served. And I had not seen him frown at, or ignore, any of his food since we had arrived in the Golden Wood. Today he smiled at the small loaves of freshly baked bread as if they were white gems and I just stared at him as he tore one open and spooned honey over it before biting into it with his perfectly even teeth.

We had trout baked with herbs and there were a variety of soft cheeses, bowls of berries, a jug of wine, and a pot of fresh mint tea. It was so delicious that I was not tempted to pause long enough to ask any more questions for a long time. I am sure Thranduil appreciated that, too. Birds twittered and chirped prettily in the branches above us and I felt more comfortable than I had since we had arrived.

By the time we were finished, my headache was gone and I felt much better about life and mind-reading elves. The king explained to me that neither the Lord nor his Lady, or Thaladir for that matter, had the leisure time to explore the busy brain of a mortal, nor the desire. If they needed to know my mind in an emergency, for instance if they believed that I might pose a danger to the realm, or any person in it, including myself, only then they would concern themselves with my private thoughts. Otherwise, they were not fair game.

"What about last night?"

"Last night was an exceptional occurrence and one not likely to be repeated soon," he said and then he grinned with a naughty glint in his eye. "All conventions were left aside."

Not repeated soon. It was hard for me to tell if I was happy or sad that I might not have any more alone time with Celeborn, but I was very glad to think that the king would not fall into the Lady's clutches again. Thranduil put a hand over one of mine, looked me dead in the eyes, and said, "She is not in love with me."

"Well," I replied, "she would be crazy not to be!" I said it a little less quietly than called for, before I remembered that Galadriel might not be reading my mind, but she could be able to hear my voice. I modulated my tone, as the seneschal had instructed me many times in the past, and continued, "I mean, why wouldn't she fall in love with you? I would, if I was an elf. I think."

"She made her choice long ago and she will never be turned aside from it," he answered, but proudly, as if he was heartened by the Lady's unbreakable faithfulness to her Lord. And it made me feel safer to think of it that way.

After lunch was finished, I kissed Thranduil's cheek and left to find Mal. I was halfway down a path that I had chosen at random before I realized that I had not asked the king where she was in the first place. That did not concern me too much because I knew there would be an elf somewhere nearby who could help me find her. They were all around me, if I knew where to look.

But I did not have to try very hard; two of them found me almost immediately. Elladan and Elrohir appeared in the path before me, with long faces and darkened brows.

"We are being summoned home," said Elladan.

"A messenger was here yesterday," added Elrohir, while waving around a rolled-up parchment he held as evidence.

"But we have only just received the scroll," finished Elladan, nodding at the evidence. They had probably only just that moment returned to their own telain to check for any messages, I guessed, but did not mention it. I knew how popular they were with the ellith of the Golden Wood.

"Mal and I are coming, too," I told them, which brought happy grins to both of their handsome faces again.

"Alone?" They asked in unison, hopefully. I knew what they meant.

"Thranduil is taking us, sillies," I said. Their grins faltered a little, and then completely fell when I added, "And Thaladir is coming." They groaned and then brightened up again swiftly. At least, they said, Mal and I would be there for company. And no, they did not know the reason for the summons.

"Has either of you seen Mal?"

"The last time we saw her she was with Haldir," said Elladan.

"They were headed that way." Elrohir pointed back along the path I was on. "Maybe they went to picnic by the fountain? It was a lovely day for it." That sounded likely enough to me, and I headed off in good spirits. It sounded like there was something important taking place at the Last Homely House, and I wanted to discuss it with Mal.

I tried to use the constant splashing sound of the fountain to find it, and got even more lost. By the time I realized that I was in a private garden, it was too late to turn around and run. There was Galadriel, rising up from a rose bush that she was kneeling in front of to clip blossoms from. She smiled right at me.

"Welcome to my garden, Mary," she said. "I have been expecting you."

~ Mal ~

The birds were singing, their shrill, happy voices filling the air from every tree around us, and the grass was green. Butterflies danced over the meadow, and the leaves of the great mellyrn reflected the sunlight like a thousand tiny mirrors. Haldir was right; it was too beautiful a day for gloomy thoughts, and probably no ground for those thoughts anyway.

Thranduil did love me, as much as he could; he had said so himself and Galadriel had confirmed it. And now even Haldir, who I had thought was much too occupied with the security of the realm to notice, even less care about, matters of the heart. And especially those of a random visitor. I had clearly misjudged him, or were my feelings showing so clearly that everyone could see?

"Are you hungry?" Haldir asked. I realized that I was. It must have taken at least two hours to get there, and I had no idea how long we had been sitting on the hill. But my stomach seemed to know, or at least it chose that particular moment to remind me about its existence. It growled, very audibly. The elf laughed. "I can hear that you are! Come!"

He hadn't brought any food than I could see, and I hadn't thought about it either. With resourceful elves all around it's very easy to stop thinking about practical matters. He began walking towards one of the trees and I followed him.

"There is a talan up here," he explained. "It is mostly used by those who wish to... admire the view, but there are provisions too, as in many places all over Lórien. But don't tell our enemies!" I promised I wouldn't, and wondered if he really thought I could find my way back to Caras Galadhon, or anywhere else around here. Probably not, but it was nice to hear him joke.

Despite his assertion that there was a rope ladder that could be dropped down, and that even a hobbit had conquered it in the past, I chose to remain on the ground while he nimbly climbed up the smooth trunk, finding foothold I don't know where. When I heard his voice from above I was even more happy with my decision. I'm not that fond of heights, and that tree was just too much.

Within a few minutes, he returned with a leather pouch. "There is more," he answered my unasked question on if it was right for us to take the supplies that had been put there for the defenders of the wood. "And," he continued "although our way-bread tastes good as it is, the smoked meat and dried mushrooms will taste better if cooked."

Then I saw that he was also holding a metal bowl. A small stream ran on the far side of the hill, and for the next minutes I was treated to watching Haldir prepare our lunch. I did not completely understand how he could light a fire so quickly, but then it is true that I was distracted by the elegant efficiency with which he moved. And the stew tasted delicious.

We stayed for a while by the stream, dipping our feet in the water, and then he announced, to my disappointment, that it was time to return. He had promised to bring me back well before nightfall. I had to agree that it would be impractical for me to walk in the dark, even if I'm sure he could have led me safely home even then.

On the way back we stopped at several remarkable locations: a seemingly bottomless mere, a cliff overgrown with little red flowers, and a grove where the trees entwined their branches as if they were in love. I was aware already that Haldir knew every corner of this forest, but that afternoon it was confirmed in a wonderful way.

As we entered through the city gates I thanked my companion. How thoughtful of Celeborn to send Haldir to be my guide, and to have him take me to the mysterious hill that felt like it was the heart of the realm.

"Thank you, Haldir. I will never forget this day."

"Thank you, my lady. Escorting you has been a pleasurable duty. It is a pity you are leaving so soon."

"Leaving?" I stared at him. "We have only just arrived and aren't going back for several weeks, I think. I would love to see more of the Golden Wood with you, if you don't have other duties." Haldir lifted an elegant eyebrow.

"Ah," he said. "They have not told you yet. Then I do not believe it is my place to inform you of the details, but Thranduil is taking you with him to Rivendell."

I begged him to tell me more, at least a little, but he would not budge, and soon we were back at the fountain where we had met this morning. I looked around, hoping to see the king, or Mary, but the only familiar face I saw was Rúmil's, and he was involved in a lively discussion with two other elves. Haldir had seen him too.

"You made my little brother very happy after the dancing," he said.

"Did he tell you?" I know I blushed, although I tried not to. If the elves could be so casual when sex was involved I didn't want to be different. But it was difficult.

"No," he replied. "But I saw you leaving together, and his grin the next morning took a whole day to wear off. I wish you a pleasant evening."

As I watched him leave in the direction of Galadriel's garden I suddenly felt tired, both in my body and my head. Were we really going to Rivendell? Soon? Why? Did I have to say goodbye to Haldir already, and would I not get another chance to meet Celeborn, even if it was just to thank him personally for the sightseeing? Where was Mary, now when I really needed to talk to her? And Thranduil? I needed to rest, too, but I most of all I needed to be with him.

~ Mary ~

For several long moments, after I accidentally ran into Galadriel, I considered my options. To be rude to the Lady of the Golden Wood, in her garden, was not one of them. But I was scared, and not ready to be scolded, which I figured she would do. I know I would have if I were her. How could I back out gracefully? Lying was not an option either, or feigning illness, or...

"Please come and sit with me," she said, as if not even noticing that I was inwardly dithering. "I will not scold you, I promise." Unexpectedly then, I was helped by the mind-reading abilities of the high-born elleth, and felt grateful.

"I'm so sorry that I acted like a monster this morning," I said, as soon as I sat next to her on a low bench, and this apology was sincere. "I behaved worse than an orc after Thaladir startled me and I hope that I didn't spoil your appetite."

"I had a perfectly lovely breakfast," Galadriel assured me. "Although I was sorry that Thranduil had to miss his." She sat silent, and serene, and let me work that one out for myself.

"The king did not eat with you? But, I saw him...?" It was hard to remember if I had seen food on their breakfast plates, or even any plates at all. All I could recall was Galadriel touching Thranduil's leg.

"He left right after you did," she said quietly, "leaving me with His Excellency as a breakfast companion."

"Oh, poor you." I commiserated with her. What a fate.

"On the contrary," she countered, amused. "I find Thaladir's company most pleasing." This should not have come as a surprise; they probably had a lot more in common than most of the other elves in the two forests. They had known each other for ages of time before Oropher was made a king.

Now why could the two of them not fall in love? The Lady of Light and the Elf of Perpetual Gloom, they seemed made for each other. And then maybe we could take Celeborn back to Mirkwood with us. It seemed a fair trade to me. Of course, there was that whole 'she made her choice and will never turn aside' problem standing in their way. So it probably would not work in the long run.

"Would you like to look into my mirror?" the Lady surprised me with her question. "Since you are here?" I wondered if she knew what I was thinking, about her with the seneschal, and chose to ignore it, or if she was offended, or really was not concerned with my musings.

It would forever remain a mystery, because I leapt right out of my seat at the chance to look in her famous mirror. She led me down a narrow path that turned into a series of wide steps that took us down a hill and into a treeless dell, perfectly round, like a bowl in the earth. There the narrow stream from the fountain also flowed through to eventually join the Celebrant.

In the center of the dell, there stood the renowned silver basin that reflected visions, the Mirror of Galadriel. She dipped a pitcher into the water from the stream and poured it into the basin, and beckoned me over to look. The sun was low, and the shady vale was dark. It was not night, though, and I thought it only worked in the starlight.

I was wrong. At first, all I could see were the branches from the trees that grew around the top of the bowl-shaped depression we stood in, and the afternoon sky in the center of them. But then the water seemed to ruffle slightly from an otherwise undetectable breeze, and the images grew blurry, and I saw the king. He was tiny, like he was far in the distance, but as real as if I was looking down at him from a tall mallorn.

It took a few moments to make sense of what I saw, but Thranduil grew larger and larger, as if I was seeing him from the point of view of a bird that now flew down from the tree, and was approaching him slowly. And then I watched as the king stepped behind some tall bushes, and Haldir walked past where he had been standing.

After a few moments, Thranduil reappeared and walked closer to a mallorn that had a nice and almost normal stairway circling its trunk, and looked up into its branches. Then I knew what I was seeing; it was a scene from that morning, after I had left the breakfast flet. The king had followed me and then hid near where I was. No wonder he seemed to appear from nowhere when Celeborn came to find me. And then the reflection all turned into a blur again, and then nothing.

"I don't know what to say," I told her. "But I think that really happened."

"Sometimes, the mirror shows us what we most need to see," she said, "but would otherwise never know for sure." And she was right; I had needed to see that. For all of his seeming callousness, Thranduil had been concerned about me, and that was a surprise. And he could have stopped Haldir from taking me away, too, or he could have joined me sooner, but chose not to. It was only when Celeborn showed up that he had intervened. Did the king want me to have that time alone for my own good? It was a lot to think about.

"You have nothing to fear from me, I hope you believe that," Galadriel said as we went back up the hill toward her garden. "Thranduil is fascinating, but he is not interested in me in... that way." She sat again on the low bench and patted a place next to her for me to sit. We talked for a long time and had some tea with honey-cakes.

After sundown, she summoned Haldir to take me back to my talan. By then, the evening shadows were creeping over the unfamiliar paths, and who knows where I would have ended up if I started out alone on one of them.

"How was your time with the Lady?" The March warden seemed to indicate by his tone that I had just enjoyed a highly honored privilege, which was to be expected. And I had felt honored.

"I'm kind of sorry now," I told him, "that I made such a fuss about leaving today." Although, it was still true that I missed my own bed in my own room, and the Mirkwood bathing pools. "I wish that I could have just one hot bath," I added, trying not to whine.

"Would you let me escort you back to the Lady's bathing stream?" Although the water would not be hot, it would at least be refreshing. The balmy summer air helped the idea of swimming seem practical, too. Why not? Tonight the king would be with Mal, so I had no other plans in mind.

"I would rather you take me somewhere more private to swim, where you could join me, alone," I answered. "How does that sound?" If we were leaving so soon, then I wanted to have some fun before we went, on my own terms.

"That sounds very good," answered the unflappable elf calmly. As if I had proposed an innocent stroll in the moonlight. I slipped my arm through his offered elbow and let him lead me into the forest.

~ Mal ~

It was Thaladir who saved me from swooning right into the merrily splashing water, and I was overjoyed to see him, despite that the wrinkle on his forehead seemed to deepen by the second. When I first saw him, he was walking stately down the stairs of the nearest mallorn, but then he took a few hasty strides and was at my side just in time to catch me. He scooped me up in his long-sleeved arms, and I was happy to rest my head against his trusty shoulder. That is, until I realized where he was taking me.

"Please, Thaladir, I don't want to go to my talan. Take me to the king's."

"The shape you are currently in, my lady, is not adequate for seeing His Majesty. This condition is no doubt a result of the March Warden's insufficient skills with mortals, as an elf more experienced in these matters would undoubtedly have recognized, and mitigated, signs of exhaustion at their earliest occurrence. I shall speak to them both."

"No, please. Haldir did his best and I was fine the whole time, just until you came." The seneschal's face remained inscrutable, but I heard him say something that sounded very much like "hrmpf". In any case it was not a sound that indicated agreement.

"And," I continued, encouraged by at least having provoked a reaction, "His Majesty is expecting my company tonight. It would not be proper to deprive him of that, would it?" Or me, I thought, but I didn't say that aloud.

"You require sleep before considering giving, or receiving, pleasure. Furthermore, it is customary to define night as the period of darkness when the merilin sings, an event that has not yet commenced. There will be sufficient time, I believe, for you to prepare properly."

I thought that I had lost, so it was a pleasant surprise to notice that the talan we finally reached was not mine, although it had the same kind of stairs that made it easy to enter. It was empty, but Thranduil's large sword hanged from a branch, so I knew that I was where I wanted to be. I only needed to wait. I fell asleep, of course.

When I opened my eyes I was looking right into a pair of sparkling green jewels. I smiled, and their glow became even more intense. Thranduil was back, and I think he liked finding me in his bed. He put his hand under the sheet, touching my bare skin. He grinned.

"So," he said, "that is why the ancient one looked so satisfied with himself. Although I suspect he kept one eye closed and his gaze turned away while undressing you." He chuckled heartily, but the tenderness in his voice was unmistakable.

"I, however, prefer to see as much as feel." His other hand joined the first one, and they both brushed against my nipples before pushing the cover down to my waist. I stretched my arms towards him, invitingly. He caught my wrists and pressed them down, one on each side of my head. As he did so, his hair fell around my face and I tried to lift my head to kiss him. He shook his head, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

"My concubine is impatient tonight. Excellent." He was right, and it would be just like him to draw things out exactly for that reason. "No. I feel a bit impatient myself."

Still fully dressed, he shifted to lie on top of me, letting me feel his growing impatience. He rested his weight on his knees and elbows, which made it possible for me to wriggle to the most gratifying position. And this time, when I lifted my head, he kissed me forcefully.

His lips moved to my neck, my collarbones, and, my aching nipples. When he finally let go of my wrists, to cup my breasts as he continued to suck and nibble at them, I tugged at his tunic. It refused to come off.

The sheet, however, came off fine when he pulled at it with his teeth. Meanwhile, his hands flew swiftly to his lacings, and my thighs, and then I was bent under him with my feet over his shoulders. It was a quick business, and a very noisy one, and, although it couldn't have lasted more than a few minutes it was a great beginning to my night with Thranduil.

"I think you meant to do this," he said afterwards, pulling his tunic over his head and dropping it to the floor. "And this," I added, tentatively sending him an image of himself removing his leggings and the feelings that gesture wakened in me. My first conscious mind message was successful.

He climbed back into bed, delightfully nude, and leaned over me again.

"How shall we do it next?" he asked in a throaty voice. "Show me."

"Tell me about Rivendell."

To be continued...

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Chapter posted: July 20, 2005

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