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Mirkwood and beyond

Chapter 2 / ?
Authors: Mary A and Malinornë
Pairings: Our main pairing is Thranduil/OFCs, but the featured characters in this sequel will include every other character from every realm in Tolkien's world that we can think of before we are done!
Warnings: Adult sexual situations, nudity
Disclaimer: Just playing with Tolkien characters, for fun, and not profit, do not claim to have created them. Helca and Thaladir, the king' seneschal, are our own creations and we will lend them out if asked for permission in advance.
Chapter summary: Mal and Mary both spend time outdoors with the elves.
A/N: This chapter is dedicated to the Canary
Feedback: Not required but always appreciated! Write to: thaladir@yahoo.com

~ Mal ~

The rest of the breakfast had been an odd affair. Thranduil never appeared at all, though I had thought and hoped he'd make one of the spectacular entrances he not seldom used, even if the assembled crowd in this case was very small. His seneschal, on the other hand, continued to add to the conversation, whenever he found it suitable.

It would have been annoying if it hadn't been so comical. The contrast between Thaladir's at times personal remarks and the way he continued to hold his distance by standing some feet away as if he wasn't really listening, or taking interest, made both myself and the twins giggle now and then. Even Haldir was amused, although he didn't show it by more than an elegantly lifted eyebrow.

Mary, on the other hand, didn't smile once, not even when Haldir rose to drag out the chair beside him for her. She talked a little with him, and more with the twins, but I got the impression that she was doing it mostly for the benefit of Thaladir, to make it clear that she ignored him and hadn't heard a thing of what he said.

She refused to turn her head in his direction, even when it meant she had to look the other way when reaching for the butter. There seemed to be nothing more important in this world than making the tall elf understand that she despised him. Or, that she hadn't even noticed his presence. It was a bit hard to determine which it was, so possibly both.

Although she had never seemed to get along too well with the seneschal, this time I was afraid she hated him for real. When she had finished eating, she said a gloomy 'goodbye' to everyone at the table, and then demonstratively turned her head the other way just as she moved past Thaladir. A shadow seemed to pass over the poor elf's face, just for a second, before he found something else to comment on and became his usual fussy self again.

We finished the breakfast shortly thereafter, and I was a little disappointed to learn that Elladan and Elrohir were going to take Haldir with them to someplace where they had often gone hunting with Legolas in the past. It was so obviously a boy elf thing that I didn't even want to ask if I could come with them.

Instead I decided to go and see if I could cheer Mary up a little. The elves had said that it was a fine day, and I thought we could do a little exploring of our own. Perhaps if we hurried up, we could even go as far as to the Enchanted River. I had always wondered what it would look like, and I hadn't seen any of the black Mirkwood squirrels either.

On my way to our part of the underground palace, while still in the king's apartments, I involuntarily heard something interesting. The door to the throne room had been left slightly open, and as I passed, Thranduil's rich voice seemed to wind itself around my heart. It made me feel wonderful, and I just had to stop for more of it. Not to listen, because at first I was much too occupied with the emotions he created in me. But then, I heard what he said, and who answered him, and I understood that he was talking with his seneschal.

"Sire, I fear that the conditions might not yet be appropriate and insist on investigating the matter."

"Ah," said the king, "you worry unnecessarily. Summer has come to my realm and it is time for celebration." His low, hearty chuckle made me shiver with delight.

"With all due respect, Majesty, it appears that you are not taking into account their frailty, and the uttermost attention that necessity dictates. Furthermore, even considering the level of excitement involved, combined with the apparent heat gain from the proximity of the objects, the effect of the elements caused during a considerable period of exposure cannot be ignored."

The king was quiet for a while, and then he sighed, almost as if giving up.

"Caro sui iest lín, sadron." [Then do what you will, faithful one.]

I heard a mumbled reply, something about Thaladir having another task to attend to before he could carry out his investigation, and realized that he was about to leave the room. I decided I'd rather not be caught blatantly listening in, even if at least one of the elves must already be very aware of my presence, and so continued to my room in a quick pace.

~ Mary ~

"It has occurred to me that I may have committed a transgression," began Thaladir, as I sat in my room with my back to him, with my eyes shut tight while I waited to hear what he was going to say. "And that my behavior at the time of entering the royal bedchamber this morning, in an effort to carry out His Majesty's wishes to quell any lingering suspicions in the minds of our visitors concerning the state of his ladies' health and general state of well being, may be deemed inappropriate, as you so kindly indicated."

"What?" It was not what I had expected to hear, but that did not mean that I actually understood what he was trying to say. "Could you say that again?"

"Certainly, my lady." He nodded and then began again, "It has occurred to me that I ...," but I interrupted him.

"Wait, wait, wait...a minute," I said. I had lifted my hand and held it like a stop signal. "Are you saying you're sorry because you came in and woke me up, or because you wouldn't leave when I said I wanted you to go away?"

"Both," he replied, although I think he was disappointed that I stopped him before he could repeat everything else word for word first.

"That's it?" I asked. "That's what you came in here to apologize to me for?"

"Yes, my lady," he said.

I was almost disappointed. Here I was, ready for him to bring up the secret that I had learned about him and prepared to discuss the whole sordid situation calmly and rationally. But all he cared about was making me feel better about his waking me up too early.

"Well, the king already told me that you were just trying to help him, so don't worry about it," I said.

It irked me a little that he came to apologize for his behavior that morning, because I had already added it to the list of his crimes that I was mentally assembling to justify my resolve to never speak to him again. I turned my back to him again and waited for him to leave so I could think of something else to add to the list to fill in that blank space.

And perhaps I was not completely ready to admit to myself that he was the one who had taken advantage of me when I was blindfolded and under the impression that I was being pleasured by a total stranger...a certain total stranger. A specific certain total stranger.

He was called the Swan and he sang for his supper at an inn by the Long Lake. I sighed every time I thought about him and I am not exactly sure why. For many days I was under the illusion that he had been my mystery elf lover and I had enjoyed my memories blissfully unaware of how wrong I was.

And he may have been a mere masked elf-minstrel, who sang for coins, but he intrigued me. There was something about him, a noble air, or a lordly bearing, that made him unforgettable, even though I knew so little about him. I wondered if I was ever going to see him again.

But at this very minute, I was dealing with quite another elf, although the king's seneschal also had a great singing voice. And I just knew he was still there in my room, behind me, hovering.

I turned to face him, but he had moved. Now he was standing by my desk. He picked up some of the sheets of parchment I had been practicing my tengwar script on. I had not touched them since breaking into his chambers.

"His Majesty has informed me that you will no longer be attending your language lessons," he said as he looked at the pages.

"I have had enough Elvish to last me a lifetime," I replied. "Both spoken and written."

"I find your decision regrettable, my lady. You were making excellent progress." He held one of the pages up so that I could see it, and added, "This is quite commendable." I just stared at him, not believing what I had just heard.

After all the times I had tried to gain some approval from this grouchy elf, the sweet smiles, perfect curtseys, respectful 'Your Excellencies', and use of proper table manners, it was not until I stopped being nice to him that I finally got a compliment.

And I hated to admit it, but I was going to miss my Sindarin lessons. I had enjoyed practicing making my letters. I never would again. It made me feel sad, thinking about it. And I hate feeling sad. I had to do something to get rid of him before I started crying.

"You don't have to pretend anymore, Mr. Thaladir," I announced as I stood up. "We both know you hate me, so why don't you leave me alone? Or do I have to take all my clothes off again and run through the halls?" As I prepared to do just that by lifting the bottom of my blouse, a familiar voice stopped me.

"Am I interrupting something?" Thranduil, eyebrows lifted, looked curiously at both of us as he stepped into the room. I dropped the hem of my blouse, ran to him, and put my arms around him.

"Nothing important," I said as I looked up at his handsome face. "And since he won't leave me alone today, will you take me away from here?"

"An excellent idea," said the king. "I see you are dressed for riding. Put your boots on; we will go for a ride."

~ Mal ~

When I had washed my hands and was finally ready to leave, Mary wasn't in her room. Miriel informed me that she had left together with the king and would not be back too soon. Good news, as it meant she would be wonderfully cheered up, but a bit annoying too, as it was going to be my turn to spend the night with him and I had hoped for an early start in the afternoon. The expedition into the forest would have to wait too, as it wouldn't have been the same to go with any of the elves.

Instead, I spent the morning hours with Ithilwen and Miriel, learning the Elvish names of some of the birds we could spot from just outside the great gates. There was the slender tuilinn cleaving the sky with its long, pointed tail, and scores of the yellow, twittering emlin. At one point we even watched a brightly coloured heledir dive into the river next to the bridge, and emerge nearly momentarily with a freshly caught fish struggling in its beak.

The knocking sound that could be heard from a nearby tree could only origin from a tavor, said Ithilwen. It sounded very much like a woodpecker from her description, and I hoped to see it later on, if it would ever come around to the other side of the tree trunk. And it was too early for the merilin to sing, added Miriel, so I would have to wait to experience that one.

Some of the smaller birds they just referred to as "filig" [small birds], so I decided to ask Thaladir about them later, though I knew I'd risk hearing whole entries from "The Great Encyclopaedia of Creatures in His Most Royal Majesty's Green Forest", or some similar volume with an equally impressive title, recited to me.

At lunch time, which seemed to come much too soon, the three of us went back into the halls, and had our meal with the palace elves in the great hall. The fare was light, as often when the Mirkwood elves weren't gathered for merrymaking or an official occasion, and mostly consisting of vegetables. I managed to dodge the nettle soup, but the fresh herb salad tasted much better even with the dandelion leaves it seemed to largely be made from.

After we had eaten, Miriel said she had some chores to attend to, but Ithilwen followed me back to my room and we had a good time talking about the various birds and animals that inhabited the great forest. She agreed that His Excellency would be my best teacher on the subject.

Then the seneschal appeared, after a distinct knock, reminiscent of the woodpecker, on my door. Talk of the devil.... Ithilwen quickly covered her mouth, stifling a laugh, when I whispered 'tavor' to her. The stern expression on the tall elf's face made us both serious again, and we rose and curtseyed to him, which earned us a curt nod.

"I require Lady Malinorne's assistance," he declared straight out, "in a most urgent matter; however, I do not desire to intrude upon any dealings of greater magnitude."

"Of course you are not," I replied. Thaladir would hardly ask for anything if it wasn't important, and it intrigued me that he said that he needed help. I couldn't imagine anything that he wouldn't be perfectly competent of handling by himself.

"Then we had better leave without delay." He held out his elbow to me, and as soon as I took it, he nodded to Ithilwen. She curtseyed again and we left the room.

~ Mary ~

Since the king's warhorse Amarth had been brought back from Dale, which was a long way to travel, only the day before, I had expected him to be tired. And, therefore, calmer than usual. But I was wrong, and he was not tired at all. He stamped and snorted and threw his regal head around like a mad thing as we crossed the bridge, but the king seemed unconcerned.

Thranduil said it was because of the nearness of the mare, my own mount, Cinnamon, that the stallion was acting feistier than usual. Not that I actually cared, I did not have to try to handle him, and His Majesty is capable of handling anything at anytime.

In fact, I was happy because if Amarth wanted to run then maybe Thranduil would let him have his head for a while and I could gallop with Cinnamon. And then we would both fly down the straight road, with the wind in our hair, and get far away from the halls in the shortest amount of time.

But I could tell that the king wanted to talk, because he made Amarth walk quietly, whether the stallion wanted to or not. Cinnamon did not seem to care one way or the other, she just seemed happy to be out for a ride. I took heart from her good nature and tried to just appreciate the nice weather and all the birds and bees and flowers and such like, while waiting to hear what the Elfking wanted to say to me.

"You are aware that my seneschal does not hate you," he finally said, breaking the silence.

"Yes, Sire, I am aware of that," I said with as much humility as I could muster on such a gorgeous day. "I'm well aware of it. In order to hate anything, a person is required to have feelings in the first place. I assume that it works the same way with elves."

"Elves are persons," replied the king.

"Well, see, I am right either way," I answered, and then added, "And I also think having warm blood instead of ice water in your veins is required, too, in order to feel something as strong as hate." I admit I did not use the most respectful tone of voice as I said it.

"You did not seem disappointed about the amount of warm blood in those veins the night you were blindfolded," the king replied with a smirk. And he gave me a look. I looked right back at him, without smiling.

"Only because I thought that he was someone else," I explained. The king did not appear to be convinced.

I cut my losses at that point and decided to change the subject. "By the way, will you ask those singers, the Birds of a Feather, to come and sing at Mirkwood sometime? Like for a special occasion? I would love to hear them sing that 'Thank Eru, I'm not an Elvenlord' song again. I really liked the part about walking on snow and all that other fiddle-faddle." I started humming it.

"That particular duo is not available for hire or command performances," replied Thranduil. "Or so I have been informed."

"Why not?" After all this time, I really have learned that when the king says something is so, then it is a fact not to be contradicted or argued about. But sometimes he says things that I have to question. And how could this be? Why would wandering minstrels not pounce at such an opportunity?

"I am told that they perform at their own behest," Thranduil said. He had an odd little smile though, as if he knew something.

"They looked like they could use all the work they can get to me," I said. "As well as a warm meal, some good wine, and a soft bed. Offer them a pot of gold, I bet they will come."

Thranduil chuckled and shook his head. All he would offer was a cryptic reply:

"All that is gold does not glitter," he said serenely. "And not all those who wander are lost." He smiled to himself as if he had just made a very profound point.

"What is that supposed to mean?" I asked in vain, by reflex. It occurred to me that he might be referring back to Thaladir, but that did not make any sense either.

He was quiet and I left it alone, and at least we were not talking about the seneschal anymore. I was enjoying being with him on such a lovely day. Even if I did not, as usual, understand a single thing he said. The king, who was staring off in the distance, was a sight for sore eyes, hearts, and minds, mine especially. And the trees were nice, too.

"The forest is so much prettier when the leaves are all green and the sun is shining," I remarked. At my observation, the king lifted himself out of his brief reverie. He turned to face me and he wore a much different expression when he answered.

"My forest is at its glory in the summer. That is truth. Shall we take a closer look?" As if I could resist that inviting glow in his glittering eyes for more than another moment of time. I had already melted immediately before he said his first word.

"Yes, please," I answered and followed along happily behind him as he turned onto a path leading away from the main road. We rode deeper into the forest along the narrow trail.

~ Mal ~

It turned out that this 'delicate matter' of Thaladir's could only be taken care of outdoors. He replied evasively when I asked where we were going, but steered us into the trees and then further away from the river, in among the shadows at the foot of the hill. As he appeared to search for the right place, he muttered to himself: 'unsatisfactory foliage' ... 'excessive sunlight'... 'inadequate conditions'.

Finally we came to a dark and shady part of the landscape that mostly held tall conifers, which seemed to satisfy the elf.

"My lady, seat yourself onto the fallen trunk." I sat down on the pleasantly smooth surface of the beech-tree and looked at the seneschal expectantly.

"Are you comfortable in these surroundings"? He looked just a little bit less than determined that whatever he was going to say, or do, was a good idea.

"As always in your company, Your Excellency," I replied as sweetly as I could. I hoped I hadn't ever given him cause to believe otherwise.

"My person is irrelevant." He answered curtly and cleared his throat a couple of times before speaking again.

"Are you presently affected by the elements?" He pronounced the question distinctly, making it sound more like an interrogation than a polite query.

"Not if you mean in an unpleasant way, no. I'm perfectly fine. May I ask what the purpose of coming here is?"

"It will be revealed in time." The elf took a small notebook from his sleeve and began taking notes with what looked very much like a pencil. I wondered if there was perhaps graphite in the nearby mountains. "Now uncover your shoulders." I took off the wrap I wore and put it beside me, and Thaladir continued to write.

"Your shoes." Okay. After a while he came closer, and lifted my left arm to his face, studying it carefully. More scribbling.

"Lift your skirt." I couldn't believe it. If seduction was the meaning of this meeting, there couldn't be a more odd way of starting it than this strange strip-tease. I told him I would only let him see my legs if I could have a peek at his. Despite my little wink, he wasn't amused.

"His Majesty ensured me of your full co-operation in this matter." Oh well. If he wanted to go slowly about it... I nodded my consent and he stepped forward. Carefully, he hitched up my skirt to mid-thigh, and then partly unfastened the upper part of my bodice. I felt little goose-bumps form on my arms, and they seemed to grow bigger by the second as I heard a smooth voice, and then saw the handsome blond elf that had slipped out from the shadows.

"What have we here? Why so tardy, old elf?" Haldir rolled his tongue around every syllable, which added to the arrogant impression. "With your speed of action, the lady might even catch a cold." Thaladir started when he had begun speaking, and for a moment he looked guilty. There was not a hint of that to be seen when he turned to look Haldir straight in the eye. The younger elf wasn't intimidated and went on with his speech, now in a lighter tone.

"Perhaps you would allow me to remedy?" Without waiting for a reply, he sat down beside me and traced the hem of my skirt with his finger. Outrageous and delicious. "Such a shame," he said slowly, "to waste a lovely lady by being slow to please her." Thaladir remained cool on the outside, but the wrinkle in his forehead had deepened considerably the last few moments.

"An impure thought, March Warden," he replied. "My interest at present is solely scientific, I assure you. I am performing a study, a unique experiment."

"We are good at experiments." Two eager voices spoke in unison, and I had to giggle when the seneschal didn't immediately disguise his discontent with the new arrivals. "Very experienced," added Elrohir, while Elladan's gaze locked with Haldir's stroking finger over my thigh. His twin elbowed him in the ribs, which made him return the favour before he turned to the tall elf. "Four hands give quicker results," continued Elrohir, and both twins flexed their fingers to demonstrate. "Allow us to assist."

"My young lords," Thaladir replied with cold politeness, "your assistance is not required." He turned to Haldir and gestured with his hand. "Neither is your presence, March Warden." The Lórien elf made a face at the twins, and then stood. He lifted my hand to his lips briefly, and then said farewell with a bow.

"A pity," he whispered loudly when he passed Thaladir. "I would have let you watch." The twins grinned like mad at the notion.

"Not you two."

Elrohir stuck his tongue out at his friend, and this final gesture made the seneschal lose his calmness. "Go," he said, and remained standing in his sternest pose, with his arms crossed, until the three younger elves had disappeared.

"This will have to suffice," Thaladir told me apologetically as he fastened my bodice. "I shall hold it against them if the outcome is in any way unsatisfactory." For the sake of the three, I hoped whatever the experiment involved would go well. It seemed best not to ask, so I said nothing on our way back, not until I saw one of the nameless little birds.

"Would you tell me the name of that bird?" He stopped, studied my face, and then said. "Lalf-linn, in High-Elven 'alalmelindo', which in the tongue of the commons is 'elm singer'. Its habitat and favoured place of occurrence, as can be inferred from its name, is..."

I listened to the steady flow of information that just seemed to go on and on and on. Half of it I didn't catch in the first place, and most of the rest I forgot at once, but the seneschal's wrinkled forehead became smoother as he spoke.

When we came back to the halls I still had very vague ideas about the purpose of this walk, but at least I had learnt *something* from it. And made an elf happy, if only a little, and in a perfectly seemly manner.

~ Mary ~

Our horses' hooves were not shod, so they were practically as noiseless as the elves can be while they moved through the trees. Wildlife began to appear and the animals did not seem too concerned with our presence. I spotted deer, rabbits, and foxes standing perfectly still with ears lifted and noses twitching, but they did not dart away, as I expected.

There were different types of blossoming berry bushes and vines that grew beside the path, and bees and butterflies were busily working among them. There were masses of little birds twittering about in the briars and brambles, too, chasing after the insects or pecking at the few unripe berries, I could not tell which.

The shady canopy of the thick forest gave way to a small clearing with a soft mossy carpet and Thranduil stopped Amarth. Cinnamon stopped too, clearly not paying attention to my commands. After helping me down, the king led the horses away to a nearby stream that must have fed the larger Forest River.

They drank and he left them to it and I was already nearly naked by the time he returned. As usual, I forgot to take my boots off before I tried to pull the leggings over my feet, so that had slowed me down a little. He helped me remove them and let me help him undress. And a king always remembers to take his boots off first.

It was so nice to be totally naked with Thranduil and be outdoors at the same time. His skin in the sunlight was incredible; it shone like polished marble but felt like satin. We did not need a blanket; the fragrant moss we lay on was as soft as the animal pelts he sometimes threw on the stony floor of his royal bedchamber in deference to me.

There were flowers growing within reach, and he plucked one, a yellow blossom on a long, thin stalk, and began trailing it over my body, making goose bumps everywhere it touched me. And it traveled over some very interesting places.

The sun was high, and shining right behind him as he bent over me, so it seemed his hair and skin were giving off a glow of their own. If that is what human bodies do, radiate light like that, in the vision of the elves, I could see how it would be alluring to the beholder. I ached for him to lower himself to me.

And I knew he was waiting for me to calm down first, and be present, as he would call it. It was hard not to think, not to anticipate, and not want him to hurry up and kiss me. Even deep breaths were not working when he was this close and completely unclothed and ready. Very ready. Like I was.

"Can you hear the music of my forest," he asked quietly, as he continued to trail the soft petals of the flower over some very sensitive areas, which makes it hard to concentrate if you ask me. "If you will be quiet, and still your mind, you may hear it, too."

All I could hear were the chirping flocks of birds in the bushes, and the noise the stream made, and the breeze in the leaves in the trees that surrounded us. It was nice.

"Oh brother," I said. "Is this another test? Or another lesson? Will you please just kiss me first, and then I promise I will be good and quiet for a long time."

He just smiled at me, the flower tickled and I giggled. Maddening elf. "Yes," I said, "I hear it. I hear the music of your forest. I hear it loud and clear, it's very beautiful. And I love it a lot, I hope it's a big hit, I could listen to it all day and all night, over and over..." That way, he had to kiss me after all, just to shut me up so that at least one of us could hear the damn music.

His long fingers replaced the flower, but at first they were as gentle and teasing as the petals had been. I soon forgot about all the little birds and the berry bushes and the butterflies as his touch grew more demanding. I think I actually did hear the music.

The Elfking's breath was hot on my neck as he nibbled there, and I thought I would lose my mind, what was left of it, if he did not soon replace his hand with something better.

But I did not have to wait long, because Thranduil is not the seneschal. The king did not deny himself pleasure for any reason beyond that it brought him more pleasure by delaying as long as possible, before seeking his own release.

Not that he hurried once he finally entered and began to bring me to my own grateful conclusion, he did not even slow down after thrusting me into my first ecstatic orgasm, and seemed to pick up energy from every green growing thing around us. He turned over on his back to have me astride him, and it was not long before I was making my own music again, only not half as melodic as the forest's song.

Afterwards, I lay on top of his chest and gazed at him. It was the first time I had been alone with him since we had been in Dale and something in his self-contented smile reminded me of Lord Bard. I pulled a piece of his silky hair over his lip and held it there.

"Have you ever wanted to grow a mustache?" I asked as I made the end curl up like fancy whiskers.

"No, never," he replied, but the smile was a little less smirky.

"Good, because you would look horrible with facial hair," I told him. He was quiet for a while. I was quiet too, but on the inside I giggled like an insane fool.

"I am not sure if I should thank you or spank you," he said. The sun was sinking lower, and shadows crept over our clearing.

"I have a better idea. Why don't you just kiss me again, before Thaladir gets worried and comes looking for you and makes us stop." The king liked that idea.

~ Mal ~

Not until after dinner was I finally alone with the Elvenking. His glittering eyes and the heated looks he shot me during the meal had lifted my expectations, and when we rose from the table, I was set on retiring to the royal bedchamber as soon as possible.

And so we did, but not for the purpose I had in mind. Thaladir handed the king a cloak, which he fastened around his neck with a leaf-shaped brooch, and then we left that part of the halls. The direction Thranduil took was one I hadn't been on before, which wasn't so unusual, as it would take many months to explore all of the caves.

Miriel had explained that the underground dwellings stretched under a large portion of the hill, as they had to in order to have room for all the inhabitants of the realm in case of need, not only for the palace elves who usually lived there.

Slightly sloping ramps and winding stairs connected corridors on different levels, and as we continued steadily upward there were fewer torches on the walls, and not as many guards. "These parts are normally uninhabited and mostly used for storage," said Thranduil at one point, and I was too surprised that he volunteered information at all to ask what he stored here. Neither Mary nor I had seen the legendary treasure-chamber yet, and we knew better than trying to get past Helca.

It was straining to walk upwards all the time, even with an arm on the king's elbow, and no matter how hard I tried to keep up with him, at one point I just had to stop and rest. I stood, panting for air, not minding anymore what I must look like to him. I felt like I would rather die than climb any higher up those stairs.

And then he kissed me. He put one hand on either side of my shoulders, bowed his regal head and hid me from the world under his fair mane. His lips sought mine, first slowly, and then with a fervour that left me panting again, but for another reason. "Do you think you can continue now?" he said with mirth glittering in his eyes. I nodded and he smiled when I tucked my hand back into his elbow.

After that, we stopped several more times, always before I would get really exhausted, but as the king tended to forward his advances a little more each time it made me want to stay at the same spot rather than continue. Of course he knew what he did, teasing my nipples with just a tip of his finger, or gliding with his hands all over my dress, or pressing all of his body against mine.

And he always refused my pleas to sneak into one of the rooms behind the closed doors, or, when it was really bad, just take me there against that wall of rock. He smiled most endearingly at that last idea, an innocent wolf smile, if that makes sense.

He carried me some of the way, and then finally stopped on a level where the air was fresher than it had been for a long time now. Cool night air came in from open gates in front of us, and when the Elvenking put me down I could see the shadows of tall trees outlined against the starry sky.

To be continued...

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Chapter posted: November 16, 2004

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