Mirkwood and Beyond
|Chapter 21 / ?|
|Authors:||Mary A and Malinornë|
|Warnings:||Finally some nudity! And, well, naughty things that happen when people are naked, but not terribly naughty.|
|Disclaimer:||Written for fun, not for profit, with characters and setting borrowed from JRR Tolkien.|
|Chapter summary:||Mary and Mal are escorted to their rooms by worthy elves.|
|A/N:||Mary shares joint ownership of the elleth Glorchiniel with Zhie.|
It was a relief how Glorfindel, at least, was not so afraid of Mal or me that he kept his distance the way the other elves in the Great Hall of Fire were doing. There was some hope for fun after all. But he was too wrapped up in the king's concubine to remember I existed, and no one besides Thaladir would even come near me.
After the king left the hall with a group of other elves, including Lord Elrond, the seneschal extended his elbow and led me away, too. At least I would get to sleep in a bedroom with walls tonight.
As usual, Thaladir would not answer any of the questions I asked while he led me up steep stairways and down long carpeted corridors to the royal guest chambers in the Last Homely House. Every now and then we would pass by small groups of elves, sometimes coming the opposite way or just standing quietly, and I would smile at them. They would stay still and salute us both respectfully, but silently. It was hard to say who they were more afraid of, him or me.
I tried to keep in mind Thranduil's admonition to not give his seneschal any grief and stayed as far away from protocol-violating topics as possible, in case anyone was listening. For example, although I would have liked to have known, I refrained from enquiring about the king's current whereabouts, the reason for his summons here to Rivendell and why Mal and I were being treated like we had the plague.
Actually, I mostly wanted to know if there really was an elf waiting for me in the king's chambers or if I was just going to learn about his 'identity', as Thranduil had put it. Either way whoever it was that had braved the elfking's legendary temperament and had asked to keep me company tonight must be pretty special, and I hoped really cute.
Even though I assumed that if he was there then he would be waiting in bed, it did not feel right to be led to a sexual encounter with a complete stranger by Thaladir. Or, it felt a little too familiar. At least this time I was not wearing a blindfold. But it still seemed, well, unseemly. I had to wonder what the seneschal thought of such carryings-on, but I knew better than to ask.
"Why do I have to turn in so early?" I thought that was a perfectly reasonable question. It was still very early in the evening and I was not sleepy. There were other things to do in the last Homely House, besides bother Thranduil, to keep me busy. Like eat dinner. But Thaladir did not answer me.
"Is Mal going to her room now, too? Or does she get to stay with all of the other elves?" Still no answer. "What if I change my mind and decide to go hang out with the twins downstairs?"
Not only did I not get an answer, but my hand was even more tightly clamped in a certain elf-elbow. Not enough to hurt, but to let me know that I was not going anywhere else except where his arm guided me. "I bet you wish I had stayed in Lórien," I said, not expecting to get an answer from him. So it was a surprise when I did.
"My wishes are not your concern, Lady Mary," he said. "They are His Majesty's to command."
"The king tells you what to wish?"
"No, my lady, I am referring to the fact that whatever His Royal Majesty commands me to do is my desire, as his faithful subject, to fulfill, to the best of my ability."
"Oh, well, yeah, me too, Your Excellency." We walked a little ways in silence. Thaladir's robes made a slight rustling noise as he moved, and it sank in that I had just answered my own question about why I had to turn in early. The king wanted me to go to my own room, and it was I who had insisted on going to his instead. Maybe if I had agreed to go to my own room, I would have been allowed to roam freely?
Who, oh, who could be in the king's guest room, waiting for me? It bothered me a little that Thranduil was willing to turn me over to the first elf that had asked him, even if that meant the asker had to have been a very, very brave elf, or a cheeky one. His Majesty had been amused, too. Why? I trusted the king to not do anything to hurt my feelings, but something about this felt very much like a joke.
I tried to imagine what this mysterious elf might look like. All elves are lovely, so I was not worried about an ugly, sweaty, smelly guy chasing me around Thranduil's bed, but they are lovely in their own ways. Although the king has beautiful golden hair, I actually prefer dark elves for looking at. I pictured a naked raven-haired hunky elf sprawled out over royal bed linens and shuddered slightly with disgust. That was the last thing I wanted to see when I entered the room.
But, as soon as Thaladir opened the door to the royal guest chambers, I forgot about how early it was and who might be waiting there and what he was wearing.
We had climbed more than a few staircases, but I had not realized how many, so used I had become to climbing stairs, and I now stood stupefied by the panoramic view. The royal guest rooms were located, it appeared, at the very top of Elrond's mansion, and the tall windows looked out over the valley in all directions. It was just past sunset and the sky was gold and purple, which cast a colorful glow on every reflective surface in the room.
The effect of being up in the sky was further enhanced by the way the entire suite of rooms, which was built in a circular shape as if we were inside a tower, was cantilevered out from the Homely House, and floated in air. Every wide arched window went from the floor to the ceiling and there were more windows than wall. It all seemed very familiar.
And then it hit me; I felt like I was back in one of those damn trees in Lórien, except the room was not swaying and none of the furniture had leaves growing out of it. It was the most opposite to a bedroom in the Mirkwood caves that a bedroom could possibly be and still be considered a bedroom.
"I bet the king would hate this place," I whispered to Thaladir, keeping in mind that there might be another elf in the room and completely forgetting that I could now send him a thought silently. But before he could answer, if he would have, which I doubt, I caught a whiff of something wonderful. "Do I smell coffee?"
"Indeed," replied the seneschal, but whether he was agreeing with me about Thranduil's feelings about his guest accommodations or my correctly identifying an aroma, I will never know. At that moment, I saw the elf that was waiting there for me.
"Oh," I said. "Of course, it's you." And we both laughed.
At first I could do nothing but stare at the golden-haired elf before me. I was overwhelmed by his appearance, but also by the knowledge that slowly dawned upon me as he spoke; this was the legendary Glorfindel!
He was as charming as Mary had told me back in Mirkwood, although I had not dared to hope that he was really that interested in me. The 'she must be an elf' thing could be nothing more than a joke, or at least that was what I had believed. Now, as he stood there with my hand in his, the tingling of the brief kiss still lingering on my skin, I was less sure. His eyes glittered mirthfully, but his voice was sincere.
"I know now that she lied," he repeated. "Might I join you for a moment, fair lady?"
"Uh... of course, my lord."
"Glorfindel i eneth nín [My name is Glorfindel]. Just call me that; there is no need for formalities." I expected to hear Thaladir drawing his breath at such a hasty dropping of proper address, but no sound of displeasure came.
"Then, Glorfindel, please call me Mal."
"Ah," he said, laughing, "that will not do at all. Your full name runs like sweet miruvor over my lips. Malinorne. That is what I shall call you."
He sat at my side, and we exchanged a few pleasantries while watching a lone dancer that had joined the musicians. The elf jumped and swirled at a horrible speed, and I was not surprised when he disappeared as soon as the tune finished. My handsome companion thought it was time to leave, too.
"Would you, Malinorne, allow me to show you the garden of the Last Homely House? It is not yet fully dark, and some of the flowers bloom only in twilight."
I glanced at Thaladir, who nodded approvingly. The king was nowhere to be seen. Mary most of all looked sick, although I suspect it was just annoyance at being led off to bed by the seneschal.
"That would be lovely," I answered him, and took his offered elbow.
Elrond's Hall of Fire was located in the lower level of the large house, and the garden was reached via a low staircase that led to a balustrade terrace running along the outer wall. The stone had been glittering white in the bright afternoon sunlight, but now appeared a soft grey. Tiny spots of green and yellow could be seen here and there. Glow-worms, explained Glorfindel, and we took a closer look at one of the shining insects that turned out to be a kind of beetle.
Down in the garden there were other lights. Lamps spread a phosphorescent light over some of the plats and paths, and fireflies swarmed under the tall trees. Some of the flowers had closed their petals for the night, while others had just opened. The twilight blooming ones were white, and most of them very large. There was especially one that I admired, an enormous water lily that floated majestically in the centre of a round pond, spreading a gentle, vanilla-like fragrance.
My elf companion went silently at my side. He seemed not to want to interfere with my experiencing the garden with all my senses, and if it hadn't been for the pleasant feeling of his tunic against my hand, I may have forgotten about his presence altogether. There was so much to see, and hear, and smell here.
Finally we arrived at a terrace overlooking a small waterfall. A set table stood in the middle, and I looked quizzically at Glorfindel. He nodded, smiling. I realized that he had been steering me in this direction from the very beginning, and had nothing against that at all. I was actually a bit hungry.
The food was delicious, as could only be expected, but I was more fascinated by the, possibly uninvited, dinner guests that soon joined us. They were peacocks, two marvellous birds that stepped carefully around us with their little crowns waving and their long tails sweeping the flagstone floor. I fed them some breadcrumbs.
Then a low coo was heard from under a bush, and soon I saw a third bird emerge. The female was a non-descript brown, but her presence obviously excited the males, who raised their tails to display a whole fan of shimmering feathers. They danced around her, but she appeared unimpressed and disappeared under the leaves again. The fans were quickly put together, and soon Glorfindel and I were all alone in the moonlight.
As is usual with the elves, Glorchiniel seemed to step out of thin air right beside me. There were not a lot of walls in the king's royal guest chambers to hide behind, but there were a few portable latticework screens set about the room. They were no higher than my shoulder and did not hinder the alarming panoramic view of the valley.
One of the screens presumably concealed the bed from immediate sight. I could not tell what was hiding behind the others. There were a few candles lit, but not enough to lighten the room appreciably. In fact, the place had a very romantic atmosphere, something I had not noticed at first while in awe from the impact of the large scenic windows.
"I welcome you to Imladris, Your Excellency," she said to Thaladir. "You honor us with your presence. Silo i galad Nimloth na rád lin." [May the light of Telperion shine upon your path.]
"A togo i galad Glorlinn i thail lín," he replied, almost smiling. [May the light of Laurelin guide your feet.]
"And Lady Mary, it is good to see you again," said the elleth. "The last time I saw you; you were flying away on an eagle in your nightgown." And the last time I had seen her, I had not yet decided if I wanted to leave the Homely House and go back to Mirkwood.
"You saw me leave with the king?" That night was fuzzy, the night that Thranduil had come to Rivendell to take me home. It was actually early morning, just before dawn, when he silently arrived on my balcony, only to be confronted by Elladan and Elrohir, with drawn swords.
"When you left, I had just come into your room," she said. "I was not sure if you saw me in there with all of the confusion."
The twins were not successful in thwarting the king, but they had not been injured either, except their pride. They had obviously led a few other elves here to believe differently, which is why, I assumed, the elves in the Great Hall were conspicuously avoiding me. Now maybe I had a witness.
"Did you see how the king disarmed the twins without hurting them?"
"Come," she said, without answering, and glided away gracefully to slip around one of the screens. "Sit and have some coffee, I presume it is for you." We followed, and there were some low couches set in front of a table that held a tray with a coffee pot and cups. Not thick ceramic mugs, nor wooden bowls, but real fragile-looking cups with handles. I forgot how much I missed them. There were some tiny cakes and cookies to munch on, too.
Glorchiniel looked happy, I think, to see us there. It is always hard to tell what elves are thinking or feeling. But there was something in her manner that led me to believe she was not waiting there for me. I wondered for a moment if my presence was not a surprise to her, as hers was to me. Thranduil had said than an elf had asked to keep me company, was I wrong to assume it was her?
And if the elf in question was not Glorchiniel, then who was it? Serenely she poured my coffee, and graciously served it to me on a real saucer. She had artfully arranged the thin wafer-like cookies around the edge for me to dip in the cup.
More importantly, if the mystery elf was not she, then what was she doing lurking about in Thranduil's guest room? And did the king know that she was there? But who told her to bring coffee? I stared at the bitter brew. No one else in Mirkwood drank coffee. That order had to have come from the king. I relaxed. But why would he tell her to bring coffee if he did not know she would be here?
It was possible that Elrond remembered I like coffee. Or the twins! Maybe? But, wait, then why...? I could not stay quiet.
"I thought you said that you were afraid of Thranduil."
For a moment, she nearly appeared stunned. Her eyes widened slightly and she sat up straighter. And then she laughed.
"My lady Mary, what would ever prompt you to say this to me?"
"Perhaps that didn't come out right," I said. "Who told you to bring coffee?"
"It was I, Lady Mary," said Thaladir, who sat on the other side of Glorchiniel. And I did not even pretend not to be stunned. He turned to her, "Have you prepared the bath?"
"A bath? Where? For me? Here?" I was on my feet, and peeking behind the other screens, before either of them could answer. And I was right about the bed hiding behind one of the latticework partitions, and it was a lovely sight, too bad Thranduil was not there. And finally I found the tub, filled with wonderfully steaming water. "Oh gosh, why didn't you say something sooner, it is going to get cold!"
"Do you need assistance?" Glorchiniel was at my elbow, as silent in her approach as the seneschal can be, and I jumped a little. "I seem to recall that you had difficulty unfastening your gowns."
"Well," I said, while pulling off my dress, "the king finally had better gowns made for me, so I don't go around the caves alarming anyone with bare back skin showing." I nodded my head toward Thaladir, who still sat quietly on the couch, his eyes politely averted. I could just see over the top of the screen. "And I think you can leave me alone now," I added. "I can bathe myself and you don't have to stay." To demonstrate, I stepped into the tub and sat down.
"As you wish," she sighed, and I thought I detected a sense of relief. After she said goodnight to Thaladir and left the room; I stretched out in the heavenly hot water and called out to him.
"Glorchiniel isn't the elf who wanted to keep me company tonight, is she?"
"No, Lady Mary, she is not."
"Well, I wonder who it could be. When will I find out? Are you going to tell me? Or is he just going to show up?"
"Enjoy your bath, Lady Mary," he said gently. "Do not distress your nerves with complicated speculations and theories."
I continued to look for the peacocks after they disappeared, hoping to get another glance of the beautiful birds. They did not come back, and my full attention turned to Glorfindel when he took my hand in his over the table. His fingers were pleasantly cool against my skin. Looking into my eyes, he slowly lifted my hand to his lips and placed a kiss on its back. I shivered.
"Look at the starry twilight," he said. "The jewels of Elbereth are only just emerging; alas that I gave my promise to escort you to your room before the night is full!" I did not need to ask who had made him promise something like that. It just had to be Thaladir. I sighed and replied that I would rather stay outside. 'I would rather stay with you,' was truer, but I did not want to appear wanton to this noble elf hero, at least not the first time I saw him.
As we returned to Elrond's house at a slow pace I stole more than one glance at my companion. It was getting dark quickly now, but the lamps helped, even if he looked a little odd with green or blue hair. It felt good not to have to find my way on my own inside the vast building, although we met many elves on the way and every room seemed to be occupied. The Homely House felt cosy and alive.
Mary and I had been given rooms on the central level, but in the west wing, so that we were conveniently close to the common areas, and at enough distance from them to not be disturbed. I had little time to explore my guest quarters when we first arrived, but I remembered that the living room was well furnished and perfectly fit for receiving guests. I did not want to part with Glorfindel so soon.
"Now that you've met me," I asked him, as he opened the door for me, "do you still think that I may be an elf?"
"That is a good question, and one that requires a better answer than what I can give you in an instant."
"Then come inside." I tried to sound nonchalant, but I'm afraid my voice trembled in a silly way at the prospect of being alone with him here. Even if it was only to discuss an odd question.
"With pleasure." He closed the door behind us, and instead of letting go of my hand once we were inside the room, he stood close to me and lifted a hand to caress my cheek. Then he put my hair behind my ear and followed its rim with his finger. I held my breath. Surely he must have seen from the very beginning how obviously human I am. So why now this charade?
"I cannot tell for sure whether you are mortal or of elven-kind," he said gently. "There is a way I could find out but I would not suggest it to a lady. Nay, to do so would be much too bold." There it was again, the mirthful glitter in his eyes. Quite irresistible.
"What way? Tell me." I was curious, and also hoped that it would involve more of that sweet touching.
"If I might see you... unclad." The hesitation in his voice was ill matched by the broad grin that spread across his face when he realised that I was not utterly appalled by the notion. On the contrary.
I felt safe with Glorfindel there in that room and the soft candlelight added to the warm, romantic feeling. We played a gentle game of undressing me as unhurriedly as possible, and he made a show of being equally impressed with the sight of every piece of skin that was revealed, be it a thigh or just a toe. He did it well, but I had to laugh at the delight in his face.
And then we were done. I was naked, he was not, and I wondered what the next step would be, if any. Tentatively, I turned around so that he would get a better look at everything he cared to study closer.
"If you need to touch me," I told him, "you can."
"Yes. I do need to do that. Your response will tell me more than my eyes."
He started with my arms. Standing behind me, he ran his hands all the way from my fingertips to my shoulders, and then from my neck down along my spine. He kneaded my muscles gently and I felt like I could just melt against him. I was completely relaxed as he continued to explore my body. That is, until he put his arms around me and cupped my breasts.
I listened to my breath growing quicker and shallower. These lovely hands, these fingers, oh if they would never stop! They did not. Instead they grew increasingly eager, and the look in Glorfindel's eyes when he faced me added an emotional dimension beyond the stimulation I felt from his touch on my skin.
"I may need to use my mouth," he whispered when he had made me moan with a well-placed fingertip on my core.
"And perhaps something else, too?"
The bathtub was very comfortable; it was made for lounging in and big enough for two. Again I wished that the king could have been there with me. As with every place where elves live, it was not completely silent; music floated up to us from somewhere below. It was not possible to tell if it came from inside or outside, but it was pleasant to listen to. I soaked in the hot water for a while and then sat up and washed.
"Yes, Lady Mary."
"Since when do you care about my nerves being distressed?" Before the seneschal could answer my question, if he was going to at all, there was a knock at the door. It must be him! The mysterious elf who wanted to keep me company! I slid down even farther into the tub.
"Don't answer it!" I hollered, but it was too late. I had to lean out of the tub with my face up to the latticed screen, in order to see through the intricate fretwork, to watch Thaladir while he opened the door. A handful of elves pushing carts came into the room. They cleared off the coffee tray and set the low table with a fancy tablecloth, dishes, goblets, candles, and even put a floral centerpiece in the middle. It was time for dinner. Apparently.
And then they started uncovering and recovering the trays on the carts, and my mouth literally watered from the delicious aroma that exuded from the marvelous looking food, while the seneschal gave his nods of approval. Finally the elves bowed their way back out of the door.
"I'm not done with my bath yet," I said, still watching through the screen.
"I suggest that you make haste, my lady." As he spoke, he poured wine from a pitcher into the goblets. "Your meal will get cold, even thus covered." I sat back down in the tub; it was getting chilly leaning out of the tub with wet bare skin.
"Are you going to eat dinner with me?"
"If that would not displease you, I would be honored." He would be honored? Candles? Flowers? Coffee? Wine? The mists of confusion were clearing. I had an idea.
"It would not displease me, but do you know what would please me even more, Excellency?" The food was not going to get too cold that fast. I soaped up my washcloth until it was covered in foam.
"No, my lady, what would please you more?"
"If you would come over here behind the screen and wash my back for me, because that will speed things up for both of us."
The only thing I regretted was not being able to see his face. I kept my back turned but I knew he was there by his wavering reflection in the bath water before me. Without a word, I moved away from the side of the tub, where I had been leaning, so that more of my back was exposed, and handed him the soapy washcloth over my shoulder.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him kneel beside the tub. And then he began to wash my back. I wondered if he was doing so with his eyes averted but I did not want to look at him yet.
"Do you remember the last time you gave me a bath, Your Excellency? Because I sure do. That was the nicest bath I ever had. I guess I never did say thank you, did I?" Thaladir did not respond, but he did take his time washing my back, which is not very large.
"Maybe I did say thank you," I continued. "But if I did, it was to the other elf that I thought was you, and I don't think that counts, do you?" He finally withdrew the cloth from my back and I could hear him swishing it around in the water behind me, to rinse off the soap. After that, he used it to wipe the lather off of my back, and he was meticulous about it. And then he stopped.
"Are you done, Your Excellency?" I stood up and turned to face him, looking down at him where he was crouched beside the tub, and of course his head was turned away. "Would you please hand me one of those towels behind you?"
Here is the thing that gets to me about elves; they can stand up straight from a kneeling position, or a crouch, no matter how long they have been holding it, without any problems at all with stiff joints. They just... move. Before I had a chance to even feel chilly, he handed me a towel, with his head still turned.
"This towel is too big for me to use it in this bathtub; it will get all soggy on the bottom. Will you help me out? It got slippery in here." His hand was extended and I pretended to slide a little, but he still did not look. I forgot that he could read my mind. So, I dried off, slowly, and watched him not watching me.
"Are you ever going to look at me, Thaladir?" I paused for no answer. "What are you afraid of? I bet when I was blindfolded, you looked at me, every single inch of me." Again, silence. "What if I covered my eyes," I asked, "would that help? Watch." I squeezed my eyes shut and even covered them with both of my hands, which meant that I had to drop the towel. Of course I peeked.
"My lady Mary," he began primly in the same clipped tone I have often heard him use on the youngest elves. And, while he spoke, he managed to pick up the towel and wrap it around me and fix it so it would not fall off. "I must insist that you cease your unseemly provocative behavior, and cover yourself." And never once did he look. "Your dinner will be inedible."
"No it won't, Excellency." I moved a step closer to him. "Nothing that the elves make is ever inedible, and you know that better than I do."
To be continued...
Chapter posted: October 5, 2005
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"Long live Thranduil, great Elf-king of Greenwood!"