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Mirkwood and Beyond

Chapter 23 / ?
Authors: Mary A and Malinornë
Pairings: Mainly Thranduil/OFCs
Warnings: ADULT sexual situations, naughty naked wet elf – which means there is some nudity, of course – and naughty fully clothed elf.
Disclaimer: Written for fun, not for profit, with characters and setting borrowed from JRR Tolkien.
Chapter summary: After Mal comes clean with Glorfindel, she visits the Imladris library, and then waits around for Thranduil. Mary tours the gardens with the twins, has lunch with Glorfindel, and later meets a ranger.

~ Mal ~

I turned my head as I heard the gentle splashing of water against tiles. Glorfindel's sleek body cleaving the surface caused tiny ripples to spread around him and the waves following in his wake hit the far side of the pool. He swam like a diver would, arms hanging leisurely at his sides. With only his feet moving, and his hair flowing around his shoulders, he looked like the male equivalent of a mermaid. A mer-elf?

It sounded silly even in my thoughts, and I laughed. As if hearing my thoughts, he made two turns around my legs, stroking close to them, but not quite touching. I could not take my eyes from this perfection until he stood by my side, dripping wet and wearing a handsome grin.

"Not this one," he said, moving my hand from the voluptuous purple bottle I had been about to choose from the row of liquid soaps and shampoos on the pool-side shelf, before he had diverted my attention. "This one here is what you need," he continued, picking a square bottle of blue glass, which turned out to hold a clear liquid speckled with jelly-like pearls of white and turquoise. I could not pin-point the scent, but it smelt refreshing, and there could well have been mint among the herbs used.

"May I?" As if he needed to ask if I would like him to run his hands over my body, even if the purpose was only attention to personal hygiene. I allowed myself to heighten the experience by closing my eyes and thinking back on our night together. His hands had glided over my skin with equal ease then, teasing, caressing, telling me without words that he enjoyed what he felt.

Was it not likewise now? Did not his fingers linger a moment longer than necessary on my breasts? Surely, cupping them like that was not the customary way to spread the soap evenly? But it felt far too good to complain about, and when he moved his hands lower, too. It's funny how much some elves like to play with a thatch of hair.

The liquid soap quickly turned into a rich lather, and he lifted my feet above the water as if to shod a horse, to spread it everywhere, even down to my toes. I dipped a couple of times to rinse it all off, and in the half minute that may have taken, Glorfindel had already washed most of himself. But I insisted on helping him anyway, and at least got to rub his muscular back, all the way from his strong shoulders down to where his legs began.

Honestly, I had not planned to touch him intimately, but it happened more or less out of itself after I put my arms around his waist and leaned my head against his back. At first there was only the soft skin of his lower abdomen, but then something else wanted to be held, too. I obliged. It was easy to get caught up and forget all about those large, revealing windows, and how sore I would be if I fell for the temptation.

Glorfindel had no such inhibitions. After stilling my hand, he gently turned around and, after a look into my eyes, dropped his head to my nipples at the same time as he held my backside. He made it very difficult to resist, but I still managed to whisper a weak 'no'. Immediately he took a step back, and seemed very embarrassed as he spoke.

"I... I misinterpreted your wish." He suddenly looked guilt-stricken, and his eyes seemed to turn from lust-filled black to innocent cerulean in a second. "Forgive me, I am not very skilled with ..."

He looked so pitiful that I feared he might get down on one knee in the water and possibly drown to wash away the alleged shame. Poor elf!

"You are extremely skilled, and I'd love to experience some more." I took a step towards him, and he stayed where he was, although there was something wild in his gaze.

"I do not understand. If you truly do wish it, then why refuse?" Yes, why? He made it sound very weird, and I guess, for him, that it was.

"You're a powerful elf-lord. Can't you read that from my mind?" I smiled. There was that surprised, nearly horrified expression again.

"Malinorne, it would be far from me to enter your thoughts uninvited." He was so sweet I just had to hug him. It felt good, and I suddenly regretted even more that I had stopped him earlier. But even though my defences were crumbling fast, it would not be fair not to tell him why I hesitated. I sighed.

"You know about my concubine duties?" He nodded, grinning, obviously understanding from the way I said it how much I enjoyed my 'duties' to the King of Mirkwood. "I am a little sore already," I continued, "and if I do not rest now, then His Majesty will regret tonight that he let you keep me company." There was another detail, too, about not being comfortable making love in front of huge windows, but I kept that to myself. Glorfindel laughed, and I wondered if he hadn't peeked into my head anyway, and seen the part about the windows.

"If that is all that bothers you," he said, running his hand over my back and making me shiver in a wonderful way, "then I can make it so that we can enjoy each other one more time without consequences." I looked at him questioningly. "You just called me 'powerful', and although my gift for healing is not as extensive as that of Lord Elrond, I have more than is needed to bring you comfort. If you will allow me."

I nodded, and he put a hand between my legs, but in a way that was more soothing than erotic. Feeling him there still made me tingle, of course. Suddenly, the tingling became stronger, and the light that had seemed to surround him when we first met in the Hall of Fire was there again. It came from his eyes that were now so bright that I could not bear to look into them, but there seemed to be little stars under his skin, too.

After just a few seconds it was over. I felt strangely refreshed, and there was no sign of the initial soreness I had felt earlier. The fingertips between my thighs became interesting in that way again. I was wet, and not just from the water. I looked up into Glorfindel's face and met his gaze.

"And now, what do you say?" he asked.

"Yes. Yes and once more yes." I put my hand around his member to enforce my words. "I want you," I whispered, placing a kiss under his ear.

After more kissing and fondling, we ended up with me turned towards the pool side facing away from the windows, holding on to the edge, and with him behind me. I thought I would go insane from the teasing, from his eager caresses combined with his remaining just out of reach. I could feel him poking my behind, guiding himself lower, and then stopping there, with only the head inside. It was maddening, and every time I tried to wiggle so that I could take him in, he pulled back with a laugh.

Not until my moans took on an angry tone did he have mercy on me. The feeling of him entering me fully came over me in an incredible way, perhaps because we both knew that it was for the last time, although I cannot tell where that knowledge came from.

~ Mary ~

After Thranduil was finished with his breakfast, and me, he stayed in bed and directed me to get up and go look around one of the latticed screens. I found what appeared to be a private dressing area, with padded benches for sitting and a small table with a stool beneath, and a basin and water jug on top, for grooming.

At first I thought that the cozy little area itself was the reason the king had sent me to see it, until I noticed the small satchel I had been given in Rivendell, the one with my clothes in it, which was sitting on one of the benches.

"Oh, how sweet! Did you bring this up here for me?" I found a dress, slipped it on, and then sat to wash up and brush my hair.


"My clothes were here last night? All night?"


"Did Thaladir know they were here?" Swiftly, I recalled the previous night's events after I got out of the bath. The seneschal had not mentioned there were any clean clothes for me to change into. He must not have known.

"He carried it up here," said Thranduil. He had joined me to dress; his own clean clothes were laid out for him on the other bench.

"Then why...?" Now I was confused. Thaladir was not known to hold his tongue for any reason if he suspected unseemly or unsafe behavior. Like me eating dinner while wrapped in a damp bath towel. I thought about how pleasant it was when he put his robe over my shoulders, and the way he had sighed as if it was his only choice.

"Do you remember," said Thranduil, obviously peeking at my thoughts. "When you asked me not to tell my seneschal that you had learned he was with you that night in Laketown?" That had happened right after I had broken into Thaladir's private chambers in Mirkwood to sneak a peek at the record books he had been keeping about me, and everyone else in the caves. At that time, as the night before, I had really only wanted to find out what crime I had committed that had given me such a bad reputation.

But I had learned something else instead, the identity of the elf that had made love to me while I was blindfolded at that inn. The information I read in Thaladir's travel diary had been shocking at the time, but now it made me smile to think of it.

"I do remember that," I said. Thranduil did not follow up his query with any further observations, hints, clues, or possible meaning to his words. This meant that I had to figure it out by myself.

So, I thought about it. On the day that I asked him not to tell Thaladir, the king had told me that he did not need to. But when he said that, he meant something else besides it coming from my big mouth.

"Thaladir knew," I said now. "He knew that I knew it was him, who was with me, as soon as I knew it, and he ... and that means he knew that I broke into his room, too." The king nodded in reply, his face mild. Why had I not realized this before now?

"So maybe he wasn't mean to me as much as he could have been?" Even as I said it I could feel in my heart that there was more to it than that. There was suddenly a lot for me to think, and rethink, about.

Once dressed, the king was in a decidedly noticeably different mood, both cheerful and wide awake. His hair looked glossier and his face had lost the pallor of exhaustion he had when I first awoke to find him next to me. By this time, the sun had raised enough to shine down into the valley, and the balcony outside the windows was inviting.

"Do not," said Thranduil, when I strolled out to feel the sunlight and think about Thaladir, "lean or sit on that railing." In order to preserve the view, there was only a low balustrade with a flat top, about hip height for me, around the perimeter of the balcony, perfect for sitting on. It was probably made precisely to be sat on by elves, but I was not that tempted.

"The day when I fell off the bridge railing wasn't my fault," I reminded the king. "That was the only time I had fallen off of anything and I guess I will never hear the end of it. But, it was Elrohir's fault, or the noise he made when he slipped into the Enchanted River."

"The 'only' time you have fallen?"

"One of the only times," I quickly corrected myself. "But it still wasn't my fault." By now, I had gotten close enough to the barrier to see the terraced Imladris gardens that were just below us, and I saw two dark-haired elves slowly walking along on a graveled path. "It was their fault," I said, although I did not suspect they heard me.

Elladan looked up, smiled, and put his finger to his lips as if to ask me to be quiet, but his brother was peeking through a hedge and did not respond. I could see the other side of the shrubbery, from my birds-eye view, and I gasped when I realized the twins were spying on someone. It was Glorfindel and Malinorne, who were coming their way on the same path, but were not yet in view of their spies. It was an ambush.

"How come Mal's hair is all wet?" I asked Thranduil, who had joined me to stand in the sunlight. "Did Glorfindel take her swimming without me?" The king pointed out the dome-shaped outdoor bathing pavilion, which I had assumed was a greenhouse or something similar to one, sitting on one edge of the terraced grounds.

When I had visited before, the gardens were something soggy and drear that I saw from the windows, and I had been told about the bathing hut but it was raining too hard to me to feel tempted enough to go out. Today, in the sunlight, the flowers and fountains beckoned me to come down and talk a walk. Glorfindel cleverly led Mal down a different path than the one where the twins were lurking. I laughed at them and they gestured for me to come down.

"When you go back to your council," I asked Thranduil, "will you show me how to get out to the gardens?"

~ Mal ~

At some point of our increasingly fervent coupling, I had turned my head and remembered about those huge windows, and the passers-by that might see us. Glorfindel had held me tighter and whispered hoarsely: "Do not worry. They will envy me. And you." I did not need to see his face to hear the grin in that last remark. Not as humble as one might think, the gentle-elf.

Some time later we went back to the main house. On the way, he pointed out particularly beautiful parts of the garden that I hadn't seen the night before, and we made our way to the upper terrace via a system of hedges. We said farewell for now outside my door; it was a lot easier than if he had come with me inside.

I wondered about his clothes, but it turned out that somebody had been in the room while I was away. The bed was made and my dress from the previous day gone, as well as every trace of the golden-haired elf. The wardrobe held the things I'd brought from Lórien, but there were also two dresses that I hadn't seen before. By now I was used to being spoilt by the elves, but it was still a very nice gesture, and I wondered who had provided them. Elrond? Or a self-assured Glorfindel who knew beforehand that he would have reason to give me presents?

After lunch I returned to my rooms for a short rest - I had good reason to feel sleepy - and after that, took a stroll through the closest areas of the Last Homely House. My aim was the reputedly enormous library. It was not hard to find; there was a neat sign beside the door that announced in both Sindarin and Quenya that this was the Imladris collection of books. No opening hours were posted, though, which probably meant that it was available all the time. That was good to know, in case I would be alone and sleepless at some point. Not that it seemed very likely.

Cautiously I opened the door, not wanting to disturb any elves sunk deep in study, but was immediately greeted by a friendly, albeit subdued female voice. It took a while before I spotted its owner, who was busy placing books from a cart into one of the shelves that reached all the way to the domed ceiling. She told me that I was welcome to look around as much as I wanted, and read any book, except from those in Lord Elrond's private collection.

That last remark triggered my curiosity, but with the vast selection of literature available it was hard to feel shut out.

The cataloguing system the elves used were a mystery to me. Books on history seemed to be mixed with children's stories, and there were herb guides next to poems. I listed through a couple of volumes at random, all beautifully written in Tengwar lettering, and some with illustrations.

Next to the nearest window was an area with tables and comfortable-looking chairs. I decided to sit down for a while and read a few more of the spines of the books. What should I start with? I hesitated between 'On spiders' and 'Encyclopaedia Elfica', but the latter had so many volumes that even briefly listing through one of them seemed an impossible task. It had to be the spiders, then. I had just taken the book out of the shelf when I heard someone clearing his throat right beside my ear.

I spun around, prepared to see Thaladir, but found myself looking into a serious, somewhat thin, face framed by dark hair. He was dressed in a grey floor-length robe, and although the two elves were not that alike in their physical appearance, he reminded me very much of the king's seneschal. His gaze was directed toward the book I held in my hands.

"A most interesting choice," he said pensively. "But entirely logical, given the information provided." His words made me curious, but he was clearly talking to himself, more than to me, so I kept quiet and studied his face. "Yes, definitely," he said again, moving his full, sensual lips, and then nodded. Suddenly he looked up, flinching as if he had not really noticed my presence until then.

"Oh, yes, that is true, you are here for the first time. Welcome. I am Erestor." After I told him my name and said I was pleased to have found such a large, and well-kept, library, he nodded again, and then offered me his elbow. "A tour of the premises will interest you, I believe?"

I agreed, and he led me past uncountable shelves stocked with books bound in various kinds, and colours, of leather. There was also a whole wall with deep shelves filled with round cases, which each turned out to hold a neatly rolled-up scroll. The cataloguing system was based on the age of the books, counting from when they were originally written. More recent copies were kept together with the original ancient manuscripts, and so everything was easy to find, Erestor declared.

"Of course," he continued, "we are only sorting according to yéni, long-years of 144 solar rounds. Dividing time into smaller slots would be too complicated, I am afraid." Well, of course. I realized that I would have to depend solely on him, or one of his many assistants, if I wanted to find a book on a specific subject, rather than browsing randomly.

At the back of the room, there were two doors: one straight ahead of us, and a smaller one to the side. I guessed that one of them would lead to the room that held Elrond's private books, but the other?

"My office," said Erestor, opening the door. "I hope I may offer you a cup of tea?"

I agreed, and soon found myself seated in a comfortable chair opposite my host, and balancing a dainty china cup on a small saucer. The small room was very cosy, and I had an interesting conversation with the intellectual elf. I also could not help noticing that he was very attractive, in a rare, exotic way. His long slender fingers held the cup in a firm embrace, and I would have loved to stay longer than the tea lasted.

~ Mary ~

Elladan and Elrohir had waited for me to join them and then proudly gave me a tour of the beautifully manicured garden grounds that graced their home. Hedges worked as walls in some parts, to shield visitors who may want a little privacy while enjoying the day amongst the flowers, and delicately wrought iron benches were planted randomly along the paths for resting.

We ended up sitting in a gazebo to chat in its shade. As usual, lovely music drifted through the air but it seemed to blend seamlessly with the bubbling fountains and buzzing bees to make a natural symphony of sound.

The twins told me they had been in the council all night, but did not have to return today unless they chose to. And no, they were not going to tell me anything about it, the stinkers.

"Why were you two sneaking around and spying on Mal?"

"We were not sneaking and spying," said Elladan, injured.

"We were only trying to catch a glimpse of her, is all," added Elrohir with an air of disappointment.

"But we arrived too late for...," began his brother, but then he paused, and shifted his eyes at me.

"A good look at her," finished Elrohir with a grin and a wave of his hand to indicate our immediate surroundings, "out here in the sunlight."

"You were trying to see her naked in the bath," I told them. "I may be a mere mortal but I'm not always stupid."

"Do not be jealous of the lady Malinorne, darling," said Elladan, cuddling up to me with his arm over my shoulder.

"Don't call me darling," I answered.

"But, darling," said Elrohir, as he pressed against my other side and nuzzled my hair with his nose, "you are always first in our hearts."

"Stop that," I said, although not very forcefully. "I am not at all jealous but I think you two are, because Glorfindel got ahead of you in line today."

Elladan sat up straighter but kept his arm over my shoulder. Elrohir stopped nuzzling to say with a sigh, "It is the price we paid for asking to sit in with the high elves at council all night."

"The early bird catches the best peeks?"

"Something like that," replied Elladan cryptically.

Although the twins could be very naughty when they were in the mood to be, they were normally very gentlemanly and discreet, so it took a lot of prying to get any gossip out of them. I learned that Mal had not been alone all night, but they would say nothing else about what they knew or how they knew it.

As if I could not have guessed who she had been with after seeing the way she stared at Glorfindel with stars in her eyes, while they had been leaving the bathing pavilion, which was the best clue about who kept her company. And I already knew that Thaladir had not stood guard in front of her door.

I wondered if Glorfindel believed me now that Mal was not an elf with altered ears, although I never thought he was serious about that theory. He had a good excuse to find out. But thinking about him reminded me of another elf whose name began with Glor, and one that had been acting very suspiciously.

"Will you two do me a big favor and keep that...," I stopped myself before I said 'hussy' and instead said, "Glorchiniel away from my king?"

"That Glorchiniel? What are you saying, darling?" Elladan was genuinely puzzled, or acted like it good enough to fool me.

"She was up in his room last night, when Thaladir took me there, lurking around behind one of the screens. I think she was disappointed to see me come in, but I could be wrong, and stop calling me darling."

"I am sure you are wrong, darling," said Elrohir. "Would you care to go inside for lunch or should we have some sent out here for us?"

"And when you change the subject it makes me think that you are hiding something," I replied. "But I am hungry, it must be nearly noon." Just as I spoke, chimes were rung somewhere to signal lunch was being served in the main dining room.

"You have a stomach like a hobbit," said Elladan as we rose to go indoors. On the way there we met up with Glorfindel, but no Mal. The golden-maned elf joined us as we headed inside and told me that he had not seen her since he had taken her to her guest room earlier. He said her full name, Malinorne, with a different accent than I had heard it said before, and made her sound like a precious jewel.

"Now are you going to take back what you said about me lying about her?" We entered the Homely House where dozens of elves were headed to lunch. But none of the high elves that were at council were to be seen, or Thaladir.

"Perhaps I was a bit hasty in my original assumptions," Glorfindel replied with a warm smile and offered me his elbow to escort me into the dining room. The twins left us and joined a party of rangers who were already sitting. "And I regret doubting your veracity," he added. "Will you forgive me?"

"Of course," I said. "By the way, did the twins tell you yet how I got lost in the forest when we were on our way to Lórien and how I was nearly killed by spiders?"

"But my dear lady, I have not been informed of this! How dreadful! You must tell me the whole story."

"Gladly," I replied. "And I guess they didn't tell you about how they made me fall of the bridge over the Enchanted River, either, did they?"

"Did you fall into that dangerous water?" He was genuinely alarmed. I was going to have so much fun here.

~ Mary ~

I remained in the library a few more hours after Erestor had whisked me out of his cosy little office, and quickly learnt that the quiet elves working there were very happy to have guests. They would not speak much, and always in low voices, but there was always someone at hand to help me choose something to read. The chairs were comfortable, and felt even more so when raindrops began beating against the window. I was also served tea and biscuits, twice.

It was late afternoon, almost evening when I finally left. Uninvited thoughts had begun to disturb my peace and I felt an urge to see Thranduil as soon as possible. I had not even had a glimpse of him since before dinner last night. The council had reportedly lasted until the morning, and then started again at about the time I went to the bathing house. None of the participants had been present at lunch. For how long more could they stay locked up in Elrond's study?

To be entirely honest, my wish to see the king was selfish. The coming night with him would be mine, but if he had been occupied with the council instead of spending last night with Mary, then she might try to claim him tonight, even if it was my turn. At least I knew it was not beyond her to do something like that, so I wanted to get to him first. Even if the final decision would, naturally, be His Majesty's.

The council chamber was conveniently located in a corridor beyond the library, adjacent to where the lord of Imladris had his private collection of books. There was probably a door connecting the two rooms, which would also explain how Erestor, his chief counsellor if I understood things right, could have his office where it was. I imagined the exotic elf sneaking through hidden doors to secret meetings, and couldn't help letting my thoughts stray in a quite inappropriate direction.

I didn't have the guts to disturb the elf-lords by attempting to open the door, but I stood outside, listening, until I was sure they were indeed there. I could not hear what they were saying, not that it was necessary to understand that they hadn't come to a conclusion yet. And one of the agitated voices was Thranduil's. I sighed. It didn't sound like they would finish anytime soon, but I decided to wait. At least I would be the first to see him on his way out.

The entrance was located just where the corridor made a turn, and the genial architect had chosen to place an alcove there, which expanded into a roofed balcony overlooking the garden. Unfortunately, there wasn't any furniture, but the windowsills were wide enough to be quite comfortable to sit in, although my backside eventually became sore. But I was determined to wait as long as it would take.

I had almost fallen asleep by the time I finally heard a sound other than those of birds and fountains. This part of the Last Homely House seemed deserted, probably out of respect for the ongoing negotiations. But now, the silence was broken by the bang of a door thrown closed, and when I jumped down from the window I was met by one of my favourite sights; Thranduil striding purposefully towards me with his hair flying and storms in his eyes.

He took my breath away with a violent kiss, at the same time as he put his hands around my waist and lifted me up into the window again, with ease as if I had been as light as a feather. I buried my hands in his hair, and he busied his under my skirt. We didn't stop kissing until he was deep inside me, rocking me hard against the stony surface of the windowsill. I couldn't care less about my behind, or potential onlookers.

~ Mary ~

"They would have had to have been unusually large squirrels," Glorfindel was explaining to me, we were sitting by the large windows at one end of the Great Hall of Fire and watching the rain fall. "Very large," he said, "to be able to raise the infant Malinorne while living up in a tree and keep her from falling off." Even though he used a sober and concerned tone, his eyes were twinkling with mischief and he was trying to keep his face serious.

"Very large, exceptionally large squirrels," I had agreed, but that was as far as I got when we were interrupted by a husky male voice.

"I would not be surprised if you were referring to the lands of Ithilien; the squirrels grow very large there." The stranger who spoke held his arms apart a few feet to show me. "Large and black they are." It was a ranger, who suddenly stood beside me after approaching as silently as an elf. The twins were behind him and Elladan spoke first.

"Have you met our good friend Anborn?"

"We met him while fighting the Dark Lord alongside the other worthy soldiers of Gondor," added Elrohir. "He served with Prince Faramir, who was then a Captain of Gondor, when Frodo and Sam were traveling through Ithilien."

"I know Faramir was a Captain, then," I said to the twin, did he think I was stupid? "How nice to meet you, Anborn. You are far from your home, too, like me."

"It is indeed an honor to meet you, my lady," he said. "And yes, I have traveled far to visit the enchanted valley of Imladris. Now that the roads are safe to travel it has been my mission to visit as many different realms inhabited by the Fair Folk as possible before they all travel away to the west."

Anborn smiled into my eyes when he took my offered hand into his, bowed, and brought it to his lips. Despite his courteous ways and intriguing origins, I almost expected him to bite me from the wild look of him. I had forgotten how hairy men's faces were, even when they shaved. His shaggy dark hair was clean, however, and he had a short, trim beard that gave him a devilish air. I liked him immediately.

Normally, after living with elves, I find it difficult to consider a mortal man's face and not find something about it that bothers me. Either their features are too large and coarse, or their skin is dirty-looking and blemished, or their noses are just too small and pudgy. Most of the rangers who visited the Homely House were from the North, and never looked very well-kempt or cheerful, although I had no complaints about their noses.

But this Ithilien ranger Anborn was an exception and was very handsome in a dashing sort of way with even, white teeth that seemed to flash when he spoke, probably because his skin was so tanned from the sun's exposure, which is another human trait that the fair skinned elves do not share. He sat with us and the twins vanished.

"I was telling Glorfindel about how my friend Mal was raised, I mean reportedly, um, rumored," I nodded to the elf beside me deferentially, he had made me admit earlier that I had no verifiable sources for my story, and then I continued, "to have been raised by squirrels when she was just a little baby. Do you think that could happen?"

"Most certainly," said the ranger, and he was not humoring me, he meant it. "I have heard stranger tales than that about black squirrels in Ithilien, and of the many diverse creatures spawned during the dark times."

"We have a lot of black squirrels where I come from, too," I bragged. "But they are normal sized, mostly, I think. I hope."

Anborn's eyes were brown and kind. Within them I saw none of the depth of wisdom that was always present in even the youngest elf's eyes but I was charmed anyway. He glanced around the room and then turned back to me. "Is your friend here? I would like to meet her and ask her about..."

"Oh, no! You mustn't!" I stopped him before he could even say it. "She doesn't know... uh, I mean, she doesn't like to talk about the squirrels. It makes her, um, revert to her childhood and all of the trauma, and, well, take it from me, it is not a pretty sight." Now I looked around the room to make sure Mal was not there, too.

I had seen her briefly at lunch, and had wanted to talk to her about Glorfindel, and maybe even Thaladir, but we were surrounded in the crowded dining room at the time. Afterwards, she had disappeared and I had set out to find her, but ended up going to my room to take a nap instead. The elves in the Last Homely House were still avoiding me, except for Glorfindel and the twins, and I wondered now if she was having a similar experience, had just given up, and was staying in her room. I did not need the competition with this cute ranger.

"Then I will resist the urge to question your friend, if ever we meet," said Anborn. He seemed a bit wistful, however, and he sounded disappointed over being denied the opportunity to learn more about the squirrel-girl. "I would never dream of offending a lady," he added proudly. "No matter how curious I might be about her interesting origins."

"Oh? Well you can offend me, if you want to," I told him. "I have nothing to hide and my origins are much more interesting than Mal's are." At this point, Glorfindel rose and quietly excused himself. I barely noticed. After I made sure that there were no elves nearby, I beckoned Anborn to lean closer to me and then whispered in his ear "Did you know that I was raised by wolves?"

A/N: In the second book of The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, Anborn appears as a ranger of Ithilien under the command of Faramir, Son of Denethor. During the War of the Ring, he spotted Gollum in the forest of Ithilien, and at first, thought it was just a black squirrel from Mirkwood. He didn't slay him, because Faramir would not have his rangers kill wild beasts without reason.

To be continued...

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Chapter posted: November 2, 2005

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