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Mirkwood and beyond

Chapter 3 / ?
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: Thranduil takes Mal to the top of the Mirkwood hill for some star-gazing and Mary explores the lowest depths of the cavernous realm with some handsome elves to keep her company.
Feedback: Not required but always appreciated! Write to: thaladir@yahoo.com

~ Mary ~

While on my way to my bedchamber, alone, I was accosted in a corridor by Elladan and Elrohir, who claimed to be bored. With all of the ellith in the halls at their beck and call, I could not see how this could be possible.

Only the icy-hearted Helca did not melt at the sight of the dashingly handsome Imladris twins, but she was more suspicious about the presence of strangers in the halls of Mirkwood than even Thranduil was. They were lucky if she even deigned to sneer in their direction as acknowledgement of their existence.

Miriel told me that shortly after the royal traveling party had returned and learned that a dwarf had been loose in the halls, Helca had ordered an inventory of the treasure room and had been personally counting every coin in the treasure chests. A sight I would have liked to have seen, but not because I had any interest in the king's wealth.

It had made me a little sad that Gimli had gone on to Dale to visit his ailing father, but I could see how if he had stayed any longer than he did, there may have been a rebellion in the halls. No matter that he was such a close friend of Legolas'; the elves of Mirkwood did not feel kindly toward him.

But I thought it was a real shame that the dwarf had never gotten a chance to see the famous dungeon cells where his father, Gloin, had been held prisoner. I had tried to show them to him, while the seneschal was still out on the road, but had made the mistake of allowing the twins to tag along, which had caused a change of plans when they were distracted by Thranduil's wine assortment in the cellar.

After having spent the day outdoors with the king in his forest, it was not so hard to watch Thranduil and Mal leave together after dinner, on their way to bed. All during the meal, I had felt so good that I barely noticed Thaladir either. He dutifully followed behind the king and the concubine, which meant I could finally relax.

Before I would agree to eat in the formal dining room with his guests, the king had to promise that he would not make me sit next to the grouchy old elf at the table. In return, I had to promise that I would refrain from behaving openly hostile to the seneschal's very presence in the dining room. Neither would I bait him.

The king turned down my initial request, which was to banish the seneschal from my sight forever. I knew it was unreasonable, but at least in the end I would not have to sit next to him.

I ended up next to Haldir, and Mal had to have Thaladir sit next to her. That was fine with me, as they were more compatible, and he approved of everything she ever did. So they were probably very happy sitting next to each other, and why should I care?

However, despite the fact that I had abandoned my admittedly half-hearted and inconsistent efforts to win the seneschal's approval, I did not feel compelled to abandon the etiquette I had learned from him in front of the guest elves. If anything, I watched my own table manners more carefully than Thaladir ever had, just to make sure I did not draw his attention to me for any reason.

It had been nice with the March Warden beside me because I had a few questions for him about the invitation that Lord Celeborn had extended toward Thranduil.

"If the king accepts and lets his concubine and me come with him," I had asked, "will we have to sleep in one of those funny little tree houses? Without any furniture? Like a bed?" The handsome elf of the Galadhrim smiled warmly at me, perhaps in remembrance of the last time I had been in Lorien, alone with him.

"How would you know about that?" Mal had asked. Personally, I thought she should have been paying more attention to His Majesty and the seneschal, rather than my conversation with Haldir. But I reminded her that I had spent some time in the Golden Wood, and had slept there, in a flet, in a mallorn tree, and some details about it did stick in my mind.

I am pretty sure Mal was sorry she asked me by the time I got to the part about how beautiful the stars look overhead when they peek through the mallorn leaves, over the shoulder of a handsome elf. Beside me, Haldir could barely control his smirk, but he did keep his attention respectfully focused on his meal while at Thranduil's table.

The king turned to me with a raised eyebrow and I took the hint and wrapped up my comments by concluding that all I meant to say was that it was nice to see the night sky once in a while, or the day sky, too. And to see either with an elf beside me made them that much better.

"Indeed," agreed Thranduil, "the moon and the stars are a most delightful indulgence with the right company." But he had turned to his concubine as he said it. I think he may have even slipped his hand under the table to indulge himself with her company right then and there. At least Mal did not try to butt into my conversation with Haldir again.

Elladan and Elrohir had been quiet all through dinner, which was not a surprise considering that every time they lifted their eyes from their plates they were delivered withering glares from Thaladir, who nearly dared them to misbehave while he was watching them. It was helpful having them there to draw his attention.

But I was not so happy to see the two of them outside of the corridor that led to my private chambers. They knew better than to come to my room, as my door guards had been given permission to manhandle them should they ever dare.

"Remember the night you were going to show us the dungeon cells?" asked Elladan after they both proclaimed a need for something to amuse themselves with.

"If we promise not to kidnap you and jump in the river, can we try that again?" added Elrohir.

~ Mal ~

The moon was low, hanging like a pale-glowing round cheese speared on the sharp tops of the fir trees, and its gentler light mingled with the cold brightness of the stars. For a moment I was blinded by the sudden change from the torch-lit stairs I had climbed for an eternity, and stood blinking at the night.

When my eyes adapted to the darkness outside, I could see a little more of the surroundings. This entrance to the Elvenking's hall opened on the side of the hill, close to the top, but not quite on it. A cleared, slightly sloping, area was laid out before us, but there were plenty of trees on either side of the gates, and also groups of large rocks that ensured that the way in was well camouflaged.

Despite the wood-elves' love for all forms of merry-making and pleasure, of which star-gazing was no doubt a part, I could not believe that this side entrance served only the purpose of allowing easy access to nightly drinking parties under the open sky. I imagined it also functioning as an emergency exit, in the event the elves inside the hill would ever need to escape their fortress. The surrounding vegetation would hide them well, even from attackers in the air.

I shuddered at the thought of what such creatures must be in this world... dragons, no doubt, and the horrendous steeds of wraiths. Those were no more, but in my mind I could see elves running in terror from Smaug's blazing fire. Until I was suddenly aware of Thranduil's presence by my side, and my imaginary elves stood their ground, quenching the dragon's flames in a rain of arrows, and cheering as it withdrew in a hampered, lopsided flight.

"Tonight is not for thoughts of battle." The Elvenking's voice took me back to reality, and I shivered again, but in anticipation of what he had brought me here for.

Deftly he removed his cloak and draped it around my shoulders instead. The garment was heavy in a pleasant way that made it feel almost alive, and the king's familiar smell mingled with the damp freshness of the night. I clung to him, and he hugged me for a moment before taking some quick strides out into the twilight. I followed him as fast as I could, and managed not to get trapped in the long cloak as I crossed the uneven surface.

For a moment I lost sight of Thranduil, but just as I was going to call for him, he appeared from behind a rock, took my hand and led me to the other side of the stone. With pride in his voice, he threw out his arm in a sweeping motion, presenting the nightly landscape to my eyes.

"Behold!" He lifted his head towards the sky, and when I looked the way he had indicated, he slipped behind me and encircled my waist. We stood still for a while, admiring the starry sky, and when he spoke next, it was with awe.

"The jewels of Elbereth, and Tilion aloft in their midst..."

It was glorious, I think, the full moon shining bright, and still not intimidating the stars. But even more glorious was the Elvenking, his glittering ring on the hand that now suddenly moved over my chest and his royal sceptre pressing into the small of my back. I could not possibly concentrate on the night sky while he was doing that.

"I see. Your mortal flesh clouds your mind."

"It is a weakness," I admitted.

"But one I am willing to accept." He chuckled and then became serious, speaking quietly and stilling his hand. "What appears to be weakness is not necessarily so." I bet he wasn't talking about mortals with no control over their lusts when he said that, but he didn't elaborate further, with was fine with me. I pushed back at him slightly, as if he had needed more evidence of my way of thought.

"You need to learn to be still." He tapped his ring finger slowly at my chest, as if contemplating a future lesson. "But this is not the time for it, so I shall have to employ other measures to gain your attention."

That was more to my liking. As fast as I could with his hand still underneath the cloak, I turned around and pressed my mouth against his. He responded violently, thrusting his tongue between my lips and moving his hands to my buttocks. It seemed like he was serious at last and would not make me wait much longer. When he let go of me, I backed down and looked at him expectantly. Could we perhaps get rid of some clothes now?

"This needs to be removed," he said, unclasping the cloak from my neck. "You will not be cold?" His smirk told me he knew very well that there would be no immediate risk of freezing and I enthusiastically shook my head, giggling. The cloak was thrown aside and hung partly from the tip of a rock. The fine garment might get crumpled, or torn, but I couldn't care less.

He seemed to contemplate my dress a bit longer, before deciding that it needed to go too. I kicked off my shoes and hoped he'd go for my underpants at once. But no. Apparently the cause for getting rid of the dress was so that he could better fondle my breasts. I kissed him again, but now he tormented my nipples by just brushing his thumbs against them and then denying further contact. When I broke the kiss, he laughed.

"More?" he asked, as if there had been any question about that. "Undress me then."

He sat on a boulder and I crouched down, removing his boots as fast as I could with his hands distracting me. Then I aimed for his pants, but he caught my wrists before I could deliver more than a tentative grope at the treasures within. Still grinning, he loosened his grip and rose.

I stood too, and gestured impatiently at the rest of his clothes. "Take them off quickly, or I will be cold," I threatened.

"You will not," he growled, freeing himself from his tunic before he pounced on me with one hand at the lacing of his pants.

Before I hit the ground, he caught me and turned me around, so that I landed relatively gently, on my hands and knees. His strong arms at my sides held me in place while he pressed his hardness, still trapped, against my bottom, thus shoving the garment off.

Then he sat back, letting one hand travel over my backside and down, between my thighs, but I was already burning so hot that not even his skilful fingertips could make my flames grow higher. I wanted more, this instant, and he heard me. Finally feeling his flesh against mine, I lowered my chest, spreading my knees further apart. As if he needed more invitation.

I was instantly rewarded by his hard shaft sliding home. Again. And again. It was not love, but pure desire. Nothing more than fervent desperation, the sating of an urgent physical need. And it was wonderful. I cried out my ecstasy to the night, accompanying the slapping sound of thigh against thigh, and then the king joined in with his deeper voice. Our moans and groans must have scared every living creature within miles.

This wild, cacophonic concert could have gone on forever. I was lost in desire, drowning in rolling waves of pleasure, each one seeming stronger than the previous one. Until the magic Thranduil was making with his royal sceptre was joined by that of his hand. I felt a maddening pressure against my core, something harder than his finger, and the feeling it created was so intense I couldn't take it for more than seconds.

I collapsed onto the grass, trapping that thing beneath me, urgently grinding against it in an erratic rhythm that the king matched with ease, stroke after stroke. I exploded – and everything became still.

And then I heard the thumping of a heart. His, no mine, no, his after all. I don't know how it happened, but now I lay with my head on his chest, just listening to the relative silence, which was nearly deafening compared with the urgent vocalisations just minutes before.

It was bliss, and I felt happy, but also a bit silly. Obviously I had been wrong fearing Thranduil would never perform the dreaded, and much longed for, ring trick again.

~ Mary ~

At first, I did not take the twins' request to search for the dungeon area seriously. It was hard to believe that they would be interested in seeing the reportedly small, damp little cells with their barred doors. Neither one of them enjoyed being underground at all, as far as I could tell, so I was pretty sure that they were up to some mischief.

But I was not worried about being alone with them. No matter how busy Thranduil was with Mal, he would know if I was in trouble. And a little exploring into the history of Mirkwood might prove interesting, if not informative.

Most of what the three of us knew about the imprisonment of Gimli's father, and the other dwarves, was from secondhand information, the stuff of legends. For me it seemed possible that in the telling and retelling of that whole dreadful situation, the smallness and meanness of the prison cells may have been exaggerated. It was hard for me to believe that elves would be cruel, even to dwarves, and make them live in harsh conditions.

But, although I was more than willing to give the king the benefit of the doubt in the whole affair; I was still curious to know the truth. I agreed to go down into the bowels of Mirkwood and look again, and had each of the twins grab a torch and follow me.

"You are sure now, that you know the way there?" asked Elladan.

"Of course I do!" I lied.

"You are not lying to us, are you?" asked Elrohir.

"Of course not!" I lied again.

We had to backtrack in order to find a corridor to use that would avoid detection from any of the door sentries, who might rat on us to Thaladir. Not that we were doing anything wrong, yet. Walking up and down the stairs of the underground caves was not forbidden, as long as proper intentions were stated to the proper authorities beforehand. We just bypassed the middle-men.

However, not going to my room meant I did not have a chance to put my leggings on. I do not like going down the steep stone stairways with a gown on, but with an elf in front and behind, I felt fairly safe. If I tripped, one of them would catch me.

And with them carrying the torches, I could use one hand to hold my skirt and keep the other hand on the staircase banister, placed there just for Mal and me. I smiled as I let my hand slide down its polished surface, remembering the day it had been installed. Thaladir had been upset at first, mostly by the noise and the mess of the construction, but he had to agree that safety first was a good rule in the halls of Mirkwood, at least for us two mortals.

The poor king had been assaulted one too many times by a mental image of either one of us splattered on a stone landing. A picture both Mal and I sent him every time we had to go up or down the steep stairways. The nimble elves may have no trouble moving easily up and down them, but their unforgiving stone surfaces scared us. I wanted them carpeted too, so I could go barefoot, but the seneschal vetoed that idea as both unseemly and unhygienic.

The last time the twins and I had searched for the legendary dungeons, while Gimli was with us, we had not made it past Thranduil's wine room. This time the twins shuddered slightly at the sight of the wine cellar's door and happily passed it by.

As we tromped over the trap door that led to the underground river, through which they had promised, or threatened, to rescue me the last time we were there, I could not help but tease them about the difficulty they had with getting it to open.

At the time, his mind addled by Thranduil's private wine reserve, Elladan had stood on top of it while trying to pull it open. His even less sober twin had stood right next to him and cheered him on, but to no avail. They both preferred that I not mention any more about it.

But after we passed the trapdoor, my knowledge of the cellars was done and I was lost. For a while the three of us wandered down dead ends that led into warehouse-sized storage rooms, containing barrels, crates, and bushel baskets full of food or other mysterious items purchased from the Laketown merchants or imported from further south. I had to slap hands a few times to keep the twins out of the more intriguingly labeled containers.

We should have brought a Mirkwood elf with us.

"Are you sure that you know where the dungeons are?" asked the twins, in unison, with smug grins on both of their faces, as if they knew something that I did not know. "Because we do not think that you do."

"Well," I replied, "I am not exactly sure, but they have to be down here somewhere..."

"Yes," said Elladan, "you are correct, they are down here somewhere. Only I think we have taken a wrong turn at some point. What say you, brother?"

"I say this," said Elrohir after he handed his torch to his twin, pulled a piece of parchment out from inside of his tunic, and unfolded it. "That we are about as far from the dungeons as we can be." He held the paper in front of my eyes and cackled merrily at the look on my face.

Only the fact that I had nothing besides my fist to slug them with kept me from trying to hurt them for letting me lead them on this wild goose chase, when they knew where the prison area was all along. They had a map.

"We were going to rescue you from here, remember?" Elladan reminded me. "We were very prepared." They were very proud of themselves too, to have been so clever as to have consulted maps to every square inch of the Mirkwood halls that they could find. This particular one, which depicted most of the lowest level, was drawn by Bilbo during his stay in Rivendell after he had returned from his adventure with Smaug and the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain.

The map was highly detailed and once we were headed in the right direction, it was quite easy to follow. Neither twin brought up the fact that I might have fibbed a little about knowing my way around the cellars, which I appreciated.

~ Mal ~

Afterwards, Thranduil spread the cloak on the grass and sent me off to clean myself, pointing to a boggy area that he meant would hold some water. He had some business of his own, because when I turned back to look at him a last time, he wasn't there. Not that I could see much of the cloak either, but I think I did look in the right direction.

The moist moss turned out to be excellent for wiping off a certain stickiness, and when I came back and sat in the middle of the cloak, I felt like a newly-hatched butterfly perched on rose petals. It probably looked rather silly, but it was dark, and I was with an elf, and I didn't care.

A clinking sound announced Thranduil's return. In one hand he carried a small casket, whose metal bands had made the sound when touching against two goblets. In the other he held a small covered basket that looked very interesting, and when he put it down I felt the most delicious smell coming from it. I suddenly realised that I was very hungry.

The king sat on a low rock and proceeded to pour wine into the goblets. I scooted up to him, took my wine and, after a nod from him, pulled the cloth from the basket. There were fruits, and soft buns with a filling of nuts and honey, and small biscuits.

For a long while I just sat munching on the delicacies. Thranduil mostly kept to the wine, filling his goblet considerably more times than mine, but though he ate little himself, he seemed to enjoy feeding me. He was particularly amused with how I chewed delicately on the grapes he plopped into my mouth, and almost looked a little disappointed when I declared that I couldn't take a single one more.

"Will the king's concubine watch the stars with him now?"

"Of course, Your Majesty."

I felt a little guilty, realising that my mortal appetites had kept him from his star-gazing, but now I could imagine nothing better than relaxing with the half-clad Elvenking. He put aside the food and drink, and I gathered the cloak around me, so that he could lie down on the grass.

I settled comfortably with my head on his shoulder and his arm encircling me and making sure I stayed wrapped inside the cloak. With his right hand he pointed out the constellations to me.

"Menelvagor, the swordsman of the sky," he said, showing me the outline of a mighty warrior with both sword and bow in his hands. It was so typical for him to begin with something fierce like that, but he knew more peaceful stories too, like the one about Remmirath, the many jewels.

The constellation he referred to as "Cerch-i-Mbelain", the sickle of the Valar, looked exactly like the Big Dipper, and it was nice to see something familiar. "I Alph", the Swan, reminded me again of the violent early history of the elves, and how they crossed the sea from Valinor. This brought my thoughts to the most famous seafarer.

"Which one is Eärendil with the Silmaril?"

"So you have heard that tale."

He would not elaborate further on what he saw as evidence of the weakness of the race of men, but I had been fascinated with Eärendil's fate ever since I first read about the drowning of Numenor, and how the faithful were saved, and Elrond's mortal father was eventually set upon the sky with a Silmaril at his brow to light the way for sailors of later ages.

I suddenly wished I would one day stand upon the coast of Middle-Earth, watching that same sea that had shaped the landscape and had such an impact on the lives of both elves and men. But I did not think Thranduil would ever take me there. He was firmly rooted in his realm, and though I was confident he did not feel the calling of the sea, he appeared ambiguous to it.

"The sea," he said pensively, "is a blessing and a curse. But I have chosen, and been chosen, and I will keep what is mine."

At that, he suddenly leaned over to kiss me, with a fervour that efficiently cleared my mind of any old legends. After that, we just lay there, looking at the night sky, and I think I may have felt for a moment a little bit of that awe and unity with nature that seem to run in the very veins of the elves.

~ Mary ~

"But why would Bilbo draw such a map?" I asked.

"Ada asked him to do so, after he had returned from the Lonely Mountain and had told us all about the dungeons and the dwarves," answered Elladan.

"There was a formal inquiry into the matter, at the time," Elrohir added. "The dwarves were under our father's protection, which should have counted for something."

"But Thranduil was within his rights to toss them all in his dungeons, after all," sighed Elladan, as if he was disappointed that no real crime could be pinned on the king. Not that there would have been any way to punish him, but stories such as Bilbo's could not remain ignored or uninvestigated.

I had the feeling that Lord Elrond was hoping to have found something, if for no better reason than to have something to hold over Thranduil's head. It seemed that the immortal Elflords had nothing better to do with their unlimited time than to irk each other and were constantly looking for reasons to do just that.

We finally reached the dungeons and I was not surprised to find the corridors were just as well-lit and airy as the upper halls. But when we opened the first door we found, I was stunned. Not only were the stories of the harsh conditions of the dwarves' imprisonment exaggerated, they were so far off as to be laughable.

The coziness of the little room rivaled those at the inn that the royal traveling party had stayed in beside the Long Lake, when we had all gone to the wedding in Dale. Maybe this was even cozier. It was not as well-appointed as my bedchamber above, but it was not that bad.

There was a nice bed, made up with fresh linens, soft blankets, and fluffy pillows. Beside it was a table with chairs. On top of the table were lit candles, a jug, and a covered tray. The flagstone floor had a rug and there were no bars on the admittedly thick doors. It did not resemble a prison-cell to me.

"I knew they were making it all up," I said as I sat on the bed and bounced a few times on the springy mattress. "This isn't horrible at all."

"How would you like to be shut up in here, all alone?" asked Elrohir, who wrinkled his nose in disgust at the very idea. Elves hate to be shut up inside anywhere.

"With no one to talk to, and no way out?" His brother added while he looked up at the low ceiling and shuddered.

"That is pretty much how it is for me right now," I replied. "At least on the nights when it's Mal's turn with the king." I sighed. "The door guards are instructed not to let anyone in to my room, and to follow after me if I try to leave." This was actually more for my own protection than an effort to imprison me, but still.

"Then you would not mind if we..." began Elladan."...shut you up in here, would you?" finished Elrohir. They were too quick for me. Before I could react they had leapt out into the corridor and slammed the door shut behind them.

"Very funny, the king knows right where I am!" I hollered while I pounded on the hard wooden door. "And he is not going to like it if he has to get out of his royal bed to send someone down here to rescue me, either!" For a few moments I waited, and expected to hear them laughing themselves silly on the other side of the door. But there was nothing but silence.

"Let me out of here!" I shouted one more time while beating on the door with both of my fists. It swung open and I would have fallen flat on my face if my rescuer had not been there to catch me.

"The door was unlocked," said Haldir. "Why all the fuss?" It was nice being held by him, and I breathed in his delicious scent for a moment before backing out of his arms.

"What are you doing here?" I asked, and noticed immediately that neither twin was in sight down the rest of the long corridor. The March Warden placed a hand on his chest.

"I have come to rescue you, my lady, from the dungeons of Mirkwood." He pressed forward while he spoke, so that I had to back up into the cell. "Does that not earn me a reward?"

"What kind of reward?"

"Let me ponder on that for a moment," Haldir replied as he sat on one of the chairs at the table. "The going rate for dungeon rescues has just been readjusted recently. We may have to dicker." While he answered, he lifted the cover on the tray to reveal drinking bowls and a plate of delicious looking after-dinner dainties for us to nibble on. The jug had wine in it, which he poured into the bowls for both of us.

"Why do I have the feeling that this so-called rescue is a set-up?" I asked while I sat in the other chair and sipped at the delicious wine.

"Because it is," replied the handsome Lorien elf. "So, why not just enjoy it?" He held up his bowl to me and I tapped mine against it. I could feel the king inside of my mind, giving me his wholehearted approval. The ultimate voyeur.

"Did Thranduil have anything to do with this?" But Haldir just smiled at me enigmatically in reply. And when the heat generated inside of me from his steady gaze reached my toes, I decided that I did not care who planned this. I was going to enjoy it.

~ Mal ~

"A true wonder," Thanduil said after a long period of silence, and though he was no longer pointing at stars, but casually caressing as much of me as he could reach under the cloak, which was quite a lot, he kept his gaze locked to the sky. I suspected he could go on doing that for hours, staring at stars and not even noticing how I grew more and more bothered. I suddenly felt trapped in the garment that didn't allow me movement enough to touch anything more than his arm.

"I'm tired of stars," I said, pouting a little. "I would rather watch you now."

Awkwardly, I moved to a half-sitting position, raised on my elbow. I leaned over his face and saw him lift an eyebrow, just seconds before he moved fast as lightening, gripping my waist and seating me across his abdomen. He grinned at my obvious astonishment.

"Apparently, the situation can be arranged to accommodate both our wishes." I seem never to learn that kings nearly always can do what they want, and as soon as they decide that they want it.

I experienced a sudden cold gush of air against my now exposed back, but it still felt wonderful to be out of that cloak. It felt even better to be warmed from underneath, and the king amiably made sure I would become even hotter. He pinched my nipples playfully, in a teasing way that made me giggle.

We kissed and played some more, and then he was suddenly without his pants. Smirking, he lifted an eyebrow and I backed down a little, and then a little more, until I felt something very warm between my thighs. Tentatively I moved back and forth, gliding over the king's royal sceptre, all the time keeping my gaze locked with his. The grinning, glittery-eyed Elvenking was a so much more glorious sight than his old constellations.

And more fun too, I thought when he suddenly lifted his head to suckle a nipple into his mouth. He made me moan out loud again, and the next time I sat back, there was no more teasing. I willingly took him in and I enjoyed every moment of my ride under the stars.

Then there was more wine and I felt more and more drowsy. I wondered if Thranduil meant to stay outside the whole night. A lonely bird called out, possibly the merilin Ithilwen and Miriel had mentioned the other day, and then there was another sound that made me wide awake. I looked at the king to see if he had also heard the familiar throat-clearing, or if I had just dreamt it.

But I had not. He shook his head, smiling, and reached for his pants. I watched him as he dressed and thought it a pity to see all that creamy skin be engulfed in the dull grey of his clothes. For a moment, as the moon clouded over and he bent over to put on his boots, all I could discern in the darkness was strands of pale hair.

I had drawn the cloak tighter around myself at the suspicious sound, and now the king lifted me into his arms after carefully having made sure that nothing more unseemly than a toe would be showing. I decided not to remind him about my dress and panties, although I did not look forward to having to climb all those stairs again to retrieve them.

"Sadron nín," the whispered quietly to himself as he began walking towards the gates, and then added, to me, "Someone insisted on making sure this indulgence of mine would bear no threat to your health."

I could not look at the most proper of all elves as we passed him. What if he had been up here with us the whole time? I groaned and hid my face against the Elvenking's chest when Thaladir spoke.

"Le dhaw vaer, aran nín." [Good night to you, my king.]

"A le, mellon nín." [And to you, my friend.]

To be continued...

A/N: Bog moss (Sphagnum) is known for its absorption and antiseptic qualities, and has been used by e.g. the Scandinavian Lapps for dressing of wounds and as bedding in cradles.

Menelvagor, Cerch-i-Mbelain and Remmirath are constellations named in Sindarin by Tolkien. Menelvagor is Orion, Cerch-i-Mbelain the Great Bear, and Remmirath ("many jewels") is thought to refer to the Pleiades. Eärendil is the Quenya name for the planet Venus, so having it represent the North Star is poetic licence.

After the Darkening of Valinor, the maia Tilion was chosen by the Valar to become the pilot of the Moon.

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Chapter posted: November 30, 2004

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