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Mirkwood and beyond

Chapter 5 / ?
Authors: Mary A and Malinornë
Pairings: Mainly Thranduil/OFCs
Warnings: Adult sexual situations/ naughty desk behavior / 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: Mary and Haldir end up in a tree, Mal ends up on a desk, but they both start out by enjoying a nice summer day in the Mirkwood forest with some lovely elves.
Feedback: Not required but always appreciated! Write to: thaladir@yahoo.com

~ Mary ~

I felt grateful for Haldir's patient ear as soon as I started telling him about my night at the inn beside the Long Lake with Thaladir and the blindfold. It felt good to finally be able to talk to someone about it, as I had not had the chance to mention any of it to anyone else.

Except for the king, but he was not an easy person to have a conversation with. If I was alone with him, and there was any privacy, I had other things on my mind rather than talking about the seneschal. If I could even remember the existence of the seneschal when I was alone with Thranduil, I would just as quickly dismiss him from my mind.

And there was not anyone else who I wanted to tell besides Mal. What with all the unexpected guests in the Mirkwood halls to divert our attention, I had not been alone with her since we had come home from Dale. I was curious as to what her reaction to Thaladir's bedroom behavior would be, if I could get her to listen to me, and believe me.

But the Lórien elf was a much better confidante from the very start, as he did not doubt a single word I said, or did not act as though he did. At least he did not look at me with rolling eyes or grimaces of disapproval.

He took it all in very calmly, and did not stop me to ask even one annoying question. If he let any facial expression slip out from his normally controlled state, it was into one of amusement rather than disbelief. Especially when I explained how I had described Thaladir in great detail to my mystery elf, not realizing who I was talking to.

When I was done with my tale, I felt as if I had shed an outer layer of skin which had been binding me up until then. I had left nothing out of the sequence of events, well, nothing important anyway, and had finished with my state of mind in the throne room. My dazed appearance had to do with how much I had wanted to avoid the seneschal, and that had not changed much, no matter how good it was to get the story off my chest.

"If I understand your complaint," Haldir said, "you were upset to learn that the identity you had chosen for your mystery lover was a mistake. The actual encounter was satisfactory."

"That is one way of looking at it," I had to admit. "I suppose."

"It was not satisfactory?"

"It was very satisfactory, Haldir," I acknowledged, "as long as I thought it was a stranger."

"From what little I know about His Excellency, I would say that Lord Thaladir is an elf of impeccable character and bloodline. Indeed he is reported to be kin to Elu Thingol, the mightiest king of the Teleri. Are you sure you could have done better in bed with a wandering, homeless minstrel?"

"The mightiest king of the Teleri? Ha! And why should I care about them?" I asked, unimpressed, and not sure what Teleri meant exactly. "Thranduil is the mightiest king of the rest of the elves, everyone knows that." I looked Haldir in the eye and almost dared him to contradict me.

"Thranduil is indeed mighty, my lady," answered the diplomatic elf, a bit stiffly.

"But that minstrel I told you about, the Swan? He could sing, Haldir, like a beautiful nightingale, only with a much deeper voice." I sighed. And he had those unusual eyes, too, so unlike a normal wood-elf, which I assumed he must have been. They were a brilliant blue and were deep with uncommon wisdom.

Haldir claimed that the Birds of a Feather were legendary in Lórien, but had never performed there, at least not under that stage name. There were rumored to be four or five of them in total, with perhaps a half-elf along, that is, when they managed to get themselves all together in one place for any length of time.

But they mostly played, according to rumor, in inns or pubs around the Long Lake, and that was not a region for an elf of the Galadhrim to travel or linger about in.

"They are a mystery, indeed," said Haldir, confirming my own ideas about the masked singers. "I would be interested in hearing them perform, that would be a rare treat on our side of the river."

"I wanted Thranduil to invite them here to Mirkwood, but he says they don't play on command or by request, have you ever heard of anything so absurd?"

"On the contrary, it sounds quite typical for an elf to sing for his own pleasure first, and only next would he consider sharing his voice for the amusement of an audience. And even then, it would be for love of the song, and not love of the applause."

"Or the coins in the hat?"

"Only the coins that could be spent to quench a thirsty voice," replied the wise March Warden. "The rest were probably turned over to the innkeeper." That was a noble sentiment, but I doubted it. Even elves had to eat.

"I think Thranduil doesn't want the competition," I told Haldir. "He is just being stubborn about asking them to come and sing here. Of course, he does have a full house right now, but what better time for some outside entertainment?"

I had a feeling that if I had asked the king to invite the scantily clad dancing girls to Mirkwood, he would have figured out a way to do it.

Only it would have been over Thaladir's dead body.

~ Mal ~

After the seneschal summarily shooed us out of the king's study, the Imladris twins and I decided to leave the Mirkwood halls altogether. Outside, we would have a much better chance to continue our conversation undisturbed, as there was no telling where next Thaladir might go in his seemingly endless inspections of everything that happened in the palace, anywhere.

My own room didn't seem like an option, not that I thought the elf would go there, but I decided it would look too much like an invitation to Elladan and Elrohir. Especially as I had only two chairs, so someone would have to sit on the bed. Which would be too straightforward. Nearly unseemly. And definitely tempting.

As we crossed the inner courtyard, the magical gates swung open as usual, effortlessly and without a sound. They never ceased to amaze me, no matter how many times I passed through them. Apparently I wasn't the only one, as Elrohir found fit to go back inside after they closed behind us, and then out again, and back in a second time. He would have done it a third time, if his brother hadn't stopped him.

"Are you mad?" he hissed. "What if the gates are connected to a bell somewhere, and he knows exactly what you did?" Elrohir just shrugged, but after Elladan gave him a stern glance that was a good imitation of a certain seneschal, he agreed that it perhaps was unwise to play at this particular time and place.

It was a nice and sunny day, and we crossed the bridge and sat down on the other side of the river that divided the palace grounds from the surrounding forest. There was a constant rustle of leaves behind us, a twittering of birds and an occasional creaking sound of a branch moving in the breeze, but it was not unnerving. And as we were facing the hill, we had an excellent view of the gates, and could immediately detect anyone who would pass through them, as Elladan explained.

He could just as well have said that he wanted to make sure Thaladir couldn't sneak up on us again, because that was clearly what he meant. The elves that had passed while we sat there had not attracted his attention.

"He's even worse than Erestor," said Elrohir, thereby confirming my suspicions. "Could you even imagine what a horror it was when both of them were at the Last Homely House at the same time?"

"Thaladir visited you?" I asked, surprised.

"Oh yes, much too often," Elladan replied gloomily. "It nearly took all the fun out of seeing Legolas."

"We suffered," added his brother, with a sad puppy glance that just compelled me to tousle his hair, a little.

"Suffered greatly," said Elladan, and I just had to run my hand through his hair too. Neither of them appeared to have taken harm from their childhood experiences, and in fact, both were now grinning. Devilish rascals!

"But, for all his stiff attention to protocol," Elrohir said, "he has interesting ideas sometimes. What was that experiment under the fir trees about?"

"Oh, I don't know," I said, though I had long since figured out that it was to make sure it would do me no harm to be outdoors for long with little or no clothing. But I was not going to tell them! The whole scene had felt pretty private, and just thinking of it made me blush a little. And of course, Elrohir saw that.

"Ha, you do know!" he exclaimed, but Elladan told him not to press the subject.

"It looked funny, anyway," Elrohir concluded. "Just a pity we were late."

"You are well now, my lady?" Elladan suddenly asked in a grave, Thaladir-like voice.

"Sure," I replied.

"What about if I do like this?" With his eyes locked with mine, he bent down to snake a hand under the hem of my skirt, rather awkwardly, but it felt nice in a titillating way.

"Or like this?" Elrohir's hand joined that of his brother, and he also lifted my skirt over my knee. I wondered what any wood-elves paying attention to us would think, but nobody seemed interested in looking at us.

The game excited me, and it was quite pleasant to have the attention of such handsome cavaliers. But the way they competed with each other, in finding new, and gradually bolder, places to put their hands, soon sent me into a giggling fit. Laughing, I swatted at their fingers and hastily covered my legs with my skirt again.

"Sorry," Elladan apologized immediately. "We did not mean to..."

"Yes we did," protested Elrohir, leaning over me to look his brother in the face, and letting his fingertips graze against my thigh in the process.

"We did not!" exclaimed Elladan, and then added, to me, in a softer voice. "We did not mean to cause you any discomfort." He had caught his brother's hand, and was for the moment oblivious to the fact that it meant Elrohir had no choice but to rest his hand on my thigh, just above the knee. He wiggled his fingers and winked, which made his brother let go of his hand and swat it away, with only slightly more force than I had used.

"'Twas merely a scientific experiment, in all seemliness," explained Elrohir then, and his brother nodded furiously. Of course I had to forgive them at once, now for the second time that day, if there was ever anything to forgive. These half-elves were dangerous in that sense; they could get away with anything.

"Actually," Elladan said when we had sat in silence for a while, watching the fishes in the river swimming in circles around each other, as if courting, "it would be quite nice if you could visit us some time."

"Even with Thaladir for escort," added Elrohir.

"You would live in a real house for a while, with sunlight and fresh air," his brother continued, "rather than constantly being underground." I would have protested that it wasn't so bad here, but Elrohir didn't give me the chance.

"Caves are not dwellings fit for an elf!" he shouted, loud enough to be heard to the other side of the river, where some of the elves turned their heads to look at us for a moment.

True, it must be strange for the Imladris elves not to have the usual view of the world outside. I suggested they ask to be moved from the guest rooms inside the hill to one of the tree-houses outside it. After all, most of the wood-elves lived in telain.

"No thank you," Elladan said, with a laugh. "These bird-nests make fine outposts for hunting, but sleeping in trees? No thanks."

"But you must have done that when visiting your relatives in Lórien," I asked.

They both went into a lengthy and rather complicated explanation of how it was different in Lórien, because the trees there were different, and better, and friendlier than the Mirkwood ones. And how they always stayed in the great talan of their grandparents, which did not even feel that much like it was high up in a tree. It had proper stairs too, not rope ladders. And it was Lórien. Somehow, I suspected that was the main point for them. It was a more familiar place, somewhere they were greatly attached to.

We talked a lot of the Golden Wood that day and Imladris too, so much we didn't notice it was time to eat. Ithilwen joined us with a picnic basket, but she left after a while when she got tired of defending Mirkwood against the other two. I found their high praise of the other realms more comical than annoying, but finally I had enough too and went for a stroll, alone.

~ Mary ~

"Well, I can think of no way to help you with either of your quandaries, my lady," Haldir said in apology, referring to both the seneschal and the masked minstrels.

"I didn't expect you to help me," I told him, although I could not help but appreciate that he thought he should try. "I just didn't want you to think that I am unhappy here. Not because of Thranduil, anyway. He does every thing he can to make me happy, but he also expects me to accept life as it is here, grouchy old elves and all."

After saying that, I sort of felt a bit more kindly toward the seneschal, just by thinking of him as part of the overall picture of my life in Mirkwood, instead of a single irritating factor.

"I do not believe that you have taken into consideration how long Lord Thaladir had your mighty king to himself exclusively. At least for an age or two," Haldir reminded me. "Before his life was disrupted with the presence of two mortal maids to manage, along with every thing else he is expected to attend to." Leave it to an elf to stick up for another elf. It must be that impressive bloodline thing.

Now it was my turn to restrain myself from rolling my own eyes as I listened to the seneschal being described as being overburdened by two mere women living in the palace. He was a tough old elf; I thought it was not beyond his capabilities to adapt to us. It was not like we were orcs. But the Lórien elf had a different perspective to offer as he continued.

"It is an unusual age we are moving into," he said, "and I am sure that His Excellency wishes to be of service to Thranduil to the best of his abilities during this time of transition. His task has never been easy, for His Majesty, your liege lord, is not known for his ability to remain focused on details, let alone show much interest in them." It was almost an insult, except that it was true.

For living across the Anduin, Haldir was very savvy about Thranduil's quicksilver temperament. He had a point. And he was not finished.

"And you and the Lady Malinorne are effortlessly distracting; I can see how hard it must be for the Mirkwood elves to be properly disinterested with your presence within those halls. A most difficult situation for His Excellency, I would imagine." He sounded more sympathetic to Thaladir than he had been to me.

It was fascinating how Haldir spoke as if he was well versed in proper palace protocol, even though I had not heard that he had spent much time within the Mirkwood halls until this very visit. The last time he had been there, almost a year before, he had not come into the caves, but had stayed outdoors with Malinorne, who had gotten herself lost in the forest. I was tired of talking about Thaladir, and thought of something else to do instead.

"Will you show me the tree that you and Mal slept in?" Haldir smirked at me with an unexpectedly devilish gleam in his eyes at my request. If I had any suspicions about what had taken place between him and the king's concubine in that tree, that look alone confirmed every single one of them, and then some. "Is it far from here?" I asked.

"Not far at all, my lady." He rose from the rock beside the river that we were sitting on, and helped me to my feet. "We can walk. There is no need to disturb the horses." Leading me by the hand, he found a path right at the river's edge that led back toward the halls.

"Here it is," he announced when we reached a beech tree with an unusually large girth. The trunk was as big around as two trees of normal size put together. I was lifted up into the lowest branches, and joined by the nimble elf, who guided me further up almost into the crown. There was a wide limb in the middle, indeed as large as a bed, where I sat with Haldir.

The tree was situated far away from the area where I had climbed out of the icy river that same night he had stayed here with Mal. After I had tried to run away, while freezing cold, covered with mud, and prepared to die. At least I no longer felt that Haldir could have rescued me first instead of her.

"This is hard," I said after I tried bouncing on the broad woody seat. There was no way I could have relaxed enough to fall asleep that high above the ground. "Did you make Mal sleep right on top of this scratchy old branch?"

"Of course not," replied the March Warden, a bit wounded. "I spread my mantle over it, which softened any of the rough edges." He stroked the branch, just to make sure it felt the same as he remembered it.

"Nice bed, if you're a squirrel maybe." I shook my head thinking about it, but at least it had added to the legend of the mysterious tree-girl concubine, no matter how uncomfortable it might have been to sleep on that hard branch.

"She did not complain," said Haldir. He had drawn nearer to me and spoke this last right into my ear, after stroking my hair out of the way.

"She never complains," I said. But I did not try to discourage the elf from convincing me. "She has thicker skin than me, too, I think." I added.

"How curious are you to find out how soft this tree can be, under the right hands?"

The next thing I knew, he was nuzzling my neck again. It felt good, and the branch did seem softer for a moment. We were still rather high up from the ground, which was distracting.

"But I am not very sleepy, Haldir, and I think I would have to be extremely sleepy to find this hard thing comfortable." I knew he did not mean for me to take a nap, but I liked making him say it.

"Who said anything about sleeping, my lady?" He kissed my neck to emphasize his invitation, sending little chills all over me. The tree swayed slightly in the breeze, or I imagined it did when the branches moved around, which made me clutch at Haldir for a moment. "Do not fear, I will not let you fall," he assured me. I believed him.

"Let me be your bed." Carefully, he lay back on the wide limb while pulling me over on top of him, so I was face to face with him. He was not much softer than the tree.

~ Mal ~

My talk with the twins had inspired several ideas. One was deepening the knowledge that the two of them really were a lot more serious than they appeared. Grown elves, not teenage boys to be trifled with. And still they did not seem averse to play. They were fun to talk with and had both eagerly taken part in the silly examinations, of ears and other parts. I looked forward to exploring my feelings for them further at a later point.

What was more important now was the information they have given me about Lórien. Ever since Haldir had announced the invitation to the king, I had kept changing my mind. I did not know if I was reluctant to leave Mirkwood for whatever reason might be, or if I would surely die if I couldn't see more of Middle-earth, and soon. Now I had made up my mind, and I was eager to find out what Thaladir thought of the whole thing. Asking the king would have been pointless. He would tell when he decided the time was right.

There was also another reason why I wanted to see the seneschal. I felt guilty for criticising him, even in my thoughts, when he was just doing his best to serve the Elvenking, in any way required. I didn't plan to apologize, but I felt some kind of acknowledgement was in order. A few smooches, perhaps, if he was in the mood for that. Just thinking of it made me smile. The stiff seneschal had turned out a great smoocher and quite some time had passed since he had a chance to prove it, at least to me.

The elves I met on the way in could not give me directions, but just said they hadn't seen His Excellency since morning. He could be anywhere in the halls, but as the king's study was one of his favourite locations, that's where I started looking. It was also the logical thing to do, as this room was located fairly close to the entrance.

Outside the study, I ran into Ithilwen, who was just on her way out with an empty wine pitcher in her hand.

"Is Thaladir here?" I asked, gesturing towards the door. Before she could answer me, a rich voice replied from inside the room.

"Enter." I did, and found the king sitting at his desk with a richly decorated scroll in his hands. He was alone.

"My seneschal had an exhausting day, and night, as you may recall, so I have sent him to take his rest." His wicked glance at the word "recall", made my cheeks heat. Oh yes, I recalled very well all that had happened on the hill that evening, and how Thaladir had been walking up and down some very long stairs, and then, later in the night, given me the most wonderful back-rub.

That had then inspired the king to even more delicious actions, and I envied Mary already that it would be her time to spend the night in the royal bedchamber. Anyway, the old elf surely deserved his rest, and it would be rude to interrupt that.

"You will find him in his quarters," added the king. There was a curious invitation in his gaze, but nevertheless, he nodded his dismissal and turned his attention to the scroll. His ring sparkled in the light of the candelabra as he tapped his middle finger at the desk. I should be on my way, then.

Mystified, I left the room, a little put out even by Thranduil's disinterest in me, but before I closed the door behind me, I stole a last glance at him. He lifted his head and quirked an eyebrow, and there was even a hint of a smile on his face. So, he was not indifferent, then, but neither would he let himself be distracted further. The regal gesture he made with his hand was quite clear. My brief audience with the Elvenking was over.

I blame the twins for what happened next. I must have been inspired by their talk of the endless tricks they and Legolas had played at Erestor, or Thaladir, or both.

Instead of continuing my search for the seneschal at once, I went to my room to change clothes. I removed everything I was wearing, including my camisole and knickers, and kept only my shoes. Then I donned a robe, a cherry-pink thing with wide sleeves and floor-length skirt, and with a ribbon that leapt through decorative rings all the way from the generous neckline to the hem. It was a beautiful garment, and though nothing suspicious could be seen from the outside, I felt wonderfully naughty walking through the palace with no underwear on.

As I stood outside the door to Thaladir's very private and secluded quarters, I questioned my resolve, and my ability to carry out the plan. As silently as I could, I removed the ribbon, thus making the robe fall open, and took off my shoes. Then I knocked on the door. I waited a second, two - was it possible that he was asleep, or not even in the room? - three seconds more, and then the door swung open. At the same time as that happened, I shrugged the robe off of my shoulders, and imagined the beautiful and stunning effect of it landing in a heap at my feet.

~ Mary ~

Lying on top of a handsome elf, within a pretty tree in the Mirkwood forest on a beautiful sunny day was a pleasant way to avoid the seneschal. Haldir's broad chest provided an adequate berth, quite steady and spill-proof.

We talked some more, pretending not to find anything unusual in our peculiar position, mostly about the allure of arboreal life for elves. I was curious about it.

"What is it about trees that make you so crazy about them?" I asked. And then I had to explain what I meant by crazy. A word little used in the Golden Wood. "You cannot deny," I pointed out, "that elves spend a lot of time hanging around with trees, in trees, around trees, and talking to them, too."

"If spending time in the forest is considered crazy, as you say it, then I admit to being so crazed, but elves hold all living things dear, my lady."

"If you say so, but it still seems like trees are held with higher regard by elves than a lot of other living things that walk and talk, or have babies and stuff."

"It is difficult to seek shelter in a creature that walks and has babies, and stuff," Haldir wisely informed me.

"Well, see, that's a good reason to be crazy about trees," I said. "They are shelter, of a sort." Not wanting to hurt the feelings of a Silvan elf, I kept my opinions to myself about solid stable cave life versus balancing on a branch in a tall tree on a windy day. "But there has to be more to it than that, Haldir."

As long as he kept one of his muscular arms over me, I felt safe from falling. The limbs just below ours were thickly laced together, so thick that I could not see through them, a view that made me feel even calmer about being so far above the ground. I figured if I fell into them, I would not go very far, and might even spring back up a little.

"Before even the moon and sun were created," began Haldir as if he was reciting a bed-time story told and retold to him many times. "There was an exalted one of the Valar named Yavanna, the creator of all growing things, who made the first trees." Me and my big mouth.

Because then I got the whole history of how the elves, after being found and waked up in Middle earth, were frightened at first of trees, which hid the stars from them. Thaladir would have been so pleased with Haldir's presentation, although I think he would have given him points off for posture.

"Seems like a slip-shod way of doing things," I complained. "First the people are born and then the sun and the moon are made?"

"The ways of the Valar are beyond comprehension," explained the elf.

"I had a feeling you were going to say something like that." I yawned. Maybe I would take a nap after all.

"Oromë was another Vala," explained Haldir, "and it is from him that the elves learned speech and to love the forested wilderness as much as he did." Apparently, this was one of the only Valar who had stayed in Middle-Earth during the Years of the Trees, because he loved the woodlands and did not feel compelled to leave them. He was the one who had found the elves and woke them up.

"Hmm, how... interesting," I muttered. I loved watching him, the way his mouth moved, and how his voice sounds, and had totally lost track of what he had been talking about. "Whatever it was you just said."

Beside that, Haldir had been stroking my back while he told me of Yavanna and Oromë the first trees and the elves, and his warm hand through my riding blouse had felt very nice.

"Actually, my lady, it is you who seem to be avoiding more interesting topics of conversation," said Haldir gently. I knew what he meant, and he was right. Despite the fact that he maintained an otherwise gentlemanly disposition while I lay on top of him, besides the back rub, I was beginning to stir inside from just being near him like this, and far from the halls of Mirkwood.

But I was not sure I was ready to explore any other topics he may have had in mind. At least not while up in a tree. Mostly because I was not sure whose idea this was. I always knew immediately when the king was peeking in on me, and he was there with us right then. Had he somehow arranged this assignation with the Lórien elf for his own voyeuristic amusement, or did he want me to show him something else?

Thranduil's suspicious nature was known to trump his possessive side, but not by much. However, I could think of no information of interest to His Majesty that could be learned from the March Warden that he could not be asked outright. It seemed an inefficient method of fact finding, and the king is always efficient.

Which left me with the possibility that I was being used for Thranduil's private viewing pleasure. It never occurred to me that Haldir may have thought of any of this by himself. There was not a blade of grass that grew in the realm of the king that he was not acutely aware of, he knew where I was and who I was with, and how we got there.

And His Majesty had told me not to overtire myself, too, which sounded like permission to fool around, just not to the point of exhaustion. It all seemed to be too perfectly arranged for me. And unfair to my lovely elven mattress.

"The king is watching us right now, did you know that?" For the first time ever, I saw honest surprise in the eyes of the unflappable elf. He actually lifted his head and looked around the tree as if he would see Thranduil peeking out at him. At least he believed me.

"Right here," I explained, while pointing at my eyes. "He sees us, and he, well, he feels us, too. And he will be judging your performance, every part of it. I just thought you should know that."

"Would you be so kind as to inform His Majesty that I accept that challenge, my lady," replied Haldir smoothly, after quickly gathering himself. "I am sure that you will both be pleased with my performance."

~ Mal ~

Though only a fraction of a second could have passed until Thaladir took me by the wrist and drew me into the room, while at the same time slamming the door shut with his other hand, his face went through a whole series of expressions. I stared at him, fascinated by how astonishment turned to shock, then bewilderment, excitement, and a flicker of appreciation, before he settled with his usual mask of disapproval.

"You have certainly caught my attention, as well as that of anyone else who might have witnessed your inappropriate demeanour."

Now, that wasn't very likely, seeing how Thaladir's room was located in a part of the palace I hadn't even discovered until recently, and that nobody ever seemed to visit. The seneschal was usually out and about elsewhere all the time, but appeared to guard his few hours of privacy very closely, and I didn't think even those who knew him well, like Ithilwen, or Miriel, would seek him out here.

I also knew that he enjoyed seeing me naked, even if he would only allow himself to admit it if it wasn't in a public place. But now it seemed he would go on forever with telling me how unseemly my actions were, while all the time keeping his gaze fixed behind me, as if the door might suddenly open again to let in a flock of dwarves, or something equally inappropriate.

"Look at me," I finally said. And he did, in silence. He took me in with a long glance that started at my toes and went all the way up to the top of my head. I held my breath. Come on, kiss me or something!

"So," he stated curtly. "I have acquiesced to your wish. Will you cover yourself now?" It was more a request than a question, and said in a rather commanding tone too. I am sure my reply baffled him.

"No." I didn't come here just to shock you!

"And what, if I may ask, and it is certainly my right to do so, seeing how I have been assaulted in my own chamber, is the cause of this sudden disobedience in an otherwise well-mannered member of the royal household?"

"I want you," I said calmly, ignoring his accusing tone. "And I want to thank you for taking such good care of me, and our king."

He perked up at the mention of the king and annoyance turned to gleaming pride. And he was worth it, for all his troubles. I felt a surge of tender feelings for the grouchy old elf, but decided they would only embarrass him if spoken out. I chose another path.

"Ravish me," I whispered, so quietly a mortal man might not have heard. No visible reaction. But he must have heard. "Please," I added. "Excellency?"

As always, the use of formal address was what made him stir.

"Oh, well, but certainly, my lady."

Instead of acting on my explicit invitation, he went to his formidable desk and began to move items from it to the nearest bookshelf. I was not prepared for him to turn his back on me and start rearranging his stationary! Slowly and meticulously he went about, lifting, carrying and putting down each thing as if it were priceless and so delicate it might break at the slightest touch.

I could not imagine the elf had so many things on that single desk! There were quills, pens, and brushes of various sizes, small bottles of ink in different colours, scrolls, sticks of sealing wax, and, the most important item of all, a large seal. I decided the size must be due to all the king's impressive titles that had to be engraved on it. Finally, the desk was empty, except for a writing pad in dark leather that Thaladir had lifted, and then put back after a moment of reflection. He nodded to himself and proceeded to remove his robe, fold it carefully and hang it over the back of the chair, which was then moved out of the way.

Then he returned to me, stretching out his arm with a polite bow. "My lady?" I would have laughed at the absurdness of the situation if he hadn't been so adorable right then, in his short undertunic and leggings, and doing that perfectly gentlemanly gesture.

I didn't take his hand, but leapt into his embrace and kissed him. There was nothing hesitant in his response, and the fire inside of me that had waned considerably during the wait came back with full power. I was not even fooling myself when I had told Thaladir I would be with him only for his sake.

After a good amount of kissing and caressing, that involved serious attention to my backside, he lifted me and I wound my legs around his back as he carried me to the desk.

He deposited me gently on the smooth leather surface, as carefully as if I had been one of those breakable objects of stationary. It was a nice change from the king's more direct approach, and his careful preparations left me panting for air long before he unfastened his leggings.

"I am... most satisfied... with your service... to our king," he suddenly said, between grunts. I bit my lip, both to stifle a moan of pleasure, and because I guessed what he was referring to.

"You have... seen it then? My... servicing... him?" It was hard to talk with him doing his thing without missing a single beat of the steady rhythm he had set from the beginning.

"Aye... a most... agreeable... sight... quite... gratifying... in itself." I let out a long, keening sound of unadulterated lust, but that did not stop him from conversing with me. "However... not... as good... as the... actual... act."

I couldn't take it anymore. He might want to prolong our pleasure by distracting himself with small talk, but it was driving me mad. "Could... we... please... not... talk... now?" I sounded even more desperate than I felt.

"As-you-wish," he agreed hastily, and then I could fully devote myself to experiencing him, his very strong physical presence in and around my body, but also, I think, our minds coming together, if that was possible. At any account, it felt different, in a very exciting way, and wave after wave of emotion swept over me as we reached completion together.

Then he lifted me onto his bed, and we lay resting, just listening to each other's breathing as we regained our composure.

"Did my lady find her ravishing adequate?"

"Certainly, Your Excellency." Hearing that, he displayed the most endearing smile that even leant a special glow to his eyes. At that point, I didn't think I could call him grouchy again, not even in my thoughts.

I rested on his arm, feeling closer to him than ever before during our intimate meetings, and that made me decide to ask him about his role as advisor to the king. I was particularly interested to know if there had been a decision yet, regarding the invitation to visit Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel, but there hadn't. Then I asked if Thranduil always listened to what his obviously wise, and experienced, and generally valuable seneschal had to say.

"It is true that he does, at times, take my council," he replied humbly. I hoped, and thought, the king was much more clever than that.

"Then you could perhaps, you know, nudge him a little?" The elf sat up on his elbow, suddenly looking appalled.

"Just very discreetly, I mean, he would listen to you, don't you think?" That was not the right thing to say at that moment.

"So, my lady," Thaladir said, rising from the bed with a hurt expression on his face. "I now see that this bestowal of your favours was merely a means of achieving your goal of assuring my co-operation in influencing His Majesty's decision." He made me feel like a total jerk.

"No," I replied, with tears in my eyes. "I came here for you." He sat down on the bed again and looked into my eyes. The shift from doubt to relief told me all I needed to know to feel better again.

"To be totally honest, I came just to examine your ears," I said, daring a small joke. "And perhaps to borrow a book."

"I believe, my lady, that both of those things can be arranged."

Don't say I don't know how to make a seneschal happy!

To be continued...

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Chapter posted: January 4, 2005

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