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Mirkwood and Beyond

Chapter 9 / ?
Authors: Mary A and Malinornë
Pairings: Mainly Thranduil/OFCs
Warnings: Adult sexual situations including naked elves in bed and some hot wet elf flesh, oh, and ANGST.
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 the twins investigate the King's new carriage, Mal investigates the King's feelings for her, and Thaladir carries on.
Feedback: Not required but always appreciated! Write to: thaladir@yahoo.com

~ Mary ~

I had not completely forgotten how nice it was to share a bed with Elladan and Elrohir, especially when they were naked, but it was nice to be reminded in the king's new carriage. My dress was removed, but they both loved the way my underwear felt, and they left it on me for their own amusement.

They pulled the covers up over all of our heads, and in the darkness I had to guess whose hands were where, a game we played many times in our past. It seemed harmless enough.

"This is Elrohir," I said, with my hand over the fingers that were gently caressing my breasts, "and this is Elrohir here too." I patted the other hand between my legs. Elladan's hand was down there also, only his came from a different direction, and his fingers had slipped under my drawers and were beginning to move inside of me. As a reward for guessing right, I was kissed.

In this way, I had stalled any further activity, and they had not pressed me, but things were certainly coming to a head, so to speak, as their straining erections rubbed against me on both sides. I was more than ready to proceed.

It was hard to think, it was hard to breathe, it was hard to talk, and it was really hard to stop, but I had to ask, "Did anyone remember to lock the door?"

Of course not, and at that very moment, the door opened and Thaladir stuck his head inside the carriage. He did not even look surprised when the three of us hastily disengaged ourselves from each other and sat up to see who was there. I wondered how long he had been listening outside while waiting for a chance to appear at the most dramatic moment possible. I slipped back under the covers.

"Your Excellency, after a thorough test, we are happy to report to you..." began Elladan, as cheerfully as if we were all standing around somewhere more seemly, and with our clothes on. Elrohir finished, "...that His Majesty's sleeping accommodations aboard this worthy coach are quite sturdy and spacious, and yet surprisingly comfortable."

He sounded similarly unconcerned with the breach in protocol we had all just been caught at. And proud of himself.

"Go away now!" I yelled from under the covers, hoping to salvage what little dignity I could find. At least I was not completely naked when the snoopy seneschal saw me, and that should count for something. But I was not willing to face him without my gown on. Why did he always have to catch me being bad when I spent so much of my other time being good?

"His Majesty has directed me to locate both of you young lords," said Thaladir, not going anywhere. He added, "Your presence is required in his study forthwith."

"Ai, brother," groaned Elladan, "we forgot he was awaiting our answer."

"I did not forget," replied Elrohir, wounded, "although I may have lost track of the time, it is dim in here with the windows covered as they are." The carriage grew silent for a moment. I heard no movement beyond the bed.

"Is he still here?" I asked quietly. It was getting stuffy under the covers, and I wanted to get my gown on and leave. But not if the seneschal was watching.

"My lady Mary," answered Thaladir, much to my displeasure, "it is my understanding that your liege lord had instructed you to pack for our imminent departure?"

"I did pack," I answered from under the blanket. "Now go away."

"The dancing costume, alone, that His Majesty gave you in Dale is not appropriate attire for visiting in the Golden Wood, my lady." The seneschal's point was reasonable, if stated with a bit of irritation around the edges, but otherwise not insulting in tone or logic.

"But I hate all of my other dresses and I haven't gotten a chance to even put it on since we got back here," I explained. Not to mention the fact that I had hardly had a chance to wear it the first and only time I had tried it on. I was lucky it had not been destroyed when the king removed it seconds later. But I kept that information to myself.

"A dancing costume?" Elladan liked the sound of it. "From Dale? I say let her bring it, old elf!" He was more than happy to support any traveling wardrobe decisions I made having to do with dancing, and costumes.

"And since it belongs to her," added Elrohir, as if his was the more important argument, "she should be able to wear it wherever she wants to wear it."

"Nevertheless," interjected the old elf, "if I am not mistaken, that particular garment was acquired for His Majesty's exclusive amusement."

"What say you, brother?" Elladan wanted a second opinion. But the seneschal was not in the least bit interested in what either twin had to say further in regards to my traveling wardrobe.

"Your personal desires in this matter are neither the primary nor the final determinant," he pronounced evenly, "nor are they of any intermediate significance."

"Is he ever going to leave?" I asked out loud to no one in particular, not really expecting an answer. But I had to try.

~ Mal ~

When everything Ithilwen and I had decided would be necessary to bring along for the visit to the Golden Wood was neatly packed in a wooden chest that looked much heavier than its contents, I knocked on Mary's door to see if she needed any help. I got no reply, so she might be done already. It was a surprise, but I knew she was as eager as I was to see something new, now that we knew that departure was imminent.

I didn't have to peer out though my stained-glass window to know that it was evening. My stomach had been insisting just that for a while, so I went to the great hall for dinner, or what would be offered there.

The Elvenking, or his seneschal, were nowhere to be seen, and neither were the twins, nor Mary. With a nagging feeling of missing out on something fun, I filled my plate and approached the only table with a familiar elf present.

It was Canath, the treasurer, who was also an attentive table partner and good dancer. That was about all I knew about him, and I had no hope of finding out much more, because he was as shy as ever and only smiled at the various pleasantries I tried to open the conversation with. Finally, I had to capitulate and turn to the immensely boring topic of economics. Perhaps that would bring him out of his shell.

"Where does all of this come from," I asked, gesturing towards the kitchen and the full tables. "Not only for the king and his household, I mean, but for everyone here? There are no farms here, nothing is grown, and still this abundance."

The young elf looked at me and smiled again, but this time it went all the way to his ears. It's funny how some elves are perceived as "young", even though they are at least ten times your age. With Canath, it was possibly his shy manners, and the slight skittishness in his gaze, that made him appear to be a young apprentice, rather than the skilled master of his trade.

His talents must be far wider than just keeping count of the king's riches, for him to have been trusted with the kingdom in the past when neither the king's heir nor his seneschal was present to do the service.

"We have good neighbours," he replied when I still looked at him for an answer, as if the pause had been there to make sure I was really interested. "The men of the Long Lake inhabit a land rich with produce, and boats and barrels travel along the river as often as needed. Our king provides well for us. "

Finally, I seemed to have found a topic that Canath enjoyed discussing, and there was one thing concerning the realm economy I had been wondering for a while. I hadn't been familiar enough with the elves to dare to ask last autumn, when the human trade delegation had visited.

"But... as elves don't mine, and there haven't been any dwarves around for a long time, this constant ordering of supplies must draw on His Majesty's reserves, even if they are rich?" It sounded awfully nosy now that I said it out loud, and I hoped the shy elf wouldn't be offended.

"We seldom pay in gems," he said, almost apologetically. "They are beautiful, and His Majesty prefers to keep them for better purposes." I followed his gaze and touched a fingertip to the emeralds around my neck. I couldn't agree more with him. Especially with that sweet smile.

"Part of what we give as payment for goods is their own gold, toll from the mortals' use of the forest road, but most is sent to us in return for favours." I had heard before of Thranduil's craftiness and talent to make provisions where he could, but what the other favours could be eluded me.

"Such as the right to hunt in a certain part of the forest," the treasurer clarified, seeing my doubt, "or the protection of our spears and bows in the event of war." If he wanted to explain further, that came to a quick halt as his gaze drifted towards the door. I turned my head and immediately turned it back again. Helca. Of course the royal financial advisor wouldn't go far from the treasurer, but it was still annoying.

"What have we here?" she asked icily, locking her gaze at Canath as if to pretend she didn't notice my presence, which was rather funny as it was so obviously just that which displeased her. "Is it not time to prepare the account of assets for His Excellency? Lothron [May] draws to an end already."

"I am aware of the count of the months," he replied sunnily, apparently not at all chilled by her remark. "Nórui [June] has yet to catch me by surprise. My report is completed already and the scroll fit to be presented."

She pondered that and then remarked, "Considering the attention our king gives to your position, there must be some tasks of greater importance to the well-being of the realm than what you are presently doing."

"I beg to disagree. I am done with my more pressing duties, and as Malinornė has expressed an interest in the realm's affairs, I am taking the opportunity to enlighten her."

The look she gave me was as pointed as an icicle, and I almost thought she would accuse me of plotting against the king to take over the kingdom, or at least the keys to the treasure vault. True, it would be interesting to peer into one of the many closed doors and look upon Thranduil's riches. I imagined mountains of gold and gems of all sizes and colours, ancient artifacts of all kinds and generally something quite like how Bilbo had described the lair of Smaug the dragon.

It was too bad the Elvenking hadn't kept the Arkenstone. And how stupid I had been not to ask to see the prize jewel when we had been at Lord Bard II's estate in Dale. I was pretty sure the human lord would have shown me any of his secrets, or those of his neighbouring dwarves, for just a small favour in exchange. And he had very nice hands.

"Helca, perhaps you will tell of our trade delegations to the men of the Long Lake?" I woke from my daydreaming and groaned silently. The king's financial advisor nodded regally and slowly stepped even closer to our table. "For as long as I remember, these have always been under her command," Canath added softly.

"Indeed," she began, remaining standing, so I had to look up at her in a rather awkward manner, which I'm sure was her intention, "His Majesty has seen fit to dispatch me to Esgaroth and Dale on a multitude of occasions, no doubt seeing how the successfulness is best granted thus."

Knowing her strange attraction to mortal men I wouldn't be surprised if these delegations now and then found it convenient to stay over at Bard's estate, though her tastes seemed to lie more to the unkempt simpler menfolk of the town, than well-groomed gentlemen. I cut my thoughts short just a second too late to spare me the memory of Renk the pig-eyed wine merchant and his sweaty hands in all the wrong places.

It was quite hopeless to get Helca to disclose any information beyond how important her particular services were to the king, and how her group always returned with the exact merchandise he had ordered them to negotiate on. Exactly what kind of goods were regularly purchased could be a state secret for how she treated the information.

Too bad Canath had already told me that the Mirkwood elves bought everything but meat, mushrooms and berries from the humans.

~ Mary ~

"I don't know why I have to go back inside," I told Thaladir from the carriage door, where I stood, while he waited to escort me from the stable yard to the gates. Elladan and Elrohir had been sent on ahead, after helping me out by holding the blanket as a screen for me to dress behind. The poor frustrated things. The first unsuspecting elleth they ran across after their business with Thranduil was in for a big surprise. Lucky her.

"The king said I could come down here and look at the carriages." The sun just had gone down while the twins and I had played in the worthy coach, I had no idea we had been in there for so long. Even though they had both hurried onward to the caves, I felt like dawdling. The wine that we had been drinking made my head swim a bit when I finally had stood and tried to walk around.

"As I recall, His Majesty only gave you such permission to view your private transport, my lady." The seneschal put a lot of emphasis on the words 'His Majesty', to remind me not to refer to Thranduil as 'the king'. He held his hand up to assist me down, which I thought was a friendly gesture on his part, and I almost took it.

"But I never got a chance to even see the inside of mine," I complained, "and now it's too dark." The smaller carriages had been drawn into the stables, which did not have torches lit at night unless there was a royal reason.

"And I don't think he expected me to stay away from his." In the past, I would use the 'Thranduil can read my mind and did not try to stop me' explanation as a form of permission. It made sense to me. But Thaladir never did buy it. Like now.

"Nevertheless, to trespass and loiter about in a most disrespectful and unseemly fashion on or within His most royal Majesty's private transport without express permission is..."

"...a major breach of protocol." I finished for him, and ended with a sighed out, "I know." His hand was still stretched out so I took it and let him 'assist' me to the ground. Then he kept hold of my hand and, after placing it firmly within his elbow, he began to move. I had no choice but to come along. Thranduil must have taught him that trick.

"I suppose you are going to write me up in your demerit book... again." He did not choose to answer me. Not a surprise.

The sky was a velvety deep blue and the air felt like silk against my face and arms, the only parts of the human anatomy allowed to be bare in or around the caves of Mirkwood. In fact, it was a perfect night for skinny-dipping, too bad I was stuck with the seneschal when I thought of it. I almost mentioned it to him, but realized that merely uttering having thought of unseemly behavior was probably worth a mention in the records.

It still bothered me that I had never yet had the chance to read the list all of my crimes against protocol, the throne of Mirkwood, and all of humanity for as much as I knew, in Thaladir's infamous Books of Record. Now that we were getting ready to leave for Lorien, it would be a long while before I ever had an opportunity to get into his room again, where he kept them. The only time I had tried, I got sidetracked.

On the road, the seneschal carried a smaller portable version of his record books, a pocket-sized travel diary that he jotted notes in. I knew because I had seen it, and had read it. But I wanted a look inside the official book with all of my protocol violations in it. Dates, times, and places.

As we drew closer to the stairs that led up to the gates, I decided that I had run far enough at this long-legged elf's pace.

"Wait," I said, panting, "that wine I drank... with the twins... on an empty stomach... is making me sick. Can we slow down a little... just for a minute... so I can catch my breath, please?"

Now here is the difference between my mind-reading liege lord and his dutiful seneschal: Thranduil would have picked me up and carried me if he did not want to be delayed in his forward motion, even if he knew I was fibbing.

Thaladir came to a complete halt. He must have felt some distress, too, although he barely showed any. But having an ill mortal on his hands and no king in sight to save him could not have cheered him up. I was tipsy enough and smelled enough of wine, if only from the inebriated peredhil slobbering all over me, to have fooled anyone within a few yards smelling distance.

The sky was turning darker. It was still light at the horizon, but up above a few pin points of light begin to faintly twinkle into view. One particularly bright red star had stood proudly over the tree tops before the rest appeared and I asked the seneschal about it.

"That, lady Mary, is Borgil, which marks the shoulder of the beloved protector of the Eldar, the Swordsman of the Sky, Menelvagor."

The seneschal nearly smiled before he continued, "Set into place by Elbereth, the stars known as Menelvagor, or Menelmacar in the ancient tongue, represent the eternal guardian of the world, the ever vigilant enemy of the exiled Morgoth, who protects Arda from his return until the end of time. Interestingly enough, Menelvagor is also referred to as Telumehtar..."

"Were you alive then, Thaladir?" I asked, before he could tell me anything else about that stupid star, or stars, or whatever he was talking about, "Back then, before the sun and the moon were made?" For a moment, I did not think that he knew how to take such a question.

"Although I was not among those first awakened, I did not have to be alive then to remember it clearly now," he answered. "All of the First Born children of Ilśvatar share the memory of the first rising of the moon, which ended the darkness in Aman attendant upon the destruction of the..."

This was news to me, that he, or any other elf, could remember an event where they had not been an actual eyewitness. I did not pay attention to what else he said after that and was happy to interrupt him before he could say another word.

"Is it like you were there when you remember it? Or can you just imagine it like you were there?"

"Both," he replied. And then he continued to tell me about the aftermath of the destruction of the two trees in Valinor, and the darkness that ensued, as if I really had ever cared.

~ Mal ~

I was rescued by Thranduil, who came striding through the dining hall as if the safety of the realm depended on it. Everyone present turned to look at him, and with right. He was a striking sight with his hair flowing and those smooth movements that always made me weak in the knees. As if that wasn't enough, he zeroed in those glittering eyes on me and then smirked at my reaction. Yes, he had me, there was no doubt about that, and he knew it.

Within moments, we were out of the dining hall, and in what felt like merely a few more, I was sitting on the king's large bed in only my silky underwear, watching him remove his tunic and hang it over the back of one of the chairs in front of the fireplace. His lean torso shimmered coppery in the subdued light, and I had to draw my breath when he joined me on the bed, half-reclining against the headboard. I seemed never to get used to the effect he had on me.

But, now that we were soon to leave Mirkwood, there was something I wanted to be reassured of. I felt a strong need to know that the Elvenking had a purpose with my being with him, and that he hadn't agreed to travel because he planned to leave Mary and me in Lorien, or somewhere along the way. I shivered when he ran his fingers over my arm, and had to fight the urge to just lean back and never question anything anymore

"My king?" He kept stroking, but nodded to let me know that he was listening. "May I ask you why you wanted me as your concubine?"

"You may. Someone called you "most suitable for my lordly needs" and that person proved to be right." I wished he would tell me more.

"I wanted to keep you here, with me," he continued, "but I also decided to grant you the right to choose to remain or not. I did not bring you here for the satisfaction of my desires only, though the sample I tasted during my first visit was more than enough for me to see that your continuous company in my bedchamber would pleasure me greatly. As it has, ever since."

I looked at his large hand touching my arm and wished that one of those desires would become urgent very soon, for it would certainly please me a lot to be on the receiving end of its satisfaction.

"Ah, you do?" Thranduil said with a grin. "You would pleasure me this very moment?"

As if he had to ask, especially here, now. "Yes, my king" I replied, because I knew that he likes to hear me say it loud, though he could just as well read the answer from my mind. "Yes, my king," I repeated, eager to urge him on, "I wish you would only let me know in what way you would have me give you pleasure tonight." There. I knew I was the one to start the conversation, but I hoped that it would come to an end now.

"I would have you speak of your desire and tell me in what way you wish to be taken."

His voice was like velvet, but I was taken aback by this uncharacteristic reply. The Elvenking wanted me to talk about how he could pleasure me? I appreciated his concern but felt not fully comfortable with the idea of voicing my desires to him. It suited me better to let him just read whatever he wanted to know from my mind. I had no reason to be shy around the king, but it is in my nature not to speak much, and this request was difficult for me to grant.

"Malinornė. Tell me. I want to hear your voice." He said it seriously. "I want to do things with you that make you oblivious of everything but your need, and I want to hear you beg for release. Speak, now."

While staring at my feet, I squirmed a little as I spoke. "Please don't make me do this."

"I can make you do whatever I wish, remember that. Now, speak." The sudden flinty sharpness of his voice took me aback. He reached out his other hand and ran his fingers gently across my collarbones, as if to encourage me. "Do you like that?" I nodded. "What else do you like?"

"I like... when you just hold me close," I started tentatively, still studying my toes. Large hands lifted mine, and my camisole came off.

"More," the king demanded after a quick nip at my earlobe.

"I like when you run your hands over my body," I continued, bolder now that it was so close to happening, "and when you cup my breasts and tease the nipples with your thumbs." There was no reply but for his hot breath against my neck. I closed my eyes tight and told him, whispering, what else I enjoyed.

"And I like when you carry me and make me feel precious. I like when you nudge my legs apart for your hand and when you part my folds and slide your fingers between them and push them deep into me and touch my... clitoris." I had said it!

"I like when you let me fall asleep resting in your arms. I like when you force your tongue into my mouth and plunder it and when you kiss me gently as if I would break as easily as a frozen flower. I like when you impale me on your hardness with ferocity and startle me and make me scream and I like when you make love to me slowly and tenderly... but most of all I like when you... don't give me any choice."

Finally I looked up at him, unsure of whether that was a good answer or not, but at that moment the king was as easy to read to me as I always am to him. He glowed and told me that that was one of the reasons why he had approached me from the beginning; that he had searched for a mortal woman who would not only accept, but also enjoy, his dominant nature.

And then he seated me on his lap and asked me again which of all those things I would have him do now. Any and all of them would be nice, but I knew he wouldn't let me get away with that.

"Touch me," I said.

"Where?" asked the king. I thought for a second.

~ Mary ~

It was a pity that I could not pause in the middle of my improvised fainting spell to compliment the seneschal on his excellent reflexes after he caught me deftly right before I hit the ground. He had to have bent his knees to reach me, too, or had stooped over a bit, which was a little extra effort that deserved applause.

But I had to keep my eyes closed and pretend to be unconscious if I wanted him to shut up with the ancient history lessons and give me a free ride up the stairs.

Being carried by an elf is always fun, and it is a good way to get to know one of them better. Thaladir has very nice arms, I could feel how firmly muscled they were, and his chest, too, that he held me against with them, beneath all those layers of his official garb. It was almost like being carried by the king, but in this case there was a lot less hanky panky taking place along the way.

When I could feel that we were going up the stairs, I decided to risk a peek at him from under my eyelashes. He was not frowning with full force, but he did not look like he was enjoying himself very much. It was time for him to have some fun.

"Where am I? Where are you taking me?" I lifted my head up from where it had been lolling over the crook of his arm and peered around me as if disoriented. And then I added, clutching at his robe as if I was in real fear, "Are you taking me to the dungeons?"

"You are not well, lady Mary," he said calmly, but without the usual touch of bitterness I could normally detect when he addressed me. He almost sounded like he was attempting to reassure me as he added, "Presently, I am taking you to your chambers."

Thaladir smells good, too. Of course, all elves smell good, but he always smells like he just stepped in from a rain shower. The king's scent is like the best parts of his forest, but his seneschal always reminds me of fresh, sparkling clean water. I had stopped clutching at his robe, relaxing my grip, but kept my hands on him. I played with his collar.

"I bet you wish you could take me to the dungeons and lock me up until you all get back from Lorien." I said this very mournfully and with just the hint of a sniffle. "You can admit it to me," I added bravely with a wavering voice, "I won't be hurt."

"In my judgment, it is apparent that you have consumed more wine this evening than your system is capable of processing adequately," he answered.

"But I know you're already worried that I'm going to forget everything you've tried to teach me," I argued. "And you're probably thinking that I'll raise such a ruckus all over the Golden Wood that you will have to fade away and die from the shame of it all when I am done, you can admit that at least."

"On the contrary, I believe that you are quite capable of behaving appropriately during our visit to Lorien, my lady, do not distress yourself. I have no reason to believe otherwise." Thaladir was looking better by the minute while he was caring for His Majesty's property; there was no doubt about it

"I think you are just saying that to make me feel better, but I do like it when you call me 'my lady', Your Excellency," I said. "It almost makes it sound like you like me when you say that, and it even makes me feel a little bit like I have finally earned the right to be called a lady, even if you only say it because you are supposed to."

It is not easy to fool any elf, even those who are not mind-readers, for very long if at all. And a seasoned veteran of the Dark Ages did not need to read minds to detect a faker. But I did have one thing in my favor by being a mortal woman. Even Thaladir has no idea of how an unpredictable female human body will behave under any given set of circumstances.

So far, he had not detected anything false in my recovery from the sudden fainting spell. If anything, he was probably eager to go make some research notes about it as soon as possible. However, I had something else in mind. There is no such thing as keeping an elf on his toes, but maybe I could get this one to slow down a minute.

But that meant that I had to hurry. We were already through the gates and if we ran into Thranduil on the way, I knew I would be tossed over to him like a hot potato. With one finger, I twisted a lock of Thaladir's silky hair into a coil and then tugged on it.

"Do you remember the last time you carried me?"


"I was naked, remember?"

He was even more silent, if that is possible, but with an elf anything is possible. I tugged on his hair again. I had not looked at his face while I spoke, he may not be able to read minds, but he could see through me in other ways when he had to.

"There is a theory I have learned of recently," he said instead of replying directly to my questions, "that the consumption of the stimulant contained in coffee will ameliorate some of the more deleterious effects of the excess consumption of alcoholic beverages..."

"Actually," I said, "there is only one thing that sobers me up, works like a charm every time, but you probably don't want to hear about it." I risked a peek at him then, to see if I had aroused his curiosity, but he was frowning. So I added, "And it isn't what you think, it has nothing to do with sex. I seem to be the only person I know of who this is true about, like I am some kind of scientific oddity." He actually twitched an eyebrow at the word 'oddity'.

"In keeping with my duties as His Majesty's seneschal, I am required to know as much information on the physical nature of his subjects as is possible. If you would be so kind as to tell me of your unique technique..."

"Oh, I know you don't really care, if I am unique or not," I interrupted. There is more than one way to keep certain elves on their toes.

Thaladir was about to reply, his mouth was just opening, when I stopped him by saying, "Okay, I'll tell you. But don't think that I expect you to do anything about it, it's a lot more complicated than a cup of coffee."

We had actually reached my door, but he was willing to stand there holding me and wait to hear what I had to say.

"Well," I said, "it's a hot bath. I always sober up immediately in a nice hot bath. But I feel far too weak to deal with that by myself right now, so you can put me down here. I just hope that I don't faint again." It was working; I could feel his body tense as soon as I said 'faint again'.

If there had been any way to make myself look pale, I would have. Instead, I gazed into his skeptical eyes and then smiled weakly while I continued, "It is just that the stone floors are so hard to fall down on, I will end up terribly bruised."

~ Mal ~

Later, in the bathing pools, where we had gone to refresh ourselves, I enjoyed slipping and slithering around the king, pretending to flee from him, while he made a show of not being able to catch me any second he wished to. It was a silly game, but very enjoyable, and of course Thranduil caught me eventually. He held me from behind, with his arms wrapped around my waist, and long fingers slowly travelling higher as he spoke.

"You looked delicious that morning in the river, water-sprite. Had it not been for the company of a certain pair of twins, I may have had to join you." It was hard to believe he would have done that even without Elladan and Elrohir present. Not right outside his main gates.

"And caused a scandal... Thaladir would have been furious." The king laughed at that, but then grew serious.

"A distress I would not cause him. But," he added in a lighter voice, "it was a pleasurable image to keep in my mind for the less stimulating matters of the day."

I liked to hear that, and I wondered if the seneschal knew what his employer was really really thinking about while they were discussing this or that important-looking scroll or royal decree. I guess he did, and it just meant that the Elvenking's mind was as formidable as the rest of him, if he could rule his kingdom without even concentrating very hard.

But I didn't think he was pondering the goings on in his realm at this time, because his lifted knee demanded entrance between mine. I leaned back against his shoulder and let myself float weightlessly.

"See," he whispered with more than a hint of delight as his hands parted my thighs further, "an oyster, all pink and rosy inside... I wonder if there is a pearl?"

I tensed up a little, not realizing why, until I heard in my mind Elrohir, not Thranduil, speaking the same words.

"They told you!" I slammed my knees together. The king could think and fantasize all he wanted, but I didn't want to know about any lecherous conversations he had had with the twins.

"The sons of Elrond have many faults, but gossip is not among them. I have better ways of knowing... of viewing..." I turned my head to look at him in disbelief. He lifted one hand to his temple, and then touched my head in the same place. Did he mean that he could pry on my thoughts even when I was in another room? He nodded, looking proud with himself.

And then it dawned upon me. The clues and pieces of the confusing puzzle in my head that I had subconsciously picked up during all of my stay in Mirkwood suddenly made sense. Mary's incoherent ramblings of what the king had shown her, of voices in her head, of touching and feeling and seeing things that weren't happening, at least not then or there. It all made sense now, but she must be deluded to consider it a joy.

The thought that the king had full access to anything I had experienced in his realm made me feel violated. It meant that Elladan and Elrohir had not come to me by their own volition, but had been sent to seduce me as a twisted service to a fellow elf-lord. Oh, I saw it all clearly now. I put my feet down on the pool floor and slipped from the king's loose grip.

"Anarion," I said accusingly, recalling the day many months ago, when the king had excited me to the point of bursting, only to send me into the arms of one of his sentinels. Or rather, to send the sweet young elf into my arms. The experience had been mutually satisfying. But, now that it seemed, no, now that I knew it was all for Thranduil's sake only, it was tainted to me.

Elladan and Elrohir, Anarion, the lusty human Lord of Dale, even Thaladir, for all that I knew. It was all a lie, a charade... mockery and betrayal of my loyalty to the Elvenking. Something snapped inside of me.

"You mean thing!" I yelled at him. "Have you ever done something nice to someone, without first thinking of your personal advantage? You egoist, selfish monster! I hate you, hate you, hate you!"

I jumped out of the water and aimed for the door, screaming, fuming, insulting, but found myself cornered by Thranduil, who suddenly blocked my way.

"What do you want me to do!?" The king roared and looked absolutely furious. He scared me to death and when he took a step towards me, lifting his right arm, I stumbled and slipped on the wet floor. I scrambled away from him, hiding my head under my arms, trembling, shrieking, waiting for the coup de grace that would put me out of my misery.

It did not come. I felt the king's arms around me as he embraced me. He sat on the floor now, leaning against the pool ledge, and gathered me up into his lap. For a long time he just held me, and then I could hear the rustle of robes, a throat-clearing and soft murmurs as he sent the other elf away. At last he rose, with me clutched to his chest, and carried me back to his bedroom, where he gently put me on the bed and covered me with a blanket.

"What is it that you want me to do?" he asked again, much calmer.

"Love me," I said, and started sobbing again.

Thranduil lay down beside me and held me close, protectively. After an eternity he said: "I have no mortal love to give to you; I cannot love you with the wild, consuming fire of your own kind. But will you let me love you in my own way? Will you accept such love as I can give to you and not torment yourself with demands for more?"

To be continued...

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Chapter posted: March 8, 2005

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