|Disclaimer:||Thranduil is Tolkien's, the rest comes from my imagination. No money made.|
|Summary:||Lovers of old meet again.|
|Author's notes:||This is another 'missing scene' that belongs in my story about Eadhild, maidservant/innkeeper and elflover. If you're not familiar with 'Scenes from a life', this ought to still be readable. If you are, it's only good if it's been a while since you read it, as this ficlet isn't entirely compatible with some conclusions about Eadhild's life that I made in my earlier writings. I simply had no idea she and the Elvenking would ever meet again!|
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"This above all: to thine own self be true".
William Shakespeare (Hamlet, Act I, Scene III)
The rabbits in the meadow lifted their heads, noses twitching as they smelled the change in the air, and then returned to foraging the more eagerly to prepare for autumn.The night was still dark, but the storm had passed. It was the first in a series of tempests that would announce the end of one season and the beginning of the next. A group of elves, which had put up camp in the edge of the wood, sensed it too. The time for merry-making under the trees would soon come to an end, for a little while, until the world would be fresh and green again.
Ninglorost, the little town east of the mountains and west of the forest, noticed nothing. For the most part, its rag-tag population of peasants and merchants, healers and whores enjoyed the last of their well-deserved rest before the sun would wake them to another day of work. True, those of the whores who had just fallen asleep could afford to spend a few more hours under their blankets, as would the maidservants of the unnamed, but well-known inn in the town centre.
"Coming!" mumbled Carla to herself as she rushed towards the door to respond to the knock. They needed no regular guards - their reputation of sometimes having elven visitors protected them well - but during the least visited hours, when one maid worked alone, the sturdy door was always barred. It was likely that the late guest - or early, depending on how one looked at it - would be too drunk already, or too tired, to even look at her, but she pinched her cheeks and put the stray strands of auburn hair behind her ears before opening.
When she saw the man - elf - standing there she was glad that she had done so. Having previously been of no mind to serve him anything at all, she felt her mood lifting with each second she regarded his fair face. He looked sober, too.
"Come in, good sir," she told him. "Quietly, if you will. We're a bit full, and there are a few guests asleep on the floor."
"I bear a message," he replied, but made no move to accept her invitation. "For Eadhild." His pronunciation of the name was careful, as if some of its sounds were unfamiliar to his ears.
"Well, then you will have to come in and wait. Mistress Eadhild rests at this hour. Or, if the matter is pressing, I'll send one of the girls." She paused to peek into his eyes. "It's about a delivery, isn't it?" It was not unheard of that elves bought provisions to be taken with them, or delivered to their temporary encampment.
"My master does not desire a girl."
"Eh... Mistress Eadhild won't be up at this hour. I could ask someone to fetch her, but it'll take some time."
"I can wait. Under the stars," he added.
After a moment's thought, she closed the door, but decided to let the heavy bar be. One of the kitchen maids had just arrived, and Carla sent her to wake up their matron. The elf's emphasis on the word 'I' was curious, but his voice had added to the interest aroused by his looks, and she was eager to return to him. For fear of disturbing the inn's guests with further talk, she went outside, this time closing the door behind her.
"Like I said, it'll take some time, " she told the elf when she had joined him. "Would you care for some coffee, at least? No? Wine, at this hour?" He seemed as determined to stay outside as she was becoming to get him inside. Just so she could take a better look at him, of course. There would hardly be time for more, unless he was quick. But then, elves were reputed to be fast. And he was very handsome. Unfortunately, he also appeared to be a little shy - a newcomer to the town, she presumed - but promised to be worth the effort. She pushed out her chest and wet her lips before speaking again.
"Oh," she said. "There's something on your collar." The elf looked down and she took a step closer to him, brushing away the imaginary dirt. "Now, that's better." She remained standing close to him and stroked with her hand over the front of his tunic. "You are very strong, I think. And lonely, aren't you lonely?"
"Perhaps I am," he finally replied. His initial expression of astonishment was soon replaced with a slight smirk on his lips.
"Good," she told him cheerfully and put both her arms around his waist and tugged a little, drawing him towards the door. "Then come with me, sir elf. I have a bed that gives a good bounce, if you know what I mean." He didn't look like the stingy kind, but just for good measure, she added, "I won't charge. I like you."
"You are blessed with a generous nature, fíriel," he chuckled. "No doubt you have liked numerous others. But if you truly desire me, it will have to be here." He stopped, which rendered her tugging useless, and then backed her the other way, away from the door and towards the corner of the wall. Following her directions, he buried his fair face in her bosom and put his hands under her skirt.
"Well, then," she said, leaning back and holding on to his shoulders. "Very well! Oh! Yes, please! More like that, sir elf! Now, if you would just put that lovely... ouff." He had put something hard between her teeth; it was cool to the touch, and metallic. She let go of him enough to reach for the coin - why risk losing a gift, even if she would have preferred to be silenced with a kiss - and hid it in her fist. She tried not to say anything more. The elf helped her, and with kisses, too, and by the time both of them were satisfied, she was quite speechless. Not until she had straightened her clothes and hair did she speak again. "Yes, you are strong," she said admiringly.
Then the couple was interrupted by the loud creaking sound from the inn's door. A woman stepped out, not young, but carrying her years well. "I'm here," she said without turning her head in their direction. "And I think I know who sent you, so we had better not keep him waiting."
Eadhild had heard them from the other side of the door, and decided to be discreet, delaying her exit until the critical moment had passed. Outside, while waiting for the lovers to say goodbye, she thought back on her younger days. She had been as eager to please then as Carla, and as eager to catch every moment of pleasure that came within her reach. Eager to catch every elf.
"If you feel lonely again, do come back!"
Carla's words, followed by the creak, and then the small bang from the door, made her look up and, for the first time, notice the elf, who was now standing next to her. He had the angular face with somewhat slanted eyes that she had come to associate with the southern part of the woods. His expression betrayed little of what went on behind his dark eyes, except for a hint of insecurity, or was it discomfort?
"Mae govannen, master elf," she told him. "I can't see you properly in this dim light, but what I can discern is enough to make me understand that Carla - yes, that's her name - would have you visit again. You didn't have much time to get to know each other." She squinted, scrutinizing his face again. "I don't think I've seen you before. Neither here, nor... there."
"It is my first mission to this caras ...town of men, my lady." He spoke Westron with a heavier accent than the elves usually did, giving her no reason to doubt his words.
"Then you are brave." He seemed to grow an inch at those words. She tucked her hand under his arm and said; "I think it's time we get you under some trees again. Which way is it?"
He took her across the square and then turned left, which surprised her. The nearest tree-grown hill was in the northern outskirts, not towards the east. They continued wordlessly, walking through winding streets and narrow alleys, not nearly with the elves' usual haste, but enough to tire her considerably.
"No," she finally said, stopping dead in their tracks. "If you don't have a horse waiting for us, I will send for a cart."
"No horses. There is a lunt... boat. Among the flowers. Ninglor." Ah. That made sense then. Just one more turn to the right and they would be in the in the harbour area, or just south of it.
And there was the boat, cleverly hidden among the reeds, in case its nondescript greyish-brown colour wouldn't be enough to make it practically blend in with the muddy waters of the vast wetland. The yellow ninglor, the floating river gold that had given the town its beautiful name, were everywhere, weaving their stalks into strong nets that made passage up the Gladden river difficult.
Eadhild gingerly followed her elf companion into the small vessel and sat down on the single seat. Uncomfortable with this manner of travel, she kept her eyes on the water most of the time. The waters were shallow here, and instead of using a paddle, the elf pushed the boat forward with a pole. After a while, she became used to the soft rocking motion and could relax, at least as much that was possible, considering whom she was going to meet.
Why had he decided to call for her now, after so many years? Was he still thinking about her? Had he changed at all? Wouldn't he still be that arrogant, greedy, insatiable wine-drinker of an elf she had left? True, she answered herself. The king was hot-tempered and possessive, yes, but also protective of his people, generous towards his friends, and an impossibly handsome and very inspired lover. He was shrewd, too. Would she manage to remain strong in front of him, or would she allow herself to fall under his spell once more, to forget the independent woman she had become, and be reduced to the easily impressed girl she had been back then?
She sighed. All would be well, perhaps after some initial awkwardness. The Elvenking, in all likelihood, was interested only in negotiating a more formal business agreement than the loose arrangements currently in place. A discount on wine for all of his men, perhaps. But there was another thought at the back of her head, one she refused to acknowledge, although it kept nagging her. What if he wanted her to recommend a replacement? For all she knew, he could be that crass, and who would be better suited to choose a new girl for him? If that was his errand, she would steel herself and refuse. Despite their differences, to do such a thing would break her heart.
"Look," whispered a merry voice behind her, rousing her from her gloomy musings. "Ealc."
She followed the direction of his pointing finger and saw a large swan. It swam majestically among the flowers, bending its head towards them. The yellow gladdens shone white in the dusk. It was so beautiful. And then, the short trip was over. Her escort gestured to her to go ashore while he held the boat still, and she clumsily hopped onto the grassy shore, and then climbed up the sloping riverbank. As she went, slipping here and there on the dewy grass, she could hear the elf lifting the boat out of the water, or rather the sound of something large, but not too heavy, being dragged.
A number of lights was the first thing that met her eyes as she came over the edge of the slope. There were fires under the trees, small glowing ones, and laughter, but as she took another step, suddenly all lights went out and all was quiet. All that could be seen were wisps of morning mist dancing over the meadow, and a fat little rabbit that stopped munching grass and fled in terror as if it had only just noticed her presence. A hint of smoke floated through the air, but other than that, nothing told of the elves that were there.
Wood-elves! Their tricks weren't new to her, but it was the first time she was on the receiving end, and she decided it was not a comfortable feeling at all. The darkness under the trees seemed threatening somehow, as if something dangerous and unknown was lurking there, and the grey mist, for all of its beauty, now looked eerie. Even the rabbit was gone. She looked over her shoulder, hoping to see her companion. There was nothing to see, only a glimpse of the gladdens floating on the water. The sight of the flowers calmed her somehow, and she decided to wait. She had not come as an intruder, and the elves would make themselves known to her, in time.
She spread her cloak on the grass and sat down, but peace of mind eluded her. The trees were still dark, the floating grey mist seemed to have become only more impenetrable, and all was still quiet, too quiet for her taste. But there, what was that? Just a rabbit? Or something more... dire? The rustling sound was heard again, this time to her left, and a lot closer. She hastily rose to her feet.
"Thranduil? Is that you?" No answer. She might just as well go down to the river again and spend what little time remained until dawn watching her favourite flowers. She was just bending down to retrieve her cloak when she felt something brushing against her cheek, lightly as a feather. Startled, she stood up straight again, looking around.
"Do not move!" came a voice from behind her, not loud, but clear and firm. She would recognize it even after a hundred years, but the effect it had on her caught her by surprise. Even if she had wanted to, her legs would not move, of that she was sure. Part of her relaxed, feeling safe and secure now that she knew that she wasn't alone, and yet she was tenser than ever, trying the harder to hear, and anticipate the elf's next move. She cocked her head slightly and felt soft strands of hair against her cheek. They were instantly replaced by a light breath of air, as if their owner had suddenly jumped back.
"I told you to be still," said the voice again, merely a whisper in her ear this time, but the commanding tone was still there, even amplified by the contrast. She resisted the impulse to answer, and at the same time berated herself for doing so. King or not, he had no power over her. He had no right to demand anything!
The soft kiss below her ear made her waver. His palms gently stroking her hair were so easy to melt into, and the way his fingertips traced her face, pausing for a second at her mouth, brought back much of the longing she had felt the first months after leaving him. She held her breath as she felt him press his body against her from behind. For a moment she was deceived, almost prepared to believe that he wanted her. She did not want to end it, but at the same time, if she allowed him to continue, she knew that it would only be worse once she discovered the true reason behind his advances.
"Thranduil!" she exclaimed, surprised at the mildness of her voice. She tried to put more strength into her speech when she continued. "Why do you mock an old woman? I will not play your games."
"This... is not a game." Again, his words were whispered straight into her ear, and he concluded by nipping her earlobe. She hissed, and then jumped as she felt his hardness rubbing against her behind. No, no, no!
"Look at me!" Her desperation was coming through. "You do not want me as I am now."
"I have seen you this night, and before that beheld you numerous times, in the town." His words were calm and he continued to push his hips against her. And now his hands were creeping up her bodice.
"Hardly in broad daylight, then," she said, putting her hands on top of his. "My face, my body... I am not the young woman you knew." He chuckled, and she listened in vain for any hint of bitterness or mockery.
"Ah," he replied, catching her wrists in one hand, leaving the other free to roam as it would, "is it not common knowledge among men that berries turns only sweeter when bitten by the frost?" He now cupped a breast with his palm and she waited for him to withdraw, disappointed, but it did not happen.
"The word is 'bitten'," she told him, more excited by his actions, and new hope, than she cared to admit, "not chewed upon until all freshness is gone and they are empty and shrivelled." At this, he suddenly whirled her around, placing them face-to-face. She knew what to expect, but seeing his youthful, unchanged appearance still came as a shock. Those eyes... they seemed to penetrate her soul as he regarded her.
"Your cheeks are still red," he concluded. "I see my Eadhild, and I see her ripe." He ran his tongue over his teeth, as if tasting something. "Green fruit has a sharp freshness that can be very enjoyable, but only the ripe ones offer their full aroma."
"And one overripe is only sickening to taste. Do not try to flatter me. Despite all your years, you look much younger than I do. Too young."
"The aged beech-trees of my forest rot in their heart although their bark remains as smooth as when they were saplings. Does that make them 'young'? Do not speak to me of years! How enjoyable is summer, when winter never comes?" He shook his head vehemently and spat; "By Elbereth, woman! I did not bring you to argue over the gift of Eru to the Second-born!"
"You desire me," he continued, in a matter-of-fact way that left no room for arguments, "just as the first time I saw you." It was true, she knew that it was, and his vehemence confirmed it the more. "If you will not believe that I speak of lust, not pity or cunning, then trust this!" He took her hand and placed it over his crotch, holding her fingers there.
There was no possibility of misinterpretation. After a final, defiant stare that forced her to lower her gaze to his clenched jaws, he released her hand. She continued to hold it where it was, by her own will, and even press her fingers harder towards him, feeling up and down. It excited her incredibly to experience his lust for her in this very direct manner. Those very tight pants, the leather soft and smooth from frequent use, and so full now. She found it hard to stop, but knew that she had to give him a spoken answer before his patience ran out. She was not willing to lose him now.
"Yes," she breathed, glancing up into that strained face. "Yes, but," she added. His hands were already around her waist and he had lifted her. She found herself dangling her feet a few inches above the ground. A very undignified position, but she was satisfied that he had waited. "If you have no fear for human frailty," she continued, "then so be it. But do at least honour my years. I am well past being thrown onto the grass."
The grin on his lips as he lowered her to the ground was feral. His gentleness - contrary to his expression - surprised her. He had laid her down on the cloak slowly, like she had asked, but then he proceeded with the same care. Soft caresses to her thighs, gentle kisses to her face... it was deliciously sweet, but something was missing. The Elvenking she used to know was not like this, and for all the selfishness and arrogance that was part of him, she missed him.
His next kiss turned into a bite that made her yelp. His hands clamped down on her wrists, lifting them above her head and pinning them there. The next thrust of his hips pressed her hard into the ground, the sudden heaviness of his body making her almost lose her breath, despite the layers of clothing still separating them, and she loved it. She moaned into his ear, urging him on, and when he released her hands she buried one in his hair and tugged at his belt with the other. His familiar, heady scent made her feel drunk, and she abandoned the last shards of propriety.
"Take me, Thranduil!" she moaned. "Please! Do not make me wait any longer!"
He purred in response, a deep sound that warmed her heart, but for a few seconds she felt abandoned as his body left hers. Then he was there again, flesh on flesh this time. The sensation as he entered her was stronger than she had anticipated. Lost in emotions, she was for the most part a passive lover, but she knew that he enjoyed playing the predator. That had not changed, and neither had the pleasure she felt from being with him.
Afterwards, she lay panting in the grass while he brought her a refreshing cup of wine, and then she felt, to her surprise, that she wanted him again. They took it slower this time, with her on top, riding him in an even, lazy pace. That is, until he began to use his dexterous thumb right on her sensitive little bud. He laughed heartily when she started to buck wildly, totally losing her rhythm. From that moment, he took over, bringing them both to loud completion.
Now fully satiated, she rested with her head against his arm. The sky had taken on a rosy shimmer that enhanced the greens in his tunic. She knew that it went well with his eyes too, but she was suddenly afraid to meet his gaze. If he were to ask her to come with him to his realm, would she follow? Would she be able to take up her old role as the Elvenking's kept woman, to live foremost for his pleasure?
It was a safe enough question to ponder, for she knew that he would never ask, not when there was a possibility of rejection. Neither would she ask him to take her back. Despite what they had just shared, of all the feelings between them, pride was still the one pre-eminent. The thought of living with him again was tempting, but it would not work. Better be the master of a hut, than servant of a palace.
"How about being a guest?" His question interrupted her thoughts, and she was disoriented for a moment.
"You have changed, Eadhild."
"But you, Thranduil, have not." He rose suddenly, eyes flashing with anger. It made her chuckle. No, the leader of the elves in the dark forest hadn't changed at all. She stifled a giggle when he turned his back on her, crossing his arms in a proud stance. It was a good sign that he did not storm off, angrily shouting for his seneschal. She sat up and waited until he lowered his shoulders.
"Will your warriors pass through here next summer?" she then asked him casually, while brushing grass and dust from her dress. Despite her efforts to be cool, she found herself holding her breath for the answer.
He nodded. "I may even join them. These parts are good for hunting."
"I am honoured to hear that". She rose and went to his side, but knew better than to try to touch him, or explain her earlier words. The Elvenking had not changed in all the years since first she saw him, and he would not change a hundred years after she was gone. And that was all there was to it.
"You will follow me to the fires now," he told her. "You need to rest."
Eadhild awoke suddenly, when the sharp light of the rising sun shone through the foliage and right into her face. Rubbing her eyes, she sat up and then looked around. In her newly awakened state it took a few moments before the happenings of the night came back to her, and they filled her with joy, despite that she was now alone.
Thranduil was gone, and the only sign that he and his elves had ever been there were the remnants of ashes where their fires had been. That, and the slightest smell of wine. But then she noticed that she was holding something in her still closed hand. It was cold, hard and sharp enough to sting her. Slowly she opened her fingers, one by one, and there, in the middle of her palm was a small white gem, sparkling in the sunlight, and it was shaped like a heart.
Still smiling, but now with a quickly beating heart, she snapped her hand shut while she felt for the pouch she always carried underneath her skirt. As she hid her treasure she became aware that she had company, after all.
The brown mare that usually drew the inn's cart raised her head and whinnied, recognizing the woman. The horse let herself be caught, and, although its presence was a complete surprise to Eadhild, she concluded that it was another trick, and a gift, of the elves. Climbing up on its back posed some difficulty, but once that initial hindrance had been overcome, riding the animal was easy, even without a saddle - a skill her body remembered from her youth in Rohan. With her heels, she turned the horse to the left, intending to follow the river downstream, and began the short journey back to her ordinary life in the town.
The rabbit crouching in the grass gave them only a fleeting glance as they passed his meadow. The lives of the two-legged mattered little to him, even the long-legged, talking ones who had tried to strike up a conversation with him during the night. His stomach was pleasantly full, and the wind bore an alarming scent of fox; it was time to return to his burrow.
Another note from the author: I hope that the meaning of the small number of Elvish words was clear from the context. As they are spoken by a wood-elf I would have liked them to be Nandorin (the language of the Green-elves, or 'Silvan'), but as there's very little known of that language, I had to use some Sindarin as well. But then, by T.A. the elves in Mirkwood probably spoke mostly Sindarin anyway ;-) If you share my interest in Tolkien's art languages you are probably aware of Helge Fauskanger's site 'Ardalambion'. If not, you can find it here: http://www.uib.no/people/hnohf/ Don't let the ugly graphics deter you... the site is quite invaluable.
Posted: October 11, 2006
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"Long live Thranduil, great Elf-king of Greenwood!"