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Intimate Rites

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Those who had seen the Second Age of Middle-Earth remembered well the Siege of Imladris. After the fall of Eregion, Elrond had led a tattered force of elvish warriors and refugees out of the sack of Eregion’s city, Ost-in-Edhil, to take refuge in the deep valley. Sauron’s forces feared the valley, its woods perfect for elvish ambushes, its waters, they said, touched by Ulmo. So the orcs and evil mortals had blockaded it. They would not enter, but they would make sure nobody would leave by its few steep paths. The valley had been surrounded for two years when the siege was broken, on the Elves’ New Year’s Day of 1702.

A week later, the defending forces mingled with their rescuers, the mighty mortal troops of Numenor and the elf-folk riding under Gil-Galad’s banner. Many lovers and spouses had been reunited, and many more had learned that they were bereaved. Of all those dear to each other, the last two to come together were Elrond and Gil-Galad themselves.

Matters had finally calmed enough for the two to tour the valley of Imladris as a pair alone. They walked among its trees and glades, burgeoning with the delicate freshness of earliest spring. The season was a fine match for the lacy, elegant buildings Elrond’s trapped people had made. Gil-Galad exclaimed, “I would say that it was ironic that many of the defenders seem reluctant to leave Imladris, if I had not seen what you made of it.” He ran an appreciative hand over the railing of a carved stone bridge.

Elrond watched Gil-Galad stroke the stonework and smiled. “We had the refugees of crafts-mad Eregion mingled for two years with some of the Dwarves. Once they began to get competitive about stone-carving – well, you see the results.” Elrond deliberately did not say that the crafters’ rivalry had been tolerated because it distracted everyone from their short siege rations. By the time Gil-Galad and the Numenoreans had broken through, those under siege had eaten the last of their horses. The prospect of a third winter defending the refuge had been grim.

As they walked, Elrond pointed out fine statues here and fluted windows there; anything, he was thinking, to keep Gil-Galad’s eye from lingering on Elrond himself. Elrond knew he was drawn and shadowed, his once-rich gear worn, his features harsher than they had been. And he had seen the slight disdain in the eyes of the rescuing Númenoreans as they observed the tattered state of the Elves they rescued. Gil-Galad, high lord of many Elves, seemed to be trying to shrink his sleek, kingly frame inside his rich clothes, to no avail. He was still every inch the handsome noble who had, half an Age past, delighted Elrond with his desire.

Their intimacy was an open secret at Gil-Galad’s court in Lindon. Here, in the presence of the harsh prince of the Númenoreans, they had both been discreet. Yet he had felt Gil-Galad’s eyes on him as he ordered troops about or explained how he had managed his command. With Gil-Galad’s proper reserve before their soldiers, Elrond had been unable to say if that gaze still held any desire.

To make matters worse, even though they were alone, Gil-Galad’s voice still kept its formal cadence. He paused on the small bridge he had been admiring. “This is all splendid, worthy of Lindon itself. I could not have done better in battle or siege than you – than you and Celebrían.” Elrond started. Now that he thought of it, Gil-Galad’s gaze had been most intense when they had been in the company of the warrior-maid Celebrían, Elrond’s unexpected co-commander during the siege. It seemed to confirm a suspicion of his, and his heart plummeted.

“I and Celebrían,” Elrond acknowledged. “Galadriel and Celeborn were so grief-stricken by Eregion’s fall that their daughter stepped to the fore tending daily matters. I don’t know what we would have done without her.” Elrond looked back to see that Gil-Galad was standing still, in the center of the bridge.

They stood and looked at each other for a moment. Finally, Gil-Galad said, “You have changed.”

Elrond inhaled, pained and relieved to have it laid out in the open. “Yes. I’m as thrawn as a mountain-goat, and I’ve lost all my courtly airs. And now I see you, handsome as --”

Gently, Gil-Galad said, “That is not what I meant.” He looked down, creasing the edge of his blue velvet cloak. Elrond, distancing himself from the moment, thought how handsome he looked, dark and fair, his vivid blue and gold garb bright in the green shadows of the spring dusk. “Do you remember how I used to call you my lad? I cannot do that anymore; not after what you have endured. These people here all look to you as their leader. You and Celebrían… I have seen you together. Are you going to marry her?”

Elrond opened his mouth in astonishment, then smiled as he understood Gil-Galad’s glances at last. “I was going to ask you the same thing, now that you’ve met her. I thought you had an eye for her. Which I can understand. She’s the most splendid woman I’ve ever seen – I was sure she’d steal your heart away.”

Their eyes met again, both with the same, anxious look, and for the first time, they laughed. It was a harrowed laugh, ending in a gasp as the two elf-men finally embraced. Crushing Elrond to him, Gil-Galad groaned, “I was afraid I’d lose you. Or that you would be bitter at heart, that Sauron’s forces kept me far from you these long years.”

Elrond replied, simply, “I was afraid that I would lose for you. That I would not be what was needed. I have but tried. It is your word that shows me I succeeded in that, even if I lost Eregion.”

Gil-Galad gripped tighter. “Ai, when you say that sort of thing, which proves me right. I’ve been wild for wanting you. Come to my tent tonight. We’ll get young Ciryatur drunk enough that it’ll take four pages to carry him off, and then you and I…”

“It would not be wise. Ciryatur is not the leader of Númenor’s forces for naught. He is too canny for that. Already he sees more of us than we might wish.” Hearing Elrond say this, Gil-Galad started in disappointment. Elrond slipped out of his embrace gently and continued, with a smile brightening his features. “But there is somewhere we can go besides your tent, where we will not be found. Come! My crafters have made one last marvel. Follow me!”

Gil-Galad shook his head, smiling. “Proved right a third time; now you even order me around. I obey, o Lord of Imladris.” Both of them laughing, neither yet knowing that this would be Elrond’s title through long years, Elrond led the way down flagged paths and through new halls. Abruptly, the air they breathed changed from humid forest-breath to the sharpness of new wood and fresh plaster, overlain with a dry hint of stone dust. By the time they stopped, Elrond had drawn them into the rooms tucked in an obscure corner of the building.

“The Dwarves delved far, and of this private corner, the Elves made this.” Elrond opened a door and gestured Gil-Galad inside a chamber. Even over the new building’s sharpness, he caught a hint of his lover’s musk as Gil-Galad stepped by, and he inhaled eagerly.

Elrond remained in the doorway of this chamber as Gil-Galad looked around. “Do you like it?”

“A chamber just for ansereg,” Gil-Galad breathed. His face lit up with genuine wonder as he took the few paces necessary to cross the small room.

“Probably the smallest there is,” Elrond said, trying to sound modest. He peered in and saw that the elvish crafters, once they had thanked the Dwarves for laying the walls and foundations, had lavished their utmost on this chamber.

Each wall of the octagonal room was paneled with newly finished wood, carved with fine harshness, except for two alcoves, one at each side. These alcoves each held crisp new benches with white-plastered walls behind them, to be painted some more prosperous day. The knobs gleamed on cupboards at four points of the compass. Through the thin-worn soles of his boots, Elrond could feel how new the black and white floor-tiles were, each of them distinct as they coiled in their intricate, spiraled pattern. He watched Gil-Galad pause before the room’s one window, narrow and tall, its milky glass set with a few richer fragments of crimson, faceted lights of red crystal donated by one of the Eregion refugees.

Gil-Galad touched the room’s only other ornament. A pair of thin iron chains hung from the ceiling. They held no lantern; they were long enough to trail their fine lengths upon the floor. It was the chains, irrevocably fixed to the ceiling’s heart, that declared the space sanctified for ansereg, that elvish ritual of pain, endurance, and, possibly, desire. Elrond watched as Gil-Galad threaded one chain through his hand, then looked up and smiled, teeth white in the dim room. “Small, like a jewel-box. I like its intimacy. Besides, it is surely the most beautiful. But then, you knew that.”

Elrond shook his head. “I was not sure how it looked. I swore I would not set foot in it without you; and I have not.” He entered, and closed the door. “Now you are here, and so am I.”

No sooner had the door shut than Gil-Galad embraced Elrond again. “Ai, Elrond! After your retreat from Eregion, you might have waited in a daze of sorrow amongst the trees; you might have died in a mad sally like the elf-kings of old. Instead, not only did you preserve what lives you could, you kept up both our peoples’ spirits and their art. And that you were so true to me in your thoughts, even amidst your travails…” Still pressed against him, Gil-Galad slid to kneeling, his embrace ringing Elrond’s thighs. “I loved you when you were lad and scholar. I love you still, full-come to mastery and wisdom. Stand above me in ansereg this night!”

Elrond was shocked, then delighted by this call to dominate his lover. In Lindon’s chambers of ansereg, overlooking the sea, Elrond had been known to master others in front of Gil-Galad with great verve. Afterwards, in Gil-Galad’s private chambers, he had surrendered to his lover’s embrace. Their shared desire had ever distracted them from ansereg with each other: it had been a rarity; Gil-Galad’s kneeling was even rarer, and always done on a bold impulse, as it was now.

Elrond reached down and stroked Gil-Galad’s face. “Ah, beloved. Only you could kneel and still show all the generosity of the King.” He leaned over and kissed Gil-Galad fervently, then stepped back as Gil-Galad’s tongue began to probe. “If you mean what you say, you will step back a bit from your lusts. You ever cared for desire more than ansereg, my love,” he said. “Agreed?”

Gil-Galad opened his mouth to protest, then caught himself. He looked up at Elrond for a moment. “You were ever a stickler for doing it right,” he murmured, almost to himself, then said, “Yes – my lord,” aloud.

Content that Gil-Galad’s acquiescence was more than mere love-play, Elrond nodded. “Then take off all your clothes, and hold fast the chains. You know how.” He shuddered when Gil-Galad stood to obey.

Gil-Galad undid the clasps of his cloak and let it fall in a voluptuous slump of velvet. He fixed Elrond with a burning gaze as he undid sashes and laces, taking care to unfasten every one before divesting himself of his layered garments. Elrond admired him, feeling how the long siege had been hungry in more ways than one. He drank in Gil-Galad’s expanses of unblemished muscle, astonished at the predator’s sharpness that rose inside him. Watching, he had to curl his hands into fists to contain his palms’ aching to feel his lover’s skin. Finally, Gil-Galad clasped the chains, his undeniable beauty underlined with rightful pride. He tossed his head to make his long, thick hair, half-braided, fall becomingly, then waited.

Even as he felt himself become inflamed, seeing all his own seductive tricks turned against him, Elrond had to smile a little – for Gil-Galad, clasping the chains, had let his rich clothes stay where they fell. Elrond paced in hungry stealth around Gil-Galad three times, setting the ritual’s circle, treading on the edge of the tiles’ pattern and the garments alike. With the last step taken, he said, “The trial begins. And the first thing for you, Ereinion; get these clothes out of the way. They tangle my feet.”

Gil-Galad started at the use of his given name. Elrond knew that the people he ruled never addressed him thus. Only a handful in Lindon could call him Ereinion, and it was evident, by his reaction, that nobody had attempted that intimacy for a long time. Since this war began? Elrond wondered. When Ereinion had recovered, he turned himself to obey. He ran his hands down the chains and knelt to scoop up the clothes, putting them on one of the nearby benches. Cleverly, he did this with the chains of ansereg laced between his fingers.

As Ereinion managed this, Elrond turned to open one of the cupboards meant to hold tools of ansereg. He intended to choose something to begin ansereg’s torments - but cupboard had nothing but empty hooks, waiting for flails or paddles. The second cupboard had orderly, vacant shelves; the third one drawers with uninhabited compartments; the fourth one had nothing at all. He cast a quick glance at the pile of Ereinion’s clothes; the peaceful garb held not even one leather belt. Elrond’s own belt was of heavy canvas, passing useless for any discipline.

Elrond saw that Ereinion had finished and noted this circuit of the cupboards; seeing himself seen, Ereinion looked away, abashed. This quiet, respectful of Elrond’s place, touched Elrond’s heart as much as the first submission had. He might leave Ereinion alone in the room, standing nude and humbled, to leave and find something fitting. But the thought of abandoning his beloved, however briefly, felt as wrong as the sting of a poisonous berry on the tongue. Elrond determined to take what was offered using only what they had with them. After all, he hadn’t survived three battles, the retreat, and the siege without being resourceful.

Elrond stepped up behind his lover and, for the first thing, undid Ereinion’s braids, undoing the cords that held them and combing out every last dark lock. Palming the cords of silk and gold, he bit the sinews in Ereinion’s neck. Such a strong, full neck, the surface cool, the blood pounding beneath. “No matter what I do to you, keep a hold of those chains, now.”

Ereinion snorted. “I may not pick them up often, but I’ve never let go of them once I’ve grasped them.” He shifted his hands higher.

Elrond held back his laughter and leaned close enough that when he spoke, his lips taunted Ereinion’s ear. If Ereinion was his, truly his, this hour, he would have the answer to a question that had given him some restless nights. “Who tried to seduce you while I was gone?”

Ereinion shed his pride in an instant. His breath caught before he answered. “More than one. It was thought that if you went forth, I must not favor you…” He bowed his head, upset even to say the words. “You know how wrong they were.”

“Yes. You are showing me well.” In joyous possession, Elrond lavished further bites along the curves of Ereinion’s neck, pressing against him from behind. What a wealth of flesh! He had enjoyed being overwhelmed by his lover’s body in the past. Now, all these hard curves and planes, the trembling joints and rushing breath, were his to undo. Hungry to claim, he reached around and down Ereinion’s front to knead and stroke the richest part of his lover’s flesh, the intimate mat of hair thick as piled velvet, the hanging manhood, heavy as if weighted inside with gold.

Running his hands back over Ereinion’s firm stomach, Elrond went to tease his chest with caresses – and his hand came across something that flared with cool energy. He had lain his hands over the Rings of Power the king wore on a chain around his neck. Ereinion’s beauty had moved him so much, he had not noticed before now.

Elrond let his hand settle over the jewels, cupping them against Ereinion’s heart. “Was it safe to bring these?”

“Safer than leaving them,” Ereinion said. There was lust in his voice – for Elrond, or for the rings? Elrond put that question aside, enjoying the way Ereinion shuddered as he stroked the rings’ chain.

It came to Elrond that he had toyed enough. If he had been on those chains, he would have been biting his own mouth in impatience. He tore himself away from his lover’s skin and went to stand in front of his subject. Ereinion’s eyes, which had been narrowed in desire, opened again in alarm at Elrond’s new purpose. Elrond reached under Ereinion’s chin to draw his gaze. “Whatever I do to you, you are not allowed to spend,” he said, and had the immediate pleasure of feeling the pulse in the other elf-man’s throat speed up at the promising threat.

At last, Elrond untangled the gold and silk cords from his left hand. He used these to truss Ereinion’s cock and the rich sac behind it. He lingered over this, stroking the shaft, murmuring to Ereinion that by the weight between his legs, he showed again how he had been saving his lusts. By the time the last knot was tied, Ereinion’s cock was rearing high, with a reddish flush as if it had been dipped in wine. Even better, Ereinion’s pride had also risen again. He was gritting his teeth and sweating in the cool room, sliding his hands higher upon the chains in speechless defiance.

Elrond smiled, unaware that his face was free of the weariness and anxiety that had dogged him for months. “I see you understand me, beloved. Your submission is such a rich gift; I am doing my best to honor it with what I have for ansereg.” He held up his empty hands. “This chamber, these hands, and desire.”

Ereinion twisted and spread his legs to stand wider, as if the tassels of the cords were stroking too much between his thighs. “You’re…doing very well…my lord,” he managed to mutter. “Can’t I do anything for you?”

“You can respond to me further,” Elrond replied. He went and stood behind Ereinion again.

Ereinion turned back to look over his shoulder. “I like looking at you,” he said.

Elrond inhaled again with pleasure, but stayed firm. “And I like feeling you. You know, if you were watching this as a second, you’d be waiting for me to discipline all this impertinence.” With that, he reached in front and twisted one of Ereinion’s nipples, so hard that the muscle underneath twisted too. Ereinion’s breath came sharp, but he did not move.

Elrond was proud of this, even has he dragged Ereinion down so that they both knelt. With both of them kneeling, he sank his fingers into Erenion’s hair and drew his head back, so that Erenion must listen to his whisper, hot and teasing. “You said earlier that I was no lad anymore. Fie for that! I will be your lad again, and it please you. The difference is that now, you will be mine as well. And for all your pride, and haste, and lust, and impertinence, delicious as it is, I will make you suffer well and long, first, with what I have.”

Elrond dove into one of his own pockets. His leather gloves, fine liners to be worn beneath armored gauntlets, were not much to look at, but he slid them on. The black leather was so thin that it clung, and he could feel even on his own hands that its delicious nap was worn to something between a smooth hide and suede. He hoped that he was like the gloves to Ereinion, useful and good to touch, even if not as fair as he once had been. With this in mind, he let one of his sheathed hands dive down to a place he had not yet touched. He allowed himself one caress of Erenion’s arse, the full lower cheek of one side hollowing at the hip. Then, he struck, slapping the full curve with the palm of his open hand.

Ereinion arched back. In ansereg, such a tap was nothing as torments were deemed. But Elrond had his own reason for striking that way again, and again, and again. He knew the smacks sent a jolt of confused sensation through Ereinion’s loins, set his cock moving and swelling within its golden constraints.

Elrond kept a strong arm and a hardened hand, and the flesh he smacked was soon hot as stones in the sun. Again and again he struck, administering the leather-gloved blows in time with his lover’s breaths. He drank in Ereinion’s groans and imprecations alike. It had ever been so, the few times Ereinion had knelt; good will at first, turning into stung pride and fierce endurance. Yes, this was his lover, and after all the fearful obedience Elrond had commanded for so long, Erenion’s half-mastered defiance was dear and sweet.

Elrond shifted himself slightly so that his free hand could slip around and pull at the dangling tassels. Soon, Ereinion was gasping, with a new, desperate note. “I cannot possibly be hurting you,” Elrond murmured, giving the bindings another pull. “What I did was no worse than a few minutes of a horse-ride’s rhythm.”

“You said – you could feel how I held back – move your hand higher, and see how true I spoke,” Ereinion pleaded.

Elrond felt his lover’s strong body, now radiating heat and musk, go rigid as he slid his gloved fingers up the waiting, straining shaft. With tormenting delicacy, he drew one finger alone along the underside of the warm skin. At first the glove dragged as if he ran that finger over a weapon in a velvet sheath, but soon the leather slid smoothly, as if over damp satin. Elrond lingered at the touch until the glove’s leather was wet through with the clear beginnings of seed fluid and he was able to hold his hand still as Ereinion, yearning, rubbed upon him.

“I can feel much; you even feel like you’re about to spend,” said Elrond, drawing his hand away.

And with his hand still gloved, that one finger moistened, Elrond pressed his fingers up along the cleft he had rendered reddened and aching. When this drew a pleased mutter from Ereinon, he sent his most active fingertip probing again. “Tell me what it feels like, the leather and your own wetness,”

“Like a gloved finger,” said Ereinion, his voice as rigid as his body.

“You aren’t allowing yourself to feel it,” Elrond chided. “Lean back, onto your heels, onto my hand. Better.” He rubbed two paired fingers in that intimate spot, and asked again.

Now Ereinion was leaning back as he had leaned forwards before. Elrond could see his face in profile, witness him exhaling some of his pride away as the clever stroking roused him yet further. Half-besotted and half-impertinent, Ereinion answered the question at last. “Feels like your tongue.”

Elrond laughed in his throat. “Good answer,” he said, letting his fingers slip further than they had, before withdrawing them completely again.

Elrond stood and took a moment to enjoy the sight of Ereinion, kneeling upright again, between the chains. The dark floor was a superb foil for the warm flesh that knelt upon it; the room’s crafters had done well. Elrond was, himself, satisfied at what he had done with his hands and his desire. Softly, he said, “You look like you’re in a state. Are you in pain?”

Ereinion shook his head, hair flying without heed, and admitted, “It’s so much, I can’t tell anymore.”

Elrond, for the first time, traced his hand along his own loins. “Then you know how I felt, missing you, hoping to live to see you again. How I feel right now, taunting you and myself as well.” Elrond lowered his glance. Ereinion’s eyes gleamed as blue as one of the rings about his neck. Elrond caressed Ereinion’s arm, trembling on the chain, up to the nape of Ereinion’s neck. “Ai, look how the light has faded,” Elrond said, as if surprised. “Our hour is near done. Shall we depart?”

Ereinion glanced around the chamber. It would have been dark to a mortal; to the two elves, it was in dim twilight. Recalling his duty, yet still entwined in following Elrond’s commands, he sighed gravely, “If we must.” He hauled himself up the chains to standing, arcing his hips out with a twisted expression of pained need as he arose.

Elrond held his breath; his little feint, one of the many tricks of the mind used in ansereg, had worked. “And you know how I feel more now, setting desire aside for duty.” He looked his standing lover in the eye and nodded. “The trial is borne.”

Ereinion nearly jumped with surprise, then breathed, “You orc-loving trickster. How you had me there!” He shook his head, and, seeing Elrond’s restrained smile and brilliant eyes, opened into a grin himself. “I’m guessing that you are right…but that we will not go exactly yet,” he said, and reached down to undo the cords.

“Ah, let me,” said Elrond. He took the knot of the cords between two fingers and pulled at it just so; the cords fell free. Then he unlaced the constrained organ carefully, giving it further strokes. Ereinion did not endure this patiently anymore; he half-knelt to tackle Elrond into a fevered grasp. After a merry tumble, the pair of them were kneeling between the chains, feeding ravenously on each other’s mouths.

When he could stop for an instant, Ereinion rasped, “What would you, Elrond, what would you? Name it!”

“I want everything, more than I can have. It’s enough just to touch you.” Yanking impatiently at his waistband, Elrond said, “Turn about, let your legs sheath me, I shall give you my hand,” he urged. In a moment, he held Ereinion’s leaping cock in his hand while pressing his entire body along his lover’s back. Ereinion’s sweat-slick, hot thighs clamped tighter, gripping Elrond’s own shaft in a channel. It was a warrior’s makeshift, this position, a compromise for two elf-men ill-equipped with oil or grease, but with more than their share of lust.

Elrond stroked firmly, without restraint or taunt, rolling his lover’s full length in his grip. Just as the shaft Elrond caressed was starting to throb under his touch, Ereinion jerked his body away, to spill not seed, but an apology. “My lord, my lord, I would have spent. I don’t – so soon – I – “

“I’m not tormenting you now, I’m not your lord, I’d take you, have you take me, every possible way. Beloved, please, for me,” Elrond urged.

Ereinion half-collapsed against back him with rocking hips and a half-shout of release. Elrond closed his eyes and groaned himself at the damp warmth on the palm of his leather glove. One last thrust of his loins between his lover’s strong thighs finished him, as well.

When he opened his eyes, he saw that whoever had laid the room’s tile floor had been doubly canny. The white tiles laced among the floor’s design made other lines of lust difficult to distinguish, part of the intricate pattern. He wanted to stand and wrap Ereinion in a cloak; after so long nude, his beloved would surely be chilled – and he had not been wrong to say that the King, let alone the lord of Imladris, would need to return to their duties soon. He laid a hand on those tiles in gratitude; grateful to the room’s makers, grateful as well to the long tradition, that had allowed the pair of them to shed the shared pain of desire. It had been, indeed, all the torment they needed.

Sensing him about to arise, Ereinion grasped him again. “Not so quickly,” he sighed. Elrond surrendered to the embrace, allowing his lover’s hands to slide inside his clothes, with as much relief and joy as he had felt when the greater siege was broken.