The rustic two-story building serving as both an Inn and Dining Hall sat comfortably nestled in a grove of tall evergreens, sheltered beneath the outer edges of the leafy canopy of the Vellanräé and Malinornë trees. The evening had grown late and most of Lórinand had retreated to their tree top homes or faded back into the surrounding Vales.
Tauriel sat quietly, just staring at the flames in the hearth that dominated the far wall of the main dining area. Fleeing Mirkwood, she had hoped to find solitude amongst the Wood elves, yet the ache in her heart had only grown deeper. Truly alone with nothing but her memories of the only home she had ever known and the love she found only to lose. She knew there was no going back, even without having been banished, her betrayal of Legolas had caused a rift between him and his father, a pain she knew he would never forgive.
Frowning as someone stepped close yet just outside her vision, she became aware that the soft hum of conversation had faded suddenly into silence.
“Please don’t make a scene Tauriel.” The young Woodland guard said softly, making no move to come closer to her.
“Where is he?” She demanded more than asked as she continued to stare into the hearth. She knew without looking it was Eluandúnië. He was the youngest of the kings’ personal guard and a Silvan elf like herself.
“The king is tending to other business.” He told her quietly as he finally stepped closer, standing between her and the hearth. “He will join us in morning, for now you will come with us.” He added, his voice remained quiet yet his tone was firm.
“I am going nowhere with you.” She stated, nearly jumping to her feet as she turned toward the main entrance. “Damn it!” She hissed beneath her breath as she turned away from Rínnänéth, only to find herself staring at the stoic face of Macilvoronhûr, both of which were members of the kings’ personal guard. Glancing around the large main room, her heart sank as she noted only a few Wood elves cleaning the tables and the worried Sambetur (Keeper of the Hall) were all that remained.
“I need to gather my things.” She stated as she turned back to face him angrily, ignoring the sadness and the warning in his soft green eyes.
“Glaurhalbër has already taken them back to the Vale, now come.” He told her, waving his hand in front of him indicating that she lead the way toward the back entrance.
“Aldalómë?” She asked, turning away from him to walk slowly toward the entrance.
“He awaits us at the Vale.” He replied, moving close behind her.
“She must be very important to you Eshë.”(Friend-Trusted Ally) Gilaiwë said quietly, reaching up to tuck a few stray strands of his hair behind his ear and caress his cheek.
“I have been her protector since she was but an elfling.” Thranduil sighed as he leaned down, placing a soft kiss on her forehead. “She is young and irrational, I wish only to return her to her home.” He added, burying his face in the warmth of her neck.
“It is easy to do when you love someone.” She mused as she drew her nails up across the naked flesh of his back, smiling as she felt him shiver.
“Love?!” He nearly blurted as he pulled back from her, his eyes narrowing as he stared at her.
“Why else would you personally come to retrieve her?” She laughed, tilting her head as she stared back at him inquisitively, her soft blue eyes dancing with laughter.
“Gilaiwë, to me she is but a child, I feel responsible for her.” He groaned as he leaned down, capturing her mouth in a long searching kiss that turned hungry as he felt her body pressing tighter against his own.
“Perhaps I just wanted to see you again.” He said quietly, a soft lilt of humor resonated in his deep tone as he pulled back from her.
A playful mischief dancing in his eyes as he moved lower, gently sucking a small nipple into his mouth. Closing his eyes, he flicked the tiny bud with tip of his tongue, enjoying the soft moans that escaped her throat as he teased her relentlessly. Releasing it as he felt her fingers tangle themselves in his hair, he moved to the other one, his fingers quickly replacing his lips on the other. Smiling to himself as he trailed his kisses, lower down her taut stomach as he settled himself between her thighs. Grasping her hips gently yet firmly, he drew his tongue teasingly along the inside of her sex before pressing his lips at the apex. Encircling the small pearl with his lips, he suckled gently as he pleasured her with the tip of his tongue. Moving upward only when her groans became more demanding as she thrust against him, he pressed into her warmth.
Wrapping her arms around him as he entered her, she hugged him tightly, pressing her cheek against his chest. Breathing in the scent of him, she listened to the soft moans boiling in his chest and throat as he moved against her, taking her with him. Arching toward him, she met his thrusts with a hunger that matched his as he built the tension between them. Clinging to him tightly as she felt him stiffen, his breath coming in ragged gasps, she held him as he found his release. Smiling as he collapsed against her, she continued to hold him as she gently stroked his hair.
They were as much kindred Fäë (Spirit) now as they were long ago, with no care for orthodox ways. She was of noble birth as was he, yet with many brothers and sisters, she had been spared the ordeal of a forced arranged marriage that he as his father’s only heir had endured. There had been many an elleth (Elf maiden) that had warmed his bed over the many long years since he had lived here for a time as a carefree young prince. Yet, as his first, it was always Gilaiwë whose light burned the brightest in his memories.
The room had darkened as all but one of the tall tappers had flickered out into puddles of melted of wax in their holders. Even the hearth had darkened, casting an almost eerie ember glow about the room as they lay silently, their bodies still entwined on the bed.
“Do you have to go so soon?” Gilaiwë whispered, her arm still held him possessively as she rested her head on his chest, listening to the steady sound of his heartbeat.
“I am afraid I do.” He sighed, one hand absently stroking her hair gently as he caressed the soft flesh of her naked bottom with the other. “Even departing at first light we will have to make camp at least once before entering the forest. If we encounter the shelob (spiders), I do not wish to do so at night.”
“You must find a way to let me know you have arrived safely.” She told him as she moved on top of him, clasping his face in her hands. “I shall be afraid for you until I hear from you.”
“I will be fine Eshë.”(Friend-Trusted Ally). He told her as he pulled her face closer, kissing her lips tenderly. “It should take no more than two days. I will send word through Gléril, (A Raven) he will remember you and he is swift.”
It had been too long since they had been able to spend any length of time together, the growing evil from the north had made travel too dangerous. Knowing there was nothing she could say that would make him stay, Gilaiwë kissed him softly and reluctantly released him. Watching him as he slipped out of the bed, she admired his body as he walked toward the small table that held a copper basin and a pitcher of water. Broad shouldered with a sender waist and well-toned muscles from different battles, he was tall like his mother who was Iathrim, a descendant of the Vanyar, giving him the sapphire eyes and long golden hair so pale that it appeared silver in the sunlight.
“I have already sent word to have supplies taken to the Vale for your journey.” She told him as she sat up, wrapping her arms around her knees as she drew them toward her breasts. Smiling as she watched him wash quickly.
“Thoughtful as always.” He said, flashing her a smile as he turned to his riding clothes neatly hung over the back of a nearby chair.
“My annual sojourn to the Grey Mountains is in four moons.” She said quietly, still watching him as if she wanted to commit every detail to memory, although she would know his face anywhere.
“I wish you would forego your trip.” He stated, casting her a grim expression as he pulled on his leggings. “It is not safe.”
“We will take the Anduin and travel by foot once we reach the Langwell Fork at Greylin.” She stated, stubbornly meeting his gaze with her own willfulness.
Sighing heavily as he pulled on his riding tunic, he felt fear for her rising in his gut. While the shelob (spiders) did not leave the cover of the forest, there were still goblin forces and errant orcs living in the deeper caverns and tunnels within the Misty Mountains. They were not known for attacking ships along Anduin but it was not something he would wager on.
“I need to know you are safe Gilaiwë.” He said sternly as he walked back toward her. “I mean it, I cannot lose you too.” He said, his voice softening as he sank down onto the bed, pulling her into his lap.
“Thranduil.” She stated quietly but firmly as she took his face in her hands, forcing him to meet her gaze. “It is not truly safe anywhere. Whatever this evil is, it has paid no attention to Lórinand because we are far too small and too few to pose a threat. The day will come when I will journey to the Grey Mountains to join my family and stay where I can live in peace, but that time is not now.”
“Please try to understand.” She told him softly when he remained silent, staring at her as a sadness crept into the depths of his sapphire eyes.
“You give me no choice.” He sighed as he hugged her tightly before turning to lay her back onto the bed. His expression grew grim as he leaned forward to retrieve his riding boots. “We both have our duties.” He said as he pulled them on and rose to his feet, turning to flash a huge smile at her.
“Come here.” He chuckled, holding his arms out to her. “Just because I do not like something does not mean I do not understand.” He said as he wrapped his arms around her, capturing her mouth in a long searching kiss. Without another word he released her and turned away, striding purposefully out of her bed chamber. He wanted that image of her and those last few moments together to live in his memory until the next time he saw her.
The ride to the north Vale was little more than an hour from Gilaiwës’ cottage in the Noldor Vale. Giving Maeglir his head to take the lead, Thranduil relaxed in the saddle, enjoying the gentle but chilly breeze in his hair as his steed broke into a swift canter. Sighing heavily, he braced himself for his meeting with Tauriel as the soft glow of the lanterns at the ferry dock finally came into view. Reining him in, he guided Maeglir back into the forest as he made his way to the stables behind the Inn.
“My Lord.” Macilvoronhûr greeted him as he dismounted. “He’s with Lenwë.” He answered, reading the kings’ unspoken question as he took the reins from him. “Tauriel is with him.” He added as the king arched his brow at him.
Nodding his thanks, Thranduil turned away and strode toward the hallway that would take him through the inns’ large dining room. Frowning inwardly at how so much had changed since he had last visited, he moved quickly toward Lenwës’ private quarters in the front of the inn.
“Go on in, he’s expecting you.” The servant told him with a smile as he reached the archway.
“Thank you Tíránist.” Thranduil replied quietly, nodding as he moved passed him to the slightly open door.
“It is good to know some things never change.” Lenwë stated, flashing him broad a toothy grin, moving toward him as Thranduil entered the large sitting room.
“I could say the same about you.” Thranduil laughed as the two embraced in the middle of the room.
“Tóriôn is green with envy that you were spending your only night here with the Lady Gilaiwë.” He whispered in his ear before releasing him, enjoying the ever so slight blush that colored Thranduils’ neck.
“Perhaps next time when I can stay longer.” Thranduil replied, his eyes danced a little with the memory of the slender but very talented ellyn (male elf) and their private escapades at the waterfall.
Observing in silence as she stood at the edge of the large hearth, Tauriel tried to remember the last time she had seen the king truly smile. Even when he did, it never reached his eyes as it did now. She was more than just angry with him yet she could feel it dim slightly as she watched him, he was beautiful especially when he seemed so happy. For so long his face had hardened with concern and the strain of the darkness that had crept so stealthily over their beloved forest. Watching him now, his face relaxed, she remembered happier times in their fortress home. A time when she would try to hide from him and Legolas but he would always find her and send her squealing as they played away the hours.
“Regrettably I must leave you now.” Thranduil stated, his tone turning stern as he watched her in the fringes of his view. “I want to reach the High Pass before we make camp. We need to reach the Vale of the Forked Pass by midday on the morrow if we are to be safely in the palace by nightfall.”
“That is quite a distance.” Lenwë commented thoughtfully, frowning slightly as they both turned toward Aldalómë who stood silently only a few feet away.
“It will be a good push but we will rest the mounts at Loeg Ningloron.” He stated, his gaze shifting between the two. “The first part is the longest part of the journey. The difficulty will come once we enter the forest.”
“You will have to stay on the eastern side of the Anduin.” Lenwë stated, turning toward the king. “The western shores have become too marshy once you reach the Sîr Ninglor inlet.”
“Yes. The river will provide the distance between us and the foothills as well.” Thranduil nodded, his gaze taking on a distant look as his thoughts already turned toward the journey ahead. “I will make arrangements to send word to the Lady Gilaiwë once we have arrived safely.” He added, smiling as he turned to embrace Lenwë one last time.
“Aa' lasser en lle coia n' omenta gurtha.” (May the leaves of your life tree never turn brown) Lenwë stated as he hugged him tightly.
“Aa' menealle nauva calen ar' malta.” (May your ways be green and golden) Thranduil replied, returning his embrace.
“My Lord.” Aldalómë stated with a respectful nod toward Lenwë as Thranduil turned toward the door without looking at them. “Tauriel.” He said quietly as he waved his hand toward the king, indicating that he would follow her.
“My Lord.” She said quietly, giving Lenwë a respectful nod as she walked passed him.
They moved swiftly through the large dining room, the long strides of the taller elves made her feel as if she were almost running to keep up with them. Emerging from the hallway into the stable yard, the rest of the guard had already mounted and were waiting for them.
Taking the reins from Eluandúnië, Thranduil grasped the saddle horn and easily swung his long frame atop his mount. Turning to face her as she stood beside Aldalómë, he extended his hand down toward her.
“I can ride by myself.” She stated, lifting her chin in defiance.
“Tauriel.” Thranduil stated sharply through clenched jaws, his eyes narrowing as he glared at her.
Shaken at the tone of his voice, she froze for a moment before reaching for his hand. Gasping as he easily pulled her into the saddle, plunking her unceremoniously in front of him.
“Do not test me.” Thranduil whispered a warning in her ear as he slipped one arm tightly around her waist, nearly jerking her back against him. “I do not need the rein him, Maeglir knows me well.” He added as he motioned the huge war steed forward with a slight movement of his hips, he smiled to himself as he heard her breath catch in her throat.
Slowly the party made their way silently along the narrow trail toward the ferry dock at the bend in the Anduin. Ordinarily they would have walked the distance as it was just over a mile, yet knowing Tauriel as he did, he expected some form of confrontation and preferred that it not be in a public place. He was in a hurry to get as far away from Lórinand as quickly as possible so as not to draw attention to them. Gilaiwë was right in that they had not been bothered by the shelob (spiders) as they were too small to be of any interest to them. But Thranduil was not so confident in the lack of interest from whatever evil now inhabited Dol Guldur. Lórinand was located just north of Fanghorn at the Gianduin River and had long served as a safe gateway for many through the lower end of the Misty Mountains and he knew that attention would be drawn to them soon enough.
“We will stay mounted.” Thranduil told the ferry master as they approached the shore of the Anduin.
“Ben iest gîn, hîr vuin.” (As you wish, My Lord). He stated with a nod and hurried down the slope toward the huge barge-like ferry.
“Easy.” Thranduil said quietly as Maeglir tossed his head and snorted his reluctance to step up onto the unstable floating platform.
Held tightly against him Tauriel listened to his ever so soft voice speaking in a gentle tone to the nervous steed. She felt the subtle movements of his hips and knees as he easily coaxed the huge steed closer and up onto the unsteady platform. She could feel the strong bond between them as the steed seemed comforted not only by his presence but by something deeper. Unstable without solid ground beneath their feet, the horses whinnied and snorted nervously as the oarsman guided the large bulky ferry against the current toward the opposite shore.
“I do not wish to delay.” Thranduil stated as they reached the shore. “We make haste for the Imladris pass. We will rest the horses at Loeg Ningloron and not before.” He continued as the oarsmen secured the ferry to the shore. One by one the horses leapt from the wooden barge, galloping into the darkness as soon as their hooves found solid ground.