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An Ounce of Kindness Redux

Chapter Text

Eryn Galen, laer T.A. 209
The delegation from Rivendell was small but impressive. Not even the most jaded of the woodland warriors or the well-travelled amongst the Silvan folk could feign disinterest in the visitors from the fabled valley realm.

There was the golden-haired legend who had perished when he slew a Balrog yet walked Middle-earth once more. Glorfindel of the ancient House of the Golden Flower made a resplendent figure upon his snowy elven steed Asfaloth. And only the ignorant or overly insular had not heard of the intellectual giant at his side. Darkly handsome, keen-eyed Erestor whose wit and sagacity was renowned throughout Elfdom was a striking but pleasing contrast to his fair warrior-lover. Behind them an Elf bearing a lute looked about with curiosity and appreciation. No doubt the celebrated minstrel Lindir was already composing an ode to Greenwood the Great and its citizens.

Riding ahead of them was the silver-haired Lady of Imladris. It was not surprising that the daughter of Celeborn and Galadriel should be a veritable feast for the eyes. Few could match Celebrían’s will-o’-the-wisp comeliness and even fewer knew of the sharp mind that had as much ensnared her husband’s desire as her bountiful allure.

Yet it was the three Peredhil who garnered the lion’s share of everyone’s attention. Their Half-elven heritage manifesting itself most distinctly in the striking beauty of their features, the unusual breadth of their shoulders and chests and the slightly warmer cast of their complexions, Elrond and his twin sons drew everyone’s gazes with ease. No pure-blooded Elf could compete with these scions of the line of Lúthien Tinúviel for sheer magnetism and the uncommon fairness of face and form born of the singular fusing of Maia, Elves and Edain that had gone into their making.

They were a rarity, these Eldar who bore mannish blood in their veins and carried the gift and the burden of determining which kindred they would cleave to.

The brethren Elladan and Elrohir were of particular interest to the Wood-elves. Already as tall as their impressively lofty sire though they were but a score of years past their majority, the twins were breathtakingly beauteous. Mayhap the most beauteous of all their Half-elven house save for the mariner, blessed Eärendil. Their hair midnight hued, their eyes twilight grey and their skin touched by the faint rose of dawn, they could not have faded into the background even had they tried.

The Rivendell contingent dismounted in the great clearing before the delved halls of Eryn Galen’s king. Thranduil son of Oropher stood by the bridge over the dark stream that flowed before his underground palace, his children hurrying to gather behind him. There were seven royal sons in all with Haldoron, the Crown Prince, at the forefront of his brothers as was his right.

From his position between two brothers, young Legolas stared raptly at the Half-elven lord and his sons, not troubling to conceal his awe. The little Elf could not quite believe his eyes that such splendid beings existed.

He tucked a stray silken strand of pale gold hair behind his ear while his sapphire-hued eyes grew bigger and wider as the Imladrin party approached. At ten years of age, he was scarcely more than an infant out of swaddling clothes. And treated as such by his older siblings, sometimes with a touch of condescension thrown in.

An accidental addition to Thranduil’s large and lively brood, Legolas had none of his brothers’ sturdiness of form and limbs. Instead, he bid fair to be as willowy as the Woodland Realm’s late queen.

His mother had not recovered her strength after his birthing and passed away less than four years later. His father, though loving of the babe of his children, was king and could not spend as much time with him as Legolas desired. As such, the child was oft left in the care of dutiful but not necessarily loving nurses and at the mercy of his brethren’s teasing.

This less than kind regard showed itself even now when he was unceremoniously nudged aside by Lalorn, previously Thranduil’s last-born before Legolas’ unexpected advent. In his haste to secure a good position, Lalorn gave little thought to the child he regarded as no more than an annoyance.

Legolas swallowed painfully when he finally found himself behind Lalorn and Galvreth, compelled to peer out from between their hips if he wished to bear witness to the visitors’ arrival. None of the others deigned to come to his aid. Not Aelluin or Nimaras or Elivorn. He forced back tears of woe and frustration.

It was not that he was unused to such inconsiderate treatment. He knew no other with his brothers. But Thranduil bestowed enough loving attention on him when he found the time, scant as it was, for the Elfling to know that there was much more to life than being the butt of the others’ scorn.

It was a scorn he did not understand. He had never done anything to merit it. Indeed, he did his best to keep out of their way that he might avoid their gibes and occasional hurtful jests. Better to be neglected than actively goaded to tears. He had no recollections of a time when they had shown him fraternal affection. Mayhap they had when he was a newborn but as far as his conscious memory went, he remembered nothing of the kind.

It could be worse, Legolas knew. When their moods darkened, they vented their ire on him without a moment’s thought. Verbally of course or through unkind acts. They were not so foolish as to actually lay a hand on him and gain their father’s umbrage. Nor were they evil despite their habitual loutish behavior toward the youngest of their family.

It could be worse. But Legolas also knew it could be better. He longed for a day when he would know more of the latter and leave the former behind.

Meanwhile, his father was busy welcoming Elrond and his family. Thranduil had not seen how the littlest prince had been brusquely thrust behind his other sons. He was intent on greeting his guests with all due propriety. He would not give these Noldor reason to think the Woodland Realm some backwater kingdom lacking in Elves of good manner.

Legolas wistfully watched the proceedings from his obscured position. His eyes fell on the Peredhel twin nearest to him when said twin paid his respects to Thranduil. He wondered which twin this was. They were so alike he could not discern any distinctive differences between them. So intent was he on looking for any distinguishing marks to tell them apart that he was startled when he heard what the twin was saying.

“My lord king, are you so shamed by your younglings that you hide them from your guests?”

There was a concerted gasp from amongst the Greenwood Elves while Thranduil stared at Elrond’s son, taken aback by his directness and impertinence. Elrond and Celebrían were seen to purse their lips in an obvious effort to stifle either scowl or smile while behind them Erestor looked down with sudden interest at the grass beneath his feet. Glorfindel was more forthcoming with his reaction and the Rivendell captain rolled his eyes in tacit expression of his opinion.

Thranduil quickly collected his wits and replied with some asperity. “We are proud of our younglings,” he stiffly said. “What gave you reason to think otherwise?”

Legolas caught his breath when the twin suddenly turned his head, looked down and trained his grey eyes on him though he stood half hidden behind his brothers.

“Forgive me, Majesty, but I was led to believe ‘twas your custom,” the twin answered evenly. “Else why was that little one so hastily shoved behind the ranks of your sons when we neared you?”

Another gasp rippled through the assembled Elves at his bluntness. Thranduil spun around and glared at his suddenly red-faced sons. They swiftly parted to reveal the tiny Elfling who cowered in their collective shadow.

Before anyone could speak, the twin strode toward the quaking child and, reaching out a friendly hand, softly queried, “And who might you be, lass dithen?”—little leaf.

Legolas gaped at him in surprise before managing a timid squeak of an answer. “I am Legolas Thranduilion.”

“Well met, Legolas,” the twin said with a smile, taking the Elfling’s small hesitantly proffered hand in his. “Elrohir Peredhel at your service. And methinks you need it,” he added in a whisper that only Legolas heard.

The little Elf’s eyes widened in astonishment. The astonishment evolved into shock when Elrohir gently pulled him from behind and led him to the Elvenking’s side. He looked up uncertainly at his father. Thranduil smiled reassuringly at him, placing a hand on his shoulder, before casting a chastening glower at his older suddenly abashed sons. Legolas observed it all in disbelief.

He sneaked a look at Elrohir. Elf-knight, he thought. ‘Twas a fitting name for one as gallant as Elrond’s younger son, he deemed with a child’s simple judgment. Feeling the princeling’s eyes on him, Elrohir met his gaze then winked at him conspiratorially.

In that instant, Legolas decided that this was the hero at whose altar he would gladly worship forever.

******************************
Glossary:
laer – Sindarin for summer
Peredhil (sing. Peredhel) – Half-elven/Half-elves
Edain – Men, specifically of the Three Houses of the Edain in the First Age
Haldoron – great oak
Aelluin – blue mere
Elivorn – dark lake
Galvreth – shining beech
Nimaras – white stag
Lalorn – elm tree
Thranduilion – son of Thranduil

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Legolas sighed in resignation as his father explained why he could not attend the dinner in honor of the Imladrin delegation. Though he was a prince of the realm, he was very young. Much too young for the occasion. Only Elves of above forty years would be attending. He took a quick peek behind the king and saw his brothers smirking with gratification.

Once Thranduil had ascertained just who had mistreated Legolas and shamed the kingdom before the Rivendell Elves, he had wasted no time in treating the culprit to a scathing reprimand. Lalorn had longed for the ground to open up and swallow his lank frame by the time his father was done with him. But the others had not escaped their share of the dressing down either and were severely rebuked for allowing the transgression in the first place.

Naturally, they were still smarting over it. But under the circumstances they could hardly vent their ire on Elrond’s son for showing them up or on Legolas for being the reason for Elrohir’s intervention.

Elrohir was a guest and one did not quarrel with one’s guest without risking looking like a boor. Furthermore, Thranduil’s sons sensed that the twins were not to be trifled with for all their youth. Though but seventy years of age, they exhibited all the signs of well-trained fighters. There was also the matter of their abundant graces, which many of the Wood-elves were hoping to partake of. The princes were no exceptions.

Legolas, on the other hand, was for now very much under their father’s protective eye. The Elvenking would know soon enough if not immediately should any of them dare take their offended sensibilities out on him. Well, it was not surprising that they should glean some pleasure from his exclusion from this special event.

The Elfling watched his father and brothers walk away together, the younger princes chatting excitedly while tall Haldoron and strapping Aelluin tried to feign nonchalance. A hand on his shoulder reminded him of his nursemaid’s presence.

“Come, hirneth”—young lord—“‘tis time for bed,” she said.

Legolas pouted. Time for bed indeed! ‘Twas hardly dark and already all Moriel could think of was to tuck him in that she might return soonest to that silly book she was reading.

As he entered his room, his baleful gaze fell on his window and the tall tree just outside. Its branches moved and its foliage rustled ever so slightly in the strong breeze that had kicked up when evening fell. The little Elf’s eyes lit up.

* * * *

The site of the welcome feast was located not in Thranduil’s cavernous halls but in the neighboring pavilion. Delved primarily for defense and protection, the Elvenking’s palace housed his throne room, the official audience chamber, the various offices and quarters of his household staff, the always well-stocked pantries and cellars, spare bedchambers for when the royal family might need to retreat into its fastness and, of course, the dungeons.

But Thranduil and his children resided in a detached dwelling, large and airy as a great house but warm and cozy for all its size. Built into the trees behind the palace, it was reached by a sturdy bridge of wood and vine. Here were the living quarters of the royal family—their apartments, the guest chambers, the king’s study and library, the family gaming room, and the private dining chamber and baths. Here, too, taking up the entire east wing, was the gracious hall that served as the venue for functions such as the one that was even now taking place within its walls.

The brethren Elladan and Elrohir managed to disengage themselves from the relentless press of admirers about them. They were not unused to such attention but neither were they delighted to be at the center of it without surcease. A subtle sign to their Imladrin guards and the twins gained themselves a moment’s respite while said guards politely but firmly barred the way of any interloper.

Elladan waited as his brother perused the crowd once more. At one end of the hall, their father and Erestor were steeped in conversation with Thranduil. Elsewhere, flanked by Lindir and Glorfindel, their mother held an audience in thrall, as she discoursed as knowledgeably on the medicinal virtues of belladonna and angelica-root and the merits and disadvantages of various battle tactics as she did on the finer points of quilt making and sonnet writing.

“He is not here, brother mine,” Elladan at last said. “Nor do I think will he show up. Have you not noticed that there are none younger than two score years in this gathering?”

Elrohir nodded. “I noticed. But I had hoped an exception would be made for that little one. My blood boils whenever I recall how his brothers treated him this morn. They are none of them prizes, these other sons of Thranduil.”

Elladan smiled mirthlessly. “I will not gainsay you,” he said. “Haldoron propositioned me at the baths right after the noon-meal. He had the gall to suggest that the favor of the Crown Prince was an honor not lightly given and that it would behoove me to accept it.”

His twin snorted in disdain. “Eru’s blood, his head is more swollen than the Bruinen during spring thaw! I hope you put him in his place, tôr iaur.”—older brother.

Elladan shrugged. “Oh, I simply told him that ‘twould not be meet for the Crown Prince to be unable to sit still long enough to last the first course.”

The Elf-knight guffawed. He could just imagine Haldoron’s expression at being answered thusly by one some twelve decades his junior.

He was about to make an approving reply when, through the corner of his eye, he espied something. There by the great balcony that opened the hall to the forest beyond. Where a great old oak stood, its branches partly shading the uncovered space.

* * * *

Legolas peered through the foliage to observe the proceedings within the brightly lit hall. From his vantage point, he could see virtually everyone and every occurrence inside and his eyes danced in elation at being part of the occasion even if vicariously.

His smile of excitement faded somewhat when he saw his brothers take their places in the middle of the hall to lead others in a festive woodland dance, silver-haired Galvreth who was the best dancer of the lot taking the principal position. He spotted one of the twins watching the dance alongside Erestor and Glorfindel.

Elladan, he guessed, from the way the torchlight revealed the faintest gleam of brown in his sable locks. Elrohir’s hair was a stark blue-black that no amount of light could render the least bit golden in hue. It was the single physical difference between the brethren that he had been able to discover since the visitors’ arrival.

He frowned, wondering where the Elf-knight could be. A moment later, he nearly yelped when a strong hand grasped the branch upon which he perched followed by the Elf-knight himself as he hoisted himself with ease onto the tree limb, formal raiment and all. He regarded the stunned Elfling with a sternness that had the child flushing in guilt, more so when the twin presented such an imposing figure garbed as he was for a court function.

His low-necked silver grey long tunic was of the finest silk and heavily embellished with purl embroidery, tiny sapphires and crystal beads, and thin silver cord. The long-sleeved high collared under-shirt beneath was of so immaculate a white that it reflected light, contrasting with the dark grey hose and shoes that enclosed his long legs and shod his feet. A mantle of deepest purple was draped asymmetrically across his chest, pinned to one shoulder with a large cameo brooch depicting the likeness of his Telerin foresire, Thingol of Doriath. On his head was a simple but elegant circlet of mithril inlaid with sapphires.

Only in the styling of his raven tresses had he eschewed elven fashion for he had bound his hair in the manner of the Men of the West—in a thick single plait that hung down between his shoulder-blades with a silver riband woven into the dark locks. It was a penchant he shared with his twin for Elladan had braided his hair likewise.

Elrohir glanced to his side and noted the long row of trees that led down that side of the pavilion to the bedchambers at the other end.

“Do not tell me you came here by way of those trees,” he reproached his diminutive companion.

Legolas flushed even more until his cheeks were stained scarlet. With his fine chin-length hair forming a shining cap about his head, his crystalline eyes framed by thick dark gold lashes, his lips a rosy cupid’s bow and his slender frame clad in loose bed-clothes of pale green, he did not look so much an Elf-child as he did a tiny doll. And an adorable one at that, Elrohir thought, suppressing a grin. The wives and maids of Rivendell would coddle him senseless were he to ever come to the hidden vale.

“You-you would not tell Ada”—Papa—the Elfling tremulously pleaded. “Would you?” The blue eyes began to brim with forlorn tears at the thought that his newfound hero would turn on him.

It was too much for Elrohir to withstand. He dropped his pretense of ire.

“Of course not,” he cooed reassuringly, settling himself beside the child. “I daresay ‘tis a much better place to be than in the midst of that crowd, making small talk and being on one’s best behavior even when one is bored to death. Indeed, I envied you for taking refuge up here.”

Legolas stared at him, his mouth forming an astonished ‘o’ that grew rounder with every word of Elrohir’s declaration. He shook his head in bemusement after.

“You are nothing like my brothers,” he honestly commented.

“Thank Elbereth for that!” Elrohir quipped. His eyes softened and his voice gentled. “Do they always afflict you so?”

The Elfling sighed. “Not always but often enough,” he admitted, his high piping voice subdued. “Haldoron and Aelluin are not so bad. They only ignore me.”

Elrohir frowned that the child should think neglect a kinder fate. “What of the others?”

“They tease me a lot.”

“To tears?”

Legolas nodded, biting his lip at the memory of thoughtless gibes. Yet he dimpled after a moment, happy that someone should listen so understandingly to his woes.

“Shameless knaves,” Elrohir said cuttingly. “Why do they torment you so, Legolas? Do you know?”

Legolas shook his head. “It has always been thus with them,” he said with childlike resignation. “I do not remember a time when they did not dislike me.”

The twin regarded him long and curiously. He took note of the child’s fine features, blurred for now by the rounded softness of childhood but patently indicative of the beauty he would possess as he matured. And Elrohir did not doubt it would be a beauty that would surpass his brothers’. Or many an Elf’s for that matter whether of Silvan, Sindarin or Noldorin stock.

“You are very much alike to your mother in countenance, yes?” he ventured.

A small smile lifted the corners of the little Elf’s lips. “Aye, everyone tells me so.”

“Ah, and she was a renowned beauty from what I have heard,” Elrohir mused. “As you will be one day, I warrant.”

“Me?” Legolas squeaked in shock.

Elrohir laughed merrily. “Aye, you, princeling,” he said. “No wonder your brothers act with such envy toward you.”

Legolas frowned in puzzlement. “Envy?”

“They are jealous of you,” Elrohir elucidated. He reached out and tousled the child’s hair; felt the soft strands slip through his fingers like silk. “‘Tis hard to stomach the thought that one will be overshadowed by a mere infant ere long.”

“I am not an infant!” Legolas exclaimed hotly. He subsided an instant later, aghast at having spoken so to the Elf-knight. But Elrohir only chuckled amiably.

“Apparently not, maethor dithen”—little warrior—he replied with a grin. “I have known no babe to be so fierce!” His grey eyes twinkled and Legolas was startled to see the flash of silver in the dark pools. “Still, you are very young and I imagine it wounds your brothers’ vanity to hear your praises sung even now when once it was theirs. Yet never at so early an age as is the case with you.”

Legolas gaped at him. “Do you truly think so?” he asked doubtfully.

“I do judging from what I have observed of your brethren. They are as proud as your father but not yet tempered as he is. I would that he took a hand to their backsides to remind them of their manners. Or better yet, a riding crop.”

Legolas gasped, the concept of corporal punishment alien to him. “Surely Lord Elrond never-never…” he stuttered, unable to believe that the kind-faced Master of Rivendell would do such a thing to his children.

“He has not,” Elrohir hastened to assure him. “But then Elladan and I have never given him reason to. Well, on occasion, we have come close. Perilously close,” he added with a wicked smirk that elicited a like reaction from the Elfling.

Their attention was snared by a veritable procession of servants crossing the bridge bearing trays laden with food. Post-dinner sweets and hot spiced wine the two realized when the servants entered the great hall and they could make out the trays’ contents. Elrohir stole a glance at Legolas and saw how the little Elf stared at the mouthwatering treats as if spellbound.

He grinned and said, “Come, ernil neth.”—young prince. “I find I am still hungry.”

Legolas looked at him in alarm. “Oh, but I am not supposed to be here!”

“And you will not be ‘here’,” Elrohir assured him. “We shall go to the source of that bounty.” He nodded toward the great cave whence the servants had emerged. “I do not think any would deem it wrong for a ravenous Elfling to sneak out of bed for a bite to eat.”

To Legolas’ amazement and delight, Elrohir accompanied him by way of the same treetops the princeling had traversed earlier. They swiftly crossed the bridge, entered the palace and presented themselves in the royal kitchens.

Galion, the king’s butler, was nonplussed to see them and even more astounded when Elrohir sat Legolas at the long wooden servants’ table, doffed his mantle and tunic, and amiably requested but with authority that they be served forthwith. Though taken aback by the unexpected incursion into their domain, Galion and his fellows hastened to comply.

Legolas was after all their prince even if he was but a child. And so very sweet and comely a child he was. And Elrohir was more than welcome to linger in their midst. Just the sight of his dark beauty was enough to leaven their toils.

Elf-prince and Elvenlord feasted among other things on savory pies stuffed with game, carrots and potatoes and seasoned with thyme, rosemary and sage; piping hot scones slathered with freshly churned butter and golden honey; delicate tartlets topped with wild fruit glazed with melted homemade jam; and cream pastries covered with a delicious dark brown substance from Rhûn curiously called chocolate. To wash their meal down, they quaffed mulled wine, Legolas’ portion watered down and sweetened further as was the practice for children.

The servants were enthralled as the two made merry on their own and with much more apparent enjoyment on the Elf-knight’s part than when he’d been at the gathering. They jested without restraint, invited the others to partake of the food set before them, cajoled some to sing with them (with Elrohir carefully selecting ditties suitable for Elflings’ ears) and inveigled Galion into recounting numerous tales about the visitors, elven and otherwise, who had graced the woodland court.

It was way past any child’s bedtime when Elrohir finally donned his tunic and mantle, gathered a sleepy but happy forest prince in his arms and, after thanking the kitchen staff and bidding them goodnight, gently bore his charge to the pavilion and his bedchamber.

They grinned in comradely complicity when they entered Legolas’ apartment and espied Moriel ensconced in the large easy chair by the sitting room hearth, her book fallen to the woven rug at her feet, her head nodding in deep slumber. It had been quite simple for the prince to clamber out of his bedroom window unnoticed once the Elf-woman had fallen asleep. Elrohir stared at her incredulously when he heard the unmistakable buzz of snoring. He stifled his laughter hastily.

“Sweet Eru,” he gasped as he carried Legolas into the bedroom. “I thought only Dwarves could make such a sound. How in Arda do you manage to sleep?”

Legolas giggled. “I am used to it. And it comforts me when I hear her, knowing she is just outside.”

Elrohir grinned back as he deposited Legolas on the bed. “‘Tis the first time I have heard such a cacophony deemed soothing.” He pulled up the covers and tucked them around his little friend. “My own recollections of bedtime are of gentle kisses and soft lullabies.”

“Mine, too,” Legolas whispered. “When Nana was still with us.”

Elrohir heard the wistfulness in the child’s voice. “I cannot replace your dear mother,” he softly said. “But I would comfort you if you permit it.”

Perched on the side of Legolas’ narrow bed, he began to sing an old lullaby Celebrían had oft crooned to him and Elladan in years long gone by. For a while, Legolas raptly listened to him, his jewel eyes alight with joy. But at last, sleep overtook him and his lids slowly fluttered shut. Elrohir bent and kissed his smooth brow.

“Good night, lass dithen”—little leaf—he whispered. “May your dreams be naught but pleasant and sweet.”

A smile curved the child’s lips as, even in slumber, he felt the gentle caress and sensed the warm concern the Elf-knight bestowed upon him. Elrohir regarded him a moment longer before slipping out of the room and returning to the great hall.

* * * *

“What do you mean all the cream pastries are gone?” Nimaras demanded the next morning. Galion stolidly repeated his statement that there were no more cream pastries to be had. “But I distinctly remember a tray of them being brought back to the kitchens last night!” the fifth-born prince petulantly insisted.

They were all gathered in the private dining chamber for the morning meal, royal family and noble guests alike. In keeping with the Wood-elves’ frugal natures, Thranduil had ordered any and all foods from the night before be served along with the fresh viands ere they spoiled and went to waste.

His older sons had at once demanded that the sweets be reserved for them alone. But to their dismay, not one of the toothsome chocolate-covered confections still remained. Or the luscious wild strawberry tartlets. Or the rich buns topped with sugar shavings and chopped walnuts.

Dark-haired Elivorn, Thranduil’s third son, scowled and turned to his sire in umbrage. “Adar, it seems the scullions have stolen from our larders. Their perfidy should not go unpunished.”

Thranduil glanced at his butler. Galion kept a tight ship as a rule and even more so when there were guests in residence. The king did not believe his faithful butler would knowingly allow any pilferage of the palace stores and had chosen his staff as much for their honesty as for their industry. He raised his eyebrow inquiringly at the Elf whereupon Galion simply nodded in the direction of the king’s youngest and the Peredhel twin who sat by his side. Thranduil’s eyes widened just a tiny bit before they softened and he was seen to smile.

“I think not,” he mildly informed Elivorn. “And I daresay you were mistaken about the sweets, Nimaras.”

“Nay, I was not,” Nimaras obstinately insisted, tossing his bronze mane as he vigorously shook his head. “I saw them and I recall looking forward to having them this morn. Elivorn is right. The scullions must have stolen them!”

“They did not!” Legolas suddenly piped up, refusing to let others take the blame for something they had not done.

Aelluin looked at him skeptically, his azure eyes narrowing. “How would you know?”

“Because Legolas and I were with Galion and his people last night,” Elrohir replied, his eyes daring any to assail the littlest prince. “If naught is left of the sweets you so covet, blame me for ‘twas I who suggested that we indulge ourselves and I who invited the kitchen staff to join us!”

Silence fell for a space upon the royal brood. The Lord and Lady of Rivendell and their captain and chief counselor however only shook their heads in resigned acceptance. Elladan, on the other hand, concealed a grin of approbation.

“You do realize that you took our brother away from his bed when he should have been asleep,” Haldoron cautiously chided, careful not to appear hostile to a guest of the kingdom.

“But he didn’t—“ Legolas started to protest before he was summarily silenced by Elrohir’s quick warning glance.

“I did not know ‘tis a crime in this realm to feed a hungry child though it be past his bedtime,” the Elf-knight grimly rejoined. “Rest assured I will not repeat this transgression.”

“Nonsense!” Thranduil gruffly said, feeling his respect for Elrond’s younger son rise. Somehow, he just knew that Elrohir had shielded Legolas for some deed he would have been hard-pressed to defend or condone before his other sons. “I see no wrong in your actions, pen neth.”—young one. “Indeed, I am pleased to see Legolas so content this morn. I trust your appetite was sated, iônen?”—my son.

Legolas nodded and beamed brightly at his father. Watching him glow under the kind attention, Elrohir felt the prickle of affection he’d felt for the child the night before swell within his heart. It took so little to make the little one happy. Why couldn’t his brothers set aside their envy and apply themselves to eliciting his sunny smile and cheerful laughter instead?

Unbidden, it came to him that the Elfling would one day leave a mark on his life. A very telling mark.

The gift of foresight had always been strong in Elrond’s house. Elrohir did not doubt that he had been given fair warning of a time when his and Legolas’ lives would somehow intersect in ways he had not yet thought of or imagined.

He wondered if it would be cause for regret or rejoicing then decided that, for the woodland princeling, he would abide either, the grief or the joy.

***********************
Glossary:
meet – fitting or suitable (archaic)
riband – ribbon used for decorative purposes (archaic)
Nana - Mama
adar - father

To be continued…

Chapter Text

The forest river beckoned irresistibly when the fourth morn after the Imladrin party’s arrival proved nigh blisteringly hot. It was ever so in the north of Middle-earth. The short summers could be as fierce as the long winters were severe.

As they followed Thranduil’s five younger sons to the river, the twins realized how sheltered they were from the elements in Rivendell, protected as they were by the elven ring their sire wielded. But Elrond never used Vilya when he was away from home.

One did not openly call attention to one’s treasures unless one desired a thief to come searching for it. In the confines of the valley, it was easy enough to pass off the power that encompassed it for elvish enchantment. After all, many of the Exiles from the First Age still dwelt there with Elrond’s family. But Eryn Galen’s folk were sprung from simple Silvan stock even if their king was himself a Sinda. What magic they conjured would never be on the scale of that which a Ring of Power channeled and contained.

They smiled when they came to the banks of the river. It was as wide as the Bruinen and its waters as crystal clear and everlastingly cold but not as swift moving. Galvreth who had offered to play host to the brethren invited them to strip for a swim even as he, Elivorn, Nimaras and Lalorn shed their raiment.

The twins did so with alacrity, eager to cool themselves off in the bracing waters. Elladan stepped into the shallows at the water’s edge and grinned at his brother with approbation when he felt the refreshingly low temperature.

It was then that they noticed that the fifth prince had not disrobed but quietly sat beneath a tree on the edge of the bank, his feet dangling just inches from the water. They glanced at each other in perplexity. Instead of diving in after the others, Elrohir walked along the grassy bank to the child, Elladan wading in the shallows just behind him.

Legolas looked at them in surprise when the two joined him. While Elrohir sat down by his side, Elladan knelt in the deeper water that he might rest his arms on the bank.

“Will you not join us?” Elrohir inquired. “‘Tis the perfect day for a good long swim.”

Legolas shook his head. “But I do not know how to swim.” He looked with some fright at the obvious depth in the middle of the river.

Elladan coaxed: “You do not need to leave the shallows.”

“But I am not allowed to go in unless someone watches over me,” Legolas replied.

A pair of identical eyebrows rose at that. Frowning, the twins glanced at the Elfling’s frolicking brothers. Had any given thought to including their youngest in their play? Apparently not.

Elrohir forced his scowl from his face and donned an encouraging smile instead. “Come, pen dithen”—little one—“we will teach you to master these waters,” he invited, reaching for the ties on the child’s collar.

Legolas gulped with some trepidation. “But I might drown,” he said in a quavering voice though he obediently raised his arms as Elrohir lifted his shirt up and over his head.

“Nay, we will take care of you,” Elladan told him, pulling off the Elfling’s shoes and unlacing his breeches.

Between them the brethren soon had him as bare as the day he was born, Elrohir tidily placing his clothing a little higher up the sloping bank. With a gentle smile, he lifted the trembling child in his arms—whether Legolas shook from fear or excitement it was hard to tell—and slipped into the water with him. Legolas squealed when he felt the chilly water envelop him but the wide smile on his face told the twins that he was not in the least averse to it.

A quarter of an hour later he was shrieking with utmost glee as the brothers tossed him to and fro, catching him before he sank into the cool depths. His eyes sparkled with elation when Elladan then set him upon Elrohir’s back, instructing him to hang on tightly. Moments later, he was treated to a exhilarating ride as the Elf-knight sliced easily through the water, always taking care to keep his companion’s head above the surface. His fear diminished, he eagerly submitted to his first swimming lesson. Throughout, his laughter rang joyously and the very birds in the trees hearkened to it as they added their melodious songs.

All the while, the other princes looked on in bemusement. What enjoyment was there to be found in the company of a mere babe? Envy also made its presence known. Save for Legolas, Thranduil’s sons were all of age and could and did appreciate the Peredhil twins’ graces.

Though they would never admit it, both Aelluin and Nimaras were head over heels in lust with the Elf-knight, drawn as much by the latter’s self-assurance as they were by his comeliness. And Haldoron had certainly not wasted any time attempting to lure Elladan into his bed. Galvreth had surprised himself by resenting his eldest brother’s use of his rank within the kingdom as a means to try and entice the older twin when he himself had no such inducement to offer. Not that it had helped Haldoron’s cause.

Neither of Elrond’s sons had indicated the least bit interest in pursuing intimate relations with any of their Greenwood counterparts. And Elrohir had actually spent more time with Legolas than with all the others put together.

As he continued to observe the three at play, something distracted the argent-haired prince from that line of thought and roused an entirely different emotion. Unexpectedly, he felt a first glimmer of regret while he watched the twins—strangers from another realm truth be told—willingly take it upon themselves to see to his youngest brother’s happiness.

Had Legolas ever beamed so effusively at any of his siblings as he did with the brethren? Had he ever seen the adoring gaze the child bestowed on Elrohir? For that matter, had he ever known that tender camaraderie with his brothers that the twins now shared with their little charge? Color suffused the Elf-prince’s ivory cheeks as every question was answered with a resounding ‘nay’.

“I cannot swim that far!” Legolas protested as he gauged the distance from the shallows to Elrohir’s location in the very middle of the river.

“You can!” Elrohir called to him.

“You can do anything if you put your heart into it, Legolas,” Elladan told him from behind.

“But what if I sink?” the child quailed.

“We will not let you!”

The three stared in surprise when Galvreth swam to a point midway between his brother and the Elf-knight.

“Go ahead, tôr neth”—young brother—he urged. “Elrohir is right. You can do this.”

Heartened by his brother’s sudden gesture of faith, the little Elf took a fortifying breath and dove in. He was not yet the most graceful of swimmers but his pluck and speed made up for it. Buoyed by Galvreth’s proximity at the halfway point, he kept up a steady stroke and paddle until, at last, he found himself safely berthed in Elrohir’s arms. He flashed a triumphant grin at Elrohir before turning to wave wildly at Elladan and Galvreth.

He faltered a tad and turned rather shy when he met his brother’s gaze. For his part, Galvreth confusedly wondered at his unexpected display of fraternal concern. He felt the curious contemplation of the others and that caused him to temper the more enthusiastic response he had thought to give. And so he merely nodded amiably at Legolas before rejoining his brothers.

They returned home well after the lunch-hour. While Elivorn ordered a late meal for all of them, the rest headed for the garden which lay between the delved palace and the treetop pavilion. It had been the late queen’s pride and joy and was now carefully tended in her memory. It was reached from the cave by stone steps carved out of the hillside and from the pavilion through a narrow circular staircase at the very end of the west wing. There was a long wooden table in the middle with sturdy benches on either side and here a substantial repast was laid out for the hungry princes.

While the group made its way down corridors, stairs and pathways, eyes were drawn with disbelief and some amusement to the tall Elf-knight as he walked, a giggling princeling firmly astride his broad shoulders, tiny hands buried in his midnight locks for purchase.

It was an unusual sight for it had been long since Elves of Legolas’ age and noble blood had roamed the royal hallways. Small wonder the littlest prince had no one he could call friend when what Elf-children there were in the kingdom did not belong to his admittedly restricted circle and his brothers did not offer him their company unless compelled to.

* * * *

Thranduil looked up at the sound of his youngest’s laughter and, with a tilt of his head in invitation to Elrond and Celebrían, stood and walked to the window to see what had delighted his son so much. His guests joined him and they all smiled at the picture the two made below.

Legolas was ensconced in Elrohir’s lap while the latter teased him with bits and pieces of roast meat and crusty bread before popping the tidbits into his small mouth. Legolas chortled gleefully when he was permitted to return the favor, pretending to withhold the much larger piece of venison he held before feigning fright at Elrohir’s mock threats and surrendering the piece.

Thranduil’s resolve was strengthened in that moment. He had closeted himself in his study with the Imladrin couple for talk other than political but he had delayed speaking of what he desired because of its delicate nature. Now he knew it was best said soonest and hopefully acted upon with reasonable haste as well.

Instead of returning to the hearthside couches whence they had risen, he gestured to Elrond and Celebrían to settle themselves in the cushioned window seat while he pulled up a chair. If the couple was surprised they said nothing. They did glance once more at the scene outside and wondered if it was meant to be kept within sight while they talked.

“It seems that Legolas has taken a shine to your son,” Thranduil began.

Elrond smiled. “I trust you do not object should they become fast friends.”

“Not at all. Indeed, ‘twould be a welcome boon for Legolas.” Thranduil shook his head. “I am not blind to what goes on amongst my sons. I know the others treat him with much less affection than is his due and I know why. I do my best for my little one but…” He sighed regretfully. “When my wife died I lost my most able counsellor and ally. Now, so much lies in my hands alone and I cannot devote as much attention to Legolas as he deserves.”

Elrond exchanged a knowing glance with his wife. “Yours is a difficult road and I can well sympathize with your sense of loss. Were I to lose Celebrían, I would be hard-pressed to run Imladris as smoothly as I do now.”

Celebrían protested mildly: “You are both rulers of renown, my lords. If your domains prosper, ‘tis due to your remarkable abilities.” Another shriek of mirth interrupted her and they all peered out to see Legolas scrambling up a tree with Elrohir in hot pursuit. They laughed at the sight. “Elrohir is proving a haven for your youngest,” she chuckled. “Sometimes, even so brief a period of intense nurturing can compensate for the previous lack of it.”

Thranduil fell silent for a moment, glad of the opening she had unwittingly provided. And then he looked intently at them, his cobalt blue eyes gleaming oddly.

“Would that your son could be a haven in full measure,” he said.

The couple stared at him in some surprise. “What have you in mind, Thranduil?” Elrond cautiously inquired.

The Elvenking pursed his lips. “A betrothal,” he ventured.

Elrond’s eyebrows shot up while Celebrían gasped. “Legolas is little more than an infant,” the Elf-lord protested. “He is nowhere near the age of consent. Surely you do not subscribe to the mannish custom of arranged marriages for younglings. ‘Tis not done by our kindred.”

“Not done by the Eldar of Aman,” Thranduil corrected. “Or the Sindar of Beleriand. But I rule Silvan Elves who did not submit to the kingship of Thingol or the governance of Círdan and believe me, Elrond, ‘tis not a thing unheard of amongst them. There have been instances of Elves bedded and wedded afore their majority in this realm. It has happened in the past and continues to take place in this day. Not so overly frequent as before, I grant you, but the practice does exist. We Elves are not all of a piece, much less so with the sundering of our kindred by the Sea.” He noted Celebrían’s marked silence. “Methinks your lady knows something of it. Wood-elves make up the majority of the Golden Wood’s folk after all.”

Elrond looked sharply at Celebrían who started then let out a hushed breath and nodded. “It was practiced in Lothlórien and only lately has it been abandoned. But that is only because there has been no dire need in recent years to replace Elves lost to attrition.”

“Strange that I know nothing of this,” Elrond commented. “And I am supposed to be well-versed in lore.”

“The lore of the Eldar from beyond the Sea,” Celebrían reminded him. “The Wood-elves’ existence was so far removed from our forebears that many of their ways diverged from ours. Yet we have shown a readiness to condemn practices we find opposed to what we believe proper. Think you the Silvan Elves would share such secrets with outsiders if they thought they would only merit scorn or worse?”

Thranduil nodded in concurrence. “You understand the circumstances, Elrond? My people did not experience the luxury of the security of Aman, the protection of the Girdle of Melian in Doriath or the long peace of the Elves of the Falas. They knew death long before your people did. They knew what it was to lose so many folk as to make the sustenance of a population untenable. Why think you were so many disparate clans forced to band together into tribes over the millennia? Lórien may have found the wherewithal to forsake the custom. My kingdom has not. We are never truly safe from peril and the loss of life. This mandates exceptional measures and neither I nor my father saw fit to end the ancient custom however personally repugnant it was to us.”

Elrond regarded his host for a long spell before speaking. “I take it that such early couplings were primarily for the swift begetting of children?”

“And also for the infusion of new blood and strength into a tribe,” Thranduil replied. “Warriors were highly prized as were scions of their houses. The taking of young ellyn was fairly commonplace in the old days when ellith were barred from the battle-ranks.”

“Taking? Do you mean forcible abduction?” Elrond said with some horror.

“Oh, never that!” his wife exclaimed. “Force was never employed. But it was easier to persuade a young Elf to leave his or her tribe for another if it was at a lover’s behest. And if an elleth was already with child or an ellon deep in love-thrall, all the better.”

“They do not consider it an immorality,” Thranduil further stressed. “‘Tis merely a different path that they took given the exigencies of their evolution.”

Elrond digested the information carefully. At length, he looked at Thranduil once more, his grey eyes alight with a knowing gleam. “‘Tis not merely in defense of a betrothal between them that you have broached this,” he shrewdly guessed. “‘Tis also the basis for it.”

Thranduil sighed with relief at the Elvenlord’s perspicuity. “The reasons for which the ancient practice came into being are understandable. But that is not to say all Wood-elves observe it strictly for those same reasons. There are deep dark places that are not to be found on any map.”

Elrond caught his breath then nodded in comprehension. He was in no position to judge. His own house’s checkered history did not always bear close scrutiny.

Lúthien inspired enough unseemly lust amongst the most noble of Elves to drive them to perform less than admirable deeds. A Dark Elf took Turgon’s sister to wife. It was claimed she was not unwilling but neither was it said that she had truly desired it. Who knew what had really taken place in the depths of Nan Elmoth? And Maeglin would have snatched Idril, his own cousin, away from her husband had Tuor not killed him at the Fall of Gondolin.

There were indeed deep dark places that had never been mapped for they lay hidden in the hearts of the Eruhini. Not even Elves could always resist the baser urges that were a part of every sentient being under the sun.

“To be blunt about it, I fear for Legolas,” Thranduil said. “I wish to protect my youngest. He is so vulnerable as my older sons are not. Oft must I leave him to his own devices and in the care of others. I have not been able to provide as much guidance for him as I did his brothers. For now, he is safe enough. He is as you said a mere infant. Not even the most depraved of the heathen Elves would do him harm. But when he begins to mature, he will attract unwanted attention. Even now it is readily apparent how beautiful he will be when he leaves childhood behind. He will surpass all in comeliness, even his brothers—they already envy him for that reason alone.”

Thranduil paused then pensively glanced out the window at his youngest son who now rested in Elrohir’s cradling arms while they perched in the tree. The child was struggling against the pull of slumber and not quite succeeding with the Elf-knight ever so gently rocking him to sleep.

“There will be many who will covet him for his beauty yet will not offer him matrimony in return,” he sadly concluded. “I cannot depend on his brothers to shield him should any approach him for less than worthy reasons. And he is so hungry for love and eager to give it. He will believe declarations of it and yield himself should proof of his devotion be demanded of him. I do not doubt that he will one day make a good match but ere that day comes, his heart will likely have been battered many times and mayhap will no longer be whole for the one who finally takes him in wedlock.” He turned his eyes on the couple once more. “I do not encourage the practice in my own household but he cannot remain sheltered forever. Sooner or late, he will need to step beyond the bounds of his home and face the world without."

"An early betrothal would spare him the grief,” he baldly stated. “I would not have them bound against their will and ere my son has reached his majority. But I would that it be known in the kingdom that he is already spoken for and therefore not to be touched by any other in that manner.”

“But Elrohir will not always be here,” Elrond commented.

“He need not be. The mere knowledge that he is Legolas’ intended would be enough to deter any with less than honorable intentions. None would dare risk the wrath of Elrond of Imladris who would expect his son’s betrothed to come to him unsullied. I only seek the protection a betrothal would accord him. Should they choose to break it when he comes of age, so be it. By then, the Valar willing, Legolas will have learned how to defend himself from unworthy suitors.”

Celebrían stirred when he finished speaking. “You have given deep thought to this but ‘twas not long in the making,” she remarked. “When did it occur to you?”

“When your son championed mine at our first meeting. ‘Twas not only Legolas who thought him a hero.” Thranduil folded his arms and looked squarely at his noble guests. “Will you consider it?”

Elrond hesitated then, after a silent exchange with his lady, said, “I beg pardon if this gives offense, Thranduil, but what would Imladris stand to gain from this arrangement?”

The Elvenking smiled. “I would have been surprised had you not asked,” he said. He gestured to the neat sheaf of parchment on his desk. “I read your treaty proposal. ‘Tis fair for the most part though there are points I strongly differ with.”

“Name them.”

Thranduil shook his head. “If you say yea to a betrothal between our sons, I will sign that treaty with all your stipulations intact and furthermore I will place my army at your disposal should the need arise, no questions asked. Is that sweet enough to tempt you?”

Elrond and Celebrían were struck speechless for a moment. “And Elrohir?” Celebrían blurted out, forgetting diplomacy and restraint in her shock. “What would you offer him in exchange for his consent?”

Thranduil could not help a soft chuckle. He did not blame her for being so taken aback as to cast her customary tact aside.

“I will append a codicil granting him all the privileges and rights of a prince of this realm for so long as the betrothal stands. And if they should bind, by affinity he shall become one in name as well. Of course, he will also have exclusive rights to my son’s virginity and his favors thereafter so long as they are avowed to each other,” he added pointedly. “In light of what we discussed earlier, that is not a matter to be taken lightly.”

Elrond took a deep breath. “Those are generous terms. You would do so much for Legolas’ sake as you have never done for your other sons. What makes him so special, Thranduil?”

The Elvenking looked at him keenly. “So you have perceived that as well,” he remarked. “If I seek to protect Legolas’ interests now, ‘tis because I have reason to believe he is destined for some undertaking that will have repercussions not only in this kingdom but beyond our borders as well.”

“You have divined his future?” Celebrían asked in astonishment. Thranduil’s family was not known to be strongly blessed with precognition.

Thranduil shook his head. “On the eve of his birth, my late wife was visited in her dreams by Elbereth herself. The Lady did not say what it was our unborn child was fated to do; only that it would be of great significance and that it would benefit us to take special care of him.”

The mention of Elbereth was enough to convince Elrond of the veracity of the Elvenking’s contention. He was no stranger to visions and insights from the Queen of the Valar.

“Very well, I can see no reason to object to your proposal,” he said. “If I have reservations, it has to do with the nature of this pact. In my people’s eyes, it will smack of a political alliance based on expediency rather than a personal allegiance founded on mutual love.”

“For now,” Thranduil agreed. “But who is to say that love will not blossom between them? The seeds of it have already been planted I warrant. And as I said, if they are not meant to be, they need not bind.” He looked from Elrond to his lady and back again. “What say you? Would Elrohir agree to be an innocent’s protector even from afar?”

Elrond considered what he knew of his son’s convictions. A glance at his wife showed she was of like mind. Smiling faintly, he said: “If that innocent be Legolas, yea, I believe he would.”

**************************
Glossary:
ellyn (sing. ellon) – male Elves
ellith (sing. elleth) – Elf-maids
Girdle of Melian – the fence of enchantment the Maia Melian set around her husband Thingol’s kingdom of Doriath that prevented entry into his land without his knowledge or will
Falas – coastal region of West Beleriand ruled by Círdan the Shipwright in the First Age
Eruhini – children of Eru

To be continued…

Chapter Text

The golden-haired sprite darted down the corridors, peeking around corners and into sundry chambers. Each time, his eyes would light up hopefully only to dim with frustration. The object of his search was nowhere to be found. Sighing at last with disappointment, he slowly made his way back to his room.

As he made the turn in the corridor leading to the family quarters, he came up short. There was his quarry, coming down the hallway from the opposite direction, bow and quiver in hand. He could not quite stifle his indrawn breath of anticipation. The sound though soft was enough to snare the other’s attention. The darkling Elf looked up and smiled upon seeing the child.

“Good morning, Legolas,” he called out.

Thranduil’s last-born smiled shyly and approached Elrohir. Until the advent of the Peredhil in Eryn Galen, he had never known such a surfeit of contentment and fun outside of his father’s company. And it was all due to the deceptively gentle Elf-knight who perceived the little Elf’s hapless straits from the very start and set himself to making things a little easier for him. In the weeks since his arrival, the Elfling had known such blissful respite from his brothers’ thoughtless goading that he dreaded the day the Elves from Rivendell would depart.

“Good morning, Elrohir,” he replied in his high, piping voice.

“Where are you headed, little one?” Elrohir asked.

Legolas beamed, his hero-worship of the younger twin clearly visible in his blue eyes. “I was looking for you,” he admitted.

“Ah, I was at the archery yard with Haldoron,” Elrohir explained. “Why were you looking for me?”

“I made something for you,” Legolas said, taking the twin by the hand and leading him to his bedchamber.

They came to the Elfling’s room and Legolas excitedly pushed the door open. Only to stop with shock and stare in dismay at what lay before them.

Elrohir entered the sitting room, a frown marring his handsome face. On a low table against the far wall, a small painting reposed. Rivendell had been painstakingly captured on canvas, clad in the brightest of colors, the details gleaned from varied descriptions heard regarding the hidden vale.

It was not an accomplished piece by any means. Indeed, it was unquestionably a child’s unpolished endeavor. But it had been patiently and laboriously rendered and that imbued the painting with a sterling quality that could not possibly be equaled by even the most renowned of artists. Not unless said artists could match the innate innocence and trusting nature a child possessed.

But someone had marred the little Elf’s labor of love. Some cruel soul had taken a brush, dipped it in black and brown paint and spattered the dark pigments onto the colorful image. Dark streaks cut across the vivid blue of the Bruinen, muddy spots dappled the verdant hills that surrounded the vale and the Last Homely House was barely visible from behind an indeterminately hued smear.

Elrohir scowled then glanced down at the tiny face of his companion. The blue eyes were swimming, the small mouth trembling. Humiliation was written all over the child’s crestfallen countenance.

“It wasn’t like that when I left it,” Legolas said, voice small with shame.

A snicker from the doorway caught their attention. A glance revealed Nimaras and Lalorn.

Why does this not surprise me, Elrohir thought.

Nimaras’ resentment of Legolas had grown exponentially with every extra moment Elrohir had spent with the Elfling. The fifth royal son had openly lusted after the Elf-knight almost from the start; even more so than Aelluin who was no laggard in seeking what he desired. But Elrohir had dallied with neither; indeed had dallied with no one or at least none that the princes had been able to discover. The only thing they were sure of was that Legolas had reaped the lion’s share of the younger twin’s company thus far.

Aelluin and Nimaras’ initial incredulity had swiftly evolved into annoyance. But at least the worst Aelluin had done was ignore Legolas more than ever, sometimes to the point of rudeness. Nimaras, however, baited his youngest brother as oft as he could get away with it, taking pleasure in reducing his unexpected rival to tears whenever possible. And Lalorn, always jealous of the child who had supplanted him as the family’s youngest and therefore most doted on by their father, was his frequent willing accomplice.

Legolas flinched visibly at their mirth. His shoulders slumped and he bowed his head in a vain attempt to hide the tears that spilled down his pale cheeks.

Elrohir’s grey eyes turned icy. The murderous glare he laid on the princes silenced their laughter. They looked back at him uncertainly. His eyes promising retribution upon the mean-spirited Elves, Elrohir knelt before the quivering child. Only then did he wrench his irate stare from the two and focused it more gently on Legolas.

“Of course it isn’t how you left it,” he crooned, his voice carrying to the listening miscreants. “Only witless dolts could have done this. ‘Tis your misfortune that you had to be born into their dubious company.”

Again, he glared at the two at the door. No longer smug or mirthful, they slunk away. Elrohir turned his attention back to the little Elf.

“Come, we can still remedy this,” he said.

“Can we?” Legolas whispered, a trace of hope in his limpid eyes.

“Aye, we can. Elladan and I have helped Adar restore many an ancient painting. I see no reason why we cannot repair the damage to your splendid piece.”

“Is it splendid?” Legolas asked, his face noticeably brighter.

“Oh, absolutely!” Elrohir grinned. “‘Tis a veritable work of art.” He reached for a bottle of turpentine and a rag.

Legolas raptly watched as the Elf-knight carefully wiped away the offending streaks and smears. Slowly but surely, the bright colors re-emerged. Several minutes later, Elrohir straightened and smilingly presented the cleaned up painting to the princeling. The child’s expression was all the reward he could desire.

Legolas launched himself at his legs, hugging them tightly while looking up at the twin with the sweetest, most grateful smile Elrohir had ever seen. But a moment later, his expression clouded over. He looked at the Elf-knight doubtfully.

“‘Tis my going-away present to you,” he said. “But I do not know if it’s good enough for you.”

Elrohir chuckled. “Of course, it’s good enough,” he countered. “Indeed, ‘tis better than good enough. I shall hang it in my bedroom in Imladris.”

“Truly?”

“On my honor.”

Legolas would have hugged his legs again but Elrohir laughingly scooped him up in his arms instead. Whereupon the Elfling buried his small face in the twin’s shoulder and curled his slender arms tightly around his neck. And when he lifted his golden head and gazed happily at Elrohir, adoration all but blazed in his crystalline eyes.

“I will miss you,” he honestly said.

Elrohir smiled and tweaked his pert nose lightly. “Then come and visit me in Imladris, little one,” he teased.

Legolas caught his breath at the suggestion. “I will go to Imladris,” he promised gleefully. “Will you wait for me, Elrohir?”

“I will wait for you,” Elrohir solemnly swore.

Eyeing the happy child in his arms, the younger twin thought back to the conversation he’d had with his parents some weeks back; the day after he and Elladan had given Legolas his first swimming lessons. It was a conversation that had nearly left him speechless with disbelief and consternation.

They had called the brethren to their spacious bedchamber, citing the importance of the topic they wished to discuss with their sons as enough reason for the twins to forego a riding to Eryn Galen’s northern fences with Thranduil’s three older sons. But of all the possible things he imagined they might wish to speak of to him, this had never even remotely crossed his mind. At his side, Elladan also fell silent and stared at Elrond and Celebrían, his brow furrowed in shock and confusion.

“You would betroth me to a child?” Elrohir finally managed to choke out. “What mad whim is this?”

“No whim at all, Elrohir,” Elrond evenly replied. “Else would we have given you all these reasons for it? We would not even have had any to lay before you had this been but an impulse on our part.”

“Thranduil is concerned for Legolas’ well-being,” Celebrían added. “He did not lightly broach the suggestion to us.”

“But still,” Elladan protested, “to affiance Elrohir to such a youngling and afore his own first century mark!” He looked at his parents somewhat reproachfully. “You have oft said that you believed it best for us to wait as you did ere choosing the ones we would bind ourselves to.”

Elrond nodded in agreement. “But Elrohir will not be forced to bind to Legolas when the prince comes of age. Thranduil has made it clear that either may break this troth should it not suit them to wed. ‘Tis the years while Legolas matures and learns the ways of his people that Thranduil desires to guard.”

“And what of Elrohir’s desires?” Elladan inquired.

The emphasis on the last word was not lost on any of them. The twins were of age and already exploring the ways and means by which their needs could be met. They were not profligate libertines by any means but neither had they been chaste since their majorities. They were young with lusty appetites and had not hesitated to gratify themselves as each situation warranted.

Other Elves of a more conservative bent might frown upon Elrond and Celebrían’s leniency with their sons where the pleasures of the flesh were concerned. But the couple firmly believed in the proverbial sowing of wild oats ere one settled down into matrimony. After all, for Elves that meant an eternity with one and only one mate.

Elrond regarded them for a spell before speaking once more. It was a valid point.

The vows of betrothed Elves included fidelity of the body; an affianced Edhel did not couple with any other than his or her intended. Then again, a typical betrothal transpired between Elves of the age of consent and that was enough to take care of any carnal needs either party might need to assuage. But not in this situation where one of the principals was considered criminally young by all the elven races, even the primal Silvan Elves.

“I am certain Thranduil will waive the constraint placed upon you with regards to the oath of fidelity,” he said at length.

Elrohir raised an indignant eyebrow. “Yet it would be demanded of Legolas to keep his,” he objected. He shook his head adamantly. “I will not take upon myself an oath only to renege on it.”

“But for a betrothal to be valid, you will be required to utter that oath,” Celebrían reminded him.

“Then I will remain chaste should I enter into this contract,” Elrohir decided. “I cannot in all honor be two-faced about it.” He paused then softly said, “Legolas would not be pleased were he to discover that I had shared myself with others after promising myself to him. He would want me for himself alone.”

“How do you know that?” Elladan asked in surprise.

“I... I just know,” Elrohir hesitantly replied.

He looked down at his hands. Hands that in the course of this visit had held and instructed and bestowed affection on a trusting, worshipful Elfling who bristled with so much incipient love and passion. Couple these with his deep need to belong to someone and consequently own that someone in turn and the Elf-knight intuitively sensed that when a come-of-age Legolas possessed someone or something, he would not suffer gladly any attempt to take that possession from him.

He understood then that this was what Thranduil most feared would bring his son to grief. That he could be broken by any number of refusals by others to be his alone after having known his favors. Because Legolas would equate the sharing of his body with the yielding of his heart. It was in the littlest prince’s nature. As Elrohir had said, he did not know how he knew this; he simply and instinctively did.

And Legolas’ brothers would not aid him in navigating the treacherous waters of carnal relations. At least not until it might be too late to protect him from the first undesirable incursions on his innocence. Their envy went deep and would keep them from being allies when Legolas would need their help most.

Well, mayhap Galvreth would come around eventually, Elrohir amended. The silver-haired prince had been just a shade more amiable with Legolas of late. Elrohir wondered if his obvious infatuation with Elladan had anything to do with it. Though sometimes it also seemed that Galvreth’s mild antipathy toward Legolas was more out of habit than anything else. That seemed to be the case with Elivorn as well and perhaps even Aelluin.

The twins had discussed the possibility that what had started out as mere indifference in some had been fanned through the years by the rest into active dislike. But the roots of each and every prince’s lack of affection for their youngest mattered little. What did matter was that they had precious little goodwill toward Legolas and it was highly unlikely that the Elfling would find a champion amongst his siblings in the foreseeable years to come.

He’d had to find his present champion in a stranger from a strange land. In Elrohir. The thought made the Elf-knight’s throat ache with sadness for his tiny friend.

“I wish to think on this a while longer,” he abruptly announced.

His parents blinked, taken aback by the swiftness of his acquiescence to at least consider the matter. They had prepared themselves for a lengthy battle or even an outright rejection. But they collected themselves swiftly enough.

“But of course, iônen”—my son—Elrond said. “Take as much time as you need. This is too portentous a decision to make without due consideration.”

Elladan looked at his twin curiously. “Beware, tôr neth”—younger brother—he cautioned. “‘Tis forever we speak of should you lose your heart to him.”

Elrohir shrugged. “That would not be a bad thing. The problem would be if he were not to lose his to me.”

The Elf-knight came out of his musings with a start when a small, warm palm cupped his cheek. He looked into Legolas’ anxious eyes.

“Is something wrong?” the Elfling asked worriedly. “You were frowning so fiercely.”

Elrohir softly chuckled. “Nay, there is nothing wrong, cunneth.”—princeling. “I was only deep in thought.”

“That goes without saying,” Legolas gravely remarked.

Elrohir started at that simple piece of childish sagacity. Suddenly, he knew he had to make his decision without further delay. It would not wait until he returned home and perhaps lost his nerve from too much deliberation. Sometimes it was best to meet a situation head on and go with one’s instincts in the managing of it.

He walked to the hearthside chair where Legolas’ night-nurse Moriel oft settled herself with a good book while waiting for her charge to fall asleep. He sank down into it and sat the Elfling on his lap.

After a moment’s pause, he said, “Legolas, do you know what a betrothal is?”

The Elf-prince looked at him in surprise then nodded hesitantly. “Moriel is promised to one of Father’s warriors,” he replied. “She will marry him next spring. Is that what you mean?”

Elrohir said, “Aye, that is what I mean.”

Legolas looked at him curiously. “Why did you ask?”

The younger twin sighed, wondering just how to introduce the subject matter to his young friend. And then he decided the best way would be to be direct about it. Legolas was after all a bright child who did not need excessive elucidation.

“I have been asked to betroth myself,” he explained. “To you.”

Legolas gaped at him. “To me?” His eyes widened even further when Elrohir nodded in assent. “You would be promised to me?”

“As you would be to me. Do you understand what that entails?”

Elrohir closely watched his little companion. He knew Legolas could not yet possibly comprehend all the ramifications of such a contract. But he wanted to see if he could at least grasp the concepts of faithfulness and vow keeping. After all, the betrothal would be for naught if Legolas could be swayed by blandishments regardless of the oaths he and Elrohir would have to make.

Legolas screwed his small face up in concentration. “Would that mean that we would belong to each other only?” he assayed. “The way my Ada a Nana”—Papa and Mama—“did?”

Elrohir had to smile at the insightful reference. “More so should we bind. Aye, that is exactly what it means,” he agreed. “What think you of the idea?”

The Elfling stared at him in astonishment. It was a novel experience for him that his opinion of so serious a matter should be sought. But then Elrohir never treated him with aught but respect. He did not talk down to Legolas as if he were a dim-witted child but spoke to him as an equal albeit adapting what he uttered for a child’s level of understanding. Legolas judged that it would be a very good thing to belong to someone who regarded him with such appreciation and esteem.

He looked brightly at Elrohir and, with a brilliant grin, declared, “I think ‘tis a grand idea!”

Elrohir caught his breath at the Elfling’s display of enthusiasm. Well, he had asked for Legolas’ opinion; he had certainly got it. He let his breath out slowly, not having been aware that he had held it. Nodding, he rose, lifting Legolas in one arm and tucking the painting under the other.

“Very well, lass dithen”—little leaf. “Let us go and inform our edair that we are agreed on this.”

*****************************
Glossary:
adar (pl. edair) - father
Edhel - Elf

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Elrond and Celebrían smiled indulgently as they listened to the hushed conversation behind them interspersed with soft, high-pitched giggles that belonged to none of the stately Imladrin Elves.

A backward glance revealed the source of the unlikely mirth as the fair-haired Elfling securely ensconced within the circle of their younger son’s arm. Young Legolas had scarcely paused to take in air between the numerous questions he had posed to Elrohir and Elladan since the Rivendell delegation left the bounds of the Woodland Realm.

That was not surprising considering that the little prince had never left the grounds of his father’s halls, much less stepped outside the kingdom’s borders. Small wonder that he greeted every new sight and sound and even scent with wide-eyed fascination and accompanied his curiosity with a seemingly never-ending spate of queries. Every bit of flora or fauna that he had little or no knowledge of was cause for intense inquiry and the brethren were plumbed for everything from the distance between Eryn Galen and the river Anduin to the temperature at the Misty Mountains’ perpetually snow-capped peaks to tales about the humans who peopled the scattered hamlets and settlements of the less populated regions of Rhovanion or the long-established towns and villages of the Bree-land.

Elrohir and his brother patiently answered what they could with occasional aid from Glorfindel and Erestor who rode abreast with them, the captain by Elrohir’s side and the counsellor at Elladan’s. The result of keeping company with an inquisitive and playful child was almost predictable.

Glorfindel’s warriors could not quite contain their merriment when they were treated to the sight of their fierce commander throwing decorum to the wind and sticking out his tongue in a contest of one-upmanship with the irrepressible Greenwood princeling. And Erestor made clucking sounds more suited to a mother hen than an advisor of note as he watched the antics of the golden-haired mite.

“Down, little one,” Elrohir finally commanded, tugging at Legolas’ belt when the prince nearly lost his balance while hanging over the Elf-knight’s shoulder to make faces at the soldiers who took up the rear. “If you do not behave I shall strap you to Uilos’ rump and leave you hanging there until we reach the Loudwater.”

“You wouldn’t!” Legolas scoffed. But to Elladan’s amusement, he slid down swiftly enough in front of Elrohir once more and clutched at the snowy mane of the younger twin’s powerful destrier.

“‘Tis wise of you to heed my brother,” the older twin grinned. “He is not as benevolent as he would have you believe.”

That elicited a stare of such trepidation that the brethren huffed with laughter.

Legolas looked from one to the other uncertainly. He was used to the complicit sniggers of his brothers when they amused themselves at his expense. He was not quite sure what to make of the twins' mirth.

Elrohir swiftly ceased his chortling and hugged the child closer. “Do not mind us,” he soothed the prince. “We were only teasing and meant no harm.” He smoothed an errant lock of hair from Legolas’ cheek. “We do not care to laugh at you but we would have you laugh with us.”

Legolas’ slight frown of anxiety vanished and he smiled back. Snuggling confidently against the Elf-knight, he said, “You are the nicest Elf I’ve ever known, Elrohir. I know you would never hurt me.”

Elrohir swallowed the sudden lump in his throat the little Elf’s words created and his eyes dropped to the silver rings on their right index fingers. He became conscious all over again of the great charge he had taken upon himself. In his hands lay the power to make or break a child’s happiness. He had never known such power before and now that he held it, he knew he did not want it. Not if it meant that he could snatch Legolas’ joy from him with a thoughtless word or a careless deed.

For such was the Elfling’s esteem of him that he trusted Elrohir implicitly—in his eyes, the Elf-knight could do no wrong. It was a daunting expectation to live up to and while Elrohir did not balk at donning the mantle of a child’s adored champion, said mantle did not necessarily rest easily on his shoulders.

The circumstances that had placed him in this situation had come to an explosive culmination. Hence the sudden decision to have Legolas sojourn in Rivendell for as long as a year if need be. But before the not unexpected contretemps over the betrothal, Elrohir had insisted on hammering out the details of the agreement, as much for Legolas’ protection as his own.

“I must insist on one stipulation ere I approve this contract,” he said that morn before his parents and brother, his possible future law-father and the counsellors both sides deemed trustworthy to be privy to the initial negotiations.

Glorfindel and Erestor had reacted to the news with admirable aplomb though there was no pretending that they had not been thoroughly taken aback. And Thranduil’s three most senior advisors had gaped quite gracelessly for several heartbeats before recovering their wits and putting their skills where they were most needed—preparing the first draft of the betrothal document and adding amendments as they were agreed upon.

“What stipulation is this?” Thranduil inquired.

Elrohir glanced to where his proposed intended sat in an alcove of the Elvenking’s study, looking out the arched window at a branchful of trilling birds outside. “That Legolas should not feel shackled by this pact,” he stated. “Should he love another and be truly loved in return, even ere he comes of age, he must be allowed to break our contract forthwith. I will not hold him hostage to it.”

“And you?” his father questioned. “What if you should love another? Will you demand the same for yourself?”

Elrohir nodded. “If it should come to that, I will ask to break our troth,” he said. “But only after I have ascertained that he will no longer be at any lecher’s mercy. I would never leave him to fend for himself before he is ready.”

“But what if one of you should love the other and not have it returned?” Celebrían quietly asked. “What then?”

“That is a risk we all take when we dare to venture ourselves in love,” Elrohir calmly replied. “I will swear to this. If Legolas should love me and I have not given my heart to another, I will bind to him. I can think of no better person to wed than one’s boon companion and I wager he will be that to me some day.” He paused. “As to what he might do should it be I who falls in unrequited love, I leave entirely up to him. But I think I will weather the grief should it come my way. I am my father’s son after all.”

He smiled wanly at his sire who had suffered unimaginable loss since his youth and survived to become the respected and renowned Elf-lord he was today. He then looked at the prince who continued to commune with the birds outside the window.

“For so long as this pact serves its purpose I will stand for it,” he said. “But before Legolas commits himself, I would have him aware of all that it may entail.” He turned to face Thranduil. “And I believe it would be better if you, sire, were to apprise him of them, particularly this last proviso. I would not have him believe that I am in such a haste to escape our contract ere it has ever begun.”

Thranduil smiled approvingly at the Elf-knight’s caution and concern. It served to confirm that he had chosen well for Legolas.

He called to his son and, when the child approached, pulled him onto his lap and proceeded to explain what would be expected of him. Some he elucidated in full, others he only mentioned in passing since a youngling could hardly be expected to comprehend such matters as bodily desire or expressions of romantic affection. But he was thorough enough to ensure that Legolas understood his basic obligations as one affianced as well as his rights and privileges.

He was a trifle nonplussed when Legolas latched on to one particular detail. “And Elrohir will be mine alone, Ada?”—Papa—he seriously inquired.

Thranduil nearly choked at this but he managed to recover. “As you will be his,” he confirmed. “But keep in mind that should you bind to each other, there will be no breaking that contract as you may still end this one.”

Legolas pouted. “Why would we want to end it?” he asked. “Does Elrohir not truly want to be betrothed to me?”

Everyone caught his or her breath at the plaintive query. At once Elrohir rose and went on his knees before the child-prince, taking his small hands in his.

“I do want this betrothal, Legolas,” he asserted. “But ‘tis only right that you should know what you are entitled to.”

He held out his arms to the Elfling and, at once, Legolas went into them and, curling his own around Elrohir’s neck, clung to him tightly. The others, even Thranduil’s advisors, felt their throats constrict at this telling display of the little prince’s need for affection and acceptance from someone other than his father. And pointed up all the more the correctness of the king’s fear that, left to his own devices, Legolas would indeed easily fall prey to those who would take advantage of that need.

Thank Elbereth he will be safe, Thranduil thought as he watched the younger twin cuddle his son. He signed to his chief counsellor to have the formal contract prepared.

The ensuing reactions of his other sons when they were finally summoned to witness the sealing of the pact were far less promising. The announcement was greeted with varying degrees of shock, anger and perturbation depending on the recipient of the news and the reason for his response. It proved unpleasant to put it mildly and cast an unflattering light on most of Thranduil’s brood.

Aelluin and Nimaras were the most vocal about their displeasure, which was only to be expected. But Haldoron also made quite a fuss, citing Legolas’ inability to honor such an agreement due to his youth. And Lalorn added his own objections simply as a matter of course. Surprisingly, Elivorn and Galvreth held their tongues for the most part though they did question the propriety of the proceedings.

“You cannot be serious, Adar!”—Father—Aelluin exclaimed. “You would have Lord Elrond’s son held captive by an infant?”

“Aye, ‘tis no better than a snare,” Haldoron agreed. “An onerous burden for an Elf of so noble a house.”

“This is likely no more than a game to Legolas,” added Lalorn.

“Elrohir does not see himself entrapped,” Thranduil sharply replied.

“Out of courtesy no doubt,” Nimaras interjected. “But truly, why would any Elf in his right mind wish to be chained to one beneath him in wit and age?”

Elrohir felt his blood seethe and he turned a baleful stare on Nimaras. “I would argue that he has more wit than some Elves I have had the misfortune to know,” he snapped. “And as for age, ‘twas not Legolas who behaved like a mewling brat three mornings past. Even Wargs do not turn on their young as you seem to delight in doing, Nimaras!” His glare expanded to include Lalorn. “An Orc would be better company than you or your sycophantic stooge.”

Silence descended like a shroud as Elrohir’s tirade came to a blazing conclusion. Nimaras turned as white as the draperies that adorned the tall, mullioned windows of the study while Lalorn’s face burned redder than was thought possible for an Elf.

“What mischief did they wreak?” Thranduil demanded after a tense while.

Elrohir coolly said, “They only provided me with yet another reason to eschew their company, sire.”

He looked disdainfully at the two. Lalorn averted his face in embarrassment but Nimaras’ scowl deepened and his eyes darkened ominously. Elrohir knew he had gained a foe in the Elf-prince even if Nimaras desired him as well. He shuddered inwardly at the very thought of the latter’s hands on him.

Eru preserve me from such an abhorrent fate, Elrohir thought. Better to couple with a beast of the forest. At least, animals rutted without sordid intent.

Thranduil lost his temper at last and, after prudently dismissing his counsellors for the moment, subjected his recalcitrant sons to a diatribe of monumental proportions. Aelluin and Nimaras bore the brunt of the first blistering volley.

“It strikes your benighted pride to lose your quarry to a mere infant, doesn’t it?” the king growled. “Well, plague take you and your foolishness! You will swallow your pride and abide your brother’s good fortune, as any decent Elf should. Or is that too much to ask of you?”

To his credit, Aelluin had the grace to put on a civil face and extend his felicitations to the pair even if curtly. But Nimaras could only manage a sullen grunt of acquiescence ere he sat back in his chair in resentful silence.

Thranduil shook his head in exasperation. “Whatever did I do to warrant such churlish offspring?” he griped.

Haldoron protested. “We are not all of a piece, Adar! If I spoke against this ‘tis because of Legolas’ tender years. It makes a travesty of this contract!”

Thranduil scornfully replied: “If you spoke against this, ‘twas because you begrudge Legolas his great luck in making a good match when you have yet to find one for yourself! I would venture that were it you in his shoes and Elladan to whom you would be sworn, you would readily welcome it, extreme youth be damned. Do not play the benign prince with me, iónen”—my son. “I am all too aware of your shameful treatment of your brother—indeed all of you—and for little more reason than what you perceive as his usurpation of your places in our people’s acclaim. But truth be told, what will render you less beautiful in their eyes will not be his bountiful graces but your own unbecoming demeanors.”

He leveled a flinty stare at his heir. “Take heed, Haldoron. If you do not school your ungraciousness toward your own blood, you may find yourself unloved by your subjects when I quit this kingdom!”

Haldoron flushed deeply at the scathing rebuke but dared not gainsay his sire. Thranduil laid flashing eyes on his other sons who could not quite meet his gaze with their own.

But finally, Galvreth lifted his head and said, “You are king, Adar. Your will is law. Do as you deem best.”

“For all of us,” Elivorn unexpectedly added, his brown eyes entreating the king to deal more gently with them.

Thranduil regarded his fourth and third sons keenly. Satisfied that at least two of his older progeny were behaving as they ought, he called back his advisors then turned his attention to Legolas.

The little Elf had tucked himself further into Elrohir’s side as the argument over the betrothal escalated. Even when his father beckoned to him to come forth, he hesitated and peered warily at his siblings first. At length, he looked up inquiringly at Elrohir and when the latter nodded reassuringly at him, he detached himself from the younger twin and timidly went to the king.

Thranduil placed his hands on the Elfling’s slender shoulders and fondly squeezed them. “Well, Legolas, the Powers have seen fit to smile on you,” he said. “But I would have you think hard on this one more time ere you commit yourself to this endeavor. For though Elrohir has stipulated that you may break this troth at any time should you deem it undesirable, while it stands you must abide all that it will demand of you.”

He smiled encouragingly at his son. “You are a child, that is true, but I have utmost faith in your acuity and I know you would never take an oath lightly or break it for no just cause.” He paused and allowed the Elfling one last, lengthy reflection.

Legolas frowned in concentration then glanced at Elrohir. What he saw in the Elf-knight’s countenance the king could not tell but it was apparently sufficient to make Legolas’ mind up for him.

The child looked at his father and said, “Elrohir will take good care of me, Ada.”

“Then you truly want this?”

Legolas nodded vigorously, a smile threatening to vanquish the solemnity of his mien. The Elvenking perforce softly chuckled at his son’s eagerness.

“Very well then, say the words, pen dithen”—little one—“that all may hear.”

With the help of Celebrían who gently coached him through the more protracted or unfamiliar phrases, Legolas somberly recited his pledge to be true to Elrohir and always hold himself in readiness for the day when they should bind to each other in sacred matrimony.

His eyes shone with innocent joy while he listened to Elrohir repeat the same words, his smile widening when the Elf-knight vowed to be solely his for so long as their troth should stand. Afterward, they jointly signed the contract, Thranduil helping his son inscribe his name on the documents.

Elrond could not help a melancholic sigh at this evidence of the nature of the betrothal. However they phrased it, masked it or whitewashed it, for the present it was a pact wrought of necessity and not of the yearning of two Elves for complete oneness. Else there would be no need to set down terms of agreement or have Elrohir and Legolas provide written proof of their collusion in it. It was not what Elrond would have wanted for any of his children.

But then both his sons were and always had been upholders of duty and honor and would shirk neither for personal gain. Especially if the observance of either involved the defense of an innocent and a pure-heart.

Once their signatures were affixed to the sheets of parchment, the two princes exchanged the outward symbols of their betrothal—matching silver rings engraved with the emblems of their houses. When and if they bound to each other, the silver rings would be replaced by gold bands and their house emblems combined to signify their complete union.

Elrohir then got down on one knee to bestow the requisite kiss on Legolas’ pursed lips. It was a chaste kiss, virtually familial in its gentleness. But it served to remind one and all that the contract just forged could one day culminate in the ultimate coupling of two bodies, two hearts, two souls.

The Valar willing, his son and Thranduil’s would come to desire that and make their pact one of love and longing, Elrond silently prayed.

The feast that followed was given all due importance as befitted a celebration in honor of the king’s son and his intended. Every Elf of note in the kingdom was requested to attend and none failed to comply with the tacit command.

Elrohir had no illusions about the speculation that followed him about as the revelry got underway. He was regarded with a wide range of reactions—curiosity and suspicion, bewilderment and awe, admiration and envy.

Refusing to let the not so discreet whispers and scrutiny upset him, he devoted most of his attention to the Elfling who could one day claim him in eternal bliss. Or torment, Elladan gibed with dark jocularity. Elrohir mildly chided him and concentrated on making it through the evening, gracious smile in place, dignity intact, temper firmly in hand and Legolas’ felicity and trust unmarred by any untoward incident or remark.

But glimpses of a petulant Nimaras, a frigid Aelluin, an aggrieved Haldoron and a disgruntled Lalorn, not to mention the obvious disappointment of not a few Elves amongst the guests, were unspoken reminders that Legolas would have to deal with much unpleasantness in the aftermath of these festivities. While his brothers’ ire burned brightly on the fuel of rejection or scored pride, the Elfling was in peril of fraternal persecution. And there would be no shortage of Elves who might seek to disillusion him by sullying Elrohir’s reputation on the sly.

It was in anticipation of these possible scenarios that Elrond and Celebrían thought to reiterate Elrohir’s invitation to Legolas to visit the hidden vale. Indeed they urged Thranduil to permit his son to return with them to Imladris at the end of their visit that Legolas might avoid his brothers’ fresh anger and the expected innuendos of the less upright of the Wood-elves.

Thranduil, though chary of allowing so young a child of his to undertake such a long and distant sojourn, recognized the wisdom of the suggestion. The time away from Eryn Galen would serve a multitude of purposes, all to the good of the youngest prince. Not only would it spare him the initial expressions of his brothers’ animosity and give him a respite from the fraught atmosphere that almost always pervaded his home in the wake of disputes, it would also afford him the chance to assimilate the ways of his betrothed’s people.

For should he and Elrohir eventually decide to bind, they would need to meld their widely disparate histories, cultures and beliefs into a polished and workable whole.

* * * *

They came to Rivendell in the last week of summer, before the verdant hues of the season’s foliage changed into the burnished colors of autumn. The weather was pleasant, neither cloyingly warm nor overly chilly. And birdsong still broke the stillness in the sparse forests that dotted the otherwise empty lands in this corner of Eriador.

Elrohir gently roused the dozing child cradled in his arm that he might behold the spare beauty of the approach to Imladris. The Elfling’s eyes opened then quickly widened to full awareness as the Elves’ horses forded the swift-flowing Bruinen and crossed into the realm of Imladris. Following a path marked by white stones, they at length came to a sudden steep fall and at last began the descent into the deep cloven valley that sheltered the fabled refuge founded by Elrond Half-elven in the preceding Age.

Legolas gripped Elrohir’s arms in barely contained elation as the heady scent of pine gave way to the myriad aromas of flowers, herbs and wild berries and the coniferous growth was supplanted by leafy oak and beech. Here and there, a wily fox or a gentle doe and her frisky fawns peeked out at the wayfarers from behind brush or tree. And many an inquisitive hare and excitable squirrel paused in their day’s pursuits to regard the Elves as they passed them by.

And then the Elf-prince saw it—the Last Homely House west of the Mountains and east of the Sea, tucked into the very heart of the valley. An enchanting and sprawling estate that belied its deceptively simple appellation. About it were the elegant yet understated houses and halls of the valley’s numerous dwellers.

To Legolas’ Wood-elven eyes, Imladris seemed utterly foreign and intriguingly strange. There was no mistaking the stamp of Noldorin influences in the architecture, the landscaping of gardens and orchards and even in the manner of dress. In keeping with the diplomatic measure of deemphasizing dissimilarities between the two elven races, the members of the Rivendell delegation had attired themselves for the most part in the fashion of the Greenwood Elves. Only in their formal raiment had they displayed their High-elven heritage.

They were welcomed home by nearly the whole household for Elrond had sent word ahead of their imminent arrival and of the young guest who might one day join the ranks of the family that governed the valley.

Legolas was quite astonished when he was greeted by all and sundry with the deference due the Lord Elrohir’s intended. If any had misgivings about the sudden engagement or the unusual nature of it, they chose not to voice them. For it was hardly kind or sensible to suspect a youngling of ulterior intentions and it was far from wise to question the Peredhil about the reasons for their actions if said actions were no one’s business but theirs.

The little prince was duly installed in his own quarters in the family wing right next to Elrohir’s. Legolas was pleased to discover that his room was the twins’ former nursery and that his whimsically carved bed with its soft feather mattress, plump downy pillows and brightly colored counterpane had once belonged to the Elf-knight. He soon found himself the object of much adoration as he was cooed over and made much of by the Elf-women of the household none of whom could resist his sweet face and innocent charm.

When evening fell and the residents of the house were summoned to the evening meal, he was conducted to his place at the high table between the brethren. A place he would occupy for the whole of his sojourn in the valley realm. It was an auspicious start for one who had known more ill luck than good in his life thus far. It made for a child of great cheer at the end of the day.

So much so that, when Elrohir tucked his sleepy charge into bed that night then softly asked, “Happy, lass dithen?”, Legolas beamingly chirped: “Oh aye, Elrohir. I really like being betrothed to you!”

With that he fell asleep. And if Elrohir needed further proof of his golden prince’s contentment, it was there in the blissful smile that gently curved the Elfling’s lips even in sound slumber.

************************
Glossary:
destrier – warhorse or charger of a knight (archaic)
lass dithen – little leaf

To be continued…

Chapter Text

A year may seem like an inordinately long time for a visit. At least to mortal beings. But to those who live forever, it is naught but an infinitesimal thread in the unending tapestry of time. Yet Legolas never forgot his very first visit to Rivendell.

In all the centuries that followed, he regarded it as one of his dearest childhood recollections and not a single memory of this halcyon time did he ever relinquish unto the remaking of Arda itself.

It was not that all other stays in the valley realm paled in comparison for in later years he was to know some of his most joyful or memorable experiences in hallowed Imladris. But this first was a new beginning for him, the start of his awareness that he was wanted and valued by others, not for who he was in a forest kingdom but for his own self, Legolas, an Elf of Eryn Galen. And thus he deemed his twelve-month in Elrohir’s home a treasure of immeasurable worth.

What his sire had attempted but could not wholly accomplish for lack of time and adequate support, the Elves of the Last Homely House now did for him. There were hikes and rides for his amusement—he was taken everywhere in the valley and even the lands about; games enough to sate any child’s hankering for fun and excitement; and refreshing dips in the tributary stream of the Bruinen while the weather remained pleasant. Almost everyone set aside time to entertain or teach him—regaled him with the lore and legends of the ancient past; recounted three Ages worth of deeds and words of renowned warriors, scholars and artisans, elven and otherwise; and did their best to satisfy his nigh bottomless curiosity about everything he saw or heard or sensed.

But it was when he was with Elrohir that he blossomed most. A bond of true friendship sprang up between them despite the wide disparity in their ages and the differences in their circumstances. It was no uncommon thing to espy the little prince hovering while Elrohir went about his duties whether it was serving out his apprenticeship in the Halls of Healing or going through his paces at the drill yard under the tutelage of Rivendell’s finest soldiers.

The inhabitants of the vale grew accustomed to the sight of Elrond’s younger son astride his white steed Uilos, the Greenwood prince perched before him. Or the Elf-knight striding about the grounds of the house, the fair-haired mite in his arms or on his shoulders. Or sitting side by side in one of the long couches in the Hall of Fire, listening to verse, prose or song.

Yet though they kept constant company, Elrohir still usurped the role of the Elf-woman assigned to care for Legolas during his sojourn in Rivendell. More oft than not, ‘twas he who saw to it that the child had eaten his fill, bathed and dressed him, read to him come bedtime and stayed with him until he fell asleep.

Elladan was baffled by his twin’s uncharacteristic devotion to the little prince, a devotion that patently went beyond mere sense of duty. For Elrohir had not previously displayed a propensity for the company of children and even less an interest in the care and rearing of them. It was one thing to indulge an Elfling for the length of a summer’s visit, quite another to play friend, mentor and caregiver day after day for an entire year.

He questioned his brother about his newfound vocation one sunny morn in the middle of autumn.

Earlier he had watched Elrohir instruct Legolas in the use of the bow out on the archery yard. The younger twin had gone so far as to have the weapons master fashion a complete set of bow, quiver and arrows to suit Legolas’ height and tiny hands.

The prince was a Wood-elf at heart and that portended an almost inherent talent in archery. He had already pleaded with Elrohir to teach him and the younger twin had seen no reason not to acquiesce to his wish. Of course, it was but a game to the Elfling for now; one of a child’s many pastimes. But Legolas’ affinity for the sport was apparent in his earnest practice and loving attention to the child-sized archery set Elrohir had commissioned for him.

But now his nurse had taken him for his writing lessons with Erestor. The brethren on the other hand headed for Elrond’s study where they were expected to assist their mother in the cataloguing of rare and therefore precious manuscripts recently obtained from the northern Dúnedain kingdom of Arnor.

As they walked, Elladan sought to unravel the riddle of his brother’s behavior. But in answer to his queries, Elrohir could only shrug and say: “I enjoy it. It contents me to take care of him.”

“Why, brother? ‘Twas never a penchant of yours before.”

“But it is now and I cannot say in all honesty why. It simply feels right. Besides,” Elrohir added as they entered the study, “he is so sweet and loving, I find that I miss his company when we are apart. Indeed, it confounds me that his nurses in the Greenwood have not sought to smother him with love and affection as everyone does here.”

Celebrían looked up from the heavy tome she was consulting. She was as avid an historian as her husband and took every opportunity to add to her store of knowledge. Before her on Elrond’s great desk were the lately acquired manuscripts. She was collating their contents with what was contained in the Last Homely House’s vast collection of books on the Men of the West. It was time-consuming work that entailed painstaking attention to detail.

Hearing her sons’ conversation, she ceased her scrutiny of the book and musingly commented, “I can think of one compelling reason for their seeming lack of attachment to Legolas.”

“Please explain, Nana”—Mama—Elrohir requested as he and Elladan joined her at the desk.

Celebrían leaned back in her seat and looked up at her sons. “There is a world of difference between attending to a guest’s needs for a limited span of time and being in service to someone whether you desire it or not,” she pointed out.

“Do you mean to say that Moriel and Glorowen resent their service to Legolas?” Elrohir demanded, bristling with indignation.

Celebrían smiled, pleased with his protectiveness on the princeling’s behalf. She shook her head.

“Not at all. I dare say they do care for Legolas even if they do not love him. But divided loyalties can inhibit them from showing more affection for him.” She tilted her head and regarded Elrohir keenly. “Did not Legolas say that Moriel was also day-nurse to Nimaras and Lalorn? And looked after them until they reached their majorities.”

Elrohir nodded. “And Glorowen helped raise the older ones,” he said.

“Do you not see? They most likely harbor much affection for their former charges and cannot help empathizing with their dismay at being upstaged by a late-coming brother. I warrant they do not wish to distress them further by seeming to change their allegiance in showing overmuch fondness for Legolas.”

Elrohir snorted. “Then King Thranduil would do well to dismiss them forthwith. I will demand that they be replaced with more suitable nursemaids come next autumn when Legolas returns home.”

Elladan huffed in some amusement. “Peace, gwanneth”—younger twin. “Prudence will best serve you should you speak to him on this. He will hardly appreciate being told how to do his business.”

“But he needs to know what goes on behind his back,” Elrohir countered. “While Legolas’ brothers are quite open about their disdain, ‘tis evident the nurses are not. Oh, I am not suggesting that they deal harshly with him but isn’t indifference as much abuse as physical harm?”

Celebrían sighed and replied: “It is indeed. Such lack of concern can subdue the spirit as effectively as relentless beatings. You are not wrong in wishing to provide Legolas with more considerate caregivers. But let your father and me broach the issue to Thranduil. Elladan is not far off the mark about how he would respond. Thranduil has proved more benevolent than either of us expected but he is proud nonetheless. He is Oropher’s son after all and your father saw more than he could stomach of Oropher’s hauteur during the years of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. It will not do to offend he who may be your law-father one day by taking him to task about the governance of his household. And you many millennia his junior at that!”

* * * *

The twins spoke no more of the matter. There was little use wondering about it. It simply was. For good or ill, Elrohir had come to dote on the Elfling who was his intended as fulsomely as said Elfling adored him.

And adore him Legolas did. With all the zeal and ingenuousness a child was capable of. Once he realized that no one would take his displays of affection for the Elf-knight askance, he did not stint in showing it.

He would exuberantly throw his arms around Elrohir’s legs after a victory in an Elfling race or a splendid showing in a contest of wits and beam at him so brightly that an overcast day seemed suddenly less shadowed. Even the most taciturn of Elves were dazzled by the brilliance of his smile and it certainly pleased Elrohir to be the most frequent beneficiary of it.

Many a time the younger twin would narrate a tale of some great adventure to him while they lounged in one of the reading alcoves in the library. Glorfindel’s story was a particular favorite for the simple reason that he was one hero who had not remained among the fallen but returned to walk Arda once more. Legolas loved a rousing yarn as much as the next child but he was not over fond of tragic endings. On those occasions, he would quietly curl up on Elrohir’s lap, his golden head tucked under the Elf-knight’s chin. If the tale proved especially dolorous, he would hide his tearful countenance against Elrohir’s neck and wrap his arms tightly around his shoulders.

And a bath was not always just a bath to the little prince. Not if he could coax Elrohir into joining him in the tub that they might engage in a soapy, slippery bout of mock wrestling. That such pursuits were apt to leave the Elf in charge of mopping up after them shaking his head in exasperation did not enter his mind and Elrohir did not trouble to enlighten him either.

Not when the reward for his omission was his little leaf’s blatant felicity for the rest of the day.

* * * *

“I saw Lindir with an elleth in the Hall of Fire,” Legolas mentioned to Elrohir one crisp end-of-autumn evening while they strolled in the garden after dinner. Celebrían had wrapped him well in a warm cape beforehand. Elf-children of such tender years were not as resistant to the extremes of weather as full-grown Edhil, as was evinced by the cold-induced rosiness of his cheeks, nose and ears. “I have not seen her before,” he added.

“Was she pretty?” Elrohir asked with a smile.

“Very,” Legolas confirmed. “Prettier even than Glorowen.”

Elrohir raised an eyebrow at that. Legolas’ day-nurse was considered one of the most beauteous Elf-women in the Woodland Realm. For Legolas to pronounce another to be far more comely was high praise indeed. He wondered if Lindir was a-courting and who the fortunate maiden was.

“But your mother is the prettiest of all,” Legolas went on with typical guilelessness. “She reminds me of Nana except that Nana had brown hair and eyes.”

“I will tell her you said so,” Elrohir mirthfully said. Celebrían would enjoy the compliment no end. “But why did you mark Lindir’s lady friend so?” he lightly teased the child. “Are you smitten with her?”

Legolas made a face as if Elrohir had suggested something particularly nasty. “Nay! I do not even know her. But Lindir must be. I think he likes her a lot.”

“How do you know?”

“Because he kissed her. For a very long time.”

“What? In your presence?”

“Oh no! They did not see me at the door and I did not wish to disturb them so I let them be.”

Elrohir faintly chuckled. “So, you saw them kiss. And that proves that he likes her a lot, does it.”

Legolas looked up at him a little uncertainly. “Doesn’t it?”

“Well, aye, sometimes it does.”

“Like when Lord Elrond kisses your mother behind the shelves in the library?”

The twin nearly choked at that revelation. “Embarking on a career of espionage, are we?” he wryly observed. “Valar, Legolas, you shouldn’t sneak around and spy on people!”

“I wasn’t sneaking or spying!” Legolas protested indignantly. “They just didn’t see me.”

“As Lindir didn’t see you?”

The prince shrugged. “‘Tis not my fault that I am so small. But it can be a great help sometimes,” he mischievously added.

Elrohir guffawed at that and, catching Legolas up in his arms, swung the squealing child about a few times before seating himself beneath a tall beech, Legolas ensconced on his lap. The Elfling settled snugly against him with a happy sigh.

“Aye, ‘tis certainly not your fault,” Elrohir snickered. “But do have a care, pen dithen.”—little one. “An embarrassed Elf can be quick with his or her words and not always in a nice way.”

“Embarrassed?” Legolas echoed in puzzlement. “Why, Elrohir? Do you get embarrassed when you are caught kissing someone?”

The twin shook his head in some disbelief at the prince’s impudent query. “I can no longer kiss anyone else,” he reminded Legolas. “Now that I am promised to you. But to answer your question, nay, I was never embarrassed at being caught. But then, everyone says I am quite shameless and, I am proud to say, they are quite right.”

Legolas giggled at the cheeky statement. “Have you kissed many Elves?” he asked.

Again Elrohir nearly choked. “You are in fine form this eve, cunneth”—princeling—he dryly remarked. “Such unseemly questions you ask.” At Legolas’ insistent gaze, he heaved a resigned sigh and said, “I have kissed a goodly number, aye.”

Ellyn egor ellith?” Male Elves or Elf-maids?

“Both.”

“Which do you prefer?”

Elrohir stared at him. “Legolas, wherefore your prying?!” he exclaimed, somewhat scandalized by the prince’s interest in so unchildlike a subject matter.

The Elfling pursed his lips into a pout then looked down. “I heard some of the maidens talking about you and Elladan. They said they were surprised about me because you’d seemed to prefer ellith. If they are right, why did you let us be betrothed?”

Elrohir fell silent for a spell, nonplussed by the unexpected turn their conversation had taken. At length, prodded by Legolas’ nervous regard, he strove to answer simply yet truthfully.

“They are not right,” he demurred. “I did keep company with ellyn from my majority onward. But ‘tis easier to be discreet when one is far afield as the warriors I favored oft were.”

Legolas frowned in that particular manner that indicated he was deep in thought. And then his face cleared and he asked, “You favor warriors?” When Elrohir nodded, he declared: “Then I will be one when I grow up. So you will like me that way, too.”

Elrohir caught his breath. “That way?” he warily probed.

“The way Lindir likes his friend and Lord Elrond likes your mother,” Legolas clarified. He hesitated then added, “The way Aelluin and Nimaras like you.”

That left the Elf-knight speechless for several seconds. “How in Arda did you—” He stopped and tried to phrase his query as delicately as possible. “What led you to believe that they do?” he carefully asked.

“They talked about you a lot,” Legolas explained. “And one time, Nimaras boasted to Aelluin that he would have you first, whatever that means. They quarreled when he said that and then Galvreth told Nimaras that he didn’t think you would ever dally with him because he wasn’t to your taste. And that made Nimaras truly angry. But Galvreth was right, wasn’t he? You told Nimaras so when he said those bad things about me.”

Elrohir did not know whether to smile in amusement, scowl in dismay or whoop with hysteria. What a thing to discuss within a child’s hearing! Taking a deep breath, he answered: “It matters not how they feel about me. I am not free to entertain their suits. But even if I were, I still would take no notice of them for I harbor no interest in any of your brothers. ‘Tis only you who may hold that now.”

The Elfling dimpled in delight. “That gladdens me,” he said with satisfaction. “And I will work hard to become a good warrior. I want to please you, rochiren vell.”—my dear knight.

Elrohir groaned from the sudden surge of pleasure the trusting avowal evoked and he hugged Legolas close. “You already please me, pen vîreb”—treasured one—he murmured. “Just by being yourself. Do not think that you must do aught else to make me happy with you.”

Legolas snuggled against him, his temple pressed against Elrohir’s cheek. “Do you think you will like me that way when I grow up?” he whispered.

Elrohir swallowed hard. “I... I hope so, lass dithen”—little leaf. “And I pray that you will feel the same for me should I—” He paused then pressed on. “Should I learn to love you as your father loved your naneth. And still does.”

The little prince drew away and looked long and searchingly at him. What he saw in Elrohir’s eyes must have satisfied him for he beamed worshipfully at him.

“I think I already do,” he said with candid fervor. With that he kissed Elrohir’s cheek before settling against him once more.

Elrohir slowly blew out his breath, feeling just a tad drained. Elbereth, but Legolas certainly knew how to stir things up. It seemed he would need to prepare himself for more surprises if this conversation was any indication of what was in store for him by way of his precocious betrothed. At least, it guaranteed that there would be precious few dull moments between them in the years to come!

He looked up at the firmament, the stars’ sparkling clarity unobscured on this calm, cloudless night. One suddenly gleamed brighter than all the others and a moment after seemed to cast all its light upon him and Legolas. He stared raptly at the celestial beacon, unaware in his communion with it that Legolas was staring at him in mounting anxiety. When at last the star returned to normal brightness, he realized the child was looking at him with some alarm.

“Do not be frightened,” he hastened to assure the Elfling. “Remember what I told you of my grandsire, Eärendil?”

Legolas’ fright swiftly changed to fascination. “‘Twas he?” At Elrohir’s assenting smile, he remarked, “You were staring at him. You looked as if you were listening to something.”

“I was,” Elrohir replied. “He speaks to us in our thoughts for he is so very far away. He watches over us even as he plies the heavens.”

Legolas was enthralled by the notion of that wondrous connection between the Mariner and his Peredhil heirs. “What did he say to you?” he eagerly asked.

The Elf-knight gazed once more at the brilliant pinpoint of light that was his father’s renowned sire. He lowered his eyes and regarded the prince’s upturned countenance, aglow with curiosity.

“He said he shares my hopes for the future,” Elrohir whispered. He dropped a gentle kiss on the tip of Legolas’ nose. “Our shared future.”

****************************
Glossary:
forthwith – without delay
elleth – Elf-maid
Edhil - Elves
wherefore – for what reason or purpose (archaic)
naneth – mother

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Hrivë
Winter in Rivendell was benign as a rule. No blizzards blanketed the valley realm with more snow than was enough to swallow a man’s foot to his ankle. No hailstorms pelted its denizens with painful missiles of ice.

True, the air was chilly enough to elicit misty puffs of breath even from the Elves, the tributary stream froze over by mid-season, the trees and plant life were stripped of their flora and greenery and the beasts of forest and meadow either departed for warmer climes or bunkered down into hibernation. But by and large Rivendell was picturesque and very comfortable in the coldest season of the year.

The reason for such mild permutations of the seasons was a closely guarded secret. Few outside of the elven refuge knew of the sapphire-stoned Ring of Power that kept hostile elements at bay. The might of Vilya combined with Elrond’s own strength ensured Imladris’ continuing existence into the Third Age and only a power greater than either could ever overwhelm the haven.

Elrond and his lady idly roamed their halls one quiet morning. Indeed they roamed their halls for it seemed too quiet.

The day had not yet been enlivened by Legolas’ high giggles and Elrohir’s low laughter as the two frolicked in the garden, hurling fistfuls of snow at each other and any Elf who had the misfortune to come into their line of fire. Nor had they glimpsed the duo racing down the hallways toward the kitchens for a hot drink and a tidbit to tide them over until the midday meal. And neither had shown up at their other usual winter haunts—the library, the cozy conservatory or the Hall of Fire.

It was only when they thought to visit the gaming room that they finally found the pair.

Elrohir sat at the Strategy table, Legolas on his lap. The great black and white board lay open before them, its pieces set in their proper places. High-kings, Ruling Queens, Wizards, Captains and Turrets had already ventured beyond the defensive lines of the Foot Soldiers. Across from them was Elladan who had just accomplished a move; the game they were engaged in was obviously geared toward a novice but it was no easy endeavor nevertheless for a child of Legolas’ age.

Elladan now awaited the Elfling’s move. About them a small crowd of Elves watched in interest and some amusement as Elrohir reminded Legolas of what his pieces could and could not do.

The little prince picked up a Wizard hesitantly. He looked up over his shoulder at Elrohir. “This one?” he asked.

Elrohir nodded. Tongue tucked into his cheek, Legolas eagerly plunked his piece down in place to block a menacing Captain. Elladan chuckled approvingly at him.

“You not only understand the rudiments of this game, you enjoy playing it,” Elladan observed. “I verily believe you will make a good captain of Elves, Legolas.”

Legolas flashed him a smile so wide and bright and his eyes lighted up with such glee that Elladan wondered what he had said that could be so pleasing. He glanced at his twin curiously but the latter only sighed and lifted his eyes to the ceiling. Taking that to correctly mean that Elrohir would enlighten him later, Elladan turned his attention back to the game.

An Elf-maiden stepped out in front of the gathered Elves behind Elrohir and Legolas and bent to whisper something to the younger twin. He listened, then smiled faintly and shook his head. While she spoke the elleth had needlessly placed a hand on his arm. Watching her, Elrond and Celebrían guessed that she had once dallied with their son ere his betrothal. Their attention was soon drawn to Legolas however.

The child had glanced back at the maiden and frowned when she leaned in close to speak with Elrohir. And then his eyes dropped to her hand on his arm and the way her fingers seemed to caress him through the sleeve of his shirt. A scowl darkened his countenance and he glared at the elleth. She sensed his stare, saw how his suddenly glacial eyes alighted on her hand before lifting them once more to her face in explicit warning. Startled, she hastily snatched back her hand and retreated before that baleful regard.

Only then did Legolas turn back to the game, clasping Elrohir’s enfolding arm around him even more snugly than before, a sulky pout evincing his lingering displeasure. Elladan clamped a hand over his mouth lest an untimely guffaw escape him while Elrohir rolled his eyes and shook his head in resignation.

Elrond and Celebrían exchanged glances then slipped away before their sons marked their presence. Elrond took his wife’s arm in the curve of his and drew her closer as they walked toward the library.

“It seems Elrohir’s assessment of the little prince’s temperament was correct,” Elrond remarked. “This early he already exhibits a distinctly proprietary manner toward our son.”

Celebrían nodded. “He will be a most jealous lover one day should they choose to continue their troth.” She shivered somewhat. “And I had thought only the Peredhil capable of such possessiveness.”

Elrond raised an eyebrow at her inquiringly. “I have not heard you complain before,” he commented.

She laughed softly and leaned her head on his shoulder. “Are you trying to pry a compliment out of me, hervenn?”—husband—she teased.

He smiled back and demurred, “Nay. But you sounded as if you did not desire such a trait.”

“‘Tis not that I do not desire it,” she clarified. “Only that I wonder how deep-seated it is in the young prince. As you pointed out, he is already possessive of Elrohir’s regard and they not even aught but fast friends. What more should they progress beyond the bounds of comradeship and enter into a liaison? Legolas will not only refuse to suffer any to poach on his territory, he will also closely guard what lies within and never permit any to stray without. I fear there will be the devil to pay should Elrohir ever err in that matter.”

Elrond stopped and looked at her wonderingly. “You have misgivings about this,” he stated.

Celebrían sighed. “Our son must do without intimate companionship for many more years,” she said. “I worry that he may fail in upholding his oath—not wittingly, never that—but in a moment of weakness. Should it come to Legolas’ knowledge, he may not find it in himself to forgive. Especially since he holds Elrohir in such high esteem that should his belief be proved wrong it could nigh compel him to revise his opinion of our son drastically.”

Her husband regarded her keenly. He never took anything she said for granted for she was not only gifted as he with foresight but also with great insight.

“You never speak at length of matters that are mere speculation, melethen”—my love—he said. “Have you seen something of this?”

She shook her head. “‘Tis merely a mother’s forebodings,” she replied. “I am concerned for Elrohir. Two score years of abstinence is a long time for a Peredhel. So much can happen ere Legolas reaches his majority and may see to our son’s needs.”

“Why did you not broach this concern before the contract was sealed?” Elrond questioned.

“I did not know then what Legolas is capable of,” she admitted. “I confess, I took Elrohir’s words lightly for I could not believe that he would know Legolas’ mind so well so soon.” She looked gravely at Elrond. “Not that it would have changed matters,” she added. “I do not think Elrohir would have refused this charge, whatever the cost to him. He doted on Legolas even then as he has never done for any child of this realm.”

Elrond nodded. “He was drawn to Legolas from the start and Legolas to him,” he agreed. “I would venture to say that they were destined to meet and cleave to each other one way or another. As to the extent of it... well, that is beyond any soothsayer’s ability to foretell with any accuracy. We can only pray that they will weather whatever fate chooses to cast their way.”

He smiled faintly at his wife. “Thranduil was right about one thing. Love has already been sown between them. We can only wait and see in which guise it will come to fruition.”

* * * *

Tuilë
“Where are we going, Elrohir?” Legolas asked for the sixth time since leaving the Last Homely House.

“Patience, lass dithen”—little leaf—Elrohir mildly reproached him. “Part of the pleasure of a surprise is the anticipation of getting it.”

Legolas looked at him skeptically but duly lapsed into silence. For the next ten minutes or so.

They had set off on Uilos this spring morn right after breaking their fast. Hardly had Legolas downed the last of his hot, spiced porridge and honey-sweetened milk when Elrohir drew his light cloak around him, swept him off to the stables and settled him in front of him on Uilos.

But instead of taking a ride around the main enclave of the haven as they usually did, Elrohir pointed Uilos toward the bridge. They traversed the stone span and headed toward the outlying homes of the valley. Speeding past these scattered domiciles they were soon crossing the wide meadow north of Rivendell.

The last snow had finally melted and the sun was shining with a vengeance as if making up for its tepid performance during winter. The gardens and orchards were only now shaking off their long sleep but the scents of blossoming vegetation were already beginning to permeate the vale—aromatic herbs, fragrant blooms and the singular green aroma of new foliage.

Legolas looked about with interest. Only once had he travelled to this seldom-visited territory and that had been at the start of his sojourn in the vale, when the weather had not yet turned. Looking back, he let his eyes wander to the two packs slung across Uilos’ rump and he wondered what Elrohir had in mind for them to do this day.

At length, they came to a secluded thicket that lay by a rippling brook that Elrohir explained was an offshoot of the tributary stream that flowed before the Last Homely House. He tethered Uilos amongst the bordering trees, took down the packs and led Legolas into the thicket.

To the Elfling’s wonder they came to a small clearing from which the trees and brush opened into a path that led to the brook. He looked at Elrohir inquiringly when the latter threw the packs down on the springy grass. The twin took a deep breath of the sweet-smelling air before replying.

“Elladan and I are so much alike that we are oft treated as if we are of one mind,” he explained. “But in truth we are not and there are times when we retreat from each other’s company to be alone with our thoughts. Elladan has his secrets and I have mine.” He extended his arms in an encompassing gesture. “This is my haven, Legolas, and none know of it, not even Elladan. I want to share it with you.”

Legolas caught his breath at this evidence of the enormity of the Elf-knight’s trust in him. He clasped his arms around Elrohir’s legs in his now familiar gesture of affection.

“I will keep it a secret,” he chirped. “I promise.”

Elrohir smiled and ran his fingers fondly through the silken strands of the Elfling’s hair. “I know you will, little one.”

He bent down and, opening one pack, pulled out a large blanket that he spread on the grass beneath a beech. Inviting Legolas to recline as he wished on the thick mantle, he reached into the other pack and withdrew a bottle of mead mild enough for a child to drink. This he carried to the brook and set securely between two outcropping stones in the water. The newly thawed water would chill the mead just in time for the noonday meal.

Returning to Legolas’ side he sat down and took a book out of the first pack. Legolas sat up quickly when he saw it was not a book he had previously seen. Elrohir grinned and, tapping his lap, soon had the inquisitive child ensconced therein. Leaning back against the tree, he opened the book and began to read from it. Within moments, the little prince was lost in a tale from the Second Age of the world; of a great realm by the sea and a High-king whose best-known name meant ‘radiant star’.

His eyes grew ever rounder as Elrond’s name was mentioned and Glorfindel and Erestor and even Celebrían and her parents, Celeborn and Galadriel. But most startling to the Elfling and of greatest interest was when his own grandsire and father’s names appeared and the story of their passage east from Lindon was recounted.

By the time Elrohir finished reading the pertinent portions of the book, the sun was high in the sky and Legolas was bursting with so much curiosity that he scarcely paused in between questions long enough for Elrohir to answer them with any sense.

“Breathe, Legolas,” he suggested. “‘Twill do you no good to pass out from lack of air.”

Legolas opened his mouth to retort that he was taking in enough air before he comprehended that the Elf-knight was only teasing him. He playfully punched Elrohir in the arm, a glancing blow that the latter hardly felt. But the twin feigned distress nonetheless, which had Legolas repentantly rubbing the spot until Elrohir could stand it no more and he scooped up the child in a tight cradling hug that had him squirming and shrieking in mirthful protest. Settled once more on Elrohir’s lap, Legolas managed to still his tongue enough for the twin to finally explain matters to him to his satisfaction.

They did not return to the Last Homely House until the sun was already beginning its slow afternoon descent. A bountiful picnic lunch of fresh bread, golden cheese, succulent ham, dried winter fruit, sugar-glazed nut rolls and the chilled mead followed by a brief restorative nap under the sprouting boughs of the sheltering beech and many hours of vigorous play and hearty laughter left its mark on the woodland prince. He could not desist from recounting over and again to anyone who would listen the delights he had known this bright spring day. But Elrohir’s haven, and now his as well, he kept secret as he had promised the Elf-knight.

For Legolas, however young, was no breaker of his word as he would proudly say in years to come. And that was not a thing to scoff at.

* * * *

Lairë
The weeks passed all too swiftly and before Legolas knew it, summer came upon them. The cool mornings and crisp evenings and frequent showers and intermittent downpours gave way to warm days and balmy nights and, save for the occasional summer storm, the sun reigned supreme.

Once more the outdoors beckoned and the brethren, when their duties permitted, brought their little charge on many a day-trip to the far-flung corners of the vale and even a few camping expeditions outside of it. On the first of these longer sojourns, they met up with a band of wandering High-elves, Exiles from the First Age who, like the twins’ grandam Galadriel, had remained in the Hither Lands instead of returning to Valinor after the lifting of the Ban.

Thereafter, the company crossed paths with them so regularly Legolas became convinced there was more to it than mere coincidence. Gildor the son of Inglor was their leader and though he was kind and gallant and merry, Legolas never quite warmed up to him. Mayhap it had to do with Gildor’s inordinate familiarity with Elrohir, which was not at all to the princeling’s liking.

On one of these encounters, the company set up camp with them for the night. After dinner, a few of the High-elves managed to coax Legolas to leave the brethren’s side and join them where they sat around the fire, exchanging strange tales and singing songs in a language Legolas had never heard before. He seemed to enjoy himself after his initial diffidence but still he kept his distance from Gildor much to the latter’s bafflement.

The brethren sat apart from the others, taking the opportunity to confer with each other in private. Legolas was a joy to have around for he was unfailingly cheerful and such a sweet and tender soul. But his presence did inhibit the twins’ more intimate confidences.

“Poor Gildor,” Elladan remarked as he watched the tableau by the fire unfold. “I wonder what Legolas will say when he learns of your, ah, divestment of innocence at our friend’s hands?”

Elrohir snorted. “So elegantly put, brother, when, in truth, ‘twas a rabid tumble we shared that first time and naught more. Besides, ‘twas I who importuned Gildor in my eagerness.”

“Eagerness to shed your virginity or eagerness for his company? You never did tell me.”

“The first. And since I did not care to have my first bedding become fodder for local gossip, I thought it prudent to choose an Elf not of the valley.” He smirked at Elladan knowingly. “You are not much different, tôr iaur”—older brother. “Else why did you have a Lindon maid attend to yours?”

Elladan grinned at the memory. “She was a beauteous one,” he said reminiscently. “And shameless, too. ‘Twas she who approached me after the feast at Círdan’s house, did you know?”

Elrohir chuckled. “You were willing to wait to be wooed. I was not. Gildor was there. It was an excellent opportunity. Why not take it?”

The older twin shrugged. “Why not indeed? I only pray you will have the right words to explain the matter to Legolas when he comprehends what passed between you and Gildor.” He glanced at the prince who for now was content to sit with the High-elven folk. “Yet I envy you, brother. Would that I knew a regard as pure and unrelenting as his.”

“‘Tis but a child’s regard,” Elrohir somberly pointed out. “It may change as he grows.” He sighed. “We may well part ways long afore his majority.”

Elladan fell silent for a space. When he roused himself, he said: “Somehow, I think not. If aught makes him break your troth, ‘twill not be for lack of love or the waning of it.” He gripped Elrohir’s hand hard, his grey eyes glittering oddly in the dark. “Beware, gwanneth.”—younger twin. “Let nothing and no one tarnish you in his eyes.”

Elrohir was startled by his twin’s sudden vehemence. “I am not perfect, Elladan!” he protested. “Sooner or late, I will err and he will have to accept that I am as flawed as any Eruchên.”—child of Eru.

“Oh, he will accept your flaws,” Elladan said with eerie certainty. “He is no addle-pated fool. But he will hold you to any oath you utter however lightly you may make it. Do not make promises you may be unable to keep, tôr neth.”—younger brother.

The strange light in Elladan’s eyes soon faded but Elrohir took it for what it was. A moment of acute prescience touched by intuition.

He did not ignore it; it was never wise to do so. For it ran in their blood and, for ill or good, oft parted the veils that separated the present from the future. Not to mention that Elladan’s pronouncement closely matched what he had gleaned from a lengthy conversation with his parents the past winter. Best be guided by such warnings than turn a blind eye to them.

Their hushed exchange was interrupted when Gildor came to them and, settling down by Elrohir, offered them a dish of wild berries freshly picked from the bushes about them. The proferred fruit was gladly accepted with warm smiles.

Gildor, unaware of the suddenly alert blue eyes that now watched his every move, slipped into easy intimacy with the younger twin and invitingly held a plump morsel to the Elf-knight’s lips. Elrohir hesitated but, cognizant of that watchful gaze, suddenly felt a wicked urge to see what would come of his compliance and, with a shrug, allowed Gildor to pop the berry into his mouth.

Scarcely a second passed before he found himself with a lapful of highly indignant Elfling. He looked down at Legolas and was startled to find his large eyes swimming. He did not know whether to be amused or alarmed by the child’s reaction. Legolas’ words soon wiped the humor from his countenance.

Ada never let anyone but my Nana feed him,” the prince pouted. “Do you love him that way, Elrohir?” he demanded, his chin jutting in Gildor’s direction.

Gildor stared at him with bewilderment while Elladan, his moment of gravity past, fought to smother his mirth though his eyes conveyed a succinct ‘I told you so’ to his beleaguered twin.

“Nay, penen vell”—my dear one—Elrohir hastily replied. “Gildor is but a good friend, nothing more.”

“But you seem so close to each other. And he looks at you like—” Legolas paused to think of an appropriate comparison. “Like the way Moriel’s warrior looks at her.”

His three companions caught their breaths. Gazing into a pair of ominously bright eyes that demanded enlightenment, Elrohir felt himself at a momentary loss. And then he decided to do as he always did when dealing with his precocious charge. To be honest and direct and trust to Legolas’ intelligence and perspicacity to save the situation.

“Gildor and I were once closer than friends,” he said, ignoring the older Elf’s gasp at his candor. “We kissed on occasion and spent some nights together a few years after my coming-of-age.”

“Like Ada a Nana?”—Papa and Mama—Legolas asked, his lower lip beginning to tremble.

Elrohir firmly refuted the notion. “Nay, not like them,” he said. “They loved each other and that is why they shared the same room and bed. But there are times when two Elves may need close companionship even if they do not love each other. That is what Gildor and I shared, Legolas.”

“And still do?”

The Elf-knight shook his head. “For so long as we wear these bands,” he stated, touching their matching rings, “no more will I seek close companionship with others.” He made Legolas face him and touched his forehead to the Elfling’s temple. “‘Tis no longer proper for me to do so. But when you have grown some, mayhap you will grant me the pleasure of your company. And, the Valar willing, we will be as your Adar a Naneth were to each each other. What say you, lass dithen?”

He did not stir but let the child mull the matter over. He did not expect Legolas to truly comprehend the concept of bodily intimacy nor did he wish the Elfling to know about it overly soon. But he had explained the situation as simply and as closely to the truth as was possible for a youngling to understand and that would have to suffice.

Legolas did not disappoint him. After a while, he looked at Elrohir and sweetly smiled.

“I hope I grow up fast so that I can keep you company as you wish,” he sincerely declared. “I do not want you to be lonely for too long, Elrohir.”

Oblivious of the choking sounds on either side of him, he curled his arms trustingly around the Elf-knight’s neck and warmly embraced him before settling down in his lap once more. Gildor did not wait for a possible encore of the child’s fearsome glare and quietly took his leave of the twins.

It did not take long for Legolas to fall asleep. Elrohir carried him to the natural bower of low-lying leafy branches and overgrown vines that would serve as their shelter for the night while Elladan bade goodnight to the company before following. They lay down on either side of the slumbering child.

Elladan studied the Elfling intently. With a shake of his head and a rakish grin, he whispered, “Well, that was a most interesting conversation. I did not think you had it in you, Elrohir. My, but you are brave to take him on.”

The younger twin let out a shaky exhalation. “Then you did not notice how badly my knees where knocking together,” he muttered. “If this is what ‘tis like to raise a child, then ‘tis just as well that I shall likely not have any.”

Elladan snickered and softly agreed. After a moment, he looked at his brother again. Elrohir was gazing at Legolas with a mixture of wonder and trepidation. Heaving a sympathetic sigh, the older twin reached over and patted the Elf-knight’s arm encouragingly.

“Your handling of the matter…?” he murmured.

“What of it?”

“‘Twas well done, brother. Very well done, indeed. I must commend you.”

Elrohir stared at him then relaxed and ceased his fretting. “Now if only I can survive the years until he has grown some,” he quipped, only half jestingly.

*****************************
Glossary:
Hrivë – Quenya for winter
elleth – Elf-maid
Tuilë – Quenya for spring
Lairë – Quenya for summer
Adar a Naneth – Father and Mother

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Eryn Galen, iavas T.A. 210
He was careful not to show it but in truth Thranduil, King of the Woodland Realm of Greenwood the Great, was as anxious and excited as an Elfling about to embark on his very first pony ride. Not that anyone would have laughed had they known. What else could be expected of a father who was about to meet his child after a whole year’s absence? And a child hardly removed from infancy at that.

Waiting before the wide stone bridge that fronted his halls, he glanced at his gathered counsellors then at those of his sons who had come with him to welcome home the babe of their family—Aelluin, Galvreth and Lalorn. Haldoron and Elivorn were expected to return from patrol that evening but what excuse did Nimaras have for staying away? Thranduil’s eyes hardened. His fifth-born was proving to be a most recalcitrant Elf and all the figurative spankings he had administered in the past year had not reduced his obstinacy by much. Well, he would reap a bitter harvest if he did not mend his ways, the Elvenking thought. He turned his attention back to the approaching party.

His scouts had kept him abreast of the Imladrin Elves’ progress from their entry into the great forest to their passage along the ancient elven track that led to the Wood-elves’ kingdom. The company was well armed but few in numbers and composed mainly of warriors. It was no diplomatic delegation; simply an escort bringing the intended of their lord’s son home. But that said lord’s son had chosen to accompany his betrothed was telling of more concern and affection than Thranduil had ever expected.

He peered closely at the riders on the lead horse, snow-white Uilos. There was his tiny son snugly ensconced in the Elf-knight’s securing embrace. And from the looks of the child’s radiant smile and glowing eyes, there was no mistaking his felicity.

Elrohir reined in Uilos when they came to the edge of the clearing a few paces away from the woodland monarch and his sons. Gracefully dismounting, he bowed his head deferentially to Thranduil before lifting Legolas from Uilos’ back and lowering him to the ground.

To Thranduil’s astonishment, Legolas did not hesitate in uncertainty but raced to him and flung himself into his waiting arms. He hugged his son tightly, burying his nose in the fragrant locks of his youngest. Legolas giggled and drew slightly away to look at his father.

“I missed you so much, Ada!”—Papa—he chirped and planted a kiss on the tip of his delighted sire’s nose.

“And I missed you, hênen vell”—my dear child—Thranduil said with a smile. “Though I gather you enjoyed yourself very much judging from the one letter you remembered to send me.”

The jesting reproach was lost on the Elfling and he nodded vigorously in agreement. “Oh, so very much, Ada!” he exclaimed. “Elrohir and Elladan brought me everywhere they went and Glorfindel let me spar with his soldiers and Erestor taught me all about Gondolin and Nargothrond and Lindon. And on my begetting day, Lord Elrond and Lady Celebrían held a party for me and Elrohir gave me a sigil all my own. See, here it is!”

Patting the long white knife in its leather sheath at his belt, Legolas happily continued his narration. “I also have my very own bow and quiver now. I will show them to you later. Oh, and did you know that you and Grandpapa are mentioned in so many books in the library? There was even a story about how you moved here from Lindon. Elrohir read it to me and—”

Thranduil speechlessly stared at him, unable to recognize in this animated, loquacious Elfling the quiet, withdrawn child of just a year back. He briefly shifted his gaze to Elrohir, eyebrows raised in tacit inquiry. The Elf-knight simply grinned and nodded.

“Mercy, Legolas!” the king pleaded, not sure whether to laugh or groan. “Do slow down and take a breath now and then!”

“My sentiments exactly, hîren”—my lord—Elrohir snickered. “And one I oft had to remind him to do.”

Legolas glared momentarily at him but quickly softened and chortled merrily instead.

“Aye, he did, Papa,” he admitted with a scapegrace grin.

“I take it Elrohir took good care of you then?”

“Oh, very well! And it makes me sad that he cannot stay.”

“I must meet my parents and Elladan in Lothlórien,” Elrohir explained. Glancing at Legolas, he saw the signs of a renewed spate of pleas and, in an attempt to preempt it, he swiftly added, “We talked about this, lass dithen, remember?” To no avail.

“But surely you can stay a short while?” Legolas implored him nonetheless. “Elladan would not mind if you are a little late.”

“Oh, Legolas, I wish I could but—” He stopped when he saw the child’s face change from joyous to woeful in just the space of a few minutes. He sighed in resignation. “I can stay a week at most,” he relented. “If your father will permit me.”

While Legolas squealed with glee, Thranduil smiled inwardly. It seemed Legolas had the Elf-knight firmly wrapped around his little finger. It would be interesting to watch how their relationship evolved whichever path it took.

“Of course you are most welcome to stay, Elrohir,” he warmly said. “Indeed, I would much appreciate being apprised first-hand of what has happened west of the mountains the past year.”

* * * *

Not all the changes were on Legolas’ side alone as he and Elrohir soon discovered. For one, Thranduil had moved the Elfling’s quarters to an apartment nearer to his own that he might keep a closer eye on him. For another, he had designated the guest chamber across Legolas’ new rooms as Elrohir’s permanent quarters when he was in residence in the Woodland Realm. And last but not least, he had replaced Moriel and Glorowen with two Elf-nurses highly recommended by his advisors.

Celebrían had kept her word and sent a letter to Thranduil regarding the matter of Legolas’ caregivers. She had couched it in diplomatic language so as not to touch on the Elven-king’s renowned pride or raise his ire overmuch that he would take it out on the erstwhile nurses and they in turn vented theirs on Legolas when the opportunity arose.

Acknowledging the valid concern behind the tactful missive, Thranduil had used Moriel’s upcoming nuptials to relieve her of her duty. As for Glorowen, the subject became moot when, discerning the true reason behind the king’s unexpected dismissal of Moriel, she asked to be discharged as well.

The new nursemaids proved of a very different disposition. They had not previously been a part of the royal household and subsequently held no deep-seated loyalties to anyone. And they were kind and concerned for their little charge’s needs. No longer did Legolas feel that he was being cared for only out of duty and without due affection.

But not even their tender attention could compare with his estimation of Elrohir’s care.

Thranduil watched them closely the entire week of Elrohir’s extended stay. He saw his son’s contentment and new confidence. Noted how tenderly Elrohir attended to Legolas’ needs and how his son returned each gesture of affection in kind and with alacrity. Most of all, he perceived that love for each other was already embedded in their hearts. Not the love of spouses, of course; far from it. But they were the fastest of friends for all their difference in age and Elrohir was clearly a beloved mentor to Legolas as well.

The Elvenking was pleased to have his instincts about the Elf-knight proved correct and the wisdom of his scheme affirmed. Legolas was definitely in good hands. And Elbereth willing, he would continue to be so in more ways than one when he came of age.

* * * *

The eve of Elrohir’s departure the king called him to his study for a convivial drink and some talk. He also bade him bring Legolas if he so wished. Elrohir did and Thranduil had to grin at the sight of his little son curled up on Elrohir’s lap while the latter lounged easily on the couch before the fire. Clad in a pale blue nightshirt, his fair hair tousled from a brief wresting bout with Elrohir, he looked more fragile than the delicate crystal statuette on the king’s desk, a memento of his late wife.

But Thranduil knew now that at the Elfling’s core was the beginnings of an iron will. Nourished by proper care and guidance, it would serve him well provided it could be honed and tempered so as not to lead him astray into folly.

He watched his son settle sleepily in the Elf-knight’s arms. At a whispered reminder, Legolas sheepishly smiled at his father and sweetly bade him a good night. And then he turned into Elrohir’s cradling embrace and was soon lost in his dreams.

Elrohir gazed at him, enchanted as always by his innocence and childish beauty. He did not notice the king’s scrutiny until it virtually scorched him with its intensity. He looked up into keen, speculative eyes and flushed under that weighty regard.

“You and he have gotten along very well,” Thranduil remarked with egregious understatement.

“Aye, majesty,” Elrohir replied. “Scarcely a day passed that we did not miss each other’s company.”

“More so Legolas it seems,” the king said. “He does not wish for you to leave just yet.”

Elrohir laughed softly. “I dare say he would keep me in his pocket if he could.”

“You realize why he is loath to see you go?”

The twin nodded. “I am his shield against adversity. With me, he feels brave and strong.”

“And that is not a thing to belittle,” Thranduil said. “You have restored to him his belief in himself and in so short a time. And for that I will be forever grateful. But the true test of his mettle will come when you are no longer at his side. How he fares on his own will tell us whether I chose well or ill for him.”

Elrohir stared at the king. “‘Twas not only the protection of a betrothal you sought,” he said at last.

Thranduil nodded. “I sensed you would guard him as faithfully as I would,” he admitted gravely. “From the moment you reached out to him in aid, a child you did not know, I knew you would take him into your keeping and tend him well.”

Elrohir caught his breath as the full import of the king’s intentions struck him. Thranduil saw that he knew.

“You understand now, don’t you?” he gently said. “A betrothal will protect him from most unworthy pursuers but it will not deter all. And a youngling sorely lacking in love and attention might listen to promises of both however lightly they may be uttered even with a contract hanging over his head. Should it come to that, ‘twill not be the letter of the law that will shelter Legolas but its spirit. As embodied in your regard for each other. He will deny others because of you, pen neth. He will refuse to share with them what he believes is yours alone. What better defence is there against blandishments than a heart already given?”

The twin swallowed hard, moved by the extent of the king’s confidence in him.

“But that presupposes that we will love each other unto wedlock one day,” he hoarsely pointed out. “There is no surety of that.”

“There is none. But even if you do not, your devotion to him will have served its purpose. He will have grown in wisdom and acuity. I would see him safe, Elrohir, and so would you.”

Elrohir fell silent for a spell and Thranduil studied him. So young and yet already so sage and dutiful. Was it his upbringing or was it an inherent trait of the Peredhil? He did not recall many Elves who had been as wise and grown at the same age; it oft took a century or even more for most Edhil to fully mature in heart and body and spirit. The Elf-knight looked up at him.

“But what if he should love me and I not him?” he softly queried. “I know I said that ‘tis a risk we all take when we venture our hearts. But after caring for him all these months, getting to know him so well… He has become so dear to me, I cannot bear to be the cause of his heart’s breaking.”

The Elvenking smiled but with little mirth. “Ah, but ‘tis your heart that is in greater peril of that, I wager.” Noting Elrohir’s startled reaction, he added: “You Peredhil do not give your hearts easily but when you do, you give it wholly and irrevocably. ‘Twas a choice of the heart that cleaved his brother from your sire after all.”

Elrohir looked at him in wonder. “You knew them in Lindon?”

“Aye, though I was but a youngling not yet come of age. I thought it harsh of Elros to decide thusly in light of your father’s grief. Until I saw she who became his queen and how he regarded her. It did not baffle me then that he desired to join his fate to hers.” Thranduil shook his head. “There is of course a precedent in your family of this strange propensity for mortal mates and the Doom of Men.”

A chill snaked up Elrohir’s spine even as Thranduil spoke. He wondered if the monarch’s words might prove as unwittingly prophetic as it was painfully reminiscent of the ancient past. But no, he reminded himself. Neither he nor Elladan desired to espouse themselves to mortals. Befriend them, yes, by all means, but not cleave to them in marriage. He shook off the unbidden foreboding and looked down at his sleeping charge.

“You are most likely right, sire,” he murmured. “Mayhap I will be as doomed as Maeglin was, seeking that which can never be mine.”

He gently stroked the child’s petal-smooth cheek with his fingers. As if recognizing his touch, Legolas turned his face into the caress and snuggled deeper into his embrace.

Thranduil wryly commented, “And mayhap you will not for my son seems determined to belong to you even now.”

* * * *

Legolas was nigh inconsolable when Elrohir left the following day. He could not muster even the slightest of smiles as he watched the Elf-knight formally take leave of his king-father. Behind him, Elrohir’s escort had mounted their steeds and quietly awaited him.

The Elf-knight caught him up in his arms and held him close. Feeling the tiny body tremble, a portent of imminent tears, he pressed tender kisses to the Elfling’s face, promising to do his best to come back to him soonest.

“Will you not smile for me, lassen vell?”—my dear leaf—he coaxed. “I would go on my way with the memory of it to succor me. Please, Legolas, do this for me.”

The prince bravely put on a tremulous smile though his eyes were awash with tears.

“Thank you, my sweet one,” Elrohir whispered. He planted the customary kiss of parting on Legolas’ quivering lips. Legolas clung to him tightly one last time before the Elf-knight handed him into his father’s arms.

The Elfling held on to his smile as Elrohir vaulted onto Uilos’ back. He kept it while the Imladrin party slowly rode across the clearing toward the elven track. And when Elrohir turned to wave at him, he forced his smile to brighten just that bit more for the Elf-knight’s sake. But when the Rivendell contingent disappeared from sight, he broke down and, sobbing quietly, buried his face in his father’s neck.

His own throat suspiciously tight, Thranduil hurriedly bore him back to the pavilion and the privacy of his quarters. His other sons followed, their reactions to their brother’s grief as varied as their natures. Of them all, Nimaras was expectedly the least sympathetic. Of them all, Galvreth was the most though even he did not realize it.

Dinner that night was quiet and somber for the most part. Legolas was subdued and Thranduil was of a mind to let him nurse his child’s heartache in soothing silence. Afterward, the family proceeded to the gaming room where they were wont to spend their evenings together on the infrequent days when Thranduil was not preoccupied with affairs of state.

A somewhat desultory card game was in progress when Thranduil was unexpectedly called away by the captain of his army who urgently sought an audience with him. Legolas wistfully watched him leave. At least, in his father’s presence, he knew some comfort and felt the better for it.

Haldoron rose from the card table and flung himself on a divan with a groan. “Ai, you have certainly milked your moment of glory dry, tôr dithen”—little brother—he groused.

Legolas turned startled eyes on him, a flicker of hurt in their depths. Without thinking, Galvreth intervened.

“Leave him be, Haldoron,” he said. “He only misses Elrohir, that is all.”

“He was with Elrohir a whole year!” Haldoron grumbled. “You would think he’d had his fill of the Peredhel. Indeed, his cup has run over many a time if his tales are to be believed.”

Elivorn chuckled. “Is that envy I hear?” He ignored Haldoron’s glower and said: “But it is quite a waste of the Elf-knight’s charms that they should be held in reserve for a youngling. I am sure Aelluin and Nimaras agree with me. What a pity such largesse was not bestowed on either of you.”

Nimaras scowled at him but Aelluin shrugged dismissively. “Keep a civil tongue, Elivorn,” he mildly reproved. “I am no thief of other folk’s property.” He looked at Legolas, sighed and rolled his eyes. “Especially an Elfling’s meager possessions.”

“Meager?” Elivorn snorted. “When the twins swam with us last summer, I found little about them to call meager.”

Haldoron and Lalorn sniggered at the salacious observation while Aelluin could not help a smirk.

“Well put, brother,” Lalorn quipped. “There is indeed nothing ‘little’ about them.”

Comprehending the gist of their bawdy exchange, Legolas felt his indignation flare. He sat up straight in his chair, frowning fiercely.

“Do not talk about the gwenyn like that!” he cried. “‘Tis unkind and-and disrespectful.”

His outburst rendered the others stupefied for several seconds. But Nimaras rallied and turned on him.

“And who better to know that than one who shows such disrespect for his betters?” he snapped.

A mutinous pout pursed Legolas’ mouth. “You are not my betters!” he retorted. “Only Papa is!”

His feathers ruffled by the child’s unexpected defiance, Nimaras snarled, “Why you insolent pup of a Warg—!”

“Nimaras!” Galvreth spoke up chidingly. “Must you stoop to bandying insults with a child?”

“But he should be taught some manners,” Nimaras shot back. “Just because he sojourned in Imladris, he has grown all puffed up!” He looked hard at Legolas. “Well, dear brother, you should rethink your importance in this kingdom. Or rather the lack of it. Why, scarcely anyone marked your absence and ‘twas only when Father toasted your health on your last begetting day that any recalled you were gone or that you even still existed!”

Silence descended on them as if a thunderclap had cut off all talk. Galvreth stared at Nimaras in disbelief and disapproval and noted mirroring reactions in the others’ faces save curiously for Lalorn. That had been no mere slap on the wrist; that had been a veritable jab to the gut.

Thoughtless they may have been in their past dealings with their Elfling brother but never had any of the older princes been deliberately cruel and with such chilling malice mixed into the noxious brew. Nimaras had overstepped his bounds.

“That was uncalled for, Nimaras!” Aelluin sternly snapped.

The prince bristled at being taken to task before Legolas. “I was only putting him in his place for he needed some humbling,” he retorted with a baleful stare at his youngest brother.

While their argument raged, Galvreth turned his attention to the little Elf. Legolas had blanched under the scathing attack and now cowered in his seat. His head was bowed as had been his wont when teased beyond endurance ere Elrohir’s advent. But Galvreth saw how he bit his lower lip to still its trembling and tightly shut his eyes to keep his tears from spilling over.

Shame and guilt spurring him on, he stood up and joined the Elfling on his chair. Unsure of what to say—for it was not something he’d had long practice in, this soothing of a child’s hurt feelings—he mutely rubbed Legolas’ back instead.

The child lifted his head and looked at him with such gratitude that it stole the very breath from his lungs. Legolas then seemed to retreat into some inner sanctum within himself and his eyes took on a faraway look. Instinctively, Galvreth knew that he had gone to the place where his memories of the Elf-knight resided. And sure enough Legolas’ eyes slowly brightened and a small smile curved his lips.

Without warning, he laid his jewel gaze on Nimaras and with amazing aplomb boldly declared: “I do not mind. I know Papa missed me and now Elrohir will.” He tilted his head pityingly at his increasingly bewildered brother. “I am sorry that you have no Elf-knight to make you feel better, Nimaras.”

In the stunned silence that followed, he beamingly bade Galvreth good night, nodded in deference to Haldoron then traipsed out of the room and headed for his apartments where his night-nurse awaited him. Galvreth stared after him with growing admiration and the first glimmerings of respect. He glanced at his likewise astounded siblings.

Nimaras appeared nigh apoplectic. Lalorn sniggered and was dealt a dagger look by his embattled brother. He quickly smothered his mirth for Nimaras had a temper and quick fists to match. Haldoron, on the other hand, was frowning, upset by the thought of any of them being so summarily bested by an upstart child. And Lalorn, though he had found reason to laugh at Nimaras’ expense, agreed that Legolas had grown too impertinent for his own good.

But Aelluin had turned thoughtful, his azure eyes lost in contemplative reverie. And Elivorn looked as if he had just been roused from a long, dark dream if his bemused expression was any indication. Galvreth himself felt quite conflicted and he wondered not for the first time or the last what had started his antipathy toward Legolas and why he had nursed it all these years.

Confused by his mixed feelings, the silver-haired Elf rose and, with a curt nod to the Crown Prince, took leave of his brethren and departed for his quarters. Upon entering the candle-lit sleeping chamber, his eyes fell on his empty bed. Before he could stop himself, he envisioned his heart’s desire reclining on it.

Trying to dismiss the much too enticing image and failing quite miserably, he wondered if his unfulfilled yearning had aught to do with his slowly changing thoughts and emotions toward the littlest prince of all.

************************
Glossary:
iavas – Sindarin for autumn
sigil – knife or dagger
lass dithen - little leaf
Edhil - Elves
pen neth - young one
gwenyn - twins

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Tuilë T.A. 220
The light clip clop of horse hooves along the stone-marked path heralded the arrival of the riders clad in the colors of the Woodland Realm. They rode in single file for the trail though smooth and clear of any obstructions was narrow and winding in parts.

Crossing the bridge over the rushing stream that was a tributary of the Loudwater the riders entered the main enclave of Rivendell and at last rode into the paved courtyard of the Last Homely House. It was now late afternoon and already the sun had begun its slow descent.

Of the Elves gathered to welcome the visitors—and there was a goodly number of them—two stood out because of their startling mirror likeness. One of the pair did not wait for all of the newly arrived party to come to a full stop but briskly strode to a gentle bay and stretched out his arms to its rider. Beaming brightly, Legolas flung himself into Elrohir’s welcoming embrace.

“Oof, lass dithen”—little leaf—“you must have spent the entire winter at table,” the Elf-knight teased as he pretended to heft the Elfling. “I swear you are as heavy as a sack of flour.”

“I am not!” Legolas protested, torn between indignation and laughter. “I have only grown taller, Elrohir. I am not so little anymore.”

“Indeed you are not,” Elrohir agreed, settling him down on the ground and noting that the child now came up to just below his chest which said a lot about his growth. The Peredhil were very tall even by elven standards.

After they exchanged the ritual kiss of greeting, Elrohir took a good look at the young prince. They had last seen each other some four years past.

At twenty-one years of age, the tiny toddler he had once cuddled was no more. In his place was a nimble Elfling, his cropped hair now a shimmering fall of gold that grew halfway to his shoulders. He would soon leave childhood behind and embark on the voyage through that most turbulent rite of passage for any sentient being regardless of race or creed.

Recalling his own oftentimes unruly adolescence, Elrohir could only pray that he would reasonably weather Legolas’ version of that brief but bewildering stage in an Elf’s life.

“Look who came with me,” Legolas excitedly said, taking Elrohir’s hand and leading him to a black stallion whose rider had yet to alight. “He did not want to come but Father ordered him to.”

“Hush, Legolas, you will give our hosts the wrong impression,” Galvreth mildly chided as he dismounted. Nodding affably at Elrohir, he turned to extend his formal greetings to the lord and lady of the valley and Elladan who remained at their side.

“And what impression would we have gotten wrong?” Elladan archly inquired when the argent-haired prince had been duly welcomed.

Galvreth was seen to slightly blush under the older twin’s amused regard but he gamely faced Elladan nonetheless. “That I did not wish to come here,” he explained. “Rather, Haldoron felt offended that he was not chosen and I offered to defer to his wishes. But our lord sire would not be gainsaid and thus here I am.”

“I am certain your father had good reason to choose you, ernil neth”—young prince—Elrond smiled. He glanced at a happily chattering Legolas and smiled even more widely. “And did you get any sleep during your journey here?”

The Elf-prince started, surprised by the Elvenlord’s easy humor with him. But rallying, he smiled back and said: “Not nearly enough, my lord. There was one amongst us who thought there were not enough hours in a day to finish a tale.”

Soft laughter resounded throughout the courtyard before Celebrían invited him into their home.

“You must take some rest before you join us for the evening meal.” She beckoned to her older son. “Elladan, please show Galvreth to his chamber. As for you, cunn dithen”—little prince—she addressed Legolas, the twinkle in her eyes belying the severity of her tone. “You know the way to your rooms. I dare say at your age and size, Elrohir need no longer bear you to them.” She softly chuckled as the familiar pout came into play.

“I am not that heavy, am I, Elrohir?” Legolas demanded.

The younger twin grinned and, placing a hand on his shoulder, ushered him toward the house. “I fear you are,” he admitted. “And you are so tall we would look utterly ridiculous were I to carry you as of old. You have grown much, Legolas, and swiftly, too.”

Legolas’ face brightened at the tacit compliment. As they followed Elladan and Galvreth into the house, he declared, “I am glad for I will then be able to grant you the pleasure of my company soonest as you said you looked forward to.”

Elrohir did his best to ignore his parents’ questioning stares while, ahead of them, Galvreth glanced back with some incredulity and Elladan snuffed a guffaw into his hand.

They came to the woodland princes’ rooms without further incident or unfortunate remarks. Elrohir noted Galvreth’s obvious pleasure upon seeing the proximity of his quarters to Elladan’s.

So, the fourth-born prince was still enamored of his twin, Elrohir mused to himself. Well, he did not object. Indeed, if this regard of Galvreth’s for Elladan was instrumental in his slowly growing amenability toward Legolas, he welcomed it. But he would not abet the gaining of his brother’s concurrence. That was for Elladan to decide and Galvreth to accept whatever the outcome.

One thing though was certain. It was that willingness to change his perceptions and ill-founded convictions however gradually that had won Galvreth this sojourn in Rivendell. Thranduil would have wanted the first of his older sons to set foot in the valley realm to make a good impression and arrogant, close-minded Haldoron was definitely not the Elf to do it.

The desire to send his sons for tutelage outside of their forest kingdom had come to the Elven-king just the year before. He had realized that the isolation of his children from other elven races and their cultures would only exacerbate their insularity. All the book learning in Arda could not equal practical experience and that was what a prince of the blood needed if he was to serve his realm to the best of his abilities. Thranduil had benefited from his long exposure to the other kindreds during his years in Lindon. But his own progeny, Greenwood born and bred, were more alike to their Silvan subjects than to the Sindar from whom they were sprung.

Understandably, he did not wish to send them to the Grey Havens for fear of awakening the sea longing in their hearts over-soon. Nor did he care to have them journey to the south into the mysterious fastness of Lothlórien and by way of all the perilous miles in between. Besides, he had not reestablished diplomatic relations with either Círdan or the Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood for all that Celeborn was his kinsman. Hence, the request to Elrond and Celebrían to permit his children to visit Rivendell on occasion.

Elrond had immediately responded in the affirmative for in this he saw the means to further bind their respective realms in harmony and finally leave most of the discord that had once separated them firmly in the past. And so, they had expected another prince out of Eryn Galen on this latest visit of Legolas to Imladris.

What none had expected was that Thranduil would bypass his three eldest sons and select his middle child for this first visit. But it was not an unwise or imprudent choice for Galvreth had evinced a genuine readiness to open his eyes and heart not only to his youngest brother but also to the wide world beyond Eryn Galen’s borders.

Aelluin and Elivorn seemed primed to follow his example—they only needed a little more prodding. But Haldoron and Nimaras were cut from the same unbending cloth and Lalorn was still too much the latter’s disciple to have improved overmuch. Though of late, he seemed to be distancing himself bit by bit from his brother, not out of a deliberate desire but simply due to the inexorable effects of growing up and growing apart from each other.

Whatever the character evolutions ongoing in Greenwood’s royal family, the upshot of the whole affair was that it was silver-haired Galvreth who came to Imladris with Legolas this fair spring.

He proved as eager a student as Legolas in anything and everything Rivendell had to offer him. Mornings would oft find him at the barracks or drill yard, keeping company with the soldiers and honing his mastery of the sword which he admittedly had less skill in than the bow. Afternoons he would spend with the numerous scholars and healers of the valley, fascinated by the sheer quantity of knowledge that was to be had in the library, the archive and the healing houses. Evenings were almost exclusively devoted either to the Hall of Fire or the gaming room, passed in the bosom of Lord Elrond’s family.

In all these, he would almost always bump into Legolas, a far more frequent occurrence than in the green wood. Indeed a far more frequent occurrence than in all the Elfling’s life.

Far from the less than enlightened influence of his other brothers, perforce in close contact with his youngest, he could not help but see himself in relation to Legolas in another light. And what he saw he did not always like.

He watched Legolas one early morn as the Elfling diligently practiced his archery skills under Elrohir and Glorfindel’s guidance. Watched and grudgingly acknowledged that the child could one day best all his brothers in the field; indeed, might prove the greatest archer in all Elvendom. The signs were there even at this early date as Legolas hit mark after mark with almost preternatural precision. He shook his head, wondering what the others would make of yet another ability that would either rival or surpass theirs.

“How do you judge his progress, ernilen?”—my prince.

Galvreth caught his breath and slowly turned to face a smiling Elladan. How the older twin had approached him without his awareness of it was a mystery and it unnerved him. If there was one thing he had learned these many weeks in Imladris it was to never underestimate the Peredhil.

The appellation Half-elven was misleading in that it lulled one into believing they were more akin to Men than to Elves, forgetting that they were also descended from one of the Powers themselves. Indeed, they were of a different kindred altogether if one thought about it and bore much of the best and very little of the worst of the three races they were sprung from.

True, their eyesight and hearing and resistance to the elements were of a lesser degree than the Elves. But they were astonishingly strong and swift and enduring as many a brash warrior had learned to their rue. And they were endowed with foresight and wisdom of a level rare even among the Eldar. There simply was no comparing them with other Elves or Men. They were a caste unto themselves.

He endeavored to reply to the twin’s query in an intelligent fashion. “He excels in this sport,” he conceded. “He might even beat Gilthalion and that is a thing I had never thought possible.”

Elladan grinned at the comparison to the formidable captain of the Woodland Realm’s army. Legolas would be pleased to hear such a tribute and especially one coming from a heretofore less than doting sibling.

“He has the makings of an exemplary warrior,” Elladan agreed. “But then ‘tis not surprising considering his inspiration.”

“Inspiration?” Galvreth glanced back at his brother, realizing how frequently he looked to the Elf-knight for approval. “Oh, you mean Elrohir.”

“Aye. Legolas is determined to be the best soldier he can be. And all on account of my brother’s propensity for Elves of that profession. Since Elrohir favors warriors, then a warrior Legolas will be.”

The Greenwood prince stared at him. “And what did Elrohir say to that?” he asked.

Elladan chuckled. “I believe it was a shock to him at the time. But he is now quite used to it and so are we.” He smiled. “‘Tis very difficult to deny Legolas anything, especially one’s amity.”

Galvreth flushed. He did not know if that was a deliberate allusion to the state of affairs amongst his brothers where Legolas was concerned.

“But you no longer dislike him, do you?”

The flush grew darker and spread across Galvreth’s face and down his neck. He turned as if to bolt, his eyes conveying his confusion and his discomfort. Elladan stayed him with the lightest of touches to his shoulder and he stood there silently for several moments before laying darkened eyes on the twin.

“I did not come to Imladris to be judged, Peredhel!” he snapped but with little heat.

Elladan simply looked at him evenly. “Nor did I intend for you to think that I had, Thranduilion,” he quietly said.

“Then why speak of it at all?” Galvreth demanded. “Or is it that you see me as no different from the others?”

He voice caught as he spoke and he looked away lest the older twin see what his eyes expressed all too eloquently. For the thought that Elladan did indeed believe that of him was too hard to bear without any visible evidence of his distress. Not that he had given him reason to think otherwise, the prince thought with a pang.

“Far from it,” Elladan gently demurred. “Mayhap you were careless in your dealings with him once upon a time but of late…” He tilted his head and thoughtfully regarded the fair-haired Elf. “Of late, you have been more friend than foe to him, I think. Such kindness becomes you, Galvreth, and makes you a better Elf than your brethren.”

The prince flushed once more. To be chastised and counseled by one nearly two score years his junior would have been an unacceptable affront from any other Elf and drawn a haughty rebuke forthwith. But Elladan was not any other Elf and he had bestowed a compliment on him as well; a compliment that Galvreth found all the more precious for having come from him. The prince was quite unable to return a suitable reply. At a loss, he decided not to make the attempt at all.

Still rosy from battling his rowdy emotions, he mutely nodded his acknowledgement then briskly strode back to the house. Elladan watched him go, the faintest glimmer of regret in his pewter-hued eyes.

* * * *

“He is beautiful. If any can rival Legolas when he comes of age, I believe ‘twill be he. And I wager he would welcome it if you asked him into your bed.”

Elladan glanced at his twin with a wry expression. “Matchmaking, tôr neth?”—younger brother—he inquired.

Elrohir grinned. “Nay, I am merely stating a fact. And voicing what you were undoubtedly thinking as you watched him.”

Elladan snorted and shook his head in mild exasperation. “There are disadvantages to knowing each other too well,” he muttered.

The Elf-knight softly chuckled. Taking only as much time needed to lay a jaundiced eye on his brother, Elladan returned to his perusal of the subject of their discussion.

After dinner, Galvreth had gone out for a solitary evening stroll in the orchards beyond the gardens and was only now returning to the house. But he lingered outside, still mesmerized by the novelty of open skies and unobscured moonlight, typical of any Elf who had lived all his life in the closed fastness of Eryn Galen and seldom if ever left its confines. The twins had seen him through the garden porch entrance and now observed him from afar.

His argent hair bright in the moonlight, his sturdy form and limbs hardened and molded into cat-like sleekness by hard toil alongside his father’s seasoned warriors, Galvreth was indeed quite a vision though a vision late in blooming. For it was only in the past decade or so that his beauty had come to full fruition.

The Woodland Realm’s late queen had been that rarity amongst her kindred. A throwback to an ancient mating between a Telerin ancestor with Nandorin predecessors and a Noldorin foremother, she had been dark of hair and eyes. But so beautiful was she and sage and kind besides that Thranduil, will he, nill he, had fallen deeply in love with her. Despite his general dislike of all things Noldorin including their coloring, he had taken her to wife and deeply mourned her passing.

Her ethereal features and slenderness of form she had passed on to Legolas, her coloring to Elivorn. But one could see her in her other sons as well. In Lalorn’s golden brown locks and Aelluin’s dark lashes and slender nose, Haldoron’s proud jaw and Nimaras’ sculptured cheekbones. But to Galvreth she had bequeathed her exotic dark brown, nearly almond-shaped eyes and they were a most striking feature in so fair haired and fair skinned an Elf.

“I spoke to him this morn,” Elladan said. “About how he once behaved toward Legolas.”

“And?”

“I almost regretted it afterward,” Elladan replied. He glanced at his brother. “It embarrassed him that ‘twas I who broached the subject. It pained him.”

“And that surprised you?”

The older twin shook his head. “Nay, I was not surprised. I am well aware of his feelings for me. What was unexpected were my feelings when I saw him flinch at my words.”

“Tell me.”

“I did not wish to see him thusly.” Elladan frowned. “It ... disturbed me.”

Elrohir looked closely at him. Once more Elladan’s eyes were riveted on the silver-haired Elf.

“I wish to befriend him, not tumble him,” the older twin finally admitted. “At least, that is what I desire for now. I would discover his heart and mind first before knowing his body.”

“Which you never troubled to discover afore with others,” Elrohir pointed out. “Methinks you are as smitten as he, brother.”

Elladan pursed his lips. “I cannot say yea or nay to that,” he said. “For in truth I do not know if I am. Or if I wish to be.”

At Elrohir’s questioning gaze, he explained, “You know I still have misgivings about your betrothal, Elrohir, or rather that it was imposed on you so soon. Yet you seem content enough with your lot and mayhap that is not unexpected given how fair Legolas will be when he comes of age. But I do not desire to be tied down likewise this early. I wish to live my life unencumbered as you cannot.”

The Elf-knight considered his words thoughtfully. At length, he murmured, “Are his attractions so great that you fear giving your heart the moment you gain his body?”

Elladan sighed deeply. “I take back what I said. The advantages of knowing each other so well far outweigh the disadvantages.”

Elrohir shrugged and wanly smiled. “Were I in your place, I would likely follow the same course. ‘Tis a wise precaution, Elladan, and one I believe you are right in taking. But if you would let me counsel you, ‘tis that you do not wait overlong or you may finally reach for what you desire only to find that it is there no more.”

Elladan considered his brother’s advice then simply nodded in acceptance of it.

“Elrohir?”

The brethren grinned at each other. Turning they espied Legolas peeking out at them from just inside the door. He was freshly bathed and clad in a white sleeping shirt and trousers.

The Elf-knight took leave of his brother and went to the prince. “And what shall it be tonight, lass dithen?” he asked. “A story or a song?”

Legolas beamed. “A song, Elrohir,” he said. “The one your mother used to sing to you. ‘Tis my favorite.”

“Is it now?” Elrohir said softly. “Come then, and I shall sing the whole of it for your pleasure.”

Minutes later in Legolas’ bedchamber, as he tucked him into his bed, he studied the young face curiously.

“Legolas? How have you fared with your brothers since our last meeting?” he inquired.

The Elfling looked at him with some surprise but answered nonetheless. “As I always have,” he answered.

“Do Nimaras and Lalorn still plague you then?” Elrohir asked with a touch of ire.

“They try,” Legolas cheerfully replied. “But Nimaras is oft away with the scouts and Lalorn is always reading some new book or other and so I do not see them all that much. I do not see the others either. But then I am much too young and would only get in their way. Except for Galvreth,” he suddenly added before Elrohir could utter an indignant rejoinder.

“What of Galvreth?”

“He is nicer to me now,” Legolas said. “I am starting to like him, Elrohir. Aelluin and Elivorn, too. They do not tease me as much as they used to.”

Elrohir had to smile. If only Legolas’ brothers realized just how high such praise was when uttered by a loving, trusting child. But recalling Galvreth’s unwonted even if still infrequent displays of appreciation or support for Legolas, Elrohir suspected the argent-haired prince was beginning to understand that.

“I forgot to tell you, Moriel had her first baby last winter,” Legolas informed him. “A girl-child.”

“Do you miss her?”

Legolas shrugged. “Not really. I much prefer Lothwen’s company. She reads to me like you do before I sleep.”

Elrohir was pleased. It was good to know that the nursemaids who had replaced Moriel and Glorowen continued to give Legolas the loving care he deserved.

“She is also very pretty,” Elrohir teased him.

He supposed he should have known better than to show awareness of another Elf’s attractions. The implied suggestion that Legolas might have found enjoyment in his night-nurse’s comeliness went right over the Elfling’s head.

“I hadn’t noticed,” the child said tartly. “But obviously you did.”

Elrohir was torn between a groan and a guffaw. He was often caught between extremes of emotions whenever he dealt with Legolas’ unpredictable jealousy. As he had become more confident of Elrohir’s deep and exclusive regard for him, the Elf-prince’s possessiveness had diminished. But every once in a while, it reared its head as it did now.

Nearing adolescence the princeling might be but he was apparently not quite near enough to appreciate the charms of other Elves. Indeed, he only took note of them if Elrohir did and seldom with pleasure.

“Surely you do not deny that she is,” Elrohir shot back, a grin threatening to erupt.

A fearsome frown creased Legolas’ smooth brow. “Then go and tell her so when next you come to Eryn Galen,” he retorted. He turned over in the bed with a huff, his back to Elrohir.

“Now why would I do that when my sole reason for visiting Greenwood is right here with me?” Elrohir bit back his laughter at the slightest shift in the stiff cant of the child’s shoulders. He added: “Besides, I would rather reserve my lauds for one particular Elf when he is grown enough to receive them with all propriety.”

Legolas looked over his shoulder, eyes both wary and hopeful. “Will that Elf have to wait much longer?” he queried.

Elrohir swallowed a chuckle. “No more than a dozen years I believe,” he said. “Though I dare say I shall have to get in line in order to sing my praises to him.”

“Get in line?” Legolas turned over in confusion. “Why would there be a line?”

Elrohir slipped a finger beneath the Elfling’s chin and lifted it that he might gaze into the child’s crystalline eyes.

“Because, penen vîreb”—my treasured one—“you will find yourself with more admirers than you will know what to do with,” he explained. “I shall be but a face in the crowd by the time you are done growing up.”

Umbrage completely forgotten, Legolas promptly snuggled into Elrohir’s arms. “I don’t want a crowd of admirers,” he protested. “I want only you. Just you, Elrohir.”

The Elf-knight looked at him with affection, all mirth gone. “And I will be there, Legolas,” he replied. “If you will still want me.” A brilliant smile was his prize and he held the child closer.

“Will you sing to me now?” Legolas drowsily asked.

Elrohir smiled and, in lieu of a reply, softly crooned the requested lullaby. When at last Legolas drifted into slumber, the twin fondly studied his features. His face was visibly changing, slowly losing its roundness. This soon Elrohir could already tell that he would have the most exquisite cheekbones, a finely shaped nose, a proud jaw akin to his eldest brother and lips that would tempt even the most prim and proper of Elves into imprudence.

He started and drew away from Legolas. Elbereth! Where did that thought come from? Elrohir chided himself for entertaining it even as he realized why it had occurred to him.

He had just come from looking upon another Elf of similar comeliness. An Elf who was brother to Legolas. If he could appreciate Galvreth’s attractions, what more his own intended’s nascent charms? He’d known from the start that Legolas would be one of the most beauteous Elves ever to grace Arda. But caught up in the joys and mishaps of close companionship with a precocious child, never before had he regarded his beauty with anything more than a purely aesthetic point of view. Tonight however it suddenly dawned on him that the time was coming when that beauty would be his to know in every sense of the word.

Elrohir rose from the bed, still gazing at the sleeping Elfling, apprehension mixed with pleasure pooling in his gut. This was going to prove far more daunting than he’d ever imagined. He had sworn himself to an early betrothal between them precisely to preserve Legolas’ innocence through what was undoubtedly one of the most uncertain and sometimes treacherous phases every sentient creature passed through on the way to maturity. Yet here he was already contemplating what it would be like to be the first and likely only Elf to ever sample the youngest prince’s favors.

He groaned in vexation. Eru help him survive these coming years as Legolas blossomed into a temptation he might find all but impossible to resist.

*************************
Glossary:
tuilë – Quenya for spring
Peredhel (pl. Peredhil) – Half-elf/Half-elven
Thranduilion – son of Thranduil

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Eryn Galen, laer T.A. 235
“Legolas!”

One golden head turned amongst the younglings engaged in archery practice in the wide clearing behind the barracks which served as archery yard and sparring field for the Woodland Realm’s warriors. Legolas lowered his bow when he saw Elivorn swiftly crossing the grassy expanse.

The dark-haired prince gestured to him to meet him halfway and Legolas did as he was bid, surprised by his brother’s urgency. Yet Elivorn did not look anxious, only in haste.

“What is it?” he asked as soon as they neared each other.

“Come at once if you wish to welcome the gwenyn”—twins—Elivorn told him, taking his arm.

Legolas caught his breath. He did not resist his brother’s tug on his arm but hurried after him. “The twins are here? But Elrohir’s last letter said they would not come until autumn.”

Elivorn shrugged. “Mayhap their plans changed. Surely you do not object to celebrating your begetting day with Elrohir.”

“I certainly do not!” Legolas agreed, eyes sparkling with delight.

“Off with you then. The others are already headed out front with Father. But I cannot find Aelluin.”

“Try the barracks,” Legolas giggled before racing off.

Elivorn sighed and shook his head. Aye, he should have thought of that.

In the meantime, Legolas returned to his quarters. He had been out all morning and felt a touch scruffy. He would have just enough time for a quick wash before changing into a fresh shirt.

It was in the midst of his ablutions that the wave of elation washed over him. It was different from anything he had felt before when he was about to see Elrohir after a long parting. Ridiculous as it seemed, he was excited to be with the Elf-knight once more that he might behold the latter’s beauty.

It had started half a dozen years back, this awareness of the comeliness of other Elves. It had shocked him when he first felt a strange enjoyment in noting the physical differences between Elf-maids and males. Had been thoroughly befuddled when he found himself watching the gracefully swaying hips of the ellith of his father’s court as they made their way down the palace corridors. Or surreptitiously noting the sleekly muscled limbs of the warrior ellyn as they went through their paces at the drill yard. Such unseemly inclinations would have frightened him had he not seen those same symptoms in his fellow younglings.

Later, he came to realize that though they shared the same strange malady, their cure was not his.

He could not fail to see the flirtations that occurred between his fellows and other frequently older Elves though these were never flagrantly carnal in nature. Thranduil did not countenance wanton public conduct within his halls and an Elf could find himself out on his pointed ear if he did not behave himself. The king did not spare the ladies of his court either and they were as discreet about their affairs as a Dwarf was secretive about his hoard of gold. Nonetheless, Legolas soon perceived that many of these encounters led to assignations behind closed doors.

Legolas was no feeble-minded fool and by way of loose talk and chance glimpses, he learned something of what went on behind those closed doors though not the exact details thereof. And he discerned the general air of felicity that enshrouded his fellow youths the morn after. It did not take him long to inveigle his sire and his brother Galvreth into providing further enlightenment and thereby confirmed that there was a solution to his fraught feelings. But he also felt that the solution was not for him. At least not unless it was administered by the right person.

He had not seen Elrohir in all these years for duty had kept the twins engaged elsewhere. But he had known even as he learned to appreciate the fairness of others that none compared to his Elf-knight. His days were filled with the reality of the Elves about him but his nights were haunted by dreams of one who was not. And the dreams proved far more potent than what was at hand. They stirred him in ways he had never imagined.

About this time, he also came to recognize the pleasure other Elves took in looking at him. And some had gone so far as to tell him so. He had got used to having his blossoming beauty extolled; to his handsomeness being lauded by coy maids and his developing form praised by flirtatious males.

But it rarely went beyond speech. For he could not conceive of letting another touch him in any manner that was not strictly platonic. Such caresses made him uneasy and he did not shy from making his displeasure clear when liberties were taken with him. And it was not merely because of the strictures placed on him by his betrothal to Elrohir, the fundamentals of which had been gradually explained to him over the years. It had to do with Elrohir himself.

He may have been bewildered by his burgeoning desires but he knew with unerring certainty that only one person would soothe them. And now that person was here. Taking a deep steadying breath, Legolas left his quarters and headed out to meet his much longed-for Elf-knight.

* * * *

The brethren arrived to a gracious welcome in front of the delved palace. Servants took their saddlebags and bore them to their respective chambers while the king greeted them with much warmth. But to Elrohir’s surprise, only his older sons flanked Thranduil. Where was Legolas? The prince was always the first of his family to greet him when he arrived in the forest kingdom.

He was just about to inquire as to the Elfling’s whereabouts when a joyful cry preempted him. Legolas ran across the bridge to him and threw himself into his arms.

One thing the young prince had yet to learn and that was how to welcome his intended with due formality. Thranduil sighed with resignation and Haldoron rolled his eyes while the others smothered their laughter. Only Nimaras did not view the proceedings with much indulgence but that was no longer surprising.

Legolas hugged the Elf-knight hard. “You are early!” he exclaimed.

Elrohir drew slightly away to look at him and his smile faltered briefly as he caught his breath at the astounding comeliness that met his eyes. “And you are late,” he said, hastening to cover up his momentary disconcertment. He fingered a not quite correctly fastened collar. “Did we interrupt some pursuit of import, lass dithen?”—little leaf.

“Nay, I was only at archery practice and thought to freshen up ere I met you,” Legolas explained. “And I am not little anymore!” he added protestingly. “I shall soon be as tall as you and Elladan.”

“That remains to be seen,” Elrohir chuckled. “Though I will concede that you have grown some once more. Nevertheless, you will always be my little leaf,” he teased. “And ‘twas thoughtful of you to consider my sensibilities. I have never been fond of grubby Elflings.”

It was a patent falsehood of course considering how often he had cuddled a bedraggled Legolas through the years in the wake of play or exercise. Legolas responded with a pout and a playful shove. Whereupon, Elrohir snickered and leaned down to bestow the customary kiss of greeting.

Legolas’ gasp of surprise as soon as their lips met alerted him to yet another change in the maturing prince. He noted the sudden color in Legolas’ cheeks and the unwonted diffidence in his sapphire eyes.

Elrohir stifled a sigh. So, it has begun, he thought. Legolas was at last aware of certain bodily needs.

It was only to be expected given that the prince was approaching his thirty-fifth year, a time when a youngling’s emotional and physical changes were at their most turbulent. Many human males would have already lain with their first woman by this time. Not so with Elves who waited until their majority before engaging in complete intimacy if they desired it. Except here, Elrohir reminded himself.

A fair number of Legolas’ contemporaries in the kingdom would have lost their innocence by now. As Thranduil had explained to Elrond so many years ago, it was not uncommon among the Wood-elves to bed and wed ere coming of age. The one change to the custom was that it was now considered irresponsible and uncouth to imperil an Elf-maid’s well-being by getting her with child before her fifth decade. Oropher’s influence no doubt, Elrohir thought, for such had not been the case in those almost forgotten years drowned in the deeps of time.

Elrohir thought quickly. He could not ignore the prince’s reaction and pretend he had not noticed it for it had been much too obvious to go unmarked. However, to call attention to it would only discomfit him further. The best course of action would be to acknowledge it in a roundabout way.

“You are also grown astonishingly beautiful, Legolas,” he quietly said. He smiled at the startled look on the prince’s face. “And grown enough to be lauded for it.”

Legolas gazed at him with pleasure, his earlier embarrassment forgotten as he recalled that old conversation. “Do you truly think so?”

Elrohir snorted. “If your people have not been singing your praises, they must be blind or terribly lacking in good taste.”

The young Elf blushed again but his smile did not wane. “They do,” he admitted. “And ‘tis strange to hear them. But I had hoped you shared their opinion of me and-and I am glad that you do, Elrohir.”

The rest of the group had begun to walk back toward the palace. Elrohir linked arms with Legolas and they followed the others. “I indeed share their opinion, ernilen”—my prince—the Elf-knight said. “And I heartily regret that I was not the first to express it.”

Legolas dimpled and the thought that he would love to kiss each dimple fleetingly crossed Elrohir’s mind, which was cause for more self-chastisement.

“You may not have been the first but ‘tis your praise that I longed for,” the prince sighed happily. He leaned against Elrohir with a contented smile. “My begetting day will be perfect now that you are here.”

He paid no attention to the attention his affectionate gesture garnered them. Did not realize that, for the first time, they appeared as they were in fact. A betrothed couple. And in the green wood that meant so much more than the mere exchange of vows and the contract that sealed them.

Blissfully unaware of the speculation about the current state of his relationship with Elrohir, Legolas watched Elladan and Galvreth quietly converse as they walked just behind the king and Haldoron. Something had changed between the two ever since Galvreth’s first visit to Rivendell. The very air between them seemed charged and Legolas had a good idea what caused that charge.

He glanced at Haldoron. The Crown Prince was not amused. Indeed, he was doing his best not to look back and glower at Galvreth and at the same time trying to feign indifference to his brother’s obvious rapport with the older twin. Legolas smothered a rather unregal snicker ere turning his attention back to Elrohir as they went on to the twin’s chamber.

Lounging on the divan beneath the wide window, he watched the Elf-knight unpack his belongings, sorting them as he did. Soiled apparel was thrown into the laundry basket; the rest was neatly folded and placed in the wooden wardrobe in the corner of the room. Legolas noted that there was more clothing that needed laundering than fresh ones and he wondered whence Elrohir had come.

“How came you to be here so soon?” he asked. “You said in your last letter that you could not visit earlier than leaf-fall.”

Elrohir paused in his task to answer him. “And that was the truth of it for we had been tracking a bold band of Orcs that dared pillage hamlets and villages east of Imladris. But in their last raid, they carried off several humans with them and we gave chase ere they should have the chance to turn their captives into a meal.”

Legolas shivered in revulsion and horror. He knew of the atrocities committed by Orcs against all other races and sometimes even against their own kind. But he had never seen the creatures, much less fought them. He stared at Elrohir in even greater respect, realizing that the younger twin had already had more than his fair share of encounters with the foul beasts.

“Did you catch them?” he asked with morbid excitement.

“Aye, we did, on the western face of the Misty Mountains. We slew many but we also had to rescue the captives and that permitted a good number to flee. We could not let them elude us again for they would only spawn anew and come back to plague us. And so we followed them over the mountains for it turned out that their lair faced east. We caught up with them ere they could disappear into their holes and destroyed them.”

“You did not get hurt, did you, Elrohir?” Legolas asked anxiously.

Elrorhir smiled. “Nay, I was unscathed,” he said. “But when I realized how far down the eastern side we had travelled I decided to come here instead of returning home with the others. Naturally, Elladan preferred to accompany me.”

“Naturally since Galvreth would give him a right welcome,” Legolas giggled.

Elrohir grinned and shook his head. “Shush, they are good friends and nothing more,” he cautioned. At Legolas’ skeptical reaction, he firmly declared: “Believe me, Legolas, my brother is of no mind to bed yours.”

Legolas blinked in surprise. “Why? Does he not find Galvreth to his liking?”

“Oh, he does. Too much in fact.”

He chuckled when the bafflement in Legolas’ eyes deepened. Changing the topic ere the prince could delve further, he asked, “How goes Aelluin’s liaison with Gilthalion?”

“As strong as ever though they still see each other on the sly.”

“Why, pray tell? Have they not informed your father of their relationship?”

“What? And let Papa know that his son is oft ridden by an Elf who is younger than his august self by a mere century or so?”

Elrohir shook his head. “Such language, pen dithen”—little one. “I see your brothers have not learned to watch their tongues in your presence.”

“I am not little anymore!” Legolas reiterated indignantly. “And why should they watch their tongues? ‘Tis not as if I am still a child to be overly coddled.”

Elrohir chose not to respond to that and instead resumed putting his belongings away. Legolas was indeed no longer a child but neither was he an Elf of age for all his rapidly emerging graces. And such abundant graces at that.

The Elf-knight firmly set aside his treacherous thoughts and turned his musings to other matters. Primarily the changes in Legolas’ family since he had last sojourned here six years ago, some for the better, some for the worse and still others for—well, time would tell whether those others were for good or ill.

Haldoron had altered little with the passing years. He was still a close-minded, supercilious Elf despite a number of stays in Rivendell. But it could hardly be expected of him to learn anything if he set off with the determination to discover naught but the failings of the valley realm. Thus, he returned from his trips as hidebound and prejudiced as ever. Thranduil had since given up and now seemed to regard Aelluin as his de facto heir. The brethren suspected that if the Elven-king had his way, Haldoron would still wear the woodland crown when the time came but it would be Aelluin who would rule in truth. That would ensure that the kingdom would lie in capable hands for Aelluin had the makings of an able leader of Elves.

The second prince’s fervent desire for the Elf-knight had passed upon the onset of his affair with the valiant Gilthalion who had captained the Woodland Realm’s army since Oropher’s time. But he retained a soft spot for Elrohir and always behaved genially toward him. The same could not be said of Nimaras.

He waxed hot and cold when in Elrohir’s presence and the younger twin could never be quite certain whether he would be greeted with cordiality or treated with frigid courtesy. Not that Elrohir cared in the least about what Nimaras thought of him so long as it did not affect Legolas adversely. And it had been quite a while since his dear prince last endured being the butt of Nimaras’ mean-spirited japes and even longer since Lalorn had abetted them.

The two were no longer the close accomplices they’d once been on account of growing differences in their interests. While Nimaras continued to make his way up the ranks of their father’s army, Lalorn had began to indulge a heretofore unplumbed scholarly bent, something he had not discovered while in constant company with a brother whose love of the outdoors far exceeded any affection for the insides of a library. This was not to say that he forsook his soldier’s guise; no royal son of the Woodland Realm could forego military service. But he now spent much of his leisure time with Elves of a like persuasion. Such as his brother Elivorn.

The dark-haired prince was being groomed to take a place in his father’s Council along with Haldoron and Aelluin. His sharp intellect and ability to assess a situation without being overly emotional about it were traits that would serve any royal advisor in good stead. If he had a fault, it was his distant demeanour. The impulsive, bawdy-tongued youth of yore had been replaced with a cool, reserved Elf who could still turn a crimson-tinged phrase but more than not chose otherwise. Mayhap the elleth he was courting was to blame.

The Elf-maid was daughter to Thranduil’s chief counsellor and was a diffident, somewhat prudish creature. When he heard of her, Elrohir voiced the opinion that she needed a good tumbling and wondered why Elivorn did not see to that need forthwith. To which Galvreth had replied that his brother was merely biding his time lest he terrify her into abstaining from any carnal endeavors for the rest of her eternal life.

Galvreth. Elrohir smiled to himself as he considered the silver-haired prince. Now wouldn’t that be a colossal jest on all of them should the House of Elrond be enriched not by one but two woodland princes? Then again, Thranduil might insist that ‘twas the other way around and that it was his family that had gained.

“Are you done, Elrohir?” he heard Legolas impatiently ask.

He shut the wardrobe door and turned to find the prince practically hovering over him. “Why the haste?

“I want to spend time with you,” Legolas frankly replied. “I missed you.”

Elrohir smiled and put an arm around the young Elf’s shoulders. “I missed you, too. Let us go then. Mayhap you can introduce me to Elivorn’s lady love at last. Not that I harbor any interest in her,” he swiftly added to forestall incipient suspicions of his intentions. “But I am curious as to what manner of elleth has enchanted your brother so completely, that is all.”

“I don’t understand it myself,” Legolas grinned. “She is too solemn for my taste. And no lover of the outdoors. She is a poor excuse for a Wood-elf in my opinion!”

* * * *

Scant moonlight streamed into the well-appointed chamber of the Woodland Realm’s youngest prince, impeded by the lush growth of the forest outside. It was well past the hour for any sensible youngster’s bedtime but not quite late enough for an Elf who was in that in-between place between childhood and full maturity. As such, Legolas felt his restlessness keenly.

He sighed as an odd feeling of melancholy surged through him while he dressed for bed. Running a slender hand through his still damp hair, he smoothed out the few knots that tangled the shoulder-length locks.

It was only in recent years that he had grown his hair long enough to braid and there were times when he longed for the days when he could wear it loose and not have to worry about clasps and bands and all manner of ornaments that either pulled your hair so tightly it left your scalp feeling raw, got hopelessly and sometimes painfully snagged or simply fell off at the most inconvenient moments.

Thinking about the old days led in turn to thoughts of his growing years under Elrohir’s tender regard. And a time when he’d felt as if he were the center of the Elf-knight’s world. Of course, looking back from a more mature perspective, he knew that had never been so. Could not be so given Elrohir’s station as a prince in his own right, duty-bound to his lord and lands. But it had felt that way simply because Elrohir had given him as much of his attention as possible whenever they were together.

That was the root of his discontent now, he realized. He had wanted to spend the rest of the day with Elrohir and he had. But they had hardly been alone together. And after six years apart, he had longed to have the Elf-knight to himself. Particularly with his unruly feelings running roughshod over his reason.

He blew his breath out in frustration. He should have expected it, of course. Whenever the brethren visited they came both as guests and purveyors of news of the lands without.

The Woodland Realm was fairly isolated from the outside word and few of its folk dared travel further than the friendly human communities to the east or beyond the banks of Anduin to the west. And so visitors were always plumbed for reports on anything and everything that took place beyond the bounds of the Silvan Elves’ territory—political convolutions, the rise and fall of realms, the births and deaths of people of import and even mundane matters such as shifts in fashion, newfangled inventions and unfamiliar foodstuffs and their preparation.

As a result, the twins had spent much of this first day with scarcely a moment to themselves. Hardly would he and Elrohir retreat to some corner when someone would approach them to ply the Elf-knight with questions or engage him in debate. Or simply to savor his Peredhel beauty and wit up close. This last had annoyed Legolas no end and many an Elf had been treated to his baleful glare during the course of the day.

In a sudden fit of temper, Legolas picked up a discarded boot and hurled it across his room. Thankfully, the boot did not collide with anything more fragile than the solid wooden chest by his window that held his most treasured possessions—a few favorite books, a hand-carved statuette of his first pony, a colorful string-puppet that had faded with time and had been his mother’s last gift to him before she passed away and the child-sized archery set and long white knife Elrohir had gifted him on his very first visit to Rivendell.

He glared at the chest then at the window. A strong evening breeze rustled the leaves on the tree outside and one of its branches tapped against the outer wall. An old memory came to him and he suddenly grinned, his ire evaporating along with his sense of propriety.

Legolas clambered out his window, scaled the mighty boughs of the tree and climbed up to the open deck atop the pavilion that had once been his mother’s favorite place to rest come evening. Scurrying over to the opposite side, he shimmied down the tree that grew just outside Elrohir’s window. In minutes, he was perched on a thick branch just a few feet away from the younger twin’s window. He noiselessly inched his way forward. How surprised Elrohir would be when he entered his chamber through the most unlikely way, he thought with a grin.

He peered into the room, expecting to find Elrohir reading in bed. He nearly gasped out loud when he saw the Elf-knight.

Elrohir was indeed in bed but reading was the farthest thing from his mind at the moment.

He was lying atop the covers, his tall, withy body completely bare. His raven hair was unbound and spilled across his pillow in silken profusion. One hand rested on his flat belly while the other lay further down, concealed by one raised thigh, hard with muscle like the rest of his form yet so smooth and almost flawless of skin it gave off a soft sheen in the candlelight.

Legolas stared at the Elf-knight in awe. He had not seen Elrohir completely unclad since the onset of his adolescence. He wondered if that had been a deliberate move on Elrohir’s part. If it had, he could not blame the twin. Not if his reactions to the sudden uncovering of his graces was any indication of the calamitous effects it would have had on him then.

He let his eyes roam eagerly—nay, hungrily—noting every detail of the Elf-knight’s near perfection. What few imperfections he could make out—a thin silvery scar on his shoulder, another more irregularly shaped one along one calf, a fading bruise on his flank, and he knew Elrohir’s fingers and palms were roughened from the wielding of weapons—only served to heighten his appreciation of the twin’s comeliness. For the flaws were a stark testament to the unstinting performance of his duty as warrior and prince.

Just as his eyes alighted once more on the Elf-knight’s strong but slender thighs, Elrohir shifted his raised leg, lowering it slightly to expose his groin. Legolas’ eyes widened and he caught his breath when he realized just how Elrohir’s other hand was employed.

It was curled around his shaft—Legolas felt his mouth go dry just from the sight of it rising proudly out of a spare nest of soft, sable curls—and it was slowly but firmly caressing that magnificent column of flesh. Legolas’ mouth dropped open in a gape and color flooded his cheeks. Innocent he may have been but he was not so ignorant that he did not recognize the act of self-pleasuring that was taking place before his eyes.

He knew he was intruding on something utterly private and his scruples told him to leave immediately. But something more primal overtook scruples and he continued to watch Elrohir in ever growing fascination and with the first twinges of active desire.

He wished it were he who touched the Elf-knight thusly, who elicited that look on his face that transformed his beauty from provocative to feral. He heard his own breath coming in short huffs and realized he was panting shallowly. He stifled a moan when he saw Elrohir’s strokes quicken and heard the smothered sounds that accompanied each stroke. Sounds that snatched his breath away until he was almost sobbing for it.

A sharp gasp followed by a stifled groan heralded the Elf-knight’s release and copious spurts of opalescent cream spilled over his fist and dappled his taut belly. The sight nearly wrested a cry from Legolas who had to clap a hand over his mouth to silence himself. He wrenched his gaze away at last.

Elbereth! He could not recall a more enticing sight. He clutched the tree trunk with shaking hands to steady his trembling frame. Feeling quite giddy he raised a palm to his cheek and found it hot to the touch. For the longest while, he leaned his woozy head against the rough bark in an effort to clear it while his heart fought to slow its frantic beating. When he thought himself calm enough, he chanced another peek at his quarry.

Elrohir lay quietly on his bed, his body still rosy with the flush of his climax. He was staring up at the ceiling, grey eyes lost in thought. After a few more seconds, he seemed to sigh and he reached for a corner of the bed sheet and cleaned himself off.

Legolas gulped. Even the image of his Elf-knight wiping away the evidence of his release was a tantalizing sight. At last, Elrohir pulled the covers up and over his lean form, hiding it from Legolas’ eyes.

The young prince remained completely still lest the twin sense his presence now that he was no longer distracted. Only when he was certain that Elrohir had fallen asleep did he return the way he came.

Scrambling into bed, he burrowed under the covers as if to hide himself. Pressing his hot face into the cool softness of his pillow, he wondered how in Arda he would be able to sleep this night.

He should not have spied on Elrohir, he scolded himself. He had invaded the Elf-knight’s privacy in a most unseemly way and ought to be ashamed of himself.

But truth be told, he did not feel any shame, not for his impropriety or for having felt great pleasure just looking at Elrohir’s form in all its bared glory. Witnessing the twin’s unraveling by his own hand had added to the intensity of it and made him ache with wanting as he had never ached before.

He put his fingers to his lips, remembering the feel of Elrohir’s against his. It had been a chaste kiss; a mere formality because of their stations in life. But the jolt he had felt upon contact had been far from formal. And the thoughts that crowded his mind were no more chaste than a harlot who serviced mortal men for pay.

For so long had he worshipped Elrohir as one revered a champion and a gallant friend. But tonight he had seen him in another guise. And it dawned on him at last just what that portended if their betrothal held.

The very thought precipitated a pooling of pressure in his groin and he groaned at the not quite unpleasant discomfort. He pressed his hips down into the feather mattress, desperate for some means to escape the vague ache. Yet he could not bring himself to do as Elrohir had done. For some reason he could not fathom, he recoiled from the thought of seeking release on his own. He wanted every first to be at Elrohir’s hands.

Elrohir touching him, kissing him, stroking him to a climax. His imagination got the better of him and he rubbed himself against the bedclothes in instinctive abandon. The friction was enough for one who was without experience or control and intense pleasure such as he had never known before suddenly exploded in his groin. He cried out, barely managing to snuff the sound into his pillow. Wet warmth seeped into the crotch of his trousers.

Elrohir had granted his wish all unknowingly. His first completion had been wrought on the altar of the Elf-knight’s beauteous visage, his resplendent form, his incomparable charm. Legolas turned his head and stared out his window at the darkness outside, his eyes sparkling with well-founded anticipation.

Their betrothal would hold, he thought with guileless determination. It had to. He would ensure that it did.

*********************
Glossary:
laer – Sindarin for summer
ellith (sing. elleth) – Elf-maids
ellyn (sing. ellon) – male Elves
Peredhel – Half-elf/Half-elven

To be continued…

Chapter Text

The exhilaration of the night gave way to trepidation the following day. Glee became guilt; bravado dissolved into confusion. Legolas found that his relationship with Elrohir had been imbued with something other than their comfortable affection or their easy camaraderie. He could not look at Elrohir in quite the same way; could not even meet his eyes.

A chance pose or gesture or even an expression could evoke images of such vivid sensuality that his face would burn and his tongue suddenly feel thick in his mouth. The most innocent of touches flustered him into a trembling-kneed state and even an innocuous comment stated just so was enough to set his mind envisioning the Elf-knight in various indecent postures.

Shame would skewer him then that he should reduce his beloved champion to such a tawdry role, especially when he could not set aside the sultry images. As a result, he shied from Elrohir’s company and fled to the sanctum of his apartment several times during the course of the day, seeking blessed respite from the younger twin's unsettling presence.

It was unrealistic to expect his odd behavior to go unnoticed. Or that Elrohir would not demand an explanation for his unnatural avoidance.

Knowing that Elrohir would be at the drill yard to spar with one of Gilthalion’s protégés, Legolas made his way there early the next morning after a restless night passed in disquieting dreams. He stood beneath a lofty beech at the edge of the field nigh to where the combatants took their positions, eager to watch his Elf-knight display his skill. Elrohir did not disappoint him.

The younger twin for all his lesser years proved a most formidable adversary. Brandishing his sword with a combination of well-honed skill and innate resourcefulness, he did not permit so much as the smallest mistake by his opponent to get by but took full advantage of every error committed however minute. It was only to be expected of one of the best pupils of Rivendell’s legendary captain who was arguably the finest swordsman in Middle-earth.

But Legolas saw so much more than the Elf-knight’s splendid performance.

Clad in a sleeveless, open-necked jerkin, form-fitting breeches and sturdy boots, his raven hair plaited into a single braid, and bound with a strip of black leather, Elrohir looked every inch the warrior prince he’d been born and bred to be. His pewter eyes flashed dangerously as he steadily beat back his Silvan opponent. With every swing of that fearsome sword, the sleek muscles on his arms and shoulders rippled. A swift turn here and an agile twist there unwittingly flaunted his hard yet supple back and hips. His feet seemed a blur of motion as he nimbly parried and feinted and lunged. Before long, his neck and chest gleamed with the faint sheen of sweat,

Legolas found he could not swallow with any ease as he watched the Elf-knight’s every move. He scarcely heard the increasing cheers and excited banter around him. Ignored the jostling to gain a better vantage point. He could not even summon his usual umbrage at any fervent show of admiration for the Peredhel he considered his alone. All unbidden he saw in his mind that lithesome form as it had lain before him in wanton resplendence. He felt the singe of a simmering blush in his cheeks. And somewhere below, he knew the heady pressure of a burgeoning arousal once more.

Feeling suddenly unsteady, he leaned against the tree and closed his eyes, uncaring of the curious glances of those about him. Thus, he did not notice that the contest had come to an end and that the victor was rapidly nearing him.

He gasped when a strong hand gripped his shoulder and he opened his eyes to stare into Elrohir’s concerned gaze.

“Are you well?” the younger twin asked, lifting his other hand to touch the prince’s ruddy face. “Valar, but your cheeks are over-warm! What ails you, lass dithen?”—little leaf.

Feeling as if he would explode from Elrohir’s mere touch, Legolas hastily jerked away. “I am well,” he blurted out and turned to go.

“Let me fetch my things and I shall go with you,” Elrohir said.

“Nay!” Legolas exclaimed with alarm. Floundering for an excuse upon seeing Elrohir’s bafflement, he came up with none and could only say, “You need not worry about me, Elrohir. Now if you will excuse me—”

Elrohir pulled him back by the arm. “I chose not to go riding with Elladan and your brothers that we might spend this day together. Yet you have spurned my company at every turn,” he commented. “What is amiss, Legolas?”

Legolas found his eyes centering on the Elf-knight’s broad expanse of chest and the sight was enough to send a shiver of pleasurable desire snaking up his spine. Shuddering with unaccustomed need, the young prince backed away, yanking his arm out of Elrohir’s grasp.

“Nothing is amiss,” he sputtered. “I just wish to be alone.”

Elrohir stared at him. “And you expect me to believe that?” he said incredulously. “Come now, Legolas, out with the truth. What troubles you so deeply?”

He reached up to smooth a soothing caress over Legolas’ nape. But his touch proved anything but soothing to the beleaguered prince. The warmth of his hand seemed as a scorching brand on Legolas’ flesh, exaggerated as it was by the younger Elf’s acutely heightened sensitivity. Reason ceased to function and an overwhelming urge to escape took ascendancy.

Heedless of the fast growing audience to their unexpectedly heated conversation, he yelled, “You have no right to badger me, Peredhel! We are not yet bound!”

“Legolas!” Elrohir exclaimed in shock. “Whence this bile?”

“Are you some human fishwife who knows not enough when to stop?” Legolas shot back. “Oh, but of course, it should not surprise me. You carry the blood after all!”

Elrohir whitened at the insult.

It was quite fortunate that Elladan was not present for Eru only knew what the older twin might have said or done in the face of so offensive a sally. As it was, the hush in the yard grew heavy and fraught with apprehension as all awaited the Elf-knight’s response. Buy if they expected him to retaliate in like vein, they were disabused of it soon enough.

Laying an icy stare on the suddenly abashed prince, he acidly said: “As you wish, your highness. Rest assured that your felicity will not be marred by this mere adanedhel.”

He bowed with cold formality, went to snatch up his things and briskly left the field. Legolas felt his mouth go as dry as a parched field under a sweltering desert sun. Conscious of the disbelieving stares of the onlookers, he bolted and all but raced back to the pavilion. He hid himself for the rest of the day, refusing to come out even to join his family for the evening meal.

It did not take long for them to get wind of the tiff. How could they not when the halls of the palace abounded with whispered rumors of an impending break of the betrothal? While Haldoron, Nimaras and Lalorn responded with varying degrees of amusement and scorn, his father and Galvreth, Elivorn and even Aelluin questioned him then took him to task about it.

But not the twins. They neither denied the quarrel nor gave credence to the gossip that arose in its wake. And they did not approach any of the royal family in entreaty or ire.

Elladan reluctantly stayed out of the fray once Elrohir made it clear that he did not want the incident to grow any bigger than it was already. And after that unprecedented and highly embarrassingly public rebuff, the Elf-knight chose to keep silent on the matter and kept well out of Legolas’ way as he had promised. Not that anyone could blame him for what being of any pride would wish to be subjected to a second round of such indignity? And at the hands of a youngling at that?

Legolas missed his company almost at once and heartily regretted his reprehensible outburst. Misery took its toll on him and supplanted his previous feelings of alternating lust and dismay. He spent many a sleepless night chiding himself for his stupidity. But it was several days before he could muster his courage, temper his shame and lower his pride enough to seek out Elrohir. The growing speculation that the brethren might cut short their visit and leave the kingdom soonest finally spurred him into action.

He found Elrohir in the main hall of the palace from which branched off the many chambers and passageways that cut through the great cave. Benches lined the walls of the hall and here various Elves gathered either to await an audience with the king, meet with members of the royal household or simply to mingle with fellow nobles. The Elf-knight was seated on one of these benches with some Elves he had befriended.

Though his qualms made him queasy, Legolas took a deep breath and walked to the younger twin.

Elrohir had his back to him and did not notice his advance. And if his companions did they were much too surprised or apprehensive or both to warn him. Thus he was startled when Legolas laid a trembling hand on his shoulder and softly said, “Elrohir? May I have a word with you?”

The Elf-knight did not look at him but stiffened then suddenly rose, bid his companions a good day and began to walk away. Legolas panicked and, oblivious of the surreptitious stares cast their way, hurried after the younger twin.

“Elrohir, wait!” he cried, grabbing hold of the latter’s arm.

He swallowed hard when Elrohir pulled his arm from his grasp and turned to face him with a most discouraging glare. It frightened Legolas even further for never had Elrohir looked at him thusly.

“Please don’t go,” he pleaded. "There is something I must tell you.”

Elrohir snorted. “I am in no mood to hear my house maligned once again, ernil daur”—forest prince—he frigidly said.

Legolas winced at his cool delivery of an otherwise affectionate appellation. He reached out and laid a hesitant hand on Elrohir’s unyielding arm.

“I am sorry,” he said in a small voice. “I should not have demeaned you or your family.”

“Then why did you?” came the glacial query.

“I-I do not know,” Legolas stuttered. “I was— I felt so out of sorts and-and... Oh, please don’t leave me, Elrohir!” he exclaimed beseechingly when the twin impatiently turned to go. Tremors invaded his limbs when Elrohir stopped to await his next words none too forbearingly.

By now silence had engulfed the hall as every Elf strained to hear their conversation. Legolas flushed at the thought of humbling himself before a crowd. But he hadn’t spared Elrohir either when he’d embarrassed him and so had no right to expect consideration of any sort.

He took a deep breath and, praying no one would overhear his confession, said in a hushed voice: “I saw you two nights before. When you-when you t-touched yourself.”

For a moment Elrohir stared at him in bewilderment. And then it dawned on him just what the young prince was trying to say. A riotous mixture of emotions surged through him, nearly rendering him speechless.

Realizing that they had become the focal point of everyone’s interest, he quickly ushered Legolas out of the hall and led him to the nearest private room which was the small audience chamber reserved for meetings of a sensitive nature.

He thrust Legolas into the room and without preamble demanded, “What do you mean you saw me? How could you have seen me without my knowledge?”

“From-from your window,” Legolas said. When elegant sable eyebrows rose in disbelief he stumblingly recounted his inadvertent adventure outside the Elf-knight’s chamber. When he was done, he looked at Elrohir imploringly.

“I did not know how to act with you,” he desperately explained. “I felt so strange and-and ashamed. And when you pressed me for my reasons I just— I could not…” He trailed off, at a loss for words to adequately describe the unruly feelings he’d experienced each time he came in close contact with the twin the morning after and beyond. “I am truly sorry, Elrohir,” he said, painfully conscious of the inadequacy of his apology. “Please forgive me.”

Elrohir regarded him with the most peculiar expression. So daunting was it that Legolas could not bear to meet his gaze and he dropped his eyes to contemplate his shoes.

At length, he sensed the twin had released him from his stare and he timidly looked up.

Elrohir had moved off by a few paces and now stood facing away from him, hands on his hips and his head bowed as if in deep thought. But the unyielding cast of his shoulders seemed indicative of severe anger and that struck fear into Legolas’ heart that he had irreversibly damaged his relationship with the twin. It did not occur to him that Elrohir needed time to come to terms with his confession. But then he was so very young and callow after all.

After a few more minutes of the Elf-knight’s ominous silence, Legolas gave in to his dread and began to weep. It started with a pitiful sniffle, followed by muffled whimpers until at last he broke into harsh sobs, smothering them as best as he could with a hand tightly clapped over his mouth.

Elrohir heard and whirled around in dismay. Seeing Legolas so helplessly distraught, he hastened to him and pulled him into a tight embrace. Slender arms wrapped around him frantically and he felt the prince’s hot tears drench his shoulder.

“Please don’t be angry with me,” Legolas sobbed. “I cannot bear it.”

“Hush, penen vell”—my dear one—Elrohir crooned. “I am not angry. I was only hurt and afraid.”

“Afraid?” Legolas asked in confusion, lifting a tear-streaked face to gaze at the younger twin.

Elrohir nodded. “You were so distant before you snapped at me that I thought I had done some grievous thing against you. And the worst of it was that I did not know what it was and could not make amends to you for it.”

Realizing how deeply he had distressed Elrohir only made Legolas cry harder. Elrohir lifted him in his arms and carried him to one of the long couches.

Sitting with Legolas on his lap, he held the prince snugly, rocking him slightly to soothe him. It was a good quarter of an hour before the young Elf’s body stopped shaking and his tears ceased to flow. When Legolas finally calmed down, Elrohir made him look up at him.

Drowned blue eyes met his yet Elrohir thought them beautiful nonetheless. Ah, but these same eyes had witnessed him engaged in an intensely private act. He did not quite know how to feel about that. He sighed, searching for the right words to say.

“I know you did not intentionally spy on me,” he said at last.

Legolas vigorously shook his head, his throat still too raw for speech.

Elrohir ran his hand through somewhat tangled gold hair. “But having seen what you did and knowing yourself disturbed by it, you should have told me the truth instead of turning on me,” he gently chided. “I will always try to help you, Legolas, but I cannot if I do not know what troubles you.”

Legolas bit his lower lip and nodded.

“Besides,” Elrohir added, “‘tis not as if I do not know whereof you are experiencing. I passed through the same straits myself not too long ago. I know how strange it is to suddenly find interest in the forms and faces of other Elves. ‘Tis a natural thing and you need not be ashamed of it.”

Legolas was quiet for a long time. And then he said, “I couldn’t stop thinking of you afterward and-and something happened. I spent myself,” he whispered in embarrassment. “Was that wrong?”

“To spend yourself or to have done so because of me?” Elrohir asked.

Legolas blushed to the roots of his hair. “Both,” he all but squeaked.

Elrohir chuckled softly and stroked a rosy cheek with his knuckles. “There is nothing wrong with the first. As for the second, well, I would be more offended if your thoughts had been of someone else.”

Legolas stared at him. “You do not mind then?” When Elrohir smilingly shook his head, he blurted out, “But who were you thinking of when you pleasured yourself?”

Some of the Elf-knight’s equanimity seeped away at this reversion to the inquisitive Elfling of old. “Really, Legolas, that is an exceedingly personal matter,” he said, blushing slightly in turn. “‘Tis bad enough that you watched me, must you know my thoughts as well?”

The beginnings of a pout began to purse the prince’s mouth but Legolas desisted and looked away instead. “You need not answer,” he murmured tightly. “I can guess who it was not.”

Elrohir closed his eyes, wondering not for the last time how he had gotten himself into such a fix. Opening them, he studied Legolas’ crestfallen expression. With a sigh, he cast discretion to the wind and decided to put his trust in Legolas’ ability to make sense of the vagaries of bodily desire. He cupped the prince’s face and made him turn to look at him.

“If you must know, ‘twas you I had in mind,” he quietly said. At the swift pleasure in Legolas’ eyes, he went on carefully. “I will not lie and say that I have never used thoughts of others to help me seek release. Though ‘twas only because it would have been obscene of me to use you for that purpose when you were a child. But you have grown much these past many years and I have relied more and more on your image since to help me ease my needs.”

Color stained the prince’s cheeks again at the twin’s admission but Elrohir’s honesty thrilled him no end, as did the knowledge of his potent effect on the Elf-knight.

“I am glad,” he whispered. He looked hopefully at Elrohir. “Am I forgiven now?”

Elrohir laughed and held him close, their foreheads touching. “Ah, lass dithen, ‘tis nigh impossible to remain at odds with you.”

“It seemed you would just a while ago,” Legolas woefully said.

“It would have passed,” Elrohir told him. “You are much too precious to me, Legolas. I could not put you from me for too long.”

Legolas beamed at him, relief lending a special brilliance to his smile. He snuggled into Elrohir’s embrace once more, ecstatic to be reconciled with his Elf-knight, content to just be held in his arms.

* * * *

In the weeks leading up to his thirty-fifth begetting day, Legolas felt more alive and happy than ever. He had confessed his accidental transgression to Elrohir and the twin had not minded though he had been admittedly shocked to learn of it. Elrohir had forgiven him his sharp tongue and now the rift between them was mended. Best of all, the Elf-knight had reassured him of his constant regard; that Legolas was still dear to him. All was right in the prince’s world once more.

Well, except for the fact that their very first real quarrel had been played out in public while their reconciliation had not. Consequently, a good number of Elves proved annoyingly curious about what had set off his pique in the first place and how he had mollified the Elf-knight afterward and so effectively at that.

And then there was still the matter of his fully awakened desires and the Peredhel who had ignited them. His falling-out with Elrohir ended, said desires returned with a vengeance. Legolas knew he would have to address his need soonest else he would all but expire from the lack of relief. Yet he also feared to take the necessary steps to quench it.

Elrohir had expressed a wish to aid him. But how far was he willing to go in extending that aid? And in any case, just exactly how did he feel about Legolas? Would intimacy between them be merely of the flesh or would it be the physical manifestation of the sharing of hearts as well?

Legolas’ fervent hope was that love would ease his way when he was at last relieved of his bodily innocence. Yet Elrohir’s pull on him was such that he knew he would submit to the Elf-knight without the assurance of it. Even if in doing so he risked the breaking of his heart.

It was not a decision he could make in haste. Or without due consideration

*******************************
Glossary:
Peredhel – Half-elf/Half-elven
adanedhel – man-Elf, a name given to the First Age hero Túrin in the elven realm of Nargothrond, alluding to his beauty and nobility of speech and bearing

To be continued…

Chapter Text

He saw you?

The question was uttered not so much as a request for confirmation as a statement of incredulity. Elladan stared at his brother with a mixture of shock, disbelief and realization.

It was the morning of Legolas’ begetting day. Elladan had come to his room to wish him luck, tongue firmly in cheek. Legolas had already proven more than a handful within days of their arrival in the forest kingdom. Neither twin expected that to change on the day marking his conception.

When Elladan followed up that wish with one of condolence as well, Elrohir decided to confide the truth behind his freshly mended rift with Legolas. It was clear Elladan still harbored some resentment against the young prince for treating his brother rather shabbily and Elrohir did not want any lingering rancor to mar the day for Legolas. The older twin’s reaction was not unexpected.

Elladan sank down into a hearthside chair. “No wonder he behaved so strangely,” he muttered. “Valar, I can see why he could not tell you at once.” He frowned. “But why did he not ask his sire or any of his brothers? Galvreth would have listened or even Elivorn or Aelluin.”

Elrohir shook his head. “And did we ask Father about our own youthful yearnings?” he pointed out. “As I recall, we were both much too embarrassed by what we felt to approach him for counsel and sought advice from other quarters. You asked it of Erestor, remember?”

“Because I trusted Erestor enough to understand how I felt,” Elladan replied unthinkingly.

“Without fearing his censure or amusement as we thought our parents might do,” Elrohir completed the thought for him. “‘Tis exactly why I went to Glorfindel for my own enlightenment. Now why would Legolas feel any differently? As for Galvreth or the others… well, ‘tis easy to inquire about a general curiosity but I do not think he feels comfortable enough with them to confide so personal and specific a problem. Not yet.”

He gestured to his window to encompass the rest of the kingdom. “And who else could he approach? None, Elladan. None that he felt enough confidence in to entrust this secret.” He shook his head. “Do not judge him harshly. He is so young and in many ways alone and without aid or guidance, even now when some of his brethren are no longer his foes.”

“I see your point,” Elladan conceded. He thoughtfully looked at his twin. “You defend him so passionately, gwanneth.”—younger twin. “I wonder if he stirs far more in you than mere protectiveness toward a charge.”

“He is still a youngling,” Elrohir said cautiously, taken aback by the sudden change in topic.

“A youngling in years but methinks no longer as much in his thoughts and feelings,” Elladan commented. “Have you not marked how he regards you of late? ‘Tis with the eyes of a budding lover that he now views you, not as the child who worshipped you for championing him.” The older twin leaned back in the chair, elbows resting on the armrests, and linked his fingers contemplatively. “I do not think he will wait until his majority afore he claims you in some manner.”

Elrohir suddenly flushed and looked away. Elladan gazed at him with sympathy. “And you wish you did not have to wait either,” he stated. “But after all, he is grown even more beautiful than any of us expected.”

“Too beautiful,” Elrohir muttered. “Thank Eru that he is not yet aware of his effect on me.”

“He will be soon enough,” Elladan said. “And he will use it to full advantage if I am any reader of character. Beware the sweetness of this particular temptation, brother. You are beholden to protect his bodily innocence.”

“Well I know it. You need not remind me of my duty.”

“Yet I would remind you that innocence can be relative,” Elladan softly added. Elrohir’s silence told him that the younger twin had already considered the point but dared not voice it. Elladan took it upon himself to do so. “He is Sindarin in blood but a Wood-elf in all else. I think the limits placed upon you in this matter are more… flexible than amongst our own folk. They may be worth exploring.”

“Yet it will be perilous to do so,” Elrohir somberly said. “‘Tis not always easy to desist from crossing the line. Or know if one has crossed it in the first place.”

“If any would succeed in discerning the right path ‘twould be you,” Elladan said encouragingly. “You are sage beyond your years and honorable as well. I do not think you will wrong Legolas when you tutor him in the ways of his body’s needs.”

“You mean ‘if’.”

“Nay, I mean ‘when’. Your little leaf is no timid prude in the mold of Elivorn’s maiden. You may find yourself hard-pressed to hold the line against his advance!”

Elrohir was about to make a tart reply saying his brother was being no help at all to his already simmering apprehensions but he was forestalled by the appearance of the object of their discussion in his doorway.

Legolas was aglow with anticipation this fine morning, delighted that the Elf-knight was his for the day. His felicity served to point up his ethereal comeliness. Elrohir had to take a deep, restoring breath to calm the sudden quickening of his heart at so fair a vision.

* * * *

Begetting days other than those that heralded the age of majority were not generally celebrated with much more than a good dinner and a toast unless a remarkable achievement was being lauded or the celebrant requested some special event to mark it. Legolas was no exception and he had not even given much thought to it beyond what he would ask the royal kitchen to serve for the evening meal. But Elrohir’s arrival suddenly made the day worthy of notice simply because he was there to observe it with him.

He did not alter his mind about dinner or the viands to be served save to add a particular sweet much favored by Elrohir, which was the chocolate-topped, cream-filled pastry he first tasted when he and Legolas bonded over a clandestine late night repast in the kitchen. But his original plan to do naught more than attend to his usual duties and pastimes did change and he asked his father if he could spend the day as he wished with the Elf-knight.

The request was readily granted and Legolas happily talked Elrohir into going on a whole day’s ride with him to the northern bounds of the green wood, something the younger twin had foregone that disastrous second day of his and Elladan’s visit.

A ride through this portion of the forest was not something to scoff at. The beasts of the northernmost part of Eryn Galen did not shy from wayfarers and passed freely to and fro as they made their way to den or nest or burrow. The growth was wilder and younger and even more densely packed; thus, any open space was greeted with great relief and treated with much reverence. And from the very edge of the forest one could view the mysterious Ered Mithrin, a largely unexplored region in this later age save by the Dwarves who mined it for metal.

The Grey Mountains loomed over the horizon ranging eastward from craggy-peaked Mt. Gundabad, silent and portentous and beautiful in their awful majesty. It was a sight not meant to be missed if one could help it.

There was a small and pristine clearing serviced by a bubbling stream midway between the edge of the forest and the heart of the Woodland Realm that oft served as a camping site for the elven guards who patrolled this neck of the woods. But when any of the royal sons came to it all others steered clear to afford them their privacy.

That was the case today when Legolas and Elrohir rode into the glade on their way back from the border. Not another Elf was to be seen though both knew there were guards close enough to ensure the place was secure but not so near as to intrude on them.

Thranduil’s butler Galion had provided them with food and wine for their midday meal. Elrohir watched with a mixture of affection and uneasiness as Legolas spread out a large mantle and laid out the sumptuous picnic repast.

The uneasiness was due to his knowledge that the clearing was also oft used as a trysting place by Legolas’ brothers, far from the prying eyes of the common folk. The Wood-elves were a kind and valiant people but they were also given to too much curiosity about their rulers’ affairs, both official and personal. Elrohir did not believe Legolas would attempt to instigate anything unseemly nor would the Elf-knight permit it but the associations with the place were strong and he could not lightly dismiss them.

As they ate, Legolas recounted what news of the kingdom Elrohir may not have yet heard. The brethren kept track of vital political or economic matters but domestic issues did not always reach their ears. The prince’s narration ranged from the latest development in Elivorn’s cautious wooing of his Elf-maid to the recent spat between Galion and Thranduil’s treasurer over some discrepancies in the kitchen accounts. Elrohir listened with interest and stored away what might prove of significance some other time.

“Do you recall Lalleth?” Legolas abruptly asked. “She is the daughter of Papa’s chamberlain, Beldulus.”

“I remember her. She was an occasional playmate of yours, wasn’t she?”

“Aye, she was. Well, she is to wed next month. Her parents announced it just last night.”

Elrohir nearly choked on his wine. “Wed? But she is only a few years older than you!”

“Five years,” Legolas supplied.

The twin frowned in some distaste. “Why the haste to marry her off?” he queried. “She is too young.”

“Not so young that she could not get with child,” Legolas said with a shrug. Ignoring Elrohir’s soft exclamation of shock, he explained: “Her family does not want the babe to be born out of wedlock or for her belly to grow so big that it draws more attention than the exchange of vows.”

The Elf-knight sighed and shook his head. He would never truly get used to this quaint practice however often he visited Eryn Galen. Though he had betrothed himself to Legolas in order to protect the prince from the less savory aspects of the custom, it still seemed a distant thing to him. But not now. Not when he personally knew the young Elf in question.

Legolas blithely continued with his recounting. “Galion’s son Ithilas told me the other day that he has chosen his first lover. ‘Tis Gilthalion’s second-in-command Faroniel. I am not in the least surprised. He has been infatuated with her for as long as I can remember.”

“Oh, and there was very nearly a war between two of Papa’s counsellors. It seems they both had their eyes on Fingaran. You know, Emelin’s minx of a son? Mitharas cleverly plucked him afore Halthôn knew what he was about. Halthôn is furious but I think ‘tis more about hurt pride that a junior counsellor bested him. No matter, Fingaran seems quite pleased with himself. But then Mitharas is handsomer than Halthôn or so he claims and probably a good measure more energetic, too!”

Elrohir shifted uneasily, unable to share in Legolas’ mirth. He put down the juicy peach he had been about to bite into.

“Are you trying to tell me something, ernil neth?—young prince—he softly inquired.

Legolas looked at him in wide-eyed innocence. “Tell you something?” he echoed. “What makes you think that I am?”

“You seem to be following a particular thread of thought,” Elrohir pointed out. “Is there something you wish to talk about with me?”

Legolas started then frowned and looked away. “It appears that I am the only Elf in this kingdom who can do naught else but talk with his intended,” he muttered. “But that is to be expected I suppose given who mine is.”

A sudden pang smote Elrohir. He compelled Legolas to face him. “Do you have your eye on some Elf but stay yourself from making a move because of our betrothal?” he carefully probed. “Mayhap one of your comrades or some sweet elleth?”

Legolas stared at him. “Why do you ask? Is it that you do not wish to be betrothed to me any longer?”

“Nay. I only desire your happiness and if that entails giving you the freedom to do as you will, then so be it. ‘Twas a stipulation I made ere we signed the contract years ago.”

Legolas shook his head. “There is no one else. Aye, I know what ‘tis like to see some fair Elf and wonder about his or her charms. But I have not felt anything more. Unlike-unlike when I am with you, Elrohir. ‘Tis a yearning that sometimes frightens me.”

“Frightens you?”

Legolas sighed and leaned his head on the Elf-knight’s shoulder. “I do not understand why I feel this way but I know that I would do aught that you asked of me without pause.”

Elrohir caught his breath at the admission. “I would never ask of you what you cannot abide,” he insisted. “Nor would I demand it of you so soon, my Greenleaf.”

“This from one who is known for his own healthy appetite for all manner of love play,” Legolas said with a shaky laugh. He lifted his head and looked uncertainly at the twin.

Elrohir stared at him speechlessly. When he regained his tongue, he slowly repeated the young Elf’s words. “All manner of love play? Wherever did you get that impression?”

“‘Tis mere talk at court,” Legolas admitted. “But many say that since you bear mannish blood, you most likely are partial to some of the mortals’ baser bed-games as well.”

Elrohir let out a disbelieving snort. “The Peredhil are not devotees of lechery whatever blood we carry in our veins!” he exclaimed. “What do your folk take us for? Shameless libertines?”

“But I thought—” Legolas looked at him in puzzlement. “Have you not had many lovers?”

“Not as many as you seem to expect. For one thing, I only had two score years to take lovers afore our betrothal. And even had I had more time, I still would not have accepted all who sought entry into my bed. Yea, I may have indulged myself more fulsomely than others but never in any way that demeaned my partners as you seem to suggest.”

Elrohir suddenly realized that the earlier tension in Legolas’ eyes had all but dissipated. “Valar, you thought that I might—” He stopped, offended by this apparent skepticism of his gentility insofar as bed-play was concerned.

Legolas saw the budding ire in his eyes and at once flung his arms around his shoulders. “Oh, I did not mean that you would hurt me!” he cried. “I only wondered what sharing your bed would entail and the stories I had heard led me to think that-that I would not be able to satisfy you in my ignorance of what mortals consider sufficient for their needs.”

Elrohir stared at him then relaxed and wrapped a reassuring arm around him. “Their needs are not unlike ours,” he gently said. “Those who indulge in excess comprise no more than the smallest portion of any population. There will always be men and Elves whose taste in the love arts will go beyond what is considered the norm. But a few do not reflect the whole. And an occasional experiment does not mark one as a lover of debauchery anymore than the choice to abstain makes one a prude. One thing I can assure you of is that I will never see you as a mere bed-treat. Now that would be depraved of me and you would do yourself a favor to dispense with my attentions forthwith should I ever stoop so low.”

Legolas smiled and shook his head. “Even if you did, I would not be able to break away from you,” he earnestly said. Taking a deep breath, he declared: “I love you, Elrohir. You will say that I am much too green to know my feelings but I think otherwise. I love you and I have done so for as long as I can remember. Mayhap once ‘twas but a child’s infatuation but not anymore. Else why do I long to join all that I am and have with you and yours? I do not expect you to return the sentiment. You agreed to the betrothal out of kindness and your desire to protect me. But I accepted it because I wanted to belong to you, Elf-knight. From the moment you took my hand and led me out from behind my brothers’ shadow, I longed to call myself yours.”

“Legolas…”

Elrohir fell silent, seeking to appease his raucous feelings in the wake of the prince’s confession of a long-ago desire. He did not mistake the earlier childish yearning for anything other than the hero worship Legolas had lavished on him with all innocence. But it was clear that somewhere between those halcyon days and the tumultuous present, that worship had evolved into something else. Elladan was right. Legolas no longer saw him as his champion of old.

Legolas perceived his ambivalence. But he did not want Elrohir to linger on their past. It would only slow the Elf-knight’s acquiescence in fostering further intimacy between them. Impulsively, he kissed the younger twin on the mouth.

It was not like the ritual kiss they exchanged as part of their greetings but it also fell far short of what might be expected of lovers. But that was not surprising. Legolas was a novice in the love arts and his inexperience was clearly evinced now. Yet even so tentative a caress was enough to elicit a start of surprise from Elrohir, the touch of the young prince’s lips on his summoning an answering heat in his groin.

Legolas drew back upon feeling the abrupt movement and anxiously gazed at Elrohir. The Elf-knight’s expression was not encouraging. He looked startled and dismayed and was obviously searching for some way out of what he undoubtedly thought another predicament foisted on him by the woodland prince.

The young Elf flushed in a fit of humiliation. Mumbling a choked, “I am sorry,” he began to rise, thinking to flee before Elrohir saw the treacherous brightness of his eyes. But a strong hand caught him by the wrist and pulled him back. Still he would not look at Elrohir lest he reveal his shame to him.

The Elf-knight took the choice from him however. Cupping Legolas’ face he compelled the prince to face him. The countenance he beheld was dolorous to put it mildly. The crystalline eyes gleamed with barely checked tears while the sculpted lips quivered with tightly suppressed emotion. Yet even in so woeful a mood, said countenance was breathtaking to say the least. It was simply too much even for one of Elrohir’s adamantine resolve.

Drawing Legolas closer he bent and caught those trembling lips in a gentle kiss. But there was nothing chaste about the caress for all its tenderness. A warm tongue tip coaxed Legolas' lips apart and he swiftly learned the reason for it. Where previously he had not known enough to do this he now discovered the full benefit of it when Elrohir sealed their mouths together in molten union.

Legolas clutched hard at the arms that held him. His surging blood seemed as a thunderous roar to him and his heart as cacophonous as the beat of an Easterling’s war drum. A moment later, he felt Elrohir gently seek entrance into his mouth and he eagerly permitted the incursion. Moaning in delight, he curled his arms around the twin’s shoulders, fervently giving himself up to the rapturous flow of feelings rushing through him.

Elrohir hastily quelled the impulse to bear the prince down and strip him bare. Elbereth, but Legolas was such an enthusiastic student!

When he broke the kiss Legolas whimpered with disappointment, which was swiftly followed by a groan of frustration. The reason was glaringly apparent.

Elrohir did not need to see the evidence hidden beneath the prince’s tunic to know he was highly aroused and suffering from the lack of release. His teary eyes had turned glazed and heavy-lidded with lust and his mouth no longer trembled with shame but with stark need. His short breaths further betrayed his body’s tightly strung state.

The Elf-knight could not help recalling his brother's advice spoken only that morning. It seemed he would indeed have to explore the ways and means by which he might aid Legolas without committing the irrevocable act of relieving him of his virginity. Making his decision, he drew Legolas onto his lap until the prince was astride him.

Legolas gazed at him in bemusement, a trifle apprehensive at the strange gleam in Elrohir’s argent eyes. But the loosening of his breech laces was something he could not ignore and he glanced down in disbelief to find Elrohir undoing his trousers with one hand while the other rested on his back, steadying him when he started in his surprise. His mouth suddenly dry, Legolas jerked his stare back up to meet the Elf-knight’s eyes.

“What are you going to—” he started to ask in confusion.

His query was cut off by a swift kiss. With a slight shake of his head, Elrohir caught his gaze and held it. Legolas stared back, anxiety and anticipation chasing each other across his expressive features.

The prince’s breeches came undone and sagged down around his hips. Still holding Legolas’ gaze, Elrohir eased his hand down into the young Elf’s crotch and freed his straining shaft, eliciting a strangled gasp from the prince. With a smile that left Legolas a-shiver, he dropped his eyes to regard the flesh he held in his hand.

His smile widened for the prince’s shaft showed every promise of becoming a formidable sword when he matured into a full-grown Elf. Unthinkingly, Legolas followed his lead then wished he had not. The sight of Elrohir’s fingers and palm caressing his length and the delicate flesh beneath nearly unmanned him in that moment.

“Sweet Eru…” he whispered shakily, eyes closing as sensation overtook him. A litany of moans and whimpers escaped him as Elrohir repeatedly fondled him, lightly stroking his rigid shaft or gently cupping the twin pouches of tenderly soft flesh below it. Overcome, Legolas buried his face in the crook of Elrohir’s neck.

His reactions were far more than Elrohir had prepared himself for and the Elf-knight’s body not only came alive with answering lust but also urged him to seek more of the prince’s sweet graces. Forgetting his resolve, he let his hand slip lower. His fingers, slick with Legolas’ nascent seed, followed the sensitive path beneath the prince’s shaft to the beginning of the cleft up his backside.

Legolas lifted himself slightly to accommodate the enticing caress, wanting something but not quite knowing what that something was. Until he felt the slight press of a finger into him. Gasping, he reared, shocked by the intimate intrusion.

His response shook Elrohir out of his haze and he swiftly eased his hand away. It was dangerous to breach the prince’s body even in that manner for if he roused Legolas’ desire overmuch, he might prove hard-pressed, even hopelessly so, to resist the young Elf’s pleas to take him without further delay.

When Legolas started to protest his withdrawal, he distracted him by curling his hand around the young Elf’s shaft and stroking it firmly. That promptly banished all other thought from the prince’s mind and he was soon thrusting wildly into the Elf-knight’s knowing hand, oblivious of everything but the ecstasy each and every stroke fetched him.

With a sobbing cry, Legolas spilled himself into Elrohir’s hand. Trembling, he held on to the twin for a long while, his breath coming in shallow gusts. Elrohir stroked his back in soothing circles, occasionally reaching up to run his fingers through slightly tousled golden hair.

He thought to wipe his other hand on the mantle then paused, wavering between good sense and desire. His fingers glistened with the young Elf’s milky release and he fought the temptation to lick them clean and thereby taste Legolas’ seed. Reason warned him that if he caved in to instinct, he would likely lose all control and bury himself in the slender body he held in his arms. Stilling his desire, he determinedly wiped his fingers clean, using the action to calm his still rapidly beating heart though not his arousal. Not quite.

Legolas became aware of the hardness that nudged his thigh through the fabric of their breeches. He drew back and glanced down, catching his breath when he saw the bulge in the Elf-knight’s crotch. As if mesmerized, he began to reach down to touch it. Elrohir quickly caught his hand and stopped him.

“Nay, I do not expect that of you,” he said.

“Why not?” Legolas protested. “You helped me. Why will you not let me do the same for you?”

“‘Tis one thing to give you pleasure or teach you the means to attain it on your own,” Elrohir explained, uncomfortably aware of the acutely thin line he was treading. “But to take my pleasure of you is an entirely different matter. Our laws forbid such intimacy with one not yet of age.”

Legolas stared at him. “Then Papa was telling me the truth? He did not make that up just to hinder me?”

“Nay, he did not.”

“But ‘tis not forbidden here.”

Elrohir sighed and eased the prince off his lap. Legolas’ nearness to the source of his discomfort made it difficult to think with much clarity.

“Legolas, in all elvendom, ‘tis only here that it is not forbidden. But you are a Sindarin prince, not Silvan. Your sire and grandsire are pure Sindar of the most noble house of the brethren Elwë and Olwë. You may rule Wood-elves yet your heritage dictates that you abide by the laws of the Eldar.”

Legolas looked at him curiously. “Did you desist ere you came of age?”

“That I did,” Elrohir replied. “The most I knew when I was your age were a few stolen kisses among my fellow younglings. No one touched me more intimately until I reached my majority. And even then it was not until a few years after that I finally lost my innocence.”

A flash of cognition hit Legolas at his words. An old explanation from many years back surfaced and suddenly gained new meaning.

“To Gildor Inglorion?” Legolas demanded, scowling in quick anger.

Elrohir shook his head in mingled dismay and amusement. “You were not even born then,” he reminded the prince. “Surely you do not take umbrage at something that occurred afore we were promised to each other.”

Legolas bit back the acid comment he wished to make but he could not dispel his displeasure. He turned his face away and stared into the distance, striving to master his surging jealousy. Elrohir sighed and made him face him once more.

“If it will ease your heart, I would have you know that ‘twas not I who submitted then.”

The blue eyes lit up in surprise. “Are you saying that you have never—?” When Elrohir nodded, he asked, “Why?”

“‘Tis not my nature to yield myself unless I can wholly trust my partner. I chose to wait for the one to whom I could entrust my all and suffice to say my waiting is not yet done.”

Legolas regarded him with a curious mixture of respect and relief. A hesitant but hopeful smile curved his lips. “Will you wait for me, rochiren?”—my knight—he asked.

Elrohir caught his breath. Once before, Legolas had asked him that same question and he had not been able to deny him. Nor could he do so now. Whether or not they eventually mated for eternity, he knew that Legolas would reap his first surrender as surely as he would be the prince’s first and likely only lover.

“I will,” he softly said.

A radiant smile lit Legolas’ face. With a giggle, he leaned forward and stole a kiss from Elrohir. Grinning, he said, “I can hardly wait!”

Elrohir half laughed, half groaned. “What are you thinking, Legolas?” he asked warily when a thoughtful expression sobered the prince’s jubilant mien.

“You said there are things you may not do with me until I come of age,” he said.

“That is correct.”

“But kissing is permitted?”

“Kissing is permitted,” Elrohir said with a smile.

“And you may think of me when you pleasure yourself?” Legolas added.

“As you may think of whoever you desire when you do the same,” the Elf-knight replied.

“That would be you, Elrohir, and you well know it!”

“I did not wish to presume though, as I said before, I do not mind and indeed am flattered that ‘tis I you keep in your thoughts.”

Legolas laughed then suddenly said, “I watched you pleasure yourself. Was it wrong?”

Elrohir hesitated. “You did so in secret,” he pointed out. “Had I known I would have stopped.”

“But is it forbidden?” Legolas persisted.

“Well, it is not expressly disallowed,” Elrohir hedged. “‘Tis not unheard of for younglings to pleasure themselves in the presence of their fellows.” His breath hitched at the sudden gleam in the prince’s eyes. “But ‘tis considered uncouth of a full-grown Elf to wittingly have one of your age bear witness to such an act!”

The gleam in Legolas’ eyes grew even brighter. “Uncouth but not forbidden,” he stated with a smile that bode mischief.

Elrohir stared at him, amazed at the leaps in reasoning the prince was capable of making when he sought to achieve his goal. Wordlessly, he nodded in affirmation of Legolas’ surmise. The gleam turned positively wicked.

In one smooth movement, Legolas straddled his lap once more. “Then delay no more, Elf-knight, and please yourself,” he whispered. “Know that it would greatly please me as well.”

Elrohir could only groan as soft lips eagerly closed in on his and determined hands insistently unlaced his breeches. Nor did he find the wherewithal to protest when Legolas took his hand and silently urged him to pleasure himself ere the prince took up his own renewed need that they might find blissful release together.

************************
Glossary:
elleth – Elf-maid
Elwë – Elu Thingol, King of Doriath in the First Age
Olwë – Elwë’s brother and Lord of the Teleri in Valinor
Peredhil – Half-elves/Half-elven

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Imladris, tuilë T.A. 242
Was there anything that could set one’s anticipation and worries on fire like the advent of one’s lover? And a relentless lover at that who determinedly tore down the walls of one’s restraint stone by figurative stone.

Elladan placed a sympathetic hand on his twin’s shoulder and gave it a bracing squeeze. But he could not quite keep a smug grin from his countenance either.

Nigh eight years had passed since Legolas attempted his first incursion on Elrohir’s sterling sense of honor and duty. That incursion had proved more successful than even Elladan had predicted for all that ‘twas he who had cautioned his brother on the certainty of just such a move on the young prince’s part. And while Elrohir did his best to inhibit further intimacy between them, Legolas did his utmost to stretch the limits the Elf-knight sought to put on what they could do.

Elrohir was a noble lord and a fearsome warrior but against the steady advance of this most comely of Sindarin princes, he was finding it difficult to hold the line.

As agreed upon years ago, Thranduil continued to send his sons for tutelage and training in Rivendell. While Legolas was indubitably the vale’s most frequent woodland guest, Galvreth and Aelluin had also made a fair number of visits while Elivorn and Lalorn had sojourned here thrice each. But Haldoron had ceased to visit the haven altogether (much to the relief of the residents of the Last Homely House) and Nimaras had come to Rivendell just once.

Dusk approached as the twins watched the woodland contingent make its way down the path to the arched gate of the courtyard of Elrond’s halls. The duty of welcoming the princes had fallen to them for their parents were busy entertaining a lately arrived delegation of human scholars and scribes from Arnor.

Once the Wood-elves had neared enough for them to recognize faces, both were surprised when they espied Nimaras amongst the siblings. They had been expecting Legolas, Galvreth and Elivorn for it was they whom Thranduil had confirmed were coming in his last missive. Furthermore, Nimaras had behaved as Haldoron during his last and only visit—critical, less than sociable and slow to tolerate the differences between the cultures of Imladris and Eryn Galen. When he at last returned to Greenwood the Great, Elrond had wryly declared his hope that Thranduil would keep his surly fifth-born at home from thereon as he had his eldest.

Considering the state of relations between the younger twin and the bronze-haired prince—lukewarm at best, frigid at worst—it was safe to surmise that the Elf-knight was not at all pleased by Nimaras’ unexpected arrival. It was Elladan who bid Lindir to have a room prepared for him.

The minstrel cum housemaster hastened away, a frown on his fair face. They would be forced to quarter Nimaras away from his brothers unless he was willing to share accommodations with one of them or they with him. That was unlikely for Thranduil’s sons favored having their own rooms and the privacy that accorded them. With that in mind, Lindir supervised the swift readying of the closest spare guest chamber to the other princes’ quarters, a room with its own private bath that lay midway down the main corridor of the residential wing a few doors away from the twins’ apartments.

Legolas had long out-grown the nursery chamber that had been his Rivendell quarters for many years. Whenever he came to the vale he now stayed in one of the three bedchambers at the end of the hallway that shared a common sitting room. Elrond had counselled the move to encourage the fostering of closer relations between Legolas and his brothers. Since never more than two of Thranduil’s older sons ever accompanied him, this spacious suite of rooms had been deemed perfect for the Sindarin princes and reserved solely for their use.

Being in regular proximity to Legolas did indeed prove conducive to the lowering of three of the older princes’ former aloofness with their youngest brother. Shorn of their habitual distance from him, Aelluin, Elivorn and Galvreth had since come to concede the absurdity of their ill-founded jealousy and appreciate Legolas’ sharp wit, wicked humor and warm affection for those dear to his heart.

This was not to say that they were now the greatest of friends but they had finally taken the first steps toward a cohesive fraternal bond and were well on their way to being the siblings they should have been from the very start. It was a development Elrond’s household had rejoiced in.

While the housekeeping staff hastened in their task, in the courtyard, the woodland party came to a stop before the waiting twins and the princes dismounted. The brethren greeted them one by one, starting with Elivorn, the most senior prince, as protocol dictated. When at last they welcomed Legolas they were pleased when he remembered his royal manners and conducted himself with all propriety.

Elrohir did silently admit with a pang of regret that the exuberant greetings of years past would be sorely missed. That is, until he felt the slightest flick of a tongue tip against his lips when he and Legolas exchanged their customary kiss.

A raven eyebrow rose in tacit admonishment but Legolas merely responded with a smile that barely stopped short of a mischievous smirk. Elladan smothered a guffaw at the subtle by-play between his brother and the younger Elf. Legolas was learning his princely lessons very well indeed, including the uses of subterfuge.

* * * *

Elrond and Celebrían duly welcomed their young guests that evening with a festive meal. But Nimaras was displeased by the lack of formality at a dinner in honor of royal-bloods such as he and his brethren.

His older brothers took it upon themselves to reprimand him for his pique. Taking him aside to a quiet corner of the great hall, they reminded him that ceremony was no longer necessary since Thranduil‘s sons—well, most of them—were already such familiar faces in Rivendell that the Lord and Lady of the vale treated them more like favored kin than mere guests.

“If you had not been so averse to coming with us on previous visits, you would not now feel such a stranger here,” Galvreth pointed out.

Nimaras took umbrage at the rebuke. “I do not care to be as kin to those who once partook in the slaying of their own,” he retorted.

“School your tongue,” Elivorn sharply said. “Lord Elrond does not bear the stain of that sin nor do any of those who make this realm their home. Do not look for reasons to demean the Peredhil, brother. They have not wronged us in any way and indeed have proved worthy friends even when ‘twas not required of them to show us good faith.”

He nodded in Elrohir and Legolas’ direction where the pair stood together, embroiled in merry conversation with other Elves of the household.

Nimaras could not gainsay his brother’s statement but he scowled nevertheless, fretful as always when reminded of what Legolas had achieved at so early an age—the acquirement of a gallant and desirable mate-to-be afore any of his brothers. His mood darkened further when he saw Legolas curl a proprietary arm around Elrohir’s waist, a gesture that elicited an answering smile from the Elf-knight.

Elivorn and Galvreth exchanged exasperated glances before shaking their heads in resignation at their brother’s near compulsive recalcitrance.

The dinner ended fairly early that the visiting princes might take their ease soonest after their long journey over the mountains. The twins retired to their own bedchambers as well after seeing the woodland Elves to theirs.

But Elladan’s earlier jovial mood had suffered some diminishment, wrought by the unmistakably covetous gleam in Nimaras’ eyes whenever he directed them at Elrohir. He voiced his misgivings to his twin before they parted for the night.

“Did you note his envy each time Legolas laid claim to you?” he queried.

Elrohir nodded. “He did not trouble to hide his feelings. I own myself surprised. One would have thought his interest engaged elsewhere by now.”

Elladan snorted. “How could it when he believes he must have something before he can discard it? But I think there is more to his rancor than frustrated desire, Elrohir. He wants you but cannot have you and therefore dislikes you for evoking such feelings in him as much as he covets you. And he continues to harbor resentment against Legolas for possessing what he cannot have. I wager he has nursed it without surcease all these years.”

He placed a cautioning hand on his twin’s arm. “I cannot shake the suspicion that he is biding his time, waiting for an opportunity to strike hard at both of you. Do not trust him, muindor.”—brother. “Never let your guard down in his company.”

“I never have,” Elrohir replied. “But for Legolas’ sake, I must remain on civil terms with him at the very least. A binding would make us kin-by-marriage and the last thing I desire is to be the reason for a rift in the family. However, I cannot stop him from behaving like a cur if he so desires. Nor do I care even should it bring censure down upon his head. I have no compunction about letting him provide the rope to hang himself.”

Elladan shook his head. “If only it were a simple matter of impoliteness toward you. Beware. He will not be content until he has done you both some grievous hurt.”

Never one to dismiss the older twin’s sage observations, Elrohir assured his brother that he would be wary at all times of the fifth woodland prince.

* * * *

Toweling himself dry after a quick bath, Elrohir began to walk to his bed then thought better of going to sleep in naught but his skin. That was fine on all other nights but when a certain Wood-elf was a-visiting… Better to be safe than sorry—or as safe as he could be when faced with such silken graces as Legolas eagerly presented to him. He went to his wardrobe and drew out a bed-shirt and trousers.

He had just donned the trousers when he sensed a presence out on his balcony. He glanced up in time to see a flash of pale gold before a lithe figure dropped to the balcony. Hastily tying his trouser laces, the twin snatched up his shirt and drew it on ere the grinning Elven prince walked up to him.

“And just what are you about, ernil daur?"—forest prince—Elrohir inquired.

A moment later, he heartily wished he had not asked when Legolas pressed up against him with a feline smile, hands snaking up under his open shirt.

“What else but to seek time alone with you?” he purred before sealing his mouth to Elrohir’s in the scorching kiss he was not permitted to greet him with in public.

The Elf-knight groaned at the audacious gesture. Splendor of Eru! Legolas was too passionate for his own good. Or Elrohir’s for that matter. At least for now.

The feel of the prince’s lithe form flush against his was more than he could resist after their long separation. The thin fabric of Legolas’ shirt did little to mute the warmth of the young, smooth flesh underneath.

His steely control slipping, Elrohir wove his arms around the young prince and drew him into a kiss of such scalding intensity, Legolas thought he would be branded by it for eternity. His yearning for more intimacy with the Elf-knight overriding all else including good sense, he attempted to lure Elrohir to the bed.

Through the haze of his lust, Elrohir recognized the peril of giving in to Legolas’ desire. Breaking their kiss, he led the protesting prince to the hearthside couch instead.

“Elrohir—”

“Nay, pen vuil”—dear one—“you know ‘tis not right.”

Legolas pouted but sank down onto the couch beside Elrohir and turned into his embrace. Seeking to soothe the prince’s ruffled feelings, Elrohir drew him once more into a spate of searing kisses that made him forget his disappointment for a while. His mood sweetened once more, Legolas sighed with bliss and settled in Elrohir’s arms.

“You really should not make a habit of being alone with me,” Elrohir murmured, pressing a kiss to the prince’s white brow. “‘Tis unseemly behaviour and—ah, Legolas!”

The abrupt cessation of his reproof was due to the sudden latching of the prince’s lips onto a dusky nipple. Once more Legolas was testing the bounds of Elrohir’s forbearance in his mission to discover more ways to achieve physical intimacy with him.

Elrohir had so far stayed himself from doing likewise to his precocious intended but his self-possession was wearing dangerously thin. It was only with great difficulty that Elrohir managed to extricate himself from the prince’s much too delightful ministrations only to have him transfer his attention to his neck.

“Do not test me,” he pleaded. “I am not made of stone!”

“Nor am I,” Legolas whispered against his throat, eager lips sucking at the sleek flesh. “Please, Elrohir, I missed you so much!”

He clambered onto Elrohir’s lap. Again claiming the Elf-knight’s mouth, he pressed himself insistently against Elrohir. The evidence of his need strained against the confines of his trousers, hot and rigid and yearning for relief. Elrohir could not suppress the like response of his own body and Legolas gasped with shocked delight when their groins touched and he felt the heated hardness that met his own. Driven by pure instinct he ground his hips against Elrohir and thereby wrenched nearly all of the Elf-knight’s control from him.

Realizing his cause all but lost, Elrohir decided to give in to what he still deemed permissible while he yet had some vestige of control left. Tugging Legolas’ trouser laces loose, he plunged his hand into the prince’s crotch and summarily captured his moist shaft in his grip.

Legolas reared into his touch, desperate to ease himself of the ache that Elrohir’s hand both wrought and soothed. Yet he remained aware of Elrohir’s own need. Shaking with the pleasure of the twin’s caresses, he corralled his scattered wits and tore Elrohir’s laces loose. Before Elrohir could stop him, he curled his fingers around his thrumming shaft and stroked it as ardently as Elrohir stroked his.

“Legolas, you must not—!” Elrohir started to protest but the prince determinedly silenced him with his lips while his hand fondled him to an even more adamantine state.

Not even one of Elrohir’s resolve could weather such a storm of rapturous sensation and he finally surrendered to it. With a growl he fastened his lips to the base of Legolas’ throat, eliciting a moan of pleasure from the prince. Legolas faltered for a moment, distracted by the feeling of a hot mouth wandering the length of his neck. Drawing a ragged breath, he collected himself and continued to pull at the Elf-knight’s now slick length.

Warm cream spilled over their hands and dappled their bared bellies as they climaxed one after the other. Legolas collapsed against Elrohir, breathing harshly in the wake of his release. He heard the Elf-knight shakily exhale then mutter an exasperated, “Elbereth preserve me from headstrong Wood-elves.”

He lifted his head and gazed at Elrohir. Saw the regret and dismay that warred with satiation in the twin’s grey eyes.

“Surely you do not rue bringing me such joy,” he murmured.

“Not your joy but that we overstepped our bounds once more,” Elrohir said. “Each time we do, we endanger my promise to your father to preserve your innocence until you come of age.”

“I am not exactly innocent any longer,” Legolas pointed out.

Elrohir groaned. Sweet Eru! If they continued thusly, Legolas’ only claim to virginity would be the lack of a full breaching either of his own body or that of his first bedmate’s.

“Do not tell me that you will not permit this again,” Legolas said, administering light kisses to the Elf-knight’s cheeks and lips. “I will not forego such bliss, Elrohir. And you cannot be so cruel as to deny me this.”

“Ah, do you wish to make an oath-breaker of me, Thranduilion?” Elrohir grumbled.

Legolas laughed. “Then I suppose I should return forthwith to my room lest I lead us into further indiscretions,” he offered.

He snatched a kiss from his betrothed. As he responded to the caress, Elrohir noted the unmistakable scent of spent seed that clung to them.

“Do have a wash if you intend to join your brothers,” he counselled. “‘Tis not wise to flaunt what we do.” He had not forgotten what had occurred in the wake of his and Legolas’ first tryst in the northernmost reaches of Eryn Galen.

They had arrived back in the Woodland Realm just in time for the evening meal. But instead of freshening up for dinner as Elrohir had prudently done, Legolas recklessly appeared before his father and brethren still attired in his riding clothes and bearing the unmistakable aroma of their encounter. Thranduil had summoned Elrohir at once and demanded an explanation. It had taken all of the Elf-knight’s eloquence coupled with Legolas’ spirited defense of his honor to convince the Elvenking of his youngest son’s still intact virginity.

Recalling that contretemps as well, Legolas chortled. “As if they have not yet guessed at what we do.”

Elrohir shook his head. “It still would be best not to give them reason to think that we have broken faith with your sire. Admit it or not, Legolas, but we have come close to doing so many a time.”

The prince giggled. “We would not if you always had your way.”

“I am serious, ernilen”—my prince. “Galvreth and Elivorn will likely hold their tongues but Nimaras might not. Would you have him carry sordid tales to your father? Which reminds me—why did he come with you of a sudden? Last he was here, he made his dislike of Imladris quite clear and, from his demeanor this evening, ‘tis obvious that has not changed.”

Legolas shrugged. “Father insisted he further his knowledge of what lies outside Eryn Galen. He informed him that if he did not join us a few more times at least, he could expect to progress no further in rank either in court or in our army.”

“And you did not have aught to do with your sire’s decision?” When Legolas shook his head, Elrohir relaxed in relief. “So he has come under threat of being held back. Well, let us hope his disposition will improve somewhat during this visit. Though I very much doubt he will change his mind about our fair valley in his stubbornness.”

“Most likely not. Or about you either.” This last was uttered with a touch of asperity.

Elrohir looked at the prince in some surprise. “Surely you are not jealous,” he said.

Legolas crossed his arms a little peevishly. “Mayhap I should be,” he tartly remarked. “You seem over concerned about Nimaras and his opinions this eve.”

Elrohir’s answering laugh was tinged with acerbity. “I care not a whit about him or what he thinks. But what he might wreak on you out of spite I do care about. ‘Tis why I do not like it when you draw his ire even in jest. I cannot abide having him hurt you as he did of old, my heart.”

Legolas caught his breath at the endearment. He gazed wonderingly at Elrohir.

“Dare I hope that our betrothal is no longer only one of need but also out of-of love?” he whispered.

Elrohir stared at him, realizing his slip too late. He had long held his tongue, not wishing to tie Legolas to him so soon by a declaration of requited love. Not when the prince was still below age and might undergo a change of heart. But hope shone so brightly in Legolas’ eyes that he knew he could hide his feelings no more.

“Indeed you may,” he softly said. “I have loved you for many years now, my Greenleaf.”

The felicitous brilliance in Legolas’ eyes was a sight he would not have missed for all the gold in Arda. He drew the prince into his arms, feeling the latter’s elation in the trembling of his form and the snugness of his embrace.

“Why did you not tell me?” Legolas demanded, his throat tight with his unruly emotions.

“What if you should turn to another when you reach your majority?” Elrohir replied. “I would not have you honor our betrothal merely for duty’s sake.”

“Turn to another?” the prince repeated, glancing at him. “As if there was such a one that could compare to you! I will not change, Elrohir, neither my mind nor my heart.”

Elrohir sighed and touched his forehead to Legolas’. “Then will you bind to me upon your fiftieth year, melethen?"—my love.

Legolas’ cry was of purest joy and he sealed his mouth to Elrohir’s in such blatant desire and heartfelt feeling that it nearly brought tears to the Elf-knight’s eyes. Ah, to know this wondrous creature his for eternity was almost more happiness than he could bear.

The prince began to rub against him in renewed arousal. It was fortunate that they had just spent themselves for it gave Elrohir time to buttress his will and resist the urge to mark his admission of love by joining their bodies. Shifting Legolas on his lap so that the young Elf straddled him once more, he reached for their lengthening shafts and stroked them together. Legolas shuddered in delight, moaning against his mouth. He thrust wantonly into Elrohir’s hands, the movement causing his shaft to slide repeatedly against the Elf-knight’s length.

Elrohir groaned as pure sensation ran along his nerves, bordering on excruciating in its intensity. Somewhere in the back of his pleasure-befuddled mind, the thought arose that their first true coupling would be explosive to put it mildly if this was any indication of what ecstasy they could expect then.

Casting restraint aside, he hungrily plundered Legolas’ mouth, weaving a hand through the prince’s shining locks at his nape and drawing him even closer while his other hand pulled ever more rapidly on their straining shafts. It did not take long for them to reach completion. A low guttural cry heralded Legolas’ release before the prince spent himself, his seed mingling with the cream of the Elf-knight’s climax.

Panting, Legolas slumped in Elrohir’s arms and laid his head on the twin’s shoulder. After a breathless moment, Elrohir glanced down at their seed-smeared bellies and the milky stains on their trousers. He weakly chuckled.

“Valar, you don’t only need a wash, Legolas, but a change of clothing as well!”

* * * *

He obediently followed Elrohir’s counsel. Slipping back into his room by way of his window, he washed away the evidence of their tryst and donned a fresh set of nightwear. When he ventured into the sitting room outside his chamber to see what his brothers were doing, he smelled quite innocently of soap and water.

But no amount of ablutions could erase the glow on his countenance that bespoke an intimate encounter. The others quickly guessed what he had been about and with whom.

Awaiting Nimaras’ next move, Galvreth lifted his eyes from the Strategy board to look speculatively at his younger brother. Seated at the writing desk where he was composing a letter to their father, Elivorn did the same. Galvreth took a moment to divine how Legolas could have slipped out of the suite unnoticed. At length, he huffed and shook his head.

“Let me guess,” he dryly said. “Your window?”

Legolas grinned and nodded. Elivorn laid down his quill and turned in his seat to regard him with some severity.

“I trust the Peredhel has not broken his word to Adar?”—Father—he queried.

Legolas rolled his eyes in droll fashion. “I did my best but his will is too strong,” he cheekily replied.

“Such admirable restraint,” Nimaras muttered, a faint sneer in his voice.

“Admirable indeed,” Legolas cheerfully agreed, refusing to allow Nimaras to mar his merriment. “It seems to be a common trait amongst the Half-elven. I wager you know whereof I speak, Galvreth.” He smirked with satisfaction when the argent-haired prince was seen to turn a slightly rosy hue. “Do you not think it maddening?”

Elivorn came to Galvreth’s rescue. “You will know a first hard ride if you continue to tease Elrohir so, tôr dithen”—little brother—he lightly chided.

Legolas chortled. “As to that, I shall not be the only one who will,” he retorted.

While Elivorn nearly choked at the revelation, Nimaras looked up sharply from the gaming table, disbelief etched on his face. Galvreth laid a disapproving frown on Legolas for being much too forthcoming about so personal a matter.

“What! Can that be true?” Elivorn said. “I had not thought either of the twins untried in any area of bed-play.”

“You can believe it,” Legolas drawled. “I think it will be most interesting to test Elrohir’s mettle when the time comes!”

With that, he bid his brothers goodnight and blithely returned to his room, pointedly ignoring Nimaras’ envious stare. Galvreth, however, did not.

“‘Tis not meet to covet another’s promised,” he quietly warned.

Nimaras met his eyes then scowled and returned his attention to their game. Galvreth studied him long and curiously before following suit.

**********************************
Glossary:
tuilë – Quenya for spring
Thranduilion – son of Thranduil
meet – suitable or proper (archaic)

To be continued...

Chapter Text

The days flew by with a swiftness Legolas could not like. Not when each rising of the sun brought his sojourn in Rivendell closer to its end ere he felt it had truly begun. But that was the nature of true love. Reunions however sweet and fervent never quite seemed enough to make up for lengthy partings.

“I cannot believe ‘tis almost autumn,” he was heard to complain more than once. “Why does time have to pass so swiftly when one is enjoying one’s self?”

Even the bubbly presence of the twins’ infant sister born the previous year could not mute the sharp pang of their impending separation. True, Arwen was a lively distraction, demanding as she was of everyone’s attention and affection. Certainly she was a novelty of sorts to the woodland princes who had never known the joys and rigors of growing up with a sibling of the female variety. Why, Nimaras despite himself could not help being fascinated with the little elleth though he took pains not to be seen displaying his curiosity overmuch.

But delightful a babe as Arwen was, she could not mitigate Legolas’ unhappiness. No, not even the chance to mark his 43rd begetting day with his Elf-knight was much solace. Now that he had gained Elrohir’s assurance of requited love, all the more did he yearn to be constantly with him and for longer lengths of time than of old.

“I miss my first visit here,” he murmured one lazy afternoon as they lounged together in one of the reading alcoves in the library. “I spent a whole year with you, Elrohir. ‘Twas a most wonderful time for me.”

“For me as well,” Elrohir agreed, brushing strands of golden hair from the prince’s forehead. Legolas was still not fond of plaiting his long tresses and went without as often as possible. “But take comfort from the certainty that when we bind, our times together will be counted in years and not mere months.”

“That cheers me greatly,” Legolas admitted. “Yet I wish we need never part at all. Spouses should spend their lives together, not reside in separate realms.”

Elrohir sighed. “Were we not our fathers’ sons, that would be feasible. But it is our fates to put duty and the welfare of our folk first while we still dwell east of the Sea.”

Legolas looked at him curiously. Sitting up a little straighter, he said: “I just realized that you have not spoken of the choice of the Half-elven. Not even yours.” He eyed Elrohir a little anxiously. “Surely, since you have asked me to bind to you, that means that you are inclined to follow your father’s example?”

Elrohir smiled. “I am. But I would like to make my formal avowal with Elladan. I hope you do not mind if I delay on his account.”

“Elladan is not yet decided?”

“He has no compelling reason to choose either way just yet. Though I warrant it may be another prince out of Greenwood who will prove persuasive enough to convince him to take the straight road.”

Legolas shook his head. “But they have not even progressed beyond the bounds of friendship and so cautiously at that. I know Galvreth is eager for much more. What stays Elladan?”

“His reluctance to give up his freedom so soon,” Elrohir replied. “He fears Galvreth will be too great a temptation should he give in to his desires this soon. But after all, he has seen how well one woodland prince has thoroughly ensorcelled his brother. How can he be certain that he will be immune to just such another when his own twin was not?”

Legolas flushed with pleasure at the implicit compliment. He happily sank into the Elf-knight’s arms, closing his eyes in bliss when Elrohir bestowed a number of tender kisses on his temple and cheeks. Thankfully, he was in a languid mood and did not try to initiate a bout of improper behaviour.

Though most of the residents of the Last Homely House already suspected them of unchaste conduct, Elrohir did not care to supply them with visual evidence of their less than innocent dealings. Least of all in a chamber meant for the pursuit of higher learning or the satisfaction of curiosity of the intellectual kind.

Not that they spent the entire spring and summer in naught but the indulgence of their passion for each other. Elrohir was ever conscious of his primary role as guide and teacher to his betrothed and Legolas did not forget the other purpose for his sojourn in the elven refuge. For never did Thranduil’s sons come away from Rivendell without some new gleaning of knowledge or skill unless they willfully ignored or declined what was freely offered. In this Haldoron had excelled and Nimaras looked fit to follow in his less than estimable footsteps.

He did not go out of his way to antagonize the valley folk as his eldest brother had done on occasion but neither did he bother to keep company with them and usually behaved with such condescension that they did not seek his company either. As such it oft fell to the twins to provide him with non-fraternal companionship even if it went against their very grain.

Elladan did his best to spare his brother the trouble of constant vigilance when in Nimaras’ presence. But when duty called the older twin away, Elrohir always exercised utmost caution when dealing with the bronze-haired Elf.

He strove to avoid discussing topics that might instigate an argument or spat. And always did he ensure that either Elivorn or Galvreth were about lest Nimaras bring some charge of wrongdoing against him. That would pit his word against the former’s and that could lead to rancor and distrust. And so he deemed it wisest to always have others around to bear witness to the propriety of his comportment with the fifth-born prince.

He did not fear Nimaras. But he did abhor the thought of Legolas belatedly bearing the brunt of his brother’s ire because of something Elrohir might have said or done.

Nimaras however conducted himself with restraint, keeping his sarcasm and quick temper in check for the most part. That was not to say that he made no biting comments or waspish remarks to either Elrohir or Legolas. But he did abstain from indulging his usual propensity for venomous pronouncements or malicious asides. Still and all, Elrohir did not lower his guard. Better to overdo caution than later rue undeserved leniency.

His wariness was not without basis. He was aware that in Eryn Galen there had been a few attempts to besmirch his name in the hopes of dimming Legolas’ regard for him. But for the prince’s unstinting refusal to listen to the Elf-knight’s detractors, Elrohir knew that the latter’s ranks would have swollen enough to ensure that his name would be so blackened, no amount of polishing would ever return it to its pristine state. But Legolas had shut his ears to those who sought to malign him and even turned on them in umbrage and that had nipped any more efforts to disrupt their betrothal in the bud.

Elrohir could not blame the would-be interlopers. Thranduil’s prognostics were proving most accurate. So beauteous and noble of bearing was his youngest son that he was coveted by nearly every eligible Elf in the forest kingdom. More than ever, his betrothal to Elrond’s son was heartily rued by those nursing either higher ambitions or baser motives.

When he held his woodland prince in his arms and knew his worshipful affection, Elrohir could only thank the Powers for the good fortune of having been gifted with so precious a lover. And he prayed that nothing untoward would occur to tarnish their relationship. Like Legolas, he cherished every moment they spent together and looked forward to the day when they could abide together as avowed mates and the lengths of their partings would be briefer than their times of oneness.

Alas, the eve of the Greenwood princes’ departure finally arrived and with lamentable speed in the lovers’ eyes. With heavy hearts, they did their best to steel themselves against the loneliness that was sure to follow once they were apart. Strange how a simple declaration of mutual affection could affect them so that what they had endured afore with equability they now braced themselves for with dread.

As was their custom, the woodland princes invited the brethren for an evening of convivial talk and drink out on the garden porch. With their departure on the morrow, they could drop their self-imposed deportment for one night and behave as they wished. One stricture remained in place however. Until he reached his majority, Legolas could imbibe only a flask’s worth of ale, no more than a cup of miruvor and absolutely none of the Dorwinion wine their father had sent them toward the end of their stay.

The last was a delicious but particularly potent libation that was guaranteed to reduce Dwarves to gibbering idiocy, Men to under-the-table insensibility and Elves to unwonted tipsiness even when consumed in moderation. Elves not yet of age were not permitted to partake of the heady liquor at all. But that was a justifiable precaution for the constitutions of young Edhil were not as tolerant of the effects of alcohol and a brew of the strength of Dorwinion wine could wreak havoc on their physical wellbeing.

Sure enough, Legolas complained of feeling just a tad light-headed before too long. Elivorn promptly bade him to return to his room and sleep his mild wooziness off. Legolas rose from his seat with so forlorn an expression that Elrohir offered to escort him thence. The others save for Nimaras grinned at the sudden revival of Legolas’ spirits upon receipt of the offer.

They made their way to the princes’ suite, arms around each other, mounting the stairs in leisurely fashion as if to delay the moment when they must part for the night. But hardly had they entered Legolas’ room when the prince turned about and wrapped his arms tightly around Elrohir, pressing his face against his shoulder.

“I’m going to miss you so much,” he whispered, his voice raw with melancholy. “I have always hated being parted from you but ‘tis worse even now. How can I bear the waiting? Why must we desist, Elrohir? Why can you not take me now?”

Elrohir forced himself to speak past the tightness in his throat. “You know full well why that is not possible, Legolas. Would you break your father’s trust in us? In me?”

“Yet the memory of your loving would go far in sustaining me,” Legolas mournfully said. “Eru help me but I love you so much it almost hurts.” He sealed his lips to Elrohir’s, drawing out the kiss until they were both breathing quite heavily.

Unmindful of the others still awaiting Elrohir’s return, the young archer pulled him toward the bed. Mayhap the feeling of bereavement at his beloved’s imminent departure played the greatest part in Elrohir’s choices. Or the knowledge that Legolas’ urgency was driven more by love than lust. Or it could have been the alcohol he had consumed—not sufficient to render him drunken but enough to lower his usual self-possession. Most likely it was a combination of all these factors that impelled him to take unprecedented action.

He did not protest when Legolas insistently led him to the bed and even permitted the prince to pull him down atop him. It did not take long before they were locked in a spate of searing kisses and scalding caresses and Elrohir could not resist plying his lips and tongue on the smooth, white flesh of Legolas’ throat, eliciting the sweetest sounds he had ever had the pleasure to hear from the archer. He felt the upward thrust of the prince’s hips and sensed his desperation and frustration. Indeed, ever since Elrohir had made his admission of love their trysts had been fraught with just such simmering emotions. But some minute shard of sense still remained to the Elf-knight and he managed to retain his resolve not to sully his betrothed any further than had already occurred.

Marshalling his last shreds of self-control, he opted for a much more intimate approach to pleasuring Legolas but still stopped short of actually coupling with him. Reaching between their bodies, he yanked the prince’s breech laces loose and released his straining shaft. Before Legolas could guess what he was about, he moved down the archer’s body and without a word closed his lips around the rosy column of flesh that rose proudly from its bed of golden curls.

Legolas gave a strangled gasp, shocked by the unfamiliar sensation of wet warmth engulfing him so snugly. Losing himself completely in the rapture of Elrohir’s knowing ministrations, he bucked helplessly into the mouth that drew upon him, one hand buried in the Elf-knight’s raven mane, the other clutching the sheet beneath him so tightly it was a wonder he did not tear it asunder. Soft cries and whimpered moans escaped the prince as he was brought closer and closer to a peak of ecstasy he had not previously experienced.

He spent himself with a sobbing cry, shuddering his release into the younger twin’s mouth. It was many seconds before he could bring himself to open his eyes and face the starkness of reality once more after having known such soaring bliss. Only when Elrohir drew him into his arms did he do so and that was only so that he could look upon his beloved’s countenance.

“That was-that was unbelievable,” he rasped. “Ah, Elrohir, never have I felt such-such rapture.” Kissing the twin, he tasted his own seed and started in disconcertment. He drew back, his face suddenly aflame. “You swallowed— I mean…” he stuttered. “Elrohir, did you-did you truly wish to do that?”

Elrohir softly chuckled. “Rest assured that I did,” he murmured, pressing his lips to a rosy cheek. “Indeed I look forward to the day when I might know your favors in full. I expect I will be more than compensated for all my waiting.”

“Oh.” Legolas fell silent for a moment, burying his burning face in the Elf-knight’s neck.

Snuggling against Elrohir, he inadvertently nudged the twin’s groin with his thigh. Elrohir tried to stifle his groan at having his own still unrelieved shaft prodded. But Legolas heard and quickly perceived the cause of his distress.

“Let me do the same for you,” he said, hurriedly undoing Elrohir’s breeches. Elrohir stopped him from proceeding further however.

“Nay, I have already transgressed enough,” the twin protested. “Let us not add to my list of sins, long as it is to date.”

When Legolas saw how adamant he was on this regard, he relented and resorted to their usual way of pleasuring each other instead.

“But surely you do not object to this,” he whispered, sneaking his hand into Elrohir’s breeches. He did not give Elrohir a chance to respond either in consent or dissent but kissed him ardently while he fondled and stroked him to completion.

* * * *

When Elrohir at last made his way back to the others, he perforce had to put up with their amused innuendos. He had taken much too long in seeing Legolas to his room and the archer’s brothers made their suspicions of the reasons behind the delay quite clear. Fortunately, they did not take him to task for what had clearly been a lusty interlude with their youngest sibling, not even Nimaras though he obviously was not pleased either.

“Is our brother proving too gamesome for you?” Elivorn snickered as the younger twin sat down beside Elladan.

Elrohir rolled his eyes in resignation at having to put up with much teasing for the rest of the evening, his cheeks reddening somewhat despite his attempt at nonchalance.

“Oh pish, Elivorn,” Galvreth laughed, tossing Elrohir a cup. “I warrant ‘tis not Legolas’ playfulness that has our esteemed Elf-knight all hot and bothered but the abominable timing of it!”

Elladan joined in their mirth earning him a glare from his brother. Feeling a little embattled, Elrohir silently debated the prudence of taking to his bed soonest. For one thing, he was not quite up to fending off their lubricious jibes however harmless they were—even Nimaras deigned to toss in a jape or two albeit a touch sarcastically. For another, he was nursing a discomfort that could only be taken care of in the privacy of his bedchamber.

He had not told Legolas that despite his release, his shaft had not grown completely lax. Simply put, his body was not fully content. Even now the luscious tang of the young prince’s seed lingered on his tongue and thus inspired the renewed arousal of his desire. It was as if his admission of love for Legolas spurred his body into clamoring for much more than a mere hand’s touch.

It wanted oneness. It desired a joining of far more closeness. He began to wonder whether it would have been better to allow Legolas to pleasure him as he had the prince.

Elrohir quickly rebuked himself for even entertaining the thought. He could not allow Legolas to take him into his body in any manner. Not until the prince’s majority, he firmly reminded himself. But his self-chastisement did not eradicate the continued hardness of his shaft. Not so long as he could still taste Legolas’ seed on his tongue.

Desperate to banish the reason for his problem, he reached for the Dorwinion wine and poured himself a brimming cupful. He downed the rich liquid with scarcely an intake of breath. The diminishment of the taste of his comely prince in his mouth engendered a slight depletion of his nether stiffness. Eager for complete relief, he poured himself another cup prompting Galvreth to caution him half-jestingly.

“Have a care, meldiren!”—my friend—he said. “That is not watered ale for you to quaff it so straightly!”

“Aye, ‘tis strong enough to down an Elf,” Elivorn added. “What more one of the half-blood? Elladan, do talk some sense into him.”

Elrohir nodded his acknowledgement of their warnings but drank his second cupful nonetheless though with a little less haste. A third was not long in following.

Elladan chuckled and, patting him on the back, remarked: “Really, Elrohir, a dip in the Bruinen would work more swiftly and without the threat of a raging headache come morning!”

Galvreth and Elivorn guffawed upon realizing what ailed the Elf-knight but Nimaras shook his head with what seemed to be distaste. Neither twin nor his brothers paid him any mind, accustomed as they were to his ready contrariness to anything he deemed not to his liking.

Elrohir winced when his fourth cup yielded him both an abated arousal and a none-too-steady head. “I had best call it a night,” he said, flinching inwardly when he heard the slight slurring in his speech.

He rose to his feet rather gingerly lest a sudden movement send him stumbling to his knees. Elladan caught him by the arm and he looked back to find his twin regarding him with some concern.

“Methinks you will find it hard going to get to your room without tripping over your feet,” Elladan commented. “Let me help you thence.”

Flushing at the smothered laughter of the others, Elrohir firmly demurred, embarrassed that his inebriation should be witnessed by the princes, more so since they knew just why he had indulged himself too fulsomely.

“I can manage by myself,” he insisted. “Stay with our guests, tôren.”—my brother. “After all, ‘tis their last night here.”

A flick of his eyes made it clear he was referring to one guest in particular.

Elladan grinned faintly and nodded. “Very well. Be off with you then.”

But several minutes later, as he sought to negotiate the stairs, Elrohir realized he should have accepted his brother’s help after all. Elbereth, the wine was not only potent but also acted with as much speed as miruvor. Only miruvor did not set one’s head spinning and make it difficult to plant one foot in front of the other with any semblance of symmetry.

He finally made it to the second floor but with much difficulty and many a pause for steadiness on the way. And when he peered down the lamp-lit corridor, his door seemed impossibly far away to his liquor-befuddled senses. He took a determined step forward and staggered sideways instead, barely avoiding a complete fall by leaning against the wall. Cursing himself for letting pride get in the way of brotherly assistance, he made another attempt to walk toward his room. This time it was not the wall that saved him from falling but a strong grip on his arm.

He was pulled back from his near tumble and turned to find himself facing an amused Nimaras.

“What-what are you doing here?” Elrohir managed to ask, too tipsy to don his usual cool demeanor with the bronze-haired prince.

“I, too, seem to have imbibed far more than I can tolerate,” Nimaras replied. “Dorwinion wine is a treacherous brew I must say.” He looked down the corridor. “Is it just me or is the hallway longer than I remember?”

“‘Tis that damn wine,” Elrohir retorted. He pulled his arm from Nimaras’ grasp and turned to go. The prince caught him just in time to keep him from slumping to the floor. He vaguely noticed that the woodland Elf seemed just a trifle unsteady himself.

Nimaras giggled at their shared strait. “Come, let us lean against each other and mayhap we shall reach our rooms still upright,” he said. “I have no wish to be found flat on my face on the hallway floor by the housekeeping staff tomorrow morn!”

Elrohir peered owlishly at him then nodded in agreement. The motion abruptly sent his head spinning and he swayed then lurched forward. Nimaras’ suggestion was the last thing he recalled of the evening with any lucidity worth mentioning.

***************************
Glossary:
elleth – Elf-maid
miruvor – the cordial of Rivendell
Edhil – Elves

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Golden sunlight streamed into the chamber with near annoying brilliance and cheerfulness. Or so it seemed to the recumbent figure on the wide-four poster bed. With a groan Elladan lifted his head from his pillow and scowled as the light all but blinded him. Of course, that was an exaggeration but to the bleary-eyed Peredhel that is what it felt like.

He forced himself to rise from bed and trudge the short distance to his bathing room for a bracing wash. Much as he would have preferred to burrow under the covers and sleep until past noon he knew that was not advisable. Duty called and he needed to answer that call.

Their woodland guests would be leaving this morn and he and Elrohir had to see them off. He groaned again as a distinct throbbing in his temple reminded him of his overindulgence the eve before.

Splendor of Eru, why did he have those three cups of Dorwinion on top of the ale and miruvor he had already consumed? As he splashed water on his face, his fuzzy senses cleared somewhat and he found the wherewithal to grin.

Well, if he felt like Orc leavings at the moment, what more his twin? Elrohir had downed four brimming cups of the blasted liquor when he returned to the porch and Elladan knew he’d already had two before he escorted Legolas to his room. His grin grew more marked as he envisioned just what the archer had done to put his brother in such a patently needful state.

He had just emerged from the bath chamber, refreshed and more or less awake, when several sharp raps on his apartment door and a barked “Elladan!” heralded the advent of his brother.

The odd urgency in Elrohir’s voice spurred him to hurry across the sitting room and yank the door open. And gape at the apparition that stood before him.

Elrohir was still dripping from an early morning bath, his dark hair clinging to his neck, cheek and shoulders in wet tendrils. But he had not bothered to dry himself ere dressing and his shirt and breeches stuck to his body in damp patches. Yet what struck Elladan most was the utter wretchedness on his twin’s pallid countenance.

“Valar, Elrohir!” he gasped. “You look like something a Warg dragged in!”

Elrohir brusquely brushed past him and strode into the sleeping chamber. Elladan closed the door and followed him, wondering at his demeanor. To his dismay, he saw Elrohir’s shoulders begin to shake and heard the sounds of smothered sobs drift back to him.

“Sweet Eru!” he exclaimed, catching Elrohir in his arms. “What ails you, gwanneth?”—younger twin.

Elrohir slumped against him and fought to still his weeping. At length he managed to collect himself and he looked at Elladan, his eyes bright with tears.

“I have sinned, Elladan,” he choked out. “Ah, brother, what shall I do now?”

“Sinned? How? And against whom?”

“Legolas…”

Elladan stared at him. “Tell me,” he said, leading his distraught twin to the hearthside couch.

Hardly were they seated when Elrohir began to speak with scarcely enough coherence for Elladan to understand him.

Out spilled a sordid tale. Of awakening naked in a strange bed. Amidst soiled sheets. Beside a slumbering equally unclothed Elven prince. Only it was the wrong Elven prince. Elrohir could barely keep his bile down as he described his horror upon recognizing Nimaras.

He had not given the situation further thought but had thrown on his rumpled clothes, fled the chamber and raced to his own apartment. After emptying his roiling stomach into the chamber pot, he had drawn a hot bath, the hottest he could stand, and soaked in it for nigh an hour, scrubbing himself nearly raw to be rid of the scent of an Elf he loathed with ferocity. Elladan gazed at him in shock when he ceased his narration.

“But why?” he blurted out. “Why did you agree to go with him?”

“I do not know!” Elrohir cried. “I do not recall anything beyond the moment when he suggested we help each other to our rooms. Everything else is naught but a blur to me.”

“Elbereth, do you think he forced himself upon you?” Elladan anxiously asked.

Elrohir shook his head. “Would that I could claim that charge. But there was no sign of a struggle as far as I could tell. I must have been there on my own volition. He did not force me, that much I believe.” He began to shake once more.

Elladan tightened his hold on him. “I am here, brother,” he murmured soothingly. “Take heart, I am here.”

It was several minutes before Elrohir calmed down. Only then did Elladan voice a troubling thought.

“You will have to tell Legolas,” he cautiously said.

Elrohir jerked back and stared at him in horror. Before Elladan could stop him, he leaped to his feet and started to pace to and fro in agitation.

”Tell him?” he said, his tone verging on hysterical. “I might as well call off our betrothal forthwith!”

“Would you rather Nimaras brought him this tale?” Elladan pointed out. “He would make it seem worse than it is and blacken you beyond redemption. You must tell Legolas and be the first to do so!”

Elrohir covered his quivering mouth with his fist. “He will not forgive me.”

“You cannot know that,” Elladan insisted. “You were intoxicated. You were not fully aware of your conduct. Surely he will take that into consideration.”

“‘Tis no excuse. Or should every human wife pardon her husband for wenching while in his cups?”

“That matters not. You must go to him at once, Elrohir. ‘Twill be far more ruinous should Nimaras get to him first.”

Elrohir went utterly still.

“I will lose him,” he whispered finally. “As sure as the sun rises each morn, ‘twill be the end of his regard for me. My confession will be the death knell of our love.”

Elladan felt his throat constrict when he felt his brother’s fear and anguish. He rose and went to him, shaking his head vehemently.

“I do not believe that,” he insisted. “If he truly loves you, he will pardon this one transgression. Eru’s blood! You have borne yourself with honor and restraint all these years! Only this once have you stumbled and ‘twas not even a true coupling but a drunken tumble.” He grabbed Elrohir by his arms. “Legolas loves you. I cannot believe that he will sunder your betrothal because of this single failing.”

Elrohir looked at him with eyes that were far from comforted. “I wish I could be as confident as you,” he said. “But you are right. I must tell him whatever the cost. There is no helping it.”

“Then go and array yourself as befits your station,” Elladan told him. “Besmirched you may be in his eyes this day but you will still comport yourself as a prince of Imladris.”

Elrohir sadly nodded. When he turned to go, Elladan thought of something and caught his wrist, staying him a while longer.

“Elrohir, I must know. Did he…?” Elladan swallowed. “Did he take you?”

Elrohir looked away for a moment then shrugged wearily and turned back to face him. He sighed. “I cannot be sure,” he whispered. “But I felt some discomfort when I woke up. It faded during my long bath and I feel nothing now.” A tear trickled down one pale cheek. “That is all I know for certain.”

Elladan threw an arm around his drooping shoulders. “Ah, what wrong have you done that so grievous a hurt should befall you?”

“Mayhap ‘tis the Valar’s retribution for my failure to keep my trust.”

“Because you assuaged some of your needs and his? Fie, brother, then we should all be struck down to an Elf for being mere flawed beings!”

Elrohir bowed his head. “I must go and dress. Will you stand by me should he take my confession ill?”

“You know I will.”

* * * *

Elladan placed a calming hand on Elrohir’s shoulder before they entered the princes’ suite. The Elf-knight showed no visible manifestation of his perturbation save for the slight pallor of his complexion. But Elladan could sense his brother’s thrumming apprehension and did his best to bolster the latter’s faltering resolution.

His heart sank when they stepped into the sitting room to find all four brothers gathered within, their baggage already collected in a neat pile by the door. Elivorn was discussing something with the Elf-lieutenant who would head their escort while Galvreth was conducting a last sweep of the bedchambers to make certain that nothing of import had been left behind. He glanced sharply at Nimaras, wondering if the prince had already apprised his youngest brother of the previous night’s events. But Nimaras appeared engrossed in his weapons and seemed not to notice their arrival. As for Legolas…

To his and Elrohir’s surprise, as soon as the young Elf marked their entrance, he beamed brightly and at once hurried to enclose Elrohir in an affectionate hug.

“You are tardy, my Elf-knight,” he chided. “I thought we would perforce say our farewells in the courtyard in full view of everyone.”

“I-I needed to recover from last night’s indulgence,” Elrohir managed to say with only the faintest hint of a stammer.

When Legolas chucklingly nuzzled his throat, the younger twin darted an incredulous look at his brother then at Nimaras. He wiped his expression clean of emotion when Nimaras finally looked up and laid eyes on the brethren. Elrohir tensed and braced himself for the expected verbal blow.

But Nimaras only squinted at them, took note of their impeccable appearances and apparently hale constitutions and broke into his trademark scowl.

“Neither of you look worse for wear,” he complained growlingly. “How is it that Half-elves withstood the effects of Dorwinion while we pure-bloods could barely open our eyes this morning?”

Galvreth looked at the twins and grinned, his smile growing fonder when it was directed at Elladan. “Mayhap it is the Maia in them that shields them,” he suggested.

“Hmph.” Nimaras’ scowl deepened. “‘Tis a strange thing that they should be so pert and bright-eyed when I cannot even remember the knave who dared sully my beddings last night.”

Elrohir managed to smother a shocked gasp while Elladan peered closely at the bronze-haired Elf.

“You had company last night?” he inquired with feigned pleasantness.

“I assume I did.”

“Assume? Do you not know?”

Nimaras shrugged. “I have only my stained sheets to inform me that I did not pass the night alone.”

Elladan’s eyes narrowed. “And how do you know ‘twas not only your own seed that marked your beddings?” he bluntly asked

Nimaras snorted, bristling at the older twin’s seeming skepticism. “Because I am raw where I ought not to be if I had merely spent myself by my hand. Nay, ‘tis clear I rode some Elf last eve. But who I rode…” He shook his head in frustration. “A pity. I should like to know who serviced me so well that I might avail of his favors again next I visit here.”

While he spoke, Elrohir had blanched, the prince’s assertions confirming his awful suspicion. Forcing down a shudder of revulsion, he clutched Legolas even more snugly to him. The archer looked at him curiously.

“What is wrong, seron vell?”—beloved—he softly asked.

Elrohir steadied his nerves as best as he could. “Legolas, may I have a word with you?” he said. “In private?”

Legolas smiled. “‘Twas what I was hoping for.”

Taking Elrohir’s hand, he led the Elf-knight to his vacated room. Elladan watched them go, his expression grim. So absorbed was he in his worry for his twin that he was verily startled when a hand landed on his shoulder. He turned to face an inquiring Galvreth.

“What ails Elrohir?” the silver-haired Elf asked. “He seemed not quite himself.”

Elladan swiftly considered what he could reveal of his brother’s plight then decided against saying anything when Elrohir had not told Legolas anything as yet.

“‘Tis not my place to speak of his troubles. That matter only Legolas may be privy to. But you are kind to concern yourself with Elrohir’s woes, Galvreth.”

Galvreth hesitated then quietly said, “I cannot help it. He is your brother and very dear to you.”

Elladan bit his lip at the veiled allusion to Galvreth’s feelings for him. A part of him yearned to give in to his attraction to Legolas’ brother. But another part, the more prudent part, urged him to practice caution where his heart was concerned lest he fall as deeply into the abyss of love and desire as Elrohir had. He was not ready to tie himself down to anyone or anything except for family and duty to land and folk. Yet he could not quiet his regret either at the hurt and frustration Galvreth harbored but never expressed to anyone, least of all to him.

Impulsively, he clasped Galvreth’s hand as the latter was withdrawing it. “Elrohir and I will visit Greenwood within a five-year if circumstances permit,” he said. “I pray you will still welcome my company, ernil daur.”—forest prince.

Galvreth’s eyes widened at the unexpected gesture of affection. Collecting himself, he nodded and replied a shade hoarsely, “Always, mellon vell.”—dear friend.

With a suddenness that bespoke a surge of courage that could easily trickle away, Galvreth lifted their linked hands and before Elladan could guess his intent he turned the Elf-warrior’s hand over and dropped a swift kiss on his palm. Just as hastily he let go and strode across the room to join Elivorn, his ivory cheeks markedly coloring.

Elladan stared after him, caught in momentary thrall. The sensation of surprisingly soft lips against the flesh of his palm seemed as scorching as a smoldering ember freshly pulled from the fire. He clenched his fist, unable to banish the feeling and not certain whether to savor the pleasure of it or fear it.

While Elladan debated which course to take, Elrohir struggled against the insidious urge to hold his tongue. Legolas had turned to go into his arms as soon as he closed the door behind them. He looked at his beauteous love and felt a reluctance to mar the young Elf’s felicity just when they were about to part.

Nimaras did not remember, he thought again with some disbelief. Elbereth, he felt as if he had been gifted with a second life. Yet Elladan’s counsel continued to resound in his mind. If by ill chance the Elf-prince should regain his memory, what then?

“Elrohir, what is wrong?” he heard Legolas ask again, anxiety limning every word.

With a resigned sigh, Elrohir forced himself to speak. “Legolas, there is something you should know,” he began.

“And what may that be?” Legolas pressed.

“About last night… What I did…” Elrohir faltered, unable to continue without pause.

His hesitation cost him for Legolas preempted any further outpourings with a softly exclaimed: “Oh that! Please, melethen”—my love—“do not fret over that. I know you did it to indulge me. And while I confess I was quite overcome by the experience and somewhat abashed, I assure you I do not regret it in the least. So why should you?”

Elrohir gaped at him in consternation. Sweet Eru, Legolas thought he was referring to their torrid tryst. He gazed at the prince’s happy countenance, the azure eyes shining with love and trust and adoration. Elrohir felt his resolve wither in the face of such fervent devotion. Though guilt and shame wracked him, he could not bring himself to reveal his fall from grace.

He caught Legolas in a tight embrace and sealed their mouths in a long, hard kiss that set them both trembling violently. Legolas hung on to him, lost between the opposing poles of lust and trepidation wrought by so ardent an onslaught.

When at last he was released, the prince leaned weakly against the Elf-knight, his heart beating wildly and his chest heaving with breathlessness. It was then that the dam broke and Legolas began to sob.

“I will miss you so,” he wept. “Ah, how will I bear the years, Elrohir? They seem so empty when I am without you.”

Elrohir snuck a hand under his chin to cup it and tip his face upward. He kissed the younger Elf’s tears away before bestowing a tender caress on his lips.

“I, too, find the loneliness nigh unbearable when we are apart,” he murmured. “All I can do is hold on to my memories of our time together. Every word and look and deed of yours I keep close especially in the deeps of the nights when I feel the wanting most keenly.”

Legolas moaned and burrowed further into the younger twin’s arms. They stood there, locked together in love and sorrow, until Galvreth discreetly called them forth.

They were composed enough when they rejoined the others and proceeded to the courtyard where the princes’ warriors awaited them. There the woodland brothers bid their hosts a formal farewell, Elivorn conveying on the others’ behalf their gratitude to Elrond and Celebrían for seeing so meticulously and warmly to their wellbeing.

A collective chuckle greeted the sight of the dark-haired prince tickling Arwen beneath her tiny chin until the infant elleth fairly shrieked with glee and wriggled in delight in her mother’s arms. Mayhap Elivorn was imagining a girl-child of his own now that he had won his long-pursued lady-love, Erestor was heard to murmur to a grinning Glorfindel.

But at last, the princes mounted their steeds, Legolas snatching a last hug from his Elf-knight before swinging himself onto his horse. The Greenwood party slowly rode out of the courtyard in single file. Elrohir did not take his eyes off his golden prince until the archer was well beyond the range of his Half-elven vision.

He sensed Elladan come up beside him. Knew what the older twin would say.

“You did not tell him, did you?” Elladan murmured.

Elrohir sighed. “I could not,” he admitted.

“When then?” Elladan persisted. “If ever.”

“I cannot say,” Elrohir replied. “Mayhap when I find the courage for it.” He bit his lip and looked shamefacedly at his twin. “Say it, muindor.”—brother. “I am a craven fool.”

Elladan blew out his breath. “Would that it were that simple. You are caught in a hard place and I will not pretend that I would do any better in your stead.” He curled his arm around Elrohir’s shoulders and squeezed him sympathetically. “But I still counsel you to confess last night’s dealings when next you meet him, Elrohir. Nimaras’ fortuitous forgetfulness may not be permanent. You have been granted a reprieve, that is all.”

“I know,” Elrohir whispered. He lifted his eyes to gaze unseeingly in the direction the woodland Elves had gone. “I will tell him when I feel brave enough to face his certain wrath. Or worse, his disillusionment with me.”

His own heart almost breaking in empathy with his brother’s misery, Elladan held him even more lovingly.

“If Legolas’ love for you is true, he will set aside your mishap though his initial reaction be indeed of rage. If he does not, then you will know his heart not fully devoted to you and therefore unfit for an eternal mating. In which case, painful though it will be, you would be better served not to bind yourself to him.”

Having delivered the unpleasant truth, he sought to ease its sting. “But he belongs with you as you belong with him. Your spirits know this and have already formed a primal bond and even should strife tear you apart, ‘twill not be sufficient to sunder that bond. This I truly believe, Elrohir. I feel it deep in my very bones. Come what may you will be together. You will find a way.”

Elrohir’s answering smile was wan but grateful. “You hearten me, gwaniuar”—older twin. “Always have I drawn hope and strength from your wisdom and great heart. Thank you, tôr vell.”—dear brother.

Elladan smiled back encouragingly then urged his twin back to the house. “Come, we have duties that demand our attention,” he said. “Best you forget your troubles for the moment in matters worth your while.”

***********************************
Glossary:
Peredhel (pl. Peredhil) – Half-elf/Half-elven
miruvor – the cordial of Rivendell
forthwith - without delay
elleth – Elf-maid

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Eryn Galen, ethuil T.A. 247
Gloom enshrouded the pathways leading to the elven realm within Eryn Galen. There was scant evidence of the normal cheer of a forest newly come awake with the passage of spring. No trilling birdcalls or chattering of squirrels to signal the return of beasts of air or land. And an odd scarcity of the vivid blooms and brightly verdant foliage that had heralded the onset of the season. The very air itself was thick and heavy with sorrow and regret. The grief of the Wood-elves permeated the woods with which they shared so close an affinity.

The Crown Prince of the Woodland Realm was dead and his brother now stood in his place.

The brethren Elladan and Elrohir gravely pondered the events that had taken the life of Thranduil’s firstborn while they slowly made their way along the elven track that would bring them to the heart of the Silvan Elves’ forest kingdom. They were aware of the eyes that marked their journey and of the silent scurry of feet as border guards hastened to send word of their advent to their king. But they took little notice for their thoughts were on the erstwhile heir to the woodland throne and their hearts sympathized with the father and brothers he had left behind.

They had just crossed Anduin when their party met Thranduil’s messengers bearing the doleful news to Imladris. After apprising the twins of the tragedy, the messengers had continued on their sad errand while the brethren quickened their pace that they may reach Greenwood the Great soonest.

All it had taken to deprive the Woodland Realm of its heir apparent was an orkish incursion. That and Haldoron’s ill-founded cockiness. The late prince’s overweening self-confidence had been instrumental in his untimely demise.

He had led a contingent of scouts in pursuit of a small band of orcs that had trespassed on the Wood-elves’ territory. Cautioned by his soldiers to be wary of possible reinforcements the further they ventured from the bounds of their realm, he had ignored the warnings nonetheless, his belief in elvish superiority in strength and skill overshadowing his good sense.

The result had been disastrous. And lethal.

Pursuer and pursued had encountered another goblin band near the fringes of the north of the forest. Under different circumstances, the newcomers would very likely have turned on their fleeing comrades to divest them of what plunder they bore and turn them into the main meal of the day. For orcs had no true loyalties after all. But they had common hates and their hatred of the Elves was one of the greatest of all the hates the goblin tribes shared.

And so they had joined forces and by sheer numbers alone near overwhelmed the Wood-elves. Only the timely arrival of a troop of warriors led by Aelluin and Legolas had prevented a complete massacre. But not timely enough to spare Haldoron’s life.

The twins considered the effect of his death on the Woodland Realm. Haldoron may not have been beloved of his people as his father was and some of his brothers. He had been far too stiff-necked and oftentimes over-proud even for the fiercely independent Silvan Elves’ tastes. But he was still one of their own, an Elf of Eryn Galen and their monarch’s eldest son and that was enough to garner him the heartfelt mourning of the woodland folk.

Their impending arrival was long known afore they reached the Elven-king’s cavernous palace. Legolas came forth to welcome them as did Galvreth who of Thranduil’s sons was counted closest to the twins save for his younger brother. But Aelluin came in his father’s stead, the most obvious evidence of the great change in the royal hierarchy. The son Thranduil regarded as his de facto heir was now the Crown Prince in name as well.

Legolas did not stand on ceremony but flung himself into Elrohir’s arms, his red-rimmed eyes attesting to his yet unspent grief. Elrohir looked at him wonderingly while he stroked his back and shoulders comfortingly. Haldoron had never forged a close friendship with Legolas. Likewise, Legolas had only kept scarce company with the eldest prince, put off by the former’s aloofness and lack of interest in his welfare. Yet Legolas evidently felt his brother’s loss keenly and mourned for him accordingly.

“Legolas, what is it?” he murmured against the archer’s hair.

Legolas shook his head and only pressed his face against his shoulder. Elrohir did not question him further but, keeping an arm around him, pulled him gently along as he and Elladan were conducted to their quarters. He watched his twin talk with Galvreth and Aelluin and noted the older princes’ grief. But it was not quite the same as Legolas’ sorrow and he wondered at the difference.

Eager to scrub away the grime of long travel, he bade Legolas await him in his room while he and Elladan sought the baths. They did not speak much as they bathed or linger in the warm waters. The somber mood of their hosts had affected them greatly, more so Elrohir who was troubled by his betrothed’s demeanor. They parted right after with Elladan reminding Elrohir of their audience with the king later that evening ere the dinner hour.

Returning to his chamber, Elrohir found that Legolas had already unpacked his clothing and sorted them, putting away the unsoiled pieces in the tall wardrobe by the bed and dropping the rest in the woven laundry basket in the corner nearest the door. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he wordlessly handed over a clean shirt and long breeches to the younger twin, then bowed his head.

Shedding his bathing robe, Elrohir regarded him curiously, worried about his uncharacteristic reticence. Only after he had donned his clothes did Legolas finally look up, his eyes glittering with barely dammed tears. He reached behind him and withdrew one of Elrohir’s shirts. This he extended to the Elf-knight with a shaking hand. Rust-hued bloodstains marked the left shoulder of the garment.

“When were you hurt?” he asked in a trembling voice.

Elrohir started in surprise. “We ran into a band of brigands west of Anduin,” he said, taking the shirt from him and crossing the room to toss it into the laundry basket. “They held humans captive for ransom and we gave chase.”

“And how were you wounded?”

“One of the scoundrels sought to slay the captives. I blocked his first blow.”

“With your own body?” Legolas demanded as Elrohir walked back to him, the trembling in his voice deepening.

Elrohir shrugged. “There was no other way,” he said. “No one else was close enough to stop him. But I knew he could deal me nothing worse than a shallow cut. Indeed, it is already quite healed. See for yourself.” He pulled open his shirt to reveal the fresh scar just below his shoulder. “I was never in great danger if that is what troubles you.”

Legolas swallowed hard then began to shake much to Elrohir’s shock. He sat down quickly beside the prince and pulled him into his arms.

“What is wrong?” he exclaimed. “This is not the first injury I have sustained. Why does it dismay you so much?”

The archer lifted fearful eyes to him. “It could just as well have been fatal,” he whispered. “What if you had not managed to evade the brunt of that blow? I will not lose you, too, Elrohir, will I? I could not bear it if something should happen to you!”

Elrohir stared at him. “Legolas, whence these fears? I am hale and whole. And I have no intention of running on my ruin as Haldoron so rashly did.”

“I know, I know, but… Ah, I missed you so these past years and then this had to happen and… I felt so lost and you were not there to hold me!”

He leaned against Elrohir and began to weep in earnest. Sensing that his beloved needed to unburden his heart of much anger and anguish, Elrohir said nothing in reply but rubbed his back soothingly and waited out his tearful outburst. It was several minutes before Legolas finally calmed down enough to speak coherently.

“We hastened to their aid as best we could when we received word of their straits,” he said. “But by the time we arrived, nigh half his troop had been cut down and he – he had been among the first to fall for he led their charge. And we were too late to keep the orcs from defiling his body. They hewed at it until we could scarcely recognize him. I never understood before just how evil these wretched creatures are until I saw what they did to our dead. And to think that you have faced them time and again and braved their malice!”

Elrohir shook his head. “As you will face them more and more, Legolas. ‘Tis the chance all warriors of any worth take.” He gazed at his distraught intended searchingly. “But there is more to your distress than this I think. Please tell me what grieves you so.”

Legolas returned his gaze mournfully. Taking a deep breath, he whispered, “He never befriended me even when I sought his regard. Always he looked at me with disdain and did not think me fit company.”

“He envied you, Legolas,” Elrohir insisted. “‘Twas not anything you ever did to him.”

“Mayhap. But it matters not. I had still hoped to win his regard one day. To be his friend and brother.” He shivered and closed his eyes. “Now I will never know it. Not unless he and I walk in the glades of Aman some far off day that is so distant I cannot begin to fathom it.”

Elrohir held him closer, his own heart clenching at Legolas’ sorrow. There was really little he could say in consolation save the bald truth. “‘Tis his loss for refusing to recognize the value of your love,” he softly pointed out. “But I think he will realize this as he contemplates his life while he sits within Mandos’ hallowed halls and he will come to rue his folly. Then mayhap you will indeed walk with him once again and he will call you ‘brother’ with all due affection.”

Legolas sniffled then looked at him hopefully. “Do you think so, Elrohir?” he whispered.

“With all my heart,” Elrohir answered. “Haldoron was not evil, only stubborn and foolish and that led him to this pass. But I dare say enforced contemplation will do him much good and when you meet again I am certain he will be the eldest brother you had always longed for.”

He staunchly met Legolas’ pleading gaze, knowing the other needed his unflinching reassurance to salve his troubled heart. When Legolas seemed to subside, he kissed the archer’s smooth temple before sealing their lips together in a tender kiss. For a moment, Legolas seemed to freeze, his clutching hands on Elrohir’s shoulders stilling.

In the next instant, however, he hungrily deepened their kiss, refusing to release Elrohir’s lips, and snaked his arms around the Elf-knight’s neck tightly. Elrohir gasped at the sudden heat that sprang up between them. He had not been expecting such a turn in their reunion so soon. Not in the wake of Legolas’ obvious grief.

But he soon realized that Legolas needed physical comfort as much as he had Elrohir’s emotional support. Tension raged within the young Elf’s body; tension born of a myriad feelings ranging from his yearning for Elrohir the past several years to the last vestiges of anger at himself and guilt for failing to save his brother. Irrational really, this last, for there was nothing he could have done as his own recounting of the situation demonstrated. But grief clouded people’s good sense and Legolas needed to expend his in order to regain reason.

Elrohir let him do as he wished, exerting only enough restraint to keep the prince from overstepping his bounds, mindful as always of the constraints placed upon them. In seconds, his throat was covered with scarlet bruises and his lips were swollen from the prince’s fervent assault on them. More molten kisses and searing caresses later and Legolas was all but rubbing himself hard against Elrohir, desperate not only for release but also for the unique intimacy of a carnal encounter.

Intuitively guessing that merely stroking the archer to completion would not entirely relieve him, Elrohir slid down to kneel on the floor between Legolas’ thighs. Swiftly unlacing the prince’s breeches, he freed his aching length and summarily drew his tongue down the rosy column repeatedly, eliciting frenzied whimpers from Legolas, before enclosing his lips around the firm flesh.

Legolas groaned helplessly when he was all but swallowed whole. With every draught upon his length, he spiraled ever higher into mindless rapture. He grasped the Elf-knight’s wide shoulders, trying to withstand the pleasure a bit longer and failing ere many more minutes passed. Digging his fingers into the silk of Elrohir’s sable mane, he explosively spilled himself, shuddering as he was ardently drank down.

Elrohir rose to sit beside him once more, catching Legolas when the archer swayed woozily against him. Legolas rested in his embrace until his breathing deepened once more and his heartbeat slowed to normal. Only then did he open his eyes and raise them to look gratefully at the Elf-knight.

“Thank you, seron vell”—beloved—he whispered. “I had wanted your touch for so long.”

Leaning forward to kiss Elrohir, he let his hand drop to the younger twin’s thigh, close to his groin. To his surprise, Elrohir visibly flinched, a sharp hiss escaping him. With a puzzled frown, Legolas pulled back and gazed at him wonderingly then down at his hand. He stared at the marked bulge in Elrohir’s crotch then quickly looked up to meet unmistakably lust-darkened eyes.

Smiling faintly, Legolas murmured, “Let me help you.” But when he would have gone down between Elrohir’s legs, the Elf-lord stopped him.

“But Elrohir—” Legolas protested.

“Not until you are of age, ernilen”—my prince.

“You are much too noble, Elf-knight!”

Elrohir sighed. “Nay, not noble enough. I have already done far more than what your sire would have countenanced did he know that you needed such servicing.”

“Or that you have been seeing to my needs at all,” Legolas said, unable to suppress a smirk. “Still, you must let me see to yours. Though…” He looked down again and skeptically noted the extent of Elrohir’s arousal. “…methinks this will take far more than my meager ministrations to appease!”

Elrohir groaned. He could not deny Legolas’ contention. He felt as he had their last eve together. Indeed no mere stroke of a hand however skillful or fulsome would suffice to tame his desire. The closeness of their spirits and near binding of their hearts were manifesting themselves in the driving need of their bodies for greater familiarity. Of coming as close to union as possible if actual union was not yet permitted.

By pleasuring Legolas with his mouth, he had afforded the prince the ecstasy of a vicarious breaching, the ultimate bodily intimacy between two beings. The same could not be said for him. Yet that was precisely what his body was clamoring for.

He hesitated, uncertain as to the wisdom of taking matters a step further. But he recalled what had occurred the last time he’d denied himself a more complete release. A chill snaked its way up his spine even as the heat in his groin seemed to intensify. He was acutely cognizant of his current vulnerability to the temptations of the flesh. True, he had erred unknowingly but he did not care to use that as an excuse for having erred at all. He would not fall into that trap again; only a fool did not learn from his mistakes.

“Elrohir?”

Legolas’ inquiring whisper decided the matter for him. The sound of the young prince’s hushed voice uttering his name just so had more potency than an erotic ballad crooned by a scantily clad siren.

He sealed his lips to Legolas’ and bore him down beneath him. He heard the archer’s breath hitch in astonishment and some apprehension. Pulling back he silently undid his breech laces, freeing his rigid shaft, all the while holding Legolas’ mesmerized gaze. But when he drew the prince’s trousers down to his knees, Legolas broke that gaze and peered down in confusion.

“What-what are you going to do?” he asked, his eyes riveted on their nether regions, his quavering voice betraying his bewilderment and fear.

Keeping a tight leash on his raging need, Elrohir cupped his chin and made him meet his eyes. “Trust me, melethron”—lover—he murmured. “I promise I will not despoil you.”

Legolas stared at him then drew a shaky breath and nodded. He lay back, his effort to calm his anxiety in plain sight. The picture he made was utterly endearing and utterly enticing. Elrohir forced himself not to contemplate stripping the archer to his skin lest he break his word to the young prince.

Kissing Legolas once more, he gripped the young Elf’s thighs and parted them slightly. He slid his seed-slick shaft into the snug space between.

Legolas gasped against his lips in shock then groaned in surprised bliss when Elrohir lowered his body to trap his length between them, inducing it to harden once more. Using the friction of the prince’s enclosing limbs and their bellies surging against the other, the Elf-knight wrought pleasure for them both that Legolas had never thought possible much less conjured in his wildest imaginings.

He moaned with each thrust against him. Instinct kicked in and he pressed upward that his shaft might rub even more firmly against Elrohir’s abdomen while tightening his thighs further about the hard flesh they berthed. The ensuing sensations promptly undid him, inexperienced as he was in controlling his body’s reactions. He could not hold back his sobbing cries when the rapturous pressure in his groin abruptly uncoiled and ecstasy erupted in its place. He clung fiercely to Elrohir while spurt after spurt of creamy seed marked his culmination, a greater, more breathtaking one than any he had yet known. A similar warmth seeping between his legs and Elrohir’s sharp gasp and shaking shoulders told him his lover had found blissful relief as well.

The sheer sensuality of what they had done brought a further rush of deep color to the archer’s already flushed cheeks. Elbereth, but if this was but a portent of what a true coupling was like—! He wrapped his arms more snugly around Elrohir’s shoulders, relishing their closeness and wishing with all his heart that they did not have to wait for two more agonizing years to finally know union in all senses of the word.

* * * *

Thranduil was noticeably subdued that eve when the twins were ushered into his august presence. Not only grief haunted the Elven-king but some measure of self-reproach as well.

It had been no secret to the insightful of mind that Thranduil had lost confidence in Haldoron’s ability to rule their people wisely and well. That he had looked to his second-born Aelluin to be the true power behind the throne when he relinquished it though Haldoron would wear the crown. Now Haldoron was dead and there was no longer need for discretion. But guilt there was aplenty though not even the most spiteful of detractors would have claimed that Thranduil had desired his heir’s demise in order to make way for his more capable second son. No, it was simply and understandably a father’s guilt at not having been able to protect one of his progeny.

His children were no less affected. Legolas was not alone in brotherly grief though the extent and nature of his regret differed from the rest. After all, Haldoron had gotten along with his other siblings for the most part. Legolas rued lost opportunities, the might-have-beens had fate been kinder; the others would miss Haldoron’s actual presence – his face and voice and opinions, even the misguided ones.

That sense of acute loss showed itself in the faces of the older princes who were in residence—Aelluin, Galvreth and Lalorn. Elivorn and Nimaras were missing. They were out on a mission of vengeance, pursuing and exterminating the remnants of the orcs who had brought about their brother’s death.

Elrohir could not help heaving a sigh of relief upon learning of their absence. Five years had passed since that still hazy misbegotten night spent with the bronze-haired prince but he was not any more at ease with the thought of being in the latter’s company than he had been in the immediate wake of that heartily regretted episode. And there was still the matter of confessing his part in it to Legolas.

He did not know how long his and Elladan’s visit to the Woodland Realm would last but he knew he would finally have to reveal all to Legolas ere they parted once more. There simply was no putting off that evil hour any longer. Not if their pending nuptials were to be based on a foundation of truth and trust fundamental to any relationship of the heart.

***********************
Glossary:
ethuil – Sindarin for spring

To be continued…

Chapter Text

It was nearly two weeks into the twins’ visit ere the avenging party of scouts returned. But days before their arrival, one of their number came with news of what had transpired. The news heartened the Wood-elves and balmed their pained hearts.

Elivorn and Nimaras had tracked down and cornered the Orcs they’d pursued for many days. What followed had been a pitiless slaughter. The beasts deserved no mercy in the Elves’ opinion. Not one Goblin would return to its noisome den in the Misty Mountains or come back to plague the great forest again. And as a warning to all others who thought to brave the Silvan Elves’ wrath, the Orcs’ carcasses were decapitated and dismembered, the headless trunks along with armor and weapons gathered into a heap and torched and the heads mounted on tall stakes around the blackened remains of the grisly bonfire.

Such retaliation would not bring back the Elves’ dead. But the knowledge that their loved ones’ deaths had been avenged provided them with some measure of gratification. And with the prospect of peril from orkish or human vermin considerably reduced for the foreseeable future, the Woodland Realm would know some peace again.

Thranduil and his sons shared their subjects’ muted jubilation. And so did the brethren Elladan and Elrohir who had come to hold these proud and primal cousins of theirs in highest esteem. And for at least two princes in particular, deep in their regard though one of the twins did not yet permit himself to acknowledge it much less indulge it.

The scouts returned to a heroes’ welcome and Elivorn and Nimaras were much lauded for a task well done. In the relief and gladness that followed, even prior differences were set aside for a spell and Legolas was as warm and fulsome in his greetings to Nimaras as he was with Elivorn.

Still, Elrohir could not allay his unease when he laid eyes once more on the bronze-haired prince. Even Nimaras’ cool indifference was not sufficient to sooth his fraught nerves. Realizing he would not know tranquility of heart or mind unless he told Legolas the whole truth soonest, he resolved to have a long and private talk with his intended that very eve right after supper.

But as fortune would have it or the lack of it, before he could spirit Legolas away, Aelluin invited the twins to join the family for an after dinner hour of drink and gaming. Elrohir could hardly refuse the invitation and even less compel Legolas to forego a familial gathering. And so he duly showed up at the gaming room, determined to take Legolas aside as soon as courtesy permitted.

As it was, Thranduil did not stay overlong, preferring to turn in early after spending so many nights in troubled slumber, worrying about the welfare of his sons and their soldiers. Elrohir smiled when Legolas came to sit by his side, placed his drinking cup on the small table before them and relaxed into his encircling arms.

In his father’s presence, Legolas always tried to maintain some decorum. But when only his brothers were about, he was freely affectionate with his Elf-knight. Elrohir decided to let a few more minutes pass before asking Legolas to come away with him for that much needed talk.

They had not spent any time together this day. At least, not by themselves. Thus, Legolas had cheekily waylaid Elrohir as the younger twin made his way to the family gathering. The resulting slightly tousled state of their hair and clothing was courtesy of a hasty grope and a spate of fevered kisses in the tiny curtained alcove a few paces away from the gaming room.

Legolas had explained away their rosy cheeks and mild breathlessness as due to a merry race down the hallway. Their abrupt and somewhat noisy entrance interrupted an ongoing game of Strategy between the king and Lalorn and earned them a pair of royal eyebrows raised in mild reproof of their unseemly behavior.

Thranduil did not question the veracity of Legolas’ claim but it was possible he had an idea about just what his youngest had been up to if his faint smile as he turned back to the game was any indication. Legolas’ brothers however had no qualms about inquiring as to their most junior sibling’s activities.

From his comfortable position on the long divan beneath the great arched windows of the chamber, Aelluin made the first volley. “I saw the strangest thing on my way here,” he commented with spurious solemnity. “That alcove down the hallway? For some reason, its curtain had been drawn. And what’s more, it moved of its own accord though there was not the slightest breeze to ruffle a hen’s feathers. What think you, Legolas? Ghosts perhaps?”

Before Legolas could respond, Galvreth snorted and quipped, “No ghost would dare haunt these halls. Father would take it by its spectral ear and toss it out forthwith. You know how he hates having strangers roaming about, poking into his business.”

A collective chuckle resounded in the chamber as the others recalled how their esteemed sire usually dealt with trespassers. He was fair if stern and most did not suffer more than a good drubbing of their dignity. But Orcs and brigands could expect no mercy from the Elven-king and their ends were oft frightful should Thranduil himself decide their fates.

“But really, Legolas, must you choose so conspicuous a place to dally?” Elivorn grinned. “What if Ada had noticed?”

“Who says he did not?” Lalorn chimed in as he rose from the Strategy table to pour himself some ale. “Did you not see his smile after listening to Legolas’ ridiculous explanation?”

“‘Twas not ridiculous,” Legolas protested though without heat. “We did race here.”

“You mean Elrohir made a dash for it with you in hot pursuit,” Elladan said, ignoring his future law-brother’s mock scowl. “No doubt our honorable Elf-knight sought to preserve your virtue at this late date. What is left of it, that is.”

“Elladan!”

While Elrohir rolled his eyes in exasperation after his outburst, the rest burst into guffaws. At length, Aelluin gestured for a modicum of quiet and attempted to muster some seriousness of demeanor himself.

“I hope you have not gainsaid Father’s wishes, tôr dither”—little brother—he said. “That would greatly disappoint him.”

“Nay, we have not coupled.” Legolas grinned at Elrohir’s mild blush. “We fully intend to await my majority.”

“Ah, then I take it you still have not partaken of the delight of riding a Peredhel,” Nimaras drawled.

Scarcely had he finished speaking when Elrohir tensed as did Elladan. And the atmosphere in the room suddenly turned a shade less amiable. Galvreth turned reproving eyes on his brother.

“School your tongue, Nimaras,” he sharply chided. “‘Tis not meet to use such crude language with the gwenyn.”—twins.

Nimaras retorted, “I am merely informing our dear brother of the bliss he is missing. I can personally vouch for it.”

While Legolas glared at him, Elrohir caught his breath in alarm. Here was impending doom and he could summon neither wit nor will to forestall it. He glanced frantically at Elladan but before the older twin could act, Legolas found his tongue.

“What do you mean?” he demanded when, upon glancing at Elrohir, he saw his sudden pallor.

“Only that I finally recalled that the Elf who graced my bed that last night in Imladris and so capably, too, was your beauteous intended.”

A feather dropping would have seemed a thunderclap during the silence that descended on the group. Not a one stirred for several moments as shock and disbelief made their rounds of every unsuspecting soul present.

“You lie!” Legolas finally exclaimed, his cheeks flushing. He turned to Elrohir beseechingly. “Tell me it isn’t so, Elrohir!”

When Elrohir failed to answer but only turned an even paler hue, Legolas knew his brother’s words for cruel truth. With a harsh cry, he leapt to his feet, overturning the small table with a crash and spilling ale bottles and various drinking cups to the floor and fled the chamber, heedless of Elrohir’s calls to him. His face now as white as the snow that perpetually capped the peaks of the Misty Mountains, Elrohir raced after him.

The rest lurched to their feet in various states of perturbation. Nimaras had only a second to smirk ere he was slammed hard against the wall behind him by an irate Elladan.

“Blood of Eru!” the older twin snarled. “You bided your time well, Orc spawn, and chose the most evil moment to strike at them!”

“How dare you judge me, Half-elf,” Nimaras spat back. “Did not Elrohir hold his own tongue all these years? If there is aught who should be chastised ‘tis he for playing my brother false and keeping the truth from him for so long!”

“And you knew full well why he kept his silence,” Elladan snapped “Yet you did not leave it to him to break it but foisted that foul news on Legolas without compunction. ‘Twas no act of concern but a deliberate attempt to hurt them!”

“I was not alone in that sordid tryst, Elladan,” Nimaras sneered. “Do not heap all the blame for your brother’s troubles on my head. And indeed I would counsel you to follow him for I doubt Legolas will treat with him kindly now.”

With a curse, Elladan roughly pushed him aside and stormed out of the chamber. Pausing only long enough to glower furiously at Nimaras, Galvreth followed him. The remaining three stared after them before Aelluin and Lalorn exchanged looks of confusion.

“What in Arda was that all about?” Aelluin demanded.

But Elivorn shook his head in dismay. “Nay, Elrohir could not have understood what he was doing that night,” he said. “He drank enough to fell five men!” He lunged at Nimaras and grabbed at his collar with both hands, shaking his brother in anger. “You took advantage of him, didn’t you?” he insisted. “You knew he could not resist your importuning in his state!”

“And you would excuse his conduct because of that?” Nimaras demanded, pulling away from Elivorn’s grip. “‘Tis not my fault if he accepted my overture.”

“But why did you make an overture in the first place?” Aelluin growled, swiftly comprehending what had taken place. “For shame, Nimaras! He is your brother’s betrothed!”

Was if Legolas runs true to form,” Elivorn said. “Ah, it shames me to call you brother this day!” he seethed at Nimaras. “It shames me that we share the same blood.”

With that he strode out of the room. After a stunned moment, Aelluin muttered an imprecation of disgust and left as well. Nimaras grimaced, disbelieving that they should turn on him. He saw that Lalorn was regarding him with dismay and distaste.

“Why do you look at me thusly?” he snapped.

The sixth prince bit his lip then said in a low, strained voice: “Elrohir was right all those years ago. Even Wargs do not turn on their own.”

He walked away, leaving Nimaras to stare after him in astonishment and the beginnings of uncertainty.

Meanwhile, Legolas ran blindly down the corridor, his eyes clouded by imminent tears that he stubbornly forced back. Many Elves called out to him in alarm or curiosity at his distress but he paid no heed to them. Only one matter flooded his mind. Only one thing battered his heart.

He finally became aware of his whereabouts when he stumbled into the great feasting hall where his father feted important guests or events of significance were celebrated. He dazedly looked about until he recognized the spacious chamber. Like a child untimely bereft of a parent’s care, he hesitantly made his way to the wide balcony that opened upon the woods beyond.

He placed his hand on the ancient oak whose branches overhung the balcony and ran it up and down the worn trunk. Memories of that first nocturnal encounter with Elrohir came rushing back and he bowed his head, his sadness almost crushing in its strength. It was a long fall indeed from the pedestal upon which he had worshipfully placed the Elf-knight. A harsh sob escaped him.

“Legolas…”

He whirled around, wrenching his shoulder from the gentle grip that held it and glared warningly at Elrohir. The younger twin was flushed from chasing after Legolas all the way from the gaming room. But Legolas did not see his anxiety or care for his discomfort.

“Cuckolded, by Elbereth!” he snapped. “And by my own brother no less. How he must laugh at me for being so trusting!”

“Legolas—”

“And you aided him! You left me in the dark all these years. Was it so pleasant an “ordeal” that you could not bring yourself to confess your complicity in it to me?”

“Nay! I recall nothing of what happened between us!” Elrohir protested. “Neither pleasure nor pain or even how I came to be in his bed…”

“So you did share his bed!” Legolas cried. “Ah, and I’d hoped against all hope that I had misheard or that you did not protest his claim merely out of shock!”

Elrohir desperately sought to bridge the distance between them. “Legolas, please let me explain—”

He extended a hand in supplication to the archer but Legolas evaded it and stepped out of reach. His eyes blazed with a cold blue fire, rage and disillusionment in their crystalline depths.

“Blackguard,” he grated out. “Vow-breaker. You led me to believe you honorable when you would not take my virtue. But in truth you did not need to bed me for it seems you found your release in the arms of others! How many, Elrohir? How many have come before me?”

“It was only that one night, Legolas, and never again. I swear there has been no other before or since!”

“Why should I believe you?” the prince scoffed. “Why should I trust you who plied me with sweet words of courtship then sought Nimaras’ company behind my back!”

“I did not seek it!” Elrohir denied. “I was drunk!”

“Ah, then all I need do is drink myself insensate and none will fault me for indulging myself with any Elf who catches my fancy!” Legolas shot back.

“What-what do you…” Elrohir stuttered. “What are you saying?”

“Think you I care to bind to my brother’s leavings?” Legolas spat, too hurt and bewildered to stay his tongue. He took grim satisfaction when Elrohir blanched to a startling degree.

“You are breaking our troth?” the Elf-knight cried, aghast. “Over this?”

“Over this?” Legolas sarcastically repeated. “You betrayed me, Elrohir! You broke your word. You said you would be mine alone. But now I learn I have shared you with another!”

“But I was unwilling!” Elrohir said pleadingly. “‘Twas not my desire!”

“Did he force you?” the archer challenged. “Tell me he did and I may reconsider.” When Elrohir could not respond in affirmation, Legolas bitterly laughed. “Say not that you were unwilling then. Do not add an untruth to your sins!”

Try as he could, he could not keep his tears from falling at last. Yet anger was what he showed Elrohir though the root of his rage was a combination of overwhelming grief and leadening disappointment. With a strangled sob, he savagely pulled off his betrothal ring.

Through the years, it had been repeatedly remade to accommodate his growth into maturity. Other than those times, it had never left his right index finger. Now, as he clutched it in his trembling fist, he thought that his finger felt so horribly empty. As did his heart. He wondered if the feeling would ever go away or if he would find another who could banish his instinctive yearning for Elrohir.

Even now he could not deny his attraction to the younger twin. Could not stop himself from responding to Elrohir’s many graces. Even when fear and unhappiness marred his otherwise near flawless face, the Elf-knight was beautiful beyond compare.

Steeling himself against his treacherous emotions, he approached a disbelieving Elrohir. Wordlessly, he took the Elf-knight’s hand, noting its sudden clamminess but forcing himself to ignore the twin’s obvious anguish. Silently, he laid the band in Elrohir’s palm and curled the latter’s fingers around it. Though in truth he was now more sorrowful than enraged, he wiped his countenance clean of any softness.

“Fare you well, my lord,” he coolly and curtly said.

With that, he turned and walked away with nary a backward glance. Elrohir stared at his retreating figure, stricken to his very core. So great was his shock that he could not weep or call out or so much as unclench the hand that held Legolas’ ring. He remained rooted to the spot for the Valar only knew how long, unmoving, unspeaking, virtually unseeing.

It was how Elladan and Galvreth found him. So white of skin and dull of eyes that he could have passed for a sculpture of exceptional lifelessness. Worriedly, Elladan touched his shoulder, took his hand when he did not respond and at last grasped him by the shoulders and gently shook him. Only then did any semblance of awareness return to his twin’s silvery eyes. To be replaced soon enough with a look so lost it chilled Elladan to his very marrow.

“Elrohir?” he tentatively asked. “What is wrong, minder?”—brother.

Elrohir swallowed hard and a sheen of moisture caused his eyes to glisten though no tears spilled over but merely hovered on the brim. Pulling listlessly out of his brother’s grip, he looked from Elladan to Galvreth, his pain etched with awful clarity on his face. He looked down at his clenched hand and the others did likewise. He opened his hand to reveal the ring that rested in his palm.

Elladan swore inaudibly while Galvreth murmured a regretful, “Sweet Eru.”

Elrohir did not look at them but kept his gaze on the silver band. “‘Tis over,” he brokenly whispered.

He closed his fingers about the ring once more. Before either Elladan or Galvreth could say a word, he spun on his heel and strode away, his head bowed.

“Eru, nay,” Elladan groaned. He closed his eyes as if to dispel the image of his brother’s misery. When he opened them, they gleamed with tears not of sorrow but of fury. “Ah, I rue the day he agreed to tie himself to a Thranduilion!”

He heard the pained gasp beside him and recalled Galvreth’s presence. Quickly, he faced the argent-haired prince, an apology springing to his lips.

“Galvreth, I did not mean that you—!”

Galvreth raised a hand to halt his speech. “I know you did not,” he said with a sad smile. “I understand. Elrohir’s grief strikes you as hardily as if it were you who bore the brunt of Legolas’ disdain.” He sighed. “Yet I hope you do not bear a grudge against him. He is as much a victim as your twin.”

Elladan shook his head. “Only a cur or a wantwit would blame him for any part of this mess. Nay, if I bear a grudge ‘tis against your whoreson of a brother. Forgive me, Galvreth, but I wish this very moment that I could hang Nimaras from the highest gallows in Middle-earth. And still that would be too kind a fate for him!”

“I should protest,” Galvreth murmured. “But in truth, I must perforce agree with you that it is too mild a sentence for him. I confess I am shamed to own him my kin in this hour. And I warrant the others will feel likewise, even Adar.”—Father.

* * * *

The brethren left Eryn Galen the following morn. A troubled Thranduil and all his sons save Legolas and Nimaras saw them off. The king had been shocked by the turn of events and the cause thereof upon being apprised of them at breakfast. He had attempted to dissuade Legolas from taking such harsh measures but came up against his son’s righteous anger and badly shaken confidence. Yet despite witnessing Legolas’ grief he could not muster any indignation against Elrohir.

Thranduil knew more than the others save Elladan perhaps what the Elf-knight had borne down through the years while awaiting his betrothed’s majority. That he had erred was hardly surprising given his Half-elven nature – the blood of Men ran in the Peredhil’s veins and one could expect them to harbor many of the earthy passions and needs of that mortal race. But Legolas was in no state to listen to this or accept it. And the hurt that was at the root of his hardness could be laid at Nimaras’ door.

Thranduil sighed as the twins silently mounted their steeds and joined their Imladrin warriors. Hardly had he and his sons begun to mend from the loss of Haldoron when here was another cause for mourning. Yet this was by far the worse crisis for the evil had not come from without his borders but sprung forth from the very heart of his family.

He would have to keep Legolas and Nimaras apart if he were to avert a coming to blows between them. Bad enough that there there was now nigh an irreparable rift between them; he would not allow the greater sin of brother taking arms against brother to further stain their honor or sully their peace.

It was not that he did not believe Nimaras culpable for the current imbroglio. Indeed, he abhorred the manner in which his fifth-born had revealed the truth and had openly decried the deed as well as Nimaras’ refusal to apologize for his actions or to even admit the odiousness of his behavior. But neither was sufficient ground to pass severe judgment on Nimaras. It bespoke long festering resentment and an appalling lack of kindness but not necessarily real malice.

Furthermore, during the confrontation with his sire, Nimaras had offered his side of the sordid story and claimed a slackness of good sense due to having consumed much more wine than he ordinarily could tolerate. And both Elivorn and Galvreth and even Elladan had reluctantly admitted that he left their company that eve pleading overindulgence as the reason for taking to his bed soonest. Who could have predicted that he would catch up with Elrohir or that the younger twin in his inebriation would accept assistance from him? Apparently, one thing had led to another and though Elrohir’s memories of that night remained hazy, Nimaras’ recollection of it had returned in full. Or so he said.

That bothered Thranduil even more than the actual tryst. Nimaras insisted that he had only remembered what happened during his scouting expedition with Elivorn. The Elven-king suspected otherwise. But in the face of Nimaras’ staunch declaration, there was little he could do except to banish his wayward son to indefinite sentry duty on the distant southern marches of the Woodland Realm. As far away as he could possibly put him from Legolas without Nimaras leaving the kingdom completely.

The twins and their escort vanished from sight. Thranduil wondered when they would return. If they ever did. Legolas’ coming-of-age two years hence perhaps? If only out of duty to continue observing the alliance between Imladris and Eryn Galen he guessed they would return. Hopefully, Legolas would have gotten over his pain and disappointment by then and reconcile with Elrohir; if not as affianced lovers then as friends at the very least. After all, that was how they had first started out.

He glanced at his sons and marked Galvreth’s forlorn mien. Again he sighed. He very well knew what grieved his silver-haired son.

Eru willing mayhap another match might yet come of the alliance even as the one that had been the reason for it in the first place had unraveled so unexpectedly and painfully.

**********************************
Glossary:
Ada – Papa
Peredhel (pl. Peredhil) – Half-elf/Half-elven
Thranduilion – son of Thranduil

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Eryn Galen, laer T.A. 249
Legolas awakened with a start and a curse, his body glistening with sweat, his heart thumping wildly even as it attempted to slow its beat. ‘Confound it all!’ he thought, raising trembling fingers to his lips. Lips that not a minute ago had been engaged in plundering another delectable pair. In the heated depths of his dream that is.

He flung off the covers and rose from his bed. Padding over to the window he stared out at the dark outside. It was three hours shy of dawn and not a sound was to be heard save for the normal murmur of the forest beyond. The dampness in his sleeping trousers reminded him of why he had been roused at such an unholy hour. With an exasperated sigh, he turned his back on the window and headed for his wardrobe to fetch a fresh pair.

The dreams came with maddening frequency and always, without fail, he would come awake with his body afire with need. Even at a distance, even without any direct contact, Elrohir had the power to ignite his passion and stoke it to an alarming degree. And he would never admit it but he had not known true contentment since breaking his troth with the younger twin. Just as the Elf-knight could arouse his lust without even knowing it, so too did it seem that only he could tend it to Legolas’ satisfaction.

Legolas scowled as he shed his soiled raiment. After two years of not exchanging so much as a word with Elrohir, much less catching a glimpse of the younger twin, one would think that he had relinquished all his yearning for him. But that was not so. If anything, his need seemed to wax ever greater the longer they were apart. At least his body’s need, he insisted to himself.

His body’s wants did not reflect his heart or mind’s desire, he sternly maintained. That voicing this sentiment to his father or brothers would have only merited skepticism at best and blatant disbelief at worst did not occur to him. Or rather he did not allow the notion to sway him.

He did not want the Elf-knight. He did not wish to love an inconstant lover. It was hardly his fault if his wayward body refused to cooperate with him. And it had grown even more uncooperative now that Elrohir was in physical proximity to him once more.

The brethren Elladan and Elrohir had arrived three days ago for his majority celebration. In keeping with the terms of the treaty between their valley realm and the forest kingdom, they came as Rivendell’s representatives to the festivities. It was a mark of Elrond’s high regard for his woodland allies that he had sent his own sons instead of Erestor or Glorfindel.

Given the circumstances, it would have been the easier route to take. But the Peredhel lord did not believe in placing personal discomfort above political obligations. Even if it was a most awkward position for his younger son to be in, Elrond abided by the dictates of duty. And Elrohir would not have permitted him to do otherwise.

Legolas had accepted the news with little outward emotion but those who knew him well did not doubt his stomach must have taken several turns. Yet when he joined his father and brothers to welcome the twins, he appeared as calm as could be. Almost glacially so.

The twins demeaned themselves with no less equanimity despite the certainty that they must have been cognizant of the curious stares bestowed on them, particularly on Elrohir. Neither displayed even a hint of unease under such intense scrutiny.

It was a matter of speculation within the kingdom as to the reason for the sudden breaking of what had been deemed an adamantine betrothal. None outside of the erstwhile lovers’ immediate families knew that another of Thranduil’s sons was involved. But many suspected a dalliance was the cause and that Elrohir had played loose with his vows. For most of the forest folk knew their youngest prince enough to believe that only such a transgression could possibly cleave him from his beloved Elf-knight.

Had the suspicion been confirmed, popular opinion would have turned against the younger twin for Legolas was much loved by his people.

It was to Thranduil’s credit that he blunted these suspicions by warmly welcoming the twins thereby leading many to doubt their notions. At any rate, they could not treat Elrohir with less kindness than their own king did and so behaved toward him with the respect and civility one afforded a distinguished guest.

Legolas crept back into bed, his thoughts crowding his already cluttered mind, refusing to let him slip into renewed slumber. Unthinkingly, he smoothed his hand over the space beside him. The space he always unconsciously left free even in sleep. It was an instinctive action and strongly indicative of his decades-long anticipation of the day when that space would be occupied openly and without guilt by the younger twin. He stopped the movement of his hand, clenched it into a fist and brought it down on the mattress with a muffled oath.

It would not happen now. All his waiting was for naught. He would not experience Elrohir’s loving; would not know what it was like to fill and be filled by him and berth one’s self in his arms through the night. Pain washed over him, as did frustration over that never quenched longing.

For that alone he could not forgive Elrohir. For planting the seeds of nigh indestructible desire for the darkling Elf-lord in him, his resentment continued to mount. And for wreaking such hurt on him with the complicity of Legolas’ own brother of all people, that resentment blended with bitterness and had settled deep in the recesses of his heart.

Hot tears trickled down his cheeks as his thoughts turned to Nimaras. His brother had been recalled from the southern marches that he might be in attendance at Legolas’ majority rites. Thranduil was not about to allow his subjects to wonder about one of his children’s absence at so important an occasion.

Nimaras returned chastened enough not to treat his youngest brother with his usual scorn but still unrepentant of the ill deed that had brought Legolas so much pain and disillusionment. They had greeted each other with cool amiability, that was all. The rift remained between them as wide as ever. And it would likely not close any time soon. Not when Legolas deeply begrudged Nimaras’ taking of what he had denied himself for so many years.

Elrohir. The Elf-knight’s fair countenance and form swam before his mind’s eye unbidden causing a reflexive stirring in his groin. Legolas groaned and pressed his face into his pillow. Plague take his foolish yearnings! Why couldn’t he school his body not to long for Elrohir’s touch? Or his mind not to be beguiled by the younger twin’s mere image?

Two years and still the Elf-knight’s siren call was as sweet and potent as ever. Legolas wondered if he would ever hear it without having to struggle mightily not to hearken to it.

* * * *

The eve of Legolas’ begetting day, Thranduil hosted a dinner, the last of several he had held in his youngest son’s honor in the last couple of weeks. As was the custom, an Elf who had reached his or her majority was formally presented to kith and kin by way of a great celebration whether it was the rustic party of a commoner or the elegant ball of a noble’s child.

But a member of the royal family was also presented to the kingdom at large and it was hardly advisable or possible to squeeze every last Elf in Greenwood the Great into the official guest list for the begetting day celebration itself. Thus, the series of smaller fetes that permitted an about to come of age prince to mingle with his Silvan subjects and prevented the ruffling of anyone’s feathers. To this final affair, the noblest members of the court were invited as were Elrond’s sons for, if one were to go by bloodline alone, the twins outranked every Elf in the Woodland Realm.

The affair was held under the stars in the garden between the delved palace and the royal pavilion. Chairs and cushions and low tables had been scattered about and guests settled themselves if and wherever they wished. Servants plied them with food and drink while minstrels regaled them with songs, poetry and witty tales. There were no strict forms of decorum to follow this eve though the bluest of the blue-bloods in the kingdom were gathered together. Formalities were for the morrow when the youngest prince officially left childhood behind and took his place as a full-fledged adult.

Galvreth observed the proceedings with mingled regret and fascination.

On the one hand, he rued the circumstances that had strained personal relations with the twins even if matters were prospering on the diplomatic front. On the other, he was amazed at how the brethren continued to command respect and even obeisance from the Greenwood Elves. Even Elrohir who since the suspension of his betrothal to Legolas had forfeited his privileges as a prince of the Woodland Realm was still deferred to by many as if he had not. The twins simply carried themselves with such quiet grace and dignity that one could not help but admire them.

Halfway through the evening, he saw Legolas slip away and head down the stone path that led to the rear of the pavilion. In a bid to elude the attentions of some of the more tiresome guests in attendance, he thought. Or was it to escape the discomfiting gaze of just one? Nonetheless, he shook his head in disapproval of his brother’s behavior. Much as he sympathized with Legolas, he could not condone forsaking an affair held in one’s honor.

“He still cares.”

Galvreth stiffened, took a deep breath then turned to face Elladan. “What makes you think that he does?”

“Because if he did not, my brother’s presence would not have been enough to set him fleeing,” the older twin replied.

To that Galvreth could make no reply. “How long will you stay?’ he asked instead.

“For as long as Elrohir’s forbearance lasts,” Elladan said.

Galvreth sighed. That did not sound promising. Legolas had not shown much warmth to Elrohir since the brethren’s arrival and indeed took pains to avoid being with him. How long would Elrohir’s resolve hold out against this distinct lack of cordiality?

“I wish him luck,” he lamely offered.

Elladan frowned. “Methinks he will need more than luck. But Legolas seems severely lacking in compassion these days.”

Galvreth flushed, indignation at a tacit slur on one of his brothers warring with the desire to agree with Elladan’s assessment. “Can you blame him?” he countered.

“For being hurt and angered, nay,” Elladan said. “But to rub more salt into Elrohir’s wounds is most unbecoming of a prince, I think.”

“That is unkind and untrue.”

“Unkind perhaps, but untrue? Explain then why he flaunts his admirers so assiduously when Elrohir is present and not at any other time,” Elladan challenged. “If it is not to spite my brother, then to what purpose are his actions? Mayhap ‘tis for the best after all that they have parted ways if this is how a Wood-elf avenges himself.”

Galvreth felt the color in his cheeks deepen. Gritting his teeth, he tightly said, “Spare me your bile, Elladan. I am not your enemy.”

Hurt and not a little angered, he turned and walked away. But Elladan followed and fell into step with him. He placed a placating hand on the silver-haired Elf’s arm, compelling him to halt. Galvreth tensed beneath his touch.

“You are right,” Elladan ruefully conceded. “‘Twas uncalled for to vent my spleen on you. I can only plead concern for my brother’s welfare. Please forgive me, meldiren.”—my friend. When Galvreth only nodded his acknowledgement of the apology, he softly added, “May I assume that you missed my company as much as I missed yours?”

Elladan slid his palm down Galvreth’s arm to his hand and wove their fingers familiarly. Galvreth could not help a shiver at the affectionate gesture.

After a fraught moment, he relaxed and looked sideways at the older twin. “You may,” he murmured.

The first trills of a lilting woodland tune sounded. At the other end of the garden where the ground was level, several ellyn were gathering to take part in a Silvan folk dance. It was the same dance the twins had seen performed their first visit to the forest realm; the one Galvreth had so ably led.

Elladan tilted his head in the direction of the gathered Elves. “Teach me this dance,” he coaxed.

Galvreth looked down at their linked hands then nodded, a small smile gracing his face, his brown eyes brightening once more. They sauntered over to join the dancers.

In the meantime, Legolas had gained the silence and privacy of the narrow trellised terrace behind the pavilion. It looked out on the encroaching line of the woods beyond and was a favored place to come to when one desired to be alone.

Legolas leaned his forehead against the interwoven open-mesh frame, breathing in the fragrance of the wildflowers that clung in riotous profusion to the strips of wood. But try as he might, he could not banish the cause for his sudden retreat from the dinner. The singular, elusive scent that had teased his nostrils when he’d inadvertently brushed past Elrohir. He inwardly cursed his treacherous desires not for the last time.

He had tried to be indifferent to the Elf-knight’s presence but it had proven quite impossible. Even without looking, he’d known when Elrohir’s eyes were on him. Had felt the other’s steady gaze whenever it alighted on him. And each time he’d nearly come undone. Only his Wood-elven pride and righteous anger had kept him from succumbing to the mad urge to throw himself into Elrohir’s arms.

It subtly assaulted him once more despite the heady sweetness of the blooms. Nothing could quite compete or compare with the scent of a Peredhel it seemed. He swung around and regarded Elrohir warily. The younger twin stood but an arm’s span away. His nearness was enough to set Legolas’ heart pounding madly, which in turn triggered annoyance with himself.

“Are you all right?” Elrohir softly asked.

“Quite well, thank you,” Legolas curtly replied, trying to ignore the stirrings wrought by the sheer comeliness of his former intended.

Elrohir nodded. “You seemed distraught. I was concerned.”

Unconsciously, he reached for his right index finger and twisted the argent band on it. With astonishment, Legolas realized that Elrohir still bore his betrothal ring.

“You still wear your ring?” he blurted out. “Do not tell me Imladris does not yet know of the breaking of our troth!”

Elrohir stared at the ring with an expression Legolas could not quite fathom. “Imladris knows,” he demurred. “I did not pretend otherwise. I do not wear this to perpetuate a pretense.” When Legolas raised his eyebrows skeptically, Elrohir sighed and explained, “My finger feels empty without it.”

Legolas suppressed his start of empathy. Elrohir was not alone in that sentiment. Two years on and he still found himself looking for the silver band on his finger and feeling a strange disappointment when he saw its bareness. And hard on the heels of that disappointment would come an emptiness he could never quite fill.

The twin studied him for a moment then ventured a comment. “Your favor is much desired,” he hesitantly remarked. “‘Tis as your sire foretold long ago.”

Legolas shrugged. “Were I not a prince of this realm, I doubt I would inspire any interest at all.”

“Nay, even were you but the lowliest kitchen scullion, you would still be sought after, Legolas. Beauty such as yours is too rare to miss and even less left unappreciated.”

Legolas felt a flush of pleasure stain his cheeks. A wave of displeasure at himself for being so affected to this day by Elrohir’s opinion swiftly followed and he frowned.

“This meeting is not mere happenstance,” he abruptly stated. “You followed me. What do you want, Elrohir?”

Though stung by the archer’s cutting manner, Elrohir did not respond in kind. “I only wished to inquire after your welfare,” he answered. “I have had no word of you in two years.”

“My welfare despite your absence?” Legolas quipped sarcastically.

Elrohir shook his head. “You are happy I trust?” he said, tactfully ignoring the barb.

“Enough for my needs,” Legolas tartly replied. “I have had no lack of company to keep me occupied,” he coolly added.

Elrohir looked away at that but not swiftly enough that Legolas did not see the gleam of moisture in his eyes. The prince felt a pang of regret smite him at the deep hurt so evident in the twin’s features but he forcefully smothered the impulse to retract the unwarranted pronouncement.

“Neither have I,” Elrohir murmured. “But ‘tis not enough to make up for my loss. I doubt it ever will be. I do not seem to possess your heart’s resilience.”

That Elrohir believed him easily able to forget what they’d shared and move on should not have stung. But it did.

Legolas’ rage surged of a sudden. Unreasonably, unexpectedly, it bubbled up and before he could control it, burst forth with scalding acerbity.

“Then I am fortunate indeed to have been consoled so well for how else was I to salve its wounding at your hands?” he snapped, voice dripping with bitterness. “Yet I suppose I must thank you for teaching me how to see to my needs. At the very least, I learned to be exacting in choosing what companions are best suited to taking care of them. You set a high standard, Elf-knight, that much I will grant you.”

Elrohir stared at him with startled eyes, jolted by his rancor. He swallowed several times, obviously struggling with his own volatile feelings. And then he said, his voice barely above a strained whisper: “I had hoped to gain your forgiveness. To regain your friendship at the very least. But ‘tis apparent that you have not…” He stopped and bit his lower lip to still its quivering. When he spoke again, his voice shook though he strove to steady it. “I will not trouble your peace again, my prince,” he said. “Farewell and good fortune be with you always.”

Before Legolas could respond, he bowed swiftly then turned and strode away. The archer stared after him, torn between misery and anger, wanting to follow and feeling umbrage at himself that he should want to.

Losing all desire to return to the dinner, he hurriedly ascended the pavilion instead and secluded himself in his quarters. And when servants came to inquire after him, he pleaded a need for sleep of which he’d had precious little in the preceding days. What his father or the guests would make of his behavior he did not care about at the moment. Not when his heart and mind were in turmoil over his brief encounter with Elrohir.

He was roused all too soon the following morning by a frightful pounding on his door. Grousing at such a rude awakening, he trudged to the door and yanked it open. A fuming Aelluin stalked in and he was forced to hastily back up lest his brother knock him down and walk over him.

“Aelluin!” he exclaimed. “Wherefore such discourtesy?”

“Mayhap I should ask the same of you in your dealings with Elrohir!” Aelluin snapped. “For why else would the gwenyn”—twins—“suddenly take leave of Greenwood?”

Legolas stared. “Leave Greenwood?” he said disbelievingly.

“I have just come from seeing them off,” Aelluin growled. He glared at Legolas. “They left with such haste and in much distress. Especially Elrohir. I have not seen him so low in spirit, not even when you broke your troth. I would venture to guess that he has lost all hope where before he still harbored some. What did you say to him to make him despair so?”

Legolas gawked at him, taken aback by his anger. A moment later, his own burgeoned and he scowled.

“What passed between us is no business of yours, Aelluin,” he retorted. “And I doubt Gilthalion will be so pleased to learn how avidly you involve yourself in Elrohir’s travails. One would think you still hold some tenderness for him after all this time.”

“Dolt!” Aelluin barked. “Of course I still hold tenderness for him. Who would not with one so kind and noble of heart? He was the first ever to capture my affection and that is not a thing one forgets. And likely you do not know this but ‘twas he who encouraged me to woo Gilthalion when all others told me ‘twas a hopeless cause. And if you think Gilthalion knows not of my sentiments then you are as witless as a cave troll!”

Giving Legolas no chance to reply, he caught his arm in an iron grip and shook him roughly. “What did you say to him, brother? Speak!”

“Naught but the truth!” Legolas shot back. “That what I do is no longer his concern for I have found the wherewithal to move on.”

Aelluin frowned, wondering what could have been so hurtful in Legolas’ statement as to drive Elrohir away. And then his eyebrows rose in aghast cognition. “You told him that you have dallied with others?” he gasped. At Legolas’ mulish silence, he shook him ever harder. “Whence your cruelty, Legolas? Why wound him so when you know he has naught to shield him from your blows?”

Legolas managed to jerk his arm out of Aelluin’s grasp. “And what of me?” he demanded. “What defense did I have when he dealt me my wounds? Think you they have healed? I tell you they still fester and pain me as if ‘twas but yesterday that I knew myself betrayed!”

“So you struck at him in reprisal,” Aelluin summed up. “You sought to inflict as much hurt on him as he did on you.”

“Yea, and it pleases me that he now knows what ‘tis like to be played the fool,” Legolas said.

That earned him a hearty buffet. Raising a hand to his smarting ear, he stared at his brother in disbelief for never had the latter ever resorted to physical chastisement before.

“Have you learned nothing from your own brothers’ folly, lackwit?” Aelluin snapped. “Beware what you say or do in anger, Legolas. You may find it hard to recant and redeem yourself in the eyes of those you love!” On that cautionary note, he spun on his heel and swept out of the room, leaving Legolas to stare after him in some stupefaction.

He had flinched slightly at Aelluin’s words. Though the Crown Prince had mentioned their brethren in general, Legolas knew he was referring to his own experience in his pursuit of Gilthalion.

The gallant captain of their father’s army had known of the shameful treatment Legolas’ brothers had dealt him. Consequently, when Aelluin had begun his wooing in earnest, Gilthalion had in turn refused to entertain his suit. For the captain had a soft spot for children, having helped his dam raise his younger siblings after his sire’s death in the Second Age. Aelluin’s behavior toward his own little brother had merited Gilthalion’s disdainful rebuff and it was long before he finally gave the second prince a chance to prove his worth and only after he saw the change for the better in the relationship between his king’s second-born and youngest son.

It had been a painful lesson and one Aelluin had taken to heart.

Legolas heaved a calming breath, his slim frame still quivering from his brother’s scathing reproach. And from the news of the twins’ precipitate departure.

He told himself that it was just as well that they had left. Fortunate that Elrohir was no longer there. The Elf-knight’s presence had jarred the fragile peace of his mind. He would not have been able to enjoy his coming-of-age feast this eve with Elrohir in attendance. He would have been too conscious of the latter’s every word or deed to savor the festivities in his honor. Aye, it was much better this way.

Now if he could only convince himself of the rightness of this conviction.

Meanwhile, Aelluin stormed down the hallway, his expression so fearsome, many a servant scuttled timidly out of his way. He had almost reached his quarters when he ran into Elivorn and Galvreth who had apparently been searching for him.

“Ho, brother!” Elivorn called out as soon as he caught sight of him. “What is this Galvreth tells me about the twins? Is it true that they have left our fair kingdom?”

Aelluin nodded, his mouth tight with unabated ire over Legolas’ actions. He entered his sitting room, the others in tow.

“Where did you hie off to?” Galvreth asked. “Father turned to speak to you but you had vanished and none could tell us where you had taken yourself.”

Aelluin plopped himself down on the couch fronting the fireplace, blowing his breath out in an attempt to reduce his pique. For some time, he stared unseeingly at the dark, empty hearth.

“I informed Legolas of the twins’ departure,” he said at last.

His brothers glanced at each other. “And?” Elivorn prodded.

“And I also sought to discover the cause for their leaving. That they would not tell Adar their reasons seemed to me evidence of some grievous occurrence. For they would never be derelict in their discharge of duty for a paltry cause.”

Galvreth settled on his haunches before him. “And did you discover the cause?”

Aelluin sighed. “Legolas implied to Elrohir that he has dallied with others these past two years.”

Galvreth grimaced while Elivorn winced. “I cannot blame him then for wishing to quit this kingdom soonest,” the dark-haired prince murmured. “He would not want to witness Legolas celebrating his majority with another Elf.”

Galvreth shook his head. “Legolas still hurts, that much is obvious. But to do such injury to Elrohir...”

“In retaliation, I suppose,” Elivorn commented, looking to Aelluin for confirmation.

“There was no need for it,” Aelluin said. “Anyone could see how much Elrohir already suffers. I should think that punishment enough if that was what Legolas sought to mete him.”

“Legolas is quite sheltered, Aelluin,” Galvreth reminded him. “He is little versed in the ways of the world. To him all is black or white and he has scarce patience for the shades between.”

“I know that,” Aelluin soberly admitted. “But the look on Elrohir’s face this morn... Ah, ‘twas more than I could bear. You saw it, Galvreth. Do not tell me his grief left you unmoved.”

Galvreth sighed and shook his head. “I have never felt so much pity before,” he admitted. “In truth, I longed to stop him from leaving and go to Legolas and beg him to soften his stance.”

The three fell silent for a space, disheartened by this further tear in the fabric of their family’s unity and serenity.

“Is it a sin to harbor an urge to throttle one’s own brother?” Elivorn sadly said at length.

“Legolas?” Galvreth asked.

“Nay, Nimaras. Him and his misbegotten pride and refusal to bury his grudges.”

“‘Tis not a sin so long as you do not put your thoughts into action,” Aelluin said with a wan smile.

Elivorn sank into the armchair opposite the couch. “You cannot imagine how oft I have rued bringing out that confounded Dorwinion that night,” he muttered. “Do you know, I have not drank it since, so sour a taste it leaves in my mouth whenever I recall the trouble it caused.”

“‘Twas not the wine but Nimaras’ reprehensible actions to blame,” Galvreth pointed out. “He was no different from a lecher plying some poor soul with drink that she may prove amenable to his advances or so I have heard about mortals at their most despicable.”

“Save that he did not have to encourage Elrohir to drink his fill,” Elivorn said reminiscently. “Do you remember how eager he was to imbibe more than was prudent? Elladan counselled him to take a dip in the Bruinen rather than drink himself senseless. And he did come close to it, didn’t he? I swear I thought he would fall on his face afore he reached his chambers!”

Aelluin listened to them with only half a mind. But Elivorn’s reference to the degree of Elrohir’s inebriation for some reason snagged his attention. He frowned, trying to figure out what it was that had roused him out of reverie.

Elivorn said that Elrohir had drunk himself almost senseless. Almost? A nigh forgotten remark resurfaced amongst his myriad musings.

He sat up abruptly and reached over to grip a startled Elivorn’s knee. “Something that you said before,” he urgently said. “That Elrohir drank enough to fell five men. Yet he did leave your company on his own two feet?”

“Aye, but barely. ‘Tis not surprising Nimaras caught up with him. As I said, I wondered if he made it to his room considering his state.”

“So did I,” Galvreth agreed. “But when we returned to our quarters and saw no sign of him in the hallway, we assumed he had.”

“Enough to fell five men…” Aelluin repeated thoughtfully. “I assume you mean were he an Elf. A pure-blood that is.”

The other two looked at him curiously. “What is it that you are getting at?” Elivorn inquired.

“I did not give that incident much thought then,” Aelluin said. “Nimaras’ account seemed straightforward enough at the time. But Elrohir’s continued lack of recollections of that night troubles me. ‘Tis odd that he remembers nothing past meeting Nimaras in the hallway, don’t you think?”

Galvreth nodded. “Now that you mention it, aye, that is odd. You would think that he would recall something of what passed between them even if not the whole of it.”

“So why hasn’t he?” Elivorn asked. “Unless he is lying about his forgetfulness…”

“Nay, Elrohir would never deny the truth however ruinous the consequences to him,” Galvreth firmly said.

“Yet he did keep it from Legolas for many years,” Elivorn pointed out.

“Out of fear,” Galvreth countered. “And with good reason. But Elladan told me that he’d intended to tell our brother ere their last visit ended and to beg forgiveness as well. Had Nimaras held his tongue and allowed Elrohir to reveal the truth more gently, matters would not have gone so ill I think. ‘Twas the suddenness and public nature of Nimaras’ revelation that roused Legolas’ ire to such an extent. I believe that mortification had as much to do with his rage as his sense of betrayal.”

“Which supposes a deliberate act of malice on Nimaras’ part when he chose to expose Elrohir so crudely,” Elivorn said protestingly. “Is he capable of such meanness?”

“It grieves me to think that he is,” Aelluin gruffly averred. He leaned back in his chair, covering his face momentarily with his hand. Finally he dropped his hand and looked at the other two, a chilling glint in his blue eyes. “So, what think you does Elrohir’s lack of memories signify?” he said.

“That he was telling the truth when he said he was not conscious of his actions,” Galvreth replied.

Aelluin’s eyes narrowed. “Not conscious of his actions?” he softly put forth. “Or not conscious at all?”

Elivorn and Galvreth stared at him in some horror. “What are you saying?” Galvreth gasped. “That Nimaras—” He shook his head vehemently. “Nay, not even he would do such a thing!”

Aelluin rose to his feet, his face grim. He regarded the others somberly, sharing their dismay and shame.

“What say we pry the truth out of him?” he said with deceptive mildness. “Two dear hearts are at stake and I would not have them broken further than they have been already.”

He headed for the door, a determined expression marking his countenance. Galvreth and Elivorn swiftly followed.

“Ah, that one of our own could be capable of so heinous an act…” Galvreth mournfully said.

“We do not yet know what really transpired,” Elivorn cautioned. “We only suspect.”

“That he did not tell the truth or that he embellished it?” Galvreth demanded. “Either way he has stained our honor. I pray that our suspicions are wrong but, alas, knowing him of late, I fear they are not.”

They hastened on down the hallway.

********************************
Glossary:
laer – Sindarin for summer
Peredhel – Half-elven/Half-elf
ellyn – male Elves
dam – mother (archaic)
Adar - Father

To be continued…

Chapter Text

It was a sight unseen since the events that forged the Last Alliance of Elves and Men at the end of the Second Age and sent its armies into brutal conflict with the unholy forces of Mordor. The Elven-king of the Woodland Realm of Greenwood the Great astride his sleek destrier outside the bounds of his forest kingdom.

Thranduil rode as if born to the saddle, tall and straight and confident upon his steed. Fair as a summer day yet cool as an autumn eve, he gave no hint of his thoughts or feelings either by motion or expression. Not even his sons could guess at them when he chose to conceal them.

He looked ahead to two of said sons where they rode near the front of the woodland contingent. Galvreth and Legolas also bore themselves with the easy grace of natural horsemen. Even more than their sire it seemed for they also had the inborn Silvan affinity for animal life and, like the Wood-elven warriors about them, were at utmost ease without saddle or reins.

Thranduil took note of the proud carriage of their forms, how both comported themselves with regal dignity. But he also knew that while Galvreth looked straight ahead, eyes bright and alert to his surroundings, Legolas’ gaze was downcast and his sunny smile absent from his lips, telling of his dour mood. It had been so for the past week since the awful discovery of misconduct within the family ranks and the subsequent preparations for this fraught journey.

He glanced behind him, to the group of warriors that enclosed yet another son. Nimaras rode in their midst not as their prince but for all intents and purposes as a royal prisoner. Gilthalion, the Woodland Realm’s valiant captain, rode at his side with stern purpose.

He could be trusted not to let his sympathy for the fifth-born prince or his instinctive loyalty to any one of his king’s children override the carrying out of his orders. And he would not reveal the reason for Nimaras’ present straits to his soldiers. To do so would be to betray his lover’s trust and Gilthalion’s devotion to Aelluin was too deep to tempt him into transgression.

Thranduil’s tight smile as he turned back to regard the nigh treeless plains that loomed before them would have been indicative of his mixed emotions had any chanced to glimpse it.

Some good had come of the rent in his family at the very least. He had convinced Aelluin to confess his liaison with Gilthalion and formally welcomed the captain into the familial fold. It was a good match. Come the day that Aelluin became king, he would have his own mate to aid him in his rule over the forest kingdom. That his intended mate was also the Woodland Realm’s fearsome captain was another ample blessing. His heir was most fortunate indeed.

His eyes alighted on Legolas and Galvreth once more. Unfortunately, he could not say the same for either. As matters stood, wedlock with the princes of the Woodland Realm might no longer be desired by Elrond and his lady for any of their children. He could not blame them if this was so.

Their younger son had suffered quite needlessly at the hands of two of his own. Bearing first unwarranted shame and guilt because of Nimaras’ reprehensible actions, Elrohir had then been dealt the unkindest cut by Legolas.

Granted that Legolas had been hurting as well, the knowledge could do little to mitigate the pain his words had inflicted on the Elf-knight. Thranduil did not know just how Elrohir fared at present but the king could well imagine him nursing his wounds in the bosom of his family and attempting to put the past behind and move on with his life however difficult the process may be.

He inwardly shook his head. Ah, how could something that had begun with so much promise and later evolved into a thing of joy and inspiration have ended on such a horrid note?

Thranduil refused to succumb to the numbing mistake of self-castigation but he could not wholly shake off the regret that one of his progeny had borne so little love for his brother that he’d had no compunction about breaking the latter’s heart or bringing ruin to the one who had held it. Fëanor was not the only Elf capable of fostering fraternal friction or raising a hand against a sibling.

His thoughts travelled back to that day of wrenching discovery. To Legolas’ fiftieth begetting day.

It had started not on a bright note but on a discordant one. Little more than an hour after Elladan and Elrohir’s hurried departure, Thranduil received an urgent request from Aelluin to meet with him in the king’s study. Hardly had Thranduil settled himself behind his desk when Galvreth walked in, a scowling Legolas in tow and a bewildered Lalorn taking up the rear. Before the king could inquire as to what merited such a hasty meeting, in strode Aelluin and Elivorn, holding Nimaras between them with a marked lack of tenderness.

“Sire, there is something Nimaras has to say,” Aelluin announced without preamble. He looked straight at Legolas and added: “And you would do well to listen, brother.”

Elivorn shoved Nimaras forward none to gently. “Speak!” he sternly commanded. “Tell Father what you told us.”

Thranduil said nothing but pointedly waited for Nimaras to begin. Under that weighty regard, the bronze-haired prince had no recourse but to do as he was bid.

It proved a terrible tale and a lengthy one for Nimaras halted in many places and would only continue when either Aelluin or Elivorn prodded him. By the end of it, Thranduil wanted to weep from grief that a child of his should be capable of such duplicity and malice.

It was true that Nimaras had come upon Elrohir in the upper story hallway of the Last Homely House’s residential wing that fateful eve. True that he had suggested that he and the Elf-knight help each other navigate the corridor to their rooms. And true that Elrohir had proved unable to walk further on his own power, thus forcing Nimaras to carry him onward. But there the truth diverged from the original story Nimaras had woven.

Elrohir had not been conscious of being turned over and checked for a worse ailment than inebriation. Nor had he been aware of the comely and altogether tempting picture he made even in a drunken stupor as he lay cradled in Nimaras’ arms. The prince had not been able to resist stealing a kiss, a forbidden caress with one who was already promised to another. In that instant, overwhelming envy, anger and lust had taken hold of him.

Why had so beauteous a creature been bestowed on a mere babe? All these years he’d been forced to watch Elrohir practically raise his little brother while he, a full-grown Elf capable of carrying on a normal liaison forthwith, had languished on the side, nursing an impossible attraction to the Elf-knight. It was so unfair!

And then Legolas had had the temerity to boast that Elrohir, though far from untouched, had kept himself unsullied in one respect and only awaited Legolas’ majority to at last yield himself to another.

Seething with a myriad emotions, none of them worthy of a scion of Oropher’s line, he bore Elrohir to his quarters instead with the intent of plucking what was intended for Legolas. He laid him on his bed, stripped him and perused the prize he’d long desired. The last he had seen Elrohir unclothed had been many years ago, before the onset of Legolas’ adolescence. Beholding him now in all his bared glory served to whet his desire ever more acutely.

Through much hemming and hawing, Nimaras admitted to molesting Elrohir while he lay unaware and defenseless. He could not help it, he cravenly claimed, so splendid an image the Peredhel made lying upon his sheets, his flesh sweet to taste and smooth to touch.

Thranduil would never forget the horror and rage in his youngest son’s eyes as the confession unfolded or the disgust and shame in the stares of the others. Galvreth and Lalorn had duly flanked Legolas lest he suddenly launch himself at Nimaras in a murderous fit. Only one question and one answer stayed such an action.

“Did you violate him then?” Thranduil demanded, his voice steely.

“Nay, I did not,” Nimaras mutteringly replied. “I may have gone to such a wretched extent but I could not bring myself to take him all unknowing.”

“But you claimed your sheets soiled with spending,” Legolas sharply reminded him. “And Elrohir is no fool to believe something without evidence to support it.”

Nimaras’ mouth twisted, disliking having to answer Legolas. “I did not take him,” he finally reiterated. “But I was badly in need of relief.” He paused then grudgingly said, “I rutted against him a few times.”

Legolas let out a muffled oath, clenching his fists so tightly his nails left half-moon marks in his palms. Galvreth clapped a restraining hand on his shoulder.

“Why then did you leave Elrohir to believe that you had coupled?” Thranduil asked.

Nimaras looked away. “It salved my frustration some,” he conceded.

“Salved?” Thranduil repeated caustically. “You cared not for what Elrohir would suffer under that false assumption?”

“I was more concerned with how Legolas would respond once he knew,” Nimaras said.

The king stared at him, perplexed for a moment. And then his eyes widened in perturbation. “You hoped your brother would cast him away and break their troth!”

“Which he readily did without ever giving Elrohir a chance to explain his side, I wager,” Nimaras shot back, a hint of a sneer in his tone.

Legolas’ angry glare gave way to uncertainty then faltered into one of shame. He looked down, cheeks crimsoning at the memory of that unhappy night.

“School your tongue!” Thranduil roared, eyes flinty and cold. It was enough to make Nimaras fear his father for the first time in memory. “If that was your objective, why did you not speak up sooner? Why the pretense of only recently recalling what happened?”

Nimaras pursed his lips then reluctantly said, “Legolas would not believe me but he would believe Elrohir. Yet I saw how loath Elrohir was to confess the morn after. And I thought then that a delay would serve my purpose far more effectively. The longer he took to speak, the more guilty he would appear in Legolas’ eyes and the more assured I would be of his reaction.”

“Why did you preempt him that night?” Galvreth asked. “He was going to tell Legolas at last.”

“It seemed the perfect opportunity,” Nimaras replied with a shrug. “And… I wanted to wipe that smug smile off his face,” he suddenly spat, training a venomous glower on Legolas.

Legolas’ doleful feelings gave way to renewed umbrage, taking offense at the undeserved bile his brother heaped on him, and he started forward. Only Lalorn’s quick grab at his arm and his whispered, “Show yourself the better Elf, brother!” kept him in place.

He locked gazes with Nimaras, a fierce scowl darkening his countenance. “Heed our father’s warning lest ‘tis your wish to perish at my hands!” he grated out, his eyes blazing with fury.

“Legolas!” Thranduil admonished him mildly. Once Legolas subsided somewhat, the king looked at Nimaras, his gaze glacial. “You have sinned greatly against so many. Not only Elrohir and Legolas but also against every citizen of this realm. For if word gets out of your deed, we shall be judged to an Elf by our cousins in other lands and none would trust us again with the possibility of treachery hounding our very name! You will have brought the honor of this kingdom low, Nimaras, and all on account of your accursed envy of one you should have cherished instead.”

He regarded Nimaras’ slight pallor then sighed and sat back tiredly in his chair. “I cannot let this go unpunished though you are my own flesh and blood. But before I pass judgment on you I would try to redress one wrong soonest.” He motioned to Elivorn to approach. “Send scouts after the brethren,” he instructed his dark-haired son. “They may yet overtake them ere they leave Eryn Galen. Then return here for I would take counsel with you and Aelluin as to what must be done with your brother.”

He then bade Galvreth and Lalorn to escort Nimaras to his quarters and charged them with guarding him. When they departed he turned his full attention to Legolas and found him leaning against Aelluin, trembling badly and on the brink of tears.

Hên vuil”—dear child—he murmured, rising and opening his arms to his youngest. Legolas swiftly went into them.

“What have I done, Ada?”—Papa—he whispered against his father’s shoulder. “He never treated me with aught but kindness and I repaid him with cruelty. Ah, what will I do now?”

The king could not know what words had passed between Legolas and Elrohir but from the frantic manner in which his son clutched at him, he assumed they had been greatly injurious indeed.

“You will humble yourself before him and beg his forgiveness,” Thranduil said. He drew away and firmly gripped his fearful son by his arms. “And you will trust to his love and understanding and the pull of your own bountiful charms to win him anew. But until the moment you meet with him again, you must becalm yourself. This eve you have an obligation to fulfill and you will conduct yourself as a prince of this kingdom. Therefore, go now and compose yourself that you may appear before our people as befits your station. I do not expect you to make merry but I do demand a show of amiability and gratitude before our guests for honoring your coming-of-age with their presence and felicitations.”

Legolas swallowed hard, nodded and left to do as he was told. Thranduil somberly watched him go. Had there ever been a more lamentable way to greet one’s majority? He looked at Aelluin when the latter came up beside him.

“How did you persuade him to confess?” he asked his eldest curiously.

Aelluin smiled bitterly. “Surprisingly, it was not all that difficult once we made our suspicions clear to him. For so long as he thought no one knew or suspected the truth, he could lie to us through his teeth. But when we lay before him what we believed truly happened, he fell apart. I admit it astounded us how swiftly he capitulated.”

Thranduil nodded knowingly. “He realized you would see the lie in his eyes once you knew what to look for. Wherefore his continued deception if you could see through his deceit?”

He noted Aelluin’s doleful expression, signifying his regret at having had to unmask a falsehearted sibling however just his actions. He felt a surge of pride in this so very satisfactory heir to his throne. His lips quirked the smallest bit in faint amusement, startling Aelluin.

“Charge Gilthalion with the guarding of Nimaras,” he said. “You may tell him what transpired, I know he will keep it secret. Best we entrust this shame to one who will be family ere long.”

Aelluin started, then gaped at him in shock. Finally he stammered, “You-you know, Ada?”

“What do you take me for?” Thranduil wryly retorted. “Deaf and blind? I have known since your first assignation and have only been waiting for you to own up to your affair. I take it you forbade Gilthalion to tell me?”

Uncharacteristically flustered, Aelluin nodded dumbly, explaining his prior reticence only when his father silently demanded it with an arch of his eyebrows.

“I feared you would disapprove,” he admitted, “and furthermore blame him for seducing me when in truth—”

“‘Twas you who chased him without cease and all but cornered him into taking you to his bed,” Thranduil finished for him. “Ai, if there is one quality you all seem to share, ‘tis mule-headedness in the pursuit of your desires. Well then, summon him and make it clear that he will not lose his head for having lain with a king’s son.”

Thranduil’s moment of mirth faded as he considered the events that had followed. He consulted with his two eldest, one the heir apparent, the other the chief counsellor in training, as to the appropriate penalty to be levied on Nimaras. It proved a most painful discussion for whatever dismay or revulsion they might have felt for Nimaras’ deed, he was still their kin and it tore at their hearts to now see him chastised like a common miscreant.

The king put off informing his errant son of his judgment until the following morn. First, there was a celebration to take care of. Mayhap the Elf in whose honor it was to be held no longer felt there was reason to celebrate, but Thranduil knew Legolas would abide his duty to the best of his ability and he would help him in the abiding of it as much as he could.

There was no hiding the fact that something was not quite right that night. For one, Nimaras’ glaring absence was noticed. For another, Legolas could not summon the smile with which he oft dazzled his varied suitors and admirers though he was graciousness personified throughout the revels. Nor did he indicate a desire to mark his majority in intimate company with some nubile maid or strapping lad. Lastly, the royal family seemed subdued in mood for so festive an occasion.

Many subscribed the youngest prince’s muted cheer and lack of libido to the aborted visit of his erstwhile intended. Whatever the cause of their broken troth, none expected Legolas to get over a relationship that had spanned most of his childhood and all of his adolescence and maturing years so soon or easily.

As for Nimaras, well, it was no secret that he and Legolas had never truly gotten along and an altercation between the two became the prime suspect for the bronze-haired prince’s non-appearance. Consequently, it was thought that perhaps the rest were not in the best of spirits due to the lack of amicability within their ranks. Neither Thranduil nor his sons bothered to disabuse anyone of these contentions.

Come morning, the Elven-king pronounced judgment on his fifth-born. Only Aelluin accompanied him to Nimaras’ apartment where Gilthalion and his most trusted and least inquisitive warriors kept guard.

Once within Nimaras’ sleeping chamber, the king made his decision known. “You will depart Greenwood,” he decreed with a heavy heart. “You will ride to Imladris where you will beg forgiveness of he whom you wronged and pray he does not slit your throat afore you are done. Thence, you will go to Mithlond and take ship to Aman where you will enter servitude in the household of my kinsman Olwë. Mayhap by the time we should all meet again, you will have reflected on your misdeeds and repented of them.”

Nimaras was appalled. He threw himself down before his sire, disbelieving that Thranduil could put aside the bonds of parent and child and set him upon so punitive a path. For to an Elf of purely Silvan bent, the thought of leaving these Hither Shores for the unknown, unwanted mystery that was Valinor to live amongst a folk who were as alien to him as the metal-loving Dwarves was nigh anathema. But Thranduil was adamant and would not be moved by anger or tears or evidence of fear.

“You would exile me?” Nimaras gasped.

“I warrant the Peredhil would deem it too lenient a punishment,” the king pointed out. “You have gone too far, Nimaras. No Elf of the House of Oropher has ever committed so vile a deed as to covet another’s promised and, worse, act on it. Be grateful that your brothers still love you else their counsel on what punishment to mete you would likely have been harsher."

“But I did not take him, Ada!”

Thranduil grasped him by the shoulders and shook him hard. “Do you still not understand the enormity of your transgression? You may not have breached his body but you still violated him when you took liberties while he could not defend himself. And had he imbibed just enough to render him pliant for your needs and not insensible, you would not have hesitated to bed him and flaunted that coup to your brother evermore. Do not deny it! Had you not feared condemnation for taking an Elf without due complicity you would not have stayed yourself.”

When a stunned Nimaras could not dissent, Thranduil heaved a weary sigh, his ire giving way to sorrow. He would lose yet another son and this time by his own hand. His cobalt eyes glittering with unshed tears, the Elvenking turned and strode out of the silent chamber.

“Ah, I had not thought our family would ever be rent asunder and in such grievous fashion,” he sadly remarked to Aelluin afterward. “Now let us hope our scouts managed to convince the gwenyn to return.”

But upon arriving back that afternoon, said scouts reported that the twins and their escort must have ridden hard and fast and they had been unable to catch up with them. Noting Legolas’ stricken expression, Thranduil quickly made a decision. He addressed his gathered sons.

“We leave within a sennight, Legolas. I wish to personally conduct your brother hence. You may accompany us, Galvreth, if ‘tis your desire. Aelluin, you will stand as Regent while I am gone. Elivorn and Lalorn will assist you. Inform Gilthalion of this and tell him that he is to select warriors to escort us who know enough to ask no questions beyond what duty permits them.”

The Elven-king abruptly came out of his musings when Galvreth and Legolas slowed their steeds to flank him. He looked ahead expectantly, aware that they had crossed the invisible boundary in this relatively empty region of Eriador that marked Elrond Half-elven’s area of jurisdiction.

Soon enough, they recognized the captain who led the troop of Elves that came forward to meet them. There was no mistaking the golden hair of Glorfindel of Rivendell where it streamed from beneath his helm. Right behind him rode his lieutenant, his raven hair twisted into a familiar single plait.

Thranduil wondered: ‘Elladan or Elrohir?’ Glancing at both Galvreth and Legolas, he quickly had his answer.

Galvreth could not quite stifle the elation in his brown eyes while Legolas dropped his gaze and stared forlornly at his hands on his horse’s mane. Elladan then. How these two sons of his could tell the brothers apart so swiftly and accurately was a mystery to their sire but Thranduil did not doubt their acuity in this matter.

Glorfindel hailed the Elvenking deferentially as soon as they were near enough to greet each other without raising their voices. Elladan respectfully bowed his head but did not speak, deferring to Glorfindel as the leader of the troop.

“What brings you so far from home, my lord king?” the Elf-warrior inquired. “And in such haste it would seem.”

“I wish to bring a matter of import before Elrond soonest,” Thranduil replied. “And make amends as well.”

He gestured with a tilt of his head to the rear. He did not take note of Glorfindel’s reaction upon espying Nimaras but Elladan’s.

The older twin’s face in general revealed little but a welter of emotions flickered in his grey eyes. He had leveled a quick but warm gaze on Galvreth earlier. It noticeably cooled when he trained it on Legolas but no evidence of hostility was there to be seen. However, his eyes widened ever so slightly when he laid them on Nimaras. A moment later, they hardened and when he stared pointedly at Legolas grew positively frosty. Thranduil shrewdly guessed what thoughts passed through the older twin’s mind.

The woodland party’s sudden journey to Rivendell with Nimaras under tight guard and Thranduil’s sparse elucidation bespoke the discovery of wrongdoing by the bronze-haired prince. And against no other possible Elf of Imladris save Elrohir. In which case, Elladan would deduce and rightly so that this could only mean Legolas’ retaliatory treatment of his twin had been largely or even wholly uncalled for and Elrohir’s current suffering pointless.

Thranduil saw his youngest son wilt further under that arctic gaze. The king grimly pursed his lips.

If Elladan’s reaction was any indication of his twin’s current state, Legolas would have no easy time winning back Elrohir’s regard. The balance of power to mend or rend had tilted drastically. Legolas’ hopes and happiness now lay in Elrohir’s hands.

In his capacity to understand and forgive and love. Or not.

*****************************************
Glossary:
destrier – warhorse or knight’s charger (archaic)
wherefore – for what reason or purpose (archaic)
Peredhel (pl. Peredhil) – Half-elf/Half-elven
gwenyn - twins
sennight – abbreviation of seven nights; defunct Middle English term for a week

To be continued...

Chapter Text

Bright, cheerful sunlight streamed into Elrond’s study through the arched windows that overlooked his wife’s lush garden. A startling contrast to the somber mood within.

Legolas gazed out at the wide expanse of lawn where little Arwen capered about, her nurse in tow. Celebrían had sent her babe out to play as soon as she discovered the rather sordid nature of the conversation to be had with the Greenwood king. Unwilling to listen to a recounting of the event that had blighted his life for the last two years, Legolas chose to move over to the windows and view the lovely scenery in silence.

Occasionally he would glance back to where his father and Galvreth sat facing Elrond and his lady before the hearth, Elladan perched on the armrest of his mother’s chair. He could tell from each grimace or wince on the listeners’ faces when his sire’s narration was proving most distressing. Only once did he look over at Nimaras who sat silently in a corner of the room, a vigilant Gilthalion just a few paces away.

His brother did not return his gaze and verily Legolas was glad he did not for had he glimpsed yet another flare of dislike in the older prince’s eyes, he knew he would not be able to hold back his own temper. Eru only knew then what havoc would invade Elrond’s pristine study.

The pealing laughter of the child outside drew his attention to the outdoors once more and he watched Arwen dash off toward the orchard, her nurse in pursuit. He smiled sadly, recalling the days when he had not been much older and he and Elrohir had played many a game on those same grounds.

The thought of his beloved Elf-knight was enough to cause his chest to tighten with emotion. He both desired and dreaded to meet Elrohir again. Longed to renew their pledge of affection yet feared to reap naught but rejection. Not that he could blame Elrohir if the latter elected to close that chapter of their shared history. Their last encounter had been most unpleasant to put it politely.

And now here he was again, about to turn Elrohir’s life inside out once more. If Elrohir would permit him after hearing of Nimaras’ deeds against both of them.

They had arrived at the Last Homely House in the early hours of the day accompanied by Elladan who was given leave by Glorfindel to conduct the Elvenking and his sons to Imladris. Elrond and Celebrían were patently surprised by the suddenness of their visit but they welcomed them no less graciously and bid them break their fast with them. Afterward, they were shown to the three-bedchamber suite where Legolas and Galvreth had oft quartered when visiting Imladris. After freshening up they allowed themselves only the shortest of rests before meeting with Elrond and Celebrían and their older son in the quiet study.

But Elrohir did not yet appear. Elrond had informed them earlier that the younger twin had left at daybreak for a long ride to the north of the valley realm as was his wont these past couple of years. He would likely be back by midday. Legolas wondered if it was to their secret place by the bubbling stream that the Elf-knight had ridden. With a pang he realized that he might no longer have a share in that peaceful haven.

He looked sideways when Elladan suddenly joined him at the window. He braced himself for some reproachful comment for the older twin had been distant from the moment of their meeting on the lonely plains of Eriador. But to his surprise, Elladan sighed and said, “I beg your pardon, Legolas.”

“Whatever for?” the archer asked, perplexed.

“For my poor welcome and surly behavior toward you,” Elladan replied.

Legolas blinked then countered: “You had just cause. I mistreated your brother.”

Elladan shook his head. “Elrohir would be the first to deny that. He heartily rues his failure to apprise you of what he recalled of that shameful night and says he deserved your anger and disdain. But I was sore at heart after having seen him through the worst and forgot that you are also a victim in this.”

Legolas swallowed hard, moved by the brethren’s continued concern for his welfare, even Elladan. “How-how is he?” he hesitantly queried.

“Middling, as the humans would say,” Elladan told him. “Though when we left Eryn Galen he seemed so poorly I wondered if he had succumbed to some mortal affliction. I beg you, do not assail yourself, Legolas, he would not have it.”

Legolas obediently closed his mouth but he felt more remorseful than ever at the thought of his love in such straits. “I just wish I had not spoken so harshly,” he finally whispered after a pensive while.

Elladan’s eyes flickered with understanding. “You were in pain,” he said. “I know I was hardly charitable toward you but I cannot in truth pretend that his concealment was in any way excusable. If only he had not retreated before his fears. Ah, my fierce, gallant brother, felled by the what-ifs of his own fertile imaginings.”

“I should have let him explain at the very least,” Legolas insisted. “Even the vilest felons are permitted to speak in their own defense before judgment is laid upon them yet I denied him that. And then I struck at him where I best knew he would hurt. How can he still think well of me?”

“Because he does not fault you in the least,” Elladan pointed out. “Indeed, though it saddened him greatly, he did not begrudge you the companionship you sought after the breaking of your troth. And though it pains me to admit it, he is right. The promises you made to each other no longer hold.”

Legolas felt a shudder ripple through him at the mention of his caustic declaration to Elrohir. He turned to Elladan, his fair face pale and pinched.

“But I did not—”

Before he could complete what he sought to say, a muted commotion behind them cut him off. They turned in time to see Elrohir enter the study, still clad in riding raiment, his expression questioning. His quicksilver gaze quickly raked the chamber, taking note of who was present. Legolas held his breath when it fell on him, his heart pounding in joint anticipation and apprehension.

Elrohir’s eyes widened slightly but he made no move to approach Legolas at once. Instead, after another brief glance in the archer’s direction, he did his duty and greeted Thranduil and Galvreth. But if Legolas thought the Elf-knight would ignore him out of spite, he was mistaken. As soon as he was done with formalities, Elrohir walked to him. Almost at the same time, Elladan left his side and joined Galvreth.

Legolas managed a few steps forward of his own before his hands were taken in a warm grip.

“How do you fare, ernilen?”—my prince—Elrohir quietly asked.

“Not very well,” Legolas honestly replied. “We discovered deceit in the very heart of our family.”

Elrohir followed his gaze until his eyes fell on Nimaras. His mouth tightened and he regarded the bronze-haired Elf with a controlled rage that was more terrible to behold than unleashed boiling fury.

“I see,” was all he said however though his voice cooled considerably. But when he looked at Legolas again it was with much warmth. “Well then, let us hear what dire deed has troubled you so.”

Legolas felt his heart soar at the Elf-knight’s lack of frigidity toward him and he kept an avid, hopeful gaze on the younger twin while the latter turned to listen to Galvreth who took it upon himself to repeat the tale.

Thranduil watched him with some sadness, knowing it was not going to be as simple as that to mend matters between the two. For he had seen, as Legolas in his elation had not, the shadow that lurked in the depths of Elrohir’s argent eyes.

After Galvreth finished relating the story, all looked at Elrohir to seek his reaction. To their perturbation, the younger twin seemed more confused than enlightened by it. He stared first at an oddly nervous Nimaras before turning a puzzled gaze on Elladan who stood by his side.

“What is it?” Elladan asked.

“His claim that he did not take me,” Elrohir frowningly said. “How is that possible when…?”

Elladan gaped in sudden recollection of that topsy-turvy morning. He swung around and glared at Nimaras. “Pray tell, how is it that my brother knew an ache the morning after where never had any ventured before? Do you still claim innocence of taking him against his will?”

A concerted gasp greeted his pronouncement for none other than Elladan was aware of that particular fact. Legolas felt the bile rise in his belly and a slow ire begin to percolate. But Nimaras apparently knew what Elladan was talking about for he suddenly blanched and, leaping to his feet, raised his hand in a gesture of denial.

“I did not take him!” he insisted. “I swear I did not!”

“Then explain his discomfort, dog!” Elladan growled.

The prince flushed, conscious of every one’s eyes on him. Much of his bravado had faded during the long journey to Rivendell when his father and brothers spoke little to him and when they did only with sorrow and shame. In particular, the realization that he had caused Thranduil to be ashamed of him had a crushing effect on his previous boldness of spirit and when they at last reached the elven refuge, he was all but unrecognizable in his uncharacteristic meekness.

“I-I did desire to take him,” he said in a low voice. “But not without due readying for I did not care to injure him.” He unconsciously flexed the fingers on his right hand, the action telling them what he could not bluntly say. “When I realized I could not proceed when he remained witless, I grew angry and-and rough. I likely raked him with my nails. But I swear that is all.”

That is all?

Before any could move, Elrohir strode forward, his face thunderous, and dealt Nimaras two vicious clouts that sent the prince stumbling backward before he dropped to one knee, dizzied by the blows. One cheek sported a rapidly purpling bruise while blood trickled from a cut in his lower lip.

“Elrohir!”

Elrond’s voice cut through the stunned silence even as Elladan and Legolas grabbed at the younger twin’s arms. But Elrohir made no other move and only stared down at the fallen Elf.

“Rest you, Father, I am done,” he snarled through gritted teeth. “One blow each for Legolas and myself is all I craved.”

At a sign from Elrond, Elladan slowly let go of his brother but Legolas did not and kept his hold on the Elf-knight’s arm. Elrond bent over Nimaras to examine his injuries. As he did he studied the prince’s demeanor as well. Whatever it was he saw seemed to satisfy him and when he straightened, he gently pulled the younger Elf to his feet much to the latter’s surprise. He had half expected Elrond to be severe with him for his assault on Elrohir.

Elrond said: “Your choice of punishment is just and apt, Thranduil. Nimaras indeed needs time to reflect on his deeds and repent of them and away from those who might hearken to him out of the bonds of race or kinship. But my heart grieves for you and yours that it may be an entire age of this world or more ere you discover if he has redeemed himself. For I warrant you all love him dearly, even you, Legolas.”

Legolas stared at the Elvenlord, startled at being singled out unbidden but then nodded in assent. “He is still my brother,” he simply replied.

“I would alter one aspect of his banishment then,” Elrond suggested.

“And what would you change?” Thranduil inquired with interest born of paternal concern.

“Exile him from your realm by all means but not beyond the shores of Middle-earth,” Elrond said. “Instead, give him into the care of Gildor Inglorion and his wandering bands. He will perforce abide amongst others whether he favors them or not for Gildor’s folk are pure-blooded Noldor to an Elf. Yet you will not need to cross the Sea to learn of his fate.”

Thranduil considered the suggestion for a space. He glanced at Legolas for his opinion and received it in the form of a barely discernible nod. He turned his eyes next to Nimaras to assess his reaction.

Nimaras was obviously torn between hope and fear. The hope was due to the unlooked for chance of being able to remain in the lands he called home. The fear stemmed from the prospect of being in the custody of a Noldo who likely still held some affection for Elrohir, a fact Legolas had blithely recounted to his brothers long ago. Gildor would have no great love for an Elf, prince though he may be, who had put his erstwhile lover through deep pain. Last of all, Thranduil looked at Elrohir inquiringly.

“If Elrohir is not averse to such a change, I would heed your counsel, Elrond,” he said, keeping his eyes on the younger twin.

Elrohir met his gaze squarely. “My sire’s counsel is always sound, my lord,” he replied. “My only stipulation if you take it is that Nimaras never steps within the bounds of Rivendell even when Gildor and his folk sojourn here. Else I cannot promise that I will do him no harm.”

“An understandable demand and a reasonable one,” Thranduil agreed. “Very well, this balms my heart I will admit. Elrond, would you speak to Gildor for me?”

“But of course, meldiren”—my friend—Elrond promptly assured him. “I will send scouts to search for him at once.” He extended a hand, gesturing to the door in invitation. “But for now, I urge you to take more rest than what you had this morn. You may not care to admit it, but you are weary beyond bearing. I can see it in your eyes.”

Thranduil heaved a heavy sigh. “Indeed, but methinks ‘tis more a weariness of the spirit than of the body.”

“Your spirit’s lassitude will affect your body’s haleness ere long,” Elrond pointed out. “Come, delay no more and rest yourself.”

He led Thranduil out of the study. At a sign from the king, Gilthalion followed with a thoroughly subdued Nimaras in hand. After a quick word with Elladan, Galvreth left as well. But Celebrían lingered, her thoughtful eyes on her younger son and Legolas who had not moved from Elrohir’s side.

The archer was staring at Elrohir’s right hand, eyes wide with consternation. Now he reached for the twin’s hand and lifted it. Elrohir looked at him, a tad startled.

“When did you cease to wear your ring?” Legolas anxiously queried.

Elrohir started then bit his lip before murmuring, “That night, when I saw how much it displeased you.”

Legolas winced. “Nay, it did not displease me!” he said plaintively. “Ah, Elrohir, will you not wear it again? As I would wear mine if you would be kind enough to return it.”

Elrohir caught his breath, taken aback by the sudden bald request for the reinstatement of their troth. An odd expression crossed his features. He glanced at Elladan and then at their mother as if in need of aid. Finally he looked at Legolas once more. To the archer’s alarm, he gently disengaged his hand from his grip.

“If you would excuse me, I think I should bathe,” he murmured in tacit evasion. “I reek of horse and sweat.”

“Nay, that is not so,” Legolas objected, reaching for him once more. “Elrohir—”

Elrohir held up his hand in a mute request for Legolas not to press him further. The archer was astonished to see the slight trembling of his upheld hand

“Mayhap we can speak of this later,” Elrohir said.

Legolas started to protest once more but the younger twin gazed at him so pleadingly that his words all but died on his lips. With a slight bow to Celebrían, Elrohir briskly left the study.

Legolas stared after him, feeling as if his world had just upended once more. He glanced askance when a hand landed on his shoulder and came under Celebrían’s sympathetic regard.

“Does he no longer want me?” Legolas mournfully asked, his eyes beginning to swim with tears.

“Nay, ‘tis not that,” she softly said. “Did you not see his eyes? He is afraid.”

“Afraid?” Legolas gasped. “Of me?”

“Not of you,” Celebrían corrected, “but of what might happen should he fail you once more.”

“Fail me!”

“Yea, he knows he wronged you and feels it his just desserts to have tasted your wrath. Naught that you said to him does he deem undeserved.”

“But I would take them all back now,” Legolas desperately said. “I would have him back.”

“He needs time, pen neth.”—young one.

“Time for what?”

“Time to muster his courage to take up your love again.”

“Elrohir is no coward!” the archer exclaimed indignantly.

Celebrían pensively smiled. “I did not say that he is. But think, Legolas, he invested nigh two score years in you, in your troth. And he sought to live up to the high esteem in which you held him. So impossibly high that he could not help but be toppled from it for there is none alive save almighty Eru who bears no flaws, not even the Powers themselves.”

Seeing Legolas’ grimace of guilt, she shook her head to forestall him. “You worshipped him with all the innocence of a child, do not fault yourself in that. If aught bears the blame mayhap ‘tis my lord husband and I that we did not help you temper your adoration of our son. But then Elrohir always carries himself as one of greater years and easily lulls most into forgetting that he is so young himself, barely past his first century as it is. I fear we took it for granted that he would know what to do when your worship of him exceeded reason or if he erred and showed himself to be as fallible as any creature under the sun. That was a costly mistake and we have rued ever since that we did not intervene ere he stumbled.”

Legolas could not gainsay her. “What do I do now?” he asked in so lost a voice it quite broke Celebrían’s tender heart.

She raised her white hand and gently brushed her knuckles against his cheek. “Have patience, Legolas,” she crooned. “I believe your reward will prove well worth the wait.”

Casting a wan smile at Elladan, she glided out of the room and went about her duties as chatelaine of her husband’s house. The older twin regarded the woodland prince with as much sympathy as his mother had shown previously. Legolas became aware of his scrutiny and looked at him.

“I will win him anew, Elladan,” he suddenly vowed.

Elladan pursed his lips. “And what makes you think that you need to?” he quietly countered. “He deems himself yours. Despite everything he loves you.” Elladan paused then said: “He still bears his betrothal ring.”

“But his finger was bare—”

“On the silver chain he wears around his neck,” Elladan clarified. “Right next to yours.”

Legolas’ breath hitched at the thought that Elrohir had not only worn his ring until very late but had also borne the prince’s as well to this very day.

Elladan saw the rekindled hope in the archer’s eyes. “I pray I do not regret telling you this but heed him not when he claims himself unsure of his feelings,” he counselled. “‘Tis not his feelings for you that he doubts but himself. As my mother so sagely put it, he knows not if he is brave enough to chance losing your regard once more. For him to worry so is a testament to his heart’s true yearning. And that was ever you, Legolas. And still is.”

Legolas straightened, determination limning his stance and every word. “And he is mine and ever will be,” he fervently declared. “I will not leave Imladris until I know our rings bestowed where they belong, Elladan.”

Some humor sparked in the older twin’s eyes. “Arwen may mistake you for another brother if you live here long enough, though what she will make of your lack of Peredhil height and breadth I can only imagine,” he quipped.

Legolas smiled then. “But I will indeed be her brother if I succeed.” He slightly frowned then firmly amended to Elladan’s faint amusement, “When I succeed.”

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Elrond expected it to take several weeks before his scouts located any of the Wandering Companies of High-elves. But as good fortune would have it or perhaps simply fate, they came upon Gildor Inglorion and his folk a mere three days out of Rivendell. Gildor was on his way to the elven refuge for one of his rare visits and to report what news of events in the north he had gathered to Elrond. Therefore, it was but a fortnight ere he and his band departed for the wilds once more, one sullen Sindarin prince in his custody.

Not surprisingly, Gildor was most displeased to learn of the crime Nimaras had committed, more so that it had been against one for whom he still held much fondness and respect. But though he did not trouble to hide his displeasure, he made it clear as well that he was in full accord with what Elrond and Thranduil intended for Nimaras.

He assured Thranduil that his son would not be mistreated but would be disciplined for infractions as any of his folk, no more, no less. Gildor shared the opinion that while Nimaras’ deed was vile, the Elven prince himself need not be and could still be redeemed.

Nimaras would abide with the High-elves and learn their ways, will he, nill he. Perhaps some day he would shed his misbegotten prejudices and atone for his wrongdoing. When that hoped for day arrived he would be welcomed back with open arms and warm hearts.

What Nimaras thought of the terms of his exile none could say for he remained tight-lipped up until the moment he hoisted his pack and slung it across his shoulders. But when Thranduil hugged him tightly and pressed a farewell kiss to his temple, his actions finally revealed his feelings. Watching him hold on to his father longer than his wont, it was easy to surmise that apprehension about his fate had played a large part in his prior reticence.

These Exiles from across the sea were beyond his ken. Their language and culture, their very appearances were more alien than even what he had seen of the Elves of Imladris. He had never felt comfortable amongst the Eldar of the valley realm. What more with these foreign Elves who seemed as heathens to a Sinda born and bred on Middle-earth’s soil?

And so it was with heavy hearts and the faintest flaring of hope that his father and brothers saw him off one balmy morning near the end of summer. Soon after, Thranduil and Galvreth took their leave as well but Legolas kept to his vow and prepared for an indefinite stay in Rivendell.

On the eve of his departure, Galvreth informed him that he had invited the twins for a night of convivial drink out on the garden porch. Legolas grimaced as memory of the last time they had observed the custom and its deleterious aftermath assailed him.

“You are brave considering what passed last we were here,” he said.

Galvreth shook his head. “Truth be told, I did not care to revive memories of that night,” he admitted. “I do this at Elladan’s behest—for Elrohir’s sake.” At Legolas’ puzzled response, he continued: “It seems Elrohir desires a private moment with you, but he does not wish to give you false hopes of a swift reconciliation.” He tilted his head and curiously regarded his brother. “Elladan did not enlighten me as to what that is supposed to mean. Would you care to?”

With a doleful sigh, Legolas repeated the counsel he had received pertaining to Elrohir’s doubts about the resumption of their betrothal. Galvreth nodded in reluctant agreement when he finished.

“I cannot blame him,” he remarked. “Had his innocence not been proved, would you have eventually softened your heart toward him?”

“I—suppose so,” Legolas haltingly said.

“Even you cannot say for certain,” Galvreth commented. “Elrohir’s only gauge of your justice is the punishment you dealt him. ‘Tis no easy thing to take you on once more having tasted your steel. I would be wary, too, were I in his shoes.” When Legolas winced, he added: “Yet I warrant he would not have you change overmuch just to ease his fears. You would not then be the Elf he came to love.”

“What should I do?” Legolas wistfully asked.

Galvreth paused then said, “Strike a balance. He is no divinity at whose altar you should worship. And I imagine he has long labored to live up to your impossibly high expectations of him. Think what a relief it would be for him to be just as he is—your Elf-knight, with all his perfections and all his flaws.”

“Sage advice,” Legolas murmured. “Would that someone had counselled me thusly then.”

“I doubt anyone thought it necessary. The twins seem so much more than their ten and hundred years. I wager even their parents can be deceived as to the extent of their maturity and their ability to cope with adversity.”

“So Lady Celebrían said,” Legolas soberly admitted.

Galvreth clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Will you come tonight?”

“But how can we talk in your presence?”

“As to that…” Legolas lifted an eyebrow in surprise when Galvreth blushed. “Well, Elladan wishes us to make an early night of it.”

Legolas’ mood lifted a bit and his eyes brightened with glee. “Ah, my felicitations then, brother!”

Galvreth wanly smiled. “It may be no more than a tussle or at best a one-night tumble. But I will take what he is willing to mete out for now.” He chuckled ruefully. “We are doomed, you and I, to have given our hearts to Peredhil. No sensible Elf can withstand them.”

* * * *

They converged on the garden porch at the appointed time. There was some awkwardness, it could not be helped; not when Legolas and Elrohir, though faultlessly amiable, were obviously aching to be alone.

After little more than an hour, Elladan caught Galvreth’s gaze and signaled that it was time for them to give their brothers their privacy and seek privacy of their own. Elrohir grinned slightly when the Greenwood prince rose to his feet, his ivory cheeks stained with mild color.

“Be gentle, gwaniuar”—older twin—he cautioned Elladan humorously. “Methinks you are not the only one who has practiced restraint these many years.”

Galvreth’s gasp of disbelief would have been recompense enough for his gibe, but he was fulsomely rewarded when Elladan could not quite suppress his own start of surprise, which was followed swiftly by a gleam of unmistakable pleasure in his eyes.

“I am always gentle,” the older twin mildly retorted. “If ‘tis demanded of me. But I am just as amenable to using brute force if that is what is desired. Or I can be both.” He looked askance at Galvreth and winked rakishly at the prince. “There is nothing like a little experimentation to discover what suits one best, don’t you think, my prince?”

Legolas barely managed to stifle a guffaw when his brother glared at Elladan then at a snickering Elrohir before shaking his head in resignation. “Come away, Elladan,” Galvreth muttered. “I had best put your clever tongue to other use afore you go into more detail of your plans for the night!”

He entered the house, an unrepentant Elladan following. But when Legolas leaned forward to set his drinking cup on the porch table, he caught a glimpse of Galvreth pinned to the wall but a few feet from the door being treated to what he himself already knew something of—the inimitable amorous attention of a Peredhel. He hastily sat back, the tips of his ears turning a bright crimson at having glimpsed his brother in so intimate a pose. Elrohir noted his discomfiture and grinned.

“I take it Elladan’s restraint crumbled straightly,” he softly chuckled.

Legolas rolled his eyes. “I suppose Galvreth won’t object as long as Elladan finishes what he started in private,” he dryly said.

“Oh, Elladan will not make a spectacle if that is what you are worried about. He would never expose Galvreth to others lest he invite unwanted interest in what he deems his. That he would never countenance, I assure you.”

Legolas stared at him. “He truly cares about my brother then?” he interestedly pressed.

“If he did not, think you he would have stayed himself all these years?” Elrohir laid his cup on the table as well. “He would have had his ride long ago and many times since did he not fret about the perils of yielding his heart as well. It astounds me that he has chosen to chance a stab at it now of all times when he has seen me through the worst of my own ordeal.”

Legolas glanced anxiously at him, troubled by the fleeting reference to the recent rockiness of their relations. But it appeared that Elrohir had not intended any slight or recrimination judging from the way he leaned back to absently stare at the night sky.

They spoke no more for a while but sat in companionable silence, Elrohir regarding the star-studded firmament, Legolas studying his fine profile in turn. Finally the archer reached for the twin’s hand where it reposed on the bench between them and wove his fingers with the latter’s. Elrohir turned and looked at him with gleaming eyes.

“Forgive me,” they both said almost in unison.

They caught their breaths then laughed in hushed tones at the synchronicity of their initial overtures.

“For what?” Elrohir asked, indicating that Legolas should speak first.

“For my lack of faith in you,” Legolas said. “For passing judgment on you ere you had a chance to defend yourself.”

Elrohir bit his lip then shook his head. “Your ire and distrust were duly earned,” he replied. “I should not have kept what happened a secret from you. What else could you have thought of my silence but the wages of guilt? More than ever I wonder why you still sought me out. I am not worthy of you, Legolas.”

“Do not say that,” Legolas protested. “I know no one more worthy of any Elf he should covet. And I should have realized that ‘twas not guilt that drove you but fear. You were right to dread my retribution. Had I been in your place, I doubt I would have been forthcoming either. It was cruel of me to ill-treat you for one supposed indiscretion when you had never shown me aught but kindness and patience. Please, say you will forgive me.”

He gently pulled the hand he held to draw the younger twin nearer. Elrohir obliged until they were sitting shoulder to shoulder, the closer contact tingeing the very air with a different kind of tension.

Elrohir drew a deep breath, as if to steady himself, then said, “There is naught to forgive. You did no wrong, no matter what others may have told you. ‘Tis I who should seek forgiveness and I dearly hope ‘tis finally mine after…” He trailed off as remembrance of the past two years’ bleakness assaulted him.

He looked away, unwilling to reveal his hurt to Legolas but the archer sensed his pain nonetheless. But before he could speak, the young warrior continued. “I hoped to win you back,” he said softly. “Even when you would not answer my missives, I still thought that you would permit me to address you when we met again. I did not realize how much you resented me, my actions… I should have realized it. I knew you so well; knew better than any other how terribly you would take betrayal and yet I did not see how far I had fallen in your regard. But I wanted to regain your amity at the very least. I would have been satisfied with being your friend. Or so I told myself. But then, you made it clear that even that was beyond recall. And I found I could not stay, I could not face that truth. And so, like a craven cur, I fled.”

Legolas gasped at the depth of Elrohir’s self-reproach. “Nay, ‘twas not craven of you at all!” he exclaimed. “What I said to you was reprehensible. I was no better than Nimaras in my—”

“Do not compare yourself to him!” Elrohir sharply cut him off. “There is no malice in you; no evil. What you dealt me, I deserved. ‘Tis no fault of yours that I did not want the bitter harvest I reaped.” His grip on Legolas’ hand tightened, thrilling the archer no end. “Still, I will dare to ask for your forgiveness. Will you give it now?”

“You know it is yours,” Legolas whispered. “And it should have been yours long before had I not been so stubborn and hard-hearted. I never stopped loving you, even when I believed the worst. Indeed, I yearned for you without cease.”

Elrohir gazed at him with shining eyes. “Did you?” he murmured, a small smile playing on his lips. “That comforts me.”

Legolas felt a shudder of want wrack his frame. He longed to voice his desire, to beg Elrohir to ask him to be his once more. But mindful of the Elf-knight’s current fragile sense of worth, he desisted and instead leaned forward and brushed his lips against Elrohir’s.

It was a swift and light kiss but the sudden gush of heat between them proved in abundance that what had been was still there and as potent and forceful as ever. It buoyed Legolas’ hopes even further and when he saw the undeniably hungry look on Elrohir’s face however much the latter tried to conceal it, he knew with utmost certainty that the younger twin had taken no one in his stead despite the loneliness of the years of their separation.

“I thank the Powers that you are still mine alone,” he blurted out in his delight.

To his dismay, Elrohir’s smile faded, the light in his eyes dimmed and an odd expression crossed the twin’s face. He watched in bewilderment as Elrohir stared down nigh unseeingly at their linked hands which now rested on his lap. And then he saw the Elf-knight swallow hard and with shock realized the latter was struggling not to weep.

“Elrohir, what is wrong?” he asked, alarmed. “What did I say?”

“‘Tis nothing,” Elrohir managed to say but his rough voice betrayed the falsity of his reply.

Legolas let out a frustrated exhalation. “‘Tis precisely because you kept silent that Nimaras found one means to hurt us so terribly! Please, tell me what troubles you.”

Elrohir stared at him, a slightly startled look on his face. After a moment’s hesitation, he finally said: “I was only thinking that I almost wish the charge against me had been true. At least there would have been just cause for why I can no longer say the same of you.”

At first, Legolas was perplexed by his answer. And then his meaning hit him with the force of a buffet and he thought his heart would burst. Berating himself for his wicked tongue, he lifted his free hand and cupped Elrohir’s face.

“Hearken to me, Elrohir,” he urgently said. “It was to hurt you that I declared I had sought comfort from others. But it was only in word, never in deed. I was as true to you as you were to me.”

To his consternation, Elrohir only sadly smiled. “You need not try to assuage my feelings with falsehoods,” he quietly said. “What is done is done and cannot be changed. And you were within your rights to do as you pleased with whomever you desired. You were no longer promised to me anymore than you still considered me yours.”

He did his best to hide his sorrow but could not quite succeed and Legolas cringed at the pain he espied in the depths of his beloved’s argent eyes. Letting go of Elrohir’s hand, he flung his arms around the younger twin, pressing his face against the side of his neck.

“‘Tis no falsehood,” he desperately insisted. “I only led you to believe that I had dallied with others. But I could not lie with another, ellon or elleth. I did tell you the truth that you set a high standard. So high none could reach it. I could not bear to settle for less and so I settled for none. But even had there been one to match you, I could not share myself when there was no love to ease my way. As there always has been with you, my Elf-knight.”

Legolas raised his head and gazed beseechingly at Elrohir. “Ask any in Eryn Galen. They will tell you I speak the truth. I have been with no one else nor have I wished to be.”

He prayed Elrohir would believe him yet feared he would not. He had not placed his faith in Elrohir, why should the Elf-knight place his in him now? He felt his heart plummet to the pit of his stomach when Elrohir compelled him to release him and drew slightly away. Yet Elrohir did not let go of his hands but trained a searching gaze on him.

Legolas could not help flinching from that piercing stare but he did not retreat and forced himself to return it. Elrohir seemed to look into his very soul and he staunchly bore the burning appraisal. And then the Elf-lord sighed and closed his eyes for a spell. Legolas thought in that instant that he had lost; that Elrohir did not trust him as wholly as before, and he felt a wave of scorching remorse and sickening despair wash over him.

But Elrohir opened his eyes and they gleamed with pure and bright emotion. And the taut line of his mouth relaxed into a faint smile.

Legolas caught his breath when a strong hand curled around his nape and pulled him close until his mouth met Elrohir’s. It was no incendiary kiss but passion there was aplenty. Save it was passion born of deepest love and not mere lust. Legolas half moaned, half whimpered when his lips were parted and his mouth sweetly invaded.

He clung hard to Elrohir, relishing so tender and affectionate a caress, very much akin to that first kiss they’d shared years ago in a secluded Greenwood glen north of the Woodland Realm though imbued with warmth rather than heat.

When the kiss ended they were both quite breathless but not inclined to take matters a step further despite their bodily yearning for more. Not yet. They remained as they were, their foreheads touching, arms about the other.

“I missed this,” Elrohir murmured.

“So did I,” Legolas breathed.

Elrohir lifted a hand to stroke the archer’s rosy cheek with his knuckles. “If you permit me, I would woo you again, Legolas,” he said.

Legolas wanted to tell him that there was no need for courtship. That he was his to the end of time; that all he need do was ask and he would bind to him at once. Now, before some other calamity befell them and they were parted once more. But upon smoothing his hand over the Elf-knight’s chest, his fingers felt through the fine fabric of Elrohir’s shirt the two betrothal bands that hung from the silver chain about his neck.

Reason and prudence prevailed and he comprehended that Elrohir was asking that they discover each other anew; not as predestined mates but as lovers who had consciously chosen the other for time unending. In getting to know each other all over again, they would find complete healing and gain more strength, wisdom and forbearance, all to the betterment of an eternal bond.

Legolas did not care much for the delay of their full reconciliation but if delaying it won him his Elf-knight for all time, then he would wait however long it took.

“I would like that very much,” he whispered.

Elrohir drew him back into his arms and into another lengthy and loving kiss. Legolas thought with a surge of hope and bliss that he might not have to wait so very long after all.

*********************************
Glossary:
Peredhil (sing. Peredhel) – Half-elves/Half-elven
ellon – male Elf
elleth– Elf-maid

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Clothing littered the floor in a telltale trail from the door to the wide four-poster bed. A spate of gasps and moans and an occasional cry reverberated through the moonbeam lit bedchamber. And two bodies undulated on the thick feather mattress, one form molded against the back of the other, lean hips driving forward in the age-old act of bodily penetration.

Galvreth gripped the formerly immaculate sheet under him, attempting to brace himself against the nigh bruising thrusts of the older twin. To little avail. He had not thought he would be mastered so swiftly or easily by the decades younger Elvenlord but he was disabused of that preconception almost as soon as they set foot inside the door. Elladan took the lead and set the pace; there was no gainsaying him. And truth be told, after having yearned for this moment for far too long, Galvreth was more than content to play the sheath to Elladan’s sword.

What he had not expected was how impressive a sword it would be when at its greatest potential. Once again he had underestimated how formidably the peculiar mix of races in the Peredhil blood could endow them not only in mind but in body as well. He bore the brunt of it now, wondering what madness had driven him to permit a second breaching when he had hardly recovered from the first. And this one far more vigorous; not at all what he had expected to endure right after his first gently achieved yielding.

He was not unlike the twins in his reluctance to share fully of himself with any who had not gained his utter trust and deepest affection. He had held off from this last act, waiting for the one to whom he could submit and not rue it afterward, whether that one be his fated mate or not. Of course, there had always been the possibility that he would woo and wed an Elf-maid in which case his willingness to yield would have become moot. But Elladan’s advent in his life had set him on a path from which there could be no turning.

He moaned when a knowing hand reached around him, grasped his thrumming shaft and stroked it firmly and steadily until he was shuddering from the simultaneous sensations of being filled and fondled. Under such usage, it did not take much longer for him to come undone and, with a ragged cry, he spent himself once more upon the sheets. Just short of whimpering, he bore one last piercing, trembling with the depth and force of it, before he felt Elladan tense behind him and liquid warmth spilled into him. He did not move but fought to catch his breath.

Elbereth! If this was how the Peredhil conducted themselves in the love act, ‘twas no wonder they knew no shortage of Elves eager to fill their beds. It was to their credit that they maintained utmost prudence and selectivity and did not use their singular allure to full advantage.

He felt the press of lips against his nape and the back of his shoulders. Turning his head to glance at Elladan, he found his cheek cupped by a warm palm and his mouth taken in a kiss that was equal parts tender and stirring. He groaned when a teasing tongue swiped across his lips then gained entry into his mouth and a wandering hand caressed his flanks and groin. Surely Elladan did not intend to ride him anew when he had not even withdrawn from him!

The older twin grinned at the look of shock and consternation on his face. “I am no inconsiderate lecher,” he said with a shake of his head. “To leave you too sore now would be to deprive myself later. And the night is still young. Too young to waste on mere slumber.”

Galvreth could not help laughing beneath his breath. “Is there no limit to your need?” he murmured, wincing slightly as Elladan left his body. He was drawn down to lie beside the twin.

“Contrary to popular belief I do have my limits,” Elladan smiled, sliding his fingers through the prince’s argent locks. “But they tend to exceed the rule I find and have thus given rise to the ridiculous rumor that I am insatiable. I am as my brother and father and most likely every Peredhel who came before us.”

Galvreth shook his head in amusement. “If only I had known,” he remarked. “Mayhap I would not have been so eager to be ridden by the likes of you.”

Elladan snorted good-naturedly. “Are you complaining?” he gibed. “Now when you have had me up your backside twice in succession?”

Galvreth felt his cheeks burn in response to the older twin’s bald assertion. A moment later, more than his cheeks heated up when enterprising fingers snaked between his thighs to stroke the cleft beyond his shaft. He quickly grabbed Elladan by the wrist and glared at him in exasperation.

“Stay yourself, wanton!” he gasped. “Have you no mercy?”

Elladan laughed out loud. “Have no fear, my fair prince,” he drawled. “I was only assuring myself of your well-being.”

Galvreth rolled his eyes. “You are incorrigible, Elladan.”

The twin’s eyes sparkled humorously. “And I wager you would not have me any other way,” he said.

Galvreth opened his mouth to retort then stopped and gazed at Elladan. His brown eyes softened and unmistakable affection warmed them considerably. “I would have you any way you please,” he quietly stated.

Elladan regarded him in thoughtful silence for a space. And then he lifted his hand and gently smoothed the back of it against Galvreth’s still flushed cheek.

“So beautiful,” he murmured. “Good fortune is not my brother’s alone.”

Galvreth beamed. It was not a declaration of love but there was no doubt that Elladan cared for him and that would do for now. He lay back in the twin’s arms and let his thoughts stray elsewhere.

“Think you they will find their way back to each other?” he asked, recalling what Legolas had said about Elrohir’s reluctance to renew their troth.

“In good time,” Elladan replied. “They love each other, that did not change.”

“Yet they also hurt each other out of misguided fear and expectations,” Galvreth mused. “I pray they learn from this and come out stronger for it.”

“I think they already are,” Elladan reasoned. “Else both would have broken long afore this day.” He gazed appreciatively at Galvreth’s comely face. “Valar, but I shall miss you,” he said of a sudden. “‘Tis a pity you must depart tomorrow.”

Elated by the unbidden admission, Galvreth laid shining eyes on Elladan. “I shall miss you, too,” he replied. “Would that I could forego duty for one more day with you.”

He kissed the older twin lingeringly, savoring the unique sweetness that was Elladan’s. Without much warning, he was summarily rolled on his back and his legs nudged apart.

“Wait!” he protested in some alarm. “I still ache too much for that!”

Elladan smirked. “And who said I was going to do that?” He slithered down between the prince’s spread legs. “There are more ways than one to partake of a feast, ernilen.”—my prince.

The Wood-elf gasped when a hot mouth closed around him. Before the welter of rapturous sensations overtook his wits, he dimly realized that Elladan had uttered no assurance not to take him again in the course of the night. This was obviously but a brief respite ere his Peredhel lover mounted him once, twice, even, Eru forbid, thrice more.

A finger slick with his nascent seed gently slid into him. That hot mouth continued to skillfully suckle his newly reawakened length. Galvreth groaned and arched into both caresses, his hands clutching at the silk of Elladan’s midnight mane. And then a wave of sharpest pleasure inundated him and left him with no room for random thought, much less ordered reason.

* * * *

The orangery at the back of the Last Homely House was redolent with the scent of recently harvested fruit. Legolas wondered at the diligence of Lady Celebrían in ensuring that even produce that was seldom to be had in the cold north should still find their way to the tables of Elrond’s halls.

Oranges, tangerines and shaddocks could be imported from the east and far south by way of enterprising merchants and traders. But the long distances and length of time entailed to get them from their points of origin to Rivendell resulted more oft than not in either bruised or virtually juiceless specimens. Rather than make do with what was only haphazardly available and not always of the best quality at that, Elrond’s wife had insisted on having a hothouse built and now one was as apt to find these hard-to-come-by delicacies in the fruit bowls or pastries and preserves of the Last Homely House as apples, peaches and grapes.

So successful had been their mother’s efforts that the twins had been heard to inquire as to when she would try her hand at growing bananas, pomegranates and coconuts.

Legolas lifted a hand to touch the fragile petals of a purple hued flower that dangled from its perch on a strung up broken off tree branch. Fruits were not the only plants grown within the orangery. One corner was devoted to blossoms that thrived in the nigh tropical climes of the easternmost provinces of Rhûn or in the warmer gardens of the southern lands of Gondor and Harad. Fragrant jasmine, aromatic ylang-ylang, colorful chrysanthemum and an astonishing variety of orchids were assiduously cultivated at the behest of Rivendell’s lady and many a guest in residence were astounded to find these exotic blooms gracing their bedside tables.

Seating himself on one of the wooden benches along the far wall of the building, the archer peered through its high glass panels at the lightly burnished landscape beyond. Summer had since given way to autumn and the gardens of Elrond were slowly exchanging their verdant finery for the rusts and bronzes of the season.

He sighed, remembering his first visit to the valley at the tail end of that year’s summer. Autumn had come to Rivendell soon after and he had delightedly roamed the elven refuge with Elrohir while the gardens and forests shed their summer colors and the trees were divested of their lush leafy crowns. Those had been halcyon days for a young and innocent Elf-child discovering the world outside of his woodland home for the first time and in company of one who had treated him with all the affection and respect his own brothers had denied him then.

A light tap on his shoulder recalled him to the present and he turned in time to find a triangular bite-sized sweet poised temptingly near his lips. It was a dainty confection of layers of buttery, paper-thin pastry filled with finely chopped walnuts and drenched in a rich syrup of honey and rose water. Legolas grinned at Elrohir and, parting his lips, permitted the Elf-knight to pop the pastry into his mouth. He chewed it slowly, his eyes widening at the delicious simplicity of the sweet.

“Your pastry cook has outdone herself,” he remarked with just the mildest quiver in his voice when he saw Elrohir idly lick honey from his fingers.

The younger twin handed him a drinking cup of cider. He set a small plate of more of the delectable pastries on the bench beside him.

“The recipe comes from Harad I am told,” he said. “I managed to save a few for you before Elladan and Glorfindel finished off the lot.” He plucked another piece from the plate and offered it to the prince. “I have not forgotten how fond you are of honeyed sweets.”

Legolas nodded and accepted the proffered piece. But as soon as it was deposited in his mouth, he swiftly slipped out his tongue and licked off the honey on Elrohir’s fingers as well as the nuts that clung to the sticky substance. Elrohir watched him, mithril eyes glittering.

Afterwards, he slowly sipped his cider, his gaze meeting Elrohir’s over the rim of the cup. The Elf-knight smiled. When Legolas lowered the cup, he leaned forward and kissed the archer’s cider-sweet lips, his hand curling around the latter’s waist to pull him closer. Legolas closed his eyes and blissfully returned the caress, parting his lips to invite a slow, gentle invasion of his mouth.

When the kiss ended, his cheeks were faintly flushed and his eyes slightly glazed. It was always thus these days when Elrohir plied him with love and tenderness. For though the Elf-knight firmly desisted from proceeding any further than sweet, almost chaste kisses and embraces in their physical relations, there always lingered in the figurative background a ghost of the heady passionate trysts they’d shared before their lamentable sundering.

Elrohir drew a finger down the elegant line of one rosy cheek then rose to leave. “I must return to the Healing Halls lest Father take me to task for forsaking my duties,” he explained.

“Then you should not have attended to me,” Legolas replied. “I do not desire trouble upon you.”

Elrohir slipped his fingers beneath the archer’s chin. “I wanted to see you,” he said. He bent and pressed a last kiss to the prince’s mouth before departing.

A bright smile tugged at the corners of Legolas’ lips as he watched Elrohir stride out of the orangery. Elrohir had risked his father’s censure for the simple reason that he wanted to see Legolas. A happy sigh escaped the archer.

Since their conversation on the garden porch where Elrohir had actually asked permission to court him, the Elf-knight had put word into immediate action. Not a day passed that Legolas did not find some token or witness a gesture of his lover’s regard for him. The Elf-knight took the time and effort to see to his contentment and comfort whether it be the provision of the prince’s favorite foods or books or activities, sending him affectionate notes when duty kept him from the archer’s side or simply showing up at the drill yard to cheer him on when he was testing his skill with bow, knife or sword.

Many were the mornings when they would explore the vale by foot or on horseback, often in company with Elladan, that Legolas might reacquaint himself with the elven refuge after seven years of absence. Or if a hike or ride was not to Legolas’ liking, they would spar with each other in comradely fashion for Elrohir was still as much teacher as he was lover to the young Wood-elf.

Afternoons of leisure for the Elf-knight might be spent in the most mundane of occupations such as grooming their horses, visiting the valley’s drapers and tailors for the purpose of securing new tunics or assisting Celebrían and Erestor in the never ending task of keeping the archives in order. But on occasion and much to the kitchen staff’s amusement they would help in the preparation of the evening’s repast particularly if in doing so they could sample the sweets of which both were exceedingly fond.

Then most nights would find them either engaged in a contest of wits in the gaming room or seated side by side in a quiet corner of the Hall of Fire while they listened to the most recent compositions of Rivendell’s bards and minstrels. But there were evenings when they were not to be found unless one went to one or the other’s rooms where they had secluded themselves, quietly sipping wine while reading some new tome, sharing their thoughts and feelings about every topic under the sun that they should think of or huddling in companionable silence before the blazing hearth, Legolas oft leaning back into Elrohir’s secure embrace, his golden head resting against the Elf-knight’s shoulder.

One thing Elrohir took care not to reintroduce into their gradually healing relationship was their previous physical intimacy. Legolas was initially disappointed but soon came to realize the wisdom of setting aside for the moment the needs of their bodies while their hearts and spirits were still on the mend. It would prove distracting and might even overtake their emotional restoration and that would do neither of them much good.

The young prince finally understood how his precociousness and reckless pursuit of physical satiation had weakened the foundation of his relationship with Elrohir. It had blinded them to the inherent flaws both in themselves and in their bond. In gratifying his body first, Legolas had neglected to expand his knowledge and understanding of Elrohir as a whole and had only settled for what he desired to learn of his betrothed. In seeing only Elrohir’s strengths he had failed to perceive his weaknesses. In his eyes, his intended could do no wrong. Thus when the younger twin faltered, it had come as a huge shock. Disillusionment had quickly followed and with it anger, hurt and a deep sense of betrayal.

It would not do to repeat that mistake if they hoped for more balance in their relationship. Consequently, this protracted restraint between them.

Legolas had not thought a slow, tender approach could possibly be as interesting or engaging when he had already known the exhilaration of a whirlwind courtship. But he now had ample reason to change his mind. To be wooed by the Elf-knight was turning out to be an experience he would not forego for all the treasures in Arda. Though in truth there were times the denizens of the vale were not certain just who was courting whom.

Elrohir may have voiced his intentions but it appeared that Legolas was determined to reinstate their troth soonest and would not simply sit back and leave all the wooing to the younger twin. Furthermore, guilt at his ill-treatment of his beloved fueled his desire to take an active part in effecting their full reconciliation. No matter how often Elrohir assured him that he did not fault him for any part in their rift, Legolas could not rid himself of a sense of culpability.

Surely he bore some of if not equal part of the blame for their present straits, he insisted, and so he strove to make amends, the act of doing penance however mild helping to mitigate some of his remorse. Besides, he wished to shorten this period of courtship delightful though it was to be the recipient of Elrohir’s attentions. He had learned much from their falling-out and he knew that so had Elrohir. Hence the latter’s caution and prudence this time around.

Legolas understood this but he was still quite young and mercurial by nature as well and could not quite rid himself of his impatience. He knew next to nothing about the nuances of a proper wooing but he suspected that taking action himself would hasten things along and that was much desired.

He longed to slip the silver band that symbolized his affiancing to Elrohir back on his right hand’s forefinger and likewise persuade Elrohir to do so. To the woodland prince, the sooner they bore their betrothal rings once more, the more likely a proposal of wedlock would be swift in following. He had not forgotten that Elrohir had asked him to bind to him upon his majority or that he had accepted the proposal with joyous alacrity. Legolas did not relish delaying that yearned-for event by even one day past his fiftieth year.

Not when the promise of his Elf-knight’s eternal loving hovered tantalizingly over his every waking moment.

*************************************
Glossary:
Peredhil (sing. Peredhel) – Half-elf/Half-elven
orangery – building where orange trees are grown, especially a large greenhouse for use in cooler climates
shaddock – an old name for pomelo, a cousin of the grapefruit
ylang-ylang – tropical flowers that yield a fragrant oil used in perfumery

To be continued…

Chapter Text

It was Elrohir’s smile that he particularly missed, Legolas realized in the weeks following their tentative reunion. His intoxicating, unguarded lover’s smile that Legolas had basked in, secure in the knowledge that it was for him alone. Now it was seldom in evidence and even then it was but a shadow of its former radiance.

Part of its dimming stemmed from Elrohir’s dearly bought restraint. The Elf-knight was taking no chances that some unwitting gesture on his part should entice Legolas into pressing for more intimacy than either was ready for at this point in time. That had clouded their full understanding of each other previously. He would not allow it to do so again and squander this precious second chance. But Legolas knew there was yet another reason for his muted cheer.

When he saw Elrohir bestow upon others that same smile albeit shorn of the emotion that had distinguished it as an expression of his sole regard for Legolas, the woodland prince could not help but be saddened.

For so long as it did not grace Elrohir’s lips in replete guise it meant that their relationship had not yet wholly mended. The Elf-knight would not withhold so vital a part of himself otherwise. Aye, even if he were to suddenly bed Legolas now, the prince knew their union would not be complete. Not if their bodies were coupled but not their hearts or spirits. And how could either be if Elrohir still guarded his out of a wariness of what could befall them if their attempt to reconcile failed or, worse, their renewed relationship came to naught again?

Yet though unsure Elrohir may have been of withstanding another parting should he err once more, his heart Legolas knew with all confidence was his. Elrohir loved him dearly, that went without saying, and evinced his love in just about everything he said and did that pertained to the archer.

Curled up before the fire in Elrohir’s room the first winter’s eve of his reconciliatory sojourn in the valley, he gazed up at the painting that hung on the wall above the hearth. His colorful child’s rendition of long ago of the fabled valley and the house the Peredhil had built still graced Elrohir’s wall and never had the Elf-knight taken it down, not even during the two years of their estrangement. It had given him great comfort then, he quietly told Legolas when the archer questioned him about it the previous week, and he would never barter it even for the greatest treasures in Middle-earth.

He’d proved it that late autumn morn.

A delegation from Arnor had arrived bearing works of Númenorean art from before the fall of the Land of the Star, harking back to the days when that westernmost of the mortal lands had established havens and colonies in the south of Middle-earth. In later days, when Elendil and his sons had returned and founded their realms in exile, these treasures were presented to them. Some remained in Gondor but others were taken to the Northern Kingdom of Arnor. The new king Eldacar had decided that some of the paintings in his possession were in need of restoration while the rest ought to be preserved for future ages. The Elves were acknowledged masters of both procedures and so to Rivendell the paintings had been sent.

Amongst these had been a few splendid pieces depicting the everyday lives of members of the royal family down through the ages. Eldacar had bidden that they be given to his elven kinsfolk as gifts. They were fairly personal in nature and not meant to be displayed in a public gallery. Elrond had offered his sons their pick of these portraits to be hung in pride of place atop their bedchamber mantles. But to everyone’s surprise the younger twin declined.

“Do you not wish for a masterpiece such as this to grace your wall?” Celebrían asked while smoothing a white hand over a wondrous portrait of Elros surrounded by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Elrond’s eyes glistened at this image of his long deceased twin, still so alike to him even in his fourth century though already showing signs of his great age.

Elrohir shook his head and with a small smile replied, “Nay, I already have one of even greater worth and beauty.”

All eyes had fallen upon Legolas and the archer had blushed to the roots of his hair as much out of pleasure as embarrassment at their knowing regard. Still he had thought to persuade Elrohir to reconsider his decision for such priceless pieces were not to be scoffed at. Needless to say, Elrohir’s answer had warmed his heart through and through.

And so, though it grieved him at times that his Elf-knight still held back a part of himself, he continued to hope and do his share in replenishing their once enviable bond. In this fashion did the winter pass, their mutual courtship as gradual and gentle as it had been during autumn.

Spring however brought about a difference in the pattern of their days. As soon as the snow melted, the weather warmed and the days grew brighter, Elrohir began to spend hours away on his own some three or four days a week. Legolas wondered if he passed those hours in his secret place by the tributary brook. And swiftly on the heels of his suspicions followed hurt and worry as he pondered why the Elf-knight had not seen fit to ask him to join him for these lengthy jaunts.

He had done the same at certain times during the previous autumn but Legolas had not made much of it then. They had just begun their passage toward healing and the archer had reckoned his lover needed time alone to order his thoughts and feelings. And so he had not questioned Elrohir when the latter took off for a whole morning or afternoon without him. With winter’s advent, Elrohir’s solitary northward rides had ceased and Legolas had assumed that they had stopped altogether. He’d been quite disconcerted to discover that this was not so.

A fortnight later, when Elrohir rode off north once more without asking him along, Legolas decided enough was enough. He needed to know just where the Elf-knight took himself on this solo jaunts and, more important, why. Not permitting his misgivings time to dissuade him, he mounted his horse and hastened after Elrohir.

His instincts proved true when he espied faithful Uilos tethered to the outer trees of the hidden glade. Reigning in his horse, he was surprised to hear the unexpected sound of splitting wood resounding from the clearing. Silent as a wraith, he dismounted, left his horse by the snowy Elf-steed and crept toward the glade.

The sight that greeted his eyes was wholly unexpected. The sound of splitting wood was explained soon enough when he espied Elrohir in the middle of the clearing, stripped to the waist, measuring a slender log’s length ere hefting an axe to chop the wood into two equal pieces. To one side lay a pile of more split logs, already shorn of their rough bark, their surfaces sanded to a smooth turn.

Behind Elrohir was an even greater reason for Legolas’ graceless gape. For there beneath the spreading branches of an elm was a wooden structure that could be no other than a cabin in the making. Already two sides had been erected while the front wall was halfway done. The pieces Elrohir was hewing were apparently for its completion. Legolas could not quite suppress a huff of disbelief and thereby betrayed himself to the younger twin.

Realizing he was discovered, he rose from cover as Elrohir set aside his axe and turned to await his approach. Legolas boldly strode forward, determined to glean an explanation from his reticent lover.

“More secrets, Elf-knight?” he mildly inquired, his eyes on the half-finished cabin.

Elrohir smiled faintly. “How else can one keep a gift a surprise?” he countered good-naturedly.

Legolas stared at him. “A gift?” he repeated. Again his eyes strayed to the cabin. “For what occasion?”

Elrohir’s smile turned just the least bit unsure. “No occasion,” he murmured. “Merely an expression of hope for the future.”

The prince caught his breath. “When did you start to build it?” he asked in a hushed voice.

“Upon my return here last summer. I needed to do something to distract myself,” Elrohir quietly replied. There was no need to elaborate about what he had needed distraction from. He walked to the cabin and Legolas followed. The archer watched as the Elf-knight ran a hand over the half-finished front wall, his fingers caressing the wood. “I thought to build a retreat where I might hide myself when the grief became too great to keep from the others, especially Elladan.”

Legolas felt his eyes sting with unshed tears and he came up behind Elrohir to slide his arms around his waist and lean his head on his shoulder. Elrohir covered his linked hands with his own reassuringly.

“Then you came and I knew hope once more,” he continued softly. “But I confess I was still afraid that it might yet be dashed and I knew I could not endure it should I lose you again.” He drew a shaky breath when Legolas tightened his hold on him. “I would come here when my fears overtook me. It soothed me and bolstered my courage. But this past winter, it seemed that I could hope in earnest. That I would not lose you after all. It was then that I thought to make a gift of this to you.”

Legolas came around to face him, his arms still fast about him. “How could you lose me when I came here to claim you anew?” he whispered.

Forestalling further words from the Elf-knight, he sealed their lips together, giving his feelings free rein that Elrohir might know the depth of them. Heat flickered then flared between them as restraint momentarily gave way to passion. Legolas shuddered when he became aware of Elrohir’s bare flesh against his palms and fingertips and the singular scent of his Peredhel love unconfined by clothing. He would have pressed for more had Elrohir not collected himself and with an effort broke off their kiss.

“Legolas,” he gently cautioned.

The prince knew a stab of disappointment but did not force his desire on the twin. They had come so far and rebuilt so much, it would be foolish to undo all they had achieved because of untimely lust. He nodded and drew out of their embrace. But he did not unclasp their hands and neither did Elrohir.

After drawing a steadying breath, he gestured to the cabin. “May I?” he inquired.

Elrohir smiled and led him into the structure.

It was a one-room cabin wrought completely of wood save for the small stone and mortar fireplace and chimney to the back. Of Silvan design and construction, each wall of the cabin had a wide window to let in light and air and Legolas knew the roofing would be of several layers of thatching woven together so tightly it would keep out rain and snow. No nails held together the logs that formed the walls or the planks that made the flooring but rather, in Wood-elven fashion, each piece had been cut and shaped to fit precisely into the whole, then lashed together with twine or rope for further stability.

He fingered an unfamiliar gray cord that Elrohir had used for binding in some areas. It was unusually thin for rope and surprisingly silky to the touch.

“I have not seen such rope before,” he commented. “Is it strong enough for this purpose?”

“It is made of hithlain,” Elrohir replied. “And indeed ‘tis stronger than common rope for all its slenderness. The Galadhrim instructed Elladan and me in its making during our last sojourn in Lothlórien.”

Legolas shook his head in some awe. “I assume ‘twas also in Lothlórien that you learned to build in the Silvan manner?”

Elrohir nodded. “You are sprung from the same stock and there are few differences between your way and theirs; mostly in design I think for they raise their houses on telain while your folk build your homes into the very trees themselves. And the Galadhrim keep no buildings on the ground as you do. But otherwise, there is no mistaking your shared heritage.”

“Fascinating,” Legolas murmured.

He noted a wooden partition that separated a small area from the rest of the room. It was toward the still unfinished wall. The view was of the bubbling brook and Legolas thought it a pity that a wall should block it from sight.

Elrohir seemed to divine his opinion for he said: “I was thinking of building a porch on that side. And instead of a solid wall, I thought sliding panels would be a better option. ‘Tis a lovely view and one we might appreciate from the comfort of our bed. What say you, my prince?”

Legolas looked at the partitioned area again, recognizing it now for a sleeping alcove. It was large enough for a wide bed meant for two. He swung around and stared at Elrohir in elation.

“Aye, it would indeed be lovely,” he eagerly replied, eliciting a chuckle from the Elf-knight.

“A porch it is then,” Elrohir grinned.

They went out into the clearing once more. Legolas looked back at the cabin longingly. “Elrohir?”

The younger twin paused in his stride and glanced at him inquisitively. Legolas gazed at the cabin, his eyes limpid with delight.

“Let me help you,” he said. He turned a radiant smile on Elrohir. “Let us share this task, rochiren.”—my knight. “I would cherish evermore the fruit of our joint efforts.”

Elrohir considered the request, mithril-hued eyes thoughtful. And then they glittered and he picked up the axe and tossed it to Legolas. The woodland prince caught it with a grin.

Setting the axe atop the pile of logs, he swiftly shed his tunic and shirt and hung it beside Elrohir’s raiment on a low-lying branch of a nearby tree. He could not help a slight blush when Elrohir eyed him appreciatively before the younger twin bent to select an adz from his tools and set to trimming the logs he had earlier cut.

With two now at work on the cabin it stood to reason that the pace of its construction would pick up. And indeed it did so swiftly that scarcely two weeks passed ere they progressed to the making or obtaining of furnishings. With their own hands, they fashioned a small dining table and two chairs, a narrow kitchen counter and its overhanging cupboard, a long bench for the porch and a simple wardrobe.

But best of all, in Legolas’ opinion, was the wide bed meant for a couple that he helped Elrohir build. It came to embody his hopes of an eternal future with the Elf-knight.

Beddings, rugs and hangings they acquired from the traders of the valley, giving many a storekeeper reason to smile indulgently, especially when it became known that they had purchased a large feather mattress. It was quite natural for all to assume that said acquisitions would be making their way to one or the other’s bedchamber. The notion swiftly gave rise to talk of an impending renewal of their troth.

Elladan got wind of the matter first of the residents of the Last Homely House. He wasted no time cornering his twin and mercilessly quizzed him about it. Elrohir unbent so far as to admit that he and Legolas were creating a haven for themselves but he did not reveal either its nature or location and Elladan pressed no further. After all, there were secrets that were meant to be kept between lovers alone. And so he guarded what he knew of theirs even from their parents, secure in the knowledge that Elrohir would do the same for him.

Thus it was nigh the end of spring when the pair’s task was done and they could step back and regard their handiwork with utmost satisfaction.

It was a spare abode but not devoid of beauty or charm for there was scarcely a thing of elven make that could not claim either. The windows were left open for the most part but, in inclement weather, sturdy shutters would keep the elements out. Almost the entire wall by the sleeping alcove was composed of wooden panels that slid to either side to provide an unobstructed view of the sparkling brook. Legolas had painstakingly etched images of different flora and fauna into the fine wood. Scattered rugs and wall hangings in the vivid hues favored by the Wood-elves lent warmth and character to the great room, as did the quilted dark blue and bottle green counterpane that covered the bed.

“‘Tis passing strange that when I finally take part in the building of a Silvan home, it is not in fair Greenwood but within the bounds of a Noldorin stronghold,” Legolas wryly commented as he gazed in some awe at the cabin.

The afternoon of the house’s completion, they had settled in the shade of the nearest tree that they could contemplate their achievement in cool comfort. Leaning against the trunk, Elrohir had offered his lap to pillow Legolas’ head and the archer had happily accepted. He now lay in languid contentment on the grass, his eyes oft alighting on the product of their labor.

“But you are proud of yourself, yes?” Elrohir pointed out. “To create something with one’s own hands is an accomplishment of worth.”

“Oh aye, I am proud indeed. Of both of us.” Legolas glanced once more at the cabin and was struck all over again by its simple beauty and homely elegance. “Ah, I so look forward to making use of it, Elrohir!”

To his amazement, Elrohir suddenly laughed and his mouth widened into a smile of such open affection that the sight stole Legolas’ breath from his very lungs. There was that smile, the one meant for him alone. He swallowed hard, mesmerized by the sheer comeliness of his Elf-knight’s cheerful visage.

“What is so amusing?” he managed to ask.

“I think I can guess what in particular you are looking forward to putting to good use,” Elrohir gibed.

Legolas’s cheeks turned crimson and he swatted the younger twin’s arm. “What of it?” he retorted mumblingly. “Do you not feel the same way?”

“Think you I would have provided space for a bed for two if I did not?” Elrohir replied with a rakish grin.

Legolas gaped at him a moment. “Then-then when?” he inquired almost not daring to hope.

Elrohir smirked. “That will depend on how soon you can get your sire to come here.”

That threw the archer into utter confusion. “What does Father have to do with this?!”

“He would not be pleased were you to wed in his absence, now would he?” Elrohir said.

Legolas stared at him. “Wed?” he repeated weakly.

“You agreed to bind to me upon your fiftieth year, ernil daur”—forest prince—the younger twin reminded him. “I intend to hold you to your pledge. Or have you changed your mind?”

It was several seconds before Legolas found his tongue. “Nay!” he gasped at last. "‘Tis what I have been awaiting from you all these months.” He hesitated then looked up uncertainly. “But-but you, Elrohir? Are you truly ready?”

“More than ready, lassen vell”—my dear leaf—Elrohir murmured. He took Legolas’ left hand in his right and lifted it to his lips to press warm kisses to its palm.

The prince’s breath hitched at the intimate gesture. It was then that he saw the glint of silver on Elrohir’s right index finger. He stared at it in disbelief. When Elrohir released his hand, he quickly placed it upon the Elf-knight’s breast. He gazed pleadingly at his beloved when his fingers felt nothing where once two bands had rested.

“Where?” he all but croaked.

The young warrior’s eyes shone with argent fire. Holding Legolas’ rapt gaze, he took the archer’s right hand. Legolas held his breath as a beauteous band of silver was slipped onto his forefinger.

For a wordless space, they stayed thus, their hands clasped, their betrothal rings gleaming in the filtered light. A tear slid down the prince’s cheek while a grateful smile spread across his lips.

Elrohir gathered him up in his arms and brought their mouths together in a kiss of such ferocious passion that it left them both panting in its wake. Legolas clung to him in almost feverish zeal, relieved as much as joyous that their rift was healed and their hearts and spirits utterly open to each other once more.

He sighed in bliss when Elrohir released his lips but held him close, their foreheads touching. “Shall we please your father and wait until we are bound?” the Elf-knight softly queried.

Legolas took a moment to consider the suggestion though he was sorely tempted to say no and ask that they consummate their love forthwith. But the thought of lying with his Elf-knight as his binding-mate suddenly thrilled him to his very core and he knew it would make their first union all the more special. For they would be joining their whole selves, not merely their bodies. They would at last be as fate had decreed—two hearts made one and their love sealed with the coupling of their bodies.

“Aye, I shall write him at once,” he whispered, sapphire eyes ablaze with anticipation.

He lifted his lips to Elrohir’s once more and moaned in pleasure when they were hungrily claimed.

****************************************
Glossary:
Peredhil (sing. Peredhel) – Half-elf/Half-elven
hithlain – strong gray silky substance used by the Elves of Lórien in the making of their rope
Galadhrim – ‘tree-people’, the Silvan Elves of the Land of Lothlórien
telain (sing. talan) – tree-platforms or ‘flets’ built by the Lórien Elves
counterpane – a cover for a bed

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Imladris, lairë T.A. 250
“‘Tis ironic that he of all my sons should be the first to bind himself in wedlock,” Thranduil commented. “The babe of the family has overtaken his brothers.”

It was summer in Rivendell and the sun rode low in the sky as the afternoon swiftly waned. On this most golden of days the Elves of the Last Homely House had put forth all their energy to make the first binding in Elrond’s family since the Peredhel lord’s own a most memorable occasion.

The long banquet tables were laden with the finest delicacies known to Elf-kind and the housekeeping staff had dressed up the grounds with garlands of the most fragrant blooms and greens to be had and hung festive lanterns from the trees. Elrohir and Legolas would wed amidst the understated splendor of the Last Homely House’s vast garden.

The Elvenking had arrived a week ago in the midst of the flurry of activity, accompanied by his older sons. Aelluin and Elivorn would return to Greenwood straightly after their brother’s binding rites for their forest kingdom needed governing. But Thranduil and Galvreth and Lalorn would stay on for the remainder of the summer. He would never openly admit it but the woodland monarch was feeling sentimental about the marriage of one of his sons.

“May I assume that Elivorn will not be long in following?” Elrond inquired, his eyes straying to the dark-haired prince who strolled about the garden with his fair maiden love. They were formally betrothed and Elivorn had insisted that she join him for this joyful event.

“Aelluin as well if Gilthalion does not wish to incur my displeasure,” Thranduil added with a wry smile. “And if his wooing proceeds without any hindrances, Lalorn may soon take a bride.” After a thoughtful spell, he glanced with a slight frown at Galvreth who was conversing with Glorfindel and Erestor.

Elrond followed his gaze and stifled a sigh. He knew that if Thranduil could have his way, the Elven-king would have all his children settled down forthwith. Thanduil was looking forward to having about him the extended family he himself never had.

“You will be awash in grandchildren when Elivorn and Lalorn marry,” Elrond said, adroitly skirting the issue of Galvreth’s lack of marital plans.

“Aye, and my household will likely rue it if my sons’ progeny are anything like themselves and their brothers when they were growing up,” Thranduil replied. He glanced at Elrond curiously. “But what of you, my friend? Methinks your sons will not beget grandchildren for you and your lady. Do you regret their choices?”

Elrond smiled and shook his head. “‘Tis more important that my children choose as I and share eternity with us.”

“Ah, then Elrohir…?”

“Would make a poor mate for your son if he did not pledge himself to Legolas’ eternal care.”

Thranduil’s eyes gleamed with pleasure. “My felicitations then.” He considered his silver-haired son once more. “Mayhap Elladan will find good cause to choose as his brother.”

“I dearly pray that is so,” Elrond agreed.

The two prospective law-fathers whiled away what remained of the afternoon reminiscing over the past, only pausing to inspect the vintages the wine steward had chosen for the occasion. Come nightfall, they also took a moment to praise little Arwen when she prettily presented herself for their approval in the manner of maid-children the world over.

After listening to Thranduil bestow lavish compliments on his delighted daughter, Elrond glanced up at the darkened sky. The stars were beginning to peek out one by one. He addressed the Elvenking beamingly. “Come, it is time.”

He and the woodland monarch walked back to the house. But the other members of their families made their way to the center of the garden where tall torches had been arranged in a wide circle. Celebrían took her place within with Elladan and Arwen while Thranduil’s sons ranged themselves on the opposite side.

Outside the circle, the Elves in attendance gathered about, only leaving open a flower-strewn path from the house. In the hush that followed, a single voice lifted in song to the strains of flute and gittern. Eyes turned to the path in time to see Elrond emerge from the garden porch where he paused a moment until his younger son came to his side. Mutterings of appreciation greeted Elrohir’s appearance.

In keeping with elven nuptial tradition, he was clad primarily in white from his silken shirt to his formal hose and dress boots. But over this he had donned a knee-length brocade tunic in the lightest shade of gold possible, almost the color of sparkling wine. It emphasized the warmer hue of his fair skin, a trait unique to the Peredhil. About his waist was a jeweled belt of ancient age and design, worn by his hallowed grandfather when he wed his beloved Elwing. Upon his brow was a small but perfect adamant set within a delicate mithril star mounted on a simple gold circlet.

His joy was readily apparent in his eyes for they were bright with an almost otherworldly light. There was no doubt that the younger twin was entering into a bond he wholly desired. A far cry from the day when he had signed a contract not for love of his heart’s choice but to protect a child’s innocence and wholeness of spirit.

Arwen darted from her mother’s side to clasp him by his legs as soon as he stepped into the torch-lit circle. He leaned down and embraced his sister tightly, dropping a tender kiss on the top of her head. He adjusted the slender wreath of dainty forget-me-nots that crowned her dark hair before leading her back to their proud parents. Elladan held him close a moment and then they grinned at each other before taking their places facing the jovial Greenwood princes.

It did not take long before Thranduil led his last-born down the path. A hushed silence descended on all upon first sight of him.

Legolas had never looked more innocent or comely as he did now, arrayed almost completely in pristine white, the artful silver embroidery and delicate crystal beading on his high-collared satin court tunic making him seem a fragile, ethereal creature rather than the primal warrior prince that he was. In Wood-elven fashion, he wore light shoes of palest grey. A cunningly woven silver circlet crowned his golden head. In the moonlight, his rich flaxen tresses shimmered like purest silk.

As soon as Elrohir laid his eyes on his woodland love, they darkened with unmistakable intent. A charming blush stained Legolas’ cheeks when he came under his intended’s covetous gaze. He was seen to tremble ever so slightly as he took his place before Elrohir and for a moment he was unable to lift his eyes to meet his gaze. When at last he did he was immediately ensnared by the Elf-knight’s spell and perforce endured that desirous sweep of his beauteous self that also promised delights to come ere the night was over.

The young Elf was welcomed by his brethren with either hearty hugs or gentle brotherly teasing. This too was a great change from when he had known next to no attention from them and even less affection. It was a heartening sight and Thranduil was hard-pressed not to weep at the fulfillment of one of his dearest wishes. At length, when the Greenwood royals had taken their proper places, Elrond invoked the presence of the Powers that they may bear witness to this union of two souls.

The Elf-knight and Elven prince uttered their vows under the panoply of stars and the weight of a collective regard that was beyond mortal understanding. It was not an oppressive weight but rather a moving one that struck deep to the very centers of their hearts and intensified the import of their choice to commit to matrimony.

Their oaths were simple and straightforward but were nonetheless so powerful and binding that even death could not render them null save if one or the other chose never-ending immurement within the Halls of Awaiting. It was always a solemn moment in the Firstborn’s rite of marriage for the profundity of such a commitment was something even Elf-children were aware of.

Arwen and the other Elflings present watched with rounded eyes and mouths when the ritual bloodletting was performed, their awe growing when upon the sealing of the pair’s vows with the mingling of their blood through their clasped hands, the scarlet wounds healed even as they looked on. But the removal of their silver betrothal bands and the loving exchange of the gold rings that signified their wedded state in the waxing brilliance of Eärendil’s light promptly banished any childish fears and elicited many an enthralled ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’.

With a mischievous smirk, Elrohir capped the ceremony by pulling Legolas flush against him and, instead of bestowing a chaste and proper kiss on him, virtually pillaged his mouth in flagrant foretelling of what he intended for his new mate that eve.

What Thranduil made of it Elrond decided he would rather not uncover. But Legolas’ brothers dropped their courtly manners and joined Elladan in lustily lauding his twin’s audacity. When Elrohir finally released him, Legolas hid his reddened face in the Elf-knight’s shoulder. It was one thing to behave the wanton when they were by themselves and jest about it after with his brethren, quite another when there were witnesses about, in particular his very own sire!

“He is indeed recovered,” Erestor was heard to wryly remark with a shake of his head. “I must extend my sympathies to Legolas.”

Glorfindel laughed. “You said much the same thing of yourself when we wed, melethen”—my love—he pointed out. “I do not hear you complaining overmuch these days.”

Erestor prudently declined to reply.

The newly bound pair did not stay long at the nuptial feast. And no one begrudged them their haste to depart soonest.

It was plain they would not be passing their binding night at the Last Homely House but in some secluded haven of their choosing. And so once they had partaken of a light meal and participated in a few dances they slipped away with their families’ respective blessings and a goodly supply of miruvor and heady ale courtesy of Elladan, delaying only long enough to doff their finery and change into plain tunics, long breeches and hardy boots.

They rode north for the most part in amiable silence, occasionally exchanging glances in the dark, both quite overwhelmed by the enormity of what they had just undertaken. Not that they regretted it in the least but still and all the knowledge of their eternal espousal was neither that simple nor swift to digest. They would revel in it but like all wedded couples they would learn the ways of marriage with the passage of years and not in the space of a single night.

When they arrived at their cabin, they spent a few minutes making it homely enough for their purposes. They had already stocked it beforehand for a sennight’s stay and so all that was needed now was to light their bedside lamp, store the additional libations Elladan had given them and open the windows and the panels by the sleeping alcove. Legolas turned from sliding the last panel into place in time to see Elrohir pull the cover down the bed. The realization that consummation was finally at hand set his heart pounding madly.

The pounding worsened when Elrohir beckoned to him with a tilt of his head. Drawing a steadying breath, Legolas went to him. Sleekly muscled arms looped around him as soon as he reached the Elf-knight and drew him close for a lengthy, achingly tender kiss. It calmed him considerably and by the time Elrohir ended it he was quite a-prickle with anticipation once more.

“Two score years is a ridiculously lengthy wait,” Elrohir murmured. “Eru be praised that you have finally grown up.”

Legolas softly laughed. “Yet I wager I was the more impatient of the two of us,” he claimed.

“You would lose that wager, my prince,” Elrohir quietly told him.

Legolas looked at him skeptically. “Would I?” he said. “But you were always at pains to deter my efforts to seduce you.”

“Be grateful that I was well trained to do my duty. Else I would have bedded you as soon as your Greenwood custom permitted it even before I knew I loved you.”

The archer stared at the Elf-knight, his breath hitching. “You restrained yourself…?”

“By the skin of my teeth,” Elrohir affirmed. “Did you not suspect at all?”

Legolas dumbly shook his head, humbled by the revelation. Elrohir laughed under his breath and the sound was enough to set Legolas’ skin simmering.

“Well, I would end the drought forthwith,” Elrohir murmured, hands reaching for the clasps on his tunic. “I suggest you strip as swiftly as you can, lassen vell”—my dear leaf—“if you wish to keep your clothes whole for another day.”

Spurred by the wicked gleam in Elrohir’s eyes, Legolas hastened to comply. And yet he was not quick enough for hardly had he shed his tunic and boots and loosened his breech-laces when he was summarily borne down onto the bed. He gasped as he landed on the soft mattress, gasped louder when Elrohir yanked his breeches down his legs in one impatient motion. He would have protested such hasty handling save for the distraction of Elrohir’s bared image before him.

It seemed so long ago when he’d stealthily watched the Elf-knight pleasure himself. He had not seen Elrohir in naught but his skin since. With innocent zeal, he let his eyes avidly roam over his spouse’s resplendent graces.

So engrossed was he in studying Elrohir’s body that it was some while before he realized that his mate was regarding him with similar appreciation. It struck him then that the Elf-knight had not beheld his fully naked form since before his gangly adolescence. Beneath that knowing argent gaze, Legolas of a sudden felt very young and vulnerable and unexpectedly afraid. With a shaky exhalation, he closed his eyes and raised a trembling hand to partially conceal his apprehensive mien.

“There is nothing to fear, melethron”—lover—he heard Elrohir say with a lilt of gentle laughter in his voice. “I will do nothing that you do not desire. Though in truth I cannot think of anything you would decline to try, my precocious Wood-elf.”

The bantering tone had the desired effect for Legolas opened his eyes and gazed back at Elrohir’s mirthful countenance. Realizing that the act about to take place was meant for their enjoyment and not some test of endurance or skill, he slowly relaxed.

“I will be as gentle as possible if you wish it,” Elrohir offered.

Legolas let his eyes rake the Elf-knight’s splendid frame. Meeting Elrohir’s gaze, he shook his head and said with a brave smile: “You need not be gentle, rochiren. Only-only have a care until I have learned some.”

Lean fingers slid through his fair hair until they touched one still over-warm cheek and caressed his skin. He sighed when Elrohir stroked his lips with his thumb, his eyes never leaving his face.

“It would be folly to leave you too raw for more than a ride or two,” Elrohir told him with a raffish grin. “I have no intention of passing this night in slumber.”

Legolas caught his breath. Galvreth had confided a little about his and Elladan’s first tryst, including the older twin’s near inexhaustible ardor. It was obvious that Elrond’s sons were nigh identical in more than their physical appearance. If Elrohir was anything like Elladan in concupiscence, prowess or stamina, neither he nor Legolas would spend the night in wasteful repose.

“Elbereth preserve me,” he blurted out in some dismay.

Elrohir chuckled and bent lower until their lips were barely touching. “I have waited much too long to practice restraint now,” he murmured, his breath mingling with the archer’s.

Before Legolas could respond, he sealed their mouths together while he blanketed his golden mate’s quivering body with his own. Legolas moaned when for the first time he felt himself molded against Elrohir with nothing to separate them. Every movement against each other was akin to that of a flint being sparked particularly where their groins met and their shafts rubbed together. It did not take long ere he felt himself afire with almost unbearable desire.

Without breaking their kiss, Elrohir took his hands and drew them up to grip the base of the carved headboard. Only then did he end their lips’ union and dipped his head to ply his mouth and tongue on the prince’s white throat and shoulders. Legolas shuddered with every swipe of Elrohir’s tongue or press of his mouth to his flesh, an occasional shallow bite eliciting a startled hiss from him. One reason for his extended hands soon became apparent in the spate of nips and kisses to the smooth inner flesh of his upper arms. If Elrohir meant to mark him as his, he was certainly being thorough about it, Legolas deliriously thought.

Unthinkingly, he arched his body into Elrohir’s only to softly cry out when their shafts slid against each other in nigh excruciating bliss. Elrohir lifted his head and looked down at him with passion-darkened eyes.

“If you do not wish to finish this over-soon, you must stay yourself,” he instructed, loving amusement limning his lust-roughened voice.

Breathing unevenly, Legolas could only nod his assent. He bit his lip as Elrohir embarked on a downward exploration of his body. A moist tug on one nipple nearly undid his resolve however and he began to lower his hands to clasp Elrohir to him. But the Elf-knight caught his arms and, with a shake of his head, pushed them back up. Keeping a silver stare on his shivering spouse, he resumed his maddening suckling and laving of the prince’s now peaked nipples. Caught by that commanding stare, Legolas was forced to watch him until sensation overcame him and he perforce closed his eyes.

Onwards Elrohir journeyed, as if Legolas’ form were a yet unexplored landscape that needed detailed mapping. By the time he reached the sensitive juncture where sleek limbs met taut groin, Legolas was nearly beside himself with barely contained rapture. The sensual strain did not abate but only waxed when Elrohir pressed kisses to the top of his thighs ere nuzzling the golden curls that cradled his engorged shaft. With patent enjoyment, he lazily licked the delicate pouch of flesh underneath then drew his tongue along the rigid length before taking the entire column into his mouth.

Legolas heard someone sobbing breathlessly, realized it was his own self. Clutching tightly at the headboard in a bid to obey Elrohir not to lower his hands, he could not keep himself from lifting his hips and thrusting helplessly into the wet warmth that enclosed it. Nor did Elrohir stop him but cupped his bottom to abet his wanton bucks. It was as much his blatant savoring of Legolas’ shaft as his ardent pleasuring of it that sent the prince careening wildly toward completion.

Calling out Elrohir’s name, Legolas spilled a creamy stream down his darkling mate’s throat, gasping as he was all but sucked dry. He lay quite still for several minutes, his chest heaving as he fought to regain his breath. He felt Elrohir’s hands on his flank and thighs, stroking them to soothe him while dropping tender kisses on his belly and groin.

“Valar! I will not last the night if you continue thusly,” Legolas hoarsely declared when he finally found the strength to open his eyes and look down at his spouse.

He whimpered at the sight of Elrohir’s answering smirk. “You do not need to in order to be ridden well and long,” the twin cheekily replied while he shifted to kneel between Legolas’ outspread legs, his hand slipping under to caress the cleft in the archer’s rounded backside.

Legolas dropped his head back and groaned. “Ah, do what you will then,” he said. “I can see that my consent is of little consequence.”

Elrohir snorted. “As if I would force anything on you,” he mildly reproved. “Admit it, my sweet, you are not in the least averse to letting me have my way with you, awake or no.”

His pronouncement was accompanied by a slippery, probing finger. Legolas gasped when he felt the intrusion but Elrohir did not desist and slowly but firmly slid his finger into the archer’s untried flesh. Wriggling, Legolas instinctively tried to pull away.

“Be still, Legolas,” Elrohir commanded. As if mesmerized, the prince did as he was told and stopped moving as much as he was able. But he winced when a second finger joined the first, the slight burn adding to his shock. “Heed this lesson well if you do not wish to cause me undue discomfort when you take me,” Elrohir softly advised him.

Legolas caught his breath and stared at him, suddenly aware of what Elrohir’s counsel portended. Swallowing hard, he nodded wordlessly. Lying back once more, he put his mind wholeheartedly to learning what Elrohir sought to teach him. Gingerly stroking his fingers, Elrohir caressed something within him that caused molten heat to surge in his groin. The thought of likewise treating the Elf-knight inflamed him even further and he was soon pushing against Elrohir’s fingers, taking them deeper into his body.

So enraptured was he that he protested when Elrohir withdrew his hand. But a scant minute later, he was gasping wildly anew. For Elrohir hooked his hands behind his knees and pushed them up. When the twin’s warm tongue lapped at him where his fingers had previously been employed, Legolas wondered if the bliss could grow any greater. And when that talented tongue pressed into him, the archer knew that it could.

Only to discover that he had not reached his limit when, after a good breath-stealing while, Elrohir wedged himself between his thighs to replace his tongue with his seed-slick shaft. With a stab of apprehension, Legolas wondered if he could accommodate so formidable a sword. He looked up at Elrohir, vestiges of his earlier fear returning.

Warm hands cupped his face and sinuous lips caressed his. Elrohir gazed reassuringly at him. Be one with me, beloved.

A shuddery breath escaped the prince as the Elf-knight’s thoughts brushed his mind. Recalling that he had yearned for this moment for far longer than he cared to remember, he resolutely hooked one slender leg around Elrohir’s hip, opening himself fully to his mate. His arms wove about the twin’s shoulders and he managed a tremulous smile.

Elrohir smiled back, eyes glittering with equal parts love and lust. He lifted Legolas’ bottom slightly and, purposely ignoring the fair-haired Elf’s gasping whimpers, slowly but steadily eased into him until he was completely berthed within, claiming his prince at last. It was a defining moment for them when in that instant they knew themselves to be in union in all senses of the word.

Legolas stared at Elrohir in felicitous disbelief, wonder at their joining slowly supplanting the initial pain of this first breaching. Reaching out in response to Elrohir’s silent invitation, he felt their spirits meet and realized a bridge now spanned the natural divide that separated any two beings. Elrohir murmured his name with such gutting love and passion it set Legolas’ heart all a-flutter. His eyes widened at the thought that this was but the beginning for they had not yet reached the summit of their loving. Could he survive such blinding bliss?

“Sweet Eru,” he moaned when Elrohir delivered the first thrust and fetched him a burst of purest pleasure. He clutched hard at the Elf-knight’s shoulders with every subsequent plunge of rigid flesh into his body, gasping or crying out as he was caressed from within. Soon he was arching up into every lunge of Elrohir’s hips and, no longer capable of lucid speech, begging his spouse through the communion of their minds to take him harder, deeper, faster.

Elrohir could not deny him even though granting Legolas’ fervent request inevitably depleted his bodily restraint. Breathing harshly when the coil of pleasure in his gut tightened almost painfully, he reached between them to curl his fingers around Legolas’ turgid length and firmly stroked it, relishing the feel of the hard, thrumming flesh. It proved too much for the archer.

The multiple sensations from without and within abruptly unraveled him and with a strangled keen he spent himself. Copious pearlescent seed coated Elrohir’s fingers and dappled their bellies while silk-bound muscles closed convulsively around the Elf-knight’s spearing length. That wrenched the last slivers of Elrohir’s control from him and he drove deep into Legolas to spill himself fulsomely into the prince’s satin core.

Their joy and pleasure flowed uninhibitedly between them. Caught in love-thrall, they could only cling to each other and ride out the waves of the binding rapture, the first of a countless many in an eternal union. Their wedded spirits embraced in that uttermost intimacy unique to Elf-kind.

Elrohir paused to catch his breath before lifting himself off Legolas and carefully uncoupling their bodies. Legolas gazed at him with glistening eyes, overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of their joining and suffering through the pangs of their bodies’ separation. Elrohir offered him the haven of his arms and he hurried into them, pressing his face against his mate’s neck. Elrohir held him tightly until his trembling diminished.

When he could speak coherently once more, the prince whispered: “Is it always thus? So strong, so joyful…”

“I cannot say for I have never known the like before,” Elrohir murmured against his forehead.

Legolas stilled then looked up to meet the Elf-knight’s gaze. He was astonished to see the moist gleam in Elrohir’s eyes. “But you had lain with others afore me,” he said in hushed voice. “Surely you knew pleasure with them.”

“Pleasure, aye, and always some fondness,” Elrohir replied. “But only with you have I felt such shattering bliss. Or known this oneness of spirit.” He laid gentle fingers on the prince’s lips. “You alone have I taken in love, Legolas.”

The archer could only stare at him in wonder and gratitude for several moments ere he moved close to kiss him with renewed desire. Passion blazed once more between them and their kiss turned wild and wanton. Locked in a spate of incendiary caresses, they molded their bodies together, long legs sensuously entangled.

Clutching Elrohir to himself as the Elf-knight pressed him down on his back, Legolas briefly wondered what it would be like to claim Elrohir for his own at last. But though the thought thrilled him to the core he realized it was a pleasure he preferred to consign to another day. Tonight he wanted to savor the bliss of being his Elf-knight’s sheath. To be taken as oft as Elrohir could or desired and know the full force of his passion.

The ache of his deflowering had subsided somewhat but even if it had not he could not wait. In any case, there was the whole of tomorrow to recover from this night’s indulgence. And wherefore his elven resilience if he did not put it to good use and for such a worthy reason?

With a needful moan, he spread his legs and drew up his knees. Feeling the nudge of his mate’s primed shaft, he tipped his hips upward until the rigid flesh cleaved him fractionally. Elrohir caught his breath at the blatant invitation then gazed at him in unfettered hunger. Without further ado, he pushed into his fair prince until he was completely sheathed. A smile of utter radiance graced Legolas’ lips as he felt himself filled to bursting.

With a blissful sigh, he gave himself up to their shared desire.

**************************
Glossary:
lairë – Quenya for summer
gittern – medieval stringed instrument that was the forerunner of the guitar
adamant – unbreakable legendary stone; also the heraldic name for diamond (archaic)
miruvor – the cordial of Rivendell
rochiren - my knight
sennight – abbreviation of seven nights; defunct Middle English term for a week

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Four days into the newly bound pair’s seclusion the bucolic glade gleamed beneath the dawning sun’s light in all its pristine serenity, the rippling stream a silver ribbon of clear and surprisingly bracing water despite the balmy weather. All was calm and cool in the lovers’ sacred haven. Not so within the cabin they had built with their own hands.

Legolas lunged forward with coltish abandon, embedding himself as deeply as he could in satin-soft flesh he would never have guessed at judging from the sleek, hard body that held it. It was only the eve before that he had finally claimed his lover’s due, having gained enough confidence from the experience of his own numerous takings to at last turn the tables on his Elf-knight.

Argent eyes had sparkled with affectionate mirth when he took up the reins of ownership, eagerly pushing Elrohir down onto their bed that he might get to know his graces as thoroughly as Elrohir knew his. His earlier novice’s coyness had since given way to a primeval Wood-elf’s passion and he had striven to prove himself as capable of giving pleasure as receiving it. Still simmering with the sensual memories of Elrohir’s tutelage, he did his utmost to apply what he had learned and set to it with youthful exuberance.

By the time he made his way down Elrohir’s body, the younger twin was quite dizzy with elation and sheer shortness of breath wrought by his prince’s ferocious ardor. After having been denied his prize for so long, Legolas had all but attacked Elrohir’s proud shaft, suckling it so hardily, the Elf-knight had to plead for some mercy. What he lacked in finesse he more than made up for with his enthusiasm and blatant enjoyment of that luscious flesh. Elrohir wondered briefly whether he had ever been serviced so zealously before and perforce decided he had not when a climax of such eruptive force ripped through him and left him nigh shorn of his wits for a perilous while.

Legolas straddled his hips and leaned down to lavish lusty kisses on his face, lips and neck until he was caught between hilarity and a litany of groans and gasps.

“Legolas!” he laughingly protested. “Do give me a moment to recover else I will expire from the surfeit of your attentions.”

The archer chortled merrily and desisted for the moment. Gazing down at his spouse as a lion would eye a much desired prey, he said: “I would chasten you for denying me this bliss for so long did I not know ‘twas honor that stayed you.” He lazily lay atop Elrohir and laid his tousled head on one shoulder, liking the feel of the other’s sinewy frame beneath him. “‘Tis no wonder my brother coveted you so. You are too beauteous for your own good, Peredhel. Thank Eru some good sense remained to him afore he went too far.”

“He went further than I could ever stomach,” Elrohir retorted. “Do not remind me of his perfidy. I loathe the memory of what he took from me. Indeed, what he robbed us both of.”

Hearing the catch in Elrohir’s voice, Legolas lifted his head and stared at him. The twin’s countenance had sobered, the sordid recollection of his near ravaging enough to dampen his cheer. Adding to the horror was that the transgressor had been one for whom he bore no love and, even worse, brother to the one for whom he did.

“Forgive me, seron vell!”—beloved—Legolas softly exclaimed, his voice tight with remorse. “I did not intend to mar your joy this eve.”

Elrohir turned glistening eyes on him. Cupping Legolas’ face in his hands, he drew the archer down for a spate of heated kisses. When their lips parted, he shifted their bodies until Legolas came to rest between his legs.

“Take me,” he whispered. “Fill me with all that you are and have. Help me forget.”

For the first time, Legolas comprehended the damage done to Elrohir’s sense of personal inviolability by that craven assault. His eyes gleamed with sympathy and compassion, fully realizing the depth of the Elf-knight’s distress. To have so vital a choice taken away from one was a terrible violation of the spirit as well as the body.

“I will fill you, melethen”—my love—he hushedly declared. “I will make you forget.”

Finally understanding Elrohir’s counsel when he had readied him for his deflowering, the archer likewise treated his Elf-knight with utmost gentleness. The flaring of rage against his brother for having tasted something of what should have been Legolas’ alone swiftly evolved into a determination not to hurt Elrohir in like manner. He would not revive unwelcome memories of Nimaras’ crude ministrations or the misleading discomfort he had inflicted on Elrohir, which had caused the Elf-warrior no small amount of anguish and shame.

Elrohir’s patience and trust would not be in vain, Legolas vowed to himself as he oh so tenderly prepared his mate for the incursion he would make on his body. This coupling would be of as much import as their wedding night union for neither had yet played the roles they would now fill. For both, it would be a first time. A first they would share and cherish evermore.

The glow of bliss that brightened Elrohir’s features told Legolas that he had sufficiently readied his mate and when he moved to sheathe himself it was as much with relief as lust for his forbearance had been wearing thin, so acute was his need. Yet try he did to be as gentle as possible when he gained that much yearned for entry though none could blame him for faltering when he finally sank into the heated silk of the Elf-knight’s core.

It was unlike anything he had ever experienced and the urge to be gloved entirely in that indescribable softness nearly undid him. Gasping raggedly, he instinctively thrust hard enough to elicit a wince from Elrohir. But he swiftly collected himself, repulsed by the thought of causing his spouse even this primal pain. With an effort, he managed to temper the force of his movements and angle them as Elrohir had shown him. He was amply rewarded with a drawn out moan of utmost ecstasy followed by the sound of his name whispered in a taut voice that bespoke a barely contained urge to cry out.

Giddy with excitement at achieving Elrohir’s pleasure, he strove to steady himself and deliver more of what pleased his beloved. Bending low, he took frequent draughts of the Elf-knight’s lips, smoothed kisses over his throat and shoulders and chest. He reveled in every groan and gasp he wrung from Elrohir; felt a surging joy when he espied the rapture in his mate’s eyes. And limning that happiness was that otherworldly ecstasy known only to bound Elves, each and every wave and crash of sensation heightening then sweeping across the channel that linked their spirits even as Legolas’ quickening thrusts joined their bodies.

So close to completion was he that he nearly forgot the last of his lessons. But the fortuitous prodding of his belly by Elrohir’s shaft reminded him and he eagerly curled his fingers around the rigid column and stroked it in time with his thrusts. He rejoiced when Elrohir’s eyes widened in surprise, unused to the one experience he had foregone until this moment—the sensation of being filled and caressed at the same time.

Legolas could not suppress the welling triumph that washed over him, elated by more evidence that the Elf-knight had waited all these years to yield himself. Legolas was schooling himself not to be overly possessive of his Peredhel love but he and Elrohir knew that he would never be completely rid of the trait. In any case, Elrohir did not deplore it for he had long ago accepted his prince’s jealous nature and indeed come to enjoy many of the manifestations of it.

With a sharp cry, Elrohir spent himself and Legolas nearly crooned with delight as opalescent cream spilled over his fingers and dappled his belly. But ere long, the tightening of Elrohir’s flesh around his enclosed length set off his own climax and, hoarsely calling out Elrohir’s name, he poured himself into his spouse. Gasping for breath, he all but collapsed atop Elrohir once he had expended all his seed. A heaving chest beneath his cheek and the sound of ragged breathing was testament to the shared explosiveness of their release and that knowledge made his heart leap with nigh excruciating felicity.

Elrohir was his at last and nothing and nobody could ever come between them. Neither foolish interlopers, the vagaries of life nor cruel fate; not even should the Powers themselves try to interfere. For even the timeless halls could not forever part Elves wedded in love and actively bound or sever the connection between them.

They spoke in whispers afterward, Legolas ascertaining that he had not caused Elrohir undue discomfort and receiving his Elf-knight’s praise and gratitude in turn for loving him so well. It moved Elrohir enormously that Legolas had intuited his unease so keenly that he had restrained himself despite his lack of experience and long-suppressed desire. His felt his love for the archer wax and deepen until he thought his heart would brim over with it.

“I was right to wait,” he murmured against the prince’s golden tresses. “A greater gift I could not receive than your peerless loving, calenlassen”—my greenleaf.

Legolas beamed at the compliment. “You are one to talk when ‘tis you who has blessed me with so much,” he softly replied. He turned his head and nipped at the roseate nipple nearest his lips until it stiffened in response. At once he felt the stirrings of another arousal thicken and lengthen his shaft and with a moan he rose to his knees to hover over his spouse. “Are you able to take another tumble? For I am verily famished for you, my Elf-knight.”

Elrohir glanced down at the evidence of the archer’s need and chuckled. Eyes shining with his own resurgent passion, he rolled a surprised Legolas over and moved astride his hips.

“Aye, I am most able,” he grinned. “But methinks you might enjoy another manner of coupling and one I would have you employ on me afore our sennight is done.”

With that, he slowly slid down on Legolas’ member, taking it to the hilt, its passage eased by the cream of the prince’s prior release within him. Legolas could not stop the gasping groans that escaped him at so sensual and complete a sheathing. He gripped Elrohir’s knees hard, fighting his body’s compulsion to spend too soon. Elrohir did not move but allowed him time to stay his raging need enough for a fairly prolonged ride.

Afterward, they lay entangled once more, Legolas amazed at the heights to which Elrohir had taken them. The Valar help us both, he thought in some dismay, as the mere memory of it aroused him once more. He looked pleadingly at Elrohir.

“Forgive me, Elrohir, but it seems I cannot get enough of you,” he whispered with embarrassment.

Elrohir stared at him, startled, then gently laughed. “Ah, it seems I have truly found my match,” he remarked. “Very well, you bore my desire patiently enough our first night, I would return the favor now, my voracious one.” He smiled when Legolas blushed. “But let us do this slowly for I still ache from your considerable girth.”

He leaned forward and kissed Legolas long and lingeringly. “Who would have thought a Wood-elf could be so impressively endowed?” he said teasingly against his prince’s lips, chuckling at the mingled pleasure and indignation in Legolas’ expression.

* * * *

If the archer had thought a whole night’s worth of rutting would sate his lust, he was quickly disabused of the notion upon awaking the following morn. The lovely view from their cozy bed of the verdant woods and gurgling brook beyond the cabin was no match for the even comelier sight of Elrohir enticingly bare and invitingly prone. Which was why the day dawned on the pair coupled in passion once more and racing toward completion.

All it took to rouse Elrohir from slumber was a trail of moist kisses down his back from his nape and shoulders to the slight swell of his taut backside and the probing caresses of an insistent tongue further down. After nigh a whole night of playing the sheath, Elrohir needed no further readying than that and Legolas easily slid into him with a blissful sigh. Now he drove repeatedly into him with lusty enthusiasm.

He saw Elrohir move to take his shaft in hand to seek relief from the gathering pressure in his groin. The image that formed in his mind enflamed him all the more and with a low growl he reached around to curl his fingers around Elrohir’s fist.

Elrohir gasped when Legolas joined him in stroking his rigid length. Newly awakened, he had little self-control at his disposal and he swiftly peaked and climaxed, groaning and shuddering as his shaft pulsed and his seed spurted onto their entwined fingers and the sheets below.

His senses flooded by Elrohir’s ecstasy and his shaft spasmodically caressed by the heated flesh that enveloped it, Legolas followed him into rapture and, with a sobbing cry, spilled himself once again into the Elf-knight’s core. They sank onto their sides, Legolas still clasping Elrohir’s waist and pressed against his back that he might remain within him a while longer.

Elrohir looked over his shoulder at the prince with a lazy grin. Legolas was obviously paying him back in kind for the nights they had fallen asleep with Elrohir still berthed deep inside him. Reading his thoughts, Legolas smirked in wordless agreement and captured the twin’s lips for a hungry kiss that hinted at further play as the day progressed.

“Insatiable,” Elrohir murmured as he was hugged close.

Legolas lightly bit his shoulder. “You disapprove?”

“Most certainly not!” Elrohir chuckled. “‘Twould be the height of folly to complain about your ardor. Particularly when I am so fortunate to be the recipient of it.”

Legolas beamed. “Who would have thought when you first championed me that it would come to this?” he happily said. “It will not wane, will it? This passion we share?”

Elrohir looked back at him. “All feelings ebb and surge with the passage of time,” he replied. “‘Tis but natural else our bodies would wear down from too much usage.” He smilingly paused when Legolas chortled at the idea. “But our passion will never end, merely temper on occasion to allow us some needed respite.”

“That pleases me,” Legolas purred. “I cannot picture a life without our loving, our love. I am besotted with you, Elrohir. I cannot imagine a night’s passage without coupling with you even once.”

Elrohir grinned. “The pleasure is new and intoxicating, melethron”—lover—he tenderly reasoned. “Your libido will calm after a while and you will not always seek our bed.”

“Indeed I will not,” Legolas drawled. “There are so many other places suitable for that purpose.”

Elrohir snorted. He playfully swatted Legolas’ thigh. “Come, let us bathe and have some breakfast.” He noted the unmistakable scent of rutting that infused their beddings. “And I think we’d best change the sheets as well.”

Legolas snickered against his shoulder. “But that would be a fruitless exercise. They will only be soiled anew before midday!”

Elrohir shook his head in spurious dismay. “As I said, insatiable.”

* * * *

The last eve of their nuptial holiday witnessed them quietly preparing their simple supper. It was a chore they had enjoyed sharing throughout the week for the supposedly mundane exercise of preparing meals together actually contributed to their intimacy as a couple. While Legolas tended a meat and vegetable stew as it simmered over the fire in the hearth, Elrohir patted out unleavened dough, which he would bake in the hot ashes at the edges of the fire. The resulting bread would be flat and crisp and perfect for the rich stew.

Legolas watched him curiously, amazed that the Elf-knight had troubled to learn more than the most basic skills of food preparation. But on hindsight, he realized it was a useful talent for a warrior who might have to live for long periods of time far from the comforts of home and the convenience of cooks and bakers. That Elrohir and most likely Elladan as well had armed themselves with this homely knowledge was testament to their acceptance of and commitment to their duties as defenders of their realm despite their privileged births. The woodland prince resolved to learn from their example and made up his mind to seek the kitchen staff’s instructions when they returned to the Last Homely House.

After dining, they opened their last bottle of miruvor. As they downed the heady cordial, Elrohir asked, “Have you given thought to how oft and long you can endure any partings?”

He had broached the subject to Legolas as they broke their fast their first morning in the glen. The archer had not been too keen to think about it but had acknowledged its necessity. As Elrohir had long ago pointed out, they were princes of their respective realms with oaths to land and folk and for so long as they called Middle-earth home, they would be held to those oaths.

Legolas nodded and said: “I know that we cannot shirk our duties but I wonder why we must part at all.”

“My love…”

“Can we not reside together? Can we not move between here and Eryn Galen at intervals?”

Elrohir stared at him. “That would entail taking turns living apart from our families for many years at a time,” he mused. “You would willingly do this?”

“Aye, I would,” Legolas earnestly replied. “I do not wish to be separated from you for any great length of time, Elrohir.” He took a deep breath. “Indeed, I do not think I could bear it.” His eyes glistened suspiciously and to Elrohir they suddenly seemed bluer than usual.

“I am not made of stern stuff where you are concerned,” Legolas whispered. “I cannot envision a life apart from you nor do I care to try it. Laugh at me if you think me a maudlin fool or decry me for a coward and a weakling, but this is how I feel. This is what I choose. Part from you I will not do, honor and duty be damned. I beg of you, do not ask it of me, berethen.”—my spouse.

Silence fell between them for so fervent and final a statement could do no less than reduce Elrohir to mute contemplation. But as the quiet wore on, Legolas began to fear that he had said too much and perhaps disillusioned his spouse too soon. His lower lip started to quiver and he bit it to still it. He stared down at his clasped hands where they rested on the table, his gaze lingering on the gold band that graced his right forefinger. He saw that his hands were trembling and clenched them further to stop the shaking. He started when Elrohir’s palm covered them before gripping his wrist and pulling him from his chair to sit astride his lap. Elrohir looked up at his fearful prince then drew him close to tenderly kiss him.

Pulling away only far enough to speak, he quietly said, “You are no coward or weakling. And certainly neither foolish nor maudlin. I would not easily suffer partings from you either, for my heart you have in your keeping and how could it be at peace when its keeper is far away? Yours is a splendid suggestion and one I did not consider because I thought you would not countenance living in occasional exile from your beloved Greenwood.”

Legolas shook his head. “Even were we homeless nomads forced to take our rest where our wanderings took us, still I would not deem it exile. Because you would be with me. Whither you go I will follow. Where you abide, I will call home.”

Elrohir felt his heart swell with overflowing love and adoration for this gloriously passionate, wonderfully plainspoken Elf he had taken to spouse. “Then we are agreed,” he said, his voice gruff with emotion. “All that needs considering is the length of our stays in our fathers’ realms.”

Legolas’ answering smile was radiant and his eyes brilliant with joy. “Would every twelve years be sufficient for our needs?” he ventured.

Elrohir chuckled. “Make it ten and I will concur,” he amended.

“Done!” Legolas shot back. He brushed his lips against Elrohir’s. “And now we must seal our pact. Have me as oft as you can muster, rochiren.”—my knight—he huskily demanded. “Love me through this night.”

“We ride home tomorrow,” Elrohir reminded him though his eyes glinted wickedly “Would you suffer as Galvreth undoubtedly did?”

Legolas laughed at the memory, the sound resounding joyously within the cabin. “Oh aye,” he vigorously agreed. “For I desire to wear the same smile he bore the morning after!”

In lieu of a spoken response, Elrohir wrapped the archer’s legs around his waist and rose, lifting Legolas in that fashion. He bore his giggling prince to the bed and tumbled him onto it, swiftly following him down and pressing him into the mattress.

When action could say so much more, mere words were superfluous.

****************************
Glossary:
Peredhel – Half-elf/Half-elven
miruvor – the cordial of Rivendell
sennight – abbreviation of seven nights; defunct Middle English term for a week

To be continued...

Chapter Text

In the years that followed, Elrohir and Legolas lived as they had chosen, residing ten years each turn in their father’s realms. There was a price to pay for such a choice and this was alternately parting from their respective families for a decade at a time. It was no easy thing to do for they greatly missed their kin but, for the chance to abide together as mates ought and should, they paid the price with little regret.

Of course, circumstances sometimes dictated separations from each other and both diligently saw to their obligations to lords and lands. Fortunately, though such partings were unavoidable, these were more oft than not counted in months rather than years and they were borne with quiet grace and nary a complaint though understandably not with much felicity.

They were not completely bereft of all familial company however. Elladan was not one to be separated from his twin for too long and would come to the Woodland Realm now and then to keep their fraternal bond from fraying. Galvreth likewise would sojourn in Imladris for a summer’s visit or mayhap to pass the winter for he had become his youngest brother’s favorite sibling. If there was other cause for either’s visits it was not mentioned though speculation was rife.

Such matters were not bandied about while the outcome of any and all suspicions was still unclear. And in any case, whatever their other reasons, it did not change the fact that they dearly loved their brothers and for the sibling currently far from home one or the other’s company was not unwelcome in the least.

The choice not to suffer long partings served the espoused pair and their bond in good stead for their love and devotion strengthened and their understanding of each other deepened. No longer did either hold the other to mistaken perceptions. Both learned the lessons necessary to keep their binding not merely whole but thriving as well. Neither tried to change the other to fit his expectations but in the manner of true lovers accepted each other, flaws and all, with only a gentle chiding now and then when an error became too grievous to stomach.

And so the decades marched on and change came oft and again to Middle-earth, both ill and good, and through it all their love endured and served as a link between the elven realms of forest and vale.

* * * *

Mirkwood, ethuil T.A. 1087
The Woodland Realm rarely permitted any of the mannish races within their bounds, untrusting as they were of humans save perhaps for the folk of Esgaroth on the Long Lake to the east with whom they traded. And even so, they treated the Lake-men with cautious civility, preferring to go forth and meet with them rather than welcome them into their forest kingdom.

But the Dúnedain were another matter and indeed one could even say a race apart from other Men for they possessed wisdom, vigor and longevity beyond that which was usually the lot of humans. This was particularly so amongst the scions of their royal house. Or rather the three that now existed in the north, Arnor having been lamentably divided amongst the sons of Eärendur.

Arthedain was the kingdom regarded by the Elves as the purest and least diminished of the northern Dúnedain realms. And still closely allied with the Firstborn unlike the other two, Cardolan and Rhudaur, whose peoples, tainted by corruption or ravaged by attrition, seemed destined for decline and eventually oblivion.

It was the present king of Arthedain, Mallor son of Beleg, who had gained entry into the reclusive forest realm. With him were his queen and sons and several members of his court. It was Mallor’s way of keeping in touch with what allies were still left to him, even amongst the wary Silvan folk of the great forest that was now known as Mirkwood.

Elrohir considered the changes in the once wholesome wood. The waxing power of the menacing stronghold of Dol Guldur in the southern reaches of the great forest had precipitated a pestilential blighting of glorious Eryn Galen. Only in the Wood-elves’ realm was the rot kept at bay. Yet even here the signs of decay were never far for once one passed the borders of the Woodland Realm, one was engulfed in the stifling environs of the darkened forest.

Black was now the ascendant color beyond the woodland folk’s domain, from the plant growth to the beasts to the utter lack of light in some portions of the forest. Elrohir grieved that his kin-by-marriage and their valorous folk should have to dwell in such cloying surroundings. Particularly his beloved Greenleaf.

Legolas belonged in sun-dappled, sweet-scented, verdant woods with the cheerful song of birds and the lively chatter or sonorous calls of friendly forest creatures about him. His radiance was oft a beacon of hope to his people, that was true, but Elrohir wished it did not have to be the case. That it could simply be a source of the delight others derived from the sighting of great beauty and not a means by which to raise an embattled people’s dwindling cheer.

Hearing himself hailed, he came out of his pensive thoughts and saw that Thranduil was beckoning to him to come and assist him in a discussion with Mallor and his eldest son Celepharn. Elrohir swiftly complied with the unspoken request, aware that his kinship with these mortals helped smooth relations between them and their somewhat taciturn Silvan hosts.

Joining his law-father in the middle of the delved palace’s great hall, he suddenly found himself flanked by two of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting. Distant cousins of their royal mistress they were beauties in their own right. And they were obviously quite smitten with their king’s Half-elven kinsman. And emboldened enough to flirt with him for he was deemed approachable, as the woodland folk were not.

Not a few admiring eyes were drawn to the Elves of Thranduil’s court, not least the Elf-king himself and his comely sons. But the great divide between the two races yawned wide and nigh unbridgeable, aided by the princes’ cool amiability. They were well mannered beyond reproach but they brooked no further familiarity with their noble selves than the due courtesies exchanged with their guests. In this respect, Elrohir stood out, his inborn affinity for those with whom he shared a common heritage and ancestry enabling him to be warmer and more accommodating than his royal kin-by-law.

Legolas understood this but it did little to minimize his dislike for the two coquettes who prettily sought his mate’s attention, coyly plucking at his sleeves or fingering the delicate silver tassels that adorned his burgundy tunic. Apparently, neither was aware of Elrohir’s wedded state. The more exclusive elven customs were unheard of amongst the lesser mannish races and only a fraction was known to the more lore-conscious Men of the West. And even then, that knowledge had dissipated with the passage of time and, in these later days, was all but lost save to the most enlightened of the Dúnedain.

The archer’s eyes narrowed slightly as he regarded the pair of fawning maidens. Obviously these two were not of that learned group else they would have recognized the significance of the gold band on Elrohir’s right forefinger. Still, he did not allow his feelings to show. His fair countenance was scarcely stirred by even a nascent frown.

He was no longer the impulsive, openly expressive youngling of yore but an Elf of commanding presence, selective reticence and unparalleled grace. He was very much his father’s son but far from a mere copy of his august sire. For he was rapidly gaining renown as one of Elfdom’s greatest archers and was already a prince and diplomat of no mean skill or courage.

He could be as merry as any Elf in times of joy and prosperity or when his people needed his good cheer to buttress their failing optimism. But he could also be a most maddeningly enigmatic creature whose slow, restrained smile and veiled appraising gaze was known to set many a heart aflutter even amongst the sternest of Thranduil’s warriors. With his near perfection of features and form, he had matured into mayhap the comeliest Elf born to Middle-earth.

His surpassing beauty was no surprise for it had been in evidence as early as his childhood. But his deportment many attributed to the influence of his Peredhel spouse who was sprung from a family famed for their adroitness and savvy in the handling of inter-territorial relations, whether political, diplomatic or cultural in nature.

Legolas employed that nuanced manner now, crossing Elrohir’s line of vision with an effortless feline grace that was unusual even amongst Elves. And eye catching for any connoisseur of beauty. Especially when said beauty was impeccably clad in a finely embroidered steel blue court tunic of raw silk that played up his fair coloring and further heightened the remote quality that suited his exceptionally fine features so well.

If the gesture was designed to draw Elrohir’s attention away from his pair of admirers, it succeeded without question. For though the Elf-knight continued to take part in the discussion in which he had been engaged, he was seen to ever so often seek out the golden-haired archer’s form. And each time, his eyes kindled and his mouth curved into a soft smile. To those who could read the signs, it was clear the younger twin was thoroughly besotted with his prince.

* * * *

Come evening, Elrohir returned to the apartment he shared with Legolas when they were in residence in Mirkwood. Located in the westernmost wing of the residential pavilion, it was a well-appointed, two level suite of chambers with its own external entrance as well as the requisite door to the main hallway of the wing. It boasted a cozy bedchamber and private bathing room on the upper story and a spacious sitting area on the ground floor. Adjacent to the sitting area was a small cooking nook and dining alcove where the couple could prepare and have simple meals when they were not in the mood for communal dining.

Mounting the curving stairs to the bedchamber, Elrohir wondered where Legolas had taken himself. He had noted his mate’s muted displeasure during the afternoon’s proceedings but afore he could question him, Legolas slipped away. Elrohir did not know the reason for the archer’s mood. Nothing of his expression or demeanor gave away anything of his thoughts. Elrohir could have reached out and touched the latter’s mind, a gift the Peredhil had in abundance, but he chose not to. It was an intrusion when uninvited or unwarranted and he would never violate Legolas’ right to his privacy of body or thought.

After bathing, he donned bed-trousers then reclined on the bed, a good book in hand, to await the archer’s return. A good half-hour passed before he heard the familiar cat-like tread on the stairs outside, just barely discernible to his Half-elven ears and completely undetectable to a human listener.

The door opened and Legolas entered. After a nod of greeting to his darkling spouse he headed for the bathing room, disrobing as he did. Elrohir regarded him curiously, wondering anew what had upset Legolas that he was still in such a reclusive mood. But he did not pressure the Elf-prince for an answer just yet. Legolas could become more tight-lipped if pressed prematurely.

The Silvan blood in him made for a reticence that seemed to contradict the oft-perceived Wood-elven gaiety. What few folk realized was that a merry demeanor could be deceptive and effectively distract one from the pursuit of one’s goal. Elves were masters of tactful dissembling but while the Eldar waylaid many an unsuspecting soul with skillful speech, the Wood-elves simply fooled others with their seeming happy-go-lucky ways into thinking them quite innocent of the world without and the events that rocked it. Most realized that they had learned solely what was intended for them to learn only belatedly. The Silvan folk masked their true nature with laughter and song.

Elrohir patiently waited while Legolas bathed, turning over in his mind what course to take to get maximum information out of his spouse with a minimum of rancor to sour the evening. But ere he could decide on any one, the prince emerged from the other room and Elrohir’s thoughts promptly hastened down entirely different avenues.

Legolas had not merely washed himself. He had also anointed his body with an herbal oil made by the Elves of Mirkwood. It was the favored lubricant for therapeutic massages for it was light and did not leave a greasy film on the skin yet glided on smoothly for utmost ease of application. It was also edible yet virtually flavorless and possessed of a surprisingly enticing scent. It was a sought after commodity amongst the courtesans of neighboring Esgaroth but for vastly different reasons than what it had originally been created for.

Legolas had put that particular function of the oil to use and most effectively at that. The sheen it left on his skin lent his flesh an even greater luminosity that pointed up each and every curve and plane of his supple, warrior’s frame. Coupled with the burnished fall of his hair combed until it shone like molten silver and gold and the martial glide of his stride reminiscent of a cat approaching its prey, he was the very vision of masculine pulchritude.

Elrohir did not wonder that his mouth suddenly turned dry or his pulse began to race as the prince neared him. Legolas was in a perilous mood and that meant passion in their bed beyond its usual measure. He had no cause for complaint.

The book was taken from his hands and replaced with the archer’s sleek form and more. With nary a word, Legolas draped himself over Elrohir and forestalled any queries with a spate of searing kisses to the Elf-knight’s mouth, throat and chest. He only spared a few moments to divest his spouse of his trousers before entwining their bodies in scalding prelude to the greatest bodily intimacy known to any sentient race.

They made a beautiful pair, arguably the most beauteous of all pairings between ellyn in that age save possibly for one other. The glowing alabaster of Legolas’ flesh made for a subtle and wondrous contrast against Elrohir’s creamy, sun-kissed skin. The starker difference between the sunshine brightness and midnight hue of their tresses was even more breathtaking to behold when the silken locks mingled even as the lovers’ forms melded together. But perhaps most striking of all and of a potency enough to make any Elf’s mouth water was the sight of their slim and limber yet astonishingly formidable bodies fiercely locked in passion.

Full physical maturity had bestowed on them forms that were the envy of many for there were few who could match their beauty save for their own sires and brethren. His mixed heritage continued to be evinced in Elrohir’s broader shoulders and wider chest and his impressive height, which not all Elves attained, not even among the tall Noldor. His strength was undeniable, visibly evinced as it was for all to see.

Legolas by contrast was of so ethereal a countenance and slender of frame that mortals could be forgiven the mistaken notion that he was as fragile as a moonbeam. But his raiment hid a body and limbs rife with thews so sturdy, he was easily one of the preeminent warriors in the forest kingdom, as renowned amongst the Mirkwood folk as his Imladrin mate for his prowess in the battle-arts.

Embedded deep in the satin confines of Legolas’ withy form, Elrohir gazed at him with an appreciation that refused to abate even after their centuries of espousal. No matter how frequently they coupled in all the long years of their blessed partnership, his desire for his woodland prince did not wane. Temper perhaps at intervals given the vicissitudes of life, but as he had told Legolas centuries past their passion would never fade. And never was this more evident than when they came together in lust and love, the sweet taste of his mate enflaming him, that lithe body molded against his own enough to banish any and all worries or sorrows afflicting him even if only for the space of their joining. And that was more than many a less fortunate soul could hope for.

He stared at his archer love, mesmerized as always by his beauty which came ever more alive when Legolas was in the throes of ecstasy—eyes bright and vivid, fair skin a-blush with rapture, soft lips parted entrancingly and the tip of a rosy tongue barely peeking through. And framing such comeliness was the wild flaxen spill of glossy locks on the pristine white of the pillow. Ah, it was almost impossible to believe that so exquisite a creature existed. Yet he did and Elrohir knew himself in possession of a priceless gift; that he alone could know the pleasures to be gotten from the luminous Elf who lay beneath him, writhing and moaning in bliss as he was repeatedly pierced.

He could never get enough of this sublime rapture, the feeling of tight, moist heat enclosing him. But it was not mere sensation alone that so ensorcelled him for he had known others’ bodies afore and none had lifted him to such heights of pleasure as Legolas did. Or welcomed him into his flesh with as much abandon and nigh gutting joy. Verily, every thrust was a plunge into mind-boggling bliss that waxed even greater with the wrap of strong, agile legs about his waist, almost desperately urging him to force himself ever deeper into the lissome body that sheathed him.

Legolas’ thoughts resounded in his consciousness. Love me, Elrohir. Own me, fill me! Elrohir could only obey the imperative command though an idea lurked in the recesses of his now turbulent mind that Legolas had a purpose in this nigh feral coupling. He would learn of it later, he promised himself. But for now, he would lose himself in the heated silk that was Legolas’ core and the sweet inferno that was their bodies’ loving.

Afterwards, lying quiescent and sated, at least for the moment, Elrohir held Legolas close, lazily stroking the tresses that spilled down the prince’s back. He studied Legolas’ face, rosy with the flush of sexual completion.

“I pray you are shorn of whatever troubled you earlier,” he quietly remarked.

Legolas lifted his tousled head from where it lay upon Elrohir’s deliciously muscled chest. The very blandness of his expression was telling though he only said, “I merely wish to ensure that all your needs are always met to your satisfaction.”

Elrohir considered his answer somberly. Studying the archer’s face closely, he assayed: “This has to do with the two damsels who sought to keep me company, doesn’t it?”

Legolas snorted elegantly. “You mean those two tarts of purportedly noble blood who possess so little in the way of brains they could not recognize a wedding band even when it was being waved right under their noses,” he softly retorted, eliciting a chuckle from Elrohir. He spared a mild glare for his mirthful mate. “I care not if others ogle your graces. That is only to be expected. But I do take exception when they go beyond appreciation and attempt seduction. That is my prerogative and mine alone.”

“Valar, you are such a jealous creature,” Elrohir commented with some amusement.

“You disapprove?”

“Only if your words or manner provoke a brawl.”

Legolas had to smile at the reminder of the scuffle that had marred Rivendell’s peace some six summers back. A Bree merchant had come a-visiting in the hopes of establishing trade relations with the Imladrin Elves. He’d made the mistake of bringing his only daughter along with his sons. For the maiden proved of a gamesome disposition and upon clapping her eyes on Elrohir flirted with him so outrageously even her father perforce apologized for her behavior.

Legolas was particularly incensed but he did little more than insult the minx in spectacularly understated fashion, likening her to the ivy that encroached on houses when permitted to flourish unchecked. Unfortunately, he did so in the presence of her brothers who took the subtle affront to their collective heart and forgetting that they were no match for an Elf despite their numbers, sought to gain an apology by means of their fists.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the fray was halted before it escalated into a full-scale donnybrook and the merchant’s sons had suffered no more than the blackened eyes, bloodied noses and sprained joints one could expect to acquire in a skirmish with an Elf-warrior.

“There is no cause for jealousy, seron vell”—beloved—Elrohir said. “You very well know I want no other but you. And what is a mere look when ‘tis you alone who can touch and taste?”

“If only ‘twere mere looks they cast your way,” Legolas replied pointedly. “But they unclothe you with their eyes. Verily, they lick their lips like cats on the prowl. ‘Tis not to be borne, Elrohir.”

“And they do not do the same to you?” Elrohir good-naturedly shot back. “A goodly number regard you with far more than simple admiration and would importune you were you more welcoming.” After a moment’s pause, he added: “Even some of their men-folk.”

That startled Legolas and he stared at Elrohir with disbelief. “Their men-folk?” he repeated skeptically. “How can that be? ‘Tis not their way.”

“Not all mortals are of a piece and there are those who are drawn to their own gender or are capable of desiring both as we are. The exigencies of circumstances can also play a role. The Dúnedain have been known to indulge in such liaisons when there are no wenches to tumble or when husbands and lovers are far from home. And it is not an uncommon practice amongst the Easterlings and the Haradrim.”

“Ancient cultures all,” Legolas remarked, his mien thoughtful.

“Ah, so you marked that distinction,” Elrohir said approvingly. “Aye, ‘tis the younger races that seem less able to comprehend or accept that just because an inborn proclivity is beyond one’s ken does not necessarily make it wrong or fearsome but is simply a fact of nature.”

He ran his finger down the fine curve of Legolas’ sculpted cheek. “Believe me, my prince, there are men aplenty who appreciate your beauty and would leap at the chance to sup of it. But I do not think it worth my time to stew over something that I know for certes will come to naught.”

He spoke in jest but saw the error of his judgment when Legolas’ eyes flashed disapprovingly. “I mislike your lack of concern, Elf-knight,” he said with some acerbity. “It seems your regard for me is not quite the equal of mine for you that you should be so unruffled by such matters.”

Elrohir rolled his eyes in droll fashion. “Legolas! ‘Tis not as if either of us would ever stray,” he reasoned. “My regard for you is no less than yours for me. Rather I would say methinks your trust in me is not equal to mine in you else you would not be wary of phantom interlopers coming between us.” Seeing the archer subside at this piece of logic, he ventured further. “Besides, I have cared little for others’ graces since the making of our betrothal. And not at all since we wed. And even were we not wed why would I look elsewhere when you fill my needs most adequately?”

He regretted those last words almost immediately. Eyes kindling dangerously, Legolas straddled him with liquid grace. “Most adequately?” he softly echoed, the silky tenor of his voice belying the steel in his sapphire gaze. “Is that your estimation of my efforts? Well then, I must see to it that you raise it forthwith.”

And forthwith did he set himself to ensuring his mate revised that ill-phrased opinion of his ministrations.

A breathtaking ride and a multitude of heartbeats later, Legolas languidly inquired, “What say you now, bereth?—spouse.

Elrohir shook with laughter. Weakly chuckling, he said, “I say ‘twas ludicrous to call your efforts anything but peerless. ‘Twas not you that was lacking but rather my poor choice of words. Forgive me, calenlassen”—my green leaf—“I know not what I was thinking.”

With a smug smile, Legolas eased himself off him to lie by his side. Noting his mate’s pleasant languor, Elrohir happily sighed. He could not regret Legolas’ mercurial moods when the soothing of his prince was typically carried out in this fashion.

After a moment, he slipped out of their bed to fetch them both a drink from the small store of libations they kept at hand in one corner of the room. Filling two cups with a rich, red wine Legolas especially favored, he glanced back to look at the archer. He had to pause in his pouring lest he missed his aim for Legolas in post-coitus reverie was a sight too enthralling to miss.

He watched Legolas lazily caress his groin and thighs before reaching lower to smooth his fingers over the creamy rivulet that trickled from him. Eyes closed, mouth curved into a felicitous smile, the archer was the picture of utter contentment as he idly smeared his mate’s seed on his skin.

It never failed to astonish Elrohir when he witnessed how much his mate delighted in the evidence of his spending within him. Most likely it was because the prince regarded it as the most intense and intimate testament to their loving and therefore something to be savored to the utmost. Whatever his reason, the image of his wanton enjoyment had the power to awaken Elrohir’s lust anew and rouse the urge to have it slaked soonest.

Padding back to the bed, he softly summoned his spouse from his sensual exercise.

Legolas slowly opened his eyes. His smile turned sultry at the appreciative gleam he descried in Elrohir’s eyes. Raising himself on one elbow, he accepted the cup Elrohir handed him and, locking gazes with his darkling mate, downed the liquor straightly. His legs remained splayed, his knees upraised, his lower body open to Elrohir’s riveted regard and more.

The Elf-knight could not ignore so flagrant an invitation. He crept between the archer’s outspread thighs, snatched up his empty cup and carelessly tossed it aside along with his.

Lying back, his hair spreading upon the pillow in glimmering abandon, Legolas looked at him with a smirk, his lips moist with the wine he had imbibed. Elrohir leaned down to lick the heady liquor off. With scarcely any preamble, he pushed Legolas’ knees back and up and pressed deep into the prince, his passage eased by the copious remains of his previous spendings. He caught Legolas to himself when, with a gasping moan, the archer arched into the abrupt invasion and pulled him upright to rest on his lap so that he slid down completely on the shaft he gloved.

Panting, his form shuddering with barely contained excitement, Legolas buried his hot face in the twin’s neck while he awaited his body’s adjustment to the girth that more than amply filled it. After a space, he raised his head and met Elrohir’s gaze.

“You tempt me at your own peril, lassen vain”—my beautiful leaf—Elrohir softly growled.

Legolas beamed at him beatifically but his eyes glowed darkly with unequivocal lust. “‘Tis a peril I cannot do without,” he purred. “Have your fill of me, rochir vorn”—dark knight. “For when you are done, I intend to have my way with you until you plead for mercy.”

He sealed their mouths in blistering union afore Elrohir could reply in unlikely dissent or in all but certain concurrence.

*************************************
Glossary:
ethuil – Sindarin for spring
Peredhel (pl. Peredhil) – Half-elven/Half-elf
ellyn – male Elves
thews – muscles (archaic)
donnybrook – a riotous brawl
ken – a field of knowledge or understanding

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Hardly had the party from Arthedain departed when Elladan arrived. But in this instance, his advent brought Legolas little pleasure for he came not for an extended visit with Elrohir but to lure his brother away for a lengthy sojourn abroad.

It was Mithrandir’s request, Elladan explained to his twin and law-brother over the evening meal. Seated at the table as well were Legolas’ brethren for any such prospects of adventure were of interest to the princes. More so if it involved one of the mysterious beings only known to them as the Istari.

There were five in all who had come to the northwest of Middle-earth—Curunir, Mithrandir, Radagast, Pallando and Alatar. If more of their kindred roamed the southern lands the Elves did not know.

Curunir had travelled to the far east as had Pallando and Alatar and would not be heard from for nigh a thousand years. But even when he returned he did not seem overly interested in the affairs of the Silvan folk and they returned the sentiment, ignoring him for the most part. Radagast was more to their liking for he had an affinity for the birds and beasts of their forest. Thranduil made it known that if the Wizard chose to settle in Mirkwood, he would be most welcome. Radagast did eventually build his fenced home of Rhosgobel on the western edge of the forest Narrows, opposite the East Bight. But Mithrandir the Wood-Elves esteemed above all for the Istar was not only wise and kind and friendly to them, but also respectful of their ways.

“Mithrandir desires to visit Lothlórien and confer with our grandparents,” Elladan said. “Thence, he wishes to explore Gondor and see for himself how the south-kingdom fares.”

“But why has he asked you to accompany him?” Lalorn queried. “He has journeyed alone before or so we have heard.”

“He has,” Elladan answered. “But even a Wizard craves company now and then. And he would also like to live for a spell in Gondor but remain unmarked by her people. What better guise could he take than as an itinerant pedlar, plying his trade with the aid of his grandsons? And Elrohir and I can easily pass for simple mortals with a little effort.”

“You couldn’t pass for ‘simple’ however hard you tried,” Aelluin snorted. Elladan grinned at him while the others chuckled. Save for Legolas.

“Why must Elrohir go with you at all?” Legolas mildly inquired. None missed the faint edge that limned his voice. “Surely Mithrandir needs no more than one ‘grandson’ for this deception.”

“True,” Elladan easily agreed. “I only thought that two heads worth of memories for the planning of our route would be better than one. And should we encounter trouble, an extra sword would be desirable. Mithrandir would rather not expose his considerable abilities too soon.”

Legolas frowned ever so slightly but said no more. Elladan looked at his brother and prodded: “Well, what say you, Elrohir?”

The younger twin smiled at the obvious elation in Elladan’s eyes. He felt it, too, of course. They were cut from the same venturesome fabric after all and were always hungry for the knowledge that came from practical experience.

“‘Tis a tempting proposal, brother,” he concurred. “I would dearly love to join you.”

“But you need Legolas’ permission first,” Elladan said somewhat curtly.

Elrohir did not reply in kind. He had long become aware of his brother’s never openly acknowledged disgruntlement with his seeming domestication at his archer spouse’s hands. He had tried to address the issue before but failed to convince Elladan of his full complicity in his own taming as the older twin oft acerbically put it. In truth, Elrohir was far from tamed. He was merely tempered by love’s gentling influence. But an unbound Elf who shied from everlasting wedlock could hardly be expected to discern the difference.

“Elrohir need not seek my permission,” Legolas coolly retorted. “He makes his own choices and I always respect them.”

Seeing Elladan’s skeptical expression, Elivorn swiftly intervened. “I think ‘tis apparent that Elrohir wishes to join you,” he reasoned. “But ‘tis only right that he desires Legolas’ concurrence. I doubt any of us would wish to venture forth with hard feelings souring our leave-takings of our mates.”

Elladan sighed and addressed Legolas. “My apologies if I offended you, gwanur.”—brother. “No slight was intended.”

Legolas shook his head. “Do not apologize for expressing concern for your brother. It greatly pleases me that you love each other so well. Let me assure you that I would not keep Elrohir from his duty or forbid his desire for questing. If I am reluctant, ‘tis simply because I loathe parting overlong from him. Surely ‘tis a sentiment none can begrudge me.”

They broke up on that note, Elladan enticing Galvreth with a come hither gaze. Legolas watched them go, his mien thoughtful. He felt Elrohir’s arms encircle him from behind and he leaned into his mate’s embrace.

“He has grown resentful of me,” he murmured.

“Nay, not of you, my love,” Elrohir softly demurred. “Only of the circumstances that keep me from his side. My binding to you did not sever our fraternal bond and hardly diminished it at all for we have always been closer than other brothers. And alone as he is, he feels my absence more keenly than I do his.”

“He need not be alone,” Legolas said. “And Galvreth would readily see to that if he would only let him.” He glanced back at Elrohir. “I see his envy of us. And I think he wonders what it is like to know the sense of ownership you and I have with each other. So why does he shy from love? Does he not yearn for the bliss he has surely observed amongst wedded Elves?”

“Not as much as he cherishes his freedom,” Elrohir replied. “The thirst for adventure is in our blood. The Peredhil have always longed to explore the unknown and the males of our line have not been hindered from indulging this wont. But admittedly, ‘tis not possible to do so as fulsomely when one is bound. Yet he saw me wedded long afore I had satisfied my need for venturing forth.”

Legolas fell quiet for a moment then turned in Elrohir’s arms to stare at him questioningly. “Do you regret then that you bound yourself to me so soon?” he asked, anxiety shading his tone.

“Never, beloved,” Elrohir assured him. “How can I when life with you is as much an adventure as any journey in faraway lands? And if I may add, the beauty of other places and their peoples cannot in any way compete with your graces. Or the joy I derive from knowing them so well.”

Legolas softly laughed. “Lecher,” he fondly said. “Go with Elladan, rochen vreg.”—my wild stallion. “‘Tis been many years since you last rode forth with him. And know I do not begrudge you this chance.”

“I do know it and I am always grateful for your understanding and forbearance.” The Elf-knight regarded Legolas pensively. “But this will be no brief sojourn abroad. This journey will take much longer than mere months if Mithrandir chooses to abide for a spell in Gondor. I doubt we shall manage to return sooner than a year. Even two years may barely suffice if he truly desires to know the south-kingdom well. I do not wish to be separated from you for so long, Legolas, but this I know I can bear. What I need to know is, can you?”

Legolas had grimaced at his mention of the length of time involved but, with a resigned sigh, he touched his forehead to Elrohir’s. “I will endure it, for your sake, though I cannot like it. I only ask that you keep me in your thoughts and heart as you will be in mine.”

“Always, calenlassen”—my green leaf—Elrohir said. “‘Tis my memories of you that hold me steady whenever we are apart.”

* * * *

Thoughts of separations, past and imminent, also crowded Galvreth’s mind as he lay by Elladan’s side that night. His body was happily sluggish from their couplings but not his mind. It never could be when it was centered on the darkling Elf-lord who alone graced his bed nowadays.

With no other had the argent-haired prince shared himself in the last four centuries; not even for bodily release as had been the case in the years after his and Elladan’s first tryst. So deep and true was his attachment to his Peredhel lover that he could no longer abide intimacy with another. It was the way of the Firstborn, this final abstention of the body when the heart was irrevocably given.

It was not the nuptial vow of fidelity alone that kept an Elf from straying from his or her marriage bed but also the body’s collusion with mind and heart in desiring one and no other. Galvreth knew himself well and truly ensnared by Elladan. The same, however, he could not say with certainty of Elladan with regard to himself.

He did not know if Elladan still lay with others in these later years of their millennium-long liaison. He had refrained from questioning him for they were not avowed lovers and he did not think it his place to make such demands. And all these centuries, the knowledge that he at least held a singular place in Elladan’s regard had sufficed. But of late, Galvreth had felt his discontent wax in direct proportion to the deepening of his loneliness.

He alone of his brothers was still unwed. He alone returned most nights to a bachelor’s quarters and an empty bed.

Valar, but he was tired of being alone! Of being rabidly wanted in wedlock by so many, but not by the one whose affection he wished solely for himself. Truth be told, he was weary of waiting.

“You sport so fearsome a frown, melethron.”—lover. What ails you?”

Galvreth glimpsed some worry in Elladan’s pewter eyes. He hesitated. Now was not the wisest time to voice his concerns, he decided. It would smack of entrapment by way of seduction and he did not desire that. He shook his head and said, “There is something that is of great concern to me. But I would speak of it at a more propitious time.”

Elladan studied him curiously. “Can you tell me at least if it has aught to do with me?”

Galvreth forced a grin. “Fie, Peredhel. Has anything that troubled me ever had naught to do with you?”

Elladan snorted. “If I am so bothersome, pray tell, why do you still welcome me into your bed?” he pointed out.

Galvreth’s smile nearly faltered but he steadied himself and replied, “Because you pleasure me so well.” He pressed a kiss to Elladan’s lips. “As I hope I do you,” he whispered.

Elladan groaned and pulled him atop his tall frame. “All too well, ernil daur”—forest prince—he remarked, his hands sliding down Galvreth’s sleek back to rest on his taut bottom. “So well that I find the services of others wanting and indeed have had no further need of them for many a year now.”

Galvreth’s breath hitched at the unbidden admission. Almost at the same time, he espied a flicker of consternation in Elladan’s eyes. But whether it was from the anxiety of a lover who feared ridicule or the shock that he had said too much, the prince did not have the time to consider. For Elladan pulled him down into a kiss so meltingly molten, he quite forgot what it was to think at all.

* * * *

Mithrandir sent word to the twins that he would rendezvous with them within a fortnight in the hamlet in the vales of Anduin he and Elladan had previously selected. Faced with a definite date of departure, Elrohir set to the task of readying for a long sojourn with his brother and the Wizard. He could not still the natural excitement that went hand in hand with imminent adventure but neither was he overly eager to separate from his woodland mate for such a length of time.

Legolas did his best to put on a merry face but Elrohir was not fooled. Such was the tightness of their bond that they felt incomplete when they were apart, their spirits unceasingly yearning for oneness as surely as their bodies. The prince’s unhappiness subtly manifested itself in his sentimental recollections of times past. When he felt himself slipping into self-pity, he would summon up dear memories to stave off the mawkish mood.

It was one such remembrance that pointed the way for Galvreth. That is, the fourth prince hoped it was the way that would bring him to his goal soonest.

Three days shy of the twins’ departure, during a convivial drink on the rooftop deck of the royal pavilion, Legolas made mention of the grievous rift that had come between him and Elrohir just before they bound to each other. In particular, he spoke of how Elrohir had borne their betrothal rings on a silver chain around his neck when he’d thought Legolas lost to him for good.

The archer’s eyes misted over as he recounted his discovery of that fact, deeply moved even after all this time by his mate’s staunch fidelity to their troth. Galvreth was touched as well even as he felt some envy of his brother that he had won so steadfast a lover that early in his life.

Nonetheless, he found himself thinking about it afterward when he returned to the solitude of his room. Unable to sleep, he clambered out of his bed and opened his wardrobe. From a concealed drawer in its depths he withdrew the small bronze chest in which he kept his personal store of jewels. Sitting himself at his writing desk, he opened the chest and studied its contents.

He thoughtfully fingered the heavy collar of gold worn only for state occasions. A crystal pendant bearing the likeness of an eagle which he donned during various festivals. A solid silver cuff used for balls and formal affairs where he was expected to lead the dancing. And of course, his wide signet ring of silver and gold replete with the emblem of the House of Oropher.

There were more pieces. Not as plentiful as one might expect of a prince of an elven realm, but each so exquisitely crafted and fashioned from the finest precious metals and stones the mines and lodes of the north could produce that the whole lot was easily the equal of any mere rich man’s entire treasury.

After a moment’s pause, he selected a small silk pouch and emptied it onto his palm. Out slid a mantle brooch of such beauteous simplicity it always called attention to itself whenever he wore it. It was wrought of pure mithril and bore a small but perfect emerald in its very center. So rarely had Galvreth worn it that he could remember every single occasion; each one a nuptial celebration.

The mithril that had gone into its making had originally been part of a single chunk of that extremely precious metal. It had been a wedding gift to Thranduil from his kinsman Celeborn and the latter’s wife Galadriel in those long ago days when differences and distance had not yet come between them. Before the formation of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men and the march to Mordor. Before Oropher’s fall.

Thranduil had commissioned the crafting of several jewels from that small but nigh priceless piece of truesilver. A royal circlet used only on the most important of state occasions. The king’s signet ring. A delicate chain his late wife had delighted in. Ornamental pins and brooches like the one Galvreth now held in his hand.

Galvreth contemplated the jewel. Crafted from a wedding gift and donned only for wedding feasts—there could be no mistaking his intent if he gifted it upon another. Elladan would not fail to recognize its significance for the older twin had marked it each time he’d seen Galvreth wear it.

The Elf-prince gripped the brooch tightly. He could not help the faint tremor that snaked up his spine and made his hand shake oh so slightly. It was a chance he was taking. Once he made his move there would be no turning back. But for good or ill, he had to make it. He could bear the uncertainty no longer.

* * * *

On the eve of the brethren’s departure, Galvreth slipped away from the farewell meal early. The others would not be long in following. Legolas and Elrohir in particular would not care to waste a single moment of this last night together in company with others however pleasant.

He swiftly bathed, donned a plain shirt and loose breeches and combed his silver hair until it shone. Finally, he retrieved the gift he had meticulously yet fearfully chosen. Heart just short of racing, he trod the short distance to Elladan’s chamber, his bare feet making no sound discernible even to elven ears.

Elladan found him settled within when he returned to his room a quarter of an hour later. Seated on the couch before the silent hearth, Galvreth made a striking picture. The flickering light from the single lamp made his hair gleam softly and his skin glow palely. He appeared an even more delicate creature than his ethereally countenanced youngest brother despite his sturdier frame. It was a picture Elladan readily appreciated and he idly wondered as he neared the prince how best to get him into his bed soonest.

He gave Galvreth no time to do more than utter his name before he bent to capture the Wood-elf’s mouth in a liquid kiss. His slid his hand under the prince’s shirt where it gaped open at his chest and circled one nipple with a finger before stroking it to a hard nub. Galvreth gasped and gripped his hand to still it. With an obvious effort, he broke their kiss and drew back to look at the older twin, a plea in his eyes.

Elladan gazed back then sighed and sank down beside him. “Is this the propitious moment you spoke of?” he quietly asked.

Galvreth started, surprised that Elladan remembered that earlier exchange. Nevertheless it pleased him for surely that evidenced Elladan’s affection for him that he should recall something mentioned in the midst of a torrid tryst.

“You are leaving tomorrow. When else will I have this chance?”

Elladan regarded him curiously. “But why leave it until this late date?”

Galvreth leaned back and huffed a nervous laugh. “Call me foolish if you will but I had to summon the courage first.” At Elladan’s wondering expression, he added, “Given your prior aversion to the matter at hand.” After a brief pause, he said, “Did you speak the truth when you said you have not wanted for others of late?”

Elladan stared at him then nodded. “Aye, I spoke the truth,” he admitted.

“Why do you feel thusly?”

The older twin hesitated then shrugged. “I have not considered the cause. I only know I am content to lie with you alone.”

Galvreth smiled at his bluntness. “As I have been,” he softly concurred. “Indeed, I have never truly shared myself with others as I do with you. And with good reason.”

He took Elladan’s hand and slid the brooch onto his palm but he covered it a while with his own hand. Looking steadily at Elladan he said: “I wish to give you this as a token of what I have held in my heart for you all these years, Elladan.” Drawing a shaky breath, he uncovered his gift and awaited Elladan’s response.

The older twin’s initial reaction was expected. Recognition flashed in his eyes and he lifted them to stare at his lover in disbelief.

“Galvreth, you cannot give this away!” he softly exclaimed. “‘Tis a veritable treasure and an heirloom of your house. Only one of your family may bear this and…” His voice faded away as he comprehended the unspoken suit he had just received. “Sweet Eru,” he whispered.

Galvreth saw his hand tremble and he swiftly caught it between his palms, compelling Elladan to close his fingers around the brooch.

“‘Tis mine to bestow on whomever I wish,” he said. “And be at ease, I am not asking that you bind to me forthwith. Else ‘tis a ring I would have given you. Nay, I only seek assurance.”

“Assurance?” Elladan half stammered.

Galvreth could not help a soft chuckle at the sight of Elladan so uncharacteristically a-fluster. “Assurance of your regard,” he gently elucidated. “Of your desire for a future with me.” Summoning his courage, he thus said, “Will you have me, beloved? Will you own yourself mine as I have always known myself yours?”

Heartened by Elladan’s earlier admission, Galvreth put forth his proposal with much hope and cheer. But an instant later, he watched disconcertment replace the disbelief in Elladan’s features. Of a sudden, he felt uncertainty flare. Yet he held to his course with what trust he harbored.

“I believe you have feelings for me though you have never told me so,” he murmured. “And besotted with you as I am I have waited all these years in the hope that you would admit them to me. But now I am lonely and weary of it. I look at my brothers and envy them their joy and the company of their mates. ‘Tis what I want for myself; what I know I was made for.”

Silence followed his statement. And a palpable tension. Finally, Elladan slowly said: “If that is what you wish…”

His patent reluctance was not lost on Galvreth. The beginnings of a crushing sadness began its encroachment. The Elf-prince stiffened and shook his head. “I will not have you tie yourself to me unwilling. That is the way of regret and sorrow and I refuse to be the cause of one or the other for you.” His resolve starting to fail, he forced himself to say, “If you do not truly care for more than an occasional tryst with me, then please be forthright about it. Tell me now that I may know where I stand.”

Elladan stared at him in dismay. Galvreth saw it. Bitter disappointment washed over him hard on the heels of his now burgeoning grief. But he refused to show any sign of it beyond his features’ unusual stillness.

He had humbled himself far more than enough as it was. He would not strip himself of the last shreds of his tattered pride. Face blanched, mouth grim and eyes suddenly devoid of emotion, he silently rose and walked to the door without a word.

“Galvreth!”

The prince did not look back. “Good night, Elladan. I will see you off come morning,” he said in a hushed voice. Quickly, he slipped out the door.

Elladan sat back with a groan and rubbed his face, suddenly feeling drained. He recalled then what he still held in his hand and unclosing it revealed Galvreth’s gift once more. Again he groaned then morosely stared at the hearth, still unaware of—or unwilling to admit—how much its emptiness mirrored the state of his own heart.

* * * *

The following day the twins departed, their farewells painful to watch. For vastly different reasons.

Afore he mounted his steed, Elrohir drew Legolas into a snug embrace which the archer returned with poignant fervency, his eyes tellingly bright and his mouth drawn tight to still its quivering. Gone was the young Elf who held little regard for the niceties of royal decorum and would have displayed his feelings for all to see. Still and all, Legolas’ spare show of emotion markedly evinced his reluctance to let his mate go.

Lovers’ biddings and promises passed between them in the last moments before they finally drew apart. Even so, they scarcely took their eyes off each other and it was only when Elrohir turned faithful Uilos toward the elven track that he forced himself to break their linked gazes.

Not so such longing and tenderness between Elladan and Galvreth. A strange awkwardness precluded more affectionate farewells. Indeed, Galvreth seemed to take pains to avoid meeting Elladan’s eyes however often or long the older twin laid them on him. He did not even stand abreast with his father and brothers but hung back a little behind Aelluin and Lalorn.

An expression of what seemed to be regret crossed Elladan’s features as he mounted his destrier but he said nothing nor did he look back. Mouth pinched and eyes veiled, he quitted the forest kingdom with rather unseemly haste, forcing Elrohir to quicken his pace.

The younger twin did not question the older about his odd conduct or the unusual aloofness of the argent-haired Elf with whom his brother had kept intimate if sporadic company for more than eight centuries. Not while they still travelled in the company of others. He did not care to have either of their personal troubles become fodder for speculation and so he kept his peace until they left the eaves of Mirkwood behind and headed for their meeting place with Mithrandir.

It was only when they parted from the warriors who formed their escort a few leagues from their destination that Elrohir at last sought to discover what had brought about the obvious rift between Elladan and Galvreth. His opening came when they halted by a stream some miles from the hamlet to bathe and shed their elven garb for mannish raiment.

He eyed the pouch he had seen Elladan tuck into the inner pocket of his tunic during a prior stop and now watched his twin transfer it to the hidden hollow in the lining of his leather jerkin. But the drawstring of the small bag was loose and as he lifted it, what it held slid out in part. Elrohir caught a glimpse of shining argent and deepest green. His breath hitched in recognition.

Not for nothing had he resided intermittently in the Woodland Realm as one of the royal family all these centuries. Swift as a hawk, he caught Elladan by the wrist and forced him to hold up the jewel.

“Tell me,” he commanded in a tone he seldom ever used with his twin. “What has befallen you and Galvreth?”

Elladan pulled his hand away but with little force. With a sigh, he reluctantly related how so beauteous a treasure had come to be in his possession. Elrohir was quite aghast when he finished his tale.

“You declined his suit?” he said disbelievingly. “Are you mad, brother?”

Ire flamed in Elladan’s eyes at the charge. “Am I supposed to accept any and every proposal that comes my way? I would be wed to half of Elvendom by now if I did!”

Elrohir glared at him, not in the least amused. “And is Galvreth just any Elf? He cherishes you deeply and has done so for years uncounted. Far more than you apparently deserve and well you know it! Dear Elbereth, what possessed you to forego such a gift, Elladan?”

“A gift? To be shackled and immured and be at another’s beck and call as–as—” Elladan looked away, cheeks flushing.

“As I am?” Elrohir challenged. “Ho, the truth will out though verily I have long known it.” He gripped Elladan’s shoulder hard and forced him to face him. “I told Legolas that ‘twas not he you resented for keeping me from you but rather my wedded state. But he was not far off the mark, was he? You take offense at the betrothal you deemed forced on me and thus precipitated my early binding. And because ‘twas he who broached it, you blame my law-father to some extent and also Legolas for having had the temerity to claim me in marriage so very soon. That is the toll of it, isn’t it? You’ve come to see wedlock as a trap, more so if undertaken with a Thranduilion.”

“That is ludicrous, Elrohir,” Elladan said sharply. “Is that what marriage does to an Elf’s wit? For verily I would say you have lost a fair bit if you believe such nonsense!”

Elrohir shook his head in some exasperation. “Empty words, gwaniaur”—older twin—he countered. “Admit it, you think me lacking in freedom to do as I wish. And because Legolas asked that we not part if we can help it, you believe he has chained me to him. You fear to be equally fettered by another of his kin, to be unable to venture when and where you desire. But what you have failed to see, mayhap what you refuse to see, is that I am free. Legolas does not hinder me. And certainly none of his brothers keep their spouses leashed! If I stay by his side, ‘tis because I want to and the same can be said for the others. I detest parting from him as heartily as he loathes being apart from me. And in our constant oneness I find joy, Elladan. More joy than I ever imagined possible. I would not change my choice were I given another chance to make it. Nay, not even if almighty Eru himself offered it. Only a fool would forego the greatest gift any creature of sense could hope for and I am no fool. I pray neither are you, brother.”

Elladan opened his mouth to reply but no words issued forth. His mind suddenly emptied of his usual reasonings, he stared at Elrohir in abject confusion. Had he not been in so grim a mood, Elrohir would have found his twin’s speechlessness laughable and cause for brotherly smugness.

At length, Elladan lowered his eyes to the brooch he’d unconsciously been fiddling with. He blew out his breath then met Elrohir’s persistent stare.

“Mayhap you have a point,” he said. “Mind you, I am not saying you are altogether correct. But—I will think hard on this matter while we journey.”

Elrohir considered him thoughtfully. “Will you inform Galvreth of your deliberations?” he queried.

“Wherefore? Will I not just wound him further should I come back still disinclined to accept his suit?”

“You give him next to no hope then. What will you do if when we return you find he has since turned to another in your stead?

Elladan frowned, obviously displeased with the thought, but he only shrugged and said, “So be it. ‘Tis a chance I will take.”

The younger twin pursed his lips reprovingly. “You will not be so blithe I wager should you come upon your replacement happily ensconced between the sheets of his bed. More so if he or she supplants you in his heart as well.”

With that, Elrohir snatched up his journeyman’s cloak, turned on his heel and, flinging the mantle over his shoulders and pulling the hood up to cover his head, strode toward their tethered horses. These were not their splendid elven steeds but sturdy beasts such as oft used by merchants who travelled far and wide to hawk their wares.

Disturbed by his brother’s vehemence, Elladan dropped his eyes to the brooch and stared at it pensively. At length, he sighed and, returning the jewel to its pouch, slipped it into his jerkin then shrugged on his coat and donned his cloak. Taking a moment to ensure that the tips of his ears were concealed by his loosely bound hair, he followed Elrohir.

When they rode into the hamlet that evening, none of the tiny community’s citizens realized that more than ordinary men had entered their midst.

***********************************
Glossary:
pedlar – peddler (British)
gwanur – ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ but a more accurate translation would be kinsman or kinswoman
suit – courtship and proposal of marriage (archaic)
destrier – warhorse (archaic)
Thranduilion – son of Thranduil
wherefore – for what purpose or reason (archaic)

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Mirkwood, Urúi T.A. 1090
An infant’s gurgling coos resonated in the Elven-king’s study, eliciting smiles from all present. Lalorn cradled his first-born son, his proud perusal of the babe tinged with some anxiety and much protectiveness. His concern was understandable given that it had taken his lady wife nigh seven centuries to get with child. Lalorn’s mate was a delicate creature of impeccable birth but whose line was known for being lamentably unprolific in progeny. Lalorn had wooed and wed her nonetheless, quite prepared to endure childlessness if that was their lot. And all these years, he and his wife had indeed thought it their lot to bring no children into Arda.

But as is oft the case when expectations are at their lowest, the unexpected occurred and now Thranduil had another grandchild that he would one day bounce on his royal knee. Still and all, Lalorn could not help being anxious about his son’s health and prospects after having thought never to father one at all.

Galvreth smiled at his brother’s overly fidgety behavior. Truly, were they not all cognizant of the cause, they would have chided Lalorn for behaving in so un-elvish a manner. His smile widened when Thranduil leaned over Lalorn’s shoulder to stroke the infant’s plump chin with his finger. Whereupon the babe snortled happily, pleased by the attention paid to his tiny self.

The argent-haired prince glanced at the door in time to see Legolas enter the chamber. His brother was clad in hardy raiment fit for patrolling the forest, which was what he would be embarking on soonest. As would Lalorn.

The unschooled observer would think the archer over eager to do his duty for Legolas undertook such missions with unwarranted frequency. But verily it was but a means to distract himself from his yearning for Elrohir; a way to keep himself from dwelling on his unceasing need for his absent mate.

True to his own prognosis, Legolas did not fare well during this separation from Elrohir. Oh, he was hale and whole and nowhere near pining away for want of his darkling spouse. But what did go missing were his sunny demeanor, his ready smile and his sweet temper. Not until Elrohir returned to his side would the Wood-elves hear their youngest prince’s merry laughter once more.

He kept in touch with Elrohir, of course. Every fortnight he would ascend to the rooftop deck of the royal residence and scour the skies, seeking the fleet falcon that bore Elrohir’s missives to him from the south and would carry his own messages back to the Elf-knight. The letters never failed to bring a sparkle to his eyes or a glimmer of a smile to his lips. But they were a poor substitute for the reality of Elrohir’s warm arms around him.

Galvreth, too, had received missives by way of that same falcon. In the three years since their falling out, Elladan had sought to salve some of the hurt he knew he had inflicted on the woodland prince. His letters were warm and reverent and even entreating at times. Upon reading the first of these, Galvreth had felt his anger and bitterness seep away. But not his sorrow.

Elladan did not speak of love or hint at affection greater than what one accorded a favored lover. Galvreth perceived his guardedness in the way he worded his letters and knew the older twin still unwilling to give himself completely in eternal wedlock.

Disheartened and lonely, Galvreth had striven to balm his wounded heart as best as he could. He did not know if the means he had used to attain his goal were right. He could only hope that they would be enough to keep his spirit from utterly failing.

He watched Legolas fondly run his fingers through their nephew’s downy locks before inquiring whether Lalorn would be ready to leave within the hour. Lalorn nodded though with scant enthusiasm. With a sigh, he beckoned to his son’s nurse then gazed long and longingly at the infant before surrendering him to the Elf-woman’s care.

It was while he and Legolas were taking formal leave of their father that Galvreth came to a sudden decision. “Hold, Lalorn,” he said. “I will go with Legolas in your stead.”

“You have just returned from the borders yourself,” Lalorn objected.

“And I have no pressing need to remain safe as do you, brother,” Galvreth replied. “Your son should not have to risk losing his sire afore he has even been named.”

“Galvreth…” Thranduil began to protest.

“Oh, do not worry overmuch, Ada”—Papa—Galvreth assured him. “‘Twas but a turn of phrase. I meant nothing by it. Besides, Legolas will be with me. Is there any greater surety than the presence of our stalwart archer?”

This last was said teasingly but also affectionately, testament to the close fraternal bond the two had forged over the centuries. Thranduil had to smile as he always did when presented with evidence of his sons’ solidarity.

“Just make certain that ‘tis to allow Lalorn time with his child that you wish to take his place,” he said.

“That is my wish, Ada,” Galvreth answered. “‘Tis agreed then,” he addressed Lalorn to stay his dissent. “Legolas, give me a quarter of an hour and I shall be ready.”

He swiftly departed leaving his father and brothers to ponder his mood.

“Is this wise, Ada?” Lalorn prodded. “Aelluin said he was less than vigilant of his safety last they patrolled together.” His voice lowered sadly. “It has been so since the gwenyn rode away.”

Thranduil sighed. “I do not know if it is wise or not,” he said. “But I would rather he occupy himself with some endeavor that will make him see his worth. He seems lacking in confidence in himself these days.”

“But what of his safety? What if harm comes upon him because he gives little thought to it? Ah, do not let him go, Ada. I am more than ready to do my duty.”

“Nay, Lalorn,” Legolas firmly said. “Whatever his true reasons, Galvreth is right. You must spend this time with your son and let him get to know you well. And as for his safety, ‘tis not as if we shall be alone. Surely a whole troop of Elves is shield enough for the two of us.”

Thus it was with Galvreth that Legolas set out on his tour of patrol duty. They would be gone for two months at the very least, perhaps even longer should conditions beyond the Woodland Realm’s bounds prove troublesome.

The Silvan Elves were not content to sit secure within their domain. Peril was kept at bay not from within the heart of the forest kingdom but through the thorough scouring and cleansing of their considerable corner of Mirkwood. The farther they kept trespassers of any kind from even nearing their realm, the less the risk of invasion of the kingdom itself.

Ere they could set off, an Elf-maid hastened after them, her pretty face pale with worry. She spoke to Galvreth, asking why he was leaving once more after having just returned. The hand she laid on his arm bespoke familiarity, as did her daring in beseeching one of the king’s sons in such a fashion.

When at last Galvreth managed to assure her that all would be well, she hugged him close and pressed a kiss to his lips. Only then did she step back to let him rejoin his brother. Legolas looked askance at him as he came to his side.

“She is quite the tender heart,” he remarked, leading the way into the forest. “I wonder if she is suited to be a warrior’s wife.”

Galvreth looked at him with mild amusement. “That is a most unsubtle way of trying to discover whether I have proposed to her.”

Legolas shrugged. “And have you?” he pressed. “Pardon my curiosity but you have been taciturn of late. Maddeningly so.”

Galvreth wanly smiled. “I have not,” he said. “I do not feel that ‘tis the right time.”

“But you like her enough to consider it?”

“What a question! Of course I do else would I have kept company with her all this time?”

Legolas fell silent for a spell. And then he glanced warily at Galvreth and ventured to ask, “And has she a chance of replacing Elladan in your heart?”

The utter stillness that came over Galvreth’s features warned him that he was treading dangerous ground. It was always the case when any mention of Elladan was made. Yet he knew precious little of what had actually passed between the two. Galvreth steadfastly refused to speak of it to any of them. But especially did he hold his tongue with Legolas where before he had always been open.

The archer could not fault him for his reticence. Galvreth’s honor and good sense would not permit him to speak ill of Elrohir’s brother. Not if it might spark friction between Legolas and Elladan and thereby place Elrohir in the most uncomfortable position of trying to keep the peace between his mate and his twin. Galvreth had decried Nimaras’ divisive actions long ago. He would not demean himself and do likewise now.

Yet Legolas could not let it rest. Placing his confidence in Galvreth’s love for him, he would attempt every now and then to pry a bit more information out of his brother.

“Has she a chance?” he repeated when Galvreth did not reply.

“Would you welcome her?” Galvreth countered.

“If that would make you happy, yea, I would,” Legolas replied. “We all would. And Aewithen is kind and gentle and lovely besides.”

“But…?”

“But does she content you?”

Galvreth stared unseeingly into the distance. At length he said: “She makes me smile.”

Legolas’ eyes softened. “And for that I would sing her praises. Eru knows we have seen little of your mirth these days. But are you happy with her?”

Galvreth’s lips curved slightly at his brother’s persistence. “As much as I am capable,” he replied shortly.

Legolas frowned. “Which does not seem all that much judging from your demeanor of late. Galvreth, I know you will never tell me what drove you and Elladan apart. But will you not at least confide in me what is in your heart? I would help you mend what wounds lie within. I wish you would let me, brother.”

They walked a little further in silence as Galvreth considered Legolas’ plea. Finally, he said: “I once believed I would know the wedded bliss you and the others have found. So great was my faith that I willingly waited for nigh eight hundred years for that dream to come true. But I have learned a painful lesson since. Not all of us are fated to know such joy.” Legolas sharply glanced at him when he heard the resounding sorrow in his brother’s voice. “The dream I held to was naught but an illusion and hence nothing more than wishful thinking on my part. I would that I could still have a dream to build on. An illusion cannot support the weight of my hopes however paltry they now may be.”

Legolas felt his throat tighten in like sorrow and sympathy, so desolate was his brother’s face and voice. “I cannot believe that what you shared with Elladan was little more than an illusion,” he softly insisted. “There was more to Elladan’s feelings for you than mere lust. Anyone could see that.”

Galvreth smiled sadly. “Oh, I know that, tôr neth”—younger brother. “But it means nothing if he will not even admit it to himself.” He shook his head. “Too long did I hang on to my hopes. I cannot go on as before. I have to find some means to let go else I will break. I have striven to hide it from you, but verily the grief is oft too great to bear.” He paused, his voice catching.

“And you have hidden it well,” Legolas murmured. “Ah, Galvreth, I wish you had not kept this from me. I know I cannot fill the gap he has left in your heart as Aewithen might, but still I would have liked to succor you in whatever way I can.”

“You already have,” Galvreth whispered. “Simply by always offering your comfort even when I would not take it. And as for Aewithen, I do not know if she can fill that gap either. Indeed, I do not think any can. Elladan made that place in my heart his very own. Mayhap–mayhap the only way would be for her to make a new place for herself.”

“If she can,” Legolas said doubtfully. “Forgive me, brother, but I find her wanting. She does not possess the strong heart or mettlesome spirit of a mate fit for a warrior prince.”

“Then if not her, some other,” Galvreth replied. “Just so I can move on.”

Legolas looked at him unhappily. That his brother should despair of knowing true joy and be willing to settle for much less out of a lack of hope was simply too painful a prospect to endure.

* * * *

As he passed beneath the eaves of the first line of trees on Mirkwood’s western bounds, Elrohir heaved a sigh of relief. For the last several hours, a vague unease had nagged him and though he could not discern its cause, he intuitively suspected it had to do with Legolas. He wondered if his mate was in some fraught state for him to sense his disquiet unbidden. A quarrel with someone mayhap?

At his side, Elladan remained silent for the most part, his fair face thoughtful as they journeyed deeper into the great forest. Elrohir noted how his twin would now and again lift his hand to his left breast, brushing it over the inner pocket of his tunic in which was secreted a gallant woodland Elf’s gift.

Their sojourn in Gondor had proved exhilarating, enlightening or exasperating by turns. Mithrandir was extremely pleased with all they had gleaned from their stay and vowed to return thence when time and circumstance permitted. But he had also marked the brethren’s diminished enjoyment of the venture; fraught feelings shadowed them throughout. No fool he, the Wizard deemed it prudent that they return to the north sooner than planned. What good after all would his companions be should they languish the longer they stayed away from the reasons for their discontent?

Elrohir felt the falcon perched on his shoulder bate in impatience and he reached up to soothe the creature. He had not advised Legolas of his premature return thinking to surprise his mate with his unexpected advent. He smiled a little as he imagined Legolas’ reaction when he realized his spouse was home at last.

It was then that he suddenly felt a surge of fear mingled with rage course through him with such ferocity it nearly toppled him from Uilos had he not been tightly clutching the reins. Elladan extended his hand to steady him.

“Elrohir!” he exclaimed. “What is wrong?”

The younger twin turned alarmed eyes on him. “‘Tis Legolas! Some evil has befallen him. I felt his anger and fear.”

“Fear?” Elladan repeated incredulously. “Are you certain? Legolas fears nothing!”

Elrohir shook his head, spurring his steed forward. “‘Twas not for himself but for those in his charge. He is not unsettled easily otherwise. Ah, let us hurry, brother! I am afraid for him.”

They traversed the rest of the track at a breakneck gallop. Thus, they came to the borders of the Woodland Realm in little more than half the time others might at a more leisure pace. Elrohir’s fear mounted as they passed the kingdom’s boundaries with nary a sentry to challenge them. That could only mean that they had been recalled for some dire need other than guarding the marches.

They burst into the clearing before the delved palace to find a great troop of Silvan warriors preparing to march forth. And at the fore were Thranduil and all his sons. Save for Legolas and Galvreth.

“Aelluin!” Elrohir cried to the nearest prince. “What has happened? Where are Legolas and Galvreth?”

He and Elladan flung themselves off their mounts almost before the elven horses came to a stop. Aelluin hastened to meet the twins. His face was grim as could be.

“They left on patrol but two days past,” he quickly explained. “But just an hour ago, one of their scouts returned near swooning from weariness and his wounds. They were ambushed by orcs nigh to our southern bounds just yestereve.”

The twins stared at him in horror. “Were they taken?” Elladan sharply asked when Elrohir in his shock failed to speak.

“We do not know,” Aelluin said. He continued apprising the brethren of the situation while the latter swiftly armed themselves to the hilt. “The last Fingaran saw of them, they were retreating further south with the survivors they managed to gather.”

“Further south!” Elrohir gasped in disbelief.

“The orcs cut off any escape to the north. They were likely going to attempt a roundabout route to get back here.”

“But how did Fingaran get away?” Elrohir demanded as he and Elladan strode back to the waiting Elf-soldiers with Aelluin.

“He was mistaken for dead. When the orcs gave chase after my brothers, he made his way back here to inform us of what had happened.”

Thranduil welcomed them with hurried hugs afore taking his place at the head of his forces. The Wood-elves silently melted into the deeps of the forest, leaving behind a dazed and fearful citizenry.

As they marched, the princes recounted more details of the ambush to the brethren. Galvreth and Legolas had been lured into a trap. Just a few leagues away from the elven path they came upon a small group of Wood-elves bound and gagged and strung from a great tree. The Elves were part of a hunting party that had gone missing but a four-day past and had been one of the reasons for the patrol’s foray into this part of the forest. All bore signs of mistreatment and deprivation.

Horror and pity had clouded the Silvan warriors' judgment, even Legolas and Galvreth’s. They had not paused to consider that the captive Elves need not have been gagged unless it was to keep them from warning their rescuers of danger. Too late did the first victim voice a panicked warning. Nigh a horde of goblins swarmed into the clearing, outnumbering the Wood-elves nearly five to one. The Elves fought well and valorously but they were overwhelmed by their foes’ superior numbers.

Fingaran had suffered a blow to his head and fallen amidst his vanquished fellows in a daze. Realizing the orcs were running their swords and spears through any prone form that moved, he feigned death and kept absolutely still. That was when he espied the princes repelling the last of the orcs that had engaged them, regrouping the remnants of the troop and heading south.

Becoming aware of their retreat, the remaining orcs chased after them. Fingaran did not think they would be caught too soon for they knew the woods as the orcs did not. But hampered by injuries amongst them, he doubted they could move as swiftly as needed to evade their pursuers. Sooner or late, if they did not manage to elude the goblins and head back toward the bounds of the Wood-elves’ domain, they would be taken.

Elrohir did his best to keep calm despite the almost unending spate of emotions that assailed him through his mating-bond. Gritting his teeth in determination not to fall apart ere he could come to his beloved’s aid, he suddenly noticed the peculiar pallor of Elladan’s face. He gripped his brother’s shoulder and looked at him inquiringly.

Elladan swallowed hard then spoke. “I delayed too long,” he hoarsely said. “I did not tell him how dear he is to me and now it may be too late!”

“Take heart, gwaniuar”—older twin—Elrohir attempted to soothe him despite his own inner tumult. “Legolas is alive. I can sense him. The chances are great that Galvreth is with him and therefore alive as well.”

“Aye, alive,” Elladan retorted. “But whole? What if those beasts have broken them? You know full well what orcs can do! And here we are, still too far to aid them. How can you bear this–this helplessness, Elrohir?”

“Because I must,” Elrohir pointed out. “We both must. They will need us when we find them. We have to be hale for them, Elladan.”

To this the older twin could make no reply.

**********************
Glossary:
Urúi – Sindarin for August
gwenyn - twins

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Legolas bit back a cry of pain as he was flung down once more onto his belly. Though his entire back from his shoulders to his calves seemed afire from the countless weals and wounds of his flogging, he refused to give his tormentors the satisfaction of seeing any signs of emotional weakening on his part. Galvreth had not uttered a sound beyond a gasp or grunt throughout his own ordeal and Legolas was determined to follow his example as much to preserve his personal dignity whatever else happened as bolster the faltering spirits of their warriors who were gathered in a huddle several yards away, their wrists and ankles tightly bound.

They had managed to elude the orcs for nigh three days. Travelling down little known paths, they had taken a circular, slightly westerly route in the hope of gaining the main elven track. The goblins avoided that well-guarded way as much as possible. But the Elves could not be as quick about it for most of their number bore severe injuries that precluded taking the more straightforward, less easily traced path by way of the limbs of the trees themselves. Luck had finally ran out on them just this very morn and, in spite of their best efforts to evade their pursuers anew, the orcs had surrounded them, closed in and taken them captive.

They had not recognized him or Galvreth as sons of Thranduil. Not at first. But the princes betrayed their identities when they attempted to prevent the orcs from brutalizing the most junior of their scouts, an Elf barely removed from majority.

Failing to realize the repercussions of revealing them, young Fervanel protested their intervention but unfortunately addressed them by their titles and names. That had sealed their fates for the orcs’ hatred for Thranduil and his family was great.

Legolas caught a glimpse of his brother’s bloodied form just a few feet away before his face was shoved into the dirt. Galvreth’s back was a mass of torn flesh and swollen tissue. His legs were twisted at unnatural angles—the orcs had shattered his kneecaps right after whipping him near insensate. But most horrifying to Legolas were the dark crimson streaks that marked the back of Galvreth’s thighs, evidence of his vicious treatment at the goblins’ hands.

Yet Galvreth had borne it all in near silence, biting down so hard on his lip and the tender flesh on the inside of his mouth to keep from uttering a sound that blood ran down his chin from the self-inflicted wounds. When he finally lapsed into blessed unconsciousness, the orcs turned their frustration on Legolas.

He was subjected to the lash until he thought he would go mad from the agony. Now he awaited what he thought would be a similar fracturing of his legs. Instead, searing pain in his calves nearly wrenched a keen from him. Elbereth, they intended to hamstring him! He stifled a groan as he felt the liquid warmth of his blood wet his legs. Even if he survived this captivity there was a great chance he would never be able to properly use his legs again. Not if they had sliced through his tendons.

Tears pricked his eyes but he stubbornly squeezed them back. His hair was grasped at his temple and he was forced to look up.

Before him was one of the leaders of the orkish pack. With an evil grin, he displayed a stout club to Legolas. The archer could not help the shudder that wracked his frame. The orc sniggered and ran the tip of the club along the Elf-prince’s cheek, smearing it with the congealing blood of his brother’s torn entrails. It reminded Legolas all too vividly of what had been done to Galvreth earlier.

The orc tossed the club to another goblin standing behind Legolas’ spread-eagled body. The others guffawed as the latter orc squatted between the archer’s bleeding legs. Legolas bit his lip in undeniable dread when the taut mounds of his bottom were parted none too gently. He felt the club’s blood-encrusted tip trace a path up one thigh to his buttocks.

The archer prayed he would be granted merciful oblivion before the pain exceeded his ability to maintain silence. When the orc positioned the club to breach him, Legolas braced himself for the cruel rending of his very innards.

A shriek resounded through the glade. Suddenly freed of the restraining grips of his captors, Legolas looked up to see the orcs snatching up their weapons and rushing to stave off the most welcome sight the archer could have hoped for. Elves clad in the green and brown of the Woodland Realm.

He glanced over his shoulder and saw his would-be assailant struggling to dislodge an arrow protruding from his throat. Legolas’ eyes gleamed when he recognized the colors and pattern of the arrow’s fletchings. Despite the fearsome pain and unwieldiness of his butchered legs, he lashed out with his foot and struck the orc’s clutching paws thus causing them to drive the arrow deeper into the creature’s throat. Shocked yellowed eyes stared at him before the goblin toppled over.

Swiftly perusing the clearing-turned-battlefield, he sought the owner of the arrow. His heart leaped when, across the space, argent eyes met his for an instant. And then his Elf-knight rejoined the fray, ferociously hewing down every orc that dared pit itself against the younger son of Elrond.

Seeing that the captive Elves had been cut loose by their comrades, Legolas laboriously crawled to Galvreth’s still form, picking up a fallen dagger along the way. He reached his brother in time to slash across the back of the knees of an orc that sought to plunge its spear into Galvreth’s spine.

The orc screamed and fell, its nearly severed limbs unable to support the weight of its bulk. Forgetting his injuries for the moment, Legolas lunged forward and drove the knife deep into the creature’s belly then forced it upward to slice the orc’s torso open. Pushing the gory corpse away, he devoted himself to protecting his helpless brother.

Looking about he soon located his father and other brethren, as well as valiant Gilthalion and Elladan who seemed an Elf possessed judging from the savagery with which he was dispatching his foes. Though his back ached abominably and his legs thrummed with unremitting pain, he forced himself to keep alert to all that was occurring around him. And thence derived the satisfaction of vengeance fulsomely served.

Where three days past the forest floor had been strewn with the bodies of Elves, now ‘twas goblin carcasses that littered the glade. Their black blood that flowed and their screams that rang unheeded as they were put to sword, spear and arrow. Yet Thranduil did not permit the slaying of every single one of the creatures. The Elven-king’s eyes glittered ominously which did not bode well for the surviving orcs. Judging from his mood, they would soon think death in battle far more desirable than to be spared now to face Thranduil’s wrath and the penalty for rousing it.

The orcs were swiftly bound and herded together as Men corralled their beasts of burden. Any that displayed defiance or attempted resistance were struck or whipped into submission. By nature slow to deal pain to others, the Wood-elves were nonetheless capable of it when their rage and passion were pushed beyond endurance.

As soon as he knew the glade secured, Elrohir hastened to Legolas. His brother was but a step behind him and they dropped to their knees together on either side of the captive princes. Hardly a heartbeat later Thranduil and his other sons joined them.

Cries of outrage and horror issued from the family when they saw the full extent of their loved ones’ sufferings. Lalorn did not trouble to stay his tears as he and Thranduil helped Elladan shift Galvreth’s position, mindful that had his brother not taken his place, it might have been he who now lay broken and defiled. He clenched his fists while he watched Elladan nimbly run his fingers over wounds and bruises or gingerly examine the grotesquerie that had once been Galvreth’s long, sleek legs. But when the older twin’s deft exploration led to the bloody ruin of Galvreth’s backside, he could stifle himself no longer. His wail of anguish and fury was enough to turn every warrior present ashen with pity and dread.

Small wonder Gilthalion summarily ran his sword through the shoulder of an orc that sneered at that wrenching display. Needless to say his fellows did not follow his lead when the Elf-captain coldly twisted his blade in the wound to the agonized baying of the captive.

Were it not for his deeply instilled discipline as a healer whose primary aim was to give aid and soonest, Elladan might have descended into hysterics himself as he examined Galvreth. Never had he yet seen injuries as extensive as these in any live Elf he had treated.

Aye, he had seen his fair share of the atrocities one being could perpetrate on another but only in the evidence left on dead bodies whether Elf, Man or Dwarf. And grieve he might for the cruelty of sentient creatures toward each other but at least he could take some solace in the fact that the victims were beyond pain and fear. Not so Galvreth.

While his body had survived excessive torture, none could promise the same for his mind or spirit. Memory could be as much a bane to Elves as the physical infliction of pain for its effects were not only insidious but also oft invisible and therefore difficult to detect and remedy.

He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up into Thranduil’s white and haggard face. The Elven-king struggled to speak past the tightness in his throat.

“Will he live?” he demanded. “Can you heal him?”

The Elf-lord dropped his eyes to Galvreth’s greyed profile. Despite his savaging, despite the grime and gore that marred his flesh, he still seemed to Elladan as he did the last night the twin had seen him. With grim determination, he silently swore that Galvreth would live and thrive even if Elladan had to engage Námo himself in mortal combat to achieve it.

With a brief nod to the king, he pulled out his healer’s pouch and set to work. As did his twin.

A quick hug and kiss of reunion had to suffice afore Elrohir began his own meticulous examination of his mate’s battered body. When he came to Legolas’ calves he could not quite smother an exclamation of dismay for there were few injuries more debilitating to warrior Elves and likely to keep them from their chosen profession if not properly mended.

Elrohir did not dare await the return to the Woodland Realm’s healing halls to repair Legolas’ slashed hamstrings. The sooner he set them on the path to healing, the better the archer’s chances of full recovery. Ignoring Legolas’ indrawn hiss of pain each time his flesh was touched as best as he could, he inspected the wounds. He grimaced as he assessed the extent of the damage wrought and the means to repair it.

He and Elladan had only the most basic of medicaments with them for there had been no time to gather a more exhaustive store before the march to the rescue. They had no pain-numbing herbs, not even a mild sedative.

He glanced at his brother, thinking to ask for assistance. But Elladan was wholly absorbed in tending to Galvreth’s injuries which were appalling to put it mildly. Elrohir swallowed the bitter fact that he would have to suture Legolas’ wounds without the benefit of a steady trance to blunt his pain for the entirety of the procedure. He could not focus on keeping the archer in that state and attend to his injuries at the same time.

Nonetheless, he had to at least help Legolas withstand the beginnings of his ministrations. He reached up and cupped Legolas’ face, his eyes catching and holding the archer’s gaze. He spoke softly to him, his voice taking on a gentle but peculiar tone of command none of the woodland brethren had yet heard him use before.

Aelluin and Elivorn watched curiously as Legolas’ features slowly relaxed, his eyes turning glassy with enforced reverie. Eventually, he sagged into Elrohir’s arms, his face completely devoid of expression. The Elf-knight carefully laid him down upon his cloak on his belly. Instructing his law-brothers to be prepared should Legolas come out of the trance before he was done, he quickly washed the wounds then embarked on the painstaking task of suturing the archer’s nigh severed tendons. He tried to work as rapidly as possible, hoping against hope that Legolas would remain unaware throughout.

Halfway through however, Legolas began to emerge from his daze and, as the pain of his treatment filtered into his slowly awakening consciousness, started to whimper. Aelluin bent low, whispering words of comfort, painfully aware that only the lack of control rendered by fatigue and disorientation could elicit so piteous a vocal expression from his brother.

Elrohir gritted his teeth and, with a supreme effort, shut out his mate’s progressively audible moans. Though his heart clenched in sympathetic pain for his spouse, he concentrated on closing the gaping cuts on the archer’s calves.

Legolas came to with a ragged cry. Quickly, Aelluin and Elivorn held him down as gently as they could. Grateful that he could not see Legolas’ face, Elrohir neatly drew the lips of the terrible wounds together and sealed them well. At last he was done but Legolas’ muffled sobs gutted him to the core. With a muttered curse, he swiftly anointed the wounds with a paste made from healing herbs and bound them well with strips of clean linen.

Aelluin gave way to him when he crept up to gather the archer into his arms. He tenderly wrapped the cloak about Legolas, taking great care not to chafe his raw back further. Heedless of his pain, Legolas curled his arms around his spouse and clung to him almost feverishly.

He felt the press of gentle lips against his forehead and cheeks. Seeking greater closeness, he turned his head and sealed his lips to Elrohir’s while his tears ran freely. Elrohir pried his lips apart and deepened their kiss, pillaging the archer’s mouth in a deliberate effort to assuage his need. Legolas sighed and rested his head on the Elf-knight’s shoulder when the kiss ended. His body shuddered as belated shock and surging relief overcame him. Elrohir held him as snugly against his own form as he could without causing him more discomfort.

It was a long while before Legolas subsided, spent of emotion and memory for the moment. But he was not permitted a lengthy respite for his father appeared before him bearing an object that nigh curdled the contents of his belly meager as they were already. He glanced at the blood-tipped club that had been the very worst of his brother’s harrowing trial then hid his face in Elrohir’s neck, his shoulders beginning to shake once more.

Seeing his distress, Thranduil looked to Elrohir for help. The Elf-knight nodded and, sliding his fingers under Legolas’ chin, gently compelled the archer to meet his gaze.

Melethen, how did they hurt Galvreth?” Elrohir quietly inquired.

Legolas comprehended the underpinnings of his query. Quivering, he snuggled further into Elrohir’s embrace, uncaring of his smarting back.

“After they flogged him, they shattered his knees,” he whispered. “When he would not cry out as they hoped, they forced that club into him until he lost consciousness. What they did to him, they repeated with me though they did not break my legs. If you had not come, they would have…” Eyes on the club, he faltered and could not continue for several seconds. Elrohir stroked his hair and whispered soothingly to him. Legolas drew a deep breath and finished his tale. “They planned to geld us afterward and send the evidence of our mutilation to you, Ada.”—Papa.

A concerted gasp greeted this last revelation. The twins exchanged horrified glances while the princes could only stare at Legolas in utter shock over the intended atrocity. But their father did not suffer his ire in silence.

“Eru’s blood!” Thranduil roared. “These dogs of Angband show no mercy. By Elbereth, they shall receive none!”

Trembling with fury, he turned and strode to Gilthalion. The captain was seen to start in disbelief at whatever it was his father-by-marriage instructed him to do. But upon being apprised of the reason, his face turned equally dark with anger and he swiftly carried out the king’s bidding.

While some soldiers gathered wood for the building of litters for the wounded, others did so for an entirely different end. The captured orcs stared in puzzlement as long wooden stakes nigh twice their heights were driven into the ground. Their bemusement turned into apprehension when the Elves sharpened the upper ends to crude points. The apprehension finally became terror when several of them were dragged to the stakes and with little ado hoisted up and impaled on them. Thus did they convulse their miserable lives away.

The gruesome executions continued until all that were left were the known leaders of the pack, one short of a dozen in all. Gilthalion had prudently left them for last. But as they were forced toward their collective doom, Legolas suddenly intervened.

“Nay, that is too kind a fate for them,” he spat. “‘Twas they who tortured Galvreth!”

Thranduil stayed his warriors with an upraised hand. “Then they will be dealt with accordingly,” he declared. He frowned, pondering what appropriate punishment to mete the creatures. He glanced at Elladan when the older twin came to his side.

“If I may make a suggestion, my lord,” Elladan said, his voice glacial as the floes in the Ice-bay of Forochel. “The lairs of the spiders are but a few leagues from here and ‘tis now the middle of their breeding season. As they used your folk for bait, so use these vermin to stock the spiders' larders.”

Howls and snarls of protest erupted from the orcs almost before he finished speaking. Suddenly, impalement seemed the more merciful death. For the spiders did not slay and feast but rather paralyzed their prey and kept them alive to provide fresh meat and blood for themselves and their young. Indeed, to be food for their young was the most ghastly fate of all.

The spiders laid their eggs on the bodies of their captives. When the hatchlings emerged they burrowed into their victim’s body cavity and proceeded to consume them from within, avoiding vital organs to keep the unwilling host alive until the spider young were ready to emerge as adolescents. In effect, Elladan’s suggestion would sentence the orcs to being eaten alive, aware almost to the very last of their prolonged dying. Even Morgoth’s twisted, black-hearted creations quaked at the very thought of such an end.

Thranduil’s eyes sparked with approval. “Aye, that is a fitting punishment for these knaves.” He addressed Gilthalion. “Take with you as many Elves as you deem needed. When you reach the bounds of the spiders’ lairs, bind those abominations and hang them from the trees as they did our hunters. Ah, and make certain to draw blood to lure the spiders to them.”

The captain did not waste time in formalities but snapped out orders to his waiting men. Once more herding the orcs together, the warriors then drove them forth with many a buffet or prod of the spear. Ere he joined them, Gilthalion paused to take his leave of Aelluin. The prince kept his gaze on his departing mate until the captain vanished into the forest beyond. Whereupon he turned his attention to helping in the transporting of the injured back to their forest realm.

* * * *

They arrived to a muted welcome as word spread of the torment two of the kingdom’s princes had suffered. All the wounded were borne straightly to the healing halls where nigh all the healers of the realm converged, masters and novices alike.

Elrohir saw at once to Legolas’ comfort, dosing his mate with a strong sedating potion liberally laced with pain-numbing herbs. The less Legolas had to endure pain, the swifter and more certain his mending would be.

He held Legolas close as the latter slowly drifted into oblivion, sealing their lips together reassuringly when the archer clutched at him in a moment of panic induced by the darkness closing in on him. When he was certain Legolas was fast asleep, he perused the ward to see who else might need his assistance.

Of a sudden, an elleth burst into the chamber, breaking away from an older Elf's grip. Her fair hair tumbling in disarray about her shoulders, she wildly looked around until she found what she sought.

Elrohir stared in surprise when she dashed to Galvreth’s bedside and with a soft cry bent over him. Weeping, she stroked his pale cheeks and called his name repeatedly. Ere any of the healers could interfere, her companion spoke sternly to her. She was seen to flush then nod her head in acquiescence. She leaned down to drop a kiss on Galvreth’s pallid lips before allowing the Elf to lead her away.

“Who is she?”

Elrohir quickly looked at his brother, noting the edge in his voice and the hard expression on his face.

“She is Aewithen, daughter of the scribe Hisael whom you saw speak to her,” a healer replied.

“By what right did she enter this sanctum unbidden?” Elladan queried, his tone clearly laced with umbrage.

The healer hesitated then said: “She has been my lord Galvreth’s companion these past two years.”

A sharp intake of breath bespoke Elladan’s great shock followed by the sudden loss of color in his cheeks. “She is his melethril?”—lover—he incredulously demanded.

“I believe so, híren.”—my lord.

Elladan glared at him so heatedly the healer winced. Elrohir decided to rescue the unfortunate Elf.

But just as he stepped forward to have a word with his twin, Elladan abruptly spun on his heel and left the chamber. In the awkward silence that ensued, the healers purposely busied themselves with their charges, uncomfortably conscious of the possible ramifications of the older twin’s discovery. After all, there was hardly a soul in the kingdom who did not know of his long liaison with Thranduil’s fourth son.

Elrohir heaved a frustrated sigh and hurried after his brother. He found him at the far end of the main hallway, staring out a window at the woods beyond. The Elf-knight went to him and wordlessly laid his hand on his twin’s arm. After a lengthy spell, Elladan looked at him. His eyes were bright with suppressed tears, his mouth tight with the effort to still his lips’ trembling.

“I am indeed too late, Elrohir,” he whispered harshly. “He has found another to fill my place. No doubt she loves him well as I did not, pathetic excuse for an Elf that I am.”

Elrohir gripped his arm. “You do not know for certain, brother,” he reasoned. “Not until Galvreth himself affirms this can you be sure that he has had a change of heart. Yet even were it true, will you permit it to sway you from your duty? If you love him, you will tend him whether or not he has taken another in your stead.”

The older twin shook his head. “How can I, knowing that when he awakens ‘tis she he will seek.”

Elrohir shook him slightly. “Elladan, his injuries are grievous and one in particular beyond the skills of this kingdom’s healers to address. You and I alone have been trained to mend so hideous a wound.” He reached out an entreating hand to his twin. “Come, he needs us.”

Elladan glanced back at the door of the healing chamber through which he could see Galvreth upon his cot. It so happened that the Elf-maid Aewithen returned at that moment. She was calmer and quieter and so was allowed to enter the room. Elladan’s eyes narrowed as he watched the maid who had apparently supplanted him hover over the Elf whose love had been his alone for centuries. Until three years ago and who knew how many lonely nights after.

Guilt and remorse struck down Elladan’s kindling jealousy and with a resigned sigh he turned and strode back to the chamber. Likewise saddened and regretful, Elrohir silently followed him.

*************************
Glossary:
melethen – my love
geld – to castrate
Angband – Morgoth’s stronghold after he returned to Middle-earth following his release from imprisonment in Valinor in the First Age
Forochel – the icy wastes in the uttermost north of Middle-earth
elleth – Elf-maid

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Most of the wounded were allowed to leave the healing halls after a day or so and recuperate in their homes. Only Legolas and Galvreth were confined for an extended period of time due to the severity of their injuries. Galvreth in particular needed constant care and attention.

The twins labored hard and long to repair the internal damage done to him. Though neither had ever treated likewise injured Elves, they had seen their fair share of human victims. Village and settlement women ravished by raiding outlaws, men in Mannish prisons despoiled by fellow inmates to maintain the established hierarchy within and, the most heartbreaking of all, children abused by the very folk they trusted and should have had no reason to fear or hate.

These the healers of Imladris knew because of Elrond’s willingness to deal with the race whence two of his forebears were sprung. The knowledge now served his sons in good stead and while neither would guarantee the soundness of Galvreth’s mind or spirit, both were confident that only scant physical evidence of his ravaging would remain in the years to come.

Galvreth was then kept in near perpetual slumber. Each time he regained enough consciousness to be fed without the danger of choking, beef tea or chicken broth was spooned into him. They were laced with strong sedating herbs that ensured he would slip back into deep, nigh dreamless sleep.

This was at the twins’ behest for experience had taught them that halting the vicious cycle of pain and fear oft allowed an ill or injured body to heal and recover more swiftly. And in Galvreth’s case, inhibiting the functioning of his subconscious as well as conscious mind would prevent the onset of one of the most fatal states known to Elves—the slide into death brought on by rape. Thus, even when awake enough to imbibe sustenance, Galvreth’s lucidity was suppressed to keep insidious memories at bay while his body struggled to mend.

It was this matter Elrohir sought to discuss with Legolas a few days after the archer returned to their abode. Not surprisingly, the archer had demanded that he be released to his mate’s sole care soonest. He had never been a model patient for he loathed enforced bed rest and the immobility injuries forced on him. Worse for him to endure what he considered benign incarceration in a healing ward where almost everyone treated him as if he were a mewling infant fit for the cradle. At least he could be certain Elrohir would never make that mistake, he grumbled incessantly.

Rather than suffer an unending litany of complaints from their royal patient, the healers swiftly acquiesced to his demand and, within the week, Elrohir had him transferred to their apartment.

It was no easy undertaking to see to the needs of a bedridden companion day in and day out. But worse were the nights when Legolas would toss and flail restlessly or cry out in anger and fear and he could do naught but hold his mate close and calm him down enough to return to soothing slumber.

He questioned Legolas about his dreams but the prince only replied that he was reliving the events of his captivity. Elrohir did not fully believe him but he did not care to force Legolas to confide in him. The orcs had stripped the archer of choice and control when they tortured him. Even so little a thing as pressing for an answer would seem like an imposition to his still brittle-tempered spouse.

Today, however, Elrohir deemed it time to pry what he could out of his reticent mate. The night before, Legolas had cried out in his sleep as was his recent wont. Elrohir started to soothe him when he also began to toss and turn, doing his utmost to keep the archer from settling fully on his still healing back. But without warning, Legolas had wept and with such despair that it had alarmed Elrohir.

Instead of helping him slip back into normal slumber, he had awakened the archer. Yet Legolas had balked at confiding what it was that had so troubled his sleep and Elrohir had prudently decided to leave it until the following morning. He did not directly question him however but chose to allow the archer to tell him in his own way and time. With a little subtle prodding of course.

They broke their fast together, after which he gave Legolas a refreshing sponge bath then covered him with a light blanket. The archer went without clothing for he could not abide any fabric touching his tender back just yet. After his own bath, Elrohir left for a while to see what duties of his mate he could take upon himself. He then looked in on Galvreth and spoke with Elladan regarding the prince’s progress before returning to the apartment.

“When will you permit him to awaken?” Legolas inquired after Elrohir made his report.

“When his injuries have healed enough not to cause him overmuch discomfort,” Elrohir said, shedding his own clothing before slipping into bed beside Legolas. They lay facing each other to prevent undue chafing of the archer’s sore back. “Mayhap another week or so.”

“Will he be sound?” Legolas quietly asked.

Pausing to think his answer through, Elrohir tucked a stray strand of pale gold behind the archer’s ear then stroked his cheek, following the elegant line of the bone structure beneath. At length, he said: “That will depend on any number of circumstances. The clarity of his memories with regard to his torment. The cessation of much of his pain. The care and affection shown him by all he loves.” He paused once more, recalling the appalling picture of his beloved pinned to the ground and forcibly spread for his captors’ beastly purposes. “It may help that he was not directly violated by the orcs.”

When Legolas started to protest, he lifted a preemptive hand and added: “I know full well that it makes scarcely any difference whether the pain of a brutal breaching is wrought by multiple assailants spending their aggression on an unwilling body or by a single but unyielding instrument forced unbidden into any being’s core, male or female. But Elladan and I hope that ‘twill be less of a blow to Galvreth’s self-esteem to have withstood impalement by a goblin club than to have lain as whore to an entire orkish horde.”

Legolas’ blanched at his blunt words but continued to listen intently nonetheless. Elrohir stroked him comfortingly, running his hand gently over the archer’s shoulder, arm and flank, his fingertips barely skimming the beginnings of the scars that marred his skin.

“‘Twas still a violation of his body and spirit, there is no changing that,” Elrohir said. “But I think there might be a modicum of comfort in knowing that his assailants did not know him in the same fashion as a willingly received lover. The humiliation is of another degree and particularly so when one attempts to reintegrate one’s self into one’s family or community. There are less extraneous judgments surrounding the victim. Less chances of a man for instance accusing his woman of bearing her rapist’s child. Or being labeled as tainted or unclean for having coupled however unwillingly with such fell beasts. We will have to impress that fact on him however slender a hope it may seem.”

Legolas slowly nodded, comprehending Elrohir’s intent. There was no belying the horror or gravity of Galvreth’s ordeal but if they could minimize the sense of worthlessness and self-loathing that often followed a sexual assault, he might just beat the odds and survive.

“What do you think are his chances?” Legolas anxiously queried. “I have never yet heard of any Elf surviving rape.”

“Yet Turgon’s sister Aredhel did and even bore Eöl’s son,” Elrohir pointed out.

Legolas gasped. “But ‘tis said she was not unwilling! And she did become his wife.”

“Not unwilling to couple with a total stranger?” Elrohir snorted. “Whether he bedded her by force, coercion or enchantment, it makes little difference save perhaps in her discomfort and fear. ‘Tis our belief that he took her against her will and she used her denial of it to keep her spirit alive. For if she were truly his avowed wife, why did she flee him when the opportunity presented itself? I am not saying that elven death due to ravishment is untrue. Only that there are always exceptions to every rule. Let us pray your brother will prove his mettle and live to be one of them.”

He gazed intently at Legolas when the archer subsided into a pensive pose. “Will you not share your thoughts with me, lassen vell?”—my dear leaf—he gently coaxed.

Legolas sighed then moved into Elrohir’s inviting arms before speaking. “I thought they would ravage us as humans have been known to do to their womenfolk,” he said. “It seemed that way when they forced Galvreth down on his belly and forced his legs apart. And Elbereth knows we have seen enough evidence of their abuse in the past. But no Elf of our kingdom survived such torment to tell us the full tale. All we have ever seen was that they were violated but not the manner of it.”

“The same must be said of our own experiences in this,” Elrohir acceded. He tried to recall all that knew about the matter.

The truth of Aredhel’s fate aside, tales had come down through the ages of such atrocities wreaked on Elves by Morgoth’s foul creations. But as Legolas had mentioned, there had been no surviving witnesses or victims to tell their stories.

In the First Age, the most prominent Elves to escape the horror of captivity by Morgoth or his minions were Maedhros and Gwindor. Neither had been tortured in that manner. And if Gwindor’s brother Gelmir had been assaulted thusly, he was killed ere he could recount it. Other survivors in the following ages had known terrible deprivation or torment as well but again not carnal assault.

“‘Tis their claim that they spawn in order to propagate,” Elrohir slowly said. “I always thought it merely their rude manner of speech but now I wonder. Mayhap they literally do spawn and not birth their young as other races do.”

Legolas looked at him in shock, eyes wide with revulsion. “Spawn? Do you mean like–like mushrooms?!”

Elrohir nodded. “Have you ever seen a female orc? Indeed, have you ever seen their young?”

Legolas shuddered with disgust. “I have not,” he conceded. “But perhaps they hide them in their dens and do not permit them to go forth until they are grown.”

“I doubt it,” Elrohir said. “I have been in their dens, Legolas. Aye, Elladan and I and Glorfindel and his warriors. We have had to search for captives in the very depths of their nests though no Elf have we found alive before. You and Galvreth and the warriors with you are the first I know of to witness how they ravage their victims and survive to talk about it.”

He drew Legolas deeper into the circle of his arms when he felt the tremor that rippled through the archer’s lean frame. “I have never so much as caught a glimpse of a goblin child or evidence of their presence. In light of what we have discovered, mayhap ‘tis reasonable to assume that there are no such creatures.”

Legolas thought about it. “It makes sense,” he finally agreed. “In the process of corrupting our forebears into orcs, ‘tis possible Morgoth could not keep them as Eru designed them. They may have lost the ability to procreate in our manner.”

“And the speed with which they manage to replenish their numbers lends credence to the notion,” Elrohir added. “If they indeed spawn they must also mature much more swiftly than other races. And likely need far less nurturing than we do if any at all.”

“‘Tis just as well,” Legolas said with a grimace. “I cannot imagine an orc nurturing anything.”

“Aye, they would likely eat any young as rear them,” Elrohir mused.

“That is not so far-fetched. They do devour their fallen folk. Meat is meat to them. They do not seem to recognize kith or kin save if it will benefit them. And even then, they squabble amongst themselves once the foul deed is done.” Legolas’ grimace became a full-fledged scowl. “Well, whatever the truth of it, I am glad beyond belief that they did not force themselves on Galvreth. The very thought of those vile beasts spilling their seed inside my brother is enough to make my gorge rise!”

Elrohir stroked his hair soothingly until he calmed down once more. “If we are right about this, then all the better for Middle-earth. We can be spared the horror of half-orkish offspring roaming these lands. Aye, ‘tis a sickening enough thought to be violated by these brutes. But far worse for any female to have to bear their young.”

He lapsed into silence as another thought struck him. “What is it?” Legolas queried.

The Elf-knight tightened his lips then said: “‘Tis curious. We have rescued enough humans from their clutches to know they are incredibly brutal to all their captives. But they do not subject mortals to assault, even amongst the women. Only Elves are made to suffer thusly with constancy.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“That they know an Elf forced is an Elf most likely doomed to die. It would appear the attacks on us are premeditated and not mere acts of bestial savagery.”

“As deliberate as their attempts to cripple Galvreth and me,” Legolas remarked. “It certainly gives the lie to the belief that they are naught but simple-minded brutes.

“‘Tis dangerous to think that of them as a race. I warrant there are as many cunning minds in their ranks as there are lackwits amongst our kindred. ‘Tis not the paucity of intelligence that oft defeats them but their selfish and quarrelsome natures. They are most effective as a force when they are in thrall to some greater power than they.”

Legolas looked thoughtful. “After they ambushed us, they did not dissolve into bickering but remained remarkably united for orcs. They must have been under someone’s guidance.”

“Agreed,” Elrohir said. “The question is ‘who’?”

“The Necromancer?” Legolas suggested in a hushed voice.

“Most likely.” Elrohir glanced at Legolas in alarm when the archer suddenly pressed his face into his neck, his countenance pained and blanched. “What troubles you, melethron?”—lover.

“All this talk of guile and wickedness,” Legolas choked. “It brings back too many memories.” Without warning, he lifted his head, leaned over Elrohir and kissed him with an ardency that left no doubt as to what he wanted.

Elrohir gasped against his mouth, startled by his unexpected passion. He gripped Legolas’ shoulders and, with a slight push, gently broke their kiss. He found himself staring into lust-darkened pools of deepest sapphire.

“Legolas, if we could couple without hurting you, I would not hesitate to spread you beneath me this instant,” Elrohir groaned as an answering heat spread in his groin. “But you are not fully recovered and ‘twould be folly to risk injuring you anew.”

“But I need this,” Legolas pleaded. “Elrohir, I can still feel that thing pressed against me. And there are times I dream that you did not come in time and I was assailed worse than Galvreth was. That–that ‘twas no club they used but their own…” His voice trailed off for he could not bear to utter the unspeakable.

Elrohir stared at him in dismayed enlightenment. “Why did you not tell me?”

“Because you are weary come nighttime after caring for me all day,” Legolas softly replied. “I did not wish to burden you further with my troubles.” He cupped Elrohir’s face in his hands. “But now I am telling you for it has become too much to bear. Will you still withhold from me the comfort of your possession?”

Elrohir gazed at him. Part of him wanted to give in to Legolas’ plea for in truth he lusted for his mate as heartily as he loved him. But the prudent part warned him not to surrender so mindlessly to his body’s desires. Legolas simply was not hale enough to couple with him. His back would not endure any abrading however mild and it would be perilous to force his legs to support any weight at all. Yet any position they took would result in injury to one or the other no matter how careful they were. Particularly when they reached the heights of rapture and lost much control of their bodies.

As he grappled with the dilemma, he felt Legolas’ shaft prod his hip, potent evidence of the archer’s need. He reached down to stroke him. Legolas moaned at his touch but vehemently shook his head.

“I need you inside me,” he begged. “I want to forget what nearly did breach me. Elrohir, please, do not deny me your loving.”

Stalling, Elrohir gently ran his hand down the archer’s back, feeling the striped scabs that riddled his once near flawless flesh. Coming to Legolas’ buttocks he realized there were not as many wounds thereon or on the back of his thighs. As he caressed the prince’s limbs, Legolas eagerly parted them as best as he could. Elrohir’s eyes gleamed.

“‘Tis unwise to take you just yet,” he said. He quickly shushed Legolas’ protest with a kiss. When the prince quieted he continued. “When you are truly hale, I will ride you as I please and ride you well, that I swear. But for now, you warrant gentle usage. However, I do not mean that naught can be done to ease your need. Do not forget I have speared you before in other fashion.”

Still reeling in elation from Elrohir’s promise, Legolas did not recall swiftly enough what act the younger twin referred to. Thus it was with a thrill that he watched the Elf-knight reverse his position. Lying on his side, he parted his legs slightly to permit Legolas to rest his head on his inner thigh. Doing likewise to Legolas, he scarcely gave the archer time to think before he clasped his hip, pulled him close and ran his tongue several times over his rigid shaft.

Legolas groaned then gave a soft cry when Elrohir took him into his mouth. Eagerly, he did the same, relishing the taste and feel of his spouse after so long a time. He happily curled his arm around Elrohir’s hip to hold him steady while he hungrily drew upon him.

They thrust into each other’s mouths in near unison, while their hands roamed over flushed flesh and sleek limbs. Mindful of Legolas’ prior plea, Elrohir gently pulled the archer’s legs further apart, slightly lifting the upper limb. He drew Legolas’ hips closer, shifting the archer’s upraised leg forward to rest on his shoulder. For a brief while he left off sucking the prince’s shaft and, leaning in between Legolas’ parted legs, teased the tender flesh he had exposed with his tongue before dipping into his mate repeatedly.

Legolas’ rapturous moan told him of the archer’s ecstasy. Elrohir grinned to himself. Ignoring Legolas’ whimpered protest when he ceased his pillaging, he turned said protest to vociferous approval when he replaced his tongue with enough fingers to approximate the width of his shaft. Taking Legolas once more into his mouth, he continued to plunge his fingers deep into his mate’s snug core.

Legolas unraveled completely at the simultaneous breaching by hand and shaft while Elrohir devoured his length. Almost sobbing in delight around his own mouthful of luscious flesh, he was left with just enough coherence to be grateful for Elrohir’s resourcefulness. And then even that vanished as pleasure crested and surged across the channel that marked their binding.

Pleasured three ways, Legolas spent first, crying out as he spilled himself into Elrohir’s mouth. Before his muscles had ceased to clench around the Elf-knight’s embedded fingers, he felt Elrohir’s shaft pulse. He savored every gorgeous drop of creamy seed, reveling in the younger twin’s gasped groans as he was all but drank down.

Lost in a pleasant haze, he nestled in Elrohir’s arms afterward. A delicious languor slowly seeped into his body and with a satisfied smile he settled down for a late morning nap.

“I hope ‘twill be enough to stave off the nightmares,” Elrohir whispered against his hair.

“For now, my Elf-knight,” Legolas lazily replied. “But I demand you fulfill your pledge as soon as I am well enough. Just to ensure those dreams do not return.”

The last thing he heard before he slipped into serene oblivion was Elrohir’s mirthful admiration of his indomitable spirit.

* * * *

Elladan silently pulled a chair close to Galvreth’s bedside and seated himself on it. Though there were more than ample healers and nurses to help in the constant care of the prince, Elladan insisted on taking multiple shifts to watch over him.

He and Elrohir were the comatose Elf’s primary healers and Thranduil had given them carte blanche to decide on his son’s treatment. Elladan in particular had been monitoring his progress, awaiting the moment when they could take him out of his induced healing sleep. It was an easy enough excuse at any rate and Elladan was not above using it to his advantage.

Not that he believed anything more would come of his vigilance. It was simply his desire to remain as close as he could to Galvreth afore he was forced to give him into another’s care. Into the warm arms of the Elf the prince had chosen to ease his heartbreak over Elladan’s refusal to take their relationship that one vital step further.

Elladan bit his lip and pulled the chair closer that he could peer into Galvreth’s face. It would not be long now before the prince was taken from his care. He and Elrohir had agreed that it was time to permit Galvreth to awaken and they had ceased to further dose him with sedatives.

The Elf’s knees were still in casts but the twins were fairly confident they would mend well. With proper exercise, there was no reason to believe he would not be as mobile as before. His back was almost healed. Hideous scabs marked it from his nape to his buttocks but the wounds had neatly closed and time would reduce them to faint silvery scars. As for the most grievous injury of all…

The Elf-lord held fast to the belief that Galvreth was strong enough to withstand his violation. All his family and friends knew they would need to bolster the prince’s self-worth in every possible way and show him naught but unfailing love and acceptance. And he and Elrohir would do their utmost to help him deal with the memories of his ordeal which were sometimes more lethal than the actual injuries themselves. Or at least Elrohir would do it, he thought.

Once Galvreth revived, he would have no place in the kingdom save as law-brother to one of its princes. He would have no reason to seek the argent-haired Elf out. He now belonged to Aewithen and she would not suffer another to infringe on the prize she had won but lately. Especially not a Peredhel who had caused her beloved such grief that he still held back parts of himself out of caution. This much he had learned from Elrohir who in turn had gleaned it from Legolas’ elucidations.

Aewithen was not at all uncivil to the older twin. But neither was she warm with him and none could blame her, least of all Elladan.

Because she was no healer she was not permitted to watch over Galvreth as frequently as she liked and certainly never alone for any length of time. Should some change for the worse in his condition occur, she would not know how to avert or slow it. That she envied Elladan’s position as one of Galvreth’s principal healers was apparent to all. But she took care not to appear hostile to the Imladrin Elf-lord. And, verily, there was no need for it when ‘twas she who was duly recognized as the prince’s lover.

Regret assailed him not for the last time and he silently cursed his misbegotten assumptions and his ill-founded adherence to them. His brother had been right. Only a fool would forego the greatest gift any creature of sense could hope for. He had proved himself a fool and, worse, had moved to make amends much too belatedly.

He lifted his hand and tenderly stroked Galvreth’s silvery locks. They were lacking in luster but still silky to the touch. He let them slide through his fingers, thinking how much he would miss touching the prince in so intimate a fashion.

So engrossed was he in his dolorous thoughts that he failed to mark the moment of Galvreth’s awakening. Thus he was stunned when he shifted his gaze to the Elf’s face and found himself staring into his brown eyes. They were still somewhat bleary from long sleep but altogether aware and questioning.

Collecting his wits, Elladan withdrew his hand in embarrassment. Acting intuitively, his first words were those of a healer. “Are you in pain?”

“Nay,” Galvreth replied a little hoarsely. “Only some… discomfort.”

“Eru be praised,” Elladan said, genuinely pleased. He quickly secured water for the prince and helped him down some to moisten his parched throat.

His eyes never leaving Elladan’s face, Galvreth whispered through scarred lips: “You know what they… did to me?”

Elladan nodded, forcing back tears of renewed anger. “Elrohir and I have tended to your injuries,” he murmured. “You are healing well, Galvreth.”

The prince gazed at him, fear and pain in his eyes. “Healing mayhap… but will I be whole?” He trembled visibly beneath the cover. For a long while he did not speak and Elladan did not press him. At length he said, “I have faced death before and pain and fear. But never have I known such evil and cruelty.”

He closed his eyes and paused to catch his breath, so agitated did he become at the mere memory of his ordeal. Elladan slipped a soothing arm around him. “I can still feel their rage… their savagery. I do not think I will ever forget… I cannot live with the remembrance of it.” The prince drew a shuddering breath. “Better that I had died, Elladan.”

“Nay!” Elladan exclaimed in alarm. He fought to calm his voice. “Would you have our joy in retrieving you be in vain?” he said with all urgency. “You would leave so many to grieve for you. Your father and brothers. Your friends and people. And there is Aewithen to consider.”

Galvreth’s opened his eyes to stare at him. “Ah, so you know about her.”

“She has come here ever day and helped watch over you,” Elladan replied. “She is a tender soul and dotes on you as–as you deserve.” At this point, he dropped his eyes, unable to meet Galvreth’s searching gaze. “It saddens me that what we shared is ended but if she can help you heal, if she can make you whole, then I will gladly step aside and make no trouble for the both of you. I rue our parting of ways but even more can I not bear to lose you to the timeless halls.”

“Elladan—”

“You can forget!” Elladan insisted. “I-she will help you. We all will. You can do this, Galvreth. Please, I beg you, do not give up on life.”

Before Galvreth could reply, a few healers entered the chamber with Aewithen in tow. While the healers expressed their pleasure at finding their prince awake and apparently in no great pain, the Elf-maid’s mouth tightened disapprovingly when she saw Elladan’s proximity to her lover. With a sigh, Elladan removed his arm and stood up. At once Aewithen took his place.

“My thanks, Lord Elladan,” she curtly said before turning to ply the prince with affectionate words and kisses.

Elladan did not attempt to discover Galvreth’s response either to her cool demeanor toward him or her loving attention to the prince. Instead he headed for the door, saying over his shoulder to the healers: “I shall return when ‘tis time to remove the casts.”

With that he hastened out lest any see the telltale streaks that marked his cheeks.

******************************
Glossary:
Necromancer – the name the Elves bestowed on the evil power inhabiting Dol Guldur before they learned it was Sauron returned
Aredhel – the sister of Fingon and Turgon, she dwelt with Turgon in Gondolin. Straying from the hidden city, she was ensnared by Eöl the Dark Elf and taken as his wife. She bore him a son, Maeglin. When Maeglin was full-grown they escaped together to Gondolin. Eöl followed them and attempted to slay Maeglin with a poisoned dart. In defense of her son, Aredhel took the dart and died of its poison.
Maedhros – eldest son of Fëanor who was captured by Morgoth through trickery. He was hung by his right wrist from the heights of Thangorodrim until his cousin Fingon rescued him. To free him, Fingon was forced to cut off Maedhros’ right hand.
Gwindor – a Prince of Nargothrond, the realm founded by Finrod Felagund. His rage at the mistreatment of his captive brother Gelmir started the first assault of the Noldor and Edain at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. He was taken prisoner in that battle and crippled during his captivity. He later escaped and led Túrin Turambar to Nargothrond.

To be continued….

Chapter Text

“‘Tis easier said than done, isn’t it, keeping your distance.”

Elladan barely glanced in response at Legolas as he continued to pound and mix medicinal herbs with a pestle in a heavy, wide-lipped mortar. But he could not stop his cheeks from coloring and this Legolas took for his answer. The archer faintly smiled.

They were in the antechamber of one of the recuperation rooms within the healing halls. Once Galvreth awakened from his prolonged slumber, he was transferred out of the main wards to the cheery apartments that overlooked the garden nigh to the royal pavilion.

Now that the prince was considered out of immediate danger, his care could be entrusted to others besides the healers. Thus his father and brothers took turns watching over him, all clamoring for more than a few hours of this loving duty. But Aewithen dared to claim the nights and none had gainsaid her.

She all but moved into the room, sleeping on a pallet at the side of his bed. If this stung a certain Elf-lord, he did not let it be known at large. But sting it did and Elladan visited the convalescing prince just once in the next three days and that once only to examine him. Discomfited by Aewithen hovering protectively throughout the procedure, Elladan requested his brother to take over thence.

Caught in the center of the brewing conflict, Galvreth would have protested had he been haler. But still weak and oft times rendered woozy by the healing potions with which he was continuously plied, not to mention periodically forced to wrestle with his increasingly resurgent memories, he had little energy and even less heart for such an effort. Thus matters proceeded those initial days of his convalescence.

But in the course of the third night, Galvreth suffered a stomach-churning nightmare. The worst it turned out since his dreams began. But none had been aware for the stalwart prince did not tell anyone.

Roused from sleep by his fearful moans, Aewithen attempted to calm him and hold him down lest his violent thrashing do him injury anew. But she was no match for his nightmare-driven strength and when she saw small patches of blood begin to stain the sheets beneath him, she panicked and fled the chamber to search for help.

Fortuitously enough, Elladan happened to be making his way down the hallway of the recovery wing. Upon hearing the prince’s anguished cries he raced to his room and almost collided with Aewithen as she came out of the chamber. Elladan swiftly took stock of the situation and rushed to Galvreth’s bedside.

He quickly clambered onto the cot and pulled the prince into a full body embrace, using his arms and legs to keep him from moving injuriously. All the while, he spoke soothingly to the agitated Elf, using a deep, steady tone that penetrated the latter’s fevered subconscious. Galvreth came awake with a shuddering breath.

Dazed, he stared at Elladan in some bewilderment before dissolving into helpless weeping, the emotional storm that wracked him demolishing his restraint. Oblivious of all else but the safety the tender wrap of a powerful body about his shaking frame afforded him, he brokenly pleaded with the older twin not to leave him with his dark dreams. Elladan acquiesced then and every night since.

That was more than a fortnight ago. Not surprisingly, tension sprang up between him and Aewithen.

Unable to contain her resentment at being so summarily forgotten, she accused him of attempting to usurp her place in Galvreth’s esteem. Setting aside his usual gallantry with females, Elladan snapped back that he was not to blame if she could not meet Galvreth’s direst needs. Harsher words might have been exchanged had Thranduil not stepped in and testily declared that his son was no bone for two curs to fight over. They would either work together to help him recover or he would ban them both from Galvreth’s bedside.

There was no choice then but to abide the king’s edict. They agreed to share night duty. Aewithen continued to sleep on her pallet by Galvreth’s cot while Elladan prudently used the couch in the antechamber. That is when he did not spend the night helping Galvreth grapple with his black dreams.

Many mornings he would awaken at Galvreth’s side for the prince slept most soundly after a nightmarish bout when held in the Elf-lord’s unyielding embrace, no doubt his security much buttressed by the feeling of great strength ensconcing him. However, if Galvreth’s nocturnal struggles were within Aewithen’s ability to manage, Elladan left it to her to do so. He would only rouse her enmity if he deprived her of every chance to be of service to the Elf-prince.

To her credit, Aewithen held her tongue hence and assiduously saw to her nursing duties. To his credit, Elladan did not try to raise his stock with Galvreth at Aewithen’s expense but simply did his utmost to be friend and supporter to the prince.

Seeing that Elladan was not attempting to undermine her in any way, Aewithen became a shade kinder. For his part, Elladan felt a little more sympathetic toward her, realizing how deep her insecurity ran. Thus, they forged an uneasy peace between them with Galvreth’s well-being the mainspring of their truce.

“You have not answered me, gwanur,” Legolas gently prodded.

Elladan paused in his chore and looked at the archer with some vexation. “Galvreth asked it of me, that is all,” he briefly said.

Legolas snorted. “Do not try to deceive me into believing you would have forsaken my brother had he not needed you. Else explain what you were doing in the hallway that night and at such an unholy hour, too.”

The older twin glared at him but the blush that stained his face ruined the effect somewhat. Legolas smiled sympathetically.

“Not that an explanation is needed,” he commented. “We all have our suspicions as to the cause and they are remarkably alike.”

Elladan scowled. “Since you believe you already know, why this inquisition?” he growled.

Legolas smile resolved itself in a chuckle. “A single request for enlightenment does not an inquisition make,” he pointed out good-naturedly.

They heard a soft moan from within the sleeping chamber. At once, Elladan left off what he was doing and began to head for the other room. Only when Legolas rose from his seat and slowly followed him did he remember the archer was still hampered by his leg injuries. He could walk about but not rapidly and his gait was stiff and hardly graceful.

He hurried back to offer his law-brother a helping hand. Legolas accepted his aid with a grin.

“When he is hale enough, you should talk,” Legolas counselled as they moved toward the connecting door. “You may surprise each other.”

Elladan looked at him. “How so?”

“If I told you, that would ruin the surprise, now wouldn’t it?” Legolas retorted.

Elladan rolled his eyes. “Is it your ambition to match my brother in the art of prevarication?” he grumbled.

“Well, ‘tis but natural to pick up a few habits from one’s mate,” Legolas replied. “But you would not know that of course. At least, not yet,” he added as if in afterthought.

Elladan’s scowl made a renewed appearance but when they came into Galvreth’s view he quickly wiped it from his features.

Settling Legolas in the bedside chair, he briefly questioned Galvreth about any aches or twinges. Having ascertained that the silver-haired Elf was comfortable, he left the two princes to talk and returned to brewing Galvreth’s medicaments for the day. Nonetheless, Legolas’ comments haunted him. He wondered whether he would have the courage to do as the archer had advised when the opportunity arose. For if Legolas was mistaken, Elladan feared he would not be able to face defeat as stoutly as Galvreth had.

* * * *

They moved the fourth prince to his room a month later.

Elladan and Aewithen continued to keep nightly watch over him while his family divided the days amongst them. Thranduil and Aelluin forsook a great many duties to be at his side while Legolas visited him so frequently Elrohir mildly suggested he take up residence in Galvreth’s quarters along with Aewithen and Elladan. And now that he was removed from the necessarily restricted sanctum of the healing halls, his nephews and nieces were permitted to visit him as well.

Many a day passed that the soft squeals and piping laughter of Elflings resonated in his room as Elivorn’s lively brood elicited many a smile from their ailing uncle. And Lalorn would lay his tiny son in the crook of Galvreth’s arm in tacit acknowledgement of the might-have-beens had the brothers not exchanged places that fateful day. Heartily succored and loved whilst deep in the bosom of his family, Galvreth seemed to rally and his father and brothers’ hopes rose that he would indeed prove the exception to the rule.

But the twins were not so sanguine. They perceived what the others did not. That while Galvreth’s body was mending, his spirit was still in danger of languishing. Shadows lurked in the depths of his eyes, which only their deep healer’s sight espied.

The brethren suspected the severity of his nightmares had not truly abated; only his admissions of the toll they took on his spirit had lessened. When he held the prince on the most hideously afflicted nights, Elladan would glean glimpses of the truth but try as he might he could pry little out of Galvreth. The prince would not confide his travails to any. Not even to Aewithen.

* * * *

Legolas moaned as he was repeatedly drawn into wet warmth, Elrohir’s sinuous lips wrapped tight around his shaft. No prude in their conjugal bed, he ran his hands entreatingly through Elrohir’s raven locks, gasping his name in feral bliss. When he knew himself close to completion, he thrust wildly into the Elf-knight’s mouth until at last he spilled a creamy stream down his mate’s throat. Afterwards, he quietly lay in wait for Elrohir’s next welcome demand on him.

He felt the Elf-knight’s hands slide under his bottom and lift it, push his thighs up and spread them wide. He threw back his head when Elrohir’s lips locked onto sensitive flesh, laving him with his tongue before pressing into him in anticipatory mimicry of what was to come.

That Elrohir hungered for this deeply intimate taste of him never failed to incite Legolas to nigh unbearable excitement even as it stunned him. He, too, reveled in knowing Elrohir thusly but he had learned early on that Elrohir’s proclivity for this particular act went far beyond that of most Elves. It had then been whetted further when he first sampled the archer’s graces.

Simply put, Elrohir could not get enough of the sweetness that was uniquely Legolas’ and seldom failed to sate his appetite for it. So potent was its attraction that he could find completion just from indulging his desire for it. But he did not do so now for he had a promise to fulfill and he had no intention of delaying it yet again.

They had not waited for Legolas’ full recovery to resume coupling. Elrohir however had not permitted over vigorous play and even less for Legolas to sheathe him lest either act inadvertently invited a recurrence of injury. But sheathe Legolas in turn he had and frequently so once he deemed the archer hale enough for gentle rutting. And with utmost joy and zest did Legolas indulge himself for he was as lustful for his darkling mate as Elrohir was for him.

Yet now he was fully healed and had demanded that the Elf-knight keep his pledge soonest. For as much as Legolas enjoyed possessing his love, even more did he crave possession by him. It was an elemental part of his nature that he should desire for Elrohir to confirm his ownership of him over and again. And to the archer there was no more potent proof of that than Elrohir’s exercise of his exclusive right to plunder his graces.

This effusive wanting to be speared and filled and cleaved by his Elf-knight was shatteringly seductive. Just the mere request for it was enough to enflame Elrohir into hauling him off to the first convenient chamber, pantry or curtained recess to grant it. The demand for it in the sanctity of their bed guaranteed a long night’s worth of ravishment and likely a need for one of the younger twin’s soothing salves the morning after.

Still, Elrohir bided his time easing into his eager spouse for after the long period of abstinence, the archer seemed and undoubtedly felt as tight as he had his first time of yielding. Legolas gasped at the slight burn as he was stretched even as he was filled then let out a stifled cry when Elrohir brushed him within, fetching him a welling of pleasure. He trembled deliciously as the mild discomfort receded before the burgeoning of acute rapture.

As always, the sight of Legolas abandoning himself to pleasure served to arouse Elrohir even further. But he restrained himself and initially delivered only slow, shallow thrusts, refusing to let their rutting end too soon. Holding Legolas’ hips steady, he bent low to kiss the archer’s white throat, dip his tongue in the hollow at its base then suck the nipples he had earlier mauled into hard, aching nubs. Legolas pressed up against his marauding lips in wanton complicity in his own ravaging.

Elrohir heard the familiar plea in his mind: Harder, deeper, faster. He obeyed with alacrity for he had sorely missed the snug, velvet heat of his beloved’s exquisite body enclosing him. The wrap of his legs around his waist, the sleek sinewy limbs flexing insistently to draw him in further.

Legolas clutched at the beddings, his nerves aflame with ecstasy as Elrohir steadily plunged into him. Everything seemed reduced to the singular sensation of Elrohir’s hard flesh repeatedly sliding deep into him. And then the Elf-knight added another sensation by grasping Legolas’ shaft and lustily stroking it in time to his thrusts. The archer abruptly called out in wholehearted approval.

They let go and their pleasure surged back and forth between them. In the midst of this sharing, their spirits met and united in that greatest of all intimacies between Elves.

Almost fearing that he would expire from the intensity of sensations, Legolas desperately pulled Elrohir down to him and was swiftly rewarded when Elrohir sealed their mouths in scorching union. A moment later, he was shuddering helplessly while the pearlescent ribbons of his spending coated Elrohir’s fingers and spattered his belly. His muscles convulsed about the flesh that speared him, setting off Elrohir’s completion as well.

Legolas moaned in utter felicity when he felt his mate’s seed fill him to overflowing that the surfeit trickled out in a creamy rivulet. Elrohir’s loving made tangible.

It was long before either spoke afterward, content as they were to simply lie close together in their coupling’s wake. Elrohir rested his head on Legolas’ shoulder, relishing the gentle weave of strong archer’s fingers in his hair. He pressed kisses to the creamy flesh beneath his cheek and delighted in the slight tremor that crept through Legolas’ body. This was but a respite and before long he would once more take his pleasure of his mate’s glorious form.

Legolas’ slipped his fingers under his chin, urging him to look up. When he did, the archer closed his lips upon his and kissed him lengthily with something akin to reverence. Elrohir regarded him curiously when he drew away.

“What is it, meleth?”—love—he murmured.

Legolas smilingly shook his head. “I am only so grateful for your love. By its power did I heal so swiftly.”

Elrohir smiled back. “Nay, not my love for you but your need of it,” he amended.

A faint puzzled frown creased Legolas’ brow. “Is there a difference?”

Elrohir shifted upward that they might lie face to face. “A subtle one but a difference nonetheless. If you did not return my love, no matter how deep it ran, it could not help you heal. It would spark no desire in you to recover.”

“For your sake,” Legolas said in comprehension.

“Aye. The healing of our spirits relies on two strengths. The strength of our will and the strength of the ties that bind us. It is a two-fold cure. One without the other is seldom as potent as when both work together. Of the strength of your will I never had any doubt. It has been apparent since your youth. Indeed, ‘tis a trait that runs deep in your family. But ere I knew that you had not been defiled, I admit I wondered if your bond with me would prove as strong.”

“Is that why Galvreth is mending so slowly?” Legolas asked.

“You noticed,” Elrohir murmured.

“Not at once. But now that I am well, I see the difference between our lots. I know my injuries do not compare with his but even had I been violated as well, I truly believe I still would mend. I would not leave this life. I would not leave you, rochiren.”—my knight. “Even when I thought myself lost, ‘twas only oblivion I prayed for, not death. I wanted you to save me. I longed to see you again.” He hesitated, struggling for the right words. “Ah, I do not fear death itself for I know we shall meet once more. But the loneliness while I wait, that I do fear.”

Elrohir enfolded him in his arms and held him tightly. “Galvreth is strong,” he softly said. “Stronger than any of us ever expected, else he would have slipped away from us ere we could repair the damage to his body. But nothing and no one binds him with equal strength.” He paused then grimly said, “Despite what certain quarters wishfully think.”

Legolas sighed. “I urged Elladan to talk to him once he was hale enough,” he softly admitted. “But he has not made a move. Why do you think does he stay himself?”

Elrohir pursed his lips. “I believe he needs to muster his courage. He has resisted giving his heart for so long, he would not know how to cope should it now be turned away.”

“Galvreth would not turn him away.”

“Can we be so certain of that? Their previous parting was bitter to put it mildly. Even if your brother still holds love for mine, he may no longer wish to entrust himself to him. What Elladan would do were that to happen I cannot tell. He has no defense against such a rebuff. He never thought to build one.”

Legolas’ mouth tightened. “But what of us? We are his family. Surely Galvreth knows we need him. Why does he not fight to stay with us?”

“Because there is no true future for him with any of you. You are all bound; your hearts given to others, even your father who only awaits your mother’s return ere he forsakes these lands. You can only share a fraction of yourselves with him for you are sworn to your mates and any children of your begetting. However much you love him, you cannot make him the centers of your hearts nor would he allow it were it still possible.” Elrohir sighed. “He would perforce live on the periphery of your circles, alone with his memories and fears. ‘Tis hardly a strong enough motive to live.”

They fell silent for a long spell while pensive musings held sway. At length, Legolas curled his arms around Elrohir and kissed him with breath-stealing fervency.

He whispered against his darkling spouse’s lips, “I am blessed indeed to have won you, Elf-knight. Keep your pledge, beloved. This night I am yours to do with as you wish.”

Elrohir felt his mood lighten at the sensual invitation. “Only this night?” he huskily said, pressing Legolas onto his back.

The archer eagerly spread his legs. “I will want a say on other nights,” he impishly retorted. With that he drew Elrohir down into his body’s hot embrace.

* * * *

Elladan felt a heaviness settle in his heart when he finished reading Elrond’s latest letter one afternoon nigh the onset of winter after assembling Galvreth’s medicaments for the coming night in the apothecary. The twins had kept their father apprised of the events in Mirkwood as well as asked for his counsel with regard to the treatment the injured princes required. In particular, they had assiduously reported Galvreth’s progress or lack thereof.

The Imladrin lord had concurred with everything they had done and even voiced his pride in their skill and dedication. But he, too, worried over Galvreth’s desultory struggle to recover in spirit and could not reiterate enough that no matter now strong of will the prince might be, if he was not as strongly bound to life by dint of an all-encompassing reason, it was highly unlikely he would withstand the pull of death on his battered soul. The only option Elrond could think of was to send him to Aman where he might find peace and healing. That is, if he survived long enough to make the journey to the Blessed Realm.

Elladan sighed despondently. What all-encompassing reason could they possibly give Galvreth to keep him anchored in this life? If even his family and the Elf who now held his heart could not succor his spirit enough to help him regain wholeness, who or what could?

He shoved the letter into the inside pocket of his tunic. His fingers grazed the jewel that nestled within. He curled his fingers around the brooch and as always felt a deep yearning overcome him. He had thought of returning it after their painful break but one look at Galvreth’s stony features the following day warned him that to do so would only cause the Elf-prince greater pain. And truth be told, Elladan had been gladdened by the chance to hold that precious jewel close though he had been too stubborn, or idiotic, to admit it.

He withdrew his hand and turned to pick up a small tray upon which several small bowls and phials of herbs, oils and salves reposed. After ascertaining that he had not missed anything, he lifted the tray and headed for Galvreth’s apartment.

He had just set the tray down in the sitting room when Aewithen emerged from the adjacent sleeping chamber. Elladan stared at her in surprise. The Elf-maid seemed abjectly crestfallen, her eyes red-rimmed from a fit of weeping.

“Aewithen, what is wrong?” Elladan asked.

The maiden started upon hearing his voice. For a moment she stared at him as if in a haze. But then she collected herself and quickly shut the door behind her.

“There is naught wrong, my lord,” she stiffly said. “Save perhaps for your refusal to release my prince from his obligation to you.”

Elladan was roundly taken aback by the sudden attack. “Obligation?” he repeated bewilderedly. “What are you talking about?”

“He is not mending properly, is he?” Aewithen challenged. When Elladan kept silent, her eyes narrowed. “‘Tis astonishing that the combined pull of all who love him have not sufficed. Or mayhap ‘tis not all that surprising considering what distracts him from seeing to his own needs and therefore hinders him in his efforts to heal.”

Elladan frowned. He gestured toward the closed door. “You allude to our former liaison,” he said. “Yet it is ended and you now stand in my stead. What possible obligation could he feel toward me?”

“To assuage your guilt over your inept handling of the ending of it!” she snapped. “Oh, he may no longer love you but a place in his heart you do have and always will I wager. For it was in you he put all his hopes before you so thoughtlessly crushed them.”

Elladan could not help the flush of shame that burned his cheeks. He wondered what Galvreth had actually revealed to her of their sorry parting and what she had surmised from the prince’s subsequent conduct. On the heels of his shame, he knew a fierce pain at her bold assertion that he had indeed lost Galvreth’s love.

Aewithen did not relent. “Noble Elf that he is, he cannot bring himself to send you away however much your presence pains him,” she sharply added.

Stung to the core, Elladan gritted his teeth to keep himself from replying in like rancor. “If this is true, why then does he permit me to hold him when he dreams?” he demanded.

“Because you claimed the right and refuse to relinquish your place to another. Yet ‘tis not you who brings him comfort but merely the sense of safety your bodily strength provides. His father or brothers can give him this comfort, too, if only you would allow them. But this you will not do for verily you would use this belated service to him to absolve yourself of the wrong you committed against him.”

“Nay! If I do this ‘tis because I care about him. I only desire for him to heal,” Elladan hotly replied.

“Then leave him alone!” Aewithen cried. “You play on his scruples whether you intend it or not and thereby tie him to you, will he, nill he! If you truly desire his recovery, set him free!”

Before Elladan could reply, she burst into tears and fled the room. The older twin sank into a chair, his thoughts a-jumble from her scathing accusations.

Was she right, he wondered. Was Galvreth hampered by a sense of obligation toward him?

Elladan’s shoulders slumped. That had never been his intention. True, his service to the prince was in part his way of making amends to him. But the greater reason was Galvreth’s well-being. Above all, his happiness. He had caused the Elf great pain. The least he could do was try to gain him some joy. But out of love, not guilt. His remorse he would endure by himself. That was not Galvreth’s to trouble himself over.

His hand went to his left breast. He felt the brooch beneath the fabric of his tunic. Sorrow washed over him then.

In his need to hold on to what little was left of their sundered relationship, he had not considered the cost to Galvreth. The prince had made the effort to move on. But he obviously still held enough consideration for Elladan to perceive that something troubled the older twin. He had apparently mistaken Elladan’s regret over losing him for guilt at having hurt him. It did not matter. Kind and gallant child of Iluvatar, he had placed Elladan’s welfare before his and in the process seriously endangered himself.

With this admission to himself, Elladan felt as if winter had already arrived, so cold did the sudden emptiness within him seem. But he could not deny the truth any longer. Galvreth was no longer his and it was time to release his love from the fetters their past had placed on him. Though his heart ached abominably, he vowed to give Galvreth a future even if it meant the darkening of his own.

The prince looked up when he entered the room. Galvreth was seated on the long couch before the crackling hearth, clad in a long warm robe, his legs propped on a cushioned footstool. When he felt strong enough, he preferred to settle himself thusly rather than remain in bed. Forcing a cheerful smile, Elladan sank on his haunches before him. Stalling for time to gather his courage, he resorted to inquiring after Galvreth’s state of health.

“How are your knees?” he asked, running his fingers carefully over the once shattered joints. “I trust you have been following your regimen?”

“Religiously,” Galvreth replied. “Even if it hurts worse than the breaking of them in the first place.”

Elladan had to grin at this show of spirit. “The pain will lessen as your legs regain their strength and flexibility.”

Galvreth snorted. “That is what all healers say. Tell me something I do not know.”

Elladan chuckled briefly. He rose and sat beside Galvreth. “What about your back? Do you still feel any pain?”

“Only a few twinges now and then. But no great pain whether without or within.” He looked curiously at Elladan. “Why these questions when you must know Elrohir already examined me just this morn?”

Caught, Elladan reluctantly replied: “I wished to reassure myself that you are well enough for me to leave you to his sole care.”

What cheer had graced Galvreth’s face faded. “You are leaving Mirkwood?” he said in an expressionless voice.

“Before winter sets in and the mountain passes are blocked,” Elladan affirmed.

“I see.”

Galvreth said no more and stared into the leaping flames in the hearth. Elladan gazed at him, trying to gauge his thoughts or feelings. But the prince’s face betrayed nothing of them.

Feeling quite lost, Elladan decided to make a quick, clean end of things. He reached into his tunic and withdrew the brooch. The gleam of metal caught Galvreth’s attention and he glanced down at the twin’s hand. His eyes widened fractionally and then he lifted them to Elladan.

Though it wrenched at his heart to do the deed, Elladan forced himself to place the brooch in Galvreth’s palm.

“You gave this to me as a token of your regard for me,” he quietly said. “But that no longer holds true and ‘tis not right for me to keep what by all rights is Aewithen’s.” He stopped, his throat suddenly too tight for words to squeeze past. When he could speak again, he said, “I wish you naught but joy, Galvreth. I only ask that we part on good terms. Indeed, I pray that you will think kindly of me and–and that you will not regret having known me. I assure you I will never forget your kindness despite–despite…” He faltered then and lowered his eyes, unable to finish.

Galvreth’s dolorous sigh roused a frisson of alarm in him and he quickly turned his eyes back to the prince. The latter was once more staring unseeingly at the fire, suddenly looking quite drained.

“Do you recall what you said about fighting to live for her sake?” Galvreth murmured in a strained voice.

“For her sake above all, yea, I recall that.”

Galvreth shook his head. “What she told you is far from the truth. ‘Tis absurd to believe I would permit myself to waste away over some ill-conceived sense of obligation to anyone. Aye, I heard your argument,” he added at Elladan’s startled expression. “You were not exactly quiet about it. She spoke to you in anger and for that I cannot truly blame her. For we had just talked and I told her not to hope for more than what I had already shared with her.” The prince smiled sadly. “She knows she is not reason enough, Elladan, and never will be.”

Elladan stared at him in befuddlement, unprepared for the unbidden revelation. Was Galvreth asking him to help? Or informing him that he no longer wished to fight? That he was letting go? And then the point struck home.

“Why is she not reason enough?” he blurted out. “Do you not love her?”

“Only with what is left of my heart. And that is but a fragment of the whole.“ Galvreth closed his eyes, his features pinched and weary. “Wherefore should I hold on to life then?”

Elladan’s alarm grew as he noted how distant Galvreth seemed. It was almost as if the prince was willing himself into elven oblivion. Yet coupled with his fear was the barest flicker of hope. If Aewithen had only known a fraction of his love, where then was the better part of it? Cast away or still where it had first been bestowed?

His heart pounding wildly, Elladan took the prince’s hand and, gripping it tightly, softly asked, “Would I be reason enough, seron vell?”

Galvreth’s sharp intake of breath and his eyes snapping open clearly evinced his shock. Elladan held his own breath as he awaited the other Elf’s response.

Galvreth turned to stare at him disbelievingly. “What–what did you call me?” he said in a hushed voice.

Elladan swallowed nervously. “Beloved,” he repeated just a shade shakily. “My heart. My only one.”

The prince’s stare grew ever more intense. It smote Elladan’s heart to descry the incredulity in his brown eyes but he could not fault Galvreth. His sudden turnaround was hardly the stuff of which reality was made. After a tense spell, Galvreth averted his gaze to look out the windows at the trees outside.

“Attend to me if it mitigates what guilt you harbor, Elladan,” he flatly declared. “But do not pity me. I will not have it.”

Though deeply hurt, Elladan squelched the urge to respond in indignation. There was little reason for Galvreth to believe him so easily. “I do not offer pity or serve you out of guilt,” he staunchly replied. “What I do, I do out of love, Galvreth.” He hesitated, unsure of his next words’ reception. “I would bind to you forthwith if you would have me.”

Galvreth visibly stiffened at the unbidden proposal. Without warning, lassitude assailed him and he began to tremble. Feeling lightheaded, he gasped and gripped the armrest in a vain attempt to steady himself.

Swiftly rising, Elladan scooped him up in his arms. Bearing the frail Elf back to his bed, he berated himself for causing him such turmoil when he was still so fragile in body and mind. And he silently cursed Aewithen for having earlier engaged Galvreth in a likewise upsetting discussion. He knew he was being unfair about that but he did not particularly care.

He tenderly laid Galvreth down in the bed and pulled the covers over him. Settling on the bedside chair, he took the other Elf's hand and squeezed it reassuringly.

“Rest, my prince,” he whispered. “I will guard your sleep.”

He started when he felt the slide of cool metal onto his palm. Elladan glanced down to find the brooch resting in his hand once more. He looked at Galvreth wonderingly.

“‘Tis yours, Elladan,” the prince murmured, fatigue slurring his words. “Always yours.” Hardly had he finished speaking when he fell fast asleep.

Elladan swallowed hard, not daring to speculate about the meaning of Galvreth’s vague last words. Resisting the urge to steal a kiss to which he did not feel himself entitled just yet, he settled for gazing unabashedly at his countenance while he kept watch over him. And felt a welling of gratitude that the privilege was still his to exercise.

*****************************
Glossary:
gwanur – brother or sister but a more accurate translation would be kinsman or kinswoman
apothecary – pharmacy (archaic)

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Whether out of pique or dejection, Aewithen stayed away from her royal lover for nigh a week. Mayhap she thought to prick his conscience enough for him to summon her back to his side. But if that was her intent, it did not quite come to pass as she hoped. Galvreth did send word to her but only to express his regret for causing her pain. No plea for her return accompanied the missive.

Her father chided her for forsaking the prince. And to what end, Hisael demanded. In the hope that he would miss her? A fool’s hope that, he told her, when one with a prior claim and a greater one now sought to win his heart anew. That was the gossip that pervaded the halls of the delved palace and if she did not desire for them to become fact, she had best take herself back to Galvreth’s bedside.

Alarmed, Aewithen hastened to reclaim her place only to discover that said place had all but vanished.

She returned to the prince’s apartment the morning after her father’s scolding. But Galvreth was not there and neither was Elladan. What was there thoroughly took her aback. For neatly gathered on the sitting room couch were her belongings—her rolled up pallet, what clothing and toiletries she had stored in the prince’s apartment, various books and scrolls and even a shirt she had been embroidering for Galvreth.

In her absence, Elladan had not only appropriated her former position at the prince’s bedside, he had also quite shamelessly rid the sleeping chamber of every trace of her presence.

Angered, she hurried forth to discover the prince and the Elf-lord’s whereabouts. Servants informed her that Elladan had taken Galvreth to the late queen’s garden where Elivorn’s children were frolicking.

She hurried down the circular stairs to the ground level of the pavilion and swiftly traversed the corridor to the porch leading out to the garden. But to her surprise, when she neared the porch, two sentries suddenly barred her way. They took no heed of her complaints but kept her from proceeding further while a third guard disappeared in the direction of the garden.

Needless to say, she was more than indignant when the guard returned with Elladan. That indignation quickly spiraled into umbrage when the Elf-lord dismissed the sentries and they readily obeyed him.

“You ordered them to keep me away?” she fumed. “You overreach yourself, my lord!”

“Nay, I only took measures to ensure you would not upset Galvreth,” Elladan calmly informed her. When she gaped at him in bewilderment, he added, “I was informed that you had gone to his rooms and I guessed just how you would react when you saw the changes within.”

Aewithen was incensed. “Changes?” she barely managed to keep from screeching. “No gallant are you to take advantage of my troubles! I should have known you would allow the ill will you bear me to dictate your actions.”

“No ill feelings toward you dictated my actions,” Elladan said. “Verily, I deemed you far more worthy of him than I ever could be. I was ready to step aside for you. Indeed, I even went so far as to take my leave of him in the belief I was endangering his health.” He paused to allow her to absorb this information. “But he made it plain I would displease him further if I forsook him,” he continued with some asperity. “And so I stayed. I bear you no ill will, Aewithen, even despite your attempt to persuade me that I was a bane to him.”

Aewithen had the grace to flush with embarrassment. “I was angry,” she admitted in a hushed voice. When Elladan said nothing, she stared at him entreatingly. “Why now? You had already turned his love away, why seek it again when he has already bestowed it elsewhere?”

“You are bold to claim that when you know nothing of what has passed between him and me since,” Elladan pointed out. “I fear the prince was more forthcoming about the truth.”

“The truth?”

“That what he shared with you was but a fraction of what I once knew.”

Her pained gasp moved him but not enough to make him relent. In this primal struggle to reclaim his woodland lover, he cast chivalry aside. Though Galvreth had not overtly rejected his suit, he was not going to take the outcome for granted. That the prince had admitted that he did not love Aewithen enough to take her as his mate did not necessarily mean Elladan had won that privilege. But he did not admit that to her even when she made the assertion herself.

“And you think his heart is still with you?” she countered. “You did not see his bitterness and anger these three years. He heartily regretted his liaison with you and confided in me his grief at having been swayed by your blandishments. If he stays you now ‘tis only because he is ailing. He seeks your healer’s soothing touch and tongue and no more. I assure you, your claim on him is hardly certain.”

“I know my claim on him is uncertain,” Elladan quietly answered. He could not know if all she said was true but he did not permit even a flicker of hurt to show on his face. “But as uncertain as I am of my place in his heart, of yours I have no doubt.” His eyes glittered in challenge while hers widened in apprehension. “I may not be sure that he will deem me enough for his needs. But I do know you are not and never will be.”

It must have been a blow to the Elf-maid to hear such a verdict spoken by her rival. And spoken with a confidence that bespoke its founding on truth. Yet she rallied if only to salve her tattered pride.

“If you think I will forsake him as you once did, you are sadly mistaken, my lord,” she snapped.

Elladan shrugged. “I did not say you could no longer tend to him,” replied. “You are most welcome to use the couch in the sitting room. It is quite comfortable, to that I can attest.” Before she could reply, he half turned and gestured toward the garden. “I believe you wished to see him?”

Aewithen stared at him, shaken by his audacity. But when he began to walk away, she collected herself and caught up with him.

Galvreth reclined on a low daybed beneath the near barren boughs of a tall beech. On his lap was Elivorn’s youngest daughter who plied him with sweetmeats from a small bowl she cradled. On the grass beside the bed, her winsome elder sister sat with her skirts pooling about her, reciting to her uncle the latest compositions of Mirkwood’s bards.

Their three brothers, rambunctious Elflings all, were engaged in a game of tag and their laughter provided a merry counterpoint to the young princess’ recital. Their mother shushed them fondly when they became too noisy for comfort but, for the most part, she and Elivorn were content to let them be for in their joy, Galvreth could be seen to find some of his own.

Elrohir and Legolas were also present, settled on the grass a few paces away. Elrohir had laid his long frame down, his head on Legolas’ lap.

As she and Elladan approached, Aewithen saw the Elf-knight pluck a burnished leaf out of the air as it floated down from the shedding branches above. With a grin, he reached up and tickled Legolas’ nose with it. The archer batted his hand away in mock ire whereupon his spouse pulled him down into a spuriously repentant kiss.

Aewithen’s mouth tightened at their display of true affection. In contrast, Elladan smiled having known it himself once upon a short time ago. Seeing his felicity did not improve the Elf-maid’s mood in the least but when Galvreth glanced up and saw them, she strove to put on a cheerful mien.

Her heart sank when he greeted her. For though the words were for her, she could not deny that Galvreth’s first instinct was to seek Elladan. However, she could not fault Elladan’s manners for the older twin, after meeting Galvreth’s gaze, coaxed the young princesses to play with their brothers, then joined Elivorn and his lady that Aewithen might have a discreet word with the prince.

They did not speak long. Galvreth was unfailingly kind and apologetic, but he did not retract what he had told her a sennight back. Yet he did not outright command her to no longer seek him out either. Heartened, she sought Elladan’s attention with an almost smug smile. It faded however when he met her eyes with unflinching equanimity.

The upshot of the encounter was that Aewithen would once more join Elladan in caring for the prince.

But she immediately came up against the unyielding wall of his implacable will. Though she pleaded and protested, he refused to budge in the matter of their sleeping arrangements. Thus she found herself relegated to the couch he had frequented before this turnaround. He would not give way either when she attempted to resume her nursing duties.

In her brief absence, he had taken on the role of principal caregiver and now performed the lion’s share of any service to the prince, rendering her quite redundant. With dismay, Aewithen found herself all but marginalized as the days marched on.

What Galvreth made of his former lover’s methods of dealing with the competition, he kept to himself. On occasion his father or brothers would glimpse an amused smile curving his lips or espy a mirthful glint in his eyes. But otherwise he simply stayed out of the fray and concentrated on getting better.

And better he seemed to get as autumn gave way to winter. Elladan did not dare make any claims as to what had bolstered the prince’s fortitude. Not even to Elrohir did he confide his hopes and fears though it was too much to ask that his twin not guess the truth. Likewise, the Elf-knight held his tongue, wary of voicing something that might yet go wrong. Instead, he watched the drama of his brother’s fledgling courtship unfold with bated breath and many a finger crossed.

Matters finally came to a head in midwinter. Though Galvreth was still prone to bouts of weariness, his father decided to celebrate his begetting day with a great feast. For what better reason could there be to joyfully mark the fourth prince’s day of conception than his continued survival of an experience that had claimed the lives of hardier Elves?

For the event, Elladan gave way to the princes and ‘twas they who merrily arrayed their brother for the fête in his honor. While Legolas plaited his hair, Aelluin and Elivorn fussed over his garments and Lalorn polished his circlet of intertwined silver and gold to a fine sheen. When he made his appearance in the main hall beside his father, he was greeted with a most appreciative collective gasp.

His fine wool tunic and breeches and asymmetrically arranged mantle artfully concealed his illness-induced lack of girth. Clad in ice blue and white, he truly looked a child of the season, his argent locks lending his already delicate countenance a stunning ethereality that was breathtaking to behold. Many had coveted their king’s fourth-born son even before this day but his centuries-long affair with Elrond’s son had inhibited most from aspiring to more than occasionally warming his bed. Those many now rued even further their lack of luck with the silver-haired prince.

Owing to Galvreth’s still evident frailness of body, a cushioned chair was placed beside his father’s tall seat on the low dais at the far end of the hall. If he should feel weary he could sit down whilst receiving guests and well-wishers.

Never one to favor pomp, a common trait it seemed amongst Thranduil’s sons, Galvreth had resisted a formal feast. Thus, long tables had been set up on either side of the hall and any and all could sit and dine where they wished if they wished while retainers passed around heaping trays of roast meats, game and vegetable pasties, herbed breads and savory custards and footmen dispensed wine and ale and cider. Sweets would follow—wild fruit tarts, honey glazed buns, dense nut cakes and the cream filled pastries topped with chocolate favored by the royal family. For entertainment, a large space in the middle of the hall alternately allowed myriad performers to ply their arts and guests to take to the floor to dance.

There was much speculation as to what would come of the increasingly feeble truce between the two who vied for Galvreth’s heart.

Aewithen made it a point to enter the hall in company with Elivorn and Lalorn’s wives as if to assert her belief that she would one day enter their ranks. She was undoubtedly a lovely sight and Galvreth was seen to look her over admiringly when she dutifully made obeisance to Thranduil before turning to offer him her greetings. But many noted how his eyes roamed the hall in obvious search of something. Or rather someone, many an Elf whispered.

There was a tense moment when Gilthalion appeared with several of his soldiers. For in their ranks was Fervanel whose unwitting revelation of the princes’ identities to the orcs had directly led to their near maiming. The young Elf looked on the verge of tears when he was presented to Thranduil and Galvreth and could not quite summon his soldiery bearing before them. Dropping down on bended knee before his lieges he could not stiffen his shoulders or lift his head long in his shame.

“My lords, forgive me my treachery!” Fervanel stuttered in his misery. “Ah, I am not worthy to serve you! I did not think that—”

Thranduil glanced at his son and nodded almost imperceptibly. Galvreth swiftly held up a hand to stop the flow of words. King and prince were aware that Fervanel had already begged forgiveness from Legolas but though the archer had assured him he was not to blame, the warrior had not been able to set aside his feelings of guilt. They knew he had many times looked in on Galvreth while he lay unconscious in the healing halls and each time had left wracked with remorse and self-loathing despite Gilthalion’s admonitions to the contrary.

“You are no traitor, pen neth”—young one—Galvreth gently chastened. “You could not know the consequences of your courteousness to us. ‘Twas your first patrol, wasn’t it?” Fervanel swallowed then nodded, unable to speak. “You could not know,” Galvreth repeated. “But now you do and I expect you to learn all you can from every reversal or advance in fortune you reap from hereon. Do I have your pledge in this, Fervanel?”

This time Fervanel did shed tears and would have bent to kiss Galvreth’s feet had the prince not stopped him. Rising at Gilthalion’s behest, he fervently vowed to fulfill his lord’s wishes once he could speak past the constriction in his throat.

“Well done,” Thranduil softly said as the young Elf moved off surrounded by his companions.

The king’s other sons were the last to appear.

Elivorn and Lalorn at once claimed their wives after they greeted their father and brother. Aelluin lured Gilthalion to his side with a come hither gaze and a warm smile. But Legolas surprised everyone when he arrived.

For he entered the hall flanked by the sons of Elrond who in turn entranced one and all by dressing identically from the argent circlets on their dark crowns to their silver grey tunics, formal hose and ankle-high shoes to the long coal-hued mantles fastened at their shoulders. Only two things distinguished one twin from the other. The first was the gold wedding band that graced Elrohir’s right forefinger. The second was the beauteous mithril brooch that secured Elladan’s mantle.

Galvreth could not help a sharp intake of breath when he espied the jewel at Elladan’s shoulder. His father glanced at him then looked carefully at the older twin. Recognizing the brooch, Thranduil’s eyes widened fractionally ere he looked at his now flushed son.

“Has he the right to make any claim?” he inquired.

“I made no declaration,” Galvreth replied.

“In words mayhap. But in deed?”

Galvreth’s blush deepened. Thranduil shook his head. “You had best settle this affair once and for all, ionen”—my son—he commented. He nodded toward an ashen-faced Aewithen. “I trust she knows where she stands?”

The prince sighed and said, “I told her I had no more to give her beyond what she had already received. I had hoped she would take her cue from that, but…”

“But she refuses to accept the truth?”

“That is the toll of it.” Galvreth glanced sideways at the maiden, a slight frown marring his brow. “I suppose I should have been more direct,” he murmured. “My error. I will right it soonest, Ada.”

“Aye, you should,” Thranduil dryly remarked. “And if she treasures her pride at all she will know enough to bow out with as much grace as she can muster.”

They turned to receive the youngest prince and the brethren.

Legolas refused to stand on ceremony and swept Galvreth into a tight embrace. He apparently whispered a lot more than greetings to his brother for Galvreth huffed a chuckle then swatted his arm with an amused grin. He glanced over Legolas’ shoulder at Elrohir who winked at him with much mirth. A similar glance at Elladan netted a different response.

The older twin for all the utter correctness of his behavior before the Elvenking and his son did not bother to conceal his feelings for said son but laid openly desirous eyes on him. Galvreth’s blush returned at this reappearance of the raffish Peredhel who had ensnared him so many centuries ago. Yet Elladan did nothing more and certainly naught that might bring censure down upon his head.

He did his duty and mingled and danced and made merry with the guests. But his eyes never wandered for very long from the argent-haired prince. Nor did the look of wanting abate as the evening wore on. No, not even when the king himself engaged him in conversation in an attempt to gain his son some respite from that compelling stare.

For try as he might to resist it, Galvreth found himself as if under enchantment whenever Elladan’s dusky gaze fell on him. No matter where he was or whom he was with, he knew when the older twin was looking at him and could not stop himself from meeting his eyes be it at close quarters or across the length and breadth of the entire hall. It was enough to disconcert those who sought his favor and even more so the Elf who had once thought herself the Half-elven lord’s successor.

Aewithen decided enough was enough and in a blatant attempt to remove Galvreth from the spell Elladan had apparently cast on him, she coaxed him to join her for a breath of fresh air on the long balcony where long ago Elrohir had espied Legolas up in the branches of the ancient tree that shaded it. Out of sympathy and also perhaps to free himself for a while from the relentless regard that discomfited him, he acquiesced and accompanied her thence.

But scarcely did they step onto the balcony when she pleaded with him to take Elladan to task for usurping her place at his side. In her distress, she did not notice the signs of encroaching weariness in Galvreth’s considerably slowed stride or his suddenly wan appearance.

Galvreth dearly wanted to return to the warmth of the great hall for in his less than hale state, he was susceptible to the frigid bite of the wintry night’s air. But he was reluctant to leave the matter unaddressed and forced himself to endure the cold a little longer.

“Aewithen, I have asked your pardon more than once for having hurt you,” he softly said. “And now it seems I will have to beg your pardon once again ere the evening is done.”

She stared at him, her anxiety rising at his choice of words. “My lord, you have done naught to me to warrant my pardon,” she protested. “I am still ever at your service and—”

“You know full well I have,” he gently cut her off. “I would that you accepted my apology and the cause for it.”

Tears sprang to her eyes and she flung herself into his arms, clinging stubbornly to him. “Nay, I cannot believe you felt so little for me,” she said imploringly. “I was your comfort, my lord. Surely you have not forgotten how I succored you.”

“Nay, I have not forgotten,” he told her. “And I will always be grateful to you for that. But neither gratitude nor the affection of mere lovers are enough reason to commit to wedlock.”

“But they could be a start,” she desperately insisted. “Surely they could be!”

He started when she lifted her lips to his and drew him into a kiss. By now he was nigh chilled to the bone. With a gasp he broke away from her, his body a-shiver and his limbs almost leaden from exhaustion. He turned in a bid to retreat to the hall behind but one knee suddenly buckled and he began to fall. He vaguely heard Aewithen’s muffled scream or the alarmed cries of those within the hall who witnessed his stumble.

What registered with clarity were the strong arms that caught him and held him steady. He woozily looked into Elladan’s concerned countenance. The older twin said naught either to scold the Elf-maid for her carelessness or to chasten the prince for braving the cold. Instead, he flung one side of his cloak about Galvreth, infusing him with the combined warmth of the thick material and his own body.

The king and his other sons were overwrought with worry, but Galvreth assured them no lasting harm had been done. Still, there was no mistaking his fatigue and Thranduil insisted that he retire and take his rest and requested Elladan, perhaps unnecessarily, to conduct his son to his quarters. The Elf-lord agreed with alacrity and, after Galvreth had bidden his sire and brothers good night and extended his apologies to the guests who had neared him to offer their aid, led the prince away.

Tired beyond bearing, Galvreth forgot about Aewithen. And Elladan spared little thought for her in his hurry to get the prince to the comfort of his apartment soonest.

She forlornly watched them go, her heart heavy with final acceptance of the truth. When they disappeared from sight, she, too, left the hall. Legolas and Elrohir noted her departure with pity but also with some relief. Perhaps now Galvreth would be able to get on with the business of healing in earnest.

Meanwhile, Elladan attended to his beloved as swiftly as possible. He summoned two of Galvreth’s retainers and bade them build a goodly fire in the hearth. While they did, he fetched mulled wine for the prince to drink. Only awaiting the servants’ departure, he then helped Galvreth shed his formal raiment and don a loose but warm shirt and bed-trousers.

As he tucked the prince into bed, the latter caught sight of the brooch at his shoulder. He lifted his hand and smoothed a finger over the jewel.

“You presume overmuch, Peredhel, to flaunt your claim so boldly,” he softly remarked.

A faint blush stained Elladan’s cheeks but he only murmured: “I did not wear this to make any claim on your love. Only to proclaim my intent to win it anew.”

He met Galvreth’s gaze squarely. “You are brave,” the prince said. “What if you do not succeed?”

Elladan sighed and shrugged. “Then your people will know me for the fool I am,” he replied with resigned frankness.

“You are too harsh with yourself,” Galvreth said a shade reprovingly while the older twin doffed his mantle and tunic and carefully laid the brooch on the bedside table.

“And you are too kind,” Elladan countered mildly, as he seated himself in his accustomed place by the prince’s bed.

Galvreth eyed him intently. His brown eyes gleamed golden in the light cast by the fire in the hearth. “Tell me the truth, Elladan,” he suddenly said. “Were we to couple, would I be able to take you into my body again?”

Elladan was startled by the unexpected and almost brutally blunt query. After a moment’s hesitation, he said, “If it is simply your body and naught else that you ask about, aye, you should be able. But whether your mind will accept such an intrusion again, that I cannot say. Indeed, no healer of worth would make such a promise.”

“Then it is quite possible I am forever ruined for that particular act between us,” Galvreth persisted.

Again, Elladan hesitated. But at length he said, “Aye, it is possible.”

“How can you want me then?” the prince challenged.

Elladan stared at him. “How can I want you?” he repeated somewhat incredulously. “How can I not want you, the most beautiful and gallant Elf I have ever had the fortune to know?” he fervently declared. “The most valiant, the kindest. The great heart who dared to love one as unworthy as I.”

It was Galvreth’s turn to protest. “You are not unworthy.”

Perceiving the other’s softening, Elladan seized his chance. “Then do not refuse me,” he pleaded. “I would place my heart in your keeping as you asked of me. Not for your sake alone but also for mine. If you deny me your love, you will deny me joy. And life everlasting.”

Galvreth’s eyes widened at the implicit threat. “You would choose the Doom of Men?” he demanded.

“If I cannot have the gift of your hand in wedlock,” Elladan affirmed. He caught Galvreth’s hand between his palms and grasped it imploringly. “I was a fool to decline what you offered me. I would be an even greater one now if I do not try to win you back. Reject my suit if you truly care no longer for me; I deserve every bitter drop of your scorn. But know I will forsake our kindred forevermore if you do.” He gazed at Galvreth, his eyes glistening. “What good is eternity if I must live it without you?”

For the longest time Galvreth studied him in silence. Elladan stoically endured his searching regard. He staunchly met Galvreth’s gaze, allowing the prince to peer into his very heart and soul where hope and fear and the beginnings of sorrow mingled.

Unexpectedly the smallest smile graced Galvreth’s mouth. “That sounds like extortion, rogue,” he wryly commented.

Elladan caught his breath. Hope surged and shoved aside his fear. “Did it succeed?” he asked in a hushed voice.

Galvreth’s smile brightened and Elladan thought he had never looked more comely than he did now. “Help me then, seronen vell.”—my beloved—the silver-haired prince murmured. “I would bind to you whole and well.”

Elladan’s heart soared. Heedless of the tears that moistened his eyes, jubilation limning his voice, he said, “I will help you. I will love you to haleness however long it takes.”

Galvreth sighed as his lips were claimed in a tender yet consuming kiss. His heart serene with the knowledge of Elladan’s claim on him, he returned the kiss with equal fervor if not strength. Elated by his response, Elladan could not stop himself from deepening the kiss, pushing past Galvreth’s lips to taste the sweetness he’d so missed all these years. Galvreth’s soft moan was as music to him and he looked forward to drawing forth more of that beauteous melody.

But he recalled of a sudden that Galvreth was weary. Breaking the kiss reluctantly, Elladan said, “You must rest, melethen. Do lie down and sleep.”

The prince clung to his arm, apprehension shadowing his countenance. “I do not dream when you hold me,” he whispered.

His eyes agleam with joy, Elladan kicked off his shoes and clambered onto the bed to lie facing Galvreth. He curled his arms around the prince and drew him close, sheltering him within his embrace and soothing him with gentle kisses to his pale brow and cheeks. Secure in his arms, Galvreth drifted into peaceful slumber.

It was long before Elladan found his own repose. For verily he was loath to lose sight of the treasure he’d feared taken from him forever.

He did not know if he merited this wondrous restoration but he was grateful beyond measure for its granting. And this he voiced in the prayer he whispered as he gazed at his prince deep into that auspicious winter night.

***************************
Glossary:
sennight – abbreviation of seven nights; defunct Middle English term for a week
Ada – Papa
Peredhel (pl. Peredhil) – Half-elf/Half-elven
melethen – my love

To be continued…

Chapter Text

The insistent peal of the door chimes early the next morn would have annoyed Elrohir no end had he not sensed through their fraternal bond that ‘twas his twin who had come a-visiting. He glanced at Legolas, concerned that his slumbering mate would be roused from sleep. But save for a soft sigh, Legolas did not awaken, his deep slumber the consequence of a late and lengthy night beginning with his brother’s begetting day celebration and ending in a celebration of another sort in the confines of their bedchamber.

The archer had been well used and long ridden and his satiation was such that his repose could not be disturbed by a few small bells’ ringing. Tucking the covers around his fair mate’s splendid form, Elrohir pulled on a shirt and breeches ere he descended to the downstairs sitting area.

He let in a patently nervous Elladan. Wondering why his brother was up and about so early, he asked just a tad tartly: “And to what do I owe this rude awakening?”

“Forgive me, but I have just come from the jewel smiths and—”

“The jewel smiths?” Elrohir sharply echoed.

“Oh, rest you, I awakened no one,” Elladan said. “You know they rise at the crack of dawn.”

Elrohir stared at him, all traces of lingering drowsiness evaporating. “Sweet Eru, you have won your suit!” he gasped.

Elladan blushed and nodded. “He accepted me back last night,” he said in hushed, reverent tones. “Yet even now I cannot quite believe that he permitted me to return.”

“If you have gone so far as to have rings fashioned, you can believe it,” Elrohir pointed out with a grin. At Elladan’s slight frown, he said, “What makes you doubt your victory?”

Elladan blew his breath out. “The manner of my procurement of his acceptance,” he answered.

“Why, what did you say?”

“I told him I would choose the Doom of Men if he refused me,” Elladan almost shamefacedly confessed.

Elrohir was reduced to speechlessness for a moment. And then he collected himself and beckoned to his twin to follow him into the cooking nook.

“Tell me all,” he invited. “I am astonished you resorted to such dire means to secure his assurance.”

As he talked, he gathered a selection of nuts and dried fruit on the food preparation counter and began to chop, slice or dice them. At Elladan’s raised eyebrows, he smiled and explained, “Legolas favors hot porridge with fruit and nuts on wintry mornings.”

Blinking at his twin’s domesticity, Elladan experienced a sudden qualm. But Elrohir was quick to see it and he said with a smirk: “He is even more accommodating when I spoil him so. I look forward to a return to bed after we break our fast.”

Elladan snorted in amusement and the tense moment passed. Appeased, he related the prior evening’s events. To his disconcertment, Elrohir became increasingly mirthful with the telling.

“May I know what cause I have given to stoke your gaiety?” he demanded when he finished to a spate of chuckles.

Elrohir stifled a last chortle. While he built a fire in the small hearth, he said, “Ah, Elladan, do you really think Galvreth gave in to your plea simply to spare you the path of mortality? If he said yea, ‘tis because he wants you as much as you want him. I dare say he made up his mind to have you when you at last revealed your heart to him.”

“But-but that was months ago,” Elladan protested. “Not once did I feel fully assured of his regard until now.”

“Yet you told me you believed his heart still in your keeping, which is what helped you stay the course,” his brother reminded him.

“I did,” the older twin said. “But verily I worried that his rancor at my earlier folly and the hurts I dealt him would overcome any affection he bore me.”

“Did the wait for his answer affect you so?” Elrohir inquired.

“Very much,” Elladan admitted.

“Hence your vigilance when Aewithen sought to challenge you,” Elrohir said, another smile tugging at his lips. “And your shockingly discourteous dealings with her. Not to mention staking your claim last night, your assertions to the contrary notwithstanding. Oh, do not deny it. Legolas and I were not in the least fooled when you asked those favors of us!”

Elladan scowled. “I beg your pardon for being so weak as to long for confirmation of my place with him,” he retorted a little acerbically.

“And I tell you your place was assured from the moment you declared yourself to him,” Elrohir smoothly replied. “You worried needlessly, brother.”

“If that is so, why did he not tell me soonest?” Elladan insisted. “Why delay his acquiescence?”

A wide grin finally curved Elrohir’s lips. Setting a pan of water to boil, he said, “Because Galvreth felt there was a lesson that needed teaching ere he took you back. How else could he ascertain your constancy or the rightness of your reasons?”

The older twin gaped at him in shock. “You knew?” he accused. “And you gave me no warning?”

“And would you have believed me?” Elrohir countered while he brought out a jar of oats, a tall bottle of cinnamon sticks, a pot of honey and a jug of milk cold from a winter night’s keeping. “Nay, you were altogether convinced of your unworthiness of his love and thereby provided your own chastisement. Galvreth only expanded on it and wisely at that, for now he knows for certain you are indeed besotted enough with him to resort to a tactic as low as extortion.”

“‘Twas no mere tactic,” Elladan said, sober of a sudden. “I meant what I said.”

“I know,” Elrohir replied, softening a mite. “As did he I warrant. ‘Tis probably why he chose to end his testing of you.”

Elladan stared at him then nodded in rueful agreement. “I dare say I deserved it,” he murmured.

“Deserved it?” Elrohir snorted. “He has proved kinder than I expected!”

Just as he finished speaking, arms wove around him from behind and he was pulled into an affectionate embrace. Elrohir chuckled as Legolas nipped his way up the side of his neck, leaving a trail of scarlet smears in his marauding lips’ wake. Elladan discreetly kept his attention on the array of porridge ingredients on the counter while his twin and binding-brother greeted each other in their usual smoldering fashion.

“You two are worse than stags in perpetual rut,” he remarked when a sidelong glance revealed Legolas enclosing Elrohir in the folds of his night-robe. Obviously, the better to let the Elf-knight feel what he had neglected to tend before he left their bed.

Elrohir chuckled and broke off from an inflammatory kiss to say, “Beware, lest you wish to be named pot to this Elf’s kettle. Legolas, do you plan to have me in front of Elladan?”

Legolas lifted his golden head from the crook of Elrohir’s neck but not his hands from the Elf-knight’s breech-laces and, with a wicked smirk, said, “Aye, if Elladan does not take the hint and make himself scarce for a goodly while.”

Whereupon he looked pointedly at Elladan while he continued to undo Elrohir’s breech-laces. Elladan rolled his eyes and turned to go.

“I will return when you are in a more seemly mood,” he primly said over his shoulder.

“Pots and kettles, brother,” Elrohir called after him as he headed for the door.

The last he saw of his twin as he exited the apartment was Elrohir braced against the counter and Legolas invasively pressed against his back. Elladan hastily closed the door. While he was fully aware of his brother’s lustful ventures with his woodland mate, he did not feel all that comfortable watching him at it. Not to mention that Elrohir was virtually his mirror image and the sight of him submitting to Legolas was eerily like witnessing himself in the same position with his own woodland spouse-to-be.

He returned to Galvreth’s quarters with Elrohir’s words reverberating in his mind. Entering the sleeping chamber, he found the prince out on the balcony. Well wrapped against the cold in a warm robe, he was staring at the dozing forest. Elladan observed him for a space, taking great pleasure in simply perusing his comeliness. And was it his imagination or did Galvreth seem unusually aglow this morning?

When Elladan stepped onto the balcony, Galvreth smiled welcomingly at him. “Where did you go so early?” he queried as the twin came to his side.

“To ask the jewel smiths to fashion rings for us,” Elladan replied.

Galvreth’s smile widened. “You need not resort to underhanded means with me.”

“Oh? Yet ‘twas only by underhanded means that I finally gained your compliance.”

The prince chuckled. “Do you not think a reward sweeter for the difficulty of earning it?”

Elladan nodded. “I only pray I have indeed earned it.”

“Do you believe you have?” Galvreth challenged him.

Elladan heaved a doubtful breath. “I want to believe I have but a part of me fears I merely pried it out of you.”

To his surprise, Galvreth turned and kissed him. Intuitively, for it seemed the most natural thing in the world to do, he wove his arms around the prince and pulled him closer for a deeper caress. At length, they drew apart and Elladan looked at his lover curiously.

“If you still doubt your worth to me, you have indeed earned my compliance,” Galvreth said. His tender tone tempered the bite of his next words. “For too long did you deem me yours for the taking with little thought to what I thought or felt about it.” Seeing Elladan’s wince, he added, “And I was foolish to let you have your way even when I had began to hurt from it.”

“Why did you not chastise me?” Elladan softly asked.

“Because I did not know how you would respond if I did,” Galvreth admitted. “I feared you would shy from me and put an end to our affair forthwith.” Elladan averted his gaze but not swiftly enough. Galvreth sighed. “And you would have, that much is apparent now.”

Elladan turned glistening eyes on the prince. His voice catching, he said, “Mayhap my visit to the jewel smiths was premature.”

“Only if you wish to postpone granting what I have hoped for all these years,” Galvreth countered.

Elladan’s eyes widened. In that moment, his inexperience in matters of the heart showed clearly and painfully. “‘Tis not only your hope but mine as well even if I have come to this realization but lately,” he earnestly said. “Still I wonder that you did not break with me when I proved no better than an oaf and a hard-hearted one at that. I do not understand why you did not cast me aside when there were so many others who would have cherished you as I did not.”

Moved by Elladan’s uncharacteristic lack of confidence, Galvreth cupped his face in his hands and said, “I did try to distance myself from you and we have seen the sorry results of that attempt,” he reminded him. “Elladan, there is no rhyme or reason for the love I bear you. I simply do. And I hope you will learn to accept what you feel without needing to explain it.”

He watched a tear trace its way down Elladan’s cheek as the warrior struggled to come to terms with the myriad emotions that wracked him—guilt, confusion, regret and, most of all, tumultuous, confounding love. He tenderly wiped away the tear with his thumb.

Of a sudden, Elladan closed the distance between them and locked them in an even fiercer kiss than the first. So potent was it that they were left breathing harshly in it wake. Elladan did not let go of him but buried his face in his neck.

“Whatever you desire of me I will strive to grant,” came his muffled avowal. “No matter the cost, I will gladly pay it. I love you, Galvreth. The Valar help me but I do.”

Nothing could have better evinced his long and deeply rooted reluctance to surrender himself so utterly than that last, almost helpless plea for aid from the Powers themselves. Galvreth silently vowed that Elladan would learn to be an eager accomplice in his own ensnarement.

For the woodland prince already knew what joys there were to be had when one embraced love with one’s whole heart, body and spirit. Hurts there were of course, but in his opinion, the bliss outweighed the pain any given day and he would not forego the former for all the glory or riches in Arda. And neither would Elladan if he had anything to say about it.

* * * *

They bound to each other the following summer as the season drew to a close; before winter made its incursion on the northern lands. Elrond and Celebrían and their daughter Arwen made the long journey over the mountains for the nuptial rites. There was no hiding the Imladrin lord and lady's pleasure at yet another child of theirs taking his place amongst the elder kindred by virtue of eternal wedlock.

There, in the garden that had borne witness to so many celebrations in Mirkwood’s royal family, Elladan and Galvreth were wed. Under the Powers’ weighty regard and illuminated by the Mariner’s brilliant light, they uttered their vows of love and fidelity and sealed their promises with their blood. Afterwards, both suffered the tearful hugs of Celebrían and Arwen followed by the more jocular expressions of affection by fathers and brothers alike.

The ensuing feast was as boisterous as it was felicitous for underlying the merriment was an active relief over Galvreth’s recovery. Not an Elf present did not ponder the near miracle of his survival. It was an object lesson in the power of love and joy to overcome evil and despair.

Thranduil beamed as the clamor for Galvreth to lead a lively all male woodland jig swelled. His smile widened when Galvreth agreed on the condition that Elladan join him and thereby prove his tutelage worth the effort. Elladan protested as a matter of course, pleading a lack of practice, but acquiesced to his new mate’s demand just the same.

Clad in nuptial white save for his silver circlet adorned with tiny gold vines and leaves and the silver in the beading on his tunic, the narrow links in his belt and the wide ornamental cuff about his wrist, the fourth prince was a stunning vision to behold. Elladan was no less beauteous, his raven hair contrasting dramatically with his nigh pristine raiment. Fine gold purl embroidery broke the plain whiteness of his tunic. On his dark crown he bore a gold circlet set with adamant and mithril akin to what Elrohir had worn for his own binding rites. At the base of his high collar he proudly bore Galvreth’s brooch, its emerald glittering in the flickering light of standing torches and hanging lamps.

When the pair clasped hands and held them high, the gold bands on their right forefingers gleamed brightly, overt symbols of their wedded state.

Feeling his eyes water and his throat tighten from the sheer happiness of seeing his fourth-born son restored and granted his desire at last, Thranduil looked away lest his emotions bested him. Father he might be but he was still king and he needed to preserve some of his dignity. At least, while he was in plain sight of his subjects.

He met Celebrían’s amused gaze and perforce chuckled in rue. Elrond’s wife had caught him in this unguarded moment and there was no pretending that dust had gotten into his eyes or some such other nonsense.

“So, we are kin-by-marriage twice over,” he commented instead when she joined him. “Had any told me long ago that I would be law-father to both your sons, I would have called them mad.”

Celebrían laughed. “No one would have blamed you, Thranduil. Even now it seems a far-fetched notion though the evidence of its fulfillment is right before us.”

Thranduil nodded. “Aye, ‘tis the stuff of fantasy.”

“Or wishful thinking.”

“Speaking of wishful thinking…” The Elven-king gestured in the direction of Arwen who presently held five swains and three maids in thrall. And it looked as if her court would swell further if the many appreciative perusals of her beauty were indicative of the great interest in Elrond’s only daughter. “Methinks Arwen will have no shortage of suits to choose from.”

Celebrían sighed. “If she complains, ‘tis of the surfeit of them. She cannot quite make up her mind which to heed in the first place.”

Thranduil grinned. “‘Tis a pity I have no more sons to offer for her consideration.” His grin faded somewhat. “No more suitable sons, that is.” His eyes grew distant for a spell as his thoughts turned to an absent soul, still dear to a father’s forgiving heart despite the passage of centuries.

Celebrían laid a soothing hand on his arm. “Who is to say that he will not be suitable when he returns to the fold?” she gently said. “If Gildor’s reports are anything to go by, ‘tis quite apparent ‘twas not wickedness that led Nimaras astray but only misguided envy and resentment and a tragic lack of temperance.”

The king wanly smiled. “‘Tis a great comfort to be reminded of that,” he admitted. “I do not think I could bear the knowledge of any of my own given over to evil.” He looked somewhat hopefully at Celebrían. “I meant to ask you if there had been any word from Gildor of late.”

“His last sojourn in Imladris was but three years ago, while my sons were in the south. He told us Nimaras had acquitted himself well in helping his company capture a band of brigands that had been harassing the Bree-land.”

“Did he now?” Thranduil visibly swelled with fatherly pride. “Ah, that does my heart much good. I look forward to the day when Gildor judges him sufficiently redeemed.” While he spoke, he caught sight of Legolas and Elrohir plying the newlyweds with strong ale and bawdy jests. “I pray they will find it in themselves to forgive him when he returns to us,” he murmured.

Celebrían regarded her younger son and his spouse. “They are great hearts,” she said. “I believe they will pardon him.” She then adroitly led the king down other avenues of conversation that he might set aside his unbidden melancholy.

A burst of raucous laughter and salacious chatter caught their attention. They turned to seek the cause of the gay commotion in time to espy Elladan and Galvreth slipping down the cobbled path to the residential pavilion. Only a dimwit would not guess their intent.

Elrond came to them, his face a picture of amusement and resignation. “I suppose it was too much to hope they would stay a while longer at their own nuptial feast,” he wryly remarked.

Thranduil snorted. “More than too much,” he corrected. “Really, Elrond, one would think you did not know your own son!”

Celebrían giggled while her husband accepted the gibe with a specious scowl followed by a cheerful smirk.

* * * *

They came together with the ease of long time lovers. There was no need for one or the other to exercise care or restraint, as Elrohir had had to do on his and Legolas’ binding night. Nor was there any shyness or doubts to mar the flow of their loving. Limbs sensuously entangled, their bodies all but melted into the other and mouths and hands roamed and ravaged until the chamber resounded with the sounds of their joy and pleasure.

A lithe shift of positions and they were rabidly drawing upon each other’s lengths, engaging in a race at which end there was naught but utmost rapture. Elladan could only wonder in gratitude that fate had seen fit to gift him with this blessing. Cupping Galvreth’s bottom he pulled the prince closer, eager for the taste and scent and feel of his love. He felt the muscles in the firm mounds tighten under his touch and he ran his hands soothingly over the taut flesh until they relaxed as much as was possible under his sensual assault.

But it was not long before they broke the limits of their bodily control. Elladan greedily downed the luscious cream of his mate’s spending before he, too, spilled himself copiously into Galvreth’s voracious mouth. And between them bliss such as they had never known before surged as their spirits touched and caressed in this first intimacy of their binding. Gasping in delighted shock, they glanced at each other in amazement. They had not even joined their bodies yet. How much stronger would the binding rapture be when they did?

They did not wait too long before they embarked on another round of loving, this one fated to end in complete union. In less time than either thought possible, they were primed for the ultimate joining of their bodies. Prepared to spread himself for Elladan’s pleasure, Galvreth was therefore thoroughly surprised when he found himself pulled atop his mate instead.

“Elladan?”

Elladan brushed stray strands of shining hair from his cheek and forehead. “Your body may have healed but not so your mind. Not yet,” he said. “You flinched when all I did was caress you thusly.” He lightly ran his hand over Galvreth’s bottom. Hearing the prince’s sharp intake of breath, he nodded a little sadly. “You still associate such a touch with your torment. I will not rouse those memories this night of all nights. There should only be joy and passion in our bed, not fear or anger.”

Galvreth gazed searchingly at him. “But how can there be joy for you if you engage in this act unwilling?”

“If I was unwilling afore, ‘twas because I feared to lose myself to you,” Elladan reasoned. “But that is no longer true and I would prove it by making a gift of my yielding to you. In gratitude and love. Please accept it.

Their eyes met and held. Elladan knew a prickle of relief when Galvreth finally leaned down to brush their lips together before locking them in a molten kiss. But a moment later, he started and gasped against his mate’s mouth when he felt the knowing caress of long, agile fingers on regions where he had never previously permitted any to stray. One slid into him and he could not help tensing at the incursion. But Galvreth mimicked that intrusive action with his tongue and provided a pleasant distraction. Thus did he ready his skittish mate without distressing him over much.

He knew Elladan prepared for more when the twin pushed against his probing fingers, his enjoyment of pleasure overtaking his apprehension. Still and all, the width of a digit or two could not in any way match the girth of a fully roused shaft and Galvreth was impressively endowed for a Wood-elf. It must be the Sindarin blood in him, Elladan abstractedly mused, as he bore the slow press of thick flesh into him.

Galvreth felt much of his control slip away as he sank further into glorious velvet heat. For too long had he suppressed this particular desire with Elladan. His gradual entry suddenly gave way to a swift thrust and he embedded himself to the hilt. He heard Elladan’s shocked gasp and knew for certain that he had reaped what no other had gained before him. The older twin’s pinched features evinced the discomfort of his first ever sheathing of another Elf’s flesh. He reached for Elladan’s hand where it clutched the sheet beneath them and wove their fingers together. Swallowing hard, Elladan returned the grip.

“Do you wish for me to stop?” Galvreth queried with some concern.

The older twin shook his head and said, “‘Twill be our way of loving until you are truly well. I want this, Galvreth. Do not stop.”

In implicit emphasis, he tightened the wrap of his legs around Galvreth’s waist. The prince fought to steady his unruly feelings, so powerful was the urge to plunge and cleave and wholly own.

Do not hold back. Never hold back.

With Elladan’s provoking thoughts resounding in his mind, Galvreth’s restraint summarily shattered. Elladan moaned as he was repeatedly breached and filled with a sureness and strength that evinced his mate’s mastery of him. The initial burn of invasion rapidly evolved into the spiraling scorch of rapture born of his body’s surrender. The scorch turned into a conflagration when Galvreth gripped his achingly turgid length and proceeded to stroke it, driving away any remaining coherent thought Elladan might still have possessed.

He did not later recall how often he uttered Galvreth’s name in his ecstasy or cried out his bliss. He only knew that he did and with each spike of pleasure came a measure of astonishment and some regret that he had not surrendered himself to his lover’s desire long before this. It might be years before Galvreth could yield himself once more, mayhap even never again. But as intense rapture overwhelmed him, Elladan knew he cared not in the least if this was how they would know union from hereon.

As they approached the peak of their loving, they felt once more the welling of a pleasure not wholly owned by one or the other but shared as it surged through the newly forged link between them. And then it happened just before completion took them. Their spirits touched and at the height of their ecstasy merged into one. As countless Elves before them, they tumbled headlong into the binding rapture with no sense of time or place or purpose. All that mattered was the inimitable fusing of spirit unique to Elvenkind and with it the irrevocable sealing of hearts for all time.

Galvreth shuddered as ecstasy wracked his body, pooling at the last with explosive force in his groin. With a choked cry, he spilled himself for the first time inside Elladan’s body and in such quantity that the excess ran back down his buried shaft. Gasping for breath, he gazed down at Elladan just as his mate spent himself as well, copious spurts of pearlescent cream coating the prince’s hand and dappling their bellies.

Lost in his bliss, hair splayed wildly on the pillow and love-bruised skin all a-flush from his completion, Elladan made a deliciously decadent picture. Galvreth feared he would barely have time to recover from his release before that wanton image spurred him into renewed arousal.

When both knew some lucidity, they gazed at each other in wonder and deepest joy. Elladan pulled Galvreth down to him and pressed kisses against the prince’s throat and chest.

“Had I known…” Elladan murmured against his sleek neck. “I should have followed my brother’s example long ago.”

Galvreth groaned when the incendiary touch of his mate’s lips, teeth and tongue initiated another welling of tension in his nether regions. Still sheathed in Elladan’s core, he made a stab at cautioning his lover.

“You will be sore come morning if you do not desist,” he warned.

Husky laughter all but demolished his good intentions. “And was that ever cause for complaint for you all these years?” Elladan teased him. His eyes widened slightly as he felt Galvreth harden and lengthen within him. He lay back and locked his ankles firmly at the small of Galvreth’s back. “You fill me so well,” he moaned. “Have me again, melethron. Mark me as yours. Cleave me!”

Galvreth could not resist such a command when coupled with the flex of strong limbs drawing him into the depths of sweetest temptation. Withdrawing slightly, he paused a moment to stare into Elladan’s lust-darkened pewter eyes. Full realization washed over him then that this Peredhel was truly and eternally his.

“I love you, Elladan,” he whispered.

He sank deep once more into incredible heat and softness. With that, speech was rendered needless as action conveyed everything that might need saying with a clarity and intensity mere words could never hope to match.

**********************************
Glossary:
melethron – male lover
Peredhel (pl. Peredhil) – Half-elf/Half-elven

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Imladris, lairë T.A. 1975
Legolas pulled his robe even more tightly around his body though the weather was scarcely cool enough to bother a Man, much less an Elf. The chill came from within. From the wellspring of his spirit. From the anxiety that resided in the depths of his being. So fraught were his feelings that he could not sleep and at last he slipped out of bed lest his tossing and turning disturb Elrohir. He thought that contemplating the stars might bring him a measure of calm and thus he donned his robe and stepped out onto the balcony of their apartment.

They shared Elrohir’s suite when they were in Rivendell for it was spacious and well appointed and more than filled their needs. Furthermore, they oft retired to their cabin in the north of the vale for many weeks at a time. They had long ago shared their secret with the younger twin’s family and all assiduously guarded their privacy by never venturing there when they were in residence in their haven or divulging its existence to anyone even in times of crisis. As such it was on Elladan and Galvreth that Elrond bestowed a many-chambered apartment in the Last Homely House’s residential wing.

Legolas smiled as he thought of the past years’ many joys.

Following in his and Elrohir’s footsteps, their brothers had also chosen to alternately abide together in their respective realms. Their periods of abiding did not always coincide for such were the exigencies of the times that lengthy separations even between Legolas and Elrohir were no longer avoidable. But they came together often enough to satisfy their respective needs to affirm their fraternal bonds and for this they were always grateful.

Now however was one of those times when they all had to part from each other. Elladan had just returned from Mirkwood the night before, called back to Imladris by his obligations as prince and soldier of the valley realm. Galvreth had remained behind, a like obligation perforce keeping him at his father and brethren’s side. Legolas heaved a pensive breath. Obligations he and Elrohir would need to uphold as well. He glanced back at his recumbent love and protectiveness surged as it had since they had learned what duty demanded of them.

Tomorrow, at first light, he would return to Mirkwood and Elrohir would march north with his brother and the forces of Rivendell. There lay his worries.

Peril they both faced but there was a difference. He would be returning to the possibility of strife and battle. Elrohir would be going forth to certain war.

The preceding winter, Arthedain had finally fallen to the Witch-king of Angmar. Fleeing before his enemies’ onslaught, King Arvedui had taken refuge amongst the strange folk of the frozen wastes in the north. Salvation seemed at hand when Círdan sent a ship to rescue him. But fate was against the king and, fulfilling the destiny his very name had set for him, the ship foundered in the icy Bay of Forochel and Arvedui had indeed become the last king of the northern branch of Elendil’s line.

Now word had reached Rivendell of the great fleet that had come from Gondor to give belated aid. Once more Elves and Men united to fight a common foe.

Even as Glorfindel mustered the Imladrin forces, the ancient shipwright Círdan and Eärnur warrior son of Eärnil marched to Fornost to force battle upon the Witch-king. Círdan had indicated in his last communication that he did not think Imladris would reach Fornost in time to join them. But he asked that Glorfindel cut off all means of retreat by the enemy lest they gain the sanctuary of their fortress city of Carn Dûm. This would place the Rivendell army directly in danger’s way for if they were caught between the retreating forces of Angmar and any reinforcements issuing from Carn Dûm, they could and most likely would be crushed.

Legolas shivered. For all his years and wisdom he could not suppress the apprehensions that plagued him whenever Elrohir faced peril. It was ridiculous to feel this way, he chided himself. He had encountered his own share of pain and danger and confronted death itself. The faint scars on his back and calves were stark testimony to this. But the truth of the matter was it was not torment or death themselves that frightened the archer. It was separation from Elrohir either circumstance might bring about that Legolas feared most.

The hell of pain he had endured. Complete oblivion he could abide. But being parted whether in body or mind from the one to whom his spirit was bound and being aware of it, that he could not bear. He could not imagine struggling against madness or despair without his Elf-knight to succor him or bide his time alone for centuries uncounted should either he or Elrohir pass into Mandos’ custody. He knew he was of that breed of lovers who could not long survive unscathed the loss of their mates or ever know peace in the Halls of Awaiting until reunion bestowed it.

His eyes followed the lines of Elrohir’s resplendent form. Sheltered in the Elf-knight’s arms he never felt anything less than utterly safe. Molded against his body in passion, he would lose all sense of the world without while he was consumed by the joy within. Undone by his loving attention, he knew himself cherished beyond compare.

Unbidden an intense yearning for Elrohir came upon him and he quickly returned to their bed. Shedding his robe, he slid back in beside his mate and, with little preamble, began a scorching worship of his body though he had but thoroughly explored it just a few hours before. In their myriad centuries together he had come to know his Elf-knight in utmost intimacy and the pleasures to be gotten from it. Yet it never palled, neither sight nor taste nor feel of Elrohir’s bountiful graces.

He felt Elrohir stir as he plied kisses to his mouth and neck, shoulders and chest. Heard his soft moan when he hungrily closed his lips around one nipple. He reached down to cup and fondle and stroke the Elf-knight until he felt him lengthen and thicken. He groaned as, with a slight tilt of his hips, their shafts rubbed against the other.

Thus Elrohir awakened to the delicious sensation of hot swollen flesh sliding with luxurious wantonness against his now hardened length. He gasped at that too exquisite friction and almost of their own volition his hips lifted and surged against Legolas’ every thrust. He hissed his pleasure and stared dazedly into eyes so darkened with passion they seemed as the sea at its deepest in the midst of an ocean-spawned storm. Rapture flowed between them and their spirits reached out to touch each other.

Warned of his imminent spending by the nigh excruciating pressure in his groin, Legolas leaned down and sealed their mouths in hot-tongued abandon. Their muffled groans and shuddering frames and the splash of warm seed upon their bellies evinced the moment of their completions even as the rush of heat through their bodies marked the meeting of their spirits.

They lay in companionable silence afterward while they waited for their breathing to even and their heartbeats to slow. Legolas remained partially atop Elrohir, his fair head tucked into the crook of the younger twin’s neck, his arm curled around his torso and his legs loosely tangled with the Elf-knight’s long limbs.

Elrohir studied his mate’s face, pensive despite the blissful relief of bodily completion. He quickly discerned the source of his beloved’s lingering unease. While he searched for words of comfort, he soothingly stroked his tousled hair, caressed his downy shoulder and smoothed his hand down his sleek back.

“I will ever be with you, my love,” he finally murmured. “You will feel my presence and I yours no matter how many leagues lie between us.”

Legolas lifted his head to look at him. His eyes glistened tellingly though his features appeared calm enough. “Still I loathe parting from you,” he softly said. “My heart aches without cease and my spirit languishes when they are not balmed by your presence. Even for a glimpse of your face or a fleeting caress or the sound of your laughter do I yearn each and every day.”

Elrohir spread his fingers on the archer’s cheek, enjoying the feel of the elegant bone structure beneath his palm, the utter silkiness of his flesh and the warmth of the flush under his luminous skin. “I feel thusly, too,” he whispered. “I rue each separation from you even when I know ‘tis a necessity.”

Legolas sighed. “Ah, many are the times I have wished we were but simple Elves of families of no great account,” he whispered. “Free to live and love as we desire.”

“Yet were we not who we are, we would not have met,” Elrohir gently pointed out. “Much less been betrothed and wed.”

Legolas dolefully nodded, unable to counter the observation. But then his eyes suddenly kindled with what Elrohir at once recognized as rebellion. The Elf-knight braced himself for whatever would come of his mercurial spouse’s shift of mood.

“Why must I return to Mirkwood?” the archer flared. “‘Tis just rumor that it will be assailed as well. Whereas your call to battle is rooted in dire certainty. I would do more good were I to ride with you and fight at your side.”

“And what if rumor proves to be truth?” Elrohir countered. “Could you forgive yourself should strife come to your home and you were not there to lend your strength?”

Legolas snorted. “I would be but one Elf amongst many. What difference would my presence or the lack of it make? And I could strike a blow for my folk were I to go with you. I would fight against our common foe for love of them and their honor. But even more for love of you, Elrohir,” he added in a hushed voice. “I am also your shield-mate. Let me discharge my duty to the fullest.”

About to protest, Elrohir suddenly fell silent, his eyes glazing over as the talent that was both boon and bane to his family came over him. In his mind’s eye, he saw a great and brutal battle unfold. A battle that was not that which he was about to embark on. He descried himself in the thick of the fighting with Elladan on one side. But on the other…

He and Legolas had fought together before. It was inevitable, mated as they were in every sense of that word. And as befitted their stations and their corresponding obligations, they had taken part in countless battles from light altercations to bloody skirmishes whether in the deeps of Mirkwood, on the plains of Eriador or up the slopes of the Misty Mountains. But never yet had they faced open war.

They were seasoned soldiers insofar as their long years and the number of fights they had fought. But an encounter involving scores of combatants was vastly different from a full-fledged conflict between whole armies of warriors numbering in the hundreds or even thousands. In this neither of them could claim experience. Yet if his vision were true, they would one day participate in a battle far more savage and soul-rending than this forthcoming one.

The question resonated in his mind. Would they be ready when that day came? On the heels of that thought came another. Legolas would not fall in this, his first great battle. He was destined for another far more crucial one. He recalled then what had been revealed to him prior to his betrothal to the archer. The portentous dream that had preceded Legolas’ birth.

He felt Legolas’ hand on his cheek, fingers spread to mirror his own gesture. The prince was gazing at him with concern and anxiety.

“What ails you, beloved?” Legolas queried. “Is it my wish? If it troubles you so I will not force it on you—”

“Nay, Legolas,” Elrohir quickly cut him off. “Your wish is not without merit or reason.” He ran his fingers tenderly over the archer’s cheekbone. “If Father and Glorfindel permit it, I would be proud to have you at my side.”

Legolas stared at him, shocked that he should have gained Elrohir’s acquiescence so swiftly. Elation followed an instant later and with a wide smile of relief he kissed Elrohir hard and joyously.

Intuition told him that the Elf-knight had a reason for his capitulation. He would plumb him later for it. For now he was content to meld their bodies once more in reaffirmation of the eternal marriage of their hearts and spirits.

* * * *

Ettenmoors
True to Círdan’s prognostications, the Witch-king let his pride rule him and came out of his stronghold to meet the allied army thinking to defeat them so soundly that rumor of their fall would sow terror in all who dared to oppose him. Instead, it was he and his army that suffered ignominious defeat and were forced to abandon Fornost. The Witch-king fled north with his remaining forces to his fortress city of Carn Dûm where he expected reinforcements to aid him. He did not reckon that the Elves might have foreseen his scheme and already moved to thwart them.

The reinforcements from Angmar blundered into the Rivendell army long before the retreating remnants of the Witch-king’s forces could rendezvous with them. Whether luck was with them or fate was on their side, the Elves did not pause to ponder. It was enough that they were not caught between the pincer forces of their foes. Glorfindel swiftly dealt with the surprised soldiers and not one returned to Carn Dûm to report the rout or escaped to warn the Witch-king of the Imladrin army’s approach. Immediately, the Elves hastened westward to meet the retreating enemy.

Meanwhile, said enemy was overtaken by Eärnur and his cavalry in the Troll-fells afore they gained the Misty Mountains. Fighting broke out once more but, this time, the Witch-king had the advantage of numbers, a thing the impetuous Captain of Gondor failed to consider. Fortunately for the Men of the West, the Imladrin host arrived in time to stave off a calamitous turning of the tables. Glorfindel led the first charge and no enemy warrior whether Man or Orc could withstand the shock of his assault.

It was far more brutal not to mention bewildering than any sortie against a band of brigands or pack of Goblins, Elrohir decided as he hacked and gutted and slew. Not even their earlier repulsion of the Carn Dûm forces matched the confusion, noise and sheer savagery of a full-scale battle pitting hundreds upon hundreds against a like number on the other side.

In the midst of the seething mass of warriors and warhorses, one could scarcely tell friend from foe save for the colors, armor and badges that distinguished a soldier’s allegiance from another. For the first time, the Elf-knight fully understood the necessity of recognizing heraldic emblems and colors. Oft times it was the only way for a combatant to tell whether he was facing an allied soldier or an enemy.

Still he was no greenhorn in the battle-arts and learned these latest lessons rapidly and well. And such was his strength, skill and valor that his foes wavered before him and this gave heart to the soldiers under his command. A glance around told him the same was true of his brother and his mate. Elladan had speedily dispatched his opponent, a hulking mannish lieutenant, and now led his troop in decimating the aforementioned lieutenant’s suddenly leaderless soldiers. And Legolas, taking to heart the responsibility of commanding warriors not of his realm, did not falter before the enemy but fought them with all the passion of his Silvan forebears and the skill of many centuries’ worth of experience in dealing with such brutish foes.

Evading a swordsman’s wild swing to his head, Elrohir drove his blade into the warrior’s exposed side. Feeling the hairs on his nape rise, he ducked beneath the slicing arc of an axe and saw his erstwhile opponent’s head topple off his shoulders. Yanking his sword out of the headless corpse, he twisted around on Uilos’s back and rammed the blade into the neck of the shocked axe-wielder. The man toppled from his horse into a heap by his decapitated comrade.

Elrohir quickly sought his mate’s slender form, ever conscious of Legolas’ whereabouts even in the midst of peril. To his dismay, he saw the archer’s horse had been slain from under him and that he now battled a half dozen soldiers on foot. An instant later, the Elf-knight espied the headlong plunge of a great Goblin through the press of soldiers behind Legolas, bloodied orkish scimitar raised to cleave the prince’s back.

With a cry, Elrohir tried to reach his spouse but combatants and horses alike blocked his way. In horror, he wondered if his vision had been false and whether in agreeing to let Legolas join him, he had condemned his beloved to a premature death.

The Orc was nearly upon Legolas. Desperately, Elrohir hurled a mental cry of warning at the archer. He saw Legolas tense and start to turn but he knew the prince would not be able to shield himself or evade the blow in time. Enraged, the Elf-knight all but rode down any who barred his way.

He saw Legolas’ eyes widen as he realized his certain doom. Helplessly watched his spouse brace himself for the killing blow.

The blow halted in mid-arc when the Orc stumbled sideways, an arrow protruding from its meaty shoulder. Before it could recover itself, Legolas hewed off its sword arm then slashed its belly open.

Erohir quickly looked about, seeking the archer who had saved his mate’s life. Amidst the carnage, across the dead and wounded, he spotted the bowman just as the bowman saw him. He stared at the latter in shock. But he could do no more than raise his sword in acknowledgement to the Elf before turning his attention once more to Legolas. The battle continued to rage around them and there was still fighting to be done.

‘Twas Eärnur who nearly brought disaster upon the host of the West when he sought to meet the Witch-king in mortal combat. Only his horse’s good sense saved him from ignoble doom, bearing him away from the field before he could engage that black-souled creature.

Even an Elf-lord as noble and forbearing as Glorfindel could not help his displeasure at such vainglorious tactics. An Elf might withstand the sorcery of what had after all once been a mere Man. But no mortal could possibly prevail over a creature unnaturally imbued with malign power unless he or she was destined for just such a fate.

A moue of contempt registered for an instant on the captain’s face before he schooled his expression and wiped it clean of all emotion. With eerie calm, he urged snowy Asfaloth toward the Witch-king before the latter could rally his forces anew. Elven rider and steed raced across the dead-ridden plain, swift as the winds of a sudden storm and fell as the blizzards that ravaged the Hithaeglir’s highest peaks.

All watched in awe when the Noldorin captain was suddenly swathed in white otherworldly fire. The enemy host fell back in apprehension before his fearsome charge. The Witch-king’s mirth was silenced as he realized that here was one he could not cow with fear; that this Elf possessed power and strength beyond his present ability to defeat.

With a curse, he dug his spurs into the heaving flanks of his black horse and fled the field into the mists of the gathering dusk, leaving his army to fend for itself. Bereft of their leader, the enemy soldiers soon scattered and fled or threw down their weapons and surrendered.

* * * *

Legolas surveyed the corpse-littered field, astonished at the suddenness with which the battle had come to a close. He stooped to wipe the blood off his long knife on the tattered remains of some poor soul’s cloak. A hand landed on his shoulder and he looked up into Elrohir’s grave countenance. He swiftly intuited that his mate was struggling with guilt due to his overly close brush with death.

He straightened and curled an arm around the Elf-knight in a soothing hug. “Do not blame yourself, melethen”—my love—he whispered. “You could not have foreseen all that might come to pass. And in any case, your vision proved true. I live and so do you. We are indeed destined for some greater cause than this.”

Elrohir nodded and held the archer tightly a while longer. At length they parted lest they gave the Men of Gondor cause to wonder about them. They turned their attention once more to the recent field of battle.

All about, the search for the wounded amongst the dead had ensued. Elves and Men alike held torches aloft as they turned over bodies, pulling the injured from under piles of corpses or identifying the deceased. Legolas grimaced in disgust when he espied some human soldiers helping themselves to what spoils they came across—weapons of quality, war ornaments and pouches of coins.

“Have they no shame?” he snarled. “They are worse than the carrion beasts who only prey on the dead to feed themselves.”

“It has ever been the way of Men save amongst the Edain,” Elrohir answered. “‘Tis those of lesser blood who perpetrate these foul deeds. You can tell them by their stature or rather the lack of it.”

“And they are also not as noble of countenance or bearing,” Legolas observed, remembering the Men of the North Kingdom who had visited the Wood-elves’ Mirkwood realm.

He nodded in Eärnur’s direction. The Man was pointedly avoiding Glorfindel. The Elven captain had prevented his human counterpart from pursuing the Witch-king, informing him it was not he who was fated to best him. Eärnur had taken umbrage at what he perceived as a refusal to allow him to salve his pride, slighted as it was to his misguided way of thinking.

“If he is Gondor’s hope, I fear the kingship shall not long survive in that realm either,” the archer remarked.

“I have to agree with you,” Elrohir said. “Yet though Arthedain is no more, Arvedui left a son and Aranarth bears the blood of the kings of old.”

“But Gondor repudiated his father’s claim,” Legolas pointed out.

“A political ploy,” Elrohir countered. “And still it does not negate his right to Gondor’s throne for he is an heir of Isildur. Verily though a thousand generations of Men should live and die, that right will never diminish.”

Legolas could not gainsay his reasoning and so said nothing. But of a sudden Elrohir’s eyes gleamed brightly and he gripped Legolas’ arm. Pulling the startled archer along, he eagerly said, “Come!”

They strode toward a contingent of Elves whose armor and colors were neither Imladrin nor of Lindon. Legolas regarded the group with puzzlement until one of them turned around as they neared, pulling off his helm to reveal golden hair. The prince scowled and came to a halt, forcing Elrohir to stop as well.

“Why so eager to greet Gildor Inglorion?” he demanded, his voice edged with suspicion. To his annoyance, Elrohir chuckled.

“All these centuries and still you suspect me of harboring some hidden affection for him?” he teasingly chastened the archer. “Wherefore all the evidence of my regard for you and only you, beloved?”

Legolas had begun to bridle at his first words but subsided with the last. Realizing the absurdity of his reaction, he sighed and said, “Forgive me. That was uncalled for.”

Elrohir dared an affectionate stroke of his knuckles down the archer’s cheek. It was dark and there was little chance of the mannish soldiers noting his gesture.

“I am not offended. ‘Tis part of who you are and I would not have you otherwise.” He took Legolas’ hand once more and led him toward the company. “But rest your heart, my prince, ‘tis not Gildor I seek but your savior.”

“My savior?”

“He whose arrow kept that brute from killing you. My gratitude knows no bounds and I would have him know it forthwith.”

Gildor hailed them as soon as they came within hearing distance. He came forward to meet them. “You are both well?” he asked in concern, placing his hands on their shoulders and swiftly appraising their haleness. “And Elladan? Where is he?”

“We are well, Gildor,” Elrohir said. “Elladan is helping the healers. As I will soon do. But first there is one amongst you I would thank.” His keen eyes quickly found his quarry.

Gildor smiled and nodded. He looked back and at once his folk parted ranks to make way for an Elf who had held back all this while.

Legolas’ shocked gasp was clearly audible when he laid eyes on one who had not graced the halls of his father’s palace for centuries. The archer could only stare in disbelief as Nimaras hesitantly approached.

He was changed both in appearance and demeanor. His raiment and armor was distinctly High-elven though he bore the weapons of a woodland Elf. He was sturdier than ever, toughened by a life of incessant journeying and oft far afield. But his comportment was strangest of all to any who had last beheld him at the onset of his exile.

Nimaras still bore himself with the pride of a Silvan Elf of noble heritage. But there was naught left of the arrogant swagger of his belligerent youth or the condescension with which he once regarded any he deemed below him. And from the looks of affection and approbation bestowed on him by Gildor’s people, it was clear that he had long earned their esteem.

He unexpectedly dropped down on one knee before Elrohir. Keeping his tawny head bowed, he said, “I pray you will at last forgive me for my transgression against you.”

Elrohir pulled him to his feet and warmly declared: “If I had not forgiven you yet, I do so now and thank you with all my heart besides. As does Legolas.”

They both looked at the archer, Nimaras’ gaze entreating and Elrohir’s encouraging. Unable to speak, Legolas held out his arms to his brother. Nimaras hurried into them.

For the longest while, they held each other tightly with affection that was as profound and bracing as it was unfamiliar. Finally they drew apart and appraised each other in the manner of kin reunited after a long and grievous separation.

“You are grown strong and tall,” Nimaras murmured. “And passing fair as was long foreseen.” He swallowed hard. “How–how does Father fare?” he asked, his voice laced with longing. “And our brothers?”

“He thrives as do we all. But he has never ceased to miss you, muindor.”—brother.

“I am glad he is well. I have missed him, too. I have missed all of you.”

Suddenly he began to weep. Legolas caught him once more in a snug embrace.

“Weep no more, Nimaras,” he soothingly said. “You will soon see them. And we shall be a family again.”

“Can you truly forgive me, tôr neth?”—younger brother—Nimaras whispered against his shoulder. “I caused you such hurt and none of it deserved.”

Legolas shushed him. ‘‘Tis done and over with. I am only so pleased to have my brother at last.” He pulled away and smiled joyfully at Nimaras. “Besides, you saved my life,” he reminded him. “You must love me after all!”

Nimaras laughed with like felicity in the midst of his tears.

* * * *

When the Imladrin army departed the Ettenmoors before dawn the following day, its ranks were little diminished and indeed were swelled by the folk of the Wandering Companies who would sojourn a while in Rivendell. But perhaps the most welcome addition to their numbers was the Elf who was brother-by-marriage to the twin sons of the valley realm’s lord.

No gladder sight could there be than that of kin united after more centuries than any cared to tally. And this the Elves counted as great a victory as that won in the Troll-fells; that in that battle’s wake, long sundered ties should be mended and a broken family made whole once more.

**********************
Glossary:
Lairë – Quenya for summer
Edain – Men of the Three Houses of Elf-friends in the First Age from whom the Dùnedain or Men of the West are descended

To be continued…

Chapter Text

True to the fears of the Wise, great evil did not cease to hound the Free Peoples of Middle-earth despite the victory over the Witch-king.

Six years later, the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm were driven from their magnificent underground mansions by a malignant spirit they unwittingly unearthed as they searched and delved ever deeper for the truesilver that was the foundation of their wealth. Moria, the Black Pit, the Dwarves’ realm came to be called and ever after it was known as a place of dread and danger. Soon after, the Dwarves journeyed to Erebor east of Dale and Esgaroth and founded their kingdom under the mountain.

Meanwhile, strife invaded Lothlórien’s tranquil woods and many a Silvan Elf fled south before the onslaught, some seeking refuge as far away as Gondor’s seaward fiefs. Thus did an Elf-maid come under the protection of a mortal lord and elven blood entered the line of the future Princes of Dol Amroth.

Gondor herself suffered an appalling loss little more than a quarter century after the downfall of Angmar. Following a brutal two-year siege, Minas Ithil, the shining Moontower on the very border of accursed Mordor, was captured by the creatures known to the Elves as the Úlairi. It was thereafter called the Tower of Black Sorcery or Minas Morgul. In the wake of this grievous setback, Minas Anor, Tower of the Sun, seat of the kings of Gondor, came to be known as Minas Tirith, Tower of the Guard.

A king bearing Anárion’s blood still reigned in Gondor for Eärnil was of that line. But his son and heir Eärnur was of another sort entirely and the learned amongst the southern kingdom were not sanguine about the dynasty’s continued survival. It was a thought shared in large measure with the Elves. Elrond in particular harbored no great fondness for his distant kinsman, seeing naught in Eärnur of the wisdom, prudence or strength of character that had been the most marked traits of Elendil and his heirs.

Once Eärnur became king, it would be a matter of years, not decades ere the line of Anárion came to an end, Elrond somberly told Mithrandir during one of the Istar’s visits to Imladris. That the remark was born of the Peredhel lord’s educated opinion of the Man rather than a foreboding given him by his much vaunted gift of foresight did not make it any less valid or pertinent. For Mithrandir perforce agreed with him after taking stock of the reports that came to them by way of diplomatic channels, trade negotiations and the ever inevitable espionage.

* * * *

Imladris, T.A. 2036
While the line of the kings seemed destined to gutter out in the south, the same could not be said of Elendil’s heirs in the north. Though shorn of crown and scepter, Aranarth continued to lead the remnants of the Men of the West who had ably served his father and forebears. And the first Chieftain of the northern Dúnedain proved quite the prolific sire once he took one of his nobles’ daughters to wife. Maid-children he had aplenty as well as the requisite son and heir and two more after to ensure the continuance of his line.

He sent them to Elrond for fostering and tutelage when the youngest attained his sixth year and it was with much bemusement that the Elven folk of Rivendell watched these mortal kin of their lord grow, learn and flourish. Elrond’s children in particular took a great interest in these cousins of theirs whose claim of kinship lay in the convoluted lines of descent from the first Peredhil.

It was not unusual to see Arwen helping Celebrían teach Aranarth’s daughters the finer points of court dress and behavior. Or the twins schooling young Arahael and his brothers in horsemanship and all manner of war-craft despite their tender ages. The times did not permit an overlong period of innocence and ignorance for children especially if said children were the progeny of a king-in-waiting.

But while Elladan and Elrohir took their stewardship of their cousins in stride, the same could not be said of their woodland spouses. Legolas and Galvreth, though always willing to be of aid to their Peredhil mates, did not try to pretend they knew more than next to nothing about the rearing of children. Thus, they were kind and pleasant and unfailingly polite when they were around Aranarth’s brood but would sooner avoid their company if they could help it. And help it they did as much as they could manage.

Unfortunately, eluding the children was not always possible as Legolas found out one early morning out on the archery yard of the Last Homely House. While the twins and Galvreth watched and waited in the shade of a tree on the yard’s periphery, he got on with the business of honing his already formidable bowman’s skills.

The prince had assumed the hour would be too early for any children of good sense to be roaming about. He was mistaken in that assumption for ere long he found himself with a wide-eyed audience consisting of Aranarth’s youngest, a sturdy boy who had just turned seven, all the way to his eldest, an openly worshipful maiden of fifteen who ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ at his every shot much to the derision of ten-year-old Arahael who thought his sister’s avid adoration of the Mirkwood archer an unfortunate affliction exclusive to girls of a certain age.

Not content to simply watch the archer, the children later besieged him with questions of every kind, including unseemly references to his relationship with their distant cousin, the gallant Elf-knight. He was seen to dart rather desperate glances at Elrohir though the younger twin had no idea what discomfited him so.

At last Legolas detached himself from his youthful charges and joined his darkling spouse. The nigh graceless manner with which he all but plopped himself beside Elrohir confirmed the Elf-knight’s suspicion that Legolas had just made an escape from a duty too onerous for his taste.

“‘Tis no wonder I was fashioned to love a fellow ellon”—male Elf—Legolas remarked with some exasperation. “Eru ensured I would not sire children for he knew I would not be fit to raise any!”

The others regarded him with astonishment, even Elrohir. The younger twin reached up and soothingly stroked his hair. “Why, Legolas?” he queried. “What did they do that so ruffled your sensibilities?”

Legolas sighed and leaned his head against Elrohir’s shoulder. “Ah, they are sweet and comely and bright besides, but, Valar, they have no concept of restraint! They talk without cease and ask the most impertinent questions. I could not decide whether to laugh at their inquiries or scold them for thinking of them in the first place!”

To his disconcertment, the twins burst out laughing while Galvreth smirked knowingly. He glared at them and demanded an explanation for their mirth.

Elladan snickered and said, “So you finally understand what Elrohir endured when he cared for you in your childhood!”

Legolas was abashed. “I was not all that horrid, was I?” he anxiously asked his mate.

Elrohir grinned. “I fear you were as precocious and inquisitive as they. But,” he swiftly added when Legolas scowled, “I never thought you horrid even when you rendered me speechless from some of your more confounding pronouncements.”

Legolas stared at him. “Such as?”

“Such as when you asked me whether I preferred ellyn egor ellith”—male Elves or Elf-maids—Elrohir chuckled. “Then declared you would be a warrior when you grew up as soon as you discovered that I favored them.”

Legolas could only mumble an embarrassed “Oh” as he remembered that long ago conversation.

“And do you recall when you chided Elrohir for letting Gildor Inglorion feed him?” Elladan teased. “And not content with that, you bestowed a veritable glower on poor Gildor and he all unknowing of the reason for your ire.”

Legolas huffed. “Gildor should have known better than to act as he did. He knew Elrohir was my betrothed. My being a mere Elfling did not make our troth any less binding!”

Galvreth regarded his brother with amusement. “No wonder Gildor is always wary in your presence,” he remarked. “To have been skewered by a child’s jealous stare must have been daunting to say the least. He probably fears to be speared by worse should he so much as lay a doting gaze on Elrohir.”

“Nor is Gildor alone in such caution,” Elladan added. “I laud you, brother,” he said to his twin. “In your place, I should have long gone mad from an excess of our estimable archer’s possessiveness.”

Legolas began to bristle at the pointed gibes. But before he could give voice to his umbrage, Elrohir pulled him into a tight hug and kissed him with a lustiness the archer heartily approved of.

Pulling back to gaze at his now pleased spouse, Elrohir smilingly said, “‘Twas a joy to watch you grow up and have a hand in it. I regret not one moment of those golden years, least of all the blossoming of your love for me however manner you chose to express it.”

Much mollified, Legolas smirked and languidly settled in Elrohir’s embrace. “Mayhap your part in my rearing was meant to assuage any yearning you might have harbored for fatherhood,” he hazarded with a grin.

Elladan laughed. “More likely ‘twas to discourage any desire for it!”

Legolas snorted then curiously looked at Elrohir. “You do not regret that you will never be a father, do you?” he asked with just a touch of disquiet.

Elrohir fondly gazed at him. “Do you?”

“Nay.”

“Then why do you worry that I do?” He held the archer more closely. “Between siring children and having my heart’s desire, there is no contest. I am content to help in the raising of the get of others. But ‘tis with you that I find my greatest joy and I look forward to eternity for I have you to spend it with, melethen.”—my love. He pressed his lips to Legolas’ forehead. “I think the same can be said of every child of Eru bound in true love,” he murmured.

Legolas’ happy sigh was enough reassurance that he had adequately salved the archer’s apprehensions.

* * * *

In 2043 Eärnur finally took the throne. But in just seven years the headstrong Man permitted an old foe to goad him into deadly folly.

The Witch-king had resurfaced in Gondor and now ruled Minas Morgul. Issuing a challenge to the proud and impetuous monarch, he cannily alluded to Eärnur’s personal shame of many years back when he had been unable to face the Witch-king in combat. Eärnur rashly accepted the challege, rode forth with a few knights to his enemy’s domain and was never seen or heard from again.

Elrond was sorrowful when he heard the news for he still counted Eärnur as kin however distant. But he was not surprised. Refusing to dwell on the what-might-have-beens had the late king proved more sage and cautious, he sent his sons to observe the Man who would now rule the south-kingdom in fact if not in name. Winning the right by default, Mardil thus became the first Ruling Steward of Gondor.

The cruel irony of it all was not lost on any who gave deep thought to the circumstances. The greatest kingdom of Men in Middle-earth was now without a king whereas in the North the line of the greatest kings of Men was without a kingdom. Fate seemed to have colluded with the enemy to bring about this lamentable state of affairs. But fortunately, Mardil was neither as impulsive nor lacking in rational thought as the king he had served and Elladan and Elrohir returned after a two-year in Gondor with the report that the kingdom was presently in capable hands.

By 2060, the Wise noted the precipitate waxing of Dol Guldur’s power beyond any they had yet seen in previous years. They began to suspect the Necromancer and Sauron were one and the same. But they had no evidence of this. And none could assail that dark stronghold for a malign power protected it even from the Elves’ strength. Until three years later when Mithrandir did dare the previously improbable and sought to confront the Necromancer in his very fortress.

Mayhap his strength was not yet enough to keep the Wizard at bay. Certainly, the Necromancer must have recognized power akin to his in the deceptively frail old man whose name had come to be one of the most abhorred amongst the practitioners of evil.

In any case, the Necromancer whoever he truly was did not sally forth to meet Mithrandir in open confrontation but retreated before the Istar’s valiant charge. Where he disappeared to no one could tell for certain but it was said that he fled to the east to build his power and no doubt bolster his courage to face such valor as Mithrandir had displayed.

Whatever the truth of it, with his poisonous influence gone for a spell, the great forest began to recover a bit. The green growth that had given Eryn Galen its original name made a slight comeback and the strange and fell beasts that had come to inhabit it gave way for a while to the birds and animals that had first made the great wood their habitat.

Not surprisingly the Elves of Northern Mirkwood and Lothlórien welcomed the respite from their never abating vigilance against the enemy’s encroachment on their respective borders. This period of relative quiet would last for nigh four hundred years.

The Watchful Peace had begun.

* * * *

Mirkwood. T.A. 2100
No matter the ramifications of the events in the world beyond his kingdom, Thranduil did not permit them to impinge on his family’s time together. After enduring its sundering for so many centuries, the Elven-king was not about to allow another such parting to occur. Thus, even when duty weighed heavily on them all, each and every member of the royal family hearkened to the newly established tradition of spending an evening together after the last meal at least once a week. More if that was possible.

Tonight, they had gathered on the rooftop deck that had been the late queen’s favored place to soothe her heart and spirit. With the return of some of Mirkwood’s green growth, it was once more a charming locale for meeting one another.

Thranduil sat on the divan, dandling his latest grandchild on his knee. The tiny Elf had his father’s eyes and bronze locks and bid to be as sturdy of build as well. But his nose and mouth were akin to Gilthalion’s for, after all, the captain was the child’s uncle, brother to the Elf-maid who had captured Nimaras’ heart a decade after the prince’s return from exile.

We seem to have a taste for Elves who are kin to each other, Thranduil considered with humor. How else to explain two of his sons’ bindings to Elrond’s twins? Or the fact that Elivorn’s lady was sister to the mate of the brother of Lalorn’s wife. And now here was Nimaras wooing and wedding Gilthalion’s youngest sister. Had Haldoron lived, would he have wed one of his brothers’ kin-by-marriage as well?

He looked up when Legolas and Elrohir appeared followed by Elladan and Galvreth. His smile widened when his youngest son and the Elf-knight joined Nimaras and his wife by the balustrade on the western side of the deck. That wound in the family had completely healed and the king thought, were it not for his forebodings regarding now empty but still menacing Dol Guldur, life would be just perfect.

Elladan was taken aside by Aelluin and Gilthalion to discuss some matter or other. Thranduil noted Galvreth’s slightly pensive mien as he regarded his spouse and the king motioned to his fourth-born son to join him for a while.

Settling on the divan beside his sire, Galvreth grinned as his nephew gurgled in glee when Thranduil bounced him on his knee. “He will be as dauntless as Nimaras in the field I wager,” he remarked, reaching over to tickle the babe’s round chin. A delighted snortle was his reward. He looked curiously at his father. “Why did you call me over, Ada?”—Papa.

“Aside from my desire for your company?” Thranduil archly chided. “But verily I saw your face just now and your expression made me wonder if there is anything amiss between you and Elladan.”

Galvreth stared at him in surprise. “Nay, all is right between us,” he averred. “I am as happy as can be and could wish for nothing more.”

“Except?” Thranduil prodded.

Galvreth pursed his lips. “You know us much too well, Papa,” he mildly grumbled. He leaned back and sighed. “Of late, I have felt a yearning for the way it used to be between us.” He glanced a little diffidently at his father. “How we … coupled … when I was still whole.”

Thranduil frowned. “Has Elladan given you reason to believe he thinks you less than sufficient to his needs?”

Galvreth shook his head. “Elladan has been the soul of patience. He has never made me feel as if I were lacking in any way. Truly, I wonder at his forbearance. Nay, Father, this yearning is mine alone and not of his making.”

“That you do long for this seems to be a sign you are finally mending in full,” the king mused. “Have you spoken to Elladan about this?”

“Not yet. I do not wish to get his hopes up when I am still unsure.” Galvreth hesitated then added, “I only pray he will not tire of waiting for that day when I can give myself to him once more. I know he would never leave me or betray our vows but there are other ways to express displeasure or frustration in a marriage.”

“Ah, then he has displayed a longing for your play of old,” Thranduil commented. “But that is very natural,” he pointed out when Galvreth would have jumped to his mate’s defense. “I would own myself surprised were you to deny it.” He paused then asked, “Why do you worry about his forbearance? Surely he has not asked you to yield when you are still unready.”

“He has never pressured me, of that I assure you, Papa,” Galvreth earnestly replied. “But I do see his yearning many a time. I cannot pretend that he does not envy his brother particularly when it is clear that Elrohir has, well… that is, when he has…” He stopped in some embarrassment.

Thranduil snorted and finished the sentence for him. “When he has ridden your brother well and long. You need not be shy with me, Galvreth. ‘Tis not as if I cannot tell why Legolas’ gait some morns is stiffer than usual!”

Galvreth blushed, still discomfited despite the passage of centuries by the prospect of discussing so intimate a matter with his father. At length, he murmured, “I hope the day will not be too far off when I can bear to be ridden again. I want to please him, as he has pleased me all these years.”

Thranduil smiled. “I think you please him very well,” he said. “I can tell when you have loved through the night just from the radiance of his countenance come the following day.” He chuckled as color stained Galvreth’s face anew. “I dare say that is not the mark of a discontented lover!” His eyes softened and he affectionately ran his knuckles down his son’s rosy cheek. “Elladan swore himself to you in love even when there was no surety that you would ever recover your wholeness, Galvreth. I think you can trust him to have meant his word and to keep it come what may.”

The babe on his lap fussed just then and he turned his attention to his grandson. But he was gratified to see peace return to Galvreth’s eyes before his argent-haired son rose to rejoin his Peredhel spouse.

* * * *

The Watchful Peace came to an end in the two thousand four hundred sixtieth year of the Third Age.

The Necromancer returned from his enforced hibernation in the east and inhabited the fortress of Dol Guldur once more stronger than ever. The great forest was again infected with the miasma that seeped from that black stronghold’s very foundations and the unholy darkness returned.

Within three years, the White Council was formed to discern, organize and coordinate the defense against the Necromancer's machinations. Counted amongst its members were the wisest of the Elves, sage and steadfast Mithrandir and cunning Curunir, he who was called Saruman the White in the Common Tongue.

In the decades that followed, tragedy and misfortune continued to befall Middle-earth’s allied realms. Gondor saw the utter ruin of once beauteous Osgiliath and Orcs infested the mountains in greater numbers than ever before. The formerly fabled Dwarrowdelf was now a place of mystery and utter terror as the Necromancer let loose his creatures within its once grand halls and lengthy byways.

Meanwhile, the Elves of Mirkwood and Lothlórien braced themselves for the renewal of hostilities against their respective realms by the Necromancer’s foul minions, which came soon enough. Yet unexpectedly it would be against hallowed Imladris that the most horrific transgression would take place just forty-nine years thence.

With their attention centered on events of seeming greater import, none of the Wise realized the most terrible of perils had come to rest in the very deeps of the Misty Mountains. Held for the present in the clutches of a wretched creature that had once called itself a Hobbit.

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Laer T.A. 2509
With just a day’s ride between them and Rivendell, the party of Mirkwood Elves decided to encamp for the night in one of the sparse glades that dotted the plains of Eriador. They had been riding for three days with little more than the briefest breaks along the way. Their steeds though sturdy and swift could go no further without some rest. It was a necessary stop and only for the night, but to Legolas it seemed an eternity.

Nimaras and Lalorn observed him as he settled before the campfire and stared into the blaze unseeingly, his long white knife in hand. Every now and then he would look to the west, in the general direction of the valley realm, and his brow would crease with worry. Then he would restlessly wiggle the knife or tap its sheathed tip against his lips.

The significance of the weapon was not lost on them for they knew it had been gifted upon the archer by his mate when he was but a child and recently betrothed to Elrond’s younger son. After several minutes of watching his fitful fidgeting, his elder brothers entrusted the currying of their horses to their squires and went to join him before the fire.

They dropped down on either side of him and Lalorn handed him a leather flask of ale. Flashing his brother a smile of thanks, Legolas took a few hefty swigs. Nimaras reached up to rub one tense shoulder.

“Legolas, you are working yourself into a state,” the bronze-haired prince murmured. “You will be of no use to Elrohir should we reach Imladris with you as distressed as he undoubtedly is.”

Legolas glanced at Nimaras then sighed and nodded. “Point taken, muindor”—brother—he said. “Yet I cannot help but fret over what I sense of his feelings. Or what he permits me to sense,” he added in a hushed voice.

His brothers stared at him in surprise. “What he permits you?” Lalorn echoed. “Do you mean he is purposely restricting your bond?”

Legolas frowned. “I do not know if he is purposely doing so,” he admitted. “But, yea, he is restricting it.”

Nimaras blew out his breath. “That is troubling. There is obviously more to his pain than grief over Lady Celebrían’s ordeal.”

Legolas nodded. “That is what worries me,” he said. “Elrohir has never hidden anything from me. Yet now… We must reach Imladris soonest.”

“Patience, brother. Another day or so and you will be with your Elf-knight,” Nimaras soothed. “Now sleep. I wager you will have need of all your strength for whatever awaits us.”

Legolas hesitated then finally acquiesced. Lying between his brothers, he allowed himself to surrender to his weariness and soon sank into slumber. Nimaras and Lalorn regarded him with concern.

“I pray she will live,” Nimaras whispered.

“Galvreth did,” Lalorn reasoned. “Surely, with Lord Elrond’s skill, she will as well.”

Nimaras shook his head. “Only if her strength of will is as strong as his. We must accept that our brother survived against all odds. Most Elves cannot.” He shivered. “Have not…”

He averted his eyes and stared at the fire. Lalorn did not persist in questioning him, aware that his once exiled brother had seen in his travels with the Wandering Companies what very few Elves of Mirkwood had. And of what he had seen, there was much that had been unspeakable though more that was wondrous to a Wood-elf. But the event that had rocked Imladris at summer’s onset was worse than anything he had borne witness to during his enforced journeying, recalling to everyone’s minds Galvreth and Legolas’ harrowing trial centuries past. For kin once again had been brutalized beyond bearing.

Their awareness of some crisis abroad had started with the odd disquiet that had troubled Legolas for many days midway through the third week of summer. The archer had not been able to pinpoint the cause of his unease save that it did not stem from any problem of his own. But about a sennight after the start of his forebodings, he was overcome by a wrenching cry that resounded through his consciousness and sent his spirit recoiling in fear and confusion. He knew then whence his anxiety had come.

He and Elrohir had been parted by duty once more.

For the past two years, the twins had sojourned in the south, acting as their father’s eyes and ears in Gondor and its provinces. Their return had been delayed by the advent of the Balchoth, a warrior-folk that dwelt in Rhovanion between Mirkwood and the River Running. Hostile to the south-kingdom and its allies, these Men were held in Dol Guldur’s thrall and they harried and pillaged their way to the very banks of Anduin.

Here the Steward Cirion had held the line against them but only barely. Elrond’s sons had joined the ranks of Gondor’s soldiers, seeking to learn all they could about the new enemy though as always they did so without any of their comrades realizing who they were. Thus, it was only in the spring of the present year that they finally left Gondor and made their way home.

As soon as word of their arrival reached Mirkwood, Galvreth had set forth to join Elladan. But Legolas had been with a trade delegation sent to neighboring Esgaroth and only when he arrived a fortnight later did he discover his mate was returned home. He would have followed Galvreth at once but a sudden increase in incursions by Orcs and Mannish brigands within the forest delayed him yet again and spring passed into summer before he could turn his thoughts to joining his Imladrin spouse.

It was then when his forebodings had begun. And when he heard Elrohir’s anguished cry in his mind, he knew that something was very wrong indeed. Great sorrow flooded his senses for most of that day filling him with grief though he knew not what affected him so. Only to recede by evening, as if the bridge that had permitted its passage to him had been partially blocked.

That had alarmed Legolas much more than the initial onslaught of emotions. It was impossible to completely close off the binding-channel but if one was sufficiently gifted one could restrict what flowed through it. Why would Elrohir do so unless some great evil had befallen him or his family and he was now attempting to protect his mate from being ensnared as well?

Had his father not stayed him, the archer would have ridden to Rivendell forthwith, on his own if need be. But Thranduil reasoned with him, pointing out that the times were such that no Elf should venture into the open alone and unready for peril. He bade his son take with him a goodly number of warriors as well as prepare for a lengthy stay in Imladris. Accepting the wisdom of his sire’s counsel, Legolas obeyed.

But on the morning of his proposed departure, a message arrived from Rivendell, borne by one of Elrond’s fleet hawks.

Thranduil had blanched upon reading the letter. Unable to speak, he handed the scroll to Aelluin and it fell to the Crown Prince to read its contents out loud to his brothers and Gilthalion. None would forget the horror of that hour as they tried to absorb the breadth of the transgression that had marred Rivendell’s peace.

Journeying to her parents’ realm of the Golden Wood after so many years of absence, the Lady of Rivendell and her escort had been waylaid while crossing the Redhorn Pass on Caradhras. The Orcs had scattered the Elves of her retinue, overwhelming them with their sheer numbers. Amidst the confusion, they had laid their beastly hands on Celebrían and borne her away. All grievously wounded, the surviving Elves had hastened back as swiftly as they could to sound the alarm.

As fate would have it, the brethren Elladan and Elrohir had been out hunting. It was they the warriors came upon when they traversed the plains of Eriador. The twins had at once ridden to rescue their mother. They had succeeded in their quest and carried her back to safety. But by then Celebrían had been viciously tortured for nigh a week and dealt a debilitating poisoned wound besides.

Her injuries had taken all of Elrond’s skill to heal. The soundness of her mind was another matter however for she had endured the same cruelty Galvreth had known—violation of the body and spirit. Elrond’s anguish came across in his letter for all the succinctness of his wording. He feared for his wife’s life. He feared for her reason.

Legolas wasted no more time save to await Nimaras and Lalorn who insisted on accompanying him now that they knew what evil was afoot. Gilthalion also doubled the number of soldiers who would escort the princes and ensured they were armed to the teeth.

That proved a boon to the party. A band of Orcs attempted an ambush but were handily subdued by the Mirkwood Elves. And just for good measure, Nimaras had their carcasses mounted on stakes in the very middle of the pass and adorned them with tokens that warned of the Wood-elves’ wrath and their readiness to deal harshly with any who thought to do them harm. They would pass this way once more on the homeward trek and it would do no harm to instill fear in their bestial foes.

They descended the mountain without further incident and once they hit the plains, they knew a modicum of relief. Seldom did the Orcs engage well-armed travellers here in the open where they could not retreat so easily into their dark holes.

Reluctant to envision once more the torment Elrond’s lady must have undergone, Nimaras and Lalorn spoke no further of the matter. Instead they moved closer together that Legolas should know security in the snug cocoon of their sheltering bodies and hopefully pass the night in untroubled sleep.

Their arrival in Rivendell did not go unmarked. Glorfindel himself rode forth to meet them and escort them to the Last Homely House. Erestor gave the princes a right welcome in the courtyard and Lindir arranged for their belongings to be brought to their respective quarters.

The brothers glanced at each other in gathering anxiety. They had not expected any of the Peredhil to greet them but for Galvreth to fail to make an appearance spoke of dire circumstances indeed. Legolas grew more agitated when he did not find Elrohir in their suite. Seeking Lindir, he requested that he and his brothers be conducted immediately to Lady Celebrían’s sickroom.

She lay in the healing ward that overlooked the gardens. The room was awash in sunlight and all the windows were open to the summer breeze that wafted across the lawn outside. The princes quietly stepped into the chamber, at once taking note of Arwen who lay on a divan set by her mother’s bed. The Elf-maid slept in obvious exhaustion, her beauteous face bearing the marks of sorrow and strain. But even in repose, she kept guard over her mother’s slumber, clasping Celebrían’s frail hand in hers.

Their eyes drifted to Celebrían. Legolas could not stifle his gasp of horror when he beheld his law-mother’s state. He blinked away tears of outrage.

Even Galvreth’s injuries had not been this excessive. The Orcs had repeatedly pressed a brand into her skin—burns marred what he could see of her flesh, even unto her formerly flawless face. They had torn her lush silver locks from her scalp and only a few forlorn strands of hair remained amidst the patchwork of scars that encrusted her shorn head. A glance at her splinted hands told the princes that her fingers had been broken. The cracked nails bespoke her desperate scrabble at the hard ground under her as her torment progressed. Legolas did not dare imagine the damage done to her lower body. If it was anything like what his brother had endured… A wave of nausea near rendered him faint and he was grateful when Lalorn curled a steadying arm around his shoulder.

After the initial shock, the brethren looked around for the other members of the family. Nimaras espied a door by the far wall. He headed for it and the others followed. It led to what turned out to be a central chamber that connected several wards. The walls were lined with shelves and cabinets of everything the healers overseeing said wards would need. In the center was a large round table and here were gathered the Elves the princes sought.

Galvreth was pounding herbs with a pestle in a heavy mortar. Beside him, Elladan measured out quantities of various medicinal liquids. These he added to the herbs and Galvreth quickly reduced the mixture to a loose paste. Once it had reached the desired consistency, Elladan took the mixture and passed it over to his father. Elrond poured it into a tall glass vessel set over an oil lamp and this he heated until a clear, green-tinted liquid separated from the paste. Satisfied, Elrond carefully poured the distilled medicament through a filter into a half-filled phial. It emitted a pungent but surprisingly refreshing scent.

It was telling of the three Elves’ grim preoccupation with their chores that none noticed the arrival of the princes until Nimaras cleared his throat in a bid to catch their attention. Galvreth softly exclaimed his surprise before hastening to greet them, catching each in a hug. Elladan was not long in following. The princes did not permit Elrond to come to them but went to him instead to express their sympathy and concern. But Elrohir was nowhere in sight.

Legolas anxiously inquired as to his whereabouts.

“Was he not in your apartment?” Elrond inquired with a frown.

“Nay. Nor did our chamber show recent signs of his presence. Ah, where has he taken himself?”

“To the orangery.”

They turned to find Arwen standing in the doorway. Legolas went to her and took her into his arms.

She held onto him for a long while, her slender figure trembling. He felt the warmth of tears on his shoulder and he stroked her hair, murmuring words of comfort to one he deemed a much beloved sister. At length, she lifted her head and thanked him for his care.

“Does Elrohir always go there?” Legolas asked, tenderly tucking a dark strand behind Arwen’s ear.

She nodded after glancing at Elladan for confirmation. “He spends more time there than in your rooms,” she said. “Why, we do not know. Unless he has told you, Elladan…?”

The older twin shook his head. “He has kept to himself these many days,” he said. “I pray you will be able to get him to open up, gwanur. Truly, I worry about him; he has been alarmingly reticent since we brought Nana back from the mountains. Even with me.”

Legolas took his leave of them at once and hurried to the orangery.

Wandering through the building, he finally caught sight of his quarry in the farthest corner of the great space. There was a comfortable daybed beneath a bower of exotic blooms and vines. Celebrían spent many a quiet hour in this spot after a busy day’s toils, reading or embroidering, indulging in the sight and scents of the fruits and flowers she had tended for many years. Now it was her son who had taken shelter here.

Legolas knelt before the daybed and gazed at his sleeping spouse. Exhaustion marked Elrohir’s face and form as it had Arwen’s and it was readily apparent that his slumber was one he had put off for far too long. Legolas did not awaken him but instead slid in beside him and wove his arms around him. Elrohir intuitively turned into his embrace and Legolas held him close, relishing his long-missed scent.

The archer did not sleep but watched over his mate until the latter began to stir. Legolas pressed gentle kisses to his mouth until Elrohir moaned and came fully awake. Still dazed by sleep, he stared at Legolas uncomprehendingly for several moments. The hungry seal of lips against his quickly wiped away his confusion and, with a sigh, he pulled his woodland spouse flush against him.

A spate of kisses later, they lay in companionable silence, facing each other in a loose but warm embrace. Legolas caressed his Elf-knight’s face, wondering at the shadow in Elrohir’s eyes and worrying about it.

He broke the silence first. “How I loathe being apart from you,” he whispered.

“As do I,” Elrohir murmured, turning his face into Legolas’ hand to kiss his fingers and palm.

Legolas drew a steadying breath, mindful of the utter unsuitability of the current circumstances for the sudden lust that inflamed him. He did not chide himself for feeling thusly. Each and every parting between them, however brief, always stoked his desire for his mate beyond its usual measure. But he was acutely aware that Elrohir’s present need was for tenderness and comfort. Legolas determinedly suppressed the burgeoning heat in his loins and applied himself to providing Elrohir with the succor he craved.

* * * *

He allowed a week to pass. A week wherein he patiently endured his mate’s inexplicable uncommunicativeness with him. Oh, gentle touches and soothing words there were aplenty between them. But nothing of more depth or passion. The Elf-knight’s radiance was dimmed, his smiles scant and wan. Yet no enlightening explanations leavened the archer’s anxiety. And Elrohir seemed intent on nipping any potential torrid encounters in the bud.

This last was particularly frustrating for Legolas, primed as he was by their lengthy separation and the uncertainty of the past weeks for the release only bodily intimacy could achieve. Add to these the Elf-knight’s attitude of desolation and a simmering, barely suppressed anger directed at the Valar only knew who and Legolas felt himself at his wits’ end.

He had thought at first that Elrohir’s silent fury was for the abominations that had so horrifically damaged his mother’s body and possibly her sanity. But after many an attempt to get the younger twin to confide in him, Legolas realized not all of Elrohir’s anger was reserved for the Orcs. And when it became apparent the warrior would not be forthcoming about whatever it was that haunted him, Legolas decided enough was enough and sought elucidation from his mate’s brother.

“Why is it that you are not as distressed as he?” Legolas anxiously queried the older twin as he restlessly paced back and forth in Elladan and Galvreth’s sitting room. “What troubles him so? Why does he shut me out?”

Elladan frowned. “Shut you out?”

Legolas huffed an irate exhalation. “He has put up a wall and I cannot get past it. Valar, he will not even couple with me!” The archer sank down into a chair opposite the divan the couple occupied and folded his arms in frustration. “He looks at me as if he were some dastardly creature who merits no loving. Yet he does not explain what it is he had done that he believes would render him unworthy in my eyes!”

He was quick to note the startled comprehension on Elladan and Galvreth’s faces on the heels of their initial surprise.

“What is it?” he demanded. “What do you know?”

Speaking as if to himself, Elladan said: “‘Tis difficult to believe he would take the blame upon himself. And yet…” He shook his head and glanced at Legolas who looked fit to explode in his impatience. “Before Naneth journeyed to Lórien, she asked Elrohir if the Redhorn Pass was safe. Elrohir had returned from patrolling that region of the mountains just a few weeks earlier. He told her he believed it to be quite safe though he did counsel that any who travelled over the mountains should still bring a well-armed escort along.”

Legolas stared at him in dawning dismay. Suddenly his beloved’s strange behavior made sense.

Though few outside of Rivendell knew it, the twins had always been aware of their destined roles in their valley realm and been trained accordingly as they matured. Elladan as first-born however minute the difference in time between his and Elrohir’s births, would one day don Elrond’s mantle of rulership over Imladris. Elrohir, valiant and relentlessly loyal, would be his brother’s chief counsellor and captain of the Imladrin forces when Glorfindel sailed over sea.

In their earlier years, this distinction in their roles had not been enforced for Elrond believed they would be best served to learn all they could of lordship, both political and military. But recently, the brethren had begun to devote themselves to their assigned designations. Thus, Elladan had taken more of Elrond’s responsibilities upon himself and Elrohir now led as many patrols and sorties as Glorfindel did. And with the younger twin’s greater knowledge of the lands east and south of the Misty Mountains, it was not surprising that it had fallen to him to assess or ensure the security of the mountain passes.

Legolas caught his breath in empathetic horror. Elrohir had assessed the safety of the Redhorn Pass based on his own very recent trek through the area. Trusting in her son’s perspicacity, Celebrían had chosen to use the pass on her journey to Lothlórien.

Who would have thought that the Orcs would have enough brains among them not to show themselves to Elrohir’s superiorly armed Elven troop? Or that they would be patient enough to await a smaller, less guarded company before launching an ambush?

For the retinue that had escorted Celebrían had neither been as large nor as well armed as Elrohir had recommended. Perhaps lulled by his assurance that the Redhorn Pass was safe, both Elrond and Glorfindel had thought the guard provided sufficient. Alas, that had proved a terrible mistake. And the Orcs’ newfound stealth reaped them the unlooked for prize that was Elrond’s lady wife.

“He holds himself culpable for your mother’s abduction,” he whispered. Unable to stop himself, he glowered at Elladan. “Did you not realize this?” he asked a little accusingly.

Elladan grimaced and shook his head. “He spoke of it when we brought her home,” he admitted. “But Father made it clear he was not to blame, as did Glorfindel and I. When he ceased to broach the matter, I thought he had discarded the notion. And verily, I have not fully attended our bond these past many weeks. My concern has been primarily for Naneth.” Elladan laid a remorseful gaze on his now seething law-brother. “Ah, forgive me, I failed to see his pain.”

“Nay, do not be as he and take blame upon yourself as well,” Galvreth gently chided. He glared warningly at Legolas. “You have been overwrought and so has Elrohir. Neither of you have been much aware of each other’s feelings.”

“But Elladan had you to turn to, brother,” Legolas said in a low voice, not quite repentant. “Elrohir had no one. At least, no one who knew what he harbored within. Ah, my poor Elf-knight—how can I help him?”

“Take him away from here, Legolas,” Elladan suggested. “Mayhap if he does not constantly see Mother he will not feel quite so oppressed by guilt. And hopefully he will open up to you and you may then show him that he is not to blame in any way.”

Legolas thought about it then nodded. “I will bring him to our cabin,” he decided. “Will you explain our absence to Lord Elrond? I would not have him think we have forsaken you in this time of need.”

“I will,” Elladan assured him. “And do not worry that Father will think ill of you. He would urge the same course upon you did he know of Elrohir’s straits.”

Legolas paused then bit his lip. “I am sorry, Elladan,” he finally said. “I should not have assailed you when you have suffered much as well.”

“There is no need to apologize for acting out of love for my brother,” Elladan replied. “‘Tis but natural for you to protect him as much as you can. But if you would make amends, take care of him for me and love him well. I would have him back in haler spirits.”

* * * *

Elven prince and Elf-knight rode north the following morn with enough supplies for a fortnight.

Legolas felt a keen sense of homecoming when they came to the cabin. Here had they spent some of their most joyous times together. Here was the site of their reconciliation and binding-night, the haven where they could couple as sweetly or as raucously as they desired. The archer had long ago decided that should fate take them to some other land, he would build a cabin just like this one and they would call it home.

He hoped that here in their refuge, Elrohir would find the means to set aside the grief that beset him. And at first it seemed his plan would succeed.

For Elrohir’s spirits appeared to lighten as they readied the cabin for occupancy. As the day proceeded, the Elf-knight’s smile was more and more in evidence, its radiance still muted but finally kindling nonetheless.

But to his consternation, Elrohir shied from his overtures that evening, pleading weariness from the day’s exertions to explain his lack of interest in more sensual pursuits. Legolas suspected however that it was not disinterest that kept Elrohir from mating with him but rather a feeling of unworthiness of the archer’s affection. That would be in keeping with his belief that he had failed in his duty to keep the folk under his care safe and therefore did not merit his peers’ acclaim, his family’s trust or even his own spouse’s love.

Legolas let him be that first evening. But the following day, he was so seared by need and impatience, it was a wonder he did not ravage his reluctant spouse when they swam together in the sparkling stream after breaking their fast. Come nightfall however the prince’s forbearance had finally run out and he swore that come what may he would have his way with his taciturn lover.

He waited only until Elrohir had shed his clothes before he made his move.

Catching the Elf-knight by the wrist when Elrohir reached for his bed-trousers, he hauled the startled twin to the bed and bore him down upon it. Forestalling any protests or excuses on Elrohir’s part, he swiftly straddled him and launched a heady assault, forcing his way past the twin’s defenses, using his many graces to entice and enflame his spouse. If he could but drive Elrohir’s lust past the point of no return, he would make the first breach in the wall of silence that stood between them. Not even all of Elrohir’s self-control could withstand the wild rapture of a carnal encounter with his prince.

Capturing the Elf-knight in a scalding kiss, he pressed their groins together and drove upward until their swollen shafts slid and rubbed against each other. Elrohir groaned against his lips as sensation overtook reason. Legolas dared to break their kiss and look upon his lover’s countenance. Elrohir stared back at him, eyes flashing with unleashed hunger.

Legolas gasped when he was summarily rolled over then pulled up by his hips until he rested on elbows and knees. A moment later, he felt Elrohir spread him open. But unlike times past, the Elf-knight did not set a leisurely pace. With little preparation beyond a few swipes and stabs of his tongue, Elrohir molded himself against Legolas’ sleek back and mounted him with one deep thrust.

The archer grabbed at the headboard bars, recognizing the signs of an impending hard ride. The relentless breaching that followed confirmed his assumption. His world swiftly narrowed until all he was aware of was the hard flesh that cleaved and opened him with every lunge of Elrohir’s hips.

He tightened his grip on the headboard, dug his knees into the mattress and pushed back against his mate to ensure that he was deeply speared with every bruising thrust. For he perceived in what seemed an act of subjugation Elrohir’s unspoken plea for forgiveness and acceptance despite his fault in the tragedy that had shaken the very foundations of his House.

Legolas readily answered that need, imparting to his mate through his willing submission the depth of his love and lust, assuring Elrohir that he had not judged him and found him wanting. That he still was and would always be his beloved Elf-knight to whom alone Legolas would surrender all that he was and had.

It would not be the last time that Elrohir would use him thusly nor was it the first. And the prince had demanded the same of his mate in times of greatest need and never had Elrohir refused him either. A coupling could be as much a service as an act of passion. Neither Elf felt demeaned by the former for both knew deepest love and trust impelled the wanting as much as the yielding.

The ensuing spiral to completion was swifter and more dizzying than they were accustomed to. Attaining release first, Elrohir muffled his cry against Legolas’ back. As he spent himself deep within his spouse, he felt their spirits touch in that first tentative union that always followed a prolonged separation. Quickly hearkening to the need to complete their coupling, he withdrew from Legolas and, brusquely turning the archer over onto his back, lowered his head between his thighs and closed his mouth over the prince’s thrumming length. A few hard sucks on his shaft was all it took before Legolas all but howled his pleasure and spilled a creamy stream down the Elf-knight’s throat.

Winded by such an intense climax, the archer did not move but waited for Elrohir to creep back up to lie by him. His backside still throbbing somewhat from Elrohir’s vigorous delving, he winced when he turned on his side to face the twin. Elrohir saw his discomfort and flushed in regret.

“I am sorry, melethen”—my love—he contritely murmured.

He swiftly rose and retrieved a small bottle from the shelf that graced a corner of the sleeping alcove. It was filled with an unguent that helped soothe aches and other pains and was oft used by the couple for the times when their loving had far exceeded their bodies’ capacity for such usage.

Legolas said nothing but smiled, rolled back onto his belly and parted his legs. He sighed in relief as the ache faded to a bearable degree with the application of the mild-scented salve. A short laugh followed by a moan escaped him when Elrohir flexed his long fingers to do more than ease the medicament into him.

“‘Tis wicked of you to torment me so,” he gasped as he was skillfully stroked within.

Elrohir smiled. “Nay, I am merely making amends,” he countered. He leaned down until his breath feathered the skin of the archer’s shoulder. “Not to mention that I always enjoy watching you come undone,” he added, kissing the smooth flesh beneath his lips. A moment later, he sneaked his other hand between Legolas’ thighs and proceeded to fondle the archer as well.

Legolas groaned as he was gently pleasured. It did not take long before he gave in to Elrohir’s desire and, shuddering helplessly, spent himself in the Elf-knight’s hand. He waited for Elrohir to withdraw his fingers then chuckling weakly, pushed himself once more onto his side and beckoned to his mate to lie beside him. The twin did so, a pleased grin brightening his features.

“You are incorrigible, rochir vorn”—dark knight—Legolas remarked.

“But you love me just the same,” Elrohir smirked.

It was the opening Legolas had been waiting for. “I will always love you,” he said. “Even did you wrong me, I would not be able to stop loving you.”

He edged closer, quickly curling his arm around Elrohir when the latter’s expression abruptly turned wary.

“I should hope so,” Elrohir whispered.

“Nor would your dear naneth”—mother—Legolas dared to add. At once he felt Elrohir tense. He held the Elf-knight even more tightly. “And I wager she would absolve you of any blame. All do, even your father.”

Elrohir drew in a ragged breath. He turned his face away but not before Legolas saw the pain in his eyes. “You would not be so blithe about this had it been your mother who was tortured so,” he said in a tight voice. “And your folk butchered or maimed. And all because of my ill-founded assumptions.”

Ill-founded?” Legolas repeated. “You had scoured the pass yourself just weeks earlier and encountered no Orcs or Trolls or even outlawed Men. You based your assumptions on what you saw with your own eyes. And even then you still counselled that she bring an armed escort if she chose to push through with her visit. ‘Twas hardly your fault the Orcs had hidden themselves from you or that they have grown greater in number than any of us had previously suspected.” He leaned over to gaze at his spouse’s face.

Still Elrohir did not turn to look at him. Legolas’ mouth tightened. His mate was still blocking what he could of their bond.

“Your need to do penance has overtaken your good sense,” he pointed out a little sharply. “Else you would realize you have committed no sin and therefore need not do penance in the first place!”

Elrohir abruptly turned his head to glare at him. “You belittle my egregious mistake in judgment!” he growled. “Yet had I erred on the side of caution and advised her not to take that pass at all, she would not now lie in the Healing Halls, savaged by those beasts!”

“And she could just as well have crossed the Redhorn unscathed had your father or Glorfindel provided her with a much larger retinue, which, may I remind you, was what you recommended,” Legolas retorted. “Elrohir, your assumptions were sound! Glorfindel would have made the same choice in your place. As would Elladan or I. You cannot fault yourself in this!”

Elrohir opened his mouth to say something, thought better of it then looked away once more. Legolas scowled. His primal Wood-elven nature getting the better of him, he cast diplomacy aside and resorted to pure instinct. He reached over and, cupping Elrohir’s face, compelled the younger twin to turn his head and look at him.

“I will not let you shut me out, Elf-knight,” the archer whispered through gritted teeth. “You can do your best to hold me at bay, but I swear you will not succeed.”

He sealed their mouths together, forcing Elrohir’s lips apart and pillaging the sweet warmth within until the Elf-knight was gasping in resurgent need. Pressing his advantage, Legolas gave free rein to his desire.

He ran his hands over Elrohir’s body with implacable resolve, fingers seeking and caressing every curve of hard muscle, following the dips and swells of the warrior’s rippled abdomen, sweeping over lean hips and long limbs and stroking his groin and resurgent shaft before slipping lower to slide his seed-anointed fingers into the Elf-knight’s body.

When Elrohir did not resist, he drew away just long enough to shift between his mate’s legs before reclaiming his lips once more. Tentatively nudging the Elf-knight’s upper thigh with his shaft, he was relieved when Elrohir slid his legs around him and locked his ankles at the small of his back. With a groan, Legolas sank deep into the heated silk of his darkling lover’s core.

They moved in near silent synchrony, only the barest of moans or smallest of gasps breaking the stillness. Feeling Elrohir’s restraint crumble with every thrust into his body, Legolas quickened his pace, determined to shatter what remained of the wall his mate had erected. Reaching out with his spirit, he summoned forth Elrohir’s.

Unable to deny that nigh imperious demand, Elrohir complied and let go. The sudden release permitted the free flow of rapture between them and, in mere seconds, they reached the very summit of pleasure. At that moment, their spirits embraced in wanton joy and soared in shared ecstasy even as their coupled bodies found exquisite completion.

They lingered on that otherworldly plane, caught between spiritual contentment and bodily bliss. When they finally came back to corporeal consciousness they could only hold onto each other wordlessly, stunned by so breathtaking an experience.

Several minutes passed before Elrohir opened his eyes to find Legolas tenderly regarding him. Seeing naught but devotion in his archer-mate’s jewel gaze, the Elf-knight felt his resistance melt like so much ice under the heat of the waxing sun come springtime. Tears of gratefulness pricked his eyes. He heaved a shuddery breath and finally permitted himself to believe that perhaps he had not done so great a wrong after all.

Soothed by his spouse’s sweet and complete trust in him, Elrohir slackened his hold on himself and wept. And as he shed his tears, so did he slowly cast off the black remorse that had made him as much a captive as his unfortunate mother.

Holding his beloved close to his heart, Legolas sighed in relief. He knew Elrohir would not completely absolve himself of all blame so swiftly. That was not the Elf-knight’s way. But he had accepted at last that he was not wholly at fault either and that was good enough for now.

Time would take care of the rest. Time and his woodland prince’s unflinching love.

**************************
Glossary:
laer – Sindarin for summer
sennight – abbreviation of seven nights; defunct Middle English term for a week
orangery – building where orange trees are grown, especially a large greenhouse for use in cooler climates
gwanur – brother or sister but a more accurate translation would be kinsman or kinswoman
Nana – Mama

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Imladris, T.A. 2510
A pall hung over Rivendell. No merry songs or joyous laughter was there to be heard. And the very trees seemed to droop in sympathy for the newly bereft inhabitants of the hidden vale.

Their fair mistress was gone. Try as she might, Celebrían had at the last not possessed enough wherewithal to cope with the evil done to her. Though healed in body, she was broken in spirit.

Of her courage and determination there was no doubt. But her fragile hold on sanity overtook both and in the end won. Fear swathed her like a thick shroud and had her cowering in corners like a trapped rat.

It was heart-rending to watch the once proud Lady of Imladris reduced to gibbering in fright from a mere shadow or screaming in mindless anguish from a touch rendered at the wrong time or place. Worst of all was when she could not even recognize her husband and children and fled from them as if they were the foulest of the Dark Lord’s creations.

Many were the times that Erestor would find Arwen sobbing heartbrokenly after having been violently repudiated by the mother she adored. And Glorfindel and Lindir made it their business to keep an eye on Elrond after they saw the first weals and bruises dealt him by his wife during one of her fits.

As for the brethren, none could say how they would have fared had their woodland spouses not been there to tend them. Legolas was fierce as a bear defending its young in his protectiveness of Elrohir. And drawing from his own ghastly experience, Galvreth provided much insight into his law-mother’s behavior to help Elladan deal with her frightening moods. After all, he, too, had endured such spells of lunacy in the dark days of his convalescence.

“Her torment lasted much longer than my own,” he gravely reminded Elladan one winter eve while they rested before the fire in their bedchamber. The older twin had spent the afternoon helping Elrond restrain Celebrían after she attempted to assault Arwen with a broken flagon. He returned to their conjugal quarters, exhausted in body and drained in spirit and his patience running dangerously thin. “‘Tis a wonder that she still lives in light of what was done to her. I greatly doubt that even your father’s skill and wisdom will overcome the ruins of her mind.”

Diverted from his frustration over his mother’s state, Elladan regarded Galvreth worriedly. The prince’s eyes were shadowed with grim remembrance.

“This has revived memories best left buried in the past,” he murmured. He slid his arms around the other Elf. “Is there aught I can do to give you ease?”

Galvreth seemed to come back from some faraway place. He saw his mate’s concern. In the face of Elladan’s affectionate overture, the shadow receded. It was past and done with. He was hale and happy beyond measure. With a small smile, he leaned into Elladan’s embrace, resting his argent head against the twin’s shoulder.

“Just feeling your love gives me ease,” he replied. “There is no need for you to do aught but hold me.”

Elladan tightened his embrace and bent to press a kiss to Galvreth’s cheek. “Mayhap ‘tis enough to keep memories at bay for the moment,” he softly said. “But I would rather banish them for a longer while.”

He said no more but drew Galvreth into a kiss so heated it put the fire in the hearth to shame. Galvreth groaned, knowing he would not be able to resist his mate’s sensual entreaty. And in any case, it was also Elladan’s way of distracting himself from the woes that beset his family and home. With a happily resigned sigh, Galvreth allowed Elladan to bear him down on the warm skins that served as hearthside rugs.

The chambermaids would not be able to hold their tongues once they saw the state of the rugs when they cleaned the apartment. That they would once more give the household staff cause for gossip was Galvreth’s last coherent thought before Elladan made it next to impossible to think at all.

* * * *

Winter’s closing heralded the end of life as Elrond and his family had known it.

The Peredhel lord had thought to bring his wife to Lothlórien come spring when she seemed to rally in the final days of winter and her moments of lucidity grew in number. Perhaps in the fastness of the heart of Elvendom in Middle-earth, in the security and serenity of her home of old and in the inimitable care of her parents, Celeborn and Galadriel, she might recover in full. Such was his hope that he had Glorfindel and Elrohir cleanse the routes over the mountains as soon as the snow began to melt.

But of a sudden, Celebrían’s health started to deteriorate as steadily as her reason had eroded. It was as if her body could no longer withstand the rigors of her struggle to hang on to the shreds of rationality still left to her. Alarmed, defiantly denying the pull of Mandos’ halls on his wife, Elrond came to a painful decision. The only decision he could make.

He took her to the Grey Havens as soon as the weather permitted lengthy travel. Even as her children and people mourned her loss, he put her on one of Círdan’s Valinor bound ships, fervently praying she would survive the voyage to Aman. For it was now apparent that only in the Blessed Realm, in the healing environs of Irmo’s gardens of Lórien under the care of his gentle wife Estë could she have a chance to truly heal.

He stood on the quay with Glorfindel and Círdan flanking him, keeping his eyes to the very last moment on the frail figure standing at the stern of the ship that slowly sailed down the Gulf of Lhûn toward the Great Sea. Celebrían’s answering gaze was frightened yet hopeful, her hand visibly shaking as she raised it in a final farewell.

It was fortunate his friends stood by him as he saw his lady off for had they not, Elrond would not have possessed the strength to walk away but would likely have sank to his knees right there on the quay to weep over his loss. Thus did the awful weight of the Peredhil’s singular heritage once more make itself felt.

The Elves of Mithlond looked on in sympathy though some wondered why the Imladrin lord had not taken ship with his ailing wife. But then not all Elves fully comprehended the implacable sense of duty that dictated the choices of the Mariner’s heirs or the extraordinary foresight that guided them toward their respective destinies.

Elrond returned to Rivendell grim and taciturn with a harshness to his seemingly aged features that reminded one and all that the blood of Men also flowed through his veins. It would be many years before the un-elvish severity of his countenance would diminish; decades before he reassumed his true guise as a scion of the ancient Elven kings. But in the weeks following that grievous separation from his beloved wife, he seemed more a lord of Men than a high-born Elda.

For many days, he closeted himself for hours at a time with his sons, captain and chief counsellor, going over the events of the past year over and again, studying maps of the mountains and the lands around them and, most telling of all, systematically identifying the locations of all orkish strongholds discovered since the attack on Celebrían or suspected of existing. By the time the chart was completed, they had covered a wide area ranging from the remote Grey Mountains to the northwestern bounds of the Golden Wood.

It was almost summer again when Elrond called his children to a conference in his study. When he saw that the woodland princes had escorted the twins thence, he asked them to join the family. For they were after all kin-by-marriage.

The twins saw that their father had just finished writing a missive and now inserted the thin scroll into a small leather pouch. This he affixed to the leg of one of the valley’s haggards trained to bear messages abroad. The brethren exchanged glances. They had recognized the insignia on the label that bound the scroll.

Wherefore a letter to Arahad, present Chieftain of the Dúnedain of the north? Elrond saw their look and quietly assured them that all would be explained.

After sending the hawk on its way, Elrond bade them all take their seats. He did not waste much time but at once informed them of his reason for contacting Arahad and his doughty Rangers.

He desired to ride against the beasts that had hurt his wife so grievously. Part of his desire was spurred by rage and a need for revenge. But another part was dictated by reason. The Orcs had grown alarmingly numerous and overbold. They had to be contained lest they overran the north and wreaked destruction and wretchedness on its denizens, Elf, Man or Dwarf.

It was time to cleanse the region as much as they were able. Arahad and his Men, with their extensive knowledge of the Orc-infested regions of the land, would be an invaluable aid to them in this quest. Granted, the Orcs would spawn relentlessly and there was no hope of the total surcease of their presence. But if they could even lessen their numbers to a defensible degree, the north would be much more wholesome for all who called it home.

At once his sons opposed him though their counter proposal was hardly more soothing.

“You have long foreseen that you have yet a vital part to play, Ada”—Papa—Elladan said. “Else you would have gone with Naneth to Aman. Yet should you ride forth now, you invite the possibility of an untimely passing. You must not gainsay your destiny out of vengeance. Let Elrohir and me go in your stead. If aught should befall us, at least the future of Middle-earth will not hang in the balance.”

Arwen had listened to her father’s plan with ever widening eyes. Now she suddenly cried out, stricken by her brothers’ proposition. “Nay!” she vehemently objected. “I will not lose you, too! Not any of you! Ah, what madness has overcome you all?”

Hastening to her side, Elrohir caught her in his arms. “Not madness, thel vell, but the exigencies of the times. Were you not now Lady of this realm of ours, would you not also take up arms and ride to defend our people? Our folk look to us for protection. They will look to you for guidance and courage, Undómiel.”

True to her breeding, Arwen subsided at her brother’s counsel. When she lifted her head from his shoulder, though she was still dismayed and her eyes gleamed with unshed tears, she protested no more but only said, “If that is what the Powers demand of us, so be it.”

“But what of Galvreth and me?” Legolas abruptly spoke up. “Would you forsake us to lonesome widowhood should ill overtake you?”

“What would you have us do, melethen?”—my love—Elrohir pointed out. “We have all sworn oaths not only to protect our people but also to guard the future of these lands as well.”

“Then we will ride with you when we can,” Galvreth answered. “Whenever our father can spare us for long, we will share your peril. Do not think to deny us, Elladan,” he added when the older twin started to protest.

“But we would not have you place yourselves in danger unbidden,” Elladan insisted.

“You can take us with you and know we are as safe as is possible in these times even amidst other warriors,” Legolas countered. “Or you can leave us behind and risk losing us when we follow you nonetheless.”

Elrohir made another stab at dissuading his spouse. “I do not fear death, Legolas,” he pleaded. “But yours I do fear. I cannot bear the thought of losing you.”

“And do you think I could endure losing you?” Legolas reasoned. “I would fail from grief should you fall, Elrohir. I have not the strength to go on without you. Better to perish swiftly by the sword at your side than die inch by inch in an empty bed. I am going with you, rochiren. ‘Tis quite useless to try and stop me.”

Elrond looked at Galvreth and saw the same mulish expression on his other law-son’s face. He sighed and said: “It seems you have been bested in this argument, gwenyn”—twins—he remarked. “I cannot say I am pleased for you will be riding into danger and I loath the thought of any more injury done to my own. But I am proud of all of you. No Elf could call himself more blessed than I.”

He addressed the Mirkwood princes. “You must inform your sire of your decision. He has a right to know what you intend to do.” When they nodded in assent, he added, “And he will likely help you when you search the lands east of the mountains. Any aid will do much good in these dark times.”

Arwen shook her head, obviously unhappy with their decision, but kept her peace. Rising, she went to hug her father ere departing the study. Elladan did not look pleased at all but when Galvreth slid a placating arm around him, he leaned into the prince’s embrace readily enough. Elrohir however proved to be in a more recalcitrant mood. With nary a word to the others and a fleeting glare at Legolas, he strode out of the chamber, a black look on his face.

The archer anxiously stared after him. At Elrond’s encouraging nod, he hurried after the younger twin. Elrohir did not heed his calls but left the house and headed for the bridge that spanned the Bruinen’s tributary stream.

Bracing himself for the worst, Legolas followed him as the Elf-knight crossed the bridge then stalked along the banks of the rushing water. Elrohir may not have voiced further objections to his mate’s decision but his silence and abrupt exit from the study were patently indicative of his great displeasure.

Elrohir made for an old oak that grew by the banks of the stream. He leapt up lightly to grasp a low-lying branch and lithely swung himself onto it. Legolas watched him disappear into the thick foliage. Doubtful that an invitation to join the younger twin would be forthcoming, the archer sprinted toward the tree and followed in Elrohir’s wake.

He found Elrohir perched on a thick tree limb, half slouched against the trunk, arms folded and knees slightly raised, a posture that told him to keep his distance. His stony expression was not the least bit encouraging. Nor was the veiled glower he briefly bestowed on Legolas afore turning his eyes to some spot in the leafy canopy above.

Settling himself on the branch across from the twin, Legolas debated how best to appease his mate. Words would not do for now. Elrohir would simply refuse to listen and might even argue with him until they were both driven to say or do things they would heartily regret after. Neither would a supplicating demeanor make much of a dent in the warrior’s simmering anger. He was much too upset to even take much notice.

After a moment’s hesitation, Legolas laid a tentative hand on Elrohir’s knee.

Though the twin flinched beneath his touch, he did not pull his leg away. Emboldened, the archer let his hand slide a little further to caress the inside of the Elf-knight’s thigh. Elrohir’s mouth tightened and he pointedly kept his eyes averted. But Legolas felt a telltale tremor beneath his fingers. The archer’s eyes glinted.

It had ever been his choice means of inveigling his darkling spouse into conciliation or accord with him. Elrohir had been heard to complain about his greatest weakness when it came to his Mirkwood love and how fulsomely and unfairly Legolas exploited it.

The prince did not hesitate to do so now. Keeping his gaze on Elrohir, he silently began to strip. He smiled inwardly when Elrohir could not help a darting glance at him as he doffed his jerkin and shirt. Slinging his clothing over another branch, he then set to unlacing his breeches. Again Elrohir chanced a quick peek. But he was not quite able to look away afterward for Legolas slowly peeled his breeches down, freeing his straining shaft as he did. With practiced ease, he drew the garment off along with his soft leather shoes and sent them to join the rest of his raiment.

Completely bare to Elrohir’s reluctant stare, he swiftly crept forward and shamelessly straddled his startled mate’s lap. Cupping Elrohir’s face in his hands, he insistently pried his lips apart and coaxed him into a long, hot-tongued caress. Elrohir attempted to stifle a groan. He did not quite succeed but still stubbornly withheld the full measure of his passion. Legolas was not deterred. The treacherous bulge in Elrohir’s crotch assured him of ultimate victory.

Legolas reached for the Elf-knight’s hand and guided it to his shaft where it rose rigidly between them. He did not smother his hiss of pleasure when Elrohir reflexively curled his fingers around that proud length. Nor did he suppress his moans when the younger twin, ensorcelled as always by indulgence in his spouse’s graces, stroked him to hip bucking abandon.

It was too much for Elrohir. With a growl, he broke their kiss, grasped Legolas’ hips and hauled him up to his knees until the archer’s length prodded his chin. Without preamble, he bent and closed his lips around the swollen flesh and drew upon it with such fury Legolas half wondered whether he had roused his mate’s hunger for him overmuch.

He shakily clung to the trunk behind Elrohir, his gasps giving way to strangled cries as he was almost forcibly brought to the brink of release. Elrohir gave him no time to ready himself for the slide over that precipice. Weaving his arms around the archer, he took him in to the hilt, burying his nose in headily scented golden curls. With a hoarse keen, Legolas spilled ribbons of warm cream into Elrohir’s mouth.

Shuddering, he collapsed into Elrohir’s arms when the Elf-knight released him. But it seemed he had indeed stoked the twin’s appetite for his charms beyond his wont. Before he could catch his breath, Elrohir pulled him astride his lap once more.

Legolas caught his breath when he felt the surge of turgid flesh beneath him slick with copious nascent seed. He whimpered in anticipation as he was lowered onto his mate’s shaft then let out a low, throaty moan when it slid deep into him. To his mingled delight and dismay, Elrohir did not give him time to adjust to his piercing but thrust up repeatedly into him while he plied lusty kisses on the archer’s throat, shoulders and chest, licking and nibbling at his nipples along the way.

Legolas half reared out of his embrace, undone by the onslaught. Elrohir hauled him back, pushed him down firmly until he was wholly sheathed once more and renewed his assault. Lost in a rapturous haze, Legolas could do naught but wantonly ride the flesh that filled him so generously.

Touch yourself, lassen vain!—my fair leaf.

The archer obeyed the silent command and stroked himself under Elrohir’s appreciative gaze. The bliss soon became almost too great to endure especially when coupled with the joyous meshing of their spirits. Teetering on the edge of completion, Legolas tried to contain himself. But Elrohir fastened his lips on one peaked nipple and, sucking hard on it, shattered his control.

His release came in a nigh excruciating wave of ecstasy, heightened by the stroke of Elrohir’s length within him. Spurts of pearlescent seed heralded his climax and he harshly sobbed as he trembled helplessly in the throes of rapture. Elrohir drove deep into him a few times before he, too, stiffened then arched into his own completion, filling his love near to the brim.

It was several minutes before either was able to move or speak. When Legolas at last sought to move off Elrohir’s lap, he was startled when the latter stopped him, keeping him in place, still impaled. With a sharp thrill, Legolas realized that Elrohir’s shaft had not fully subsided. He looked at his mate with a half penitent, half hopeful gaze.

“This has not changed what I think of your hare-brained intention to join us,” Elrohir said, the severity of his tone at odds with the covetous gleam in his eyes.

“I know,” Legolas murmured, shifting his hips slightly to caress his mate’s embedded length.

“Be still, Wood-elf!” Elrohir hissed. He gripped Legolas’ hips hard.

Legolas sweetly smiled, knowing he had already won. All that was needed was the assuagement of Elrohir’s piqued pride at having been so swiftly persuaded to surrender. He lazily wove his arms around Elrohir’s neck.

“Think of how lonely we would be were you to leave me behind,” he silkily murmured, punctuating his words with soft kisses. “But if I accompany you, we would not only be shield-mates but tryst-mates as well. Loving whenever and wherever the need overtakes us.”

Elrohir leaned back with a groan. “‘Tis errantry we will be embarking on, not a–a love quest!”

Legolas chuckled huskily. “And who decreed that knights-errant cannot take their pleasure when far afield?” he countered with a grin. “Do you not agree that a warrior’s resolve can be as much stoutened by a torrid tumble as by a heartening speech?”

“There is that…” Elrohir grudgingly conceded. He closed his eyes when Legolas wriggled mischievously on his lap, battling the growing urge to ravish his much too gamesome prince.

“Besides, we pledged ourselves to each other for good or ill,” Legolas reminded him, suddenly still and serious. “To share in sorrow and turmoil as well as joy and prosperity. I would not have it any other way, seron vell.”—beloved. He ghosted a kiss over Elrohir’s cheek to his lips. “Do you not recall?” he whispered, his lips virtually a hair’s breadth from Elrohir’s. “We promised never to part for longer than absolutely necessary. I will not have us foresworn now, Elf-knight.”

Elrohir stared at him in wonder.

It was sometimes difficult to believe this mettlesome Elf had once been a meek, insecure child who had needed his championing against his own brothers. The wonder turned to reverence as he considered the beauteous, valorous prince that timid Elfling had grown up to be. And all his love and passion reserved for the younger twin alone.

Elrohir no longer questioned his worth to have been gifted with so sterling a prize. But he did often give thanks in his prayers that ‘twas upon him Legolas had been bestowed all those years ago.

Shorn of further arguments, he closed the distance between them and pillaged the sweetness eagerly offered up for his pleasure.

* * * *

Arahad promptly sent word that his son Aragost would be in Rivendell within a fortnight. When Aragost and some dozen Rangers arrived in the valley, they found the sons of Elrond and their woodland mates awaiting them. Glorfindel had also elected to accompany them and with him were many of his fiercest warriors, all hot for revenge.

In this initial quest, the joint efforts of the Imladrin Elves and the northern Dúnedain would eradicate enough Orcs to make life more secure for travellers and dwellers of isolated communities alike for many a year. But all knew that the creatures perpetuated their numbers with a swiftness that was most unnatural. There could be no abatement of their guard if they were to keep the folk of the north safe particularly with the threat of Dol Guldur renewed and growing ever more malevolent. This the sons of Elrond took to heart.

For the next five centuries or so they would ride against the vermin that had so wronged their family, sometimes on their own, at others with a goodly number of Elven warriors. More oft than not they would join forces with the Rangers of the north and thus become close as brothers to the Men to whom their family’s history so closely hewed.

But in all those hundreds of years, one constant remained. They were seldom alone. For at their sides two fair-haired Elves of surpassing comeliness were many times to be seen, both of them clad in the green and brown of the reclusive folk of the once green wood.

****************************
Glossary:
Peredhel (pl. Peredhil) – Half-elf/Half-elven
Naneth - Mother
thel vell – dear sister
Undómiel – Quenya for Evenstar, appellation given to Arwen
rochiren – my knight

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Rivendell, Narquelië T.A. 2559
The brethren Elladan and Elrohir strode to their rooms at a brisk pace. It had been months since they’d last walked the halls of the Last Homely House. Months spent in the brutal, gut-wrenching pursuit and slaughter of the beasts that had torn their family asunder.

Those months had been especially onerous for the twins for they had ridden without the company of their valorous mates. Duty and circumstances had kept both woodland princes home just when Elladan and Elrohir were due to ride with the Rangers once more.

Several incursions by bandits and Orcs on the Mirkwood Elves’ territory had led to a spate of vicious skirmishes wherein three of Thranduil’s sons—Aelluin, Nimaras and Lalorn—had sustained injuries debilitating enough to keep them from active duty. Legolas and Galvreth perforce took their places to help ensure their kingdom’s security.

Thus, the brethren had gone forth on one of their rare journeys without their Mirkwood spouses at their sides. Both felt the lack of conjugal companionship acutely even when in the midst of their Dúnedain comrades. So sharp was their longing that they could not even find some modicum of pleasure in the occasional advances of the less learned of the Rangers.

The Dúnedain did not shy from seeking relief or even affection from lovers of the same gender. If there was a limit placed on such relationships, it was if it hindered the perpetuation of one’s bloodline.

It was not unheard of for a man to marry and beget heirs then live a completely separate life from his wife and forge a lasting liaison with a male partner. Likewise, there were bonds between women that were wholly separate from their duties to husbands and children. And certainly, it was a common enough practice amongst warriors to turn to each other in times of strife when they were far from the comfort found in a woman’s arms.

In this relative leniency with regard to marital fidelity, the Men of the West were alike to the lesser races. They had long ago strayed from the elven tenets that had once guided them at the dawn of the two kindreds’ acquaintance. Not so of course with the most noble of the Dúnedain such as the men and women of the line of the Kings, the members of the House of Húrin whence came the Stewards of Gondor and the scions of the Princedom of Dol Amroth who claimed descent from a Silvan foremother.

But outside of these august clans, the knowledge of elven lore and upholding of many ancient customs were much diminished even amongst the Rangers of the North who still kept in touch with the Firstborn. Just as men and women of centuries past had thought to proposition the sons of Elrond in their ignorance that both were already wed, so now did the younger, less erudite in the company make their interest in the brethren known.

The twins turned them away as gently as they could for they could hardly fault these youths for what they did not know. But while Elrohir stomached such attentions with good grace, at least one Ranger discovered to his dismay what the Elf-knight would not abide.

Young Halmir was cousin to Aravorn son of Aragost. Just three years past his majority he was a lad blessed with an abundance of zeal and energy but a lamentable lack of prudence in word and deed. He would make a good soldier but likely a poor captain and disaster would surely follow were he to try his hand at political dealings for it had to be said he had no skill whatsoever in that arena. Still, he was an amiable youth and anxious to impress his elders or betters and that predisposed most to be patient and kind with him.

The twins were no exception. That is, until he blundered into restricted territory and roused Elrohir’s fearsome temper.

Halmir had previously joined Aravorn’s company many years ago acting as his cousin’s squire that he might learn war-craft not only from the battle-hardened Rangers, but also from Elrond’s sons who were renowned for their uncanny stealth and skill in all manner of combat. He was swiftly smitten by the beauty and grace of these distant kinsmen of his house and could not take his eyes off the Mirkwood Elves who were the brethren’s companions.

In particular he was abashed by Legolas’ mere presence, unused as he was to comeliness that was nigh otherworldly thanks to the archer’s deceptively delicate countenance. But young as he was then and still diffident when it came to strangers, he did not summon enough courage to befriend either Imladrin lords or woodland princes.

The passage of years had obviously worked wonders on him for he proved loquacious and thoroughly at ease with the brethren this time around. So much so that there were times Elladan and Elrohir wondered whether, when they returned to Rivendell, they would have one barely come-of-age Ranger in tow.

One late balmy afternoon, as the evening meal was a-cooking, the twins settled themselves before one of the campfires to tend to their weapons. Whilst Elladan sharpened their swords on a makeshift whetstone, Elrohir restrung their longbows and checked their arrows for damaged fletchings. Halmir plopped himself down by the pair as was his wont when he desired their company. Which was more often than the brothers found comfortable but had not the heart to tell him.

Elrohir glanced at Elladan in resignation before greeting the youth with a faint smile. Blissfully unaware of the reserve limning his companions’ behavior with him in recent days, Halmir happily engaged them in conversation. A rather one-sided exchange judging from the brief, cursory replies the twins supplied.

During a brief pause in Halmir’s incessant discourse, he took notice of Elrohir’s quiver. Its markings were neither Imladrin nor Dúnedain. The lad knitted his brows together as he attempted to identify the design. When he finally recognized it, he caught his breath in elation.

“That is a Mirkwood quiver!” he softly exclaimed. “A gift from Legolas?”

“Aye, for my begetting day five years back.”

Halmir eyed the quiver, his eyes gleaming with admiration. “Why did he not come with you this season?” he inquired.

“Duty kept him home,” Elrohir shortly answered.

“A pity,” Halmir sighed regretfully. “He is a beauty, that one. I had hoped to lay my eyes on him again. And more if he would accommodate me,” he suddenly added with a snicker.

Elladan noted the nascent chill in his brother’s eyes and sought to divert the conversation elsewhere. “Surely some fair maiden awaits your return,” he said. “Or mayhap a passel of wenches?”

The lad grinned. “Not as many as those who pine for Aravorn but I have no cause for complaint,” he quipped. “Still, maids are in scant supply out in the wild and we must make do with each other’s company or go mad from want of a decent rut.”

“‘Tis cause for witlessness indeed,” Elrohir dryly remarked.

“Verily!” Halmir enthusiastically concurred, completely missing the younger twin’s sarcasm. “You know whereof I speak!” Elladan rolled his eyes at his obtuseness but Halmir plowed on without further thought. “You understand then my envy of your good fortune.”

“My good fortune?” Elrohir echoed, his voice sharpening fractionally.

“I am not blind,” Halmir smirked. “I know that Legolas is not averse to warming your bed and quite fervently at that I must say! But then, you are a Peredhel and must serve his needs far more fulsomely than his own kind.”

He winked at Elladan who was wondering how much longer his brother would hold back before unleashing what he thought of the impertinent youth’s ill-founded ideas. “Elves are wondrous creatures to look at but I dare say they are not as heartily endowed in some areas as Men.” He chortled at his own wittiness or what he thought passed for it. “I wager after having had a taste of Man-flesh, he’ll want for more. What think you? Would he care for a tumble with a hot-blooded Dúnadan? I assure you he will not be disappointed!”

Elladan reached out to clamp a soothing hand on his simmering brother’s arm. Elrohir’s acquiescing nod was barely discernable but he stayed himself from dealing the jaw-cracking blow Elladan feared would follow. However, his whole demeanor visibly hardened and his eyes glittered ominously.

“You will not speak of him as if he were naught more than a tawdry treat for your base needs,” the Elf-knight growled. “He is no bawd to spread himself at some scoundrel’s behest. And even less for a foolish stripling barely out of swaddling clothes!”

Halmir stared at him in surprise and burgeoning umbrage. “You dare demean me for desiring as you do?” he hotly retorted. “Yet you have made good use of him yourself these many years. Why, any who did not know better would think him some sweet innocent, so rabidly do you defend his good name!”

Elrohir’s reply was soft. Perilously so. “Aye, as your sire would maintain his dame’s virtue were any to defame it,” he hissed.

For a moment, the boy stared at him in puzzlement. And then his eyes widened afore dropping to the younger twin’s right hand where he espied the solid gold band on his forefinger. Comprehension slowly crept upon him as he finally recalled a significant bit of lore to which he’d paid little heed.

“Valar, you and he are—?” Halmir gulped in alarm. Elrohir’s gaze was now distinctly glacial.

Belatedly understanding the depth of his affront against the Elf-lord, Halmir could only gape at him in consternation. Of a sudden, he winced when he received a hard clout from behind. Rubbing the back of his head he looked up at his cousin who lowered himself on his haunches beside him. Aravorn frowned warningly at him before extending a rueful look to Elrohir.

“Forgive my cousin’s uncouth tongue,” he said. “He deemed his lessons a waste of time and now pays the price for his ignorance.” He glared at the mortified Halmir. “Best you make amends to Elrohir if you wish to remain in his good graces.”

Elrohir listened to the youth’s stammered apology in silence. A curt nod sufficed to convey his acceptance of it before he rose and, after quietly taking leave of Aravorn, strode to where snowy Uilos was tethered beside dark Morsûl, Elladan’s faithful steed. Elladan observed him for several minutes before rising to his feet as well.

“You need not fear his anger,” he kindly told an obviously discomfited Halmir. “Were he truly enraged with you, he would not hesitate to demonstrate his displeasure.”

“Are you certain?” Halmir asked in a subdued voice. “Why then did he leave so suddenly?”

“Because he does not wish to foist his dark mood on anyone,” Elladan explained. “We Elves do not fare very well when we are apart from our mates.” About to stride away, he paused and addressed Halmir one more time. “I must disabuse you of one absurd fallacy you harbor. Pureblooded Elves may not possess the girth of most Men’s forms but that does not imply a like lack in endowment. You may take that from one who has sheathed an elven broadsword these many centuries. I warrant were you to assuage an Elf’s needs, you would find it difficult to walk with any grace the morn after or mount a horse in comfort.”

He stifled a smile when shock and no little amount of embarrassment contorted Halmir’s countenance.

“Bear that in mind from hereon, lackwit,” Aravorn counselled his kinsman. “Or suffer the consequences of giving offense to an Elf. You will rue it evermore, I promise you.”

Elladan grinned at the Ranger before walking off to join Elrohir. He came up behind his brother, shaking his head as the latter industriously curried an already impeccably groomed Uilos. He laid a restraining hand on the Elf-knight’s arm, compelling the younger twin to stop and look at him.

“For one who was so set against his mate joining him in these quests, you now pine for him so fervently,” Elladan gently teased.

Elrohir wanly smiled. “Fear and reason drove my objections then,” he admitted. “But he has since overwhelmed both with such joy and comfort that I find I cannot do long without his company.”

“Still, your reaction to Halmir’s absurdities was quite severe,” Elladan remarked. “Surely you do not believe Legolas of all people might be tempted by another’s overtures.”

“Wouldn’t he?” Elrohir absently murmured in the manner of one voicing one’s thoughts inadvertently. He started when he heard Elladan’s disbelieving gasp and glanced at his brother a little guiltily.

“How could you even think that possible?” Elladan demanded. “Legolas has ever been the more prone to jealous fits. He who is so possessive of your favors is most unlikely to notice anyone else’s graces.”

“I know,” Elrohir said. “I did not mean that he would stray. Only that he could be tempted.”

Elladan stared at him, eyes widening in comprehension. “What did you see?” he pressed.

Elrohir shook his head. “‘Twas little more than a glimpse,” he replied. “I saw his confusion and doubts about himself. And guilt.”

“Over some shameful deed?” Elladan asked aghast.

“I neither saw nor sensed evidence of that,” Elrohir replied. “I only know that he will be beset by some—test.” The line of his mouth tightened. “I fear he will not be prepared for the feelings it will elicit from him. He never looked beyond me; rejected all stirrings he felt for any other once he set his heart on me. ‘Tis a wondrous blessing that I alone have ever known his regard. But it could also prove a bane should he come face to face with desires he never acknowledged, much less accepted.”

“He would not know how to cope with them,” Elladan softly finished for him. “But it seems you do not anticipate betrayal.”

“I am not entirely confident of that far off outcome but I do trust him implicitly,” the younger twin said. “‘Tis whether he will believe I do that I foresee could cause him grief.” He sighed. “Would that this had not been shown to me so soon. I cannot help but worry for him.”

Elladan pursed his lips. “Would that we could be as other Elves and not be generously endowed with so dubious a gift,” he muttered.

Elrohir snorted. “Yet you would be the first to refuse were the Powers to offer to relieve you of its burden,” he averred. “Nay, brother, this gift may trouble us on occasion but it has also guided and protected us many more times.” His eyes gleamed. “I credit it with leading me to Legolas when he was but a child. Had I not gleaned that he would be a significant part of my life, would I have continued to champion him then?”

“You would have,” Elladan assured him. “You doted on him even then.”

“But as avidly as I did?” Elrohir pointed out. “I will never know for certes but if it was this foresight of ours that influenced me, then I am grateful that our family was so gifted. Else I might not have won myself as peerless a mate as my lass vuil.”—dear leaf.

They spoke no more of it afterward but it remained in the back of Elrohir’s mind nonetheless throughout the remainder of the year’s questing. Though he had earlier defended the gift, the younger twin could not help wishing that his foresight would fail him just this once. Especially when the repercussions could cause his beloved prince undue distress.

But now they were home once more. In the serenity of their father’s house, they knew familial affection and the soothing company of dear friends and Elrohir felt some of his disquiet over his vague vision seep away. Bade by Elrond to go and take their ease, the brethren took leave of their sire and headed for their quarters.

They came to Elrohir’s room first. “I will see you at dinner, brother,” Elladan said as the Elf-knight opened his door and entered the sitting room.

“Aye, but now for a good, hot bath and—”

Elladan halted at the sound of his brother’s gasp. “What is it?” he asked.

Elrohir gestured wonderingly toward the connecting door through which they could clearly see into the sleeping chamber beyond.

The bed was turned down and the pillows plumped up. A large tray laden with steaming hot bread, cheese, cold meats, fruit and a bottle of wine rested on the bedside table. The windows had been opened and the draperies drawn to allow the fresh night breezes to sweeten the room. A fire crackled merrily in the hearth, illuminating the painting above it, a brightly hued child’s rendition of the hidden vale.

“Who in Arda did this?” Elrohir softly exclaimed, stepping inside the room.

A shadow detached itself from behind the door. Slender but powerful arms snaked around the younger twin’s waist from behind. Startled, Elrohir turned in the embrace and found himself staring into one of the fairest faces in all Middle-earth.

“Welcome back, melethron”—lover—Legolas grinned before pressing a kiss to his stunned spouse’s lips.

Even as Elrohir swiftly recovered his wits and hungrily wove his arms around the archer’s lissome frame, Elladan beat a hasty retreat, chuckling as he closed the door behind him. He sincerely doubted he would see anything of his twin this dinnertime. Not when a far better repast was to be had within the comfort of his own bedroom!

* * * *

Elrohir watched Legolas snuff out the lamps and candles leaving only the single taper by their bed alight. He smiled, feeling a delicious languor creep up on him. That was not surprising considering the luxurious pampering he’d received from his archer love.

After that sumptuous meal, Legolas had eased him into a hot bath liberally laced with fragrant herbs that left him feeling refreshed and relaxed. Not content with that, the archer then urged him onto their wide bed and treated him to a wonderful massage, smoothing the aches and kinks from muscles and joints that had borne many days of near non-stop riding. His eyes following his mate’s glorious form, the Elf-knight decided an occasional lengthy separation could not be all that bad if this was the reunion he could look forward to.

He chuckled when Legolas slid into bed and lay beside him, a sly grin gracing his beauteous face. Before Elrohir could utter a word, he claimed his darkling spouse in an incendiary kiss. The younger twin gasped as his lips were teased apart with a wicked swipe of the archer’s tongue ere he was treated to a dedicated plundering that warned him of his thorough undoing in the course of the evening.

Legolas freed his lips only to kiss and nibble at his jaw and throat. Elrohir tried to speak, laughed weakly when he found speech hard going under such attention, before at last managing a groaned, “Poor Elladan…”

Fierce heat skimmed his skin at the husky chuckle that answered him and hungry lips sucked at the side of his neck hard enough to leave a crimson bruise. Legolas left off his pillaging to smilingly murmur, “Poor Elladan indeed. He will have need of a restoring salve by the time Galvreth is done with him.”

Elrohir stared at him in surprise but found his ability to make a coherent reply seriously hindered by the archer’s renewed onslaught. For the next several minutes, he lost himself to the unrelenting frissons of sensation left in the wake of Legolas’ ministrations. Release was not long in coming once the prince brought their groins together in the buck and grind of preliminary love play.

In the aftermath of that first spending, they lay together in quiet contentment, pleased simply to be together once more. Before resting his head on his adored Elf-knight’s shoulder, Legolas smiled brightly at him with a purity of feeling that robbed the younger twin of breath.

In that instant, he looked so much an innocent that Elrohir was reminded of the years before the archer’s majority when he had only began to explore the pleasures of the flesh with him. And with that memory came another less pleasant recollection.

He ran his hands through the prince’s fair locks, his forebodings troubling him once again. Reason told him his mate was a warrior of strength not only of body but also of character and will. But the ethereal cast of Legolas’ features lent his countenance a seeming artlessness that made it difficult to remember he was an Elf of great cunning and no small amount of ruthlessness when circumstances demanded it of him. He closed his eyes as if to shut out his anxieties for his lover when he perforce faced a trial against which he had few defenses.

The brush of gentle fingers against his cheek called him back to the present. He opened his eyes to see Legolas studying him, a frown creasing his smooth brow.

“You seem upset by some disturbance or other,” the archer softly questioned. “Was this last sojourn more fraught than usual?”

Elrohir did not reply at once. There were times when a straight answer could do more harm than good. This was one of those times, he judged.

The future was too fluid to scry with full accuracy. It could change in the blink of an eye just from a simple shift in course by one person, an altered decision, or an unexpected intervention. To arm Legolas with the uncertain knowledge that he might one day be tried by a temptation he had never yet known could very well inhibit him from taking certain steps; steps whose import could alter the course of a history that had yet to take place.

What if that change was for the worst?

Most who were gifted with great foresight very rarely allowed it to wholly dictate their decisions in life. But it was a habit learned, not an inborn trait, and it was a lesson oft dearly earned.

Untrained in the more obscure aspects of the mind arts, Legolas would not truly comprehend the difference between using precognition for simple guidance and permitting it to rule one’s choices. He would likely not curb the natural impulse to circumvent an undesirable future but leap to action without considering all the ramifications of said action. Furthermore, he would suffer through all the anxieties and suspicions that inevitably accompanied excessive foreknowledge.

The truth would always out but there were times when wisdom counselled that it be served in small and timely portions.

“Aye, it was,” Elrohir murmured with all sincerity. It had been a burdensome time. Legolas did not need to know why just yet. “I felt your absence more keenly than ever before.”

Legolas’ frown deepened. Curling a protective arm around Elrohir, he said, “I should not have permitted so long a parting between us. Ah, I should have followed you. Father would have understood. Forgive me, beloved.”

“Nay, you had duties to discharge,” Elrohir countered. “There is naught to forgive. And we are together now. Just having you by my side is enough to soothe my heart.”

“I would do more,” Legolas insisted. “I would drive away your troubles for as long as I can. Ask of me whatever you desire, berethen, and I will strive to grant it.”

Elrohir’s smile was as tender as it was grateful. “You are truly a gift from Iluvatar himself,” he whispered. “But all I need is you. Love me, lassen vain. Have me, fill me. Let me know what it is to be yours.”

His lust enflamed anon, Legolas hastened to grant his Elf-knight’s request. Sensing Elrohir’s need for his swift conquest, he readied him for only as long as it took to ensure he would not cause him too much discomfort ere he sank deep into his mate with one smooth stroke. The ensuing rapture was more than enough to drive all sentient thought from their minds and lay to rest at least for the time being any concerns that would only intrude on the felicity of their reunion.

**************************
Glossary:
Narquelië – Quenya for October
Peredhel – Half-elf/Half-elven
berethen – my spouse
lassen vain – my fair leaf

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Iavas T.A. 2933
Annúminas though but a ghost of its former glory was still a beauty. A faded beauty perhaps but no less enchanting when one recalled its fabled history or looked upon the ruins of what once was.

The Dúnedain of the North had resumed intermittent residence in the ancient royal city of Arnor after the fall of Arthedain. They did not restore her; could not for they had dwindled and the menfolk led a nomadic existence for the better part of each year. But they had rebuilt or repaired what they could and quartered their wives and children here while they carried out their avowed quests to protect and preserve the lives of lesser Men and other Free Folk. Therefore, this once beauteous city on the southern shores of Nenuial, or Lake Evendim in the Common Tongue, served as a relatively secure base for the descendants of the noblest race of Men in Middle-earth.

Galvreth let his eyes roam about the great hall of what had been the royal residence of Elendil and his heirs. The south and east wings of the palace were no longer inhabitable having long ago fallen into disrepair after the abandonment of the city. But the main hall and kitchens, the residential wing and the royal library and council chamber remained sound and thus were put to good use by the Chieftains of the Dúnedain down through the generations. The surrounding gardens had also been lovingly tended to a semblance of its erstwhile splendor and lent the otherwise largely deserted royal estate warmth and hominess.

Gone was the magnificence of ages past. In its place were graceful remnants that called to mind what the vagaries of time and fortune could wreak on anything that was fashioned by less than divine hands. Annúminas in its heyday had been resplendence incarnate. Now the city bore a rather desperate dignity as it strove to survive long enough to see a king upon its crumbling throne once more.

The woodland prince sighed. That day seemed farther away than ever. The Dúnedain would have to abide leaderless for many a year now.

Arathorn son of Arador was dead and buried and in his place toddled a child of little more than two years of age. Young Aragorn was the Chieftain of his people but only in name. It could not even be presumed that he would live to be so in deed as well. Not in these fell times.

Galvreth considered the grief and shock that pervaded the ranks of these indomitable folk he had come to regard as kin in the past five centuries. Death they knew with an intimacy no Elf could truly fathom. In his time of sojourning amongst them, Galvreth had witnessed the passings of no less than nine of their Chieftains. Yet it was Arathorn’s death that burdened them nigh to breaking their spirits.

It could not be because of the manner of his dying, pierced in the eye by an orc-arrow while riding against the foul creatures with the sons of Elrond. Others of his forebears had also met violent ends. The first Aragorn was slain by wolves. Arathorn’s earlier namesake had also perished thusly. And his own father Arador had been killed by hill-trolls just two years previously.

Nay, it was not the manner of his death but perhaps rather its untimely occurrence. For Arathorn had been a mere sixty years old and only three years wed when he fell. Short-lived for one of his race and even more so for one of his line. And no Chieftain before him had left behind an heir of such tender years.

Who would stand as father to his son now? There was none bold enough to approach his widow in courtship. One did not aspire to wed she who had been wife to one’s king and thereby assume guardianship of his heir.

An arm curled around his waist and he turned his head to look at his darkling mate. Elladan glanced out the window by which Galvreth stood and regarded the regal figure of the woman who slowly strolled down a blossom-lined pathway, a little boy at her side clinging to her hand.

“She is strong,” Elladan murmured. “She will weather her loss and the grief and live to see her child grow.”

“But not in joy,” Galvreth remarked. “I do not think it her lot to know much happiness from hereon.”

“What happiness there is she will find in her son,” Elladan said. “And in her kinsfolk’s care. ‘Tis more than most people have these days.”

“You are harsh,” Galvreth retorted somewhat curtly.

Elladan looked at him in surprise. “The truth is oft harsh,” he pointed out, removing his enclosing arm. “In your dark mood, you assail me. May I at least know the reason for it?”

Galvreth heard the edge in his voice and remembered Elladan had more reason than he to mourn Arathorn’s death. He clasped his mate’s hand apologetically.

“Forgive me,” he entreated. “‘Tis only that I have seen so much death all these years. True death,” he added with a shudder.

Elladan’s pique promptly gave way to concern. He knew whereof Galvreth spoke.

The Elves of this later day did not mingle much with the Hildor or Aftercomers. As such only a few had come face to face with the permanence of the gift Iluvatar had bestowed on Men. Even fewer understood the full implications of the gift. But Galvreth and his brother Legolas had seen what perhaps a scant handful of Wood-elves had ever witnessed. The relentless loss of mortal comrades to the eternal oblivion of human demise.

In their journeying with their Imladrin spouses, the princes had laid eyes on much that was beyond their usual ken. It was daunting to say the least for an immortal being to try and truly comprehend the finiteness of Men’s existence.

Elladan slid his arm back into place and Galvreth promptly gripped his hand to keep it there. “They pass beyond the circles of the world, that is true,” the older twin softly affirmed. “But where they abide, they find rest and peace from the evils and griefs of their lives. ‘Tis a blessing even an Elf may come to envy when the toll of endless years becomes too great to bear.”

Galvreth fell silent for a space. At length he shook his head and said: “That might be so for those who have not given their hearts into the keeping of others.” He smiled wanly. “Eternity has been a joy to endure thus far because I have you, bereth.”

Elladan’s answering smile was a shade more radiant and Galvreth’s soon turned as sunny when his Peredhel love brushed their lips together in an affectionate caress.

“Come, the others are already at table,” Elladan invited. “Let us join them in honoring Arathorn’s memory.”

The long tables were laden with trenchers of the simple but hearty fare the Rangers favored. They had just laid their captain to rest and now needed to go forward; to move on as life demanded. And so they feasted and remembered him in their toasts and tales.

But when Gilraen entered the hall, her son in her arms, a reverent hush fell upon the assembly.

Dark-haired and doe-eyed, Gilraen though only four and twenty years of age carried herself with the stately grace of a queen of greater years. Many of the Men present deemed it a tragedy that such beauty and youth would be wasted in chaste and life-long widowhood. But to Gilraen there was no other recourse. Her heart would not abide another in her late husband’s place even did any dare to woo her.

In the manner of Elves, the men and women of the line of Elros seldom if ever gave their hearts more than once. Gilraen was not only wife to Arathorn but also kin. Traces of their elven heritage surged as strongly in her as it had in him. Small wonder their son looked more an Elfling than a mortal child.

She warmly greeted the menfolk before seating herself at the table of the twins and their Mirkwood spouses. The dishes had been cleared and she sat Aragorn upon the table where she could keep an eye on him whilst she conversed with the brethren.

Aragorn looked at the Elves in wide-eyed curiosity, discerning with a child’s innocent perspicacity that they were different from the others. He reached out a small hand to grasp a lock of Legolas’ hair, no doubt puzzled by its fair color. Gentle laughter accompanied the prince’s attempt to extricate himself from the child’s grip. Shorn of that distraction, Aragorn looked hopefully at Galvreth, as fascinated by the argent brightness of his hair as he had been by the shining gold of Legolas’ locks. Galvreth smiled but prudently leaned back out of reach.

Pouting, Aragorn looked about for something else to play with. He soon espied the jeweled hilt of Elrohir’s ceremonial sword where it hung at the younger twin’s belt.

“Give!” he imperiously demanded, tiny hand extended toward the weapon.

Elrohir regarded him a moment then unstrapped his sword in its fine leather sheath. He laid it on the child’s lap. It was too heavy for Aragorn to unsheathe but not too heavy that he could not lift its hilt. His eyes sparkled with pleasure as he rubbed his pudgy fingers over the embedded gems.

“Mama, I Ranger!” he gleefully crowed.

Murmurs of approval resounded through the hall at this early sign of the little Chieftain’s affinity for what would one day be his constant companion and likely the preserver of his life. Gilraen smiled proudly at her minute warrior before shifting her attention once more to the brethren. Her keen regard did not go unmarked.

“Is there something you need of us, my lady?” Elladan inquired.

Gilraen nodded. “I wish to discuss Aragorn’s future with you.” She dropped her voice to a cautious murmur. “But we need to speak in private for there may be some who will object to my plans for him.”

“Tomorrow morn then while we break our fast,” Elrohir suggested. “We can have our meal in the terrace by the nursery.”

To this Gilraen readily agreed.

The gathering broke up soon after. Galvreth watched the Rangers depart, most of them voicing their eagerness for their women’s sultry arms. A small number however sought out not the fairer sex to share their beds but each other. But Gilraen returned to her quarters with the only male who would henceforth share her life with any intimacy of note.

Galvreth felt a wave of pity wash over him accompanied by another still nebulous emotion. It became less vague a moment later when he saw Legolas pull Elrohir to his feet, a telling smirk on his face. With a soft chuckle, Elrohir acquiesced. As they walked away together, his hand dropped from the small of the archer’s back to one lean hip, caressing it possessively. Galvreth stared after them, his feelings suddenly clear as sunlight and just as potentially hazardous if he was not ready for their scorch. A slight tug on his arm told him Elladan was ready to leave the hall as well and he fell into step beside the older twin.

Elladan wondered about his uncharacteristic mercurial temper as they retired to their small bedchamber. Galvreth had always been the least impulsive of their party, outstripping even Elrohir in patience and forbearance. Yet now his moods were as changeable as quicksilver. What troubling thoughts beset him so?

To his surprise, Galvreth began to strip as soon as they entered the room. Eyes closed and lips slightly parted, he made a delectable if enigmatic picture as he slipped out of his light shoes, doffed his tunic and pulled off his shirt, dropping everything on the floor in careless abandon. He glanced at Elladan then pointedly stared at him until the older twin began to shed his clothing. Assured that Elladan was undressing as well, Galvreth unlaced his long breeches.

Elladan watched him raptly as he pushed the breeches down his spare hips then let them slide down his legs to pool around his ankles. He stepped out of them and without a word lay on the bed and quietly waited for Elladan to join him.

There was something provocative about his posture though Elladan could not quite put his finger on the cause. He approached his reclining mate, eyes darkening as he took in the latter’s argent beauty shamelessly displayed for his perusal. Galvreth drew him down into his embrace. Soon they were locked in passion, mouths sealed together, hands roaming with impunity and hips bucking upward with the delicious slip and slide of their straining shafts.

Hungry for the taste of his woodland mate, Elladan pressed Galvreth down and began a wickedly slow, almost torturous exploration of his body. Soon the fair-haired Elf’s throat bore the crimson leavings of his marauding lips and his nipples tightened and peaked when he sucked them hard enough to elicit soft cries from the prince. Galvreth’s belly was duly tended as was his crotch, a particularly sensitive spot for the Wood-elf as evinced by his gasping groans.

His prize all the sweeter for the effort made afore reaching it, Elladan took his time to appreciate it in full. He ran his tongue up and down the tumescent flesh ere he took the whole of it into his mouth. His reward was the helpless quiver of his mate’s body and the melodious cries that told of his pleasure.

He slid a hand beneath the prince to hold him steady. As he did, his thumb slipped into the cleft of Galvreth’s taut buttocks. Elladan tensed when his finger touched what he had not seen, much less caressed in nearly two millennia. He knew he should withdraw his hand before Galvreth felt the intrusion and got upset. But he could not.

So many years had passed since he’d last known the pleasure of touching his lover thusly. Indeed, much too many. Lust got the better of him in that moment. Burning with need, he pressed his forefinger into the heated haven he so missed.

Galvreth’s startled gasp stopped him from going further. The prince had gone utterly still. Elladan lifted his head and looked at him. Widened brown eyes met his, apprehension lurking in their depths. Elladan quickly dropped his eyes lest they betrayed his acute disappointment.

“I am sorry,” he whispered, pulling his hand away.

“Elladan, wait.”

He glanced up at Galvreth’s plea. They locked gazes and a question and answer passed between them. Swallowing nervously, Galvreth wordlessly spread his legs wider in tacit invitation. Elladan stared at him, dumbfounded by his unexpected capitulation. But shock swiftly evolved into fierce desire when his suppressed yearning flared into a conflagration.

Just barely holding on to the shreds of his control, he hooked his hands behind the prince’s knees and pushed them up. Though Galvreth shut his eyes and averted his face in lingering anxiety, Elladan could not resist what was offered. He dipped his head to pillage a heretofore forbidden delight.

He felt Galvreth tremble with every swipe and stab of his tongue. Heard his whimpered cries as he was steadily delved. Elladan wondered if there could be anything more gratifying than the chance to know his spouse so intimately once more. Galvreth’s next words proved him wrong.

“Have me.”

Incredulous, Elladan snapped his gaze to Galvreth’s face. But Galvreth had flung an arm over his eyes as if to withstand the very thing he had asked for.

“Are you certain?” Elladan gently asked.

The barest nod was his only reply. Elladan hesitated then thought to distract his lover from his unease. Once more he attended to Galvreth’s shaft until he felt it swell in his mouth. Knowing his mate adequately diverted, he anointed his finger with the burgeoning cream of his own arousal then slowly slid it into tight, satin-soft heat.

Instinctively, Galvreth flinched but Elladan held him fast. The Elf-lord proceeded with his onslaught, sucking voraciously while assiduously preparing long unbreached flesh for its first piercing in more years than either Elf cared to remember.

Galvreth spent himself convulsively, driven over the edge by Elladan’s twofold assault. For some minutes he lay limp and unmoving, trying to catch his breath. Elladan gazed at his lover appreciatively. The throb in his shaft reminded him of his need for release and soon. But he was not so far gone that all sense had forsaken him as well.

His spouse had not borne penetration in so long and for good reason. It would not do to cause him discomfort and recall to him the torment he had endured. The elven mind’s nigh limitless capacity for remembrance could be as much a curse as it was a blessing. Elladan would need to ease his way with more than his own seed.

He stretched toward the small bedside table and opened the topmost drawer. From within he retrieved a jar of salve which was used for the soothing of aching muscles and the like. Glancing at Galvreth, he saw that the prince was watching him, his eyes faintly clouded with nervousness.

Elladan sat back on his heels and studied Galvreth, noting how the Wood-elf darted a quick look at the jar in his hand. At last he said in as even a voice as he could muster: “We need not continue if you are not ready.”

Galvreth eyed the still unabated evidence of his spouse’s arousal before lifting his gaze to peer at his countenance. There was no hiding the desire in Elladan’s features though the twin made no move to pressure him to attend to it. Galvreth slowly breathed out and took the jar from him.

Removing the lid he extended it to Elladan. Eyes glittering, Elladan dipped his fingers into the creamy unguent and scooped up a generous dollop. Holding Galvreth’s gaze, he thoroughly anointed his shaft, hissing slightly as the caress of his own fingers set his sensitive flesh a-sizzle.

Galvreth’s eyes widened as Elladan’s shaft lengthened and thickened to its fullest extent. Trembling, he closed his eyes again then rolled over onto his stomach and parted his legs, hands loosely clenched into fists on either side of his shoulders. Elladan gazed at him with concern.

The prince’s position was reminiscent of the posture his long ago tormentors had forced him into before they savaged him.

“Do you truly desire this?” he murmured as he moved between Galvreth’s outstretched legs.

“I want to be whole again,” Galvreth whispered.

Elladan could only wonder at his mate’s methods of righting a wrong in his mind. Others would have balked at being taken in the same position in which they had been violated. But it was apparent Galvreth intended to expunge the memories of his torment by reenacting his enforced submission then and replacing it in his consciousness with his willing surrender now. Though he maintained some caution, Elladan decided to trust Galvreth’s reasoning.

Kissing his way down the slope of the prince’s back and pausing to pay particular attention to the silvery remnants of the most grievous scars, he had Galvreth shivering before long. Coming to Galvreth’s bottom, he gently parted the firm cheeks and once again pillaged the sensitive flesh therein. Galvreth moaned helplessly into the pillow as he was nibbled and licked and tasted for an inordinately long time. By the time Elladan moved to take him, the argent-haired Elf was virtually thrumming with need.

Holding Galvreth’s hips steady, Elladan poised himself to enter him. Gritting his teeth with the effort to keep from summarily burying himself in long-missed velvet heat, he slid into Galvreth in stages, deepening his thrusts slowly and gently while stroking the prince’s flanks, back and thighs. His head virtually swimming from the ecstasy of berthing himself within his beloved’s body after so many centuries, he fought to prolong the bliss, refusing to permit himself completion before he had secured Galvreth’s first.

Elladan began to thrust in earnest, embedding himself further with every lunge of his hips. Galvreth had turned his head to rest one side of his face on the pillow and Elladan took care to observe his reaction. He listened to Galvreth’s gasps, watched how he clutched at the beddings and soon felt the lift of his hips when he intuitively pushed back as invasive bliss pervaded his senses. But his eyes every now and then fluttered open and Elladan could descry his turmoil as tenacious memories of pain and brutality battled it out with the rapturous sensations of his breaching.

Though he longed to spare his love more suffering, Elladan knew he could not stop now. He was leagues beyond the point at which he could still forego the heady pleasure of being gloved in such exquisite confines. Not after all his waiting.

Reaching around, he gently urged Galvreth to raise himself onto his elbows and knees. Leaning over the prince’s back, he suckled the flesh of his nape and the side of his neck, drawing pleased gasps. He stroked his hands over his mate’s abdomen before moving them lower to caress the tender flesh where groin met thighs. Still he did not touch Galvreth’s shaft but instead gently cupped the tender pouches beneath, almost teasing them with his fingers.

Galvreth’s tension began to diminish somewhat.

To his shock, Elladan pulled him up and back so that Galvreth straddled his groin. The prince cried out as he completely slid down his mate’s unyielding flesh. Shuddering, almost whimpering, he grasped Elladan’s thighs with shaking hands. But if it was his intention to disengage himself from his impalement, Elladan foiled it.

The older twin pressed him down, forcing him to take in his shaft to the hilt. Galvreth’s grip on Elladan’s thighs tightened. Memories of a fearsome instrument of pain clawed their way to the fore of his consciousness. Eyes shut tight, he raggedly begged for a cessation of their play.

Elladan carefully shifted their position but Galvreth was no longer able to comprehend aught but his emerging panic at being so fulsomely speared. A hand cupped his cheek and compelled him to raise his head.

Open your eyes, melethron.

Galvreth reluctantly obeyed the unspoken command. His breath hitched when he complied. They now faced a corner of the room. And the large beveled mirror that stood there.

The woodland prince gaped at the erotic vision that met his eyes: He atop the Elf-lord’s lap, their bodies joined in the uttermost act of intimacy between any two beings and Elladan’s reflected gaze blazing with concern, passion and abiding love.

Whatever fearful memories Galvreth still harbored slowly dissipated. With a sigh, he turned his head and gained the scalding kiss he desired before he determinedly returned his gaze to the mirror and the potent image therein. For the visual reminder that it was Elladan who filled him served to edge out his hurtful recollections and he soon ceased to flinch from the cleaving of his flesh.

He groaned as he watched Elladan slide his hand down to fondle him, fingers sensuously caressing every inch of his member, stroking it to its fullest length. The sight shattered the remnants of Galvreth’s reservations and before too long he was wantonly riding Elladan’s shaft, eagerly sheathing his gallant spouse with every descent of his hips.

No fear marred their joining now. Only raw, unmitigated passion flowed between them in this intense mating of body and spirit. Letting go, Elladan permitted his lust full sway, relentlessly driving as deeply as possible into Galvreth until the prince was nigh sobbing from the burn and bliss of it.

A particularly hard upward thrust into his core and a few firm, almost brusque tugs on his shaft propelled Galvreth into an abyss of excruciating ecstasy. His strangled cry accompanied the profuse dribble of pearlescent cream that stippled their thighs and the sheets. With silk-bound muscles contracting around his length, Elladan could do naught but follow him into rapture and Galvreth moaned when he was flooded with the warmth of his mate’s spending.

They sank down together, Galvreth nestling in the curve of Elladan’s body, their legs loosely entwined. Such a torrid coupling required a lengthier than usual recovery before they engaged in further love-play. That is, if Galvreth could endure it.

Brushing strands of silver from his mate’s cheek, Elladan stiffened when his fingers encountered damp skin. Alarmed, he leaned over Galvreth and found the latter’s face wet with tears though the prince made nary a sound.

Elladan berated himself. Valar! Had he gone too far? “My heart, forgive me, I should not have—” he began to say.

But Galvreth quickly turned over and silenced him with a passionate kiss while ardently pressing their forms together. The warrior groaned when he felt certain nether parts surge to life anew and he wove his arms around Galvreth’s warm body, smoothing his hands down his back.

“Why did you weep?” he asked when they suffered their mouths to part. “I thought I had done you harm.”

Galvreth tucked his head in the crook of Elladan’s neck. “Nay, you did nothing I did not desire. Indeed, that stroke with the mirror was ingenious. The sight of you taking me made me forget my fears.” He snuggled deeper into Elladan’s embrace. “If I wept ‘twas because I realized how much you were forced to forego and what I had missed for so long. You are a most glorious lover and I have known naught but joy in our couplings. But I confess, I have not been completely content these past many years.”

He quickly preempted any worried responses, pressing his fingers against Elladan’s lips. “‘Twas not you who has been lacking or that I have not enjoyed our loving. But I have since realized that though taking you is bliss beyond compare, even more do I enjoy feeling your flesh fill me. I was happiest when I sheathed you, seron vell. That has not changed though I have not done so for far too long.”

Elladan regarded him with astonishment. “All this time, you felt thusly?” he murmured. At Galvreth’s nod, he queried, “Why did you not tell me?”

“And raise your hopes untimely? Nay, I could not bear to disappoint you yet again. Do not deny it. You have desired this as well. You could not always hide your yearning from me.”

Elladan pursed his lips then said, “But why now? I could see how fearful you still were. Why did you persist?”

“Because of what befell Arathorn and Gilraen,” Galvreth explained. “They were wed for only three years. Three years of bliss I assume considering how deeply she mourns him. But now she must live her life without him. What regrets might she harbor? What promises to each other did they not fulfill that she might now rue?” He sighed and nuzzled Elladan’s throat. “Life is not kind or patient nor does it grant certitude of any sort. You or I could be snatched away from each other in the course of discharging our duties. I did not want that evil to happen whilst this still lay between us. I wanted to heal, Elladan; to feel as I did when we first lay together. To know myself utterly and inarguably yours.”

As he listened, Elladan felt his desire swiftly mount. And when Galvreth declared the depth of his wanting, his lust erupted into a ferocious need.

“Verily I have indeed longed for this moment,” he murmured huskily. “More than you can ever imagine, melethen.”—my love.

He claimed Galvreth in an incendiary kiss while he reached down between the Wood-elf’s thighs to slide his finger into him. Enjoying the sound of his mate’s indrawn breath of delight, he stroked the silky passage and deemed that there would be no further need for the salve. The prince was adequately slick with Elladan’s spending.

He rolled Galvreth beneath him, nudging the prince’s legs apart. The Wood-elf eagerly pulled his knees back and spread them enticingly.

No slow, tender entry heralded their second joining but a deep and hardy plunge that left both atremble with sensation. Elladan drove repeatedly into Galvreth while he plied his lips on the luminous flesh of his mate’s throat and shoulders. Trapped beneath his mate’s formidable form, the woodland Elf could do little more than wrap his arms around Elladan’s shoulders and meet his thrusts as vigorously and joyously.

In the moment before their spirits met in ecstatic union, a quietly sobbed avowal of love was heard. Who made it neither Elf could recall in the sweet aftermath of their coupling. Not that it mattered when the words mirrored what they felt deep in their heart of hearts.

* * * *

The twins’ meeting with Arathorn’s widow yielded an unexpected resolution though not wholly surprising.

When the sons of Elrond and their Mirkwood spouses departed Annúminas afore the end of autumn, Gilraen and her son journeyed with them. For it was her intention that he be reared in Imladris under the full guardianship of Elrond.

Love and the security of familial care she could give her child. But Elrond would give him much more that she could not. The lore and wisdom of the ages. Safety from his foes of whom there were many. Kinship without the almost inevitable imposition of conditions wrought by ambition or exigency. But above all, the Peredhel lord could provide him with a father’s guidance.

Her prudence in keeping her plans to herself paid off. Many were there who protested her choice when they learned the last heir of Isildur would be raised not by his mother’s kinsfolk but by the brother of his long-dead forefather. By then, mother and child had already crossed the borders of Rivendell and come under the protection of Elrond and there was naught more the naysayers could do beyond grumble.

There were few who cared to besmirch their good names should they be perceived by their peers as harboring dreams of wielding power through the child-king-to-be. And so they held their tongues and were slowly relegated to the background while those more steadfast in loyalty gained the ascendancy.

But to the little boy they were sworn to serve, such intrigues and gambits were of small consequence. His child’s memories of life in the ancient city by the dark waters of Nenuial and any remembrance of his royal heritage were supplanted by the here and now of his Imladrin upbringing under Elrond’s care and tutelage. Soon enough, he did not even recall his true name.

For the Peredhel lord deemed it best to hide his identity even from his mortal ward. Those who sought to discover his whereabouts going by his birth name were told by the Elves that no such child lived in Rivendell. None could question their veracity for indeed no child was there in all the vale who went by the name Aragorn son of Arathorn.

And so the child who did live under Master Elrond’s roof grew up in safe obscurity whilst in the world outside the years continued their implacable march and destiny unfolded for many a soul, unsuspecting and otherwise.

*************************************
Glossary:
iavas – Sindarin for late summer and early autumn
bereth - husband or wife; spouse
melethron – male lover
seron vell – beloved

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Imladris, 26 September T.A. 2938
Lassen vell,
You have just left the valley and already I miss you so. How I wish I could have accompanied you. But thanks to that pig-headed, son-of-a-troll Alhael I must content myself with following you to Mirkwood instead. You would think that in these times, these mortals would band together instead of taking offense over imagined slights to their good names. Not that Alhael possesses much of a name that could not withstand further sullying. How the Dúnedain spawned such a thick-skulled hothead I cannot comprehend. Thank Eru for Halbarad and his sensible ways. He actually managed to shame Alhael into behaving himself simply by setting an unassailable example. He is turning out to be a most promising youth and Elladan and I look forward to training him.

I must commend you on your timing in leaving when you did however much I rue parting from you. Or should I say express my envy? Estel has been overly frisky these past weeks, harrowing everyone with his mischief. I am not certain whether ‘tis a great improvement over his remarkable tendency toward mishaps. Father has oft said he has put enough stitches into that boy to make a quilt. Personally, I think he has understated the matter. Estel will be lucky to survive to his majority considering the number of times he has perforce frequented the healing halls.

Thus far only Glorfindel and I have not fallen victim to his more hair-raising pranks. Mayhap ‘tis because our deeds as Imladris’ principal defenders have been impressed enough on him to intimidate him. If so, then I am truly grateful I was not first out of the womb. Elladan says if Estel does not desist very soon, no one will blame him if he resorts to fratricide in the name of peace and quiet. Even Father has not been spared though Estel tempers his misdeeds when he plays them on him. And then he is so charming and repentant when caught that Father cannot do aught but forgive him and take him back into his good graces.

I once said I did not mind rearing the get of others. Do you recall that? Well, I obviously spoke too soon. It is entirely different when one must contend with a youngster for the space of a season or two. To actually have a hand in the day-to-day care of one as precocious as Estel is a veritable lesson in survival! Even you were not so gamesome, melethron, for all that you were a handful. Then again, you are still a handful and a most pleasant one at that.

I look forward to rejoining you as soon as I escort Alhael and his cohorts to the borders. Halbarad will be staying on however. Erestor is tutoring him in Elven lore and Númenorean history. He will be good company for Estel provided the boy does not drive him mad first.

All my love,
Elrohir

Mirkwood, 5 October T.A. 2938
Berethen,
My sympathies are with you and yours that you must bear the brunt of a youngling’s play. More than ever I am grateful our brushes with child rearing will be sporadic at best. There is something most comforting in the knowledge that one can return one’s nephews or nieces to their parents should they begin to fuss beyond one’s forbearance. And I admit, mine is perilously low when it comes to teething infants and crankly Elflings.

But fie on you to call me a handful. You belittle me, Elf-knight, for you know full well that I am MORE than a measly handful. Mayhap I should work on reminding you of this when you join me.

Father says he hopes we will not be questing again too soon. A decent night’s sleep eludes him when we are far a-field, so great is his concern for our well being. Do remind Elladan to reply to Galvreth’s last letter forthwith if he does not wish to be without bed or mate when he gets here. As for myself, I await your arrival as patiently as possible which, my brothers claim, is a feat in itself. Verily, I have no idea why they think I would demean myself otherwise.

Hasten here if you care for an armful of Wood-elf to warm your nights, Elf-knight. I promise you, there will be little need for the hearth to be lit if you let me have my way with you.

Yours evermore,
Legolas

Imladris, 20 August T.A. 2939
Dearest one,
This last sojourn was black beyond belief. Not because of the perils and griefs we encountered but because I was without your presence, my love. Have I ever told you how thankful I am that you persisted in questing with me? If not, let me say it now. ‘Twas a gift beyond compare that you bestowed your inimitable company upon me even in times of hardship and fear. You have made this onerous charge bearable and given me more reason to persevere. I know I am helping forge a more wholesome and peaceful world for us all. If I have one regret, it is that I feel your absence even more keenly having got accustomed to your steadfast company.

There is not much to say beyond the usual. We discovered an Orc encampment not far from Imladris. They grow bold, these beasts. We gave them no quarter and burned down their camp one night and them with it. Have you ever marked how utterly impossible it is to feel pity for Orcs even when you hear them screaming in pain? They neither whimper nor plead for mercy but curse you and each other to their dying breath. And these scoundrels had no compunction about shoving their own fellows into the flames if by doing so they might save their own miserable hides. Is it any wonder we Elves have no compunction about destroying them without a second thought? They are wretched, twisted things and as evil and ruthless as their foul creators. Would that we could wipe them from the face of Middle-earth with nary a trace to ever tell of their existence.

I regret that once again I shall not be able to join you but we must now be on guard against other incursions into our territory. Glorfindel has returned to active duty despite Erestor’s entreaties to the contrary. We simply cannot take the chance that other foes have been similarly emboldened to trespass on our lands and mayhap bring innocent folk woe as they did my family when Naneth was hurt.

I do not do this lightly. It grieves me each time I break our contract to abide together. You always forgive me and assure me of your understanding but I know how much it rankles that duty and honor have parted us far too often of late. I can only beg your pardon anew, melethen, and promise to make amends for my neglect of you when we come together again. Until then, may the Valar keep you safe and sound.

I am ever your
Elrohir

Mirkwood, 15 February T.A. 2941
Dearest,
You mentioned in your last letter that the Dúnedain wish to ride out sooner this year than usual. Have there been more raids on the settlements to your north? These Goblins are truly a pestilential menace and I cannot blame the Rangers for wishing to deal with them as swiftly as possible. Write me regarding your plans that Galvreth and I might ready ourselves to join you. We are free to ride with you this season and I refuse to allow the opportunity to pass.

Strange that I should count it a stroke of fortune to be able to hunt Orc. But it is the surest means to be with you and I will abide anything in order to do so. I miss you terribly, maethoren vorn. I pray we will be together ere much longer even if it must be in the wilds of Eriador.

Devotedly,
Legolas

Imladris, 28 February T.A. 2941
My Greenleaf,
The Dúnedain have sent word that they shall rendezvous in the Ettenmoors. The Orcs ceased to prey on the northern hamlets after we destroyed their main nest which was brazenly located in one of the villages they had earlier ravaged. We cannot allow this to continue, Legolas. They must be driven back to the mountains where they can do the least harm to the folk in these parts. Aye, they will be a bane to travellers but at least those who traverse the Hithaeglir know enough to arm themselves and always journey in large numbers.

I must warn you that we shall likely not return until the onset of winter. We have received reports that the number of brigands and trolls is also on the rise once more. Needless to say, the Rangers intend to eliminate as many of these menaces as possible even if it means hunting way past the end of autumn.

You and Galvreth need not come all the way to Imladris. Elladan and I will ride to meet you at the usual place at the base of the mountains. My love, do not let misplaced pride rule you. Have a large and well-armed escort accompany the both of you over the mountains. I will not have you risk being taken and tormented as Naneth was.

I look forward to being with you again after so long a separation. Eru speed you on your way, my golden prince.

Yours always,
Elrohir

Mirkwood, 22 December T.A. 1941
Rochiren vell,
I have returned from a most unlooked for adventure and verily am still reeling from the suddenness of it all. Hardly had Galvreth and I set foot once more in Mirkwood when we had to march forth with our father’s host. All we could get out of the others was something about Dwarves spying on or attempting to rob us. Father caught them but to everyone’s surprise they somehow escaped from their cells. Do not raise your eyebrows at me, bereth. I know full well that Imladris has dungeons as well though admittedly they are rarely if ever used.

In any case, we learned through our agents that the missing prisoners had turned up at Esgaroth along with an odd creature that called itself a Hobbit. That certainly piqued my interest for I recall you speaking of a place called the Shire and that its inhabitants call themselves Hobbits though you referred to them as Halflings. The Lake-men also sent word of a sudden attack by that accursed dragon Smaug after the Dwarves set out to reclaim Erebor from him. Smaug destroyed Lake-town but a bowman named Bard slew him with an arrow to his breast. How he knew of that one weakness in the dragon’s armor I do not know but ‘twas a most welcome stroke of luck.

Naturally, Adar decided to go to the Lake-men’s aid. Out of courtesy to allies, he said, but I warrant simple curiosity was the greater reason. So we marched to Erebor and at once came up against the most mule-headed Dwarf of all. How anyone can stomach Thorin Oakenshield as his liege is beyond me but I suppose Dwarves do not mind such incivility as his so long as a reward of booty is in the offing.

I did get to see the Hobbit up close ere more trouble broke out. He had the temerity to come down to our camp and attempt to treat with us. A remarkable person this Bilbo Baggins is. Mithrandir seems to think very highly of him. At any rate, he offered Bard the use of the Arkenstone as a bargaining tool. You have heard of it I presume? But the actual gem far surpasses any description I