The Elf returned to the pavilion grounds where numerous tents had been set up for the celebration earlier that day. It was now well past midnight and most of the revelers had retired for bed, but here and there the Elf’s keen eyes could detect the bright glow of a burning fire and hear the laughter of men still telling tales and drinking wine. He had celebrated enough during the day and had spent the evening wandering the woods of Ithilien. Much damage had been done to the fair forest and his promise to bring his people out to this land, should his Elven-lord allow, stirred deeply in his heart. He would heal these woods until they were restored to their former beauty.
That would be in the days to come but at present, the Elf wandered amidst the tents wondering which one had been assigned to him. Then a thought struck him. He had only to listen for the snoring of the Dwarf and he would know precisely where to go. He stopped and listened carefully. The familiar sound of Gimli’s deep contented breathing, if one could describe the noise the Dwarf made when he slept as such, did not reach his ears. The Elf shook his head. No doubt Gimli was still awake and drinking some poor hapless soldier under the table. The thought made him smile.
He turned his head to the right where a strong breeze blew open one of the flaps of a nearby tent. A lone figure was inside, a Man whom the Elf recognized. He walked towards the tent and lifted one of the flaps to look inside.
“Legolas,” a voice greeted him.
“Pardon my intrusion, Éomer,” the Elf said, stepping inside the tent. “I was wondering if you know where I could find Gimli.”
The Man shook his head. “He was with some of my men when I saw him last,” Éomer informed him. “Your friend shows great resilience to the strongest of our ales.”
The Elf let out a musical laugh. “Gimli has great resilience to any ale,” he corrected.
The Horse Lord laughed in agreement. “Is there any reason why you are looking for him?” he asked.
“I was hoping he could show me the way to our tent.”
“Ah,” Éomer said thoughtfully. “I’m afraid I don’t have an answer for that either. But,” he hesitated slightly, “you are welcome to share mine for the time being. Faramir has not yet retired.”
The Elf surveyed the tent. It was spacious and there was a spare bed to his right, which had been placed at a right angle to the bed that Éomer was currently sitting upon.
“Only if you are certain that I am not disturbing you?”
“Your company is more than welcome,” the Man assured him.
With a grateful smile, the Elf strode inside the tent and sat down gracefully upon the spare bed. Éomer watched the Elf’s fluid movements with a secretive smile. Legolas intrigued him.
“If I may be so bold to say so,” the Horse Lord began, “you look tired.”
The Elf laughed again. “I am tired,” he agreed. “But it is only after battle and hard fought victories that I may show my fatigue,” he added, proceeding to remove his leather arm braces and forest green jerkin, neatly folding the cloth and placing it at the foot of his bed, the braces on top of the jerkin. Now dressed in his silver embroidered tunic, he turned to face the Man who was studying him intently. “Do not strain your eyes so, Éomer,” he chided. “I shall not disappear.”
The Man smiled, slightly embarrassed to be caught so openly staring. “I did not mean to be rude,” he apologized.
“Do not worry,” Legolas said gently. “You are not the first man to look upon me with curiosity. Long has it been since an Elf was seen among the race of Men. I fear I have become a novelty.”
“A novelty is but a name we give to that which passes the time,” Éomer said with a shake of his head. “You are no novelty, Legolas. Your name shall carry through the ages as one of the Nine Walkers, for you have played no small part in the Great Journey.”
The Elf smiled, moved by the Man’s words and he placed his right hand upon his heart while the other remained outstretched, as he bowed his head in gratitude.
“I was watching you before,” Éomer continued, “because you remain an enigma to me. Sitting here as you are, relaxed in this tent, you do not appear to be the same warrior whose feats I witnessed in battle.”
“Do I appear so frail without my bow and arrow?”
The Man laughed again, enjoying the Elf’s company and quick wit. “I saw you,” he said, “at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields bring down a mûmak single-handedly. Quite a feat, indeed.”
“Gimli was not so impressed,” Legolas said. “I believe his exact words were: That only counts as one!”
The two laughed at the Dwarf’s stubbornness but when their laughter died away Éomer said, “I do believe though, that there is a more efficient way to bring down a mûmak.”
The Elf arched a golden eyebrow questioningly. “Share your wisdom, Horse Lord.”
The gleam in Éomer’s eye grew as he heard the challenge in the Elf’s voice. “Despite its size,” he said, “a mûmak is an animal like any other. These beasts of burden need direction, a rider to control them. If you take out the rider, you take out the beast.”
The Elf’s brow furrowed. “I fail to see the connection,” he said at last. “If you take out the rider, then another one will simply replace him. If one does not replace him, then you would have a mûmak without direction, which is far more dangerous. An animal of that size could wreak more havoc without one to guide him.”
“On the contrary,” Éomer responded, “and I speak from experience, a mûmak without a rider is foolish enough to run into one of its own kind, thus bringing down two animals in the process.”
“Then you were fortuitous,” Legolas declared, “for the great reins of the beast must have been caught in order to steer him towards another of his kind.”
Instead of being annoyed, the Horse Lord found himself chuckling, recognizing a semblance of truth in his companion’s words.
“Stand up!” the Elf suddenly ordered.
“I beg your pardon?” Éomer bristled at Legolas’ commanding tone.
“If we are going to discuss tactics,” Legolas explained, “then I will need someone to act as a volunteer for my demonstration.” He arched an eyebrow again to emphasize his point.
Knowing there was no one else present, Éomer grudgingly stood up. Legolas rose as well and walked to the Man until they were standing face to face near the center of the tent.
“Now,” Legolas said slowly, “get down on your hands and knees.”
Éomer opened his mouth to protest but was silenced when Legolas added, “A mûmak does not stand up on its hind legs.”
Hardly believing that he was submitting to the Elf’s will, Éomer found himself on his hands and knees on the earthen floor. I must have drunk more wine than I realized, he thought, a part of him nevertheless secretly thrilled at what the Elf might do next.
Legolas looked down at the Man, a fey smile on his face. Then he walked around him until he was standing at Éomer’s feet.
“A mûmak is a beast of burden,” Legolas began, bending over and running his hands along Éomer’s broad back, feeling the Man’s strong muscles beneath the light material of his maroon shirt, “and thus can take a great weight.”
Before Éomer could grasp what was happening, the Elf had mounted him, sitting comfortably on his lower back as he stretched out on top of the Man, his seductive voice whispering in Éomer’s ear.
“But a mûmak’s real strength,” Legolas continued in that same low voice, “lies in its legs that carry it forward.”
With these words, the Elf’s hands journeyed up the Man’s sides until they reached his shoulders, massaging them slowly before proceeding down Éomer’s now slightly aching arms, kneading them gently.
“And in the beast’s neck and great trunk,” Legolas added, soft lips ghosting over the sliver of exposed flesh on the Horse Lord’s neck, as the Man’s hair fell on either side of his face. Éomer closed his eyes. He was succumbing to the Elf’s touch, but a part of his mind railed at Legolas’s control.
“Can you imagine,” Legolas whispered, “what such a beast could do if there was no rider to control him?”
Éomer’s eyes flew open. He knew exactly what a mûmak would do.
“The beast would rise up,” the Horse Lord said, taking the Elf by surprise as he stood up, “and crush those in his path.”
Legolas ungraciously slid off the Man’s back and landed on the floor. Éomer showed his quick reflexes by reversing their positions, straddling his companion at the waist and leaning over him, one hand on either side of the Elf. Legolas smiled wickedly, delighted at the Man’s bold actions.
“And what would you do, son of Éomund?” the Elf asked. “Since you have not my skill to mount the beast when it is in full flight?”
“I have not your skill,” Éomer admitted, sitting up, “but there are other ways to bring down a mûmak.” He paused and looked thoughtfully at the Elf, who was now at his mercy. “As you have illustrated,” he began, “a mûmak has a strong back, strong legs and a great trunk as its weapon. What I shall show you is a mûmak’s weakness, for like most animals, its flesh is tender here.” Saying so Éomer placed his hands on the Elf’s chest, feeling the strong heart beat beneath his palm and then moved lower. “An animal’s outer skin is hardened by the elements but its belly remains sheltered from the harshest weather.”
Éomer now moved over the flat plane of the Elf’s stomach until his hands slipped under Legolas’s silver tunic. They felt cold against the Elf’s warm skin. He locked eyes with the Elf as he moved back up, lifting the tunic over Legolas’s head as he did so. Legolas stretched his arms to allow the tunic to slide off and then lay down on the earthen floor, his face framed by his golden hair.
“A hundred arrows aimed at the belly of the beast would not bring him down,” Legolas stated.
“No.” The Elf shook his head. “Although the belly is a weakness,” he agreed, “it is not the ultimate weakness.”
“And what would that be?”
In answer to the question Legolas surged forward, this time taking Éomer by surprise until he too was face to face with the Man, sitting comfortably in his lap. Éomer’s heartbeat quickened. They were inches away from each other. The Elf was so close that he could smell Legolas’s scent and it intoxicated him more than any wine possibly could. Gently, Legolas lifted his hand and brought it to the Man’s face, brushing away a stray lock of hair.
“This is the mûmak’s ultimate weakness,” he said, his hand lingering on the Man’s face. “You must strike him in the head. Three well-placed arrows will bring down the beast.”
“Where would you place these arrows?”
“If we were discussing a cave troll, I would say in his throat,” the Elf laughed. “But for a mûmak, I would say the top and center of the great beast’s head.”
The tension had become too much for the Man and without thinking, he held the Elf’s face in both his hands and pressed their lips together. Legolas did not resist. His fingers curled into the Man’s long mane and gave it a slight pull, causing Éomer to moan and open his mouth in response. Legolas entered and Éomer deepened the kiss eagerly, relishing the feel of being invaded by the Elf’s warm tongue. The kiss was drawn out as Éomer entered the Elf’s mouth in turn and his hands left Legolas’s face to travel down his back, pulling the Elf against his body until he was cradling the lithe figure in his arms. But when the kiss ended, Legolas’s hand rested on the Horse Lord’s shoulder and there was a disapproving look on the Elf’s fair features that puzzled the Man. Had the kiss displeased his new Elven friend?
“That would not bring down a mûmak,” Legolas said seriously.
Éomer maintained his stoic visage and nodded his head gravely. “What do you suggest?”
A second later the Man found himself on his back, the Elf’s deft fingers undoing the laces of his maroon shirt. “A mûmak,” Legolas explained as he continued to divest the Man of his clothing, now untying the laces of Éomer’s breeches, “must be handled with force and control.”
Éomer reached for the Elf’s leggings and they slid off Legolas’s smooth skin like water. “Yes,” he agreed breathlessly, kicking off his boots and pulling the Elf on top of him.
It was at this precise moment when Legolas was pulling off Éomer’s uncooperative breeches that the two heard a slight cough. The pair looked up from their compromising position on the floor.
“Excuse me,” a flustered Steward said, frozen in between the flaps of the tent. “I appear to have the wrong tent.”
“No, Faramir,” Éomer quickly replied. “You are in the right tent. Legolas and I were merely . . .” he faltered, not quite sure how to explain the situation.
“We were merely discussing the best tactics to bring down a mûmak,” the Elf smoothly finished.
Éomer nodded in mute agreement.
“I see,” Faramir said, taking matters in his stride. “How very . . . educational.”
“Would you like to contribute to our discussion?” Legolas asked innocently.
“I’m afraid I know very little about mûmakil,” Faramir replied. “But I have shot down a Nazgûl.”