Conufin must have noticed my obsession. It would have been impossible not to, the way I stood too close when I was near him and made excuses to be near him when I should have been elsewhere. I lay awake at night to watch him sleeping, and woke up early just so I could follow him around each minute of the day and get in his way at every opportunity. I made certain to accidentally brush my fingers against his whenever he handed me a dish or tool. I touched his shoulder or arm whenever I had to walk past. Most of all, I stared at him as often as I could. But, in his usual masked manner, he hid all reactions to my odd behaviour and gave no sign that anything had changed.
Sometimes I caught him staring back at me. Never in the same way I stared at him, with my unwavering adoration and sparking lust; he always looked more thoughtful when he observed me, as if he could read every thought that crossed my mind. Maybe he could. My father once told me that the Elves of the West had the ability to read thoughts and speak with their minds. Galadriel of Lothlórien could do it; likely Conufin could too. Therefore whenever Conufin stared at me I tried my best to hide my shameful thoughts, and blushed at the possibility of him discovering my desires. I wondered what he would do if he found out. Though sometimes I did wish he would read that thought in my mind, saving me the embarrassment of eventually having to tell him myself.
I wondered at the likelihood of him ever thinking of me in such a way. Small, I knew, but it excited me just to consider it. Sometimes I let my imagination run wild, exploring impossible scenarios in which the two of us were always together. Sometimes I held myself back, certain that every silly fantasy chipped away at the possibility of ever having such a relationship for real. And sometimes I wondered what was stopping me from reaching out to touch his hair, or caress his face, when he sat beside me so close that it was painful not to do so. Inhibitions are evil, terrible things, as is common courtesy. Cowardice is no help either.
The worst times were those when we would go swimming in the sea. Conufin would strip off his clothes and stand before me, naked except for the fingerless leather gloves he always wore, expectantly waiting for me to do the same and join him. More often than not, my body refused to cooperate with the situation and I was forced to make excuses as to why I could not remove my breeches just then. I usually watched him for some time before daring to join. But the situation turned better once I actually made it into the water, which was so frigidly cold that all untoward thoughts immediately perished. Then I was too busy shivering to be able to consider all the animal things I wanted to do with Conufin, whose sea-splashed naked body was a constant hazard to my sanity.
He would always swim out far from shore while I, who had never had to swim more than a few feet across a river and had never fully acquired the skill, never went in any deeper than up to my chest. I would walk out as far as I dared, bobbing up and down with the waves and amusing myself by picking up smooth rocks from the sea bed with my toes until he came back in. I occasionally tried to swim back to the beach instead of walk, but always panicked and touched my feet to the bottom to make sure I was still safe. Once though, when Conufin was swimming not far from me and straight to my left, I reasoned that I should be able to swim out to him while still staying the same distance from shore and in the shallower water. I swam a few arm's lengths before going to touch my feet down in assurance only to find no sandy rocks beneath me. With a startled shout I went under, more out of surprise than real lack of swimming skill, and by the time I managed to thrash my way back to the surface, Conufin was there beside me. He hooked his arm under mine and pulled both of us back to the shallows, making sure I was standing on my own before letting go.
I gulped in as much air as I could, suddenly aware of how cold I was. I stepped nearer to Conufin and held onto his arm. Then, in a rare moment when impulse outweighed both common sense and the freezing sea water, I wrapped my arms around his waist and buried my face against his shoulder. He flinched, but didn't step back or pull away.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
"No," I said. "Wait, yes. I think so."
"You need to be careful swimming in the sea," he said. "The bottom can drop away in a sheer cliff at any time, and if you can't swim-"
"I can swim," I interrupted, then added to myself, 'Just not very well.'
We stood silently together with me clinging to him for several long moments before he tried to step back. I held my grip on him. I never wanted to let go, now that I had him so close and trapped in my arms.
"We should go back to the shore," he said. I nodded in agreement, but made no move to release him. Instead, I looked up at his eyes. He stared straight back at me, as unreadable as ever. I could only hold his gaze for a few short seconds before looking away. "Thranduil..." he said softly.
"Shut up," I told him. "I don't want to talk right now." I only wanted to concentrate on being close to him.
"Alright." He lifted his arms out of the water and wrapped them around my back. I was shivering as the cold spring wind blew against my wet hair and skin, but I felt warm wherever he touched me. I laid my head back against his shoulder. He turned toward me, tilting his face down, and once again kissed me on the cheek. His lips lingered against my skin.
Before he could pull away, I lifted my hand to cup his cheek and keep him from moving back. Then, unhindered by any sort of concern for the consequences, I kissed him back. I pressed my lips to his and tasted the salt water on his skin. He hissed in surprise, but I didn't let go. I slid my hand around to the back of his neck and held him close. I kissed him like I had imagined kissing him on all those nights when I let my mind wander in secrecy. If this turned out to be the only chance I had, I wanted to do it well. I only stopped kissing him when he reached up to hold my face in his leather-gloved hands.
I pulled away, just far enough to see his gloves, and took one of his hands in mine. I twined my fingers through his. "Why do you wear these?" I asked.
"Habit," he said. Now that I was no longer keeping him held close, he stepped back and looked toward the beach. "We should get back to shore."
I nodded and followed along after him as he led us to the beach, keeping firm hold on his hand. When we reached the shore I pulled him close again to kiss his shoulder, neck, and cheek. He accepted the first kisses, but then shook his head, saying, "Not here."
"You want to go back to the cabin?" I asked. He nodded in reply. We dressed quickly, glad to be covered again in the quickening wind, and wrung out our wet hair. I took his hand again as we walked back to the cabin. He seemed in a hurry to get back, walking faster and faster until I nearly had to run to keep up with him. But once we were inside, his urgency faded. He shut the door behind us and went to the hearth to start a fire. I sat on the edge of his bed, shivering from the cold or my nerves, unsure of what to do. I waited for any signal from him.
He did nothing. Once the fire was started, he sat on his bench and watched it burn. He didn't turn to me, or glance at me, or speak to me, even though my heart was pounding and my stomach churned in anticipation. I wanted to touch him again, kiss him, lay beside him in his bed and feel his body close to mine. I wanted him to touch me, and kiss me. But he only sat silently by the fire with his back turned. With every slow moment that passed, my anticipation turned to dread that I had made a grand mistake and, as I should have expected, he had no desire to be with me as I longed to be with him.
When I could stand it no longer, I spoke. "Conufin... will you sit with me?"
He glanced quickly at me over his shoulder. "You may sit here," he said, and motioned to the space beside him on the bench. I got up and sat there with him, close enough that our shoulders touched. He continued staring at the fire. But he was not silent, I noticed. Quietly, nearly quiet enough to be inaudible, he was whispering to himself. I could only catch a fraction of the words, the Thindren words. Other words were in his language. He was holding a debate with himself, two voices arguing with each other, one in one language and one in the other. He spoke too quickly and too quietly for me to understand the argument.
I leaned over to rest my head on his shoulder, and the argument stopped. "I love you," I said. I don't think I meant to say it out loud, but I did.
He paused for a long, silent while before answering, "No you don't."
"I do," I said. I turned to look at him, wishing he would look back at me. "I do love you."
"Why?" he asked.
I couldn't think of any answer. "I don't know. I just do. Maybe because..." I tried to think of any reason for why I loved Conufin the way I did, but my mind was blank. There was no 'why' to my love. It only existed, simple as that. "I don't know why," I repeated. He turned to look at me then, smiling softly. I couldn't tell whether he was sincere in his smile or amused at my lack of an answer. "You don't believe me."
"You do not know what you think you love," he said, but something in the way he said it gave me hope. He did not shun me or tell me I was stupid for loving him. He seemed to accept it, as he so easily accepted everything else about me.
"I would like to know you better," I told him.
He accepted this too, and rested his hand on my arm. I almost fell against him in my eagerness to pull him into an embrace, but he held me steady. I rested my head on his chest as I had in the water, and he stroked my damp hair. I didn't dare ask if he loved me in return. I feared the answer too much. I was content to imagine that he did, even if that wasn't the entire truth. As long as he was with me, the fine details didn't matter.
We spent the night in his bed together, though fully clothed, with my arms clinging around his neck and his hands resting firmly on my back. In the morning, I asked him again about his gloves. "Show me your hands," I said.
"Why should you want to see?" he asked.
"Because everything about you is a mystery. It's all secret. I want to know everything about you, all those things you keep hidden from me, and I want to start with your gloves." He went silent. "You know everything about me," I pressed. "I willingly tell every secret of my life to you, anything you ask. Please, can't you show me this one thing?"
After a moment of silence, without breaking eye contact, he lifted his hands and began to undo the lacing that held his gloves together. He removed one, then the other, then turned his palms toward me. The skin had been badly burned. It was white and red, deeply scarred and blistered, and the way he held his hands showed that the burn still pained him even though it was many years old. I gasped at the sight of it and asked, "What happened to you?" He pulled his gloves back on, lacing them tightly before he spoke again.
"Thranduil," he said, "if I tell you the story of how my hands became burned, I must tell you the entire story, and it is long. Afterward you might well rethink your feelings for me. What do you know of the history of the Noldolië?"
I knew next to nothing and I told Conufin as much. My father considered the Golodhrim to be useless in his vision of leadership, and paid little or no attention to them and their existence. All I had been taught was that they had returned from the West at the dawn of the First Age to win back a set of jewels called Silevril that had been stolen by Morgoth. One Silevril had been reclaimed by Beren and Lúthien. I knew that story well, but it was all the First Age history I had been taught. I remembered the name Fingolfin as one of their kings, but where he lived and when, I couldn't have said.
"My hands were burned by a Silmaril," Conufin said. "I tried to claim it as my own without right, and it burned me. They were sacred jewels, and I was cursed. I could not stand to hold it. So I threw it into the sea."
"Why did you try to take it?" I asked.
He smiled sadly, clasping his hands together as if the memory caused him great pain. "My name in my language is Canafinwë Macalaurë, which becomes Conufin Maglor in yours. When I lived in Beleriand in the First Age I was called Maglor, but I have not used that name since. Fëanor was my father."
I nodded, listening intently to his introduction, a secret thrill coursing through my body at finally being able to learn something of Conufin's past. "Who was Fëanor?" I asked.
His eyes widened in surprise at that question. "You do not know?"
"No," I said. I had not heard the name of Faenor until that day. My father never spoke it, nor my mother, and certainly none of the old Iathrim (for good reasons, I later learned).
Conufin began to laugh, a joyful, happy laugh that I knew was not in mockery of my ignorance, but rather out of delight and surprise that I was yet untainted by the bias of history. "I see," he said, "that I will have to start from the very beginning."
Over three days, he told me the story of Faenor's life and his own. He told me plainly what happened at Alqualondë, and Doriath, and Avernien. He told me how he had taken part. After each of those terrible tales he looked at me, certain that he would find fiery hatred in my eyes, but after each I said, "It's in the past. I don't care."
"You should care," he said. "They were your kin."
"Yes, but hating you for it now won't change anything."
I didn't want to hate him; I couldn't. No matter how much he told, or how horrible the stories, I refused to pull myself away. Partly I refused to believe that he could have done those things. I did believe, though, that he carried a painfully deep sorrow over what he had done. He hated himself on a level that I could never match.
"Maglor," he said. "Call me Maglor. That was always my name, though it carries a great burden. I won't hide it from you any longer."
"Maglor." I tested the name, feeling the shape and sound of it. It suited him. He looked more like Maglor than Conufin, if such a thing is possible to notice. He had changed before my eyes, from simple Conufin of the woods to great Maglor of history, the legendary figure of tales so distant from my life that they could just as easily have been fiction as truth. But he also seemed to grow smaller, his shoulders stooped and his back bent, as if sharing this secret with me stole a part of his strength. He looked tired.
"Maglor," I repeated. "Macalaurë." I slid my arms around his shoulders and pulled him against me. He let me hold him, exhausted as he was from countless years of keeping himself carefully hidden from the affections of others, and let me stroke his hair and caress his face. "I still love you," I whispered close to his ear. He nodded weakly. Whether he agreed with that or not, he allowed it. He allowed me to kiss his ear and his cheek, his mouth and neck, and allowed me to pull him down onto the bed beside me as I kissed him. I removed his clothes, and mine. He never objected, nor did he give me any sign of approval, save once when he cautiously reached up to touch my hair with his shaking, burnt hand. I could tell in that one touch that he needed this as terribly as I did, though he wouldn't take it. He had recklessly taken too many things in his life.
I had never made love before, or even considered it, and that time with Maglor was my first. Without much guidance from him, it was haltingly awkward. I knew what to do, as the act itself had been described to me on more than one occasion by a group of my father's guards who thought it was good fun to tell me such things. I'm sure the look of unabashed horror on my face as I tried to imagine why any sane Elf would want to do that only encouraged them. Now with Maglor that why was answered, even if the how required some practice. But for however little I knew, I could let my certain body take over for my uncertain mind, and follow my desires. I thrust into him with all the strength and passion I had until I came with such a shock of pleasure that I bit down hard on my lip to keep from crying out. And I stroked his shaft until I felt his body clench as he finished and he spilled onto my hand.
After that we didn't speak or move until morning. I lay beside him, my arm falling possessively over his chest and his hand resting on my hip. I slept on and off, but I don't know if he slept at all. Whenever I looked at him, his eyes were far away in thought. Fearing the answer, I never asked what he was thinking.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.