15. Where The Loyalties Lie Part Two
“Dreaming?” a female voice asked him softly.
Thranduil opened his eyes abruptly. Above him, a hooded form towered.
“I was worried when I did not see you at the ball,” Thranduil sighed, “But tell me, are you here without your Adar’s permission again?”
Anoriel pulled back her hood and said nervously, “Yes, I wished to see you. May I sit down?”
“Wild grass is not the throne I would have you seated upon,” Thranduil said smiling, “But I do not have anything else to offer you now.”
Anoriel smiled and spread her cloak on the grass before sitting down on it, her unbound flaxen gold hair bounced in the breeze. Thranduil whiffed at her familiar scent and gazed at the stars peacefully.
“Adar has asked me to rethink about this,” Anoriel mumbled quietly, “He says I am too naïve for you.”
Thranduil smiled, “In what way? I certainly have never disobeyed my father’s orders and followed him secretly to Lindon! I should say I am the naïve one.”
Anoriel laughed weakly, before saying hesitantly, “He says you are much experienced in matters of the heart.”
“I have never loved before,” Thranduil said lazily, as he turned to watch her pensive features, “I guess he might mean the matters of pleasure seeking instead. The last time he deigned to talk to me, he all but called me a body-seller.”
Anoriel said nothing, his carefree words increasing her doubts.
“Lie down,” Thranduil said smoothly, though Anoriel could detect the steel beneath his calm words. It was not a request, but a command. She obeyed, she would get the truth of this matter whatever it cost her.
Thranduil started speaking in a low voice that had none of his usual haughtiness, “My mother left my father and me while I was yet a babe. But the short while she resided in the Havens, I was with her. Her brothers would rage at my father and me so. Obviously they thought that since I was a child, I would not understand it. They were grieving for their sister’s ‘rash’ choice and cannot be blamed that they vent their rage on me and Adar. But those words haunt me even now. My nights are restless because of those memories, their harsh words, her crying, my parents’ tearful parting and the letter from the Havens that informed us of her passing into the Halls of Mandos. I cannot endure sleeping alone, the fear overcomes me. While I was young, I used to sleep in Adar’s bed. But after I reached my awakening, we decided that I should have a separate room. Adar knew of my fear, so he asked me to take partners in pleasure. After passion, my exhaustion carries me into a dreamless repose. So, I guess, in a way that I am really a body-seller, as your Adar declares. But my heart is untouched and that is what I shall lay down at your feet for eternity. And my body, as blemished as it is, if you would have it.”
Anoriel replied quietly, “I do not wish to have ownership over your body and your pleasures, My Lord Thranduil.”
“Do not keep formality between us,” he implored as he rested his head on one hand to look down upon her.
“I had never wished to love for I have seen and deplored the havoc it plays on us,” Anoriel whispered as she looked into those jade green eyes, “I had hoped to marry into a political alliance and save my heart as my own. I had prayed to be spared the emotional upheavals that love is destined to bring upon an elf,” she hesitantly ran her fingers over Thranduil’s finely sculpted face, “Now I find that I have indeed lost my heart to one I had never expected to claim it.”
Thranduil mirrored her gesture, his fingers lingering over her soft skin, as he said reverently, “I am yours, heart, body and soul.”
She shook her head firmly, “I will not have you forego the needs of your body until we are bonded or atleast betrothed, until I am sure that I can allay your fears at night. Until then, you may seek pleasure where you will,” she hesitated, “though I wish never with a woman.”
Thranduil said solemnly, “Never have I lain with a woman after I have seen you. And never shall I again unless it is you.”
She smiled and said quietly, “You are an unpredictable enigma, Thranduil Oropherion. I would never have expected you to say those words.”
“Yet you heard me saying so,” Thranduil laughed, “I fear this is just going to be one of the many things I will do before you are done with me. Now up and leave, for if your Adar sees us now, he shall call me a seducer!”
“That you are,” she remarked as she looked into those green eyes, an electric feeling pulsing through her entire body, “May I ask of you something?”
Thranduil nodded easily as he laid back, his head nested above his arms comfortably as he looked up at the stars again.
“I wish to kiss you, just to know if I can stand your taste,” she continued wickedly watching his stunned expression happily. As he opened his mouth to argue, she swooped down her head and kissed him, his words unheard.
His lips were soft as were hers, but she noticed that he had firmly shut his mouth. She pulled away. He was right, her father would kill him if he saw them kissing.
“Where did you learn to do that?” he gasped, “And your father thought you naïve!”
She laughed as she got to her feet gracefully, “Oropherion, he was right. This was my first kiss.”
“Then I will need no aphrodisiac!” he said still dazed by her kiss.
She laughed merrily as she pulled her hood on and flitted away silently. He shook his head and laughed happily once more wondering how his Adar could have chosen so perfectly well.
“A fine evening?” a quiet voice asked him.
Thranduil stopped laughing as Amroth’s figure emerged from behind the bushes.
Glorfindel asked Aldor concernedly, “Are you tired? I mean no insult, but you have arrived after a long journey.”
Aldor smiled, “No, My Lord, even though I am not an elf, I am not worn out by a few days’ riding and a couple of dances.”
Glorfindel raised his eyebrows. They had danced continuously for nearly five songs. Except for Elrond and Erestor, who were still dancing without a care in the world, most of the other pairs who had stepped onto the floor with Glorfindel and Aldor had taken a break. Feasting and dancing would continue till dawn as was elvish custom. But Aldor was a human, and he did look weary. If Aldor turned up half asleep at the next day’s meet, the elvish nobles would snub him citing his human fallacies. No, Glorfindel decided firmly, it would not do to give into Aldor’s pleading eyes now.
“Well, ,” Glorfindel said pleasantly, “You may not be tired, but I am old and my body needs rest. I suggest you leave this ancient elf to his rest and secure younger blood for the next dance.”
Aldor looked up at him with concern and unhappiness, “I am sorry to have kept you from your rest, Lord Glorfindel! But may I escort you to your chambers now? In case,” he continued slyly, “You are too tired to find the way yourself?”
Glorfindel shook his head, “I am tired, but I will ask Erestor to take me to my chambers. Elrond will escort you to yours, My King. They have forgotten their duties with all the feasting!” He beckoned to Elrond and the latter unhappily stopped dancing and came over to them with Erestor.
“Escort your kin to his chambers, Elrond,” Glorfindel told him, “I am tired and would hurry to bed.”
Erestor cut in before Elrond could reply, “Aldor,” he smirked at Glorfindel, “Your room is the next one to Glorfindel’s. To the right. And Glor, I do not think it would inconvenience you very much if you were to direct him to a door a few paces away from yours.”
Glorfindel fumed as Aldor thanked Erestor with badly contained enthusiasm.
“Now if we are done, Glor, I would not keep you from your rest. Go by all means, and soak your weary bones in your warm bed, silk soothes your skin like nothing else can,” Erestor offered, Aldor smiled nervously and Glorfindel groaned. Erestor was trying to make the situation worse.
Elrond caught on and said politely, “We bid Lord Glorfindel and Lord Aldor a good night. Now, we have a dance to finish.”
Erestor laughed and the two dark haired elves ran away to join those on the dance floor leaving Glorfindel with Aldor.
“Come,” Glorfindel growled. He had thrown away all pretence of being a good host as he thought of how he should make Erestor repent for this.
Thranduil got to his feet and bowed, “My Lord Amroth.”
“Let there be no titles between us as there are obviously none between you and my sister, my prince,” Amroth said stepping forward, “Have we not shared bodies once in Lindon years ago? Does not that merit informality, ? Moreover I wish to be on first name terms with an elf for whom my sister left her chambers risking her father’s wrath.”
“Before you ask,” Thranduil said quietly, “I had not asked her to meet me nor had she asked me to.”
“I trust you,” Amroth said solemnly, “But there are those will not.”
“What they will not know shall not hurt anyone,” Thranduil said smoothly.
Amroth noticed that his eyes had lost all the warmth that they had held when the Prince had been talking with Anoriel. Now they were the cold eyes of a master diplomat, weighing his words carefully.
“They will not know,” Amroth conceded, “I will not bring disrepute upon my sister.”
“If having been seen with me is a matter of disrepute according to you,” Thranduil said silkily, “What will become of her reputation once we wed?”
“You are too confident about your alliance to her,” Amroth said dangerously, “Would you marry her against the wills of her guardians?”
“I would not wish her to be estranged from her family and her country no more than I would be parted from my King,” Thranduil said coolly, “But I know that we are in love and if your family would deny that, then you shall doom us to my parents’ fate.”
Amroth sighed, “Talk not thus tomorrow morning in council with my Adar and King. He would be displeased for he is already prejudiced against you. I wish you happiness for I want Anoriel happy and that she will find only with you. Whatever I can do to aid your cause in council, I shall.”
“Thank you,” Thranduil placed his hand over his heart gratefully.
“But,” Amroth hesitated, “I would wish you to be more discreet in your meetings with her. There are those who wish you ill. Do not give them a chance to hurt you.”
“I have a champion in Adar,” Thranduil said confidently, “He will protect me as he always has.”
“I do not disagree,” Amroth said smiling, “Though I do wonder what he sees in this untamed, wild spirit that is more feline than elven! But I do repeat my words : Caution.”
Glorfindel watched Aldor concernedly as they reached the chamber Erestor had assigned the human. Aldor was drowsy and barely awake as he held onto Glorfindel’s hand like an elfling. So vulnerable and young, Glorfindel mused.
“’Re we there yet?” the young king murmured sleepily, “I am sleepy.”
“You are half-asleep,” Glorfindel said indulgently, as he opened the door and pushed his charge inside.
He was reminded of the countless number of times he had guided Erestor and Menelwen to their nursery after they ended up half-asleep in his lap listening to his stories. Menelwen, his face darkened, the elfling he had sung to sleep, taught fishing, riding, swimming and even stiching, the young young woman whom he had watched over proudly at her coming of age, the hopeful maiden who had with the boldness of youth admitted her love for him, and now finally, he reflected sadly, had turned into a bitter hearted woman who despised him. Love changes hearts, he thought darkly, Menelwen, Elrond, Oropher, himself, they were all examples of how love could embitter elven hearts.
“Bed,” his charge pouted his eyes barely open.
Glorfindel smiled inspite of his dark thoughts and led the young king to bed and removed the human’s boots and tunic. He drew up the blankets over Aldor and built a cosy fire in the hearth before settling himself in the armchair by the fire comfortably. There was a book on the small table beside the chair. Glorfindel idly picked it up, a note in Erestor’s hand fell into his hands from within the book.
“I know you will not return to your room, read this, until your human wakes.”
Glorfindel cursed Erestor, but started reading the book. It was one of his favourites, a story about Elu Thingol and Melian the Maia. He had to admit, Erestor knew him more than he wished.
Elrond made his way slowly through the throng of intoxicated elves. Erestor had left with his bonded mate when Gil-Galad started vomiting following a drinking competition with Celeborn. Galadriel and Amroth had taken away Celeborn to his chambers after he passed out unconscious. But that was after Sindar pride had been established because Celeborn had drunk fifty pints of ale to Gil-Galad’s forty-five. Elrond crinkled his nose disgustedly, the whole place stank of a pigsty or worse, he thought, a dwarven dining hall.
“Peredhil,” a slurred voice called him, he turned scowling, it was an intoxicated counsellor of Amroth’s.
“Fetch us some wine,” the counsellor ordered drunkenly.
Elrond was about to retort when Oropher’s clear voice cut in, “No , there is no point in arguing with an intoxicated elf. Let him be.”
Elrond turned to face the Sindar King and bowed murmuring, “As you wish, My Lord.”
Oropher companionably said, “Would you mind escorting me till my chambers? I was afraid I would find none sensible to do so.”
Elrond laughed saying, “Come, My lord, let us leave them to their merrymaking and seek our beds to rest. For tomorrow, we shall both need our wits to ensure Thranduil his bride.”
Oropher smiled, “That is true. But tell me, Elrond, would you think upon my invite seriously?”
Elrond asked him quizzically, “Your invitation?”
“Has Thranduil not mentioned anything to you?” Oropher frowned, “I expect the wine had finally muddled his brains, of course, I told him that you were always welcome in the Green Wood. He had told me you were desirous of spending time away from Lindon.”
Elrond cursed the Sindar Prince in excellent dwarvish mentally, all courtesy Glorfindel’s tutoring, before saying to Oropher, “I would be honoured to visit your realm, My Lord. But I am not sure that Gil-Galad would agree easily.”
Oropher said dismissively, “I will talk with him regarding that. After all, I am not asking you to be the Herald of Gil-Galad, but merely as my son’s friend. I don’t invite you from a king’s perspective, but from a father’s perspective. Come with us and let your mind find tranquillity for a few days.”
Elrond nodded. He wanted to escape from Lindon for a few days, it was more than he could bear with Erestor and Gil-Galad expressing their love openly before him daily. He liked Thranduil’s company. But the bad relations between Gil-Galad and Oropher would not help this plan.
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