Chapter 4 - Resolution
Elara had never spent a more interesting or frustrating day in her life. In a vivid contrast to that nightmarish evening, Thranduil was in a particularly good mood, and his attitude was contagious. After breakfast, he helped her into a very warm gown, dressed himself in what felt like a simple set of suede leggings and tunic, and then spent the rest of the morning with her tucked against him in the pair of large comfortable chairs before the fire, his arm about her shoulders, telling her stories about the people he had spent the past six months with.
Elara was enchanted, amused and amazed by tales he told of Celeborn in Doriath and Lothlórien, of Elrond in Imladris, and of the mischief the twins Elladan and Elrohir had gotten into with Legolas when very young. Later, after their midday meal, he reclined next to her once more in the nest that was the two lounging chairs still together in front of the fire and sang to her tales of heroism, tales of tragedy – ancient tales, all of it Elven history, some of it he'd even witnessed personally. She'd heard him sing before, and enjoyed hearing him give a full demonstration of his vocal talent.
She had lived with the Elves for well over fifteen years now, and she had heard mention of many of these names off and on over that time. At last she began to get a better understanding of who these people were and what they had done that was noteworthy – filtered through Thranduil's sense of humor or sense of right and wrong. She asked questions when confused or curious, and he did his best to tell her all he could.
As the hours stretched, Elara knew she was being gifted a very special time, similar to their time in Ithilien, except that this time he wasn't nursing her back to health or worrying at her about anything. During this precious moment, she had all of his attention, and he was clearly enjoying the role he had set for himself. With no pressing royal duties, no distractions and no time constraints, he had relaxed into a completely new and utterly enchanting man clearly determined to entertain and please her, and she gladly set aside all memories of the uncomfortable reasons he had created this moment for them.
Often during the day, however, when their conversation would lag or between tales, Thranduil would simply turn her face up to his and kiss her until they both were breathless. As the day passed, these tantalizing but limited tastes of Elven passion made her very hungry for more than just kisses and curious about what else he had in store for her before he finally took her to his bed. But he was so very careful, and as time went by, she was starting to ache for him in ways she had not felt since Timon, and even then, not to the same extent. Her wordless complaints when the kisses would end slowly got louder and harder for him to soothe away.
Finally, in the middle of another moment of gentle, frustrating kisses, he raised his head from nibbling shivers of fire across the back of her shoulders above where the gown lay, and said in an almost hoarse voice, "I would ask your permission now to touch you as a man would touch his betrothed."
She leaned back against him and sighed, "Yes." At last he was going to show her more of this intoxicating way of making love!
He returned to nibble at her earlobe from where he sat behind her, but his hands, which had to that point remained chastely holding her at her waist, began to move. Slowly and very deliberately they smoothed across her stomach and then up her rib cage, back and forth across her front until they were just below her bosom. Tired of waiting, Elara put a hand over one of his and pulled it up to place it where she had been wanting – aching – for him to touch.
His voice chuckled wickedly in her ear. "Impatient," he rumbled at her.
"Laggard," she grumbled back and then sighed when he finally took charge of the hand and closed it over her breast. His thumb brushed across the hardness that pushed valiantly against the material of her gown, sending shocks of want surging through her. Never had she been so hungry for the touch of a man in quite this way before. And never before had her pleasure seemed of such importance to the man in her life.
"Does this please you?" he whispered, his breath hot against her neck as his other hand found her other breast and pressed gently. From his tone, she knew he already knew the answer.
She hummed her answer and twisted slightly, and then he was kissing her again, his lips hot and insistent on hers. Everything in Elara's world suddenly reduced to the sensation of his hands on her and the way his kiss was making these braver touches even more arousing. Her hands fell to his thighs and followed the hard muscle to the knees in a gentle caress that was the only thing she could think of to give back to him even a small portion of the pleasure he was giving her.
A discrete tapping at the door of the chamber made them both groan in protest at the interruption. "Our supper has arrived, it seems," he whispered as his hands dropped back to hug her waist gently. He dropped a final kiss onto her neck. "We shall have to postpone this until after…"
Elara drooped back against him with a whimper, but he chuckled and caught at her hands to dislodge her from their comfortable nest. "You are teasing me," she accused him, once he had helped her to her feet again.
"Not at all," he told her, brushing hair away from her face and combing it back with his fingers. "I just want there to be no question in your mind that you are very much wanted and loved." His lips brushed her cheek very softly, and then he was gone, opening the door to his suite and allowing a silent servant in to set the table for them.
Over the meal, Thranduil turned the tables on her, getting her to talk about all that she'd done while he'd been gone. He quizzed her closely on the state of preparedness for the cold months ahead, her reasons for her decisions, and then about the various events that had happened in his absence. When she reminded him that Irieth and Baradion's child was due in a very little time, everything about him seemed to warm. She reached out to him through their bond and found herself enveloped in a rich sensation of pride and satisfaction.
When the meal was finished and the remains cleared away, he led her back to where the lounging chairs in front of his fire remained pushed together, lifted her feet so she was stretched comfortably, and then reclined next to her to gather her close in his arms. "This has been a good day," he said, his fingers tangled in and playing with her loose hair. "For the first time in a very long time, I have had you completely to myself without a single distraction."
"It has been a good day," Elara had to agree. She settled her head on Thranduil's shoulder and toyed with a long tendril of heavy, silken hair against the suede of his tunic. "Better than…"
"MMmm!" he hummed at her warningly, pulling his hand clear and pressing an insistent finger against her lips to stop her words. "Better than our days of leisure in Ithilien, you say? I agree."
She nodded her understanding. He had told her, when they first awoke that morning, that they were starting fresh, as if their argument and the events that followed had never happened. While it would be very hard for her to ever forget what it had felt like to be on the receiving end of one of his explosions of rage, it would do no good now to bring up the subject. After all, he was doing his level best to make amends for each and every point that had gone wrong. "At least you are not worried that I am not eating properly anymore."
"Worried, no. Watchful again, yes." His hands spanned her waist easily. "You are too important to me, and I will not have you failing again. You need to be more than a single handful."
"I'll be good, I promise," she murmured, nestling down even more comfortably against him.
"I know you will," he brushed his lips across the top of her forehead. "I love you very much, you know…"
Elara roused herself, turned her face up to his and, with a hand, found and pulled him down until she could kiss him. This time she shyly touched her tongue to his lips as they rested on hers, and then cautiously proceeded when he opened to her. He tasted of the wine they had shared and of the apple pastries that had been dessert, as well as a tang that was Thranduil himself. His arm behind her pulled her close, and his other hand at first cupped her head and then slowly slipped down to where he could again cradle her breast in his hand.
She wanted so badly to return the caresses, and her fingers rested for a moment against his jaw and then went on a small journey of their own. She followed his jaw back and then very carefully moved to satisfy her curiosity by starting to trace the shell of his ear, something that he had consistently never allowed her to do. She felt him shiver, which he'd also never done before, and then his hand lifted from her breast and caught at hers. "That is a lover's touch, meleth," he whispered to her, his voice slightly hoarse and definitely breathless. "I will not deny it to you, if you really wish to continue, and I can promise that I will enjoy it immensely, but you should first know what you put into motion if you continue. Elven ears are very sensitive to the touch, especially at the tips. For us, the act of touching or stroking the tip of the ear is part of the act of joining our bodies together. You and I have yet to get to that point, although we are much closer now than before."
"But your touching me here is also a lover's touch, is it not?" she reminded him, pulling his hand back to her breast. "Am I not also allowed?"
"Yes, you are allowed." His hand cupped her gently, "but you should be aware that my body responds very quickly to such touches, and I do not wish to rush things and push to claim you before you are ready, as happened the last time. I would have us go slowly, so that I do nothing that confuses or frightens you." He captured and carried her fingers to his lips to kiss them one by one. "There will come a time soon now when I will very much wish your touch there, Elara, please believe me. And later, once we are well used to each other, I will have no complaints at all."
"I only want to know how to please you too," she complained softly. "I do not know how…"
"Oh, my gift, you please me this night just by remaining soft and willing in my arms," he breathed into her ear. "Anywhere you touch me pleases me greatly. However… Here, sit back for a moment…"
The instant that she moved away from him, she felt Thranduil pulling his tunic over his head and then dropping it to the floor. "Come back here," he invited, reaching out and pulling her back into his arms and against his warm, naked chest. "Does this help?"
Elara's hand slid slowly across smooth skin, so unlike Timon's. Her husband's chest had been covered with a sprinkling of soft hair that he had not wanted her to play with much. Up until now, Thranduil had always worn silk, suede, or his heavy robes. She found and very lightly traced a slightly raised line that curled from just below his ribs on one side all the way across his belly. It didn't take much imagination to figure out what this was. "This is healed now?" she asked quietly, appalled by what that raised line signified.
"Completely," he replied equally quietly.
He had indeed been badly wounded - nearly gutted. "You almost died." Her voice shook.
He pressed a kiss into her forehead. "But I did not," he reminded her gently. "I am here, right next to you, very much alive. And what you cannot see, or even feel anymore, are the other scars that, as this one will in time, have faded to barely nothing." His hand captured hers and moved it to a spot over his heart and held it there. "Feel my heart, how it beats? I am well; I am healed. That is all that matters now."
She did feel the steady beat of his heart beneath her fingers, and she brushed a kiss over his collarbone as she relished her freedom to explore him. Her fingertips brushed a tiny, hard nugget in their path, and she heard him breathe in deeply and then close his hand more firmly over her breast again to tease her hard nipple with a determined thumb. Only an instant later, he had captured her lips with his and immediately deepened the kiss.
Her hand slid down his chest and then back up to touch and tease that tiny nugget, and then again. Thranduil hummed contentedly into their kiss and surrounded her mind with love and that alluring, addictive heat, and at last she knew she was doing something right. The beat of his heart was a tattoo against her fingertips every time she paused over it, working harder and faster, just as hers was.
This giving and receiving pleasure in equal measures beforehand, excited her beyond her wildest imaginings. It was so different from simply being expected to lie back after a few kisses and touches and wait for Timon to take his pleasure of her. Two sets of hands and lips kissed and touched and caressed and teased, each discovering what would bring that hitched sigh of delight from the other; and the warmth of love and passion flowing from one to the other through their bond grew stronger. Nothing else mattered to her than what he was doing and knowing that she was indeed giving him pleasure in return.
"I wish now to touch you as would a lover, a husband," he breathed hot against her neck. "May I unlace your gown?"
"Yes," she sighed as his kiss descended to the very base of her throat. It was time; for the entire day, she had been waiting and wondering. At last he was going to show her what she wanted most to know. His fingers played with the ribbon at her front that held the gown together, and then, suddenly, moved the thick fabric aside when the lacing gave way.
"So beautiful," he whispered as he found the drawstring to the blouse and loosened it as well, and then began to ease gown, blouse and chemise from her shoulder. His kisses followed the fleeing fabric, hot and insistent and oh so gentle. "At long last I am allowed to unwrap my gift."
This time she didn't fight to hold onto the garment, but rejoiced as he pushed the loosened fabric further and further down until she could pull her arms free from the sleeves. Thranduil drew her close again to lower his lips to hers in what started gently but soon became a game of quick and steamy kisses and very gentle teeth pulling on her lower lip until Elara hummed a complaint, caught his head between her hands and insisted on deepening the kiss herself. The sensation of her breasts, uncovered and sensitive, pressed against his equally uncovered and completely smooth chest, was intoxicating, especially as his hand sought out a breast and returned to toying with the aching nipple.
He shifted against her, his lips releasing hers at last with a soft sigh and then trailing down the column of her neck to press a hot kiss at the base of her throat before continuing down, down, to finally nuzzle at the breast he had been playing with. His teeth grazed her nipple, nibbling in a way that was not quite painful, and then he was sucking hard at her. Her entire body was now very much awake, aware, and hungry. A desire such as she'd never known possible swept through her as she carded her fingers through his hair: she wanted Thranduil now, and wanted him badly.
As if aware of her thoughts, his hands moved to her back and swept downwards again, urging the material gathered at her waist lower still until he pulled back just enough to slip gown, underskirt, blouse and chemise down her legs and completely away. "Oh yes…" he whispered and pressed another demanding kiss to her lips as he settled himself against her.
His hands smoothed and caressed the length of her entire torso now, and Elara felt his desire for her press against her hip. He stroked down her stomach and, after hesitating only a little moment, continued gently down the inside of her thighs. It wasn't a demand so much as an invitation, as sweet as had been his tongue against her lips that first time. He was requesting permission to proceed without words.
Elara moaned into his kiss and opened to him without hesitation, her body now singing loudly its demands for his caresses. He had called this a lover's touch, and never had she so appreciated the words he'd used. The moment his fingers strayed toward her most private place, he released a flood of want and desire through their bond, and she answered him by stroking down over the suede legging to touch him for the first time too. His moan into her mouth was all it took for her to decide that the time had come to rid him of the last barrier between them.
One good tug untied the drawstring of his leggings so that she could slide a hand inside. Thranduil responded by slipping his fingers through her private curls to the very seat of her need for him. His lips traced a path of heat from her mouth to her ear again. "Touch me, meleth. Please!" he breathed in a low voice before recapturing the lobe of her ear with his teeth gently.
Feeling brave and encouraged, she pushed her hand further inside the leggings, finding a silken mat of curls, and then… As her fingers closed around him, Thranduil grunted into her ear and pressed a long finger into her carefully for the first time. Elara stroked down his length, feeling him thicken in her grasp as she did. He was large, much larger than Timon had been, and he thrust his hips toward her hand. As he did, he slipped a second finger within and began to move, pressing rhythmically within and caressing her without.
"Oh, Thranduil!" she sighed, and then could form no further coherent words. Her mental senses were caught up in the power of the bond as it surged with a desire and need that were answered by the strength of her body's demands. Even as her world narrowed to his caresses both physical and mental, she knew herself safe because it was Thranduil making her feel this way. His touch, his mouth, and now his mind, invited – challenged – her to let go, to trust him and let him guide her. There was nothing she had ever wanted more.
She whimpered when he withdrew his hand from her, but was gladdened when he quickly rid himself of his leggings and she could finally touch him - all of him. He was without hair everywhere but his head and the silken nest from which his desire jutted proudly.
"I love you, Elara," he said in a voice that was hoarse and breathless. "And with all that I am, I now make you my wife. I claim you with my lips, and with my hands, and with my body, and swear before the One that you are now blood of my blood."
Was this ritual? Elara lifted her hands to once more trace his face, her mind only barely functional. "I love you, Thranduil," she breathed softly. "Husband."
She was surprised when Thranduil took both of her hands in his, kissed the palms, and then carried them toward his head. "It is time," he whispered, and he hummed softly at her first, tentative touch. His ears were very gently pointed, and the delicate tips were covered with the softest of skin. As she traced their shape with careful forefingers, she felt him arrange himself over her, nudging her legs farther apart.
Large hands slipped beneath her buttocks and lifted, and she felt him position himself before slowly pressing forward. Her mouth formed an O at the sensation of stretching and pressure that, thanks to his diligence, was less than painful. Nevertheless, he stopped often, resting and letting her grow accustomed to his size, but continued to ease into her until Elara was certain that he would reach her pounding heart. She gave his ears a gentle tweak at the very tip and felt him jerk slightly, and she smiled. "That pleases you?" she whispered and then chuckled when he moaned and bent to capture her lips in a fiery kiss that left no question as to his answer as he continued to join his body to hers more completely.
This was passion, and one that so overwhelmed her that anything that had ever come before was shelved as precious, but inadequate. This was so much more than she had ever dreamed of having from him and had despaired of ever knowing in but the smallest portion. Now he was hers, and she was his, in a union that comprised both body and spirit. She sighed softly as she felt his pubic bone press into hers and knew him fully sheathed at last. They were one, in a harmony of fullness, of heat and hardness and passion barely restrained, that was beyond anything she'd ever known, and tears of joy filled her eyes.
"Wife," he gasped as he withdrew slightly and then pressed in again, giving her ears a gentle caress that was unexpectedly the most arousing thing he could have done. Come with me, meleth! He caught at her through their bond and surrounded her so completely that it became difficult to know where he ended and she began.
Her mind disengaged and she gave herself over to drowning in the sensations within and without. A tiny flame lit in her very core, and was tended and fed and nurtured each time he filled her, growing warmer and harder to resist. The sensation of skin damp with perspiration moving against smooth skin without and the friction of hard, silken heat moving demandingly within stoked the conflagration until with an explosion she was consumed utterly, shuddering and crying out his name as the very fabric of her reality shattered. In the chaos of stars exploding behind her eyes, a form slowly came clear in her mind: a tall man – an Elf – with golden hair, emerald eyes that shone with deep emotion and a smile that made her ache. Thranduil?
Elara nîn, that vision nodded and opened his arms to her. My gift from the One, my love and my wife; come to me. Be with me now.
With a happy cry, she threw herself toward him. As they met and embraced, they seemed to melt one into the other; and the world shifted and tipped as she heard him call out her name hoarsely, and then all reason spun away again.
Elara slowly roused from her deep sleep to the sensation of warmth pressed all along her back and legs. Soft breathing fanned the back of her neck, and a heavy arm was wrapped about her middle, holding her close from behind. It took a moment to realize that she wasn't wearing her normal sleeping gown, and a slightly longer moment to realize that not only was Thranduil beneath the blankets with her again, but that he wasn't wearing his silken sleeping clothes either. What was more, her body hummed at her in both satisfaction and fatigue, with muscles that had gone long unused making themselves known once more in no uncertain terms.
She relaxed and felt his arm tighten about her slightly, and a small sigh was breathed into the nape of her neck. Quietly, she smiled in utter contentment. Even asleep, Thranduil still held her possessively, as if worried she would try to escape him again. But there would be no escape for her, or any reason for her to want or need to escape anymore. Just as he had promised, he had wooed her until she was convinced of his sincerity, and then he had made her his. In the midst of kisses and caresses of a sort that just thinking about them made her heart beat faster, he had given her his vow, the kind that he told her later he should have given her long ago, and then… And then…
She covered his hand at her stomach with hers and relished the sense of completion, of total union, with him that persisted despite the passion being spent. After all the dreams and wishes, the frustrations, and ultimately the misunderstandings, he truly was hers at last, and she was his. Were it not that she could feel the heat of his skin against hers and the consequences of their exertions in the night, she could easily have believed herself merely dreaming again. But if this truly were a dream, she never wanted to awaken again.
She had thought she'd known passion with Timon, but Thranduil unleashed was a force of nature that defied comparison. She still marveled that this incredible man – Elf – had chosen her despite her blindness and mortality, but he had left no doubts in her mind as to just how much he wanted her or how determined he was to make her his. He had been so careful all day, attentive and charming and making her want him with every mote of her being. And then, by turns, he was gentle, seductive, playful, exuberant, energetic, triumphant, determined; and through it all, very, very thorough as the night progressed. Her fingers now knew every inch of him, and his fingers and lips had explored her just as completely. She sighed softly at the memories of his touch.
"You are awake at last," he whispered into her hair.
Had she made more noise than she intended after all? "I awakened you. I'm sorry…"
"Nay. Hush." The arm that she'd been laying on without realizing it came up to hold her at her waist while the other hand smoothed her hair back from her face and into the pillow. "I merely dozed while waiting for you to rest." Lazy lips nibbled her now-bare shoulder. "And, as much as I would prefer it otherwise, I shall have to let you go soon so that we can break our fast."
"Is it morning already?" Elara asked wonderingly, and then listened carefully. Yes, the day songs were well underway. "I have slept late."
"No matter. I was content to hold you close and doze long into the morning as well," he breathed into her ear, his voice rich and warm and smooth. "I would tell you that I did not mean to exhaust you last night, but it would be a lie."
"I'm not dreaming this, am I?" Elara asked, rolling in his arms so that she could snuggle against his chest in the way she loved best.
Thranduil's arms closed around her as he chuckled softly. "Meleth, if you are still wondering if you are dreaming, I did not do my job as husband properly at all last night. And I absolutely refuse to allow you to leave our marriage bed until you are quite convinced of the reality of our situation."
"What about Aran Borendor? Your duties as king…"
"Borendor will be handling anything requiring a king's attention for me, I would hope," he replied as his hands began to stray. "Tarion knows that I wish not to be disturbed, as does Míriel. My duties can wait a few days, as can yours. You heard Míriel; everyone in the Halls knows that we are now wed. No one of any import will begrudge us our desire for seclusion for a few days." He dropped a gentle kiss on her forehead. "It is our way to allow time for the newly-bonded to concentrate on each other without distractions." One hand came up to cup her cheek. "Now, about that alarming illusion you seem to have that this is but another of your daydreams…"
"You think you can convince me otherwise, do you?" Elara smiled at him.
As his face slowly moved closer, he whispered, "I intend to give it my very best efforts, repeatedly, if needed."
"Good. I think I'll need lots of convincing." Her grin widened.
Thranduil's laugh came low and wicked and supremely satisfied, and then his lips brushed hers lightly. "You know, I believe I find that a very enjoyable prospect."
And then there was no more need for words.
She could sense him coming up behind her. "I see my tree has found a new friend," he commented with a smile in his voice, surrounding her waist with his hands.
Elara felt the rough bark beneath her fingers. "I think it's asleep." She could only barely feel the pulse of the Greenwood, and that pulse was slow.
"It is. But I am certain that once Echuir arrives again, it will be delighted to have a more constant companion again." He bent and kissed an ear. "I came to tell you that I must away. I will need to consult with Baradion before we have our meeting with Tarion."
She took hold of his hands and wrapped herself in his arms. "And I need to speak to Míriel."
Thranduil's arms tightened about her. "And you still fear this."
"I was beyond rude to her." She wasn't surprised he could feel her fear. All she had to do now was concentrate just a little bit and she could sense his mood easily; it didn't take much to realize that the same was true of Thranduil. She now had an infinitely better understanding of what the Elves meant when they spoke of bonding, and why it was such a special facet to a relationship. Getting used to sharing an emotional intimacy that didn't lessen with distance or require much effort at all had been part of the reason behind their remaining secluded for nearly an entire week. "I fear I may have…"
"You have not, but I can see that only speaking to her directly will convince you." He turned her. "Come now. I would have a kiss to send me off this morning, and carry your smile with me."
Elara turned her face up and reached for where she knew he was. Her fingers carded through his silken hair while she shared a gentle, yet powerful embrace. "I will join you in a little while."
"Until then, meleth." He kissed her forehead yet again, and she could feel the reluctance through their bond even as he walked briskly away from her back into their suite.
In so many ways, she was deliriously happy. She belonged – to Thranduil, to the Greenwood – in ways that had seemed unattainable not so very long ago, and life seemed to be on the very brink of being as bright and full of promise as ever it had at any time before. The one stain on her happiness, however, was the memory of refusing to speak to Míriel.
She put her hands to her hair and felt where Thranduil had carefully placed each and every pin to hold up her thick braids. Certainly if he felt her ready to face the world outside their suite door, then she was presentable enough. She walked to the door, took a deep breath to brace herself, and stepped outside to begin tracing her way down the corridor.
"Good morning, hiril nîn," came several voices she knew: Eirien and Alphiel, the women who were in charge of keeping the King's suite neat and tidy, among them.
"Good morning," Elara returned with a deep nod of her head that Míriel had once told her was a polite form of response. Would she ever be able to enjoy her friend telling her all those little things about Elven life again, or had she lost that?
"Lady Elara. I am most happy to see you looking so well." Aran Borendor's voice came at her from her right elbow.
She immediately turned in his direction and dropped into a curtsy. "Aran Borendor, good morning."
"You need not be so formal, child." A large hand that reminded her very much of Thranduil's took charge of her elbow. "I thought I saw Thranduil heading in the direction of his study, and I hoped that I would be able to speak with you alone for a moment."
Elara had to struggle not to stand with her mouth open in shock. He wanted to speak to her? WHY? "What can I do for you, Sire?"
"You can tell me if all is well between you and my nephew-by-marriage," was the determined answer. "I was most concerned when I was informed of your unfortunate disagreement, and even more so when it was learned you had fled the Halls." His steps ceased, and his hand pulled her to a halt with him. "Are you well?"
She still didn't understand it, but was grateful for his solicitude. "I am very well, and Thranduil and I have resolved our… disagreement."
"Good." Borendor sounded satisfied. "You will send a message to me if ever that situation changes."
"Sire, I don't understand." Elara felt for his hand with her other and then pressed it into her arm. "I am mortal, and I'm only going to bring him sadness in the end. Why…"
"If I thought you were only going to bring him sadness, child, I would not bother with you." Borendor patted her hand with his free one. "But I have seen his heart, and I have seen him speak of you, even when he thought himself in the wrong for his feelings. And most importantly, I remember seeing him speak of my niece long ago. Thranduil's heart is an earnest, honest one. He defied his father to take Lalaith to wife, and agreed to a terrible oath to satisfy her father of his worth. And now, he defies all tradition in taking you to wife, knowing how brief your life will be."
"I know. Even Lady Galadriel warned us," she remembered quietly.
"She spoke to a situation that has since changed. I do not think she would begrudge him his moments of happiness anymore than I do. You make him happy, and he is a man who deserves to be happy, even if for but a short time. And as you have no family to stand for you, or speak for you, I would be honored if you would allow me to continue to do so."
Elara still didn't understand, but the sincerity of the Avarren King was such that she didn't have the heart to question it anymore. "On the contrary, it is I who would be honored, Aran Borendor," she said and curtsied again.
"Then leave away the title, little one, for the public gatherings or when others are about. To you, I shall be Borendor, a kinsman." His voice was warm and deep. "And now, may I assist you in making your way to Thranduil's study? I understand you and he have business of your realm to take care of…"
"Not quite yet. I need to go to the Healing Rooms first."
The hand at her elbow tightened. "You told me you were well," Borendor said softly.
"I am, I am." She squeezed his hand. "But during those dark hours, when Thranduil and I weren't communicating well, I was rude to someone who has been a great friend to me. At the very least, I owe her an apology."
"These Healing Rooms, they are not far?"
"Just around the corner at the end of this corridor."
"Very well, then. I shall see you this evening at dinner then. Perhaps I can even convince your husband to allow me a dance with you before I must away."
"You were very kind to stay as long as you have, and I know I am grateful that you were willing to handle things while…"
Borendor laughed, and his laugh was easily as infectious as Thranduil's. "Go on with you, little one. Make your apology to your friend. I suspect it to be unnecessary, but that you will not rest until it is done. And I will insist on a dance tonight, just to find out how things went." He dislodged his hand from her elbow and carried it to his lips. "I shall claim it as a kinsman's right, and your husband will not be able to refuse me."
Elara curtsied again, chuckling. "I look forward to this evening, then, kinsman."
Borendor walked away, his chuckles carrying back to her. Elara put her hands at her stomach, still overwhelmed by the thought that she had such an esteemed and unexpected champion. Then she took a deep breath, put out her hand to the corridor wall, and walked forward.
By the time she reached the Healing Rooms, however, the warm feelings she'd been given by Borendor had receded, and it felt as if her knees were ready to knock together. Still, this was something she had to do, and she stepped through the open door. "Míriel?"
"Good morrow, Elara," came her friend's voice from across the room, the voice cautious. "It is good to see you again. Are you well?"
"Yes." She took a breath, wishing she were braver. Still, she was there for a reason. "I have come to apologize for my behavior the last time I saw you."
Elara cringed, but knew she deserved the skepticism. Míriel had been utterly without fault in the entire situation, and yet she had refused to speak to her. All she could do was explain herself and then leave Míriel to either accept the apology or not. "Thranduil and I had… we had had a serious misunderstanding, and I wasn't at all happy about his bringing me back to the Hall. Even so, I shouldn't have exercised my temper on you when all you were doing was trying to help. I have no excuse, and I hope that someday you will forgive me."
It was all she could do to hold herself stiffly upright and then turn to leave the Healing Room as quickly as possible. She had the meeting with Tarion in Thranduil's study to see to yet that morning, but perhaps she would walk in the snow-filled garden adjacent to her new quarters afterwards, to try to clear her head. Even a sleeping tree and a slow, faint Greenwood pulse would be welcome comfort, for there was nothing more to be done that hadn't already been done.
A hand caught at her elbow before she could get past the threshold. "Wait." Míriel was strong, as was her grasp, but it didn't hurt. "Come in and sit down. I will make you some tea."
"I have a meeting with Tarion in…"
"You are pale, and Tarion will not mind your being just a few moments late," was the calm reply. "You and I need to speak properly and put this behind us so that you can be joyous in your new marriage. Despite what you might think, I do not wish to steal that glow from you – or Thranduil."
Elara allowed Míriel to lead her to a comfortable seat, and then listened as she bustled about until a warm mug was placed in her hands. "Here. This will help."
"Tea will not mend a friendship, Míriel," she answered quietly.
"But a talk might," Míriel countered, "and I was ready for some tea myself anyway." Elara heard the slight creak of another chair accepting the elleth's weight.
"I don't want to interrupt your day…" Elara sipped at the tea and had to admit that it was delicate enough to settle well on a stomach that had endured all too many knots when trying to think of a way to mend fences with her friend.
"You are not interrupting. For a change, no one is sick or hurting, and I had little to do but inventory my supply of herbs." Míriel was quiet for a moment. "Is it so hard to believe that I am glad you came to see me?"
"You didn't sound glad." The statement was out before Elara could stop it.
"No, I did not, and I am sorry for that." A gentle touch on Elara's knee accompanied the apology. "And you need not explain what happened. When Thranduil came to me that night, to tell me that you had finally taken the tea, I made him explain everything as best he could. Neither one of us can understand how you can so easily invite your own doom the way you do sometimes, but he swore to me that he was determined to make amends to you. That you and he did not emerge again for nearly a week after that tells me that he was successful. I wish you joy, and do not envy you the task of managing such a difficult husband."
"I still didn't have to treat you the way I did. You were only trying to help…"
"As I said, you need not explain. You were hurting, and it was very obvious from your actions just how hurt you were. I have known Thranduil for a very long time, Elara, and I know that there are times when his temper does him and those closest to him no favors. When he turns that rage of his on an Elf, there is plenty of time afterwards for the process of forgiveness to happen as it will. With you, however, he does not have that luxury. Once he finally broke down and told me what happened, I forgave you your silence."
Elara didn't understand her at all. "Then why…"
"You startled me," Míriel's voice sounded chagrined. "I honestly did not expect you to tackle such a difficult thing almost the moment you emerged from your bonding time. And you sounded so very unsure of yourself, which is not the Elara that I have come to know these past few years."
"I'm not certain I know the Elara I've been for these past few years," Elara commented very quietly. "There are times I feel very much out of place. I'm a wood gatherer's daughter and widow. What I'm doing among the Fair Folk…"
"You are taking care of the Elvenking's heart," Míriel answered firmly. "It is no small task you have undertaken, nor an easy one by any stretch. There are few among us now that would challenge you about your place at his side. Drink your tea," she urged with a note of authority. "If nothing else, it will ease your stomach so that your mind will be clear for your meeting with Tarion."
"So, we're friends again?" Elara asked wistfully.
Míriel's laugh rang like a clear bell through the room. "Of course we are friends, Elara. That never was in question. If you should know anything by now, it is that the Elves do not throw over friendships for such minor disagreements or difficulties."
Thranduil had tried to tell her this, even Borendor had hinted at it, but she hadn't been able to believe either of them. The relief was almost painful, and Elara buried her nose in her tea mug to hide for a moment while she steadied herself again.
"Now." Míriel had risen, and reclaimed the mug once Elara had emptied it. "I can see that having Thranduil back is helping you regain some of the ground you lost while he was gone, but I will want to see that glow on your face that is the rightful adornment of a new bride by the time I see you next. No more sorrowful thoughts, do you understand?"
Slowly Elara allowed her happiness to shine through again, now that her worst fear remaining from that difficult time had been set aside. "No more sorrowful thoughts. Thranduil is home, Randirion is home, and all is well with the world."
"And you are married."
Meleth, Tarion is pacing in my office, declaring that I must be a bad influence on you if you cannot make a simple appointment and keep it the moment I am returned, after months of due diligence and punctuality. You are needed here, if for no other reason than to salvage my reputation.
"Yes," she replied with a grin that she felt all the way to the bottom of her soul. "I am married, and very happy."
I'm on my way, Thranduil. Tell Tarion that Míriel insisted I partake of a medicinal tea before she would let me continue with my day, and see if that calms him.
You are well, my gift? A thread of concern and worry came at her through the now ever-present bond.
She sent him reassurance in return as she rose, I am fine, husband. I'll be there as quickly as I can. "And now I must go. It seems Tarion grows impatient with my tardiness, now that Thranduil is back."
"You can blame me," Míriel told her with a chuckle.
Elara laughed with her. "I already have. I was hoping you wouldn't mind."
"Not at all. I am happy for you both, and wish you many years of joy. You both deserve them so much!" Míriel hugged her tightly, and Elara clung for a moment before turning and finding the wall and the door to the Healing Rooms, heading for her husband's office as quickly as she could.
She was the Lady of the Hall, and she had duties to Hall and King, after all. Holding her head high, and with fingers lightly tracing the walls to know where she was and where she needed to go, Elara walked confidently toward her husband's study, and all that the future held for her.
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.