14. On the Borders of Mirkwood
He carried the hot tea over and nudged at his lover's shoulder, half-hidden under blanket and tangled dark hair.
"Maen, love, time to wake. I have some wintergreen tea for you."
A grumbled response, and Melpomaen sat up, yawning. He accepted the mug, curving his hands around the warmth, and sipped at the steaming liquid.
"Awfully dark yet, isn't it?" he said, peering at the gloomy sky.
"At least it didn't start raining overnight, though it looks threatening enough for later today. I wanted to bathe before we left, and I thought you did, too," said Haldir.
"I suppose so. There are things I would rather do, of course," said Melpomaen, looking at Haldir over the rim of the cup as he drank.
"We might manage to find time for some of those things," Haldir smiled, setting his own mug down and stretching. "Before we bathe, or after?"
"Both?" suggested Melpomaen mischievously, then rolled his eyes in response to his partner's shaken head. "I know, I know, you need not remind me we should travel as far as we can today, and the rain that seems like to fall at any moment will doubtless delay us. After bathing, then. Do you have the soap, or is it in my pack?"
"I think you have it," said Haldir, "and I've just realized that we have only one cloth to use to dry off with. I used the other to wrap up that parcel of venison. So we shall have to share. Ready?"
Melpomaen swallowed the last of his tea and found the soap. "Ready."
The air was chilly enough that the two Elves shivered as they stripped down by the water's edge.
"I can't swim with this arm," said Melpomaen regretfully. "In fact, should I even get it wet? What will that do to the poultice?"
"I was thinking about that. Let it get wet and I'll take it off this morning. A couple of wooden splints and a sling ought to do the trick now, just to keep the bone immobilized. It is probably a good idea to let the skin breathe. But if you'd like, I will wash you off?"
"How can I refuse such an offer?" the younger Elf replied, wading in until the water lapped above his knees.
Haldir gently lathered all the exposed skin, then urged Melpomaen to duck and rinse himself off. "Wet your hair, too, if you'd like that washed as well."
"All right, but be quick; I'm getting quite cold here."
As Melpomaen let himself sink backward into the water, Haldir rapidly washed his own body and splashed off the soapsuds. "Here, kneel, Maen," he said, and began to rub soap into the dark hair.
"Will you comb it out for me, too?" asked Melpomaen as Haldir finished and poured handfuls of water over his head to rinse.
"Of course. All right, go dry off and let me wash my own hair now. But don't get the cloth completely soaked – remember, we have to share it!"
When Haldir emerged, sluicing the water from his limbs with vigorous strokes, Melpomaen was waiting to wrap the damp cloth around his body in a tight embrace.
"You looked as I'd imagine Ossë does, or even Ulmo, rising out of the sea," Melpomaen whispered in Haldir's ear. "Do you suppose the Valar and Maiar love as we do?"
"Not as you and I, as far as I have ever heard tell, but they do take spouses among their own kind, you know that. Not Ulmo, but is not Ossë espoused to the Lady of the Seas, Uinen whose hair trails through all the waters of the world, even this stream?" said Haldir.
"True, yes. Though Ossë cannot bring her greater pleasure than you bring me. Come, let's go back to the fire."
Haldir scooped up their discarded garments and allowed Melpomaen to tug him onward, but when they reached their blankets he said, "Let me deal with your arm first – now that the poultice is softened from the water, I should remove it and rebind the bone, lest any harm come to you."
"If you must," said Melpomaen, and waited impatiently as Haldir ministered to him.
"Now, Dír," he said. "can we wrap the blanket around us both? Will you be able to comb my hair, so?"
"I believe I can," said Haldir. He took the wooden comb from his partner and sat close behind him. "I'll try not to pull too hard, but it is rather tangled. Tell me if I hurt you too much." Bit by bit he worked the comb through the damp strands until Melpomaen's hair hung smooth and heavy down his back. "Do you want it braided?"
"Just above the ears, so it stays out of my face; that will be fine," said Melpomaen. "Then it will be your turn."
They reversed positions and Melpomaen began to smooth the golden locks.
"Your hair is likely the only sunshine I will see all day," he remarked, drawing his fingers through the gleaming mass. "Lucky for me that I travel with you!" He slipped his right hand underneath and caressed the nape of Haldir's neck.
"Mm," sighed Haldir, arching under the touch. "That's a very sweet thing to say, Maen."
Melpomaen nestled closer and put his arm around Haldir's waist to draw them together. "I just thought you'd like to hear one of the lesser reasons I love you, Dír," he breathed into the other's ear, and lapped with his tongue at the lobe, nipping the tender skin.
Haldir shivered, with heat now instead of the chill of the air. He could feel the slow throb of Melpomaen's desire pressing against him, answered by a matching pulse in his own groin.
"And what of the greater reasons?" he replied.
Melpomaen only laughed softly in response, letting his bound left arm rest where his fingers could brush Haldir's thigh, his right hand busily stroking Haldir's chest and pinching at the tight nipples.
"What would you have us do?" he asked. "You let me choose last evening."
"Let us lie down, facing," said Haldir. As they looked into the dark pools of each other's eyes, he touched his lips lightly to Melpomaen's, and spoke.
"I have said this before, meldanya, but I tell you again. You are my love and my joy in living. Whatever may happen to us, know that. Our fëar are bound together until the end of Arda – and afterward, only Ilúvatar himself knows what may happen. Never doubt that I love you, Maen, whether I can show it through desire like this," and he reached down to stroke Melpomaen's rigid organ next to his own, "or whether we can only show it in words and care, not through passion."
"I doubt you not," said Melpomaen softly, shifting to free his right hand from under his body so that he could reach out in turn. "You have shown me naught but kindness and care since we first met; and love. How could I but believe you? Surely you do not doubt me? I will follow you, as I have said, wherever our paths may lead, all the days of my life." He kissed Haldir hard, tongue probing past parted lips to meet tongue, breaths mingling, panting together as they thrust against one another, hands wrapped around firm flesh until they could hardly tell where one ended and the other began.
Haldir felt desire as deep as Ulmo's waters move through him, flooding all the veins of his body and pooling at his groin until his whole being seemed focused on the exquisite pleasure that his lover's touch brought. Such joy could not come from the Master of Lies; it must be the work of the Creator, he thought, shuddering in release.
As Haldir's seed spurted through Melpomaen's fingers, the younger Elf brought his own hand back to wrap around Haldir's as it stroked him.
"No, wait, Dír... can I come inside you?"
A nod from the golden head. Haldir rolled over, then raised himself onto hands and knees. "You ought not to have to put any weight on your arm, this way," he explained.
Melpomaen spread the sticky dampness along his aching length and knelt behind Haldir. "Tell me if this is all right, or if I must get the oil for you," he said urgently, and pressed the tip of his cock against the tight hole.
Haldir gasped, consciously trying to relax. "Careful," he groaned as he felt Melpomaen begin to slide inside.
The dark Elf paused, restraining himself until Haldir was ready. When the tightness eased, he gradually entered, luxuriating in the feel, the heat of his desire matched by the heat of Haldir's body. When he was fully sheathed, he leaned forward to kiss Haldir's shoulder.
"Yes... but can you touch me, too, without losing your balance?"
Melpomaen shifted slightly and took Haldir's member in his hand. As he carefully moved in and out, brushing the sweet spot inside, he could feel Haldir's desire hardening once again.
"Oh, by the stars, yes, Maen!"
They moved together, then, as if one, until at last Melpomaen reached his climax and spent hotly deep within his lover. A few more firm strokes and Haldir joined him, collapsing forward onto the blanket.
"After that I scarcely feel like walking," he murmured after a few moments. "But we really must."
"I know," agreed Melpomaen. "How about another cup of tea and a piece of cram, first?"
"That will help," said Haldir, untangling himself and using the damp cloth to wipe them both clean.
A quick bite and they packed up, ready for another day's travel.
"If we are heading for the northerly route, how near will we come to Thranduil's kingdom?" asked Melpomaen as they walked. "Did you not tell me once that you have kin there? Have you ever been there yourself?"
"Some distant kin – my five-times-great grandfather lived in the northern woods when Oropher ruled there. I have not been to those lands myself, though I think my father may have been once, or perhaps his father. I will try to remember the names of some of those relations; I never thought I might need that knowledge on this journey, or I would have asked my family before we left," said Haldir.
"Do you wish to visit them, then? I thought we would merely pass along the northern path, and not stop."
"I would not intend a long stay, but we might be wise to at least pay our respects to King Thranduil. I'm sure that he would be aware of our passage in any case – no doubt he has scouts and defenders out along the borders of his lands, just as we do in Lothlórien. We ought also to be able to replenish our supplies there, more easily than by trading with Men," mused Haldir.
"Whatever you think is best," said Melpomaen, "since you are Lord Celeborn's messenger and I am only along for the pleasure of the journey!"
Haldir laughed. "A mixed pleasure it has been for you, too. Most folk would not consider a broken arm to be much of a delight."
"Ah, well, other things have made up for it," grinned Melpomaen. "As you well know."
With such banter that day and the next two passed quickly, despite an intermittent rain that made walking less enjoyable than usual. Haldir reckoned that they were within a day's travel of the Forest River where it emerged from the shadows of Mirkwood.
"If I remember the maps correctly, the caverns where King Thranduil and his court dwell are but a short way inside the eastern border of the forest, on the north side of the river," he told Melpomaen.
"Are the people hospitable to strangers?" asked Melpomaen, a touch nervously. Entering Dale had worried him less. He and Haldir had traveled there in the role of emissaries, messengers with their own king's authority behind them. Here they were simply travelers. Moreover, Dale was but a town of Men, and Melpomaen cared little what Men thought.
"I don't know for certain," confessed Haldir. "I cannot imagine that they would be hostile to other Elves, though a Dwarf or a Man might find a chillier reception. Although..." he wrinkled his brow, "it might be prudent of us not to say that we come from the Golden Wood. The king, perhaps, we should tell, but I have gathered the impression that there is not overmuch love lost between him and Celeborn. So his people may not even know of the folk of Lórien, and we should not interfere with our lord's policies of secrecy. We can simply put it about that we are from lands to the south, traveling on a private errand. That is close enough to the truth to serve."
"As you like, so long as we both tell the same story," said Melpomaen. "One more day, then, and we might be able to sleep in beds rather than on the ground!"
"Let's not be too hasty," cautioned Haldir. "I think it is one more day, but I have traveled this road no more often than you! As for beds, we shall see. I do not have any idea how we might be housed as guests."
"We could be lucky and be asked to share a room," said Melpomaen, his eyes gleaming as he stirred the pot with their evening meal.
"I do not know if that would be good luck or no; it could be dangerously tempting," Haldir said, taking the spoon from Melpomaen's hand to taste the stew.
"I doubt that Thranduil's people would view us – two binn together – any differently from the way our own folk would. That is, most likely shocked, offended, even revolted at the very notion. So while we will accept whatever lodging we might be offered, we will need to be discreet. I could almost wish we had some lembas left, to mute desire. The idea of a hot bath, a soft bed, and you, Maen, is really very appealing."
"No hot bath and no soft bed here, I'm afraid," said Melpomaen. "In fact no bath at all since we left Celduin behind yesterday morn. But you do have me, if you wish for me..." he let his voice trail off.
Haldir smiled, saying, "And what better way to spend a damp and chilly evening? I presume you want your stew to cook a while longer?"
"Indeed." Melpomaen carefully moved the pot to one side of the fire, where it would simmer undisturbed.
Their lovemaking was as satisfying as always. Afterward, they rested, entangled in each other's arms, as their breathing slowed and flushed skins returned to normal. Melpomaen stroked Haldir's bare chest.
"It would be a shame, though," he said drowsily.
"What would be a shame?" Haldir propped himself up on one elbow to look inquiringly at his lover.
"To be sleeping alone in a bed when I would rather be with you. No, no, I will be good. Don't worry. I won't even look at you more than I can help; I am too likely to gaze admiringly and at some length," Melpomaen said.
"I hope you need not go that far," said Haldir. "It would seem quite as odd to anyone who paid attention, if we seemed to greatly dislike each other, though traveling together."
Melpomaen sighed. "This is too much to worry about. I almost do not wish to go."
"We need not, if you really don't want to," said Haldir.
"No, it will be fine, I'm sure," said Melpomaen. "It will be a change from the daily stew, at least. Speaking of which, are you ready for some?"
"Why not?" Haldir pulled his clothing back on. "Then I'll rest while you watch, and you can wake me mid-night as usual."
When Melpomaen did wake him, though, it was only a couple of hours into the first watch.
"I'm sorry to disturb you early, Dír, but there is something strange out there," he whispered.
"What? Not another bear? We are still only on the outskirts of the forest, so surely not spiders either?"
"No, undoubtedly not a spider. Look at the third limb of the beech tree over there," said Melpomaen.
Haldir looked carefully in the dim red light of the fire. There did seem to be something on the branch. As he gazed, he saw two pale lights appear, and as quickly vanish again. Eyes, but of no creature that he had ever seen. Far too large for a squirrel, too small for a bear, and utterly wrong for a great cat.
"Pass me my bow and quiver, Maen," he asked quietly, and stringing the bow, he fitted an arrow loosely to it and waited.
"Shoot," said Melpomaen urgently.
"No, not until it does something threatening. I do not recognize it and would not harm the innocent. Besides, I think it has perceived this as a threat already. See, it is leaving, whatever it is."
Indeed, a faint scrabbling noise suggested that the creature was climbing down out of the tree on the far side of the trunk, presumably to retreat out of range of any possible arrows.
"Probably too small to be a serious threat, but if it returns, wake me again," said Haldir. He returned to his blankets and to sleep, as Melpomaen paced the clearing, all senses alert for any return of the unknown beast.
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.