34. The Journey Resumed
The evening promised to be cool, and they were both glad for the fire. Legolas had warned them to take full waterskins along, for if they stayed on the path, there was but one stream that crossed it – several days’ travel hence – and its waters were not fit to drink. The Elves who dwelt in this region made use of springs and small streams, but they lay some distance from the road, not convenient for travelers.
Bread and a piece of cheese made their supper that night, with a handful of dried berries that Haldir stewed in a bit of water on the edge of the fire. He put some pieces of dried meat and vegetables into the pot when they had emptied it, and more water. The soup would simmer in the fire’s embers all night, and be ready to break their fast in the morning.
Darkness had by now closed in around them. “How do you wish to divide up the watches?” Haldir asked, giving the mixture a final stir before replacing the lid on the pot.
Melpomaen considered it. “Each of us taking half the night worked well enough last summer. I would prefer the second watch, if you don’t mind.”
Haldir nodded. “I’m not sleepy. I will be happy to watch first.” He straightened from his culinary labors and sat down by Melpomaen on his blanket. “Would you like me to rub your shoulders before you go to sleep?”
Melpomaen rotated so that his back was to Haldir and he faced out into the darkness. “I think it is too cool to take off my tunic.”
“You needn’t.” Haldir began pressing his thumbs into the muscles of Melpomaen’s back. His lover’s head drooped forward, but Melpomaen made no other response, even when Haldir found tight knots in the muscles of Melpomaen’s shoulders and had to apply more force than usual to ease the tension. Gradually Haldir allowed his touch to soften into a caress, slipping one hand around to reach Melpomaen’s chest and then downward toward his groin.
Melpomaen caught Haldir’s hand and held it. “No, Dír.” His voice was low, but firm. “Not tonight.” He released his grasp.
Puzzled, Haldir said, “Why not?”
“I. . .” Melpomaen shook his head, his face still turned away. “Not tonight,” he repeated.
“All right,” said Haldir, careful to keep any hint of hurt or dismay from his voice. “If that’s what you prefer. I will wake you just past the middle of the night, then. Rest well.” He stood up and walked around the fire and a few yards into the trees on the other side, to the place they had chosen for a waste trench that night. He loosened the ties of his leggings to relieve himself, and smiled wryly. He had expected to make love with Melpomaen, and his member had already hardened in anticipation. Holding it, he considered bringing himself pleasure, but the thought did not appeal. When he had finished what was necessary and refastened his clothing, he returned to the little glade to take up his watch.
Uneventful hours later, he woke Melpomaen and, rolling up in his own blanket, quickly fell asleep.
The next three days scarcely differed. The gloom under the trees told on them both, and their speed was slow. Melpomaen continued in near-silence, ignoring Haldir’s attempts to cheer him and evading any embrace, until the older Elf was nearly beside himself with distress. On the fifth day he decided to bring the matter out into the open.
It was midmorning, or so Haldir guessed. The sun itself was concealed by the looming treetops. The previous night had been cold, and frost still lingered in patches. Haldir could think of no easy way to begin, and so he simply said, “Maen.”
“What?” Melpomaen continued walking.
“Melpomaen. Please stop.” Haldir’s voice rang in the quiet of the forest.
Melpomaen stopped a few yards ahead of Haldir and turned to look at him. “Yes? What is it?”
“Why are you acting this way, meldanya? You have scarcely spoken to me since we left Thranduil’s caverns. If I touch you, you freeze. What is wrong?” Haldir spoke without accusation, and his eyes pleaded with his lover to answer.
Melpomaen put his hands over his eyes, his head bowed. Haldir moved toward him “Please, Maen. I cannot bear to see you so unhappy. I need to know what is troubling you thus. We are under no compulsion to reach Lórien on any given day – let us stop now.” Without waiting for Melpomaen to agree or demur, he slipped his own pack from his shoulders, and reached to tug Melpomaen’s off also. He led Melpomaen southward off the path and into the trees. “I think we should look for a spring today, in any case. Our waterbags could stand to be replenished, and I want a cup of tea while we talk.”
Haldir made swift work of kindling a small fire and putting some of their precious water to heat. He tossed a generous pinch of chamomile into each of their cups and let it steep for several minutes before handing Melpomaen his. “Here, meldanya. Drink. Now tell me – what is it? Are you simply unhappy to have left Thranduil’s caverns? But you offered to go back to Lórien with me. I thought that the reason you wanted to stay was because when we return home, we will no longer be able to express our bond physically – at least not if we remain members of the border guard. So I expected that you would want to make love as often as we could on this journey, not begin to abstain before we had to.”
“No.” Melpomaen was silent again for a little while, but it was the silence of thought, of choosing how to answer, and Haldir waited for him to speak.
“I didn’t want to leave, you’re right,” said Melpomaen at last. “But that is only part of what concerns me. I never thought of our people as being narrow-minded. It was simply never something I even considered – I always accepted what was said and done without questioning if it was right or wrong. But what you spoke of, at different times last winter, to Legolas – I began to think about how it will be to live among people who would despise me, despise us, if they knew that we love each other. I don’t know how it will feel to do that, but I fear being found out. And I loathe that I feel such fear. I don’t want to be afraid of people I have always admired and respected. I am not a different person from who I was a year ago; I have only realized something about myself that I had not before understood, and it is a dreadful feeling that because of that I might well be outcast. I’m afraid to go home, Haldir.” He looked up into Haldir’s face, his own drawn with sorrow and dread.
“Come here.” Haldir held out his arms. Melpomaen crawled from where he sat and accepted Haldir’s embrace.
“You can’t make it better, Dír,” he said in a muffled voice.
Haldir tightened his arms around Melpomaen, rocking them both slowly back and forth. “I might have been oversensitive to what our people said, you know, Maen. Don’t be so certain that the worst would happen.”
“But what if it does?” Melpomaen pulled back and gazed seriously at Haldir. “I keep imagining what could occur – friends turning away, not speaking, looking at me as if at an insect in their food. Even being asked by Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel to leave. You may have stronger connections, with your family and all, but the thought of being cut off from everyone I’ve ever known made me realize that I love our home too, and I would hate to be ostracized, maybe even exiled.”
Nodding, Haldir said, “I know. I’ve thought about it too. It was one thing before I met you; to be unwed so long might be unusual, but not objectionable. Now it’s different. I don’t know any more than you do how our people might react, and so I would rather be discreet, if we can, rather than run that risk of rejection. No more than you do I like the idea of hiding – I just cannot think of anything else, not if we are to remain in Lórien – and I do want to go home.”
Melpomaen sighed. “So do I, really, though I wanted to stay in service with Thranduil also, just to avoid this problem. Oh, meldanya, what shall we do?”
Again Haldir hugged Melpomaen, thinking the matter over as he soothed his lover with touch. “All right, Maen, how about this? We make a trial of it – for a few years, anyway. We can stay in the guard, as partners; the lembas will help to ensure that we won’t miss the physical expression of our bond too much, and we will be able to be together more than in almost any other pursuit or craft I can think of. We could see how that went. Maybe, even, depending on how the others speak and act, we could be more open about our bond than I’ve thought we could be. But if it doesn’t work out, we can choose to leave the guards and do something else; if we’ve tried, and failed, I would be willing to leave Lórien altogether. Perhaps return here to Mirkwood, or perhaps we could journey to Imladris, or the Havens, first; I would like to see those places someday. Of course, I hope that we won’t have to leave, but I would if needs must. You are my bondmate, Maen; in the end, you are my family.”
“And you are mine,” was all that Melpomaen said in return. He kissed Haldir’s mouth, a simple kiss at first, a guerdon for his lover’s offer to give up so much he held dear. Then his hands crept around Haldir’s neck, and the kiss became more complex.
When they broke apart, Haldir said breathlessly, “I think we should travel no further today.”
“No.” Melpomaen glanced at the fire. “Shall we build that up, or let it die down for now? And when did you want to search for water?”
“Let it die. And later.” Haldir pulled him close again. “We have better things to do, just now.”
“Indeed so,” Melpomaen agreed, tugging Haldir’s tunic loose and sliding his hands underneath it, onto the warm smooth skin of Haldir’s back. “I missed this,” he murmured into Haldir’s ear. “I just couldn’t. . .”
“It’s all right, I understand,” Haldir told him. “Neither of us knows what the future will bring; it’s only natural to worry. Just, please, meldanya, share it with me, next time.”
“I will,” Melpomaen promised, the words coming out in a gasp as Haldir’s hands swiftly plucked at his clothing, exposing his belly and groin. The chilly spring air made him shiver.
Haldir slid his hand along Melpomaen’s thigh, and bent his head to take Melpomaen’s still-soft member into his mouth. He suckled the tender flesh, which grew and stiffened with the inrush of blood. Melpomaen’s hands wound into Haldir’s hair, tugging him closer, but Haldir released Melpomaen instead.
“Just a moment, Maen,” he said, and turned aside to pull the blanket from his pack. He hesitated, then decided not to waste time searching for the flask of oil that he knew was in there somewhere. Snapping the blanket to unfold it, he spread it on the ground. Melpomaen was behind him, his hands busy at Haldir’s waist to loosen his leggings.
“With this breeze and no sunlight, I think better not to strip entirely,” Melpomaen breathed in Haldir’s ear as they tumbled each other down.
“You feel warm enough,” Haldir teased, curling his fingers around Melpomaen’s cock and fondling it. He thrust his hips forward so that their bared groins pressed together.
“Ah, well,” said Melpomaen, matching him stroke for stroke, “I don’t notice that you are anxious to go bare either, and you are as warm as I.” He enclosed the head of Haldir’s organ in his palm. “Yes, I would even say hot.”
Haldir quivered. He tilted his head so that he could kiss Melpomaen again, thrusting his tongue between lips that opened willingly to him. Melpomaen’s tongue flickered to meet his, darting like a fish, smooth and slippery. Haldir captured it, sucking, then released it to bite at Melpomaen’s lips and throat. “I’ll give you hot,” he growled. He let go his grasp of Melpomaen’s member and pulled the other’s hand away from his own cock, pushing both their organs down to nestle between each other’s legs. Then he held Melpomaen’s hips and began to thrust, keeping his own thighs together to create a kind of tunnel for Melpomaen’s reciprocating motion. Without oil, the friction of skin on skin rapidly brought them both to the point of release.
Melpomaen clutched at Haldir, stopping him. He was red-faced and panting, but managed to say, “Dír, would you let me finish in your mouth?”
Haldir gave him one last fierce kiss, and wriggled downwards. Within seconds Melpomaen felt the wet suction of his lover’s mouth on his cock. He was so excited already that it took only a moment to reach his climax.
As Melpomaen’s seed spurted over his tongue, Haldir gripped the base of his own organ to keep from spilling onto the blanket. He swallowed, licking away every trace of the fluid, noticing how the texture of Melpomaen’s skin seemed to change and soften, though his member was still firm. When he lifted his head, Melpomaen was looking down at him, his face alight and his lips parted.
“Let me sit up, Dír,” said Melpomaen. Haldir moved to one side, and Melpomaen sat cross-legged, his leggings tangled around his feet, thighs still bared. “Now – come, kneel.” Haldir shifted back, resting his weight on his heels and bracing his hands behind him, his hips thrust forward. Melpomaen bent and gave a long loving wet swipe of his tongue along Haldir’s length before enveloping him completely.
“Oh, Maen,” Haldir forced the words out as desire swept through him, a storm of longing deferred. He closed his eyes to concentrate on the sensations. Melpomaen’s lips slid down and up his shaft, each movement drawing Haldir a little closer to ecstasy, the touch light and teasing until Haldir could bear it no more and begged, “Please, now,” and Melpomaen responded by contracting his mouth and throat, suckling hard. Orgasm shook Haldir, the outrush of his release spilling down Melpomaen’s throat.
When he had swallowed and raised his head, Melpomaen was astonished to realize that his cheeks were wet with tears.
“Meldanya, what is it? What is wrong” said Haldir in concern.
“Nothing is wrong. I’m happy,” Melpomaen said. He wrapped his arms around Haldir’s waist and lay back, pulling Haldir on top of him. His legs were still folded and it was a bit uncomfortable, but he ignored that for the moment. “Dír, I love you.”
“I love you, too, Maen.” Haldir rested his head on Melpomaen’s chest, in deep contentment. “We will meet the challenges we find together, will we not? And overcome them, one way or another.”
“Yes,” said Melpomaen. “We will.”
They lay quiet for a while, until at last Melpomaen complained that his legs would fall asleep if he did not get up and move around.
“Do you want to look for water, or shall I?” asked Haldir, pulling his clothes into place and fastening them. “Or should we go together?”
“I would rather go together,” said Melpomaen, “Not that I think either of us would get lost, even in these dark woods, but from what I heard of the giant spiders in guardroom gossip, I’d rather not risk meeting them alone.”
“Probably wise,” Haldir agreed. “We should take our packs and all along, too, I think. Then if there is a suitable place to stop near water, we won’t have to come back here.”
They slung their belongings on their backs and set off southward. There was no path, but the trained eye could see blazons on the trees. In their months in Mirkwood both Melpomaen and Haldir had learned some of these signs, enough to guide them now. For one who understood them, the way to the nearest spring was easily followed.
It took longer than they had expected. The spring proved to be a good three miles from the path, more than an hour’s hard going through the thick trees and brush.
“I can see why Legolas warned us to carry water,” commented Melpomaen. “I would not want to have to go this far out of our way each night.”
“No. But since we’re here, though it is only early afternoon, I think we should just stop. We can begin traveling at dawn tomorrow if we want, or not.”
“It doesn’t matter to me,” said Melpomaen. “Do we have any bread left?”
“A loaf, I think. We should eat it tonight or tomorrow; it’s getting stale. I would offer to look for some game, but I don’t really like to hunt when all the animals have their young. They are always poor eating after the winter, in any case,” said Haldir.
“I know – you just want to get out of cooking, don’t you?” chaffed Melpomaen.
“You are much the better cook, Maen.”
“Trying flattery, now? Since it’s true, I’ll accept it. I’ll cook tonight.” Melpomaen looked through their supplies. “One of us will have to hunt, though, sooner or later; we can make it through the forest, I think, but that’s all.”
“There are some villages of Men to the west of Mirkwood, between the forest edge and Anduin. We can make some purchases in those,” Haldir said.
“Once we get there. I’d rather not run out first,” said Melpomaen.
“Do you want me to hunt today, then? I will if you insist.”
“Why don’t you take a look and see if you find anything easily. I haven’t seen any sign of spiders, so I think you would be safe while it is still day. Some fresh meat would make a nice change.”
Haldir said, “All right,” and picked up his bow, slinging his quiver of arrows over his shoulder. “You’ll have to get the firewood, then, and make camp. I’ll be back in a little while.”
Melpomaen cleared the ground and laid out their things, then fetched wood. It had not rained since they had left the caverns, by good luck, and the scattered deadwood he found was drier than that Haldir had been forced to use the first night out. He hummed to himself as he worked. When he finished what was necessary, he took out the pipes that Dúlin had given him and began to play softly.
Distracted by his music, he did not notice how much time had passed until the light began to fade. Then he grew worried at Haldir’s continued absence. By the time the older Elf returned, it was nearly full dark, and Melpomaen was pacing around the fire, trying to decide whether he should go in search of his lover.
Haldir put down a brace of rabbits. “I’m sorry, Maen. I meant to be here sooner, but in going after the first rabbit I saw, I came to a stream. The animal leapt over it, using a stone in the middle, but the rock wasn’t large enough to take me and I wasn’t sure if it was the stream Legolas warned us about or not. So I wasted some time going along its banks. I apologize for worrying you – forgive me?”
“Just don’t do it again, if you can help it. Not at the end of the day! I could just see myself wandering around in the dark calling for you – not a good idea,” said Melpomaen. “You clean and skin those, then, and I’ll find some sticks to set up a spit.”
The roasted rabbit tasted delicious after four days of dried rations. Haldir sighed contentedly. “I had wanted to talk some more this evening, but getting back late may have ruined that plan.”
Melpomaen shrugged. “Only if you insist on leaving at dawn. What did you want to talk about?”
“Oh, anything. After the past few days I just wanted to hear your voice,” said Haldir.
“Mm.” Melpomaen lay on his back, looking up in a vain attempt to see the stars through thickly overhanging branches. “I don’t want to think about going home right now, or talk about it.” He rolled onto his elbow, looking at Haldir. “I know. What was it that Legolas whispered to you, when he bade us farewell? Did he say ‘I forgive you’?”
“No,” said Haldir, “he said ‘Forgive me.’ I wasn’t sure what he meant by that.”
“I would imagine he was referring to his feelings for you,” Melpomaen said. “At least, that is the first thing that strikes me.”
“Perhaps.” Haldir frowned. “I wonder.”
“Well, what else?”
“It occurred to me that maybe he wanted forgiveness for something he had said to or done with you,” said Haldir. “Though I could not think what that could be.”
Melpomaen shook his head. “I cannot think of anything he could have meant along such lines. Nor did I understand why he felt the need to grant me his forgiveness – as far as I knew I had done nothing to offend him.”
Haldir chuckled. “If you think his words to me referred to his feelings for me, perhaps those to you were along the same lines – and he was forgiving you for being my bondmate?”
“I suppose that would make sense,” said Melpomaen, “but somehow I cannot believe in such a straightforward explanation.”
“We may never know, unless we meet him again and can ask.”
“Well, it bothers me. I want to know,” complained Melpomaen.
“So, think of all the explanations that could possibly make sense, and maybe we can work through and make a good guess. But that’s the most you can hope for,” said Haldir.
Melpomaen snorted. “Humph. That’s a great help, Dír.”
“Sorry. You’re the one who brought it up. Do you want to keep talking, or ponder the mystery in silence for the rest of the night?”
“I’ll ponder, thank you very much. In fact I’d better take the first watch so I can do just that.”
“If you must,” Haldir sighed, regretting that he had suggested it. He knew his mind, too, would be occupied with the puzzle of Legolas’s last words, and he would have to work hard to put them out of his head and fall asleep.
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.