Gift for: matan4il
“Damn his eyes!” Uttering the final curse of a series, I threw myself to the ground in the lee of a massive oak tree. I landed with force enough to bruise a shoulder - just one more mote of irritation to add to the already blinding dust of ire - but, was able to cut off another robust oath before it passed my lips; the trees would, no doubt, betray me again, and I’d not readily give them material.
Under the circumstances, the ancient wood that hugged the bank of the Bruinin were not the obvious place to seek solitude, but, there seemed no room, or runnel in Imladris that was absent the spectre of the delegation from Mirkwood and even Elrond, my normally serene and enigmatic stepfather, had acquired a distracted air. No, the open air was what this Dúnedain needed to soothe his wounded psyche and since Lord Elrond had forbidden me to leave the immediate environs of his house until after my coming of age party, then these treacherous woods would have to suffice.
The oak was my favourite of all the trees in this part of the wood. I could not deny that it lacked the superficial beauty of some of its fellows. It could not claim the elegance of the birch, nor the ripe curves and candles of the chestnut; it was gnarled and weather-beaten, with great cords of root looping above the ground as though the tree had tried to stitch itself to the very ground and made a bad job of it being provided only with having arthritic, twiggy fingers. Yet despite it’s lack of grace, it could still provide a strong branch to house a nest of chattering chaffinches and a bole for a pair of squirrels, it was redoubtable, obdurate, rebellious. Elrond had oft assured me that these were qualities that I shared and had tried – with some modest success – to teach me to use these traits to best advantage. I was young though, in the years of men, and never yet fully in control of my emotions so I often sought comfort in solitude.
I leant back against the sturdy trunk, wriggling until I was cradled between two of the larger roots. If I were He, I’d be able to lean my head against the rough bark and commune with this great woodland overseer, but the Valar had seen to make me more Man than Elf and though I had the hands of a healer, many of Arda’s secrets were closed to me.
He, of course, had no discernible limitations, and many, clearly observable, qualities. “Damn his eyes!” The lower branches of the tree shook and shivered – from a stray gust of wind, of course – but I could not escape the suspicion that my arboreal shelter was laughing at me, and my faint hope that the oak was old enough not to be flattered by the attentions of a stripling Sinda, faded to invisibility.
Poor wretched me! I mocked myself, knowing that my condition was largely self-inflicted and I had come into the green woods – what irony – to consider my position with the maturity that was appropriate to my age.
I would start, as logic dictated, with my very first acquaintance with the Elven Prince, Legolas son of Thranduil.
Lord Elrond’s house had been home to me for as long as I could remember. As a child I had run about with the Elflings and had little care that I was not quite like them. Elladan and Elrohir, though much older in human years, had been as brothers to me and we had played and fought and got into mischief, as siblings will and it was only as they grew into their willowy Elven grace while I went through that gangly, clumsy period that afflicts the children of men that I became cognisant of, and frustrated by, what I saw as my shortcomings. Elrond, of course, with his age old wisdom saw the cause of my teenage rages better than I did and he made sure to tutor me in the virtues of Men, though he did not forbear to educate me in the failings of my species.
It was in that most difficult of summers that I saw my first Sylvan Elf. Thranduil had travelled from beyond Emyn Fuin to pay court to Galadriel in Lothlórien and paused for a night in Imladris. I was entranced. The elves of Elrond’s house were largely dark of hair and eye, but, these woodland Elves were fair creatures, luminously pale and the most ethereal of them all was the Elf King’s youngest son – a boy then, to human eyes, though far older than I by the calendar of men.
In my excitement at first clapping eyes on these fey beauties, my enthusiasm overcame both my manners and my coordination and in running to join the welcoming party I tripped over my practice sword and landed in a tangle of limbs at the young prince’s feet.
I was mortified by my surrogate father’s look of exasperation – the merest tightening of the lips, unreadable to any but his closest kin – but more mortified by the prince’s reaction. Elladan or Elrohir or any of the Elflings would have mocked my clumsiness; the teasing would have wounded but no more than a scratch. Legolas, however, gave me a mysterious half-smile and look that I could not immediately read, and gently drew me to my feet. Perhaps he was used to mortals falling at his feet – and no wonder – but had he laughed in my face it would have been less painful. For the rest of his stay I kept a watchful distance, fearful that his gaze would burn the skin from my face if his gentian blue eyes were to rest on me for a scant second.
Some years have passed since then, and I have become surer in my body. My muscles have ripened and my shoulders have become broad enough to counter the sinuous strength of an Elf or the brute force of an Orc. My knowledge of the woods and moors, my horsemanship and my skill with bow and sword is said to be a match for any in Imladris and it would be false modesty to deny it. My mind, however, is in an unaccustomed state of turmoil.
Since I was old enough to hold a sword, all I have ever wanted, or, expected is to join my brothers in defending the realm against Sauron’s dark forces. I consider myself no politician, though Elrond has persisted in trying to teach me the art as well as forcing upon me other lessons that have no obvious use to a soldier. Just recently he has begun to hint that I have a purpose in life beyond the one I desire. Much as I have pressed him, he has refused to say more until I come of age on the morrow and his decision to mark the date with a party in my honour causes me much discomfiture, but, not so much as the presence of the Mirkwood elves.
How inconstant I am.
When first I heard of the invitation to Thranduil I was delighted. The Mirkwood elves have a reputation for cunning in battle and I was keen to test my mettle against them. A series of contests were proposed, for sport and for the serious but unspoken purpose of preparing for the confrontation with Sarumon’s forces that Elrond felt to be inevitable.
In the days preceding the arrival of the wood-elves, I found myself strangely distracted. On several nights I dreamed of a pale warrior with white-gold hair and burning blue eyes and woke spent in more ways than one. My brothers, concerned for my well being, made only mildly obscene comments about my listlessness, but I brushed off their questions, deluded into believing that the dreams were mere coincidence. I joked that I was merely as anxious as they to show these up-start Sylvans how things should be done and indeed there was a buzz of anticipation in Imladris, audible in the squeal of grindstone and clang of metal on stone as every would-be warrior prepared for a battle in which pride if not blood would be spilled.
Our allies from the Greenwood were greeted with a banquet. I am not much given to making political small-talk, but Lord Elrond insisted that I joined the high-table – the festivities were in my honour, after all – where I was pleased to be seated next to Galion. Though not one of the Sylvan’s doughtiest warriors, his fondness for wine meant that he was less haughty than his fellows, less discreet also. At length the conversation turned to who would win the various contests. I hardly expected Galion to name himself, but the name he offered surprised me far more than had he done so and I told him so.
‘Your eyes deceive you, though they have rested upon him often enough this night. Legolas may be young in the years of Elven kind yet he has as much skill with bow, blade and sword as any I have ever seen. He has a bond with Arda that many including I envy and a length of sight that few elves can match, let alone a Man.’
I felt my cheeks sting at this. I had convinced myself that my observation of the young Prince had been subtle enough to go unnoticed but clearly I was deluded. Just at that moment, Legolas’s head was bent close to the lovely Arwen - fair hair against dark making a pretty picture – and he said something that made the luscious maiden laugh in delight. How I wished that those eyes would shine so brightly for me!
While I might have been embarrassed, I wasn’t above using the conversation as an excuse to observe the Prince more openly, which allowed me to take in more than his fair face. Unlike King Thranduil and his counsel, arrayed in the finest silk of silver and white, the young Elf favoured more practical material, green and brown leather and wool, clothes suitable for living and travelling in the forest. Such attire should have been a warning to me not to underestimate Legolas’ qualities, but my eyes were blinded by his radiance. There and then I determined that I would best him at least once in the coming days – youthful impulse setting up my pride for a fall and not for the first time.
The first contest was archery – not my strongest discipline, though my tutors recognised that I was better where it mattered - in the hunt, aiming at a live opponent – than against static targets. I had no reasonable expectation of winning, but the draw was kind and I scraped my way to the semi-final before being narrowly beaten by Elladan, which was no disgrace at all.
I had remained absolutely focussed while competing, but once my involvement was ended , my thoughts once again wandered back to the Prince of Mirkwood. They did not have to wander far, because I soon discovered the Legolas was to be Elladan’s next opponent.
There was a sizeable and partisan crowd for the Final. I made casual haste to secure a good seat that would allow me to made a close study of the archers’ bow work, amongst other things…
Elladan shot first: a tight grouping of three arrows into the nearest target drew a smattering of applause. Then the Mirkwood Elf took his place and though I examined his stance carefully, I could find no fault – he stood straighter than a poplar, arms braced but not stiff, lean body in line with the arrow, bright eyes focussed along the length of the shaft. Thwunk, thwunk, thwunk, the arrows left his simple but elegant bow, piercing the target in such a perfect pattern that there was not a breath between them. The crowd oohed; Elladan looked disgruntled.
The story was repeated through the next five rounds. At each changeover the target was moved back ten paces, and for each set of shots, no matter how beautifully my stepbrother arranged his arrows, Legolas bested him. I admit that the Prince, transfixed me by the set of his mouth, by his easy grace and even by his bravery in eschewing any form of finger protection (I had endured enough feather cuts in my time to be particularly impressed by this).
For the sake of Imladris pride, I was glad that Legolas’ lead when the first half of the contest ended was decent but not unassailable for the second test was of speed firing and I knew of no Elf or Man who could match Elladan’s swiftness.
This time the two archers were arrayed side by side to ensure that there was no trickery in the amount of time allotted, as was alleged to have happened in times past. I was astonished (and a little disappointed) when Legolas didn’t set aside his thick cape, for I felt sure that such a heavy garment would obstruct his pull, nor did he stop to braid his moonshine hair, giving me even more comfort that Elladan would win the contest.
How wrong I was.
Elladan moved like the wind over water, but Legolas moved so fluidly that he could have been the water itself. His body moved perfectly and without hesitation – pull, draw, release; pull, draw release so that it was impossible to tell where he ended and the bow began. He was the bow, the arrow, and the simple yet elegant leather quiver! Despite his speed not once did he snag an arrow or pluck the bowstring and each shot sang true to the target. At the final count, he had shot ten arrows to every seven of Elladan’s and while some of my brother’s shots were a little wayward all of his had found their mark.
The Mirkwood contingent were, of course, jubilant at registering first blood, though Legolas, I was interested to note, seemed to find their triumphalism distasteful. Elladan was dejected and confused – he was not used to losing – but I reassured him that he would have his revenge in the knife event.
I was wrong. Again.
I myself was put out of this competition by Elrohir (he cheated) though he was then disposed of by one of Thranduil’s guards. The outturn was that all four semi-finalists were from Mirkwood, which was rather a blow, though one softened by the knowledge that we could have put both of the twins up against the eventual champion and HE would still have won such was his accuracy in the throw, his prowess with either hand, his flexibility and strength in hand-to-hand fighting. I would swear that those beautiful long knives were actually part of his body had I not seen them resting in the side pockets of his quiver
HE being Legolas.
This made be more determined than ever to win the third contest. The sword was my best discipline and I felt confident, not least because, being a Man, I felt less constrained by the etiquette of combat than my Elf opponents (Elrohir being the exception that proved the rule).
My confidence was justified and I breezed to the final - I own that Elrond may have fixed the draw - where it was my great pleasure to face …
Do you need to ask?
I knew of his speed, his strength and his slender suppleness, what I did not know of was his soundness of foot, his stamina and his slyness where tactics were concerned. I had determined to make it a quick win of it so as to win back some honour for Imladris, but I quickly found that I had to put considerable effort into the fight, which was frustrating and then downright irritating as Legolas kept managing to wheel us around so that I was facing into the dazzling rays of the setting sun and I could not see his lovely face clearly.
I may have lost my temper, just a little. I admit it. Certainly the fight became drawn out and my technique became a little ragged, but it seemed to entertain the watching crowd, especially when I moved in to fight at close-quarters, my body almost flush with Legolas’ torso. This positioning seemed to surprise the Prince, certainly it put him on the retreat and when he tried to bend and duck away I was ready for the move, using my hip to roll his body to the floor, then quickly straddling him with my blade forcing his back.
Suddenly he stopped pushing back against me, so suddenly that I was taken unaware and I fell against him, chest-to-chest, thigh-to-thigh. I was breathing heavily by then, but the Elf seemed scarce out of breath. One might have thought him entirely unmoved if it were not for the becoming flush on his cheeks – pale gold like the rising full moon - and a bright aspect to his eye that bespoke of some un-Elflike emotion.
I rationalised that his stillness might be a trick and I pressed my body more firmly against him so as to preclude his escape, and tried to reign in my senses so that I was conscious only of the shallow rise and fall of his chest, the unexpected warmth of his skin where the palm of my hand pressed against his naked wrist and the faintest glimmer in those fathomless blue eyes. At length, though too quickly after such a stimulating fight, Legolas called out the words of his surrender to the judge and looked expectantly at me. It was not until my ears registered the catcalls from the audience that I realised how compromising was our position was and made reluctant haste to roll to one side. Legolas sprang immediately to his feet and his face resumed its customary expression of serenity; he looked as though he was merely out for an afternoon stroll. I knew that I looked anything but unruffled – my shirt was untucked and there was a muddy smear on my breeches, (how do Elves manage to avoid getting dirty?) but I scarcely cared, because I had recorded a victory. I accepted Legolas’ hand to help me up with as much grace as I could muster.
Thereafter my fellows besieged me and I did not see my Elf again until dinner, although again we were seated apart and I could do nothing but watch covertly until I my eyes were glazed with wine and weariness.
It was, I agree, an uncharacteristic mistake to partake so thoroughly of Lord Elrond’s cellar and I confess that I was reluctant to leave my bed when the morning cracked open my skull but I was restored to some order by a liberal application of cold water, to interior and exterior, and arrived in good time to take my part in the second day’s events.
There were two challenges scheduled today, each intended as a test of teamwork, Imladris against Mirkwood, rather than individual contests. The first was a test of tracking skills in which the combatants were divided into hunter and hunted. Luck was with me, or so I thought, for I was designated to a team of hunters and given home advantage and a justified pride in my tracking skills the advantage should have been with me. My mood improved still more when I realised that the Elf-Prince would be leading our prey.
I teased Elladan about his latest crush while we gave our quarry the agreed head start. We should have been discussing tactics, though I doubt it would have helped. At length we were given the signal to begin the pursuit and at unspoken agreement we headed immediately for the woods. No Elf from the Greenwood would voluntarily head for the marshes or the barren plains beyond the Bruinen.
Our opponents were good, almost too good, but a group is harder to conceal than on Man or Elf, and we eventually spotted the very slightest scrape on the mossy surface of a boulder. We tracked their trail through the gorge where the best mushrooms grew, through the hawthorn thicket, up the hillock skirted by mallorn trees and then into the elm stand. Then the trail ran cold.
I was baffled; we were baffled. I knew these woods better than the hairs on my head and I was sure there was no cover, no cave, and no chasm in which the Mirkwood elves could hide. We tried every trick we knew and a few things just out of desperation. I smelt leaves and turned over stones. I howled like a wolf in the hope that it would flush our prey and only earned Elladan’s derision.
Then he mentioned that the Prince of Mirkwood could talk to the trees and it was my turn to be derisive – every Elfling knew this was just a myth put about by those defeated b the Sylvans to excuse their losses. Elladan insisted. He knew that it was Sylvan propaganda he said, but Legolas carried the blood of the grey-elves and he could talk to the trees, to any living thing. Now I recalled Galion’s words and - feeling a little guilty - muttered that it might have been useful to have this knowledge before we started tracking. Elladan narrowed his eyes and flicked his hair back - the nearest most Elves ever get to having a hissy fit- but forbore to reply.
It was actually a relief when the horn sounded to end the contest.
We trudged despondently back to the gathering point. The bird’s sweet song mocked our failure as did the fragrance of the flowers that carpeted the forest floor and the dappled sunlight that seemed to dance through the trees. When we reached the edge of the woods and one of the glimmering sunbeams came out of the tree to become the pale gold tresses of Legolas I felt as pathetic as a wet cat. The Prince smiled pleasantly at me in greeting; I fear that my answering smile may have been rather weak.
I was greatly relieved that the two other Imladris teams had fared better – it meant that the scores were square going into the final event - a horseback relay, four riders on each side. The course twisted it’s way over steep gradients and through water, across scree and stony ground, the tight turns would be a test of horsemanship and a test of archery too as, in lieu of a baton, the handover required the rider to hit a target while still mounted. This meant that a speedy circuit could be undermined by poor marksmanship.
I was the third rider in the Imladris team and acquitted myself quite reasonably. I started my circuit with a small deficit and finished with a handsome lead thanks to the sure hooves of my horse and a slightly lucky shot. I watched Elrohir disappearing with a smile on my face for he was the best of us astride a horse and a decent shot as well. I saw no way that the Mirkwood team could outstrip him until a banner of mane and hair, white and gold, whipped past me and I watched in awe as rider and horse all but literally flew over or around each obstacle without once losing speed.
Elrohir was still ahead when he entered the clearing the led to the finishing line, but he must have been aware that his lead was diminishing because he was urging his mount to greater efforts. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth and I almost forgot to breath as I watched my brother creep closer to shooting range. I knew that he was riding at what Elrond would consider a reckless speed, but still the Mirkwood rider gained upon him.
I forced myself to blot out the noise of the crowd, perhaps foolishly thinking that my concentration would be an aid to my teammate. I almost felt Elrohir reaching for his bow, I saw his horse slow and I held my breath as he knocked up the arrow; this shot would win us the games, I was sure.
An arrow was loosed, flew true and hit the target dead centre. The crowd roared its approval and my legs almost buckled beneath as my body finally objected to oxygen starvation. I half heard the comment of my nearest neighbour ‘outstanding shot’, and shook my head in agreement, or astonishment, possibly both. The winner seemed oblivious to the plaudits from the crowd, he was whispering to his sweet grey mare, I could tell that he was uncomfortable with the attention and would likely remove himself to the stables as soon as he could decently escape from the celebrations.
The loser was still astride his stallion, slack-jawed with amazement. Poor Elrohir, I would have been equally stunned had I felt Legolas’ arrow whistle past my ear at the moment of victory. Never had any of us heard of an Elf who could shoot at that speed and with such accuracy over such a distance. I was so impressed that I almost didn’t mind losing.
What I did know was that I needed to find some solitude. I caught Legolas’s eye as I began to edge away. So blue those eyes that one might fall into them and drown, knowing too.
I could have sworn that he winked.
So here I am in the woods, musing on the events of the last few days, or, as Arwen would doubtless say, sulking like a boy. I should be returning to the Great House – the birds are roosting so sunset cannot be far off, but I still feel disinclined to company.
“Are you well, Estel?”
My knife is out of its sheath and I’m halfway to my feet before I see the speaker. He drops silently from the middle branches of an aspen – as tall, blonde and slender as he – and I notice that when he lands his feet rest so softly that they barely bend the blades of grass.
I put the knife away and set myself back down with a grunt.
“You seem pensive” My uninvited guest – Legolas - cocks his head to one side as if considering the edibility of an unknown fruit.
“I had hoped that my thoughts would find order in the seclusion of the wood.” I reply, not quite rudely, but, tersely enough that my uninvited companion should get the hint.
“Lord Elrond thought as much and he asked that I might bring you some supper.”
My stomach hails this news with an audible rumble. I had scarce eaten all day, having had little appetite for lunch, and my body is as much in need of sustenance as my mind. I make a note to thank my stepfather for his foresight and forgive him for calling on Legolas to make the delivery – after all, who else would have been able to find me?
“Then you are most welcome.” I accept the proffered knapsack, testing its weight to asses the contents and conclude that Elrond has generously provided more than one person might eat, however hungry, “will you join me?”
. “Hannon Le” he inclines his head in assent and settles himself gracefully into a grassy hollow; it is a suitable setting and he looks entirely at home.
My invitation seems to please the Elf more than I would have expected. Perhaps he had as little enthusiasm for formal banquets as I. “Do you not wish to celebrate your triumph, today?” I ask.
Modesty makes him slow to smile, but when it comes it is dazzling. “Twas just a game and a close run thing. I admit some pride in Mirkwood’s success but I would not make to much of it for the real contest has yet to come.”
A shadow passes over his face and my eyes follow his to the East and the looming threat of Mordor. My respect for him grows; Thranduil is prone to dismiss Elrond’s prophecies of the war to come as alarmist, but it seems that the young Prince is better prepared for the grim reality facing Middle Earth.
We sit silently for a moment or two, until Legolas breaks the sombre mood with a self-mocking confession. “In truth, I am a lightweight when it comes to drinking and I prefer to feel the wind on my face than the sour breath of elves too far in their cups.”
“I couldn’t agree more!” I decide that I like this young Elf and we grin at each other, united in our truancy.
Having established a shared understanding, I share out the meal, a simple but nourishing selection of bread, cheese and fruit washed down with meadow-scented wine. We eat in companiable silence save for the sound of the wood making itself ready for nightfall and the sweet song of the chaffinches. These cheeky birds have deferred their roosting to keep watch on the intruders on their territory and are bold enough to take crumbs from Legolas’ hand, to our mutual amusement.
Dusk thickens the air, but there is no wind and I am warm enough in my cloak that there is no need to light a fire for heat. Nor do we need one for light because my new friend is literally luminous. A faint glow is a sign of good Elven health and I am used to moving by the light of these Elf-sized glow worms, but Legolas is a veritable beacon, he shines upon me more brightly than a harvest moon, which leads curiosity wins out over good manners.
“Do you always glow so brightly, mellon? How can you hide yourself at night?”
Legolas flinches slightly at my brashness but does not deny me an answer. “I’m told that I shine most brightly when I am … happy.” he replies shyly “I have my good eleven cloak and I am trying to learn how to control it, but it seems that I have not progressed as well as I might have wished. I apologise.” with this, he drew up the hood of his cloak, hiding much of his loveliness from my view.
“No! Please don’t!” I blurt. I nearly say more, but collect myself before I become a complete fool. “That is, we are safe here. Please put down your hood for I would be fascinated to examine your bow and arrows and I do no have the night-vision of an Elf.”
Legolas shoots me a curious look, but lowers the offending fabric allowing me once again to feast my eyes on his fine skin, firefly eyes and gossamer hair. He has to lean forward to pass me his bow and just for a moment our hands touch. His fingers are as beautiful and slender as the rest of him, but even this brief touch conveys his strength….it takes me a few seconds to recall that I am supposed to be studying the bow!
It is a good length, thinner than mine, but it’s phenomenal potency lays in the suppleness of the wood. Simply decorated with no sacrifice of function to superfluous design. I try it in my hand and it feels most satisfying; I am sure that even I could make it produce a powerful shot, though surely without Legolas’ finesse.
“Beautiful, what wood is it?”
“Willow: I made it myself. It took so long to find a piece with the right curve and to season it that it was a sore trial of my patience.”
“In that case, I shall not attempt to follow your example. Lord Elrond despairs of my ever possessing that quality.”
We both laugh, softly so as not to disturb the wood folk. Reluctantly I hand Legolas his bow, but as he takes it, he also takes hold of my hand.
“I think that you have many virtues, Estel and we will be grateful of them in times to come.”
His words confuse and surprise me, the look on his face scares me but also exhilarates me. I am certainly blushing, possibly gawping, because he smiles a secret smile and squeezes my hand reassuringly before releasing it and turning away. He gives me a moment before turning back, and when he does he is holding two arrows by their shafts.
“Look upon these two arrows and tell me how they differ?” he asks off-handedly, as though nothing untoward has occurred. I am grateful for his discretion.
I look closely and at first saw nothing of note, other than the use of an unusually complex pattern and quantity of feathers, but a second look provides the answer. “The fletching. The pattern is the same, but the feathers are different.”
“You are correct, Estel. Perhaps your eyesight is better than you think.” It is hard to tell, but, I think he is teasing. Impatiently I wave him on with the explanation and he smiles at my eagerness. “This arrow is suitable for close combat, the feathers are rock dove, eider duck and goose. This one is for distance, the flights are made of swan feathers instead of goose, it is harder to knock up, but the arrow flies truer.”
I can’t imagine how he can nock up either arrow at speed given that his bow has no rest but I’ve seen him do it. “Yet you carry both in your quiver, how do you know you’ve selected the right one?”
He smiles again and his eyes sparkle like a mountain stream on a summer’s day. “I’d tell you that they come to my bidding, but I’d be telling you an untruth for ‘tis simply that I can tell by touch.”
I watch his elegant fingers stroke through the fletching of first one arrow then the other. I can see that the swan feathers are stiffer than the goose, but, I am more fascinated by the way his hand repeatedly closes around the shaft, flicking lightly over the feathers then releases. It is making something else stiff, which is going to be a problem if I have to move any time soon. I am also finding it very hard to breath, let alone speak, but eventually I drag my eyes back up to his face, only to find that he is examining me with a degree of unwavering fascination that would be unsettling if I were not looking at him in much the same way.
There is a period of semi-awkward silence while I search for my voice, but Legolas recovers his manners first.
“Forgive me, I am not used to the company of Men, I’m sorry for staring.”
“I did not notice” I lie “I fear that I must appear ugly to your eyes.”
“By Elbereth no!” Legolas protests, very convincingly I think, and am glad “I find you most… comely, I am just intrigued by the hair on your face.”
Oh that. One of my acts of rebellion, but a minor one. Shaving is a chore so I stand out in a household of beardless Elves.
“I understand, I forget about it and then am surprised when I pass a mirror.”
“Is it uncomfortable?”
“Sometimes, if it is very hot I scratch like a bear but in winter it keeps my face warm.”
“Oh.” Legolas is quiet for a moment, he seems to be summoning up courage for something. “How… how does it feel?”
I almost laugh, but catch myself when I realise that I yearn to share something of myself with him. “Give me your hand, friend, and you shall know.”
Legolas nods, glances bashfully at me, then shifts so that he is kneeling in front of me. I suck in a sharp breath, because his face arranged into a look of deep concentration is indeed breathtaking. He seems to be contemplating how best to approach the problem, and not having the patience of an Elf, I can’t wait that long, so I take hold of both of his hands and pull them up to rest palms flat against my hirsute cheeks. His gasp is childlike in its sheer joy. “Oh but it is soft like the hide of a coney but more dense ” he says, the wonder lingering in his voice, and he curls his fingers, combing them through the strands of beard so that their pads just touch the skin beneath.
If I was a cat, I’d be purring and like a cat, I close my eyes in pleasure. His touch makes my face tingle and the feeling spreads through me as the spring sun warms the earth and ripens the crops. I feel light-headed, and not just from the wine, I want to jump up and dance, but to do so would put an end to this delightful exercise and I am not ready to make such a sacrifice, though I do force my eyes open so that I might feast again on Legolas’ features.
The Firstborn are, it goes without saying, the most comely of all beings in Middle Earth, but my Sindar Prince’s beauty surpasses all of Imladris. I shall one day undertake a philosophical exercise to enumerate the qualities that make Legolas so supremely beautiful, but this is not that day. Today I am happy just to be able to study him at close quarters, to be the object of the undisguised fascination shining in his azure eyes, to be the subject of the concentration that has his agile pink tongue peeking through luscious coral lips.
I want to touch him, I long to tangle my fingers in his hair to find out if it feels like the skeins of silk that it resembles, but I haven’t earned the right to do so and I can’t find the words to ask permission. He is ahead of me, though, as he has been through the previous two days, and he ceases his exploration just long enough to place my unworthy hand upon his brow. He hums in approval as I automatically begin to stroke his golden hair.
Silk does not adequately describe the splendour of Legolas’ hair. Imagine running bare foot across a patch of the finest sand as it is kissed by the tide and you might begin to understand how glorious it feels to have the thick strands slip underneath my fingers. If you have ever supped too freely from a barrel of the finest wine you might understand how I revelled in the intoxication of his scent – the smoky perfume of starlit frost on leaves - and empathise with the recklessness of my next act.
I kiss him.
His lips are slippery with wine, but I can taste him beneath its sweetness and I want to know more of his flavour. My tongue works urgently to coax his lips apart so that I might savour the velvet heat of his mouth and in this he yields instantly to my assault, though his tongue makes a counter attack so spirited that I think I might be pressed back into my own territory.
This kiss is quite unlike any I had ever experienced. It is vital, compelling, aggressive. Masculine …
The realisation of my calumny puts a bitter taste in my gullet. My hands have found a resting place on my Elf’s hips and I push him away before staggering to my feet and lurching a few steps until the oak arrests my flight. I take a few deep breaths before I find the nerve to turn back to look at my Prince. He is still on his knees, still beautiful, but he wears an expression of what (I hope) is the faintest disappointment rather than one of anger.
“I’m sorry, “ I gasp past an obstruction in my throat “ that was … inappropriate.” Inwardly I curse that my foolish lust might have cost a friendship.
Legolas frowns, which I do not care to see, then he essays a small elvish chuckle. “ Of course, it is different in the world of men, but, for an Elf, male or female makes no odds.”
My embarrassment gives way to affront. I know full well it is the habit of male Elves to lay with each other – my brothers are less than discreet – and I do not care to admit that I am so unworldly as to let such a thing bother me. (OK, it does, though not nearly as much as my lack of experience). I draw myself up to my full height as I seek a dignified response.
“YOU misunderstand, Legolas. The ways of Men are strange, but I have oft thought that their warriors at least must couple with each other, if in secret. My concern is that our stations are incompatible. A Prince should not sully himself with a common Man.”
Legolas’ immediate response is to snort with laughter, if so musical a sound can be described as such. His second to rise (gracefully, as ever) and walk towards me until I am backed against the tree. His third to cup my face again. His fingers dance through my beard to trace the outline of my lips, his touch light as a feather but intense enough to ignite a fire that can only be doused by him. His eyes are alive with blue flames as he speaks softy, wistfully “come the morrow you will learn of your inheritance my friend and then you will know that there is no impediment of blood between us. Time will send us on separate paths, but at the end of all things I will be there with you.”
A far off sorrow, or the moonlight makes his eyes shine more brightly than ever, but he shakes his fair head as if to throw off a frightening vision and smiles coyly at me through a veil of hair. “Let us not speak of such things tonight. This night was made for more pleasant pursuits, shall we finish what we have started?”
I do not understand, nor do I question - his proximity is a drug that prohibits any thought on my part. This time he kisses me, gingerly at first as if fearing to scare me off, but then more assertively, his lips demand and gain my participation. Soon our bodies are flush, the smouldering embers of my lust burst into flame and I know that nothing short of a den of Orcs could stop this now.
I fervently hope there are no Orcs within a hundred leagues.
My head doesn’t know what to do, but my body is a quick study and has Legolas’ fine example to copy. While we explore each other’s mouths, my hands find purchase first on his well-formed biceps, but are soon compelled to move downward. They map the strong muscles in his back, detour to test the vigour of his lean hips, and then come to rest on the swell of his bottom.
It is like coming home.
The worn suede of his leggings is as soft as peach-skin and it entices my fingers to explore. I stroke my way up the curve of his ass and then inwards, inexorably seeking the deep cleft and its hidden treasures. Excitement or instinct makes me pull Legolas tight against my body and even through our clothes I can feel his burgeoning length throbbing against mine.
One of us moans. It is probably me. Certainly I am far enough gone that my need to touch flesh instead of cloth is overwhelming and I start to tug frantically at Legolas’ clothes. He clearly feels the same need, but, as always, he is more dextrous than I and quickly has his hands inside my pants. This is almost too much for me. My body is already shaking and I know I am so close that if he puts his hand on my shaft it will all be over and much as I desire the blessed oblivion of release, I do not wish to make my inexperience so apparent. It takes an effort of will, but I am able, just, to still his hands and tear my mouth from his.
He looks momentarily shocked , but, my expression and my trembling thighs must be explanation enough because he takes my hand and pulls me back into the clearing. “I think we would be more comfortable lying down” he says, removing his fine Elven cloak for use as a blanket. My wobbling knees are grateful for his kindness, just as my lungs are grateful for the chance to suck in some oxygen, but my body misses the heat of his and I am more than happy when he takes his place at my side and his lips return to claim mine.
This brief interlude has allowed me to regain a semblance of control, but has done nothing to dampen my desire to touch Legolas’ skin. My hands are frustratingly clumsy, – how can it be so difficult to undo a simple fastening, when I undress myself everyday without even thinking ? - but, at last the fiendish fabric gives way and my fingertips are able to caress his lily smooth skin.
I lay my palm of the flat plain of his belly. His flesh feels cool and firm, sculpted like marble, but the way his stomach clenches when I touch it reassures me that he is no sculpture for all that he could be the model for a heroic statue. Pure instinct leads me to insinuate my other hand between his hip and the now loose waistband of his leggings; I smooth my way back and down until the cloth gives up it’s battle to cling to his beautiful body and his ass is bared to the moon. I tense, half expecting a protest, but I feel him smile against my lips and he nuzzles against my furry cheek, which I take as encouragement to continue my exploration.
It is awkward to keep my hand flat on his abdomen and much as I want to delve lower, I can’t work out how to do so without dislocating my shoulder, or displacing his hands, which have made their way beneath my undershirt. His fingers are spread in a V-shape so that he is cupping my hips and at the same time gently rubbing his thumbs into the furrow that leads to my groin – a new experience and a most stimulating sensation!
I solve the conundrum by moving my hand and repositioning it so that it is wound through the hair at the nape of Legolas’ elegant neck He seems to approve of this, because his kisses become more ardent and his grip tightens on my hips. In turn I am encouraged to use my other hand to knead at his buttocks and this persuades him to lift his knee so that I might reach him better, which means that his centre of gravity has shifted sufficiently that I can roll us both over until I am on my back and he is sprawled on top of me with his thigh grinding against my cock and his cock rubbing against my thigh
A very satisfactory demonstration of the law of unintended consequences and a very satisfactory consequence.
There are only two problems that I am prepared to acknowledge. The second is related to the first in that I am very quickly coming to the boil again and there are still too many garments between him and me.
The issue that I am ignoring is the mounting probability that some sort of penetration is going to occur and I really have no idea of how this is going to work. At least I am now prepared to acknowledge that is what I want.
Of course, I don’t know what he wants , what makes him feel good, but, by the Valar, I am prepared to find out!
Then all questions, issues, thoughts and aspirations are driven from my mind as Legolas retakes the initiative. Elves are known to be flexible, but really I had no concept of what that meant in practice until my Elf-comrade gets into his stride. His lips are on my mouth, on my ears, on my collarbone, seemingly simultaneously. His hands are pulling at my clothing, pulling at my nipples and delving dangerously closer to my throbbing erection and all the while he is riding my leg as though it is one of the Mearas.
I try to keep up, really I do, but my senses are overloaded, my co-ordination a distant memory. My participation can best be described as desperate and indiscriminate groping and grinding, but I am too far gone to worry about a lack of finesse and Legolas seems not to be much bothered. Perhaps it is a novelty to kiss someone and not know if your teeth would clash and bruise your lips, to feel fingers on delicate flesh and not know if they would stroke or scratch, but whatever it is, the Elf’s breathing is nearly as ragged as mine when I decide to stop fighting the inevitable.
At this point his right hand is back inside my pants. His excitement at discovering that I have hair there would have been amusing if I hadn’t been just as enthused by his body. Now he is, rhythmically squeezing my manhood when he isn’t dragging the delightful callous on his thumb across the bowstring of my frenulum. My legs are forced wide by his so that my sac is held tightly by the trailing folds of fabric. My tongue is in his mouth and he is sucking at it as though it was an Elfling sweetmeat and his left hand is tracing teasing circles around, but not quite touching that secret place between my ass cheeks. It is infuriating, I want more, I want it NOW, but, I don’t know what to ask for.
My clever body knows though and suddenly I am pushing back against his questing fingers. There is a jolt of pain as my sphincter bumps against his unlubricated fingertip, then a slow burn as it fights to be impaled upon the desirable digit. With such delicious tenderness, I am undone; my seed spilling out in prodigious quantity just as Legolas’ name spills from my lips. I feel such transcendent pleasure that I suspect that I am ascending to the Halls of Mandros.
At length my mind and body come back together and I become aware, first of Legolas’s warm breath on my cheek, then of his comforting weight (such as it is) against my side and then of a rapidly cooling stickiness around my nether-regions.
“Are you well, mellon-nin?” Legolas asks, just a little too brightly, as though he is trying to mask some anxiety.
I stir and seek to bring myself to order. “Aye” My voice sounds strange to my ears, fractured and high pitched. Embarrassed, I clear my throat before trying again. “Aye, I am and you? Did you.. ?” I trail off, because, once I find focus, the slightest glance reveals that my Elf is still sporting an impressive erection. Once again I have to swallow, hard, before I can speak.
“If you wish to lie with me, Legolas, I am willing.”
My tremulous offer pleases him, I can tell from his smile and because his glow became even more luminous, but he declines. He declines! I am transparently and resolutely disappointed.
I told you I was inconstant.
Legolas’ soothes me. “Nay Estel, ‘tis not that I do not desire you, ‘tis rather that your virginity is best surrendered in a bed with a flask of oil to ease the way.”
Busted, as the Elflings say! I flush scarlet, but I am ever too stubborn to be cowed. “Then perhaps we might return to my father’s house forthwith” I suggest.
“Perhaps we might” agrees Legolas, cheerfully, “but we will both be better served if I find some relief before we set out.”
If he can be unembarrassed and pragmatic about it, then so can I. “How might I be of assistance?” I ask as casually as I can given that we both knew full well that I am itching to get my hands, or, anything else on his Elfhood.
In then end, I am not brave enough to take him in my mouth, but he seems ecstatic enough with my handling that he jests, when he has the breath, that I was at my best with a sword in my hand.
The old oak tree shook its branches vigorously at that point. Again I suspect it is laughing at us, but Legolas makes an inquiry - his fair head is pressed against the great gnarled trunk for quite some time, trees speak slowly, it seems - and he insists that our unwitting arboreal voyeur wishes only to thank us for helping to bring new life to the wood. I do not understand, but my Elf does. He directs my gaze to the mossy bower where we had laid together, the indentations left by our bodies still visible in the spongy turf. Perhaps my eyes are cheated by some spell, but in the very centre is growing a willowy, but stalwart sapling, already two feet into it’s journey towards the canopy.
Struck dumb in wonderment we straighten our clothes – an exhaustive exercise for me, achieved with barely a shake of the hair by Legolas – and prepare to return to Imladris. I am still nervous about the intimacy to come, but less so, for my heart recognises that Legolas, my friend, my comrade, will be my strength and my light for many years to come