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The Ranger marched up the grassy knoll, enjoying the way the bright sunshine glittered on the still surface of the pond. He had been in the human village for two days trying to find the man who could decipher the old map etched in archaic Sindarin symbols. The retired Dúnadan was mystified to see the artifact and willingly offered his assistance in pinpointing certain land marks that had long since changed over the millennia. Strider felt mildly guilty to have not answered the old man's curious questions but this was something no one else could learn about, not even his dearest companion. Any guilt he may have felt over this was quickly assuaged with the anticipation of getting closer to his prize.
Thoughts of the beautiful Prince drove all other considerations from his mind as he approached their agreed upon rendezvous spot. Forgetting about the ancient map, now in his pocket, and all that it promised, he hastened his steps. He missed having Legolas by his side these last couple of days but he understood the Archer's desire to stay at a distance from all things Human. Too many times had the Elf encountered stares, assaults and unwanted attention of all kinds by the race of Men.
Aragorn thought about stopping to take a bath, knowing full well the Elf would have something to say about his strong manly smell. The thought made him smile. But his eyes spied a glint of gold among the heather and he froze, the smile broadening on his lips. He crouched low to the ground and, soundless as an Elf, he stalked his quarry. If he went slowly and timed it just right…
There amidst the tall grass and tiny white flowers lay the golden shining body of his companion. The beautiful Prince seemed to be dozing lightly in the warmth of the sun. Gentle crystals of morning dew hung jealously on the dark lashes that brushed snowy white skin. Petal soft lips were parted in sweet slumber. Aragorn held his breath and stepped soundlessly …one, two, three…he leapt through the air and landed with a thud…on an empty patch of grass.
"Orc-shit!" he looked up just in time to see the streak of sunshine bouncing off the blonde mane, as the Elf flew on top of him. Aragorn pushed up to throw the light body off him, but his arm was pulled up roughly behind him and his face was flattened into the fragrant tiny bellflowers.
"Do you concede, Ranger?" came the laughing voice of the Elf.
"Aye…how did you do that? I thought I had you that time," he grumbled in chagrin. The crushed flowers under him sent up a pleasant, heady perfume.
The Elf leaned over him, his knees flanking the Man's sides warmly, and his golden hair brushed the Man's face.
"You should know by now, dear Ranger, you cannot hope to beat a Sindar Elf with such antics."
Strider gritted his teeth. The familiar Sindarin snobbishness was just the incentive he needed to slip free and roll them both over in a surprising display of agility. Unfortunately, the maneuver rolled them both unexpectedly down the gentle slope of the hill and onto the shallow muddy bank of the pond. Perfect, Strider thought as he felt the cold wet mud slide into his clothing. He needed a bath anyway, and now as luck would have it, so would his Elf.
Legolas cursed mightily under him.
Aragorn couldn't help but laugh as he came to rest fortuitously on top of the golden Prince, who was cursing in a rather vulgar fashion to have his squeaky clean hair mashed into the muddy ground.
"That was unfair Human!" gasped the Elf, eyes flashing indigo fire. He pushed up against the Man, but the Ranger's heavier bulk was immovable and the discomfort of the muddy water was momentarily disorienting.
"Oh, I don't think so…it's the same tactics that worked against Elladan when I was growing up in Imladris," smirked the Man. He began to move as though to get up but then seemed to pause in thought and re-settled himself on top of the lithe body.
The Elf pushed against him again, while the Man smiled cheekily at him. "Do you concede, fair Prince?" It wasn't often he got a chance to enjoy this closeness to the beautiful Sindar, so he might as well make the most of it.
The Elf fumed unhappily, "You cheated, Strider. Let me up!"
"Ah…I do protest, my Legolas. Such an insult requires compensation.
Hmmm…what shall you give me if I let you up, Elf?"
"Very well, Man, I concede. What do you require?" the Elf sighed heavily, annoyed by the fact that his Human seemed to be enjoying this way too much.
Aragorn smiled at the formal language of the angered Prince. "Well, let me see…what do I require? Hmmm…the price for your liberation is, I think,…a kiss."
The blue eyes widened. "A…a kiss?"
"Yes, one kiss …from your fair lips," said the Man, in a soft tone, devoid now of all joking. Aragorn swallowed, wondering what the fair Elf might do. His desire for the golden Prince was no secret, but out of respect for tradition, Aragorn had been careful not to cross too many lines. He held his breath.
"Very well then…" said the sweet Elf, looking for all the world as if he might faint on the spot.
Aragorn sent a silent prayer of thanks, and heart beating loudly in his chest, slowly lowered his head to just barely brush his lips against the soft rosy petal mouth. Legolas closed his eyes…
"OY! Who's down there?" yelled a voice from the hill above them.
They parted with a sudden jump, and looked up at the Man who was dressed like a Ranger. Legolas and Aragorn glanced at each other; chagrin or relief reflected in their faces, it was difficult for a passerby to tell.
"Who's down there? Estel? Is that you?"
"Why, I'll be…Christoforo? What are you doing here?" Aragorn untangled himself from his companion and helped the Elf up as he climbed to his feet.
The laughing, elderly Ranger suggested, by his askance looks, that they presented quite a sight all covered in mud. "I heard from Theolophos that you were in town. And here you are…with a lovely companion, I might add. Sindar, isn't it?" the old Man said congenially.
Legolas blushed as he nodded. The Elf was trying to surreptitiously scrape the mud out of his hair. Aragorn smiled to himself, noting the Archer's angry looks in his direction. "What are you doing here?" called Aragorn.
"I am moving my caravan up North. Why don't you and your friend join us for the night, after you've…er, finished bathing? We can share a meal together."
Aragorn raised a hand in acknowledgement as the old Man moved off. He looked at the glowering look of the Sindar and smiled. "Don't worry, Mellon, they are Rangers. It's only for one night…now, how about a bath?" He did not wait for the Elf to speak and began to undress. He smiled to himself when the annoyed Archer followed suit.
Later, sitting in one of the tents of the Rangers, Aragorn picked up a piece of roasted pork, and transferred it to his plate. Legolas stared at him. "That is your third helping," said the Elf.
"I know but we may not have a chance to eat like this again for a while so…I'm stocking up," concluded the Man cheerily.
"Now, why wont you tell us, Estel, what this mysterious mission of yours is?" said the elderly Ranger from across the table. The other Men leaned in close to hear but Aragorn shook his head, glancing uncomfortably at his Elven companion.
"No, I really can't say anything about that now…" he picked up a piece of bread and dipped it into the oil, hoping his full mouth would be a discouragement to being asked further questions.
"And you, Prince Legolas, do you follow him into these strange mountains without any knowledge of where you are being led?" asked one of the Rangers. Aragorn glared at the Man and cast an apprehensive eye towards his companion. Legolas had not asked about their mission after Aragorn had first declined to speak of it, but the Man thought the Archer seemed hurt to be so excluded.
"My association with Strider goes back a long way. He has earned my trust," was the Elf's simple response. It seemed to earn the respect of the Men seated around the table, and if Strider was not mistaken by some of the looks, their envy, as well. As the meal came to an end, Aragorn was drawn away by the elderly Ranger who wanted to show him some new found historical scrolls of interest to the Dúnedain. From the corner of his eye Aragorn could see his Elf was surrounded by a small group of curious and admiring young Rangers.
The Elf accepted a goblet of wine, reluctantly, which was purported by one of the Men to be from the very Palace of the Mirkwood King. Legolas did not wish to be rude so he did not mention that he, of course, would instantly be able to confirm or deny this boast. He drank the heavy pungent brew, which may have been, if anything, cooked in the kitchens of some Dwarvish vendor of harsh spirits.
Nearly choking on the concoction, he tried to refuse a second cup that was pressed into his hand. The whole affair was reminding him of standing on ceremony in his father's court, smiling inanely, nodding his head to ridiculous and obvious statements and gently laughing at someone's attempt at pithy jokes. Where had his infernal Ranger gone, anyway? Downing a third warm mug of the Dwarf wine, Legolas stewed in growing anger to have been left with these Humans, who apparently found him exotic, like some rare specimen of bird. Soon the inebriated bunch would be touching his hair. "Are you alright, Master Elf?" asked a swaying Human, noticing how the Archer unfastened the top of his tunic.
"It is a bit warm in here, is it not?" asked the Archer. The room seemed to have increased in temperature by at least twenty degrees. Forgetting that Elves were unaffected by the heat, Legolas fanned his heated face with his hand.
"It is a might hot, now that you mention it. Why don't we step outta here?" said another swarthy Man.
With a helpful hand on his elbow, the Elf stumbled towards the opening in the tent. Of course, Elves don't usually stumble but the Legolas did not stop to consider what this might mean. It was very hot surrounded by all those Humans and the cool night air beckoned to him. The ground seemed uneven to his steps and he was rather grateful for the helping hands on his arms.
The hour was growing late and Aragorn wondered how to excuse himself without being rude. Legolas was sure to be angry with him. He glanced up at the table and started in surprise to realize the Archer and the Rangers who had obviously been admiring him were no longer present. Standing up suddenly, he excused himself from the older Ranger and strode past the other Men to the tent flap. He stepped out into the cool night air. At first there was no sign of his Elf, but he paused and centered his alarmed mind, listening carefully to the wind. Letting his instincts guide him, he moved down the row of tents.
His footsteps took him past another tent of the caravan to stop at the entrance to a smaller make shift enclosure. Within he could hear voices.
"I don't think he's had enough, make him drink some more…"
"Come on, pretty little thing, it's a powerful aphrodisiac for elves. That's what the Dwarf witch told me when she'd sold it to me… I've held it for a year, looking to try it…"
"He's had enough, come on, I want to taste him!"
"Nay, me first…"
Aragorn burst into the tent, sword drawn in mad killing fury. Fortunately, the occupants were so drunk themselves they offered little in the way of resistance. The thrashing they received was probably memorable enough, even in their drunken state, so that they'd think twice before trying to trick someone else. Aragorn watched them all blindly run out of the tent into the night.
He turned to the poor Elf, who was lying on the floor, unclothed and almost unconscious. Dropping to his knees, next to the Archer, he bent and picked the still form up into his lap.
"Legolas? Legolas, my Love, can you hear me?" Aragorn blinked back the tears that blurred his vision. "I am sorry, my Heart, for leaving you alone with them. Did they hurt you?"
"Aragorn?" came the blurry response. The Elf opened his eyes and peered up at the upset Man. "I think you got here just in time," said the Elf in a slurring voice.
"I am so sorry, my sweet Elf. Are you hurt? Tell me how you feel." Aragorn clutched the beloved body to him, suddenly very conscious of the beautiful Elf's nakedness in his arms.
"Nay, they did not hurt me…but they were right, it is a powerful aphrodisiac." The Elf nuzzled his face into the Man's neck and his fingers were burrowing into the Ranger's clothing. Aragorn groaned softly as the sweet lips nipped at his ear.
"No…no, Legolas. This …it isn't right. Not like this, my Love. You are under the influence of a drug…"
But the Elf was now wiggling very seductively in the Man's arms, and Aragorn almost fell backwards as the suddenly awake Archer pulled out of his arms and straddled the Man's lap. Aragorn groaned as the beautiful naked Elf wrapped around him. He distantly wondered if he was dreaming.
The soft sinuous body writhed against him, his slender white shaft meshed between their bodies, and Aragorn couldn't help rubbing his hands lightly on the succulent flesh. The Archer was nibbling along the Ranger's jaw, nuzzling his beard, and making soft cooing noises. Aragorn felt his own arousal demandingly and tried again to push the beautiful being off his neck. It was too much. If they did not stop soon Aragorn would be too intoxicated by the caresses of this exquisite creature to resist taking him at long last.
He tried again to reach for reason, "Legolas, listen to me…if we do this, you will be unhappy about it tomorrow. We have waited this long, Melethron."
The Elf pulled back slightly to look at his Human, and tears swelled in his widely dilated eyes. "You would wait for me then? Even now, when I am like this?"
The Ranger swallowed and nodded, his own erection was pressing painfully against his trousers. Surely, the Elf could feel it while sitting so snuggly on the Man's lap.
"Then you do …love me?" whispered the Elf, an embarrassed blush rising to his face.
Aragorn started at this, "Of course, I love you! Did you doubt it?" He watched in amazement as tears now spilled down the chiseled cheekbones of the pale face.
Aquamarine eyes, unnaturally dilated, looked at him in a most heartbreaking fashion. "You may think me foolish but…you have been so silent since speaking with King Thanduil. I considered…Well, that is…Ada is thought by some to be difficult…and perhaps our exchanged promise no longer held sway in your heart…"
Aragorn took hold of the Elf's face in both hands and wiped the tears away with his thumbs. "Legolas, Melethron, nothing has changed. Well, actually something has changed but not the way I feel about you."
Aragorn bent to kiss the frown that had gathered on the perfect brow. "I want you, my sweet Elf. I love you. More than anything. I know the mystery has been … difficult, but I am glad you are here with me and tomorrow, I think, all your questions will be answered."
"We are close then?" came the sniffling reply.
"Yes, my sweet Elf, we are very close."
"And this thing…this treasure will be so important to you?"
"Yes, very important. And I want you with me when I finally do find it."
The Elf nodded, although it was rather clear his was not completely consoled about the ongoing secrecy. Why could the Ranger not confide in him? Still, the Man must have held him in some regard for he would not take advantage of the Elf's inebriated state, even though the Ranger clearly desired him. Legolas would just have to be patient and continue to trust this Man, whom he had fallen in love with long ago.
He leaned forward. Aragorn stopped him, "Nay, my Love, please. As much as I want this, I don't think it is a good idea for us to make love now …not here, not like this. It should be special…"
"Nay, my Ranger, I agree and I thank you. But …I do owe you a kiss." Aragorn smiled then and savored the moment as the Elf leaned forward and brought the heady nectar of his lips to the Man's mouth. The kiss deepened and Aragorn felt his world swoon as he drank deeply of the being that had become his most glorious aspiration and desire.
The following day, they stood outside the entrance to a small tunnel. Legolas eyed it dubiously. His head still ached from the potent drink but he remembered everything from the previous night. He glanced at the Ranger whose attention was raptly focused on his map.
Legolas allowed himself to smile as he watched the Human pour over his calculations. Aragorn had proven himself to be not only honorable, but a Man of uncanny abilities, to ignore the towering demands of the body. The Elf blushed to recall his antics of the previous night. That kiss could have well been their undoing, for the passion that it unleashed. The memory alone made the Elf's toes curl in ecstasy.
The Man looked up and, noticing the Elf's blush, smiled cunningly. He edged closer to the Archer and rubbed slightly against the slender being. "Are you feeling better, my frisky little Elf?"
Legolas felt his cheeks burn but he smiled back at the Man. "I am recovering, my stoic Ranger. I'd not expected the Dúnadan blood in you to lend you so much fortitude."
The Man laughed, "Not that much fortitude. After you finally fell asleep I ran into the cold pond and suffered miserably."
"Now, are your ready?" asked Strider, eagerly. "I am pretty certain this is the cave I have been searching for."
Legolas frowned. "In there? You can't be serious!"
"Why?" said the Man, with a smile, knowingly, as he repacked his map and prepared to light a small torch to guide them into the tunnel.
The Elf fidgeted. "Well, it looks so …tight and …and how do we know how deep this is…what if there is a cave in?"
Aragorn looked up at him, from where he knelt on the ground lighting the torch. "Surely, you are not afraid, dear Prince?"
Legolas's mouth dropped open. "Of course not! I am …merely pointing out the obvious …problems with going in there…" He eyed the small dark space in trepidation.
Aragorn stood, torch now in hand, and placed a soft touch on the Elf's arm. "I am not jesting now, my Elf. You needn't go in there. I will go and find what I need and return quickly. Wait here and make camp for us…"
"Nay!" the Elf interrupted him, adamantly. "I will go with you."
Aragorn looked at him, and after a moment nodded. "Alright. Don't worry, the cave widens as we go deeper and the walls should be stable. There have been no earthquakes here for a very long time. Just stay close and remember to breath slowly."
He bent down on all fours and with a glance back at the Archer crawled into the tunnel.
It was cold under the ground but the exertion and, most likely, his anxiety was making the Elf sweat. He panted as he looked around him. It was a tight space, and crawling on hands and knees he felt as though he were entering a grave. He banished the thought with a shake of his head and glanced behind him at the small circle of retreating light, as they moved further from the entrance.
"Are you alright?" asked Aragorn up ahead of him. The Man paused and turned back to look at the Elf.
Legolas nodded, finding the thought of speech suddenly too difficult. Was this tunnel getting narrower? He almost ploughed into the Man as he continued to single mindedly move and breathe.
"Legolas? Are you alright, my Elf? It is not much further now."
Legolas found his voice from somewhere and managed to whisper, "I am alright. Are you sure we are close?"
Aragorn reached back and took hold of his hand, wiping away the tiny rocks that had embedded themselves into the Elf's palm. "Breathe slowly, my Love or you will become dizzy. We should be approaching a larger chamber. Can you go on?"
Legolas nodded, swallowing back a feeling of nausea. Aragorn squeezed his hand and then let him go so they could move forward again. Soon the tunnel did widen and opened into a larger cave. Legolas was happy to be able to actually stand but he was not consoled by how deep into the earth they had traveled.
His eyes struggled to adjust to the dim light. Aragorn was moving around the small chamber apparently looking for something. He suddenly dropped to his knees and, setting the torch down, was uncovering something with his hands. Legolas moved to stand over his shoulder.
He was curious and not a little dismayed that what ever this was, it had completely replaced him, for the moment at least, in the Ranger's thoughts. Aragorn grunted as he lifted the thing up out of a hole in the ground and brushed dirt off its exterior.
Feeling slightly guilty for his unworthy thoughts, Legolas knelt down beside the Ranger and held up the torch so the Man could better see what he was doing. Legolas now could see the Man's rapt attention was focused on unfastening a latch on a wooden box.
Taking his eyes off the intense look of concentration on the Ranger's face, Legolas took a closer look at the box. It had Sindarin cryptographs on it! He gasped. Before he could question what this could mean a soft click echoed off the walls of the stone chamber. Aragorn held his breath. He looked up at the puzzled expression on the Elf's face and then slowly he lifted the lid, with a silent prayer on his lips.
Legolas at first did not see what lay hidden in the box, for his attention was riveted on the ecstatic look of joy that suddenly erupted on the Man's face. It was a moment later that he realized Aragorn's face seemed illuminated by another light source other than the torch in Legolas's hand.
Aragorn looked triumphantly up at the Elf and opened the lid wider so the Elf could now look at what had lead their steps on this long journey. Legolas's eyes widened to twice their size and he gasped, a hand floating to cover his mouth in shock.
He sat perfectly still in sheer amazement. Aragorn joyfully set the small chest down and carefully reached into the box to lift out the delicate object. As it fully emerged from its long dark captivity, it glowed and the small cavern brightened immeasurably. Thousands of tiny rainbow prisms burst upon the cave walls like a shower of Mithrandir's fireworks.
"Mellon, this is for you," said the Man reverently, as he handed the brilliant and delicate Crystal Rose over into the Elf's hands.
"It is the Rose of Mirkwood! How…?" He gaped up at the Man, as he felt his skin warm under the powerful crystal's surface. "Aragorn… this was my mother's! Ada gave it to her …on their bonding day. I never knew what became of it…"
"I know. Your Ada challenged me to find it…and give to you. A test devised long ago, I think, for a would-be suitor."
The Elf sucked in his breath as he beheld the exquisite, expertly carved crystal. It was a perfect bloom. A Rose. His mind traveled back to his youth, were he would gaze upon its hypnotic beauty, in his mother's bower. The brilliant prisms of light would flood her room and they would dance together trying to catch the breath taking array in their hands.
Legolas looked up at the Ranger, tears flooding his sapphire orbs. Aragorn smiled back at him, a suspicious mistiness about his own gray gaze. He transferred to kneel on one knee, and bowed reverentially.
Taking a deep breath, Aragorn gently took hold of the Elf's other hand in both of his, "Mellon Nin, will you do me the honor of marrying me and become my eternally bonded mate?"
Tears flooded the Elf's blue orbs and gently spilled, to roll down the slope of his soft cheeks, as he gazed into the magnificent living prism of the magical Rose Crystal. The couple that bonded under the auspicious power of this crystal were said to be blessed by the Valar in all things.
His slender porcelain like fingers closed tenderly over the Man's and Legolas brought them to his lips. He kissed the tip of each tanned finger and then opened the palm to place a tender kiss in the very center. Aragorn watched in stunned rapture as the Elf cupped his cheek into the Man's hand and smiled, "Yes, my Love, I will marry you. I love you Aragorn, and want to be yours forever."
Aragorn blinked the mistiness from his eyes, unable to fully take it in that Legolas was now truly his. The Elf gently laid the Crystal Rose back into its soft bower, but left the lid open so that its brilliant light would flood their little cave warmly.
He leaned forward and placed a chaste kiss on the Man's lips. Then moving back, raised his hands to the fastenings of his tunic and with exaggerated slowness began to disrobe. The luminescence of the Rose Crystal lent a fiery glow to the Elf's fair skin. Aragorn gaped at him as if he were in a dream. Then, coming back to himself, he said, "Don't you wish to wait, my Love? There will surely be a magnificent ceremony in your father's kingdom."
"There will be a ceremony, my Ranger, but the bonding is already happening…here," he placed Aragorn's hand against his chest so that the Man could feel the beating of the Elf's heart. It beat in synchrony with his own. "And here," he gently raised the hand to cup his face into the warm palm again. Aragorn grazed the soft skin at the temple with his hand, and gently ran his fingers through the silvery gold hair.
Legolas slipped closer and began to unfasten the Man's clothing as Aragorn gazed deeply into the impossibly bright eyes, the crystal light reflecting in their fathomless depths. "And you do not mind that we are in a cave, my Sweet," whispered the Man, enraptured by his Consort's beauty, enfolded by the magic of their love. The Elf gently caressed his face with gossamer, feather light kisses.
"It is no cave to me, my Lover, but a Heavenly Garden…" he slipped the Man's tunic off his shoulders, and down his arms, sprinkling light kisses across the collarbone to the broad shoulders.
"I could be happier no place else on Middle Earth," the tongue lapped gently down the chest, pushing the Man down against the rainbow dappled ground;
" …not in the green pastures of Imladris," off came the Man's boots, and warm fingers loosened the ties of the trousers, skimming lightly over the prominent bulge hidden within them; the Man panted and bucked at the insistent tugging on his manhood, before the fingers burrowed under the waistband…
The Elf's sweet mouth lapped enticingly at the sensitive skin on the inside of the knees, and slowly nipped up the muscular thighs towards the standing scepter of the future King; "…Nor in the soaring Mallorns of Mirkwood;"
" … Not on the sandy beach of the vast blue Sea," The moist pink tongue lapped at his straining shaft, limpid cornflower eyes looked up at him lovingly;
"…Or in Man's most ingenious Cathedral;" The tip was taken into the warm cavern, rosy lips closing round him ardently; Aragorn groaned loudly as the gentle sucking drove him close to the very peak of ultimate pleasure, and then the mouth came off him, silky lips brushing his throbbing flesh …
"For Nowhere else could I hope to Find…a Love more True or more Divine."