Email: bailey.connie AT gmail.com
Rating: PG-13(...strong descriptions of sex)
Legolas crouched in the shadows of the thick ferns and watched the company of Men pass by on their heavy horses, clad alike in shining armor. The youngest Prince of Mirkwood knew that it was Dwarvish mithril that made the helmets of the Knights of Gondor gleam so brightly in the gloom beneath the trees. However, neither the seabird wings nor the trappings of the steeds outshone the gaze of he who led the cavalcade.
Never had Legolas seen such perfection in fleshly form. The hair that adorned the handsome face only made Isildur’s Heir seem exotic and mysterious and somehow dangerous like a warrior of the Second Age Alliance. Legolas’ Sire had strictly forbidden any of his folk to watch the procession of Men that passed with safe conduct under the eaves of vast Mirkwood. However, the impetuous Prince could not resist sneaking off to have a look.
The royal progress passed right by Legolas’ hiding place, close enough that he could smell the sweat tang, both equine and human. If he had been willing to risk his Sire’s extreme displeasure, the Prince could have reached out and touched the horses’ legs as they moved past at a stately walk. Having filled his eyes with the outlandish splendor of a troop of mortals in ceremonial armor, the Elf melted back into the green shadows.
Aragorn urged his charger further downstream and his honor guard let the Heir go, giving him the thing he craved: time alone. It was not something the future King of Gondor had much of. In five short years, the Steward would step down, and Aragorn II would ascend the throne.
The Man sighed and glanced over his shoulder, grateful that his bodyguards were Men of tact who empathized with their erstwhile Captain. How Aragorn longed for bygone days of carefree roving through the Wild under the name of Thorongil. Danger had beset his Company on all sides, but he preferred that life to the intrigues of the Court.
Distracted by his gloomy thoughts, Aragorn paid no attention to where his mount strayed. The warhorse was sure-footed and canny; the Man trusted the destrier not to scrape him off on a low-hanging limb. What he did not expect was that the big animal would decide to cool off in the stream. The rounded, moss-slick stones proved the undoing of the iron-shod charger and Aragorn’s mount went to its knees where the water ran deepest.
Isildur’s Heir was pitched over the horse’s ears and into the bone-chilling rush of the stream. Aragorn surfaced, blowing and gasping for breath as his armor instantly began drawing him down again. The river swallowed his shout for help as he sank like a stone to the bottom and tumbled over in slow motion.
The warhorse scrambled to its feet and backed frantically out of the water. With wet leather flapping against its neck, the charger bolted downstream and up the bank to solid ground bright with sweet grass. By the time the Knights caught the steed, there was no trace of the rider.
Kicking with all his strength, the slender Elf hauled the Man from the river. Hurriedly unbuckling the shining plate armor now smutched with mud, Legolas held the back of his hand in front of Aragorn’s mouth. His superior senses detected the slightest stirring of breath and he put his lips on the Man’s as he’d been taught as a Tracker.
Patiently, Legolas pushed on the Man’s chest and blew air into his lungs. Aragorn convulsed and the Elf raised the Man so he could vomit up a gout of water. The mortal’s eyelids fluttered, revealing the vivid blue eyes in jolting glimpses, and then he lost consciousness again. Legolas lifted the Man to his shoulder and trudged off into the forest.
“What is that sound?” Captain Beregond wondered aloud.
“It’s beautiful,” a Knight said. “If Ithil had a voice it would sing like that.”
“It come from this direction,” Beregond said, urging his steed to a faster pace.
“Sir!” the Knight pointed at the right side of the road.
The Captain of the Guard squinted his eyes, afraid to look away lest the Man lying in the grass should vanish in a puff of smoke. Leaping from his horse, Beregond knelt beside his future King. Aragorn opened his eyes as the Knight lifted him to a supine position.
“Aye, my lord?”
“I had the loveliest dream. Have I overslept?”
“You were lost, my lord,” Beregond replied. “We were very worried. How do you come to be here, soaked to the skin, and missing your armor?”
“That I cannot tell you for I do not know,” Aragorn answered. “I was thrown into the river by my horse and that is the last thing that I recall clearly.”
Beregond held his peace as the frown deepened on his liege’s handsome face. After several moments, Aragorn spoke again.
“I heard singing,” he said. “The most beautiful voice imaginable, it flowed like quicksilver and soared like the seabirds that follow the Anduin to Minas Tirith. I wanted to follow the sound and find the singer. I felt as if . . .”
Isildur’s Heir sighed. “No matter, Beregond. Help me up. I see that at least you found my horse on your rambles.”
“Aye, my lord,” Beregond smiled, and helped the Man into the saddle.
It was not possible to dislike the Heir, the Captain reflected. Only minutes ago, when Beregond had believed the worst, the idea of Aragorn gone had turned his heart to a stone in his chest. Relieved and grateful, Beregond gave the signal to move out.
Aragorn returned to Minas Tirith without further incident and took up the duties of the Heir again. The closer the Man came to his majority, the more intense the Steward’s instruction became. The burden of all that was expected of him grew ever heavier until there were times when Aragorn had to run to the top of the Tower of Ecthelion to dispel his restlessness.
Once he reached the tiny observation platform high above the City, he would lean against the northern pillar and look toward Mirkwood. In his head, a lovely voice echoed, calling to him to flee the life he knew and follow his heart. Aragorn would stay until the air blew the silly fancies from his mind and he was numb with cold. Only then would he descend and do all that was required of him.
Legolas started at a sudden sound and embarrassment heated his cheeks. He was a Wood-Elf of the fastness of Mirkwood; there was naught under bough that could frighten him. And yet if he were completely honest, he would admit to the fear growing in his breast.
The Prince moved more swiftly through the thick gloom that coiled like smoke between the gnarled trunks of the ancient trees. He had never entered these woods for his father had forbidden him to cross the threshold of the Elf-Witch’s domain. Many were the tales of the Wood-Hag that haunted the deep forest, emerging to snatch careless, disobedient Elflings that did not wish to fall asleep.
As he’d grown older, Legolas had smiled at the tales that had once made him shiver, but he was not amused now. The trees here were twisted and hateful with voices full of spite. It was with gratitude that he saw a dwelling ahead of him in the murk.
“You look frightened, fair one.”
The rasping, rusty voice seemed to come from all around Legolas. The Prince fitted an arrow to his bow in the blink of an eye, but he had no target at which to shoot. The Elf turned slowly in a circle until a figure stepped from behind a blasted oak. Throwing back the hood of her cloak, the Elf-Witch gazed intently at her visitor.
Legolas caught his breath at the Wood-Hag’s beauty. He had supposed her outward form would be as misshapen as her soul, but she was as lovely as the first evening of the World. He was so astonished that he did not hear her next words.
“Why have you come, Prince?” the Elf-Witch repeated.
“I-I need your help,” Legolas stammered.
“Yes, that is the only reason anyone ever comes here,” she said, her strident voice scraping at Legolas’ ears. “Only those who need the sort of help that I can give ever brave the path to my door. What has made you so desperate, Prince?”
The Wood-Elf ducked his pale head. “I am in love,” he confessed, “and I cannot be with my beloved.”
“Your Sire disapproves?” she guessed shrewdly.
“Aye, for the one I love is a Man.”
The Elf-Witch’s red lips parted and peal after peal of harsh, discordant laughter assaulted the air. “Thranduil’s favorite child in love with a mortal,” she brayed. “How delicious. Tell me what you want, little Legolas, and it shall be yours.”
“I wish to live as a mortal,” the Prince said. “Is this possible?”
“All things are possible,” the Wood-Hag said. “It is only a matter of how much you will pay to make to make a dream come true.”
“Anything,” Legolas said recklessly.
“Anything?” the Elf-Witch croaked, touching her nails lightly to the Prince’s throat. “Would you give me your voice?”
Legolas blinked. His voice? The natural ability he was proudest of? Could he really give up his beautiful voice just for the chance to make Aragorn love him? Legolas found that he could. It was not even a difficult decision. When he pictured those glowing blue eyes looking at him, Legolas knew he had to be with the Man. It was not a childish whim, as his Sire had broadly hinted, it was an imperative that must be obeyed.
Legolas nodded and the Elf-Witch grinned whitely. “Very well, Prince. Stand you still and do not fear. You will feel nothing.”
The Elf-Witch held up her hand and a jewel glinted on her forefinger. “Sing,” she commanded and Legolas opened his mouth.
The Prince sang of days long past, of tall ships with sails like clouds and of the stars and the sea. As he sang his voice grew fainter until it faded altogether. Legolas’ hand went to his throat and his mouth worked, but no sound came out. The Elf-Witch clenched her fist beneath her full bosom and Legolas’ burnished tones emanated from her ring. She moved her lips and it appeared as though the lovely song sprang from her mouth.
Legolas stumbled backward, clumsy for the first time in his life. His eyes were round as he reeled in dawning dismay. The Elf-Witch ceased her charade and chuckled at the Wood-Elf.
“Our bargain is struck and sealed, little one, but we cannot let you go thus to the mortal realm,” she said in the Prince’s vibrant voice.
Legolas flinched as the Elf-Witch reached out. Her smile chilled his blood as she gently cupped his ears for a moment before drawing back. The Prince reached up to find that his ears were now blunt and rounded. His hair was still as fine as spun starlight and his eyes as blue as a summer twilight. His skin retained the texture of velvet and his form its lithe grace, but the soft radiance was extinguished. And of course, he was mute.
“Though I owe you nothing, I will do you one more favor, Prince,” the Elf-Witch said. “I will speed you on your way, if you will but tell me where your love lies. Ah, but you cannot speak, poor thing. Think on it, and I will send you thence.”
Legolas gazed at her inquiringly, his expressive eyes clearly conveying his incomprehension.
The Elf-Witch laughed liked silver bells on a wintry morning, a laugh that had once belonged to Legolas. “Why, my fine Prince? A pity your Sire sheltered you, or you would know my name is Arwen Undomiel and that I swore vengeance against Thranduil for scorning me.”
His own laughter was the last thing Legolas heard before the world went away.
The newly promoted Citadel Guard approached the blasted hulk of the White Tree with cautious steps. He suspected that the bundle lying among the tangled roots was a joke being played on him by his new comrades. Nonetheless, he had a sacred duty to guard the courtyard and that is what he would do. A few moments later, the young soldier called for aid in a voice that held a note of wonder.
“Who is he, Faramir? Where do you suppose he comes from? Have you ever seen anyone who looks like him?”
“I do not know the answers, my lord,” the Steward’s bookish younger son said patiently.
Aragorn had been asking the same questions for the better part of an hour while the healers tended the foundling. Here was a riddle, wrapped in enigma and set inside a mystery. It was impossible that anyone could have gotten into the Citadel unobserved and fallen asleep at the foot of Nimloth’s offspring. The withered shell of the White Tree was guarded by day and night. Even had the stranger dropped from the sky, someone on the wall would have noted his arrival.
“Perhaps he’s a wizard,” Aragorn said for perhaps the twentieth time.
“Doubtful, my lord,” Faramir said. “He has an Elvish look, yet he is not of the Galadrim.”
“If you mean he is as beautiful as starlight on fresh-fallen snow, you have my complete agreement. By my fathers, Faramir! It may be unbecoming to say it, but the glimpses of our strange visitor’s nakedness were like to rouse me.”
Faramir raised an eyebrow. This was the first sign of interest the Heir had ever shown in the matters of the flesh since Aragorn had run the gauntlet of puberty. The Steward had begun to despair of the royal line’s continuance. Faramir reminded his father that the Dunedain tended to marry late and the Steward reminded Faramir to respect his elders by not contradicting them at every turn.
“Our fair visitor seemed not to know his name or where he was,” Faramir said, choosing his words carefully. “I doubt he will be able to care for himself for some time. I could arrange rooms for him in the palace, but perhaps the Houses of Healing would be more . . .”
“Nay,” Aragorn interrupted quickly. “It behooves our courtesy to guest him at the palace. You will see to the arrangements?”
“It will be a pleasure, my lord,” Faramir inclined his head to hide a smile.
Aragorn looked down at the lovely face framed by skeins of moonlight-colored silk tumbled upon the pillow. With a forefinger, the Man traced the arms of his House embroidered on the coverlet. Just a few more inches, and he could test the texture of that creamy skin and know for certain if it felt like the satin it so closely resembled.
Eyes like morning glories opened wide, staring into the eyes of Isildur’s Heir. The Man felt a shock go through him as though he’d been struck by dulcet lightning. His every cell tingled briefly before the feeling faded, leaving him wondering if he’d imagined it.
“You are awake,” the future King of Gondor said lamely.
Legolas opened his mouth to reply and remembered again that he could not speak. He gazed imploringly at the Man who was his only desire and did his best to convey with his eyes how he felt. Aragorn frowned at the expression on the stranger’s flawless features.
“Are you hungry?” the Heir asked.
Legolas shook his head in frustration. If only he had pen and paper, but even then, what guarantee that a Man would understand Elvish. And Legolas did not know how to write Westron, the language of Gondor. He had hoped that when Aragorn saw him again, the Man would realize that they were fated to be together.
Now the Prince realized how impetuous and foolish he had been to run away from his father and seek the help of the Elf-Witch. Well, there was no going back now. He must simply set his mind to making Aragorn love him.
Isildur’s Heir gave the stranger a puzzled look, but then returned the charming smile the stranger gave him. There was no denying the foundling’s appeal and Aragorn reminded himself that he was in a position of power and should not take advantage of his visitor, or so Faramir would have it. Aragorn was not even sure he knew exactly what Faramir meant.
“You are so very beautiful,” the Man said softly. “I am glad I can help you, as someone helped me very recently. I like it when things are in balance.”
Legolas nodded and smiled again. He agreed completely.
“I wish you would talk to me,” Aragorn coaxed.
The Elf’s heart fell into the pit of his stomach. Unconsciously, his fingers crept up to curl protectively around his throat. He opened his mouth, as if will alone might force a sound from his lips, but there was nothing but a soft gasp of breath.
“Is it that you cannot talk?” the Man asked. “Are you mute?”
Legolas nodded reluctantly.
“A pity,” Aragorn said. “I imagined your voice while you were sleeping. I heard a song once in the forest and thought perhaps . . . but no, that would be like something from a romantic tale. Those things do not happen to real folk, do they?”
*Yes! * Legolas wanted to shout. *It was my voice you heard. It is I whom you love. *
However, he could say nothing. After staring at the Man in anguished silence for long moments, Legolas threw back the covers and knelt on the mattress, reaching desperately for Aragorn’s hand. Isildur’s Heir recoiled in embarrassment from the naked beauty, taking two steps toward the door before he stopped and looked back.
Legolas crumpled in upon himself, weeping with frustration. How would he ever make this Man love him if he could not communicate? Everything he tried only repelled Aragorn.
The future King walked back and put a gentle hand on the crying boy’s head. Legolas looked up, his lovely eyes sparkling with tears, and Aragorn could not forbear taking the stranger in his arms. Nor could he fail to notice how pleasant it was to hold the supple body, nor how alluring was the elusive scent that rose from the smooth flesh. Slowly, Aragorn brought his face closer to the foundling’s.
Aragorn let go of the stranger and spun about at the sound of the Steward’s voice.
“What in Middle Earth are you doing?” the Steward demanded to know.
“I was merely comforting this poor, lost soul,” the Heir said.
“Well you are wanted at a Council meeting. Why do you find it necessary to avoid your duty so consistently? Your father took an occasional holiday, but . . .”
“Enough,” Aragorn said sharply, and quickly added. “Forgive my disrespect, but I do not wish to be compared to my father.”
Denethor looked past the Heir to the big bed, his hard eyes narrowing in suspicion as he got his first look at the intruder that had caused such a stir. “Who is he anyway?”
“We do not know. He cannot speak,” Aragorn explained.
“And he is here? In the heart of the palace? Next to your own chambers?” The Steward frowned mightily. “Who is responsible for this idiocy?”
“It was done on my orders,” Aragorn said firmly, not wishing Faramir to bear the brunt of his father’s anger again.
“Aragorn,” Denethor said in exasperation. “I cannot protect you if you insist on behaving in such a rash manner. Now come. We are discussing candidates for Queen of Gondor.”
Aragorn fetched a heavy sigh. “I am coming,” he said, his wistful gaze on Legolas’ face. “I wish I knew what his name was though.”
“Give him one then,” the Steward said dismissively as he stalked away.
“I will call you *Vala*,” Aragorn said, a little uneasy at the irreverence of the name. He soothed his conscience with the thought that he and Faramir were among a handful of Men who understood the language of the Galadrim. No one else would know the significance of the mild sacrilege, but it seemed an appropriate name for the heavenly creature.
Legolas’ eyes opened wide at the sound of Quenya on a mortal’s lips. The sense of the word struck him then, and his amazement grew. Did the Man know he referred to Legolas as a power of heaven, an angel? Surely not, it must be an incredible coincidence, but oh, High Elvish had never sounded so sweet to Legolas before.
Aragorn stared at the lost boy, pale and perfect, gazing back at him, sculpted lips parted as though he were just about to speak. Raptly, the Heir waited, willing the miracle to happen.
The Steward’s roar jolted the future King from his incipient trance.
“Farewell, *Vala*,” Aragorn said. “I will visit you later.”
Legolas wanted to beg the Man to stay, but he simply smiled and nodded as Aragorn left. The Prince needed to think of a way to communicate and bent all his considerable will to the task until he saw Isildur’s Heir again.
“He is here, my lord,” the servant announced discreetly and stood back to let the ethereal *Vala* dance through the door into the sun-washed chamber.
Aragorn and his good friend, Eomer, First Marshal of the Riddermark, looked up from their breakfasts and their jaws hit the table as the vision wafted toward them.
Since the moment Legolas had been strong enough to rise from bed, the servants had no doubt that he was noble. So many small things gave the lovely stranger away and it was the opinion of the Head Chamberlain that the blonde visitor might even be royalty. There was an innate majesty about the boy that could not be acquired, in the chamberlain’s opinion. The Steward might aspire to it, but the Heir, and this fair waif, had been born with it.
Therefore the servants had dressed their guest accordingly. Today the lissome boy wore a tunic of wine-colored velvet, blazoned with Aragorn’s sigil in gold. The garment came down to mid-thigh over snug leggings of black wool that emphasized the shape of his long limbs. The astonishing fall of moon-pale hair was intricately braided by Legolas’ own hand, but the myriad glittering ornaments were added by his dressers. Though, in truth, the blonde needed no polishing to shine, the adornments were an exquisite complement to his beauty.
“Sons of Eorl!” Eomer exclaimed, when he’d recovered his wits. “You did not exaggerate, Ranger. ‘Tis the fairest man I have ever put eyes to.”
“I had noticed,” Aragorn said drolly. “But do you think he might be of Rohan?”
Eomer stood and walked closer to Legolas, who was smiling at Aragorn across the barrier of the table. The mute Prince glanced once at the big warrior and then ignored him in favor of gazing raptly at Isildur’s Heir.
“I am not a learned man,” Eomer said, “but, if you want my opinion, he is not of the Rohoirrim. We do not breed men of such slight build.”
“He looks to be a boy of some nineteen summers,” Aragorn said somewhat defensively.
“Aye,” the Marshal allowed. “He looks young, but he has not the heaviness of bone that would be obvious even in a child of the Rohirrim.”
Aragorn sighed and Legolas’ expression went pensive. “I thought perhaps because of the fair hair that he might have come from Rohan. So the mystery is still unsolved. How I wish I knew who he was, who his people are and how he came to be here.”
“’Tis a fine puzzle as you have related the tale to me,” Eomer said, returning to his plate.
“If we cannot discover where he belongs, I cannot imagine what we shall do with him,” Aragorn replied.
“I know what I would like to do with him,” Eomer said. “Though to judge from the way he is looking at you, our fair mystery would prefer you as a partner.”
“I am sure I have no idea what you are referring to,” Aragorn said smoothly.
“Do not be coy with me, Ranger,” Eomer said. “I have ridden the borders with you.” The Marshal looked at Legolas and spoke again. “I deem this lad to be of high birth and as beautiful as a Mearas colt. Take him, my friend, and may love grow between you.”
Aragorn sat back in his chair and regarded the big man curiously. “Of what use would that be? I cannot get heirs upon him.”
“Foolish Man,” Eomer laughed. “That he cannot conceive is to the good. Enjoy him, Ranger. It is what he wants, by the look in his eye, and it could only improve your disposition until your Steward finds you a brood mare.”
“You are incorrigible,” Aragorn said with covert delight. “I may not scatter my seed where I will, as you do, my fine Lord Stallion. I will be King of all Gondor some day.”
“If Boromir were here, I know what he would say,” the Marshal answered.
“Boromir’s bold tongue often leads him to trouble,” Aragorn said dryly. “There is no reason for it to lead me astray as well.”
Eomer shook his head, his gaze on Legolas’ sleek lines. “I will never let you forget if you pass up this opportunity.”
“I am not like you and Boromir,” Aragorn said. “I am . . .”
The future King’s next words were lost as Legolas spied the recurved horse-bow that hung from the back of Eomer’s chair. The Prince was across the table and had the weapon in his hands before either man could move. With a delighted grin, Legolas snatched up the quiver and dashed out onto the terrace.
“*Vala*!” Aragorn called out as he jumped from his seat.
Eomer and Aragorn hastened outside to find the blonde nocking an arrow. With a merry grin, the stranger let fly and the feathered missile flew straight and true to its target. The shaft pierced an apple, plucking it from the tree, before falling to the ground at the feet of a reaching urchin. The two men exchanged glances as the boy ran off down the street clutching his prize and shouting to his friends of the miracle.
“You are a wonder, *Vala*,” Aragorn said, taking the bow gently from the blonde’s hands.
Eomer took his weapon from Aragorn and carried it back inside. Resuming his breakfast, the Marshal gave his friend some time alone with the enticing stranger. If Eomer was any judge of people, and he flattered himself that he was, the Heir and the childlike stranger were almost magnetically drawn to one another. With any luck, Aragorn might find a small measure of happiness and that would please Eomer greatly.
“You are skilled with a bow,” Aragorn said.
Legolas beamed at the Man.
“How I wish you could speak,” Isildur’s Heir said as he always did at some point and Legolas’ bright face fell into lines of distress.
“Forgive me,” Aragorn said. “I know it is not your doing that you have no voice. Ah, no! What have I said to cause these tears?”
Legolas turned and clutched at the marble balustrade, staring unseeing over the roofs of Minas Tirith. Oh, but it was his fault. He had given away the thing that had attracted the Man to him. How was he to win Aragorn’s heart now?
Isildur’s Heir was taken aback when *Vala* spun and embraced him fiercely. Before the Man knew what his charge was doing, the boy had brought their lips together. The thrill that ran down Aragorn’s spine to stiffen his Manhood could not be denied nor resisted.
Gondor’s future ruler wrapped strong arms around the stranger and took the initiative. Legolas whimpered as the Man licked at his lips, requesting entry. The Prince opened to the Heir of Isildur, moaning as the Man’s tongue slid sensuously against his. Eagerly, Legolas returned the wanton kiss; coupling did not require words and he learned quickly.
“You stir me like no other,” Aragorn said as he relinquished the sweet mouth.
Legolas gazed into the lambent eyes so close to his and poured every ounce of his desire for the Man into the connection.
“By the Sword That Was Broken!” Aragorn swore mildly. “I cannot resist you.”
Legolas put his hands behind the Man’s neck and drew him back into a passionate kiss. The boy sank to a bench and Aragorn let himself be pulled down to kneel on the slate between the blonde’s knees. Circling the slender waist with his arms, the Man raised his face to claim the visitor’s lips again.
As he explored *Vala’s* mouth, Aragorn worked the boy’s leggings down. Legolas cooperated, making the Man welcome in every way known to him. Knowing this was proceeding apace, but unwilling to stop, Aragorn bared the stranger’s groin.
Legolas melted when the Man took him in his mouth. The Elf was soon squirming under the attentions of Aragorn’s mouth and hands, his panting breath merging with the natural sounds of the garden. Judging from his experiences on patrol, Aragorn deemed that he had prepared *Vala* well enough, and freed his Manhood.
Legolas’ eyes gleamed ardently as they fell upon the Scepter of Numenor. He reached for the long column of rosy flesh, but Aragorn gently dissuaded him. Pulling *Vala* to the edge of the bench, the Heir spread the boy’s legs wide and fitted the tip of his shaft to the small opening.
Lifting one of *Vala’s* knees to the crook of his arm, Aragorn pushed forward. Legolas bit his lip and concentrated on relaxing as he was entered for the first time. The Elf hadn’t expected it to hurt quite so much, but he had felt many worse pains in battle. It would not last forever, and then he had expectation of feeling great pleasure.
Aragorn looked down into the lovely eyes fastened on him with complete trust and a twinge of conscience made him pause. Then Legolas moved restlessly and the Man reacted, leaning forward. The head of his shaft pierced the blonde’s entrance, and Aragorn could not have stopped if the Steward himself had come onto the terrace.
Legolas gasped as his heart’s desire filled him with hard flesh. This was what he wanted; this was why he had traded his voice to the Elf-Witch, he reminded himself as the big rod stretched his sheath. Aragorn sank into the hot velvet with a long groan of contentment, stopping only when his sack rested against *Vala’s* smooth buttocks.
Slowly at first, but with increasing speed and force, Aragorn rocked into Legolas’ untried channel. The Elf tried to assimilate all the new sensations that assailed him physically and emotionally, but found he was overwhelmed. Surrendering to the spell of lust, the Prince moved his hips in counterpoint to the Man’s thrusts.
Aragorn lifted *Vala’s* other leg to his shoulder and cupped the firm buttocks, changing the angle of his stroke. Legolas shuddered as a warm wave of pleasure washed through his groin. The Man smiled and thrust again, seeking the spot he knew gave the most pleasure.
Legolas wished fervently that he could tell the Man how he felt, but all he could do was give Aragorn what he needed now: a willing partner. Sensing *Vala* was growing close, the Man caressed his slender rod until it gave up its seed. Bending the beauty almost double, Aragorn sheathed his length to the hilt in the contracting channel.
Legolas whined as the hard flesh pulsed in his socket. The Heir resumed his stroke, pulling back to the brink before driving deep into the tight passage. The slender body trembled beneath Gondor’s King-to-be as he took his pleasure. Once, twice, thrice Aragorn thrust and lodged his lance as far into the clinging sheath as it would go.
“Ah, *Vala*,” Aragorn leaned forward to murmur breathlessly in Legolas’ blunt ear. “That was so very sweet.”
Legolas smiled happily as the Man nuzzled his neck while slowly disengaging. The coupling had gone as well as the Prince could have expected considering his inexperience; surely love would follow. Dreamily, the Elf gazed up at his first lover and opened his mouth to say the words, but naught emerged but empty air. Aragorn kissed the beautiful mute lips, before disentangling from the boy’s tender embrace.
“Come, *Vala*,” Isildur’s Heir said. “Twas pleasant, but I have duties to attend to and I daresay you could do with a bath. Go back to your rooms and I will visit you as soon as I may. Do not look so sad. I wish it were different, but I am Gondor’s Heir, as the Steward is pleased to remind me once on the hour.”
Though Legolas was not pleased at being dismissed like a child or a servant, he went meekly enough. Aragorn was right; a bath would be nice just now. He would have a lovely soak and plan how to entice the Man the next time they met.
Small and frail, unnoticed as yet by any, a tender shoot of soft green unfurled near the base of the barren Tree.
A welcoming smile forming on his lips, Legolas turned from the oriel window as the door opened. He was expecting Aragorn at any moment, but did not know yet what they would be doing today.
Sometimes they went to the stables, and rode down through the city to the Gate and the Pelennor beyond. Sometimes they went to the riverbank and boarded a royal barge for a slow journey to a mid-day meal spread upon a cloth. At other times, they would climb to the top of the Tower and gaze down like gods or wizards upon the world far below.
Legolas smiled to himself, at how the Man would slip his arms around *Vala’s* slender waist and let him lean out over the city as unafraid as the angel Aragorn had named him, trusting the Man. Their brief times together, stolen from the Steward’s schedule, were filled with play and pleasure and Aragorn’s merry laughter.
Moment by moment, kiss-by-kiss, Legolas was sure the Man was falling in love. And today was one more opportunity to bind him closer with ties of affection.
Faramir could barely bring himself to look at the royal concubine’s shining face. The Steward’s son wished he need not carry out this duty, but the alternative was to let his father or Aragorn do it. The one would enjoy it too much, the other not at all. Faramir could not allow his father to hurt *Vala*, nor could he allow Aragorn to hurt himself.
Taking a steadying breath, the Heir’s Secretary began to speak.
Faramir explained the need for Aragorn to give heirs of his body to Gondor. The Secretary spoke of duty and honor and the sad truth that royalty rarely married for love. It was not until Faramir mentioned Aragorn’s name that Legolas began to have an inkling of what this talk was really about.
Faramir paused as *Vala’s* exquisite eyes filled with tears. “I am sorry to bear this news to you,” he said gently. “But surely you knew that he would marry one day.”
*Me!* Legolas wanted to cry out. *He is supposed to love me!*
“I truly am sorry,” Faramir went on. “I wish with all my heart you had been born with a womb, if you will forgive my crudeness, but it is not so. Though you make Aragorn happier than he has been since his mother died, you are not suitable as a Consort.”
The tears overflowed, running silently down *Vala’s* lofty cheekbones and Faramir’s heart twisted in his chest. This was ill done, but he had said as much and more to his father and taken a tongue-lashing for his candor.
It was plain that the charming waif loved Aragorn with all his heart. How the Heir could be blind to it, Faramir could not understand, yet Aragorn was. Though *Vala* was Aragorn’s constant companion when duty allowed, the Heir looked on the foundling as a playmate that allowed him extraordinary liberties.
Now that the Steward had approved a bride for Isildur’s Heir, Aragorn seemed willing to accede to Denethor’s wishes concerning the concubine. Faramir did not understand how Aragorn could do this, but the Heir’s submission to his destiny was a thing ingrained from the moment of his birth. There was no sacrifice Aragorn would not make for Gondor.
“*Vala*,” Faramir began, only to have his voice trail helplessly off.
What could Faramir say that would make this right? There were no words in Westron, Quenya or the speech of Rohan that could comfort the concubine. Taking one small step, and then another, the Secretary opened his arms.
Legolas allowed the Man to comfort him as he wept, but in truth, he did not feel the warmth of Faramir’s arms or hear the soothing words the Man murmured. Legolas was reeling in shock, unable as yet to comprehend the enormity of what this meant to him.
Aragorn would marry. Isildur’s Heir was betrothed. The future King of Gondor had plighted his troth to some foreign princess visiting Minas Tirith. How had this happened so swiftly and without any warning? And who was this brood mare they would yoke to Aragorn?
“*Vala!*” Faramir shouted as the boy tore free of his embrace and dashed from the room.
Legolas ran down vast halls of echoing marble, past stalwart guards with expressionless faces, and out into the sunlight. He reached the parapet that overlooked the Royal Gardens and leaned out to look upon the one sight in this stone city, other than Aragorn, that gave him joy. The perfume of the blossoms rose on a wayward breeze along with the silver sound of merry laughter.
Legolas froze like one who has nearly stepped on a serpent. He knew that sound. It was the carefree laugh that had bubbled up in his throat when he was particularly delighted with something, or someone. Movement caught Legolas’ eye and he focused on a flash of color among all the green.
Arwen, the Elf-Witch, emerged from behind a screen of flowering vine holding her hand above her head. From her fingers fluttered a scarf, a gentlewoman’s token, a gift for a swain. Following her came the enthralled Heir of Isildur, his eyes on the silken prize. The Elf-Witch’s red lips parted and trilled a sweet melody, effortless as birdsong.
Aragorn’s smile broadened as he lunged to snatch the scrap of cloth from her white fingers. She sang on as she spun gracefully and moved away from the Man. Like a hound that hears its master’s whistle, Aragorn hurried after her.
Legolas ran in a haze of despair. He must warn Aragorn, but how? By orders of the Steward, approved by the Heir, *Vala* was to have no further contact with the future King. He was given a pension and a home and orders to stay away from the palace.
Swift as a deer in flight, Legolas ran to the spot where he had entered Gondor. Dropping his face into his hands, Legolas wept like a child, his tears soaking the ground beneath the White Tree.
~+~ ~+~ ~+~
Aragorn burst through the door laughing and reeling a bit on his feet. Faramir looked up from the papers he was organizing, surprised to see the newly wed Heir in the office.
“Come, scribe,” Aragorn called out expansively, and Faramir knew the Man had been drinking. “Come and raise a toast to my happiness.”
“The business of your kingdom does not halt for celebrations, my lord,” the Secretary said.
“But it does,” Aragorn chuckled. “Because I would have it so. Come now, join me and the rest in rejoicing that Gondor has a Queen.”
“I have not the stomach for it, my lord,” Faramir said more bluntly.
“Faramir,” Aragorn came farther into the room. “I know you do not approve of your father’s choice of brides, but . . .”
“My approval is not an issue,” Faramir said. “It never has been. I only wish to see you make a good match, my lord.”
“And you do not believe I have?”
The softness of his liege’s voice warned Faramir to tread even more carefully. “I have said that my approval is not an issue.”
“I would know your opinion in full.”
“I do not think it wise, my lord.”
“My lord. My lord,” Aragorn repeated. “That is all I am to you now? We were friends once, boon-companions.”
“You are mistaking me for my brother, my lord.”
The Heir’s lips tightened in displeasure. “That I have never done, though others have.”
Faramir dropped his eyes. “Tis true. You are the only one who treated me as a person in my own right and not a poor, pale copy of Boromir. Forgive me. Aragorn.”
“Forgiven and right gladly. Now, come,” Aragorn turned in the doorway. “And bring *Vala*. I have thought on it and there is no reason to keep him at such a distance as Denethor prefers. I am married now, after all, and once the Queen bears me an Heir, surely I might be allowed some diversion.”
Faramir gritted his teeth and spoke evenly. “*Vala* is not here, my lord.”
“Then fetch him and see he is dressed to do honor to my new bride.”
Faramir looked down again, so Aragorn could not see the expression on his face. “He is gone, my lord. I do not know where else to seek him.”
Aragorn frowned. “Without a word of farewell?”
“I think he did not understand why he was being put by, my lord.”
*Or maybe he understood all too well,* Faramir thought. Either way, it was badly done to hurt one who had never done harm to any, but had given the Heir all he had to offer.
Aragorn sensed somewhat the Secretary’s mood. “Seek him again,” the Heir commanded. “Send as many soldiers as you like. Broadcast the search among the populace.”
“I have done all that may be done using the power of my office and your name,” Faramir said. “He is gone, my lord.”
“Well . . . perhaps that is best,” Aragorn said unconvincingly.
“Perhaps,” Faramir answered. “However, I will search again.”
“My thanks,” Aragorn said. “Now, I must go. It would look strange for the groom to miss his wedding night.”
“Aye, my lord. Strange.”
“Well . . .” Aragorn hung in the doorway a moment longer, but Faramir had his head down over the documents again. With a sigh, the Heir returned to the wedding feast.
~+~ ~+~ ~+~
“But why, my darling?” Aragorn asked again.
“Not until you have met my sire,” Arwen said firmly.
The Heir looked up at his untouched bride and sighed. “Very well,” he said, getting back on his horse. “Let us rejoin the others.”
At a stately pace the wedding progress of the Heir of Isildur wound through his kingdom-to-be, letting the common folk get a look at the Consort. The citizens cheered readily enough when the shining cavalcade of Knights and courtiers appeared on the road, but after the procession had passed, the faces of the people were strangely uneasy. None could say what troubled them about the beauteous bride, but their hearts misgave of this marriage.
On the third day, the progress reached the eaves of a vast forest and passed into the shade of ancient spreading oaks. The Consort looked about her in quick darting glances as though expecting imminent ambush. Aragorn smiled indulgently at the nervousness of the supposed city-bred beauty, and took the time to point out particular sights of interest. Arwen seemed unimpressed by the wildflowers and small streams of crystal water.
The rest of the troop rode at ease, passing wineskins, singing merry songs and sending bright laughter ringing down the green aisles of the forest cathedral. They were delighted by the surroundings they found themselves in. Though their hearts belonged to the White City, it was pleasant to visit the greenwood. Even the Knights relaxed their guard.
Thus it was that none among them was prepared when the Wargs attacked.
Snarling and snapping, the first monster leaped from the undergrowth. Slamming into a Knight, the Warg knocked the man from his mount and battle was joined. Massive, misshapen bodies covered in stinking fur erupted from the forest, wreaking havoc all down the line of the procession. Shouts and screams thickened the din of howls.
The Captain of the Knights rallied his men to form a circle around the ladies as more Wargs, the largest pack anyone had ever heard tale of, broke from cover and attacked. Aragorn drew his sword and stayed close to his Consort to protect her with his life. His intent gaze tracking the marauding monsters, the Heir did not see the small, secret smile on Arwen’s ruby lips or the way her white fingers danced on the air in complicated patterns.
Unwilling or unable to leave the Woman’s side, Aragorn watched the butchering of the finest Knights of the White Tree. The Heir’s face was a rictus of agony, but he made no move to join the fray. Behind him, Arwen maintained her complex spell, willing the maddened beasts closer to the true target. A huge Warg with brindled fur tore out the throat of a man in the tabard of a herald and turned to fix its small red eyes on the Heir.
Faramir walked out into the bright light and blowing air of the Courtyard of the White Tree. He had no business there, but his steps had led him thither. Every corner of the palace had been searched over the last few days, but there was no trace of *Vala* save the belongings in his erstwhile chambers. Faramir could not bear to go through them again, looking for clues. *Vala* had come to them naked as a newborn; everything the boy owned was a gift from Aragorn and had been left behind.
*Badly done,* the Secretary thought as he passed the Guard in mithril armor and sable velvet. *It was badly done.* This thought chased itself round and round Faramir’s brain like a rat after its own tail. The Steward’s son condemned himself for not being stronger. He should have stood fast and demanded *Vala’s* rights as a Royal Concubine. Instead, he had let his father bully him, and Aragorn as well, into banishing the sweet boy that could not speak up for himself.
Faramir shook his head, flinging angry tears from his eyes, and walked blindly across the tongue of stone toward the dead Tree. None hindered him; he was the son of Denethor and could have swung from the sere branches with impunity. What he did was to fall to his knees among the humped roots and bow his head in despair, little caring who saw him. He dug his fingers into dark soil and clung to the ideals that allowed him to continue serving the Heir and the Steward.
Faramir opened his eyes and stared at what was caught between his thumb and forefinger. He blinked to clear his tear-blurred vision and focused on the softness in his hand. With wonder and a wild hope growing in his breast, Faramir tenderly stroked the unfurling leaves of the gray-green shoot.
Leaping to his feet, Faramir ran to tell Aragorn. His steps slowed as he remembered that the Heir was days from Minas Tirith on his wedding progress. With his joy dimmed, the young man went to seek his father.
“Legolas!” The dark-haired Elf in the brown and green of a Tracker cursed under his breath.
Since the Prince had returned home, silent and broken, it had become one of the duties of the Mirkwood Trackers to keep unobtrusive guard over him. The task would be much easier if the Prince wanted to be guarded, but it was apparent that he was aware of being watched and that he did not like it. That did not excuse the unlucky Elf that lost sight of the morose Prince. King Thranduil did not accept excuses where Legolas’ safety was concerned.
“Valar witness!” The Tracker swore mildly. “Where are you, my Prince?”
A breath of air against his cheek warned the scout just before the knives were plucked from their scabbards on his quiver. He spun, fitting an arrow to his bow and saw the Prince. Legolas held a white knife poised to throw. The Tracker slowly put down his weapon. The Prince spun the glittering blades in rapid figures before presenting them hilt-first to the Tracker with a sweet smile. The Tracker accepted them with a look of reproach.
Legolas held out a hand palm up, asking forgiveness. The other Elf sighed, taking the proffered hand and holding it tenderly for a moment. The Prince’s expression eloquently conveyed his regret at putting the Tracker in peril of one King Thranduil’s rages. The dark-haired Elf drew Legolas closer and kissed his forehead in token of peace between them.
The two Elves sprang apart as the howl of a Warg defiled the air of Mirkwood. Prince and Tracker exchanged a glance and the knives changed hands again. The Tracker drew an arrow from his quiver, fletched with swan feathers dyed red, and shot it straight up above the canopy. Having signaled the rest of the patrol that the Prince was found, he considered that duty had been discharged.
The warrior Elf did not waste time or breath on attempting to dissuade the Prince from following, but dashed off in the direction of the growing clamor. Legolas sped in his wake, threatening to pass him at each stride.
Aragorn stared around him in horror as the last three Knights battled the pack of wild Wargs, but still he made no move to help. He was rooted to his saddle, his drawn sword in his hand, a living barrier for his bride. At his back, the Elf-Witch gathered her last reserves of strength to keep the monsters under her control.
A massive, brindled Warg leaped from the melee and bounded toward the Heir. Arwen’s ripe lips curved in an anticipatory smile. When Aragorn was dead, she would rule Gondor alone. Already, the stern Steward was under her control, and his scholarly son should pose no significant problems for one of her power. When she was Queen of all the West, her father would have to see her again and admit that he was wrong when he banished her for practicing the Dark Arts.
Aragorn pulled his charger into a levade as the Warg leaped. The war-horse spun in a tight circle on its hind legs as its rider slashed downward at the beast. The Heir’s sword opened a long gash in the monster’s tough hide and then the heavy body crashed into the stallion. Steed and rider went to the ground and the wounded Warg pounced.
Three arrows thumped into the monster bringing it down on top of the screaming horse. Aragorn scrambled clear and turned to see that Arwen was safe. His gaze met hers and he saw nothing but hate and cheated rage in the sapphire eyes.
Aragorn took a half-step back, reeling in shock as the Elf-Witch’s spell over him shattered like a soap bubble. He turned his head and saw the torn bodies of the courtiers and Knights. With a shout of outrage, Isildur’s Heir raised his weapon and ran toward the last living member of his entourage.
Arrows flew from the forest to slay indiscriminately in the snarling pack of Wargs. After three of the attackers dropped with feathered shafts in their throats, all but one of the beasts ran like the cowards they were. The alpha Warg broke the neck of the surviving Knight with a swipe of its paw and spun to meet the Heir’s attack.
Legolas darted from the shadows to interpose himself between the Man and the beast. White knives flashed and pale tresses spread on the wind of his passage as the Elf whirled around the Warg, slashing and stabbing in a dance of deadly grace. Legolas halted, his hair floating down to rest on his shoulders and became a creature of this Earth once more.
“*Vala*,” Aragorn cried out, as the Warg collapsed in a heap.
Legolas looked beyond the Man’s shoulder and flung himself at Aragorn. Aragorn raised his sword as the Elf rushed forward, a bloodstained knife in each hand.
“Nay, my Prince,” the Tracker shouted, firing an arrow as he broke cover.
Aragorn’s gaze went to Tracker and calculated the Elf’s target. Too late, the Heir watched the bolt fly. Arwen caught the shaft and broke it in half. The Tracker’s hands flew to his neck and he fell to the ground with a snapped neck.
Laughing at their stunned expressions, the Elf-Witch threw the pieces of the broken arrow to the ground at Aragorn and Legolas’ feet. “Fools,” she said in a voice like wild honey. “You cannot kill me with iron or steel or any weapon you possess.”
“Who are you?” Aragorn demanded to know.
“Your better,” Arwen said, as her ears resumed their natural, elegant sweep. “I am Elfkind, as is your charming companion.”
Aragorn turned to look at Legolas as the Elf-Witch’s spell reversed itself. The Heir stared for long moments before returning his attention to Arwen.
“What was your purpose in this charade?” Aragorn asked.
“I wish to rule Gondor and I shall, as soon as you are dead.” Arwen turned her cold gaze on Legolas. “Poor Prince,” she said. “I know you wish to cut my throat with your shiny knives, but you will not. You know I could kill you before you could move, but more importantly, I could kill the Man. And you will risk no hurt to him, will you, Prince?”
“Prince?” Aragorn’s gaze flew back to Legolas, but the Elf’s wary eyes never left the threat of the Elf-Witch on her horse.
“Aye, he is a Prince, Man,” Arwen said with a silvery laugh. “Do you now regret treating him as a plaything? Does his station mean so much to you? Ah, but of course it does. You are of Mankind and value such things. It is one of your many weaknesses according to my father, who seems to have been right at least once.”
Aragorn squared his shoulders. “If you are going to kill me, be done with it. I do not wish to listen to your venomous tongue a moment longer.”
Legolas clutched at Aragorn’s arm, his lovely face a mask of alarm. The Elf shook his head violently, placing his free hand over his heart. Aragorn peered into *Vala’s* fathomless eyes and his stern expression softened.
“I know,” the Man said. “I see now what you were trying to tell me with your body and I love you, as well.”
Arwen smiled. “I am feeling charitable,” she said. “Would you like a last kiss? Not from me, of course, but from your erstwhile concubine.”
Aragorn took Legolas’ hands between his, the knives cold between them, as he spoke. “I am heartily sorry for any pain I have caused you, *Vala*. I do not ask your forgiveness, but should I receive it, I am the happiest Man in the West, though I die saying it. I wish you to know that if we had lived, I would have asked you to be my Consort.”
“How very touching,” Arwen said. “History would remember you as Aragorn the Bigamist. Are you going to kiss him or not? The day wanes.”
Asking silent permission with his eyes, Isildur’s Heir leaned toward Legolas. The Elf touched his lips to the Man’s in a kiss of sweet forgiveness. Tears gathered in Aragorn’s eyes and overflowed as he took the fair face between his palms and returned the kiss. Into it he poured his passion and his regret at his blindness. Legolas surrendered his mouth to the one his soul acknowledged as his equal, his match, his mate.
“Enough,” the Elf-Witch said sharply. “I have no wish to watch you couple.”
Aragorn looked up at his bride and raised his sword. “Perhaps you have the power to blast me to cinders where I stand, but what I can do, I will do to keep this precious one from harm. Do your worst, Witch; I will not cower before you.”
Legolas held up his knives, poised to attack at the Man’s signal. Arwen laughed, long peals of quicksilver music emerging from her wide-open mouth. Still laughing, the Elf-Witch lifted her hand, the ring on her forefinger glowing with a red light. She pointed at Aragorn and the Man clutched his chest with a surprised grunt.
Legolas caught Aragorn as the Man’s knees gave way. The Elf lowered the Heir slowly to the ground and shielded his body. Defiantly, the Prince glared up at Arwen.
“This is all your own doing, Princeling,” the Elf-Witch chided. “Perhaps you will think before you act in the future. Ah, but you do not have a future, do you?”
Robbed of the means to answer her, Legolas spat.
“Foolish elfling,” Arwen said in the Prince’s dulcet voice. “Since you love the Man so much, I will let you die with him.”
Arwen raised her hand, the ring glinting in a stray shaft of sunlight and the Wargs rose from the ground behind her. With stiff, slow steps the massive, stinking beasts moved toward Elf and Man. Standing over Aragorn, Legolas lifted his knives to defend the convulsing Man to his last breath.
“Now, Prince of a diminished people, meet your doom at the hand of true royalty.”
“I am curious to know what you would consider true royalty.”
The rich, haughty tones echoed through the clearing making it impossible to know where the speaker stood. Legolas’ cobalt eyes lit up at the sound of the vibrant baritone, warning Arwen that the newcomer was no friend to her.
“Show yourself,” she demanded.
“Right gladly.” King Thranduil stepped from the trees and twenty Mirkwood Trackers stepped forth behind him. More Elves with bows bent emerged from the forest, surrounding the small group of travelers. The advancing Wargs sniffed the air and snarled nervously.
“If one arrow flies, the Prince is Warg meat,” the Elf-Witch said loudly.
“Warg?” Thranduil repeated. “I see no Warg.”
So quickly they had not even time to scream, the three surviving Wargs were reduced to smoking carrion, which quickly became char and ash, sifting through the fallen leaves to vanish entirely. Arwen’s lovely eyes widened in shock as her allies melted away before her eyes. Gathering her nerve, she fixed her proud gaze on Thranduil.
“I am Arwen Undomiel, Lady of Rivendell,” she said. “You may introduce yourself.”
“I am King Thranduil, as you well know, and you are the dispossessed daughter of Lord Elrond who shamed her House and lost any chance she had of marrying a ruler of Mirkwood by allying herself with Darkness.”
“I did not know you were such a powerful sorcerer,” Arwen said silkily.
“I am no sorcerer,” Thranduil snorted. “You are a poor campaigner, Lady. A good soldier always knows the terrain on which he will fight. You did not take into account the safeguards of Mirkwood’s borders. As soon as you ordered your beasts forward, you killed them yourself.”
Arwen’s smooth brow grew dark with fury. “I can still kill your son before you can stop me,” she said. “Though I were struck with a hundred arrows, my curse would still fly true.”
The Elf-Witch’s words penetrated Aragorn’s agony. He could not allow Arwen to harm *Vala*. He would not allow it.
Arwen grunted in surprise when the point of Aragorn’s sword pierced her abdomen and continued up under her ribcage. Swaying on his knees, Isildur’s Heir held the hilt tightly in both hands and leaned his weight into the blade. The Elf-Witch’s heart burst, killing her instantly with a curse on her lips.
Legolas dropped his knives and caught the Man as he fell back under the weight of the corpse. Arwen’s body rolled to the side to lie face down and the Trackers moved in.
“See to my son,” Thranduil commanded.
An Elf skilled in the healing arts ran to Legolas’ side. Quickly determining that the Prince was unharmed, the healer examined the Man. When Aragorn had been pronounced weary but well, Legolas turned to the Elf-Witch’s remains.
Thranduil stood looking down at the body, his handsome face inscrutable. When he felt his son’s eyes on him, the King gave the Prince a bitter smile.
“The loveliest maiden since Luthien,” Thranduil said heavily. “It was a great loss the day she turned to the Dark.”
“I do not regret her loss this day,” Aragorn said in a frayed voice.
“Nor I,” Thranduil said. “She had become altogether evil. Ai! Do not touch her, Legolas.”
Legolas did not heed his father, but took the Elf-Witch’s hand in his and removed her ring. Before Thranduil could stop the Prince, Legolas had slipped the ring on his finger.
Aragorn’s eyes glowed with wonder like the soft radiance emanating from Legolas skin and hair. He could not take his eyes from the boy he’d called *Vala*, revealed to be an Elf, and a Prince of Elves besides. He did not think his heart could hold any more joy, and then his love spoke to him.
“Aragorn,” Legolas breathed, his beloved’s name the first word on his lips.
“It was you,” the Man said. “How could I not have known?”
“Arwen is . . . was a very powerful sorceress,” Thranduil interjected.
The King was not at all sure he liked the way the human was looking at his son. Aragorn held out his hand and Legolas flew into the Man’s arms. Abruptly, Thranduil was quite sure that he did not like the way the human looked at Legolas.
“What is the meaning of this?” the King demanded to know.
Legolas looked at his father from the circle of Aragorn’s arms. “This is why I made a bargain with the Elf-Witch and went to Gondor: to be with this Man.”
“Why?” Thranduil asked in consternation.
“Why did you never remarry after my mother was lost?”
Thranduil’s bright green eyes narrowed in displeasure at the question, but he answered. “I loved her too much,” he said. “There has been no other to match her.”
“I love Aragorn too much,” Legolas said. “There is no other to match him.”
“My son is clever,” Thranduil said to no one in particular. “I wonder now if it is a gladsome thing that he has recovered his voice.”
“I am glad,” Aragorn said as he unhanded Legolas and faced Thranduil squarely. “Your Majesty,” the future king of Gondor said as he bowed to the Elf King. “I am Isildur’s Heir, Lord of the West, and I shall rule a mighty kingdom in the fullness of time. I pray I am worthy, and I believe that if I have Prince Legolas at my side, I shall be. For he makes me better than I am by my striving to be worthy of his excellence. What say you, my lord? Will you countenance our union?”
Thranduil blinked, looking a bit like an Elf whose horse has bidden him good morning in Quenya. “Must you have my answer now,” the King said at last.
Aragorn did not smile when he answered. “At your leisure, Your Majesty,” he said.
It did not happen overnight, but King Thranduil did come to see that Aragorn was a Man worthy of Legolas. The King gave his blessing and sadly bade farewell to his youngest and best beloved child. With a small entourage, Isildur’s Heir and his Consort set out for Minas Tirith on a crisp autumn day.
On the road across the plain, the party was met by a troop of Gondorian Knights and escorted into the City. In a trice, Legolas and his servants were whisked off to *Vala’s* chambers, and Aragorn found himself facing the Steward like a wayward son called to account by a father pushed too far.
“How could allow us to remain ignorant of your whereabouts?” Denethor asked. “No one knew if you were alive or dead. Now you tell me you have been feasting with the King of Mirkwood. Did it not occur to you to send a message?”
“All that you say is true,” Aragorn admitted.
A small twitch at the corners of his eyes was all that betrayed the Steward’s shock at this swift capitulation. “I hear you have brought your paramour back with you.”
“I was a fool to let you talk me into putting him aside,” Aragorn said calmly.
“I beg your pardons,” Faramir said as he entered. “I just heard that Aragorn was back.”
Aragorn turned with a glad smile and returned the young man’s warm embrace. Denethor cleared his throat, recalling them to duty.
“I understand that you managed to lose your Queen,” the Steward said.
“I had to kill her,” Aragorn said. “She was a sorceress who wished to rule Gondor.”
Denethor’s surprise was more evident at this pronouncement, but Aragorn was not finished.
“Yes, it seems Arwen was the Elf-Witch we tell tales of to frighten our children. *Vala* whom you saw fit to despise is the son of the King of Mirkwood. Not incidentally, he has saved my life twice now.”
“And what is your intention now?” Denethor asked a bit dazedly.
“I intend to wed Legolas of Mirkwood and he shall rule at my side when I wear the crown of Gondor. I find him a worthy mate and stand ready to defend him with my body and my sword against all manner of folk including Stewards.”
“I know you find it tedious,” Denethor said, “but the simple fact is that he cannot give you heirs. What will you do? Get heirs on concubines? Take auxiliary wives as the barbarian kings of Angmar?”
“If I have need of an heir, an heir will be provided,” Aragorn said. “I will trust in my destiny, Lord Denethor, and I suggest that you do so, as well.”
Faramir cleared his throat. “If I may? Aragorn, I must show you something.”
Disapproval in every line of his face, Denethor stalked after the two young men who had left his presence in such haste. When he managed to catch them, Aragorn and Faramir were on their knees in the dirt of the Citadel Courtyard. Their heads close together, the two men were peering intently at the ground.
“It is a miracle,” Aragorn said softly.
Denethor craned his neck to see over their heads. “By my fathers,” he said. “The Tree has put forth a shoot.”
“Aye,” Faramir said. “I tried to tell you, but you had no time for anything but the search for Aragorn.”
“You have always been too soft, boy,” Denethor said.
“He is compassionate,” Aragorn said, rising to his feet. “And when I sit upon the throne, he shall stand at my right hand. Now, if you will excuse me, my Consort must be wondering what is keeping me from him.”
“Aragorn!” Denethor thundered. “You cannot do this. You cannot bind yourself to one who is not even human, much less female. You betray your destiny with this folly.”
Aragorn took a long breath through his nostrils. “You are an old man and you have served my family well by your lights,” he said evenly, “but if you ever again refer to my love for Legolas as folly, I shall dismiss you out of hand. Tell me that is not within my rights.”
“It is within your rights, my liege,” Faramir murmured, earning a glare from Denethor.
“It is not proper to address Aragorn as liege quite yet,” the Steward said sternly.
“Nor is it quite proper for you to address me so familiarly and yet you do,” Aragorn observed. “I think you have had the schooling of me long enough. Continue to perform your public duties, but you are my mentor no longer.”
“How dare you defy me?” Denethor began to bluster.
“My love for Legolas gives me strength,” Aragorn forestalled the Steward. “I will not allow you to destroy his happiness again.”
“You will live to regret this rash decision,” the Steward said.
“Mayhap,” the Heir said, “but it will be my regret.”
“No, it will be to the sorrow of all Gondor,” Denethor corrected.
“You can no longer sway me with such spurious statements,” Aragorn said. “Gondor will not rise or fall on my choice of Consort. If my line ends here, another will begin.”
So saying, Isildur’s Heir left that place and the Steward behind with what was left of his boyhood. He strode briskly down the long stair, his heart rising at the thought of the future that awaited him as near as the west wing of this palace. He grinned at the sound of Faramir’s voice calling out to him to wait. He did not.
Aragorn frowned at the chaos that greeted his eyes when he reached his Consort’s chambers. Elven attendants scurried, and the Man halted to observe the phenomenon of such elegant creatures scurrying. After the shock wore off, he continued on to the center of the storm.
“My lord.” An Elf with hair like the shadows of twilight held up a slim hand to stop the Heir. “The Prince is not receiving just now.”
“I am not suing for audience with Mirkwood’s Prince,” Aragorn said in confusion. “I am here to see my beloved.”
“No! Do not let him in! He must not see me like this.”
At the sound of Legolas’ distressed voice, the Man was around the door guardian and halfway across the bedchamber. Hurrying to the side of the enormous bed, Aragorn stared at the sight of his graceful lover indelicately heaving the contents of his stomach into a basin. A brief hesitation and then the Heir took the silver bowl from the hands of the winsome beauty that held it.
The attending Elf backed unobtrusively away to make room for the healer. The dark-haired physician put a gentle hand on Legolas’ shining hair and murmured soothingly. The Prince retched and brought up a thin stream of bile before collapsing back against the pillows. The healer tenderly wiped Legolas’ mouth and offered a cool drink.
“What is this sickness?” Aragorn asked.
The healer Elf smiled conspiratorially. “It is but a symptom of a condition and a glad one, I persuade myself. Would it please you to know that a child of yours grows beneath the Prince’s heart?”
Aragorn’s stunned expression alarmed the Elf.
“I assure you, it is no danger to the Prince,” the physician said. “Males of the royal houses are equipped for childbearing, though ‘tis rare.”
The Man’s grin was like Anor appearing from a veil of cloud. “An heir!” he crowed. “I thought I could not be happier and now my beloved has heaped happiness upon my happiness until I am like to burst from joy.”
Aragorn turned to Faramir, hovering in the doorway. “I cannot wait to see your father’s face,” the future king exulted.
“With your permission, I will bear the glad tidings to my sire,” Faramir offered.
Aragorn’s grin grew even wider. “Yes. You should have the pleasure. Give the Steward my best regards, if it please you, my oldest friend.”
Faramir dipped his head. “I am happier for you than I can say, my liege.”
With a quiet smile lighting his ascetic features, Faramir went to give his father the news. When Aragorn turned back to the bed, he was surprised to see Legolas smiling brightly at him, looking as though he’d never heard the word queasy, much less puked his guts up less than five minutes before. Shaking his head at the resilience of Elves, the Heir took one of Legolas’ hands in his.
As their fingers entwined, the Prince issued a command to his attendants. “I am well,” he said. “You may leave us now.”
Soundlessly, the Elven servants retired to the next chamber. With the strength that still surprised Aragorn, Legolas pulled him onto the bed. Lying across the Elf’s legs, the Man gazed up at his Consort.
“What would you?” Aragorn asked innocently.
“Love me,” the Elf demanded.
“Are you certain you feel well enough?”
“Why do you make excuses? Do you not wish to lay with me?”
An incipient pout formed on Legolas’ exquisite lips and Aragorn hurried to kiss it away. Crouching over the Elf’s body, resting on his elbows, the Man devoured the sweet mouth like a bee plundering a trove of pollen. Rolling onto his side, Aragorn pulled the satin coverlet back to find an alluringly naked Legolas beneath.
Aragorn could see no changes as yet to the lithe body he remembered so well and missed so desperately. At times, during his courtship of Arwen, the Man’s body had ached with the need for Legolas’ comfort. To Aragorn, it seemed no less a miracle than the blooming of the White Tree that this remarkable being should be here in his bed.
“I make you a vow, *Vala*,” Aragorn smiled. “I shall never deny you again and none shall part me from your side. I could not bear my life without you in it.”
“I loved you when first I saw you,” Legolas answered. “You shone like the first Numenorean to step from the sea onto the shores of Middle Earth. I understood why Gil-galad loved the Dunedain for there is a light in you that we of Elfkind can no more resist than the moth can resist the moon.”
“I have bespelled you, have I?”
Legolas smiled tenderly. “Nay, melethron. You are but you and that is witchcraft enough. Now love me or I will begin to believe your desire is a fickle thing and that you have not the fire to satisfy an Elven lover.”
The Heir of Isildur took up the challenge. Long strove the lovers in ardent grappling and the tender indignities of joining, each endeavoring to conquer the other with barrages of pleasure. Lying back against the snowy pillows with the Elf astride his Manhood, sweet lips parted on a gasping cry of rapture, Aragorn was complete.
Matters such as the deciding of how many months they would spend in Minas Tirith and how many in the Woodland Realm, the issues of how to introduce a male Elven Consort to the people of Gondor along with the news of an impending Heir, the appointing of a new Steward, and many more besides were mere technicalities.
He and Legolas were together; all was right with the world.
And they lived happily ever after.