LESSONS IN DIPLOMACY
Erestor did like blonds, as it turned out, but he didn’t know that when his best friend and the most annoying blond in the world told him they had to go to Mirkwood to escort Legolas back to Imladris to study diplomacy with Erestor himself.
He was also sure he didn’t care for any elf from Thranduil’s family.
Or any male elf at all.
He was wrong about everything.
I suspect you already knew this, but I am getting ahead of myself. I am Elrohir, son of Elrond, and it turns out I do like blonds, elves from Thranduil’s family and males elves especially. But this is not my story.
Well, yes it is but I am also going to tell you the tale of the archer and the crow. And some others too along the way. Sounds poetic, doesn’t it? Well, it certainly didn’t start out that way…
“Do I really need to travel with you?” Erestor complained to Glorfindel.
Erestor was actually a fine warrior and could use a sword better than any elf I’d ever seen but he didn’t prefer the life of a warrior. He preferred sipping tea and worrying over scrolls and councils and such. My father adored him because my father preferred sipping wine and talking about how the world had surely become a bad place in the last thousand years. He talked and talked and talked about this.
Except when Mithrandir came to visit, then he secretly smoked pipeweed and sat on the balcony and giggled when the old wizard made smoke rings that looked oddly like our grandmother, Lady Galadriel.
Getting back to Erestor, he really did not wish to walk to Mirkwood with my brother, Glorfindel and myself. I wasn’t too crazy about the idea either but it was something to do. Elladan and I had played pranks, terrorized the kitchen staff, killed all the squirrels within a league around Imladris and most of the deer. Father had sworn off meat for a month until we stopped bringing home squirrels for dinner.
So anyway, Glorfindel assured Erestor that he was going to Mirkwood with us and we set off. The weather was warm and clear and we made good time, walking most of the day and taking turns watching at night while the others slept. Elladan and I mostly kept watch because if Glorfindel wasn’t talking, he was snoring. Erestor simply refused to keep watch. That was how he was sometimes. We knew better than to argue.
We made it to Mirkwood in only a few days but that was the easy part. Mirkwood is not called that for nothing. It is dark and filled with black creatures, squirrels and such, not to mention the spiders! They actually talk to one another. And they’re as big as dogs, maybe even bigger. There was no sleeping once we arrived in the forest. We were on our second day when we were met by warriors on horseback from King Thranduil.
“Who goes there?”
Erestor stepped out in front of the rest of us. “Who do we look like? The three bears?”
The solemn elf shook his head. “No sir. You must be Master Erestor from Imladris. The King is expecting you. This way.”
We followed. The closer we got to the King’s palace, the sourer Erestor’s expression became.
“Do you smell something, Erestor?” Glorfindel asked with a smile.
Glorfindel almost always smiled. I guess getting to come back from being dead will make a person a little more cheerful than the average elf. It drove Erestor crazy though and that made Glorfindel smile all the more.
“Oh, shut up.” Erestor mumbled as he trod after the horses.
King Thranduil was not in his throne room to greet us. Instead there was his secretary, Aewadan. He was very tall and extremely slender, even for an elf, and had a nose quite like a bird’s beak. His name meant birdman and he surely fit it.
“If you will wait, his majesty will be here soon. He is dealing with important matters of state right now.”
I figured that meant he was either using the bathroom or was asleep. It usually meant that when Father was busy with matters of state.
The beaky elf bade us sit and had a young page pour wine for us and offered us food. We declined the food and were about to decline the wine too but I never knew Glorfindel to turn down a glass of wine before and he didn’t start there either.
“We’d love some wine. It has been a long, arduous journey.”
Elladan almost laughed out loud. The most arduous thing Glorfindel or Erestor had done was to rise from a sitting position a few times a day. And complain. They’d both complained rather stridently every few minutes since we left home.
We drank wine and waited.
And waited and drank wine.
And drank more wine.
“If he doesn’t come in the next ten minutes, I am going home to Imladris,” Erestor said as he stood up, a bit unsteady on his feet.
“Has my father kept you waiting long?” said a silken voice from the doorway. We all turned. Legolas. King Thranduil’s youngest and favorite son. “I am Legolas. Welcome to the Greenwood. I will get my father. He’s probably playing cards or napping. Aewadan always make him sound busier than he is.”
He bowed to us and left the room.
I happened to glance at Erestor. His mouth was open and he was staring at the doorway as if to make Legolas reappear. He didn’t appear to be breathing. This was getting interesting.
Elladan looked at me and winked. “Erestor, what is the matter?”
Erestor didn’t move or acknowledge us in any way and as far as I could tell, he hadn’t breathed yet either.
It was only minutes until Legolas returned with his father. Thranduil was… well, let’s say that I stopped breathing too. He was taller than Legolas and regal doesn’t even begin to describe how dignified he was. Did I mention he was gorgeous? His hair was longer than mine even, falling past his waist and he wore a crown of mithril with fresh flowers woven into it. His robes were of green brocade shot with gold and silver with rubies and diamonds as buttons and fasteners. All this paled in comparison to his face. His face was, quite simply, that of a king. A strong jaw line, perfect nose, kingly brows… I can’t even tell you how regal he was.
But I digress.
The king looked at Erestor and frowned. “You came for my son?”
“Apparently so,” Erestor answered with no deference to Thranduil at all.
The king threw his head back and laughed. “Mithrandir was right about you. You will do nicely. Legolas, ask Aewadan to show our guests to their rooms and shownthem to the baths.” He turned and addressed Erestor. “We will have a banquet in the Hall at nightfall.”
He turned and left the room.
Legolas smiled at Erestor. “I am glad to meet you, Master Erestor.” He bowed.
“Get up, Legolas. And I am simply Erestor. We shall be spending a lot of time together so we might as well do away with formality.” Erestor took Legolas by the arm. “Show me the palace?”
I stood and stared. Who knew that Erestor could be so suave?
Legolas smiled that pretty smile and off they went; leaving the rest of us to our own devices. I knew we were in trouble then. Just not how much!
The rest of us had no idea what to do so we asked to be taken to our rooms. We might have known Thranduil would make us share. He’d put me and Elladan in a room together beside Glorfindel and Erestor. Elladan and I unpacked our meager belongings and sat on the edge of the bed.
“Now what?” Elladan asked me.
“No idea. We wait?”
About that time, someone whacked on the adjoining door between our room and Glorfindel’s.
“You two? We need baths! Surely these country elves have bathing pools or indoor tubs.”
We did smell a little gamey. “Ask the, what’s his name? Aewadan… that’s it. Ask him,” I called back to him.
I heard his door close and in a few moments, a lovely little maid came in with towels and soaps.
“Aewadan bid me bring these. He will be along in a moment to show you to the baths.” She curtsied rather sweetly and left the room.
The Bird (my secret name for Aewadan!) was there in mere seconds.
“Follow me. The King does expect his guests to dress for dinner.”
Dress? Elladan and I did not ‘dress’ for anything. We wore leather riding clothes and we had a clean set for the times we had to show up with decent folk. Those would have to do. No frilly robes for us.
We shrugged and grabbed our towels and soap.
The baths were underground too. They were in a huge chamber kept warm by underground heated springs. They smelled slightly of sulfur but being the sons of a healer, we knew the sulfur was therapeutic so we didn’t mind.
Besides, the soaps more than made up for that smell. They smelled like the freshest flowers of May with a hint of something more woodsy and exotic thrown in.
“The King has this soap milled in a hobbit town some distance from here. It is his own special blend.”
Glorfindel managed to say the right thing back to the Bird so he finally left us alone. Elladan and I dissolved into giggles befitting two school boys as we each took turns speaking in the same high pitched tone Aewadan used when he talked to us.
We finished up and went back to our rooms and dressed in our dark leather breeches, with white shirts. We did manage to bring clean shirts too. I feared we would look rather plain with all the Mirkwood finery.
Not so for our Balrog Slayer, though. He was resplendent in royal blue robes that made his hair look like burnished gold as it hung free but for one small braid with a tine mithril fastener on the end.
I had not even realized Erestor had come back to until he followed Glorfindel into our rooms. He cleaned up rather well too. He wore deep red robes with no ornamentation at all except for the golden clasp that held his long thick braid to the back.
Dinner itself was as pompous and silly as I feared it might be but I enjoyed it just the same. Erestor kept making calf’s eyes at Legolas and Legolas seemed to be eating it up, leaning forward every time the old crow spoke as if pearls of wisdom were falling from his lips.
I was watching them so intently that I had not heard Thranduil speak to me.
“Elrohir? Does your father still fancy himself a healer?”
I nodded. “He is, your majesty. He heals any who ask in Imladris.”
“Does he not have others to do it for him?”
This elf was annoying even if he was a king! “Yes, your majesty, but I believe he enjoys helping others and he is very good at it.”
Thranduil harrumphed and began eating.
The food was divine! But then after eating Lembas for a few days, shoes would have tasted good! Lembas might have almost magical properties but I could never figure out why it couldn’t have been made to taste better!
I was so busy being angry at the king that I didn’t even notice my brother was making eyes at Glorfindel. It slipped by until rather later in the evening but I’ll get to that in a bit.
When dinner was nearly over, Thranduil looked at Erestor and said, “I hear that you sing.”
“You hear wrong. I have not sung a song in over two hundred years and I will not start tonight.”
Thranduil obviously wasn’t used to being told no.
“I am king, you know.”
“But you’re not my king. I came here at Elrond’s bidding to fetch your son. I am not a traveling musician.” He crossed his arms like he always did when he was very angry.
I wondered if Thranduil might throw us all out in the spidery woods in the dark but he smiled.
And looked at me. “Sing, peredhel.”
Erestor piped in. “He has a name.”
Thranduil ignored him and so did I. I was busy staring into those eyes. What in the world was happening?
Glorfindel’s loud laugh brought me out of my trance.
“I think the whole lot of you are acting like a bunch of asses.” He sipped his wine and patted my brother on the knee. “Except Elladan.”
All eyes swung around to Elladan, who simply smiled. “The food was very good, Your Majesty.”
I sang a few songs that Lindir had taught me when I studied music with him. I must have sung well enough. The king watched me the whole time. I am not sure anyone else did at all.
I am amazed that the king did not see us to the doors himself after the dinner silliness but he did not. He didn’t even comment when Legolas kept leaning over to whisper in Erestor’s ear. Instead we all gathered in his private rooms and he got out a scroll and began to read poetry to us.
It was quite nice but Glorfindel was bursting with mirth yet again. I wanted to hide somewhere. How could I ever have thought these elves were mature and serious adults? Glorfindel behaved like an adolescent and Erestor behaved like an arrogant fool and Elladan just sat and let Glorfindel squeeze his knees a lot.
I thought about my grandfather’s flask; I needed something stronger than wine! What would my father say when we got home? Or worse, when the Mirkwood archers marched to make war on Imladris? Who could blame them?
Thranduil had a nice voice for poetry though. Just the right timbre.
The evening finally ended. Or so I thought.
I made my way back to the rooms I shared with Elladan and after an hour alone, I realized that my brother was elsewhere. The sounds coming from the room next to mine gave me an idea where.
Where was Erestor?
I found out a few minutes later when I heard Glorfindel yell. “Go away! Find your own room, you old crow!”
I heard a silky low voice outside. Legolas. I cracked the door just a tiny bit and peeped out. Glorfindel slammed the door and stuffy old Erestor fell into Legolas’ embrace, kissing him so long and so deeply that I feared they might die from lack of air.
I kept watching out of fear for their lives. But what I got was an eyeful as that blond rascal untied Erestor’s robe and pulled it open, running his hands over the old crow, as Glorfindel called him, then kissing his chest. I closed the door as Legolas began to sink to his knees.
My father was going to die of embarrassment.
I had a more immediate problem though.
My own leggings were a bit tight after the scene in the hall. The moans from next door didn’t help. I eased the door back open and evidently, they decided that what they were about to do needed privacy.
As I slid my hands inside my pants, Thranduil’s eyes and that voice came into my mind.
Later, I was near sleep when someone tapped on my door. Thinking it was Elladan wanting to return to our room after his noisy romp with Glorfindel, I didn’t bother to dress since I was just going to strip and get back in the bed.
It was the Bird. He looked down at my, um, me and frowned.
“The king would like to visit your chamber. Now.”
“Give me a second to dress,” I said as I slammed the door and pulled my leggings on quickly.
I was about to put my shirt on when the door opened and there he stood. He wore deep green leggings that fit like a second skin and that was all.
“It would appear that you and I are the only ones sleeping alone tonight and I thought I would rectify that.”
I just stood there. Like an idiot.
“Well? Did I mistake those looks?” He grinned and I knew what a mouse felt like just before the cat ate it.
My body, however, didn’t feel like prey at all. Thranduil looked down and beckoned me closer. His leggings looked a lot like mine did too.
I went. He was the king, after all.
When I woke, Elladan was back in his bed and Thranduil was gone. He was already awake and he grinned at me.
“Was that the Bird I heard at your door last night?”
I said nothing.
“Does his beak hurt?”
I washed my face and hunted some clean clothing then headed to the bath house without a word.
Thranduil was in the bath. Alone.
I felt shy and approached quietly.
“Come on in, son. The water is very soothing after a vigorous night. It might even inspire a little more exercise on my part.”
I dropped my robe and slid into the hot water beside him. His hand slid under the water and woke my sleeping parts.
We missed breakfast but Thranduil had it sent to his rooms near noon.
I have to admit that most of the next few days were a haze of sex and sex and more sex. Thranduil was almost insatiable. I was more than happy to oblige.
From what little I did see, the others were pretty much the same as we were. I walked in on Glorfindel and Elladan once. They had the little maid who’d brought towels with them too. I… well, I watched them for a bit before slipping away.
The time soon came for us to depart and I really wanted to stay. I lay awake when I was alone, thinking of more things to try with the King. He was up for nearly anything. I’d never met anyone like that before. Besides, I liked him. He was funny and interesting as well.
We headed out at daylight. I hadn’t slept at all. We’d tried to get in all my wishes the night before and there were quite a few.
I really hated the thought of having to listen to the four others every night.
But we couldn’t stay forever.
The first day, we got lost and almost got eaten by a spider as big as a horse. Legolas was supposed to be leading us since he knew the woods but he and Erestor kept gazing at one another like lovesick puppies and we took a wrong turn. By the time everyone besides me realized we were lost, we had company and I swear it whispered to me that it loved mating with elves! Elves were such a tasty treat too!
I wasn’t that adventurous!
We ran and ran and ran until we were so tired that being eaten would have been a relief before we finally lost it. Or maybe it got bored and found a male spider to mate with and then eat!
After that, we assigned guards at night. Elladan went first and we tied Glorfindel to me to keep him from distracting my brother. That did not put a damper on Erestor and Legolas at all.
Then it was my night. I anticipated listening to the others go at it all night and they did for a good part of the night.
Then they got quiet and began snoring.
I heard someone call my name.
I heard it again and just as I was about to wake the others, Thranduil stepped out from behind a tree. He grabbed me and kissed me.
“I thought they’d never go to sleep.”
We were naked in seconds and we did not rise until near dawn. I half expected the others to be spider food when I got back but they were still snoring happily.
Thranduil kissed me and disappeared.
We didn’t get far that day because the lovebirds all had to stop and play at least every mile or two. We were still in Mirkwood come nightfall.
I volunteered for guard duty again, hoping to get a visitor. The others were more than happy to let me do it.
Thranduil appeared again and we didn’t watch for spiders for quite some time.
He was still there at daybreak. He marched me to the camp and woke the others.
“I have decided to take a hostage to assure that my son is sent back safely to me when his training is done. Who will it be?”
I let the others ponder for a moment and then I stood.
“I will go with Thranduil. Tell Father not to worry. I’m sure Thranduil will see that I come to no harm.”
They seemed to believe me. They all looked so serious that I felt guilty for what I was doing. I didn’t even smile as I grimly gathered my things and made ready to follow the king. I was almost out of the small clearing when I turned back toward my brother and winked.
Thranduil had his horse hidden about a mile from the camp. We both mounted it and got back to the palace in time to have a quick romp before the Bird brought us breakfast in bed.