Less the Stranger
He gave away his last two ribbons in time to jump the fire. But not in time to beat Galanthir; Legolas would be buying his friend’s ribbons for the next such celebration.
That was some few weeks ago now. It was more than half a year since ‘Heart of Eryn Ithil’ had arrived here, her passengers glimpsing their first sight of this new world through thinning morning mists, greeted by sunshine.
Many things had changed since then, and in some ways it seemed a long time ago, Ithilien and Eryn Lasgalen a long, long, way away in time as well as place. Some things had changed since the Midwinter celebrations – others had not.
Lady Galadriel had returned to Tirion, but not before Legolas had spoken to her about the situation with Orophin and Rumil’s mother. After all, Legolas was their Lord now (which had not seemed to surprise Her Ladyship at all), Galadriel had been their Lady for most of their lives and was still their parents’ liege, Lithôniel was one of Legolas’ people… and Tindómë was his sworn small sister.
“I will do what I can,” Her Ladyship promised. “I will spend time with her, talk of her elflings as they grew to become trusted wardens, talk of their personalities and their skills. I will stress, too, how happy both my husband and I were to act as Tindómë’s guardians when it was made clear to us that such was the will of the Valar; and what pleasure that guardianship gave us.
“Of course I will also express my pleasure at Orophin meeting the right elleth and how well matched they are.” She smiled before continuing. “Their parents will be in no doubt, either, that I am not displeased that their sons now give allegiance to you. I know my Lord Celeborn felt that they were well suited to join your venture, and that he was happy with their decision. I have much to thank Rumil for, especially; the folio of pictures of my granddaughter, and great grandchildren, would not have been so complete had he not moved to Eryn Ithil.
“I will stress to Thorontor’s wife what an added blessing grandchildren are. And hers are both admirable young people; and, in the case of Ithilienne, both beautiful and spirited!”
She gave Legolas one of ‘those looks’ at that point; he smiled and agreed before thanking her for her help.
Not only had her Ladyship left the coast but Gimli, too, was leaving Master Elrond’s domain to travel!
Mithrandir had brought him an invitation, at mid-winter, to visit the forge of Lord Aulë once spring arrived. The invitation did not include Legolas. Mithrandir explained that it was “smith to smith, and the great forge is the province only of smiths.”
Or as Tindómë said, with little sympathy, “They’ll spend hours and days discussing secret smithly stuff that would bore you senseless anyway.”
“You have other things to concern you amongst your own people,” Mithrandir added, before going on to explain that Gimli would be accompanied by Master-smith Naltatamë. No wonder he had hung on her every word at mid-winter – he had already known!
A pony and trap was ready for Gimli to set out soon with his guide… and two well muscled young ellyn, who were thrilled to get this chance to learn more of their craft, whilst making sure that Gimli wanted for nothing on the journey.
Mithrandir was right, of course, Legolas did have things to do concerning his own people. A couple of those who had arrived with Tangannel had stayed in Alqualondë, renewing old friendships and making new ones. However they were going to accompany Legolas back to their home in the small woodland so that he could meet those who lived there – and then on to meet other groups as well.
Perhaps not just yet, though. After all he had promised those who left Eryn Ithil with him that, no matter what, they would jump the fire together at mid-summer and there would not be time to get to know these elves, who thought of themselves as ‘his people’, if he could stop but scant days with each group before hurrying back.
The fire on the beach had been a great success for mid-winter – in the heat of midsummer it would be even better. The sea would be very tempting after hours spent dancing; more than it had been at mid-winter as, though the cold may not bother elves, it did not mean that they did not appreciate the heat…
Lying in his bed with the window open, Legolas slowed his breathing so that he could listen to the sea. Today there was a soft rhythm to it, a counterpoint to the voices of the trees around Master Elrond’s home that now sang quietly to the wood-elf prince in their midst.
Ithilienne had said, last midsummer, that she wondered whether elves who lived by the sea used it for starlight bathing. The wood elves had discovered that it really did not work. The oils to rub into the skin did not work with the salt water, and it was almost impossible to wash each other’s hair – there was little about the way the sea made it matted and sticky that appealed. Swimming was a different pleasure, but starlight bathing really required fresh water.
There was a small stream that ran down through Master Elrond’s lands to the sea, and some of the wood elves had begun to bathe there at night, swimming in the sea together and then using water from the shallow stream to wash each other’s hair.
Legolas and Ithilienne had shared walks along the beach together; sharing kisses and, recently, a little more. They had also spent time together in the distant reaches of Master Elrond’s library, in theory sharing books, in practice sharing more. He had thought of asking her to go to the stream’s mouth starlight bathing – but somehow it did not seem quite right. There was grass beside the stream, but the ground was too soft and everything might get covered in mud. The stream itself was really too shallow anyway.
Lady Celebrían wanted Legolas’ advice on how best to dam the stream a little further up and so form pools within her gardens. When Legolas explained that his people were using the lowest reach for starlight bathing she suggested that there could be a pool, or two, in a secluded spot that would be for the use of all.
It was a good project. In fact he had already asked Gimli to help him draw up plans, before going on his travels, and the Ithilrim would enjoy working with the stream – especially if they could make use of the pools they created.
However Legolas had decided that he did not want to wait that long before inviting Ithilienne to go starlight bathing. There had to be an alternative. He knew he was welcome to use the open air bathing pools at King Olwë’s palace, but that did not feel right, pleasant as they were.
Tindómë had commented that the ‘Heart of Eryn Ithil’ was like ‘your own private yacht, atheg, you could hold parties on it… or we could sail it up the coast just for the trip, or whatever!’ He considered whether he could suggest that Ithilienne join him to swim from the ship and then return on board to ‘wash off the salt and wash our hair’ – he could make sure there was wine and food aboard. Although it might, he thought, feel a bit odd having the whole ship to themselves.
Romance was difficult so far from home.
And then, in the end, romance came where it would.
The crescent moon cast the softest of light into the room as Legolas smiled and savoured memories of the past few hours.
He had been sitting in his favourite tree, almost drunk with the song these trees now sang to him as their leaves unfurled and their sap ran through them like lifeblood, and had lost track of time when someone joined him.
Ithilienne made herself comfortable just below him, so that her head rested against his legs, and Legolas could feel a change in the song of the tree; it was happy that she was there. Ithilienne smiled and stroked the branch on which she sat. Legolas could feel the tree react; it was like a cat stretching into a similar caress, and it made him want to laugh.
“They are friendlier now,” his companion said. “Lady Celebrían said they sing quietly sometimes, but then she is not a wood-elf. I wonder if they are livelier now that we are here, or whether she simply doesn’t hear them as loudly as we do? Or perhaps,” she mused, “they are happier because you
Legolas had no urge to think deeply on the subject. “Well I am happier because you
are here…” he said, twisting her wavy hair around his fingers in an unconscious echo of her father and mother.
Now it was Ithilienne who reminded him of a cat as she arched her back against his legs; he almost expected her to purr. After a little while she moved onto the same branch as him and Legolas’ hands could reach more than just her hair. Shielded from the rest of the world by their curtain of leaves, their kisses grew deeper and both pairs of hands began to slip inside clothing; his to cup her breasts and encourage her nipples to swell, hers tracing the muscles of his back, then moving to tease his nipples in turn until they also stood proud of their surrounding flesh.
Caught between the song of the trees and the pleasure of the small shared caresses, they had no sense of time passing. Legolas changed position to allow his tongue to follow where his fingers had led when, breaking the mood, his stomach gurgled. Ithilienne shook her head, as if awakening, and it occurred to both of them almost simultaneously that the sun had set.
“I was meant to come and tell you it was nearing dinner time, to give you time to bathe and change if you needed it,” she said, looking and sounding slightly embarrassed. “Celebrían said that you got so caught up in the song of the trees sometimes that you easily lost track of time...”
“And instead you joined me and we lost track together!” He was fairly sure his hostess would not mind them missing a meal together – Celebrían made a not too subtle point of encouraging him to spend time with Ithilienne.
“Well, you have reminded me now,” he said. “Come and eat with me? For, otherwise, I will end up eating alone.”
Food for both had been, they discovered, laid out in Legolas’ suite. They piled plates, filled glasses, and ate in companionable silence.
Once finished, Legolas pulled Ithilienne to her feet.
“Where were we?” he asked.
She slid hands up under his tunic to touch bare skin. “About here?”
From there things had simply gone on taking their natural course. At a point somewhere after clothing had become too much of an encumbrance, and been shed, Ithilienne confirmed that she very much wanted the evening to progress to joining – and that she had not, as yet, joined with anyone else.
Legolas remembered Ardoron’s instruction, many years before, traditionally given by older brothers or cousins; “Joining is to put a key in a lock, and first you need to know all there is to know of the key itself. Next you need to remember never to force it into a lock that has no oil. Should you encounter a lock that has never before been opened you need to ensure it is well lubricated and that the key will fit easily!”
He certainly knew every inch and nuance of his ‘key’, and exactly how to use it after many years of practice, but this was the first time he had needed to heed that last lesson and he did his utmost to ensure Ithilienne was ready and would have only good memories of the night.
He had succeeded, he knew, for she had flown at fingertips and at tongue tip before he had joined with her and, afterwards, she had told him there was no pain, only pleasure.
‘Ardoron,’ he thought now, ‘would have been proud of me.’ And for a few moments the longing for his family went through him like a knife.
As he tried to concentrate on the song of the trees as well as the distant sound of the sea, to ease the pain, he heard a sleepy voice.
There may not have been the instant bond between them that her parents had experienced but his pang of longing seemed, in some way, to have reached his companion where she lay with her head in the crook of his arm…
“Are you all right?”
“Yes,” he answered, “it was just a sad thought. As it was your first time I should be asking you that. Are you
“More than,” Ithilienne answered as her hands moved against his skin. “Can we do it again, please?”
Legolas was very happy to comply.
At some time during the night came the realisation that the bathing room, so like the one the twins shared in Imladris, might be very suitable for a form of starlight bathing; and that sometime soon they should begin such an evening with Legolas undoing all the tiny pearl buttons on Ithilienne’s blue-green dress. Possibly with his teeth…
Now she slept again, but he wanted to stay awake; to listen to the trees, and the sea, and to think.
The silver light of the moon faded and all was dark. Legolas let his mind drift forward to the day to come, and the weeks and months that would follow; no further as yet.
The day would certainly include time spent with Ithilienne – encountering knowing smiles from Master Elrond and his wife and then, doubtless, from others. The weeks would include her too; but also time in the company of Frodo and Sam to relish, and save in memory, for the future when they would have left the circles of the world. There would be time spent on the practice fields with his warriors; wine and conversation shared with them and with others.
There would be time to tease Gimli about his upcoming trip – he would see more of the Undying Lands than Legolas himself in the months to come! Midsummer celebrations, too, would need to be organised – and enjoyed. Then would come his own travels, when he would acquaint himself with more of his own people than he had expected. Whilst he was gone Ithilienne would doubtless, in her uncle’s words, broaden her education. But she would be here when he returned and that, too, was good.
Pale morning light now fell across the bed. Perhaps, he thought, Ithilienne might want to join him in his bathing pool before breakfast. He stopped and repeated the thought to himself – his
He turned his mind back to that conversation with Tindómë, scant months ago, as they shared apples on his favourite rock and watched the waves. They had spoken of ‘home’.
‘Home’. He turned the word over in his mind for a little…
No, this place was not home – but, for now, it would suffice.
......................................the end.... for now...................................
Disclaimer: Many of the characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only, and all rights remain with the estate of JRR Tolkien and Joss Whedon for The Key.