3. Chapter Three
“To say the least. Of course, it is possible that they are making an especial effort in the hope of more coin, I suppose.” Legolas drains his wine and stares at the others, his face a study in bemusement.
“Maybe—but I think not. They are enjoying themselves far too much to be pretending.” I drink more wine and shake my head. “And to think the entertainment began, well, sedately . . .”
It did begin relatively sedately, with Ettelie singing ballads sweetly as she accompanied herself on her harp. Melime summoned her other musicians then, who played for Ravenne as she danced one of the old courtly measures some claim were brought from the West long ago. She made a pretty picture as she skillfully trod out the pattern, stately and dignified, her trailing sleeves fluttering around her. She finished with a low bow and much applause.
Vandiel’s turn came next, as she began reading palms. Only Merry and I declined, both of us still carrying uneasy memories of our last encounter with a fortune-teller at the spring fair here. She succeeded in persuading even shy Sam and aloof Legolas to let her do a reading for each of them, though it was obvious from his raised eyebrow that the elf was, to say the least, skeptical.
She deliberately saved Pippin for last; as she took his hand and slowly stroked it, he gave her a look that was remarkably knowing, especially compared to his boyish face.
“And what do you see?” Pippin asked in a low voice. “Am I doomed to be alone tonight?”
Vandiel traced the lines in Pippin’s palm with a delicate fingertip; he made a small noise deep in his throat as she continued the caress. “No, I think not,” she said, her smile both mocking and alluring.
“Then shall I meet my true love instead?”
“Perhaps.” Their eyes locked above Pippin’s hand, green meeting green in open sexual challenge. Everyone seemed to catch his or her breath for a moment, taken aback by the sudden shift in the air. Then Melime smiled and turned with studied nonchalance to Ravenne.
“My dear, would you be so kind as to change your gown? Then you can dance for our guests again, perhaps in the style of Harad this time.” She gave Ravenne a wink.
As Ravenne drifted away upstairs, Ettelie began singing again. This time her songs were lively, but they quickly became bawdy. Merry and Pippin egged her on, and then they took turns singing the Shire’s earthier lyrics. They claimed they were merely teaching them to Ettelie, but it soon was obvious they were staging a little contest to see who won Ettelie’s company for the evening. I knew Merry could sing, but Pippin was even better, with a clear tenor he used well. But between songs, he continued to flirt with Vandiel, and a sudden suspicion entered my mind.
“By Eru,” I muttered, “that reckless little rake means to bed both lasses, if he can!”
“Surely not,” Legolas shot back. “Not even Pippin could be that spirited, do you think?”
“Oh, yes, he is,” I declared. “Watch closely, now . . .”
Alas for Pippin’s fancies, the cousins’ singing contest ended with Ettilie kissing Merry soundly and pulling him into a dark corner behind their bench. Pippin allowed himself the luxury of a very brief pout at his failure before redoubling his efforts with Vandiel.
Now, I find myself gazing at several pairings that are, to say the least, unlikely. Unlikely, did I say? Mind destroying might be a better choice of words. I remember Legolas declaring earlier that it would take an eternity to wipe certain images from his mind. I appreciate his sentiment now that I have come to share it in part.
Frodo is stretched out on the bench with his head pillowed in Lotiel’s lap. She is feeding him sugared grapes as they converse softly, punctuated by an occasional kiss. Lotiel’s hand keeps straying across his chest, though she has yet to slide it under his shirt. Given how tender her expression, however, I suspect it will not be long before matters proceed further.
Sam is sitting on the floor with his back braced against the same bench and Nyerelle snuggled along his side. A tray of sweets sits at their feet; they exchange tarts and cakes as they carefully pass judgment on each flavor. Of course, they also are carefully licking each other’s fingers as they do this, not to mention kissing various crumbs away, and Sam’s face is more than a little rosy.
Gimli has glued himself to Ailin; each compliment he pays her earns him a fresh round of laughter. As he assures her she is the most charming, beautiful, and desirable woman in all of Minas Tirith—nay, in all of Gondor—Ailin leans towards the dwarf even more, her eyes glowing. The one thing that keeps me from being amused at Gimli vigorously courting a duplicate of Eowyn is the spectacle the last two members of our party are creating.
For Merry is sprawled out on a carpet near the fireplace with Ettelie lying beside him, her head cradled in the crook of his elbow. Their low murmurs form a counterpoint to Merry’s caresses; his strokes slide along her curves, and his free hand wanders down between her legs occasionally. Ettelie’s posture is relaxed and more than ready; as Merry’s hand glides down again, she shifts her hips slightly to hold him in place.
And Pippin? He sits astride Vandiel’s lap as he kisses her with energetic ardor. He discarded his coat and weskit a while ago, and his shirt is open to the waist. His hands rove over her with a startling degree of practiced skill; the youngest of the hobbits he may be, but he clearly did not exaggerate his level of experience. He rubs her breasts again, causing her nipples to swell still more as she moans softly. I know Vandiel is a courtesan well trained in the art of pretending desire, but the hot blood in her cheeks and the writhing of her body proclaim her to be truly aroused. She slides a hand behind Pippin’s head to deepen their kiss, her tongue intertwining with his. At this, Legolas stirs impatiently.
“It is time to take the lady upstairs and find a room, I think—shall I make the suggestion? As I told you before, I have no real desire to watch . . .”
“Not quite yet, I think,” Melime responds coolly. She turns to Ravenne, only recently returned and sitting negligently next to Legolas. “My dear, would you dance again?”
“Certainly.” The musicians, who have been playing in the background all this while, hurry forward and move the table as Ravenne advances to the center of the room. Her new attire, if one can call it that, consists of colorful silk veils draped and tucked around her figure; I realize it will take very little movement to send them tumbling off.
The drummer and flutist sit cross-legged before the fireplace as Melime raises her voice. “Gentlemen, your attention, if you will! I apologize for interrupting your revels, but Ravenne has kindly agreed to perform once more. She dances in the style of Harad this time, and I believe all of you will find it pleasurable, to say the least.” She gestures to the drummer, who strikes up a wild beat redolent of desert nights and barbaric rituals. The flutist adds a keening descant that vibrates with longing.
Ravenne stands stock still, her face turned upward and her arms above her head. As the drum’s insistent rhythm pounds on, her hips sway and her shoulders roll, making her arms ripple through the air. Her stomach pulses up and down, and she begins to turn round slowly. Rainbow silks swirl around her as she picks up speed. She stops suddenly, arms and hips moving as they did before, and then she twirls the other way while a veil flutters to the floor. Faster and faster she spins, and another veil falls, and another, and still another . . .
As the drum gives a final resounding thump and the flute’s last notes wail sharply, Ravenne flings herself to her knees, her body arched back over her feet, her head touching the carpet, and her arms extended. She is totally naked but for a gold chain about her hips and another dangling between her quivering breasts, and her skin glistens with sweat. Her every physical attraction, even the most intimate, is displayed for our delectation. I mop my brow, for it is much warmer in here now beyond question, and glance at Legolas. His ear points are a glowing red and he shifts uncomfortably in his chair as he drains his wine glass again.
“Got to you at last, I see,” I whisper, the chance to twit him too good to pass up.
“Well . . .” he says thoughtfully, “she is rather well-endowed, is she not? And she is a very skillful dancer, too.”
“Which means she undoubtedly moves equally well in a more private space, I imagine.”
Before Legolas can retort, Ravenne straightens up and bows to all of us on one knee, her hand on her heart. We applaud loudly, while Pippin and Merry add a few cheers. She does not veil herself, but walks back to her chair and sits down in all her exposed glory. She leans over and gives Legolas a quick kiss on one of his ears. Her smile is definitely that of a cat drinking cream.
“You enjoyed that?” she purrs to the now rather unnerved elf.
“Yes, I did,” he replies. “You must have trained long, to have such skill at the dance.” He lifts her hand to his lips, and when he lowers it I see his mask reform, his blushing ears the only hint of what lies beneath.
I hear boots clumping, and Gimli advances towards Melime with Ailin. “Very fine, very fine indeed, but Mistress Ailin and I wish to speak together in more privacy. I promised to teach her some dwarven poems few have heard. If you will excuse us, Mistress?”
“But of course.”
“Wait a moment . . .” Ailin leans down and whispers to Melime, who gives her a quick nod. Ailin smiles and takes Gimli’s hand. “Come, Master Dwarf!”
They walk out of the room as Gimli looks up at Ailin with an expression that can only be described as besotted. No sooner do they vanish into the hallway than Sam and Nyerelle are climbing to their feet.
“We go to the kitchens, to fetch more food and my recipes,” says Nyerelle brightly.
“I see.” Again, a whisper to Melime and an answering nod. Hobbit and girl depart hand in hand, their faces radiant.
Lotiel helps Frodo off the couch where they have been sitting. Concerned, for he is pale and openly weary, I begin to stand up. “Are you ill?” I ask.
Frodo waves me down. “Just a little tired, that’s all. Lotiel promises a very hot bath and a long back rub, and that should set me to rights soon enough.”
Melime joins the two of them and gazes at Frodo with deep compassion. She whispers to Lotiel, who slips an arm around Frodo’s shoulders.
“Come, my dearest Master Frodo. Let me ease your hurts for a while, I beg of you.” They walk out slowly, Lotiel’s head bent solicitously towards the hobbit, her expression full of tender affection.
A hand tugs at my sleeve; I discover Merry has sidled up to me while Ettelie confers with Melime. “I just wanted to thank you for bringing us here, it’s a glorious place, truly. You don’t think she might start something like this in the Shire, do you?” he says, shooting Melime a covert glance.
“You are very welcome, and as to the other, I do not know. You will have to ask her yourself later.”
“I will.” He grins at me, and I grin back, reflecting again on how much Eowyn and I owe him. Ettelie strolls up then and embraces him.
“And so to bed, now!” she says gaily.
“There’s no place like it,” replies Merry. They wrap their arms about one another; in Merry’s case his hand is perfectly positioned to cup one of her breasts, and he does so as they amble away.
Ravenne looks at Legolas expectantly. He clears his throat and takes her hand again. “My dear lady, you are lovely and charming beyond anything I have met in this city. But, alas, I must forego any more of your company on this evening.” He looks at Pippin, entangled again with Vandiel, and a smile more mischievous than any I have seen from him crosses his face. “There is one favour you can do for me, however, and I will gladly compensate you if you are willing.”
“What is it?” Legolas whispers into Ravenne’s ear; her brows arch up as he continues.
“Are you quite sure?” she asks warily.
“Oh, yes. It would make me very happy, believe me.”
She shrugs, gets up, and walks over to Pippin and Vandiel. She sits beside them and murmurs quietly; Vandiel laughs in delight and Pippin’s face lights up joyfully.
“Most certainly I can share! There’s more than enough here for both of us!” Vandiel chuckles as I look at Legolas in astonishment.
“You sent her to join Pippin?”
“Why not? He wanted two, and here is his chance.”
Melime smiles broadly and goes to speak to the two ladies, while Pippin hops off of Vandiel’s lap and stands in front of Legolas and I, a lunatic grin spread over his impish face.
“I won’t forget this, Legolas! You’re the most generous friend any hobbit has ever had. She is so very beautiful—are you quite sure about this?”
“Yes, I am sure. Lovely she may be, but I am not particularly comfortable with this sort of arrangement. Better for you to savor her company and Vandiel’s, and knowing you are brings me contentment.”
“And you!” Pippin turns to me. “Did you do this to pay me back for helping to save your life? If you did, it’s the very, very best repayment I could possibly get. Two pretty women all to myself, and from the Big Folk, too!”
I find myself smiling broadly, all previous emotions washed away by Pippin’s unabashed glee. “No, this is not repayment, but if you wish to treat it so, that contents me too.”
Before Pippin can speak, Melime lays a hand on his shoulder and bends down to his ear. I cannot hear what she is saying, but Pippin, if it is at all possible, looks even happier.
“Really?” he asks Melime.
“Yes, indeed, they are most honoured to do this.”
“They don’t want to charge me anything—how wonderful!” I feel my jaw drop, while Legolas appears to have just been clubbed. “This is the best place I have ever visited! Thank you so much, Faramir!”
“Go, and enjoy yourself.” Melime says, her smile indulgent.
Vandiel and Ravenne flank Pippin on either side; he reaches up and slips his arms around their waists, and the three of them set out for the doors. The two ladies’ bodies sway alluringly, while Pippin definitely struts a bit as his hands slip downward. I struggle to blot out what this salacious trio intends to do this night . . .
The doors clink shut, and I stare at Melime. “You’re not making him pay?”
“Oh,” she says serenely, “I am not taking money from any of them, if the truth be told. None of my girls want to, partly since they are such heroes, but also because they are so gallant.”
“Not even the dwarf?” Legolas demands in a strangled voice.
“Especially not Master Gimli! Ailin is so taken with him, I am worried she may depart and go with him to his mines! And the little halfling gentlemen are so very enchanting, too—I am sorry that I have given up entertaining my callers privately. They are quite winning, aren’t they?” She beams at me.
“Yes, they are, but I suppose I did not realize how much,” I said cautiously.
“Very much, I will tell you. I am curious now to see this Shire of theirs.” She grows thoughtful. “If all of the menfolk there are like your dear friends, I might persuade some of my women to help me start a new establishment there. I gather from what they say that there are no places such as mine in their home?”
“No, no, there isn’t,” I say, feeling dazed.
“I wonder too what the Shire ladies are like. Perhaps I should go exploring and see if any hobbit lasses might wish to work for me. If they are as pretty and charming as these lads, they would be a great success here!”
I suddenly see images of petite, curly-haired hobbit girls flocking about the men of Minas Tirith, smiling and sweet, offering to do . . . No, I tell myself. Don’t think about that, or you will go mad. I choose to be diplomatic. “I do not know, my dear Melime. Hobbits who belong to the fairer sex are beyond my personal knowledge.”
“Something to plan for then, I think. Now, if the two of you will excuse me, I must speak to Altallo before I go to bed.” She kisses me full on the lips. “Thank you for bringing your friends.” With a swish of her skirts, she leaves us.
Legolas and I drink more wine in a stupefied silence. Finally the elf speaks.
“I said it would be an interesting evening. It has been that, and highly educational as well. Did you know women of your race would like hobbits and dwarves so much?”
“I had no idea, believe me,” I tell him. “I daresay it sounds petty, but I usually had to pay . . .”
“Obviously, you need to be shorter and hairier,” Legolas says, his mouth curling up. “Did I make a mistake in declining Mistress Ravenne’s invitation, or would I have not received the privilege since I am tall?”
As I contemplate his words, and mentally review what I have seen tonight, the humor of it all strikes me forcibly. The laughter bubbles up in me, and I cannot stop.
“You find my idea amusing?” Legolas asks dryly.
“I find this entire night to be amusing! Those canny little devils! All of those women for free! Can you believe it?”
“We must.” He pauses. “And as Pippin said, he did help save your life.”
“Yes, only to see him outclass me where it truly pricks the ego, let me tell you.” I shake my head as I keep laughing.
“Shall you tell Eowyn about this?”
“I doubt it, though she might find it funny too. But I prefer not to gamble on that, thank you.” I fill our glasses. “And I am not sure thatlearning Merry and Pippin may be the future whoremasters of the Shire would warm her heart.”
Legolas chuckles. “Another picture to haunt the mind. You are right, I suspect. But you do not really think the two of them would be interested in such a business, do you?”
“I wouldn’t be the least surprised, especially Melime wants to explore her opportunities in that direction. Brace yourself.”
“Indeed!” He lifts his glass. “I give you another toast, my Lord Steward. To lusty hobbits and crimson joys—may they never end.”
“I’ll drink to that. I just hope we can claim a share of the proceeds, because we will never be short of coin again!”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.