1. A Dangerous Hunger
'We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?' - Christina Rossetti
Haldir watched the grey clouds gather along the borders of Lothlórien, dark and threatening. A storm was brewing, and a big one from the look of it. A shiver rippled through him. An alien feeling since, behind the fences, no flash of lightning or breath of cold ever entered.
A horseman appeared, galloping through the sparser forest beyond. Haldir, with movements swift and silent, shrugged back his cloak and readied an arrow, scanning the landscape for any sign of threat or attack accompanying the lone rider. Yet the horseman was not dressed for stealth. His fine robes looked to be of silk, their bright blue, yellow, and red a sharp contrast to the darkening sky and grey-boled trees his black charger deftly evaded.
The horseman slowed only slightly at the stream that marked the boundary past which no traveler could transgress, yet the horse did not shy or turn aside, neither did the horseman pull up. Haldir sent an arrow past the man's head, slicing through the scarf that veiled his face from nose to neck. A warning shot. There would be no other.
At the instant he loosed his shot, Haldir called "Daro!" The man's veil fell, revealing his face, and he pulled on the reins abruptly, causing the horse to rear. By the time the horse's forelegs again struck the ground Haldir stood before the man, an arrow aimed at his heart.
A moment spun out of time as they gazed upon each other with identical expressions of curious amazement. The man was an Easterling - of that Haldir was certain, though in all his long years of guarding the marches of his homeland he had never seen one up close. The man's black eyes glittered in the bright sunlight, boring into Haldir's pale grey ones. Haldir was mesmerized by the stranger's dark skin and rugged look. He had an aquiline nose and neatly trimmed mustache that trailed into a triangular beard with a long, dagger-like point. His head was covered in a blue turban but his long hair could be seen hanging down his back beneath a strip of silk that trailed from his headgear. His hair was raven black and glossy, straight, and as silken in appearance as the robes he wore.
Even though Haldir's arrow pointed in lethal reproach he knew the moment he gazed upon the man's face he would not take his life. He gathered his wits and stared the man down, making sure his expression did not give away his hesitation to inflict harm. Something was amiss here. The man had crossed a stream protected by the Lady's wards. Haldir would not have believed it possible had he not seen it with his own eyes. His curiosity piqued, he decided he wished to know more before making a decision on the fate of this interloper.
"Who are you and how come you to Lothlórien?" Haldir demanded, his voice strong and steady.
"I am called Khazul, and I come seeking trade with your people," the man replied, his smile that of a merchant, unctuous and conciliatory.
The smile stirred a memory in Haldir of stories he had heard of the great bazaars in the cities of the East. There, wares and pleasures of the flesh from the farthest reaches of the lands of Men could be bought and, it was said, anything could be had for a price.
Haldir had been taught that the Eastern lands were decadent, that the men there worshipped gods of power and cruelty before whose stone-carved likenesses sacrifices of burnt animals and people were laid in petition for favors or influence. Yet looking upon this man Haldir felt the stories had, perhaps, deceived him. For what could be so evil in surrendering on occasion to one's desire? Haldir banished the idea at once. To have even thought it made him exceedingly uncomfortable.
"What have you to trade?" he asked, his eyes roaming every inch of the man and his horse. "I see no caravan, no wagons or chests of goods." His aim did not waver as he spoke.
The man reached for a bag on his saddlebow and Haldir's hands tightened upon the bowstring. The man's hands flew up at once.
"Peace! I have no weapon. I have only my wares in this bag. Will you allow me to show you?"
Haldir nodded. "Keep your movements slow."
The man complied, loosening the strings and upending the bag, sending a shower of large, pinecone-shaped objects capped with pointed green leaves tumbling to the ground. Haldir had never seen the like of such before and one eyebrow shot up questioningly.
"These look like they should be dangling at the end of a mace. What manner of wares are these?"
"In my land they are called 'pineapples' and they are for eating, not warring," the man laughed, his voice a richly accented baritone that sent a pleasurable tingle through Haldir.
Haldir lowered his bow and returned the arrow to his quiver, still alert and ready should the man attempt any untoward movements. "Dismount and bring one to me. Let me see it," he said.
The man sprang lightly from his horse and gathered the pineapples, returning them to his sack, save for a small one he tossed to Haldir. The Elf caught it nimbly and looked it over.
"The skin is rough and sharp," he observed, giving the man a doubtful look. "How does one eat it?"
"If you will take me to your Lord, I will demonstrate," the man replied.
At the mention of his Lord, Haldir remembered that his charge was not to trade pleasantries with every stranger who entered the wood, especially strangers who breached the stream's wards. He tossed the pineapple back to the man.
"Outsiders are not allowed within our borders these dark times, nor do we trade with emissaries who bear no standard or sign from their masters. I fear you have traveled in vain for you may go no farther."
"I bear no standard or sign for I have no master. I have a plantation in my homeland were I grow this fruit which is portable, durable, and has a taste sweeter than honey. Why, you might carry this small pineapple in your pack and have fresh fruit instead of hardtack when you are on your patrols."
"We have waybread which sustains us well enough, and the hardships of patrol make the homecoming all the more agreeable. Elves are not as profligate in their desires as Men. We do not shrink from adversity, nor allow our hearts to rule us."
The man nodded, barely hiding a condescending smile. "Yes, the Elves are truly a wise and noble people."
Haldir's eyes narrowed dangerously and his hand went to his knife, though he did not draw it. "You have overstayed your meager welcome within these borders, he said tersely. "Kindly turn back now. You shall not pass."
The man's expression became serious as he looked back across the stream where a wild storm was raging. The branches of the trees lashed about in the high winds and a curtain of heavy rain obscured the landscape. He turned back to Haldir with an apologetic look and made an obsequious bow.
"There is a custom in my country that if a traveler asks for shelter his host may not refuse him. Is this custom unknown among your people?"
The set of Haldir's jaw remained firm. "It is."
The man's face fell, his look became pleading. "Only until the storm passes, lord. I beseech you."
Haldir's hand dropped from his knife hilt and he nodded. "Very well, you may remain until the storm ends but you may not enter our lands. Wait here and I shall take you to shelter."
He whistled loudly and for a long moment nothing happened. Then, silently, like apparitions, a group of Elves in grey cloaks emerged from the surrounding trees. They eyed the man with solemn interest, awaiting orders from their leader, making neither sign nor sound. Uncanny and dangerous they appeared and the man shifted uncomfortably under their scrutiny as Haldir spoke to them quietly in their own tongue. When he finished, they turned and melted into the trees as silently as they had appeared.
"Come," Haldir said.
The man returned the sack to his saddle and took his horse's reins, but Haldir shook his head. "Tie your horse over there," he pointed to a sapling around which grew a lush carpet of green grass, "My men will see that he comes to no harm."
The man seemed unhappy to be leaving his mount but he obeyed without protest, taking the sack of pineapples from the saddle before turning to accompany Haldir into the forest.
"Why did you bring those?" Haldir asked. "No one will steal from you in these lands."
"It is the custom in my country to repay a kindness with a kindness," the man replied handing Haldir the sack. "I make a present of these fruits to you and your Lord in gratitude for allowing me refuge within your borders."
Haldir returned the sack to him. "It is not necessary."
The man shrugged. "As you wish."
They continued without speaking until they came to a place where the undergrowth grew thick around the massive trees. Haldir entered through a space in the foliage the man would not have seen had he been wandering the forest on his own, so well hidden it was. Haldir stood aside and motioned to a wrought iron stair hugging the trunk of the tree, spiraling upward. The man looked at it dubiously.
"Forgive me, lord, my land has no trees of this. . . grandeur. Are you certain it is safe?"
Haldir smiled, amused by the man's trepidation. "As safe as traveling several hundred leagues through Orc-infested and hostile lands to bring fruit to the Elves."
The man paused and then laughed heartily, clapping Haldir on the shoulder. "Yes, indeed. I thank you," he said, and began to climb the stair.
Haldir followed behind, admiring the broad shoulders and noble posture, allowing himself the pleasure of watching the man's silken robes glide the swells of his firm, round buttocks. He could not fathom why a nobleman who had lands to oversee would travel so far on such an odd and ultimately futile errand as attempting to open trade with Lórien. Yet Men were odd creatures, often acting rashly when a few moments of contemplation would reveal to them their best course of action.
When they reached the top of the stair they stepped onto a large flet, as spacious and generously equipped as any woodsman's cottage. The thick wooden platform was solid and smooth beneath their feet. A metal cook stove was on their right and two wooden chairs and a small table sat next to it, along with a wooden cupboard and a small water keg. To the left was a wardrobe that stood the height of an average man and at the back of the flet, centered between table and wardrobe, was a wrought iron bed, the headboard in the shape two facing swans, with a thick goose down mattress overlaid with a down-stuffed comforter. The man looked around, amazed at the unexpected domesticity of his surroundings while Haldir went to the stove and started a fire. He pulled a kettle and cups from the cupboard and began to make tea, motioning the man to a chair.
"Rest yourself. Night is falling and if the storm does not pass before dark, you may spend the night here. Will that be acceptable according to your custom?"
"It will indeed!" the man exclaimed, taking off his traveling cloak and indicating the wardrobe. "With your leave, lord."
"You have my leave, but you need not call me 'lord' for I am only a guardsman. Among my people I am called Haldir."
"Then please, you must call me Khazul," the man said with a bow.
"You have stated your name before. Should I find it necessary to address you I shall use it," Haldir replied, taking the kettle from the fire and filling the cups.
The man sat down and Haldir joined him, sipping his tea as he gazed impassively at his guest. The man stretched out his long legs, sipping his tea as well then nodding in approval. "This is very good. Whence do the Elves procure their tea?"
"Why? Do you have a plantation for that as well?" Haldir asked, unsmiling.
"Is small conversation another pleasure your people deny yourselves?" the man returned with a gleaming white grin.
Haldir liked the contrast of the man's white teeth and bronze face. There were some pleasures he did, indeed, allow himself but the man was not likely to discover them. However, he felt it prudent to soften his demeanor. If he was to spend time with the man there was no reason not to learn a bit about his land, of which he knew so little.
A ghost of a grin quirked his lips. "In point of fact, Elves love conversation large or small, and song and wine as well."
"Only once have I seen an Elf, one of the woods he was said to be, golden haired and as beautiful as a woman. Many of my people believe your race to be only legend."
"And many of my race believe your people to be decadent swine," Haldir said. "No offense." He inclined his head in apology but his eyes glittered with amusement.
"None taken," Khazul grinned. "I have always been of the opinion that it is a matter of how one looks at things. Is it decadent to enjoy a glass of wine, an elegant meal, a night with a beautiful woman? Have not the gods given us these things that we might be happy in their service?"
"The Valar have also given us the wisdom to exercise temperance in our pleasures," Haldir said, "that we may be happy longer."
"Ah, which is as it should be for the immortal Elves, but Men have only a short time to enjoy worldly pleasures."
Haldir, being of moderate age among his people, had never given much thought to the Gift of Men. He supposed if he were mortal he might also feel he needed to crowd as much into his time within the circles of the world as possible.
"Perhaps," he conceded, sipping his tea thoughtfully.
"And what do the eldest of your race have to show for their many years of wisdom and self-denial, perhaps only the regret of what might have been. No?"
Haldir was brought up short by this. He thought of his Lord and Lady, ancient, wise Elves who barely touched anymore, their only child beyond their reach until they chose to sail or until they died and were reunited with her, in renewed bodies, in Aman. He looked at the man sitting across from him. He exuded a raw, primal energy, the scent of exotic spices wafting from his silk-clad skin. Haldir could hear his heartbeat from where he sat, feel the magnetism of his aura. He swallowed hard and looked away as he replied.
"Our eldest have seen the joys and sorrows of the world. They know that there are no regrets only new opportunities."
"Yes, you are right of course," Khazul agreed. "All of life does not have to be lived in the space of a day, or even a span of years. Every opportunity brings the possibility of multiple paths - and thus new opportunities."
"And sometimes our paths bring us back where we began," Haldir said. He rose and cleared the tea things away. The darkness became visible above the treetops and Haldir pulled a lamp from the cupboard and lit it, chasing away the gathering shadows.
"It appears I must stay through the night, does it not?" Khazul asked.
"Yes, I have had no signal from my men indicating the storm beyond our borders has ended so you may stay." He paused and considered the man a moment. "I am curious about one thing, if you will indulge me."
"Ask me anything, Hahl-di-yer," the man said expansively, leaning back so that he balanced on the back legs of the chair.
Haldir started at the sound of his name. How. . . extraordinary it sounded with the man's Eastern accent, the trill on the "r" sent a shiver up his spine. It took him a moment to recover enough to ask his question.
"How did you cross the stream?"
Khazul's eyes were onyx in their stoniness but he answered genially enough. "If you are referring to the wards, I did not know they were there until I passed beyond them." He reached into the neck of his tunic and pulled out a silver amulet in the likeness of a dragon with a red jewel for an eye. "I bought this from a vendor before I left. I was told Elves had magic and that this would protect me from any spell that might control my thoughts."
Haldir's eyes were drawn to the jewel like iron to lodestone. "Anything can be had for a price," he murmured as though in a trance. Then he shook off the pleasant feeling of warmth that was beginning to numb his senses, glaring at the man. "You said you carried no weapon," he accused.
"I do not. How can this simple little jewel be a problem?" Khazul asked innocently.
"Much power can be put into a small stone," Haldir said. "Take it off and put it in the wardrobe with your cloak. I will not have you wear it while you sleep."
"Forgive me, Hahl-di-yer, truly I did not know." Khazul hastened over to the wardrobe and put the jewel away and out of sight. He turned back and smiled his charming smile. "There, it is gone. I shall not put it on again."
Haldir relaxed when the wardrobe door closed. The creeping warmth the jewel had caused to grow within him began to dissipate once it was no longer visible, but only slowly. Here was a power he did not recognize, nothing like the ring of the Lady that kept their lands peaceful and fair. "It is unwise to carry magical objects, Khazul, especially when you do not know their purpose."
"You are right, of course," the man said. "I thought it a protection only. I should have mentioned it before."
"Yes, that object is much more important than the pineapples you carry. Have a care when you return to your homeland that the jewel does not lead you into harm."
"I shall. Thank you for your concern." Khazul said, looking relieved. He returned to his chair and picked up the sack of pineapples from the floor, placing them on the table. "Your tea was very nice indeed but I wish for something a bit more filling. May I?"
Haldir suppressed a sigh. "Yes, yes. If you must. I know you will allow me no peace until I taste this fruit of yours." He waved his hand in resignation.
"You sound as if you are being asked to do something unpleasant," Khazul laughed. "This will be most pleasant, I assure you." He nodded at the knife at Haldir's belt. "With your leave?"
Haldir handed over the knife, hilt first, watching as the man took the small pineapple from the sack and, laying it on its side, hacked off the top whence the spiked leaves sprouted. He pushed the piece away then sliced the fruit, cutting away the skin. He cored each slice with the sharp knife point, creating a golden ring.
"This is most impractical for patrols," Haldir said as he watched the man work. "It requires too much preparation."
The man only laughed as he picked up the first slice and handed it to Haldir.
"Try it. You need not use them for only for patrols. They add sweetness to any meal or feast."
Haldir took the slice offered and bit into it, his eyes lighting with interest as the flavor drenched his taste buds. "You are right, this is very good, sweet yet tangy. A most unusual taste."
The man beamed in satisfaction. "Just as I told you. Now will you not tell your Lord?"
"Trade with the East is not possible at this time," Haldir said firmly. "We will not open our borders to lands whose people are under the sway of the Dark Lord."
"I do not know of what you speak," Khazul said. "I have no direct dealings with any 'Dark Lord.' I sell to all who will pay."
"Be that as it may, your journey is over," Haldir said, reaching unconsciously for another slice. "You must leave upon the morrow."
"Then so I shall. I will not presume more upon our friendship, for I like you very much Hahl-di-yer." The man took the slice of pineapple between his lips, sucking the juice gently from the edge before biting through the ring with his strong teeth. The movement was strangely erotic and Haldir found himself enveloped in a sudden flush of warmth.
Haldir gulped and quickly ate the slice of pineapple he was holding, "You may not presume us to be friends," he said curtly. "I have offered you shelter only out of courtesy, nothing more."
"Why, Hahl-di-yer, I believe you are blushing," Khazul said with a teasing smile. "Your pale skin is most fair this way, like the bud of a summer rose."
"The air is sometimes close within the trees," he replied, his deliberate falsehood deepening his blush.
"Yes, it has gotten quite warm," Khazul agreed. He took off his turban and caftan, tossing them atop the wardrobe.
When the turban was removed Khazul's hair fell almost to his waist, thick and black with adornments of small colorful beads and metal clasps scattered throughout. He returned to his chair, brushing past Haldir as he did, the movement seeming to be mere happenstance. Wreathed in the man's musk and charged by the mingling of their heat through silk, Haldir drew upon his stoic reserve and pushed his traitorous thoughts aside. Elves were different from Men, stronger. He would not give in, he would not.
"Tell me Hahl-di-yer, is it true what I have heard of the Elves?" Khazul asked offhandedly. "That it is the decree of your gods that to lie with a woman means you are bound for eternity? Among my people it is rumored that your people have found a way around this command."
"This is not a subject for casual discussion," Haldir snapped, flustered.
"As you wish," Khazul said, eating another slice of pineapple in the same maddeningly seductive fashion.
Haldir groaned aloud, his reserve weakening. 'No!' he told himself. 'It is wrong and wicked.' He reached for his knife just as the man was reaching for another slice of pineapple and their hands touched. The man looked deeply into Haldir's eyes - black locked to grey, night to stormy dawn. No warning shot this, but an arrow straight to its target.
Khazul's hand rested upon Haldir's. He ran a thumb over the back of it enticingly while he lifted a slice of pineapple to Haldir's mouth with his other hand. Haldir's lips did not part immediately but there was no longer any question of resistance and part they did. The slice of sweet fruit touched them, the thin membrane full and ready to burst into flavor at the smallest breach. Haldir bit down upon the fragile morsel, the juice flooding his palate, the sharp tang like the tactile manifestation of the man's dark-eyed lust. He swallowed hard, his eyes fixed upon Khazul's, but made no move to pull away as the man took a bite of the golden ring and then offered him another taste.
Haldir's tongue flicked out to capture the juice welling from ring's bitten edge but Khazul pulled the pineapple just out of his reach with a tantalizing smile. Haldir leaned forward and Khazul seemed to relent, offering the fruit again. But just as Haldir was about to claim his prize, Khazul teased the slice away and licked off the droplet of juice, then ate it slowly and with relish.
One part of Haldir wanted to take up his knife and cut Khazul's throat for his shrewd presumptiveness but the other part. . . Oh, the other part wanted this man, needed him, as he had not allowed himself to want, allowed himself to need, in a very long time. Heat raced through Haldir, spinning his heart's languid rhythm into a tempest of primal furor.
He seized Khazul, yanking him to his feet, wanting more, eager to taste his spicy flesh, to feel those magnificent silk-clad buttocks within his greedy hands. He struggled to pull him into a clinch but Khazul thwarted his attempt, holding his wrists firmly, grinning that maddening half-mocking, half-lustful smile that Haldir was determined to transform into pliant awe.
"Are you certain this is what you want, Hahl-di-yer? I would not wish to lead you down an impious path, one not of your choosing."
Haldir growled low in his throat. "If you are playing a game, my Easterling friend, you are doing so at your peril."
Khazul's eyes glowed with fierce light. "I assure you, my Elven friend, I take my pleasures very seriously indeed." He grabbed Haldir's collar in both hands and ripped his tunic down the middle in one swift gesture, baring his chest, pausing to let his dark gaze roam the muscular, hairless expanse with appreciation. Haldir gasped, taken aback by the man's strength and forcefulness which he now realized he had woefully underestimated. Yet to be the object of a look such as Khazul bestowed upon him was decadence made flesh. Haldir's skin goose-pimpled with excitement.
Haldir watched Khazul's eyes drift down his body in the wake of his strong hand and his ribs rose and fell erratically as his arousal intensified. Slowly, purposefully, Khazul ran a bronze hand firmly down the midline of Haldir's body from his neck to his navel drinking in each ripple of skin, each quivering inhalation, like a connoisseur. Haldir had never felt the power of a simple look, felt it in his veins, in the throb of his pulse, as he did at this moment.
With a smile of triumph, the man ripped away the laces of Haldir's leggings watching his arousal spring hard and ready from the darkened fabric, then returned his gaze to Haldir's eyes as though daring him to deny the proof of his desire. Haldir gasped sharply but his pale body glowed with the flush of his mounting passion. Khazul placed a hand on his shoulder and seized Haldir's arousal, masturbating him with swift, firm strokes. Haldir shuddered, his grey eyes hooded with ecstasy, and gripped Khazul's shoulders, panting, his hips jerking to the pace of the man's unrelenting onslaught.
Haldir let the sensations sing through him, relinquishing all thoughts of right or wrong, letting himself experience the moment as never before. In the past he had taken such pleasure as the Valar and Elvish custom allowed with his warrior brethren, but never had he sought release other than to ease his occasional loneliness, or when approached by another for similar sharing of bodily need. But this - this was pleasure for its own sake, raw quintessential licentiousness, and he loved it, craved it, with every nerve in his body. He felt the tension build, like a bowstring before an arrow is loosed. He dug his fingers deeply into the man's shoulders, fighting for control.
Khazul slowed his movements, leaning in to nip Haldir's earlobe, his tongue slipping up the rim of his ear to the sensitive point. Haldir's eyes shut tight, his body trembling as the man's mustache tickled him pleasurably, the silk of his tunic glided sensuously over his chest. . . Haldir's hands sought out that beautiful black mane, grabbing generous fistfuls of the glossy strands then letting them flow like water through his fingers. A single word escaped him, one he had never said in the heat of passion, one he had thought to hear from Khazul instead of uttering in a broken voice. . .
"Yes, Hahl-di-yer, please is what I seek to do," Khazul crooned softly.
Khazul reached one hand for the pineapple as he continued to lave Haldir's ear with gentle sweeps of his tongue. Slowly, so slowly Haldir did not immediately apprehend what was happening, Khazul maneuvered him to the bed. He gave Haldir a slight push and he fell, his light body barely denting the thick goose down mattress. He watched in fascination as Khazul placed a pineapple ring over each of his nipples, one over his navel, then slipped two of them upon the skewer of his manhood. The aromatic scent filled his nostrils, the slight chill of the fruit, cooler in temperature than the air of the talan, sending a shiver of delight through his heated loins. His mind refused to believe what his eyes were seeing. Would the man really be so wanton as to do what it appeared he would do? Would he really be so wanton as to allow it?
Haldir knew the answer at almost the same moment his mind formed the question for Khazul bent over him, his feet on either side of his own, his hands sinking deeply into the mattress on either side of his arms and began to caress his right nipple with soft, full lips. The man slowly nibbled away at the pineapple, his teeth brushing Haldir's chest, taking small love bites along with the pieces of fruit, laving each nipple enticingly as he savored the Elf. Haldir had never known the pleasure of having another's lips and tongue worship his body as this Easterling was doing. He moaned, placing a hand on the man's arm to anchor himself as his body rode each wave of pleasure to its apex then eased into calmer waters when Khazul moved from more to less sensitive areas of his torso.
Khazul dipped his tongue deeply into Haldir's navel, wiggling it playfully before spearing the golden ring with its tip. He lifted his head, hovering the ring over the Elf's parted lips and Haldir rose up for a taste, only to have the ring ascend just out of his reach. With a groan of frustration he craned his neck upward and Khazul lowered his head, allowing him to claim his prize, the fire in his gaze inflaming Haldir's lust. Their tongues touched as Haldir grasped the ring in his teeth and Khazul then released it, his teeth grasping the opposite side. They looked into each other's eyes, then, at the same moment, bit into the pineapple, their lips brushing, the juice flowing over and between them, tasting the fruit, tasting each other, as they fell into a deep, soul-searing kiss.
The kiss lengthened apace with Haldir's arousal, their tongues dancing, sparring, gliding together as they drank in, and fed on, one another's desire. When they parted it was with the anticipation, the promise, of greater pleasures ahead. Khazul worked his way down Haldir's body, biting with both gentleness and aggression, and Haldir arched into both with equal avidity. He felt the man's breath, heavy with passion, caress the head of his manhood and he trembled, waiting for the contact, barely breathing. . . Then Khazul's tongue grazed the pineapple rings, his hands caressing Haldir's thighs as he went to his knees. Haldir bit his lip hard, wanting more contact yet too proud to beg. But Khazul did not make him wait long. With skillful, delicate precision he nibbled the edges of the rings, letting the juice drip in ticklish rivulets down Haldir's pulsing shaft, licking his way back up, repeating the process until the rings were ragged and clung precariously, their juices and his mingling into a sharp, tangy fragrance as exotic as any perfume of the East.
Haldir thrashed his head, the stars above the branches overhead dancing like fireflies before his fevered gaze. On the last upsweep, Khazul reversed direction without warning taking Haldir into mouth, taking the whole of him down his throat in one steady motion. Haldir clutched the mattress in claw-like fingers, moaning with irrepressible abandon. What magic did this man possess to make him feel so lawless and wild, and why was he so thoroughly undisturbed by it? Then the man started to hum, low in his throat, and Haldir lost all sense of reason as his release took him. He thought he cried out, he knew he wept, in his ecstasy, and then the stars went black and he passed out.
When he came around, he was lying on his stomach and Khazul's silk clad body was draped over his back. The damp silk clung to his skin, strong hands clamped his wrists to the bed, the man's tongue toyed cruelly with his ear, and below. . . Haldir sucked in a sharp breath through clenched teeth when the man suddenly entered him. He struggled briefly but the force of his earlier release, the weight of the man pinning him down, his reluctance to escape, all combined to make the fight a quick one and Haldir surrendered without remorse. Khazul did things to him, things that caused him to moan and growl and buck his hips like a mad Warg. Yet, the man rode him expertly, bringing him to full hardness in seconds when he touched upon Haldir's innermost center of pleasure. Haldir's arousal ground into the mattress, the soft ticking stimulating his tender flesh to new heights of bliss. All his life he had watched birds flitting through the trees but never had he known what it was to soar until this moment. He wanted it never to end, but again he felt the building of his release and Khazul took him to the brink then made the leap with him and they reached the sky together, their twin cries of pleasure shaking the boughs above the talan, making them sway as though in the grip of a strong breeze.
Khazul sprinkled small wet kisses over Haldir's ears and neck, stroking his hair, stroking his nude body, still imbedded firmly within him. Haldir brought the man's hand to his lips and kissed his hairy knuckles gratefully, warmly, then clasped them in his own as he drifted into a lethargic, utterly sated, joyous sleep.
Haldir felt a calmness, a sense of floating, of being beyond his body. His eyes fixed on the man standing before him with a look of triumph that was disturbing to the part of his mind that registered his surroundings. He knew he was dressed, standing, his cloak upon his back and he saw that his weapons lay upon the table. His brow knitted briefly. He needed his weapons, did he not? The light was early light, that of the sun just about to break over the horizon, and Haldir thought this odd. Had not he and the man entered the talan only moments ago, just as Anor was setting?
An arm went around his shoulders and steered his heavy feet to the stair. Where was he going? Was Khazul going with him? Within his heart he hoped it were true but his fëar was uneasy. He tried to turn his head but his eyes would focus nowhere but forward.
"Ah, my silver march-warden, what a beautiful pair you will make with my golden Mirkwood prize. I shall discover the secrets of your realms and then I shall be ready to set my eye upon Gondor."
The unease spread through Haldir but his limbs would obey no thought nor command to do other than that which Khazul set him to do. Through sheer force of will he summoned the strength to form a question.
"Who. . .?"
The man laughed, his lovely baritone taking on a cruel edge. "Your lover, my pretty Elf. Your master. Your Dark Lord."
Ice filled Haldir's tranquil heart and a sound almost that of a sob escaped him.
"Do not be afraid, Hahl-di-yer," Sauron said in his Easterling accent, "you will find the East to be a most enlightening place indeed."
Sauron led him down the stair and back the way they had come, to the border. The horse grazed peacefully upon the early morning grass, lifting its head at the approach of its master. Through his fogged stupor Haldir could see the horse's eyes were red. Red as the dragon's eyes in the silver amulet he wore; cursed magic that would keep him in thrall for as long as his lord wished.
He mounted the horse with slow, measured movements and Sauron leapt up behind him. "Say goodbye to your golden wood, my Elf. . . forever!"
Just as he reined the horse around and prepared to kick it into a gallop, a group of guardsmen appeared from the surrounding trees, bows drawn.
"Release him, Easterling!" Orophin ordered.
"His limbs and will are under my control. Shoot and I will see he takes the arrow," Sauron sneered.
Orophin eased the tension on his bowstring. "We cannot risk it," he said to the others, his eyes narrowed in anger. "Let them pass."
Sauron set the horse into a canter, heading for the stream. But just before he reached it, an arrow sang from a tree ahead cutting the chain and taking a generous hunk of Haldir's hair with it as it sped by. The jewel fell to the ground and Haldir, freed from the spell, leapt from the running horse and dashed away from the warded stream. Without the jewel to protect him, Sauron rode into the wards and a flash of light enveloped him and his horse. The horse vanished in a blink and Sauron, with a shriek of pain, transformed into a great bat and flew off into the trees beyond the border. Celeborn's men gave chase but no sign did they ever find of the Master of Shadows.
Haldir knelt upon the ground, his brothers on either side of him, each with a hand on his shoulder. His shame was more than he could bear and he remained there, unable to rise until Celeborn approached. Haldir knew without having to ask that Celeborn had taken the shot that had freed him. He stood before his Lord, his head held high, though he could not meet his eyes.
"I have failed in my duty, my lord. I must resign my post."
Celeborn cupped Haldir's chin gently in his hand and looked into his haunted eyes.
"No, Haldir, you did not fail. You were deceived, but the Lady knew from the moment Sauron crossed the stream that he was here. She sent me to rescue you for she recognized the power of the jewel. Had I been the object of Sauron's deception I might have fared no better."
"You are kind, my lord. I will consider your words."
"I know you have suffered greatly but you must not it let prey on your mind, Haldir. For such is the power of the Dark Lord to corrupt our thoughts even against ourselves."
He went to get his horse and from its saddlebow he retrieved a Mithril box, stowing the amulet within it and placing the box in a small, strong wooden chest upon the horse's back. He mounted then looked down at Haldir. "I do expect you, however, to return with me to Caras Galadhon. The Lady would like to examine you for any lingering effects."
"I shall, my lord," Haldir said with a bow. "Please allow me first to retrieve my weapons."
He returned to the talan and saw his bow and quiver lying on the table. His knife lay there as well, sticky with pineapple juice along with some drying rings of the fruit. A look of melancholy passed over his face as he touched a finger to the juice and brought it to his lips.
'Pure decadence,' he thought with disgust.
He picked up the sack of pineapples and threw them from the tree, regretting the move as soon as it was made.
'Ai, for only one more taste. . .'
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.