7. Thranduil's Surprise
"You fought well, Feredir," Elladan said. "I hope you won't hold my victory against me. It could easily have gone the other way."
"Yes, I'm sure it could have, Peredhel," Feredir replied. "Perhaps we'll need a rematch to see if that is so. You will excuse me, I must get out of this wet armor." He bowed stiffly and strode down the hall, almost running into another elf.
"That wasn't very friendly," grinned Elrohir as he removed his helm and shook his hair out of his eyes.
"I apologize for my brother," said Legolas. "He doesn't lose gracefully. Never has."
Elrohir flexed a shoulder. "I expect I'll feel our contest tomorrow. You got in a few good blows, Legolas."
"For a while, it looked as if you had the advantage of me," said the prince.
"I would have but for that one lucky kick of yours," Elrohir smiled. "Next time I'll have you for sure." Elrohir's eyes were crinkled in amusement and Legolas detected another meaning in his words.
The prince laughed and clapped his hand on Elrohir's shoulder. "Maybe there will be an opportunity for me to trounce you again."
"Not likely, ernil vain," Elrohir said. "I have the measure of you now."
"Well, I'm soaked through," said Elladan, as he peeled off wet gloves. "I wouldn't mind a hot bath before dinner tonight."
Legolas nodded, then beckoned to one of the elves hurrying by who stopped and bowed. "Vande will take care of it," he said. "I look forward to seeing you at dinner."
"Likewise," said Elrohir.
A deep bow from both. Elrohir raised his head and smiled with a flash of white teeth, and then they were disappearing down the hall.
Legolas watched them walk away, moving with the effortless glide of a pair of panthers. A thrill shivered through him as he remembered the forceful look in Elrohir's eye, the throaty husk of his voice as he whispered, "I want you."
Thranduil stood by one of the pillars looking over the preparations for the banquet. He motioned Talagan to his side as soon as the seneschal appeared. "Have you brought the wine?" he asked.
"Yes," said Talagan. "Our most potent variety, the Dorwinion vintage."
"Good," said Thranduil. "That will surely get this stubborn dwarf to start talking. And the surprise, that's prepared as well?"
Talagan looked disgusted. "Yes, as you wished, Sire, although it was an extremely unpleasant task."
"Good. I may actually enjoy our dinner tonight," Thranduil said with an enigmatic smile.
Legolas was deeply suspicious of his father.
The king was sitting next to Náin and for the first time since the dwarf had arrived, Thranduil was laughing and joking with him, frequently beckoning a servant to keep his guests' glasses full. The elven king's cheeks were flushed and his voice became loud.
Oh gods, thought Legolas, he's getting drunk. This never bodes well.
It was a relatively small group of about two dozen invited guests this evening. The dwarf king sat near his counselors, Norin and Grundin, and a dozen other dwarves. Legolas noticed that they seemed unusually quiet and somewhat tense.
Legolas sat toward the end of the table between Elladan and Elrohir who were relaxed and beaming. They were marvelous company, entertaining him with stories of their father's house and their many travels. The prince was beginning to feel as if he'd known them all his life.
"I should like to go to some of these places you speak of," Legolas said.
"Why shouldn't you?" Elladan asked.
Legolas motioned them close and spoke softly. "My father has not permitted me to travel far from Mirkwood." He sighed. "Sometimes I think I should just run off, but I know he'd send his guards after me. I chafe at this confinement."
"We could speak to him. Maybe he'd let you come back to Imladris with us," said Elrohir.
"I sincerely doubt it." Legolas shook his head and then teased, "Especially after your affair with my cousin. He'd just think you were trying to bed me."
"He wouldn't be wrong," Elrohir said calmly.
Legolas could feel his face flush. He turned to look at Elladan and found the peredhel regarding him with a sly smile. The prince took another sip of wine. He knew he was falling hopelessly under the twins' spell and he didn't know quite what to do about it. So far, they had not touched him other than in combat. They seemed to be waiting for him to make a move. He had never felt more naive and unsure of himself.
He realized that his current thoughts about the twins were less than loyal. But Táro was gone, perhaps for good, and Elrohir sat next to him, warm and exciting, his thigh brushing Legolas's under the table. Legolas felt on fire with his need to touch him and be touched by him.
He imagined himself going to their room after dinner, leaning over and claiming Elrohir's lips, kissing him hard and deep, hearing him pant with need, and then feeling Elladan come up behind him, sliding his hands over Legolas's hips and pulling him close . . . .
The prince heard a loud guffaw from Náin and looked up to see the dwarf king pounding Thranduil on the back. A scowl flickered briefly over Thranduil's face, then he turned and beamed a radiant smile at the dwarf.
"So Náin, have you been sufficiently impressed by elven battle skills?" Thranduil asked grandly. "I am curious as to why you find it so fascinating. Are the dwarves planning to invade Mirkwood?"
"My dear suspicious, and may I say, charming King, of course we have no such thought." Náin sat back in his chair and held up his glass for more wine. "But I will shortly tell you what we have in mind." He leaned closer to Thranduil. "The world darkens and becomes more dangerous. We should be allies against the coming storm."
"Exactly my thoughts, my dear dwarf. The dwarves and elves have allied in the past," said the elven king.
"But always uneasily, Thranduil," said Náin, "and for good reasons."
Distantly through the rock wall, they felt the rumbling of thunder. "The storm hasn't abated," Thranduil said and shook his head. "Very bad. Talagan, have you taken precautions?"
"Yes, Sire," the seneschal nodded, his face looking strained.
"Against what, good King?" asked Náin. "Surely your dwelling is well protected against the weather."
"Yes, but they like a good storm. It brings them out."
"Brings what out?" asked Norin, stroking his russet beard.
"The emlyg nibin, the fire lizards."
"You mean those nasty things I saw earlier?" Náin shuddered.
"Yes, usually they hide away in the depths of the caverns, but on nights like this, they swarm." Thranduil's eyes opened wide and he made fluttering motions in the air with his fingers. "Once they swarm, they come out every night for a week until they've mated. And the stench they make, like rotten eggs, only ten times worse." The king wrinkled his nose.
"I have never heard of such a thing," said Grundin, "and I've been in many a cave."
"What is Father up to?" Legolas whispered to Elladan. "I've never heard of the fire lizards swarming either."
"Let us hope it doesn't happen then," said Náin. "I can't abide them. They remind me of, of tiny dragons." He lowered his voice. "That's one of the things I've come to talk to you about. But it can keep for a bit."
The dwarf king stood, fingering his mustache as he spoke. "I'd like to propose a toast to our good friends and gracious hosts, the Mirkwood Elves, and to their charming and beauteous king, Thranduil. In fact, I have come from our halls in the Grey Mountains to propose an alliance of a rather unusual sort between our kingdoms." Náin reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a small velvet bag.
Legolas was carefully watching everyone at the head of the table. He noted the looks of apprehension on the other dwarves' faces and his father's wary but calculating expression. Thranduil turned his head and stared at Talagan, who had moved off to the side door and stood with his hand on the handle. The king mouthed the word, 'Now!'
Now what? Legolas thought as Talagan quietly opened the door and disappeared.
King Náin shook a large jewel-encrusted gold ring into the flat of his hand and held it out to Thranduil. "My dearest King Thranduil, do you know what this ring is and what it represents?"
"I have my suspicions, Náin, but I want you to tell me," Thranduil growled.
"This is the very ring given by the great elven wright, Celebrimbor, to my ancestor, Durin III. It is the only one remaining of the seven great rings of the dwarves. I would return it to the elves to seal our alliance, both of our kingdoms and of our persons. You know the worth of this gift, Thranduil? This ring brings wealth to whoever possesses it. You could have riches beyond your wildest dreams."
Thranduil stood and his eyes flashed fire. He slammed his fist down on the table. "Náin, how dare you insult me and my people in this manner! That ring is bound up with Sauron, the deceiver. Would you destroy me and my kingdom? I reject your offer and I bid you go at once before I slice you open like a river trout!"
The elven king drew a dagger from the sheath at his side and thrust it at the dwarf, stopping short of Náin's belly.
All the dwarves and elves at the table leapt out of their chairs, grabbed knives, glasses and anything that could be used as weapons and stood facing each other in wrath. Legolas and the twins pulled their knives.
Náin remained seated looking over the bristling crowd. He began to laugh heartily. "That, my friend, was the right answer!" he cried.
At that moment, Legolas noticed movement by the side door. A small fire lizard crawled out, flexing leathery wings. It flicked out a tongue. Then another lizard appeared.
Legolas grabbed Elrohir by the sleeve. "Look," he said, pointing.
Suddenly, as if drawn by Thranduil's warning, a dozen fire lizards came flying into the room. Then there were a dozen more; then hundreds: shrieking, swooping, and belching a terrible, sulfurous fume.
Chaos reigned as dwarves and elves batted at the nasty beasts, ducked, tripped over chairs, hurled dishes, and finally scrambled in a helter-skelter mass from the great hall.
"Gods, what a stench," Elladan yelled, holding his nose as he and his brother and Legolas ran from the hall. They attempted to shut the door against the onslaught but already some of the little monsters had escaped.
"This way," called Legolas. They ran down the twisting corridors and clattered down a steep stairway. Legolas missed the last two steps and staggered into the wall, putting his hands out to stop his forward motion. Elladan and Elrohir ploughed into him and they collapsed in a heap at the base of the stairs.
Breathing hard, Legolas looked back up the steps and then at the twins, sprawled on either side of him. A loud guffaw burst from Elrohir, immediately joined by his twin. Legolas's face split in a grin and he began chuckling as well.
"Oh gods, did you see the look on Náin's face when all those lizards started swooping in on us," howled Elrohir.
"I was too busy swatting at the cursed things," laughed Elladan. "Valar, what a stench!"
"I never knew anything could smell that wicked!" cried Elrohir.
"And I thought Náin meant to propose to my father. Oh, that was too good," Legolas laughed, holding his sides.
"I wish he had. I wanted to see Thranduil turn green." Elrohir was choking with mirth.
"Where did those miserable creatures come from?" asked Elladan, getting control of himself. "It just seems a real coincidence that your father talked about swarming fire lizards and then they appeared."
"Yes, doesn't it?" said Legolas. "Curse of Mandos, he engineered the whole thing. I saw Talagan go out the side door and that's where the little beasts came in. I think perhaps I should find our seneschal and have a chat to get to the bottom of all this."
"Oh, I think that can wait," said Elladan. "They could be distracted with this for a long time."
"What do you mean?" Legolas asked.
Still chuckling a little, Elrohir looked into Legolas's eyes. "We mean, ernil vain, that we have better things to do this night." He drew a finger along the prince's cheekbone and across his lips.
The path along Legolas's face tingled where the peredhel had brushed and the prince became reacquainted with his own deep hunger. At last the moment had come. Legolas leaned forward and gently touched his lips to the twin's.
Elrohir kissed him briefly, then backed away and gave Legolas a breathtaking smile. The younger twin slid his arms about the prince and kissed him again. With supple lips, he began slowly, then moved with an unerring rhythm into a frantic, devouring kiss, turning his head and assaulting the prince's mouth for many long minutes.
Legolas felt his heart race and his breath quicken. "Valar's wisdom," he groaned. "Are you as good at, uh, the rest of it, as you are at kissing?"
"Need you ask?" Elladan said from behind him. "My brother and I have studied many things, including the arts of love, and we enjoy sharing that knowledge." He laughed lightly.
"Then I am fortunate to be lying between such skilled artisans," Legolas grinned as he turned and pulled Elladan to him. Elladan kissed him hard, until Legolas saw sparks, then the peredhel broke away precipitously, and looked up the stairs.
"This is no place for such activity," he said and pushed himself upright.
"You are right, brother." Elrohir got up and held a hand out to the prince. "Come, pen vain. In our chambers delight awaits us."
Elrohir glided down the hall, taking care his footfalls made no sound, following Elladan and Legolas swiftly past the areas lit by guttering torches to the shadows beyond. Legolas came to a corner and raised a hand in warning while he peered around it. Elrohir and Elladan cautiously joined him. Elrohir noticed a few lizards scuttle past and then saw Talagan walking swiftly after them carrying a net, and muttering to himself. Elrohir turned and grinned at the other two as they withdrew into the dark.
"Anyone there?" called Talagan, but the elves had moved silently up a flight of stairs.
"Legolas," Elladan whispered, "I don't recognize this part of the palace."
"I'm taking you the long way around," Legolas replied. "No one will follow us."
"Not too long, I hope, pen vain," Elrohir said. He cast his eye over the prince's luscious round buttocks moving under his silk tunic and reached out to run his hand over them, delighting in their firmness. "I may have to take you right here in the hall."
"That has certain attractions," Legolas laughed.
Elrohir pushed the prince against the wall and kissed him again. Ah, the prince's mouth was like wine. He longed to taste other parts of him, to make him writhe and cry. Elrohir brought his knee up, roughly parting Legolas's legs and using his thigh to rock back and forth against the prince's genitals, feeling the prince's shaft harden. Gods, how he wanted to possess the young elf. Legolas gasped against his mouth, his hands coming around and grasping Elrohir's rear. That felt good too.
"Elro!" said Elladan sharply, grabbing him by his collar and hauling him off the other elf. "My apologies, Prince," Elladan bowed slightly, holding his aroused brother at arm's length. "Sometimes my twin is overly impetuous."
Legolas licked his lips. "Umm. I like that about him."
"The operative word here is *haste*, Legolas," Elrohir said, shaking loose from Elladan's grasp. "The faster we get to our room, the sooner you'll feel my mouth on you." He thrust his tongue over his upper lip.
Legolas swallowed hard. "This way," he said.
ernil vain - beautiful prince
pen vain - beautiful one
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