“Yes, all,” he muttered aloud. Next to him Haldir turned over, dragging the covers with him. Melpomaen considered tugging them back, but decided instead to get up. They might not have to report in to the guard, but there was more than enough to do today. Besides packing their gear and arranging for the disposal of anything they could not take, they had been asked to attend King Thranduil this morning.
Yawning, Melpomaen lit the lamp and went into the bathing room. That was a convenience he would indeed miss, not only on the journey home but also after their return. There were no hot springs nor baths out on the borders of Lórien.
By the time he emerged, face washed and hair braided for the day, Haldir had arisen and was pulling on his clothes.
“Good morning, Maen,” he said in cheerful tones.
“Mm.” Melpomaen went over and kissed Haldir’s cheek, then rummaged for his own garments.
“Choose something good,” advised Haldir. “After we eat we’re supposed to go take formal leave of the king. But of course you remember that.” He disappeared for a moment into the other room and came out with the comb, pulling it through his hair and grimacing when he struck a tangle.
“Let me.” Melpomaen enjoyed combing Haldir’s hair, which felt almost alive under his fingers. He sat cross-legged behind Haldir, who perched on the edge of the bed, and drew the comb through the golden strands. When it all lay smooth and shining, he took a lock from each temple and twisted two braids, one behind either ear, to keep Haldir’s hair from falling into his face.
“Thank you,” said Haldir when Melpomaen had finished. “I’d offer to return the favor, but I see you’ve done it for yourself.” He smiled the loving smile that always made Melpomaen’s heart turn over. “So shall we go and break our fast?”
They were later in the mess than usual, and the few Elves left were all finishing their meals quickly, lest they be late for their assigned duties. Erentar stopped before rushing out to say that he would see them that evening. Belegorn waved from the next table, but had no time then to speak.
Rather than in his chambers, King Thranduil spoke to them in the Great Hall, thanking them for services well-rendered over the winter past. His seat was twined with the first flowers of spring, reminding them that the season arrived later here; it would already be nearing summer to the south.
“As a token of that service, and of our esteem, we wish to present you with these rings,” the king said, and Guilin stepped forward to give a ring to Haldir, and then one to Melpomaen.
Slipping the gold band onto the first finger of his right hand, Haldir noticed that the crest bore an image of a stag with three stars caught in its antlers.
“At any time that you may return to Mirkwood,” said Thranduil, “if you show these rings you will be welcomed as one of our own, and given whatever assistance you may require. Though I hope you will need none,” he added, a hint of humor on his lean face.
“Indeed,” Haldir murmured.
Melpomaen said, “If I may inquire, lord king, we have not heard – did the searchers ever discover any trace of the creature that was stealing the babes of the woodmen last autumn?”
Thranduil shook his head. “No, I regret not. Thus far it has eluded every attempt at capture. You plan to take our northern path rather than the Old Road through the southern part of the forest, I think? Either way it would be wise to be wary – this creature has never been known to attack openly, preferring to rob nests and cradles in stealth, but with only the two of you there is doubtless some risk. But you are prudent and skilled enough to need no such advice from me. I bid you both farewell and a good journey. Know that should you ever return, you would be most welcome.”
Haldir bowed, with Melpomaen a heartbeat behind him. “Thank you, King Thranduil. You have been a most gracious host.”
They withdrew to the back of the hall as Thranduil turned to the next person awaiting his attention.
“We should stop in the kitchens and take leave of Vida,” remarked Melpomaen in an undertone.
“Of course,” Haldir agreed, his voice equally quiet. “We must go there in any case for some of our supplies. I think we should ask for as much bread as we can eat while it is still fresh. Dried meat and fruits we can take from the guards’ stores.”
The kitchens were well down the corridors away from the Great Hall, full of the aromas of roasting meat and stewing vegetables, with hints of the wheaten loaves that had been pulled from the wall-ovens hours before and now filled several great racks. Though the guard companies had their own separate kitchen, all bread was baked here.
Melpomaen was the first to see Vida, who was stirring a great kettle and almost hidden by the clouds of fragrant steam rising from its surface. Her face broke into a smile at the sight of them.
“A pleasure to see you, Haldir and Melpomaen,” she exclaimed. Noticing their sober expressions, she continued, “Oh. Oh. You are leaving, aren’t you?”
“We must, Vida. We have responsibilities elsewhere that call us away,” said Haldir.
“But we wished to say to you goodbye,” said Melpomaen. His command of Westron had improved over the past few months in speaking to Dwarves and Men at the cavern gates. Though he knew it was still imperfect, he was comfortable using that tongue now.
“Thank you,” said Vida, and put her arms around each of them in turn. “I am glad to have a chance to bid you farewell; I am so grateful to you both. If you had not happened by that day. . .” Her voice trailed off and she shook her head. “Well, it isn’t worth thinking about. And if you stay here now I will think about it, so best that you go.” She hugged them once more, then turned resolutely back to her kettle, dabbing at her eyes with the edge of her apron.
“Goodbye, Vida.” They spoke in unison. Melpomaen reached out as if to touch her shoulder, but Haldir held him back and jerked his chin towards the racks of bread.
With permission from the head cook, they took four loaves. Melpomaen wanted six, but Haldir reminded him that they could only carry so much. Once through Mirkwood, there would be a few villages along its western border where they might buy further supplies if they wished.
They collected the dried meats, fruits, and a few other odds and ends from the storerooms, and walked back to their own room with full arms.
“We’ll never manage all this,” Melpomaen said, setting his load down on the table and looking around the room in dismay. “How in Arda did we manage to accumulate so many things in just a few months?”
“The uniforms will all stay,” Haldir said, putting them to one side. “We do both have rather more changes of clothing now than we arrived with, however. Most of them not very practical for travel – those we’d better leave. Someone will want them.”
“I shall take at least one new tunic, though,” said Melpomaen with determination. “Or perhaps two, the plainer ones. What I wore last summer can stay, it’s only fit for rags.”
They sorted through the chestful of garments, reducing the number to take down to a manageable amount – a spare pair of leggings and three tunics each, along with some undergarments and stockings. Melpomaen fingered the engraved leaves of the silver hair-clasp that Haldir had given him in Dale and carefully tucked it down at the bottom of his pack. He would not wear it on the journey, for fear it might be lost.
A handful of books waited in a stack on the table to be returned to the shelves in the common room; uniforms and other clothing were folded to go back into storage; and they were nearly finished, in far less time than either had expected. Haldir volunteered to carry all the things back where they belonged, while Melpomaen made a final check to ensure they had not missed anything.
He was in the bathing room, trying to recall what they had brought and what had already been there and should remain, when a tap sounded at the door.
“Come in,” Melpomaen called, and emerged from the bathing room holding the wider-toothed comb, having decided that was their own and that the other had been supplied with their quarters.
Dúlin entered, carrying her pipes. “I want you to have these, Melpomaen,” she said, holding them out to him.
Melpomaen raised his hands, palms out, fending them off. “I couldn’t possibly,” he protested. “They are yours. I couldn’t take your pipes away with me.”
She gave a sniff. “As if I cannot make another set whenever I wish. You play them better than I; you should have them, as a remembrance of this winter at least.”
“No,” Melpomaen demurred. “That isn’t necessary. Truly. I appreciate the sentiment, but I cannot accept such a gift.”
On those words Haldir returned. “You cannot take what gift, Maen? Ah, good afternoon, Dúlin. How are you?”
“Quite well, except that I am having little success at persuading your stubborn friend here that I genuinely wish him to have these pipes.”
Haldir looked at Melpomaen and raised an eyebrow.
“They are too valuable – and we do not have room.” Melpomaen gestured to their full packs sitting on the floor by the wall.
“For this, we can find room,” said Haldir firmly. “I think you should accept Dúlin’s offer, Maen.”
Melpomaen capitulated. “All right. I can’t deny you both. It isn’t that I mean to be ungrateful,” he said hastily to Dúlin, “but I have nothing to give you in return, as I ought.”
Dúlin cocked her head at him, saying, “Do you not realize what a gift you have already given me? All the melodies that you have shared? Let there be no thought that my poor pipes can even begin to balance that out.”
“Very well,” laughed Melpomaen, taking the object in question from her hand. “Shall we call it even, then? I hope you do not still feel in my debt – if you were to give me your cittern, too, I would be forced to refuse regardless of either your or Haldir’s insistence! I should look like one of those traveling tinkers, those wandering peddlers among Men, all hung about with the goods they sell and rattling in any breeze.”
“No, this will suffice,” said Dúlin gravely. “Haldir, I think that you should ask him to play for you on your journey.”
“I would enjoy hearing him,” Haldir said. He did not feel it necessary to explain that often it would be wiser to maintain silence, or at least quiet, of an evening, lest they attract unwanted attention in the wild. The musician meant well, and it was not surprising that she should know little of the practicalities of travel.
Dúlin remained a little while longer, chatting, then bade them both farewell and a safe journey. After she had gone, Haldir put his arms around Melpomaen’s waist from behind and rested his chin on his partner’s shoulder.
“You’ll miss her, won’t you?”
“Yes,” Melpomaen said, “I will.”
Melpomaen shrugged. “That is how it is.” He looked around the room. “I think we’re finished here, or as near as possible for now – shall we go see about some dinner?”
The meal and the ensuing time in the common room were suffused with a kind of melancholy cheerfulness. Everyone with whom either Haldir or Melpomaen had any acquaintance came to bid them a good journey and to regret their departure. Since all were well aware of the need to travel as lightly burdened as possible, no parting-gifts were offered, with one exception. Erentar, together with Gelion and Lasmir, jointly presented them with a pair of excellent Dwarf-made knives to replace their own.
Pleading the excuse of an early departure the next day, they did not remain too long. Legolas had been at their table during the meal, and had said to Haldir that he would be certain to be present when they left the following morning, so his absence from the common room did not surprise them. As the door to their chamber closed behind him, Melpomaen saw on the table what appeared to be a letter. It proved to be three: one with Melpomaen’s name on it, one with Haldir’s, and the third addressed to them both and with a few words indicating that this should be opened first. The other two were sealed with the king’s seal of stag and stars, but this last had instead the imprint of a leaf.
Melpomaen broke the green wax, and Haldir looked over his shoulder to read along with him.
My dear friends, it began, although I shall see you once again before you depart, I wished to put my true farewell into this message. I cannot possibly convey my gratitude for your friendship in any adequate fashion, yet I hope that you can guess its depth. While I might have wished for certain matters to have been different, I have nothing but admiration for the two of you and your bond, and for the way in which you have extended your hands to me in comfort and help, to a greater extent than I could have imagined possible. In no way do I regret anything we three have spoken of or done – I shall cherish the memories, and I hope that you will as well.
You will have seen the additional two letters with the king’s seal. Though I presume that you will continue to work together, it seemed best that each of you should receive his own statement of recommendation – in the highest terms, of course. I hope that these may be of assistance to you in the future. And of course you both know well that you would be welcome to return at any time.
I regret that my present circumstances are not such that I might travel with you and see something more of Middle-earth than has yet been my fortune, but who knows what the future may hold? My heart tells me that we shall all meet again someday, though where or how I do not know.
May your journey be swift and safe, and your days and nights alike filled with joy in each other. In friendship, Legolas.
Melpomaen set the letter down next to the other two, carefully returning the parchment to its original folds, before turning and taking Haldir into a close embrace.
“He is too generous,” Haldir heard Melpomaen mumble into his shoulder. Haldir did not understand what his partner meant by that, but he had no chance to inquire, for Melpomaen had lifted his head again and taken Haldir’s face between his hands, kissing him insistently.
They moved together to the bed and fell upon it, entwined. Haldir ran his hands along the length of Melpomaen’s back and pulled him closer, pressing his left thigh between Melpomaen’s legs. He had supposed that they would make love tonight – perhaps the last time in their lives that they would do so in a proper bed, though he fervently hoped not – but had wanted to draw it out, which Melpomaen seemed unprepared to do just now. The younger Elf was rocking his hips against Haldir without even pausing to unfasten his garments.
“Sh, Maen, sh, meldanya,” said Haldir, as soon as he could free his mouth. He held Melpomaen and rolled them both over, so that now Melpomaen lay on his back with Haldir above him, then pushed himself towards the foot of the bed. He pulled off Melpomaen’s shoes with one hand while the other fumbled with the laces that bound Melpomaen’s leggings. At last he was able to tug the garment down and reveal his lover’s member briefly before he took it between his lips, judging that Melpomaen’s urgency made this the best course.
Melpomaen groaned and his organ quivered in Haldir’s mouth. Under Haldir’s tongue the loose skin slipped back. He licked at the petal-soft head, dipping his tongue into the tiny slit and tasting a hint of bitterness there. With his thumbs he rubbed the base, his fingers curling around to press lightly against the tender stones in their warm pouch. He let his teeth just scrape the shaft, taking great care, for he did not intend any discomfort to come to his lover, and was gratified by Melpomaen’s strangled moan and the sudden grip of Melpomaen’s hands on his head, urging him to continue.
He sucked harder, his tongue rubbing along Melpomaen’s length, feeling the blood pulsing there. When he slipped a forefinger down to press against Melpomaen’s puckered opening, Melpomaen’s entire body stiffened and his seed spilled out into the back of Haldir’s throat. He swallowed hard to keep from choking on the bitter fluid, and with his mouth still full of its taste, he crawled up the bed to kiss Melpomaen, who responded as completely as if they had not made love for a week, his hand going to Haldir’s firm member and gripping the shaft through the fabric of his leggings, his fingers tightening and releasing again rhythmically one by one.
Quickly Haldir loosened his clothing, flinging it onto the floor, and groped for the flask of oil which he had prudently omitted to pack that afternoon. He nudged it against Melpomaen’s hand. When his lover took it, Haldir moved to his hands and knees.
Melpomaen spread a generous amount of oil into Haldir’s crevice, massaging it into the skin, and then put some on each of their cocks. Taking Haldir’s in his right hand, he pressed the tip of his own against Haldir’s waiting passage. Melpomaen was not yet fully hard again, but he was firm enough to push past the tight ring of muscle and ease inside. He remained there without thrusting for a few moments, only rocking very gently deeper within as he stiffened. He continued stroking Haldir meanwhile, and the golden-haired Elf began to squeeze his buttocks in time to the motion, stimulating Melpomaen further. Melpomaen leaned over and kissed Haldir’s shoulder blade, his free hand reaching around to take Haldir’s left nipple between his fingers, pinching it to a point.
He now started to thrust more vigorously, withdrawing almost entirely and then pushing back inside. Haldir bucked his hips as he thrust into Melpomaen’s hand in reaction, his head flung back. He called out Melpomaen’s name and spent; his passage pulsed and contracted around Melpomaen’s organ. Melpomaen found himself again at the brink of climax. He did not try to hold back, but shuddered as he came, relaxing forward and resting his forehead against Haldir’s spine, still sheathed inside him.
They lay curled together, spoon-fashion, for some minutes before Melpomaen pulled out.
“Perhaps a bath?” suggested Haldir.
“It will doubtless be our last chance for weeks, even months,” agreed Melpomaen.
“And if we wait a little while,” said Haldir, “I would like to make love to you one more time in comfort. We have said we will depart early, but that does not mean we cannot stop early tomorrow evening if we want, if tonight’s activities keep us awake until late.” The smile he gave to Melpomaen was mischievous.
Melpomaen smiled in return, but the smile did not reach his eyes. Haldir knew why, of course, and knew that on this last night in the Wood-King’s halls, Melpomaen was unlikely to be able to be cozened out of his sadness at leaving. Nevertheless Haldir resolved to do what he could.
They entered the bathing room and stepped into the warm water. Haldir wordlessly pointed to the soap on the ledge next to Melpomaen, who handed it to him. Lathering his hands, Haldir had Melpomaen kneel up so that most of his torso was above the water, and smoothed the scented foam over his skin. Without being asked, Melpomaen sat on the edge and held out first one leg and then the other so that Haldir could wash them as well. He slid underwater to rinse off and emerged, spluttering slightly and pushing his dripping hair away from his eyes. Then Haldir washed the dark strands. When every inch of Melpomaen was clean, Haldir took up the comb to ease the tangles from Melpomaen’s hair. He did not hurry at his task, and Melpomaen relaxed under his hands and in the heat of the water.
When he had finished his ministrations, Haldir leaned back against the side and drew Melpomaen into his arms, so that Melpomaen’s back was against his own chest, and simply held him as he had once held Legolas. Their breathing slowed and became as one. Even their heartbeats fell into the same rhythm as they sat embraced. There was no need to speak. All the words that could be said, had been, weeks before.
At long last it was Melpomaen who broke the silence, pulling his hand from the water and gazing at his fingertips. He held them up to show Haldir. “If we stay in much longer, I fear that my entire skin will shrivel and wrinkle like this.”
Haldir chuckled. “I have never seen it happen, but perhaps I have never remained in the water long enough.” He unwound his arms from Melpomaen’s waist. “I still need to use a bit of soap on myself first, though. I would rather begin this journey washed clean.”
Melpomaen nodded and moved away enough to give his partner room to wash. When he had finished, Haldir stood and held out his hands to help Melpomaen up. They stepped out together, each wrapping a towel about. Melpomaen took up a fresh cloth to and dried his lover’s hair. Returning to the other room they spread fresh sheets on the bed, snapping the linen across the mattress and tucking it in.
“I’m glad that we didn’t take these back yet,” remarked Haldir, smoothing the top sheet; a pointless endeavor since he promptly sprawled on it and beckoned Melpomaen to come to him.
They lay facing each other, as close together as twin babes in the womb. Haldir kissed Melpomaen’s lips and murmured, “What would you have me do, meldanya?”
Melpomaen remained silent for a few moments, and then said, “Nothing.”
Haldir raised his brows in surprise. “Nothing? Do you wish simply to sleep, then, Maen?”
“No, that is not it.” Melpomaen’s hand strayed down to Haldir’s groin, his thumb stroking as Haldir’s organ began to twitch and grow. “I don’t want you to do anything to me, Dír. I want us to do it to each other.”
“What?” said Haldir.
“Just this.” Melpomaen took Haldir’s hands and drew them down with his own, wrapping them around so that each of them touched both his partner and himself. Melpomaen’s eyes were wide and dark in the dim light. He tilted his head with an almost dreamlike slowness to kiss Haldir as their joined hands began to move.
Haldir was hard now, but after their earlier lovemaking his desire was not urgent. He decided he would let Melpomaen set the pace for the rest of the night, or at least for the time being, and Melpomaen seemed content to enjoy the warmth and friction without wanting to achieve a quick release. His lips brushed against Haldir’s and his tongue traced the line between them, slippery as a fish, probing into Haldir’s mouth. Haldir curled his own tongue around Melpomaen’s and suckled on it. When Melpomaen withdrew Haldir followed him, slipping his tongue between Melpomaen’s lips to taste him.
Melpomaen’s breath was sweet, bearing a hint of musty spice from the wine they had drunk much earlier in the common room. Haldir sighed in his throat and nestled even closer, his hands still moving at Melpomaen’s pace. He was determined to wait as long as his lover wished, but he could not help rocking his hips slightly in encouragement.
After a long time, Melpomaen began to increase the speed of his hands’ motion. His breath came quickly through barely-parted lips. Haldir stepped up his own tempo as well. He felt heat centered at his groin but spreading out to every part of his body, running through his veins like the sap that rises in trees in springtime. Just as he wondered if he could restrain himself any longer, Melpomaen spent, his cock pulsing into their joined fingers. In relief, Haldir followed him within seconds and they clung together, gasping and kissing. Though neither was much inclined to move, Haldir rose and fetched a cloth to clean them both before again embracing Melpomaen and falling asleep in his arms.
Despite the lateness of the hour at which they slept, Melpomaen woke before dawn, as he had intended, and nudged Haldir to wake him too. They dressed and took their used linens to the company’s laundry before returning to stow the last few small items in their packs.
It was early, too early for those on the daytime watch to yet be breaking their fast, but Legolas was present when they entered the mess. He said nothing, but ate bread and cheese with them and drank hot tea with a generous spoonful of honey in it.
At the front gates they bade a final farewell to the night guard. Legolas walked with them a little ways along the westward path. When its twists took them out of sight of the gates, he stopped, and held out a hand to stop them too. Turning first to Melpomaen, he put his arms around the other and kissed his cheek, whispering in Melpomaen’s ear, “I forgive you.” Then he embraced Haldir and kissed him likewise, but this time he whispered, “Forgive me.” Releasing his grasp, Legolas bowed formally, his expression set, before walking off with long strides, neither pausing nor glancing back before he disappeared around the bend.
Haldir and Melpomaen looked at each other, each wondering if Legolas had said the same to his partner as to himself, but neither yet spoke of it. They turned their faces westward into the dark of the forest and set out.
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.