Through the utter darkness of a moonless Mirkwood
night, a lone elf rode silently down the winding trail to the
silvan outpost of Eryn Aras.
The stranger stopped, just short of the settlements perimeter
fence, dismounted, pulled the hood of his dark cloak over his
face, and, leaving his horse to graze, approached the palisade.
With a slight smileenjoying the rare opportunity to behave
like an elfling once morehe placed one hand on the wooden
wall, one foot against a good, stout plank, and sprang gracefully
atop the fence. He scanned the clearing belowNo guardsand
dropped lightly to the ground.
No one came forward to stop him.
I must talk to Lassui about this laxity.
Moving like a ghost, the elf crossed the deserted clearing, climbed
one of the staircases that spiralled upwards to the aerial town,
and walked purposefully along its darkened walkways to the small
dwelling that Singollo Greycloakunder extreme duresshad
He tapped on the door.
The occupant came runningher eagerness audible in every
footfalland threw the door wide open. Lassui!
He stepped inside, catching her in his arms and pulling her against
his chestwith no desire other than to quieten her.
She pressed her body to his.
There was a moment of profound stillness.
Then she pulled away. Who are you?
He lowered his hood.
You and I need to talk, said Thranduil.
LasfainLegolaswill be here at any moment,
said the elleth, coldly.
Thranduil shook his head. I have sent him to inspect the
Forest Path. He will not be back for a week.
You are lying. He would never leave without telling
menot without sending word.
Word is locked in my study, said Thranduil.
And will be until I release him, tomorrow morning.
The elleth sighed, temporarily defeated; What do you
want? she asked.
A glass of wine would be nice.
She stared at him, incredulously. Then she said, Legolas
does not exaggerate when he talks of you.
That is good to hear. May I sit down?
Thranduil glanced around the tiny room, considering his optionstwo
wooden chairs either side of a small table beneath the window,
a rug before the fireplace, and a surprisingly large bed against
the far wall. The bed had no doubt witnessed events that Thranduil
would prefer to believe had never happened...
Stillit was the most comfortable option.
He sat down gracefully.
The elleth, meanwhile, had picked up a goblet from one of the
two place settings on the table, and sloshed some wine into it.
She handed it to her unwelcome guest. Thranduil sniffed dubiously
at the dark red liquid, took a mouthful, rinsed it around his
teeth, and shuddered. You should have asked Lassui to fetch
you something decent from my cellars. He placed the glass
on the nightstand.
What do you want? the elleth repeated.
To talk, said Thranduil. I have a proposition
She sat down on one of the chairs. You have five minutes.
This is what happens when a prince beds a commoner,
muttered Thranduil. Royalty no longer inspires respect...
He folded his hands on his lap. End your association with
my son and I will give you the equivalent of ten thousand gold,
in gowns and jewellery, and an escort to the city of your choiceI
would recommend Lothlórienit is further from Elrond.
You think I am a fortune hunter!
Oh, no, said Thranduil. Lassui is an uncommonly
fair elf, and has a loving disposition. I dare say you are besotted
with him. And I am sure you would be happy as his wife.
Then why are you trying to send me away?
Because he would not be happy as your husbandyou
are not good enough for him.
He says I am the companion of his spirit
I am sure he does. But you are not.
How do you know?
Thranduil sighed. Marry me. Be my queen.
The elleth stared at him, opened mouthed. Then she said, This
is some sort of test.
It is, said Thranduil. And you have just failed
What do you mean?
You gave the wrong answerfor you were imagining yourself
a queen. I could see it in your eyes.
The elleth looked away.
An elleth who really was the companion of my sons
spirit would nevernot for one fraction of a secondhave
thought of marrying me. She would have cried out No!
My offer still stands, Thranduil continued. Ten
thousand gold, in gowns and jewellery, and an escort to Lothlórien.
On one condition.
You make the break as painless for Lassui as you can.
Use your feminine skills. He rose. I will leave
you now. The moment I am convinced that you have released my son,
I will make the arrangements. He turned to leave.
You have done this before, said the elleth.
And the elleth has always failed the test.
Have you ever considered, she asked, that that
might have more to do with you than with our feelings
Thranduil frowned. What do you mean? He turned.
Without his realising it, she had closed the gap between them.
You are an attractive elf, she said. And a king.
Thranduil took a step backwards. This, he said, has
been a business meeting. Nothing more.
Really? She came closer, raising her hand to touch
his face. Are you not curious?
Thranduil took another step back. About what?
The elleth pursued him. About this elleth who has taken
your precious sonyour elflingfrom you? Do you not
wonder what it might be like to bed her yourself? Do you not suspect
that she might find you the better lov
This is a test, said Thranduil, swallowing hard.
It is; and you have just failed it, said the elleth,
triumphantly. Tell me, your Majesty, who should be the more
guiltythe elleth who, for the briefest moment, imagined
herself a queen, or the father who imagined himself stealing his
I have underestimated you, said Thranduil, softly.
You have underestimated Lasfain said the elleth,
by not trusting his judgement. She pushed past Thranduil
and opened the door. You can keep your jewels, your
Majesty; I shall not be leaving Eryn Aras. She raised her
hand to cut off his protest. You need not worry. You have
also underestimated your sons sense of duty. I believe that
he has already decided to leave meI am sure that tonight
was to have been our last time together. She raised her
chin, defiantly. I would have made him a loving wife.
Yes, said Thranduil. But you are not the one.
If he asks, said the elleth, I shall tell him
what happened here.
Thranduil shrugged his shoulders. Lassui has forgiven me
far worse than this.
And he raised his hood, and walked out into the night.