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 settlement’s 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 smile—enjoying the rare opportunity to behave like an elfling once more—he placed one hand on the wooden wall, one foot against a good, stout plank, and sprang gracefully atop the fence. He scanned the clearing below—No guards—and 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 Greycloak—under extreme duress—had described.

He tapped on the door.

The occupant came running—her eagerness audible in every footfall—and threw the door wide open. “Lassui—!”

He stepped inside, catching her in his arms and pulling her against his chest—with 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.


“Lasfain—Legolas—will 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 me—not 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?”

“Suit yourself.”

Thranduil glanced around the tiny room, considering his options—two 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...

Still—it 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 for you.”


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 choice—I would recommend Lothlórien—it 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 husband—you 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 it.”

“What do you mean?”

“You gave the wrong answer—for 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 son’s spirit would never—not for one fraction of a second—have thought of marrying me. She would have cried out ‘No!’ immediately.”


“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.

“Several times.”

“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 for Legolas?”

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 son—your elfling—from 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 guilty—the elleth who, for the briefest moment, imagined herself a queen, or the father who imagined himself stealing his son’s lover?”


“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 son’s sense of duty. I believe that he has already decided to leave me—I 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.




Contents page

Contents page

Back to Chapter 7

Chapter 7

Extra scene: The letters
Aerandir reports his findings; Thranduil puts Eowyn to the test.

Extra scene

The anonymous elleth
If you have read Misrule in Mirkwood you may recognise her!


Singollo Greycloak
Legolas' childhood friend. We'll meet him in Misrule in Mirkwood.