Minas Tirith, day after Mid-summer, 3019
There was a faint sound from the other room, like someone in pain. Elladan rose slowly from his bath to the music of pattering water droplets. He stretched, then flexed his fingers. The muscles were still a little sore but relaxed now. Although the day spent in his lovers' company had been delightful, he'd felt a need to isolate himself for a while, to think his own thoughts. When he'd left the bed earlier to take a long soak, they had been asleep and rightfully so. He smiled. After all the exertion that morning, surely they should still be unconscious. But there had been that low moan. His senses, so long attuned to his beloved twin's sensations, were tingling. While drying himself, he opened the door and peered into the bedroom.
Two familiar forms lay entangled on the wide bed, bare skin flushed rosy-gold in the late afternoon light. A heavy fall of blond hair covered the slender back of the one nearest him; the toned curve of his rear in full view, sculpted prettily in light and shadow. Elladan bit his lower lip, remembering just how well that curve fit against his belly.
They were quiet, seemingly asleep, but then Elladan saw the movement. The long body rippled, the hips thrust, and those exquisite buttocks clenched. The prince's arm, flung across Elrohir's waist, moved tightly up and down. He heard that sound again and recognized it for what it was, his brother's moan of awakening desire. There was an answering chuckle from their Mirkwood prince, who bit Elrohir's neck hard, eliciting another protest, then he pulled back from between the twin's thighs. Rolling Elro towards him, Legolas climbed on top. Moisture glistened at the tip of his rigid shaft. Elrohir parted his legs in wanton surrender and then gasped as Legolas surged forward. The prince bent his golden head and their mouths met in a feast of tongues.
They had begun without him, as if his presence was superfluous. Jealousy flared through Elladan, although he realized that they meant nothing by it. It was all simply play. But instead of making his presence known, he watched, something that he was all too good at doing, like a wolf peering through the underbrush at unaware prey. They were so beautiful together: light and dark. A thrum began in Elladan's loins as Legolas increased his pace. His fickle brother wrapped his legs about the prince's rear and began pumping them, slamming Legolas in deeper.
"Sweet Eru, that's good! Fuck me, Legolas! Harder!" Elrohir gasped. The prince's reply was incomprehensible.
Elladan clenched the doorknob until his knuckles whitened. Oh, that it were him in Legolas's place! Over two and one-half thousand years of guilt and regret had failed to diminish his ardor for his brother. He longed to touch Elrohir's thoughts, unite with him and share his ecstasy, but he shrank back from it. His heart pounded in conflicted emotion.
Unbidden, a scene from over five centuries ago arose to taunt him.
They had been the advance guard looking for the raiders of Esgaroth, his brother, himself, and Legolas. The young prince was eager for his first real battle. Elladan deemed him ready in terms of his training which had honed him to a fine edge, but he knew the prince was unprepared for the grim reality of taking life. It was best that Legolas's first trial be against these relatively unskilled men before he faced worse adversaries in the shadowy reaches of Ered Mithrin.
They encountered their quarry in the early evening near the shores of Long Lake. The raiders lay feasting around a campfire next to the charred ruins of the hunter's cot that had been their latest conquest. The skirmish was sharp and swiftly done, with most of the ruffians surrendering or pelting off into the dark trees. Elrohir and Legolas had pursued their leader and Elladan had lost track of them as he attempted to free the sobbing captives, when suddenly he felt a burning pain slice across his sword arm. He looked down, but there was nothing. It was Elrohir! The tall pines blurred on either side as he ran, crashing through the underbrush like a maddened stag. Then he stopped.
The leader of the raiders lay twisted on his back, unseeing eyes staring at the sky. A long red slit across his throat had pumped a quantity of blood into the leaf litter. It was a satisfying sight given what Elladan had seen of the man's treatment of the woodsmen, especially one young boy. He knew Legolas had seen it too. There was a spatter of blood leading away from the body.
Elladan followed cautiously, then heard voices and a low choking sob. Peering around the bole of an immense oak, he saw his brother and Legolas, both sunk onto their knees. Elrohir's upper arm was bleeding. Legolas had ripped apart his shirt and was using the material to make a bandage, which he was trying to tie around Elrohir's arm, but the prince's wracking sobs were hampering his efforts. Elrohir gently took the ends of the cloth away from him and finished tying off the knot. Then he gathered the distraught prince into his arms and kissed his eyes. Legolas put a bloody hand to Elrohir's cheek; they stared at each other, and the prince swallowed his tears.
"You must think me weak to carry on thus," Legolas lamented.
Elrohir said, "It is not weak to grieve about taking life, no matter how odious that life was. Rather the time to grieve would be when you stop feeling anything . . . ."
The implication hung heavy in the air. They looked deeply into each other's eyes for a long minute; then their mouths fell together, at first tenderly and then with gathering hunger.
Elladan turned and left them to it.
He had suspected earlier that a bond was forming between them, a deeper one than he liked. But this time he could not deny what he had seen. Later that night he awoke, feeling a coldness at his back where his brother had lain. Sitting up, he discovered both Legolas and Elrohir’s bed rolls were empty. They must be off somewhere among the trees . . . together. It tore out his heart.
Several months later, at the conclusion of the dragon hunt, he and his brother had reconciled and agreed to erase Legolas's memory of the affair, to which Legolas agreed. Now it all threatened to start up again. And why should he stop it? Why condemn his brother to an eternity of sin, a relationship that they had to keep secret from the world? Why not allow him to love someone else?
Quietly, he closed the bathroom door and began dressing. He couldn't take any more of this. He was going out.
By the time he emerged, they were lying in each other's arms, relaxed and sated, seemingly asleep again. There was a sharp tang of sex in the air. Elrohir's eyes flicked open. "Where are you going?" he asked.
"Out. To get some supplies. Or aren't you hungry?"
Elrohir rose onto his elbows. "I could eat." He ran his tongue over his teeth. "You weren't here for Legolas's assault on my shield-wall just now. We missed you."
"I could tell how much you missed me."
His brother's eyes narrowed. "Don't start this with me."
"I am not starting anything."
There was a glint of blue as Legolas's eyes focussed and he raised his head. "Just come back to bed, Elladan," he murmured.
"Perhaps later. For now, I have had my fill . . . of carnal pleasures."
"When was that ever the case?" Elrohir's brows knit as he examined Elladan's face.
"I need some air. Pray, excuse me." Elladan bowed slightly and left the room, pausing in the outer chamber to buckle on his sword. He shut the door behind him, none too gently, ran down the stairs, and set off along the narrow street. Evening was coming on and the lamplighters were out with their torches.
He realized that he didn't much care for Minas Tirith, with its cold stone walls and lack of greenery. Now that it was his sister's home, he had told himself, he should learn to like it better. But he could not. For an age men had hidden from the Dark Lord's malice in this vast refuge, plotting their campaigns and stratagems. Its walls were awash with fear. It made him uneasy, even though he and his brothers were themselves soldiers in that war; united in a common cause - to save Middle-earth from the Darkness. About five hundred years ago the war had become desperately personal for him and his family. Since that time, one note had shrilled in his thoughts, the desire to make the wretched orcs pay for what they had done to his mother. The anger, so old that it had worn a groove in his soul, was at least familiar. It had almost replaced the need he felt for his brother. Revenge and love did not make good bedfellows.
But now, the desire for his brother had resurfaced and threatened to overwhelm him. These past two nights spent in self-obliterating passion with Elrohir and Legolas had brought Elladan back to a point in the distant past when things had seemed less complicated. That was until he had seen them alone together. Now, it was worse. He loved his brother to the depths of his soul. Nothing could change that. But what they did together was wrong. It had been then; it still was. And even though he had not actually made love to him this time, instead had shared their communion through Legolas, he could feel the weight of the Valar's displeasure.
He climbed up a wall that hadn't yet been repaired from the impact of a catapult and looked at the barren Pelennor Fields, pitted and rutted from the Enemy's engines, darkening to blood red in the end of day. The land had borne witness to such slaughter that, as jaded as he was, the sight of it troubled him.
Why did he feel so wretched? The Dark Lord had fallen! It was a new Age. He should be rejoicing along with the rest of the world. Instead the chains of his unnatural desire dragged at him. He ought to release Elro to follow his own path, whether it led to Legolas or no. It would be the noble thing to do. But he was not noble. Far from it! He was a sinner, an assassin! A poor excuse for a son. During the journey back to Minas Tirith his father had taken him aside, confided that he would be leaving Middle-earth soon, that Elladan must assume leadership of Imladris for a time. Elladan shuddered when he thought of what Elrond would think if he knew his son's secret heart: Elladan, who coveted his own brother; who could kill as casually as flicking a bug from his mail-clad glove. What kind of elf was that? What kind of leader? He had not always been this way and did not want to be so now. Maybe it was true that he was tainted with the blood of men. Curse the Valar for making him thus!
He looked up at the brilliant crimson-streaked clouds and silently howled his rage. He wanted to rend his chest apart and offer his beating heart to the sky! He contemplated leaving this cold stone city now and never coming back. Ships with black sails awaited at Harlond quay. He could almost feel them pulling at their tethers, anxious to float down Anduin's broad back to the sea. He could leave it all behind.
An uncounted time seemed to pass and Elladan came back from whatever dark road he had been wandering. A breeze was coming up, bringing with it the smell of rain. He found himself climbing down the wall and heading toward the stables. A good, hard gallop might clear his head, he thought, just as it had two nights ago. His horse could use the exercise.
Even after two days Barahir could feel the sensation of Lord Elladan's touch upon his cheek, the whispered brush of his lips against his ear. It filled him with a sense of urgency and he could think of nothing else while he spent his lonely evening vigil in the Stables of the Sixth Circle. He tried sitting on the wall outside to watch the sun set, then bored with that, spent some time pacing back and forth. Finally, he went into the stable, wandered down the rows of stalls, and stopped to look at Lord Elladan's horse: a rangy grey stallion with a finely chiseled face and bright eyes. He suited the tall elf lord. Tentatively Barahir reached out a hand and when the horse didn't move, he stroked the velvet soft nose. The stallion's nostrils flared. "I think you need grooming," Barahir said softly. It was as close to the elf lord as he was likely to get. He retrieved a curry comb and brush from the box and went back into the stall. The horse eyed him warily but the boy was careful to move slowly. He put a hand on the stallion's lean neck and began brushing. The rippling muscles felt good under his hands. "How lucky you are," Barahir cooed, "to feel his long legs gripping your sides, his sure hands controlling you."
His imagination spared him nothing: not the elf lord armed to the teeth tearing into the midst of battle, striking heads from quivering bodies as he went, nor the breathless thought of him coming home at night and slowly removing all that blood-stained armor until his long, muscular limbs were revealed, gleaming hard like frost in the starlight.
He put his hand to his cheek as he passed the scene through his mind again. It was King Elessar's wedding night and everyone had been celebrating, but him. He was irritated that he'd had guard duty at the stables. It seemed so unnecessary; the enemy was vanquished. He thought they only did it to spite him. Still, from the wall he had a great view of the wizard's fireworks. He'd never seen anything so fantastic. Then he saw the three elf lords heading toward him and THAT surpassed the fireworks. He adored elves, had wanted to see one all his life and now he was presented with three of them. They took his breath away. Tall and slender as lances, their beardless faces had a strange, feline beauty. They didn't look at all like the robust men at arms that he knew, but they were reputed to be among the finest warriors in Middle Earth. And indeed, they carried themselves with the deft grace of master swordsmen. The twins especially drew his attention. It was hard to imagine them thousands of years old, they looked to be in their mid-twenties. Then he saw their eyes: ancient and world-weary, yet filled with a smouldering sensuality.
He had not anticipated that. It was not part of the legends he knew and his body responded instantly, much to his dismay. He had to tug down his tunic to cover evidence. One of the twins, who he later learned was Lord Elladan, asked him to procure some food, a hot bath and some special herbs to heal Prince Legolas's war wound. He hadn't heard that the Mirkwood elf who had taken down a mûmak singlehandedly had been wounded, but he was happy to do whatever the tall elf lord asked. The evening took on a magical quality.
After arranging for the hot bath water, he carried the food and medicine to the rooms the elf lord had indicated and set them out. Then he wandered into their bed chamber and looked at the wide bed with its red canopy. Did the twins share it? He lay down upon it and imagined himself nestled here, naked, between the two of them. Overcome by the idea, he thought of questing hands and agile mouths, hard chests and low moans. He grabbed a handful of the sheets, inhaling a lush, spicy scent. No longer able to control himself, he unlaced his breeches, pulled free his stiffened flesh, and rapidly relieved himself. When he reached his peak, he bit his lip to keep from groaning, and splashed a sticky mess into his hand.
Then he was disgusted with himself. These were elves, noble and fierce warriors. What a foul creature he was even to think such thoughts about them! Well, he was a foul creature, he knew that. His darkness sat like a stain on his soul, a secret he could never reveal to anyone. Something he didn't even dare think about.
There was a clatter somewhere outside and he jumped. They might return any time now; he had to get back to the stables. He wiped his hand on his pants, fastened up his breeches, and hied to the stables just as they were riding in.
Before they had left, he remembered noticing how stiff and unhappy Legolas seemed to be. That had changed. Now he was relaxed, almost smiling, although occasionally his glance would stray toward the King's house and his mouth would set. After dismounting, the three of them stood rather close together; the twins seemed to be soothing the prince with soft voices and gentle touches. They, all of them, fairly vibrated with eroticism. Or was he imagining it?
Lord Elladan asked if he'd procured the items he'd wanted, gave him a sovereign and touched his cheek in thanks. The look in the peredhel's eyes was enough to unleash wild fancies.
Now, Barahir put his hand back to his cheek and prayed to whatever deities there might be that he would have just another glimpse of the elf lord. He offered the sovereign, pressing it into a knothole in the doorframe.
And so it was that a short time later the stable door opened and the object of his recent obsession, Lord Elladan, strode in. Barahir had to stifle a gasp. He thought he should try praying more often. In truth, he had never seen anything so beautiful and terrible. Lord Elladan had a wrathful, storm-tossed look. His cloak and long black hair billowed behind him in the wake of his passage. His mouth was perfect: its wide and ornate curves were drawn down in a pout, his upper lip slightly fuller than the bottom. Those lips were in need, Barahir thought, of being kissed into compliance with the rules of nature. If only he dared. But the most salient feature was the peredhel's eyes: dark, brooding, seemingly made of smoke-edged silver, the swiftness of the glance cleaving the air. He had heard tales of the enemy fleeing in terror at the sight of this being. This he could well understand as he too felt the urge to run. Then Lord Elladan's eyes locked onto his, and with a pounding heart, the young man knew himself to be captivated, completely.
The grey stallion rumbled a low note of greeting and the tall elf lord halted, his cloak settling about him. He glowered at Barahir. "Well met, boy. What are you doing to my horse?"
"Nothing. Nothing at all, my lord." Barahir's voice had come out as an unfortunate squeak. He cleared his throat and tried again. "I was merely grooming him." He held up the brush as evidence. "He looked as if he needed it. I mean, after you rode him the other night, he came back still somewhat damp. I walked him, my lord, until he was cool enough, but the sweat dries and itches, so they say. I merely thought . . ."
Barahir trembled and he pressed against the warm side of the horse to stay upright. I'm babbling, he thought in dismay, but he couldn't seem to curb his tongue. "I thought to make him more comfortable. He is such a noble beast. I just wanted to touch him. I meant no harm, truly, my lord."
Lord Elladan was taking him in completely, raking him up and down with his eyes. There was a long moment of silence during which Barahir had time to contemplate the elf's staggering beauty and to become even more confused. His cheeks were burning. Then Elladan's perfect mouth tugged upward.
He came over to the stall and stroked along the horse's cheek. "How now, Tinnu, has this young rascal been bothering you?" The animal gave a throaty whicker and Lord Elladan looked amused. "Tinnu says you have strong, sure hands and he's most enjoyed your attentions, but that you've missed a patch on his withers."
"He talks to you?" Barahir asked in astonishment.
"When he deems it worthwhile," the elf lord chuckled. Barahir couldn't tell whether or not he was joking. "I'll help you," Lord Elladan said. "Where do you keep the brushes?"
The elf went over to the box in the corner and selected a brush before Barahir bethought himself. "Nay, my lord, you do not need to dirty your hands like that. I'll take care of it." He began furiously brushing at Tinnu's withers. Then Lord Elladan was back in the stall, standing next to him. Barahir detected the same faint, spicy scent from the sheets. It was like sun-warmed pine mixed with an earthy musk and seemed to go straight to his loins.
"My lord," he remonstrated weakly.
"What do you think, lad? That I'm too good to care for my own horse? I've spent all told nigh unto three hundred years in the stables of my father's house where no task was too menial. And when my brother and I are on campaign, rarely are there grooms to tend to such things. No, I rather like doing it myself. And in truth, Tinnu appreciates it."
"You can work on his rump, while I do his chest. He will be beside himself with joy, getting it, as it were, from both ends." His voice with its strange, lilting accent, poured from his lips like a rich bourbon. Barahir needed to sit down.
Lord Elladan clicked his tongue and Tinnu moved away to make room for Barahir to slide past him. The stallion swished his tail contentedly as they brushed. Barahir could swear the horse was laughing. The boy kept sneaking glances at the tall elf. He could not believe his good fortune and did his best to hide the grin that wanted to surface. He had so much to ask and yet his tongue didn't seem to be working properly at all. Finally he managed, "My lord, did you have a pleasant ride the other night?"
Unexpectedly, the elf lord's lips quirked with amusement. "Yes," he said, "quite pleasant. The wind in the face was most invigorating." He put his hand on his breast and slightly inclined his head. "Your help in procuring the supplies was appreciated."
"Oh, it was nothing. Well, not nothing. You should have heard the Chief Warden when I asked him for those herbs. I had to swear it was for the Queen's brothers, for medicinal purposes."
Over the top of the horse's back, the elf lord's penetrating glance held him pinned. "Do you know what else they are used for?" he asked with a lift of an eyebrow.
Barahir blushed. "Uh, my cousin Fergil told me that echuilin thûl stimulates the senses . . . in a most agreeable manner." He did not add that Fergil had also said with a wink, ‘It prolongs that which would otherwise flag, if you take my meaning.'
"In a most agreeable manner, indeed," said the elf lord and for the first time smiled directly into Barahir's eyes.
The boy felt his knees go weak. Elladan seemed to be recovering from his earlier ill humor. It made Barahir feel somewhat bolder. "I had not heard that Prince Legolas had been wounded in battle," he began tentatively.
"Ah, well, there are many kinds of wounds. Some are not readily visible," Lord Elladan replied. "I assure you they cut deeply, nevertheless. The herbs did their work."
Barahir knew about invisible wounds and sensed it was not a subject to be pursued. He tried a different tack. "Where is your brother? I have heard you are never separated?"
At this the elf lord became grim. "We are not joined at the hip. He is free to follow his own inclinations. Occasionally they do not parallel mine. It seems you are remarkably current on our doings."
"I follow the news. As I told you the other night, I have an interest in . . . in elves. I have done since young." In his eagerness, Barahir came around Tinnu's side to stand near the elf lord.
To say that he was interested in elves was an understatement. Barahir had always been completely fascinated by them. Several years ago, in the dreadful numb days after his older brother died, Barahir had been going through his things and found a curious book about the Elder Days. He opened its sueded leather binding, turned the brittle pages and suddenly was arrested by an etching of tall and terrible warriors with beautiful faces and long, wind-whipped hair, their mouths open in silent screams. With bows bent and swords raised, they waded fearlessly into battle against hoards of orcs. The beasts had raised their hands against the fierceness of the elves' eyes as if they saw their own doom mirrored therein.
He wished his brother could have been an elf, it might have made losing him bearable, knowing that his soul had journeyed beyond the sea to live forever. He too had been tall and beautiful. Barahir's heart ached for him. During the long dark time as the soldiers defended Minas Tirith against these very foes, Barahir often took the book out from under his bed and stared at the picture for hours. If only a host of elves could have ridden to our rescue, he thought, then my brother need not have died in battle and we would not live in such fear.
"Mmm, an interest in elves," Lord Elladan said. "I find that men often are curious about us. You are called Barahir, are you not?
"Aye, Barahir son of Farandil."
"Well Barahir Farandilion, with such a name, you must come by the interest naturally. Do you know the history of your venerable namesake?"
"Oh aye," the boy said eagerly. "I was told he was the one of the first elf-friends, making an alliance with the Elvin king Finrod. And that Finrod died protecting Barahir's son Beren from the Dark Lord's treachery, when, for the love of the elf maiden, Lúthien, Beren dared seek the Silmarils."
"You are well informed. So, then you know also that I am a direct descendent of that union of Lúthien and Beren on my grandmother's side and from Idril and the mortal Tuor on my grandfather's, making me only partly of elf-kindred."
Barahir nodded breathlessly. It was like having a legend standing there in the flesh. "If I may ask, my lord, being of mixed blood, do you find any differences between you and other elves?"
"First of all, young Barahir, you may stop calling me ‘my lord' as I am none."
"What shall I call you then?"
"Elladan, just Elladan. As to your second question, curious . . ." he spoke softly, almost as if to himself. "My very name means elf-man. It is part of my identity. My father chose the way of the elves and he is a towering figure among them, wise and powerful. He seems the very essence of elvishness, as if the human part has burned away. But with me . . . ai, I think the human blood is strong. I am quick to anger and am prone to certain . . . weaknesses."
Barahir shivered, caught like an insect in the elf lord's smoky gaze. Lord Elladan reached over and brushed his thumb down the side of the boy's nose. "You have a smudge there," he explained.
Barahir realized at that moment that there was nothing, absolutely nothing that the elf lord could ask of him that he would not readily do.
Elladan stirred and then straightened. He gave the horse a pat. "Ah Tinnu, you are now a handsome sight. Are you ready for a run?"
As if the gods were determined to answer all Barahir's prayers that night, there came a clap of thunder and the whole stable shook. Startled, they both looked up. Elladan went to the door and peered out. There was a blast of wet air. "Rain is coming," the half-elf said. "It seems I should delay my ride for a while. I'm sure Tinnu will not mind. He hates getting wet."
Barahir joined him, looking out at the strange yellow and grey twilight. There was another thunder clap and then the rain came slanting down. Feeling suddenly bold in the swirl of weather, he ventured, "You can stop here for a while, my lor . . . Elladan. There is a window in the loft where we can watch the storm. I would like to hear more tales of the elves if you've a mind to tell them."
Elladan was staring out at the storm; strands of his raven black hair shivered in the breeze. For a moment Barahir had the sense that he was agitated and wanted to leave. Did the elf lord find his company objectionable? Or did he have someone to meet out there in the dark? Then, Lord Elladan flicked his eyes back to him and nodded.