Like so many young men of their generation, Elrond and Thranduil met at Gil-galad’s court in Lindon. When he first began arranging the Alliance, Gil had convinced Oropher to make the journey in order to show the delegations of Men that the Elven kindreds could work together as one. Oropher had been suspicious and reluctant of any overture made by a Noldor king but he was no fool and he recognized that something had to be done about the increasing presence of the Dark Lord. It had been obvious to Elrond that Gil and Oropher knew each other from earlier days and that they had some sort of falling-out over something. It was a mystery to him and there was little that Elrond loved more than solving a mystery. But as soon as Elrond met Thranduil, any lingering curiosity he had about the two elven kings disappeared, for Elrond and Thranduil were in love. If either of them had fallen in love with any other, neither Gil nor Oropher would have given the relationship a second thought. However, as they were the heirs apparent, Gil and Oropher quickly put aside their own personal differences in a united attempt to end the budding relationship between the heirs. Nothing seemed to work though.
Elrond privately thought that this was mostly due to the fact that both Gil and Oropher believed that the best future mate for either of them was none other than Glorfindel – a fact which amused the young lovers. Glorfindel liked both Elrond and Thranduil well enough as friends but he had no romantic interest in anyone; his free time was taken up in raising his young ward, Erestor. That was another mystery Elrond intended to pursue one day, for once again, Gil and Oropher had shown a far keener interest in the youngster than was warranted by mere courtesy.
But the halcyon days were drawing swiftly to a close and perhaps Gil and Oropher would have been more tolerant if they had known what lay ahead in the years to come. The Alliance was soon formed, and Elves and Men (and Dwarves, though the Dwarves never formally joined, preferring to remain as neutral as possible) were soon marching off to what would become a war of attrition with the Enemy. Several years later, after the battle of Dagorlad, Elrond and Thranduil parted ways and left for their respective realms to rebuild and start families of their own. But the bond forged between them in Lindon would prove more enduring than any could have imagined.
“But I did tell you so,” Glorfindel repeated with a smirk. It was most annoying to have someone say ‘I told you so’ but it was especially annoying when that someone was none other than Glorfindel, the only man besides Erestor that Elrond deigned to listen to. Elrond glared at him and then turned his attention back to the latest missive from Thranduil.
Every tenth Yule since the twins had been born, Thranduil visited Imladris, ostensibly to renew old friendships but hopefully to promote a match between their children. Unfortunately, Thranduil only had one son who was still unmarried – Legolas. And if there was any one man less likely to interest Arwen, it was Legolas. The two had never gotten along from the time they were mere infants and some things never changed.
Oddly, Thranduil seemed convinced that the two only needed more time to get to know each other and soon there would be a wedding being planned.
“When will they be here?” Elrond asked with a sigh.
“Two days, maybe less.” Erestor spoke up. “I have taken the liberty of preparing their usual rooms.”
“Thranduil’s suite will be next to yours, of course. I know how much you enjoy a game of chess with him in the evenings.”
Elrond looked sharply at Erestor but the advisor’s face showed no hint of amusement. Glorfindel, however, was unable to keep from snickering. It was an open secret that Elrond and Thranduil had been off-and-on again lovers since they first met in Lindon – a secret that neither of their wives seemed to mind.
“…and Legolas’ room will be near the twins.”
“Of course.” Elrond sighed and rubbed his forehead. He loved his sons dearly and Legolas was a fine young man – but when the three of them got together, chaos was seldom far behind.
“It would be simpler to give them rooms in the dungeon, wouldn’t it?”
“Perhaps you have too much free time.” Elrond glared at Glorfindel once more. “I believe I should appoint you as their nursemaid.”
“You could send them back to Lorien so they can spend Yule there with their mother and sister. Didn’t you say that Galadriel mentioned how much she missed them in her last letter?”
“She did not say that and you know it.” Both Glorfindel and Erestor were finding this far too amusing for his liking. It was bad enough that Celebrian had taken Arwen to spend Yule in Lorien again but Galadriel would be decidedly unamused if the twins were to return before one long-year had passed.
Galion waited outside the door, hoping the argument would stop soon. Thranduil’s older two sons were models of Silvan deportment and a credit to their mother, Meren. But Legolas had inherited not only his looks but also his temper from his father. Galion bit back a sigh – it was expected that Oropher’s blood would surface sooner or later, which meant that Legolas and Thranduil were often at cross-purposes and it was left for Galion and Meren to see that peace was restored.
“You are coming with me, and that is final!” Thranduil roared at Legolas.
“I don’t want to!” The youngster glared hotly back at his father. “You can’t make me! This is stupid. I don’t like her, and she hates me.”
“You are the most mule-headed young fool…” Thranduil snapped. “You are coming along if I have to chain you to the saddle. You decide how you wish to appear when we arrive in Imladris. And Arwen does not hate you.”
Legolas knew when his sire was in this sort of mood that it was best not to argue. But he was sick and tired of the constant match-making between his father and Elrond. He didn’t like Arwen; he never had. Perhaps if they had not been constantly pushed together, they might have learned to tolerate each other. But Legolas knew that he would never marry Arwen. Unfortunately, his father had other ideas.
“But my lady, are you certain you want to return home? Your lady mother said you would be here for an extended visit.” Haldir had just been informed by Arwen that she planned to celebrate Yule with her father. “I thought your father was expecting Thranduil and his son Legolas to visit.”
“It’s not fair to Ada to be alone with just the boys.” Arwen smiled her sweetest smile at him, and caused him to shake in his boots. Nothing good ever happened when she smiled like that. “Don’t worry – I know just how to handle Thranduil and that wretched brat.”
“But your mother and grandmother expect you to stay here.” He protested weakly. “I don’t think…”
“I think grandmother would be very interested to know what you…” replied Arwen.
“Very well, Lady Arwen.” Haldir knew when he was beaten. “When do you wish to leave?”
“You may take your leave of your brothers but hurry,” Arwen commanded him. “For my horse is already saddled and waiting, as is yours.”
Thranduil and Elrond had been secretly relieved when the sudden storm blew up, despite the fact that it meant their sons would be forced to stay inside.
“At least we know where they are,” Thranduil said to Elrond. “They will probably find something to do soon enough and then we will have our own privacy.”
“I had the Dorwinion brought up already.” Elrond replied. “We can enjoy it with our chess game.”
“Don’t you worry that someone will find it?”
“Oh, I leave a few bottles to be found,” Elrond admitted with a smug grin. “But the bulk of it is well-hidden.”
“You know, I wonder what our children would say if they knew exactly what our chess game involved.”
“I have no idea, and hopefully they will never find out. It’s far better if they think of us as old and boring with our chess games.”
“Yes, they think just because we are old we have no passion left.” Thranduil winked at Elrond. “Come, my friend. Let us begin the game.”
“And hope there are no untoward interruptions.” Elrond said with a laugh.
“Did your ada make it rain?” asked Legolas in a suspicious tone. “We can’t do anything that’s fun.”
The three young elves – Elladan, Elrohir and Legolas all stared out at the dark and stormy night. Their plans for an evening out in one of the villages had been ruined by the inclement weather and they were bored. There was nothing to do. True, there was always *something* going on in the Last Homely House but nothing that could compare with an evening out. Or, as their fathers often lamented privately, ‘a night of drunken stupidity.’
“I suppose we could go to the library and sneak into the restricted section.”
All of them perked up at this, for baiting Erestor was one of their favorite pastimes.
“Yeah, I suppose.”
As the three walked down the hall, Legolas suddenly halted and snapped his fingers.
“I know! We can play strip poker!”
“Why? That’s only fun if there are women around.”
“Besides, we already know what you look like.”
“This is a just a little different though.” Legolas had an all-too smug look on his face. “You’ll love it. Trust me.”
The twins shared an uneasy glance. The last time Legolas had said ‘trust me’ in that innocent voice of his, they had been grounded for six months and forced to clean the stables under Glorfindel’s watchful eye. (Elrond had learned not to force them to help in the kitchen, unless he wanted to lose Cook and the entire kitchen staff for the same amount of time the twins were assigned to ‘help’ there.) It had been worth it though, and they smiled in happy remembrance.
“All right then. Let’s go.”
They began to make their way to Legolas’ rooms for as a guest, he had a larger and nicer chamber – and one that was farther from that of Elrond’s. Legolas began explaining the rules in hushed tones when he suddenly sighed in dismay.
“I don’t have enough clothing with me.”
“You can borrow some of ours, you know.” Elladan glared at his twin. Elrohir was always generous with ‘their’ clothing.
“I know but… clothing isn’t all that’s fun. *Jewelry* is what really makes it fun.”
“You’ll see.” Legolas sighed in dismay. “If only we had some jewelry. I didn’t bring much with me.”
“Oh. Well…” The twins shrugged helplessly. They didn’t have much finery in their suite; most of theirs was kept locked away. “I guess we’ll have to do without then.”
“I know!” Legolas smiled at them and they shuddered. They knew that smile. “I’ll just borrow some of your sister’s jewelry. She’s got plenty.”
“And she’ll be plenty mad when she finds out,” Elrohir muttered to Elladan. “Legolas, I don’t think...”
“I’ll do it. Arwen’s always mad at me for some reason or another.” Legolas smiled that smile again. “Why don’t you borrow some wine from the cellar? The Dorwinion would be nice.”
The twins exchanged alarmed glances. Their father was every bit as protective of his beloved wines as Arwen was of her jewelry.
“Well if you’re too chicken to do it…” Legolas sniffed.
“We’ll do it,” Elladan said. “Give us an hour.”
“An hour!” Exclaimed Legolas. “An hour?”
“We don’t want to be noticed do we?” Elrohir replied. “Come on, Dan.”
Legolas watched them leave and then began padding noiselessly to Arwen’s chambers.
“Did you get it?”
Legolas and the twins arrived at his door at the same time. The twins had snagged three bottles of the prized Dorwinion while Legolas had a very large and unwieldy bundle of cloth in his arms.
“Of course we did.” Elrohir showed him a bottle before hiding it again. “Now hurry up before someone comes along.”
Legolas entered the room first, tossing the bundle on his bed and lighting a few more candles before opening it.
The twins gasped in dismay, for not only had Legolas ‘borrowed’ nearly every item of jewelry Arwen owned, it seemed he had taken three of her favorite – and most expensive – gowns.
“Oh, she is gonna be so mad.” Elladan said while Elrohir gave a low whistle. “So very *mad*.”
“I don’t see why. I only borrowed a few things.”
“But why did you take her gowns?”
“You’ll see,” Legolas said with a smirk.
The twins shrugged as Legolas began digging out the cards, and they threw some large pillows on the floor and waited, setting the prized wine bottles within easy reach.
“Here, catch.” Legolas tossed the cards over his shoulder to the twins.
They promptly looked them over, for Legolas was not above giving himself an edge when it came to card games. Assured all was in order, they looked at him curiously. Legolas had already stripped out of his own clothes and he was carefully shaking out a gown, holding it arm’s length.
“What are you doing, Legolas?” Elladan was tired of the delaying tactics. “Let’s get started.”
“In a minute.” Legolas slid the dress over his head and pulled it into place. “You two need to get dressed too, you know.”
“In Arwen’s dresses? Absolutely not!”
“Do you know how mad she gets?”
“She won’t get mad because she’ll never know. Didn’t you say she was visiting in Lothlorien?”
“Well... yes...” Elrohir said.
“But she could come back at any time.” Elladan said. “Really Legolas, the jewelry is one thing but the dresses are another.”
“You two are chicken,” Legolas laughed. “Well, don’t if you’re so scared but I’m not.”
The twins stared at each other and then shrugged. They would be in enough trouble with their father over the Dorwinion; Arwen would be mad and blame them when she found out about her clothes and jewels anyway.
A few moments later, the twins were dressed as well; Legolas had already begun putting on the jewelry. Ear cuffs, ear tip ‘caps’; along with necklaces, bracelets and rings – so many rings! – all adorned his slim frame. Legolas made a few minute adjustments to the twins’ outfits before pronouncing them ready to play. They settled themselves on the pillows and Legolas began to shuffle the cards.
“Now, this is just basic poker except for one tiny little difference. We aren’t playing for money and there is no betting.”
“No money? No betting?” came the twin chorus. “But why not?”
“We’re playing for something even better.” Legolas was rapidly dealing the cards. “Ok, are you ready?”
“Get on with it.”
The three played in silence until Legolas threw down his cards.
“Now, show me your hands.”
The twins laid their hands down and it was clear that Elladan had won and Legolas had lost.
“I won. So what’s next?”
“You won, so you get to remove one article of clothing or jewelry from me – without using your hands, that is.” Legolas’ eyes gleamed as he stretched out while Elladan leaned over and gently took Legolas’ finger in his mouth and began to ease off one of the rings.
“No fair!” Elrohir sulked. “What do I get?”
“Now it is time for me to serve you in the same way – though you may tell me what you wish me to do.” Legolas replied, batting his eyes at the younger twin.
“Oh, I like this idea!”
Arwen and Haldir arrived late that night. The rain had caught them unaware and they were both soaked to the skin. Haldir bit back a sneeze.
“Just a few minutes more and we can change into dry clothes,” she said. “I’ll take you to the twins’ rooms; I am sure that they will loan you something.”
“Yes, my lady.” Haldir said in a slightly hoarse voice. He knew he should have argued against taking the shortcut but Arwen had been rather insistent, saying she wanted to get home early for a change.
After seeing that their horses were properly cared for, Arwen led Haldir into the house using the servant’s entrance. She paused at a linen closet and gave Haldir a towel to wrap around his head before she got one of her own. They proceeded along several more halls before Arwen stopped in front of a large door.
“This is the twins’ room,” she said. “The fire should be banked but go on in and change. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Are you sure that they will not mind?” he asked nervously. “Perhaps I should see you to your door first.”
“Nonsense. What could possibly happen here?” Arwen waved her hand dismissively. “I will see you at the morning meal, Haldir.”
“As you wish, my lady.” Haldir watched as she continued down the hall and turned a corner before he opened the door to let himself in.
Arwen hummed quietly to herself as she walked to her room. Ada would be so surprised to find she had returned early… As she stepped through her doorway, she paused and sniffed the air. Something was not right and it made her uneasy. She hurriedly lit a candle, only to discover her room had been ransacked. Her face turned pale, and she let out a shriek of rage before storming out. There was only one person who would have dared do such a thing, and she knew just where to find him.
Elrond and Thranduil had just removed their tunics and gotten much more comfortable when they heard the first scream.
“What was that?” Thranduil asked as he removed his lips from Elrond’s earlobe.
“Trouble,” Elrond muttered.
They quickly pulled apart from each other and tried to smooth their rumpled appearance, convinced they were under some sort of attack.
an had just taken another sip of the Dorwinion, watching as Legolas worked at removing one of the bracelets from Elrohir’s wrist with his teeth, when the door crashed open.
“I knew it!” Arwen screamed at Legolas. “I just knew…” All at once she realized that not only Legolas but her brothers as well were sprawled on the floor in various stages of undress – and wearing her favorite gowns at that!
“Uh-oh. We’re in for it now,” Elrohir said, as he saw his little sister’s face turn a bright red.
“You… you…” she began to sputter. “I… you…”
“Arwen, I can explain everything.” Elladan, determined to be the peacemaker, stood up – and the gown promptly fell around his ankles revealing a tightly laced corset, garter belt and one silk stocking.
“My new corset!” Arwen said in a shocked whisper. “And what happened to my other stocking?”
“Here it is!” Legolas smiled in triumph as he picked up the stocking from the floor, where it had fallen after being used as a blindfold. He stood dizzily, intending to present it to her, when he tripped over a stray shoe, stumbled and fell on top of her.
“You big oaf! Get off of me!” Arwen lost her balance and sat down with a thud, and Legolas grinned foolishly up at her and hiccuped. She shrieked again, even louder this time. “ADA!!!!”
“That was Arwen.”
“I thought she was in Lorien?”
Elrond and Thranduil looked worriedly at each other before breaking into a run down the halls. Passing Arwen’s empty room, they hurried down the corridor and turned for Legolas’ room, arriving just as Haldir appeared, and in time to see Arwen berating her brothers and Legolas.
“I’m going to turn you all into rats! Or maybe snakes!” Arwen was advancing on them, menace in her eyes.
“No, Arwen.” Elrond promptly grabbed his daughter and tried to guide her from the room.
“Ada! Just look what they have done to my things!” Arwen threw herself into her father’s arms, sobbing wildly.
“It will be all right, Arwen.” Elrond soothed. “Come, daughter.”
“But ada…” Arwen broke off in mid-cry, finally noticing that Elrond’s tunic was unusually loose and peered closely at the red marks on the side of her father’s neck. “Ada! You are ill? That’s a nasty rash.”
“I am fine, Arwen.” Elrond replied a bit too hastily while Thranduil forced back a smirk.
“But your neck is all red. It looks like something bit you.” Arwen was temporarily distracted by her father’s supposed illness, which allowed Thanduil and Haldir to sneak the boys out of the room and away from Arwen’s wrath. “Are you sure nothing is wrong, ada?”
“It is nothing – nothing at all. I am fine, Arwen.”
Elrond soothed her worry. “Now come, I think you should stay in your mother’s rooms tonight and we will settle everything in the morning.”
“All right, ada.” Arwen sniffled as she allowed her father to walk her to her mother’s chambers.
“What a night,” Elrond said as he climbed into Thranduil’s bed. “I’m afraid I really do have a headache – perhaps tomorrow...”
“I know,” Thranduil replied as he began massaging Elrond’s neck and shoulders. “I am sorry about your neck though.”
“Don’t be,” Elrond said, turning over to face his love. “It was just bad luck that my tunic was loose.”
“Does this mean we will continue the game tomorrow?”
“Of course it does.” Elrond told him. “After all, I plan to win my prize from you.”
“And what prize is that?” Thranduil chuckled. ”It had better be good.”
“Winner’s choice.” Elrond replied. “But telling would spoil the surprise.”
† Moments later, both of them were sound asleep and dreaming of the night to come.