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6. Long Distance Calls
Seldom had the route to the river felt so long, and Thranduil all but ran the last part. The past days had been taxing. Time after another he had felt his mind wander as he recalled the meeting in the forest. Those lips… Over and over he had replayed their kiss, and many times his mind added things that had not happened. He daydreamed of holding her close to him, feeling her softness against his hard warrior’s body and exploring her curves with his hands.
At one point he had been so lost in thought he had accidentally dropped his spear when he stood guard in Thingol’s throne room, with an embarrassingly loud clatter as a result.
As he finally arrived at that same spot where the kiss had happened, Thranduil’s body tingled with a combination of excitement and nervousness. Would this work?
“Aerneth? Are you there?” He stared anxiously down into the river.
Nothing. Only a big stone with green moss growing underwater, and a dead moth following the stream past him. His stomach sank.
Why would she not come? Had she forgotten about him so soon? Or was she angry because he had acted so indecently? But she had kissed him back. She had seemed to like it.
“Aerneth, please answer…” Closing his eyes, he pictured her face, her body, how she had looked after he kissed her. He wanted so badly to see her again.
When he opened his eyes, she had appeared. Her thin eyebrows were drawn together and the full lips turned down, but she still looked amazing. His chest fluttered at the sight. Oh how he wished she could have been here in person!
“You call this ten days?” she scowled.
“Oh. Sorry… I had palace duty yesterday.”
“And you could not find any water that entire day? Don’t they wash their hands in the palace? Besides, you could have used a fountain.”
“There were so many others around.” He swallowed, his mouth becoming dry. This did not go as planned. “I am sorry Aerneth.”
“All right then.” Her countenance softened somewhat.
“How was your journey home?” he asked. How strange it felt to talk to a person so far away! Eglarest was almost ninety leagues to the west of Menegroth, an eight days ride on a fast horse.
“It was all right, I guess. Tiresome. And boring.” She smiled. “I thought about you.”
“You did?” He smiled back.
“Aye. I remembered our kiss and pretended it was longer.” She licked her lips. Thranduil felt blood rush to his lower abdomen. Oh, how he agreed!
“I wish it were longer too.” And that they could have done more than kissing, but he did not say that loud.
“Next time it could be,” she suggested.
“When will next time be?”
“I don’t know. When you come visit me? I have been twice to Menegroth now, and you have never been to Eglarest.”
“I wish I could…”
“Why couldn’t you?”
“I am a march-warden. My captain and my king decide where I go.”
“Oh.” She looked disappointed.
“I must stop now. I am supposed to train new recruits today… Cannot be late.”
“Oh.” Her frown was back.
“I will call you again soon. I promise.”
“I might be busy washing my hair,” she grumbled.
That, of course, gave Thranduil some very interesting mental images to ponder over on his way to the training grounds. It seemed they could use any kind of water for this. What would happen if he called her when she bathed?
That evening Oropher had some dinner guests over who stayed until very late, making another call impossible, and the next two days Thranduil and a few other march-wardens were called out to track down a wounded brown bear and end its misery. A couple of wood gatherers had been surprised by the creature and been forced to defend themselves when it attacked them, but unfortunately it had fled before they could kill it.
On the fourth evening after their first call, Thranduil finally found a new opportunity. This time he stayed in his room since going to the river was complicated at this hour. Instead he carefully filled his wash basin to the brim, hoping such a small amount of water would work too.
Afraid his parents might hear, he did not say Aerneth’s name out loud, only forming a mental image of her. It worked sooner than he had dared hope, her face appeared almost instantly as if she had been waiting for him. This time he saw a little of her surroundings. She was in a building with wooden walls and a wooden ceiling, apparently a house of sorts. Was it her room? She probably was using her wash basin for this as well.
“Hello,” he whispered, holding a finger to his mouth so she would not answer too loudly.
“Hello Thranduil,” she replied, her voice low. Hearing her image in the water whisper through those lovely lips was the most sensual thing Thranduil had yet experienced. The excited flutter from the other day returned in full force.
“Were you going to bed too?” she asked. He noticed she only wore a thin chemise, and his trousers suddenly felt very tight.
“Aye.” He swallowed, picturing her in a bed. Naked.
“Why are you not undressed then?” That impish smile of hers would be the death of him!
Still meeting her gaze in the bowl, Thranduil undid the lacing partway down the front of his tunic and pulled it over his head. It felt strange and forbidden to stand before her in only his linen undershirt, but at the same time it did not feel quite real. She was not actually here .
“Better,” she whispered, her eyes large and dark. “You look stronger than I remembered.”
“Shall I take off the shirt?” he offered.
She nodded, so he did, trembling slightly as he hung the garment on his chair.
Would she remove her chemise if he asked her? He wondered what her breasts might look like. Their shape hinted through her flimsy garment.
”Your hair is so long,” she breathed. “Do you wear those braids when you sleep?”
”Then take them out. I liked your hair the way it was when we first met. Free… like seagrass.”
”Seagrass?” He grinned while undoing his warrior braids.
”When you come to me I shall show you seagrass. Can you swim?”
”I like to swim without clothes.”
He found no words.
”I could– Darn. I must go. Nana comes! Bye Thranduil!” She blew him a kiss and disappeared.
Thranduil remained a long time staring into the bowl with unseeing eyes, his imagination painting vivid images of a golden haired elleth swimming naked in clear waters. He did not feel the chill of his room. Inside, he was on fire.
Gliding into the hot water of his bath, Thranduil’s body throbbed with anticipation. It was well worth all the carrying of buckets and heating the water to be finally able to do this! He and Aerneth had planned it for several months, it had been hard to find a time that was suitable for them both, especially for Thranduil who worked many evenings and rarely was alone in his free time.
Luckily, tonight Oropher and Eiriendîs were dining with his colleague Amdír and his wife, Amroth’s parents. Oropher and Amdír both held leading positions in the Royal Office of Economy. Doriath was a small kingdom with less than three thousand inhabitants but nevertheless there was much to organise to make it run smoothly. When necessary, most of the residents could take up weapons and join the march-wardens to battle, like that time in the Forest of Brethil a few years back. But in addition almost everybody had a civil profession. Within the thousand caves of Menegroth worked palace staff, guards, cleaners, healers, foraging teams, butchers, tailors, smiths and more. Their wages and taxes were a lot to administrate, and the king could not do it alone.
Normally Thranduil would have gone with his parents on their visit, but tonight Amroth was working the evening shift in the palace, so Thranduil had feigned tiredness to be allowed to stay behind. Aerneth for her part had only her mother to worry about now that Círdan was on his way to Hithlum, and apparently Falasiel was prone to long, lone walks along the shore nearly every evening.
Thus, they found themselves with several solitary hours before them.
“Aerneth,” murmured Thranduil into the water, after making sure the soap lather well concealed the lower half of his body. He had washed his hair first and it now covered his bare shoulders in moist strands.
“Hello handsome!” Her face appeared, and part of her torso. She was covering her breasts with her arms in a very appealing way, the soft swellings of her exposed cleavage promising an interesting view below.
“Hello beautiful,” he responded hoarsely. Sweet Elbereth, how gorgeous she was!
“Enjoying your bath?” She grinned cheekily.
“Aye, I do now. It was a bit lonely first.” She lowered her arms a fraction.
He swallowed, unable to reply. His hand trailed down between his legs.
“I like that look on your face,” she said. Her right hand disappeared from view, presumably on the same errand as his left one. The remaining arm barely managed to cover her extraordinary bosom. He stared at her arm, willing it to go away.
“Say something dirty,” she suggested.
“You are so gorgeous. I want to…” He hesitated.
“Aye?” Her impish grin widened and her remaining arm dropped.
He drew in his breath sharply. She was magnificent.
“You want to…?”
“I want to bed you.”
“Take you. Pin you down with my body and take you.”
“Say my name,” she ordered.
“Aerneth,” he murmured in that low, purring voice he knew she loved.
Her eyes were closed now and she breathed faster, her arm moving rapidly. Seeing her glazed eyes and flushed cheeks drove him over the edge, ripples of pleasure surging through his body.
“Aerneth,” he said again, and that seemed to be enough to bring forth similar sensations in her.
A moment of companionable silence followed, while they caught their breaths and waited for their hearts to slow down. The warm water was relaxing and Thranduil leaned back, closing his eyes. He wondered when they could do this again. Hopefully it would be sooner than the many months this had taken to arrange. Maybe next time he could persuade her to bath without soap lather?
“So, when are you coming to ask for my hand?” she asked, effectively chasing away the alluring image of her naked lower body. He stifled a sigh. How many times were they going to have this conversation?
“Not much can be done while Lord Círdan remains in Hithlum.” He scooped up a soap bubble and blew on it. It flew away to land on the chair where his folded linen towel waited.
“Have you told your father about us yet?”
“Are you ashamed of me?”
“Of course not. Must we speak of this again?”
“I’m tired of waiting.”
“I know… I know. I will tell him. But it is complicated, what with the king, and–”
“...his daughter, yes thank you, I get that.” She frowned. “Well, it was nice bathing with you, Thranduil. Call me when you’ve ended your present relationship.”
“Don’t do this Aerneth. Please.”
But she was gone.
Thranduil rubbed his face tiredly. Aerneth did not understand what Oropher was like, or King Elu Thingol for that matter. They were stubborn elves and when their minds were set not much could budge them. He needed more time.
In addition, there was the matter of the war. Weddings were best celebrated in peacetime, when the proper ceremonies could be held.
Despite the protective fence around Doriath, Thranduil was worried about the situation in the north. Morgoth’s orcs were very near the Hithlum border now, and scouts brought back news that they had broken through the first resistance at Eithel Sirion, the old fortress by the spring where the river Sirion began. Many had been slain, both humans and elves, and the new Lord of the humans fought desperately to keep the enemy at bay in the mountain passes.
Surprisingly this leader was Húrin, one of the boys Thranduil had lost in Brethil and who later mysteriously returned.
Word had it that Húrin had become a mighty hero despite being a mortal, and was holding his stance so far. But for how long? What would happen if he fell, if Hithlum fell? Would Morgoth turn south and try once again to cross the Sirion into west Beleriand? If so, Doriath would have to defend its borders and Thranduil would likely be called to the front with the rest of the march-wardens. And battles were always risky, there were always losses.
No, now was not a good time to enter a marriage.
Thranduil knew that Aerneth worried of these things too, but she came to a different conclusion. Instead of waiting, she wanted to hurry. What if her father was killed in Hithlum? What if Morgoth attacked the Falas where she lived? She wanted to be properly married before the impending disaster, to at least have a few days of happiness before either or both of them died. She was often dramatic like that.
Red and yellow leaves littered the surface of the Esgalduin, and the grass on the riverbank was coated in powdery, white frost. Thranduil sat on a large stone and peered into the water while thinking of Aerneth, more from habit than from any real hope she would reply. He had endured several months of silent treatment now.
To his surprise, her face formed between the leaves. When he brushed them aside he could see her surroundings; clear, open sky high above her like a blue canopy. She was silent, but in the background he heard a rumbling, mighty sound. The sea! She must be sitting on the beach.
“I did not think you would come,” he said. Now that they had not talked for so long, he did not know what to say.
She remained silent, and now he saw she was crying. It was hard to spot the tears in her image among the ripples of the river, but her lip was trembling and her shoulders shaking.
“What is wrong?” He leaned closer to the surface. “Aerneth… talk to me.”
“I’m so worried,” she sobbed. “Ada just called. There will be a huge battle tomorrow. He is marching towards the orcs now, with King Fingon’s people and the humans. What if he doesn’t survive?”
“I am sure he will survive.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Did you not say before he is friends with Ossë the Maia? He will protect him, just like his wife Uinen protected me that time.”
“There is no water there.”
“If Ada dies then Nana will take one of his ships and sail to Aman, I’m sure of it. She longs to go there even now… But...” Her voice broke. “But I’m not sure I’m ready to leave yet.”
“Leave?” An uncomfortable chill seeped down his spine. “Why would you leave?”
“Why should I stay? I would be all alone.” She was meeting his gaze for the first time now, her eyes red rimmed and swollen.
He wanted to say she would not be alone, that he would marry her, but nothing came out. He could not promise her this without speaking to his father. A conversation he had kept postponing, knowing his father would not approve. Oropher wanted that alliance with King Thingol so badly, the princess was a much more eligible match.
“Why am I even talking to you? If you cared about me one bit you would have come for me instead of making up excuses. This was a mistake. Let’s end it.” Her expression was hard, but her trembling lip betrayed how much it hurt her to speak those words.
Thranduil found his voice at last. "No! Please, I don't want to end it. I want to marry you!"
“Then prove it.”
“I will. I will tell my father I intend to wed you. And I shall stop seeing Lúthien.”
“When? You keep promising me this, and yet here we are. So tell me when. When will you speak to your father? When will you break up with that princess?”
“The hunting season begins tomorrow so I will be away for some days, a week perhaps, but after that… I promise, as soon as I return I will do it.”
She was silent a long time, and Thranduil felt his heart beat so fast it hurt. He could not lose her.
“Please,” he begged again, his voice barely more than a whisper.
“All right. I give you two weeks.” Her image disappeared.
Thranduil remained by the river a long time, his mind full of apprehension. What would he say to his father, how could he explain what Aerneth meant to him? He was so bad with words, especially when talking to Oropher. Even if he thought out the sentences beforehand, his father had a tendency to ask questions he had not prepared answers for, rendering him dumbfounded and stupid. He had a very bad feeling about the outcome of this heart-to-heart.
At least he would have some days to compose his speech. He could not give up, he must persuade his father somehow, he had to. This was his last chance or he would lose Aerneth.
The longest I ever managed a long distance relationship was 3 months… Will it work better for Thranduil and Aerneth? And what will Oropher say? I love to hear your thoughts! Feedback is so important for a writer’s creativity and confidence in their story.
On elves and sex: Tolkien writes in Laws and Customs Among the Eldar that elves marry only once, and of free will. The physical union is the wedding, even though it’s usually preceded by a betrothal period and a ceremony. Other elves can see if an elf is married in his ‘eyes and voice’. While pleasuring yourself together with someone certainly is a sexual act, I’ve decided it’s not enough to make them married in the sense that others could tell.
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