Authors Note: This story was first inspired by a Plot Bunny of Cheysuli, that she offered up for adoption: Mirkwood Elves are kept as pleasure-slaves. Legolas is the slave of Aragorn, who is a jerk. When Aragorn takes him with him on the Ring Quest and the others of the fellowship find out, Aragorn offers to share his slave with them to keep them from attacking him. Aragorn was to be the bad guy without any redeeming qualties.
This Plot-Bunny was adopted by Buegold in her thrilling story "Bound", that can be found here:
However, the basic ideas of BlueGolds story settled itself within my head and and began to grow and multiply. What if Aragorn was *not* the irredeemable bad guy, but matters were much more complicated? And how keep a slave loyal who accompanied his master everywhere and was supposed to fight and guard his back?
So, I asked BlueGold if she would mind if I wrote a similar story based on her basic idea, and she gave her permission. Here it is. Hopefully my story will be original enough and different enough from Bluegold's to avoid the dangers of plagiarism. The idea of the Mael-Gūl, or Rhach e-Maelangwedh (Lust-Spell, Curse of Lustchain) however is entirely mine.

The story is based loosely on the Movieverse, with a few book elements. Please note, however, that this is AU. Utterly and completely. I apologize to all Tolkien purists. I know the Master himself would rotate in his grave if ever he was confronted with anything like this. I know, Galadriel, Elrond, Thranduil and their Elves are not this way, and Aragorn is neither. But I simply had to write this, so please don't read if you don't like. You have been warned. --Aislynn

Warning: Slash, m/m, BDSM, torture, toys, d/s, hard stuff, very graphic descriptions, both physical and mental; abuse both physical and sexual. Non-con and debatable consent.
Rated: NC (M) -strictly adults only.
Pairings: Aragorn/Legolas (mainly), Boromir/Legolas , Gimli/Legolas , Others/Legolas.
Betareader: For the first and most of the second chapter, only myself, so far.
From the third chapter onwards, beta-work has been done by the most amazing Surreysmum, who relentlessly weeded out bad grammar, clumsy phrasing, unfitting modern slang and made all this so much better. Thank You!

Disclaimer: J.R.R. Tolkien owns the characters, safe a few original characters in side roles. Peter Jackson owns the Movies. Oh, and the universe I play in is not mine; even the setting is inspired by a plot bunny of Cheysuli and the story "Bound" by BlueGold, as mentioned above (see authors note). The idea of the Mael-Gūl, or Rhach e-Maelangwedh (Lust-Spell, Curse of Lustchain) however is entirely mine.

Feedback: Yes please! Send to This is my first LOTR fic, and I am no native speaker. Any comments welcome, including about grammar!

Languages: I am no great expert in Sindarin and have no clue to its grammar, therefore I will just use a few words of this language in this fic. So whenever Aragorn is speaking with Elves, consider the conversation is taking place in Sindarin, except if explicitly differently mentioned. At the council or among the Fellowship, he and everybody else is talking in Common Speech or Westron, except if differently mentioned.



Of the History of the Elves, Library of Mithlond, Fourth Age (unknown Historian):

"The Third Age of Middle Earth was a time of great sorrow, and it saw the corruption of the Elven Realms.

The Last Alliance ended with the defeat of Sauron, and the One Ring was claimed by Isildur, then got lost. The Elves, thinking it gone, began to use the three Elven Rings. But they were wrong to think the Three were pure, because in truth all rings had been touched by Sauron. Using them, their bearers were corrupted. Only Cirdan escaped, since he never used his ring. So, only a few decades after the end of the Second Age, there was war again, and it took the ugly face of Kinslaying.

Elrond and Galadriel blamed the Mirkwood Elves for the death of Gil-Galad in the Last Alliance, and later even for the renewed multiplication of Orcs and the new darkness in the south of Mirkwood. It were Orcs that had caught and tortured Celebrian, Elrond's wife, to the point were she fled Middle Earth for Valinor.

The rulers of Imladris and of Rivendell said the Mirkwood Elves had caused all this by their constant disobedience and failure to cooperate with the Noldor. So, the Noldorin dominated realm of Rivendell and its allied realm of Lothlorien attacked Thranduil of Eryn Galen, later known as Mirkwood.

The Mirkwood Elves fought bravely, but they had lost two thirds of their warriors in the Last Alliance, and they had no force to match their opponents. They were forced into submission. Thranduil had to pay homage, and was forced to regularly give tribute and hostages every yen . Those were kept as slaves.

Several of the hostages were of noble birth, among them most of the members of Thranduils family. One of the hostages was Thranduils youngest son. He was given to Elrond and used as pleasure slave. Later, Elrond decided to give this slave to his adopted human son: Aragorn, destined to become the king of men, who happened to need his lovers suffering in pain to reach completion. And to make sure Legolas would serve the Ranger faithfully, he was bound to him by a cruel spell: the Mael-Gūl . But then, one day, Aragorn had to take his Elven slave with him on the Quest to destroy the One Ring..."

________________ o _____________


Legolas screamed. Pain ravaged his insides. Desperately he tossed and turned where he lay, clawing his hands into his hurting belly. He whimpered, then cried out again. His muddled, feverish mind could not longer tell him if it was night or day, if he was alone or not. It didn't matter. Only the pain mattered.
Poison ravaged his guts, and his body shivered in fever. He curled himself into a tight, little ball, but it did not give him relief, and he tried to uncurl again. "Estel!" he whimpered, "Estel... Master... please! .. Need... need.... please.." - But his master wasn't there.

His parched lips were burning. His mouth was dry. His eyes were already to dry to cry any tears. He had a vague memory that he was in a room, in a bed, that there was water stored somewhere nearby. Feebly he tried to concentrate for long enough to reach for the nightstand. But he was already too weak to reach the Jug with water.
Desperately, he cried out again, cried for help. But there was none.

He drifted back again into his world of pain. Then he had the vague notion that there was someone there, and that someone gave his hurting body support, pressed a cup with water to his lips, whispered soft, soothing words. He drank thirstily, only a few gulps, then the cup was withdrawn and he cried in despair. He tried to grab whoever it was holding him, begged him to give him release:

"Take me... take me... please.. Estel!..."

But he was alone again, the other one gone. Perhaps he had only dreamed his presence. He whimpered and cried again. "Estel.. Please... help me... Master!... Estel!!!..."

But he was alone. His master wasn't there. He wasn't even in Rivendell.

This time, it seemed that Aragorn son of Arathorn would probably not be back in time to save his slave again.

Chapter I Return to Rivendell

Part I

Aragorn strolled back from Lord Elrond's study into the Hall of Fire after he knew the Hobbits safely delivered to the servants, who took care of them. He was on the way to his own chambers, but he was troubled. He had arrived at Rivendell about two hours ago. By now, word of his return should have spread wide enough, but his own, personal Elf remained curiously absent. Perhaps he had gone out to the shooting ranges, but even there a servant with word of Aragorn's return should have found him by now.

Halfway through the hall, he met Erestor, and took the opportunity to ask.

"Where is Legolas?"

The Steward shrugged, obviously annoyed to be restrained from his current errands.

"I don't know. In your rooms, I think. I haven't seen him for some days."

Aragorn grew concerned. He frowned.

"Not even at the meals?"

Erestor gave him an annoyed look.

"Aragorn, it is not my concern to look after your slave. If you are so concerned about him I suggest you look after him yourself!" he chided.

Aragorn gave a silent curse, then he reined his temper in. It would not do to yell at Elrond's chief advisor, not if he wanted his help and cooperation later. So he calmed himself and graced the Steward with a courtly nod.
"Erestor, please!" he said politely, "You say you haven't seen him for some time. Wasn't he at the meals? Or with Lord Elrond?"

Erestor shook his head. "As far as I know he has not left your rooms for about a week or so," he said neglectfully, "he may have eaten there if he was in the mood." Icily he added: "Now if you will excuse me, I have duties to see to."
Aragorn's hand sneaked out and grabbed the Elf's arm, preventing him of leaving. Erestor frowned and angrily shook him off. "Let go of me, Dunadan!" he hissed, "You overstep your place!"

Aragorn actually backed up a step. He was startled; it was easy to forget that the Noldor Elf once had been a warrior of Eregion before he took refuge in Elrond's house, but at this moment, it showed. But Aragorn had reached his goal at least for the advisor made no further effort to leave. Good. He had questions that needed an answer.

Equally frosty he replied: "As you wish. I'll let you go in a moment, but first tell me if my brothers or Glorfindel are in Rivendell?"

Erestor gave him an angry stare.
"You know that they are not! Lord Glorfindel has been out and about to search for you and possibly defend Imladris from an attack of the Ulairi . And the Lords Elrohir and Elladan are out hunting for Orcs and other servants of the enemy!"

Aragorn paled. His face was grim. "How long have they been away?" he demanded.

Erestor gave a disinterested shrug.

"They have been away for a fortnight now, as you mortals count time," he said. "Maybe a few days more. May I go now? I have errands to attend to, and the day is waning while we speak." He gathered his dignity around him like a coat and in a rush he went away.

Aragorn forced himself to give him a bow, then he turned and hastened to his chambers. He cursed, heartily and thoroughly. Over two weeks! That meant Legolas had been in need at least for that much time, maybe even longer. He would be positively ill by now.

"I should never have tightened the spell that strongly!" he berated himself.

He was nearly running when he finally reached his chambers. He found the Mirkwood Elf lying in his bed, rolled in to a ball, whimpering and shivering in fever. His eyes were dim and filmed over; at least they were still open. The normally shining golden hair was matted and entangled and completely filthy. The Elf couldn't have washed it for some days. The blanket had fallen away and he had seemingly made no effort to regain it. The Elf wore a rank, sweaty nightgown, but Aragorn knew from past experience what he would find under the cloth: angry red welts spreading about the belly, a swollen anus, and a greyish, dry and icy skin. Legolas was on the brink. The poison that worked within his body had nearly killed him.

Swearing, Aragorn bolted the door and slipped out of his cloak and weapons, then knelt by the shivering bundle on his bed. Carefully he took the stricken Elf into his arms.


The Elf gasped.

"Estel?!" His voice shook with renewed hope and desperation. "Estel! Please... Need..."

Aragorn cursed again, then swallowed and kissed the shivering form in his arms gently on the forehead.
Damn Erestor and his disdain for Mirkwood Elves! Damn his brothers and Glorfindel! Damn Lord Elrond! And most of all damn himself for ever letting it get so far!!!

"Shhh, all is well," he soothed. "I am here now. I will see to you, melethron , I will take care of you. Just give me a moment..."
He placed another kiss on the Elf's sweaty brow and settled him carefully back down into the sheets. Legolas whimpered in protest and made a feeble attempt to clutch himself to him. Gently, Aragorn pried his hands away. "I will be right back!" he promised.

Somebody - perhaps Lindir, or another friendly soul - had left a pitcher with water and a cup on the nightstand. So, the suffering Elf had not been entirely without help. Unfortunately, there had been just one person present in Rivendell these last two weeks who could have given him what he really needed to be healed, and for whatever reason that person had been unwilling to do so.

Of course, given the state Legolas was in he might well have been suffering longer than that. It seemed that he had not been given relief since Aragorn himself had left over four weeks ago. Aragorn calculated that he must have been in need even when his brothers and Glorfindel left. And knowing Legolas, he would have been reluctant to trouble them with his problem when everybody was alarmed by the news of the Nazgūl freely roaming the country again and Imladris prepared itself for war.

Quickly Aragorn slipped out of his clothes and boots and pushed them away. Judging his chances to get the sick Elf out of the soiled nightgown, he simply decided to make short work of the clothing and grabbed his knife. Placing it for the moment on the nightstand, he took the pitcher, filled the cup with water and went back to the side of his stricken companion.

Carefully and tenderly he gathered him back into his arms, supporting his head.
"Drink, melethron," he soothed, "You need some fluids before I can take you. I will give you release in a moment, but you have to drink this water first."

Legolas gasped then sobbed; then he opened his mouth obediently and drank the offered water with deep, needy gulps. It was like balm to his chapped lips and his parched mouth and throat. Slowly the hope settled in his muddled mind that this was not a dream, that this time his master was really there. Aragorn meanwhile caressed one of the delicate pointed ears with his fingers, tucking the entangled tresses out of his way. He could not resist; he placed a kiss on the lobe, then licked along the frame and finally gently bit into it.

Legolas gasped and nearly choked on the water. Luckily, the cup was nearly finished.

Aragorn set the cup aside and took the knife. It was time to give his slave what he so desperately needed.
"Let me get you out of that," he said, and grabbing the sweat soaked and filthy nightgown with one hand, slowly began to cut the cloth away. Legolas eyes had cleared a bit. He was still feverish, but the voice and the attention of his master had managed to calm him and the water had restored a bit of his strength. Now he was breathing hard in anticipation. He was still whimpering incoherently in Sindarin. "Need," and "Estel," and "Please," and "Master" were among the few words Aragorn could discern. Slowly the enormity of the situation made its way into his mind and from that directly to his groin, where it started hot jolts of arousal. The stricken Elf in his arms was suffering and writhing in pain because of him, because he had withheld himself from him and not given him what his slave so desperately needed. And now he was desperate for him to take him, to give him release, although it would at first hurt him even more; entering the swollen, aggravated anus at this point would cause nearly unbearable torture for the Elf, but it was also the only way for Legolas to find release. The sheer amount of power he had over his slave made Aragorn's head swim and brought him to a sudden, hard, needy erection. And the sheer need and writhing pain of his victim, who would welcome him in spite of the even greater pain he was about to cause made his breath catch in desire.

Legolas was suffering like that all for him. All because he needed him, and was dependent of the attentions of his cruel lover. With a determined jerk Aragorn ripped the ragged rest of the sliced cloth off the body of his Elf and threw it away. "Let me admire you!" he commanded and watched the naked, writhing body in his arms.

"You are beautiful like this, melethron," Aragorn whispered. "So beautiful! If it held not such a risk to lose you, I would bring you to this state more often, just to hear you cry your need for me! - But I don't want to be bereft of you! I need you, melethron, like you need me!"

He was not sure if his slave even understood his words. Legolas was so deep in need that he was still nearly incoherent. All he obviously understood was his masters tone and his gravelly, excited and passionate voice.

Deliberately Aragorn stroked over the swollen belly, knowing that his caress at the moment only brought more pain, and was delighted to hear his victim gasp and try to escape from the exploring hand. Since his Elf was still cradled within his arms, however, this movement settled him only firmer against Aragorn's body and brought his thighs into direct contact with his masters throbbing erection. Aragorn gasped. He placed another kiss on one of the delicate ears.

"Let me get the oil, melethron," he whispered. "Then I will sheathe myself in you!"

Without releasing the Elf out of his arms, he reached over to the nightstand, set the knife away and opened the small cupboard that held the oil he always kept there just for this purpose.

Taking the vial out and setting it within easy reach, he renewed his caresses of the swollen belly of his slave with his other hand, relishing Legolas feeble, hopeless attempts to escape the exploring hand that roamed him. Then he bit again into the ear under his lips, this time a bit harder.

"Of course," he added with perfect cruelty, "given your current state, it will hurt!"

With this, he pushed the Elven slave out of his arms, caught him and rolled him around onto his back. Catching his wrists, he pressed them down into the sheets and straddled his helpless victim. He took the mouth of his slave in a deep, demanding kiss. He could feel the Elf reacting, rising up his groin against him in need and hope. He released his mouth and licked down the neck, then further down the breast until he reached the erect, slightly swollen nipples. For a few moments, he concentrated on tormenting them with both tongue and teeth. Then he carefully and slowly licked over the aching, hypersensitive belly. This wasn't painful for the slave, but drove him mad with need. He doubled his incoherent begging and the tossing of his head, and his groin began to sport the first signs of an erection. Aragorn grinned and closed his mouth over the waxing member of the Elf, licking and sucking it to full attention.

Finally satisfied that the slave was as aroused as his master, he let go of Legolas wrists, rolled off him and positioned himself before him. Then he reached for the vial and quickly coated his fingers, and himself. It was time!

Legolas screamed as the sore, swollen flesh of his passage was pierced by an exploring finger. The pain was nigh unbearable, and he cried again, nearly choking on his own tears. The finger drove deeper, and he cried again, then stopped for sheer lack of air. Then the finger hit the sore, swollen gland that was the center of his problems, and he nearly lost consciousness as pain and pleasure exploded in his head. He rose and writhed against the intruding limb, trying to wriggle free, to get away, but was pressed brutally into the mattress by a strong and unforgiving hand. His legs were raised up against his tormentor's body, resting on its shoulders, and he could not escape him.

"Be still!" his master harshly commanded. "I have to prepare you, and you know you need this!"

He tried to obey, but the pain was just too great, and he continued writhing. Slowly and mercilessly his master began to massage the swollen, hurting gland, sending bolts of searing pain through his whole body. He cried, gasped and screamed again. Then his parched throat would not give more sound, and he stopped screaming, instead begging his tormentor tonelessly and incoherently to stop. And really, the finger was withdrawn - only to return with another. He whimpered and begged his master to please, stop, clawing into the sheets and trying to wriggle his legs away; but his tormentor held him fast with one arm and just wouldn't stop. Again the fingers were withdrawn, then there were three of them that entered him, stretching him mercilessly. He screamed for release, begged his master to stop the pain, but his voice was gone and he made no sound. All he could hear was Estel's voice, hoarse with passion, and his own ragged breathing. The pain was overwhelming.

Finally the fingers were withdrawn. Frozen in terror, Legolas waited for what he knew would come next. Then it came when another thick column of hard flesh entered him in one thrust, hit directly on his gland and filled him up completely. He gave a deep, tearing sob and made a last attempt to escape the piercing flesh. It was no use. His tormentors arms were tightly wound around his wriggling thighs and pressed them against his masters flat, hard breast, leaving him no room to get away. For a moment the invader just remained sheathed within him, giving the passage some time to adjust; then the thrusting began and Legolas was taken to a whole new dimension of pain, losing all awareness of the outside world. Hurt was all he knew, mixed with pleasure, and even more hurt.

He did not know that he had fallen into constant whimpering, that he was still begging to please, stop, no more, mercy, please, master, Estel!!! - nor that his voice was so hoarse he hardly made a sound. He hardly was aware of anything except the continued thrusting within him, that hit him again and again and again, until he finally was filled with both the punishing member and warm fluid, and the pressure waned. The thrusting stopped. He sank back against the sheets, aching and exhausted, and began slowly to drift back to coherence again.

Aragorn did not stop as his slave tossed and struggled against him, screaming and begging pitifully to be spared. Instead he continued to massage Legolas sweet spot methodically. As much as it was torture at this point, he knew the gland would welcome the attention. And the sooner the swollen gland stopped producing the deadly poison that threatened his slave, the sooner Legolas would heal. Of course to contradict the poison, his slave needed the only existing antidote: the living seed of his master. He had some trouble to hold the tossing body of his slave; for a moment he regretted that he had not taken the time to tie him up. But in his current state the slave was already too weak to really get away.

Legolas helpless begging and hopeless wriggling against his body and against his roaming hand drove his arousal to new heights. The slaves erection had completely waned; even his sixty years of continued training by the enforced linking of pain and pleasure could not keep through so much pain. But Aragorn himself was so hard he already leaked. He knew if he not entered Legolas soon, he would come then and there, wasting his precious seed instead of spending it within his slave. With an act of hard -bought discipline he forced himself to wait while he methodically stretched his slaves swollen passage until it could take him in. Finally the tight channel was widened enough and he withdrew his hand and positioned himself. Then he buried himself with one powerful thrust completely within Legolas.

Blazing pleasure exploded in his brain and sent currents of pure bliss all through him. He stayed in his position a few moments, giving the living sheath around him some time to adjust, then he began to thrust. He adjusted his angle carefully to make sure he hit the gland, but all the same he was soon lost in mindless rutting. The nearly soundless whimpering and begging of his victim drove him to new heights. It did not take long, and with one last powerful thrust he finally released himself within the writhing body. Completely spent he let go of his slaves legs and collapsed over Legolas prone, pliant body. He held him fast, safely embraced, hoarsely whispering endearments while he tried to regain his breath.

He did not withdraw his limp member, though, but remained sheathed, both to prolong the bliss and to prevent his seed of rinsing out of his slaves body before it could do its work.

Breathless he mumbled a plethora of soothing endearments for his lover, caressing his face, his chest, his ears.

"You are beautiful, melethron; you do not know what you do to me! You are beautiful like this. So open to my every touch, so needy, so responsive... I would have you this way always if I only could... you have been very brave, I am proud to own you... I need you, melethron, I do not want to lose you... I always wish to have you..." he whispered. "Don't worry, melethron, it will get better now, very soon. I'll have you again in a few. Just give me a moment! I'll just stay within you until I'm hard again..."

Legolas didn't respond. He slowly drifted back into his semiconscious state, open and pliant to whatever his master would do to him, while the ejaculate within his body started to do its work. As Aragorn started to gently tease his nipples, then proceeded to thoroughly tweak and torture them, he hardly flinched and only whimpered again. He didn't need to do much more, though. All Aragorn needed at this point to get hard again was the still swollen belly under his touch, the small gasps when he bit into the delicate ears, and the helpless whimpering and wriggling of the slave whenever he moved within his still hurting passage; small sounds of pain mixed with need and incoherent begging both to stop hurting him and to take him once more.

Aragorn took him three more times this night, giving him as much of himself as he could. It was near morning when he finally collapsed beside his Elf, holding him tightly, his head buried in the golden hair. Legolas slept peacefully within his arms; his eyes were closed now, but his body was finally healing. The repeatedly given seed of his master had done its work, acting as antidote and neutralizing the poison of the gland that had ravaged and nearly killed him. The gland itself was slowly receding to its normal size and his still aching anus was healing. Even the swelling of his guts receded.
His breathing was deep and normal now, and his skin slowly went back to its normal hue. The hair, though still tangled and filthy, started to shine again. The pain that had been constantly haunting him for the last two weeks was finally gone.

_____________________ o _______________

Aragorn woke a few hours later when the sun stood already high in the sky. Somebody knocked quietly at the door. Carefully he disentangled himself from his bed partner, then took a moment to contemplate the Elf. Legolas was sleeping. He looked much better now, and his face was not a grimace of pain and need anymore, but relaxed and peaceful. His hair was filthy with sweat though, and he had obviously not washed himself for days. The Ranger nearly laughed at that thought. Both he himself and Legolas were positively stinking! And this happened to his prissy Elf who always tried that eagerly to keep himself - and his master - clean!

He shook his head. "What have you done to yourself, Little Leaf?" he asked quietly, studying the closed eyes, the still too pale face. "Why didn't you seek help much sooner? I know how much you fear Lord Elrond, but still..."

The knocking was repeated.

Aragorn rolled himself from the bed and grabbed a tunic, quickly slipping into it. Then he made it quietly to the door. "I'm coming!" he whispered just loud enough for Elven Ears to hear, "Just a moment!"
His whisper was heard beyond the door, bur it stirred no reaction in the sleeping Elf within his bed. Legolas was dead to the world at the moment, and Aragorn knew he would remain so for a while. Though there was no point to risk waking him up too soon. Therefore Aragorn opened the door carefully and quietly.

It was Lindir, delivering another jug with water, large enough to fill the wash stand at the corner, and a tablet with a large plate of food.

"God day to you, Estel," he greeted quietly. "Erestor thought you might wish to spend he morning in your rooms, so I was sent to bring you some nourishment and something to wash up." He studied he Ranger for a moment and wrinkled his nose. "You seem to need it!"

Aragorn shook his head. He stepped outside and closed the door behind him.

"Lindir, what happened? Why was he in that state?" he demanded quietly but forcefully. "Legolas was nearly dying when I came!"

Lindir cocked his brow and placed the tablet with the food and the pitcher carefully on the floor. Then he turned on the adan .

"You happened, Ranger!" he replied angrily. "It was you who stayed absent for such a prolonged time! And it was you who bound him that tightly into that spell!"

Aragorn growled.

"I know what I did," he replied in an angry whisper. "What I wish to know is why he did not seek help! Why did Lord Elrond take not care of him when it got that bad? Why didn't Legolas seek out his help?"

Lindir's face was grim.

"Erestor denied him," he said regretfully. "In the week before Glorfindel and the two young lords left, Legolas was needy, but it was not too bad yet. There was still some time until he would get worse and we all thought that you would be back soon; and if you were delayed the other three lords expected to be back even sooner. So Legolas decided not to bother them. The next week it got bad, but Erestor claimed Lord Elrond was too busy to waste his time on a needy slave. Then Arwen brought Frodo to Rivendell and Erestor's claim became true. Lord Elrond stayed in the healing wing nearly the whole week trying to save the Hobbit, and hardly left Frodo's side even to sleep or eat. But at this point Legolas was so ill already that he could not leave your rooms anymore."
Lindir shook his head. "I tended to him as best as I could, and even would have brought him to the healing tract myself, but he would not allow it. He still hoped that you would make it back in time."

Aragorn made a face.

"I would have done, but I had three Hobbits to guide through the wilds and to protect," he said bitterly. "Even so, the healing wing would not have availed him. You know the consequences of the spell. There is but one medicine to his illness, and he would not have found it there! Not while Elrond had to spend all his strength and time on healing Frodo." He sighed. "And all that just because Gandalf and I both thought an Elf in Bree would be too suspicious given our current need for secrecy! I should have taken him with me, Gandalf's wishes be damned!"

Lindir just looked at him. "Is he better now?" he asked with concern.

Aragorn gave him a grateful look. He nodded.
Lindir was both a Noldor Elf and free, but he was friendly and he treated Legolas almost as an equal and a friend. Indeed he didn't care that much about station and rank at all and ignored it whenever he could get away with it. It was rare that one of the Noldor of Rivendell would go as far as to befriend a slave, although most of them tended to treat their slaves well, at least usually. But Erestor was a special case. He never had liked Legolas. Nor had Lord Elrond.

"Yes, he is healing," he replied. "But it was a near thing. I nearly lost him! He was on the brink already when I came."

He shook his head.

"Thank you for the food," he said. "I think I let him sleep another hour, then get some food within him. Afterwards we'll have to take a bath. Could you please have the bathing chambers prepared in two hours? And send somebody to change the sheets and clean up while we are there? I'll let him sleep as long as he needs afterwards, but I'd rather have him sleep in a clean bed." He smiled a bit. "While I may be used to sleep within my grime when I am in the wilderness, I seem to recall that Legolas does not relishes it."

More seriously, he added: "And I think he really needs some sleep."

Lindir grinned widely. "You both need it!" he said pointedly. "Both the sleep and the bath!"

With that merry remark he turned and walked away. Aragorn shook his head, picked up the tablet and slipped back into the room. He placed the tablet carefully on a table, covered it with a cloth and went back to get the pitcher. Then he closed the door, got rid of his tunic and crawled back into bed beside his Elf.

For a moment he contemplated his sleeping lover again. He seemed still much too frail for his liking. It would take yet some time for him to recover fully, and even more before he could be subjected to harsher play again. Still... to have this pliant body at his mercy, to hear him beg and try to get away just to finally submit and accept the inevitable like he did last night...

Aragorn glanced longingly at the big trunk near the bedside that held all the intricate toys he loved to use on the body of his slave during their love play when they were here in Rivendell. Alone in the wilds he had dreamed for weeks what he would do to this pliant body and which toys he would use on him when he was back. He planned to make it special, a careful play of slowly increasing pain, giving Legolas time enough to adjust and thereby making sure that he could bear it. Just the thought made him hot and hard again.

Sighing, he settled himself comfortably back against he body of his Elf, careful not to disturb his bed partners sleep. There would be much time for that later. He would need to wait until Legolas was well and strong again, recovered both in mind and body, to make sure that he could take it. Legolas knew well that he needed these sessions once in a while to store up memories that could help him get hard and needy for his slave when they were both out in the wilds where they could not do a lot to satisfy his needs. And afterwards he would make sure to give Legolas some time to rest, then see to it that his slave got the chance to enjoy their coupling, too.

_____________________ 0 ___________________

Legolas woke to callused hands caressing his skin. For once he was free of pain. Beside him he could feel the known and trusted presence of his master, covering him in Estel's - currently rather pungent - smell. Contemplating this he wrinkled his nose. They both smelled rather bad, reeking of sex and sweat and badly in need of a bath. He felt his masters hand wander over his chest and belly, down to his thighs, then up to his face again, finally tracing the line of his left ear.

He opened his eyes.

"Estel," he acknowledged contentedly. "You are back, My Lord."

Aragorn smiled down at him. "Good afternoon," he greeted. "Yes, I am back. And just in time, it seems."

Legolas blushed a bit and lowered his lashes. "I'm sorry, My Lord," he said, "I should have come to greet you. I am afraid I was ... not well."

Aragorn shook his head.

"No. You were very weak," he said. He sighed. "I came back just in time to save you last night, Little Leaf. Had I not taken you last night it might have been too late." He traced the face of his slave again, then his hand seized Legolas chin and turned the head to him with gentle pressure. "I have to say that I was rather shocked to find you in that state. Why did you not seek help? Do you not know that I do not wish to lose you?"

Legolas blushed in shame.

"I thought..." he began , then interrupted himself and lowered his lashes even more.

"I am sorry, My Lord. I should have been more careful." His voice weakened to a whisper while he finished humbly: "I request punishment if you would grace me with it."

Aragorn sighed. He felt he slight shivering of his slave and saw the smear of dried blood between his thighs, and both sent jolts of arousal to his groin. Yet he ignored it. Right now was not the time for that.

"Maybe I'll punish you," he said, "but if I do it will be much later. You are still much too weak now, melethron, and far too pale. And you are thin. Given the chance the sun would shine through you! No, I think first I'll have to get some food within you and let you heal some more."

Legolas sighed with relief, although the promise of a later punishment sent flutters through his stomach. Well, he knew his masters needs and was long used to them. If he was lucky Aragorn would give him some time before he decided to put him through anything thorough, and maybe afterwards he would be contented with that one treatment for a while. Normally Estel took pains to make sure that his slave could bear what he had planned for him, even if it was harsh. And perhaps there would be some reward later.

He loved the times when Estel made gentle love to him and even allowed him to take the active part, though they were rare. Estel normally didn't get hard enough to take him at these times. He would only get hard and reach completion if he hurt his lover, or could draw on earlier occasions of inflicting pain. Therefore such tenderness, while it did much to make their arrangement bearable for Legolas, would not give him what he needed of his master to stay alive.

But it made those times when Estel used and hurt him to the brink of his endurance much easier to bear.

He dared to look up again.

"I am sorry you found me in this state, Estel. It was not planned this way."

Aragorn snorted.

"I hope that," he said. "For as arousing as it was to see you desperate and needy for me like you were last night, that was far too close. I do not wish to lose you, melethron. And I don't ever wish to see you in that state again save I deliberately had condemned you to it."

He saw Legolas sudden fear and horror at his words and even while the thought to have such power heightened his arousal and made his groin twitch with desire he inwardly cursed himself. This was not the time to play, not even with mere threats! Quickly he placed a kiss on his slaves brow.

"But of course I will never do that!" he said. "You are far too precious to me to risk you so. Really, melethron, if I ever should be delayed again for such a prolonged time, I order you to seek out help much sooner!"

The Elf nodded silently. He seemed still a bit dizzy and not fully coherent. Aragorn sighed and took his mouth in a tender kiss. "I do not wish to lose you," he repeated then. "I care about you, Little Leaf, and I do not wish to cause your death!"

"I... am alive, Estel;" Legolas said hesitantly. "You have healed me well."

Aragorn shook his head. "Let's rather say that I've been just in time and you are on the way of getting better," he chided. "I think I have to take you one more time at least to get you fully healed."

He felt Legolas' slight shiver in his arms, fear of the pain this would include, and felt regret at it. How long had it been since their coupling brought his Elf more joy than pain and since this pain was just part of his own arousal instead of its key? Had there even ever existed such a time for him? He could not remember. By now desire, power and cruelty were firmly linked for him and it took quite a lot of it to get him hard and ready. And Legolas always paid the price for that.

"Don't fear, melethron," he soothed, "for now I'll just feed you a bit and then we bathe. I hope the servants will have cleansed the room and changed the sheets when we are back. You need to sleep some more and I would have you do so in a clean bed. I fear currently even the bedroll I brought from my last journey smells better than this place!"

The Elf actually smiled.

"I fear it does, Estel!" he said. Then he blushed a bit and asked hesitantly:

"You found... the way you found me... you thought it was arousing?"

Aragorn studied him for a moment. There was some hidden meaning in this question he could not discern. But it could wait. He would force Legolas to tell him what he meant by this question later. For the moment he just petted the naked body in his arms some more and placed a kiss on top of the golden haired head. "I did," he admitted, "very much so. But the price for this is much too high. I would not bring you to this point again, if I can help it. Not willingly."

He kissed his Elf again, this time on the mouth. "Do not fear," he said gently, "I wouldn't."

Legolas sighed. Aragorn let go of him and stood up. He stepped to the table and took the tablet with the waiting food, bringing it to the bed. Then he went back to fetch the pitcher and filled their cups with water. "Come on," he said, "let's get you fed for now."

Legolas stomach came alive with a growl. Aragorn smiled. "I dare not ask," he said, "but I bet that you haven't eaten for several days. Didn't Lindir make sure you had a meal or two while you were here?"

Legolas eyed the slices of bread, fruits and cheese and the two bowls of porridge hungrily, but doubtful. "he did, master," he said apologetically, "but I could not keep it down." He bit his lips. "I... "

Aragorn cursed. He settled down beside his Elf again. "Let me feed you," he commanded, taking a spoon. "We'll be careful you eat slowly and don't take too much; this way you should be able to keep it." He shook his head again and carefully, spoon by spoon, began to feed the porridge to his slave. "Really, melethron, I hate to see what this spell does to you. Elves are not supposed to get ill, you know. This should be my domain of our companionship."

Legolas swallowed his current morsel and sneaked a slice of fruit. "I am sorry, master", he repeated. "I will try to remember it the next time I have to tend to you."

His eyes were dancing, reminding Aragorn of the last time they had been out in the wilds and Aragorn grew ill.

It had rained for weeks and he had captured a cold that seemed to linger until he was dizzy, suffering and miserable. Legolas made sure they found a cave, had lightened a fire, kept him warm, tended to him for days and patiently cooled his brow when his fever made him toss and turn. After he finally recovered his Elf was exhausted and very much in need of him. That night, Aragorn thoroughly tied him up and used some spanking, nettles and some thorns to torment his slave as lightly as he could until he was aroused enough to take him. When he had finally fed the spell enough to restore Legolas health he had thanked him by tenderly making love to him with mouth and hands until his Elf was completely aroused, then allowed himself to be entered. Afterwards he had sworn him to secrecy lest Aragorn's brothers and his father should learn he allowed himself to be taken by his slave. Not because he was ashamed of it, but because he knew quite well how they would react.

That had been years ago. Lately it was rare that he allowed Legolas to enter him, or that Legolas even seemed to want it.

Aragorn mock-glared at his slave and knocked his head lightly and playfully. At least Legolas mood seemed to cheer up again if he even dared to tease his master. It was a good sign, and lately far too rare.

When they finished eating - the Elf stopping much sooner than Aragorn liked, but Legolas claimed he could not get down any more - Aragorn helped his weakened bed partner up. Then he had to support him while Legolas fought a sudden surge of dizziness and nausea. Aragorn helped him to sit down on the bed again. Legolas sobbed, fighting his churning stomach, shivering and trembling. "I am sorry, master," he stammered desperately, "I...I..."

Aragorn supported him and patiently rubbed his back. "Shh! That was to be expected. You haven't been up for almost a week! Don't worry. Fight the sickness, we do not want you to lose that food again. It will pass in a moment. Shh..."

Legolas obeyed. After a moment he regretfully said: "I am afraid my legs won't carry me just yet, master."

Aragorn reined his temper in. It would not do to take his anger at his foster father, his brothers and Glorfindel out on his stricken Elf.

"It is all right. They don't have to!" he said and wrapped Legolas in a clean sheet. Then he donned a tunic, swept his slave up in his arms and simply carried him to the bathing chambers.

_______________ o __________________

The bath took some time since Aragorn not only had to wash and shrub his Elf - and himself - thoroughly, but he found he also needed to prevent Legolas from falling asleep and accidentally drown in the warm water. He dried him up and clad him in clean clothes Lindir had prepared for them in the chamber, then placed him on a bank and tended to himself. When they got back, the Elf he carried in his arms was drowsy and nearly asleep.

Their chamber had been cleansed and the sheets were changed. The windows were open, but the drapes were closed, allowing fresh air and birdsong in but keeping their privacy from nosy glances.

Sighing, Aragorn placed his elf in the clean bed, then disrobed him again. Afterwards he undressed himself. He went back to the bed and shook his slave awake.

Legolas was startled and took some time to get his mind to speed. He stared wide-eyed at his master, fearing what was to come.

Aragorn kissed him, then looked at him solemnly. "I need you to stay awake for me a few more moments," he said.

Legolas stared at him and nodded, his tiredness swept away by rising fear.

Aragorn took his face between his hands, settling himself cross-legged in front of him.

"You have given me great scare, melethron," he said gravely. "Last night has been unbelievable for me, and I thank you for that. But for you it nearly was too late. I know I am a harsh master to you and my needs are hard for you to bear. But you mean much to me, and I don't want to lose you."

He held his lovers gaze.

"Please, Legolas. Promise me that next time I am delayed or can't come to you in time to meet your needs, you will seek help much sooner! Promise me!"

He cursed softly as the Elf shook his head and demanded again: "Promise it!"

Legolas blushed.

"Please, Estel, you know that is not in my power. It is not for me to decide if Master Glorfindel, or the Lords Elrohir and Elladan, or even L... Lord Elrond... would wish to spare time to indulge a lowly slave. And I am just a slave as they do not hesitate to remind me." It sounded bitter; Aragorn's brows drifted down and Legolas hung his head, startled by his reaction.

"Forgive me, master, it was not my station..."

Aragorn caught his mouth in a kiss, preventing him to continue.

"No, it was not," he agreed when he finished the kiss. "However, you are right. You can not force them to help you. But I will speak to them and remind them that you belong to me, and since I do not want to lose you due to their neglect if I can't tend to you myself it is their responsibility to help you at need. After all I would just ask them to take care of you when I am hindered to be with you without fault of my own. And they would not refuse to tend my horse when I am forced to leave it here for a time. So the same should be true for you."

The slave blushed deeply. It pained him to be compared to a horse. Unfortunately the truth was that to Elrond and his two older sons Aragorn's horse was probably of much more worth than Aragorn's slave. Still, to hear his master - to hear Estel! -phrase it like that...

Aragorn seized his chin and tipped it up so that Legolas met his gaze again.

"And you mean much more to me than a horse," he reassured his Elf. "You know that I would free you if I could, Little Leaf."

The Elf looked at him, dumbfounded.

"You would?" he asked startled.

"If I could break that spell? Yes!" Aragorn said bitterly. "I would love to have you as my lover and stay with me as my companion out of your free will, but I could well understand if you would rather flee me as far as you could if you but had the choice. Be that as it may, we both know that it is not possible. And for that I am sorry."

Legolas was silent.

Finally he hesitantly asked: "Do you... are you angry at me, Estel? Do you wish not to be burdened with me any longer?"

Aragorn looked at him incredulously, then grabbed him harshly and stared hard into his eyes. "Are you mocking me?"

Seeing the startled look of his slave, he relented. He shook his head.

"Did I give you the impression that I want to lose you?" he said quietly. "No! No, I do not want to lose you! I am glad to have you and glad for your loyalty to me, glad for the service you give me, both in bed and otherwise. But I know that my needs are hard for you to bear. I'd understand it if you would rather have another master."

Legolas jerked and he held him fast. Hesitantly the slave dared to look up again and meet his masters gaze. Aragorn held his gaze, calming him with his intent look.

Finally Legolas took a deep breath and relented his tension. Boldly, he dared to offer his master a kiss himself. Then he said earnestly: "I do not wish another master, Estel. 'Tis true that your need for my pain is hard for me to bear at times, but I can deal with it. And I rather have you as my master than your brothers or the Lord Glorfindel." He shuddered. "Or... the Lord Elrond," he finished in a whisper.

Aragorn shook his head. He did not know what precisely Elrond had done to Legolas, but he knew the Lord of Imladris held a strong dislike for the young Mirkwood Elf and tolerated him barely only for Aragorn's sake.
Still... "You forget your place, Little Leaf," he chided gently. "I thank you for your loyalty. But you have no call to speak derisively of Lord Elrond. I will have to punish you, and I will do so certainly tonight, or at least the night after. But you did not answer my demand."

He looked at him seriously. "I mean it, Legolas. Promise me! Promise me that next time you will seek help before it gets that bad again!"

Legolas hung his head. The threat of punishment was no surprise to him, since he could discern from Aragorn's tone that his master had planned to take him harshly during one of the coming nights anyway. It was nothing more than he had expected. Yet there was one more truth for him to share, and he did not know how Aragorn would react.

"I thought you would come back sooner," he explained, "and you would be... delighted if I was... in need..." he swallowed. "So I convinced Lord Glorfindel to let me wait for you." He blushed deeply. "It was my fault. I am sorry, Estel! I just thought... you would be..."

Aragorn sighed. So that had been the plan. He suspected it had been originally devised by his brothers, and they had been the ones to give Legolas the idea. He should have been furious, but he had already nearly guessed as much by now. Besides, unfortunately, they had not been too far off the point. They knew well what he liked.

Still, Legolas skillfully avoided to give him the promise he asked. It was maddening.

He concentrated on his Elf again. Legolas was trembling in his grip by now.

"And you were right, I was delighted," he admitted. "Or I would have been, if you had not been nearly on the brink of death. Truly, that price is much too high. I mean it, Legolas. Give me your word!"

Finally the Elf in his grip sighed and nodded.

"I promise it, Estel," he said. "If anything like this should happen again, if you are delayed or hindered to come to me in time and there is any other near who can give me release, I promise I will then go to that other one and beg him to help me."

Aragorn nodded solemnly and kissed him again.

"Good," he said then, "I will hold you to it. Because, my Little Leaf, you are precious to me and it would grieve me greatly if you died."

And with that he started to make love to his Elf, carefully and thoroughly and for once nearly without pain. At first he did not get aroused himself and just concentrated on making Legolas squirm with pleasure and desire. Then the memory of the helpless, stricken condition of his slave the night before took hold of him and got him hard and needy. He took care to bring his partner to climax with his mouth before he started to prepare him to be entered; and when he finally sheathed himself in Legolas, mindful not to hurt him by going too fast, it was the anticipation of what he would do to his slave the following night that took him to new heights. He could not help to set a hard, punishing pace after he got that far, but by then his slave was thoroughly relaxed and welcomed it for once. When he finally came within his slave, he took Legolas with him.

Afterwards, he stayed within the body of his Elf a bit before he finally withdrew. By then, Legolas was dozing in his arms. Carefully slipping out of bed behind him, Aragorn got up, placed a last kiss on his Elven lovers cheek and cleaned himself. He donned his clothes and slipped out of their room, leaving his lover to peaceful Elven dreams.


Part II

Lord Elrond looked up when his chief advisor entered the door and interrupted his impromptu meeting with his recently arrived, well honored Elven guests. He raised a brow and gave him a questioning glance, asking mildly: "Yes, Erestor?"

The chief counselor and Steward of Lord Elrond's household seemed peeved.
"A delegation of Mirkwood Elves just arrived to see you, My Lord," he said with obvious disgust. "They say they bring an urgent message of their king, Thranduil. Should I let them enter?"

Elrond's face darkened. "What it is this time, I wonder?" he muttered darkly.

Lord Galdor of the Havens, a high ranking Noldor in the service of Lord Cirdan Shipwright of Mithlond, perked up with interest. "Thranduil you say?" he asked. "I thought he is under your rule, My Lord Elrond. Did you invite him to this council, too?"

Gildor Inglorion, another Noldor Lord of high rank who was under no one's rule than his own and preferred to wander Eregion with his people, raised his brows. "The invitation to partake went to all free people," he reminded, "or rather to all people not yet under the rule of Sauron. Technically that would include Thranduil's Elves, too."

Elrond scowled. "They are hardly free," he said. "I know you are of a milder opinion in this, Lord Gildor, yet I think you give these Wood-Elves too much credit."

Gildor graciously inclined his head. "Yet their tidings and their warriors may be an asset not easily dismissed in our need. I think they should be given the chance to partake, My Lord Elrond, although you are king Thranduil's liege-lord."

Elrond snorted. "Liege-lord? That would name him merely my vassal and is giving that self announced excuse for an Elvenking far too much credit. He is allowed to keep his rule at my whim alone. And would it not mean far too much trouble to rule that wretched wood and its Elves directly, I would long have done away with him!"

Erestor gave his liege-lord a approving bow. He added haughtily: "Besides, My Lord Gildor, My Lord Elrond is Thranduil's overlord. Mirkwood can be well represented by the Lord of Imladris himself. There is no need to allow those lowly Wood-Elves to participate!"

Lord Galdor looked sceptically. "But should they not partake if only to deliver their message? Surely at this point everything that happens in the realms not yet under the Shadow's rule are of concern and should be heard by the whole council, should they not? And we could then weigh their knowledge and news together with all other tidings, and they could learn our news as well and take them home."

Gildor nodded. "I think they should be admitted, if only to fulfill the requirements Mithrandir mentioned to us," he said thoughtfully. "Thranduil's realm may be subjected to yours and he under your rule, yet he still has some part to play in this fight against the darkness."

The lord of Rivendell looked quite displeased at his suggestion.

"Thranduil!" Elrond growled. "That stubborn fool! A part to play against the darkness, you say? Just see how his wood is faring and you might reconsider that idea. Always he is trying to obstruct me or to ignore my orders! Always it is 'I need my warriors to fight against the Shadow' or 'I do not have enough warriors to do that'! And always he is trying to rebel! Last time I sent a company of Dwarves to his realm, and what does he do? Instead of treating them as honored guests, sent to him by his overlord, he imprisons them within his dungeons!"

The oldest son of Elrond, Elladan, shrugged. He sat beside his father in a comfortable chair and had listened to the conversation up to this point silently and completely bored. Now he said mildly: "Well, as far as old Bilbo told the story Thorin didn't tell Thranduil you had send him, father. To be exact he didn't tell Thranduil anything. I deem the Mirkwood king had reason to be suspicious about those Dwarves."

Elrond scowled. He dismissed the notion with an angry gesture. "Anyway! He should have been more humble! He only lives and continue to rule by my grace alone!" he said.

Lord Galdor said: "These Silvain Elves always had their own head..."

Elrond looked grim. "Thranduil is Sindar. And he is as stubborn as his late father Oropher! I really contemplated to deny myself to him at the last yen ceremony, shortly after the affair with those Dwarves, and thereby let him die. That would have taught those obstinate Mirkwood Elves a lesson. But Celeborn objected. He said we still needed Thranduil to fight against the Shadow. I wasn't too surprised; Thranduil is his distant kinsman after all. But he insisted and so I finally relented."

Gildor gasped. "The king... is under the Mael-Gūl?!"

Elrond snorted. "Of course! How else do you think we ensured his cooperation for twenty yen?" he asked. "He is bound himself, and nearly every hostage of his family and nobles he was forced to give us since are bound as well. Though in his case the spell is not wound very tightly. It would be tiring otherwise!"

Either he did not see the utter horror in Lord Gildor's eyes or he chose to ignore it. With a dismissive shrug he continued: "I gave him what he needed, but I made sure that he gave me his son Legolas as hostage in return, as a plaything for the use of my sons!"

He smiled grimly. "You should have seen him! How he begged me to take him instead, how he offered to accept death or even torture, how he was nearly up in arms even knowing that his warriors were too few and couldn't stand against me! But in the end he subsided when I threatened that I would see all Mirkwood razed to the ground and his whole family killed if he refused to cooperate. Then I forced him to watch while I put his son under the Mael-Gūl!"

He chuckled with dark pleasure. "He nearly died of grief! It is well that an Elf under the spell can not give up his body and himself that easily, and will not die of grief nor rape nor the disturbance of a bond! Or else what use would this spell be to us to keep those Elves in line? We can not allow them to escape to Mandos! I even forbade the Mirkwood Elves as a whole to go over the sea since we shall need them here to fight the Shadow."

Gildor swallowed and shuddered. It was true then. Cirdan was right: the Shadow had truly already touched Imladris deeply, even if the Last Homely House remained still beyond the direct grasp of Sauron. Maybe the Shipwrights claim was true that all the rings were evil and even the Three had been corrupted. Elrond at least seemed thoroughly touched by the Shadow's influence.

He swallowed again. "So the young Thranduilion is now the slave of your sons?" he asked.

Elrond shook his head. "Not anymore," he answered. "I took special pleasure in offering him to my foster-son Estel, when he came of age. " He smiled. "They seem to get along quite well," he mused. "It is somewhat astonishing indeed, given Estel's rather... special needs. But he seems quite taken with that Mirkwood spawn. And Legolas seems loyal enough to him, too."

Lord Galdor drew his brows together. "Legolas?" he asked, "The archer? Thranduil's youngest? Did you allow him to keep his weapons? That Elf has quite a reputation with the bow, as I recall!"

Elrond shrugged. "He is bound to his master very tightly," he said. "And he has proven himself loyal so far. Of course he knows that if anything should happen to Estel we would let him die, and there is nobody else he could turn to. Besides, he would risk the lives of the other hostages as well if he rebelled."

Glorfindel threw in: "Of course young Estel treats him well enough outside their bed. Legolas really seems to like him! And it would be a shame to lose his bow against the Orcs. We need every skilled fighter we can get for our side in this war, be he free or not!"

Gildor wrinkled his brows. "Maybe," he mused. "But how can we trust slaves against the Shadow? What if the enemy offers them to set them free?"

Elrond shrugged again. "There is nothing the enemy can offer to those slaves," he said. "There is no way to break the spell even by the darkest means of Sauron. There is nothing they could hope to gain by allying themselves with the Shadow."

Elladan added: "Legolas has proven himself a loyal companion. He would never sell us out. And he is a skilled warrior who has slain many Orcs even before he came to us."

Elrond's eyes narrowed. "You give that Mirkwood spawn far too much credit," he growled. "His place is in my foster son's bed, not at his side in his campaigns!" He grew thoughtful. "Maybe Estel should be forced to lend him to you more often!"

Elladan seemed taken aback. Beside him his twin Elrohir protested: "But Ada !!!"

Gildor coughed. He decided to redirect the conversation.

"My Lord Elrond," he said, "forgive my curiosity, but... your foster-son is mortal, is he not? He is one of the Dunedain. What will become of his slave when he dies? Wouldn't this condemn the slave to death as well?"

Elrond gave a hard smile and shrugged again. "Possibly," he admitted. "I suppose he always can decide to pass the slave on to his descendants." He made an indifferent gesture. "It doesn't matter. I guess Thranduil himself will have to go to Mandos, too, once I should cross the sea. Except if I decide to pass him on to Celeborn. But I doubt I will."

Gildor was frozen in horror. "But - that would be Kinslaying!" he protested weakly.

Elrond snorted. "Oh, please!" he said. "You did not think we overthrew them without fight in the first place, did you? I know you and your Elves stayed neutral in that war; so did Cirdan. But both of you have agreed to partake of the gains and accept the situation afterwards, and you have been our alleys ever since. It deems me a bit late to raise the question of Kinslaying now."

Gildor frowned. Galdor drew his brows together. Erestor shrugged and supported his Lord calmly and disdainfully: "It would be nothing more than what this obstinate Mirkwood King deserves, My Lord."

Gildor swallowed. With some effort he shoved his horror and revulsion aside. Now was certainly not the time to question or dissolve the current Elven alliances! He decided to stop this train of thought and return to the original problem.

"But what should be done now about this delegation?" he asked. "I still think they should be allowed to participate."

Lord Galdor added: "And I would still vote to include their report at the council, where all gathered representatives can hear it, too. I would think it was important to hear all information that we have together."

Glorfindel nodded. "You should let them participate," he counseled his liege-lord, "as representatives of Mirkwood. They can carry all the tidings and the decisions of the council home to their people afterwards, so they will be informed, too."

Suddenly, Elrond had a splendid thought. "No," he said with an evil gleaming in his eyes. "I do not think so. If Mirkwood shall be represented at the council by one of its Elves, let it be done by someone of approbate rank. Let Thranduil be represented by his youngest son!"

Gildor raised his brows. "Legolas? But you just said he is a slave!" he pointed out.

Elrond nodded. "Exactly! It is perfect, is it not? After all he is Mirkwood's prince, undoubtedly fit to represent its people! And since he is a slave his rank will mirror the true position of his realm perfectly!"

Gildor shuddered again. Lord Galdor raised his brows.

"I don't think that is a good idea, My Lord," he objected politely, "There will be strangers at this council after all - Edain and even Naugrim . Should we not keep Elven politics discrete among ourselves?"

Gildor sighed. So much for assembling all free races of Middle Earth to work together and share important news! But he had to admit he felt not really comfortable with the thought of spreading the dirty secrets of the fourth Elven Kinslaying and the enslavement of the Elven hostages of the subjected Mirkwood realm out in front of Dwarves and Humans, either.

Elrond shrugged. "Very well. We will not openly discuss Mirkwood's submissive state or the position of its representative among the council. If it has to be addressed in any way it shall be done in Elvish. We shall keep that matter private. But Legolas will attend as representative of his fathers realm."

He seemed quite satisfied with his decision. Gildor swallowed. Lord Elrond positively scared him. Erestor offered his Lord an approving bow.

Addressing the still lingering problem of the waiting messengers he asked: "And what of the urgent message the Mirkwood Elves claim to bring, My Lord?"

Elrond shrugged. "Let's hear it at the council!" he decided. "If it contains bad news and Mirkwood has failed our expectations once again they will have to do penance. If so, we may decide what it should be in a more private meeting afterwards." He smiled maliciously. "I rather hope they have failed us. It would not be the first time after all. And I look quite forward to decide what this penance should be."

Gildor's stomach churned. Obviously the darkness held already a much firmer claim on Imladris than Cirdan and Mithrandir suspected. He took a deep breath to calm himself.

Erestor bowed again. "With your permission, My Lord," he said, "I will tell that Mirkwood spawn of your decision."

Elrond gave him a nod and the advisor left. Elrond sighed and turned back to his guests.

"Now, where did we stop?"he asked.

________________ o ________________

Part III

Legolas woke in the evening. The sun was already setting and soft twilight and evening birdsong filtered past the closed drapes. He felt refreshed and well rested. The pain that had haunted him for days was gone, and he felt considerably stronger. He was hungry and his stomach growled. The ill feeling of sickness at the mere thought of food that kept him from trying to consume anything during the days before his master returned had finally left him completely. With a contended sigh he turned to his side and buried his nose in the big, soft pillow. It smelled reassuringly of Estel, and himself, and of their last, tender coupling, and carried nothing of the revolting reek of sweat and sickness he remembered from the night before. For a moment, he allowed himself to dream of Estel's tenderness this afternoon. He loved it when his master took him like that, more so because he knew it for the gift it was. He knew it couldn't last; Estel had hardly been aroused at first, and he would soon wish to use his slave the way he really desired. Chances were he had already dreamed about it during their tender love play; mere tenderness hardly got Aragorn erect and much less brought him to climax these days. Still, that he took the time and showed the concern to give his slave that much - it made Legolas count himself lucky again that he belonged to him. Dear Estel! It was good that he was back at last.

Legolas sighed again and yawned. Then he decided to follow the demands of his growling stomach and get up. He rolled around and sat up on the bed, then set his feet experimentally on the floor and attempted to stand. To his great joy, his legs, even if a bit wobbly at first, decided to carry him. So Estel's thorough treatment last night and this afternoon had the desired effect, his strength had finally returned. Carefully he made his way over to the table where he discovered a fresh plate and pitcher waiting. A look to the washstand at the corner showed him that the bigger pitcher with water had been renewed too, and there were two big, invitingly soft, fresh towels draped on a chair beside it. Legolas smiled. Dear Estel! His master had been concerned and thoughtful enough to make sure that his slave found a meal and a possibility to wash when he woke up, instead of condemning him to make the long way to the bathing chambers and the kitchens on an empty stomach. It was possible that Estel had asked Lindir to take care of this, but Legolas knew Lindir would not have done so without his prompting. Now that Aragorn was back it was expected that his slave took care of his master's needs and saw to the cleansing of their chambers, not the other way round.

Lifting the cloth he inspected the contents of the plate. He smiled again. A bowl with vegetable soup that would be as tasty if it was consumed cold, and also easy on the stomach; four generous slices of fine, white bread with butter; and a generous amount of cheese and fruits. All kinds of food Estel knew he liked and he would have no problems to keep down after his long, involuntary fast. The pitcher beside the plate was covered with a small, earthen lid and turned out to hold fresh, appetizing apple juice. No wine yet; probably Estel thought it too strong on an empty stomach. Legolas was a bit disappointed that there was no milk to go with the meal, but then maybe he would get some for breakfast, if Estel kept this up. His master seemed determined to put some meat back on his bones.

With that merry thought, Legolas went to wash himself and dress, then returned to the table and settled down to dine.

When he was finished, he took the time to change the sheets and cleanse the chamber as was his duty, then he took the plate and pitcher and went out. On his way to the kitchens to dispose of the used plate, he remembered Estel's concern and tenderness this afternoon again. He could hardly believe his memories of his and Estel's conversation. Estel's stunning confession: 'you know, if there was a way, I would free you!'

It made him gasp. He did not know if Estel really would do it if they suddenly would truly find a way to break the spell; chances were his master would not really wish to give him up even if he could do so. Estel was used to him and loved to have him close at hand to serve his needs. It probably didn't matter anyway because the only sure way Legolas knew to break the spell that bound him to Aragorn was to kill himself, and he would never do that since it would have dire consequences for his father and the other hostages. Nobody of them could rebel or flee without endangering the others. This was the way Imladris had ensured its rule over Mirkwood for twenty yen.

But still Aragorn's mere words, his mere thought was an act of rebellion against his foster father. Legolas hoped that nobody outside their rooms had heard this most tender and most foolish promise. And speaking of promises...

His own promise to Estel haunted him. Estel did not really know what he had asked, for Legolas would deliberately and willingly rather chose to die than go to Elrond if there was nobody else at hand to feed the spell. Still he had promised, since his master had demanded it of him.

Legolas shuddered. The very thought of being forced to subject his body to Elrond again, endure his hateful touch, feel the cold, cruel darkness in the very soul of the Lord of Imladris enter him, made him sick and he shoved it away. It was much harder to bear than the thought of the night of cruelty at Estel's hands that awaited him - to his knowledge - very soon.

There was no help to it, as he well knew. Aragorn would torture him one of these coming nights, and would do so thoroughly. He would give him time to recover afterwards and probably he would wait several weeks before he took him again as harshly, but there was no way Aragorn would come back after a prolonged time of separation without dreams full of desire for a long, cruel love game with his slave. Still, if he was lucky Aragorn would give him a few more nights to recover his strength. His master loved to prolong the anticipation of his victim, give his slave time to fear and wonder. And Aragorn knew well how much his slave could take, and normally made sure to keep around these limits. Still he expected Legolas to bear his needs, even if they contained prolonged torture. Such was the price his slave had to pay for belonging to him.

Legolas had had his share of other masters who would not have concerned themselves with so much as a thought of what their slave might wish or be capable to endure, or prefer. Elrohir and Elladan came to mind, and he refused to remember the first nights in the hands of Elrond. Estel, while he knew that Legolas did not enjoy pain and had a hard time to bear it, at least tried to make his own desires and needs bearable for his slave. No, Legolas counted himself lucky to have Estel as his master!

Sighing, Legolas slipped out of the kitchen, took a detour to the privy, glad he did not need to use the chamber pot again, and afterwards went to search for his master in earnest.

It was already after the evening meal, and Legolas was glad Aragorn had send a meal for him to their chambers. He looked shortly around for his master in the Hall of Fire and at the place in the library in front of the statue with the shards of Narsil and the big picture of Isildur fighting Sauron, where his master liked to sit and read, but without success. Aragorn was not there. So he went out and to the gardens, to the place where Aragorn liked to sit and spend some time with Lady Arwen if she was in Rivendell with him and he got the chance. On his way through the courtyard he heard the call of a familiar voice and turned. His eyes grew wide.

Bregolas!! His childhood friend and long time comrade through many patrols and campaigns against Orcs and spiders back home in Mirkwood, before Legolas became a slave! And Mitharas, and Belldoron! Three of his fathers most trusted warriors here in Imladris! They stood there and waved, and forgetting everything else Legolas sped on to them. They were glad to see him.

"Ernil Legolas ! Well met! It is good to see you in good health, My Lord! His Majesty, your father king Thranduil was very worried!" Mitharas cried. "So were we! We had no word of you since you and that Ranger brought that creature to us many month ago!"

Legolas smiled. "His name is Aragorn, and he is my master, as you well know," he said. "I'm sorry I did not send word. There was scarce chance to send a letter these last month, and we had no one willing to deliver it close at hand anyway. But I am well as you can see. Aragorn takes good care of me."

Mitharas eyes were dark. "An Adan!" he said. "I can not believe he gave you to an Adan!"

"It has been sixty years now that I have been bound to him, " Legolas said mildly. "And he is not merely any Adan. He is one of the Dunedain, graced with long life. He might as well live twice as long as he already has. However, I am bound to him and there is no use to mourn it. You may tell my father I am well and he is always in my heart, when you go back to see him."

Then he asked eagerly: "Now tell me how he is! What news from home? How is my sister Silivren and her husband? How are my nephews and nieces?" Somewhat belatedly and bit sheepish he added: "And what are you doing here?"

Mitharas sighed and Belldoron smiled, although he looked a bit sheepish, too. "Your father is well, your Highness," Bregolas finally answered, "although he is very concerned for you. There is not one day that you are not foremost in his thoughts. The same is true for princess Silivren. Her children are the joy of their grand sire and a constant source of merriment and mischief to the palace. They ask for you often. Would that that Dunadan master of yours would take you more often to visit your home!"

Legolas sighed. "He probably would if there was any chance," he said, "but things are dire right now, as you have probably already heard. And Aragorn risked much for all of us even these first three times! His... foster-father scolded him for taking me with him to Mirkwood. He did not wish that I should see my home and family again."

Bregolas scowled. Mitharas placed a warning hand on his arm. "We know that things are moving, My Lord," he said, "The Ulairi have harassed us hard, and one of them has even visited Erebor. Word is they are abroad this side of the Misty Mountains. And... there are news we have been send to tell. I fear you will find them ill indeed."

"What news?" Legolas demanded alarmed. "You said my family was well!"

"It has nothing to do with your family, My Lord," Mitharas said. "The message we carry is about that creature you and that Dunadan brought to us to keep prisoner on Mithrandir's behalf. The creature was allowed out of the dungeons a few times, because Mithrandir asked us to show it mercy and some chance to heal. So we used to let it climb a tree every other day where it could feel fresh air. Of course it was heavily guarded. As it turned out, our guard was not enough. There was an Orc raid, and the guards were slain or taken. When we drove back the Orcs, the creature was gone."

Belldoron added grimly: "Those taken we found later on the path, tortured to death. But the creature was gone. We hunted for it several weeks, but we could find no further trace. It may have been taken by the enemy, or maybe it escaped him, too, and found a place to hide. But it is lost to us."

Legolas paled. "That is ill news indeed," he exclaimed. "Does Lord Elrond already knows this?"

Belldoron shook his head. "The Lord of Imladris would not hear us today. His chief advisor told us we had to wait for tomorrow's council to deliver our tidings."

Legolas bit his lip. "It is dire news you bring," he said, "and hard will be the price we all will have to pay for it."

Mitharas shrugged, his face grim. "That can not be helped now," he said. "Will you partake at this council, My Lord?"

Legolas laughed bitterly. "I am nobody's lord anymore, Mitharas," he said, "I am a slave, bound to Aragorn Dunadan. He will attend the council, though, and probably he will tell me of it later as is his wont, since I have to share his travels anyway. But that is all. You will probably have to represent my father Thranduil there; I won't even be invited."

Bregolas' scowl deepened and Belldoron shook his head sadly. "That does not seem right, My Lord," he said. At Legolas' scolding glare he said: "A hostage you may be, My Lord, and made a slave, but to us you are still our prince. However your station among these Noldor elves may be, nothing can change who you were born and raised to be. You have our love and trust."

Bregolas added: "And the many centuries I and my comrades fought beside you and under your command are not forgotten. We slay many spiders and many an Orc long before those Noldor took you hostage and bound you with that evil curse!"

Legolas face was fierce. "Daro !" he snarled. "Have you forgotten where we are?! Think you these walls are deaf? Or those who inhabit them?!"

The chided Elf flinched at the command and hung his head. Mitharas and Belldoron looked around alarmed and fearfully, watching for listeners. They saw no one, but of course that did not necessarily mean that nobody was there. Finally Mitharas calmed himself and said: "Forgive us, My Lord. The joy of seeing you alive and well confused our minds. Is there any place here where we could speak undisturbed?"

Legolas shrugged. "There are a few places I know where eavesdroppers may have a hard time to listen," he said, "but I have to ask permission of my master first to spend the night with you. It is his right to claim me should he wish it."

Mitharas' face darkened even more and Bregolas' eyes grew wide with sudden realization. To speak of the curse that bound their prince and many other hostages was one thing, to be confronted with its brutal realities was something else. But Legolas merely stared back at them and did not relent.

"It is his right," he repeated, "and I have to obey him. You know that."

Finally, Mitharas bowed. "I am sorry, My Lord prince," he said. "I forgot. If your... master.. should permit it, where will we find you again?"

Legolas shook his head. "I will find you," he said. "Come! Show me the chambers Lord Erestor gave you; then I will find my master and if he permits it I will return to you there. Prepare some supplies and some wine to take with you. There are some places in this valley where we may speak without fear of being overheard by unfriendly ears, but they are not in this house!"

The three warriors gave their prince a deep, respectful bow and showed him quickly to their room. Then, with a last warm greeting, Legolas left them to go and find Aragorn.

_________________ o _________________

Part IV

Legolas found his master in the garden where he enjoyed the company of Lady Arwen. The Mirkwood Elf offered the daughter of Lord Elrond a respectful greeting, then he bowed his head for his master and knelt down beside him. "My Lady Arwen," he greeted politely, "Estel."

Aragorn smiled at him. Arwen seemed delighted. "Legolas! It is good to see you out and about again! I deem Estel took good care of you?"

The slave gave the Elven Lady of Lord Elrond's house a courteous nod and blushed. "Yes, My Lady. I am well again, now."

"I am glad," she said with a friendly smile.

"So am I," Aragorn said and reached out to give the face of his slave a small caress. "Last night I really feared for you."

Legolas blushed. "I am well again, Estel," he said. "Thank you!"

Aragorn traced his cheeks. "Then I expect you tonight," he said. "I wish to reacquaint myself with you some more."

Legolas paled a bit. So soon?! He had hoped for more time!! Carefully he said: "Actually, My Lord, I had hoped to ask you if you could release me from my duties for the evening. There is a delegation of my father here in Imladris. They were sent to deliver a message to Lord Elrond. I would ask your permission to spend some time with them. It... has been long that I had news from my home."

Aragorn looked at him a bit dismayed. Then he looked back at his betrothed. Her expression told him how he had to chose. She would not take it lightly if he spent the first night they could be together in peace since over a month with bed games with his slave instead of enjoying her company some more.

He turned back to Legolas. "Very well," he said, "Then I will have to wait until tomorrow. Of course you may stay with your people for tonight! But be back in the morning. Elrond will hold a council tomorrow shortly after noon, and before it begins I wish to fill you in with the tidings I gathered."

Legolas gave him a grateful nod. He made to rise but was stopped by by the gentle pressure of his masters hand on his shoulder.

"But I expect your company tomorrow night," Aragorn added. "I have plans! There are still those toys Lord Elrond gave to me to your last begetting day, some weeks ago, and as far as I recall I never got the chance to properly use them on you. Now I would have that redeemed."

Legolas shuddered. Aragorn squeezed his shoulder lightly and raised his hand again to caress his face once more. "I expect you tomorrow, then."

Legolas bowed. "It will be my pleasure to serve you, master," he said bravely yet untruthfully, and rose. His voice shook a bit, hampering the effect. He gave Aragorn and Arwen a last respectful bow and left.

Arwen looked after him bemused, then she turned back to Aragorn. "That was cruel!" she observed.

Aragorn shrugged. "It is not as if he would not have expected it," he said. "He knows me well, and he knows my needs and preferences. He is used to what I do to him when we were forced to be apart for longer."

Then he shook his head. "But let us speak of other things." He traced her face and lips. "I am glad to be back here with you. These long nights out there in the wilds were very lonely. They caused many dreams."

She smiled. "Did you dream of me," she teased, "or Legolas?"

He looked down a bit embarrassed. "Both," he admitted with a reluctant smile. "But it is you who really owns my heart."

He stood and took her hand, drawing her to her feet. "I fear what tomorrows council may bring. War is near. My destiny is upon us. Yet my path is veiled before me."

"Trust in yourself," she counseled, stepping into his arms. "Your path has long been chosen for you. We will face it together!"

"Arwen..." He caressed her ears, then kissed her tenderly.

The sun was setting, and darkness fell over the garden. Slowly, the stars came out. He took her hand, and they began to walk the paths of the garden. Close by the narrow bridge over the stream he stood and took her face into his hands. "I would rather you took ship and went with the others of your kind to Valinor," he said. "Far away from war, darkness and death."

She stiffened under his hands. "You would send me away? Are you tired of me already?" she teased, a bit more sternly than she wished to show.

He shook his head. "No! I love you more than life. But I would not have you condemn yourself to death because of me! It is bad enough that Legolas is bound to me already. I would not be responsible for your death, too!" He shuddered. "You have not seen him last night! I was nearly too late!"

Arwen was a bit disappointed. Legolas again. Still, it seemed to haunt her beloved and she could see his point. "I would not be under the spell," she reminded him.

He shook his head. "Yet you would have to share my fate, my mortality. I would not have you do that!"

Angrily she shot: "You accept it from Legolas!"

Aragorn let her go and took a step back.

"Legolas has no choice!" he growled. "I would entrust him to another, preferably an Elf. I do not wish him to die because of me! And I know my needs are hard on him. But I do not want to give him back into the hands of Lord Elrond. Or even my brothers!"

She shook her head, looking earnestly. "You cannot do that. Father hates Legolas with a passion. He looks too much like Thranduil for his taste. He would just let him die, or give him to an Elf who treated him even worse. And my brothers..." she shrugged. "They like him well enough, but they do not really wish him bound to them. And they would not care for him as much. Not like you. They would give him away soon, too." Aragorn looked pained. He only nodded.

Arwen decided to redirect the conversation. She took his hands again and drew him onto the bridge.

"If you asked Legolas, I'm sure he'd told you he'd rather stayed with you," she said. She kissed his hands. "As would I." She smiled at him. "It is my choice," she reminded him. "Do you remember when you first met me?"

He nodded. "I thought that I had strayed into a dream," he said.

She caressed his face. "You were much younger then," she said, "and you were not burdened by all the cares you carry now. Do you remember what I said to you?"

Aragorn held her close. "You said you'd bind yourself to me," he said, "forsaking immortal life of your people."

She nodded. "And to that I hold. I would rather have one lifetime at the side of you," she said, "then face all the ages of the world alone!" She closed her hands on his and when he opened his hand again it held the Evenstar, her necklace, as a token of her love and her promise.

His eyes widened. "You can not give me this!"

She smiled at him. "It is mine to give to whom I will, like my heart!" And with that she stepped close to him and kissed him.

Aragorn held her fast. He loved her, albeit sometimes he nearly despaired at the impossibility of this love. He closed his eyes. Finally he relented.

"Once we marry," he said, "I will have to find another master for Legolas anyway. I would not simply let him die. I need to entrust him to someone to keep him alive."

Arwen gently shook her head. Could he not for one moment forget this other Elf?! "You care deeply for him," she accused with a pang of jealousy.

He did not look up. "I will not let him die!" he repeated.

Arwen nearly screamed. But suddenly she had an idea. "Keep him!" she said.

He looked up, startled. "What?!"

"I said, keep him! You know I do not share your ... preferences. Once we are married you will still need someone to satisfy your special needs. He is used to them. And I would rather it be him, than have to share you with somebody else."

He looked still startled and a bit mortified. "You would allow this?" he asked.

She shrugged. "Why not? He is your slave. I had to share you with him for so long that I am used to it. And he would stay alive, and would not need to fear being bestowed to another master. It's perfect!"

Aragorn looked at her sceptically. "I would still condemn him to die," he said, "when it is my time. Like I would you."

She took his face into her hands. "Ask Legolas for his wishes," she said earnestly, "and I am sure he would tell you the same. He would rather stay with you than have another master. Even if it means he has to die with us."

Aragorn bowed his head. "You do not know what I do to him," he said. "It is not pretty. It is hard on him to bear my needs."

She studied him for a moment, puzzled that he was ashamed of what he used to do to his slave - a slave that had been given to him precisely to bear and satisfy these exact needs. Her father had given Legolas to her betrothed since he did not wish to have his foster son take out his preference for inflicting pain on those he took to bed on a free partner. Still Aragorn was ashamed that he used his slave the way the slave was intended for!?

Suddenly she said: "Let me watch!"

He was taken aback. "What?!"

She did not relent. "When you take him next time like you like to do, let me watch!"

He took a step back, startled. "Why?!" he asked puzzled.

"Because once we are married I will have to share you with him anyway. And if I have to share you with him I might as well participate," she explained. "We will practically be married all three together, so you may as well share him with me."

For a moment he only stared at her. On the surface, her proposal sounded fair enough. But sometimes Elrond's whole family really scared him.

Finally Aragorn hesitantly nodded. "Very well," he said slowly. Then he looked down. "Still what I have planned for him tomorrow night is rather... private. Something special, rather thorough. It is not something I would care to share with you for a first occasion."

Arwen nodded. She understood perfectly. Aragorn had always treated her very gently, and had kept his cruel streak strictly away from her and between him and his slave. She knew of it of course, and his special needs were no secret, but he had never confronted her with them directly. He did not wish to do it now completely unprepared. He would probably prefer to invite her first when he planned to go easy on his slave, then slowly let her get accustomed to his practices until she could stomach the harsher occasions, too. That was fine with her.

"Fair enough," she answered, "but do not postpone it for too long. If Legolas is to serve both of us, you better start to accommodate him with his future duties soon."

Aragorn gathered himself together and gave her a sweeping bow. "As you wish, My Lady," he answered ironically. "I will tell him about it as soon as I get the chance!"

_________________ o ________________

-- End Chapter One --