The Secret of the Forest - A Thranduil Romance

In His Hands

“Some truths keep growing taller than giants

Some truths take our breath away.”

(Sleeping At Last: South)

For how long Thranduil had been staring at the piece of paper in his hands he did not know. It contained one single word, Anna, written all over the page in that somewhat crooked but adorable handwriting of hers. He stood completely still like a statue as if he had been struck by lightning, only a slight tremble in his fingers revealing that he was actually alive.

“Thranduil!” Gandalf had caught up with him and came now to stand beside him, slightly out of breath. He glanced at the parchment in Thranduil’s hand. “Oh, so it was her,” he muttered into his beard and when Thranduil did neither speak nor move, he added, “shouldn’t you be going after her?”

“Of course it was her!” Thranduil said gruffly, when he finally broke out of his paralysis. “Who else would follow me down here? She was probably searching for me and found the open door in my study that led her directly to the cave and straight into our conversation.” He threw Gandalf an icy glare that barely could conceal the agitation boiling beneath.

“And she heard what we spoke.” The wizard’s words were more of an assessment than a question.

“Yes, she did and whatever she heard did not sit well with her.” With an angry flick of his wrist he folded the paper in half and stuffed it into the pocket of his robe.

“Well, then go and clear it up and don’t waste any time.” Gandalf vaguely pointed with his hand upwards into the darkening stairs.

“She clearly said that she does not want me to follow her,” Thranduil objected.

“You do know that this is not what she really means, don’t you? Women sometimes say one thing and mean another,” Gandalf stated flatly. “We are prepared to perform the spell whenever she is ready, so I would advise that you get this sorted out quickly.”

“I do not think that I have asked for your advice in this particular matter.” Thranduil was beginning to feel rather irritated. Why was this wizard suddenly claiming to be an expert in women?

“No, you have not, but I am giving it to you anyway, just one old friend to another.”

Thranduil opened his mouth to object, but there was a sincerity in the wizard’s eyes that made him reconsider.

“I know very well that you may not think of me in such friendly terms, but I do care for you more than what you may assume. You are a great king, the only true monarch of the Eldar left on the shores of Middle-earth, with powers beyond those of the other Elven lords and ladies. You have managed to keep your kingdom safe and your people out of harm’s way even without the aid of a magic ring, which is no small feat. Your people, your forest, all of Middle-earth needs you whole and in full command of your powers, as the darkness is ever searching for a way to take a hold. The evil never sleeps, you know that as well as I do, as a matter of fact it might just have been awakened again and I fear that there is a dark storm brewing on the horizon. You are a bastion of all that is good on Arda, a beacon of hope if you will, but there is no shame in sharing what pains you and in accepting help when it is offered to you. You do not have to do everything alone nor keep everything to yourself. Opening up does not make you weaker, but it will give you more strength, will help you heal that which has been broken. Remember this when you speak to her. Tell her, let her in. She has a right to know about your past, or how else is she going to be part of your future?”

Thranduil’s mouth was set in a thin line and he furrowed his brows, but to his own surprise he could not find a good reason why he should object to Mithrandir’s words, so he only nodded in silent agreement.

“You are possibly right,” he said somewhat resigned. “Maybe I have underestimated your wisdom.”

“Maybe you have indeed, but there is a saying among Men.” Gandalf absentmindedly scratched his beard. “Ah, yes,” he exclaimed, throwing a finger in the air, “better late than never, I believe is the way it goes, or something along the likes of it.”

“You do have a penchant for humans and their ways, don’t you?” Thranduil raised an eyebrow in slight amusement.

“Oh, they are most interesting and full of surprises and they hold the future of our world in their hands. I guess you should try to get more accustomed to their ways too, since Anna undoubtedly is one of them.”

“I will try,” Thranduil said, taking a deep breath, “I may be an old elf, but I daresay that I am not beyond being able to take on a new challenge.”

“Good,” Gandalf nodded with a satisfied smile, “that’s the spirit.” And then he added, “I will be waiting in the cave and I expect you down there.” He laid one hand on Thranduil’s arm. “Both of you.”

Thranduil swallowed and straightened his shoulders, his eyes meeting Mithrandir’s.

“I will be back with her,” he said, resolutely turning away from the wizard and climbing the stairs, two at a time.

Gandalf looked after him, shaking his head. “Elves,” he muttered to himself as he turned around and disappeared into the darkened hallway.


Thranduil practically jumped the last three stairs leading up to the landing and stormed into his study, slamming the door shut behind him with such force that made the dust fall off the hinges. He was distraught and upset, angry at himself for not having foreseen such a turn of events. He had been so elated at the revelation of her name and the prospect of being able to grant her the wish of restoring her memory, that he had not even considered the possibility that she might want to come and see him right away. But he should have taken into account her curiosity and not have been so careless as to leave the door in his study ajar. It was only a matter of time until a half open door, leading into an area Anna had not previously seen, would undoubtedly be discovered by her eager eyes. Her impulsiveness was something he would need time to get used to.

“My lord!” The instant Thranduil exited the study, he was approached by Thalion, who seemed most eager to speak to him.

“What is it?” he said, reluctantly slowing down his pace. His patience was wearing dangerously thin.

“Tauriel has been waiting to be called to her meeting with you all morning. She wishes to know if you are still planning to see her or if maybe there has been a change of plans about which she has not been informed.”

Thranduil exhaled a long breath. Of course she was waiting for him. He himself had told Tauriel to expect to be summoned any time this morning, but he had other, more important things now on his mind.

“There has indeed been a change of plans. Tell her to make herself useful in the meantime. I am sure my son can think of something. I have urgent business to attend to and will let her know when I shall be available.”

“Of course, my lord,” Thalion responded with a bow and swiftly turned away.

“And while you are at it, have a servant sent down to the cavern. There is something that needs cleaning up,” he called after him.

Thranduil ignored the curious stares of two other servants, who froze with a pile of bedspreads in their hands, as he rushed past them, a storm cloud of quiet thunder. He only slowed down when he stepped through the concealed door and saw Anna’s shape slumped on her bed, her face buried in her pillows and her body shaking with sobs.

Anna.

This strange human who unknowingly carried a piece of his soul. The one person fate had chosen to make him whole again. He let his hand slide into his pocket and closed his fingers around the folded piece of paper. A hopeful smile dawned on his face. He needed to make this right if he did not want to lose her now that he had been so close to winning her heart. This was his one chance Eru had given him and he would not throw it away. He had to restrain himself from storming towards her and pulling her into an embrace, kissing away all her tears, for the thought that she might reject him was too painful, so he only approached her with slow and measured steps, while trying to calm his racing heart.


Anna had kicked off her wet slippers, watching with an odd feeling of satisfaction as they bounced off the bedpost, and then had thrown herself onto her bed, which prominently featured a sleeping Aradan curled up right in the middle of a fluffy mountain of white pillows. Ignoring the presence of the animal altogether, she collapsed beside him in a heap of sobs, buried her face in the pillows, her hands digging into the sheets. It did not take long for the elk calf to shuffle closer, but she pushed him away none too gently, making him lose his balance and topple off the bed backwards.

“Not now,” she mumbled, “go away!”

She didn’t want anyone close, wanted only to fall asleep, never to wake up again. How could she have been so stupid as to believe that an Elvenking in all his endless lifetime would ever give his heart to a mortal woman? She hated herself for having fallen so readily for someone who obviously only saw her as a convenient distraction. And now she had ended up not only with her past missing, but also with her heart broken. She didn’t even have the energy to get up and search for something she could smash against the wall in her anger and when she turned her head sideways, she stared into a pair of brown eyes. Aradan was standing beside the bed, watching her with something that might be described as concern. But she didn’t care, no amount of cuteness would be able to lift the clouds of despair closing in on her.

“Leave me alone! Go to your corner. Jump into the pool. Do whatever you want. It doesn’t matter to me!” she grumbled, pulling the covers over her head, prepared to wallow in self-pity a few more moments before Thranduil would show up in her room — she was quite sure about it —, with some refined speech to vindicate himself. But she didn’t care about that either, or maybe she did, but she was too hurt to admit this even to herself.

She did not hear him enter, but she felt his presence, even before he made himself noticed by quietly speaking her name. “Anna.”

It sounded so beautiful from his mouth, like a caress on her soul and if she weren’t so angry with him, she would have asked him to repeat it a hundred times just to hear him saying it again and again. But now it was just like a stab in her heart, making fresh tears burst forth.

“I need to speak to you,” he said calmly and then she could feel the mattress dip under his weight. He had sat on the edge of the bed and she felt him tugging at the covers, but she clung to them as if they were her shield against whatever possible harm. Sensing her resistance, he did not insist on pulling them away, but simply laid his hands on her back. The warmth of his hands, even through the covers, was setting her skin on fire, the softness of his touch so temptingly treacherous. But she would not give in so soon, wouldn’t make this too easy for him.

“But I don’t want to! I’ve heard enough already!” she muttered into her pillows, wiping her face on the already wet fabric, while she fought to shrug off his hands by viciously wriggling under the covers and kicking with her knees against his backside.

“I told you not to follow me! Go away!” she shouted from under the covers.

“Anna, now you are acting like a child!” He was beginning to sound rather unnerved, his strong hands clamping down on her legs to keep her from pushing him off the bed. “Will you please stop kicking me and come out of your hideout, so we can speak like two adults!”

That was enough to set her off. Before he could reach again for the covers, she angrily yanked them off herself, tossing them away in a wide arc and nearly throwing them right over Thranduil’s head in the process. He dodged it on time, thanks to his superior reflexes or whatever other gift of foresight he might possess. She sat bolt upright in bed, her arms crossed in front of her chest, and faced him with an angry glare and whatever brittle remains of her dignity she still had left.

“Oh, so now I’m acting like a child, but you’re so full of your infinite elven wisdom that you can’t even find the decency to tell me that you will never love me the way you love her? You can keep your condescendence. I have no use for it! I know that I will always be a child to you, a silly overemotional human with too little self control! Just admit it, that’s what you really think about me!” She didn’t know where all the words came from, only that they wouldn’t stop. “I know that I will never be as composed and elegant and reasonable as you, but at least I am honest about the way I feel.” He stared at her with his mouth half open and she avoided looking into is eyes, because if she did, the intensity of his gaze would rather sooner than later drown out her heated barrage. “I don’t need to keep things away from others and I don’t need to deprive them of their past to win their hearts only to later break them again.” Her lower lip was trembling and she could feel another wave of tears building up in the back of her eyes. “I—, I can’t do this anymore. Just go, go away,” she broke off, extending her hands towards the covers.

“Anna, please, listen to me!” he tossed the covers away before she could bury herself under them again and reached out for her shoulders to pull her closer towards him.

“Stop saying my name,” she muttered between sobs, pushing her flat hands against his chest.

“But I want to say your name and I will not stop now.” The sudden surge of authority in his voice made her hands slack and her eyes went to his throat and the way it bobbed as he swallowed. The thought of pressing her lips against the pulsing vein along his neck flashed through her mind. She tore her eyes away from the equally tempting sight of his collarbone just beneath, scolding herself for allowing him to affect her so. She was furious, literally boiling with rage, yet she still wanted him. Even more so, the feeling of ire burning through her veins set her on edge in a way that made her want to rip off his clothes and crawl under his flawless porcelain skin.

“Anna!” The low rumble of his voice tore her from her improper reverie. His hands were clamped tightly around her upper arms and he held her at a distance from him to be able to look at her face. “Did you hear what I said?”

“Yes—,” she muttered, her eyes drawn to the neat row of impeccable silver clasps running down the middle of his chest, and only when he reached for her chin to make her look up to him, she finally said: “No, I—what?”

She had been completely absent, realising now with shame that she had not heard a word of what he had said.

He briefly closed his eyes, opening them again with a deep breath. “Please, this is important!” he said, his body so close to hers that it took all her willpower not to crumble in his arms. “Yes, you are emotional and impulsive and I wouldn’t want you any other way, because there is a fire burning inside you and I want those flames to guide me through my darkness, but you are making this rather difficult for me.”

“I am making this difficult for you?” she blurted out, her voice jumping nearly an octave higher than the usual. “Aren’t you forgetting that you were the one who brought me here, never telling me quite the truth about pretty much anything? You are not making this easy for me either!” She was on the brink of losing the last shreds of her self control.

“You have every right to be upset with me, as I have not been as honest with you as I should have been. You do deserve to know the truth.”

Anna’s eyes widened and she felt a growing lump in her throat, dreading to hear what would come next. He rubbed his hands up and down her shoulders and then wrapped his fingers around them in a strong grip, so she wouldn’t slump back into bed.

“You are right, we were talking about my wife, about Calithiel, and I am sorry if I have made you feel that I have been hiding things about her from you. That was not my intention. It was a mistake, just like so many other things in my life I have done wrong. Forgive me please. It is something that is still too painful to talk about, so I have kept much of it away from you, but I want to make it right, so I will tell you everything there is to know about her and you may ask me anything you wish.”

“But I heard you—,” she began, but he interrupted her.

“Please, let me finish what I was going to say.” His eyes were pleading. “When Mithrandir asked me that question, he was not referring to Calithiel.”

“He wasn’t?” Silents sobs were still heaving Anna’s chest, but the heaviness around her heart began to lift like rainclouds after a thunderstorm.

“No,” he said, bringing one hand to her face to wipe away the tears.

Anna’s lips were trembling. “So, when you said that you loved her you meant—,” she swallowed, her voice suddenly gone.

He nodded. “Yes, I meant you.” With a smile he leaned closer, cupping her face with his hands, the warmth of his touch sending shivers down her spine.

“You—, you love me?” Her voice was barely more than a whisper.

“Yes,” he said, grazing her wet cheeks with his thumbs, “and I should have told you first and not the wizard.”

She slid her hands up his chest to curl her fingers around the open collar of his robe, bringing his face closer to hers.

“I told him so too,” she whispered, her lips only a hair’s breadth from his.

“You did?” His hands went still and the starlight in his eyes was the most brilliant blue she had ever seen.

“Yes.”

His answering smile melted against her lips and when he kissed her, it was gentle, yet firm and with assurance. The softness of his mouth sent sparks flying through her veins, a blinding light to conquer all darkness. She felt a tug on her soul, like a gossamer thread, warm and golden, reaching out from him to her and spinning itself around her, pulling her closer to him. He pressed his lips fervently against hers, wanting and searching, his tongue parting her lips with urgency. A small moan escaped her as she granted him entrance and then she let herself fall into the heavenly bliss of feeling his need for her on her skin. They had kissed before, but this felt different, like the promise of something new.

He gently nipped at her bottom lip before pulling away and his voice did not waver when he spoke. “I want you to know, Anna, that I love you with all my heart. I love you for being untamed and wild, honest and unspoilt, and if sometimes you appear like a child to me, it is only because you are so very young. Everything you do, you do it with such abandon, and I painfully realise that this is something I have lost a long time ago. The truth is that I have much to learn from you. Gi melin, lotheg nín,” he whispered into her ear, “and nothing will change that.”

“Thranduil,” she murmured, the warmth of his breath caressing the shell of her ear like a gentle breeze. She placed feathery kisses along the line of his jaw, watching Thranduil’s eyelids flutter close as her lips grazed, ever so slowly, over the smooth plane of his face.

“I love you,” she breathed against his skin and then she pulled aside the fabric of his robe to sink her lips into the enticing hollow right on top of his collarbone, the vein in his neck pulsing rapidly beneath her touch. “My heart is yours. It has been yours since before I have dared to admit it to myself,” she confided, gradually kissing her way up his neck. She planted a kiss right under his ear, making him draw in a sharp breath.

“I may not know what the future holds in store for me, but there is one thing I know beyond doubt.”

His eyes flew open when she brought her mouth to his ear and whispered through the silvery strands of his hair: “Gi melin, aran nín, come what may.”

“Come what may,” he repeated, locking eyes with her, and then he kissed her again, slow and without haste, his lips exploring every corner of her mouth and it wasn’t until they were both nearly breathless from the sensual tangle of their tongues that Thranduil finally broke the kiss.

“We will find a way to make it work. I promise,” he said, his hands weaving through her hair, his mouth brushing hers just lightly.

That was when her worries threatened to resurface, but she would not allow them to spoil the beauty of this perfect moment, so she only nodded and said. “I trust you.”

He pulled her against his chest into a tender embrace and she settled with her head in the crook of his neck.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled into the silvery folds of his robe, “I feel so silly now. I shouldn’t have snuck up on you like that and overhearing your conversation was anything but reasonable. And I feel awful about all the mean things I said to you. I was just so upset and I didn’t know what to do with all my anger. Please forgive me.” She closed her eyes, allowing herself to be enveloped by his sweet and slightly musky scent, the steady beating of his heart making her feel protected from all harm. “I thought that I had lost you,” she added in a small voice.

“You haven’t lost me. I am right here with you and I plan on staying.” He planted a kiss on the crown of her head and she thought to feel him smile.

“Although I do have to agree with you that what you did was not a very wise thing, there is no need for you to apologise nor to feel silly. It is I who should apologise. I deserved every single thing you said, just like you deserve to know the truth about my past and not just have some fragments you overheard paint a crooked image in your mind. Calithiel will always be a part of my life and she will always be the mother of Legolas, but I would rather be thinking on our future together than dwell on the past.”

She snuggled closer and he wrapped his arms firmly around her, one hand drawing lazy circles on her back. She could feel him exhale slowly before he spoke again.

“And, yes I did love Calithiel, very much so, and I was heartbroken when she died. But I knew that, should she wish to be reborn, she would never return to Middle-earth, too strong was her desire to sail West.”

Anna found it easier to listen to him with her face buried in his chest rather than looking into his face, as she was embarrassed that he would see the simmering gleam of jealousy in her eyes. She knew that she was being unreasonable, after all he had just confessed his love to her, but hearing him say out loud that he had once loved another still felt like a thorn in her heart.

“It took me a long time, too long, to accept this as a reality, but I know it now. She had known this for a long while, had felt it in her heart. The gift of foresight was more pronounced in her than in most of our kin, but it haunted her like a curse. I believe she even foresaw the doom that would befall her, which is why she was so adamant about me not going to Erebor to retrieve the necklace. She must have seen a terrible darkness on the horizon, something inherently evil that would eventually claim her life and condemn me to a cursed existence. As you well know, fate did take its predestined course and Calithiel was taken from me in the most cruellest way imaginable. I hope you do understand, that I do not wish to lay out all the details of her death, as it is still too harrowing for me to put those horrible moments in words, but let it suffice to say that for a very long time I only wished to have died alongside her and the only thing that has kept me alive was the responsibility I had for our son.”

He paused, hugging her tighter in a wordless embrace, and for a moment Anna thought that these old wounds might have rendered him speechless, but then he found his voice again.

“I know I wasn’t as good a husband to Calithiel as I should have been and too many times I turned a blind eye to her concerns, putting what I thought were my kingly duties first, which eventually led to me being away when I should have been by her side.” His voice had gone very quiet, nearly a whisper. “I listened not when I should have, and it was too late when I finally heard. But I will not make those same mistakes again. If Eru in his infinite wisdom has indeed granted me this chance, I will make sure to treasure this unexpected gift.”

He tipped her chin up so she would look into his eyes. “You have brought me so much joy and filled this palace with new life in a way I had forgotten that it even existed. For that I am forever grateful.”


He brought her hands to his mouth to kiss them, but as he did so, an equally amused and worried look dawned on Thranduil’s face.

“What did you do to your fingers?” he said, holding her flat palms up. The greyish shadows of ink had mixed with dirt and dried up blood, residues from when she had scraped her skin down in the tunnel. She had not even given it another thought, but now that she saw it up close, it did look as if she had been crawling on all fours through the dirt and to her dismay the beautiful dress didn’t look much better.

“N—nothing,” she said quickly, evading his gaze. She didn’t need another lecture on cleanliness.

Thranduil raised an eyebrow and brought her hands closer to his face. “This does not look like nothing to me.”

“I—I was just writing,” she stuttered, slightly embarrassed, “and those walls down there have not seen a cleaning in centuries.”

“Mmhm, I see, and you have some serious scratches too,” he said, rubbing a thumb over her knuckles.

“They are just superficial and will heal again,” she countered. He was definitely making a big fuss over a little bit of dirt and blood. “I’ll go and get myself cleaned up.”

She was going to rise, but he held her back.

“Let me do that for you,” he offered and before Anna could say anything to stop him, he had already jumped to his feet to retrieve a small bowl which he filled with water from the pool as well as a washcloth and a towel. Aradan curiously followed him around, wagging his small tail now and then and when Thranduil gestured to him wordlessly, the elk calf made for the pile of cushions and blankets in his alcove. A small smile dawned on her face seeing Thranduil like this all concerned for her wellbeing. How could she even for a minute have doubted his sincerity, when even these smallest gestures showed her how much he cared for her?

He diligently placed the bowl on the bedside table, pulled up a chair in front of her, and began rolling up the sleeves of his robe. Anna bit her lower lip when she saw those toned arms being exposed, his muscles flexing with every motion. Usually they were, just like most of his body, hidden from view under the heavy brocade fabric of his robes or the lighter one of his linen tunics. There was so much strength contained in their elegant shape and she wondered how it would feel to have them pin her to his bed, no fabric separating them, just skin against skin.

“You like what you see?” he said, grinning, when he caught her outright staring at him.

This time she grinned back, emboldened by his recent confession. “Yes, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more.”

He smirked at her as he removed his rings one by one, placing them beside the bowl. “I am sure that can be arranged sometime soon. But first let me take care of your hands, so we do not make the poor wizard wait for too long. ”

He gripped the backrest of the chair and then took a seat opposite her. He began by spreading the towel across her lap to keep the dress from getting wet and then he reached out for her hands to unbutton her sleeves.

“This dress might need a cleaning too,” he remarked while slowly working through the buttons, the velvet fabric sporting dark stains along the sleeves as well as all around the length of the hem, a visual reminder that elegant dresses and dark tunnels did not go well together. “And whoever ordered this dress with so many buttons?” he added, when he had finally finished and proceeded to roll up her sleeves, exposing her slender arms to his eyes.

“I think that would be you,” she stated, “and it has not just buttons, but also laces.”

“Does it indeed?” He trailed his fingers from the crook of her arm down towards her wrists.

“Yes, lots of them.” Goosebumps crawled on her skin in the wake of his touch. “Maybe you should take a look at those later,” she proposed boldly.

“Maybe I will.” His dark brows rose suggestively and then he dipped the washcloth into the bowl, wringing it with one hand to allow the excess water to drip down his hand and back into the bowl before bringing it to her hands.

She could barely keep still, her toes curling underneath her dress, watching entranced at how his long fingers worked with such elegant efficiency around her own and there was no denying that he was equally enjoying himself, his brows slightly frowned in concentration. It was impossible for her to look away and she was surprised that her fingers only trembled slightly as he passed the washcloth between them, one by one, making sure that he did not miss a single spot.

“One day,” he said, narrowing his eyes as he scrubbed a particularly difficult spot on the inside of her palm, “I will make sure to not only wash your hands.” He held her hand up closer to inspect it and then dipped the washcloth into the bowl to wet it once again.

“Sounds very intriguing.” There was a tingle slithering down her spine at the mere thought of what this promise might entail.

The corners of his mouth twitched upwards as he brought the washcloth back to attend to her other hand. “I am thinking of inviting you to join me in my pool.” He watched as a single droplet dripped down the length of her little finger, catching it with the washcloth to keep scrubbing her skin in slow and steady circular motions. “If you were to accept my invitation, of course.”

He paused his ministrations to look up at her, a mischievous glint in his eyes, to then add in a sultry voice: “I promise you that I would pay close attention to all areas of your body that may need cleaning.”

Anna’s mouth fell open. She could barely believe what she was hearing. Thranduil was offering her a bath together. In his pool. Obviously no clothes involved. Her excitement must have been plastered all over her face, because he said with a wicked grin: “I take that as a yes,” to then direct his attention back to his task at hand.

“Of course I accept. How could I refuse such a tempting offer,” she said slightly breathless, when she had found her voice again, her cheeks burning with the fire he had ignited inside her.

“Good.” He nodded, his skilful fingers working torturously slow through every single crevice and Anna couldn’t help but imagine how exactly his hands would feel on those other areas of her body. He worked on in silence, using the tip of one of his perfectly manicured fingernails to peel off the residues of blood that had clotted along the edges and ridges of her own, less perfectly manicured fingernails. Beneath his magical touch the superficial scrapes and bruises on her skin vanished one after the other. His hair had fallen over his shoulders, cascading in long strands of silvery gold around his face and brushing their hands lightly as he moved. Anna had to fight the urge to reach out and run her hands through the silken tendrils. If it indeed came to that shared bath, she would make sure to attend to his body in the same way he planned attending to hers. And she wasn’t merely thinking on washing his hair, his luscious locks being only one part of his body she longed to get her hands on.

Thranduil dropped the washcloth in the bowl carefully enough so as not to send the water sloshing over the edge. He gathered the lengths of his hair in one hand to throw them back over his shoulders and then proceeded to study her hands as if they were a piece of art, turning them around slowly, so he could see them from all angles.

“Beautiful,” he breathed, his thumbs grazing gently over her narrow wrists, “your hands are so very lovely.”

She stared at her own hands cradled in his much larger ones and for a moment time seemed to have stopped its restless flow. After what could have been an eternity or just an instant, he placed a gentle kiss atop every single finger and rolled down her sleeves, buttoning them up again.

“As good as new.” He flashed her a toothy grin, picking up the towel from her lap and folding it to place it atop the bedside table.

Anna admired her perfectly clean hands, holding them up in front of her face. “You know, if you ever get tired of being king you could turn this into a full time profession, although I really wouldn’t want you touching anyone else like this.”

He rose from his seat, a low chuckle rumbling in his chest. “Rest assured that for one I will never tire of being king and also the only person I wish to touch in this way is you.”

He proceeded to roll down his own sleeves and put back his rings, adjusting their position until they were to his satisfaction.

“That’s good to know,” Anna said, a warm and fuzzy feeling coiling in her stomach. She rose from her bed and smoothed down her dress, readjusting the fit of her bodice. When she felt his gaze on her, she looked up to him and met his eyes, apprehension and affection mingling in their blue depths.

“It seems that you are finally ready to meet your past.” He held out his arm to her. “Are you?”

“Yes.” She nodded, still somewhat shaky, and took his arm. He placed his hand atop hers and the warmth of his body made her feel a little less queasy.

Ready or not, the only path towards her future led through her past, and with a racing heartbeat she allowed Thranduil to lead her to where her fate was waiting for her.

To be continued…

Sindarin:

gi melin - I love you

lotheg nín - my little flower

aran nín - my king

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