Like a force to be reckoned with
A mighty ocean or a gentle kiss
I will love you with every single thing I have.
(Sleeping At Last: Two)
Anna opened her eyes. At first she had trouble focussing on her surroundings. Her eyelids were heavy like lead and her body felt like she had been both through a storm and an earthquake. Mercifully the pain was gone and all that remained was a certain numbness in her limbs. She squinted and looked up.
There was a net of entwined branches above her, a golden light seeping through their tangled dome. The forest, was she in the forest? No, it couldn’t be, because there was undoubtedly a mattress beneath her and a quilt covering her, except this definitely wasn’t her own bed. It felt much too wide and her bed didn’t have a canopy like that. Then it hit her. She knew one bed with a canopy like that. More than once she had thrown it covert glances, scolding herself for imagining herself in this very bed, in Thranduil’s arms.
“W—why am I here? What happened?” she mumbled, and then she managed to turn her head sideways.
“I’m so glad to see you awake.”
Thranduil was lying beside her, propped up on his elbow. His usually perfect hair was mussed, and his beautiful face showed obvious signs of strain. He was wearing a thin linen tunic that was half unbuttoned, revealing a glimpse of his chest and simple grey leggings. The only jewellery he wore was the small flower ring on his finger.
“You had a sudden attack of fever, and were unconscious when I found you. Aradan was the one who led me to your room.”
“He did?” A weak smile dawned on her face.
“Yes, he did. It seems that he is an unusually perceptive animal.” Reciprocating her smile he added, “And very fond of you. He refused to leave your side until you started showing definite signs of improvement.”
Suddenly everything came back to her, the pain, the fever, the blood and the vomit, which made her sorely conscious of her own dishevelled state. She was still wearing her velvet dress, the one with the ink stains as well as those added in the tunnel, but to her relief her hands and face felt clean, and even her hair seemed to have been brushed and was nearly free of all tangles.
“I took the liberty of cleaning you up and brushing your hair,” he said, when he saw her touching her face and hair.
“You did this yourself?”
He nodded. “I needed to do something to distract myself while you slept, and I wanted to stay close to you.”
This gesture meant more to her than what he probably thought. He hadn’t ordered his servants to do this task, no, he had done it himself, even though the sight and smell must have been less than pleasant.
“Thank you,” she said. If she needed any more proof that he truly loved and cared for her, she had just gotten it.
“I will always be there for you, lotheg nín,” he said, reaching towards the bedside table. “You should take another dose of the antidote, just to be safe.”
She nodded and obediently drank the liquid that left a bitter aftertaste on her tongue. When she made a face of disgust, he handed her the glass of Miruvór.
“This will wash away the lingering taste and will strengthen you.”
She took the cup he offered her, remembering very well the soothing effect this elven cordial had had on her in the past. Once the golden liquid had spread through her veins and a feeling of warmth settled in her chest, she sank back into the pillows. The grave look on his face spoke volumes.
“Am I dying?”
“No, not if I can help it.”
“But it is serious, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is.”
“What is happening to me? Why does this fever keep coming back?”
He studied her face, as if he was trying to choose his words carefully.
“It seems that the spider’s venom has found a way to cling to that piece of my soul you carry. As long as it remains with you, so will the venom.”
“And if it’s gone, the venom will be gone too?”
“Yes, both will leave your body, allowing you to fully recover.”
“But what will happen to you when the piece of soul goes back to you? Will the venom affect you too?”
“It might, but I will be able to battle it. My magic will be strong enough, especially once my soul has recovered its missing piece. But I don’t want you to worry about me. It is your wellbeing I am concerned with. I know you came here to save me, but allow me now to help you heal.” For a moment he hesitated. “I fear that we do not have much time though.”
“How long is not much time?” She wasn’t sure she was prepared to hear the truth.
“A few hours, one night at the most,” he said quietly.
She swallowed thickly. “That’s not much, even for human standards.”
“Which is why we cannot delay any longer. I know that I have offered you time to come to terms with your past, but this is a matter of life and death and I don’t want to lose you to the spider’s venom. Those wicked creatures will never claim victory, not as long as I have one breath left in me.”
Anna bit her lower lip, while she pieced together what she had wanted to say to him, but could not because the fever had foiled her plans of writing it in a letter to him.
“Whatever I do now will not change my past, and even if it breaks my heart to know that I will never see my family again, I know that it is no use to cling to something that has been lost forever.”
Thranduil nodded silently, acknowledging her decision. She looked up to him, trying to keep her voice from wavering.
“To give you back your piece of soul we must—” she broke off, slightly embarrassed to openly speak about such an intimate act.
“We must bond our souls, yes. Are you aware of what this involves?”
“Yes, I am aware.” Her voice was barely more than a whisper, but her heart was beating like a drum in her chest.
The tragic irony of all this was not lost on her. The very act that would free her from the venom, would be the one that could cause her death. No matter what, it seemed that her life was forfeit. But she was determined to see this through. Thranduil needed his soul to be whole and if this was the price, then this is what she would pay.
Thranduil sat up beside her and reached for her hands.
“Do you trust me?”
“I want you to know that I love you with all my heart, and even if these are not the circumstances I had in mind, I have been looking forward to share this special moment with you.”
He pulled her up to sit facing him in the middle of the bed. The carved trees that formed the bedposts and canopy of the massive fourposter made it appear as if they were in the middle of the forest, the sea of candles bathing everything in a golden light. Thranduil himself looked more beautiful to her than ever. His uncombed hair, the tunic with its sleeves unevenly rolled up and even the outline of his scar, which was visible beneath his faltering glamour, could not detract from his beauty, his true beauty, which was his loving heart. His imperfections were what made him perfect to her.
His voice was both serious, but also full of emotion when he spoke to her from the depths of his heart.
“Anna, you are the spring to my winter, the sunshine to my darkness, the one who brought me joy and taught me to love life again. A life I want to share with you as your husband. I am offering you my heart, if you will have me.”
“Yes, I will,” she whispered and the starlight in his eyes shone brighter than ever. He pulled the small flower ring from his finger and slid it onto her own finger.
“I want you to have this as a sign of my devotion to you. I know that among humans it is customary to wear wedding rings. I will have a second one made, so we can have matching ones.”
She admired the ring that adjusted perfectly to the size of her own finger. It was the most beautiful piece of jewellery she now would possess.
“I will cherish it forever,” she said.
He observed her quietly for a moment before he continued.
“We must now speak our vows to become husband and wife.”
“Do we not need a ceremony?” she asked, a tingle of nervous excitement settling in her stomach.
“No, we don’t. It is enough that we state our love before Eru.”
“I don’t think I know any elven wedding vows.” What if she said something wrong? The thought made her feel thoroughly embarrassed.
He gave her a reassuring smile.
“You don’t need to know any. Just repeat after me and we will be rightfully married.”
He took her hands in his and held them to his heart as he spoke.
“I, Thranduil, will take you, Anna, as my wife, to love you and to cherish you, and uphold our sacred bond until this world comes to an end. May Eru be witness to my words and hold me to them.”
Anna took his hands and placed them on her heart in return. A feeling of warmth pooled in her chest when she spoke her own vows.
“I, Anna, will take you, Thranduil, as my husband, to love and cherish you, and uphold our sacred bond until this world comes to an end or death claim me. Eru shall be the witness to my words and may hold me to them.”
The bittersweet truth of her own vows nearly overwhelmed her. Even if she survived their bonding, she would still be mortal. They would be able to share together a few decades at the most.
“Meleth nín,” he whispered and then he kissed her. The passion and urgency in his kiss made her give in to his demand, sealing their promise to each other with their lips.
He laid her down on the bed, ever so gently, and for a moment he only looked at her, taking in the sight of her.
“My wife,” he said reverently.
A warm and fuzzy feeling settled in her chest at the sound of these words. “My husband,” she whispered in return. She still could barely believe that he was now truly hers. She wrapped her arms around his neck, revelling in the warmth of his skin. He kissed her lightly on the tip of her nose, her brows, her cheeks.
“Do you know what it means to be my wife?” he asked her between kisses.
“Tell me, what does it mean?” She snuggled against his body, breathing in his scent. This was home.
He ran his fingers down her arms while he spoke. “It means that you are my everything, that I cherish you above all others and that I will do everything in my power to make you happy, for as long as the gift of the sacred bond ties us together.”
The sincerity in his words made her heart ache. “I’m honoured to be your wife, aran nín, and I want nothing more than to be yours completely.”
“My lovely bride,” he said, leaning further down to press a kiss to her lips. An aching need went through her when the kiss turned heated and he shifted his body to lie on top of her. “I want to make love to you,” he murmured into her ear, his words a delicious promise worth any sacrifice she was willing to give.
“Make me yours,” she whispered.
“But first we need to get you out of this dress.” He frowned. “I’m afraid these buttons and laces will take me a long time to get undone.”
“Let me undress you first then,” she said, suddenly emboldened by her own desire building up in her core. She wanted to see him, all of him, and then she wanted to feel him, skin against skin.
To her surprise he did not object. “Your wish is my command,” he said, a gleam of anticipation in his eyes.
Anna worked through unbuttoning his tunic rather slowly, her fingers not as swift as usual, gradually exposing his torso to her eager eyes. A sense of possessive pride filled her at the fact that he was now hers to enjoy and explore. When she had reached the last button, he helped her slide the garment over his shoulders, her hands grazing along his toned arms as she pulled it off completely.
“You are so beautiful,” she said, marvelling at the perfection of his sculpted chest. It was broad and strong, bearing the obvious signs of a trained warrior, but still maintaining the smooth gracefulness that was innate of the elven physique.
Thranduil drew in a sharp breath when she ran a daring hand down his chest and over his abdomen, lingering along the warm skin bordering the waistband of his leggings. He pulled her hand away and kissed the tip of her fingers.
“My turn,” he said.
“But I’m not done,” she protested.
“One thing at a time, you’ll get to see it all soon enough.” He gave her a wicked grin.
A tingle of heat went through her body as anticipation and the remnants of bashfulness fought for dominance at the prospect of what he was going to do next.
With careful diligence Thranduil undid one button after the other, bestowing equal attention to the laces on the back of her dress until all were loosened. He slid her dress off her shoulders and did not stop until he had pulled it over her hips and let it drop to the floor, leaving her with nothing but her thin undergarment that covered her most intimate area. She blushed furiously and her hands went to her breasts, a sudden wave of self-consciousness washing over her at being so exposed to him. He was an elf, the epitome of flawless perfection, yet she was only a human, her mortal body far from what he might consider beautiful enough.
“Don’t be ashamed,” he said. “I am your husband and you are magnificent to me.” He took away her hands, studying her body as if he were admiring a piece of art.
“I—I’m sorry. It’s just, I have never been with an elf before, nor with a king.” She blushed even more at the admittance of her inexperience.
He grazed his hands over her breasts and squeezed them softly. “I might be the Elvenking, but I have never been with a human before,” he said, his touch sending goosebumps over her skin, “so we are even.”
Her feeling of vulnerability gradually faded away under his tender ministrations. With determined hands he finally pulled down her undergarment, revealing her downy nest of blonde curls to his eyes. She instinctively tried to close her legs, but he sat himself between them, his own leggings the only piece of clothing still separating them.
“Don’t cover yourself,” he said, his nostrils flaring when he took in her scent. “You are perfect, all of you.”
She nearly melted into the sheets under his appreciative glance. He lowered his head and kissed each of her breasts with reverent devotion, igniting a flutter in Anna’s stomach.
“When our souls entwine, you will feel a strong tug that might scare you with its force. It will be like nothing you have ever felt before, overwhelming like the incoming tide and powerful as a thunderstorm. But there is unmatched beauty to this moment. There is nothing more intimate than two souls becoming one. It is when they are at their most vulnerable but also at their most powerful state, forging a bond that is akin to the deepest roots of the forest becoming one with the earth around it.”
“You make it sound so very beautiful,” she said, anxiety and excitement mounting inside her. What if her human soul was not strong enough to withstand these forces? She tried to shove her worries to the back of her head, not to spoil this moment.
“It is beautiful. When souls bond they fill the world with their songs and ours will be part of this everlasting music. Whatever happens, I don’t want you to be afraid. I will not hurt you.” He kissed the crown of her head.
“I’m not afraid. I trust you.” The first thing was a lie, the second wasn’t. Yes, she was terrified of what might happen, but she also felt safe with him.
He loosened the strings of his leggings to pull them down and her eyes were drawn to the object of her desire. She smiled at what she saw. He definitely did not disappoint.
“I will be gentle with you,” he said. “I don’t want my desire for you to scare you.”
“I’m giving myself to you, body, heart and soul,” she said. “I don’t need you to be gentle. I want to feel your desire for me.”
Her words ignited a fire in his eyes. “Then tell me this is what you want, Anna.” He settled himself between her legs, hovering above her.
She breathed, “You are what I have always wanted.”
A shiver went through his body as he lowered himself onto her. He took his time and seemed to savour every instant of this delightful moment of anticipation. It made Anna antsy and she wriggled impatiently beneath him.
“Patience, my little flower,” he reminded her, watching her intently, as if he wanted to memorise every single feature of her face. It was torturous bliss, being at his mercy.
“You are mine now,” he said, nudging at her entrance. Sparks shot through Anna’s body. If he waited any longer, she would combust from sheer desire. He grazed a finger down her neck and over her chest, until it rested right over her heart. It thundered beneath his touch and when he fixed her with his gaze, she drowned in a sea of stars.
“I claim you as my wife,” he said, pushing himself inside her.
Anna’s world exploded in starlight.
“Thranduil!” She arched her back to meet his thrust. The sudden feeling of him inside her took her breath away and she had to hold on to his broad shoulders not to fall apart right then and there.
He stilled for a moment, resting his forehead against hers, the strands of his hair falling like silvery waves around both heir faces.
“Say it. Say that you are mine!” The pleading undertone in his command made her heart go out to him.
“I’m yours,” she said, placing her flat hand on his chest, over his own hammering heart, “and I claim you as my husband.”
The answering smile on his face brought tears to her eyes, but she was not ashamed that he should see her cry. She felt overwhelming joy at being finally united with him. She would save his soul and then she would happily exhale her last breath in his tender embrace, if this was what fate had in store for her.
“Gi melin, Anna, now and forever.”
She met his declaration of love with a kiss, capturing his lips with her own, and boldly pushing her tongue into his mouth.
Their hands entwined when he finally started moving inside her, setting an agonisingly slow pace to begin with. Her world reduced to both of them so intimately joined. Nothing and no one else mattered. This moment — it was everything she had ever dreamed of.
A gossamer thread spread from her soul to him, an answering one reaching out from him to her, both of them weaving a golden net around them. The tug on her soul became stronger, more forceful with each of his thrusts into her, bringing her rapidly to the edge of what she could bear without letting herself fall.
“Don’t hold back,” he said, wrapping one arm around her waist to pull her tighter against him. “I want to see you come undone.”
He claimed her mouth with a ravenous hunger that should have scared her, but it didn’t. The fact that he wanted her so much turned her insides molten with desire and made her relinquish the last remnants of control. Her hands roamed over the muscled planes of his back, and she elicited a groan of pleasure from him when she ran her finger over the sensitive tip of his ear.
Faster and faster the world spun around her, as she was being pulled into a vast space that appeared empty at first, but then filled with sounds and colours that were both foreign and familiar. A powerful song rose within her, a melody so beautiful that she wanted to forever linger and listen. Feelings of grief and despair mingled with those of deepest joy and with echoes of other emotions she did not recognise as her own.
“Give in to it,” he said, the song between them building up with an urgent crescendo that drove them towards each other with its ever increasing tempo, reaching for the light that awaited them at the pinnacle of pleasure.
“I can feel you,” she said, when her own soul flowed into his, all barriers between them torn down, soul against soul, bare and vulnerable.
“Let yourself fall.” He kissed her neck, the heat of his lips fuelling the fire that burned inside her.
She was on the brink of losing herself in the ocean of delight. “Please,” she begged.
“Please what?” He raised himself up to look at her and then his fingers went to that aching spot between her legs. She melted like wax in his hands.
“Don’t stop!” she pleaded. Her entire body tensed, a feeling of fullness radiating from her core.
“I won’t,” he said, watching her as he brought her ever closer to completion, “and I will be there to catch you.”
A flicker of light came into her vision, turning brighter and stronger, until it seemed like the endless universe itself opened up for her, stars upon stars zooming past her when at last she found the brightest of them all, overwhelming in its iridescent beauty. It reached out to her and pulled her along until they were both spinning in a blinding circle of light.
“Thranduil, I—!” The heat coursing through her veins had reached boiling point.
“Let go!” he ordered.
His low and husky voice, the magical touch of his fingers and his passionate thrusts sent her flying over the edge. A loud moan escaped her, but she couldn’t care less about propriety. Her vision blurred as she shattered around him, white-hot heat blazing through her body like wildfire.
“Anna!” Her name fell like a prayer from his lips when he joined her in the realm of bliss. He exhaled a shuddering breath and buried his head against her shoulder, his arms wrapped tightly around her.
“I love you,” she whispered into his hair. She clung to his body for dear life as a mighty wave swept her away into darkness.
lotheg nín - my little flower
Miruvór - an elven cordial
meleth nín - my beloved
aran nín - my king
gi melin - I love you