The darkening of hearts

Mushrooms and marriage

Chapter 11: Mushrooms and marriage.

The city of Tirion was in an uproar, guards from the royal palace were everywhere, searching through every building and some unfortunate ner had to crawl down into the sewer system to check that too. Finwë had made a public appearance and many had been deeply shocked by it, they hadn’t expected the true high king to return from the halls. But now he had and everybody was confident that he would make things right and bring back a time of peace and true prosperity. But right now the main goal of everyone was to find Alciel and Finarfin tried to get an idea of who it was who had been plotting against him. That proved to be hard, the conspiracy had been very well hidden and at the moment they couldn’t trust anyone, so they worked with discrete tactics and managed to learn that Lerina’s father was one of the conspirators for sure. Finwë wasn’t surprised but nobody seemed to know where he was and so they had to keep looking. The problem was that Alciel could have been transported out of the city and then she could be hidden somewhere they didn’t even know of. It was a grand dilemma and Finwë was deeply worried. Could these mad elves really go so far as to hurt someone to get what they wanted? Were they mad enough for that? He could just hope that his granddaughter was alright, she was resourceful, it should help her.

Alciel had never felt more alone, she sort of knew that her family was searching for her but she had no idea of where she was, and the cellar was not a place you could escape from. The door was barred and there was a chimney there but it was way too small for someone to crawl through. She sat down to think, what could she do? What options were left? There was no way she would allow it to happen, she wouldn’t marry some power hungry buffoon more than she would marry an orc and carrying the offspring of such a person? No fucking way! When she slept food would be left on the table and the bucket would be replaced with a new one, she had to come up with an idea before they managed to get some of those herbs into her. Think Alciel, think! She knew her father had been a genius and she was just as smart, just in a different way. The room was so small and the dank smell disgusting and she went over the small fireplace, tried to open the chimney to let some air in. The darn rod which regulated airflow was stuck, rusted in place and she moaned and bent down, stared up into the narrow opening above the cold ashes of the fireplace.

The chimney was open, oh great! That meant no better air, and she was to pull away from the chimney when she saw something which made her frown. She reached out and grasped the thing she saw and when she returned to the faint light she did bite her lower lip. It was a mushroom, the kind which sometimes does grow in such dark dank places. She had barely ever seen one of this species but she had heard of it, and knew what it was. She took a deep breath, how desperate was she? And more importantly, how desperate were they? Would they go through with it if she was unconscious and ill? Would they even notice before it was too late? She stared at the mushroom, the hat of it was dark brown with some odd purple specks and she swallowed hard. It was very poisonous, the risk of her dying was great, but if they had to get a healer?

It was her chance, if she did die then their plans would be ruined for sure, they wouldn’t take that risk. She decided to wait for a couple of days, to see if they really were going to force her, if they did she would do it. It was her only chance of escape and if she did die, well, she wouldn’t be the only Feanorian in the halls.

Lerina was still shaking when she approached her daughter’s home, the shock was slowly leaving her and she felt almost hysterical with relief. Her father had ridden off, she was safe! Mablung walked next to her and the mules followed them and Lerina saw that Ariniel came running to meet her. The nis stopped with huge eyes when she saw Mablung, then she grinned and rushed the last distance, embraced Lerina. “Mother, are you alright?”

Lerina nodded, tried to smile. “ I am dear, thanks for the warning.”

Ariniel stared at the tall sinda and her eyes were glittering. “ What happened? Please do tell me!”

Lerina sort of shuddered. “ Mablung here convinced father that we are married, and that I have become a terribly debauched person.”

Ariniel did notice the way Lerina looked and her eyes went wide, then she started to laugh. “Oh Eru’s mercy, that is priceless. Mom, you look like…well. Not your usual self for sure.”

Mablung grinned wryly. “Thanks to the warning we could prepare”

Ariniel cocked her head. “ I see, do you think he will try again?”

Mablung shook his head. “Not if he wants my sword jammed up his arse, we scared him off and good riddance, what an unpleasant person.”

Ariniel giggled and then she bowed her head. “Thank you so much for your help, you are Mablung yes? Mom have told me about you”

He returned the gesture. “ And she has told me about you, you have a wonderful mother young one”

Ariniel blushed slightly. “I know! She is the best. Have you picked all those nuts?”

Lerina nodded, her eyes shining. “Yes, there is so much left there, so we are going back to get more.”

Ariniel frowned. “Not right away?”

Mablung shook his head. “No, these nuts need to be sorted out first, and I have invited her to join me at the festival tonight”

Ariniel sort of gasped, then she grinned widely. “ A festival? Oh how wonderful mom, I am gonna help you get dressed then, you will outshine everyone”

Lerina felt tiny, like a trapped mouse in a box. “ But…I don’t want any attention”

Mablung grasped her hand, held it gently. “ Don’t worry, I will be there and nobody will bother you, I promise. It will be fun”

Ariniel clapped her hands together. “Marvelous, then shall we unload the mules and sort those nuts? I will help, and so will my husband”

Lerina just sighed and felt overwhelmed, this was moving forth way too fast. They got the mules in to the yard and got the baskets off them and got to work. Since much of the sorting had been done in the woods it was rather quick and Lerina stored the nuts in huge ceramic containers almost as tall as herself. She promised herself that she would send some to the court as soon as possible. Afterwards Mablung promised to come and pick her up and Lerina felt utterly silly. She ought to be acting like a mature wise nis, not some idiot, but it was hard. She went to take a bath and Ariniel did keep her promise. She was chatting away like mad about Mablung while she threw away all the dresses Lerina suggested that she’d wear. In the end she came with one Lerina never had seen, it was made from several layers of almost transparent linen and dyed in soft tones of green and gold and it was lovely. “Here, this is perfect. You will fit right in among the wood elves.”

Lerina felt silly, she bit her lower lip, fit in? Yeah, like an orc among angels for sure. Ariniel then went to work with her hair, put it up and braided some thin twigs made from gold thread into it, and added some ribbons in green and red as well. And she even put some make up on her and Lerina had a feeling of being some prize horse put on display. But the result was stunning and she stared at her own reflection in the mirror, utterly shocked. The make up brought out the color of her eyes even more than usual and gave her cheeks some more fullness and she did blush and feel a sting of excitement. How would he react to her now?

Ariniel almost jumped with excitement. “ You look amazing, he will be on his knees proposing to you before you even know it”

Lerina sort of giggled, nervously. “I don’t think that he…”

Ariniel interrupted.” Oh yes he does, I am not blind mom. I saw his eyes. He is falling for you like a log! He is breathtaking, you go to that festival tonight and if you return home unwed I am gonna smack your bottom, and I don’t care if you are my mom”

Lerina had to giggle and she tried to smile but felt so terribly unsure. How was she to deal with it all? “ We have just met sweet one”

Ariniel pouted. “You are meant for one another, even a blind fool can see that. And the wood elves doesn’t care about a one year engagement and all that nonsense. Not when the bond is strong from the very first day. Go ahead mom, he will make you very happy, I am dead sure”

Lerina tried to make her face look stern. “ I would greatly appreciate it if my daughter kindly stays out of my love life thank you very much”

Ariniel rolled her eyes and straightened Lerina’s dress. “What love life? Mom, we both know you have been true to father ever since he left, and now it is time for you to start living again, can’t you see? He would have wanted you to be happy”

Lerina sighed, knew that Ariniel was telling the truth here. “ I know, but I do not want to rush things.”

Ariniel threw the long red hair back over her shoulder and sighed. “Mom, sometimes it is better to jump right at it than to crawl. It is like taking a bath when the water is a bit cold, just go for it. It will feel better afterwards”

Lerina let out a nervous snort and Ariniel reached out, caressed her cheek. “ Don’t worry mom, he will be good to you, as good as father ever was, I just know it. He is the strength that you need to truly blossom.”

Lerina looked down and wondered how her daughter had become so very wise, much wiser than herself in so many ways. It had to be the fact that she never had been shielded and held back the way Lerina had. Ariniel went to the kitchen and returned with a cup of wine. “ Here, to soothe your nerves. You look like you need it”

Lerina made a grimace and nodded, took the cup and emptied it in one go, that made Ariniel sort of blink and stare in utter surprise. Lerina didn’t really know why she felt so nervous, it was just a festival damn it, but she sort of felt that it would be so much more, that this night would change everything.

Mablung showed up not much later, he had bathed too and changed into a pair of very lovely dark trousers with nice embroideries and a white shirt. Lerina felt her heart skip a few beats when she saw him and he just blinked when he saw her. “Eru, you…oh the valar must envy you your beauty. It is incomparable with anything of this world.”

Lerina just giggled and Ariniel winked at Mablung. “Show her a good time, Eru knows she deserves it.”

The tall sinda just grinned and took Lerina’s hand. His horse waited outside and he got her in the saddle before he jumped up behind her and they rode off. Lerina felt a bit tense, but also strangely excited. She had always been fascinated by the cultures of the Endor elves and now she was to witness it firsthand. “Where are we going?”

Mablung held a hand around her waist and he let the horse trot slowly along the path. “To a groove south of the village, it is sacred to us wood elves. “

Lerina frowned. “Why? What is special about it?”

He grinned and she could smell that he had bathed, now he smelled very distinctly of himself and it was a scent she found strangely addictive. “It is said that Oromë himself have blessed it, and it holds great powers. The avarin elves do worship him and Yavanna, the groove is dedicated to them”

Lerina just nodded and after a while they approached a huge open field. In the middle was a groove of very old oaks and tents and small huts filled the field with sparkling colors, almost challenging those of the wild flowers. Mablung smiled, his eyes did sparkle and she realized that he really was looking forward to this. He stopped the horse and helped her down. “We sindar sort of split into two different factions at Doriath, at least when it came to culture and behavior. One faction tried to remain the way we were before the great journey while the other faction tried to become more civilized and to be honest, goddamn boring”

She giggled. “ I take it that you were of those belonging to the first faction?”

He nodded and gave the horse a pat on the rump, it took off. “ Most certainly, I didn’t care for fancy dress and finery, for courtly gossip and stiff parties where you couldn’t even laugh without feeling like a pariah. No, I preferred the wild woods and I still do”

They walked on and soon Lerina saw that there were a lot of elves gathered there. Most were avarin or silvan in origin and there were also some sindar there, and a few noldor too. That surprised her but what surprised her most of all was that there were vanyar elves present. And they were nothing at all like the vanyar of Valmar. She had to stare, eyes wide and her mouth open and Mablung chuckled. “There you see the vanyar the way they were before they reached this land, those are elves who refuse to participate in that insane worship of the valar, they do only worship Yavanna as their great mother and Eru”

Lerina knew that vanyar of Valmar would pass out seeing these. Most were almost naked and wore body paint and bizarre jewelry and some were in fact naked! She felt herself blush intensely. But they were beautiful and strangely natural and they had an odd sort of pride that was fascinating to watch. Some of the avarin elves were dressed and embellished in a similar manner and she saw that elflings were running around freely, and they were all buck naked. In Tirion that would have caused quite a scene and Lerina had to admit that they all looked very happy. Most there seemed to know Mablung and he was greeted by many and shouted back, cheerfully. Then another very tall slender Sinda with almost white hair approached them and Mablung grinned widely and gave the other ner a hug. “ What am I hearing old friend, you chased off a noldorin monster this evening?”

Mablung sort of scoffed and turned around. “ Lerina, this is my old friend Beleg, Beleg, this is Lerina. Yes, I did chase off her father, I have come across orcs nastier than that ellon but not many.”

Beleg laughed, then he bowed politely and took Lerina’s hand. “So this is the fair lady you have spent days in the woods with, friend, I am envious of you. She is gorgeous”

Lerina blushed and Mablung laid an arm around her shoulders, in a protective manner. “That you may be, but beware, she is all mine tonight”

Beleg chuckled. “Worry not, everybody knows that you have found a true gem there, you won’t face any competition although I bet half of the males here would wish to be in your shoes tonight”

Lerina blushed even deeper and Beleg gestured towards an open area in front of the groove. A huge bonfire was erected but not yet lit on fire, and there were elves gathering there. Some walked around carrying wine skins and before Lerina even knew it somebody pushed a huge goblet into her hand and filled it with a liquid that smelled like raspberries. Beleg grinned. “Are you gonna jump tonight Mablung?”

Mablung nodded. “ Of course, what could possibly stop me? I am gonna win this year as every year, mark my words!”

Lerina frowned. “Jump?”

Beleg grinned widely, winked at her. “ Yes, it is a tradition, ancient as the very hills themselves. When the moon rises we will set the bonfire alight and then the warriors will jump through the flames, the one making the boldest leaps will win.”

Lerina just gasped. “ Are you all nuts? What if you get burned?”

Beleg laughed. “None have so far, we are not stupid gorgeous one, worry not, your friend here will be alright. He always wins”

Mablung just smiled, a wide boyish grin that somehow made her heart skip a few beats, again! “ I always win, listen to him”

More elves walked by, some greeted Mablung and some even said hello to Lerina and none appeared to be anything but friendly and accepting and she started to relax. The wine was the best she had ever tasted and someone seemed to fill the goblet whenever it was empty. Someone had brought drums and flutes and some odd looking instruments with many strings and merry music seemed to spread through the camp. Many were dancing around singing and the atmosphere was one of carefree joy. Mablung held her hand and started pointing out the differences between the different clans. She did pay attention but the music and the general mood there made her legs twitch. She had never liked dancing before, but now she wouldn’t mind trying.

Suddenly the crowd split up and an area around the bonfire got cleared, a group of young ellith came running into it, all wearing gorgeous flimsy dresses with very tight bodices and they gathered in a small group, giggling and squealing. Mablung smiled. “Another tradition, it sort of starts the festival. Just watch now”

Some other ellith who were older came carrying baskets and the baskets contained boiled and peeled eggs, each young elleth got an egg and Lerina gasped when she saw that the eggs got shoved down into their cleavage so they were barely visible between their breasts. Mablung chuckled. “Eggs are a symbol of fertility, and this whole festival is to celebrate just that, the fertility of the woods and the animals, to make sure the gods still smile at us and make the crops plentiful.”

Lerina still didn’t understand, then suddenly a group of young Ellyn burst out from the crowd and she realized that they tried to catch the ellith but they all had their hands tied to their backs and the ellith were laughing and giggling and letting out loud squeals of sheer thrill as they jumped and ran and tried to dodge the young males. Lerina frowned. “What are they doing”

Mablung chuckled. “Trying to take the eggs and eat them, without their hands. If they do manage to get the egg from one of the ellith she will have to spend the night with him so they all try to make sure that the one who gets their egg is one they want”

Lerina looked shocked. “ Do they have to…you know?”

Mablung shook his head. “ Heck no, but spending the night can mean to just stay here and dance, listen to him singing, performing poetry or just watching the stars. Many a good marriage have started with the egg chase”

One of the ner had managed to sort of pin one of the females against a table and now he had his face buried between her breasts, trying to get the egg without soiling her too much. She was giggling like mad and everybody around them were cheering. Lerina looked at the crowd and realized that these elves did celebrate life in a whole different manner than those she was used to. Here you found no false piety, no haughtiness or rules made to control your every move or feeling. These were free, and suddenly she ached for that freedom with her very fëa. Mablung petted her back.” You can feel it right? That this is how we are supposed to be, what we were created to be.”

She could just nod, feeling a bit humble. After a while all the ellith had their eggs taken and the crowd gathered again, the drums started making a new rhythm as darkness fell and Mablung grasped her hand. A Vanyar elleth on the other side grasped her other hand and now she saw that they formed huge circles around the fire. He grinned at her. “This is the great dance, just follow the flow”

An elleth clad in green stood and started chanting something and the circles started moving, some clockwise and others the other way and Lerina had to grin, this was fun. The speed picked up and the rhythm got wild and hypnotizing. She was spun around, they changed direction, went from one circle to the other and yet the circles remained and she realized that this was a perfect metaphor for life itself. Sometimes she lost track of him but he would show up again and the elleth in green shouted something very loud and then they all stopped and stared at her, arms in the air, chests heaving and eyes glittering in the darkness. She did see that a few of the avarin elves actually had eyes which glowed in the dark like cats eyes and it was a bit eerie. She did see that Mablung’s eyes too did have that unearthly glow now and she realized that it was because he was of those born long before there was a sun and a moon.

They began to sing, Lerina didn’t understand a single syllable but it was so beautiful it brought tears to her eyes and so etheric it felt like a dream listening to it. The song continued for a while and she saw that some ner did light some torches, lightning up a path through the camp. She frowned, it looked like an obstacle course, like the one they used to train the young warriors?

Mablung grinned widely. “This is fun watching, just you wait and see.”

She cocked her head. “Another competition?”

He nodded. “ Oh yes, one I haven’t participated in”

She turned her head and frowned and now some ner entered the clearing, clearly exchanging some challenges and cheerful insults to each other. Then some ellith too came forth and to Lerina’s shock the ner grasped them and lifted them up and the ellith ended up sitting on their shoulders. Were they to go through the obstacle course carrying the ellith?! Oh Eru, now she knew why that was regarded as fun, it had to be very difficult. She leaned forth to see better and suddenly she felt hands grasping her waist and she was lifted like she was weight less and suddenly she sat placed on Mablung’s shoulders, staring down. He looked up at her and winked. “ I haven’t participated before because I haven’t had a date during the festival before. Get ready”

Lerina squealed, grasping on to his hair desperately but she felt that she was firmly in place, he held her legs and she wouldn’t fall off but Eru. She was sitting on him! Many were cheering and shouting as he ran through the crowd joining the others and some other sindar hollered. “Way to go Mablung, make sure not to buck her off. Two silver coins on you as a winner”

The other competitors made grimaces and the ellith on their backs just laughed. Lerina felt horrified, how was she to get through this alive? Mablung chuckled. “Do not be afraid, I won’t let you fall off”

She panted and stared at the track with huge eyes. “I am not worried about me, what about you?!”

He patted her leg. “Oh I will be okay, I am stronger than most and faster too. We do have a good chance. “

She tried to calm herself, if she had to be a part of this then be it. “ What are the rules?”

He pointed at the track. “The one who manages to get through the track without hitting the obstacles with his partner or falling or dropping her wins”

Lerina swallowed. “ Oh…okay!”

He looked up again, grinning like a madman. “Just do as I tell you to do and we will be fine”

She tried to smile, and the other ellith gave her encouraging smiles. “Is there some sort of spiritual meaning behind this or is it just a chance for you males to show off?”

Mablung chuckled. “They say that the couples who makes it through this without falling will be blessed with many children”

Lerina squeaked. “I….see”

A tall silvan wearing a huge pelt over his shoulders raised a hand and the all lined up, Mablung grasped Lerina’s legs and she put an arm around his head, trembling slightly. The silvan grinned and let his hand fall and they were off! Lerina screamed as Mablung raced forth and she clung onto him with all her might as they approached the first obstacle, a series of barrels lying one after the other in a ditch filled with water. Oh why had she allowed him to drag her into this? She held her breath as he ran out onto the barrels, since they were floating they could spin around their own axis and were unstable and to her amazement he was so fast neither of the barrels had time to spin. They were over and another ellon carrying a slender auburn haired elleth were hot at their heels. Two of the other couples ended in the water and the crowd was cheering loudly. Lerina yelped as the next hurdle showed up, it was a log hanging horizontally in the air suspended by ropes and under it was a narrow track filled with mud. It seemed to be about a meter off the ground and were someone supposed to jump that? It was impossible!

Lerina took a deep breath and Mablung shouted. “ Lean back, as far as you can, keep your head low”

He rushed forth and fell down onto his knees, bending backwards at an insane angle and she screamed as the log passed over her head, just an inch from her nose. He slid forth in the mud and got back up again and she couldn’t imagine the pressure this had put on his knees and muscles. The other couple managed it too and then two more got under without incident but one couple failed since the elleth touched the log with her hand. Lerina realized that this was all about showing trust, not strength. She had thought the males were the important ones but in fact it was the females who decided the outcome of this game. To win you had to trust your partner completely and she felt a strange spark of competiveness awaken in her. She saw that the next obstacle was a very narrow beam you had to run along and it had some thin logs swinging over it and those had to be jumped. This was the most terrifying and exhilarating thing she had ever experienced and she tried desperately to stay in balance to help him.

Before she really understood how they were over and it was just one obstacle left, and it was a tricky one. Lerina sort of moaned when she saw it, they had two couples behind them now and both were close and Lerina didn’t want them to win. She had never won anything ever, this victory she wanted to claim. Mablung gasped for air and tried to run even faster. “ You are getting eager aren’t you. I kind of like that!”

She whimpered, the obstacle was a series of huge hoops hanging vertically and how were you to get through them? Mablung aimed for the first one. “Listen, I have to get down into a crouch and sort of push you through the hole and then get my own body through afterwards, without you hitting the ring, okay?”

She whimpered. “O-okay!”

Here his great height became a disadvantage and the other couples who had made it this far were silvan and smaller and more slender. He got down and Lerina felt herself being tipped forward through the hoop, she held her breath, they couldn’t touch the hoop itself and then he slowly got back up a bit, holding her entire weight while standing in an odd angle. He got one leg through, straightened himself up a bit, pulled the other leg after him and the first hoop was finished, four more to go, oh Eru!

The other couples had caught up with them but now Lerina realized something rather crucial, she was rather short and even if she had put on weight since her marriage to Maedhros she was lighter than the other females, and he was stronger than the males. He sort of groaned each time he had to get up half bent with her weight on his shoulders but they managed to get through and then there was just one hoop left. The other couples had followed them until now but at the fourth hoop the couple with the auburn elleth lost their balance and the only competition they had left was a brown haired ellon with a blond elleth. They seemed determined to win and Lerina bit her teeth together and grasped onto Mablung’s long hair to stay in place as he carefully lifted her through the last hoop. She held her breath as he sort of snaked his way through and then they were out and had to run the last hundred yards to the finish. Lerina was yelling with excitement and kicking too and Mablung gasped and threw his last strength into the race. “You are spurring me like a horse elleth, my have you gotten into this”

They crossed the finish line just two feet in front of the other couple and Lerina felt ecstatic, she yelled and bounced and had never had such fun and Mablung lifted her down and kissed her in front of everybody and she didn’t care, she just didn’t care. The kiss was a passionate one and she heard the elves surrounding them chuckle and laugh. “Won’t be too long before they have little ones at their feet for sure”

She blushed, but participated in the kiss and someone came with some sort of decoration made from flowers which had to be the prize. Both she and Mablung got one to wear and some did shake his hand. The couple who came as number two seemed to be just happy and didn’t mind loosing and now people started to dance again. Mablung washed the mud from his pants and boots and then he grasped her and spun her into the dancing crowd before she even had time to consider whether or not she really wanted to dance. But she loved it, the freedom of the movements, the rhythm of the drums and his sparkling eyes made her forget about everything except the moment. Again there was a cup in her hand and she did drink eagerly, thirsty from all the excitement and he drank too, sharing the cup with her. He spun her around, lifted her, and she allowed herself to just go with the flow and the music. She was swaying her hips and raising her arms like the other ellith and she saw that he liked it, his eyes were darker than before and there was a change in the way he held her. It was subtle but there still the same. She laughed and squealed and felt light headed, the wine was so fruity and sweet and she didn’t care about anything anymore, just the dance.

She lost track of time, sometimes the music became slow and gentle and then they would dance close and she felt the heat from his body and knew she was safe there with him, she didn’t want this to end. The large hands which held her felt so incredibly warm and solid and nothing could harm her when he was there. She let him kiss her again, and the kisses grew bolder and deeper and she started feeling a bit weird once more. She could feel his heartbeat and when he pulled her close she could also feel that he was very hard and obviously ready for just about anything. They danced on for a while and suddenly a sort of sigh went through the crowd and everybody stopped. Some elves with torches walked slowly through the crowd heading for the groove and they wore some sort of robes covered with cirth runes. A single drum was being beaten in a slow heavy rhythm and the crowd just stood there, in absolute silence, everybody staring at the ground. She whispered to him. “What is going on now?”

Mablung held her hand. “The most sacred part of the festival, a ritual. It takes place within the groove.”

She frowned, feeling curious. “Oh, can everybody watch or is it just those elves over there?”

He smiled. “Every adult elf can watch yes, not just the shamans”

She saw that the shaman’s were heading into the groove and she frowned. “Can we go? I want to see”

Mablung sort of mumbled. “ I am not so sure you should”

She felt confused. “Why? Is it dangerous?”

He made a grimace, and didn’t look her in the eye. “ Uh, no. Absolutely not but like I told you this is a festival celebrating fertility and well, to be blunt, it is a very sexualized ritual”

Lerina felt herself blush intensely. But she still felt curious, she wanted to see more of this culture which was so unbound and free. “It doesn’t matter, I want to learn more about the customs of the elves of Endor. Please?”

He sighed. “ Alright, but I am warning you, you will be shocked”

She just nodded and they followed the other elves who joined the shamans. She saw that they all were adults and now she started to regret it a bit. Had she been too bold? She saw that there was an open glen in between the massive oaks and on it were two statues. Lerina let out a gasp, they were not like any statues she had seen before, carved from wood and very lifelike but also rather weird. One was of a female standing with her legs a bit apart and her arms reaching out as if to embrace someone, she didn’t have a face, just a smooth surface and the hair was made from vines and flowers, and reached the ground. The statue had very lifelike breasts and a slit between the legs and Lerina realized that this had to be their depiction of the mother Goddess. The other statue was a male, also faceless but with a wreath of roses around its head and Lerina did yelp when she saw that this statue was sporting a set of very realistic looking male genitalia, fully erect. Fertility festival indeed, she started to feel sweaty. The crowd gathered very tightly and Mablung stood behind her, holding her close as if to protect her. The glen was bowl shaped so everybody could see and he whispered to her. “Remember, you asked for this, don’t blame me if it gets too much”

She scoffed. “ I am not afraid?”

He chuckled. “No, you are very bold, but it is not fear I mean when I speak of it being too much”

She turned her head, staring at him questioningly. “Oh?”

He actually blushed. “Lerina, what you are gonna see, uh, it may….turn you on”

She blinked, feeling like a fool. “ What? Why?”

He rolled his eyes. “ Oh for Eru’s sake elleth, just you wait and see, You have to be dead inside not to feel anything whence this starts. “

She stared at the bottom of the bowl, the shamans were chanting something, shaking some sort of instruments and now two elves emerged from behind the oaks, both were naked and painted and it was an ellon and an elleth. The ellon wore the top half of a deer’s head hide over his head, with antlers and all and the elleth had the top half of a doe’s skin covering her head. Mablung whispered. “The doe and the stag, they are chosen by the shamans, to represent the powers of nature. It is a tremendous honor. “

Lerina saw that the crowd had fallen silent, everybody staring at the two elves. The shamans were chanting again, very loudly and the two went in front of the statues, kneeling. Both appeared to make a small cut in a finger with a small knife, smearing the blood onto the statues, over the heart area. Lerina realized that this really was very sacred to these elves, the atmosphere was loaded and many appeared to be praying. Then the two got up and now they started dancing around each other, but it wasn’t like any dance she had ever seen before. This dance was slow, sensual and they were touching and caressing each other and Lerina felt her cheeks and ears burn intensely. Oh Eru, it was one thing to be curious about strange cultures but this? She couldn’t believe it! The stag was sort of rubbing himself up against the doe and since both were stark naked it was not difficult to see that he was ready to say the least. Mablung whispered in her ear and his voice was a bit hoarse. “Wanna leave?”

There was a teasing tone in his voice, a challenge and she shook her head, to Nàmo with it, she was no coward. She could deal with it, this was after all a sacred rite, who was she to say that it was wrong in any way? She had long ago realized that it was the pious and strict ways of the vanyar and some noldor which were wrong. The dance was getting more and more suggestive and she realized that the whole crowd now was chanting, a sort of monotonous and yet powerful song of some sort and they were swaying with the rhythm, like one being. The energy within the area was insane, the air loaded. Then she saw that the female depicting the doe was kneeling down in front of the male statue and she gasped when she saw that the male playing the role of the stag fell to his knees behind the elleth and… She turned her head, staring at Mablung, eyes wide. “Are they…”

He chuckled. “Fucking? Yes, I warned you didn’t I? He is mounting her like a stag does mount a doe.”

Lerina saw that the elleth raised a hand and grasped onto the very visible male parts of the statue and that gesture made many in the crowd laugh out loud. “She is a cheeky one, the gods love that, they love happy females.”

Lerina swallowed hard, the crowd was still chanting, but the rhythm had become faster and the tone different and the two in front of the statues were moving to that rhythm. It was as if the crowd were one with them, shared the energy and the rite. Lerina blushed, her ears burned and she couldn’t watch, she stared down at her toes and heard everything instead. The female let out some sharp squeals and then she cried out. The male kept moving for a few seconds and then he collapsed forward, roaring. Lerina had never been that embarrassed in her life, it was way too intimate to watch and yet the atmosphere and the odd energy in the air did affect her, she felt her own skin tingle and she felt hot and strangely euphoric. She had no idea of whether it was the wine or the general mood there which affected her.

She could hear that Mablung was breathing hard, and his hand on her shoulder did tremble. The two in front of the statues got up and started dancing around once more, around the statues and now the doe appeared to be chasing the stag. Then they switched and after a short while they ended up in front of the statues yet again, this time with the stag on top, facing the doe. Lerina had to look away yet again but the image sort of burned itself into her mind, graceful bodies moving as one, sharing the same rhythm and the same life, the same hope.

The chanting got gentler, more soothing and this time they obviously used more time, they didn’t rush it. Lerina saw that many couples within the crowd were doing some pretty obvious groping and to her shock she did see that a couple not far from them actually were doing it, standing. The elleth had just pulled her skirts up at the back and it was rather obvious that she enjoyed it immensely judging by the odd grimaces she was making. Mablung whispered to Lerina and his voice was shaking and breathless. “This night will be the start of many marriages, and there will be quite a few elflings born too, a year from now. It is a sacred night”

Lerina just whimpered. Sacred? Oh Eru, more like overly loaded with an energy that made her heart pump wildly in her chest and to her shame and confusion she did feel she was getting wet. Mablung was caressing her hair and her shoulders and suddenly she felt him kiss the back of her neck, it gave her goosebumps and she realized that he probably was turned on, just like most others in the crowd. She closed her eyes and felt him pull her closer, felt him breathe and shiver slightly and for some bizarre reason she wasn’t afraid anymore. Somehow this whole odd and primitive rite showed her that it after all was completely natural, nothing to hide or be ashamed of. She felt him moving with the rhythm, very gently and she allowed herself to sway with him. The whole crowd moved as a single entity, and she did find it almost beautiful.

The stag and the doe did finish yet again and remained laying there, cuddling, the crowd started to move, formed a line and everyone passed by the statues and touched them. Lerina saw that the females often put their hands on the male parts of the statue of the hunter’s god and Mablung explained that they thought it would bring luck and ensure that their children grew to be bold hunters. It seemed almost as if the insane energy of the crowd somehow got transferred to the statues for the air became much less loaded and more peaceful, almost tranquil. “You cannot take without giving something back, that is the philosophy of the wood elves and you have seen a great example of that now”

His voice was still rather husky and sent shivers through her, but she understood. When had the elves she grew up among been thinking like that? They too joined the long line and Lerina hesitated when she reached the male statue, she bit her lip and stared at the very realistic phallus and Mablung chuckled. “Don’t be shy, give it a good tug”

She had to giggle and convinced herself that it was okay, the wood was warm under her hand and for a moment she could have sworn it was alive. She gasped and Mablung gave her ass a small smack. “ You felt the energy didn’t you? Good, that is a blessing”

She sort of smiled and in a way she felt oddly humble, she was an outsider and yet everybody had accepted her there, nobody had even questioned her right to stay and watch. It was quite wonderful. The crowd finished walking past the statues and some left, Mablung held Lerina by the hand and the shamans walked forth again. The doe disappeared into the woods but the stag remained and the shamans shouted something out loud. The crowd answered, and a young elleth came out from the woods behind the statues. She was naked except from a sort of red sash tied around her waist and she looked rather young. Lerina frowned. “Who is she? What is she doing?”

Mablung sort of hawked. “ Ah, this is an avarin custom, some tribes do follow it, not many but those who hold hard onto the old ways. “

She stared at him. “ And?”

He shrugged, looked away with a faint blush. “ Well, She has just come of age, and if an elleth comes of age just before one of these festivals she can chose the stag as her first lover.”

Lerina blinked. “What? But…”

He sighed and turned her around, stared into her face. “ :Listen, I know that your people have other customs, that they view this very differently from the avari elves, but to them this is normal, in fact that elleth will be regarded as a very desirable spouse”

Lerina sort of gasped, remembering her own wedding, and the day after. The rage of her parents, and her injuries. How much better wasn’t this approach to it, this view? “She will not be regarded as….spoiled?”

He chuckled. “Far from it, the avari elves sees sex as something positive, something to be enjoyed. What is the point in having a hröa if you find no pleasure in it? An elleth who remains a maiden for very long after her coming of age will be regarded as faulty, and pitiful. Having many partners before you find your one only makes you more desirable, it shows you will be a good spouse.”

Lerina saw that the stag did approach the elleth, and he untied the red sash and ripped it in two. Mablung nodded. “See? By doing that he shows that he accepts her, and from now on she will be seen as someone who has been touched by the gods. She will be able to pick whoever she wants as her lovers, and all the unwed males will want her. By being hers they will share her powers, and she will get a spouse who will quite literally worship her”

Lerina had a hard time believing all this, but it made sense in an odd way. She cringed, if she had been an avarin nis she would have been seen as flawed then, as unnatural, if anyone had known the truth. But with her reputation she guessed that these elves would see her as quite the opposite, as one more or less blessed. That was a very odd thought. The stag started caressing and kissing the young elleth and she participated quite eagerly. Lerina just stared rather flabbergasted when she realized that the couple were going to do it right here, in public. Mablung saw her expression and grinned, a wicked smile. “It is done this way, everybody will know that the stag has deflowered her, and that she has taken his powers into her and is blessed. She may even become one of the shaman’s over time”

Lerina swallowed, she looked down. “You did find out who my husband was, did…did you hear about…the rumors?”

He sighed and embraced her tightly, kissed her brow. “ Yes, I did hear about that. I don’t care, really! It doesn’t matter at all who you have been with, we don’t think that way. Some of the sindar would but not we who follow the old ways, just the nobles from the court of our king, and those influenced by the noldor and the valar.”

Lerina made a grimace, how was she ever to tell him the truth? The couple had ended up on the ground now, it was obvious that the stag knew what he was doing for the elleth was writhing and moaning and Lerina felt herself blush all the way to her eartips yet again. What would it be like if…No, not that kind of thoughts, but what if…She didn’t know what to think anymore. The stag had gotten on top of the elleth who wrapped her legs around him and he appeared to be speaking to her, and his expression was very loving and filled with a sort of awe. Lerina saw that he suddenly moved and the young elleth sort of gasped and then she let out a short scream and Lerina felt her own heart hammer wildly. She bit her lower lip, mixed emotions flooded her and she felt herself shaking. Mablung stared at her face and frowned. He pulled her close and caressed her back gently. “Lerina? Are you alright?”

She tried to smile but couldn’t, she tried to drag her eyes away from the couple, the stag was moving slowly and with a steady rhythm and the elleth had started whimpering and crying out again but this time in obvious pleasure. It made her stomach churn and her legs felt weak and she was shameless, so shameless but for a few seconds she wished that it was her laying there, having it over with. Mablung caught her chin with his hand and lifted it towards his own face. “You didn’t have a very good first time now did you? Have you ever enjoyed it, even once?”

She stammered, her eyes flickering, oh Eru, what to say? “O…only that …thing you did, in the woods”

He sighed and pulled her close again. “Oh sweet one, I am so sorry to hear that, you must have had such a dreadful love life then”

She could just give him a sheepish grin, feeling like the worst person in the world for lying to him. He patted her on the back. “Come, it is almost time to light the bonfire and I want to show you some real fun”

She let out a sigh of relief, everybody were leaving now and the couple on the ground were left on their own, obviously enjoying themselves a lot. There was quite a crowd gathered around the bonfire now, and many Ellyn who had stripped down to their waists. Mablung too took off his shirt and gave it to Lerina with a wink and a boyish grin. “Here, take care of it”

She stared at the unlit heap of firewood, it was huge! How was anyone to jump over that? Someone came carrying an empty barrel and it was filled with cold water and she stared at Mablung with narrow eyes. “Water?”

He nodded, still grinning like a madman. He shook out his long hair and she saw that the other Ellyn too had their hair loose. She blushed, he was the tallest there, and even if there were some who were a bit more muscular she did find him to be absolute perfection. He moved with such pride and such confidence and again she could only compare him with a huge cat, elegance and power merged into one. All the Ellyn went over and dunked their heads in the barrel and she realized why, they didn’t want to scorch their hair, this was protection. An elleth wearing a very elaborate dress made from just knotted strings of hide threw a torch into the bonfire with a shout and the wood caught fire. Mablung and the others lined up and she jumped when she heard a voice close to her. It was Beleg and he was holding a canister of wine in one hand and the other was snaked around the waist of a tanned and almost naked avari elleth who was grinning like mad.

“The youngest will start, they are not strong enough for the really daring jumps.”

Lerina sort of scoffed, it still looked very dangerous as the fire caught and started to roar higher. “Is there some meaning to this?”

Beleg nodded. “Yes, it symbolize the cleansing of the fëa, it is said to remove all darkness, and all things wicked and cruel. “

Lerina stared at the bonfire, it was burning hot already. “ Know what? I do not doubt you!”

The crowd was cheering and the first ellon came running and jumped over the flames, landing safely on the other side. At the fire got stronger it became more and more difficult and she saw that Mablung did jump with the elegance of a deer. It was no effort for him at all. After a short while the young Ellyn sort of stepped back and the older more experienced ones started jumping and now it really became a competition. Lerina screamed a few times when she was sure the jumper would fall to his death in the flames but they all made it over, although a few did burn their boots. Lerina watched Mablung, saw his wide white grin, the way his eyes sparkled with joy and his obvious joy challenging himself and the others and her heart sort of soared, her chest felt too small, like a cage trapping it. She swallowed and couldn’t take her eyes off him, his skin was glistening in the light from the fire and she saw how droplets of water shone like diamonds where the light hit them. He was…She couldn’t even describe it and her entire fëa seemed to vibrate with a need far greater than any physical feeling. She just knew it, he was her one, the other half of her fëa and she couldn’t deny it, not anymore.

Four Ellyn were left now and the fire was roaring, reaching for the stars. The males did bold jumps and they tried to add some difficulty to it. They spun around themselves, did the splits right in the middle of the jump or turned around so they landed backwards. Some even landed so they had to roll like balls along the ground to slow down their speed. As the fire got larger they sort of quit one by one, then only Mablung and a skinny avari ellon were left. The avari was clad in thick leather pants and he wore some paint which had started running off him, he did look feral and strong and Lerina held her breath. The elleth who had lit the fire raised a hand. “ One jump left each, make it count”

Beleg grinned. “The fire is getting too strong, it is getting really dangerous.”

Lerina swallowed. Oh Eru, she didn’t need that piece of information. Mablung sort of grinned and gestured to the avari ellon, let him jump first. The avari walked away from the bonfire, then he leaned forth and ran like lightening towards it, jumping at the very last moment and he spun like a top through the flames, landing steadily on the other side. The crowd was cheering and he wiped sparks from his pants, looking very confident. Mablung dunked his head in the barrel once more and he stared at Lerina, winked and blew her a kiss and everybody laughed and seemed to find that rather sweet and endearing. Lerina couldn’t breathe, what was he going to do? She was afraid he would get hurt and she bit her lower lip so hard it hurt as he lined up and seemed to calculate the jump.

Then he ran, and took off, high, very high. And then he did flip forward and did a somersault through the flames, rather near the base and when he landed in a cloud of sparks and steam he held a flaming piece of wood in his hand and tossed it at the feet of the avari ellon who just stared, flabbergasted. Lerina let out a shriek of relief, and the crowd went mad, everybody were cheering and Mablung walked over in a cloud of steam, shook the remaining water out of his hair and then he grasped Lerina by her waist and lifted her up, kissed her hard right in front of everyone. Beleg shouted. “That was insane, did the dwarves spill your brains when they killed you?”

Mablung showed Beleg the finger with a huge grin. “No, only my guts, I know what I am doing!”

He kept holding Lerina up and she giggled and saw the fire in his gaze and remembered what Ariniel had said. It is better to jump into it than to crawl. An ellon came forth carrying a very nice dagger with a leather sheath and gave it to Mablung who held it high with a shout of triumph, then he pressed the dagger into her hand. “Here, this is yours, a good dagger is something everybody ought to own”

She felt overwhelmed. “But it is your prize?”

Mablung just shrugged. “Oh I have a dozen of those already”

He kissed her gently and she felt the scent of burned wood and ash from him, and her dress got soaked from his wet hair and she couldn’t hold it in anymore. She leaned forth and whispered into his ear. “ I want you, I want you now!”

Mablung let out a small sound which sounded like a growl and a new sort of fire ignited in his eyes, he kissed her neck and whispered back. “ Eru how I have waited for those words, let’s go!”

He let her back down and the crowd was still cheering as they made their way through it, Beleg waved a hand after them and grinned and Mablung sort of blushed but he didn’t slow down and he whistled for his horse. Lerina felt nervous again, but she didn’t want to hesitate now. “Where are we going?”

He smiled. “ I know the perfect spot”

He got her up and jumped up behind her and as they rode he kept kissing her neck, playing with her nipples through her dress and Lerina felt as if she was on fire. But she had to confess now, had to tell him the truth. She just didn’t know how! She gasped and felt so terribly warm and she was so wet she could feel it soaking her underwear. The thought of what she was about to do make her shiver, soon it would be her laying like that elleth who gave herself to the stag, giving her own virtue to Mablung and it was a gift she was more than ready to give, she was just more than a little bit nervous. As they rode she felt his hardness press against her rear and the feeling made her whimper and he took her hand and pulled it back, laid it between them and she could feel him through the fabric of his pants. “Don’t worry, I will be gentle”

His voice was breathless and hoarse and it made her shudder, and the heat from his body felt like a lit hearth. He turned his horse by the river and let it run along the shore for a while before he turned it back into the woods and they entered a small clearing in front of a giant oak. The tree was massive and Lerina had to gasp, it glowed! Thousands if not millions of fireflies had settled in the canopy and it was as if the stars themselves had fallen down from the skies. It was so beautiful it almost made her cry. Mablung lifted her off the horse and kissed her and she whimpered as she felt his tongue asking for access to her mouth. She did open up and the feeling of slick wetness sliding against her own tongue and lips made her legs give out under her. He caught her, carrying her off towards the tree and laying her down on the soft moss. It really was perfect and she felt how her heart was beating so fast, and she trembled. Oh Ariniel would have to eat her words, Lerina would not return home unwed, that was for sure. He kept kissing her, a hand snaked up under her dress and pulled her panties down and she let him, without hesitating. He tossed the piece of fabric away and grinned. “They were soaked, because of me?”

She nodded, biting her lip, feeling how a heavy sensation grew within her belly and slowly seeped downwards, made her intimate area pulse with need. He groaned and made short business out of her dress. He just tugged it off her and then he sat up on his knees, unbuckled his belt and pulled his pants down. Lerina gasped and stared, she hadn’t seen him up close before and she suddenly felt nervous once more. How was that going to even fit?!Oh Eru, this could be the most horrible idea she had ever had but there was no way back now. He leaned forth as he got rid of the pants and his boots and kissed her nipples, licked and sucked at them and the feeling which exploded in her was so strong it made her cry out. She hadn’t known it was possible to feel that type of need, it was overwhelming! He kept kissing and teasing her and she remembered the feeling he had given her back by the groove of nut trees, she wanted it again, desperately. Her whole being was screaming for that sense of release and she whimpered and tried to pull him closer. “You are really turned on aren’t you? Oh you are wonderful, I am so honored to be yours”

He was gasping the words and she panted and closed her eyes, tried to think clearly for at least a few moments longer. “M…Mablung…I…I have to confess something…”

He looked up, eyes black with desire and she could see that he was trembling all over. “ Yes meleth?”

She felt a hand sliding up and down her inner thighs and she squealed, oh valar, it was so good, and she wanted to much more. “I…Ariniel, she…can you swe…swear to keep this as a secret?”

He nodded, leaned his forehead against hers and smiled, a soft and loving smile with a hint of melancholy in it. “Lerina, I am not stupid now am I? I have sort of figured out that she has to be your niece’s daughter”

Lerina blushed, her eyes huge with shock and he kissed her gently, soothingly. “Yes, I swear, I will not tell anyone, there, done”

She took a deep breath. “How?”

He nipped at her neck and she squeaked. “The things you told me, the way you acted by the groove where we picked nuts, the rumors”

She trembled. “You…you don’t think it is weird?”

He grasped her hand. “No, I know you love her like your own flesh and blood, and that you would do anything for her, if that doesn’t make you her mother then nothing does”

Lerina gasped, laid her arms around him and closed her eyes. “Thank you, you have no idea how much those words mean to me”

He just smiled, kissed her cheek and then he slowly licked the tip of her ear, making her squirm and cry out. The fire in her body reignited and she felt a new surge of wetness spread between her legs. He groaned. “ I can smell your desire little one, do you have any idea of what you are doing to me?”

He pushed himself down a bit, nipped at her nipples and Lerina gasped when she felt something contract deep within her, it had to be her womb and she realized that it was waiting to be filled with his seed. The thought made her yelp and she stared at him again, eyes even wider than before. “You…you asked if I had…enjoyed it…and….I said no but that was…”

He looked down at her, saw the nervous expression in her eyes, felt her tremble and it clicked, everything fell into place and it was unbelievable. He let a hand slide all the way up to where her thighs met and let a finger slide in between her nether lips, pressed it gently towards her opening and felt the tightness there in spite of her arousal. He just gaped. The reason why her parents had beaten the crap out of her hadn’t been that she had been with someone before, it had been that her husband had refused to fuck her. He felt a rush of emotions, and the strongest one was disbelief, and pity. “ Lerina? You are a virgin?!”

She whimpered and nodded. He took her hand and felt that it trembled. “How? But…”

She took a deep breath. “Maedhros did pity me, I was like a child, no curves, way too skinny and terrified. Mom had said it would be horrible and that I just had to endure. So he didn’t want me in that way at all, we just pretended and…and he did love Fingon and Saeriel came to help me after the attack and they got drunk and they fucked and she got pregnant and I took Ariniel as mine, because she was Maedhros daughter”

Mablung blinked, then he let out a whimper. “Oh Lerina, sweet sweet brave little one, you have let them slander your name, treat you like a whore and even attack you and you have never spoken up for yourself? If there ever was a soul more pure and brave than yours then do call me a donkey and feed me carrots”

She bit her lip. “You are not mad? I have lied to you, to everybody”

He sighed. “You have lied to protect those you love, that is no shame, no sin. No, I am not mad, I am in awe of your determination little one.”

He stared down into those wonderful eyes and knew that he never had met a female that strong, or loving. And he also knew that he never would let her go, ever!

He took her hand again and kissed it. “Lerina, I am yours, now and forever, if you want me that way”

She giggled and then she sort of whispered. “Are…are you proposing?”

He smiled, kissed her with passion and heard her gasp. “Heck yes, I have done many things in my time, errors and great deeds but this, this is the one thing I know I’ll never regret. “

Lerina sort of snorted, then she kissed him back and nodded. “Yes, I want you, like that too”

He smiled, nuzzled her cheek. “I will have rings made as soon as I can, and nobody will be allowed to say a negative word about you again, this I swear”

She giggled and stared into his eyes and felt something odd, like a closeness she hadn’t felt before. Without even knowing what she was saying she started whispering words she didn’t know but he repeated them with a very tender expression upon his face. She had no idea where the words came from but she felt them deep within her fëa and knew they were true, that they were ancient and bonded their fëar forever. He leaned his forehead against hers, whispering. “ I love you Lerina, now, let me love you and worship you the way a husband is supposed to love and cherish his wife”

She nodded, suddenly feeling nervous again, the heat was simmering in her belly still and he kissed her neck, licking it gently. It made her squirm. “Yes”

She couldn’t say anything else, and he smiled, then he kissed her with passion and she felt how he got himself in position over her. He kept kissing her, kept caressing her and she relaxed, her body did take over, and it had no doubt nor fear. It knew what it wanted and before long she was trembling with need once again. She didn’t know what to expect, the young elleth the stag had taken had screamed but only once and she was sure she could handle pain if it didn’t last long. Mablung was gasping, and his skin slick with sweat, she knew that this had to be very tough on him since he had to restrain himself a lot not to hurt her. He raised himself up onto his arms, eyes almost completely black and he had an expression of near pain on his face. “Little one, I am gonna make you come before I take you, that way you won’t feel that much pain, do you understand?”

She nodded, and he smiled, there was such love in that smile it made her heart swell. “ I understand”

He pushed his hips forth and she gasped as she felt his hardness against her slit, it was so warm and hard and it twitched too. He sort of gasped. “ It is eager for you, for your pleasure”

Lerina too had to gasp for air as he started to rub himself against her, slowly back and forth, pressing against her and each move made him push against that sensitive bundle of nerves and it sent shockwaves through her. She was whimpering his name, grasping onto long locks of silky dark hair trying to pull him down but he resisted, kept moving in rhythm and it felt so marvelous she could have screamed. She had to wrap her legs around his hips, and if she raised her head and looked down she could see him slide back and forth between her legs and the sight made her mewl his name and writhe. She no longer thought about what would happen next, she was alive within the very moment and that was all that existed. The smooth slide of that hard cock against her most sensitive spot and the empty hollow feeling her body screamed for him to fill.

The pleasure grew and grew and she recognized the feeling from the incident in the nut groove, she knew it was going to happen again and she moaned his name and started rocking her hips back against him, sweat making everything feel slick and smooth and he gasped and groaned and Lerina couldn’t stop it. It all came crashing down and she screamed as the pleasure just exploded within her, spreading through her body and making her shudder with strong spasms. Mablung let out a feral growl, then he changed the angle of his hips and before she had time to get nervous or even think about it he pushed in, all the way, with one strong thrust.

The world turned blank, she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, every nerve in her body ablaze and all she could feel was the sensation of being filled and stretched for the first time, beyond what she thought she was capable of. It was intense pleasure and pain mixed into one insane sensation and she screamed again, bucking against him, clawing at his shoulders. She was gonna split down the middle, she was sure, it was too much, he was too big but then he started to move slowly and the sensation of being too full transformed into the most insane feeling she had ever had. She was complete, whole, he slid smoothly back and forth in her and she let her head fall back with a groan, it didn’t hurt, it just felt…perfect.

They were as close as they possibly could be and she felt his fëa reach out to hers and she met him, allowed them to merge, let the bond be completed. Each thrust was like a wave pushing up against a shore and the waves grew, got wilder and stronger and she started crying out with each one, clinging to him almost desperately as she knew it would happen yet again and he groaned her name and kept moving, gasping and struggling to hold back until she did come.

He didn’t have to wait for long, she let out a wordless cry as it came rushing through her once again and this time her inner muscles had something to grasp onto and it made the feeling so much more intense, she saw shooting stars and kept screaming like she was being murdered while he kept thrusting desperately and came with a loud groan. Lerina had never thought that it was possible for the female to feel that her partner did cum but she did, she felt how warm pulses seemed to fill her even more and she let out a final whimper as he collapsed onto her and kept whispering words she didn’t understand, but she knew their meaning. They laid there breathless and limp for some minutes before they were able to get themselves together again, Lerina had never felt such intimacy, and she had never felt so loved, so appreciated. It made her fëa sing and he made a sort of laughter and kissed her forehead. “My friends will think I am insane, for having married a noldorin elleth, but just let them, it isn’t as if I had a reputation for being sane before either.”

She giggled and he sighed and kissed her, a slow gentle kiss. “I wasn’t too much? How are you feeling?”

She had to close her eyes. “Like…like there never could be greater joy bestowed upon me, ever.”

He chuckled. “ Oh that is quite some praise, but just you wait, I will show you so much more, we’ll just wait for a couple of days before we repeat this, I bet you are a bit sore”

She had to frown and he smiled a bit and pulled out and she winced and gasped. Sore? Oh Eru, she felt split in half but it didn’t matter, it would be a forgotten memory soon enough. “Uh, yes, you are right”

He nodded. “ I thought so, I hope it wasn’t too terrible?”

She giggled again and let her arms lock around him. “It wasn’t terrible at all, the pain wasn’t that bad, I barely felt it”

He nodded. “That is why it is such a great trick, to do it just as the elleth is coming. A friend taught me that one, I am grateful for it”

Lerina tipped her head. “Have you deflowered many virgins?”

Mablung snorted. “No, believe me, you were my first”

She nuzzled his neck and sort of cuddled up to him, he was still warm and the night was chilly. “Then I am honored”

He had to laugh. “As am I, oh little one, I have never even dreamed of feeling such joy, but know that I will stand by you forever, and I will never let you down.”

She nodded and felt tired, in fact she felt absolutely exhausted and she yawned, Mablung got up and got a blanket from the saddle and they cuddled up together, feeling how the newly formed bond made their fëar sing in unison. Lerina giggled. “Did you think of babies right now?”

He sort of chuckled. “ In fact I did, you?”

She nodded. “Me too”

He kissed her hair. “Then things may happen, you know that?”

She nodded. “ Yes, would you mind?”

He shook his head. “No, not at all. I guess it is about time I settle down, and I bet we could have gorgeous children”

She sighed and closed her eyes. “The loveliest ones ever, because they would be yours”

He closed his eyes too, in need of real sleep just like she was, the bond required it too in order to reach its full strength, reverie wasn’t enough. “ And yours”

Lerina just mumbled something before her lights went out and he thought it sounded like “At least I won’t have my rear smacked”

She drifted off into sleep and before long he followed, feeling more happy than ever before in his existence. He had a hard time believing that this was true, but it was and it was like his fëa was close to exploding from sheer happiness.

Meanwhile in Tirion very few felt happy. The search for the conspirators had been fruitless this far and Finwë was furious. The entire family was gathered at the palace now and they desperately wanted a piece of information which could give them some hope. A box had arrived with a lock of hair in it and Nerdanel had identified it as her daughter’s, it had her scent and that had made her collapse. The twins had to carry her off to a guestroom for her to rest. Finarfin was wandering around in circles blaming himself for having caused this, thinking it was his rule which had triggered such a reaction and Finwë was trying to explain that he too had fought moron’s who thought that they were capable of ruling the noldor. It wasn’t such a sweet place to be and few had the strength and determination needed to be king. It had been a constant struggle and now that he was re-embodied the valar had returned him stronger and more aggressive than before, they had probably realized that it was needed.

They were sitting trying to determine whether or not they ought to simply force someone to speak when a servant entered the room, bowing deeply. “My lords, this ellon came a few minutes ago, he claims to have information regarding lady Alciel.”

Everybody snapped their heads around and Finwë ran down from his throne. The ellon in question was a slender short elf clad in brown and grey and he appeared to be a hunter. He was clearly no noldo, more likely a silvan and he felt to one knee as the high king approached and bent his neck to show his submission. Finwë stared at him with huge eyes. “Speak freely, and fast”

The ellon got back up and nodded. “I am Arasder, I serve lord Aicion and I work training his hunting dogs”

Finwë nodded. “I know of lord Aicion yes, if he haven’t changed while I was in the halls he is an uptight ass kissing scoundrel.”

Arasder had to grin. “Oh you are right on the spot, he haven’t changed your majesty. But two days ago I was in the kennel helping one of the bitches giving birth and the lord and another ellon came walking by. They didn’t hear me, but I did hear them”

Finwë tensed up. “Go on”

Arasder nodded. “ The other ellon was the one called Lumbano, he isn’t a noble man but very wealthy and he has influence.”

Finwë nodded. “ I know him too, a creep. To cowardly to do anything but complain about his own lack of power.”

Arasder continued. “They mentioned Costaro and Calpon, they have left to seek out Costaro’s daughter, he wants Calpon to marry her. They also mentioned lady Alciel, how her marrying one of their followers would bring them even more influence.”

Finwë gasped. “What?! Oh Eru, that is not good, do you think they are capable of forcing her?”

Arasder licked his lips. “Your majesty, my lord have changed much lately, he has gotten greedier and more ruthless, yes, they are capable of using force.”

Finwë bit his teeth together. “So let it not be said that we don’t return force with force. Now we have names.”

He turned to the others and his eyes were blazing. “Finarfin, you take some warriors and head to Costaro’s place. If he isn’t there seize all his papers and arrest his wife, she will benefit from a few days in a cell.”

Finarfin snapped his fingers and grinned. “ What about Lerina?”

Finwë spat. “If that creep have managed to force her into yet another unwanted marriage I will personally see that the marriage is annulled, but I feel that she may have become too strong for them. The valar didn’t like what happened to her back in the years of the trees so they are on her side. “

He let out a shout and several guards came running. “ I will go to your lord’s place Arasder, you can see yourself as unemployed but if you are good with hounds we do have need for a good kennel master here”

Arasder bowed deeply. “ It would be an honor my lord”

Finwë smiled swiftly. “ Great, you are hired. “

He turned to the guards. “Saddle up and get your weapons, we ride now. There is no time to loose if we are to save lady Alciel from being violated by those spit lickers.”

Finarfin too had a hard expression on his face and marched off to find his best warriors and the other family members stood there gaping. Most of the family had been returned by now except the sons of Fëanor and Fingon and Fingolfin, and Turgon and Argon stood there stepping in one place, eager to do something. Nerdanel had joined them again and she was a bit pale. “Someone must go and see if Lerina is alright, I cannot bare the thought of her being harmed in any way”

Argon and Orodreth immediately volunteered for that task and ran off and some others went to prepare themselves in case they needed to fight. The palace was a buzzing bee hive for a short time before two large troops lead by the high king and his son rode out. Nerdanel sat in a chair, desperately hoping that her daughter was alright, and Aredhel who had been re-embodied just weeks earlier tried to calm her down and soothe her fears. She had never met Alciel but if she was the way they described her she had every hope that the elleth would be capable of fighting just about anybody.

Alciel had been half asleep when suddenly she heard voices, she got up and clenched her jaw hard, tried to appear strong and unbreakable. The door opened and the ner she had met the last time entered, he smiled and the smile was a wicked one. “So how is the blushing bride today? Rejoice, tomorrow you will be wedded, and worry not, he is more than worthy of you”

Alciel sneered. “ You are naught but a piece of shit, and you are an idiot if you think that the high king will bow to your will”

The ner smiled again. “ Oh your uncle would perhaps resist but your grandfather? I don’t think so, he is back pretty one, and he will not risk losing more family members”

Alciel had a hard time believing that anyone could be that block headed. “Are you stupid? Marrying me doesn’t give you any sort of privileges, not even riches”

The ner didn’t stop smiling “That is what you think daughter of Fëanor, that is what you think”

He turned around and closed the door and she sat down, panting. Tomorrow? Eru, she couldn’t wait any longer, she had to do it now! She found the mushroom she had hidden in her food bowl and stared at it. It did look disgusting but she had never been a coward, she closed her eyes and opened her mouth and stuffed it in, swallowed it with the last of the dirty water she had been given. The taste was absolutely god-awful but it went down and she cringed and tried not to retch. It was done, if this was the last thing she ever did then be it, better than to be forced into a marriage she didn’t want. She just hoped that her mother would forgive her if she died. She laid down on the bed and closed her eyes, the poison worked differently in different people so she had no idea of what to expect. She just hoped she wouldn’t suffer too much if this went the wrong way. She could just pray that her family was safe, and that nobody was in a position to hurt them further.

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