In Your Image

by Menel

Chapter 5. The Banquet

--------------------------------------------------------

The Crown Prince of Gondor walked briskly through the spacious hallways of the White Tower, nodding to those who bowed and curtseyed as he passed. Although he was already late for the feast, the Prince had only one thought on his mind, seeing Legolas. Since his victory earlier that day, he had seen very little of the Elf. Legolas had been one of the first to congratulate him, but they were quickly separated by royal duties and obligations. Eldarion suspected that Legolas had spent the rest of the afternoon with the Dwarf and had clearly gotten the upper hand when he saw a very wet Gimli cursing and sloshing in the hallways towards his chambers. He reminded himself to ask Legolas what had happened.

Eldarion entered the banquet hall, motioning for the Herald not to announce his arrival. The Herald looked skeptical, but obeyed the Prince's wish. Quickly, Eldarion made his way to the royal table. It was situated at the head of the hall, elevated by a dais. Only one seat was empty and Eldarion was happy to find that it happened to be next to a certain Elven Prince. He sat down, greeting those around him as he did so. On his right was Legolas and on the other side of the Elf was Gimli. On his left was the Lady Eleanor and opposite him sat Legolas' elder brother, Orothor. Beside Orothor was their sister, Onela.

"Prince Eldarion," Onela said warmly, when he was settled. "I have yet to congratulate you on your victory today. That was truly a magnificent shot. Gwaidor himself did not think it possible."

"Thank you," Eldarion replied graciously. "Though I assure you," he added. "No one was more surprised than me."

Warm laughter followed the Prince's remark.

"Legolas has told us some rather amusing stories about your archery lessons," Onela went on. "Surely you have your own version of events?"

Eldarion shook his head. "I am loath to admit it, but I have no doubt that your brother's version of events are most accurate."

More laughter followed.

"What I am interested in," Eldarion said, when the laughter subsided, "is learning more about your family. Legolas is most secretive about it."

"I have had that problem too," Gimli commented. "Among other things."

Legolas groaned. "I can tell sitting in between the two of you shall prove to be a long evening."

"Come Eldarion," Onela encouraged, "what is it you wish to know about our family and our younger brother in particular?"

"Well," Eldarion thought for a moment. "How many siblings do you have?"

"There are four of us," Onela answered. "Siuil is the eldest, followed by Orothor, myself and then Legolas. Sadly, Siuil could not attend this celebration."

Orothor nodded in agreement. "He is becoming more and more like Father with every passing century. Siuil is being groomed to take over Greenwood one day and I believe that he will make a fine King."

"Yes," Legolas agreed. "Though I am hoping he will also be a more tolerant one."

"Father and Siuil do not share Legolas' more open view regarding the other races of Middle Earth," Orothor explained.

"Particularly of Dwarves," Gimli interjected.

All three Elves smiled knowingly.

"Onela and I have come to see the wisdom of our younger brother's ways," Orothor continued, "even when it comes to Dwarves."

"But despite their differences," Onela added, "Legolas is still father's favorite."

Legolas laughed. "It is a love/hate relationship, dear sister. We infuriate one another to no end, but somehow we manage to survive."

"It is your rebellious nature that endears you to him, Legolas," Onela replied. "Legolas has always been eager to travel and explore the world," she explained to the others at the table. "Mirkwood, as Greenwood was still called then, was too small for him. He would steal away from courtly duties to roam the woods and when he became old enough, eagerly joined the border patrols. If Gwaidor had not been such a vigilant Captain, I would have feared for my brother's life."

Legolas laughed. "Gwaidor was the best teacher I could ever have hoped for. More often than not, I learned my lessons the hard way."

In that manner, the conversation continued throughout the feast and Eldarion found himself completely enchanted by the three Elves. Their charming personalities and quick wit kept their area of the royal table light and lively. It made the Prince even more curious to meet their eldest brother and father, who from what he gathered, were of vastly different dispositions from Orothor, Onela and Legolas. Perhaps Legolas would take him to Greenwood and the other Elven lands one day. He realized now that he still had much to learn about Elvish ways and customs and the disconcerting thought that not all Elves would welcome him as warmly as Legolas and his siblings crossed his mind.

Throughout the meal Gimli had observed his lovesick charges carefully. He had to admit that they were more than discreet. Although he did not fancy himself a matchmaker, these two needed help. So, the Dwarf did his best to inject pointed double entendres whenever conversation allowed. Legolas caught onto his little game immediately and the Elf's fey nature relished the challenge. What did the Dwarf expect him to do? Profess his love for the youth in the middle of dessert? The thought was enough to make him laugh.

As the banquet drew to a close and the guests made their way to the adjacent ballroom to pass the rest of the evening in song and dance, Gimli saw this as his chance to make his move. As the three of them stood up, he accidentally "tripped," his overfilled wine glass spilling its contents onto both Princes.

"I am terribly sorry!" he exclaimed, though his laughing eyes belied his true intentions.

Legolas arched an eyebrow in return and inclined his head slightly towards the Dwarf, conceding this particular round.

"It is quite all right," Eldarion responded, wringing the last drop of red wine from his velvet tunic, completely oblivious to the unspoken exchange going on between Elf and Dwarf. "I suppose we shall have to go in for a moment and change," he said to Legolas.

"Yes, I suppose we shall," the Elf replied. "We will join you later," he told the Dwarf.

"You know where to find us," Gimli said, a self-satisfied smirk on his face. He knew that the Prince was an 'Elf of his word' as Legolas had put it earlier that day, but sometimes he just needed a push in the right direction. He watched as the two figures left the banquet hall in need of a change of clothes. While not quite being drown by water, for the moment, it would have to do.

~*~*~*~

The two Princes walked down the silent hallways to their separate chambers in order to change. Eldarion was relieved to be away from the celebration for at least a little while. There was so much he wished to discuss with Legolas and he had finally been given the opportunity. He could have sworn that the Dwarf had spilt wine on the two of them on purpose, though for what reason, he could not fathom. At any rate, he was glad that the "incident" had taken place.

They both changed quickly and were soon on their way to the main ballroom. Just as they were approaching the wide arching doorway, Eldarion held the Elf's arm. Legolas turned to look at him questioningly.

"I would rather not go in just yet," Eldarion explained. "We've hardly spent any time together today. There is a balcony nearby. I thought we could get some fresh air and perhaps talk for a little while?"

Legolas thought it was a wonderful suggestion and nodded his head. "I would like that," he replied. He allowed himself to be led to the secluded balcony. Once there he immediately sat down on the stone railing. His left leg dangled over the railing's edge, while he maintained his balance with his right. He propped his right arm on the knee of his right leg and took a deep breath of the cool night air.

Eldarion went to stand beside the Elven Prince, somewhat concerned over the Elf's relaxed posture while in such a precarious position. But he placed his worries aside. How often had he seen Legolas' remarkable balance and agility for himself?

"Legolas?"

"Yes?"

"Will you leave these lands one day?"

The Elf looked at the young man in surprise. This was not the conversation he had in mind. "Do you speak of the sea-longing?" he asked.

Eldarion had not really considered it. "Yes," he said after a moment, "I suppose I do. The sea does call to you, does it not?"

"At all times."

"How then do you resist its pull?"

Legolas thought for a moment. "Through patience and meditation. Of course, I keep myself occupied. The sea-longing is a kind of sickness that can never be cured," the Elf explained, "not until one passes over Sea."

Eldarion's brow creased with worry. "Have Elves died from the longing?"

"Yes. Those who are too attached to these lands and cannot bear to leave them are often driven to madness and perish. But do not worry for me," Legolas said reassuringly, seeing the look of distress on the Prince's face. "That shall not be my fate. Like most illnesses, it can be treated. When my time comes, I believe I shall build a ship and sail from the port of Dol Amroth as did the Lórien Elves of old."

"How will you know when your time has come?"

"You are full of questions tonight," the Elf remarked.

"And you are skillfully avoiding the question."

Legolas laughed. "Gimli has taught you some of his tactics, I see. Very well." He took one of Eldarion's hands in his own, pulling the Prince closer to him. Although the Prince had opened a difficult subject, Legolas would see it to the end. "I made a promise to your father long ago that I would not leave these lands until he passed away. It is a promise I intend to keep."

Eldarion felt his heartbeat quicken. He knew that this was the right time. "It does not have to be that way, Legolas," he said urgently, squeezing the Elf's hand. "Your time in Arda need not be spent in sorrow, but in happiness and joy." He placed the Elf's hand over his heart and held it there. "I am not my father," he said earnestly. "Open your heart to me, Legolas. I shall not break it, nor share it with anyone else."

Eldarion looked into the Elven Prince's eyes for some sort of sign. He had laid his feelings bare and to suffer rejection now would surely break him. Legolas remained utterly still, not removing his hand from the Prince's heart. He looked so much like a perfect, living statue of marble that Eldarion was at once aware of the immense difference in age between them. Time stood still as they looked at one another and Eldarion felt his hopes diminish. He had aspired for too great a love. He was but a Man, and not even that. He was half-Man and half-Elf; could either race fully accept him? Did he really expect a being so pure as Legolas to return such a tainted love?

A cough behind the two Princes broke the spell. They both turned to look in its direction. A pretty, young servant girl stood uncomfortably at the balcony entrance. *Her name is Barra,* Eldarion recalled.

She curtseyed before them. "Begging your pardon, my Lords," she said timidly, "but Prince Eldarion's presence is needed in the main ballroom."

"Duty calls once more," Legolas said, his voice and expression light-hearted. Eldarion had not even felt the Elf disentangle his hand from the Prince's grasp. It was as though nothing had passed between them. The Elf stood up elegantly. "You must go."

In the main ballroom, Eldarion stood with the King and Queen as the nobles of Gondor presented their very eligible daughters to the Crown Prince. Eldarion found the entire process tedious. He felt his mother place a supportive hand on his back as if to say, it shall not be much longer.

The entire time he kept an eye on Legolas, who was mingling among the Greenwood and Lórien Elves. When the Guardian of Lórien approached Legolas, Eldarion could feel the jealousy rise in him. He had not forgotten the kiss that Haldir had bestowed on the Elven Prince at their first meeting. The two Elves greeted one another warmly and the evident intimacy between them was enough to drive the Prince insane. He gritted his teeth as another lady curtseyed before him. Haldir and Legolas remained in quiet conversation until he saw the Guardian place an arm around the Prince's waist, leading them out of the ballroom. The jealousy quickly drained from Eldarion and he felt himself go weak. His knees threatened to buckle.

Arwen recognized the change in her son and followed the direction of his gaze. She stroked his back sympathetically, whispering in his ear as she did so.

"[Do not be disheartened. Appearances are not always what they seem.]"

~*~*~*~

Haldir lead Legolas outside and the two Elves made their way to the Queen's gardens, enjoying the peace and stillness of the night. Once there, they sat down on a secluded marble bench under the branches of the swaying willow trees.

"[My silveren Prince]," Haldir said, as he stroked Legolas' soft hair, which had turned flaxen in the pale moonlight. "[I have missed you.]"

"[And I you, my Guardian.]"

"I came to the White City to partake of these celebrations," Haldir continued, "but most of all, I came to see you."

"You knew I would be here?"

Haldir chuckled softly, his fingers caressing the Prince's smooth cheek. "Word has spread quickly of your instructing King Elessar's son in our craft. You have outdone yourself."

Legolas smiled at Haldir's praise. "He is a remarkable student."

"Much like his father?"

"At times, I fear too much so."

Haldir paused thoughtfully. "I have something to ask you," he began. "Hear me first before you speak. You know what I have felt for you these many centuries and though I know you do not return my feelings, the time we have spent together and the moments we have shared have been enough for me."

"I do love you, Haldir," Legolas protested.

The Guardian held up a hand to silence him. "I do not deny that you love me in your own way," he said. "But it is not the same."

The Prince remained silent, knowing Haldir spoke the truth.

"Our people are leaving these lands, Legolas," Haldir continued. "They have been for a long time. When this celebration ends, nearly all the remaining Elves of Lothlórien shall pass over Sea. Greenwood still flourishes for the sea-longing remains buried deep within the hearts of the wood Elves, but the silveren Wood has become a shadow of what it once was. That is why our numbers are so great here, for it our way of saying farewell." He paused. "I shall be among those who sail to the Undying Lands and I wish for you to come with me, if you will."

Legolas had looked at the ground throughout Haldir's speech. He knew what Haldir wanted of him before the words had ever left the Guardian's lips, just as he knew what his answer would be. Sadly, he lifted his head and looked at Haldir with sorrowful eyes. "You know I cannot do that," he said softly.

The Guardian nodded in resignation. "I know," he answered. "But I still had to ask."

The two Elves fell silent. Legolas felt the weight of Haldir's sadness and wished that he could take it away. How many times had Haldir comforted him in the past? He had lost count over the millennia. There was a time, before the Prince had met Estel that he believed himself capable of returning Haldir's love in the way the Guardian deserved. For who could not love the loyal, wise and kind Elven warrior? But it was not to be. Legolas reflected on how fickle fate was. Why was he not able to accept great love where it was offered freely and instead had set himself on a path where his love could never be returned? *I am not my father.* Eldarion's words echoed in his mind. Was fate giving him a second chance?

"Haldir," Legolas said at last, "I wish you peace in the Undying Lands and I hope that you find someone more worthy of your love than I could ever be. For you deserve great happiness after so much hardship and toil."

"[My silveren Prince], there is no one else for me. But I do not regret any of it and I cherish every moment we have shared." Haldir smiled. "It is King Elessar whom I pity, for it is he who has never known the wonders of your love."

"Forgive me, Haldir," Legolas said, suddenly standing up. "There is something I must do." He bent down and kissed the Guardian. "[You shall always be close to my heart]," he whispered.

"[There is someone closer still. And it is not Elessar of whom I speak.]" Haldir looked at the Prince knowingly and Legolas was at peace, for he knew that Haldir understood. "Go to him. For you too deserve great happiness."

~*~*~*~

Eldarion had never been so happy to see Lady Eleanor in his life. When she approached him, he willingly went out to greet her, indicating to his father that he would like to spend the rest of the evening in her company. He had had enough of the courtly introductions. Lady Eleanor had naturally been delighted, albeit pleasantly surprised by the Prince's reaction. They shared several dances on the ballroom floor, the Prince causing heads to turn with his choice of partner for the evening. There was a murmur of approval as the two swept around the ballroom. At the end of the third dance, Lady Eleanor suggested that they go to the gardens for some privacy, knowing how much the Prince enjoyed being there. Eldarion accepted her offer and led the way. He remained silent for most of the walk, allowing Lady Eleanor to carry the conversation, appropriately nodding or commenting when called to.

His thoughts continued to drift to Legolas and his foolish behavior earlier that evening. He did not know if he could bear facing the Elf again after blatantly professing his love despite Legolas' wishes. Had he destroyed everything that he had worked so hard to build? Would Legolas forgive him?

He glanced to his left at Lady Eleanor's profile. She really was very lovely and was highly sought after among the Gondorian nobles, not only for her beauty, but also for her wit and intelligence. *She would make a fine wife,* Eldarion thought to himself. Perhaps in time he could grow to love her as she loved him. After all, were not marriages among the nobility merely facades for political alliances? Was that not the royal way? Had that been the way of his parents? His brow creased at the disturbing thought. Never before had he doubted his parents' love for one another. His childhood had been perfect in his eyes.

Without realizing it, the Prince had stopped walking. Lady Eleanor also failed to notice that he was no longer by her side and had continued without him. He glanced up to see that she was already a few yards away. Eldarion cursed himself for his rudeness and was about to catch up with her when he was suddenly pulled to the side, behind the wall of one of the tower buildings. He struggled instinctively, but a smooth hand covered his mouth, preventing him from calling out, while another bound his arms tightly behind him. Eldarion's fear quickly subsided as a familiar scent surrounded him. He stopped moving and remained passive in his assailant's embrace. The hand away fell from his mouth and still he made no sound. His arms were released, allowing him to slowly turn around until he was face to face with Legolas.

The Elf was radiant. The pale moonlight caught his fine hair, giving him an ethereal appearance. Eldarion was awed by his beauty. Lady Eleanor could not compare. He wished to speak, but no words would come. Sensing this, Legolas shook his head and placed a finger to Eldarion's lips. No words were necessary. Then he removed his finger and kissed him. It was a tender kiss, full of promise. Another secretive smile was on his face as he took the Prince's hand and quietly led him away.

Eldarion hardly knew what was happening as he followed the Elf, nor did he care. Too much thought was inadvisable, since none of this made any sense. He gripped the Elf's hand tightly, afraid that Legolas would disappear. Legolas looked back at him quickly, the same fey smile still on his face. Eldarion's heart leaped to be blessed with such a smile. The Elf led them by another path to the Queen's gardens. The Prince hesitated, pulling gently on Legolas' hand.

"Lady Eleanor," he said softly.

"Will not find us," the Elf whispered in return.

Eldarion relaxed, trusting Legolas completely. They made their way through the gardens, passing unseen through its darkest shadows. The Prince's curiosity was starting to get the better of him. Surely, he knew these gardens better than Legolas, yet he did not have the faintest idea where the Elf could be taking him. They slowed down and stopped in front of a thick, dark curtain of hanging ivy vines. Eldarion looked at the Elf, raising a questioning eyebrow. Legolas merely smiled and parted the vines, stepping through as he did so. Eldarion paused and looked around him. The garden was perfectly still. Hesitantly, he parted the vines and followed the Elf.

What greeted him was a magical sight. Legolas had discovered a hidden dell that the Prince did not even know existed. It was at the northernmost corner of the garden, bordered by two ivy-covered walls. A similar curtain of ivy concealed the rest of the dell, while the sloping branches of a willow tree provided a canopy that the moonlight shone through. The Elf stood in the middle of the dell bathed in moonlight. His feet were bare and Eldarion noticed for the first time that the garden floor had been covered by soft blankets, with pillows spread about the Elf's feet. Eldarion was touched by the gesture. Legolas held out a hand to him and he accepted it, slipping his own boots off before stepping onto the blankets.

They stood facing one another again. Eldarion closed his eyes as the Elf began brushing the hair away from his face. Legolas kissed him on one brow and then the other, finally trailing soft kisses down his cheek. Eldarion shivered. It was just as he had dreamed. When their lips met again, there was no hesitancy. He reached for the laces on the Elf's tunic; he could feel Legolas doing the same. Carefully they undressed each other. Eldarion took the time to soak in the Elf's beauty. Legolas' skin was softer than any maiden he had lain with. He ran a hand across the Elf's firm chest, mapping it with his fingers, moving lower to the flat plane of the Elf's stomach.

Soon he found himself on his knees, his fingers brushing the edges of the curls on the Elf's groin. Even the hair here was soft to touch. Experimentally, he reached out and ran a finger from the base to the tip of the Elf's shaft. He glanced up to see the reaction on Legolas' face. The Elf was glowing with pleasure. A white bead appeared on the tip of the shaft and Eldarion licked it. Sweet. Like honey. He had never done this before, but it did not seem to matter. Without warning, he took the Elf's entire length in his mouth.

Legolas gasped, his hips jerking forward involuntarily. His left hand fell on the young man's shoulder. Eldarion was proving to be very skilled with his mouth, his tongue running teasingly along the shaft and then stopping to draw lazy circles on the tip. The well-placed, gentle scrape of teeth caused delicious friction. The Elf's grip grew harder as Eldarion increased his suction. Legolas knew that he would reach his peak soon. With great effort, he pulled himself away from the Prince's inviting mouth. The young man looked up at him, an expression of confusion and worry on his face. Legolas cupped his chin reassuringly.

"I wish to spend myself another way," the Elf explained.

Eldarion's eyes grew wide as he understood. He lay back on the blankets, his head resting on a pillow. Legolas settled himself between the Prince's spread legs, admiring the strong body in front of him. Eldarion grew self-conscious under the Elf's gaze, his neglected erection throbbing painfully. Noticing this, Legolas draped the Prince's body with his own, purposely rubbing their members together as he did so. Eldarion shifted underneath him, desiring greater contact.

The Elf smiled at the youth's eagerness. He mated their mouths once more, reaching for a vial of oil at the base of the willow tree. He coated his hand liberally and then ran it down the youth's side, playfully tweaking a peaked nipple as he did so. Suddenly, he pinched it quite hard. Eldarion yelped in surprise, frowning at the Elf's teasing. His body was already so tightly strung; he did not know how much more he could take. Legolas followed the pinch with his warm mouth, massaging the sensitive nipple with his tongue. Eldarion moaned and arched his back in return. Legolas' hand continued its journey down the man's side, coming to rest on the aching member.

"Have you been with another male before?" the Elf asked, as he set to stroking the member.

"No," Eldarion replied, somewhat embarrassed. Thought was becoming difficult under the Elf's ministrations, but he managed to hold Legolas' chin under his hand. "And I shall never be with another," he said solemnly.

Legolas was moved by the love he saw in Eldarion's eyes. His hand traveled deeper, until his fingers grazed the tight entrance. Eldarion tensed instantly, unused to such an invasion. The Elf was not deterred, slipping a finger in carefully. "I shall make this good for you," he promised, curving his finger upwards ever so slightly.

Eldarion gasped as the Elf's finger brushed his sensitive gland. He did think such pleasure was possible. Legolas slipped in another finger, followed by another, taking the time to prepare his lover. Eldarion writhed underneath him, his breathing becoming erratic. He felt the Elf could undo him with his fingers alone. "Legolas, please," he begged. "I cannot take much more."

"[Soon]," the Elf replied. He sat back looking for the vial of oil, only to discover that it was with Eldarion, who was coating his hands with the lubricant. The man sat up as well and began stroking the Elf's shaft with his oil-slicked hands. Legolas sighed contentedly.

When Eldarion was done, they resumed their former positions. Legolas lifted the Prince's right leg over his shoulder in order to gain better access to the man's tight opening. He wished to ease the pain as much as possible. The tension had returned to Eldarion and the Elf could feel the implicit trust and apprehension emanating from him.

"The pain will go away," Legolas assured him.

Eldarion nodded, willing himself to relax. Holding the Prince's thigh, Legolas eased himself inside. Despite his preparation, the tight entrance did not give easily. Eldarion looked away as the Elf filled him, gripping the blankets tightly. *It will get better,* he told himself and concentrated on his breathing.

When Legolas was fully sheathed, he stilled, giving the Prince time to get used to him. He kissed the beads of sweat that had broken on the man's brow, while sliding the youth's leg from his shoulder. The Elf's hand wormed its way on the inside of Eldarion's thigh, until it reached the man's swollen length and began stroking it again. Eldarion lost himself in the sensations and the muscles around Legolas' member began to relax. He turned to look at the Elf, eyes half-lidded with pleasure.

"I am ready," he said softly.

Legolas needed no further encouragement, the impossible heat surrounding him testing the limits of his control. He began to move, not stopping his actions on the young man's shaft. He set a slow pace, until he felt Eldarion respond to him and together they moved as one. He angled his thrusts carefully, ensuring that he hit the sensitive gland with each motion.

The Elf's hand on his member coupled with his thrusts was sending Eldarion over the edge. He could feel his orgasm building within him and he pulled Legolas closer, gripping the Elf's shoulders tightly, his nails marking the Elf's flawless skin. With a great shout he came, his seed spilling warmly between their bodies. Legolas came soon afterward, his own Elvish cry of pleasure filling the air.

The Elf lay on his back beside the Prince, his breathing returning to normal. Eldarion remained motionless. The young man was completely spent. He had never had an orgasm so intense. *This is what it is like to be with the one you love,* he thought, through his haze of contentment.

After a while Legolas turned on his side to look at his lover, propping his head on his hand.

"Are you all right?" he asked.

Eldarion nodded. "This is bliss," he replied.

The Elf laughed, kissing the Prince's forehead. Eldarion responded by moving into the Elf's embrace. He never wanted to be separated from Legolas again. He could feel the Elf cleaning him with a soft cloth and he smiled. Legolas thought of everything.

"I love you," he murmured, just before sleep overcame him.

The Elf pulled the blankets over their warm bodies, holding the sleeping Prince close. He watched the stars peeking through the willow branches. The sea-longing seemed to have stilled for the barest of moments. The Elven Prince knew that he had found his most important reason to stay.

 

Chapter 4