Year 3010 Third Age
The seaside town of Edhellond struck Prince Elphir as like an aging whore, once beautiful, but now sadly desperate - an unlikely place to find the answer to a riddle. Yet the Oracle was rarely wrong, and when, in answer to Elphir’s question, she’d recited a rhyme and instructed him to go to Edhellond if he wanted to discover “that of yourself which you yet know not of,” Elphir had been intrigued and somewhat perplexed. He already knew plenty about the part of himself that could be found in Edhellond and it was not the better part, certainly not one worthy of his royal heritage. But an oracle should not be ignored.
So, in the early morn, he and his servant, Neled, managed to slip away from the palace, cast off in his light sailboat, and take advantage of a tailwind to make the day’s journey.
Skillfully, he guided his boat through choppy grey water into the quay near the juncture where the Rivers Morthond and Ringló flowed into the bay of Cobas Haven. Clouds banked on the horizon promised rain, but for the moment, indifferent late afternoon sunlight gleamed on the old, polished marble of broken towers, pilings, pillars, and paving stones that evidenced a former splendor. Anyone could see that once this had been a place as fair as only the elves could build it. Not anymore. Now rot and decay had taken hold.
Neled jumped to the dock and the prince tossed him a coil of rope, which he caught and knotted around an ancient stone mooring. The boat jerked against the line and then bumped along the pier as Elphir furled up the sail. Then he steadied himself, his sword scraping along the wood of the gunwale, before leaping to the dock himself. He noticed that next to the mooring was a plaque with a faded Sindarin inscription - most likely the name of a white swan ship that had berthed here long ago. Strange, he hadn’t noticed the plaque before and it made him feel wistful. He turned to stare out to the distant horizon whence all those magnificent ships had long gone.
He had first come here as a young child, holding his nurse’s hand while his father, Prince Imrahil, pointed out the decaying relics of the ancient elf haven. “Here, they say, is the very place where Amroth waited for his lover Nimrodel before the storm blew his ship out to sea,” Imrahil said, his sea-grey eyes alight with the power of myth. And young Elphir imagined a bustling dock filled with those elusive creatures of legend, fair and wise, intent on building their sleek ships to sail into the west and away from this broken realm forever.
The noble elven haven of yesteryear was a far cry from the one that Elphir, now a young man in his early twenties, had since come to know. The village had become the abode of fisherman and low-class merchants eking a living from the trade that trickled in from other troubled areas: Gondor to the north, Lebennin to the east, and Harondor to the south. War had exacted its fearsome tribute, turning many men into wandering vagabonds, some in desperate circumstances. Prince Elphir’s father Imrahil and his knights were the only force of law in the region. But even they couldn’t contain the outlying areas and occasionally the Corsairs’ black-sailed ships slid into the docks at Edhellond. From them swarmed pirates in search of release among the locals. Sadly, in its fall Edhellond now provided enough opportunities for that. It had become a haven of a different sort, its brothels a pull to many, including the hot-blooded young prince, who, in spite of a reputation for indiscretion, realized that his particular vice needed to be entertained far away from court gossip. Some practices were not countenanced amongst his people.
“M’lord, did ye want to go right off to Amroth’s Folly or get a room at the Buccaneer first?” Neled asked. He smirked, an expression quickly removed when Elphir frowned at him.
“I am trying to seek the answer to a riddle, Neled. Do you think it would be found in a brothel?”
“I don’t see why not, m’lord. Me dad always said that riddles are like magical creatures. They reveal themselves in their own time, so ye may as well enjoy yourself while waiting on ‘em.”
“Interesting philosophy,” Elphir replied. “Well then, I think it best to secure a room first. You never know if the inn will be full and I don’t fancy sleeping in the gutter.”
“Why not? Yeh did last time ye was here,” Neled laughed.
Elphir smiled wryly. “The price of too much Harondorian liquor and an unscrupulous bawd, paid in full. My mouth tasted like shite for days.”
“If you please, m’lord, let’s forgo that one this time. When yeh end up in the gutter, why then I get the same treatment, whether I earned it or no. Pray ye, secure for me a dry hallway or straw bale in the stable before yeh go a-whoring.”
Elphir laughed. “Then you would do well not to let me get in such a scrape again.”
“Have yeh ever listened to my advice, before, m’lord? I think not.”
With a grin, Neled slung Elphir’s pack up onto his back and headed down the docks. Elphir looked at him with affection. Neled was a year older. If he wasn’t exactly handsome, he had pleasant enough features, a wide mouth and a broad face, framed by curly brown hair over which he wore a small, peaked leather cap. He had been Elphir’s personal servant for years, sharing many of his misadventures. It was a good thing he was loyal, Elphir reflected, for he had plenty of blackmail material if he cared to use it. Fortunately Neled shared Elphir’s zest for amorous adventures if not his master’s particular tastes.
They reached the top of the cracked marble stairs leading away from the docks and entered a narrow street that seemed to have a lot of traffic. Neled started to turn left and Elphir grasped him by the back of the neck, “‘Tis this way,” he said steering him to the right.
Unbalanced for a moment, Neled lifted his leg high as he swung about. “Ah yes, so it is. I always lose my bearings in this place. Guess my cock naturally wants to point towards the Yary quarter.”
“Good that I’m not relying on your cock to guide me.”
“Good that yeh don’t rely on my cock for any of your business, m'lord,” Neled laughed. “I fear it wouldn’t rise to the occasion.”
“I wouldn’t think of attempting to prod its interest,” Elphir replied as someone bumped into him, and with a short swear, staggered on. “Ai, doesn’t it seem unusually busy today?”
“Fair spoke, sir. It does.”
They found themselves joining a motley crowd of citizens heading towards the square. Some of them wore costumes reminiscent of an earlier age. Then he noticed many were wearing masks of fair faces with narrow noses and slightly slanted eyes and eyebrows, and most significantly, large, pointed ears. Elves of course. But why? Self-consciously, he put his hand to his own similarly marked ears, covered up by his long, burnished-red hair pulled back in a tight queue. All his life he had endured teasing and beatings from kin because of his ears, especially from his older cousin, whose ears were of normal shape, if rather large. "Never mind him," his father had said sternly after he had come across young Elphir, bloody and in tears, having just tried to slice off one of the offending tips with his knife, but losing nerve as soon as metal nicked flesh. "He’s just jealous that the elven blood chooses to show itself more fully in you. Look here." And Imrahil had brushed back his dark hair to point out the tapered tip on his own ears. "Tell me, should I slice that off, Elphir, ion nîn?" After that Elphir had felt better about it, but still he hid his ears as best he could with hair or hats.
The people in his father’s kingdom were of two minds when it came to the elves. On the one hand, there was a reverential feeling towards immortal beings of beauty and skill, almost as if they were gods; on the other, they were viewed with suspicion. Elves were dwimmer-crafty, strange weavers of magic that might ensnare men to their doom. Tales of elves tricking men or mysteriously disappearing when they were most needed only reinforced that idea. Fear led to enmity. Therefore, any desire to look like them had been thoroughly beaten out of Elphir. And yet, more and more, as he grew tall and lovely, his lithe body, high cheekbones, lush lips, and large sea-grey eyes betrayed his heritage. When he passed, the ladies in court sighed. Little did he care about that either. Looks aside, Elphir knew in his heart that he was not one of the noble elves. Surely none of those fair creatures had been plagued by his particular malady. So his beauty, while it had its uses in bending some to his whims, ultimately did nothing for him.
He wondered what was happening in Edhellond that its citizens would mime the fearsome elves? He and Neled entered the large square flanked by inns and taverns with their tall, thatched roofs and whitewashed exteriors crisscrossed by dark wooden struts. In the center of the square, a crowd was gathered around an elevated stage on which masked actors were performing.
One actor wore an old-fashioned waist-length tunic of red velvet, tight leggings, a black wig, and a mask sporting a prominent nose and large dark eyebrows. He strode about the stage, flinging his arms about wildly, “But Mithrellas, my pigeon,” he cried. “Whatever is wrong?”
The other actor was clearly a man with shadowed cheeks, but he was playing a woman wearing a green robe swelled by monstrous breasts. He wore a wig of long blond hair and fake overlarge, pointed ears. Stretching arms out towards the sea, s/he murmured crazily in a strange accent. An occasional actual word of Sindarin was audible. When the other actor attempted to gather her in his arms, she pushed him off so hard he fell on his rear in exaggerated pantomime. “I cannot do it with you any more, Imrazôr, my husband,” she said in a high, trilling voice. “Your advances are beyond vulgar.”
“But darling, you didn’t think it vulgar when we bred the children,” he cried, rolling on the floor and then leaping to his feet. “At least give me a kiss.” He turned to the crowd and said in an aside, “Mayhap a kiss will heat up the bitch.”
With amusement, Elphir noticed the very prominent bulge at the actor’s crotch achieved with a quick stuffing while he was rolling on the floor. Spectators were laughing and pointing.
“Once we elves have a child or two, that is the end of physical affection,” she cried, turning away and flinging one arm across her face. “Further contact disgusts us! So, there shall be no more prods up the chute for you, dearest. We are too pure for such nastiness. From now through eternity, I shall only invent songs to the beauty of the stars and sew complicated embroideries illustrating obscure ancient battles. Then one night I’ll mysteriously take flight in a great winged ship in which I’ll drop off the ends of the earth, leaving you with a pile of debt and a screaming brat.”
Elphir and Neled both chuckled.
Imrazôr scowled. “I see nothing useful in those pursuits. That was not the bargain I made when we exchanged vows. I’ve been cheated once again by elvish wiles! By Númenor the Fallen, you'll honor your marriage bed. Come here, you wench!”
“Never!” She picked up a metal belt from behind a bit of scenery, fitted it around her hips, and pretended to lock it with a large key, which she then tossed into her ample bodice. “There! No more beast with two backs,” she declaimed.
“But my beast craves its two backs,” Imrazôr cried. He grabbed her and they grappled in highly comic fashion as he attempted to retrieve the key from her large bosom. Wrestling her to the stage, he straddled her; she pushed him off, and Imrazôr crawled around, his hips moving convulsively like a humping dog, to the great delight of the crowd.
“Take the bitch!” someone yelled.
“I’m trying to, but this bitch is an elf - such as can freeze the balls off a man with one look,” Imrazôr deadpanned as he turned away from Mithrellas. She frowned and did her best to stare him into a smoking pile, but when he paid no attention, she wound her arm about in several wide circles and landed a blow to her husband’s pole and tackle. He dropped to the ground, howling, and rolled back and forth, clutching his groin.
“If a look doesn’t shrivel his prick, a knuckle to the nuts may do the trick,” Mithrellas said, shaking her fist.
The crowd roared with laughter. The actor playing Mithrellas then hied up her skirts revealing huge, ruffled undergarments, leapt off the stage, and fled through the crowd with her tumescent husband in hot pursuit. After several passes around the square, they returned and took their bows to hoots and whistles and tossed coins.
Neled was laughing and slapping his thigh. “Good, m’lord. I’ve wondered why Mithrellas left Imrazôr. By Ossë’s prick, that’s as fair an explanation as any.”
“It’s a good thing for me she put up with him long enough to breed my esteemed ancestor,” Elphir grinned as he pitched a coin on the stage. “I wonder where the players come from? I’ve never seen the like here before. Perhaps they can tell me at the inn.”
They fought their way through the crowd, passing jugglers, fire-eaters, and hawkers of various wares, many of whom wore the strange masks. It was turning into quite a carnival.
“Keep tight hold o’ your purse, master,” Neled warned.
“Right,” Elphir replied as he gripped the hilt of his sword with one hand and his leather pouch with the other. At the far end of the square they reached the well-lit inn, which had a large hanging signboard painted with an image of a grinning Corsair sporting a broom-like beard and a real brass earring punched through the wood. The sign clicked softly in the breeze.
Once inside, Elphir sought the innkeeper, Ulbar. There were quite a few people in the lobby and an uproarious crowd could be heard making merry in the common room. Ulbar was of old Númenorean stock and a large man who could quite easily have served as the model for the buccaneer on the signboard. He greeted Elphir with a hard clap to the back that nearly caused the prince to bite his tongue.
“Le suilannon Alphros lad! What brings yeh back to this Vala-forsaken town?” Ulbar boomed.
“Business,” Elphir grinned, offering him a firm handshake. Alphros was the name he’d always given, thinking it unwise to let anyone here know his real identity. In his line of work, Ulbar knew better than to ask questions.
Ulbar laid his finger aside his nose and nodded sagely. “If it wasn’t you, lad, I doubt we could accommodate yeh. Inn’s busting its keg tonight. But your usual room’s still available if ye wants it. Few can afford the only one I’ve got with a private bath.”
“You are a pearl of rare price,” Elphir said. “And now, tell me, what’s happening in town?”
Ulbar looked surprised. “Don’t ye know? Tonight’s Elwaith 'wann, a day to celebrate our venerable founders, the Edhellond elves, long departed. Dates a long way back, it does, and it’s been a tradition hereabouts for time out of mind. Become an excuse for drunken debauchery these days. Good for business.” He winked and jostled Elphir with his elbow. Elphir staggered forward a step and Neled laughed and then covered up his mouth.
“Ah yes, I do believe I’ve heard of it,” Elphir said. “Seems my timing was fortuitous. Give me the key to the room then.”
* * *
After a quick wash and a shot of something fiery at the bar, Elphir found himself heading back through the close-serried crowd towards Amroth’s Folly. The little parody of Imrazôr and Mithrellas, as silly as it was, was enough to get his blood up. And if the entire town seemed bent on debauchery, who was he to buck the tide?
Neled trailed after him as they threaded their way through the dirty, narrow streets and up the hill towards one of the many brothels that perched along the steep road. The skies were dark with impending rain and lit eerily red by the dying sun. The lamplighters were out kindling the torches outside places of business. The illuminated signs told the specialty of the house. There were a number of people out tonight, customers and bawds. Elphir purposefully had dressed as a commoner, in a simple, cream-colored linen shirt and dark brown breeches over which he wore a leather tunic and a long green cape. Still, he was graceful, well groomed, and carried a sword, as well as an air of refinement. People knew he was likely to have some coin. Women walking the streets winked at him and drew up a skirt to show some leg or shouted, “Hey beautiful, want a taste of Aman?”
But no one need worry that he might be tempted. The street-walkers were not what he sought. He smiled and nodded but kept on towards his goal, even though a few times Neled turned completely around to stare open-mouthed at the passing women. Elphir had to grab his shoulders and spin him about again. They reached the sign that proclaimed Amroth’s Folly, a painting of a golden-haired elf swimming desperately through the waves. It was somewhat pertinent to his own situation, Elphir thought morosely. How many times had he sworn this off? He doubted this was a place where he would “modestly discover himself” as told in the riddle, as there was nothing modest about it.
Elphir remembered the first time he’d come to this house. He had just turned eighteen and had been moody and difficult for months. Finally, Neled said with a wink, "I know what’s wrong with yeh, m’lord. Come wi' me." And secretly, they had journeyed to Edhellond. Neled had taken him to several different parlors, but Elphir had been shy and embarrassed and none of the girls had excited much interest until they came here. The epicene proprietor had shown him several girls. Sensing no spark, with a sly nod, he’d ordered a beautiful doe-eyed boy to come sit on Elphir’s lap and give him a kiss. Much to Elphir's dismay, his body had responded as if struck by lightning. That night the pretty young man, with his hot mouth and supple limbs, had shaken Elphir from one end of his being to the other. For months he’d thought he was in love and had taken every opportunity to return, until one day he’d arrived only to find that his lover had left for parts unknown. Since then, his visits had been less frequent and the encounters less satisfying, often leaving him with a dirty feeling. He tried to fight against this sickness he’d contracted as his family would disown him if they found out. He was a prince, heir to a kingdom, destined to marry and produce more heirs. In fact, to prove something to himself, the last time he’d done it with one of the girls in the house further up the road, which had led to an excess of drinking and his unfortunate night in the gutter.
Yet here he was again. He knocked on the door and was admitted into the main parlor, where soon they were joined by Tancred, the proprietor. Highly painted, with long hair dyed a dull black, he was wearing a robe open to the waist, his neck bedecked with ropes of glittery necklaces. He was older and showing a bit of a paunch, but still affected a chummy, youthful manner. “Alphros, my dear, you’ve returned,” he said unctuously. “It’s been much too long.”
Elphir leaned forward and kissed his heavily rouged cheek. “I couldn’t stay away forever, you know that, Tancred,” he said.
“Ah,” Tancred shook his finger. “You, my dear, deny yourself too much. I must say, you look as gorgeous as ever. Good enough to eat.” He chewed his scarlet lip and then laughed. “I have someone new that I think will suit you.”
“Charming,” Elphir replied. He cast his eye about the darkened room to see if he saw a new face peering out from the curtains.
“And your Neled, most welcome also,” Tancred leaned forward and kissed him on each cheek. Neled grinned sheepishly and his shoulders went limp.
“Ooh, when will your master convert you?” Tancred laughed, trailing a long, lacquered nail under his chin.
Neled swept his cap off his head and made a little bow but his face was lit in a bawdy grin. “Can’t help my tastes, sir. Yeh know my preference.”
Tancred slanted an amused eye at him. “Ummm yes, it’s my business to know, as well as that of your master. Never fear, darling, I have someone to suit you too. Come in, come in. Sit, and I’ll send for them.”
They sat down and were served ale and bread and cheese, while Tancred went out for a moment. He returned, floated down on the divan next to Elphir, and gossiped about the latest events, using expansive gestures that included many an apparently accidental caress to Elphir’s thighs. When a suitable interval had passed, he bent a knobbed finger and summoned a girl with long blonde hair worn loose. She was rather buxom and giggly, with a pert nose and shy smile. “What do you say, Neled?” Tancred asked lightly.
Neled’s eyes opened wide. He cleared his throat and then looked for permission from his master.
“Go to,” Elphir nodded. “You’ve well earned it for the night spent in the gutter.” The young man rose, took the girl’s hand, and they departed for a back room.
“So, what do have you for me?” Elphir asked. He always felt shy and rather reticent at this stage, though he did his best to appear at ease.
“Before I get him, I simply must have a kiss from those luscious lips,” Tancred said slyly. “You would oblige me, wouldn’t you, young master?”
Elphir laughed and leaned forward so that Tancred could kiss him with lips greasy with paint. He could smell alcohol on the man’s breath and had to resist wiping his mouth on his sleeve until after the proprietor left. There was a whispered conversation and Tancred reappeared, followed by a young man with shoulder-length blond hair wearing nothing but breeches and an amulet about his neck. His chest was well defined by muscle and his upper arms sported blue tattoos in the form of torques. Elphir imagined running his tongue over that chest. He licked his lips.
“This is Aelfwine,” Tancred said. “Recently come under my employ from Rohan. I think he might suit you, Alphros. What do you think?”
A number of years ago, Elphir remembered that a delegation of Rohirrim had come to talk to his father about trading wine for some horses. They reminded him of the north wind: wild and strong. He had stayed up late, hiding in the curtains to watch them.
Elphir nodded, and with a pounding heart, he found himself following the comely young man back to a darkened room. At a table in front of a curtained window there appeared to be an altar with flowers, crystals, a flickering candle in a lantern, a plate of melted butter, and one of the elf masks he’d seen in town.
“What do you have there?” Elphir asked.
“This night, it’s said the dwimmer-crafty are about,” Aelfwine said. “Best to use wards.” His voice had the rich vowel sounds of the Rohirrim.
“Why? What could the elves do to you?” Elphir asked with amusement. He was not inclined toward superstition and felt superior to those who were.
Aelfwine seemed embarrassed. “I was born sickly and near died, so my parents gave me a name meaning ‘elf friend’ to protect me from the elves. And my old nurse, she used to frighten me with tales of how, with such a name, they would certainly come one night to steal me away.” He stood awkwardly with one hand clasped about the amulet on his chest.
“Ah,” Elphir said. “Well, they’ve long departed from these shores, so I don’t think you need fear.”
“This night, it’s said they return,” Aelfwine replied. “They come to steal you away or drive you mad.” He licked his lips, nervously. “But you aren’t here for quaint tales, are you, master?” He gestured with the other hand. “Care to make yourself comfortable?”
“The name’s Alphros,” Elphir said as he unpinned the broach holding his cloak closed and tossed the garment to a chair, then divested himself of his sword, and peeled his tunic and shirt over his head. “Are you new at this?”
Aelfwine nodded. He moved towards Elphir with the beginnings of a smile on his lips. “You are the youngest I’ve had so far and the most beautiful. Your hair," he paused, seemingly embarrassed. "Well, it's like the color of maple leaves in autumn. You could be an elf yourself. Perhaps I should be careful.”
“Yes, I might spirit you away.” Elphir grinned.
“From this place, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad,” Aelfwine murmured.
“Perhaps I'm an elf friend like your name tells,” Elphir said.
Aelfwine’s smile faded. “Just tell me what you want.”
“Can I touch you?”
“That’s what you’re paying for, is it not?”
Elphir took a step forward and placed his hands on the young man’s broad shoulders, feeling their strength, then slid them down the undulating mounds of his chest, fingers spread wide to feel the texture of fine hair on the surface and hard muscles underneath the skin. The feel of another man’s body never ceased to thrill him, filling him full of emotions: dark, illicit, sizzling. Already excited, he could feel himself rapidly shifting upwards. Continuing his exploration over a hard belly, he ended by cupping Aelfwine through his leather breeches.
“You like it?” Aelfwine asked, rather professionally.
“Yes,” Elphir breathed. Reaching behind the man’s neck, he pulled him forward for a kiss.
Aelfwine turned his head to the side. “I don’t kiss,” he said softly.
“That’s a shame. What do you do?” Elphir asked.
“You might like kissing, if you tried it,” Elphir commented.
“I can’t. It’s too . . .” Aelfwine’s voice ebbed away as Elphir’s mouth dropped to his neck and his arms folded around the Rohir’s back, bringing him close. His warm body felt good. Breathing in a musky scent, like sweetened horse sweat, Elphir bit down on the taut flesh between neck and shoulder and at the same time grabbed the man’s arse and slammed their loins together. Aelfwine let out a gasp.
Elphir whispered into his ear. “Tell me, Horselord, do you ride or are you ridden?”
“I will mount or be mounted in whatever way pleases you.”
Good, Elphir thought. He had not yet been ridden and didn’t think he wanted to try it. He said, “I want to see you. All of you. Take off the breeches.”
Aelfwine slowly unlaced the placket holding his pants together, then turning, awkwardly shifted them off his hips and downward. Elphir watched raptly. Such lovely round buttocks, but what he wanted to see . . . Then Aelfwine turned back and stood looking at him, chin raised as if daring him to find fault.
“But you are not hard,” Elphir said, disappointed. Without waiting for a reply, he went down on his knees and took the tender length into his mouth, relishing the strong masculine flavor and the sensation of feeling it grow and harden. He loved that. He moved up and down, working his mouth and tongue until the object of his desire became long and hard. Then he moved back up, licking at the tender head.
“Oh, that’s good,” Aelfwine gasped. He sagged backwards against the bed. Elphir felt him reach for the thong in his hair and pull it free, then his fingers worked their way under his hair to his scalp, grasping and gently pulling. “Beautiful, like the mane of a Mearas,” Aelfwine murmured.
Elphir looked up into Aelfwine’s eyes, now growing misty with sensation, and sank down again, opening his throat and letting the juices flow. He cupped the heavy, moist sac, kneading the plums within. Aelfwine moaned again more deeply as his hips snapped forward and then rocked back gently, then forward again, fucking Elphir’s mouth. The taste and smell of him were making Elphir hungry for more.
“You’re good at that,” Aelfwine whispered. “It’s not often. . . I didn’t expect . . .” He sighed, grasped Elphir’s earlobes and caressed them, slowly massaging upwards along the rims. Elphir closed his eyes as a tingle spread along his ears. Ah that felt good.
Elphir heard another gasp. "No!" But this one was different, rather than pleasure, it sounded more like fright. There was a distinct softening of the organ in his mouth. “No!” Aelfwine cried again, and abruptly pulled away.
“What?” In surprise, Elphir sat back on his haunches, only to see his tumble scrambling away from him, eyes wide with fright.
“You’re one, one of them! I knew it!” Aelfwine cried. “Please, don’t take me away! My mother needs the money.” He ran to the altar, grabbed up some herbs, which he tossed at Elphir and right after that he threw a lantern, which landed on the bed. With a whoosh, the coverlet erupted in flames.
“Ai gods! Quick, smother it!” Elphir cried. But Aelfwine had taken to his heels, slamming the door behind him.
Elphir grabbed up his cloak, threw it on the flame, and slapped it out. He hurriedly dressed and, highly incensed, went in search of Tancred, who, he discovered, was too drunk to be any use at all.
The smell of smoke had brought a number of anxious molly-boys and their half-dressed customers to their doors, where they peered out at Elphir in irritation. “All’s well, fire’s out,” Elphir called. Embarrassed, and not wanting to create more of a scene than had already occurred, he slung his charred cloak about his shoulders and stalked off to find his servant.
Outside a curtained alcove, he heard very audible grunts and moans and the creaking of overtaxed bedropes. “Neled?” he called.
There was a pause in the sounds. “Um, m’lord? Is that you?”
“Yes, get dressed! We’re going.”
There was a longer pause. “M’lord, if ye please, I’m in the middle of things, as it were. Could yeh gie me a moment?”
“Hurry up,” Elphir snarled. “Catch up to me, I’m going back to the inn.”
The sounds, resumed at a frantically accelerated pace, only served to further irritate the young prince. He tossed a few coins in the pot on the mantle, feeling that, on the whole, he’d been cheated. Then he was out the door and striding down the darkened street, vowing that this particular Folly would be his last.