I wander by the edge
Of this desolate lake
Where wind cries in the sedge:
Until the axle break
That keeps the stars in their round,
And hands hurl in the deep
The banners of East and West,
And the girdle of light is unbound,
Your breast will not lie by the breast
Of your beloved in sleep.
WB Yeats, He Hears the Cry of the Sedge (1898)
Thranduil Oropherion dreamed. He knew he dreamed, for he wandered the shores of a lake different from that of his waking existence. He recognised the Long Lake, but devoid of human life. The herons flapped, the winds blew, and the falls roared off to the south, but the expanse of the water was bare. Had the Edain not yet come to build their town of pilings out on the lake, or had they gone and been forgotten? It did not matter, because this was a dream.
He heard laughter over the sound of the wind and the waterfall, and he turned and followed it into the forest. He ran along a trail that rose and fell steeply through dark, aromatic pines. He knew where he was now. Not in the Mirkwood of his waking hours but rather in Greenwood the Great in the days before he had taken his people north for safety to dwell in the cave along the Forest River. He found himself suddenly in the mountain glens of the Emyn Duir, far to the south, and, again, this could happen only in a dream.
The laughter drew him onward, and now he knew where his feet carried him. To a clearing beside a pool -- their spot, and he almost feared to go on, for he had been there only once, in great sadness, in the last thousand years. She waited there for him now.
The trees opened out around him, and he skidded to a halt, for there she stood, not as he had left her, but in all the beauty of her living days. "Oh, let me not awaken," he whispered.
"Thranduil," she said, her dark hair blowing on the wind, her pale grey eyes alight with love.
He approached slowly and put out a hand to touch her cheek. She felt solid, her soft skin warm to his touch. It was more vivid than any dream he had ever had. "Are you real?" he breathed.
"I am as real as you wish me to be," she answered.
"Oh, my beloved, how . . . ?"
"I may not say. But, Thranduil, do not waste this time we have together." She held out her arms to him, and he gathered her up, afraid she would melt like a wisp of fog. But she remained enticingly solid.
He crushed her to him, seeking her lips. The taste of her skin and the smell of her hair were just as intoxicating as he remembered them; a combination of wild herbs and the scent of the air after a summer rain. He took her lower lip between his teeth, nipping gently, and then he pressed his mouth to hers as if he were sipping the essence of fine grapes.
Her knees bent, and her body lowered, pulling him down with her onto the mossy forest floor. His body covered her, and his hands sought the bodice of her dress, undoing the fasteners that kept him from her bare skin.
He felt her breasts beneath his palms, small, slightly asymmetrical in a way unusual among Elvenkind, but so warm, so precious. And how he had loved that tiny imperfection, invisible to the outward eye, yet perceptible to his husbandly touch! They swelled against his fingers with each soft, tremulous breath and the dreamlike quality of the moment gave way to the emotion that surged through him to feel her again, to be with her in the way only he had known her, in the way only she had ever given to him.
He pushed the fabric of her dress aside and left her lips for a moment to bring his head down to kiss the tiny rosebud nipples. She arched and gasped with pleasure, and he took his hands lower, delving beneath the folds of her skirt and pushing it up around her waist. He stroked her inner thigh and moved upward, toward the object of his desire.
Already, the front of his breeches had become too tight as he swelled in readiness for her, but he pulled away and rocked back on his heels, all the better to take in the sight of her as she lay exposed to him, limbs sprawled in lazy passion. How often he had seen her this way, and never in all their long years together had he grown tired of it.
His hand fumbled at the fastenings of his shirt as he shrugged out of it and threw it aside. How he longed to feel those little nipples tickling his chest, the tender swell of her belly against his. He sank back down onto her with a groan and claimed her lips again.
Burrowing between their straining bodies, her hand came down to his lacings. In life, she had possessed many talents, but chief among them was her ability to undo him faster than even he himself could. A skill born of long practice, he supposed. She had him free in a trice, and the cool air felt good against his heated flesh. But he sought warmth now.
Stroking his hand upwards from knee to inner thigh, he found her moist and open to him like the ripe petals of a summer flower. "You are so beautiful to me," he whispered. "My love, my dearest . . . my wife."
He caressed her soft folds with trembling fingers, and she moaned with frustration. "Stop your teasing, Thranduil, I want you now."
This was not a time for subtlety. There had been times between them when lovemaking was drawn out and teasing, to heighten and prolong. But he recognized her noises of sheer need, a need as pressing as his own.
"As my lady wishes," he laughed and positioned himself at that spot he had always thought of as his own secret Imladris. He licked the tender tip of her ear and pressed forward. "Take me, beloved. Take all of me," he said, sheathing himself in her glorious depths.
It had been so very long, and it was all he could do not to explode right then and there. He took a deep breath for control, pulled out almost to the very tip of him, and then thrust deeply again. "Velvet," he whispered into the fragrant curtain of her dark hair. "You feel like velvet."
"And you," she said breathlessly, "are like a young tree, tall, and strong and broad."
"A tree, am I?" he laughed. "I will show you a tree." Softly, he began to sing to her, a song that had been new in the days when they were first courting:
"Beneath the roof of sleeping leaves the dreams of trees unfold;
The woodland halls are green and cool, and wind is in the west,
Come back to me! Come back to me . . ."
"Come back to me . . ." Here the words caught in his throat and became a plea and a prayer, repeated softly into her ear as she rocked beneath him. Then the passion took hold of his mind and his tongue, and the prayer became one word, "Come . . . oh, come . . ."
He felt her tighten, begin to tremble and clench around him. With a groan, he let go and thrust hard into her. He had always feared the loss of control of this moment of culmination, that he might injure her in his mindless lust. But it never happened. She had always been strong enough to take whatever he could give her. Except for once . . .
As the shuddering bliss died away, he lay joined to her, loath to break the tenuous connection. 'How strange,' he thought, 'that we males should leave this place at the moment of our births and then spend the rest of our lives seeking to return in this small way.'
He buried his face in her neck, inhaling the sweet scent of her skin. "Nin melich?" he whispered happily.
"An Ardhon Manadh, Thranduil," she replied, stroking the top of his head.
But as she spoke the words, her voice took on a strange quality as if she were moving away from him. Around him, the light began to die, and she became insubstantial in his arms.
"No, not yet!" he cried out, trying to cling to her. "I have not yet told you about our son. He is beautiful, my love. So strong, so brave, he becomes!"
He heard her faint voice, far off. "I know, Thranduil. You should tell him that yourself some time."
Thranduil awoke to the darkness of his bedchamber. The only light came from the faint glow of the banked fire in his hearth. His covers were bunched around his groin, and he wadded them up and tossed them into the corner with an unhappy noise. Galion would find them and deal with them in the morning, and if his valet were not quick enough to avoid the eyes of the chambermaids, well, so be it. He would not be the first to spoil his sheets in the night.
Naked, he rose from his bed and rummaged around in the chest at its foot. He drew out a fur cloak and wrapped it about himself before casting himself back down onto the bed. He reached out his hand for the pillow he had steadfastly refused to let them take away, burying his face in it with a sound he hoped was a sigh but knew, to his shame, sounded more like a sob. Even after all these years he fancied it still held the scent of her hair, but it had faded, just as she had, becoming little more than a faint memory. She had seemed so real tonight, and how he missed her!
Clasping the pillow close, Thranduil sought his dream once more.
He wandered the shores of the lake again, seeking the sound of laughter, but he heard nothing but the empty wind under a grey sky. As Thranduil trod the dry reeds, he began to sing:
"When Winter comes, the winter wild that hill and wood shall slay;
When trees shall fall and starless night devour the sunless day;
When wind is in the deadly East, then in the bitter rain
I'll look for thee, and call to thee; I'll come to thee again!"
If any could hear him, he did not know, for he dreamed, and in this dream, Thranduil walked alone.
Translation from Sindarin:
Imladris: Clefted valley
Nin melich?: Do you love me?
An Ardhon Manadh : Until World's End
The song Thranduil sings is, according to Treebeard, an 'Elvish song that used to be sung up and down the Great River' during the Second Age. It is The Song of the Ent and the Entwife, from The Two Towers, by JRR Tolkien, of course.