I am back! As obsessed with Middle Earth as ever, I'm afraid. I have thought about writing another story for the longest time now, and it had crossed my mind before to write a combination of humor and romance. And yet, I have grown so used to the characters of my Irulan stories, that it seemed almost impossible to write a romance that concerned Legolas and someone other than Irulan. Then it hit me……I can re-write one of the most beloved fairy tales of all times under a new light - the sick and disturbing perspective of my own mind's eye!

So this story was born. Once again, it is meant only for entertainment. Once again, it is unfortunately very closely related to the Irulan series, since I based the characters on those and since little of what I want to imply would come across without knowing them. So, even though it would take considerable time and effort, I recommend reading those before starting this one.

There is, however, a major difference – the story is –however changed now- the classic story of Cinderella, and the genre will be humor and romance. So basically we have something with no action and angst at hand. It is written to spend a good time and hopefully will cause just that.

And just in case, let me put this straight: I know it has been done before. I also of course know that Tolkien owns all of Middle Earth and the related characters and that my distortions to those shall only be pitied upon. I also know that it will not be a piece of original and fantastic art. So spare yourself the effort of writing flames. Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is more than welcome.

***************

She was watching the horizons from the window. The bed sheet was hanging limply from her hands, forgotten, as a wonderfully warm summer breeze gently shook it. 'There HAS to be more than this to life!' she thought bitterly and sighed once more. 'There is a whole world out there! So many things happening even at this very moment…....but what am I doing? NOTHING! I don't mind the cooking......but the cleaning is simply UNBEARABLE!'

"Irulan!" screeched a voice suddenly and she came back to the present. "Where the hell are you?"

Irulan rolled her eyes. "Not where I wish to be, that's for sure!" she mumbled and hastily resumed pulling in the bed sheet and then walked over to the bed, spreading it.

The door banged open and Vessun stormed in. "Irulan! What is wrong with you, you wench? You are getting lazy by the day!"

Irulan continued spreading the sheet, pursing her lips. She dared not turn to look in fear that her contempt might show on her face.

Vessun of course would not leave her alone. She stomped into the room and threw herself on the very sheet that Irulan was trying to spread! Naturally, Irulan stopped and looked up at her step sister, trying to suppress her rage. Vessun smiled an evil smile and never looking away, slowly put her feet up and lay them on the bed. Instantly the snow white sheet was smeared with mud from her shoes. "Ooopps," she said playfully, "now you will have to wash them, Irulan. You know I can not sleep on them unless they are SPOTLESS!"

Irulan swallowed hard. She could kick Vessun and send her flying off to receive a mirror kick from the opposite wall. And that always felt incredibly good, of course. However.......the punishment was becoming too horrible to bear. Vessun seemed to follow her train of thought and although she knew that her mother would punish Irulan severely if she dared to harm her, that would only happen AFTER she received serious bruises. She tensed a little and stood up to walk away from the bed, trying not to look intimidated.

"Anyway….....you have prior duties at the moment," Vessun said, getting up with mild displeasure at Irulan's missing reaction on her face. She clasped her hands behind her back and decided to proceed torturing and nudging her step sister until she managed to inflame said reaction.

"Such as?" said Irulan, pulling the bed sheet off the bed and trying not to rip it during the process.

"Don't tell me you forgot!" shrieked Vessun.

"You must forgive me, sister," hissed Irulan, "but if I actually HAD a brain, I would certainly not be here in this position right now!"

Vessun waved the argument away with a graceful gesture. 'Most probably because she could not understand the statement!' thought Irulan. "Our dresses, Irulan! You have to go to the town center to pick them up! The party is in a couple of days, you stupid woman!"

Irulan rolled her eyes. "I mean.....my life is miserable as it is, and now I have to go to the town and fight other vicious females so that I can get those dresses out before the others and in one piece?"

Vessun looked at her with amusement. "Perhaps you would like to discuss the issue with mother?"

Irulan sighed with contempt. "I would love to go, Vessun. However, I will have to finish cleaning......and since that will take about AGES........you might want to drag your own butt down there!"

"Never mind the cleaning," came a soft voice from behind her, "you can always continue when you return."

Irulan sighed in desperation. She could kick Vessun. And sure enough, she could kick this other sister of hers.......but this one would kick back for years. She waited a moment too long before she mumbled "As you wish, Hetaire."

***

Legolas was looking out over the elegant balcony of his palace into the woods. "There has to be a better way," he said softly, his eyes still roaming over the high trees.

"Legolas, there is NO other way. We have already arranged everything!" said Aragorn, almost feeling like moaning now.

"Aragorn! I mean......have mercy on my soul!" the elf said with mild anger. "How can I possibly dance ALL night with hundreds of women?!"

"Legolas my friend, you have to dance only with those you like," Aragorn said softly and put his hand on his friend's shoulder.

The other just pursed his lips. "Then pray tell me, how will I know if I like them or not if I don't dance with them?!"

Aragorn remained silent for a moment. Now that was true....... "Look, Legolas, we have prepared everything," he said finally, unable to come up with anything else. "You'll just use your elven instincts or something. We can not back out of this now." He stepped next to Legolas and watched his blank expression for a moment. "Besides, even if it might be a torturous night for you, others might find someone to share their lives with."

Legolas nodded softly. "I know, Aragorn. It just seems.......wrong.......to judge someone by such standards."

"I understand your concern. However," said Aragorn with a lighter voice, "there is no other way to meet every woman in your kingdom. And since you don't seem to be too interested in the ladies of the higher circles you deal with, this might at least gain you some interesting friends. You don't have to marry anyone right away, you know."

Legolas sighed softly again. "I do not seem to have a choice in the matter, anyway," he said and walked away from the balcony.

"You don't," said Aragorn matter-of-factly and followed him inside. "Not to mention that Boromir and Eomer would simply kill you if you changed your mind now. They have been waiting for this event for weeks now."

Legolas smiled despite himself. "True, Estel. Let us get on with the task, then."

Aragorn grinned. "Legolas, you are the only person who could feel distressed over a matter that concerns beautiful women by the hundreds!"

***

"One of these days, Chemarit! One of these days….." began Irulan, and then bit herself to silence. Instead of words, a heavy sigh that smelled of desperation and bitterness rose from her. Chemarit kept puffing on his pipe, but threw her a sidelong glance. Irulan was softly rocking with the movements of the cart, her elbows on her knees, her face cupped by her hands, an expression of utter sourness emanating from her face.

"One of these days what, Irulan?" he said finally and watched her breaking out of her trance.

"One of these bloody days I will grasp those two witches by the throats and then just….just SQUEEZE," she said, her voice approaching a whisper and a dark satisfaction taking hold of her features. "Yes……" she continued a moment later, with glazed eyes, "squeeze until those throats will utter no sound until all eternity!"

Chemarit chuckled despite himself. "Hard to imagine," he said matter of factly.

Irulan sighed and sat upright to take a better look at her surroundings. The little cart was still moving through the patch of dense forest that stood between their home and the town. It was a beautiful summer day, dry and crisp and the air smelled of the cleanness that follows a storm. And indeed, there had been a storm the day before. Mud pools covered the little path and rocked the cart as it passed on them.

"How easy it seems," she said, lost in thought. She turned to Chemarit with misty eyes and a wry smile. "You could just keep going, old man. Keep going, until we pass through the town, then the Misty Mountains and valleys beyond, then whatever lies after those. You could just snicker and let the horse take us away from all this……towards a new life."

Chemarit did not answer right away. He kept puffing on his pipe and the silence grew heavy with the images of such a deed. "I would have expected you to have done so a long time ago, Irulan."

Irulan cocked her head and gazed ahead again, not really seeing anything. "So would I," she added with an almost inaudible murmur.

"And why you still refuse to leave, remains a mystery to me."

Irulan heard the slight scolding in the tone and tensed a little. "Walk away from one cage to another?" she said finally, her own voice a little bitter as well. "Walk aimlessly from here to there until some man decides to claim me? Or own me? Until someone else manages to stuff me back into the life I ran away from? Middle Earth does not seem that kind when you are a woman!" she spat.

"Is it not worth a try, at least?" Chemarit said a little softer. "You have to reach out for your own freedom, Irulan. You have to CLAIM it. No one will offer it to you."

Irulan looked away again and bit her lip. Once again her heart and her mind clashed and she almost let out a frustrated sigh at the familiar feeling. Once more the images of herself walking away bloomed in her mind and etched themselves into her brain like branding a mark on her. An impossibly sharp longing erupted in her and was only suppressed by an equally strong feeling of frustration that came with the thought of desperation. She swallowed hard and pursed her lips. "One of these days….." she said, her voice husky with emotion and left it at that. The remainder of the journey stretched out in awkward silence.

****