A friend (Peppy) is back in the hospital and facing another surgery soon. She's had a really (really) rough year this year. As you can imagine, she is very down at the moment. To help cheer her up, Fiondil and NiRi have come up with a Yule challenge.

- - - - - Naked Yule Fic Challenge - - - - -

Write a Yule story featuring Legolas, Aragorn and Glorfindel. You may include other characters, but those three MUST be included. You MUST include a naked elf, a horse, snow, and someone's confession. You must also incorporate a real world Christmas image that can be adapted into a Middle-earth culture. For example: mistletoe, holly, Star, lighted tree, shepherds, wisemen, mangers, little drummerboys, yule songs, yule logs, angels, etc. The rest is up to you!

Deadline is December 15th. All fics can be emailed to NiRi. The fics will be posted at under the challenge: Naked Yule. She will need your permission to post the fics if you do not have a penname at lotrfanfiction (unless you just want it sent to Peppy). All fics will also be compiled and sent to Peppy in time for Christmas.

We are hoping for a lot of participation in this, as it will help Peppy though her trials and tribulations.


The above message copied/pasted/edited from NiRi with permission. She'll be posting my own entries, and I'll post them here once they've been sent to Peppy. The e-mail and site address won't display here, so the message will be copy/pasted into my profile as well. We'd love to get more cheer and good wishes sent her way!

That said, onto the last (sigh) chapter of Poison Arrow. ;)

Chapter 34: You come by your deviousness honestly

Herita threw herself against their legs the moment they left their rooms. She wrapped her arms tightly around their knees, her head pressed down between them.

A bit amused, Legolas rested his hand lightly upon her crown.

Anumi, though, slowly crouched, brushing the little girl's hair back to see her large, worried eyes. "We didn't mean to frighten you," she whispered.

"I wasn't scared," Herita pouted.

"But you were worried—and we didn't mean for you to be."

Herita sniffled a bit, rubbed at her eyes, and pressed forward, wrapping her arms around Anumi's neck.

Legolas's amusement had died with the first twinge from his mate, so he sheepishly lifted their niece up, carrying her to the couch, letting her lie on their laps. She pulled his arm up for a pillow, playing with his fingers, learning the contours and ridges as she ignored the boring adult conversation around her.

"I trust that you're well now, Legolas," Kirilan asked quietly.

Legolas grimaced slightly upon seeing his brother's weary face. That Kirilan had been thinking too hard for far too long was very apparent. "I'm sorry, Kirilan. It was not your doing, I knew you wished merely to help…"

"But having your soul ravaging itself didn't help you think clearly. I know why you did what you did, why you seemed to be losing your mind—"

"Because I was?" he asked dryly.

"Well, yes, there is that… but you haven't answered. You… are well now, aren't you?"

"No. But I will be, with time. We've been apart far too long, and not eating properly. It may take weeks, months…"

"Even years?" Anumi asked, looking up at him with teasing eyes.

He snorted, kissed her swiftly, and shook his head. "Not at the rate we're recovering," he countered, leaning his forehead against hers.

She sighed and curled a bit, making Herita shift so they could both use him as their mattress.

He saw himself in the one mirror the main room boasted, and shook his head.

"Hmm?" Anumi asked, not stirring.

"Just wondering what happened to my tough, princely outside."

"Guess you decided to leave it outside those doors," she said lazily, tipping her head slightly at the main doors of the Royal wing.

He snorted.

"May I ask… what exactly happened? Well, maybe not exactly," Kirilan rescinded, especially as he took in Herita's place in the room.

Legolas looked from Kirilan to his father, then his sister and brother-in-law. Kirilan shook his head. "That makes explanation rather difficult, doesn't it?" he asked dryly.

"I couldn't tell them. You know I couldn't."

He smiled slightly. "Hmm." He rested his cheek against Anumi's crown, realizing how utterly sappy the sight must have been by seeing Odrune's dreamy gaze. He shook himself slightly. "Pascail didn't do as he said he had—the kiss broke the illusion."

Kirilan cocked his head slightly to the side, and then nodded. "And that made you both faint?"

"We were drained beyond exhaustion, Kirilan, then more or less ripped from our own bodies. I think we were entitled to passing out."

Kirilan grinned at the rewording, but at a thought, frowned. "And Pascail?"

Legolas's smile was wicked.

"Legolas, he only—" Kirilan stopped protesting when he noticed how still Anumi was. She had her cruel streak like all elves with some wood-elf blood when they or someone they loved had been wronged, but she would have stirred… "What are you planning?" he asked curiously, sure after his observation of his again-sister that the healer would be fine.

"Come down to dinner, and find out," Legolas mused, before a soft knock announced that the meal was about to be served.

"Are you sure you're well enough to be out and about? I mean, you look loads better, but still—"

"We're fine," Legolas said firmly, patting Herita's side.

She got up with a sigh and a small yawn.

"I think we're going to miss dinner and all the ensuing boredom and drivel, Elder Brother, unless you think we should be there," Odrune declared, stretching with a small yawn of her own. Hers, at least, was lightly covered.

"You at least," he admitted after a moment. "Toriad may stay with Herita and Matiar, though."

"Ah. First generation blood only, hmm? Some Royal Proclamation to go with the normal?"

"Something along those lines, yes."

She kissed Matiar's forehead, and Toriad's cheek, before tweaking Herita's nose. "I'll have Walira come up with your meal, and I'll sneak you some of that berry pie that you so love from the head table."

Herita tried to pout a while longer, but a wide yawn broke into it, and she toddled off contentedly enough.

Odrune looked down at herself, then lifted a brow. "Since I'm not really the 'Princess' any longer, am I fit?"

"You are," Legolas agreed with a smile.

"You're always a princess," Kirilan countered, wrapping an arm around her shoulder before offering his arm.

She shook her head as she hooked her arm through his, smiling at him in remembrance.

"It's been a long time since I escorted you, hasn't it?" he asked.


Legolas slowly rose, covering a yawn.

Anumi smiled sheepishly when he lifted a brow at her. "Sorry. I'm just…"

"I noticed. Sorry to force you to stay awake, but I rather think Pascail would prefer to know his fate, whatever it is to be, rather than wait any longer than he already has."

"Yes," she agreed.

"Odrune was fit for dinner," Legolas mused, looking over his wife critically. "You, however… Andun!" he called sharply.

The youth soon popped out of his room. At Legolas's nod, he grinned and scampered back into his small room, emerging soon after with a cloth bundle, which he handed to Legolas before dashing into their quarters. Legolas unwrapped the bundle, letting the thin crown rest lightly upon his palm.

She understood… and yet, didn't, at the same time. "But I have a circlet."

"For semi-formal occasions. For a Princess who could never be Queen. For a Princess traveling out of her realm. This is your realm, your kingdom. And, you are the wife of a Crowned Prince." He ruined the solemn moment with a small grin. "Crowned, not 'circletted'," he teased.

"I really don't think that's a word."

"Nana would agree with me."

"Nana might agree verbally, but she would be rolling her eyes in her head."

"How would you ever know?"

"How would you?" she countered cheekily.

He chuckled and kissed her swiftly. Then he retrieved the crown from where it had dangled precariously from otherwise occupied fingers, and settled it upon her brow. His own crown was offered by Andun.

Anumi shook her head slightly, realizing he'd planned this for some time. The crown alone would have taken most of the time since they'd first wandered from their bedroom to their sitting room to send Andun for food.

He merely smiled, and kissed her brow, just below the crown and above the bridge of her nose.

She crinkled her nose at him, then glanced at Thranduil, lifting a brow at the ornate crown and robes he was wearing. "Isn't this all a bit much? It's only a feast."

"A Centennial Feast," Legolas reminded her, twisting a stray strand of her hair around a finger before looping it out of the way.

She frowned. "Is it really? Time certainly has passed oddly, these last few years."

"So it has, mate," he agreed quietly.

"What of Kirilan?" she looked between them.

"He has his circlet—he just hates to wear it before he must."

"Hmm… let's see… last Centennial Feast I was… sitting with Ninith and Cirida. We were…" She broke off and flushed, looking up at him sheepishly.

Her embarrassment had colored his ears, as well, amusing Thranduil greatly. "Dare I ask?" Legolas drawled, ignoring his father.

"Umm…" She bit her lip. "We were…"

He stopped her, lifting his hand. "Doing something girly that will embarrass me as well if you explain?"

She nodded quickly.

He shook his head with a chuckle. "Then perhaps another time… Unless I should be prepared?"

"I doubt it… well, actually… no." She shook her head decisively. "I'll try to keep from making you blush," she promised, the glints in her eyes giving her away.

"Good," he declared, before turning to the door. "Now, we're late."

"Royal Prerogative," she declared.

Thranduil chuckled. "Just walk quickly and no one will make your lives miserable by talking."

She grimaced, then stuck her tongue out at him before heading swiftly for the door.

After they were announced, she saw Ninith and Cirida against a wall, watching her, waiting with wicked grins for her to notice them. She hesitated a moment, and glanced swiftly at Legolas, tilting her head up so her words would reach him alone.

He stooped slightly, turning his head towards her so any able to read lips would be unable to tell what she wanted to ask.

"I think I should go talk to Ninith and Cirida briefly, Legolas."

"We're going to start in very little time," he warned, making her glance at the servers just awaiting the nod from the King.

"I know—just a minute or two. I'll run back if I have to."

"You'll do no such thing. You will beat my father to my side."

"Agreed," she smiled, squeezing his hand when she realized almost too late that kissing him would draw a lot of attention.

She made her way to her friends as quickly as she could. "Don't do that!" she hissed, offering an arched brow to an elf who was watching them unabashedly. He quickly moved off. "Yes, yes, I remember," she moaned, turning away from the crowds.

"Yes…" Ninith drawled. "Who would ever be foolish enough to become the Princess?"

"Even if the title comes with a gorgeous Prince?" Cirida continued.

"And the royal succession—why would anyone—"

"Enough! I remember, I remember. Just… don't tell Legolas!"

They laughed at her. "As if we always just plop down next to the Crowned Prince. 'Oh, your highness, did I tell you what your wife was thinking about you a century ago? She'd have preferred giving the time of day to an orc, you know. Never would have wanted—'"

"Ninith!" Anumi hissed. "Please, I can't make him blush."

They blinked at her, smirks fading to puzzlement.

"He feels my emotions," she mumbled. "You know that."

"He can blush?" Ninith finally asked. Then her grin reappeared.

Anumi hung her head. "Please, Ninith, not now! Visit later and embarrass us all you want, but not here." She snapped her head high, her eyes flashing. Then she smiled faintly. "I think that's his way of telling me to hurry up."

"Yes… go before you start acting like him," Ninith agreed, lifting a curious brow.

"You'd best be off," Cirida agreed, "the little look-out for Jerinul is racing back."

Anumi turned without a goodbye and made her way back to Legolas, sitting demurely just as Thranduil walked in.

"Amazing timing."

"Oh," she mused, "didn't you know that the hall's foremost musician and composer always posts a sentry in the hall to warn him of the King's approach? How else would everyone be ready the instant he arrived?"

Legolas smiled faintly, shaking his head internally. "Settling down now?" he asked softly.

"I think so…"

"This is something I'm never going to want to know, isn't it?"

"Well… maybe… though I daresay it wouldn't surprise you."

He turned to her, quirking a brow.

"We weren't exactly friends a century past."

"We weren't anything, a century past. I didn't know you to pass you."

"And I only knew what everyone else saw."

He inclined his head slightly. "So this big embarrassing secret does have to do with me."

"And… how much I would have pitied anyone forced to marry you," she admitted, the last coming as a bare whisper.

She feared anger, but would have expected it. Annoyance, irritation.

But not laughter.

He threw his head back and laughed richly, the surprising merriment stunning most of the room. He lifted her hand, twining their fingers before kissing her wrist. He shook his head, his amusement still prevalent enough to bubble through her.

"You're going to have the females fainting if you laugh again," she warned, finding it hard not to laugh herself at the many dropped jaws surrounding them. His laugh, like his voice, was of one of those few pitches that just could not be ignored. It always found the ear, and his laugh had shivered up along hers.

He chuckled softly, and leaned over.

She tilted her head, expecting a soft whisper.

He wasn't doing what she expected, today.

He bit the tip of her ear, and pulled back, his eyes dark. He kissed her fingers and resolutely looked back out among the crowds, lifting a brow at those he caught staring.

For the most part, they quickly went along their way.

Those that didn't were ignored.

Including Dalidan.

When the courses of the feast had been served, and the dancing began to thin, Thranduil signaled for the musicians to play that music reserved to turn attention to the King.

"Can I sleep, now?"

Legolas smiled faintly at her, lacing their fingers once more. "No, you may not."

"But this always takes so long, and I really am tired."

"I know. But you wish to be here for Pascail's judgment, do you not?"

She sighed. "I wish you'd told me what you had decided when you'd decided it."

"You can almost hear what I think—a few things I'm going to keep quiet." His eyes drifted to her crown. "There would be no surprise, no mystery, if I didn't."

She sighed, but ceded him the point, and settled back for the droning monotony of a century's worth of deeds to be praised… or rarely, rebuked. Rarely, because such were taken care of more swiftly, save in those cases where only a public denouncement was deemed sufficient for the crime. Praise, though—offered initially, and again at several feasts, leading up to this one.

This was the most boring part of any feast held—because with few exceptions, everyone knew what was coming. Sometimes something would have been all but forgotten, and a moment to remember would have to be taken, but there was little new information given.

It was incredibly tedious.

"Now," Thranduil said, holding up a hand with a smile. Elves began to stir from their stupor. "There is but one final matter to attend to, and as it has most concerned my son, he shall announce our decision."

Anumi nearly snorted. 'Our decision'. More like Legolas's decision, with Thranduil's approval… whatever the decision was.

Legolas stood, causing many murmurs when it was noticed that he didn't release Anumi's hand. "Pascail."

The room buzzed—something ­new! Not only was it the Crowned Prince to hand down the decision, but it was something no one knew was ever considered! Any dozing elves were roused, often with hands firmly yet on shoulders so they wouldn't immediately rise to dance, as was tradition.

Pascail moved slowly forward, the elves parting around him to make it easier for him to pass. His head was bowed slightly, but that was not unusual. Most came before the throne in such a manner.

"You know the reason you are before me," Legolas stated, his voice carrying around the hushed room.

"Yes, your highness."

"I have determined what is to be done with you, for what you have done."

Another buzz rose up around the room as elves began to realize that they were not to be told what had happened to bring Pascail forward.

"I am ready for your judgment, your highness," Pascail said wearily.

"You will name seven healers that have trained under your tutelage, that still have much to learn."

Pascail looked up briefly, before looking down again, mumbling names slowly, regretfully.

Legolas looked out over the crowd, and the seven healers slowly came forward, their faces a mixture of fear, excitement and trepidation. When all were before him, Legolas inclined his head slightly. "Iridel."

A soft, confused murmur arose, even as the young scribe moved forward, to join the other eight elves who formed a semicircle around Pascail.

"Pascail, you are no longer a Master Healer of Mirkwood."

There was a collective pause, followed by a gasp and a sob from Pascail's wife.

Legolas continued, ignoring her. "You are the Royal Healer of Mirkwood."

The sob stopped so abruptly that she hiccupped.

"The rooms have been reopened, and servants assigned. These healers shall be under your guidance, training to become Master Healers under your wisdom and will. Iridel shall translate and copy any books not available in that library, and shall also turn any notes you have into books for future healers, when you have traveled west to be with your family."

Pascail was obviously overcome, but remained on his feet, though some of his apprentices had forgotten themselves, spinning together in tight, happy little circles. He looked up, and offered as solemn a bow as he could, but it was clear he could not speak.

Legolas left the dais, moving down the stairs to stand directly before Pascail, again breaking with tradition. He placed his hand upon the shaken healer's shoulder. "I only hope it can, in some small way, repay you for all you have done, my friend."

Legolas had retaken his seat before Pascail found his voice. "Thank you, Prince Legolas." He was wise enough to say no more, and to move quickly to a chair.

Anumi's fingers were quickly recaptured, and she turned to him, smiling brightly. "That was wonderful."

"Only fitting," he countered mildly. "A healer who would risk his life to save another's should be the Royal Healer."

"And here I thought there would never be another," she teased.

He looked at her, letting her read a smile in his eyes before returning to studying the festivities.



"What about Dalidan?"

He turned, quirking a brow. "What about him?"

"You know what he did."

"Yes. Forced us to realize we truly do love each other."

She glared at him from the corner of her eyes.

He squeezed her fingers, amusement drifting to her. "There is little I can do, love. He did nothing wrong. He merely… shared information."

"Knowing it would be used."

"Hoping it would be used," he countered.

"Does it matter?"

"Yes… and no. There is nothing I can do… that I didn't already do," he added, turning to her so his wicked smirk was seen only by her and a servant behind her, who flushed and quickly left the room.

Anumi narrowed her eyes. "What did you do?"

"Well, airing out the rooms formerly occupied by the Royal Healer isn't a small task, nor is making them ready for a new batch of students. A lot of work must be done—work for laundresses, carpenters, smiths…"

"And herbalists," she finished. "You had him procure the stores."

"He is the 'keeper of the stores'," he mocked lightly.

"You not only let him know that the rooms were being reopened, but let him believe he would be set in place."

"I? I did nothing of the sort."

"Oh. Kirilan, then."

"Ah, afraid you're wrong again, love."

She blinked. "Thranduil?"

He chuckled at her shock. "Of course. A threat was made to his family, one he could officially do nothing about. Unofficially though…"

"So you come by your deviousness honestly."

"Only way to come by deviousness, I suppose."

She laughed, shaking her head.

"What worries you?" he asked when she sobered.

"I only hope he won't…"

"He wouldn't dare," he declared flatly.

"He dares much, my prince," she whispered.

"I know you dislike him. You are not alone in that. But he is canny. He decided there was no chance you and I simply fell in love. Or perhaps he knew that even if we did, I would have wanted to return here for the ceremony."

"Which we never had."


She smiled, biting her cheek.

"Stop that," he frowned.

"Anyway?" she asked.

"Hmm…" he waited until she was in control of her amusement. "Now, he has seen us happy—we were content before, but it was always tainted with the question of origin. We know now, and so, we allow ourselves our happiness… He is not blind to it. He should see you are lost to him."

"And if he doesn't, or if he ignores it?"

He looked at her, and she understood then how someone could have imagined him worthy of the only title he bore that was unknown to more than half a dozen people. He said nothing.

But she understood.

Any further attempts to take her from him would be met with savage and bloody efficiency…

And somehow, she couldn't find it in herself to mind.