There is a benefit to being a fan fiction writer that few know of: we get to hobnob with our characters on a personal basis. For some of us, this is a real treat. Sometimes, however, the exchanges can be… surprising, to say the least.
Thranduil Oropherion, otherwise known as "the Elvenking," was always an impressive sight when he put in an appearance at my request. His tunics always had the most delicate and beautiful embroidery on them, often with little bits of crystal beadwork that made him sparkle in the dappled sunlight of our favorite meadow. He was tall, handsome, with golden hair that hung to his waist and a deep voice like dark velvet, and with a grace and authority that were undeniable – and irresistible.
In other words, he was utterly delicious in just about every possible way; and I was very grateful that the two of us had developed such a good working relationship that I was treated to his company on a regular basis. I was even more thankful that he'd actually come to meet me spur of the moment, like he had this day.
"Your message said that you had a request to put before me," he said kindly, coming to stand in front of the stump that I'd settled on.
"Well? What is it? And, more importantly, from whom does this request come?"
"One of my readers. She just finished reading one of those drabbles I wrote a while back in which you rescued a child from your forest and returned it to…"
"Yes, I remember. One of my 'Good Deed For The Day' excursions that you like to write. Very well. And your reader's request was…?"
"Um…" He wasn't going to like this. "She was wondering if you'd mind very much if she got lost in your forest, because she wouldn't mind being rescued by a handsome and kind Elvenking herself."
"You have got to be kidding me!"
I shook my head. "Nope. Totally serious. She wanted to know if you would consider rescuing lost, middle-aged women from alternate universes, and others who saw her note wrote in to agree that they too would enjoy such an encounter. What am I supposed to tell them?"
"That I have better things to do than spend my time scouring my forest for people that don't belong there." He huffed, the explosive breath blowing several golden strands of hair away from his face. "It is bad enough that you give me mortal children, lost and frightened at the end of the day, wandering in some of the darkest corners of my realm. You do realize that spiders are still a threat in Mirkwood?"
"I thought you'd taken care of those."
His smile was a wicked one. "The really big ones, the ones the Dark Lord sicced on us back when, are gone now, I am pleased to say. But the ones about the size of housecats have a nasty bite that can take forever to heal. I am certain the image of the Elvenking rescuing poor little mites is romantic and cute, but..."
"Hey! I also wrote you a nice romance with a blind mortal woman too, remember? I even wrote you two getting quite... intimate..." I reminded him. Even though not many had either read or commented on that particular tale...
"All right! All right!" He threw up his hands in surrender. "You have treated me well enough, for the most part. At least you do not turn me into an abusive monster who takes great pleasure in tormenting my son."
"I happen to like both you and Legolas," I sniffed.
"Still." His green eyes snapped. "I do draw the line at middle-aged women who should know better than to go walking alone in a deep forest."
"Not even just to talk to them for a bit and then lead them back to safety?" I blinked my eyes winningly at him.
"No." He crossed his arms over his chest and glowered at me.
"Are you sure there's nothing I could offer you to make you change your mind?"
"No..." He didn't sound quite so certain now, and even looked slightly worried.
"How about if I promise to write a tale where you and Legolas and quite a number of the other Elves from Ennor decide to go exploring in Aman? You'd have your wife back, and be reunited with Legolas too."
He looked at me sharply. "Tell me more."
"I've had this idea for a while that neither you, nor Elrond, nor Glorfindel, nor Celeborn, nor Legolas, nor Elladan, nor Elrohir, nor Erestor, nor even Cirdan or Gildor..."
"What about Galadriel?" he asked with another scowl. "Does she have to be in this one too, or can I request that she be left behind?"
"Haven't decided on her yet. Can I continue?" I huffed at him.
He rolled his hand at the wrist in a typically graceful Elven gesture for me to carry on.
"Anyway, all of you folks decide that a placid life, where the only drama is politics, is too boring to tolerate; and you all decide to seek out new places in the Undying Lands. A completely new Journey."
"Hmmm..." I had him intruigued; I could see it in the way he tugged at his left ear lobe. "It sounds like an interesting idea. When do you intend to start it?"
"I have a couple of other stories that need finishing first. And you could probably help out some if you would just consider..."
I took pity on him. "Is it that bad to consider helping some of us middle-aged biddies in desperate need of an Elven Hero fix?"
"Am I going to have to wine and dine them as well?"
I scratched my head. "I dunno - I never thought of that. How about you just make certain they don't get bit by any of those cat-sized spiders while you lead them back to where they left their cars."
"Cars?" Uh-oh. Now I'd confused him.
"Back to the road," I corrected myself hastily. "PLEASE?"
"That's it - just find them and lead them back to the road, right?"
I nodded. "That's it. And talk to them a bit - for some reason, they seem to think you would be an interesting person to speak to."
"I am." The Elf had absolutely no problem with humility at all, did he?
"OK. So you find them, yak with them for a bit and then lead them back to the road. Agreed?"
Thranduil took a very deep breath and let his chin drop to his chest upon exhaling. "Oh, I suppose I could do it a couple of times." He glanced up at me sharply. "But no repeat adventures. I am not a Missing Person's detective."
"I'll tell them." I smiled. My readers were going to be thrilled! "You're a peach, you know."
He turned around and gave me a disheartened wave of the hand as he vanished into the forest.
Now. Where had I put those topographical maps of Mirkwood? I was going to have to scan them and put them up in the Resource Section of Bennas Aeärwen...
(two days later)
I handed Thranduil the printed copy of the email, knowing all too well what it said:
Hey, he has a choice: he can come along quietly on a pleasant woodland stroll, maybe have something out of the nice picnic basket someone suggested, or he can get a tongue-lashing for presuming all single women are helpless and in peril.
Hm; maybe I should rephrase that. Many of us would enjoy giving him the sharp-or, indeed, dull-side of our tongues. ;)
Thranduil looked up from the printout, shocked and concerned. "Just what kind of people read your works of fiction, my Lady?"
I shrugged. "Decent people all. But..."
"You are telling me that your readers are ladies who would use their tongues like..." The golden head shook back and forth vehemently, while his hands reached inside the embroidered tunic to draw out a well-thumbed edition of Laws and Customs, which he waved in front of my nose. "Certainly they are familiar with this!"
"Oh, most of them know of it," I told him gently. "But not all of them are convinced you hold fast to the 'laws' part of it. I've even bent those rules a little myself on your behalf - and I didn't hear you complaining very much at the time."
"Yes, well, that's different," he grumbled and shoved the booklet back into his tunic. "Prerogative of royalty and all that..." He waved his hand briskly. "And it is beside the point. The fact is that I have already agreed to quote 'rescue' unquote these deliberately lost damsels and be conversant with them while I lead them back to the road. You said I did not have to wine and/or dine them. And now..."
"I didn't say you didn't have to wine and dine them - I said I hadn't thought of that before," I reminded him sharply. "Besides, it sounds as if they're willing to wine and dine you - so what's the beef?"
"Beef?" Uh-oh. I'd confused him again.
"What's the problem?" I translated patiently.
The Elvenking began to pace. "I had considered these ladies demanding a waltz in the woods with the Elvenking to be gentlewomen all, just slightly..." His hands moved in graceful, if vague, circles. "...underfulfilled. But now I am discovering that I have agreed to meet with... I believe your mortal mythology calls them... Amazons?" He shuddered. "And I do not even want to begin to think of what was meant by the use of the 'dull side of the tongue.'" He gazed at me questioningly. "Is that even legal in your world?"
"It's only an option," I pointed out, not really wanting to go anywhere near that topic, "one you could easily avoid by taking your time with the "rescue." Let them treat you from their picnic baskets. I happen to know that several of them are very good cooks..."
"Sandwiches?" He looked horrified. "I would have to eat sandwiches? That is what women of your world tend to pack in picnic baskets, is it not?" He patted his stomach sadly. "I should have to work out twice as long at the sparring ring henceforth, I fear."
"But just think of the money you'd save by not having to use your own food stores so much while on rescue excursions."
He gave me a sharp glance. "Hmmm… There is that..." Hah! I knew bringing the bottom line into it would make him think twice.
He heaved a huge sigh. "Oh, very well. I am probably going to regret this, but I shall do as you ask." He drew himself up proudly and put his hands on his hips. "But I have a few restrictions of my own to put on the encounters." He began to tick off the points on his fingers. "I do not drink "rot-gut" wine; the vintage must be Dorwinion or better or I'll leave them to find their own way through the spiders."
I nodded and folded the email printout so I could start to take notes. "Good quality wine - got it. What else?"
"Oh, come on now - be reasonable..."
"No. Sandwiches." Geez! When he started sounding like that, even my hackles rose! "Perhaps cold slices of roast meat of some sort - and maybe a dinner roll. Definitely fresh fruit, maybe some nutmeats. Finger food."
"Might as well have them make sandwiches - it would keep your fingers cleaner," I grumbled, then made the note when he glared back. "All right, all right! No sandwiches. Anything else?"
"Finally and most importantly, they keep their hands to themselves - and more specifically, their tongues where they belong."
"Not feeling adventurous, are you?"
Thranduil's face turned beet red, and I was actually treated to the sight of the Elvenking sputtering as he reached for his copy of Laws and Customs again. "I am not... My wife... It is not allowed..."
"Chicken," I commented dryly and made the note. "I'll tell them to look but don't touch - but I can't promise they'll be able to resist temptation."
"Remind them of the spiders," he growled as he turned to the forest, "and that I may just have tamed a number of them to come when called." With that, he vanished into the trees.
Which way was the road again?