A Life More Ordinary - Chapter Two: The Ceremony
This story is set in the days following my fan fic Easterling. It deals with an OFC romance, though not what I consider a Mary Sue. However, if OFC's are not to your taste, you can skip this chapter, it won't make any difference to the rest of the story. Those of you who do decide to stick around - Melia is one of the Rangers appointed by Aragorn to patrol the wilderness who married Legolas at the end of the Easterling.
Eden Ardhon is the name I gave to the colony Legolas established in South Ithilien.
"I thought we not going to do this," Melia stated unhappily as she stared at the apple in one hand and a knife in the other.
"I had not planned on it," Legolas frowned with just as much ire, looking around his surroundings with clear disapproval of their present situation.
"This is entirely your fault," she declared firmly, sinking the blade deep into the flesh of the fruit.
"My fault?" He stared at her pointedly. "How, pray tell, is it my fault?"
"I do not know," she turned a stormy eye upon him, "but since we are now married now, I might as well enter the spirit of things and blame you for everything."
"At last," he returned just as acerbically, "I finally recall why I chose to remain unwed for three millennia."
"It is too late now," she offered sweetly with a smug expression. "We are both in the same soup."
Legolas let out a heavy sigh and regarded his wife of just two months; "this cannot be as bad as we think."
"Then why did we agree not to do this before? You promised we would not have to endure this nightmare. What we did together was binding enough, not to mention simple and discreet. This is more fanfare than either of us would like," Melia accused him even though she knew it was not his fault that they were faced with this predicament. Circumstances had simply evolved to its present condition without either of their unwitting assistance.
"Well, I had to tell you something," he replied just as smugly. "How else would I get you to bed me?"
Predictably, she smacked him on the side of the arm with her jaw dropped slightly open in outrage. However, the moment lasted briefly and her eyes narrowed in calculation, "that proves how much you know. You need not have promised me that and I would have still bedded you."
"They are our friends and family," Legolas replied, attempting to use sentiment to crack her belligerence, "they mean well."
"And it is that thought alone that keeps me here at your side, instead of taking my horse and heading for the hills. I hear the Shire is nice this time of the year," she offered him a little smile.
Despite their acidic remarks to one another, husband and wife cherished each other deeply. To an observer, their banter appeared rather cutting at times, however, in truth it was merely a little bit of playful mischief they both indulged in whenever together.
"That is good to know," he returned her smile with one of his own and then confessed, "I am not looking forward to this any more than you are."
Legolas and Melia remained where they were for a moment, exhaling deeply as they remained where they were, terribly aware of what awaited them once they left the safety of its surroundings. They had been married but only a number of weeks, little over twos month actually. The ceremony where they had bound themselves to each other had been a private affair where golden rings were exchanged with none of the fanfare that should have taken place when an elven prince was wedded.
Melia was still rather skittish about the whole notion of being his wife, despite her realization that she loved him and she wanted to spend her life with him. Legolas had not wanted to overwhelm her with the pomp and fuss that came with an elvish wedding and decided that a simple ceremony would serve them well enough. They had married in Eden Ardhon with only a few elves in attendance as witnesses though it was hardly necessary. As far as elves were concerned, the consummation of their love in the flesh was binding enough without the need for ceremony. This would have suited Legolas and Melia well enough for they were both very much in love and did not need a ceremony to symbolize their union, however it was only proper that they made some effort to celebrate their marriage.
Unfortunately, this view was not shared by everyone as Legolas was soon to learn after making the mistake of sending news of his marriage beyond the borders of Eden Ardhon to his friends and to his father.
What had transpired following the sending of this intelligence to Gondor, Ithilien, Mirkwood and Rohan respectively had set in motion a sequence of events that had now avalanched into the predicament that awaited Melia and Legolas beyond the walls of their temporary refuge.
"We should have kept it secret," Melia remarked, aware that she was speaking to delay the inevitable.
"How so?" Legolas stared at her. "Were you going to run and hide under the covers of our bed each time someone happened by?"
"You know what I mean," she gave him a look.
"Who knew my father would be so upset," Legolas shrugged, still smarting from the sharp cuff about the ear he had received from Thranduil when the King of the Woodland elves decided to pay his son an unexpected visit following receipt of the news. It appeared that although Thranduil had disapproved of Legolas' choice to bind him to a mortal woman, there were some traditions that could not be ignored even if the woman his son had selected was not to his liking. It was considered extremely bad manners for the Prince of Mirkwood to bind himself in the flesh to any woman without so much as a ceremony to mark the day. Three thousand years old he might be but when Thranduil yelled, Legolas might as well have been ten years old again caught sneaking into the ladies chambers for a peek.
"How is your ear?" she asked, aware that it was a very sensitive appendage and a cuffing would have hurt considerably.
"Sore," he muttered unhappily, his pride was more injured then his ear.
"When this is over, I will sooth your pain," she said sympathetically.
"That is minor compared to what awaits us when we join them," he retorted glumly, starting to feel his own optimism waver.
The first thing the king had demanded upon arriving in his son's realms was that they be married, "properly" as Thranduil put it. This demand was not aided by the fact that Aragorn, King of Gondor and supposedly his best friend, echoed the same sentiments in a return message following Legolas' announcement. Faramir and Eowyn had actually arrived in Eden Ardhon to make their objections to their quiet ceremony known in person. Actually Eowyn had arrived, Faramir was more or less a reluctant travelling companion. Before long, Thranduil had found a fellow conspirator to plan the wedding that neither Legolas nor Melia had wanted.
Traditional elven weddings required a feast to be shared between the two houses that were to be united. Since Melia had no house to speak off, the friends she had made since arriving in Middle earth filled this void. Like a general sending his troops to war, Thranduil was directing Eowyn to make his son's wedding ceremony a spectacle that would be remembered for the next century, much to the chagrin of both Legolas and Melia. What was worse, the elves of Eden Ardhon were soon similarly captured by the fervor of upcoming nuptials and it was not long before husband and wife found they were the only people left in the colony who did not look forward to the event.
Eden Ardhon was still a collection of half finished constructions, winding uncompleted around the great trees that made up the wood of South Ithilien. While not as foreboding or as thick as Mirkwood, South Ithilien's trees were still impressive indeed and it had been Legolas' intention to build a city very much in the spirit of Lothlorien. Thus most of the fledgling buildings were constructed in great deference to the trees. Some were aloft in the magnificent branches of the larger trees while others were on the ground, framed by the thick canopy of leaves overhead.
"Father, this great wedding you desire is not possible!" Legolas has beseeched Thranduil as the king voiced his plan for the evolving nightmare of this wedding. "Eden Ardhon is far from being able to host a gathering of the size you wish. Our buildings are barely completed. My people are living in tents like wanderers!"
Thranduil frowned unhappily, forcing to accede to Legolas' point that far at least, but not quite prepared to give up entirely. The elven lord's eyes moved across the half made colony around him and saw that his son was quite correct, many of the structures being built were weeks away from completion. Indeed most of the elves in Legolas' colony had created for themselves make shift homes with tents that were given shelter under the canopy of branches and leaves around the larger trees. Numerous such tents were scattered throughout the expanse of the half built city and Thranduil was struck with the memory of his earliest days in Mirkwood, when he had first established his kingdom there.
"You are right," Thranduil nodded though his eyes were still fixed upon the spread of green above their heads. It was as if the forest had reached up and ensnared the sky in veil of lush vegetation. Beams of sunlight peeked through the spaces through the branches and leaves, illuminating the tiny specks in the air like fire flies. It was a pretty place that his son had chosen to build his city and even more so with the tents pitched in the background. There was a sense of beginning about what he was seeing and Thranduil wondered if this was what it had been like for the Quendi when they had first emerged from the Mere of Cuiviénen?
"Then you will forget this whole idea?" Legolas dared to hope.
Thranduil gave his son a look, "of course not! We will simply have it here out in the open."
"Out in the open!" Legolas exclaimed with exasperation. "You wish to have a huge wedding feast when there is not even a roof to put it under?"
"I do not remember you being so pensive about everything," Thranduil rolled his eyes. "I had hoped marriage and the attentions of a wife particularly in the bed chamber would allow you to relax a little. Honestly, it bewilders me how I sired such a serious child. I blame your mother - she stopped feeding you at the breast too soon."
"You have no idea how much I truly did not need to hear that, father," Legolas retorted with an expression of distaste on his face.
"Fine, but I will tell you what you do need to hear." Thranduil turned to face Legolas, wearing an expression of his own upon his face and was one that the Prince of Mirkwood was very familiar with. It was one that told Legolas that he was about to be told how things were, whether or not he liked it. "You chose to marry this young woman whom I do not doubt loves you as much as you love her, despite my objections to the fact that she is mortal and any union between the two of you will only end in tragedy. I accepted your choice though it pains me to know that it will only serve to bring you grief someday. However, since you have chosen yourself a bride, you will show the proper customs that is demanded of someone of your station. You may be the Lord of Eden Ardhon but you were the Prince of Mirkwood first and my son so you will obey me in this Legolas, I will have you married in accordance with the traditions of our people. Is that understood?"
He stared at Legolas hard with an unflinching gaze. Suddenly Legolas Greenleaf, one of the nine walkers in the Fellowship of the Ring, the hero who fought at the Hornburg and Pelennor Fields, felt as if he were a child again, unable to do anything under the intimidating power of his father's voice but obey.
"Yes, sir," he swallowed thickly.
"Good," Thranduil smiled, patting his son on the back now that they got that little point cleared up. "Now that is settled, we will having the wedding here in the open. It will be under the stars and surrounded by the forest. We will have a feast the likes of which has not been seen before and at the end of that feast, you will be married in a traditional ceremony."
Seeing that he had no choice in the matter, Legolas nodded glumly and that muttered, "I still do not know how we are to house our guests. It seems terribly rude to make them endure tents. It is cold this time of the year."
"We will manage, most of our guests will be elves and we are folk accustomed to the stars over our heads. I suspect that since the King of Gondor was so vocal about the lack of celebration regarding your marriage, I doubt that he will miss the event now that we are undertaking it. From all you told me of King Elessar, he is no stranger to the wilds, not when he was a former Ranger."
"No," Legolas agreed. "However, the Evenstar is with child so travel may not be so easy for her."
"Nonsense," Thranduil retorted with a snort, "women are much stronger than you think. Why the things your mother and I used to get up to when you slumbered in her belly," the king smiled devilishly.
"Once again," Legolas stared at his father, "you have no idea how much I truly did not wish to hear that either."
Thranduil threw up his hands in exasperation and declared, "would this suit you better? One day your mother and I were walking through Mirkwood and there you came, an infant in a basket being borne on the backs of two squirrels..."
"Sarcasm does not become the King of the Woodland elves," Legolas said sourly.
Thranduil ignored his son's quip, far more interested in the space they were presently standing it and how it could be utilized to serve as a makeshift banquet hall. He knew that he was driving his son to distraction but Thranduil was more concerned with observing the proper traditions for the marriage because honestly, Legolas and Melia would need all the blessings they could get. Thranduil was by no means a superstitious man but a small part of him hoped that the grace of the Valar's blessing upon his son's union with the former Ranger might help to avert the inevitable tragedy of their future together
"Now we must set to work on the invitations at once," Thranduil continued, his mind moving at a juggernaut pace. Normally this sort of thing was the purview of the boy's mother but in her absence, Thranduil was required to take her place and there were more than enough enthusiastic members of Legolas' colony to aide him in this endeavor.
Legolas shifted uncomfortably into resignation at what would happen with or without his consent and decided that he might as well have some say in how the affair was to be conducted, particularly to the guests he wished to attend the ceremony. "Then I would have Gimli there, I believe he is still in Minas Tirith building Aragorn's gates. It would be nice if the hobbits could be present but I doubt that they would be able to make such a long journey."
"I think I can presume upon Gwaihir to aid us by bringing them here if you wish them to attend," Thranduil replied, please to see that Legolas was making his own wishes known and he was also aware of how dear the Shire people were to his son. He himself had a fondness for the halflings after his encounter with the Ringbearer's cousin during the Battle of the Five Armies. He still had the gift presented to him by Bilbo Baggins.
"What of your lady?" Thranduil inquired. "Has she anyone she would like to attend this gathering?"
"No," Legolas shook his head. "She has no family to speak of, although that is not necessarily a bad thing," he muttered the last part under his breath, staring at Thranduil with narrowed eyes who did not notice to jibe made at his expense and if he had, was doing his best to ignore it.
"Fortunately Pallando is here with us, so we can be assured of entertainment but if we must, we will procure more from the White City. They do not necessarily have elven sophistication but I supposed that beggars cannot be choosers."
"Nicely put," Legolas retorted, dreading the circus this wedding was rapidly evolving into and feeling completely powerless as it spiralled more and more out of control with each passing moment.
Thranduil looked over his shoulder at his son, noting Legolas' less than enthusiastic manner to the event. "Do not worry son," Thranduil remarked, resting his hand on Legolas' shoulder, "I will take care of all the arrangements. When the day arrives, you will have nothing to worry about, I promise."
"Nothing to worry about indeed," Legolas snorted as he thought about Thranduil's promise. "I should have known better."
Following Thranduil's decision to hold the wedding feast beneath the stars, it seemed as if the entire colony had come to a standstill because the only thing anyone was remotely interested in was the festivity. Legolas had to remind himself that his father meant well, that Thranduil was not purposely attempting to usurp his authority and there had been more than one occasion where Nunaur, the captain of his guard, had been forced to take the bow from his lord's hands to save Legolas from doing something unfortunate with the weapon. This was no easy feat for Nunaur considering Legolas' temper flared quite frequently over the next few weeks as preparations for the wedding continued around the Lord of Eden Ardhon.
Melia was unprepared to think ill of Thranduil when all his planning had come to fruition so beautifully despite their ambivalence to the whole affair. The marquis under which the banquet was to be held had been decorated beautifully with flowers and dusted with all the glitter and splendor that could be managed of elves. It looked far more inviting than any feast held within four walls and suited the personality of the couple it was honoring more than either would like. Still she could not deny being intimidated by the prospect of being the center of attraction. It was hard enough living with elves, knowing that each and everyone of them had seen times she could not even hope to dream.
"You have to admit," she gazed at her prince. "Your father accomplished an astonishing feat by arranging this day. I did not think it was possible to accommodate this gathering, not to mention house them properly for the length of the festivities."
"Never underestimate Thranduil," Legolas frowned. "In the end he always get his way in all things. However in this instance he received a good deal of help from my supposedly loyal subjects.
'They are loyal," she pointed out. "What they did, they did out of love for you."
"I would have preferred if they did not encourage him," Legolas retorted.
"Do not blame them completely or Thranduil for that matter, Eowyn is as much to blame as your father," Melia pointed.
"True," Legolas agreed as they sat facing each other. Between them a plate of fruit was their only sustenance and Melia continued her efforts peeling the apple of its skin. Legolas watched her hands deftly cut the green from the white flesh, aware that her delicate hands could cut flesh with similar ease and wondered at the paradox that she was and they were together. "I had no idea that she had such talents."
"Beneath the heart of every shield maiden, there is a matriarch awaiting to emerge," Melia smiled and she slipped a sliced piece past her husband lips, "I can see her presiding over a household of children someday."
"Poor Faramir," Legolas shook his head. "She overpowers him."
"I doubt it," Melia retorted, wondering how he could be so long lived and yet so wrong at times. Of course he was male and allowances had to be made, even if he was an elf. "Faramir enjoys playing spectator to Eowyn's endeavors. He loves her dearly but sees no reason to insinuate himself upon her until it is required. I think when he puts down his foot, the whole of Ithilien quakes."
"Rather like it is with us?" Legolas offered her a teasing smile.
"In your dreams," she said sweetly.
"We could slip away from here," his brow arched in suggestion. "Take the horses and ride. I am certain we would find ways to occupy ourselves." He picked up a slice of apple she had cut and slipped it past her lips.
Melia took a bite, chewed a little and swallowed before answering him. "What happened to us being able to endure this?"
"I came to my senses," he replied.
"We are cowards neither of us," Melia sighed, feeling herself being pulled to the lure of his words. "Why is this so difficult?"
"It is not," Legolas confessed. "We simply make it that way for ourselves. Our friends have come a long way to see us, we should not be hiding away like children."
'We are not hiding," Melia corrected him quickly. "We are merely taking a rest from the festivities."
"Please," he gave her a look. "We stole food and went for the first hiding place we could think of - I think in the common tongue, that is referred to as hiding."
"It was your fault," she declared defensively. "You allowed this to happen."
"I allowed this to happen? Are we back to thing being entirely my fault again?" He asked tersely.
"Yes," she pouted. "I can think of no other place to lay the blame."
"You could have told Eowyn that you did not wish this spectacle either," Legolas pointed out. "I did not see you protesting when she was making preparations around you?"
"Have you ever attempted to reason with Eowyn when her mind is determined?" Melia demanded. "I tell you, if will alone was capable of moving mountains, Eowyn could singled handedly displace the Misty Mountains into the Western Sea."
"You could have beseeched Faramir for help," Legolas reminded, not about to have the sole blame for this nightmare placed upon his shoulder.
"I did ask Faramir to help," she hissed. "He told me to endure it like a Ranger."
Legolas almost laughed at that but he reminded himself that she had a knife and knew how to use it. "It is a lovely dress though. I had no idea how lovely you look in elven clothing."
"Why thank you, Prince," Melia replied. "I cannot believe I married such a silver tongued charmer."
"Be grateful that you only endured a dress fitting," Legolas complained. "I was introduced to the charming Gondorian custom where it was necessary to drink oneself completely ill before the night of one's wedding. I am rather surprised that Aragorn managed to remain standing during his wedding to the Evenstar."
Melia started to chuckle, recalling in what state she found him the night before and could not deny that there was much reason to laugh even though her amusement was producing a dark expression on his handsome face.
"Am I to assume you will never let me forget what transpired last night?" He glared at her.
"I only regret that I did not have an artist put it to canvas," Melia giggled. "I am certain generations to come would pause and admire the Lord of Eden Ardhon at his very best."
"So much for sympathy from my loving wife," the elf grumbled. His activities the night before was part of the reason, fruit was the only thing he could eat safely without turning as green as his name.
"Your loving wife?" She stared at him. "In the condition I found you? You were lucky I did not cuff you myself! Am I to understand that in order to marry me you were willing to punish yourself that much?"
"At this moment, I can very much understand my reasoning," Legolas quipped back, not wishing to think too much about the night before.
What of it he could remember anyway.
They say it was tradition among the men of Gondor to celebrate an impending marriage in this way, however as far as Legolas was concerned, it was merely a good excuse to imbibe too much draught. In any case, Legolas had little choice but to endure it since he was the guest of honour in the proceedings. It appeared to be the one tradition that all the males attending the ceremony were happy to participate be they men, elves, hobbit or dwarf. While it did not surprise Legolas in the slightest that Aragorn, Faramir, Eomer, Merry, Pippin, Sam and Gimli were happy to indulge themselves in his supposed honor, the prince was rather astonished to see his father and Celeborn taking part in the festivities.
As it was, Legolas was somewhat surprised to see Celeborn leaving Lorien to attend the ceremony but supposed after giving the matter some thought that Celeborn was not likely to refuse an invitation made by his neighbor and another elven lord. It further surprised Legolas that though Celeborn had attended the wedding, Haldir was absent and had sent his brother Rumil in his place instead. Legolas would have thought that the march warden of Lorien would be certain to come since his younger brother Orophin had joined the colony when Legolas first set out from Mirkwood. However, Legolas could not deny feeling a little glad at the elf's absence since Haldir had paid entirely too much attention to Melia than Legolas would have liked.
Like everything else about this wedding, the celebration took place outdoors for it was the agreed consensus of all that any kind of drinking binge should take place well out of the hearing of their women. Thus, they gathered at a small clearing near the banks of the river that Legolas often used with his men for camping whenever they went hunting for game or for orcs. It was not very far away from Eden Ardhon but there was still a good measure of isolation in its locality that the males engaging in this particular custom required at this time.
A fire burned in the middle of their campsite with food and drink having been laid out by those charged with wedding preparations prior to their arrival. The moods around the fire was one of relaxation, with everyone enjoying a moment of rest after the labors of travelling to attend the ceremony as well the preparation that went into making it happen. The Fellowship still remaining in Middle earth was joined by Thranduil, Celeborn, Orophin, Rumil, Elladan, Elrohir, Pallando and Eomer. Legolas had feared this 'custom' of Gondor would result in a wholly undignified and embarrassing display of inebriation but thankfully he was wrong. The gathering was one of relaxation and good humor.
"You see," Aragorn said with a smile as he rested beneath the foot of a tree, "this was nowhere as bad as you thought? Was it?" The King of Gondor appeared very much like the Ranger as he sat there with his mug of draught in his hand.
"No, it is not," Legolas had to confess as he sipped gently at the dwarf draught that Gimli had brought specifically to the wedding for this evening. He was careful to imbibe it in discreet amounts, aware of what happened to him the last time he drank the stuff in large quantities. "But then so much of this occasion has spiraled out of my control," he remarked a little more sarcastically then he intended.
"Do not think I am unaware of who you refer to when you say that, my son," Thranduil retorted, taking a perverse delight in inspiring his son's utmost chagrin. "I am rather surprised that you were even good enough to tell us that you and the lady were even married at all."
"Yes," Legolas stared at his father with narrowed eyes, "after all, it turned out so well when I did."
"Think of it this way," Aragorn added with a little smile, "at least you have some measure of dignity in all this, for Eden Ardhon is not that peopled. Imagine if you had been forced to wed in Minas Tirith? Arwen and I considered eloping."
"Elrond would have had you recaptured and bound before you even reach the gates of the White City," Celeborn joked with a lopsided grin that indicated that he was no better with dwarf draught than Legolas, despite being far older than any of those present save perhaps the Istar Pallando. "Deny his daughter of her wedding? You were lucky he did not shoot you full of arrows the first time you spoke your feelings about my grand daughter."
"He did give me that look," Aragorn chuckled, remembering the gleam in Elrond's eyes when he had first looked upon Aragorn as a potential suitor for his daughter's hand.
"Yes," Elladan nodded. "You were fortunate he only told you to go reclaim your kingdom before you could marry Arwen. You should have heard his first response to your feelings for my sister."
"His first response?" Aragorn stared at them questioning.
"I do not recall specifically what was said," Elrohir grinned mischievously, "but I am certain the words spoken had some involvement with waiting until Beleriand surfaced from the sea again before allowing that scruffy looking man child anywhere near the Evenstar."
"Scruffy looking?" Aragorn groaned, "why does everyone say that?"
"Because you could not see yourself and we could," Legolas retorted with a grin, glad the focus was taken off him a little.
"It is hard to remained perfectly groomed in the Wild," Aragorn declared haughtily, "is that not true Faramir?"
"Leave me out of this," Faramir quickly replied. "I will not get drawn into this discussion, it will only end badly for me."
"But when you were a Ranger, your camp was behind a waterfall," Samwise Gamgee pointed out. "You would be able to bathe all the time."
"One does not get undressed a good deal when being that close to Mordor," Faramir pointed out. "The only thing worse than dying is to be captured by orcs in the flesh, literally."
"I think I would rather take the death," Merry shuddered in disgust, grateful that nothing like that happened when he and Pippin were captives of the Uruk Hai.
"Do not worry," Gimli said with devilish gleam, "I think they prefer full sized people anyway."
"That paints such a disturbing picture in my head that I think I need another drink," Legolas replied pouring more of the dwarf concoction into his glass. Actually, once one got accustomed to the unrefined taste of it, the draught was rather good.
"Be careful with that," Aragorn warned. "You know how you are with drink."
"Indeed," Thranduil was inclined to agree, having never seen his son imbibe very often, if at all. "The last thing I wish is to have you suffering its consequences on the day of your wedding."
"Trust me," Legolas gave Thranduil a look, "I cannot imagine how much more I could suffer."
"Wait until she decides to plan a wedding for one of your friends," Faramir muttered while downing his drink and showing clear signs of being affected by it, "then you will know true suffering."
"You should not say such things," Thranduil stared at the Lord of Ithilien. "The Lady Eowyn has been most helpful throughout all this."
"I have never seen her this way," Faramir remarked, marveling at the transformation that Eowyn had undergone since becoming Thandruil's unofficial aide in the wedding preparations. "She is like a woman possessed. There was a time I could speak to her as if she were one of my Rangers or councilors, but since this wedding, all I have been able to get out of her is whether or not the tent matches the tablecloth. It is very disturbing. When this is all over, I would like back the woman I married, the one who could teach me a thing or two about the sword, not about the merits of matching place settings."
"I would have liked my lady to come with me on this occasion," Gimli confessed, feeling a little disappointed that Lorin had not deign to journey form the Glittering Caves to join him at the wedding. "However, women of my kind do not like to leave home."
"I would like to see what a dwarf woman looks like," Pippin remarked. "I don't think in all the travelling that we've done, that we've ever seen one."
"They keep mainly to their caves and do not wander greatly," Aragorn explained. In all his years of traveling he could count the number of times he had actually seen a female dwarf and even then he still was not certain if it was a female he had seen. Female dwarves, not only dressed like their males but tended to look the same as well, however, that was not an observation he was about to bring up in front of Gimli, not unless he wanted to be on the receiving end of an axe.
"You know how women are," Sam remarked. "I couldn't get Rosie to come either."
"I think it was the fact that she would have to get here on the back of an eagle that put her off a little Sam," Merry pointed out.
"Well, I wasn't terribly thrilled about it either," Pippin retorted darkly, remembering the humiliating journey to reach Eden Ardhon.
"You should not complain," Thranduil gave the hobbit a look and a stare of that intensity was not something a hobbit could endure for long. "I had a terrible time apologizing to Gwaihir for that mishap."
"Mishap?" Merry started to laugh. "He retched all over that poor eagle! I was certain Gwaihir was going to throw Pippin off."
"In any case," Thranduil rumbled unhappily. "It appears that you will be riding horses back to your lands."
"I think I rather that anyway," Sam answered. "Maybe I could see what a lady dwarf looks like after all."
"My Lorin would be most happy to receive you," Gimli said proudly, never one to refuse the chance to show visitors the Glittering Caves.
"Oh, before I forget to mention it," Aragorn turned to the King of Rohan, "Prince Imrahil wishes to see you when you journey back with us to the White City."
"How is he?" Eomer inquired. In order to attend the wedding, he had ridden from Edoras to Minas Tirith, with little time to pause and socialize before setting out again. Although Eomer would have liked very much to pay a call on Imrahil, there had not been enough time for that if he desired to attend Legolas' wedding.
Aragorn let loose a sly smile, "I have it on good authority that he wishes to marry of his daughter, a great beauty by the name of Lothiriel."
Eomer seemed to grow a shade paler, "and pray tell what does this have to do with me?"
"Take a wild guess," Faramir sniggered.
"Ho, ho," Merry started to laugh. "It appears that Legolas will not be the only one getting married. Perhaps we will gather again for your nuptials Eomer."
"I have not even met the girl!" The King of the Mark started to stammer.
"Might I suggest that you employ Eowyn in the business of arranging the celebrations," Legolas added with no small measure of satisfaction. "The lady is quite adept at managing a spectacular event. Is that not true father?" He gazed at Thranduil snidely.
"She certainly managed here and it will warm my heart seeing you taking center stage tomorrow," Thranduil returned just as sweetly, reminding Legolas that his ordeal was long from over.
"Oh no," Faramir started to groan. "I do not think I can endure Eowyn arranging another wedding."
"There is not going to be a wedding!" Eomer exclaimed exasperated and his ire was further heightened by the look of resignation everyone was giving him. "I am not getting married!"
"Of course not," Aragorn replied with a completely straight face.
Eomer looked at him suspiciously, "are you simply saying that to make me feel better?"
Aragorn smiled faintly. "Of course I am."
Suddenly, Eomer felt like he needed another drink.
Legolas' promise to stay sober lasted as long as it took for Eomer to convince them all that he was not going to be married any time soon, which was to say not very long since they all knew better. Usually when someone had gone to all the trouble to arrange any kind of union, particularly between royal houses, it was more or less a formality for the groom or the bride to actually give their approval. Since Eomer had been King for sometime, there was no way that he could escape impending matrimonial bliss unless he suddenly revealed to Imrahil that he found Elladan rather attractive, which was not entirely true but after five mugs of dwarf draught, seemed like a perfect solution his problem.
Unfortunately, Elladan, who though quite drunk, was not in such a state of blind stupor that he would admit to take part in such a plan.
At some point throughout the night, restraint was discarded completely. While Thranduil, Pallando, Sam and Celeborn snored harmlessly, the younger members of the gathering decided that this would be a grand time to go on an adventure. At least one last adventure before Legolas and Eomer (who was still protesting that he was not getting married) were tied down to a wife for good. Deciding that they never really got to see the insides of Baradur since Frodo had destroyed the One Ring before they were capable of storming its Black Gates, the entire group decided that it was to Mordor they would go.
That Mordor was several days away and that they were all drunk did not once enter their thoughts.
Taking all that could be carried, the remaining three bottles of draught, the party left their gathering place, choosing to enter Mordor by following the River Pouros and then across Ephel Duath, penetrating the ring of mountains that surrounded the dark lands. They were almost to set off when they realized that they would probably need weapons, since none of them were armed. Orophin remarked that Gimli's breath alone would have killed a dozen orcs and to this Legolas concurred since he was on his knees so many times that he was actually the correct height to tell the difference. Aragorn claimed he would need Anduril for not only was it the sword to fight orcs but when brandished correctly made him look very kingly indeed.
Thus the party entered Eden Ardhon, attempting to sneak quietly into what they believed was the armory to gain their weapons. Unfortunately, too much alcohol had greatly reduced Aragorn's sense of direction and instead, they wandered unwittingly into the tents occupied by the entertainers Thranduil had brought from Minas Tirith for the wedding feast the next day. A cry of alarm was sent through the entire colony when the acrobats, believing that they were being accosted by orcs in the dead of night, since all their foes had terrible breaths, used their skills to fight off their attackers.
Rushing to the aid of their brethren, the fire breathers, the jugglers and the knife throwers soon joined the fray. Within minutes, a battle was being waged that involved bodies spinning through the air, colorful balls flung back and forth like projectiles and small, impractical knives barely missing drunken targets. Meanwhile Elladan and Elrohir, tackling one knife thrower, were leapt upon by a fire breather, who nearly set the tent alight in his efforts to aid his comrade. The hobbits, not about to let the twins suffer the indignity of defeat by a pudgy man capable of breathing flame, soon banded together and brought down him down with their small but efficiently pummeling fists.
All this activity brought down the tent, smothering the fire breathers and ensuring that no balls or knives were thrown, as the entire group struggled beneath the canvas, hurling abuse and indignities at each other. One voice, possibly belonging to Eomer or Aragorn, demanded to know why Legolas would keep balls in the armory while another voice, most likely an abused acrobat, wanted to know since when Orcs had such fine blond hair. With no discernible weapon in their keeping, a battle cry echoed through the colony with a distinctly Gondorian accent, telling one side that it would take more than wooden balls to defeat the Fellowship.
It was during all this chaos that Nunaur managed to mobilize his guards to deal with the situation. Melia and Eowyn, still clad in their night dresses but sufficiently armed, braced themselves to fight as they saw the march wardens of Eden Ardhon remove the tent under which the fierce battle was taking place. Once it was removed, they were treated to the sight of tangled limbs and displays of hair pulling, ankle biting and balls trapped in places where there should be no object of any kind.
"Faramir!" Eowyn cried out, recognizing her husband's head locked around the legs of an angry acrobat. "Is that you?"
"You come in good time!" Eowyn heard him shout, "hand me your sword and I'll do away with this shape shifting orc!"
"Shape shifting orc?" Eowyn and Melia muttered looking at each other.
Eowyn shook her head in disgust and then went to rescue her husband whose first response upon being freed told her that they were going to Rohan.
"Rohan?" she managed to ask, pushing his mouth away as he attempted to kiss her with his alcohol drenched lips.
"Yes, your brother is getting married." Faramir grinned.
Somewhere, from under the two acrobats and one juggler piled on top of him and past the throat his hand was wrapped around, Eowyn heard her brother shout, "NO, I'M NOT!"
"Oh can you smell them?" Arwen made her presence known as she reached the scene of the commotion. Terribly pregnant, she did not move as fast as the rest of the elves who were attracted to the noise and were staring in stunned disbelief at the scene before them.
"I think Morgoth in the void could smell them and I believe mine requires assistance." Melia nodded, seeing a familiar lock of blond hair peering through a mountain of bodies. She took a step forward and motioned Nunaur to her. Reaching her hand through the rapidly disintegrating heap, she soon found what she was seeking.
"I have him," she told no one in particular.
Pulling Legolas past the disengaging embrace of a juggler who was latched around his foot with Nunaur's help, the elf burst into a dazed smile when he was under the light of the stars again.
"I think," he said to Melia just before he passed out, "I am getting accustomed to this dwarf draught."
Melia was still sniggering as the memory of how she had found him, produced a smile across her lips. Of course, she, Arwen and Eowyn derived some measure of satisfaction by the suffering of the party this morning when the full consequences of too much drink impressed itself upon them. The colony had split into two factions, those who were still unable to stop laughing each time one of the gathering came into view and those who could do nothing but stare in horrific disbelief. It had taken of Arwen's charm and Thanduil's gold to keep the entertainers from leaving after the previous night's activities and a promise to help them recover all lost balls and knifes.
"Does your head feel any better?" Melia asked gently, feeling a little guilty for amusing herself so much at his expense.
"Do you even care?" Legolas pouted, wondering at the bite marks on his wrist and wondered which one of the acrobats had given him that bruise.
"Of course I care," Melia answered caressing his cheek lightly and kissing him on the lips, "I just wonder whether or not Sam would care to add this chapter in his book about the Fellowship."
"Remind him of it and I will leave you," Legolas warned, feeling even more embarrassed when Melia started to laugh again. The last thing he needed was for the next ten generations to be reminded of what had happened last night. As it was, he was going to have a difficult time enough, trying to block the memory from his own mind.
"Think of it this way," she added after a moment. "At least you did not try to lead the charge against the shape shifting orcs."
Legolas' face grew an even deeper shade of red as he recalled Aragorn's battle cry. "I never thought I could be so ashamed of my behavior."
"Do not worry yourself," she patted his shoulder sympathetically, "you will never have to fear jugglers or acrobats again."
"Very funny," Legolas retorted and looked around their surroundings. "How long do you think we can hide here?"
"I do not know," Melia shrugged. "I am certain that the ceremony would be starting soon."
"I would not be surprise if they are scouring the colony for us," Legolas smiled as he picked up the last piece of fruit between them.
"Probably," Melia sighed. "We cannot remain hidden like this forever."
"I know," Legolas agreed. "Sooner or later they are going to find us."
"You mean sooner," Aragorn's voice suddenly broke through the rustling of fabric of the tent they had been hiding in. They had chosen Thranduil's tent under the notion that it was the last place anyone would suspect the bride and groom to take refuge.
"Hello, Aragorn," Legolas smiled nervously, "how surprising it is to see you here? Were you looking for my father?"
Aragorn stared at him through narrowed eyes and a sore head, "Legolas, you should be ashamed of yourself and you too Melia."
"We were taking a moment," the Ranger attempted to say.
"A moment?" Aragorn snorted, pushing his way past the flaps and sitting down before both of them. "You have the entire population of Eden Ardhon awaiting for your arrival at the ceremony and the captain of the guard, being driven to insanity by Thranduil who insists he find you! If it did not occur to me that you would seek as your sanctuary, the last place anyone would look, I would be still searching as well!"
"I suppose we should brave this," Legolas sighed meeting Melia's gaze.
"How bad could it be?" Melia shrugged.
"Well, if you linger here any longer and your father finds you Legolas, it could be very bad indeed," Aragorn reminded.
"You are a true friend," Legolas gave him a look.
"I know," Aragorn replied, "and as I a true friend, I am compelled to do this." With that, the king of Gondor poked his head out of the tent and shouted loudly, "I FOUND THEM!"
Legolas shook his head in resignation and met Melia's gaze, "to think, I fought at his side."
"Come on, Prince," Melia replied taking her husband's hands. "The sooner we get this done, the sooner you and the King can resume your invasion of Mordor."
Both man and elf exchanged glances with the same thought crossing their minds.