To Overcome the Shadow - Chapter Two -- The Feast
Estel stopped, spun the two elves around to face him and chuckled, "Alright, you two. What is going on here?"
"Nothing. Nothing at all," the twins quickly replied, a guilty look crossing their faces.
Estel laughed, "Come, come, my friends. Elladan, neither your brother nor I are 'beautiful when wet.' Could it be that you two are falling for yonder elf-maidens?"
"Look!" shouted Elrohir, somewhat relieved to change the subject, "Here comes Legolas!"
At that moment, Legolas came trotting towards them from the direction of the house, a smug look on his fair face. "My, my. Aren't you a bedraggled lot!"
"Even your pretty hair would look stringy if you had gone for an unexpected swim, Prince Legolas," smirked Elladan. Then he grinned, "Welcome to Imladris, my friend!" The boisterous twin gave Legolas a bear hug, "Did you just arrive? How did you find us here?"
"Your father, for one. I just delivered a letter to him from my father. I also ran into two of the loveliest and most dangerous she-elves in all of Imladris. They pointed me in this direction," laughed Legolas. "So tell me. I'm dying to hear the story behind this!"
Elrohir and Elladan related the story to their two friends, who soon had tears streaming down their faces from laughter. "They really got you good this time my friends," gasped Legolas, clutching his stomach.
"Yes, they did. Which is why you can help us tonight, Legolas," whispered Elrohir.
"Yes, seeing as you are quite good at doing hair, Prince," chuckled Elladan.
Legolas glared at him, "And what makes you think I will help you? Give me three good reasons."
"One," said Elladan, "It will take a long time to accomplish our task and an extra pair of hands will be most appreciated."
"Two," continued Elrohir, with a rare twinkle in his eye, "Because of what they did to you last time you were here."
Legolas groaned at the memory.
"What did they do?" asked Estel eagerly.
The twins remained silent, thinking that embarrassing Legolas would not help gain his support. "Three," said Elladan with a grin, "It will be so much fun! You know you want to."
Legolas thought for a minute. "Well, I suppose, if I must," he said with a mock sigh. "What are the plans?"
"Well... Oh no you don't, young man!" said Elrohir, grabbing Estel's arm as he tried to sneak off. "You're in this as well. Someone has to stand watch." Estel weakly protested as Elrohir continued, "First, we need to get her good and tired, which means lots of dancing at the feast tonight."
"That will be a pleasant task," commented Legolas.
"Maybe we could get her drunk," suggested Elladan with an evil grin. At least, it was as evil as an elf's grin can get. "Or drug her drink."
"Make it too obvious and she'll suspect," pointed out Estel.
"Yes," said Elrohir, "though I suppose it is too much to hope for that she will not notice when she wakes up. She'll never live this one down if she leaves her room tomorrow."
Chuckling, the four reached the house and separated after agreeing on a meeting place after the feast. The twins sneaked down the halls, hoping to avoid being noticed in their wet clothes. They started to relax as they neared their rooms, but rounding a corner, suddenly ran smack into Lord Elrond.
"Ahhh. Just the two I was looking for. Shall we talk?" asked Lord Elrond, nodding in the direction of his study.
Elladan and Elrohir agreed and walked in front of their father, trying not to look too guilty. Elrond was doing his best to keep a straight face and not laugh at his sons' surprised looks and damp appearances. Elrohir pushed open the door to the study, and stopped right in the doorway, glaring at the two figures sitting in comfortable chairs and chatting merrily. "Why does it surprise me that they manage to change clothes and look quite pretty and innocent before they got caught, while we come in looking like wet rats?" muttered Elrohir.
"It really should not surprise you, brother. They always manage. Though they are a pretty sight, don't you agree?" commented Elladan.
An "Ahem!" from Elrond sent them striding into the room, trying to look as dignified as possible. Tanie and Ninque raised their eyebrows as the twins walked in and smiled hello. Elrond strode over to his desk and retrieved three things from behind it. "Ninquetolliel, I believe this belongs to you," said Elrond, handing her a bow. "Elrohir, your sword. And I believe all four of you have something to do with this basket," he said, holding the object up. "Care to tell me what happened?"
"Well, that went well!" said Tanie brightly after the four left Elrond's study.
"Well?" exclaimed Elrohir. "You call kitchen duty all day tomorrow, well?"
"It is not as bad as some punishments we've had in the past," returned Tanie.
"You two had better go change. You're starting to smell like wet elf. No one is going to want to sit next to or dance with you tonight!" laughed Ninque.
"You and Tanie will!" yelled Elladan and grabbed them both around the waist and spun around.
"Hey! You're getting us all wet!" shrieked Tanie.
"You orc!" yelled Ninque, "Now we have to change again!"
"Oh you poor dears," said Elrohir sweetly. "Beat you to dinner!" The twins dashed down the hall leaving Tanie and Ninque staring after them. The girls looked at each other, shook their heads, and dashed to their rooms.
"Are you ready, Tanie?" Ninque asked through the door to Tanie's room.
"Almost!" Tanie yelled back. The door opened and Tanie walked out, just finishing the final braid in her long blonde hair. She was clothed in a floor-length pale green dress with grey flowy sleeves and collar, and a slender belt around her waist. Ninque was wearing a similar dress, yet in blue with a wide sash. Both elf-maidens had their hair pulled back into a braid in the back and two slender braids curving down and around their ears.
"Done." Tanie muttered, tying off the braid. "Dresses are so uncomfortable."
Ninque grinned. "Let's go. Dinner is probably already over by now. You've taken forever."
The elves made their way down the hallway and into the Fire Hall, where most of the elven company was already gathered. Long tables had been set up lengthwise along the hall, with one table perpendicular and raised on a slight platform. Here, Lord Elrond and his family ate, along with the lesser lords of Imladris, such as Glorfindel and Erestor. Tanie and Ninque took seats at one of the long tables, close to the dais. Slowly, the Hall began to fill as more elves entered from the doors on either sides of the Hall. All rose in respect as Lord Elrond along with his children and the Prince of Mirkwood entered and took their seats at the head table. Tanie couldn't help grinning at the regal looks on the twins' faces. She leaned over and whispered in Ninque's ear.
"They look rather princely, don't they?"
Ninque suppressed a snort, yet couldn't keep a grin from spreading across her face. Elladan noticed and raised an eyebrow condescendedly. Lord Elrond took his seat, and the feast began. Laughter and music filled the hall as the wine flowed freely and plates were refilled numerous times. After the feast, the tables were cleared away and the dancing began. Ninque smiled as a group of elf children, along with Arien, a young mortal child living in Imladris, formed a circle and began to dance.
First, as agreed, Estel approached Ninque.
"May I be honoured by this dance, fair maiden of the bow?" he asked with a bow.
"Why certainly, oh Waterlogged Mortal One. Who could resist your charm?" Ninque replied with a curtsy and as straight a face as she could muster. Tanie watched in amusement as the mortal swung Ninque around the hall. However intricate his steps, Ninque followed as gracefully as only an elf could. After the dance, Ninque plopped herself back into her chair, breathing hard.
"You'd think he was trying to..." she was broken off as Legolas approached and grabbed her hand.
"My turn!" he exclaimed, swinging Ninque off before she had a chance to reply.
So went the whole night. First Legolas, then Elrohir, then Estel, followed by Elladan and then Legolas again. Ninque was whirled all around the hall, with hardly a break between dances. As for Tanie, she had never been so bored in her entire life!
Well, there was that one time Lord Elrond had punished her and Ninque for putting sand in the twins' drawers...Tanie giggled as she recalled the discomfort of the twins that day at breakfast. They hadn't seemed to quit squirming! Lord Elrond had not thought it had been very amusing though. He had made the girls sit perfectly still in his study all morning as punishment. They had both been sore for days afterwards.
But tonight came close. She had never had a problem getting a dance before! Each of the twins always danced with her and Ninque the majority of the time, and Estel and Legolas never failed to dance with each of the elf-maidens when they visited.
"Something is not right here." She though as she watched Elrohir dance with Ninque for the fifth time that night. Tanie noticed Ninque was starting to look a little fatigued. "I guess I had better go rescue her before she collapses." Tanie thought with a sigh. "Then maybe I can steal a dance myself."
Elladan noticed Tanie making her way towards Ninque and nudged Legolas, nodding in her direction. Legolas winked and headed to cut off the elf.
"Lady Tanie!" he called. "Would you care to dance?"
Tanie turned, hands on hips, and glared at Legolas. "Legolas Greenleaf! You could have asked me any time tonight to dance with you, yet why do I get the feeling you are only asking me now to keep me away from Ninque?"
Legolas sported a puzzled look on his face as he drew Tanie to the middle of the dance floor. "M'lady! I have no idea what you are talking about. I only wish to dance with one of the most beautiful elf-maidens in all Imladris. Perhaps you've had a touch too much mead?"
Tanie rolled her eyes, unconvinced.
Ninque, on the other hand, was oblivious to the strange behavior of the three male elves and Dunadan. What little worries she had had been dispelled during her first dance with Elladan.
"I see you got all the egg out of your hair." Ninque smirked.
"Yes, after scrubbing it for hours. But I guess I deserved it." Elladan replied with an indifferent shrug.
Ninque blinked in surprise. Elladan? Admitting he was in the wrong? Somehow she didn't believe him.
"All right, Elladan. Give it up! What are you conniving now?"
Elladan looked shocked. "I'm not conniving anything! As far as I am concerned we are officially even."
"Soooooooo...The game is over? No more pranks?" Ninque asked, still not sure she was hearing correctly.
Elladan tilted his head in thought. "Yes, I believe so."
The midnight hour sounded and the dancing ended. Ninque sighed in relief. She felt like she would collapse any minute. Couches and chairs were set up around a great fire that had been lit in the magnificent fireplace. Isil sent its shafts of heavenly light down through the tall windows opposite the fireplace. All the other lights were extinguished, leaving the room in twilight. Tanie joined Ninque on one of the couches. This was her favorite part of the feasts. She glanced towards Elrohir, who was seated on the opposite side of the fireplace, and caught him staring at her. The red light of the fire flickered across his face, the smoothness of his skin reflecting an unearthly light. He stared intently into Tanie's eyes, then slowly gave a small smile. Tanie had never seen Elrohir look at her like that before. She felt a strange stirring in the pit of her stomach.
A clear voice raised in song suddenly broke the stillness. Tanie broke off her gaze and closed her eyes. "The mead must have gone to his head." Tanie thought. "Or maybe..." a little voice in her head said, "It is not the wine that is making him act so strangely." Tanie slammed the door on that thought. She was not about to let some drunken elf distract her from enjoying this time of songs and tales. As one of the most beloved songs of the elves filled the hall, a few of the other elves picked up harps, pipes, and lutes, and began to accompany the singer:
A Elbereth Gilthoniel,
Silivren penna míriel
O menel aglar elenath!
O galadhremmin ennorath,
Fanuilos, le linnathon
Nef aear, sí nef aearon!
The song ended, but another immediately began.
Elladan, occupying the chair beside Ninque, leaned over and whispered coyly, "Would m'lady care to bless us with thy sweet voice?"
Ninque smiled sweetly at the twin. "Only if thou wilt dance, m'lord. I am sure I could convince Lord Elrond to let you show off your exceptional skill."
"Oh." Elladan replied, looking slightly worried. "Well, you see, all of that dancing with you has made my legs rather weak." He leaned down with a moan and rubbed his lower legs, trying to look as sorrowful as possible.
Ninque rolled her eyes, "Well, fortunately for you, this song does not require dancing." She turned to Tanie. "Do you have your pipe handy, Tanie?"
Tanie, broken out of her reveries, acted offended. "Do I have my pipe? My dear friend, I am one of the best known pipers in all of Imladris and you ask me if I am prepared to demonstrate my famous dexterity?" Tanie reached down and removed a slender reed pipe from a pocket cunningly hidden in the folds of her dress.
Ninque gaped. "How in the world did you get a pocket in your dress? That's not fair!"
Tanie grinned. "I can sew you know," she replied.
Before Ninque could retaliate, Tanie raised the pipe to her lips and began to play. Clear notes began to flow through Tanie's fingers, filling the room with music unmatched in all of Imladris. Ninque closed her eyes and began to sing:
Cuiant Gil-Galad taur edhellen.
O then i thelegain naer linnar
I vedui uin airdh vain ar lain
Min eryd ar i 'aer.
And lang dín, laeg ech dín
Palan-gennir thôl dín siriol
In ngeil arnediad o parth menel
Cennir vi thand dín celebren
Dân io anann palan-norn
Ar ias dortha alben ista
Vi dúath dannant gîl dín
Vi Mordor ias dorthach morchaint *
Tanie drew out the last note, fading softly into silence.
"Beautiful." Commented Lord Elrond, sitting in a high backed chair at the head of the semi-circle. "You two are both truly talented. And I am not refering only to music." He added with a kindly grin. Laughter was heard all around the room. The on-going battle between the she-elves and the sons of Elrond was well known by everyone, especially by those who had been caught unsuspectingly in their mislaid traps. Tanie and Ninque nodded their heads in respectful gratitude, smiles of their own spreading across their faces.
Many more songs were sung that night, songs of stars, and of beauty, and of the glorious days of ages long past, when the Elves were experiencing the height of their glory, and all Middle-earth was filled with light and music, before the coming of Men, or the Dark Lord.
At last, `Elbereth' was sung by all to close the night of feasting and joy. Tanie turned to say something to Ninque and, lo and behold! She had fallen asleep! Her head was leaning back, her legs drawn up on the couch. Tanie leaned over and began to shake Ninque awake, when a hand was laid softly on her arm. Elladan shook his head silently, then leaned down and slipped his arms under Ninque's shoulders and knees. Lifting her up, he bore her out of the Hall and into her room. He laid her softly on her bed, drawing a blanket up close around her. He leaned down and softly brushed back a tendril of Ninque's hair that had fallen across her face. Then, bidding Tanie goodnight, he turned and left. Tanie stood in the middle of Ninque's room, as confused as ever. Why would Elladan carry Ninque to bed? That was just so...un-Elladan. Either he wanted her to stay asleep, "Which would explain why they were all dancing with her, to get her extremely tired," she thought. Or he...was in love? With Ninque?
"No." Tanie said, shaking her head. "It can't be." She recalled the look on Elladan's face as he had carried Ninque to her room. She couldn't help but realize that is was the exact same look Elrohir had given her earlier that evening.
"Oh!" she thought crossly. "You think you have them all figured out, and then something like this happens! Something is not right here, and we'll probably find out in the morning, one way or another." Tanie thought of all the horrible pranks that could happen while Ninque and she were asleep. "Or," her little voice had returned. "Just think, they could ask to court you..."
"Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!" Tanie shrieked in frustration, slapping her hands over her ears. Ninque groggily opened her eyes and stared at her distraught friend. "What in all of Arda are you screeching about, Tanie? Can't you see it is time for sleep?"
"Oh. Sorry, Ninque. I didn't mean to wake you, it's just..." Tanie sighed at the complexity of the problem. "Oh, never mind, go back to sleep."
Ninque, too tired to push the question, rolled over and promptly returned to sleep.
For extra security, Tanie locked Ninque's door as she left, then retreated to her own room, where she locked her own door and fell into a troubled sleep.
*Translation of poem (some of you just might recognize it from the FOTR ):
Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
The last whose realm was fair and free
Between the Mountains and the Sea.
His sword was long, his lance was keen,
His shining helm afar was seen;
The countless stars of heaven's field
Were mirrored in his silver shield.
But long ago he rode away,
And where he dwelleth none can say;
For into darkness fell his star
In Mordor where the shadows are.
Special thanks to Neneithel for helping translate it! And thanks to all you wonderful people who commented last time!