As Jo and Ceinwen descended into the Great Hall, elven music began playing and many fair and dark haired elves turned to watch them walk down the majestic red-carpeted sweeping staircase.
Jo twiddled her thumbs behind her back, while Ceinwen fiddled with the sleeve of her dress.
“It’s like they’re all staring at us.” Ceinwen muttered in Jo’s ear.
“That’s because they are.” replied Jo very sarcastically. By the time they had reached the hall floor, most of the elves had got up to dance or were talking and laughing merrily amongst themselves.
“What should we do?” asked Ceinwen.
“Admire the hall, admire the hall…” Jo breathed, though there was no need to tell her friend to do so. Both girls were amazed by the sheer, well, elvishness of the building; a tall high ceiling, arched and decorated with wooden sculptures of a beautiful woman, flinging what appeared to be the stars into space.
Down from the ceiling draped long fluttering hand-woven banners of blue and green, red and gold, lilac and silver, orange and yellow, and many other vibrant colours that neither of them could put a name to. High glassless windows that rose form the floor to an immense height let in a refreshing breeze.
Outside, evening drew to its close and night swiftly covered the land, though by the hall, it was kept at bay by hundreds of flickering silver lanterns, lighting up the joyful face of every person. There were twenty to thirty large round tables hugging the edges of the hall, leaving a perfect sized dancing space for the guests.
Suddenly, a warm hand landed on Jo’s shoulder, causing her to jump.
“Elrohir! What are you trying to do, scare me to death?” she half-laughed.
“Not quite… you haven’t seen my dancing yet…” a voice mumbled in her ear, and Elrohir came around in front of her.
“May I say, you both look exceedingly beautiful tonight.” Elrohir commented smoothly, though his eyes remained on Jo. Ceinwen nudged her hard in the ribs, and tried to control her snickering.
“Come – Elladan is waiting for you at our table.” he told Ceinwen, and taking Jo’s hand, led her helplessly through the crowded floor, as she frantically tried to hit her friend for sniggering at her.
“Shut up!” she hissed, but Ceinwen’s eyes were now watering with laughter.
Elrohir led them to a table near a large arched window that went out onto a balcony, over looking the main entrance to Rivendell. Elladan had been sitting patiently, but now he jumped to his feet and took Ceinwen’s hand. “I have seldom seen a maiden so fair.” he said, and lay a gentle kiss on the back of her hand.
Ceinwen blushed furiously, and now it was Jo’s turn to conceal her giggles.
“Come, be seated.” encouraged both twins, and they both pulled out chairs for the girls, who sat down rather awkwardly. It wasn’t long before they had both chilled out a little and were chatting happily with the boys.
After about half an hour, the hall seemed about full and everybody took a seat at a table and fell silent. Ceinwen looked around curiously.
“What now?” she whispered to Jo, but she just shrugged. Then they saw them – Lord Elrond, and Lady Celebrían, hand in hand, floating gracefully down the stairs, bathed in a soft white glow. Ceinwen and Jo gasped in awe – Celebrían was wearing a pure white flowing dress, sown with diamonds, and she shone brighter than the moon and the stars.
Elrond wore extravagant rich purple robes, and a silver circlet was bound upon his brow. All the members of the hall rose silently to their feet and waited until the Lord and Lady had seated themselves. It took Jo a few seconds to realise that they were heading directly for their table, and she gulped loudly.
Elrond gently pulled out a chair for his wife, who placed herself gracefully upon it, then sat down himself, followed quickly by the rest of the hall. Soon, music started up again and the mumble of voices and laughter was heard once more.
“You girls look very nice in those dresses,” remarked Elrond, “a very good choice, Celebrían.” All three girls replied “Thank-you” and the whole table laughed. “Ceinwen, Jo, let me introduce you to some friends – this is Glorfindel,”
– he pointed to a respectable blonde elf, who smiled politely,-
– two dark haired elves waved enthusiastically,
-” Yurewen, Aranien, Tari, Anuden and Ossirel.”
All five greated them happily, and Ceinwen and Jo returned them warm smiles. The light conversation went on for a little while longer, but Jo suddenly realised that she was absolutely starving, and couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten.
“I hope they bring some food out soon,” she whispered to Ceinwen, rubbing her stomach.
“Tell me about it,” her friend replied, “I’m famished!”
As if Elrond had heard their comments, he called loudly, “Bring out the food!” and as quick as a flash, about a hundred unknown dishes were brought to each table by a waiter.
As both girls eyed the mysterious foods curiously, the hall fell silent again and Elrond rose to his feet.
“My dear friends, family members, and, more importantly, guests, “he spoke clearly, eyes twinkling at the girls, “We are gathered here tonight to welcome into our midst two strangers to our land,”
-Ceinwen’s heart pounded loudly in her chest-,”
and to greet them with our usual display of unnecessary splendour and extravagance.” A low mumble of laughter rolled around the room. Jo clung onto Ceinwen’s hand, knowing what was coming next…
“So if our new guests would like to stand up and say a few words, we can begin our feast.” and Elrond sat down, all eyes now focused on Ceinwen and Jo. Rising nervously to their feet, Ceinwen yanked her hand back from Jo, who smiled awkwardly around at the crowd of 200 elves or so.
“We, er, would just, um, like to say how – wonderful it is to be here. And – er – that we couldn’t have hoped to have – met a nicer… crowd of people. So thank-you Lord Elrond, Lady Celebrían, for being so – nice.” Ceinwen finished lamely, sitting back down s quickly as possible, accompanied by Jo.
“What do you call that?” Jo whispered in Ceinwen’s ear again, who rolled her eyes. However, it seemed to satisfy their audience and a large round of applause broke out. They breathed a sigh of relief. “Now,” grinned Elrohir, “For the feast!”
Ceinwen and Jo had never seen so much food in all their lives. Piles of fruits and other delicacies seemed to simply keep appearing! As they ate and chatted, merry laughter, and even singing, filled the magnificent hall. Though Jo was trying out foods merrily, Ceinwen didn’t seem to be eating.
Elladan noticed. He leaned over. “Ceinwen, wont you try some Alcarnos? Its delicious!” Ceinwen took the circular silver-blue sausage-shaped object off him.
“What is it?” “A fruit, it grows in my mothers orchard. She loves her trees.” Ceinwen hesitated no further, and tucked in happily.
Beside her, Jo nearly choked on her…whatever this delicious brown loaf was. “Oops, sorry Ceinwen, I forgot!” then to Elladan, “She’s vegetarian, and she doesn’t like saying it because she thinks she’s being rude.” she informed him.
“Jo!” said Ceinwen through gritted teeth. Elladan laughed. “Don’t worry, we never eat meat here unless we have to! We believe, unlike the wood-elves, that unnecessary killing is disrespectful to nature.”
Ceinwen’s mouth dropped open. “Really?”
Ceinwen didn’t answer, she was too busy catching up, eating as much as she could. Jo grinned. “At least I won’t have to put up with your hungry moans later!”
When they were all beginning to feel distinctly full, Elrond stood up. “I just wish to say,” he announced, “Thank you everyone for your company, thank you Celebrían and company for the delicious food-” everyone applauded “-and thank you to our guests, for honouring us with their company.”
More applause. Jo and Ceinwen blushed. Jo thought she might as well have her go at a speech, as the moment seemed to call for it. She stood up hesitantly, and everyone went quiet. You could have heard a pin drop.
“Um, I would like to say how nice (why did I use that word? Why? she silently cursed herself) you all are, and how ni-lovely the food was, and that we are feeling very welcome, and thank you so much for the dinner and your company and this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been and, um, well I think that’s it actually, so, um, yes,” and she sat down with a bump, breathing fast.
Everyone laughed, but not nastily, and clapped. Elrond got up again. “Thank you Jo for that, and may I offer you both our hospitality in my house for as long as you need it, and hopefully longer.” Everyone sensed this was the end of the speeches, and began to talk and laugh again.
Later, they were walking in the gardens. Yavanna was in the middle of explaining to Elladan what electricity is. “So the current-”
“No, CURRENT, well anyway, it goes through the wires, and gets to the telephone, or whatever,-“
“It’s a plastic thing you speak into-”
“Um, well it’s a type of material made from oil. Anyway, the current goes into the electrical thing, through the plug, and-“
“Oh, I give up!”
“I’m sorry, would you like me to stop asking questions?”
Ceinwen had to laugh. “No, don’t worry about it! I’m sure you don’t need to know about electricity anyway!”
Suddenly Elrohir, who had been ahead picking up some bright stones from the side of the path, straightened up and looked back. “Where is Jo?” he called. “She was with you, wasn’t she?”
“No,” called back Ceinwen, “she was with YOU!” They all stopped dead and looked around worriedly.
Ceinwen was soon verging on complete loss of self-control. “Jo! Jo, get your ass back here before I-I-I- just get back!” she screamed like a mad woman, but to little effect.
Elladan and Elrohir were transfixed by the change from a sweet gentle girl to a stark raving lunatic.
“Ceinwen, please,” Elladan tried desperately to calm her down, knowing they would soon attract the attention of the whole of Rivendell. However, he might as well have been a tree for all the notice she took of him.
She began to frantically jump through the surrounding trees and would soon have been out of sight if Elladan hadn’t strongly grabbed her and pulled her around. Furiously she began yelling at him. “Get off me! Now! Let me go! JO! You’re not just going to leave me like this!”
“Ceinwen, come on this isn’t really going to help now is it – “he began.
“How do you know? She could be anywhere! What if she’s hurt? Or can’t move? Or can’t speak? JO!” She now sounded more like a screaming banshee than a teenage girl, and Elladan was lost as to how to calm her down. He hadn’t the faintest idea what to do!
“Um, brother?” called Elrohir feebly from behind.
“Not now! Can’t you see I’m busy?” Elladan called back agitated.
“Well, yes, but -” —
“But Elladan -” —
“Can’t you just wait for crying out loud!”
“JO’S STANDING BEHIND YOU, YOU IDIOT!” he bellowed.
Everything went silent. Ceinwen stopped struggling and spun around. Elladan looked over her shoulder, and his jaw dropped. Standing beneath the trees, very much alive, uninjured and very much able to speak, was Jo, smiling mockingly, a bunch of flowers in one hand, the other on her hip.
“You haven’t lost anything now, have you Ceinwen?” she asked innocently, obviously trying very hard to hide a smile. Her eyes gave her away – they twinkled devilishly at her friend and the elder twin. Ceinwen removed herself from Elladan’s grasp with as much dignity as she could muster, and held her head high.
“Are – you – alright?” she asked through gritted teeth.
“Mmmn, let me see…”replied Jo, pretending to frown, “Well, two arms, two legs, 10 fingers, one head….yep, I’m all here! I was just picking some flowers you see…” and she held up the brightly coloured bouquet as evidence, but the glint in her eyes shone stronger than ever.
“Good.” Behind them, Ceinwen and Elladan could hear Elrohir desperately attempting to stifle his hysterical laughter, without much luck.
“But are you alright Ceinwen?” Jo inquired, looking concerned, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth, “You look quite – ruffled there. With Elladan. Oh my!” She covered her mouth with her hand and widened her eyes. “I didn’t interrupt anything did I?”
Elladan coughed uncomfortably. Ceinwen began to splutter indignantly.
“I think, Elrohir, that we had better leave these two alone – don’t you?” and Jo swept past the pair, who stood rooted to the spot, Ceinwen still stuttering.
“My Lady,” laughed Elrohir, as he took her hand, playing the game with her, “I must say, I couldn’t agree more! Now let me show you this wonderful grove of trees…” and he led her off, as she sent an evil grin back to Ceinwen, and they disappeared around the corner and out of sight.
It was a little while before either Ceinwen or Elladan spoke. “Of course, we knew where she was, all along.” she stated in a matter-of-fact-way.
“Oh yes, undoubtedly, just a game. “came Elladan’s earnest reply.
“A game! Yes, nothing more, we knew she was fine.” —
“Just trying to fool them.” —
“Oh yes, thats the one.”
Ceinwen nodded furiously.
“A game…” —
There was silence for a moment. Ceinwen sighed. “They’re never going to let us live that down, are they?” Elladan shook his head smiling evilly. “Of course, we’ll have to get them back you know…” and scheming, they followed the others up the path.