“Well, we managed to get away,” said Haldir.
Orophin nodded, waiting for Haldir to explode in indignation at having been insulted. But Haldir was strangely subdued.
“I guess it came in useful that I look like a nut…” He grinned at Orophin and sank back into his own thoughts.
Orophin thought to himself that on the rare occasions when his brother wasn’t brimming with overconfidence, he could actually be quite likeable. “You’re a good actor, Hal,” he said.
Haldir shrugged. “I don’t know.”
Orophin was startled. Was this the Haldir he knew and disliked? Orophin caught sight of a “poem” carved on a Mallorn nearby. “And you’re a good poet, too,” he said, lying blatantly in a vague attempt to cheer his brother up.
“No, I’m not,” said Haldir.
Haldir was admittedly obnoxious when he was cheerful, but surprisingly enough, Orophin did not like to see him in this strangely depressed mood.
“How are things going with Mary Sue,” he asked, switching to what he thought was a more cheerful subject.
“Not very well,” said Haldir. “She says that I’m always acting and posturing and carrying on like I’m the Valar’s gift to elvenkind, and she’ll have none of it, she says.”
“Ah,” said Orophin. Mary Sue seemed to be a pretty perceptive lady.
“So that’s why I did all this poetry stuff,” continued Haldir, “as a sort of a last ditch attempt to impress her.”
Orophin felt that he knew the solution to Haldir’s problems with Mary Sue. All his brother had to do was to act normal – as he was doing now. But his choice of words was unfortunate.
“Hal, it’s when you’re trying to impress people that you’re the most annoying…”
Haldir turned on Orophin with a nasty glare. “First you say that I look like a girl and then you say that I’m an obnoxious show-off…”
Orophin lost his temper too. “I’m just stating the facts,” he yelled, and then stopped himself short.
His brother’s deep blue eyes actually looked hurt. Terribly hurt. Orophin was now at a loss. He had perfected the art of putting his brother down, but had not the faintest idea how to do the opposite.
“Are you all right, Hal,” he ventured, rather lamely.
“Oh, I’m fine, just fine,” said Haldir sarcastically. “I’m being hunted by an army of Orcs, I’ve practically lost Mary Sue, I’m being insulted by an idiot brother and all that remains is for me to have my head bitten off by the Lord Celeborn. I’ll go and take care of that right away…”
“Hal, will you shut up and listen to me.”
“I didn’t mean to insult you. All I’m saying is that you don’t have to do all this weird stuff to get people to like you. Just be yourself.”
Haldir wondered whether he had heard Orophin right.
“Well, go ahead and get your head bitten off by Lord Celeborn – don’t let me hold you back,” said Orophin.
“Just give me a moment to get my breath back,” said Haldir. “This is the first time in my life that a brother has opened his mouth and an insult hasn’t come out of it.”
But Haldir was, regrettably, denied the opportunity to get his breath back. In fact his breath was completely knocked out of him by Rumil, who just at that moment ran full-tilt into him at lightning speed. Haldir moaned gently as a gorgeous constellation of stars miraculously materialised before his eyes. Rumil picked himself up quickly, and unceremoniously dragged Haldir back onto his feet. “We’ve got to get you out of here,” he said breathlessly. “There’s an army of Orcs after you.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Haldir, “we just met.”
“But how did you get away from them? Did you escape?”
“You could say that.”
“But it was twenty eight against two! How did you manage to…”
“We’ll skip over that part, if you don’t mind.” The girl business still rankled.
But Rumil was now surveying Haldir critically. “You look too conspicuous dressed like that. You’d better change. I’m going to take you to Caras Galadhon and we don’t want to get caught on the way.” He thrust a bundle of old clothes into Haldir’s arms. “There you are. I brought these along just in case you were wearing something strange.”
Burning with indignation, Haldir scrambled up a nearby mallorn and changed into Rumil’s old marchwarden gear.
When he came back, Rumil still wasn’t satisfied. “Your hair. It looks ridiculous. Do your hair properly.”
Haldir glared at him. “What is this? Take-potshots-at-your-brother-day or what?”
But he disappeared, this time for a long while, to redo his hair. When he got back, most of the braids were gone. His brothers stared at him speechlessly.
“What’s the matter now,” snapped Haldir, mistaking the reason for their stare. “D’you want me to go and change my face now or what?”
“Far from it,” said Rumil, surprisingly. “Hal, I don’t believe it! You actually look good!”
“Is that a compliment or an insult,” enquired Haldir, secretly pleased.
Rumil handed him a bow and a quiver of arrows. “There you are,” he said, surveying his brother with satisfaction. Haldir slung them onto his shoulders. He looked suspiciously at Rumil and Orophin.
Had these two entered into a conspiracy to transform him into a “bare bones” Haldir, a “less is more” Haldir? It was pretty embarrassing to discover what his brothers thought of him. They seemed to think that he was nothing but an overdressed, posturing effeminate-looking show-off.
Well, he had other things to worry about at present. “Do you know why those Orcs are after me,” he asked.
Rumil nodded. “Yes, I got the whole story out of Gollum. But we’d better get going. I’ll tell you all about it on the way.”
Haldir and his brothers set off, almost invisible in their grey elven cloaks, making their noiseless way though the golden mallorns of L’Oreal to the city of Caras Galadhon.