2. Tra la lally
The elf broke off singing with a musical laugh. "Too many tra-la-lallys, brother?" he asked.
"I fear one tra-la-lally is ever one too many, Elladan," said Glorfindel, joining the laughter. "At least have mercy on the ears of your poor horse. Still it certainly is a day for singing. Lord Celeborn, perhaps you could give us something a bit more tuneful."
And truly it was a day for singing. Celeborn obliged with a gentle lyrical song in praise of the beauties of summer, the music itself filled with delicious warmth. The four rode side-by-side through glorious sunlight, dappled only by wisps of cloud. They were close to the Shire now and expected that very soon they would arrive at the famous bridge over the Baranduin. Beyond that point, the king had proclaimed, no man could pass, but the invisible boundary to protect hobbit lands did not apply to elvenkind.
The landscape was softer here than the environs of Imladris with rolling hills and slow rivers rather than babbling mountain streams. The soft drone of insects filled the summer air.
Each rider was lost in his own thoughts as they approached the bridge and crossed into a land that they only knew through the descriptions given by Mithrandir and the hobbits of the fellowship - much as the hobbit-folk had once only known of the elven kingdoms through the tales of rare travellers such as Bilbo Baggins. The Shire side of the river was wooded, but looked well tended. Indeed, flowers had been planted to either side of the road, so that anyone arriving over the bridge was greeted by a burst of colour.
The very instant they had crossed the bridge, an excited squeal burst from the undergrowth and suddenly the four riders were struggling to prevent their horses from trampling a pack of giggling hobbit children underfoot. Glorfindel laughed as he heard a tiny girl gasp breathlessly "They're so beautiful."
Celeborn murmured a few calming words to his mount before he addressed the youngsters. "Good afternoon hobbit folk. Could you tell us if we are on the right road for Brandy Hall?"
"Y-yes sir," replied a small boy, his eyes hidden from the riders by a mop of brown curls.
"Thank you," said the elf-lord and instructed his horse to walk on. The children looked disappointed and Glorfindel couldn't bear to leave them looking so miserable after their first encounter with elves.
"Are you coming to the Free Fair?" he asked them.
A dozen curly heads nodded in reply.
He dropped his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Then we shall see you there, for we have been invited by our old friends the Mayor, the Master and the Thain," he said. The little hobbits looked awed - and Glorfindel was highly amused that, however amazed the children were by seeing elves, the idea that they were the friends of the three most important personages in the Shire was even more impressive.
"Please, lord elf, can you do magic? Like Gandalf?" One of the slightly larger boys piped up. His question caused a flurry of excitement among the children. Glorfindel recalled Mithrandir speaking of how much the Shire- folk loved his fireworks. The memory of the extraordinary wizard clouded his thought for a moment, but Elrohir, bending down to address the hobbits, distracted him.
"Not magic like Gandalf, but we can do this!" said Elrohir, standing up on his horse's back. Barely bending his knees to push off, he leapt upward, grabbing an overhanging tree branch with both hands. With an athletic swing he flipped himself over the branch, then repeated the trick one-handed. The hobbit children cheered.
Elrohir's dismount was even more spectacular, twisting and somersaulting through the air before landing on the ground and making a deep flourishing bow to his astounded audience.
"Thank you. And now we must go, for Master Meriadoc will be waiting," he said as he pulled himself back onto his horse.
As the group set off again, waved on their way by the hobbit children, Elrohir cantered into the lead. Celeborn followed him and Glorfindel winced. The tension between grandfather and grandson had been palpable during the past few days journeying, although Glorfindel couldn't quite put his finger on a particular cause and feared that to speak to either would only make matters worse.
Elven whispers were no match for elven hearing, so even keeping a polite distance Glorfindel could hear Celeborn's hissed criticism.
"Elrohir, we are guests of honour here, not a troop of travelling performers."
"They were children and it made them laugh," bit back the younger elf. "We hear precious little of children's laughter in Imladris."
"You and your brother more than make up for it."
"Indeed at nearly 3,000 years old we are apparently too young to take care of an almost uninhabited valley without our grandfather's help."
Glorfindel urged his horse forward to interrupt and saw that Elladan had done the same. The pair exchanged a glance of annoyance that the pleasant ride had been spoiled. For a moment the shared look put Glorfindel in mind of Elladan's father and how easily he and Elrond had been able to read each other's thoughts after centuries of working together.
Elrond's sons had been good companions to him this last score of years, but, he mused, truly great friendships were rare and precious. Once again, however, his descent into melancholy was interrupted. As the riders rounded a bend in the road Elladan pointed out a thin thread of chimney smoke rising above the trees.
A few moments later they saw Brandy Hall.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.