3. The Plotting Begins
That agreed, they had also elected a moderator. None of the House of Fëanor would accept any human (or anyone connected to a family that had withheld a Silmaril or hindered the Fëanorian's in their quest, for that matter), and the Houses of Men represented were none too thrilled at having an Elven moderator. Pippin of the Hobbits stood eagerly before the assembled powers, and was readily accepted by all. His penchant for humour, creativity, mischief and an all-consuming hunger ensured that whatever methods adopted would be ingenious, colourful and quick.
Pippin started the talks, saying "What we need is to attack this from all angles..."
"You will NOT be attacking my SON!" cried Thranduil.
"No, I meant attacking this problem, not attacking him, sir. What I meant was, well, what are the usual ways to get information from someone?"
"Blackmail?" suggested Denethor. The former Steward had already proven this night that seeing into the Dark Lord's mind had not been his only ambition with the Palantír when he let slip a few well-kept and personal secrets about important members of his household, family and Gondorian officials. The result had been a few muttered oaths, an increase in room temperature around the offended, and a considerable pool of dark looks. Prince Imrahil had been heard muttering "So that's what he was up to in the long dark nights."
"Torture?" offered a dark figure leaning against a wall. The suggestion came of a fell and shadowed voice. Standing fully upright, Angmar's once-powerful king moved slowly towards the group, followed by his retinue of Black Númenoreans. "It has its merits, even if some gathered here will not concede them. For instance, it has a wonderful potential to make..."
"We will not listen to the suggestions of one so tainted by the blood of the faithful!" cried Arveleg, son of Argeleb of the line of Kings amongst the Dúnedain. "Not after all the trouble you caused!" added Elrond, still hotly remembering the many slain friends, and the terrible stains made to his favourite hauberk.
"Go back to the shadows!" hissed Elendil.
To this, Merry cautiously mentioned something about avoiding copyright infringement and was pointedly ignored. The Witch-King and his contingent turned and stalked off, muttering dark oaths and calling Rhudaur, Lindon and Cardolan attempts at friendly conversation. They stomped all the way back to the darker southeastern corner of the Hall, returning from whence they came. This corner had earlier been "affectionately" called the Black Barrow by Merry and Pippin: a gathering of some of the more blackened, but no less infamous members of Middle Earth's history, including Ar-Pharazôum;n, many of the people of Rhudaur, most of the Haradrim lords, just about all those who had the word "Black" attached to their names, and the Artist-formerly-known-as-the-Mouth-Of-Sauron.
"Well, now that blackmail and torture are out of the way," said Pippin in an honest attempt to return to the crucial matters, with one eye twitching towards the pastry table, "shall we consider some practical means to extract this story, hmmm? Perhaps we should start by figuring out what Legolas responds best to."
Tanglinna, Master Archer of the Greenwood realm readily answered "Threats!" who gained a chorus of agreements from some members of the wooded realm, including King Thranduil.
"Perhaps we might try merely asking him to honour us with the tale as a favour? Or in return for some other favour?" suggested Faramir, who's calm rationale was refreshing to many, including Aragorn, Elrond and Celeborn, whilst Théodred merely nodded his agreement, a sudden plan beginning to form in his mind.
"Bribery" suggested Éomer. A great pause resounded in the Halls. "What?!? It always worked on my little sister. That," added Éomer with a wicked gleam that would send all sisters running for cover, "and threatening her imaginary 'knights-in-shining-armour-who-would-free-her-from-her-tower' friends."
Éowyn had to be restrained by Arwen, proving that a cold frost can be quite biting (not to mention kicking and scratching). As she calmed down once again, she looked once at Arwen, then at Lúthien and a cold gleam struck her eyes. With a meaningful second look at both women - one that conveyed her intentions wordlessly but wickedly - she suggested "Maybe we should simply charm the information from him." Aragorn, Faramir and Beren balked, gaped, and then choked in unison. But there was no denying the potential of such a plan.
Seeing the opportunity to move forward, Pippin once again seized the spotlight. "Then perhaps we should separate into groups and plan four main courses of action." Merry quickly picked up on the plan. "Bribery..." he said, pointing to the southern wall of the Hall.
Éomer shot a meaningful and annoyingly brotherly look at his sister, who merely stuck out her tongue in a most unladylike display of sisterly affection.
"...womanly wiles,..." Merry pointed towards the Western wall.
The ladies of the room simultaneously straightened their backs, rolled their shoulders and gracefully floated over to their assigned section of the room. There was a noted rise in temperature around the men, many of whom were thinking uncharitable thoughts about Legolas and his uncanny knack for attracting (and therefore detracting from the rest of the men) the ladies' attentions.
"...threats, but let's keep them clean, no low-blows please..." Merry continued, with a cautious finger lowered at the flower in the direction of the eastern wall. He was exceptionally mindfull not to point at the shadows leaning casually against it. They really did remind him of the Barrow Wights, afterall.
Thranduil and Tanglinna looked decidedly devious and calculating, a wicked gleam belying their calm exteriors. The Master Archer began to look like an owl who's feathers had been ruffled once too many times and who was about to go on the hunt.
"...and by offering to do, or reminding Legolas of, past favours." A final point to the northern wall was given, and the gathering began to mill and slowly filter to the four directions.
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