17. Polishing Gems and Remmith's New Master
"This.this really isn't going to be all that bad." Brethil finally said, a half hopeful smile on his lips. "How long could it possibly take to polish your father's jewels? Even he can't have that many.
Legolas shot a disbelieving glance at him and shook his head. Fingers reached to touch the short hair, which he had tried to tame into place with water.
"Where did you get the pipeweed, Legolas? Your room positively reeks of it." Tavor commented, somewhat relieved that he was still alive and not in the Halls of Mandos.
Legolas wondered where the Hobbit was. He had already decided that it would be in his own best interest to keep quiet. He was in enough trouble already and telling his father that yet another unwanted visitor was freely roaming the halls of Gladaran Thamas would only serve to get him into even more of a tangle than he was already in.
"Ai, Valar." He moaned as they came to the huge oaken door set with iron locks and hinges. "It will take us an Age to do this."
Iavas stood outside the door swinging the large key ring around his finger. He smiled when he saw them.
"Welcome to King Thranduil's Gem Room." He greeted them with a grin and unlocked the great door.
"You are being silly, Legolas. How long could it possibly take?" Brethil repeated. "How many sparkly gems could your father possibly have?"
Iavas smirked and shoved open the door.
"The cloths for polishing are in a chest just inside the door." He grinned again, patted Tavor's shoulder and moved down the corridor. "Oh! And Prince Legolas. I love what you have done with your hair." He laughed merrily and moved away, singing the barrel song.
Legolas stared after him in dismay, fingers straying once more to his shorn hair. He groaned.
"Does everyone know what happened?"
"If they don't by now, I am sure they will soon." Tavor said dismally. "Let's get started. This will probably take all day. Your father has more gems than - Great Valar!"
The three stood staring wide eyed into the Gem Room. It was vast. Boxes of every size and description littered the stone floor. Shelves had been hewn into the walls and boxes resided on them as well. Everything seemed well ordered, not thrown into a messy heap like a Dragon's Hoard would be, but the room was so huge that they could not discern the far wall in the dimness. At least they assumed there was a far wall.
"Valar." Legolas breathed. "It will take us three Ages to do this! And to think he collects more and more because he fears he has the smallest hoard of all the Elven Lords."
Even Brethil looked daunted.
"He must have more jewels than anyone!" He gasped. "How many boxes do you suppose there are? There must be thousands of them! How many gems are in each box I wonder. I would bet that no one has ever counted them all. I would guess -"
"Shut up, Brethil!" Tavor and Legolas both snapped.
"What? I was merely commenting that -"
We know, Brethil." Legolas sighed and shook his head. "We had better get started. Ai, Valar."
The three were soon seated on the chill floor, boxes of sparkling stones - some set in of silver or gold, some not - polishing away as quickly as they could. When they had first begun they had exclaimed and joked over some of the more spectacular stones, but even that soon grew wearisome. They did their work in near silence.
Brethil began to hum, low and quiet at first as he polished a rather large amethyst. Then he began to sing to himself, his voice fair and merry.
"Down the swift dark stream you go Back to lands you once did know! Leave the halls and caverns deep, Leave the northern mountains steep, Where the forest wide and dim Stoops in shadow grey and grim!"
"I wish the Dwarves would leave the halls and caverns deep and the northern mountains steep." Tavor snorted. "All of this is their fault."
Legolas glanced at him and shrugged.
"Things have certainly been - interesting - since they showed up. I think we are cursed." His fingers strayed to where his braid should have been. "I look ridiculous. It will take years for this to grow out. Are you sure I gave it to that Dwarf?"
"Oh, yes. We saw that part!" Brethil said, his eyes shining as he remembered. "It was so sweet really, now that I think about it. Of course at the time I was so terrified because I had run into your father. My, his eyes flashed with fury then! He scares me, Legolas."
"Well, he doesn't scare me." Tavor stated boldly, holding up a sapphire necklace to see if it were sparkling enough. "He is just as bad as we are, truly. He is immature as well, yelling like a spoiled child when things don't go his way. And punishing us like this for things that weren't really our fault. He -"
"I what, Tavor?"
Tavor gave a strangled cry at the voice behind them in the doorway and he dropped the necklace to the floor, his fingers suddenly numb.
Legolas turned to his father, fearing for his friend. Usually it was Brethil who spoke without thinking, though Brethil's comments were harmless and not snide as Tavor's had been.
Thranduil had scrubbed his face free of the "spider stuff" on his face, though his lips and cheeks seemed a bit too pink and blue still clung on his lids in a line just above his eyelashes.
Brethil's eyes were huge as he stared up at the king. The three hastily stood.
"Sire, I am so sorry." Tavor began, his heart thumping uncomfortably in his chest. "I truly did not know you were there. If I had - "
Thranduil merely stared at him with narrowed eyes.
"You wouldn't have insulted me by calling me immature and spoiled? No. I think not."
Tavor squirmed uncomfortably, knowing that those in the Halls of Mandos were expecting him at any moment.
"I am so sorry." He repeated. "I don't know what to say. I -"
"Then don't say anything! Learn to keep your mouth shut! And pick up my necklace!"
Tavor nodded and hastily bent to retrieve the abused sapphire.
Thranduil stared at the three of them, his eyes resting on Legolas last. If he hadn't been feeling so angry this morning he would have felt sorry for him. Legolas stared at his father forlornly, and then dropped his gaze to the floor, biting at his lips. His fingers twitched, but he didn't reach for his hair. The king shook his head in absolute frustration at this situation that had seemed to escalate to such a dizzying height that he was still reeling from all that had happened since those Dwarves had appeared at his front door as it were.
"Tanglinna!" He snapped and turned as the Master Archer entered the room.
Legolas had never seen such a carefully schooled stony expression on the older Elf's face before. He was still rather angry with him for what had happened lsat night. He hoped that his father had really let him have it. He glared at Tanglinna who merely shrugged slightly and smirked.
"Tanglinna is going to be joining you in your little task. We shall see who is "amused" by it when you are finished." Thranduil said with a harsh glance at Tanglinna.
The older Elf cringed slightly, remembering his no so carefully chosen words of explanation the night before.
Thranduil narrowed his eyes.
"And if even one gem, one necklace, trinket or bauble is missing when you are finished here, you will be stripped of your Warrior braids and made to wear your hair in a child's braid until whatever is missing has been found!"
"But how would you know if something was missing?" Brethil asked. "Truly your Majesty," He glanced about him at the boxes. "Even you can't know everything that you have."
Thranduil studied him, a sneer marring his lips.
"I know every last piece of jewelry and every last gemstone that I own. I can tell you where they are in here and where I got them. And when I got them. And if anything is missing." He glared at them sternly and with that he whirled about and stalked away.
The four Elves stood in silence for a moment.
"Well, how was I to know that." Brethil said in exasperation as the others' gazes rested on him.
"So you are part of our punishment, are you, Tanglinna?" Tavor asked, feeling relief well in him. Thranduil hadn't killed him and hadn't said anything about killing him. Perhaps he would live after all.
"Perhaps you are my punishment." The Master Archer commented snidely. "Having to spend interminable hours in here with the three of you for company is torture indeed. And well his Majesty knows it."
"The king is good and wise." Legolas murmured, then he burst into helpless laughter.
The others stared at him in amazement. But then they all realized how silly this whole thing was and joined him.
A while later as all four sat on the floor polishing, Brethil looked up and wiped his brow.
"I have just had a thought." He said brightly. "The spiders should come and help us. They have all those legs after all, they could get this done quite quickly."
All three of them turned to him and stared. Spiders in here? With Thranduil's gems? And not the smallest trinket was to be missing at the end of it? The spiders?
"Shut up, Brethil!" They all said and threw their polishing rags at him.
"What did I say?" He queried in annoyance. "It was just a thought! Honestly, I don't understand any of you at times. You would think that I said something stupid."
Remmith had been wandering the corridors, skillfully avoiding any of the inhabitants. He had slipped into one darkened room to wait as several Elves walked past, laughing merrily and speaking of the night before. They stopped outside the room and suddenly the door opened. Remmith tried to squeeze his rather large body behind the bed to hide.
Aralith laughed with his friends before bidding them good-bye and entering his room. He was still chuckling over the antics of his brother when he saw the huge, furry shape filling the space by his bed.
"Spider!" He gasped, his voice barely audible. "Spider!"
Remmith stared at the Elf who was staggering backwards toward the door.
"No! No!" He hissed and leapt out from his hiding place to jump between the terrified Elf and the door.
Aralith's heart jumped as he skidded to a halt, fear coursing through him as he realized he was trapped by the giant arachnid.
"I will do whatever you want!" He gasped, his eyes searching frantically for his Magic Spider Spray bottle. "Just please! Leave me alone!"
Remmith knew that he had found his new master. "I will give you anything you want." What could be better than that? So Remmith began to tell his new master just what it was he wanted.