6. The Last Bash
Wood Elves were not wicked folk as Thorin thought. If they have a fault it is a distrust of strangers. Though their magic was strong, they were wary. They differed from the High Elves of the West, and were more dangerous and less wise. For most of them were descended from the tribes of yore that never went to Faerie, or Elvenhome as it is also called, in the West. They lingered in the twilight of Middle Earth beneath the Sun and Moon, but loved the stars above all; and they wandered in the great forests that grew tall in lands that are now lost. They dwelt most often by the edges of the woods, from which they could escape at times to hunt, or to ride and run over the open lands by moonlight and starlight; and after the coming of Men they took ever more and more to the gloaming and the dusk. Still Elves they were and remain, and that is Good People.
Their present and greatest King stood tall and straight in his long, dark green robes embroidered with silver oak and golden beech leaves. Glowing white gems and sparkling emeralds gleamed and flashed at his pale throat, his slender wrists and on the sliver belt at his slim waist. Atop his long golden locks that waved down his back, was a crown of oak and beech leaves worked in gold and silver and enameled in green. Small gems flashed as he turned his head, rivaling the stars themselves. At his side stood his two eldest sons, looking nearly as wonderful as their father, one dressed in silver and one in white, the green gems glittering like green stars ; wreaths that matched their youngest brother’s graced their long fair locks.
Thranduil smiled at them fondly and they smiled back. He felt a thrill of complacent satisfaction. They did not enjoy dressing for these occasions, but they knew they had no choice. It irritated them greatly to comply with his wishes, but comply they did. And Legolas –
“Where is your brother?” he asked, his eyes scanning the clearing. “Why is he not here? I told Tanglinna to send him.”
“He is probably still being coaxed into his clothes.” Aralith said quietly with a glance at his brother.
“He is probably trying to figure out how to get out of dressing.” Celebross replied wryly, resisting the urge to yank at his tight glittering collar.
“He’ll just tell father that he can’t wear it because it makes him itch.”
“Hmph. That only ever worked for him. I always got in trouble if I said that; even when it was true.”
Thranduil suppressed a smile as their quiet, and they supposed private, words reached him.
: And for you Celebross it was always too tight and you couldn’t breath. And you Aralith it was always too loose and was going to fall off you or trip you. Ah, yes. I know all your little tricks, nin ionnath [my sons]; just as my father knew mine. :
But where was Legolas?
There was a stirring on the other side of the clearing and the tinkle of feminine laughter. Thranduil knew that his youngest had arrived. He thought his son looked very fine that evening and he smiled in approval. But the smile soon turned to a frown of foreboding. He saw Legolas look up at him, blue eyes filled with sudden trepidation,then look to Tanglinna who strode at his side, smirking slightly.
: Now what have you done? : Thranduil thought wearily, resisting the urge to raise one hand to his brow and shake his head. : If they’ve let black squirrels loose in the palace again, I’ll -:
“Someone looks very guilty.” Aralith said in a singsong voice.
“Hmph. There are Tavor and Brethil. I wonder what those three have done now. We’d better check the wine before we drink it. Do you remember when they put water from Morn Nen into the wine we sent to Lord Elrond? I think father even enjoyed that one. Father is not hard enough on him.” He shook his head wondering why Legolas seemed to get away with more than he did.
Across the clearing Tanglinna bowed toward Thranduil and slapped Legolas’ back.
“You may have managed to avoid telling me what you know of those Dwarves, sweet princeling, but I doubt that you can avoid telling your lord father, our great King. Though it will be a great amusement for me to watch you try.” Tanglinna moved away, still smiling though he hadn’t been particularly amused when he had not managed to wrest anything from the three younger Elves. Now he merely shrugged and prepared to watch his king at work.
Thranduil watched as Legolas glanced hastily at Tavor and Brethil for support, and from the gestures, looks, and hurried comments that flew between the three he knew that something had happened. He shook his head with amusement and slight annoyance and Celebross and Aralith exchanged disgusted glances.
“You have to go to him, Legolas. You can’t just – ignore – your father.” Tavor said, his usually perfect composure slipping slightly.
“I wasn’t going to ignore him, Tavor. Just…just avoid him. There is a difference, you know.”
“No, there’s not. Not to your father. To him they are one and the same.” Tavor continued, wondering if what he was beginning to feel was panic.
“He’s staring at us!” Brethil squeaked. “He knows! Ai, Valar! He knows!”
“Be quiet, Brethil. He doesn’t know. He can’t.” : Can he? : Tavor thought desperately, sweat beaded his brow and his heart raced. : Is this going to kill me? : he wondered with distress.
Not only Thranduil was staring at them. Several Elves had turned to them, many of them Elf maidens whose admiring stares were fixed on Legolas.
Suddenly Tavor’s usual humor tried to resurface.
“Mayhap we should have worn sparkly green clothes, Brethil.”
“What are you talking about, Tavor?” Legolas growled in exasperation. Surely now was not the time to discuss his outfit yet again. Enough had been said earlier. But then he became aware of the twitters and flutterings around him. He turned to see the maidens staring unabashedly at him, looking as though they wanted to devour him. He choked slightly and glanced at his father, whose eyebrows were raised in question. He looked to the maidens and felt a blush rising to his cheeks. He turned once more and rushed toward his father.
King Thranduil watched as his son approached, enjoying his discomfort as the eyes of the Elven people followed their young prince with amusement and admiration.
“He certainly knows how to draw attention to himself.” Aralith said to Celebross.
“Aye, he has always been able to do that.” He answered, but the brothers laughed lightly, knowing that the attention was seldom wanted.
Legolas bowed to his father, hoping to keep his feelings of unease from his face. Brethil’s words – “He knows! Ai, Valar! He knows!” - kept running through his brain.
: He can’t know. There is no way he can know. He doesn’t know. :
Thranduil held out his arms and embraced his youngest son. For a moment he could feel the rapidly beating heart before he released him. He held him out at arms length and studied him. He made a slight adjustment to the wreath on his head, straightened some of the flowers that didn’t lay just so, then smiled.
Legolas felt a flicker of relief. Perhaps he didn’t know. He wouldn’t be smiling if he knew. How silly, of course he didn’t know.
But then the smile turned to a frown.
“Little Greenleaf, what have you done?”
Legolas’ eyes widened in sudden panic. He glanced at his brothers who both stared calmly at him, blue eyes shining with wicked glee beneath cocked eyebrows.
“I…I…” he gasped, turning to look for Tavor and Brethil. He could not stand before his father alone and hope to keep his composure intact. But his friends were nowhere to be seen. “Father, I…I don’t know anything about those Dwarves. I swear – “
“Dwarves? What Dwarves? What are you speaking of?”
Legolas stared up at him in amazement and confusion.
“What are you speaking of?” he blurted out.
“You have torn you sleeve.” Thranduil said, his eyes moving to the tear on one flowing butterfly gossamer sleeve.
Relief washed anew and Legolas held up his arm noticing the rip in the delicate fabric for the first time.
“Oh! I…I don’t know how that happened. I am so sorry. I’ll go fix it right now!”
He turned hastily thinking he could flee safely away, but Thranduil’s hand landed on one shoulder.
“What were you saying about Dwarves, little Greenleaf?”
“Hobbit! Where are you?”
“You dratted Hobbit!”
“Hi! Hobbit, confusticate you, where are you?”
Bilbo Baggins the Hobbit was missing.
The Dwarves had a much more difficult time getting themselves back together after the fires had gone out. With much stumbling and calling and grabbing things in the dark they finally managed to find one another, everyone except for the Hobbit. They called cajolingly and threateningly, but nothing worked. There was not a sound in the forest, but the echo of their own voices.
“Where could he be?”
“You don’t suppose the Elves took him?”
“Why would the Elves take him, Oin?”
“If they didn’t take him, then where is he?”
“I don’t know – Ouch! Get off my foot!”
“We’ll never find him. Poor Bilbo. Lost in Mirkwood forever.”
“Oh, do be quiet, Bombur.”
“We never will find him in this dark. Dratted Elves. This is entirely their fault. They will pay for making us lose our Burglar.” Thorin muttered.
“Oof!” Dori fell heavily to the ground. “What? Hey, it’s Bilbo!”
He had indeed stumbled over the Hobbit in the dark, thinking at first that he was a fallen log.
“He’s asleep!” Dori exclaimed, kneeling beside Bilbo and shaking him gently. “I can’t get him to wake up!”
The Dwarves homed in on Dori’s voice and gathered around poking and prodding the Hobbit, trying to awaken him.
“I was having such a lovely dream,” the Hobbit grumbled as he blinked his eyes and yawned. “I was having a most gorgeous dinner.”
“Good heavens! He has gone like Bombur.” Dwalin exclaimed.
“We’re not anywhere near that black stream, are we?” Oin squeaked, expecting the eerie laughter and singing to begin at any moment now.
“Be quiet, Oin. You are really starting to irritate me.”
“That’s alright, Oin.” Gloin said quietly, patting the other’s shoulder, or he thought it was Oin’s shoulder. “Did you by any chance see the Elven maiden I spoke of earlier?”
“I think Gloin is the one dreaming.” Kili giggled.
“Tell us what you dreamed, Bilbo.” Bombur prompted eagerly.
“Don’t tell us about dreams,” Thorin said hastily. “Dream-dinners aren’t any good, and we can’t share them.”
“They are the best I am likely to get in this beastly place.” Bilbo muttered, as the Dwarves lay down for the night once again. The Hobbit grumbled to himself and tried to get comfortable on the ground and find his dreams once more. “Roasted venison, hot bread and butter, crisp apples…”
It was much later that night when Kili roused them.
“There’s a regular blaze of light begun not far away – hundreds of torches and many fires must have been lit suddenly by magic. And hark to the singing and the harps!”
At first no one moved, they merely lay where they were listening to the enchanting music that softly floated on the cool night air.
“Are we going to try again?” Oin asked, hoping that they weren’t.
“Well, I don’t know if we should. Look at what has happened already. This time we might loose everyone.” Bofur said wisely.
“Don’t be ridiculous. It must be near morning. Isn’t it?” Bifur said, gazing at the stars overhead.
In the end it was decided that three was the charm and they got up and crept into the trees once more.
: This cannot be happening. : Bilbo thought as he trudged behind the others. : They will not be pushing me into the middle of it this time. Though the dream was rather nice. :
They huddled behind the trees and stared into this glade. This feast was much grander and much more magnificent than the others had been and they stared in wonder at what they saw. The Dwarves stared at the food and sighed happily. Gloin stared at his Elven maid and sighed happily. They would never see anything like it again.