10. Two conspiracies
"Look it's those elves!"
Merry recognised some of the children running toward them as Bucklanders, but was a little surprised that they should be so forward. Everyone else was rather awed by the presence of the four lordly elves.
"Hello again," said Elrohir.
The biggest of the children, a boy apparently just into his teens, was pushed forward by the others. He looked rather apologetic as he umm-ed and ahh-ed. "Go on," hissed one of the smaller children.
"Er, hello Lord Elf," he said. "Can you show us any more tricks?"
Sam, Merry and Pippin exchanged confused glances.
Elrohir's eyes flicked towards Celeborn as he stooped to address the children. "I must ask my grandfather's permission," he told them in a loud whisper, clearly intended to carry to the elf-lord's ears.
Celeborn sighed, then rolled his eyes and smiled tolerantly. "Go ahead Elrohir, make a spectacle of yourself. It would be ungracious of us not to entertain our hosts after all the entertainment they have provided for us."
The elf looked around to ensure he had room for what he was about to attempt, then performed a series of spectacular handsprings and somersaults across the field. The little hobbits cheered.
"Oh that was nothing," boasted Elladan and proceeded to follow his brother's lead, with a few extra flourishes and a twisting back somersault thrown in just to show off. Unfortunately, Elladan had not spotted the two hobbits carrying baskets piled high with fruit directly in his path before he set off. As apples showered down around the fallen elf, Celeborn's attempt to keep a straight face failed and he laughed along with the Bucklander children.
It was only after the laughter had subsided that they noticed that Glorfindel had sneaked away amid the commotion. A few moments later he reappeared, brandishing a piece of paper. Everyone looked at him questioningly, but it was Celeborn he addressed.
"I thought we too should entertain our hosts, so I have entered us in the singing contest," he said. "What do you think we should sing?"
Celeborn looked shocked, Merry thought, but also rather pleased at the idea.
The Bywater ladies choir finished their third and final song to rapturous applause and curtsied to the crowd before taking their places with their families in the audience. Pippin Took was having a hard time not laughing out loud at the whispered squabble going on behind him between two elf- lords with very definite, but very different ideas as to what they should sing. He didn't dare meet Merry's eyes, he knew that if he did he would be unable to stop the giggles that were welling up in his chest.
Instead he glanced in the opposite direction, just in time to see Faramir and a couple of the Gamgee children sneaking out of the audience. He thought back to the fairs of his own childhood. Whatever they were up to, it was probably reasonably harmless.
They sat cross-legged in a circle, hidden inside one of the now more than half-empty storage tents. Six faces glowed orange in the flickering lamplight, reflected flames jumping mischievously in their eyes. Pippin Gamgee reached into the centre of the circle and placed a cylindrical object on the ground.
"Faramir?" prompted Merry Gamgee.
The young Took took his cue.
" See these two marks," he whispered, running his finger along the tube. "That's a G and that's Gandalf's elf-mark. In Frodo's book it says all his fireworks were marked like that."
"What sort of firework is it?" asked Theo, trying to remember the descriptions his grandparents had given of the great display at Bilbo's eleventy-first birthday party. They had spoken of showers of stars and eagles of light, sailing ships and silver spears - and most of all they had talked of the dragon, breathing green and scarlet flame.
"There's no way of knowing until we set it off," said Pippin.
Faramir felt butterflies leap in his stomach. Well, of course the plan was to set the firework off tonight, but suddenly somehow, he wondered if it were such a good idea. Once it was set off, it was gone forever. If they left it as it was, it would be as if there would always be a little bit of the wizard's magic remaining.
He shook his head at his own nonsense - what would be the point of that? The firework was made to be seen and whatever magnificent glory was hidden inside the dull packaging would soon be revealed.
"We should do it soon, while most of the younger children are still awake. It's more or less dark outside now," said Goldie.
Merry began issuing instructions, sending Hamfast to light a taper from the lantern and handing the firework to Theo to take outside. They would sneak past the singing contest and set off the firework from behind the audience. Wouldn't everyone be surprised?
The members of the firework conspiracy got to their feet and began to make their way outside.
"Don't get so close with that flame," hissed Merry - as it happened, about a second too late as Hamfast's foot tangled with a coiled rope on the dark ground. The child stumbled forwards, throwing the burning taper as he put out his hands to break his fall.
Flame arced through the air, dropping right in front of Theo, who held the firework tightly in his fist. The taper dropped to the ground and guttered into darkness. For a brief moment the conspirators sighed in relief. Then a white spark flared in Theo's hands.
"It's alight," he squeaked, frozen in terror.
"Drop it!" shouted Merry. "Run!"
As the other children began to push their way past boxes and flee from the tent, Theo made himself pry his fingers from the tube. Silver stars danced along the short fuse toward the firework itself. As he dropped it, it began to emit a high pitched shriek. He remained petrified. The last thing he saw was an eruption of green fire. It was beautiful.
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.