3. At the Hall
His dour mood wavered at the sight of the 'Hall', so unlike any elven dwelling - even in Thranduil's peculiar kingdom. It had its own cheerful beauty though. No-one could doubt that behind those doors lived jolly, welcoming folk.
There was a flurry of activity near the middle door, which stood open. A small figure rose from the step and fled inside.
Celeborn raised a tense smile, preparing himself to be a polite guest in spite of his annoyance. Elrohir's words had stung. Maybe it was natural for the twins to resent him - even for immortals there were rules of inheritance and that meant passing things on to younger generations, not back to older ones.
Still, if he was no longer welcome in Imladris, he could hardly go back to the empty woods of Lorien. He would have to go forward, go to --
But there was not time to dwell on such matters, for here was Meriadoc Brandybuck, rushing from the door to greet the riders.
"A star shines on the hour of our meeting. Or more accurately the sun," called out the hobbit as he ran towards them. "And what a fine day for riding! I trust you have had a safe journey. Here, let Rob take your horses - we've set up a separate paddock for them as we were worried their extraordinary size might scare the ponies."
And suddenly Celeborn didn't need to force a smile. He felt the tension melt from his features. How did Merry always do this? This hobbit he had befriended in the library of Imladris whose kindness and curiosity had brought him more comfort and cheer than the counsels of dozens of elves who were renowned as wise among their kind had ever done.
"But what of your guests? How are you to cope with our 'extraordinary size'?" countered a laughing Elladan, as the riders dismounted and an evidently awed Rob led the docile horses away to be fed and watered.
"Well, you'll all have to stoop a little in the hallway I'm afraid, but I think you'll be able to stand up in the main parlour. You might find the chairs a bit of a squeeze though." Merry led the way through the middle door, calling out, "Estella! Where are you? They're here!"
Estella, it turned out, was dashing into the parlour in a cloud of flour. She rubbed her hands on her apron, but that only made them whiter. She dropped a quick curtsey to the elf-lords. "Oh my, you must excuse my untidiness. There's such a lot to be done before the fair."
Celeborn bowed deeply. "Mrs Brandybuck, it is an honour and a pleasure to meet you at last," he said. The effect was only slightly spoiled by the fact that he bumped his head on a ceiling beam as he stood back up.
Once the others had introduced themselves, Estella curtsied again. "Well, I'm certain you're all hungry after your journey and I think we might be able to spare a few cakes for weary travellers." With a broad wink at her husband Estella span out of the room leaving a whirlwind of flour behind her.
Merry laughed. "She's a marvel," he said. "But do sit down. We've gathered all the biggest chairs in Buckland into this room."
Even the biggest chairs in Buckland were rather uncomfortable. Glorfindel seemed to find the best one - a high backed wooden 'throne' with a cushioned seat but no arms. Celeborn found that he could just about sit on a low couch, but his knees were almost in line with his nose.
He found himself looking back on how comical the elves had found the small hobbits, struggling dwarf-like to clamber onto elven chairs and to reach tables. Now it was the elves making a ridiculous over-sized spectacle of themselves.
The afternoon passed pleasurably into evening. Merry was a good story- teller and entertained his guests with the small-doings of the Shire for several hours - reducing them to undignified howls of laughter at least twice. They discussed the plans for the Fair and Merry explained that this was not an election year, but as all the farms were prospering it would be one of the most splendid Fairs in history.
Shortly before dinnertime two hobbit children burst into the room, filthy- dirty, their eyes like saucers when they saw their father's guests. "Theo, Kali, go and wash before you meet our guests," said Merry and the pair vanished, only to be replaced a few moments later by red-faced and damp (but considerably cleaner) hobbit children.
The youngsters introduced themselves politely, stammering a little at first as they explained that they had been helping make lanterns for the Fair - although as their father pointed out, that didn't really explain the dirt.
An hour later all fears on the children's side (and apparently all sense of elven propriety on the guests' side) had been laid to rest, as Glorfindel allowed Kali to plait his hair while the others made a convincing show of being astonished by Theo's sleight of hand tricks.
But however much excitement visiting elves might mean, there was a long journey to Hobbiton tomorrow and another the day after to the Fair. The children were shooed off to bed and after a brief glass of brandy the adults decided to follow their example.
Merry had set out the front sitting room for the elves to rest in, with the furniture pushed back to the walls and piles of rugs and cushions and blankets. "I do hope that's comfortable. I know you don't sleep in the same way that hobbit-folk and men do."
"It's perfect, Merry," said Elrohir sinking into a pile of feathery pillows.
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.