1. The Gathering
The end of the great song had finally come about. The mysteries of what happened to mortals in the "beyond" would never be disclosed, but the Valar were feeling particularly ... festive. After all, it was not every eternity that one witnessed the end of everything. The great Hall of Mandos, being the largest enclosed hall in Valinor, had been decorated with great relish and no restraint. The doors had been thrown open to all: living and dead, mortal and immortal (though, save a few who had been involved in great doings over the ages, these tended to find opposite sides more to their liking). Old friends had spent the ... well, time was irrelevant here ... catching up, sharing old tales and hearing lively songs and new tales whilst tasting the wondrous foods and drinks of the Valar. There were a few, though, who, after much celebrating, had been storied into a corner, so to speak. On the Western side of the Hall - the side predominantly inhabited by the Eldar - stood a rather unlikely pair ignoring the odd stares in their direction by continuing an age-old game of trading barbs and insults. A golden-haired Elven Prince of Mirkwood had, having unwittingly uttered an old jest to a diminutive friend, been pounced upon with an old taunt. Old words quickly sprouted, germinating from seeds so long ago planted.
"Need I remind you, Master Elf, of the tree-stump incident?"
Stunned, the prince stammered before replying quickly "I ... I h-have no idea what you are speaking of, Master Dwarf. And you have no proof that my incident with a tree-stump was anything more than a figment of your imagination."
Words spoken quickly. Too quickly. Too quickly to be retracted. His mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water, as all sound in the hall stopped. His heart thudded in his ears, and his breath caught in his lungs as though trying to suck the words back in. Had he just said THAT?!?
Thingol and Fëanor turned to Legolas in disbelief. Had they truly heard what their ears betold them? Perhaps it was a cruel figment of imagination. Had he truly said "a tree stump"??? Turning to each other, they both saw a group forming about them. Fëanor, looking over the left shoulder of Thingol towards the south wall of the great hall saw the approaching figures of Oropher accompanied by his son Thranduil. Thingol, who had turned to face Fëanor northwards, saw beyond Fëanor's right shoulder the figures of Elrond, his two sons Elladan and Elrohir, his two counsellors Glorfindel and Erestor, and Elrond's former lord Gil-Galad. All of the onlookers approached with a mixture of confusion and ill-concealed mirth upon their faces. They, too, had heard the mumbled words escaping from the Prince and acclaimed member of the nine walkers' lips.
As the gathering crowd stood about the Prince, a voice rose up from it's outskirts. A head momentarily popped up, dropped down again, up again, down again. After three more attempts, Prince Imrahil rather abruptly pushed his way through the crowd to stand before the Prince. "I know I am only on this side on a technicality of blood, my lord" said the Prince of Dol Amroth, "but did I truly hear you correctly? A tree stump?!? Surely this is a tale that must be shared!" A chorus of agreement rose up about the Prince of Mirkwood, leaving him somewhat uneasy, as well as utterly embarrassed for having his private humiliation overheard HERE of all places. Valar knew THEY would never let him live this one down!
"Verily, Imrahil, it is not! This matter is of no concern of yours. Any of you. Not for all the treasures of the world would I ever have that tale drawn up before me again. And I would thank you kindly for leaving it be." Turning on his heel (and finding himself walled in on all sides) he strode through the crowd with great agitation. Bewildered and amused, the group allowed him to pass, closing in once more around the stray dwarf as the flaxen-haired prince strode through and out of the hall.
Nervously, the dwarf eyed the shades of great elves distrustfully, remembering well his learned history. Dark upon both sides of the page was the history of dealings between dwarves and elves. Just as one elf, a tall and daunting Noldorin, opened his mouth to utter the question burning all their lips the dwarf was whisked away by a figure all in white. Apologies were muttered and mumbled by a rather red-faced istari, with only a few words caught: "wrong side of the room"... "apologies" ... "stone hall" ... "axes"... "trees and elves" ... "wine" ... "orcs"... "should not mix". ... The rest trailed off, as the great wizard led the bewildered (but grateful) dwarf through a great door and was gone.
And now there were six.
The six remaining Fellowship members looked at one another from various points in the room. Without saying a word, they gathered together in one corner, ignoring the few curious looks they garnered, and set to work.
"Well," said Pippin, "do any of you remember the best way to charm information out of an Elven Prince?" Aragorn muttered something inaudible, though words to the effect of "will be more difficult than the bloomin' Palantír" were gleaned. Boromir harrumphed, looked sideways, and then suggested "Long have we stood in this hall. By our patience have his secrets been kept safe. We all recall a certain night in the Hall of Fire when said-elf enjoyed Lord Elrond's favourite bottle a bit too much. We covered for him then. And convincing the Lord of Imladris that a stray squirrel had pilfered his treasured (and well-guarded) wine was no small feat. I think he owes us much! Why not use such knowledge against him?"
"Nay, my friend, we cannot wield it."
"Besides, that knowledge was forged in the friendships of Middle Earth, and only there could it be used," said a deep voice from behind. Six gulps echoed against the walls. "So that is what happened to my wine. Squirrels indeed. Estel, you have much to answer for, it would seem. Yet perhaps now you all might make amends. A new alliance is being forged between Elves and Men. If we could only find that dwarf Gimli..." Elrond shook his head in dismay over the last statement. "However," he continued, "together, perhaps we might pry the tale from him yet. Will you not all join us?"
One does not refuse Elrond, son of Eärendil and Elwing. Especially when one is most recently found guilty of a most complex, unbelievable, and ultimately embarrassing fib. Especially when the weight of guilt is borne by six present (and two missing) members of a fellowship in which great faith had been endowed. It was a very meek remainder of the Fellowship of the Ring that followed Lord Elrond into the middle of the Hall once more.
As the six members were slinking off too hold their own counsel:
"Well," said Elrohir, looking upon his brother with a twisted grin. "That was rather uncharacteristically adamant for our young Prince."
"Truly, brother. One would think he were hiding something from us," answered Elladan. Their grin, though it had caused many to quiver in fear of great mischief for thousands of years, suddenly spread like fire upon dry plains.
Elrond, once the stoic-faced lord of Imladris, now looked to his sons with a fire they had never seen in his eyes before. "Well, then. Legolas said he could not be swayed by all the treasures of the world. Perhaps we should conjure up something more than the treasures of the world to present to our dear friend. ... " He let the idea trail off for greater effect. The intended effect, of course, was to invite all the collective imaginations to run amok. The twin sons of Elrond and Celebrían gazed at their father in stunned silence, a light of awe and amazement spreading across their faces slowly to be replaced by one of pure, delightful, almost-malicious mischief. "Oh, this will be good," said their minds in tandem.
"I shall see what our six friends are conjuring up, and perhaps together we might find a way to persuade this tale from the Prince yet. My sons, seek out all the members and attendants of the house of Thranduil. Oh, and bring Oropher. Doubtless he knows many tales of Thranduil's own antics that may prove...instrumental in convincing Thranduil to join us. As if Thranduil will have any reservations on this one. Ah yes, and do not forget to invite Master Tanglinna, for he will assuredly have something to say on this matter. While we are at it - Imrahil, would you kindly invite Éomer, Théoden, Éowyn, Denethor, Faramir to join us. They have all suffered the pranks of Legolas at one point or another, either here or on Middle Earth. Finally the Prince's New Year's penchant for pranks is coming round on him." The twins bowed ceremoniously, with great mischief emanating from their slender frames, and turned about the Hall seeking their prey. Elrond himself sought out the six Fellowship members whilst Imrahil, grinning, turned to seek out the members of the Houses of Théoden and Denethor.
As they were wandering off, Galadriel and Celeborn, accompanied by their daughter Celebrían and granddaughter Arwen, approached the remaining crowd. Galadriel, with a calm and eerily-omnipotent smile begged the questions "what plots are being woven here? Surely we are not to be excluded. Particularly if the target is Legolas. I recall a New Years festival many ages ago when my mirror and stream ran with purple bubbles. I will not be left out in this matter."
"Nor I, grandmother. Though I bear Legolas no ill-will, I recall a very young elfling prince trying, pitifully unsuccessfully, to plait my hair."
"I cannot claim any grievance against the Prince myself, but I am curious to know about this tree-stump," said Celebrían as Celeborn nodded in agreement.
"And I would not see too much harm come to him by all your scheming," said the Lord of Lórien "and will endeavour to add a cool head to the group."
And so the crowds, who had left off the celebrations for a more productive form of entertainment, began to grow. And grow. And scheme.
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.