The sound of running water the Elves had heard from the glade was made by a stream that was only a short distance away, hidden from view by a small rise in the bank. Once they stood atop the grassy mound, Haldir and his companions could see the point where the depth of the water had become shallow, bubbling noisily over submerged rocks before flowing into a large, deep pool that narrowed back to the normal width of the stream as the water continued its journey seaward. All agreed it was a perfect location, both for a swimming hole and for catching the fish for their evening meal.
The lack of nets, fishing poles or traps was no hindrance to this group of Elves who were well experience in providing food whilst away on patrol. Standing in the shallows, the Galadhrim chose suitable positions along the rocky outcrop and remained as still as statues waiting for their prey. With skill acquired from many such forays, as well as arrows for spears and the swiftness of movement gifted to the Firstborn, a sufficient number of fish were soon piled in a heap on the shore. Although they took their task very seriously, the combination of slippery rocks, fast moving flashes of silver and high spirits, inevitably resulted in much laughter and frolicking and a competition to see who could catch the most fish whilst avoiding an unceremonious fall, or as in Haldir’s case, being thrown into the water by those who called you leader.
Haldir resurfaced from his dunking, eyes glittering with amusement at the merry laughter that greeted him. He made his way slowly to the shore and had just begun to remove his wet garments when Elladan and Elrohir entered the clearing.
“Haldir? Would it not have been wise of you and your friends to swim without wearing so many clothes?” asked Elladan, easily guessing what had occurred and enjoying the situation immensely. Rarely had either he or Elrohir seen the usually impeccable elf in such a state, and realising that he had also been bested by his patrol made the discovery doubly pleasurable.
“And such dishevelment presents an undignified appearance for the Captain of my guard,” added Elrohir, succeeding in his attempt to sound like an angry Celeborn. Everyone laughed loudly at this display and even Haldir, who was torn between admonishing Elrohir for his disrespectful imitation and amusement, could not suppress a smile.
“It is not my normal habit, as you both well know,” replied Haldir, not in the least affected by their mocking tone of voice. With a nonchalant shrug he squeezed the water from his pale hair, well used to being teased by his lord’s kin, not to mention his own two brothers.
“Nor I hope is it your usual practice to imitate me, Elrohir,” said Celeborn, glaring sternly at his younger grandson as he and Legolas appeared from amongst the trees near the shore.
“I meant no disrespect Grandada,” Elrohir apologised with a slight bow in Celeborn’s direction. The Lord of Lothlorien raised an eyebrow and appeared unconvinced as to the sincerity of the feeling of remorse behind the words, but made no further comment to his grandson, instead he spoke to his Galadhrim.
“I am impressed with your efficiency as fishermen, Haldir has taught you well, but I suggest we all take advantage of the inviting water before the day grows much longer.” Haldir acknowledged the compliment with a proud smile and, following Celeborn’s lead, he quickly removed the rest of his garments and waded into the pool. With delighted murmurs and much splashing about in their eagerness to do likewise, it was not long before the others joined in the fun.
The sound of light-hearted voices and merry laughter, mingled with the whispers of the flowing water as the Elves swam and frolicked in the refreshing coolness. Unable to resist the opportunity to flirt with danger that presented itself, Elladan and Elrohir joined forces and playfully ‘attacked’ Celeborn, diving underwater and pulling the legs from under their unsuspecting victim, causing him to fall backwards with a very large splash.
“So you have declared war on me,” Celeborn spluttered as he resurfaced, his mouth filled with water. “An unwise move,” he warned with the barest nod of his head. It was a signal well known to the Galadhrim of his personal guard, and was acted upon immediately. In an instant Haldir and his patrol had ‘captured’ Elladan and Elrohir, and carried the struggling brethren to the edge of the pool.
“Ai, Grandada do you wish to drown us?” Elladan pouted, when he realised Haldir’s intent.
“It is a temptation, but Galadriel would never forgive me were I to do so, although now that I think on it, perhaps it might put me back in Arwen’s favour,” replied Celeborn with some amusement. He had no intention of harming his beloved grandsons, he was merely allowing his Galadhrim to dunk them in the stream in retaliation for their affront on his person.
“Save us, Legolas!” Elrohir called with mock desperation to their friend who was neither taking part nor had any intention of intruding in the game.
“Surely two great warriors such as you are known to be do not need my aid, do they Celeborn?” he teased turning to speak to his elder.
“Nay, I am afraid there is little you could do against so many,” Celeborn replied placing a condescending hand on the younger elf’s shoulder.
“Especially if you do not wish to become our next victim,” Haldir added, grinning wickedly at Legolas who laughed and moved back a step with his hands upraised to indicate he was no threat. Without further warning, the two were thrown back into the water as punishment for their attack on Celeborn.
It was some time before they considered joining the others who were now relaxing on the grassy banks, for the brethren decided engaged in some water play of their own, completely forgetting the errand on which they had been sent.
Time has little meaning for Elves, and it was not until the dark fingers of the lengthening shadows encroached on their game that Glorfindel and Erestor realised twilight was upon them and that Elladan and Elrohir had been gone for several hours.
“I sense no danger nearby, but should we not go in search of them, Glorfindel?” asked Erestor, looking into the dark forest with concern.
“Neither do I, and I doubt that any ill has befallen them, but it seems prudent to me to seek them out nonetheless,” agreed the seneschal, standing and buckling on his sword even as Erestor checked his knife. The two warriors of old moved stealthily along the trail their lord’s sons had taken, alert for any indication of their whereabouts.
“At least these unsightly stains on our hands will blend into the blackness of night,” commented Glorfindel as the first stars to herald the end of the day twinkled overhead.
“It will take but a few moments to remove when we return to the city,” Erestor reassured his friend. “We can leave here as soon as we find Elladan and Elrohir if your disfigurement offends your vanity so much,” he offered. Glorfindel laughed loudly at the subtle comment on his character. He knew Erestor meant no insult, but was merely stating a fact.
“Nay that will not be necessary, I am not required to dance with the ladies tonight. Besides, in my time I have endured stains far worse than blackberry juice. I am much more inclined to remain in the woods and partake of freshly roasted fish and an evening of singing around a campfire than I am to return to Minas Tirith and clean hands,” replied the seneschal a little more loudly than needed for Erestor’s hearing. The advisor was about to say so when he realised that the words were not meant only for him, but the errant two who were relaxing around the pleasant warmth of the campfire. The brethren exchanged a look of alarm as they suddenly recalled why they had sought out the stream.
“We must apologise for our forgetfulness, my lords,” said Elladan with sincere regret.
“Indeed it was unforgivable of us to allow ourselves to be distracted from our task,” added Elrohir humbly.
“But unavoidable, it seems.” Erestor’s long suffering sigh, and quick glance at the others spoke of his astute assessment of the situation as well as his acceptance of it.
“We were rather concerned when you did not return. These woods are unknown to us, and as Legolas pointed out before we left the city, danger still lurks in places.” Glorfindel saw that his words were taken as the reprimand he intended them to be and he tempered them with a smile.
“Your point about danger is well taken, Glorfindel, and often it comes not only from your enemies,” commented Celeborn with a pointed glance at his grandsons who suddenly wondered if he also knew about the prank they had played on Glorfindel and Erestor earlier that day.
“I see you have decided to remain in this lovely spot for the rest of the evening,” said Erestor as he inhaled the delicious aroma of the cooking fish.
“Aye, before your timely, if unexpected arrival, I was about to return to the glade and inform you of our new location,” Celeborn told them.
“No doubt you also intended to collect the wine as well,” Glorfindel smirked.
“What else would we drink with our evening meal? Would you two care to accompany me and leave these young ones to the task of preparing the food?” Celeborn asked Erestor and Glorfindel. Obviously the Lord of Lothlorien wished to speak with them in private and so they readily agreed to his request.
They had barely disappeared from view before Legolas innocently asked Elladan and Elrohir to explain what had happened to Glorfindel and Erestor’s hands.