“What was that about Glorfindel’s hands?” asked Haldir curiously as he settled cross legged on the grass next to Legolas who, like the others had listened with much amusement, and a certain amount of awe for the tale the brethren told of their latest adventure. Haldir had been busy preparing the fish and had not paid much heed to the story, but when it was again briefly recounted, and knowing both the victims and the perpetrators well, he wondered just how true it was.
“Did you not notice the dark stains he bore, Haldir?” enquired Legolas who had asked his friends the same question.
“Nay. Did any of you?” the march warden enquired of the members of his patrol, none of whom had been seated close enough to the two lords to notice such a detail as the colour of their hands. Everyone shook their heads in denial, and Haldir turned back to face Elladan and Elrohir, his eyes narrowed with suspicion. “If this is an attempt at a jest at our expense, it is a very poor one. Despite your mischievous temperaments, I find it difficult to credit that either of you are so foolish, or possess enough daring, to play such a prank on a warrior as well respected and formidable as the Balrog slayer.”
“Not to mention Lord Erestor, whose cutting tongue is reputed to be equally dangerous,” added Legolas who sounded as if he was also beginning to doubt what he had seen. Perhaps it had simply been a deceptive effect of the lengthening shadows.
“It will be an easy matter to prove when they return, for the evidence will be there for all to see,” Elrohir stated with obvious disappointment that the tale of their misdeeds had not been received with the acclaim he felt he and Elladan deserved. Haldir and Legolas had been correct; it took more than a little daring to attack the Captain of the guard and the Chief Advisor of Imladris, even in jest.
Unfortunately for the brethren, their loud voices carried well into the forest and had it not been so, their prank would have been acknowledged without question when the others returned. As it was, the elder Elves were forewarned of the disbelief uttered by Haldir, and were pleased to take advantage of the information.
“Eavesdropping is a rather undignified pastime for Elves of your stature is it not?” asked Mithrandir, who had decided to take a moment to enjoy his pipe while the three elder Elves had stopped to listen.
“We are not eavesdropping, we are observing the enemy,” replied Celeborn with as much dignity as he could muster despite the amused smiles from his companions.
It was apparent that Haldir and Legolas were not convinced they were hearing the truth, and Glorfindel quickly formulated a plan to turn the tables on Elladan and Elrohir to which the other two readily agreed. Mithrandir watched them set the plan in motion, chuckling merrily at the strange effect a day in the forest was having on all the Elves. Not since he left Valinor had he seen such light-hearted antics from the Firstborn, and he rejoiced at the return of their ability to display their carefree spirits.
“Call it what you will, but you are still behaving like children,” he stated, his eyes twinkling with mirth. “Unless you are so merry because you have managed to empty the wineskins as we walked?”
“We have not! We may be acting somewhat inappropriately, but we have not lost our wits to the wine!” Celeborn exclaimed shaking the three partially full wineskins he was carrying in front of Mithrandir’s eyes to prove his point.
“Not even brave Glorfindel would dare drink your share of the wine,” Erestor added, not in the least deterred from jesting by the raised eyebrow of the Istar or the amused look on the seneschal’s face at the slightly backward compliment.
“Besides, compared to you my dear Mithrandir, we *are* but children, and our foe are barely more than babes, so the attack must be mounted at their level,” declared Glorfindel in his best ‘Captain of the guard’ voice, which elicited a burst of laughter from his two disrespectful warriors and the highly amused wizard.
They were all still smiling when they reached the swimming hole, nonchalantly taking seats on one side of the campfire and pretending not to notice the very pointed glances at their hands.
“Here let me take that for you, Lord Glorfindel,” offered Elladan solicitously as he reached for the seneschal’s pack, Elrohir doing likewise for Erestor. Both pairs of eyes widened in disbelief when they saw not berry stains, but the usual pristine state of the elegant hands of their elders.
“I see nothing amiss,” said Haldir as he reached past Elladan and took hold of Glorfindel’s hand, turning it so that all could see the exposed palm. The seneschal smiled wickedly and then lifted the march warden’s hand to his lips, kissing the fingers ever so gently, causing a very embarrassed Haldir to immediately pull his hand away. Celeborn was unable to prevent a snort of amusement at such an unseemly display, but decided his march warden had only been treated as he deserved.
“If you will pardon the familiarity, Lord Erestor,” apologised Legolas, respectfully waiting for a nod of approval from his elder before he quickly studied the advisor’s hand, on the pale skin of which he was unable to find even the hint of a juice stain.
“What is the meaning of this scrutiny?” asked Erestor when Legolas released his hand. Although the advisor knew the answer full well, and was smiling inwardly, to outward appearances his eyes glittered with anger and insult.
“It seems we have been treated to nothing but a tall tale from the young Peredhel,” Haldir explained, quickly recounting the details as he had heard them all the while glaring at Elladan and Elrohir who were furious at being bested by their elders. Neither knew how the stains had been removed, but both they and Glorfindel and Erestor were well aware of what had been done.
“This is a little concoction of mine, that fortunately for you both removes stubborn stains such as ink and blackberry juice from the skin,” explained the advisor as he produced the small pouch of powder.
“A fact to which I can also attest,” added Celeborn. The meaning of his words was not lost on any present, and he graciously assumed the resultant snickering was at his grandson’s expense and not because he had also been caught in their little trap. Elladan’s and Elrohir’s cheeks flushed crimson with embarrassment when they realised this, well aware of the inadvisability of incurring Celeborn’s wrath and immediately offered their apologies to their Grandada.
“I believe you owe your lords the same courtesy,” Celeborn told his grandsons.
“‘Tis not necessary, I think it best if we simply declare the match a tie,” Erestor conceded diplomatically, although only a sharp poke in Glorfindel’s ribs earned his reluctant agreement.
“So you were telling the truth. You have my apologies for doubting your word,” Legolas told his friends.
“You are forgiven, Haldir can be very persuasive when he chooses,” Elladan acknowledged as he accepted the apology with a playful clap on the Wood Elf’s back.
“It is the eyesight of an archer as skilled as you that you should not have doubted, mellon nin,” said Elrohir. Legolas smiled at the compliment and offered his friend a warrior’s handclasp.
“And we shall drink a toast to the brave, but foolhardy young Peredhel,” Haldir exclaimed as he placed a friendly arm about each of their shoulders in a show of his genuine affection for his lord’s kin.
“Indeed, I should say it is well past time the wine flowed, and is that fresh fish I see roasting in the coals?” enquired the ever practical, and apparently hungry, Mithrandir.
“Aye, and the wild strawberries Legolas and I collected for our dessert are also a favourite of yours, are they not?” Celeborn asked as he handed the Istar his first goblet of wine.
Soon all were seated around the campfire, enjoying the delicious repast and the astounding and usually humorous tales that Mithrandir was all too willing to tell.
“I wonder that you did not ask Adar to join us tonight, Mithrandir,” commented Elladan after he had had his fill of the fresh strawberries and had stretched out in the grass beside his brother.
“A relaxing evening such as this would have served him well,” observed Erestor with concern in his eyes for his friend.
“I agree. I did ask, but he and Prince Imrahil had already made plans to spend the evening discussing the history book the Prince had brought from the library at Dol Amroth.” Mithrandir explained.
“Then your plan was thwarted from the beginning, for I am sure Elrond is enjoying himself immensely,” said Glorfindel with relief that the lore master was not spending the evening alone with his sad thoughts.
“And what of our dear sister? Is she still angry with us for escaping her clutches?” asked Elrohir who was feeling a little guilty for avoiding Arwen.
“Nay, Elrond has spoken on your behalf, and has elicited an agreement from Arwen not to insist any of her kin or her guests assist with the preparations. Unless they wish to, of course.”
“Thank the Valar for Adar,” said Elladan, with an exaggerated sigh of relief.
“It seems you are also relieved of the need to explain our absence to Arwen,” Glorfindel said to Erestor, reminding him of their wager.
“Nonetheless, I will make our peace with her when we return,” replied the advisor, who like the others was very fond of Elrond’s lovely daughter.
“It may also interest you to know,” continued the Istar, “that, according to Galadriel, it appears Lindir’s fondness for the seamstress is returned, but both are far too shy to approach each other. In her desire to share her happiness at being in love, as well as partake in a little matchmaking, Arwen invited the couple to dine with Aragorn, Galadriel and herself this evening.”
Mithrandir laughed heartily at the undisguised looks of alarm from the Elves as the thought of soon being 'guests' at another wedding crossed their minds.