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The Great Escape
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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10
The Return of the Elves

As the first rays of the morning sun warmed the white stone of the city, the streets were already bustling with market vendors setting up their stalls for the day. Many of the womenfolk were about as well, tending to their domestic chores, as the wet laundry or dusty rugs that hung from windows and lines strung between the buildings indicated. Thanks to the sacrifice of so many, this promised to be another day of blissfully peaceful existence filled with excited anticipation for the approaching royal wedding. However, this soon turned into a morning like no other, for word of the return of three of the Elves had passed rapidly through streets that were now crowded with those eager to catch a glimpse of the elusive beings.

To the eyes of the mortals, the ethereal radiance of inner light shone from faces almost too beautiful to bear, even as the glittering sunlight danced on hair of three different hues. Although age had not marred their features, these three were ancient and powerful beings and it was apparent to all that they possessed an air of mystery and a regal presence. Celeborn, Glorfindel and Erestor were well aware of the awe inspiring vision they presented but treated the situation with amused tolerance as they rode in silence towards the King’s stables. When heads were bowed with respect as the elder Elves passed, they politely acknowledged in kind, the smiles in their bright eyes speaking to all of their warm and gentle hearts.

The whispered sighs of wistful longing for the unattainable also reached ears not meant to hear, and many a heart fluttered wildly when Glorfindel responded to Erestor’s rolled eyes, and sigh of exasperation with a brilliant smile. A smile that turned into merry laughter when he heard Celeborn confide in the advisor that the seneschal mistakenly believed he was the only one the maidens desired.

The welcome they received upon reaching the palace, however, was slightly less adoring.

“Galadriel and I were wondering whether we would be graced by your company today, my lords,” said Elrond who had seen the riders approach from his balcony where he was sharing an early breakfast with the Lady, and had come to meet them.

“Ai, then I must hasten to her side and calm her fears,” said Celeborn, feigning apprehension and fooling no-one as he bowed to his friends as he took his leave. His eagerness to go to his beloved wife had nothing to do with avoiding her displeasure, and everything to do with his constant delight in her presence and the sweet taste of her lips.

“If not her ire,” Glorfindel whispered in an aside to Erestor, who nodded his agreement. They both knew Galadriel was as formidable when she was angry as she was beautiful to behold. Elrond also heard the remark and laughed softly for he could not dispute its accuracy.

“I admit she was not in a particularly good humour yesterday, but neither was Arwen, thanks to the sudden disappearance of most of the Elves,” he commented.

“My dear Elrond, do I detect regret on your part for declining Mithrandir’s invitation to join us?” Glorfindel asked in a tone of voice that was light and teasing. He decided to speak before Erestor could apologise for their absence, for as far as Glorfindel was concerned they had done nothing wrong. “As I explained to Erestor yesterday, a book can be read any time and surely in the course of our sojourn here there will be many other opportunities to discuss history with Prince Imrahil, will there not?”

“Aye,” Elrond agreed with a nod and a pointed glance at Erestor whose almost mischievous demeanour had caught his attention. “I am surprised you allowed Glorfindel’s silver tongue to persuade you to escape the confines of your chamber. Nonetheless I am pleased to see you looking much more cheerful and relaxed than you have since we arrived in the city. I was beginning to worry about you, mellon nin.” Erestor smiled at the irony of Elrond’s concern which reflected his own and Glorfindel’s for their lord, but he decided not to comment for Elrond was also in a much better mood than he had been for too many days to count.

“Indeed it has been most enjoyable if not rare experience for Eryn Lasgalen, Imladris and Lothlorien to come together for something other than discussions of border patrols, orc attacks and the like,” Erestor told him.

“Not to mention a little mischief making as well,” added Glorfindel, hinting that he had a tale to tell as they made their way from the stables back into the garden that Sam, Merry and Pippin had finished working on in Legolas’s absence.

“What did they do this time?” Elrond could not hide the smile of amusement as he referred to his sons. Glorfindel was about to reply when Arwen called to them from the archway.

“Good morning, my lords, I am pleased to see you back in Minas Tirith,” she said sweetly as she walked up to them and placed a kiss on each of their cheeks. “Are my brothers and Legolas not with you?”

“Nay, they will return later today," Erestor told her. “Haldir assures us he will see that they do,” he added when he saw Arwen and Elrond exchanged a sceptical glance.

“At least there is one responsible Elf amongst you,” Elrond commented dryly. Like Erestor and Glorfindel, he held the march warden in high regard, and respected his devotion to both his duty and his Lord and Lady.

“Speaking of responsible Elves, I hear Lindir was very helpful. Did he allow the seamstress to finish her sewing?” asked Glorfindel innocently, earning himself a playful slap on the arm from Arwen.

“Indeed he was, but how am I to accomplish all that still needs to be done if you insist on depriving me of assistants?” There was a hint of reproach in Arwen’s voice that made Erestor feel a little guilty for his part in the previous day’s events. Glorfindel saw the slight frown, and with a barely perceptible of his head, indicated he understood his friend wished to make his peace with Arwen.

“Ai, speaking of assistants reminds me that Lindir mentioned he has a surprise, and asked me to invite all the Elves to gather in the garden after the evening meal to hear what he has to say.” Arwen told her elders.

“Another wedding announcement perhaps?” Elrond suggested.

“I do not know, Adar, he did not confide in me further, though it would be delightful if it was,” she replied smiling happily at the thought.

“I will personally see that your brothers, Legolas and the Galadhrim attend,” promised Glorfindel with a bow, knowing how alarming the prospect of another such occasion had seemed to the young ones. “But for now, I believe a nice warm bath beckons. Walk with me, Elrond and I will speak to you of our day in the woods,” he said, deliberately leaving Arwen and Erestor alone.

“I hope you do not think poorly of Glorfindel and me for depriving you f our assistance and that of your brothers yesterday,” he said apologetically

“And Legolas as well," she teased. Erestor smiled and nodded. “Nay, it would be most unfair to be annoyed with my two favourite lords when Grandada did likewise with his warriors,” she said, taking Erestor’s arm as they walked around the garden. “Besides, I can not have us at odds when there is something important I would ask you to do for me.” A surprised Erestor turned to face his lovely companion.

“I would be only too pleased to assist with your wedding, even in a small way. How can I help?” Erestor asked, unable to hide the hurt that could be easily seen in his eyes as he recalled his feeling of uselessness. Arwen was not insensitive to his plight and squeezed his arm gently.

“I now that were we at Imladris the preparations for such an occasion would be handled by you and your staff, and even here I could have wished it was so,” she admitted with a small sigh.

“Nay, as Glorfindel rightly pointed out, this is a city of Men, and we Elves are simply here as family and friends of the bride,” he said.

“Aye, and as you are undoubtedly aware, official records must be made of the King’s wedding, and Faramir has already been assigned this task. However, Aragorn and I wish a more personal account to be written, one we plan to read to our children and in turn, they to their children, for generations to come. No one, not even Adar, is as gifted with the written word as you, dear Erestor, nor is anyone more observant of the smallest details of everything that transpires. Will you not write it for us?” Erestor was speechless for a moment as he gazed into the imploring eyes and was forced to clear the lump from his throat before he replied. “There is none other than you who I would ask this of,” she added, reaching up to gently touch his cheek in a simple gesture of affection that she had often used as a child.

“I imagine that you and Aragorn, not to mention Elrond, will be far too busy celebrating to remember the day in much detail.” Arwen’s cheeks turned a beautiful shade of pink at these words, and the wicked gleam in Erestor’s eyes.

“Then you will do it?”

“Aye, it will be both my honour and my pleasure to do as you ask, my sweet Undomiel,” he managed to whisper before two delicate arms hugged him fiercely around the neck.

“Oh, thank you so much! I must go and tell Aragorn,” she said with delight in her voice after she released Erestor from the brief embrace. Still arm in arm, they walked through the archway that lead inside, and with an exchange of affectionate smiles, parted to go their separate ways.

**********

It was not until Anor had almost disappeared below the horizon that the younger Elves returned from their wanderings. Whereas their elders had ridden with stately elegance, Elladan and Elrohir, and the young Galadhrim in Haldir’s charge relished the attention of the citizens who again lined the streets to welcome them back. Haldir, Legolas and Mithrandir rode slightly ahead of the others, not wishing to participate in the exuberant and, to the minds of the two Elves, but not the highly amused Istar, unseemly behaviour of their companions who waved and laughed merrily at the crowds, and caused squeals of delight from the maids they blew kisses to as they passed.

On their arrival at the stables, they were reminded by a messenger from Galadriel that all were required to attend the evening meal that was to begin an hour after sunset, and the group quickly dispersed to their respective chambers to bathe and dress appropriately.

The meal was a lively affair, and the evening passed quickly in an atmosphere of merry laughter and joyful talk full of friendly jests and teasing about the great escape. Arwen bestowed affectionate kisses on Glorfindel’s and Erestor’s cheeks, then danced gaily with Celeborn, Legolas and each of her brothers in turn, showing she harboured no ill feelings towards anyone.

When Lindir and his musicians finished playing and moved outside, Glorfindel had no trouble keeping his promise to Arwen, for the warm night and the brilliantly shining stars were more than enough reason for the Elves to continue their revelry in the sweetly scented air of the gardens. Several wineskins were handed around so that goblets rarely remained empty for long, and the musicians were easily persuaded to take up their instruments and provide accompaniment for the soft, melodious voices that rose in song. They sung not only of praise for the beauty of the stars and all Ilúvatar’s creations, but several were of the more rowdy and ‘colourful’ tunes Elladan and Elrohir had learned in the taverns of Minas Tirith that they had visited with the hobbits and the King’s guard.

Glorfindel then treated his appreciative audience to one of his favoured melodies from Gondolin, after which Lindir requested everyone’s attention.

“I know many of you are expecting a betrothal announcement, but I am sorry to disappoint you, we are not yet ready to take that step,” he said with a quick glance at his lady and a stern glare at Elladan, Elrohir and several of the Galadhrim who breathed unmistakeable sighs of relief. “The reason we are gathered here tonight is because I have written several songs recently, all of which are to be sung at the royal wedding, except for the one I wish to share tonight.” He looked over to where Glorfindel was now seated with the musicians, his harp resting in his lap, and gave the signal for the music to begin.

Possessing one of the sweetest voices of all the Firstborn, and mesmerising his audience with an enchanting melody that wove vivid images in the listeners’ minds with every note, Lindir sang a tribute to the heroic Elf named Legolas.

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