An Entertaining Evening
The courtyard of the house shared by the members of the fellowship boasted a small garden filled with many sweetly scented flowers and one of the only fully grown trees in Minas Tirith. It was a peaceful setting in which the two friends were often to be found enjoying each other’s company on many a warm summer night. As was his habit, Gimli puffed lazily on his pipe, his eyes half closed with contented relaxation as he listened to Legolas who sat in the tree well away from the smoke he found so unpleasant, sing softly to the stars that twinkled overhead.
The tranquillity of this particular night was shattered by the appearance of their hobbit friends, who were all in a mood for merrymaking.
“Gimli, would you care to visit the tavern with us?” Frodo asked after friendly greetings were exchanged by all.
“The tavern, you say?” Gimli enquired with more than a little interest.
“Aye, I hear the one frequented by the guards has excellent ale,” commented Pippin.
“And one or two lovely serving maids,” added Merry with a wicked gleam in his eye. The Elf was certainly the most sought after member of the Fellowship, but to the delight of at least Merry and Pippin, many of the maids fancied the hobbits as well.
“Not as sweet and pretty as our Rosie, I’ll wager,” said Sam with much affection for the lass who had captured his heart. He pointedly, ignored the rolled eyes and knowing winks of his friends. “But ale or two would be nice.”
“Aye and I shall be pleased to accompany you. A tankard of that delicious brew is just what is needed to wet a throat dried by the warm evening air,” said Gimli enthusiastically as he put out his pipe and made ready to leave.
“Will you also join us, Legolas?” asked Frodo, turning his attention to the silent Elf. The invitation was made more out of politeness than actual expectation that their Mirkwood friend would join them, for he had always refused in the past.
“Aye, I believe I will. I am curious to learn of the attraction such places hold for mortals,” replied Legolas. Astonished silence fell across the garden, and it was Pippin who first regained his voice.
“Do you mean to say you have never been in a tavern?” asked the inquisitive hobbit, his eyes still wide with surprise. Legolas nodded his affirmation.
“Surely you jest!” exclaimed the Dwarf, shaking his head in disbelief at his friend’s incredible admission “Not even the one in Laketown?” Gimli had been rather fond of the small but friendly tavern that once was found there and on many a night had seen Elves of both the Woodland and River enjoying the hospitality of the inn.
“Neither Laketown nor its inn remained when I arrived there with Adar’s army,” Legolas replied simply, the sadness he had felt at the destruction of the town evident in his quiet voice. Gimli and the hobbits knew he referred to the Battle of the Five Armies in which Bilbo, the Dwarves and the Elvenking played a major role.
“But are there none in the villages on the outskirts of your forest?” asked Merry brightly, in far too high spirits to allow melancholy to prevail.
“I would not know, for even when on patrol in those areas, we stayed well clear of Men and their settlements,” explained Legolas. “I have had few dealings with Men over the centuries; the protection of Mirkwood was always uppermost in my mind. However, now that I no longer have that concern, perhaps it is time to broaden my experience in the ways of Men. How would you describe a tavern?” The question was directed at no one in particular, and it was Frodo who chose to reply.
“I suppose you could consider your merrymaking and feasts as an elvish kind of tavern,” Frodo mused. “Your singing, dancing and drinking wine is much the same as is to be found in the likes of the ‘Green Dragon’ or the ‘Prancing Pony’, the only difference is that your roof is the night sky or the canopy above.” The others nodded their agreement with that brief description.
“And there is no smoke from pipes to steal the air from your lungs,” teased Merry, voicing the complaint Legolas most often made during the quest.
“But are there lovely maids to serve the food and drink at these elvish taverns?” asked Gimli, finding it impossible to imagine the elegant Arwen performing such a task.
“Or to flirt with?” added Pippin with a pointed look as Sam who was blushing furiously.
“I do not ‘flirt’ with Rosie, my intentions are genuine, aren’t they Mister Frodo?” he retorted.
“Indeed they are,” agreed Frodo, saying no more although he was well aware of Sam’s desire to wed Rosie as soon as they returned to the Shire.
“There are many lovely maidens in Mirkwood, but it is not their role to serve those well able to help themselves. Also there is no ‘flirting’ as I understand you to mean the word. Like Samwise, we prefer to court our intended in a proper manner,” replied the Elf with a hint of softness in his voice that set the others wondering whether their mysterious companion had a sweetheart at home. It was the insatiably curious Pippin who asked the question.
“Do you have one?” the hobbit dared to ask. Legolas had volunteered so little information about his life in Mirkwood whilst on the quest, and his enigmatic response of “Perhaps,” now indicated that he intended to keep it that way.
“We should make haste rather than stand here talking, else the tavern closes before we arrive,” suggested Gimli who was looking forward to his draught of ale.
The tavern they chose was highly favoured by the soldiers of the King’s Guard and was one of the more spacious establishments. The hobbits were well known to the inn keeper and were warmly welcomed, as were Gimli and Legolas. The Elf‘s presence did not go unnoticed by the many and all eyes were fixed on the ethereal beauty of the Firstborn in their midst. That he was the King’s close friend and one of the famed Nine Walkers was common knowledge, but that did not prevent the occasional distrustful glare or inappropriate comment about his love life from one of those who had obviously had more than enough to drink already.
“So far I do not think much of your taverns. The Men are rude and the air is unbreathable,” he said to his friends, his voice filled with disgust as he wrinkled his nose at the thick pall of smoke that filled the room. “I think I will return to the house.”
“Just ignore them, Legolas. They will likely regret their foolish words when the ale wears off. If I had my axe, I would make certain of it,” declared Gimli, glaring angrily at the main offenders who were still watching the Elf. Legolas smiled with affection at his good friend and staunch defender.
“Surely you do not reject our company as well?” Frodo asked quietly.
“Indeed not, you are my friends.” The reply was simple yet heartfelt.
“Then please stay Legolas. It will be fun, won’t it Merry?” implored Pippin, nudging his companion into giving a positive response.
“Of course, and we will even sing you some of our favourite drinking songs,” added Merry.
“That is an entertainment not to be missed. They are both very good singers, almost as good as you if I may be so bold,” Sam assured Legolas, pleased to see that the Elf made no further move to leave.
“Come, Master Elf, perhaps you would feel more comfortable away from the curious stares,” suggested the innkeeper kindly. He had witnessed the unfriendly reaction to the Elf and was not willing to tarnish his tavern’s good name by allowing the few troublemakers to prevail. He led the King’s friends to the table at the back of the large room that was normally reserved for use by his own family. It was at in a slightly darker corner and Legolas chose to sit at the end closest to the wall where he could observe the patrons without being easily seen in return.
Determined that their friend should enjoy his first visit to a tavern, Merry and Pippin began regaling their companions with tales of their numerous misadventures in the Shire. They were talented story tellers and so amusing that before long Legolas was laughing merrily, having forgotten the others in the room.
When the maid came to deliver their drinks, he watched in fascination as Gimli applied considerable charms to the young girl, causing her to blush prettily at his compliments.
“Why Gimli, I would never have believed you could be so gallant had I not witnessed it this night,” he teased.
“You are not the only one with secrets, Master Elf,” replied the Dwarf. “I am considered to be quite attractive by the few Dwarf maids I know.”
“And with good reason, mellon nin,” replied Legolas, raising his goblet of wine as he made a silent toast to their friendship. Gimli returned the gesture then, to hide his sudden display of emotion, he gruffly demanded a song from the Merry and Pippin.
As Sam had promised, Legolas found the singing to be both a pleasure to listen to as well as highly entertaining in the manner of it s delivery. He wondered whether the inn keeper appreciated the two dancing on the table, but when he cast his eyes in the man’s direction, he saw the smile of delight as he tapped his foot in time with the lively tune.
“To really appreciate the cheerful mood, you must join in the singing,” whispered Sam who was sitting across the table from the Elf.
“I am afraid I do not know any drinking songs, perhaps you could teach me one?”
Legolas’s request was greeted with the sound of tankards being thumped on the table by four hobbits and a Dwarf who had possibly all had one ale too many. Thus it was that with some trepidation Legolas watched as the five huddled together for a moment as they discussed the best song to teach the Elf.
“Nay, that one is a little too raunchy,” said Frodo in reply to Merry’s whispered suggestion. Legolas raised his eyebrows in alarm. It was hardly appropriate for him to be heard singing a song such as Lord Glorfindel or the Rangers might favour, particularly considering the trouble he encountered earlier.
“Why not the one you were dancing to?” he suggested.
“An excellent idea!” they all agreed. After several minutes, and much disagreement as to who recalled all the words accurately, Legolas was considered ready to join in the singing. His sweet voice added considerable charm to the drinking song, and before long many of the others in the tavern also joined in. When Merry and Pippin began another song, the Elf quickly picked up the tune and the words and the singing continued well into the night with only brief silences whilst everyone slaked their thirsts.
It was with great reluctance that the inn keeper was forced to announce it was well past closing time, but as he assisted Legolas help his friends to their less than steady feet, he thanked the Elf for a most entertaining evening and invited them all to return whenever they wished.
The friends walked slowly back to their house, all except the Elf still singing with merry disregard for those trying to sleep in the buildings they passed.
“So what do you think of the tavern, Legolas?” asked Frodo who had moved away from the singers to speak with their silent companion. The Elf was amazed to realise he had given neither the smoke nor the impolite behaviour of the Men another thought once he had become involved in merrymaking with his friends, although he still preferred to revel beneath the glittering stars that shone on his forest home.
“It was as you described, and I had a very pleasant evening, but I would have done so wherever we were. It is not the inn that made the evening enjoyable, it was the company of friends.”