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23
2008 Advent Challenge-Day One

Written for the Day One "Bottle" prompt. It was supposed to be a ficlet, but it grew. And it was actually two separate pieces, but I thought they did well enough together.


~~~

“Priinncce Elllllphir! Where are you?” trilled a light feminine voice. “Prince Erchirion! Are you out here? You promised you’d get me a drink!” exclaimed another in petulant tones.

“Valar! The Pack are out in force tonight!” Nineteen-year-old Elphir groaned softly to his younger brother as they pressed themselves back into the shadows behind one of the pillars in the Great Hall. “Where are Faramir and Boromir?”

“They’ve already escaped, the ungrateful sods!” growled Erchirion. “And after letting us take the brunt of things since the evening began!”

“Patience, Brother. Our moment will come.” Dol Amroth’s two most eligible bachelors desperately watched the approach of a slender, disheveled figure as if he were their last hope. Their younger brother Amrothos, who was wearing an absurdly large belt pouch this evening, eyed the fugitives with amusement.

“Are you ready, Brothers?”

“Past ready!” Erchirion exclaimed.

“Then….GO!” The two princes hastened towards the door of the hall. Behind them, the hounds caught sight of their quarry.

“Priinncce Elllllphir! There you are!” “Prince Erchirion, you get back here right now!” These ladies, and others drawn by their belling cries, set forth in pursuit of the beleaguered youths, only to become entangled with their younger, disregarded brother in the doorway.

“’Ware ladies, you’ll step on my frog!”

Frog!" "FROG!" Eeeuuuw!” A panicked amphibian was indeed trying to flee across the marble floor. In doing so, he leapt upon the silken slipper of one of the young ladies. She shrieked, spun and fled back into the ballroom with the other ladies, sending the poor frog spinning into the air. Fortunately, he was caught before he was dashed to the floor by Amrothos, who slid across the patterned marble in a desperate dive.

The musicians jangled to an untidy halt. Silence fell over the great hall, and all attention turned towards the disturbance at the doorway. The great and near-great of Belfalas were greeted with the edifying sight of the youngest prince of Dol Amroth flat on his stomach and holding a frog up off the floor carefully in one hand. The crowd parted before his father, who approached and cast a magisterial eye down upon his offspring.

“Amrothos,” Imrahil of Dol Amroth said mildly, “I believe I made a royal edict some time ago prohibiting amphibians and reptiles admittance to the Great Hall. Do you happen to remember it?”

“I do, Father,” came the sober reply.

“Then how do you explain this?”

Amrothos tried for an expression of guileless innocence. He was not entirely successful. “I forgot he was in my pouch?”

Imrahil reached down and hauled his son to his feet by the shoulder. He then reached into the pouch and pulled out a little of the bedding of damp leaves and grass Amrothos had added for the creature’s comfort. It was still quite fresh. Tucking it back into the pouch, he regarded his son grimly.

“If you cannot behave in public as a young man of your years should, then you can go to bed like a child. You are excused.”

There was a gleeful glint in Amrothos’ eye that told his father this punishment was much to his liking and might even have been the desired result of his actions. Imrahil smiled, and it was an evil smile.

“And I mean what I say, Amrothos. You are to go to bed. Lights out. No reading, no experiments. Tirathiel and I will be checking. Good night.”

Properly chastened at last, Amrothos slunk out of the hall. Imrahil turned back to his guests and surveyed the crowd. It did not take long to find that the Steward’s two sons, as well as his own elder two, were all missing.

“Andra,” he said his blood-brother, who stood silent at his elbow.

“My lord prince.”

“The lords Boromir and Faramir have escaped to the garden. You know the place. Elphir and Erchirion are with them. I suspect they’re drinking with their cousins, as well as dodging their duty as hosts. Can I rely upon you to make my boys regret their indulgence on the morrow?”

Andrahar smiled. It was a deceptively pleasant smile, fraught with deeper meaning. “Elph is still under my tutelage, so that’s no problem. And I’ll go down to the harbor early tomorrow and have a talk with ‘Chiron’s captain. He’ll be swabbing decks for a fortnight, if I don’t miss my guess. Shall I fetch them back now?”

Imrahil laid a companionable arm about Andrahar‘s shoulders, and gave him a friendly squeeze. “No. Let them have their fun. Then let them pay for it later. Thank you, Andra. Your efficiency is always such a comfort to me.” Andrahar bowed and departed, leaving Imrahil alone. He looked about his hall and his satisfaction fled, for he suddenly realized that with Boromir, Faramir and his sons all gone, the Pack no longer had any prey left-save for him.

“My lord prince, may I present to you my daughter?”

Even as he spoke pleasantly to the man and the girl, Imrahil thought longingly of the bottle on his sideboard in the study. He knew he was going to need it before the night was through.

****************

“Did you bring the bottle?” Boromir demanded when Erchirion and Elphir pushed their way through the hedges into the secret hiding place. “Cost of admission, you know.”

“It’s our garden!” Erchirion said a bit belligerently.

“Ah, but we’re older and as your guests have precedence. Besides, we found it first,” the Steward’s heir declared. Faramir simply smiled. He looked relieved to have escaped the confines of the hall, and a little owlish and sleepy. Probably drunk a bit too much already, Erchirion thought smugly. He had an admirable capacity for drink for one of his tender years.

Elphir presented the bottle to his older cousin, who looked at the cobwebby glass with approval. “You don’t mess around, do you Elph! Well done! Take a seat!”

An hour or two of bibulous fellowship followed, as the cousins caught up on news and listened to the music drifting from the hall. From time to time, a frustrated lady would venture into the garden seeking one of them, but they were never discovered. Eventually a heavier set of footsteps sounded on the path, heading unerringly for their hiding place. Four cousins looked up guiltily as Imrahil of Dol Amroth, a dark cloak thrown over his shoulders, his circlet glimmering upon his head, pushed his way into their refuge.

“You do realize,” he said, frowning down at them, his handsome face severe, “that your oh-so-convenient escapes left me the only eligible bachelor in the room? Do you have any idea of what it was like trying to defend myself with none of my kinsmen at my back? Do I deserve that sort of treatment?”

Four young men grinned sheepishly. Boromir offered his uncle Elphir’s bottle, in which some liquor still remained. “Drink, Uncle?”

Imrahil glared at them a moment longer, then grinned suddenly. “Don’t mind if I do.” The circlet came off his head and was shoved up his arm, the cloak was gathered over his glittering finery and he sank down onto the grass to join the others

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