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An Excellent Vintage
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1
An Excellent Vintage

The two elder Elves, who were often falsely accused of despising each other, had been holding an extremely interesting and amicable conversation regarding the defence of Mirkwood from Sauron's minions. At least it had been amicable-- until the wine had been served.

The debate at the head table had become very heated, and it soon became apparent to every Elf in hearing range that Elrond and Thranduil had found another topic on which to forcefully air differing opinions, as they also often liked to do.

Lord Celeborn, in whose honour the banquet was being held, was not impressed. He was also in grave danger of becoming covered in said wine as the increasingly angry words of the two Elves were being punctuated by the pounding of their fists on the table, causing the contents of the glasses to slop over the rim. With a both speed and grace, he moved unnoticed out of the range of the wine glass that threatened to spill its contents into his lap.

The sons of the elf lords were watching with amusement from their vantage point at the end of the table and started slightly when Celeborn approached silently and said in a voice soft enough for their ears only;

"I will wager that it is Thranduil who causes the wine to spill first, he seems to be putting far more force into his 'expressing his opinion' than Elrond." There was a burst of laughter from all three as the vibration from the King's fist caused the wine glass to move closer to the edge of the table

"It would be foolish of us to accept such a wager, Lord Celeborn. Adar is well known for the strength of his convictions," responded Legolas with a wry grin. He knew his adar well and had barely finished speaking when there was the tinkling sound of fine crystal shattering as the glass fell to the tiles.

"Such undignified behaviour can not be tolerated," said Elladan, imitating the tone of voice Elrond often used when disciplining his wayward sons. Celeborn laughed heartily at such audacity from his grandson, ignoring the barely stifled mirth from Elrohir and Legolas.

"Well said, Elladan!" Celeborn agreed with a merry twinkle in his eye. "I will put a stop to this nonsense immediately. I see no need to waste good wine over a petty squabble, which I am sure this is!" And so it was.

"I tell you, I should know what year it was made! It came from my own private cellar!" Thranduil said his voice raised to a shout, and slamming his fist on the table once more. "3425 of the Second Age!"

"More like 3420, I believe," insisted Elrond calmly, but with a certain measure of arrogance nonetheless. He took another sip before nodding his head in confirmation. "Yes, there is no doubt, definitely 3420."

"There is a simple, and far less raucous way to solve this," Celeborn said sternly, indicating his displeasure, as he took his place between the two antagonists. "Why not simply go and check the vat for yourself? I am sure Thranduil has no objection to showing you his wine cellar." Thranduil did not miss the look from Celeborn that suggested he had better not object.

"If you insist, Lord Celeborn. This way Elrond," Thranduil said with contempt dripping from his voice and a storm brewing in his eyes. Celeborn caught them both by the arm as they rose to leave the table.

"I expect more decorum from you, both. Perhaps you should follow the example set by your sons," he commented, indicating the three younger elves who were laughing merrily and obviously enjoying each other's company. The Lord of Rivendell and the King of Mirkwood accepted the chastisement in silence and all eyes were on the two as they left the dining hall.

Thranduil lead Elrond down a long flight of stairs to the lower levels of his Hall. They came into a large open space that gave access to several very small rooms with barred doors, which Elrond recognised from Bilbo Baggins' description as the dungeons. There were several barrels stacked nearby and Thranduil explained that these were to be sent down the chute in the floor to be collected and placed on the barges that the Wood Elves used to ferry cargo down the Forest River to the markets at Laketown. Elrond was impressed with the ingenuity of the system, but said nothing, for he did not wish to become involved in a discussion which would lead to talk of the dungeons, for which he had a great dislike.

The door of one of the dungeons was locked, and through the bars several vats of wine could be seen. Thranduil took a large key ring from his belt and selecting the appropriate key he opened the door, and ushered Elrond in with a wave of his hand.

"Look at the labels, Elrond. The only vat which is tapped says.."

"..Second Age 3425. I stand corrected," Elrond admitted graciously. Thranduil was taken aback by this sudden change in attitude and decided to show an equal amount of amicability.

"Shall we sample a glass, to make sure there is no doubt?" suggested Thranduil.

"I think that would be wise," agreed Elrond.

Thranduil took the keys and went to the small alcove next door to the 'cellar'. He unlocked the elaborately carved wooden cabinet that was in there, and took out two elegant crystal goblets. As he stepped back into the dungeon, the hem of his robe caught on the bottom of the door and before he realised what was happening, it was pulled shut, locking them both in with the wine. Elrond raised his eyebrow at the curse Thranduil uttered.

"I have not heard those words since I was amongst the warriors at the Last Alliance," he commented as he took the goblets and filled them from the vat.

"You may find cause to utter them yourself when I tell you that I left the keys outside on the cabinet," commented Thranduil dryly, his eyes agleam with a hint of amusement for the situation they found themselves in.

"Are you telling me we are locked in here? Surely between us we can force the door open?" Elrond insisted.

Thranduil said nothing but casually sipped his wine as he watched Elrond try unsuccessfully to push the door open. He then tried to pick the lock, but to no avail.

"The lock to this particular door can only be opened with the key and the words of magic only have power when spoken by myself or my heir." Thranduil explained. It was Elrond's turn to be surprised, for although he knew that Thranduil was possessed of some magic, which he used to keep his realm free of the Shadow, he did not realise that his power extended to Legolas.

"When would you next expect someone to come down here?" Elrond asked, with a dreadful feeling that he already knew the answer.

"Tomorrow morning," Thranduil replied, a small smile playing on his lips. "It seems we are to be companions for the rest of the evening." Elrond accepted the goblet of wine he was handed and drank it down in one large gulp.

"I suppose we would not be heard if we shouted for help?" asked a very subdued Elrond, not at all pleased with the prospect of spending any more time than necessary in Thranduil's dungeon.

"It is not likely since we are quite far away from the normal traffic areas of my Hall." Thranduil laughed heartily as Elrond swore like the warrior he once was.

******

Several hours later, Celeborn decided he had best go in search of the two Elf Lords, for they had not returned from the cellar. He had thought to send Legolas and the Twins, but they were no longer in the dining hall and he assumed they had gone to join in the singing and dancing in the forest. Besides, he was not all that certain that the two elder Elves had not actually come to blows, unlikely as it seemed.

Celeborn had often been a guest in Mirkwood, and easily found his way to the levels below. As he approached the cellars he stopped to listen, unable to believe what his ears were hearing.

'Singing? From the dungeons?' He thought he recognised at least some of the voices, but he was totally astounded at the unexpected sight he beheld as he reached the bottom of the stairs. The distinguished Lord of Rivendell and his Majesty, the King of Mirkwood, were sitting on wine vats, singing a battle song that he had last heard on the eve of the war against Sauron. Their sons were sitting on the floor outside the cell, also singing loudly and also obviously having partaken of the wine.

They had not, however, unlocked the dungeon door.

"Ah, Celeborn. Have you come to join us?" asked Elrond as he waved his wine goblet in the air. Celeborn was certain he did not wish to join them, and was sorely tempted to leave them there.

"I see you took my comments about acting as friends to heart," he commented dryly. "However, it seems your sons have also decided to follow your example," he said as he turned to glare at Legolas and the Twins. "Why did you not release them?" he asked of the three younger ones.

"I forgot the words," replied a slightly embarrassed Legolas.

"And King Thranduil would not speak them out loud," said Elladan in his friend's defence.

"And we could not break the doors open," added Elrohir.

"I see!" said Celeborn with a snort of disgust as he retrieved the key from the cabinet and proceeded to unlock the door.

"Thranduil, you said only you or Legolas could do that!" exclaimed Elrond, sobering enough to fix his sons with a look that spoke of his displeasure at their amusement.

"So I did. How did you do that?" Thranduil asked, eying Celeborn warily.

"It is within the range of my abilities," was all Celeborn was prepared to say.

"I suggest we all make our way to the kitchen and I will prepare some herbal tea which will remove the effect of your excessive wine consumption."

"Ai, perhaps it might be wiser for you to bring it down here?" Thranduil suggested, feeling a little shaky on his feet.

"I think that is an excellent idea," concurred Elrond, also not altogether sure he could walk up the many stairs with the decorum required of his station.

"Very well," Celeborn agreed with an exasperated sigh.

Once out of their sight, he allowed a small smile to curve his lips and began to hum along with a song that had been one of his favourites as a warrior as the loud and slightly off key strains of the chorus followed him up the stairs.

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