Dinner was held at the back of Elrond’s house, under an open structure composed of a roof held up by tall wooden pillars, made to give shade and ward off rain. A long table stretched from one end to the other, lined by chairs. Seated to one side of the table was a bench, where a brown-haired elf sat, his eyes smiling. Before his nimble fingers was a golden harp.
At the head of the table sat Elrond. Servants in black and white took Thranduil, Legolas, and the Mirkwood guards to their seats at the table. Thranduil and his son sat to Elrond’s left, facing the twins. Besides Legolas was the stalwart form of Glorfindel, the balrog slayer, facing Erestor. The rest of the Mirkwood guards filled the remaining chairs, down to where Celebrian sat at the foot.
The table held steaming platters of roast meat and vegetables, ice cold drinks, and a row of silver candlesticks down the middle holding tapered beeswax candles. The light reflected off the polished wood of the table. At each seat, a silver plate, silverware, napkin, and glass cup were set.
“May the valar bless this table with good grace and wisdom, “Elrond said. “We may now quench our hunger.” He nodded to the elf at the harp, and the player immediately ran his fingers across the strings, producing a low, haunting tune. The servants poured the wine and fruit juice.
Thranduil found it hard to converse with Elrond over the delicious food. The air held the constantly lingering notes of the haunting tune played by Lindir. Elladan and Elrohir sat silently and stiffly in their sears, trying to keep smiles plastered onto their faces but failing. Legolas squirmed beside Thranduil, not liking the dull atmosphere and equally dull and lifeless questions. The eight Mirkwood guards sat in appalled silence, looking at each other and making small hand gestures to silently communicate their bewilderment.
Thranduil set down his wine cup, unable to take any more. He broke off his discussion with Elrond and Glorfindel to lean forward and look down the table at Hyrondal, his head guard. With a desperate expression he said, “If the good lord Elrond does not object, would you play us a tune or two?”
Hyrondal looked at Elrond. “May I?”
“Certainly,” Elrond answered.
Hyrondal tossed back his wine cup and leapt to his feet. He approached Lindir as leaned down to ask him to move aside. Lindir shot a nervous look in Elrond’s direction before he gave his seat to Hyrondal and stood reluctantly to the side, trying not to hover over his precious instrument.
Hyrondal shook the sleeves of his dress uniform back, drew in a deep breath, and hit the strings, giving voce to a rollicking and merry tune, inviting laughter and cheer.
Thranduil relaxed and closed his eyes with relief. He no longer felt as though he sat at a funeral, saying goodbye to a beloved family member. He switched his gaze back to Elrond. “You were saying?”
Elrond no longer seemed tempted to carry on the discussion so Thranduil conversed with Glorfindel instead.
“Who are you?” Legolas asked Erestor, wondering why the twins looked at him with shocked eyes.
“Erestor,” said the elf, looking at Legolas in surprise.
“What do you do?” Legolas asked.
“I am lord Elrond’s councilor and secretary,” said the elf.
“What is a secretary?”
“A person who does someone else’s office work. Does your father not have one? I should have thought king Thranduil would have a secretary.”
Legolas thought for a moment and then shook his head. “No. Ada does his work himself, but sometimes I clean out his entire office for him. It collects a lot of rubbish.” He thought and then added, “Harune sometimes helps him work.”
“Oh!” said Erestor. “I should never have thought—king Thranduil does his work himself.”
Legolas nodded. “Yes. Who helps you when you have too much work?”
“No one,” said Erestor sadly.
“No one!” said Legolas in horror. “But how do you manage? What does Elrond do?”
“What any lord is entitled do. He does a few necessary bits of paperwork here and there and reviews documents but he spends the rest of his time enjoying himself and relaxing.”
“You must be boring our guest, Erestor,” Elrond said, looking down the table at the elf pointedly. He blinked as Legolas turned to look at him and said earnestly, “I am not bored at all.”
Erestor cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Does your father spend a lot of time with you?”
“Hours and hours,” said Legolas with satisfaction.
“But how does he find the time if he does his work himself?”
“He does not do it all in one day,” Legolas explained. “He works from eight to twelve every day, and spends the rest of it with me!”
“You must be happy,” Erestor said softly.
Legolas nodded, his eyes shining.
As dinner came to an end, Thranduil filled a plate with hot food. He handed it Hyrondal as the elf moved away from the harp with a smile. “You have forsaken your dinner to play for us. Eat now.”
“Playing gave me as much pleasure as eating,” Hyrondal said, accepting the plate. “I felt as though someone felt ill on the world by the tune before.”
Elrond, Celebrian, the twins, Erestor, and Glorfindel gathered to wish their guests goodnight. After returning the words, Thranduil took Legolas’s hand and departed with his party. It was only until he was halfway to the guest house that he realized Elladan and Elrohir had not spoken one word during the entire meal.
Elrond came into the living room after tucking Elladan and Elrohir into bed and joined his wife by the fire. He sank down into his armchair and shook his head.
Celebrian looked at him. “I see we share thoughts.”
“Such terrible manners,” Elrond said. “I wonder at his father!”
“Well, Legolas has no mother to rub off his rough edges,” Celebrian said gently, “But I admit I was shocked at his behavior during dinner. Children are meant to be seen, not heard! If any child of mine spoke without being spoken to . . .”
“At least Legolas’s wildness did not rub off on Elladan and Elrohir,” Elrond said grimly. “They, at least, behaved like perfect elflings.”
Celebrian smiled. “Yes, but I do hope Thranduil punishes Legolas for his shocking behavior.”
“He did not so much as bat an eyelid when Legolas spoke to Erestor,” Elrond said. He shrugged.
“I do not want to sleep by myself tonight, in a strange room,” Legolas said, looking up at his father.
Thranduil yawned. “You may sleep with me. Run and change.”
Legolas slipped out of the room while Thranduil changed into his nightclothes and pulled down the cool blankets on his bed. As he climbed onto the crackling mattress, Legolas bounced onto it beside him and grabbed a pillow for himself.
“Can Elladan and Elrohir talk?” Legolas asked, as he settled down.
Thranduil cuddled Legolas into the crook of his arm and patted his cheek as he pulled up the blankets with his other arm. “So you noticed to? I have not heard anything about them being mute.”
“I will try talking to them tomorrow, at breakfast,” Legolas said sleepily. “I meant to, but I got wrapped up with Erestor . . . do you think they know how to have fun here? Were we mourning someone at dinner I did not know about?”
Thranduil yawned. “I do not believe so. Now sleep, little leaf. It has been a long and tiring day for both of us.”
“I hope Harune and Landion are not missing us too badly,” Legolas murmured as he rolled onto his side and slept.
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