With Friends Like These

Chapter Thirty-one: Confession

by Jay of Lasgalen

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It was the evening of the great feast to bid farewell to Thranduil, Legolas, and the guests from Lasgalen.  As he prepared for the evening, Elrohir could hear in the distance the strains of music as the minstrels rehearsed their songs and ballads for the feast.  There were flutes and harps, drums, and a lyre.  There was also a beautifully delicate bell-like sound, from an instrument he did not recognise.  All around there was an atmosphere of excitement as elves prepared for the evening, dressing in their finery, talking and laughing.  There would be good food, expertly seasoned, flavoured and presented; the best wines from the most reputable vineyards and their most prized vintages; music, song, and dance.  With a sigh of frustration, Elrohir threw the carrot he had been scraping into the pot, and reached for another.

The punishment Elrond had imposed was fiendish.  Not only had they all been sentenced to washing mud and earth from the freshly collected vegetables, and scraping, peeling, shelling or slicing them as required – no, there was more.  The great cooking pots and roasting pans were to be scoured until gleaming, then the plates and glasses washed sparkling clean when they were returned from the great hall.  By the time that was all done, the meal would be over.  So would many of the songs and dances, and probably the ballad that Lindir had composed specially for the occasion.  Worst of all was the knowledge that this was entirely his own fault, and that he had caused Elladan and Legolas to be sentenced alongside him.  They would all miss the feast, the music and the merriment.

He watched Elladan from the corner of his eye as his brother brushed a strand of hair away with a grubby hand, leaving a smear of mud on his face.  “I’m sorry, El,” he said for the third time.  “And you, Legolas.  Sorry that I dragged you both into this.  And sorry that you’ll miss the feast.”

Elladan shook his head.  “Don’t be.  I told you before, I shouldn’t have goaded you like that.  And I knew what you were going to do; I could have stopped you.”

“It’s not all your fault, Elrohir,”  Legolas agreed.  “It was my choice to go with you – we didn’t think you should go alone; but I didn’t have to.  It didn’t stop us  finding trouble, did it?”

“Trouble found us – twice,”  Elrohir remembered.  “The trolls and the river were bad enough, but when I found out that Father knew, that was even worse!”

“But he doesn’t know, does he?”  Elladan pointed out.  “He still thinks you were in the valley.  If he ever finds out that you crossed the river …!”

Elrohir moaned.  “Don’t.  I hate this.  I hate deceiving him, letting him think we were here.  Perhaps it would be better to tell him what really happened?”  He dreaded the prospect, nearly as much as he hated the deception.  But he felt he could not continue like this.

“Don’t do that!”  Elladan and Legolas both told him at once.

“Don’t, El – it’s not worth it,”  Elladan continued.  “Just leave it.  Let all this die down; it will soon.”

Legolas nodded.  “He’s right.  Cleaning and peeling vegetables is one thing, but if there’s any more trouble I’ll be cleaning out the stables for a month when we get home!  I hate that!”

“What’s wrong with the stables?”  Elrohir asked in surprise.  “I often used to have to do it!”

“Yes, until Father realised how much you enjoyed working with the horses!”  Elladan recalled with a laugh.  He finished scraping the last carrot, and put down his knife, looking around with a sigh.  “Have we finished?”

The kitchen overseer, who had been put in charge of them, appeared.  “Not yet, young ones!”  he told them cheerfully.  “The roasting pans are next.  Over here!”

The succulent smell of roasted meat made Elrohir’s stomach rumble, and he cursed his stupidity again.  With a sigh, he set to work on the greasy, encrusted pans.

By the time they had finally scoured the last pots and pans, it was late.  The sound of laughter, conversation and music came from the great hall, and the clink of plates and glasses as all enjoyed good food and wine.  Under the overseer’s watchful eye, they dried the pans and put everything back in its rightful place.  “Well done, young ones!”  he told them.  “I am most impressed. You have worked hard, all of you, without a word of complaint.  I have something for you.”  He guided them to a table tucked into a corner of the kitchen and disappeared. 

One end of the table was set with three places.  Candles flickered, reflecting off the glass of a decanter of wine.  The overseer reappeared, balancing several heaped platters in his hands, and deftly set them down.  “Sit, sit!”  he ordered.  “You may miss the feast, but there is no need to go hungry.  Sit down!”  He smiled at their looks of surprise.  “There seems to be a certain sympathy for your plight,” he explained.  “When I saw your industriousness this evening, I decided you deserved some reward.  Then I had three separate reports from the servants in the great hall – messages from Lord Elrond, Lady Celebrían, and King Thranduil.  They all requested that you should not miss out entirely.”  He indicated the serving platters.  “Help yourselves.”

He vanished again, and they were alone.  Elrohir and Elladan looked at one another in silent amazement, while Legolas seized the decanter of wine and poured three glasses.  He sniffed and tasted the wine, then smiled.  “Dorwinion 129,” he decided. “A good vintage.”

Elrohir laughed, and glanced at Elladan.  “An excellent year,” he confirmed.  “Wouldn’t you agree, El?”

“The very best!”  Elladan raised his glass.  “Legolas, your visit here has been – eventful.  I hope that your return home will be quieter.”

After an excellent meal – tender beef, succulent venison, vegetables; juices mopped up with fresh bread and the whole washed down with a very fine wine – the remaining tasks of washing plates and glasses seemed far less onerous.  As Legolas dried the final glass and placed it carefully on the rack, the overseer smiled.  “Well done, young lords.  You have been a credit to yourselves.  It has been a pleasure to have you in my kitchens – though I am aware that you may not agree.  Thank you for your work tonight.”

As they left the kitchens, Elladan shrugged.  “I have never been thanked for completing a punishment before, have you?  Come on – there will still be singing in the Hall of Fire. We won’t miss everything.”

Elrohir yawned and shook his head.  “Not me.  I’m too tired.  Legolas?”

Legolas hesitated.  “I feel tired too, but this is my last night here – we leave before .  I don’t want to miss anything.”

“Then I’ll see you tomorrow.  Goodnight, El.  See you in the morning.”  With another yawn, Elrohir headed for the stairs.  With no sleep at all the previous night, and a busy day behind him, he looked forward to his bed.  There had been many duties and tasks to do, and pleading tiredness due to lack of sleep to escape them would not have been advisable.

As he reached the foot of the stairs, Glorfindel and Erestor came own, talking quietly.  Elrohir stopped suddenly.  Why had he not considered talking to Glorfindel before?  He could be a hard taskmaster on the training field, but when approached as a friend and confidante, would never betray a secret.  He seized his opportunity.  “Glorfindel?  Could I talk to you?  Now?”

Without displaying the slightest flicker of surprise, Glorfindel smiled at him.  “Of course you may.  Erestor, I will talk to you later.”  They waited until the councillor left, then Glorfindel turned to Elrohir again.  “What is this about?  It sounds serious.”

Elrohir nodded.  “It is.  Glorfindel, can we go somewhere where we will not be disturbed?  Your rooms?”

Without speaking, Glorfindel merely nodded, and gestured for Elrohir to go before him.  Entering his rooms, he lit  candles, closed the door, then turned to Elrohir.  “Well?”

Elrohir began to pace the room restlessly, then sat in a chair by the fireplace when Glorfindel pushed him towards it.  “It’s about last night,” he began.

Glorfindel nodded.  “I heard about that – I wondered why you were not at the feast tonight.  Roaming the valley at night – it was foolish behaviour.”  Then he looked sharply at Elrohir and frowned.  “There is more to this.  Is it something I should promise not to reveal to your parents?”

Elrohir hesitated, tempted by the offer, then shook his head.  “No.  I need to talk to you, but you may feel that you should tell them about this.  It’s up to you.  Glorfindel – Legolas and I weren’t in the valley last night.  We crossed the river, and went to the Trollshaws.”

“You did what?  Elrohir, you little fool!  Did you decide to see for yourself if the reports were true?  They were!  You could have been killed if the trolls had found you!”  Glorfindel had turned pale, and slammed his hand against the arm of his chair in emphasis.

Elrohir nodded miserably.  “I know.  I hadn’t realised how big they are – or how strong.  When it pushed me – I hadn’t realised how strong they are; how easily it could have killed us.  And it was only a little one.”

“Elrohir, what are you talking about? ‘When it pushed you’ – ‘it was only a little one’ – what do you mean?”  Glorfindel looked astounded and bewildered.  “Do you mean you actually saw a troll?”

With a sigh, Elrohir launched into an explanation of the previous night’s events – the young troll, its curiosity, their flight; and the terrifying moment when the Bruinen had risen against Legolas.  He stopped, still awe-struck by what had happened.  “Glorfindel, I’ve never seen the river like that.  I know it protects the valley, and prevents intruders from entering – but I saw it rise up, a great wave appearing out of nowhere.”  He shivered.  “I was scared.   I didn’t know what to do – I thought Legolas would be swept away and drowned.  And I saw myself trying to explain to Father, and King Thranduil, what had happened.”  He stopped again.

“I knew the river had risen.  I did not know that you and Legolas were the cause!  So what happened then?”  Despite his clear anger and shock, Glorfindel spoke gently.

Hesitantly, Elrohir continued.  “I couldn’t just stand and watch, so I ran into the water – I think I was going to try to pull him out.  But he kept falling; he couldn’t stand up, and the river kept washing him further away from me when I tried to grab him.”

He stopped speaking, and Glorfindel rose from his chair, moving to kneel next to Elrohir.  “And?” he asked quietly.

“There was only one thing I could think of.  I told the river who I was, who Legolas was; and that he was a friend, not a threat to Imladris.  Glorfindel, I commanded the river – and it obeyed me!”  Elrohir paused in wonder as he recalled the moment.  “I didn’t know I could do that.  Then the water just dropped away, and we could cross normally.”

Glorfindel regarded Elrohir with astonishment.  Then he smiled.  “You have clearly inherited some of your father’s power.  He would be proud of you, I think.”

Proud?”  Elrohir echoed incredulously.  “Glorfindel, I disobeyed him by crossing the Bruinen, and very nearly got us both killed – twice!  I don’t think ‘proud’ is going to describe his reaction when he finds out!”

“Although you were frightened, you tried to save Legolas,”  Glorfindel pointed out.  “You did not run away, but into the river, into the path of danger.  You did not panic, and by remembering your heritage did the only thing that could have saved either of you.  You acted very courageously.  Yes, he would be proud – as I am.”

Elrohir said nothing, but simply stared at Glorfindel in surprise.  He had had to tell someone about his idiotic venture, and knew that Glorfindel’s fury and disappointment  would be easier to bear than his father’s.  This was not the reaction he had expected at all.  “But – when he finds out about the Trollshaws …”  he began stumblingly.

“Perhaps this is something he does not need to know about?  You have told me.  You have already been punished by missing the feast.  Will you give me your word that you will not do this again?”

Still startled into incoherence, Elrohir nodded.  “Yes, of course I will.  Of course I won’t.  Oh – I mean …”

This time, Glorfindel laughed.  “I know what you mean, elfling.  Then let the matter end here.  You see only too clearly now the danger, and have learned from this.  Go to bed – you look more than a little tired.”

As Elrohir stood, he yawned again, then suddenly hugged Glorfindel tightly, as he had not done for many years.  “Thank you,” he whispered.  “Goodnight.”

He left Glorfindel’s room and walked tiredly to his own.  Music and laughter from downstairs drifted up, but he ignored it.  Undressing, he washed haphazardly, and lay down with a weary sigh.  He fell asleep gazing at the stars visible through his window.

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