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Authorís Note: The title of this is based on a very fine, if somewhat obscure, Christmas carol called "Once in Royal Davidís City".† May I be forgiven!
Once in Royal Imladrisí City
"Glorfindel, mellon nÓn, I value our friendship of old and warn you quite clearly that this is not the time to push my buttons."
"Elrond? You suffer from some wound? Speak, friend, that I may but aid you and relieve thy suffering."
Quickly, Glorfindel handed his friend a mug of eggnog, liberally laced with miruvor. Elrond drank it in one gulp, and he started to feel better at once. He allowed the blond elf to refill his mug.
"Now, mellon nÓn, tell Glorfindel what ails you."
"Oh, not too much. Iíve got a houseful of Galadhrim and Wood-Elves, and they have just found out how many trees Erestor has cut down for this fool festival that Mithrandir thought would be such a fine idea to add to the Reckoning of Rivendell. Do you know how upset that alliance gets at the cutting of trees? Why do you think CŪrdan put the Havens so far away from them? Bet you thought it was because of the nearness to the sea, didnít you?"
Glorfindel had rather thought that was the reason for the shipwrightís decision, but this new idea had merit. He smiled encouragingly at Elrond, who continued.
"Yesterday, Gildor Inglorion says he saw Haldir sending their swiftest rider with an urgent message for Treebeard, and he had borrowed Shadowfax. Mithrandir had imbibed quite a bit when he agreed to the loan I expect. The Huorns are probably halfway here by now, Glorfindel!"
This was a serious development. Glorfindel poured more eggnog into Elrondís cup. You were never far wrong if you counted on Erestor to mess things up. They really should have sent him off to live with Tom Bombadil before this.
"Erestor, mellon nÓn, allow me to help you with that heavy punch bowl." Legolas sprang lightly from his seat beside Gimli and in a trice had the crystal bowl out of the older elfís hands and onto the table.
"Nice try, Legolas, but your being charming is not going to make me change my mind." Erestor glared balefully at the blond elf. "We are not floating those gilded spiders in the punch bowl. What an idea!"
"No, look, this will work, Erestor. We always used gilded spiders in our punch bowls at Taur E-Ndaedelos. They can be quite festive. Itís such a surprise to the one who gets the spider who is but stunned by our gilding spray. We have a special prize if the drinker survives the encounter. Truly, Erestor, we have only lost two guests to venom in the last thousand years!"
"No! That is my final word on this matter. What an idea!"
The blond elf bowed so meekly that Gimli immediately grew very nervous. "It shall be as you decide, Erestor, for thy wisdom is well known among us. What about the squirrels? Thranduil himself has sent them along to brighten our merrymaking."
Erestor knew defeat when he saw it. "Alright, you can put the squirrels out. But no gilded spiders, Legolas!"
Again Gimli observed that suspicious bow from his friend. He watched as Erestor glided off to see to another matter that required his attention.
"Youíre going to do it anyway, arenít you, Master Elf?"
"Master Dwarf, how well you know your friend. Of course, I am. We all know that this Imladris crowd has little real taste in aesthetic matters. Besides, I have a serious wager with Glorfindel riding on this very thing. Come, help me arrange the squirrels, Gimli!"
Gimli grunted and began to unpack the stuffed black squirrels that Thranduil had sent to serve as placecard holders. They did look rather festive with the little mithril bells Legolas had tied to their ears with red and green ribbons. He noted that Galadrielís squirrel was the only one with two bells. Legolas would make a fine king one day.
"Celeborn, my husband, what are these creatures that Mithrandir doth array in the gardens of Imladris?"
"I believe that they are called lawn ornaments, my love." Celebornís wise eyes twinkled. He was enjoying this new festival and foresaw much excitement in the near future. He didnít even need the Mirror for his prediction. Heíd helped Mithrandir unpack the ornaments.
"Celeborn, I know that Mithrandir is of the Wise, but do these lawn ornaments not appear just a little. . .tacky?" Her voice was ever gentle and sorrowful. "This one, for instance, that looks like a leaping warg. What is it meant to depict?"
"I believe Mithrandir said that it was a reindeer, a mighty deer of distant forests, gentle Lady."
"Celeborn, it hath a red nose. Deer have not red noses."
"Perhaps it is a subspecies with which we are not yet familiar? Dear lady, let me guide your path for you. Mithrandir seems to have left a great deal of packing material strewn about, and I fear for your safety."
Galadriel let her husband guide her to the next grouping and contemplated it in silence. There was one that rather looked like Mithrandir to her eyes, a stout Mithrandir perhaps, but the likeness was there. "Celeborn, I think that red is not a good color for one of the Istari. Are they not always white, grey, brown or blue? This is rather a loud color, but then they are fond of loud colors here in Imladris. The twins have such dreadful socks at times that it grieves my heart."
"Your influence shall soon correct that, dearest. The twins are still young." The moment Celeborn had long desired was fast approaching. He watched as Galadriel suddenly bent her tall and elegant frame to examine a grouping of short round figures with green jackets, striped red and white socks and pointed green hats. He had never seen her fair face so puzzled.
"Celeborn, what are these? I have never seen such before to recognize them."
"Ah, I have forgotten what Mithrandir did say. No matter! All ornaments are marked on the back by the Cirth of Daeron of Doriath as to what they may be. My love, if we but concentrate our combined glow, I am sure we can read the inscription." Celeborn moved closer to his wife and glowed as he had never before.
He watched as Galadriel bent lower in their combined light, and her lips moved as she read the ancient inscriptions. Celeborn started his mental countdown.
"My love? Something troubles you?"
"Celeborn, this cannot be." He marveled at his Ladyís strength as she sought to regain her composure, but still he did not cease his mental counting. "Celeborn, these creatures have fat cheeks that are bright red and button noses. Yet,. . ." She trembled briefly in his arms and then suddenly raised herself to her full height. "It says that these foul creatures are ELVES!"
Celeborn would have comforted his wife as she waxed wroth, but his last view of her was as she raced with swift grace towards the Last Homely House. It seemed to him that her musical voice was screaming for Mithrandirís blood upon her sword.
Celeborn was happy. His count had not reached 50. Glorfindel now owed him a great deal of money.
"Come, Gimli, now is our chance! No one will notice us with Galadriel hauling Mithrandir around by his beard. She found him under the table where Glorfindel had stashed his supply of eggnog. Be wary, Master Dwarf, of this libation, for I hear that the Wise One was all but comatose and unable to defend himself against her wrath."
Gimli carefully opened the box of gilded spiders that Legolas produced. He looked warily at them to be sure that they were at least stunned. "What happened and why is she hauling him around by his beard? That must hurt." Gimli shuddered with fellow feeling for the old wizard.
"She did not approve of his concept of elves I hear. You know how Galadriel is about these things of beauty. She made Glorfindel burn them all and told him to throw in the wargs with red noses for good measure. Said if Mithrandir wanted to prance about in a sleigh with elves, he could decorate Asfaloth with antlers and conscript some Imladrian warriors as extras. I believe her exact words were Ďand then your helpers at least might vaguely resemble elvesí. Asfaloth was not pleased you may be sure. Gildor Inglorion says that Glorfindel had to bribe him heavily with the promise of a new stall that will exceed the glory of that of Shadowfax. That will cost the big elf a pretty fair sum."
Legolas chuckled as he continued to artistically float gilded spiders in all the punch bowls. "Careful, Gimli! If you submerge them completely it can be that the gilding will dissolve. If they be not completely dead at that point, it can rapidly become quite exciting."
Gimli looked around for Legolas. He had left him perched happily in one of the open windows, counting the money that Glorfindel had just paid him after he beheld the first floating spider. What was that sound coming from the windows anyway?
Gimli pressed himself into an alcove just in time. The combined alliance of Wood-Elves and Galadhrim suddenly seemed to be running silently and swiftly past him and out of the doors of the Last Homely House. Was that the note of a silvery horn Gimli heard above the odd noises he had first noticed?
Suddenly, Gimli saw Legolas sprinting towards him, somewhat encumbered by the white sacks he had flung over his shoulder. The elf screeched to a halt in front of the startled dwarf. He thrust one of the bags at Gimli.
"I was afraid that you were lost at this moment of peril, Master Dwarf. Hear you not what is happening?"
"Lad, I keep telling you my hearing is not what it used to be. Thatís why I depend on you."
"Celeborn hath sounded the horn of the Galadhrim. We must away to the boats!"
"What boats? Why do we need boats, Legolas?"
"Ai, Valar, Gimli, the Huorns are diverting the waterfalls! Grab the squirrels, Gimli! Weíre out of here!" With that, the Two Hunters ran out of the Last Homely House as if pursued by the very whips of their masters.
Tenderly, Celeborn helped his Lady into the Swan Boat. All the other boats of the alliance of the Mad Witch had pushed off from the shore before them, for they were the shepherds of their people and saw first to their safety. She stood beautifully in the prow and smiled upon them as Legolas did toss the dwarf and himself onto the boatís deck, along with two white bags, his bow and Gimliís battleaxe. Her kinsman was ever prepared for the worst, and of this Galadriel approved. And for the Lockbearer was there ever room in her boat. She smiled gently at the dwarfís awestruck gaze upon her face. She nodded to Celeborn who gave the order to sail.
In the prow with Galadriel stood her Lord and the Two Hunters, and all listened to the water rising and the bellowing of the Huorns.
"Celeborn, my heart rejoices that we have spent this festival together and in this brave company of our warriors. Listen, hear you how even as we leave them, the noble Imladrians do sing a fair carol to speed our journey. NŠmariŽ, Elrond! Ever have I loved thee."
And Galadriel raised her fair hand over the rising waters of Imladris. Then did Celeborn ponder in his heart his love for his Lady, and her great wisdom in sending their grandchildren to Gondor this year.
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