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Reflections from the Paradise of Elves  by Bodkin

The Paradise of Elves – Part 72:  Betrayal

Elladan brooded over the rim of his glass.

‘What is the problem, my brother?’ Elrohir asked.  ‘You have refrained from comment in the last hour.  It is most unlike you.’

His brother opened his mouth, then closed it again, moving his eyes sideways to stare at Legolas before moving them back to rest on his twin.

‘I cannot read your mind,’ Legolas said pleasantly.  ‘You will have to speak.’

Elladan reached out for the decanter and topped up his glass carefully.  ‘Who knew?’

‘Who knew what?’

‘Do not act as if you are dense, my brother,’ Elladan snapped.  ‘Who knew that we were making fools of ourselves each time we let loose with a mouthful of Khuzdul?’

Elrohir exchanged a wary glance with Legolas.  ‘Why should anyone have known?’ he asked carefully.  ‘We did not exactly lapse into the secret tongue in company.  The words we used – that we thought we were using were not ones to be shared.’

‘That does not mean we were not overheard,’ Elladan said scornfully.  ‘It is about as easy to keep a secret among elves as for a leaf to keep its movements quiet from the rest of the forest.’

‘The secret language was called a secret language for a reason,’ Legolas offered.  ‘It was – well – secret.  Why would any have known the true meaning of anything you said?  You never exactly went round shouting insults at any dwarves you met, did you?’  He took a mouthful of wine.  ‘So I doubt that any of Aulë’s people knew of the trick that had been played on you – at least, not once the dwarves who fooled you passed beyond the world.’

‘May their beards have been plucked out by vultures,’ Elladan said spitefully.

‘Hair by hair,’ Elrohir agreed, raising his glass to toast the sentiment.

Legolas contemplated the twins.  ‘I was under the impression,’ he said carefully, ‘that you had sent those dwarves into the world ready to suggest to any elves they met that their beards could be used for scrubbing pots.  Amongst other things.’

A ghost of a grin twitched the corners of Elladan’s mouth.  ‘True,’ he acknowledged.

‘We deserved to have the tables turned on us, my brother,’ Elrohir conceded.

‘But,’ Elladan returned doggedly to his original point, ‘I cannot believe that we have been expressing our frustrations in those – offensive phrases over all this time without somebody realising.’

‘Perhaps we should have given in to Adar’s suggestion that we learn Khuzdul,’ Elrohir said thoughtfully.  ‘We would have been harder to deceive.’

‘Adar speaks Khuzdul,’ Elladan remarked.  ‘He must have known that we were looking like idiots.’ 

‘He knows the formal phrases,’ Elrohir said mildly.  ‘Greetings and compliments – I do not know if he can hold extended conversations in it.’  He stretched.  ‘Glorfindel speaks a little, I think.  But, if I had to think of the elf who was best able to converse with dwarves in their own tongue, it would be Naneth.’

‘Naneth,’ Elladan mused.  The shadows danced as the wood fire crackled and cast its warm light over the shelves of books.  ‘No,’ he decided.  ‘She would not play games with us.’

Legolas sipped his wine.  This, he reflected, was definitely an instance when keeping his opinion to himself could only be a sign of wisdom.  In fact, he was rather beginning to regret that he had ever mentioned the matter in the first place.  After all, what did it matter if the twins declared to the world that they wished to lick the dwarf king’s armpits!  It was not as if more than a handful of those present in the Blessed Realm could understand their words.  And most of them were members of the twins’ family and unlikely to use that knowledge to embarrass them.

‘This,’ said Elrohir, ‘is something best forgotten.  As completely as possible, as soon as possible.  We will wipe the words from our memories, my twin.  I do not care if anyone has heard us use them – just as long as no-one ever hears them again.’

‘Agreed,’ Elladan nodded.  The three friends lapsed into silence again.  ‘It is a pity, though,’ he added regretfully.  ‘It is such a good language for expressing your frustration – even if the words do not mean what you think.’

‘You could just acquire some different expressions,’ Legolas suggested.  ‘I know a dwarf drinking song or two that are more satisfying than a morning on the training fields when it comes to relieving stress.’

‘You do not think for a minute that we are about to trust anyone to teach us to use words we do not understand,’ Elrohir objected.  ‘We have been fooled once!’

‘But this is me,’ Legolas said, wounded.  ‘I am your friend.  And Gimli was as my brother.  He would never have taught me to sing anything that would be insulting to me as an elf, now would he?’

‘Possibly not,’ Elladan conceded.

‘And someone will notice,’ Elrohir decided, ‘if we change our habits completely.  Perhaps we should trust the Wood Elf.  Let him teach us something we can say without blushing.  On the clear understanding that any deception will bring about his demise – in the most painful and humiliating way we can imagine.’

Legolas grinned.  ‘That sound reasonable enough,’ he said.

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