Chapter 8

Thranduil escorted the ladies back to their seats and after providing them with refreshments, sat quietly sipping his wine, watching with a great deal of pride and more than a little amusement as Legolas skilfully dealt with his friends. His son's affection for them was obvious, even in his expression of displeasure at their behaviour. The declaration of the end to the contest disappointed both the participants and those who had placed bets, but all had enough respect for Legolas to accept his decision.

"I have some business to discuss over there," Imrahil told Legolas, pointing to a rather noisy group of elves on the outskirts of the glade who appeared to be involved in some kind of card game. "It is many decades since I played that game, I must try my hand at it again."

"Be wary, for several of those are elves who accompanied my father here, and both Aragorn and I have lost many a wager with them in the past," Legolas warned, feeling it only fair to alert Imrahil about the skills of his opposition.

"Ah, a challenge! Excellent!" the Prince of Dol Amroth exclaimed happily. "I will heed your words if you heed mine…. call me if you need any further assistance with your guests."

"Thank you, I certainly will," agreed Legolas as he placed a friendly but firm arm around the shoulders of his two friends and ushered them back to the table where their ladies awaited.

"Queen Arwen, Lady Éowyn. May I reintroduce you to your wayward husbands," Legolas said, a wicked gleam in his eye indicating that his slight sarcasm was purely intentional. "I do apologise for their 'flushed' features but I am afraid it is a side effect associated with drinking ale made by the Dwarves." Both men turned to glare at the Elf but he totally ignored their outrage at his words.

"Thank you, Legolas," said Arwen as she took Aragorn's hand. "I believe a few turns around the dance floor will provide a suitable antidote for the condition." Before he had a chance to protest, the King of Gondor found himself in the midst of a swirling group of Elves, their movement making his head spin and his balance decidedly difficult to maintain. Arwen showed little sympathy for his self-inflicted predicament and his only consolation was that Faramir was suffering the same fate at the whim of the lovely Éowyn.

Legolas remained with Thranduil and gratefully accepted the goblet of wine his father offered. "I hope the actions of that Dwarf have not changed your opinion of Gimli," he said.

"I do not hold him responsible for the words or actions of his fellows," conceded Thranduil.

"I am sure he would be pleased to hear you say that," Legolas answered, relieved that there was no real harm done to the fragile beginnings of a relationship between his father and his dearest friend. Thranduil smiled at the less than subtle hint for him to complement the Dwarf and actually considered doing it.

"It was very wise of you to ask Gimli to deal with the Dwarves, he handled the situation well. I think that you have learned more about leadership and diplomacy since you left my Court, than you ever did while you were there," observed Thranduil.

"No, Adar, it is just that now, as leader of this colony, I find must practice the skills I learned under your tutelage," Legolas replied. Thranduil laughed out loud. "What is so amusing?" Legolas asked, a frown of confusion ceasing his brow.

"Legolas, ever have you been my most loyal and ardent defender, for which I love you dearly, but I have a confession to make; diplomacy is not an attribute I am well known for, even amongst our own kin! I doubt you learned that skill from me!" Legolas looked startled at such an admission from his father, and in truth he had heard many comments about the Elvenking's lack in that area, but he said nothing and joined in the laughter instead.

"Well, I have spent quite some time in Minas Tirith, so perhaps it is Aragorn's lead I follow in that area," he suggested good humouredly.

"Perhaps so. Nevertheless, I am most impressed," insisted Thranduil smiling affectionately at the pleased expression on his son's face. "By the way, what have you done with Imrahil?" he asked, just now noticing the Prince's absence.

"He is otherwise occupied," said Legolas, pointing to the now quite large group of Elves who surrounded the Prince and his opponents. They sat in companionable silence enjoying the music and the silvery laughter that floated around them, and Legolas was pleased to see that after several dances, Aragorn and Faramir did indeed appear to be behaving more like they should. To his delight, the Dwarves were also once again in a decidedly friendly mood, teaching some of the other Elves one of their raucous drinking songs.

"This has been a wonderful celebration," commented Arwen as the two couples arrived back at the main table to take a well-earned rest from their exertions on the dance square. Legolas smiled as he noticed that all four now sported flushed cheeks, a result of the lively dancing rather than the ale.

 "Yes it has, but I believe the best is yet to come," Aragorn said cryptically, as he watched Legolas make his way over to the musicians.

The first gentle strains of a delicate melody filled the glade and a hushed silence descended as Legolas began to sing. It was a joyous song, and although the lyrics were in the language of the Silvan elves, everyone in the glade clearly understood their meaning, if not the actual words. There was a mystical quality to the music and the power and beauty of the sweet voice mesmerised the listeners, turning words into images in their minds, making Elves, Men and Dwarves believe that they were part of the story Legolas wove as he sang.

They saw Thranduil celebrating as his elves defeated the darkness of Mirkwood and released the once Greenwood the Great from the shadow to become the beautiful Eryn Lasgalen; felt the delight of the Prince as he danced in the moonlight with his elven friends, whispering to the trees, basking in the starlight…

A second, slightly deeper voice, that of Isildur's heir joined in the song and everyone experienced the changing emotions as the first wary overtures between a young Ranger and a Wood elf blossomed into a deep and everlasting friendship

The deep, gruff voices of the Dwarves joined the chorus, singing of their love for their caves and jewels until the melody became more melancholy as the images and sadness of the losses at Moria entered the scene. The light of the Lady of Lórien filled their hearts with a slowly increasing joy, reflected in the melody once more, to be gradually replaced by wonder at the beauty of the caves at Aglarond, the rebuilding of the city of Men, and the joy of the Elves as they helped build their place of celebration in the rejuvenated forest.

The melody changed again as the voices of all but one of the Dwarves fell silent, leaving only the harmony of the three…their words telling of the warm glow of the light of Elvish love for one of the children of Aulë and the King of Men…and of the bonds of friendship that had been forged between their races in recent times.

Not until the last note of the song faded, and the spell was broken, did anyone realise that the Midsummer Festival had ended and the first light of the new day filled the glade.