(Fic 9-The story of dwarves under Thranduil's roof continues.)
Part 2 of 3
"Clear as a Bell"
The Elvenking had extended an invitation to Oin to dine with him every night as an honored guest, but the dwarf only came that first time. He was obviously uncomfortable with such portentous prestige and Thranduil did not press him further.
Dwarves preferred meat over the vegetarian diet of the Eldar and so Thranduil had fish brought in as a palatable substitute for the duration of their visit. He had ordered a barrel of a popular ale, but Oin surprised him with a keen taste for red wine—especially the Elvenking's best. And so a crate was sent up to Healer Hall for all their meals there.*1
It did not take long for a mutual affinity to develop between the two healers and they learned much from each other. Although he was free to explore the rest of the Woodland Realm, he never left the Healer Hall, except on the day he got his present...
Thranduil handed another bottle to his Chief Wine Steward, Bavand, before moving to the next open crate.
They were in the wine cellar, inspecting the latest shipment. Her skills as a sommelier were impeccable and never came under scrutiny, but occasionally, Thranduil joined her simply as one of his favorite pastimes. And she did not begrudge him the company, being one of the few in the Realm who was not intimidated by his presence. In fact, she appreciated his interest as a wine connoisseur and enjoyed their discussions.
Bavand took the bottle and set it on the table in line with the others—one from each crate—and popped the stoppers off so the wine could breath before being sampled.
The Elvenking glanced in the last crate. "The stoppers have a slight perforation in several of these bottles."
"Shall we return the crate, my Lord?" Bavand asked, taking note of vineyard label.
He pulled out the offending bottle and handed it to her. "The seal has not been breached, perhaps others might still be able to enjoy it."
Thranduil seated himself at the head of the small table while the Wine Steward placed two wine goblets by each bottle from the tray. Next, she put the plate of breads and cheeses between them before sitting down herself.
Because the bottles had round bottoms, they were served in decoratively carved wine stands.*2 She had arranged the first bottle to be within his reach, knowing he also savored opening the first one himself. He poured several swallows into the goblets and handed her one.
They both swirled the wine and sniffed its bouquet before taking a sip. Various expressions of impressions were given before Bavand nodded her head in approval.
But Thranduil was not so sure. He was about to take another swallow when there was a sudden flurry of footsteps hurrying down the stairway to them. Absolutely beside himself with pure joy, Oin burst in on them uninvited—but not unexpected. The Elvenking had been looking forward to this moment regardless of how ill-timed it was.
Tauriel, Remily, Bresalden and Nis finally caught up with the dwarf, voicing apologies to the Elvenking for the intrusion. Nonplussed, he waved them aside and allowed himself to get caught up in the excitement they all felt.
"By Durin's Beard!" Oin kept muttering and clapping his hands as he came right up to Thranduil, too excited to heed royal personal space. "This!" he exclaimed with tears streaming down his eyes as he pointed to the small device in his ear, "this, by Durin's Beard is probably one of the most precious gifts I'll ever live to get!"
Finally, he caught his breath and stepped back as he carefully removed the ear piece. He held it out for Thranduil to see as though it would be new to him as well, not realizing how the Elvenking had approved its construction every step of the way.
A translucent silver-white funnel in the shape of a bell had been seamlessly molded in one piece to the stem. Thanks to the Chief Steward's keen eyes for measurements, it was artfully crafted for maximum acoustics and comfort in his ear. But the best part came in the form of a hook that had been designed to curl around the outside of his ear to hold it in place.
"It's as light as air and indestructible I'll wager. And as clever as anyone could have imagined! Wonder why we never thought of it ourselves... hah! No matter, it's another example of elvish ingenuity and I am eternally grateful."
He stepped back as he fitted it back on his ear and bowed low. "See? Doesn't fall off," he said to ground before straightening back up. He clapped his hands again. "And my hands are free to work and I can hear!"
He took another step back, suddenly mindful of his disruption. "Oh, begging your pardon, my Lord, for interrupting your snack."
"No need to apologize and I am glad we were able to help you."
Oin took a moment to look around and noticed a lock had been fitted onto the lever that opened the empty barrel hatchway. He absentmindedly nodded at the security measure as he recalled how they had escaped the Realm of the Woodland King by way of the Forest River, each dwarf ensconced in a barrel.*3
"It seems to work better than we could have imagined." Thranduil commented, bringing the Dwarf back to the present.
"Aye, it does! It does!"
Thranduil schooled his features back into regal neutrality and looked over the plate of cheeses as a form of dismissal.
"Right. Well, again, I thank you from the depth of my heart. Well, I best be getting back to the lad." He gave another small bow and turned back to the group on the stairs. "Found my way here, but I'm not sure how to get back, so lead on." He gestured for some of the others to proceed him and started up the steps. He stopped short when he heard a wintery whisper in his new ear horn.
"Oin, you are welcome."
Wide-eyed, the dwarf turned around. The Elvenking had not taken his eyes off the plate or pitched his voice in any special way, yet Oin heard the whisper as clear as a bell. He could only shake his head in wonder as a few more tears watered his eyes before continuing on.
Thranduil listened to the retreating footsteps except for one. He knew Tauriel was bringing up the rear and had now paused on the steps. Most likely she wanted to give him some sort of pleased approval of the gift. He did not bother to look up, but gave her a playful "go away" gesture of his hand before setting a slice of cheese on a piece of bread.
Yes, yes, this probably the one and only time I make a cameo in one of my stories because Bavand turned out to be an elven sort of name and this was the perfect place to do it since I am a bit of a wine connoisseur. Plus I'm not intimidated by Thrandy and do enjoy his company.
*1. =Per John Callen in An Unexpected Journey Official Movie Guide, p111—After all, actors are the most informed about what their characters like and dislike.
*2. =DOS-Appendix 10 (extended release dvd), "Realms of the 3rd Age."—The bit about the wine bottles was very interesting and were designed by John Howe. Also loved how the producers very generously had bottles made for the cast and crew since they kept disappearing off the set.
*3. =DOS-15, "Barrels Out of Bond".
[No wine bottles, cheeses or the barrel lever were harmed during the production of this part. The old ear horn, aka "the inferior grotesque cowbell" was properly disposed of in the recycle bin and eventually became a tin cup.]
Thranduil and the world of the Hobbit movies are the property of Warner Bros. Entertainment & MGM directly; Sir PJ indirectly and Mr Lee Pace embodimently because he is—oh my yes!—Thranduil. I was just visiting because they were sampling a new shipment of wine—which I also enjoy doing—and not for profit. jk2017 tyl]