A Course in Facial Contortions
Disclaimer: Both Middle-earth and the characters in this story belong to Tolkien.
"Be quiet!" screamed Erestor, in a manner completely lacking in dignity. The class fell into a guilty silence at once. "Thank you," Erestor murmured, composing himself.
"Why are we even here?" asked Lindir, enviously looking out the window at the butterflies.
"That is a very good question," said Erestor brightly, flipping through the pages on his clipboard. "We are here to learn how to accomplish some very important facial exercises, namely: lifting one eyebrow."
Legolas frowned. "Why?" he asked blankly.
"I was hoping you would ask that," Erestor said, enthused. "Every Elf has to know how to do it. It gives one a certain distinction and class. It puts us one over mostmortals."
"Well, if everyone is doing it, wouldn't it be easier to be unique by being unaccomplished?" asked Elrohir.
"That is not the point." The adviser frowned at him."And anyway, this class is on your curriculum."
The Elves groaned. Just then, Elrond entered the room, dragging in several Elves by their hair. "Hello class," he said with a grin. "I found some more eager volunteers who want to take the Contortion Class."
"What?" squeaked Glorfindel, struggling to free himself. "Contortions? What is this, Erestor?"
Thranduil wriggled too, but in vain. "When I asked to enroll my son here, I did not apply to take these courses myself!"
Haldir managed to look dignified and desperate simultaneously. "But Lady Galadriel," he moaned, "she needs me in Lothlorien."
Erestor sighed. "She is going to attend this class as well."
Elrond pushed the three Elves into some seats and glanced at the four younger students, who had already perked up slightly. "Is this the entire class?" he asked.
Erestor checked names off on his clipboard. "Let's see: Elladan, Elrohir, Lindir, Legolas and now," he scribbled down the names of the three new 'eager volunteers', "Glorfindel, Thranduil, and Haldir."
"You might like to add my husband and I to the list," said Galadriel, sweeping into the room majestically. "And please understand, I already know how to do this. I'm just here to watch."
Celeborn sank into a seat, looking rather embarrassed.
"This class is now in session!" Elrond announced. "Erestor, you can sit down now. I'm the teacher. I'm in charge."
The class sat nervously in their seats, unsure of what new tortures Elrond would inflict upon them.
"Does anyone have previous experience?" asked Elrond.
Only two Elves raised their hands.
"I took this class in Gondolin," said Glorfindel.
"My father could do it," Thranduil said lamely.
"Hmm. This is worse than I expected," Elrond said grimly. "Well, the first step is simple. Raise both eyebrows."
Every eyebrow in the class shot skyward. Elrond looked at his sons. "You two have to do it in sync with each other. You're twins."
Elladan and Elrohir glanced at him in surprise, unconsciously copying the other's shocked face. "Very good!" Elrond cried. "Now, hold one eyebrow down, and try to raise the other."
The class did so, all except for Galadriel, who was trying to deduce the future of the world using a pitcher of water.
"This is pointless," said Elladan. "Why do we want to do this?"
"It's impressive," said Glorfindel.
"It's regal," said Thranduil.
"It's fun!" said Lindir. "I think. Wish I could do it."
"Well, since we're learning facial contortions, can't we learn some other fun things?" asked Legolas.
Elrond glared at the prince. "Like what?" he demanded.
"Wriggling your ears!" said Celeborn happily, wiggling his carelessly. The class watched in admiring amazement.
"How did you do that?" asked Galadriel, startled. "I never knew you could."
Celeborn coughed modestly. "Practice." And then, catching his wife's glare. "What? I was bored!"
"What about winking?" asked Elrohir. "Winking is fun."
"Winking is vulgar," said Erestor primly.
"I agree," Elrond scowled. "And I've seen you do it a lot! Thank you, Erestor, for pointing out what a silly habit winking is."
Erestor grinned across at the twin, and winked.
"Anything else you would like to ask, or may we continue?" demanded Elrond haughtily.
"You may continue," said Glorfindel and Galadriel at the same time, both as haughty as Elrond had been.
"Now observe the difference between these two expressions." Elrond raised one eyebrow, lowered it, rearranged his features, and lifted the eyebrow again.
"I didn't see a difference," whispered Celeborn to Thranduil.
"Neither did I," replied the Elvenking.
"Does anyone know which was which?" asked Elrond.
"It was grotesque," said Glorfindel.
"No!" Elrond snorted. "I thought you took this class."
"I did and it looked grotesque to me," said Glorfindel. "What do you say, Erestor?"
"I didn't think grotesque was an option," said Erestor. "The first expression was skeptical and the second one was questioning."
"What's the difference?" asked Haldir. Even the Lady of Light did not know.
"I can do a sardonic one!" cried Thranduil. Grimacing painfully, he carefully raised one eyebrow a fraction of an inch. The class clapped.
"What does sardonic mean, anyway?" asked Lindir, hefting a dictionary.
"Grimly mocking or cynical," recited Legolas.
"How did he know that?" wondered Galadriel aloud.
"Oh, it was just an educated guess," Legolas replied, glancing sideways at his father.
"Let's not get out of control," Elrond said calmly. "What other ways can you lift your eyebrow?"
"Reprovingly," said Elrohir.
"Disdainfully," said Galadriel.
"Grimly," said Erestor.
"Cynically," said Celeborn.
"Anything else?" asked Elrond. "No? Then let's do some exercises!"
The class nodded in half-hearted agreement.
"OK," Elrond said. "Left eyebrow, right eyebrow, skeptical, sardonic, left, right, questioning, grim, and again! Left eyebrow, right eyebrow. . ."
The class squinted and peered frantically, trying to stay at the speeds Elrond indicated. It was not long before Haldir's eyebrows looked as if they had been tied in knots.
Arwen entered the room right at the 'reproving' face. "Oh, dear. I'm sorry if I interrupted something," she gasped, and fled the room, leaving the embarrassed Elf-lords behind. Celeborn had ducked his head underneath a desk, while Erestor had possessed the presence of mind to hide his face with his clipboard.
"Why are we doing this?" asked Legolas, philosophically. "Why must we humiliate ourselves in this way?"
"For Elrond's pleasure," scowled Glorfindel.
"I think he enjoys watching us do this to our faces," Elladan whimpered, massaging his aching features.
"I don't see how he manages to keep a straight face," said Thranduil. "I would have begun laughing long ago."
"I don't think it's funny." Haldir flopped limply across his desk.
"My question is," said Erestor, "who can do this?"
Glorfindel arched an eyebrow gracefully. "I can."
Thranduil copied the movement with equal grace. "So can I."
Elladan and Elrohir, inspired by their elders, raised their eyebrows in unison. "As can we."
Erestor's grim expression and sardonic eyebrow movement was quite intimidating.
Haldir could almost raise one eyebrow, so the others didn't consider him incapable. Anyway, his disdainful expression was unrivaled.
Celeborn did nothing but wiggle his ears in embarrassment. Lindir managed to get his tongue to touch his nose. Galadriel stared at the others with her deep grey eyes. "You're good at this."
"Elrond's classes are very effective." Legolas smiled, lifting his own eyebrow with satisfaction.
"Let's get out of here," Glorfindel suggested. "Somewhere between Elrond's questioning face and reproving glare."
"I heard that," Elrond scowled. "You cannot leave this room until every single one of you can raise an eyebrow."
The Elves wailed in despair.
"All right, Celeborn, you can do this!" cried Thranduil. "Just do it. Focus all your attention on that one eyebrow!"
"That's it, Thranduil," said Erestor. "Encourage him."
"If you do not find a way to get him to do this, no one will," Galadriel remarked from her corner.
Celeborn contorted his physiognomy into a expression of mass concentration. Slowly, painstakingly, one eyebrow crept upward. The Elves cheered.
"Now for Lindir," said Thranduil cheerfully. The young Elf whimpered.
Glorfindel frowned. "Hold him down," he commanded. Lindir tried to get away, but Elladan and Elrohir pounced on him and pinned him to the ground.
"There. Now someone get his eyebrow to go up," said Erestor.
Celeborn did this with dignity. "Try again, by yourself this time," he encouraged. Lindir screwed up his face and lifted his eyebrow.
"Wait just a moment," said Glorfindel. "I haven't seen Lady Galadriel do this."
"I was just watching," said Galadriel innocently.
"I don't think you can!" cried Celeborn. She leveled him with a glare.
"All right. I can't," she admitted. "All the Elves in my class used to make fun of me."
"That's too bad. How can we get out?" asked Elladan, looking forlornly out the door.
"Make her raise one," said Thranduil.
"You're not pinning me down," said Galadriel.
"No. What a pity," said Glorfindel.
"We could tickle her!" said Elrohir.
"That is not an option," said Galadriel.
"We could do something stupid," said Lindir.
Galadriel cocked an eyebrow. "And what do you mean by that?" she asked.
"SHE DID IT!" screamed Elladan.
"We're free!" cried Legolas.
Elrond was about to tell everyone to practice daily when he was trampled into carpet by escaping students. Galadriel walked past, glanced down at the mangled heap of Elf-Lord.
And raised one eyebrow.