Traditional Recipes for Disaster
by Ithiliel Silverquill and Erestor
Disclaimer: Neither of us own anything pertaining to Lord of the Rings.
Sorry for the delay! Ithiliel and I have been writing frantically, and thus this chapter is very hot off the press. We hope that you enjoy it. It's a bit longer than usual. :)
This is to the reviewers. Thank you for every comment you wrote; your input and constructive criticism has been greatly appreciated by both of us. We never expected to get so many reviews, and we've been delighted by all of them!
The two of us will be back. We enjoyed co-writing, and we plan to write more stories together.
I stare at the quill in my hand. The beautiful white quill, so white that it looks almost luminous against my hand. I cannot believe it.
"Thank you," I say to Glorfindel, almost reverently. I simply cannot believe it. He was nearly catatonic when I borrowed it earlier, but now he just handed it to me?
Something is different.
I uncork a nearby inkwell and dip the pen, then begin the invitation. It is a formal invitation, but that only makes it easier because formal invitations always say the same thing. Informal correspondence is difficult because it always has to be something "personal," different every time.
Glorfindel ambles away from the desk and flops on his bed, obviously worn out. I cannot help noticing that the sheets are not quite straight, but I will not mention that fact. He made an effort, and for now I will leave it at that.
I suppose my clean room inspired him.
I finish the first draft of the invitation, then start at the top again and reread it.
Glorfindel looks up. "Erestor? What are you doing?"
I frown and mark through a word. Surely a synonym would make that sentence clearer. "Proofreading."
"Why? It's just an invitation."
"It is a formal communication between Imladris and another realm."
He shrugs. "They probably don't even read the whole thing. They probably look at it, say 'Oh, look, we're invited,' and then toss it aside without another thought."
I sigh and look up at him. "That is not the point, Glorfindel."
"Then I fail to see the point."
"The point is that this is an important correspondence! What if one of King Thranduil's advisors reads it and considers it second-rate? The honor of Imladris rests on the small things as well as the large ones."
He blinks. "So what you're saying is that you think that some advisor in Greenwood is going to take that invitation, read every single word, and base his entire judgment of Imladris on your word choice?"
I scowl. "Not really, but it never hurts to be thorough." I mark through a sentence and rewrite it off to the side. "Besides, this is work that Lord Elrond wants me to do, and I want to stay in his good graces." As if I have any hope of that, after today.
"Oh, come on, Erestor. Elrond isn't shallow enough to throw you out because you worded an invitation wrong. It's not like the Elves of Greenwood speak the traders' Westron or anything."
I pause in my writing and turn to glare at him. That barb was unnecessary.
"Besides, I can't imagine that Thranduil's advisors would think that your writing is second-rate anyway," he continues, rubbing his eyes.
I blink. Was that a compliment? Did Glorfindel actually pay me a compliment? I must be too tired to hear correctly.
I recopy the invitation onto another piece of paper and read it over again. Nothing looks out of place. On a whim, I turn to the golden-haired Elf still flopped on his bed. Said golden hair is going to get excruciatingly tangled if he leaves it loose like that when he sleeps. "Glorfindel? Would you mind reading this over for me?"
He looks up. "Pardon?"
"Would you mind reading this over for me?" I hold out the invitation, and he takes it. "My mind wanders when I get sleepy, and I want to make sure that I said nothing stupid."
He raises an eyebrow. "You want me to proofread your work?"
"If you do not mind."
"Not at all." He scans the page, reading a few sentences aloud under his breath, then finally shrugs and looks up at me. "It looks fine to me," he says. "If I were Thranduil's advisor, I wouldn't be able to find anything wrong with it."
"Thank you," I say, rubbing my eyes. "I only have to make a few copies of it, then."
He sets the letter on the table, then frowns at me. "Erestor, you look like you're going to fall asleep in that chair. Why don't you just finish those in the morning?"
I shake my head. "They have to be to Lord Elrond tomorrow."
"Elrond is reading the backs of his eyelids right now, I think. I don't think he'll be able to read anything you wrote for quite a while."
Glorfindel is starting to look a bit… blurry. Odd.
"But Glorfindel…" I say. Why does my voice sound slurred? Was it the wine? I did not even finish the glass Meretheryn gave me…
The rush that I got upon realizing that I had left a duty undone is rapidly slipping away.
Glorfindel is starting to look very, very blurry.
My first plan of escape has met with disaster. Or, to put it less dramatically, it has met with failure. Dismal failure. Painful failure. I am never again going to attempt to break down the door using nothing but my own momentum. Infirmary doors are very strong, and very hard.
I may have severely injured myself.
I stand in the infirmary, rubbing my bruised elbows, trying to get my addled wits to cooperate with me. Whatever Erestor did to me, it wasn't pleasant. I cannot remember anything, but I had the strangest dreams, and now I have the awfullest headache.
I purse my lips, thinking about Lord Erestor. He must be the most persnickety, priggish, problematic Elf in Imladris. He hates my beautiful works of music. He hates me. I have heard, from reliable sources, that he once threatened to strangle me with my own harp strings.
Lord Erestor does not appreciate Art.
I suffer from another spell of dizziness, and am forced to sit down, casting wary glances in the direction of Lord Elrond. Who knows when he will awake? Who knows when he will revive and strike me down with sleeping drafts?
The Valar, in their immeasurable goodness, have cast Lord Elrond into a deep sleep, and I must seize this opportunity to flee.
Lord Elrond groans. I freeze. I stop breathing. Then I creep, cautiously, silent as a cloud in the sky (if clouds in the sky creep), skirting the bed in which my lord reposes.
I have been locked in the same room as Lord Elrond for quite some time. The room is the infirmary. This is my test. Unwitting Lord Elrond in the infirmary is like unwitting a warg in the forest. If I can escape, if I can survive the horrors of this dread room, then truly I shall be the hardiest harpist in history, and many songs will be sung in my honor, even if I have to sing them all myself.
My nerves are stronger than mithril, my will is unbreakable.
I put Plan Two into operation.
Hearing voices outside the room, in the gardens, I snatch up a large vase from a table and drop it out the window. The Elves below look up at once, and I wave my arms frantically at them, appearing like a bird who cannot take to the air because his feet are stuck to an icy pond. I hope they can see me in the darkness.
"Is that Lindir?" I hear them ask, their tones oddly worried.
"Yes! It's me!" I hiss, not wanting to awaken Lord Elrond. "Come and get me out of here before Lord Elrond drugs me unconscious for life!"
"The rumors were right; he is mad," says one Elf.
"I hope Lord Elrond can cure him," says a maiden, more kindly.
"Why? So he can write more songs?"
"I rather liked a couple of them."
"They were atrocities to the Elven language."
They are ignoring me, and my dire plight!
"Help!" I yell. "Save me! I'm locked in this room with Lord Elrond! I tried to batter down the door, but I just hurt myself! You must help me!"
The Elves shake their heads sadly and wander off, leaving me to my fate.
Ah me, life is cruel. When I get out of here, I shall write a song about helping harpists when they are in distress. Surely if people followed such a code of conduct, this world would be a happier place.
I had one good dream, poisoned though I was by Erestor. I dreamed that I was getting the attention I deserved, for once, as I stood on a table and performed before all of Imladris. They loved it! I had not one interruption, until Lord Glorfindel came jumping out of nowhere and dragged me away...
...such a lovely dream...
Suddenly I realize. It was not a dream! It happened! Lords Erestor and Glorfindel drugged me with something that made me go mad! No wonder those Elves seemed so anxious for my well-being.
Oh, Eru, why must I suffer so? Why hast thou thus afflicted me? I am indeed a hapless harpist, persecuted by those who hate me without reason.
Lord Elrond stirs again, and I sink into a chair, stricken, and simply wait, though for what I wait, I do not know. I am filled with despair. My reputation is ruined. I shall be mocked wherever I go.
I am wrenched from these black thoughts by the sound of voices at the infirmary door. Someone has come to my aid! Some worthy person has become concerned by my disappearance, has taken pity on me!
"Give the key to me, 'Ro. I can reach the door."
"No! I want to do it!"
"Well, you can't. Give it to me!"
"I'll stand on your foot if you snatch, Elladan."
"You can't stand on it. It's broken. I'll tell Mother if you cripple me for life."
The key scrabbles in the lock, but the Elflings' efforts are ineffectual. It seems that Elladan and Elrohir are to be my saviors.
"Do you fink he'th dangerous?"
"Nah, probably not. He's not very mad. And stop lisping."
"I can't help it. I'm thcared."
"Whyever for?" Elladan sounds scarily like Lord Elrond.
"Becauthe he'th mad."
"You want to see what a mad person is like, don't you?" asks Elladan in his 'reasonable' voice.
"Well, then, since we missed what happened at dinnertime, we have to come and let him out, if we want to see what a mad person."
I listen to this conversation with great interest. What are the twins expecting me to do? They'll be disappointed to find out that I've recovered from my fit of madness.
At last the door opens. Elladan sticks his head around and looks about. He's evidently more worried than he's let on. "L-Lindir?" he asks.
Elladan whirls around and stares at me. Elrohir comes creeping into the room next, wide-eyed, holding the key in one hand. "Are you mad, Lindir?" he asks.
"Alas, no. I am perfectly sane, Elrohir." I wish I was mad. At least when I was mad, I was entertaining people.
They look both mildly disappointed and mildly relieved at this announcement.
I stand up and strike a tragic and longsuffering pose. 'Thank you very much for unlocking the door."
"You're welcome, Lindir," says Elladan. Suddenly he catches sight of Lord Elrond. "What's wrong with Father?"
"He is getting some much needed rest," I explain.
"He lookth dead." Elrohir's eyes are very big, and he rams his fingers into his mouth and sucks soberly on them.
"He'th – he's not dead." I hate the way Elrohir's lisp is catching. "He's just sleeping."
"We should all go away very quietly and not bother him any more," I continue.
"All right," they say in unison, and together we sneak out of the room. I shut the door, and lock it with Elrohir's key.
"Why are you locking him in there?" asks Elladan perceptively.
"So that no one will blunder in and disturb him," I say.
Elladan wrinkles his nose at me, and then hobbles down the hallway, looking as tragic and longsuffering as I ever could.
I meander calmly down the hall in the opposite direction, until an Elf-maid shrieks, "Aaaah! It's Lindir! He's escaped!"
At once about seven overprotective males come leaping to save her from the Mad Elf of Imladris.
My reputation has obviously preceded me.
There is only one thing that can be done in such a situation.
I turn and run for my life.
Erestor seems more and more tired every moment I look at him. He blinks a lot as he writes out the next invitation, taking painstaking care over each and every letter. Poor scholar.
I lie on my bed, marveling over how different it feels now that the sheets are in the right place. I think I must have gotten used to all the lumps. I take my quilt, yank it off the bed, wad it up into a ball, and plonk it down in a nearby corner.
There. Much better.
I glance over at Erestor, just in time to see him slowly tilt forward. His head knocks against my desk. I hope he hasn't damaged it, or the invitations he was writing. Or my pen. Or his head.
I get up, yawning, and walk over. I take the pen out of his hand. I slide the invitations away from where he might accidentally brush over them and smear the ink. Each letter is a work of art. I can't believe he feels that he has to spend so much time and effort over something like an invitation. Perhaps the Elves in Greenwood frame the invitations they receive from us. I doubt it, though.
Erestor doesn't look very comfortable, but I don't want to move him, because that would wake him up. He's obviously exhausted. If I wake him up, he might be cross.
I locate the book about the Most Curious Striped Horse, find the spot where I left off, remove the fork, and start reading again. Very interesting stuff here.
After a while, I look up again, and see Erestor staring at me. "You are reading," he says wonderingly.
Oh dearie me, Glorfindel is reading: the world is about to end. Valar help us all.
"Yes. I am indeed reading. And you're awake." If this is a stating-the-obvious competition, I'm determined to win it.
"Yes." Erestor looks at me. He's still in shock. "Yes, I am awake."
"I think perhaps you should go back to your bedroom."
Erestor gets to his feet, and droops against my desk, rather shamefacedly. "I should. I apologize for intruding on you, and then falling asleep in your chair."
"Don't worry about it. I'm glad I was able to provide you with the materials you needed for your invitations."
"Yes, thank you."
We look at each other. I find that I like Erestor a lot more than I did this morning.
"I was wondering..." I pause, smile brightly at Erestor "... er... would you lend me your Nolendil book?"
"What?" Now Erestor really thinks the world is going to end. He's gone slack jawed with amazement.
"It sounded very engaging."
Erestor recovers somewhat. He smirks. "Really? Now, let us see. What did you call it this morning?"
...without a doubt the most uninteresting book in all Imladris...
We both know, but Erestor leaves the words mercifully unsaid. "I'm very sorry," I say. "Honestly I am."
Erestor nods, believing me this time.
"Did you really feel tortured today?" I ask, because this was something I'm curious about.
"I may have been exaggerating slightly," admits Erestor. "But only slightly," he adds, before I can start feeling too proud of myself for not torturing him.
"Well, that's good," I say.
Erestor picks up his invitations, blows on the ink a little to dry it, and then stacks the papers neatly. "You can borrow the Nolendil book," he says, "if you promise not to use it as a paper weight or a door jam."
I blush slightly. "I promise."
This touching moment comes to dramatic and abrupt conclusion as we hear screams and yells in the hallway. I, for one, am certain that we are under invasion, and so I leap for my sword. Erestor drops his papers on the floor. We both hurry to the doorway and look out.
Lindir dashes by, a look of extreme worry plastered on his face. He is being chased by at least a dozen denizens of Imladris, who seem excited by the drama of it all.
"Catch Lindir! He's mad!" yells an Elf as he gallops past.
"Help us, Lord Glorfindel! He could be dangerous!" shouts another Elf.
Someone tackles Lindir, and they both crash to the floor. Lindir valiantly fights him off, scrambles to his feet, and sprints away.
Erestor and I stare, first at the pandemonium in the hallway, and then at each other. Then I collapse against the doorway, laughing until tears trickle down my face. Erestor stares at me too, one eyebrow raised, which just makes me laugh harder.
We're all insane... oh Valar, we're all insane...
By the time I can see Erestor again, he's laughing too. It's a sight more surprising than that of Lindir being chased down the hall. I didn't think Erestor could laugh.
I rub tears from my eyes. "Right. Are you ready to go to bed?"
Erestor snorts. "Not quite. I want to see what happens to Lindir."
So do I.
The two of us leave my room and run down the hall. We can tell where Lindir is, due to the amount of noise he and his pursuers are making. It sounds as though an entire wall is in the process of being knocked down, there are so many thumps and crashes.
I am faster than Erestor, understandably, but Erestor has Strategy.
"He will double back this way!" pants Erestor, gesturing in the direction of another corridor.
"You sure?" I ask, halting for a moment.
We lie in wait for Lindir.
Quite shortly, Lindir comes staggering up the hall, looking half dead on his feet. The other Elves are clattering about in the distance.
I am so glad the mortals left before all this.
We leap out. Lindir recoils. I grab him by the shirt. Lindir pretends to faint, but Erestor and I are not fooled. We lug him towards the nearest hall closet. Lindir opens one eye, sees were we're heading, and panics. Erestor and I somehow manage to hold on to the struggling harpist.
We shove him into the closet, and I fling myself against the door and hold it shut while Erestor gets the key. He locks the door.
Lindir says things about being a poor, suffering harpist.
I mention that he's also insane, and that he should be locked up, since he is potentially dangerous.
Lindir says that he will get revenge on us.
Erestor and I agree that if he tries to do anything to us, we will crush him forever.
Lindir says we aren't being fair.
Erestor tells him that we're being very fair. He tells him this in a very threatening way.
Lindir falls silent.
Erestor and I grin at each other. I remember when I thought that some time in the hall closet would greatly improve Erestor. I feel happier with Lindir in the hall closet instead.
We walk leisurely to Erestor's bedroom, ignoring the sounds of Lindir's hunters tearing Imladris apart to find him. Erestor finds the Nolendil book and hands it to me, with a warning look. "Remember," he says, "you must not use it as a door jam."
Erestor yawns, and rubs his eyes.
"See you in the morning," I say.
Erestor smiles. "Tomorrow is another day," he says.
I walk back to my bedroom slowly, fatigued from my hard day's work.
Tomorrow is another day.
Was that a threat?
"But Nana, I want to stay up longer. I want to see them catch Lindir!"
I kiss Elladan's forehead. "No more of that. You need your sleep. You want that ankle to get better, don't you?"
He frowns. "How will the ankle get better by sleeping?"
"Just trust me," I say. "Naneths know best."
He still looks unconvinced, but he obediently settles under the sheets.
Elrohir is already curled up into a little ball, clutching his stuffed dog. He blinks at me. "G'night, Nana."
I smile. "Good night, Elrohir. Sleep well."
I blow out the candle and step out, shutting the door behind me.
The hall is quiet now. Mercifully quiet.
I tiptoe to Erestor's door and open it, then peek inside. He is sound asleep, curled up almost like Elrohir. I look around the room, then sigh and walk in. Why does Erestor always leave a candle burning? It's a good thing that I always check on him. He would probably have set his room on fire by now, were it not for me.
I puff it out, then spare a moment to smile down at him. His eyes are closed. He must have been extremely tired… and no wonder. But I think it is worth it, and he has learned his lesson about plotting against Elves.
I leave Erestor's room, continuing toward the healing chambers, and then pause when I reach Glorfindel's door.
Ah, so Glorfindel cleaned his room. Wonderful. I was beginning to wonder if I would have to speak to him about it, but he has done it for himself. I am glad to see him taking the initiative.
I go back out into the hall, closing Glorfindel's door quietly so as not to wake him. He looks worn out too. But he should be happy… I heard him laughing with Erestor earlier.
The sound was music to my ears… the sound of triumph.
I walk to a nearby closet and open the door, then smile at Lindir as he tumbles out.
He comes out looking murderous, but then when he sees me, his face goes through a series of rapid changes: disbelief, then fear, then embarrassment. "My lady," he stutters, his melodious voice sounding quite unmelodious. "I can explain…"
I put up a hand for silence. "I don't want to know, Lindir. Just go to bed."
He blushes and looks at the floor. "Yes, Lady Celebrían." He turns to walk away.
"Oh, and Lindir?" I call.
He turns. "Milady?"
I smile sweetly. "Don't listen at doors. It's rude. Especially if the plan does not involve you." I close the closet door. "You really don't want to get involved in these things. I hope you are aware of that now."
He gawks at me, speechless.
I smile again. "Good night, Lindir."
I can barely hear his voice behind me as I walk away. "But… but how did you… ?"
Elrond is still asleep when I reach the healing chamber, as I had planned. His sleep is not that harried, fitful sleep that it has been for weeks; he is sleeping deeply and soundly.
Everything worked out exactly as I planned. Erestor and Glorfindel are friends, Lindir has learned the consequences of being nosy, my boys will be rid of the negative influence of Glorfindel and Erestor's squabbling, and Elrond will have a good, long sleep.
And it all started with a subtle hint… ah, the power of persuasion.
I walk over to the window, then smile in the direction of Lothlórien. I can almost hear my mother's voice, laughing along with me. She was right.
Never underestimate a lady.