Title: Luck and Skill are Different
They were walking down the hallway to the library of Imladris, talking in a brother-sisterly way.
"Elladan, it has been quite a while since you last challenged Glorfindel to an archery contest," Arwen said, her sweet and melodious voice barely concealing her mirth. She knew that she had aroused a topic that would not die until her spirited brother had proved her wrong—or at least, try to, most of the time. She tried to muffle her laughter in vain when her brother made his next retort.
"Arwen, are you trying yet again to make me the laughingstock of Imladris? But, you see, this time, it will not work. I have trained myself a lot harder than you think, and, plus, Glorfindel hasn't done anything besides lounging out in Imladris and forgetting his warrior talents for over centuries. I shall challenge him—and I shall triumph."
The daughter of the Lady of Rivendell just barely escaped from a rather loud and unladylike snort—this was just like him—her brother—bragging about himself beating the sworn protector of Elrond again and again—yet he had hardly ever won and only attracted laughter from the spectators. Not only the folk of Imladris were present, but, somehow, somebody had managed to contact the other elven realms and had always told them about the oncoming match between the two elf-lords. The mysterious messenger had even managed to coax Lord Círdan to part with his beloved ships for a little while. No doubt, Legolas was always there; in fact, he and his father Thranduil (who came occasionally) were always the first to arrive. Mithrandír occasionally came. Also, of course, his daeradar and daernaneth, Celeborn and Galadriel, lord and lady of Lórien, would not miss a contest for anything unless it was urgent. With them came Haldir, the marchwarden of Lórien, and whenever he witnessed a contest with Glorfindel winning (which happened to be ninety-nine times out of every one hundred contests), he would purposefully strut around Rivendell with a satisfied smirk. Of course, he only did this when Elladan was present, but for no apparent reason. Whenever this happened, the same result always occurred:
Elladan would often hurl at Haldir: "'Strutting around Imladris like a pig-head lord, that's right, I'm talking about you,'" in response to Haldir's feinted confused expressions. "'One day, I shall beat you first, then Glorfindel, but first, take—THIS!'" rushing to Haldir, he would try to pounce on the older and obviously more experienced elf, who would duck the onrush and, catching the young elf-lord mid-charge, flip him a complete 360 degrees and tickle him mercilessly. This was what sent Elladan screaming for mercy—his weakness was being ticklish, something that the rest of his family noted, especially his two siblings: his twin brother Elrohir and his sister Arwen, who was his junior by 111 years. He started reflecting over the happy memories…
Then, suddenly, he was snapped back to the present by his sister, who was now using a mischievous voice and an expression which she concealed on her face, but only partly, because Elladan saw part of that expression and made a mental note to add it in his storage of what he called "The Arwen Expressions."
"Muindor-nîn," she said, smirking (he could hardly ever recall of her smirking like that), "are you completely sure that Glorfindel has just been sitting around these past few days? From what I am seeing, he has been practicing quite devotedly. Perhaps, he has been forewarned of the probable competition…" she trailed off, her smirk wiped off to be replaced by a coy look under her eyelashes.
However, he was not to be flustered. He smiled in a charming way that made every elleth's heart melt—all except Arwen's—and answered in a tone that was just as beguiling as his smile.
"And I supposed you were the one to tell him?"
She shook her head no.
"Then it must be Elrohir,"
Again, another denial.
"Well, it's either one of you two. Or is it Erestor? Adar? Naneth? Or perhaps, was it Glorfindel himself who made up this unruly little game?"
Arwen finally exploded with laughter. She had succeeded—Elladan had become flustered—she could tell that he had abandoned his calm demeanor and was caught off guard by nothing whatsoever. Elladan noticed whenever she laughed—or rather, cackled, like that—she had been holding in her laughter for quite a time. It was quite a wonder how she managed to keep it in for so long—he could never hold it in for more than thirty seconds.
His younger sister, however, had decided she had revealed enough and decided to torment him with what he didn't know. She turned in the other direction and said: "Rest early, Danny. You will need all the concentration and strength your body offers you tomorrow. I, for one, will be there. And, I bet you that Glorfindel will beat you yet again. If you win, however, then I will do whatever you tell me to do. If you lose, then I shall force you to wear my most feminine dress and walk around Imladris showing everybody what you are wearing—for a day. Losto mae." She gave him one last smug grin and left. She did that on purpose! She new he hated being called Danny, and whenever she did so, his thoughts spun around helplessly in a great whirlwind and he was never able to get anything straight. However, this time, he kept his head clear and was planning his sweet revenge towards his sister… and for the rest of the day he fired arrows at various targets.
The day was a perfect one for archery conditions. It was a clear morning, and there was no wind, so the arrows would not fly astray. The sun was dappling the ground with only warm sunlight. The archery targets had already been set up, and Elrond was there, accompanied by his wife, Celebrían, his advisor, Erestor, and Glorfindel himself, with his trusty bow and arrows that had been checked the night before to confirm that they were in perfect condition. Claiming her spot in the audience was Arwen, to be joined seconds later by her other brother, Elrohir. Minutes later an elf with golden-blonde hair and the green-and-brown colors of Greenwood sprang out of the trees, and he had a crown of laurel leaves and berries resting on his head. He produced two similar ones and presented them to the two children of Elrond who were eying him with identical grins on their faces. It was Legolas, and apparently, he had come alone this time.
"So," he said, with an enticing smile that could have definitely been worthy of Elladan's, perhaps even more so, "What will it be this time? Maybe his ninety-ninth time of losing, in this one hundredth sequential contest?" He was supposing this because the last time he came Elladan had won, and of course, Legolas, being the stubborn elf he was, was always sure of himself that Elladan would win no more than once at every one hundred games. Besides that, he knew that the bow was Elrohir's preferred type of weapon. Elladan was much better with the sword—not that he could beat Glorfindel at that, either. After all, Glorfindel had been in Middle-Earth ever since the first age. Elrond could beat him—but only on occasion, and Elrond had fought more battles than his son had and probably ever will. So, concluding that Elladan would surely lose, the Thranduilion had also included himself to the bet, declaring to the firstborn of Elrond that if Glorfindel would, by a miraculous chance, win, then he, Legolas Thranduilion, would purposefully embarrass himself in front of the folk of Imladris and anyone else who had cared to come.
Elladan had already been waiting for the competition ever since he had agreed to Legolas's bet. He brought his bow, a quiver of arrows strapped on his back, and a grim expression, though everyone could see that the corners of his mouth twitched every so often. He caught the eye of Glorfindel, who was grinning evilly, and the young son of Elrond noticed that his sire, his mother, and Erestor were all looking at him with amused smiles. He looked at the mighty Balrog-slayer one last time, then turned his attention to what his father was saying.
"Attention, the contest between Lord Elladan and Lord Glorfindel is……."
In his mind, Elladan was desperately thinking of a plan for this unprepared competition. No doubt, Glorfindel probably had devised his plan for days now, and was going to put it to work. Elladan had hardly thought of anything before the voice of his father floated into his mind…
"…….And Lord Elladan is to start the first round. He will shoot five arrows. If three lands within a close range of the bulls-eye, then he will qualify for the next round. He will now stand fifty paces from the target."
Elladan did so, and fired five arrows in rapid succession. All five managed to embed onto the board, but only three had managed to land anywhere near the target. The other two was quite a distance from the supposed goal. When it was Glorfindel's turn he stepped into the open, and nocked his arrow onto the bowstring and let fly before anyone had seen him draw the tight string back. It made its mark perfectly. The same happened with the other four arrows.
Elladan was beginning to panic. If he shot like that, then he would have no chance of beating this elf that he was so determined to beat—and to prove his little sister wrong. And, he would have to wear one of her dresses! That thought was so unbearable that he focused his mind on the contest only, and again stepped out onto the field. This time, the requirements were that two of three arrows had to make it onto the board, and the contestant had to stand eighty paces from the target. By now, the young dark-haired elf began to fidget and felt panic rising in him quickly. Why was he so nervous? He had had nearly three thousand contests with Glorfindel, and all of them only aroused humor, but since when had panic kicked in?
Arwen, Elrohir, and Legolas were cheering loudly, but for no one in particular. Elladan, after a brief glance at them, thought that they were cheering for Glorfindel. He looked at them for the longest time and wondered if any of the three would notice that he was shooting accusing glances at them for being traitors. Finally, Legolas was the first of the three to look at the elf of Imladris, and when he did, he found Elladan glaring at him heatedly. He did not return the stony look, but instead attempted at a lopsided grin which showed off his handsome features quite magnificently. Finally, when Elladan nocked his arrow onto the bowstring, he forced his hands to stop trembling, and after a few seconds, managed to steady them. He took aim, and pulled the string back slowly and deliberately so that everybody felt the tension of the string pulling along their shoulders too. Finally, what must have been an eternity, Elladan let fly. To his intense relief, the arrow flew true, and landed dead center. He sighed, and prayed that the next arrow would produce the same results. To his surprise, neither of the two arrows betrayed him. Now it was time to watch that crazy elf-lord.
Glorfindel stepped out almost lazily, flashing his golden hair in the sun and smiling at his young competitor. He too, like Legolas, saw an elf who had slitted his eyes, which made him look rather like an elfling. He laughed to himself. After this contest was over and he had won, he would definitely point that out to Elladan how childish he looked when he squinted. In the space of two minutes, all three arrows' aim was true, and the crowd tensed as they were about to witness the final round that would declare the triumph of Glorfindel or Elladan.
"And now, the final round of this competition. This round will determine the winner of the archery battle and the winner shall walk away with pride. The loser shall walk away enduring what—" Elrond stopped and smiled at his son. "Now, the contestants must stand one hundred and twenty paces from the target and shoot only one final arrow. If the arrow flies true, then he shall be the winner. However, there will be obstacles that will serve as a challenge for this round. For one thing, occasional bursts of wind will come, so this round tests your skill, your swiftness, and your accuracy of timing. Another challenge to this contest will be that certain things will appear, in which the main purpose of this is to distract you. Finally, the third thing will be that a time limit is set to this round. You will be given only three minutes to make your mark. I will warn you when we reach the point where you have only half a minute left. If you still haven't shot your arrow by then, I would recommend you to just aim and shoot. You may never know if your arrow flies true. It is now time for Lord Glorfindel to rise first to the challenge, since we've had our young Lord Elladan going first for the first two rounds. It's rather fair, don't you think?"
Everybody nodded in agreement.
Elladan and Glorfindel both looked rather shocked.
In the audience, Arwen, Elrohir, and Legolas were snickering in unison. The look on their brother and friend's face was too comical to keep in much longer. Legolas was laughing the loudest, because his bet had spread to the entire audience, and many people wanted to see the prince of Greenwood the Great embarrass himself intentionally. However, a majority of the people doubted that Elladan could best Lord Glorfindel. The Balrog-slayer had seen a lot more winters than the young Elrondion.
Glorfindel took a deep breath, though that was not necessary, and declared that he was ready. Elrond started counting in his head, so skilled in measuring time was he. Glorfindel had nocked the arrow, aimed, and was about to shoot when a sudden gust of wind came. He then forcefully restrained a groan that he might have emitted from his mouth. Just as he got ready to shoot for the second time, a distraction arrived in the form of Galadriel. This time, he barely bothered to smother his snarl.
"Suilad, Lord Glorfindel," she said in a lilting, carefree way that was meant to pass the time quicker.
"Hîril nín," he returned laconically, and tried to step aside, but found that he couldn't.
Galadriel held out a package wrapped in a mallorn leaf in one hand and a flask of something in the other hand.
"Which would you like? The first is lembas, and the second is miruvor. Both can help with the strength, as I am sure you know as well as I do." She smiled pleasantly.
Elladan, Elrohir, Arwen, Legolas, Celeborn, Elrond, Celebrían, Estel, and the rest of the audience members doubled up with laughter. According to the three children of Elrond, it certainly sounded like their grandmother was advertising something, but to Celeborn, this was certainly something he had not seen before. As for the human, he was quite helpless with laughter because he alone had caught Glorfindel's puzzled face. They were all laughing so hard that nobody caught the next part of the conversation. The only thing they caught was a fragment of a sentence.
"—I would, if I could…"
"It will help you greatly with your strength, Glorfindel."
"I am not in need of strength right now, my lady. I would prefer it if you would do me a favor and step aside, please."
Galadriel obediently stepped aside, and when the elf-lord was about to shoot, another gust of wind blew. Elrond's voice suddenly came drifting over to him.
"…..Glorfindel, you have missed my thirty-second warning….you now have ten seconds left. Ten, nine, eight, seven…"
The crowd joined in enthusiastically, and Glorfindel, in desperation, shot his arrow after aiming it the best he could. To his displeasure and amazement, the arrow embedded itself exactly where he didn't want it to: in the trunk of a tree. He groaned, while the audience gasped as one, so that it sounded like a storm-god had just inhaled deeply and sharply. This was something the audience had never seen before. Lord Glorfindel rarely ever missed, and now he missed by a lot.
It was now Elladan's turn. He clutched the bow tighter and wiped his sweaty palms on the side of his tunic.
"And now, BEGIN!"
Elladan aimed, and almost shot his arrow, but a gust of wind passed them lazily. Then, almost as suddenly, his mother appeared. She smiled her alluring smile, something he noted that his younger sister had inherited. He felt himself blush. Nobody, at least, no male elf, could resist that smile coming from the lady of Imladris. Even his father, Elrond, was not able to, even after several millennia of marriage.
"Elladan, would you like to accompany me for a walk? I've heard that the first mallorn blooms have sprung today." That statement accompanied by another sweet smile.
Another gust of wind blew, and Elladan, who had been counting in his head the whole time and yet managed to hear his mother, swiftly calculated the wind pattern. In three seconds he got it. The wind would come every thirty seconds, which would be useful in indicating the remaining time.
"Would you please excuse me, Naneth, I need to shoot my arrow first, and then I will be able to accompany you to your destination."
Elrond smiled to himself. His son was quite like him—he had the same patience, the same hands of a healer, and the same facial expressions. But what he noted most of all was his son's ability to charm people—that, however, was a trait that he had inherited from Celebrían more than the Lord of Imladris himself. He watched as the love of his life stepped—or rather, drifted—gracefully away. Elladan snarled in great resemblance to Glorfindel when the next gust of wind whipped him fully in the face and blew his hair wild. Time was running out, and he needed to re-aim and shoot before the next breeze came. According to his calculations in his head, he had only a minute left. He had to hurry. One minute passed just as quickly as one second in a situation like this. So, he raised his bow, eyed the target, and brought the bow to the place where he thought would hit the target. Closing his eyes, he pulled back the bowstring and released the pressure…
He could not bear to open his eyes. He was certain he had missed. It seemed so off from the position he usually shot from, and it felt so strange… "Now I will have to go around Imladris wearing Arwen's most feminine dress," he thought. But on a second thought, that wasn't so bad if he considered it more….and Glorfindel will walk away with pride yet again. He knew that though Glorfindel had missed the target, he, Elladan Elrondion, would have missed the target at an even greater distance…
But his fear was for nothing. The arrow had stricken the tree adjacent to where Glorfindel's arrow had been. That meant that there was a tie—something that was quite new. The audience clapped eagerly, for they were waiting to see what would happen…
Afterwards, when everything was cleared up a truce was officially declared, the young elf strode up to his siblings and his friend and said to them quite casually, taking pleasure in seeing their faces in three identical 'Doom is here' masks.
"If I remember correctly, you each had a deal that you were to keep."
"I wasn't in this, muindor-nîn," protested Elrohir.
"You will be now."
Elrohir ignored him and turned to Arwen.
"Arwen, you make a deal saying that you would do whatever Elladan told you to."
"And so I did, and will do all Elladan shall tell me to do."
"A lady with a brave and noble heart," Legolas chimed in quite suddenly.
Elladan smiled at him and said in a light and teasing tone: "I'm glad you think so, Legolas, for that is indeed true of my sister. However, I believe you will have to do a lot more than say such things to win her heart. Unless," he said, looking coyly down at Arwen, who now replaced her previous mask with one that showed pure innocence, "she has already given her heart to somebody else."
Arwen felt herself flushing, and she quickly dealt her older brother a mild blow on his upper arm, though she knew it was unladylike to do so but she ignored the feeling. Being a lady was sometimes so boring. However, it had its benefits as well as its disadvantages. For instance, the first time she met Estel in Lórien, she had influenced him greatly. And, she smiled as she remembered, he called meTinúviel, saying that I walk in her likeliness though I was not she.
All eyes were on her, and so she quickly thought up of something to say.
"Elladan, just give me the first command," she said, hastily changing the subject.
"Okay, the first thing you will have to do is…drink tea with honey in it!"
Arwen groaned aloud. She had forgotten about that, and Elladan actually remembered! She had always hated honey-added tea. It was always too sweet for her liking, and now she was forced to drink the tea that she hated so much. She tried reason, which, unfortunately, was not enough to convince her older brother.
"I prefer to drink tea by itself, thank you very much. Honey changes its whole aroma."
Elladan grinned at that but only said: "A promise is a promise. You said you would do anything."
"But not anything like this!"
"You promised. And plus, I could have made it worse. I could have made you drink more than one cup……if you don't like the amount you have to drink now, would you like me to change it to three cups?"
Arwen glared at all three males and proceeded to the kitchen to fix the tea Elladan, Elrohir, and Legolas all trailed her steps, but at a safe distance just in case she suddenly became angry and would vent her anger on them, though that was very unlikely for this lady. She was just about to add the honey in when Elladan took a risk and intervened.
"I will add the honey."
"I said, I will add the honey."
"What did you just say?"
"I will add the honey!"
Fortunately, Elladan had known his sister his whole life and so he knew he was in danger of her explosion. Though rare, Arwen's temper was something nobody wanted to get in the way of when it did come. Now was one of those times. The oldest of Elrond's children raised his hands and backed away. However, Arwen would not let her temper fade away without having her say.
"You never said anything about how much honey would be added, did you?"
Glaring at the three of them, she forced herself to remain calm, and when she spoke her tone was quite forced.
"This is just a simple matter compared to you wearing my dress for the entire day."
Elladan flushed so deeply it would have been worthy of a the same color as a cardinal, while his twin and Legolas were sniggering as loud as they could, not even bothering to be discreet. This was what Elrond had decided: since the contest had ended as it did, the "bets" made on both sides had to be met. However, Elladan had just remembered that Glorfindel had no part in the bet, but he concocted a plan to include the older elf in there all the same. If he, Elladan, son of the Lord of Rivendell, was to be embarrassed in front of all the spectators, then Glorfindel should at least have some part of being embarrassed too…hmmmmm….his head was already full of all sorts of evil thoughts and plans that he did not notice his sister finishing the remains of the tea, and he did not respond to her calls until his brother yank him not too gently by the hair.
"Ow! What did you do that for?"
Arwen stepped in between the two brothers smartly and said in a casual tone, thought it sounded like her nose was clogged up because she was trying to conceal her laughter—"Come, I shall now pick the dress that you shall wear." Struggling desperately not to do anything that might betray her composture, she led Elladan to her chambers, with the other two elves trailing behind.
When they arrived in her dressing room Arwen bade the others stay outside and dragged Elladan in with her. He watched in interest as she opened her wardrobe and took the longest time picking out a gown, her face contorting into pondering looks of consideration. Finally, she picked out a purple one with elaborate decorations and embroidery—just about everything that would make even the most male elf look feminine.
"This is what I usually wear to formal occasions," she explained sweetly in response to his look of horror.
Trying to find an excuse, he said: "Pardon me, but I don't think I'll fit into that. You see, it'll reveal part of my arms and my legs, and I'll wear breeches under, if you don't mind."
Arwen grinned wickedly. "That's all the better. Everyone will look at your feet—though I don't think they'll care—and that'd be just perfect. Go change. Now." She handed him the gown and turned around while Elladan hid himself in the corner. After a minute or so, he shuffled towards her. Turning around, she stared—just to find that the effect was so very different from what she had expected. It made him look rather—more mature—instead of feminine, which had been the desired result. She was not happy.
Outside, Elrohir and Legolas were imitating what Elladan would sound like once they saw him in one of Arwen's gowns. They spoke in odd, high-pitched noises which sounded ridiculous and yet funny. When the eldest of Elrond's children came out, they started exploding with laughter. They did not see the outcome that Arwen had because they were male, unlike her, and so they did not see anything except for how feminine he looked. By now, Elladan had quashed the idea of embarrassing Glorfindel in front of the crowd because, according to his past experience, it always ended up vice versa. He had even dropped the matter of making Arwen do something, exceedingly nervous as he was.
That night, during the celebrations, he didn't fare as worse as he thought he would. People had heard about Elladan already, but when they saw him, their mouths dropped open in surprise. The females had noticed immediately that he was single, but elves of the same gender as he was noticed the same thing that his twin and Legolas had. His spirits lifted considerably, and downright laughed in Glorfindel's face when the elf-lord tried to say: "You should try braiding flowers in your hair. It'll match your "dress."
There went that day, and this was just one of the many contests that were held throughout the years before the Great Years. Other contests may have been different. It may have ended in many different results—but it all depends on your—as the reader—'s imagination.
Lórien: also called Lothlórien; means Golden Wood
muindor-nîn: my brother
losto mae: sleep well
Thranduilion: son of Thranduil
Elrondion: son of Elrond
Hîril nín: my lady
Lembas: a waybread of the Elves
Estel: hope, also the childhood name given to Aragorn by Elrond.
mallorn: a special Elven tree which grows in Lothlórien
Tinúviel: other name of Lúthien; means nightingale in Sindarin