Chance Encounter: Legacy of the Third Age
Disclaimer: I don't own anything that you recognize. I' just borrowing them without permission but with every intention of returning them, savvy?
Warning: I advise you not to eat or drink anything while reading this chapter. The reason will become apparent.
Chapter 28: Long Live Chaos!
Éowyn had never seen more chaos in her life, and that was saying a lot; she had been in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Each person seemed to be striving to drown out the others. Jack the Monkey was shrieking at the top of his voice and Jack the pirate was shouting and cursing colourfully. Balian was spewing out things which sounded like badly pronounced dwarvish curses. Only Agnes was silent, not that she could have said anything if she had wanted to. The poor girl was probably in shock. This was her wedding, and it was all going —what was that phrase? Ah yes; going to pot.
"That's enough!" roared Gimli. When it came to shouting matches, no one could beat the dwarf. The others stopped for a moment to look at him, and then resumed their quarrelling. Well, Jack and Barbossa resumed their quarrelling. The others were trying to stop them.
Achilles rolled his eyes. No sort of diplomacy was going to work. He nodded at Elladan, and then jerked his head in the direction of the two pirates, who were quickly coming to blows. After some more nodding, gesturing and blinking, the elven lord finally understood what the Greek wanted to do. The two of them strode up to the helm. Achilles grabbed Jack by the back of his coat, and, ignoring his protests, bodily threw him into the water. Elladan had done the same with Barbossa with strength that belied his slender figure.
"Good one," said Faramir, looking rather impressed. He had been wondering about how to solve this problem.
"Now that everything's settled, we can resume," said Achilles. He bowed to Aragorn. "My liege." That was the hint, and Aragorn took it into stride. The king of Gondor and Arnor strode to the helm and began the wedding ceremony again.
Apart from some outraged spluttering and name calling from the water below, everything progressed smoothly until Aragorn accidentally said, "You may kiss the bride." He'd learned that 'Christians' had this in their weddings. Of course, the supplier of this information had been Elizabeth, and Elizabeth and Balian had come from very different times and places.
Balian blanched, and Agnes looked absolutely horrified. "Very passionate," Elladan remarked drily to Legolas, who just sniggered. However, to their disappointment, Agnes did not faint and Balian did not start spluttering incoherently. Instead, the man took the girl's hand in his own and kissed it very chastely.
"Well, that's one way to get around it," muttered Will, looking as if he would like to show Balian how it was actually done, with Elizabeth as his partner for the demonstration.
"It's a start," said Elizabeth, patting his arm. "You don't want them to get too nervous to eat. Queen Arwen has organized a wonderful banquet."
It seemed that all men, no matter how old they were, lived for eating, for at the mention of the word 'banquet', they all stopped congratulating the new couple and looked at her. She raised an eyebrow at that.
"Hey, why has it gone quiet up there?" came Jack's voice from below.
Wine, ale and rum flowed freely during the wedding feast. Arwen had outdone herself this time. Well, Arwen and the cooks. The main feasting hall had been decorated with golden ribbons along the edges of the ceiling. Jack, despite having spent a while in the river, was the first to arrive. Of course, the entire Gondorian court had been waiting there already.
Apart from conducting the wedding —which he had failed to do—, Jack had other plans up his sleeve. This wedding had to be special, and when Captain Jack Sparrow had had a hand in organizing it, how could it not be? He nodded at the musicians in the corner.
As soon as the new couple and their retinue walked in through the door, the musicians struck up a lively and familiar tune. Jack grinned as Will slapped his forehead and the blood drained from Balian's face. Ragetti and Pintel, having recognized the tune, beamed before joining in the singing.
Yo ho! Yo ho! A pirate's life for me.
We pillage plunder, we rifle and loot.
Drink up me hearties, yo ho!
We kidnap and ravage and don't give a hoot.
Drink up me hearties, yo ho!
Yo ho! Yo ho! A pirate's life for me!
"How did he manage that?" whispered Legolas. "How in Middle Earth did Jack manage to ruin a wedding single-handedly?"
"You were right about one thing," said Elladan. "This is a very spectacular wedding. I've never seen anything like it." He still held the long wrapped bundle, and now, he handed it over to Aragorn, as planned. There was to be at least some formality in this wedding, despite Jack Sparrow's determination to do away with all pomp and ceremony.
The song seemed to go on and on, and as the pirates made merry, the entire room grew increasingly silent, until all one could hear were the music and the off-key singing. The final note finally died away, and they were all left in shock. Finally, Aragorn cleared his throat, breaking the tense silence. He smiled benevolently, although when his gaze fell on Jack, his eyes grew hard, and Jack knew that he was going to have to endure some rather awful lectures afterwards; that is, if he was sober enough to listen to them.
The king raised his cup — a finely worked glass imported from Harad. "To Balian and Agnes," he said. "May their union be a long and happy one!" The cheers were thunderous.
Agnes glanced at Balian—her new husband. He seemed to have regained his normal colour, although the skin around his lips was still a bit pale. Still, he drank deeply from his own cup. She followed suit. The elven wine warmed her from the inside out, giving her more courage. She quickly downed the rest of it; she was going to need courage.
They had all seen Elladan hand something over to Aragorn. The king had not finished speaking yet. "Balian, I know you lost your sword to your cousin," he said. With that, he unwrapped the long and mysterious bundle, and all of a sudden, Balian wondered why he had thought it had been mysterious in the first place. The shape had made it obvious enough, hadn't it? Aragorn held the beautiful weapon with two hands. "Behold!"
"Ooh! It's Excalibur!" exclaimed Jack. "And Ole 'Arry is King Arthur!"
"He be the Lady of the Lake, I assume," drawled Barbossa. He held a large glass of mead in his hand and his face was unusually red. "The king be giving the sword to Balian, and as the Lady be the one who gives the sword to Arthur, I say that Balian be Arthur, and His Majesty be the Lady."
"I don't recall the Lady of the Lake being so bearded," scoffed Jack as he crossed his arms. Did he mention that he really really despised Barbossa?
Agnes clung onto Balian's arm and smiled at everyone who approached her. She let Balian do the talking. The servants kept her cup filled, and she always drank her wine. It would not do to offend their hosts by rejecting the offered drinks.
Her world started to reel, and she began to feel very warm. She felt as if she was floating above everyone else; it was actually quite pleasant. Someone was keeping a very tight grip on her arm. "Leggo," she slurred. "I wanna fly..."
"Agnes," said that voice. A man's voice; she was pretty sure she'd heard it before, but she couldn't place it. Did it even matter? Everyone here was so wonderful. "I think you've had enough to drink."
" 'shgood," she said, wondering why she didn't sound so clear.
"No, it's not good," said the voice. A strong hand relieved her of her cup. She tried to protest, but it was so hard to control her tongue. Her legs weren't working either. She slumped against something warm and hard. Strong arms wrapped around her.
"Balian," she mumbled, finally remembering who this man was. Wait, didn't she marry him? Oh well. It didn't really matter, did it? Or did it? She shook her head. Why were her thoughts going everywhere? She clung to Balian to stop herself from floating off.
"Right," she heard him say. His voice was deep and rumbling, and she liked the sound of it. "Heloise, can you please take Lady Agnes up to the bedroom?"
"Certainly, milord," Agnes heard someone else say. She protested as Balian released her from his solid warm embrace. It had been very comfortable. However, as her limbs were not under control, she could do very little as her maid coaxed her out of the dining hall and into the bridal chamber.
She could remember very little of it, but there seemed to be a lot of stumbling. Sometimes, she heard fabric rip, and she giggled when Heloise cursed under her breath. It was rather novel to hear a woman cuss instead of a man. At last, she all but crumpled onto the wide expanse of the canopy bed. She gave a contented sigh, unaware of the dilemma which Heloise was in.
The maid wrung her hands as she took in her mistress' inebriated state. Did Lord Balian want her to sober Agnes up, or did he mean take her to the bedroom and supervise her so that she didn't do anything ridiculous? Either way, the story of this wedding was probably going to be spoken of as a joke for the years to come. To top it all, the bride got drunk on her wedding night.
Dawn. Most of Minas Tirith was sleeping, for they were tired from the merry-making. And the drink had been plentiful. A scream coming from the citadel shattered the silence. Even though their captain was more than just inebriated, the Gondorian Elite Guards were as alert as they always were. They rushed to the source of the scream, only to find a very embarrassed newly-wed couple.
"I forgot..." whispered Agnes. Her face felt as if it was on fire. She had woken up in a strange room to find someone sleeping on a nearby chair, and that someone had not been Heloise.
"The bride who forgot she was married," said Legolas, smirking. Even though his sense of hearing had been reduced, he'd been able to hear that scream quite clearly, and he found it quite amusing. Too bad the others weren't awake to enjoy it. Only Elladan was with him, and the son of Elrond, having been brought up by a kind and gracious elf-lord, was trying to keep a straight face. The prince of Eryn Lasgalen assumed that it was all part of his courtly training. He had no such qualms. After all, he and Balian had been through what he thought of as the Void together, so a little teasing was very reasonable. "Balian must have done a very good job on his wedding night."
"Oh, shut it," muttered the man, who was no less embarrassed than his wife. At least Jack was not there to make the obligatory eunuch jokes.
"I'm so sorry," Agnes said, again. She hadn't stopped apologizing, and she didn't look like she was going to stop any time soon.
"I understand," Balian assured her, even though he didn't. She'd spent days with him in a dark dungeon, hadn't she? She'd even held him as he had slept or fallen unconscious from his ordeals, so why was finding him sleeping in a chair which was a few yards from the bed shocking to her? "Do you have headache?" he asked, in an attempt to change the subject. It seemed as if all of Gondor had gathered to watch the show —every single person present was smirking— and he didn't like it. Agnes nodded. "I'll send for some willowbark tea. That will make things better."
"Thank you," she whispered.
"Now, why don't you go and lie down?" he suggested, all the while giving his audience pointed looks. The Gondorian Elite Guards and Elladan took the hint. Legolas noticed it and ignored it.
"Are you certain that you don't need a chaperone?" he asked.
"Legolas, go away," said Balian through gritted teeth. "Please," he added as an afterthought.
"Well, since you asked so nicely, perhaps I should go and fetch Aragorn," said the elf. "He should know some very good remedies for shock."
"Legolas, I swear, if you tell anyone else about this—"
"My dear friend, I don't need to tell anyone about it. The entire city probably heard your wife and is wondering about what you were doing to her to make her scream like that. I suggest that you think of a good story, and quickly. Otherwise, the gossips will do it for you."
"Christ!" Balian rubbed his face with his hand. Who knew that getting married was such hard work? "Legolas, you have to help me think of an explanation that won't embarrass either Agnes or me. I'm not a creative man; I can't do this."
"You're not creative?" Legolas raised an eyebrow. "I recall knowing someone who designs fortifications and siege engines."
"Those are mechanical! Methodical! Rational! Simple!"
"I wouldn't say that machinery that's built to kill is rational and simple," said Legolas. "Now, this cover-up story that I have in mind is so simple that even you will be able to understand it."
"Hurry up and tell me!" pleaded Balian, not even bothering to bristle at the insult.
"Just tell them that Agnes had a nightmare."
The madness died down after a few days as everyone settled into this new arrangement. With the merry-making over, Legolas began to slip back into his bouts of melancholy. Acceptance was one thing; getting used to his ailment was another. He'd spent three thousand years with superior senses to everyone except those of his own kind, and it took a lot of adjusting. He still hadn't managed to do that yet.
For him, going outside was torture, for he could not hear the whisper of breezes as they flew over far away fields, and he would rather not be reminded of his loss. He lay sprawled on one of the vast couches in his own chambers, listlessly staring up at the sky, thinking how far away it was. The birds were no more than tiny little dots against a backdrop of clear blue, but even that seemed grey. Legolas closed his eyes and breathed out. He felt half alive at times like these. The world was beautiful, but he could not admire it enough to do it justice. He missed being able to hear the voices of the trees. And he had a headache. Perhaps this was one of those 'colds' which mortals seemed to get all the time. As if to prove that assumption, he sneezed.
"Disgusting," he muttered as he wiped his hands on his tunic. He would much rather be fighting orcs than fighting colds. Then he remembered that his speed and aim had been much diminished, as had his strength. If he went out to hunt orcs now, he would probably get killed in very little time. Instead of him rescuing someone, he would be the one in need of rescuing. As that realization dawned on him, he began cursing in very colourful language in every tongue he knew. He only knew a few dwarven curses, but recently, he had been gravitating towards a few choice phrases which his pirate friends often employed.
Someone behind him coughed, startling him. "'Scuse me," said Jack. "I knocked on the door, but you couldn't hear me. I'll come back later, shall I?" He grinned as he spoke. Apparently, neither Legolas' depression, nor anyone else's, could affect his good mood.
"Come in, Jack," said Legolas. "I'm not doing anything."
"Didn't sound that way, but I'll pretend I didn't hear anything." The pirate kicked the door close. "You're lucky it wasn't Lizzie, or worse, Andromache, who caught you."
"You didn't come to tell me off about swearing, did you?"
"Of course not," said Jack with a sniff. Legolas also sniffed, for an entirely different reason. The elf decided very quickly that he hated colds, and if he ever got better, he would never tease his mortal friends about them again. Jack waved something in the elf's face. It seemed to be a circle made out of many slivers of something tough, hard and fibrous which had been tied together by string.
"What's this?" he asked, trying to catch it before Jack took out his eye with it.
"This, my friend, is bamboo," said Jack, taking his time in getting to the point. He liked to show off his expansive knowledge. "Better yet, it's a map drawn on bamboo, savvy?" He spread out said map on one of the low tables and beckoned to Legolas. The elf leaned forwards. It was the strangest map he'd ever seen. There were painted ships and strange angular symbols which looked as if they were pictures of something.
"That's Chinese," said Jack. "Don't worry; I can't read it either." The map itself seemed to be composed of five concentric circles. Jack fiddled with those until they formed another image. The pirate gleefully pointed at another line of symbols, different from the 'Chinese' ones. "That, mate, is Latin, which I can read."
"What does it say?" asked Legolas.
"It says 'Aqua de Vida', which, when translated, means the 'water of life'," said Jack. He crossed his arms in satisfaction, looking very pleased with himself. "This, pointy-ear, will be your salvation."
"I don't understand," said Legolas, glancing up at him.
"Mate, did that poison kill your brain too? Oh well, doesn't matter, because Captain Jack Sparrow is here."
"Jack," said Legolas. "What is your point? I know that water symbolizes life."
"No, no," said Jack. "This ain't a symbolic meaning at all! This 'water of life' means 'Fountain of Youth'. He who drinks from this fountain gets eternal life, savvy? All we need to do is find this fountain, drink from it, and you'll be back to your old sarcastic snobby self. That sounds good, eh?" He spread his arms to indicate the vast potential of this venture. Legolas simply stared at him. And then, the elf genuinely smiled.
"Jack, you are brilliant," he said.
"Aren't I always?" said the pirate. "It's not like I need you to tell me. Anyway, I figured that out, and you're the first one I told."
Legolas raced off to pass the idea to Aragorn —and also to ask for medication which would ease the symptoms of his cold. Jack rubbed his hands.
"The immortal Captain Jack Sparrow," he said, cocking his head to one side. "I like the sound of that. I really like the sound of that."
He flipped open the newspaper. A steaming cup of coffee sat on the glass-topped table beside him. French Roast, specially imported from France. A rich man like him could afford little luxuries. He picked up the cup and took a sip. Fragrant, bitter and strong; just the way he liked it. He would have to give the housekeeper a bonus. She made the best coffee he had ever tasted.
The huge headline caught his eye. It was impossible not to see it. Instead of the usual sort of news about Israeli missiles hitting refugee camps in Gaza, or US troops getting attacked in Baghdad by militants, the bold print read, 'Submarine Locates Shining Stone on Seabed.' It was complete with a picture of said stone. In his shock, he spilled hot coffee all over his lap. Balian leapt to his feet. His face was pale. It couldn't be. After all these years, it had resurfaced to haunt him.
The Irminsul had returned to the world of Men.
A/N: Thanks to everyone for sticking with me. Can you believe that it's been over two years since I first began the Chance Encounter series? I couldn't have done it without your encouragement. I'm going to miss working on this fic, but don't get too sad yet, because even as I type this, the plot-bunnies are working madly, and if all goes according to plan, this series might end up gettng two more instalments--just not immediately.
On another note, I'll have to break a two year tradition of updating every Friday, because during the week beginning on Monday 26 January, I'll be away at a medieval themed camp, and thus unable to post. I'll come back on Friday 6 February with my latest crossover, It's an Odd Coincidence. See you then!
Meh: If you're reading this, then I'll have to say you gave me quite a laugh. It's quite something for someone who can't even capitalize their sentences to call someone's writing an epic fail. If you're going to flame, then I advise you to do so with correct punctuation. By the way, there will be another crossover. I guarantee it. By the way, thanks for the review and for reading, even if you did hate all four instalments, each a hundred thousand words or so long.