For LadyErestor83, my co-author and friend: Happy Birthday! :D
"The wine here, Lord Erestor, is rather new for my taste." Glorfindel startles me out of an empty reverie, tapping clever fingers mischievously against his glass. He loosely grips the vessel around an etching of the White Tree and its seven crowning stars.
I nod my assent and glance dismally down at my own goblet; its thin, maroon contents lap pathetically against the transparent sides. "I expected better for a wedding feast, truly." My lips writhe to suppress a smile. "Though in Aragorn's defense, he's been somewhat preoccupied of late."
"I myself am always preoccupied; does that stop me from concern for wine?" Glorfindel's lips twitch in turn; he lifts his glass halfway to his lips, then clearly thinks better of the gesture and returns it forcefully (Dare I write slams it?) to the table with a grimace.
"That, my friend, is because you are preoccupied with wine."
He takes the bait. "That I most certainly am not! Give me..." He wiggles his fingers ere stopping with a trio outstretched. "...three good reasons why you would make such an accusation." He gives a pronounced sniff, exuding offense, yet his cobalt eyes glimmer with a hidden grin.
After centuries of feasts and galas, Glorfindel and I have refined certain stratagems to alleviate the...er, how to delicately put inevitable boredom? faced by two bachelors mounted side by side at a table. When the wine is bad, we resort to arguing. Yes. If nothing else, it suffices to pass the time. Forsooth it has only resulted in one-all right, one and a half fistfights. (Which might come as a shock, I know.)
I clear my throat pronouncedly, the half-minute of coughs and splutters drawing the gaze of a somewhat...demonstrative Gondorian couple seated nearby. Their faces in (wonder of wonders!) separate for them to shoot me twin glares of irritation.
"Pardon my friend," says Glorfindel with a charming smile. "But know he only asphyxiates when the wine is truly-" Here he pauses, gesturing for emphasis. "-remarkable."
"Depends on the kind of remark it merits," I mutter, snorting.
The two mortals nod silently; the man's eyebrows are creeping up his face.
"Carry on," Glorfindel bids them, with a dismissive wave of his hand. He doesn't have to tell them twice. He turns to face me once more, silently tapping his fingers on the black tablecloth.
A quiet moment passes before I speak up. "That's one."
He blinks innocently. "One what?"
"One reason, of course." I click my tongue. "You can't think of any other possible cause for anyone's behaviour besides wine."
"My dear sir, you have seen but one example of my speech," is his earnest reply. "Here, I shall prove it: wine but seldom dominates my thoughts." And with that, he leans across the table, tapping a "vertically challenged" figure on the arm. "How fare you this evening, young master?"
The Halfling, sitting alone, sets down a fork, raising his eyebrows. "Well. Thank you," he replies slowly, drawling out the words in apparent confusion. "And you?"
His eyes, gleaming with amusement, dart halfway to his glass ere he appears to think better of it. He coughs. "Fine, as ever. Now, if you don't mind my asking... which one are you?" His fingers tensely drum the table.
"Peregrin- Pippin, and no, I don't mind." The perian appears more puzzled than truly uncomfortable. I share his sentiment: It usually takes good wine (and lots of it) to set Glorfindel on a friend-making quest- unless of course, said friend happens to be a Lovely Lady. (We could both use more friends like that.)
"Ah, dear Pippin; Pippin the renowned!" Glorfindel's arms flail as though he's been drinking something far better. "Companion of the Ring, savior of the new Steward-just the rabbit I've been wanting to meet-"
"Hobbit," corrects the perian. "It's hobbit."
"I beg your pardon?" Glorfindel's arms flop to the table; his gaze intensifies.
"It's hobbit, not rabbit."
Glorfindel coughs. "As I was saying, I just wanted to congratulate such an upstanding, noble, model specimen of the hottie race-"
"Hobbit," repeats Peregrin.
"Yes, the hobbit race- without once mentioning wine. A toast to my success!"
"Certainly!" returns the perian, a rather dumbfounded smile creeping onto his youthful features.
"Two," I say casually, quietly, with laughter restrained behind my lips.
Glorfindel's hand stops halfway to his glass, and he suddenly bares a sheepish grin. My laughter bursts free in a sardonic chuckle; my friend can do nothing but join in.
The perian glances at me. The perian glances at Glorfindel. His eyes pucker in bewilderment, and I barely hear him inquire: "Weren't we toasting?"
Glorfindel shakes his head, waves his hand, his form now rocking with laughter; he turns to me. "I said you had to give me three-" Hysterics render him inarticulate; after a deep breath he elaborates, "-that only makes two! Only two, my friend, and you certainly will not find a third." He has recovered by the end, assuming the somewhat dignified tone that places him at roughly a -3 on a 1-10 scale of seriousness.
"We shall see, we shall see..." I straighten my back in my chair. "I don't think I'll even have to try."
"All right, then." He folds his arms behind his head, stretches his long legs out beneath the table. "I'm not moving from this spot; I'm not saying a word. Tell me when you're ready to try." A smile is poorly hidden in his eyes, his voice, and the twitch of his mouth.
For several minutes we sit thus, and I run my eyes around the table and the room. There must be someone here who will cause dear Glor to stumble. My eyes light on Legolas; if only he wasn't so far off... Thranduil's son would certainly turn any conversation into a wine critique. Though I've never myself traveled to the Greenwood, gossip trickles west of partaays every night, wine-induced elk rides, and dancing that shames the love of Beren and Luthien. (Yet now that I think of it, it might be worth the trip...)
So caught up am I in these musings that I haven't heard the newlyweds approach. Approach Glorfindel.
"Our sincerest thanks," says Arwen, smiling, "for your generous gift. Bringing it all the way from Imladris... that must have been quite a burden!"
"And quite a secret." Aragorn laughs and squeezes his bride's shoulder. "But Dorwinion-Lord Glorfindel, such is a gesture made only by the truest of friends."
Taking just one arm from behind his head, he flicks his wrist dismissively. "Oh, it's nothing at all!" A facetious smile creeps onto his face. "And it was really a present for myself, anyway..." The three chuckle, and I recognize a fourth laughing voice as my own.
"Then why keep you from it?" exclaims Aragorn. "We can break into it presently."
"It's about time!" comes the reply.
Nonchalantly I remark, "Three."