Title: It Is Tradition
A lone figure on horseback slowly approached the lights that signaled where the homes of Rivendell rested along the valley floor. As he drew nearer, he dismounted from his equine to walk through the streets of Imladris on foot so as to better enjoy the sights of the jovial inhabitants.
He traversed the streets at a leisurely pace, welcoming the lovely spectacles of the season. Windows, lit a warm and inviting red and orange colour from the fires inside, showed those of the house that choose to sit by the flames and converse with their family and friends. The people inside would wave from the glow at those on the streets when they happened to look out through their windows.
Chimney smoke blew gently as snowflakes quietly fell into his eyes, where they would rest lightly upon his eyelashes.
It was a comely day, with the sun barely peeking through the clouds crowding her vision and her rays shining down to kiss the snowflakes that fell and to dance across the ground beneath the elves’ feet. The light would scintillate off of the white precipitation with a sparkling brilliance that made the world a pleasing sight.
It was days like these that made winter a season worth living through.
The individual made his way into a courtyard outside the Last Homely House, and from there he took his horse to a cozy stable to tend to it before he allowed himself to set foot inside the comfort of the house.
Once he had cared for the mount, he made his way to the entrance to the house; stepping inside the warmth of the home, he tapped his boots against the doorframe to dislodge the snow clinging to them.
As he did so, several people hurried across the Receiving Hall toward him, their faces alight with warm greetings.
"Did you bring it?" One of them inquired.
He grinned. "Yes, I brought it." He shouldered out of his cloak, shaking it to remove the snow that had gathered upon it.
One pair of gray eyes watched the snow fall from the cloak, and a frown turned his lips. "Ada will not be happy if he found out you tracked all of that snow inside." Though his face was serious, his eyes belied that solemn expression by dancing with mischief and joviality.
"Your father does not have to know about it." The offender replied lightly.
"Very well, Legolas, but the maids will probably have a thing or two to say about it." The other crossed his arms.
"Come now, Elrohir, do you really think so?" The peredhel nodded. "Ah, but alas, they cannot very well say something to me about it if I am not to be found." Laughing, Legolas tapped the other elf’s arm as he slipped past him. "And I plan on being far away from here when they come by!"
He could sense that two of them were following him and he heard the proof that the third greeter was drawing abreast of him. "Honestly, Estel, must you be so loud?"
Estel shot his friend an annoyed look, though it was ruined by the happiness that continued to dance inside his silvery coloured eyes. "No, but I was trying to catch up with you." The young man paused. "Must you walk so fast? Are you truly *that* afraid of what the maids will think of the melting snow in the foyer?"
Legolas chuckled. "Not really, but I was not aware that you had trouble keeping pace with me." The elf gave his friend a taunting look.
With a good-natured huff, Estel folded his arms and easily kept step with his friend.
"Where is your father, Estel?" Legolas looked around, wondering why the elf lord had not greeted him first hand and insisted on looking him over for any signs of trouble.
The young man flashed a bigger grin. "Ada is taking a bath at the moment, he has to be ready early for the ceremonies."
Legolas nodded and then turned to the twins. "When must we start getting ready?"
Elladan shrugged and Elrohir said, "Not for a few more hours."
"Good. Because I am getting hungry." It baffled Legolas why they laughed at his statement, but the wondering did not steal the smile from his face. The season was too much of a joyful one to not feel like smiling.
- o - o - o - o -
"Do not eat too much, you will not be hungry later." Elladan cautioned.
"I know, I know. This is only a snack." Their blond haired friend replied.
"Oh! Did we mention that we need to help with last minute decorations in the hall?" Elrohir enquired.
"You mean, I get to help deck the halls?" An impish smile appeared on the prince’s face.
"No devilish notions and schemes, alright?" Estel waved a finger, but then paused as Legolas’ expression turned sullen in a pout. "Unless, I can be in on it!" He added with a laugh.
"We shall see." Legolas said slyly, his smirk growing.
"Impish ideas? Do tell!" Elrohir leaned forward in excitement waiting for Legolas to inform them of his plans.
"No, I do not think I will." The elf smirked.
"You tease!" Elladan glared.
"Now wait a moment!" Legolas protested around the bite of pastry he had just taken.
"Legolas, did your mother never teach you proper manners? You should know better then to talk with food in your mouth."
Legolas cast Estel a glare, but did not make a retort to the man’s taunt. Instead he turned back to Elladan. "You all have done the same thing to me over the years, it serves fair that I return the favour." With that he put the rest of his snack into his mouth and ran out the kitchen door.
They all quickly followed him out into the hall and Estel suggested they go outside. "After all, it is a delightful day! And we have a little time before we have to get busy helping decorate."
"Yes, we can do that. But first I need to make a stop by my room." With that Legolas left them for his rooms, and they departed to grab their light wraps for the chilly air.
Legolas silently slipped into his room, and began to remove his gear. He carefully placed most of his weapons away, but kept several small daggers on him.
Before leaving, he gently laid a small wrapped package on his desk. He did not wish to damage its contents if there was any boisterous play.
As he left his room, he threw a look out the window at the peaceful, white world outside. It made excitement stir in his chest and he hurried out of his room and down the hall for a door leading to that inviting world.
When he arrived, he found that his friends were already enjoying the day’s beauty. There was laughter and peace among them all as they walked through the sparkling terrain.
"Legolas," Estel whispered as he quietly snuck up. "What do you say to a snowball fight?"
"I say...,"- the elf bent and scooped up some snow, packing it quickly into a ball. -"your brothers are in for it!" He released his harmless weapon at an unsuspecting younger twin.
Elrohir stiffened as the missile struck his shoulder. Slowly he glanced back at them as his twin hid a grin; Elladan’s grin however was replaced by a look of shock as well when Estel quickly threw a snowball and it was Elrohir’s turn to smile.
"This means-" Elladan began; then he and his twin shouted together, "WAR!"
"Most certainly! How long did it take you to figure that one out?" Legolas shouted, being unable to contain his banter. He ducked a snowball thrown from Elladan, but was not so lucky when it came to dodging Elrohir’s own.
It was not long before the peaceful world was turned into a rampant battleground, with deadly snowballs flying back and forth in a pattern that really had no rhyme or reason. The only things definite were that the twin sons of Elrond were fighting a carefree young man and a laughing wood-elf.
Suddenly a sly smile spread across the ranger’s face as he glanced at his friend. A sneaky idea had popped into his head, and next he stooped to retrieve some snow to carry it out. It took mere seconds for him to make his preparations and then with a flick of his wrist he sent his plan into action.
Estel then promptly leapt behind a tree, a huge grin decking his features.
The missile struck its target, Legolas, and the elf spun around with a surprised look decorating his face. "Aragorn!" He gasped, but the man had ducked behind a tree before he had even turned.
A little squirrel that had paused to examine the flying snow and gay activities, could only shake its mammal head at the antics of these strange folk it had the pleasure of living near. Before scampering off to its warm nest, the squirrel added ‘devious’ to the young man’s personality examination.
"Oh, you are in trouble now, ranger!" Legolas yelled.
Estel sniggered at his friend’s response then took off running, knowing full well he was in for it. Due to the fact that Legolas could run across the top of the snow, and Aragorn sunk slightly into it, the wood-elf was able to overtake the ranger.
Estel tried a few evasive tactics, but in the end Legolas tackled him to the ground. Once he had successfully pinned the young man, Legolas’ retaliation came in the form of snow being shoved down the ranger’s shirt.
The ranger gasped at the sudden change in temperature on his chest beneath his clothing. Legolas just grinned widely.
"Get up! Let me up! That is cold!" Aragorn tried to push the elf up, and managed but only because his blond haired friend allowed himself to be moved. Estel jumped to his feet, shaking his shirt and trying to dislodge the snow inside. Not only was it cold, but as some of it melted and trickled down him it tickled something awful!
Aragorn proceeded to do a strange jig as he tried to get the delicate ice crystals out of his clothing. He created quite a comical sight, and he could hear his brothers laughing. Aragorn glared at the twins in mock anger as they drew closer to the ranger and wood-elf.
"You realise that glare is destroyed by the fact that you are still hopping around trying to get snow out of your shirt?" Elrohir laughed at the sight of his disheveled younger brother.
With another glare, Aragorn reached up his clothing and removed the last of the offending substance his friend had seen fit to give him.
What happened next Elrohir was not prepared for; Estel tackled him to the ground unexpectedly, where they began to wrestle with each other as Aragorn tried to put snow down Elrohir’s tunic.
"Look what you have started, mellon-nin." Elladan commented dryly to Legolas. "When Estel manages to complete his task, Elrohir will retaliate. They will be at each other for the rest of the day."
"Then I assume we have a very entertaining day before us." His grin was mirrored on Elladan’s face.
- o - o - o - o -
It was an hour more before they all made their way inside, cold and wet from the snow. The stark change in temperature was a welcome one, despite that they all had enjoyed the cold air outside.
"My hands are numb." Aragorn whinged, placing his hands beneath his arms to try and warm them. It was a lost cause, for his hands were still cold even with the slightly warmer conditions. "And my feet." He felt so frigid all over that Estel just wanted to curl up in a warm bed.
"A hot bath should help then, you little whiner." Elladan quipped.
Aragorn’s face brightened. A bath! Of course! That would do the trick! Why had he not thought of that?
They all had intentions of taking long, hot baths to warm themselves from their excursion. However, it seemed that their aim was squandered by the prepenses of the servants.
"What is the meaning of this?" Legolas glanced around at all of the menials in his room.
"We did not know you were coming today, and as such your room has not been cleansed." One of the maids offered as way of explanation for their presence.
"Must you do so right now?"
"Yes. We thought you would be spending more time out of your rooms, and are in the middle of cleaning. You will have to take your business elsewhere." She looked stern. "And if it causes your majesty an inconvenience, I am not sorry. We do not approve of the mess you left in the vestibule, my lord."
Legolas was about to argue, but the maid stood with her arms akimbo and a hard look on her face. He could see there was no disputing with her, so he turned to go back into the hall. "I shall go then, but I want you to know I do not approve with what you have done." It was too much of a jolly time to be truly angry for very long, but he was slightly annoyed at this.
"We do not approve of the puddle you left, either."
Legolas ignored the comment thrown after him, for his attention was grabbed by the fact that his friends were all coming back out of there rooms as well. "Cleaning crew in your rooms too?"
The twins nodded, but Aragorn scowled. "Yes," he grumped. "And I want a hot bath! I’m cold!" He pulled his arms together for warmth as if to prove his point.
"You cannot honestly be that cold, Estel. You are inside, for Valar’s sake!" Elladan gave his brother a strange look. "Are you feeling alright?"
"Other then being cold from going outside, I am fine." Estel answered. After a pause he added, "I am not sick!"
"For certain?" Elrohir asked; he knew his brother would sometimes hide things like that.
"Yes." Aragorn replied truthfully, hoping they would know he was not speaking a falsity.
"Well, how are we going to get cleaned up now?" Elrohir wondered. "The maids will be here for some time, as they claim our rooms are quite messy."
"We do not *have* to bathe, you know." Elladan commented. Then with a sideways glance at Estel he added, "Well, excluding Aragorn."
Estel cast his brother a small glare, but did not have a chance to rise to the occasion for Elrond’s voice interrupted them. "You will all be bathing, whether you want to or not." He calmly strode toward them.
"But, Ada--" Elrohir began.
"No arguing, Elrohir." Elrond’s look was a stern one.
"Do you not know of our predicament?" Estel enquired. "We cannot bathe now! The maids are cleaning our rooms."
"You do not have time to wait for them, naturally, for the time is already growing old and you need to help with some of the decorating and other last minute preparations..." Elrond conceded. "You shall have to bathe quickly in the calidarium."
The elves’ - and ranger’s - eyes widened, all opened their mouths to protest that it was not a very proper bathing spot.
"Nonsense," Elrond interjected. "It would not be very different from swimming in it, for one thing; besides, it has been used for things akin to communal bathing before in years past. You are all very good friends and family, it should not be too bad." His look, and the slight firm tone they heard in his voice, brooked no arguing. The four missed the small grin on the lord’s face as he turned away and continued about his business.
They all exchanged glances, none of them feeling very inclined to do as Elrond had ordered - despite that he had not outright commanded them, they had all heard the underlying order in the lord’s voice.
"I suggest you get a move on. Now." Elrond’s voice drifted back to them from around the corner he had turned. Elrond’s sons and Legolas all threw each looks that said ‘How does he always know?’ as they scurried to do as the elf-lord had ordered.
"It is only a quick bath, how bad could it be?" Estel offered as they trudged down the stairs to the hot spring that pooled up into a large chamber, giving the room the name ‘the calidarium’.
No one felt inclined to make an answer to the ranger; all were lost in their thoughts reasoning out what they were having to do. It was like Aragorn said, though, it was only a quick bath, and as Elrond had mentioned, they were all really good friends and most of the time they went swimming together in their knickers.
By the time they had all reached the edge of the naturally heated water, each elf - and ranger - were alright with bathing with each other, just so long as the others stayed at a respectful distance; this requirement was a tacitly shared decision, and a silent agreement.
With glances passed around, they all spread out around the large bath; turned away from the other in deference to the other’s privacy, they all stripped down and slid into the warm water.
Aragorn shivered at the stark change of temperature against his still cold skin. His skin began to tingle as the warmth slowly seeped into his body. Estel wandered into the water til it came up to cover his shoulders; that way, the most of his body would be warming. Despite the annoying - and ticklish - tingling that spread over his body, Aragorn was content with the fact that he was finally beginning to get warm once more.
Elrohir relaxed as the water began to surround him, and cover - to a certain extent - his nudeness. Personally, he was not too uncomfortable being this way with his friend and his brothers; and it was not that disturbing to be around them when they were unrobed, either; the fact that they were mostly covered by the water was what made things alright for the younger twin.
He was a very reasonable person, but still Legolas found this whole thing to be slightly unnerving. Of course, these people he was around had seen him with little to no clothes on before when he would be injured, but right now he was kind of uncertain since they were naked as well.
After several moments of uncomfortable silence between them all, they finally began to relax with the whole situation and each others’ lack of clothing. Good reasoning took over, and they all began to do what they had come there - or rather, had been forced there - to do: bathe themselves.
Legolas let out a sigh as his dipped his left shoulder into the warm water; the hot liquid felt good against an old wound he had taken from an orc arrow. The heat took away the stiffness that had settled in with the coming of the cold. Reaching his arm around himself, he gently touched the still tender area and rotated his shoulder.
"Legolas? Are you hurt?" Estel had caught his friend’s movements, and had grown concerned. His father had not given Legolas the usual checking over when he arrived, and Aragorn was worried that Legolas might be hiding some wounds. It was typical of the wood-elf, after all.
"Nay, Aragorn." Without giving heed to his words, Legolas spoke. After a moment, the blond-haired being noted the looks the three brothers were giving him and he quickly realised his error, and hurried to expand on his statement. "It is an old wound, though recent enough that it still gets stiff in the cold. Nothing that I will die from, I can assure you."
"We will be the judge of that." Elladan told him; he could see that Legolas was telling the truth, but also wanted to assure himself - and his brothers - that the wound could not be more then Legolas thought.
"Very well," Legolas sighed, knowing that there was nothing for it; they would not leave him alone until they had looked at it. "But I am going to finish my bath, first. And you finish yours."
"Naturally." Elrohir rolled his eyes. For several more moments, no one spoke a word. "Make sure Estel gets plenty of soap." He quipped.
"Yes, we would not want him to come to the celebrations stinking like he had spent the day with the pigs." Elladan gibed.
"Oh, haha." Estel’s expression - and tone - was one of those ‘I-don’t appreciate-you-mocking-me’ looks.
Legolas grinned unexpectedly. "Please, Elladan and Elrohir, do not try and point at him. We all know, that in actuality, he *did* spend the entire day with the pigs. They would be you."
Aragorn guffawed at Legolas’ words, but the twins just sent the wood-elf glares.
And thusly the conversation went as they finished their bathing. Soon they were all climbing out of the water, in good spirits, and began to dress themselves in clean garb. Once they had each pulled on some leggings, they gathered around Legolas, having not forgotten about their friend’s injury.
Legolas suppressed a sigh as Elladan expertly probed the healing gash - it was more of a tender scar now - on the back of his shoulder, and the three peredhel closely examined their friend.
"Now do you believe me?" The blond-haired being asked when the other three moved back.
"Yes." Aragorn grabbed his undershirt and slipped it over his head. The elves and rangers were reaching for various garments, when cursing toward Lord Elrond could be heard behind them. They turned to find a very irate Glorfindel, who was busy ignoring the four young people in the chamber - and also cursing Elrond.
"What reason do you have for imprecating my father?" Elrohir demanded.
"Do not strike that kind of tone with me, Elrohir. I am quite entitled to cursing your father right now." Glorfindel frowned.
"The maids cleaning your rooms as well, and you have to bathe down here?" Elladan asked knowingly.
Glorfindel sent the older twin a scowl. "I had to take care of some things outside, and when I returned I found them cleaning, yes. And your father insists that I must bathe, and do so down here."
"He seems to be insisting everyone wash today." Legolas commented. "Not that he doesn’t have a right to do so." He sent them all pointed looks. "You all hardly know how to keep things clean around here, yourselves included."
Legolas ducked beneath the swat sent his way from Elladan. Elrohir snorted and shook his head, saying: "This coming from the elf that the maids insisted his room needed cleaning."
The blond-haired elf opened and closed his mouth, searching for a proper comeback. The other three sniggered at Legolas’ lack of response - not Glorfindel, though, he was still too put out with what had happened to pay attention to the bantering of the younger elves and ranger. Finally a thought occurred to Legolas and he had a rejoinder, "The maids were also cleaning *your* rooms, that has got to say something right there; especially since I have only arrived, and I was not around to dirty my room these past months."
With a smirk at his comment that ended the conversation, Legolas slipped his tunic on.
"Are you young ones about done down here?" Glorfindel sounded impatient.
"Yes," Elladan told him, turning back to the others with a grin. He muttered to them, "He’s such a prude, is he not?"
Elrohir and Legolas snickered at his words, but Estel let out a laugh. Glorfindel gave Dan a suspicious look, knowing that it was the older twin that had amused the others, but he had not caught what had been said. Elladan just smiled innocently at the balrog-slayer.
Without saying more, the four began to go back up the stairs. After a moment, Aragorn threw a look over his shoulder and noted that Elrohir had paused and turned back to the door leading into the calidarium, a wicked grin on his face.
"Hold up," Estel told the other two. "Elrohir has something in mind... Something impish." He added the last statement to really grab Legolas’ and Elladan’s attention.
The younger twin turned back to them, and began to whisper of his devilish ideas. Once his plans were laid bare, the others quickly agreed to his schemes and they snuck back to the door leading to the other chamber.
Since it had been Elrohir’s plot, it was the twins that snuck back into the chamber to retrieve the items. It was a risky procedure, but they made sure Glorfindel was facing away from them, and busy bathing.
Soon they returned, laden with the balrog-slayer’s clothes, both the ones he had been wearing when he came down and his evening ones, and his towels. With barely held laughter, the four mischief makers quietly raced up the stairs.
"Where shall we put them?" Legolas enquired.
"Do you have a place in mind?" Elrohir asked the prince.
"What about... the banquet hall?" The blond elf grinned devilishly. The banquet hall was where some of the night’s festivities were going to take place.
"The hall?" Aragorn looked confused.
"Yes, the hall." Legolas nodded wisely, and took Glorfindel’s clothes. He headed off down the hallway, but instead of turning the direction they had expected him to take to get to the banquet hall, Legolas turned toward the rooms in the Family Wing.
"Um... Legolas?" Elrohir began.
"Where are you going? The banquet hall is that way." Elrohir indicated the direction.
"I know." Legolas answered, and did not expand on his intentions for the three companions following him. To his friends utter confusion, Legolas went directly to his room.
"Just had to grab something for the decorating, that’s all. You know, you are the ones that had me get this." Legolas waved the package he had earlier put on his desk in their faces.
"Ah," They answered together, understanding now what their friend had been doing.
"Shall we be off then? I hear we have a hall to deck!" With laughter, Legolas ran down the hall.
Elrohir and his brothers exchanged looks, grins growing on their faces. With chuckles they took off after their ecstatic friend.
It was not long before they all were gathered in the banquet hall, looking at the few servants scurrying here and there, placing a bow here and a bough there.
"My lords, I can honestly say I am glad to see you." Beriaron hurried over to the four, relief showing in his eyes. "Now that you are here, you can take care of the rest of the decorating while we tend to other preparations."
"Have no fear, Beri, we shall finish things up nicely here." Elladan’s lips twitched into a barely concealed smile.
Beriaron did not quite like the look his lord had on his face, and a frown turned his own lips when he saw Legolas carrying clothes. He had many a time taken part in the young lords of Rivendell’s games, but at this time of year he was not sure he approved of them making practical jokes, especially around the banquet hall.
"Nicely, eh?" With a derisive snort, Beriaron rolled his eyes and made sure they saw his look directed at the clothing in the wood-elf’s arms before he turned away; he took his ‘troops’ out of the hall to do a quick decorating in the Receiving Hall.
Legolas waited til all of the other elves had left before he dumped Glorfindel’s clothes on a nearby table; turning back to the room, he surveyed it and the various frills, trims, and ornaments laying around. "Let’s get this room embellished!"
For a long while after that, anyone passing-by could hear laughter and banter from the young lords; strains of various Yule songs drifted from the hall.
"O, I am green in Winter-time,
When other trees are brown;
Of all the trees (So saith the rhyme)
The holly bears the crown.
December days are drawing near.
When I shall come to town,
And carol-boys go singing clear
Of all the trees (O hush and hear!)
The holly bears the crown!
For who so well-beloved and merry
As the scarlet Holly Berry?"
Many that passed were filled with happiness, glad that for once their lords were not arguing and destroying the hall and the decorations. However, in one corner of the palace, there a young maid was frightened by an angry golden-haired elf lord. She had been folding up some robes when the ellon stormed up to her, quite naked, and took one of the garments from her shocked hands. The young maid promptly screamed and ran to her home.
But in the banquet hall, the four trouble-makers were oblivious to the plight of the victim of Elrohir’s schemes.
"I brought the holly as you requested." Legolas tossed some of the said items to the twins, the rest he put on a table beside him. He then turned his attention to the rest of the contents in the package he had brought with him. "Aragorn," he whispered quietly, conspiratorially. "Come see what else I have with me." Legolas gave his friend a sly smile.
Estel looked at the objects and gasped. "What are you going to do with those?"
"Put them up, of course."
"Where? And if Ada found out--"
"Are you honestly telling me that your father has no sense of humor?" Legolas gave the ranger a funny look.
"But, Legolas! It’s mistletoe! You know as well as me what happens if two are caught under it!" Aragorn exclaimed quietly.
"Of course I do, why else would I have brought some?" An impish smile turned the wood-elf’s lips, but Aragorn’s expression turned into a mixture between bemusement and mild disbelief. The elf explained, "It might be a little fun to find out who we can trap beneath its boughs, don’t you think?"
A wicked smile spread across Aragorn’s face - a smile that Legolas would have dreaded if he had not known what was going through the man’s mind. "I can count you then, I assume...?" The prince prompted.
"Indeed." A gleam that Legolas knew all too well appeared in Aragorn’s eyes.
"Here," Legolas thrust holly plants into Aragorn’s hands. "Use these to cover up what we are doing."
"Good idea." The fire crackled merrily behind the two as they set to work. Aragorn kept an eye on Elrohir and Elladan, while pretending to place the holly about the hall, when Legolas found a good spot to hang the mistletoe.
Soon the two had finished the objective, and returned to Elladan and Elrohir, pretending that they had done nothing. "What else can we help with?" Estel queried.
"Umm... I think you can help with this."
- o - o - o - o -
"I trust then that things will be satisfactory when I open this door?" Elrond asked his sons as he placed his hands on the door to the banquet hall. He did not receive an answer, for he had already opened the door.
Elrond, Erestor, his sons, Legolas, and several other elves all gasped at the sight before them.
Legolas’ eyes widened and, for his part, he played as if he had no idea about the state the hall was in. His friends played their parts well, too; and everyone’s eyes widened at the view of Glorfindel’s clothing strewn across the room, and his underclothes displayed for all to see.
Legolas turned his head this way and that, taking in the spectacle. "He’s running around naked somewhere." He said in shock and mild disbelief.
Regaining his speech, Elrond commented humorlessly - and a slight threatening tone laced his voice, "I’m sure he is." Elrond spun around to face his sons and their friend. "Who did it?"
"What makes you think that we did it?" Elrohir asked innocently; confusion decorated his features.
"There are a lot of people in this house, but you are the only ones that would dream of causing trouble this time of year." The elf lord gave them very disapproving looks.
"I beg to differ, Ada." Aragorn spoke up. He opened his mouth to continue, but his father interrupted him.
"I do not bend to your plea."
Aragorn glared at his father’s firm, yet slightly amused tone. "There are many here who would think about doing so. Beriaron has been known to do such things before in the past."
"Only when put up to it." Elrond glanced pointedly at the twins, whose identical faces wore similar innocent expressions.
"No." Estel argued. "I have seen him do some strange things, and he was *not* put up to it."
"Are you suggesting that I blame him for this immodest display of Glorfindel’s undergarments? You are the ones that finished decorating this room, he was busy making the Receiving Hall ready for tonight’s guests."
"Honestly, Ada, do you really think that I would do something like this?" Estel demanded.
"Need I answer that?"
Aragorn glared, and stormed to a different side of the room, but his friends knew that he was not really angry. It was all an act.
"Something tells me that it was... Elrohir." Elrond turned his gaze to the youngest twin.
"What?" Elrohir looked beyond shocked. "Why are you singling me out?"
Before Elrond had a chance to answer, a very irate Glorfindel stormed into the room, a robe wrapped around him. "Elrond! There you are! I have been looking all over for you!!"
"Uh... Yes, Glorfindel? What has happened?" Elrond wondered what would transpire next.
"Your sons have happened, that is what!" The balrog-slayer snapped; he glared at the wrong-doers.
"What are you blaming us for now." Estel came back over, rolling his eyes.
"I know it was you." Glorfindel growled. "You took my clothes while I was bathing."
"How dare you accuse us!" Elladan gasped. To their credit, they were all doing a good job of playing not guilty as charged.
Just then Glorfindel caught sight of the crude display of his underclothes; his face turned red in his anger, and Elrohir got this funny vision of the balrog-slayer blowing steam from his ears.
Elrond sighed at the speechless - but no less angry - sight of Glorfindel. "Elrohir, get started on cleaning this horrid display up." Elrohir began to protest, but Elrond just looked hard at him and continued on, speaking firmly, "We will talk about this later." He turned back to the victim and requested, "Glorfindel, please, depart and dress yourself."
"You are not going to punish them for their actions?!" The elf was appalled; what Elrond’s sons and their friend had done was very wrong!
"I said I would talk to them later." Elrond passed his old friend a stern look, that clearly stated he was the father here and Glorfindel was not; he would deal with his children as he saw fit.
Glorfindel gave the three younger elves and the ranger a glare as he left the room. Once the elf was out of the hall, Elrond suppressed a chuckle.
Elrohir had since departed to retrieve the balrog-slayer’s clothes and Elrond could not stop the small smile from turning his lips as he glanced back at the display. Trying to repress his amusement as he faced Legolas, Elladan and Aragorn, Elrond knew he had to put them to work. "You will help your brother gather the clothes," - his gaze was directed at Aragorn and Elladan as he spoke those words, but then his eyes fell on the third member of the party - "And Legolas, you shall return the items to their owner."
Managing a firm tone and look, Elrond left the room. Outside though, the elf-lord lost control and started to laugh.
Inside the four friends were speaking quietly of what the lord of Rivendell had commanded. With mock solemnity - as they all placed the clothes into Legolas’ waiting arms - Aragorn sighed, "Fare thee well, mellon-nin. I fear that you shall not meet a very courteous Glorfindel, and when in a temper, he can be dangerous." He sniffed as if holding back tears to further his dramatic display. "This could very well be your end that Ada sends you to!"
"Have you so little faith in my defense capability?" Legolas raised an eyebrow.
"Not at all." The tone of his voice suggested there was more he was going to say - and there was - but Estel paused for dramatic effect. "But Glorfindel has lived many a year more then you, and I fear you shalt be no match for him."
"Estel is correct." Elrohir agreed, and looked solemn - though it was all a pretense. "I bid thee a very fond goodbye, and hope that you shall return with a minimum of injuries, if indeed you return at all."
With a fake, haughty grin and attitude, Legolas answered, "I shall return." And with that, he left the room.
They all lingered in the hall for some time, wondering what would become of their friend. They were not as concerned as they had pretended to be, and so soon they were discussing light things.
"When do we leave for the camp?" Elrohir asked his twin.
"As far as I know, we leave within the hour." Elladan idly flicked his fingers at some of the greenery on the table beside him.
Aragorn grinned. "I love this tradition."
"Same here." Elrohir agreed. "It is truly something amazing to watch those children become so ecstatic when you bring them gifts, don’t you concur?" He sighed happily.
"Most certainly." Elladan murmured absentmindedly.
Even as they spoke, they could see through the open hall door elves making their way with big bags towards the Receiving Hall - the large sacks were coloured various shades of reds, blues, and greens. From past experience, the brothers knew these bags would be placed near the front door, and from there would be loaded onto sleighs.
Elladan glanced at his brothers and they all grinned, knowing soon it would begin - presently they would be on their way to give away gifts to the children of the rangers, protectors of the peaceful Shire, and Aragorn’s own people. Valar, they enjoyed doing this year after year; it brought such joy to the people, and subsequently brought contentment and joy to the hearts of the givers: Aragorn, Elladan, Elrohir, Elrond, among other elves.
Eventually their thoughts were interrupted by Legolas rushing back into the hall. Aragorn smiled at his friend. "I see you survived."
"Thus far." The blond-haired elf commented dryly.
"What ever do you mean?" Elrohir’s question was answered in the form of Glorfindel storming into the banquet hall behind their friend. Legolas glanced at the balrog-slayer and ran to the far end of the hall, and his friends took one look at Glorfindel before making quick their escape.
Legolas glared at their retreating backs, even though he knew they would not see it; somehow he knew that they would know, though. The elf backed away from Glorfindel, who was still not happy with what had transpired and Legolas was not sure what would happen to him if he were caught by the angry elf before him. Legolas made his way to the side of the hall where he had hung the mistletoe, and he slipped beneath its boughs and stayed.
Glorfindel did not notice the plant above Legolas’ head and he marched right up to him, quite ready to give the young prince a piece of his mind in whatever form he deemed necessary. He grabbed the younger elf’s tunic.
"Hold up, Glorfindel!" Legolas demured. "You cannot attack me!" He raised a finger and pointed upwards, and Glorfindel slowly followed the direction he indicated. "This is the plant of peace. When two enemies happen to meet under its boughs, a truce must be called until the next day."
"I know what it is." Glorfindel glared at the unfortunate prince. He wanted to protest, but figured it was a lost cause. Legolas could argue his point for hours, and there would be no end in sight for the debate. "Consider a truce shall be maintained until tomorrow then."
Legolas breathed an inaudible sigh of relief as the balrog-slayer released him. "A truce then." He nodded and then casually slipped past Glorfindel, trying to keep himself paced and not look like he was running away.
"No thanks to my dear," - there was sarcasm as the word was spoken - "friends, I have survived and return to you now unscathed." Legolas spread out his arms and presented himself to his friends.
"I am glad to see that, mellon-nin. How did you escape?" Estel raised an eyebrow.
"Clever trickery." Was Legolas’ haughty rejoinder.
"Come, young ones, there are things to be done. Do not stand and talk any more." Elrond was suddenly there beside him as they stood in the vast Receiving Hall. "Help get these bags to the sleighs."
"Yes, my lord."
Aragorn hefted a red, bulging bag onto his shoulder and set out the front door. As he stepped outside the house, he was met by a deep silence as snow quietly fell in a dark world. The sun had set not more then forty-five minutes ago, and thus was beginning the longest night of the year. He breathed in deep of the crisp, cool air of the winter darkness.
The snow crunched beneath his feet, but was not as loud as it normally would have been; the falling delicate, ice crystals deadened the sound. Ahead, Aragorn could hear the sound of horses stamping their feet, snorting softly, and the gentle tingle of the bells on their harnesses.
With his friends and family beside, Estel approached a sleigh and gently placed his load onto the contraption. "How many more are there?" He asked Elladan as he turned back toward the house. There were other elves exiting, carrying other similar bags to place them on the means of transportation.
"Not too many more."
They each made one more trip before every bag - thanks to the great help of other elves - was loaded onto the horse-drawn sleighs. Elrond left the house last, a bright smile on his face as he approached the four younglings.
For a moment, the four’s smiles disappeared when they saw Glorfindel exit behind Elrond and prepare to leave with them. Elrond just grinned at them and spoke pleasantly, "Shall we be off?"
"Yes, yes, off we go! We mustn’t waste another minute. Those children shouldn’t suffer for our slowness." Aragorn said with a dramatic tone.
"Valar," Legolas muttered, glancing sideways at his younger friend. "You sure do have a flair for the dramatic."
Estel just cast his friend a grin as he jumped into the sleigh, and his family soon followed. Once they had settled under blankets, servants brought out hot potatoes to place at their feet for warmth, and vials of a warm drink called wassail. And then they were off in a tinkling of bells and a blur of colours.
Each year they choose a different Dunedain village to visit, and this year the one they were heading to was only a few hours away. The ones they had visited in more recent past years had been a few days away, and thus they normally left several days sooner to arrive on time.
Aragorn was happy that they had chosen a closer one for this year’s visitation. It meant that when Legolas had run into some problems in Mirkwood and was delayed leaving, he still arrived in time to join them for their gift-giving excursion.
Bundled beneath the blankets, heat radiating from the potatoes, wrapped up in his own cloak and jacket, with his family and his best friend settled snugly beside him, Aragorn did not feel the least bit cold despite the low temperature.
From the comfort of the sleigh, the peredhel family - including Legolas, whom they considered family - sang many a Yuletide song as they sped along, and occasionally they were joined in their singing by the elves driving the other sleighs and the guards that road on all sides.
The ride passed quickly, and soon enough they were nearing the village and sliding easily through the snow down the main road. Lights streamed out from freshly opened doors, and little children ran outside their house - still throwing on their wrappings - shouting about their arrival.
They pulled to a stop, and got out, grabbing up the bags as they went. Each elf threw a sack over their shoulder and grinned at all of the village woman and children that gathered near or spread the word to their neighbors.
None dallied, and they set right to work.
Elladan knelt down beside a little girl that had run up to him. "What can I do you for, little lady?" He asked the six year old.
"Are you really an elf?" She asked, causing him to laugh.
"Yay!" She clapped her hands excitedly and smiled.
"And I come bearing gifts." He added, and she jumped in excitement.
"One for me?"
"Certainly." Elladan reached inside his red bag and produced a rather nice rag doll for the young girl. "Made especially for you, miss..."
"For you, miss Aylwen." He smiled as she shrieked happily and hugged the doll to herself. A smiling, youthful woman placed her hands on the girl’s shoulders.
"Momma! Look! Look!" Aylwen was nearly jumping with happiness. "He gave me a toy, momma!"
"I see he did. Did you thank the kind elf?"
"Oh." Aylwen paused. "Thank you." She added shyly.
"My pleasure." Elladan nodded and stood.
"Did you get a gift momma?" Aylwen leaned her head back to look at her mother.
Her mother’s gaze darted Elladan’s, uncertainty shining in their green depths. The elf indicated toward a sleigh and replied to the unspoken question, "See Glorfindel for your own gift." With a smile the same as a child’s, the woman barely kept herself from running to her destination.
Elladan laughed and then turned to find another person to grant a gift to. And he was not short of children, for they were everywhere; each child was barely containing their excitement while they waited to be presented for a gift.
"I have been a good girl this year." A young child tugged on Elrohir’s cloak. The younger twin glanced down at the girl, who smiled up at him shyly.
"I bet you have." He knelt and reached into his bag for a gift. "And what would a good little girl such as yourself want for Yule this year?"
Aragorn grinned as he looked around at everyone that was eagerly excepting the gifts; some of the parents looked as if this could not be real, and the children were just beyond ecstatic and telling their parents all of the wonderful news.
Estel turned towards the village hall and approached its doors. Already hurrying out of them he recognised one of the ranger captains that served under him. Confusion showed on the ranger’s face until he saw who was there.
"My lord," He bowed to Aragorn.
"Rhys, how are you this Yuletide?" Aragorn embraced the ranger, surprising the man.
"Doing well enough, I dare say." Rhys replied. "I did not expect you to come to our humble village this year."
"And why not? We are making our trips around the various villages, and we decided it was high time we visited yours. I must say, you are doing a fine job here." Aragorn smiled at the captain; he felt Legolas come up behind him but he did not turn to his friend just yet.
"Tell me Rhys, how have things been? Any orc spottings?" As much as he hated to discuss such things at this time of year, it was Aragorn’s job to keep a track of these things.
"If there was, do you not think I would have reported to you, sir?" Rhys gave his Chieftain a funny look.
"I am just clarifying. How am I to know that you did not send a report to me and I did not receive it because I had already left?" Estel answered.
"There have been none, my lord." Rhys announced once more.
"Good, then let us talk of lighter things." Legolas stepped abreast of Aragorn, smiling fondly at his best friend.
"Excuse me," Aragorn felt a tug on his jacket, and he looked down at a five year old boy beside him.
"What can I help you with, little man?" He smiled warmly at the child.
"I have tried my hardest to be extra good this year."
"Have you indeed?" Aragorn raised an eyebrow and glanced at the child’s mother who stood a few feet away. She nodded at him.
"Yes." The boy smiled and then glanced down. "Do I get a gift from the Ithel Brenin?"
Aragorn’s eyebrows rose slightly in surprise, but he quickly covered up his shock before he distressed the child. Instead, he gave the boy a carefully crafted wooden horse. The boy shrieked in delight, and then went off to admire his gift.
Estel was about to rise when another boy came up to him, but instead of a wearing a smile, this boy had a sad look on his face.
"What troubles you, child?" Aragorn asked gently.
"I have come to admit that I have not been very good this year, and I do not deserve this gift." The ten year old presented the gift and tried to hand it back to Estel.
Aragorn laid his hand on the gift, but did not take it from the boy’s hand. "The greatest step to finding forgiveness is admitting you have done wrong. Tell me, child, what is the wrong you have done that you do not deserve a gift on this winter night."
"I have been mean to my younger brother - you know who he is, the five year old whom you spoke to a few minutes ago. I have teased my sisters, and bullied the neighbor children. I have purposefully frightened them, and done many other mean things." The boy began to cry softly.
"Now, child, do not cry. All that I request that you do, is to find those you have wronged and repent. You may keep this gift, but I request that you are more heedful of others’ feelings and look out for your neighbors instead of threatening them."
"Yes, sir." The boy brightened some. "Thank you, sir!"
Aragorn smiled as the little boy ran off to make amends with those he had wronged. He rose and turned toward Rhys. "Ithel Brenin?" He questioned.
"When word got around about what you do each year at the different villages, people began to call you that. Do not ask me to explain it." Rhys shrugged.
Estel frowned, but Legolas laid a hand on his shoulder. "Do not let it trouble you, Estel. Be proud of the name they have given you, and live up to it." Legolas shoved his friend out towards the town and its inhabitants as he spoke, encouraging his friend to give out more of the gifts he had in his own bag.
"Why are they dressed like that, mother?" Elrohir heard a girl’s voice questioning; he glanced over his shoulder at the two as the mother answered.
"They are dressed like that every year, my dear. Deep reds, dark blues, and forest greens."
"Why so dark?"
"To make them stand out against the snow that they travel in to deliver the gifts."
Elrohir smiled at the woman’s answer, but did not turn toward the two or give them any indication that his elven hearing had heard their quiet conversation.
The younger twin turned towards Aragorn as he drew nearer, handing out gifts as he went. He smiled as he watched his little brother kneel down to speak to a three year old girl, who wondered at the fact that Aragorn’s cheeks were so rosy coloured.
Elrohir could not help but laugh at the girl’s observation, for indeed Aragorn’s cheeks were very rosy from the cool air and his own jolliness.
A noisy confusion down at the main village hall drew Elrohir’s attention, and he turned to find an elleth corralling several of the children outside of the doors. "Ril!"
Elhadril’s head snapped up at his greeting and she turned her smile toward him. She returned his greeting as she gently urged the children in the direction of the sleighs, trying to keep them all together. When she drew closer she gave him a quizzical look, "Is there something I can help you with, Ro?"
"No." Elrohir shook his head. "I was just wondering why you had insisted on coming out here a few days early, and what you are planning...?"
Elhadril smiled and her eyes shown with secrecy. "I have already told you, that information is classified."
"Oh, of course."
"Miss Ril! Miss Ril!" One of her charges tugged at Elhadril’s tunic.
"Storin wants to know if we get some presents too...?"
"Yes, and this is the elf you need to see." With a grin, Elhadril waved the eager children towards Elrohir; effectively ending their conversation, and she escaped any more questioning she knew Elrohir would do.
Elhadril stepped back away from the group as Elrohir sent her a half-hearted glare and the children began to vie for his attention. She almost ran into Elladan as she took in the scene of all the elves that were brightening this long winter night for all of the village people.
"Oh, sorry." She apologized, but Elladan just waved a dismissive hand. Elhadril was about to say something to him, but Rhys called for her engrossment.
"Do you have all of your company? Are they cooperating?" Rhys enquired quietly.
"Yes, to both, and to expand on the latter: they are collaborating wonderfully!"
"Very glad to hear it. I just wanted to make sure that everything is working out well for you."
"Thank you, Rhys, it is! And the adults that are helping are truly fantastic. Thank you for your aid, Rhys." Elhadril added, smiling at the ranger.
"It was my pleasure. Valar knows these children don’t get to do much, anyway. It was nice for them to get to do something different."
"I wish you could be there later."
Rhys smiled sadly. "So do I, but I am sure they will tell me all about it. Besides, I have seen these children practicing, I know how it will be."
Elrond approached then. "Sorry to break up your conversation, but already we have been here for an hour. Rhys, I am sure you know this tradition, right?"
"Yes, my lord. You wish me to start getting the townspeople ready to go...?"
"Your help would be appreciated, yes."
It was another ritual to not only deliver gifts, but to then take the woman, children, and whatever few men were not out on patrol, to Rivendell where they would stay for several days as the worst nights of winter played herself through the world.
Because Elhadril had informed Rhys and the townspeople of what would happen, getting everyone - that wished to go - together was not hard. Mothers quickly dressed excited children, that did all they could to be of aid in getting themselves wrapped up.
A half an hour had passed - in which the villagers placed gifts into their houses, locked up, climbed into sleighs, and were bundled under a great many blankets. Once everyone was settled, Elhadril and the elves she had brought with her to the village a few days ahead of time, exited from the town hall bearing more vials of wassail, that would warm the inside of any drinker, and hot potatoes to place at the villagers feet.
Excitement and anticipation hung in the air as everyone settled in. For a moment there was a silent pause as everything was finally set, and then they were off.
The burghers would say afterwards that everything that happened on the ride to Rivendell was a complete blur. There was the pleasant feeling of the cool wind blowing in one’s face, the congenial sensation of the wassail warming their insides, and the delectable sense of family and friends beside them, under the blankets and helping to keep things tepid.
And then, suddenly, the ride was over and they were being ushered into the Last Homely House by smiling elves from inside. They were guided into the vast Receiving Hall, and their wraps were taken by porters.
"This is all so amazing!"
"Is this really happening?"
"Look at that!"
"Momma, are they all truly elves?"
"I must be dreaming..."
From whispers and exclamations to declarations of unbelief, these people were audibly awed at the hospitality extended to them.
After years of doing this, Beriaron knew exactly what to do with the people entering the hall. He quickly began to direct them to the banqueting hall, those that needed to use the facilities he had guides, and some that had sleeping children they needed to lay down. All were quickly given care and soon the Receiving Hall - which had quickly filled up - was empty once more.
"Shall we join the feasting?" Elladan asked, cocking his head and waving his hand in the direction the banquet hall lay.
"Might as well." Legolas replied. "There doesn’t seem to be any thing else that needs to be done. The menials have handled it all."
"They do every year." Aragorn said wisely - causing the others to grin. "Come then, to a feast!"
"Has Ril mentioned to anyone what she is planning?" Elrohir asked casually.
"Not that I know of." Elladan pondered for a moment before replying.
Aragorn ducked his head to hide his smile, but the twins noticed anyway. "What do you know?" Ro demanded.
"If I did know even a small something, do you think I would reveal it to you?" Estel looked defiant, and the twins glared at his stubborn refusal to supply information for them.
Nothing more could be said on the subject for they had arrived at their destination, and soon they were weaving through the crowds and admiring the pleased inhabitants of the hall.
"Shall we check our mistletoe?" Aragorn whispered to his blond-haired friend.
With an enthusiastic nod, Legolas led the ranger leader to the spot of interest. They casually stood in a place where they could see it, and drank wassail and talked unobtrusively as they watched to see what amusing things would transpire beneath its boughs.
Many a couple did indeed find themselves beneath the plant, some it would be accidently and neighbors would gayly point out what had happened, others it was intentional. Nevertheless, the two friends found the sights to be most endearing; it warmed the heart.
"Say, Aragorn, would you like to try and get your brothers beneath the plant?"
"Let’s start with Elrohir, who should we catch him under there with?"
"Hmmm... There is one of the kitchen maids, Faelwen, who is sweet on him. I don’t know if they do like each other, but they have flirted a time or two."
"Perfect. And Elladan?"
"Uh... Um... hmm...,"
"You don’t know anyone, do you?" Legolas enquired.
"He hasn’t ever shown interest in any one, that I recall."
"Very well, let’s get Elrohir and Faelwen to be found beneath the mistletoe."
"Easier said then done."
With that they split up, trying to trap the unsuspecting two. It was hard considering Faelwen was a part of the kitchen staff, but Legolas finally convinced her she needed to join them for a drink for a few minutes. Aragorn had the easier task of getting Elrohir’s attention, and then the two friends casually inched the ellon and elleth in the same direction.
Elhadril leaned against the balustrade and stared down into the hall below, where the villagers and elves mingled and talked, drank and ate to their hearts content. She frowned when her sharp eyes found the sly movements of Aragorn and Legolas, and she had to wonder at what they were doing.
Her thoughts were interrupted by someone stepping up beside her. "You should be down there, socializing." Glorfindel told her.
Elhadril sighed. "I am not sure I like crowds, though."
"Come now, you have spent many a day this year with these village people. They are not a crowd, they are a gathering of friends." Glorfindel grabbed her arm and turned her away from the private view of the room and gently pushed her toward the stairway that led down there. "Go."
"And what about you?" Ril glanced back over her shoulder as she complied to his command.
"I shall be down there soon enough."
Ril sighed and began her decent down the stairs, not knowing what would happen when she set foot inside that hall.
"What?!" Elrohir asked in shock, as those around him pointed out where him and Faelwen stood. He looked at Legolas and Aragorn who had all too innocent smiles on their faces, and he glared.
"You can stand there for however long you wish, and risk offending the lady, but you will not get out of it, Elrohir. It is tradition, and you of all people should appreciate that." Legolas pointed out.
Elrohir stood dumbfounded for several moments, wondering why they had chosen him to pull such a prank on instead of his brother. What got to him the most was that they had gone behind his back when doing it, not even really the fact that they had done it.
"I think he needs encouragement." Aragorn muttered to Legolas.
Something at the corner of his vision caught Legolas’ attention and he smiled. "Shall it help, Ro, if I join you?" The blond elf took several steps and grabbed Elhadril’s arm. He pulled her beneath the branch and saluted her in all proper decorum.
Those that knew Legolas well were quite surprised at the display; none more so then Elhadril herself. When he pulled back, there was a bright smile on the elf’s face, and Aragorn was sure that the joy of the season had gone to his friend’s head.
"Oh, um..." Elhadril stuttered, now that the kiss was broken she was suddenly very much aware of everyone that was watching. "I... I have a drama I have to get the children ready for." She hoped she had not offended Legolas, but she did not know what to say and was quite embarrassed; she wanted to get away from all of the staring people, and she did need to get those children ready.
"Very well, my lady." Legolas spread out his arm to allow her to pass.
"Thank you." She whispered as she slipped past.
"Did Legolas just--" Elladan began.
"Yes." Elrond interjected; they both stared across the hall at what had transpired. "And your brother--"
This time it was Elladan who interrupted Elrond, "What?" He gasped. "With Faelwen? I knew it!"
"Knew what?" Elrond raised an eyebrow.
"I knew he liked her!" Dan exclaimed.
"I certainly hope your brother doesn’t make a habit of it though; it is not quite proper to kiss a female before marriage, as any respectable person would tell you." A young woman nearby told Elladan, and Elrond nodded in agreement.
"I am sure he won’t." Elladan quickly declared. "Since it is Yule and he was caught beneath the mistletoe... I am certain that is the only reason why he saluted her in such a manner." With a lingering glance at his father, Elladan made his way toward his brother.
Elladan arrived at that side of the hall in time to hear Aragorn say to Legolas as he rejoined him, "I did not know you liked Elhadril."
A/N:Ithel Brenin is Celtic/Gealic for ‘generous king’. Well, really ‘ithel’ means generous or lord, but I choose it to mean just generous in this story. If it is Elvish for something else, I will change it. I just ran out of time to do *that* kind of editing, and I had really wanted to get this in time. I am thinking about adding an epilogue, but we’ll see how that goes.
That last scene - with Legolas kissing Elhadril - I honestly have NO idea where that came from. I just let the story type itself, and look where it got me. Please don’t call it a mary-sue, was not my intention!