The Eve of Efenniht by Cathleen

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Author's Notes: This is movie-verse due to the timeline regarding when the Fellowship left Rivendell. A very special “thank you” to my wonderful beta, Dreamflower, for all of her help in getting this story whipped into shape. I’ve found it is not always easy to incorporate our holidays into Middle-earth appropriate terms, but due to her wealth of knowledge, Dreamflower was able to assist me in making this tale a great more believable!  




Author's Chapter Notes:

Written for the GFIC group's October Challenge with the theme "Believe It or Not!" 

Element: Spooky

Beta: Dreamflower

 “The Eve of Efenniht”



Sly does it.  Tiptoe catspaws.  Slide and creep

But why?  What for? How? Who? When! Where did it all begin?

“You don’t know, do you?” asks Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud climbing out of the pile of leaves under the Halloween Tree.  “You don’t really know!”

          -Ray Bradbury, The Halloween Tree





“What are you looking at, Pippin? You appear rather on edge this fine evening,” Boromir said as they continued their trudge across the rocky terrain, headed for the shelter of the trees ahead. There they would stop and make camp for the night.


Far ahead of them Legolas had slowed his pace and appeared deep in conversation with Aragorn and the wizard.  Gimli was lagging behind, gazing upward in admiration of the full harvest moon in the twilight hour’s sky.  Although it looked as if some clouds were moving in, the moon dominated the evening sky.


Pippin exchanged a look with his kinsmen and began uneasily, “There’s a full moon rising. Do you not know what night this is, Boromir?”


“No. Should I?”  Boromir raised an eyebrow in expectation, encouraging him to continue.


“Tis the eve of Efenniht, the most magical night of the year--”


“Efen - what?”  Boromir wrinkled his brow, having no idea what Pippin was talking about.


“Efenniht, Boromir.” Merry explained, “The last day of the month of Wintring. We call it Harvest Tide too, but Efenniht is a much older word.”


“You mean Winterfilth, Merry,” Pippin reminded him.


Merry dismissed the comment with a wave of his hand. “Regardless of what it’s called in more proper terms,” he said and then took up a place in front of them and walked backwards, spreading his arms wide as if to take in the whole of the night. “The beginning of the new year! It means “summer’s end” or more importantly. . .” he lowered his voice, “The Night of the Dead.  It’s the night when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest, and the dead may cross over if they wish, to walk in the land of the living.”  Pippin shuddered.


“Aye,” continued Sam, “The night when the dead roam Middle-earth, seeking celebration with their family and friends.”


“It is also a night for divination,” Frodo added quietly.  “A night to peer into the future, to see what it may hold.”  He fingered the chain that held the Ring about his neck.  “Our traditions hold that there are certain methods of predicting the future which are much more fruitful if practiced on the final hour of the last day of this month of Winterfilth.  I am not certain that I would care to do that, given the circumstances we find ourselves in.”


“What’s all this talk about the dead coming back to join us?” Gimli’s ears had perked up and he hurried along to join them. “What’re you talking about?”


“Spirits. You know, ghosts and such,” Sam offered helpfully. “The night of the dead, when the ghosts of our ancestors walk among us. Everyone’s heard of it, haven’t they?” Sam spoke almost in a whisper, “It’s tradition that important ‘turning points,’ meaning things changing from one state to another, you see, well these turning points have a sort of enchantment about them--”


“And Efenniht is the biggest turning point of the whole year,” Pippin added in a hushed voice.


“This day creates a connection to the dead, you see, and. . . death is the greatest turning point of all,” Sam continued.


“So because the ghosts of the dead are much closer to us on this night, and the boundary between the two places meets at midnight, they are able to travel amongst the living for a time.”  Merry shrugged.  “Or so tradition says.” 


Gandalf’s voice broke into the conversation as he spoke over his shoulder, “It is a night known by many different names, Gimli. This is indeed the time when the worlds of the living and the dead converge. We should exercise greater caution tonight for all is not as it seems, that is without a doubt.  It is a time when strange beings and mischievous creatures of all sorts attempt to play tricks on our senses and seek to deceive us. We need to be on our guard.”


“Oh, of course! And just when did you plan on letting the rest of us in on this information, Gandalf?  I mean, with all that is at stake I would think you might have mentioned it sooner!”


“Never fear. We are well protected within this group. We only must stay close together until the morrow comes, that is, once night falls.”


Gimli said, “What’s that, you say? Once night falls?”


“That is when the power of the dead and other creatures will be greater.  The peak will come during the midnight hour. Then the powers of the spirit world will be their greatest.”  Gandalf regarded the dwarf thoughtfully.  “Their strength will wane in the following hours. Tomorrow will be the start of a new year.”


“And why did not one of you bring this up sooner?” Gimli looked about suspiciously.


“We were trying not to think about it,” Pippin said. “It’s far too spooky for my liking.”


The Ranger and the Elf had slowed their pace and were listening to the conversation, smiling knowingly at one another.  “Where we come from it is sometimes referred to as the Night of the Hunter,” Aragorn said. “Or, more formally as the Feast of Yavanna. It is all the things you have said, yes, but also a night for parties and dressing up in costumes to fool the spirits. And playing tricks on unsuspecting people, lighting bonfires to drive away evil beings, telling fortunes, begging for sweets--”


“Sweets?” Pippin’s interest was caught up by this notion.  “What sort of Sweets?”


“Oh, all manner of sweets, and apples. . .ale too,” Aragorn chuckled.  “Almost anything you like.”


“Sounds a lot better than walking with the dead.” 


“Yes, Pippin, much more fun than that,” agreed Aragorn with a grin.  “Some people go door to door begging for soul cakes--”


“What are soul cakes?” Pippin asked.


“They are little square pieces of sweetbread with currants. For each soul cake received the beggar promised to perform a good deed for the donor’s dead kinfolk in order to advance their spirits passing into the next life. It is but another tradition.”


“Then, after all the parties and pranks--” Legolas entered the conversation,


“You’d appreciate that part, Merry,” Pippin said with a wink.


“Hush, Pip. You interrupted again.”


“But I want to hear more,” Pippin insisted.


“We would enjoy a great feast, sing songs and dance,” Legolas continued as if there had been no interruption. “Some Elves would recite poetry or tell tales of heroic ancestors and their great deeds of valor.”


Aragorn said, “As soon as we are settled perhaps we might share some stories about our experiences with this Feast of the Dead. You may find the variety of traditions interesting.”


“I wish you’d quit calling it that,” muttered Gimli.


“And I’m sure it will help us to keep our minds off of all those dead folks running around us at midnight,” Sam said in all seriousness.




The Fellowship settled in around the campfire later that evening. The night was dark indeed, the fullness of the moon being hidden most of the time behind an array of gathering clouds. The hobbits fidgeted uneasily, and the others found themselves more alert. The dancing flames from the campfire cast elongated shadows against the background provided by the trees. If one stared at the flames for long enough one might conjure up any number of eerie visions. 


Gimli found the entire experience unsettling and kept looking about as if guarding against unknown danger. Confound this Efenniht or Night of the Hunter, or whatever it was called, he thought. He jumped when the fire made a loud popping noise and then looked about sheepishly. Legolas favoured him with a knowing smile while the others shared quiet laughter.


“All right, you’ve had your fun. I’ll not offer any more amusement for you this evening.”


“Perhaps we should begin our tales. Who would like to begin?” Aragon glanced about the circle.


“Well. . .” Sam piped up, “I reckon I could tell the story about what happened on this night many, many years ago, before any of us were born,” he glanced at his fellow hobbits and his voice lowered, “Something dreadful happened in the Shire. . .”


“Oh Sam, not the legend about the old tutor looking for his lost head,” Pippin protested.


“But, The Legend of Sleepy Hobbiton is--” Sam began.


“Pippin, it wasn’t the tutor who lost his head,” Frodo interjected.  “You’ve got the characters mixed up.  It was the--”


“But--” Sam tried again.


“Well, someone lost his head,” Pippin insisted.


“Yes, but it wasn’t the tutor, it was--”


“But--” Sam raised his voice, looking helplessly at Gandalf.


“Don’t spoil the story for everyone Frodo,” Merry scolded.


“I wasn’t going to spoil anything--”


“We’re not going to hear this story tonight, remember?” Pippin raised his voice to be heard above the growing debate.


 “Pippin, scary stories are a part of the celebration. Sometimes it’s fun to be scared,” Merry said.


“No it isn’t.” Pippin shook his head firmly.  “I’m anxious enough as it is tonight.  I want to hear about the pranks and the begging for sweets.”


“All right, why not start with one of those stories and then move on to a creepy one?” Merry offered.  “Besides, I’d like to hear about the pranks too.”


Their argument settled the hobbits looked hopefully up at the Ranger, patiently waiting for him to begin. Aragorn regarded the group of upturned faces with a look of exasperation. Gandalf chuckled and lit his pipe. 


Aragorn said, “Yes, well if you’re quite finished, we’ll have a story about a Feast of Yavanna we celebrated once in Rivendell.”


“Right, then.” Pippin grinned, urging Aragorn on with a wave of his hand.


Aragorn thought for a moment, then cleared his throat and began. “Many years ago when I was a youngster growing up with my Elven kin we celebrated with magnificent parties as it signified not only the Feast of the Dead, but the coming of the new year and the bounty of the harvest.”


“I thought you called it the Night of the Hunter?” Pippin looked at Aragorn askance.


“What?” Aragorn blinked in confusion.


“You said it was called the Night of the Hunter.”


“Well, yes, we did call it that, but it is also widely known as the Feast of the Dead--”


“But I don’t want to hear about the dead tonight,” Pippin reminded him.


“I wasn’t talking about the dead--”


“But you said--”


“Oh, will you hush, Pippin, and allow Aragorn to tell the story he has so kindly offered to share,” Frodo scolded.


“Aye, please continue Strider!” Sam urged, casting a frown at Pippin.


“As I was saying, we celebrated the feast with a huge party in which everyone wore disguises to fool the, uh. . .” Aragorn glanced at Pippin, “. . .the spirit-folk who play a large role in this festival. There was music and dancing, and much merry-making. We played games and told dark tales and played pranks on one another. Of course, we had to play ‘trick or treat’ – that was our favorite game!” Aragorn was warming to his tale and he regarded Pip slyly. “That is where one must ask for a treat or play a trick if one does not receive anything. As I was saying, we were all enjoying the party and had consumed our fair share of cider and a considerable amount of food. It was time to proceed with my plans.”


“Of course, Aragorn had planned his trick weeks in advance,” Legolas said.  “I had timed a visit to Rivendell solely for the occasion of the great feast and I was looking forward to the festivities with great pleasure. I did not realise I was going to be set up to assist with an ill-timed prank.”


Aragorn’s smile grew wider but he ignored the Elf as he continued. “It was difficult to come up with something new, as my brothers were famous for their pranks. It was going to be nigh unto impossible to outdo the twins, but I was determined to try. Legolas and I worked very hard thinking up new tricks to play—Pippin, you look like you’re about to burst.  If you must ask a question then please, go ahead.”


“What about the begging part? And I thought you had to play a trick only if you weren’t given any sweets?”


“Rest assured, tricks were played even if one received a treat. That was simply part of the fun.”


“Your traditions are confusing me.” 


“Hopefully it will be less confusing to you as I go along. . .”




Rivendell – The Feast of the Dead


The huge bonfire crackled very brightly in the pyre of stones surrounding it, beckoning the revelers to partake in the festivities of the night. Elves in brightly coloured costumes moved among the tables of food set out within the grounds of Lord Elrond’s magnificent home. Gaily decorated lanterns carved from pumpkins, turnips and a variety of gourds, and lighted from within by candles encircled the party area, casting shadows on the walkways in the shapes of the ghoulish faces adorning them. Music drifted on the cool night breeze. A full moon shone overhead.


Elrond sighed and looked at Erestor.  “It is perfect, is it not?”


The tutor nodded.  “However, I am puzzled. Everything does indeed appear perfect, as you say. All is in order for the feast. Guests are arriving and seem to be enjoying themselves.” Erestor glanced upward, “Even the moon is full. Yet you appear apprehensive. May I inquire as to what troubles you?”


Elrond shook his head.  “My troubles have names. They are called Estel and Legolas. And quite possibly, Elladan and Elrohir.”


The tutor smiled in understanding. “Ah, I see. You are concerned with the anticipated actions of the younger partygoers. Perhaps they will not rise to any new heights of tomfoolery tonight.”


Elrond regarded his friend with amusement. “Surely you do not believe that will be true. The Feast of Yavanna provides the young ones with leave to create new standards of mischief. It is a matter of just how far they will dare to carry their deeds that worries me each year. Recall last year’s festivities in which the goat appeared on the stable roof and chickens were discovered strutting about the bathing chambers. I even found a toad in the punch.” Elrond frowned at the memory.


Erestor chuckled. “I recall slipping on a cracked egg one of the hens had deposited just inside the door. I was lame for a week!”


They looked up as Lord Glorfindel joined them. “The festivities are well under way. This has the makings of a glorious night.”


“It does at that,” agreed Erestor. “By the by, have you encountered any of Lord Elrond’s sons or Legolas as yet?”


“I have not. An hour or more past I did see them merrily consuming large amounts of food. It looked as though they were having a competition to see who might eat the most in the shortest time. However, I did see Galion and Lindir near the ale kegs just now, with a few of the other youngsters. Galion is costumed as one of the Onodrim and Lindir is masquerading as Daeron.”


“Mmmm, how appropriate of Lindir.” Elrond looked up, lifting one eyebrow, “And Galion is an Onodrim, you say? How odd.”


“He is very creative.” Erestor smiled.  “I spied him earlier. It is really quite impressive attire.”


“I am sure it is. Well, I believe I shall have some of that ale myself. Join me if you like.” 


As they walked away from the edge of the clearing a head poked out from underneath the hedge. “I thought they’d never leave,” thirteen-year-old Estel muttered as he crawled out from beneath the bushes and stood off to the side, careful to avoid being in full view of the party. He scratched at his beard absent-mindedly, pondering his next move.


Legolas, dressed as an Easterling, pried the branches of the hedge apart and peered down at the youngster. “What are you doing?”




“I thought you were going to join the party and surprise Lord Elrond with your disguise?”


Estel glanced over his shoulder flashing a grin at the Elf. “Yes, but I am not ready yet.”


“Why not? Your costume is splendid, if I do say so.” Legolas sounded pleased with himself.


Estel scratched harder at his fake beard. “Whatever did you make this out of?”


“Why, wool, of course.”


Estel watched the gathering at the foot of the hill for a few more moments. Legolas was about to prompt him again when the youth broke into a sly grin. Tugging on Legolas’s arm he said, “I think it is time to have fun! Come with me!” Estel was off and running, skirting easily around the perimeter of the party, apparently in search of something. Legolas watched him go before following his young friend with an indulgent shake of his head.


As they scurried along the hedges other children outfitted in the various costumes of mythical beings were hard at work begging sweets from the adults. Occasionally, squeals of delight could be heard. 


“Come on!” Estel urged him to move faster.


“Where are we going?”


“Hurry, it is nearly midnight.” They came to a hollowed out old tree and where Estel reached inside and began stuffing things into his pockets while glancing cautiously around. Legolas watched, his curiosity growing. “What are you doing?”


“You will see.” The youngster rummaged around some more and then turned

quickly, running headfirst into Elrohir. The twins had been lurking in the nearby bushes watching with amusement.


“And just where are you off to in such a hurry?” Elladan reached out and anchored Estel in place. His young foster brother stared up at him, startled by the intrusion. Legolas regarded them dispassionately, not speaking.


“Look at you,” continued Elrohir with a snicker. “Dressed as a dwarf. Imagine what your Ada will say!”


“Yes, dwarves do not normally receive invitations to our festivities,” his brother agreed.  “Are you not afraid of being the recipients of a volley of arrows on sight?”


“Oh? And what of the dwarves who visited us only three years ago, when I was ten? There were thirteen of them, or have you forgotten?”


“Yes, indeed there were,” conceded Elrohir. “But I do not think a visit from them is expected tonight.”


Estel shook himself loose from Elrohir’s grip and stepped back. He looked the twins up and down and laughed out loud, noticing their attire for the first time.  “Are you not afraid of being mistaken for very homely Ellith?  I doubt you will receive many proposals of matrimony tonight!” Legolas stifled a laugh behind a polite cough.


“On the contrary.” Elrohir sniffed,  “I believe we make very becoming models of the opposite sex. Would you not agree, brother?”


“Indeed. And we are most upset to hear you comment otherwise.” Elladan drew himself up to full height.


“Oh, I suppose you are correct. But perhaps you should avoid being seen in the fullness of the moonlight. I really like your frock, Elladan. Excellent choice of colour, it compliments your eyes.” Estel danced quickly away as his brother’s hand nearly connected with his ear.


“Dressing up as the opposite sex is a very old and well respected tradition during the Feast of Yavanna,” Elrohir said.


“Yes, I know, but you would never see me in that attire.”


“Wait until Ada gets an eyeful of you in that garb. It really is in poor taste.” Elladan grinned at his twin. “I wish we had thought of it first!”


“Yes, whatever gave you the idea?” Elrohir wanted to know.


“I thought of it after Legolas told me a story about the trouble between Elves and Dwarves in the past,” Estel said. 


“He knew it would be considered outrageous, but that is what he wanted,” offered Legolas. “So I assisted him with his disguise.”


“And now what are you about? Just what exactly are you going to do?” Elrohir demanded.


“Why, fool everyone into thinking I am a real dwarf raiding the party, of course.” Estel looked at his brothers as if the answer should have been obvious. “What else?”


“You may want to tread carefully. What will happen if you do fool them? Suppose somebody does fires an arrow at you?”


Estel scoffed at that. “Oh, come now, Elrohir, I am not about to fool anyone for very long. I simply want to make a grand entrance.”


“Oh, I think you shall be doing just that. Yes indeed.” Elladan muttered under his breath.


Legolas looked concerned. Estel rolled his eyes and said, “It is not polite to whisper when others cannot hear, you know,” he accused the twins.


“Do not concern yourself. Go. Have your fun. We will be watching.”


They began to walk away, Legolas glancing over his shoulder uncertainly. “I wonder if they are up to something?” he whispered.


“When are they not? Come with me.” He grabbed his friend’s arm once more and they hurried up the hill. “Here, help me with the torches. Make sure you stick them in the ground far enough to hold them upright.” Legolas did as he was told.


“Why do you want torches?”


Estel stopped what he was doing and stared. “So they will be able to have a good view of me coming down the hill, of course! What else?”


“Ah.” Legolas returned to his task, lighting the small torches one by one until there was a glowing half-circle of fire around them.



Estel dug into his pocket and brought out a handful of firecrackers. “Here, take some of these. You can light them and toss them right after I start the raid.”


The Elf’s eyes widened. “What are you doing with those? You should not be playing with firecrackers! Where did you get them?”


Estel ignored the question. “We must make sure we light them one after the other and throw them as quickly as possible. They’ll make such a huge noise and draw everyone’s attention to me!”


“Estel! You must not--!” Legolas tried to snatch the rest of the firecrackers away but it was too late. The youth had already lit the handful he held and was tossing them down the hill one after the other as he darted away with a blood-curdling yell, not worrying how he would appear to the group of Elves below.


Legolas was frozen in place for the briefest of moments before he rushed after Estel.


The partygoers lounged around the bonfire listening to the children tell stories. Even Elrond had managed to put some of his apprehension aside to take pleasure in the ale and the conversation. Erestor relaxed nearby.


Sudden crackling noises followed by flashes of light brightened the night sky as higher up the hill a small shadowy creature moved towards them. The crackling and popping grew louder, accompanied by sparks of fire and the form flew down the hill faster. For a moment, no one moved.


Then the scene turned to mayhem as the Elves ran into the melee. Those who had retrieved weapons along the way drew arrows from their quivers. All descended on the bearer of the moving torch, some getting winged by firecrackers that the breeze carried further down the hill. The creature waved its torch about; its high-pitched screech incited the crowd. They could now discern a battle axe wielded in the opposite hand of what now appeared to be a dwarf and an Easterling barreling into their midst. The cry of the dwarf grew louder as the group added their own cries to the clash, some of them readying arrows to bows and drawing the strings back, taking careful aim. . .


The confusion only increased as what appeared to be two Ellith running down the hill crying “No! No!” exploded into the group from the opposite direction, waving their arms about madly. Elrond was completely confused! Surely he would have known if enemies had entered Imladris? Why had not Vilya warned him? He did not understand!


The Balrog slayer had already rushed up to the foot of the small hill, his huge sword at the ready, when--


What is this?” Lord Glorfindel shouted.


The enemy had been surrounded, stopped by the arrows pointed at his face. The warriors paused, peering more closely at the creature. A hush fell over the crowd.


“This is no enemy,” Elladan panted, catching up at last.


 “I do not think he means any harm,” Elrohir added from close behind.


Glorfindel looked around in confusion at the twins in female costume and then back at the disgraced dwarf. Elrond made his way into their midst staring dumbfounded at Estel. Estel actually had the audacity to look smugly satisfied once he overcame his initial fright.


“Ha!” he shouted with glee. “We fooled you all, did we not?” He looked at his partner in crime. “See? I told you it would be a grand prank!” Legolas felt the warmth of his reddening cheeks as all eyes turned to him.


Slowly Estel quieted as he realised the mood around them was not one of amusement. He began to think his Adar’s head was going to ignite if his face got any redder. He knew this was not a good sign.


“Ada--” he began.


Elrond glared at him and then whirled on his eldest children.  “You knew what he had planned?”


“No!” both protested in a single voice. “We did not.”


“Then how did you know who was coming down the hill?” Elrond regarded his sons with a stern look.


“We knew how he was dressed, but not that he planned this.”  Elrohir said.


“We assumed he meant to join the party and simply try to fool you,” agreed his twin.


Elrond turned to Legolas. “And you, Legolas, condoned this, this. . . mockery of a prank? I would not have believed it of you! You may be a youth, but you certainly are old enough to know better!”


“I did not condone it, Sir,” Legolas said, head bowed. “I did not know the extent of Estel’s prank until it was too late.”


Elrond turned to the miscreant. “Did you not recognise this deception as the least bit dangerous? And what of the firecrackers I heard? Where did you find those? You pilfered through Gandalf’s things during his last visit, did you not?” 


Estel stared up at the glowering face that was Lord Elrond trying to think fast. “Well, Ada. . .you see, Sir. . .”


“Never mind. We shall finish this discussion this in private.”


Estel hurried along behind his foster father, still anxious to make the attempt to explain the reasoning behind the extravagant jest. 




Gandalf chuckled softly as the story came to a close. “I have never heard that tale. I thought you had probably been the culprit when I discovered some of my fireworks missing after my visit.” The wizard eyed Aragorn, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.  He cast a glance at Merry and Pippin and winked at them. “I daresay if I had known at the time, I could have given you a suitable punishment – such as washing dishes.”

The hobbits laughed out loud.

“It was dreadful waiting for you to show up again, I knew not when, knowing that I would have to make a full apology to you for my atrocious crime,” Aragorn said with a shake of his head and a self-conscious chuckle. 


“Yet, you failed to mention the incident when I did return.”


“I believed I had suffered enough by then,” Aragorn nodded. “After all, a great deal of time had passed when next we saw one another.”


Legolas laughed. “You have a long memory, Mithrandir.”


“I do indeed.” The wizard winked knowingly at them.


“Well, now what about Sam’s story?  I am quite ready for a chilling one,” Aragorn said.


“Yes, come Sam,” urged Boromir.  “I would like to hear another tale. It must be nearly midnight.”


Pippin shivered. Merry grinned at him. “Pip, it’ll be fun.”


“For you maybe,” he said.  “Oh well, Sam, if you must.” Pippin leaned against a tree and stretched out his legs with a yawn. “But if anything grabs me I’m going to let you all know.”


“Well,” Sam began, “The Legend of Sleepy Hobbiton is a well known tale where we come from. . .”







Author’s Note: I chose the word “Efenniht” because it was an Anglo-Saxon word and might be one that the Shire had in common with the Rohirrim.


The terms “Harvest Tide” and “Night of the Hunter” came from a site that discusses the many names for the celebration of the Fall Equinox.


Also, there appears to be some debate on the appropriate plural for Elleth so I chose the one that seemed correct to me.


I am including the links in case anyone is interested.




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