The Blue Boar by Minniemoggie

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Written for the 2007 Yule Fic Exchange on LOTR GFIC

Dedicated to Emma
Beta: HollyDisclaimer: Not Mine

A/N Most of the customs and traditions written about here are of Pagan and Celtic origins.

All-heal is the old name for Mistletoe

 


The Blue Boar


The heavy snow that had haunted the travelers for the last three days had finally ceased … only to be replaced by sleet.


Glorfindel looked up into the grey sky and although it was only just after noon the light was already fading; they would have to make camp soon.  Just as he was about to send the advance scouts out to find some sort of shelter for the night one of the guards pulled his horse up and jumped down to inspect its hoof.


He looked up at Glorfindel "I am sorry My Lord she has lost a shoe."


It took all of Glorfindel's resolve not to roll his eyes at this latest misfortune to hit their party.  It seemed all of a piece to the former Lord of the House of the Golden Flower.


Ever since they left the sanctuary of Imladris behind them, they had been visited by one calamity after another. It had been late in the year to undertake such a journey but their young charge had been desperate to get home for Yule and Lord Erestor, who had been acting as Legolas's tutor had offered to go with him rather than see him in such distress. Elrond had doubted the wisdom of such a plan, for while he knew well that his chief counselor was a considerable warrior and was more than capable of being able to keep the prince safe, he was concerned over the likelihood of poor weather. It was only when Glorfindel had volunteered to escort the party that the Lord of Imladris gave consent for their journey.  Had he not been willing to travel Glorfindel suspected that distress or no, the young prince of the Greenwood, would have had to remain in Imladris until the spring thaw.  As it was, he and his group would likely have to beg refuge in Thranduil's halls until the last snows had melted.  He would not risk trying to return over the Misty Mountains now.


They had been forced to backtrack to find a path across the peaks, for the High Pass had been watched by Orc and Glorfindel was not willing to risk an encounter with the vile beasts while he had the young prince with him. Heavy snow had fallen as they made their way down from the mountains making their progress painfully slow. By the time they had crossed the Anduin at the ford south of Rhosgobel and taken the old road across the forest they had been traveling for more than twelve days in weather that even for the First Born was `trying' in the extreme.  Their guest had uttered no word of complaint despite the conditions but Glorfindel knew that Legolas was exhausted; he was all but asleep in his saddle and even the knowledge that he was in the southern woods of his home raised only the briefest of smiles. Yet stubbornly he insisted he was fine and able to travel.  Now a new obstacle had been placed in their way, which would lead to further delays


"It can not be helped Belioanios, these things happen.  Simbalyion," Glorfindel called to the chief guard "How close are we to that mannish settlement we passed through three seasons since? As I recall they had a forge as well as a small inn."


"You mean Taur-Fennas My Lord. By my reckoning if we go south for three more leagues we should come to it, for I can hear the sound of the river from here."


"Excellent.  We will head for the settlement, seek shelter there over night, and get the horse a new shoe at the same time. Belioanios had better double up with someone so that his mount does not do any more damage to her hoof."


He turned from his guard to where his friend and the prince waited.


"Erestor, Legolas, we are going to make for Taur-Fennas.  A hot meal and a warm bed will be welcome to us all I think."


"That it will; and a hot bath would not come amiss either," the fastidious Erestor added as he urged his horse forward.


Glorfindel shared a grin with Legolas who set his own mount in motion following the counselor as he set off down the path.


"I have never visited a mannish settlement like this before, Lord Glorfindel.  What is Taur-Fennas like?"


The seneschal had forgotten how sequestered the son of Thranduil had been. The King of Greenwood preferred to keep his child away from races other than his own. He had initially been wary of allowing his son to visit in Imladris but over the last few years as Legolas got older he had come to realize that he must have some knowledge of how the other elven realms worked, which was how Legolas had come to spend several months under the tutelage of Lord Erestor in Elrond's refuge.


"Taur-Fennas is a small settlement, which has grown up around the crossing place at on the River Celduin. Most of the men who live there make their living from your father's forests, with his permission of course. A small number of them the, innkeeper included, rely on the traders that go north to Erebor and Esgaroth. The inn I hope we will find room at is called the Blue Boar. It is quite small but the owners seemed to be good folk when I stayed there a few seasons ago. Taur-Fennas will not be like Lake Town, it is much smaller to begin with, and most of its inhabitants are farmers and foresters."


"What language will the men speak?"


"Mainly Westron, although those men who have some contact with the elven patrols can speak a little Sindarin; you are quite fluent in Westron now; a little practical practice will be good for you. Consider the experience you are about to get as part of your ongoing education," Erestor told him.


Legolas fell silent at this suggestion.  Erestor was in his view, rather too fond of turning any situation into a teaching opportunity.  He hoped that if the party was only to be in the settlement overnight he might not have to make use of his somewhat shaky language skills; else, he could see additional lessons being added to his already overloaded study schedule.


By the time the horses turned wearily into the muddy street that made up the main thoroughfare of the village Legolas was so tired he no longer cared whether he would be able to make himself known or not.


The Blue Boar was a two-storey building, with a thatched roof and a good-sized stable block behind it. The innkeeper came out to greet the riders, Glorfindel having sent two of his warriors ahead to alert the man of their imminent arrival. A fire had been lit in the two bedchambers on the second floor that the Lords of Imladris and the Prince would occupy.  The guards would sleep in the stables with their horses but even that prospect was welcome after so many nights on the road.


"Welcome Lord Glorfindel." Much to Legolas' relief the owner spoke very good Sindarin. The man bowed the trio into the main room where a stout fair-haired woman of middle years stood waiting. "This is Adanel, my wife."


The woman dropped an awkward curtsey, somewhat overawed by the arrival of three of the first born in her parlour.


Glorfindel smiled at her and nodded, "I seem to remember Mistress Adanel is also a very good cook, Master Bladorthin. I trust our unexpected arrival will not put you out too much Mistress; whatever you have in the way of hot food will be very welcome. "


"I am sure I can provide you with a good dinner My Lord.  Will you come up to your chambers now? I am sorry I only have the two rooms available."


This time it was Erestor who attempted to reassure the woman. "There is no need to apologize Mistress. I am sure Prince Legolas will not object to sharing with me or Lord Glorfindel."


"The elven king's son" Rather than restore confidence this news seemed to send the woman into a new panic, "Here in our inn, Valor save us." Adanel sat down heavily on a nearby chair and threw her apron over her head.


Urged by Erestor Legolas stepped forward hesitantly, dropping onto one knee and patting the woman's hand comfortingly.


"I am of no more import than any other, Mistress Adanel, though the tantalizing smells that are issuing from your kitchen do remind me that it is almost half a day since I ate anything hot." The shy smile he proffered was enough to win the heart of the innkeeper's wife, while the sweep of dark eyelashes against pale cheeks and dark circled eyes brought out her latent maternal instincts.  Prince or no the lad was clearly half-starved and all but dead on his feet.


"Well now young lord in that case," she beamed, "I have fresh bread, butter and cheese available with hot tea and some biscuits that are just out of the oven." The smile on the prince's face widened at this news.


 "And good ale for you My Lord's," Adanel offered Glorfindel and Erestor. "The best in the district, and a good dinner you shall have as soon as I can arrange it. Bustle about husband, show our guests to their rooms, and heat up hot water for baths.  The poor young prince here is exhausted and as soon as his belly is full he will benefit from a sleep in a proper bed while I prepare a dinner worthy of his notice."


While Legolas wrinkled, his nose in disgust at the idea of being of an age when he still needed a `nap.' He could not deny that the heat from the fire was making him feel a little drowsy … and there was little more to do before dinner anyway, so once his initial hunger had been assuaged by the landlady's excellent bread and cheese he followed the landlord up the narrow staircase to a small but clean, warm bedchamber. One of the guards had already brought up their saddlebags and a small chest containing clean and dry clothing and Legolas, after divesting himself of his boots and cloak, looked around for the bathing chamber. He was startled to see the boy from the stables dragging a large wooden tub into the chamber and positioning it in front of the fireplace.  On his only trip to Lake Town he had not stayed in the town itself, his father preferring to camp on the edge of the woods and he had no experience of human bathing customs.


His confusion must have shown on his face for Erestor laughed and explained, "It is a bathtub Legolas. There is no running water or plumbing here, so all the hot water must be carried up by buckets.  We must take turns in using the tub and the water, for we can not expect our hosts to use up all pf their water providing us with baths, for what water they have must be drawn up from the well in the stable yard."


"We must share a bath?"


"If you want to be warm and clean we must.  You may go first.  Glorfindel and I will toss a coin to see who goes next." Erestor thanked the staff who had followed the tub upstairs with buckets of hot water to fill it and took clean towels and a sheet to drape over the rough edges of the tub itself from their host before firmly closing the door and urging the prince to hurry.


Legolas stripped off his wet clothing and stepped into the tub.  He sat down rather hurriedly when Adanel entered without knocking, carrying some herbs and soft soap.


"I thought you might appreciate these" she offered Erestor, who was doing his best not to laugh at the youngster's red face and ears. "If there is anything else you want don't hesitate to ask." She glanced over at Legolas and sighed, "I never thought I'd see the day I had a prince taking a bath in my old tub."


Taking pity on his charge, for although amongst the elves there was no discomfiture over nakedness it was plain that the idea of being undressed in front of a female of another species was hugely embarrassing to the son of Thranduil, Erestor steered the woman out of the door this time fastening the latch.


"Thank you," Legolas mumbled hurrying now with his ablutions before there were any more interruptions.


Deciding that to tease him would be a cruelty and thanking Eru that Glorfindel had not witnessed that little scene, Erestor busied himself in laying out clean clothing and commenting on what they had seen of the settlement so far, allowing Legolas to regain his countenance.


Dry, clean, and well fed from what was a very good dinner Legolas retired to bed early and was deep on the path of elven dreams when Erestor and Glorfindel eventually retired to their chambers.  They knew the new day would mean hard riding if they were to make up for the time lost and they still had to wait for the smith to shoe Belioanios' horse. Still the comfort of the inn had been welcome indeed and neither regretted having to detour to the settlement; it was better than another cold night on the trail.


Had they known what was to happen the next morning they might well have wished they had spent the night out in the wilds instead.


*****


Legolas woke early and slipped out of the inn to explore the settlement while Erestor and Glorfindel were still breaking their fast. He had been warned not to wander but the urge to investigate this human village was strong; it may be many yeni before the opportunity arose again he concluded and Erestor was always saying that he should broaden his mind and seek enlightenment whenever it was offered.


A large wagon was making its precarious way through the central street.  It was loaded up with sacks and barrels and the horses were having difficulty keeping their feet as they traversed the muddy thoroughfare. As the wagon began to back up to be unloaded, a small dog ran out of a side street, startling the horses, which shied nervously causing the wagon to move and the barrels, which were being un-roped prior to unloading to shift and begin to fall.


Glorfindel and Erestor had just exited the inn in search of their missing charge as the accident began to unfold.  Legolas, who was watching the smith at work, did not hear the shouts of warning coming in his direction as the sound of hammer on anvil drowned out the other noises. 


Both elven lords moved forward but it was Glorfindel who reached Legolas just in time to push him out of the way of the tumbling barrels, he was however unable to save himself.  Erestor, who was only a step behind the warrior, heard the snap of the bone as a barrel caught Glorfindel on the leg.


                                                            ****


Legolas sat alone in the parlour of the Blue Boar and although the fire was throwing out considerable heat, he was shivering.  Above his head, he heard the light sounds of elven feet and the heavier tread of the men who had helped to carry Glorfindel up to his chamber. Although Erestor had done his best to reassure his anxious pupil that it had been an accident and no ones fault Legolas, felt the full weight of guilt on his slim shoulders. If only he had been more attentive, if only he had not gone out on his own, something he now bitterly regretted, for an elf he was exceedingly fond of now lay above stairs with a broken leg.


Fortunately, a healer had traveled with them from Imladris and he was now in the process of setting the bone.  A hastily bitten off cry had Legolas covering his ears in an attempt to block out the elven lord's pain.


"It was not your fault young lord," someone spoke from behind him and he turned to see Mistress Adanel watching him from the doorway to the kitchen.


The blue eyes that turned towards the woman were swimming with tears, "If only …" he began but was cut off by Adanel.


 "'If only' is a pointless emotion young lord and sitting here is neither doing you good nor Lord Glorfindel. How about you come into the kitchens and keep me company for a while?  It is better than sitting here worrying."


More noises from above his head made up his mind for him and Legolas followed the woman into the kitchens.


When he had been a very small elfling, one of his favorite things to do at this time of year was spend time in the strongholds kitchens. While the cooks were especially busy as the special foods that were part of the Greenwood's Yule celebrations were prepared, they always made time for him.  It was his Adar's considered opinion that they spoiled him and Legolas was happy for that to be the case. Once, when Thranduil had taxed him with this charge, he informed the king haughtily that as the `tester in chief' he had serious duties to perform. He had then gone on his way, still sucking on his gingerbread star, unaware of the wide smile on his father's face as he did so.


Legolas was unsure whether men followed the same traditions as the elves but some of the smells coming from the range were very familiar and made him even more heart sick for his home.


Sitting at the end of the worktable Legolas soon found himself with a large mug of warm milk and some biscuits to keep the pangs of hunger away, Mistress Adanel apparently believing that growing elves, like growing boys, needed to be fed at regular intervals.


Adanel kept up a near continual stream of chatter and watched as the elven prince began to relax and take an interest in what she was doing.


"It is called mincemeat," she told the prince. "We use it at Yule to make special pies; it is a mixture of meat, spices, and fruit. Would you like to try it?"


Legolas sniffed at the spicy mixture and nodded.


"Here then, it is usual here for us to eat at least one of these every day during Yule. Do you have something similar at home?"


His mouth full of delicious pasty Legolas mumbled, "Not quite like this, this is lovely. Helpenias my father's chief cook would like to know how they are made I think.  She is always trying out new recipes. Would you write it out for me?"


The woman laughed, "I'm afraid I can't write young lord, but I would be happy to tell you and let you write it down if you wish."


Feeling embarrassed at not having thought about the effect of his question before he asked it, Legolas muttered, "I am sorry"


"No need to be.  I was never lucky enough to learn. Bladorthin can read and write a little so we get by. Tell me more about your chief cook and the foods you have at Yule."


Legolas spent the rest of the morning in the kitchen with the innkeeper's wife and for most of that time he was kept busy enough not to think about what was going on above stairs so it came as a shock when Adanel put a tray into his hands and told him to take it up to Glorfindel's chamber.


He hesitated and the woman smiled reassuringly, "I'm sure he won't bite."


Not quite as sure, of that as Adanel Legolas knew he could not avoid facing the seneschal eventually.  He was going to have to apologize and accept the consequences of his inattention. Lord Glorfindel was not going to be happy and when Glorfindel was not happy then everyone around him knew of it.


About to knock on the door to the bedchamber he heard voices and his name mentioned and paused.


"He is going to be so disappointed."  That was Erestor's voice and by the sound of it the counselor was distressed.


"There is nothing to be done Ressor," Glorfindel sounded tired. "The princeling will have to accept that we will not get him home for Yule. I am going to be incapable of travel for at least three days," he ignored the healers `five' and carried on.  "I dare not split our force; not with the orc activity we have detected on our journey. The princeling's safety is our priority.  Better, he gets home after Yule safely than not at all. I do not wish to have to face Thranduil with the news that his beloved child has been injured or worse. I will send two of the guards with a message for the king to let him know our situation. He will no doubt send a guard brigade out to meet us, which will make the last part of our journey both safer and more enjoyable."


Legolas stood outside the door, devastated by what he had just heard. He was not going to be home for Yule, and he would not be with his Ada. For a moment, he was almost overwhelmed by the news; then he regained control over himself, straightened his shoulders, and knocked on the door.


Glorfindel was sitting up in the bed; his left leg splinted and propped up on bolsters.  He looked pale and the way his lips were held firmly together it was clear he was in pain yet he smiled as he spied Legolas standing in the doorway.


"Legolas I hope there is something on that tray for me to eat."


"Mistress Adanel sent up some broth."


"Broth …"


"I believe it is very good broth Lord Glorfindel. I was in the kitchen with her when she made it. Mistress Adanel is a very good cook. She let me try some special pies she was making for Yule and they were lovely."


Mentioning the pies may not have been a good idea, he realized, as Glorfindel muttered something about he couldn't see any sign of these lovely `pies' on the tray.


"Broth is exactly what Lord Glorfindel requires," the healer told the prince as he took the tray from Legolas and carried it across the room to the bed, watching until Glorfindel reluctantly picked up the spoon and began to eat. He then smiled and departed.


Legolas then approached the bed, his eyes on the elven lord's broken leg.


 "I am so sorry Lord Glorfindel. Sorry that you have broken your leg, sorry that I didn't do as I was told and stayed in the inn, this is all my fault." To his horror, his voice broke on the last words and he felt tears sting his eyes.


"Here now princeling" The warrior lord reached over and took Legolas's hand. "It was an unfortunate accident, nothing more. However my accident does bring with it unpleasant consequences.  We are now trapped here until I can sit astride and that will be a few days yet. I know you very much wished to be home with your Ada for Yule but I am afraid I cannot allow you to go on without me. I gave Elrond my word to see you safe home and I hold to that. It would be a dereliction of duty to do any other. I know you will be upset by this news but there is nothing we can do now but make the best of our situation."


Although he had been partially prepared by listening to what the two elven lords had been discussing it was still a bitter blow to Legolas to actually hear the words spoken.


"I… I understand Lord Glorfindel. I … I am naturally disappointed but … but I will not complain or repine it is due to me that we are here after all."


"It is likely to be a long and dull few days for all of us," Glorfindel glared at his splinted limb. The elven lord was not looking forward to his incarceration any more than Legolas.


"Then we must do what we can to keep ourselves occupied," Erestor spoke up, "I can soon arrange some extra lessons for you Legolas and I have brought a large number of books, some of which even you may find interesting…" he told the glowering seneschal.


Legolas wrinkled his nose in disgust at the suggestion of additional lessons but knew better than to argue with his estimable tutor. Glorfindel watching his face noted it however and spoke up again.


"Mayhap Master Bladorthin keeps a Battle board here. That would be an excellent way of honing your strategic skills Legolas.  Why do you not go down and inquire for us." he winked at the prince. "I have no desire to spend three days reading Erestor's books.  They are almost bound to be boring else he would not have brought them with him."


 Once Legolas had left the room again Glorfindel turned to Erestor. "We are going to have to find rather more than books to keep Legolas occupied, else he is going to find the days leading up to Yule very hard."


Elrond's chief counselor nodded. "I have been thinking about that and while I refute your charge that my books are boring I agree with you that Legolas needs to be kept busy. I was thinking that I could get him to keep a diary of how mortals prepare for Yule."


Glorfindel sighed heavily.  If his friend had a fault, it was his single-minded determination to stuff every elfling's head he met with as much knowledge as he could find.


"Well that will certainly keep him busy …but perhaps as well as a written account he could do some practical research.  It will help him to improve his language skills as well as keeping him out of mischief."


"Practical research?"


"Given the amount of effort and time you put into the celebrations in Imladris it seems likely that our hosts will be spending the next few days preparing for the festivities.  Why shouldn't Legolas join them in those preparations? We can ask Master Bladorthin if there is anything he can do to help. Go and see if our worthy host can spare us a few moments. We have to discuss whether he will have sufficient provisions to feed such a large party for several days as well. I could send some of the guard out hunting to supplement the meat in their larders and we have our own supplies that might be used if needed. I would not have them left short of victuals for the rest of the winter because of our arrival.


"Oh and Ressor," he stopped Erestor as he reached the door and gave the counselor a winning smile, "while you are down there see if you can get your hands on one of those pies the princeling was talking about."


Erestor did not deign to answer that particular request nor did he return to the bedchamber for some, time long enough indeed for Glorfindel to get some healing sleep.  When Glorfindel eventually awoke, it was to the delicious aroma of Mistress Adanel's mincemeat pies and the hesitative smile of Master Bladorthin.


"You wished to speak to me my lord?"


"Aye, Master Bladorthin. Due to my accident we are I am afraid going to have to trespass on your hospitality for a while longer. I want to be sure that our presence will not lead to you and your wife being short of food later in the winter. We have supplies that we would share with you and my guards can supplement your own food with fresh game if that is acceptable to you."


Bladorthin stared at the elf open-mouthed for a moment before stuttering "that is very generous, my lord. I admit with the extra mouths to feed we would have had to raid our stores more than I would have liked. Now we can prepare for Yule safe in the knowledge that we will have plenty of provisions.  Adanel will be relieved, for she likes to set a good table."


Glorfindel beamed. "Good.  I for one look forward to more of her excellent cooking. There is no reason either why my guard cannot undertake other tasks to help. Replenishing wood and doing any small jobs around the house, you have only to ask. Is there something amiss Master Bladorthin?"


The proprietor shook his head, "Nay Lord Glorfindel, it is just that I had not expected such thoughtfulness.  Most folk think that paying for their stay is sufficient; they would never concern themselves with how their arrival would impinge upon others or offer help in kind. You can rest assured we will do our best to make this a Yule celebration that you will never forget …"


"I shall keep you to that Master Bladorthin.  Now on the subject of Yule I have a favor to ask of you, if I may. Prince Legolas has never spent this holiday away from his father before. Indeed that is why we were on our way to Thranduil's halls; he was so desperate to get home to his Ada before the celebrations began. Now we have to find some way to divert his attention away from the fact that he is going to have to spend the holiday alone.  Lord Erestor has some plans to keep him too occupied to brood but I wondered if there were some more practical things he could do. Were he at home or in Imladris we would be decorating the halls with evergreens and practicing music and songs for the turn of the yea.  Do you do anything similar?"


"Aye, my lord.  We decorate the house and go out to bring in the Yule Log which burns for the twelve nights of Yule. When my sons were, still at home they always came out with me.  Do you think the Prince would like to do so?"


"Master Bladorthin, you could not have suggested something he is more likely to enjoy doing and not only because it means he escapes Erestor's lessons for an hour or two. I will need to send members of my guard with you of course to help you keep an eye on our princeling.  I am afraid to say that he is a proper wood elf and has a habit of forgetting himself when he enters the forest and starts talking to his beloved trees."


"Then it is true, that Thranduil's folk talk to the trees?"


"They do Master Bladorthin and what is more the trees talk to them."


"Well I'm blessed. I look forward to seeing it … Oh and here my Lord. I am in danger of forgetting what I came up here for. I found an old Battle set and some Spillikins, which you might enjoy playing and the smith sent a special tray that sits over your legs for when you eat. It should make things a little easier for you." Bladorthin set the tray over Glorfindel's knees as he spoke and the elf immediately placed the Battle set on it.


"I'll go and get you some tea My Lord you are looking a trifle peaky if you don't mind me saying so.  Shall I send for your healer?"


The thought of being mauled by his healer was enough to make Glorfindel say, "Nay that will not be necessary, but I would welcome that tea and ask Legolas to come up, would you?  We can play a game or two before dinner and I can tell him of our plans for his entertainment."


With the eagerness of youth, Legolas was up early the next morning, keen to go with the innkeeper to search out greenery to decorate the Blue Boar. Of course he had not thought that his outing would have to wait upon Master Bladorthin completing his own tasks. So, he spent a frustrating two hours paying little heed to the lessons Erestor was trying so teach him, so that by the time Erestor finally gave permission for him to put aside his books and fetch his cloak, he was not the only one anxious for him to get outside.


He returned just as the sun was sinking, his arms full of greenery, holly, and his eyes bright.


 "Imagine," he told Lord Glorfindel when he went up to see the bed ridden elf lord, "I had not realized men decorated their homes as we do. Master Bladorthin told me that the evergreen tree, which keeps its leaves throughout the year, is a symbol to them of the endurance of life through the cold and dark winter months. They even decorate the yew tree on the edge of the forest with ribbons and gifts of bread.


They use holly over their doors and on the window sills to keep out evil spirits which are abroad at this time of year and they hang `All-heal' over the doors as well, but for a very different reason," Legolas grinned impishly.  "I think Elladan and Elrohir would be interested in learning of that particular custom. I must remember to write that down in my journal."


"I do not think Erestor will approve of such an entry," Glorfindel chuckled, for he had seen this tradition before and participated in it more than once. "So were you able to find any All-heal."


"Yes there was some in an oak tree and I asked and the ancient one was willing to sacrifice it for our celebration. Mistress Adanel is making it into a `kissing ring' now. Tomorrow we are going to bring in the Yule Log.  Do you think it would be alright to use some of our horses to help pull it through the settlement?"


Amused at the prince's enthusiasm Glorfindel gave permission for this, making Legolas's smile even wider.


"What else have you found out today?" he prompted as Erestor entered with a mug of hot wine for his friend and a mug of mulled cider for the prince.


"Master Grimaud, he is the smith, told me all about the Wild Hunt that rides out at this time of the year.  It is made up of the dead who can return to the land because the veils between the worlds are thin at the time of the Solstice. Master Grimaud said that some of the spirits that ride out are malicious but others are benevolent and on Yule Eve it is the custom to leave out food for them so that they bring good fortune to the household."


"I have heard of the Wild Hunt before," Erestor said, "although I do not believe in it." The counselor stated firmly. He did not intend to find the son of Thranduil out in the middle of the night looking for the Wild Hunt. "To mortals, Legolas, Yule has a dual nature. It is the time of Death and darkness, but it is also the time of the return of the waxing Sun and a celebration of the promise of Life and light renewed, which part is very like our own tradition of welcoming the return of the longer days at the turn of the year."


Now firmly into lecture mode Erestor missed the shared roll of the eyes between the prince and the lord of the house of the golden flower.


"You know that mortal kind celebrate Yule for a span of thirteen days, usually counting from the night before the solstice, to the thirteenth night afterwards." Legolas nodded.


"Well I have been talking to Mistress Adanel and she has told me more of their local customs.  Here they call Yule eve "Mother Night", when they remember their female ancestors and thank the mother of their house for all her work. It is also the night when they re-enact an ancient play that tells of the battle between the young Oak King and the Holly King. The Oak King represents the light of the New Year, and he tries each year to usurp the old Holly King, who is the symbol of darkness. She told me that until her sons married and moved away it was her favorite part of Yule, for her husband played the Holly King and one of her sons the Oak King."


A shared look between Glorfindel and Erestor was missed by the prince who had just found some gingerbread stars under a clean cloth on the plate by Glorfindel's bed.


"It would be a very kind gesture, would it not, to recreate that play for her as a thank you for all she and her husband have done for us," Erestor commented innocently


"Indeed I think that is a brilliant plan," the seneschal agreed, "and an excellent diversion for us as well."


Legolas looked unimpressed. The idea of someone prancing around making a fool of themselves in a play did not appeal to him and anyway there was one question that Lord Erestor and Glorfindel seemed to have overlooked.


 "But who would you get to play the Oak King?"  


The answer was in the grin he saw on both of their faces.


                                                *****


It snowed heavily overnight and it was decided to put off bringing in the Yule log until the next day when it was expected that there would be slight thaw.


Trapped in the inn Legolas sat staring at the falling snow, a very disgruntled expression on his face as Erestor took him through his lines for the play again.


His pleas to be given a reprieve from such an honor had fallen on deaf ears. Who better to play the young Oak king than the son of the King of the Great Wood, whose name in Westron meant `green leaf,' Erestor had told him; and what was more what better way was there to show their appreciation to Mistress Adanel for all she had done for them and the prince in particular.


He had hoped that he would be able to talk his way out of the performance but that hope had gone glimmering when he saw Mistress Adanel's face when Erestor told her of his idea. The woman's eyes had filled with tears of joy at the thought of seeing the play again and performed by the son of the elven king himself.


She bustled into the parlor carrying a tray and smiled as she heard Legolas reciting the words of the old play.


"I will just take this up to Lord Glorfindel and then I will bring in your tea. I have found the costume my son used to wear." She held up a cloak covered with green and brown ribbons and a green tabard. Legolas's nose twitched at the smell that emanated from the old clothes.


 "I could soon adjust it so that it fits the prince." She laid the costume across the back of the chair and went on up the stairs unaware of the consternation she had left behind her.


"Ressor," blue eyes pleaded with the advisor. "I can't … Please."


"Hush, now, leave it to me," Erestor soothed, listening as the stairs creaked telling him that the landlady was on her way back down.


"Mistress Adanel, this is a lovely old costume which must hold many memories for you; I would not want to see it spoiled by having to alter it to fit the prince, honored though he would be to wear it. I believe that Legolas may have clothes of his own that will do quite well."


Both Adanel and Legolas sighed with relief at his words; it was the woman who spoke first however.


"If you think that is best My Lord. I admit that I was loathe to change my son's costume too much but he is much taller and broader than the prince is and I would have done it with pleasure if needed. There is still the wreath of oak leaves to be made of course."


"Do not concern yourself with that Mistress. I know just where to find such a wreath. I think you will not be disappointed with the results."


Adanel beamed. "I will leave it all in your capable hands My lord.  Would you like some hot cider and biscuits young prince?"


Breathing a sigh of relief at the advisors quick thinking Legolas hopped down from the window ledge where he had been sitting and followed the woman into the kitchen, throwing a look of gratitude towards Erestor as he did so. At least he had been spared the ignominy of wearing that costume and if it kept on snowing perhaps there would be no one there to see his performance either.


Of course it did not keep snowing and by the time the Yule Log had been brought in and the inn decorated with all the greenery that had been collected earlier a surprisingly large number of villagers had made their way to the Blue Boar for the evening's promised entertainment.


As Legolas reluctantly donned his `costume', Glorfindel carried on his argument with Erestor and the healer.


"I do not care what you two think. I am not going to miss this evening's celebration," Glorfindel declared defiantly. "Belioanios and Simbalyion can help me and I promise to rest my leg once I get there, but I refuse to sit above stairs eating a lonely dinner while everyone else is making merry downstairs. There are only two books left for me to read and if you think, I will spend the night perusing the Agricultural Progression of the Rohirric people or The Logistics of Dwarven Mining Techniques you are very much mistaken. It is Yule and we should all be together.  I want to see the lighting of the Yule log at midnight and tell me who else pray is capable of leading the singing of our hymn to Illuvator afterwards, unless you wish to do it Mellon nin."


Erestor had no such desire; things would go much better he knew with the flamboyant Glorfindel in charge. First, however he had to rectify the erroneous belief of his friend over his choice of reading matter. Dark hair was tossed over a shoulder while the glare he gave his friend was sufficiently quelling as to quiet even the ebullient Vanyar.


"I will have you know Glorfindel of Gondolin that those are not `my' books. They were requested by Thranduil's librarian and are nothing to do with me."


Glorfindel obligingly begged pardon for his error, there had he said been no insult intended and then asked for a second time if Erestor was going to lead the elven singing.


"No" the counselor told him suitably appeased by the apology "you have the much better voice and the much bigger ego. You may lead our part in the festivities but only if you allow Simbalyion to carry you down the stairs and you put no weight on your leg."


A compromise being reached the three elves made their way down to the kitchens where Master Bladorthin and Mistress Adanel awaited.


Adanel clapped her hands in delight as she caught her first glimpse of the trio.  All of them had donned formal clothing for the occasion; Glorfindel in yellow and green Erestor in the deep blue of Imladris and Legolas in the colors of his homeland, a long cloak of deep green velvet lined with brown brocade covering his costume for the play.  They looked magnificent


"Well I never" Bladorthin whistled.


Adanel ran forward, looked upwards to where the kissing ring was hung and proceeded to kiss a blushing Legolas soundly, much to the amusement of everyone else and to the elven prince's mortification.


Despite his nerves at having to perform in the play Legolas enjoyed the evening immensely, he had he realized learned a great deal in the short time he had been in Taur-Fennas.  He had not appreciated until now how many customs and traditions the elves and men shared or what a hard life many men led. While he would have sooner spent Yule with his Ada he knew his experiences at the Blue Boar would stand him in good stead in his dealings with the second born and that he would not underestimate their strengths again.


The Yule feast was as sumptuous as Mistress Adanel could contrive.  A boar had been brought down by the elves and this formed the centerpiece of the food on offer. There was also a large bowl of punch made from ale, wine, and cider with fruits and spices added. Before the feast began, Erestor had been asked to make the traditional toast of 'Wassail', meaning "to your health," which everyone, elves and men had returned.  There was singing, first from the villagers and then from their elven visitors and much laughter.


Once the feast was over the tables were pulled back and the Yule log carried in to be put in a place of honor before the hearth, where it would be lit at the end of the night.  Then much to Legolas's chagrin, it was time for the play to begin.


Glorfindel read the story that told of the annual battle between the dark and the light. Bladorthin swaggered and scowled at the audience, the villagers and elves' joining together to issue boos and hisses as he threatened to keep the land in darkness forever.


Then Legolas appeared, the cloak he had been wearing earlier now thrown back to reveal his costume and the audience as one gave a gasp of appreciation.


The prince was dressed in dark green velvet leggings and soft brown boots. A light green silk shirt covered by a velvet tunic embroidered in Mithril and gold was fastened at the waist by a gold belt which held a short, jeweled sword and on his fair hair he wore his Mithril circlet made up of oak and beech leaves and tiny acorns.


He challenged the Holly King and they then battled with each other as the audience cheered their hero and booed the villain. Eventually of course light overcame darkness and with much over acting Bladorthin was slain and the Oak King crowned as the king for the New Year.


Amid the cheering and laughter only Glorfindel and Erestor heard the sounds of many horses approaching they exchanged looks but said nothing for they recognized they were elven horses and therefore no risk to the people assembled at the Blue Boar.


It was just before midnight, all of the lamps were doused, and the old fire put out. Only the torch Legolas held gave light in the now silent room.  The elves sang an invocation to the sun and Legolas moved forward to light the Yule Log. As the flames took hold, someone called out for him to make a wish.


He bowed his head and thought of home, of his father lighting the Yule log in the stronghold, wishing he could feel his Ada's strong arms around him hearing him saying Joyous Yule. Tears stung his eyes and he turned to wipe them away.


The opening of a door caused the flames to flicker uncertainly and there was a collective gasp as the villagers realized they were no longer alone. One of the womenfolk screamed but Erestor and Glorfindel laughed out loud, as they saw who had entered.


Light streamed in from the entranceway and there silhouetted against the dark of the longest night stood an elf, tall, broad shouldered, fair as only the first born could be, everyone felt the aura of power and authority that flowed from him and saw if only briefly  the mantle of pure light that surrounded him. A heavy woolen cape hood lined with sable was flung back, golden hair sprinkled with snow was revealed, as was the broad smile on the elf's face as he saw the youngster standing by the hearth.


 As the lanterns were re-lit, Legolas regained mastery of his emotions and turned towards the doorway, wondering what was causing all the excitement; then his eyes lit up and he flew forward throwing himself into the waiting elf's arms.


 "Ada."


 Thranduil held him close "Joyous Yule, my Leafling."


 As his son buried his face into his shoulder, he heard him whisper, "It is now Ada, it is now!"


 


The End


 


And a Very Happy Yule to everyone else to, may your Yule wishes come true!!


 


 




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