The Prancing Pony by mid evening was dim, noisy and redolent of pipeweed and ale. It was filled to overflowing with Men and Hobbits, most of whom had reached the stage of inebriation characterised by song, declarations of eternal friendship and loud, pointless jokes. In one corner two cloaked figures sat nursing pint mugs of ale, the similarity of their fair faces and smooth, dark hair making plain their kinship. Clearly they were not residents of Bree, in fact they had been the subject of much hurriedly-hushed speculations, although no one felt inclined to intrude upon their privacy.
“Well, the beer’s not bad.”
“Bit of an aftertaste. I think I prefer the brew they make in Rohan.”
A sigh. “Look, all I’m asking is that you keep an open mind like you promised.”
“I am, I am. Just – not very partial to ale, I think. Now a good wine…”
“Yes, well, being mortal wouldn’t immediately turn you into a beer drinker, Dan. And we don’t have to visit taverns like this one, either. We’ll be living in Gondor eventually I suppose, once there’s nothing more for us to do at home.”
“I don’t even like Gondor…”
Exasperation. “You know you didn’t mind it last visit. It was just a very busy time with the wedding and all…”
“High stone walls, narrow, winding streets, that accent…”
“Dan, that’s not fair. There’s nothing wrong with their accent. And as for the walls – our family were cave dwellers back in Doriath, which really was just a big cave no matter how fancy you want to make it sound.”
Elladan put down his mug and unconsciously wiped foam from his mouth with the back of his hand. “Look, I agreed to come to Bree with you and see how Real Men live, unlike the Dunedain we’ve ridden with and spent time amongst. I never promised to like it. And as for living in Gondor – maybe I’m just too much like Father? He was desperate to leave by the end of the second day. Glorfindel had his work cut out finding interesting places for him to visit.”
“I could comment on the form the distraction probably took, but I know how sensitive you are on the subject of Father and Glory,” his brother offered, and for his trouble was kicked under the table they shared, hard.
“Point is, Roh, if this is how you intend to convince me we should stay here, not sail to deadly dull, boring, conservative Valinor with Father, this might not have been the way to go about it.”
“Well, start small I say. What’s wrong with this anyway? Good company, bright firelight, pretty girls…”
“…bawdy songs, Men losing their dinner in corners – see, he didn’t make it to the door – and how about that one over there? He tried to put his hand down the serving girl’s blouse and just got his face slapped for his trouble – nice work on her part, of course.”
They drank in silence for a few minutes, Elrohir trying to hide his involuntarily grimace at the bitter taste of the ale. Finally, Elrond of Rivendell’s eldest son reached across the table to place his hands on his brother’s shoulders and, leaning forward so that their foreheads were almost touching, looked into his twin’s eyes and said very firmly, “Brother, I love you dearly. There are few things I would not do for you. But to take Arwen’s choice and accept mortality? Lets be realistic. Look around you. Do you honestly want to end up like this?”
He sat back and returned his attention to his mug. The ale wasn’t actually all that bad, but under the circumstances he was hardly going to admit this.
After a last look around, Elrohir sighed. “All right, I’ll book us places on the Ultimately Last Ship as grandfather has taken to calling it. But before we leave,” he added, raising his voice to be heard above the noise of crashing plates as crockery was accidentally swept off a table and onto the floor. “Before we leave, you’re coming with me back to Rohan. Now that’s a place that knows how to make beer – and how to party, too.”