Chpater 3: Of Laundry and Lunch
The group of three elves and one manling entered the laundry room. The head of every servant snapped around to stare at them. There gazes were drawn to Estel atop Elladan’s shoulders. Bolts of panic appeared in every pair of eyes, but a moment later they disappeared into smiles followed by slight bows and curtsies. Then the servants turned back to their work. Elrohir sighed and gestured toward the hands of the elves and elleth scrubbing linens and pieces of clothing against washboards.
“This is the laundry room. It is directly off of the Healing Wing so bloodied and otherwise soiled linens from there can be immediately cleansed.” Elrohir paused, trying to think of something else to say about the place. He had never led a tour through it before. “Sometimes sheets, bandages, and Healing Ward sleeping-shirts are rinsed in water with a splash of Athelas extract added to give extra comfort to patients. Other pleasant scents are used in the washing of all the laundry brought here, both that of us who live here and that of our guests.”
Elladan raised his eyebrows. Well done brother. You almost made it sound interesting.
Elrohir was so used to hearing Elladan’s voice in his head he did not even glance in his twin's direction before replying. I would like to hear you say something even more interesting about it, brother.
Elladan grinned. Not a chance. He looked up at the manling on his shoulders. “Is there anything here you would like to get a closer look at, Estel?”
The servants looked more relieved than disappointed, particularly the ones working with boiling water. A grin spread over Legolas' face. “You know, I am feeling a little hungry. Does this tour ever go through the household kitchens?”
Estel’s head and hand shot up. “I want to go to the kitchen!”
Elladan flinched, but his grin did not disappear. Elrohir arched an eyebrow at the manling. “Is that the proper way to ask, Estel?”
The boy took a deep breath. “Can we please go to the kitchen next, Elhir? I mean tour guide.”
Elrohir smiled and began walking toward a door. “Right this way.”
Mellolaes had decided doing laundry indoors was dismal. Like most Silvans, she normally did hers outdoors. There, in the opinion of most of her people, everything was more fun.
Silvans wore greens and browns, so stains were not a tragedy to them. Even blood stains turn brown when they dry. A smudge of brown on green or green on brown aided the overall camouflage effect so important to Green Elves. For them, doing laundry usually consisted of collecting a few bucketfuls of river or rain water, pouring them into a washbasin, intense scrubbing of cloth against washboard, hanging the soaked garments on a line to dry, and dumping the water along the trunk of a nearby tree. This always did the tree good. Not a terribly pleasant chore, but not a depressing one either, usually.
Now though, Mellolaes was in a closed-in room with a tub of hot water and a washing board alternating washing basketfuls of dirty laundry from the general palace populace with bloody bandages from the healing ward. Even when the water was cooled enough to do so, she would not be going outside to dump the dirty water over the roots of a grateful tree. Adding to the overly-warm atmosphere and claustrophobia were the two dozen other elves and elleth performing the same chore. They were so close, Mellolaes felt water droplets hitting her from every direction.
She said nothing. She was doing the same thing to them. Nithrestil peeked in. The Sindar spied the flushed red face, dropping head, and glazed eyes of her friend, and went to speak with someone of high position.
“And here is the household kitchen!”
Every servant in the room turned in despair. The small hope they had cherished of being left out of Estel’s tour died. They did not try to hide their feelings as much as the other servants had. The sons of their lord and Mirkwood’s King would surely understand considering their last encounter with the manling.
Estel either did not notice or did not care. He was straining his little spine as straight as it could stretch. Instead of widening his eyes though, he was widening his nostrils with long, deep breaths.
The head cook bowed to the newcomers. All the other elves and elleth in the kitchen followed his example. When he had straightened, the elf addressed their visitors. “Is there anything I can do for you Elrondions and Thranduilion?”
Elrohir nodded. “Elladan and I are conducting a tour. We have dropped by your excellent abode to show it off to our honored guests.”
Estel giggled. The other two elves in the tour smiled. The head cook bowed again. “My staff and I were wondering if, after a brief walk through and explanation of our facilities, the members of your tour would enjoy taking some provisions outdoors in order to better enjoy the day with a picnic.”
Elrohir looked to the other members of the tour. He did not need to ask Legolas. The Silvan never passed up an opportunity to be outdoors. Elladan nodded at him, so that left only their youngest brother. Estel was already waving his arms up and down.
Elrohir turned and nodded toward the head cook. “That sounds like an excellent plan.”
The servants dashed about gathering the basket, a dish of fresh greens, containers of salad ingredients, bottles of juice and sparkling cold water, rolls, and jars of butter and three different varieties of jam. Elrohir went through the kitchen pointing out various things and explaining them. Estel tried to pay attention, but kept glancing toward the basket being filled. Within minutes, the tour moved out through the door to the garden and the kitchen staff gave a long, deep, collective sigh of relief.
Ahhhhhh . . . this was better. Mellolaes threw two handfuls of rinsed greens into each of the bowls lining the length of the table twenty paces long. Behind her was a row of other elleths following behind to add a handful or so of whatever they were carrying into the same bowls.
This, Mellolaes contemplated, was another of the businesses of life and healing. Feeding others had always been one of her favorite activities.When she got to the end of the table she strode back to the opposite end, picked two finished bowls up, and carried them out to the dining room. There she sat and was joined by Nithrestil and Collas. The elven warrior grinned. “How goes the punishment?”
Mellolaes looked to Nithrestil. “Better now, thanks to a friend.” Nithrestil smiled back and gave the Silvan elleth’s hand a squeeze under the table.
Collas nodded and took another bite of the salad. “If this is the salad we get when you are in the kitchen, we will have to get you in trouble more often. Ow!”
Mellolaes removed the nails of her forefinger and thumb from Collas’ wrist. Nithrestil giggled. Collas glanced at the area of pinched skin, noted there was no blood, and gave both elleth a mock scowl before digging back into his salad.
The mid-day meal could not last forever. Neither can doing dishes and general clean up, particularly when the palace’s kitchen staff was as flushed as its healing ward and laundry staff. So, Mellolaes found herself going to the household steward for another task.
“So, the search goes that poorly?”
Elrond poured himself a glass of wine. He and Erestor had joined the the tour members’ picnic. After most of the eating was finished, Legolas had taken Estel off to stare at plants and insects leaving the twins free to discuss the current results of their plan with their father and the household steward. Elrohir grimaced. “I am afraid so Adar.”
Elladan stabbed a piece of cheese with his fork. “The servants are terrified of him.”
Elrohir looked back to their father. “I believe they are more terrified of what you would do to them if they failed him.”
Erestor snorted. Elrond sighed. He stared into the contents of his wine glass and swirled them. “Continue the tour for now. Erestor and I will contemplate other measures we can take if it fails to provide the results we desire.”
Elladan also sighed while lifting the piece of cheese to his mouth. “If it’s any consolation, Estel seems to be having fun.”
A shout made the brothers turn and their elders look up. “Adda! Adda! Leglas and I found the biggest slug ever! Come see!”
As Elrond left the picnic area and his wine glass to go “see,” Erestor continued the conversation with the twins. “Where is the tour headed next?”
“Do not let Estel take the slug with him.”