Beware of the things that go bump in the privy!
There was a small group of eager elflings gathered in one of the cozy living rooms normally reserved for the royal family but tonight was all hallows eve and the king had allowed even some commoners access to the royal chambers. The elflings had walked through the entire palace begging for treats that evening and now most of them had problems following the laws of gravity due to a monstrous intake of sugary substances. Most were sticky all over from honey cakes or other sweets and their eyes were fixed upon on of the local silvan elves who was a master of telling scary tales.
In fact he mastered that art to such a degree that there would be quite a few rather annoyed or rather very angry parents that night, struggling to get their little ones into bed, and perhaps even one or two wetted beds and some nightmares. He had just told the story of how trolls used to hunt down naughty elflings and cook them and the little ones were gasping with horror and delight and he had imitated the gruff voice of a nasty troll, it made the young ones squeal and try to hide behind one another.
At the back of the room two young ellyn sat in a comfortable armchair each, both with a glass of wine and they listened to the tales with a smirk upon their faces. Their identical faces sometimes made others confused and made many believe they were seeing double. This was entertaining to a certain degree, they had spent a whole month in the great Greenwood while their father was negotiating some sort of trading treaty with the king and it was exciting seeing new places but now they were getting a bit bored. They spent some time with the king's very young son but he was just an elfling and they didn't want to become baby sitters. After all, they were already come of age and experienced warriors.
The silvan got up and raised his arms. " And thus this evening ends little ones, no more tales, now, go back to your parents and straight to bed!"
There was a small outburst of protests and the silvan grinned. It was the same every year, the kids loved the macabre stories and always wanted more. He sighed. " It is getting late, it is way past bedtime!"
The prince sat among the other kids, huge blue eyes were staring at the dark haired silvan, and they were pleading with him. " Please, just one more? A small one!"
The silvan held his hands out. " No, I am out of stories, sorry!"
The elflings all pouted. " That is not true, you know more stories, I am sure you do!"
The silvan shook his head. " No, those stories are not suitable for young minds like yours, they are for adults only. So rush off to bed!"
There was a loud sound of wailing coming from the group and Elladan couldn't help it, he got up and walked over. " Children, I know a scary tale, from Imladris. Do you want to hear it?"
The elflings all jumped up and down, eyes shining and mouths grinning. Elrohir sighed and rolled his eyes, his brother's scary tales was normally the kind that would make a balrog wet its bed, if it had any, and he had no idea of what it might do to a bunch of little ones. "Yes, oh yes, tell us, tell us!"
Elladan smirked and sat down again, the elflings gathered around him and the silvan looked a bit annoyed, he was afraid the peredhel would scare the living daylights out of the fragile young minds. But it wasn't his business if the son of Elrond received some scolding afterwards, he just left and Elrohir joined him, he had heard Elladan's stories before and they usually became rather grotesque after a while.
Elladan tok a small sip of his wine and started. " A long long time ago there as this very lovely elleth who lived in Imladris, and she was courted by two handsome ellyn."
The kids were listening and Legolas blinked. " Was she pretty?"
Elladan tried not to be annoyed by the interruption. " Of course she was, with long silky blond hair and blue eyes. "
Legolas tilted his head. " I thought all noldor were dark?"
Elladan rolled his eyes. " She was …a teleri, yes, a teleri. Shall I go on?"
Everybody nodded. " Yes, please!"
The elflings went quiet again and Elladan took a deep breath. " Now, the two ellyn who were trying to woo her both wanted to be her husband, and they both were going to fight really hard to have the honor of asking for her hand."
One of the other elflings pouted. " Why do they say that? Asking for her hand? Don't they want the whole elleth? What is so special about hands, everybody has got them right? Although I once did hear ada tell his best friend that nana is great at doing hand jobs but I have no idea of what that is, could you tell me? Please?"
Elladan scoffed and had to fight his need to blush, elflings! "I think you'd better ask your nana about that little one, let me continue please?"
The small ones looked at him with anticipation and he took another sip of wine and started telling again. " One of these ellyn, let us call him…Calaron, was very jealous and he didn't like the idea of seeing the elleth being wooed by someone else. And he came up with a devious plan, a most terrible and horrible plan."
The elflings were leaning forward, eyes filled with tension and suspense and he enjoyed the moment. The firewood in the heart crackled and the mood was such a great one. Everybody warm and comfortable and relaxed, it was great. "He knew that his rival enjoyed a little wine every now and then, and so he sneaked into his chambers and added some strong sleeping medicine to his wine."
The elflings gasped and blinked and Elladan lowered his again voice, made it creepy and hoarse, the small ones were wide eyed and their concentration absolute. He had captured his audience for sure. "When his rival was sound asleep he carried him to the bathroom and held his head under water in the tub until he drowned."
The elflings all gasped and Legolas looked a bit pale. Elladan continued in a very creepy voice. " And then, so that nobody would discover what he had done, he dumped the body down the privy for he knew that nobody would go looking for someone in that filth"
The elflings grimaced, as one. " EEEWWWW"
Elladan grinned to himself. " And then he went ahead and married the elleth and thought that this was the end of it, but it wasn't…"
Everybody was silent, staring at him in anticipation of what would come next. "The dead ellon's soul refused to leave for the halls, he wanted vengeance and so he stayed there, in the privy, waiting for the right moment to strike"
The elflings had an expression of fifty percent disgust and fifty percent fascination, what would happen now?
Elladan took a sip of his wine, his eyes narrow and his voice low and foreboding. " And then, one day when the murderer came to the privy to do his business the ghost grabbed him and pulled him down and drowned him in the shit"
The elflings became green, and some coughed and looked as if they were about to retch. "But the elleth had lost both her friend and her husband and in her grief she too drowned herself in the river. But she could feel that the spirit of her friend was still there so she was forever searching for him but since he too was guilty of murder she was unable to see him. And so she is often seen wandering the halls, dressed in a soaking wet coat, covered in silt and mud and water plants, moaning his name."
The elflings had goosebumps, some were close to tears. " But the worst part, oh the worst part is that the ghost of her friend continued to haunt the privy, because he didn't feel that it was fair to be denied entrance to the halls and to this day on, everybody who enters a privy could be taken and dragged down to a…sticky end"
One of the elflings puked, very loudly. " But the privy holes are so small? How can anyone fit down such a small opening?"
The elfling asking was a little elleth, with blonde hair and a sweet face that was rather pale. "The privy ghost is so very strong, you see, if the person is too large he will just pull the skin and meat down, and the skeleton will be left up there, all bloody and gory"
The little elleth fainted and more elflings puked. All were green like a spring forest by now. "And the ghost can appear everywhere where there is a privy, remember that!"
He kept his low creepy voice and chuckled within, this ought to be interesting. "Everywhere?!Even here!?"
Elladan nodded solemnly. "Indeed, and here you have such a huge sewer system , I am sure this is one of the ghost's favorite sites!"
Some elflings were weeping and others looked positively horrified. "But….but…isn't there anything you can do to chase the ghost away?"
A tiny voice was whispering the question and Elladan grinned. " Well of course there is something you can do, if you drop a burning candle down the privy the ghost has to run away for it is afraid of fire"
The elflings looked as if he had told them a very important secret and Elladan got back onto his feet and smiled. " And now it is indeed bedtime, go now and remember, always check the privy before you sit down. It might save your life!"
The elflings got up and ran, seeking the comforting arms of their parents. This was way worse than any story they had ever heard and Elladan did pity the servants who had to clean the room, there were some impressive pools of puke there.
That night the servants suddenly had a rush of elves asking for chamber pots, their children refused to use the privy and there were a lot of nightmares and a lot of upset stomachs and even more upset parents. The next day Elrond had a private conversation with his son and it was apparently rather unpleasant for Elladan was pale when he left the chambers and he wasn't allowed to sit by the dinner table for a week but had to stay with the servants.
The palace of great greenwood was immense, and there were thousands of elves living within it and so there had to be a very efficient system for the removal of waste. The apartments had their own privies and there were public ones with booths and at least six seats almost everywhere. And all of these were connected by a system of carefully drilled holes through the rock that took the waste down into a rather large pipe that was tilted downwards at an angle. When the waste finally reached daylight it had turned to compost and dirt and the gardeners used it as fertilizer. The system had worked well for ages, the holes through the rock were extremely smooth so nothing got stuck and the servants would pour a mixture of water and crushed limestone and tree bark down the holes every now and then to avoid any problems with smell.
But now a problem had occurred. The elves within lower parts of the palace complained about a very unpleasant smell and two servants had pulled the short straw and had to inspect the sewer system. Apparently the waste wasn't slowly seeping away as it should but had gotten stuck. There were inspection hatches everywhere and they were very solid. The two ellyn were struggling to get one open and they both wore scarfs covering their mouth and nose and yet the stench brought tears to their eyes. It was indeed clogged, where the main pipes leading from everywhere within the palace met a huge blockage had formed. Someone had obviously thrown something down the privy that wasn't supposed to be there. That had happened before, and it would probably happen again.
The two stared at each other, disgust shining in their eyes. " So, do we take a shovel each or do we try something else first?"
The other servants stared at the problem with narrow eyes. It looked huge, and stank to high heavens. " We try something else"
When the sewer system had been built they had of course thought of such things, and a way to solve the problem in a safe manner. A huge cistern had been constructed just above the top level of the palace and it collected rainwater. It was connected to the sewer with a rather huge pipe and it ought to be able to flush the entire system rather efficiently since the height difference was several hundred meters. They had never needed to use it before but these two servants didn't want to get their hand dirty quite literally. They closed the hatch and went up to the cistern, it was huge and the hatch hadn't been opened for at least a millennia so it was rather stuck. At last they managed to get it up and stared down into the vast room. It was almost completely full of water, but the water wasn't clean. It was green and gooey and it stank. It did look quite a lot like pea soup with added algae and sea weed " EEWW, stagnant water, how delicate"
The other ellon just shrugged. " Does it matter? It will be going down the sewer anyhow, help me pull out the plug!"
The cistern could be emptied by pulling out a massive plug and the two grasped the chain and pulled with all their might and the plug slid out of the hole with an almost obscene slurping sound. They placed the plug beside the hatch and closed it and smiled at each other. If several thousand gallons of water didn't dislodge the blockage then nothing would!
They were to be disappointed, very disappointed. The blockage acted like a dam, and now the bottom half of the sewer system was filled with a horrible mixture of waste, and rotten water. The smell was unbelievable, it would have made Morgoth come crawling on his knees begging to be cast into the void, it would have made a balrog puke its guts out or made a dragon pass out.
In the royal chambers everything was quiet just for once. Since the little tale Elladan had told the elflings Thranduil had to fight with his son every time the little prince was to do his business. He refused to use the privy and was bawling with fear if his father tried to force him. So the little one had been using a chamber pot and Galion had to empty the pot every morning. He had gotten used to the different tasks his job presented him with, both the pleasant and the unpleasant ones but the amount of sugar the prince had ingested had upset his stomach to such a degree that Galion had to put a clothespin on his nose when he went to remove the pot. If this continued they would ask the healers for some coal or grounded up oak bark to get the elfling's bowels back to normal condition.
This morning Thranduil was occupying the privy, the negotiations with Elrond were fierce and the king was stressed. And as normal, when he was stressed it affected his stomach. He got constipated! And that to such a degree that he usually got stuck in there for a couple of hours, moaning and groaning like a cow in labor. He was too darn proud to ask for help and so he suffered in secret and only Galion knew of his problem.
The butler heard that the privy was occupied and sighed, right, there was a public one not far from the royal chambers and he carried the chamber pot held as far away from his body as possible. The public privy was a nice one, with running water and nice booths and huge piles of compressed moss used for wiping oneself clean. He was proud of the palace, no such luxury existed within the palaces of the edain, there people did their business behind the doors!
As Galion was about to get rid of the contents of the chamber pot Legolas was walking with Elladan through the vast underground realm. Elrohir was busy reading and Elladan had agreed to keep an eye on the princeling for a while, just so that everybody else could find some peace and quiet. The young elf was terribly curious about the world outside of the forest and Elladan had to explain a lot to him. Now the two decided to sit down for a while as Elladan explained the events of the battle of Dagorlad and the peredhel was sighing and feeling a bit bored. That elfling could ask more questions than an army of wise and ancient ones would be able to answer.
Suddenly he did notice that the elfling was squirming a bit and looked uncomfortable. " What is it?"
Legolas pouted. " Nothing!"
Elladan tilted his head. " Oh, it is not nothing, I can see that for sure, come on, I am your friend remember?"
Legolas stared down. " I…I need to wee!"
The son of Elrond frowned. " Yes, there is a privy just over there?"
The princeling bit his lower lip. " I am afraid of the ghost…"
Elladan moaned, yes, his sin was coming back to haunt him after all, right!
"Remember? If you drop a candle down the privy no ghost can harm you?"
Legolas lifted his head. "Yes, now I remember!"
Elladan got up and went over to a huge metal container standing by the wall, several huge candles were lit there and he grasped one and pried it loose, handed it over to the prince. "Here you go, just toss that down the hole and you will be safe"
Legolas beamed, he grasped the candle and ran, his ada hadn't let him do that and now he was curious about what would happen to the candle, maybe the ghost would eat it?
He ran into the privy, nobody was there so he lifted the lid of the hole and hesitated for a second before he let the burning candle drop into the dark. He put the lid back on just to be sure that the ghost didn't come out of the privy that way. He was about to get his pants out of the way when there was a weird rumbling noise and some terrible gargling ones too and he lost it. The ghost! It was coming for him! He ran out of the privy so fast his hair was flying behind him and straight into Elladan's long legs. He grasped onto them and whimpered. "The ghost, it is really down there!"
Elladan had heard the strange sounds too and he got worried, some instinct warned him of danger and he grasped the elfling and ran, not a second too soon. Suddenly the entire palace seemed to shake in its foundations, and the privy door flew open and a flood of stinking fluid burst forth. Elladan gasped, the stench was terrible and Legolas started wailing, utterly terrified. Elladan ran up towards the royal chambers, he had to get the elfling to safety before this was investigated. From the entire palace screams and calls were heard and a godawful smell spread like wildfire.
Galion had just emptied the chamberpot when he heard a strange noise and he leaned forth and stared down the hole. It was something he was about to regret! He was hit by a beam of viscous matter that covered him entirely within a few seconds. Galion lost it, completely! He was a very cleanly person dedicated to hygiene and now he was covered in the most unimaginable filth. He dropped the pot and ran, in sheer panic.
The candle had of course ignited a pocket of methane gas produced by the rotten water and the explosion did unclog the sewer in a most spectacular way. A geyser of gooey matter shot out of the hillside and rained down over the gardens underneath and not a few unsuspecting gardeners too. Inside of the palace some of the force of the explosion naturally went upwards and the heavy more solid matter went straight up the thick pipes heading towards the public privies. The private chambers had smaller privies that didn't need to be able to deal with such amounts and the pipes weren't that big. The more liquid stuff went in that direction and since the water from the cistern had lain on top of everything else it went straight up. Towards the royal chambers!
Thranduil had been sitting there minding his own business, reading a little and trying to relax enough to get things started. He had just decided that this was futile and that the healer would receive a royal visitor that very day when there was a sound like a strong wind and he lifted his head and frowned. Then it hit him, an attack quite literally from the back. He was lifted off the seat and drenched in the pea soup thick water filled with algae and moss and things that just could be described as stuff. Within seconds he was completely drenched and in blind panic he just pulled his breeches up and ran.
Elladan and Legolas were running towards the royal wing of the palace, everywhere elves were scurrying around, terrified and nauseous and utterly confused. There was sewage water everywhere and some guards had enough common sense to order that every gate was to be opened and the place evacuated. The peredhel ran into the corridor leading towards the king's chambers and stopped, staring with wide eyes. A terrible apparition came waddling towards them, a shape covered with things nobody were even able to describe, stinking and moaning and the shape was like that of an elf but otherwise it could be just about anything. And from the other direction another ghoul came staggering, wet and green with long hair with algae and sea weed in it. Legolas screamed, wailed from the top of his lungs. "The ghosts!"
Then he fainted and Elladan just stared too for a few seconds before his lights too went out. He had seen a lot in his life but this? This he had not been ready for! Luckily he fell backwards and Legolas landed on top of him and that was where Elrond and Elrohir found him. They came running just as Elladan toppled over and stopped, staring at the two ghoulish figures that actually crashed into each other since both had their eyes closed. There was a splash and a lot of very wet sounds and the two collapsed into a heap of soiled robes, stinking water and desperate elves trying to escape. Both were gasping for air and clawing at each other, trying to get back up but since both were slick with slimy goo they just fell back onto the slick floor. It looked like a wrestling match from hell!
Elrohir wetted his lips, he didn't know where it came from but it just burst forth. " I…I guess the two ghosts did find each other then, after all. How romantic!"
Elrond shot his son a glare that could have frozen the great sea, then he got busy trying to help everybody.
It took weeks to clean the palace and everybody had to live outdoors until it was done. The servants had never encountered anything like this and they were often desperate since so much had to be burned or thrown away. The lower levels where the worst and so they started at the top and cleaned their way downwards. When the palace finally was back to normal it was almost time to celebrate yule and the celebration that year became a rather muted one. Thranduil and Galion spent three days bathing after this, scrubbing and rubbing and using several gallons of soap and shampoo. They were red like lobsters for days afterwards and Galion was so mortified and traumatized he did cut his hair! And he didn't eat for a month and became so skinny Thranduil had him fed with the fattiest food they had, which he utterly loathed. Legolas was terrified of the privies for years to come and he never fully overcame that fear. Even when he was travelling with the fellowship he preferred doing his business out in the bushes even when they were in Lothlorien and Edoras, much to the amusement of the others.
Elladan was never allowed to forget what his little fairy tale had caused of mayhem and Elrond was beside himself with shame and sent a huge amount of gems to the king to compensate for the damage. Thranduil did willingly and gleefully accept it all. Elrohir laughed until he almost developed a hernia and teased his brother mercilessly for centuries to come. But one positive thing did come from it all, the shock had cured Thranduil's constipation, once and for all!
-I wrote this story because of Halloween and I sort of got the idea because someone mentioned a Halloween story and it just dropped into my head while I was hanging clothes onto the drying rack…Yep, domestic chores gives me ideas too.
One of the ideas behind this I got from reading history, back in the old castles the privies were hanging on the outside of the walls but earlier on everything ended up in the basement and there was one incident where the vapors and gases from all the gathered feces and urine made the floors give in and everybody in the great hall of that castle fell into the basement during a wedding or something and many drowned. That has got to be the most horrible way to go ever! Drowning in shit! And the idea for the design of the palace sewer system I got from one of Jael's stories. There can be methane gas produced by sewers and that is explosive indeed. That idea I took from one of my own novels where the characters go looking for a lost cistern and when they find it they drop a torch into it and cause a huge explosion.