The Strange Conversation Habits

This story is based on my latest Panera experience, and dedicated to the group of young college guys who were unaware I listened to every word.

The Strange Conversation Habits of Ellyn

By Nieriel Raina

Arwen sighed contentedly as her fingers worked the needle in and out of the material held in the wooden frame upon her lap. Lothlórien was much more peaceful than Imladris. Here, one could truly think while she worked, without the bustle typical in her home. She knew the activity was no less here than in the Last Homely House, but because her grandparent's realm exceeded the small valley her father protected, there were less people around, more space, rooms actually filled with silence….

A shout of laughter broke her reverie, and she lifted her head from her needlework, frowning at the group of males across the room. Their voices drifted to her in hushed whispers, accentuated from time to time with a louder comment, and then drifting back to typical conversational levels.

She shook her head and considered next time visiting without her family. She loved her brothers and the many close members of their household, but she had hoped for some time to think, to ponder life in general, and her life in particular. Having reached her majority the previous spring, Arwen felt it was time to come to know herself and her own mind.

A loud snort, followed by guffaws and back slapping interrupted her thoughts again. Confused, she began to pay more attention to the goings on across the room from her.

It had begun when Elladan, Elrohir, and Glorfindel had entered the room and gathered in chairs around a table. They had seemed to be discussing something serious at that time in low voices. Their conversation had been a steady and even comforting hum in the background as she worked. Indeed, if it had been completely silent, Arwen doubted she could concentrate, so used was she to some noise other than the rustle of leaves in the mallryn trees.

But now… Arwen's eyes darted from one male to another. Over the course of the last hour, Erestor and then the three Galadhren brothers, Haldir, Rúmil and Orophin, had joined the threesome. Rúmil and Orophin had pulled up chairs and the conversation had taken a turn from serious to jovial. Haldir leaned over his brothers, smiling and joining in the discussion, often with animated hand gestures. Across the table, Erestor took a similar stance, only he leaned his hands on the table between Glorfindel and Elrohir.

As she watched, the group laughed, Elladan throwing back his head, Elrohir holding his belly and the rest chuckling while Erestor turned red in the face, stepping back with a frown. Then in the next moment, Glorfindel leaned forward, tilting the chair onto the front two legs, and pointed dramatically at something she could not see on the tabletop. His voice dropped, then he sat back with a thump as the rear chair legs came down on the floor. He crossed his arms, looking quite smug. Heads shook, eyebrows raised, strange looks were exchanged.

Haldir leaned in, pounding a fist on the table as he talked. Erestor rolled his eyes and said something to Elrohir, who nodded. More whispering. Elrohir shook his head.

Arwen felt dizzy! Sweet Elbereth! What in Arda were they discussing? She jumped in her seat when Elladan reached around Orophin and swatted Haldir on the backside, earning a swat on the back of the head from Glorfindel.

Ellyn are strange, Arwen thought. Yet her curiosity got the better of her, and she gathered her work and stood, surreptitiously moving to a seat closer to the hearth (it was chilly in the room) and thus nearer to the congregated males, and listened. For fifteen minutes, she sat, catching every word, but making no sense of any of it. Now that she could understand them, there seemed to be three of four conversations going on at once.

Glorfindel and Haldir, across the table from one another, discussed battle tactics, swordplay and went over practical scenarios. Erestor glanced up and made some comment about a maneuver, then rejoined Elrohir and Rúmil's discussion about some elleth Rúmil had his eye on. Arwen's brows rose as Rúmil described coming upon the lady bathing and watching her. Arwen made a mental note not to strip completely naked anymore when she swam in the Bruinen, for apparently, from the laughing comments of Erestor and Orophin (who jumped into the discussion for a sentence or two), it was commonplace for males to spy on unclad maidens! Her cheeks heated.

"But why do they keep it secret?" Elladan asked.

Arwen blinked. Keep what secret? Were they still discussing the lady bathing?

Glorfindel shook his head. "I don't know. Tradition?" He shrugged.

She wasn't sure she wanted to know what he meant.

"But if you raise your sword to block," Elrohir answered Haldir, "you leave your left side open."

"Not if you pull your dagger," Elladan butted in.

Orophin scratched his head. "But generally, men are the ones who do the cooking. So why do the women need to bake the lembas? Do they have to do everything we do in some capacity?"

Erestor shook his head. "It's no different than those ellyn like Lindir who play instruments. Surely you don't think that's only something ellith do?" Several of the group shook their heads, though Arwen couldn't follow if they were disagreeing about making lembas or about drawing a dagger.

Rúmil sat up straight, his face paling. "NO! I haven't asked her to marry me! Are you crazy?"

Haldir leaned in and whispered something about the low neckline of some lady's dress. Arwen glanced down at her own scooped neckline, revealing just a tiny bit of cleavage. Her mouth dropped open when Glorfindel – GLORFINDEL!!! – leered and leaned in to add his own observations of female anatomy.

She'd have to alter all her gowns!

"But if you grab," Erestor said making a crude gesture, "and thrust…"

Arwen stood with a gasp, dropping her embroidery. "Why, I never!" She glared at the group, who all glanced at her with confused and surprised expressions. "You are all the most ill spoken and debauched group of ellyn I've ever seen or heard!" And with that, she stormed out of the room, furious, confused and horrified. "Naneth!" She really needed to fix her dresses immediately!

The ellyn around the table exchanged glances. Haldir crossed his arms and leaned a hip against the back of Orophin's chair. Glorfindel leaned forward resting his folded arms on the table and shaking his head. Erestor looked stunned. Elladan and Elrohir just grinned at each other, reaching across the table to touch fists in a brotherly salute. Rúmil rubbed his chin and Orophin shoved Haldir off his chair.

"What did we say?" Orophin asked.

"Who knows," Elladan replied. "Women have such delicate sensibilities."

Glorfindel chuckled. "I forgot she was in here, or I'd have been more careful in what I was saying."

Erestor shook his head. "I can't believe she thought…" He buried his red face in his hands.

Elrohir cocked his head to the side. "So why do only women cook lembas?"

The conversation resumed.


Ellon/ellyn – Sindarin. Male/males

Elleth/ellith – Sindarin. Elf-maiden/elf-maidens

Lembas – a waybread made, according to Laws and Customs, by the women according to ancient law. Male elves in general, at least among the Noldor, did most of the cooking and women were more likely to play instruments.

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