The Smudged Thoughts stadium has been filled once again, noise and bluster bubbling out over the stands and onto the large, paneled stage. It has been quite a time since the last interview was held here—quite a time since this particular room has been used at all, in fact—but it is obvious that the ceremony being held here today is one of grandeur and importance. For one thing, there is not an empty seat in the house.
For another, there is cake.
The cake and tea has not been touched yet, however—end of party things, you know—but judging by the restless shifting and murmurs sweeping their way through the room, some of our less amused guests are wishing they’d made it to the desserts table before taking their seats.
It would appear as if clocks are running a little bit behind.
“What do you mean he’s not here yet?” a voice hisses in the corner. The cameramen swing their lenses towards a hushed little huddle, where two security guards (are those wings?) try to calm a very frazzled looking girl out of a frenzy.
It doesn’t look like it’s working.
“Miss, it’s not that we haven’t tried—“
“Call him again!”
“Call him. Again.” The girl smooths out the skirt of her green and white polka-dot dress with a huff, pulling out some of the wrinkles. “And I shall calm the crowd.”
The two security guards exchange a look that clearly states they don’t believe her capable of calming a corpse, but they do as she says and bustle off, fingers tapping on tablets as they try to reach the mysterious force who hasn’t yet arrived for the party.
The girl climbs up the three steps carved into the side of the dais and grins, waving her fingers towards the stands as she plasters a smile on her face that resembles that of a very panicked Cheshire Cat. She adjusts the thin headset connected to her ear and breathes in deeply, stretching her arms out to encompass the entire room.
“Friends! Family! Most esteemed members of the fictional realms! I welcome you one and all to the sixth ever Silmaril Awards!”
A hush has entered the stadium, followed by a thin ripple of confusion that makes its way through the stands like wildfire.
“Hang on, where’s the old guy?”
“Late again, I’d say. For a very important date…”
“Never on time, nohow.”
“And contrariwise, he’s always off it.”
Kenzie’s grin slips for just a moment, but she quickly catches herself and claps her hands together, the sound reverberating through the room, catching everyone’s attention. “Ah. Yes. I see you’ve noticed our little hiccup this morni—“
“DRAGON!” The scream rents throughout the circular room, making even the punch bowl quiver on its table, and several people in the back row scream bloody murder and duck into the stands, covering their heads.
“NO NO NO,” Kenzie shouts, waving her hands as a group of archers rise out of the stands, bows nocked and at the ready. “NOT THAT KIND OF HICCUP! DON’T SHOOT! There are no dragons here! None! This is the Awards Ceremony for the Wisest Counselors, you heathens!”
Kenzie’s voice shoots through the stadium, and the archers pause for a moment, glancing down at her with skeptical eyes.
Kenzie releases the world’s heaviest breath and laughs nervously, manic energy in her eyes. “My goodness gracious, you guys really know how to tizzy yourselves up into a flurry, don’t y—?”
“NIGHT FURY!” one of the archers shrieks, and they cock their bows once more. This time, someone lights a match and sets the arrows ablaze.
“THAT IS NOT WHAT I SAID!” Kenzie shouts, but no one is listening. The archers are searching the skies, their flaming arrows ready for takeoff at the first glance of a dragon. Somewhere near the rafters, a shadow shifts. Before Kenzie can call them off, the archers shoot.
Three flame-tipped arrows speed towards the ceiling and hit their marks, torching the rafters until flames light up the wood. Kenzie’s jaw drops open, and she watches as the rafters split apart, revealing bare patches of bright blue sky above them. Fire drips down like raindrops into the awaiting crowd, and screams lace the stadium as humans and fae alike dive for cover.
Somewhere near the back of the room, a door bangs open, and twenty or so men in black suits race into the room, their backs stitched with the bright white words—FIRE SQUAD.
The Smudged Thoughts security team clearly isn’t taking any chances after last year.
The fire is dealt with swiftly, refugees returned to their seats with awkward shuffling and more than a few grumpy looks from the fire squad, and soon everyone is back in place, not a stitch out of line.
Except, of course, for the giant, gaping maw now punched into the roof of the stadium.
Kenzie stares up at the hole for a moment longer before returning her gaze once more to the gathered crowd. Her composure, it would seem, is thinning.
“Thank you,” she says through a grin that feels more like gritted teeth, “for that lovely display of showmanship. I will most certainly be reporting you to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and Civilian Safety later today. But for now, as I was saying, there are, in fact, no dragons here. This is the Awards Ceremony for Wisest Counselor, and we are gathered here today to honor the Wisest of Counselors among us. Those placed within the Top Five slots of Excellency, voted in by you—our lovely viewers.”
A wave of understanding ripples through the crowd, voices breaking through the general round of “ohhhh’s”.
“Ah. See that makes more sense. It explains the beards, at least.”
Kenzie’s eye twitches, and she folds her hands behind her back, presumably to keep from strangling anyone.
“Normally, this award is presented by none other than Gandalf the Grey, but it would seem as though our esteemed wizard is running by a very different kind of clock this morning, so I shall—“
A thunderclap storms through the room, and a sharp, blinding white flash sears the middle of the stage. Kenzie topples to the side, nearly falling headfirst off the stage before managing to catch herself. The light disappears as quickly as it came, and a second later, it has been replaced by none other than a tall, wizened old man with a long, haggard beard. His slouching gray hat is a little lopsided on his head, and he pulls it straight again as the crowd erupts in applause.
“Lovely entrance, my dear fellow! Absolutely splendid!”
“Gandalf!” Kenzie gasps. Her braids have become slightly undone by the frenzy, and they have now taken on a slight “mad-scientist” frizz. “Gandalf the Grey! You are LATE.”
Gandalf calms the crowd with a small pat of his hand, and the crowd settles in, watching the proceedings with renewed vigor. “Ah, my dear girl. A wizard is never late. Nor is he early. However, he arrives precisely when—“
“YOU ARE LATE, YOU BLASTED OLD FART!” Kenzie stomps one foot against the stage, and the sound ricochets through the room. “You are late, and you will be receiving a write-up for this! Just wait until Jenelle hears about this one, I swear… This is the last time I’m hosting this thing indoors. Blasted dragons and fires and magic happening this way and that… Last year was an absolute mess—“
“Ah, yes, well you were in the presence of a very dark wizard…”
“A dark wizard!” Kenzie scoffs. “Very dark, indeed! But you know who wasn’t late last year? You know who arrived precisely when he was supposed to?!”
Gandalf opens his mouth as if to answer, but Kenzie beats him to it.
Her shout echoes through the room for a moment, and she clenches her eyes shut, squishing her palms together as though trying to regain some semblance of control over the situation. Another deep sigh follows, and when she reopens her eyes, there is a slight—but promising!—look of acceptance there. “You know what? It’s fine. This is fine. Just… continue the ceremony, will you? I’ll be over there. By the cake. Definitely not stress eating a hole into the center of it.” Kenzie tips a hand against her head in a salute before bouncing off the stage, heading in the general direction of the desserts as her grumbles fade into the distance.
“Blasted wizards. Always disappearing and reappearing and never showing up on time. Oh, just WAIT until the others hear about this one…”
Gandalf blinks after her for a moment, but clearly does not think much of his late appearance, for he returns to the crowd with a smile crinkling the corners of his eyes and the edges of his beard. “Welcome back, dearest of friends, to the 6th Annual Silmaril Awards. Why, I remember when this award first started all those many years ago. What an honor it is to continue handing out this most coveted jewel to those worthy of receiving it.
“In my hands I hold the names of five very worthy contenders for this year’s Silmaril. These Counselors have sustained hardships and trials, good days and bad. They have led those beneath them to victory time and again, though the perils stacked against have been great. They have tutored and protected, taught and—like a very old man I know who befriended the most unexpected of hobbits—perhaps learned a little themselves along the way.” Gandalf offers up a smile, and somewhere near the middle of the crowd, someone lets out a soft “aww…”
“But enough about me. Today we are gathered to celebrate the finest among our Counselors. Those who have gone above and beyond the extra mile to counsel those who need it. These mentors have put aside their own personal gain to create a future which is better for all—a future built by the hands of a younger—sometimes wiser—generation—and today, it is my pleasure to bestow upon one lucky member of our group a Silmaril worthy of highest admiration.” With a sweep of his hand, Gandalf produces a glittering Silmaril out of thin air, letting it dangle before the awe-struck crowd, its shine brighter than that of a thousand diamonds.
A collected “oooooOOOOOOOOOOOoooh…” races through the room, and Gandalf’s eyes twinkle with the faintest of mischief before he waves his hand again, swiping the Silmaril out of sight.
“Now, now, my dear hobbits—“
No one tries to correct him.
“—I am very excited to reveal who our winner is today, but first, we must acknowledge those who did not quite reach such a bar of excellence. They are, however, very much worthy of mentioning. Celebrating, even. And who better to celebrate than a very dear old friend of mine.
“In fifth place, with 12% of the vote, we have Rayad of The Ilyon Chronicles!”
The crowd erupts in cheers as Rayad—a calm but powerful figure—climbs the short stairs set into the sides of the stage, waving one hand behind him as though to quiet the crowd which has turned into hysterics.
“It would seem as though you have quite a set of admirers, old friend,” Gandalf says through a smile, clasping Rayad’s hands firmly between his own. “You’ve been a contender for this award before, have you not?”
“Many times, Gandalf, many times,” Rayad answers. The words are quiet, but they carry across the stadium easily, laced with a soft good-naturedness. “It is an honor simply to be standing here today.”
The audience claps politely as Rayad takes his spot in the center of the stage, hands folded behind his back. He nods at the crowd, and Gandalf raises his hands for attention.
“In fourth, with 15% of votes… Nia Wingfeather from The Wingfeather Saga!“
Applause launches through the room, followed by a “get up there, lass!” as Podo—Nia’s father—practically shoves her out of her seat. Three young children laugh and cheer louder than anyone in attendance as they watch their mother climb onto the stage. Face burning, she takes Gandalf’s outstretched hand.
“Congratulations, Nia,” Gandalf says kindly, bowing her through to stand beside Rayad. “I think I can speak for all of us when I say that your wise counsel has made the lives of your three children all the greater, indeed.”
“Th-thank you…” Nia manages. Her eyes shine with pride, and when Gandalf guides her towards her spot beside Rayad, her steps are confident and sure. Her eyes, however, are scanning the crowd, and when they finally land on Janner, Tink, and Leeli, she beams.
“Very good, very good,” Gandalf calls. “With three counselors left, it is my deepest pleasure to introduce our third runner-up, with 17% of your votes, Rendar from Moonscript!”
Once more the audience implodes with applause as an ethereal figure rises from the front row. He steps onto the stage with a sophisticated sort of grace, his long, flowing locks of white-blond hair trailing out behind him. A soft smile plays at his lips as he takes Gandalf’s hand.
“Gandalf. What a pleasure to be here.”
“The pleasure is ours, Rendar, most certainly.” With a sweep of his hand, he indicates the spot beside Nia, and Rendar moves to take it, nodding as Nia and Rayad offer their congratulations.
The energy in the stadium shifts, excitement coursing through the crowd. Children and adults alike wriggle uneasily in their seats, waiting.
Expectation hangs against every breath.
Gandalf lets the excitement simmer for a moment before folding his hands against the long, knotted staff he leans on. A hushed silence falls across the crowd, and the twinkle in Gandalf’s eyes glitters even more mysteriously.
“We have come, at last, to our final two Counselors. In second place, with 18% of votes—Beana from Tales of Goldstone Wood!”
Cheers—and more than a few giggles—explode through the room as Beana bounds up onto the stage, hooves clacking against wood as she prances over to Gandalf happily. Somewhere in the audience, someone shouts, “Aw! A goat!”
Gandalf smiles down at the nanny goat as she approaches, his voice echoing across the chamber. “Congratulations, dearest Bettina. I’m sure Varvare will be most pleased to see you’ve come this—“ Gandalf’s words cut short as Beana’s sharp teeth sink into the edge of his long gray cloak and start chewing, shredding a hole into the fabric within seconds.
“Far…” Gandalf finishes dully. “Er… could someone please remove the goat?” Gandalf asks, trying his best to gently nudge her away.
Beana simply bleats angrily—her mouth full of gray cloak—and continues to chew.
“BEANA!” Kenzie stumbles back onto the stage, tripping slightly on a loose floorboard as she makes her way over to the pair in the center, hands shooing the nanny goat away from Gandalf without any effect. “NO! How many times have we talked about this?! We do NOT chew on people’s clothing!”
The nanny goat dodges out of Kenzie’s reach and prances across the stage with an enthusiastic bleat, joining the other three in the line of runners-up. Rayad tries his best to hide his smile as Nia bends down to give Beana a scratch behind the ears. Rendar surreptitiously scoots away from them all, positioning his cloak as far from the goat’s well-used teeth as he can.
In the center of the stage, Kenzie mumbles an apology to Gandalf and retreats, leaving the wizard to frown down at the hole in his cloak for just a moment before repositioning the smile to his face—though now it looks a little more forced.
“Well. It would appear as though we’ve arrived at the moment we’ve all been waiting for,” Gandalf says, sweeping his arms out wide, his staff dangling from his fingertips. “With a stunning 38% of votes, the winner of this year’s Silmaril Award for Wisest Counselor is…
“PUDDLEGLUM FROM CHRONICLES OF NARNIA!”
An explosion of applause blasts through the stadium, cheers and screams alike drowning out the sudden raincloud of a creature making his way slowly to the center of the stage. Gandalf sweeps his hand once more, and the sparkling Silmaril is clutched once again in his fingers, ready to bestow upon the neck of this most Wisest of Counselors.
“Puddleglum, my dearest Marsh-Wiggle! I am truly honored to give you this award today. The public has spoken, and you have clearly earned it.”
“A mistake once more in the counting, I’m afraid,” Puddleglum answers drearily. “Isn’t possible—no, I shouldn’t even consider—I couldn’t possibly have earned three such awards, Gandalf. It can’t possibly be as you say. In fact I’m most certain that the other two before this were simple mistakes, themselves… Still haven’t managed to find the true winners of such awards… Couldn’t possibly be mine, not at all…”
“Nonsense. You were born for this Silmaril, my dear Puddleglum. Your—er—wisdom has proven itself true time and again. Only the wisest of counselors are worthy to wear this Silmaril, and you, my dear lad, are most certainly worthy.”
“Words you were payed to say, I shouldn’t wonder. Given a pretty penny to inflate my ego. I suspect the Lady of the Green Kirtle had something to do with this, yes? Perhaps I should surrender all three of these shiny things, before she comes for me at last…”
“Puddleglum, now really—”
“And with such terrible thunderstorms on the way, most certainly. I shouldn’t wonder that this is a prank. Just give it to the goat, Gandalf. She deserves it more than I, after all.”
“I will not be giving it to the—did you just say thunderstorms? My good lad, look at the sky!” Gandalf points towards the heavens, where the hole blasted into the rafters by the flaming archers drips with sunshine and birdsong. “There isn’t the faintest chance of rain today. In fact, I’d say there’s a greater chance that the votes were miscounted than there is for a thunderstorm on today of all days.”
Puddleglum looks less than pleased with this, and Gandalf quickly tries to resteer the conversation away from such depressing topics before the Marsh-Wiggle can continue. “Puddleglum, all I ask is for a little trust. You deserve this award, and all the Silmarils which came before it. The public adores you. They believe you worthy. That is enough.”
Puddleglum sways slightly, confliction evident on his face. “Well… I suppose if you’re certain… and it hasn’t been a mistake this whole time…”
“My good Marsh-Wiggle. I can assure you that there has, nor will there ever be, such a mistake made.”
“Well then… I suppose it would be a dishonor to those who voted if I didn’t take it, then… And I shouldn’t wonder at the offense that might be taken if I were to refuse…”
“There would certainly be some matter of offense, I’m sure,” said Gandalf.
“Well, in that case I should certainly take it. And better off, anyhow. If the Lady of the Green Kirtle comes looking for it, better she find me in possession of such a treasure than the others. I shouldn’t wonder that this is why I’ve been chosen. Placing a target upon my head rather than theirs. It only makes sense, after all, for me to the bearer of such a burden…”
Gandalf looks as though he’s about to argue, but Puddleglum finally wraps his long fingers around the Silmaril, and whatever the wizard was about to say is lost in the relief of the Silmaril no longer being in his possession.
“Well, my good fellow, I certainly wish you all the best in your endeavors. I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say you’ve definitely earned this award.”
Applause thunders once more through the auditorium, and the crowd rises in one sweep to their feet, cheers threatening to crack open what remains of the roof with its shocking swell. Puddleglum seems rather flustered by such attentions, and he holds the Silmaril at arm’s length, as though worried it will suddenly come alive and bite off his arm.
“Well, I shouldn’t wonder that some people think otherwise… Certainly there are naysayers in every group, but I suppose, with 38% of votes… well, surely there is some sort of merit in that.”
“Yes, yes, most certainly.” Gandalf seems more than eager to get Puddleglum off the stage now, and he turns back to the audience, whose applause has begun to dwindle. “Ladies and Gentleman, this has been the 2021 Awards Ceremony for the Wisest Counselor. Thank you all for attending, and don’t forget to check out the desserts table on your exit—“
A thunderous crackle ripples through the room, crashing down through the hole in the ceiling with the weight of a thousand charging giants. Gandalf’s voice fizzles out, and his eyes turn skyward just as the first fat drops of a thick rain-shower leak through the open rafters.
“Impossible…” he murmurs.
Lightning cracks the sky, splitting the darkening clouds into slits, and Puddleglum wilts as rainwater splashes down on top of his head.
“My dear Marsh-Wiggle,” Gandalf says, his hat turning limp with the sogginess of rain. “You have–despite all odds–correctly predicted the most impossible weather!”
“I’m sure nothing good can come of it, however,” Puddleglum answers gloomily. “I shouldn’t wonder that it’s some sort of prank or other. Most likely someone trying to make a mockery of me…”
Gandalf doesn’t have time to answer. Rain is now falling in sheets through the ceiling hole, and the camera lens turns to shreds through the trickling raindrops. Outside, thunder crackles, snapping into a tree until it cracks in two and crashes down into what little remains of the auditorium roof, which now begins to crumble and plummet with renewed vigor. Panic slices the room, and soon everyone is stumbling out of their seats, trying to avoid the enormous waves and rafters now crashing down from a quickly darkening sky.
Stampeding feet storm from the bleachers, creatures and humans alike struggling to get out of the oncoming tide. Through the watery camera lens, a gray blur streaks across the stage, Gandalf’s beard just barely visible through the torrential downpour which floods the studio with rainwater and tree limbs.
“Fly, you fools!” Gandalf shouts, just as what’s left of the roof caves in around them with a thunderous roar.
The cameras cut off with a *click*.
THE SILMARIL AWARDS SHALL RETURN…
…on September 27th! Make sure to check out Grace’s awards ceremony for Most Faithful Friend coming this Monday! And while you’re at it, if you haven’t read the posts already published this week, check out the awards ceremonies below for MORE Silmaril fun!
Most Silver Tongue… Jenelle Schmidt
Strangest Character… DJ Edwardson
Most Epic Heroine… E.E. Rawls
Most Mischievous Imp… Tracey Dyck
TALK TO ME, PEASANTS!
And just like that, another Silmaril Awards Ceremony has come and gone! Not gonna lie, folks, I cut the deadline for this one CLOSE. XD Life has been intense, and I honestly wasn’t sure I could get it finished in time. But thankfully–by some great miracle–we managed it!
Y’all, it is honestly such an honor to be a part of this Awards Ceremony. Hosting the Wisest Counselors has been an incredible experience, and compared with last year, I feel severely blessed. XD I think I’m gonna miss my little gang of advice-givers, though… My house already feels sadly empty. But seeing as though there’s now a giant hole in my roof over at the Smudged Thoughts studio, it looks as though I’ll have PLENTY of renovations to keep me occupied for the next month or so… (or two or three… aha…
someone help me)
So tell me! What’s been your favorite part of the Silmaril Awards thus far? Personally, for me, it was getting the chance to write Puddleglum. XD (what a gloomy little fellow!) And also getting to stretch my creative muscle by writing characters I’ve never read before! It’s one of the most fun and intense things a writer can ever experience, let me tell ya. XD
But anyway, that’s quite enough chatter! (goodness knows this blog post is heartily long enough as is) Let’s get the conversation rolling! As always, let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS down in the comments below! And until next time…
*flings cookies in the air and disappears*