43. Hiding from Hobbits and Hobbits in Hiding
Lord Elrond had stayed until all three had downed their tonics, with many grimaces and mumbled complaints from the hobbits. Boromir felt that the Elf-lord’s presence was the only thing that kept the little ones from immediately pouring their medicine into the chamber pot. Lord Elrond knew it too, and stood with his arms folded and a forbidding expression on his face until every last drop was drunk. That done, he escorted them firmly back to their own beds and saw them settled there.
“Now you will rest,” he informed them, ignoring Pippin’s mulish expression. “And you are not to crawl in with Boromir. He too is ill and needs his rest. Trays will be sent to you at the dinner-hour.” With that, the mighty lord had awarded the halflings a long stare, and departed.
Boromir had been subjected to enough disapproving glares from his governesses, tutors and his father to recognize the look. He waited until he judged the Elf-lord was safely out of easy hearing, then asked, “What did you do?”
Merry raised his eyes, startled, from where he had been scowling at the floor. “Nothing, really.” When Boromir looked politely disbelieving, he sighed and elaborated. “Just had a little family discussion in Frodo’s room. Nothing, really. There was a some … shouting. I suppose it got a little out of hand and upset Frodo.”
“He’s sick again,” contributed Pippin unhappily.
Boromir nodded wisely, memories of the “family discussions” he had held with his younger brother passing through his mind. “And that is why you are here instead of there?”
The two halflings nodded guiltily. “We’re to let him have some peace and quiet,” Pippin added.
“By disrupting mine?” Boromir smiled to show he was teasing, and after a moment, their strained expressions relaxed.
“I suppose.” Merry smiled in return.
“Now, about those stories -” pursued Pippin relentlessly.
“Lord Elrond said we were to rest,” Boromir reminded them desperately, casting about for any change of subject.
“Oh, that’s right.” Boromir tried to hide his relief at their crestfallen expressions. He was immeasurably glad to see them settle down and fall asleep in a matter of moments. The man stayed awake though, defying the Elf-lord’s orders, struggling to devise stories he thought appropriate for young ears to hear. He did not have nearly enough time before Pippin yawned hugely (and loudly) and woke his cousin.
“I’m hungry,” announced Merry, sitting up and rubbing his stomach.
“I have some fruit,” offered Boromir, and prayed the distraction would last until supper arrived.
“Will you tell us a story while we eat?” asked Pippin.
Boromir began to sweat again. Despite racking his brain, he had not come up with a tale that he thought proper for them. The tales passed among soldiers as they awaited battle would sicken and terrify them, he was certain. He had turned his mind back to the almost-forgotten stories his mother had told him as he leaned against her while she rocked a tiny Faramir in her lap. Her face had become obscured by the mists of time and he was surprised to discover he remembered best not her words, but the love she had infused into them as she cradled her sons.
“I have a poem you might like,” he volunteered. “My mother used to sing it to my brother and I when we were small.”
“Oh, good!” said the halflings simultaneously, and the man found himself the utter center of their attention. Suddenly self-conscious, he cleared his throat and chanted, his voice softening as he seemed to hear his mother’s voice blending with his.
Gleaming grey in the moonlit mist,
A shadow paler than its fellows
Whirls and leaps ‘round the forest glade
Weaving enchantment among the willows.
Whiter than the pure maid’s heart,
Grass wells green ‘neath dainty hooves
Spiraled horn luminous light does shine
As the unicorn dances on mushroom roofs.
Soft-eyed does with wondering fawns,
Stand humbly on knobby knees
As the immortal unicorn
Dances partnered with the breeze.
The world has long ago forgot
The griffins, the dragons, the mers
Of all the beasts of Fairyland
The unicorn alone endures.
A warbling chirp in the silence chimes,
The unicorn stands still as stone
A bird’s song breaks the magic spell
At dawn the unicorn returns to its own.
Back it steps into the fading mists,
Then taps its bright lance to the bower
Now nothing is left in the woodland ring
But lonely deer and a strange white flower.” *
“Oh,” breathed Pippin. “I like that.”
“It was one of my mother’s favorites,” Boromir replied gently, surprised to find an unaccountable stinging in his eyes.
“Will you tell us another of her favorites?”
“That is inconsiderate, Pippin,” remarked Merry, unknowingly rescuing the soldier. “Boromir might be hungry, too. It is unfair to ask him to give us a tale when he wants to eat.”
“I am sorry!” Pippin apologized immediately. The tweenager bounced to his feet and fetched a large bowl of fruit from a side table, pouring them each a cup of water. He held up the bowl to Boromir with a bow, offering him first selection. Bemused, the man chose a pear and watched as Merry selected an apple. Retaining possession of the fruit-bowl, Pippin scrambled up on Boromir’s bed again and made him himself comfortable. In blatant disobedience of Elrond’s instructions, Merry joined him a moment later. By asking them questions about themselves and their home, their likes and dislikes, the man was able to keep the talk general until a knock at the door announced the arrival of the dinner-trays.
* * * * *
“It certainly is quiet in here,” remarked Aragorn to Arwen.
“Father has confined the halflings and the man to their rooms until their colds pass, beloved,” explained Arwen. “Are you certain that you are not sickening?”
“I am perfectly well,” Aragorn assured her. Reassured, the Ranger felt a cool hand slip into his underneath the High Table, and caress his palm. He squeezed it gently then released it to allow her to eat. Indeed, the usual hum of conversation in the great hall seemed muted and lacking, somehow. He was not the only one noting the absence of shrill hobbit-voices, he thought. Many of the other diners, Gimli and Legolas included, were regarding the four empty seats and their stacks of unused cushions with regret. It seemed the hobbits had captured more hearts than his own.
“They are a merry folk,” murmured Arwen, following his thoughts as she so often did. Words were superfluous things between them; they could speak with their eyes, and tonight her eyes shone like the breaking of dawn after a cold and starless night.
How beautiful she was, he thought. Her skin glowed like ivory in candlelight, her hair a cascade of black silk. She wore it down tonight, as she knew he liked it, and it shifted with each of her breaths, shining and lovely. Arwen lowered her head and faint roses bloomed in her alabaster cheeks.
“Ah, love,” he said softly.
“Eat,” she admonished him. “We will visit them later.”
* * * * *
The Ranger and his beloved were talking softly as they drifted down the hallway. Aragorn held a plate in his hands, piled high with goodies that he and Arwen had sneaked out under Elrond’s watchful eye from the High Table. The two had giggled like children, stuffing after-dinner chocolates and mints and sweets into their clothing. The Master of Rivendell had pointedly ignored them. They were now busy unearthing the sweets from various pockets and pouches. Aragorn could not restrain a laugh when Arwen sought a shadowed corner and vigorously shook her bosom, causing several paper-wrapped candies to fall to the floor. “Best not tell the halflings where you stored those, my love,” Aragorn whispered to her. “Young Pippin would probably faint.”
Stooping gracefully to retrieve the candies, Arwen gave him a look of mock distain. Further converse was pre-empted by a soft, “Hist! Hist!”
The two looked about them, then saw a shifting of the shadows in a nook across the corridor.
“Boromir?” asked Aragorn. “Is that you?” The man of Gondor emerged from behind a gracefully carven statue and made frantic shushing motions at him. Thoroughly puzzled now, the Ranger glided closer.
“Lower your voice, Aragorn, I beg you.”
“Boromir, are you hiding from Merry and Pippin?”
The soldier of Gondor craned his neck and peered desperately up and down the corridor. “Of course not! You didn’t see them, did you?”
Arwen followed, struggling to contain her laughter. Boromir bowed to her. “My lady.” Then he turned back to the Ranger, anguish in his eyes. “Aragorn, they want stories. And songs. I haven’t any to give them - a life spent in battle does not lend itself to the singing of songs and the telling of tales.” Boromir’s voice had gradually been rising despite his own pleas for quiet, and now he visibly reined himself in and glanced frantically up the corridor, as if fearing pursuit by Black Riders at the very least. “My lady, you must ask your father to return them to their rooms. I beg you. They are driving me insane.”
“Lord Boromir, how can that be? They are a most courteous and well-mannered folk.”
“They are so persistent. The young one, especially. He has fastened upon an unfortunate remark of mine, and now follows me about like a puppy. Much to the unhelpful amusement of the other one, I might add. I only escaped by offering to take the trays back to the kitchen and return with more food.”
Arwen reclaimed the plate of sweets from her intended and handed it to Boromir. “This will occupy them for some time. We will go back with you, and Aragorn and I will keep them amused until it is time to sleep.”
“Thank you, my lady,” Boromir whispered gratefully. “I am forever in your debt.”
* * * * *
The Ranger and the Lady had decided planned to visit the Ring-bearer and Sam and Bilbo first, but Boromir’s rescue diverted them from those plans. It was just as well, perhaps, because all was not well in Frodo’s room. Frodo’s migraine had eased, and as long as he did not look directly at a candle or move his head too quickly, he was not in great discomfort. But he was very tired, and still stuffy and aching, and he did not want to eat the dinner which had been delivered to him. He wanted to go to the Hall of Fire and curl up on the hearth and hear the tales and songs. He was not well enough, and it seemed that all his hurts and weariness combined into one great ache that made him want to hide away under the covers and escape in sleep.
Sam removed the tray regretfully, noting how little his master had downed. “Sir -”
“Don’t you start in on me, Sam,” Frodo said tiredly. “If you don’t like how much is left, you eat some.” He lay back down and closed his eyes. Sam set the tray near the others at the door, not taking advantage of Frodo’s offer. The sturdy hobbit had thrown off the effects of the freezing water faster than any of the others; except for an occasional sniff or sneeze, Sam was well enough. Not for the first time, Sam wished he could impart some of his own excellent health to his master.
Even his uncle’s gentle scolding and coaxing had been unsuccessful in encouraging Frodo this time. Sam watched Bilbo stifle his own worry and frustration with his stubborn nephew and reach over to stroke Frodo’s dark curls. Those old eyes looked up at Sam for help, but Sam could only shrug. Frodo was setting himself up for “one o’ Himself’s moods,” as his Gaffer called it, and Sam mightily wished to distract him. It was therefore with great relief that Sam answered the door, surprised to find Legolas the Elf and Gimli the dwarf there, eying each other uncomfortably.
“Would you like ‘ta come in?” Samwise asked them, unsure if he was violating a command of the Lord’s or not. Master Elrond had said Mr. Frodo was to rest, but the Elf-lord didn’t have to contend with his master’s melancholy moods.
Some time later, Elrond and Gandalf paused before the door, their ears catching the deep rumbles of the dwarf’s laugher and the silvery piping that was the Elf’s. Interspersed among them were peals of hobbit-laughter. The two regarded each other in surprise. “Well, we were wondering how to make them work together,” Gandalf said, his bushy eyebrows raised.
Elrond nodded, his hand still raised to knock. “I had thought to congratulate them on their teamwork in Frodo’s rescue. Make much of how Legolas guided the river-craft while Gimli supplied the power. Their strengths compliment each other, if only they would realize it.”
More laugher rang out past the wooden door, the tones of hobbit and Elf and dwarf blending like music. Gimli’s voice was a great bassoon, Legolas’ a flute. Two clarinets and an oboe wove melody between them. Elrond inclined his head gracefully, a small smile in those dark, immortal eyes. “Perhaps they are realizing it now.”
* The Unicorn by Budgielover
* TBC *
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.