38. Epilogue: Put a Fork in It
Gandalf the Grey and a wearied Ringbearer returned the day after Aragorn, Boromir, and Glorfindel’s party reached Elrond’s halls. The southern scouts were quick to follow, and were soon joined by the western party of Halbarad, Rowgond, and Malbeorn as well. Last to return were the proud sons of Elrond, ageless faces grim and bespeaking ill tidings—though they would speak to no one of it save Elrond.
“Already you know more than is needed,” Elladan firmly replied when Aragorn pressed him.
It was shortly after this that Aragorn interrupted the tail end of hushed conversation between Lhûn and Legolas. Legolas’ ensuing quiet pensiveness led Aragorn to believe he too knew more than he let on. However, his attempts to glean more information from the Elf proved fruitless.
“They are matters that do not directly affect us,” the Elf replied with a graceful shrug. “We have no cause to fret over them.”
Aragorn was not sure if it was the Elf’s inexperience or stubbornness that allowed him to so easily dismiss things. As for himself, he could not stand being left in the dark. Having braved the wilds with his fellow Dúnedain, knowledge of the enemy’s manner and intent—being able to anticipate his foe’s movement—was often the only thing that kept him alive. The tight-lipped practices of his companions were maddening.
‘If it is not within range of his bow,’ the man thought in aggravation, ‘or poised for direct attack, he merely shrugs and smiles.’
“Know this,” Legolas had announced quite unexpectedly, pinning the Ranger with an impressive stare. “Ever shall I follow you—without question or doubt in my heart.”
He dipped his head in respect and moved away, leaving Aragorn alone with his thoughts.
* * *
Halbarad strode jauntily through Elrond’s halls, munching an apple and enjoying the sound of his footfalls within the hushed corridors. He knew the Elves found it somewhat unnerving. Which made it all the more entertaining.
He froze, eyes darting over the empty hallway. Someone was following him. He slowly took another bite of the apple and chewed suspiciously. Aside from his crunches, only silence greeted his well-trained ears. “I know you are there,” he called out, words hollow sounding in the empty corridor. He received no answer.
Putting the half-eaten apple into his pocket, the dark-haired Ranger gave his hunting knife an experimental twirl. “Hear this,” he said in exasperation. “I have very important matters to attend to. Why do we not get this little tiff over with so that I may be on my way?”
“Very well.” An icy voice snapped from a location Halbarad couldn’t pinpoint.
The Ranger jumped; he had just begun to think there really was no one else in the hall. At that moment, someone grabbed his wrist from behind, wretched him around, and pinned him bodily to the wall.
“Ooph.” Halbarad winced as the wind was knocked out of him, and a picture frame dug uncomfortably into his back. “El—ah—you.” Not quite sure which son of Elrond had him pinioned (they did rather look alike), Halbarad offered the Elf a cheeky grin.
It quickly faded under the Elf’s murderous gaze, and the equally murderous blade pressed against the Ranger’s throat.
“Do you see this blade?” The son of Elrond’s face was pinched with rage.
Halbarad started to nod, then thought better of it as the mithril bit into his neck. “Yes. It is rather difficult to miss.”
The Elf’s face darkened in true Elrond fashion. “This blade was a gift to me upon my begetting day. Elladan received one as well.”
“Ah.” ‘Which means this must be Elrohir.’
“They are priceless,” Elrohir continued, “of ancient Noldor craft.” His grey eyes narrowed. “Elladan has lost his.”
“That is a shame.” Halbarad gingerly placed a restraining hand on the Elf’s arm, should Elrohir’s wrist accidentally slip. “I am much aggrieved to hear it, but I fail to see what I—“
“HE LOST IT IN A WAGER!”
Halbarad winced. “Oh. I see.”
During Aragorn’s first travels with the Dúnedain, Elladan and Elrohir often joined him. It was on one such journey that Halbarad introduced them to taverns and the art of gamboling. Unfortunately, Elladan had an inherent compulsive streak, and was a bit too fond of playing the stakes. Even worse was the fact he was not very good at it.
Though he claimed he could quit whenever he wished, Elladan had lost, to date: Four barrels of vintage wine to Legolas’ brothers Calengaladh and Mallos, three prize stallions in Rohan, an embroidered doeskin sack to a nine year old girl in Hollin, a coat of mail, one set of dress robes, four lace doilies to Gandalf and the matching tablecloth to Radagast, and now, his begetting day knife.
Elrohir tried to right things as best he could, for the two brothers were immensely protective of one another, but Elladan’s losses were becoming more difficult to conceal.
Halbarad had inadvertently created a gamboling addict.
“I see,” the Ranger innocently repeated. “Did he get it back?”
He swore Elrohir was going to explode. The Elf’s nostrils flared.
“I take that as a no…”
“Upon my oath, Halbarad, if he loses another bet—you shall pay for it!” Elrohir’s eyebrows knit into a single, dangerous line. “This is all your fault! If you had never taken us to that ridiculous tavern, he would not have this problem!”
Despite the knife at his throat, Halbarad snorted. “Elrohir, please. It is your fault for listening to me in the first place. Surely you know better.”
Having no retort, for Halbarad was right—they should know better than to listen to him—Elrohir had to settle for snarling and pressing the knife further against the other’s throat.
“I do not think you wish to do that my friend.” Halbarad’s grin turned decidedly smug, reminding Elrohir of just how aggravating the Ranger could be.
Elrohir shot him a withering look.
“It would be in poor taste were you to murder the newly appointed Chief of the Dúnedain of the North.” Despite his awkward position, Halbarad managed to end the statement with a grand flourish of the hands. His grin grew even cheekier, if indeed such a thing were possible.
Elrohir rolled his eyes in a very un-Elflike manner, then scrutinized the other’s face when Halbarad gave no indication of jest. He lowered the knife. “Aragorn is Chief of the Dúnedain—not you. A person would not be in his right mind to name you chief of anything. And as it is, only Aragorn has power to name…” Elrohir trailed off in disbelief. “He did not.”
Pushing the Elf’s arm away from his chest, Halbarad looped an arm over Elrohir’s shoulder. “I think he shall make a fine king.”
Elrohir muttered something under his breath, of which Halbarad could only make out “death of us” and “ruin.”
Deftly removing Halbarad’s arm, the Elf collected himself and lifted his chin somewhat imperiously. “Give me your hunting knife and we shall call it even.”
“Nay—you shall call it even. I shall call it stealing.”
“Very well.” Elrohir’s face belied grave defeat. Halbarad was not fooled. “You leave me no other choice.”
“I bid you good day, Halbarad Chief of the Dúnedain.” Elrohir bowed fluidly before turning on his heel and departing.
It took Halbarad several moments to make sense of what occurred. “Wait!” he called to the Elf’s retreating form. “Elrohir—wait!”
The Elf cast a smooth glance over his shoulder, one eyebrow raised in elegant question. “Yes?”
Halbarad barely kept himself from sputtering. “That is all? No threats or oaths of vengeance?”
Elrohir merely smiled and gave his head a sleek shake.
Halbarad sighed heavily. “What are you going to do? Tell me.”
Elrohir’s smile widened until it turned positively wicked, magnified even more so by the Elf’s fair face. “And where, my dear Ranger, is the fun in that?”
“Take it,” Halbarad flatly replied, holding the knife out haft-first to the tall Elf. “Just take it.” He had seen enough of Elrohir’s “fun” to know better than to be on the receiving end of it.
Elrohir glided back to the Ranger and promptly plucked the knife from Halbarad’s hands. “You are most generous.” Smiling, he offered the Ranger a mock bow.
Halbarad half-grimaced in reply. “It is my pleasure.” His face melted to a sour expression as he watched the lithe son of Elrond retreat down the corridor. He was rather fond of that knife. Mayhap he could challenge Elladan to some sort of wager and win it back…
* * *
“I marvel that you managed to remove the tar from him.”
Glorfindel, Elrond, and Erestor stood upon the balcony outside Rivendell’s library, observing the gathered Fellowship in the garden below.
Elrond gave his head a wry shake, eyes settling on the scrubbed and slightly ruddy-looking Aragorn. “You would be surprised, Glorfindel, what remedies the twins have forced me to unearth over the years.”
“How fares Shadowfax?” asked Erestor.
“A horribly vain glutton, that one,” Glorfindel mildly remarked. “Asfaloth may be temperamental, but I thank the Valar he does not behave as Shadowfax.”
“He is well and being tended to,” Elrond replied. “Rather bruised in body and ego, though not quite undeserving of it.”
Glorfindel nodded, folding his arms across his chest and watching the antics of Merry and Pippin below. “Erestor,” his eyes remained trained on the hobbits, “please cease staring at my hair.”
Erestor had the decency to flush. “I apologize, but it is rather… noticeable.”
In attempt to control the shortened front locks, Glorfindel had braided his hair at the sides as was fashionable amongst archers. Nonetheless, a few stubborn tufts refused to be cowed.
The golden-haired Elf scowled and decided to change the path of conversation. “I am curious to know what was in the letter Thranduil sent back with us.” He shot Elrond a questioning look.
Elrond sighed; after everything Glorfindel had been through, he supposed he probably owed it to the Elf. “Ah, yes. The esteemed King of the Woodland Realm sends his warmest regards, and promises to have my head should any ill befall Legolas.”
Erestor blanched, thoroughly scandalized Thranduil would dare make such remarks. “He did not.”
“In so many words,” Elrond wryly replied. “I expected no less of him.”
Glorfindel furrowed his brow. “That is a rather impossible task. Of course he knows this…”
Elrond nodded absently. “But that is Thranduil. As I said: I expected no less of him.”
“Do you wish to send a second Elf with Legolas?” asked Erestor.
Elrond pursed his lips. “Nay, for I believe Elladan and Elrohir will wish to join Aragorn, and thus Legolas, in the later stages of the Fellowship’s journey. And though he would not admit it, such action would greatly appease Thranduil.”
Erestor and Glorfindel murmured in agreement.
“Let us be thankful all has worked out thus far,” said Erestor. “And now we may enjoy slight reprieve.”
Glorfindel sighed. “The ‘calm before the storm,’ as they say. But yes, let us enjoy it nonetheless.”
* * *
“Right, so: Greetings all.” Pippin smiled and waved cheerfully to the odd collection of Races gathered in the garden. He received a variety of replies; some seemed notably less thrilled about the situation than others. Frodo and Sam grinned back, and Merry voiced a gusty “Hullo, Pippin.” Gandalf cheerfully raised his pipe in salute. Gimli grunted, Aragorn inclined his head, and Legolas stared at him in a cross between amusement and perplexion. Boromir merely raised an eyebrow.
“Er,” the hobbit faltered, unnerved by so many eyes suddenly trained upon him. He nervously toyed with the apple in his hand.
Merry hastily intervened. “We’re going to play a game.”
“A game?” Boromir asked.
“Yes.” Pippin nodded emphatically. “A getting-to-know-you game.”
A collective groan arose.
“For example,” said Merry, ignoring the protests, “I have this apple, so I say: ‘Hello, my name is Meriadoc Brandybuck—or Merry. I am a hobbit from the Shire, and I enjoy drawing.”
“Then he passes the apple to me,” said Pippin, holding out his hands. Merry tossed him the apple. “And I say: Hello, my name is Peregrin Took, or Pippin if you like. I am also a hobbit from the Shire. I enjoy… I enjoy flying. On Eagles,” he hastily added, noting the blank stares he received. “I enjoy flying on Eagles.”
An awkward silence followed. Gandalf sneezed, though it could have been a chuckle.
“Are you not supposed to repeat the statement of the one before you?” Legolas finally asked, head cocked to one side. He received a look of bemusement from Aragorn. The Elf glanced towards the Ranger, shrugged unapologetically, and leaned back against his tree.
Pippin’s mouth remained open as he pondered the idea. “Oh, well, yes. I suppose we could do that, Mister Elf.”
Gandalf’s lips quirked.
Aragorn cleared his throat. “Why do we not simply greet one another by traditional means?” Uncrossing his legs, the dark-haired man rose to his feet. With height came authority.
The garden was soon alive with a flurry of introductions.
“Gimli, son of Glóin of the Lonely Mountain, at your service.” The Dwarf bowed low before offering a broad and well-calloused hand.
Boromir hesitated. He had never seen a Dwarf up close before. “Boromir, son of Denethor II Steward of Gondor.” He grasped the Dwarf’s forearm; grey eyes meeting brown, and the two exchanged a hearty shake. Boromir smiled appreciatively. The Dwarf was solid and straightforward—traits he both knew and admired. Giving the other a quick nod, Boromir turned to one of the hobbits, just as the smaller being turned to his neighbor.
“Pippin, hobbit of the Shire,” said the curly-haired youngster to his companion.
The second hobbit scowled. “Pippin, you dolt—I already know who you are.”
They both turned to Boromir. “Pippin,” stated the one on Boromir’s right. “Merry,” stated the one to his left.
Boromir grasped both by the forearm. “Boromir of Gondor.”
“Nice to meet you, Boromir,” said Pippin. Or perhaps it was Merry.
“I’m Samwise Gamgee.” The roundest of the hobbits approached shyly, and graciously took Boromir’s hand.
Boromir greeted him in similar fashion.
“Frodo Baggins, of the Shire.”
Something odd traveled through Boromir when he grasped the Ringbearer’s arm, though what it was he could not identify. Frodo must have felt it as well, for a shadow flickered across his eyes and his smile wavered.
Boromir blinked and shook off the strange feeling. The wizard’s hand was directly in front of his face.
“Boromir, son of Denethor II, Ruling Steward of Gondor,” he recited. His eyes widened in surprise—the wizard’s hands were not ancient and gnarled as he had expected.
Gandalf’s grey eyes twinkled beneath his bushy eyebrows. “Delighted to meet you, Boromir. Delighted.”
‘Odd fellow,’ Boromir thought, watching the wizard sweep gaily to Frodo. He turned his head to seek out a new acquaintance, and nearly jumped upon finding the Elf standing directly in front of him.
“Legolas of the Woodland Realm.” The Elf extended a lithe arm in a motion as fluid as his speech. Judging from the Elf’s posture, Boromir gathered he was not overly fond of close contact.
“Boromir, son of Denethor II Steward of Gondor.” Grasping the other’s forearm, he was again surprised at the unexpected strength within the other.
“I am most pleased to make your acquaintance, son of Denethor.” The Elf bowed gracefully. Boromir tried to shake off the strange awe he felt at the Elf’s presence. It was almost unsettling.
He was further unsettled upon finding the Heir of Isildur standing before him. Grey eyes met grey. Boromir stiffened unconsciously, sensing the air increase in tension.
“Aragorn, son of Arathorn.” The dark-haired Ranger offered his arm without hesitation, his expression unreadable. He leaned in and dropped his voice so that none would over-hear—save perhaps Legolas whose keen ears missed little. “Also known as Strider,” Aragorn continued, sending the other a conspiratory wink. “Black Rider and kidnapper of fair bar maidens.”
Boromir chuckled. “Boromir of Gondor.” He clapped the other on the shoulder before lowering his voice as well. “Also known as Borofara, fellow Black Rider and kidnapper of fair bar maidens.”
Pulling apart, the two men grinned and dissolved into hearty laughter.
“I should say we are all acquainted now,” said Gandalf, reaching up to adjust the brim of his new hat. It wasn’t as worn as his first, and the point tended to flop forward rather than backward.
“They didn’t shake.” Pippin pointed accusingly to Gimli and Legolas, who were standing on opposite sides of the garden and pretending not to notice one another.
“I am sure they had every intention of doing so.” There was a note of authoritative warning in Aragorn’s voice, which caused Legolas to raise an eyebrow at the Ranger.
‘Do not test me,’ Aragorn silently warned, knowing full well the Elf was entertaining such thoughts.
There was an odd flash in the Elf’s eyes, and Legolas scowled. Then, to Aragorn’s utter surprise, Legolas sighed in resignation and walked stiffly to stand before the Dwarf.
The two eyed one another, bright clear gaze meeting deep earthen stare. Gandalf sighed loudly and leaned against his staff. “Come now, we haven’t all day.”
Legolas closed his eyes and seemed to gather himself. “Legolas of the Woodland Realm.” He thrust out an arm.
Gimli drew himself to his full height, though standing in front of the tall Elf as he was, it made little difference. “Gimli of the Lonely Mountain.”
Elf and Dwarf grasped forearms and exchanged a resolute shake. An astute onlooker, such as Aragorn, noticed both were trying not to grimace while simultaneously attempting to squeeze the other’s arm as hard as possible.
“Lord Elrond has prepared a grand luncheon for us in the main hall,” Gandalf announced as Gimli and Legolas released their iron grip. “Let us enjoy the fine meal and company while we still can.”
The mismatched group slowly filed from the garden, led by the cheerfully humming wizard.
“I have the sneaking suspicion Gimli had a part to play with that fat lip of yours.” Aragorn shot Legolas a glance of curiosity as the Elf fell into step with him. “I would love to hear the tale.”
“Did you not refer to yourself as ‘Aragorn, Black Rider and Kidnapper?’” came the Elf’s innocent response.
A wry smile graced the man’s face and he threw up his hands. “Fair enough, my friend, fair enough.”
“Indeed.” The Elf’s face broke into a smile. “It has been quite an interesting end to the beginning, has it not?”
“Aye.” Aragorn looked to the heavens as though the Fellowship’s impending journey lay foretold amidst the feathery clouds, and shook his head. “And I have a feeling the future shall be an even greater tale.”
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.