Disclaimer: I own none of the characters or places except Sky, Star and Serena who are my own creations.
A/n: This story is set after the destruction of the Ring. I've used characters and places from The Hobbit and borrowed a bit of Tolkien's descriptions.
Chapter 1: Queer lodgings.
It had been a long and tiring journey for the four travelers. Aragorn, Gandalf and Gimli were accompanying Legolas home to Mirkwood after 6 months in Minas Tirith. They had made a stop in Rohan to see King Éomer and were now heading north toward Mirkwood. It was getting late in the day and they would have to camp soon. Gimli was getting agitated, complaining about the long journey.
"If we had done things my way, we'd be back in Gondor with a nice pint of beer," he said.
"Do you not enjoy our company, Master Dwarf?" said Aragorn.
"Well, yes I do, but I don't like horses, it's not natural for dwarves to ride around on four-legged beasts!"
"Do not call them beasts, Gimli son of Glóin, they are greatly respected here," warned Gandalf.
"Where are we going anyhow?" asked Gimli.
"To the house of Beorn, he is an old friend and will no doubt give us shelter for the night. He also has quite a fondness for beer and makes his own," replied Gandalf.
"Homemade beer? This fellow sounds quite nice," said Gimli. Legolas laughed at Gimli's sudden change in attitude.
Gandalf suddenly stopped and the others followed suit. In the sunset, they could see two vixens (female foxes to you) but these were strange vixens. Instead of being the usual red-brown colour, they were a silvery blond colour.
"What devilry is this?" said Gimli. Gandalf and the others dismounted the horses. The vixens stopped playing their chasing game, having noticed the travelers, and ran up to them. They sniffed Gandalf and Aragorn and paid no attention to Gimli whatsoever. They went up to Legolas and wound themselves around his legs like cats.
"Alright," said Gandalf, "That's enough you two." Legolas and the others were confused, who was he talking to?
"Oh but Gandalf, we were only having a bit of fun," came a soft voice. From behind Legolas stepped out a young woman with silvery blond hair and gray eyes.
"Yeah, we weren't gonna hurt him," said another voice. Another young woman identical to the other emerged.
"Who are they?" said Gimli
"These are two of the daughters of Beorn," said Gandalf, "Like their father, they are skin-changers."
"I'm Serena," said the first one
"And I'm Star," said the second.
"Are you heading towards our fathers home?" they said in unison.
"Yes," said Gandalf.
"Follow us," they said. Star and Serena turned and as quick as a blink were in their vixen form again. The travelers mounted their horses and followed the vixens.
The sun had just set when they reached Beorn's home. There was a belt of tall and very ancient oaks and beyond these was a high thorn-hedge through which you could neither see nor scramble. They followed the hedge and came to a wooden gate, high and broad, beyond which they could see gardens and a cluster of low wooden buildings, some thatched and made of unshaped logs: barns, stables, sheds and a long low wooden house. Inside on the southward side of the great hedge were rows and rows of hives with bell-shaped tops of straw. The noise of the giant bees flying to and fro and crawling in and out filled the air. Star and Serena changed back into their human form and pushed open the heavy, wooden gate. The travelers dismounted their horses and left them outside the gate. The girls led the way down a wide track towards the house. Some horses were grazing nearby and looked up as the strangers passed; they stared at them with intelligent faces.
Soon they reached a courtyard, three walls of which were formed by the wooden house and its two long wings. In the middle there was lying a great oak trunk, half of which was chopped up next to it for firewood.
"This way," said Star. She led through a dark door that opened out of the courtyard into the house. The travelers found themselves in a wide hall with a fireplace in the middle; there was a fire lit.
"Stay here," said Serena. The travelers sat on the benches as the girls disappeared into the next room, from which a wonderful aroma was coming. Roast chicken and potatoes. Gimli's stomach rumbled as did Legolas'. Gandalf chuckled. The girls' voices were heard but their words were muffled by the thick door. A gruff voice was speaking to them. The door creaked and Gandalf rose to greet Beorn and the others copied him.
"Gandalf?" said Beorn, "Bless my soul! I thought my girls were playing tricks on me again." Beorn was huge, he towered over Gandalf. He had thick black beard and hair, and great bare arms and legs with knotted muscles. He was clothed in a tunic of wool down to his knees and had a large knife in one hand.
"It is good to see you again," said Beorn, a smile on his face, "You haven't been getting in trouble with goblins again have you?"
"No old friend, I haven't. We were merely seeking a place to rest," said Gandalf. The sound of three hungry stomachs brought Beorn's attention to Gandalf's companions.
"Who are they?" asked Beorn, pointing at Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn with the knife.
"The elf is Legolas of Mirkwood, the man is King Elessar and do you remember Glóin?"
"Yeah, he was one of them dwarves you brought here years ago."
"This is Gimli, his son," said Gandalf.
"Crikey," said Beorn, "He looks like his father! I suppose you're hungry?" The travelers nodded.
"Well you're just in time for dinner, Star, set the table for me and Serena, go find you sister," said Beorn.
"Hmm, I wonder where she could be?" said Serena, sarcastically. Star giggled. Beorn flicked Serena's ear.
"Don't make fun of your sister because she's smarter than you. You may be the strongest Serena but you are definitely the stupidest," said Beorn. Serena scowled and left the room.
Ten minutes later, the table was set and everyone was sat down ready to eat. Beorn had just served everyone when Serena returned. She sat down next to Star.
"Ahh, this is the youngest of my girls," said Beorn, "Everyone, this is Sky." Sky was different to her sisters. Her hair was black like Beorn's and her eyes were blue like the sky. Her skin and lips were pale as if she spent all day indoors. She sat down next to her father.
"Well dig in," said Beorn. Everyone had to admit that he was quite a good cook. Only Sky didn't seem hungry; she pushed her food round and round her plate and ate a bit of the chicken. Eventually Beorn spoke to Sky, who hadn't taken part in the conversation, "If you don't want it, you can go." Sky stood up and left the room. Beorn sighed.
"I worry about that one," said Beorn, "At least my other two have got healthy appetites, right Serena?" He patted Serena on the shoulder as she nodded with her mouth full of chicken and bread.
Everyone carried on with their meal. Only Legolas seemed to think it was strange that Sky didn't stay for the entire meal.
Later that night, Legolas sat on the verandah looking up at the stars. He rarely saw them at home. The trees in Mirkwood were so thick the only way to see the sky was to climb the trees. He heard a sound from behind him. He turned his head. Everyone else was asleep.
"Who's there?" he asked
"Sorry to disturb you, my lord," said a soft voice. The person stepped out into the moonlight. The pale light illuminated a slim figure and a pale face; it was Sky.
"Hello Sky," said Legolas, "I haven't seen you since dinner."
"I'm afraid I didn't catch your name, my lord," said Sky, quietly.
"Oh, my name is Legolas Greenleaf," said Legolas. Sky giggled.
"What is so funny?" asked Legolas.
"Sorry, my lord, but your name, does it not mean Greenleaf Greenleaf?"
"Yes, I guess that is sort of funny," said Legolas, "You speak Elvish?"
"(A little)," said Sky.
"Your name is interesting, how did your parents come to name you that?"
"As a baby, I wouldn't sleep unless I could see the sky; I was called Fëawen until they decided to rename me," said Sky.
"Makes sense to me," said Legolas.
"Do you have children, my lord?" asked Sky. Legolas was surprised by the question.
"What? Oh, no, I'm no good when it comes to children. I'm terrible when my friends bring their children with them. They come within six feet of me and they start screaming their heads off," said Legolas. Sky laughed; Legolas thought she looked very pretty when she laughed.
"What? Do you find the fact that children and I don't mix funny?"
"No, it's just you look like the kind of person who is a natural with children," said Sky.
"So what were you doing when I arrived here?" asked Legolas, changing the subject quickly.
"What I always do, reading," said Sky, "That's how I learnt Elvish."
"You like to read?"
"Yes, it helps me escape my sisters tormenting me," she said. She turned her head sharply at the sound of leaves rustling. A black mass emerged from the bushes nearby. It changed into the shape of a human. It was Beorn. He walked over to the verandah and saw Sky.
"Shouldn't you be in bed, Sky?" he said
"Yes father," replied Sky
"You can speak to the elf tomorrow." Sky nodded and left the verandah. Beorn turned to Legolas.
"Well, she must find you incredibly interesting; she rarely speaks to anyone," said Beorn. He smiled and went inside. Legolas was surprised; he had assumed that Sky was simply nervous at dinner; he hadn't thought that she didn't talk to anyone. He decided to talk to Sky in the morning; if she had decided he was interesting enough he wasn't going to waste it.
Sorry about the ending the annoying cousin is back!!!!!