Chapter Seven – Discoveries And Surprises

Elrohir stared at Will, for some reason the last person he had expected to encounter. It was not that he had forgotten that the boy's punishment was to work with the blacksmith; but he had not thought about it either. He had certainly not expected this confrontation. Aware of his own silence, and of Elladan at his side glaring at Will with great hostility, he took the damaged knife from his belt. "My dagger is broken. I wondered if it could be mended," he explained curtly. "Is the blacksmith here? Mr Rushlight?"

Will grunted. "Not here yet. I sometimes open up for 'im. Give it here – let me see."

Elrohir hesitated slightly, then held out the dagger, hilt first, for Will's inspection. Will took the dagger from him and peered at it closely, examining the blade carefully. He ran a finger along it, raising his eyebrows at the keen edge, and studied the jagged break critically. He flicked a fingernail at the tip and listened to the ring of metal.

Finally he turned back to the twins, and nodded. "Yes, I can fix it – no problem. You'll have to wait, though – I have to see to the horse first." He jerked a thumb towards the yard. "Leave it with me – come back in about an hour. It'll be a bit shorter than it was, though – that all right?"

Wordlessly, Elrohir nodded. Will turned his back on them, and resumed hammering – even more loudly and ferociously than before, it seemed. Elladan tugged at his brother's arm, and they went back out across the yard and onto the road.

"I never expected to see him here!" Elladan hissed in disgust.

Elrohir shook his head. "Nor me. I hope I'm doing the right thing – perhaps we should have waited for the proper blacksmith?"

"He seemed to know what he was doing though, didn't he?" Elladan admitted reluctantly. "I expect it will be all right. If not, Rushlight will be able to fix it properly!"

They walked along the road to the wood yard at the far end of the town. Elrohir grew silent as they neared the yard, remembering Elladan's words of warning. He hoped against hope that his brother was wrong – but Draug had been old. The healing he had done may have rejuvenated the dog temporarily, but he knew that age killed mortal creatures. Who knew what may have happened during the months since they had left Bree?

The gate stood open, and again a strong scent of freshly cut timber hung in the air. As they rounded the corner, Elrohir began to hang back, not wanting to see. Suddenly excited barking broke out, and Draug bounded up to them, his tail waving madly.

Appleton appeared from the little hut. "Hello? Can I help you?" Seeing the twins, he raised a hand in recognition. "Hello again! You're back, are you? And I can see old Garm's as pleased to see you as ever!"

Elrohir, on his knees beside the dog, looked up with a smile. "Yes – I wanted to come back and see him again. We were a bit afraid that he might not be here, but he looks really well!" He rubbed Draug's ears – no, he would have to call him Garm – and patted him as he stood again.

"Aye, he's that all right!" Appleton nodded. "I'm glad you came by – I hoped you might if you came back this way. I've something here of Garm's you might like to see."

He led the way into his hut. It was tiny, and very cramped. A small stove stood near the corner with a kettle on it, and a deep chair faced it. A long table took up most of the rest of the space, littered with papers, pencils, tape measures and rulers, and a generous coating of sawdust. Beneath the table, at the end nearest the stove, was a basket. In the basket were two puppies, curled up together, contentedly asleep.

"Careful, now!" Appleton warned.

The twins both gave exclamations of delight, and cautiously approached the basket, not wanting to alarm Garm's offspring. The puppies awoke, and walked on slightly wobbly legs towards them. Elladan looked up with a smile. "They're beautiful!" he exclaimed. "Is Garm really their father?"

"Aye – can't you see how they take after him? I never thought he had it in him; thought he were past all that nonsense – but after you'd gone he found himself a lady friend up in the town, and the next thing we knew, she'd had nine pups. Nine!" Appleton repeated for emphasis.

"Nine? Garm, you clever dog!" Elrohir praised him, stroking one of the puppies gently.

Appleton watched with a smile. "Now, the thing is, nine's too many. So, soon as they was old enough, I took four of them. I found a farmer who had one, and there's a little girl whose cat just died, and I can keep one myself – but I don't want two. What I was wondering, was if you might want one of these two? Would your ma and pa agree?"

"Yes!" For once, Elrohir did not mind in the least that he and Elladan spoke simultaneously, in complete agreement. "Yes; I know they would say yes," Elrohir continued. "But are you sure? We could really have one?"

"Yes, I'm sure," Appleton confirmed. "I've got Garm. If you want to, you can have one of his pups – call it repayment for what you did. But you must ask your ma and pa first. It's no good telling me they'd say 'yes' – I know kids!"

"But they would say yes," Elrohir began, then paused. "We'll ask them first," he agreed, to save argument. There was no doubt in his mind at all that his parents would agree, but Appleton was clearly not convinced.

He glanced at Elladan, and to his surprise saw a slight doubt in his eyes. Staring at his twin, he suddenly understood his brother's hesitation.

"But there's two of the puppies," Elladan began. "To take one of them,"

"To separate them," Elrohir continued.

"It wouldn't be right," Elladan explained. "They'd be unhappy if they weren't together."

"So thank you very, very much – but we can't," Elrohir concluded sadly. He gave the puppies one last look, then turned away. He knew he could never bring himself to part them, and it was better that they stayed with Appleton – together – than for him and Elladan to choose one and split them up.

Appleton gazed at them both, gave a slow smile, and nodded. "I understand," he said. "How about if you had both? Think they'd be happy then?"

"Both? Yes, but …"

"Right!" Appleton told them firmly. "You go and ask your parents; and if they say yes, you can have the two. All right?"

"Yes!" two enthusiastic voices confirmed.

o-o-o

After a further farewell to Garm and his offspring, they hurried back to the Prancing Pony, stopping at the forge to collect Elrohir's knife.

The horse was gone, and in the hot, dark depths Elrohir could now see two figures working at the anvil, hammers pounding in turn at a long strip of metal. Will looked up, saw them, and broke off with a curt signal to Rushlight. He crossed to the door, and thrust the dagger towards Elrohir.

"There – it's done," the youth said shortly. "I reshaped it to make a new point; but like I said, it's shorter than it was. Couldn't match the quality of the metal. Still, it's good and sharp; but we can't get the new edge as sharp as the old part is. We both tried. How'd you get the blade so keen?" he demanded.

Elrohir took his knife, and looked at it carefully. The jagged, broken edge had been reforged into a new point, and it looked nearly as good as when Elladan had first given it to him. The metal looked a little duller than before, and it was undoubtedly shorter, but he was elated to have his dagger back again. He looked at Will. "Thank you! How much …"

Will shook his head impatiently. "There's no charge. All right?" He glanced over his shoulder at Rushlight, and lowered his voice. "Look, I'm sorry about what happened before. It were wrong. So don't worry about the money – just take your knife. All right?" Without waiting for an answer, he turned away and rejoined Rushlight at the anvil.

Elrohir stared after him in utter amazement, then slowly replaced the dagger in his belt. In this day of surprises, this was surely the strangest of all.

"Did that just happen? he asked Elladan as they walked the short distance to the inn.

Elladan nodded. "Yes, but I don't believe it!" he avowed. "He said 'sorry'! And it sounded like he meant it!"

"And he mended my dagger, and he did it nearly as well as the smiths at home!" Elrohir enlarged. "He seemed – different. He's changed. He's still bad-tempered, but he's better than before."

"I wonder what happened to Harry?" Elladan pondered, as they entered the inn.

Brindley Butterbur overheard them. "Harry?" he asked in disgust. "He started off washing dishes, but he kept dropping things – smashed half my plates, he did! So I put him in the stables, but he upset the horses with his ways. He's working on one of the farms now, but his ma keeps bleating that the hours are too long, and he has to get up too early, and work too hard. I don't know what'll become of the lad! Now that Will – he had some ups and downs at first, it's true; but he soon learned, and now old Rushlight says he don't know how he managed without the lad!"

o-o-o

As Elrohir had known, Elrond and Celebrían were delighted at the thought of Garm's puppies joining them. "But will they be able to cope with the journey?" Celebrían asked anxiously – it was her only reservation. "It is too far for them to walk alongside the horses, and you cannot carry them all that way!"

"I have an idea," Eilenach suggested. "We spoke to one of the grooms – his wife is a basket weaver. She has two panniers. Your sons' horses could carry one apiece, and the dogs could travel in those when they tire!"

They set out the next morning for Imladris. The two puppies – Garaf and Angneleg – bounded along at their side, deftly avoiding the horses' hooves. Elrohir glanced back at the town once last time, then faced forward. It had been a most eventful journey, and was not yet over – but Imladris lay ahead, the peaceful and tranquil valley that was their home. He and Elladan would continue their training in the most basic skills of healing, and in time there would be the opportunity to explore the more skilled aspects. Until then there would be weapons training; warrior skills to learn; and their continuing studies of history and languages – studies that made so much more sense now, having seen and heard so many different races. He turned and gave a sharp whistle. "Come Garaf! This way!"

With a glance at Elladan, they rode homewards.

The End

Author's Notes: As far as I can tell, Garaf means 'wolf' (as Draug does) and Angneleg means 'iron tooth' (in other words, he bites!)