Disclaimer: sighs deeply No, I do not own Lord of the Rings.
A/N: So, here we are at the last chapter of "In Imladris" (sob). I have been completely and utterly overwhelmed by the response to this story, never once thinking that it would be even half as well received as it has been. Thank you so very, very much to each and every one of you for your reviews, words of advice, threats to make me update faster, and for just simply reading (huggles readers). For the last time, (for this story at least) enjoy!
Chapter 9: A Wizard Is Never Late
As the morning sun crept slowly into the motionless cerulean sky which hung over the valley of Imladris, a pair of cobalt-blue eyes, framed by narrow brows and lined with the knowledge of all the ages of Middle-earth, gazed out from the main library of the Last Homely House. They travelled over the moss-draped rocks edging a narrow path which wound its way down from high cliffs, and roamed over the tops of tall trees and low dells until finally settling on three figures who sat in the midst of a verdant garden, their bodies shadowy outlines against the sharp light of the rising sun. A pencil-thin eyebrow rose ever so slightly and a small smile quirked the corners of a stern mouth as one of the figures, a man with dark hair which reached almost to his shoulders, leant over to trail his right hand through a singing stream which ran parallel to the lone trio, before flicking a few drops of water at his companions. The liquid crystals shone clear for the briefest of moments as they hung in the air, caught in the sunlight, before falling, grounding themselves on skin either pale and unblemished, or else weathered by long days in the blistering heat of battles fought underneath the clouding sky of Gondor. Yet even as rolling mists danced over the rivers which traversed the valley floor, and waterfalls rumbled as they dove from the stone cliffs which encircled the elven sancturary, the calmness which enveloped the dew-dropped scene was broken by the sudden sound of an ancient voice.
"Elrond, my old friend."
Despite the interruption, Lord Elrond Peredhil, master of Imladris and keeper of the elven ring, Vilya, did not stir from his place by the high windows of the vast library of Rivendell. Towering piles of parchments and scrolls were scattered liberally throughout the room, layered thickly over endless rows of wooden shelves which housed hundreds of age-old tomes, with more books covering the mosaic of stone slabs and warm, woven rugs which made up the solid floor. Despite the faint feeling of moisture which lingered everywhere throughout the valley, clinging even to the air itself as a reminder of the tumbling waterfalls which had made Imladris their home, each piece of parchment was surprisingly well-preserved, imbued perhaps with a trace of the elven magic, if so it could be called, which surrounded both Vilya and the lord of the valley himself.
The old, gruff voice spoke again into the smooth silence, louder this time. "Tell me, Elrond. What is it that occupies your attention this particular day and age to such an extent that you ignore an old man?"
Long seconds passed, yet the quiet only seemed to deepen until, finally, the wizard Gandalf snorted to himself and drew his long, rough robes closer about him to ward off a non-existent chill. When the millennia-old elf at the window before him made no move to acknowledge his presence, much less his words, the ancient Maiar let out a short huff and moved forwards, coming to a halt only when he was level with the dark-haired elf and could follow the other's gaze deep into the lush valley, coloured with the fresh greens of Spring as well as the dying hues of Autumn. Eyes which were ancient yet surprisingly sharp swiftly noted the three figures in the garden, and the wizard did not have to look at his companion to discern which of the beings in particular held the elven lord's gaze.
Time trickled slowly by as the two friends watched, listened and learned. Finally, when the sun had crept that little bit higher in the sky, Elrond spoke for the first time since the wizard had entered the library, his voice tinted with a blend of calm, sorrow and a frustration which was many seasons old.
"He must accept that he is more than a ranger."
As though the grave, unyielding words had broken the stillness which enveloped the room, the wizard turned and moved to stand before a large fireplace which flickered and burned opposite a pair of carved double doors which led into the library from the eastern wing of the main house. Reaching his lined hands out to the warming flames, Gandalf muttered into his storm-coloured beard, speaking almost to himself as he stared into the glistening heat. "Perhaps it would be best if he believed it first," he grumbled.
Elrond turned to fix grave eyes on the grey figure whose worn frame belied the strength hidden behind bushy brows and long, weathered robes. "He has had many a year to accept his heritage, Gandalf, yet he still resists it, even though he knows that time runs short."
"Time is always short, there is nothing extraordinary in that." The wizard shifted until his back faced the fire and glanced at the elf lord. "We cannot force him to accept his fate, Elrond. Aragorn must come to it in his own way, and in his own time."
"Time is precisely what we do not have, we have spoken of this already. Sauron's power is increasing; his forces move towards Imladris and Lothlorien, they are already in Mirkwood! Even if he will not admit it, Thranduil is struggling to keep even a small portion of his forests untainted by the dark creatures who have crept once more beneath its boughs."
"And what would you have us do?" the wizard countered, his gaze hardening. "Force Aragorn to take up the throne of Gondor, unwilling though he is? Such a deed would scarcely help us in our plight."
"We must do something, Gandalf, and soon. There are no others to accomplish what must be done if we ourselves fail."
"Perhaps the quest will do what we ourselves cannot," Gandalf mused. When Elrond did not reply, the wizard sought the other's eyes and fastened on them. "I have known you for many years, old friend. Do not think to pretend you were not glad when Aragorn offered his assistance to Frodo."
Elrond inclined his head with a movement almost imperceptible. "The quest is our last hope," he asserted. "And not only in regards to the Ring."
"You are right. The quest is our final chance," Gandalf agreed. All pretence of humour, slight as it was, dropped from his next words. "But it shall be hard on him."
"Aragorn will not be alone, you go with him yourself."
The wizard let out a long, weary, breath as he turned to face the elf lord. "I cannot promise to watch over him for the duration of the quest, Elrond, as much as I would wish it. I will face my own challenges, as will he. And the rest of the fellowship will have their own troubles, you cannot rely on them to see him through this."
"There is one who would place Aragorn before himself. He has done so for many years."
"You speak of the prince, I assume?" Hard lines creased the expanse of the wizard's forehead. "He is young, Elrond, perhaps too young for the burden of this journey."
"As is Peregrin Took, as are all of the periannath."
"Hobbits have a unexpected tendency to surprise all those around them, Elrond, including myself."
"Yet it is the most innocent of hearts which are most easily corrupted, you know this."
When the wizard remained silent, Elrond took a step forwards, long robes sweeping over the stone floor as he moved. "What of the ring-bearer, Gandalf, what of Frodo? The quest will destroy him, even if he survives the journey itself."
For long moments the wizard did not reply. Then, from nowhere, a small smile touched the weathered creases of the old man's face as he lifted his head to meet the elf lord's stern gaze. "But he has Sam, and that is something which I think will help him on this journey."
Elrond shook his head. "It will not be enough. You are well aware of the strength of the ring, the strength of Sauron, whose power is growing even as we speak. I know of your trust in Frodo, but simple hobbits cannot hope to prevail in a shadow of such darkness."
Gandalf turned slowly. "You underestimate the power of friendship, Elrond."
"Friendship is not enough! Yes, it may hinder the spread of darkness, may quench the lure of the ring for a time, but Sauron will not cease in his attempts to draw Frodo to him!"
"You show such concern for Frodo and Sam, yet you are willing to send Legolas to aid your son?"
The elf lord stiffened at the wizard's words, his eyes darkening at the unspoken implication. He drew himself up before the ancient Maiar, his voice hard. "Neither Legolas nor Aragorn will be carrying the One Ring, Gandalf, and that is something which shall make all the difference." He looked to the window once again, his eyes falling upon the lithe, blonde-haired figure who rested on the grass between the two men, longs limbs outstretched as he spoke to his companions. "The fellowship will need warriors and he is one of Mirkwood's best. And it is possible that his youth may work to our advantage, besides. There is a lightness to his heart which will serve the company well as they approach Mordor."
"A lightness which may help even Frodo," finished the wizard, his gaze sombre as he joined the elf lord at the window, leaving the warm fire to flicker and flutter by itself. "Perhaps you are right, in this matter at least." He sent Elrond a long, narrowed look out of the corner of his eyes. "Yet there is no escaping the fact that Thranduil will not be pleased with you for sending his son to Mordor." A spark of long-absent amusement danced in the ancient blue orbs as the wizard faced the lord of Imladris in full. "And in the company of a son of Gloin, no less."
A gleam of something close to humour appeared in Elrond's eyes, eyes that had watched the goings-on of Middle-earth for more millennia than most would ever see. "Then it is fortunate that I shall not be the one to tell him of his son's decision," he replied levelly.
The corners of Gandalf's mouth twitched. "And who has been unfortunate enough to receive this duty?"
"My sons. They left early this very morning, after they had bid farewell to the fellowship."
Gandalf snorted, the sound laced with laughter. "That was a cruel move, my friend, to send your own kin to face the wrath of a king and father."
"It was nothing that they did not deserve. I assume that you heard of the wager they made with Estel?"
Though he noted that Elrond had referred to the ranger by the name he had given the son of Arathorn as a child growing up in Imladris, Gandalf kept his thoughts to himself as he shook his head, acknowledging his own ignorance. "Perhaps you would care to enlighten an old man?"
"It is suffice to say that it was not my human son who came up with the idea to push Thranduilion into the largest lake in Imladris before the fellowship's time in this valley came to an end."
A smile tugged at the corners of the wizard's mouth. "I assume that Estel won."
"He did. Yet I suspect that the twins intended him to be the victor the entire time."
"Then it is fit punishment indeed to send them to tell Thranduil of his son's decision." Gandalf paused, the spark of humour in his eyes burning bright. "Though I think that it may perhaps have been kinder to send them on the quest."
Below the library of the Last Homely House, deep in the gardens of Rivendell, Boromir, son of Denethor, scrubbed a hand over his face; his noble, yet prominent, features lined with frustration and no small amount of disbelief at the scene before him in which the heir to Isildur's throne and the millennia-old prince of Mirkwood were sitting cross-legged and mere inches apart, each staring with iron-hard anger at the other.
The ranger's words came fast and furious. "You cannot expect me to believe that a short length of rope tied to a bent stick is in any way superior to the understated elegance of a blade that-"
"A stick?" the elf interrupted, a look of disbelief etched in his features. "Mellon nin, that 'stick' shall be the cause of your demise should you not retract your words."
Stifling a groan, Boromir closed his eyes and tried to think of happy things, things which had nothing to do with the elf and ranger before him. Things like banners, and white towers which gleamed in the morning sun, and a certain little brother whom, whilst certainly annoying in his own right, had never come close to producing the sort of exasperation within Boromir which he was feeling having spent the last hour in the company of an exceptionally perplexing elf and a ranger who was far too mysterious for his own good.
He had come upon the two resting on their backs by a swiftly flowing stream buried in the swaying grass which graced much of the elven valley. To his surprise, they had immediately invited him to join them and he had accepted with little ado. Content to insert only the occasional comment as he enjoyed the beauty of the surrounding gardens, he had found himself surprised at the lack of formality displayed between the elf and ranger as they had conversed, for, whilst he had surmised from the events of the Council that the two were previously acquainted, he had not thought to consider the depth to which their friendship stretched.
Within minutes of his joining them, a discussion had arisen concerning their preferred weapons. At first, he had been amused by the increasingly heated debate, even going so far as to inject his own thoughts in the hope of spurring the dispute further. Yet as the discussion had continued, with the arguments of both man and elf becoming increasingly more derogatory, not to mention laced with threats of bodily harm, he had withdrawn from the dispute, thinking it best not to jeopardize his developing sense of companionship with each of them because of a simple, and somewhat superfluous, debate. Aragorn and Legolas however, seemed to harbour no such qualms, something which had led to his current predicament.
Boromir heaved a heavy, yet carefully constrained, sigh as the elf and ranger continued to argue like siblings.
"This is the last time that I will utter these words, Legolas-"
"And that is only because I will take your life with my clearly superior weapon before you have the chance to utter another falsehood!"
The thought strode across Boromir's mind that perhaps, with the heir of Isildur and the prince of Mirkwood together in the company, the fellowship would not even have the slim chance of success in which he was forcing himself to believe. Most likely, he contemplated dispiritedly, they would all be slain by a mob of oncoming orcs whilst the two bickered over whose weapon was the most appropriate with which to kill said orcs. Swiftly however, he dismissed the notion from his mind as ridiculous and forced himself to focus once more on the rapid argument around him, which by this time seemed to have sunk to the basest level of human, and apparently elven, debate.
The dispute began to fade once more into the background noise of Rivendell as Boromir's mind wandered towards the rest of the fellowship. The more time he spent with any member of the company, whether it was man, halfling, elf, dwarf or wizard, the more confused he was becoming.
The hobbits, whom at first had seemed to be merry, yet otherwise rather simple, creatures, had proved to have an unwavering sense of loyalty and friendship, not to mention a surprising stubbornness about them, and not only in matters relating to the proper times of meals. Frodo, in particular, intrigued him, for he sensed a sharp mind hidden behind those morning-blue eyes. With each day that passed in the elven valley, Boromir had found his respect growing in leaps and bounds for the hobbit, and for his gardener, who followed Frodo much as a well-loved and faithful dog followed his master. Yet at times, Boromir had seen a carefully concealed worry in the eyes of Samwise Gamgee which belied the otherwise straightforward nature of the quiet halfling. Merry and Pippin on the other hand, had brought light and laughter to his stay in Rivendell, something which he had never thought to expect after leaving his little brother at the gates of Osgiliath.
The dwarf, Gimli, seemed to be the most uncomplicated member of the fellowship. Signs of a fierce loyalty and well-honed battle skills had become apparent within minutes of his meeting the warrior, who, much to Boromir's amusement, seemed completely unaware of his…diminutive stature. For some reason, there seemed to exist a great deal of animosity between the dwarf and the elf prince, Legolas, and he had puzzled over it for a great deal of time before a simple question to the hobbit cousins had revealed to him all that he wanted to know, and more besides.
Legolas Thranduilion perplexed him, as did all elves. Ever since their first meeting, Boromir had been fascinated by the way in which the elf seemed to merge into his very surrounds, blending with all things that grew and most that didn't. Surreptitiously casting an unobtrusive glance at the elf where he sat on the nearby ground, Boromir found himself met with a set of clear blue eyes even as the elf continued his argument with the ranger. Embarrassed to have been caught staring, Boromir shifted his gaze away, yet, when he glanced at the elf once more, it was not annoyance but a soft smile which answered him.
Whilst reluctant to admit it, he was often wary of approaching the son of Thranduil, never quite sure whether or not he would be welcomed. So far however, the prince had been courteous, gracious even, and Boromir had felt a definite spark of potential friendship forming between he and the elf prince. Yet despite their budding camaraderie, Boromir still puzzled over the lissom being as he struggled to understand the way in which the elf's quick mind seemed to work. At times the prince was as merry a being as one could hope to meet, yet in the next second he would be still, so still as to mirror the earth itself, and in his eyes Boromir would see a swirling pool of emotion too deep to comprehend. Sadness was often there, hope, anger mixed with a foreign rage, sometimes happiness, and many other emotions which Boromir could not put into words, however much he tried.
He had asked the ranger once, hesitatingly, about the youngest prince of Mirkwood, unsure of how the man would respond to such a question, and even less sure of whether he wanted to ask him something in the first place. Yet one night in the Hall of Fire, as the elf had sung to the stars before the many races gathered before the leaping furnace, his curiosity had grown too profound to ignore any longer. So he had voiced his question, steeling his pride, and his nerves. The ranger had looked at him silently, then replied that the son of Thranduil had seen far more years pass in Middle-earth than he would ever wish to.
Gandalf, again, was a puzzle, though in a different way to the elf prince. Boromir had known Mithrandir since he was just a youth, fighting for the first time in the colours of Gondor, and had heard stories told of the Grey Wizard for several years before that. It brought him no small amount of comfort to think that Gandalf would accompany the fellowship on the quest, solid in his belief that if there were anyone in Middle-earth who could accomplish such a hopeless task as to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom itself, it would be him. Yet during the past weeks, when he had seen Gandalf in Rivendell, usually for no longer than a glance at a time, he could not help but think that the ancient Maiar was feeling the weight of the quest just as much as he, if not more.
Last of the company was the ranger. From that first day in the Chamber of Narsil, and then later in the field where he had watched the man celebrate the elf prince's victory over the Rivendell archers, Boromir's opinions and impressions of the man had changed time and time again, never settling for more than a few hours at once. He had come to realise, and was slowly starting to accept, that there was far more to the other man than reached the eye. Now, every so often when he looked at the heir to Gondor's throne, the words of Bilbo at the Elrond's council came back to him.
"From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be the blade that was broken:
The crownless again shall be-"(1)
Brought abruptly from his thoughts, Boromir stared blankly at the heir to the throne of Gondor, then at the prince of Mirkwood, both of whom were looking at him expectantly.
"Well? Which do you judge to be the better weapon? The sword, or, as this fool elf claims, the bow?" The man uttered the last word with no small amount of disdain, drawing an annoyed glare from said fool elf.
Forcing his mind back to the present, Boromir excused himself hurriedly, his thoughts still in disarray from his musings. "I do not believe that I am an able judge of this debate," he replied, cursing the slight hoarseness which flavoured his voice. Clearing his throat he continued. "I favour the sword myself and have been trained far more thoroughly in its use than in that of the bow, thus I do not think-"
"There!" The ranger's voice was victorious, so much so that Boromir began to think that this debate was not an infrequent event between the two friends.
"However," added hastened to add, seeing the elf's eyes harden, "I am certain that were my little brother here, he would be quick to defend the bow as his weapon of choice."
Elf and ranger looked at one another, then back to the son of Denethor, who shifted restlessly under each demanding gaze. Finally, Legolas' stare levelled, and he switched his gaze to Aragorn. "Then it is a draw," he announced.
The other man nodded slowly. "So it would seem. For the time being, at least."
"This is not over, Dunedan," Legolas agreed, his blue eyes gleaming.
Before another word could be uttered however, both man and the elf glanced simultaneously in the direction of the Last Homely House, leaving Boromir to stare at them in surprise. He could hear nothing. Yet as he watched, the ranger nodded towards the main building, a glimmer appearing in his silver-grey eyes. Legolas' expression, on the other hand, had darkened, turning almost sullen, his lips tightening into a thin line. "Do not," he growled at Aragorn, almost under his breath, yet the ranger merely bared his teeth in the imitation of a grin.
It was only then that Boromir saw the stout figure of a certain red-bearded dwarf round the corner of a thicket of dense bushes. Directing a quick, questioning glance at Aragorn, he puzzled over how the man had been able to hear the approaching dwarf when he himself had heard nothing. Once more his opinion of the ranger shifted.
Aragorn raised his voice to call to the dwarf. "Master Gimli!" he hailed. "Will you not join us?"
"I swear by Isildur that one day I will embed an arrow in your back," Boromir heard Legolas mutter, yet his attention was diverted as the son of Gloin stopped in his path, seeking the owner of the voice. Seeing the two men, the dwarf lifted a heavy hand in greeting.
"Aye, I'd be glad to, Master Aragorn!" he bellowed in return, the sheer volume of his voice causing Legolas to wince, and proceeded to make his way towards them, leaving dark footprints where the grass sunk into the dew-laden ground beneath his weight. It was only when he was within a few yards of the group that he appeared to notice Legolas, whom, as Boromir had previously noticed, seemed to have melded into the greenery around him. Yet, it being too late for the dwarf to retreat, he continued stoically onwards until he stood before three of them. Boromir watched him curiously, wondering how he would react to the elf after their last, somewhat violent, encounter in the Hall of Fire.
"Morning, lads," Gimli greeted the two men. "Master Elf," he added stonily, casting a dirty, dismissive glance at the prince, who returned the gaze in kind.
"Take a seat, Gimli," responded Aragorn, gesturing to the ground beside him. "If we are to travel together it is best that we get used to each other's company."
"As painful as that process may be," Legolas muttered under his breath.
Ignoring his friend's rather loud comment, Aragorn enquired into Gimli's morning, reaching into a concealed pocket of his light grey shirt as he did so. He withdrew a long wooden pipe and slowly packed it with a heavily scented mixture of herbs and such, before lighting it with a small flint. As Boromir watched the two of them, he saw a smirk creep onto Gimli's face which echoed that on the ranger's, and within seconds the dwarf had started to mirror the ranger's actions. Yet it was not until Boromir saw the thick trails of smoke which had begun to plume from the top of each pipe, causing Legolas to almost bristle in displeasure, that he realized Aragorn's intention to irritate the elf, whom, as Boromir knew, detested the heavy scent.
When the elf's top lip began to curl in disgust, still without him having said a word, Boromir realised there was much more to what was going on than he had first thought. It was a battle, not a physical one, but one of wills. Aragorn was baiting the elf prince, daring him to make some comment, or else demand that he and the dwarf stop smoking. Legolas however, was not about to give in before the son of Gloin, and Boromir was sure that Aragorn knew that.
For long minutes the game stretched on, with Boromir tensing every time a trail of smoke trickled the elf's way, every time the prince's shoulders tightened, every smirk dealt out by either man or dwarf. Then, seconds before he was sure the elf was about to let loose a cutting comment, if not more, he heard the chatter of high voices, and Sam, Merry, Pippin and Frodo appeared around the bend in the path which stretched from the Last Homely House. Hurriedly, Boromir gestured them over, hoping that the sense of urgency he was feeling did not reveal itself to anyone else.
Identical grins had formed on the cousins' faces at the sight of the other members of the fellowship, and beckoning to their fellow hobbits, they immediately started for where the group of men, elf and dwarf were gathered.
"Hello there!" Merry exclaimed, dropping down next to Aragorn. "Nice morning, isn't it?"
Boromir nodded along with the ranger, keeping a sharp eye on the elf who seemed to have restrained himself somewhat at seeing the hobbits.
Pippin joined his cousin without further ado before tugging Frodo and Sam down with him. He and Frodo directed smiles at each of the taller members of the fellowship, and Gimli as well, but Sam was watching the man and dwarf as they chewed on their pipes. Taking a small whiff of the smoke as it came his way, he eyed the pipes appreciatively before leaning over to Legolas.
"Excuse me, Mr-" He paused at the elf's raised eyebrow and began again. "I mean, excuse me, Legolas, but I thought that you didn't like it when Mr. Strider smoked his pipe."
"He doesn't," replied Aragorn, before the elf could respond, and, taking a deep breath of smoke, he pulled it back between his teeth before blowing it all over the elven prince. Legolas began to cough harshly as the smoke caught in his lungs.
Without warning, a sudden, grumbling voice interrupted the company. "In the many years I have wandered Middle-Earth, you two are the most foolish of all the beings I have ever met. And that includes our resident Took."
As one, the party turned to see the bent figure of Gandalf approaching the small company, unnoticed by all of them until that point. Pippin turned indignant eyes on the wizard who merely chuckled before lowering himself with a stifled groan onto the grass.
"If I see you doing that to Legolas again, Aragorn," Gandalf admonished the ranger as he removed his tall hat and placed it carefully onto the grass, "your kneecaps shall be reacquainted with my staff."
Legolas, whose throat seemed to have calmed somewhat, judging by his lessening coughs, managed a satisfied glare at the ranger, who frowned at Gandalf in irritation.
"You always side with him," the man complained, tapping his pipe out on a patch of damp earth bordering the stream.
"With good reason," the elf prince interjected hoarsely, yet the ranger did not have a chance to respond as the high, piping voice of Pippin cut into the conversation. The young hobbit had turned to the elf, who was still trying to clear his throat of smoke.
"Legolas?" the hobbit asked, his head tilting to one side. "How did you know about Strider?"
Legolas coughed once more before focusing all his attention on the waiting hobbit. "I beg your pardon, Pippin," he replied throatily, "but I fear that I am not entirely sure of what you speak."
Pippin frowned to himself as he contemplated his own question. "It's just that at the council you seemed to know an awful lot about him, more than anyone else, in fact."
Legolas nodded, considering the small hobbit's words. "Aye," he admitted. "I have known this ranger for many years, even before knew himself as Aragorn."
"I still think that you should have told me," the man muttered darkly as he sheathed his pipe into one of his many coat pockets. "But whilst we are on the topic of my past, Elf, there is something which has puzzled me since the council."
Legolas fixed the ranger with a challenging gaze. "And what is that?"
"Tell me, why is it that after all these years of managing to conceal my identity, you felt the need to pronounce me the heir of Gondor before the representatives of all the free peoples of Middle-Earth?"
Boromir glanced up to see the elf shrug briefly.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time?"
The Gondorian barely managed to stifle the laugh which bubbled up inside him at the elf's words, as the ranger, who did not seem quite as amused, glowered at his friend.
"That is far from a satisfactory answer, mellon nin."
The gruff voice of the son of Gloin suddenly entered the conversation, and all ears, both rounded, peaked and pointed, turned to him. "It will do you no good to blame the elf, Master Aragorn," he announced, a glint lingering in his dark eyes. "For it is no fault of his own that he cannot keep a secret. Why," he continued, "I myself have never met a pointy-ear who can keep his mouth shut for more than a few seconds at a time!"
Aragorn groaned and dropped his head into his hands at the dwarf's words, and Boromir had a strong inclination to join him as he watched Legolas jerk his own head up to stare at the shorter creature.
"Watch your words, Master Dwarf, " he spat, his tone darkly menacing. "For it would be unfortunate for the fellowship to lose one of its members before it had left this very valley."
Boromir found himself watching wide-eyed along with the hobbits as Gimli scoffed at the elf, his face darkening as he seemed to swell in size. "It will be a cheerless day that an elf can get the best of me!" he retorted, clambering to his feet.
Legolas laughed as he, too, stood up, yet for once the sound carried none of its usual merriment. "Do not tempt me, son of Gloin," he bit out. "I have seen more battles and faced more foes than you ever shall in the short years of your life, and-"
"And I have seen far more than you, Thranduilion!" interrupted Gandalf without warning, his voice deafening. The words cut instantly through the razor-sharp atmosphere which had come to envelope the small party, and immediately both the elf and the dwarf closed their mouths with a snap, looking somewhat surprised as they did so. The rest of the fellowship, apart from Aragorn who had begun kneading at his forehead with his knuckles, fell deadly silent, and seven pairs of eyes fixed on the ancient Maiar.
Boromir watched as Gandalf took a heavy breath before glancing round at the odd mixture of creatures which represented each of the four main races of Middle-earth. In turn, he fixed each hobbit, man, elf and dwarf with a heavy stare, his expression grave. His words however, when they came, were hardly what Boromir expected.
"I do not wish to spend all my time on this quest chasing about after foolish hobbits, stubborn dwarfs, mulish elves and reckless men," grumbled the wizard, "and as such I shall expect each of you-" here he glared at an abashed-looking prince of Mirkwood and the reddening son of Gloin, "-to befriend one another, no matter what has passed between you, or your fathers, in years gone by. This quest shall be wearisome enough without all your bickering, so you will all refrain fighting amongst yourselves. If such things do occur, despite this warning, I do not want to hear of them, and I shall expect each and every one of you to go to any lengths to prevent such an event from reaching my ears. Is that clear?"
The wizard waited until each member of the fellowship had nodded, before nodding himself and rising to his feet. Brushing off his hat, he settled it on his head, and looked once more around the motely group. "Now then. I am going to leave you all alone for a time, during which I shall expect each of you to consider my words most carefully, unless you have a particular desire to be turned into something-" he paused and glanced over at a pale Sam, "-unnatural like." With one final glare and a soft snort, the wizard swept round and strode away in the direction of the Last Homely House.
When the Maiar was gone from sight, Boromir glanced round his companions uneasily. The hobbits, three of them at least, were sitting open-mouthed and unblinking, staring in the direction that the wizard had disappeared. Frodo, on the other hand, had a tiny smile flickering around his lips which was echoed in his morning-glory eyes. Gimli had darkened to an even deeper red than he had been minutes earlier, and his expression kept switching between embarrassment and then fury as he glared at the son of Thranduil. Legolas, for his part, seemed more offended than anything else at being told off, and Aragorn had merely slouched even lower where he sat and seemed to be debating whether to break out into laughter or knock his head against a nearby tree.
Finally, as was probably to be expected, the silence was broken as Merry nudged Pippin, hard. "This is all your fault," he hissed at his cousin.
"Mine?" the young Took objected. "Why?"
"If you hadn't brought up all that about Legolas knowing about Strider, Legolas and Gimli never would have gotten into a fight in the first place!"
"Nay, gentlemen, I think that it is safe to say that it is their fault," interjected Aragorn, nodding towards Legolas and Gimli. "For if those two not been so determined to pick a fight about even the slightest offence then Gandalf would not have-"
"My fault?" interrupted both elf and dwarf simultaneously. Realising that they had spoken in unison, each of them turned to the other in fury.
"It is your own fault, Elf, and it would do you good to admit it for once!" blustered Gimli.
"Have you not heard that it is unseemly to blame those who are innocent," returned Legolas, his eyes hardening.
Gimli's head snapped up at once. "I am sure that that is something which your father knows plenty about!" he bellowed at the elf prince.
Boromir glanced over at the ranger. Aragorn however, was simply shaking his head at the bickering pair as he levered himself to his feet amidst the sound of many arguing voices.
"It is your fault!" Merry was still hissing at Pippin.
"But Strider said it was theirs!" Pippin protested.
"Your father imprisoned my father for no good reason!" bellowed Gimli, moving a step closer to the pale-skinned elf.
"Your father trespassed in my home, it is reason enough!" shot back Legolas, as he looked down at the dwarf before him.
When a rough hand fell upon his shoulder, Boromir glanced up, startled, to see Aragorn standing above him with a smile on his face and an arm outstretched. "Come, Master Boromir. Perhaps there is somewhere in this valley which more peaceful than our current location."
With only a brief hesitation, Boromir allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. Once standing, he leant towards the ranger, a half-veiled smile forming on his own bearded face. "If it were my choice, I would say that this is the fault of a certain ranger for baiting a Prince Legolas."
"Aye, and I would have to agree with you," replied Aragorn. "Yet as long as the rest of them do not realise that, then I am safe, am I not?"
Boromir glanced at the other man. "As long as no one tells them of your role in this, you are indeed safe," he returned innocently. When Aragorn did not immediately reply, he glanced at the ranger as he waited for his reaction.
Slowly, the heir to the throne of Gondor nodded, a small smile creasing his own face as he glanced around him, taking in the high cliffs, lofty trees, lush gardens and the bickering fellowship in the middle of it all. "I think, Master Boromir, that it shall be a long walk to Mordor."
"Aye," Boromir agreed. "I think it shall."
From where they stood in the main courtyard of the Last Homely House, Gandalf the Grey and Lord Elrond Peredhil watched the Fellowship of the One Ring with some apprehension. The prince of Mirkwood had caught up to the heir of Gondor, demanding that the debate over the superiority of the bow as compared to the sword should be settled once and for all by using a certain dwarf for target practice. The son of Gloin was marching along furiously as he muttered to himself about the deceitfulness of elves. The four hobbits had begun an intense discussion about the best way to cook mushrooms, yet Frodo seemed slightly distracted as he reached up to feel something that was hidden from sight underneath his shirt. Boromir, the son of the Steward, was trailing behind the rest of the fellowship with a somewhat dubious expression on his face.
"It looks as though all of Middle-earth is doomed," Gandalf commented.
Elrond nodded, a small, pained, crease appearing between his dark brows. "So it would seem," he replied, and turned to make his way inside the Last Homely House where it rested buried deep within the sanctuary which was Imladris.
A/N: This author does not endorse smoking in any way, shape or form.
(1) Taken from Tolkein, J. R. R., The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
I never really thought that I'd feel this sad coming to the end of a story, but I am definitely going to miss 'In Imladris'. I've been working on it for over a year now, and am so appreciative of all of you who have stuck with me through the long (though completely unintentional!) delays between updates. I truly hope that you've enjoyed this story, and would love to hear what you thought of the last chapter. Again, thank you all so, so, so much, and happy writing/reading!