Leave It to Beavers
Disclaimer: I own nothing pertaining to The Lord of the Rings. This story was written for entertainment purposes, not money, and also to prove that I'm still alive. Enjoy!
Of all the woodland animals, beavers are rarely considered the most dangerous. They are semi-aquatic rodents. They live in lakes. They are neither small nor large, and have thick, paddle-like tails and brown fur. Out of the water, they waddle, and this is cute. They also have very large, orange-colored teeth, which are less cute, but these are not threatening teeth. Looking at a beaver, one would imagine that these teeth could do nothing worse than take a few fingers off some unsuspecting animal-lover. But if said animal-lover had no respect for an animal's personal space, he or she would possibly deserve to lose those fingers.
In Rivendell, the amusing anecdote is told of the time Elrond had a tree chewed out from underneath him while he was sleeping in it. It is said that the moral of the story is this: the Noldor should not climb trees, because any attempt to do so will end in disaster. I believe it has a second moral, which is: it is not safe to underestimate beavers. They are dangerous little animals, and I have told my fellow Elves so many times.
This is not a treatise on beavers, however, although beavers play an integral part in the following drama. This is the story of two of our greatest heroes, who took it upon themselves to save us from a threat dire beyond our comprehension. Throughout the years, they had fought evil in its many guises, but a foe so terrible, yet so unassuming, they had not encountered until last week.
This is how it began.
But six days ago, a tall, handsome Elf walked silently through the woods, feeling euphoric and happy about nature. So great was his state of euphoria and happiness that he did not notice a beaver emerge from the nearby lake. It waddled briskly to a tree and began to gnaw on it. This is something beavers do a lot.
Our unsuspecting hero sighed, oblivious to the birdsong and sinister chewing noises. He was, as I have said, a very handsome Elf, with sleek blonde hair, grey eyes and a grim, brooding expression that remained on his face even when he was feeling euphoric and happy. He sat down on a log by the lake (between the lake and the trees, I'll have you note) and proceeded to ponder his unique circumstances.
I call them unique because they were the sort of circumstances that happened only to him. They happened to him so often, however, that they could hardly be considered special.
What had happened was this: the Elf had left his home a month before, intending to go on a short walk. A series of unexpected events (a thunderstorm, an avalanche, an attack by goblins, and a small forest fire) had brought him closer and closer to Rivendell. Also, these events had left him with no way of returning to Mirkwood until in the later summer, when all the melted snow from the avalanche would allow him access through the mountain pass again.
This wouldn't have been much of a problem. Legolas was always welcome in Imladris, for he had saved it from destruction several times. Nonetheless, Legolas felt embarrassed because similar events three years previously had forced him into the same situation. He envisioned himself going to Rivendell and throwing himself upon the hospitality of Lord Elrond without any warning whatsoever — and with the same farfetched story to explain his sudden appearance and inability to go home.
"Wasn't there a thunderstorm, avalanche, goblin attack and small forest fire last time?" Lord Elrond would ask.
"No," Legolas would say. "Last time I was attacked by mad dwarves, and there was no thunderstorm."
"It was winter," Lord Elrond would reply. "If I recall correctly, it was a blizzard that brought you to Imladris three years ago."
"But that was just a blizzard, not a thunderstorm. So it's not quite the exact same thing..."
Legolas was so absorbed in envisioning his conversation with Lord Elrond that he remained oblivious to the sinister chewing noises. But he was not so oblivious as to be unaware of the sound of something heavy and wooden falling towards him.
He turned around slightly, glanced up, and a tree hit him on the head.
I think everything turned out the way it did because Aragorn was bored. It's like he only feels fully engaged in his life when he's in serious agony and ruing the day he was born. That's the way it seems to me, at least.
Aragorn was bored because he hadn't seen Legolas for many long months, and thus, he hadn't experienced any horrible injuries during that time, except for once when he had tripped and tumbled off the porch, tearing his arm open and requiring stitches. But that sort of thing can happen to anyone (or any mortal, I should say), whether or not Legolas is present.
When Aragorn found Legolas in the woods, thoroughly unconscious and concussed, Aragorn immediately concluded that something large and terrible had sneaked up on our valiant Elf-prince and walloped him over the head with something really big and heavy. Although it is often said that Aragorn is a skilled tracker, he failed to notice the slide marks where the beaver, unmoved by Legolas's suffering, had dragged the tree away.
In all fairness, I'll say that Legolas did look pretty awful, like he'd been mauled by something and then rubbed all over with mud. Legolas is usually so immaculate (no matter what happens – at its worst, a goblin attack will only put a few of his hairs out of place) that the slightest trace of dirt on him is shocking. Coming across him in his condition, Aragorn was shocked indeed. At first he didn't even recognize him.
We humble denizens of Imladris became aware of Aragorn's discovery shortly after he made it. This was because Aragorn came charging into Elrond's study with Legolas slung over his shoulder. This is not something we see every day. Every other week, maybe, at the most.
"Look!" Aragorn said, like we weren't looking already. If we'd looked harder, our eyeballs probably would have popped right out of our heads. "Look at this!" Aragorn said, every word dripping with his horror and consternation. "Look what they did to him!"
With this, Aragorn plonked Legolas down on Elrond's desk, and I sighed to see all my beautiful paperwork get smeared with whatever Legolas had been rolling in.
"What who did this to him?" Elrond asked, convoluted with astonishment.
"I don't know!" Aragorn cried. "I found him like this. But we know that not just anyone could sneak up on Legolas and knock him unconscious!"
"Whoever sneaked up on Legolas did not come from behind him," Elrond said, standing up to examine Legolas in a methodical manner. "The injury was inflicted from the side."
"He may have turned around at the last moment," Glorfindel said, coming over and peering down at Legolas's limp form.
"Yes, true," Elrond said. He stroked his chin. "His skull may be fractured. Certainly there's a lot of bruising."
"Very little bleeding, though," Glorfindel said, stroking his chin too.
I could not help but feel that my nice, quiet afternoon had taken a somewhat macabre turn. I could also not help but resent Aragorn for his lack of decorum. Had we ever, at any point during his upbringing, given him the impression that desks were things for putting dirty, wounded people on?
I resented Legolas too, just for showing up and getting hurt. I wished he would find some way to be more original and less theatrical.
Aragorn picked up Legolas again and we all trooped to the infirmary, where the medical analysis continued. Elrond and Aragorn find intriguing the whole concept of poking at people's wounds and deriving (supposedly) important information from them. Glorfindel doesn't understand a word of it (he's better at inflicting wounds than analyzing them) but likes to look as though he knows what he's looking at. I myself find it all a waste of time. Legolas was unconscious. What more to it was there? He might have turned around at the last moment, but why did we care? Turning around certainly hadn't helped the situation.
I eventually grew bored and went away to do something more productive, such as eat dinner.
When Legolas regained consciousness, he remembered little of the moments before he was attacked. This did not prevent him from agreeing with Aragorn that only something large and terrible could possibly have sneaked up on him and struck him down as his assailant had. Something with a big, wooden club, Aragorn surmised, noting the pattern of tree bark on the side of the Elf's face.
"It already injured you," Aragorn said. "Who knows who it will attack next? Maybe even attack and eat?" (Aragorn's personal theory for Legolas's injury involved trolls.)
"We must slay this beast before others fall prey to it," Legolas said. (Legolas's personal theory involved some hitherto undiscovered creature, possibly with many legs and teeth.)
Legolas was apparently as bored as Aragorn had been. The storm, avalanche, goblin attack, and forest fire had not cured him of his love of adventure, and a beast in the forests near Imladris provided him with a good excuse for running around with all his weapons, fighting evil and saving lots of people from dying in an untimely manner.
Perhaps Legolas also felt slightly embarrassed by his predicament, which was unique indeed. He had been rendered unconscious by some invisible creature, and that didn't happen every day. Previously, it had never happened at all. He probably felt that he could save face only by hunting down and killing the monster (with Aragorn's help, of course) and dragging it back to Imladris in triumph to be displayed somewhere in the Hall of Fire.
Aragorn and Legolas discussed the problem and came to a few conclusions. They decided that 1) they, and only they, could destroy Legolas's attacker, 2) anyone else who set foot outside Imladris was flirting with a grisly death, and 3) Sauron must have been responsible for creating the beast and sending it to Imladris. They agreed that they should go out and hunt the deadly creature, while everyone else stayed indoors, cowering in fear (although this part wasn't absolutely necessary), and... well, at present they couldn't really do much about Sauron.
When Aragorn and Legolas came to tell us the course of action they had agreed upon, Elrond and Glorfindel were too kind-hearted to make any objections. I suppose they thought it was nice to see Aragorn with excitement in his eyes and violence on his mind again, when previously he had been drifting around listlessly like he didn't have anything to do.
I was not so kind-hearted. I did not plan to indulge their silly fantasies. I had suspicions of my own, and wasn't about to start panicking because some invisible monster was running around bashing King Thranduil's offspring with a big stick. It was about time, really. Several of King Thranduil's offspring practically deserved to get bashed. We'd all been waiting for this day. I voiced my doubts, but Elrond elbowed me in the ribs while Glorfindel trod on my foot, and I got the impression that they wanted Legolas and Aragorn out of the house for a while.
"All right," I said. "Go and hunt this beast. But don't expect to find it."
No one paid any heed to me, which would have been insulting if I weren't already used to such treatment. In the end, my deterrent probably had the opposite of its intended effect. Aragorn and Legolas hurried away to pack their beast-hunting gear, and I'm sure they were set on finding the beast just to spite me.
Every day for the next three days, they strode bravely into the forest, and every day for the next three days they returned to Imladris with nothing to show for their trouble but short tempers and a few briar-inflicted scratches.
Every day for the next three days, Glorfindel and I had the same conversation.
"Really, we should tell them before something bad happens," I would say, usually whispering fiercely to him in the hallway, afraid that someone would overhear me .
Glorfindel always replied in the same way, with the same annoying laugh. "Nonsense," he would say. "What could possibly happen? There's nothing out there that could hurt them. Let them amuse themselves."
In truth, I think they were amusing Glorfindel much more than they were amusing anyone else, themselves included.
To backtrack a bit, on the day Legolas and Aragorn decided that there was a dangerous beast rampaging in the woods of our home, Glorfindel and I had walked to the lake where Aragorn had found Legolas. I wanted to walk there by myself, but Glorfindel told me that he would come along to protect me from the monster. (I was supposed to be cowering in fear in Imladris, after all, not hiking through the forest.) I think Glorfindel was as curious about Legolas's attacker as I was, and so he wanted to see the scene of the incident as well.
When we reached the lake, I walked around it, examining the ground for clues. I came at last to the muddy imprint of Legolas's sprawled body, and there I stood for a moment, staring at this mark with –yes, I confess it!– a feeling of vindictive amusement.
"Beavers," I said.
Glorfindel looked at me as though I had suddenly started speaking Dwarvish. He's incredibly dense. I've tried hard, but I can't understand why all the elf-maidens love him so much. They must be very superficial, to prefer him over me.
I sighed, pointed, and enunciated clearly as I spoke. "Look," I said, pointing to the gnawed stump of a tree. "Look," I said, pointing to the place where Legolas had lain prone. "Look," I said, pointing to the slide mark and the little beaver paw prints. "Beavers," I said, pointing to the beaver's lodge and dam.
"Legolas was attacked by a beaver," I said.
This was so obvious a conclusion that even Glorfindel could see the sense in it. Maybe there is hope for him.
"Ah," he said. "Of course."
"We should tell them," I said. I was already envisioning the expressions on the faces of Aragorn and Legolas when I told them that Legolas had been attacked by a beaver, of all creatures, and hit over the head by a tree, of all things.
They would be horrified, I thought gleefully.
"No," Glorfindel said. "Why should we tell them? Let them have their fun. They need something to keep them occupied while Legolas is in Rivendell. I'd rather they were occupied with hunting beavers than occupied with spurring Elladan and Elrohir on to greater feats of pure insanity."
This is true. Elladan and Elrohir are calm, serious individuals until they are in the same room with Aragorn and Legolas (or even the same building, sometimes). Then they tend to experience a total shift in personality. If only one of them had been affected in this way by the presence of Legolas and Aragorn, it would have been unnerving. When both twins suddenly become full of 'fun' and 'mischief', the result is simply frightening. I like them more when they are grim and vengeance-driven.
"Maybe you're right..." I said slowly.
"Of course I am."
"But they might get hurt," I said.
"They might get hurt doing anything," Glorfindel said. "You may not have noticed, but Aragorn and Legolas get hurt all the time in the strangest of ways. It is their fate. We cannot save them."
"Maybe you're right..."
Glorfindel gave me a shrewd look, and then said, "If you tell Legolas or Aragorn about the beaver, I will tell Lord Elrond that you—"
"No," I said, whirling around to glare at the other elf. "No, you will not."
Glorfindel smirked at me, and I decided to recover my poise and treat him to a little righteous indignation.
"Whatever makes you think that blackmailing me will keep me silent?" I asked.
"It worked last time," Glorfindel said.
Unfortunately, this was true. I stood with my mouth open for a moment, and Glorfindel's smirk widened to an evil grin. "Oh, very well then," I said ungraciously, turned, and stomped away.
So perhaps Glorfindel isn't as dense as I had believed. Fantastic.
On the fourth day, everything changed. For the worse, I might add.
The first bad thing that happened involved Lindir. This wasn't surprising. Lindir is somehow involved in most of the bad things that happen in Imladris. Often, I must admit, he is the victim. Occasionally he is the instigator. In this case, he was more like a harbinger of doom... no, that's not quite right. In this case, he was the harbinger of surprise birthday parties. It seems to me that the words 'doom' and 'surprise birthday parties' could well be synonymous.
Anyway, it so happened that I caught him practically skipping through Imladris, a garland of flowers in his hands, and asked him what he was doing. A few minutes later, the truth was out.
"What did you say?" I asked him. "A birthday party? A surprise birthday party?"
Lindir gave me one of his self-effacing little smiles. "It's a human thing," he said.
"I know that," I snapped. "My question is: why was I not informed? Was the party to be a surprise for myself as well?"
Lindir's smile faded."They told me not to tell you because you'd try to sabotage it!" he said, wriggling. I watched his expression grow yet more miserable as he slowly realized that he had betrayed his lord by informing me of this.
"Now why would I want to sabotage Aragorn's surprise birthday party?" I asked, striving for some outer calm. By the way Lindir sort of wilted under my gaze, I'm guessing the attempt failed.
"Because everyone knows you hate him," Lindir said.'Hate' is a very strong word, much stronger than dislike and even stronger than can't stand. I shook my head in sad rebuke. "How can you say such a thing, Lindir?" I asked.
"Sorry," Lindir said, wriggling even more and looking as though no smile would ever cross his face again. "I meant to say that everyone knows you loathe him."
I blinked. "I don't hate Aragorn," I said. "He can be quite amusing sometimes."
"I think you're amused by all the wrong things," Lindir said, and bolted, leaving only a few petals in his wake.
I stared after him, trying to make sense of what was happening. I'd been sure that Lord Elrond had an ulterior motive for sending Aragorn out of the house, but this wasn't the motive I had suspected. This motive was almost noble. If Lord Elrond wanted to provide a nice surprise birthday party for his foster son, such a party would not be undeserved. Aragorn had spent his last birthday in a dungeon in Angmar; the year before that, he'd celebrated his birthday in slavery in Harad; the year before that, he'd been eating rats in a smelly little jail in Gondor; the year before that, he'd been lying feverish in an infirmary bed in Mirkwood (which is nearly as bad as any jail, believe me); the year before that, he had been unconscious in a cave for the entire day, which was probably a good thing, since if he'd been conscious he would have had to deal with the stress of the rats eating him and the year before that... well, pain and suffering on Aragorn's birthday was something of a recurring theme.
I toyed briefly with the unpleasant thought that Aragorn, by celebrating his birthday in Rivendell, might bring his trouble with him.
I shouldn't have worried about this, because this is where the second bad thing comes in. It occurred on the evening of the fourth day. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that the second bad thing involved something not occurring.
We watched and waited, but Aragorn and Legolas did not come back.
"Told you so," I said, even though I hadn't.
"Oh, do be quiet, Erestor," Glorfindel said.
"Well, it's not my fault," I said. "I warned you. I said you should have told them about the beavers. I knew that something bad would happen. I knew they would vanish like this. It was absolutely inevitable. I knew—"
"Since you knew," Glorfindel said dryly, "I suppose you would like to be the one to notify Lord Elrond of his son's mysterious disappearance?"
I snapped my mouth shut.
"Thought so," Glorfindel said, looking faintly amused despite himself. "I'll do it, then. Don't rush to thank me."
As Glorfindel wandered off to find Lord Elrond, I sat and pondered the many possibilities. I needn't have bothered. The reason for Aragorn and Legolas's delay was something that lay beyond even my powers of imagination.
The beaver was involved, of course.