Disclaimer: Nope, my driver's license does not in fact state that I am John Ronald Ruel Tolkien. Ergo, this isn't mine, and I make no profit from this fan-made-fiction.
WARNING: lots of cursing in this story. Don't like it, don't read it. Also rated for later citrus in Chapter 10.
'To know sorrow
Is not terrifying
What is terrifying
Is to know you can't go back
To happiness you could have'
God, I am so dead. Rem stretched lethargically in her desk chair, only to huddle back up moodily like a cat. She tugged at the soft blanket strewn over her lap, rearranging it hastily so that it was wrapped about her entirely. Fighting back a sigh, she turned her half-hearted attention back to her notes.
She shouldn't have procrastinated. She was well aware that it was her own damn fault. Well, maybe not entirely. It wasn't her fault that her professor had moved up the date on her exam. And it wasn't her fault she had to work each night at the grocery store. Behind the deli counter. Making it impossible for her to study. In fact she'd tried. But when her manager had caught her frantically scanning through her textbook when she should have been working on the Basil Tomato Mozzarella Salad, she'd nearly been written up. As it was, she'd gotten an earful.
So here she was: bent over her stupid book, cramming what little information would stick in her exhausted brain. It was late, probably around one or two in the morning. The cup of Berry Delicious tea she had fixed herself had long grown cold, and a headache was slowly making itself known. She squirmed in her chair a bit, wishing she could get more comfortable on the cheap, wooden dormitory furniture. What she wouldn't give to relieve the soreness in her neck from having to crane it down for so long. But at least it was finally quiet. Her dorm room was close to the stairwell, so she always had a steady stream of people shrieking and laughing as they came or left the building.
At times like these, she was grateful to have her roommate as —well, her roommate. Caitlin wasn't much of a friend and she wasn't around much. She was one of those young ladies who allowed her parents to pay for student housing, and then promptly moved in with her boyfriend without their knowledge. So really it was almost like living by herself: a private room but without the extra expense. Although once a month or so Caitlin would storm in, screaming and cursing into her phone. It was usually in lament to one of her girlfriends about some argument or other she'd had with her paramour. Once or twice she'd even popped in unexpectedly with strangers, and it had been severely awkward for Rem—especially one particular incident where she had been merely half-dressed. Still, at least she had a semblance of privacy the rest of the time in thanks to her general absence.
Her tired eyes flickered over the page, scanning over the briefest of sentences. Rem groaned softly, closing them in the denial of having to take out her stupid contacts. Truth be told, she was near-sighted. Very near-sighted. Her desk lamp hummed irritably, buzzing its wakefulness in the dark. Rem's eyes lowered, tugging her fingers absently on her blanket as they did. Maybe…it wouldn't hurt to shut them for a few brief minutes…? Tiredly, she grabbed her contact solution and case. She removed them deftly, having done so many times, before gingerly placing her glasses on. Switching between the two often made her a bit dizzy and disoriented since it threw her depth perception off.
She closed her eyes, massaging her temples…yes…she just needed a few minutes to adjust….and resume…studying….Her head slipped forward, resting on the page. She ignored the pencil nudging uncomfortably against her cheek; the metal frames of her glasses pressing into her skin. Yes…all she needed was to rest her eyes for a second….Just a second.
Her last conscious thought, as she fell into a doze, was that she wished she were anywhere but here. Anywhere.
The next thing she was aware of was falling painfully on her rear. She recoiled, floundering helplessly in her blanket.
OW! Son of a…
A chilling, war-like screech ripped through her ears, shocking her as she fought to get her bearings. Her stomach heaved in panic and confusion. She recoiled once she realized what the hell had made that shriek. Jagged armor, painful to look at, outlined the silhouette of what looked like a gnarled, gray-fleshed man. Loam was clumped in the creature's hair, as if the thing had never bathed. The smell it emitted didn't conflict with that notion. Worse, it was armed with a wicked looking blade. Alarmed, she noted its slitted green eyes were fixated on her. It was hedging closer—a leer forming about its spittle-tipped fangs, a growl curling past its lips.
Running was out of the question. She was tangled up in her stupid blanket. Adrenaline rocketed through her veins as the creature lunged, hardly allowing her time to think. She kneed it in the groin, reacting on instinct. And immediately regretted it.
"Fuck!" She grasped at her leg in a haze of pain, writhing. Shit…it's wearing a cod piece?! The goblin-thing paused, an expression twisting its features. It might have been bemusement. Hesitance cost the thing its life. A smattering of battle cries tore through the clearing, and a host of weaponry ripped into its throat, beheading it while splattering Rem with black blood and entrails.
She stared, shocked at seeing disembowelment so…up close.
She glanced upward, spots swimming before her eyes, taking in the visage of her savior as she choked in shaking breaths. But before the silhouette could even register, everything blurred and started twisting into graying shadows. The world spun sideways, and her sight faded away completely.
Gruff, muted conversation was what roused her first. Second was the acrid smell of smoke cutting through the chilly air. Cautiously, she cracked open her eyelids. A burning fire was roaring off to her left. She was propped against the roots of a wide tree, a blanket she did not recognize swathed over her. She tried to sit up, only to be abruptly reminded of her sore posterior and undoubtedly bruised knee. Terror at not knowing where she was, or precisely how she got there, made her momentarily numb as she blearily took in her surroundings. The dull throbbing of her mild injuries was actually a blessing, since it helped her focus.
She let out a soft, involuntary groan, which seemed to bring about the attention of those before the fire. She wasn't sure if that was a good thing. Movement to her right had her go ridged, causing yet another lurching ache to rip through her numerous bruises. The stranger approached, twigs and leaves crackling beneath his booted feet. Into view came a short man, bedecked by worn, leathery clothes and a red braided beard. He sat down before her. Funny…how he seemed to remind her of someone…she blinked. Or was it something…? She pushed the absurd thought aside. She didn't know where the hell she was, or even how she got here. Icing on the cake was that she'd fainted. Actually fainted. She'd never fainted before in her life. That was something tacky heroines did in trashy romance novels. This whole experience was beginning to feel like bad literature, or an alternate reality of some sort. It was probable that this was just some fucked-up dream. She could still be facedown on her notebook, drooling onto her desk. But you weren't supposed to feel pain in your dreams. So maybe she'd fallen from her chair and somehow hadn't woken up? Head trauma ranked a high possibility, among her other injuries…
Wordlessly, he handed her a cup of cool liquid and a small plate with what looked like a smart assortment of prepared meat and edible vegetation. She took it, her stomach reminding her of its empty state. They stared wordlessly at another, a cold wash of…not fear exactly…but perhaps…vigilance, dancing across her skin. She was being scrutinized and she knew it. There lingered more than a touch of hostility in that gaze, though perhaps there was curiosity in there as well. She wasn't sure of anything any more. Anxiety forced a bitter, coppery taste in her mouth. What the fuck is going on?
He cleared his throat, startling her like a twitchy rabbit. Rem bit her tongue, nearly drawing blood. Cursing herself for acting like some sort of idiot, she muttered a strangled 'thank you,' and set to work on shoveling some food into her mouth. As she chewed, she avoided eye contact with the little man, praying her mind would stop spinning. No such luck. She felt like her nerves were being held together by a tenacious thread. As hungry as she was, anxiety twisted her stomach into knots, keeping her from really sating her appetite.
Nausea heaved through her stomach, stress rearing its ugly head. Or it could very well be the side venison, dripping in its own juices, pushed to the far edge of her plate. She couldn't eat meat, and the sight of it now wasn't helping her increasingly waning appetite. Okay, she just had to handle this logically. What was the last thing she remembered? She had been in her dorm room, cramming for an exam….and wound up in a forest, nearly murdered. What the hell is going on?!
"What business have ye wandering about these parts? And without chaperon, no less?" The sharp interruption of silence made her suck in a breath; an unfortunate combination, given the fact that she was swallowing some water. So much for her fruitless attempt at bracing her insides with a calming sip. She hiccoughed back some of the liquid, praying that she wasn't spraying her companion as she flushed it out in order to breathe. Hot with embarrassment, she focused on trying to regain her breath, fighting to answer.
"I was j—just," she hacked again, her voice rough and uneven. Rem wished the earth would open up and swallow her. " I mean," she floundered, "I landed in the dirt…I wasn't with anyone…and…" she let loose a shaky sigh, a broken gesticulation performed by her hand. She couldn't help fidgeting under his unyielding stare. It didn't look like he was going to buy this shit. Hell, even she wasn't buying it. What sane person believes that someone else can appear from fucking nowhere with no explanation? She told herself that this must be a dream. Just a surprisingly lucid dream: one where phantom pain couldn't rouse her from its confines. Any minute now she'd wake up and rush off to class to fail her impromptu exam. But it wasn't happening. Minutes seemed to stretch by, and nothing was happening. Low voices began once more in direction of the fire. A breeze crackled past the foliage of leaves above, and the idea that this wasn't really happening beginning to slowly fade away, making her want to vomit. The feeling that she'd swallowed a block of ice, now caking her insides, began to thicken as a dull panic grew.
She opened her mouth, prickles of disbelief warring inside of her even as she squashed it down.
"I…where am I, exactly?" she bit her lip, dropping her gaze. Why wouldn't he stop staring? Maybe he thought she was a victim of highway robbery. Or possibly just bat-shit-crazy. Logical to assume both. They weren't mutually exclusive.
"Just to the east of Rivendell, lassie." The meaning of his words caused another spike of emotion to roil inside her poor stomach.
Rivendell? What…? Heart pounding, she asked something else, her voice sounding hollow to her own ears.
"You mean…Imladris…as in the house of Elrond…?" He nodded, maybe in encouragement. All it did was make her head spin.
"Ye are familiar with it?" Yes, she thought, I'm fucking familiar with it! Why can't I just wake up?! This isn't just a dream. It' a fucking nightmare... I NEED TO WAKE UP! She swallowed, the uncomfortable churning of her insides reminding her that she remained in the peril of throwing up.
"Technically. I mean…." Rem's throat felt raw, as it she already had already hurled. Swallowing in reflex, she elaborated. "I've…heard of it. I'm actually from…far away." He nodded, never breaking eye contact. She felt a raw blush breathe up her neck. Suddenly very aware of how she was dressed: a pair of ratty, baggy jeans coupled with a shirt. At least I'm wearing a bra…Her feet weren't cold, so that probably meant her socks were still intact. Still…what a hell of a sight.
"Yer name, lassie?" He grunted the question. Making her wince. This whole fucked up thing was just too surreal. I'm sitting next to a Dwarf…after trying to kick a monster in the nuts. Not to mention I look like crap…
"It's….Rembrance….But everyone calls me Rem…" the entire situation just felt too utterly bizarre, and the weight of the whole experience was beginning to make her feel light-headed. She swallowed once again before continuing, trying to keep the contents of her stomach where they belonged. It was feeling like a losing battle. "…and Eltrin is my last—uh—surname." He stood very suddenly, only to bow stiffly in the formality of introduction.
"Gimli, son of Gloin. At yer service."
No. Fucking. Way. She snapped her eyes shut. Oh god, this isn't happening!
"And yer parentage, Lady Eltrin?" She blinked owlishly, a stupid expression probably on her face. Ah, a patriarchal society. Got it. She focused on maintaining a calm demeanor, praying that it might actually fool herself into becoming that way.
"daughter of Josephine," she muttered. He grunted, dissatisfaction evident in the sound.
"I don't have a father." She said it flatly, indicating she had no wish to discuss the subject further. As far as I'm concerned, he doesn't even exist. He might as well be dead. The sudden rustle of dead branches and leaves cracking under foot indicated the arrival of another. He joined them from out of the fire's glow. Much of his features were painted in shadow, except for a snowy beard that twisted in an icy river down his chest. He looked very much like Gimli, but gnarled from having weathered many decades.
"Learn anythin'?" his voice was harsh, more grating. While Gimli's wasn't exactly oil over silk, the pleasant timbre of it was still preferable to the newcomer's. Or it could very well just be the way it was rudely enunciated. She didn't appreciate being ignored and talked over, either.
"You're…Glöin, I take it?" Sharp, clear eyes wreathed by wrinkles looked at her. His facial expression warred between suspicion and dare she say…annoyance?
"Aye, an' who're you?" He intoned flatly.
"Someone…who's a little far from home…"She murmured, rubbing her temples. A headache was beginning to threaten. A clearing of the throat caused her to look up once more. Both Dwarves were studying her, distaste and suspicion evident in their gazes. Neither seemed amused by her response.
"Rembrance!" She snapped, fatigue and anxiety giving way to anger, "I already told you my name is Rembrance! I don't know how I got here, or what the fuck I'm supposed to do…" A look of revulsion at her foul language crossed their faces, cautioning her to tone it down. They had no obligation to feed or protect her. If she didn't want to be abandoned as well as injured, she needed to cool it. Swallowing down the powerful emotion, she took a steadying breath, trying to begin again. "I'm sorry…I'm just…confused by all of this. Even more than you guys. If I had any answers to give, you'd have them. As it is…I only have a favor to ask. I need to go with you to Rivendell."
Father and son exchanged glances.
"What gave ye the idea we were headin' there?" Rem nearly rolled her eyes.
"I doubt Dwarves are in the habit of roaming near the House of Elrond. Obviously you're headed there, if only to make a pit-stop for some 'R and R' ." Gimli ignored the look his father was giving him, knowing he had slipped up in telling the girl their location. He chose, instead, to focus on the odd phrase the girl had chosen.
"Pit-stop for some Ar and ar…?"
"It's just an expression," she said evenly, "meaning you were going to stop by for some rest and relaxation…stock up on some supplies before heading out into the wild. Like you did on your quest for the Lonely Mountain with Bilbo…and the others…"
"How came you by that knowledge, lass?" Glöin interrupted suspiciously.
"Look…I just know things…," Rem blew out a sigh. Was it her, or were things here going from bad to worse? "Events and stuff," at their disbelieving looks, she continued, grasping at straws, "Not everything, obviously. But great sweeping ones…like the Council of the One Ring, the Fellowship…" she trailed off, alarmed. The faces of both Dwarves had darkened considerably. "Which…obviously hasn't happened yet. Shit…."
"You're coming with us," Glöin affirmed grimly, "and ye'll hold your tongue on the matter, lass."
Dawn came too soon. And with the lightening gloom came the sense of returned foreboding Rem had staved off in sleep. It now settled like a brick in her stomach upon waking. On one hand, she had gotten her wish. The Dwarves were providing a sort of escort to Rivendell. If she couldn't find help there, then…well…she'd cross that bridge when she came to it. It was as good a starting point as any. However, on the other hand, she was under the impression that she was more so a prisoner than anything else. Thanks to her big slip-up, they seemed to think that she was some type of seer. Or so she gathered from the muttering of some. At the very least, she was a danger to them…Especially if the enemy got its hold on her. She could see the logic in their caution. She had literally appeared from out of the blue and established that she knew too much. But what she wouldn't give to have five minutes of privacy to pee in peace!
She'd been mortified when, after expressing her need to visit the bushes, two Dwarves dutifully followed. They kept close enough that she almost had trouble going—knowing that they might hear her relieving herself. Still, it could have been worse, she reasoned. At least the Dwarves weren't insisting that she be tied up…Though she had a sneaking suspicion that they would if she tried anything funny. In the meantime, she couldn't help but feel a bit like Snow White what with her entourage. Glöin would make a perfect Grumpy…
They reached Rivendell slightly past noon, as the morning shyly tucked itself away into the early shadows of noon.
She couldn't rip her eyes away from the eloquent architecture of the Elvish buildings, towering above them like trees as they came into view. The torrential rush of the churning waterfall in their midst felt like the only changing element in the valley. Everything else seemed just so…timeless and tranquil. As they neared their destination of the main building, she noted how busy the place seemed. Nervously her gaze flickered around the various denizens, her stomach tied up in knots.
There had been a time, years before, when her experience of all this might have been different…But the Lord of the Rings stories and all of their literary relations left a bit of a sour taste in her mouth these days. It was partially why she hated her father so much. No…hate was too strong a word. She didn't care about him. She was indifferent to his very memory.
Before he'd left her and her mother, he would stay up late reading those same stories to her. Over and over again…reverently, like a prayer. Now that he was out of the picture…well, this whole situation she found herself in was just too messed up on several different levels.
Two hobbits ran by, dispersing a group of Elves who gracefully parted away from them. They had to be Merry and Pippin. Rem swallowed, her mouth suddenly going dry.
This…is really weird.
Without her knowledge, two pairs of eyes observed the young woman from a high balcony.
"She looks no different from any other mortal I have seen…Save, perhaps, for her attire and spectacles." It was unusual for one so young to have any need of the latter. Elrond shrugged unhelpfully.
"Be that as it may, Lord Elrond. The Dwarves claim she knows the future." Elrond paused at Gandalf's words, allowing them to sink in as the wizard continued. "She also claims to have no knowledge of how she arrived alone in the wild. It is worth considering that she may be of another world…one outside of Middle Earth." Elrond hesitated before responding.
"In any case, it would be best that we keep an eye on her. Do not allow her near the council until we are finished. If she can recite our decisions, then we may have a reason to believe she speaks a modicum of truth."
He stepped toward the window, studying the young woman in baggy clothes as she adjusted her glasses.
"I'll see to it that she is given proper attire—and a bath, if she so desires." Gandalf nodded distractedly, smiling despite the fact that it didn't quite reach his eyes.
"I'll see you at the Council then." Elrond nodded, not even turning as he waved in acknowledgment. He had not taken his eyes off of the strange young woman, who looked somewhat lost standing in the courtyard by her remaining companions.
Now that her initial awe and feelings of surrealistic awareness had faded into the back-burner of her brain, Rem felt intimidated. No, she felt more like dirt. She was covered in it, after all. Everywhere she looked: at the Elves who wandered by or even the scenery itself, she saw beauty. You know something's wrong when you start envying the beauty of a bush. She thought wryly. While she wasn't ugly by any means, she knew she wasn't actually that far off what with the state she was in. There was still Orc blood on her clothes, after all. And the dirt, smudged with various vegetation, didn't actually help her appearance either. She'd kill for a bath.
She stood in the main courtyard with the remainder of her escort. Evidently, Glöin, Gimli, and several others had gone ahead merely to inform Lord Elrond and the Gray Pilgrim of her presence. In the meantime, she had to suck it up and wait with the others. Tenacious conversation began amongst the Dwarves. Though it was initially weighted with grumbled muttering about home, it waned in subject matter and they deigned to include Rem.
"Is it true that ye tried to knee that goblin in the groin?" Twalin, she thought his name was, seemed oddly approving of the notion. Rem's knee throbbed in reminder.
"Yeah…What little good it did me…"
"Ye were lucky the codpiece wasn't spiked." Another Dwarf by the name of Orin remarked. Rem winced slightly, envisioning that kind of pain while the one she already had continued to ache.
"Why the hell would it have been spiked?! What purpose would that even serve?!"
"That attempt o' yours served it."
"Oh…" Good point. But that can't be comfortable…talk about having to waddle...Maybe that's why Orcs are always so pissed off.
All at once, a couple of Elves on horseback galloped past as they entered the courtyard, interrupting what might have been said next. Startled, she tripped back. She would have fallen on her still-bruised derriere if it weren't for Orin. The Dwarf grasped her arm, steadying her. She gave him a grateful look.
"Don't mention it." He replied gruffly. He scowled in the direction of the new arrivals. She mimicked him by following his gaze, her mouth going dry at the sight of them. Their clothing was different than that of the other Elves from Rivendell, given that they were clad in silvery browns and drab greens. That means they're probably from Mirkwood…which means… Shit. The last thing she needed was to confront more ghosts. She swayed slightly, allowing both Twalin and Orin to steady her this time. Great, she'd nearly fainted again. For the second time within a week.
Much to her dismay, two of the Elves turned in their direction, sizing them up. The Dwarves all scowled, and Rem struggled to catch her breath. Why the hell do they have to be so…beautiful?! One furrowed his brow: she couldn't help but notice that he had turbulent, stormy blue eyes that were clouded with thought. But she stopped staring when his companion glared at them fiercely, as though disgusted by their attention. She winced. Jeez. Who spit in their tea?
"What's their problem?" She kept her voice low. Not the smartest thing to do since the Elves evidently heard her anyway. The one glaring at them had his expression deepen before turning away, striking up a hushed conversation with his curious companion.
"Dwarf business." Orin supplied at last. She nodded distractedly, watching them go, clothes swirling. She dimly recalled that Dwarves and Elves in general didn't get along much; differences in opinion brought along by different life experiences and general culture or something like that. Still, the animosity seemed a bit unwarranted given that they were just standing there.
"Does it have something to do with Thranduil being a douchebag about sixty years ago?" She muttered acerbically, careful to keep her voice lower than before. The Elves stared at her. Shit. They heard. Twalin's face broke out into a grin as he thumped her on the back heartily, almost knocking her flat.
"Aye, Lady Rem. You've about got it."
It was then she noticed an Elf pointedly approaching, causing the Dwarves to stiffen. The Elf in question had lovely gray eyes and wore a softly colored dress of orange, which brought out the gold in her hair.
"Miss, would you care for a bath?..." Her empathetic voice was like bluebells chuckling in the breeze. If flowers giggled, at any rate. Rem didn't know whether to be grateful or feel insulted. But the desire to be clean won out in the end. She smiled nervously back.
"Yes, thank you. That would be lovely." The Elf turned to lead her away, and Rem hazarded a glance back at the Dwarves, giving an awkward wave. How does one say goodbye to those who saved and then captured you? She mentally shrugged.
"Are you coming, Miss?" Rem scuttled after her, striving to ignore her bruised knee as she hurried after the Elf in the lovely gown.
"Yeah, right behind you." They rounded a bend and entered a gorgeous building. After passing through the open-air hallways that beheld spectacular views of the valley, they came to a room equipped with a sunken bath. Actually, it looked more like a Jacuzzi than anything else. The room was equipped with more exquisite architecture, with an open wall framing the view below. It also hosted a soft looking bed, a desk and elegantly carved chair, equipped also with a dressing screen.
"I'll return with a change of garments for you, Miss." Rem looked up guiltily. She'd forgotten she was there for a moment.
"Thank you…I'd appreciate that," She attempted a smile, "and please, just call me Rem." The Elf smiled gently at her.
"I am called Eldewyn." She then departed. But she had not gone more than a few spaces before hearing a small squeal that must have come from the girl. She paused for an instant. But when no sound followed, she continued on her way. Mortals were indeed strange.
Rem had shimmied out of her clothing as soon as Eldewyn shut the door. She had then immediately splashed into the tub, eager to be clean. Only to find that the water was most definitely not heated. It had come as a bit of a surprise. So the ensuing shriek was warranted.
A bit later, Rem felt infinitely better. While the water had cooled from lukewarm to cold, she was at least clean. Well, cleaner. Obviously, personal hygiene wasn't to be taken for granted around here. She dearly wished that her own bathing products were here. Their familiarity would have been a comfort, whereas the ones she had used felt vaguely alien to her skin and hair. But beggars couldn't be choosers. And the view from the room was nice...from what she assumed at any rate. She had taken her glasses off.
She sank lower in the water, brooding. So…here she was…in Middle Earth. How and why were still two very large questions. Like gaping holes staring her in the face; like the eyes of a skull. She shivered, then dunked her head one last time, making sure she had rinsed out the last of the bathing condiments. She swallowed a lump in her throat. Was it Monday morning back home right now? She'd disappeared on a Thursday night…so it seemed plausible. Luckily, she only had the one class on Fridays, and that meant she only risked a failed exam. But she'd done that plenty of times. So her biggest concern remained to be getting fired from her job…She could almost hear her boss's shrieks when it was discovered she hadn't shown up for her shifts over the weekend.
On Saturdays, she worked behind the deli counter alone. It was a relatively small grocery store, and still a bit new to the community of downtown. Originally, she had opened Saturday mornings with her coworker, Jenna. But after Jenna had quit, Rem had somehow managed to perform the workload of two in the next few weeks following. Management then decided that they could cut costs by keeping it that way. Which meant she had to gut chickens to put them on the rotisserie, prepare the hot lunch, decorate cakes, make sandwiches, slice deli meat and cheeses, make fancy salads and place them in decorative display cases, empty the grease that gelatinized on the rotisserie, and clean every utensil she so much as breathed on by herself from 5 a.m. until late in the afternoon.
Her boss generally only worked Sundays. Once she heard from the evening shift from Saturday that she hadn't shown for the morning, she could kiss her next paycheck goodbye. Rem cringed at the thought as she sat up and began twisting the water from her hair. While living in a college town had its perks: like late-night restaurants and 24-7 convenience stores, there were some downers. Like job hunting. It was a cut-throat business what with other college students around. Some of her peers were willing to bend over backwards for a job. Which meant businesses could afford to be picky. Which meant she was in some serious trouble if she didn't get home. Pronto.
Bracing herself, she emerged from the bowels of the tub, tucking on her glasses. But it erupted into a sputtering shriek when she realized she wasn't alone. She startled the Elf as well.
"I'm sorry, Lady Rem! I didn't mean to frighten you." Rem hugged herself self-consciously, praying she wasn't showing anything.
"Uh…Yeah…no big deal…" Eldewyn shuffled closer, holding out a towel as a mother would to her child. Rem eyed her warily, not sure whether to leave the protective modesty of the tub.
Eldewyn waited patiently. Finally, realizing she looked foolish—and that the water was still cold- She slunk out quickly, with Eldewyn looking away in consideration. Draped in cloth, she swaddled herself carefully, muttering out a thank-you as she did. Eldewyn continued to stare, making Rem bristle with discomfort.
"What?" It came out a bit more peevish than she'd meant.
"Lord Elrond has a salve that can aid your sight," Eldewyn replied mildly, gesturing to her glasses "if those bother you." Rem blinked at her empathetic companion, fidgeting slightly. Yeah, like Elves have a cure for what optometrists have been striving to correct for years. She ignored her pointedly rude thoughts and replied tactfully.
"That would be nice…if it's not too much trouble, I guess." Eldewyn nodded approvingly, then presented her with a bundle of what looked like olive green cloth.
"These are your robes, Lady Rem." She took them carefully.
"Thanks…and please, just call me 'Rem'…and if it's not too much trouble..." she averted her eyes for a moment, trying to think of the proper euphemism. They probably didn't have a term for the common razor, she didn't think. "…do you think you could obtain a small dagger or something that I can use for….shaving? Maybe…?" The Elf hardly blinked at her request, nodding as she headed toward the door.
"Yes, I will return with the proffered items shortly."
Moments later, she returned bearing several items, one of which was the promised 'dagger'. Eldewyn smiled coaxingly as she handed it over and explained that it was called a 'straight razor'. Rem felt unbearably stupid; of course they had the stupid things here…how else were men expected to groom their facial hair? Humbled, she watched the Elf curiously as she rummaged around with a few things: adding one liquid to another with nimble fingers to create a sort of paste.
Suddenly, she whipped around, gesturing Rem to sit upon the chair that rested before the desk. Which could double as a vanity, in any case. Carefully removing her glasses, she apprehensively allowed Eldewyn to apply a greenish goo around her eyes. She closed them reflexively, cringing as Eldewyn gently admonished her.
"You need to open them, dear."
"Right…yeah…this won't sting, will it?" Eldewyn smiled reassuring.
"Only a little." It was the only warning she had before the Elf jammed her fingers, thick with the odd-smelling substance, into her eyes. Rem yelped, partially because yes, it DID fucking sting, and also because she hadn't exactly been expecting such a move from the seemingly mild-mannered Elf maid. Eldewyn tittered softly, probably because she was doing a favorable impression of a squirrel as she gasped through her mouth and thrashed around in surprise. If she had a tail, it would be bushy and sticking straight out like a bottlebrush.
" Now wipe your face with this." Blindly, given that she had her eyes screwed shut, she gabbed whatever it was being handing to her. It was a funky smelling rag of some kind. But nonetheless she scrubbed at her face until it was cleared from the mess. Squinting her eyes open, she came to a bit of a shock. It worked. She could see.
H-holy shit! I can actually see! Dumbfounded, she came back to earth when Eldewyn's musical laughter once again assaulted her ears.
"Now that wasn't so bad, yes? Now, to your injury…I noticed a limp in your gait." Oh, right…my knee…With a burgeoning faith in Elvish medicines, she gingerly moved part of the towel aside. Elddewyn scooped up an amber looking paste and smeared it liberally along the area. She then tightened the lid of the container it came from and placed it in front of Rem on the desk.
"You'll need to apply that three times a day for two days." She nodded vigorously, still trying to take everything in with her new eyesight. She hadn't seen anything this acutely without aid since she was in kindergarten. To say she was in awe would have been an understatement.
"Yes…absolutely…Thank you very much." The Elf smiled at Rem warmly, and smoothed the young woman's damp hair away from her neck a bit. She then turned to go, scooping up Rem's dirty clothes before heading to the exit, calling over her shoulder as she did.
"I'll leave you to your own devices. I'll be just outside the door. Call if you need anything." Rem nodded slowly.
"Sure thing." She waited until the door closed before slouching in her chair. She wasn't stupid. She was in effect being held prisoner…or to put it more appropriately, she was being watched. She surmised it would be until after the council. Not that she could really blame them. Tension was high right now, especially since Saruman had only recently betrayed everyone. But things weren't looking too bad. Literally. She placed her glasses on the desk, then moved to sit up and dropped the dress she had been hugging onto the bed before moving back toward the tub with her newly acquired straight razor. All she had to do now was play the waiting game.
A knock resounded on the door, startling Rem out of her reverie. She had been staring out at the view, blandly cooking up some bogus excuse she could hand her boss about missing work once she returned home…Her thought process trickled to a halt.
An Elf entered, one with ancient eyes and dark brown hair, clad in reddish robes. Behind him strolled another man, an elderly looking chap with a silvery beard and gray robes. He also carried an aged staff. He had blue eyes…eyes that could laugh, in a grandfatherly way. But they seemed sad, somehow. Troubled. Rem bobbed an awkward curtsy, wishing she could invent the handshake. She had an inkling who stood before her. The Council must be over.
"Lord Elrond, thank you for welcoming me into your home. I'm very grateful." She smiled, then turned to Gandalf, "And you're Gandalf, I take it?" He nodded haltingly, looking her over. Feeling kind of embarrassed, she took a step back, wishing to escape their scrutiny. Humiliating as it was, the original gown Eldewyn had brought her hadn't fit. It had been too tight across the chest. As were the second and third gown she'd brought. She was wearing the lucky fourth…something that had been left behind by a guest ages past and was a bland cream color. While unflattering to her eyes, it at least appropriately covered her cleavage…Though not enough, to her level of comfort.
"You have recognized us by description, then?" Elrond was the first to speak. So, the interrogation had begun. How fun.
"Technically. That depends on whether or not you believe what I have to say." Both Elf and wizard exchanged looks, before Gandalf answered.
"Go on, then. We're ready to hear it.
About an hour later, after much discussion and nearly mind-numbing repetition, Rem stared at her hosts dejectedly, perched on the edge of the bed.
"So…neither of you have any idea where it is I'm from, exactly…And as such, I'm stuck here?" Gandalf chewed on his pipe reflectively, blowing out a smoke ring that took the shape of a flower. It caught on the breeze that swept through the room, and gently coasted out into the open air of the valley.
"I'm afraid so. It has been suggested that you may have been brought here by a deeper magic," he caught her gaze meaningfully, "or perhaps by Lord Sauron— "
"He didn't fucking summon me!" Rem snapped venomously, then instantly regretted the acidity of her words. She was being overtly rude without meaning to. I need to learn to swear a little less…
"It was not insinuated that you were in league with him." Elrond answered calmly. He and Gandalf seemed to be taking her crude words in stride. Thank God. The last thing she needed was to be tossed out on her rear. She needed all the help she could get. And as of right now, that included getting answers.
"It was more of a speculative oversight. It may very well be that because of him, you are now here."
"So, you're saying that someone like Saruman might have pulled me here and into your world…But why me? Why now? I mean, why not grab some scholarly professor who's studied this shi-stuff his whole life," She muttered lamely.
"It may be that you have notable abilities of introspection in terms of the current situation at hand." Rem shrugged dully. Being separated from home, possibly for good no less, was curling like a sick cat in the middle of her stomach. What about the rest of my fucking education? What about my mom? How is she going to react once she finds I've gone missing? Everything she cared about, everyone she loved—gone. Gandalf cleared his throat, regaining her attention.
"Whether or not this proves to be true, you are in fact here now. Your position, the matter of your being here, was broached during the Council." Rem felt a chill shiver down her spine. She didn't like the sound of this. He continued, unabated. "The implication of one who knows what will come to pass may be dangerous, especially should you fall into the wrong hands."
"So…what did you guys decide?" she asked softly, wringing her hands distractedly in the fabric of her dress. Maybe, just maybe, they'd let her stay here. If she did, she'd be less in the way…she wasn't the warrior type. More of the book-worm type. Not the kind of girl who was best suited for the job of helping a fellowship that would eventually splinter. She felt her heart give a brief leap. Staying in Rivendell wouldn't be so bad; it really was a lovely place...Rem's brilliant meanderings were shattered, however, at Gandalf's next words.
"Therefore, you will be joining our Fellowship, as it will prove the least risk to your person—"
"Are you nuts?" She interjected, horrified, "You're about to be thrust into danger! What if I'm captured? Where will that leave everyone then? And I don't even know how to fight…I barely managed to defend myself from that goblin. I mean, I tried kneeing it in the groin! Which didn't work, by the way…If Gimli and the others hadn't come along when they did, I'd be dead!" Huffing to catch her breath, she felt heat prickle in her cheeks at the looks they were giving her. Elrond had an eyebrow raised, while Gandalf looked down right amused.
"This has been thought through, Lady Rem. And you will join the expedition. You will be better protected while in the midst of those who have seen battle. You will not fall into the wrong hands this way. Rivendell will not long be protection enough for you." That's right...many of the Elves will be leaving these shores...but all the same...Thinking they were making a mistake, she tried again.
"So…you're also making me go because I'll be your personal crystal ball. Is that it?" Immediately, their looks darkened, and she regretted saying it.
"You are not to breathe a word of your knowledge to anyone. The future will come in its own time. It would be too dangerous for you to impart anything beyond that which we already know." Elrond's voice held steel in its final knell.
"But what about—" it was Gandalf's turn to interject this time, smoke from his pipe wreathing about his face as he leaned forward to better catch her eye.
"This discussion is over. It has been decided." frustrated, she flopped backwards onto the cushy mattress.
This is seriously fucked up.
A/N: Please review!