It was quiet in the new room Strider had gotten for them. This building was just across the street from the Prancing Pony, and still the torrential downpour hailed down on the roof and walls around them. All of the half-lings were asleep save for Frodo, who stood near the rooms only window, gazing through the fogged windowpane as the droplets of rain continued to smash against it. After still not seeing anything of interest worth staring at out the window, the half-ling sighed, his gaze wandering back across the room. His eyes then landed on the other two people in the room.
Now, if there wasn't something interesting going on outside, he could assume right then that there was something going on between these two. Even from where he was standing, he could almost feel the tension building between them. Their glares were searing hot as they bounced of each other, intimidation proving to be fruitless on their opponent.
"Why do you two have such a problem with one another?" Frodo inquired, snapping the silent duo back to reality. The two glanced at one another for having been caught in their silent battle. After a second, they looked back towards the inquisitive half-ling.
"It's not that we have a problem with one another Frodo." Strider answered, his tone soft. His brown eyes blazed to life again as they returned to the only female occupant of the room. "It's just that I have a problem with what she does."
A light snort came from Drifter. Her arms were folded across her chest as she leaned against the wall behind her. "I have tried to explain myself on countless occasions, but whenever I do, you run at me with your sword before I even get a chance to try and speak."
"What you do has no explanation." Strider retorted angrily. His hand had already made its way to the hilt of his sword, fully prepared to prove Drifter's previous statement to be correct.
"Sorry to interrupt but what exactly is it that you do, Drifter?" By this point the little hobbit was very interested, his eyes gleaming with excitement and curiosity. Neither of them answered. He shuffled across the room towards them as he asked his question again. "Well? What is it?"
Strangely enough, both Strider and Drifter glanced at one another, apprehension apparent in their eyes. Frodo felt his brow furrow when they began to speak to one another in what he assumed to be Elvish. Although this time their eyes were wary and their voices soft as they whispered strange words to one another.
After a moment, their private conversation ended and Drifter spoke, "It's… complicated Frodo."
The half-ling didn't miss a beat and was quick to voice his opinion. "And you two are going to make it more complicated if you don't explain yourselves." The duo eyed him curiously, wondering what he was trying to get at. "If we can't work together, then the Ring might be discovered and returned to its master." The half-ling's hand unconsciously reached for the tawny colored band around his neck. Drifter's hand unconsciously twitched ever so slightly, but she didn't register the slight action. She caught at glimpse of the amber object before it was encased in a small hand. She blinked. None of them noticed this small occurrence.
The half-ling continued. "So you can either put your issues aside, or fix whatever problems lie between you so we can carry on safely, without having to worry about you two turning against each other. And if you're not going to do this for each other, do it for the sake of Middle Earth and the safe transportation of the Ring."
There was a slight pause between Frodo's speech and the words spoken by Strider. "Those are wise words coming from one so young." The half-ling looked away, embarrassed at the compliment.
"But he is right Strider." Came the repressed voice of Drifter. "For my sake, I wish to explain myself… if you'll let me, that is." Her eyes turned hard at the last words, waiting for the ranger to respond or for his hand to return to the hilt of his sword.
The man sighed, letting his hand fall to his side. "Alright, but—"
Without warning, a series of bone tingling screeches echoed throughout the town. To be more precise, it was coming from the Prancing Pony. Frodo was quick to the window, alerted by the sudden occurrence. Strider followed him, gazing out through the rain beaten glass. "What are they?" Frodo said, still staring out the window in astonishment. The others had awoken from the screams, catching their conversation all while listening intently in silence.
"They were once great kings of men." Strider's face was clam as he told the story. "Then Sauran gave them nine Rings of Power. Blinded by their greed, they took them without question. One, by one they fell to the darkness." He continued to look out the window to see the fallen kings riding off into the night, "They are now slaves of his will. They will never stop searching for the Ring, for they are drawn to its power. They are the Nazqûl."
"Also known as Ringwraiths." The now cracking voice of Drifter added. Her skin had somehow grown slightly flush and only then did they notice that their female companion was slouching on the floor against the wall. Frodo bounded away from the window and to her side across the room.
"Are you alright?" Came the immediate question of worry. Everyone's hair was still standing on end, but as Frodo reached for Drifter's hand, he flinched just as his fingers grazed her skin. He withdrew his hand as a new round of goose bumps ran across his skin. "You're cold as ice!" The other occupants of the room were now crowded behind the curly haired half-ling. Strider kneeled down as well, bringing his hand up to her sweaty brow. The other hobbits looked on over his shoulder.
"You act as if you have been running for your life." He commented, his hand coming to land on her forehead calmly. An abrupt freezing sensation shot through his hand and began to make its way up his arm upon contact with her still moderately flush skin. "And yet you are as cold as death." Strider made an effort to make eye contact, but her eyes were closed as she sat panting. He drew back his hand when she started to speak.
"I know." She said in between breaths. Beads of sweat were dripping down her brow by this point. She carried on. "My body has been dead like this for as long as I can remember." All eyebrows furrowed in befuddlement at her words.
"What do you mean?" Pippin asked inquisitively.
Only then did she open her eyes, which were still partially shrouded by her jet-black bangs. She swallowed, forcing herself to calm down while gesturing him towards her. "Come here." The half-ling did as asked, stepping forward and kneeling down in front of her. Gently, she grabbed the hem of his sleeve, bringing it up to her chest, leaving his hand just above her left breast.
"What do you feel Pippin?" Her voice was soft, a tint of misery lying hidden in her words. He stared at her quizzically for a moment.
She let out a bittersweet laugh, letting her head roll back and bang against the wall behind her. "Exactly," Her voice came out as no more than a ghostly whisper. For a moment he half-ling stared at her tormented expression before realizing just what her words entailed. Pippin jumped back, almost knocking his other companions over in realization. His eyes looked panicked as he held his hand up to he own chest.
"Y-you have no heartbeat, a-and yet y-you—you—you…!" The hobbit was too shocked to continue, his entire body trembling at the sudden realization. Sam and Merry stood beside their terrified friend, looks of shock and fear evident on the faces.
"How is that possible?" Came the quiet voice of Frodo, who had yet to move from his place beside her. His voice was nearly inaudible, and his hands balled into fists on his knees at he sat before her. Again, a quiet, but utterly pain-laden laugh escaped her blue lips.
"I have wondered the exact same thing for the past seventeen years." She paused, her hair falling in front of her eyes. "
"I lack a pulse and yet, here I am with you; alive as the rest of you. I can talk, move, laugh, and cry just as any other creature." As she spoke, she stressed the word alive, speaking it as if it was some new word she had only recently learned. Sighing one last time, Drifter's breathing had finally returned to normal, her eyes fogged over in thought. But it was also painfully obvious that she had gone over this question a million times before.
"And yet, I am neither living nor dead." She seemed to slouch even further into the wall, her breathing and skin returning to their abnormal natural state. Drifter let out a heavy breath. "Go back to sleep little ones," Her voice came off as a quiet murmur as she ran a hand through her hair, "I will explain myself, but not now. Please just try and sleep." The excitement of the moment died and the half-lings glanced at one another before standing and making their way back to their beds. "That includes you too Frodo." Drifter added, noting that the hobbit had yet to move from beside her.
"She is right." Strider began, standing and letting a hand come to rest on the motionless hobbit's shoulder. "We have a long journey ahead of us tomorrow, and you will need all of your strength. Come Frodo. Get some sleep while you can." Frodo looked towards the now silent Drifter, his gaze more questioning than ever before. However, everyone knew that they would get no further on understanding each other that night. So, the half-ling stood, walking towards one of the beds as instructed. He, along with the others, lay down and tried to rest for the upcoming day.
The soft tapping of the rain was quick to put Sam and Merry to sleep, but Frodo and Pippin lay awake for a while, their minds full of questions. Drifter had yet to move from her place on the floor, and Strider had placed himself near the window, keeping a weathered eye out for trouble. He glanced between the motionless female and the two restless half-lings. Both hobbits were tossing and turning, obviously unable to sleep. But Strider wasn't sure as to which was worse, two troubled half-lings or the distressed female. He mentally sighed; he would try and fix this.
Standing, the ranger made his way across the room, kneeling before the static Drifter. She made no move to look up at him and remained inert. He sighed, soundlessly kneeling down and bringing his hand up to her neck. He forced his fingers to remain against her icy flesh as they pressed softly against her jugular. After a moment he drew back, surprised that she had not lashed out at him. In fact, she had not moved at all. Her bangs once again were covering her eyes from him. She obviously was lost to her thoughts. Strider pulled back, letting his hands rest on his knees.
"You may not have a pulse, but that doesn't mean you don't have a heart." His words caused her to tilt her head up ever so slightly, allowing their eyes to meet between her frayed bangs.
These words were unexpected, especially to hear them coming from Strider. "I know," She answered quietly, "My brothers tell me the exact same thing. And yet I still can't help but wonder…" Her voice trailed off as her eyes started to become distant again.
Strider interjected, trying to keep her from returning to her catatonic state. "Wonder what?" He asked. As they spoke, neither of them noticed to two sets of eyes watching them from in between the covers of their beds. They silently listened in as the conversation continued.
"Just what am I?" It was almost as if she were questioning the very air around her. Yet she knew she would get no answer. Three sets of eyes stared at her quizzically as she continued on with her banter. "My body refuses to perform any of the things required to qualify as alive. Eating, sleeping, feeling pain, having a heartbeat, looking like a walking corpse…" There was a definite pause. "Just what am I, that I am able to do such things?" A bitter laugh once again came from her cracked lips. "I'm just some twisted creature—"
"That is a lie." Strider cut in immediately. Her eyes danced upwards to meet his, questioning his words. At the same time, they begged him to back up his previous statement. His eyes locked with hers sincerely. "I have seen many twisted things in this world, but you are far from one of them. And we both know not to judge someone by the stature or appearance, for anyone, great or small, can make the biggest difference." His gaze stole towards Frodo, who was startled by the eyes now staring at him and pulled the covers over his face. Strider chuckled under his breath, his eyes landing back on the now contemplative Drifter.
His words earned a sigh from the female. "I suppose. But both things great and small can also be the most dangerous of all." Her white-black eyes also landed the pile of blankets that covered the now dozy blue-eyed half-ling. Her stare was trying to penetrate through the blankets and catch a glimpse of what her subconscious knew was hanging from the chain on Frodo's neck.
Strider watched her expression flicker through countless emotions before her gaze finally met back up with his. They both just stared at one another for a moment before Drifter let her eyes fall shut as she tried to relax. Strider yawned and a small round of snores came from the half-lings.
Drifter let out a soft laugh, "You should rest as well ranger. I'll hold down the fort until morning." Strider was about to protest when she interrupted, "I don't need to sleep remember? You on the other hand, do." The ranger's mouth closed, knowing she was right. He then stood, offering her his hand. She glanced up at him for a second before taking it, allowing him to help her up. They stared at each other for a moment before Strider spoke yet again.
"I will put my grievances aside for now." The ranger glanced at the now sleeping blue-eyed hobbit, "Frodo is right. We cannot afford to let our personal issues become a hindrance during this journey, or we will run the risk of losing the Ring. We can settle these things once we reach a safer place." The man then strode across the room, settling himself in a chair near the door.
"And just where do you have in mind that qualifies as a safe?" She asked, now perched beside the window.
"Rivendell." The man's eyes were closed so he didn't get to see Drifter's eyes widen. Her eyes looked like glowing spheres in the midst of the darkness. She repeated the name of their to-be safe haven, letting out yet another chary breath. Her gaze turned towards the outer world, the rain still pattering away at the window. But she couldn't help but let a quiet smile drift across her face.
As of now, there was a silent treaty hanging between them. Until proven guilty, he would lay off on trying to slice her into a thousand bits, and she would not do anything to further anger him. Frodo was right; they had more important things to worry about than their own personal troubles. It was this idea of momentary peace between them that calmed her fried nerves, allowing Drifter's mind to relax as she waited for morning to arrive so the group to begin their journey to the city of the elves.
Standard Disclaimer: I don't own InuYasha or Lord of the Rings.
You may not have a pulse, but that doesn't mean you don't have a heart.
I know it's short; actually, this is only a small chunk what I intended the original chapter to be, but I hadn't updated in so long that I just had to post something. And I know that if anything, this chapter only sprouted more questions, and I'm sorry, but they will have to wait until the appropriate time of reveal within the story before they're answered. I'm not one to give away and ending, let alone bits and pieces.
Reviews are most appreciated.