A/N: I'm so sorry, I really took my time with this one, didn't I? My excuses are that high school life fianlly caught up to me, I skipped fandoms, I was getting ready for boarding school and my little brother ate my homework. Oh, wait a minute, I don't have a little brother...now I'm just fabricating excuses.
I changed the genre of WMEH from drama 'n' friendship to romance 'n' friendship. And all of my previous chapters have gone through MAJOR edits. If you have the time to, please check it out ;) Aaaaaand I wanted to say that I won't be adding the "allegiances" corner from now on, because I don't want to pressure readers into memorizing the entire schedule or anything. But if any of you object to this, leave a review and let me know and I'll go by the majority's opinion. Also, my ANs will be much shorter from now on. Don't want to unnecessarily take up the word count...um, too late...:P
Disclaimer: I do not own The Lord of the Rings.
Welcome to Middle-earth High
Chapter VI: The Council of Elrond
Arwen sat in the cool shade of the old maple tree, occupied with the book report she was to turn in on Monday. Her mind wandered elsewhere as her hands worked with quill and parchment, however. She absentmindedly scratched her chin with her quill pen, humming to herself. The weather was just too perfect for her to be doing anything as remotely boring as homework. The sky was too clear, the breeze too gentle, the fragrance of autumn flowers too intoxicating. Oh, why had Professor Saruman assigned her class a three-foot-long book report, when he obviously knew everyone would leave it undone untill the last minute?
Arwen finally succumbed to the sweet temptation of the Friday afternoon and lied down on the grass, resting one hand behind her head while the other twiddled idly with scraps of parchment. Her delicate handwriting covered approximately two thirds of the required length of her unfinished book report. Oh, bother, she thought, shielding her eyes from the guilty sight of homework being left undone. I can work on it later on in the evening. There's plenty of time for that.
She was in the yard of her house in Rivendell. All around her she could discern signs of students celebrating the beginning of another wonderful weekend, which her home was currently devoid of. Elladan and Elrohir had left a few minutes ago for the mall with a few of their friends. Lucky them, Arwen thought, watching a cloud drift over the clear sky. How come I'm not allowed to go with them?
Oh, but you already know the answer to that question, Arwen dear, an inner voice muttered broodingly.
The dark-haired elleth flinched. Yes, she knew the answer to her question. She knew why she was staying cramped up in her own home on a Friday afternoon finishing a book report that none of her fellow students were paying any attention to at the moment. But still, it was not as if she couldn't go out and have fun every once in a while, was it?
Having made up her mind, Arwen stood up resolutely from her spot on the grass.
Before freezing in shock, that is.
For there, at the very edge of the garden...was that...what could it be? Arwen craned her neck, trying her best to see past the tall hedges that encompassed the backyard of her home. She had definitely noticed some sort of movement in the fringe of her peripheral vision. Maybe I'm hallucinating?
As it turned out, no, Arwen was not hallucinating, or was she encumbered by any kind of abnormal mental condition; for a heartbeat later, a small dark something tumbled out from under the begonia bushes Elrond so prided himself in, and the startled elleth approached the "something" cautiously, curiousity dominating the best of her as she knelt down to peer at the untimely intruder.
She found two large, frightened eyes staring straight back at her.
Arwen emitted an involuntary gasp and teetered backwards, albeit gracefully. What in Mordor was a hobbit doing inside her house's garden? She took a deep, calming breath before leaning down again to steady aforementioned hobbit, who was in the danger of collapsing on the ground. "Are you hurt?" she inquired, observing from the rugged state of her "intruder" that he apparently had not consumed a decent meal in days.
Why had he stumbled in on her house of all places, though?
Her unasked question was answered a minute later when someone else crawled out from under the begonia bushes. As Arwen stifled another gasp, she pivoted on her heels, still steadying the hobbit against her, her eyes raking the grass as she lifted her gaze to newcomer's face, she tried not to think of the devastating state the begonias were in, or of the mental breakdown her father would suffer when he returned home to find his first-prize neighborhood flower g—
Her inner ramblings halted.
For there, standing right in front of her, dusting off his battered cloak, was a person she had been attempting her best to erase from her memory these past weeks, after searching every nook and cranny in the neighborhood when he had mysteriously disappeared off the face of the earth just like that, without any explanations or even a hastily scribbled note left behind in locked boxes. Arwen blinked once, and twice, before fully comprehending that no, the young man now face-to-face with her was definitely not an illusion, or a mirage from her memories. He was here, and he was here for good.
"Good afternoon, Arwen," said Aragorn. He gave her a confident yet tired smile, the dark bags under his eyes thinning as his mouth curved up into a half-grimace, half-grin while he unloaded three more hobbits from his back, who all tumbled to the grass in a most ungraceful manner. "Now, if you don't mind, could I please have something to eat? I'm starving."
Frodo awoke to the sound of raised voices. Way to go, he thought grumpily as he sat up in bed, rubbing his eyes and wondering where the heck he was. Normally he wasn't one to complain about his surroundings, no matter how dire they were, especially not when he was sitting on a downy, soft bed, the sheets so white that he was momentarily blinded by their simple cleanness. He could not help but ogle the immaculate state of the bed he rested in; after all, it had been a while since he had last slept anywhere this clean.
The hobbit flinched. Thinking about cleanness incited bad memories, so he turned instead to the yelling which had piqued his interest just moments before. The shouting was reverberating against the thick walls of the room, so he clambered down from the high bed and waddled to the doorway, ignoring the fact that his feet were hardly responding due to their lack of use. How long had he been asleep, anyway? Hours? Days? He could ascertain from the slivers of light that permeated the open windows that the time was early in the morning, Frodo tried to prod awake his toes as he traversed across the expansion of smooth wood that covered the room's wide floor. Really, this place was too big for him...
He pressed an ear against the oak door. From what he could garner, there was currently two people involved in a shouting match, one female, the other male. The female—an elleth—was doing most of the talking, while the male stood silently, staring down at the toes of his boots. It was Aragorn, Frodo realized with a jolt.
"—TWO WEEKS, NO CLUE WHERE YOU'D GONE, NOT EVEN A SINGLE WORD—"
"I'm sorry." Aragorn hung his head.
The girl frowned disapprovingly and crossed her arms, her very aura exuding murder despite her calm countenance. Looking at her face, a vague memory shifted in Frodo's head; if he remembered correctly, the girl had steadied him just before he had been rendered unconscious, bare minutes after being unceremoniously pushed through a flower bush by Aragorn and Merry. Curious, Frodo quietly observed the elleth. She had long dark silky hair, creamy skin, and perfect features; Frodo felt his jaw drop to the floor and barely resisted the urge to rub his eyes. He had heard his fair share of Elf-lore from Bilbo, but this Elf was simply extraordinary. She truly had to be a goddess of some variety.
Said elleth sighed. "Do you have any idea how worried everyone was?" she murmured, lowering her voice into a deadly whisper. Aragorn cringed. "Legolas and Halbarad and I were worried sick, the Nazgûl could have abducted you for all we knew-"
Aragorn coughed. "Why would they want to abduct me in the first place?" he queried innocently. "I'm just a no-good junior."
A dangerous light scintillated in Arwen's grey eyes. "Do shut up, Aragorn."
Frodo decided that this was the cue for him to step up and speak. He inched his way out from behind the door, clearing his throat. "Um." He stammered when both Aragorn's and Arwen's attention pivoted to him. "Er...I'm awake."
Aragorn's tired face broke into a relieved smile. "Good morning, Frodo," he called, waving the hobbit forward, "I can't express how grateful I am to see that you're up and running."
"Walking, maybe, but not running, no," Frodo muttered, his numb feet still recuperating from his prolonged slumber. "What day is it today, anyway?"
"Sunday," Arwen intoned quietly. Now that she had stopped yelling, Frodo was able to finally appreciate just how beautiful her voice was as well, like clear water flowing over an undisturbed spring...whoa. "You slept for over twenty-four hours. Ada and I took turns watching over you."
Frodo blinked. "Sunday morning?" he asked, hobbling around to gawp at Aragorn, who confirmed his suspicions with a slight nod. "But that's...a lot of sleep," he finished lamely.
Arwen sighed. "Indeed," she agreed, "you must have been through a lot to sleep like that. Which reminds me," she said, glaring again at Aragorn, who squirmed uncomfortably under her intense gaze, "I'd like to know what exactly happened on the road from Bree to here. Your friends have refused to tell me anything, Mister Frodo, and this has become quite infuriating." The elleth crossed her arms.
"Er," Frodo began. He cast a furtive glance at Aragorn, which elicited a frantic shake of the head from the Ranger. "We're kind of sworn to secrecy. Er, that is, I can't really tell you anything, as much as I'd like to..." He trailed off and shuffled his hairy feet. Oh, dear, now he had gone and said to much.
Arwen opened her mouth, most likely to elaborate on her question, but before she could say anything, someone gave a tiny, dry cough.
The trio whirled around to discover a raven-haired elf who had entered the hall. Magnificent azure robes swept the floor as the tall figure paused to stand beside Arwen, smiling genially as he looked upon the three students. "Ah," he said, "Mr. Baggins has awoken at last."
"Ada," said Arwen. She had inadvertently switched her speech from Westron to Sindarin, which Frodo could understand enough for comprehension, "you said you would not be home until noon at the least..."
Who? Frodo mouthed at Aragorn, who was watching the exchange silently.
Lord Elrond, Aragorn mouthed back.
Frodo blinked once, and then twice. Of course he knew who Lord Elrond was; Bilbo had informed him all about the Elf lord, whom the wizened hobbit had acquainted during his brief internship at Thorin Oakenshield's banking comany. And Aragorn had also elaborated much on the subject of Lord Elrond while they had been traveling from Bree to Rivendell; from the pieces of interspersed gossip he had gathered, Elrond had three children, all of whom were attending Middle-earth High School at the moment, and he had done a remarkable job raising three teenage elves even not accounting for the lacking influence of a maternal figure; apparently, Lady Celebrian was away in a foreign land where she was in rehabilitation for a rare illness.
"Erestor told me he could handle overdue library books on his own," said Elrond with a smile. "Which reminds me...where are Elladan and Elrohir? Our dear librarian would like to know very much why they did not turn in their books on time."
"They went to the mall again," Arwen supplied. "Something about the local tracking competition and equipments."
"Ah..." Elrond nodded in acknowledgement. "They would be home in time for the barbeque, then. Very well..."
With that, he focused his gaze on Frodo, who straightened up. He had finally recovered the senses of his feet. "Mr. Frodo," he said, "Mithrandir is outside at the moment, and I am afraid he will not return to check on you in less than two hours."
"Wait...Gandalf is here?"
Elrond nodded again. "Yes. He arrived a few hours prior to your own arrival."
Frodo's head was spinning, the bridges of his mind threatening to collapse from an army of unasked and unanswered questions. He staggered slightly; Aragorn grabbed his arm and gently made him lean against the wall. "Excuse me," said Frodo, blanching. "I don't feel too well at the moment."
"Of course not." Elrond peered at the hobbit solemnly. "You were on the road with no adult supervision for two weeks, Mr. Frodo. It's a wonder you're not asleep even at this moment; you could do with several more hours of uninterrupted sleep."
Frodo felt his eyelids droop. "Don't think I can argue with that one..." He yawned. "Excuse me."
Elrond rested a cool hand against the hobbit's forehead. "Sleep," he ordered firmly.
And all went dark.
The next time Frodo awoke, it was evening. The sky was a bizarre assortment of colors, red integrating with clearest blue; Frodo blinked the spots out of his eyes and clutched his head. His head swam from half-dissolved dreams and images, and he felt strangely lightheaded, giddy even, and could not decipher the by-now familiar yet unwelcome sensation of hunger gnawing at the bowels of his stomach. But first things first...
"Where am I, and what is the time?" he wondered.
"For your information, it is the 26th of September, the time being five o'clock in the evening, and you are currently lying in one of Elrond's guest bedrooms in Rivendell," a voice announced.
Frodo bolted upright in bed. "Gandalf!" he cried, flinging off his quilts. The next moment, however, he found himself being supported by a robed arm; for a minute he had forgotten the unfortunate predicament of his poor, abused body and had jumped to the floor in his ecstasy. He stared up at his rescuer; yes, there was the old grey wizard, steering the young hobbit back towards the bed and chuckling all the while.
"You're here," Frodo stated bemusedly.
The wizard laughed. "Indeed, I am here," he said. Having settled Frodo back onto the safety of his bed, Gandalf sat down back in his chair by the window, extracting a worn pipe from the sleeve of his robe. "Ah," said the wizened wizard, frowning at his pipe.
"Go on, you can smoke in here, Gandalf," Frodo encouraged. Not that the wizard needed his permission anyway.
Gandalf's frown deepened. "No," he said sternly. "I should not." And to Frodo's immense surprise, the wizard picked up his pipe and—without blowing a single white smoke-ring through the object—discarded it back into the folds of his grey robes.
Frodo stared, utterly flabbergasted. "You...gave up smoking?" he managed at last, not daring to believe his eyes. For Gandalf was famous in the Shire for his magnificent smoke-rings; and from what Frodo had gleaned of the old wizard from Bilbo, Gandalf had been smoking for a minimum of a few dozen years, and most probably long before that. For Gandalf to quit cold turkey, some major incident must have happened in the recent past.
Said wizard ignored Frodo's gaping mouth. "Now, do regale me with the tales of your journey, young hobbit," he said instead, puffing nonchalantly on an imaginary pipe.
"Frodo," Gandalf said, "I understand that you are curious about my own travels, but for now your tale is of more magnitude. I have already revealed everything about my adventures to Elrond, so do inform me of yours."
And so the hobbit inhaled deeply, and began his storytelling at last.
"It's true, I tell you, for the umpteenth time, Elrohir—"
"I believe it," declared the raven-haired elf, cutting off Aragorn's protests mid-sentence. "But having your wallet stolen still doesn't explain how you and your gang of vagabonds had to hitchike all the way from Bree to here. Hitchhiking is supposed to be free, you know."
Aragorn frowned and kicked at a random stone on the ground. The Peredhil twins had arrived home right after Gandalf had returned home, and had insisted on him narrating every insignificant detail of his journey, inundating every word. "Do I have to say it?"
"Oh, fine," Aragorn surrendered, spreading his arms in a neutralizing manner.
"It was a mostly favorable trip from here to Bree. It should have taken me about twelve days to get there with fair weather and good fortune, and another two weeks to return with my guests in tow. But I knew that time was short, so I had to hitchhike on unsuspecting carriages and coaches. In the end I was able to shorten those twelve days to three days. A highly efficient traveling method, I would call it."
Elladan frowned. "Then you should have arrived in Rivendell at least a few days ago. What took you so long?"
"It's not nice to interrupt, brother dear," Elrohir chided.
Elladan sighed. "Right."
"So," Aragorn continued carefully, "we met successfully in Bree. The hobbits were fresh out of money, and I was running low as well. I told them that we would have to hitchhike most of the way back, and they agreed. So we planned on waiting out the night and leaving as early as possible in the morning, because I was tired, they were tired, and we were all tired. So we waited.
"Until they came."
"The Nazgûl," Elrohir suggested.
"Right. Don't ask me what they were doing there, why they were there in the first place, but they were knocking on the doors of the Prancing Pony at half past three in the morning. I'll admit it, it was...scary. So I woke everyone up and we ran for it, only managing to remember our luggage in time.
"The first thing in the morning we did was to try to hail a ride. Except that we couldn't; they were patrolling all the roads. So we had to walk most of the way here. I made calculations as we traveled, and I knew time was short, so at the end I persuaded the hobbits to journey quickly; not only that, but we were also out of fresh food.
"I guess I should thank Glorfindel for finding us at the outskirts of Rivendell. Without him, we probably would've given up right then and there. I couldn't have talked them into getting up again had they all collapsed one more time; I probably would've lied down on the ground right besides them.
"But we made it here in the end... and that's that."
A silence permeated the cooling air around the three students, who sat immobile for some minutes, just sitting there and each contemplating differently the story they had just heard.
Elladan was the first to broach the silence. "Thanks, though. For telling us," he said. "The whole thing must have been exhausting. Go indoors now and rest. You look dead on your feet."
Huh, thought Aragorn, a blush creeping into his cheeks. Although he knew that Elrond and everyone who knew about the true reason behind his week-long absence in school appreciated his actions, it still made him feel better to hear someone actually verbalize that gratitude. He peered down at the toes of his newly scrubbed boots and sighed. "Yeah, I guess I will," he muttered, not quite meeting the twins' eyes.
"Good boy," said Elrohir, thumping his shoulder enthusiastically.
"Huh." Aragorn grinned.
"Well, let's step inside, then," said Elladan cheerfully. "You should stay here for today; I'm sure Legolas and Thranduil won't be missing you all that much. Oh, and Aragorn?"
"You do know that it's Monday tomorrow, yes? And that Gandalf wants his Chemistry essay done by Tuesday at the latest, with a grade deduction of ten percent daily if you turn it in late?"
A/N: Did anybody catch the quote from The Fellowship of the Ring (the book)? Hint: Frodo said it.
According to the timeline, Arwen and Aragorn meet at Lórien YEARS before Aragorn meets Frodo, but for the story's sake I've shortened it to a few days. And the books state that Frodo left Bree on September 30th to arrive in Rivendell at October 20th. But I've shortened that as well because I couldn't afford Aragorn missing out a whole month of school :P As for the two days it takes Aragorn to reach Bree, I changed it from the twelve days it took him in the original book, as Aragorn says so himself in "A Knife in the Dark": But I know how long it would take me on my own feet, with fair weather and no ill fortune: twelve days from here to the Ford of Bruinen, where the Road crosses the Loudwater that runs out of Rivendell.
With all due respect to Mr. Tolkien, there's not much said about Arwen, so I had to beef up her character a bit. C'mon, ANYONE would be frightened if your (sort of) boyfriend who has been missing for weeks after a romantic conversation with you turns up at your house when NO ONE ELSE IS HOME with four complete strangers in tow, looking like he'd been through hell in the last few days, and the first thing he does is ask for food? Lol.
As always, please review! I like to know if there's anything wrong I'm doing in my writing, and do tell me which parts of this chapter you like, or don't. Comments and feedback are always welcome, as is criticism.