Hello hello, I found this when I was frantically looking through a pen drive for something else and remembered I quite liked it. I'm not sure where this is going to go, if it's even going to go anywhere, so I'd appreciate your thoughts on whether it's worth bothering with. I've made an effort to make the writing more Tolkien-y but I'm pretty sure it's failed miserably.
I'm so busy it's not even funny and I'm pretty sure I'm about to die of stress so I haven't got anything else done but I promise the epilogue of Saturday Night's on its way!
Tell me what you think about this and whether I should keep it around for later or just get rid of it. Thanks in advance!
"And you are certain Mithrandir?" Elrond didn't move his gaze from the rolling fields outside Rivendell but his companion knew the weight of the words.
"I understand your misgivings, old friend, but in these dark times it would be folly to scorn any reinforcements. Even ones as unconventional as these."
"I still fail to understand how their world intersects with ours."
"In truth I do not understand either, but the fact remains they –"
Elrond turned suddenly, surprising Gandalf with the dark expression on his fair features, "Was it not Saruman, the traitor, who enlightened you as to the passageway? We are to trust his counsel?"
Gandalf sighed, resisting the urge to pull out his pipe to steel his nerves, Elrond was correct to worry, "He has not made use of the passage for many years, perhaps more than four-score. I have travelled to their world and they are willing to aid us."
"For what reason? What is their price?" The lord had returned to casting his steely glaze out over his lands.
"Their demands were not extortionate, for three warriors they were willing to accept a measure of mithril and several texts relating to the vanquishing of demonic forces."
"We have known each other for many lives of men Mithrandir, you have my trust but I cannot see the difference three warriors will make, no matter their skills." Elrond's face was a smooth mask, concealing the troubled expression that filled his eyes.
"We were extremely fortunate to be given even that number. Their world is not without strife of its own and they were hard pressed to spare us them. They refused to show the extent of their skills but from what I was permitted to see we would be foolish to turn them away."
"I disagree with this course of action, Mithrandir; our world suffers enough without the addition of men completely foreign to the dangers that stalk these lands."
Gandalf leaned heavily on his staff; he was feeling the many years this body had endured. He had hoped for more support from the Elf-lord, especially with his gift of foresight. However Elrond had said that his visions were less clear than they once were and he could not be sure whether this venture would go good or ill. Gandalf attributed this to the encroaching darkness; many of those with the gift had reported their difficulties. The only exception appeared to be Faramir; Boromir had stated that the prophetic dream that brought him hither had come to his brother many times. Despite these worrying portents Gandalf was convinced that he was correct in contacting the strange world. Their aid could not go amiss, not when defences were stretched to breaking point already. Mirkwood was under constant attack, Saruman would turn his attentions to Rohan in the coming months and Gondor was an increasingly fragile bulwark against the tide. He just hoped Elrond would put aside his misgivings enough to see that.
The culture their new allies came from was incredibly different, so much so that he wasn't sure how well they would cope. Finally reaching into his pocket to get his pipe, he surveyed the area from which they would be arriving any day. He couldn't identify the feeling in his bones; it could be either good or bad. Praying for good, he lit his pipeweed ignoring the way Elrond distanced himself with a scowl.
Although Gandalf had hoped he would be the first to meet the strangers when they arrived, that privilege went to Elladan and Elrohir. Their duties had only just returned them to their father's lands and they hadn't yet shaken off their travelling habits so were awake the night the three figures suddenly appeared at the edge of Rivendell. While the twins had been told by their father to expect their presence at some point it was still a shock to them.
Elves were so attuned to their surroundings it was jarring to find their senses had failed to alert them to the presence of their father's visitors until they were upon them. Out of the dark three figures materialised, clad almost completely in black. Under the cowls of their thick travelling cloaks bone-white masks shone in the weak moonlight. Elladan hadn't realised he had reached for the handle of his blade until he felt his brother's hand gently loosen his grip. The figures hadn't moved but the twins detected a hint of amusement in the air around them and immediately felt a little sheepish. Unsure how to proceed they were relieved when the three bowed, and one spoke, a young man's voice muffled by the mask.
"We wish to speak to Gandalf." His accent was atrocious, and his pronunciation of 'Gandalf' almost brought a smile to the lips of the elves. However the voice was firm and the twins were able to remember their decorum. Despite the fact these strangers were expected by their father and Mithrandir, years of experience dealing with the forces of darkness made them loathe to invite them within their father's halls. Their hesitation was evidently noticed as the air around the strangers became noticeably chill and the speaker folded his arms and settled into a sturdier stance.
Thankfully the rather tense moment of indecision was broken by the arrival of the wizard in question, followed by Elrond. Gandalf lacked the discomfort displayed by the elf-lord but it was clear to the twins' sharp eyes that he was wary of those he had enlisted. Gandalf bowed to the strangers and, after sharing a meaningful look with Elrond, began leading them into the halls of Rivendell.
Boromir attempted to hide a yawn behind one of his large fists as his elf guide lead him to the latest meeting. It was difficult for the man not to begrudge the elves their composure, in times of trouble and at all times of the night. Since the counsel a few days previously the fellowship had been awaiting news of their new allies, a topic Gandalf had broached to them privately once the meeting had passed. Infuriatingly, the wizard had been as cryptic as his father in one of his worst moods and Boromir could not be entirely sure what these strangers were capable of. As he had been woken in the middle of the night, he could only assume that the wizard desired the fellowship to meet them as soon as possible.
In the hallway they soon approached Gimli and his elven guide. Their pace was slow, ostensibly because of Gimli's shorter legs but Boromir knew it was one of the many tricks the dwarf used to irritate his hosts. While their guides shared an inscrutable look Gimli gave him a smirk that confirmed his suspicions. Smothering a smile of his own he clapped the dwarf on the shoulder and continued towards their destination. At the doorway to the private meeting hall the elves departed, leaving the two to walk in by themselves. The ranger was already present, as was their host and their elven companion Legolas. Boromir remembered enough of his deportment lessons to bow in greeting while Gimli simply made his was over to the fire with a grunt of acknowledgement. He gritted his teeth a little at the superior look that was shared between elf and elf-kin and thought for the hundredth time that Faramir should have come in his stead. Little brother was much more suited to the learned discourse, flighty music and lack of ale present in this place. Boromir's idle fantasy of being back defending Osgiliath with a well-deserved flagon waiting for him was disrupted by the entrance of the hobbits. How strange that ones who looked so like children should be older than he. The younger two, Merry and Pippin, perked up on seeing the one person within Rivendell willing to share in their chatter. They gathered around his legs, seemingly too tired to manage much beyond the occasional yawn. Frodo and his shadow Sam took to the other man, who they seemed to feel more at ease with.
They weren't waiting long before Gandalf arrived with three cloaked and masked figures in tow. They were relatively short, one standing barely over five foot but Boromir had been a soldier too long to let something like that cloud his judgement. After all, had not dwarves shown their courage, resilience and skill for uncountable years despite their height? Out of the corner of his eye he saw Elrond was hard pressed to keep a scowl from affecting his features – if it was obvious to him then it must have been clear as day to Gandalf. The wizard ignored the tense atmosphere and merely smiled, clearing his throat to speak.
"Fellowship, and our esteemed host, these are the reinforcements our allies in Konohagakure", he stumbled over the unfamiliar word, similar to dwarvish in its hard consonants; "they are most skilled warriors."
What appeared to be the leader of the three shifted into an open and carefree stance, with his hand outstretched in a strange manner with the thumb pointing directly up and the fist curled. Boromir, and he could see Gimli too, felt more at ease – this action was more suited to a soldier than the stiff control of their new elvish brethren. Elrond, Aragorn and Legolas shared a disapproving look; at least Boromir assumed it was so despite their faces betraying nothing of their emotions.
This did not pass by one of their new friends, the shortest one, whose mask was tilted to give them a clear view of this exchange. However they said nothing, allowing Gandalf to continue his introduction.
"I do not know as yet their real names; to avoid any suspicion from the enemy they have been using only their aliases. Please, friends, this is a safe haven, show yourselves." Gandalf bowed and stepped towards the fire as anxious as his fellows to see what lurked under their cowls.
The three shared a look, the shortest one seeming to sigh, before reaching to remove their masks. Their leader pulled away the fox-shaped enamel to reveal a young, tanned man, of no more than twenty-five. His hair was an arrestingly bright shade of blonde and spiked and waved in a manner that had never been seen in Middle-Earth before. Clearly enjoying the shock his vibrant blue eyes shone and a mischievous smile showed his pointed incisors under strange markings on his cheeks.
"I am Uzumaki Naruto! Call me just Naruto." His voice was gregarious despite his stilted speech.
Taking advantage of the rapid and awkward silence, Naruto's companion, stepped into the breach. The two men were as night and day, where Naruto was blonde his friend was as black as ink. Dark eyes stood as coal in the snow of his pale features. A rather strained and unnatural smile covered his face as he bowed in greeting – "I am Sai."
Boromir could feel Merry and Pippin clinging to his legs but he didn't feel threatened by these men, their leader especially had a sense of levity that he found refreshing after so long in this place.
Their last member seemed more reluctant but slid the cowl down to show pale pink hair. As they tugged their mask off Boromir, and his companions, fought to bring his eyebrows down from where they had shot into his own hair. The pink hair was soon explained by the presence of a young woman, a similar age to her companions, with piercing green eyes. The silence that had been more interested turned to shock. Boromir could see Elrond becoming indignant at being sent a woman as aid.
"You may call me Sakura." Her command of the language was stronger than her companions, less unsure on the stresses and more flowing.
Unlike the others Gandalf did not look taken aback and merely smiled in a grandfatherly way at the girl.
"With all due respect Mithrandir, a woman –" Gandalf raised a hand to cut Aragorn off. The air had become freezing and the burning look being cast the ranger's way by said woman was enough for Gimli and Boromir to be glad they had not raised the issue.
"Aragorn, do not underestimate this young woman. In the culture of our friends here, men and women are both trained to fight from when they are children. Sakura here is the apprentice of the leader of their village. The position of leader is only given to the strongest, the most capable, and Tsunade-hime is that, and also a woman."
Naruto and Sai had moved, silently so that the gathered fellowship had not noticed, to take up flanking positions behind her, scowling in silent support.
"If they do not want me, I shall go; I have much else to do." Her voice was firm, though laced with anger.
While Gandalf raised his arms in an open manner the elves saw the fear in his eyes, fear that these people would leave. "Come now, my friends are just unused to such a culture. They realise the value of your aid."
"They'd better, or else!" The blonde spoke but the language was foreign to them, even to Elrond who had studied most over his long years.
Sakura folded her arms; Tsunade had warned Gandalf that a place where women were relegated to home and hearth would struggle with her occasionally unfeminine apprentice. Part of her contract stated that if she was made to feel unwelcome then she would be allowed to leave. It was completely out of the ordinary for a shinobi contract but ANBU medics were in such short supply it was a wonder she had been sent at all.
Boromir and Gimli shared a look over the heads of the hobbits; a slight nod confirmed that they would wait to make a judgement until they had seen the visitors in action. It was clear to the man that from the way Pippin was shifting, he was going to ask a question. He just prayed it was a sensible one.
"How did you get your hair such a colour ma'm?" Pippin queried, effectively dashing Boromir's hopes.
The hobbit quailed slightly when those hard green eyes turned to him but Pippin was very difficult to remain angry with. "It is natural. It has always been so."
Pippin seemed ready to pipe up with another, no doubt equally asinine, question so Boromir laid a hand on his hair and spoke for the first time. "Reinforcements are sorely needed," he smiled lopsidedly at the three, "Were that there were more!"
Naruto grinned, a sunny smile the likes of which had been hard to find in these dark times, "We the best!"
"We are the best..." Sai murmured under his breath, earning himself a reproachful glare from his team-mate. "We have only had small amount of time to learn this language."
Aragorn shared a long look with his father while Merry began asking the guests how to say things in their own language while Boromir and Gimli attempted to stop him inconveniencing them. Elrond sighed, bringing a hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose before approaching his new allies.
"No doubt you are weary after such a long journey, please, rest until the morning. Then we should all like to see how you will be able to aid us." He held out an arm, signalling the finality of this conversation.
The three snapped to attention and bowed deeply; oddly in sync in a way that reminded Boromir of the drill exercises his father had been so fond of. Merry and Pippin made an effort to imitate them, bringing a slight smile to their faces. The others merely nodded, for the most part still unsure as to this unusual situation. As if summoned by the thought of their lord alone, servants appeared at the doors ready to escort all present back to their chambers. The elves did their utmost to smother their surprise on seeing the guests un-masked and merely asked them to follow. Naruto left first, throwing another unfamiliar hand gesture similar to a salute but with two fingers. Sakura followed him, the lines of her shoulders showing her lingering unease. Sai took up the rear, letting his pitch-black eyes scan over the assembled fellowship a last time before departing.
When they had left, all eyes turned to Gandalf who was happily puffing away on his long pipe. He raised his eyebrows, smiling through the rising smoke. "Tomorrow should prove interesting, just as they have."
"Interesting is certainly one word for it," Gimli snorted, sharing an amused look with the Gondorian.
"Let us hope they are as skilled as you think, Mithrandir," Elrond spoke with a steel undertone to his words, making all in the room feel on edge with the shift in atmosphere.
Gandalf's eyes did not dim as he blew out a plume of smoke, "Indeed."
Breakfast in the morning was less strained than the previous evening. The hobbits were more awake and indulging in their favourite past-time. It made for a jolly atmosphere that the more hardened of their company absorbed with relish. The guests also seemed more at ease and hid their resentment at being watched, with an extreme lack of subtlety on the part of their host, with grace. Sam was very interested in their method of eating. They appeared unfamiliar with cutlery, examining the utensils and speaking softly to one another in their own language. This had progressed to watching others eating with a keen eye and imitating their movements. Watching them struggle was driving Sam to distraction but given the rather tense atmosphere he was wary of drawing any unwanted attention to himself. Eventually the hobbit could no longer contain himself on seeing the blond picking up some fruit and examining it before casting a confused look at his spoon.
"Beggin' your pardon sir, but if you cut that in two you can get at the inside easily enough," he stuttered, attempting to avoid eye contact with the man's more intimidating friends.
Naturally there had been a distinct lull in conversation at the crucial moment and silence had descended as those present observed the reaction of the strange visitors. Sam shifted in his seat, mortified that he had become the centre of attention. Sakura and Sai merely squared their shoulders and continued eating, striving to ignore the tension their very presence was causing.
Naruto threw the fruit a little into the air and, with efficiency that had all present taken aback, swept up his knife and sliced it neatly in two. "Thank you, Samwise?" His tone pulled up at the end of the sentence as he stumbled slightly over the gardener's name.
Sam nodded furiously, keeping his eyes firmly pinned to his plate. Aragorn and his father shared a look; the ease with which their guest had used his knife certainly gave them pause for thought.
"What do you eat with then?" Merry said, taking pity on Sam and drawing away their attentions.
Sai reached behind him and pulled out a long, thin package out of the pack slung over the back of his chair. Merry and Pippin crowded forward incredibly excited to be being given something exotic. Pulling the paper away delicately they were surprised to see two slim pieces of wood, completely smooth and tapered to one end. Those sitting around the two were also interested although the elves were attempting to disguise the fact. Looking up at Sai the confusion was easy to read across their faces, bringing a smile to the faces of the ninja.
"I'm afraid I don't understand, sirs, ma'm."
Sam had taken the chopsticks out of Merry's hand and was turning them over, attempting to puzzle them out in his head while Pippin questioned Sai.
"Here." Sai's tone was clipped but not unkind as he held out a pale hand to the gardener.
Sam flushed again as he handed them back to their owner. All pretence of ignoring this exchange had stopped and there was relative silence as Sai snapped apart the two pieces of wood, an automatic 'itadakimasu' falling quietly from the lips of the three ninjas. Once they were separated he held them between his slim fingers so that the ends formed a pinching point. Reaching forward he picked up a piece of cut fruit between them, lifting it effortless to his lips. Merry and Pippin shared an excited glance and practically snatched them from his hand to try the technique for themselves.
"You will have to show us the food you eat in such a manner," Boromir piped up to break the awkward silence that had descended, throwing the three an easy smile.
"Do not let Sakura ..." Naruto trailed off as he tried to summon the common-tongue for 'cook'. Looking to his right he flinched slightly at the piercing look Sakura was giving him. However a muttered 'baka' was the worst he received for the time being. His discomfort seemed to further alleviate the tension as the married men of the room ruefully recognised the strength of an irritated woman.
"It is not a skill we come by easily," said Sai, smoothly averting attention from the ire of his companion, "Few can cook well."
"What skills do you possess then?"
Elrond's tone was cool and those more warmly disposed towards the visitors shifted uncomfortably as the uncomfortable atmosphere returned. Naruto shook his head suddenly; Boromir suspected a swift kick had been delivered under the table to prevent him from acting on the annoyed look that passed over his face at his host's words.
Again it fell to Sai to divert attention back to the truly important matters. Sakura would fare better but she had elected to suppress her fiery personality so as not to alarm their hosts. Elrond was unsure of them but, although Naruto and Sakura felt it strongly, he was not being impolite nor forgetting his manners. Gandalf considered him an ally, and as their employer his will was to be trusted the same as any other paying client. "We are ninjas, the soldiers of our world. We possess physical strengths, that Gandalf tells me you do not, that allow us to perform taijutsu. In addition we are able to utilise chakra for our techniques of ninjutsu and genjutsu."
To Sakura and Naruto his speech was straightforward but Gandalf knew their terms meant nothing to the assembled listeners. The hobbits, he noted with some amusement, looked excited to be faced with such exoticism. Gimli, Boromir and even Aragorn had opened their ears at Sai's description of his comrades as soldiers, such a thing appealing to them. Legolas was reserving judgement for a time, his first loyalty would always lie with his kin and he would respect Elrond's caution. Hoping that the enthusiasm of the younger members of the assembly would win over their elders he began to explain, "Taijutsu is physical fighting, our friend Sai uses a sword, I believe they call the style of blade a katana, while Naruto and Sakura prefer a smaller dagger, called a kunai. I have seen ninjas training with each other and their skill, speed and dexterity is second to none. Ninjutsu is as magic," Here he paused as Merry and Pippin gasped in delight, "From what I was permitted to see it allows them to utilise shadows to create forms that take their likeness, or to hide themselves in the shape of other things. They can also cling to surfaces that would defeat the nimblest elf, and even walk on the surface of the water as if it were a path."
Naruto desperately wanted to interject and state that they had far more skills than what Gandalf had been shown during his time at the academy but Sakura was giving him the pinched look that meant he had to show restraint. The company around them did not look as impressed as the hobbits. Sakura couldn't fault them that reaction – Tsunade had said skills such as their own were completely unheard of. It would have proven their present company extremely gullible had they been immediately believed. Elrond had stated as they had arrived that he had cleared a space to be used for demonstrating some small tricks to prove their worth. Kakashi had told them firmly before they left that to avoid any undue attention they should play their cards very close to their chests. It was this same reason that Gandalf had been taken to the academy rather than the training grounds of real ninjas.
Sai took a moment to realise that her jostling of his arm was to get him to suggest they give their demonstration before anyone present thought to ask what genjutsu entailed. To races with no defence mechanisms the knowledge that the mind could be used against them in such a way would be unsettling, interfering with the trust that their charges would have to place in them. It was clear that only the hobbits seemed unaware that Gandalf had not finished his explanation as they all left the table to head to one of the fields beyond the walls but most seemed to recognise that Gandalf had his reasons.
The space was a little smaller than Sakura would have liked, especially as their audience crowded them on all sides. It would have prevented her using her strength had that not been one of the first things to be vetoed for demonstration. She, Naruto and Sai took their places in the centre of the circle as they noted many more elves than had been sitting with them at breakfast had chosen to join them. Gandalf's list provided them with an optimum set of techniques to show off and they were relieved he hadn't mentioned any of the more unsavoury skills they all possessed. Sai stepped forward, unsheathing the standard ANBU issue katana that he had picked up from under his seat as they left the breakfast table. The smooth blade would never be able to compete with the huge broadswords he had noticed Aragorn and Boromir wielding but speed and sharpness were as important. As the crowd murmured quietly to itself regarding the sword, and its owners practiced stance, Naruto picked up a solid branch from under one of the trees nearby. Returning to the circle he handed one end to Sakura and they stood before Sai. With a nod from Gandalf to proceed he brought the katana down in a powerful swing that sheared the limb in two cleanly. The shocked gasp from their audience was almost worth the superior looks that had been passed down their way by their hosts. Sakura and Naruto certainly thought so, they weren't entirely sure Sai had noticed them.
Once the noise had abated, and the ends of the branch had been thoroughly investigated, Naruto stood proudly ready to demonstrate his infamous shadow clone technique. Gandalf had prefaced his display by explaining how it could be used for scouting, distraction, or simply as another sword in battle although it would be destroyed by the first impact of a weapon. Sakura took a moment to observe Naruto as several clones popped in and out of existence in clouds of white smoke to the delight of the watching people. He had come so far since the troubled boy who's clone had never made it past a pale heap on the floor of their classroom. The crowd reeled and gasped as the clones moved all as one, then independently, then turned into copies of some within the crowd itself. They could see Boromir practically sitting on Merry and Pippin to prevent them running over to investigate the perfect copies of themselves as Gimli puffed on his pipe and chuckled as his double did the same. Even Elrond and his advisors seemed more at ease and perhaps as far as amused at Naruto's antics. He had always had a way of encouraging doubters to his side.
Once Naruto finished, she realised that all eyes were on her as they expected her to show her talents. She was sure Gandalf knew of her healing but was less sure of who else knew. They seemed only interested in warriors so perhaps it had not been considered worth showing despite the use it would have for the journey. Doing her best not to sigh she walked towards a tall thin tree, the crowd parting as water around her as she did. On reaching the base of the tree she did not stop, simply taking a step up onto the bark and keeping walking, holding herself perfectly horizontal as she climbed. Climbing trees would always be bittersweet as it represented the potential she had waited so long to explore as she had been too busy with thoughts of the traitor. Judging by the excited noises coming from below her, her feat seemed even to have topped Naruto's. Perhaps this was something that had more meaning for them as they recognised climbing a tree far more than creating clones of themselves. Deciding that she was due a little return for her extremely good behaviour in the face of derogatory looks and whispering she smirked. Then she kicked off from the branch, twisted in midair and landed on the ground as softly as if she had merely taken a step rather than leaping from twenty feet. The men, dwarves and hobbits present burst into applause and the elves she passed as she returned to her place with her boys inclined their heads in a show of respect.
Gandalf raised his eyebrows at Elrond as the three ninjas were surrounded and peppered with questions concerning what else they had the power to do. Elrond raised an amused eyebrow in return; they had certainly proven they had talent. However, it still remained to be seen if talents such as theirs would be enough. He was certain this was the merest hint of what they were capable of. The dark-haired child especially had a feel about him that set him aside as ruthless in a way the other two lacked but would it protect Frodo? After all, there were many unknown obstacles between the Ring-bearer and his destination and he could not be sure these ninjas were the only things to have made the journey to Middle-Earth.