A/N: I was gonna have this chapter done yesterday, but then I didn't have the time, so sorry about that. But it's here now! :) I'm not completely happy with how this turned, but it was fun to write, so to heck with it. Enjoy!
I stepped into the banquet hall, overwhelmed by smells and noise. Elves bustled around, putting great platters of food on the trestle table standing in the center of the room. The cooks had really outdone themselves, presenting a feast that not only looked astounding, but smelled even better. Salads mixed with exotic fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other tidbits; potatoes, mashed, boiled, fried, baked; every type of meat imaginable, from tender, melt-in-your-mouth bites of quail, to an entire wild boar; desserts in abundance, candied fruit, pies, cakes, bread drizzled with caramel - all of these things decked the table. I had never seen such an enormous spread in my entire life, and I couldn't help but wonder how I would ever be able to choose between all the delicacies.
Glancing around, I saw the other members of the Fellowship sitting at a separate table at the end of the room. While everyone else chatted and laughed, those sitting at the end table barely even looked at each other. Reluctantly, I headed in their direction. While I certainly wanted to get to know them better, I felt subconscious being both the only woman and the youngest person allowed on the quest. At least I'm not the shortest, I thought. I couldn't imagine how intimidating it must be for the hobbits, surrounded by tall strangers.
There was an empty chair at the foot of the table, between Legolas and Pippin. No one looked up at me as I sat down, but that didn't bother me. Instead, I concentrated on loading my plate with the most delicious things I could lay my hands on.
Boromir looked in my direction from where he was sitting at the head of the table, directly across from me. "I have never seen a lady eat so much in my entire life," he said in a degrading tone of voice.
I blushed, embarrassed, but instead of letting it get to me I replied, "Well, I might as well eat as much as I can now. Once we leave, food will be a lot scarcer." Boromir didn't say anything to that, but turned back to his own meal.
Gandalf approached the table, arriving a bit late, and sat down, a jovial smile on his face. "Well, you're a cheery bunch," he said, noticing the silence hovering over us like a thundercloud. I snorted in agreement. Gandalf scooted his chair in closer and leaned in. "Well," he decided, "Elrond organized this so we could get to know each other, and that is exactly what we are going to do. Starting with you-" he gestured at Sam, "we'll go around and introduce ourselves."
Sam was startled by this, and stammered out something about being Frodo's gardener. So it continued, each saying a bit about themselves. I knew most of it already, but I was surprised to learn about Merry's self-proclaimed love of caterpillars. Who would have thought?
By the time it was my turn, I had planned exactly what I was going to say. No more awkward stammering for me. "My name is Aranel, and I'm 14 years old. I love to read, write, and dance." After proclaiming this, I realized how stilted it sounded, but at least it was better than being at a loss for words.
Unfortunately, Boromir ruined my plans once more: "And why are you coming on this journey, may I ask? Why would Elrond let such a young, naive girl travel on such an important quest?"
My mouth dropped open in shock. This was rude, even for Boromir. Why was he so against me? It seemed all he could do was criticize me. I struggled to find words. Dang, here comes the awkward stammering again, I thought. Elrond had told me to keep information about my mission secret, so what could I possibly tell them? With nothing better to say, I replied, "I guess he thinks I might be useful." Wow, that was eloquent, I thought, I'm sure they all think I'm completely stupid.
At least, Boromir seemed to. He stared at me, completely unsatisfied with my answer. I didn't say any more, however, but let Pippin finish off the introductions. For the rest of the meal, I stared at my plate, shoving the delicious morsels around with my fork, unable to enjoy them in the slightest.
As soon as the feasting started to wind down, I slipped away from the table, anxious to escape the suffocating silence and the looks Boromir kept shooting me. Once I was alone on one of the walkways, I picked up the pace and started running toward my chamber. I burst open the door and collapsed on the bed, sobbing hysterically. Why was I crying? Normally these kinds of insults would roll right off me, leaving not a single mark. For some reason though, Boromir's remarks had really bothered me. Maybe I was just being a teenager with mood swings. Or maybe the pressure resting on my shoulders was finally getting to me. Whatever it was, I went to sleep crying for my parents, my cat, and most of all, home.
I woke up the next morning with a new resolve, determined not to let the events from last night affect me. If Boromir didn't want to be friends, that was fine by me. I would simply develop relationships with the others. Then a thought popped into my head. The thought intrigued me. The thought developed into a spark, which turned into a glimmer, which underwent a metamorphosis and came out as an idea. I smiled - it was perfect. But I would need some help if I was to accomplish all this in time. So I whooshed into the corridor and asked a nearby elf if they had seen Merry and Pippin. They mumbled something about the kitchen, so I took off in that direction.
Sure enough, they were there, each sitting comfortably on a stool eating a rosy red apple. They looked up as I stumbled in, out of breath, and collapsed on the floor. After a second of sucking air into my lungs, I stood up once more and looked at the hobbits. They stared back at me, unsure as to what was going on. "So, uh, Merry and Pippin," I began. "I was wondering if you would be interested in helping me with something."
They looked at each other, considering their answer. Merry finally spoke up. "It depends, what do you need us for?"
I smiled knowingly. "I need your help to pull a prank on Boromir."
These simple words eliminated any indecision which they yet entertained. Twin grins spread on their faces, and I knew they would assist me. I began to describe my plan, and every once in a while, one of the two would supply their input. By midday, we had cemented the plan, and we set to work on the preparations.
Boromir went to dinner that night as usual, choosing his favorite food and drink. Although those around him chatted and laughed, he remained silent, concentrating on the task of filling himself with nourishment. However, after about fifteen minutes, and an overpowering desire to sleep flooded through him. A few bites more, and he could barely even think straight. So, struggling to stay awake, he excused himself from the table and stumbled to his bed, where he collapsed, exhausted.
He never heard the giggles and hushed voices of the two hobbits and one girl who moved about in his room that night. He didn't hear the rustlings and scrapings of furniture being moved. And he never guessed what he would wake up to the following morning.
For when he did wake up, it was to the loud blaring of a trumpet from directly outside his door. Startled, Boromir yanked his head up and slammed directly into the small table placed over his pillow. He yelled and shoved the thing off the bed, then rubbed his forehead angrily. Judging from the pain throbbing through his skull, he would have a large lump by then end of the day.
It was then that he noticed the flowers littering the room. His eyes opened wide in shock and confusion. There were flowers on his night table, on his bed, on the floor, on the windowsills, on his pillow - and now that he thought about it, even in his bedsheets. The air was cloyingly sweet, so much so that he had a sudden urge to be sick. That soon passed, however, leaving him to throw off the covers, stand up, and stretch. Boromir had no idea what was going on, but that wasn't going to stop him from going through his normal routine.
Unfortunately for him, though, he was hungry. And a bit thirsty as well. Because of his sudden sleep onset at dinner the previous night, he hadn't been able to eat as much as he normally would have. He was about to call for some food when he noticed the slice of cake and glass of grape juice on his night table (surrounded by flowers, of course). That works well enough, he thought, and picked up the plate and fork. The cake looked to be chocolate walnut, with a thick layer of vanilla frosting on top. It looked delectable, so Boromir got a big piece with his fork, placed it in his mouth, and began to chew.
His face contorted into a grimace of disgust, then he spat the "cake" back onto the plate. "What is this?!" he yelled, starting to get really upset. "It's, it's salty... It's meatloaf and mashed potatoes!" Quickly, he grabbed the juice, ready to down it and wash the taste out of his mouth. Tipping the glass toward his lips, he waited for the wonderful relief that would accompany the sweet liquid onto his tongue. But it didn't come. He looked up at the glass. The "juice" stayed firmly at the bottom of the glass, even when he held it upside down. Picking up the fork once more, he poked at it. It gave slightly, but was relatively firm. "Gelatin?!" he cried incredulously. Ech, somebody is seriously out to get me, he thought.
Well, he would just have to get something else from the kitchen if he wanted to eat or drink. Boromir reached for his clothes. His hand met a piece of paper. Curious, he picked it up. It had a message on it. It said:
Your clothes have been kidnapped!
In order to get them back,
Please go to the brook outdoors.
Boromir swore inwardly. This morning was not turning out well. But there was nothing he could do about his clothing except to do what the note said and go to the brook. He looked down at the red tunic he was wearing. It would have to be enough.
He opened the door to his room and peeked outside. No one in sight. Perfect. He hurried outside while trying to seem dignified. Unfortunately, as he got further from his room and closer to the brook, the amount of people increased. Elves held their hands over their mouths in an effort to keep from laughing, while some of the other races visiting Rivendell didn't even bother to snicker quietly. Instead, they laughed out loud right in his face.
As he approached the courtyard, he noticed that almost all the members of the Fellowship had congregated there. Legolas and Aragorn were sitting on a rock, having a chat, while the four hobbits were playing some sort of game on the ground. Aranel was reading a book in the shade of a huge tree. Gandalf and Gimli were nowhere to be fun. There was no way around it. Boromir would have to cross the open courtyard to get to the brook. Steeling himself, he walked steadily but quietly toward the water. But there was no chance of him getting across unseen. Everyone looked up as he approached. Pippin and Merry broke out in laughter, rolling on the ground in ecstasy. Frodo and Sam looked incredulously at him, completely mystified by his appearance. Aragorn and Legolas smiled, their shoulders heaving in silent laughter. Aranel covered her mouth and laughed inwardly, pleased with how her prank had gone.
Boromir managed to blush in a light, manly way, and raced to the brook. He looked on the bank. No clothes. Where could they be? Had this "Piparamer" lied about the location of his garments? He turned around, gazing every which way, desperately hoping for a glimpse of his much-needed clothing. And then he saw them, hanging on a branch at the top of the tall tree, in front of which Aranel was sitting. "Oh no," he muttered, running his hand through his hair. There was no way he could climb up there and get them.
I couldn't help but laugh at Boromir's bewildered expression as he looked at his clothing high up in the tree. He looked terrible: he had a huge purple lump on his forehead which was swelling rapidly, his hair was mussed and tangled, and he was still in his pajamas. Oh well. Time to help him out a little. I put my book down and stood up. I shaded my eyes with my hand and said, "Hey Boromir! Need some help getting those down?"
He looked at me, then back at the hanging clothing. "Alright," he said finally.
With a grin, I scrambled up the tree, clinging to branches and balancing lightly on my toes until I reached the limb on which his clothes hung. I tossed them down to him, then clambered down myself. By the time my feet had hit the ground, Boromir had already pulled the garments on, greatly improving his appearance. I approached him slowly. He stared at me and said, "Did you do all this? Everything? Like the flowers in my room? To get back at me for what I said at dinner the other night?"
"Yup, you nailed it," I replied, still grinning. "Merry and Pippin helped me execute it."
"Ah yes, Piparamer. I understand now." Boromir looked uncomfortable. "I - I guess I have an apology to make," he said with a pained expression. I raised one eyebrow. "Well, I'm sorry for what I said," he mumbled. "I shouldn't have been so rude, especially to a lady like yourself. Please, accept my apologies."
I waved a hand. "Apology accepted. I completely forgive you. No hard feelings or anything. I know that things are different in Gondor, when it comes to gender roles. Where I come from, girls can do anything that a man can do, so that's the life I'm used to living."
"I understand," he sighed gratefully. I knew how hard it had been for him to apologize.
But I had one last prank to play. "By the way, you might want to check on your hair."
His expression of surprise was priceless. I watched as he ran to the riverbank and stared at his reflection in the water: his hair was green.
A/N: Before anybody mentions it I'm just gonna say right now: I know there's no gelatin in Middle-Earth. It just worked so perfectly that I had to use it. And hey, they might have an equivalent somewhere in the elf-realm. Anyway, please review with your feedback! I love hearing your thoughts, so thanks to those who have reviewed so far.