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In Aragorn's Safekeeping
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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6
The Journey Continues

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the recognizable characters; I am only borrowing them for fun for a little while. They belong to J.R.R. Tolkien.

Many thanks to my Beta Readers – J and Marsha.

Words in italics are elvish, elvish translations are at the end of the chapter.

Author Notes: I do know that English is not Westron which is the common tongue of Middle Earth; however I have chosen to use it in this story. Also, in what I believe is a departure from canon; I assume that Aragorn and Legolas have a long standing friendship that goes back before the formation of the Fellowship.


~~~

Rebecca rushed over to Thomas and grabbed his arm, "Thomas! Are you hurt? What happened? Why did he do that?" She glared over at Aragorn, who was now speaking with Gandalf, as her hand moved up to Thomas's throat checking it for injuries. But such was Aragorn's skill that there was not a single nick in Thomas's skin.

Looking down at her, Thomas took her hand in his, absently noticing how small and soft it felt. "I'm fine, Rebecca" he said soothingly. "Boromir and Aragorn were teaching me how to use a sword and what you saw was a very important part of the lesson. It may save your life, or mine some day," he added seriously.

Reassured, both by his words and the fact that he wasn't injured, Rebecca relaxed. "It just startled me to see you with a sword at your throat... though I know Aragorn wouldn't hurt you." She laughed uneasily, slipping her hand loose from his and turning slightly to stare into the forest. "I-I just can't imagine being here without you, Thomas," she whispered. "These guys are nice," Rebecca waved her hand vaguely in the direction of the members of the Fellowship, "but only you can really understand me. I can't stand the thought of something bad happening to you. I don't know what I’d do. You're my only connection to home and the 'real' world." She turned back to him.

Thomas nodded, unsure of how to respond, not sure if he could put his feelings into words. He knew exactly how Rebecca felt because he felt much the same and he couldn't imagine being here without her either. Clearing his throat and meeting her dark brown eyes with his serious blue ones, he simply said, "I understand completely." He smiled, "Come on, we must get ready to go and I'm sure Aragorn will want to check on us and make us – or at least you – drink something awful," he teased her.

As if he had heard his name being spoken, Aragorn approached followed closely by Boromir who was casually tossing a sheathed dagger in his hand. Remembering their conversation from the night before and how Aragorn had said that she could always ask him anything, Rebecca decided to ask him about the sword 'fight'.

"Aragorn, may I ask you something?" she said nervously, twisting a piece of her hair in her finger.

Aragorn looked at her keenly noticing her nervousness. "Of course, Lady Rebecca. Always," he replied with a faint smile.

"Um... I was... uh... watching when you and Thomas were... uh practicing... "

Aragorn raised an eyebrow and a slight frown appeared on his face wondering where this was going, if she was angry with him for taking a sword to Thomas. He grimaced inwardly not wanting to deal with this right now, but knowing that he had told her that she could ask him any questions. He knew they did not really have time to deal with any more interruptions this morning. Sometimes the burden of having the two young people added to the Fellowship took too much of his focus away from his other, more pressing, responsibilities. But what Rebecca said next shocked him.

"Anyway, Thomas explained everything and I was wondering if I should learn how to fight, too, so that I can help protect the hobbits and defend myself." Rebecca said the last in such a rush that it was almost hard to understand her words. She looked pleadingly at Aragorn and then turned her gaze on Boromir and last on Thomas.
They all stared back at her in disbelief.

It was Boromir who broke the silence, "Learn to fight? My lady," he spoke gently, "I know not how it is done in your world, but here women do not fight except in direst need." He looked down at her with a small smile and laid his hand gently on her shoulder.

"Rebecca, that sword is really, really heavy! I don't think you could even lift it! You know at home women don't fight either." Thomas couldn't believe she even asked to learn. "I'll protect you... " he blushed. "I mean, we'll protect you."

"But, Thomas, at home women aren't right in the front lines either or going on a dangerous journey like this," Rebecca protested. "And you know women did some stuff in the army. I'm scared, but mostly I just want to help." She stared down at her feet, disappointed in their response. "I guess I shouldn't have bothered even asking," she muttered, wondering why Aragorn hadn’t said anything. She turned to leave when she felt a strong hand on her arm pulling her back around and she looked up to see Aragorn's stern grey eyes searching hers intently.

"Lady Rebecca, will you not hear what I have to say?" Aragorn asked quietly.

Rebecca nodded hopefully.

"While what Boromir said is true about human females, it is not true among the elves. Among them, females may be warriors if they choose to be. They do not make such distinctions between males and females." Aragorn frowned thoughtfully while gazing down at Rebecca who was still looking at him and fidgeting nervously. "Though, elvish females are very similar in strength to elvish males. I know this because I was raised among the elves and saw several female warriors who were every bit as talented as Legolas."

"Who would that be mellon nín?" Legolas called from across the camp.

But Aragorn just shook his head at him not wanting to be distracted from his conversation with Rebecca. "So, I would say that you could be trained as a warrior, Lady Rebecca..." he watched her eyes light up, "Someday." He saw the light in her eyes die and the disappointment set in before she dropped her head to her chest with a sigh. He reached out and gently grasped her chin, being careful not to touch her still healing cut, and lifted her head up until he could see her eyes. Rebecca stared past him for a moment before finally meeting his gaze. "You are too sorely hurt right now, Rebecca, to be trained in any of our weapons. You know that yourself, do you not?" She nodded slightly. "I understand the desire to want to help, but there are other ways to help besides fighting." Aragorn let go of her chin and watched as she looked at him in confusion.

"How? I have no other skills."

"Just being yourself is one thing," Aragorn said seriously. "You have a kind heart and a sense of humor and that is much needed in dark and evil times. It seems like a small thing, yet it is not." Aragorn little knew how much he would come to regret those words in the days ahead. "With some training, you might also make a good healer... you are getting a lot of practice as a patient," he said with a small laugh. "Things will come to you naturally, do not try and figure them all out now. You cannot plan for everything. I know because I have tried," he said wryly. Looking at Rebecca closely, Aragorn could see acceptance in her eyes though the disappointment was still there.

Rebecca looked around at the three men standing in front of her. "Well, then, I'm sticking close to you three and you better protect me or I'll never let you forget it," she said with a very quiet laugh.

Stepping forward and giving her a half hug from the side, Aragorn whispered in her ear, "I will always do my very best to protect you, Rebecca." Stepping back away from her, he heard Boromir's and Thomas's assurances of protections as well. "Now, Lady Rebecca, I actually came to check on your wrist before we leave."

"And I came to give Thomas this dagger," Boromir cut in.

"Then let us both do what we had planned so that we can move on, Gandalf is looking impatient."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This day of the journey, the thirteenth since the Fellowship had left Rivendell, was beautiful though still cool. There was not a single cloud in the sky as if the previous day’s rain had washed them all away. Even the forest, which had seemed so gloomy yesterday, sparkled in the early morning sunlight and birds twittered and sang as they flitted about.

Rebecca noticed these things as she followed the hobbits up the path and were merrily chatting about pipeweed or food or something. She wondered if they ever got tired of talking about the same things. Physically she felt better than she had since she had arrived in Middle-earth. Cuts and bruises were fading and healing and only her broken wrist remained a problem. She frowned, looking down at her arm moving it up and down slightly, enjoying the freedom of movement she finally had. Aragorn had decided to try letting her walk without the sling to see if that would improve her balance enough that she wouldn't stumble so often. Though he had first taken her old socks and put them over her wrist and tightly wrapped them for more protection. She wrinkled her nose at the smell, but sighed knowing that that she herself probably smelled much worse. She desperately wanted to have a bath and to be able to wash her hair. Rebecca ran her fingers through her hair absently, but stopped as she came to tangles and felt the grease and dirt built up there. I must look terrible, she thought, suddenly horrified. Glancing around at the others, she relaxed slightly realizing that they were all mostly in the same condition. Except for Legolas she noticed, wondering why and how he could be so clean. Rebecca stared at him wondering if this was more of his eleven 'magic'.

At that moment, Legolas turned back to look at her, his eyebrow raised in question and a smile on his face. Mortified and startled by Legolas catching her staring at him, Rebecca turned red with embarrassment and focused her eyes on the trail in front of her and did not look up for some time, missing the look that Aragorn also sent her way.

As he turned back around, Aragorn continued his conversation with Legolas and Gandalf, "We should reach Hollin tomorrow, but I fear our road grows darker from there." His eyes took on a grim and shadowed look at the thought of the dangers ahead.

"Indeed, it has been surprisingly easy thus far," Gandalf spoke in a low voice. "Much easier than I had expected."

"Well, except for Thomas and Lady Rebecca, that was certainly unexpected!" Legolas said with amusement evident in his voice.

"Indeed it was. They seem to be doing well today, Aragorn." Gandalf glanced behind them.

"Hmm... yes. Thomas appears to be at or close to full strength though the stamina needed for walking these long distances still might take some time to build. It is the same with Rebecca, except for her wrist. Frodo is quiet, though I suppose that is not unexpected. The Ring is such a heavy burden for him," Aragorn's voice dropped slightly.

"I am glad Lord Elrond sent the other hobbits with him," Legolas said softly. "I think they will help him more than we know, they seem to cheer him up... last night even Thomas seemed to draw him out."

"I noticed that too," Gandalf nodded. "Thomas changed when he was with the hobbits, acted younger, yet he seemed protective of them too."

"Thomas told the hobbits that he had a younger brother and that Pippin reminded him of his brother. Probably that is why he seems protective of the hobbits." Aragorn looked at Gandalf, "Do you think they will ever see their families again, Gandalf?"

"Will you see yours, Aragorn? Will anyone here? Only the Valar know the answer to that question."

Nodding, Aragorn inspected his feet for a moment before looking up at his two closest friends. "Well then, when the time comes I will take them with me and Boromir to Minas Tirith. They can stay with me until they are able to find a way home. And if they are never able to go home then they will always have a place in my home.”

Legolas smiled at his friend, “They will do well with you, mellon nín.”

Gazing at Aragorn for a long moment, Gandalf nodded, “It is well thought of, Aragorn. They will be very much alone here and it will be good for them to have someone who knows their true story. No one else would believe them and should probably not be told anyway. You and the rest of us here will become their ‘family’ – such as it is,” he laughed lightly. Aragorn and Legolas joined him. Gandalf turned serious once again, “Of course, all of this depends on us surviving the evil days ahead of us. Now, come we have many miles yet to travel today and we cannot be slowing now. Legolas, you should be out scouting the trail ahead while a couple of old men discuss the path we should take.”

Bowing slightly and with an amused smile at Gandalf, Legolas departed swiftly into the trees ahead.

“Old man?” Aragorn gazed at his long-time friend with an arched eyebrow and a question in his eyes.

“Yes, old man. Most humans would consider someone of your advanced years to be quite old.” Gandalf stared back at Aragorn with just a slight twinkle in his eyes.

“I am only eighty-seven and that is not old for one of the Dúnedain!” Aragorn protested, shaking his head, though he had a smile on his face.

Gandalf just ignored him and kept walking.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rebecca walked by herself all morning and even though she was tired she enjoyed the forest they passed through. The terrain was steep in places but had enough level areas to make it bearable. Walking alone gave her a sense of privacy that she had been sorely missing the past few days. At home, Rebecca often spent hours alone in her room reading and thinking. Having ten people around her all of the time was difficult. It wasn't that she didn't like them, but it was nice not to have to talk to anyone for awhile. Besides her family, books were the things that she missed the most. She supposed they didn't have any books here that she could read, but she would ask Boromir or Aragorn. And a journal would be nice too. Maybe someday she could write about all of this. Not that anyone would believe it. Rebecca sighed softly and decided to just concentrate on placing one foot in front of the other as they started to climb another hill. It sometimes seemed that all they did was go up and Rebecca wondered when they would go down. Glancing at the sun, she tried to guess the time wondering how soon they would break for lunch. She could only hope that Aragorn would stop soon. She needed a break; her legs were starting to hurt. As Rebecca unconsciously started to slow down, she could hear Thomas talking with Boromir and Gimli about weapon and battles. She couldn’t believe that they were still talking about it, they'd been talking about it all morning. She shook her head slightly before speeding up, not really wanting to hear any more about orcs and battles.

Behind her Thomas was desperately trying to learn all that he could from Boromir and Gimli. Knowing that he was going to have to fight with a sword and kill these creatures and that they would be trying to kill him, made him an eager learner. Both Boromir and Gimli were patiently answering his questions and giving him advice, knowing that they might need to depend on him in battle sometime soon. Of course, talking about how to use a weapon or discussing strategy did not replace practice or actual experience, but it was the best they could do as they walked along and it at least gave Thomas a base of knowledge to draw upon – if he could remember it.

"Boromir, Gandalf said something about these creatures we will be fighting... called orcs, I think. What are they?"

"Bah, vile, evil, horrible things," Gimli spat out.

"Orcs are vile creatures," explained Boromir, "used by the dark lord for his evil purposes. They travel at night and hate the sun and men. They are man shaped, but are generally smaller and kill without thought or mercy. They travel in large groups so while they are generally, and I stress generally easy to kill, there are often so many of them that they can overwhelm you."

None of them noticed Rebecca, who had slowed down again, starting to shake as she listened to Boromir describe orcs.

Gimli picked up where Boromir left off. "Then there are wargs which are giant wolves, the dark lord also uses those. Sometimes by themselves and sometimes they travel with orcs. But my trusty axe..." and here Gimli patted his largest axe, "takes care of those things."

"You fight with your axe? I wondered why you carried them... they all look so heavy." Thomas looked Gimli over, noticing the various axes hooked to his belt besides the one he carried slung over his shoulder. "I've only ever used axes for chopping wood."

Smiling grimly, Gimli nodded, "Aye lad, my axes are used for killing evil creatures of all kinds." He patted a small axe on his belt, "These are used for throwing and this," he lifted the largest axe off his shoulder, "I use for up close work. Though..." he laughed, "I have chopped down a fair number of trees with it, Thomas."

Thomas looked closely at Gimli wondering if he should get an axe since he had at least used one before, even if it was only on trees. Focusing on the trail ahead and noticing another steep hill in the distance, his gaze happened to fall on Rebecca. With a start he realized that her shoulders were shaking or shivering occasionally and he wondered what was the matter and if she were crying. Thomas was about to go and ask her when Boromir's voice broke into his thoughts.

"Besides orcs and wargs, Thomas, there are also evil men that have allied themselves to the dark lord. They are much more difficult to kill because, of course, they can move and react and think like you.”

Thomas looked at Boromir blankly and all thought of Rebecca vanished from his mind. "Men?" he asked weakly, "I will be fighting and killing men, too?" His face paled as it finally sunk in that he would not just be fighting these 'creatures' but men just like him. He was sure that Aragorn or someone had mentioned it before, but somehow it had slipped from his mind in all of the chaos of the last couple of days.

Boromir looked at Thomas with compassion. "Yes, Thomas, you will. The dark lord has enslaved the men of Harad and the Easterlings to do his bidding and only the free men of Gondor..." Boromir gestured at himself, "and Rohan stand against him." At an angry glower from Gimli, he quickly added, "I meant only of the race of Men, Gimli! Of course, there are other free peoples in the fight, dwarves, elves and hobbits." Boromir gave Gimli a slight bow which was returned.

"How...how do you kill another man, Boromir?" Thomas asked in a whisper, looking very young. "I-I know it will be hard to kill orcs and wargs, but I'm sure I can do it. But Men?" he sighed, looking down at his hands and flexing them unconsciously, not quite able to believe that his hands could be used to take a human life.

Boromir placed his hand on Thomas's shoulder and squeezed it slightly, "I will not lie to you, Thomas. It is very difficult... the first time..." his voice trailed off and his eyes darkened with sorrow, "I fought and killed men, I cried afterwards." Boromir glanced down at Thomas who was watching him intently. "I was even younger than you – barely sixteen," he laughed hollowly. "It only gets easier in the sense that you get better at killing." Boromir frowned and stared vacantly into the woods before looking back at Thomas. He added softly, "But it never gets easy to kill a man. Nor should it. I only do it to protect my home and my people."

"I-I had hoped it was different here. That Men were somehow better. That they were all united against this dark lord." Thomas sounded sad for a moment. "But I suppose Men are the same everywhere," he added bitterly. "They always want more and are willing to do anything to get it – including killing innocent people. Then the rest of us have to fight and die to protect them."

Thomas's body was taut with anger as he quickly strode away from Boromir and Gimli not noticing the shocked looks on their faces. He passed Rebecca without a glance and fell into line between her and the hobbits. Slowing down so he didn't overtake the hobbits, Thomas struggled to contain his anger. He took several deep breaths and tried to focus on something other than his father and the war at home that were racing through his mind. He couldn’t understand why this was happening again. Why Men did this to each other. He wasn’t sure he would be able to handle this. What if Rebecca dies? Or Aragorn? Or Boromir? Or any of them? What would he do? There is no one else here for me, he thought with despair. Thomas felt at the edge of tears, but he wouldn’t let them fall, instead taking a last, deep breath. He jumped slightly when he heard a voice next to him.

“Thomas?... A-are you all right? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Rebecca’s voice was laced with concern as she looked up at him anxiously. She reached for his hand, but then thought better of it and her hand dropped back down to her side.

“I’m fine, Rebecca.” Thomas replied dismissively, waving off her concerns with one hand, not taking his eyes off the path ahead.

“You don’t look fine…” Rebecca was cut off when Aragorn called for a quick lunch break. Thomas was relieved to get out of the conversation so he gave her a quick, feigned smile and moved off to join the hobbits. Rebecca sighed and shook her head as she followed him to where the food was being set out. She knew Thomas was not being honest with her and that something was deeply troubling him. Though disappointed that Thomas didn’t appear to trust her enough to tell her what was bothering him, Rebecca shrugged inwardly; it was up to him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Clearly pleased that Rebecca had managed to make it through the morning without hitting her wrist, Aragorn decided to leave the sling off for the rest of the day.

"My balance is so much better, Aragorn! I don't think I even stumbled over a root or anything." Rebecca was thrilled not to have to wear the sling anymore.

"It could be that the path I have chosen is better," Aragorn said, looking closely at her wrist so she did not see the twinkle in his eyes.

"Oh, that's true." Rebecca sounded disappointed as she gazed at her feet wondering if, in fact, it was the absence of the sling or the path that was responsible for her improved balance. "Wait a minute," her eyes narrowing suspiciously, "are you kidding me, Aragorn? I don't think you would change the path just for me."

Aragorn chuckled softly, "Ah, Rebecca, I was jesting with you. I am sure it was the sling and not the path – though I would find an easier path for you if I could." He grinned as she ducked her head in embarrassment.

She looked back up at him with a smile, "Well, anyway, I'm just glad not to have to wear the sling anymore."

Turning serious once more, Aragorn handed her the sling, "You will keep this and I expect you to wear it at night. It will keep you from accidentally hitting it as you move during your sleep."

Rebecca nodded, "That makes sense, thanks Aragorn." She blinked, suddenly realizing all of the things that he had done for her over the past few days and that she had never really even thanked him before.

"Good, we need to move on, we have many miles to travel before nightfall." Aragorn helped Rebecca to her feet as she groaned, though she gave him a smile and said,
"It's really not so bad now that I'm starting to feel better."

He smiled in return and moved off to his regular place in the front of the others. Meanwhile, Rebecca resumed her usual spot between Thomas and Boromir and Gimli who still brought up the rear. She gazed questioningly at Thomas as she passed him, but he just stared down at his feet as he walked along.

Refreshed by the short break and lunch, Rebecca was again enjoying the beauty of the trees and the 'solitude', though it did seem that Aragorn had picked up the pace a bit. She figured there must be a wonderful 'shelter' they needed to reach by nightfall, Rebecca groaned inwardly. Legolas had rejoined the group and she was surprised to see him stop beside the path and wait for others to pass. The hobbits gave him questioning looks, but he just smiled and motioned them on. As Rebecca came alongside he stepped back onto the path.

"May I walk with you, Lady Rebecca?" he asked in his soft, somewhat musical voice.

"Of course, there’s no need to ask," Rebecca smiled at him, her cheeks turning slightly pink.

"I did not frighten you this time," Legolas pointed out.

Rebecca laughed quietly, "No you didn't and I thank you for that."

Legolas bowed slightly with a faint smile. "I noticed that you have been very quiet this day and walking alone. I wondered if you were still troubled about what happened this morning or if something else has caused you distress. Please forgive me, Lady Rebecca, if asking such personal questions offends you. That is not my intent, I am asking only out of my concern for you." Legolas gazed at Rebecca with a slightly furrowed brow and his intense blue eyes looked straight into hers.

Rebecca could not endure the intensity of Legolas's gaze for very long and she soon turned her face back to the path ahead. "Legolas..." she began and then paused to gather her thoughts. She tried again, "Legolas, first of all, I'm not offended." She glanced up at him to find that he was still watching her intently. Rebecca's cheeks reddened as she continued, "I know you're just… concerned for me, so there's nothing to forgive." She risked a quick look and smiled up at him. Legolas nodded. "I'm not upset at Aragorn or Boromir about this morning. I understand... even though it's hard and I was disappointed."

"I am glad, Lady Rebecca. Truly, they do have your best interests at heart and..." Legolas hesitated and then continued softly, "I do agree with them. Though I was not part of your discussion, I also will do my best to protect you."

"Thank you."

"However, I notice that you did not include Thomas when you said you were not upset about this morning. Are you upset with him?" Legolas's eyebrow rose in question and there was a hint of amusement in his voice that irritated Rebecca.

Scowling at Legolas, "Well, I'm a little mad at him. He just said the sword was too heavy! That's not a good reason. There are other weapons. You have a large knife you carry." Rebecca gestured at the one on Legolas's belt. "I'll bet I'm strong enough to hold one of those. I know, I know..." she waved off the start of Legolas's protests. "I can't learn to fight... at least not now. Anyway, Thomas did make me mad."

"Thomas was just trying to protect you in the only way he knew how," Legolas said gently. "He cares for you."

Nodding, Rebecca glanced ahead at Thomas who still appeared to be almost sleepwalking as he trudged along. "I know that. Just like I care for him. I don't know what I would do without him here," she whispered, looking up at Legolas. "Anyway, that's not the reason I was walking alone today. But I'm not sure a man would understand..."

"Ah, but I am not a man, Lady Rebecca," Legolas interrupted her quietly, "so maybe I would understand." He looked at her expectantly.

"Oh...well... yes...," Rebecca, embarrassed, fumbled for the right words. "I know you're an elf... I guess I should have said a male." She gave him a sidelong glance to see his response. When he remained quiet, Rebecca took a deep breath and continued. "You’re probably right, you might understand me. This is a different place and time from my world and..." she paused and gave Legolas a shy smile, "you are an elf. But I'm not used to telling people, especially males, what I'm thinking about. No one ever asked me before." Rebecca laughed and gave a small shrug. She lifted her gaze off the ground where she had been watching the path carefully and instead studied the looming snow-covered mountains that she could just now see through the trees as she waited for Legolas to respond.

It did not take him long. "I am asking only because of my concern for you, Lady Rebecca." Legolas gave her a reassuring smile, "You do not have to tell me, I just wanted you to know that I would listen. Sometimes we need to share our hearts and thoughts and feelings with others so we do not feel so alone," he paused briefly. "I know you feel very much alone, Lady Rebecca," he added softly, watching as Rebecca's eyes took on a sad and distant look before filling with tears that she rapidly blinked away.

Nodding abruptly, Rebecca turned her focus back to the ground in front of her. "Y-yes I do." Her voice grew stronger as she continued speaking, "This morning though I was... enjoying having a moment of privacy. I know it sounds strange with everyone around, but… just not talking to anyone gave me a sense of privacy and gave me time to think about home and things I miss," she sighed deeply. "At home when I finished with school and work and all of my chores or when my noisy cousins got to be too much for me, I could retreat to my room. It was a place where no one would disturb me, Legolas. I would read, or write in my journal, or just lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling and think about life and dream about my future. It was my own special retreat where I could get away. I-I don't have that here and so that's sort of what I tried to do this morning. Can you understand the need for that?" Rebecca gazed searchingly at Legolas.

"Indeed, mellon nín, I understand that perfectly well." Legolas gave Rebecca a beautiful smile. "As a young elfling..." he paused, "What is the matter, Lady Rebecca?"

"What does… mellon nín mean?" she asked, confused by the strange sounding words.

"Forgive me! It means my friend in Sindarin, which is an elvish language."

"Oh, I've heard you say it to Aragorn before and I've wondered what it meant." Rebecca smiled at Legolas, thrilled that he would call her 'my friend' in any language.

Legolas continued his story, "As a prince, I was constantly surrounded by servants, nursemaids, teachers, guards and many others. It seemed I never had any time to myself. So, when I was about twenty-five I decided to sneak out of my room one night to try and find a quiet place..."

"Wait a minute," Rebecca interrupted, "at twenty-five years old you had to 'sneak' out? Isn't that a little old to be doing that? Besides," she added looking Legolas up and down carefully, "You don't look much older than that now."

Legolas let out a merry laugh that caused the four hobbits to turn and look back, though Thomas appeared not to hear it. Pippin and Merry slowly dropped back to join Rebecca and Legolas.

"What's so funny?" demanded Pippin, "I could use a good laugh."

"Me, too," added Merry, "though I notice that Lady Rebecca is not laughing, she just looks annoyed."

Rebecca scowled at Legolas and ignored the hobbits. "I don't know what's so funny, Legolas. I just asked you a simple question." Her voice was filled with a mixture of both hurt and annoyance.

Merry and Pippin exchanged surprised glances and turned to Legolas whose face, while serious, still carried a spark of amusement in his eyes.

"Ah, Lady Rebecca, forgive me for my laughter, but it is amusing to me because I am quite a bit older than twenty-five!" The hobbits started laughing as well, though they quickly stopped when Rebecca turned her furious brown eyes on them. The amusement still evident in his voice Legolas continued, "Do you remember, Lady Rebecca, when I told you that elves are immortal?"

Rebecca nodded, looking at him closely to make sure he was not making fun of her as she had suspected earlier.
"Because we are immortal, once we get to a certain age, we stop growing and our physical features are set – like mine are. So, though I may look to you to be only twenty-five years of age, I am actually 1,937 years old."

Rebecca stopped dead in her tracks and stared at Legolas in total disbelief. "1,937," she whispered.

Legolas gently grabbed her elbow and moved her along while Pippin and Merry quietly laughed at the stunned expression on her face.

Automatically moving her feet, Rebecca let Legolas help her along the path as she tried to absorb his true age. She had no frame of reference for knowing someone of his age. It just didn't seem possible.

"Legolas!"

"Yes?"

"You're really old!" Rebecca laughed lightly. Shaking her head and still somewhat in shock she continued thoughtfully, "But you must have seen so much. I'll bet you can tell wonderful stories of incredible places and things..." her voice trailed off and her eyes took on a far-away look as she thought of the possibilities of Legolas sharing the stories of his life with her and her writing them down and making a book from them.

Reaching down and squeezing her hand gently, Legolas's eyes darkened, "Many of the stories I could tell would be of dark and evil things for my land has been through hard times for many centuries." Smiling down at Rebecca, Merry, and Pippin who had all shuddered as he talked because of the heaviness in his voice and the sorrow they could feel emanating from him, Legolas changed the subject as he let go of Rebecca's hand.

"Now, we need to get back to our original topic of conversation which we have wandered far from. When I said I was sneaking out of my room at twenty-five, that is about the same as a human twelve year old. Elves do not become adults until we are about fifty years of age."

"Oh... for us it is eighteen. I have a year and a half to go. Thomas has about six months, I think." Rebecca said looking ahead at Thomas wondering again what had him so lost in thought. Though he did seem to be looking around again and was not staring at the ground anymore. Smiling, Rebecca glanced down at the hobbits, "And when do hobbits become adults?"

"For hobbits it's thirty-three. All of us except Pippin are adults. He's only twenty-eight." Merry threw his arm around his younger cousin's shoulder.

"And you never let me forget it either," Pippin mumbled, before his countenance brightened once again. "Though sometimes being the youngest works to my advantage. I usually get the best food, no one expects me to do much and my mom spoils me." His face lit up in a cheeky grin as he joined the others in their laughter.

Returning once again to his story, Legolas continued, "I snuck out of my room through my window by leaping into the closest tree." Noticing the widened eyes of the others, Legolas took the time to explain, "I am a wood-elf, a tree will not let me fall." Legolas reached out and lovingly stroked a tree as he walked past and Rebecca noticed the leaves seemed to flutter at his touch. "I jumped from tree to tree until I found the perfect tree a short distance from the palace. After that night I often returned to 'my' tree and even today I go to the same place, though that original tree is no longer there. But it remains a place that I go to escape from the crowds in the palace, a place to go and think, a place to be alone." Legolas stopped speaking and stared intently down at Rebecca who gazed back at him, looking for the understanding she was seeking. Smiling shyly, she nodded once before letting out a small sigh of relief that someone here could understand her and her need for privacy and escape from the people that now constantly surrounded her.

"Thank you for sharing that with me, Legolas. It-it helps me to know that someone else does understand."
Bowing slightly to Rebecca, Legolas turned to the hobbits who had been looking back and forth between Rebecca and Legolas as if aware that they were missing something.

"Now, young hobbits," Legolas's voice, which had been so serious turned light as his mood switched with the lightening speed that was common among elves. "I believe that Lady Rebecca and I need to hear a story of the Shire." His eyes twinkled with amusement as he looked down at Rebecca. "I know that she has heard none of your stories and I have heard very few."

As Merry and Pippin started arguing over which story to tell, Rebecca looked at Legolas closely. While he was so hard to read, she thought he was struggling to keep from laughing. Just before she turned her eyes back to the path, Legolas winked at her, which caused her to blush and him to laugh softly. Rebecca shook her head in frustration, wondering how she could talk to him all afternoon without blushing and then when he gave her an innocent wink, she immediately blushed.

Evidently Pippin and Merry came to some kind of an agreement because Pippin started in on a long rambling tale about his third cousin twice removed on his father's side or something like that. Rebecca was never quite sure of the particular relationships of who was related to whom though she noticed it did seem important to both hobbits as Merry kept interrupting to clear up some minor details.

Parts of the story were funny, like when a wheelbarrow broke loose and rolled down a hill and pushed a hobbit face first into a muddle puddle. Or, when a cow got out and they had to chase it through the village and it made a mess. But the parts Rebecca liked best were when Pippin and Merry were talking about how peaceful their home was, with bubbling brooks and quiet meadows. Right now Rebecca would do anything to be in a place like that.

So the afternoon passed quite quickly for Rebecca as she listened to the hobbits talk about their life in the Shire. At some point she realized that Legolas had departed and Thomas had taken his place alongside her. She glanced at him and smiled which he acknowledged with a quick nod. The sun was slipping towards the top of the hills when Aragorn called a halt near a small closely spaced grove of trees that was to be their camp for the night.

Rebecca realized with some surprise that though she was extremely tired it was not the utter exhaustion of the past days and she realized that she was starting to feel better and her body was getting used to the walking. Having stories to listen to also helped keep her mind off the walking. She turned to Merry and Pippin, "Thanks so much for telling me about your home. I hope I can see it someday."

"Oh, you must come, Lady Rebecca! I'll take you everywhere!" Pippin cried excitedly.

Merry was more restrained though no less enthused by the thought of showing Rebecca his homeland, "Yes, please do come, Lady Rebecca. It would be wonderful to show you our home."

"Well, when we get wherever we are going..." she frowned, suddenly realizing she had no idea how long it would even take to get where they were going. "Anyway, when this is all over, I'll try and visit you." She watched as the hobbits scampered off to join the others and moved to follow them a little more slowly when she felt a hand on her arm holding her back. Looking down at it and then up she saw Thomas gazing at her a little uncertainly.

"Rebecca, I-I wanted to tell you I was sorry for..." Thomas looked away, swallowed and then turned back to her, "I wasn't mad at you," he whispered. "I was..." Thomas stopped, having no idea how to express what he was feeling.

Confused, Rebecca just looked at him, not sure why he was even trying to apologize. It either had to be about the sword or when she had tried to talk to him before lunch. But neither of those should cause this much anguish.

"Uh, Thomas, just tell me, I won't bite." Rebecca smiled at him although it was a bit hesitant.

Deciding to just get it over with, Thomas's words came flying out in a rush. "I meant at lunch time. I wasn't mad at you when I wouldn't talk to you. I was upset after talking with Boromir and Gimli about having to fight and kill Men and it reminded me of home and my father and I couldn't talk to you about it right then, I needed to think about it for awhile. But I don't want you to be mad at me so I'm sorry if I hurt you." Thomas breathed a deep sigh of relief as he finished though he still did not look at Rebecca and stood there staring at the ground.

Understanding and sorrow flashed in Rebecca's eyes and she moved forward and hugged Thomas tightly. Startled, Thomas stood there for a moment and then he slowly put his arms around her and gently hugged her back. They stood that way for several minutes both finding comfort from the embrace and totally unaware of the eyes of the Fellowship who were watching them, though none had heard the conversation, except Legolas who smiled softly. Thomas was the first to draw back.

"Thank you, Rebecca, I-I needed that," he said quietly.

"I did too," she whispered. "Thomas, I forgive you if that's what you need to hear. But I understand about needing time to think things through to deal with them. Just tell me that though and... don't push me away, it hurts and I knew you weren't being honest with me anyway." Rebecca smiled up at him.

Thomas reached down and took her hand as he nodded. "I'll try Rebecca, honestly, I will." His voice was quiet yet strong as he turned and led her to the camp.

0-0-0

To be continued…



~~~

Translations:
Mellon nín My friend
Reviewers: Many thanks to everyone who is reading this story and especially to those who reviewed, I appreciate the encouragement.


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