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In Aragorn's Safekeeping
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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12
Lothlórien – Days of Training

Author Notes: Words in italics are elvish and in this chapter and subsequent chapters there may be long conversations in elvish, I’ve found it easier to do it this way. I will still have a few elvish words sprinkled in here and there throughout the story and I will continue to translate those at the end of the chapter where appropriate.

Also, in what I believe is a departure from canon, Aragorn sees Celeborn and Galadriel as his grandparents and they see him as their grandson. Not only is he betrothed to their granddaughter but he was raised in Rivendell by their son-in-law.

I know these chapters are long and I've tried to cut them, but there just isn't another natural break in this section!


~~~

A slight noise pulled Aragorn from sleep. Carefully, he lifted his head and looked around to find the source of the disturbance. His eyes fell on Legolas, who was also awake, and the elf pointed with his chin out the entrance of the tent. Turning, Aragorn saw Frodo walking slowly away with his hands in his pockets and his head down as if in deep thought. Concerned about the hobbit, Aragorn pulled on his boots and with a last glance at Legolas, he slipped out of the tent.

Deciding to keep his distance, Aragorn silently trailed the hobbit as he meandered aimlessly through the woods. It was obvious Frodo had a lot on his mind as the Ranger would occasionally hear a heavy sigh or some low muttering coming from the hobbit. Eventually though, Frodo plopped down on the ground next to a tree, leaning back against it with his eyes closed.

Keeping himself hidden, Aragorn crouched down a short distance away to keep watch over the hobbit. He waited patiently as he saw Frodo slip into sleep; the hobbit’s breathing becoming slow and steady. Suddenly, Frodo shot straight up, eyes wide, panting heavily with his hand clutching at the Ring around his neck. Moving slowly so as not to further startle him, Aragorn stepped from his hiding place calling in a low voice, “Frodo, what is wrong?”

Frodo jumped to his feet looking around wildly before his eyes landed on Aragorn. While he still appeared ready to bolt, the hobbit took a few deep breaths, appearing to calm himself down. “What-what are you doing here, Aragorn? How did you know where I was?”

“I followed you. You seemed distracted and I was worried,” Aragorn replied gazing at Frodo with a frown. “What just happened? Why are you frightened?” he asked softly.

“You were worried for me in Lothlórien?” Frodo raised a skeptical eyebrow. “What could happen here?”

“You could get lost,” Aragorn retorted. “You are avoiding my question Master Hobbit! What happened?”

“It-it was nothing,” Frodo looked away, still clutching the Ring. “Just-just a bad dream is all.”

“If you share it, it will not have a hold on you. You can let it go,” Aragorn crouched down in front of the hobbit so he could look him in the eye.

Grimacing, Frodo nodded, “It was just… I saw orcs and horrible things… but then… I saw…” he paused.

“Go on.”

“I saw the eye, Aragorn,” he whispered. “It was horrible. Glowing with fire… and it could see me…” Frodo screwed his eyes shut tightly as if trying to block the images from his mind.

“Oh, Frodo,” Aragorn breathed softly. “I am sorry. I would that I could take your pain,” he said compassionately.

“I know you would,” the hobbit sighed and looked at his friend sadly. “But I have to bear it alone… though I admit that telling you of my dream has eased me somewhat.”

“Good,” Aragorn paused as he carefully considered his next words. “Frodo, although none of your friends can spare you the pain the Ring causes you; we can help ease your burden if you will let us. You are not as alone as you feel… we will listen or do what we can to help you. But you have to tell us what you need or want.”

Frodo nodded, “I know, I know. Sam is always telling me the same thing.” He shrugged and smiled wanly, “I forget though, because sometimes all I can see is the Ring.”

“It is easy to do that… I will try and remind you otherwise occasionally.” Aragorn grinned as the hobbit’s stomach let out a loud growl. “Time for breakfast, is it?” he raised an eyebrow in question.

“You should know by now that it’s always time for a hobbit to eat!” Frodo retorted with a grin of his own.

“Lead the way then since I do not want to be trampled as we near the tent and the smell of food overcomes your sense of dignity.” Aragorn’s eyes sparkled with amusement as he watched Frodo since he was pretty sure the hobbit had no idea in which direction the camp was located.

Frodo looked around carefully, narrowing his eyes and chewing his lip in thought before setting out unerringly towards the camp. He had taken several steps before Aragorn hastily fell into step with him, a surprised look on his face.

The hobbit glanced up at the Ranger with a sly smile, “Hobbits don’t get lost easily. You should know better,” he chided softly. “I have a little more experience in the woods than Thomas.”

Aragorn gave him a wry smile, “You just seemed so distracted this morning.”

Frodo just smiled and shook his head as they continued walking back to camp.

--

The sun wasn’t even up when Rebecca awoke. She couldn’t believe she was awake so early and she lay in bed for a few minutes thinking and planning for the day ahead. Aragorn and Boromir were going to work with her, Thomas, and the hobbits on sword fighting skills right after breakfast, though first she was going to get her own sword, a prospect that excited her immensely. Then she was going to meet with the healer, Lord Thalion, and start that training. Rebecca didn’t know if she would really be able to help sick or wounded people and yet it sounded sort of interesting, so all she could do was try. Later in the afternoon Haldir was to start teaching her archery. Rebecca frowned slightly, he made her nervous. Though always polite and proper, he intimidated her and she wondered if she would be too nervous to learn from him and she wished that Legolas was teaching her instead.

Eager to start her day, Rebecca got up and went to the cabinet that contained the leggings and tunics. She had several choices in shades of grey, brown and green. Choosing dark green leggings, a pale green shirt and a darker green tunic she quickly dressed, fumbling briefly with the unfamiliar buttons and ties. The cabinet also contained soft new boots which she gratefully slipped on.

Ready to go, Rebecca paused outside her door wondering what to do. She now knew how to get down to where the others were camped, but she didn’t want to worry Brethil. Finally, she quietly approached the elleth’s talan and timidly knocked.

“Come in, Rebecca!”

Startled, she opened the door to find Brethil gracefully rising from a couch. Rebecca looked at her in amazement, “How did you know… oh, elvish hearing. I’m a mortal, you heard the door on my talan open, I walk noisily and things like that,” she smiled at her friend.

Brethil laughed, “Yes, to all of those. You have heard those comments before?” She looked at her questioningly.

“Oh yes,” she said dryly. “Though, not said quite that way. Legolas,” Rebecca smiled, “is much kinder and was usually teasing me at the time.” She blushed faintly in remembrance.

“He appears to be a merry elf. I had not met him until now, for I have never left Lothlórien.”

“Never? As old as you are? Well, at least it’s safe here… not like where I’ve been,” Rebecca frowned. “Anyway, I wanted to tell you that I was ready to go… but you don’t have to come if you aren’t ready. I know how to get there.”

“Then go and I shall join you later this morning to take you to the healing quarters,” Brethil smiled. “You don’t have to wait for me.”

“All right.” Rebecca ran out the door and practically skipped down the steps and hurried toward the tent. She was disappointed because it was quiet and everyone appeared to be asleep and she wondered what time it was. To her relief, she noticed Boromir and Legolas sitting off to one side talking quietly. They looked up at her approach.

“Lady Rebecca, what are you doing out of bed at this hour,” Boromir teased quietly. “Are you perhaps ill?”

“Whatever do you mean, Lord Boromir? I have always loved mornings,” Rebecca responded, her eyes sparkling.

“Is that so?” tilting his head he smiled as he continued, “I seem to remember otherwise. There was the time that you…”

“All right, you win,” Rebecca laughed as she interrupted him. “I’m just excited, I guess, so I woke up early.” She sat down on a log next to Legolas and across from Boromir.

They sat quietly for a few moments lost in their own thoughts and enjoying the fresh morning air. Eventually Rebecca picked up a fallen tree branch and was idly poking it in the grass and twirling it around, as she hummed quietly. When she looked up she saw two pairs of amused eyes watching her.

“Now what’s wrong?” she asked, puzzled.

“Nothing, Lady Rebecca,” Legolas smiled faintly. “I have just never seen you quite this…” he paused as if searching for the right word and glanced at Boromir for help, but he just shook his head, “quite this restless before.”

Laughing, Rebecca shook her head. “I told you I was excited, Legolas! I can’t help myself! Honestly, I always get this way before I start something new – like going to school. I get up early…” she smiled at Boromir. “I can’t sit still.”

“What exactly has you so excited, Lady Rebecca?” Legolas gazed at her intently.

“Because I get to do things today! Learn something new and different,” she shrugged. “I think it will be fun.”

Boromir laughed shortly. “Lady Rebecca learning to use a sword is not ‘fun’, it is hard work.”

“I know that, Boromir.” Her eyes flashed at him angrily, hurt by his laughter. “But hard work can be fun. I’m also going to start with the healer today and that will be hard too. But it will still be ‘fun’ for me. I like to learn new things.” Rebecca stared at the ground for a moment before she looked up to find that Boromir was gazing at her with a look of sorrow.

“Forgive me, Lady Rebecca, for I can see that I have offended you and that was not my intent,” Boromir’s voice was soft and low as he bowed slightly. “My intent was, I think, to try and prepare you for the reality of learning to wield a sword. I thought that perhaps you were not taking it seriously, but I was mistaken.”

Rebecca sighed, “Of course I forgive you, Boromir. I really do take this seriously because I know this is a dangerous place,” she looked away for a moment. “Moria taught me that,” she added quietly.

Boromir looked at Legolas briefly and then back to Rebecca. “Lady Rebecca, I told you it is not the custom of my people to train our women to wield weapons…”

“She needs to be able to defend herself,” Legolas broke in quietly. “She is not safely inside a walled city like Minas Tirith.”

“I know, Legolas, let me finish.” Boromir shot him an irritated glare. “But, as Legolas says, most of our women stay close to home or in Minas Tirith. They are not out traveling like you have had to do. I have been forced to change my mind… you do need to be trained.” He sighed and gave Rebecca a sad smile. “But I wish the need were not there and that you could come and visit my city in a time of peace and safety.”

“That would be nice… maybe we can make it there without any problems?” she glanced from Legolas to Boromir hopefully.

“It is always possible, Lady Rebecca, but we have many hundreds of miles to travel,” Legolas told her gently.

“Well, then you better do a good job of teaching me, Boromir!” she grinned suddenly. “I might need to use my sword to protect you two!”

Legolas and Boromir both laughed though the looks the two exchanged spoke of a promise to protect Rebecca at all costs should the need arise.

“Frodo! Where’s Mr. Frodo?” Sam’s alarmed voice was heard coming from the tent and he came barreling out the door with a frantic look on his face.

“Peace, Sam,” Legolas said soothingly. “He went for a walk a couple of hours ago.”

“Alone?!” Sam seemed ready to tear off into the woods to look for his master.

“No, Aragorn followed him. I am sure he is quite safe,” Legolas smiled at the hobbit.

Groaning, Sam sat down on the log muttering, “He shouldn’t have left without me. I’d gone with him.”

Rebecca leaned over and patted his shoulder comfortingly.
Thomas and Gimli emerged from the tent, followed closely by Merry and Pippin.

“It’s about time you got up! I’ve been up for hours!” Rebecca called cheerfully.

“Why?” Gimli grunted.

“There’s lots to do today! I want to eat so we can get started.”

“We have to wait for Aragorn,” Thomas pointed out.

“Oh, that’s true but we can still eat.”

“I’m all for eating now,” Pippin chimed in.

“Me too,” Merry nodded.

“Should we not wait for the others?” Boromir looked from Rebecca to Merry and Pippin who all nodded reluctantly. Rebecca sat back with a sigh and picked up her branch and started poking the ground again. She looked up as Legolas suddenly stood and said,

“Come, Gimli. I would show you the sights of Lothlórien.” Looking surprised, Gimli got to his feet and followed after the elf.

“That’s interesting,” Thomas murmured quietly to Rebecca as they sat staring after them.

She nodded thoughtfully, “Something changed after Gimli said those nice things about Lady Galadriel. I’m just glad they aren’t fighting all the time.” Rebecca grinned.

“Me too,” he smiled and then happened to look up just as Aragorn and Frodo entered the clearing. The Ranger caught his eye and nodded slightly with a smile.

“I guess I will not be catching you off guard this morning, Thomas!”

“Guess not. I’m getting really good at looking in the right direction at exactly the right time to see you coming,” he laughed.

“Mr. Frodo! Why didn’t you take me with you?” Sam rushed over and grabbed Frodo’s hand, a look of concern on his face.

“I’m fine, Sam. Aragorn was with me,” Frodo spoke softly as he smiled at his friend.

“Let’s eat!” Pippin and Rebecca said at the same time and then broke into laughter as they looked at each other.

Aragorn looked from one to the other in puzzlement. “Pippin you are always hungry, but Rebecca…” he glanced at Boromir who just shrugged with an amused sparkle in his eye. He looked back at Rebecca thoughtfully, “you seem… excited this morning.”

Groaning, Rebecca buried her head in her hands for a moment before looking up at Aragorn. “Can we please just eat so I can go and start doing all the things I’m going to do today?”

A look of understanding crossed Aragorn’s face as he glanced back at Boromir who nodded with a wry smile.

“I have been waiting for a long time already,” she complained.

“Then by all means, go and eat,” Aragorn’s lips twitched in amusement as she scurried off with the hobbits and Thomas. Boromir joined him and they slowly followed. “Has she been like this all morning?” he asked with a laugh.

“Yes… and I was starting to despair of your return! She said she always gets excited when she starts new things, school and such…” Boromir shrugged.

“Hmmm… well it does not surprise me. I imagine that tomorrow morning it will be a little different,” Aragorn said with a grin.

“Sore muscles and blisters tend to have that effect!”

--

After breakfast Boromir took the hobbits and Thomas to a training field while Aragorn took Rebecca to the armory to select a sword. Rebecca was as fascinated as Thomas had been with all of the shops they passed and it reminded her to ask Aragorn the question that had been nagging at her for some time.

“Aragorn…” she hesitated because he had done so much for her already.

“Hmm…?” he looked down at her questioningly.

Taking a deep breath she started again. “Aragorn, I was wondering if-if I could have some money.” Rebecca bit her lip nervously with a worried frown. “I-I don’t know when I could ever pay you back or anything…”

Aragorn halted in surprise, “Money. Why do you need money, Rebecca?” He looked at her in confusion.

“I-I wanted to buy things like a-a comb and soap before we left. I guess the elves are giving me the clothes, but I-I need the other things, too,” she whispered. “I don’t have any money and I hate to ask because you’ve done so much already…” her voice trailed off as she stared at the ground.

“Oh, Rebecca,” Aragorn stepped forward and embraced her briefly. “Truly I have only done what is proper and I have been glad to do it for you and Thomas. As for money, I would give you some, but the elves will not take if from us.” He shrugged at her questioning look. “It is their way. If you need or want something, ask Brethil and she will obtain it for you. Everything in that talan is for your use and you may take it with you.”

Rebecca just shook her head in amazement, “The elves are very generous people.”

“Indeed,” Aragorn smiled. “I did not even think about things like combs and such that you might need. If we come to a human settlement I will be sure you have money to purchase what you need.” He paused and looked at her intently for a moment. “Rebecca, I may not have made this clear to you, but since neither you nor Thomas have family here, I have assumed responsibility for you both - my wards for the time you are here. In all that that entails – to provide for you, to protect you, to teach you. I take that responsibility very seriously. So do not be afraid to ask for something you need, and I will never expect you to pay me back for anything.”

Rebecca swallowed hard, unsure how to respond. “Thank you, Aragorn,” she finally whispered.

Aragorn just smiled gently and started on towards the armory. Rebecca lagged slightly behind, staggered by his words. Of course he had been caring for her since their arrival, but she had assumed he saw it as just part of his duty as leader of the Fellowship that would end when they reached Minas Tirith. All of the others had been kind as well after she and Thomas had been thrust into their lives. But Aragorn was different. He had spoken to her and Thomas the previous night and had told them about his heritage and destiny. How and why he had been raised with elves, how his father had been killed when he was very young… just like me and Thomas, Rebecca remembered sadly. Celeborn and Galadriel were his foster grandparents. Most importantly, they learned that he was the rightful King of Gondor. That he was a real true king. A king has made me his ward… his responsibility; she shook her head in amazement. She wondered if that made her a princess and she smiled inwardly just as they stopped outside the armory.

“Wait here for a moment, Rebecca.”

“Yes, my King.”

“Rebecca,” Aragorn growled, though he threw an amused glance over his shoulder as he entered the door.
Rebecca laughed and looked around curiously at the elves as they worked. She didn’t know what all of them were doing, but it appeared that in addition to swords, arrowheads and spear tips were being forged. Wanting to have a closer look she started to walk over then sighed and stopped, remembering Aragorn’s instruction to wait.

He soon returned with four fairly short swords and beckoned Rebecca to follow him. They walked a short distance and he set the swords down on the grass.

“These are all short,” Rebecca frowned as she looked them over.

Nodding, Aragorn picked one up. “I think, though, that for your size one of these will work well.” He shrugged, “If not, there are others.”

He handed her the sword and showed her how to grip the sword as she was testing it for weight and feel. “Now take it out of the sheath.”

She carefully did so and marveled at its beauty.
“Swing it around a few times to test the balance,” Aragorn directed.

Rebecca did so, liking the feel of the weapon in her hand and the sense of power it gave her.

“How does it feel?”

“Nice… I like it… but then I’ve never held one my size before so it’s hard to tell.”

Aragorn nodded, pleased by her response, “Try another, then.”

Rebecca worked her way through the swords. Each sword felt similar to her and finally she chose the first one she had held. “I like this one the best… they are all so close… this was the first so…” she smiled sheepishly.

“If you are satisfied with you choice then take it. I will return these to the armory and we will join the others.”

--

Thomas was sweating. Boromir had shown him a few more defensive moves and now he was practicing them over and over. The moves had to become instinctive.

“Damn!” he swore loudly as Boromir’s sword snaked in and banged against his ribs. It hurt even though he was now wearing a thickly padded leather tunic for protection.

“Again,” Boromir ordered curtly.

Nodding, Thomas took his stance and watched Boromir warily. That was the third time his ribs had been hit already and he just knew he wouldn’t be able to move tomorrow.

“Focus, Thomas!” Boromir barked as his sword almost hit him again.

“Yes, sir.” Thomas narrowed his eyes and he moved quickly away as Boromir lunged to his left. He swung his sword across his body just in time to deflect Boromir’s thrust.

“Well done.” Boromir encouraged him as he circled around for another ‘attack.’

Thomas could hear the hobbits practicing behind him and knew the woods were close on his right side. He didn’t want to get trapped by either and he tried to move left. Boromir wouldn’t allow it and he kept pushing him to the right. It didn’t take long and Thomas was trapped against the trees. Desperately he looked for a way to escape since Boromir had made the trees a boundary. He kept half his mind on Boromir while blocking his blows and with the other half he sought a way out of his predicament. Deciding that in a real battle there would be no boundaries; Thomas took a deep breath and stepped back into the woods. He stopped, panting, his sword still in a defensive position as he watched Boromir closely.

“You are out of bounds,” Boromir observed. “Are you surrendering?” He raised an eyebrow in question.

Thomas’s eyes opened wide as he shook his head vehemently. “No! I just decided that a real battle doesn’t have boundaries. So I thought I could lead you into the woods. Maybe I would have an advantage there.” He shrugged, “But I will never surrender,” he stated firmly.

Boromir gazed at him thoughtfully. “You might, someday, do quite well in the woods. First though, you have to learn to use your sword well.” His voice became hard, “That is why I set the boundary, Thomas, to protect you. I also expect you to obey me.”

Thomas bowed slightly, “Yes, my lord.”

Boromir scrubbed his face roughly as if frustrated. “Thomas,” he growled, “I am not your lord.”

Confused, Thomas just stared at him for a moment. “I-I thought that was the respectful term, Boromir. In my world we say ‘sir’ but I though here people said ‘my lord’ to… to… older people and… people in authority like you.” Thomas glanced away wondering what he had done wrong. He looked back uncertainly as Boromir approached with a small smile.

“You have your sword pointed at me, Thomas.”

Thomas grinned, “And you, my lord, are out of bounds!” he darted around a tree and back into the clearing.

Chasing after him, Boromir quickly had Thomas on the defensive once more and within moments had flipped Thomas’s sword from his hand and slapped his upper leg hard with the flat side of his sword.

Thomas leaned over gasping for breath and looked up at Boromir cautiously, trying to gauge his mood.

“I think you need a rest. Go sit for a while.”

Thomas opened his mouth in protest, but a stern glare silenced him. “Yes my… I will.” Thomas sat and watched glumly as Boromir worked with the hobbits. He wasn’t sure if Boromir was truly upset with him or if it had all been an act to try and rattle him or a combination of both. He sighed and slumped back against the tree, though he did watch the others closely trying to learn from their example. Finally, tired of sitting he got to his feet and started practicing the moves Boromir had shown him earlier. He closed his eyes in concentration as he went through the various moves. Thomas froze when his sword hit metal and his eyes popped open and rested on Boromir.

“I thought you were resting.”

“I did… I felt like I had enough so I decided to practice some more.” Thomas shrugged as he looked at Boromir.

“Good, I do not want you to stiffen up. Your defensive work is coming along fine. You know the basic movements, now it just takes the long hard work of practicing it over and over. You really need to work on attacking, though. Aragorn and I will be spending more of our time teaching you those skills. Now, two things. First of all,” Boromir grinned suddenly, “You did a good job of not letting your guard down earlier. I could not trick you. While I did set that boundary, you are correct; there are no boundaries in war, so it was well done.” Boromir shook his head, “Though I must confess that I was frustrated and a little angry.”

“I thought you were and I wasn’t sure why. What I had done wrong.”

Clearing his throat, Boromir gazed at him intently, “Because you are young and have no experience. Yet, you beat me.”

“I didn’t beat you! You caught me and took away my sword!”

“You beat me the moment you stepped out of bounds and changed the rules. You beat me by using your head, and not your sword. You beat me by not getting rattled. Both are important, a good sword arm and a good mind.”
Thomas nodded slowly and then smiled.

“Secondly, you are correct. ‘My lord’ is the respectful term for older people and those in positions of authority. While there may be times in Minas Tirith where you will need to call me that, I look at you as I might a younger brother. As such there is no need of such titles between us.” Boromir clasped Thomas’s shoulder, “However, younger brothers need to obey their older brothers at all times!” he said with a laugh.

A look of pain flashed across Thomas’s face before he joined Boromir in his laughter. “I will remember that, Boromir!”

“Good, now let’s return to our practice.”

--

Aragorn and Rebecca stopped at the edge of the training field and watched the others for a moment. Deciding that the hobbits might need some guidance, Aragorn led Rebecca to that side of the field, though he studied Thomas intently as they passed and thought that he was doing better and that the new sword suited him well.

“Put that padded tunic on and wait here,” Aragorn strode over to speak with the hobbits briefly before returning. He gazed down at her excited face and with a small inward sigh he set to work teaching her the basics. The proper grip, the correct stance, how to move her feet without tripping, and the basic defensive moves she would use. After about an hour, Aragorn called a halt. “That is enough for the day, Rebecca.”

“But we didn’t even… spar,” she protested.

“No, we did not,” Aragorn shook his head with a slight frown. “You will not for several days. Not until I deem you ready.”

“Oh, all right,” Rebecca responded, clearly disappointed.

“I know you cannot feel it now, but your arm and shoulder will be sore. That is a light sword, but you body is unaccustomed to the weight. You should probably take a hot bath later to relax your muscles. You too, Thomas.” Aragorn glanced over at Thomas where he stood with Boromir and the hobbits. Rebecca followed his gaze and was suddenly embarrassed as she hadn’t realized they had been watching her.

“I intend to take a long bath. Boromir has worn me out!” Thomas grinned and ducked away when Boromir tried to cuff him on the head.

“Good, you need the practice,” Aragorn walked over with a smile. “You seemed to be doing well.”

The three started to discuss Thomas’s progress while Rebecca waited lost in her own thoughts. She was thinking about the healing lessons and the archery lessons and how she would be with people she didn’t know. Though Brethil would be there for the healing lessons and she was coming too really like her and enjoyed being with her. She started when a small hand slipped into hers.

“You’re awfully quiet!”

“I’m just thinking, Pip…” she smiled down at him and Merry, “about all the things I’m doing today.” She noticed the three men were still talking. “What are you two doing the rest of the day?”

“Nothing!” Merry grinned. “Eating, talking, and sleeping. Things like that.”

“Mostly eating, I hope,” Pippin laughed.

Rebecca shook her head fondly, “Well, it sounds like fun, but I’m glad I get to learn some healing skills. Though I don’t know if I’ll be any good at it,” she frowned slightly.

“If Lady Galadriel and Aragorn said you would be, then you will be,” Merry said confidently.

“Thanks.”

“Lady Rebecca, master hobbits, let’s go,” Aragorn called suddenly.

As they returned to camp, Rebecca paid strict attention to the path so she could find her way next time and wouldn’t have to wait for the others.

Haldir was waiting in the camp when they returned. He turned his intense gaze on Rebecca for a moment, “Lady Rebecca,” he greeted her with a slight bow.

“Good morning, Haldir,” she smiled nervously and glanced quickly away.

Haldir turned to the rest of the Fellowship, “Greetings, my lords. Thomas I have brought you a bow that should suit your needs,” he motioned to a bow and quiver of arrows leaning against a tree.

Thomas’s eyes lit up and he hurried over to examine the weapon. Aragorn, Boromir, and the hobbits followed leaving Rebecca alone with Haldir.

He stepped closer to her, “Are you ready to learn to use a bow, Lady Rebecca?” he inquired.

“I am willing to try,” she answered quietly, glancing quickly at the others to make sure that they could not be overheard. “Lady Galadriel thinks it’s important.” She shrugged and smiled nervously, “I hope you are a patient teacher!” she whispered.

Amusement flashed in Haldir’s eyes briefly, “I will endeavor to be so,” he bowed and walked away.

Rebecca decided it was time for her to leave for her healing lessons and so with a quick wave at the others she headed to her talan.

--

Brethil and Rebecca strolled through the elven city toward the healing quarters. Rebecca showed the elleth the blisters on her palm from her first sword practice.

“Do they hurt badly?” she asked in concern, taking Rebecca’s hand and peering at it closely.

“No,” she shook her head with a smile. “This is nothing, you should see Thomas’s hand!”

“He should see Lord Thalion. I am sure he could do something.”

“Aragorn put some salve on his hand and wrapped it. He’s a good healer… as I well know.”

Brethil laughed softly, “I had forgotten whom you travel with, I am sure Lord Elrond trained him well.”

Rebecca nodded silently.

As they arrived at their destination, Brethil stopped and placed her hand on Rebecca’s arm, gently holding her back. “Rebecca, Lord Thalion is an excellent healer.” She paused and her brow furrowed in thought, “However, sometimes he may seem a little… impatient. I do not say this to frighten you,” she hastened to add, evidently reading the concern on Rebecca’s face. The elleth smiled reassuringly, “I just want you to be prepared, and remember his only concern is his patients.”

Nodding, Rebecca followed Brethil into the building, suddenly worried about these lessons. The room they entered was an office with a desk and chairs to the left of the door. Shelves of books covered the walls behind the desk and cabinets lined the wall to the right. Two doors stood open at the far side of the room. A dark-haired elf sat at the desk writing as they entered and Rebecca looked at him in surprise, she had assumed elves only had gold or silver colored hair.

Brethil and Rebecca stood at the door waiting for Thalion to acknowledge them. After several minutes Rebecca sighed softly and shifted uncomfortably on her feet.

“I will be finished sooner if your fidgeting does not interrupt my concentration, Lady Rebecca,” Thalion said sternly not looking up from his work.

Rebecca stared at him wide-eyed and then glanced at Brethil, “Apologize,” she mouthed.

“I’m sorry, Lord Thalion,” she bowed slightly. Silence was his only response. Rebecca stood frozen as the minutes ticked by. Finally, Thalion put down his pen and looked up and again Rebecca was shocked as she looked at him, his eyes looked like Aragorn’s. Thalion had the typical Noldor elven grey eyes and while they were similar to Aragorn’s, right now they lacked the kindness that often filled the Ranger’s.

Thalion looked her over from head to toe while Rebecca nervously bit her lip trying not to move or look away from his scrutiny. Finally, he stood and moved from behind his desk, “Lady Galadriel has asked me to teach you, Lady Rebecca,” he said without preamble. “I shall endeavor to do my best. However you appear quite young. May I inquire as to your age?”

“I-I am 16, Lord Thalion.”

“It is as I thought,” he sighed. “Well, I shall do what I can. Come along.” He turned and walked out the door to the right.

Mouth slightly agape, Rebecca glanced at Brethil who grabbed her hand and led her quickly out the door. The room they entered contained several tables and many shelves filled with jars lined the walls. There were also several cabinets and another door.

“This is our supply room. These jars contain all of the healing herbs that we use. The cabinets contain bandages and bowls for mixing the herbs.” Rebecca looked around in awe and walked to a shelf noticing the strange lettering on the jar. Timidly she traced the letters with her finger.

“This is elvish, isn’t it?” she asked in dismay.

“Of course it is,” Thalion snapped. “You shall have to learn the names.”

Brethil spoke for the first time. “That is why Lady Galadriel sent me, Rebecca. She knew you would need my help with this.” Rebecca smiled gratefully at her friend.

“Lady Rebecca, we will spend most of our time here learning the various herbs and their uses. How to bandage wounds and so forth. You will only be here a short time, so I will only be able to teach you some very basic skills.”

Rebecca nodded.

“I do want to show you the rest of the healing rooms however.” Thalion led them through a series of small private rooms with single beds and several large rooms with many beds.

“Excuse me, Lord Thalion, may I ask a question?”

“Of course. I expect you to ask questions at any time, Lady Rebecca,” he replied curtly.

With an inward sigh, Rebecca asked, “Why do you have these large rooms with so many beds? I thought elves never got sick.”

“We do not. However, we have fought in many battles and dealt with many wounded at times in our long history,” his voice dropped off.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Lord Thalion,” Rebecca said softly.

Thalion nodded abruptly and led the way back to the supply room. “Now, I know it is not always possible when you are out traveling, but your hands should be as clean as possible when dealing with the sick or injured. Your hands may look clean…” he reached out and took Rebecca’s hands, casually turning them over to inspect them. “What has happened to your hand?” he asked gently. His whole demeanor changed in an instant to one of care and concern.

Surprised, it took Rebecca a moment to answer. “I am learning to use a sword,” she shrugged, “and that happened this morning. It doesn’t really hurt.”

Thalion nodded absently as he guided her gently to a stool and made her sit down. “Still, it needs to be tended or you will not be able to hold your sword tomorrow.” He quickly selected a jar of herbs and measured a small amount into a bowl where he expertly ground it into a powder. Next, he added a few drops of water and stirred until it became a thick paste. “Give me your hand,” Thalion said softly.

Although thoroughly stunned at the change in the elf, Rebecca watched intently as he gently applied the healing paste to her palm. The medicine stung and she smiled when she felt Brethil place a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“This will bring healing to the blisters very quickly and you should have no problems wielding your sword tomorrow.” Thalion took a length of bandaging material and tied it around her hand. “How does that feel?” he inquired with a smile.

“Fine… very soothing.”

“Good,” he nodded, “you may take the bandage off before sleeping tonight.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Now, what did you observe?” Thalion had switched back to his teacher mode.

Rebecca narrowed her eyes in thought before speaking. “You used… I can’t say the word my lord but I know which jar it is…”

“How much did I use?” he asked sharply.

“One and 1/4 of those spoons and then you ground it into a really fine… powder. You added four… no five drops of water and stirred it to make the paste.”

“What would that relationship be?”

“One drop of water to each 1/4 spoon of the herb.”

“I am pleased to learn that at least you are observant. It is an important skill for a healer. Now, let us continue…”

--

Aragorn watched with amusement as Legolas fondled Thomas’s new bow. He had never seen his friend so envious, though the elf covered it well.

“This is a beautiful bow,” Legolas commented as he handed it back to Thomas.

“Is it as good as yours?”

Legolas hesitated briefly, “The Galadhrim are acknowledged as the best bow makers in Middle-earth, though mine suits me perfectly well.”

Thomas looked from Legolas to the bow and back again. “The best?” he asked incredulously. “This is better than yours?” he asked with a sly smile. Aragorn coughed suddenly and found something on his boot that needed his immediate attention.

Legolas glared in Aragorn’s direction. “As I said, mine suits me well. It was made especially for me and has become a part of me. It is more the skill of the archer than it is the bow.”

“I see. Well, I will never be able to match your skill, you have too many years head start,” Thomas grinned. “So I need a good bow.”

“Indeed. Let’s start working on your skill.” Legolas turned and strode towards one of the archery fields, followed quickly by Thomas.

“I think I’ll tag along,” Gimli called and slowly trailed after them.

Aragorn chuckled loudly as they moved away.
“I hear you Son of Arathorn,” Legolas called back, irritation clear in his voice.

“I know you can, mellon nín,” Aragorn laughed.
Thomas wondered how irritated Legolas truly was and if it would affect how he treated and taught him. He did not want the elf angry with him.

Legolas must have sensed his unease because he dropped back and walked alongside Thomas. “I am pleased that you have the bow, Thomas. Though I must confess I am envious,” he smiled. “It will be a help to you.”

Thomas groaned inwardly when he saw the number of elves practicing on the archery field and he wished they had someplace they could practice in private. He watched as the elves rapidly emptied their quivers into the targets, their hands a blur.

“You said you had shot a bow before, did you not?”

“Yes, but…” Thomas glanced at the Galadhrim practicing next to him, “only for fun. It’s not quite like this at home.”

Legolas firmly clasped his shoulder, staring at him intently. “You need to ignore them and focus on what you are doing. I want you to show me what you already know how to do,” he smiled at Thomas encouragingly.

Thomas nodded resolutely and pulled the bow off his shoulder. He took the bowstring and carefully strung the bow, absently wondering what the string was made of. Next, he pulled an arrow from his quiver and as he prepared to nock it, he paused. “Legolas, I don’t think I can shoot that far,” Thomas gestured to the target at the end of the field.

“That is all right, just show me your stance and do everything except release the arrow.”

Thomas took a deep breath and tightly grasped the bow in his left hand. He nocked the arrow in the string and then stood facing the target. He pulled the bowstring back carefully, fully aware of Legolas’s intense scrutiny.

“Hold,” Legolas called softly. He walked behind Thomas and sighted over his shoulder at the target. “Turn so your left shoulder is pointed right at the target,” he instructed. “Good. Now, relax your grip on the bow. It must be held lightly, firm yet relaxed.”

Thomas dropped the arrow. He was concentrating on the bow and the arrow slipped from the string and fell to the ground. His face turned crimson from embarrassment. Legolas, however, just casually picked it up and twirled it idly in his hands as he talked.

“When you drew the arrow back you only used two fingers. You need to use three, like this.” Legolas handed the arrow back to Thomas who quickly nocked it. The elf positioned Thomas’s fingers on the arrow, one above and two below and they pulled back slightly on the bowstring.

“It feels strange,” Thomas muttered.

“You are not used to it; however, it will give you the best control. When you pull the bowstring back you need to be consistent. Always bring it back to the same place.” He motioned Thomas to draw the string back as far as he could. When he stopped, Legolas reached over and gently moved his arm, bringing the arrow closer to his mouth. “The edge of your mouth is a good guide. Your elbow looks fine, keep it at shoulder height. Take a deep breath and release the arrow.”

“I won’t hit the target!”

“Do not worry about the target right now. Just relax and release the arrow.”

Thomas squinted at the target, took a deep breath and let go. The arrow flew about forty yards but veered way to the left. “Damn!” he swore.

“It is a common error with young archers,” Legolas stated calmly, “and is easily corrected.”

“Are you sure you don’t just want to use an axe, Thomas?” Gimli called with a deep laugh. “It’s a lot easier to learn!”

“I don’t know if I’m strong enough to even carry one of your axes, Gimli, let alone fight with one,” Thomas said with a small grin. “No, I’ll stick with this.”

“All right lad, but if you should change your mind, let me know.”

“May we continue? Are you done bothering my student, master dwarf?”

Gimli snorted and waved his pipe dismissively, “I was just offering the lad a choice, but he has obviously been bewitched by you and will not listen to reason.”

“Reason? Using an axe is certainly not a reasonable thing to do. Thomas is right, they are heavy…,” Gimli snorted, “and you have to let your enemy get too close.” Legolas’s eyes sparkled merrily.

“Bah, what does a dwarf care if an axe is heavy? Or if the enemy gets too close? We’ll kill them up close or far away, it makes no difference.” He spat on the ground.

Thomas stood leaning lightly on his bow watching the two of them with interest. He could tell that Legolas was teasing by the look in his eyes, but he wasn’t sure about Gimli. They had changed so much in the last few days. He was hoping it would stay that way and that this conversation wouldn’t turn into one of their arguments.

Legolas laughed, “Indeed what does it matter, friend Gimli? Now, Thomas must practice his chosen weapon,” he turned back to Thomas with a smile.

--

Lying near the tent, Aragorn listened to Merry and Pippin discussing plans for the future. Things they would do when they returned to the Shire, the food they would eat, the ale they would drink, and the lasses they hoped to meet. The last one made him smile even as he lay there with his eyes closed, half asleep.

Aragorn’s thoughts wandered to Arwen and the betrothal promises they had made almost forty years before right here in Lothlórien. His love for her knew no bounds and the incredible sacrifice she was willing to make for him overwhelmed him at times. Becoming the King of Gondor, the task her father had set as a condition for their marriage, had been a long, difficult, and often lonely journey.

His personal journey paled, though, in comparison to what faced them in the weeks ahead. Destroying the Ring and ending the reign of Sauron was filled with such dangers and difficulties that Aragorn knew everything would have to happen perfectly for it to succeed.

Becoming king and marrying Arwen were a secondary goal, though the thought of her often helped him through his darkest days. Aragorn smiled as a picture of her standing on a bridge at Rivendell came to mind. Her bluish-grey eyes were fixed on him as he slowly approached, her red lips open slightly in anticipation of his greeting. He took her hand with one of his and with the other he gently cupped her cheek. “My lady,” he breathed, as he bent his head and kissed her. Soft and gentle at first and then deeper, his hand moving up into her hair as her arms slid around his back drawing him closer. Finally they drew back slightly and stood holding each other, finding comfort in each others arms after the long years they had spent apart. Aragorn moved in again…

“Why are you smiling?”

Pippin’s voice startled Aragorn out of his daydream and he opened his eyes and frowned at the hobbit in irritation. “What do you want, Pippin? I am trying to sleep.”

“You were smiling so I thought you were awake. Frodo, Merry and Sam are sleeping. Boromir left and the others haven’t returned yet. I’m sorry, Aragorn.” Pippin stared down at his feet with his hands clasped behind his back.

Aragorn sat up with a deep sigh and looked at Pippin. “Next time, Pippin when I am lying on the ground with my eyes closed please just let me rest.” He reached out and tipped up Pippin’s chin with his finger until he could see the hobbit’s eyes. “Unless there are orcs charging over the hill, there is a raging fire or some other situation that needs my immediate attention,” he smiled faintly at the young hobbit.

Pippin grinned back, “I’ll remember, Aragorn,” he promised. “Do you want something to eat?”

“No.”

“Do you want to go for a walk?”

“No.”

“What should we do?”

“I think I will sharpen my sword.”

“Oh. I guess I could watch you do that,” Pippin sounded disappointed.

“Yes… or you could sharpen yours.”

The hobbit shrugged, “All right.” Pippin slipped into the tent to retrieve his sword while Aragorn shook his head and laughed quietly.

--

Rebecca leaned back against the door as she left the healing quarters. Her head was spinning from all of the information she was trying to absorb. That, and trying to deal with Lord Thalion’s attitude, had exhausted her and all she wanted to do was go back to her talan and sleep.

“Rebecca, do you need help?” Brethil’s gentle voice broke into her thoughts.

Shaking her head, Rebecca straightened up and joined her friend. “No, I’m fine,” she smiled. “I’m just trying to remember everything I learned. I imagine Lord Thalion will expect me to remember it perfectly tomorrow.”

Brethil nodded, “I am sure you are correct, though I have never worked with him before.”

“He reminds me of a teacher I had… Mr. Anderson… everything had to be just perfect.” She laughed softly at the thought of her old bespectacled chemistry teacher. Deciding to change the subject she asked, “Brethil what do you do here? I mean when you aren’t guiding young mortal girls around?”

Brethil linked her arm in Rebecca’s with a shy smile. “I help in the kitchens and the gardens mostly. However, my real love is music so I am learning to play the harp and various instruments and to sing.”

“I’ll bet you’re wonderful! You’ve had so many years to practice.”

“To you it may seem like many years, but not among my own people.”

“I’d like to hear you play or sing sometime, I’ve never heard any elvish instruments played before.”

Brethil nodded, “If we have time, perhaps I can arrange for a group of my friends to play for you.”

Rebecca had not been paying attention to her surroundings and was surprised when they stopped. She looked around and her eyes fell on Haldir. She sighed inwardly as she remembered her archery lessons and she wished she could just go back to her talan and rest.

“Lord Haldir,” Brethil bowed respectfully to the March Warden.

“Brethil,” Haldir nodded, “Thank you for bringing Lady Rebecca. I shall return her to her talan in about an hour.”

“Yes, my lord,” Brethil gave Rebecca a smile and departed.

Haldir turned to Rebecca and his ice blue eyes swiftly looked her over. She cringed inwardly but held his gaze. He seemed much less intimidating after spending the afternoon with Lord Thalion.

“You appear tired, Lady Rebecca,” he said quietly.

“I am, Lord Haldir…”

“Haldir,” he gently corrected her.

“Haldir. Yes, I am tired. I just spent several hours with Lord Thalion and it was…” Rebecca searched for the right word. Unable to come up with anything better she shrugged and said with a small smile, “tiring.”

“You also had your first sword practice this morning.”
Rebecca nodded wondering where this conversation was going.

“May I see your hands?”

She held them out wondering how many more people were going to check her hands today. Rebecca knew Aragorn would certainly see her bandages right away and would want to see them, she thought with a trace of amusement. She felt Haldir’s hands gently holding hers and she looked down.

“You have blisters?”

“Just two and they don’t hurt. Lord Thalion bandaged them,” a hint of frustration crept into her voice.

“You will mostly use your fingers not your palms on your right hand,” he paused. “Still I wonder if we should wait another day,” he looked at her with concern.

“Haldir,” Rebecca gazed up at the tall elf, “I’d like to do that because I’m tired.” She shook her head, “But I don’t have the time to wait, I don’t know how long we’ll be here.” She bit her lip and glanced away, “Lady Galadriel said this was important for me to learn. I’ll be just as tired tomorrow.” She smiled at him, “I will get used to this schedule. Just give me a few days and my body and mind will adjust.”

Haldir had a far-away look in his eyes and then he blinked and his eyes snapped back into focus. “Forgive me, Lady Rebecca,” he bowed slightly. “I had indeed forgotten the urgency of your quest in my concern for you. Come.” He led her to a small storage shed that contained a variety of bows. He swiftly selected one.

“This is shorter than the bows, Thomas, Legolas, or I would use, but I think it will serve you well. I do not want it to get tangled in your other…” Haldir looked at her sternly. “Lady Rebecca, where is your sword?”

“It’s in my talan. Why?” she gave him a puzzled look.

“You need to wear it at all times now so that you become accustomed to the feel of it. It needs to become a part of you. Did Aragorn not tell you this?”

“No… though he might have said something tonight if I showed up without it. But then they all might say something if I don’t show up in a dress!” she sighed as if annoyed, but a small grin crossed her lips.

Haldir’s eyes sparkled for a moment, “Yes, you look quite lovely in a gown, Lady Rebecca. However, at this time you need to wear your sword and I doubt it would work if you were wearing a gown.”

Rebecca laughed, “No, I don’t think that it would.” She shook her head, “Well, at least I got to wear a dress one day. Tomorrow I will wear my sword all day, Haldir,” she promised.

“Good, you will need to get used to the feel of the bow on your back as well as the sword at your side. Being able to string it quickly is something I will teach you and then you can practice in your talan.”

Rebecca watched intently as Haldir showed her step-by-step how to string the bow.

“Now you do it,” he handed her the bow and he watched without comment as she tried to string it. She fumbled with it for several minutes before looking at Haldir for help.

“What am I doing wrong?”

“Try it this way,” he guided her hands until the bow was strung. She smiled and plucked on the string.

“Now what?”

“Unstring it and do it again.”

Rebecca stared at him for a moment, but he just stood there with an unreadable expression, so she sighed and carefully unstrung the bow and started over. It was just as difficult the second time. And the third. Each time Haldir had to help her. The fifth time she finally succeeded on her own and she grinned at him as he nodded in acknowledgement.

“Do it again?” she asked with a small laugh.

“Yes,” he smiled briefly. “Lady Rebecca, you have to be able to do this quickly and without conscious thought. I can teach you to shoot, but if you cannot string the bow quickly enough to use it, it will do you no good.”

“I understand, Haldir… well, I do now.” Rebecca unstrung the bow and re-strung it several more times while the elf watched. Once or twice he had to help her, but it rapidly became easier. Finally, Haldir declared he was satisfied.

“I think that is enough for this afternoon,” he said quietly. “You do need to practice this as often as you can. I will be watching for improvement when you meet me here to practice.”

Rebecca nodded, “I will, Haldir.”

Haldir showed her how to attach the bow to the quiver and how to wear it so that it was comfortable and easy to reach when needed. As they walked back to her talan, Rebecca realized she was no longer intimidated by the elf.

--

Freshly bathed and changed Rebecca headed down to camp, adjusting the sword she had belted to her waist. It fit well, yet the weight felt uncomfortable and she understood why Haldir felt it was important for her to wear it. Her step was slow, the mental and physical activities of the day catching up with her. She slipped into camp unnoticed by all, except Legolas and Thomas. She sat next to Thomas, giving him a friendly smile.

“How was your day, Rebecca?” Thomas asked quietly.

“Tiring… though I learned a lot. How about yours?”

He smiled, “Sounds the same as yours. Boromir…” he whispered, “wore me out this morning.”

“You guys were working hard.”

“I have to learn… I beat him once!” he grinned suddenly.

“You did? Good for you,” Rebecca gave his hand a friendly squeeze.

“That was fun. Archery is hard,” he frowned, not letting go of her hand.

“I thought you’d done it before.”

Thomas snorted, “Yeah for fun, but it’s nothing like this. I have a lot of bad habits to break.” He sighed, absently caressing Rebecca’s hand. “It probably would have been better if I had never even held a bow before.”

Rebecca smiled inwardly, but all she said was, “Oh, that’s too bad.”

“How was your time with the healer? Did you like it?”

Rebecca groaned and hung her head.

“Surely nothing could be that bad, Lady Rebecca.”

Jerking her head up, Rebecca met Aragorn’s twinkling eyes and she glanced around to see the rest of the Fellowship looking at her. Irritated, she asked, “Have you been listening long?”

“No, not long,” Aragorn smiled with amusement as she glared at him. “I did not know you had joined us until I heard you just now. Did something bad happen to you today? Hmmm… let me guess, you spent time with Lord Thalion,” Aragorn smiled again at the look on Rebecca’s face.

Rebecca nodded, “Yes, I did… he is an interesting man… I mean elf.” She shot Legolas an apologetic look, but he just smiled.

“Only my father has more knowledge of healing than Lord Thalion, Rebecca. Though I know he is… abrasive at times.”

“Abrasive is a good word,” she responded in a dry tone. “Though, I did find it interesting even if he is hard to get along with.” She glanced at Thomas, “He reminds me of a science teacher I had.” Thomas smiled. “I also got to see what he is like with patients and he was kind and gentle so I know he has a good heart. That made it easier.”

“Did someone get injured?” Legolas inquired, staring at her pointedly.

Blushing slightly, Rebecca shook her head and held up her bandaged hand. “I just had a couple of blisters that he bandaged.”

“You should have shown me this morning, Rebecca,” Aragorn scolded.

“I should have, but they were small and…” she shrugged, “it won’t happen again, Aragorn. So, what did everyone else do today?” Rebecca tried desperately to change the subject, causing Aragorn to lean back with a slight grin as he exchanged an amused glance with Boromir.

After supper, Rebecca was preparing to return to her talan when Boromir called, “Leaving so soon, Lady Rebecca? Night has not yet descended on these woods.”

“If you will remember, I was up quite early, Boromir,” Rebecca grinned. “Besides I need to be in the talan before dark or I can’t see well enough to get ready for bed.”

“Are there no lamps or candles?” he asked.

Rebecca saw the looks of confusion on his and the other’s faces… except for Thomas, who was gazing at her with understanding. “Yes,” she said hesitantly, “but there are no matches that I can find.” Her eyes flicked from Boromir to Thomas.

“What’s a match?” Gimli asked gruffly, “Use the flint to light it.”

“A match is what we use in our world to start fires,” Thomas spoke up. “It’s like a little stick that you strike on … well this material or a rock and it bursts into flame. It’s a lot quicker and easier than using a flint. We’ve never used a flint.”

Quiet chuckles and low murmurs broke out among the Fellowship members. Thomas stood abruptly and crossed to Rebecca,

“I’ll walk you to your talan, Rebecca.”

“I’d like that,” she replied with a tired smile.

They turned and walked away, ignoring both the whispers and the cheery good-nights of those they left behind.
Once out of earshot, Rebecca turned to Thomas with eyes full of sadness. “I get tired of explaining things… of not being believed. Of having to learn even the simplest little things, like lighting a candle.”

Thomas nodded and took her hand. “I understand. They know we’re from somewhere else, they just can’t imagine it. I just wish…”

“What?”

“Well, when we say something they didn’t just automatically dismiss it.” Thomas frowned in thought, “Though Aragorn told me he did believe and trust me, it was just that he couldn’t imagine what I was saying was possible.”

They had reached the bottom of the stairs that led to Rebecca’s talan and by unspoken agreement they sat on the bottom step, quietly thinking for a few moments.
It was Rebecca who broke the silence, “I’m so glad you’re here with me, Thomas. I could never do this by myself. I don’t know what I would do if you weren’t here.”

Thomas smiled, “I’m glad we’re here together,” he said softly. “You make it easier to bear.”

Rebecca smiled, “You’re doing so well, Thomas. You fit in with the guys and the swords and fighting and everything.”

“Thanks. Still, it’s good we’re here together. Besides you looked good with your sword this morning.” Thomas stared at her intently with a soft smile.

“That was strange,” she admitted quietly. “I-I want to learn so I can help, but then I remember the orcs,” Rebecca shuddered and shook her head in confusion. “Thomas, what if I can’t do it? What if I panic and run away? Someone could get hurt…”

“Shhh, Rebecca,” Thomas gently placed a finger on her lips while putting his other arm around her shoulder, pulling her close to him. “You’ll do fine,” he said soothingly. “You didn’t panic in the mine. You only had a knife when you stabbed that orc. Now you’ll have a sword and training, I doubt that you will panic or run away.”

Much to Thomas’s dismay, Rebecca pulled slightly away from him and looked at him searchingly, “You really believe that?”

“I do… I wouldn’t just say it.”

“No… no you wouldn’t. I think I’m just really tired and feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything right now.”

“It happens sometimes,” Thomas smiled as he stood. “I think I shall escort you home now, Lady Rebecca,” he gave her a slight bow and reached for her hand.

Giggling, Rebecca took his hand and let him pull her gently to her feet. “I’d be honored, Lord Thomas.” She gave him a brilliant smile as they ascended the stairs.

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