I leant against the crutch on my left side, very precariously balancing as I groomed Axis. The normally feisty stallion was quiet under my long strokes of the brush. Occasionally grunting in pleasure as I hit an itchy spot. The grooming was more for my benefit than his, I was simply glad to be free of relying on everybody else to move me. Axis was immaculate and there wasn't any need to brush him. I just needed to spend time with him. As soon as I was mobile on my crutches and learnt ways to balance them without hurting my wrist and be able to move as quickly as possible. My wrist didn't actually feel that bad anymore. I could bear weight on it easily as long as I didn't do so for too long. The look on Boromir's face had been priceless when I had knocked on his door after my visit to Lord Elrond. Before he could scold me I gave him a long kiss and then bolted down the hallway. I didn't get far before he caught me so my fun was short lived.
I managed to spend all day yesterday keeping out of trouble. I got frustrated with how easily tired I became so I only went a short distance from my room and back. It was strange, now I had my freedom I found myself not so frustrated at being in my room. However the best part of yesterday was the stitches in my leg finally came out so I could have a bath. Rivendell had a wonderful system of pipes leading from the hot springs around it so water could easily be drawn for a bath. With my hair scrubbed clean and a long soak in the beautiful fragranced oils I found beside my bath, I felt like a new woman.
I sighed heavily, breathing in the scent of my favourite horse. How I missed simple things such as this. There was so much noise and commotion going on outside, the stable felt like a safe haven. Axis turned his head and very gently lipped at my fingers. I smiled and stroked his forehead. Laying in bed for these last few weeks made me appreciate such a small thing as being able to groom Axis. He was still heavily bandaged and limping. But whatever the Elves gave him to heal his wounds did wonders. Just being in Rivendell was doing wonders for my own health.
"Sorry my friend, I will find some treats for you later," I murmured reaching up to scratch his ears. Axis pulled a face as if he was disgusted with my lack of treats. I snorted in amusement and went back to grooming him. I was so lost in my thoughts I barely registered the sound of hoofbeats walking down the stable aisle. However when the stopped outside of Axis' stall, it did make me glance up. I was surprised to see a very travel worn and dirty Glorfindel and Asfaloth. Both looked as weary as each other.
"I promise you Lord Glorfindel I really am allowed to be out here this time," I said quickly before Glorfindel could open his mouth. He chuckled lightly and observed me for a moment before talking.
"Lady Devera, what a pleasant surprise for tired eyes," Glorfindel smiled, his tired face lighting up."You look much better."
"I feel much better thank you Lord Glorfindel," I said with my own smile. It was true, the last few days being out of my room really had made me feel like a new in the mirror this morning I was beginning to get some colour back in my cheeks. The beautiful dresses that had kindly been supplied to me didn't seem to hang off me limply anymore. My hair now washed and pulled back in my usual tight braid was its usual golden wheat colour. The cut on my cheek where the Orc had sunk his claws in faded to a light pink scar which was barely noticeable. I was the stark contract to the Elf who stood in front of me. He reminded me of myself on a journey that had been long and stressful. His clothes were filthy, streaked with mud and grim. He looked as if he had tried to wipe his face but had only succeeded in putting more mud on his face. He looked pale with a smudge of purple under his eyes from the look of many sleepless nights. Asfaloth looked equally as dirty as his rider, though he was covered in sweat as if he was still fresh from a run.
"It's amazing what a good night sleep can do for you," Glorfindel said rather dryly, a half smile on his lips. As if he was smirking at his own appearance.
"Were you looking for someone to take care of Asfaloth?" I asked. Axis nudged me with his shoulder, almost putting me off balance. I poked him back with my elbow, reminding him to behave. He was eyeing off Asfaloth with a wary look. As if he couldn't decide whether to like the other stallion or not.
"No, I always take care of him myself." Glorfindel shook his head. "He would lay his own life down for me if I needed him to. The least I can do is make him comfortable after a long journey."
"Would you like a hand?" I asked. Axis was immaculate, the only thing I was doing now was brushing him for my own benefit. Though his words surprised me. I always liked to do the same, however more often than not I was required to leave my horse at the mercy of the stablehands. It always made me feel extremely guilty when I would later visit the stable and find my horse not taken care of to my standards. There was quite often some poor stable lad I gave a good ear lashing too for leaving my horse sweaty or not cared for properly.
"Only if you can promise me that Lord Boromir isn't going to come storming in again looking for you," Glorfindel teased.
"That I can promise." I was torn between being embarrassed and laughing at his comment. Boromir was on the practice fields, as usual. When I had wrinkled my nose at him when he bid me farewell this morning, my own father's words were echoed. When one depends on their sword as a living, you can never get enough practice. It didn't stop me rolling my eyes playfully at them though.
Glorfindel turned Asfaloth and walked down to his stable. I gave Axis a final pat and balanced the brushes between my hands as I followed Glorfindel down into Asfaloth's stable. He quickly stripped him of his sweaty tack and we both set to brushing him down. I sighed in delight as I let my hand stray over the stallions body after I ran a brush over him. A Elven horse truly was an incredible sight. The muscles rippled under my touch and I could only dream of what a horse like him would be to ride. Asfaloth sighed tiredly and closed his eyes against the feel of our brushes. Every so often I caught Glorfindel glancing at me out of the corner of my eye. The silence stretched between us before my curiosity got the better of me.
"Did you find your companions?" I asked breaking the silence.
"Yes I did, though the journey was slightly more perilous than expected," Glorfindel said lightly, though a small frown crossed his handsome face.
"I'm glad to hear it," I said truthfully, though my curiosity was not sated. I glanced up at Glorfindel and met his eyes. He looked at me and I had to turn away. Those blue eyes were so intense. What was it about all these males Elves that made me want to blush?
"Ask," Glorfindel said bluntly before turning back to brush Asfaloth. I started slightly at his comment and frowned at him.
"Ask whatever questions you have," Glorfindel didn't look up from brushing Asfaloth. "I can see a thousand questions running over your face but you're being far too polite to voice them."
I bit my lip and stared at him for a good moment longer than was polite. He was correct in the fact that I did have questions running through my mind. My talk with Lord Elrond and Gandalf the night before had awoken a dreadful curiosity in me.
"Who were you looking for and why did they need your assistance?" I asked. I couldn't help it, the questions were burning in my mind.
"Have you ever heard of Halflings?" Glorfindel glanced at me. I nodded in confirmation.
"A group of them found themselves in possession of something beyond their knowledge," Glorfindel explained. "Elrond's foster son, Estel, met them on the road. The roads are growing more dangerous day by day, I'm sure you don't need any reminding of that."
I shuddered in memory of the darkness looming over me. Glorfindel flashed me a sympathetic look and it was gone. Those blue eyes of his chased away the darkness. I tried not to grimace about what little I could remember from my ride back to Rivendell with him. Then my meeting with Elrond and Gandalf came back to me. When I said about the rumour of Nazgul, neither of them seemed to be surprised by the news.
"Yes I also heard rumours of Nazrul abroad," I said ever so carefully, raising my eyes to look at Glorfindel carefully. He simply raised an eyebrow at me. His face was a mask, giving nothing away.
"Do you believe those rumours?" Glorfindel asked.
I was so surprised by the question I nearly dropped my brush. I expected Glorfindel to brush me off with a nonsense answer, or to simply change the subject. He suddenly looked so weary with the frown on his face as he kept brushing his horse. I felt a twinge of guilt for bringing the subject up.
"Rumours are difficult to judge," I said carefully. "Like the horrible rumour that was spreading around that I was the one who put Lady Talisa's formal dresses in the manure pile."
"Really?" Glorfindel cleared his throat and unsuccessfully tried to hide the upward twinge of his lips.
"Yes, it was terrible," I said nodding with mock seriousness.
"So pray tell, whom was it that put the dresses in the manure pile?" Glorfindel asked and after a pause added. "And why did she deserve such a treatment?"
I had to stop myself scowling at the memory. It was one of the very few times I had actually let the snide court gossip get to me. Lady Talisa had seen fit to start spreading rumours about me sleeping with Boromir to gain favour with Denethor. Boromir had been a bit careless one day and dragged me against a wall in the stables to kiss me. Lady Talisa had chosen that moment to walk in. It had taken Boromir threatening to inform her Father on who she was sneaking off with of a nighttime to keep her mouth shut. It worked for a grand total of 6 days. I had finally got sick of it and waited one night until she was out with her lover to sneak into her room. I then stole all of her very expensive formal dresses and put them in the manure pit. To this day I have no idea how I never got caught. After that Lady Talisa left me alone.
"I know not what you speak of Lord Glorfindel," I answered with my lips quivering from the effort of keeping in the smile at the memory of her shrieks when she had finally found them.
"Just Glorfindel please my lady," Glorfindel said glancing at me with a smile now gracing his handsome face. "If you'll allow me the pleasure of the same."
"Of course," I wanted to smack myself in the head for how my stomach suddenly got butterflies in it. There was something so different about Glorfindel than every other Elf I had seen in Rivendell. I just couldn't place my finger on what it actually is.
"Glorfindel," I heard Elladan's voice as he came down the aisle. "Father needs you in the healing rooms. He said to come…"
Elladan's voice trailed off as he saw me standing in the stable with Glorfindel. The way he looked between us I felt I was committing a big scandal by just being in the stable. I chewed my lip uncomfortably hoping Glorfindel would be polite enough to tell Elladan nothing was going on. If it had been Elrohir I would have had no qualms about snapping at him about staring being rude. I still didn't feel as comfortable with Elladan as I did his twin.
"Why does Asfaloth like her and not me?" Elladan stood a healthy distance from the front of Asfaloth's stable. I was about to open my mouth to ask what he meant. Asfaloth answered the question for me by laying his ears flat against his head. It was so like Axis it was almost uncanny. Glorfindel smirked and stroked Asfaloth, saying something to him in Sindarin.
"Because I'm very likeable," I smiled smugly at Elladan. He in return glared daggers at me. It didn't last long, he switched his attention back to Glorfindel. They started speaking in Sindarin and I turned my attention to Asfaloth. I couldn't understand a word they were saying. But it didn't stop me enjoying the sound of the language. It was so fluid and beautiful, not like the harsh guttural language of Rohan. At the end Glorfindel just sighed and turned to me.
"Forgive me for being rude but I will have to leave you Devera," Glorfindel smiled, though he looked tired and strained again. "Do you mind finishing Asfaloth for me if you feel capable of it?"
"Of course not," I swelled with pride at being asked, especially after seeing Asfaloth's reaction to Elladan.
Glorfindel reached forward and wrapped his arms around his horse whispering what I thought to be endearments into his silky mane. The stallion nuzzled into his master and sighed in contention. I smiled watching the pair. It was obvious Glorfindel adored his horse and his faithful partner felt the same way. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Elladan take his leave, hurrying down the stable aisle. Glorfindel gave Asfaloth one last pat before going to leave the stable.
"What did you say to him?" I asked, my curiosity getting the better of me again today. I really needed to stop doing that. Glorfindel paused with his hand hovering above the stable latch.
"I thanked him," Glorfindel said simply.
"For standing against the Nazgul with me."
Glorfindel's words made my blood run cold. I could only stare at his retreating back as he too left the stables.
I took my time brushing Asfaloth. The last words Glorfindel spoke ringing in my ears. So the rumours really weren't rumours. It was true. In my mind it could only mean one thing. The Dark Lord had returned. Everything over the last few months now made sense. The ever increasing bands of Orcs. Smoke being seen from Mount Doom. The increasing Cosair attacks on Dol Amroth. When I was finally done it took me a long while to head back to my room. My little effort left me exhausted and craving a good long nap. Not to mention the turmoil in my mind. Why after all these years was it happening now? I tried to reach down into the depth of my mind and think but I couldn't come up with anything. I swung down the hallway towards my room and nearly ran straight into Boromir. He with his faster reflexes managed to step out of the way instead of sending us both crashing to the ground.
"Where have you been all morning?" Boromir asked before reaching over to pick something out of my hair. It was a piece of straw. He gave me a look and just shook his head. He had answered his own question.
"Enjoying my new found freedom." I smiled leaning so I was taking the weight off my wrist. Seeing Boromir chased away all thought of those words Glorfindel just uttered. His hair was damp from a quick wash. The smell of weapons oil gave away what he had been spending his morning doing after he had finished practicing. Boromir was as meticulous with his weapons as I was with my horses.
"And I wonder how long you will be content just being allowed out of your room," Boromir smirked and moved to my side so I could lean against him. "Soon you will be following Elladan and Elrohir around begging them for archery lessons."
"Well, I do wonder if I could sit and shoot, it may be good practice for doing it on horseback," I mused, more so to tease Boromir than anything else.
He sighed in mock defeat and wrapped his arm around my shoulder to support me. My body sighed in relief as I relieved the crutch from underneath my arm. They were leaving biting bruises in my arm pits. Together I hopped along on one crutch while Boromir supported me. We made it a grand total of 12 steps before Boromir staggered as a weight slammed in from behind us. I only managed to keep balanced by throwing the crutch underneath my arm again. It was a precious wobble and I nearly thought I would land on my bum. I looked down at Boromir who was not so fortunate. He was tangled up between 2 children.
No not children. My heart stopped for a moment looking at them. Tiny, but adult faces with big hairy feet. Hobbits. I had to bit my lip to stop myself squealing in glee at finally meeting someone of their race up close.
"I told you to watch where you were going Pippin!" the blonde one accused the smaller dark haired one.
"Well, if you knew where we were Merry we wouldn't have to be rushing!" The smaller of the two known as Pippin shot back.
"What in Eru's name?" Boromir looked down at the two Hobbits in astonishment.
"I told you the kitchen's would be this way" Merry said untangling himself from Boromir. Neither one of the Hobbits seemed to pay any notice to him either as Boromir brushed himself off. It was only when a barely contained giggle left my lips they actually looked up. The small faces were both a look of guilty horror.
"My lady we're so sorry!" Merry jumped to his feet with Pippin not far behind him. Both of them bowed hastily. Completely ignoring Boromir. I couldn't help but smile at the pair. They were utterly adorable.
"You are forgiven however it wasn't me you bumped into." I smiled at the pair. Boromir just grumbled under his breath as he went to offer me his arm again. I was too intent on the Hobbits to actually take it.
"Are you lost?" I asked, looking down at the pair of them.
"We were looking for the kitchens," Merry explained. "But Rivendell is bigger than we expected. Do you know the way to the kitchen my lady?"
They both looked at me so hopefully I almost felt a pang on guilt for not actually knowing where the kitchens were. Thankfully Boromir saved me.
"I know where they are." Boromir looked at the pair with a faint smile. "However I cannot promise you anything from the cooks."
They both looked at Boromir as if they were only seeing him for the first time. They glanced between us and then between themselves. I raised an eyebrow at the pair slightly. Why did I have a feeling they knew something we didn't. From the looks on their smug little faces I knew there wouldn't be any problems getting food from the cooks.
"You must be Lady Devera and Lord Boromir from Gondor" Pippin blurted out.
"Perhaps, how would you know that?" I couldn't help but smile at the smaller Hobbit. On closer inspection he looked quite young, only like he had only just reached adulthood. I had never been a fan of children, but the Hobbits were something else.
"Glorfindel mentioned you to Strider," Pippin said in a rushed explanation. He looked excited that he'd actually been right. "Since neither of you are Elves it was a good guess."
"Yes, it is a good guess," I said with a chuckle. Beside me Boromir had a smirk of amusement on his face. I nudged him slightly with my elbow to behave himself. Boromir gestured towards the hallway and we all started walking towards the kitchens.
"When did you arrive?" I asked the pair, even though I already knew the answer. They would have arrived with Glorfindel and Strider. Whom I also assumed was Estel, Lord Elrond's foster son. I had been too wrapped up in my conversation with Glorfindel I didn't get a chance to actually ask him about him.
"A little while ago," Merry was the one who answered. "One of our friend's was injured on the road but we had to wait for the river to die down to cross."
"The river?" I frowned. It hadn't rained in days, so why would the river be swollen enough to make crossing hard.
"There you two are!" Elrohir sounded relieved as he rounded the corner. I glanced at the faces of the two Hobbits and giggled at the guilty look on their faces. Boromir snorted with contained laughter beside me.
"Boromir was showing us where the kitchens are," Merry spoke up with innocence shining through his small face. Pippin just looked plain guilty and simply smiled sweetly. That looked reminded me so much of myself trying to weasel my way out of something I had done wrong.
"Was he now?" Elrohir was trying very hard not to smile at the pair. He winked at me quickly before trying to smooth his face into a scowl to get the Hobbits into trouble. Before he could say anything else a stranger walked around the corner. He looked just as exhausted as Glorfindel and judging by the fact he was still covered in grime from the road I knew who he was instantly. What did surprise me though was that he was no Elf like I thought he was. Beside me Boromir didn't seem bothered by the man, he simply smiled politely. Though I could almost feel the thousands of questions running around in his head.
"I told you they wouldn't be far." The man I knew as Estel sounded as exhausted as he looked. "I'm going back to bed now Elrohir."
He turned on his heel and left. He didn't even seem to acknowledge myself or Boromir being there. Though I didn't blame the man. Exhausted was probably an understatement if he looked anywhere near he felt.
"Forgive my rude brother," Elrohir said loudly enough to make Estel pause in his step. "Being pulled from his bed has seemed to have pulled the manners from his head as well."
Estel paused and turned. He shot Elrohir a dirty look before bowing.
"Forgive my rudeness Lord Boromir and Lady Devera but I'm exhausted from the road, if it pleases you I will seek you out later," Estel said smoothly. "And you two stay out of trouble for 5 minutes."
He shot the Hobbits a very weary look before turning on his feet and leaving again.
"Fall into a bathing room on your way," Elrohir called after him. Estelle didn't even acknowledge him and simply kept on walking.
"That was a bit mean Elrohir," I scolded the Elf. "He's obviously exhausted."
"And I had already met him very briefly in the courtyard." Boromir gave me an amused look for scolding Elrohir.
"Well, I didn't know that," Elrohir sighed dramatically. "Plus I always like to try and call him out on his manners. It's what big brothers do."
The 2 Hobbits looked between us confused by the exchange. Apparently manners and politeness must be a different courtesy in the Shire. Then again I certainly wouldn't have called Estel out on his manners when he was obviously so tired. When I got that tired I could barely focus on keeping one foot in front of the other, let alone be pleasant enough to greet anyone politely. Most people in court knew me well enough to ignore me when I looked that way. I'd gotten far too many scoldings from Denethor for not being able to hold my tongue when I was tired.
But the bath comment I could completely understand.
"Kitchens?" Pippin turned to me hopefully.
There was no way I could deny that adorable face.
I know my updates are very slack. This is part of the story where I got a little bit stuck on things. I've written so many chapters ahead I kind of forgot to come back to this one.