AU: What if Elrond had refused to take Gandalf's advice to allow Merry and Pippin to continue on the journey with Frodo? (Written for the B2MeM Challenge for March 2, 2011)

Defiance is defined as the willingness to contend or fight. Write a story or poem or create artwork where the characters defy authority in some way. Written for the B2MeM "Losgar" challenge.

Eleven Walkers

"What do you mean they are gone?"

"I am sorry, Elrond," Erestor replied, "but no one has seen them since before the Ringbearer's company departed."

Elrond sighed. "I wondered briefly why they were not there to farewell their cousin, but thought they were still nursing their anger at my refusal to allow them to accompany him." He looked up. "Bilbo. Has anyone checked with Bilbo?"

Erestor nodded. "It was Bilbo's presence in the dining hall for breakfast that alerted us. He was alone, and we had thought that they had been with him the last few days, taking their meals with him in his quarters, so as to avoid everyone."

The Master of Rivendell narrowed his eyes. "And Bilbo usually takes his breakfasts in his rooms." He pursed his lips, stood up from his desk and swept out and down the passage.

Bilbo looked up at the imperious knocking on his door. Ah, he'd been expecting this.

"Come in," he called.

He met Elrond's implacable gaze with one of mild defiance. "Bilbo, where are Meriadoc and Peregrin? They were to depart for the Shire today, and their escort is waiting."

"I assure you, Elrond, I am not keeping them in my pockets. I have not seen them for three days."

"Where have they gone?"

"I couldn't say for certain."

"But you suspect what they have done?"

"Where else would they have gone? They are following Frodo, as they always meant to do."

"Did you know they would do this?"

"They didn't tell me in so many words, but I rather got the hint when Merry asked me if I thought escaping from Rivendell would be more difficult than escaping from Thranduil's halls in Mirkwood."

"We must bring them back. They cannot be allowed to wander alone in the Wild, nor to endanger the Ringbearer's mission."

"They are more capable than you think," said Bilbo, a tiny spark of anger in his own eyes. "They are a Brandybuck and a Took, and they love Frodo dearly. Did it occur to you, when you disregarded Gandalf's advice to trust to friendship, that your refusal to let them go might also endanger Frodo?"

-oo000oo-

"How much longer, Merry, until you think it safe to join them without the risk of being taken back?"

"They are sleeping during the day. I believe we can safely join them this evening before they break camp, depending on who's on watch."

"That's good. The supplies Bilbo allowed us to pilfer from him are about to run out, and there's not a lot to forage this time of year." Pippin hesitated. "Do you think they will be dreadfully angry?"

"Gandalf was in favour of our going, so he will only growl a little. I think Frodo and will be angry at first, and then relieved to see us. Sam will be glad. Strider will be surprised but I don't think he will be angry. I don't know about Boromir, Gimli or the Elves."

"We'll throw the numbers off. But that won't be our fault- we should have been allowed to go in the first place." Pippin chuckled. "Very clever of you, Merry, to think of us slipping away ahead of time, and follow the company after they had passed us."

Merry shrugged. "I hope Frodo wasn't too hurt over our apparent refusal to farewell him. But I suppose he will understand when he sees us."

"Well, what else could we do? We told him at Crickhollow we were coming, or following him like hounds. I am sorry we had to defy Master Elrond, but he gave us no choice!"