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ArWen the Eternally Surprised
Author: Ria Time: 2007/11/22
Arwen encounters a strange monk and gains a little extra time.
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Of Kings and Hairy Feet (The Draw Down the Stars Remix)
Submitter: Date: 2007/5/13 Views: 130 Rate: 5.00/2
Summary: Original Story: Of Kings and Hairy Feet by tigerlady

Summary: The Fellowship pauses on their flight to Mount Doom to study the stars, and imagine traveling them. oblique crossover between Firefly and Lord of the Rings

Rating: G

Fandom: Firefly

"This fluorescent night will divide us
And dissolve to a flickering screen
And we all know each others secrets
Things seen but not seen"
-- Tom McRae

They lay on the hard, cold ground in a huddle of curly heads and leather cloaks. He watched over them, as he always did. He slept little, and hadn't for many years. Since Arwen and he first began their odd love, perhaps. Even to one who was long-lived the burden of mortality, of wasted time, loomed high when you loved an immortal. Sleep was wasted time, and Aragorn could no longer afford to waste what he was given.

Now less than ever, as he watched over the four who slept. They arranged themselves around Frodo, as they always did. Sam to one side and Merry and Pippin the other. He sometimes thought it was their way of grounding him, of reminding him who he was, when the ring weighed him down too heavily, and his eyes grew too full of it to see anything but its terrible shine.

None slept this night. The mines and the mountain and the choice between loomed too close. Gimli watched the distance, fingers wrapped around the hilt of his battleaxe. Aragorn did not think he saw the road before them or the rock of the ground. He saw the glory of Moria, as he imagined it to be.

Gandalf watched him, and he too was distant. Watching what was not there. Aragorn thought perhaps Gandalf saw the truth of Moria, and he felt sadness for Gimli, whose truth he thought would be soon shattered, did they take the path through the mines.

Legolas watched the skies. He read the signs in the stars and the patterns of the moon. Aragorn knew the signs he had learnt them from Legolas himself, long ago, in the Mirkwood. But he did not look to the skies for answers this night. He did not want to see if the story that would unfold was already written by hands he would never see, by a voice he could never confront.

His gaze strayed to Boromir. Boromir lay in soldier's sleep. The easy rest that came where it could and was as much a part of training as swordplay. But he did not truly sleep. His eyes flickered beneath their lids and often they would open and look to where the Hobbits lay.

Too often did he watch Frodo. The ring called to him, as it once had to Isildur. He feared its hold because he knew where his loyalties lay. He would protect the Ring-Bearer even though he too heard its voice, subtle and sibilant as a snake, temptation and threat all at once.

He prayed to whomever may hear that he need never protect Frodo from Boromir, who was fast becoming a friend, and a brother-in-arms. He did not dare pray for his own salvation to do so would be to admit that he heard its call, and that the weakness of his line still ran strong in his veins.

"Mr. Frodo?" Sam's soft voice drew his eyes from Boromir and he looked to the sleeping Halflings again. Only they didn't sleep he saw that now. Merry and Pippin had sleep-filled eyes but they were kept awake by the presence beside them. Sam too, though he seemed less near the edge of dreaming.

Frodo stared up at the sky, large eyes watching with the restlessness of one who was fast forgetting what it meant to truly sleep. His hand lay over the pocket where the ring was hidden. "It is brighter here than the shire, Sam. The sky. The stars are the same, but they look so different. As if we were nearer to them. As if they watched us."

Sam lay back and stared up at the stars. His face generous still, though the travel and hard-living were stripping it, making it sharper and less soft, a fire-forged version of himself. The change wasn't yet as noticeable as the increasingly haunted look Frodo wore, but it was there. "Maybe they are, Mr. Frodo."

Frodo smiled faintly. "Do they have their own Eye then, waiting for us? Or are the stars too in Sauron's service?"

Legolas spoke from beside Aragorn, where he'd crept without being heard an annoying habit, if one he was well-used to. "Sauron claims many allies. But there are none who may lay claim to the paths of the stars, not even the Lord of Mordor."

Frodo looked back at them and then nodded. "I suppose I see shadows where there are none to be seen."

Aragorn measured how to respond, choosing words that were never said as Pippin spoke instead, rolling over onto his back to look up at the night sky. "Do you ever wonder what all they see? Who they're watchin'? Merry and me used to play a game. We'd imagine a ship that sailed from star to star and would make up what all they had to see." He lifted a stubby finger and pointed to a dim star in the eastern edge of the horizon. The Gray-Star, beacon of the underground. A dwarf star. "That one? There was a war. A whole world at war. Everyone on one side or the other. And the bad side, they won. But they didn't stop everything. People, they got on their ship and they went to another star."

Gimli snorted, moving from his perch to sit nearer the group. "Sky-born ships are fantasy, master hobbit. Children's tales. And despite your wee size, you're old enough to put such things aside."

"No one is too old for stories and games, good dwarf. What is life without fun?" Gandalf smiled beneath the white of his beard and looked up, watching the stares as if they were friends who held answers he sought. "I think that I would like to sail amidst the stars."

Sam watched the Gray-Star. Aragorn could see how even in this, when his eyes were elsewhere, he watched Frodo. Sam feared for Frodo's steps, feared the distance that grew in him.

Aragorn feared it as well. In the rare times when dreams found him, he saw Frodo, mad and raving, a creature created by the hands of Mordor and the weight of a ring. He imagined him as the creature Gollum had been, a think of shadow and swamp, both pathetic and terrible, yet with an echo of what he had been in his ravaged face. The fear of it was a constant weight on his shoulders.

He could see that it was for Sam, as well. The hobbit gave no sign though. He watched the stars. "Maybe there's somewhere out there where there's no . . . magic. Or Dark Lords. Or rings. Just people, being people. No Mordor or Ringwraiths or terrible things."

Gandalf gave him a chiding look. "Some of the greatest horrors in our world come from men, being men, and people being people, Samwise Gamgee."

He shrugged. "True enough. But still. I'd be nice to live somewhere where there weren't someone who could kill the whole world with a ring."

Boromir chuckled at that. He rose, his shield clanging against the rock of the earth as he moved. He settled next to Aragorn and looked up at the sky. "That would be a relief. A world where men could be kings or commoners as they wished, and fate was set by human hands not those of a dark Eye that would not die in the time allotted to it."

Merry, silent until now as he fought to sleep amidst the wakefulness, and failed, rose up on one elbow, watching. "What would you be, Gandalf? A place with no wizards would you be a hobbit?"

He chuckled deep in his throat. "No, Merry. I think even in that world I would not have the life of a Halfling. Perhaps a teller of tales."

Aragorn felt a smile tug at his lips. "Even in a world without magic, you would be a man of mystery, Mithrandir. A prophet perhaps. Carrying the wisdom of this world into the next."

"Aye. Carrying it forth so that it could be ignored, as it is ignored here. Wisdom is rarely listened to, until it is too late. Men are foolish that way."

Legolas' voice was dry. "It is a good thing that dwarves are not given to such foolishness."

The sarcasm, if it was intended, did not register with the dwarf. Gimli grinned, broad and black-toothed beneath the red-gray of his beard. "Aye. We dwarves are known for our wisdom."

"Amidst other things." Legolas returned quietly. Gimli studied him, searching for an insult and then grinned when he found none.

Gandalf chuckled. "And what would you be, master Merry? In another world and another life, what path would you have claimed aboard a ship to the stars?"

The hobbit was silent for a moment. "Don't know, really. Pip and I were never much for anything but fun. Suppose that was what I'd be, even in the stars. Ale and women and songs."

Aragorn opened his mouth, but, Boromir spoke first. "There is more to you, little one, than that. But even the best of ships soon grows stale without an entertainer. So if that is the place you claim, then it would be one of honor."

Merry grinned a bit. "Then that's where I'd be. What about you, Pip?"

"I dun' know. Suppose I'd have nothin' to do aboard a ship."

Sam smiled, his voice slightly edged. "Could always wipe down the decks, Pippin. Bet they'd need someone to clean, even up there."

Pippin scowled at that and Aragon interceded with a smile. "Ships need care, just as horses do. Someone to learn the ways of them. To keep them clean, to fix what breaks. I'm sure you would do well with such, if it held interest for you, Pippin."

The hobbit looked thoughtful. "I could see that. Peregrin Took, Ship Caretaker." He grinned. "Not that it much matters. Not as if any of us will see a ship that travels on anything but water anyway."

Legolas looked far-away, his gaze flicking toward the distant West, where his kind moved to leave these shores. He looked back, meeting Aragron's eyes with a wry smile and a slight shrug. It was not Legolas' time to go. So he had told Aragorn, and so he believed. But Aragorn knew the harshness of a changing world where those you knew were leaving you behind. He was the last of the long-lived. He knew. Legolas smiled at Pippin. "There are wonders yet unseen in the worlds. Things that neither elf, nor man, nor dwarf, nor hobbit has found. Wonders and horrors and times not yet lived. You may yet find your ship, Pippin."

"Maybe." Pippin looked at the elf. "'Spose you'd always be an elf, no matter where you were."

Sam's gaze, wary in a way it hadn't been, not too long ago touched on Boromir. "And what would you be? Captain, I suppose."

Gandalf spoke before Aragorn could find words. "Boromir would be what he is now. A guardian. A watchful eye over the storm of an angry sea. As Legolas is. Guardians who see what others might not. Elven eyes, and a heart that knows men in the way that some of us never will." He cast his gaze toward Aragorn, who looked away. "Or perhaps some will. Time will tell."

Silence fell, heavy and strange as the sky above seemed darker, somehow. The glow of stars dimmer as if a veil was gathering between it and them. Gimli stared upward and broke the silence. "Dwarves aren't fond of water. We've no desire to sail. But . . . a ship of stars. I think that I would like to sail. To steer on its course. It would be a grand thing."

Legolas smiled. "You would need see over the helm to do so, dwarf."

Gimli frowned and then relaxed into an easy smile, the truce between the two seeming to be slowly working its way toward an odd friendship. "Aye. We'll put the wheel to steer it by high up, then."

Most there laughed a bit, though Frodo stay silent. It was strange but his eyes did not seem to always reflect the light of the stars above, Aragorn thought. It was as if his gaze swallowed them instead. He saw the young hobbit flex his shoulder, where the blade of a Nazgul had rent it apart.

He wondered if the eyes of the Ringwraiths, beneath their black hoods, ate the light of stars as well.

He pushed such thoughts away as Sam turned on his side to face Frodo. "What about you, Mister Frodo? What would you be? If we could sail the stars?"

He said nothing for a long moment and then answered finally in a soft voice. "I don't know, Sam. I don't think I would belong on such a ship." He smiled a bit. "But I think I would like to go anyway. Just to be there. To feel it move away from things. To feel . . ."

"Free." Aragorn finished quietly.

Frodo lifted his head and met his eyes, nodding once. "Yes. Freedom. And peace with it. Serenity."

Sam shook his head. "The shire was serene to me, Mister Frodo. But if you got it in your head to go flying about in the sky, I'd go with you. Someone has to look after you."

Merry and Pippin rolled their eyes as Gandalf smiled slightly. Aragorn chuckled. "You do that better than any could, Sam."

"Darn right I do, Mister Strider." Sam said proudly. "If I weren't along, Mister Frodo wouldn't eat nothing at all."

Frodo shook his head. "I would but it is better that you are here." He looked up a last time and his hand fell away from the pocket that held the One Ring. "It's late we should sleep."

"Right you are, Frodo. Get some sleep, all of you. I'll take first watch." Aragorn offered. The hobbits obeyed without question and Gimli with a grumble of assent. Gandalf made no move to change from his spot, but then Aragorn had not expected him to. Gandalf the Grey moved in his own time, and no other's.

Boromir lifted his chin, a challenge in his eyes. But after a moment he too lay back down to sleep.

Legolas stayed, his eyes on the sky still. "It is strange. Almost, I can see such things in the sky now. A ship to sail through stars. Perhaps it is an omen. A thing of future that other eyes will see, long after we have left this world for western shores."

Aragorn followed his gaze. "Perhaps, Legolas."

"There is a breeze from the south. It carries scents of deer. I will hunt. We can dry the meat to carry with us it will sustain our trip through cold or underground whichever path is chosen."

*"Quel fara, Legolas."

**"Tira laike, Toror'amin."

Legolas loped away, disappearing silently into the night. Aragorn watched the stillness of the night around him, and listened to the breathing of those with him, One by one they fell to the pull of sleep until even Frodo slept fitful and uneven, but sleep nonetheless.

Gandalf's voice seemed loud in the quiet, though it was barely a whisper. "There would be no place for a ranger aboard such a ship."

Aragorn looked at him. "I suppose there would not be. A ranger knows of forests and beasts, of the hunt and the quiet. He does not know of the noise and crash of ships, of the pounding of waves, of the press of men in small spaces where there is not room to roam."

"No. But he can learn. A ranger would be of no use to us. But a Captain a captain would guide our way. A king for his kingdom, a captain for his ship."

He looked back up at the sky. "It is a shame I am only a ranger, then."

Gandalf chuckled. "I see no shame in it. Only waste. Still. Minds change. The night grows long I will sleep."

The old wizard lay down beside the Hobbits, clutching his staff as if it were a pillow. He slept with his eyes open and even when the even breathing of dreams took him, Aragorn felt that he watched.

And in the skies above he could almost convince himself that he saw a ship of metal floating lazily amidst the stars. He whispered to himself. "Were I Captain, we would sail the ship Serenity, and all would be free of what binds us."

The End

* - (Good hunting, Legolas.)
** - (Watch sharply, brother of mine.)

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