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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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ArWen the Eternally Surprised
Submitter: Ria Date: 2007/11/22 Views: 387 Rate: 0.00/4
Summary: Arwen encounters a strange monk and gains a little extra time.
Keywords: Arwen Lu-Tze

Rating: PG
Disclaimer: This is just my riff on the work of the brilliant Tolkien and Pratchett.

Endless Evening

Arwen eased into the bath. Fragrant steam rose around her. She’d left out the usual herbs that her father mixed to heal those who bathed in Rivendell, and instead added athelas to the water. Its vivid scent always brought Estel to mind. She breathed it in and ran her thumb across the amber pendant he’d sent her from Rohan. The pendant had arrived wrapped in a note in which Estel had described buying the jewel from a craftsman in Edoras. He’d written about the constant wind and swift horses that the Rohirrim treasured equally with their children. “Even their art depicts mostly horses,” he’d written, “So I found you a little horse of Rohan for your own.” She’d worn the gem constantly ever since, even when she bathed.

She stirred her feet to circulate the hot water. The candles were guttering, but still she felt too relaxed to climb out of the tub and replace them. Slitting her eyes in the steamy darkness, she let herself drift into an elven waking dream. She saw Estel riding across hills of golden grass, surrounded by Men as golden-haired as the Elves of Lorien. The sun flashed over their heads as Estel led them into battle.

She lowered herself farther in the water, and saw him in a shadowy wood-beamed hall. He sat reading a letter. Suddenly, he looked up with great longing. Arwen’s heart clenched in answering pain at the thought that he thought of her. As the paper fell in his hands, she saw the black seal on it, impressed with a spreading tree. He was not thinking of her, but of the city, his duty and his destiny.

She let herself relax again, saw him riding out among the Rohirrim, and then on a different plain. Here, the grassland ran down to a wide river. Estel, looking older than she remembered, and tired, looked away from the river and towards a great city. Though she had never seen it with her eyes, Arwen knew it for Minas Tirith, the greatest stronghold of the Numenorians that remained.

How did he get so far, she wondered, or am I seeing things that have yet to happen? The images she saw did not have that feel, yet the time between them was too long for the span of her bath, or even for the week since she’d last taken time to dream deeply of Estel. She let herself sink deeper into the dream, and the prospect began to change. The white city framed against the mountains melted into a smaller settlement among greater peaks. She saw a vivid patch of green, and someone moving in it: a garden.


Surprise is the Fifth Element

Although he took care not to advertise it to the Senior History Monks, Lu-Tze the Sweeper often found time in between his duties to visit the Garden of the Four Elements. His own Garden of Five Surprises was more to his taste (and less likely to attract Senior Dongs with their tiresome notions of how his job ought to be done), but there was much to be learned in the Garden of the Elements. In the book of his Way, was it not written, “It does you good to get out in the fresh air”? Besides, he had a little project.

The bronze symbol for water lay in the carp pond, and he would meditate there first, finding it refreshing. Water always had surprises to offer, as well. If he relaxed his mind and sliced time just a little near the pond’s circulating fountain, he’d see the tiny image of another valley, like and unlike his own, with a little river rushing through it. If he watched in the right mood and at the right time of day, he could watch the horseman swept away by its flood. Surprise was of the nature of water, after all.

When he’d worked hard, he liked to sit by the stone that concealed the bronze sign for Earth. It did him good to remember the value of play. The sign of air painted on the kite made him shake his head when he got to it. Some people could only learn by their own hard mistakes – and Lu-Tze was wise enough in his centuries to recognize himself among that number. Least often he’d stroll by the bakeries to meditate on the element of fire within the ovens. Valuable though the lesson was, fire reminded him all to unpleasantly of what happened when one of the Wise let his soft heart overrule his head. Surprise was of the nature of those elements as well, he knew.

That fifth element, Surprise, could be found anywhere in the Garden. Lu-Tze rather thought that the Senior Dongs might be surprised at how much time he’d managed to stash away in the Garden of the Elements. Of course, one had to look sideways to find his little stash, and the full headdress of a Senior Dong permitted very little neck movement.

Seating himself beside the carp pool, he unfolded his traveling brazier. He’d found that hot water made transferring time to his stash easier, and besides, nothing hit the spot like a cup of tea. He piled the little stack of coals in the brazier with the same care he used to roll the tobacco scraps he smoked, and started a fire just barely large enough to heat his kettle.

Once he had the tea water simmering, he set up the portable Procrastinator. When he’d gotten the time-saving devices from Qu’s lab, it had been understood that he and his apprentice Lobsang would return them as soon as the crisis of the glass clock ended. However, in the excitement of the near end of the world and Lobsang’s finding himself, the lesser issue of experimental Procrastinators had fallen by the wayside, a situation Lu-Tze preferred to leave tactfully – and tactically – quiet.

He let the Procrastinator unwind. A small glass valve directed the flow of saved time through the rising steam. By his best count, Lu-Tze had stashed almost eighteen years in the tidy little trans-dimensional hole he’d discovered. Time dumped beyond the Disc was time about which the Senior Monks would never ask him any questions. Even though he probably could have asked Lobsang to dispose of it, he preferred to keep his own secrets and save whatever favors that the boy might feel he owed to his former teacher.

The Procrastinator hiccupped. Lu-Tze bent over and peered into the valve. A second hiccup rattled through the machine and shot steam directly in his face. When he opened his eyes again, he met a sharp grey gaze from within the cloud.


A Pinch of History

Arwen pulled her towel over her and peered through the steam. A wrinkled brown face grinned at her. “Have you been spying upon me? In my bath?” Her very outrage stole the breath that she needed to express it.

The man kept grinning, and nodded anxiously at her. “No, no, madam, I had no idea that you were there.”

“You breached the security of Imladris,” she told him icily, “that is maintained by the most powerful resources that yet remain to us, and at great cost. My people – ”

“But, gentle lady,” he interrupted, still nodding and grinning, “surely a wise one such as you knows Rule Number One. You wouldn’t try to hurt a harmless old monk. The time I dumped did no damage, and I bet you didn’t even notice it; what is a little extra time to an immortal such as yourself?”

“Time? How much time?” Her bathwater had grown cold. That must be the source of the icy gelling in her stomach.

“Less than twenty years – the blink of an eye to an immortal.”

Oh, Estel. “Twenty years is a tenth of a lifetime for the man I love, maybe more,” she replied bitterly. “That’s what you have stolen from me, for I cannot know how much time he truly has, or what dangers he may face even now.” The old man just grinned and nodded again, as if he didn’t understand what she said, but he had responded perfectly well to Sindarin before, so she kept on. “If you could take time, then you can give it back. Return those years to me!”

“I already gave them to you, as I said.”

“Well, take them back!” The old man bowed and grinned and shuffled his feet and with many pauses and curious turns of phrase he gave her to understand that only the “Senior Dongs,” whoever they might be, had that ability and that they (here a prolonged interlude of bowing and shuffling) would not.

Rage drove out the chill of the water. “If he has died during the time you have stolen from me – or given to me, I swear by the hard Noldorin hearts of Feanor and his seven sons, whose blood I share, that I will hunt you down to the ends of the earth and beyond to see that you you suffer equally for it, though I have to return from the very halls of Mandos to do it.”

“Now, lady; now, lady,” he soothed, “I’m sure your sweetheart is fine, and this is no more than a tiny inconvenience in your courtship. Is it not written, ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’?”

It was hard to keep glaring in the face of that wide, edentate grin and innocent moon of a countenance, but Arwen made the effort. “It mostly makes the heart grow absent, I expect. For it is also written, ‘Out of sight is out of mind,’ in Mr. Baggins’ excellent book, if nowhere else.”

The little man stopped grinning and shuffled his feet. “What if I were to give you a little time? For when you most needed it, or your estimable sweetheart.” He rummaged around in his shapeless robes, until he found something that glinted golden in his brown hand. He made a throwing motion, and Arwen felt something land with a plop in her bathwater.

“There are maybe ten minutes in the timer, lady. Use them when your man needs the time the most,” he called, while she felt around in the chilly tub.

“Ten minutes? For twenty years that you wasted?”

“Ten minutes, rightly applied, can be a lifetime, or save one,” the monk admonished her before vanishing from her sight. Arwen finally fished up the delicate gold timer, which held a small amount of glowing sand. She drew herself quickly out of the bath and slipped the timer into the pocket of her robe.

The next morning, she set out for Lothlorien, determined to see Estel as soon as she might. The little timer she kept always on her person, but mentioned it to no one. She did not use it for many years. On a blustery spring day, forty years later, Arwen turned the timer. Far away, the last king of Gondor, who had staked his life and his realm on a desperate fight before the Black Gates of Mordor, found that he had the critical edge of time to hold out until the Eagles came.

Still farther away, in a monastery high among forbidding mountains, Lu-Tze dropped his rake. It clattered off the side of a tiny mountain, starting an ant – sized avalanche. Lu-Tze swore. The abbot of the History Monks looked up from the biscuit he was gnawing with his recently acquired full set of teeth. When he followed the sweeper’s gaze into the distance, he chuckled. “Still changing things, Sweeper?”

“It made a better ending this way,” Lu-Tze replied.

A/N: This is the final installment of my series, "Elves in the Elements," which you can read at http://www.lotrfanfiction.com/viewseries.php?seriesid=105 . The scenes Lu-Tze watches are from the first four stories in the series.
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