Strangers From a Distant Land

The Lull Before the Storm

Grace POV

(A dark-haired Elf was standing at the far end of a grassy field. At the bottom of the field, there was a small target set up. To the left, across from Grace, another Elf, identical to the first, was sitting on the ground with his back to a bench. The first one had just finished shooting an arrow into the target. He was reaching for another shaft when the Elf on the bench stopped him with a call.

"Dan! We have company." The second Elf was the owner of voice #1, not that there was much difference.

'Dan' turned toward Grace. "Ah, the mysterious Lady who fell on our hunting party."

"Quite literally, I might add," said the other. He stood up. "I am Ro, and this is my worst half, Dan."

Dan looked indigent, and hit his brother. Ro hit him back, then they laughed. Their laughter was contagious, and Grace soon found herself joining in.

"I'm Grace, daughter of Mark," she introduced, sticking out her hand.)

"Nice to meet you, Grace, daughter of Mark," the two elves said in unison.

"Would you care to join us?" asked Dan, gesturing at the target behind him.

"She might not know how to shoot, Dan," Ro pointed out.

"I had a bow when I was younger, actually," Grace put in, "and anyways, how hard can it be?"

She should not have said that. It turned out that it could be very hard. First off, the brothers 'forgot' to move the target closer, her sleeves got tangled in the string of the light bow they had given her, and they had provided he with arrows meant for their bows, not hers. They seemed very disappointed when she asked after arm guards. Needless to say, her first shot went wide of the mark. Very wide.

The brothers laughed. Grace glared.

"Aright, you've had your joke," she said angrily, her quick temper coming into play. "Now quit fooling around and help me!"

With easy grins, they began to teach her to use the bow, this time seriously. When the bell rang for lunch, she was hitting the target two out of five times on a regular basis.

"We'll practice again tomorrow, if nothing comes up," Dan and Ro promised, "but after lunch we must show you the rest of Imladris."

They led her up a flight of stairs, and then stopped. On a delicately carved chair at the top of the landing was sprawled a golden-haired elf, bound and gagged.

"Lord Glorfindel!" Ro called, absolutely delighted, "what in Middle-earth happened to you?"

The elf, Glorfindel, glared. It was then that Grace recognized him.

"Oh! The Glorfindel that goes after Strider and the hobbits!"

Dan and Ro turned to her now, their faces deadly serious, a very different side then the one that Grace had seen to that point. The grumbling Glorfindel went silent.

"How do you know of Aragorn and the Hobbits?" Dan asked urgently. "Do you know more than that?"

Grace looked up at the two tall eves, almost twice her height, both facing her and backed up slightly.

"There was, or will be, or is, I don't know, there's this book," she explained, "where I come from. It tells the story of, um, the Thing, from when Frodo first gets it to when he reaches here. It's called the Fellowship of the, uh, Thing."

Dan and Ro looked no less forbidding. Grace tried again. "Look guys, I'm on your side. I talked to Lord Elrond, he believes me."

The brothers visibly relaxed.

"Oh, that's alright then," Ro said, and then quickly returned to his former state of cheerfulness, offering her his arm. Dan walked to her right, and, not to be out done by his brother, offered his arm as well. Grace took them both. As they began to walk down the landing, there came a muffled yelp of protest from behind them,

"Oh! Lord Glorfindel!" Grace dropped both arms and ran back to the bound elf. She fell to her knees and began trying to pick the knot open. They were elvish, better than a boy scout's, so it was a futile exercise.

"Oi! You two! Come and give me a hand!"

They ignored her, referring to lean on each other's shoulders and laugh.

Abandoning her attempts to untie his hands, Grace easily removed the gag.

"Who did this to you?" She wondered, as she returned to the ropes.

"Arwen," the elf growled, wiggling his hands to try and get them out of their bonds.

Dan took pity on them, and came over, drawing a knife from his side. It sliced through the fibers like butter.

"Right," Glorfindel said, standing up standing up and stretching, "I'm off to find your father." With that, he strode down the corridor, taking quick, impatient steps.

The brother's looked for all the world like naughty elflings who had been caught with a cookie they were not supposed to have.

"I am NOT looking forward to that conversation," Ro shuddered. With a shrug, he spun around and led the way to lunch. Dan grabbed Grace's hand and they followed him. Before long they arrived in the hall.

Dan dragged Grace with him over to a bench near the far end of the wall.

"Grace," Ro, who had gotten there only moments before, began. "This is Gildor Inglorion of the house of Finrod, Galdor of the Havens, and Lindir the Minstrel and his wife, Bellethiel."

"Figwit!" Grace blurted, looking at Lindir.

"I beg your pardon?" he said, nonplussed.

"Oh, um," Grace felt her face heat up. "Figwit's a, um, friend of my, um, family, where I'm from," she invented. "You just, ah, remind me of him.

Lindir accepted this, and nodded. "Odd name, Figwit," he commented, then he continued "So this is the Ithilwen?"

"Yes," confirmed Dan. Grace's question of "Ithilwen?" went unanswered, so she turned attention to the food.

What Dan and Ro had termed a 'lunch' was in reality a feast, such as she'd only seen at Christmas and Thanksgiving. It was an hour later that people began to get up. Grace was stuffed. Bellethiel had been pileing her plate with food almost non-stop. She was nibbling at a scone when Miril had suddenly appeared by her side. The motherly elf led her back to her room and made her lie down on the bed.

"You fell from quite a ways away," Miril told her, "and you are still not fully recovered. You need your rest." She brooked no argument, and practically shoved the girl into the furniture. Indeed, when Miril had left, Grace fell asleep strait away.

She woke up refreshed, around three o'clock, and got up immediately. Softly opening the door, she stepped into the hall - and promptly got lost.

Wandering around the city, she came to a tunnel of leaves, and then to a fenced in area on the edge of the river. There she found Dan and Ro.

Dan was on a beautiful brown horse and Ro on a white. Standing by the gate was Lindir, holding it open.

"There you are!" called Ro, when he had caught sight of her. "Miril wouldn't tell us where she had hidden you."

Lindir grinned. "She knows them too well."

Dan road out the gate and reached a hand down to Grace. She took it, and he pulled her up onto his horse behind him.

"Hold on tight," he instructed her, and then immediately galloped off to the water's edge and from there down the length of the river, Ro following closely behind.

They soon reached a place where the water was much lower than the rest of its body.

"That is the Ford of Bruinen," Ro said, pointing to it. They had begun to climb the winding path back up to Rivendell, when Grace turned back to look over her shoulder. She had noticed lately that she could see further than she used. Looking behind her she saw a speck of gray on top of white coming over the plain at a tremendous pace.

"What's that?" she asked while pointing at it.

Dan frowned as he shaded his eyes, "I do not know."

Ro wheeled his horse and galloped across the ford. Dan, with Grace clinging to him, followed suit.

The dot was much further away then Grace had thought. It took them an hour, each riding headlong at each other, to reach the stranger.

He was an old, bearded man, wearing long grey robes and a pointed blue hat. In his hand there was a long, gnarled, wooden staff.

"Gandalf!" was the first thought that leaped into Grace's mind, but she was soon correct by Ro.

"Mithrandir!" cried he, springing from his horse when they had stopped. "Where have you been, mellon-nin? We feared that you were lost! Gildor said that you had broken tryst with the Halfling Frodo."

Mithrandir's face was grave. "About," he replied. "Where is the Lord Elrond? I must speak to him urgently. Has Frodo come?"

"No," answered Dan. "Arwen rode out early this morning to search for him."

Mithrandir nodded, and then caught sight of Grace. "Who is this?" he asked.

"This is Ithilwen," Ro introduced.

Grace sighed. "It's Grace, though everyone seems to have taken to calling me Ithilwen."

"You fell on us from a great height on our evening hunting trip," Dan pointed out.

"And that has something to do with it because-?"

Mithrandir laughed long and merrily. "With your permission, my dear, I shall do the same," he said to her. He turned back to Dan and Ro. "We must make hast back to Imladris. The Nine are abroad again."

With that, he urged his beautiful white horse on again, and the brothers, with Grace in tow, did the same.

When they returned to Rivendell, Mithrandir continued cantering right up the steps. Dan hopped off his horse and handed the reins to Grace.

"Can you ride?" he asked her.

"Yes," answered she. It was true. She and Sarah had spent many long, happy hours at her grandpa's ranch in Montana.

"Good!" exclaimed Ro, jumping off his horse as well, and throwing his reins to Grace as well. "Ride along the path until you come to a waterfall. Take the right-hand trail; it should take you under the waterfall. Follow that path, and you will eventually come to the stables. At least one person should be there, tell them that Ro and Dan sent you. We have to go. Namarie!" With a wave of his hand he dashed after his brother, who was already gone.

"Oh well," Grace sighed. She kicked the horse into motion, and then noticed with some surprise that she was ridding bare-back. With Dan in front of her, she hadn't yet realized the horse was wearing no saddle. Shrugging, she thought 'how hard can it be?' then internally winced. The last time she said that- well, you know how well things turned out.

She followed Ro's instructions to the letter, and before she knew it, she was at the waterfall. She pulled on the reins, and the hoses stopped obediently. Looking up at the pounding water, she shuddered. Waterfalls were absolutely beautiful - when viewed from a distance. When she was very small, no more than four years old, she had gone on vacation with her family to the beach. She had twisted her ankle on the smooth, slippery shells and gone under. It had taken her parents two minutes to get her out of there, though by that time she had been unconscious. Ever since, Grace had stayed far away from all but the shallowest of waters. It had proved quite the problem before she was old enough for showers.

Now, as she sat looking at the water in trepidation, all of her old fears came back to her. She became aware of her heart thumping painfully in her chest. After a moment's indecision, she turned the horses and took the other branch of the path.

"Nope, not that way," she muttered as did so. She wandered aimlessly for a bit, her mind occupied with thoughts of her sister and friends. A voice startled her out of her reverie.

"Hullo my dear," it said. "Are you lost?" she turned in the direction the voice had come from, and found a small, white haired man with harry feet sitting on a bench next to a pot of tea and several cups. 'Hobbit', her ever-helpful and utterly useless in moments like this mind supplied.

As Grace turned to look at him the horses stopped, arrested for a moment by the sound of his voice.
"Wha, who?" was her intelligent response.

"You must be Ithilwen," he smiled warmly at her, a fatherly sort of smile. "I'm Bilbo Baggins."

"Bilbo Baggins!" cried Grace. "The one who went on the journey with the dwarves?!"

"You've heard of me!" Bilbo was delighted. "Yes, that is me, though you or someone very much like you had a part in it as well. Perhaps a Grandmother?"

"Err..." Grace wasn't too sure what to say to that. "Perhaps," she finally decided on.

"Come! Sit down and have a cup of tea, and I shall tell you of how it all began."

Grace gratefully slid off of Dan's horse, and tethered it and Ro's to a near-by tree. She joined Bilbo on a bench and he poured her a cup of the steaming liquid. He then began his tale.

"In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit," he started.

As the old hobbit told his tale, the sun began to sink lower and lower in the sky. It was beginning to get dark when Grace recalled the two patient, four-legged animals waiting for her to take them back to the stables.

"The horses!" Grace cried, springing up sometime around 'and I decided to take the Arkenstone to Bard and the Elvenking'.

"Oh dear," said Bilbo. "I entirely forgot that you were lost! Allow me to escort you to your destination."

"Thank you," Grace answered, leading Ro's horse over to the bench, "if it won't be too much of a bother for you. My friends asked me to put their horses up while they attended to some urgent business," she paused, "as long as it doesn't involve going near any waterfalls."

"Nope!" Bilbo's voice was cheerful. He waited patiently until Grace had scrambled up onto her horse. "It's this way." He led the way, stopping at times to point out various sights.

"That is where the company and I had a fire, how many years ago was it? And that is where they say Arwen and the Dunadan met, and," well, you get the picture.

At last they reached the low building that was the stables.

"I will wait for you out here," Bilbo told her, settling himself down on a low bench. "You go on in."

Grace rode into the dark interior. As her eyes adjusted to the gloom, she could just make out a tall man exiting one of the stalls.

"Mae Govannan!" he greeted her. "Well met!"

Grace gave a small wave. "Hi."

"Can I help you?" the man asked courteously.

"Um, yeah, I think so," Grace replied, uncertain. "I was told to tell someone here at the stables that Ro and Dan sent me with their horses."

The man chuckled. "Those twins will be the death of me and all of Imladris." He shook his head.

"Wait, they're twins?" Grace had thought that they were brothers who just happened to look a lot like each other.

"Yes, they are twins, you could not tell?" he reached up. "Here, let me help you off."

Grace grasped the man's shoulders and he swung her down. She looked down at her dress ruefully.

"My skirt is a mess. Reminded me not to go riding astride a horse again with skirts on."

He laughed. "I am Halbarad," he said by way on an introduction.

"I'm Grace," she curtsied, then stuck out her hand. To her complete and utter surprise Halbarad lifted it up to his lips and brushed her knuckles with his lips. Grace turned bright red, very grateful for the dark of the interior.

"A pleasure to meet you," he said, bowing.

Just then Bilbo's voice came through the open door.

"Ithilwen! It's supper time!"

"I'll be there in a sec'!" she called back. She turned to Halbarad "I'd better go. It was nice meeting you!"

"You as well," he replied, and then began to lead the horses away.

Grace ran to the door, where Bilbo was waiting impatiently for her.

"I'm sorry to keep you waiting Mr. Baggins," she apologized.

"It was no hardship, my dear Ithilwen," he assured her. "But," and here he held up a finger, "that does not mean that I wish to wait longer!" he took her hand, and Grace was lead once again to the Hall, though this time by and old man the height of her sister's best friend's little brother. Life was profoundly weird at times.

They soon reached the hall. Though she tried, Grace could not locate the elven twins. Instead, Bilbo led her over to some friends of his. They turned out to be Lindir, Bellethiel, and Gildor. He seemed delighted to find that they already knew each other

"I met Gildor while walking in the woods of the Shire when I was a lad!" he told her. "And Lindir and I have composed some wonderful songs together. He was the first elf to greet us the first time that I came to Rivendell, you know."

Grace smiled and nodded, then once again turned her attention to the food.

When dinner was over, Bilbo practically dragged Grace to a large, dark, fire-lit hall. The Hall of Fire. Soon there were many elves laughing, singing, talking, and dancing. Grace sank into a chair at the edge and watched, overwhelmed by it all. Suddenly, she became aware of two tall presences flanking her.

"Greetings, milady," said the one on the right.

"We are terribly sorry about leaving you with our horses," continued the other one.

"We just had a rather urgent matter that needed attending to," the first one explained.

"That's fine, Grace told them."I ran into Mr. Baggins on the way there, and he helped me find the rest of the way."

"Wonderful!" exclaimed both together, and then they seized both of Grace's arms and carried her off to some important looking men (or elves). She began struggling.

"Dan! Ro! Put me down this instant! I was perfectly fine where I was, thank you very much. Put me down!"

They finally deposited her in front of a tall (although that goes for any of his kind), disapproving elf.

"Erestor!" Ro called. "We would like you to meet Ithilwen, also known as Grace, daughter of Mark!"

Said girl was regaining her balance by grabbing Dan's shoulder. She glared at the brothers. "If you ever even think about doing that again I will personally-" her rant was interrupted. Erestor, who had so far been content to simply glare at Grace, now began to scold her soundly.

"How dare you, you impudent elfling!" he exclaimed, outraged. "Do you not know who these two are?" Grace stared up at him mystified, but Erestor took no notice. "These are the sons of Lord Elrond, the Lord Elladan and the Lord Elrohir. After all that Lord Elrond has done for you-"

Grace was slowly growing redder and redder, while the twins were staring at Erestor with identical annoyed looks. Identical extremely annoyed looks.

"Erestor," Ro began, his voice stiff and controlled. "We purposely did not tell Grace who we were. We wished to get to know her as a friend, not by virtue of our status. Come on, Ithilwen." He turned on his heel and strode out of the hall.

Dan swept Grace up bridle style; shot Erestor a glare, and then followed his brother out of the hall.

Presently, they came to an open balcony overlooking a garden. Dan sat Grace down gently on a bench, and then went to stand next to his brother at the edge of the railing. Grace starred at their back for a while, darkly silhouetted against the moonlight.

After a bit, Dan broke the silence and turned to Grace.

"We are really sorry about that. Erestor means well, but sometimes, he takes it too far."

Grace looked up at them, her face beet red. Ro had now turned to join his brother. "I had no idea," she mumbled, mortified, looking down at her lap.

Dan and Ro came forward, and then sat down next to her, one on each side.

"Nor did we want you to," they told her.

Ro grabbed her hands. "Ithilwen," he said, "It is just like I told Erestor. We wanted to make friends with someone who had no idea who we are."

"Yeah, added Dan, grinning."And don't even think about calling us 'Lord Elladan' or 'Lord Elrohir'. It is just Dan and Ro. Anything else would be just plain awkward now."

"Come on," invited Ro, standing up and offering his hand, "let us return to the Hall."

Grace did not remember much of the rest of the night. Song mingled with song, melody with melody, verse with verse. One song only stood out in her mind, the last she heard before falling asleep in a corner. It was Gildor's voice singing it.

"Snow-white! Snow-white!
O Lady clear!
O Queen beyond the Western Seas!
O Light to us that wander here
Amid the world of woven trees!

"A Elbereth Gilthoniel
Silivren penna miriel
o menel aglor elenath!
Na-chaered palan-diriel
o galadhremmin ennorath,
Fanuilos, le linnathon
nef aear, si nef aearon!"

Her sleepy brain could not make head or tail of the last part, and she soon fell asleep.

Grace woke to the sound of birds chirping, again.

"What is it with me and birds?" she wondered. She looked down at herself. She distinctly remembered falling asleep in the Hall of Fire without Elladan's (Dan's!) blue cloak over her. She got up slowly, discovering painfully that sleeping on a hard surface is not a good idea, if you are not used to it.

"Never again," she muttered to herself under her breath as she fastened the clasp of the cloak under her chin.

Grace strolled out, taking in the smells and sounds of Rivendell in the early morning. There was not another person in sight. She took a deep breath, filling her lungs with the fresh, cool air. She hugged the cloak closer. Despite the world's beauty, it was late October, and therefore quite chilly.

After walking for quite some while, looking for signs of life other than that of the birds and an occasional squirrel, Grace found herself at the edge of the Last Homely House, overlooking the ford that she had crossed yesterday with Dan and Ro, then again when retuning with Mithrandir-who-looked-like-Gandalf-but-was-not-he. Something caught her eye, and as she looked closer she could see two riders on a single white horse, with nine dark riders on dark horses arrayed against them, gaining on them!

Grace let out a cry, not waiting to see more. She turned and dashed back into Rivendell. She pounded on the first door that she came to. It was quickly opened by Lord Glorfindel.

"Ithilwen!" he exclaimed. "What in Arda is the matter?"

"Frodo!" Grace panted. "Nazgul! The Ford!"

Glorfindel's face instantly turned sober. "Go straight to the end of the corridor, then take a left. Elrond should be in his study. Go quickly!"

Grace nodded, and then dashed down the carpeted hall. She burst into the study to find Mithrandir and Lord Elrond talking in low tones. She repeated the message she had given Glorfindel.

They sprang up, both of their faces alive with concern.

"Where?" asked Mithrandir, urgency evident in his voice.

"The Ford of Bruinen!"

Grace barely had time to scramble out of the way before Mithrandir and Lord Elrond dashed through. She followed them, hot on their heels. They came to the spot where Grace had first seen the ten horses and their eleven riders, then the elf and man descended a small flight of steps that Grace had missed before. When they came to the end, the two in front quickly drew away from the girl, as she was already exhausted.

She turned the corner, going at more of a jog than a run, just in time to see Lord Glorfindel murmuring to a horse, Mithrandir pointing his staff at a raging river, and Frodo and Lord Elrond bent over-


"Lasto beth nin. Tolo dan nan galad." Lord Elrond passed his hand over Maggie's brow. The Elf Lord's inner light shone forth as he recalled Sarah's best friend. Grace rushed over.

"Maggie! Please don't be dead! Please don't be dead!"

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