Chapter 20: A Clove of Garlic
A Clove of Garlic
I blow out the candles and drift over to Kili before curling myself up beside him, back under the blanket; he murmurs a little in his sleep as I close my eyes and prepare to dream of home. I remember Galadriel's suggestion and try my hardest to stay faithful to it.
Focus your mind.
Kili, I think, as he is the one and only stable thing which I have found in both words.
When I awake, I find that I cannot breathe; it quickly becomes apparent why as I open my eyes.
I am face-down in a bucket of fried chicken.
"Lavender?" comes Kili's voice, and I feel his hand take hold of my hair and lift my face from the meat; I look up at him, eyes half-closed from sleep.
"Hey," I murmur, reaching for a serviette and wiping the layer of grease from my face. So much for doing my makeup.
"What happened?" Josie asks, waving her can of coca-cola in my face, "one second you were muttering about songs and voices and the next second poof! Your eyes roll into the back of your head and you're face-down in Sanders' secret herbs and spices! Are you feeling alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," I tell the pair, "really... how long was I out?"
"Just a second or two," Kili says.
"It must have been at least an hour back there. I was talking to this Elf-woman... I'll tell you all about it later. First, can we finish our chicken?"
"I'm not eating that," Josie says, "your face has been all over it. Eat up, quick, and let's get back to my place pronto, or we'll miss the re-run of Jeremy Kyle."
"Fair enough," I shrug, still rubbing the grease out of my eyebrows; when I look up I see that Kili is staring at me, his own brows knotted and his mouth stretched into a thin line across his face. I can't tell if it's concern or revulsion that is playing on his features.
"What's the matter with your mug?" Josie asks him. He clicks his tongue and asks me,
"Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yes," I say, ripping open a hand wipe packet and rubbing the lemon onto my filthy fingers, "I'm fine. It was just... a little strange, that's all. Different from the other times; but I'll be fine. Come on, let's get out of here."
He nods sharply and stands, taking the half-finished bucket of chicken with him. We walk to the bus stop and end up in an argument when the vehicle arrives at our stop; Kili wants to take his chicken on the bus, and can't for the life of him understand why the driver will not allow him to. The driver takes off without us and we wait in the rain, totally soaked through.
"There's no place like home, there's no place like home," Josie mutters, tapping her feet together and shivering against the cold. She tuts disapprovingly as Kili attempts to stuff chicken wings into his pockets.
"You'll make your new clothes filthy!" she scalds him, pulling the chicken away from his grasp; he snarls like an animal and whips it back from her, stuffing the piece into his mouth, bones and all.
"I'll eat it now, then," he murmurs through his mouthful, pulling out the bones and discarding them in the grass once he is finished.
Josie mutters, "you're littering; they'll be rats all over here now. Ugh, that's vile."
"You are vile," Kili mutters, reaching for another piece of chicken; Josie smacks it from his hand with a sardonic laugh and he stares at the mud-covered fallen food, eyes wide with despair. He hunts around the bucket for another, only to find that that piece was the last.
Josie shrugs. "Five second rule."
Kili squints and murmurs something in Dwarvish; Josie assumes that she should take offence and does, snatching his hat from his head and holding him down in a noogie. Kili batters against her arms, trying his best to get her off him without actually throwing her out of the way. I take hold of Josie and tug her away from him.
"Behave, children," I scald the pair like a worn-down mother in a playground; they squabble again and I smack both of them in the side of the head. The pair teeter around, and as though sent by heaven the bus pulls around the corner. "Here it comes, thank God," I sing, hailing the driver and taking hold of Kili's arm. He wipes the grease from his mouth on his shirt sleeve and hops inside the bus after me; I pay for the three of us, and Kili sits in excited wonderment like a child as the vehicle roars back into life.
Back at Josie's apartment, Kili decides he is going to teach the pair of us how to use a sword. We spend an hour two practicing, and it soon becomes clear that, whilst I'm hardly the V for Vendetta guy myself, I've definitely got a big more natural still in the sword-wielding department than Josie has. She manages to knock an entire shelf of Harry Potter action figures down in her room, screaming 'Hagrid!' as his figure falls into a pile of unwashed laundry. At that point we decide to give up on the whole training thing, and I take to the kitchen with a stack of cookery books in the hope of perfecting my skills.
"What sort of things to Dwarves eat?" I ask Kili; he says only one word.
"Meat." And then, after a pause, "lots and lots of meat."
"Wonderful," I murmur, "nothing as easy as salad, then... but what if I give you all food poisoning?"
Kili shrugs. "So long as you refrain from adding poison to our dishes, we should be fine. Besides, Bombur can help you. He is an excellent cook."
I shake my head, realizing I'm probably being a bit too sciencey. I thought strikes me and I ask,
"Then why did your uncle let me come along, if you've already got a cook?"
Kili shrugs again. "Maybe he's becoming fond of you."
I laugh aloud as I hunt the fridge for supplies. "I highly doubt that. Your uncle looks at me like I need to be squashed under his shoe."
For the third time now, Kili shrugs. He ventures to the kitchen and tries his hardest to help me along with cooking, but to no avail; the pair of us struggle along, eventually giving in and settling for beans on toast. We waste the afternoon watching television (Jeremy Kyle followed by some blood, guts and gore-filled vampire show that Kili can't take his eyes off) and discussing Dwarven traditions verses our own; for the remainder of the night I sit with my head buried in a Gordon Ramsay cook book, trying desperately to memorize every meat-related recipe that's ever been written.
"Well, I'm going to sleep," Josie says come nightfall, "we've got to go and actually do a solid days work tomorrow, remember. Unless you don't actually want to get any qualifications, Al. Or Lavender or... oh, whatever your name is. I'm gonna start calling you Alavender."
"Oh, Jesus," I murmur, head in my hands, "I haven't written that essay, either. And what are we supposed to do with Kili?"
"We'll leave him here, he'll be fine."
"Will he? He'll be cooking people's pets, setting fire to the place-"
"You worry too much. Kili likes the TV... don't you, Kill-Bill? We'll give him a box set or two and he won't move all day."
"Where are you going?" Kili asks; Josie explains to him that we're studying Art, and he doesn't seem to understand the concept. First of all, we are women; why are we bothering to pursue such nonsense? (That earns him a smack in the arm.) Secondly, the concept of an institute for education confounds him, and an institute for learning Art flummoxes his Dwarf-born brain.
Josie goes to bed, hugging her hideously ugly Dalek pillow to her chest and yawning with her mouth as wide as a snake about to swallow its prey. She drifts away and I take hold of my essay, which, at this moment in time, is composed of only one paragraph. "Goodnight, boring Alavender. Goodnight, Dwarf-boy."
I smile at Kili as she closes her bedroom door and quickly remind him, "we'll have to get changed back into your Dwarf-clothes, otherwise when you fall asleep you'll wake up in jeans and a lumberjack shirt; somehow I don't think Thorin would approve."
The pair of us change into our LARP-looking gear, and I lump back down on the sofa, chewing on the end of my pen and wondering how on Earth I am going to construct a three-thousand word essay before tomorrow morning. I sit, getting more and more agitated at not being able to come up with a single sentence that's of any worth, and realize with a rasp that there is something digging into my thigh. I reach into the pocket of the dress Kili brought for me and draw out...
...A sprig of garlic?
"Why have you got that?" Kili asks; it takes me a moment to remember, but when I do, I am utterly astounded.
"Bofur gave it to me when we were in the woods, said it would be good luck... how can it be here-?"
Oh... hang on.
"Oh yes," I say aloud, a smile spreading across my face, "oh, that is brilliant."
I can barely stop grinning. "If I can take things from your world to mine that's more than just clothing, surely it works the other way around, right? And if it does, that means I can take all sorts of stuff we need out there- nice, ready-meal food, random cloves of garlic and- of course- my essay! In your world, that's a whole day to write it. Ooh, Kili, this is all sorts of perfect!"
I revel in my self-declared genius, thinking of all the items I might be able to take to Middle-Earth, and suddenly the inspiration flows- I manage to get down a whole paragraph before running out of fuel. When I do, once again chewing on my pen and staring blankly at the paper, Kili speaks up.
"I'm tired," he tells me, one hand massaging through the dark threads of his hair. I glance over at him from the top of my essay paper, trying my best to concentrate... but damn, concentration is hard when you've got a Kili staring at you. Swoon. With a great yawn he declares, "I think I'm going to try and get some sleep."
"Go on then, Dwarf-boy. Stop bothering me and get some sleep."
"Oi," he says, eyes closed and half-smiling, "only Josie is allowed to call me Dwarf-boy; and don't leave me here when you go back to the Elf-halls."
"Alright, alright... go on, just sleep. I'll never get this essay done with you rambling away in my ears, Dwarf-boy."
"Watch it, Alavender," he warns and smiles again, pulling the blanket from the back of the sofa and pulling it up past his waist. When he eventually falls asleep he begins snoring, and I find it even more difficult to attempt starting my essay. I remember my early revelation- that it is possible to transfer things from my world to his- and decide I'll give it a test-run. Gandalf said these things aren't set in stone, and I don't really fancy ending up loosing my essay in Middle-Earth.
Miss, the dog ate my homework!
Miss, I left it at my Nan's house!
Miss, I accidentally left it in a land of Goblins and Wizards when I was dream-teleporting!
...Somehow, I don't think that excuse will go down too well.
I grab the nearest object to me- the lid from a yogurt Josie had earlier- and stuff it in the pocket where the garlic sits. Grabbing the other corner of the blanket, I whip it over myself and grab Kili's arm under the sheet; he's toasty warm, and I bury my head against his shoulder with a smile.
And just like that, I'm back in Rivendell. I shake Kili awake with the aim of sending him somewhere more comfortable to sleep- at the back of my mind, I think that if he's unconscious in our world tomorrow- not having me beside him to rouse him into a non-comatose state- he can't cause any trouble whilst Josie and I are off trying to get some qualifications. Mentally asleep he allows me to shuffle him through to one of the empty rooms in the dormitory; he collapses against the sheets with a blunt murmur of 'g'night, Lavfnur' and is snoring within seconds. I leave him there, content in the knowledge that he will sleep soundly, and check my pockets for the garlic.
It's there, in all it's lamp-like glory; I snap it in half and allow the glorious smell to fill my senses. Deciding to take a brief walk through the grounds before returning home to grab my essay (that sounds pretty bizarre, I know- 'just popping back to another dimension to grab my late homework!'), and end up picking one of the loose jewels from an ivory wall; it is tiny and a deep granite colour, resembling a pomegranate seed. I pop it in my pocket, thinking how it would make a great token for Josie... good Lord, I'm turning into Nori. As I drift around the ornate palace, I catch the tail end of a conversation on the balcony above me; the gruff tones of the two speakers quickly gives away who's up there. Gandalf and Thorin, murmuring away in the darkness. You don't have to tell me that I should go back to bed and keep my nose out of it- I know I should. But curiosity, as always, is getting the better of me. I catch the end of a sentence from above:
Wizz-box: "And what of the girl?"
Mr. I'm-So-Majestic-I-Can't-Even-Bare-To-Look-At-You: "...What of the girl?"
And that decides it. I feel my heart harden a little within my chest, and my mind is made up; eavesdropping on any old conversation is frowned upon, but when the conversation is about you... well, surely that's a different thing all together? Feeling like a fly on the wall, I press my back against the nearest pillar and listen to the distant voices above.
From above Gandalf declares, "you cannot simply wake your men now and leave. We have many things to discuss-!"
"You have things to discuss," Thorin snaps. "Your interest in the girl and whatever magic surrounds her is none of our concern. I respect you, Gandalf, and for that I will give you until morning. But my company leave at first light, with or without you."
"You shall wait for me in the mountains."
"you heard what the Elf said. Durin's day is fast upon us," Thorin barks, "we cannot afford to wait about-"
"You shall wait about," Gandalf rebukes him, "unless you wish to run a mock of more trouble on the road. Do you not remember the trolls? The Orc pack? Would you and your brethren have survived, had I not been there to save you?"
Thorin is silent.
"Swear to me," Gandalf demands. "Swear to me that you shall not proceed without me."
"I... I swear it."
"I pray that was sincerity in your voice, Thorin Oakenshield. A man who breaks his vows is no better than a common crook."
I hear Thorin stamp away then, all steel-capped boots and forced machismo, and Gandalf mutters something about 'stubborn Dwarves' under his breath. With the aim of collecting my essay and returning home, I return inside and find my own bedroom. The walls are white, even in the darkness, and everything is wrapped with a layer of satin. I collapse on the bed, and the last thing I see before falling asleep is the bag Galadriel promised me, hung up behind the birch door.
I open my eyes to find that Kili is lying beside me peacefully on the sofa, his dark hair swept across his forehead. Goodness, he is pretty. I push it out of his face and smile down at him.
"Oh, you're awake then," Jos says, kicking her legs from atop the kitchen counter in TARDIS-print t-shirt and gorilla-feet slippers. Even though it's the middle of the night, she is half-way through a pot of cottage cheese. With a yawn she says, "I had the munchies... and looking at you two there, well, it's just too precious to sleep through. Where is the Dwarf-boy?"
"Still sleeping," I tell her. "Like I will be in a minute; behold, peasant." I go to draw the yogurt lid from my pocket and say, "magic."
"What's so magic about a yogurt lid?" Josie asks, and I explain,
"I took your yogurt lid with me- it was there, in Rivendell."
"You best not be bullshitting me, Al."
"I'm not... ooh, I got you something." I find the tiny stone I broke free from the wall in Rivendell and hand it over to her. She cradles it between her fingers, shivering with excitement. "And now," I say, holding my half-finished essay in my hand, "if you'll excuse me, I have an essay to write."
Josie shakes her head in awe. "You're writing your essay... in Middle Earth."
"Hell yeah I am..."
I fall asleep surprisingly quickly, and wake up in the soft silk sheets of the Elven dormitory, my essay crumpled up in my hand. Opening my eyes, I realize that it is morning. Sunlight blares in through the windows, and I wonder whether or not I will be able to control the erratic time differences eventually, seeing as Galadriel told me practice will make perfect. I take hold of the bag the Elven woman had had prepared for me, and empty it's contents out onto the bed with a smile and a yawn; several packages of Elven bread, a couple of apples, two sealed pig-skin flagons, one filled with water and another with a funny-smelling liquid, a beautiful white-velvet dress with a satin panel down the front and a delicate necklace woven of three chains- one of rose gold, one of white gold and a third of yellow gold. At the end of the chain is a silver-plated pendant- a white moon-stone the size of a penny which seems to glow from within. I stare in awe at it for a few seconds before locking the chain around my neck; the stone falls in the hollow of my throat. I finger it lightly as I change into the ivory velvet dress- hardly practical seeing as I'll be journeying in the mud and filth, but a beautiful gift all the same- it will be unfortunate for Kili to have to deface it in the way he did the dress he brought for me. I bundle the blue dress into the saddlebag along with my essay on the importance of pointillism, hook its strap over my shoulder and head out to meet the others.
"So, you lot, are we going to get breakfast before we leave or...?"
The dormitory area is deserted.
No sign of any Dwarves. No sign of anyone at all, actually.
I look out on the balcony; perhaps they're at the fountains, or have already gone for breakfast. I look around, but there is no evidence to affirm either of these claims. Not only that, all the pipes, coats and other Dwarvish items which littered the balcony area last night have vanished.
Perhaps they're all still asleep? Cautiously I open the door to the room where I know Fili slept last night; there is no sign of him. Opening up the next couple, I see that there is no one around. My stomach knotted now, I head for Kili's door. The nob screeches almost menacingly as I pull it open.
Kili is nowhere to be found.
They have left me here, alone in Rivendell...
The Dwarves are gone.
AN: *DRAMATIC GASP*