Chapter 24: Back on Track
Back on Track
Eyes open. I stare up in horror at the ceiling, breathing heavily; what the hell was that?!
Just a dream, I tell myself; it must have been. Nothing to get worked up over.
...And yet it felt so real.
"That was a dream," I say aloud to no one in particular. "...An actual dream."
More like a nightmare, I think, sitting up in the rumpled sheets and brushing the hair back off my face. I'm drenched in a cold sweat, shuddering... finding my way to my feet, I edge into Josie's kitchen and search for something to drink. There's a half-finished can of cola on the counter, so I make do and knock it back, instinctively fingering the rose-gold charm around my neck.
I nearly jump out of my skin as Josie springs out from behind the fridge, a horse-head mask over her face and a broomstick held above her head.
"Flaming wang-baskets!" I yelp, and Josie almost falls to the floor in her laughter; I can't decide whether to laugh or cry. I grab the broom from her shaking hands and tap her lightly over the head with it before asking, "where's Kili?"
"Dwarf-boy's gone off on an adventure in the garden; don't worry, I've already told him not to bring any pigeons home. Al... we need to talk."
I clear my throat. "Uh... what about?" She takes my hand, leads me to the couch and stares at me through the eyes of the horse-head mask. "You're gonna have to take that off before I can take you seriously."
She does, revealing a malicious grin on her round face. "So... at what point were you going to tell me that you're bonking Dwarf-boy?"
"I... what? I'm not bonking anyone-"
"Hey, I don't blame you, Al... he's as fine as a balding man's hair, but you should have told me! I could have given you advice, because you sure as hell need it-"
"Josie, we're not... we've never... how did you get this idea into your head?"
She dives her hand into an open packet of Doritos on the coffee table, shoves them in her mouth and murmurs, "Kili told me. Like, ten minutes ago, before he went out exploring."
I sigh in disbelief, shaking my head. "You must have got it wrong. He wouldn't-"
"Oh, he did. So you're not having it off with Mr. Fancy-pants?"
I shake my head; she looks disappointed. "Soon."
"Not soon," I scald her, blushing now, "not ever. We're... we're just friends-"
"With benefits," she grins, tossing the rest of the crisps into her mouth and crunching away. "I still ship it. Shiping that shit like I'm mo-fo'in Fedex."
In an attempt to find a way to ignore Jos, I grab my phone and start messing around aimlessly with it. Not long after, Kili comes back; sure enough, he hasn't brought a pigeon with him. I shove my phone in my pocket and direct him to the sofa; He sits beside me, munching on what looks to be a handful of wild blackberries. He offers me one and I politely decline.
"Kili," I begin authoritatively, "did you tell Josie that we're sleeping together?"
He crunches the berries, combining them with a handful of the potato crisps Josie has left on the table. He reaches for the TV remote and struggles to turn on the screen. "We are sleeping together," he says, clearly not gathering what all the fuss is about. "Every night."
"Yes. We sleep here together, on the soda."
"Not soda," I tell him, "sofa... and I don't think sleeping together means the same thing where you're from as it does here."
He looks confused. "What does it mean here, then?"
"Here it means..." Oh, no, here comes more awkwardness. "It means... well, you know... doing it." God, I sound like an eleven-year-old.
Kili frowns. "...Doing what?"
Come on, Kili. Don't make me do this.
"Doing-uh, I mean having- uh- the sex." 'The Sex?!' What are you talking about, Alice-?!
Kili's eyes widen at first, and then he laughs. "You are far too young to be married. Dwarven women do not marry until they are at least one-hundred years old," he tells me, "if at all, and even then-"
"Yeah, well I won't last that long," I tell him. "You're forgetting, I'm not actually a Dwarf... and besides, people don't have to be married to have sex... well, not here, at least."
"Don't I know it," Josie murmurs, her head around the doorway to her bedroom; the horse mask is back on her head, complete with heart-shaped sunglasses and a top hat now. "Wait a minute... does that mean that Kili is a virgin?"
He winces a little, and I do the same.
"Virrrrrgggiiiinnnnn!" Josie whistles in a voice like she is imitating a ghost, "don't let him near the black candle! Virrrggggiiinnnnn-!"
Kili is a luminous shade of neon red that I never even knew humans- well, Dwarves- could turn. In a coarse tone he blunders,
"It's not exactly surprising, being unmarried and only seventy-eight years of age-"
"Josie, this is hardly appropri-"
"VIRGIN!" Josie chants, overriding his protests, "VIRRRGGGIIINNNN-!"
I throw a cushion at her, knocking her off the side of the sofa; she falls to the ground with a thud and an 'oompf!', and no more is heard about virginity and black candles for a few minutes.
The rest of the day slips away quickly, lost to the Friends box-set, worries about my bizarre dream and Josie's occasional murmurings of Hocous Pocus quotes. She forces us to watch the movie four times consecutively, due to Kili being so baffled by the mythos. During the title sequence of the fifth fun of the movie, I feel myself drift off to sleep.
! awake back in Middle Earth, it is to the sound of banging on the outside door of my room; Kili is barely awake himself, murmuring with his head still under the covers, and as I swoop slowly towards the door with the velvet dress in hand, expecting to find the Inn-Keeper on the other side murmuring about payment for our night's stay.
Instead I find Fili.
"Rise and shine," he says with a half-smile, eyes half-closed in his hungover state. Once again, he seems to have forgotten how clothes work, and is only half-dressed.
"We really need to stop running into each other like this, Fili," I say, half-closing my eyes in an attempt at protecting some of his modesty. He seems unphased, laughing a little as he pulls on his shirt.
"Get ready," he says, tugging at the corseted front of his vest with nimble fingers, "we need to leave soon if we are ever to catch up with the others before they reach the mountain."
"And what do you plan on saying to your uncle?"
"He'll see that Kili is fine, and we shall... well, we'll find a way of convincing him."
Kili, I remember suddenly; oh shit-balls. I blush madly, screech internally and bark out some nonsense about getting changed. I slam the door to, turn back to Kili and bark for him to wake up.
"Too... early," he groans, pulling the thin cover up over his head, "more... sleep."
"Your brother's outside," I hiss.
"Who...? Why...?" I pull away the bed sheet and whack him lightly.
"What conclusion do you think Fili's going to draw if he finds the two of us in bed together?"
Kili blinks at me innocently, still half-drunk and half-asleep. "...What conclusion?"
I shake my hands in his direction erratically and hiss, "the thing. He'll think we've been... doing it."
Yet again, he is completely oblivious.
"Oh for God's sake, the thing!"
Once realisation hits him, his eyes widen, he jets forwards, and within thirty seconds he had pulled on his undercoat, his overcoat, the other ten-thousand coats he seems to own and is kitted out with full gauntlets, vambracers, knee guards and all manner of other armour and weaponry.
"Lavender?" Fili calls through the door, thankfully not have heard our whispered exchange, "are you decent?"
"Well, out with you then, we need to leave-"
The door opens, and Fili stares at me through the gap. He sees Kili there, still pulling on his boots, and his eyebrows slowly rise in surprise. He backs away, pulls the door closed behind him, and quickly descends the stairs. Kili and I exchange a look before quickly following after him. There is still a group of drunken men in the inn's common room, half-unconscious and singing aloud;
'Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go,
To heal my heart and drown my woe.
Rain may fall and wind may blow,
And many miles be still to go,
But under a tall tree I will lie,
And let the clouds go sailing by!'
The barmaid, Vessa, lies with her head crowned by her pale arms on one of the hard benches; I realise that this inn is where she has spent the night. I rustle through my satchel to find something to leave her with, but there is nothing; I finger the necklace around my throat, reach to undo the clasp... but when my eyes catch the glimmer of the rose gold at the hollow of my neck, I find that I cannot part with the beautiful ornament. What good is it to you? I think, it's only a necklace. You've got plenty of them; give this to Vessa and she could sell it, start a new life, get away from this hovel-
"Now, Lavender," Fili calls over his shoulder, "if we ever wish to find the company again we have to go."
Sorry, Vessa, I think, tucking the necklace back inside my dress with a pang of guilt and heading for the exit, leaving the Elven dress on the counter for the Inn-Keeper as promised. Kili shuffles behind, still a little weary-looking as his brother helps him up onto his horse; Kili pulls me up in front of him, and Fili leads us along.
"So," he says eventually, eyes ahead, "which of you would care to tell me why the pair of you were in the same bedroom?"
Kili stares at me, wide-eyed, and then at the floor. Thanks for the help there, Ki.
"Uh... just... Kili came in my room this morning so I was... um..." I look to Kili for some inspiration, see the pommel of his sword at his hip and continue, "polishing his sword for him." Fili's eyebrows rise again as he stifles a smirk; I realise what I have just said and yelp, "not like that, you dirty Dwarf! I... that is to say, we..."
A trotting of hooves from the other side of the river interrupts the conversation, and we all turn to look as a parade of elegant, long-haired waifs mirror our path on the other side of the river.
"Elves," Kili murmurs.
"From Rivendell, by the looks of them."
"Rivendelves," I decide... "oh, shizzle, they probably want their horse back."
"What horse?" Kili asks; I glance over to him and drawl,
"I stole one of their horses so I could find you guys.. and then lost it. Stupid filly ran away after what happened by the river." We all fall quiet then, but a sound can be heard from the Elven party; they appear to be singing. I realise that they are all incredibly youthful; children and teens, by the looks of them, each and every one of them unnatainably beautiful. lean my head in their direction to hear better as they call out,
'Oh, where are you going?
Your pony needs shoeing!
O! What are you seeking,
And where are you making?
O! Where are you going
With beard all a-wagging?
O! Will you be staying,
Or will you be flying?
Your pony is straying!
Come! Come back to the valley!'
"We're not coming back, so leave us alone," Kili murmurs.
"Why do they want us to go back?" I murmur; Fili shakes his head and reveals,
"They are jesting, I believe."
"What, you mean, like... taking the piss?"
"Out of us?!"
Fili nods again. The singing becomes even louder, and I realise now that the Elves are laughing; not the tinkling-of-bells laughter that we heard ringing through the halls of Rivendell, but a 'ha ha, you just fell over a banana skin and everyone saw your arse' kind of laughter.
'To fly would be folly,
To stay would be jolly
Here grass is still growing,
And leaves are yet swinging,
The white water flowing,
And elves are yet singing
Come! Come back to the valley!'
"Are these mother fuckers serious?" I say, though I didn't mean to say it aloud. "...I mean, what have these Elves been smoking?"
"Just ignore them," Fili says quietly, in the way a person might try to avoid a salesman in a shopping centre. "Perhaps they'll go away."
And so we do, riding on with awkward conversation to mask the trolly-lolling of the Elvlings.
It doesn't work.
'The stars are far brighter
Than gems without measure,
The moon is far whiter
Than silver in treasure:
The fire is more shining
On hearth in the gloaming
Than gold won by mining,
So why go a-roaming?
O! Where are you going,
So late in returning?
The river is flowing,
The stars are all burning!
O! Whither so laden,
So sad and so dreary?
Here Elf and Elf-maiden
Now welcome the weary
Come! Come back to the valley!'
"Well, now I see why you don't like the Elves. I'd expected Elf-children to be more courteous," I say eventually, trying to ignore them as they pull faces across at us and yelp what can only be insults in their silky tongue. After about twenty minutes of this incessant whimbrelling, I can practically feel the rage coming off of the two brothers; then the Elves take up their song again, this time in a high-pitched mocking tone, I take it upon myself to express it for them.
"Right, I've had enough." I lean up in my saddle and cry across the river, "Listen here, you pampered little faeries! You can take your stinking valley, and you can shove it up your polished, hairless arses!"
"Yes!" Kili adds, "your mothers would think badly of you for this!"
I raise an eyebrow at him. "Wow. You really showed them."
He tries again for a better insult. "You... wenches! Trollops! You buck-toothed, mop-riding, fireflies from hell!"
The Elves go quiet, and so do we.
"Was that... was that a quote from Hocus Pocus?"
Kili shrugs, and I begin to laugh. The Elves stop riding opposite us and disappear into the mist as we ride on. I continue to chortle all the way through the forest path, so much so that Fili becomes irate.
"Enough, Lavender," he barks, and I turn to him with a mock-bow.
"Yes, father." I stick out my tongue and he looks away. I frown a little at myself after; that seemed a very Josie-esque thing to do. I wonder how she's getting on back home.
We are left to journey in peace for some time, and ride for a couple of hours with barely a word exchanged; a thick rain, almost as bad as that of yesterday's picks up, and we huddle beneath our cloaks as the path winds on and the pony begins to huff impatiently. Teeth chattering against the cold and Kili's arms securing me upright, I close my eyes and hope to fall asleep.
"Wake me up when we get there," I yawn, and Kili allows my head to fall back into the groove of his neck. Just as I am on the verge of falling asleep once more, a rough voice like gravel being churned disrupts my slumber.
"Did I not warn you about straying from the path?"
I open my eyes in surprise, to find a familiar face before me, his robes dank and sodden with the heavy rainfall.
Fili grins. "Gandalf!"
The old Wizard smiles, and the rain begins to let up.
AN: I RETURN!
Hey guys! Once again, it took me 5,000 years to upload, but here it is- chapter 24. Hope you enjoyed it, and hope to see you all back here again soon when chapter 25 goes up. Please remember to review, and have a fabulous week!
All the best,