Chapter 4: Thranduil's Domain
Dreamless sleep, at last. When I awaken, that is the first shock to me; that I did not wake up back in my world. I slept, truly slept for the first time in months, and it was wonderful; as I become aware of a dull pain through my body and a stinging sensation in my arm, I miss it terribly. When I open my eyes, I find that I am staring up at the beautiful red head who saved me from the colossal spider in that evil forest.
"Lavender?" she says, the name sounding like velvet on her lithe tongue.
I realise that I am in a cell, locked behind barred doors in a place which smells of mildew and chestnuts, a mixture of earthly tones which awaken my senses. Glancing at my tired body, I see that my dress has been shorn away to the skirt, and that I now wear a rough-spun fawn green tabard in its place. My wounded arm is wrapped in a floral-smelling poultice of mashed herbs and large over-lapping leaves, bound tightly with twine. I attempt to sit up, feeling numb.
"Rest," the Elf woman says, her hand on my stomach. Her fingers show traces of the dark green mixture massaged into my wound.
"You... you helped me," I say, realising she is the one who has applied it. "T-thank you."
"The poultice will draw the poison out of your system, but you must rest. Let your body to the work, Lavender, and if you feel the need to vomit-"
Like my body answering a siren's call a wave of nausea passes over me, and I'm torn between lying back down to ease the pain and retching over the side of the hard wooden bed; I try to hold the vomit back but it comes anyway, and I find myself spewing into a basin which the Elf has put before me. I try to thank her, but the spasms in my chest won't allow it; I vomit until there is nothing in my stomach but acid, burning as it travels up my throat. Light-headed and almost in tears from the exhaustion of hurling up my guts in such a weak state, I collapse back on the bed, smelling of sick and pretty sure there's stomach acid in my hair. Whimpering, I close my eyes, blackness swooping in to darken my vision again; the Elf presses a long-fingered hand against my forehead, and I close my eyes.
"She finished in there?" an unknown voice calls, presumably from another of the cells, "that was yuck. Who is she, anyway?"
I know that voice... I know...
Once again, the girl slipped into unconsciousness. Tauriel left her in the cell with her head tilted to the side to prevent her from choking to death should she vomit again, not that the she-Elf imagined that there would be anything left for her to bring up after that wretched episode. Taking the bowl of vomit with her and handing it to one of the guards, Tauriel headed out to face what she knew was coming; but first, she needed to do something. With careful steps she advanced through the dungeon and up to the cell of the tall young Dwarf who cared so much for the girl. She had been close, that she knew; had she not healed the girl when she did, the paralysis would have set in by now, and she would be well on her way to succumbing to the venom of the spider. Tauriel was glad that she had acted, despite the consequences she knew that she would have to face.
"Kili," she all but whispered; it was dark now, her having been with the girl for the last few hours, and the Dwarf was curled up on the bench of the cell, though by his reaction time it was clear that he had not been asleep. He responded immediately to her call, coming eagerly to the bars.
"What news? Is she well?"
"She will live," Tauriel smiled, "I prepared a poultice, the poison is working its way from her system, and the Laruinque ought prevent infection and seal the wound."
Kili gave a breathless laugh of relief; he shot a hand through the bars and took hold of her own, squeezing tight.
"Thank you," he breathed, eyes glittering, "thank you."
Tauriel felt a flutter within her stomach, staring down at their clasped hands. She pulled away briskly and excused herself holding her hand to her chest protectively.
"I must go. They will be missing me at the festival."
Kili nodded. "Sounds like quite the party they're having up there."
Tauriel smiled in spite of herself. "It is Mereth Nuin Giliath; 'The Feast of Starlight.' All light is scared to the Eldar, but we Wood-Elves love best the light of the stars..."
She looked to the young Dwarf, his eyes wide with interest. Her stomach tightening again, she shook away her alien thoughts.
"I... I forget myself. I must go."
The Elf left quickly, the imprint of his touch a ghost on her hand. Kili watched after her, brows knitting with confusion. He felt for the token in his pocket, felt the cold of the carven stone against his palm. He squeezed it tight, a smile engulfing him.
She will live.
It's morning when I wake up again, having slept once more without waking back home. I put it down to my illness; mainly because it doesn't bare thinking about that maybe at some point between getting bitten by Aragog's twin brother and waking up yesterday the magic has broken, and I'm stuck here forever.
I smell. Not just a little... I stink worse than a line of sweaty fan-girls waiting for Benedict Cumberbatch to sign their Sherlock merchandise, worse than a crowded Comic Con hall, worse than... oh, you get the picture. I am left in half-dazed peace for an hour or so, my only company being the snoring of the person in the cell further down, before one of the guards; auburn-haired, tall and slender, a carbon-copy of all the others, unlocks the cell, takes me firmly by my upper arm and pulls me to my feet.
"Oh, hello... uh, what's this? Uh, okay. Good morning to you, too..."
Without a word he guides me from the cell, his face a motionless mask, and brings me up through the halls; I'm a little wobbly on my feet still, my body still numb and aching, and when we come to a set of steps I struggle to guide my way up them. The poultice on my arm is starting to fall apart, and looks like it either needs replacing or getting rid of all together. At the top of the staircase the Elf stops dead, a firm hand on my shoulder, holding me back from the scene before me.
The red-haired female Elf who saved me from the spider and it's sting is stood before an elaborate-looking throne; from my position, all I can see of the person sat in it is a slender, bejeweled hand lazily draped over its arm.
"So you confess to it?" a deep voice dripping with disdain asks the she-Elf; she holds her head high.
"I do, my Lord, and I shall not apologise for my actions. If it is the use of the Seregorn which displeases you so, I shall ride to Beleriand myself and pick more."
"This is not about a weed of Amon Rudh, and you know it. Do not try my patience, Tauriel. This is about you disobeying orders, again. I will not tolerate such insolence from one of my own. You are the captain of my household guard, and I expect you to act as such. I instructed you to leave her the girl to fate's hand."
"Your instructions would have been her death. It would have been wrong to let the girl die. When you take a prisoner, you bring them under your protection."
The Elf in the throne scoffed aloud. "I'll hear no more of this. No Silvan Elf will tell me how to govern my own kingdom; you forget yourself, Tauriel. Away with you. I shall deal with you later."
Tauriel backs away, bowing her head and standing against a pillar with her hands clasped together. The arm over the throne rises slightly and the cool voice calls,
"Bring the girl forward."
The girl, as I quickly discover, is me. I am marched out before the throne, where I stand on wobbly legs, head pounding as I adjust to my surroundings. My mouth gapes upon sight of the King of the wood; unlike the Elves of Rivendell, all of whom were dark-haired, the Elf-King has a head of white-gold, adorned with a living crown of entwined thorns, with tiny red leaves blooming in amongst the gold. His eyes are clear as daylight, his mouth a hard line. He turns his head to see me properly, and the look on his face makes it clear that the sight of me was not worth the minuscule effort. He stares at me for a long time, expression unchanging.
My guard lends me a hand with complying to the request with a strong hand down on my shoulder, forcing me down. I sit upright on my knees, my pride getting the better of me; the King raises his eyebrows, and the guard pushes me down again so that I am sat on the backs of my calves. I bow my head, unable to hold the stare of the Elven King any longer.
"So," he begins after another pause, "this is the cause of all the trouble... and not a Dwarf at all, it would seem."
Tauriel raises an eyebrow from her spot on the other side of the hall. "I did try telling you, my lord, but you would not listen."
"Stille nu." The Elf-King rises from his seat, a flurry of dancing skirts; he is tall, so incredibly tall, and the silver of his hair washes down his back like a river of starlight. He starts down the steps on silent feet and walks within a metre of me. My insides freeze up, and I feel myself begin to shake with nerves as he stands in silence, staring at me through icy blue lenses.
I do with the unwanted assistance of the guard at my side, and barely reach the waistline of the grand elf. I wish more than anything that I was my normal height right now; at least then I might graze the level of his shoulders. He reaches out two fingers as though to forcefully lift my head,but pulls back at the last second, deciding against touching me. "What is your name?"
"Al-" I stutter, "Lavender. My Lord."
H nods with feigned interest. "Tell me, Lavender, from where do you hail?"
Oh, dear. Now I'm in trouble. "I..."
"Answer the King," the Elf to my right balks, shaking my shoulder a little. Alright, alright, ginger snap... I remember the back story Gandalf cooked up for me and deliver it as confidently as possible, resisting the urge to wallop the guard at my side.
"I'm a Fallowhide. From a small place along the Anduin river, near the Greenwood."
The Elf-King gives a sharp nod. "Ah... a Fallowhide. Yes. That would explain your height and complexion. However, it makes it no less of a lie."
He begins to circle me, hands behind his back, and I feel as though I'm shrinking. "My people have many dealings with the Halflings of the Greenwood, and you are not a Fallowhide."
Silence. Ten points to Slytherin.
"I'm... uh..." A most inappropriate memory of my first encounter with the Dwarves surfaces in my mind, and I find myself bleating out nonsense in my desperation. "I'm a Vulcan, from... well, Vulcan. Live long and prosper."
I go to raise my hand in the classic Vulcan salute, but it is quickly batted away by my ginger-haired friend. The Elf-King seems less offended by this answer, though no more convinced.
"This one seems to be a little more competent. Bring the other one to me. Perhaps together the two of you might be able to cut through your web of lies and give me the truth of what you are and what you are doing in my Kingdom."
"The... the other one?"
The Elf-King does not respond, completely blanking my existence and staring impatiently at the staircase leading up to the platform. I stand in awkward silence, not knowing what to expect next.
What happens next shocks me more than words can say.
In a flurry of racing footsteps, Josephine Maddox appears in the Elven-King's throne room. She beams nervously at the Elven King, arms outstretched as though to embrace him, a guard holding he firmly in place. The Elven King looks offended by the mere sight of her.
"Josie!" I yell, completely forgetting the company we're keeping; she looks up at me, not registering who I am at first, before letting out a loud shriek and trying to break free of her guard once again.
"Alice! Oh, praise Odin! Where the hell have you been?!"
"Where the hell have I been?" I cry, forgetting myself, "where the hell have you been?! What were you thinking, coming here?! Are you an idiot?!"
"Yes! Oh, yes I am!" She laughs, two guards holding her firmly on the other side of the platform. Tauriel watches in utter shock; it is then that I remember whose court we are in, and fall silent. The Elf-King does not look amused.
"Bow before the King," one of the Elves holding Josie orders, and she does so dramatically, falling to her knees and bowing as though before a Sultan.
"Oh, majestic Thranduil!" she proclaims, "I am ever at your mercy!"
I watch her, utterly horrified; even for Josie, this is ridiculous. Perhaps the weeks spent alone in the Elven dungeon have drove her even more crackers than she was before.
"How may I serve you and your incredible eyebrows, oh mightiest of mighty ones?!"
"Josie, stop it," I tell her, relieved to see her yet terrified of our situation, "you're going to get us killed."
Silence falls, and the Elven King- Thranduil- watches us, unamused. "I thought I instructed you to keep that one in chains... It would appear the two of you have met."
I nod. "Forgive her, my Lord. She... uh... lacks the wits of most. I'm her..." I glance at Josie, to see her wrestling with one of the guards as he tries to get her to kneel properly.
Carer. She needs a carer.
"I see. Then perhaps I will get more sense out of you. This friend of yours has many titles, it would seem. Each time I ask her who she is and where she comes from, I am given a new answer; she is a Frost Giant of Jotumheim. She is a child of Asguard. A Kree Warrior, a Daughter of Thanos, and, most recently, a Guardian of the Galaxy."
I glance over as Josie, mortified. She shrugs. "It was a good movie."
I fumble for words. "I... I don't know what to tell you. Whatever I say, my Lord Thranduil, you are going to find very hard to believe."
I sense some insult at my having used his first name. He tilts his head so slightly that it is barely noticeable; the signal does not go unnoticed by his guards, however, who simultaneously unsheathe their daggers and press them to both mine and Josie's throats.
"Oh, yippy-skippy," Josie gargles from behind steel, "this is new."
The Elf-King eyes me coldly. "You underestimate me, Lavender. I'll hear your tale, and decide for myself whether or not it is to be believed."
"Here's the thing," Josie says, fingers coiled around the dagger at her throat, "Alice and I- uh, Lavender and I- we're from another world-"
"Silence," Thranduil says to her, lifting his fingers in a poised gesture. "Another word, and I shall have your tongue."
Josie opens her mouth to speak, thinks better of it and struggles for a nod instead. Then Thranduil turns his attentions back to me, tilting his head expectantly.
All of the blood in my body seems to rush to my head as I confess to the Elven King the truth- that we are from another world, and that sleep transports us. I leave out the part about being able to take people back-and-forth instinctively. When I am finished, the Elven King is silent; something inside me thinks that he might just believe me; that is before he gestures with another tilt of his head, and the guards put their blades away.
"This is fruitless," Thranduil balks, swirling around and ascending towards his throne once more. "I think I have heard enough delirium and lies for one afternoon. Take them back to the cells, and send word to Lord Elrond."
"Yes, my lord."
The steel blade is drawn away from my neck and I breathe a sigh of relief.
"Perhaps another night in the cells will make you rethink your position. I expect the two of you to conjure up the truth by morning, or there will be consequences."
Josie yells to the Elven King as we are marched away, "feel free to summon me any time you like, Your Royalness-ness!"
I exchange a glance with Tauriel as we are dragged past her, and she nods briskly. Back at the cells, our doors are unlocked and we are thrown inside unceremoniously.
"When's dinner?" Josie calls to the Elves as they leave, "It better not be leaves again! I hate leaves!"
I throw my head back against my wooden pillow, stare at the ceiling of the cell and let out a sigh, shrugging my shoulder to try and ease off some of the pain. And then I begin to laugh.
"I've missed you, you big idiot."
"Oh, Alice," she calls, "of course you have."
AN: I've missed Josie so much. I love how ridiculous my little pardoy-of-le-fangirl is. It was only a matter of time before she ended up thrown in the adventure ;D
And so another year passes, can you believe it?! Congratulations to you all on surviving this long. I have to be honest, it wasn't my favourite year, but I did have some fantastic times. Here's to a wonderful 2015!