11. Meeting the Relatives
A/N : ' this is thoughts'
Meeting The Relatives
The forest was dense and silent. The soft padding of feet could barely be heard over the rustling of leaves. Eyes and ears alert, the shadow moved forward. The Fellowship was ahead and to the right. Their scents mingled on the light breeze a combination of sweat, musk, pipe weed and sandalwood. The combination of scents brought a sense of serenity to their pursuer. Stopping to smell the breeze, a low rumble was released from the shadows chest. The scent of strangers was close enough to the Fellowship to intercept the company. Moving swiftly, the shadow jumped across the tree limbs with a grace unseen by mortal man. Not much farther and the prey would be within striking distance.
"The Dwarf breathes so loud we could have shot him in the dark.", a voice said as the Fellowship was halted by a group of well armed Elves. Before anyone could move, a loud rumble and a flash of silver erupted from above the archer holding his bow in Gimli's face. Taking the silver haired elf to the ground with a snarl, was a sight that shocked all in view. Holding the elf's bow between it's teeth while standing upon the elf's back stood a large white mountain cat with silver splotches covering it's hindquarters. The animal was magnificent in it's feral beauty. The coat gleamed in the fading light like moonlight, while the silver spots shone as stars. The teeth were sharp, long and brilliantly white. Claws hidden within paws the span of a large man's hand. The cat's pupils ran vertically within golden eyes, which took in the scene before it with a eerie intelligence. Moving off the elf with a feline grace, the great cat approached Gimli.
Hefting his axe, Gimli stared at the beast, awaiting it's next action. There was something strange about the fact the cat had not killed the silver haired elf when the chance was presented. The fact it walked to Gimli bearing the bow between razor sharp teeth confused them all. Dropping the bow, the cat sat at Gimli's feet and leaned it's body against him, throwing a baleful glare at the newly arrived elves. Not daring to move, Gimli spoke in a soft voice to Aragorn. "Laddie what can you tell me about this strange occurrence? Never have I seen a beast do this." Aragorn just stood stock still. He did not know what to make of the incident, and had no advice for the Dwarf, that the great cat continued to use as a leaning post.
Legolas took a small step towards Gimli. He frowned down at the feline. Some deep seated instinct told Legolas that the feline meant Gimli no harm and instead seemed to be protecting him from the other elves. The gold eyes
seemed to stare into the elf's very soul. It stood fluidly and stretched, before gliding over to Legolas. Reaching out a tentative hand, the elf touched the deep plush coat of the beast. The fur felt like the finest silk, but the bunching muscles told a clear picture of the great cat's dangerous nature. The cat rubbed it's face against Legolas' hand for a moment, then the spell was broken. Whirling almost faster then the eye could track, the feline pounced back onto the silver haired elf as he started to rise.
"Haldir do not move! I believe the beast sees you as an adversary, brother. That it only wishes to keep you against the ground, I would imagine to be a good sign.", another of the new elves said ruefully. With a decidedly cold tone to his voice, Haldir, the silver haired elf, the cat currently had a paw on, replied to his more then slightly amused brother. "Orophin I see no humor or goodness in this foul beast's deeds and I would appreciate you getting it off me one way or another. I would remove it permanently myself, but I seem to have lost my bow. This evil spawn of Modor would make a nice rug!" Uncertainly, Orophin looked at his brother lying with a cat paw on his neck. He was not sure weather to be worried or entertained when the feline chose to snort in disgust and lick Haldir's cheek. "Uumm brother, I do not know if it likes you or is sampling you in preparation for eating. I think it would be unwise to arouse it's ire." Sighing, the undignified heap of Haldir glared hard at his brother, promising a swift and painful retribution, as soon as he could remove the offending feline.
"Tygera enough! Do not play so with the March warden, he deserves your respect! Now go elsewhere before one of the sentinels decide to harm you.", an irritated, but feminine, voice told the golden eyed feline still pinning Haldir to the ground. With another lick to the March warden's cheek, the cat turned, brushed against Legolas and Gimli and took to the trees in one powerful jump.
Holding out a hand to help up Haldir, the female sentinel shook her head in disbelief. That Tygera would defend the intruders so blatantly was a surprising, but welcome change in behavior. Grumbling, Haldir accepted the hand and stood brushing dirt and leaves off his uniform. "Would you like to explain how you know that foul beast's name, sentinel?", the March warden's icy tone sending shivers through the rest of the patrol. "The cat is a friend. She was only playing with you and meant no true harm. I can not tell if she will return soon or will stay hidden as is her usual way. I do believe the feline liked you, Haldir. I think she thought the rug comment was amusing.", the sentinel replied trying to conceal her mirth. Stalking over to Frodo, the March warden stated, "You bring much evil into this land. You can not pass." Aragorn and Legolas quickly began speaking to Haldir in Elvish, trying to reason with his decision.
Dropping from the tree closest to Boromir and Frodo, Fire landed, with almost no sound, surprising the Wardens surrounding her friends. "So I take a little walk to check out a possible threat and you get captured by the Elves. How typical of them, that they would actually find you loitering in their forest and stop you for questioning. What is with all the nervous tension? I would think they have had people looking for refuge before now.", Fire said glancing curiously around covered completely by her cloak.
"Just who are you?", boomed a voice from behind her. Turning towards the speaker, Fire threw back her hood and lifted her eyebrow indignantly. "I do not think that it is to me you are speaking to in such a tone! Is this the true hospitality of the Elves? If it is it is sorely lacking!", the ranger replied with all the distain of a king at court. "You are female! Why would you be traveling in company such as this?", Haldir demanded in an identically disdainful tone. "My business is my own, and if you do not wish to incur my wrath, you overbearing miscreant, you will take us to the elf witch who protects these woods. You are but a servant of this witch and as such you are beneath notice, except as a lowly guide. So do your duty and lead us to the city at once!", Fire demanded in a bored tone, dismissing Haldir from further conversation by turning her back on him.
Aragorn and Legolas watched in astonishment as the ranger transformed into Lord Elrond before their very eyes. Exchanging glances, the two had a hard time not exploding into fits of laughter. Fire had gotten the haughty tone and indignant eyebrow thing the Lord of Imlandris did when annoyed, down in every detail. The look of utter shock turned to a red seething fury, as Haldir stormed over and swung the ranger around to face him. "I am guardian of these woods and as such, you will tell me anything I wish to know! Is that clear enough for you, my lady?"
Fire took hold of Haldir's wrist, stepped quickly in close to his body and pivoted with a snap sending him to the ground flat on his back. "I believe Lord Aragorn tried a similar tactic upon our first meeting, with much them same results. You have a lovely view of the sky, where Lord Aragorn only had a bland ceiling.", Fire said with a sweet smile gracing her lips. Legolas looked to Aragorn and lifted his brow meaningfully. Haldir regained his feet and went to reengage the spoiled, irritating elleth when a voice in his head commanded he bring the newcomers to the Lord and Lady of the golden Woods for an audience. "You have been given permission to enter our fair city by the Lady, herself. We will sleep here tonight and travel tomorrow. You, Female, had best watch your manners when talking to the Lady! Orophin take them to the talans. Once they are settled report to me, I fear the enemy will be here soon.", Haldir snapped in irritation, before turning and melting into the surrounding trees like a wraith.
With a small bow, Orophin swept his arm in the direction of a large set of trees. "The talans are this way. Please make yourselves comfortable for the night. We will keep watch, so you may rest easy this night.", he said in a courteous voice. Fire followed the new elf's retreating form, allowing herself a small, fleeting smirk of satisfaction. Gimli and the Hobbits were the only ones to see the smirk ghost across the ranger's face. Motioning the Fellowship to climb up rope ladders dropped from the talans, Orophin waited until the ranger was next to him. Reaching out a hand to touch her arm briefly, he whispered so only Fire could hear. "Do not think too harshly of my idiot brother for he is not always thus. The borders are dangerous and enemies lurk nearby. He worries for the safety of our people and would defend them with his last breath. You surprised him and that does not happen to him often. I believe he is intrigued." With a wicked grin, Orophin held the ladder steady, "After you, my lady."
A/N: Think of the mountain cat looking just like a Snow Leopard.
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