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Conspiracy: 1. Conspiracy
a comedy in nine drabbles
"I know," Halbarad said, "And if that is what you ask of me, I will do my part here in the North. Yet the Quest will be the final trial…" He raised his hand as Aragorn started to interrupt him. "Not just for you. All of the Dúnedain stand or fall by this. Boromir of Gondor is coming…"
"By that measure, I should bar you and ask Halmir to accompany me," Aragorn replied.
"Curse it," Halbarad replied, exasperated. "I am not arguing who should accompany you for the North, just that someone should."
Calmly, Aragorn held Halbarad's gaze. "I know."
"I would be no burden, certainly much less so than the hobbits."
"No," Aragorn acknowledged, "But neither Father nor our brothers would countenance your going; nor, if I must speak plainly, would I." He looked at her sternly. "You are not Lúthien. I am not Beren. At the end of this Quest may lie our bliss, yet that is not the Fellowship's purpose. Our purpose is the destruction of the Ring and the fall of the Enemy. I naysaid Halbarad when he offered to come. Tell me what your presence will contribute to the Quest and I will consider it."
"We can't just lock him in the kitchen cupboard," Arwen said.
"Probably not," Halbarad admitted. "It would not be …"
"No, I mean we literally can't. The lock's been broken for the last two hundred years."
"Then what do you suggest instead?"
"The wine cellar. It has a good lock, and should hold him for at least a week. More importantly, I will have to get Father to agree to the plan itself."
"The wine cellar it is then," Halbarad agreed, "But please do not tell your father until he has agreed to the rest of the plan, my lady."
"An interesting idea. I must admit that I am loath to send Isildur's heir into danger."
Elrond raised his hand as both conspirators tried to speak at the same time. "Not that I am not certain that he is up to it. As are you both, for Halbarad, you are a Ranger trained and tested by many years of battle."
His gaze softened as he looked at Arwen. "And you, my daughter, have been well-trained in the use of weapons and survival in the wild by your brothers. Yes, I will permit you to put this plan into action."
Dark. He tried to move, only to discover that his hands were tied. His feet weren't, which allowed him to sit and look for a slightly less uncomfortable position. While circulation in his extremities slowly restored itself, he tried to take further stock of his situation. Where was he, and could he escape his bonds?
Aware that finding the answer to the first part of his question relied on solving the second part, he attempted to wriggle his hands. Alas, his captor had been thorough, and he would be unable to untie his bonds unless he could cut them somehow.
A whimper, some distance away, followed by a cough and a muttered curse.
In reply there was another curse, much louder, followed by a string of expletives foul enough to sear the ears off a troll, and a screech.
"HOW DID THAT MISBEGOTTEN SON OF AN ORC DO THIS?"
Halbarad prepared himself for another barrage of swearing – clearly, Arwen had learned more from her brothers than weapons and survival – but instead there was a long silence.
"Father must have helped him!" Arwen exclaimed suddenly. "He only said that we could put the plan into action, not that he agreed."
By the time Elrond let them out of the wine cellar, there was no point in going after the Fellowship. Even if she and Halbarad found them, their plan to keep Aragorn in the North was already unachievable.
Arwen did not like it, but as she considered the situation while she put in the final stitches on the High King's banner, she knew she could only accept it. Even so, she had not spoken to her father since she had been released from the wine cellar – being tied to a barrel of her favourite vintage only added insult to injury.
"Of course I will, my l… my Queen. Of course I will take the banner to Aragorn."
Saying he would didn't make it happen by itself, and Halbarad spent another two days calling up as many men as he could – which in the end came down to only the Grey Company.
More would have come if he had commanded it, but he daren't risk weakening the defences of the North too much; already he wondered what taking even one company would do to Tharbad, Bree or the High Pass or any of the other places where they might be needed.
He was freed from the wine cellar by an apologetic-looking Glorfindel.
"I suppose she's long gone by now?"
"And…?" Halbarad asked pointedly.
"Not only did she take the banner and the Grey Company, she also took Asfaloth." The Elf paused, looking even more sheepish than before. "She told your men that you would join them down the road. The twins must have been in on it; I only found out today, or I would have freed you sooner."
They looked at each other.
"Well, if anyone had any doubts that she and Aragorn are made for each other…"
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