Birth of a Faerie Tale: Part I
Author: Sheela

Their journey up the mountain of Caradhras had been extremely tiring. While the snow hadn't been too bad at first and they had made good progress, the snowfall had worsened with every step they took; soon the white mass had covered them all. The humans found themselves thigh-high in the snow, and Gimli and the hobbits found moving against the snow nearly impossible. Gandalf soon suspected that this was the work of Saruman who was trying to hinder their journey as much as possible; either that, or it was the dreadful mountain itself that was sending them the severe wind and snowfall. The swirling flakes whipped into their faces and the icy wind pulled mercilessly at their thin cloaks which couldn't keep out the stinging cold. All the nine wanderers could see before and behind them was whiteness and the occasional shadow of the person in front of them. Every step became a struggle, and if it hadn't been for their bigger human friends the four hobbits would have been buried underneath the snow. Bit by bit all their strength left them and all they felt was coldness and a fatigue that paralyzed their legs and arms.

Legolas had been the only one to keep up his bravery and almost cheerful mood, as he wasn't affected by snow as much as his companions were; for an elf, walking on snow wasn't very different from walking on solid ground and he barely sank in at all, even in the highest snowdrift.

But as the weather continued to get worse and worse even the elven prince was forced to give up. After the fellowship had nearly been buried underneath an avalanche of snow and rocks it was decided that they would turn back and make their way through the mines of Moria, since it had become apparent that they would never make it over the mountain alive.

Gimli was overjoyed by this solution, as he was looking forward to seeing the legendary city of his folk and meeting his kinsman Balin there. The rest of the travelers were less pleased at the prospect of their new route. Aragorn especially seemed wary to enter the mines, fearing an ancient evil that lay hidden in its depths. Legolas also hated the thought of being trapped in the dwarfs' realm; he feared nothing more than dying there, underneath the earth where neither sun nor moon or stars ever shone and no gentle breeze of nature could touch his body. However, the elf stubbornly refused to let his fears show. He had been chosen as the represent of all elves on Middle Earth, and he would never let a lousy dwarf see any weakness of him. Their way down from the mountain proved to be almost as difficult as their way up. The path they had managed to create in the snow had vanished almost instantly beneath new layers of snow. Aragorn and Boromir, the two strongest and largest of the group, had been forced to fight their way through the white masses again, working their way through a snowdrift that was higher than two men and then carried the four hobbits that wouldn't stand a chance against the snow.

The snowdrifts began to lessen in size until it barely reached over their toes. Further down the mountain the sun shone brightly and the wind wasn't more than a soft breeze playing with their hair. The group's hardship seemed nothing more than a nightmare in this surroundings. But when they looked up the Caradhras, its threatening darkness was still towering over them, daring them to try and cross it again.

"And so we lose another two days on our journey," Gandalf said. "And with every passing day the enemy's power and influence increases. Well, it cannot be changed now. Come, let us go on. Not even at Caradhras' knee we will spend the night."

Exhausted and with heavy legs they stumbled down the slope. It was late afternoon when they reached the foot of the mountain. Their legs were wary and their bones ached with tiredness.

"Where will we go now?" Boromir inquired, voicing the question on everybody's mind.

"To be honest, I don't know yet," Gandalf answered truthfully. "But we cannot walk much further. We're all in bitter need of rest and the night is coming fast. However, we cannot remain here in the open either, for I fear we are in danger here." The wizard fell silent and the companions were left in quiet with their thoughts.

Pippin sat down heavily on a rock, unable to keep himself standing anymore. He stared into the distance, the landscape becoming a blur in the dusk, his thoughts wandering towards the horizon. Longingly, the hobbit thought back to his home, his wonderful home, with plenty food and a warm bed. He began to wonder why on Middle Earth he had been so keen to accompany Frodo on his quest. Lost in thoughts Pippin let his eyes wander where they would. In the distance he saw something that nearly forced his eyes from their sockets and made the hobbit jump to his feet.

"There! Do you see that? Do you see the same I see?" he shouted, unable to contain his excitement.

The other members of the group looked up, giving him quizzical looks. What was the hobbit talking about?

"There! Can't you see it?" By now Pippin was jumping up and down, pointing to the distance. "There is light!"

One the fellowship turned to the appointed direction, trying to see what the halfling did. "Yes, I see it also!" Gimli exclaimed. "There is indeed light!"

Frodo turned to Legolas who had the keenest sight of them all. "Can you see anything specific?" he asked the elf.

Legolas narrowed his eyes, trying to see more clearly in the dusk. "Our friend is right." He finally said. "There seems to be a house of some sort about a mile as the eagle flies from here. But I cannot be sure, as there are too many trees and bushes in between, hindering the sight."

"A house?" Boromir contradicted. "Here in this wilderness? That's impossible."

Gimli mumbled something less than friendly about elven sight but it went by unnoticed (except by Legolas, who cast the dwarf a dirty look) as Aragorn spoke up.

"Not so, Boromir," he said. "I have been to this land before, and if I recall correctly there is a small village not far from here. The light we see may be coming from either that village or at least from a farm house outside the village."

"Whatever it is, light means fire, and fire means warm!" Merry declared, his dark eyes glistering with excitement. "I say we go there. Maybe we can stay the night there underneath a real roof!"

Frodo turned to Gandalf. "What do you think?"

"I think Merry has the right idea. We all need rest after this trip, and the security of a real house could provide that better than any camp we may set up in the wilderness. If none of you has any serious objections, I say we go there and see if we can stay the night." He looked into their faces. All of them were too tempted by thought of warmth and security to contradict him. Thus, they walked down the hills towards the ominous source of light.


Darkness had fallen completely by the time the group reached their destination. It was indeed a farm house with a barn nearby, built of wood and the dark red stone that was characteristic for this area. The small, about waist-high, wall that surrounded the farm was built of the same red stone. Two high trees behind the house reached far above the crooked, weathered roof and there was a soft golden light of a fire emanating from the windows, giving the building a homely atmosphere. Altogether, the house looked so comfortable and inviting that the hobbits couldn't help but a heave sighs of contentment as the fellowship stood at the gate.

The rest of the group was less trusting. Carefully, Aragorn and Boromir looked around, trying to spot anything suspicious. Legolas also let his eyes roam around, his ears twitching as he listened closely to every sound; otherwise, he stood as still as a statue. However, none of them saw or heard anything out of the ordinary. Gandalf nodded. "This place seems safe enough. I don't think our enemy has anything to do with this place. But even if the owners are indeed friendly, do not say a single word about our quest or the ring. Is that understood?" He looked at them all and gave Merry and Pippin an especially hard stare.

"Clear as ice!"

"Clearer than that!" The hobbits hurried to confirm.

"Aragorn," Legolas asked softly, "you have been in these lands before. What do you know of the village and the people that live here?"

"Well, I didn't stay long, I was just passing through. But as far as I remember a few dozen people resided in this village, as well as a few dwarves. The village developed while Moria was still in its prime and the people lived mostly from trading goods with dwarves of Moria. Because of that they were strongly influenced by the dwarves and their culture, which is still traceable in their lifestyle."

"Ah I see; a very good and wise people," Gimli stated, with a sidelong glance at Legolas. The elf, however, chose to say nothing about it.

"So, let's knock, shall we?" Merry suggested eagerly. He didn't care by whom the people who lived in the house were influenced; he only cared for the warm fire they promised.

The group agreed and crossed the small courtyard; Gandalf knocked on the wooden door. "Hello?" he called. "Is anybody home?"

They heard the scraping noise of a chair being pushed back, followed by a whispering among two people and finally the sound of heavy boots walking towards the door. The door creaked open only partway, and a broad face appeared in the gap. The man at the door scrutinized them skeptically. "Yeah?" He half grunted. "What d'yer want?"

Gandalf bowed his head in greeting, and replied politely: "We are a group of travelers who had some bad luck with the weather on the mountain of Caradhras. We are all very exhausted and hoped we could stay in your farm for the night before we continue our journey."

The farmer opened the door a little wider and, in the light that streamed through the doorway, Gandalf could once more see who was standing in front of the others. In his right hand, half hidden behind his back, he carried a heavy club. This didn't go unnoticed by Aragorn, who studied the man in turn. The ranger knew that it was meant for self-defense only; however, it didn't appear as though the farmer had any reason for a weapon. He was tall, broad man, with plain, not overly attractive features and very big nose. His deeply tanned skin spoke of the hard work in the open fields as did his huge, hardened hands, and his face was partially hidden beneath his beard and uncombed hair. Also, the farmer's clothes were fashioned similar to dwarven clothing, so Aragorn concluded that his memories about the village had been correct.

"A strange band of wanderers you are," the farmer noted after he had finished his study of them.

"But all good and honest people, that I swear by Durin's beard!" Gimli said, stepping forward. The farmer raised an eyebrow as he looked at the dwarf, then a smile passed over his lips.

"Oh, forgive me, I didn't see you, Master Dwarf," he apologized and opened the door completely. "Come in, and be our guests. The house of Padin Patel welcomes you." He stepped back and gestured them inside with a bow.

Gimli was the first to enter, smiling broadly at this welcome.

Gandalf and Aragorn would have followed him with a slower pace but they were pushed through the door by the three eager hobbits who were overjoyed to get into the warmth. Sam took the time to secure Bill's reigns to post next to the door and told the pony to wait here, and that he would be back soon. The animal didn't seem to pleased at thought of having to stay outside in the cold since the wind was picking up again. Bill shook his head and whinnied in protest. Sam stroked him behind the ear and spoke calming to him until he seemed content. Then Sam too walked in after Boromir, followed closely by Legolas who closed the door behind them.

Inside it was pleasantly warm. The fireplace was crackling, the fire bathing the room in its warm glow. The scent of a thick, rich stew streamed lazily from the cauldron on the hearth; it made the hobbits' mouths water.

Padin Patel was just introducing his wife, Selah, a stocky woman with a friendly smile and light, glistering eyes. She studied the people in front of her with a smile. When her gaze came to rest on the hobbits she exclaimed "You were traveling up the Caradhras with four children!?!"

Sam and Pippin grimaced, Merry looked a little annoyed, and Frodo fought hard to keep his statement neutral. Why was it that the bigger folk was so ignorant and always regarded the hobbits as children? Size wasn't everything and the humans did after all respect the dwarfs! So why not the hobbits?

But before anyone of the four could say something inappropriate Gandalf stepped in. "Oh no, kind woman, you are mistaken," he explained gently. "These aren't children. They are hobbits."


"Also known as halflings."

"Oh, I see. Forgive me, little sirs. I have never met a hobbit before and believed them nothing more than legends. But now I see how mistaken I was. Come and sit at the fire, you must be cold and wary from your journey." She gave them another of her warm smiles and the hobbits found they couldn't hold the shimmer of grunge against this smile, so they stepped closer to the fireplace, grateful for the pleasant warmth it was emanating.

Stretching his hands lazily towards the heat, Sam took the time to look at the room they were in more closely. It was just big enough to hold the eleven people in it. Left of the fireplace, opposite to the entrance, a door led from the room, most likely to the sleeping quarters, and to the right of the fire stood a plain, solid oak bench. The biggest part of the room was taken by an enormous table, big enough to hold eight people. Next to the door a ladder leaned on the wall, leading up to a loft where Sam guessed the farmers kept their stocks. When he looked up the ladder, the hobbit thought he saw a pair of shining eyes, half hidden in the shadows, that were watching him from the edge of the first level. Puzzled Sam looked at it more closely and the eyes quickly disappeared. Surprised he turned around to see if anybody else had seen what he had.

"Did you see that?" He asked nobody in particular.

Selah smiled at him, having watched his eyes' path. "That is our daughter Shiara," she explained them, indicating up to the ladder where a pair of curious eyes had appeared once again and now quickly withdrew again when she saw a band of strangers looking at her. "You must forgive her, sirs, she's a little shy around strangers. Normally she's a real whirlwind. She's five years old and really energetic. Our two sons, Gary and Lou*, went to the village for a few days. They should return later in the week."

Sam nodded, sending a last glance up to their hidden watcher. But just then his stomach grumbled loudly, announcing that it wished for food (preferably a lot of it) and drew the all attention to the embarrassed Sam.

Gimli laughed, interrupted from the conversation he and Patel were having. "I think that's my cue to introduce ourselves. After you have so kindly accommodated us and my friend's stomach is so boldly announcing himself, it's the very least we could do to observe some common courtesies. I am Gimli, Gloin's son from the Lonely Mountain. This here is Gandalf the Grey, this Aragorn, ranger and warrior extraordinary, here we have Boromir, son Denethor II Steward of Gondor." Each of them inclined their heads in greeting before Gimli continued.

"These four little creatures are Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took."

The two youngest hobbits bowed at the mention of their names.

"Merry, if you please."

"Pippin, for friends."

The farmer and his wife smiled at them; few people could withstand the halflings' charms if they decided to show it. Then Patel's gaze traveled to the last visitor. Once out of the cold Legolas had pushed back the hood of his cloak and revealed his pointed ears. Their host's eyes narrowed at the sight, his face became grim and he drew himself to his (rather impressive) full height.

Oblivious to this reaction Gimli turned to finish the introduction. "And finally we have—"

"Legolas Greenleaf, at your service." The elf jumped in and also bowed to the man before him. Aragorn wondered briefly why he'd done that; cutting off the dwarf's speech and not introducing himself as the son of King Thranduil of Mirkwood. But then maybe Legolas had done the right thing – their `travel group' was already unusual enough; the mentioning of a prince in their round would draw even more attention from the farmer. And after all Gimli hadn't introduced Aragorn as the rightful heir to the throne of Gondor either. Patel gave Legolas a long, judging look. "An elf." He mumbled, scarcely hiding the contempt and the mistrust in his voice. Legolas face remained impassive and he pretended not hear it.

"You travel with strange company indeed, Master Dwarf." The man said, turning his head half towards Gimli while his eyes never left the elf – it was more than obvious to whom he referred as `strange'.

"Yes, well, it was not completely by choice, good man." Gimli mumbled. The elf wasn't his best friend either; the two races of dwarfs and elves held a mutual contempt for each other that was almost impossible to overcome. Gimli's words hung in the air, filling the room with a sudden tension that made everybody uncomfortable despite the cheerful ambience. The elven prince met Patel's stare with cold eyes, refusing to turn away first and show any weakness. For a few moments there was an icy silence as even breathing too loud seemed dangerous.

Then Selah suddenly cleared her throat loudly. "Oh dear, this may become difficult," she said, making her voice sound extra cheerful in order to lighten the mood. "Where will we put you all to sleep? Our house is not that big, I fear."

Finally Patel turned his eyes away from Legolas and smiled again, even though his smile was a little more dimmed now. "It'll be okay, even if it gets a little full." He said. "Let me see... Master Gandalf and Master Aragorn may sleep in our sons' beds. We can take Shiara with us into our bed tonight, so the Master Gimli can have hers. Then, if it's not too uncomfortable, Master Boromir may sleep on the bench next to fire. For the halflings we'll also make place underneath the roof, with a few blankets it'll be okay for a night I think. Hmm... but then a sleeping place for the elf will be problem, there's no more spare place in the house." The farmer paused, looking at Legolas gravely. "You could sleep in the barn, the hay is soft and warm. Only if that is no problem for you, Master Elf, of course." He said with false friendliness and a saccharine smile.

Aragorn was about to protest; the wind had picked up again noticeably and the barn they had seen had looked anything but warm and comfortable. However, Legolas silenced him with a hard look and the faintest hiss, forbidding any interference. Then the elf put on a polite smile and inclined his head to the farmer.

"The hay will be fine for me, thank you. You've already shown us so much kindness."

Patel grunted in response. He'd expected more of a fight from that arrogant race. The dwarves were right – all elves were wimps, pulling in their tail when they sensed a confrontation with somebody clearly stronger than them. It was a wonder that this one was allowed to travel with such fine people at all. Maybe he was their servant, Patel mused. Well he'd shown him his place in these lands.

"I guess we're all settled then." Again Selah intervened when her husband's gruffness threatened to become too hostile. "Come, have a seat, all of you. I'll see if I can stretch the stew a little so it'll be enough for us all." Merry's and Pippin's faces light up like candles at the mentioning of food and they were quick to take a seat at the table. Boromir and Gandalf took the places opposite of the two hobbits.

But suddenly Sam broke in. "No wait! We're not all settled!" He exclaimed. "What about Bill?"

"Bill?" Patel raised an eyebrow and turned to Gimli again. "Do you bring another guest that we've not yet heard of?"

"Oh no Sir, not another guest," the dwarf said. "Bill is our pony and is carrying most of the baggage. We left him just outside."

"Ah, that'll be no problem. The elf may take him into the barn to stay with our animals. There's enough place for another pony," the farmer decided, assigning Legolas to the task before anybody could intervene and say otherwise. Aragorn could see in Patel's eyes that this was meant as another challenge for the elf but again Legolas agreed without resistance.

"As you wish," he mumbled and turned to the door. "I shall go now and see to our animal friend."

"I'll go with you," Sam volunteered immediately. "I have to make sure that Bill feels well and likes the barn." Drawing his cloak around himself the hobbit followed the bigger man outside.

Aragorn stared at Legolas retreating back for a moment. Why was it that the elf behaved so submissive tonight? Growing up among elves Aragorn had learned one thing from early childhood on: Elves were never submissive to anyone, except to royalty and other elves of higher rank.

The elves were the oldest race in Middle Earth, the First Born, and they took pride in that fact – a pride which they showed, and occasionally a bit too strong for their own good. Legolas' own father, Thranduil, was one of those with too much pride: his honor, or what he chose to define as such, was never to be challenged; when it was, there were no survivors. Thranduil's son, Aragorn knew from experience, also had a streak of this pride in himself, even if it wasn't as strong as it was in his father. And yet here he was, the Prince of Mirkwood, playing servant for simple farmer without losing a word about it. Something was clearly not right with Legolas and it seemed to do with their hosts' attitude towards him. Deciding he had to know exactly what was going on with the elf, the ranger grabbed his cloak to go out as well.

"Where are you going, Strider?" Merry called after him.

Aragorn half turned around. "I... er... I forgot something in my pack that Bill carried. I'll be back in a moment," he managed to stutter out; he then dodged out of the door quickly. The remaining members of the fellowship gave each other quizzical looks – Bill did not carry any of Aragorn's things; the ranger traveled light, all he possessed was at his side. Well, he would have he reasons for what he was doing, he always did.

"In the meantime we can see how to fit all of you at the table for dinner... And you my dear Shiara may finally come down from there and greet our guests properly!" Aragorn heard Sarah speak up when he closed the door behind him. Pushing his hair out of his face the ranger could just see the backs of Legolas and Sam leading the pony in the barn. Walking quickly across the courtyard he followed them. Legolas heard him come in and narrowed his eyes, looking at Aragorn questioningly. However he said nothing and returned his attention to the pony before him. Sam had lead Bill to an empty compartment and was now talking to him in soothing tones. The elf went to grab an armful of hay for the pony from the large haystack on the side. Aragorn eyed the barn critically. About half a dozen piglets were fussing around their mother sow in a fold, two old cows were standing in the corner, chewing contently on some grass and about a dozen hens were walking around freely. The typical odor of a room full of hay and animals tickled in the man's nose but it wasn't a painfully bad smell, as the animals were well cared-for. Aragorn could hear the wind howling outside the barn. The boards of the wooden wall were rattling and cracking loud and threatening and at a particularly strong gust of wind the walls seemed to shake.

Aragorn caught a doubtful look on Legolas' face as the elf looked around in the barn, unsure what to make of it. However, as soon as Legolas realized he was being watched his face immediately turned expressionless again and he pretended that nothing was wrong. Realizing that he was never going to find out what was running through Legolas' mind that way, Aragorn decided for a direct approach. "Legolas, a word."

"What is it, Aragorn?" the elven prince asked innocently, picking up a bucket. "I'm going to get some water for Bill, Sam", he called over his shoulder and headed to the well with Aragorn in pursuit.

"Why are you doing this, Legolas?" The ranger asked.

"Why am I doing what? Why am I getting water for Bill?" Legolas inquired simply while he put the bucket on a rope and let it down well shaft.

Aragorn rolled his eyes. Why did his friend have to choose this moment to play naive? "You know exactly what I mean. Why do you act like this?"

"Act like what?"

"That man treats you like a servant and you accept it laying down, and I don't understand why. I realize that the people here don't like elves in general and Patel isn't an exception but that doesn't give you the right to treat you like this. If he knew that you're a prince he'd..."

"He'd what?" Legolas challenged, putting down the full bucket he'd pulled up on the ground noisily. His deep grey-blue eyes were shining passionately. "Maybe he'd treat me differently, but it wouldn't change the way he thinks about elves the slightest. In contrast he'd most likely add arrogance to his list of our flaws. So why not spare myself the grief? A night in the barn won't kill me and tomorrow we'll be on our way again and most likely I'll never see the man again." His eyes softened as he looked at Aragorn, smiling sadly. "Let it be, my friend," Legolas pleaded. "Tonight I'll be `the elf' and nothing more; no Prince of Mirkwood and no son of King Thranduil. Let the matter drop."

The ranger studied his friend's face for a moment to see if he was really alright with the solution. Then he sighed. "Fine," he mumbled, "have your way. But I don't have to like it."

"That's not what I asked from you. I just asked you to let me handle these things my way." Legolas smiled and nodded towards the bucket of water. "Let's get Bill his water. Sam will already wonder what we are doing out here so long."

"Yeah, let's get done here. It's getting rather fresh out here and the stew they had in the house did smell delicious."

"We can only hope that they left any of it for us. Those hobbits can get rather gluttonous..." Laughing in good humor the two walked back into the barn, finished tending to the pony and returned to the farmhouse with Sam.

| Part II |
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