A/N: Hello there! Sorry for the slight delay guys, life has been crazy these past few weeks... But I promise, I'm not going anywhere until this magnificent story is finished. I am such a proud mother to have accomplished a tale like this one that I won't abandon it again, may it rain Hell on me or not...
Disclaimer: Any recognizable piece of dialogue or character is the property of J.R.R. Tolkien and his heirs and/or of Sir Peter Jackson. I only own my two main OCs Baraz and Filí, son of Kilí, and some secundary characters.
Playlist for this chapter: Rivendell, and Gilraen's Memorial, from The Fellowship of the Ring's OST.
29. Return to the Last Homely House
Leaving Minas Tirith felt like being torn apart for the umpteenth time to Baraz. The day Lord Elrond's delegation was to leave, Aragorn and the rest of the small community of friends that had assembled there gathered in the courtyard to say their goodbyes. And she didn't feel ready to leave them.
The only person missing was the Lady Eowyn, for she and her brother King Eomer had left to lay their uncle to rest in the land of their forefathers. She and Baraz had parted as friends, and Eowyn had already sent her a letter with a dried white flower called symbelmynë. Faramir had also received one, although his letter was far longer.
When she joined the group in the courtyard, her pack on her shoulder, her elven cloak in place and her bow and quiver in hand, Baraz felt a strong sense of déjà-vu hit her. It was like leaving Rivendell all over again. Except perhaps, this time, the shadow of danger and death eluded her and her party. Perhaps.
"Aier," came the quiet beckoning of Arwen. She stood, radiant, next to her husband, whose arm was around her waist and whose smile was so wide he looked like another man altogether. "Safe travels, my friend. Remember what I said: be happy."
Baraz let down pack and weapons and came to stand by them both, feeling tears prickle her eyes. "I will miss you both enormously."
"Come now, Baraz," Aragorn said as he laid a gentle hand on her slender shoulder, "we both know this is not the end. We shall see each other again."
She nodded, and Arwen came to kiss her forehead, which she answered with a bow of the head and a hand to her heart. Both royals answered in the same manner, and thus used the elven ways.
Fíli had been conversing with Gimli in Khuzdûl, and when the two banged their heads against the other, the sound was so resounding that most people present looked at them in awe. Baraz approached her cousin with a small smile, for this was not goodbye, not really, and she raised her hands in surrender. "I will pass, if you do not mind."
Gimli laughed his boisterous laughter. "Aye, lass, yer head is too fragile for tha'!"
She smiled back and leaned down to kiss his cheek gently, before she moved to the Elf who was standing close. "Mellon-nîn."
Legolas' smile was beautiful, she realised, and it made her painfully aware also that she probably was the only person here that day who thought she would never see her friends again. He probably caught her meaning, for he gently brought her closer.
Elves never hugged people. Baraz had hugged Tauriel countless times, and Legolas a few, but neither had been comfortable with it, so the fact that the Elven prince actually drew her into one was saying much.
He held her for a fraction of a second, then bowed the head in the fashion of his people. "Lissenen ar' maska'lalaith tenna' lye omentuva, Aier." Sweet water and light laughter till next we meet.
She smiled, for this was a farewell that was rarely said but very much appropriate, and she nodded. "Tenna' telwan san'." Until later then.
Tauriel was an easier feat than the others, for she would be in Erebor, or close enough, once Baraz went back. The two friends exchanged gentle words, and then, the only two people left were a tall wizard and a Man who looked eerily like his older brother.
Baraz looked upon them as she realised Gandalf and Boromir were the first people she had lost in this stupid war, and yet they still lived, one by sheer power, the other through his kin. And it made her heart leap a bit.
"Miss Baraz, safe travels. I hope the Shire is still as you remember it." Gandalf smiled like his old self, and she was reminded of the old boon launching fireworks into the air at a party of sorts.
She smiled back and looked to Faramir. "I was blessed to make your acquaintance, Faramir of Gondor. I shall treasure our conversations in my heart."
"Likewise, Miss Poppy," he answered with a gentle smile. He had caught to use her nickname, for Pippin, who was his constant companion, would not call her anything else.
She kissed his cheek too, and then turned to witness the parting of the Halflings with their friends.
Frodo and Sam were waiting, looking awkwardly at peace with their leaving, even if the former Ring-bearer - although apparently both could bear the name - was eyeing Gandalf as if his absence would be sorely felt.
When Merry and Pippin tackled Faramir to the ground, the whole group erupted in laughter, and Baraz joined. Yes, after all, it didn't have to really be goodbyes.
A hand tucked itself in hers, and she exchanged a smile with Fíli. "Ready?" he asked, and she nodded calmly.
The journey was a quiet one, without anything amiss on the road.
The Elves of Rivendell guided the Halflings and two Dwarves through roads they had not taken yet, through the yellow and brown land of Rohan - and Merry and Baraz were sad not to be able to visit Edoras - up to the rocky Gap of Rohan, and then they were staring into the West.
It was summer, would still be for a few weeks, and Baraz fell to her knees on the grass, her eyes welling up in tears as she gazed at the sea of green she could see as far as her eyes could. It was not the Shire, not yet, but last she had been in these parts, she was another person.
A hand touched her shoulder and she grasped it, starting a bit when she realised it was not Fíli as she expected, but Frodo, the unmissable feel of his missing finger his giveway.
She looked up into the baby-blue eyes, and he had a small smile on his lips. "We are not the same, Poppy, but this is our home. Where we were born. Shall we?"
She nodded and stood, her heart leaping in her throat when she realised that Frodo was the one who had changed the most. Sam had found his bravery; Merry had found his fire; Pippin had found some sort of wisdom; Fíli had become a man; she had become battle-hardened; but Frodo, Frodo had become an old soul. He had seen and lived too much to ever be cheerful again. His gaze upon the West was so sad and so empty that she thought he was an empty shell, filled with shadows and memories of a fire raging in his mind.
No, none of them was the same as before. But the Shire would redeem them, she was sure of it. She needed to be sure of it...
The West had been relatively safe from the War during all these months, and yet, as they made their way through the Wild and towards the North, the Elves and their Dwarven companions started seeing the unmistakeable signs of an army passing by.
Ashes of a hundreds fires, animal carcasses left to rot in the sun, and ever and ever, footprints too big to be any Man's.
"Ehlark," Baraz called one morning as the Elf - whom she had gotten acquainted to through his love of music - inspected traces of an even larger gathering, "mani naa ta?" What is it?
The Elf moved his auburn hair to the side and looked upon her gravely. "Glamothea," he whispered with hatred. Orcs. "Tanya naa n'quel." That is not good.
Baraz frowned and looked at the marks herself. It appeared that the beasts had taken the same route as them. Were they heading to the Hidden Valley? Or even further North, to the Ettenmoors?
Ehlark stood and looked down at her with a reassuring gaze. "Heru en amin sintava." My Lord will know.
She nodded, and their party started again in the pale morning. No one thought anything was amiss. Not the four Halflings talking about beds and second breakfasts anyway...
Rivendell. Home of the Lord Elrond and his kin, the High Elves of the West. Magnificent city buried in the Mountain and surrounded by air, water, earth, and the fire of the Sun.
Baraz had never felt more at peace than in this valley, and as she gazed upon the ivy-covered pillars for the first time in a year, a tear escaped her eye. She had a strong feeling settling in the pit of her stomach, and it eclipsed every other thought in that precise moment. I am home.
"Mahal," Fíli breathed, and his fingers squeezed Baraz' shoulder as he passed her to stare at the city in awe. He had never seen an Elven city before, and to her, Rivendell was indeed the most beautiful. She smiled, and the smile turned into a delighted gasp when she saw two well-known figures coming to join their group from further up the bridge.
"Glorfindel!" she exclaimed, and the golden-haired Elf smiled widely, a sight most beautiful in the setting sun. Elrohir - or was it Elladan? - quietly greeted his fellow Elves, and the Hobbits were staring at him in awe, for the twins were indeed their father's spitting image, and they had not met them before, unlike herself.
"Aier," the tall Elf breathed. "I am so glad to see you again." He bowed the head and then offered her his arm, which she took with a smile wider than her face. "Come now, you need your peace."
Baraz looked up at her friend, then back at the Last Homely House West of the Sea. Yes, she would find her peace there...
And the Shire would wait for her...
A/N: I just realise now that this chapter is awfully short... So I promise longer ones in the future. Just as it once was, and just as it should be. :)