Of Rangers and Cats


Of Rangers and Cats

B2MeM Prompt and Path: I love the silent hour of night, For blissful dreams may then arise, Revealing to my charmed sight What may not bless my waking eyes. “ Anne Brontë .Purple Path
Format: Short Story.
Genre: Romance, adventure
Rating: PG
Warnings: Very mild sexual content
Characters: Aragorn, Halbarad, Butterbur, Arwen, 
Pairings:Aragorn/Arwen
Creator’s Notes (optional): 
Summary:Aragorn and Halbarad seek shelter in a storm.
 


Feeling cold, stiff and hungry Aragorn slithered out from under the hedge where he had been sleeping and joined Halbarad who was already kindling a fire.

Despite wearing warm clothes and huddling together for warmth, the two had hardly slept in the bitter East wind.

As the flames shot up, Aragorn reached his hands towards them to warm them. He looked up at the lowering sky. “We need better shelter for tonight as the weather is set to get worse,” he said.

Halbarad nodded. ”Had I any coin to spare, I’d wager you whether we were set for rain, snow, sleet or hail.

 
“Most likely all four,” said Aragorn, putting a pot filled with water on the fire to boil.” This weather is too cold for even Orcs to be abroad.”

“I doubt we can reach the Angle before the clouds break,” said Halbarad. “I suggest we make for Bree and try to find shelter there in some deserted outbuilding.”

“Butterbur should let us have a room,” said Aragorn. “I have sufficient coin.”

“Oh for a warm bed and a good night’s sleep even for one night!” Halbarad sighed.

“I wake so often when I sleep under a hedge that I scarce can dream,” said Aragorn.

Halbarad laughed. “You miss dreaming! Thus speaks your upbringing in the House of Elrond, kinsman. I miss my mother;s thick goose down quilt toto cover me!”

“So do I, so let us go in search of at least a straw mattress!” Aragorn drained the last of the herbal tea he had brewed and playfully clapped Halbarad on the shoulder. The two gathered up their possessions and started off for Bree.

They had only gone a few miles when the heavens opened and a mixture of sleet and hail began to fall. The hailstones stung the Ranger’s faces painfully. They quickened their steps. Soon the hail and sleet turned to snow, the flakes falling so thick and fast it was hard to see the way ahead. Luckily, the way to Bree was a straight road so the two Rangers resolutely trudged ahead.

There were many travellers on their way to Bree to escape the storm. The Rangers were thankful that for once the Gatekeeper was too preoccupied to insult them and simply let them pass with a glare.

It seemed all the travellers were making their way to the Prancing Pony. When Aragorn and Halbarad finally entered they could hardly push their way through the crowded taproom. When Butterbur finally came to serve them, Aragorn ordered two tankards of ale, some stew, and a room for the night.

“Ale and stew there is aplenty,” said Butterbur. “Every room is taken though.”

The two Rangers visibly sagged.

“Can you suggest where else we might stay?” asked Aragorn.

Butterbur scratched his head. ”I don’t rightly know. Everywhere will be full on a night like this. It was market day and many folk are in town.”

“Could we sleep on the floor by the fire?” asked Halbarad.

Butterbur shook his head. “There’s already half a dozen folks doing that and they won’t want to share with no Rangers,” he replied.

“So you are sending us out into the freezing night?” Aragorn could not keep the bitterness from his tone.”

“It ain’t fit out there for a dog so I reckon it ain’t fit for no Rangers even either,” said the innkeeper. “If you don’t mind horses you can sleep in the stable, but don’t be going and stealing anything, mind!”

“Rangers are honest men,” said Aragorn with dignity. ”We thank you for your kind offer.”

“I hope I won’t live to regret it,” said Butterbur. “Now I’ve got customers to attend to.” He bustled away.

A serving wench brought the two Rangers their food and drink which they devoured with relish. All too soon their mugs were drained and their plates cleared.

Butterbur appeared with a lantern and showed them out to the stable. One of the stalls was unoccupied and it was there they prepared to settle down for the night.

“Now don’t be going a touching anything or disturbing honest folk in their beds,” admonished Butterbur. He left, taking the lantern with him.

The Rangers were left alone in the inky blackness out of which loomed several pairs of gleaming eyes, yellow, gold and green.

“What the?” exclaimed Halbarad.

“The stable cats,” said Aragorn with a chuckle. “You should be acustomed to Lithui in the dark by now.”

She sleeps in Mother's room,” Halbarad retorted. “At least no rats will disturb our slumbers.”

A bed fit for a King!” said Aragorn.

“To think that you should have to sleep in a stable!” said Halbarad glumly. “ How low our people have fallen! You, who are entitled by birth to rule these lands.”

“I have known far worse,” said Aragorn. “At least we are warm and dry and the straw is clean. Now let us rest and hope the storm will have passed by the morrow.”

He burrowed into the hay and closed his eyes. He could hear occasional sounds from the horses and scuffles as the cats went about their nocturnal hunting. The stable faded and he was in front of a great city, which he recognised as Minas Tirith. Cheering crowds surrounded him and Master Elrond and Gandalf approached. Gandalf carried the crown while Elrond bore the sceptre of the Northern Kings. At his side, walked Arwen wearing a billowing silver garment.

“You have prevailed. Now take my daughter with my blessing,” said Elrond. Aragorn was just about to express his joy and gratitude when the scene changed. He was now alone with Arwen in a luxurious bedchamber. Her silver gown had been replaced by an almost sheer white garment which accentuated every beautiful curve of her body.

She lay beside him on the bed and pulled him close. “Beloved!” she sighed. “How I have longed for this moment!” Her lips met his and he was filled with a blissful sensation from his crown to his toes. Just then, a horse neighed loudly.

Aragorn was just wondering what a horse was doing in the bridal bedchamber when he found himself back in the stable.

Halbarad was already abroad and patting a chestnut horse that was craning its neck into their stall. Sunlight streamed through the cracks in the doorway. ”I thought you would sleep the day away,” said Halbarad. “I had not the heart to wake you as by the way you were smiling you were having pleasant dreams.”

“Very pleasant,” said Aragorn, reluctantly forcing his mind back to the present. It was hard to leave the delightful images that the dream had conjured in his brain. But until his dreams became reality, in his slumbers he could taste what his heart so yearned for. “Come,” he said. “Let us partake of breakfast at the inn and be on our way while the sun shines on us. We should reach the Angle ere dusk.”


 Chapter Two -Things that go bump in the night. 

Aragorn tossed restlessly. He sighed. He had been looking forward to his patrol duties ending and spending some time under Aunt Inzilbeth’s roof rather than sleeping in the open. Sleep, though was proving elusive. Beside him, Halbarad snored loudly. It was so different from his spacious, comfortable room at Rivendell with the large bed to himself and no sound save the distant waterfall to lull him to sleep.

What was that sound in the corner, a scrabbling and a scuffling? He tried to ignore it and go back to sleep. Minutes passed while the rustling sounds increased and Halbarad’s snoring grew louder. Unable to bear it any longer, Aragorn jabbed his cousin in the ribs with his elbow.

“Um?” Halbarad muttered sleepily.

“You were snoring fit to wake the dead.”

“I was not.”

“And what is that scuffling in the corner?”

“Mice, I assume.” Halbarad yawned.

“Mice indoors? We need a cat,” Aragorn exclaimed.

Halbarad burrowed deeper under the covers. “We have a cat.” The blankets muffled his voice. “Mother is very fond of her.”

“I know she is, but she is half blind with hardly any teeth left.”

“What of it? She is good company for mother.”

“We need a mouser.”

“What now? It’s the middle of the night!”

“I mean in the morning.”

Halbarad’s head emerged from under the blankets. “There is an old woman in the village who feeds all the stray cats. No doubt she could find you a good mouser. I don’t know what you are fretting about, though, there are mice aplenty in the woods and fields and in the stable where we slept last week.”

“That is where they belong!” Aragorn retorted but Halbarad’s head was again buried beneath the blankets. Within moments, his cousin was snoring loudly again. The scuffling grew louder. Aragorn feared the sound was now coming from under the bed. What if it were a rat and not a mouse? There had never been any rodents inside the Last Homely House. Master Elrond would have been horrified. Rats and mice spread all manner of diseases.

He had no objection to rodents in the woods and fields. They had every right to make their home there. He was untroubled by their presence when he was wearing thick boots and gloves. He felt very vulnerable lying here in only his nightshirt and drawers. Aunt Inzilbeth would object though if he wore his boots in bed. He thought of donning his socks, but then remembered they were hanging outside on the washing line. Aunt Inzilbeth always insisted on washing his and Halbarad's socks and linens when they returned from patrol.

Aragorn wondered if he should have accepted the offer of the Chieftain's House to live in. Then he thought of the young family who were living there. He could also have chosen to live with Grandmother Ivorwen, but she had sugested he might be happier with some younger company. Therefore, it had been decided it was better for him to stay with his aunt and cousin during the brief respites he had from his duties patrolling the wilds.

The scuffling seemed to have gone quiet for now. Aragorn closed his eyes and finally fell asleep.

000

Early the next morning, Aragorn and Halbarad made their way to Dame Haleth's home at the other side of the village. Aunt Inzilbeth had proved surprisingly easy to convince that there was a need for a second cat. Stroking Lithui, her old grey cat, she said, “Lithui keeps my chambers free of mice, but maybe she needs some help upstairs in the loft. Be sure you find a nice friendly cat that won't upset her.

Everyone in the village knew Dame Haleth as a lover of cats. The lady had never married, preferring to fill her home with a variety of felines as well as feeding all the strays in the village. It was obviously feeding time when Aragorn and Halbarad arrived as a selection of cats in every size and hue were clustered around her doorstep.

“Do you have a good mouser for my mother, Dame Haleth?” asked Halbarad after they bade the lady good morning.

“She wants a sweet natured cat that will not tease Lithui,” Aragorn added.

Haleth thoughtfully surveyed the cluster of cats around her ankles. Then she bent down and picked up a large ginger tom. “This is Brann,” she said. “He’s a proven mouser and the sweetest cat you can find anywhere. I’m loth to see him go, but I know Mistress Inzilbeth will look after him well.”

“Thank you,” said Aragorn, reaching to take the cat from her. The ginger tom settled in his arms and purred contentedly.

000

That night, Aragorn prepared for bed in an optimistic mood. After inspecting every corner of the chamber, Brann had settled down to sleep at the foot of the bed.

Reassured that no rodents would get past their feline guardian, Aragorn quickly fell asleep. He was lost in pleasant dreams of Master Elrond’s fair daughter when a loud crash rudely awakened him. Brann had leapt from the bed and was tearing wildly around the room.

“That cat makes more noise than the mice,” observed Halbarad, who was also woken by the din.

A squeak sounded from under the bed.

“At least it sounds as if he is dispatching the mice,” said Aragorn. Trying to ignore the bumps and thuds, he pulled the blankets over his face and went back to sleep.

Aragorn was awakened again by a thud as Brann landed next to his pillow. Then a paw tapped him on the head. “It’s not morning yet,” he muttered sleepily, pulling the covers more closely around him.

He was tapped on the head again, this time the paw had claws extended. What felt like a dozen paws pulled at the covers. In the grey light of dawn, he could see a dead mouse on his pillow.

000

Aragorn decided to take advantage of his Grandmother Ivorwen’s invitation to spend a few days with her any time he wished. Maybe Brann would have disposed of all the mice by the time he returned to his aunt’s.

“So how is your mother?” enquired Ivorwen as they ate dinner together that night.

“She was well when I last received a letter from her,” said Aragorn.

“A good girl, my Gilraen, not stubborn like Inzilbeth,” said Ivorwen. “I told her she needed a new mouser years ago. She could have had one of my Emig’s kittens.” She affectionately patted the plump tabby that sat at her feet. “Emig is an excellent mouser.”

“I shall sleep peacefully tonight then,” said Aragorn.

“As I was saying, your mother was always a good obedient girl. She accepted her destiny.”

“Her destiny?”

“To give birth to you, the hope of our people. How it gladdens my heart to have you under my roof this night.”

Uncomfortable at this talk of his destiny, Aragorn pleaded weariness and retired to bed.

Exhausted by his lack of the sleep the previous two nights, the young Chieftain quickly fell asleep.

It seemed he had only been asleep a short time when he was awakened by a scratching at the window. Scratch, scrape, scratch.

Aragorn tried to ignore the sounds and burrowed under the covers. The sounds continued. Maybe it was some intruder?

Aragorn wearily clambered out of bed. Clasping his sword in his hand, he cautiously peered out into the moonlit garden. A large branch from the cherry tree in the garden was scraping across the window in the night breeze.

Aragorn sighed both with relief and frustration. He could hardly risk rousing his Grandmother by pruning the offending branch in the moonlight. He passed a restless night and mentioned it to Ivorwen over breakfast.

“Ah, Dirhael’s tree!” she exclaimed. “He planted it when we were first wed. I love to hear it tapping against the window. You will soon get used to it.”

Before Aragorn could say anything, there was a knock on the door. It wastrol Halbarad.

“Orcs have been spotted near the next village,” he said. “We need to set out on patrol at once.”

“You poor lads!” exclaimed Ivorwen. “You've hardly had time to rest after your last patrol.”

Aragorn struggled to contain his delight as he bade his grandmother farewell. Maybe out in the wilds he might get a good night's sleep.

TBC



Make a free website with Yola