Theme: Animal Friends
Elements: "The winter wind rattled the windows and the startled _ darted from behind the curtains."
Author's Notes: Inspired by a true story. Elbeth is recurrent OC of mine. She is Boromir's illegitimate daughter who has been adopted by Faramir and Éowyn.
Written for the LOTRGFIC Challenge.
With grateful thanks to Deandra.
Summary: Elbeth is worried when her cat goes missing.
Disclaimer: The familiar characters belong to Tolkien. The story is written for pleasure not profit.
"Curiosity killed the cat, satisfaction brought it back" – traditional proverb.
The winter wind rattled the windows and the startled cat darted from behind the curtains.
"Laurea!" cried Elbeth. "There's nothing to be scared of. It is only the wind."
"I expect he is upset by all the preparations for Pippin's arrival," said Faramir. "Cats greatly dislike any sort of upheaval. They are creatures of habit."
"Much like you, Uncle Faramir," said Elbeth.
The Steward laughed. "I have lived through so many turbulent times that I find daily routine enjoyable."
"Some routines are nice, but I do not enjoy my daily mathematics lessons," said Elbeth. A servant entered as she spoke and softly asked her uncle a question.
"Neither did I," said Faramir. "If you want to be a healer, though, you must be able to accurately calculate what herbs to give your patients. Now, I must go soon and see if the cook has ordered plenty of mushrooms. A visiting Hobbit is a disruption I warmly welcome."
"Does Master Pippin like cats?" asked Elbeth.
"I think so," said Faramir. "I am certain he will like Laurea. He is a very fine cat indeed."
"He's the best cat in Middle-earth," said Elbeth. "Where has he gone, now?"
"He dashed behind the couch," said Faramir.
Elbeth left the window and went to investigate. She searched every nook and cranny of the room, but there was no sign of the large ginger tom. "I can't find him," she said.
"He must have got out when the cook's boy came in," said Faramir. "He will not have gone far. I expect he is out catching mice now."
"He doesn't like going out when it's so windy," Elbeth protested.
"He has found a nice quiet corner to curl up in then," said Faramir. "He will re-emerge when he is hungry. You should be getting changed now to greet Uncle Aragorn and Master Pippin."
"Strider doesn't mind what I wear," Elbeth retorted with a scowl.
Faramir sighed. "He is our King and we should show respect to him and to Master Pippin. I wish you would call the King "Uncle Aragorn" as I told you to. Your gown is covered in cat hair!"
"The King said I could call him Strider when we first became friends," said Elbeth. "He said I could keep using that name."
Faramir sighed again. "Very well, but go and change into one of your smart gowns or Aunt Éowyn will be cross." He hurried off to speak to the cook.
Several hours later the guests had arrived and enjoyed a hearty meal. Elbeth usually would have enjoyed being allowed to dine with her elders, but tonight she was restless.
"Stop fidgeting, Elbeth," Éowyn said sternly. "Whatever is the matter with you?"
"I haven't seen Laurea for hours, Aunt," Elbeth replied. "I'm worried about him.
"I was wondering where he was too," said Aragorn. "He usually comes to greet me."
"I've a fine cat at home in the Shire," said Pippin. "He is black and white and an excellent mouser."
"Laurea is a ginger tabby with a very long tail," said Elbeth. "Please may I leave the table to go and look for him? I have finished my meal."
Éowyn glanced around the dinner table; only Pippin was still eating, having accepted a third helping.
"Don't wait for me," said the Hobbit. "I just cannot resist this delicious pie."
"Very well," said Éowyn. "If you go outside, though, you must take a servant with you."
"I will go with her," said Aragorn. "I need to stretch my legs."
"Thank you, Strider," said Elbeth as she left the room with the King. "I'm really worried."
"He cannot have gone far," said Aragorn. "Shall we look in the courtyard and the stables? Maybe he is sheltering from the wind?"
Elbeth accepted Aragorn's arm as they went outside into wind. A servant went with them, carrying a lantern. There was no sign of life in the courtyard. Many pairs of gleaming green eyes greeted them in the stables, but they belonged to the stable cats, but no Laurea appeared in response to Elbeth's calls. Aragorn lingered a little while to calm the horses spooked by the wind while Elbeth paced impatiently.
They next searched the kitchens, but found only the kitchen cats in residence. Mice and rats were a constant threat to Emyn Arnen and Faramir and Éowyn kept a good many cats to control the problem. Elbeth was fond of them all, but no cat could compare to Laurea, who had been her constant companion since he was a kitten and slept beside her on her bed each night.
"Have you looked to see if he is in your bedchamber?" Aragorn asked.
"I looked earlier, but he wasn't there," said Elbeth. "He likes to sit by the fire, but the maid couldn't light a fire in my room today as the wind is so strong it kept blowing it out."
"Why not look again?" Aragorn suggested. "He might have crept in there while we were eating."
As they approached, Elbeth's chamber, they heard a faint plaintive mewing. Elbeth's face lit up. "That is Laurea!" she said. He is in my room." She quickened her footsteps, as did Aragorn. Much to their surprise, no ginger cat ran out of the door to greet them.
Elbeth looked under her bed, calling "Laurea!" as she did so then opened the cupboard and a large chest. There was no sign of her beloved cat, but the plaintive mewing continued.
"It is coming from the chimney!" Aragorn exclaimed. The King walked over to the fireplace and peered up the chimney.
"Oh no!" cried Elbeth. "Poor Laurea. He must be trying to hide because the wind have scared him." She called up the chimney. "Come on, Laurea, it is safe to come down now."
Laurea only mewed more pitifully.
"I think he is trapped," said Aragorn. "I will try to get him down." He pulled off the embroidered tunic he was wearing and threw it on to Elbeth's bed then climbed into the fireplace and stretched his arms up the chimney.
Elbeth watched anxiously while Laurea's mewing became more frantic. After a few moments, Aragorn emerged from the fireplace. His face was covered with soot and he was frowning. "He is too far up for me to reach," he said.
Elbeth looked as if she were about to burst into tears. "Poor Laurea will die up there," she said in an unsteady voice.
"That will not happen," said Aragorn. "We shall find a way to save him. Go and fetch your Uncle Faramir. I do not want to leave a trail of sooty footprints. I need a change of boots."
Elbeth hurried off and returned a few minutes later with Faramir, Éowyn, Arwen, and Pippin.
"The poor cat!" Arwen exclaimed.
"Please get him out somehow, Uncle Faramir," Elbeth begged.
"I promise we will, even if we have to knock down the chimney breast," said Faramir.
Éowyn sighed. "It will make a dreadful mess, but we cannot let the cat starve."
Pippin had remained silent. He sauntered over to the chimney and examined it closely. Then he spoke. "I can climb up and rescue the cat," he said.
"It is too dangerous," said Arwen.
"Not for a Hobbit, Lady Arwen, and much easier than knocking the wall down. Laurea gave another plaintive mew.
Éowyn went out in the corridor and called to a passing servant to fetch an old sheet and towels and spread them in front of the hearth. She then closed the bedroom door. Pippin, meanwhile, was peeling off the finery he had worn at dinner until he was dressed only in his shirt and drawers.
"Good luck, Uncle Pippin," said Elbeth as the Hobbit climbed into the fireplace.
"I will have your cat back in two shakes of a lamb's tail," said Pippin.
Everyone held their breath as the Hobbit ascended the chimney. Laurea's mewing became increasingly frenzied.
"Don't be scared, Laurea, Uncle Pippin is trying to help you," called Elbeth.
"I have him!" Pippin's voice was muffled.
They heard scuffling sounds accompanied by a shower of soot and debris. Then Pippin stood in the hearth with a wriggling Laurea in his arms. Hobbit and cat were both as black as ink.
Oblivious of the mess, Elbeth rushed to clamp Laurea in her arms. "Thank you, Uncle Pippin, you are a hero!" she cried.
Pippin bowed to her and grinned. "The Tooks are always happy to help a maiden in distress and her cat."
Laurea wriggled free from Elbeth's embrace and leapt on to her bed, leaving a trail of sooty paw prints across the cover. Éowyn sighed resignedly and grabbed a towel to clean Laurea. She called to the servants to prepare baths for Aragorn, Pippin, and Elbeth. She rubbed the sooty cat until the white towel turned black.
Laurea wriggled free and sat down on the bed again. He regarded everyone with a superior stare and began to carefully wash himself.
"I wonder why he went up the chimney?" mused Arwen.
"He was scared of the wind, I expect," said Elbeth.
"Or maybe he was simply curious," said Aragorn. They do say "Curiosity killed the cat", but fortunately not this one."
Laurea began to purr.