Traveller by elwen of the hidden valley

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Story Notes:

With apologies to JRR Tolkien and James Hilton for combining their works as a basis for this small fanfic.

He sat, as he had for the past three hours, watching ducks dabble in the shallow lake, the people strolling too and fro. King James' Park was one of his favourite places. Here he spent several hours each day watching tourists from every nation traipse down to Buckingham Palace with their cameras and digital phones, posing before the ducks and swans before hurrying on. They never stayed as long as he. Too long admiring the shrubbery and they would miss the changing of the guard . . . one more 'old-fashioned' ceremony to cross off their over-crowded itineraries.

He smiled. Old-fashioned was such a new-fashioned concept. The Changing of the Guard had been happening for no more than a few years in the long stream of time. He had watched the first formal ceremony and it sometimes amused him to see how it evolved with the years.

A young woman slowed as she passed him, her assessing gaze registering approval of the tall, denim clad man, with his long hair glistening silver in the English summer sun. He straightened but made a point of not engaging with her gaze and she pouted prettily before moving on. How long had it been since he had touched the naked skin of another? He remembered the satin texture of her skin, the heavy golden fall of her hair on his damp chest. His mind told him it was long, long ago while his heart tried to convince him it was only yestereve.

Another drew his eye, dark clothing out of place amongst the summer pastels of those around him. A large gun was cradled in the crook of his arm and his finger rested upon the trigger guard. “Police” was the word emblazoned in white on his armoured chest and back. The crowds parted, flowed around him as though he were a rock in a river. Nobody approached, although some took photographs a little self consciously, as though fearing it was against some law. Perhaps it was. He paid little attention to laws for they seemed to him to be in a constant state of flux, in the same way that the society creating them stepped forward, back and then forward again.

A stray breeze lifted a lock of his long hair and he raised a hand to smooth it down over his ears. Decades ago short hair had been the fashion and he had been forced to live in hats. Fortunately for him, hats had been the fashion too. Over the past fifty years, however, long hair had become acceptable again and he enjoyed feeling the weight of it, the way it swung as he moved, the way it covered his ears. Now he checked the tightness of the leather thong binding it at his nape. It would not do to draw too much attention to himself and, even in this age of cosmetic surgery, body paint and piercing, his ears would do so.

Ten years ago, or was it fifteen? The blink of an eye. He settled upon ten. Ten years ago he had been sitting thus when a tall woman of slender build and middle years had thrust a card into his hand before hurrying away. When he examined it later he noted that it was for an escort agency. He had not called the number printed so neatly at the bottom corner. He was proud enough to be flattered, knowing that women found him attractive, but there were other ways to earn a living that would not betray his love.

Over time, shrewd investments had ensured that nowadays he no longer needed to work, but he found it pleasant to do something with his days. After all, England could not be relied upon to provide an endless stream of warm sunny days for sitting in the park. The cold and wet did not injure his body but it was uncomfortable, and sitting upon a bench for hours in the pouring rain would certainly draw unwelcome attention. Currently he worked as a jeweller, his beautiful silver pieces sold in only the most exclusive of establishments. It was a profession he returned to every few decades but he had also worked as an architect, an apothecary, a physician, a travelling minstrel, a painter, and a sculptor, to name but a few. He had even once worked as a chef (a profession for which he quickly discovered he had little aptitude).

He glanced at his watch and unfolded his long length, bending to collect his compact suitcase. It was time to walk up to Trafalgar Square and the tube station. His flight would be leaving in five hours. He inhaled deeply of London, only just detecting the scent of blossoms beneath the acrid smell of diesel fumes.

Perhaps when next he returned the internal combustion engine would be a thing of the past. He hoped so. Indeed he hoped London would be here to return to. So many times down recent centuries it had seemed unlikely that the huge city would survive and each time he left it he wondered if this would be his last goodbye. He sighed. The age of men had started with such promise.

He waited with a throng of people at the pedestrian crossing, while a steady stream of buses, taxi's and other vehicles passed. More people fell in behind him until, when the lights changed, they all lurched forward as one, bent upon reaching the relative safety of the central reservation. Here, even crammed into this small island between lines of moving vehicles that filled his nose with the sharpness of spent fuel and coated his clothes with oily soot, a small clear area surrounded him. Those around him probably perceived on some subliminal level that he, like the policeman, held power tightly leashed.

The lights released him once more and he joined those filing toward the entrance to the subway, descending the steps from golden sunshine to the harsh white glare of the station concourse. That would be his last real experience of fresh air for many days. From now on he would breathe the flat and filtered air of airport lounges and train carriages. At least the introduction of the aeroplane had shortened his journey home by many months. On this latest sojourn it surprised him when he listened to people bemoaning the length of time it took to reach a place half way around the world. Then again, on occasion it still surprised him to think of the world as round at all.

He placed his card upon the appropriate pad and pushed through the turnstile, pausing only long enough to select the correct platform before moving on. In his imagination the icy blast from an air conditioning duct was already the clean, cold air of the Himalayas and his thoughts skipped ahead.

At one of the highest passes of this world Celeborn would be met by porters, perhaps even the sons of Elrond. They would collect the boxes he had sent on ahead, the carefully chosen and packaged paintings, statues and books, as well as many other basic stuffs not available in that less populated place. Then, together, they would once again make the journey over that last secret pass and down into the hidden valley, the riven dell. In a region beset by earthquakes Imladris yet remained untouched, quietly waiting to release her stored riches of art and lore to a future, more enlightened world.


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