4. Chapter Three: Shelob's Children
With the White City behind them, Arwen and Eowyn began their long journey to the Blue Mountains, travelling through the meandering vein of the mighty Anduin River whose water flowed through much of Middle Earth. To Arwen’s great surprise, it was far more difficult than she had believed possible to leave Minas Tirith behind her. Two years past when she had bid Rivendell farewell to take her place at Aragorn’s side as his wife and Queen, Arwen had done so with a heavy heart. For though she knew her destiny awaited her in the White City, a part of her would always miss her childhood home. Yet as the Anduin bore her further away from Gondor’s heart towards an uncertain future, she found herself pining for Minas Tirith intensely. It was a strange thing the heart, Arwen decided, that it bestowed its affections so easily upon a place that in her reckoning, had existed for only a hair's breadth of time and yet in that short space had come to mean as much to her as Imladris or Lothlorien.
She knew that much of her sorrow had to do with the quest that lay before her and the yearning for Aragorn and the strong comfort of his arms. As they sailed down the river, her hand rested gently upon her belly, almost as if she could feel the life slumbering within, needing to feel some connection with the babe she carried for he was the all she had of his father. Arwen loathed her weakness and her desperate need for her beloved Estel. She needed to be strong for both her husband and child. What good could she be to either of them if even now, she pined for one while travelling to face the evil that sought to harm the other? She wished she had Eowyn’s strength for Eowyn did not shirk in the face of danger, nor did she yearn for someone else to protect her from it. Eowyn’s way was to face the enemy even if the enemy was her own frailty.
Eowyn noticed her Queen's distress but said little to call attention to it. If it were her facing such terrible evil, Eowyn would know Arwen’s fear as well. She remained strong for her sovereign because Arwen needed her to be in order to draw strength from her own courage. While she did not speak it out loud, Eowyn was filled with admiration at what Arwen was attempting to do. It was a hard thing that Arwen intended, to seek out an Enemy that was almost certainly capable of killing them both, in order to protect the unborn child in her womb. Lesser women would have turned to their men by now for such protection but not Arwen, her love for her King was only superseded by her bravery and though she fought in ways that were not of the sword, she was no less formidable in her own right.
They traveled, engaging in pleasant conversation, as if they were taking a trip to visit an old friend, rather than embarking upon a crusade that could see them both dead before it was done. Eowyn tried not to speak too frequently about the Enemy, aware that Arwen was mindful of him enough already. There was no reason to remind her of what they faced. They sailed down the Anduin, revisited by past journeys and reminiscing about the days when life was not as complicated or as changed as it was now. Yet despite their best efforts, the shadow of the Enemy still lingered at the edge of their consciousness. It denied them forgetfulness from danger they were moving swiftly towards for more than an instant, never allowing them, even for an instant, to forget the danger they were moving towards.
The first break in their journey took place at Cair Andros though they remained there only briefly for Arwen was eager to resume their travel to the north. She had until the next full moon to vanquish the Enemy or else be faced with an unimaginable choice that she had yet to reveal to Eowyn. Arwen knew Eowyn’s devotion to her as a friend and to her queen would not allow the Shield Maiden of Rohan to sit by idly if she intended to do harm to herself. In truth, Arwen had no wish to embark upon such a course. However, her thoughts were fixed not merely upon her beloved Estel or the torment of he would suffer knowing his son was going to become such an instrument of evil but also on the fates of all the races of Middle Earth. Melkor could not be allowed to live again. knowing his son was going to become such an instrument of evil, but also on the fates of all the races of Middle Earth. Melkor could not be allowed to live again. Middle Earth had barely survived the reign of Sauron and was not ready to endure a source of even greater darkness.
As frightened as she was that she might lose her child if she failed, Arwen was even more afraid of what would happen if she did not lose him and still failed.
At Cair Andros, Arwen and Eowyn encountered Galain, the Steward of the island fortress in which the city was encased. Galain had fought alongside Eowyn at the Battle of Pelennor Fields and the two former comrades in arms were more than happy to lay eyes upon each other again. Galain was doubly honored that he not only had the Lady of Ithilien as a guest but also Queen Arwen herself. He inquired after her husband the king and gave hearty reports as to the state of affairs in the region, citing that Orc activity had been driven northward back to their traditional lands where the Misty Mountains and the Grey Mountains meet. Galain offered his apologies for being unable to attend the celebration at Minas Tirith, a trespass Arwen obligingly forgave upon hearing and gave him the King’s best tidings, knowing that Aragorn would have done so had he been present.
Neither Eowyn nor Arwen told the man of Cair Andros the true purpose of their journey.
Arwen revealed only that the impending birth of her child had sparked in her a desire to see the places of her childhood. Thus she was travelling to Lothlorien and Rivendell while she was still able, before the swell of her baby’s growth kept her bound in the White City indefinitely. Galain, a man married with a host of children, understood this desire for his wife was a lady of spirit and was more than happy to aid his queen in so personal a desire. He provided Arwen and Eowyn with fine horses each and offered them passage to the Western Shore for they could not cross Rauros Falls by way of the Anduin and could only pass it by travelling by land.
They left Cair Andros after remaining in the company of Galain and his family for a night. Although he invited them to stay longer, for it was a great honor to his house to have so distinguish a guest as the Queen, Galain understood her need to depart and bid her and the Lady Eowyn well on their journey. A boat ferried them from the fortress to the Western Shore with Eowyn mindful of everything from the instant they set foot on dry land once again. Although Galain was convinced that the Orcs were no more a plague within this region, Eowyn was not anxious to see him proven wrong with Arwen in such a delicate state. She insisted upon maintaining a brisk pace past the falls so that they could return to the safety of the Anduin in journeying towards Lothlorien.
Upon reaching the shore from Cair Andros, they allowed themselves to follow by the flow of the Anduin, as it rushed speedily towards Rauros Falls. Even from the land, the ladies of Gondor and Ithilien could see the currents moving swiftly towards the turbulent cascade of the great river and in far quicker time then they thought it possible, they soon caught sight of cloud like spray that arose from its churning waters. Of the great cascade, they saw little unless they desired to follow the land and stand upon the rocks near the shore where it emptied , but theirs was not a mission of leisure. It was one of urgency and sensibly, they turned their horses to an easier path in the woods to take them beyond its fury.
They had not journeyed very far when they reached a wood clearing that Eowyn had never visited but knew well enough from the King’s stories about the Fellowship and her own husband’s recollections from his one visit. At first, she had not realised that she had come upon the place, however, upon reflection; she realised that it could be no other since they were so close to Rauros Falls. The 'Hill of Sight' known to most as Amon Hen offered them a sweeping view of the wood beneath and as Eowyn stood there, with Arwen watching in equal silent reverence, she could almost feel the presence of the man who had died here. Eowyn knew little of life after death, if such a thing existed for the race of men as it existed for the Elves. Yet as she stood in silent vigilance of what she knew not, it felt as if he had never left this place and would always be bound to the wood in which Boromir had fallen.
"It was here," Arwen remarked, feeling the same sadness as she knew that Eowyn was enduring. "Here the Fellowship was broken."
"It was not his fault," Eowyn said softly with her back facing away from the Queen, her eyes glistening with tears that she would not show to anyone, not even to Arwen. "He was a good man and though I never loved him as I love his brother, he was a friend. He just wanted so badly to help his people and the Ring used that need to seduce him."
"Faramir does not know?" Arwen asked.
"I saw little reason to tell him," Eowyn wiped her tears away and met Arwen’s gaze. "We met only but once and it was while Faramir was still a Ranger of Ithilien. It was on the eve before all the trouble with Mordor began and he had come to my father's court with his own father, the Steward of Gondor, to discuss a possible marriage. I did not love him and he knew it but we accepted that if it must be, we could be friends at least. When the War of the One Ring was done, I saw how the pain of his brother’s loss hurt Faramir, so I remained silent. In truth, there was little to tell him other than for a very brief instant of time I could have been Boromir’s wife."
"The halflings Pippin and Merry watched his end," Arwen said softly. "The halflings Pippin and Merry watched his end," Arwen said softly. "They said he fought nobly, even after he tried to take the One Ring. I do believe they love your brother as much as they do for he is also their last link to Boromir. I know Estel would not have become the King he is if he had not known Boromir."
"He always had the ability to infect people with his cause," Eowyn allowed herself a sad smile. "When he spoke of the White City, you could almost see it with his words. He loved Minas Tirith so, you could see it in his eyes and feel the same longing for it after a time."
"Do you wish to make camp here tonight?" Arwen asked, feeling much empathy for Eowyn at this time. It was a sad thing to lose a friend and what might have been. She had met Boromir briefly but her impressions of the Man of Gondor had been no different than Eowyn’s. He had been a good man with heart enough to fight a world of Orcs if it meant saving his people and it was the greatest obscenity of all that the One Ring was allowed to twist such noble intentions into such dark desire.
"No," Eowyn shook her head. "I had been meaning to come here for some time, to say my own farewells and I have done so. I will always think of Boromir as one who could have taken my heart if there had been time enough but what we might have been is a feast never served and I do love Faramir."
"I think that would please him," the queen said knowingly. "I think Boromir would be happy that you and Faramir have found each other."
"I think so too," Eowyn replied and let out a heavy sigh, dispelling all the grief and sadness that had been lingering in her heart for the last two years over this matter. She had wanted to come here long before this but doing so would require telling Faramir why and she was not ready to do that. Perhaps one day she would be able to tell him the truth but at this moment, it was enough that she had made this one pilgrimage.
Composing herself, she turned to Arwen and gestured to the horses. "Come," she started towards the animals tethered to a tree not far behind them. "We should continue. We have much ground to cover."
And so they resumed their travels, travelling steadfastly through the day after leaving Amon Hen past the rushing waters of Rauros Falls. Once Boromir’s final resting place was behind them, Eowyn’s mood improved vastly and made a brisk pace towards Cadras Nar, a small fishing village that would be able to furnish them with a boat to continue their journey down the Anduin. Eowyn was eager to reach this riverside community because she was of staying out in the open, especially when the Enemy might be seeking his prize now that she had travel beyond the boundaries of his palantir and out of his seeing. They rode without pausing even though Eowyn suggested that it might be wise to do so since the Queen for all her resilience and determination was still with child and should take caution with the life inside her. However, Arwen was equally resolved to forge on ahead and so they traveled deep into the evening, until the sun had set.
The first thing Arwen noticed when they arrived at Cadras Nar was the silence.
She thought perhaps that the hour was too late for these folk and they were all to bed. But as they entered the streets of the small town upon their horses, the animals seemed troubled and it took some urging to force them to continue. There were no lantern lights beckoning them through the windows in any of the cottages, nor did smoke rise out of chimneys. There was not even the sound of livestock in the barns or footsteps in the distant. There was nothing at all.
Arwen and Eowyn rode past the local tavern, often the most popular place in such villages and saw that it too, was devoid of any folk. The sign hanging upon its entrance swayed back and forth aimlessly in the wind and the door lay wide and inviting to the darkness. Eowyn’s hand dropped to her sword, for there was something of this place that reeked of danger. The silence overpowered them and made Arwen shudder with trepidation. There was the visible stench of death but how that might have taken place was beyond either of them, for if it were not for the lack of people, all appeared as it should..
"There is something a foot here," Eowyn said softly. "I do not like the look of this. We should leave."
"Yes," Arwen agreed readily. "Should we continue onward or should we try to find a boat and depart by way of the river?’
"I would like to leave this place as soon as we can," Eowyn confessed as she remained astride her horse, her eyes searching the darkened streets for some sort of answer to the mystery before them. "However, I would rather we travel by river to put some distance between us and this place. On the river, we can see danger coming, not be overwhelmed by it like this terrible silence."
Arwen could not fault her for that reasoning and confessed to having a desire to be upon the water as well. Her powers as an Elven Princess were slight, even more so since she had become mortal but in the river, she was able to wield some magic and it could be enough to protect her if the peril that had overtaken the village of Cadras Nar chose to attack. "I concur with you on this," Arwen replied softly, not daring to speak any louder in case something stirred in the dark. "I too would rather continue our journey from this place by boat. Our horses will return to their masters once we are gone."
"We must find a vessel to take us then," Eowyn replied, nudging her mount towards the edge of the river, in order to make such a search.
There was a terrible feeling of foreboding in both of them as they reached the shore of the river and dismounted. Their horses were still fretful and both riders were required to soothe the beasts’ anxiety lest they should bolt in their fright and leave Arwen and Eowyn stranded in this silent village. There was no doubt in either Arwen or Eowyn’s minds that the people of Cadras Nar were dead. Even though they had seen no bodies that might give proof of this, the two women could feel the stench of doom that had befallen this place. Something terrible had happened in this place and both were eager to leave before they endured the same vile fate.
Following the shale covered shore, Eowyn and Arwen soon caught sight of a pier to which fishing boats were tethered. They remained anchored, appearing just as desolate as the homes the women had seen upon first entering the town. Neither spoke as they made their way to the forgotten collection of vessels, varying in size and use. There were larger fishing boats, which were constructed to catch a great abundance of fish, there were smaller boats that appeared to be for smaller catches, probably enough to feed ones family and finally there were canoes built for travel which was precisely what they needed.
"If you go seek out a boat and make it ready for our use," Eowyn replied as she stepped onto the wooden dock. "I shall unpack our things from the horses and lead them on the road away from here."
"Are you certain that is wise?" Arwen stared at her in concern, not eager to be parted from her travelling companion in this eerie place.
"I will not stray far," Eowyn replied promptly, understanding her fear all to well. "I shall only go onto the road and release the horses. We have no need of them once we leave and I should not like to think they might fall prey to whatever happened here."
"Alright," Arwen nodded, she swept her gaze across the shoreline and felt the hollowness in her stomach increase at the sight of the darkened houses that travel up and down its length. "Do not be long."
Eowyn nodded and turned away to tend to the unpacking while Arwen stepped onto the dock to find them a means of leaving this place before whatever darkness that engulfed this village found them.
Eowyn was mindful of every sound as she walked cautiously through the small street leading from the shore into the main track that had brought them into town. She heard nothing and this disturbed her further for there was not even the sound of a mouse stirring or an owl hooting its call in the night. The woods beyond the village seemed comforting now and Eowyn could not deny as she removed the reins from the mouths of both steeds that she wished she were there now, taking comfort in the surround of trees. Being out in the open like this made her feel vulnerable, especially when the community of Cadras Nar felt like a tomb.
She took a deep breath, forcing the fear churning in the pit of her to a far place because she had no patience to deal with such things when she needed to be alert at this time. Having unpacked the horses and leaving all their belonging near the dock where she had last seen Arwen, Eowyn ran her hand against the smooth flank of her horse and then repeated the same comforting gesture on the steed that had borne Arwen all this way. The horses were clearly unhappy at remaining in Cadras Nar and Eowyn guessed that it would not take much to send them on their way. She was reluctant to let them go but knew they would find their way home. No doubt, the sentries on the fortress of Cair Andros would see their return on their shores and claim them.
"Safe journey," she said quietly as she slapped both animals hard on their rumps, startling them somewhat but giving them the imperative to move quickly. She had no wish to cause them harm but Eowyn did not wish them to remain in the village any longer than they should. The horses snorted their indignation at such an abrupt dismissal and immediately broke into a robust gallop down the muddy street. In a matter of minutes, she could no longer hear their thundering footsteps against the dirt.
Once they had gone, she immediately turned up the way she came, intending to join Arwen on the dock and complete their own departure from this place. She reminded herself that upon reaching Lothlorien, she must ask Lord Celeborn to send word to Gondor or Rohan in order to learn what had happened here. The folk of this village had to be somewhere yet she could not imagine any violence that could wipe all traces of them from existence.
Even Orcs left bodies behind.
She was making her way up the small lane that would take her back to the dock when Eowyn heard something moving. It was a strange sound, almost like a flapping of a bird’s wings except that it was too fast for any bird in flight. The sound originated from what appeared to be a boathouse for there were wooden ramps leading to it from the shore. At first, she had considered ignoring the noise for she suspected that there were things in the darkness here that she did not really want to discover. However, when she heard the sound again, this time laced with something she could only call desperation, Eowyn found herself unable to ignore the peril and followed it to its source.
The interior of the boathouse was bathed in darkness and upon her first few seconds into its confines, she heard the sound even more clearly. Its flapping was now accompanied by a desperate but soft chirping, like that of a bird, though extremely weak. Through the window, the glow of the crescent moon illuminated the darkness slightly, though not much and as she followed the noise to its source, Eowyn instinctively unsheathed her sword. She had not taken more than a few steps when she caught sight of a lamp. Deciding that a little more light would probably aid her foolish investigations, she liberated it from its place on a tool bench and saw that the wick was damaged and unable to reach the oil that would ignite it. Not wishing to linger any more than she had to, she made her repairs as she walked towards the noise, her weapon tucked under arm momentarily.
The bird was trapped in mid air and Eowyn wondered how this could be as she saw it in front of her, appearing suspended. At first she could not understand how this was so until the lamp finally lit and the room flooded with light. There was little more than an instant for her to register what was before her before she stumbled back, her mouth open in shock and a scream was trying to find its way out of her throat. Instead, she dropped the lamp to the floor and the room was suddenly bathed in an amber glow. The poor helpless bird that had been trapped was one of many. As Eowyn stared with eyes widening in nothing less than sheer horror, she knew at last what had befallen the people of Cadras Nar because some of them were in front of her.
Trapped on a giant spider’s web.
Their bodies were desiccated, drained of blood, it was the manner in which their murderers fed and Eowyn barely contained her revulsion as she saw corpses of men, women and children alike, suspended over her head. What they were could not even be recognized as human if not for their clothing and with horror she noticed that some of the corpses were not intact. She reached out, her fingers trembling as she saw the corpse of a child wrapped up in the silken threads of the web, hoping against hope that there was still some life left for her to save. She but only grazed her finger tips against the body and the exertion proved to much tension for it broke free of its trappings and landed heavily upon the ground. Her scream was short but heartfelt as she saw what remained of a little boy staring at her with dead eyes. It almost made her wretch with disgust if not for the fact that she made a startling realization through her fear.
She was not alone.
She almost missed its advanced for, despite its size- and it was larger than anything that could possibly be crushed underfoot - it knew how to move stealthily. She saw it from the corner of her eye, a flurry of movement that did not have the fluidity of fire and when she turned around, she found herself staring into its compound eyes. She may have been the Shield Maiden of Rohan but even she had shuddered when Frodo told his tale of meeting Shelob, the giant spiders that had been spawned of Ungoliant in the earliest days of Middle Earth. Shelob had met her end at the hands of Samwise Gamgee and though Eowyn did not think that this was she, it did not lessen the danger.
Yet one of these creatures could not have taken Cadras Nar completely, without one person escaping to tell the tale. As the beast came upon her, Eowyn understood that this one creature could not have done this alone because it was not. There were more! A panic stricken thought impacted upon her senses. Arwen! She did not know! She must be warned! Unfortunately, Eowyn’s ability to do so was hindered by the fact that one of the creatures faced her now, moving in for the kill. She saw its mandibles snapping in anticipation of her blood and the fire burning behind her, having consumed the web and the poor souls trapped upon it. Eowyn produced her sword and thought quickly, for she could not spend too much time dealing with this creature when Arwen might be deadly danger.
Its legs snapped into motion and the creature rushed at her, spitting poison in her direction as it came. Eowyn jumped out of the way, thankful that there was space to keep her from falling into reach of its lethal jaws. Though it was larger than her, it moved with terrifying speed and was soon coming at her again. This time there was no way for her to avoid it and Eowyn lashed out fiercely, tearing through its darkened flesh and eliciting an unearthly howl from the creature. In retaliation it stabbed one of its spindly legs in her direction and though she tried to evade it, nothing could keep it from penetrating the flesh of her shoulder. Eowyn let out a sharp cry of pain and felt the rage bubble in her from the injury. Striking out viciously, she felt the blade sink into the spider’s crimson eye and pulled back with just as much vehemence.
A screech of agony escaped the spider and when Eowyn retrieved her blade, it was dripping with black blood. Partially blinded, the wound enraged the spider and it lunged at her, preparing to cover her with its foul body. Eowyn saw its intent and jumped herself, sliding beneath its form across the floor, coming to a halt only after it had landed in the place where she had been. She rolled onto her knees and saw it swinging around, preparing to launch itself at her again. Blood was flowing freely down her shoulder and she knew that she needed aid but more importantly, she had to reach her queen while she still could. Grunting in pain, she thought quickly for she had spent enough time evading this creature and saw that the fire was now burning in the rafters of the building. The heat stung at her skin and sweat began to run down her forehead. She saw the tall flames behind her and knew that there was one way to end this quickly.
Instead of preparing to flee, she stood her ground defiantly, challenging the beast to do its worst. For an instant, the spider was uncertain of what she intended but then pain and hunger set it forth again and it scampered across the floor in the obscene fashion of its body, preparing to devour her. Its fangs snapped in readiness of the feeding of fresh blood, having been ravenously consuming little things since the people of Cadras Nar had been exhausted. It was of a few driven from Mirkwood following the War of the One Ring and here in this small community, the feeding had been good for awhile. The warrior maiden before it would be tasty morsel that would satisfy its hunger for a good while.
Eowyn saw it approaching and braced herself, ignoring the fear in her heart and reminding herself resolutely that this would only succeed if she defied her fear. The creature closed the gap between them swiftly and as Eowyn saw herself in the reflection of its uninjured eye, she thought she might falter but did not. There was an instant of clarity when the spider’s fangs opened in readiness to feed where Eowyn could almost feel its fetid breath upon her skin, where it was coming at her too fast to stop. In that one instant her mind forgot itself and her instincts took control of her and she jumped out of the way, while her would be killer continued on its path.
It realised too late what she intended and tried to stop but its bulk and speed was propelling it forward and the spider could do nothing but offer a terrified screech of vain desperation as it ran straight into the fire. The flames consumed it quickly and soon Eowyn found herself witnessing the sight of the creature burning alive and writhing in agony. Its eight legs kicking wildly as it tumbled onto its back, driving even more disgust into the pit of her until she could no longer look. Eowyn turned away when she heard the creak of the wooden banister above her burning away until it was prepared to collapse. Grabbing a piece of timber, she turned it into a torch and ran out of the structure beset with flames before it collapsed in on itself.
With her sword in one hand and her torch in the other, Eowyn left the wreckage and went to find Arwen.
After Eowyn had departed, Arwen had sought out the vessel that would best serve them and untied its moorings so that she could lead it to shore. The smaller canoes were not terribly heavy and she managed easily to pull it onto the shale beach in order to pack their belongings on to it. She tried not to pay attention to the anxiety she felt at being in this place and wondered when Eowyn would come for she disliked being here alone. There was too much opportunity for solitude in this village for her liking as it was and she also worried that Eowyn might be found what it was that had happened here if she were away too long.
She continued to pack their things into the boat, ensuring that the weight was well distributed for it could make their travel difficult if it were not done properly. However, she kept glancing over her shoulder because she could feel something at the edge of her consciousness, nagging at her. With all that she was enduring of late, it was perfectly understandable that she should feel so anxious about any unknown in her life. Still, there was something ominous in the air that made her wish Eowyn would hurry in her task and return for Arwen was feeling more anxiety than she would have liked to admit.
Suddenly, she heard a scream tear through the night.
Arwen stood upright immediately and knew that it was Eowyn’s voice that had cried out so. Her heart began to pound as she unsheathed her sword and ran up the beach, hoping that Eowyn would cry out again so that Arwen could find her. However, there was little need of that because she could see one of the boat houses alive with flame. The building was slowly burning and Arwen needed no second sight to know that it was where she would find Eowyn. However, as she approached the burning building, something else emerged from the darkness that immediately stopped her approach.
There were two of them, emerging from the houses that had been dormant. Arwen knew that they had seen her for their vile eyes turned in her direction and their legs were poised to move in correspondence to her actions. She wanted to run but Eowyn needed her aid, she could not leave! Brandishing her sword with more courage than she felt, she sought a way around them and saw none.
"Let me pass or you shall feel the sting of my blade!" She hissed as she slashed at the air before one of them, in order to show them that she made no idle threat.
The one on her left lunged and Arwen dropped to her knees, seeing the power in its attack and knowing that it would fly above her head. She raised her sword as it moved above her, its tip biting into the beast’s plump abdomen and tearing it open. Black blood spilled forth and Arwen felt some of it on her clothes and almost choked in disgust. The creature screamed in rage and its companion moved in while Arwen was distracted with the first. The Queen of Gondor saw the spindly legged creature rushing at her and let out a cry of horror because she could not escape in time. No sooner than the sound had left her voice she heard the spider squeal in agony as a thick piece of wood was slammed right into its round body.
"ARWEN, watch out!"
The piece of wood was ablaze and as the creature struggled to rid itself of the instrument upon which it was impaled, the fire spread out across its body. Arwen let out a gasp of surprise and relief when she saw Eowyn running forward, placing herself between the other wounded beast and her queen. She moved swiftly, far swifter than Arwen ever thought possible and slashed her blade in a wide arch. The remaining spider screamed in agony as Eowyn took its head. Arwen turned away as the foul creature’s head tumbled from the rest of it and rolled across the beach.
"Eowyn!" Arwen noted the blood on her shoulder. "You are hurt!"
"I am fine," Eowyn said exhausted and looked at the town to see more dark shapes emerging. "We have to go! I fear these are not alone. This village has become infested with Mirkwood’s remnants. We must be away to tell King Thranduil of what transpires here!"
Arwen could only nod for her eyes were fixed upon the other spiders that were fast approaching them. Without wasting any time, the two ladies immediately hurried to the boat, for only the waters of the Anduin could protect them now. Arwen took charge of the boat when they reached it for as bravely and fiercely as Eowyn had fought, the shield maiden of Rohan was hurt. Nevertheless she accepted Eowyn’s help for nothing could convince the determined woman to desist. They pushed the boat into the water, caring little that they were wet, not until they were far enough from the shore to board it and paddle swiftly away. Both women paddled quickly, drawing further and further away from the shore and beyond the reach of the spiders.
As they cast their gaze upon the shore, Arwen and Eowyn gasped as they saw how many spiders there were on the shore, pacing up and down the length of it in frustration, unable to reach the prey that had killed three of their own. Behind the vile creatures, the fire that Eowyn had begun had been captured by the sweep of the wind and the flames were moving to another home and appeared as if it would not be satisfied until the entire village was theirs.
"We must get you to Lothlorien," Arwen said once they were far enough away from Cadras Nar to stop their insistent paddling.
"It is nothing," Eowyn grunted as Arwen examined her wound.
"You are as stubborn as a man about such things. I would have thought that the Shield Maiden of Rohan would have better sense. Those foul creatures usually have poison in their bites, you will let me administer to your injuries. As your queen I demand it," Arwen stared at her imperiously.
Eowyn groaned and stared at her petulantly. "I think it is exceedingly unfair that you should use your royalty to force me to obey." She grumbled.
"I know," Arwen smiled. "Do I not do it well?" The elf asked with a twinkle of mischief in her eye.
Eowyn rolled her eyes and muttered under her breath, "elves."
As the Fellowship pursued Arwen and Eowyn down the Anduin, Aragorn gazed upon his travelling companions and was struck by the familiarity of their situation. Once again, the Fellowship was embarking upon a great quest but it was not theirs to fulfil. That duty belonged to Arwen who had been left behind when they had gone to destroy the One Ring. Until now, Aragorn had not known what torture it was to remain behind while loved ones departed to face untold dangers. How had Arwen borne it when he had left Imladris to take on the duty of leading the Ring Bearer to the fires of Mount Doom? It had always been a woman’s lot to wait behind and pray that her loved ones would be delivered to her safely. Until now, Aragorn had no idea how strong one had to be to endure such uncertainty. It was steel known only to women for he could not imagine anything worse than to leave Arwen to her fate and his very presence here was a testament to how much stronger than him she truly was.
Faramir, who was steadily paddling his boat ahead with Merry and Pippin, appeared just as anxious, though the Lord of Ithilien tried not to show his worry. His wife was a brave woman and a cunning warrior. If there was one woman who could acquit herself in any kind of peril, it was certainly Eowyn of Rohan. Yet like Aragorn, Faramir was all too aware that she would not be facing any ordinary foe and the Enemy of whom they had scant knowledge, seemed greater than anything that Eowyn had ever faced. He was afraid for her and rightly so and no matter how much he tried to tell himself that she would fare well in protecting herself and her queen, his love for her made him fear the worse. Faramir hoped that they would not be too late when Eowyn and Arwen were finally found.
Meanwhile, within his own vessel, Legolas was silent. He had been for some time now and though this was not unusual for him as far as his friends were concerned, the Prince of Mirkwood was somewhat troubled. His heightened senses were on full alert because he could feel something bordering the edge of his perception and the sensation it produced with that unknowing was ominous. As he rowed the boat in tandem with Gimli, his eyes scanned the shoreline that ran parallel with the Anduin, trying to learn what this danger was that was coming upon them. At first, he had hardly noticed it for it was the way with elves to notice all things but then as it grew darker in his mind, he started to feel anxious.
"What is it?" Gimli asked when he had paused in his rowing to sweep his gaze against the lands that flanked them.
Legolas did not answer immediately, "I do not know," he replied and that was the whole truth. He did not know, he only felt it.
Gimli knew to trust the elf’s senses for on too many occasions, his perception had saved their lives. He stiffened in tension, disliking this feeling of not knowing from whence the danger was coming. "What do you feel?" He asked quietly for there was no need to alarm everyone just yet.
"Its closeness," Legolas answered and his words made Gimli even more wary.
"Perhaps it is the Enemy that the Queen and the Lady Ithilien have gone to face," he suggested in the hopes that the discussion would abate his anxiousness.
"No," Legolas shook his head. "It if were the Enemy, I would know it instantly. Darkness of such magnitude is not easy to miss. This is smaller but dangerous, I am certain of it."
"The foolishness of it," Gimli snorted in annoyance. "What could they be thinking? Rushing of like that to the peril of both their lives to face who knows what, without telling us. This should be a quest handled by all of us, not two noblewomen."
Legolas raised a brow at Gimli before remarking with some measure of reproach. "They are hardly two noblewomen Master Gimli, Arwen is the Evenstar, she has been alive a great deal longer than you. She has always known how to take care of herself and Eowyn has slain the Witch King of Angmar and fought with us at Pelennor. I don’t think that there are two more capable women of carrying out the task before them."
"You know that I have only the greatest respect for the fairer sex, after all Lady Galadriel holds a special place in my heart. But this quest upon which she has sent Arwen and Eowyn is ill thought. Arwen is with child and should be guarded, not traipsing about the countryside to face who knows what." Gimli retorted though with little real anger in his voice.
Legolas suspected that he could never feel anger at anything that Galadriel did because the dwarf had been infatuated with the Lady of the Wood since his first encounter with her. In truth, much of Gimli’s disposition towards the elves had altered because of that meeting and it had smoothened the way for their close friendship. He knew that Gimli’s feelings about what Arwen and Eowyn had embarked upon were mostly tempered by his affection for both. Legolas felt the same way. Arwen was like a sister to him and he loved her dearly and Eowyn was a comrade in battle as well as friend. He feared for their safety not merely for his own reasons but for that of their husbands who even now, tried to hide their extreme worry from the rest of the Fellowship.
Overhead the sun was starting to set and though Aragorn wanted to travel further, he knew that they needed to rest. They had been journeying down river for almost a day and the weariness was starting to seep into his limbs. He knew that it would not be wise to press on to the detriment of their physical state when they finally reached Arwen and Eowyn. Besides, he suspected that they might seek shelter themselves, after all Arwen was not accustomed to travelling at such an arduous pace and he knew his wife well enough to suspect that she would take care not to harm the babe by straining herself.
The Fellowship aimed their boats in the direction of land and stepped onto the Western Shore. By the time the sun had disappeared into the horizon, they were all gathered around a campfire watching the dance of flames. They feasted upon some rabbits that Legolas and Faramir had managed to snare. As usual the hobbits had a good store of food with them as well and Sam who was accustomed to taking care of his master, did the honors of cooking. The conversation around the fire as they ate was not at all lively as it had been during the celebration in the White City.
"What route do you think they would take to the north?" Frodo asked, more as an effort to dispel the awful silence around the campfire rather than any desire to know.
Aragorn looked up from his cup of mead as if he had been a thousand miles away and shook the distraction from his mind as he addressed the hobbit. "I think they would journey down the Anduin to Cair Andros."
"Yes," Faramir agreed with that assessment. "I believe that Eowyn knows the Steward of Cair Andros. They fought together at Pelennor."
"Galain is his name," Aragorn volunteered, having met the man once. "He would offer them shelter for the night and perhaps horses."
"Horses?" Frodo asked.
"Yes," Gandalf replied before Aragorn could. "They would need to travel by land to avoid Rauros Falls. I believe they would be bound for Lothlorien."
"It would be faster to reach Lindon by crossing the Misty Mountains." Pippin remarked in between chewing his food.
"That would require travelling through Fangborn Forest and Isengard over land," Legolas explained. "The route down river is safest and the one I think Eowyn would select to lessen the burden of the journey on Arwen."
"I thought that we got rid of all the Orcs," Merry frowned, disliking those creatures intensely after his encounters with them during the Fellowship and at the battles after.
"Not all of them," Gandalf rumbled. "They are like insects, they merely go to ground until they are needed by some dark malevolence to guide them. Until then, they scavenge for what they can."
"Sauron’s forces were many," Aragorn sighed, wishing he had spent more time these past two years ridding Middle Earth of that particular threat. Unfortunately, he was a king who wished only the best for his kingdom and after the war, there had been so much rebuilding to do. The Orcs and the Uruk Hai, powerless without their master, had not been that much of a priority.
"We had vanquished many during the War of the Ring but some had fled after he was vanquished. With all that we had suffered to defeat Sauron’s darkness, there were simply too little resources to spend on seeking them out and finishing them once and for all. We had to address our wounds, rebuild what was destroyed and bury our dead."
"But what is left of them seem to have grown bolder of late," Faramir pointed out, recalling the focus of their attention prior to the announcement of Arwen’s condition. "They have been emerging from their places, attacking the border lands, fleeing before the rangers can deal with them. It is as if they are preparing."
"They are readying themselves to ally with the Enemy," Gandalf replied with a low rumble, his eyes lifting from the pipe he was smoking.
"Who is this Enemy?" Frodo asked his old friend.
"I cannot say," Gandalf responded and saw the anger flare in Aragorn’s eyes over the secrecy. "It is not that I do not wish for you to know Aragorn," he quickly explained to still the King’s ire. "There is reason for my secrecy. If he knows that we are aware of him, he may not use the powers with which I can trace him back to his dark lair. As powerful as he is, he is vulnerable beyond his place of power. If Arwen and Eowyn reaches him before we, it may be the only way we have to find them. We cannot take the chance of the Enemy eluding us when it is Melkor he is attempting to resurrect."
Aragorn swallowed thickly and saw in Gandalf’s eyes that he was speaking earnestly. Gandalf had been a true friend and while the ways of wizards could be maddening at times, he also knew that Gandalf would not intentionally keep the identity of the Enemy unless there were good reason for it. He breathed in deeply, as much to calm his anger at this whole situation as it was to accept the wizard’s word.
"We have been through much together old friend," he cast his eye upon Gandalf. "I will trust your counsel in this."
"Thank you,’ Gandalf bowed his head slightly and the gesture was not merely one of thanks but gratitude at the faith Aragorn had placed in him.
"If you cannot tell us what he is, perhaps you can tell us something of his powers." Legolas asked in an effort to give Aragorn something more than just riddles.
"I can do that," Gandalf nodded deciding that he could do that much at least. "He can cloud the minds of men."
"Cloud?" Faramir asked, not liking the sound of that at all.
"Yes," the wizard blew another puff of smoke from his pipe. "He can make them believe a thing with such fierce determination that they can see nothing else but the illusion."
"That’s quite a trick," Sam exclaimed. "How can we fight something like that?"
"By not trusting our eyes," Frodo answered automatically. "What we see can be just as deceiving as what we hear."
No one questioned the Ring Bearer on this point for he knew all too well the deception the eyes could play upon a person. For so many years, a simple gold ring had been to him nothing more than an heirloom of his uncle’s. Who knew that it was a Ring of Power? From a gold band it had transformed into the instrument that could destroy Middle Earth. Following the odyssey to see the accursed thing destroyed had changed Frodo forever. It had turned an idealistic hobbit into something of a cynic who seemed to feel that the best that life had to offer him had come and gone and the days ahead would be merely obligatory.
"So we must questioned all that we see?" Gimli grumbled, not liking the sound of that. He preferred to meet his enemies face to face, to settle everything in one decisive bout of combat. This business of illusion and mental trickery reeked of cowardice.
"We should merely be alert," Gandalf advised.
"Well if the ladies are travelling to Lindon then they would come pretty close to Hobbiton," Merry spoke up for the mood around the fire was much too grim for his liking. "
"I would hope not," Faramir retorted.
"What is wrong with Hobbiton?" Pippin demanded, taking Faramir’s comment as something of a slight to the Shire.
"I meant no offence," Faramir explained himself, knowing just how unpleasant an angry hobbit could be when properly inspired. "It is just that there has been a good deal of Orc activity in the lands near Bree. I should not want either the Queen or Eowyn to encounter any."
"We’ve heard nothing in the Shire," Sam pointed out, rather disturbed that there could be Orcs so close to home.
"Well the Orcs would not dare harm the Shire," Aragorn answered. "As it is – for now, we commit some forces to their removal but if they were to enter the Shire, they are perfectly aware that it would be an army that came after them in retaliation. The home of the Ring Bearer is not to be pillaged by such foul folk as this," Aragorn glanced at Frodo and offered the hobbit a little smile. "Not while I am King."
Legolas had not spoken for some time. As Aragorn swept his gaze across the faces of his friends, he came to rest upon the Elven prince when he noticed something in Legolas’ eyes that made him speak up. "Legolas, what is the matter?"
Legolas did not hesitate to answer, "I do not know but there is something and it is close."
His words immediately inspired the others to reach for their swords and they stared at the darkness of the trees surrounding them, more aware of the shadows than ever.
"Can you tell what it is?"
"No," Legolas shook his head in frustration. He knew that there was danger coming, he just could not tell in what form. It was still not close enough for him to say for certain.
"I sense it too," Gandalf said after a time, his staff clutched firmly in his hands as he too scanned the darkness for the danger that approached.
The Fellowship had risen to their feet and all brandished their weapons in anticipation of what was coming at them. They could hear nothing so far but Legolas appeared tense and in expectation that whatever it was, it would be here soon. It was the same mood that had overtaken them during their journey through Moria, prior to the attack by the Orcs and cave trolls.
"Where are they!" Faramir hissed, revealing his impatience. "I wish they would just come!"
"They will," Aragorn said firmly. "Ready yourself for when they do."
"They are upon us!" Legolas cried out, pulling out an arrow from his collection and arming his bow in readiness.
Red eyes flashed at them as soon as those words escaped him and they were followed by a low snarl that all of them recognised immediately. The peace of the campfire was shattered by the sudden emergence of large bodies of fur moving towards them at rapid speed, led by snapping jaws and ferociously sharp teeth. They exploded out of the woods, covered in dark fur, with yellowed eyes fixing quickly upon their intended prey, their savagery evidenced by their snarls and growl, converging into a tremendous roar that soon brought everything about them to chaos.
"Wargs!" Aragorn shouted as one of the wolves launched themselves at him. He reacted without thinking, thrusting his blade through its ribs, earning a powerful howl of pain as the weapon tore through the flesh of its back.
They swarmed through the camp, their numbers so many that it was hard to count, their growling draining the world of all other sound. Aragorn saw one about to attack Frodo and moved to intervene but he was soon beset by a duo of the heinous creatures who charged him. Thinking quickly, he dropped to his knees and grabbed a log from the fire and waved it about to give them pause. As they hissed in black fury for being held back by his flame, Aragorn saw that the former Ring Bearer was more than adept at fighting the foul creatures than he had given him credit. With the blade called Sting, Aragorn saw Frodo hack away at the beast attempting to harm him and drive it back. In its attempt to evade the blade, the Warg stepped into the fire and uttered a roar of pain before fleeing to douse its wound. Beside Frodo was Sam, fighting with just as much determination to protect himself as well as his master, between the two of them, the hobbits were putting up a strong defense.
Aragorn saw a flurry of moment in the corner of his eye and turned just as a Warg jumped upon him. Aragorn had no room to move and it felled him heavily on the ground. Sliding his blade between him and the creature’s snapping jaws, he could fell its fetid breath as its claws scratched at his skin and its teeth trying to take a bite out of him. The two that had been held at bay were not given leave to advance since the flame that Aragorn had used against them had fallen to the ground. Suddenly, an arrow flew threw the air and struck one of the wolves in the neck. The force of it escaped the beast’s side and it dropped in its tracks.
"Help Aragorn!" Aragorn heard Legolas scream before turning his attention to the Warg about to attack. Legolas swiftly retrieved another arrow from his pack and let it fly, it too made its mark for Legolas seldom missed and the creature was close.
The second beast was almost upon him when Aragorn threw the Warg that he was wrestling over his head, slamming it into the other’s abdomen and sending them both tumbling. He rolled onto his knees and pulled the dagger concealed within his boot, flinging it with a marksman’s aim at one. It struck the raging wolf in its breast and the Warg screamed in pain before collapsing on the dirt, its black blood oozing across the ground. Now that the one was dead, Aragorn rushed forward to deal with the first. The Warg glared at him with sinister eyes, its teeth dripping with saliva as it circled him, waiting to pounce. Aragorn remembered how fierce these creatures had been during the battle of Pelennor when the Orcs had used them like horses.
The Warg ran forward and leapt into the air, Aragorn watched its movements before swinging Anduril in a wide arc. The blade forged from the shard of Narsil, the sword of Elendill which was used to cut the One Ring from Sauron’s hand sliced through the less formidable flesh of the Warg, tearing open its insides in one final and gruesome blow. The wolf had barely enough time to utter a cry of pain before it dropped in mid air, its body making a heavy thud upon hitting the earth. Aragorn turned around to see the progress of his friends and saw that Pippin had somehow managed to mount one of the Wargs as if he were riding a pony. The small hobbit remained steadfastly attached upon the wolf’s back, his hand clutching the beast’s pelt as he steadied his blade for attack. With one powerful movement, more than Aragorn would have thought capable by a halfling, Pippin drove the blade into the creature’s neck and halted its struggles in one blood-curdling howl of agony.
Faramir was battling just as vigorously, showing that he was like his brother in skill and honor. Around him, the Wargs gathered in their death, so many of them that it appeared that there was a sea of fur growing on the ground instead of grass. Gandalf had also produced his sword and was making short work of the creatures that were foolish enough to attack him. Although the wizard had great powers that could probably make short work of all these foul beasts, Aragorn knew that it was Gandalf’s desire to not rely so much on his abilities and to use his more conventional skills. A wizard's powers were not to be used lightly and if he was able to manage his own defense without it, Gandalf would certainly attempt it.
Merry and Gimli fought side by side, proving that their lesser size did not mean they could not make the Wargs regret this attack as the others had. With his mighty axe, Gimli swept aside the beasts as if they were petulant children and the thunderous blows ensured none of the foul creatures would be able to rise. They lay in heaps across the campsite, their bones broken from the onslaught of the dwarf’s axe. Merry’s skill, taught to him by Boromir, allowed him to contribute just as significantly as they cut down the Wargs that would have no doubt killed them all.
When it was all said and done, the campsite appeared like an uncovered mass grave of Wargs. Their black blood ran through the dirt and would soon attract the attention of carrion feeders who would feast upon their lifeless bodies. Aragorn immediately ordered their departure, wishing to be away in case any other foul creature chose to make its appearance. They returned to the shore where their boats were waiting, deciding it would be safer if they made camp near a speedy means of escape. For the most part, they had come away from the melee with little injuries. Faramir had suffered a bite but it had been made through the braces on his arm and despite the skin being broken, it was not a serious wound. The hobbits and Gimli had acquired some minor scratches, all of which Aragorn was able to tend to with his skills as a healer.
"We rid ourselves of all the Wargs," Aragorn stated as they gathered around the fire, albeit, a little more sedately than before the attack attempting to get some rest for the traveling in the morrow. "I know we did."
"I thought so too," Legolas shook his head. "At Pelennor, I was certain we saw the end of them." The archer was cleaning the arrows he had managed to retrieve from the dead creatures, appearing none to happy about the grisly task.
"There seems to be a greater frequency of dark things emerging in recent months," Aragorn replied. "First the appearance of rogue Uruk Hai and Orc tribes, now we have Wargs whom we were certain were done with Middle Earth."
"Its like they’re all emerging out of the darkness," Faramir remarked, attempting to see under the swathing of bandage around his arm and frowning when Merry smacked his hand for making the attempt.
"They’re hearing the call of their Master," Frodo mused softly. "Whatever this evil that Arwen is facing, it’s drawing them to him, just like Sauron."
All eyes turn to him and the fact soured in their stomachs. They had seen such activity in Mordor prior to the Quest of the One Ring. Orcs began to grow in numbers, goblins and trolls had emerged in new ferocity to attack races, they would never have dared before. The destruction of the One Ring had chased them into the shadows but now it appeared as if some new malignancy was bringing them into the world of Middle Earth again.
"Mordor is silent," Aragorn said firmly. "Since Sauron’s defeat, we have maintained close control of it."
"There are evils far older than Sauron, Aragorn," Gandalf replied. "The threat of Melkor upon your child’s existence should make you aware of that."
Aragorn stiffened, not liking to be reminded of that. It was hard enough trying to remain focussed on finding Arwen safely, to think nothing of the child inside her belly whose fate hung balanced upon the success of its mother’s ability to save its soul. "I know that all too well Gandalf," he said softly.
"I did not mean to worry you any more than you already are, Aragorn," Gandalf replied gently, seeing the pain in his eyes. "I just want to say that what we face is formidable and we must be on guard."
"We are on our guard," Pippin retorted. "We fought those things off."
"Yes, you did," Gandalf nodded. "But did you not find it odd that they came after us specifically?"
Aragorn’s gaze snapped towards the wizard. "What do you mean?"
Gandalf drew a deep breath and released it by way of his curved pipe. "The Enemy knows what we are up to. He knows that we are coming and is attempting to stop us any way he can. The Wargs are only the beginning, there will be more soon enough."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.