7. Chapter Six: An Accounting of Events
The world had changed and in the opinion of Major Andrei Nikolaevich, not for the better.
If he were a young man who was new to the service of his country, it would not have stung so badly the state of the world as he knew it. He would not have known that in times more recent than deep in the past, being a soldier in the service of Mother Russia was something to be proud of. Now, the homeland was contaminated with liberal politicians, too much capitalism and a fierce desire to embrace all the excesses of western civilisation. It had taken less than fifteen years for the pride and dignity of the Russian people to succumb to the joys of Pepsi Cola and Microsoft products. No one remembered anymore what it was like to be a true Russian because they were too interested in tuning to MTV and episodes of Dynasty.
He remembered the days when Russian was not the embarrassment called the Russian Federation but rather the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic. Communism may not have wholly ideal but it had made them great and what they did not have was counterbalanced with what they did, which was the knowledge that they were something to be feared and respected. Under the communist regime, Russia had moved from the wooden yoke to the atomic bomb in a span of twenty years. They had fought all their enemies and still managed to be the first to put a man into the space. The Americans may claim the moon but it was the Soviets that gave them the desire to reach for it.
In those days, the boundaries of the Soviet Union stretched almost from one sea to another. The iron curtain for all its depictions by the West had kept the peace for fifty years even if the Cold War was merely a tool for each superpower to justify their defence budget to their respective governments. Now, the boundaries were less than 300 kilometres away. Kazakhstan was now a nation of its own trading Soviet weapons to races who had no business having them, proudly selling Soviet ingenuity into the hands of child races who behaved angrily when provoked, who would have no compunction against using weapons of mass destruction to make their point.
As he took a walk across the military encampment outside of Aleysk, a sizeable town on the fringes of Siberia and the Altay Region, Andrei pulled his coat around his shoulders and leaned into its warmth. He let his gaze sweep across the sky and knew that a storm was coming. Whether or not it would become a blizzard, was not as easy to say. The weather in this part of the world was unpredictable, with the only assurance being that when it came, it was usually cold. Tall conifer trees that stretched for as the eye could see and in the distance, the mountains grazed the sky with its jagged peaks surrounding the facility at Aleysk.
He had been stationed here for almost three years now, having been moved to this remote location because as one of the veterans left over from the previous regime, his hardline status was politically inconvenient. They called him a relic and shipped him here from his native Moscow to languish with the other relics of the Cold War and the former Soviet state. The Aleysk base was home to thirty Class 204 SS-18s intercontinental ballistic missiles. Though it was likely that they would never be used, the danger of international terrorism have brought forth the directive that such bases would be protected. With so many former territories that were now foreign powers in their own right near their borders, it was a sensible precaution.
The temperature was -1 degree this morning and though it was very cold, it was nowhere as cold as a Siberian winter could be. Andrei did not mind the cold as much as he minded being away from Moscow and his family but he did not wish his wife to languish in this icy landscape with him and her bid her to remain at the capital with his two children. As he walked back to this office, he felt the cold air invigorate him somewhat and give him a little more bounce in his step. At forty-five years of age, he needed all the bounce he could get and made good speed as he walked briskly to the main building.
Upon arriving at his office, he was greeted by young soldiers who were of the opinion that their posting here was a great honor. Andrei guessed it could be supposed that way since they were not sent here in disgrace and he was. Accepting their salutes, Andrei listened to their reports with half hearted interest before telling them that he would see them all later in the day under the guise that he had important paperwork to do in his office. In truth, he just could not stomach their enthusiasm and his important paperwork was a half empty bottle of Vodka in the last drawer of his filing cabinet. He was after all Russian.
Upon entering the small office that was his private sanctum, he noted that the mail had arrived and perched on top of the official communiqués and other letters in important looking envelopes, was a box wrapped in plain brown paper. It was not very big but had the stamp of a military courier, which meant that it was most likely from his wife. Lowering himself into his chair, he ignored all the other envelopes and preceded to tear the wrapping off the small parcel, hoping that it was the biscuits she made. He could imagine her standing at the kitchen, wonderful aromas wafting through the room but none so enticing as the smell of her perfume.
He missed her very much at that moment.
Inside the box was a cake tin, which pleased him a great deal and prompted him to pull open the lid almost immediately. However nestled in between the biscuits sprinkled with cinnamon and made with almond was another surprise. Andrei raised a brow as he retrieved the small velvet box and opened it. Resting comfortably in the satin groove was a ring. It was undoubtedly a man's ring with intricate patterns running across its smooth surface. It could be gold he supposed but doubted that his wife could afford it if it was.
There was an accompanying note, which Andrei unfolded and read as he palmed the trinket in his hand.
I bought this for you at an antique sale. It is to remind you that I love you even though we are apart.
Andrei Nikolaevich smiled and placed the new ring on his finger, reminding himself that he would have to return the pleasure when he saw his beloved Elena next, completely unaware that he was the final seal of an unholy triumvirate.
"You can put her in here," Tory whispered to Bryan as she led him to her guest bedroom.
It was a room bathed in warm colors that took on amber glow in the dim light emanating from the side table next to the bed. The bedroom furniture was mostly oak and judging by the style, family heirlooms. A thick heavy quilt with a cheerful floral motive covered the sheets and Bryan could not deny that it was a far more suitable place for Fred then the seedy hotel room that they had left behind. He pulled back the covers and placed the little girl, who had not stirred from her slumber, onto the sheets gently. Tucking Fred in despite her obliviousness to his ministrations, Bryan wondered where this emotion of tenderness had come from inside him.
His world was hard and bloody. He had killed and been almost killed more times than he could count, even before the events of the past two days. There had been no need in him for anyone else, no desire for long-term relationships with women or with men. His most emotionally invested relationship was with his brother and he knew that had come from being called to protect Frank for most of his life. Their father had died early on and their mother struggled to support them both.
Bryan had joined the army instead of going to university, preferring the military to pay for his education. Taking the burden of their mother, he had paid Frank’s way through school. When he joined the SAS and his career in MI6 made it difficult to be there, Frank had understood and moved on with his life, aware that his brother would be absent for a great deal of it. He even understood when Bryan was absent for their mother's funeral and his wedding.
Now here was Fred, whom had been in his life for no more than two days and yet knew without doubt, he would die to protect her and keep her safe. Bryan wished he knew what was happening to him because since the child had entered his life, he was constantly surprising himself. It was very disconcerting.
"Turn off the lights," Bryan told, Tory somewhat meekly as they were preparing to leave the room. "She doesn’t like to sleep with it on."
Tory raised a brow at that, not because of Fred’s unusual sleeping habits but rather the fact that Bryan knew enough about the child to be aware of it. She did not seem him as the domesticated type, in fact after their previous words together, was somewhat surprised that he was even housebroken. She could tell straight away that he was not married and would be extremely surprised if she was wrong about that assertion. He was one of these men who were probably a workaholic with all his energy devoted to the job. She knew the type because she was not that different from him.
"Do you have any children?" Tory asked after she had closed the door behind them now that they were out of the room, heading towards the staircase. She doubted that he had any but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
"No," Bryan answered tautly, feeling a little uncomfortable at having his tenderness for Fred privy to observation and worse yet, discussion.
"You’re very good with her," Tory commented, with no insult intended though she was rather amused by the fact that he was so unsettled about having to answer questions regarding his sentimental side. "You look like you would probably make a very good dad."
"Right," Bryan stiffened, unable to endure this conversation any further. He was suddenly feeling very off balance and he did not like how that felt one bit. "Let’s keep from going any further. I’m just keeping her safe. As soon as we sort things out, she goes to her family, I’m sure she must have them."
He capped that statement with a hasty retreat down the stairs, so that he could join the others as well as escape her questions.
"Oh come on," Tory said following him closely, enjoying this immensely. Instinct told her that it was not often that this man was taken off guard and the lawyer in her loved it too much to let it pass without comment. Besides, how many witnesses had she left squirming in the wake of a demanding cross-examination? And that was nowhere as fun as this.
"Its not so terrible having a tender side is it?" She asked seriously, "I mean its sweet quite really."
Bryan turned around and gave Tory a long, searching look as if he were sizing her up all over again and it was delivered with a hardened stare that made her flinch involuntarily. For a few seconds he did not say anything and then the corner of his lips curled upwards ever so slightly though he never let it turn into a smile.
"Have you quite sufficiently amused yourself?" He said after a moment, a gleam in his eyes she could not quite fathom. If she did not know better, Tory would almost swear that it was smug.
"Oh yes, quite well" she replied with equal satisfaction, since she was not about to intimidated by his powerful gaze.
"Then shall we join the others? I would like to hear the rest of this fairy tale I've stumbled into before the night is out. Ladies first," Bryan stepped aside in an effort to be gallant.
"Now you have manners?" She gave him a look as she descended the steps ahead of him. "I seem to recall that you were severely lacking in it when you broke into my house."
"I did not break in," Bryan said smoothly, unperturbed by her efforts to annoy him. If she kept that up, he was going to start liking her. "I rang the door bell, it was Eve who suddenly became one of Charlie’s Angels."
"Hey that’s my girl you’re talking about," Aaron who passing by the foot of the staircase as the two descended, remarked.
"Well she does know how to take care of herself," Bryan commented, not intending to insult the very capable if somewhat acerbic Eve McCaughley and Robert had been right, she was a looker. Of this eclectic bunch of people he had encountered since entering this house, Eve was probably the one person Bryan could relate most with. Like him, she was a dealt with the seamier side of life and despite their brief acquaintance and confrontational first meeting; Bryan had come to respect her a great deal.
"Kept me out of trouble more time than I can count," Aaron agreed proudly. "I’m sure I’m going to have masculinity issues."
"You had that before you met Eve," Tory quipped.
"Oh thank you," Aaron glared at her with mock dislike, "remind me again why Stuart left you?"
"It was my singular wit," she flashed the psychiatrist a smile.
"Yeah," Aaron’s voice dripped with sarcasm as he exchanged a brief glance with Bryan who offered him an expression of complete sympathy, "that’s one way to put it."
Even though it was well past midnight, no one felt like sleeping because there was too much to discuss. Each had differing pieces of the same puzzle and they had to work together to learn the source of the darkness that was quickly casting its shadow upon the world. While Gandalf and Bryan had exchanged some information, it was clear that a detailed account of events had to be made so that they could understand better what it was they faced. While the Istar suspected a good deal of what Bryan already knew, he wished to hear the man make a full explanation not only for himself, but for the benefit of all who would be embarking upon this perilous quest with them.
"Okay," Aaron sat up straight in the sofa next to Eve after the pizza Tory had ordered to feed her unexpected guests had been consumed in the living room. "Gandalf you want to tell us how you knew that was the Ringbearer up there?"
"Her name is Fred," Bryan stated firmly from the dining suite chair he was seated on with his legs propped up on another, much to Tory’s annoyance.
"Sorry," Aaron apologized, aware of how protective Bryan felt about the little girl.
Gandalf sat up in his wing chair, grateful that Tory had waived her no smoking rule in her house for his sake, as he enjoyed his pipe. "When I saw Bryan, it made sense to me at last, the meaning of Galadriel’s poem."
"Galadriel’s poem?" Bryan asked, having no idea that the old man was talking about but supposed he would get briefed in due course. For now, he was interested in the answer.
"Yes," Gandalf nodded. "Prior to leaving Valinor, Galadriel, one of our wisest saw a vision that indicated that this world was in serious peril and that the time was drawing near when all the lands will breathed in flame."
"She had a vision of a nuclear war," Aaron explained, seeing Bryan and Tory about to speak. Bryan in particular seemed to be very troubled by this terrible portent of doom. "She let me see the vision and what I saw was the works, fallout, radiation sickness, the nuclear winter. Our worse nightmare."
"It was a nuclear war?" Bryan sat up straighter. "Are you certain?"
"I’ve seen movies," Aaron returned. "If that was not what it looks like then it was pretty damn good representation. They have no idea what atomic bomb is in Valinor, Bryan. They can’t even conceive something as dangerous as a warhead being built."
"Welcome to the human race," Eve frowned.
"The vision also revealed a riddle," Gandalf took up the reigns of explanation once more. "Most of it dealt with the evil rising in this realm, sire and child perpetuating each other but there was one part of it that meant little to me until I saw you.
The one who made it, the one unmade it and the one was unmade by it
The circle of gold binds them together,
He who failed in one life must redeem himself in another
To protect the one he did not protect before,
To save the world and give peace at last to the Son of Gondor
Gandalf recited the final lines of the riddle until now, had only been known to himself and Aaron. No one else had heard it in its entirety until this moment. Bryan did not understand but expected Gandalf would explain if the expression of understanding that filled the eyes of Legolas and Haldir was anything to go by.
"You were the Son of Gondor," Gandalf stared at Bryan. "It was you who was unmade by it, it being the One Ring."
"And if the one who made it was Sauron..." Haldir stared to stay.
"Then the one who unmade it must be Frodo," Legolas finished.
"What do you mean unmade?" Bryan stiffened, feeling something in the very core of him that was deeply affected by this revelation. "How was I, I mean how was this Boromir unmade by it?" he demanded.
Legolas and Gandalf exchanged reluctant glances, uncertain how they were going to tell this man that in another life, he had been willing to betray an oath of protection to a comrade because the lure of the One Ring had been too much for him.
"The ring was the most powerful weapon in existence at the time," Aaron spoke before either of the immortals could, "Boromir was a warrior of Gondor and for God only knows how long, he had been defending his people against Sauron who was hell bent and destroying everything. The ring uses a person’s desire even if the intention is good to corrupt and Boromir really wanted to help his people. During the quest to destroy the thing, the ring overcame him and for awhile, he lost control."
"How?" Bryan sensed that Aaron was trying to spare him some unpleasantness but Bryan needed to know, something inside of him compelled him to learn the truth.
"He tried to take the ring from Frodo," Aaron said quietly. "It overcame his mind for a brief time."
"But that was enough for Boromir to try and kill the ringbearer wasn’t it?" Bryan guessed accurately the truth.
"Yes," Legolas nodded. "Boromir was lost to us but briefly but he did not harm the ring bearer and he defended his friends with his life. We all felt its power drawing us, whispering its lies in our minds but no one more than he had a greater need for it. Boromir wanted to save his people and he did. He died with honor and we mourned him because he was one of us, one of the Fellowship. Even the ringbearer when his quest was done, did not blame Boromir of Gondor for what he had done, because Frodo knew all too well of what the ring was capable."
Bryan rose to his feet, wanting to balk at how impossible this all was. This was a fairy tale! Just like he had told Tory, none of it could be true! Yet, even as he denied it, deep inside himself in that place where not even he dared to look, he knew that there was kernel of truth to it. All his life, he had been driven to finish anything he set his mind too. When he swore to his mother that he would protect Frank, it had been more than just a son’s promise to his mother, it was an oath and everything else in his life was met with the same dedication. Was it all because in a previous life he had failed? Is this where this desire to protect Fred at all costs had come from, because once before he had failed to do so?
"I cannot accept this," he wanted to walk upstairs and take Fred with him but even if he did, he knew that he would still be enslaved to some ancient programming left in his mind from another age.
"Bryan," Aaron spoke up, the psychiatrist in him emerging in full force. "You’re not Boromir. That man is dead, a hundred thousand years in the past. You are who you are right now at this moment in time. Okay, you have his soul but you have the power to shape that soul, it doesn’t shape you."
"How would you know?" Bryan hissed. "How the bloody hell would you know anything?"
"Because I do!" Aaron snapped. "Because who I was once before arrived to late to save Boromir, you stubborn bastard. Who I was in the past did not save Boromir and that dogged Aragorn all his life. I look at you now and I know I’m not letting you go half-cocked to do something stupid. I have this impression that in the past, I didn’t try hard enough and it ended badly for both of us. So you will sit down and accept it because we are on the brink of Armageddon and I don’t have time this for this shit! We need you! We need your expertise!"
The room was deathly silent for a lengthy pause as both men glared at each other, with everyone else strangely silent.
It was Bryan who finally broke the silence, "if you wake Fred up with your shouting, my expertise will break your neck."
"Well," Aaron straightened up and saw Bryan deliver that remark with a faint smile, "as long as we got that clear," he said taking a cautionary step backward from the man.
"Were they like this back then too?" Eve whispered in Legolas’ ear.
The elf rolled his eyes in weary resignation; "you cannot even begin to imagine."
"Alright," Eve broke in, "now that this macho bullshit is past us, can we get on with it?"
"Nicely put Eve," Gandalf gave her a look as Aaron and Bryan settled down in their respective corners.
"Okay," Bryan sighed loudly. "So my past life aside, I am going to venture a guess that David Saeran is this Sauron you keep talking about."
"There is some logic to it," Legolas replied, "If Morgoth was returned to this world, he would done the same for his minions in this realm to aid him in his efforts. Sauron was chief among his agents."
"The question is how many has he brought with him?" Haldir addressed those who could speak elvish and was pleased to see Gandalf offering a swift translation to those who could not.
"Well we know that the Nine are here," Gandalf remarked. "Bryan has seen them."
"What is this Nine you keep talking about?" Tory asked.
"They are evil agents of Sauron," Legolas explained. "They are neither living or dead. They exist in shadow."
"And that means?" Tory looked about her.
"Their invisible and they can’t be killed," Eve interjected helpfully.
"But if he intends to take over the world in a nuclear war, he can’t just be relying on the Nine," Aaron replied. "Legolas, you told me that during the War of Ring, he had armies."
"He still does," Bryan interrupted, being able to shed some light on this point. "For the last 18 months I’ve been tracking a terrorist group called Black Serpent, now all evidence that I’ve gathered and I grant you, I haven’t gathered very much, indicates that Black Serpent is connected to Malcolm Industries."
"Of course it is," Legolas said confidently. "During the war, one of Sauron’s allies fought under the banner of the Black Serpent."
"Yes," Gandalf nodded, "I remember."
"So he’s using this group to create chaos all over the globe?" Tory asked, somewhat overwhelmed by what she was hearing.
"It would be consistent with how he sought to divide Middle earth during the War of the Ring," Legolas replied.
"First he sets off all these brush fires across the world," Bryan stood up and began to pace. "The Middle East is a mess. The Gulf looks like its ready to flare up at any moment. Terrorist attacks are on the rise across America, Europe and Australia. If it’s not about religion, it’s about territory. Everyone is tearing at each other, trying to stop the violence by perpetuating it. It’s a bloody cycle."
"But it is not Sauron’s ways to simply allow man to destroy themselves," Haldir pointed out. "He will move his armies in this chaos."
"His softening us up," Eve declared. "That’s what this is. He’s softening us up so that when he finally decides to make his move, it’s going to decisive and final."
"Malcolm Industries is big," Tory declared. "Its annual report last year recorded profits in the billions and this was after the building in New York was blown sky high. With that kind of money and resources, he could fund an army."
"But is it an army that’s going to follow him if he decides to send the world into a nuclear winter?" Aaron countered, "Even mercenaries love their own skin."
"So where does Fred fit into all this?" Bryan found himself asking.
"Oh that is easily answered," Gandalf replied glancing towards the ceiling as if he were able to see through the mortar at the child sleeping in her room. "Because of the One Ring, Sauron and Frodo will always be connected, even in this incarnation. I suspect the moment she was born, he knew of her existence though it may have taken time to find her. Now that his plans are so close to fruition, he dare not risk that she will be the catalyst that brings about his downfall. He underestimated Frodo Baggins before and it cost him dearly, I believe that he wants Fred in his possession for no other reason than to ensure that this time, she will have no opportunity to meddle in his affairs."
"But she’s a child," Tory exclaimed in horror. "What possible threat could she be to him?"
"Frodo was a hobbit," Legolas remarked, "the shire folk were the little people, absolutely inconsequential by Sauron’s reckoning and yet it took one hobbit to bring him to utter ruin. He will not take that chance again."
"And yet by moving against her, he has brought us together so that we can defeat him," Gandalf added. "I think there is a certain poetic irony about it."
"What does this Saeran look like?" Aaron asked out of curiosity.
"Hang on, I think I’ve got a recent magazine he was on," Tory said rifling through the magazine holder next to the chair and tossed the copy of Time in the middle of the coffee table so that they could see the face of the enemy.
"Hey," Eve noted as she admired the smiling face of David Saeran on the glossy page, "cute."
"Isn’t he?" Tory sighed wistfully, "isn’t that just the way though? He’s young, scandalously handsome, wealthy beyond belief, unmarried, not to mention terribly charismatic and he turns out to be a dark lord who wants to rule the world. Men like this is why I no longer wish to date."
Deep in her slumber, she could see them.
Dark shapes moving through the night, twin orbs of light illuminating their way as they moved through the quiet streets, drawing closer with each second. They were drawn to more than just her now, Fred did not understand but she knew without doubt that she was no longer safe. She remembered in some distant past when the rumble of a car’s engine was preceded by the sounds of horses in relentless pursuit. She had felt the chill of them against the skin, felt their darkness contaminating her spirit, when their poison pierced her body. She had been someone else then; someone whose life had been changed forever by the glitter of a gold and an eye breathed in flame.
They had branded her soul, marked her for all time so that no matter what skin she was born into, they would always know her by sight and be drawn to her. She did not know why the anonymity with Bryan had been destroyed but she knew without doubt they were coming.
Fred’s scream tore through their chatter like a siren’s scream.
Bryan was out of his chair and crossing the floor towards the stairs with speed that impressed even the elves. Following close behind was Aaron as he hurried upstairs, taking two steps at a time. There was utter terror in that scream and for an insane moment, Bryan thought that the enemy had found them despite the fact that no one had known he was coming here to Tory Harding’s home. She was still screaming his name when he reached the door to the guestroom he had left her and pushed open the door to find her sitting up in her bed, tears streaking her face.
"Bryan!" She cried out, arms outstretched in readiness to embrace him when he reached her.
"Fred, what is it?" Bryan demanded a small measure of relief flooding into his being when he saw that she was alone in the room and there were no monsters with glowing eyes in the darkness with her.
"They’re coming Bryan!" She whimpered, allowing him to sweep her into his arms upon reaching her.
"Are you sure?" Bryan asked, knowing well enough about her intuitions not to question it. The last time it had saved both their lives.
"They’re coming! I saw it in my dreams!" She insisted.
"What’s coming?" Aaron asked as he appeared next to Bryan.
"Saeran’s men," Bryan retorted hurrying to the window and looking outside. Beyond the grounds of the house, he saw only an empty street and with little indication of danger.
"Fred luv," Bryan looked at the weeping child in his arms, "are you sure? There’s nothing out there."
"They’re coming!" She looked at him with nothing less than terror in her eyes.
"Has she been wrong before?" Aaron asked not about to discount anything despite how benign the street appeared outside.
"No," Bryan said grimly. "If she thinks something is coming, I think we’d better pay attention."
"Aaron!" Eve shouted from downstairs.
Aaron and Bryan made eye contact briefly before both men hurried from the room, with Aaron leading the way and Bryan following with Fred still in his arms. Eve’s voice was filled with urgency and Aaron came quickly to the conclusion that perhaps Fred was not mistaken in her belief that danger was eminent. They reached the living room in seconds and saw that Haldir and Legolas were at the window, peering outside while Gandalf seemed deep in thought. Aaron had known the wizard long enough to guess that whatever senses Gandalf had in his keeping had also sensed the same danger as Fred.
"What is it?" Aaron asked.
"We must leave," Gandalf turned his focussed gaze upon the younger man. "I sense them coming."
"So do I," Legolas confirmed from the window. "They are close."
Bryan set Fred down, who was rather overwhelmed by the fact that they were suddenly more than two people. She left Bryan and drifted towards Gandalf in particular, her blue eyes fixed upon him. He felt very familiar to her in a way she could not explain. Gandalf in turn lowered his gaze to Fred, noting the child’s attention was on him.
"Hello there Fred," he greeted her warmly. "My name in Gandalf."
"Hello Gandalf," she looked at him, still wearing that expression of knowing.
"Don’t worry yourself too much over all this," he said warmly. "We’re all your friends here and we will protect you from him."
Her eyes widened and as those blue orbs stared at him in understanding, Gandalf could very well imagine that it was Frodo Baggins staring at him.
"You know about him," she said softly, whispering so that Bryan who was more interested in talking to Eve at that moment, would not hear her.
"Yes," Gandalf nodded. "I know about him. Sometimes, I see him myself."
"He made them hurt mummy and daddy," Fred replied in a tiny voice. "I don’t want him to hurt Bryan too."
"He won’t," Gandalf answered lowering himself so that he could make eye contact with her, "I promise."
Fred started to feel a little better because when Gandalf made a promise, she had a feeling he would keep it no matter what.
"We’re leaving Tory," Aaron told her and the lawyer could only stare at him dazed before running to get her coat and her handbag, unable to think of anything else she should take during this sudden flight.
"Turn off all the lights," Bryan barked and Eve complied, hurrying to the light switch and going through the process of ensuring that they were in darkness in a matter of seconds. If not for one remaining light whose illumination was low enough to be safe, they would be unable to see anything but silhouettes.
"What is the plan?" Eve asked no one in particular when she returned.
"The plan is, we get as far away from here as possible," Bryan stated firmly. "Hopefully before we have to get through them."
"Good idea," Aaron agreed glancing at Fred whose eyes were darting about frantically, more conscious of the impending danger than any of them, elves included. "We’ve got a kid with us."
"We must hurry," Legolas urged as he kept a vigil at the window. With his elven sight, he could see better in the darkness than any of them. I sense that they are very close."
"Right," Bryan nodded, not about to question how the elf was so sure of this because he was grateful for the warning. Instead he turned to Eve and asked, "where are all those weapons you brought in here?"
"Here," she said already at the canvas duffle bag she had unloaded from the back of the car shortly after Bryan’s arrival. His accounting of how he had been evading gunfire for the past twenty-four hours had made Eve feel strangely vulnerable and she had retrieved the cache of weapons that she brought with her from the Anemone. During their time in Valinor, the guns had languished in storage with Eve thinking she would never have to use them again. However, with their return to the modern world and the nature of their business here, Eve had felt it prudent to bring them along.
Meanwhile, the elves were already arming their bows, preparing for the worst when it came. Legolas and Haldir both kept their attention fixed on what was transpiring outside and while it seemed quiet for the moment, they could sense the danger closing in on them. Time was dwindling; it was pressing up against them like the walls of the room and both counted themselves fortunate that they had taken the liberty of retrieving their bows and quiver when they learnt that the Nazgul were loose upon this world.
"What have you got?" Bryan asked Eve as he lowered himself next to her while she rummaged through the contents of the unzipped the bag.
"Just a shotgun and a couple of handguns. I have lots of ammunition though. Here Aaron, take this," Eve checked her police issue Barretta and ensured that the weapon was cocked and loaded before handing it to Aaron. "You still remember how to shoot one of these things?"
"Point and fire, I remember," Aaron nodded feeling the weight of it in his hand and remembering immediately, his intense dislike for this type of weapon.
"Is he joking?" Bryan stared at Aaron, suddenly wary that a weapon of that caliber should be in the hands of someone whose knowledge of guns was confined to aiming and pulling the trigger. In unskilled hands, the barretta could be almost as dangerous as the creatures hunting them.
"Nope," Eve shook her head, "he’s not."
"Hey, this of it this way," Aaron said sarcastically, reacting to the slight made at his expense, "if I shoot either one of you, being a medical doctor I can patch you up."
"That’s comforting to know," Bryan said frowning before turning to Eve again, "pass me the shot gun."
Eve handed him the weapon as well as the box out of shells that went with it. Bryan admired the modifications she had done to it, namely sawing off the edge so it was easier for her to handle. Eve had armed herself with a 45 calibre automatic handgun.
"I must say," Bryan replied looking over her small arsenal, "I am impressed. You come well prepared."
"Nothing us American girls love more than our guns," Eve said tautly.
"I do not think these weapons will avail you much protection against the enemy," Gandalf interrupted at this point. "They are not elven blessed, you will not harm the Nazgul."
"The Nazgul may not come alone," Bryan retorted. "The men that came after us this morning were definitely human. I know because I killed two of them."
"They are here!" Legolas called out over his shoulder just as orbs of light flooded the dark confines of the house. The sound of distant engines approaching fast filled the air and all was quiet until Fred broke the silence by running to Bryan.
"We have to go now!" Fred said tugging at his hand insistently towards the door.
"She’s right," Aaron could not fault the child’s logic. "Let’s move before they get any closer!"
"Fred, how about you stay with me and Gandalf," Tory said as she approached the little girl and took her hand. Tory knew that the others would be busy trying to get them out of their present predicament in one piece and since she had no experience with using a gun, the best that she could contribute to their escape was to ensure that Fred was safe.
Bryan raised his eyes and met Tory’s gaze, offering that unfathomable look he had given her earlier when they had put Fred to bed. She thought he was going to speak but instead made eye contact with a thoughtful expression on his face. For a moment, Tory did not know what to say under the power of that gaze. Fortunately, time was short and he concluded the moment with a slight nod that inspired Tory to flash him a little smile. It was enough.
"Let’s go!" Aaron prompted the others and they began moving quickly towards the door. The lights outside were becoming brighter, an indication of how close the enemy was approaching, and the powerful revving of engines grew louder in their ears. They would barely have enough time to escape with their lives.
"Its going to be a tight squeeze," Eve declared as they emerged into the night, a strange procession of bodies moving down the front steps. It was cold outside and the chill only added to the urgency they felt as they saw the bright headlights almost upon them.
"We’ll manage!" He retorted as he ran down the sidewalk towards the lime green Ford Galaxy which he had cursed as being the worst car Eve could have bought until now. For once the fact that the car was built like a sailboat had some advantage. No Toyota was going to fit eight people in any reality. It would be a tight fit as Eve said but at least they could.
"I’ll drive!" Aaron declared out, prompting Eve to toss the keys in his direction and as he caught it with one hand, heard someone mumbling behind him that made him retort sharply, "I heard that Legolas!"
Reaching the car, they began to pile in just as the black sedans carrying the enemy came to a screeching halt outside Tory’s house. There were at least three cars and no sooner than they had come to a stop, men began pilling out of their innards. Meanwhile, Gandalf had taken charge of Fred, holding the child in his lap as Haldir and Legolas quickly surrounded him on either side. Aaron sat behind the wheel and thanked God that the car’s front seats was similar to the back, it meant that at least four people could squeeze in front if necessary. He felt Eve pressing against him as he brought the engines to life. She immediately got up on her knees and pushed open the sunroof, surveying the situation with her gun drawn.
Her breath caught when she saw them for the first time. They were the last to emerge from the cars and Eve counted all nine of them turning directly to face her. Through the slits of their pasty masks, she saw the point of red piercing through the night like a knife. For an absurd moment, she thought Michael Myers, the insane killer from the Halloween movies suddenly acquiring eight other companions. It was as if they knew exactly where she and her companions were because they ignored the house and stared towards the car.
"Get this goddamn moving!" Eve shouted as the Nazgul started towards them.
If the humans working for Saeran were not alerted to their presence yet, then Eve’s demanded accomplished that adequately. As soon as the enemy turned towards the car, Bryan leapt into action having shoved Tory into the front seat next to Eve. They needed time to get away and those men would reach them in a matter of seconds. He cocked the shotgun and fired into the thickest part of the group. The initial shot sent one man flying back from the blast and gave the other reason to pause. However, while their human pursuers retreated, the Nazgul did not. They kept coming.
"Bryan get in the car!" Eve shouted as the first sounds of return gunfire exploded around their ears. "I’ll cover you!"
She released a barrage of bullets at the enemy as Bryan leapt into the car to avoid the return gunfire. He felt a flare of pain on his shoulder and grunted softly, ignoring the white-hot burning as best he could because this was not the best time to be worrying about wounds. A headlight shattered and the impact of lead against the steel could be heard repeatedly. Aaron reversed immediately, trying to get enough space to avoid driving through the Nazgul who were coming towards them, relatively unconcerned at the bullets. Eve was forced to lower herself into the compartment of the car as the gunfire was turned in her direction, leaving Bryan to cover her retreat in perfect tandem.
"This damn street’s a cul-de-sac!" Aaron swore. "I’m going to have to go through them."
"Do so!" Legolas declared and pushed himself out of the window, until half his body was hanging out of it. Though it was difficult to manage, the elf was able to string his bow and take aim at the Nazgul as the Ford began to surge forward, closing the distance between them. Haldir seeing Legolas’ intent and aware that he was the only other person save Gandalf, who had a means of slowing down Sauron’s dark agents, followed the Prince’s lead and placed himself in the precarious position beyond the window of this infernal contraption.
The arrows flew threw the air with surprising swiftness. A terrible screech, like a banshees wail screamed through the night as the elven blessed arrows met their target, striking the lead Nazgul in the chest. The realization that they had been hurt immediately cautioned the others and their pace slowed as the car continued its breakneck speed towards them. Legolas’ speed with the bow had not altered much in over a hundred thousand years and any one who thought that a bow was dated in comparison to a gun, had cause to regret it as arrow after arrow struck the Nazgul. The arrows would not kill them because it took a greater power than an elven blessing to destroy the dark creatures but it hurt sufficiently them.
Seeing that the arrows from both elves were physically injuring the Nine, the human agents of Sauron began turning their guns towards them. Bryan and Eve were quick to counter this, using their guns to lay down a barrage of suppressing fire that kept them from getting a clear shot at either Legolas or Haldir. Very soon, they had soon ensured that the enemy was seeking cover to avoid being hit.
Meanwhile, Aaron was navigating through the Nazgul and humans who were bent on stopping the car. He jammed his foot down on the accelerator and promptly drove into the last remaining obstacle in his way. This was a Nazgul who ran forward and threw himself across the bonnet of the car, grabbing on tightly as his body landed with a dull thud. The pasty face masked creature looked through the windscreen at Aaron and then at passengers in the front seat. His crimson gaze seemed to sparkle when he caught sight of the tiny face holding Gandalf tightly before smashing his fist through the glass.
"Hit the brakes!" Bryan shouted as he fired at the Nazgul only to see the bullets did little if any good. The Ringwraith took the shots as the car left his companions behind, with little more than a flinch.
"I’m not stopping this car," Aaron shouted as he shook himself, trying to dislodge any pieces of glass that had fortunately not cut him to ribbons. "Legolas! Get him off!"
Legolas craned further out, until he was almost kneeling out the window and fired his bow once more. The arrow struck the Nazgul in the throat and once again that terrible scream of pain followed, coupled with black fury. It clawed at the projectile imbedded in its body and as Aaron swung around the corner, were unable to maintain his grip. The Nazgul’s body flew off the car, tumbling away into the darkness and colliding with what sounded like rubbish bins. Aaron did not care; he was more interested in what he could see in his rear view mirror, which was nothing. They were not being followed. Hopefully, the encounter with elven arrows had given the Nazgul reason to pause.
"Is everyone alright?" Aaron asked, trying to keep his eyes on the road but the doctor in him would not be satisfied until he knew that every one of his comrades was safe. There had been a lot of bullets flying back and forth as evidenced by the bullet holes in the body of the car and the fact that he had only one headlight. He was certain that when time permitted, they would find a good deal more. Anyone of those could have been lethal.
"I’m okay," Eve said to Aaron and noted the sigh of relief at that news.
"Fred?" Bryan called out to the back seat. "How are you doing luv?"
"She is quite safe with me," Gandalf answered offering the child a warm smile. "She’s been very brave. Haven’t you Fred?"
"I’m okay Bryan," her small voice returned and she peeked over the edge of the front seat to deliver Bryan a smile.
"Oh God Bryan!" Tory exclaimed when she noticed a glimmer of something slick on his shoulder caught the light. "You’re shot!"
"What the hell did I just ask?" Aaron accused him with annoyance. "Didn’t I ask if everyone was okay?"
"Steady on," Bryan looked at him. "Its a flesh wound."
"Does it hurt?" Fred asked, her small face contracting with worry. She did not like to think of Bryan injured in any way. She had seen how her mummy and daddy had looked after the bad men had shot them and Fred did not think she could bear seeing Bryan hurt that way either.
"Just stings," Bryan shrugged, determined to allay Fred’s fears. "I’ll be alright."
"You want to let me be the judge of that?" Aaron countered, believing no gunshot wound was minor. "I am after all the doctor here."
"I thought you were a psychiatrist," Bryan returned amused by the man’s reaction.
"He moonlights," Eve explained but she felt the same blase about Bryan’s wound. She had been shot a couple of times during her career as a police woman and it was never as bad as those who were unaccustomed to the life might think. "Aaron, it really doesn’t look too bad. I’m sure it just passed through without hitting anything vital."
"We should stop when we have drawn a little further away from the Nazgul Aaron," Legolas advised in case Aaron was inclined to stop the vehicle. "We surprised them on this occasion but I do not think that it will be long before they come in search of us again."
"I would like to know how he was able to find us," Haldir remarked.
"Any easy enough matter for Sauron," Gandalf replied. "If he could sense Frodo’s soul in this child, I do not doubt that he was able to sense me."
"I doubt he would be that specific," Eve replied. "He may know you’re around but exactly? That’s a little coincidental."
"Yes but if he knows that Gandalf here is likely to be with Aaron and there’s every reason to believe that after what you told me happened in New York, then Tory’s would be the natural place to look." Bryan offered as he flinched a little at the pain that was hard to ignore now that his adrenaline was no longer pumping.
"Well we need to get off the streets," Aaron said glancing at Bryan and not liking the slick patch on the fabric of his coat that was becoming larger by the minute. "I need to look at your arm and don’t give me any of that crap about you being able to handle it. The bleeding is getting worse."
"Alright then," Bryan said with a sigh, aware that this doctor was not going to take no for an answer. "I suggest we get out of town. The less people who see us the better."
"Head south," Tory spoke up suddenly.
"South?" Aaron looked at her in question. "What’s south?"
"A client whose summer home is presently unoccupied," she replied automatically.
"How do you know?"
"Because he’s behind bars," Tory answered before adding, "I couldn’t get him bail."
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.