Triumvirate: 8. Chapter Seven: Strategy

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8. Chapter Seven: Strategy

Rings were vastly overrated things.

Of all the creatures that had ever existed throughout the ages of the earth, no
one knew this better than David Saeran. Rings were trinkets that captured the
eye because their beauty was borne of precious metal and by their perceived
symbolism. Bonds were established by the exchange of rings. Titles were given
and prosperity marked by the encrustation of jewels upon a simple band of gold
or silver to be worn upon that most tactile of limbs, the fingers. There was a
time when so much of himself was placed into a ring, a receptacle he had forged
foolishly to hold the best of him. The ring had been his crowning achievement,
the final piece of an elaborate trap he had built to impose his will upon
others. Into this band of gold, he had poured every ounce of his strength, to
build a conduit to all the other rings of power so that he could bend its
wearers to his will.

Even now, David Saeran, who was once known as Sauron, Lord of Mordor, wondered
how he could have been so stupid.

The memories that followed the destruction of the ring, known to so many, as the
Master Ring or the One Ring and finally to Saeran’s own amusement, Isildur’s
Bane, were vague. There was the agony of fire and the abysmal sensation of being
thrown into emptiness so cold that it could none other than the Void. There,
his memories had dimmed excepting for the terrible knowledge that there could be
no way back. His power was lesser than his former master who was able to stay
cognizant during the eternity of incarceration on the fringes of all. It was a
terrible thing, Melkor had said when they were able to speak again, to find
oneself trapped on the edge of all things, to look at its center and see the
universe with its billions of stars and to know with utter despair that it was
beyond reach.

Saeran supposed that he was fortunate that his memory was less than that of his
master’s when he was reborn in the world. He was spared the horror of his
imprisonment and when he was resurrected, the spell that brought him to life
ensured he would do so at almost full strength of his former glory. Power had
returned to him. While it was not entirely in the fullness that he had known in
better days before the destruction of ring, much was restored to his new form.
It was invigorating and Saeran had remembered being astonished at the
realization of how greatly he had diminished himself by pouring all his power
into the confining vassal of a ring.

When he opened his eyes and saw the light of night sky for the first time in a
hundred thousand years, David Saeran, once called Sauron the dark master of
Mordor, swore that he would never again endanger his very existence because of a
ring.

Malcolm had returned Saeran to the earth a hundred years after his own
resurrection. Together they conspired to create a new kingdom, one that would be
invincible, one that would be embraced by man until the very end of their
existence. This plan was all the more sweet because all that could have opposed
this conspiracy of destruction were no more. For Saeran, it was difficult to
serve after being a lord himself but Saeran knew the value of patience and bid
his time well. His master was not much of a strategist. Even in the days of
Middle-earth, it had been Sauron who orchestrated many of Melkor’s campaigns
against the sons of Feanor.

It was Saeran who first advised Malcolm that it was prudent to deal with Olorin
who had wandered the earth for four hundred years. Despite Malcolm having erased
from his mind all memories of his former self, Saeran thought that they ought to
contain the Maia instead of allowing him to wander about freely. Unfortunately,
Malcolm had been superstitious about keeping Olorin close to his person, fearful
that the Valar may be able to find their servant even after what Malcolm had
done to him. Thus, Olorin was left to become lost in the wilderness of time,
until even Malcolm no longer knew where he was. Olorin’s fate concerned Saeran
greatly because Fate and Iluvutar had blessed Olorin with a remarkable
resilience and it was only a matter of time before things would come to a head.

Which was precisely what transpired the year that Saeran found himself free of
John Malcolm.

He had been too busy putting in place the pawns for his great plan in Europe to
pay close attention to what his master was doing in New York. He knew that
Olorin had surfaced again and efforts were made to retrieve the Istar. It
appeared that for once Malcolm was heeding his advice by dealing with the Maia
once and for all. Unfortunately, by the time, Saeran became aware that there
were elves involved; it was far too late to salvage anything from the disaster
that ensued.

The moment he realized that the Eldar had returned to the world of men, it was
not a tremendous deduction in logic to know that the Valar would not be far
behind. Taking the appropriate measures to safeguard himself, since Olorin had
no idea that he was in the world, Saeran had gone to ground, ensuring that he
was nowhere in their sights when the Valar came for his master. Across the
world, he had heard the themes of the Great Music singing in harmony for the
first time in aeons. It had shaken the walls of his sanctuary and for a time, he
had been afraid. Saeran may not remember the Void but he certainly did not wish
to return to it.

However when the Great Music had ended leaving only silence in its wake, Saeran
sensed that Malcolm and by extension Melkor no longer existed in any
manifestation, even in the Void.

He was simply gone.

Following John Malcolm’s demise, Saeran sensed not only the absence of his
master but also Olorin himself. Using his contacts in the FBI, CIA and MI6
respectively, Saeran pieced together what had brought about Malcolm’s downfall.
Saeran was content to let the rest of the world believe the destruction of
Monolith was the cause of another terrorist bombing. It was not long before
Doctor Aaron Stone’s name was mentioned in the investigation and Saeran learnt
Olorin’s rescuer was a New York psychiatrist, a psychiatrist who bore a striking
resemblance to a nemesis as hated as the Valar.

Isildur’s heir was responsible for his master’s destruction and Saeran moved
quickly to contain him, ensuring that every law enforcement agency in the world
knew that he was implicated in the destruction. Information was made readily
available to investigative teams, particularly the security tapes recovered from
the ruins of the Malcolm Building which revealed clearly, Doctor Stone making a
rather spectacular entry into the building’s front lobby in a T-Bird laden with
explosives.

Still, Saeran was not at all surprised when Olorin and Aaron Stone vanished from
sight. Their disappearance convinced the former dark lord that the enemy had
returned to Valinor. However, Saeran was unprepared to risk his carefully
cultivated scheme and thus accelerated his plans to ensure that even if Olorin
and Isildur’s heir were return to the shores of men, it would be too late.

In the year since assuming control of Malcolm Industries, Saeran had been busy.
Even before Malcolm’s demise, Saeran had been setting his plans in motion,
beneath the notice of his master. Telling Malcolm would only complicate things
and Saeran was confident that Malcolm would not be displeased with the end
result of his labors. To Malcolm, the Black Serpent group was little more than
an agency of chaos utilized to spread discord throughout the globe. He knew
nothing about the rings Saeran had forged, the rings which Saeran had wisely
placed only the smallest fraction of power because it was all that was needed to
sway the hearts of men. The targets had been chosen carefully. Each man came
from a strong military background and was capable of gaining assess to a nuclear
silo in each of the superpowers arsenal and each man if properly motivated, was
capable of initiating a launch.

Oh they would die doing it, but to Saeran they had always been expendable.

It was an easy matter to introduce the rings into their lives. Saeran had bought
and paid for both Xiang Li’s mistress and Walter Green’s new fiancée, Elizabeth.
There had been no need to use Andrei Nikolaevich’s wife because the package that
the Russian received from her had been tampered by a well-paid military mail
courier who saw nothing threatening about slipping a ring into the box of
biscuits. The moment the rings were slipped upon their fingers, they began to
hear whispers in the dark. Whispers reminded them of better days either in the
past or a glorious future yet to be, that could come to pass if only they dared
to seize power. The rings would tell them how.

In the midst of all his schemes, something wholly unexpected had developed.

When she was born six years ago, Saeran had felt in on the other side of the
globe. Malcolm had told him he was being foolish to be disturbed by a child
born with the soul of his old nemesis. What threat could a child be to him?
Saeran could not tell exactly where the child carrying the spirit of Frodo
Baggins was but he knew the exact day she was born, down to the very hour. He
enlisted the aid of the Nine whom he had resurrected from their prison in
shadows. It was his power that allowed them to bridge the gulf between the
shadow and the real world. Without him, they were trapped within formless
bodies, incapable of anything but existing in the limbo where they could walk in
the world but possessed no power to affect it.

With his return to the world, the Nine had been given shape and form, their
powers were restored and while Malcolm had thought little of them, he did employ
the Nazgul on occasion to deal with his enemies. However, in body and soul, they
belonged to Saeran first. He set to them the task of finding the Ringbearer and
to this end they were relentless. During their pursuit, they sought the child in
every corner of the world. Meanwhile, despite her exact whereabouts remaining
elusive to him, Saeran found that he could whisper in the child’s dreams. They
had both been masters to the One Ring and the connection between them could not
be severed by death.

When he spoke, Saeran knew she could hear him.

As Saeran had expected, Olorin returned to the world of men and his arrival
ensured that Isildur’s heir would also be present. At the instant the Ringbearer
was to come into his possession, an unlikely protector had stepped onto the
stage and rescued the child from beneath the reach of his Nazgul. When Saeran
discovered the identity of this unexpected meddler in his affairs, he was almost
inclined to laugh at the comic irony of it. It appeared that the child and her
protector were not strangers.

When Richard Caldwell had first told him about Bryan Miller’s belief that he was
connected to the terrorist group Black Serpent, Saeran had studied the file
provided by Caldwell in order to know this new threat. The moment he had laid
his eyes upon Bryan Miller, Saeran knew immediately that he was facing
Denethor’s oldest son. Boromir of Gondor was someone Saeran could have used if
the One Ring had ever come into the man’s possession. However, Boromir’s part
in the War of the Ring was brief and his death served to do nothing but clear
the way for Isildur’s heir to take the throne of Gondor.

Why Boromir of Gondor chose this moment to emerge in Bryan Miller was unknown to
Saeran, however, it appeared that he and the child had found their way into the
company of Olorin and Isildur’s heir, along with elves, and if the agony
suffered by his wraiths were any indication. Certainly the arrows extracted from
their shadowy bodies could be mistaken for none other. The markings were
different, a hundred thousand years had some effect upon the artistry of the
Eldar but there was no doubt that they could be anything but elven.

It was almost a new fellowship, he thought ruefully.

Instead of wasting time in some fruitless effort to acquire them, Saeran chose
to continue with his plans, which were, but a week away from reaching its
conclusion. Eight days from now, the world was going to be faced with an
entirely new way of existence. Saeran had spent the last one hundred years
preparing for it and now on the eve of its birth, he was going home to the place
he had spent almost as long as his existence on earth trying to find. This
time, it would not be quite so easy to destroy him. There was no ring to sneak
past his defenses to vanquish in any mountain of fire, there would be no great
armies sweeping across the land. When the end came, it would be quick and
decisive.

And the age of his reign would begin.

************

They had driven south, past London to a rather large estate owned by one of
Tory’s clients in Westernham. It was almost dawn when they arrived at the
sprawling residence surrounded by manicured gardens, fountains and a duck pond
enclosed by a set of steel gates. Tory had acquired the keys to the man’s house
shortly after his incarceration. As his barrister, she was his only conduit to
the outside world and his home. The government had seized the house since its
owner was charged with tax fraud of almost twenty million pounds. However, until
a verdict decided their fate in court, all assets relating to the crime were
frozen.

The large house was deserted when they arrived as the household staff had been
dismissed in light of the situation. Fortunately, gas and electricity was still
connected because the only person with the authority to change this state of
affairs was behind bars. Tory did not have any concerns about using the place
for a time because she knew for a fact that it would be a good while before her
client saw the inside of a courtroom. At the moment, it was as good a place as
any to regroup since the Nazgul and other agents of David Saeran had invaded her
home. More than anyone, Tory needed to come to grips with the fact that she was
now a fugitive like Aaron and his companions.

After entering the house through the impressive marble foyer, the unexpected
guests soon discovered the vastness of the place and it was generally agreed
that it was wise not to disturb too many of the rooms and to remain close
together in case of any sudden danger. Considering how they had just fled with
their lives, it seemed prudent that everyone remained in close proximity to each
other. The living room where Ronald Banks, Tory’s absent client, entertained
his guest was almost as big as the lower floor of Tory’s house. In a short time,
the sun would begin to creep up on the twilight and everyone was exhausted. Fred
had dropped off to sleep sometime during the journey and the first order of
business was to put the child to sleep on one of the comfortable divans
scattered about the room.

A small encampment was made in the room as Eve and Tory found blankets and
pillows so that they could get some much-needed sleep. Meanwhile Legolas and
Haldir took a tour around the house to ensure that they were completely alone
and that no one had observed their arrival. While Tory was certain that the
mansion was vacated, it made sense to be absolutely certain that their arrival
here had gone unnoticed. They needed a few hours to rest and to decide how they
were going to deal with the threat that Saeran had imposed upon the world. The
flight they had been undertaking in one form or another could not continue and
Gandalf had declared that time was becoming short. No doubt this perception had
followed in the wake of their confrontation with the Nazgul.

“It appears one must be swollen with riches to afford a home like this,” Legolas
commented as they walked through the marble hallways, with its paintings of gold
gilt frames and ornate furniture.

“Acquired dishonestly I understand,” Haldir remarked as he paused to admire a
Ming vase decorating a corner table. “The lady Tory has spoken that the master
of this house is a criminal of some kind. I wonder why she chooses to associate
with someone of such questionable character, particularly when she appears to be
a woman of great conviction.”

“Eve explained this to me,” Legolas replied as they reached a set of French
doors that emptied into outside grounds. “They do not decide who is innocent or
guilty until the matter has been heard in a council of law. Tory is his
representative when they go before this council. Each man has the right to speak
for himself or have someone speak for him in such instances. It is in its way,
an attempt at a just approach though I understand that there are flaws, since
they do not believe in taking life as a means of punishment."

“Yet there is so much death,” Haldir commented as both men stepped out into the
gardens and immediately found the fresh breath of night air rather invigorating
after the toxic scent of the city. “One only needs to look upon Boromir’s
reincarnation to see that he reeks of it.”

“They have lost their way a little without us,” Legolas frowned unhappily as he
looked up into the stars and was happy to see that though the constellations
seemed to have drifted farther apart, essentially they remained the same. “I
often question whether it was entirely wise for us to remain sequestered away in
Valinor for all eternity.”

“Would you like to soil our people by returning here?” Haldir stared at him.
“They have brutalized this world beyond reason in our absence.”

“I would not be so harsh,” Legolas, countered, unwilling to say that everything
that men had done in this world was terrible. Amongst the rampaging
urbanization, there was evidence of great accomplishments as well as great
courage. “They have changed it yes, but no more than is deserved. We left the
world to them after all.”

“I think we should continue to leave it to them,” Haldir declared unconvinced.
“This is no longer the place for us.”

“Perhaps not,” the prince said softly. “But I fear if we remain cloistered for
too long, we will grow stagnant. We have been unchanged for almost a hundred
thousand years. I wonder if that it entirely a good thing.”

“You worry too much about things that should not concern you,” Haldir pointed
out. “Your difficulty is being unable to appreciate what you have. You always
look to the future, look to more. You are never satisfied with what is.”

“And you are too complacent,” Legolas returned promptly, showing that he was
able to give as well as he received. “We have known each other for aeons and I
still do not fathom how you think.” As he concluded his statement, he concluded
the area was devoid of anyone and prepared to return to the others.

“I am perfectly aware of how you think,” Haldir returned swiftly following his
lead. “If it were not for your wife and myself of course, you would collapse
under the weight of your own self importance.”

“Self importance?” Legolas looked at the elf in astonishment before noting that
Haldir was smiling a little. “Surely you must jest. You are the most arrogant
elf I know. If there was a monument built to it, your image would be set in
stone.”

“That is true,” Haldir chuckled, not at all offended. “But at least I do not
hide it.”

“You know who you remind me of?” Legolas turned to him and realized at that
moment that it was true and how he reacted to Haldir was more or less the same
as another friend that was as cherished as Aragorn and Boromir, who would never
return because he was neither elf nor man.

“Gimli?” Haldir ventured a guess.

“Yes,” Legolas said somewhat surprised that Haldir was able to make such an
accurate guess, “how did you know?”

“I saw him once before he died you know,” Haldir revealed as their steps slowed
a little. “It was during his final days and my lady Galadriel wished to see him
before he passed so I accompanied her to your house.”

“I remember,” Legolas said softly, trying not to feel too much grief at the loss
of the friend who had sailed with him to the Undying Lands, who had refused to
let him waste away in mourning for those who had died in Middle-earth. He
remembered how Gimli had glowed seeing Galadriel before him, knowing that she
had come to see him specifically. She was his unattainable love, whom he admired
from the moment he had set eyes upon her in Lothlorien until the day he died.

It was the last spark of fire that Legolas would ever see in his eyes.

“When my lady had taken leave of him,” Haldir continued, aware of Legolas’
emotions in this regard, “the dwarf had beckoned me close and asked of me a
favor.”

“A favor?” Legolas exclaimed in surprise, having never heard of this before. “He
asked of you a favor?” Legolas was almost stunned into disbelief. Haldir and
Gimli were not exactly great friends and their first meeting in Lothlorien had
been less than amicable.

“Yes,” Haldir nodded enjoying Legolas’ stunned expression somewhat; “he told me
that he feared you would grieve him terribly and that you would miss his
presence in your life because only he knew how to keep you on your toes.”

Legolas let out a short laugh and nodded, unable to deny that, “he did at that.
He was the most vexing being I have ever met. Sometimes it was easier to take a
bow to him then it was trying to understand his thinking but he was my friend
and a more loyal companion could not be found. I miss him sometimes even more
then I missed Aragorn.”

“I know,” Haldir said with surprising sympathy. “He asked me to never allow you
take yourself too seriously, to on occasion vex you to no end because he knew
that I was so much smarter and more sensible than you, and that I was the only
one who could.”

Legolas stared at Haldir; “he asked you that?”

“Yes,” Haldir smiled faintly. “I do not know if I have replaced him but I have
enjoyed fulfilling his request.” The former march warden of Lothlorien smile
broadened into a grin of mischief.

Legolas was filled with a great deal of emotion at this revelation but he was
not about to show it to Haldir. It would only lessen the impact of what the elf
had just told him. It was just like Gimli however, to make such a request of
Haldir and he supposed that Haldir did make life interesting, though there were
moments when the urge to throttle him was great. But then the urge to throttle
Gimli had not been an uncommon desire in Legolas from time to time so to that
end, Haldir had succeeded spectacularly in fulfilling the dwarf’s request.

“I would not be so confident of that,” Legolas snorted and continued walking.
“At best you were irritating.”

“Its still good enough to penetrate your thick hide,” Haldir countered smoothly.

“You dream,” Legolas retorted before they returned to the others and resumed
their debate as to who should have the remote.

************

“Stay still,” Aaron ordered as he examined the wound on Bryan’s shoulder.

“You bloody well try and stay still when you’ve got a bullet hole through your
body,” Bryan snapped with uncharacteristic annoyance as he was forced to submit
himself to the ministration of Aaron Stone’s medical skills.

“Hey, you were the one who was saying it was just a flesh wound,” Aaron reminded
sarcastically, not really paying much attention to Bryan’s grumbling because he
was too intent of removing the piece of lead that had become lodged in the man’s
shoulder. While the gunshot wound was not as serious as it could be, Aaron was
still determined to deal with the injury as quickly as possible. He was
grateful his medical bag had survived the ordeal it had taken to reach here,
especially after their rather dangerous escape from Hillingdon.

“Well it looked like it at the time,” Bryan grumbled as he felt the tugging at
his flesh that made his stomach lurch. Novocaine was the best that Aaron was
able to provide in terms of an anaesthetic. While he felt nothing as the doctor
went digging through his flesh with surgical tweezers and other sharp
instruments for the bullet, the insistent tugs that generated no pain made him a
little uneasy.

“You got a lot of scar tissue on you,” Aaron remarked, noticing the numerous
scars on Bryan’s skin as he worked on removing the bullet. “Do you get shot a
lot?”

“Comes with the territory,” Bryan shrugged, supposing that the scars on his
body, which were commonplace to him, might be a bit disconcerting to someone
else. “Been in a couple scrapes through the years, nothing too serious.”

“I think that’s about to change,” Aaron said with a sigh. “We’re going to get
bloody on this one, you know that don’t you?”

Bryan nodded grimly, “I know but we can’t keep running and hiding. If it is as
you say, that the world is about to be destroyed in a nuclear fireball, we have
to do something.”

“That we must,” Gandalf nodded joining the conversation as Tory and Eve put Fred
to sleep and was taking care of the sleeping arrangements. “Unfortunately, we
have no idea in what manner Sauron chooses to wreak havoc upon this world.”

“How strong is Sauron now?” Aaron asked as he dropped the piece of lead into
small metal bowl he had for the purpose. The sound made Bryan flinch as Aaron
immediately staunched the ragged hole left behind in his flesh with a piece of
surgical gauze.

“I am uncertain,” Gandalf said honestly. “In his human guise, Melkor was a mere
shadow of his strength but once his physical body was extinguished, he was very
powerful indeed. I would not have been able to defeat him.”

“Sauron is more than just a Maia,” Legolas remarked, his hearing having picked
up some of the conversation prior to his and Haldir’s entry into the room, “he
was a sorcerer of great power. In his human shell, he may be limited but if we
should be foolish enough to kill him, we will risk releasing him from his body
and I am uncertain whether or not we will be able to stop him any better than
stopping Melkor.”

“He needs confinement,” Gandalf stated. “Confinement in Valinor.”

All eyes except Bryan and Tory turned to the wizard in shock. “You want to bring
him back to Valinor?” Aaron exclaimed

“Valinor was capable of confining Melkor, I believe the same is possible for
Sauron,” Gandalf replied.

“Gandalf, that won’t be easy,” Eve declared. “Getting him across the country is
dangerous. To us he’s Sauron but to everyone else, he’s David Saeran, a public
figure and a very important man. Kidnap him and every law enforcement agency in
England will hunting us, on land and sea.”

“Look we’ll figure that out later,” Aaron declared since it was a moot point
until they actually got their hands on David Saeran and this moment in time,
that seemed like a remote possibility. “Right now, we need to stop running and
do something. We need to reach him.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Bryan agreed, though the mechanics of it was going to take
a good deal more planning that the simplistic statement made by Aaron, “I don’t
fancy going through those Nazgul though.”

“Unfortunately, we do not have a great deal of choice in this, he will keep them
close and they will die to protect him,” Legolas explained grimly.

“Unfortunately, it is unavoidable,” Gandalf returned before adding with the
barest hint of a smile, “However, I am familiar with the elvish spell that makes
them vulnerable to your weapons. If we must face the Nine, then you will not be
completely defenseless.”

“So where would he be?” Haldir asked anyone who could understand him.

“That’s a good question,” Aaron turned to Bryan. “Do you know where Saeran is
now?”

“Well when I last had any news of him, it was just after he ordered Fred’s
parents killed. I’m assuming he is still at his estate in Windsor,” Bryan
replied readily as Aaron completed treatment of his wound and was now wrapping a
bandage around it. “He has a lot of security but I managed to get through once
before, I see no reason why I can’t do it again.”

“Okay,” Aaron took a deep breath; having considered in silence what was to be
done as this part of the plan was being discussed. “I say we get some sleep and
if you’re feeling up to it Bryan, you, me and Legolas will go there tomorrow and
check things out to make sure he’s actually there.”

“The three of you alone?” Eve looked at him in concern, not at all liking that
idea.

“We’re not going to let him know we’re there,” Aaron returned automatically,
understanding her fear but refusing to let it change his mind, “we’re just going
to see what we’re up against. No doubt, now that he knows there are elves and
wizards in the equation, he might just decide to brush up on his security. We
need to know what else he has up his sleeves beyond the Nazgul and armed thugs.
John Malcolm had a monster in his basement, God only knows what Saeran might
have in his.”

“A monster?” Bryan stared at him.

“Trust me,” Aaron replied shuddering at that enormous gapping mouth that still
woke him up at nights some time, “if Saeran keeps the same kinds of pets as John
Malcolm, I want to know about it before we become its dinner.”

“Very astute,” Bryan said impressed by Aaron’s strategic thinking as well as his
sense of self- preservation. If one did not know better, Bryan would think that
Aaron had some former military experience. “I’m not too sure about the monster
part but I have to agree with the doctor on the rest of it, just the three of us
to start off with. The rest of you stay here and protect Fred.”

“Do not engaged Sauron any of you,” Gandalf warned before he would agree to
anything. “Merely watch and learn. It is not wise to confront him prematurely.
The enemy is not to be underestimated.”

No one disagreed because that much about the dark lord was evident.


************

Tory had not contributed much to the discussion regarding what was to be done
with Saeran because there was very little in her opinion, she could honestly
contribute. In this strange affair she found herself embroiled, Tory felt so
far out of her depth that there was still a part of her that believed all this
was the product of a terrible nightmare from which she would awaken in the
morning. She knew that she ought walk away and leave Aaron to his fate, now
that they had a course of action but Tory was compelled to stay. Even Aaron had
said that if she wanted to be released from their company, she was free to go.
His only advice had been to leave the country and stay out of sight until they
had dealt with David Saeran. However, Tory could no more leave Aaron, than she
could leave Stuart, if he was still alive.

Instead, while the others slept, she wandered to the kitchen and was glad to
find that the kitchen’s non-perishables were still in ample supply. Tory
proceeded to make herself a pot of tea, enduring it without milk because she
hoped it might help her sleep. Unfortunately, sitting at the large stainless
steel bench in Ronald’s Banks kitchen, sleep was the farthest thing from her
mind. Instead, Tory nursed her tea and tried to think of a reason why she was
still in this strange group that comprised of elves, humans and wizards. The
reason came to her immediately and compelled her to stay even though she had
only vague suspicions of its truth.

However, Tory was a solicitor and as a solicitor, she knew when someone was
keeping the truth from her. Aaron had told her of his experiences in New York,
skillfully circumventing the one event that convinced Tory that he had not told
her the complete truth. She loved him for wanting to protect her but Tory simply
had to know and she would not rest until she did.

“Shouldn’t you be asleep?”

His voice startled her and Tory was so deep in her thoughts she had not even
heard him approach. Looking over her shoulder, she saw Bryan walking into his
room, his shirt unbuttoned because of the bandages, moving slower than usual
despite his claims that the wound he sustained was minor. Men, she thought with
sarcasm. He walked up to the table and lowered himself unto a stool facing her,
the weariness in his face showing. She thought about Fred and what the former
MI6 agent had been forced to deal with since the two had come into contact and
sympathized at how overwhelming this must be to him.

Legolas had explained to her, whom he believed Aaron and Eve to be in the past.
It sounded far-fetched to her but then after what Gandalf had done; she was
obliged to believe it. Aaron had always kept women at arm’s length. No romantic
relationship had formed between them because she instinctively knew that she was
not what she was looking for, even before she married Stuart. Tory had thought
that Aaron was a romantic but when she saw he and Eve together, Tory could well
believe that they had been waiting all their lives for each other. Even when
things were at their worst, Tory had never seen Aaron so rapt in anyone as he
was in Eve.

Bryan too had been someone in the past, someone that they knew and someone who
needed redemption. It could not be an easy thing to accept especially by someone
as assured about his destiny as Bryan obviously was. Tory counted herself
fortunate that there was no one in her past and who she was now, was all she had
ever been. She could not imagine what it must be like to wake up one morning and
find out that before this life, you had lived another and had died leaving
things undone.

“I could say the same about you,” Tory pointed out as he sat down slowly, taking
care of his wound as he did so. “I would think you would need it more, since you
are the one who has been shot.”

“Minor wound,” Bryan replied with a little smile, “hardly anything to be
concerned about.”

“Does that bravado impress anyone?” She deadpanned with sarcasm.

“The girls down the pub,” he returned with a gleam of mischief in his eyes
before glancing at the pot. “Is that plain tea?”

“Unfortunately yes,” Tory replied. “I hoped Ronald had some chamomile but you
can’t expect too much of a man who was used to hoarding money. Would you like a
cup?”

“I’d rather a pint but I think Aaron will have an almighty fit if he finds out
I’ve been drinking,” Bryan sighed. “Aside of being king of some ancient kingdom,
I think he was also a drill sergeant in a past life.”

Tory chuckled and poured him a cup before sliding it to him. “Aaron does get
that way. He’s a brilliant psychiatrist but I know for a fact that he was a
better medical doctor.”

“Why did he change?” Bryan asked with genuine interest.

“Probably can’t decide what’s more challenging, mental wounds or physical ones,”
Tory answered as best she could because that was a question she had often
wondered herself. “He’s a natural healer but he can’t seem to make up his mind
which hurts are the worst, so he flip flops from one to another.”

“Its not just a woman’s prerogative to change her mind you know,” Bryan replied
finding himself in the curious position of defending Aaron Stone’s life choices.
“Perhaps Aaron feels the same way. God knows when this is over and if I’m still
alive, I may have to deal with the fact that my days with MI6 are done.”

“Would that upset you?” She stared at him.

“I don’t know,” Bryan responded truthfully as he sipped his tea and found that
it was quite soothing even if it was a poor replacement for Guinness. “I’ve
never done anything else. I wouldn’t know where to begin with a new life.”

“I’m sure you’ll land on your feet,” Tory remarked, “men like you often do.”

“Men like me?” Bryan asked, curious as to what sort she thought he was.

“You know, always in the thick of things. If you can’t find trouble, you’ll
cause it. I’m certain you’d be the same even if you were a postal worker.
You’re a man of action so to speak.”

“I don’t know whether I like the sound of that,” Bryan replied, somewhat
hesitant to think that he was a lighting rod for danger.

“You are what you are,” Tory smiled, feeling no repentance in her opinion about
him.

“Not that you’re much different,” Bryan pointed out refusing to be the only one
categorized in such a manner. “Aaron was right you know, you should get out
while you can. This thing with Saeran is going to get very dirty. It might be
an idea if you are far away from here when everything goes to hell.”

“I can’t do that,” Tory shook her head, unable to even conceive the idea of
running with balking. “Believe me, I wish I could but I simply can’t.”

“I don’t want to see you hurt,” Bryan said with more emotion than he intended to
show. His eyes met hers briefly before he lowered his gaze, embarrassed by the
display, “if you stay with us, it will happen.”

“I can’t Bryan,” Tory said softly, feeling a little flustered by that brief
contact with even if she could not agree to what he wanted. For a moment, it
felt like there was more to his words than just concern. There was something in
his eyes she could not define, like that meaningful look he had given her in the
stairway. It made her compelled to give him a reason for her refusal.

“I can’t leave because I’m fairly certain that what Aaron got entangled with in
New York is why Stuart was killed,” she said after a moment.

She was a smart woman, Bryan thought. Aaron was a fool if he thought she would
not reach this conclusion when enough time had been devoted to the subject.
Bryan could not deny that when he had learnt of Stuart Farmer’s death shortly
before the destruction of the Malcolm Building, he had suspected a connection as
well. It was inevitable that she would not deduce the truth.

“I’ve been a solicitor long enough to know what doesn’t fit,” she continued to
speak when it appeared he had nothing to say, “and what is a coincidence. Stuart
dying so close to all these events in New York is not a coincidence. If
anything could convince Aaron to act against Malcolm Industries, it would be
Stuart’s death. It has the same power over me Bryan. If they are responsible for
Stuart, then I want to see them burn just as much everyone else.”

Bryan could not blame her for that. If it were someone he once loved as much as
Tory had loved Stuart, then he would be braying for vengeance as well, even if
that love were now in the past. However, Bryan did not wish to see Tory ending
up like Stuart Farmer because it would hurt him to know that she was dead. He
liked this woman and though they had known each other for a short time, felt as
if she was the only one of her gender who knew he was a bastard and didn’t seem
to mind it.

He would hate to lose her.

***************

Their secret occupation of the Bank’s home had still gone unnoticed when Bryan,
Aaron and Legolas drove away from the residence in Westernham in the early
afternoon towards Windsor. Although no one was terribly pleased that their
company was being divided in this manner, it could not be denied that the plan
to do conduct a little bit of reconnaissance was a good idea that should be
followed through. With Saeran almost certainly being the cause of the
destruction Galadriel had witnessed in her visions, the matter of confronting
Melkor’s agent was inevitability they could not escape. Aaron did not mind
sacrificing his life to save the earth from a dark age but he did mind if that
sacrifice was in vain. Thus, before they could think about going after Saeran,
they had to know what they were up against.

They spent a good deal of the afternoon driving to Saeran’s sprawling Windsor
estate, travelling through the County of Berkshire whose main occupation was
farming. Legolas in particular enjoyed the drive, taking in the sights of the
lovely English countryside as they drove down the M25 motorway with West Byfleet
and Chertsey providing landmarks for their journey. The elf claimed that the
lands they passed reminded him of the Shire, though he had never spent a great
deal of time in the lands of the Periannath or hobbits as they were better known
to the rest of Middle earth in the days after Sauron’s destruction.

“So they were not dwarves?” Aaron asked as Legolas imparted to them what he knew
about hobbits.

“No, they were more like men actually,” the elf replied. “The only difference
between a man and a hobbit was their size and their feet.”

“Feet?” Bryan looked over his shoulder at the backseat to meet Legolas’ gaze in
question.

“Yes, they never wore shoes and had hairy feet,” he replied. “They also had the
greatest fondness for brew and smoking leaf.”

Aaron had to stifle a snort and Bryan faced front trying not to smile, much to
Legolas’ confusion. The two humans exchanged a knowing look before Bryan
remarked with a lopsided grin.

“That explains the Welsh then.”

“Or Potheads,” Aaron sniggered, adding further to the elf’s bewilderment at what
they found so amusing.

Shortly before noon, they turned off the main highway into Windsor Road.
Ironically enough, this eventually linked to The Straight Road that brought them
into the heart of Windsor. Old Windsor, the village it had replaced was a
further five kilometres to the east. Windsor was something of a market town
with some light industry. However its biggest claim to fame was as a tourist
destination. Home not only to the Legoland Amusement Park, it was easy reach to
any number of popular attractions, the most notable being Windsor Castle. Bryan
had been grateful for the number of people that visited this small community
because it meant that he was able to blend in quite easily during his
surveillance of David Saeran’s estate, some ten kilometres away from town.

Instead of setting out immediately for Saeran’s home, Bryan went instead to the
warehouse where he had rented a garage to store his van of surveillance
equipment, borrowed quite illegally from MI6. Considering that it was highly
likely he would be able to return any of it, Bryan decided to put it to good
use. Leaving the Ford in its place, the company continued their journey to David
Saeran’s estate in the van with the intention of returning for the vehicle once
they had completed their scouting mission regarding Saeran’s whereabouts. Bryan
expected that Saeran would still be at his estate since men of his reputation
and lifestyle did not leave the country without someone noticing it.

In the eventuality that Saeran was not at his home, Bryan had every intention of
driving to London, finding Richard Caldwell and shaking the truth from him. He
had not bothered to answer any of Caldwell’s efforts to contact him on his
cellular phone. Bryan was certain that if Caldwell were responsible for Saeran’s
men turning up at his flat, then any communication between them would be
monitored. While Bryan knew just how long he could stay on the line before any
digital tracing was possible, he did not wish to risk it when there was more
than his life at stake.

Despite the odd companions he had acquired, Bryan could not deny that it was
nice to find that he was not completely alone in this insane affair he had
stumbled into. While a part of him was still having difficulty believing that he
had once been Boromir of Gondor, Aaron and the others seemed to be a decent lot
who were willing to risk their lives in order to save the world. Perhaps what he
needed was to be convinced, as Gandalf had convinced Tory. While he was never
comfortable with anyone toying with his mind, perhaps his disbelief could be
lessened if the wizard would simply show him the past he supposedly played such
a vital role in.

“What is all this stuff?” Aaron asked as they found a secluded place on the edge
of Saeran’s estate to park the vehicle and begin their surveillance.

“Infra-red cameras, some listening equipment being a micro-bar digital recorder,
visual output for a couple of wireless cameras I installed, couple of fibre
optic receivers, the standard surveillance gear,” Bryan explained.

“It is almost another language,” Legolas remarked, having understood nothing
that Bryan had just said. However, judging by the screens he could see
displaying the insides of Saeran’s home, he could not refute the capability of
the strange devices within the vehicle.

“Standard gear?” Aaron looked at him suspiciously. “You know I used to have
patients with schizophrenic delusions that they were being watched all the time.
After seeing this stuff I’m starting to wonder whether or not they were really
unbalanced or did they know something I didn't?”

“Just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you,” Bryan
flashed him a cocky grin before adding with some measure of seriousness. “You
may turn your nose up on all this but let me tell you, these devices as invasive
as they are, stop more terrorists acts from coming to light than you will ever
know. Most of the time, we don’t let on how close the public comes to getting
blown up or what lunatic is roaming the same streets. It certainly isn’t the
most noble professions I can tell you but it is necessary.”

“Well it sure isn’t James Bond,” Aaron muttered as he conceded the point.

“James Bond is a load of rubbish,” Bryan retorted with no small amount of
derision. “I have yet to find myself in a situation where I was going to be
killed by an elaborate trap that takes an entire twenty minutes to do the job
whilst being left completely alone. Most hostiles tend to just shoot you.”

“So the laser in the Rolex is also fake?” Aaron asked with a completely straight
face.

“Legolas, pass me my gun,” Bryan said with an equally neutral expression.

“If it will keep your minds upon what we are here for, certainly,” Legolas
replied with a smile. “Although I can tell you that Sauron is here.”

“Are you sure?” Aaron stared at him, all traces of juvenile behaviour vanished
by that one statement.

“I can sense his presence,” Legolas replied looking at the small television
screen that revealed the inside of Saeran’s mansion.

“Can he sense you?” Bryan asked with concern, not wanting their position to be
given away, at least not yet.

“I do not believe so,” Legolas answered honestly. “I do not sense the Nine
either, only Sauron.”

“Let’s see where he is,” Bryan replied and began flipping switches on the
panelling beneath the screen. Each flick of a switch corresponded with a burst
of static with different views of the house being displayed. Bryan had only
installed his surveillance equipment in parts of the house that was certain to
be high traffic areas.

“His taste in residence has improved since Barad-dûr,” Legolas commented as he
saw Sauron’s plush surroundings.

“There,” Bryan pointed out.

David Saeran was in the front foyer of his mansion, issuing instructions to his
household staff. A collection of suitcases was being ferried past him by
servants and the implication that the man was quitting his present location was
fairly apparent.

“I think he’s leaving,” Aaron declared, pointing out the obvious.

“We can’t lose him,” Bryan said anxiously, “I wish those bugs were still in
place, we could at least hear where he was going.”

“Forget about that,” Aaron said abruptly as the image on the screen revealed
that Saeran was ready to depart. “Follow him.”

Bryan met his gaze for a moment and nodded in agreement before hurrying to the
front of the van and secured himself in the seat.

Aaron watched as Saeran strode out of the foyer beyond the reach of the tiny
camera. Saeran seemed oblivious to the fact that he was being observed, though
Aaron wondered whether he would be overtly concerned even if he knew they were
there. Once he was out of the house, there was no need to spy at him through the
van’s security cameras since, the window provided an adequate view of Saeran
emerging from the front door of his house. Though they were well hidden, the
van was still close enough to see Saeran and his bodyguards, who on this
occasion did not appear to be any of the Nine, waiting for the arrival of a
stretched limousine that was presently pulling out of the garage at the far end
of the mansion.

The car came to a halt in front of the mansion’s main entrance, its passenger
clearly to be David Saeran. Saeran did not linger long once the vehicle was
before him and promptly climbed inside its dark confines. A few more seconds
ticked by as the luggage was loaded into the rear of the car and it appeared to
Aaron that Saeran had packed quite a lot and wondered exactly how long the man
intended to be away. Had their arrival precipitated his need to run? Somehow
Aaron doubted that their presence alone could cause the man to flee. After all
since Saeran had been aware of their existence, it was they more reason to fear
a confrontation than Malcolm Industries CEO.

The reason for his departure gave Aaron grave concern because the only reason he
could imagine why Saeran would leave the capture of Fred and the rest of them to
his underlings was if he was required to be elsewhere. Any urgency that could
press a dark lord to abandon his plans of vengeance against old enemies was good
reason for worry.

Bryan waited until the car had pulled out of the lengthy driveway that led to
the main road before he started the van’s engines and gave pursuit. Tailing was
also something he was accustomed to doing and never than at this moment, had he
put as much care into the effort because they had to know where Saeran was
growing. Gandalf’s portents of doom, not to mention his claims that they were
running out of time, demanded that they kept the dark lord in their sights for
as long as possible.

The van kept a respectable distance as the pursuit continued into the night. The
darkness made it easier to remain unnoticed and if Saeran saw them, the man
certainly was not concerned enough to do anything about it. However, Aaron
tended to think that whilst he might be willing to leave their fate in the hands
of the Nine or whomever else he had hunting for Fred and her companions, Saeran
would not allow any unnecessary information regarding his whereabouts fall into
their hands, particularly if he were leaving for a specific reason.

It became evidently clear that Saeran was heading towards London and Bryan’s
worst suspicions were confirmed when the limousine took the road to Heathrow
Airport.

Saeran was leaving the country.



.

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.

Story Information

Author: Scribe

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: Action

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 04/07/03

Original Post: 04/03/03

Go to Triumvirate overview

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