Veiling of the Sun: 5. Bound to Darkness

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5. Bound to Darkness

He was trapped, lost, drowning in a great black sea of suffering. Shadow had fallen over him, sucking him down into an endless abyss of torture and turmoil. He wondered how low he might sink. Guilt swarmed within him, stamping out his will and filling what remained of his heart with dread. Where his soul still lived, where he had been able to maintain a bit of himself in smothering sin, he burned in silent anguish. How could he have been reduced to this? Made to kneel before black lords in guilty submission? Such a vile weakness! It was as though he was trapped inside a cell, and only the echoes answered his cries for help. A treacherous punishment if any, for the bars that bound him inside were sadly of his own making.

Whatever reasons that had once driven him had faded, leaving nothing but an undeniable murk of anger and shame. He could not rationalize what had happened. In fact, he could do nothing, for the power of his own lust still claimed his body though his heart cried for relief. But for the pride of his family and his race, he doubted he at all was worthy of being alive. Men faltered. Men were weak. His blood had betrayed him. He screamed against the dark swallowing him whole, but his desires ignored his valor, and he could not break from the spell that had defeated him.

So now he walked, trudging amongst the Orcs he now called brethren, leading the army of Uruk-hai back to its master. The land around them was desolated, scorched by fire and hatred. It was as though all life had fled from the violated area, leaving nothing but a foul breeding ground for evil. Everywhere, painted upon dark rocks and branded into wood and soil, was the white hand that adorned the armor of the Uruk-hai, the mark of Saruman’s power. The air stank of blood and sweat and smoke. Part of him reveled in the smell, for he knew below them in a great cavern flames melted metal into sword and scorched frailty into power. This place had been borne from the same desires that strengthened him. But for the tears of his conscience, he would wholly embrace it.

Ahead the great army of Uruk-hai parted, clearing his line of sight, and the tall, black tower of Isengard reached to the sky. His eyes traveled it, impressed by both its screaming force and formidable height. The stronghold of evil was indeed intimidating. He had had no idea that Saruman’s forces had grown so numerous and his reach so advanced. Undoubtedly, the Istar would find the lost Ring.

From the dark portal descended a tall man in white. He stepped on light feet, his skin as pallid as his robes, as he walked down the stairs that led to the tower. When he neared, his features became apparent. Ancient eyes seemed to see all at once from beneath arched brows. The face was narrow and long, spotted with age, the nose hooked. A great gray beard of fine hair cascaded down upon his dress, and locks of equal color and texture drooped upon thin shoulders. He carried a massive, long staff that clanked against the stone when he stepped. He appeared a weakling, his form that of a being once potent but now wrought and gnarled with age. Yet horrendous power undulated from him in an aura that was both striking and fearful.

Saruman approached with the might of gods in his step. When he was but a mere foot away, Boromir dropped to one knee. “My Lord,” he whispered, shaken by the shear energy. It at once energized and disgusted him. The man took the brittle hand offered to him and laid a soft kiss upon it.

The old wizard grinned seriously. “Son of Denethor,” he said simply, eyeing Boromir nonchalantly as he rose again. Boromir was terrified of him, though he tried to remain stoic. Beneath his sick corruption, his soul quaked for the fate of his wretched body. “I am not pleased that the Ring has fallen into obscurity.”

His heart thundered. “We did all we could, my Lord, but the Elf hid his treachery well. We could not force its location from him.” The excuse felt lame, but he could not retract words once spoken. His resolve wavered as he saw anger flash through the black eyes of the wizard.

“I trust your… relations with him did not cloud your judgment.”

He swallowed awkwardly. “Nay, my Lord. I would see the Elf dead if it would return the Ring to you.” The words burned within him.

“Bring him forth, then.”

A shout went back through the Orcs as they scrambled to do as their master ordered, sending the command to the rear where their prisoner was held. Boromir averted his eyes. A great throbbing from within him cracked his tenacity. He would ignore it! For the sake of Gondor, he must have the Ring!

What sad logic!

He turned to Saruman. Since touching the Ring, since feeling its awesome power, he had been hungering for it. “What would you have me do, oh Lord, if the Elf yet refuses to speak?” he asked eagerly, wishing childishly that Saruman might present a panacea for his predicament.

Saruman’s gaze was blank, unfocussed, as though in contemplation. Then he spoke, his deep voice rumbling with unspeakable menace. “I will see that he does, son of Denethor. The Eye is restless. It hunts for a new bearer of the Ring, for the halfling that once possessed it is no longer of importance. If the Elf holds no clue in our quest, I will have him suffer then slain. He is but a small matter. The Ring will return to its Master, of that rest assured.”

The words were but a small comfort. Behind them came a great scuff of feet. The lines of Uruk-hai parted, the beasts stamping their feet in merry cheer, as two of their comrades dragged their catch forward by the hair.

Boromir averted his eyes. In the passing days since the Ring had left his touch, he found it increasingly difficult to look upon Legolas. It was disconcerting and unsettling to see the wounds he had himself inflicted upon the Elf. He tried to deny the guilt that was beginning to plague him, but with each moment it grew more insistent. The blood lust for the Ring had kept it at bay, but that was fading.

Legolas was made to kneel before Saruman, his legs kicked from beneath him. One of the Uruk-hai slapped him when he vainly struggled. The claw tangled in his hair snapped his head up, forcing his gaze to Saruman. A vicious memory came to Boromir’s mind of a similar occurrence, of his friend held to the ground in front of him, of his taunts and vicious words, of Legolas’ spite clear in blue eyes. But that fled him by will of his goals, and he blinked away the disheartening sight.

Saruman smiled. It was but a small gesture, but its implications sent shivers racing up and down the spine of the man from Gondor. The wizard’s elegant hand, each finger tipped by clear, white nails, came to grip the chin of the Elf before him. A long finger slipped the gag from the captive’s mouth. “Legolas, youngest son of Thranduil,” he declared, “and Prince of Mirkwood. A great misfortune has befallen you, young Elf.” The wizard seemed to draw power from the terror slowly manifesting in the Elf’s wide eyes. “I offer this one chance to you as a gift. Speak the truth now, and I shall spare you. Lie, and I shall turn your body and mind asunder.”

In Legolas’ glare gleamed defiance. Boromir idly wondered how he could still have strength. “I fear not for myself, Saruman. Nor do I mourn my fate, for it is my burden to bear, and I will bravely face it. An Elf is not easily broken,” he hissed coldly.

Saruman’s eyes narrowed. “Choose your words carefully, little one, for you will regret tempting me.”

Legolas retorted, “I will regret nothing, and I would gladly embrace death if it will keep the Ring safe!”

His words were met with a solemn smile. “You are indeed a foolish child if you think I would so easily allow you to die.” The Elf’s eyes were hard and furious, yet Boromir saw the terror creeping about his gaze. “Now spend a moment here, my dear Elf, in contemplation. Do not hastily condemn yourself. The Fellowship is dead. What use is there in forfeiting your life for a cause already passed?”

Legolas obviously tried to remain fervent in his opposition, but the color drained further from his pale cheeks. A great many things shone in the Elf’s bright eyes: fear, sorrow, loss, confusion. Boromir was both delighted and decimated at the sight. In that instant, the proud and noble Elf did appear nothing more than a frightened child. “You lie, Saruman,” he snapped.

“An arrogant assumption,” the wizard declared, clearly pleased that he had so easily dented his prisoner’s resolve.

“No,” Legolas said, his stoic composure immediately returning, “a logical conclusion, for you have many reasons to deceive me, and I have no cause to believe you.”

The wizard gave an amused chuckle. “You are indeed clever, son of Thranduil, and a credit to your kind. However, that will not avail you, for I know your fear. I know death terrifies you. I can see it in your eyes.” Again the Elf grew pale. Boromir almost thought he heard the prince draw a shaking, short breath. “I ask you now: where is the One Ring?”

The question hung on the still air. Upon it was a clear threat. It rang of torture, of agony and anguish, of the fading of beauty and the twisting of a soul. The throbbing within Boromir rose to a nearly unbearable point, and he felt himself quiver inside. The lust and the greed were suddenly small grievances, and he ached for his friend, for his comrade with whom he had bravely faced the perils of Moria, for his brother with whom he had mourned the loss of Gandalf. The toil and hardship of the Fellowship had once bound them together! How could he have traded that for a loyalty to power and the darkness with which it came? Sweat beaded upon his temples. He had to do something! “Answer truthfully, Legolas.” The words left his mouth of their own volition, and he was surprised to find his tone alien and weak. The Elf looked to him, dismay and anger drawing his face tight. A connection was made then, unexpected but potent nonetheless. Bright blue eyes locked upon deep brown.

And the hold on his dying soul shattered. The black lifted, the shadow snapped back, and the vile curse retreated. The bars that held him in that awful cell disappeared. His heart shuddered in release and then bled in disgrace.

Tears filled his eyes. “Please. Do not sacrifice yourself for their sake!” He fell to his knees before the Elf and grabbed his bare shoulders firmly, desperate to prevent these horrible tidings. Legolas refused to look upon him, perhaps from disgust, perhaps from fear. Boromir bit his lower lip, and felt whatever strength that had driven him in his quest for the Ring snatched away by his consuming shame. “My friend,” he whispered softly, “do not do this!”

They were silent a moment. Then Legolas met his eyes. There was no hint of forgiveness, no sign of the loyalty Boromir had days before insulted, no trace of the Elf’s carefree spirit that had so often broke into song or laughter. “You are no friend of mine.”

It was sealed in horrible finality. The past was closed, and mistakes could not be so simply remedied. Boromir felt his body quiver, though his mind seemed disconnected, and he slowly released the Elf. Shocked, the man stood once more. Tears burned in his eyes as his vile deeds rotted his heart.

Saruman seemed thoroughly intrigued. “It seems, son of Denethor, that the Elf wishes to die alone. A pitiful, noble creature. What say you, Legolas Greenleaf of Mirkwood? Is this the fate you wish?”

Then came a horrible silence. Legolas looked down, ending the moment and leaving Boromir wretchedly hurting. The Elf sighed gently, like the breeze caressing the leaves of the wood, quiet Elvish words whispered on the breath. Though Boromir could not understand them, he knew what they meant. A prayer for the will to endure. “I will not be party to your evil, Saruman,” Legolas finnally said quietly, coldly. Then his glare returned to the wizard, hardened by his rage. “Find it yourself!”

The wizard’s face remained impassive, even though at his side Boromir shook with anguish. “So be it,” Saruman lowly announced. He looked to the Orcs at the Elf’s side. “Take this wretch down into the depths of Orthanc, where the sun and fresh air cannot penetrate, where he will be neither healed nor heartened. Spill his blood, my Uruk-hai, for his beauty disgusts me. His valor will not long last him.”

Smiling, the monsters rallied in elation at their master’s orders. The one behind Legolas hauled him to his feet roughly. They prodded the forlorn Elf with their weapons, drawing fresh blood, as they forced him to march.

Legolas did not struggle, his eyes closed and his head bowed. The wind swept by over the barren, gray plain and picked up his hair in a soft caress, blowing it across his face. The faintest glimmer of wetness upon the Elf’s cheek glistened in the sun as the prisoner was led to the dungeon. Boromir shuddered as they passed and lowered his own gaze. He felt what Legolas could not speak. His heart screamed that he do something, anything, to aid Legolas now, before the chance forever disappeared. But he could not. For all his strength and pride, he could not!

There was no excuse now, and there never would be. This was the final betrayal. To finally regain himself and then let his friend walk alone to what certainly would be his death. Such a heinous injustice! He dug his fingers into his palm until he drew blood. The loathing and shame choked him. He was simply terrified of what he had done and of what would be done to him if he should move unwisely. What was worse, though, was the indescribable fear clenching his heart and breath.

He was horrified of himself.

Legolas’ pale blonde hair and soft glow disappeared, swallowed by the black of Orthanc, the tower devouring it. Boromir stared, defeated, too distraught to think or breathe. What else could he do?

Saruman did not glance upon him as he stepped to the entrance, followed by a retinue of Uruk-hai. “Your weakness becomes you, son of Denethor,” he said simply, “for it was the fickleness of men that allowed the threat of Sauron to persist. You will also permit it to triumph.”

Boromir stared at the stone beneath his muddied boots. So many cracks marred its smooth surface, but there was still sturdy rock beneath it. No matter the stampede of feet, or the erosion of rain and wind, forever would it with stand. “I have no more business with you, Saruman,” he said quietly. His rage gave him conviction. “I search for the Ring only. I serve your evil no longer!”

Saruman stopped upon one of the stone steps. He did not face the madness of the son of Gondor, though, his eyes ahead. “Take your leave then, coward. You have done enough to destroy the good will of Middle Earth this day.”

Fury burned through Boromir, and his sword exited his sheath with a loud ring. “Foul demon! You would so easily let an enemy draw upon you! It is you who is the coward!”

Saruman continued to walk. The Uruk-hai shouted in malicious anger, begging that they be allowed to contend with this meager threat to the great wizard. He brushed them aside. “You are but a leaf in the wind,” the wizard explained quietly. “You turn with the breeze. The Ring does not release those called to its service. Reclaim your nobility if you wish, son of Denethor, though it be a fruitless endeavor. You will again kneel before your Master, and we shall be allies once more.” Then the wizard entered his stronghold.

The wind whipped around him, and Boromir was gasping in hatred. He lowered his sword after a moment. The words echoed in his mind, burning into his heart, and shattering his tenuous peace. Would this be his vex, his punishment for his seduction? Was this the plight destined for a man who, despite his faults, wanted nothing more than to protect his people? Was this the curse of his beloved Ring?

Letting loose a tormented howl, he turned and ran.

The plains of Rohan stretched far and wide, and Aragorn grew weary of the monotonous terrain. Each field of long grass was much like the last. Each small hill swelling in the soil was only one more to pass in this arduous trek. The land was ideal for tracking, for the bent grasses, though they swayed with the wind, spoke much of previous travelers. Great plots of the golden weeds were crushed, flattened by the fall of many large feet. For the Orc army to cut across the fields so carelessly meant they were sacrificing secrecy for speed. The thought disturbed the heir of Isildur. If they did possess the One Ring, the Fellowship would never be able to catch them.

Yet he spoke none of this concern, or of the grief staunching his concentration. Days had passed since the disastrous fight at Amon Hen, and the crushing sorrow over the loss of their companions had not lifted from their shoulders. When the rain had come the sunset prior, it had only amplified their melancholy, and for hours no one had had the courage to speak. The sad state of affairs stomped out their chatter. No longer were tales traded or lyrics sung. Smiles were a rare and misplaced sight upon sallow and crestfallen faces. Aragorn feared divulging worries over the situation would only compound matters, so he kept the foul knowledge to himself. It festered in his heart, pushing him to move wordlessly faster, to drive the others harder. He could see the toll this strenuous pace had taken upon them, but he would not slow down. He would not give up.

The Hobbits lagged behind him, their steps uncertain and staggering. Every so often Merry and Pippin would attempt to lighten the mood with idle palaver, regaling some tale from the Shire they found of interest or engaging in outrageous gossip. Though their efforts were appreciated, they were often met with silence and apologetic glances. Frodo suffered the worst of them all. The blow to his had upset him more than he let on, which concerned Aragorn. He constantly tipped and wavered upon his feet, as though dizzy, and tired easily. Most of the food they convinced him to eat he later vomited, and his face was often flushed with fever. He hardly slept. He never spoke. Worse, though, was the consuming despair that haunted his eyes. It was as though the will to fight had left the courageous creature, leaving but a husk of a former self, a shade that was fading into sorrow. Aragorn dreaded the black that was calling Frodo. He feared he would not be able to remove the forlorn shadow from the Hobbit’s face, or restore hope to a broken heart.

Gimli trudged with silent anger. Every line of the stout warrior’s body was hard with barely contained rage, and his hands were forever clenched about the hilt of his axe. He seemed almost volatile, his eyes bright with murder, as he walked in the rear. He too had voiced little during the grueling journey, his face ruddy and his gaze distant. Aragorn was glad for his silent strength. He knew Gimli would now never falter until his vengeance was complete.

This was the state of what remained of the Fellowship. It was a tired, sad condition that begged for relief and for rest. The grasslands seemed vast and infinite, and though the trail was clear, the strength to follow it was fleeting.

Twilight came down, but great gray clouds hid the stars. Aragorn watched the puffy bodies dubiously, praying they would not again drench them with a cold rain. Such treatment would do nothing beneficial for the ailing Frodo. A cool breeze chased itself around the plains, sending the grasses rolling in waves. It brought with it a faint smell of distant things that distressed Aragorn, a rank stench of burning forest and death. It could only be coming from Isengard.

There was a tug upon his pants leg, and he looked down. Merry stood there, his Elven cloak drawn tight around himself against the slight chill. “Strider, we should stop,” the small creature implored, looking up at him with a silent plea in his eyes. “Frodo needs to rest.”

Aragorn looked back at that, where Pippin led a drooping and weak Frodo through the tall grasses. The young Took met his gaze with worried eyes. Then Aragorn glanced ahead, indecision filling him. A brief repose would not cause him to lose the trail. Ahead there was a copse of small trees. It would provide protection enough. “We will take respite ahead in that grove.” He grasped Merry’s shoulder. “Stopping here in the open is far too dangerous, my friend.”

Merry smiled his thanks and then rushed back to his cousin. They shared some sort of jovial banter that lightened the ranger’s glum heart before they began to walk again.

But a few minutes passed before they reached the trees. The sun was setting, retracting its warm caress from the world, leaving chilly air that was made colder by the shade. They settled inside it, upon the ground, which was littered in dry needles from the pines surrounding them. Pippin helped Frodo sit against a tree and then quickly drew blankets from his pack to cover the shivering Hobbit. “There, Frodo. I’ll fix you something to eat.”

Frodo did not answer, closing his eyes and swallowing heavily. Very worried, Aragorn knelt beside the sick Hobbit and laid a palm across his brow. Curly hair was plastered to his flushed face. “The fever has returned,” the ranger announced sadly. He thought a moment and then reached into his own bags. His supply of medicinal herbs was dwindling; he would need to keep a watchful eye for some during the remainder of their journey.

The king went about preparing a broth while Merry and Pippin began dinner from the meager food supplies that remained. Gimli stood beside them, leaning upon the head of his shining axe. “The army has put great distance between themselves and us, Aragorn,” the Dwarf commented sadly. “I know little of tracking, but the wind and time seemed to have weathered their footsteps.”

Aragorn drew a slow breath as he poured fresh water from a flash into a blackened pot. Then he cleared the pine needles from the dry dirt. Merry appeared with rocks to separate a space for the fire. “True, friend,” he admitted at last, wishing fervently to deny the apparent. “But we will yet catch them.”

Gimli chose not to speak further, and Aragorn was grateful. The truth was achingly clear. The Orcs were swift, undoubtedly rushing their prize to their master. Bearing an injured companion had slowed the Fellowship. He could not blame poor Frodo in this; the small creature had suffered so for the burden he had bravely taken upon himself. Still, Aragorn alone could traverse the path far quicker and perhaps catch that which they restlessly pursued. Perhaps he could return the Ring to where it belonged. To think as such, though, was only folly, for he could never abandon his friends in such a dangerous territory.

A few moments later the fire was crackling warmly, crunching upon some dry kindling, and the water was boiling. He dropped the herbs he had crushed into the liquid. Pippin asked, breaking the heavy silence that had descended, “How far are we from them?”

The army had likely reached Isengard by now, but he could not bear to tell them. “A day or so maybe. We will come upon Isengard by nightfall tomorrow if we keep this pace.”

Merry sat close to Frodo, one arm draped over the other’s shoulder for support. His young eyes were alive as the fire gleamed in them with confused fear and apprehension. “What’ll we do then, Aragorn?” he asked innocently.

The herbs had cooked enough, and this concoction he poured into a tin, dented cup. He hesitated, trying to find something to say that would not dissuade the others from their hopes. What could they do against an army of Orcs in the stronghold of the enemy? If Ring had already come onto Saruman, would fighting there be but a futile endeavor? He wished answers would appear to him instead of more infernal questions!

Honesty was the only choice left to him by his own guilt and anxiety. “I know not, Merry.” He blew gently on the steaming broth to cool it. At seeing the Hobbit’s fearful expression and tentative glances towards his kinsman, he gave a small smile. “I will think of something. I promise you.”

That seemed to appease their concerns, for Merry returned his grin and then smiled at Pippin. Aragorn crouched again at Frodo’s side. He patted the other’s waxen cheek gently. “Frodo?” he prodded softly. When that failed to rouse the delirious Hobbit, he spoke louder. “Come, my friend, wake for a moment to drink this.” Blue eyes fluttered open, glazed with fever and despair. Aragorn smiled gently, compassionately squeezing the small hands. “It will soothe your pain and lower your fever.”

The Hobbit blinked a few times. Then the ground began to rumble gently. Pine needles jumped about like small, terrified souls, skittering as though they were tiny insects. Aragorn watched them dumbfounded a moment, and then a great thunder filled his ears. It grew louder and louder, crashing over the plains. He glanced about, his mind racing, and met Gimli’s stony eyes. The great cacophony intensified until he could recognize it.

Hooves, beating with great speed upon the fields.

“Horses!” he hissed in sudden but controlled panicked. “Pippin, stomp out the fire! We must flee!” He stood and handed Merry the broth as Pippin scrambled do as the ranger ordered.

“Let the beasts come,” Gimli hissed, “for it is cowardly to retreat before the fight begins!”

Aragorn ignored the taunt. To stay now would be only folly! Frodo was no condition for a skirmish. “Gimli, take Frodo and go. I will stay to distract them.” Merry and Pippin turned suddenly and regarded him with wide, frightened, disbelieving eyes. “You two run as well.”

Gimli shook his head vehemently. “Nay, Aragorn, that-”

“Do as I say!” the ranger barked sharply. The frightened Hobbits then scattered, grabbing their paraphernalia and stuffing it haphazardly into their packs. Gimli muttered something inaudible as he knelt and pulled Frodo to his feet.

The Hobbit shook his head. “Don’t leave us, Aragorn,” he moaned in absolute terror. Aragorn’s heart shuddered, and he drew his sword.

“Take him. Fly!”

But it was too late. The snorts of horses grew loud upon the air. From the shadows came the mounts, stampeding powerfully through the maze of the grove to surround them. They were magnificent steeds, stallions of white, black, and chestnut, with powerful, elegant gaits and tall statures. Atop them sat armored men, their silver plate and chain shining and glimmering despite the fading daylight. Swords were drawn and bows were taut. Aragorn glanced about, panic rising, his heart thundering. They were completely enclosed, and these appeared extraordinarily skilled soldiers, for their mounts were extremely well-trained. Eyes glinted threateningly.

“You have trespassed upon the lands of the King of the Mark,” one declared. He was seated upon a great stallion, and his physique did match that of his beast. Great, tangled blonde hair flowed from beneath a gilded helmet. “Drop your weapon!”

Aragorn released a slow breath. He had heard of this brigade of men. They were famous riders, skilled with training their horses, who patrolled the plains of Rohan in the name of the king. Slowly he set his bright and dangerous sword upon the ground.

The man atop the horse narrowed his eyes. “State your business, stranger, and be brief,” he ordered.

“We bring no threat to your lands. I am called Strider, and these are my companions,” he said simply, keeping all impatience and aggression from his tone. “We only seek to travel through these plains, but a sickness has come to my friend here, and we have tarried.”

The other glanced at Aragorn, then to Gimli. His narrowed eyes seemed to pierce the group. Frodo swallowed uncomfortably. “Curious company you keep, stranger,” he remarked suspiciously. Then the mounted warrior looked to the ranger once more. The hard gaze softened. “We mean you no ill will, but a black threat has but days ago violated our borders.”

Aragorn felt tense muscles begin to relax. “Aye, we have encountered it. It is what we pursue, for we believe the foul creatures have killed one of our comrades, and possibly taken captive another.” He felt Gimli stiffen.

The man nodded and then dismounted gracefully. The horse snorted, and the soldier patted its neck brotherly. “Black news is this! However, I cannot allow you to continue this quest, for usury is afoot in these times. You must come with us.”

Aragorn tensed in anger and dismay. The Ring would surely fall into evil if they were to abandon it now! “If I were to provide you with a token of good faith, friend, surely you may make an exception,” he said quickly.

The man gave a grave smile. “I do not doubt your word is true, but it is not my place to make exceptions in the laws of my king.” He gestured to them. “You must seek permission from him.”

There is not the time for this! Aragorn’s mind screamed, but his face remained impassive. “How might I do such?” he questioned, trying to control his temper and his patience.

Nodding curtly, the soldier explained, “I will lead you. You seem a man of good stock, so I will behest you an audience. I am Éomer of Rohan; I hold the king’s ear.” He gestured to them. “In the meantime, we shall care for your ill friend as well. Let us make haste, for demons crawl these woods with the coming of night.”

Éomer of Rohan, leader of the Riders of Rohan. Aragorn eyed the other warily, but saw no other choice. He nodded to Gimli, the Dwarf tense with distrust. Still, wordlessly he submitted to Aragorn’s leadership, and he handed the unconscious Frodo to one rider. Aragorn closed his eyes briefly to steady himself. This was unfortunate indeed. Although he was glad to find aid that Frodo sorely needed in this unforgiving land, they could not afford to linger now.

As he climbed to the horse behind Éomer, Aragorn cursed this foul turn of things. Pain clenched his heart for the loss of Legolas. The sharp grief that had stabbed at him for days suddenly reached a horrible climax, and as they turned from the glade, tears stung his eyes. A vow they had made long ago would further be broken, and he cursed himself to allowing such a terrible event to come to pass. If his dear friend still lived, every moment spent here would augment the Elf’s suffering. Aragorn prayed silently that the Orcs had killed Legolas, for that was vastly preferable to an endless time of torture and cruelty. A loving Elf-brother, his closest friend, laid to ruin because of his own pride! Had he but listened to warnings the blonde archer had spoken, the Fellowship might have been spared. As it was, he could not amend his oversight, and his crimes would forever torment him. Legolas would suffer for them, die for them. He damned himself for his betrayal!

And poor Sam. Loyal and brave Sam. If he too was among the Orcs, they would surely kill him upon reaching Isengard. The last of his hopes in finding their lost comrades was stomped out by the pounding hooves of racing horses. Resting here would bring him no closer to fulfilling his vow to Frodo.

The very fate of them all rested upon his success, and the One Ring would not wait to exert its evil.

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: maggie

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 11/12/02

Original Post: 07/14/02

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