3. Ash, Swords, and Fire
If ever there was a time for a song, it was now. The drudgery of marching forward toward hills that never seemed to get any closer was getting tiresome. “Merry,” I called back. “Do you know of any songs we can sing?”
“You shouldn’t be asking me, ask Frodo. He’s the one with the gift for song,” Merry replied.
“What say you then Frodo? Do you have anything that can lighten our mood?”
“I do, and it’s actually a creation of Merry and Pippin if I remember correctly.” Frodo began to sing out and was soon joined by the other two hobbits when they recognized the tune…
Farewell we call to hearth and hall!
Though wind may blow and rain may fall,
We must away ere break of day
Far over wood and mountain tall.
To Rivendell, where Elves yet dwell
In glades beneath the misty fell,
Though moor and waste we ride in haste,
And whither then we cannot tell.
With foes ahead, behind us dread,
Beneath the sky shall be our bed,
Until at last our toil be passed,
Our journey done, our errand sped.
We must away! We must away!
We ride before the break of day!
“Well done Frodo!” I said. “I believe that to be a fine song.”
“Thank you Maire, and thank you Merry and Pippin.”
The two hobbits nodded their heads in gratitude and we continued on toward the hills. Singing kept our spirits light and our minds off the journey. It felt like no time had passed when we reached the foot of the Weather Hills. They stretched out toward the north for as far as we could see, for we were at the southern end of the hills, facing Weathertop, the tallest one among them.
“This was the great watchtower of Amon Sul,” Strider said. “We shall rest here tonight.”
We didn’t exactly rest right then; we had to climb the hill first. There was an outcropping underneath the top of the hill, and that is where we made our claim for the night.
Strider sent me to the top of the hill to find the stockpile of arms that were there in case any Ranger need use of them. We needed use of them now, for the hobbits had been unarmed since we left Bree. I wasn’t sure if they had had any protection since they left Hobbiton.
I brought down four short swords in a blanket and handed them to Strider. “I thought the short swords might fit the hobbits better than ones that you or I would use, since the rest would have been too large for them.”
“You were correct in your decision. Thank you for finding these Maire, I’m not sure what I or the hobbits would have done without them.”
“You’re welcome Strider,” I replied. “I wouldn’t want to see the hobbits come to harm.”
“They still might Maire, but these will help them in our cause.”
Strider walked over to where the hobbits were setting down their burdens and unwrapped the swords that I had found. He handed one to each of them. “These are for you,” he said. “Keep them close.”
He then stood up and handed the blanket back to me. “I’m going to have a look around. Maire, I want you to come with me.” He turned to the hobbits. “Stay here.”
Strider began to walk off and I followed suit. I wasn’t sure where we were going or why, but he had told me to follow, so I did. We began to walk around Weathertop in silence. I couldn’t stand it anymore. “Where are we going?” I asked.
“We are on the watch for Nazgul. We need to be prepared for anything.”
“I don’t mean to question your tactics, but should we leave the hobbits alone? Do you think they can protect themselves?”
“We won’t be gone long; I don’t believe that they will come to harm in such a short time.”
I followed Strider around to the other side of the hill. We scouted out the countryside and saw nothing out of the ordinary. In my mind that was comforting, but in my heart I knew that something was amiss. It was like the calm before the storm. I think Strider sensed something too because he was always looking behind his shoulder.
The sun went down below the horizon and light was fading fast. I didn’t know how much more ground we had to cover before Strider was satisfied; unfortunately, I didn’t have to wait long. It was faint, but incredibly distinct. It was the same sound I heard in Bree, the sound that most people in their right mind fear and run away from, the sound of the Nazgul.
Instead of running away, Strider and I ran toward the horrible sound, because between the sound and us were probably four incredibly scared hobbits that needed the skills of two Rangers to protect them.
We raced back to camp to find it empty. “The hobbits must have run for cover,” Strider said with urgency. “Find them!”
I saw nothing, but heard all I needed to. From the top of the hill, I heard Sam. “Strider! They’re up top!” Strider understood and climbed the steps that went to the top of the hill while I followed behind him.
There was no time to think, only react. We climbed the hill only to see all nine Nazgul huddled around Frodo. Strider instantly began to fight all nine alone. I looked to see Sam lying on the ground with Merry and Pippin in the same predicament. I heard Frodo’s cries of pain. Sam soon recovered enough of his wits and went to Frodo’s side.
I went to help Merry and then Pippin. I was able to rouse the two hobbits while Strider fought off the last Nazgul. It was then that my attention turned to Frodo. He was in a great deal of pain. Sam called out to Strider and he came over and kneeled next to Frodo. I felt bad for Sam; I knew he wanted to help but knew not how. “Help him Strider,” was all that Sam managed to let escape from his lips.
Strider picked up a weapon that lay next to Frodo, the sword the Witch King has dropped when Strider began his attack. “He’s been stabbed by a Morgul blade,” he said as the blade disintegrated. “This is beyond my skill to heal, or Maire’s. He needs elvish medicine.”
Strider then scooped Frodo up in his arms and made his way back to camp, with the rest of us following him. “Maire, help the hobbits pack,” Strider began. “The sooner we get off this rock the better.” I had the same thought. I believe the hobbits did as well because I had never seen them break down camp so fast. In a blink of an eye we were heading down the hill and back into the forest.
I couldn’t help but wince every time Frodo cried out in pain. I was able to find some herbs in my healer’s bag to lessen the pain Strider’s jarring was causing, and soon the cries became moans as Frodo’s world became more hazy than jagged.
We practically ran through the forest, but it wasn’t enough for Strider. “Hurry!” he called out as we followed behind at a feverish pace.
“We’re six days from Rivendell,” Sam called out. “He’ll never make it.”
“We have to try Sam,” I said. “We can’t just let him die.”
“But what’s the use Maire? If both you and Strider can’t help and we’re so far away from the ones who can, what’s the use?”
I stopped dead in my tracks and looked back at the hobbit. “I’ll have none of that talk Samwise Gamgee! I’m not giving up hope, Strider’s not giving up hope either and neither should you! Now come one Sam! We need to keep going. For Frodo.”
I wasn’t sure what that speech was intended to do, but it seemed to do something to Sam. Whether is shamed him or emboldened him was beyond me, but Sam didn’t speak until we came upon Trollshaw. Strider set Frodo down to check on him, and he shook his head. I came over to look and saw a sorry sight. Frodo’s usually bright blue eyes were becoming cloudy and his skin was pale and sweaty. He looked as if he was suffering from a fever, but I knew he wasn’t.
Strider pulled me aside as Sam began to watch over Frodo. “Athelas is the only thing I can think of to help Frodo before we reach Rivendell. Do you have any in your healer’s kit?”
“I don’t Strider. I wish I did. I haven’t been able to find any for quite a while. Do you think there’s any around here?”
“I’m not sure, for Frodo’s sake I hope there is.”
We turned back to see Pippin looking at the both of us. “Is he going to die,” Pippin asked.
“He’s passing into the shadow world,” Strider replied. “He’ll soon become a wraith like them.”
We could hear the screeching of the Nazgul all around us. “They’re close,” Merry added.
Strider beckoned to Sam and the two began to talk. They both went out into the forest, and I had an idea why; Strider was on the hunt for Athelas.
I turned to watch over Frodo, wiping the sweat from his brow and trying to keep him comfortable. Merry and Pippin sat by while I did the best I can. I wanted to do so much, I knew I could if I only had the right tools. Elrond took great pleasure in teaching me about different herbs and plants. I knew of many things that could alleviate Frodo’s pain, but none of them were available to me. I slammed my fist on the ground in frustration. “Confounded Nazgul!”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” Pippin said. “I know you feel for Frodo as much as Merry, Sam, and I do. We don’t fault you for not being able to help.”
“But I can Pip, I know how to, I just can’t! It’s so frustrating when you have the knowledge but not the power.”
Just then I heard horses hooves. As I was about to draw my sword, I recognized the figure on horseback, someone I would have never expected. It was Arwen. She dismounted and came toward Frodo and I. I didn’t know what she had planned so I backed away for fear of getting in her way. She gave me a friendly smile before turning to Frodo. The hobbit turned to the elf and became entranced. She spoke a few words to him in elvish before he turned away.
I also heard the hobbits mutter behind me. “Who is she,” Merry asked as Arwen and Strider kneeled next to Frodo. I saw that he has found what he had been searching for, because he has a large handful of Athelas in his hand.
“She’s an elf,” was all Sam could reply, because that was all he knew.
Arwen and Strider began talking to themselves as the hobbits and I just watched. Strider put some of the herb into Frodo’s wound, and a cry from Frodo was the result. “He’s not going to last,” I finally managed to hear Arwen say. “We must get him to my father.”
Strider picked Frodo up and set him on Arwen’s horse. “Where are you taking him,” Merry wondered aloud. Either the two didn’t hear him or chose to ignore him because they didn’t answer. It was up to me. “We were on our way to Rivendell, Frodo will just arrive earlier than the rest of us.”
Pippin looked past me and watched Arwen and Strider. “What are they saying?”
I turned to see Strider and Arwen having a conversation in Sindarin, a heated one at that. “It’s elvish Pippin. I can’t make out what they’re saying, but I think that’s the point. Don’t worry Pip, I'm sure Arwen will keep Frodo safe.”
Arwen then mounted her horse and took off into the forest. “What are you doing?” Sam asked with concern. “Those wraiths are still out there!”
Strider turned back to look at us. What greeted us was a look I’d never seen from Strider, a sincere look of fear.
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.