1. Chapter One
"On your feet, Sam."
Aragorn was not rough, but he was not gentle either, as he lifted the weeping hobbit upright. Sam swallowed and looked up at the Ranger, ashamed not of his tears, but of his lack of sense. Strider was right. They couldn't stay here, here so close to the mines, so close to where...Sam bit off the thought with a fierce mental snap.
The orcs would come after them, as soon as the sunlight slipped away westward. They would come, and they would want revenge.
Sam rubbed his filthy sleeve across his dirty face, willing his tears to stop. But his eyes leaked as if they had wounds in them, as if the streaming fluid was blood rather than saltwater.
He scrubbed at his face again, trying to ignore the throbbing pain in his chest, and cleared his vision enough to look around for Frodo.
At first he could not see him. The brightness of the sun after four days of dim light sent thin daggers of pain into his damp eyes. Merry and Pippin were not far away, being helped up by Legolas and Boromir. Both were weeping just as he was, with a heaving grief that would not release them. Gimli was wailing aloud, and Legolas had a look in his eyes that could shatter the heart.
Strider's voice. Sam swiveled his head around, saw the Ranger, and followed the man's line of sight, his vision stumbling across the rocky ground in search of his master.
Louder this time, insistent. Frodo, who had been walking eastward, away from them, paused. Slowly, his head swiveling first, and then his body following reluctantly, Frodo turned and looked back at Aragorn.
Sam caught his breath, feeling a new and sharper shiver of pain lance through his chest cavity. Even at this distance, he could see Frodo's face clearly. The shimmering tracks of tears bedded in the caked grime of his cheeks, the luminescence of his eyes, ice blue in the startling midday sunlight; the trembling grief of his lips.
Sam longed to run to him, to comfort him somehow, but he stood rooted to the stone by his own unbearable grief, and by the fear that any contact at all would shatter Frodo into pieces.
"Frodo," Aragorn said, more softly now, more gently. "Please. Come here."
Frodo stood still for a moment, looking at the Ranger with an unreadable expression on his face, then turned back and came towards them, casting his eyes towards the rocky ground and making no effort to wipe the dripping tears from his chin. Reluctance was in every line of his body, and it seemed that hours passed before he joined the circle of companions, standing like a ruined wall on the bare hill.
Strider looked at each one of them in turn. Only Pippin still made any sound. He was shaking with uncontrollable sobs, enfolded in Merry's arms, who seemed to be holding the younger hobbit upright. Merry stood firm, jaw set, unshed grief brimming in his eyes. Legolas, Gimli, Boromir, Sam. They seemed under control for the moment.
"We must move on," he said firmly, "We must obey his last command. Lothlorien is our only hope of escaping these orcs, who will surely come after us as soon as the sun sets. Boromir, can you carry Master Peregrin, until he is ready to bear himself? I must scout ahead a bit, to be sure our way is clear, and I need Legolas to keep an arrow on the string until we are far from these hills."
Aragorn bent to the other Hobbits. "Can you run? We shall bear you a while if you cannot, and there is no shame in it."
Merry and Sam nodded. Frodo said nothing, but tightened the straps on his pack. Boromir lifted Pippin, who was still shaking and resisted not at all.
Aragorn turned towards the Moria gate, and lifting up his sword he cried, "Farewell, Gandalf! What hope have we without you?"
"Alas," he said, sheathing his sword again and turning towards the company, "we must do without hope." And he led the company at a trot towards the east and south.
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.