3. The Meeting
Epilogue: The Meeting
With a sigh of great weariness, an old man, face shadowed in hood, leant on his staff. The days had been difficult, and his mind and body were bowed from many struggles, those that had brought the extent of his will to its limits. Doubts weighed on him as well: had he done rightly? Were his struggles for nothing? Was his task doomed? But misgivings were useless, for already things were in motion, and here he waited to see at least one result of his tentative actions.
The old man looked up; with compassion he saw them now, stumbling through grass and stone, and he knew them, these younger beings who had been his friends. That felt like many life-times ago.
As they drew nearer, the old man spoke: "Well met!"
The three travelers froze as though in great fright. Two were halflings - hobbits, and one was a man, who put his hand to his sword's hilt.
"Orcs are behind us and we must be on our way," said the man. "I advise you to do the same."
"There is no need to fear; rest for a moment, my friends." The hand free from his staff he raised as a token of peace.
The man continued to grip the sword at his belt. "Who are you?"
"Do you not know me? You have heard of me before."
The man looked still wary, but his hand fell to his side.
"Will you sit, at least?" continued the old one. "For the present, there is no danger close by." And the old man lowered his hood - a ray of the purest white blazed from his face.
The three travelers shielded their eyes, dumb by amazement and fear, until one hobbit exclaimed: "It is Gandalf! Gandalf!"
"Gandalf?" the old man whispered. "Yes, that was my name; you may still use it. Well met, Peregrin Took!" Again he had the face and voice of their old friend.
They all laughed. In their joy they had much to tell, but time was scanty. Gandalf would not yet say anything of himself, and the others as briefly as they could recounted their journeys, and though much was sorrowful, Gandalf's burdens felt lightened because Frodo, likely with Sam, had gone on alone.
At last Aragorn said, "I must go back for Legolas and Gimli."
Lined and tired became Gandalf's countenance. "Yes, we cannot abandon them to unknown fates. Make for Edoras as soon as you can. Had chance been different, I would hasten there now, but first I must go to Fangorn. You two will come with me," he added to the hobbits.
Aragorn did not question the strangeness of this destination, and Merry and Pippin gave hopeful words of parting, perhaps more than their hearts felt. For themselves they felt safe at last, though beyond that, unsure.
Few are able to escape the pursuit of wrathful Orcs, and Aragorn returned to their midst with stealth greater than he had ever before employed. A wasteful venture it may be, for the Orcs had likely caught his friends; nonetheless, they may even now be in torment. Yet could he ever know for certain? That was why he had to see. What a leap in his heart when he found hewn goblins and traces of dwarf-boot leading on south and west... and later... was that the faint print of elf-step? The signs led on, until Aragorn found what he sought. The Dwarf and Elf were not unharmed, but they could laugh and strength they found in Elven bread and healer's hands to finish their race over the plains. Truly, fate seemed to have set the Three Hunters aside for deeds yet to come.
Southwards a dark power laughed, for a small moment. Dared the White Wizard challenge him? Yet what was this new will that had arisen, who had also faced the White Wizard and now turned toward him... did he know something he did not? Had his designs somehow gone wrong...
Note: Thank you to all who helped with your kind suggestions and grammar-correcting.
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.