In the Hands of the Enemy
Dwimordene - 22 Jan 07 - 6:52 AM
I finally read this story, after innumerable reminders of the "I need to read that, one of these days" style delays. Worth the wait!
I have always wished for more about Aragorn's past with regard to his claim that "The Enemy has set traps for me before", and also with regard to Saruman. Granted, in this story, Saruman still doesn't know who he is, beyond being a companion of Gandalf's, and one likely to know something about the wizard's movements, but by way of presenting a negative connection between Saruman and Aragorn, it awakens my curiosity all over again.
As for the trap, well set! A bait and switch to capture the weaker party in the Gandalf-Strider partnership makes sense, and using a combination of Breeland criminals and ignorant, yet opportunistic, Breelanders makes good use of what's available. It also makes sense that Saruman should risk such an operation only after the increase in the number of Rangers guarding the Shire.
Had to admit, I was suspicious of Aragorn's companion once the dead lad in his dreams started asking questions about the Shire that seemed too pertinent to his near brush with his captors, and after he'd been asked about the boy, Baranuir. But his captor's hesitation in later chapters proved very interesting, and while it might be nice it know everything that went through his head, it rings true that some things we just can't ever know.
Halbarad's role as detective was entertaining. This exchange, I thought, was amusingly illustrative:
"“He was seen leaving the west gate on horseback. I found his tracks a few miles south, along the Greenway. I would say he is making for Sarn Ford.”
“Are you sure?” Gandalf asked.
Halbarad shot him an injured look. “It’s my horse,” he explained, as if every responsible horseman should be able to pick his mount’s hoof prints out of a sodden quagmire of churned mud."
Because, of course, every good Ranger should be able to track his horse through a quagmire. Halbarad's tracking abilities combine the deductive skills of our favorite crimefighters with the impatience of someone more used to having to handle things in a more physical fashion, which makes for some classic demolition of both the expectations of more "sophisticated" operatives and of furniture:
“This lock is enchanted,” announced Gandalf gravely, casting a dark glance at the Ranger.
Halbarad swallowed. “Does that mean we can’t open it?”
"No, of course not," Gandalf replied, looking a trifle indignant. “Though it may take a bit of time.”
Halbarad emitted a scornful grunt and stepped over to the cabinet. Inserting the blade of his dagger between the frame of the cabinet and the door, he pried the wood apart far enough to wedge his fingers in between. With a crack of breaking wood, he ripped the door off its hinges. He tossed the remains of the door into a corner and waved Gandalf to the cabinet, returning the wizard's look of diminishing patience with a shrug. “I guess they didn’t bother to enchant the wood.”
So, willing to wade into very physical work and get his hands dirty. Except when interrogating hobbits, that is--he and Aragorn apparently share the predilection to be suckered by innocent-seeming wide eyes. Good thing they can be, for the sake of their moral and spiritual well-being.
The relationship between Halbarad and Aragorn is also nicely portrayed. It's a bit hard in the beginning, given that you're saving revelations for later, to be invested in their dispute, but it is so well-written, I was able to accept that the absent context would be made clear later and to just go with it. Their friendship and concern for each other comes through clearly, and I liked the line Halbarad walks between treating Aragorn as his dearest friend whom he can tease and even bully a little, in the way of close friends who have arguments, but also having to respect certain lines because Aragorn is also his lord.
Aragorn's weariness and uncertainty about his future, and his sense that he is failing to meet the expectations others have of him is interesting. I guess I might not go this far into it at his age, but on the other hand, he has had a long time for disappointment to set in, and Rangering wears men down. Could go either way, and in this case, he succumbs to a sense of despair over his own abilities, questioning whether his birthright is really a birthright in any meaningful sense. Fortunately, he does have people like Gandalf and Halbarad to snap him out of that, even if it does take a certain amount of abuse to confine him to a bed long enough for them to effect the cure.
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In the Hands of the Enemy
meckinock - 22 Jan 07 - 5:06 PM
Thanks, Dwim. I'm glad you found the story a worthwhile read. To be honest, I had a moment of trepidation when I first saw you had commented - I can barely remember what was going through my head when I wrote that story, much less explain it! I'm sure I might attack a few aspects of it slightly differently with the benefit of four years of er...maturity and experience, but you definitely brought back to me some of the parts that were the most enjoyable to write - particularly Halbarad's preference for straightforward solutions! I'm glad also that you liked the relationship between Halbarad and Aragorn -
<i> the line Halbarad walks between treating Aragorn as his dearest friend whom he can tease and even bully a little, in the way of close friends who have arguments, but also having to respect certain lines because Aragorn is also his lord. </i>
Exploring this dynamic was one of the more enjoyable aspects of the story, and coming from you, with you, a recognized voice of authority on matters Halbarad, it's much valued. In fact, as I think I might have mentioned to you before, your Halbarad undoubtedly inspired mine at least in part.
I'm very glad you found the time to read and I appreciate the kind and thoughtful comments.
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