2. Chapter 2: The Harlond
A/N: Oh, I’m back! Note here that some movieverse is combined with bookverse. This is not going to be an Éowyn/Aragorn story by the way!
Chapter 2: The Harlond
March 15, 3019.
The River Anduin
Arwen was restless. As she looked out from the prow of the boat, she sighed. She had gone to great lengths to avoid taking the ship to Valinor, but here she was now, sailing up the Anduin.
But at least, she was with the man who she loved more than life itself.
“Undómiel?” Aragorn asked as he walked towards her. The elf turned around to face the ranger who stood before her now.
“How far must we sail?” Arwen asked wearily.
“We should reach the City within the next hour or so, if we wish to come in time,” Aragorn answered, taking her hand.
“Lord Aragorn, Lady Arwen, come and see!” Halbarad called from the port side of the boat. The lovers hastened to where the man, along with Elladan, Elrohir, Legolas and Gimli stood. A reddish glow could be seen in the distance through the darkness of the Shadow.
“Minas Tirith burns,” Aragorn said softly.
“It has been so since midnight. I wonder if the Rohirrim have arrived already,” Legolas said. As he spoke, the Riders of Rohan had only emerged out of the Greywood.
“Do you think it prudent that we should take counsel? I fear that even the swift steeds of the Horse-lords are delayed by this black horde,” Halbarad said.
Arwen said nothing. Only one thing was on her mind, her father. She’d practically run away from home just to be with Aragorn. The only signs Elrond would have would come much later, or if things turned for the worst, there would be no word at all.
“They have some strength of men in Minas Tirith. Yet as I looked into the palantir while I was in the Hornburg, I learned that it is not orcs that keep them in, but something far worse,” Aragorn said gravely. “A peril from the skies it is now,”
“The Lord of the Úlari, is it not?” Arwen whispered. All eyes were on her.
“And how do you know this, my lady?” Gimli asked.
“I have heard his beast’s shriek in the night from afar,” Arwen replied. “Only Mithrandir can stand in battle before him, yet he cannot slay him,”
“Yet maybe today will speak the Nazgûl’s doom,” Elladan said.
“And who of us possesses strength and will as to smite him?” an old man sitting on the deck asked. “Elrond’s daughter cannot wield a sword!”
All fell silent, for there was none, for all remembered what Glorfindel had foreseen in the days of Eärnur. The only thing that could be heard was the wind filling the sails and the water crashing against the hulls of the boats. As they drew nearer to Minas Tirith, a few could see the Witch King soaring through the skies and passing behind the City to Rath Dinen.
“Now what devilry will he do there?” Elrohir wondered aloud as he looked back to the other boats sailing behind them.
“There is still hope of victory at least. With the men of Lebennin and the seaward vales, we have a force that can be reckoned with,” Arwen said.
Aragorn smiled bitter sweetly at this. Though all seemed dark, as always, Arwen’s hopeful reassurances kept his spirit high.
“My lady, are you sure of your choice? Today may be the day we last speak together,” Aragorn said to Arwen.
“Estel, if that will be so, I will still abide the Doom of Men. I will follow you wither you go,” Arwen said passionately.
Aragorn cringed inwards at these words, recalling what had passed between him and Éowyn in Dunharrow. “What is wrong?” Arwen asked him concernedly.
“To hear you speak such words, dearest, brings me pain. It is not right that one so fair should face such perils!” Aragorn said.
Arwen looked deep into his thought, her gray eyes meeting his. “You are reminded of someone else, are you not? Of a young woman with hair like gold….”
“Arwen!” Aragorn said in horror, realizing what she’d seen.
“You pity her, I know, and nothing more. I think I would pity her too, if we ever have chance to meet,” Arwen said.
“Undómiel, I love only you,” Aragorn said.
“I know what you see. She is young, and she lives without hope. As for myself, I have lived many summers within the spheres of this world and I do have hope,” Arwen told him.
Suddenly, a blood-curdling shriek came from the skies, and those in the boats quailed in terror. But only Aragorn did not shrink. Tall he stood, one of the hardiest and most courageous men of that age. Kingly and powerful he seemed as he turned his eyes towards what awaited them on the Pelennor. Now blackness fell over all and clouds seemed to shroud the dawn sky. The Witch-King was now on the road. And all of a sudden, a great cry came from the field, piercing as it was. But it was a sound that did not bring fear to the hearts of men. Now light broke forth and some sang for joy.
“At last! He has been vanquished!” some cried from the boats. Light now shone forth from the East, rallying the hearts of the men of Gondor and Rohan. And now, Halbarad and Elladan went and unfurled the great sliver and sable standard that Arwen had wrought. A cheer came up from the City and from the defenders fighting within the Rammas. The hosts of Mordor were bewildered, some fled, but most now hurried to kill, burn and destroy what they could, as the tide of the battle was turning against them as the men of Lebennin, Ethir and the southern fiefs had trapped them between the river and the walls now manned by defenders. Aragorn was before all the men of Gondor, and few of the foes could stand before him in battle. With him were Elladan and Elrohir, Legolas, Gimli, and the dour-handed Dúnedain.
Meanwhile, Éomer and his surviving marshals had reached the scene of the Witch-King’s demise.
Upon seeing the dead beast and the empty black robes, the Riders were astounded. However, Éomer gave a shout in dismay. Not far from their dead foe lay Éowyn and Merry, both motionless.
“Éowyn! Why have you come to this evil place? Three heavy blows in one day, and now victory, if it ever comes, must also come with mourning. Death would only be better!” Éomer cried.
“Your majesty…” Elfhelm began as if to console him.
“Take them to the Citadel. They must lie in honor, and not be trampled in the coming battle. As for me, I ride to battle,” Éomer said bitterly.
“Madness may blind his stroke. Some of you must go and see that he comes back unscathed, while others may bear the fallen to the City,” Elfhelm said as he lifted up Meriadoc. Some others lifted up Éowyn and a slow procession they made to the City, leaving behind the battle raging to the south and the east.
As they walked slowly, suddenly they saw near the gate a tall man on horseback carrying a banner and some men around him. When they drew nearer, they saw that the newcomer was no other than Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth.
“Have you seen Théoden King?” Imrahil called as he dismounted.
“He lies dead in the Citadel now. We bear his esquire and the Lady Éowyn, the daughter of his sister. Éomer now rides in battle,” a rider named Ceorl answered.
“That is grievous tidings even though aid has come to us. I will go out to battle now and send a rider to bring aid,” Imrahil said. “For I deem that the riders you bear still live,”
“Live?” some of the bearers asked aloud. At this, Imrahil going first to Éowyn then to Merry, held out his vambrace, and a mist was laid on it.
“Are there none skilled in healing among you? Haste is now needed, for these two’s lives and for others in battle,” Imrahil said as he mounted again and rode off.
At last, the sun reached the horizon again, this time in the west. All was bathed in reddish glow, and so it seemed that the Anduin flowed with blood. And indeed it did, for many from all sides were slain within the Rammas. The Variags and the Easterlings had either been slain or had been driven away down the roads, and so were the Haradrim. Not one of them remained within the circle of the Rammas. However, many of the men of Rohan and Gondor had either been hurt or killed in the great battle for Minas Tirith.
It was under the setting sun that Aragorn, Imrahil and Éomer finally met in the midst of the field.
“Thus we meet again. Unlooked for was your coming, and I am glad of it, though much loss now grieves me,” Éomer said to Aragorn.
“Then it has been avenged under this sun. But we cannot rest easy yet, “Aragorn said.
“To the City we must rest for the night. Tomorrow may bring other things,” Imrahil counseled.
“Not I. For now, I will pitch my tent outside. The time is unripe for me to enter, unless the Steward welcomes me,” Aragorn answered.
Suddenly, Gandalf atop Shadowfax, his ever faithful steed rode up to them in haste. His white robes were red in the sinking sun, and great weariness was upon him
“Mithrandir! Where is the Steward?” Imrahil asked.
“In the Houses of Healing he lies,” Gandalf answered.
“Denethor? What has befallen him?” Imrahil wondered.
“Not Denethor, but his son Faramir. As you know, Lord Imrahil, your nephew was wounded by a dart some days ago. But his father Denethor has departed,” Gandalf said.
“He seemed strange when I last saw him,” Imrahil said.
“And he has been driven mad. The will of Sauron entered the city, while we looked to the walls. Despair overtook Denethor’s mind especially after Faramir was brought in wounded by a dart and fell ill with a fever. Today, Denethor attempted to kill himself and his son by burning them both on a pyre. Were it not for Faramir’s friends, the faithful guard Beregond and Peregrin of the Shire, it might’ve come to pass. They held him at bay for a long while, as I fought with the Black Captain at the gate,” Gandalf answered.
“And how did Denethor die?” Aragorn asked softly.
“It is a tale dreadful indeed. At last, when I came to him, it seemed as if the madness had passed, if but briefly. Yet as we made ready to bring Faramir to the Houses of Healing, the Nazgûl Lord followed me to Rath Dinen and Denethor went out to meet him. Fear took hold of him upon laying eyes on the foe, and it seemed then that his madness returned and he shrank away before the Black Captain. Cursing and railing against me and all the hordes of Mordor, he at last went back and set a brand to the pyre he’d prepared and leapt into it. His house is now in ashes,” Gandalf answered.
“So passes Denethor son of Ecthelion. And who shall rule the City meanwhile?” Éomer asked, filled with grief and wonder.
“Lord Imrahil should do so, until Faramir awakes, if it ever should be so. That is the law here. But I counsel that Gandalf should rule us all in our dealings with the Enemy in the days to come,” Aragorn said. And they agreed that it should be so.
“Lord Aragorn, it is only in your coming though that any hope remains for the sick in the Houses. I counsel that you must enter for as the wise-woman Ioreth said “the hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known”,” Gandalf said. Just then, Elladan and Elrohir rode up.
“Our sister seeks tidings of you. What shall we tell her?” they asked.
“Say to her that I am well, and she can follow me if she wishes so. I deem that much help will be needed to heal the many who lie here,” Aragorn answered.
“Mithrandir, do you know where they have bestowed my sister, Lady Éowyn?” Éomer asked finally when the brothers rode off.
“She still lived when they bore her hither,” Imrahil answered. Seeing the shocked expression on the younger man’s face, he asked, “Did you not know?”
“She lies too in the Houses, and so does Meriadoc, her companion. Yet we must not tarry here if we are to save them too, and Lord Faramir,” Gandalf said.
And so they hurried amid the tumultuous Citadel to the Houses. Their hope lay only with the King, who in years gone by had been named such*.
next: Recognitions and awakenings in the Houses of Healing,
* as a child growing up in Rivendell in the care of Elrond, Aragorn was named “Estel” which means Hope.
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.