5. Chapter Four: Edoras
It was of no great surprise to Eol when he learnt that Aragorn had survived the wolf attack that he had inspired.
In truth, the most that Eol had hoped from the ambush was for Aragorn to be harmed enough to be delayed in his pursuit of Arwen so that Eol could set in motion his overall plan for dealing with the King of Gondor. If Turgon had taught Eol one lesson that he had learnt without question, it was the danger of having a king’s wrath upon one’s head. To simply kill Aragorn was not enough. His people loved him dearly and he bound together a strong compendium of leaders throughout Middle earth who would see to it that his death was avenged no matter what the cost. Eol was not ready to face the complications of outright murder but he had no wish to be plagued by the King of Gondor’s determination to retrieve his wife.
What was required to rid himself of the king was decisive action, swift and final on a scale that would be remembered in the ages to the come and ensure that no one would dare to encroach his new kingdom in Imladris with acts of petty vengeance. Eol had arrived in Middle earth shortly after the departure of Elrond and had sufficient time to consolidate his resources once he ascertained that it was Arwen that he wanted. He had no ambitions of conquest but he was not about to endure the repercussions that came from taking Imladris and the Evenstar for his own. To that end, Eol had prepared carefully what was to be done and the actual abduction of Arwen was only the last piece of a plan he had been constructing meticulously for some time.
It appeared that the king was far hardier than Eol had initially thought, rather surprising considering he was one of the Edain and they were known for their fragility. However, it mattered little in the scheme of things because the king himself made it easier for Eol’s plans to be put into effect. Aragorn’s choice of companions had come as no surprise to Eol because he had studied his enemy in good stead prior to the abduction of Arwen and knew who would be at his side when it Aragorn rode to retrieve her. Eol knew of the strong friendship between the Fellowship, who now included the Edain Lord of Ithilien, taking up the place vacated by his deceased brother. The addition of Elladan had been sheer good fortune which he did not rebuke because with Elladan, would ultimately be Elrohir and with their elimination, his claim on Arwen would almost give him a legitimate right to Imladris. The march warden of East Lorien hardly warranted a thought but Eol felt some trepidation to a Maiar being involved in these affairs. Unfortunately, too much had been set in place to alter the plan because of this one complication and Eol resolved himself to keep close eye upon the wizard Pallando to ensure he did nothing to endanger Eol’s labors to this point.
Dispatching the Hunter with its instructions, Eol resumed their journey to Imladris with Arwen, ensuring that she remained unaware of his schemes. Their progress was slow and though he had thought it was her attempt to slow their return to her father’s home, Eol still remembered Aredhel’s state following the birth of their son Maeglin. It had taken her a long time to recover and she was not bearing a human child, which could be taxing on the delicate nature of elven reproduction. While he sensed nothing seriously amiss with Arwen, he could see their travel was sapping her strength. Refusing to allow anything to harm his prize, Eol ensure that they rested frequently.
He took it as a sign of her growing fatigue that she did not attempt to escape and Eol was grateful of this for he had no wish to discipline her if she continued to make such futile waste of her time and his. Until they reached Imladris, he did not consider either of them safe and would take no chances in losing possession of her while the Hunter had yet to rejoin them from putting into play his plans for Aragorn. After his servant had gone, he had remained at their encampment, watching her sleep while he contemplated his plans for their future.
"Why do you do this?" She asked softly, surprising him by her question. He had thought that she was asleep as she lay with her back to him. "Because I love you," Eol replied smoothly, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. The certainly of his voice unnerved Arwen despite her effort not to show it. "How can you love me?" She rolled onto her side so that she could look at him when they spoke. "You do not even know me." "I know enough to suit my purposes," Eol answered, glad that she had finally deign to speak to him. The extent of their communication since their flight from Minas Tirith had been limited to her cold stares and her claims of pride that her king would soon be along to deliver her from his clutches. "The rest will come later."
"Do you think that time will allow me to forget my love? Do you think that your patience will change my feelings for you in time?" Arwen questioned. "Do you not understand that I have bound myself to him willingly, at the price of my mortality? I made the choice long ago that I would rather live a short life with him than all of eternity without. You cannot break that bond between us."
Eol stared at her for a long time, saying little as if he were gathering his thoughts. Arwen prayed that perhaps she had made him understand that what lay between her and Estel could not be broken by any interloper, no matter how much time passed or how much he might wish otherwise.
"You will love me in the end," Eol answered finally crushing her hopes with one foul stroke, "because you will have no choice but to love me."
"You have not heard a word I have spoken," she shook her head in dismay and sadness at his lack of understanding. "I will never love you."
"Perhaps I will not have the kind of love that is true to the heart," he returned, unperturbed by her rejection. "But I will have you nonetheless. In the end, you will see that there is no other alternative but to choose me."
"That time will never come," Arwen said bitterly and turned away.
Eol waited until she had turned before he remarked with a little smile of satisfaction, "that time is coming sooner than you think."
Despite his injury, Aragorn was determined to resume their journey and continue they did through the plains of Anorien past the great range of the White Mountains towards Edoras. The attack by the wolves had made Aragorn doubly determined to reach Imladris and Arwen as well as succeeding in stoking the fires of the king’s rage to white hot intensity. It was a fire that did not subside within the king and as they continued for more days and nights then they could count through the wood and the plains, battling the cold winds that came down from the mountain to assault them frequently, it seemed to grow even more. Though no one dared say it out loud, they knew the reason for Aragorn’s single mindedness and while they shared his desire to make haste, none would admit to each other that it was a goal they simply may not be able to prevent.
Arwen had been in her captor’s power for many days now and the time alone with a creature like the Hunter did not frighten Aragorn as much as her being alone with Eol. When he questioned Faramir what he knew about that particular legend, the Prince of Ithilien had been reluctant to speak but eventually Faramir revealed the whole sordid story of Eol and Aredhel. The king listened to the tale of how Eol had left Doriath and found himself a home in the dark forest of Nan Elmoth where one day he spied upon Aredhel who had wandered out of her home of Gondolin. The Noldor elf maiden was then taken as Eol’s wife, presumably unwillingly for it explained her flight several years later where Eol’s pursuit had resulted in her murder and his being cast from Caragadur.
There was nothing new in the narration but the substance of it seemed to increase Aragorn’s urgent need to reach his queen. They all knew what frightened him so and in understanding his urgency, shared his desire to reach the elf with just as much haste as he. The longer they took to reach Arwen, the greater the chance her body will recover and Eol would feel it necessary to take her as his mate, to seal their unlawful marriage in a union of flesh, whether or not Arwen desired it. Like Aredhel, she would have little choice and Aragorn would not see her dishonored if it was in his power to prevent it.
As they approached Edoras and the court of King Eomer, Legolas however began to sense something disturbing that was shared by all the elves. Though they could not discern what the danger was, the others could feel it as well and it was a sensation that followed them throughout their journey through Anorien. Legolas was certain some ominous danger was lurking behind them but Elladan was convinced that it was not the Hunter for he had become accustomed to the beast’s presence after so many days of pursuit. Yet, the presence disturbed them though it seemed very far away and Legolas remembered the feeling he had been possessed with when the Fellowship had come upon the shores of Parth Galen, the lurking, sinister sensation that danger was growing, though not immediately obvious in its method.
As Roheryn took Aragorn to the elf that was astride his own horse, Arod, the king of Gondor could tell that Legolas’ thoughts were far from the path they were currently travelling. The Prince of Mirkwood and Eden Ardhon appeared distracted, a malaise that had fallen over all the elves in the company for some days now Aragorn had noticed. Haldir seemed more alert and his tongue less prone to its usual stinging remarks while Elladan was watchful for every sound and hardly slept. On Legolas, Aragorn recognized his anxiety by unending crease of his brow, for it was often an indication of some danger that Legolas could feel but could not explain clearly.
"We are less than a day from Edoras," Aragorn remarked almost casually as if he were commenting on the weather.
"I should be glad when we arrive there," Legolas retorted with a frown. It seemed to be his only facial expression these days.
"Strange how he has done little to hinder our journey after his initial effort with the wolves," Aragorn added, aware that Legolas was trying not to leap to conclusions even though his instincts were seldom wrong.
"Yes," Legolas said a slight nod. "There is something coming at us. We all feel it. It is not the Hunter though for Elladan is accustomed to its approach but there is something out there."
"I know," Aragorn agreed readily. "We have arrived here all too easily and unhindered."
"You notice that too?" Faramir added his own voice to the discussion. "I have been expecting more of this dark elf since your attack and yet there has been nothing."
"Oh there is something for certain," Pallando declared. "We are just unaware of it now."
"We are approaching Edoras," Gimli replied. "If there is to be danger, it will arrive before we reach the city."
"I have not been to Edoras before," Haldir spoke up. "Does their city over look the horse plains as reputed?"
"Yes," Aragorn nodded, remembering his time there during the War of the Ring. He recalled fondly the brave kind Theoden, Eomer’s father who had ridden into battle in aid of Gondor and had died for his valiance. "It is a beautiful sight to behold."
"I have heard of the horses of Rohan and the Rohirrim," Haldir remarked, appearing quite sincere in his admiration for the Riders of Rohan. "I should like to see these fields."
"There is no better place to take shelter for a day," Faramir replied, feeling some eagerness in seeing his brother in law, though he wished the visit had come under better circumstances. "Eomer will supply us with whatever we need to continue our quest."
"It will be good to see the King of Rohan again," Gimli declared. "It seems too long since the last time."
"Alas the fortunes of rule," Aragorn sighed, thinking the same thing. So much had changed since they had fought at Helm’s Deep during the Battle of the Hornburg. Eomer had come into his kingship, Legolas and Gimli though often together, sat in rule over their own realms. Elladan and Elrohir had left Imladris for the chance of hunting orc in South Ithilien and Gandalf had left for the Undying Lands. Still, he welcomed the chance to rest in Edoras even though he knew they would not linger there long. Until Arwen was with him again, Aragorn would not peace even if he partook in rest.
Aragorn noticed that Elladan was silent and knew that the Prince of Imladris was pining for his brother somewhat. The twin sons of Elrond were seldom apart and Aragorn who had grown up in the house of the Rivendell lord considered them both family, even before his marriage to Arwen. They had rode together when Aragorn was still a Ranger of the North and fought battles together during the War of the Ring. Aragorn knew that Elladan had been affected greatly by Orophin’s death though the elf spoke little of it. However, the king did not press the issue knowing that Elladan would prefer to confide in his brother Elrohir instead of him.
"It was not your fault Elladan," Aragorn said to him quietly as he nudged his horse next to his elven kinsmen.
Elladan looked up and in his face, Aragorn saw Arwen and felt his heart shrivel in pain a little but the king soon crushed the feeling and tended to Elladan’s wounded state of mind.
"I should have done something," Elladan replied bitterly. "All I could was stand there and watch that monster kill him." He kept his voice low even though he was certain that Haldir could hear despite his best efforts. The march warden of East Lorien did not react however, to Elladan’s words and so he continued to speak. "He was so afraid of dying and I convinced him that it would not happen, that we would be safe if we could only reach the wood. He died within sight of it."
"Elladan," Aragorn placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. "There was nothing you could have done. If you had not reached the wood, then you would be dead too and I would have no idea who had taken your sister. You live to avenge him and to help Arwen. You must be strong for I need you with us. You better than anyone, know what is ahead of us."
Elladan nodded somberly and raised his eyes to Aragorn. "Estel, I think it is here."
"What? The Hunter?" Aragorn’s eyes widened. "Why did you not say?’
"I can sense it but it is far away, not close, almost on the very edge of what I can sense of danger. It has stayed its course and not approached. It might be watching us but at this moment, it chooses not to attack. I had hoped if I remained silent and we continued as we were, we would not rouse its suspicion that we know it is close."
"Why?" Aragorn mused. "From what you tell us and what I have seen, it has nothing to fear from us and every ability to kill us all if it chose. Why does it linger?"
"That is what I do not know and it troubles me," Elladan answered. "I know it is cunning, for I have sensed it track us with such relentless determination that we would have died from sheer helplessness if we had not first reached Lothlorien. This beast does nothing without purpose and I fear that there is a reason it lingers behind. I do not know what it is but it I fear when we find out, it might be too late for us or Arwen."
They moved in the dark.
Swift and purposeful, they traveled with vigor unknown to them since the fall of Sauron. Before now, many of them were scattered and divided. Others chose to hide in the hills, uncertain of what the future held for them for in the world of the Reunified Kingdom, where they had no place. They were outcast and they were forgotten even though there was a time when they were the epitome of fear. More than the thirst of battle, they craved purpose and they were without it for too long. Shame was not something they found palatable and yet in place of man flesh which they so ravenously fed upon during the War of the Ring, it was all that seemed to fill their bellies these days.
After the war, all races of Middle earth that were determined to be free of darkness forever had hunted them. Since they were Sauron’s foremost warriors to this end, they were driven relentlessly into the wilderness despite the fact that without their lord, their capacity to be a threat had been significantly curtailed. Their pride had driven them into the dark places of the world, to the caves beneath mountains, to the forests where none dare venture, to the edge of the world perhaps, for some it certainly seemed that way. It was not enough that the enemy had sworn to destroy them as a race but they were to be broken first, as a final cry of victory over Sauron and Mordor’s evil influence.
It would have come to pass this way if not for the shadow that found them in their hiding places and offered them the chance of a battle that would shake the foundations of Middle earth for generations to come. It was a battle they might not win but it did not matter. They were not orcs or goblins or any of the lower caste that would scurry away at the first sight of danger or defeat, they were soldiers of the dark, the greatest of Sauron’s warriors on the field of battle.
They were the fighting Uruk Hai.
It did not matter if they did not win the battle. It did not matter if they all died. What mattered was one final moment of pride, when they would hurl themselves upon the destroyers of all they knew and take as many with them on the field before they fell to the ground in death. The Uruk Hai possessed an odd sort of honor and honor would be served if they died fighting the enemy. The beast that came to them and offered this chance of redemption understood this all to well and had beseeched them to wait until the time was right to show themselves. Patience was not a trait they practiced well but obedience and discipline they knew well, so they waited until they were needed, until they heard the call.
The time had come and it was now.
The battlefield was named and it was Edoras.
As anticipated, King Eomer was happy to receive them upon their arrival in Edoras. With the exception of Pallando and Haldir, Eomer was acquainted with all of the company, having fought at their side during the War of the Ring and Faramir was a kinsman, by marriage to Eowyn, Eomer’s sister. The city was preparing for the winter when the company rode through its boundaries, with folk in the process of stocking supplies and food for the cold season. Edoras’ position in the hills ensured that it would bear the brunt of the icy winds that swept down form the peak of the White Mountains and though the famed horses of Rohan still roamed freely across the famed plains beneath the city, they would be soon be stabled.
Eomer welcomed his guest wit a meal in the Golden Hall of Meduseld almost as soon as their horses were settled and the formalities of greeting had been passed. It was a long journey form Minas Tirith and the tidings they brought regarding their trip indicated to Eomer that time was of the essence and the High King of the Reunified Kingdom would wish to be on his way as soon as he and his party had rested. Eomer, who was more than accustomed to Aragorn’s habits, knew that the king was not one to delay when he was required elsewhere and there could be no urgent matter than the return of his queen. However, he was clearly unhappy that he could not accompany Aragorn on his quest for his own kingdom required his presence at home.
"I am glad that Eowyn was not badly hurt," Eomer declared, relieved as they were all gathered at his table dining on the food prepared for them, following Aragorn’s narration of events that his sister’s valiant efforts to protect Arwen had not cost Eowyn her life. "I suppose that she would be thoroughly unhappy that her injury kept her from accompanying you on this quest."
"You have no idea," Faramir replied with a little smile, remembering their last parting and how Eowyn was disappointed that her injury withheld her participation in the mission to retrieve Arwen. "It was not merely that Arwen was taken by this beast but also the injury it had done to Melia as a result. Eowyn’s injuries were slight in comparison to the harm it did to Melia."
"Melia," Eomer mused, recalling hearing some intelligence that Legolas had married a mortal recently. "That is your wife Legolas?"
"Yes," Legolas nodded. Talk of Melia had reminded Legolas how much he missed his wife and made him wonder how she fared back in Minas Tirith. "We married only recently. The physicians tell me that she will recover but she broke many bones and there was some internal injuries that would take months to recover."
"I am glad to hear that," the King of Rohan said sincerely. "But what of her? What is she like?"
"Too good for Legolas," Gimli snorted, causing a ripple of laughter through the table that was sorely needed after the heavy news that had been delivered.
"She is a Ranger of Angmar," Legolas remarked, giving the dwarf a look.
"Ah, the ones assigned to protecting the border of the Shire?" Eomer glanced at Aragorn who knew these things better.
"Aye, specifically the northern passages to Bree and Hobbiton," Aragorn answered a second later. Since the prophecy that claimed the hobbits would play a vital role in the destruction of Sauron, the Shire had unknowingly been under the protection of the Rangers of the North. Now that the war was over, the protection was a known to all as was the king’s covenant to ensure that the home of the Ringbearer would never fall to harm.
"You choose yourself a strange bride elf," Eomer retorted, still unable to wrap his mind around a Lady Ranger, much less one that was wife to the Prince of Mirkwood.
"And you choose none at all," Faramir pointed out, aware that Legolas did not like discussing too deeply the constraints of a mortal – elf marriage and sought to spare his friend from his brother in law’s inquiry.
"I do not have time to choose a wife," the king replied. "Not yet. There is much to do in Rohan and at some point I will tend to it. At present, I wish I could offer you my Rohirrim to accompany you on this quest Aragorn but unfortunately, I have sent them westward," he apologized.
"I did notice your ranks were thin when we rode into the city," Aragorn remarked. Rohan had been relatively peaceful since Aragorn had come to the throne, with even the orcs and remnants of Sauron’s forces preferring warmer climates than the icy temperatures of the White Mountains.
"Is that not dangerous?" Haldir inquired, every the vigilant march warden.
"I do not sent the Rohirrim away lightly," Eomer replied stiffly, trying not to be annoyed by the question since it was a valid observation. "However, a report reached me of Uruk Hai amassing at West Emnet. We have many new settlements there and those lands are not as bordered as Edoras by the mountains."
"I thought the Uruk Hai were scattered following the fall of Sauron," Pallando remarked, knowing little of the politics in this part of the world since he had been away from it for so long.
"They are mostly," Elladan offered. "However, they were the greatest of Sauron’s orc races and unlike the ones who came before them, they move by day and they do not shirk in the face of comparative forces. Uruk Hai stand their ground and fight. They are fearless. Even without a leader, should they fall upon a settlement without proper defenses, the effect can be devastating."
"We fought them at Helm’s Deep and their savagery is nothing to be taken lightly," Legolas offered. "If it were not for the Huorns of Fangborn, it is very likely that we would have been defeated."
"It would have been a tragedy for everyone," Gimli added. "The caves of Helm’s Deep are most spectacular. My heart would have broken knowing that they were infested with such foul folk."
"That was a battle," Eomer sighed, remembering that his uncle, King Theoden had fought alongside of them. The king had been so long under the spell of Grima Wormtongue, an agent of Saruman that the court of Rohan had forgotten what a king was meant to be. Fortunately, Gandalf’s arrival had broken the Wormtongue’s spell and Theoden had realized how near the brink of danger the treacherous counselor had brought him. In response, Theoden had rode out with them, giving new spirit to the Rohirrim when their king led them into battle. They would have ridden him to certain death for the joy of seeing Theoden at his best again.
"One thing puzzles me however," Eomer spoke a moment after the silence where those who fought at Helm’s Deep remembered the fallen and those who had fought at that battle who were now absent, though not necessarily dead. "If this elf has taken Imladris for his own and keep anyone from finding their way to the city, what of the elves who still dwell there? I cannot believe that they would remain silent while an interloper steals the place of their rightful lords."
"I do not understand it myself," Elladan answered. "My people would not simply allow Eol to take my father’s place among them and they would certainly not sit by and be trapped within Imladris’ boundaries. The call of the sea is strong these days; many are leaving in great numbers. Imladris is being abandoned even as we speak, if not for the Undying Lands then for other elven cities. How he managed to maintain control worries me, for I cannot see my people sitting by and allowing this to happen."
It was a question that they pondered silently for the rest of the evening but could reach no answer.
The fog swept in from the mountains at midnight, curling clouds of white quickly covering the plains where the horses would have normally been if it were summer. Their thickness covered the twilight plains until all that could be seen from the walls of the city was a blanket of grey. In sky above, the moon kept an indifferent eye on all the proceedings, amidst the forming of heavy clouds of impending rain. The sentry posts maintaining their vigil over the city were filled with uneasiness at hearing no sound of life emanating through the thickening veil that was surrounding their city as if it were under siege.
Legolas Greenleaf stared at this very same fog from the top of the wall, having been drawn there by one of the guards who had knocked on his door while he had been resting. The guards had been reluctant to alert the either Eomer or Aragorn since this was clearly a matter for elves. The guard in question was acquainted with the Prince of Mirkwood from the battle of Helms Deep and later the Hornburg and knew that the elf was the person to approach about the situation which had arisen a short time before. Truth be known, Legolas was already awake, the sense of danger that had disturbed himself, Haldir and Elladan before arriving at Edoras had reached some measure of urgency. Legolas had been pondering whether or not he ought to alert Aragorn to this when he had heard the door knocking.
Following the man to the top of the guard wall, Legolas felt immediately anxious at the sight of the thickening fog, which did not feel at all natural to him. There was design in this and what was worse; the impending danger that he was gripped with seemed to find its source in this cloud of cold air. The guards had seen nothing unusual in this because it was approaching winter and such occurrences were common. The only thing that had been done was the customary signal fires had been lit to give travellers a beacon to follow through the dense fog and the guards at their post though the silence had unnerved them a little.
Apparently, Legolas had been called because Elladan was sitting at the wall’s edge, staring at the fog without telling any of the guards why he was keeping such a close eye on it. He was unsettling them with his vigilance because they knew elves to have heightened senses capable of detecting danger before it arrived and his refusal to tell them had ominous overtones.
When Elladan saw Legolas approach, the Prince of Imladris turned him and replied firmly, "it is here," Elladan said coldly.
"Where?" Legolas demanded, wondering why Elladan had not told Aragorn such important news.
"Out there," Elladan nodded towards the fog. "I was not certain at first but now I am sure of it. Do you sense the danger?"
"Yes," Legolas nodded, unable to deny the growing feeling of dread that was clenching his stomach into a fist. "I sense it."
"What do you sense?" The guard who had brought Legolas here demanded.
"I do not think it is alone," Elladan swallowed. "I feel the danger you do but I also sense beast. This fog comes at too opportune a time to be coincidental."
Suddenly, a flash of lightning over their heads and the subsequent clapping of thunder heralded the arrival of the rain that had been brewing in the clouds above them for some time. Large pregnant drops of water slapped hard against the skin upon landing, splattering in all directions across stone walls and upon roofs of houses across Edoras as the teeming shower intensified into a downpour of bruising rain. The rain dissipated the fog and as it cleared the landscape before them, what remained in place of the fog soon had the attention of every guard on the wall as alarm spread through the ranks of the sentries, like firestorm.
Elladan and Legolas could only stare in numb silence at the danger they had been anticipating take shape in a way that not even they were prepared for.
"Sweet Eru," Elladan managed a hoarse whisper.
"Go," Legolas, said to guard who was beside them, staring at the same sight in frozen horror. "Wake your king."
Aragorn was dreaming.
In the dreamscape, Arwen was with him. She was not the victim of Eol’s abduction and she was where he had last seen her, in the garden with her friends, enjoying the first rays of sunlight she had seen since the birth of Eldarion. She had been so happy to out in the sunshine after seeing nothing but walls since bringing her son into the world. The lustre of her skin had yet to return but when she sat in the garden, with the open air in her lungs, Aragorn swore that she was never more beautiful to him. He had kissed her gently and left her to her friends because he had matters of his own to tend to.
In his dream, he remained frozen in that moment when they had kissed and all had seemed for a brief space of time, perfect in their world.
If he could remain in that moment forever, he would never wake up.
However, it appeared as if Aragorn had little choice in the matter when the hard banging on the door to his room shattered the serenity of the first peaceful sleep he had in days with its pounding noise. Stumbling out of bed where he had dropped fully clothed, he awoke to voices shouting urgently through the hiss of rainfall within the walls of the castle and from the courtyard below. He paused long enough to look out the window and saw people running through the downpour, with no thought to sheets of rain soaking them to the skin as they raced across the courtyard. Women, children and old people were being ushered about the place by soldiers in this orchestra of frenzied activity.
He did not know what was transpiring as he strode away from the window towards the door, now fully alert and awake. He paused long enough to retrieve Anduril before answering the door that had not ceased its pounding since waking up from his sleep. Upon reaching it, he was ready to tear it off its hinges in order to answer its call and found before him, Legolas standing before him with a grave expression on his face.
"Aragorn, you must come immediately." The elf did not mince words nor did he wait for Aragorn to follow him before hurrying up the hall again.
"What has happened?" Aragorn demanded as he hurried after Legolas who was now hurrying up the corridor towards the steps. His pace was not the only one moving swiftly throughout the hall, others were emerging from their places, weapons steady in their hands.
"Trouble," Legolas said simply because there was no way to describe what was beyond the city walls other than to show the king himself.
Aragorn followed Legolas out of Meduseld of into the courtyard and saw soldiers hurrying to defensive positions along the wall and he knew immediately what that meant. Meduseld had been placed near this wall so that the kings of Rohan could see the horses in the plains before them and their city behind them. From the Golden Hall one could look down into the carved streets at the center of Edoras and this moment, Aragorn could see an evacuation was in the process of occurring. People were being roused from their homes and moved to places of shelter positioned throughout the city, possibly beneath it. Aragorn was familiar with such enclaves for Minas Tirith had their own as well, employed when great danger approached.
Soldiers that were not employed in the business of moving folk to safety were charged with other tasks, such as gathering weapons, swords and shields. What seemed like a thousand arrows were being piled in the center of the courtyard before being taken in generous portions to the top of the wall, their shafts slick with moisture. Swords gleamed under the moonlight, water reflecting off their shiny blades. Others were preparing great vats of oil at strategic points in the wall. Edoras was built and flanked by mountains on all sides save the one that faced the plains. From there, the journey to reach the base of the fortress walls was nothing more than the scaling of a mildly steep hill, nothing that would give pause to a anyone who was determined to invade.
Legolas hurried up the steps to the section of wall where Aragorn could see Eomer and the rest of the company gathering. They were soaked to the skins from the rain but they were hardly aware of it. Their faces were grim and their eyes were fixed ahead, at something he had yet to see but had already guessed by the time he scaled the steps behind Legolas and reached the top. Stepping onto the top of the wall, the soldiers who saw him drew in their breaths sharply as a ripple of emotion moved through them all at the presence of the king. Aragorn wished they would look to Eomer in that manner but how could they when even the Lord of Rohan was showing his adoration in the look of intense relief that marked his face at the sight of his king and his friend. How could his men be expected to do what he could not?
"There," Legolas spoke finally, sweeping his arms beyond the wall.
Aragorn moved his eyes away from the friend awaiting him and traveled to the moonlight plains where horses should have been and found that it was occupied by the largest body of Uruk Hai he had seen since the battle of Hornburg. They were making steady progress up the hill and Aragorn estimated that they had little more than an hour before they reached the walls. The rain was slowing them down, making the ground muddy and uneven but it was not enough. Uruk Hai had been created to ignore such hindrances and as they moved across the plain like a black swarm of evil, spreading out to form a phalanx of steel that would prevent anyone from getting past them.
"How long until the Rohirrim get here?" Aragorn asked the minute Eomer was close enough to hear.
"Not long enough," Eomer replied. "A thick fog concealed their presence and there was no indication of danger from any of our sentry posts, not even our beacons to the east which would have given us plenty of warning of such an assemblage."
"The beast is among them," Elladan declared. "He leads them. I am certain of it."
"This attack is by that damned sorceress villain?" Eomer swore angrily.
"Steady your rage," Aragorn said swiftly. "This is not the time for it? How many men do we have that can defend the city?"
"Not enough to repel an attack of that size," Eomer declared. "I have brought ruin on my people by leaving us wide open when I sent the Rohirrim away."
"You could not have possibly known that this was the enemy’s intent," Faramir replied gently. "I would not have thought it possibly that he would dare such an assault? It would not surprise me if the supposed threat to West Emnet were but a ruse to draw your forces away. Still why on Edoras of all places?"
Aragorn thought quickly, his gaze sweeping over the faces before him, drenched to the bone in ran, their eyes all bearing the same heavy burden of what they would be facing in less than an hour. Friends who had ridden all this way with him, to free his wife only to find that they were about to fight in a battle with warriors none of them had ever expected to face again in this fashion. Eol could not have chosen to simply strike at Edoras at the spur of the moment. This attack was planned because the elf knew Aragorn would take the swiftest course to Imladris. He had planned a contingency for every possible outcome and Aragorn started to understand that he had been playing this game wrong. It was not just about kidnapping Arwen.
It was about keeping her.
"To destroy all of us," Aragorn spoke quietly, understanding at last. "He wanted to destroy us all, to take Imladris and Arwen for his own by inflicting a lesson of destruction upon all of us, leaders of our respective kingdoms in Middle earth. Wipe us out and there will be known who dare oppose him or avenge our deaths once he had retreated to Imladris. If he can do this to the best of us, he will ensure that no one else will come after him."
"He may well succeed," Haldir replied staring at the enemy approaching. "If we do not act now."
"We will do that most certainly," Aragorn declared turning to Eomer. "We must protect the city at all costs, if we can hold Edoras, it will give us time for the Rohirrim to return and catch them on their rear. Therefore, we must hold them before they reach the walls. We must cut down their numbers as much as possible. I do not think we will keep them from entering the city but if we leave as many of their kind on the battlefield, we will not be overrun when it comes time for close quarter combat. How many horses are still here?"
"A minimum complement," Eomer answered. "However one of my riders is worth ten of them. We will make them count." He said viciously.
"Good," Aragorn nodded. "Tell your riders to prepare for battle, we will not use them until our line is broken. They are to come from our right only after the enemy reaches us. I would not tip our hand too soon by squandering the precious resources that they are. Leave plenty of arrows and swords on the wall. If we are driven back, we will need them."
"What about the Hunter?" Elladan asked. "If he fights for them, I am almost certain that he will make straight for you."
"You cannot fall in battle," Faramir said firmly as if there was no question about this. "The result would be devastating."
"What are you suggesting?" Aragorn stared at them with shock. "That I withdraw and hide?"
"No," Pallando spoke. "You cannot hide. Your presence here alone will have every man fighting like Turin or Elendil to win the day. Leave the Hunter to me. I may not be able to destroy it but I can see to it that its attentions are otherwise occupied with concerns beyond killing you."
"Are you certain of this?" Legolas stared at the wizard.
"Nothing in life is certain," Pallando replied with a little smile. "But I will do my best to ensure that we all survive the night."
"I think we all will," Gimli responded, his gaze moving to the approaching storm. Rain trickled off the point of his axe and the dwarf could not help thinking that this battle reminded him of Helm’s Deep. It was highly unlikely however, that there would be any Huorns coming to the rescue this time.
The rain did not stop.
It became heavier it was possible. They were being besieged by Uruk Hai and by water.
Within the city, the folk remained huddled in their shelters, awaiting as the rain made pitter patter noises outside and made the air inside their confines hot and humid, sweat absurdly forming against their skins when they should have been freezing in winter cold. Wives spoke nervously amongst themselves, trying not to think of the danger that was about to be visited upon their men. They tended the others in their families, gave them food from the provisions supplied, comforted those who were alone and tried to settle down children who were charged with the excitement of a battle without knowing the consequences.
The streets of Edoras were silent. The taverns were empty; the houses were dimmed of their lights. There was a feeling of limbo, of being abandoned and yet alive even by the absence of those who were forced away. Pools of water formed on the muddy tracks where cobblestone did not reach. The city would have almost been beautiful under the indigo twilight where water made everything sparkle. It would have been beautiful if not for the overwhelming sense of doom that lingered in the air like a stench that would not fade. Even the Golden Hall of Meduseld, the home of Rohan’s kings seemed to pale under this unflinching malaise of uncertainty.
On the walls of Edoras, soldiers playing the part of the secondary line of defense watched the gathered forces of their friends and family in the plains below them. While they would not draw the first blood in the battle, their task on the wall would ensure that all might win the day. They heated vats of oil, sharpened swords, placing them within easy reach of the defenders when and if they were driven to retreat. Spears and axes, maces and any weapon that could be found in the arsenal was produced. Arrows waited in similar fashion; their flights of eider protruding out of the bins were they were houses. Signal fires were placed intermittently along the walls to give the defenders who were forced to turn back some place to run towards. Their flames protected by the rain by covers of steel poised above the fire.
On the ground, the main line of defense awaited.
The line stood firm, composed of kings and soldiers, of elves, men, dwarf and spirits beyond all them. Bows, swords, axes and daggers were poised and waiting as the enemy closed in on them. All stood all and proud even though the numbers were against them. The Uruk Hai were not far away now, their growling sounds could be heard through the rain. Neither enemy had seen each other’s eyes yet and so there was time for each side to prepare themselves for the slaughter, each whetting their appetite to fight for their own causes. Jaws were set hard, fists clenched bows, knuckles turning white from fear and anticipation. Hearts hardened to granite as the margin of battle narrowed into a thinning line that would soon vanish altogether.
Aragorn Elessar, King of the Reunified Kingdom stood with Anduril sheathed in its scabbard at his hip because the weapon of the moment was a bow. He did not doubt that Anduril would taste blood this night but for the moment, the arrow would be their first line of attack. The enemy was still beyond the reach of its points but the line had been formed of arrows, moving as far as there were bodies to hold their bows. Aragorn saw not the enemy as they closed in, he did not see the rain that was stinging his eyes and forcing him to blink periodically.
He did not even feel the cold. All he felt was rage. A pure black rage to rival the fury of any dark lord. He stared single minded in his hatred at the one who would steal his wife and bring his friends and his people to this bloody confrontation. He had not laid eyes upon Eol but he knew at this moment that their meeting when it came, and it would come because he would not die until he faced the elf who had masterminded this, Eol would die by his hand.
Beside him, Legolas stood proud and tall, flanking his friend. He was without the doubt the greatest archer on the field but at this moment, Legolas did not think skill mattered as much as speed. He had been laden with the most arrows and their weight upon his back was almost crushing but he knew that of all of them, he had the best chance of using those arrows to their fullest effect. His limbs felt heavy from the saturation of his clothes by the rain and there was this prevailing sense of danger that seemed redundant now that they could see the danger coming towards them. He glanced at Aragorn and saw that the king’s expression was of stone and shuddered inwardly at the fury he could feel emanating from the former Ranger.
Next to Legolas was Gimli who bore his axe with equal determination. His eyes fixed upon the wall of evil coming towards them. Long ago, they had played a game at Helms Deep and it appeared tonight they would play it again. Gimli relished battle and the War of the Ring had been war of which songs would be sung for centuries hereafter. However, as he stood with his friends now, he thought of the wife left behind in the Glittering Caves, of Lorin whom he seldom spoke but carried in his heart no matter where he went. The nature of marriage between dwarves ensured that they would never remain long enough in each other’s company to do any more than produce offspring. Yet she was more then that to him and as he stood about to fight a battle inspired by a woman, he hoped to see her again.
To Faramir, this almost seemed like something out of a book. Certainly, this was the kind of battle he and Boromir used to dream of as children when they built their forts made out of pillows and blankets. Faramir had fallen during the siege of Gondor and was not healed until after the witch king had been slain on the fields of Pelennor where the war ended. He did not know the battles that the others had seen. He had fought during the siege and he had defended his people as a Ranger of Ithilien but a battle like this, where he stood head to head with the enemy, with his bow drawn and aimed to fire was something entirely new. He promised Eowyn he would return to her and prayed that he did not fall for he was not about to suffer her wrath in the afterlife if he did.
Elladan did not fear battle with Uruk Hai for despite their formidable natures as a fighting opponent, they could not stand up to his hatred of them and all orc kind. More than six centuries before, he and Elrohir had rescued their mother from the hands of orcs whom had abducted her and taken her into the Misty Mountains. Until this day, neither brother spoke about the state of the Silver Queen when she had been found, only to know that he shared Aragorn’s desire to retrieve Arwen because he would not see what happened to their mother be inflicted upon their sister. The twin brothers had remembered the desolation and the terrible wounds that had been forced upon Celebrian, wounds they could not even tell their father for the shame of it. However, her suffering was branded into their psyche like fire and with it was a hatred of Orcs that would never die.
Haldir had no hatred of Orcs or Uruk Hai. There were to him animals, like the boar or the wolf. Albeit there were a little more cunning than those already mentioned, infinitely more unclean that was for certain but he did not hate them. He stood with his bow, prepared to indulge in a taste of battle he had not know for many centuries and found a shudder of hidden anticipation running through him at the thought. Yet despite his desire to kill the enemy before him, he sought out the Hunter and was dismayed by the fact that he could not tell where the beast that had murdered Orophin was presently. He glanced at sideways and knew that if he kept close eye upon Aragorn, the beast was sure to come. He also reminded himself to note what Legolas was doing since he had promised the Prince’s lady that he would ensure that he was returned to her safely.
Pallando kept close eye upon Aragorn because he could sense the beast. It was somewhere on the edge of the battle, waiting to see if the Uruk Hai could spare it the trouble of doing its master’s bidding. Pallando’s hands gripped his staff and his sword. He had not transcended his body so he could be killed. However, death did not fear him for this body had come with him when he had sailed across the sea to Middle earth form the Undying Lands. He simply did not wish to die at this moment exactly for he had to protect Aragorn from this aberration from the past who had come to plague a world that had moved on and left it behind. Pallando would allow nothing to keep him from that end, no matter how many he had to kill to ensure it.
The Uruk Hai came into view, their hands grasping their unpolished maces and swords, their teeth bared and their red eyes staring through the dark, challenging the warriors of Edoras to do their worst. Aragorn thought they had appeared as many when he stared at them from the wall, however, at this moment they seemed so numerous that the battle line before them seemed puny in comparison. Aragorn refused to let numbers defeat them before the first blow was struck and knew that it was time to attack, before the forces rallied against them disheartened his army and demoralized them into believing this was a battle they could not win.
"NOW!" Aragorn roared at the top of his lungs and let the arrows fly.
His scream corresponded with the Uruk Hai battle cry and they too were running their weapons raised in attack as they ran forward with powerful strides. Rushing to meet them were arrows so numerous that they was impossible to count or distinguish as they sailed through the air with deadly accuracy, crossing the distance between the two armies in a matter of seconds before finding their home in flesh. The initial attack halted the Uruk Hai advance but briefly as bodies wounded tumbled to the ground only to be trampled by the others behind them.
"AGAIN!" Aragorn ordered and a second hail of arrows flew from the archers. This barrage causing as much destruction as the first. Uruk Hai fell in their tracks to the muddy ground but once again, their demise did little to halt the numbers behind them who were closing the distance between the enemy with surprising speed despite the wet and slippery terrain.
"AT WILL!" Aragorn shouted and the arrows flew once more, this time there was no ordered pattern, no pause while they waited to fire in unison. Legolas next to Aragorn was shooting arrows as fast as he could pull them from their pouch, loading the bow with speed that no one else save Haldir could match. Aragorn’s own skill was nothing in comparison and he forced himself to keep in time with the elven prince in the hopes that Legolas’ speed would allow him to inflict as significant damage upon the approaching enemy.
However, this distance between the two armies was swiftly dwindling and it was only a matter of time before arrows would be useless in the battle and the combat would shift to the use of the sword. As Aragorn saw the Uruk Hai close in on them, he dropped his bow and immediately unsheathed Anduril. The others next to him followed his action until only Legolas was still firing arrows since he was the only one present with the skill to shoot them at such close range. Even Haldir had desisted and had produced his sword, joining the collection of blades and axes that were suddenly gleaming with rain and moonlight.
With the Uruk Hai only a hare’s breath away, Aragorn issued the last order he could before orders meant nothing any longer.
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.