Hunt for the Nine - Elladan and Elrohir's Mission
The shambling figure ran blindly in the gloom, clothed in dirty rags which blew in the wind. His injured leg restrained him from sprinting, but even if he could run as fast as a deer the rider behind him would catch him sooner or later. The rogue could be mistaken for an Orc, but he was not so. Just a petty, yet malicious, man under orders from his overlords. He had no weapon, he had long abandoned it as it was too heavy and cumbersome to sprint with, so he could turn and face his pursuer. Fear and desperation only kept him on his feet, but the terrain was treachorous here. Then the rogue espied a series of jagged rocks in front of him. This was his chance - he could hide in there and finally rest. Jumping into the rocks, he began searching for a suitable place to hide, crouching as low as possible. But then, he heard silent footsteps on the rocks above him. Pebbles ran down the slopes. The rogue looked this way and that, trying to find the source of the noise. And then it stopped. He stared in horror as a bright form jumped from above, kicking him down and holding a cold blade to his neck.
"You will speak, agent of evil, and we may spare you."
Elrohir stared mercilessly into the pitiful man's eyes, who looked away, seemingly pained by the stare. Elladan brought his white horse to a trot and came through the maze of rocks to find his brother holding down their quarry.
"I congratulate you," spoke Elladan, "For evading us as long as you did."
The rogue squirmed, trying to break from the Elf's clutches, but when finding he could not escape he opened his mouth to speak.
"What do you want?" he asked.
"Answers to questions. Say the right things and we shall release you," answered Elladan.
"Who is your master?" questioned Elrohir.
"Sharkey, lord of Isengard."
"Sharkey? Is that what you call Saruman? I haven't heard that name before."
"What did he send you to do?"
"I was sent to spy on Bree. But on my way I was captured by nine shadows on black horses."
At this the Elves' eyebrows raised. They looked at each other, intigued.
"They interrogated me as you do. When they left they told me to never return to Isengard, and that I was now in the service of Mordor."
"What did you see at Bree?" Elladan now had a note of urgency in his voice.
"At the inn called `The Prancing Pony', I saw a Hobbit, who vanished before my very eyes. And now all I wish to do is get out of this forsaken land."
Elladan looked at Elrohir and nodded.
"You are free to go. Do not return to Mordor or Isengard, or our steeds shall hunt you down like a rabbit," stated Elladan. Elrohir released the rogue, who shot off into the darkness.
"We should have killed him," stated Elrohir as he rode next to Elladan.
It was the morning after they had captured the brigand, and they had learned much from their encounter.
"Why? I promised we would release him if he answered our questions, and that he did."
"Indeed, but I believe he will reveal what he has seen to either Saruman or the Nine."
"It is highly unlikely," said Elladan, "Did you not see the fear in his eyes?"
"Yes. Yet I suspect that fear was for his overlords, and what they would do to him once they learned of his ultimate failure."
Elladan considered this as they continued their passage through what was once Eregion. What remained of the fair Elven cities were weathered ruins, and the ground where a legion of proud Elven warriors had once stood only birds and beasts now tread. Elrohir looked eastwards, to where Moria lay.
"Do you think the Nine passed into Khazad-dum?" he asked.
"I do not believe so. They would not know how to pass through Hollin Gate, and even if they did they could not find the way out and could not deal with Goblins there without pysical appearance."
The ground began to get boggy and unstable. Pools dark and green lay in the distance.
"It seems we have reached the Swanfleet marshes," spoke Elrohir. "Shall we leave the steeds here?"
"No," answered Elladan, "The water gets deeper further in. Our horses must take us across."
The Elven steeds plodded into the swamps, their legs sinking into the murky water. Flies swarmed around the bogs, but for some reason they did not touch the sons of Elrond. For hours their horses toiled through Swanfleet. There were no sounds save the splashing of the steeds, for the flies had long since departed. Then they heard the screech of a bird, which flew overhead. A school of fishes swam past the riders.
"Something must have startled them," whispered Elladan, "But what?"
"The Loudwater leads into these marshes, answered Elrohir, "It may be the . . ."
A blood curdling shriek filled Swanfleet, sending the wildlife fleeing or hiding in fear. The Elves swiftly pulled out their twin blades, scanning the area.
"The sound came westwards, towards Tharbad," said Elrohir.
"Then we must hasten."
Tharbad was once a town that lay alongside the Greyflood river, gaining wealth from its position astride the Great South road. But there was a disastrous flood, ruining Tharbad. The town was deserted, and now only serves as a meeting point for Rangers and Elven scouts. It was here where the twin sons of Elrond were to meet Halbarad, a kinsman and great friend of Aragorn. And so the Elf horses went as fast as the swamp allowed. A keen-looking Ranger held a bow at the ready, awaiting the two riders crashing through the waters.
"My lords, I apoligise," spoke the man, "I thought you to be . . . something else."
"It is forgiven," began Elladan, "Though we could see you clearly before you even knew of our prescence."
"I have not the eyes of an Elf though," stated the Ranger, "Hadlin at your service."
"Hadlin, take us to Halbarad," told Elrohir.
"Very well. He should be still at camp, and my brother Hanlir will be on the other side of the ruins."
Elladan and Elrohir were taken into the heart of Tharbad, where Halbarad stood with his sword unsheathed by a campfire.
"Greetings, sons of Elrond," said Halbarad, bowing slightly.
"Tell us, did you see or hear anything around here?" questioned Elladan.
"Of course. We heard the same sound that we heard at the bridge weeks ago. The cry of the Nazgul."
The twin sons looked at each other briefly, then Halbarad continued.
"As soon as we heard that sound, I sent Hadlin and Hanlir to the opposite sides of Tharbad, for we thought you may have been beset."
"We thank you for your concern," said Elrohir. "Now, tell us what has transpired in the north."
Halbarad then began talking to them concerning the scouts who were searching further upwards. "The Shire has been made secure again from evil threat, as has the road from there to Rivendell. Darkness is mustering in Gundabad and the Forodwaith, but we are powerless to that right now. Bree-land is now often spied upon by our allies to see if any southerners are gathering information for evil purposes, and the Barrow Downs have been carefully watched. It seems Eriador is mostly scoured."
Then Elladan told him of their journey, and their encounter with the brigand. "Do you think you should have slain him?" asked Halbarad.
"I did indeed," answered Elrohir. "Yet my brother stayed our wrath. He believes the man is too fearful of us to return to Isengard."
"I hope you are right," stated Halbarad. "Now we should leave this camp, and continue our duties. Hadlin, go and fetch your brother."
He nodded, then set off to do as Halbarad commanded. Elladan and Elrohir prepared their horses, but were stopped by the return of Hadlin, who held his dead brother in his arms.
"He is completely lifeless!" grieved Hadlin, placing Hanlir's body on the floor.
"The Nazgul must have been here!" said Elladan.
Halbarad knelt beside the body. "He must have had his soul drained. It appears the Nine are considerably weak."
"And so we must catch them before they return to Mordor!" spoke Elrohir. "Brother, we must ride, now!"
Elladan nodded, then bowed to Halbarad as a parting gesture.
"We shall bury Hanlir and meet the other Rangers at Chetwood. Farewell, sons of Elrond."
The twin sons quickly rode down the old south road to the Gap of Rohan. They had decided to go back on the road rather than be slowed by wild terrain, yet neither had much hope they would catch their quarry.
It had been the second day after their departure from Halbarad, and they were a few miles from Isengard, which they now knew was full of enemies. Elrohir turned to speak to Elladan, but was cut short by a savage cry and the sound of steel on steel.
"Sounds like a battle!" spoke Elladan. "It comes from behind that wood to the south!"
They shot off like a pair of white darts, speeding round the cluster of trees to find a pair of Gondorian soldiers fighting off a pack of Wildmen from their cart. Elrohir, letting out an Elven war cry, held up his blade and charged towards the Wildmen, and his brother soon followed. At that one of the attackers ran off in fear, but four others ran to meet this new onset, as two of their fellows tied up the Gondorians.
Elrohir's steed trampled down a pair of the Wildmen, leaving one dead as the other tried to return to his feet. Elrohir's blade passed the defence of another man, jabbing through his skull, and slashed down the Wildman trying to get back up. Elladan ran down the last of the four, then galloped to aid the Gondorians. One went down as quick as an eyeblink, and the last dropped his sword and ran as fast as he could.
"Are you injured?" asked Elladan to the Gondorians.
"Nay, my lord, nothing serious," answered one of the men, panting.
"What are your names and what is your business?" questioned Elrohir.
"I am Talbor, this is my cousin Inlif. We are humble tradesmen from Lossarnach, who bring clothes to trade with the pipe-weed of Bree. But if not for you, my lords . . ."
"It was nothing, I insist," said Elladan. "Now we shall be on our way. May you have good fortune in your travels."
The two men of Lossarnach bowed low, then continued their journey, guiding their pack horse onwards.
As the Elves trotted eastwards, Elrohir began talking again to his brother.
"It seems the Dunlendings have become active again," he contemplated. "Saruman must have goaded them into action against his foes."
"Speaking of Saruman," began Elladan, "How will we cross into Calenhardon? Orthanc guards the Gap of Rohan, and going around the White Mountains would be folly."
Elrohir looked up at the peaks, then had a thought. "We shall climb over the northernmost mountain and into Rohan. From there we can continue to our destination."
"What of our horses?" asked Elladan, seemingly anxious about their steeds' safety.
"We can continue on foot. Our horses now the way home," answered Elrohir, patting his mount's head.
Elrohir clambered up a vertical rock, hauling himself up then aiding his brother behind him. They had been climbing Amon Iril, the mountain of the pass, for a day now. They were nearly at the peak, and could clearly see Isengard and the mountains behind it in the morning sun. They were now high enough, and were beginning their descent down. The sun shined off the smooth surface of Orthanc, but the great black tower looked anything but sunny. The twins breathed and sat down on a large rock, looking at the beautiful view around them. They could see dark Mirkwood, the plains Calenhardon, the fortress-isle of Cair Andros and the dark gates that stood further east. To the west, they saw the glittering sea, and could smell its wind against Amon Iril. Without a word, Elladan got up again and began the descent. Elrohir soon followed.
"Thankyou, good sir."
"Anytime, my good Elf."
Elladan and Elrohir stood in a small Rohan village, where they had just bought a pair of horses from a stableman. They were not as graceful or fair as their normal steeds, but were hardy and durable. The villagers had been talking all morning about the twin Elf princes who came down from the mountains, and so stared at the two with awe. This became irritable after a while, but they both smiled when a peasant gloated at them.
They had obtained supplies enough for the remainder of the journey, and though unlike the food the twins were used to would have to do. Yet Elladan was growing fond of their style of cooking, and Elrohir laughed at his simplicity.
As they sat on a wooden bench beside the village's cropfield, several children approached the Elves and began asking questions, which the twins happily answered. After some time, one of children asked for a story. So, Elladan told them of the Battle of Fornost, which interested greatly. As the tale drew to a close, the Elves re-enacted the duel between Glorfindel and the Witch-King, with Elrohir being the Nazgul lord. The way he acted out the Witch-King though made even Elladan smile, for it was hard to believe the ancient evil they were searching for began crying when Glorfindel hit him round the arm. At midday, the twins said farewell and departed from the village.
As they rode on their newly-acquired horses, they still retained a smile from their encounter at the village.
"Do you still remember that battle?" asked Elrohir.
"Of course. How could I forget riding with Glorfindel, riding in the sun like a Valar incarnate?"
"But I recall you forgot how to fight that day," smiled Elrohir. "I thought that Orc was about to beat you, with you focused on Lord Glorfindel all the time!"
Elladan looked at his brother, then began laughing.
"You be quiet and eat some more of that peasant-food you so enjoy!"
Their hunt for the Nine had failed - it was evident they had returned to Mordor. Yet the second part of their mission was far more important.
"I cannot wait to see her again," spoke Elladan, as the twin sons of Elrond went to deliver the message their father had prepared.
"Nor can I brother," replied Elrohir, as they crossed into the woods of Lothlorien.