Puppet Strings - Chapter 8

After the incident with the trolls and due to Eldarion's weakened conditions, the group mutually decided to get off the road and camp there for the night. After they had managed to find the horses again, a fire was built and a make-shift bed for Eldarion. As the elvish brothers prepared some food for the weakened prince, Elladan asked Aragorn if he believed it was safe to camp here after such an attack.

"I think so, the trolls are...gone." After he spoke he glanced over at Arahad who was sitting a ways off, by the road. He sat calmly there in the dark, occasionally looking down the road in both directions and peering into the forest surrounding them. When Aragorn looked back at Elladan and Elrohir, both of them were staring at them. Then Elrohir shifted uncomfortably and spoke quietly.

"Yes, gone is indeed one way to phrase it. I believe my choice of words would have been something along the likes of OBLITERATED, though gone serves just as well." Elladan only nodded in agreement as he stood up and brought some water to Eldarion. Aragorn sighed deeply and held his head in his hands, the day's events had claimed all the energy he had and Elrohir's comment only tired him further. It was true he thought, what they had witnessed today was a first experience for everyone. There simply were no words that could describe it. He had displayed such ferocity; the trolls had not had even the slightest chance of survival. Nothing would have survived such an attack. Slowly Aragorn and the others began to understand the real magnitude of this creature's power.

Eldarion soon fell asleep and as Arahad remained watchful of the road and forest, the other three huddled closely to the small fire. They spoke quietly, nothing more than whispers. Aragorn listened intently as he slowly scraped his sharpening stone along the length of his sword.

"She is merely two day's journey from here; she may have answers for us." Elrohir whispered to Aragorn across the flames. He spoke of the seer hidden away in the Misty Mountains. A woman who's power exceeded even that of the great Malbeth. She may be able to shed light on the subject of their fifth traveling companion, tell them what could be done. Aragorn was still wary though.

"This option is not without peril Elrohir." Aragorn replied quietly. And it was true. Then Elladan interjected quickly.

"He is right my brother. Half of the folk that have sought her out ended up dead, and the other half were no doubt transformed into toads or some other small, disgusting creature."

"Toads aside, I think perhaps it is best we go. We've nothing to loose. To die now or to die later, what say you?" Elrohir asked as he peered through the flames between them at Aragorn. He sighed as he dropped his sharpening stone and his sword fell limp in his grasp. He said nothing, he only nodded in agreement.

"Very well, we go." Elladan sighed as he stood and brought his pack over to where Eldarion lay sleeping. He then lay next to him and looked up at the moon. Moments later Elrohir and Aragorn joined them, Elrohir looking at the moon as well and Aragorn falling into a weary, exhausted sleep. Before he did so, he once again glanced over in Arahad's direction. He had not moved, save only to remove the coat he was wearing. It now lay beside him. Occasionally Arahad would raise his eyes upwards and look at the moon, but only for a moment. Then his attention would once again return to his surroundings. Elrohir noticed Aragorn looking at him and he slowing leaned over to him, whispering quietly.

"He is guarding us Aragorn."

As the others lay quietly by Eldarion, Arahad remained alone in the dark, thinking. He wasn't sure exactly how he felt about what had happened earlier, whether he should have lashed out as he did. He had also heard their conversation regarding the seer. As they spoke, Arahad had decided he would go without complaint; perhaps it would not be totally fruitless. All through the rest of the night, he sat in silent and alert. Arahad waited for any other sign that they were in danger, but none came. He waited out the rest of the night looking at the stars and listening to the quiet sounds of the forest.

Soon after the dawn came, he rose and walked over to the now extinguished fire. Elrohir and Elladan were still lying down, though they had been awake and alert all night. Not long afterwards Eldarion awoke and roused his father. They ate quickly as the elves packed up their small, make-shift camp. All of this was done without as much as a word among them. Soon they were once again on the road, walking at their normal pace. Eldarion was still somewhat weakened from the attack, so he rode as Aragorn led the horse. The long stretch of silence was finally broken when Eldarion leaned forward slightly and spoke to his father in a hushed voice.

"Father?"

"Yes, Eldarion?" Aragorn answered, turning his head and looking up at his son.

"I cannot remember what happened yesterday. I recall being attacked by the trolls, I was fighting one and then everything disappeared. What happened?"

Aragorn sighed and cleared his throat. He wasn't really sure on what answer he should give him, but in the end of his small debate he chose to tell him the truth.

"The trolls were killed while you were unconscious." Aragorn hesitated for a moment, not knowing quite what to say next. "He...killed them."

When Eldarion what his father had said he knew that he was not speaking of Elladan or Elrohir. He knew that he meant Arahad. Eldarion shift in the saddle and strained uncomfortably to look behind him. When he did manage to look behind him he saw a young man walking quietly. Occasionally he would look at the surrounding trees, having heard a sound. Mostly though, he walked with his head dropped and his eyes moving along the ground before him. As he watched Arahad walk along Aragorn went into detail as to how he had defeated to four trolls. The description of the violent, ferocious animal did not in any way resemble the man that was now in their company. They were at different ends of the spectrum; it was almost too strange to believe.

Eldarion turned back around and looked at the road ahead of them. Sleepiness came over him soon, and he soon he was yawning loudly. As his father led his horse along slowly, Eldarion began to doze off, weakness claiming him once again for another hour or two.

His napping came to a startling and awkward halt when the horse he rode reared up and tugged at the reins Aragorn held. Eldarion snapped awake and looked around frantically. They were all stopped and gathered in a circle, and in the center of the circle was Arahad, on his knees, holding his head in his hands and screaming. He thrashed from side to side until he fell back off his knees and lay in the middle of the road. What none of them heard was the voice whispering to Arahad, whispering in a language that had been dead for many, many years. Arahad didn't understand what the words were, but he did have strange and fearful feeling that he had known once.

Then there was silence, the words had ceased and the pain had stopped. As he laid there recovering, he panted from the pain that had been running through him. Arahad sprawled out on the ground, eyes cast upwards at the clouds rolling over them.

"Is it finished?" Elrohir asked as he inched closer to him, but still keeping a good distance. Arahad said nothing, only nodded. Seeing that it was finished, Elrohir looked up at Aragorn. Without even speaking, Aragorn knew what he meant.

"Yes, I know. We will have answers soon." Aragorn answered, rubbing his hand over his worried brow.

"Good, I do not care to stomach much more of this." Arahad declared loudly, still sprawled on the ground, not moving. After a moment he slowly got to his feet and began walking once more. Elladan and Elrohir looked at each other and then glanced at Aragorn and Eldarion. Without a word they continued their journey forward. Aragorn handed the reins of Eldarion's horse to Elrohir and quickly caught up to Arahad.

"What keeps happening to you, what is it?" Aragorn asked him cautiously. In response Arahad simply shook his head and looked at the ground as they walked on. After a few moments he replied.

"I don't know." He then looked over to Aragorn and looked into his eyes and said quietly. "But perhaps we will soon find an answer to that question."

Aragorn nodded and then went back and retrieved Eldarion's horse. Eldarion had once again fallen asleep and they continued their walk into the afternoon. What little sunshine they had seen that day disappeared entirely as lightning began to flash and the travelers heard thunder roll. As they walked the clouds opened up and slowly began to pour its rain down on them. They all seemed not to notice the soaking they were receiving, the five just kept on walking, intent on getting to their destination as quickly as possible.

To be continued...

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