South of Imladris~ Chapter 2
Aragorn whirled his head around in the direction of the wood when the sound of rustling leaves carried up the ridge into the rangers' ears. Aragorn was no Elf, but he had lived in the wilderness long enough that he could pick up faint sounds and movements that others besides elves could not. Something besides the wind had rustled the leaves and the thing had a feel to it that sent chills down Aragorns spine. He squinted into the wood searching for the cause of the sound, but saw nothing. It was no common deer or bear that had made the noise, for there was a strange, cold feeling about it that Aragorn did not like at all. He wondered if he should wake Gandalf about the madder, but decided to wait until he had identified the creature. 'What could the creature be though?' he wondered. 'An Orc perhaps? They usually traveled in-groups though.' He raised a hand to his brow to shield his eyes from the rain, but still he could not make out the form of the creature in the forest. Another rustle of leaves found its way up the ridge, and Aragorn turned his head in the direction of the new sound. Still he found nothing that resembled life other than trees. Another chill was sent down his back and he rouse from the rock to get a better view of the wood, but stopped when he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. Aragorn looked up to find the soft face of an elf looking down on him.
"Legolas?" He said. "What are you doing up, your shift does not begin for another hour." Legolas turned his head up to look out towards the wood that Aragorn had currently been examining.
"I felt something evil that awoke me from my sleep." He said quietly. "I assume you did as well?" Legolas said seeing the troubled expression on his friends face.
"Aye, I did." Aragorn answered, following the elf's gaze out to the forest. "I could not see the creature though, the trees are too thick." Legolas nodded then peered through the trees looking for the creature that had hidden itself from mortal eyes within the wood. Several moments passed in silence, while the two tried to make out the form of the creature.
"Can you see him?" Aragorn said suddenly. "For it is blind from mine eyes." He turned hopefully up at the elf who was already shaking his head. "No I can not." Legolas replied. "I can only sense his movement, but no more." He then turned to look at the ranger with a disappointed face. "How long has it been here?" Aragorn was glad to be the one answering for a change and said, "only for half of my shift. It has not done anymore than pace through the wood, but it has a feel to it that is not welcome."
Legolas nodded silently then took a seat down beside the ranger on the rock. And the two sat in silence for a long time, trying to answer questions that no one knew the answer too.
Several more moments passed un-worded, thickening the wall of tension in the air. The trees swayed slightly in the wind, their branches blowing wildly about. Leaves scattered across the ground, unable to keep steady in one spot. Legolas finally broke the silence. "Aragorn if you are tired you may return to bed, for your shift has ended for the night."
"Nay Legolas, I will find little sleep this night when there is a new evil lurking about. Let us both stay up for the next shift." Aragorn said, tearing his eyes away from the wood.
Legolas smiled, then said, "company is always welcome in these foul times." Aragorn returned the smile and then looked into the forest once again, and felt the cold shiver run down his spine making him quiver. Legolas looked over at him, obviously feeling the same thing but being an elf, he did not show it as much.
"I cannot identify this creature." Legolas said crossing his arms. "I have never felt anything like it in my life." That was not encouraging to think about, for Legolas was over 3000 years old and had seen much evil in his life. Not knowing what something only half a mile away from them was not something that he usually experienced, and it was beginning to concern him. "It is no Orc or Warg, for we would have seen them by now, and the Nazgul would have shown themselves." Legolas trailed off deep in thought with his face turned against the wind, with his golden hair blowing smoothly about his face.
"We should wake Gandalf." Aragorn said, realizing the seriousness of the situation. Legolas nodded but as Aragorn got up to retrieve the wizard, he held out a long arm and said, " There is no need, the wizard already stirs." Aragorn turned to see that the elf was correct. Gandalf was slowly sitting up and let out a large yawn. Gandalf looked up to see the two figures looking at him through the darkness, also the troubled faces they both wore. He silently stood up and walked over to them leaning on his staff all the while. He assumed that Legolas had been awoken by the strange creature that had shortly before disturbed his slumber, but elves were much more sensitive to these kind of things and would wake easily. Aragorn of course had already been awake for he had been on watch for that time.
"I assume you have felt it as well?" Gandalf asked the two as he approached. Legolas and Aragorn both nodded.
"That is what awoke me from my sleep." Legolas said finally. "We have been observing the creature for some time now but still have not seen it." Gandalf furrowed his brow and looked out to the woods, knowing that if an elf and a ranger had not been able to see it than he certainly wouldn’t, but still wanted to look. After seeing nothing but trees, Gandalf turned his head upward to look at the position of the moon, which was about three-quarters across the sky.
"I believe it is Pippins turn for the watch you two." He said raising a gray, bushy eyebrow.
Aragorn stepped forward and spoke, "Neither Legolas now I could find sleep this night, and we thought it best to let the small hobbit sleep, for he will need it more than us," Gandalf nodded, then turned his attention back to the creature in the forest. The air seemed to thicken and there was an uncomfterable feeling around them stifling the air, which they could not explain. Gandalf could feel two sets of eyes apon him awaiting an answer, but he had none. He finally spoke and turned to face the two confused figures before him.
"I have never felt anything like this before in my life." He said thoughtfully, making the elf tense up and the ranger sigh loudly. "I feel something evil from it though." Gandalf continued. "Very evil."
"That is ill news." Aragorn said, and now had his hand on his sward handle, even though he knew he wouldn’t be using it then but his reflexes took control of him before he had a chance to act. "What should we do about this new evil?" he asked.
Gandalf thought for a moment and then answered, "we must find out what it is and stop it from threatening the fellowship." There was another short moment of silence before he finished his thought. "Tonight." He said firmly. Legolas and Aragorn looked up at their companion in awe.
"Tonight?!" Aragorn yelled softly. "Gandalf you cannot be serious, it is far more dangerous to hunt something down in the dark than in light. We do not even know what this creature is yet and you wish to kill it in the dark?" Legolas nodded in agreement. "I must agree with Aragorn, Gandalf." He said. "It is quite foolish to try and hunt something unknown at night. We will have an easier time in the light of day."
Gandalf threw an annoyed look at the two and planted his staff firmly in the ground and leaned harder on it.
"I am well aware of that master elf and ranger." He said gruffly. "I want to hunt it down as soon as possible, for I feel that we are not sensing the creatures full power, and there is a great evil within it that I cannot explain."
Aragorn and Legolas nodded, then awaited further instructions from the wizard.
"There can be many steps to this process, and we must work quickly and cleverly. The first step is to identify the creature so we know of what we are dealing with." He then turned to Legolas, "that my friend will be your roll, for the feet of elves travel quickly and quietly, which is what is most needed in this step." Legolas nodded and then said, "The eyes of elves can see far as well, and I doubt I will need to go far into the wood, but I will do whatever it takes to find this creature of darkness." Gandalf smiled appreciatively then turned to Aragorn. "You and I will wait at the top of the ridge as backup in case Legolas needs assistance in his search." Aragorn drew his sward, and there was a long clang as metal scraping against metal softly echoed through the wind.
"Let us go then." He said, ready for action. Then the three departed to the edge of the ridge, and Aragorn took his place behind a clump of rocks that hid him from view. Legolas stood tall over the rocky slopes of the ridge leading down into the wood. Gandalf walked over to the elf and said, "Remember Legolas to only fine the creature and come back immediately and tell us, do not try and take it on yourself." Legolas nodded to the wizard, then drew his bow and held an arrow loosely at his side and hopped lightly down from rock to rock down the ridge. Gandalf watched him go then took his place beside Aragorn and sat in silence.
Legolas was standing at the edge of the wood peering into it, but he could see nothing and gave one last glance up to his companions then disappeared into the thick trees. Gandalf looked worried when the elf had entered the wood, for they could no longer see him and had no choice but to wait for his arrival. Aragorn finally broke the silence.
"Gandalf, what do you plan to do after we know of what the creature is?" he asked, and the wizard looked over at the ranger with sorrowful eyes.
"I cannot say until Legolas returns with news, but I guess we will have to hunt it down and kill it. Or set a trap."
Aragorn looked puzzled. "A trap?"
"Yes," Gandalf replied. "I am not sure that we will need to use one, but if the creature is too strong for us to take on ourselves that would be the best way to approach the problem." He then looked down at the ground as if thinking. "It seems to me that it isn't showing us it's full power, but I do not understand how." He trailed off and closed his eyes into a deep thought, leaving Aragorn on the outside and awaiting answers.
"Why do you suppose it stalks us?" Aragorn asked impatiently. Making Gandalf come out of his trance and focus on the rangers' question.
"I still cannot say, it could be out of curiosity, or maybe it knows we have food or some other trinket of…" he stopped when a sudden thought struck him hard, as well as Aragorn. Saying it out loud had helped him think better and now worry streamed through him again.
"The ring!" Aragorn hissed then threw a quick glance over at the hobbits as if expecting to see some monster hovering over them. But there was nothing and he turned back to Gandalf and saw that all the color from the wizards' face had drained away into nowhere.
"It was so obvious!" Gandalf yelled half at himself and half at Aragorn. "I should of thought of this long ago." He was now on his feet pacing back and forth in front of the rock clump. "It surly would of felt the rings power by now, that has to be why it is tracking us." Gandalf was muttering to himself, figuring out answers to questions, and Aragorn watched the wizard in curiosity.
"It must want the ring." Gandalf said finally, and just as he spoke there was an unnatural silence in the air that made Aragorn jump to his feet at look hardly out to the wood. Gandalf joined him, and they both stood in silence, filled with worry, fear, anxiety, and astonishment.
"I am beginning to regret sending Legolas alone into the wood." Said Gandalf in almost a whisper. Aragorn turned to his companion in awe. "Why? What will happen?" questions were running through his mind like a wild stallion.
The wizard did not answer.
"Gandalf what…" but he did not get to finish, for just then there was an ear piercing cry from the woods that echoed up the ridge to the two.
"Ringwraiths!!!" Aragorn shouted, then his reflexes took hold of him again and he raised his sward. There was a sudden rustle of bodies behind them as the Hobbits awoke in shock from the cry, and were now sitting bolt right up in a huddle looking out to Gandalf and Aragorn. Boromir and Gimli quickly appeared from behind them and stood at their side
"What is going on?" Boromir asked quickly.
"And why were we not awakened?" Gimli added stubbornly.
Instead of answering, Gandalf turned to Aragorn, "We need to find Legolas and get him out of there. This is no ordinary Nazgul, and I fear that Legolas will not be able to defeat it on his own." Aragorn felt a stream of fear for life long friend, as a hundred questions ran through his mind, but they were all un-answerable at the moment. So he decided to wait until the proper time to ask Gandalf for answers after everything was settled. Just then his thoughts were interrupted when another loud noise rang through the wind. But it was not the cry of a Ringwraith, but the sharp crack of wood and all present could see a large tree in the middle of the wood fall over on it's side with a low 'thump' to the ground.
"Legolas!!!" Aragorn yelled, and before he knew what he was doing he found that he was scrambling down the rocky ridge down to the wood. The Ringwraith was now showing it's full power and it seemed several times stronger than a normal Ringwraith. 'But how could that be?' he wondered to himself. 'There are only nine of the Nazgul, and none of the elves or dwarves who bore the rings had been seduced by them. But now there seemed to be a tenth one, and it was coming after them, with more power then had ever been released by a Ringwraith.' Aragorn continued to wonder about the strange creature when he reached the opening to the wood. He turned to look at Gandalf, who gave him a reassuring nod. But then stopped suddenly and seemed to be looking past Aragorn in astonishment. Aragorn followed the wizards gaze and whirled around to see the tall form of an elf slowly walking towards him out of the woods.
"Legolas!" Aragorn shouted, then immediately rushed over to his friend and scanned him for any sign of injuries.
Legolas said nothing but only gazed straight ahead of him. His eyes were wide and the pupils had narrowed down to a mere pinpoint. All the color had drained from his face and there was a deep fear in the prince that worried Aragorn, for he had never seen his friend so horror stricken.
"Legolas, what has happened?"