The riders pushed their horses hard for a day and a half. Aliana had much time to think about what had transpired over the last couple days. Even though she had lied to Aliana, Galadriel had been right, there was a purpose to her life. And it had been thrown at her feet the day she left to wander through Lorien. If she would have only known, she could have been more prepared.
They had been riding over rolling hills all morning. All but Gandalf had been surprised when they came to the top of one more hill to see a great city laid out in front of them. They all came to a stop.
“The halls of Edusel are just ahead. Let us finish this trip and find what lies within them”, called Gandalf. Shadowfax sprinted off with the rest of the group close behind.
As they reached the gates of the city, a flag came floating over the wall. As Aliana looked down at it she realized it was the king’s flag, torn and tattered. She looked toward her older sibling to catch his reaction. Aragorn had concern on his face as he looked up from the flag. He must have felt her stare for as he looked at her, he washed the concern from his gaze and replaced it with reassurance.
They made their way into the city and wound their way thru the streets.
“You would find more cheer at a funeral”, Gimli whispered, mainly to himself.
Once they cleared the city, they found themselves at the bottom of a great stairway that led to the great hall. Gandalf dismounted and motioned for them to follow. By the time they all had their feet on the ground, the wizard was halfway up the stairs and they all found themselves running to catch up. When they reached the top they were greeted by three soldiers.
“You cannot enter the great hall so heavily armed”, remarked the first soldier, obviously the commander.
“By whose order”, asked Gandalf.
“By order of Grima Wormtongue.”
Gandalf motioned for them all to disarm. Aliana reached out with her bow in her hand. The commander took it from her with a nod. She felt silly handing him a bow and not having any arrows for it, but he didn’t question her. Once they had all handed over their weapons the commander turned back to Gandalf.
“You wouldn’t part an old man from his walking stick, would you?” the wizard replied as he gave a slight wave of his hand. The commander turned and opened the doors, allowing them to enter.
Gandalf took Legolas’ arm and they walked in first. Aragorn offered his arm to Aliana and they entered next with Gimli bringing up the back. Aliana noticed a great pot in the middle of the hall. It seemed very cold and lonely to her. As if it was used to having a great fire under it and many people around it. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light she noticed that there were many people on both sides of the room. She also eyed many soldiers walking parallel them on both sides behind the people standing around. She squeezed Aragorn’s arm tightly, making him look at her. She could tell by his look that he had noticed them, too. Gandalf was now speaking to the man who must have been Grima Wormtongue. The next thing Aliana knew Grima was yelling, “The staff! I told you to take the wizard’s staff!”
The soldiers who had been walking behind the people suddenly burst thru and the group found themselves under attack. Gandalf walked ahead of them and continued his argument with Grima. Aragorn and Legolas placed themselves on each side of Aliana and Gimli stood behind her. Aliana found herself irritated. She had spent many years learning how to fight and she could take care of herself. She got her chance as one of the soldiers made his way past Gimli and came at her. She ducked as he reached out to grab her, came back up, turned to her side, brought her knee up in front of her and straightened her leg as she swept it around, connecting with the man’s face, sending him flying. Aragorn and Legolas looked at each other in shock. They had never even considered that she could take care of herself. As they turned back to their opponents they were both a little more relaxed towards her. She looked back at Gimli who was looking at her with a great smile of approval on his bearded face. Aliana moved from between her guardians and made herself as helpful as possible, taking down three more attackers.
There were no more soldiers left standing and Grima had tried to run past them, but Gimli knocked him to the ground and laid his boot upon Grima’s chest. “You’ll not be going anywhere at the moment”, Gimli told him. A young woman came running toward the king with a look of fright on her face. Aliana reached out and grabbed her arm. “Please wait my lady. We come in friendship.” Aliana gave the woman a smile that seemed to warm the woman’s heart, and she stayed back.
Gandalf was now talking to the king who was sitting on the throne. The man was very old and frail. The king started to laugh at Gandalf. “Rohan is mine”, he sneered. If I go, the king dies.”
“You did not kill me, you will not kill him. Now, be gone!”
Gandalf thrust his staff toward the king. The frail old man was thrown back in his seat and a moment later fell forward, almost falling to the floor if it had not been for the young woman running to catch him. She pushed him back up in his thrown and called out to him, “uncle, can you hear me?”
To everyone’s amazement, the king’s features grew younger. The grey left his hair and his hands became smoother. He looked up into her eyes. “I know your face, my niece.” Tears rolled down her face as she embraced the king.
“Gandalf. I have not laid eyes on a friend in a long time”, said King Theoden.
“Maybe your hands would better remember your strength wrapped around your sword, my king”, replied the wizard.
The commander that had met them at the door came forward holding the king’s sword. King Theoden reached out and pulled it from its scabbard and held it up for all to see. Then he eyed Grima, still imprisoned under Gimli’s boot. He stepped down from his thrown and swiftly made his way to Grima, who was now on his feet. Theoden pushed him to the door and threw him down the steps. As Theoden approached him lying at the bottom, Grima looked up, cowering. “It is only you that I have served all this years, my king. Do not make me leave your side.”
“You would have had me crawling on all fours like a dog!” Theoden yelled. He raised his sword but Aragorn ran to his side grabbing his arm.
“No, my king. You are better than him.”
At this, Grima found his feet under him and ran thru the crowd of people.
Theoden now looked out at his people who had gathered around. “Hail King Theoden”, exclaimed Aragorn. “Hail King Theoden” called his people. And in the distance Grima was now riding out of the city upon his horse, riding as fast as he could.
Theoden looked around searching thru the many faces.
“Where is Theodred? Where is my son?”
We return to the forests again. Our hobbit friend has lost all faith and finds the true meaning of apathy by the end of this chapter. He is taken captive by a band of elves and one human. This chapter suggests that some of his past will be revealed soon.