Eventually when all was ready and assembled the first party consisting of Aragorn, Arwen, Legolas, Gimli, Faramir and fifty warriors departed from the safety of the city. The rest of the army were to follow a day later. The first smaller company was led by Aragorn, they were surprised to find the queen among the party and it was not until the nature of the task at hand was explained did they understand.
They were to walk on foot for some days for Gondor was not famed for its horses and those that could be spared were to bear the mounted division of the following host. It was with pride that the troops marched from the gates, their shirts of mail gleaming brightly in the sun and their belts girt with swords. The citizens cheered to see them with the King at the head, leading them forwards into the lands surrounding Minas Tirith. The early morning sun glinted on their helms and their hauberks beneath their woollen cloaks creating a sea of silver as they left the city. Aragorn led them with the queen by his side and they strode forth from the mithril gates down to the lush grasslands. Fertile lands stretched far into the distance bordered by the ever mounting summits of Ered Nimrais. Aragorn alone knew every marked path in this land and on his lonely journeys he had trodden them all, several only known by rangers. They provided the best cover in that open ground. He took them by ways unknown to most of them, force of habit dictating that he should lead them into the Wilds. For a long time they strode north-west at a great pace, even when the path had to be cut through the resilient shrubs that so often barred their way. Every so often Aragorn would glance at Arwen who he insisted ride with them but she had refused. She was proud to walk beside her husband and he secretly thought the armed raiment she wore became her very well, most of the men also thought this in their hearts.
They crossed twenty miles before nightfall and made camp at the foot of a small hill. Legolas was concerned, the men of Gondor though hardy, were not marching fast enough and the only horses they had brought were being used to carry luggage.
“Aragorn,” said the elf as they made their shelters for the night, “Aragorn tomorrow we must cover more land, it will take weeks before we get North and then the enemy may be too strong to fight.”
Aragorn studied his friend’s face.
“I know Legolas. I have worried about it too but when we pass through the gap of Rohan, I will beg Eomer, Lord of the Mark to lend us enough horses for this company. I am sure he will oblige, and from there we will make much faster time. It was better that there be one small mounted legion and not horses strewn among few of us.”
“I know, I am glad you have taken thought to it,” but Legolas looked worried and as if to speak again but said no more and went to raise the canvas tent that Gimli was struggling with. In an attempt to hang it off the wooden shaft it had enveloped him and he was now submerged in a sea of green hessian.
Each bivouac was large enough to house four people but Aragorn and Arwen had one of their own and they were very grateful for it. Aragorn did not think it would be fitting to have his wife kept awake all night by Gimli’s snoring, which Gimli ardently disputed that he did. They were sited at the edge of the Grey Wood, rolling green grass dotted with tiny violet flowers that gave a welcome riot of colour to the otherwise unadorned countryside. The clouds hung heavy in the sky and gentle spots of rain had dampened the ground on which they lay. Amon Din stood before them and beyond it the Eilenach which was enshrouded in Druadan forest. The road they took ran past the forest and the distant gloom of it.
As first light crept over Ithilien, the company prepared to depart. They walked in the lee of the mountains and made better time the second day. Ever closer Ered Nimrais loomed up on their left, overshadowing the group as they trudged forward, led by their tireless leader. The rocky mountains rose barrenly to pinnacles ever higher. Some places were carpeted in purple heather which exuded a sweet fragrance that lightened the air. Others were sparsely occupied with spiky scrubs embedded in crannies in the rock, the hard terrain was too much for most vegetation.
The distant rushing of the great river Anduin could faintly be heard and its musical waters were pleasant to listen to. Their course was taking them through part of the Druadan forest.
Eyes glistened in the darkling gloom and shadows fell about the feet of the ancient trees. Still the men marched on willing to go twice as far than they had the first day if only to escape the tangled clutches of the foliage. Their energy was spent when they came at last to the northern eaves of the wood and made camp within sight of the mount of Nardol. Aragorn hoped that at this pace they might reach Firien Wood in three days.
“From thence it is some forty leagues as the wolf runs to Edoras. There we shall acquire horses and turn a more northerly course through Dunland.” Aragorn declaimed to his men who were restless and desired to know more of their route. They were dispirited with the prospect of so much walking yet to do.
“When shall we reach Edoras?” asked Gimli.
“It will be seven days yet without delay but we might be waylaid and we cannot risk losing any time.” said Aragorn as they pressed on. “Surely the endurance of the dwarves is not wearing down for we have not been travelling far yet.”
Gimli glowered good-naturedly and said, “Nay my king,” using the designation that Aragorn found so unsettling. “I merely wondered for I am no rider and would know how long I may use my feet.”
Aragorn did not deign to reply and drew back in the host to rally some of the men who lagged, they were used to ordered marching over battle fields, not tramping through the countryside without pause.
The mountain peaks of Erelas, Minrimmon and Calenhad rose into the sky clothed in caps of white. The mountain ahead of them was their aim, Halifirien bordered Firien Wood and it was as a target to strike at with the heavy pounding of so many feet. The road through Anorien was quite though not empty. Travelling peddlers stopped and stared at the king and his host with wonder in their eyes. Shrieking crows called to each other as their roosting was disturbed and wild beasts slunk away and vanished into the lush green plain. Anorien was beautiful, there were flowers fair and proud and they grew in little clusters of colour under the dreary grey sky. As Aragorn had hoped they managed to get to the eaves of Firien Wood in three days. Legolas was delighted to spend so much time under tree for even though these were of no comparison to the beeches and elms of Mirkwood but were a welcome relief for a wood elf. Gimli was happier under the lofty shade of Halfirien and held little love for so much vegetation to walk through. Mering stream ran through the very heart of Firien Wood and although it was not deep in some places it was too wide and fast flowing to leap across.
The easiest crossing they could find was a low embankment and the stream was barely four foot wide. The other bank was quite high and slippery with mud but those that were fleet of foot could jump it quite easily. Legolas and Aragorn leapt across first with little difficulty and Arwen came next with no trouble. The heavier members of the company did not have such a simple time, Gimli found it nigh on impossible to jump and after he skidded back wards down the bank he insisted on wading through though it came close to his shoulders and threatened to sweep him off his feet. Aragorn offered to make a bridge such as the elves of Lorien had over the Nimrodel with two ropes to walk across. Many of the men distrusted this slender link and preferred to wade even though they were cold and drenched when they got out. Those who could jump the gap laughed heartily at their friends dampness and it was a matter of some jest between the men. It was then with lighter hearts that the host made rest and attempted to dry off their sodden clothes.
Darkness fell about the wood and the sky, shot with pink began to deplete of colour as the crimson sun sank into the West. Most of the men wished for nothing but sleep but several wanted to explore around the area of the encampment, one of these was called Alledras. Curiosity was awakened in his heart for he had seldom ventured here before and desired to walk around the trees for a while.
Entangling vines crept across paths and threatened to overturn anything that trod there. The floor was carpeted in rotting leaves and the countless insects that thrived in the decay. The trees were wild and their trunks bordered by grasping briars that needed hacking through before any path could be cleared. Alledras sustained many cuts as he struggled to free himself from the clutches of the slashing hooks that held his clothes fast. He wrenched away from the bushes and fell stepped backwards slowly unaware of the tree roots beneath his feet. Alledras stumbled and fell hard upon the ground, winded. He rolled over muttering under his breath and wishing he had never bothered to enter this darksome hole. As he turned and tried to get up his hand brushed against a nesting site of some sort. A crude cluster of sticks bound with some veined rope like substance sat in a dell between the trees. He peered cautiously over the edge and saw many small rounded eggs lying in the nest. He wondered of what creature they could be for there were very many and each as large as a bird’s egg. Danger groped ever closer and he pondered whether he should leave immediately but his inquisitiveness got the better of him and he picked up a handful of the eggs. They were slimy and covered in an oozing liquid that stuck to his clothes and he exclaimed loudly in disgust. At once he heard a rustling in the trees ahead and without further ado he spun away, still carrying the eggs. At length he scrambled back to the camp completely out of breath and he found most of the men still awake and seated around small fires. They stared at him as he came because he was so out of breath but he sought Aragorn who was discussing their course with Faramir.
“My lord,” he panted, “I have found these in the forest, there were many but from whence they came I do not know.” Aragorn looked with distaste at what Alledras was holding then realised with a cold stab what they were. He stood up hurriedly,
“Where did you find them?” he asked quickly, “Tell me!”
“They were in some sort of nest, between two tall hawthorn trees.” said Alledras surprised.
“Did you see any other creature there, was anything near them or were they abandoned?” Aragorn was worried and many of his troops gathered closer to hear what was happening.
“There was nothing with them my lord, but I fear they are not abandoned because they are warm and not from my touch and I heard a rustling coming from the trees beyond.” Alledras was hoping with all his might that he had not done ill.
“Fool! They are eggs of the foul spawn of Ungoliant, there must be one of the fell creatures in the forest and you have alerted it to our presence! Men of Gondor we must leave immediately take only what cannot be left behind for haste as never before is needed!” Even as Aragorn shouted these words a foreboding crackle of dry leaves was heard coming from the forest and the whole camp held its breath. Closer it came when suddenly from the trees burst several spiders of titanic size. Clamour arose through the camp as these evil beasts crossed the path and lusted for the blood of those who stood on it. Aragorn drew Anduril and commanded,
“The eyes are weakest! Let them be your mark!”
With that he plunged his sword elbow deep into the countless eyes of the creature that came bounding towards him. It howled with an ear splitting cry that rang about the forest and sent hundreds of disturbed birds flapping into the air. His arm was covered in greenish slime and the warm entrails he could feel made him shudder with disgust. He was borne backwards by it and lay pinned to the floor by a hairy leg as its venomous pincers drew nearer and nearer to his throat.
“Ai!” Legolas leapt on its back and hacked wildly at its thick neck with little avail. It threw the elf to the ground and he fitted an arrow to the string and shot it in the underbelly. The beast roared with fury and lashed its legs out, turning from the king to Legolas. Aragorn reached for Anduril and swept the pincers clean off and scrambled backwards. Venom dripped from its fangless jaw and it lumbered blindly into the waiting axe of Gimli who with an almighty stroke hewed its head off and it rolled over on the ground, motionless. The other spiders were causing havoc among the men. Aragorn strode over to Alledras who was locked in a spider’s grip and sliced the legs off that held him. Alledras slumped to the ground, exhausted with his shield cloven but was hauled to his feet by the king,
“Help repair the damage you have done!” he cried amidst the raised voices and jumped back into fight. There were three more spiders that remained and they chased the men who dared not stand their ground against this terror. Legolas pierced so many with his arrows that they resembled huge, unrelenting pin cushions. Their dying shrieks filled the forest with harsh calls that froze the heart with fear and Aragorn was afraid that their cries would attract more spiders. His heart sank as he saw one spider dragging a bound man away, Gimli saw it too and sprang after it and severed the cords which held the man to the spider. The spider turned and made for Gimli but was attacked by numerous men who came bounding to the dwarf’s rescue. Their blades did little to penetrate the thick skin of the beast but it was infuriated and thrashed its powerful jaws in the midst of the throng of soldiers. The men gashed the fetid coat with their swords and ripped huge chunks of hairy hide in bleeding stumps to the floor. Still the attack did not abate but Faramir thrust his sword into the creatures side and dragged it the length of its body. Terrifying wails filled the air and as the final spark of life was snuffed from the creature a torrent of blood gushed from the shredded sides and it fell to the ground. It was some time before all the spiders were slain and their revolting carcasses were strewn about the forest floor. The rest of the spiders fled the scene but Aragorn was unwilling to linger at the camp in case any returned it was then he realised Arwen was not with them.
“Arwen!” he cried frantically, “Where are you?”
“Here!” to the men’s amusement she dropped lightly from the boughs of the trees above and stood unharmed before Aragorn who embraced her thankfully.
“I thought you had been slain,” he murmured.
“I said I would leave all the fighting to you didn’t I?” she smiled then knelt to tend the injured.
“Aragorn, we have suffered so much loss!” Faramir was distraught, more than a few men were lying nearby, their bodies bound with netted webs and rendered immovable as if dead.
“Nay, we have actually suffered none,” his troops looked at Aragorn with disbelief, “these men are not dead, carry them swiftly to the edge of the forest and I will tend them there, away from the foul presence that lurks nearby.” The men were overjoyed and stooped to lift their fallen friends and carry them over their shoulders. The rest began to pack up the camp and Alledras came to Aragorn looking extremely ashamed,
“My lord,” he began,
“Pack up camp Master Alledras for I shall deal with you later,” Aragorn was still furious at the young soldier’s foolishness.
“Be not over harsh with him, he did not intend so much danger to befall us,” Arwen’s soothing words did little to quell Aragorn’s anger,
“He knew he was acting for the worst and he shall be punished,” said Aragorn, “You know that I am not a harsh king, Arwen and I shall be fair with him.” The company then gathered their gear with as much haste as they could and ran to within a mile of the edge of the wood where they laid the sick men upon the ground and Aragorn knelt over them, cutting their bonds with a knife.
“What ails them?” asked Gimli,
“They are poisoned and will feel the effects of it for a few hours after we wake so the journey shall be slower for a while. I must bathe their wounds and bind them.” said Aragorn,
“What were those fell creatures?” the dwarf continued.
“They come from Mirkwood,” answered Legolas, “when the Necromancer’s evil grew in Dol Guldur many of these evil beasts removed themselves there and spawned. These must have been some of the offspring that have travelled away from the Great Forest and found refuge in other places of the world. Truly Shelob, mistress of Cirith Ungol was such a beast and it was she who poisoned Frodo the hobbit.”
“So it was,” said Gimli thoughtfully, “we were lucky to escape with our lives.”
“We were indeed, and these men will be reminded of their wounds every anniversary of their poisoning.” said Aragorn as he bathed the poisoned cuts, “Thank goodness the spiders do not eat dead flesh or more serious wounds would I be tending now.” A makeshift camp was set up close to the border of the shadowy gloom of the forest but the men were ever uneasy and slept little.
In the morning the poisoned victims awoke but they had painful joints and could not move very quickly. Aragorn summoned Alledras to him and knelt facing him in the open air of the forest clearing. The young man looked extremely uncomfortable in the face of his king’s wrath.
“Last night you endangered all of our lives. You knew that only dire consequences would come of your actions and still you persisted. We could all have been killed because of your foolish curiosity!” Aragorn said angrily, formidable in his irritation, his men looked on in apprehension.
“I am sorry, my lord.” Alledras’ voice was barely to be heard as he knelt.
“Sorry you should be! Would your remorse be any greater were the injured men you inadvertently inflicted dead by now? Your folly was great and you knew it, you should be ashamed of yourself!” Aragorn shouted these words and seemed to grow in stature. “Another king may have punished you far more severely and of old death would have been a penalty.”
Arwen started at these words and Alledras hung his head, praying for the King`s mercy.
“Death you will not receive, however and the only punishment shall be the shame of what you have done, hopefully you can live with it.” Alledras breathed a huge sigh of relief and Aragorn strode away.
“You scared him there,” Arwen said chastising her husband teasingly,
“You knew full well that I would not punish him for he is not a bad person. He knew himself that I would not,” replied Aragorn. “But he needed reprimanding for his stupidity.”
“I know, I know but I am glad that you were benevolent to him.” said Arwen. Alledras remained out of the king’s way for as much as possible even though Aragorn’s anger waned and he did not chide him again. The company were anxious to leave the forest in case the spiders returned so they packed and Aragorn led them by the main paths to the edge of the wood. When they got there though there were cries of dismay as they found the paths barred with slender rope like strands that bound the trees and formed a silken gate that could not be opened.
“Aragorn,” Legolas was worried, “This is the work of the spiders, we must get out of here before they ambush us.” Aragorn stepped up to the obstacles and attempted to run Anduril through them, the sword shook in his hands but left the webs unscathed. The men gasped and Aragorn realised that there was no escape if they could not get through the meshes.
“Try this,” Legolas handed him his silver blade, “an elvish knife might prove the keener.”
“Thank you, the spiders are close and we cannot afford any more injuries.” Aragorn sliced the knife through the net which fell in glistening threads to the floor. Arwen leapt forward and made short work of the rest with her own sword which had been wrought in Rivendell. The company sprinted through and when they were all into the open they turned back to see the darkness under the trees grow as a mass of slimy, furry bodies thronged the area but did not leave their forest sanctuary. They had only just escaped in time and needed to move as far away from the dread place as fast as they could. Such creatures had a place in the more bloodthirsty Gondor legends but hardly any of the men believed such foul fiends existed and they were traumatised by the experience. Aragorn and Faramir rallied them and encouraged them and they went with great speed from the overhanging fear that the forest emitted.
They walked along the Great West Road through Eastfold than ran past the Fenmarch.
“So we are come to the green land of Rohan,” said Aragorn, “The realm of the Horse lords of old.”
“The Rohirrim are our strongest allies, and it will bring gladness to my heart to visit the house of my wife,” said Faramir. Eowyn his wife was the proud shield maiden and `White Lady of Rohan’ he looked forward to speaking with Eomer her brother who was the Lord of the Mark.
“The Golden House of Meduseld is fair indeed, welcome rest from hardship will we find in Edoras.” said Aragorn.
“I have never seen the Halls of Eomer but Eowyn has spoken long of them,” said Arwen as they walked, “she would wish to be here now and show us about them.”
Faramir looked away, Eowyn was in Gondor with him when he left and she dearly wanted to come with them. There was great love between her and Arwen and she had been upset to be left behind. Her prowess with a sword was unmatched among the shield maidens but Faramir had worried too much for her safety to let her accompany them.
“I meant nothing of any significance by that remark Master Faramir,” said Arwen quickly, seeing him look downcast, “the esteem you hold for Eowyn is admirable and should my own husband have had a chance he would have prevented me coming at all.” she smiled at Faramir, “But no chance did he have and Eowyn’s modesty barred her from protesting against your word as vigorously as I did.”
Aragorn raised his eyebrows in amiable tolerance at this remark and smiled good naturedly.
Thus the days passed and on the eve of the seventh day they came upon the Golden Halls of Meduseld. They were welcomed warmly by Eomer, Lord of the Mark and Eomer was glad indeed to see Aragorn again whom he loved.
“Welcome my friends!” he said, “Glad am I to see those who I fought beside again, board for your men can be easily found in Edoras but if you and your close companions,” he motioned to Legolas, Gimli and Faramir, “Would like to lodge in Meduseld with me then that can be happily arranged.”
“That would be most to our liking,” replied Aragorn. “We will not trouble your hospitality for long, our mission is a dangerous one and we must leave as soon as we may.”
Eomer was very surprised to learn the nature of their errand but he was even more surprised to find the queen with the sortie.
“Are you sure that it is wise to bring lady Evenstar with you?” he asked at dinner. Arwen was talking to Gimli, and deaf to their conversation. Gimli saw resemblances between her and his beloved lady Galadriel and it delighted him to find them.
“No Eomer I am not,” said Aragorn sighing, “she was adamant about it and nothing I could say could change her mind. She is resilient though and will not fall without a fight. She reminds me greatly of Lady Eowyn for they are alike in both manner and courage.”
“That is true,” smiled Eomer, “Though my sister’s skills lie rather in sword play and your wife’s lie in healing. Nevertheless their valour matches that of many fine men I know. Do you not worry for her safety?”
“I have not slept peacefully since.” replied Aragorn, glad to find a friend who shared his doubts, “But I had not the heart to detain her. Even if I did she would come anyway, and you know the pain of discovering a loved one too late.”
Eomer sat quietly thinking of the time when he had found Eowyn among the injured at the battle of the Pelennor fields, he had believed her dead and the anguish was immense. It provoked him to ask Faramir who sat with them about her health and Faramir was only too pleased to talk about his wife whom he adored. They completed their meal in pleasant conversation and then were shown to the large rooms prepared for them. Aragorn was weary and fell asleep quickly but Arwen lay awake a long time thinking. She looked at her husband and knew the pain he would not be able to endure should she perish. She did not regret her decision but knew that she had to be careful. She loved Aragorn and could not tolerate the thought of him so distraught. She slowly fell asleep clasping the ring of Barahir that he had given her and which hung round her neck for it was too big for her slender fingers.
In the morning Aragorn implored Eomer to lend them horses enough to ride with haste northwards.
“Gladly do I lend them, though mind Aragorn that we love our horses dearly and only entrust this many to those whom we know to be true of their word. Please return as many as you can.” said Eomer.
“Well do I understand your feelings and well do I know the scale of this request. I shall return with as many as possible and shall be greatly in your debt.” said Aragorn.
“May your sword shine bright in battle.” replied the lord. Many courteous words were exchanged and the friendship between Gondor and Rohan was renewed to a time when it was at its zenith. The host made ready to leave before noon and they were lightened of spirit for even though they were not great horsemen the animals would make an easier journey and save their feet for when they would need to fight. They were to pass through the Misty Mountains by the Gap of Rohan for the road was uncomplicated and straight to follow.
They rode fast and far through the Westfold and past Helm’s Deep. Gimli thought about begging to be allowed a brief visit to the Glittering Caves but the need for haste overcame his desire and he consoled himself by thinking they could visit them on the way back. He was mounted on a large pony which had no trouble keeping up with the great horses the rest of the host rode. Many of the men were astonished to see Arwen and Legolas ride with no harness and use only the elvish tongue as guidance for their steeds. With much greater speed they passed through the Gap of Rohan and across the fords of Isen. It was fast flowing but there were stepping stones for the horses and it was not wide. In the distance they could see the Ring of Isengard with the tower Orthanc inside it. Only those who had travelled far abroad had ever seen it and only the most keen sighted could see it now, some forty miles away. It was no longer a place of dread, it was no longer a place of sorcery. Its last owner the wizard Saruman the White was dead and the evil he wreaked on the beautiful ring was cleansed. The venomous pits had been filled, the gardens replenished and growing things now lived in it. Treebeard and the ents had removed many of their trees there and the ring of Isengard was fair once more. The tower was of the craft of Westernesse and many of the soldiers wished for a clearer view for it was great in legend. Arwen and Legolas had ridden silently throughout the trip. They spoke little to anyone and Aragorn was worried. Legolas grew graver as he went forward and even Arwen became apprehensive after a while. As they paused for a meal Aragorn approached the elves who were talking together quietly.
“What is the matter?” he asked, aware of the fact that the men were watching him. They too had noticed how edgy the elves had been.
“There is something coming,” said Arwen, “I cannot explain it.”
“I am afraid of something. I do not know what but we walk into darkness.” he said.
“You knew we were walking towards darkness before we set out.” said Aragorn attempting to alleviate his qualms with a light manner.
“No, Elessar,” said his wife, “you would do well do believe us. Something is coming, I feel it in my heart.”
“When elves are taken on a pursuit such as this we should listen to their counsel.” Faramir was standing behind him.
“What counsel would you give?” asked Aragorn.
Legolas writhed in frustration, “I do not know! All I am sure of is that a shadow is coming unlooked for and we are in danger.”
The company was uneasy at the words but there was nothing they could do.
Before them lay the plains of Dunland, known as the Enedwaith and the only city was far away by the mouth of the river; Lond Daer it was called. For the most part the plains were inhospitable to the lone traveller there were few dwellings and little shelter from wind and weather. The ground underfoot was hard and stony, low shrubbery inhabited it and gorse bushes were common in the dry earth. There was one wide road, the North-South road, that lead fairly straight to the crossing of Greyflood at Tharbad. There were countless paths seldom trodden, snaking their way around the landscape, they skirted the jutting rocks that disrupted the otherwise flat scenery. Aragorn knew several of these paths having walked them himself on his lonely journeys in the wilderness. They were however narrow and difficult to traverse so the decision was to take the main road straight to crossings. This provoked some differences of opinion among the soldiers at the back of the ranks, some believed that the road would be too open. The captains were aware that they may be watched and anyone seeking to waylay the company would lie in hiding and await their passing; this being the swiftest route to the river.
“The paths are narrow and hard, they might delay our process by many hours.” Faramir told another officer called Gulhawn.
“It is a safer route from spies and attack,” he replied, “Were we to lose many of the men we would be forced to wait for the divisions behind and that would take even longer.”
Aragorn sat pondering their course and he was soon approached by two of his captains who wished to know the road they were to tread.
“We shall take the straight road,” said the king, “we do not know yet that the enemy has sent spies in our direction and the troops would be less prepared for any attack were we stretched in a line and with little room for fight.”
That was not the only problem troubling the king and his troops. Some men wished to take a course beneath the mountains and come in time to Hollin and avoid the widely unknown lands of Dunland. It was for this reason the company spent a long time talking and took little heed of the uneasiness on Legolas’ and Arwen’s faces.
“Its getting nearer,” said Legolas shivering, “I know it.”
“I feel it too, we must tell Aragorn. Our lives may depend on it.” Arwen replied. They were some way from the king who was sitting with his men, trying to resolve the difficulty. It was then that their fears were made reality.
A strangled cry was uttered. Within seconds a horde of swarthy men leapt from the northern hills where they had lain hidden in ambush within the cavernous fissures. They broke upon the army which was scattered and drew hideous weapons from their sheaths. Arwen and Legolas were close to the rocky mounds from whence they came and they fought with all their strength against the attack. There was no time for the ordering of battle so each man was forced to fight his way through as best he could. Aragorn gave a cry which froze the hearts of his foes.
“Men of Gondor! Battle is on you! Elendil!” and leapt into battle. He hewed scowling faces from their bodies, clove flesh and Anduril shone brightly like the flames it was named after. He endeavoured frantically to reach the queen. Arwen was holding her own, she swept her curved elvish blade through her enemies and smote them as they stood. Legolas’ bow was singing and his arrows were embedded deep into many enemies. When they were spent his knife was drawn and he battled to protect Arwen from the multitude of black figures that threatened to overwhelm her. The men were clad in black armour, with no visible device to be seen, their helms had gashes to see through and their mail turned many a sword blow. Gimli wielded his axe with fervour, delighted to have the chance to spill enemy blood again. Arwen was becoming separated, although she slashed at her enemies with a proud ferocity she was only one elven maid and there were many hundred men attacking the company. Aragorn watched with horror as his wife was bombarded with foes and he cried out,
“Arwen! Protect the queen! Protect the queen!” at his call men rushed to her aid but they were swept back by a tide of adversaries. Aragorn stabbed his way clear with an almighty rage in an effort to save his beloved but there were just too many and he was fey with desperation. Arwen fought as hard as she could and was aware of Legolas fighting beside her. She rued the foolishness which had made her distanced from the rest of the army and she felled the men with a passion but her shield was swept from her grasp. So it was until she was struck, a blunt shaft caught her in the back of the head and a cruel knife ripped her forehead. Blood gushed from her brow and she fell unconscious to the floor, Legolas sank beside her in an attempt to rouse her but they were both grabbed by strong, iron clad hands and pulled to their feet. Legolas sliced off many of the arms that tried to hold him but there were always more and they were borne far away by a surge of evil. Aragorn could not see his wife anywhere, he had no wish to assume she had fallen but his men knew not what else to believe and attacked their foes all the more strongly for that. The battle raged for many minutes and everywhere there was a sea of black and the clash of foul weapons with fair. All sounds were drowned out and nowhere could Aragorn see Arwen, here and there he could see the goblin men secreting themselves back into the potholes of the rock hills. Aragorn was determined they should not escape, he picked up knives clutched by dead hands and hurled them at the backs of the men. Six he smote in this manner yet the thinning stream continued into the mountain crevices and they fled to dark places none of the army could guess.
When at the last all the swarthy men were either dying or fleeing the king searched the fallen bodies. He was bleeding from a slashed cheek and many of his men were nursing minor injuries. Few had been slain and he was thankful for that.
“Find Lady Evenstar!” he ordered, his voice wavering between fury and concern. Thoroughly they searched the fallen and she was nowhere to be found.
“Aragorn! Legolas is also missing!” Gimli was at his side and sharing his fears. “He is not here and neither is your lady. I am afraid they have been taken.”
Aragorn sank to his knees in disbelief, caring not that his men were about him and indeed many lamented over the captives and their fallen friends. Faramir knelt with him, his helm dinted from an blunt weapon blow,
“Come, Aragorn do not weep, they may not be dead. We must hurry if we are to find them.” Tears blurring his vision Aragorn commanded ten or so unhurt men to remain behind and tend to the fallen whilst he and his companions went in search of Arwen. If he did not find her then he went in search of death. Gimli laid a hand on his shoulder and tried to comfort him but Aragorn was fey and blinded by grief. He knew the men were servants of the evil they were sent to defeat so he guessed that the captives would be taken straight to the ice caves and brought before Ranklathe; if they weren’t slain immediately. He called together his captains and they attempted to decide upon a course to take. Each minute lost was a minute too long, There were several ways to choose, the first being straight by the road they were already travelling. This was the most popular since it was one of the fastest routes and simplest to travel. The horses had fled from their masters in the attack but most were soon found nearby and there was at least one per man with several to spare. Aragorn rallied his men and they set forth along the road to Tharbad, galloping like apparitions as if the very wisps of death were at their heels.