Title: In Times Like These
Disclaimer: All characters are Tolkien other than my “OC.”
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Thanks, your reviewers are awesome and special thanks to TINGILYE, my beta reader! The awesome author of Sarlisse! (which I beta!)
15: Journey to Gondor (March 23, 2003 to April 1, 2003)
It took longer than either of them had expected to make their getaway from Helm’s Deep. Things had definitely gotten worse when they found not a horse left in the stabling area. It seemed they were going to have to catch up to the Rohan riders by feet, an almost impossible task. But if it had to be done, they were going to do it. Their minds were made up; their energies were focus on one goal— to do what was thought unfeasible.
Both of them set themselves up for the punishing cross country run. It was going to harsh going uphill, but it was their only prayer of making headway into the blinding speed of which the Rohirrim were traveling with their swift horses. They were about to start off when they noticed a figure cursing his luck, since he wasn’t able to get his mount to budge a step. Upon closer inspection, Anaire was surprised to see a vaguely familiar figure.
She wasn’t the only one as Merry quickly withdrew his small sword gifted to him by Galadriel when he heard Eowyn’s blade sliding out of its sheath. His eyes widened and his voice shouted, “Anaire! What are you doing here?” At the back of her mind, she was reminded that Merry had arrived with Gandalf— that she’d seen him from the distance. But she hadn’t been focusing too hard on what had happened after the battle, unfortunately.
//The same can be asked of you, she remarked wryly. She didn’t recall much of what had been going on recently; she did remember him lobbying with Theoden in the great hall to be allowed to accompany the Rohirrim to Gondor’s aid. Theoden had refused him. //You can lower your weapon, Eowyn. Merry is a hobbit not a different breed of orc.
It was only with her soothing encouragement that Eowyn resheathed her sword and relaxed her battle stance. “I know that he is not an orc. I am not completely without eyes, Anaire.” She immediately regretted her outburst when the elf maiden looked at her with an effortless calm expression. But she knew better; she’d seen Anaire lose it before. “Do not tell me you were on guard, I saw you grab the handle of your sword with your right hand. Remember your wrist is injured.”
//We need to move forward, Eowyn, Anaire reminded her purposely. //Also, elves heal fast. My wrist will not be bothering me much longer; it will be fine by tomorrow. You forget that elves are not like men; we are different people.
Eowyn nodded and grabbed the reins of the stubborn horse. She knew this old warhorse quite well; this mount had once served her cousin, Theodred, in battle with valor and honor. Swinging up easily onto the stout gelding, Eowyn lowered her hand to help Anaire slide up behind her. When they were both settled in their seats, they reached down to grab Merry up onto the horse as well. Luckily despite the seasons this horse had seen, the gelding still had energy and strength that belied his age as long as the rider knew how to ride.
Clicking her tongue to urge their mount forward, she put slight pressure one the sides to encourage the old warhorse into a brisk, steady canter. As the wind blew against them as if it were trying to slow them, they only bent their heads and tried to be as still as possible as not to burden their beast anymore than necessary. They continued to push forward for that was the only thing that was left for them to do— to endure the path they had taken— to push onward.
He hadn’t known how much he’d been looking forward to seeing Anaire again until he knew that it’d be more time until he saw her once more. It didn’t surprise him that he desperately wanted to see her, to know her answer to his proposal— what slightly shocked him was that it was a stabbing pain to have to wait to see her even if it was only a few more days. It was definitely going to be a few more days; their battle with the orcs at the edge of forests had delayed them too much.
But Lorien was safe. At least, it was for now. The battle had taken only a few hours, but burying the dead had taken two days— according to the women that manned the gates of Helm’s Deep, all the warriors had left. One continent with the Dunedain and two messenger elves had gone on the Path of the Dead; the rest of what was left of Rohan’s strength had left to come to Gondor’s aid.
The news was a deep blow to him. He had ridden up to Helm’s Deep expecting to see Anaire again. Instead, he was riding back frantically to the main body of the elven army to have them turn their direction— the battle at Helm’s Deep had already happened and had with the resistance of men been won. From the distance that he still was, he signaled at the elves that rode at the forefront of the army, telling them to turn around.
They stopped, but they didn’t change their direction. No doubt, they were waiting for him before they did anything. Before Celeborn could ask him why he was asking them to turn around and head in the opposite direction, Haldir explained urgently, “Rohan has already left for Gondor. We arrived too late. Aragorn has headed to the Path of the Dead with Elladan and Elrohir. He’s undoubtedly gone with the Fellowship. They left before the Rohirrim. The only option we have is to try to catch the Riders.”
Celeborn nodded, that was the logical route. If the Fellowship had gone with Aragorn, he at least had the confidence in the heir of men to keep his daughter safe. There had to be faith in men, Arwen was right. If there was a mortal being to have trust in, it was Aragorn. There was nothing left to do but to follow the path that was left for them to take.
“We ride to Gondor!” he exclaimed to the elves nearest him with more energy than he felt. He was not the only elf that was trying to encourage the group around him, Elrond and Thranduil were doing the same with the elves of their contingent. His heart was uplifted when he saw the grim determination in Haldir’s face as his March Warden rode quickly to the front of the pack, pushing forward despite the disappointment.
No, his ability to feel, to be empathetic was nothing compared to Galadriel’s or Anaire’s, but he had not lived thousands of years to not know the emotions coursing through Haldir’s face. It was easy for him to read the frustration that Anaire was thought to be so close, only to be much farther than at first thought. Indeed, he felt the same let down feeling. But there were things that he could do accept move forward. He felt like that was what Anaire would have wanted. For her, he’d do anything. She was his daughter.
Ever since mid-afternoon the land had been cast into the shadows. The signs were obvious and clear— Mordor was continuing to gain strength, this was the visible warning. While it perturbed the riders of Rohan, it didn’t frighten them. Darkness was nothing to fear when they had come close to losing their homes, their families— their whole world. No, riding in the shadows didn’t do much, other than to be a continued reminder of their purpose.
As the day turned into night, the darkness only grew. While Eowyn had no problem with the dimness, Merry and Anaire did. For Merry, it was that he disliked the dark while for Anaire, it reminded her too much of the dark pit she had been put in by her orc captors. The flood of recall overwhelmed her with its horrible image and caused her to start shaking heavily, uncontrollably.
“Don’t think of it!” Eowyn exclaimed. “Think of something else. Think of the elf, who gave you the ring. Think of anything but what you are thinking of!”
Haldir. Yes, what Eowyn spoke of was wise despite her lack of years and inexperience. Anaire reached into the pocket where she kept the ring and drew it out to hold it in her palm of her hand momentarily before slipping it back for safe keeping. How she wished Haldir was here, he always knew what to say and to do to uplift her downtrodden spirits. Then again if she saw him again, she’d have to give him an answer. Suddenly, she dreaded seeing him.
“Put your hood on,” Eowyn hissed as she pulled her own over her head when she spotted a small group of men riding toward them. “From what I can see, those colors are Gondor’s.”
“Well see in this darkness,” the obvious leader of the men commented from what he was able to catch as he approached them against the whistling of the wind. “We are of Gondor, the question is of whence you travelers came.”
“Rohan,” she answered in as deep of a voice she was able to muster. “We are from Rohan.”
“Stragglers and misfits,” one of the other men remarked, “for the Rohirrim arrived several hours ago.”
“We were separated from the main group,” Eowyn quickly explained. “Will you give us safe passage through your lands so that we may rejoin our people?”
The man that had challenged then retorted sharply, “How do we know who you say you are?”
Before Eowyn was given the chance to protest the leader interrupted both of them before a conflict broke out. “Stop,” he stated as he moved his horse closer to Eowyn’s mount, “the horse is clearly of Rohan breed, but a mount can be stolen. But you have no reason to lie because Rohan is heading into the battlefield. There is no doubt you came to fight with the arms that you carry.” He nodded toward the swords on their belts. “Gondor certainly needs all men that are capable of fighting as can be found.”
Having said that, he offered her a brief smile before gesturing with his hand for them to follow behind him. While they had wandered into the reaches of the Gondor patrol, they were still miles away from the encampment were the armies of Gondor and Rohan were waiting patiently for the battle that was to soon commence and for other allies to arrive. The long road was still not through; there was still much more to come.
Only the heir of men could call upon the Army of the Dead and when Aragorn did this deed, hope was restored that this army of the living dead would aid in the defeat of Mordor. Yes, the skeleton of men could be broken into pieces and shattered until no longer able to fight, but they were no longer living and therefore it was no loss. It was only a great gain that real men would not be dying.
The pressure he had felt on his shoulders had been lifted once he saw the power that he wielded because of his bloodline and because of his own heart. It had been hard to believe that this day would come, the day that he would lay claim on the throne of both Arnor and Gondor and become the King of Men. The desire for power and wealth had never been the drive behind his actions. Never.
There’d been responsibility and duty; there’d been Arwen. Though the breathtaking Undomiel was not the sole reason for him to fulfill his glorious fate, she was an integral factor. It had been her father and his adopted caretaker that had charged him with the task of uniting Arnor and Gondor by reigning over as King if he wished to wed his precious daughter, the Evenstar of her people. But since his childhood in Elrond’s care, there had always been the emphasis on who he was and what he could be if he so chosed.
His choice had been made before he had ever laid eyes on Arwen, but once he had come to know her— he wanted to be all and more than what he was for her. Elrond’s declarative command gave him the added encouragement that enthused him onward. Now, he was here with the possibility of the prophecy being fulfilled so very close. He had raised an army of dead and was sailing toward Gondor to save his people and Middle Earth.
What filled him with more strength was when Elladan and Elrohir had unfurled the banner Arwen had made with her dedication and love. It was Arwen’s unfailing and unconditional belief in him that had carried him through all his hardships and struggles. As he glanced from the proud wave of the flag, he saw he wasn’t the only one admiring it— Elladan and Elrohir were as well.
While Aragorn was thinking of Arwen, Elladan’s and Elrohir’s were directed toward their other sister, Anaire. “She has a different feel about her. She has changed,” Elladan commented, his expression thoughtful and musing. “She seems less distant and more emotional in her way.”
Elrohir’s facial emotions were equally filled with contemplation and thought. “She has opened up. It is like she has found herself in this place, in this journey.”
“Or someone that brings that out of her,” Elladan added. “What does that mean for Haldir, especially since he has plighted his troth to her?” He paused to gaze intently at his twin, trying to discern Elrohir’s feelings. “What do you think?”
“I think that Haldir will accept Anaire’s changes better than anyone else,” Elrohir murmured. “He has been there from the beginning and has observed all the steps of metamorphosis she has been through. He definitely loves her unconditionally. It is a pity it has taken him more than two hundred years to realize it.”
Elladan nodded solemnly, letting Elrohir’s analysis sink in fully. “Do you think there is anything between Legolas and Anaire?”
A moment of hard reflection was needed by Elrohir to make an informed response, “I think that Legolas has feelings for her, but I am not so certain about her. I am sure that his feelings are not as deep as Haldir’s yet. There is this acceptance of her for Legolas, that is impressive given that he is associated with Mirkwood and that was an ugly episode for her. It takes time for her to build a relationship with anyone.
“I think that Legolas reminds her of Haldir. They are, to a degree, similar. Both are leaders; both are warriors; both want to protect her and care for her,” he observed insightfully. “I could be wrong. I cannot read minds. I do not even think that anyone can really guess at Anaire with entire accuracy. She’s a mystery; she’ll always be like that. There was a time when I did not think she belonged here, but now she seems like she does.”
“Yes, she has definitely changed.”
There was a mad agony and anguish that overwhelmed Eowyn, Anaire, and Merry as they slipped into the battle encampment as hundreds of wounded men of Gondor were brought into the tents where healers did their best to staunch the blood and deliver the dying from death. The grim and the stench was enough to nauseate the strongest of stomachs. It was with much relief when they passed the place of healing and ventured off to the fires of those that were filled with the desire to enter into battle.
“MOVE ASIDE!” cried out a bloody man of Gondor as he cleared through the journey weary men so that his captain could be rushed to the healers. The situation was desperate and Eowyn saw that the man was caked in blood, his life supply having drained until there was nothing much left to spill out of the grievous wound. She was tempted to help the man, but Anaire stopped her. There were others that were better capable than she.
As the three of them shuffled back to make room for the stretcher to pass by them, it was obvious that this injured man was important. It was only later when they had settled into their camp for the night after getting what gear and armor they could that they discovered that the wounded man was Faramir, son of Denethor. It’d been decided by the three of them that it was wiser for them to blend in with those from Gondor rather than try to slip unnoticed into the Rohan camp where the chance of recognition was far too great.
It was at the outer edges of this camp that they heard a great stirring as they saw Gandalf’s arrival from Isengard to rally the forces of the good people of Middle Earth against the evil intentions of Mordor. They were careful not to get too close to the gathering for the fear that Theoden, Eomer, or even Gandalf might recognize them. But they stayed within hearing range as Gandalf sought to rally their spirits to the confrontation that was nearing.
“We must rally to battle Mordor!” Gandalf exclaimed, his voice not filled with a battle frenzy but the acceptance that this was the only choice that they had to take. “We have no other course that can be taken. What reason to foolishly push Sauron’s hand? What else other than to take his Eye off of the Ringbearer? That is why this battle must be waged; this is what must be done. The focus must be taken off the Ringbearer. If the One Ring falls into the hand of Sauron, everything will be lost.”
“What Gandalf speaks of is true,” Eomer spoke up, seeking to rally the men as much as to put the support of his words behind the wizard that had saved them. “The longer that we wait for Sauron, the stronger he becomes as he continues to build his forces and armies up. This is our best chance, we have destroyed the danger of Isengard… they are the weakest they have been in a long time. If we make use of our advantage, we have the chance. Especially since Aragorn has attempted to raise the Army of Dead and as we speak, an Elven army is marching toward us to renew old alliances.”
While Denethor was present at the informal War Council, he was only there for appearance because ever since news of Boromir’s death he had declined disastrously. The additional news of Faramir’s failing condition tipped the balance into the wrong direction, breaking the fragile hold that the Steward of Gondor still held over his unsteady mind. Indeed, he was prone to rambling on incoherently or bursting out into a frenzy of mad activity. Much of this was attributed to the fact that he knew he had been the one that had put Faramir directly into the line of danger.
The foolish mission that he had sent his last and in his thoughts his lacking son to defend Osgiliath was a death sentence. It was after he had sent Faramir to that death trap that he had begun to have awful foreboding about it. Despite being semi-delusional, it was no excuse that he didn’t know that Faramir was almost certain to die, but he had underestimated the steel and virtue in his younger son. For a brief moment, he saw that even though Faramir wasn’t like him and Boromir— Faramir was still a worthy son. That thought faded as it has to for Denethor to maintain what was left of his sanity.
All that came crashing into oblivion as he had watched his nearly dead son being carried to the house of healing. Everything had fallen apart. Not only was he going to lose the last of his bloodline to continue on the line of the Stewards of Gondor, he was losing his lands— the remnants of a kingdom that he deserved to reign over. The thought that this was all ending muted him from speaking; he was barely listening, if he was even capable of that anymore.
With Denethor gone crazy and Faramir near death, the proud people of Gondor turned to the Prince of Dol Amroth, Imrahil, to guide and to direct them to their path. He was the logical choice; he was loyal and courageous, a man that had ridden with Boromir and Faramir. Indeed, he was the only choice that was left. Though he was not a young and dashing figure like Eomer or Faramir, he was certainly a capable commander. “Then we will take this course,” Imrahil declared valiantly. “We have no other to take, if this is the agreement of all— Gondor and Dol Amroth will see to it that it is done to the best that it can be done.”
The decision was made; the discussion began in earnest on when the attack was to happen. There was much argument. Some were for starting a week from this date to give their allies time to arrive, while others were for pushing forward as soon as possible. The only agreement was that they did need to act. In the end, it was Gandalf who silenced the crowd and spoke, “Tomorrow morning we will launch our attack and show Mordor that we will not sit and wait for him to oppress us. Be ready to fight for all the free folk of Middle Earth!”
Anaire pulled at Eowyn’s arm to draw her companion from the view of Eomer, who had been looking at Eowyn briefly as if he had recognized her. They had stayed long enough, it was not good for either Eomer or Theoden to discover their presence here before the battle was waged. The longer that they were here, the more certain Anaire was that this was her destiny. Even more important was that she sensed that Eowyn had to be here, that she was vital to the hope for victory.
Author’s Note: Well, this is the chapter I wrote a long time ago, but never bothered to go through the editing that I needed to go through with my beta. Without much ado, here it is. I’m hoping to write part of Pelennor during Easter and if everything falls onto schedule Part 1 and Part 2 of this trilogy will be done. What are the parts? Why Part 1 is Pre-Fellowship, Part 2 is the Fellowship, and Part 3 is Post-Fellowship. Isn’t that tidy? The divisions may be even more simpler, but we won’t get into that because that’d spoil the story.