“One stage of your journey is over. Another begins.” Gandalf said as he led them through the woods. “We must travel to Edoras with all speed.
“Edoras?” Gimli asked more rather repeated. “That is no short distance.”
“We hear of trouble in Rohan, It goes ill with the king.” Aragorn told Gandalf.
“Yes and it will not be easily cured.”
“Then we have run all this way for nothing? Are we to leave the poor Hobbits and Elf here in this horrid, dark, dank tree infested- ah, I mean, charming, quite charming forest?” Gimli said glancing about nervously as if a tree were about to grab him and tear him to pieces.
“It was more than mere chance that brought them to Fangorn. A great power has been sleeping here for many long years. The coming of Merry and Pippin will be like the falling of small stones that starts an avalanche in the mountains.
“In one thing you have not changed, dear friend.” Aragorn said. “You still speak in riddles.”
“A thing is about to happen that has not happened since the Eldar days. The Ents are going to wake up…and find that they are strong.” said Gandalf.
“Strong?” Gimli asked looking around. “Oh, that’s good.”
“So stop your fretting, Master Dwarf. Merry and Pippin are quite safe, as well as Silvren. In fact Merry and Pippin are far safer than you are about to be.” Gandalf said as he started walking again.
“This new Gandalf is grumpier than the old one.” Gimli muttered to himself.
“Is Silvren still with the hobbits?” Legolas asked Gandalf.
“She’s quite safe for now. Don’t worry; you’ll be seeing her soon.” Gandalf said as they left the woods and came out into the open.
Gandalf gave a long, high-pitch whistle while the others stood behind him with their horses. Over the vast plain a beautiful white stallion came galloping towards them. His mane and tail blew about him as he ran at a great pace.
“That is one of the Meras unless my eyes are cheated by some spell.” Legolas said softly.
“Shadowfax.” Gandalf whispered as the horse drew near to him. “He is the lord of all horses and has been my friend through many dangers.” he said as he stroked Shadowfax’s lean neck. “We must leave.”
The four companions set out for Edoras riding as fast as they could across the vast plain. Tall snow peaked mountains loomed in the distance and a large, dark forest loomed behind them.
A small pink glow behind the distant mountains was all that was left of the sun when the four companions stopped to rest. Aragorn built a fire while Legolas and Gimli lay down to get some sleep. Gandalf stood on guard as he stood a few feet away from the group and gazed out over the land towards Mordor. Silently, Aragorn stood up and walked over beside the old wizard.
“The veiling shadows that glowers in the east takes shape. Sauron will suffer no rival.” Gandalf said quietly without looking at Aragorn. “From the summit of Barad-dûr his Eye watches ceaselessly. But he is not so mighty yet that he is above fear. Doubt ever gnaws at him. The rumor has reached him that the heir of Númenor still lives. Sauron fears you, Aragorn. He fears what you may become.” Gandalf whispered. “And so he’ll strike hard and fast at the world of Men. He will use his puppet Saruman to destroy Rohan. War is coming and Rohan must defend itself and therein lies our first challenge for Rohan is weak and ready to fall. The king’s mind is enslaved; it’s an old device of Saruman’s. His hold over Théoden is now very strong. Sauron and Saruman are tightening the noose but for all their cunning we have one advantage.” he said turning to face Aragorn. “The Ring remains hidden and that we should seek to destroy is has not yet entered their darkest dreams. And so the weapon of the enemy is moving towards Mordor in the hands of a Hobbit. Each day brings it closer to the fires of Mount Doom. We must now trust in Frodo. Everything depends upon speed and the secrecy of his quest. Do not regret your heart’s decision to leave him; Frodo must finish his task alone.”
“He’s not alone.” Aragorn said softly. “Sam went with him.”
“Did he? Did he, indeed. Good.” Gandalf muttered. “Yes, very good.”
* * *
Silvren made her way back down the hall by herself. She was going to check on Uglúk and hoped that he would be awake so she could talk to him. Silvren knocked on the door but there was no answer. Slowly, she opened the door and stepped inside. She closed the door behind her and walked over to the bed with a warm bowel of broth and some warm bread.
“I brought you some food.” Silvren said as she set the food on the table and brought the chair closer to the bed. Sitting down, Silvren noted that Uglúk’s hair was thicker and longer and his facial features and hands resembled a human’s except they were still dark. Uglúk opened his eyes and Silvren saw that they were no longer yellow but blue like the sky.
“How are you feeling?” she asked as she picked up the bowl and spoon.
“Better.” he muttered and did his best to sit up.
Silvren dipped the spoon into the bowel and then held the spoon to his lips. He ate heartily and Silvren fed him in silence until he could eat no more.
“May I ask you something?”
“Sure.” Uglúk replied as he inspected his hands.
“Why did you save us?”
“I don’t know for sure.” he said as he glanced over at Silvren. “You reminded me of someone; someone from my past.” he said thoughtfully as his skin began to lighten.
“Do you remember anyone from your past? Where did you live?” Silvren asked, noticing the change in his skin and how his ears were developing points.
“I remember a forest. A dark forest with a river and lots of people.” he said as his face turned a peach color.
“What did they look like, what about your family?” Silvren asked excitedly.
“Like you. They had long brown or blonde hair and pointed ears.” he said and then stopped as he looked at his flesh colored skin and clear fingernails.
“Do you remember your family?”
“I had a mother and a father and a younger sister. That is all I remember.” he said sadly.
“You’re an elf.” Silvren smiled at the newly transformed Uglúk.
Instinctively Uglúk reached up to his ears and slowly ran his fingers over the fleshy tips and down the sides.
“An elf.” he muttered as if to himself.
“Do you remember your name?”
Uglúk lowered his hand and thought for several long seconds before answering, “No. I have no memory of my name.”
* * *
It was late in the afternoon and Gandalf, with the three other companions, were riding across the plains of Rohan towards Edoras. Finally a large hill that stood alone on the flat plain, topped with many houses came into view. Behind it lay grey mountains topped with glittering white snow.
“Edoras and the Golden Hall of Meduseld.” Gandalf said when they came to a stop and the four riders gazed at the city. “There dwells Théoden, King of Rohan, whose mind is overthrown. Saruman’s hold over the king is now very strong. Be careful of what you say. Do not look for welcome here.” Gandalf warned them and urged Shadowfax forward.
Aragorn watched as a dark green banner with a white horse on it fell to the ground as he followed Gandalf up the hill and through the wood and stone gate of Edoras. They rode silently through the village in single file, looking around at the villagers who only stared back at them.
“You’ll find more cheer in a graveyard.” Gimli muttered from behind Legolas.
A man clad in leather and mail with several armoured soldiers came out of the great wooden doors to greet the companions as they dismounted and made their way up the stone steps.
“I cannot allow you before King Théoden so armed. Gandalf Greyhame.” he said as the company reached the top of the steps. “By order of Gríma Wormtongue.” he added bitterly.
Gandalf nodded in understanding then glanced over at Aragorn and Legolas nodding to them to give up their weapons.
Aragorn handed one of the guards his bow and quiver while Legolas handed over his bow and then took his white knives from his quiver, flipping them around and handed them to one of the guards hafts first.
Reluctantly, Gimli handed over his axe while Aragorn handed over their swords and Legolas his quiver. Last of all, Aragorn pulled out the knife Celeborn gave him and handed it to the guard.
“Your staff.” Háma said looking at Gandalf’s white staff.
“Oh.” muttered Gandalf. “You wouldn’t separate an old man from his walking stick?”
Háma gave a reluctant nod then turned back towards the doors. Gandalf looked over at Aragorn and winked as he took a hold of Legolas’ arm. They walked behind Háma as the wooden doors creaked open. Once inside, Háma bowed to the king and turned to the side, allowing the companions to proceed forward. The servants and other people who lingered in the hall as if they were nothing but ghost, watched them as they drew closer to the feeble king. Their pale faces were expressionless as if all their emotions had been drained from them.
“My lord, Gandalf the Grey is coming.” Gríma whispered in Théoden’s ear from where he sat beside the hunched over king. Théoden sat in his throne, wrinkled and grey like an ancient, dying tree that had been once youthful and alive.
The wooden doors creaked and banged shut and then the guards barred the doors. If anything went amiss there would be no easy escape. Aragorn watched as several man stalked silently along with then on the other side of the pillars amongst the shadows. They watched the group of strangers with an ill gaze.
“He’s a herald of woe.” Gríma whispered.
“The courtesy of your hall is somewhat lessened of late…Théoden king.” Gandalf said as he let go of Legolas’ arm as the four strode around the shallow fire pit set within the center of the floor. A black iron pot hung over the pit, it was cold and empty like the lives of the people in the room around them.
“He’s not welcome.” hissed Gríma.
“Why should I welcome you…Gandalf Stormcrow?” Théoden muttered as his voice cracked due to his weariness.
“A just question my liege.” Gríma said nodding in approval. “Late is the hour in which the conjurer chooses to appear.” he hissed like a snake as he stood up and walked towards Gandalf. “Láthspell I name him. Ill news is an ill guest.”
“Be silent.” Gandalf commanded. “Keep your forked tongue behind your teeth. I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a witless worm.” he said as he held up his staff.
“His staff.” Gríma seethed as he walked backwards. “I told you to take the wizard’s staff.” he whined as his men came rushing forward from behind the pillars.
Gandalf ignored the men as he advanced towards Théoden. Aragorn punched a man in the face and Legolas did likewise. Gimli, stout and brave little Gimli rammed his helmet covered head into a man’s stomach.
“Théoden, son of Thengol,” Gandalf said as he slowly approached the king, not paying any attention to the commotion around him.
Aragorn ran ahead of Gandalf and blocked another man’s punch then knocked him to the ground. Then he ran across in front of Gandalf, punched, and took out another of Gríma’s men.
“Too long have you sat in the shadows.”
Legolas knocked another man to the ground and as one came up behind him, he stopped walking and did a sharp back fist to the man’s face. Gimli ran over to one of the men who was crawling on the ground and kicked him in the face then ran towards Gríma. Gimli knocked him to the ground and stepped on his chest with his foot.
“I would stay still if I were you.” he growled.
“Hearken to me!” Gandalf shouted. “I release you from the spell.” he muttered, closing his eyes and stretching out his hand towards Théoden. The old wrinkled king managed a low and evil laugh that grew stronger and louder and sent chills up the spines of each companion. Gandalf opened his eyes and looked up at the king in surprise.
“You have no power here, Gandalf the Grey.” The old king laughed mockingly.
Gandalf reached over with his hand and tossed his grey cloak from his shoulders, revealing his bright white robes. “I will draw you out, Saruman, as poison is drawn from a wound.” he said and thrust his staff towards Théoden and stepped closer to the king who was struggling against the wizard’s hold.
A young maiden, clad in white, ran past Legolas and darted towards the king but Aragorn reached out and grabbed her by the arm, “Wait.” he said softly as he held her back.
“If I go, Théoden goes too.” Saruman said through the king.
Gandalf shoved his staff towards Théoden and the king lurched backwards in his throne.
“You will not kill me and you will not kill him.”
“Rohan is mine!” Saruman hissed.
“Be gone!” Gandalf commanded as he used his staff to shove the king back into his throne.
Théoden struggled against Gandalf’s hold, twisting within his throne and at last he lunged out of the throne towards the wizard. Gandalf slammed Théoden back into his throne and the king went limp, finally rid of Saruman as he let out a small moan and began to fall forwards. He would have fallen out of his throne had he not been caught by the golden-haired maiden who had pulled away from Aragorn’s grasp.
Théoden knelt before the young maiden who helped support him as his glassy eyes glanced about. His sickly grey face began to look young again as the wrinkles disappeared and his thin white hair turned golden-brown. His beard shrank and changed back to its natural golden-brown hue as well.
“I know your face.” he whispered to the maiden. “Eówyn. Eówyn.” he said softly
Théoden turned his head and gazed at the smiling wizard in white robes, “Gandalf?” he asked as if uncertain who the wizard was.
“Breathe the free air again, my friend.” Gandalf told him gently.
Eówyn helped Théoden to his feet as he looked around at all the people standing in the hall. “Dark have been my dreams of late.” he muttered and glanced down at his hands.
“Your fingers would remember their old strength better if they grasped your sword.” Gandalf encouraged him as Háma stepped up to Théoden and held out the king’s unsheathed sword.
A look of wonder came over Théoden’s face as he reached out and grasped the hilt of his sword. Slowly, he pulled the sword out of the sheath with a soft scraping noise. He lifted it up in front of his face and examined the shiny metal blade. His expression suddenly froze and his eyes glanced away from the blade and an angry expression clouded his face as he gazed down at Gríma. “Get that traitor out of my hall.” Théoden said to Háma as he glared at Gríma. “I was a fool to ever listen to his constant whispering.”
Two guards walked over and picked Gríma up by the arms then dragged him towards the front doors and everyone began to follow the king down the hall towards the doors.
* * *
Silvren had been tending to Uglúk, whom asked to be called Eanil, during the commotion in the hall. She hadn’t heard anything and knew nothing of what was taking place. As Silvren was taking the tray of uneaten food and dishes back to the kitchen, she heard something going on in the hall. Silvren turned, her braid falling over her right shoulder, and headed towards the hall, she came to the wooden door and slowly opened it to see a regal looking man walking towards the front doors and many people following after him. Silvren stepped out of the hallway and into the hall, watching as several familiar people followed after the man she assumed was the king. Then it dawned on her that Gandalf was among them and that the others were probably there too. Quickly surveying the room, Silvren search for Legolas and it didn’t take long for her to find him.
“Legolas?” she called out in amazement as she stepped towards one of the wooden tables and set down the tray. Her heart began to beat fast as the tall elf stopped walking when he heard someone call out his name.
The voice was sweet, soft, and sounded very familiar, Legolas thought as he turned around to have his heart skip a beat. “Silvren?” he asked, finding that his heart was beginning to race with excitement.
Silvren smiled and ran towards Legolas and who started towards her. Legolas opened his arms and picked her off her feet, spinning her around in the air and then set her back on her feet. Legolas wasted no time in cupping her face and kissing her before looking her in the eyes. Tears of joy filled Silvren’s eyes and she could tell his eyes were misted as well.
“I’ve missed you so much.” he said as he gently placed his forehead upon hers and she wrapped her arms around his neck in return. “I was afraid I would never see you again.” he whispered.
“Why would you say that?” Silvren asked.
“We weren’t sure what would happen to you and the hobbits. For all we knew, you could have been killed.” he muttered sadly as he lifted his head. His wrong furrowed s he gazed at her, noticing the red rash on her neck for the first time.
“What happened?” he asked sadly as he reached up and very gently touched her burnt neck.
“They tied a rope around my neck when they made me run so I would escape.” She replied and glanced down at her red wrists.
“And your wrists too?” Legolas asked as he followed her gaze.
“I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to protect you.” he choked.
Smiling, Silvren reached u on her tip-toes and placed a tender kiss on his lips. Legolas was about to kiss her back when Aragorn and the others came back in.
“Aragorn!” Silvren cried, leaving Legolas’ embrace to hurry over to her brother.
“Silvren?” Aragorn and Gimli gaped in surprise as Aragorn walked towards her and threw his arms around her in a tight embrace and kissed her on the cheek. “It is good to see you again.” he smiled.
Silvren smiled at him then turned to face the dwarf. “Gimli.” she said as she bent down and hugged him, placing a quick kiss on his cheek.
“Oh, well, I-” he stammered as his cheeks reddened beneath his beard. “I’m glad you’re safe.” he muttered.
Silvren smiled down at him an walked over to Legolas who had walked towards the trio.
“She kissed me. The She-elf kissed me.” Gimli muttered happily as Silvren slipped her hand into Legolas’.
“They’ll be burning Théodred, the king’s son soon. Be prepared to walk behind the king.” Gandalf informed Legolas and Silvren.
*Any suggestions for a title for the 3rd one(ROTK)?