“A red sun rises.” Legolas muttered as he paused to turn and look at the rising sun off in the distant horizon. “Blood has been spilt this night.” he said sadly and began running again.
Aragorn knelt on the ground to study the marks left by the Uruks as the whinny of a horse could be heard and the vibration of hundreds of horses shook the earth beneath him. Aragorn jumped to his feet and motioned for the others to follow as he darted behind a large boulder. Legolas was right behind him and Gimli not far behind Legolas as they all hid among the large rocks the sat on the crest of the hill.
The thundering sound of the horses’ hooves drew nearer as the horses trampled across the dry, hard ground, making the ground vibrate in different directions. Tall, proud men in shining mail with long pale hair rode upon the strong beasts. When the whole host had passed, Aragorn stood from where he knelt and stepped out of the rocks.
“Riders of Rohan.” he called out. “What news from the Mark?”
The riders wheeled around with incredible speed and skill and came charging towards Aragorn as Legolas and Gimli stepped out to join him. It wasn’t long before the three companions found themselves surrounded in a tight circle of horsemen, their spears lowered towards them.
Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli stood silent as one of the riders rode forward. He wore a silver and gold helm with a white horsetail flowing from the top and had long, wavy, golden-brown hair.
“What business does an Elf, a Man, and a Dwarf have in the Riddermark?” he asked in a commanding tone.
Legolas stared with hard eyes at the tall man as no one answered him.
“Speak quickly!” the man demanded.
“Give me your name, horse-master and I shall give you mine.” Gimli said casually, looking up at the tall man who stood before him.
Aragorn looked down at the dwarf and back to the rider with a small grin on his face. The rider jumped down from his horse and walked towards them as Aragorn laid a comforting hand on Gimli’s shoulder.
“I would cut off your head, Dwarf, if it stood but a little higher from the ground.” the man said in rough, insulting tone. His gaze was hard and icy as if he was full of nothing but evil intentions.
A burst of anger ran through Legolas’ veins as he snatched an arrow from his quiver and set it to his bow, aiming it at the rider. “You would die before your stroke fell.” he hissed as the riders thrust the tips of their spears towards him, inches from his head.
Aragorn reached over and put his hand on Legolas’ bow, firming lowering his aim as he shot Legolas a look of disapproval. “I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn.” he said turning to face the riders. “This is Gimli son of Glóin, and Legolas son of Thranduil.” Aragorn said in a calm voice. “We are friends of Rohan and Théoden, your king.”
A soft look came over the man’s face as Aragorn spoke those words. “Théoden no longer recognizes friend from foe. Not even his own kin.” the man said as he removed his helm and at once, the rides raised their spears away from the companions. “I am Éomer, Théoden’s sister-son.” Éomer spoke softly. “Saruman has poisoned the mind of Théoden and claimed lordship over these lands.” he said glancing about. “My company are those loyal to Rohan. And for that we have been banished.” Éomer stepped closer to Aragorn and hissed, “The White Wizard is cunning. He walks here and there they say,” he glanced down at Gimli. “As an old man hooded and cloaked.” Éomer said in a hushed tone as he turned his gaze upon Legolas. “And everywhere his spies slip past our nets.”
“We are no spies.” Aragorn insisted in a calm voice. “We track a party of Uruk-Hai westward across the plain. They have taken three of our friends captive.”
“The Uruks are destroyed. We slaughtered them during the night.”
“But there were two hobbits and an Elf-maiden.” Gimli said anxiously. “Did you see two hobbits and an elf?”
“The hobbits would be small, only children to your eyes. And the maiden was clad in men’s garb with shoulder-length hair.”
“Tall and slender like a young tree and beautiful beyond comparison. Tell me you didn’t overlook her beauty and mistake her for an orc!” Legolas cried pleadingly.
“We left none alive.” Éomer said gravely as he shifted his stance and pointed westward towards a small tendril of rising smoke. “We piled the carcasses and burned them.”
Legolas gazed out over the plain as his heart sank and his stomach became tied in knots. “You saw no Elf-maiden?” he asked quietly.
“No. I am sorry.”
Aragorn followed Legolas’ gaze as his heart sank as well.
“She was your-“
“Friend. A really good friend.” Legolas whispered sorrowfully.
“She was my foster-sister. Though, he and she were very much in love.” Aragorn referred to Legolas, his eyes cast upon the ground.
“Dead?” Gimli asked quietly.
Éomer nodded his head and muttered, “I am sorry.” as Legolas gazed down at his bow, his eyes glazed over with unshed tears.
Éomer turned away and released a shrill whistle. “Hasufel, Arod!” he called out, then turned back to the three companions. Two rider-less horses came trotting up to Éomer, they were still bridled and saddled as if they had just recently lost their riders. The first one was a beautiful chestnut color with a long, flowing mane and tail. The second one had a shimmering white coat and a grey mane and tail.
“May these horses bear you better fortune than their former masters.” Éomer said as he handed Hasufel’s reins to Aragorn and Arod’s to Legolas. “Farewell.” he said as he turned back to his own horse and placed his helmet over his head.
With a swift motion Éomer mounted his horse and glanced down at the three companions. “Look for your friends, but do not trust to hope. It is forsaken in these lands.” he muttered and called out, “We ride north!” and at his order the while host of riders rode away, large clouds of dust and dirt rising from the ground behind the pounding hooves.
“I’m sorry, laddie.” Gimli said softly as the riders rode away. “I know you loved her and she loved you. She was a good elf. One of the finest I ever met.” he said sadly.
Legolas nodded as he leapt on to Arod’s back and Aragorn helped Gimli up behind him. Once Aragorn had mounted Hasufel, the three companions set off towards the rising smoke where the Uruks had been burned.
The three companions rode over a hill and down the side, a pile of burnt Uruk corpses lingered in front of them. Arrows littered the ground around the large pile and weapons and helms were left scattered across the tall yellow grass. A spear from the Rohirrim was planted into the ground with the bloody head of an Uruk shoved on top of it. The head’s swollen, dark tongue hanging from its open mouth.
Aragorn was the first one to ride up to the smoking pile and climbed off Hasufel’s back, walking around the pile of charred remains.
Gimli clambered off of Arod’s back as Legolas leapt nimbly to the ground, his eyes scanning the battlefield for any trace of Silvren or the hobbits. Gimli walked towards the charred remains and stopped. Bending over he picked up a beautiful quiver and bow with two white knives placed in the quiver that had been lying in the grass. They were miraculously unharmed.
“Silvren’s quiver.” Gimli said sadly as he held it up and turned to show Legolas what he had found. “Not a single ash or burn mark on it.” he muttered handing it over to the elf.
“I will carry these as far as I can. Lord Elrond would surely want to hold on to them.” Legolas murmured in a quiet and sad voice.
Gimli began picking through the charred remains with his axe, pushing and nudging aside the blackened remains of the orcs. He was looking for any sign or remains of Silvren and the hobbits. Gimli stopped his work and let out a small breath of air. “Its one of their wee belts.” he said in a sad and somber voice.
Legolas spoke softly in elvish as Aragorn turned around and furiously kicked an orc helm then dropped to his knees with a wild cry of anger and pain.
“We have failed them.” Gimli muttered though no one seemed to hear him.
Aragorn turned his head and looked closely at the indented ground beside him. Moving over, he brushed away some of the dirt and dry grass. “A hobbit lay here.” he muttered as he gently touched the indented spot. “And the other here.” he traced the second spot with his fingertips. “And an elf here.” he mumbled, moving to touch the third patch of indented grass. He examined the area around him with his eyes as he sat back on his heels. This must have been where they spent their last moments he thought sadly, fighting back unshed tears.
“They crawled.” he said as he stood up and followed the hidden tracks, stooping low as he did. Gimli and Legolas followed behind, amazed at his discovery and hoping that their friends had been able to escape. “Their hands were bound.” he continued as he knelt on the ground and lifted a length of dust-covered rope that had been severed. “Their bonds were cut. They ran over here.” he said as he moved on, his heart beginning to race faster and faster. “They were followed by an Uruk and an orc.” he said as they made their way towards the shadows of the forest in front of them. “Tracks lead away from the battle.” Aragorn said as he jogged next to the tracks and stopped at the edge of the old, dark forest. “And into Fangorn Forest.” he muttered as Legolas and Gimli ran up beside him.
“Fangorn?” Gimli asked as they gaze uneasily into the forest. “What madness drove them in there?”
“The desire to survive.” Legolas said quietly.
* * *
Silvren collapsed upon the ground next to Merry and Pippin, gasping for air. She noticed that little light shone through the branches as Uglúk collapsed to his knees.
“Did we lose him? I think we lost him.” Pippin said, he too gasping for air.
“Why did you bring him with us?” Merry pointed to Uglúk.
“I don’t know exactly, but I think there is some good still in him.” Silvren answered, noticing that Uglúk didn’t look as burly as he had.
A loud piggish noise made them turn their heads as Grishnákh came trudging through the trees in search of them.
“I’m going to rip out your filthy innards! Then I’ll have a little sport with the she-elf!” he growled as the three companions and Uglúk scrambled to their feet and began running again.
“Whatever we do, we can’t get lost!” Silvren shouted to the others.
“Come here!” Grishnákh shouted as he followed the two hobbits through the dreary forest.
Silvren and Uglúk ran several yards away from the hobbits but in the same direction, glancing over their shoulders periodically.
“Trees. Climb a tree.” Merry said as he pushed Pippin up a tree and waved for Silvren to hurry towards him. Silvren did and then Merry helped her up into the tree. Pippin and Silvren began climbing the gnarled tree as quickly as they could with Merry not to far behind them. Uglúk was still on the ground searching for something he could use as a weapon against Grishnákh. Merry hung on to a branch and peered over it, looking around for the orc that had been chasing them. “He’s gone.” Merry announced with relief.
“Merry!” Silvren shouted as Grishnákh grabbed Merry’s ankle and began pulling him out of the tree.
Merry fell on to his back and Grishnákh jumped over him. With his right foot, Merry kicked Grishnákh in the nose causing a stream of black blood to flow from his nose. Uglúk stumbled up behind Grishnákh and whacked him across the back of the head with a large branch. Merry crawled backwards as Grishnákh stammered towards him, looking as if he would fall over at any second. Uglúk dropped to his knees with a heaving chest. He felt disoriented and his vision began to swim as fell face first upon the leaf-covered ground. Silvren squeaked in protest as Uglúk fell and tried climbing back down the tree but found that she was unable to.
“Merry!” Pippin called out and glanced back at the tree he was clinging to; its eyes blinking open as if being woken from a long, deep sleep. A look of amazement and fear came over Pippin’s face as he slowly turned back around then back at the tree. “Uhh!” he cried out as he let go of the tree and began to fall backwards.
“What’s wr-” Silvren started but stopped short when she saw the two immense yellow eyes in the tree. “It can’t be.” she muttered to herself. A large twisted hand came up and caught Pippin as he fell backwards.
“Let’s put a maggot-hole in your belly.” Grishnákh stammered as he raised his sword above Merry’s torso.
Merry looked up behind Grishnákh in surprise as a large gnarled foot rose up from the ground and smashed the vile orc in front of him. Merry jumped up and ran away from the giant, walking tree which was walking towards him.
“Run, Merry!” Pippin shouted from where he was clutched within the tree’s gnarled fist.
Silvren climbed further up on to the tree and sat on the giant’s shoulder, holding on tightly to the branches. A large twisted hand reached down and grabbed Merry from off the ground, looking over the two hobbits suspiciously. Silvren moved closer to the front of the tree to get a better look at the ancient tree that had come to their rescue.
“Are you an Ent?” Silvren asked in amazement.
“Hmm, that is what some call me. But tell me, what is an elf doing with little orcs?” the Ent murmured, his voice booming with volume yet extremely slow. “Barárum.”
“It’s talking, Merry. The tree is talking.” Pippin said nervously as he gazed up at the tree with a fear-filled expression.
“Tree? I am no tree! I am an Ent, like the elf said.”
“A tree-herder.” Merry breathed. “A Sheppard of the forest.
“Don’t talk to it Merry. Don’t encourage it.” Pippin whispered.
“Treebeard they call me.” the Ent said as Silvren glanced back in hopes of spotting Uglúk.
“And whose side are you on?” Pippin asked.
“Side? I am on nobody’s side because nobody is on my side, little orc.” Treebeard said with his deep, rough voice. “Nobody cares for the woods anymore.”
“We’re not orcs! We’re Hobbits!” Merry shouted.
“Hobbits? Hmm. Never heard of a Hobbit before. Sounds like orc mischief to me!” he said and began to squeeze Merry and Pippin tighter and tighter as they squirmed and squealed within his grasp. “They come with fire. They come with axes. Gnawing, biting, breaking, hacking, burning!” Tree-beard hollered in his deep voice which shook the trees around them.
“No!” Merry shouted painfully. “You don’t understand. We’re Hobbits! Halflings! Shire-folk!”
“Maybe you are and maybe you aren’t. The White Wizard will know.” said Tree-beard.
“The White Wizard?” Pippin asked.
“Saruman.” Merry whispered and was then dropped onto the leaf-covered ground with Pippin.
Silvren tumbled onto the ground in front of a bright light with several leaves clinging to her hair. She and the two hobbits stared at the white clad figure in shack and awe.