Title: The Last Journey
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Lord of the Rings
Era: Fourth Age of the Sun
Genre: AU, Action/Adventure
Rating: M / FRM
Main characters: Aragorn, Celeborn, Elladan, Elrohir, Elrond, Éomer, Erestor, Faramir, Gandalf, Gimli, Glorfindel, Haldir, Legolas, Meriadoc, Nazgûl, Pippin, Thranduil (, OCs).
Pairings: Legolas/OMC (brief Aragorn/Arwen, Éowyn/Faramir)
Summary: After many peaceful years that have followed the war against Sauron, everything changes. Evil returns, striking without warning, and it is stronger than ever before. It is time for the final fight, but who shall achieve victory?
Work in Process.
Warnings: Characters’ death (major, OC), violence, torture, slash, mild sexual content (het and slash), plenty of evil, etc.
“)…(” = Sindarin
Éomer smiled slightly to himself as he watched a group of young men. Youths, one could have said. In fencing just outside the city were few young and spirited stallions, which didn’t seem to wish to co-operate with their young trainers. The show had been going on for some time already, but even by Éomer’s own experience only practice makes you a master. So he kept watching the interesting events before him, remembering well his own early years in such an activities. He chuckled and shook his head. How his dear sister Éowyn had laughed when his brother had claimed that he could quite well ride one of those newly captured stallions. He had indeed somehow managed to get onto horseback, but once he was there, the horse had immediately bolted, and the young man had been thrown down to the ground quite unceremoniously. Sometimes, Éowyn still reminded him of that event…
Suddenly Éomer noticed that one of the gates’ guards was running towards him. Éomer turned to meet the other man, who quickly saluted him. “My King,” the man started, uncertain how to tell the King his news.
“Well, what is it?” Éomer asked. His eyebrow rose inquiringly.
“Your Highness, King Elessar and the Steward of Gondor are here. They just arrived to the city.”
Éomer’s face got brighter immediately. Seeing both Aragorn and Faramir would be pleasant indeed, and if Faramir was here, then so was Éowyn. Without waiting another moment, Éomer started to stride back to the city, smiling happily as he went.
The King of Rohan had no idea how soon his smile was going to fade.
“Do not blame yourselves. I’m not sure how much any of us could have done if we would have been there ourselves.”
Aragorn glanced at Éomer, knowing that the younger man’s words weren’t true at all, and they beheld only little comfort. He sighed. He had dreaded this day for long, and now that it had come, it wasn’t going on too well. Though Éomer was now amazingly calm, Aragorn knew it couldn’t last long. Knowing Éomer and his nature, the Horse Lord’s desire for revenge and justice would be even greater than his and Faramir’s together.
Faramir, on his side, had been very quiet, letting his King do the talking, knowing that he had little to say at any rate. Now he stared out of the window to the wide plains that his wife had so loved. He closed his eyes in despair and tried to control his emotions that tried to brake free again. It seemed that the tears he had already shed weren’t enough…
Suddenly Faramir felt someone touch his shoulder and turned to meet the other, suspecting it to be Aragorn, but instead meeting brown eyes full of concern. Éomer gave his shoulder a comforting squeeze, and Faramir felt a rush of relief drive through him. At least Éomer didn’t keep him responsible for his sister’s death. If he would have been in Éomer’s place…
Faramir smiled vainly and received one in return. Then they turned to Aragorn, who was watching them intently. For a moment they were all quiet again, and when the silence started to feel too pressing, Éomer asked a question that had greatly troubled him, though he hadn’t been sure if it was a proper question to ask.
“You spoke something of an Elvish weapon,” Éomer said, watching Aragorn closely for reactions. And reaction he saw. Aragorn’s eyes darkened and he shifted. Éomer couldn’t read these signs, but he was sure that Aragorn wasn’t going to tell them all he suspected. And maybe it is better so. Sometimes being ignorant is a blessing…
“I’m not sure what I should make out of that. Yes, the… women… were killed with an Elven blade, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that an Elf killed them.”
Éomer felt ready to laugh and cry at the same time. Aragorn avoided mentioning the women’s names whenever possible, maybe so trying to block out the unwanted feelings. Éomer had no idea if the former Ranger of the North was succeeding in his attempt or not, but at least he was trying… And because Aragorn was raised, trained and befriended by Elves, it made all this far more difficult. Obvious things weren’t so obvious, after all.
“And there is one other thing.”
Éomer woke from his thoughts, and looked to Aragorn questioningly. A swift glance to Faramir’s direction told him that he wasn’t alone in his ignorance.
Aragorn sighed wearily, crossing his hands over his chest, leaning his head to his palm – a clear sign of weariness, distress… “There were only few who knew of my unborn child. If our wives were killed because of my heir… there are not many who knew,” he whispered brokenly at last.
“How many?” Faramir asked, surprised that this fact hadn’t crossed their minds before. Or his mind at least.
Aragorn shrugged, rising his face to look at his companions. “None, I would say. Gwen, yes, but I know she has told to no-one.”
“Are you sure?” Éomer demanded.
“Yes,” Aragorn answered somewhat sharply. “She wouldn’t have told to anyone. But somehow, someone found out.”
“And we have to find that ‘someone’,” Faramir whispered tiredly.
Éomer also groaned in frustration. His head was starting to hurt and he was angry and tired. Éowyn had been buried yesterday, and he hadn’t slept after the small group of Gondorians had brought his sister home. He groaned again and rubbed his temples.
“Maybe we should go outside for awhile. Fresh air would do miracles to us,” Faramir suggested.
The two other men just nodded and they went outside to the bright sunlight.
Éomer felt a little better when he got outside, his eyes scanning the open landscape before him. A cool wind blew across the plains, swaying the grass in its wake. Suddenly Aragorn stiffened, his eyes surveying something in the north. The others turned their eyes to same direction, though it took some time before they saw the same: a small group of riders was coming towards the city. The three of them watched silently as the group drew nearer, and when the riders came closer, Éomer recognised a banner of Rohan.
“You still have patrols to guard your lands?” Aragorn asked, a little amused, remembering their first meeting years ago on the plains near Fangorn forest.
Éomer smirked. “Old ways stuck hard. I bet these years of peace haven’t been wearisome only for us, but also to those men who before used their time in defending their lands.”
Aragorn nodded. The group was already reaching the city, and his steady grey eyes followed the riders’ movements. “Maybe we could hear some tidings from them,” he said quietly. And distract our own minds in the process.
Éomer nodded, and without further words, they started towards the gate. But before they got far, shouts began to rise from the direction of the city’s entrance. A few moments later Irolas, who was one of those who had come with Aragorn and Faramir from Gondor, ran towards them.
“My King! A group of Rohirrim has just arrived from the northern border and they have two wounded Elves with them.”
Aragorn stopped to his tracks, and then broke into a run after realising what his captain had said. He soon reached the gate, people making way to him as they saw him approach. And indeed, there were two dreadful looking Elves with the riders. Aragorn checked their faces quickly, but couldn’t remember if he had met them before.
“Take them to Meduseld, I will see to them. Hurry now!” he said to the riders who held the unconscious Elves, and they swiftly spurred their horses forward through the crowd. Aragorn followed them quickly, knowing that the time pressed him. Elves have legendary stamina, and he himself had witnessed that it wasn’t only a legend. Elves didn’t easily get unconscious, and if they did, they were usually quick to wake, not carried on the horseback for miles.
Aragorn nearly ran into his two companions who came towards him, their faces worried. “My Lord?” Faramir asked quickly, waiting for orders: he also had seen the Elves.
“Éomer, go and question your men about what has happened. Faramir, you come and help me with the wounded.” As the men separated to their ways, Aragorn wondered what could have possibly caused the Elves’ current condition. Somehow I can guess that the men are unharmed, for otherwise I should have been informed of a battle immediately. But I think I’ll know soon enough, he thought while running up the steps to reach the doors of the Golden Hall.
It was going to be a long night.
The drums kept banging. Metal clanged against armour. Someone screamed next to him. All the noises became one, big cacophony that echoed in the caverns. And then suddenly all went silent. They all waited. His heart pounded wildly in his chest, begging for rest. But he couldn’t rest: not if he wanted to live.
And then came the flames. The screams increased, everyone running around, blinded by terror. He couldn’t find the others. He couldn’t find Thalión. He shouted for his cousin, but no one answered. Bodies crashed into him, forcing him to move along. Broken orders to retreat were shouted. Everyone was running, trying to escape from the dark demon that was approaching, bringing death to all around it. He shouted again, not even hearing his own voice.
A wounded Elf clung onto his arm, begging him to help. He had to go: had to help his wounded kinsman. But he could not go before knowing that Thalión was safe as well. And Legolas. Where was the young Prince? He hadn’t seen him either after they had seen the Balrog approach.
Someone crashed into him, and when he turned to look, he met empty eyes of a dead Elf. He couldn’t remember his name, but he had practised with him some years ago. Not a great warrior, but at least he died like one… The wounded Elf on his other side whimpered, his grasp slipping. He had to grasp the Elf’s arm to prevent him from falling.
The only answer he got was a death-scream near to him. He could not stay. So he ran, dragging the wounded one with him. It felt like hours before he reached a tunnel that led out. Everywhere were dead ones, his kin and dark creatures. The air was full of smoke and the thick air smelled of blood and death and burning flesh. The flames attacked the dead and the dying on the floor, mingling their cries of pain to other sounds.
And then he was outside. But again he was alone, only the wounded one leaning onto him heavily, his breath ragged. He saw no one near him, and he had no strength to shout anymore. On the other hand, it could have leaded the enemies right to him. So he kept running, trying to see any signs of others.
After hours of wandering he found Shannai, and together they managed to aid their wounded companion and find a large group of Elves.
Many came that night, but not his cousin. He knew that even if some of the Elves had left to seek their way over the mountains in attempt to reach Grey Havens, his cousin would not be with them. So if Thalión would not come, it could only mean that he was dead.
And when it was decided that some would leave to get aid from the Rohirrim, he volunteered. If Thalión was dead, he could not go back to the caves to find him.
Later as he and three others raced through the night with the best horses that had been found, he cursed himself. He was a coward for he had not the courage to face his cousin dead. Thalión would have searched for him to the end of the world, and so would have Dínnor.
What would Dínnor say when he heard of his actions? He would be furious. Could he ever look his oldest cousin into the eyes again after his shameful escape? He seriously doubted it. There was no way he could justify his actions.
Then suddenly there was Wargs everywhere. They attacked them as one, striking their strong jaws into the horses, bringing them down easily, and then attacked the riders. He fought by instinct, and when it all ended, only two of his companions were alive, all of them seriously wounded. He himself knew only pain, but they all knew that they had to keep going. They couldn’t give up now.
But in the end they were helpless. One Elf with serious damages collapsed to the ground, and didn’t rise again. The two of them continued again, but after a few miles they could not go on. And there was noise near now, maybe another pack of Wargs coming.
Too tired to care anymore, he collapsed to the ground beside his fellow warrior, praying for swift death and forgiveness from those whom he had betrayed…
Asthaldo woke up with a silent shout, the noise closer to a gasp, sitting up in an instant, scanning his surroundings. He was no longer on the plains, but in a small room which smelled of wood and herbs, and slightly of horses. Beside him lay his only surviving companion, Oituilë, pale and unconscious. There was also someone else in the room. Asthaldo turned his head so quickly that it hurt, but at least he saw the other one now: a Man stood on the other side of the room, looking a bit uncertain what he should do.
Slowly the Man stepped forward, raising his hands as a sign that he was not a threat. “I’m not going to hurt you. Please, lay down. My Lord will be here soon,” he said slowly, maybe not being sure if the Elf understood him. Asthaldo smiled despite himself. This Man didn’t feel dangerous. There was something familiar about him that Asthaldo could not quite fall in…
“Where am I?” Asthaldo asked, shocked of how rough his own voice sounded. Good thing that he and his cousins had practised Westron before: now it would come to use again.
“In Rohan.” It took a moment for the Man to answer. He hadn’t expected that the Elf would speak Westron so well.
“In Rohan,” Asthaldo echoed and fell back to the bed. Bless you, High Ones! We made it! We are in Rohan. Slowly Asthaldo collected himself. He pushed himself half up from he bed, watching the Man intensely. “I have to meet the King. I have very urgent message to him and –”
“King Éomer will be here at any moment. He is just speaking with King Elessar.”
Asthaldo’s shock must have been apparent, because the Man evidently noticed it. Elessar is here? This must be my lucky day. Legolas knows Elessar even better than King Éomer, and Elessar has been brought up among Elves. Asthaldo lay down again and slowly turned to watch his Elven companion. Worry furrowed his brow. His kinsman didn’t look very good. Actually, Oituilë looked terribly sick and pale. He heard the door open but didn’t turn to look, his worry for another Elf too great.
“I am sorry for your friend. I have done all I can, but he had not much strength left when you were found.” The voice was gentle but firm, and Asthaldo turned around to meet a Man who had came to the room; or actually Men, for there was two who had entered. Asthaldo’s fallow eyes met the grey ones of the Man who had spoken, and he saw that this Man had strength in him. Then he saw the pendant around his neck.
“You must be Elessar Telcontar. I am most honoured to meet you,” Asthaldo bowed his head as he could.
“Please, we need no courtesy here,” Aragorn said as he observed the Elf with his gaze. He took a step forward. “How do you feel?”
“I have been worse.”
Aragorn couldn’t help but smile. That kind of a statement he would have expected from Legolas as well.
“He said he has a message to King Éomer,” the first Man said. Aragorn turned to watch the others, who still stood on the other side of the room. Then he looked at the Elf again.
“Well, now that Éomer is here, would you tell your message? I’m most interested of its contents, taking into consideration how you were found and in what condition.”
“So you must be King Éomer of Rohan?” Asthaldo asked from the other Man who had entered.
Éomer only nodded.
“Oh, forgive my manners,” Aragorn said. “I’m starting to forget how to introduce people to each other, as Faramir here usually takes care of those things.”
The Man who had been in the room at first smiled at the comment, and suddenly Asthaldo realised why he looked so familiar. Of course Legolas had told him about the Steward and the Prince of Ithilien. He nodded to Steward, smile ghosting on his lips. But as soon as the smile came, it was gone, because remembering Legolas brought back some memories he had tried to lock to the back of his mind.
“We were sent to ask for aid from the King of Rohan” he started. “Me and three others…” Asthaldo swallowed, quickly glancing to his last companion. “We had a rather hard journey,” he finally got out. The Men stood nearer now, listening silently. Asthaldo sat up and took a deep breath of air when his wounds protested again. “We come from Eryn Lasgalen. The Woodland Realm was attacked under a week ago, and out people are in dire need of aid.”
“Why come into Rohan? Dale, Esgaroth and Erebor are right next to you,” Éomer asked.
“We were afraid that they were attacked too,” Asthaldo said softly. “Maybe others were sent there too, I do not know. It was such chaos when we left. Most of the Elves are dead, some have left to seek the Grey Havens and the rest…” Asthaldo shook his head.
Aragorn found it hard to control his feelings. “Who attacked? Orcs?”
Asthaldo let out something that could have been described as a laugh. “I only wish! First there was only Orcs, hundreds of them, even if not thousands. There were also Trolls and Goblins and Uruk-hai, as far as I can tell. But that was only the beginning…”
For a moment, Faramir wasn’t quite sure if he wanted to know what had been the final blow. But he needed to know the answer. “What else was there? You speak as if the Orcs were only a minor problem.”
Asthaldo smiled. “Indeed, Steward, Orcs were a minor problem. Though I have never seen them as a great threat…” Asthaldo said remembering the battle of Hithsîr that had been fought long ago – he and his two cousins against hundred of Orcs. None of the foul creatures had stayed alive to tell about that fight.
“So, what came next?” Aragorn needed to know, dread rising in his mind all the time.
“The Flame and the Shadow,” Asthaldo whispered, his memories waking again. “The Balrog.”
There was silence for a long time in the room. Aragorn closed his eyes and asked very quietly, so only the Elf heard him. “Was Legolas there? With Gimli?”
“Yes. Gimli was still sleeping in Legolas’ room when the attack started, and Legolas wanted to go to him, but then… it came. I heard from Shannai later that Gimli had got out from Legolas’ room, and was searching for his Elf… but they never came to the meeting place. Nor did many others either…” Asthaldo finished, not really caring if the King of Men saw his pain. His dearest friend and his cousin were both lost somewhere, and he just sat here, doing nothing to help them.
When Asthaldo finally looked up to meet Elessar’s eyes, he saw there such pain and anger he flinched. So Shannai didn’t tell only jokes when he said that this Man cares about Legolas. “Will you help us?”
Aragorn glanced at Éomer, but the other Man was already in action. “How many men do you need? There may be a possibility for a new attack, and if that comes, we must have enough men to protect ourselves and the Elves.”
Asthaldo couldn’t believe his ears. It couldn’t be that easy! The Men were already practically out of the door to organise their forces to move, discussing of how many men they needed and how much supplies. Asthaldo fell back to the bed, numb with relief and thought that now he could rest for a moment.
Faramir and Éomer were already out of the room, when Aragorn returned yet again to the side of the beds, this time checking Oitulië’s wounds. Asthaldo didn’t see much hope in the Man’s eyes as he raised his head to look at Asthaldo. With a silent nod, Asthaldo messaged to the Man that he didn’t need to hear the words. Oituilë wasn’t going to survive.
Aragorn walked silently to a basin, washing his hands and then taking a towel to dry his hands, turning to look at Asthaldo in the process. “If it is not too bold to ask, I would like to know your name. It would be much easier for me to know the name of the one I am tending.”
“He is Oituilë. My name is Asthaldo,” Asthaldo answered vaguely.
Aragorn nodded, then suddenly his eyes went wide, and he nearly dropped the towel. “That Asthaldo?” he breathed, astonished.
Asthaldo shrugged. “Probably then one you are thinking, yes.”
“You are a legend,” Aragorn exclaimed. “One of the Three Cousins of Hithsîr.”
Asthaldo gave out a short laugh. “So some say. But I think I also am in the presence of a legend,” Asthaldo looked at Aragorn pointedly.
With a nervous laugh, Aragorn put the towel away, heading to the door. “Indeed. I must go now. Try to rest: that is now what you need.” With that, he left the room, a somewhat childish smile on his face. One of the Cousins. My Gods Elladan and Elrohir will be so jealous of me when they hear of this…
Outside of the room the two men were waiting, looking interested at their King as he got out. For a moment none of them spoke, and what smile there had been on Aragorn’s face, was soon gone.
With a heavy sigh, Aragorn leaned against the wall, breathing deeply. “A Balrog.” He shuddered at the memory, both his own experience and the horror he had seen in Asthaldo’s eyes.
“Do they even have chances, the Elves?” Éomer asked doubtfully. He had heard enough stories about those ancient demons of the dark world, and he hoped it would have stayed as an ‘ancient’ one.
Aragorn glanced to the room again, watching how Asthaldo laid back down and took his companion’s hand to his, closing his eyes for a healing sleep. The King sighed, and finally said: “There is always hope.” He paused for a moment, watching the Elves. Then he turned to his friends, putting his hands to each Man’s shoulder. “I think it is pointless to tell you to consider if going to the aid of the Elves is wise or safe, because I think we all have done our deciding. Ready the men. We must leave as soon as possible. Asthaldo told us that there are Elves alive, and would wish to be on their aid as soon as possible to prevent any other deaths. They didn’t sent for help for nothing.”
The two others nodded, and then they separated, heading out to find their captains. Aragorn stood alone for a moment, and then glanced back to the room where the Elves slept. Oituilë is not going to survive through the night, and I think that Asthaldo knows that. Gods to bless us all so this one will be the last one to die. Aragorn groaned inwardly. For Gods’ sake where are you Legolas? I really hope that you are better that your kinsman seems to think you are…
With that he closed the door silently and went to look for the preparations. There would be much to be done before they could leave towards the north.
Asthaldo could hear voices of men in the corridor. They were preparing to leave. He fastened his tunic and threw another look to his dead companion. Oituilë had died last night, and now his spirit was at last in peace, beyond pain and darkness of this world. Asthaldo had seen much death during his long life, and this one had been a rather pleasant way to die…
After one more glance he stepped to the corridor and headed outside, feeling very stiff and sore from many parts of his body. But if he would not make his move now, he would be left behind, and that would not do. So he kept walking, trying to call as little attention to himself as he could as he strode through the halls Meduseld. At last he got outside, and saw the riders in the courtyard. He slipped past the men and went to the stables, looking for a spare horse or some other animal. It seemed that luck was with him, because outside the stables there was an old horse grazing.
Asthaldo went to the side of the fencing, calling for the horse, which raised his head in interest and walked slowly to the Elf. Two minutes after Asthaldo led the horse to the courtyard, stopping to the edge of the riders, speaking to his horse with a low voice.
“And what exactly you think you are doing, Master Elf? As far as I can remember, you should be in bed right now.”
Asthaldo turned around to greet the King of the Horse Lords. “My Lord Éomer. I found the hospitality of your people most gracious, but I must be on my way home. I have duties to attend there, and too long I have been avoiding them already.” Duties like finding Thalión…
“So you thought just to take one of our horses and ride back with us?” Éomer asked quite amused, leaning forward in his saddle.
“Do you wish me to walk, then, my liege?” Asthaldo asked. His cousins hated his habit of twisting other’s words above all else. He especially loved to use it towards Legolas, who always enjoyed the game, especially after he befriended Gimli: those kinds of word-plays were good practice for his and Gimli’s sparring matches.
Éomer was failing in attempt to keep a straight face, but to his luck, Aragorn rode in with Roheryn, stopping his horse next to them. “Lord Asthaldo, it is well to see you up. Though I’m not sure if you are well enough to ride with us. The road is long and we are in haste.”
“Then leave me behind if I become too much a burden. But I assure you, my Lords, you won’t see that happen.”
Aragorn knew well the pride of Elves and didn’t press the matter further. Instead he turned his haze to the old horse. “I would advise you, at least, to think of changing that animal, for I am not quite sure if he is capable to such a journey we have ahead of us.”
Asthaldo just smiled. “Oh, he will be just fine. We have discussed about this, and he wished to come.”
So alike with Legolas, Aragorn thought. “As you see best, Master Elf.”
For a while, they just stood there, waiting, but finally Aragorn couldn’t bear the silence anymore. He needed a distraction for his thoughts, which always at the times of silence turned to his dead wife... “So, Lord Asthaldo, you know Prince Legolas?”
“Very well, yes, My King Elessar. We are friends…” Asthaldo went quiet after this, considering what to say. “He was always one of us – one of the Cousins. From the very first moment we met him…”
“You shall see him again,” Aragorn put a comforting hand upon Asthaldo’s shoulder. “I know Legolas, and he isn’t killed that easily. He has faced such an enemies before, and he has Gimli to look after him.”
“I think you are right, my King Elessar,” Asthaldo said. “I’m just afraid. For him and my cousin as well.”
Aragorn nodded. “Then we must hurry. But if you wish to be riding with us, please do not call me ‘Elessar’ or ‘My Lord’, because for you I am Aragorn, and it honours me to ride in your company, more than you’ll never know.”
Asthaldo watched the Man for a moment and the shook his head. “I really understand now what Legolas sees in you. You have the fair speech and manners of Eldar, and yet you are a King of Men. But after all you were raised in Rivendell, so it is then quite understandable why your speech is so righteous. And as a show of respect for you, I will do as you requested, Aragorn.”
“Good. Éomer, let’s get these men on the move. We have wasted enough time here as it is.”
“As you wish,” Éomer said, still looking at Asthaldo and Aragorn strangely, and then gave the order. As they started to move on, Faramir came to ride to their side with Irolas, and they all took their place in the head of the group as it passed through the gates.
When they passed out of the city, Aragorn turned to Asthaldo, eyes full of apology. “)I am sorry for your companion. His funerals shall be looked for, though no Elven song will rise to his memory tonight.(”
“)There will be enough song for the memory of the dead before this is over, my Lord. Of that I am sure.(”
And with those words they rode on towards the north, hoping that they wouldn’t arrive too late…
to be continued…