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The Last Journey; Chapter 27: Fights and Surprises (1/2)

Story Info

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

Chapter 27: Fights and Surprises


Pippin enjoyed the last moments of the day, laying in a comfortable chair in his garden, smoking his pipe. He had already devoured all the cookies he had brought from the house, but he felt absolutely too lazy to move a bit – even if it would have meant getting more biscuits. The sun was warming his feet nicely, the pipe-weed being excellent this year… Everything was just perfect.

Merry was visiting Sam and his family at the moment, but would come to Pippin’s for the night. Not that they would stay in-doors all evening: they had planned going into Green Dragon later. With a wide yawn, Pippin slumped even deeper into his chair, content for a moment. He took a deep breath from his pipe, trying to make the kind of circles that Gandalf had used to. After a few times of failure he shrugged, deciding that such things were meant for wizards: and he had learned to stay out of wizards’ business a long time ago.

A sound of running feet woke Pippin from his thoughts and he sat up, wondering what all that commotion was about. A chorus of frightened voices filled the air, high voices of children pulling Pippin to his feet. He walked to the gate of his yard, looking over it at a group of parents who were trying to get their offspring under control.

”But we saw them, mama! You must believe us!” a little girl shouted.

“Ugly faces and mean voices,” a boy added, seemingly frightened.

“Now, now, younglings! I am sure that your imagination is playing, or older children are playing some kind of game again,” one of the mothers told to the children.

“But mama! They were real!” the girl shouted, something in her voice making Pippin alert.

“Excuse me,” Pippin called, opening the gate and stepping onto the road. “Would you children mind to tell me exactly what you saw?”

“Oh, master Took, it is not necessary,” one of the adults disagreed – knowing exactly what kind of reputation this exact Took had – but the children were already milling around Pippin.

“They were taller than we! And they walked funnily. And they didn’t like the sun, either.”

“They had some kind of armour on, and they were really noisy as they moved.”

“And smelly!”

“And their skin was all black and leathery and slimy.”

“Wait, wait! All of you,” Pippin exclaimed. “May I ask, and you answer?” The children nodded eagerly, gazing up at Pippin with wide eyes. “Good. Now, did these monsters have yellow eyes? Different from ours.”

“Yes,” one of the boys shouted, “evil eyes.”

“And how was their speech?” Pippin asked, even if he already guessed the answer.

“They used a lot of bad words,” one of the smallest children said, wrinkling her nose. “It was really rough, and noisy.”

“And they had all kind of weapons with them!” one of the boys added almost excited. “But it was entirely different from your sword, Mr. Peregrin.”

“Was it now…” Pippin said, his mind elsewhere. Only one creature that I have faced or heard of could suit into those describing: an Orc. But it cannot be. Not here in Shire. It must be some children, playing the tales I and Merry have told them about. “Well, thank you. You have all been very helpful,” Pippin smiled at the children.

“Are you going to drive those monsters away with your shiny sword?” the little girl asked, her eyes full of trust. “They were very scary. They said they would eat us alive, and… they said a lot of evil things before we ran away.”

“What did they say?” Pippin asked, suddenly curious.

“That they would rip our inners out and devour us whole,” one of the boys said, but no longer smiling. Their mothers also looked terrified, eyeing Pippin angrily.

Pippin shivered despite himself, nodding. “Thank you, again,” he said hastily, turning away. Then he stopped, feeling very stupid. Slowly, he turned back to the children. “Where did you see the monsters?” he asked with a smile.

“On the side of that small river, on the edge of the fields,” a boy said.

“Thank you,” Pippin uttered and then rushed into his house. “Orcs in Shire,” he muttered, pulling open a chest beside his bed. “No other creature would say such a thing. Then again, if it is only children playing, we may teach them some manners…” he muttered. “Now where is that sword of mine,” he swore. “Ah, there!” he chided, pulling his sword out carefully. He checked the blade, and then rushed out of the house, running along the road.

He reached Sam’s house – Bag End, actually – after a while that seemed to last forever, barely stopping on the door to knock at it. Rosie opened the door, smiling at Pippin. “Is Merry still here?” Pippin gasped out, still trying to catch his breathe.

“Oh, yes. Please, come in, mister Peregrin” Rosie said, opening the door further.

“Thank you,” Pippin said and slipped in, missing the glance that Rosie gave him as he passed her – sword in his armpit. “Merry!” Pippin shouted when he reached the living-room. “We have to go.”

“Go?” Merry asked, puzzled. “But we decided to go to the Green Dragon after –”

“No! Now!” Pippin shouted frustrated, ignoring the look Sam was giving him. Pippin reached Merry, taking the other’s arm. “I will explain as soon as we have left this house. Come!”

“Why does mister Pippin have a sword with him?” Sam’s children asked as one, staring at the blade adoringly. Sam gave both Pippin and Merry a hard, meaningful look while Rosie tried to make an explanation for her children.

“All right, all right, I am coming,” Merry grumbled unhappily. “Sam, Rosie, it was a nice day. Bye children! It seems that I must go now, so –” Pippin dragged Merry out before he was able to finish, the younger Hobbit closing the door firmly behind them.

“Pippin!” Merry shouted, yanking his hand back. “What is wrong with you?”

“We have to check something, now,” Pippin said, hurrying along.

“Check what?” Merry wailed.

“Do you have your sword with you?” Pippin asked as he ran ahead, forcing Merry to run along.

“No. Why?”

“Well, it might come in need,” Pippin said, not bothering to explain.

They ran along, leaving the road when the last houses had been passed. Pippin followed a small river, gazing at the dark forest before them. The sun would set soon, and Pippin didn’t wish to be in that forest when the night fell - Orcs or not.

“Pippin…” Merry’s desperate moan made Pippin turn back, finger on his lips.

“Not now, Merry. We must listen. I don’t want to run into them without knowing where they are,” Pippin explained absently, creeping carefully forward.

“Who are ‘they’?” Merry asked, his voice tired.


Marry stopped dead on his tracks, staring at Pippin. And then he began to laugh. “Oh gods, Pippin! What is this stupidity? You dragged me all the way here, making me think something was seriously wrong.”

“Well, isn’t a group of Orcs a serious thing?” Pippin asked, flustered.

“There is no Orcs here,” Merry said, trying to hold his laughter. “We are in the Shire!” he raised his hands in the air, pointing at the village behind them. “Look, I know you have a wild imagination at times, but this…”

“A group of children saw them!” Pippin argued.

“Oh, so this gets even better…” Merry muttered. “Pippin, let’s go,” he turned around, waving his hand.

“Merry, it won’t hurt if we look around, does it?” Pippin begged.

“No more foolishness today,” Merry said. “You have been smoking too much.”

Pippin’s shoulders slumped, his eyes dragging along the line of the forest. “But if there is Orcs out there…”

“There is not,” Merry said, pressing each syllable. “Come on now.”

Pippin looked at Merry, and then to the direction the forest again. Something on the back of his mind told him to follow his instincts and check the forest, but Merry was also right… Sighing, Pippin turned to follow his cousin.

At that very moment a series of loud curses came from the forest, and it was a sound that no Hobbit of any age could have made.

Both Merry and Pippin halted, slowly turning around. Their sharp eyes caught a movement in the underbrush, an unmistakable speech reaching their ears.

“Orcs,” Merry whispered, his voice shaking.

“Yep,” Pippin replied, just as unevenly. His hands clutched to the sheath of his sword, but right then he understood that alone he could not stand against even a small group of Orcs.

Dark shapes emerged from the forest, eyeing the sky suspiciously, last rays of the sun glittering on sharp swords and armour. The Orcs also halted, noticing the Hobbits standing some dozen yards away from them. They all stood frozen for a moment, staring at each other. Clouds drifted over the sun, shadowing the world from its light. A roar of rough, inhuman voices and a banging of metal against one another rose from the distance, the Orcs visible to the Hobbits joining their own voices to the noise.

“Um, Pippin?” Merry mumbled.

“Yes, Merry?” Pippin responded more than a little shakily.

“I think we are in a big trouble,” Merry swallowed, fear making him shake like an autumn leaf. There was no mistake that in the shadows of the forest, and possibly in other sheltered places too, there was waiting a lot more Orcs than the few they saw now.

“Do you hear that?” Pippin spoke up suddenly. Merry cocked his head, listening intently. And then he also heard it.

“Pippin… Run!” Merry shouted, pulling his cousin with him as he raced towards the village. Just after them, a wave of Orcs rushed from the forest, their screams filling the darkening evening.

– – –

Gimli released his axe from its belt, his other hand still secured around Legolas’ waist. The weight of his weapon felt comforting, and he looked around, his face grim. All he was able to see at the moment was the Elves riding around them – and the dark smoke rising to the sky. He was almost able to smell it by now. Poor Hobbits, he thought remorsefully. They are no warriors, and it is beginning to look like that the battle is indeed raging on. All we can do is to hope that there will be something left for us to save.

Legolas shifted in front of Gimli, whispering encouragingly to Morchaint. The horse neighed, speeding up even more. As Gimli looked around again, he noticed that the Elves were getting ahead of the Men. Maybe it is on purpose. Elven horses seem to be worth of their reputation, after all. From that thought his mind turned into another thing, his eyes shifting onto his friend before him. So Legolas’ vision was true, after all our doubting. I truly hope that he is up for this fight, because it will be twice the trouble if he cannot fight: he will not leave the battle without a struggle. The Dwarf’s eyes shifted onto Rafél, riding almost in touch with them. It took a moment for Gimli to hear that Legolas was actually speaking with his guardian. In a middle of a maddening gallop?! Elves! Do they have a sense of danger at all…

Gimli strained his hearing, trying to catch the words, but failed. The wind was whistling in his ears and the sound of horses drowned away the rest of the conversation. A moment later Legolas nodded, Rafél dropping back slightly.

“I will be looking after him,” Rafél said to Gimli, a small smile passing over his fair and ageless features.

“Then there is a two of us,” Gimli shouted back gruffly.

Rafél was silent for a moment, but then nodded. His hand clasped Legolas’ momentarily before he pulled away slightly, giving their horses some space to run. Morchaint neighed, Lumén following the other’s example. The horses matched each other’s pace, running forward side by side.

“Shall we wait for the Men?” Elrohir shouted from the back of the group, making the others turn to look at the Men.

“Nay, they will reach us soon enough when we join to the battle,” Glorfindel answered. He looked at his companions, earning approving nods from everyone.

“I am sure that Aragorn will speak of this, later,” Elladan laughed.

“He just wishes to ride with us, and who could blame him for that?” Elrohir mused.

“Focus, you two,” Dínnor uttered. “You will end up killed one day because of your joking.”

“We are not in a battle yet,” Elrohir pointed, but fell silent after that.

Dínnor smiled, then guided his own horse forward, his cousins mimicking his actions. They reached Legolas, easing back to his pace, folding around him. “Stay close,” Dínnor shouted to Legolas, flashing him a brief smile.

“In your dreams,” Legolas laughed. “I am able to take care of myself.”

“So cocky, isn’t he?” Asthaldo grinned, his hand loosening his short swords in their scabbards.

“Just look after yourselves,” Thalión reminded his cousins, releasing his bow. “Legolas has at least two guardians at the moment, so we can concentrate on our own survival.”

Legolas smiled, shifting as he slid his bow free. They were already close enough to see easily what was going on in the Hobbit-village before them. Orcs were swarming everywhere, the houses set on fire. Remembering his dreams, Legolas shuddered, seeing his nightmares turn to real.

“Prepare!” Haldir shouted, all of them drawing their bows free and setting arrows to the strings.

“Do you think they are the same who attacked Woodland Realm?” Asthaldo asked, his voice strangely low.

“I do not know, but we can always ask,” Dínnor answered, anger in his voice. He knew fear when he heard it in his youngest cousin’s voice, and he knew that most of them were beginning to remember the destruction of Woodland Realm. “)Forsake your fear!(” he shouted, encouraging his kinsmen. “)Face your enemy with no mercy, defend your brothers, and have faith in your Gods!(”

The other Elves answered with various different shouts, and once again Gimli wondered how little he knew of this race. You really didn’t see beneath the layer of coolness and serenity before you truly befriended an Elf, and even years after you were able to learn that there were still some hidden sides in Elven nature.

On the edge of the Hobbit’s village, some of the Orcs were already realising that something was going on. Some of the creatures halted from their task, raising their heads up to see what was happening. And as soon as the first ones realised that it was an Elven party attacking, calls rang out, alarming the rest of the villain-army. A moment later, Elven arrows rose to the sky to meet the gathering Orcs, earning more outraged cries from the twisted beings. Gimli smiled grimly, taking a better hold of his axe, and let out his own war-cry as they crushed into the enemy’s lines.

Far behind the Elves, Aragorn cursed aloud, trying to hurry Roheryn into greater speed. He would make sure that he would speak with his Elven companions long and thoroughly after this battle: he would not take it lightly that he and his men were left behind like this. Éomer, Faramir, and Imrahil were ordering the Men into battle-positions, leaving Aragorn alone with his thoughts, and at the same time giving him an opportunity to examine how the battle went on.

It was not the first time that Aragorn witnessed the Elves fighting Orcs – far from it – but as he looked at the battle raging before him, he couldn’t but admire the systematic and organised attack of the group before them. It was likely that some of those Elves had fought together before, but the way they matched each other’s skills together with so little time of arranging… Aragorn found himself totally venerating the fighting-skills of the Firstborns.

After another moment of observing the battle the force of Men also reached the side of the village, and with excited shouts, the Men joined in. Aragorn drew Andúril, raising it high as he came to the reach of the first Orcs, bringing down his weapons with enough force to slice two Orcs headless at once. From the corner of his eye he saw Faramir right next to him, and he wondered if Legolas felt similar when Rafél was beside him.

“Nice to see you too, Estel!” Elrohir quipped, taking time from his own struggle to throw Aragorn a teasing smile. “What took you so long?”

Aragorn practically made a face at the other, feeling like a youth again, hunting Orcs with his brothers. It had been years since he had felt like this. But the feel of joy was soon forgotten as Aragorn took a look around, seeing the burning grass and dead ones lying on the ground. It was a harsh fall back to reality, a fresh wave of anger blooming in him: innocent Hobbits that wanted nothing but live in peace were being butchered all the while they fought here. With a cry of outrage, Aragorn led his men forward, driving the Orcs back.

Gimli glanced at Aragorn as the Man shouted his challenge for the enemy. “Should we follow him?” he asked, swinging his axe on the right as Legolas attacked to the left.

The Elf turned around, his eyes swiftly finding Aragorn from the midst of the battle. “Let’s keep him in our sight,” he decided, guiding Morchaint forward. The horse neighed loudly, trampling an unfortunate Orc to the ground. Gimli muttered something incoherent, his hold tightening around Legolas’ waist as he fought to keep his balance on the top of the bouncing horse. It was not an easy task to beat down Orcs with a heavy axe and keep yourself on a top of a great horse. But Gimli had yet to admit that his task was fairly easy: he at least was able to fight. On their places behind Men of Gondor, Adír and Fundal were probably only sitting and trying to stay on horseback. I at least have an experience of this. Maybe I should ask Legolas to give my kinsmen a couple of Elven riders next time. It would make their life a lot easier, after all.

An Orc-arrow whirled through the air, hitting Gimli’s shoulder and driving him from his thoughts. The impact drove the Dwarf forward, forcing some of the air out of his lungs. He tried to balance himself, wincing pf the feel of the arrow as it pressed against his shoulder when he sat back up. Legolas had already halted Morchaint, his blue eyes full of concern. “It hit only the armour,” Gimli told his friend reassuringly. “This is why we Dwarves wear them,” he added, smirking widely.

Legolas rolled his eyes, but laughed as Asthaldo raced by them, yanking the arrow free from Gimli’s back as he passed, making the Dwarf yelp in surprise. “Well, let’s just say you were lucky it was an arrow of the Orcs,” the Elf said with a smile.

“And do the Elves have a reason to shoot me?” Gimli inquired softly, ending his question into a curse as he tried to yank his axe free from a fresh corpse. Just then Morchaint shifted to the side, freeing Gimli’s blade – and almost dropping the Dwarf to the ground.

“Easy,” Legolas murmured, steadying Gimli’s dangerously tottering form.

“Could we consider fighting like normal people: on a solid ground?” Gimli asked, throwing the Elf a meaningful glance.

Legolas looked around in the darkening night, trying to evaluate the situation. “It is pretty crowded down there,” he noted.

“So it is up here!” Gimli announced, letting out an annoyed shout as one Orc forced Morchaint jump to the side. “Just let me down…”

“I will absolutely not! You would get yourself killed in no time!” Legolas argued, trying to turn so he could face the Dwarf even partly. “You must be patient and –” Legolas never finished as an excited shout came from beside them, a lucky Orc reaching up to yank the Elf down from horseback. Legolas let out a surprised yelp, dropping his other knife as he hit the ground. Gimli fell flat onto Morchaint’s back, trying not to fall.

“Got you, Elven-bastard,” the Orc snarled, raising its filthy sword to run it through the Elf on his feet. Legolas struggled against the hand buried in the front of his tunic, trying to twist so he would reach his other knife. But before he or the Orc made another move, a blade drove through the Orc’s forehead from behind, stopping the evil creature. Legolas looked up with relieved eyes, meeting his guardian’s rather displaced gaze.

“Focus, you two, and stop your bantering! It will get you both killed!” Rafél hissed, making Legolas flinch back.

“Yes,” the Prince replied meekly, reaching out for his fallen knife and got up.

“Down!” Gimli shouted, making Legolas drop back to the ground while a swinging axe cut the air where his head had just been. An Orc behind Legolas, however, did not have time to dodge, and with a gurgling sound it collapsed to the ground. Legolas looked at the fallen enemy, and then up at his guardians, sending them a thankful smile. “Get back here,” Gimli said, helping Legolas back to his original place. “Now, let’s hunt some Orcs, shall we?” he shouted, and with a shared look, Rafél and Legolas resumed the battle.

At some distance away, Thalión put away his bow and drew his sword, signalling to Dínnor beside him that he would cover himself now. Dínnor nodded, quickly checking Asthaldo’s whereabouts before joining his blade with Thalión’s. The youngest Cousin appeared just then, driving back a hindering group of Orcs with his horse. “All seems to be in control elsewhere,” Asthaldo informed, clinging his blade against Thalión’s sword as a sign of greeting.

“Let’s hope the things will stay that way to the end of this battle,” Thalión replied, his weapon sending a spray of black blood into the air as it slew an Orc nearest to him.

“How was Legolas?” Dínnor questioned, moving his horse around to meet a new wall of enemies.

“Fine, as far as I can tell,” Asthaldo answered after a moment, fighting off his own share of the Orcs. “Rafél and Gimli are with him, so there should be no reason for us to worry.”

Soon after their small debate the Cousins were forced to concentrate upon their current battle, enemies pushing at them continually. But as the night wore on and the moon sailed over the sky, the Orcs began to slowly draw back. The defenders gained an upper hand in the battle, pushing the villains further from the Hobbit-buildings. And when the first light of the day broke from the east, the Orcs retreated.

Aragorn’s men gathered together, eyeing their enemies distrustfully as they faded into the darkness of a nearby forest. Rohirrim joined around their own Lord, Éomer sending out some of his riders. “They will see how massive this attack truly was,” the King of Rohan explained as he halted beside Aragorn. “I am afraid that we partook only a small piece of the battle.”

Aragorn nodded silently, gratefulness shining in his eyes. “Thank you. News is more than welcome.” Then the dark Man fell silent again, steady grey eyes turning into the direction of the destroyed village. “So many innocent lives…” he whispered, shaking his head. “We should have hurried along.”

“And yet we would have had too few men to protect entire Shire,” Éomer pointed out softly. “Shall we move further and see what we can do to aid the Halflings?”

“There are many who will need our help before this is over,” Aragorn murmured quietly, turning around to find Faramir and Irolas so he could give further commands to his men.

Elven eyes followed the Orcs for long, making sure they were indeed leaving. Halting his spurting, restless horse, Elladan watched after the distancing creatures. His twin halted beside him, and together they looked in silence as the Orcs disappeared from their sight.

“They could have won the battle,” an irritated voice spoke out, making the Elves turn at Asthaldo. “Why leave when they had the keys of victory?”

“The day came too swiftly. We all know that Orcs loathe being under the light of the Sun,” Haldir replied, frowning slightly.

“They could have ended us since we arrived to the battlefield,” Dínnor observed. “This is merely another plan of the enemy. But they shall return to complete their task,” he said with a certain voice.

“Then we must be ready,” Aragorn called out. “Let us move to the village and see how much destruction our enemy truly got done.”

“I hear voices,” Legolas uttered suddenly, halting Morchaint beside Roheryn. “There are people coming to us.” The blue eyes turned at the direction of the still-burning village, a clear memory of his previous dream making him shudder. I truly foresaw this, so many times. But yet it couldn’t prepare me for the truth…

“Las?” an impatient voice called, Gimli’s worried hand resting upon Legolas’ shoulder.

“What?” the Elf asked, turning to look at the Dwarf.

“Could I get to the ground now?” Gimli replied with a strange look.

“Of course, my friend,” Legolas said with a voice of an apology. “I was in my thoughts.”

“You tend to be so, far too often on these days,” Gimli muttered as he was lowered to the soil. Legolas didn’t say anything, but his eyes soon left Gimli’s, making the Dwarf sigh. “You still don’t give in? Such a pride as yours will lead you to nowhere but to more harm…” he muttered, stretching his aching limbs. Adír and Fundal were quick to join him, the youth looking overly excited about their victory.

At that moment a group of Hobbits came into view, the small beings halting at safe distance from the bloodied, battle-worn Men. But two came forward, almost breaking into a run as they came closer. Legolas glanced at the arriving couple, his eyes widening in surprise. Aragorn followed his line of vision, understanding only a moment later what his friend saw. “Aragorn!” came a high voice, another one of the arriving Hobbits waving at them. The two halted before the Men, dazing up at the grim faces. Then they walked forward, finally seeing the King of Men again.

Relief bloomed in Aragorn’s eyes, the Man swiftly dismounting. “Merry, Pippin!” he exclaimed, walking to the waiting Hobbits.

“You have no idea how good it is to see you,” Merry spoke up, even remembering to bow at Aragorn.

“No wonder those filthy creatures ran off so suddenly,” Pippin smiled, leaning on his sword wearily.

“I am afraid we have a little to do with that,” came a gruff voice, and Gimli stepped to the Hobbits, gaining joyous shouts from them. “The Elves here suspected them escaping the day rather than us.”

“But they ran off anyway,” Pippin snorted. Then he looked up again, his eyes widening as he looked around. “I did not realize you had this many Elves with you!” the Hobbit gasped. “And other Dwarves, too,” he added, noticing Gimli’s companions.

“Adír, at the service of you and your family,” Adír said with a deep bow. “And this is Fundal, also in your service.” Fundal bowed as well, earning one from Pippin and Merry.

“I am Meriadoc Brandybuck, and this is my cousin, Peregrin Took,” Merry introduced them, not solely to the Dwarves of course, but also to the Elves who were looking at them with various expressions. After the compliments were changed there was a hushed silence, eyes observing the people on all sides. Most of the Men had seen Hobbits – this couple especially – before, but it did little to satisfy their interest. To some Elves this was a closest look at the Hobbits they had ever got – not speaking of the fact that these were two of the Nine Walkers. To Fundal, all this was new and the youth wasn’t able to hide his curiosity much. As for Hobbits, they were amazed by the Elves, by a young Dwarf, and generally at the entire army’s existence.

“I suppose we should not just stand here,” Pippin said after a moment, gazing back at their village. A mournful look came over his features, his shoulders slumping. “There is a lot to do before life will be back to normal…” he whispered, shaking his head.

Aragorn lowered a comforting hand at Pippin’s shoulder, giving the other a reassuring smile. “I and my companions will help you as much as we can. Éomer set out riders to gather up information about the condition of entire Shire. And in the meanwhile, we will take care of the wounded here. What say you?”

“We have no way of thanking you,” Merry said as his cousin stayed silent. “There are many in need of a healer,” he continued, biting his lip. “Some are already beyond help,” he whispered. Then he turned at Éomer, greeting the other with a warm, small smile. “I thank you, also, King Éomer.”

“I am no King to you,” Éomer said to the Hobbit, dismounting as well. “I only wish we would have came sooner. This attack has brought much devastation to your kin.”

“But you are here now,” Pippin spoke out finally. “Let us go deeper to the village, then. There is a lot for us to do.”

– – –

As his eyes searched the ruined village around them, Aragorn couldn’t but admire this small folk yet again. Even if unused to wars and battles, Hobbits were now moving around in concentrated silence, tending their wounded and setting up shelters. There was fear and confusion on their faces, yes – their silence spoke of that as well – but their minds were set. This small folk will survive anything. Not because they are simple or narrow-minded people, but because they are strong. Their hearts know such intrepidity that all Men should envy, Aragorn thought with a small smile.

“Strider?” came a hesitant call, ending up into soft muttering about too many names. Aragorn turned around, facing bright-red Samwise Gamgee. “I mean, King Elessar,” Sam tried again, giving the Man a clumsy bow.

“Master Samwise,” Aragorn nodded, fighting back his amused look. “I am glad to see you are well.”

“I was one of the fortunate ones,” Sam replied. “Me and my family are fine, though the same thing cannot be said about most of my folk.” Sad eyes moved over the scenery around them, taking in the destruction of his once beautiful world. “I never thought it to extend here,” Sam muttered. “I mean, there had been evil, of course, but this is worse. They did not come to oppress or rule. They came to kill.”

“I am sorry, Sam,” Aragorn said softly, even if he knew that his words wouldn’t help much.

“Thank you,” the Hobbit said soberly. “Of all people, I am glad to have you here. But how did you come so swiftly?” he asked, as if thinking that Aragorn had brought the Orcs with him.

“We knew of the battle… in a way,” Aragorn replied slowly, suddenly understanding how ridiculous their explanation must sound. “But we were not sure that the battle was actually coming.”

“Were you following the Orcs?” Sam tried again, frowning.

“No, to be honest,” the Man said, his eyes searching for Legolas. The other was helping Gimli with a new shelter, oblivious to all else. “Legolas saw a vision. We couldn’t be sure it would come true, but we didn’t dare to risk it.”

Sam looked at the Elf with a new wave of amazement. “What wondrous creatures those Elves are,” he breathed. “I must thank him –”

“I would not do that, Sam,” Aragorn warned suddenly. “Legolas doesn’t wish to speak of it.”

“Why not? Such a gift…”

“He has no such gift,” the King of Men sighed. “That is why it nags him. Better to leave him alone.”

Sam nodded thoughtfully. “What will come next?” he asked aloud. “The Shire will be rebuilt, but the enemy left so suddenly. Is there a chance they would come again?”

“The Elves are expecting another attack to take place tonight,” Aragorn stated as calmly as possible. “I am not sure, but I have faith in the opinion of Elves. All of them have fought this enemy far longer than I have lived.”

“Another attack?!” Sam shouted, his eyes flying wide. “Tonight!”

Aragorn indicated Sam to be silent, many curly heads already turned into their direction. “Do not scare the others. They have more important things in their minds than to worry about the future.”

“More important than a batt–”

“Sam!” Aragorn hissed. “Take a hold of yourself. There is no reason to panic. What they all need most is a leader. Someone to tell them what to do. Someone who will make them feel safe. If you show your fear, your kinsmen will follow, and there is no way for you to survive the coming night.”

“Is there a chance to survive, anyway?” Sam asked grumpily.

“I am still here,” the Man said, kneeling before the Hobbit. “What you need to do is to gather your people further away from the battle. Éomer’s men are trying to collect all the Hobbits here before nightfall, but we need you to take them to safety.”

Sam nodded, his eyes still uncertain. “There are so many of them. The enemies, I mean. How can you fight them all?”

“I am still working on that,” Aragorn confessed. “But gather your strength. You will need it soon, Samwise the Brave.”

– – –

Story Info / Part two…