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.
Author’s Note: Hello again, to all! It took a rather long time to finish this chapter, but here it is! I hope the length of it will cover the time used to its writing. And the substance, of course :) It is time to say bye-bye for the Shire, and move on! Thaíly will appear here, and in Bree we shall meet old friends… Welcome aboard!
“We are coming.”
“There is no other possibility.”
“Simply no other way.”
“You don’t have any another choice.”
“And even if you would say ‘no’, we would still be coming.”
“Even if you would leave us behind, tied in sacks.”
“Because this time, we know the way! We can easily come after you.”
“Yes, Pippin. Rivendell, remember.”
“Ah, yes. So we know where you are heading at, and can easily follow!” the younger Hobbit shouted triumphantly, hands across his chest, head tilted up with pride and self-assurance.
Most of the Elves tried to keep a straight face, glancing from one side to another, but Gandalf and the lords of Men standing beside the Maiar were not suffering of amusement. They knew that the short creatures before them were deadly-serious, and capable of many things when they wished to achieve something.
And at this point it was quite clear that they wanted to leave with the company that was preparing to move out of Shire.
“This is not a jolly outing,” Éomer warned, shifting in his place between Aragorn and Faramir. He also knew the stamina and stubbornness of the Halflings, but was not willing to risk these two: like the others, he also knew they had done their share in the past – for the good of all the races in Middle-earth.
“We are aware of that,” Pippin said, though he looked all but that.
“We have the right to defend our people, like you defend yours,” Merry added, his voice firm and steady. His eyes shone up at the taller beings, bright and certain. “We are coming.” Pippin gave a quick nod beside him.
“Very well,” Gandalf sighed, leaning heavily on his staff. “You may come, but remember this: when we reach Rivendell, you may reconsider. This time you can turn back home whenever you so desire.” The Hobbits nodded eagerly, not putting another thought at the meaning behind the Wizard’s words. They bounced off to gather their belongings while chattering joyously with each other. Gandalf shook his head, but there was a warm light in his eyes. “They shall do much before our journey is over, I deem.”
“Good or evil?” Éomer grimaced, making Faramir cough in attempt to hide his smile. “As far as I can remember, they have always been good to get themselves into trouble.”
“Trouble or a twist of fate?” Gandalf asked in turn, his eyes moving over the field where their company had gathered. “We shall see what the world has to offer us,” he murmured, grey eyes following Gimli as the Dwarf moved towards a group of horses. Usually, Dwarves kept their distance from the great animals, but like in many things, Gimli was an exception.
“Legolas?” the Dwarf called out, trying to spot his friend among the animals. Soft words carried to his ears, and he pushed an Elven horse aside, finally spotting his companion. “There you are,” he huffed, halting. The Elf was speaking softly to his great, black horse, the animal’s head resting against his shoulder, its ears moving constantly as it listened the fair voice. Morchaint gave a soft snort, pushing closer to its rider. Legolas smiled, his tone too soft for Gimli to hear. “I guess someone is happy to see you…” the Dwarf finally stated, looking at the couple before him.
“I haven’t seen him since… that night,” Legolas halted in mid-sentence, visibly shivering. He smoothed the dark coat again, whispering something to the pricked up ears. “He has been worried, but now we shall ride together again.”
“Horse being worried…” Gimli might have disagreed on that before, but as he had spent some amount of time around Elves, he quite believed this was true: everything seemed to be more alive and conscious around the Eldar. And Morchaint was very fond of Legolas, so it was not a surprise to actually hear the horse had been worried. Gimli would have been, after such events those two had been through lately… “Speaking of which,” he re-directed his thoughts, “I have something I need to speak with you about.”
“Yes?” Legolas asked, drawing his attention from the horse for a moment.
“My kinsmen… I am sure they appreciate the skills of Men, but I was wondering if a few of your people could bear them on their horses?” Gimli looked at the Elf with hopeful eyes, wishing that his request would not be met with roaring laughter. But he knew Legolas well enough to expect that would not happen.
“Of course,” Legolas smiled, for once not using the opportunity to tease his Dwarven friend. “I shall see to it.”
“See to what?” another voice asked, Thalión stepping into view, his hand on the neck of his own horse.
“Gimli wished that his kinsmen could ride with some of the Elves,” Legolas told his friend.
“Is there a trouble with the Men who carried them this far?” the Cousin asked, his brow furrowing.
“No,” Gimli hastened to explain. “It just… It seems to be easier to ride with an Elf.” It hurt his pride to admit this, but then again, it wasn’t about him this time, but his companions. If he could ease their journey – which an Elven rider would do – then he would commit some sacrifices on his own side.
“Ah,” Thalión nodded. He turned his head, and then barked out: “Elladan, Elrohir!” The twins, seeing for their own mounts, looked up in alarm. After receiving a motion from the elder Elf, they came to the trio swiftly.
“What is the matter?” Elladan asked, glancing at Legolas and Gimli before returning his gaze to Thalión.
“Would you and your brother do us a small favour?” After receiving two identically timed nods, Thalión went on. “Adír and Fundal will ride with Elves, from here on. You can take them, right?”
“Of course,” Elrohir smiled.
“It would be our honour,” his brother added, giving Gimli a short bow.
Gimli returned the gesture, nodding at Legolas and Thalión. “Come then, Lords of Rivendell. My companions are right on the other side of the small ridge there…” The voices disappeared, the twins taking off with the Dwarf, leaving Legolas alone with the Cousin.
Thalión smiled, shaking his head. His eyes followed the others, and after being sure there was no-one else around, he gave his attention to Legolas. “You seem a lot better,” he said, smiling softly.
“I feel better,” Legolas answered, smoothing Morchaint’s forelocks absently.
“And Rafél has nothing to do with that?” Thalión smiled even wider, yet his voice was still low enough for only the two of them to hear.
Legolas jumped, looking at the other startled. “How do you…” he stopped himself before he went further, shaking his head. “We spoke,” he said instead, turning his face away to hide the faint blush on his cheeks.
“There is nothing to be ashamed of in love,” Thalión reassured the Prince, his hand settling on the strong shoulder, turning the younger around to face him. “I am rather glad that you finally… saw it fit to act out your feelings.” His expression was fond, almost dreamy as he thought of the last night.
“How do you know?” Legolas finally asked, curious. “I thought we kept it hidden…”
“I think many haven’t noticed the change, yet,” Thalión replied. “I might have not. At times, I thought there was something in your encounters that spoke of something more. As you didn’t seem to notice it, and neither did anyone else, I could have told myself it was nothing. But instead I looked deeper. And if this is the result, I am happy about it.” He gave Legolas’ shoulder a squeeze. “I saw things yesterday that I should have not, and for that I apologise. But long will my heart now endure the darkness before us, knowing that you have found happiness. For he will make you happy.”
Legolas nodded, a bit dazed from all this. “You spied on us?” he finally asked, trying to make it sound like an accusation.
“Maybe a little,” the elder answered bashfully, drawing away. “But I shall not speak of it. To none. It is a right that only you and Rafél hold.” Then he guided his horse away, setting out to find his cousins.
Legolas looked after him, pondering about what he had just heard. As a hand touched his shoulder from behind, he smiled, lifting his own hand to touch the fingers briefly. “I think we have might have been careless,” he pointed out, turning his head slightly to the side to meet his guardian’s eyes.
Rafél frowned, looking after Thalión. “What did he say?” he asked, Lumén pushing against his back impatiently.
“Nothing too alarming,” Legolas sighed. “He knows, though.” Rafél seemed puzzled for a moment, but then his eyes widened, making Legolas laugh merrily. “Come now, that look is not becoming of you. After all, you are the elder one of us,” the Prince whispered, nudging their foreheads together before mounting Morchaint. “It is a good day to ride,” he quipped, urging the horse on.
“Indeed,” Rafél muttered, lifting himself lightly on his own steed, taking after Legolas.
On the field, many voices joined together in an exchange of gossips and orders. Rohirrim were taking their places on the line, swift and controlled in their movements. Faramir gathered the Gondorian soldiers with the help of Irolas, visibly envying the skill of the Horse-masters. Aragorn stood beside Roheryn on the edge of the preparations, speaking with Haldir and his brothers. Other Elves and the Dwarves hovered near the King, all absorbed to their final tasks before departing or just spending time. Gandalf, on the other hand, seemed to be waiting for something.
Legolas halted his horse beside those of his Elven companions, Rafél constantly on his side. It made a familiar tingle of safety move up and down his spine, and the Prince looked back, smile passing his features. Not much had changed since the days in his home-woods: Rafél still followed him like a shadow. Yet things were different, but only the two of them knew about it. As well as Thalión, he reminded himself. “Are we ready to leave?” he called out, making Aragorn lift his gaze.
“Gandalf has something in his mind,” the King answered, glancing at the Wizard. “We shall move out as soon as he is ready.”
“Do not be hasty,” added a high, excited voice, the statement followed with laughter. It seemed that both Pippin and Merry thought the words of wisdom as a grand joke.
Gandalf smiled as the two shorter beings reached him, followed closely by Sam who did not look nearly as happy as his companions. “Here we are, my friends,” he began, giving Sam a fond look. “Do not look so grim, Master Samwise: they shall both return. We shall see to it.”
“They had better,” Sam muttered, glaring at his kinsmen. “There is an awfully lot to do here, and they merely wish to escape all the hard work.” Another harsh glare was directed to the direction of certain Hobbits.
“You know why we are leaving,” Merry said seriously. He stepped closer to Sam, putting a comforting hand on the other’s shoulder. “We shall return before you notice. Just take care of yourself – and everyone else. Just like before.”
Yet they all knew things were not as before, however much they would have hoped for it.
Sam nodded, then looked up at the Wizard again, who was now sided by Aragorn. “Do you think we actually have to do that? Escape? Hide ourselves?” His voice was even, but his eyes betrayed the fear within.
“It never hurts to be prepared,” Aragorn answered, throwing a quick glance at Legolas. “Keep your eyes and ears open, and all shall be well.”
The Hobbit nodded, still unhappy of the situation. “I will see to it. Just bring these two rascals back – in one peace, preferably.”
Pippin laughed, his eyes bouncing between the preparing Men and Sam. “We’ll be fine. We have seen worse, remember?”
“I would rather not…” Sam muttered darkly.
Pippin huffed, shrugging. “Think of it as you like. This will be a great adventure! No Dark Lords or Evil Rings this time. What can happen? And we are now capable warriors, too. Last time we left, we knew nothing of…. anything!” he ended with a joyous smile.
“Maybe you should stay home,” Merry pondered, an eyebrow lifted at his cousin.
Pippin made a face back at Merry, which in turn made the others shake their heads.
“We are ready to depart, my Lords,” Faramir put in, joining to the conversation.
Gandalf nodded, drawing a deep breath of air and pulling himself to his full height. “Good. Now, then: you have my blessings, Samwise. With you here, my dreams shall be much easier and less dark. But beware! We do not know what lies ahead of us, and what we shall face might in turn affect to many things. Even here, at the Shire.”
“I wish you good luck on jour journey – wherever it may lead,” Sam responded. He sounded even more nervous than before, clearly reading the warning in Gandalf’s voice. His eyes looked over the faces both familiar and new. “You will be in my thoughts.”
“You make a good leader, Master Samwise,” Aragorn smiled, tapping Sam on the shoulder. “I just hope your people know that, as well.”
“They chose me,” Sam blushed, for once remembering it was not a mere Ranger he was talking to, but the King of Men. “And I have watched great people around me long enough to learn a trick or two.”
Aragorn chuckled and bowed, hand upon his heart.
“If we are done with words, let there be actions!” Gimli growled from behind, fingering his axe. “Hobbits can take care of themselves: they have done so this far. There is great hidden valour within them. Let us be on our way, and hope we are not in such a great trouble as you deem,” he glanced at Gandalf darkly.
Before Gandalf was able to give the Dwarf a proper answer, Legolas guided Morchaint closer and bend down to touch Gimli’s shoulder. “Come.” A simple word was rarely – if ever – enough to subdue a Dwarf, but Gimli seemed to understand what was the best for himself¬¬¬¬¬. With an already familiar movement, Gimli grabbed Legolas’ hand and allowed himself to be pulled on the great horse.
Éomer joined them on his own horse, looking from side to another. “It seems we are ready.” He looked down at the Hobbits, then rode a little closer. “It would be my honour, Master Brandybuck, if you would ride with me.”
Merry was bursting with pride as he was lifted to sit before the King of Mark. With a smile of his own, Éomer pulled his horse back, allowing the others to go for their own mounts.
Pippin tried not to look disappointed as his cousin was lifted on a horse. Surely he had known they would ride with Men, but Éomer… Unfair! Just because he was dressed up as one of the Rohirrim and rode to the Battle of Pelennor Fields with them doesn’t mean he has the right to ride with a King. Or that he and Lord Éomer are friends, because Merry knew Lady Éowyn so well... He did not think more of that, suddenly remembering some of their friends had passed away recently. Unnaturally so. With a deep sigh he lifted his belongings, wondering if one of Gondorian soldiers would take him as his load. Just for the sake of the past.
“Master Peregrin?” came a hesitant call, making Pippin turn on his heels. Faramir smiled a bit uncertainly, his own horse standing beside him. “I would be glad to ride with you, if you so wish.”
Pippin opened his mouth, but instead of a joyous shout he merely nodded eagerly. “More than glad, Lord Faramir,” he chided. Faramir was maybe not a King, but he was a great man, and one Pippin was greatly fond of. With a nod from the Steward, he was lifted on horseback, soon followed by the Man himself.
Aragorn tried to hide his smile as he watched the final preparations. He hadn’t mentioned to anyone about the coming of the Hobbits, knowing it would have been pointless to tell anyone who didn’t already know. He had thought about their riders by himself, however, knowing he could not give those two in the care of just anyone.. Now the problem was solved smoothly, and they were ready to move on.
“Some things stay as the same,” a gruff voice laughed gently.
“I see this as a good thing,” a fairer one joined to the conversation.
“I didn’t say it was a bad thing.”
“Did I imply so?”
Aragorn rolled his eyes, glancing at Rafél who sat in indecision beside his Prince and the arguing Dwarf. He did not envy the other’s task to watch Legolas – which in turn meant suffering his and Gimli’s endless bickering.
“I merely made a statement, and you are immediately reading it wrong. At times I wonder if you Elves have any sense of reason in your light heads,” Gimli went on.
“Knowing the gloomy race of yours, I must expect that the things you say must be somehow negatively tinged,” Legolas replied, almost as if educating an ignorant child.
“Gloomy? Negative? And what of the Elves? You just keep mourning, seeing the dark side of matters when all sensible beings –”
“Enough, you two,” Gandalf called out. “We are all glad that Legolas is well – enough to have a sparring match with you, Gimli – but we must hurry. We have possibly lost too much time here,” he murmured, his voice drifting out. His eyes roamed the horizon in front of them, as if searching answers. As he found none, he turned to the Lords of Men gathered close to him. “Aragorn, Éomer! Let us head out.” It was enough of a command to make the Men move forth without a separate command from their leaders. No one complained, however, and with a thunder of hooves, the army moved ahead.
Sam stood alone on the edge of the field, staring at the disappearing cavalry. Among them rode many of his dearest friends. The knowledge that each of them – leaving out his kinsmen – were great warriors and had faced many foes long before he was even born did not ease his mind or made him fear less for them. He had heard the cries of the Nazgûl, and he couldn’t call down the dark feel that the Black Riders would be the least of their worries. “Go safe, and may the Valar look after you. I doubt no one else will, but you yourself,” the lonely Hobbit whispered, pulling his coat closer around him as a cold wind swept through the abandoned and trampled field. After another moment of silence Sam turned back home, thinking about Rosie and his children, and a plate full of hot stew that was no doubt waiting for him.
Near the line of the forest, moving out from the darkness the thick branches created, shadows came out to the open. They trailed across the field, never straying far from the normal shadows cast down by the trees. Following the path the army had just taken, they swept over the ground until they reached the end of the woods. They halted and as if gazing after the distancing force, waited for a moment. A soft, barely audible whisper filled the air, turning to a hiss of something completely evil. Then they went down and vanished among the shadows of the trees, and all was silent again.
Story Info / Part two...