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The Last Journey: Chapter 34: Suspicions and Uncertainty

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.

~ ~ ~

Author’s Notes: Hello again, and welcome! We are, once again, one step closer the unravelling of the dark secrets of this story – yet not quite there! From this on, the plot turns ever more hectic and dark, so prepare: a lot of action, pain, anguish and darkness are coming – if not in this chapter, then in those to that follow ;) Keep your senses sharp, or it might catch you unawares!

This chapter is a good sign of what the future beholds. Stay along, and you shall eventually find out what really looms in the shadows!

Read, enjoy, and review! That is the best way I can learn that I am doing the things a right way. For those who have already left a comment, I give huge thanks! You give me enough push to continue swifter than I otherwise would, and it is always nice to hear a second opinion. Or a third… ;)

Now, let the darkness truly begin!

Chapter 34: Suspicions and Uncertainty

A Few days later,

Gap of Rohan

Aragorn didn’t know which God to thank of their safe, uninterrupted journey. They were reaching Rohan with a good speed, and with less trouble than any of them had expected. Yet we all are waiting, expecting for the difficulty to ensue, Aragorn thought. A grim smile appeared to his features, his eyes gazing at the land around them. The Elves were scouting ahead, but by far, they had neither seen nor felt anything alarming. And Elves rarely missed any movement of an enemy. However, this enemy seems to have skills to worm its way right to our rear. The thought did not make him any happier, most of his high spirits diminished by this.

Gandalf must have been thinking along the same lines as the Wizard kept frowning and tugging his beard in thought, sometimes lifting his gaze and checking their surroundings yet again. He was not restless – but not completely at ease with their fortune, either.

“If this is the calm before the storm, remind me to mark it for further events,” Éomer muttered beside Aragorn.

“Why do you Big People always worry about everything?” Pippin enquired, munching an apple Faramir had found for him. “See! It is a beautiful day, sun warming us nicely, nothing alarming is in sight, and we are moving on quicker than we thought possible. Why to linger on gloomy thoughts?!”

“True,” Faramir stated, thoughtful. “But serenity like this tends to end far too quickly – and with little warning. We must be on our guard at all times, especially when we do not know what our enemy plans to do next.”

“It would be fun to know what our enemy is,” Merry voiced his own opinion. “Everyone speaks of Sauron, yet none seems to believe that!”

“We do not want to lean on a wrong assumption,” Aragorn explained. As unhappy as he was about the same fact, he knew it would turn disastrous if they assumed too much, too early – especially if it turned out that they had been entirely wrong with their fears. “It is better to progress with caution, and end up victorious.”

“True words,” a deep, heavily accented voice came from behind them, Celeborn joining to the discussion. “As fondly as I remember that young Ranger, I come to respect the Man grown of him even more,” he smiled at Aragorn.

The King bowed his head, lifting a hand to his heart. “I’ve had great teachers, my Lord.”

Celeborn nodded. “Indeed, yet that does not necessarily mean that you learn anything from them.”

“I have made my mistakes – and learned from them,” the Man answered grimly. Suddenly he sat up in his saddle, his eyes narrowing as he stared ahead of him. The others directed their eyes to a same line with his, immediately realising what was wrong: several Elves came over a small rise, galloping towards them.

Haldir halted his horse in front of the others, the animal snorting with effort. His brothers stayed behind him, meeting the others’ questioning glances with stoned expressions. No questions were spoken, for Haldir spoke first: “We encountered a small group of Men, some miles ahead of us. They come from Rohan. We asked their errand, for they were seemingly in a great hurry, and they spoke of an advancing enemy.” His cool eyes turned to Éomer, something akin to a smile playing on his lips. “I have seldom seen people as revealed as when I informed them that their King is riding right behind us.”

“Advancing enemy?” Celeborn asked, his face alarmed.

Haldir nodded, turning to his Lord. “They were not sure of the number, but one thing I got out of them: it is not an army of Orcs that is crossing Rohan. It is one of Men.”

- - -

It had taken a moment before Haldir’s news sank in completely. It was followed by a swift ride to the place where the Twins waited with the small group of Rohan Men. Great indeed was the joy of those Men when they saw their Lord, and after another while, Aragorn, alongside his companions, was filled with all the information possible.

More information we get, more confused we become, the King of Men wondered as he rode in the head of the army. Elves had divided before them: some dwelling close to the army, others riding further to secure a safe passing – or return to warn their small army of any enemy. There should be no worry that this strange army would appear before us. They have already passed Edoras, but it is still a long way until they come upon us. We shall reach the Helm’s Deep safely before them, however swiftly they should move. What would happen then, none of them dared to guess.

It seemed that this army from East was merely crossing the lands of the Horselords. No message had come from Gondor, which meant they had taken a path north from Aragorn’s kingdom. Relieved as he was, Aragorn could not fight off the nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach. What is the meaning of this? Where did this army come from, and what is their goal – or purpose? Gritting his teeth together, he fought off his pointless thoughts. He would only cause himself a headache like this. I only wish that Legolas and his companions are having an easier road than we are currently facing. That idea did not get him any more comfortable, and he turned his head to find someone to talk to. Not the last time in his life, he blessed the race of Halflings.

“Shall we stop in Helm’s Deep?” Pippin’s voice carried over the sound of hooves, clear in Aragorn’s ears as Faramir was riding next to him.

“Yes,” Aragorn smiled at the smaller being. “There we shall have more news, hopefully, and we can make our own plans.”

The Hobbit nodded, looking down for a moment. “I know this is not a good moment, but… I am hungry.”

Aragorn actually laughed, then turned at the miserable Hobbit. “When we reach Helm’s Deep, you and your cousin can sit down to eat. A proper meal. That’s a promise.”

Pippin’s face lightened up and he tried to catch a glimpse of Merry, but the other Hobbit was on the other side of the army with Éomer. Faramir turned to look behind him, alarmed by the constant squirming. “You wouldn’t happen to have any food in your saddlebag?” Pippin asked as he decided that finding Merry now was impossible. He could just as well seek to fill his empty stomach.

Faramir looked at Aragorn, then freed his other hand from the reins, smile on his lips. “You must be lucky today, because I thought of you when we packed for this day’s journey,” he stated as he dug out a piece of bread. Pippin took the offered food with a gratified smile, falling silent as he focused on staying on horse and eating his snack. “Do we have to ride through the night to reach the Deep?” Faramir turned back to his King.

Aragorn glanced at the sky, then at the mountains rising before them. “We should reach the Deep before dusk, with this speed.”

Indeed, the sun was slowly disappearing behind the Misty Mountains when the army arrived to Helm’s Deep. Men stood on the battlements, welcoming both the Men of their own people and those of Gondor with shouts and calls of horns. After the army was inside, the gates closed behind them.

The tension could be easily sensed in the air when the Kings’ company halted their hoses on the courtyard. Armoured soldiers stood everywhere, people from the nearby village milling on the passageways. In overall, this all reminded Aragorn of the latest battle he had fought here, against Saruman’s army.

An old woman passed their group, lead by a younger woman and a group of children. The youngsters stared wide-eyed to the shining armours and noble Men. The old woman, however, halted in the sigh of Elves that were just dismounting. “Dwimmerlaik,” she hissed, eyes narrowing. Elves stared at her in wonder, and the woman dragged her away with many apologies.

“What was that all about?” Haldir questioned, turning to Éomer who stood beside him.

The King looked both amused and ashamed, lifting his hands as a defence. “It is a word that my people use of evil spirits.” Haldir lifted an eyebrow, visibly not understanding. Éomer actually blushed under the Eldar’s stare. “Among my people, especially the old, it is still believed that even the Ents and… the Elves are such spirits. Lothlórien seemed a cursed, forbidden place to us, at old times. Some of that superstition is still alive, it seems.”

Haldir nodded hesitantly, then smiled. “I see.”

Éomer glanced at Aragorn, uncertain what to do. He knew that an offended Elven-pride was not a thing to play with. Least of all he wanted to do was to anger the Fair Folk.

“Do not worry, Lord of Mark: we understand such beliefs, as we have not done much to dispel them, either,” Haldir noted, still smiling. He glanced after the old woman, bowing at her graciously. The woman merely stared, then walked away with her family while muttering something in her own tongue.

Twins laughed, but were soon silenced by a harsh glare from Celeborn. “Right,” Elladan mumbled. “Shall we find some news, now? And perhaps some food,” he added, glancing at the Hobbits who seemed to be waiting for something.

“Good thinking,” Gandalf chuckled. “Éomer, if you would kindly spare one of your men to guide these two to the kitchen,” the Wizard pointed at Merry and Pippin. “The rest of us shall go and find some news.”

“I will send my Elves out to scout for the enemy,” Celeborn informed the others, Haldir already back on his horse. His brothers, Ithika, and Khai soon followed.

“Very well,” the Wizard nodded. “Search for any sign of the enemy, but do not risk anything.” He looked thoughtful for a moment, then spoke again, “If anything alarming appears, we must send a word to the north.”

“I can do that,” Khai volunteered, glancing at the sky. “A hawk is quick enough, when I am able to find and summon one. The only problem will be that Legolas’ group might have not reached Eryn Lasgalen yet.”

“We shall worry about that later,” Celeborn decided. “Now go, and be back with as much information as you can collect.” With that, the five Elves rode out of the citadel, gates opening smoothly before them, just to be closed again after their passing.

“One of my captains will soon come to speak with us,” Éomer spoke out, just having received a message through one of his soldiers. “He arrived with a small force from Dunharrow, and is capable of telling us more than anyone else.”

Gandalf looked happy at this, walking to an edge of a parapet they were standing on. He looked far over the land already covered in darkness, wondering how soon Haldir would lead his group back. Darkness was no more an enemy to the Elves as the light of the day, but recently the nights had begun to have a dark, evil feeling. You are getting delusional, again. Get a grip of your mind, old man! You stood in the midst of darkness jut a few days ago: it is no wander, if the feel of it remains in you. But the sensation did not pass, and he had a feeling this was not about his encounter in Legolas’ room. Something was watching them, constantly, and at night that something grew in strength. Dark was no longer an ally to them.

“Gandalf?” Aragorn called out carefully, stepping to stand beside the old man.

Gandalf shook his head, lifting his hand to maintain the silence. He thought he had heard something.

“The captain is here now,” Aragorn dared the silence, only to be hushed again.

“Listen,” the Wizard commanded. The discussion behind them died out immediately, some of the Elves must have heard the Istari’s words.

Aragorn’s brow furrowed, his eyes gazing the darkness. “Is that…”

“I am not sure,” Gandalf said darkly, turning to the Elves behind them. “What do you hear?”

Elladan and Elrohir closed their eyes to focus on the possible sound, but Glorfindel lifted his hand instead. “Lights,” he said, pointing out to the darkness. “They are still far, but you can see them if you look closely.”

Indeed, there were lights in the darkness. Not only one – not dozen – but hundreds of them. “I think I can hear marching,” Elladan frowned, his brother nodding. “Is that the army we have heard about?”

“I am afraid, yes,” Celeborn uttered quietly, staring at the darkness. He closed his eyes for a moment then nodded. “Haldir is returning. He will approach the gates soon.”

Éomer nodded, giving an order to open the gates. Only a few minutes later five horses entered, their riders guiding them back to the place they had left a while ago.

“That was quick,” Elrohir noted, receiving a half-smile from Ithika.

“We did not think them to be this close,” the Lórien Elf answered, calming his breath. “The army is great, and moving with speed. I wonder how they have been able to maintain such a pace, all this way.”

“They halted at times, when a village came to their path,” the Rohan captain said carefully. All eyes turned on him. “They do not attack villages far from their path, but they drive away the people – killing those who stay and fight – and take all items that are useful to them before burning the rest. Several villages were emptied in a fear of their arrival.”

“How great is their force?” Glorfindel asked, frowning.

“Great,” Haldir said. “It was difficult to tell, in the darkness, but several thousand. Eastern people, as we have guessed. Men, every one of those we saw.”

“Where are they heading now?” Faramir asked carefully, not sure if he desired to hear the answer.

“Here,” Haldir said firmly, his eyes dark. “We came across few of their scouts. They did not see us, but we heard them speak ‘of the arrival of Kings’.” His eyes gazed briefly at Aragorn and Éomer. “They passed Gondor and Edoras, because there were no Kings.”

“Perfect,” Aragorn muttered. Things were just beginning to look darker than ever. They were now caught in the Helm’s Deep, facing an enemy of whose full strength or motives they had no knowledge of. Fate has a funny way to repeat itself, he thought bitterly. Only this time, there are more open questions than the last time.

In the distance, more lights appeared in the darkness and the sound of marching feet drew steadily closer.

to be continued…

Author’s Notes: Ah, this is a good place to look The Battle of Helm’s Deep again! I am no Tolkien, or Peter Jackson, so you might get better entertainment from the movie or the book ;) But, try to enjoy, when the battle begins! Or shall there be a battle at all? Who are these Men from East, and what do they want of our heroes? Stick along, and you shall eventually find out.

In the next chapter, we shall jump along with Legolas and his companion. They will make some discoveries on their own, and we shall meet some old friends. Until the next chapter, namárië!

Story Info