|The Rohan Pride Chronicles, Part II: Reunions
Author: anolinde PM
Gúthwyn's mission has failed. Now that she is traveling with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli to find the Hobbits, she finds herself being confronted with her past, as well as some painful experiences in the present.Rated: Fiction M - English - Adventure - Eowyn & Théoden - Chapters: 24 - Words: 82,253 - Reviews: 63 - Favs: 69 - Follows: 9 - Updated: 05-16-06 - Published: 03-10-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2837269
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Rohan Pride Trilogy
Part Two: Reunions
Gúthwyn's mission has failed. Now that she is traveling with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli to find the Hobbits, she finds herself being confronted with her past, as well as some painful experiences in the present.
About the Trilogy:
I have decided to do what Tolkien did with his books. The Fellowship of the Ring had two books within the text, as did The Two Towers and The Return of the King. The only change I have made is the first part in my trilogy: Alone. That was divided into three books, the first book explaining how Gúthwyn got to where The Fellowship of the Ring started. Reunions will be divided into two books.
About Chapter Twenty-Four:
As always, I will be using a blend of both movie and book canon. Sorry for any confusion. You will notice that I have altered a conversation from the book, so that it took place in the Keep rather than before the Huorn trees. Part of this is because in the book, it was the Rider Erkenbrand who came to the rescue, not Éomer. I apologize for the inconsistency with canon, but it must be done. Please correct me on anything else that seems amiss, out-of-character, or non-canon. Finally, just an advance warning: Lately, my chapters have been bouncing back and forth between extremely long or rather short.
Feeling as if she were about to cry, Gúthwyn ran down the stone passageway, unable to slow her stumbling feet. Even when her stomach protested, she did not stop. The only thought on her mind was to get as far away from Legolas as possible.
How could I let him do that to me? she wondered, her face paling as she remembered his hands prodding at the wound. With every touch, memories of Haldor came flooding back to her, so brutal in their vividness that they had her moaning in fright. The wound had not pained her at all, yet she had been squirming under Legolas' ministrations just as she had under Haldor's far crueler ones.
And the worst part was, Legolas had seen all of her weaknesses. If there had been any color in her cheeks, they would have been bright red with mortification. Horrible waves of shame crashed over her as she thought of how terrified and quivering she had been in his hands, how powerless and flustered she had become when he blackmailed her. She should have known that he would threaten her—had Haldor not done so countless times? But when Legolas had done so, she had been unprepared for how much his words would sting her.
As she drew closer to the inner court, she still did not slow down. She thought that if she did, she would succumb to the tears that were battling against her. One of them had won. And he had seen it.
She was so preoccupied with her miserable thoughts that she did not notice a man stepping into the passage, and consequently ran into him.
"I-I am sorry," Gúthwyn murmured, wincing: He was wearing his armor, and her head had crashed into the breastplate.
Glancing up, she felt her heart freeze. Éomer was staring down at her, his dark eyes wide in shock.
"Gúthwyn?" he asked hesitantly, looking as though he could hardly believe what he was seeing. "Is that—?"
She cut him off, dropping her pack and flinging her arms around him. The joy spreading through her momentarily overwhelmed her embarrassment and terror at the hands of Legolas, and as Éomer returned the embrace, she felt safer than she had been for many months. She did not care that his strong arms were crushing her to him, nor that her stomach was protesting as he lifted her off of her feet.
"Théoden said you were back," Éomer breathed, his voice choked with emotion, "but I did not believe him… I thought it was another of Gríma's tricks…"
"No, it is I, dear brother," she replied, the tears threatening to overcome her now those of unparalleled excitement.
He pulled back from her, setting her down so that he could look her over. "You are thin," was the first thing he said.
Gúthwyn blushed. "Is that all?" she asked, though the grin stretching across her face was almost more than her cheeks could bear.
A chuckle escaped him, and she delighted in the sound of his laughter. "No, my sister, not in the least! Where have you been? Long have I searched for you, thinking that I looked in vain—yet Éowyn would not let my doubt deter me."
Her hand drifted over to her stomach, the motion nearly imperceptible, and her eyes clouded. Éomer noticed the change in her mood, and asked quietly, "Is something wrong?"
Steeling herself to forget Legolas' hands upon her, cold and thin as Haldor's were, she shook her head, and brought back a shaky smile. "No," she whispered. "Nothing at all."
He put both of his hands, calloused from ceaseless war and riding, on her shoulders, and for a long time he gazed into her eyes. "Never again did I imagine I would see you," he murmured, and to her surprise he appeared pale. "When rumor came that you had been sent to Isengard, Éowyn and I tried to convince Théoden to at least determine the truth, but he was too far under the Serpent's enchantment, and nothing was done." His face twisted into a scowl, and his arms shook with anger. "If I ever see that snake, I shall tear him to shreds with my bare hands for all that he has done to you and Éowyn!"
Gúthwyn smiled. "And I will see him begging for mercy as he lies bleeding beneath you," she said, then hugged him once more. "But for now, I would not have anything foul mar our reunion. Tell me about what has happened to you!"
"What about yourself?" Éomer asked, his beard scratching at Gúthwyn's forehead.
"No," she said, fighting valiantly against the dark cloud that sought to cover her at his words. "Let us not spoil this occasion with such a tale. Please, I wish to hear what has befallen you."
When the two of them separated, he nodded, though his eyes searched hers for a moment before relenting. "You will hear much, if you accompany me on my way to the Keep."
She agreed eagerly, her encounter with Legolas already fading from her mind. Picking up her pack, she followed Éomer as he began walking down the passage. "Tun told me that you trained him," she said as they entered the inner court. "I am glad that you did, and wonder what moved you to do so."
Éomer glanced at her. "He was in bad straits when you were taken," he replied somberly. "When Théoden stopped calling him to the table—which was a mercy, as all of the tales of you were told under Gríma's gloating eye—he had nothing to do, nothing to work for. I thought he had some potential, and decided to train him. If naught else, he could become a guard and earn a decent living for his family."
"Thank you," Gúthwyn said in relief. "He has sworn service to me."
Éomer's eyes quickly fixed on her. "Did he?" he questioned, seeming interested. "As…?"
"My champion and protector," she answered, grinning. "He is a wonderful man."
Her brother raised his eyebrows. "Do I need to watch him like a hawk guarding its young?"
"Please," she giggled. They were nearing the Keep now, and as they went men called out to both of them. Éomer responded with a nod and a wave, while Gúthwyn gave a cheery grin. "I am not young anymore."
As she said that, she felt some of her good mood sliding. No, she was not young. All of her innocence had been torn away from her by Haldor, never to return. He had robbed her of everything: Her pride, her dignity, her purity. Even though he was dead, she could not rid herself of him. He was like a leech in her mind, befouling it with hissed words and horrible mutterings.
She shuddered, and blinked. Then she realized that she had come to an abrupt halt and was trembling.
"What is it?" Éomer pressed, taking her by the arm gently and helping her along.
Shaking her head, Gúthwyn lied, "I felt faint for a moment—no sleep did I receive last night."
"Perhaps you should get some rest, then," he suggested. They were outside of the door to the makeshift throne room, and the guards bowed aside to let them pass. Éomer's fingers rested on the handle.
"Are you going to take council with Théoden on what is to be done?" she wanted to know.
He nodded, still not opening the door. "Gandalf has some tidings, and our uncle would know how he came to aid the defenders."
"Then, in that case," Gúthwyn said, "rest can wait."
He did not want to let her in. "I have not heard the wizard's news yet," he told her guardedly. "It might be something not meant for your ears."
"At this point," she returned, "it cannot be more than gruesome carnage, and I have seen plenty of that. And do not forget that I, too, have not yet heard how it is you managed to bring the éored here to win the battle. I am curious, brother."
Éomer looked at her, as if mentally evaluating her. At length, he sighed. "If you wish," he said. "But if Théoden does not want you present, then pray do not argue against him."
Grudgingly, she agreed, and he pushed the door open. Together, the two of them walked into the room. Théoden was there, surrounded by his guards; Gandalf, Aragorn, and Gimli were present also. The entire group glanced up as she and Éomer strode in.
"Gúthwyn, what are you doing here?" Théoden asked her, though he did not seem angry.
She gave a short curtsy, which looked ridiculous, as she was not wearing a dress. "I have not congratulated you on a battle hard-fought," she replied, the smile on her face partly for secret reasons. "Nothing else have I heard today other than the bravery of the Rohirrim, showing itself in noble deeds even when all hope seemed lost."
He nodded gravely. "But, alas," he replied, "we lost many good men, and their deaths I mourn, all the more so because we cannot bury them properly."
Gúthwyn bowed her head. It was true. Only a few defenders had survived the onslaught of the Uruk-hai. She was one of them. The guards in the Keep, now greatly reduced in number, the wounded, and those who had retreated into the caves were the others.
Théoden sighed, and then turned to Gandalf. "Once more you come in the hour of need, unlooked-for," he said, his eyes wide in wonder. Gúthwyn glanced at the wizard, greatly desiring to know how he came with her brother to Helm's Deep.
"Unlooked-for?" Gandalf replied, seeming puzzled. "I said that I would return and meet you here."
Gúthwyn had not known of this, but such council between the two had most likely taken place in the early morning of their departure from Edoras, when she had been asleep.
"But you did not name the hour," Théoden returned, "nor foretell the manner of your coming. Strange help you bring." A small smile came to his face. "You are mighty in wizardry, Gandalf the White!"
Gúthwyn gave a start to hear Gandalf being referred to as the same color as Saruman, but she should have expected it. Saruman's robes were not even a pure white, after all.
"That may be," Gandalf said, though he shook his head as he spoke. "But if so, I have not shown it yet. I have but given good council in peril, and made use of the speed of Shadowfax. Your own valor has done more, and the stout legs of the Westfold-men marching through the night."
"And the woods?" Théoden asked. Some of the guards exchanged dark looks at the memory of the menacing trees that had mysteriously planted themselves in the valley overnight. They had not yet disappeared, and Gúthwyn had heard many of the women and children talking ceaselessly about them. All of the adults were afraid of them—only the young, who still held tales of the Ents close to their hearts, delighted in their appearance.
Gandalf laughed, though not unkindly. "The trees? Nay, I saw the wood as plainly as you did."
At that moment, the doors into the Keep opened, and Legolas entered. Everyone glanced at him as he came towards him, but otherwise his lateness went unnoticed. Yet Gúthwyn tensed in fear, moving closer to Éomer so that their bodies were almost touching. Her face was growing flushed.
Éomer looked at her, confused, but upon seeing her distraught face he wrapped an arm about her shoulders. He clearly had no idea what was troubling her, and she was probably only fueling his argument that she should not have been allowed to hear Gandalf's advice, but Gúthwyn did not care. Beside her brother, she felt as safe as she had with few others: Théodred, Cobryn, Borogor.
Legolas' eyes met hers for a brief instant, but when she paled and looked away, she felt them leave her. The wound on her stomach prickled uneasily.
"But that is no deed of mine," Gandalf said then, and she tried to pay attention to what he was saying. "It is a thing beyond the counsel of the wise. Better than my design, and better even than my hope the event has proved."
Once again, the wizard was speaking in riddles. She did not understand a word that had just passed through his lips. Théoden did not appear to, either.
"Then if not yours," her uncle replied, running his fingers through his golden hair in bewilderment, "whose is the wizardry? Not Saruman's, that is plain. Is there some mightier sage, of whom we have yet to learn?"
Gúthwyn could not even begin to picture the likes of someone more powerful than Saruman or Sauron. Though Morgoth had been far worse than his lieutenant—mercifully, not in their time.
"It is not wizardry," Gandalf told them, "but a power far older: a power that walked the earth, ere Elf sang or hammer rang."
Then, to her mild surprise, he broke into a soft song, one whose low notes brushed melodiously along her ears.
Ere iron was found or tree was hewn,
When young was mountain under moon;
Ere ring was made, or wrought was woe,
It walked the forests long ago.
Gúthwyn was starting to find his evasive answers rather irritating. She could not guess at what this meant; nor could anyone else, with the possible exception of Aragorn. Casting a quick glance at the Ranger, she saw that his expression had not changed, and she was unable to read it—much as she always had been.
Théoden looked curiously at Gandalf. "And what may be the answer to your riddle?" he wondered.
Gandalf smiled grimly. "If you would learn that, you should come with me to Isengard."
A murmur ran through the room, and Éomer's arm tightened around her. Gúthwyn felt her own body tense. How could they go to Isengard, when Saruman controlled it with his pale white hand? Why would Gandalf propose such a thing?
"To Isengard?" Théoden repeated, looking astonished.
"Yes," Gandalf confirmed, and for a moment Gúthwyn thought he had gone mad. "I shall return to Isengard, and those who will may come with me. There we may see strange things."
She noticed his use of the word "return." Was he referring to the time he had spent captive in the White Wizard's tower, or some other instance that they were yet unaware of?
Even as these thoughts went through her mind, Théoden was shaking his head. "But there are not men enough in the Mark," he responded, "not if they were all gathered together and healed of wounds and weariness, to assault the stronghold of Saruman."
Gúthwyn blanched. If they attacked the Nan Curunír, then Saruman would use the slaves to defend it, as all the Uruk-hai had been emptied in the failed attempt to gain Helm's Deep. They had no armor; they would certainly perish. Overwhelming nausea swept through her as she imagined Cobryn and the others being slain for something that they had had no involvement in.
"Nevertheless to Isengard I go," Gandalf spoke, jolting her out of her horrified musings. "I shall not stay there long. Look for me in Edoras, ere the waning of the moon!"
Instantly, Théoden replied, "Nay! In the dark hour before dawn I doubted, but we will not part now. I will come with you, if that is your counsel."
A gasp slipped through her lips, so soft that only Éomer heard it. He glanced at her as Gandalf said, "I wish to speak with Saruman, as soon as may be."
So Théoden was going to Isengard with the wizard, in order to see the person who had sentenced her to the cage without the blink of an eye. Gúthwyn stiffened, curling her fists as she made her decision. She was not going to watch the men ride away, not if she had any say—which, realistically, she did not, but that was not going to deter her.
Gandalf's voice brought her back to the present. "But how soon and how swiftly will you ride?"
Théoden's response was immediate. "My men are weary with battle," he said, "and I am weary also. For I have ridden far and slept little. Alas! My old age is not feigned nor due only to the whispers of Wormtongue." At the mention of Gríma, Éomer's grip on Gúthwyn's shoulder became so tight that it was painful. She looked at him, and apologetically he loosened his hold. "It is an ill that no leech can wholly cure, not even Gandalf."
"Then let all who are to ride with me rest now," Gandalf replied.
Seizing her chance, Gúthwyn stepped forward. "My lord," she said, addressing Théoden as politely as she could. Her uncle gave a start: he had forgotten that she was in the room.
"Gúthwyn," he answered seriously, covering his surprise. Aragorn glanced at her, and she could tell that he knew what she was about to do. "What is it?"
Éomer's look warned her to keep silent, but Gúthwyn did not listen. "I would request of my king his permission to ride to Isengard with him," she said. Her eyes met his evenly, forgetting all of their training as a slave.
"No." Théoden spoke almost before she had finished. "Saruman is too perilous, and no niece of mine shall go into harm that I let her seek out."
"Yet Éomer is going, is he not? He is my mother's child as well," Gúthwyn retorted. Behind her, she heard Éomer sighing, but determinedly avoided looking at him.
"Éomer is Second Marshal of the Mark! It is a different matter entirely."
"I have been to Isengard before!" Gúthwyn exclaimed impatiently, and she saw Aragorn's eyes narrow. "I have lived there!"
"Gúthwyn," Théoden said, holding up a hand. "I will not discuss this with you here." She realized that the guards were paying close attention to every word that they exchanged. But she was equally aware that it would be far easier for Théoden to refuse her when they were alone.
"Uncle," she replied, now injecting a hint of a pleading tone in her voice, "there are slaves there whom I know. You cannot expect me to pass up a chance to see them again."
"I can and I will," Théoden said. "Do not move me to anger, Gúthwyn. I have no desire for it."
"I see no harm in her going," Gandalf suddenly interjected. For a moment, everyone stared at him in surprise, including Gúthwyn.
"Gandalf, please do not encourage my sister," Éomer said at last, and Gúthwyn shot him a furious glare. "I will not have her endangered for anything in the world."
The wizard's eyes fixed on her brother. "She has already passed through much peril, Éomer son of Éomund, moreso than even you of many travels have. Indeed, unless I am much mistaken, she has spoken with Saruman himself, am I not correct?"
Dumbfounded, half-thinking that Gandalf was joking, Gúthwyn nodded.
"Gandalf," Théoden said, his body tensing in anger, "you do not seem to understand me when I say that she is not to come!"
Gúthwyn was about to open her mouth to plead when Gandalf caught her eye. He gave a small shake of the head, nearly imperceptible, and she was silenced. "You do not wish her to go," the wizard replied, "but there is no reason for her not to. She may learn something. Saruman will not be fool enough to do anything to her, if she is in our company. Indeed, he will have more pressing concerns than the unexpected reappearance of a former captive!"
The wizard was wise enough not to use the word "slave," but even so, Gúthwyn felt a faint blush tinge her cheeks. Théoden flushed as well, and made an impatient noise.
"You are determined to make me second-guess you, Gandalf," he said curtly. "Well, fine: If you see fit to argue for her, then she may go."
"Thank you, my lord!" Gúthwyn breathed, hastily sinking to her knees in a bow. She winced at the gesture, but prayed that it would lessen the brunt of her uncle's temper.
Heavy footsteps sounded nearby, and she glanced up to see Théoden approaching her. "However," he continued, his tone so cold that she shivered from it, "you will be the one who tells your sister why she is to return to Meduseld with the wounded, and you are permitted to ride with the men to Isengard."
"I-I understand, my lord," she answered as she stood up, but inside her stomach was turning to lead. Éowyn would not be pleased at all. Now she was immensely relieved that she had caved in to Legolas' blackmailing.
"Now," Théoden said, "I would suggest leaving the Keep before I change my mind."
She gave a short, shaky bow, and then glanced at Gandalf. There was a faint smile on his face, and she could have sworn that his eyes twinkled when she nodded her head in silent thanks. Why he had chosen to support her, she could only guess. But she would not look a gift horse in the mouth.
Turning around, she caught a glimpse of Éomer's thunderstruck face. She gave him a hesitant smile, and he sighed, visibly relenting. "You will be the death of me, sister," he said, and impulsively she hugged him once more. A few seconds later, they had separated, and she left the Keep. It was time to find Éowyn.
A cold chill swept over Gúthwyn as she stole outside onto the Deeping Wall, unable to fall asleep; wrapping Borogor's cloak tightly around her, she stood for a moment gazing out at the gorge. Two new mounds had been raised, fresh against the ancient hills. On either side of the Deeping Stream, they were carefully constructed. These contained the fallen Riders and men of the Mark, who had been slain defending their people. Those from the Westfold were on the stream's western banks, while those from the East Dales lay on the other side.
Gúthwyn spent a while silently mourning their loss. Most of them were young, hale as the green leaf that springs up after winter's end, and had much of their life ahead of them. Many were leaving behind a loving wife and young children. Others were sons, and their families bore still the grief of their passing. She was lucky to not have been one of them—and a grudging part of her realized that, in some ways, the retaining of her life was due to Legolas.
Her body trembled, and she hastily put him from her thoughts. She did not want to dwell on what he had done to her, nor on how pathetic and weak she had been under his ministrations. Instead, she turned her mind to Éowyn, whom she had spoken with just a few hours ago.
She sighed, the breath leaving her as a misty cloud that hung briefly in front of her face before disappearing into the dark sky. Éowyn had been disappointed when the news came to her. No, disappointed was an understatement. Gúthwyn had very nearly gone back to Théoden and told him that she would remain at Helm's Deep when she saw the look in her sister's eyes. At least ten apologies she had given, and at length Éowyn had laughingly told her to stop, yet she could not help thinking that Éowyn was beginning to dislike her.
Of course, such ideas were foolish, but Gúthwyn did not know any better. And so the corners of her lips turned downwards, and her eyes were on the ground as she began walking down the Deeping Wall. There was another reason for this, as well: Many of the Elves still lay there, their blood seeping onto the stone, and she had to step over them in order to not lose her footing. They did not smell nearly as bad as the Uruks, or even the Rohirrim, had. Even so, she felt nauseous upon seeing them.
She was so intent on avoiding their corpses that, when she at last looked up, she gasped in shock and stepped backwards. Legolas was standing just a few yards away from her, his profile faint in the dark evening. She had not noticed him from the Hornburg; now, she saw that he was beside the Wall, staring down at the space below. He was less than a foot from where the stone crumbled, leaving a gaping hole in its wake. The breach.
Her heart hammering in her chest, Gúthwyn managed to croak, "What are you doing?"
Legolas glanced at her, but for a long time did not respond. His gaze returned to what he had been looking at.
Hesitantly, she moved forward, just so she could see what had caught his attention so. When she did, she recoiled, and pressed her hand over her mouth. Here was the most foul of the slaughter that had befallen the Elves; even her heart, hardened against them from the nights she had spent in Haldor's tent, grieved to see how their bodies were marred. Hardly any of them were recognizable. She wondered where Haldir was.
And then, shocking her as much as him, she found herself saying, "I-I am sorry."
Legolas lifted his head, and their eyes met. So saddened was the expression on his face that she was stunned by it; for once, a shudder of revulsion did not run through her.
"It was my fault," he said hoarsely, and his voice was choked with emotion. "If I had not failed, the Wall would have never been breached. "They"—he gestured wildly with his hands—"are all dead because of me!"
She had never seen him look so wretched before. In spite of herself, she felt a strange kind of pity for him. She could only imagine the guilt wreaking havoc upon his mind—after all, had he not been the one trying to bring that creature down, before he could light the fuse that would explode the Wall? Was that not when the Elves had been cut down as hay is beneath the reaper?
But he was not to blame. "Had he been guided by any lesser malice, that Uruk would have fallen," she told firmly, hardly believing that she was talking to him without anger or fear making her speech quiver.
Several moments passed, and not a word was exchanged by them. Legolas had stiffened when she had spoken, but his face was still miserable. Gúthwyn's skin started prickling; she knew she could not remain out here long. Abruptly, she said, "You were the best archer in the battle."
He looked up at her, and she turned away.
"Thank you," Gúthwyn replied. The two sisters were in the outer court of Helm's Deep, where all the warriors who were to make the journey with Théoden had gathered. It was the hour of their departure, and soon Gúthwyn would be traveling to the one land she had thought she would never see again: Isengard.
Her eyes met Éowyn's. "Will you be all right?" she asked her older sister, and received a resigned smile in response. As the White Lady of Rohan, Éowyn knew her duties, and did not run away from them, though she did not perform most of them willingly.
"I will be fine," Éowyn answered. "But tell me all that happens, even if Théoden would withhold information from me."
"I promise," Gúthwyn agreed eagerly, relieved to be able to help her sister in whatever way she could. The two of them embraced, and when they pulled apart Éowyn gave her a small wave. Then she left, having already said her goodbyes, as the wounded still needed to be tended to.
Gúthwyn watched her go, golden hair billowing behind her, and felt a twinge of regret. She would have liked Éowyn to be with her on the journey, though she was equally aware that someone had to be in charge of the people. Having had no training in such manners, Gúthwyn was unsuitable for the job, and much less constrained to the home than her sister.
She sighed. The journey to Isengard would be fraught with worry. It was not that they risked much danger on the roads. But the whole time they were traveling, she knew her mind would be tortured with thousands of unanswered questions. Would all of the slaves be there when she returned? Would any slaves be there? Would the Nan Curunír have changed much, with ten thousand Uruk-hai living inside it?
Starting, she turned, and saw Tun standing just behind her. He looked surprised. "I just heard that you were to go with them," he said, his dark eyes narrowing in puzzlement. "Is this true?"
"It is," Gúthwyn answered, nodding. The last vestiges of her earlier fretting slowly vanished.
"Then I should be going with you," he replied. "After all, what good is my service if I am leagues away from you?"
"No!" she exclaimed. "Tun, your arm is broken—absolutely not. I forbid it."
"I can ride," he insisted, but she would not hear it.
"We will see each other at Meduseld," she told him. "I look forward to our meeting, but I would not have you causing further injury to yourself on my account."
"Goodbye, Tun," she said, firmly but kindly. Before he could say anything, she gave him a careful hug.
He was mollified, and even wrapped his good arm around her in response. His touch was brief, as they both knew that anything longer would be inappropriate. Especially in the eyes of Éomer, whom Gúthwyn did not doubt was observing her every conversation. When she drew back, Tun let her go without further protest. She smiled, and left to locate Heorot. Her horse was waiting for her a few yards away, fully saddled and ready to go. When she had mounted, drawing cries of "My lady Gúthwyn!" from some of the onlookers, Éomer navigated Firefoot next to her.
"Regardless of what you say," her brother muttered, "I will be watching him."
"Éomer!" she hissed, slightly embarrassed. "He is my friend!"
"To you, he is," Éomer replied, and would have said more but for the sudden calling of a loud horn. Théoden rode up to them.
"Are you two ready?" he asked, his mood now perfectly normal. It was difficult for him to stay angry with his nieces and nephew, and this time had proved to be no exception. Gúthwyn was glad that he was no longer irritated with her.
They both nodded, and followed Théoden as Snowmane led them towards the doors—yet they were not really doors anymore. Hanging in splintered fragments off of the hinges, they reflected some of the battle's savageness. Éomer cast them a dark glance as they approached, but Gúthwyn's attention was more focused on the people. With two of its members returning from beyond all hope, the royal family was more loved than ever. She received great cheer from their open admiration and affection; not a single wave did she let go by unreturned.
As they rode down the causeway, she saw Gandalf upon Shadowfax, waiting for them at its foot. About him were Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, the latter two on Arod once more. She, Théoden, and Éomer joined them, followed closely by the royal guard. She determinedly avoided looking at Legolas as Gandalf and her uncle exchanged brief counsel on how the journey was to be completed.
While she listened, her eyes wandered over to a group of workers. They were busy bringing the Elves down from the Deeping Wall, careful not to jostle their still bodies. At Legolas' instruction, they were not to bury them near the mountains—rather, closer to the forest, which was their natural habitat. Gúthwyn had seen the Elf struggling to keep himself under control as he said this. Never again would his friends walk under the trees of Lothlórien or Rivendell; even she could appreciate the sadness of it all.
Sighing, Gúthwyn focused back on her uncle and the wizard. From what she understood, they were to ride through the woods (Gimli stared askance at them, even at Gandalf's reassurances that no harm would come to them), and from there go to Isengard. The road would not be difficult, as none of Saruman's army was left to trouble them on their way.
Before long, they had started, the hooves of their horses thundering throughout the gorge as they went. Yet when they crested an ancient hill not two minutes later, Théoden ordered them to halt so that he might gaze out into the east. They all looked to Mordor in that moment, and it seemed to Gúthwyn that the dark clouds were smoldering with an unknown fire. She shivered.
"Sauron's wrath will be terrible, his retribution swift," Gandalf said then, and his voice was heavy with toil. "The battle of Helm's Deep is over. The battle for Middle-earth is about to begin."
As she listened to the wizard's words, she realized with dread that he was right. All of Sauron's forces still lay within the Black Gates, waiting for the right moment to launch an attack on the outside lands.
"All our hopes," Gandalf continued, and here Théoden glanced at him, "now lie with two little Hobbits."
And so they did, if you were Gandalf or Théoden or Aragorn. But Gúthwyn's hope was gone, buried along with the bodies of Borogor and the children.
Yet even in this grim hour, I will not falter, she vowed. Isengard is one journey that I must undertake.
When it was over… who knew what would happen? She would have to cross that bridge as it came.
So Gúthwyn smiled, but it was not for happiness, and there was no sparkle in her suddenly cold eyes.
Okay, I know this was ridiculously short in comparison to the first part. However, if you think about it, in Alone I only actually wrote about a hundred and thirty-some pages on events in The Fellowship of the Ring, while the rest of the 522 pages were about stuff that happened before then. The total page count of Reunions turned out to be 156.
Regarding the third part of this trilogy... I'm already about ten chapters into it. There will be more about Guthwyn coming to terms with the reality of what Haldor has done to her, and in it the fates of the children are going to be resolved. Furthermore, we will find out what happened to the slaves of Isengard during the years of her absence. Those of you who are wondering about Tun will unfortunately have to wait until the epilogue for that subplot to finish, though you will not be lacking for scenes with him in the third part.
I'd like to say a huge thank-you to everyone who reviewed this! Each one of those comments made my day so much brighter, as corny and ridiculous as that sounds. Several of you had questions, so I'm going to answer them here.
Callie: I'm afraid we won't be learning much more about Haldor at this point. The reason that I've vaguely made up for him following Gúthwyn is that Sauron ordered him to. The thing is, Sauron has nothing to lose by sending both of them out to find the Ring. If Gúthwyn finds it, he can take over Middle-earth. If she dies, he doesn't really care, because she's served her purpose. If Haldor trails after her and kills her, then that is all right by him--and maybe Haldor can find the Ring. If Haldor doesn't, then he will die--Sauron doesn't trust him that much, considering he is an Elf. The Dark Lord knows that Haldor is ruthless, and that is why he was put in charge of the human army, but besides that he was not given too much power.
Furthermore, Sauron can send Haldor out unsupervised and not have to worry about him returning to his home (which, ironically, I have imagined to be Mirkwood, where Legolas is from). I don't know if you've read The Silmarillion, but in it Elves who escaped from Morgoth were shunned by their people, because they were still under the sway of the Enemy. I realize that Sauron's power is much less than Morgoth's, though I still imagine that he would be able to control Haldor without much difficulty.
I hope that answers your question! It's a feeble excuse, and one of the weakest parts of my story--yet I made that piece up in sixth grade, so what can you expect? Heh.
And, unfortunately, I won't post all ten chapters at once; not until I come to the very, very end of my story. -.- Sorry about that!
Lyn: Regarding the dark hair, you're right--it's not at all common for the Rohirrim. As a matter of fact, I gave this trait to Gúthwyn in sixth grade, before I was concerned about keeping to canon, but as it turns out, she could actually have dark hair. Her grandmother was Morwen of Lossarnach, who did have dark hair, and even though it's not too likely, there is still a chance of Gúthwyn receiving that characteristic.
About the necklace, you're also right--it would be difficult for her to retain it throughout all the years. In Isengard, she often kept it tucked beneath her shirt; the dirt and grime that was on their bodies served to obscure any piece of the chain that was showing. In Mordor, she did not dare wear it, and kept it hidden in her pack. Borogor most likely knew about it, but he would certainly not say anything to anyone about it.
As for her sanity... She may seem fine now, but in reality she is far, far from it. Already I have hinted at some of the imbalances in her mind: The sensitivity of her stomach, her inability to eat more than a few bites of food without vomiting, her irrational fear of Legolas, the voices--the incident where she tried to kill herself was also an indicator. As the story progresses, more signs will come to the surface; during the epilogue is where all of these issues will come to light. Nearly all of Haldor's abuse was aimed at her mind, and there are many scars there that have yet to be uncovered.
LuckyThirteen: You asked whether it will be a Gúthwyn/Legolas romance, and to that I say--what will come will come.
I am also grateful to toratigergirl11 and Zoë, two of my friends who don't review but put up with me constantly talking about this story. Heh, sorry for blowing your eardrums out.
Once again, thank you to everyone who has encouraged me with your reviews! I look forward to seeing you in the third part!