Quintessential Disclaimer: Rowling's & Tolkien's writings belong to their respective selves.
A/N with respect to the timeline: Yeah, it's effed up now. Attribute it to either Harry's liberal use of Nessa's song at the beginning of the journey, or the Fellowship's shorter stay (book canon) at Lothlórien. Or both.
Back to the Beginning
Of Distractions and Detours
After listening in on the Fellowship's meetings in Lothlórien, Harry had predicted that the Company would split up after traveling a certain distance down the Anduin. He itched to see how they were doing. He deserved that much, didn't he? He had flown around wearing a backless halter version of Sataressë's dress for a week, for Valar's sake!
He had distracted Sauron for almost three weeks. Three, lonely, hungry, weeks.
Harry remembered one of Yavanna's songs that made tree bear fruit, but suffice it to say Mordor was hardly an orchard.
And now so many of Sauron's spies were seeking him out that he'd had to hide under the safety of his Invisibility Cloak. He was pretty sure that Sauron had recognized him, what with the four Nazgûl that he'd had to banish, riding what looked like black, stunted, miniature dragons. As he'd reduced one of the winged creatures to ash, he'd stared straight into the Eye of Sauron, and it had stared straight back, the slit pupil becoming briefly wider, human-like, in what Harry assumed was recognition.
For all of a nanosecond.
Then the eye emitted a tangible blast of rage and menace as the pupil immediately slitted again, worse than ever. It was all Harry could do to hold the blazing gaze; he instinctively knew that it would be worse to blink than be blinded.
Okay, so now Harry knew the Eye wasn't just for decoration that could only look at things and instill terror into people that saw it. It could possibly read the emotions of people who gazed into it. And like its smaller golden counterpart – for Harry knew Sauron was as much a part of the Ring as the the Ring was a part of Sauron – he read the desires of the victim, and tempted them into doing his will.
For all of a single terrifying moment during the gaze, Harry thought that Sauron would discover that Sataressë had no desire to live: there were endless possibilities with what Sauron could do with that information. But it seemed Sataressë's sense of duty won over her desires in that respect, as she had carefully coiled that particular desire, or lack thereof, away into the darkest corner of their somewhat shared mind, and Harry breathed a sigh of relief.
With Sauron on the lookout for a Sataressë and four of the Nazgûl down, and two swooping overhead in turns, Harry knew that the odds of the Fellowship being safe were quite high. Six out of nine were accounted for.
But something just gnawed away at him, telling him to check up how far they'd gone, and whether they'd truly gone their separate ways.
Under the safety of his cloak, Harry summoned the Elder Wand and whispered the familiar words, "Point me, Aragorn."
The wand lazily turned a bit in the direction the sun was sinking.
Okay. Harry was pretty sure that he currently stood in Mordor at that very moment, what with the pointed lack of trees, black landscape, and flaming eye nearby and all. He was by no means as skilled a wanderer as Aragorn, but he would have thought that the Fellowship should have made more progress than… well, the direction the Elder Wand was currently pointing to.
They seriously needed to quicken their pace.
Yet there was always the chance…
No… Harry was sure Aragorn wouldn't leave Frodo.
But gut instinct told him to try.
Slowly, Harry enunciated, "Point me, Frodo."
He was filled with dread when the wand nudged itself about twenty degrees to his left. At this far of a distance, the wand wouldn't differentiate that much between two individuals of a single party. Even if Aragorn was going all-out tracker on them.
Swallowing, Harry uttered, "Point me, Gandalf." The wand remained pointed the same direction. Harry was slightly relieved at the indication that at least the wizard was still with the hobbit.
"Point me, Boromir." …And the wand nudged itself back to the right.
That meant that the dúnadan had gone to Gondor with Boromir, horseless and who knows what else.
That was it.
Sauron had been sufficiently distracted; Harry would go to support the part of the Fellowship (if he could he still call it that after the split) left vulnerable to magic.
Harry briefly wondered which party his undetectable-extension-charmed-bag had gone to. He also wanted to know which party Legolas had gone with, but he knew that would skew his bias toward whichever party Legolas had gone to, so he refrained from using the Point Me spell to satisfy his own curiosity.
Harry shook hismelf free of those distracting thoughts.
He had a bad feeling about this, and his auror instincts were very rarely wrong.
A week earlier
From the air came a fell creature that took even him by surprise. Still, his reaction time was swift; he drew his twin blades out of their sheathes to ward off the claws of the beast and allowed his comrades the time to escape. Gimli, with his short-range weapon, would be of little use in this battle. Jumping back himself, he sheathed his blades once more and withdrew an arrow from the quiver on his back and notched it to his mallorn bow and shot at it. But it was knocked out of the air with black smoke and a metal clang.
For a moment, Legolas was stunned that anything could knock an arrow shot from a Lothlórien bow off its course. The bow had a draw weight of nearly eleven stone!
But he smelt a familiar tang in the air and he had felt a similar coldness before. He recognized them both from the brief period of time he'd traveled with the legendary Balrog-slayer Glorfindel.
If he hadn't been a prince with an innate sense of decorum, Legolas would have cursed out loud in Sindarin. Notching his bow once more, he aimed for the beast's eye, a place the rider wouldn't be able to defend. But as soon as he loosed the arrow, he winced; he knew it'd miss its mark, and he was right. It pierced through snout of the beast instead, nowhere near a fatal area. It only served to aggravated the creature further.
So immersed as Legolas was with battle, it was almost too late when he noticed a small silhouette standing entranced with the enraged beast, or rather, its barely visible rider.
Once again, like with the corpses and lights in the Dead Marshes, he was half parts drawn to and terrified of the Ringwraith, returned now upon a leathery and winged creature, resembling very much of his idea of what a dragon would look like, had it not been for his uncle Bilbo having described Smaug to be the size of a palace.
The Ringwraith was blind, but it seemed to sense the Ring's presence in the company; Frodo heard the voice of the Ringwraith whisper, 'Come with me. Our master awaits you at the gates. You belong with us.'
Before he realized he had even taken the Ring out from under his collar, Frodo was holding it in a trembling hand to his finger, ready to put it on. The rational part of his mind that screamed at him that putting the Ring on would be revealing himself to the Ringwraiths, faded into nothingness.
All he could think of was the Ring…
The Ring would render him invisible. It would protect him.
Hazily, Frodo felt himself being hoisted into the air, but not by the Ringwraith, for the hooded figure was some distance away.
All of a sudden, a blinding white light filled the field, and when Frodo had come to his senses, the Ringwraith and whatever he had been riding were gone, with Gandalf standing in the clearing, staff raised, a thunderous expression on his face.
Frodo realized that Legolas had flown him away from the monster.
Sam, Valar bless him, rushed over to Frodo as Legolas flew down and placed the Ringbearer on the ground. "Mister Frodo! Are you all right? What was that? I thought all the Enemy's spies were distracted by something, why have they returned now?" Question after question tumbled from Sam's mouth.
Frodo rubbed his eyes and blinked rapidly. "It was a Ringwraith." He answered numbly. Looking up at Gandalf, Frodo asked, "That white light… What did you do?" He noticed for the first time that Gandalf looked somewhat different; he stood straighter, looked stronger… and his clothes were no longer grey, but a pure white, even after tromping through those marshes.
"When Holly re-knit my body, I became stronger."
At the mention of Holly, Frodo impulsively glanced at Legolas. The elf looked impassive, but his slightly stiffened wings gave away that Holly was still a sore subject for him.
Cutting through their turmoil of emotions, Gandalf continued, "I am no longer Gandalf the Grey, but Gandalf the White."
At those words, Gandalf suddenly seemed more imposing and awe-inspiring, much more powerful.
Then Gandalf chuckled. "No need to treat me any differently, however."
Frodo murmured, "I'd thought you looked a bit different than when you'd fell into Moria, but Gandalf the White has a completely different ring to it." He smiled, glad for Gandalf.
"It's good that we have a trustworthy wizard named as the White Wizard." The Dwarf rumbled. "Unlike Saruman." Gimli added darkly.
Gandalf grew grave. "Any White that Saruman had has long since been tainted." He looked around, eyes sweeping the area. "It will take some time to figure out that I passed by here, as my magical signature is no longer recognizable as the Grey Wizard. But wherever a Ringwraith lingers, other servants are bound to follow. Let us leave this area quickly."
The rest of the party agreed, Frodo especially, as he unconsciously fiddled with the ring.
The party of five tread forward very carefully after the Ringwraith incident.
They were headed toward Morannon, the Black Gate, which, according to the Istar, was the shortest path to their final destination of Mount Doom.
That was, until Legolas heard a voice a few minutes before the turn for his watch. Sam must have drifted off in his watch. That was dangerous; he would have to have a word with the hobbit about that. But that was not Legolas tensed his body, ready to spring up to attack at any sign of aggression.
"They're taking the shortest path. We must stop them!" A raspy voice whispered in distress.
"Shortest, yes, but the most dangerous path. Yes, yes it is, Precious." was the soothing reply.
"But the Precious! The evil, smelly, orcsies will takes the Precious from us!"
"Then we must takes it back, Precious. We're much smarter than those stupid, fish-headed orcsies." It was surprising how a voice could still sound so reasonable with such a ridiculous description.
Though Legolas had long grown used to the dual personality of Gollum during the creature's imprisonment in Mirkwood, some of the 'conversations' still baffled the elf. Wanting to know Gollum's true agenda (besides taking the Ring for himself), Legolas continued to pretend to rest.
"Should we lure the hobbitses away from the others, Precious?"
"No, no, no, the hobbit puts too much trust in the nasty wizard. Gollum! Gollum!" After the coughing spasm had subsided, the same personality continued, "We will find another way to distract the nasty elf and fat ones and the wizard while we strike…"
When Legolas could no longer hear Gollum's voice, he sat up. He had heard enough to justify killing the creature. Its intentions were definitely malicious, at least toward Frodo; he had no interest in Sam and couldn't stand up against himself, Gimli and Gandalf.
But he would speak with Gandalf, first. He had been aware of the fact that the Morannon was heavily fortified, but if it was the most dangerous way in, five was too large a party to evade an army of orcs commanded to guard a single pass.
At this point, Harry didn't know what course Aragorn and Boromir were taking to Minas Tirith, but he doubted that they would travel long without horses. Not if time was of the essence. And he'd learnt that Rohan's specialty lay with rearing horses. Chances were high they would make a stop there.
But for the life of him, neither Harry – nor Sataressë, it seemed – could recall what the name of Rohan's capital was.
'You're supposed to be an all-knowing Maia. Why can't you remember the name of a capital?' Harry asked, irritated.
'Maia are neither infallible nor all-knowing.' was the equally irritated reply.
In a last ditch attempt, Harry tried, "Point me, Rohan's capital."
The most powerful wand or not, the Elder Wand refused to budge.
Growling, Harry simply drew breath to sing Nessa's song to blindly follow Aragorn as he had done two times before, but an image flashed through his mind. It was of a forest and a flowing river. Harry frowned. Was it of the river Angren? Angren ran through the Gap of Rohan, which was the westernmost of Rohan one could get, but it would expedite his path to catching up with Aragorn.
The same image had flashed through his mind before, but he'd automatically dismissed it because it had been a forest, as he'd adopted Sataressë's idea that any damage to flora counted as 'collateral mortality' too.
Yet over the past few weeks, an idea had budded in Harry's head; Gandalf had said that apparating acted as a magical beacon for those with sufficient magic, but now he was under the influence of the very cloak that even misled the High Elf Galadriel in her very domain, would it still attract as much attention, if any at all?
And in his previous world's wizarding version of fairy tales by…what was the author's name again? Harry remembered retelling the man's stories to his children time after time and he couldn't fathom why the author's name just slipped his mind.
Harry kneaded his forehead, trying to remember. He'd been having trouble recalling details from the wizarding world as of late… Not Bilbo, that was Frodo's uncle… something more buggy, like a beetle… Oh yes, Beedle the Bard. The Bard had written that the third Peverell brother had requested from Death a cloak that would keep him hidden from Death himself –
'This cloak is impenetrable; the Judge of the Dead himself cannot detect me when I wear it. No matter what I do.' Sataressë informed Harry, with just a touch of smugness that gave Harry pause.
What was Sataressë smug about? It wasn't like she had made the Invisibility Cloak or anything… or had she?
Deciding that it was an issue he could ponder on later, Harry took Sataressë's word for it and apparated under the cloak, closing his eyes to imagine the river Angren.
After the too-familiar sensation of apparating passed, Harry heard the river and opened his eyes. Even if the landscape had changed, it seemed he could apparate to a specific location as long as he had a particular landmark in mind. The rapids were there and appeared to have barely changed over the ages.
But as Harry looked around, it was painfully clear that the place was devoid of trees. His heart ached on Yavanna's behalf; the Vala who had taught Sataressë to hear the voices of plants would be heartbroken at the sight.
He shook his head; there was no time to brood over past follies that weren't even his. Providing Aragorn with magical protection took priority here, and that meant joining him as soon before he reached wherever Rohan's capital was.
At least he was closer than he was before. Using the Point Me spell again to find Aragorn's general direction, Harry began to travel.
On his way to Aragorn, he heard a battle going on. He paused; he didn't have time to waste, but one side sounded distinctly like orcs – more like Uruk-hai – with their typical quick but jagged and unrefined movements. The other side was riding horses…and well-bred ones, from the sounds of their hoofbeats. There was only one country nearby that was known for its horses.
"Hermione would say I'm on my 'saving people thing' again." Harry grumbled to himself as he headed in the direction of the battle sounds.
If they really were people from Rohan, maybe he'd learn the name of Rohan's capital, at least.
When he arrived at the battlefield, it was, for lack of a better word, messy.
Bodies everywhere, orc and man alike, horses rearing and falling, squashing a good number Uruk-hai in revenge. Deciding that every second he stood there agape like a fool was another few lives wasted, Harry pulled out the Elder Wand and began to shoot spells at orcs with deadly precision. At first, the men supposedly from Rohan didn't seem to notice that an invisible ally was among them, but after ten Uruk-hai were decapitated with no visible reason, and over twenty simply exploded into ash, they seemed to become alarmed, as if they wondered if they would be next.
Taking note of this and determining that if he threw the very army he was trying to help into further confusion he would be doing more harm than help, Harry swept his cloak off.
Several men of Rohan blinked at a woman on a battlefield, much less using magic, but they decided to count their blessings and continued to fight.
For his part, Harry continued to take out Uruk-hai relentlessly, close ones with his sword, and farther ones with magic.
Rapidly, the tides of the battle changed. The Uruk-hai (and some men crazy enough to ally themselves with them) retreated to the west.
At the sight, the riders cheered in victory, and some even went as far as to make to charge after them, but a strong voice commanded, "Halt. We stood strong against the enemy and won this battle, defending Rohan's territory from Isengard and the Dunlendings." A sturdy blonde man riding upon an equally sturdy looking palomino rode forward. "We would have thought it impossible at the beginning of the battle, when we were taken by surprise. Even near the end, we were on the verge of retreating. Well fought, men! 'Tis truly a wonder, the combined power of fortitude and luck!"
A rider commented, "Those combined powers take physical form of a woman."
Many others murmured assent, of seeing long ebony hair and green raiment, along with a well-endowed figure, some descriptions bringing an angry flush to Harry's cheeks. He knew they were just stating their thoughts, and it wouldn't have bothered him so much a few months prior, but now it aggravated him to hear himself objectified by others – specifically men – in this case.
Those astride horses that stood near Harry looked down with surprise.
The leader questioned, "A woman, you say? Where is she?"
Horses and riders parted to reveal Harry, who briefly entertained the idea of becoming invisible again. But being who he was, he stepped forward. He imagined he must have made a gruesome image currently, a wild woman standing there spattered with dark Uruk-hai blood. With every man's eye on him, Harry realized that his sword was still unsheathed and gripped tightly in his hand and swiftly sheathed it.
The blond man looked down at Harry and asked him, "How brought you about this turn of tides? What is your identity?"
Harry coolly stared up at the leader. "I had thought it was custom to introduce yourself before asking a stranger a question."
The blond rider looked both astonished and amused, while his men stirred, angry at the thinly veiled insult to their leader.
Fortunately for Harry, it seemed that the leader was a man of good humour. Motioning for his men to settle down, he apologized, "Forgive me. My name is Théodred, the prince of Rohan."
In no mood to even attempt such a feminine thing as a curtsy at the prince, Harry replied shortly, "I'm Holly. I'm not completely aware of my own identity myself, so I can give no straightforward answer to the latter of your two questions, but I can answer the first. I have an obligation to fight orcs and Uruk-hai, and do so by both blade," Harry paused, obligatorily questioning the wisdom of what he was about to reveal, but too many had witnessed his wandwork for him to try and hide it now, "and magic." he finished.
At his pronouncement, the men broke out into murmurs, and Théodred's eyes widened.
"Lady Holly, are you a sorceress?"
Accepting the distasteful prefix with patience that had long since worn ragged, Harry flicked out the Elder Wand and conjured a pedestal that put him on eye-level with the majority that rode horses. He was getting tired of looking up; it made his neck sore. "Does this answer your question?" He knew he had long since sprinted over the border of insolence, but even if Théodred was the prince of Rohan, he was a Maia. Besides, he was mentally older.
To Harry's surprise, Théodred's face transformed from disbelief into desperate hope. "Lady Holly, will you accompany us to Edoras? We have great need of you there."
Edoras… The name tugged at Harry's mind until he realized that was the name of Rohan's capital. "I have business in Edoras myself, so it would bring no trouble to me to accompany you." Except slow me down. Harry realized that it would take quite the lung capacity to power the whole army with Nessa's song.
His hesitation must have shown on his face, as Théodred asked, "Are you in want of a steed?"
Harry shook his head. "I do not mind accompanying several people, but your whole army, however…" he trailed off significantly, hoping the message would get across.
A message did get across, but unfortunately not the one Harry had intended. "Oh!" Théodred exclaimed. "A thousand pardons, 'twould be improper for a maiden to be in the company of many men alone. I overlooked – "
Fighting back an urge to smack his forehead, Harry hung on desperately to the thin threads of his patience as he forced himself to look amiably agreeable. "You are too kind, prince Théodred. My business in the capital is most urgent, so perhaps a smaller company would be more practical?"
Théodred took Harry's suggestion and followed up with, "A guard of ten?"
That wasn't much more bodies than the Fellowship, so Harry readily agreed and vanished the pedestal, landing lightly on his feet. "Yes, that sounds fine. When will we be off?"
Obviously, this took Théodred by surprise. Harry found it understandable, they had just fought an enormous battle, he'd probably expected a bit more downtime. Too bad that Harry was in a hurry. "As soon as we find a mount… for…" he trailed off and stared, for where Harry once stood, was a glossy black mare.
Harry had gone ahead and transfigured himself into a horse. Deer form would not do for long distance and hard travel. And he imagined that if the men were unsettled by his transforming into a horse, they would react still less well to a bird. He had to irritably neigh at Théodred before the prince shook himself out of his stupor and selected some men to accompany them.
"Grimbold, you are to lead the army back to Edoras while the…" Théodred glanced at Harry the horse, "Lady Holly… and my personal guard head back ahead." The blond commander nodded to his prince. When Théodred had returned to Harry, Harry was back in his Maia form. "I know a magic that will allow us to travel a bit more quickly to the capital." With that as his only explanation, Harry began to sing the Song of Fleet Feet.
After the song was finished, Harry turned back to Théodred who was looking wondrously at him, and said with a touch of impatience, "Shall we?"
At Théodred's nod, without further ado, Harry transfigured himself back into a horse to ride to Edoras, hopefully to surprise Aragorn.
Harry could only hope Aragorn wouldn't be too angry with his deception.
The party of four arrived at Rohan's capital with little trouble, but Edoras had changed much since Aragorn had last seen it, nearly forty years ago under the reign of Thengel, the previous ruler of Rohan. Thorongil, as Aragorn had been known back then, had served in the armies of Rohan for a time. Though Rohan had been at war back then, Edoras, as the capital city of Rohan, was spared most of the hardships of war.
The same could not be said of now.
Pippin remarked, "Dreadfully dreary place, this Edoras, isn't it?"
Merry cuffed Pippin over the head for that rather loudly spoken comment.
Boromir muttered under his breath to Aragorn, "'Twas an improper comment, I own, but a true one."
As citizens shrank away when their party made their way through, Aragorn struggled to hide his dismay at what the once-proud capital of the horse-lords had been reduced to. But he hardened his eyes and his heart.
It was neither pity nor dismay they needed; the citizens needed someone to take action to restore Edoras.
So changed though Edoras may have been, it was with determined strides that Aragorn led the company of four to the castle where the King of Rohan resided.
Aragorn turned to the hobbits and said, "It would do well to draw your hoods, to avert further suspicion."
Obediently, Merry and Pippin drew their hoods over their heads to conceal what the people of Rohan would view as a queer race.
At last, the four found themselves in front of gates guarded by many men, none of whom looked too glad at the state of their city.
As Aragorn approached, a guard blocked the way with a spear and cried out in the tongue of Rohirrim, "Stay, strangers here unknown!"
Aragorn replied in the same language, "We come here in peace." His eyes narrowed. "Though I know not why you do not use Westron to greet strangers as is the custom in the west."
"It is the will of Théoden King that none should enter his gates, save those who know our tongue and are our friends," replied a guard to Aragorn's pointed statement, "None are welcome here in days of war but our own folk, and those that come from the land of Gondor."
"We are safe, then, as this is Boromir of Gondor, and I know your tongue." Aragorn replied swiftly.
The guard motioned to the hobbits, who had drawn their hoods over their heads, as to appear like children. "I have trouble believing that people such as you would travel with children. Speak your true purpose in coming here."
Horses that were galloping nearer and nearer distracted Boromir and the hobbits, but not Aragorn. "We have come to seek audience with the King of Rohan."
"You will have trouble speaking with my father the King at the moment." A voice stated dryly in Westron from behind him.
As Aragorn turned around, the guard sprang to attention. "Prince Théodred! We were not expecting such an early return!"
The man who was Théoden's son said, "Nor I, but we made quick work back to Edoras with Lady Holly's help."
Aragorn did a double take, but it was Boromir who asked first, "Lady Holly, you said?"
"I did not know that Lady Holly was so well known." He dismounted and eyed Boromir. "But are not greetings due first, my friend?"
After momentary silence, the two men simultaneously burst out into laughter and clasped forearms, thumping each other on the back. "We meet again."
"Much has happened since you last came by."
As all this was happening, Aragorn examined the prince's company closely; there were eleven men counting Théodred… but twelve horses. The horse without a rider had a black coat, pawing at the ground with agitation. Aragorn would have thought that the mare's master had been killed, but there were no marks of a saddle.
What gave it away once and for all were the unmistakable green eyes that eyed Aragorn rather nervously as he slowly approached.
"Why hello, Holly."
A/N: Thank you so much guys! I know I've updated late, but I'm juggling two internships…