Disclaimer: I do not own the Lord of the Rings. I give complete credit to the author and creator, J. R. R. Tolkien, and also to the writers of the screenplay, for I am taking most of this straight from the script.
Chapter 1: Lalaith Rana
An elf maiden watched as a man, a dwarf, and an elf dashed across the plain to a group of large rocks for cover, wearing the cloaks of her people. For some odd reason, she felt the need to help them on their quest.
She watched as Riders of Rohan came galloping down a hill, armed and ready to fight.
The man, she recognized him as Aragorn, son of Arathorn, for she had seen him before, stepped out from the rocks followed by his companions.
She quickly ducked behind a bush. Even though her cloak would hide her from their sight it would not guarantee that the elf would not notice her.
"Riders of Rohan! What news from the mark?" he shouted after them as they passed unseeing.
At a signal from their leader they wheeled their horses around and surrounded the three strangers. As one they lowered their spears threateningly.
"What business does an elf, a man, and a dwarf have in the Riddermark? Speak quickly," the leader ordered.
"Give me your name, horsemaster, and I shall give you mine," the dwarf told him stubbornly, whether it was out of bravery or idiocy, or both, the elf would never know.
"I would cut off your head, dwarf, if it stood but a little higher from the ground," he said, dismounting and advancing on them.
The elf quickly removed an arrow from his quiver and fitted it to his bow as fast as lightning. "You would die before your stroke fell."
The riders closed in tighter around them, leaving no means for their escape.
"You would be wise to lower your weapons," the elf maiden said calmly, stepping forward and lowering the hood of her elven cloak.
"Is this another member of your party? Why would you endanger a woman?"
"I do not travel with them," she stated, but her words went unheard.
"Where there is one elf, my lord, there are usually more. They surely would not allow a maiden to travel by herself, especially in these perilous days," one of the riders whispered. The maiden's elven ears caught every word as she slowly walked forward to stand on the outside of the ring of horsemen.
"Lower your spears," the leader commanded. "We will not harm you. We wish only to know who you are and why you are crossing our land."
"I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn. This is Gimli, son of Gloin, and Legolas, from the Woodland realm. We are friends of Rohan and of Théoden, your King."
"Théoden no longer recognizes friend from foe," Éomer informed them, taking his helmet off and revealing his true identity. "Not even his own kin. Saruman has poisoned the mind of the king and claims lordship over this land. My company are those loyal to Rohan. And for that, we are banished. The White Wizard is cunning. He walks here and there they say, as an old man, hooded and cloaked. And everywhere his spies slip past our nets." The disgust at Saruman and the annoyance at himself for not being able to capture the spies was apparent in his voice.
"We are no spies. We track a band of Uruk-Hai westward across the plains. They have taken two of our friends captive," Aragorn explained.
"The Uruks are destroyed. We slaughtered them during the night."
"But there were two hobbits. Did you see two hobbits with them?" Gimli asked, alarmed that Merry and Pippin may have been killed despite Legolas, Aragorn and his attempt to rescue them.
"They would be small. Only children to your eyes," Aragorn added.
"We left none alive," Éomer told them regretfully. "We piled the carcasses and burned them."
"Then they are dead?" Gimli murmured disbelievingly.
"I am sorry." Éomer whistled. "Hasufel, Arod, Elerrina. May these horses bear you to better fortune than their former masters. Search for your friends, but do not trust to hope. It has forsaken these lands. We ride north!" he shouted to his people.
The riders turned back to their original course and swiftly rode north.
"Dwarves don't ride," Gimli pointed out. "We are grounded, and like having both feet firmly planted on solid earth. Anyway," he muttered, embarrassed, "I've never ridden before. I would fall off."
"You may ride with me," Legolas offered.
"But what of the other horse? The Rohirrim would not like it if we left one of their best horses in the wild," Aragorn said.
"I will take one," Lalaith told them, drawing attention back to her.
"Who are you, and where is the rest of your company?" Aragorn inquired as she walked over to them.
"Do you not recognize me, Aragorn? I suppose that quite a lot of time has passed since we last met, I certainly look different."
"Should I recognize you?"
"We have met once before. My name is Lalaith."
"Answer his question. Where are the others? I am sure that they would not let you wander alone in these wild lands," Legolas pointed out.
"I travel with no one," Lalaith answered in her calm voice, used to being interrogated.
"Lalaith," Aragorn murmured, trying to remember, and then recognition flashed in his eyes. "But you—"
"No," she interrupted. "He would not approve," the elf said with a glance at Legolas. "I could help you, Aragorn. I am skilled with weapons and I know these lands. I have traveled them for many years."
"You do not know the peril into which we are headed," Legolas said, trying to discourage the maiden.
"You are, or were, on a quest to destroy the One Ring of Power. You lost Gandalf in Moria, and Boromir fell on Amon Hen trying to protect the two hobbits of which you track now."
"How do you know this? How can we trust you?" Legolas interrogated, not liking the fact that she knew so much that no one other than those who attended the council were supposed to know.
"You question me? I have given you no reason for you to not trust me. What is your name?"
"I am Prince Legolas Thrandulion, of Mirkwood. Where are you from? Answer me this. I have heard of someone, the daughter of Galadriel, a great warrior who also shows unparalleled beauty. You are not she."
Her hair was a matted mess; Legolas could barely tell that she was blonde. Her clothes were covered in mud and dust. The only extraordinary feature he could see was her eyes. They were a sea of colors rolled into one: blue, green, brown, and grey.
"You expect me to remain beautiful after years of traveling in the wild? I am from Lothlorien. My parents are Galadriel and Celeborn, the Lord and Lady of the Wood."
"They would not allow you to wander. We have met them, and they did not speak of you." He paused, waiting for her to answer. "Aragorn, is this true?"
"Yes, Legolas. It is. The reason her parents do not speak of her is because they have had no news from her except what songs and legends bring. It has been long since she has returned to the Wood. They believe that she has traveled to the Grey Havens or died unknown to the world."
"How did you meet her?" Legolas wondered.
"She is Arwen's aunt. I met her when she traveled to Rivendell fifty… sixty years ago. Things truly have changed then. You always dreamed of adventuring, I see that has not diminished. I believe that I also saw you tracking Gollum."
"Yes. I did not trust the look of him. He seemed to be slinking around muttering to himself. I followed him for a few days but he did nothing wrong so I continued on my way."
"You found him when my people could not."
"Your people could easily have captured him, if only they would have followed him out of your woods."
"My people do not leave the woods unless they have orders from my father. By the time they received the order, Gollum's track was a week old," Legolas defended his people.
"I do not blame you, or the people of Mirkwood." She sighed, tired of debating. "May I suggest that we be leaving soon? The Uruk-Hai have been killed, but if your friends escaped, there are more dangerous things to be reckoned with, if come across. If they escaped into Fangorn… the ents are not welcoming to people, or things, they know not of."
"Yes. I believe that we should discuss this later, but for now, let us make haste. Merry and Pippin may still be alive," Aragorn agreed.
They rode with all haste they could muster. When they arrived at the smoldering pile of bodies, they dismounted.
Lalaith couldn't help but look at the Uruk head on the spear, it's tongue hanging out of it's mouth, while Gimli started pushing aside bits of the carcasses looking for a sign of the hobbits. Unfortunately, he found something.
"It's one of their wee belts."
"Hiro hyn hîdh ab 'wanath," Legolas and Lalaith murmured together, an elven prayer. (May they find peace after death.)
"AHHH!" Aragorn bellowed, kicking an orc helmet with all his strength before falling to his knees, his head bent to the ground.
"We failed them," Gimli said, holding his head in his hands.
Aragorn lifted his head and looked over to the right, hope came to his eyes. "A hobbit lay here," he said, moving over and touching the ground. "And the other… They crawled… Their hands were bound."
The other three of them were following him now around the plain, hoping beyond hope that the hobbits could still be alive.
"Their bounds were cut. They ran over here," he told them, following the hobbits movements, "They were followed. Their tracks lead away from the battle… into Fangorn Forest."
"Fangorn? What madness drew them there?" Gimli asked, nearly as frightened now as he was before because he knew that they would follow the hobbits into the forest.
"If you were caught between an evil forest and a company of Uruk-Hai and other orcs, all being slaughtered by strange men, where would you choose to go?" she pointed out.
The now four hunters followed the tracks into the forest.
Gimli saw something black on one of the leaves and tasted it. "Orc blood," he observed, trying, and not succeeding, to spit it out. "The air is so close here."
"This forest is old. So old that it almost makes me feel young again. Full of memories… and anger. The trees are speaking to each other," Legolas pointed out.
"Gimli!" Aragorn exclaimed quietly, noticing that he had raised his axe when Legolas has said that they were speaking.
Gimli raised his eyebrows questioningly, completely oblivious.
"Lower your axe," Aragorn ordered gesturing with his hands.
"Oh." He lowered the axe so it hung at his side, but he refused to put it in his belt.
"They have feelings, my friend. The elves began it, waking up the trees, teaching them to speak."
"Talking trees. What do trees have to talk about other than the consistency of squirrel droppings?" Gimli muttered.
"These are strange tracks. I have never seen any like it before."
"They are the tracks of an Ent. A rather large one by the looks of it," Lalaith told him.
"How do you know this?" Legolas wanted to know.
"I have been in this forest before. I have met Fangorn, the oldest of the Ents. He is strong, but he distrusts anyone new that comes into the forest, for Saruman has started using these trees to fire his weapon making."
"What would he do to them?" Gimli asked, referring to Fangorn and the hobbits.
"I am not sure. He is not hasty, no ent is, I think he would probably take them to see the White Wizard."
"The… the White Wizard?" Gimli stuttered.
"Of course. They have been friends for a time longer than you know. He owns more knowledge than Fangorn, so Fangorn trusts him," Lalaith explained.
"Then we must rescue them!" Gimli told them.
"Rescue them? The White Wizard will not harm them," she said.
"Have you not heard? The White Wizard has betrayed us. He works for Sauron now. He ordered their capture in the first place!" Legolas informed her.
"I met him only a few days ago and he seemed to be on your side then. He was searching for the hobbits himself and explained to me your quest."
That makes no sense, Legolas thought. The White Wizard… Saruman refers to himself as 'Many Colored' now. Could it be…? She also said that the Ents knew that Saruman was cutting down the forest.
They rested in the forest that night, keeping a watch. Before dawn Legolas woke them.
"Nad no ennas!" (Something is out there.)
"Man cenich?" Aragorn asked anxiously. (What do you see?)
"The White Wizard approaches," he whispered.
"Do not let him speak. He will put a spell on us. We must be quick," Aragorn said quietly.
The three hunters drew their weapons, facing away from the direction Legolas had indicated. Lalaith did nothing, knowing what was to happen.
With a yell, the three of them turned around and attacked. A blinding white light emanated from the wizard. Gimli's throwing axe and Legolas' arrow flew back at them, and before Aragorn could attack, his sword turned red-hot and he threw it down.
"You are tracking the footsteps of two young hobbits," the wizard observed in a strange voice.
"Where are they?" Aragorn demanded.
"They passed this way the day before yesterday. They met someone they did not expect," he said mysteriously. "Does that comfort you?"
"Who are you? Show yourself!" Aragorn ordered, noticing that the voice was not that of Saruman.
The light dimmed, and Gandalf stepped forward, dressed in white. She almost laughed, as is her name, but stopped herself. She had known all along that it had been Gandalf, not Saruman as the others had suspected.
"This cannot be."
"Forgive me. I mistook you for Saruman," Legolas requested.
"I am Saruman. Or rather, Saruman as he should have been, had he not fallen to evil."
"You fell," Aragorn told him, as if Gandalf were a ghost.
"Through fire and water," Gandalf acknowledged. "From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak, I fought him, the Balrog of Morgoth. Until at last, I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountainside. Darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time. Stars wheeled overhead and each day was as long as a life age of the earth. But it was not the end. I felt life in me again. I've been sent back until my task is done."
"Gandalf," Aragorn whispered.
"Gandalf? Oh yes. That is what they used to call me. Gandalf the Grey. That was my name."
"Gandalf," Gimli echoed.
"I am Gandalf the White now. And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide."
The five of them turned and walked back out of the forest.
"One stage of your journey is over. Another begins. War has come to Rohan. We must ride to Edoras with all speed," Gandalf instructed.
"Edoras? That is no short distance," Gimli observed.
"We hear of trouble in Rohan. It goes ill with the king."
"Yes, and it will not be easily cured. It will take much of my power."
"Then we have come all this way for nothing? We are to leave the hobbits here in this horrid, dark, dank, tree-infested—" The trees began to groan, speaking angrily to each other again. "I mean, charming, quite charming, forest?"
Lalaith laughed quietly.
"It was more than chance that brought Merry and Pippin to Fangorn. A great power has been sleeping here for many long years. Merry and Pippin will be like the small rocks that start an avalanche on the mountain."
"I see that one thing has not changed, my friend," Aragorn said to Gandalf. "You still speak in riddles."
"A thing is going to happen that has not happened since the elder days. The Ents are going to wake up… and find that they are strong."
"Strong?" Gimli exclaimed, and upon hearing the trees begin to rustle quickly added, "Oh, that's good."
"So stop your fretting, Master Dwarf. Merry and Pippin are quite safe. Safer than you are about to be."
"Wonderful. The new Gandalf is more grumpy than the old one," Gimli murmured to himself.
Once outside the forest, Gandalf whistled piercingly, and a beautiful white stallion galloped to him.
"That is one of the Mearas, unless my eyes are cheated by some spell," Legolas observed.
"Shadowfax," Gandalf informed them. "He's the lord of all horse and he has been my friend through many dangers." The other horses followed Shadowfax up to Gandalf.
The five of them mounted up and started riding back through Rohan, heading towards Edoras, the Rohan capital.
"You knew all along, didn't you?" Legolas asked, falling back to ride beside Lalaith.
"Yes, and you suspected. I never told you that it was Saruman."
"But you implied. You knew what we suspected, and did not correct us."
"What would be the fun of that?" she laughed. "I dropped enough hints, I thought if you were smart enough, you could figure it out. I needed a laugh after where I have traveled alone."
"You live up to your name, my lady. I admit, it is nice to have another elf with us, but I will not allow you to leave Edoras with us."
"You cannot stop me. Please, do not make me stay there or go home. I enjoy travel."
"But you are a lady. You should be with your people, not ramping all over the country, getting in danger.
"Because I am a lady, does not mean I wish to be there, at home forever. I was raised thinking that that was the only thing I could do, but I wanted more. My brother taught me how to fight, and since then, I was not able stay in Lothlorien. I longed for adventure. You are a prince and you are on the most dangerous journey you could get yourself into."
"But I'm a prince you are a lady. There is a difference."
"Yes. A minor one. I can fight just as well as you can."
"Orcs will see you as a weakness. They will attack you more than any of us."
"And I will fight them. Do you think that I am not used to it; I have traveled by myself for years. You said before that you had heard of me. Give me a chance. I will not hinder you."
"You are a lady."
"You are a prince and you travel, explain to me the difference."
"I explained to you—"
"Other than the gender," she added quickly.
"I can defend myself, you on the other hand…"
"What makes you think that I cannot? I have journeyed around for more than a few years. Do you not think that if I had been unable to defend myself that I would be dead by now? I have been to Mordor and back. That is where I was coming from when I saw the Rohirrim surround you."
"You have been to Mordor?" he asked respectfully, not quite believing her. "Why would you go there?"
"I heard rumors that after the Shadow was banished from Mirkwood it returned to its old fortress in Mordor. I went to find out for certain."
"It is true, is it not?"
"I should think you would know that. It is what your quest is about, but yes. Not only has it fled to Mordor, but he is gathering all evil armies to him. He is getting ready to wage war on the good of Middle-earth."