Author's Note: The rights of this fic do not belong to me. Apart from the usual disclaimers to Tolkien and Pratchett, this entire idea was based on a dream of my sister's. 'Tis true. She owns the real rights to this whole thing – I had to pay her fifty cents as copyright fees. Rukuelle was instrumental in dreaming this. I only filled out the backstory.
The Paths of the Dead
There was the Dark Door, the Door of the Dead.
Three passed its threshold, an Elf, a Dwarf, and a Man – passed through the Door cut in the sheer rock of the Haunted Mountain.
There was the Dark.
…there was snow.
Aragorn son of Arathorn looked down at the snow collecting on the top of his boots. He looked up at the faces of his two companions, who seemed no less puzzled than he. He turned and looked back.
There was no sign of the wall in which the Door was cut. There was just a mysterious Dark in the space between two tree trunks. The tree trunks had a shoddy, unrealistic look to them, which inexplicably disappeared when he stared hard at them.
Before them, there was another arch of stone, but this time, beyond it was an unexplained stretch of nothing but green, green grass.
He had no idea where they were. It was most certainly not the Paths of the Dead.
It snowed harder.
"Aragorn," he heard Legolas say, a note of urgency in his voice. "I can hear hounds. They are coming closer."
Aragorn looked at the Elf. He looked at Gimli. Both of them were awaiting his orders. If he listened hard he could hear the hounds too. He thought of Gondor, of Minas Tirith, of all the people who would die if he didn't bring back an army of the dead to succour the city of his fathers.
He recalled, bitterly, how it hadn't been so bad, up to the part where Halbarad and the Dúnedain had stopped turning up for the Passing. Everything had gone downhill from there. The fabric of his universe was being ripped apart, and it was taking his nerves with it.
He thought of how canon, whatever happened, had to be fulfilled.
Aragorn glared at the unseen hounds on the edges of his hearing, laid a hand upon his hilt, and unexpectedly swore like he had never sworn before in either the book or the movie.
There was nothing for it. He drew Andúril and walked through the snow towards the arch with the grasslands beyond it, and stepped through it to find his army.
"Three of them, ye say?"
Tiffany sighed. "Yes. Three of them." Trust me on this, I count a lot better than you, she had to stop herself from adding.
Rob Anybody scratched his head. "But dinna ye say that they were leadin' some army, or the like? Three fellers canna lead nae army, 'tain't possible."
"They're not leading an army, they're looking for one." Tiffany was not having a good day. She hadn't finished all her chores yet. She had just gone out for a breath of fresh air, and the next thing she knew, three mysterious men had popped out of mid-air by the stone arch and now she was conducting negotiations between the newcomers and the Nac Mac Feegle, if only because neither party could understand what the other was saying. She didn't blame them.
Rob Anybody cocked his head, thinking. She could see it was a serious process. "One of them's an Elf, ye say?"
"Ach, it's one o' the Quin's folk!" shrieked Daft Wullie. "Let's gie him a header, the scunner!"
Rob Anybody turned around and smacked his brother into a wall.
Just to be sure, Tiffany returned to where the three strangers were standing on the turf. The tall dark one, who called himself Aragorn, was standing. The one she had come to think of as the Dwarf was sitting on a rock, grumbling to himself. The pretty blonde one, the Elf, was gazing out at the horizon and seemed to be enjoying himself.
"They want to know if you're one of the Queen's folk," she told him.
Legolas blinked at her. "Queen of what, pray tell?"
"Queen of – " She found the taboo word stumbling on her tongue, and forced it out. After all, he was one, so it wouldn't hurt to call it a second time. "Queen of the Elves."
"You mean – " His fair brow crinkled in thought. "Do you speak of the Lady Galadriel?"
"Is that her real name?"
"The only name I have heard her called by. I am not one of her folk, although we are on cordial terms. At any rate, I doubt she lives in this world, little maid."
"It's not her, then," said Tiffany, deciding to let the 'little maid' comment pass. She trudged back over the turf to the hole where Rob Anybody had sent Daft Wullie to spout his nonsense elsewhere and was waiting for her.
"Ask him," he said, thinking carefully, "ask him what's in it fer us."
Tiffany obligingly made the journey to the opposite camp. She returned after a long pause.
"They say you'll be allowed to take what you can find on the battlefield. From the way he said it, I imagine that'd be quite a lot. Oh, and he asks if you have any skill with ships."
There was an outcry from the listening Feegle, which Rob Anybody gave voice to. "O' course we got skill wi' ships! Didna ye see, when last we wuz in the Quin's land, wi' what skill we managed that boat upon that sea in yer dream, wi' what a-bi-li-ty and cunnin' – "
"Yes, yes, I get the point," cut in Tiffany. "So, is it a yes, then?"
"How's it they need an army like us?" asked a Feegle whose name Tiffany could not recall at the moment. "How's it they come a-callin'?"
"They're not supposed to be here, even," explained Tiffany. "They say they come from the Middle – Middle of what, I'd like to know – and they're going to a great war, but they can't find any soldiers where they come from, and they can't get to any other places where they can find soldiers. They asked for an army of dead people, so the only ones I could think of were you."
The Nac Mac Feegle mulled this over, loudly, as was their fashion.
"He says," added Tiffany helpfully, "that they must restore the cannon, whatever the cost."
"Cannon?" asked Rob Anybody. "Ach, who wants a cannon when they got us?"
"Well, so, are you agreeable?"
"Will there be fighting?" called someone from the back.
"Aye – I mean, yes. Lots of fighting. It's a Great War, he says."
"Weel, then it's fer us, is it no', lads?" shouted Rob Anybody. "Who's up fer the fighting? An' the looting?"
The answer was a roar with many different variations of war-cries. Tiffany hastily flung herself out of the way as a blue-and-red flood of swords and swearing swept out of the burrow and disappeared into the long grass of the Chalk. Feeling sorry for whatever bunnies they encountered in their fey mood, Tiffany made her way back up to where Aragorn was politely waiting.
"They'll follow you anywhere, provided there's fighting involved," she said. "I wish you well of them. They might be quite a handful. Say, is there any good alcohol in the Middle?"
And so it was, when the Corsairs of Umbar docked before the waiting, jeering masses of Orcs, that Aragorn son of Arathorn vaulted over the ship's side, and Legolas Greenleaf and Gimli son of Gloin were with him. And the Orcs of Mordor laughed at the sight, and prepared for an easy kill.
Aragorn hefted Andúril and brought the blade up in readiness. He felt it was a good day, on a whole. Canon was going to get its way.
"Ready?" he mouthed.
"Ach, whatcha talkin' 'bout, ha' at them already!"
Aragorn grinned, gripped his sword, and rushed at the army of Mordor.
And in a terrible blue-and-red flood, the Nac Mac Feegle swarmed over the edge of the ships and came in a single-minded mass (but with diverse war-cries) at the Orcs. "Hey, pal, can yer Dark Lord sew! Stitch this!" "Stick it up yer trakkans, pigface!" "Right between the eyes wi' feelin'!"
And for that particular Battle of the Pelennor Fields, the word of the day was "Crivens!"