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.
This is the only disclaimer you will see in Reunions. I do not, in any way, shape, or form, own any part of Tolkien's brainchild. I am not making any money from this. The characters I do claim are the non-canon characters—especially Gúthwyn. Every character I put in the story has a name that comes from The Lord of the Rings UK website (besides Gúthwyn), except for the rare occasion when I look up a name in a book called The Fourteen Languages of Tolkien's Middle-earth. This was where Gúthwyn, 'one who delights in battle', came from. Also, I have a very limited knowledge of fighting, whether it involves 'street smarts', swords, knives, bows, or axes, and I do not claim to be an expert on any of them.
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 One:
As those of you who read the books are well aware of, the Three Hunters only stopped for one night, in which Aragorn immediately fell asleep. However, I have extended his waking period to include a certain scene, one that I set up for in Alone. This is not exactly keeping with the rules of canon, but in the first place, this story doesn't keep with the rules of canon, and secondly, if you find yourself concerned about a little detail like this, then… Well, maybe this story isn't for you. Heh.
Wearily, Gúthwyn pushed a strand of hair away from her face, only to sigh as the wind flung it back towards her again. Darkness lay about her, but she did not have the energy to care as she ran through it. Aragorn and Legolas were in front of her, with Gimli bringing up the rear. The four of them had been traveling in this manner for almost a day, with no rest, in order to find Merry and Pippin.
Gúthwyn's heart was sore at the thought of the joyous Hobbits in the Uruk-hai's captivity, though she was not as sorry for them as she was for Hammel and Haiweth. That very day she had failed them—for the first time in her life, failed them. There had been an attack from the Uruks, and she had been fighting them off when someone grabbed her from behind.
Even as she ran, she winced and shivered, recalling Haldor's piercing blue eyes as they met hers. He had revealed to Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli what she had been working so hard to conceal: That she was on a mission from Sauron to take the One Ring from Frodo Baggins. No doubt her companions now thought she had done it for her own gain, but in reality, she had only accepted the task as a bargaining tool for Hammel and Haiweth's freedom. If she failed, Sauron had told her, the children would be killed.
And now her mission was on its way to the east, never to be seen by her again unless she contrived a means of escape. This hardly seemed likely, as the only weapon she had on her was a dagger, given to her in Lothlórien by the Lady Galadriel herself. In addition, three formidable warriors surrounded her constantly, one of which she was utterly terrified.
She could not help but look at Legolas then, and she felt slightly ill to see him so close to her. When she had first seen him, she had truly believed that he was Haldor. There was no distinguishing the two. They were alike in every single way, from their golden hair to the way they stood, their sharp blue eyes to the frame of their bodies. Though Legolas had never shown signs of malicious intent to her, and was puzzled by the way she treated him, she still froze whenever she saw or heard him. Shoots of panic instilled themselves in her, and she would find herself either snapping at the Elf or running away from him.
Suddenly, a shout echoed ahead of her, taking her out of her thoughts. Legolas, whose eyes were keener than the rest of theirs, had seen what at first glance appeared to be a set of boulders on the shores of a small stream. But as they drew closer, she saw that five Orcs lay there, polluting the waters with their black filth. Two of them had been beheaded.
"We have already overtaken some of those that we are hunting!" Legolas said, crouching down beside the corpses to examine them better. Gúthwyn hung back, not wanting to get close to him. "Look!"
Gúthwyn frowned, confused. It had been Uruk-hai who carried off Merry and Pippin; where did these creatures come from?
"Here is another riddle!" Gimli exclaimed, staring at them in puzzlement. It was unsettling to see some of those that they pursued already dead, though anyone could see that these were different from the ones they had fought against on Amon Hen.
"Yet however you read it," Legolas responded, standing up as he did so, "it seems not unhopeful. Enemies of the Orcs are likely to be our friends. Do any folk dwell in these hills?"
Aragorn shook his head, running his hands over the ground in search of more clues. "No. The Rohirrim seldom come here, and it is far from Minas Tirith. It might be that some company of Men were hunting here for reasons that we do not know."
Gúthwyn thought that not likely, but her heart stirred at the mention of the Rohirrim. They were nearing the lands of her people; she could feel it in the air as clearly as she felt it within her. If the Uruks brought Merry and Pippin through the Mark, she would be passing through the sweeping green fields for the first time in over seven years.
"And what do you think of this, Gúthwyn?" Legolas' unexpected inquiry caused her to jump. For a few seconds she stood there, trembling under his careful gaze. Aragorn glanced at her also, and she could see that he remembered all too well the Mark of Sauron branded on her wrist.
She knew from their looks that she was meant to move closer. As a servant of the Enemy, she was considered a prisoner in their hands, and had to obey their commands. So she closed the twenty-foot gap between them, cringing as she stood less than a yard from Legolas. Yet in order to be near Aragorn or Gimli, instead, she would have had to walk around the bodies, eliciting more questions.
"It may have been an éored," she said simply.
Legolas and Gimli did not appear to know what an éored was, but she did not elucidate upon her words. Instead, she folded her arms across her stomach and edged slightly away from the Elf.
"Yet I think not," Aragorn replied, turning his gaze from her back to the Orcs.
"What do you think?" Gimli wanted to know, planting his axe on the ground and leaning on it. Aragorn did not answer for close to a minute, as he was looking carefully at the creatures, his eyebrows knitted in concentration.
"I think," he finally said, "that the enemy brought his own enemy with him. These are Northern Orcs from far away. Among the slain are none of the Uruk-hai."
He was right, of course, but Gúthwyn had not killed any Orcs at Amon Hen, nor had she seen any. Perhaps the two different troops had met up with each other at some point along the road—as far as she knew, Saruman still had legions of Orcs at his command.
"There was a quarrel, I guess: It is no uncommon thing with these foul folk," Aragorn said. "Maybe there was some dispute about the road."
"Or about the captives," Gimli suggested, worry lining his face. "Let us hope that they, too, did not meet their end here."
"They are no use to anyone dead," Gúthwyn responded as Aragorn searched the nearby earth once more. "I do not think they have perished." Even though they were the reason why she was so far away from Hammel and Haiweth, she did not wish them to be killed. Many times they had brought a smile to her face, no matter how dark the road ahead seemed, and no matter how gloomy her thoughts were.
"Nor do I," Legolas said then. Gúthwyn jumped a little, and carefully avoided looking at him. Instead, she stared at her hands, and so missed the Elf's briefly mystified expression. A small part of her realized that he did not deserve her unexplained hatred and terror of him, but these minimal objections were easily overridden whenever their eyes simply met. To her, he was a reminder of the one who had broken and tortured her, one who had deserved a thousand times worse than the death she had given him.
As Haldor's unmoving, blood-covered face floated into her mind, she shuddered, placing a hand on her suddenly queasy stomach. So far she had avoided thinking about the last moments of his life—the memories came to her, at times, but for the most part she ran in numb disbelief, hardly able to believe that she had killed him.
Gúthwyn's musings were interrupted as Aragorn stood up and addressed them. "I can read no more into this here," he said. "Let us continue!" And with that he took off, following the trail. Legolas ran after him, and Gúthwyn came behind. Gimli was last, and slowest; for though Dwarves were formidable when crossing small distances, it was rare that they had to cover longer stretches of land.
On the whole, she preferred this arrangement, as it meant that she did not have to run before Legolas. It would seem too much as if he was pursuing her for her own comfort, and the last thing she needed at this moment was to confuse him with Haldor. So far, Legolas had tolerated her rude treatment of him, but now that she had been exposed as a servant of the Enemy, she doubted that such patience would continue.
Despite the small comfort, however, that she found in their order, she was more miserable than she had ever been in her entire life. Hammel and Haiweth's fates—no light issue in themselves—aside, the running was taking its toll on her. She hated going to sleep, for often she was tormented by nightmares of Haldor or tantalizing dreams of what she might have had with Borogor, but now she desired nothing more than to cast herself upon the ground and not wake until the next day. They had not stopped for rest that night, as Aragorn had learned from Celeborn that the Uruks ran longer, faster, and under the sunlight that the other Orcs feared.
And so they went onwards in haste, Aragorn leading them forth by guidance of the trail. Gúthwyn felt her heart beating faster as the land flew past: Though it had been many years, she knew that they were nearing Rohan, the Riddermark, her home. She no longer considered herself loyal to King Théoden, but her love of the country itself and its people had not lessened.
As a light grey crept into the sky, bringing with it a cool morning chill, Aragorn found a sign. "At last! Here are the tracks that we seek!" he exclaimed. Gúthwyn's eyes moved to where his finger indicated, but she espied nothing. "Up this water-channel: That is the way the Orcs went after their debate."
Not even changing his pace, the Ranger turned to take this new path, one that led up a gently sloping hill. Once more, Gúthwyn searched for the tracks he had seen, and was rewarded with the sight of the faintest boot imprint. She shook her head: She may have been his equal in sword fighting, but he was second to none in this craft.
When she reached the summit of the hill, she was surprised, for Aragorn and Legolas had halted. As she and Gimli came up from behind, she knew at once what had captured their interest. To their left lay a series of mountains, colored purple and blue in the rising sun. They were the White Mountains that signified the realm of Gondor, mightiest of all of the Free Peoples' lands on Middle-earth.
"Gondor! Gondor!" Aragorn sighed, his face wistful in the pale light. "Would that I looked on you again in a happier hour! Not yet does my road lie southward to your bright streams."
"More precious than the stone shaped by the Men of Gondor in the Southeast are the horses bred by the people of Rohan in the Northwest," Gúthwyn spoke. "And that is where the tracks lead."
"Horses!" Gimli muttered. She glanced at him disdainfully, for she doubted that he had ever learned to ride.
Silence fell. For several moments, Gúthwyn's face and heart were turned towards the land of her people, and she could almost hear the pounding hooves passing across the grass as swift as lightning. But then her face hardened, for the Rohirrim were no longer her people. She might as well have been a stranger in their country—and for all her purposes, she was.
With a small, barely audible sigh, she wrenched her eyes away from the familiar grasslands and looked back to the Hunters. So lost in her thoughts had she been that she had not heard Aragorn begin to sing, and she only caught the last mournful lines.
O Gondor, Gondor! Shall Men behold the Silver Tree,
Or West Wind blow again between the Mountains and the Sea?
Gúthwyn had never laid her eyes upon the Sea before, and at any rate she could not understand the hold Gondor had over the Ranger. So she felt not his remorse as he cried, "Now let us go!" and turned away from the Mountains.
At his command they sprung forward, their feet leaping nimbly on the grass; with the exception, that is, of Gimli. The Dwarf was constantly grumbling about the long runs and short rests, though Gúthwyn knew that he did not regret this sacrifice for the Hobbits. Neither did she, but she was inclined to agree with his complaints. Many miles she was able to run without stopping, but she had never gone this long before. Lack of sufficient food and water contributed to her weariness, and as the day wore on she felt familiar waves of dizziness crash upon her, though at first infrequent and weak.
For some hours they journeyed northwest, Gúthwyn becoming more and more exhausted as the sun rose in the sky. They were very close now to Rohan; she could sense it. There was something about the land, something that was carried on the wind to meet travelers. Her body may have been tiring, but her mind was suddenly alive with countless memories of her childhood in Edoras.
These light-hearted recollections, however, were bruised by haunting images of Théoden giving her away to the hunter, thoughts of him sitting idly upon his throne while she was forced to run tied to a horse as a beast was to a pole. She had been unconscious when she was taken from her family, but Haldor's words were the truth. They had to be. And so happiness gave way to anger, and her eyes blazed in fury. Her feet pounded on the grass; hot blood flowed swiftly through her veins. She ran faster, barely noticing how close she was to Legolas, and totally oblivious to the gradual darkening of the sky; so deep was her hatred towards King Théoden.
Eventually she became aware that it was almost completely black around her, for the moon was not showing its pale face. Only then did she remember how parched she was, and that she actually felt hungry. This amazed her, and then worried her. After yesterday's events, she did not think she would be able to keep anything down in order to satisfy her stomach.
Soon, however, Aragorn stopped, and Legolas and Gimli moved toward him to hear the Ranger speak. Gúthwyn stood just outside the circle, swaying slightly from her tiredness, listening with half an ear and doing her best to pretend that she could not see Legolas watching her from the corner of his eye.
"We have come at last to a hard choice," Aragorn was saying, his face also lined with exhaustion. "Shall we rest by night, or shall we go on while our will and strength hold?"
"Let us at least take a small repose, if only for food and drink," Gúthwyn answered, though her opinion did not count for much.
"Unless our enemies rest also, they will leave us far behind, if we stay to sleep," Legolas said, looking worriedly ahead of them at the many leagues they had yet to cover.
"Surely even Orcs must pause on the march?" Gimli inquired disbelievingly. Gúthwyn shook her head and was about to speak when Legolas responded:
"Seldom will Orcs journey in the open under the sun, yet these have done so," he spoke. "Certainly they will not rest by night."
"Unlike them, however, us mortals need sleep, and cannot take it while running," Gúthwyn pointed out, slightly nervous about arguing so directly with the Elf. Legolas simply looked at her, and said nothing.
"And if we walk by night," Gimli added, appearing to be in need of rest as well, "we cannot follow their trail."
"The trail is straight, and turns neither right nor left, as far as my eyes can see," Legolas said. For the briefest second his eyes met hers, and she edged away from him.
"Maybe," Aragorn began, "I could lead you at a guess in the darkness and hold to the line, but if we strayed, or they turned aside, then when light came there might be long delay before the trail was found again."
Gúthwyn agreed with him, and it was clear that Gimli was of like mind. She listened tiredly as he said, "And then there is this also: Only by day can we see if any tracks lead away. If a prisoner should escape, or if one should be carried off, eastward, say, to the Great River, towards Mordor, we might pass the signs and never know it."
"The Hobbits cannot escape," Gúthwyn told them grimly, "for they are weary from their captivity, if I know nothing about such conditions, and their captors are strong. But it is as likely as anything that a quarrel similar to the previous one may result in a change of command."
"That is true," Aragorn agreed calmly, though his eyes flickered as she spoke. "But if I read the signs back yonder rightly, the Orcs of the White Hand prevailed, and the whole company is now bound for Isengard. Their present course bears me out."
A small, unpleasant tingle ran down Gúthwyn's spine at the thought of Saruman as Gimli shook his head.
"Yet it would be rash to be sure of their counsels," the Dwarf cautioned. "And what of escape?"
"It seems to me that Gúthwyn's words are true, and that there will be no escape if we do not contrive it," Legolas answered. Gúthwyn felt her hands trembling when he spoke her name, for it reminded her of Haldor's similar voice. The similarities between the two were unnerving.
The Elf continued. "How that is to be done cannot be guessed, but first we must overtake them."
Gúthwyn sighed, sticking a fist into her eye and roughly rotating it. As they stood there unmoving, the fatigue was beginning to catch up with her. More than anything, she wanted a good night's rest.
"And yet even I, Dwarf of many journeys, and not the least hardy of my folk, cannot run all the way to Isengard without any pause," Gimli informed them.
"Nor can I," Gúthwyn agreed, yawning slightly as she spoke.
Aragorn's keen eyes were on her. "Even if we do stop, I wish to ask you some questions," he said. She shifted uneasily, wondering what methods he would use to extract information if she refused to answer.
Both Legolas and Gimli were watching her also. When she said nothing, the Dwarf awkwardly covered the silence.
"My heart burns me too," he added, taking one last glance at her before looking back at the Ranger, "and I would have started sooner; but now I must rest a little to run the better. And if we rest, then the blind night is the time to do so."
"I said that it was a hard choice," Aragorn replied. She could tell that he was torn between wanting to close the distance between them and the Halflings, needing to interrogate her, and yearning for respite. "How shall we end this debate?"
"Let us sleep on it," she mumbled angrily, the suggestion louder than she had intended. Yet she had no desire to continue running, nor to be subject to a grueling interview by the Ranger.
"You are our guide," Gimli told Aragorn reasonably, choosing to ignore her comment, "and you are skilled in the chase. You shall choose."
"My heart bids me go on," Legolas warned. "But we must hold together. I will follow your counsel."
She saw an unhappy expression cross over the Ranger's face. Despite the exhaustion preoccupying her mind, she could not help but notice that he seemed reluctant to speak.
"You give the choice to an ill chooser," he responded at last, sighing. "Since we passed through the Argonath, my choices have gone amiss." With another sigh he looked westward, and for a time watched the grass moving in the soft breeze. Then, abruptly, he said, "We will not walk in the dark."
Gúthwyn exhaled in relief, stifling a second yawn as she did so.
"The peril of missing the trail or signs of other coming and going seems to me the greater," Aragorn continued. "If the Moon gave enough light, we would use it, but alas! he sets early and is yet young and pale."
"And tonight he is shrouded anyway," Gimli muttered. Gúthwyn glanced up, and saw that he was right. She barely managed to suppress a shiver as she gazed into the endless black, covering all of the lands of Middle-earth with its cold hand.
A wistful exclamation from Gimli drew her out of her dark thoughts. "Would that the Lady had given us a light, such as she gave to Frodo!"
At the moment, Gúthwyn was thinking none too kindly of the Halfling. Inwardly, she cursed him for leaving the others behind. If he had not done so, if he had only waited at the river, she would be in a better position than she was right now. She used to feel sympathy for Frodo, but now she just wanted him in her sights so she could take the Ring and leave.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Aragorn said, "It will be more needed where it is bestowed." He looked to the east. "With him lies the true Quest. Ours is but a small matter in the great deeds of this time."
At his words, Gúthwyn felt a surge of annoyance. "Then what renown is there in that?" she asked, her eyes narrowing in dislike. "It would certainly please my heart more to be fighting in a great battle than taking part in what seems like an endless, futile chase!"
"And if there were to be a battle, then who would you fight for?" Gimli's barb slapped at her; she glared furiously at the Dwarf, yet did not say anything.
"A vain pursuit from its beginning, maybe," Aragorn told her then, seeming none too happy with her either, "which no choice of mine can mar or mend. Well, I have chosen. So let us use the time as best as we may!"
"Sit," Aragorn ordered her. She started, then glanced to where he was pointing. There were two rocks large enough for someone to sit on a little ways to her left. As Legolas wandered a few feet away, and Gimli settled himself on the ground, she took a seat on one of them.
He will not get what he seeks out of me, she vowed silently.