AN: There is a reference in this chapter to a specific instance from the book—the first dinner Frodo attended at Elrond's house, where he met Gloín for the first time. It's nothing major, just if you're wondering about that in here, that's where it came from.

Oh, and this chapter's a bit disjointed and transitional...don't worry, everything will pick up soon. Yes, there is actually story to this story.


Chapter Four:

In which Gandalf fumes, the head-thwacking starts, and Urshnâg forms his Merry Band


"More wolves?" Merry asked in astonishment.

"It's the hounds of Sauron!" Pippin suddenly shrieked.

"No, you idiots, it's just a wolf calling to his pack," Aragorn snapped, slapping Pippin's hands again as the young hobbit tried to pull his sword out as though wolves were already encroaching on the company. "It is possible to hear a wolf when one is in the wild without one's life being in immediate danger," he added, ignoring the strange glances he knew Legolas was sending him.

"But the wolves could still attack us!"

Aragorn did not want to add Hobbit-Killer to his rather impressive list of titles. He really didn't. Muttering something about needing to consult his memories about their current position he stalked away, folding his arms across his chest and focusing on not grinding his teeth down to nothing.

Unfortunately, the hobbits decided this must be the place where they were setting up camp that night, and soon proceeded to pull every bag off of Bill that they could, and succeeded only in making a dreadful noise and a frightening mess.

"That is enough!" he whirled back around, finally managing to frighten the hobbits into silence. "The next hobbit that tries to set up camp before sunset will find himself several feet shorter."

"Um...Aragorn?"

"WHAT?" the ranger roared, rather more loudly than necessary.

Legolas barely flinched at the man's angry outburst, and pointed toward the western sky. "I think we are being watched."

Aragorn glanced up, moaning in disbelief.

Crows...why did it have to be crows?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Gandalf and Gimli were traveling south, Gandalf muttering the entire way. Gimli had been careful to keep a bit of distance between himself and the wizard. Not that he thought he was in any danger, exactly, but something had set Gandalf into a foul mood.

"Bah! What did I ever see in that man? What hope has he of becoming king?"

Gimli could only assume the wizard was talking about Aragorn.

"That hobbit would make a better king than he! At least that dratted hobbit would have the sense to do more than mope."

Now, which hobbit? It was clearly not Frodo, as Frodo had seemed to be moping several times a minute since Gimli had first met him. Even when talking with Gimli's father at dinner that first night, the hobbit had somehow managed to convey a general air of moping resignation, and he hadn't even known about the Quest yet.

"Not that he's exactly the most sensible of hobbits...particularly regarding that nasty incident with the fireworks."

Ah, so it had to be Merry or Pippin. Gimli had heard about the fireworks...that story still sent a smile to his face.

"I can only hope he's doing his best to drive Aragorn to distraction," Gandalf fumed. "Perhaps then that man will learn to take some initiative when it comes to leadership...if he can handle a Took, surely he can handle the throne of Gondor!"

Gimli suddenly laughed aloud. Gandalf turned about and gave him an odd look, and the dwarf tried to smuggle his glee. He had to remember this particular diatribe...next time Gandalf decided to go on about the foolishness of Tooks, Gimli would have to remind him that he'd said Pippin would make a better king than Aragorn.

He hated to think what would happen if Gandalf stopped talking to himself. Of course, Gimli could have carried on conversation with the wizard, but it was much more entertaining to listen to Gandalf talking to himself and then see the look on his face when he realized that he was thinking aloud.

Besides, one never knows when a dwarf might need blackmail material.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

After getting everything packed back up on the pony, convincing Pippin that the lone wolf they'd heard was not the forerunner of the Hounds of Sauron, and spending several minutes assuring Frodo that his part in the Fellowship was in no way over, the Company finally set out again toward Rohan.

Boromir was leading the way...under strict instructions to "walk toward that rock...that one, over there, we will camp near it tonight". Aragorn had decided to place Boromir at the head of the company because Merry and Pippin would, naturally, follow him.

Samwise was in the middle, leading Bill the Pony and offering encouragement to Frodo.

Aragorn and Legolas were taking up the rear, the latter still keeping a watchful eye out as he still had some vague inclination of danger approaching. Aragorn, however, was not too worried...granted, any time there was danger Legolas was the first to sense it, but there were many times that the elf's idea of danger and the rest of the company's was not the same.

The ranger had to wonder if Legolas was paranoid as well as indecisive and gullible. Then again, he supposed, one had to be paranoid when one was Legolas. The elf seemed to have a peculiar knack for making people hate him the moment they laid eyes on him—without him doing anything to earn their hatred. Perhaps paranoia was the only thing that had kept Legolas alive this long, anyway.

He sighed, dropping his head. Who was he to lead the Fellowship anyway? And if he couldn't lead four hobbits, a man, and an elf to Rohan how could he possibly become the king of Gondor?

Perhaps it would be better if he left command to Boromir. The other man certainly seemed to have a better time controlling the hobbits, at least. He did not have to resort to scaring them into silence. He could just tell Legolas to go with Boromir, and the elf would troop off to Gondor with the rest of them.

Free from the Company, Aragorn figured he could find a nice hole to crawl into and spend the next fifteen years trying to decide if he truly wanted to try to be king or if he was too weak of a man. After all, Arwen was immortal...would it really matter if it took him a few more years to be king?

Then he realized he probably would not be able to find the right hole, and end up spending fifteen years with a crick in his neck. So the choice was before him: take up the kingship and probably fail horribly, or spend fifteen years earning a terribly crick in his neck that would affect his posture for the rest of his probably-short life.

A sudden blow on the back of his head brought him to his senses, and he whirled around to pin a glare on Legolas. "What was that for?"

"You were moping again," the elf replied. "Stop."

Aragorn's eyes narrowed. "Since when do you tell me what to do?"

Legolas sighed. "Aragorn, I am tired, I am still bleeding from the wolf attack, and I cannot tell if there is a party of orcs over the next hill or if perhaps I have a concussion. I have not the energy to coax you out of your foul mood, so please just stop moping."

The ranger blinked in surprise. "Legolas? Are you feeling all right?" He raised both eyebrows in concern, the thwack to the back of his head forgotten. "I think you may need to sit down."

He was further surprised when, without his permission, Legolas crumpled to the ground in an unconscious heap.

"Boromir," Aragorn called, rubbing the back of his head ruefully. "I think we need to make camp here tonight."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Urshnâg snarled as the last of his Uruk-Hai finally straggled into line. It had taken an inordinate amount of time to get them all ready to head off in pursuit of the remaining members of the Fellowship. Though why Saruman wasn't sending them after the wizard and the dwarf, Urshnâg didn't know. It didn't particularly bother him, though—wizards were rather infamous for carrying nasty weapons that could strike any orc dead from a hundred yards, and dwarves were notoriously tough to eat.

He growled and smacked one of the stragglers on the back of the head. Bad enough that Saruman made them all wear these ridiculous hats...he could barely see out of the eyeholes in his...now he was making them wear armor and war paint. The war paint was all right, as far as war paint went, but the armor...

The armor they had to wear made so much noise, no wonder none of the other orc bands or Uruk-Hai Saruman sent out ever returned. Urshnâg honestly wondered, sometimes, whether they wouldn't be better off wearing capes and sneaking around in the dark of night rather than wearing bulky, clanking armor and parading about in full daylight.

Saruman gave the word (after a long speech about running for days without rest, which Urshnâg thought was completely unnecessary), and Urshnâg snarled the command for them to head out.

As they trudged into the hot sun, clanking loudly and uncomfortably in cumbersome armor (at least, Urshnâg was—he'd missed the lesson entitled "Sneaking Around Silently in Bulky Armor"), Urshnâg couldn't help wondering if dwarves or elves made better capes for creeping about in the dark of night, and whether either of those races could be threatened into outfitting a band of Uruk-Hai.

After all, if they had any hope of actually surprising the remaining members of the Fellowship, it was high time for a costume change.


Reviews? Flames? Tar and Feathers?

Oh, what will happen in the next chapter? Will Gandalf and Gimli make it to Lothlórien safely? Will Aragorn and Company finally arrive at the Gap of Rohan (and avoid insulting Éomer)? Will Urshnâg ever find capes to fit the members of his Merry Band? The answers to all these questions and more...tune in next time! Same Bat-Author, Same Bat-Story!

I do apologize if you received two email alerts for this chapter. There was some trouble with alerts going through, so I tried reposting it.