Hi! This is a completed story. But it is also past of my ranger series. Other stories in this series will be posted after this chapter, as chapter 2, chapter 3 etc. The stories will mainly feature Aragorn, Halbarad, and other rangers, but alsoLegolas and other characters. Some stories are angsty, others funny, others are full of adventure. There will be long and short stories. So, astory for every taste.
It is a kind of "Everything you always wanted to know about rangers, but were afraid to ask" / Everyday ranger life stories. LoL
Title: On the way home
Disclaimer: I own nothing that has to do with The Lord of the Rings. I make no money with this story.
Summary: On their way home, Aragorn and Halbarad have a near fatal encounter with a club.
A/N (1): This is part one of my ranger series.
A/N (2): Originally written for the MC prompt # 45 "Club". Aragorn and Halbarad are in their early 20s.
The sun was sinking behind the horizon, bathing the woods into a gloomy light that created deep shadows between the trees. A lonely owl hooted dolefully before it flew away in search of food, and a few tiny grey mice scrabbled away to hide in the underbrush.
Aragorn sighed and shifted his pack from one shoulder to the other. Even after sunset the air under the trees was stale and warm, but he hoped that the night would bring refreshment. Now, in the middle of the summer, the days in Eriador were hot, the air flickering before their eyes, and the grass was so dry that even the tiniest spark could start a forest fire. Which meant that the rangers seldom lit any fires at all. It was hot enough anyway.
Glancing over his shoulder at his companion, Aragorn saw that Halbarad looked as dead on his feet as he felt. Sighing once more, Aragorn gazed around. They were near the Trollshaws and would reach the Great East Road tomorrow. After that, they would travel further south and reach the Dunedain village probably in a week. It would not hurt to rest now.
"What would you say, if I'd say that we stop for the night?"
Halbarad, who was truly dead on his feet, sweaty, hungry, thirsty and tired, lifted his head, hope flickering in his eyes, "Are you saying that or was the question only theoretical in nature?"
Smiling, Aragorn made his way over to a large tree, threw his own heavy pack onto the ground and flopped down beside it a second later.
For a moment, Halbarad merely looked at him, but then he lifted his face to the sky and sighed deeply, "Thank the Valar. I thought we'd never stop." And with that, he flopped down next to Aragorn, his hands already digging through his pack for something to eat.
The drought had driven a lot of the deer and other animals to the East, and therefore they had not had much luck with hunting. But they had collected some fruits along the way. And after all, no one liked to eat meat when it was that hot.
Without hesitation, Halbarad shoved a handful of fruits into his mouth, closing his eyes and sighing in pleasure. Aragorn had the impression this was the first meal the man had had in days, although they had eaten regularly.
Just when Halbarad was to eat the rest of his fruits, he caught Aragorn's amused look, "Oh, do you want some, too?" He asked meekly. It was clear he had no intention to share.
"Uhm, no, thank you Hal. I think I will seek out the river and clean myself from the dust of the road before having dinner."
With that he got to his feet, took out his towel and a clean tunic, before he marched away in the direction the small brook was located. Turning and calling over his shoulder, he added, "Oh, and Hal, if it is not too much asked for, have a look on the camp and my pack, will you?" And with that he disappeared into the trees.
Halbarad stared after his friend for a moment, before he mumbled irritably, "A brook. He could have told me there is a brook here. Great friend…" But inwardly he already imaged how the cool water would feel on his warm body, especially his feet, which seemed to have been braised in his shoes.
Grinning, Halbarad rolled out his sleeping roll and settled back against a tree. Cool water…
Shedding his clothing, Aragorn let himself sink down into the water. He sighed audibly when the water cooled his skin, that was already red from the sun. After this summer, he would surely have a deep tan, one that would make the elves look like pale ghosts beside him.
Grinning at the thought, Aragorn quickly washed the dust and sweat from his body, relishing especially in the opportunity to wash his hair. Maybe his brothers deemed it a tradition among the rangers to look as scruffy and grimy as possible, but there was nothing better than a fresh bath and a clean body after a hot day such as this one.
For some more minutes Aragorn relaxed in the cool water, letting it run over his body until he felt it becoming too cold. The brook was not that deep and relatively small, but it originated from the Misty Mountains and only surfaced a few miles away, inside the forest. The hot summer sun had not had the opportunity to heat it yet.
Sighing inwardly and debating for a few more minutes whether he should really leave the cold water, Aragorn finally exited the stream, dried himself and put on his trousers and the clean tunic. He would have loved the wash his trousers, but his spare pare had suffered in a wolf attack and needed to be sewed before he could wear them once more. And to walk around with no garments was out of the option.
Taking one more longing look at the brook and vowing to come back tomorrow early in the morning for another bath, Aragorn turned around. He had made only one step in the direction of the camp, when he heard a strange sound. Or rather, felt a strange sound.
His hackles rose and his hand went automatically to the hilt of his sword, but when he turned around he saw nothing disturbing. Still, something had been there, he had felt it in his legs and stomach. Something so low that his ears had not detected it, but that was there nevertheless.
Frowning, Aragorn took a step closer to the river and peered at the trees on the other side. Suddenly, a flock of bird flew twittering into the night sky, only some yards way from him on the other side.
Aragorn knew that there were caves on the other side, but nothing had lived there for ages. True, he had not been to the Trollshaws for a very long time, but he had not heard that orcs had taken up residence here.
Another low drumming vibrated through the ground, and some small pebbles rolled down the bank and splashed into the river. Aragorn's frown deepened as he first gazed at the river, and then at the forest on the other side. What the…
An ear-splitting roar reached his ears, and it was so loud and strange that Aragorn jumped a bit in surprise. His eyes widened to the size of pumpkins, and cold sweat appeared on his brow.
"Oh sweet Eru." And without another look back, Aragorn turned around … and ran. As fast as his legs could carry him he crashed through the underbrush, not heeding that he was making more noise than a horde of orcs.
When he reached Halbarad, his friend was already alert, having heard him coming.
"Aragorn? What happened? What…"
"Troll!" It was all Aragorn could say, before he quickly took up his pack, bow and quiver and then pushed the flabbergasted Halbarad towards his own things. When Halbarad only gazed at him, mouth hanging open, Aragorn picked up his friend's things and shoved them inside his pack, which he then pushed into Halbarad's arms.
"Hal, move! We have to leave before the troll finds us. We…"
Another ear splitting roar reached their ears, and they both froze.
"Human flesh! I smell human!"
And then the ground shook violently signalling the approach of the troll.
"Hal, move, come on." Aragorn grabbed his friend by the arm, and then the two of them sped away through the forest. They both knew there was no sense in fighting a troll. The troll would smash them and then eat them alive.
They could hear the huge beast stomp though the forest behind them, and when Halbarad chanced a quick look over his shoulder, he saw a thin tree bend under an invisible force. The tree's roots lifted out of the earth, and then the whole tree broke in the middle, splintered in dozens of small pieces.
Gulping, Halbarad doubled his efforts and this time it was he who grabbed Aragorn's sleeve, "Move, faster!"
And faster they moved, but not fast enough. Just when they scrambled up a steep hill inside the forest that was overgrown with brambles, the troll caught side of them. Seeing his prey seemed to give him an extra source of glee, and with a "See ye!" the troll advanced.
In his one hand he swung what looked like a huge net, complete with stones to weight down the corners, and in his other he carried the biggest club that Aragorn had ever seen. With a yell of warning, Aragorn flung himself to the side, hoping that Halbarad would do the same.
The troll roared and then swung his club, letting it crash to the ground only inches away from Halbarad's head. Scared and startled, Halbarad hurried up the hill on hands and knees, unheeding of the thorns that scraped his skin.
Aragorn, who had flung himself to the side, tried to follow his friend, but the troll saw his movement and swung his club once more. The wooden club missed Aragorn by a hand's breath, turning a dry bush next to Aragorn's body into an indefinable mass of twigs and leaves.
Breathing heavily, Aragorn rolled to the side, seeing out of the corner of his eyes that Halbarad had made it over the edge of the hill. But all further musing was prevented, when the troll suddenly roared and threw the net at him.
Aragorn rolled and attempted to get to his feet, but he was not quick enough this time. The net missed his body, but it caught hold on his legs, tangling them and making Aragorn trip and crash to the ground in a heap.
The air was driven out of his lungs and he gasped for breath, feeling the earth shudder as the troll approached.
"Human flesh is sweet." He roared in glee.
A huge, grey arm lifted and raised the club, ready to smash Aragorn and turn him into human-mash.
Aragorn struggled fiercely with the net, but the stones had caught in the net and the net in some bushes, and it would not loosen enough for him to get away. In a final attempt to avoid the unavoidable, Aragorn reached for his dagger and began to cut away the net, but he knew he would not be fast enough.
Grinning, the troll let the club fall down, ready to kill him. Struggling in near panic, Aragorn threw himself, net and all, to the side. The club crashed to the ground, hitting Aragorn's left shoulder and arm, making him yell in pain. But Aragorn's movement caused his body to uncontrollably roll down the hill at an alarming speed, escaping therewith the full force of the club.
Faster and faster he tumbled down the hill, unable to stop his fall. That, did a large tree, against which he crashed. For a moment, Aragorn could not move at all, lying dazed on the ground, fighting against the blackness at the edges of his vision. He could hear the troll roar and feel the vibration of his movements in the ground.
Turning his head, Aragorn saw the troll approach, club in hand and a grin on its face. This was it, no way out.
But then, something very strange happened. A figure appeared on the top of the hill, dark against the gloomy sky, and then the figure hurriedly sneaked up on the troll from behind. The creature seemed to not notice the figure, so intent was the troll on his meal.
It raised the club once more, standing right above Aragorn. And then, the figure, who Aragorn now identified as Halbarad, set fire to a dry and uprooted bush and then threw it at the head of the troll.
The beast roared and lifted its huge hands to remove the burning bush, dropping its club and dancing from side to side. In a flash Halbarad was at Aragorn's side, freeing him from the net and then hauling him to his feet.
More dragging him away then letting him walk by himself, Halbarad led Aragorn back towards their old campsite, the roars of pain and anger of the troll following them all the way. Once at the brook, Halbarad plunged into it, steadying Aragorn as he did so, and without a look back they followed the river downstream. The water would hopefully hide their scent.
An hour later, when they had not heard of the troll for a long while, Halbarad finally stopped and exited the stream.
A lopsided grin appeared on his face, "That was close. I thought the troll would turn you into mash."
"Me too, Hal, me too. Thank you for rescuing me."
"Every time, my friend. How is your shoulder?"
Grimacing and moving his injured arm marginally, Aragorn commented, "Sore. But I think it is not broken."
"We should have a look at it in the morning, once the light is better. Will it go for the night?"
And then the two friends resumed their journey southwards, both of them still feeling the after-effects of their troll encounter. Then, in the early hours of morning, they stopped close to some beech trees, more than ready to sleep.
"Are you hungry, you have not yet eaten." And Halbarad held out some cram for him.
Making a face, Aragorn settled back against a tree, "No thanks."
Shrugging, Halbarad stuffed the cram into his mouth. Silence settled over the two, and Aragorn was already half asleep when he heard Halbarad mumble, "They will never believe this, mark my words, a real troll…."