Safe In Your Arms
Battle at the River
Cait had fallen asleep. The sun was making all of us drowsy after many hours in the boats with the glare reflecting off the water. Cait in particular was more susceptible, mostly because of her only just having recovered. Though she would never admit anything of the sort aloud. I let her sleep. Frodo, Merry and I rowed.
We had passed the statues of the kings not long ago. Despite the early hour the company would be stopping soon. What with the waterfall in front of us, it was better if we stopped for rest and food before continuing on foot. Even Boromir did not openly complain about the turn of events. All were glad for a slower pace for a day, which was a very rare occurrence. I had hoped that we would reach this section of the river by evening, so that we could simply camp here for the night before continuing on foot. But we had been making exceptionally good time thus far and that was not to be.
I watched the shore warily as we neared our landing point. I had not noticed any bodies in the trees today, moving with us as we paddled upriver. The orcs had been stealthier than I had given them credit for during our journey. The hobbits hadn't noticed anything in the trees for quite some time, but now, I think, Sam at least had seen them. Or else he simply didn't trust the shore. Sam's instincts sometimes told him more than his eyes, and they were seldom wrong.
Legolas shook his head slightly, and I turned my canoe, currently ahead of the others, towards a bit of shore sandier and more sheltered than other parts. My fears were somewhat abated knowing that Legolas' elf eyes had not seen any orcs patrolling this shore. Looking to my left, I saw movement all along the eastern shore. The orcs were about. We would have to keep close watch. Either the orcs had patrols on both shores now or else they had crossed the river without the company any the wiser.
Neither situation was to my liking.
The canoe scrapped the bottom of the river. It was sandier here than it had been in some of our previous camping places. We dug our paddles into the sand and pushed, trying to bring the canoe as close to dry land as possible. Mud clouded the otherwise still, clear water. As much as Boromir thought this was specifically for Cait not having to get wet feet, I didn't much like the sensation of wet socks sticking to my feet either.
Cait stirred. Raising herself up just enough to see over the top of the canoe, she looked out, still rubbing the sleep from her eyes. "Shit!" she yelled loudly, scrambling about. The canoe would have threatened to tip over if we had not already been embanked.
"What is it, Cait?" Merry asked, looking down at the confused girl in the bottom of the boat.
"There's a freaking waterfall!" Cait started to explain as if Merry and the rest of us were blind and unaware of the danger. But she stopped midsentence when Boromir's canoe glided next to mine.
"Do you wish for me to push you over, Princess?" Boromir said, sounding kinder in his taunting than he had recently. He didn't look at her as he spoke, but instead gathered the supplies from the bottom of the boat. I noticed that he too had tried to bring the canoe as close to dry land as possible as well despite his earlier griping at me. I didn't say anything to him, though. It wouldn't do for me not to follow my own advice. One looses credit as a leader incredibly quickly in this way.
Cait glared at Boromir, but didn't respond. She was most likely too tired. Instead she asked no one in particular, "What's the time?"
"Mid afternoon," I responded. I began tossing the supplies in the back half of the canoe to Merry who was threw them to Frodo who was on the shore.
"Really?" Cait said, disbelievingly. "You should have woken me up."
"Yes, you should have." Boromir said, glaring back at us.
Cait and I exchanged glances. "Knew the quiet was too good to be true," Cait said. Merry laughed. Boromir only scowled deeper and was about to retort when Pippin, either knowingly or unknowingly, aptly changed the subject.
"Common' Sam," Pippin yelled from the boat Legolas and Gimli had just steered to shore. "Let's get supper going."
"It's not quiet supper time yet, Pip," Sam said, while getting the pots out just the same.
"Well, my stomach says that it's time for a meal. And what with missing all the usual meals except for breakfast and supper, and lunch on a good day, it's no wonder that I'm as hungry as I am."
"Can't argue that." Sam said.
He began clearing a section of ground of all brush and twigs in order to build a fire. Pippin quickly joined. The canoes were mostly unpacked by now. Most everyone were unraveling their blankets and making themselves comfortable. Gimli was laying on his blanket, back against a stone wall and smoking his pipe, before the rest of us were only half settled in. I was down at the river's edge tying up the boats. It would do no good if the canoes floated away while no one was watching. From behind me I caught Frodo saying something about getting the firewood.
Legolas walked up silently and began knotting one of the ropes securing the boat. He was watching the opposite shore as he worked, as was I. The orcs weren't moving about now as they had been when we were on the river, yet I found no comfort in the ceasing of their usual activities.
"The orcs watch us from the eastern shore," I said, voicing aloud what we had not yet openly spoke of.
Legolas frowned slightly. "The eastern shore is not what is worrying me."
He looked over towards our campsite. My eyes followed. I scanned the crowd quickly, and frowned. Something wasn't right, but at first glance I could not figure out just what that was. I walked up towards my pack, with the intent to unwrap my bedding, which I now think back on with irony.
"Where's Frodo?" Merry asked, looking around the campsite.
"Said something about getting the firewood," Cait said, stretching out. "I'm sure he'll be right back."
"But where's Boromir?" I asked.
The company froze. No one spoke for a long moment. No one had an answer. Boromir had slipped away unnoticed, just as he had when we were in Lorien. The company looked at one another, the worry for Frodo clear on all of our faces. I began walking through camp towards the woods. Suddenly Cait was by my side, gripping my arm.
"Aragorn," she began, worry written on her face.
I cut her off. "Stay here and watch for Frodo's return. If Boromir returns to camp first make sure that you keep him here, understand?" I said, sounding more like a commander than a lover.
Cait shook her head, looking even more worried. "Aragorn, I'm coming with you."
"I need you to stay here and watch for their return." Cait looked at me hard, folding her arms across her chest. "The orcs are silent. I fear an attack. Watch the waters. Orcs may begin crossing from the opposite shore. Watch for Frodo's return. We need to be ready. Be my eyes. Promise me."
After a long moment Cait nodded in agreement. "I promise," she said.
(Cait's point of view)
I wrapped my arms around myself as I watched Aragorn run into the woods looking for Frodo and Boromir. It was hard watching him run into the forest like that. I knew what was to happen and only now understood how much of a curse it was. That and the fact that a few things had changed since my time with the Fellowship. I remembered this part of the story. I remembered how Boromir tried to take the ring. How the orcs attacked and Merry and Pippin were taken captive when Boromir died. I imagined Frodo and Boromir arguing right this minute. Of Aragorn running to stop what we all feared from happening.
But what if things changed?
There was nothing that could guarantee something wouldn't change for the worse.
I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts. What good would I be if I was too afraid to help anyone? Just because things weren't happing exactly as wrote, so to speak, didn't mean that anything worse had to happen.
Legolas and Gimli saw just how worried I was. I was staring at the woods where Aragorn had left me standing. I was listening for the sounds of fighting. Though what I was going to do if I heard them I hadn't figured out yet. I could feel everyone's eyes on me. Gimli began telling a tale of one of his adventures soon after Aragorn had left. But it was a halfhearted attempt and we were all worried as it was. At this point it wasn't worth trying to deny everyone's fears.
"I'm going after them as well." Legolas said, as Gimli finished his story. "It has already been too long."
The elf picked up his bow and strung it. Legolas walked through the camp towards where I was standing. All eyes were on him.
"Watch the eastern shore. And wait for Frodo. He will return here." Legolas told me. I nodded. I knew marching orders when I heard them. I wouldn't run off.
Besides I was too scared to go out in the woods anyway. Even with an expert marksman. Or markself.
It was deathly quiet in camp. I walked down by the river and looked towards the opposite shore. If I was supposed to be watching that shore for them then it would do no good looking into the woods. Besides, I couldn't see anything anyway. It was true what they said about not being able to see the forest because of all the trees.
It wasn't long before a shout rent the air. The sound was inhuman, higher pitched than anyone in our company and wailing. The call was echoed by many more voices. The hobbits started, eyes wide with fright. Gimli unsheathed his axe.
"Stay here and protect the hobbits."
He ran with short strides into the forest. There was silence for a few seconds. Then we heard Gimli shout out his battle cry followed by several yelps and screams. I smiled in spite of the situation. It didn't sound as if any orcs were going to make it to the camp. Still, I might as well be prepared for everything and everything. I grabbed a small sword, or very long dagger – I'm not quite sure which it was – from where I had spread out my things. Nothing could be seen on the eastern shore. I turned my attention back to the woods which seemed much more immediate.
"Hey, where are you going?" I yelled at Pippin and Merry. They were already beyond out campsite, sneaking from tree to tree.
"Looking for Frodo. Sounds like everyone else is a bit preoccupied," Merry said.
"No!" I yelled, slightly panicking. "You don't understand, you have to stay here."
Pippin looked at me like I was crazy. "But he's our cousin, Cait. You have to understand. We need to make sure he's alright." Pippin looked and sounded more worried than I had yet heard him.
Merry looked at me hard. Our eyes met and I could feel him judging me. "Just make sure you stay hidden," I said. I wasn't going to lecture them on how hobbits couldn't fight like elves or men. Not only was it pointless because I knew they wouldn't listen, but I was in the same predicament of not exactly being in tip top shape and not really understanding how to properly fight in hand to hand combat.
"We will," Merry said. Pippin turned and ran, ducking from tree to tree. Merry looked at me for a second longer, trying to judge what I knew to be happening, before following his cousin.
I sighed. I picked up the sword I had gotten in Lorien. The shouts and clangs of metal weren't as concentrated as they were before. The orcs seemed to have broken into at least two different groups from what I could hear, maybe even three. The sounds of Gimli fighting could no longer be heard at once reassuring and disconcerting.
"I'm going too."
I was startled by the sound. I had kind of forgotten about Sam. But there he was, looking at me in such a way that made me uncomfortable.
"You stay here and wait for him, Miss Cait. You let nothing happen to him if you can help it," said the worried Sam.
"I promise, Sam." I watched as he picked his way through the brush. Sam started in the opposite direction Merry and Pippin had gone. He was trying to cover more ground, I'm sure, but looked like he wanted to stick to the river, so that he wouldn't get lost. Which was incredibly smart and the last thing I would ever think about. I'm sure Merry and Pippin hadn't either.
"Sam," I called out before he had gone more than a few steps from me. He stopped and turned towards me. "Good luck."
Sam only nodded. He turned and started jogging which turned into a full run after a couple of steps. I watched Sam until the trees were too thick to see through.
I knew that this would probably be the last time I would see Sam for a very long time.
I was standing in the middle of camp, alone, sword out, waiting. Either Frodo would come or the orcs would get to me first. In the distance a horn sounded. It was distant, muffled. I had never heard the sound before but knew exactly what it meant. Boromir, Pippin and Merry were being surrounded.
Suddenly I felt tears coming to my eyes. I knew what was happening. My thoughts went to Boromir and Merry and Pippin. And I was stuck here. Waiting. Waiting for Frodo to return. The only thing that made me stay was the fear of going into battle and the knowledge that Frodo needed to come back for one of the boats to cross the river. And when he did I had to make sure there were no orcs on his tail.
"Please get there in time, Aragorn," I said quietly, praying to whoever was listening that things wouldn't end as tragically as I had remembered.