A/N: This is an edited version of the story, and I will be uploading new, edited versions of each chapter, and some small expansions over the next month...
Daughter of Numenor
Overview: A ranger seeks her destiny as the rising dark of Mordor threatens her world, and those she cares for. Set During FOTR/TTT. Movie/Book/AU.
A/N: It has been a very long time since I wrote anything, but this evil little plot bunny just wouldn't go away! So I decided to give it a shot, it's probably rubbish, but I feel better for having started to let it out. If you read please please review! All feedback is appreciated – except flames of course!
Disclaimer: I own nothing! Except my own demented plot bunnies!
Prologue: Two Paths
Late afternoon sunlight shimmered on the waters of the Anduin which flowed swiftly through the forested crags towards the falls of Rauros, eight days ride behind them lay the Argonath, the great carvings standing proud against the sky. Anária had felt her breath stop for a moment as she had gazed upon her ancient kindred, their great stone bodies still standing even now.
The brief glimpse of the River Anduin as they passed along a rocky ledge in the forest was breathtaking. The opposite bank lifted up in great cliffs and mountains, etched grey in the afternoon sunlight. She twisted around to look behind her, in the far distance the pillar of Tol Brandir, the island at the Falls of Rauros was fading, barely visible even to her sharp eyes. Legend said that none had ever set foot upon the island as there was no chance of successfully navigating the strong currents that were formed by the great waterfall.
"We will reach the Anduin by nightfall." She looked over at her brother Anádor as he spoke, and realised that they had both halted their horses on the rise. She nodded. "I think tonight we should only camp a few hours and then move on after the moon rises." He continued his head shifting to look up at the sky; briefly she considered his words, her brow furrowing.
She felt what made him uneasy, a presence in the woods, somewhere behind or before her she could not tell. It was like a shadow in the corner of her eye, but when she looked for it she could not find it. There was something dark coming, and both rangers felt it.
"Then we should walk until dark, make camp, and then begin again after a few hours rest." She said softly.
He agreed with a brief nod and dismounted his horse, she quickly followed suit. Both were dressed in grey, green and brown, shirts and breeches with soft leather boots and vambraces of plain leather. But Anária wore an Elven style riding robe buttoned down the front with small wooden buttons, and embroidered in simple patterns while Anádor wore a tunic with laces, and with much less fine handwork. Other than that they were as alike as any two could ever be, with dark hair, and fine featured faces with noble brows, straight noses and strong jaws beneath dark hair. Anária's hair was half caught up and back in Elven braids, and stopped just below her shoulders, while Anádor wore his wild and loose above his shoulders.
They dismounted, leading their horses and moving steadily forwards on foot. Their path set by Anária, she had felt a pull, and it drew her north and would not ease nor slow.
With a final glance backwards they moved down the forested hillside in silence, leading their horses carefully.
Finally Anária broke the silence, repeating the beginning of a conversation they had had almost every day for a week. "We should have heard word by now. Aragorn must have passed through the Misty Mountains." Anádor was silent. His worry was evident in his silence; no more comforting words could he find to reply as he had the first few days.
It had been late summer when Aragorn, their Chieftain had sent them east. Their instructions had been vague; a score of the Dúnedain had travelled over the mountains in late summer, spreading out discreetly over the lands of Rohan, Gondor and even into the dark lands, to watch, gather information and await the command of the Chieftain of the Dúnedain.
However only Anádor and Anária, his mother's kin, were told that he believed he himself would soon be journeying east again and possibly in a company. For days now Anária had felt a strange urgency, drawing her up the Anduin. The blood of the Dúnedain carried with it the power of foresight. Anária knew it was this that pulled her upstream, for of all her close kin she had long been gifted with a greater share of that legacy.
For a brief time when they had camped at Parth Galen she had felt doubt, as though two paths stood before her. Long into the night she had sat and stared into the campfire, until it was ash. But as dawn broke she knew in her heart which way she must turn. She had not sensed any detail of the paths which lay before her, only a hazy sense of feelings out of any context: tragedy, joy, pain. The first would hold great relief, but would lead to something dark, which tasted like ash and blood. A sense of guilt hung over it like the scent of death over a terrible battlefield. The other was a darker path, with great trial but also great reward. And a sense of completion which was only just tangible, it was a possible conclusion of the path – but not certain in any way.
As Anádor had reminded her quietly as she had articulated her choice in the early morning gloom, the path of the ranger was never an easy one. And so they had agreed, not without trepidation they took the darker path. She felt an oncoming doom, bringing with it untold hardships and loss, great loss. She feared that loss would be of loved ones, but gently her brother had told her that she should put aside those feelings and cling to the hope of a better future. Surely, he asked, the sense - however intangible - of great peace and joy was a better outcome than a darkness in the distant future which seemed to cause great pain not only to her but to many others? Unspoken was his fear that the doom she sensed in that future was the fall of Middle Earth. He had not needed to say that to her.
For while she knew it was unlikely that the actions of two rangers might directly lead to such a fate, well she knew that each decision a person made was like a stone thrown into a pond - not even the wisest could foresee where all the waves would land, nor how they might impact other waves, from other pebbles.
She wondered briefly if her path might lead her back, over the mountains and into the western lands, even north to her people's lands. She shivered. Would the hand of Mordor reach even there, was that where she sensed such loss and hardship? But that distant threat was not her only concern.
Another feeling had been growing, a sense of impending danger that was not distant but close. Both the last nights they had camped for only a few hours before rising and walking through the darkness, since they had crossed the river Limlight something seemed to be pressing in around them, as though they were being stalked.
Anária had always loved woodlands, but these ones seemed oppressive, as though something dark was nearby, just out of her sight. Like a gathering storm on the horizon which is felt as much as seen. Anária paused; she felt a touch, like an icy hand on the back of her neck. Something moved nearby in the forest, she lifted her eyes to the sky in time to see a flock of birds pass overhead, their warning cries piercing the afternoon air in a shrill cacophony. The siblings shared a glance. Moments later they had mounted their horses, urging them to a gallop over the treacherous ground as dark figures moved through the darkening woods in close pursuit...