This is proof that I'm still alive. I haven't had a lot of time, lately, but I'm trying to get chapters out for most of my stories soon. Can't make any promises-life's been a little time-crunched and Internet is hard to come by.

Chapter 7

"That is…" Elrond paused, seemingly searching for what word to use, "troubling."

Sa't supressed the urge to snort. Troubling? No, really?

Ah. That's where her sarcasm had gone.

"From what I understand," Sa't said aloud, "Orcs are… how shall I say? Prone to fighting amongst themselves. They are also cowardly, yes?"

Nods all around.

"So, logically, they should not attack unless they outnumber their opponents, and they should not be in larger groups unless something is forcing them to be."

Nods again, slightly wary excepting Aragorn.

"What we came for, was an answer to this question: What do they fear enough to work together?"

"Souron," Glorfindel answered promptly.

"And could that be our answer?"

Glorfindel and Elrond exchanged glances as the Twins did the same.

"I surely hope not."

Sa't flicked her gaze from one to another before she returned her attention to Aragorn, "Dare I ask?"

For that, she got an abbreviated history of Souron the Deciever.

xxxx

At the end of the minor Middle Earth history lesson, Sa't sighed. "Though I hate to be the one to say this, Souron not only matches the criteria, he seems to be the only one who does. Where does that leave us?"

"We must call a council," Elrond stated finally. "The people of Middle Earth must be warned."

xxxx

Not three days later, an Istari appeared and was introduced to Sa't as 'Gandalf the Grey'. An Istari. The translation of that word turned out to be 'Wizard', and Sa't grimaced at the memory of the few Earth-based magics she knew of.

At least the Wizards of Middle Earth were supposed to be good, she reflected as she told a shortened version of her story to the bearded man. And Aragorn trusted this one, which was a good sign.

"I see," he murmured when she finished.

She shook her head at the speculative gleam in his eye, "Part of me wishes to return to Earth. I cannot forget my Mother, Mertseger. I cannot forget what I am, nor those that led me to be who I am. But another part of me thinks that it wouldn't be such a bad thing, to start over here."

"Perhaps it would not," Gandalf agreed.

"After all," she gave a small, ironic smile, "What is one more war in a life that has not seen a single generation without them?"

Gandalf didn't know quite what to say to that.

xxxx

Gandalf assigned Aragorn and his twin brothers separate missions—the twins were to head to Murkwood, where there was another Elven settlement, and bring news of a Council being called. Other Elves were sent out to each of the 'Free Kingdoms of Middle Earth'. Aragorn, though, was being sent to Bree, a small village, to meet several 'Hobbits'—whatever those were—in case Gandalf would not be able to make his promised meeting.

Gandalf was heading out to meet with Sauruman, the head of his Order.

Sa't refused to be left out, stating that she was going with Aragorn, in no way asking permission.

Aragorn hid a smile at the memory—the tiny Immortal staring down beings even older than she was with calm, decisive determination. Gandalf and Elrond had not been able to change her mind, and in two days they were heading out, horseless in need of anonymous passing.

xxxx

Bree was a fairly clean little town, considering the era, Sa't noticed. She also noticed that Aragorn wasn't particularly well received, though he wasn't openly shunned either. More that people were wary of him—afraid almost.

"I am known as Strider in these parts," Aragorn explained. "Rangers are known to these people, and they know we are dangerous folk. They do not seem to realize our purpose is to protect them."

"Hm," Sa't eyed the curious gazes she was getting and twisted her Quickening about her. 'Harmless and not worth noticing', she projected. It was much easier than 'I'm not here, you don't see anything'.

Aragorn started and gave a double-take, then shook his head with a slight smile as he recognized what she was doing. "Come, we are here."

xxxx

Days passed before the group they were waiting for arrived, two greater than they had expected, wet from pouring rain, harried, frightened, and relieved at percived safe haven.

Strider—and she had to remember to call him that, here—had told her what would be hunting them, and they did not seem nearly frightened enough. To believe they were safe because of the town's walls and an inn's roof was… naive.

But understandable, all things considered. They were from a small, peaceful place, with no true knowledge of the darker sides of their world.

Then one of them, mildly drunk, started saying too much. Sa't saw Strider tense out of the corner of her eye—then another of the little people went to stop the speaker, fell back—and vanished to sight.

It was as though another Immortal had just walked into the room, an explosion of buzz in her head, and she could track it to his location far more easily than she had ever done with an actual Immortal.

She gestured quickly to the table she sensed him nearing and Strider moved.

Sa't followed.

xxxx

"Strider," Sa't scolded as the angry Ranger was overly rough with the little one. "I understand that you want him scared, but do you really want him scared of you?"

Strider visibly calmed himself, "No. You are right," he smiled wryly, "as usual, sister."

Sa't blinked in surprise at the unexpected form of address, but decided to discuss it later.

She barely had time to register the sound of footsteps on the stairs before the other three of the little people—Hobbits—came bursting in the door, fists and candlestick raised.

Strider had a sword out and ready before the door finished bouncing off the wall, spinning to face the unexpected intruders.

"Let 'im go, or I'll have you, Longshanks!"

Strider rolled his eyes slightly as he sheathed the worn blade, "You have a stout heart, but that will not save you."

"He's right on that much," Sa't agreed dryly. "Bravery, while commendable, is not enough. What you need is help."

The four Hobbits exchanged glances before the first—Frodo, if she remembered correctly—spoke. "What do you know?"

xxxx