This chapter is probably as much of a shock to me as it is to you readers! Don't know when another update with spontaneously occur… It's shorter than the others were, but I find it too difficult to write to that length and if I tried, you wouldn't even be getting this chapter… Some of the many reasons for this sudden, unexpected update are at the end. But for now, enjoy the chapter!
Disclaimer: I do not claim the rights to anything! Do you hear that SOPA? I DO NOT OWN THIS! I ACKNOWLEDGE THE FACT! I ALSO MAKE NO MONEY FROM THE HOURS SPENT AT THE COMPUTER WRITING FANFICTION! Good, glad that's cleared up.
It had been a week since he had sent his missives, requesting the aid of the elves for the men of Rohan. Since then he could feel the changes in the world – there was an up swell in the magic he associated with Galadriel's kingdom as they moved to action and a similar type of movement from, what he could only assume to be the Mirkwood elves. Their magic shared common traits, though those from Mirkwood felt more burdened with the effects of long battles and hardship. Still, the feel of their movement that travelled with the wind to reach him offered him much relief – especially when he was also battling against the stench and foul magic that emanated from the dark army that had begun its journey from Isengard. Meldarion doubted that the elves from Mirkwood that were making haste to assist Rohan would arrive in time, but he was sure that, with the addition of the Lothlorien elves, the army would be able to hold on until their aid arrived.
For now though, with the assurance that he had sent what help he could to Legolas and Aragorn, he let go of the thought of seeing Legolas soon and began heading south, to do the opposite of what Gandalf had told him and meet with the Steward of Gondor.
Having been headed east towards Edoras on Legolas' trail, he now set his wand-compass to lead him south to Minas Tirith and as such, found himself crossing the Entwash and following the Eastfold parallel to the mountains.
It was on the third day's travel, only two hours since Hedwig had re-joined him, circling in the skies above, that he found himself quickly surrounded by weary yet alert horsemen, their armour holding the same symbol as he had seen on Boromir's, and their swords directed towards him in a wary manner that defined the current times perfectly.
He held his hands up in a placating gesture, though they knew not that the stick hidden on his arm would be able to stun them within a second should anything go untoward. He offered them an innocent smile, his face visible, even as he kept his hood up to cover his ears.
While several of them shifted at his obvious youth, it seemed to make them all together more wary – understandable when finding a young child in the middle of lands fraught with war and death with no companions.
They appeared to put his youth to the side and deal with him as they would any strange in these times: "Who are you and what is your business in the lands of Gondor?"
Meldarion faced the man who had spoken, a middle-aged man whose blonde hair was course and dirty and his face held a few weeks' worth of beard that didn't suit its shape. "I come to bring news to the Steward of Gondor from the elven nations, and most recently from the land of Rohan. The tide of the war may be beginning to turn."
As relieved as the men were at his announcement, it didn't change their nerves over his presence.
"How are we to know you are to be trusted? And why would a child be sent on such a task?"
He paused for several moments, scanning several minds for any sign of disloyalty or negativity towards elven kind. When the worst he could find was uncertainty towards his race – though his skills at legilimency were extremely limited – he pushed his hood from his head.
"I am not as young as you think I am and have as much of a roll to play in this war as any other."
The overall unease amongst the men increased, though their fear abated at the same time.
The commander kept his surprise concealed, "It is said that the elves are more protective of their young than their lands. Why would they allow you to travel without aid?"
"I have all the aid I need in my owl Hedwig, who alerted me to your presence over an hour before you reached me." As if hearing her name mentioned – and Meldarion wouldn't be surprised if that was the case – and gave a shrill call from where she was circling, lower than normal. "And when I set out from Rivendell I was with a larger group that has since split ways – Lord Boromir was another of the group."
The horsemen perked then, "You have news of Lord Boromir?"
Meldarion hesitated for barely a second, "I am afraid not. I was held up in Lothlorien and, before I could catch up with the fellowship they had split into separate groups headed in different directions. I did not see whom went which way and have not had any contact with them since. The news I bring has been told to me by the earth and winds."
None of what he said had been a lie. For all that he knew the directions taken by each group, and of Boromir's demise, he had not actually seen it and that was all he had assured the men of. Whilst he thought it cruel to keep the news of the Lord's death from his people and family, from Gandalf's words he did not truly trust to the rule of the Steward, and was worried what the truth would do to him, especially in a time that needed strong leaders like never before.
Having assured himself he was doing the right thing, he looked back to the men who seemed rather perplexed at his announcement. Finally they seemed to trust to his words and the swords that had been aimed at him since their arrival were lowered, though not immediately sheathed.
"We will take you to Minas Tirith, though whether you will speak to the Steward is out of our hands. From this point we have a full day's ride before us. We shall get another two hours in before stopping for rest."
He nodded to another man, who pushed his horse forward whilst sheathing his sword and offered Meldarion a hand to hoist himself into the saddle in front of his torso with his arms surrounding the elfling to handle the reins. Meldarion settled in place and moments later the company was making haste once more across the open lands.
When they made camp that night, Meldarion didn't even hesitated before beginning to cast the enchantments around the site – a significantly larger area than he had become used to. With the lack of any lights emitted from his wand, the men were only confused by his wanderings whilst muttering in a foreign tongue – however, being unfamiliar with elven kind, it wasn't until asked by Captain Thorden that he explained he was placing enchantments around them for safety.
"You are a wizard?" was the shocked response. "I did not know that there were such amongst the fair folk!"
Meldarion gave a smile before avoiding the question, "How much do you know about elves?"
The man gave a conceding nod before offering him a bowl of some form of stew. The meal didn't look appetising, and he considered declining in favour of the elven foods in his pack, before dismissing that plan and taking the food. It was better than he be seen to be accepting of the hospitality offered to him than to be reclusive as these would surely be the men who would first announce his arrival to the Steward. With that in mind, he settled himself down with the much larger men around the fire that night to listen to the boisterous tales they had to tell him. He laughed at their tales, and more at their amazement that, even whilst having their swords pointed at him earlier, they would not have been able to do him damage beyond the shield he had erected with his magic. They made good company for the night.
Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli were sat around a table of maps and scraps of parchment with depressing figures that represented the numbers of available men. There was the hope Gandalf's return with the large group of Rohirrim that had been banished during Grima's term as advisor to Théoden, but it was overshadowed by the numbers that Aragorn had seen headed in their direction. With the enemy not even a day away, they had no time or way to call for reinforcements from either Gondor or the elves. They had but the 'impenetrable' walls of the Hornburg and the few hundred elderly or too youthful men with which to defend themselves.
It was as they argued over the lower age limit of the fighters that they heard a horn sound from not afar outside their walls. For a split second they all froze at the prospect of the enemy having arrived many hours before their expectations then Aragorn and Legolas' faces lit with understanding and they shared a smirk before racing out the door.
"Those are elven horns!"
Within moments they were at the top of the wall overlooking their surroundings. The elven flags of Lothlorien were a wonderful sight to their tired eyes and Aragorn quickly ordered the men to open the gates before the pair sprinted down to meet their comrades, neither noticing Gimli stomping along behind them trying to keep pace.
The men near the gate had to move further into the keep, crowding around the upper walls to watch as more and more elves continued to flood into the stone fort, their eyes bugging out of their faces at so many fair folk.
Aragorn and Legolas met Haldir warmly as the gates were once again shut, ignoring Théoden and his commanders' shocked faces for now.
Haldir smiled at the two of them before it diminished slightly whilst facing Legolas. "My friend, I must apologise deeply to you. Your young mate is tricky and, within the day of awakening from his slumber, knocked me unconscious and snuck from Lothlorien. The only consolidation I can offer is that the Lady saw him off and ensured he was prepared with the finest elven armour and dwarven mithril. I failed in my promise to you."
Legolas placed a hand on his shoulder, "Gandalf has already told me, as well as letting me know how foolish I was to believe any elf could keep him in Lorien. Do not blame yourself; your presence now is what is important. I can only hope that he is safe wherever he may be."
Aragorn nodded his agreement with the Mirkwood elf's statement. "Your presence here will make a great difference to the coming fight! There must be four hundred strong of you!"
Haldir laughed at their awe, "we number just over five hundred. Lady Galadriel had already prepared half of us to leave when a message arrived from a certain elfling asking that we send aid. After that she doubled our numbers."
Legolas once more perked up to attention, "You've had word from Meldarion? Where is he? Is he well? What did he say?"
"I'm afraid none but Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn read the note, however both were more happy afterwards, and the Lady has kept the note with her, at least until we left anyway. She assured me he is in good health but that is as much as I know. That he wrote to the Lady when he did though, indicates that he has a better understanding of the overall goings on than most of us. Whatever he may be doing now, the effects will surely bring benefit to us later on, whether we know it is the result of his input or not."
The three nodded, rather solemn at the thought of the elfling out on his own. But then the moment was forced to end as Théoden strode forward to greet them and they made their way into the planning room to rethink their strategy – they had few enough hours to make proper plans to include the powerful new men they had been provided. There would be precious few hours rest for them before the battle began.
And that seemed like a good place to end this chapter. As I say at the start, no promises of any more updates any time soon! This was brought about by my rereading the fic (for the first time) and the fact that I've just lost ALL my work on my external hard-drive (aka all of the unpublished fics, the starts of the next chapters for the published fics and all the ES21 chapters I hadn't got around to publishing DX)
Hopefully this chapter still has whatever it was that made people like this fic when I last updated! As I still get the occasional review, I'm assuming people are still interested in it!