To Resist both Wind and Tide
by erobey | un-beta'd | Italics=thoughts
"What fates impose, that men must needs abide; It boots not to resist both wind and tide."
Chapter One: Ambush in Rhovanian
Summary: This story is for Ana, a dear friend and gifted writer who composes the very hottest and most romantic A/L stories, manages to keep Arwen in them (sometimes), and keeps them all real and believable. Find her work over on Of Elves and Men archive listed as: Ana the Library Elf. This tale is just a small token of thanks for the many years of support and friendship she has shown me :-) Hope everyone else enjoys it, too.
The Chronicles tell of Aragorn's years of service to Thengel and to Ecthelion prior to the Ring Wars. In 2980, Thengel died and Aragorn left Gondor, heading east. It is shortly after this that he returned to Lorien and made his pledge to Arwen. This story takes place in that time period, but fate intervenes and Aragorn never returns to the fair Evenstar. Aragorn is 49 years old. The title is taken from Shakespeare's Henry VI.
Aragorn spared a second to silently name himself every kind of fool, unsheathing his sword and cursing the stubborn pride that had made him reject Ecthelion's offer of a full battalion of cavalry for the journey eastward. Yet they wouldn't have been the Steward's men at all but Denethor's, the Steward yet to be, and an uneasy and distrustful truce was the best Isildur's heir could manage to accord his keen-eyed, suspicious, and perilous cousin. Still, men of Gondor, be they Denethor's or Ecthelion's, would not have faltered in the current situation, for Uruks were the most despised of all Sauron's minions, and Aragorn would have been glad for the aid of a few strong arms and sharp blades.
In truth, too many years have I dwelled in the White City to be so easily duped as this.
He should never have followed their trail at all. The Uruks' could only be heading for Mirkwood and Dol Guldur. He should have at the very least gone back to Rohan to gather reinforcements. Somehow they'd caught his scent and decided to turn and eliminate their unwanted tagalong. Whatever they were planning to do in Mirkwood, it must be important for them to fear any news of it reaching those who opposed the growing might of Sauron.
Not that it matters now.
Issuing forth a mighty shout he charged into the fray, cleaving the head from the lead Uruk barrelling toward him, permanently spoiling its plan to do the same to him. He shoved the spouting corpse into the path of the next fastest one and swivelled to chop free its blade-bearing hand. A black-fletched bolt whizzed past his neck and yanked loose a strand or two of hair. Hastily he darted low and cut a dipping feint beneath an up-raised sabre aiming for his head and saw the orcish archer's next arrow skewer that self-same arm.
Still moving forward through the stampeding throng, he caught up his dagger, leaped, and let it fly while using the downward momentum to enhance the thrust of his sword. The steel made a peculiar squealing, scraping sound as it ploughed through a slavering, fang bedecked maw and out at the base of the scull. Hauling the blade free, he elbowed an armoured back, marked with satisfaction in which beast's throat his dagger was buried, dodged an axe blade with scant millimetres to spare, and on the follow through managed to hack away its bearer's knee.
Four down and only seven more to fell.
Aragorn knew full well he was facing his death; the odds against him were too great. As though to seal the prediction, a blade got past his defences, or rather reached him through non-existent defences. It was impossible to guard all sides at once. Not even an elf was that fast. The wound was not bad, a nick in the flesh of his thigh, but it made him stumble and that proved fortuitous, dropping him beneath a sabre that surely would have decapitated him. A quick turn and roll and his sword was up, positioned to block a killing jab from another blade, but it was only a matter of time.
And not much at that.
The whine of another arrow split the air and was followed by more, but he could not locate the archer nor hope to stop him. The Uruk bowman was far from the heat of the battle, firing at his leisure, secure in the safety distance ensured. This is why he really hated Uruks; they were much better soldiers than common orcs and Sauron had taken great delight in ensuring his abominations possessed nearly the same accuracy with the bow as did the archers of Lorien. Aragorn's only hope was to use the dense press of bodies around him as living shields.
Either he will pierce his comrades in error and thus aid me or he must stop firing and thus aid me either way.
A loud grunt confirmed the former scenario as an Uruk went down and his fellows trampled over the convulsing body. In quick succession two more were likewise pierced and felled. Aragorn grinned, kicked the legs out from under his nearest assailant, and managed to gut another before a second jagged and rending jolt of agony burst through his concentration. He gritted his teeth against it and twisted away, hearing his own flesh rip, his own voice cry out, and then he was down, sword trapped beneath him, back exposed.
That should have been the end of him for there were still six or more Uruks on the attack. Instead, he scrambled up and swung wildly at the bulky black blur looming close, connecting with its body so hard he ended up on his knees again, the vile thing's blood spewing all over his face. Retching, he staggered back to his feet and heaved his sword at another, cleaving only air this time, but the Uruk fell all the same. None took its place. He faltered and nearly lost his balance again, then rallied, struggling to raise his sword a last time, the tear in his shoulder screaming in protest, or rather he was screaming in protest. There were no foes to answer that final, savage challenge. The yelling and screeching and clamour of battle was over.
It made no sense. How could it be over and he still alive? Aragorn peered at the scene in confusion. All the Uruks were felled, be they dead or dying. Chest heaving, mindful of blood dampening his back and icy pain accompanying every in-drawn breath, he turned warily about, sword at the ready. Surely they had retreated and were regrouping. He scanned the distance but the only motion came from the swaying grass. Every one of the Uruks was finished and his senses told him there were no more in hiding, not even the elusive archer.
Wanting nothing more than to tend the injury to his shoulder, he dismissed the desire to sit and rest. This had to be some hoax, some trap. He could not accept the truth his sight revealed. Once more he turned and surveyed the carnage, counting the bodies scattered over the churned and riven earth, nose wrinkling at the stench of bitter blood clotting in the heat of the sun, unable to grasp how his fate had changed so quickly, so favourably. He thought perhaps Mithrandir was lurking somewhere about, or his brothers had come upon him by some unforeseen turn of luck, but all was silent and desolate. There was no one.
No one. Yet there must be.
Aragorn only saw him because he fell, a silent, weightless drop to the earth, a bright flash of golden hair the flag that marked his fall. Huddled in a crumpled heap at the uttermost verge of the drab, brown plains, beyond the reach of the shadow cast by the whispering leaves and out-stretched limbs of Mirkwood, just there lay the body of his unknown ally: a lone Wood Elf. Stunned, Aragorn could but stare, bewildered and befuddled, for the silvan folk of Thranduil's realm did not venture this far south. They remained secluded in the northern-most corner of the ancient woods, pushed back even beyond the boundary of the Forest Road, dwelling, if the legends were true, beneath the ground like dwarven folk. They never travelled singly, either, or would dare pass Dol Guldur as this one must have done.
Wood Elves do not go that way.
Apparently, they did. Obviously, this one did. Unless he was dreaming, and the dire pain of the rent in his shoulder said he was not, then there lay a solitary Wood Elf, fallen that he might live. The notion burst through his scattered thoughts and Aragorn found his senses, gave a horrified cry, and raced through the shin-high grass of the sand-coloured sward, casting down his weapon as he came near and knelt beside the still and lifeless form. Fingers trembling and bloody reached for the neck beneath the swath of sunlit hair and Aragorn pressed, seeking a pulse. All the air gushed from his lungs in a giddy bark of triumph when he felt it, faint and fast. Absently he wiped his gory hand across the grass before carefully turning the warrior over, grimacing in dismay to find a black arrow drilled deep between his ribs.
The lung will be punctured.
He knew better than to remove the shaft until he had means to properly treat the internal damage, too, and continued his assessment. The arrow wound was the only visible injury and while such was not necessarily fatal, especially among the First-born who were by design rather difficult to kill, the likelihood of the bolt being tipped in poison was high. If such was the case, the quicker he could reach Lothlorien the better, and so thinking Aragorn grasped the feathered end of the embedded arrow and snapped it off, so to lessen the chance of aggravating the wound during travel. The report sounded loud in the empty space but not nearly so voluble as the piercing cry that fled the Wood Elf's lips.
Eyes that had been sealed flew open to gaze upon him in fear and anger, limbs that had been lifeless cast Aragorn back upon his rear and reached to snatch hold of a most efficient looking bow, while legs that should not be able to bear any weight carried him upright in seconds. The man found himself staring at the point of a very well made arrow and noted with interest that it was crafted from obsidian, the delicate scallops defining its apex perfectly symmetrical and evenly placed.
A harsh gasp left the elf's struggling lungs as bolt and bow both wavered before toppling amid the desiccated grass. Aragorn looked up into panicked blue eyes as the warrior clutched his chest, fingers gingerly laced about the ugly stub of black-stained wood, fighting to breathe.
"Bâ! Ai, ni skarna, kalrô de de skarna orkuî tultâ, ni meina, kalrô, de deljâ "
His speech was strange to hear, the words cut off as he doubled over, coughing and gasping, and Aragorn knew not what it meant. He caught the suffering ellon just as he pitched forward, vomiting blood and something darker down his tattered tunic. A feeble groan followed and then he was limp and silent once more, hair hanging all about and spilling over Aragorn's lap.
"This is not meet," said Aragorn aloud, glancing up at the cloud spattered sky as though he thought to find Manwë himself drifting on the gusting wind and watching over the scene.
With a sigh of resignation he eased the elf back to lie upon the ground and stood, hand shielding his eyes as he scanned the trampled ground for signs of his pack, hastily cast aside ere the fight began. No sooner had he spied it and taken a step than he heard a most unpleasant sound, a sound that made his heart falter and his skin crawl. A high, unholy shriek arose from beneath the trees, rising and echoing deep within the woods, seeping out into the Bite and the Brown Lands in the sweltering noon-day air. Aragorn shuddered and fought to control his terror, running now for the pack, crouching low as though that might afford him cover in the barren plain, realising what that sound portended for him and his unconscious friend.
Nazgûl. What more could one ask?
He reached his kit unscathed and wrapped his shoulder in the quickest field dressing he had ever applied, tied off the small cut on his thigh, and made another mad dash through the field of corpses for the Wood Elf. The foul shadow-king bellowed again. Aragorn could not control his body's involuntary response and halted mid-stride in the grass, two metres from the elf, every instinct demanding he turn and flee. He mastered himself and with a feral growl clenched his fists and forced his legs to move. The woodland archer had not stirred even in the noise of their approaching doom, but Aragorn did not pause to check for his pulse again. Kneeling, he gathered the boneless body to him and rose, a strained groan escaping as pain spiked through his shoulder. He ran for the river, just barely near enough to spy.
Hooves drummed upon the earth behind him and Aragorn's heart dropped into his stomach. The noise of the Wraith had not been so near as that, surely not, yet he was pursued. The surrounding trees must have deadened the sound and confused him. Denial and determination demanded more speed from his straining muscles; he would not die like this nor permit that corrupt ghoul to have the elf. Lungs, already burning with the effort of the futile escape attempt, failed to give sufficient air and he staggered to a halt. Where could they go on foot? He could not outrun a charging war horse. It was beyond hopeless.
Honour and ancestry insisted he face this foe rather than be cut down on the run. Cursing the Powers, he let the Wood Elf drop and spun, sword ringing as he unsheathed it, ready to meet death bravely and show the Witch King, if it should be he, of what steely stuff the hearts of the Dunedain were made.
"My life you might take," he challenged boldly, "but you'll not " and then his words died in his throat as he saw what followed them. Aragorn blinked and then laughed aloud, lifting sword and countenance skyward. "Eglerio Varda a pân Valar vi Valinor!" he cried in jubilation and then seated the blade back in its scabbard, eyes once more on his pursuer. "Tolo enni, lobor vae, lobor arod, tolo sí," he crooned softly, extending his hand to the curious horse observing his strange behaviour.
It was an elf-raised horse, this was apparent at once, and could thus only belong to the wounded Wood Elf, for no equine would ever consent to bear an orc much less an Uruk, nor would any wild beast seek to join his frantic dash over the dismal wastes. Aragorn decided he had much for which to thank this unknown sylvan archer for the horse would grant them the speed required to get beyond the river and on to Lorien. The Wraiths would never bother to leave their lair to track one lowly elf and a single Ranger. Suddenly the future was no longer delimited by the next few seconds.
As he expected, the horse came to him readily. The elf must have commanded her to stay hidden and she'd obeyed until her master was borne away. A velvety black muzzle nuzzled Aragorn's hand and an intelligent liquid brown eye peered into his, assessing his worth. Satisfied with the quality of his character, the mare went at once to the fallen ellon, nudging the slumped form gently, blowing soft nickering concern through his tangled yellow hair. Her efforts raised an incoherent grumble and ineffectual stirring of the limbs but nothing more.
"Be not alarmed, mellon, he will live if any aid of mine can assure it. The First-born are nearly indestructible, especially this variety, if the rumours be true. Bear us away to Lorien and I will tend him."
Aragorn patted the mare's neck, spotted and flecked with ruddy brown and checked the leather strapping which secured a small pack and two bundles of arrows to her whithers. To these he added his meagre luggage and then took up the elf again, for there was no time to waste. Glad the weight of the woodland folk was not like that of his twin brothers, Aragorn draped his unlikely ally over the horse's neck and sprang up behind him. Barely had he settled before the Wraith's horrid voice razed the air once more, noticeably nearer now. The mare flinched, flattened her ears, and bolted for the thin ribbon of glitter and gleam that marked the river's domain.
Her speed surprised the man and he grabbed at both the senseless ellon and her flying black mane. It was news to learn the forest folk kept such steeds as this and he wondered if there once had been accord and trade between Greenwood and Rohan. What he knew of the Rohirrim suggested otherwise, for they were a superstitious folk and distrusted even the people of Galadriel. Yet Aragorn smiled, leaning low over the archer, well pleased to have such unexpectedly swift transportation no matter how she had come to belong to a Wood Elf. Again his luck had changed favourably and the man gave thought to curbing his habit of blaming the Valar for every little trial and trouble, as his mother so often exhorted.
Alas, powers for both good and ill warred over the fate of both man and elf and evil struck another blow. Before they came near enough to spot the catkins of the marshy fens, a hail of black arrows flew from the bleak shadows of the forest, falling short but sinking deep into the soft earth, a barrier the mare could not ignore. She skidded and half-reared, twisting her body away from the deadly peril, changing direction and flying south into the desolate steppes of the deserted plains. Neither command nor coaxing could sway their course and Aragorn could hardly blame her. A glance behind revealed a continuous barrage of arrows as the glamhoth of Dol Guldur spilled into the Brown Lands and gave chase.
At least they are not warg-riders; we'll outrun them easily.
So it seemed and Aragorn grinned as the blasted country retreated, a blur beneath the mare's hooves. Surely they would reach the marshes opposite the Field of Celebrant and cross there. They could still make it to the safety of Lothlorien. No sooner had the thought passed through his mind than he felt the mare lurch and bounce once more, so severely he was nearly unseated and had he not kept hold of the elf the archer would have been thrown down, no matter how dearly she loved him. She snorted and danced, weaving back and forth, highly disturbed and the reason soon made itself known. Pounding over the horizon came five more Uruks and behind them a swarm of Mordor orcs astride wargs. They were all shouting and laughing like a pack of jackals, brandishing their ugly sabres and gnashing their rotten teeth.
"Eru's Arse!" hissed Aragorn. "What more?"
It was the wrong question, for the mare twirled again and now the man saw the orcs from Dol Guldur racing for Anduin, too. The hideous things must know he meant to head for the Golden Wood and planned to cut him off. That was not a fight he could win and Aragorn's hopes evaporated. There was nothing to do but continue south and try to get across into the Wold, hoping to find shelter there. Here, the great river's bank was a sloping land of swamps, meers, and quick-mud. The horse might easily founder and become trapped in the mire, making them all easy targets. Even if she succeeded, they would be caught between orcs, Uruks, and warg riders, Anduin at their backs and Fangorn Forest before them, but what other option was left?
Perhaps they will not follow after such a paltry prize. A race, then, into the river, into the west.
The horse, needing no urging, came to the same decision on her own, wheeled and thundered for the wetlands, terrified and driven to desperate measures. Into the fen she plunged, leaping and bounding through the rushes and the reeds, panting and wild-eyed but determined. All the man could do was hold on and pray none of the Uruks were archers.
Despite the probability that the three of them would surely perish, Aragorn could not suppress his admiration for the sturdy pony's gallant effort. Not a whinny did she utter as she navigated the treacherous and shifting sands, seeking the deeps of the wide, sluggish stream. At last she plopped into the main channel, only her head above the water, and started paddling with renewed vigour, eyes on the distant shoreline. Aragorn abruptly realised the elf was now face down in the flow and grabbed a handful of wet hair, lugging the body backwards into his lap. The archer's colour had turned a sickly grey hue.
"Get us ashore or he is lost," he informed their mount and her ears twitched back in reply.
The valiant little horse was wise and did not fight the current, swimming steadily within the stream as she angled her weight for the opposite bank. The dim and forbidding swath of darkness that was Fangorn marked the horizon, spreading and growing as the dry, barren plains shrank away behind them. The mare was carried ever to the south and Aragorn could not help but be glad, for orcs would be stepping onto the Field of Celebrant, where only a narrow, reed-choked tributary separated them from the Wold. He glanced over and saw them fighting to get across Anduin, orcs not the swiftest of swimmers.
The mare's hooves struck the pebbled bottom of the western shore and she heaved herself up a steep embankment onto the rugged, lonely fields skirting the ancient forest of Fangorn. The Wold was sparsely populated, a croft here and there and scattered herds of horses and their keepers, for it bordered the lush meadows of Rohan. Perhaps, if their luck held and the magnificent steed's heart did not burst, Aragorn could get his injured ally there.
To spare her, the man slid from her back and jogged along in time with her plodding trot, hand upon the archer to steady him for the mare was lurching and stumbling. He looked back and saw the Uruks halted in the plain, bellowing commands at the Mordor orcs who were rampaging up and down the edge of the swamp. They were not coming across. It had been a near thing, for wargs were good swimmers, and had they followed there was no doubt they'd have caught up once ashore. As he'd gambled, whatever was happening at Dol Guldur was more important than two spies. There was hope again and Aragorn praised the horse softly.
She stopped then, head low and sides heaving, and turned her head to nudge against her master's leg. She stamped and issued a strident snort, eyes boring into the man's. Clearly she knew the Wood Elf was in dire need of care and would go no further until he received it. Aragorn found her prognosis beyond reproach for he could find evidence of neither pulse nor breath. Quickly he dragged the archer to the ground and set to saving him. He had to breathe for his patient almost a full minute before the ellon gave a gagging heave and expelled a putrid flux of blood, water, and black bile.
"Elbereth, just breathe, mellon," Aragorn smiled and turned him on his side as the gut wrenching gasps continued. "Indestructible," he grunted in admiration as colour returned to the elf's cheeks. He moaned in dismal misery as Aragorn rolled him over and then angry blue eyes focused on him. "Now let me see to your hurts and we may yet have a chance to tell a tale to rival Glorfindel's narrowest escapes."
"Nae, ni wannâ," the elf ground out, fisting the ground beneath him as the wound was prodded. He hissed in the agony that flared with every touch and flashed the man an accusing glare.
"I don't know what you just said, but it sounded rather hopeless," Aragorn scowled back. "Prove to me you speak SIndarin and answer in kind: Do the woodland folk despair so quickly? Have you any concept of what this horse of yours has gone through to get you safely this far?"
The ellon's brows quirked skyward and his eyes searched for his horse as a faint smile replaced the morose expression.
"Aye, Tuilelindô, tolo," he whispered and she obeyed, dropping her muzzle down into his hand and blowing softly over his palm.
"Good, much better. Now this arrow must come free and that is not a thing you will like, mellon, but you are indeed blessed by the Valar, for I have studied the healing arts under no less a master than Lord Elrond of Imladris," Aragorn said, offering his most professional and confident healer's smile.
"Matters nothing," spoke the Wood Elf. "Uruk archers always use poison; makes up for poor aim. But do what you may and I hold no debt against you, here or in Mandos."
"Graciously spoken," Aragorn dipped his head gravely. "If we speak again we will learn each other's names and swear friendship, for we will have beat down death, you for me and I for you."
He worked as quickly as he could and was neither surprised nor dismayed when his patient lost consciousness during the procedure, for it was long and gruelling. Just one grating cry had escaped him and then he was still and unresponsive. Aragorn could not refute the sylvan's experience concerning Uruk archers for the wound bled more than it should and he had to sew shut the gaping hole with a strand of the elf's hair. Even then the gash seeped and Aragorn bound it tightly with herbs and gauze. Then he could but wait and hope. Two hours passed before the Wood Elf came to, struggling to control his need to give voice to the agony and failing, shivering and twitching on the ground. He opened his eyes and fixed them on Aragorn.
"Ni ringi," he muttered in forlorn and fretting tones, drifting away again, eyes blinking shut.
"Somehow, I doubt that was your name you spoke just now," quipped the man softly and smiled. He smoothed his hand over the damp brow and wished he had asked the name first. Now he might never learn who had saved his life.
Some Important Dates to Keep in Mind: taken from Encyclopaedia of Arda
Birth of Denethor in Minas Tirith, later to become Steward Denethor II.
1 March Birth of Aragorn II Elessar.
Expulsion of the Necromancer from Dol Guldur by the White Council.
October The Battle of Five Armies.
Birth of Théoden, later King of Rohan.
The Nazgûl are sent to reclaim Dol Guldur.
Death of Steward Turgon. He is succeeded by his son, Ecthelion II.
Death of King Fengel of Rohan. He is succeeded by his son Thengel.
Aragorn enters the service of Thengel of Rohan, under the alias of Thorongil.
Death of King Thengel of Rohan. He is succeeded by his son Théoden.
'Thorongil' (Aragorn) leaves the service of Gondor and travels into the east.
Disclaimer: Main characters and settings originally created by JRR Tolkien. Just for fun, no money earned. OC's and story are erobey's.