Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all the characters belong to J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury Publishing, and Scholastic, Inc., and AOL/ Time Warner, Inc., etc. No money is being made nor permission given.
Summary: Ten years ago, just after the war had ended, everything was settling down, and the world was turning right side up again, Harry Potter disappeared. Hermione had lost all hope of seeing her friend, when who should show up uninvited to her wedding party but two beautiful strangers with an interesting tale to tell. What path did Harry take that led him so far away from the wizarding world? And now that he is back, is he here to stay?
Pairings: Harry/Legolas; Hermione/ Ron
A/N: Here is another chapter to my lovely readers that is coming to you un-chapterised, unbeta'd, un-anything. So please don't be too harsh. I just thought you would all prefer I update before you forgot all about this story completely.
So, as always, enjoy!
* The Long Road *
Aragorn watched the interaction between the pair with a triumphant grin before turning to them both and noticing the light pallor of their skin. He frowned seriously, nodding to Gimli's bandaged torso and Legolas' white knuckles as he clutched the straps of his bag just above his breast. "You are both in no state to be moving, and if we were not in the middle of a war right now with the fate of the world in our hands, I would demand you both be strapped to a pair of beds with your own sword buckles. But alas!, that is an impossibility at the moment, so I will only demand that you exercise caution as much as possible, for we will need you both at your best when we finally overtake the creatures. Let us pray to the Valar for swift feet and a strong heart."
Nodding solemnly in heed of Aragorn's words, the elf and dwarf looked on resolutely ahead, having no further words to expend in jest, or otherwise.
Aragorn returned the nod and then threw his arm out towards the direction in which they were heading. "Then let us be off."
And so the chase began.
Legolas stood his ground defiantly as he retained his place between Gimli and Aragorn, glaring heatedly up at the group of fifty-some warriors on horseback that circled their small trio menacingly.
They had been running for little more than two days so far; the three hunters cutting through the countryside swiftly, past rocks, streams, bare cliffs, and golden plains. The wake of the Uruk-hai's destructive path was child's play to follow, though they still went a bit slower than even Legolas' initial fatigue had liked due to Gimli's still rather grievous injury. Still, they had barely slept for more than a couple hours since they began their chase, due only to the fact that the road was lost to their sight on a moonless night. And they only sparingly broke fast during that time before starlight set them back on their path once more. Only this morning had they reached the borders of Rohan, where they thankfully had left the cold cling of winter behind to give way to grasslands of a deeper green that were smoother underfoot, and air that afforded a fresher breath lightly scented with the promise of spring.
Such aromas of Nature in the beginnings of rebirth invigorated Legolas, who breathed in deep of the air like it was miruvor itself. And yet despite the wonderful reprieve, according to Aragorn, these lands were habitually tenanted by herdsmen and to see them so bare, rather unsettlingly so, was a disquieting fact to both the elf's heart and mind. A silence not begotten of peace pervaded the domain of Rohan, placing the hunters on their guards. It was thus not surprising to the trio when by early afternoon of the third day, they spied a company of horsemen riding north with all due haste, away from where the Rohirrim dwelled.
Normally, such a sight would not be cause for such wariness, but times were dark and all travellers were thus suspect to mistrust and apprehension, guilty until proven innocent as it were.
All the same, Legolas conjectured from appearance and logic alone that they were Men of the Rohirrim, a supposition that Aragorn had seconded, knowing from experience of having once lived among them. When pressed by Gimli to know whether or not they were acceding to certain doom by walking out to meet the Riders head on, despite having little other choice left to them in these open, unending plains, Aragorn expounded.
"They are a proud and wilful people, but they are true of heart, generous in thought and deed; bold but not cruel; wise but predominantly unlearned. They've written no books, but sing many songs after the manner of the children of Men before the Dark Years," Aragorn said, slowing to a walk as he allowed Gimli to catch up and Legolas to slow his pace until they were all abreast. "They have long been friend to the People of Gondor, though they are not kin to them. It was in forgotten years long ago that Eorl the Young brought them out of the North, and their kinship is rather with the Bardings of Dale, and with the Beornings of the Woods, among whom may still be seen many men tall and fair, as are the Riders of Rohan. But much of that history is lost and their people have changed over the centuries as they settled in the golden plains.
"I do not know what has happened here of late, nor in what mind the Rohirrim may be in light of the influence of Saruman and his treachery, and the looming threat of Sauron in Mordor. At least I can say with confidence that they have no love for Orcs. And in that we have a common enemy."
"But Gandalf had spoke of a rumour that they pay tribute to Mordor," Gimli interrupted urgently, lowering his voice uncertainly. He was not at all pleased with their current path of not veering from the sight of a possible enemy and going straight into the unknown, outnumbered and relying on only out-dated information for assurance.
"I believe it no more than did Boromir," Aragorn replied confidently, not faltering his steps in the slightest.
"You will soon learn the truth either way," said Legolas, halting the group as he spoke and bidding them to sit among the blades of grass as they waited for the company to reach them. "Already they approach." The galloping of hoofs was steadily growing louder as they swiftly closed the distance between them. Raised voices had already met Legolas' ears before that of his companions, but before long they were upon them; a long line of mail-clad men, swift, shining, fell and fair. Their horses were of great stature, strong and clean-limbed; their grey coats glistening, their long tails flowing in the wind, their manes braided on their proud necks. And the Men that rode them matched them well: tall and long-limbed; their hair, flaxen-pale, flowed under the light helms and streamed in long plaits behind them. The faces of the men were stern and keen, focused ahead and not straying from their course. In their hands they held tall spears of ash, painted shields were slung at their backs, long swords were strapped to their belts, and their burnished shirts of mail hung down upon their knees.
In pairs the company galloped by, and though every now and then one rose in his stirrups and gazed ahead and to either side, they appeared not to perceive the three strangers sitting silently in the tall grass watching them. The host had almost passed when suddenly Aragorn sprang up and bound forward, calling out in a loud voice, "What news from the North, Riders of Rohan?"
With surprising speed and skill, the party checked their steeds and came charging round back towards the three hunters, weapons brandished outwards menacingly. At this point, though, even if they had wanted to escape, they had neither the time nor a place to hide before they were surrounded on all sides, faced with a thicket of spears, blades, bows and arrows. Yet the riders remained in position with staunch discipline, waiting for their leader's command.
Legolas knew they would not hesitate to attack once given the order, and despite their current position as being the prey, as an elf and warrior himself, he admired them for their respect of command and orderliness.
Thankfully, though, no such order was yet issued as the tallest man of the company, from whose helm a crest of white horsetail flowed, pushed his steed forward to draw closer to Legolas and his companions. Taking a tighter grip on his sword, he pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes in suspicion before demanding, "A man, an elf, and a dwarf. Such acquaintances travelling in the same company I never saw. But it matters not now for you will soon find your journey at its end if you do not identify yourselves and state your purpose for traversing these lands," he threatened, speaking in a manner and tone similar to the speech of Boromir. "My men do not hesitate in the slightest once given word, whereupon you will quickly find the luxury of breath hitherto afforded to you expired. So I suggest you speak now and speak quickly," he pressed.
Legolas tightened his jaw in turn and felt his hands itching towards his weapons at his side. But for all that his elven pride felt wounded by the insinuation that he and his companions could ever be taken down so swiftly and easily. Nonetheless, he waited for further command from Aragorn, trusting the Adan's judgement as both friend and future king. As the tense silence lengthened, though, Legolas' eyes took in the scene around him like he would on any hunt when facing some sort of enemy or predator. Like any veteran warrior knew, it was always prudent to patiently await for that opportune moment when the tables could be turned and the predator made the undoubted prey.
Analysing the man in front of him, the most salient detail striking Legolas' mind was that though the leader of these horsemen spoke commandingly and hostilely, his eyes beneath his helm shone with hesitance and reluctance. They darted between the three of them and then back to his men, who looked a bit unsettled despite their fierce countenance. The commander's steed, sensing its master's emotions, pounded the ground with his hooves and backed up a few steps before the man urged him forward once more.
Upon further study, Legolas noted from the state of the leader's clothes and the stressed condition of his beloved horse that the group had been riding for days without reprieve on the plains. An odd thing seeing as the lands of Rohan, from where they undoubtedly hailed, as well as the Halls of Meduseld were near. Such clues were quickly culminating in his head, leading him to possibilities that set his suspicions aflame. Nonetheless, until threats were dispelled, weapons lowered, and faces revealed, nothing further would be discovered and no more illuminating clues would be forthcoming. Legolas had many centuries practise of patience and knew well the rewards of waiting for one's prey to come to you. He would not be the first to talk, no matter what threats were made, but he would be the first to employ his blade before any had even moved, if need be.
Gimli, however, did not posses the same virtues of an elf, and held no compunctions over needing to wait for Aragorn's lead. He had heard the ill-advised warning made against his person and that of his company, and in all reckless manner retorted in unbridled anger.
"Well," he blustered, obviously having kept his silence long enough, which was all of half a minute. "I see they don't teach manners to the minds of men in these parts," Gimli growled, an acidic tang added to his words that even Legolas had not heard before. The elf prince had no doubt his friends' current irritation and outrage were not being helped in the least by his wounds, which had been aggravated during the run, making the dwarf more irascible and grumpy than normal. Not that he didn't have good right to be at the moment, Legolas conceded in his head, but his brash nature was not helping their current state in the slightest either. Before Legolas could calm his friend enough to bite his tongue, however, Gimli continued, "You point those swords away from our throats and tell us who has threatened our company so rudely, and we might let you know who it is that you have the privilege of speaking to."
The leader's eyes immediately flashed in response, and he quickly retorted heatedly, "I would not mess with us dwarf, we recently captured and subdued a son of Gondor not but a day ago, and have no qualms with taking three more prisoners this hour."
Legolas felt his breath catch in his throat in dread. Boromir! They could not possibly mean any other.
How dare these men pull the Fellowship even further apart! What had Boromir, or any of them for that matter, done to deserve this despicable treatment by men without even a country to claim? What had these horsemen done so wrong that they feared even to return to their birthplace in a time of war? What evils had passed through these lands to disturb things so? And if these men were not welcome into the King's Halls, then where had they taken Boromir?
A sense of disquiet gnawed at his mind, pushing through his former patience in agitation and bringing rash words of anger to his lips.
"So I see the Men of Rohan have become nothing more than a band of travelling thieves and plunderers. I had heard great things of your king, but I suppose Saruman most easily affects the weakest of any race!" Legolas cried out before either of his companions could speak. It would seem that he and his dwarven friend would be conferred as having the quickest of tongues this day, but Aragorn finally seemed to have collected his thoughts and laid a hand on both his cohort's shoulders, silently asking of them to quiet their thoughts and back down.
With a last squeeze, Aragorn released his friends and stepped forward, raising his hands in a pacifying gesture. "Peace," he declared with all sense of calm, though not enough to quell the urgency in his voice, belaying the worry he held for Boromir, same as his comrades. "We mean you no harm and have no wish to incur further ire between our peoples. We are just travellers sharing the road. Surely the sons of the Rohirrim would not bring death upon a fellow neighbour and friend to your king without sufficient provocation?"
At the Ranger's speech, all the men shifted upon their mounts, and the grey steed of the leader stamped its hooves and snorted against its bridle as its rider tightened his grip uneasily. All the men tensed and clutched their weapons tighter, the hostile nature of the group seeming to grow with the mere mention of the king's name.
"If you claim friendship with the king now then you all but sign your allegiance to Saruman the White and the Enemy of Middle Earth," the commander declared, a hardened resignation to his voice that had just been simmering under the surface prior was now sharp in his tone, with regret and grief coming out clearest of all.
Legolas, who had never met the king of the Horse Lords before, was at a loss of understanding and hoped Aragorn was able to see the situation with more clarity given his history with the people. Of what he had heard from his Dúnedain friend as well as others, the People of Rohan were a peaceful, yet proud tribe; a nation of warriors to be respected, and who had an elven-worthy appreciation for their horses. Indeed, the presence of the descendants of Felaróf staying among their people spoke for itself; the Mearas were widely prised throughout Middle Earth and known to be tamed solely by the kings and princes of Rohan.
With even this little of information about their people, Legolas could not comprehend that these men hailed from the same lands Aragorn had spoken of so highly. And that their king would be less than what his preceding reputation spoke of was disappointing and rather at odds with the loyalty the man supposedly inspired in his own people. Yet perhaps Gandalf and Gimli were correct in their fears that Rohan had indeed decided to side with the Enemy. If it were true, though, then Legolas silently entreated the Valar to bless and protect Boromir, as one of the Fellowship doing his duty in protecting Middle Earth.
While Legolas was ruminating on it all, Aragorn was in a state of outrage and disbelief. He cried, "The King of Rohan would never pay allegiance to the Enemy. I was a much younger man when I rode with your kinsman in the service of your king, but I remember a strong people who would never bow down to any but one of their own. I respected King Thengel greatly, and could never see him leading his people to serve under another's hand, especially one so dominating. And though I have heard of his passing since," Aragorn conceded mournfully, bowing his head in respect, "I do not believe any of his kin would dishonour his name and so blatantly disrespect his legacy."
"Who are you, stranger, to dare claim acquaintance with our late king?" the leader demanded in diffidence, his eyes wandering uncertainly among the three travellers with a calculating gaze.
Aragorn released a gentle sigh of defeat and returned the leader's shrewd stare. "I was once called Thorongil while in service to Rohan and King Thengel. I enjoyed my time among your people, but am sorry to say your actions and words are currently doing a great discredit to them," he said in a low, rueful voice. Pausing, he frowned. As no one moved to interrupt him, he took that as his cue to continue. "Though your demands do not merit a response, I will tell you nonetheless that my companions and I came from the North and are hunting a band of Uruk-hai whose trail we have been tracking these past few days."
Finally, the leader seemed to awaken from his earlier stupor induced by Aragorn's speech and apparently shocking revelation. Spurred into action, he leapt from his horse, handing his spear off to a fellow rider, and stepped up to draw his sword, pointing it directly at Aragorn's breast. Bringing his face close to the Ranger's, he surveyed him keenly, mistrustfully, yet not without a bit of wonder.
"The Eagle of the Star," several of the surrounding men whispered to one another in dubious shock, eyes going wide as they looked on like the little boys they had once been when their fathers and grandfathers had passed down the stories about the great legends of Thorongil. Legolas took it all in, their whispering and awe-filled voices, recalling as he did the stories very much under embellished by Aragorn himself several decades back.
After a long moment had passed in hushed silence and searching stares between the two warriors, the commander of the horsemen finally sheathed his sword and removed his helmet. Bowing his head, he exclaimed, "I apologise for my earlier behaviour in insulting one so cherished by our people. These are dark, mistrustful times and the Enemy works in the shrewdest and most unexpected of ways, which we all," he gestured to his men, "have had the misfortune of discovering first hand."
At Aragorn's small, silent nod of acceptance to his words of contrition, he continued with some relief and no little amount of worship. "I never imagined I would live to meet a legend, especially in these dark times, but I can see that you are everything that my grandfather and uncle ever spoke of you. What baffles me, however, is that you appear as though no years have passed since the time of my grandfather's youth. Adding to that is the fine cloaks you wear that are of remarkable make even to the naked eye. Not to mention the way I espied you springing from the grass to call for our attention, all of which makes me wonder if you are not of elven kind," he declared, his eyes tracing the elven cloaks, a gift from Lady Galadriel that had been outstanding in their ability to allow the wearer to blend in with his background, even when in motion.
"Nay," Aragorn shook his head humbly, "Not I. But Legolas here," he gestured to his friend, "is one of the Woodland Elves from Northern Mirkwood, and Gimli is a member of Durin's Folk hailing from the halls of Erebor."
Éomer then turned his attentions to Gimli and Legolas, at which point his countenance became more guarded. "How am I to know that these two outspoken ones are trustworthy members of your company and not servants of the Enemy swayed by the words by Saruman the White?"
Unfortunately, before Aragorn could even opened his mouth to decry such statements and defend his friends' honour, Gimli was yelling out, fist raised warningly and axe shaking at his side, "A dwarf would never be caught dead with the likes of Sauron! We denied the Black Riders themselves; what makes you think a corrupt old Istar can do any different?"
Legolas tightened his hold on Gimli and pulled him back a step, enough to give him the message to hold his tongue, but not enough as though to appear to the other party as though they were backing down and admitting defeat. And before any of the horsemen could reply to Gimli's outburst, Legolas cried out in support of his friend's words.
"The elves too have refuted the one who calls himself the Dark Lord of these lands. We represent our people well and shall never stand by the ear of any who would cause harm to the Peoples of Middle Earth, nor would we keep company with any that would follow such a dark path either. We need not expose ourselves to you for that to be known." He paused, his words echoing severely in the open plains. "Now you are the ones in need of making your allegiances better known. You claim the people of Rohan as your own, yet hold no loyalty or fealty to your king. And you call us suspicious! Though you outnumber us nearly seventeen to one, the three of us combined can easily take on more than your toughest warriors are capable of throwing our way by tenfold."
Though it might have been a slight exaggeration, the sentiment still held true. And even with the advantageous height of their steeds, as well as taking into account Gimli's injuries and his own slightly reduced energies in the wake of the recent battle against the Uruk-hai, Legolas still felt that if it came down to it, the three of them would be more than able to hold their own.
"Peace, peace," Aragorn repeated before their battle of words could get even further out of hand. "I assure you that I trust these two with my life, and oath or no we have all sworn ourselves against the Enemy. We are but travellers in pursuit of our friends, who have fallen to the hands of Saruman and have no dispute with the men of Rohan, as I believe our goals to be the same."
Legolas easily recognised the patience tutelage of Lord Elrond in both politics and diplomacy as his friend spoke, which he was slightly ashamed to admit had been taught to him also by watching his father's actions as king. And by learning at his father's elbow, he had come to understand what not to do in terms of controlling one's temper. Yet he was mortified to acknowledge that he had just shown himself to be a poor student outside of dealing with his own people.
Hanging his head in shame, Legolas took a step back to stand beside Gimli and let Aragorn manage the negotiations with no more input from himself. He had confidence in his friend that it was only a matter of time before Aragorn would bring up the issue of Boromir and advocate for his recovery smoothly and efficiently.
"Please," Aragorn beseeched calmly, "None of us mean any harm. And I trust these two with my life," he assured, motioning back to his two companions. "If you have faith that I am who I claim, then that's all you need to know."
The four males on the ground and surrounding cavalry shifted uncomfortably as they glared one another down, each holding varying degrees of scepticism and trepidation in their scrutiny, but none willing to breach the silence with words of doubt that would indubitably dispel the brief moment of armistice. The men waited, creaking in their saddles and twisting their reigns as they tensed and relaxed their grips, for their leader's final decision. The captain spent several more minutes staring at Aragorn with a steady, considerate look, as though he was still trying to decide whether or not to believe if the man in front of him was truly the acclaimed Thorongil, Eagle of the Star.
Legolas sensed Gimli getting slightly restless beside him and he feared it might be the dwarf's wound acting up, but more than likely it had to do with the fact that Gimli hated waiting and was more a dwarf of action, and dare it be said, violence. Legolas too wished things would move along at a quicker pace, but he knew better than to voice his opinions again and instead let his anticipation continue to build inside him noiselessly.
Finally, a sudden lightening in the commander's pale brown eyes indicated to Legolas that the man was finally willing to believe that a legend stood before him, with his two trusted companions at his side.
"I am still not sure whether to believe you are chasing orcs in that raiment, with no armour or chainmail to speak of, but I pride myself a good judge of character and can see you are no friend of the Enemy." He paused and drew himself to his full height, which was truly impressive, nearly as tall as Legolas, and squared his jaw decisively. "Well then, I am Éomer son of Éomund, the Third Marshal of Riddermark, and I am at your service." Éomer then offered his arm, which Aragorn took in a strong grip and shook. "You are indeed a favoured friend of Rohan, Captain Thorongil, but since Théoden fell under the corrupt influence of Grima Wormtongue, Théoden no longer recognises friend from foe, I'm afraid. Not even a favoured captain of the old guard."
Aragorn's countenance fell dark as he took in the disheartening, though not all that surprising, news. It certainly explained the uneasy quietude of the land, but he had to be sure all the same. "Who is this Master Wormtongue," Aragorn insisted, and only Legolas who had been friends with the Ranger long enough could sense the outrage in his serious tone, "and why does he hold the king's ear?"
"A henchman of Saruman the White's. The same Istar who has sent out his armies of Orcs to destroy our lands and the homes of our people, even mortally wounding our prince," he muttered mournfully, bowing his head in grief. "My cousin did not deserve to die so young, especially under the blind eye and deaf ear of his own father. It was under the king's command that we, the last of those faithful Rohirrim, were sent away, banished from our own lands by Grima's own counsel."
A pang struck his heart as Legolas intuitively sensed the Fellowship's path diverting once more. The details he had noticed before were becoming clearer and clearer, and he did not like the conclusions they were leading him to. It seemed so unfair that by dedicating themselves in honour to the undertakings of the Fellowship, fighting this war and all that Sauron stood for, that they were being pulled in too many different directions without the means or the manpower to protect and defend all that were made vulnerable by this war. But when was war ever fair? And if there had been more people willing to fight then they wouldn't be in this situation to begin with, so it was all a moot point anyway. Legolas let loose a sigh internally as he heard Aragorn voice his next question, knowing that there would be yet another hard decision ahead of them.
"And what of the Gondorian man you captured earlier? What have you decided on his fate?"
Éomer started at the question posed by one of his idols, casting a worrying glance behind him. "We met a rogue Gondorian traveller running through these lands as though the Black Riders themselves were on his tail. He tried to outmanoeuvre us, but we trapped him. He gave a story very similar to yours," Éomer admitted uneasily, "But once we saw the horn at his hip we grew wary, wondering why a captain of Gondor would travel so far from home, alone, without some ill intent. My men and I conferred and many were convinced that by bringing him to our king that we could be brought back into his graces." Éomer shook his head crossly as he irately decried, "I disagreed! I have seen the king's madness more clearly than my compatriots, save that of my sister and late cousin, and know first hand that none can divert it.
"Nonetheless, my men would not be persuaded and I could not convince them otherwise. We split our company in two and my men and I continued on to drive out the orcs from our lands – there had been word of a party of Uruk-hai travelling with all haste, as though Saruman's whip was behind them – while the rest of our crew rode back to Meduseld with the prisoner."
"I see," Aragorn nodded, his eyes cast downwards as he silently assessed the problem and worked on devising a way to do the impossible. Finally, he lifted his gaze and met Éomer's guarded stare. "This man, Boromir, was of our party. Two of our own had been injured in a fight against the very Uruk-hai you spoke of, who incidentally have kidnapped another four of our friends. Boromir was sent out to scout ahead while our injured rested. I am afraid your men have put us in a tight spot."
Halfway through Aragorn's speech, Éomer's face drew completely white. "The Uruk-hai party, you say? They had four of your friends captured among their ranks?"
"Four hobbits," Gimli cried, his eyes wide with fear as he dreaded the very thing Legolas felt freezing his heart cold. "They have four hobbits with them. Have you seen them? Do you know where they are?"
Gulping audibly for the three males on the ground to hear, Éomer cleared his throat before visibly gathering the courage to look Aragorn in the eye and state in as strong a voice as possible, "We slaughtered them, all of them, and burnt the carcasses just last night. We left none alive."
In the wake of Harry's cry echoing his outrage and fury, Treebeard let loose a roar in agreement. As one, wizard and Ent stepped forward together along the stone path, side by side, making their presence known to all of Isengard within a 100-mile radius.
The power coursing through Harry, built upon the righteous anger he felt from the appalling scene of destruction and death around him, only continued to grow as he crossed the desolate space between him and the tower of Orthanc. Ash and dust, root and twig, and in some cases, blood, crunched underfoot with the scent of decay permeating the stale air. It felt as though each breath was sullying his lungs, but Harry ignored that in favour of steeling himself for the confrontation ahead. His eyes zeroed in on the set of stone steps at the base of the tower that led to a dark doorway set into the front of the building. His vision improved by the magic running through his system, allowed him to spot the exact moment the shadows lengthened and the door swung open, revealing Saruman the White in all his pale robed glory.
An imperious frown marred the towering wizard's face as he descended the stairs, his army of orcs swarming behind him with matching sneers that were just as ugly as their master's. The scant sunlight that shone through the thick, rolling clouds above shone off their dirty armour, but served to only make Saruman's robes seem more grey than white to the naked eye.
Harry did not slow his pace as the two parties drew even and neither did Saruman, who threw out a hand and silently kept his minions at bay in the shadows of the tower.
"Who is it that dares call me out in my own domain?" Saruman cried at the bottom of the steps, standing at his full height and attempting to look down his nose at Harry, only to find that the young man was almost as tall as he was. The elder wizard's eyes flicked up to Treebeard and he flinched, ever so slightly to see the raw anger roiling in the old Ent's stare. "What could an Ent and a boy possibly hope to gain in challenging the greatest Istar of Middle Earth?" his deep, baritone voice boomed in the quiet of midday.
Harry's reply was short, sweet, and to the point. "Justice," he ground out before throwing his hands up and letting loose a feral cry. As he brought his arms down again in a grand sweep, the anger, power, pain, and overwhelming desire to protect and defend that had been crackling over every inch of his skin was finally let loose. With a gargantuan effort, Harry took hold of the tops of Orthanc tower with his magic and pulled.
Before anyone could even react beyond looking up to see what was coming, huge chunks of stone were tumbling down overhead and crushing the orcs into the ground where they stood with a concussive boom that shook the ground and the very foundation of the tower. Thick dust billowed from the ground, hiding bits of shrapnel that were still flying in the wake of the explosion, taking out any remaining orcs who had been so lucky as to escape the assault.
Before dust had even begun to settle, Harry reached up with his magic to grasp what was left of the crumbling peak, when Saruman lashed out violently with his staff towards Harry. A blast of wind blew forth with a tumultuous high-pitched keening, lifting up the heavy stones and paving from underfoot, blowing clouds of ash and debris around until it looked they were in the heart of a tornado. It nearly knocked Harry off his feet, but with the support of Treebeard at his back, the Ent burying his roots deep into the earth to keep his ground, Harry crossed his arms in front of him and squinted through the gale. Concentrating on the wind alone, he pushed back with all of his might, forcing it to abate by sheer willpower until it was no more than a light breeze ruffling his clothes, despite the strained force Saruman continued to put behind it.
Eventually, with an unholy cry of frustration, Saruman ceased his efforts and the wind dissipated completely with an outward sweep of his staff. Harry had barely a moment to catch his breath and let his muscles relax from fighting the gale, before Saruman brought his staff round again and pounded it into the stone in front of him. Suddenly, Harry felt the stone he was standing on shift beneath his feet as it crumbled and then instantly reformed into a monstrous pair of hands that grabbed onto his legs and pulled him down into the ground. He could hear his kneecaps cracking beneath the strong grip, but managed to keep his head despite the pain and grit his teeth even as his vision blurred and he felt his feet being crushed against the hard stone in the earth.
Letting loose a small cry of vexation and pain, Harry thrust his head up and glared at Saruman for all he was worth. Fiery rage that had been momentarily diluted by the violent pain flared back up at the supercilious smirk gracing the old wizard's face. At the same moment, Harry registered a furious, screeching howl, like a score of out-of-tune violins being played at once, and poorly so, coming from Treebeard behind him.
"Termites!" The Ent cried, "You dare attack the Lord of Fangorn with termites! Vile creatures of this earth!"
Harry could sense Treebeard thrashing around in his peripheral, but chose to concentrate for the moment on gaining a better grip on his magic once more. He knew it was the only way he would be able to help his friend. Saruman was quickly stepping up his game and unfortunately had many more centuries of experience than Harry. Still, that had never stopped the young wizard before, and it certainly wouldn't keep him down now.
But just as he had mentally gathered the power again in his hands, all the air was pushed out of him in one great whoosh as a wall of solidified dirt whammed into him from behind, along with the great weight of a giant Ent, who was also carried forward from the force of the wave, the giant's toes being viciously uprooted in the process. Harry soon found himself falling face first into stone and earth as his legs stayed fixed into the ground behind him in the stone arm's grasp. There was the distinctive crack of something being displaced as his torso strained past the point his legs could follow, and then he was breathing in a mouthful of dirt as his entire head to his shoulders was engulfed completely.
At that point his instincts took over his mind and body.
Harry stilled for a moment, even as he heard Treebeard started trying to break free with another monstrous roar that was somewhat muffled by the tonnes of dirt surrounding them. Saruman probably thought he had won; let him think so. What Saruman didn't know was that Harry happened to do his very best under pressure, and just when you thought he was done for, that was the moment he came back with a furious vengeance. And he always won. No matter what the cost was in the end. He always won. And this time would be no different.
Thrusting his hands deeper into the land, breaking through stone and cracked, dry dirt with a strength only his magic could afford, Harry released a burst of power that caused an explosion reaching downward into the earth beneath them and out towards Saruman. Stone, dirt, bits of roots, and other debris scattered in a million directions and in a million different pieces, piercing the surrounding remains of the stone tower of Isengard until the entire façade appeared to have barely survived a nuclear bomb. The only ones untouched were Harry, repaired and standing upright once more, and Treebeard, free of dirt and bugs and only left slightly dirty as a result. Well, on Harry's part at least, with Treebeard you couldn't quite tell the difference.
Magic still rolling off him in bright bands of green, gold, and silver, Harry started walking forwards slowly as though wading through high tide. His very eyes shone with an inner light and his face was a solid mask of impartiality. He was the judge. He was the jury. And he would be the executioner.
Saruman had attempted to shield himself, it appeared, though it was obviously with some serious effort as by the time the storm calmed and the dust settled, the infamouss wizard was sporting several large cuts and red marks that were likely to bruise quickly.
Harry didn't allow himself even that satisfaction of a small victory as he knew the sly wizard would retaliate before he could even finish forming a smirk, and instead concentrated his energies on forming his next attack. He would not give up until Saruman was down and there was no doubt that he would never be getting up again.
Leagues away, out along the borders of Rohan, Legolas fell to his knees unceremoniously as a wave of raw, unforgiving power swept through his body, mind, and soul, all screaming in his very blood one thing that needed no words to be heard: The Lone Warrior has come.
Happy New Year!
I have nothing to say in my defence for the late chapter. Well, you know, the usual: work, being sick forever –but other than a sore throat, a cough, headache, and a stuffed up nose there's really nothing much wrong with me right now. Oh, and spending some free time adding to my 8tracks playlists, in addition to working on my original writing. * shrugs * Sorry!
So, Harry is fighting Saruman, Aragorn and company are being faced with several difficult decisions, and we're seeing a bit more of the imperfections of our dear Legolas in this chapter. Besides the vanity of the elves as shown through Legolas' initial reaction to Harry being the prophesised one and Legolas his companion, we now see that he is indeed his father's son in ways he hadn't wanted to acknowledge. But really, if he wasn't just a little hot-headed he and Harry would not be as similar as they are. Opposites attract, you say? Sometimes. But they also need to be a bit alike to understand each other. And you can't deny Harry's got a bit of a temper as well. ;)
Anyway, hope you enjoyed the chapter, and please leave comments if you have any!
As always, I love hearing from you, even if I don't respond to all of you, because it does urge me to keep writing. Not that my updating of chapters is contingent upon a set number of reviews! I'm not saying that at all. They're just nice to receive. So again, thank you! And hope everyone is enjoying the new year.