Hey guys, up with another chapter. I used bits of the book on this chapter when they are in Fangorn forest.

disclaimer- I don't own anything except my own characters.


Chapter 18

We ride as fast as we can in the direction of smoke, towards the scene of battle. As we come over the hill, from behind Aragorn I see the huge piles of carcasses are growing bigger. The bodies are not the only thing that is growing bigger though; a foul and bitter stench fills the air as the rotting Uruks burn. When we come upon the pile, we are greeted with a head of an Uruk on a spear stuck in the ground. Aragorn observes the pile for a second before he dismounts. Legolas, Gimli and I dismount after him, and Gimli takes out his axe and sifts through the pile. Aragorn stands quietly and looks for any trace of the hobbits.

I wander a bit farther, looking for any signs that they survived the massacre. And a massacre it was, by the looks of it. Spears and arrows litter the ground and bodies lie here and there. The ground and grass are worn from the hooves of horses and the heavy feet the Uruks. I then turn my gaze south, where Fangorn Forest began.

'Surely they would not go in there' I think as I walk back to the smoking pile.

Legolas and Aragorn are still looking around for even tiny hints of the hobbits. I hear a small gasp behind me and see Gimli holding something with care. He turns toward us with tears in his eyes.

"It's one of their wee belts," he chokes out.

I recognize them as soon as I see the empty sheaths. They were the belts Lady Galadriel had given them. I feel my eyes beginning to water as I stare at them.

'We came too late'.

Beside me, I hear Legolas saying a prayer and blessing for them in elven tongue. Aragorn suddenly kicks a nearby helmet in anger and sends it soaring ten yards where it lands with a heavy thud. He then falls to his knees and bows his head in shame. Though I am trying not to notice him for fear of crying myself, I cannot help but feel more tears pricking my eyes.

I stand a little straighter, trying to remain impassive. A million thoughts ran through my head, and it was enough to make my breath hitch in a panic. I just could not believe it. We had come so far and as fast as we could, but still it wasn't enough. Not only did we fail them. We failed Boromir as well.

"We failed them," Gimli says sorrowfully in a thick voice.

Aragorn lifts his head and studies the ground again. His hand skims the surface the ground and he gingerly pushes some dirt aside.

"A Hobbit lay here. And the other." He says sadly.

But as he studies the ground more, the sadness on this face turns to confusion and curiosity. He gets up and walks by the tracks that Merry and Pippin supposedly made the last night.

"They crawled. Their hands were bound." His speaking grows more energetic and even holds a glimmer of hope.

He walks a few more steps before he suddenly drops to the ground and picks up something. I see that it is a thick rope that was crudely cut with a blade. Aragorn's voice is filled with renewed anxiety as he looks on and starts walking again.

"Their bonds were cut."

We are now all running to keep up with Aragorn's fast pace.

"They ran over here." He says as he circles the area in front of him. Aragorn looks past the many hoof prints to find the soft tracks of the Hobbits. In the ground, I notice small steps, assumedly Merry's or Pippin's. As Aragorn follows the tracks, I notice that we are getting farther from the scene of battle. Hope begins to rise in me,

'Maybe one of their belts fell off, that why it is in the pile' I think to myself.

Aragorn gingerly touches the ground. "They were followed."

Now we are not far from a running pace.

'I have to give Aragorn credit for his tracking skills as a ranger' I muse, almost with amusement in this grim place.

He leads us even farther from the battle ground. I am filled with hope and dread at the same time when we stop at the beginning of the forest that everyone feared.]

"Tracks lead away from the battle…into Fangorn Forest."

"Fangorn! What madness drove them there?" Gimli says with a bit of fear and worry in his voice.

"Orc blood," I hear Gimli spit in disgust behind me.

It turns out that the Orc that was following Merry and Pippin had indeed followed them into the forest. How dark and eerie it must have been for Merry and Pippin to be in this forest at night. How frightening for them.

Many people claim the forest to be riddled with evil, but I feel no evil from this forest. The only evil I feel present is the evil craft of Saruman who is miles away.

Aragorn stops now and then to find clues hidden in the ground. Hidden they are. The ground in Fangorn cannot be as easily read like the ground outside. The forest floor is dry in some places, yet wet in others. Despite the differences of the earth, leaves lay everywhere on the ground. They lay still, for no breeze can make its way past the thick vegetation.

"These are strange tracks," I here Aragorn mutter to himself.

Aragorn studies them closely as I take another look around the forest. It truly had to be many years older than Legolas and I, older than our ancestors.

Heavy vines and thick moss coat the tall trees. The thick foliage from the canopy blocks out most of the sun's rays, making it so only a couple beams of light can make it through. Because of this, the woods are made a dark place, even in the day time.

In a way it reminds me of Lothlorien, but I quickly shake that thought off. For nothing –not even this forest in its better years – could compare to my home.

The air in the forest is stuffy and heavy as well, like it intends to suffocate anyone who steps foot in it. As I study the trees, I hear a light quiet whisper in the air above. I would surely miss it if it were no for my elven ears. I glance over at Legolas and see that he too has noticed. I walk over to the tree closest to me and place my hand on its bark. I block out all other noises as I listen to the tree's thoughts.

The tree's memories and feelings flow through my mind and into my soul, wrapping around my heart in a cold embrace. The tree itself is tense and fears a growing darkness to the south. Images of Orcs cutting down forests and plowing through trees enter my mind. Behind them, I can see the dark, looming tower of Orthanc, where the betrayer, Saruman, is hiding. Darkness not only exists in Isengard, but in the forest as well. A few trees have grown black at heart and are full of anger. I then touch the minds of the trees around us; they do not feel anger toward us, only watchfulness.

"The trees are no harm to us if we do not harm them," I say in elven tongue to Aragorn and Legolas. I pull my mind from the trees around me a walk next to Legolas, who looks at the forest in awe.

"I feel almost young again, being among these trees of old. I would like to come here again, when the days of peace are among us." He says to me in a low tone, not wanting to distract Aragorn who is still studying the mystery of the strange tracks.

I give a small smile and agree with him. I can understand his feelings about his forest; it has a touch of Mirkwood about it as well as Lothlorien. I am brought out of my thoughts when I hear Gimli talking under his breath as he walks past us.

Somehow he heard Legolas's comment and is now grumbling to himself about the how we elves are a strange folk when it comes to the woods. Legolas and I merely laugh and continue on once Aragorn find the right tracks again.

"The air is so close in here." I here Gimli exclaim out loud to us. I noticed earlier that the tree seem to be closer and the air beginning close in around us. Legolas stops a moment and takes in the scene. It looks to me like we are in an older part of the forest. The smell of wood lingers in the air as moss hangs lazily from the branches.

"This forest is old. Very old. Full of memory…and anger." A loud grumbling is heard around us. Whispers begin to fill the air again as Gimli, in fear, raises his axe, ready to hack away at the trees if he must.

["The trees are speaking to one another," Legolas says as the deep groans roll through the forest and sink into the roots beneath the earth.

I turn around to see Gimli franticly looking around, jumping at every noise that wounds the air. I hear Aragorn whisper at Gimli to put his axe way.

Legolas turns to him and speaks softly, "They have feelings my friend."

Suddenly, I begin to feel another presence in the forest, a wizard. With Isengard not but fifteen miles away, I did not have to guess who it could be. I look at Legolas and see that he too has noticed it. He moves into a clearing where he listens closer.

"Aragorn, nad nâ ennas!" Legolas says, alerting Aragorn and gaining his attention. Aragorn and I quickly rush to his side.

"Man cenich?" Aragorn replies in a tense voice.

"The white wizard approaches." Legolas replies in an even tone. We all look at one another and turn back to Aragorn. I can feel that Saruman's presence is even closer than before. He is probably right behind us now

"Do not let him speak, he will put a spell on us," Aragorn whispers to us. Aragorn grabs the hilt of his sword and pulls it a quarter out of his sheath. Gimli, out of the corner of my eye, tightens the hold of his axe and holds it to his side. Both Legolas and I notch an arrow to our bows. I finger the feather on the arrow and pull it back a little.

"We must be quick," Aragorn says to us all before he spins around and unsheathes his sword.

As I turn around with my arrow pulled back and ready to fire, a blinding white light appears in front of us. I look into the light and see the figure of a man garbed in white holding a staff, Saruman.

Gimli throws his axe at him at great speed, but the wizard blocks it easily. I release my arrow after Legolas and watch in amazement, Saruman block both arrows with his staff as well. Aragorn sword suddenly glows red like a flame and Aragorn drops it like he's been burnt. Aragorn then shields his eyes and tries to look into the brilliant light.

"You are tracking the footsteps of two young hobbits," the wizard simply says, not casting some spell on us like we thought.

"Where are they?" Aragorn shouts. I then begin to notice something strange after the wizard starts talking; his voice begins to change. No longer is it deep, but light and…familiar.

"They passed this way, the day before yesterday. They met someone they…did not expect. Does that comfort you?" Aragorn also notices the change. The voice of Saruman now, does not match the foul, deep voice he heard in the storm on Caradhras.

"Who are you? Show yourself!" Aragorn shout to the wizard demanding an answer. And what a reply we got. Light then disappeared behind the figure, revealing long white robes. In his hand the wizard held a white staff that matches the colour of his robes and long hair. But as the light totally vanishes, we are left with not a stranger, but Gandalf himself! My mouth drops as I stare at him; I had thought that he died from the fall.

"Forgive us, me mistook you for Saruman," Legolas says as he, Gimli and I bow to one knee. Aragorn still stands in disbelief before Gandalf.

"It cannot be! You fell," I hear Aragorn exclaim.

"Through fire and water. From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak, I fought with the Balrog of Morgoth. Until at last, I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountainside. Darkness took me. And I strayed out of thought and time. Stars wheeled overhead and everyday was as long as a life-age of the earth. But it was not the end. I felt life in me again. I've been sent back until my task is done."

"Gandalf!" Aragorn still says in disbelief.

"Gandalf," he says with confusion upon his face. He thinks for a bit when suddenly gasps and realizes, "That's what they used to call me. Gandalf the Grey. That was my name." He smiles and chuckles as he remember his old name. I feel the corners of my lips turn up as I watch him. 'Gandalf the grey he will be no longer' I think to myself as I stare at his white robes, 'Saruman is no longer the white, but the dark'.

"I am Gandalf the white. And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide."