And in the Darkness Bind Them
Arc One: Lord of the Rings
"—and then he just waved me off, as if it was nothing, can you believe that?!"
He sighed, leaning against the bar's counter as he halfheartedly heard the other man blabber on, drunkenly waving his keg of beer in the air to emphasize his words. He heard the guy, honestly, he did—but he wasn't exactly... listening to the words spoken.
It was times like this that he spent the time to think back on his live, how ever long it was, and however longer it will be. He'd been born to a lovely couple, recently married not a year or so before. Life was cheerful, certainly, but it had been during a war. People dying everyday, and a psychotic madman out on the lose. His parents had had themselves practically buried in the battle between the two sides, but they had been determined to take car of him. But, that war; it hadn't been just any war. No, it had been a magic war.
His parents had been pretty high up, in the inner circle of one of the battling sides. They did their best to keep their family, friends, and comrades protected, but nothing would last long enough. They'd lost many—but it wasn't until the couple had been directly targeted had their leader taken extra measures.
His parents and himself—by then, he had been just a little toddler, barely the age of one—were taken to a safe place; a place the enemy did not know of, shouldn't have known of. It was tightly secured, barely even three people knowing it's locations, not including himself and his parents. The magic necessary for the spell to keep them safe, however, needed someone else—a close friend, that would never speak a word of it to anyone. Three men were liable for the position, all of them very close friends with his parents, more particularly his father. One of them was under suspicions, though, due to a rather dangerous condition that was in no way the man's fault. The second man was extremely close to his father; they were practically brothers. And the third, he was the last of their group—a small little guy, perhaps a few screws loose. His parents had wanted to go for the second man, but the guy had suggested another to take his place.
Unfortunately for his parents, and also for him, they chose the wrong man.
For, just a soon as the third man had secured the fact that he was the one keeping his family hidden and safe, that he was the one who knew their location, and no one else, he'd gone straight to the enemy and squealed everything in exchange for his life.
He hated that man, he hated him, he wanted to kill him—but, sadly, for him, the man was dead. Perhaps it was for the better. His destiny was prophesied, it would come to pass no matter what had happened. But he just couldn't give up the thought that, if that man, that supposed close and loyal friend of his parents, hadn't betrayed them—then, maybe, he wouldn't have to suffer as he did. Like this, for the rest of time...
He hadn't been exactly sure how to react, when he found out he couldn't join his loved ones, all of which had already passed on. In fact, he wasn't entirely sure when he'd realized it. Perhaps it had been the day he had officially turned twenty, or maybe even two years later, when he found out that he'd never turned twenty-one. Perhaps it had been the day that the last person he'd ever held relatively close to his heart had passed on, rather gruesomely, for that matter.
Perhaps, even, it had been the day that he had always dreamed would be the end of it all. For the first seventeen years of his, unknown to him, destined to be eternal life, he'd thought he'd go like everyone else. He thought, believed, that everyone had to die, sometime, no matter what. That was just how it happened. Death was a part of living, no one could escape it.
Apparently, though, he'd been—was—the one exception.
Of course, who had he ever been kidding. His life had never been normal. He was always the one exception, always for things that never happened to anyone else. Anyone but him. He was always the special one.
He was the one escapee from the clutches of the after life.
He would never see any of his loved ones—past, present, or future—ever again.
And, somehow, he had to be okay with that. Otherwise, he might very well go insane, and he himself, his mind, very soul—it all, would be lost.
"—know I just wanna—"
"Yes," he interrupted, his smooth voice catching the attention of the man who had been speaking, and even a few who hadn't, at first. They were now, however. That's just what happened when he spoke. People listened. It was irritating, especially when you wished not to be noticed the majority of your time. "I'm sure it was a rather terrible experience for you. My condolences."
And he lifted his glass to his lips, taking a sip as the other man nodded so fast he thought the guy's head would topple off and continued to blabber on. "Exactly! You know, I was just thinkin'—"
"Sorry about him," an apologetic voice spoke over the constant noise of the other man, and he turned. The person who spoke was friendly looking enough; sandy-colored hair, soft brown eyes that crinkled at the edges due to constant smiling on the owner's part, peachy-toned skin and dimpled cheeks. "He doesn't really know how to hold his own against the stuff yet."
Ah. So, either the drunken man next to him was new to drinking, or he wasn't very tolerant. "And how long has he been doing this?"
The sandy-haired young man slipped into the seat on his other side, laughing. "A few years, actually."
He smirked into his drink. "I see. So, he isn't a master yet."
"Not really," chuckled the other man, waving over the bartender and ordering himself a glass. As the man nodded and walked away, wiping his hand son his apron, his new companion turned back to him and opened his mouth, showing straight white teeth. "So, what's your name?"
He raised a eyebrow. "Is it not customary, here, to introduce one's self while inquiring the identity of another?" The younger man had the decency to blush. "Ah, right. Sorry." The other reached out a hand, and after a moment, he accepted it.
"I'm Ohmer Swindelund. It's nice to meet you...?" Ohmer grinned.
He sighed. Well, he'd already chastised the man for not giving his own name. He might as well comply. Now, which one would he use this time around...? "My name is Viper."
Ohmer blinked. "Viper? That sounds rather interesting... What language is it in? I know it's not Mannish..."
Oh, right. English was now a lost language. He had to stop forgetting things like that. "You're correct. Actually, it's a dead language. You won't find it anywhere."
Ohmer studied him. "Does it mean anything? My parents had told me that my name means "rolling hills of dawn." Is your last name in that language as well?"
"It does," he, Viper, replied thoughtfully, "but I don't think I will tell you. I rather enjoy watching people guess."
Ohmer almost pouted. "Oh." Then he sat up. "But what about—"
"I do not have a last name," Viper told him dismissively—He never had last names, anymore. He watched silently, sipping from his glass, as Ohmer raised an eyebrow at him, before the man was distracted by th arrival of his own drink.
Viper knew that not having a last name, or even any titles attacked to your name, was equivalent to having no true identity at all. As far as he was concerned, he was just one to pass through, sitting on the sidelines and watching the ages pass by, and by, and observing the destruction and birth of civilization after civilization, world after world, planet after planet... millennium after millennium.
He wasn't exactly concerned about being, in the least of sense, practically nobody at all.
Because, honestly, maybe that's all he's ever wanted to be.
Ohmer struck up conversation again after he'd downed his glass, and Viper found himself wondering why he was doing this. He'd always been one to avoid making friends, or even associates. They never lasted long anyway, compared to him, and he hated it—hated the helpless feeling he always felt when they died. Hated the fact that he had to keep his true life, everything that now defined him, a secret from them all, because what else was he suppose to do? Tell them he wasn't able to die? He supposed he could prove it to them—he'd tried most all the possible roads that lead to death, none had worked, on him—but he didn't think he could stand to be near them after. They'd stare at him, they'd fear him, they would treat him as, not an equal—sometimes they'd treat him as if he was lower than themselves, sometimes he was treated as if a god(he hated that reaction the most), almost literally worshiped—He could never handle it. He could never bear the reaction.
So it was a secret. One told to absolutely, under all circumstances, no one.
He'd never even been visited by any higher, celestial being. No one had ever come to him to explain these things, he'd had to learn everything on his own. For the first few eons, centuries, millennium—he'd been lost, so utterly and completely, he hadn't known if he could even bear to walk on his own two legs.
He never wished to return to those times.
"Well," Ohmer sighed, and Viper's attention was back on him. "I think I'm done for the night. I have to head out early anyway, to get home in time for the feast. It's my cousin's birthday, did you know?" No, Viper hadn't known, but he didn't say anything. He only sat there, silent, and let the only slightly wasted young man speak on. "Yes, he's turning twenty-seven. Hello, Bree's such a nice, friendly little place, don't you think?"
Bree? Was that the town he was in? He never bothered reading the signs, and he'd helped come up with almost half of the languages used these days—he always did. But, no, the signed always appeared unimportant. It figured—he was never one to try and appreciate his own work.
That's right. Bree. He'd been here before, many times, over the years, centuries. Yes, yes he did like it, in fact. But he didn't say anything.
Viper watched silently as Ohmer stood up, tossed some coins at the bartender, and left the inn, dragging his completely drunk, and unconscious, friend—Viper recognized the man he'd been... listening to, earlier—out of the establishment.
He wondered why the friendly looking sandy-haired young man had even approached him. Most didn't, even the hospitable people of Bree, seeing his dark clothing, fit for stealth, and the black hood he wore to hide his features. His outfit wasn't entirely different from most, really, but it did drive many away, with help of the silent, almost ominous aura that usually surrounded him.
Viper stood up, setting down a small stack of coins on the counter, and strode out of the room, up the stairs to his rented room. The bartender nodded at him as he swept through the door, scooping up the payment as he began to attend to the other customers.
"—O! The row of silver dishes,
and the store of silver spoons!
For Sunday there's a special pair,
and these they polish up with care,
For Sunday afternoons!"
Well, now. This was interesting.
Viper lounged on a stool at the long, winding counter of the bar, sipping his drink and observing the singing hobbit with half-hidden amusement. The tiny fellow danced up and down the room, but the shadowy man could hear the note of panic in the tune he sang, and Viper wanted to laugh at his expense. He'd seen the whole thing, how the young hobbit's even younger friend—what was his name, Pippin?—went and got himself almost completely wasted—Honestly, Viper had though that gleeful look on the silly little hobbit's was a bit dangerous, when "It comes in pints?!"—and had started blurting out all of their life stories. He also found it quite interesting, to hear that Mr. Underhill was indeed not a Mr. Underhill, but a Mr. Baggins. Where had he heard that name before?
"Then the ostler said to his tipsy cat:
'The white horses of the Moon.
They neigh and champ their silver bits;
But their master's been and drowned his wits,
and the Sun'll be rising soon!'"
Now that he thought about it, that tune sounded a bit familiar. Hadn't he heard some variation of it when he was a child? In kindergarten, hadn't he? It was wonders how history repeated itself. Though, this version of the tune was much more entertaining, especially while sung by drunkards. Viper still wanted to laugh.
Then, he narrowed his eyes. That glint, what was that?
"The round moon rolled behind the hill"
It was falling, right there, into the singing hobbit's hand—Mr. Baggins' hand.
"—as the Sun raised up her head.
She could hardly believe her fiery eyes;—"
Time almost seemed to literally slow, and Vipers eyes followed the glinting metal of the thing—a ring, it was a ring—as it fell, down, down—
"For though it was day, to her surprise—"
Right onto the hobbit's stubby little finger.
"—they all went back to bed."
There was an uproar. Men and the few women that surrounded them in the dimly lit room jumped up, chairs were knocked backwards, people stuttered, yelped, shouted out denials, or surprised exclamations. Viper sat forward in his seat, resting his elbows on his knees, and kept his hidden eyes narrowed in suspicion as he steepled his fingers thoughtfully.
That ring, it couldn't be what he thought it was, could it? And how on earth did it end up in the hands of this hobbit, of all things?
Viper's narrowed eyes opened wide. "Ah," he breathed. Now he remembered. Baggins, that name—wasn't that the family name of—Oh.
Well, it was just his luck, after all.
Honestly, couldn't he get a day of rest?
Viper let out a sigh, and watched as Frodo Baggins appeared underneath a table in the chaos. He slowly made his way over to where the hobbit was hiding, and saw, out of the corner of his eye, another slightly less shady-looking man than he was trying to do that same. Viper smirked.
He arrived at the table and leaned back against it. He swung one foot behind the other, locking it against his ankle, and tilted his head back. "Why do you hide, Frodo Baggins?" He mused, apparently to himself, but he felt the table bounce as someone bumped it from underneath.
He heard the hidden hobbit choke on a breath, and waited as Frodo debated whether to show himself or not. Eventually, curiosity won out, and a young head of curly brown hair made itself known to Viper's field of vision. "Who are you?" Frodo asked him warily, quietly.
Vipe knelt down and looked Frodo in the eyes—though he knew the hobbit couldn't see his, for they were hidden by the shadows of his hood. "Me?" He tilted his head, pointing to himself. "Why, I'm your way out of this mess." He slowly stood up and held out a hand. "Come with me, Frodo. I'll take you to a safer place than here."
Frodo gazed up at him, looking only slightly fearful. Viper was impressed. "What about—what about my friends?"
Viper was reminded of the three other hobbits that had entered the inn while in Frodo's company. "Worry not about them. They will find their own way to you." He eyed the nervous hobbit before him. "Take my hand, Mr. Baggins." He said sternly.
The short hobbit blinked one, two three times, and then slowly reached for his hand. Viper glanced at the other man, who had stopped a few feet away from them, hidden by the panic of the crowd around them, and was observing them with eyes narrowed in hostility. Viper bit back a chuckle, and yanked the hobbit after him as soon as their hands had clasped. They left the room, Viper dragging the frightened Frodo along behind him, up the stairs. "This way, Mr. Baggins."
Frodo followed along as best he could while being dragged behind someone bigger than he, and kept silent until Viper entered the hobbits' room. He decided not to tell Frodo how he knew where they were staying, despite the questioning look on the hobbit's face. Once the door was closed, he spun around to face the hobbit. Viper didn't know exactly why he was doing this. Maybe it was because Frodo reminded himself of him, all those years, centuries, millennium ago. When he'd had fate resting on his shoulders, a destiny. He could tell it was already wearing the hobbit down, and he knew that if Frodo wasn't strong enough to handle this, Middle Earth would fall. Not that he necessarily cared, as Viper had seen many worlds end, but he didn't mind helping out a little. Besides, he'd been bored, lately. It was time for an adventure. Perhaps he could meddle a little and see what would happen. "That Ring, the Ring, you see?" He told him, and Frodo looked up, bewildered. "Now that you've tried it on, he's seen you. You should be careful, even more, from now on out."
Frodo asked him many questions, all in that hurried, quick, slightly panicked tone that he'd used for the song down in the tavern, and Viper gave him sharp, incredibly cryptic answers, until the hobbit threw up his hands in frustration, and Viper grinned in triumph.
The door was wrenched open, and Viper saw the other shady-looking man who's sat in the corner of the bar, and had followed them, slip in, before it closed again. The man glared at him.
Frodo jumped in surprise, and spun to face the stranger. "Who are you?" He yelped, albeit quietly.
"I am called Strider," The man huffed. "A Ranger. And who, might I ask, is he?" The man, named Strider, stabbed a finger in the hooded man's direction.
"That's—" Frodo paused, thoughtfully, then turned to face Viper, "What is your name?" Strider threw up his hands. "By the Valar!" HE cried. "Have you no precautions?!"
"I," Viper leaned back, and the two quieted down and listened. "am Viper."
They stared at him, and Viper raised an unseen brow. "What? That's it," he spread his hands out, then braced them behind his head. "If you want me to give you an occupation, like this fellow here," he nodded in Strider's direction, and the Ranger sniffed. "Well, sorry. I don't really have one. You could safely say that I am no one, and you would be mostly correct."
"Shady looking one, you are." Strider sneered, poking him forcefully in the chest, and Viper only grinned. "And you aren't?" He replied, Strider's eyes twitched, and he spun around, facing Frodo once again. Viper assumed that the Ranger had decided to ignore his presence for now. "You!" He cried, eying Frodo. "A little more caution would be right pleasant, if you ask me. That, sir, is no trinket you carry."
Frodo exchanged glances with Viper, not that he met the man's eyes, and stood up defiantly. "IO carry nothing!" He answered.
"Indeed." Strider glared, then walked over to the candle that lay on the sill, before the glass pane of the room's only window. He put the flame out with his fingers, and the three were shrouded in darkness. Viper leaned back to listen. "I can avoid being seen, if I so wish, but to be invisible entirely, that is a rare gift, Mister 'Underhill.'" Frodo jumped away from where he knew the Ranger was. "What do you want?"
Viper took a breath, and the room was light enough for him once more, but only him. He watched Strider tilt his head, and ask the nervous hobbit questionably. "Are you frightened?"
Viper raised an eyebrow. Had the man even needed to ask? Anyone with a brain large than a mustard seed could have told you that yes, Frodo was scared. But the hobbit answered anyway. "Yes."
Strider's expression darkened. "Not nearly frightened enough, I'll say. I know what hunts you, Mister Frodo."
Viper blinked, then brightened. "Oh!" the two turned to him. "Yes," he said, apparently to himself. "Them. I forgot about them. Awfully nasty, those Black Riders." He turned to Frodo, who looked even more nervous. "Black Riders?" He asked Viper, Strider sent a distrustful look in his direction.
"Oh, yes." Viper mused cheerfully. "Wraiths, those things. Their poison is right painful, if you ask me, which you should, since I've felt it before." Then he tilted his head to the door. "Hm?"
Just then, the door burst open, Strider jumped up and unsheathed his sword with a quick hand. Viper chuckled, and Merry, Pippin, and Sam—the other hobbits—stumbled in. Sam, the one in the front, Viper thought, had his fists clenched before him, ready for battle. "Let him go!" He shouted out blindly. "Or I'll have you, Longshanks!"
Viper began to laugh quietly, and the three hobbits paused in confusion. The one holding the brightly lit candle, Pippin, held it higher, and the room was illuminated once again. Viper turned his vision off, as there were no need for it any longer. Strider shot the chuckling man a look, before sheathing his sword once again. "A stout heart you have, young hobbit," he began, and the little ones' attention was focused on him. "But that will not save you," He finished, a little darkly, Viper thought. Strider then turned back to Frodo, who remained frozen, sitting on the bed. "You can no longer wait for the wizard, Mister Frodo. They're coming."
"Who?" Merry asked hesitantly. "Who's coming?"
"The question isn't 'who.'" Viper spoke, and they all turned to him, surprised. Viper grinned, and Strider frowned. "The question, little hobbit, is... 'what.' The Nazgûl!"
The wizened gatekeeper of Bree shot up as he heard the sound of galloping hooves and screeching. His eyes widened as the approaching forms crashed through his gate, and right up to the inn, the Prancing Pony. Soon after they'd entered screamed could be heard, ad the sounded of metal clashing. The gatekeeper pressed himself back against the wooden boards of his post, shaking in his boots. "Oh dear." He gasped.
The Riders make for the hobbit-sized room. Silently, they raise their swords high above them to plunge into the beds. The swords descend, stabbing at the still forms as the hobbits awake. The Riders pull back the covers and realize they have been attacking stuffed bedclothes and pillows. They scream. Strider watches from the window in his room as the Riders remount their horses. Viper stands next to him, observing silently. "I still think this was a waste of precious time, Ranger. Instead of tricking the things, we should have made haste, to Rivendel. You and the hobbits should be heading there, in any case. The faster w get there, the better."
Strider eyes him, still facing the room the hobbits had occupied earlier. "And you think you will accompany us?"
Viper tilted his head, staring openly at the other man, who shifted under his gaze. "I do not trust you." He finally admitted, and Viper grinned that cheerful smile that showed his sparkling teeth, one that promised pain to any that crossed him. It made the Ranger nervous. "That is well. I do not trust you, either. And the hobbits—well, they do not trust either of us. I suppose it evens out, does it not?"
Strider didn't really have anything to say to that.
Behind them, Frodo sat at the foot of the bed. The rest of the sleeping hobbits, awakened by the Riders' cries—which still echoes through the night, waking up and frightening the inhabitants of Bree—leaned wide-eyed against the headboards. "What are they?" Pippin asked frightfully.
"They were once Men," Viper told the hobbits, almost wistfully. "Great kings of Men, I should say." He tilted his head toward Strider, who looked surprised. "Then Sauron the Deceiver gave to them nine Rings of Power." The ranger continued. "Blinded by their greed, they took them without question. One by one falling into darkness."
Viper leaned against the wall that lay to the side of the window as Strider went on. ""Now they are slaves to his will. They are the Nazgûl, Ringwraiths, neither living nor dead. At all times they feel the presence of the Ring. Drawn to the power of the One."
"The One?" Merry inquired, sharing a look with Pippin, and Frodo sat, frozen, eyes widened in realization.
"Yes," Viper told them. "The One. The One Ring." He tilted his hooded face toward the now shaking Frodo. "That... one... ring, Mister Frodo. They will never stop hunting you."
The group sat silently in the room, the hobbits shaking in fear, and Strider with a determined look on his face. Then, Viper grinned. "But that's alright. I like a challenge."
"See this?" Viper held up a envelope. The group was sitting in the tavern, around a table, The other people avoided them, and the tense air that surrounded them. The hobbits all nodded, and Strider narrowed his yes. "This, my little hobbits, is a letter. From a friend." He tilted his head. "Of yours, though. From a wizard."
"Gandalf!" Frodo gasped, and the hobbits all sat straight. Strider frowned at him suspiciously. "And how, pray tell, did you come across such a document?" He asked the grinning man.
Viper shrugged. "Oh, you know, around." He tossed the letter onto the table, and it slid toward Frodo, who grabbed in almost hungrily. The other hobbits gather behind him to peer over his shoulder as he ripped the letter form it's casing. Strider glared, and the hooded man rolled unseen eyes. "Be calmed, Strider. It was lying on the crates in the cellar of this establishment. I had no hand in receiving it."
"He's telling the truth, Mister Strider." Frodo exclaimed, and Strider snapped his head in the hobbit's direction. "Butterbur was suppose to give it to us!"
"The grungy old man..." Sam muttered, and Pippin and Merry exchanged grins.
"Right then," Viper sat back. "We should be leaving now, for Rivendel."
"Rivendel!" Sam brightened, and Strider nodded at him. The hobbit turned to his companions. "Did you hear that? We're going to see the elves!"
Frodo graced his friend with a small smile. "Yeah," he agreed, and nodded at Viper, who grinned once more. "Let's go."
They traveled for a ways, one day passed, then another, Sam tended to the pony carrying their belongings—when Viper had shook his head and told them he carried nothing but the clothes on his back, even Strider looked wide-eyes—and Pippin and Merry kept their spirits high. Viper tended to ignore them, though. They reminded him of two, redheaded twin brothers he had known, long ago...
"What about breakfast?" He heard Pippin say, in response to Strider's order of not resting until nightfall. Viper held in a laugh.
"We've already had it." Strider replied, sounding only slightly confused.
"We've had one, yes," Pippin explained impatiently. "But what about second breakfast?" Strider sent the hobbit a look, and waked away, disappearing into the thicket of bushes ahead of them. Viper smirked, leaning against a tree. He didn't say anything.
"Don't think he knows about second breakfast, Pip." Merry said, casting a pitying look in the direction in which the Ranger had vanished. Pippin looked aghast. "What about elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper? He knows about them doesn't he?"
Merry sighed sorrowfully. "I wouldn't count on it." And the two friends shared a moment of silence, shaking their heads.
From over the bushes, and apple flew, and Merry caught it. He examined it closely. "Lookit, Pip! Flying fruit!" he handed it to the forlorn hobbit and patted him on the shoulder. "Hm?" Pippin glanced at the item, startled, and cast merry a glance. Soon, Viper's sharp eyes caught sight of another apple, which flew through the trees above them and hit Pippin in the head, who glanced up, bewildered.
Merry began to laugh heartily. "Pippin!" He cried, and the other scowled at him as he rubbed his sore head, only to brighten when he caught sight of what had hit him.
The part continued on their way, the two hobbits munching happily on their fruit, and Viper exchanged amused looks with Strider, who looked away after a few moments. Viper grinned, deciding to spend the time of silence thinking back.
There had been a world like this, once, he remembered. Different species of intelligent beings, and not just humans. There had even been elves, and dwarves, perhaps. He didn't exactly remember, it had been so long ago, but he eventually decided that that world had revolved around dragons quite a lot.
It was exciting, to watch, interesting to listen to, sometimes frustrating when he knew what they all should have done, but they did something else. But he hadn't stepped in, as that world had destroyed itself—he'd vowed not to do anything, know anyone, that time around.
Sometimes, he wished he had. Other times, he wished he'd hidden himself more carefully.
Soon enough, Viper found himself walking alongside Strider, who kept casting him wary glances. The hooded immortal could tell that the Ranger wanted to ask him some question—more like interrogate him—so he opened his mouth. "I'm very interested in this hobbit's journey. I was surprised to find he had that ring, that One Ring. I'd been under the impression that it had been lost to that fool of a king."
Ah, there we go. Strider turned to glare at him. "What do you want with the ring, stranger?"
"Well, now," Viper admonished him. "You know my name, sir."
"Yes," Strider agreed, "but I have no inkling of who you are—just your name. Viper, if it is even your name at all."
Viper paused, walking a few steps in silence before responding, and Strider observed him haltingly all the while. "Yes." he told him, quietly. "Viper is indeed my name, make no mistake for that."
Strider stared, then turned away and walked one step ahead of him. "Well, then, Viper," He continued. "What is it that you want with the ring?"
Viper tilted his head away form the other man and turned toward him halfway, still walking. "What do I want with it? Why, nothing at all. It is the journey I am interested. I have no need for any power that trinket promises—not that it could even convince me of so."
Strider paused in his stepped. "Nothing?" He asked, doubtfully. "I can hardly believe such lies. Of course you want the ring." He said mater-of-factly. Viper felt a headache coming on.
"Did you not listen to what I've just said? No, I wish nothing for the ring. It must be destroyed, if anything." Strider froze, falling behind a few steps as Viper continued walking casually, as if they'd been discussing the weather.
"Destroyed?" he echoed. "You wish to destroy it? Why?"
Viper raised an eyebrow. "Why else? It has brought nothing but destruction to this world since it's smithing, and so destruction shall be it's fate." He replied simply, and made to walk ahead of the party.
Strider stayed behind, just ahead of the hobbits, who huddled in their own conversation, and the Ranger stared at the back of the mysterious figure known as Viper for the rest of the journey that day, until they stopped at the fall of night for rest.
Elleth alfirin ethelhael
O hon ring finnil fuinui
A renc gelebrin thiliol."
Viper sat in the dark, at the very edge of the campfire, leaning against the rough bark of the tree. His eyes were closed, and his breath was slow and even, chest rising in sync with the intakes of oxygen. His arms crossed loosely over his chest and his chin resting on his collarbones. To anyone observing, he would appear asleep. But he wasn't.
Viper didn't really sleep all that much anyway.
He listened silently as Strider sang the song of the fair elven maiden, saying nothing, not moving once to even suggest that he was awake and listening. He let Strider sing on.
Soon, the rustle of cloth was heard, once the song had finished, and Viper heard Frodo's voice. "Who is she? This woman you sing of?"
"'Tis the Lay of Lúthien. The Elf-maiden who gave her love to Beren, a mortal." Strider replied, and Viper heard the tone of sadness in his voice.
But he wanted to laugh. Laugh, long and hard. A mortal... These elves, they thought they were immortal. Now he remembered.
But they were immortal... sort of. However, not like him. They could still die, he thought bitterly, before tuning in on the quiet conversation once more when Frodo asked another question.
"What happened to her?" the little hobbit whispered.
"... She died." Strider said, mournfully, and Viper wondered why the story made him so tearful, like now. The Ranger sighed, looking back at the slightly concerned hobbit. "Get some sleep, Frodo. You will need it for the journey."
Frodo stared at him for some time, before nodding hesitantly and lying back down on his bedroll. Viper waited until he heard the even breathing of the hobbit before silently standing up and making his way over to the other man, who had his back turned. He sat down next to the Ranger, on the deadened tree. "You will need rest for the journey too." He told the man. Strider said nothing. Viper tilted his head, inquiringly. "Something is bothering you..."
"It is nothing," The man said immediately in response. Viper smiled. "I see."
They sat in silence for much longer into the night, until Viper leaned forward, and twisted around to look Strider in the face, though the other man would not be able to see his, hooded as it was. "You need to sleep," He observed, in the way that made it seem as if he was speaking only to himself. "Go. I will take this watch."
Strider sat, frozen, under Viper's intense gaze, until he nodded stiffly. "Very well. But, you will wake me for the next one."
Strider nodded once again, and made his way to his own bedroll, near the fire, which was dwindling down. They'd made it small, as to not extract attention—Viper hadn't wanted to make one at all, but the hobbits had complained of no dinner, and then no supper—how on earth would they survive? Viper let out a whispery chuckle, before leaning back and lounging on the log, staring off into the night.
They traveled in silence all of the following day. Well, not entirely—Sam and the other hobbits, barring Frodo, were confused by the tense air surrounding their part, and whispered amongst one another, guessing the cause. What stumped them, though, was the carefree aura that wove itself around the one called Viper. They stuck closer to him than Strider, which almost upset the Ranger quite a bit, seeing it as the hobbits trusting the unknown stranger more than him, another relatively unknown stranger, and Viper wanted to laugh—and they soon made their way out of the swampy marshlands, now crossing rockier country.
Soon, night approached once more, and Strider led them up a tall hill, at the top of which sat a section of ruins. "We will stop here for the night," he told them. Viper shrugged, and the hobbits all sat down with a thump, exhausted. The all flung of their packs and settled down under an overhang near the hill's summit. Strider went to his own pack and opened it, pulling out four, short swords that Viper correctly guessed were for the hobbits, as the Ranger handed the weapons to the Halflings. "These are for you," he told them, as Viper climbed up and lounged on the roof of the overhang. Strider sent him an annoyed glance, before continuing once Viper responded with a cheeky grin. "Keep them close, understand? I am going to have a look around." He stepped back at the hobbit's nods, and glanced up at the relaxed form of the mysterious Viper. "And you?"
"I'll stay here," Viper mused in a thoughtful tone. "Wouldn't want the tiny little hobbits to accidentally fall on their shiny new swords, now would we? He grinned in the face of Strider's unamused glare, and laughed at the affronted looks the hobbits sent him. "Be calm, Halflings. I was merrily joking. You are all too tense."
"Such a situation that calls us to be," Strider responded stiffly, before making his way away from the camp. Viper rolled unseen eyes at the man's attitude.
It was dark, now, and the Ranger hadn't returned. Viper lied still on the roof of the overhang, listening to the sounds of the night, before he frowned. What was that smell... smoke?
"My tomato's burst." A voice sounded, and Viper blinked his eyes opened. This light he saw...
"Can I have some bacon?" He heard Merry ask someone.
"Okay," Pippin responded, and he heard shuffling. Then, "Want some tomatoes, Sam?"
"What are you doing?!" He began to sit up when Frodo hissed in alarm.
Merry sounded confused. "Tomatoes, sausages, nice crispy bacon... Hungry, Mister Frodo?"
Viper's eyes widened. How much more idiotic could they be?! He sprung up as he listened to Frodo stomping on the fire.
"Put it out, you fools! Put it out!"
"Oh, that's nice!" Pippin complained. "Ash on my tomatoes!"
"What," Viper asked in a low tone as he jumped down from the overhang, "is going on here?" His voice was deadly, and all the hobbits went silent.
"We were hungry..." Sam began hesitantly, eyes wide. "W-we didn't think—"
"That's right," Viper agreed in a hiss. "That's right exactly. You didn't think, not at all!" He straightened as he heard the approaching cries of the Nazgul. "Foolish hobbits, look what you've done!"
The hobbits all sprang up, and went to the edge of the overhang, peering over to see five Black Riders closing in on the hill. They yelped, skittering back, and unsheathing their small swords. Viper bit back a mirthless laugh. "No, you fools! Go!" He motioned back up to the top of the ruins. The hobbits rushed in the direction he indicated, the dark night and the cries of the Nazgûl surrounding them.
They reached the top and stood in the middle of the ring of ruined pillars, shaking in their boots. The Nazgûl slowly circled about them, holding deadly sharpened swords. "Oh!" Pippin cried. Where did Mister Viper go?" He asked, panicked.
"I cannot see him," Merry shook his head as the three hobbits surrounded Frodo.
"Back, you devils!" Sam shouted, brandishing his sword in the face of the Black Riders. He clashes swords with the Nazgûl before him, only to be thrown away from the group. Pippin and Merry are dealt with in a similar manner, and the leading Nazgûl approached Frodo, who tried to scramble backward. The young hobbit began to panic as the wraith pulled out a long, wickedly sharp dagger, and he slipped the Ring onto his stubby finger.
But it didn't seem to work. Even though he was now invisible to the sight of all—but not, Viper later explained, to the sight that mattered—the Nazgûl reached forward for him, seemingly knowing exactly where he was. And, to his horror, the Ring seemed to lift itself higher, forcing his hand along with it, up to meet the hand of the Black Rider, the ghostly king, the wraith—
Frodo jerked back, taking the ring with him, and the Nazgûl howled in rage. It took it's long dagger and stabbed it through the hobbit's shoulder, then reached for his hand, the one that wore the Ring. Frodo cried out in pain, choking back a gasp, the ring slipped off of his finger and into the pocket of his jacket in a late attempt to hide it from the spirits.
"Back!" A voice shouted. "Back, I say, back!" Strider appeared, leaping over the downed hobbit, who clutched at his shoulder, with a cry and charged at the wraiths, which all veered back from his blade.
Viper knelt down next to Frodo, who had his eyes shut tightly, and slipped the weapon out of his shoulder quickly. He watched in fascination as the blade dissolved, and the hobbit screamed, and Viper healed him down, examining his wound closely, and ignoring the pained cries from the struggling Halfling.
"Frodo!" Sam cried, and he and the other hobbits rushed to his side. "Viper held up a hand before they got close. "Give him room." He looked down, and cursed. "Ah! Poison, of a Morgul blade."
"Is it bad?" Pippin asked hastily. "I mean, fatal, is it?"
Viper tilted his head. "Hm, yes. I think so." Then he blinked. "Oh, not the wound itself, but the poison... Yes, yes it is. Fatal, I mean." The hobbits cried out in despair. "But Viper remained cheerful. "Ah, but if we make haste to Rivendel, well, he should be fine in a few weeks."
They turned to watch Strider fight off the remaining Nazgûl, a torch in one hand, sword in the other, and the Ranger drove them off to follow the ones that had already fled. He spun around and rushed to them. "Where is the injury?"
Viper raised a hand. "No need. Morgul blade, wound's poisoned, yes. He's dying. We need to hurry on to Rivendel, Strider."
The Ranger cursed violently, ripping of the ends of his cloak and tying them tightly around Frodo's wound. Viper leaned back as the other hobbit's watched in fear, and Frodo fell unconscious. "I did tell you were should have left before, did I not?"
"Yes, well," Strider glared up at him, "now is not the time to be speaking of this." He looked down once again. "This wound it is beyond my own skill to heal—"
Viper sighed. "Yes, I could already tell."
Strider growled, but continued. "He needs elvish medicines. Come, let us make haste." He wrapped his arms around the motionless hobbit and stood, making way to leave Amon Sûl. The uninjured hobbits following behind, eyes tearful and full of fear.
Viper stood there without a word, watching as Frodo called out for his wizard friend, Strider hushing him. "We're six days from Rivendel already!" Sam was crying. "He'll never make it!"
He sucked in a deep breath and followed, wrapping his thumbs over his pointer fingers, under his middle fingers, as he walked, cracking the knuckled just to give him something to do.
"This was a little more boring than I thought it would be.." He mumbled under his breath, frowning. "And short, too... Frodo Baggins, you had better survive this. I don't want to wait another thousand years for something to happen."
Viper was crouched up in a tree, watching silently as Strider knelt in the undergrowth, looking for the plant knowns in the Shire as Kingsfoil. He wondered what he was suppose to think of all of this. Frodo was lying back at the campsite—they'd moved somewhere else, since Amon Sûl—wrapped from head to toe in blankets, sweating like he was three feet away from the sun, with Sam tending to him like a mother hen to it's chicks. He knew that, if the hobbit was not treated soon, then he himself would turn into one of the Nazgûl, those Black Riders.
He wondered, silently, what could possibly happen if he'd been the one stabbed by the Morgul blade. He was immortal already, he couldn't die—but could he turn into one of those, and would he be stuck like that, or would it just fade away when this world died, and another was born from it's ashes? Or would he be forced to wander for eternity as a wicked, twisted, ghostly wraith, a spirit that lusted after a ring that, once this world was gone, wouldn't even exist anymore.
He shuddered at the thought. Maybe his existence wasn't so terrible, wasn't the worst, after all.
Viper watched as Strider jumped, a sword pointed at his throat. A sweet, almost mocking voice rang out. "Oh, what's this? A Ranger off his guard?"
Viper jumped after Strider as he led the newcomer, a elven woman named Arwen, back to the camp. Arwen slowly approached the still-unconscious Frodo and spoke a few lines of elvish. "Lasto beth nîn. Tolo dan na ngalad."
Viper mentally translated the words, then nodded in satisfaction, watching as they did their work. Frodo would be safe, for now.
"Who is she?" Whispered Merry. Arwen knelt by Frodo's side and called out his name.
"She's an elf," Sam breathed. Arwen looked up into the worried face of Strider. "He's fading."
"Where's Viper?" Pippin asked, Arwen looked up at the question, curious. She looked at the Ranger beside her. "Viper? Who is this the Halfling speaks of?"
Strider opens his mouth to reply, but Viper decided this would be the time to show himself, and he jumped down from the trees—they group jumping at his arrival. "That would be me," He told her. He ignored her studying look and glanced down at Frodo, who was breathing heavily. "He's not going to last." He told them.
Arwen straightened. "We must bring him to my father. I have been looking for you," she turned to Strider and the hobbits, "for two days." Strider knelt and lifted Frodo into his arms.
"Where are you taking him?" Sam cried.
"There are five wraiths behind you. Where the other four are, I do not know." Arwen relayed, and walked with Strider over to the horse she'd rode to look for them. The two engaged in a intense conversation, and Viper listened intently. "Stay with the hobbits. I will send horses back for you."
Arwen shook her head quickly. "I am the faster rider. I shall take him."
"The road is too dangerous." Strider argued back.
"What are they saying?" Pippin asked, confused.
"Frodo is dying. If I can get across the river, the power of my people will protect him." Arwen told the ranger sternly, before her face smoothed into an impassive mask. "I do not fear them."
Strider studied her for a moment longer, before he gave a weak smile. "As you wish."
The mask quickly shattered as Arwen smiled back.
"They're speaking in elvish, Sindarin, a language of the elves." Viper explained to the slowly panicking hobbits—Sam, especially, was wringing his hands in worry, frowning heatedly at the two conversing adults. Viper's smooth slight-baritone put they more at ease, but not by much. Arwen mounted her horse, and Strider set Frodo before her. The elf wrapped one arm around the unconscious hobbit, and grasped the reigns with her free hand.
"Arwen," Strider called. She looked at him. "Ride hard, don't look back!" Arwen nodded and leaned forward, The horse shot ahead. "Noro lim, Asfaloth, noro lim!"
"What are you doing?!" Sam asked Strider hysterically, as he walked back to their fire. "Those wraiths are still out there!"
Strider said nothing. Viper watched as he stared after the quickly retreating elf. He turned to face the panicking hobbits. "No fears, little ones. That was Arwen. She is the daughter of the Lord of Rivendel. She will take your friend to safety."
He looked up, then narrowed his eyes. He'd better survive.
They soon heard screeching, and Viper's head snapped up. "They come," he told the others, and they Packed quickly. Viper waited, before leading them out of the clearing and int rocky terrain once more. Soon, the Nazgûl were quickly gaining on them, and Strider unsheathed his sword. He eyed Viper curiously with a hint of annoyance. "Do you have a weapon at all?" He asked
Viper raised an eyebrow. "Well? Yes, I do, I'll have you know. Some Ranger you are, I'm surprised you haven't noticed it already." He reached down and pulled twin daggers from their sheaths. They were long, black blades with silver hilts, wickedly sharp. Strider's eyes widened and Viper knew he was wondering how he had not seen them on his person before.
But the Nazgûl approached, and he had no time for questioning now. Viper felt almost sightly relieved. He hated the interrogation part.
One of the wraiths swung it's sword at Strider's throat, missing by only an inch. Viper whistled and the Ranger threw him a look. The hooded immortal only grinned.
"Where is the Halfling, Ranger?!" The Nazgûl hissed in a raspy voice, angry beyond belief.
"Which one?" Viper mused, and Strider snorted. Pippin, Merry, and Sam could be heard giggling in the bushes. So much for keeping hidden, Viper thought, rolling his eyes.
The Black Rider only hissed once again in rage, it's companions behind it. "Where is the Ring?!"
"Oh!" Viper brightened. "Him. Yes... No idea." He shrugged as the Black Riders screamed, slashing at him. He brought up his daggers to fend them off as they lunged at him in anger.
Strider decided to join in. "You just missed him," the Ranger told the wraiths. Viper cackled.
Eventually, they managed to fend of the Nazgûl, and Viper stood in a tree, staring after them as they rode away—thankfully in the opposite direction than the way Arwen took Frodo. He jumped down from his perch and was met with the expectant stares of Strider and the hobbits. "What?" He raised an eyebrow. Strider rolled his eyes. "Well?" The Ranger asked.
Viper leaned against the trunk of the tree, wiping one dagger on the cloth over his knee. "Yes, they are gone. Away from Frodo, in the least." The hobbits let out sighs of relief and plopped down on the ground.
Viper grinned. "Oh, no. No time for rest! Of to Rivendel we shall go!" They groaned, and Strider watched on, amused. "Up! Up, I tell you! We have long in our journey to go, yet!"
And, with much complaints, he rose the hobbits once more, and the part continued on toward Rivendel, toward safety.
The rest of the journey was spent in relative silence, the hobbits occasionally muttering amongst themselves, and Sam asking if they thought Frodo was alright every so often. After a few hundred times of the two men replying that they couldn't know, Viper saw that Strider was beginning to get annoyed. He made his way over to the man's side and raised an eyebrow, following behind the irritated Ranger in silence. Sam asked once again, and Strider snapped the answer out this time. The hobbit shrank back, eyes wide and somewhat hurt, before scurrying back to the other Halflings. Viper sped up a little and placed a hand on Strider's shoulder. The Ranger tensed and spun around pinning him with a intense glare, but Viper only tilted his head, saying nothing. Eventually, Strider let his shoulders drop and he sighed. "I know. I am too restive. I should apologize. You don't have to tell me."
Viper raised an eyebrow. "I did not think we were as close as to understand one another without words, Strider. But, yes. I think you need to calm yourself. Worrying over this is not going to help anything." The hooded man took back his hand and stretched his arms above his head, yawning. "Trust me."
Strider turned his head and stared at him for a while, eyes searching his shadowed face, until the Ranger seemed to find something that satisfied him, and he nodded with a small smile. "Ah. Of course. Thank you."
Viper watched in silence as the man made his way over to the hobbits and leaned down to look them eye-to-eye. He didn't hear what was spoken—though, he could have if he so wished—but eventually the hobbits were all nodding and smiling at Strider tiredly. Sam said something, and Strider laughed, patting the hobbit on the head. Viper saw Pippin looking over at him curiously, and he turned his head away, walking ahead without a word. He didn't see the frown on the youngest hobbit's face, after that.
They spent the rest of the day walking on, and barely a word was spoken, save for the few lame attempts from the hobbits to start a conversation. Eventually they gave up, and it was nearing dark once again. The hobbit's eyes were drooping tiredly, and their walk was sluggish and slow at best.
"Oh, look." Viper suddenly spoke, dully, sounding intensely uninterested in the world. The hobbits barely bothered to listened, until—"It's Rivendel. How lovely."
Strider straightened, looking around alertedly, until he spotted it, just through the trees. He blinked, stunned. "I have traveled this road many a times, so I did not think we would make it so quickly as this, especially with the pace we were at..." Viper shrugged, watching the hobbits rush forward to gape openly at the magnificent view. "Well, there's a first time for everything, yes?"
Strider observed him carefully. "You do not look very interested in the sight before you. Have you been here before?"
Viper tilted his head. Had he? He couldn't remember. He gestured at Rivendel, which lay before them, and shrugged once again. "Eh." He made a non-committal sound. "I've seen better."
Strider raised his brows, looking extremely doubtful. "I see..." Viper only grinned in response, before turning to the hobbits, who were chattering excitedly. "Oi, Halflings! Get your packs together, and into Rivendel we shall venture."
They jumped at the order, shouldering their belongings once more, and grinned at one another as they followed the two men. Sam was literally bouncing in place, then rushing almost ahead of them if Viper didn't keep snatching him by the collar and pulling him back again. "Whoa, there. There's no need to rush. We will arrive in due time, no matter."
The hobbit blushed. "Ah, right, sir. 'M sorry, I guess I'm just excited."
"He wants to see the elves," Pippin chimed in, grinning at the look Sam shot him.
"And Mister Frodo!" The gardener shot back. Merry cackled. "I wonder, what kind of food do the elves make?"
Pippin jumped up and down. "Oh, I bet you it's wonderful!"
Viper turned to Strider, raising an unseen brow. "They are like children." He complained. Strider snorted, shaking his head. "Ah, but they are hobbits. That is what they are like."
The hooded man huffed. "Indeed." And they made their way down to the great elven city, reading for days of rest.
"Lasto beth nîn. Tolo dan na ngalad."
Frodo slowly awoke, blinking as bright light assaulted his eyes. Those last words he'd heard, what did they mean? They sounded familiar. He took a breath of clean, fresh air, and blinked slowly, taking in his surroundings. He felt soft, clean bedsheets beneath him—where was he?
He voiced his question aloud, and almost jumped when someone answered. "The house of Elrond!" He turned to see a very welcomed sight. "And," the wizened man went on, "it is ten o'clock in the morning, on October the twenty-fourth, if you so wish to know."
Frodo sat up, half surprised his shoulder hurt no longer. "Gandalf!" he cried.
The old wizard smiled happily. He was seated on the end of the bed the young hobbit lay in, smoking his pipe, a familiar and welcomed sight to the already home-sick hobbit. The room they were in opened up into a beautiful garden that just stole his breath away, and the warm autumn air breezed in gently. The sound of falling water mixed with the lovely singing of birds soothed his nerves. "Yes… I am here. And you're lucky to be here, too, my dear boy. A few more hours and you would have been beyond our aid. But you have some strength in you, yet, young Frodo!"
Frodo smiled, and the two shared a laugh, before the hobbit ventured to ask, "What happened, Gandalf? Why didn't you meet us?"
"Ah, that," Gandalf raised his brows. "I was... held captive."
"Captive!" Frodo exclaimed. "You?"
"Yes," the old wizard laughed. "Me!"
The two conversed for a while longer, discussing the journey, with Frodo asking many questions that still plagued his mind. Eventually, they reached the point where Frodo and the others had been surrounded by the Ringwraiths.
"Your choices could have used some improvement," Gandalf scolded the young hobbit, and Frodo sunk in his place on the bed. "But," the wizard went on, "to have come so far, and through such dangers, still bearing the Ring—I believe you've done very well." He smiled.
Frodo grinned, then sighed. "Well, I do not think we would have made it very far, if it wasn't for Strider, and Viper."
Gandalf nodded, smiling, then he paused, raising a brow. "Viper? Yes, quite the mysterious man..." he eyed the hobbit. "My dear Frodo, can you tell me of him?"
"He's amazing!" Frodo admitted, nodding. "He had these two daggers—I didn't see much, but he managed to fight off those wraiths faster than even Strider was able! I don't know much about him, he didn't talk about himself, much, but he is fun to talk with..." The hobbit grinned.
Gandalf nodded, then sat back. "Ah, yes. Strider—his name, actually, is Aragorn. Or Estel, if you're an elf. He is something special—in fact, he's one of the few who still has the blood of the old Kings from over the Sea!"
Frodo's eyes widened. "Strider? He is descended of the Men of Westernesse?! I find that hard to see." he admitted. But Gandalf confirmed the fact, "That is what the Rangers are, my dear hobbit. The last remnant in the North of the great people, the Men of the West ."
"Still," The wizard went on. "I would much rather know more of this 'Viper.' He is an enigma among the unknown, truly."
Frodo leaned back against the soft pillows of the bed. "How long have I been asleep?" he asked.
"Well," the wizard replied. "You arrived here on October the 20th, and only now just awoke. For four days, my young hobbit." Frodo took in a breath.
"Frodo!" The door burst open, and a blur dashed into the room, reappearing at Frodo's side. Sam grinned tearfully. "Frodo!"
"Sam!" Frodo cried, reaching out a hand, which the gardener clasped happily. "Bless you, you're awake!" the young hobbits shared a laugh.
"Sam here has hardly left your side since he arrived, my friend." Gandalf told him, and Sam grinned, nodding at Frodo. "We were that worried about you, weren't we, Mister Gandalf?"
The wizened old wizard sat back against the board that rested at the foot of the bed. "Indeed, young Frodo. With the skills of Lord Elrond, you are beginning to mend."
The door opened once more, this time more gently. The elf-lord smiled down at the resting hobbit. "Welcome to Rivendel, Frodo Baggins." Elrond greeted warmly.
Rivendel sits high above a gorge thick with pines and deciduous shrubs. Delicate waterfalls, shimmering in the afternoon light, traced their way down to the river below. A stone bridge spanned the chasm as a cloaked rider upon a black horse gallops across the plains above the falls, making it's way down to the gardens below.
In such gardens, Sam led Frodo by the hand to be reunited with their hobbit friends. Pippin and Merry gathered around the smiling Baggins, chattering happily about the rest journey he'd missed.
"You should have seen Strider's face, Frodo!" Pippin was laughing. "Viper wouldn't stop grinning at him for the rest of the night!"
"It was quite funny," Sam admitted, and they all shared a laugh at the Ranger's expense.
"Oh!" Merry cried, suddenly. "You'll love this Frodo," He smiled.
Frodo blinked in surprised, curious, before turning around. He broke into a smile. "Bilbo!" He cried, rushing over to his fatherly figure and embracing the old hobbit tightly. Bilbo smiled happily, patting the younger's head of thick curls. "Hello, Frodo, my lad!"
Frodo pulled back and smiled. Bilbo looked aged, and frail, but he could still see that hard glint that longed for adventure in his eyes. He looked down and picked up the tome Bilbo had been reading from. "'There and Back Again: A Hobbit's tale by Bilbo Baggins...'" He leafed through the book, exclaiming, "Bilbo, this is wonderful!"
The older Halfling sighed. "Yes... I meant to go back… wander the paths of Mirkwood… visit Laketown… see the Lonely Mountain again. But age, it seems, has finally caught up with me." He gave Frodo a sad smile, as the younger hobbit shuffled through to the front of the book to view the map of the Shire. "I miss the Shire," he replied. "I spent all my childhood pretending I was off somewhere else… off with you on one of your adventures! My own adventure turned out to be quite different... I'm not like you, Bilbo." He shook his head.
"What do you mean?" Sam exclaimed. "I think you were mighty brave, Mister Frodo!"
"That's right!" Merry agreed. "I don't know a hobbit braver than you, Frodo!"
Bilbo lifted a wrinkled hand to pat his charge on the cheek. "My dear boy," he smiled. "I think your adventure, is just beginning."
"I say!" a voice called out, and the group of hobbits turned to see Aragorn approaching. "What's this? A gathering of Halflings, is it?"
"Strider!" Merry bounced over to the Ranger. "Where were you?"
"Talking with the Lord Elrond, Merry. He is the one who raised me, after all—we were catching up on lost time."
"Right!" Sam brightened, turning to Frodo. "Did you know, Mister Frodo? Aragorn was raised by elves! They all call him 'Estel.'" Frodo looked up at the Ranger, interest gleaming in his eyes. Aragorn smiled. "I am glad to see you well, Frodo."
"What's going to happen, Strider? Now that we have brought the ring to Rivendel?" Frodo asked.
"We now await the arrival of the rest of those invited to the Council of Elrond, my friend." Aragorn replied, sitting down next to Bilbo, who nodded at him. "It is an honor to meet you, Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit who traveled in Thorin Oakensheild company to defeat the dragon Smaug!" The Ranger exclaimed, clasping hands with the aged hobbit. "Many a story I have heard of you."
"It's certainly pleasant to know that I'm still remembered, little my part in the actual defeat was." Bilbo stated modestly.
"Too humble, you are," Aragorn shook his head, moving on to speak more, but the group's attention was grabbed at the sound of shouts of surprise, and galloping hooves approaching the garden.
"Whoa!" Merry cried, and the group all managed to duck in time as a black stallion leaped over their heads. The rider laughed at their reactions. "Viper!" Pippin yelled, waving his arms and grinning.
The horse cantered around the garden, and the hooded man jumped up in the saddle and stood on the stallion's back, before flipping off and landing on his feet before their group. Viper grinned. "Ho! Did the hobbits migrate when I wasn't looking? There's another one!" He pointed at Bilbo in jest, and the Halflings laughed. Strider jumped back and and shot the other man a look. "Viper! Where did you get that horse?"
Viper tilted his head curiously, the very picture of innocence—a sight Strider and the young hobbits were fast getting familiar with. "Hm? Oh, him?" he nodded his head toward the stallion, who cantered to his side and neighed affectionately, bumping it's nose against the man's shoulder. Viper laughed, running a gloved hand along the horses head.
"This is Tharbadir." Viper told them. "The elves let me barrow him from the stables when they noticed he loves me." The hooded man grinned. "Because I am truly amazing, you know." The hobbits all laughed and smiled, while Aragorn rolled his eyes in good humor. "Indeed..."
Soon, evening fell, and Strider could be found on the terrace reading from a thickly bound tome. He looked up as footsteps echoed on the stone floor, coming towards him. A sandy-haired man entered the room and pauses in front of a battle-piece portraying the one called Isildur, who held a broken sword, raised against the dark Sauron. He regarded the painting intently for a moment or two, interested. Then, conscious of another presence, turned and saw Aragorn staring at him curiously. He blinked in surprise. "You are no elf!"
"The Men of the South are welcome here." Aragorn replied, closing the book quietly and setting it aside.
"Who are you?" The man inquired, leaning forward.
"A friend of Gandalf the Grey."
"Then we are here for a common purpose," the man smiled, "friend. I am called Boromir."
They exchanged a few words more, and Boromir seemed puzzled by Strider's reluctance in revealing his identity. Eventually, the man seemed to give up, turning back and wandering over to the lady's shrine that sat opposite the wall painting of Isildur. "I see!" He cried, "The shards of Narsil! The blade that cut the ring from Sauron's hand!" He reached for the haft, picking it up and shifting it in his hand, testing it's weight and feel as a warrior should. He stared at the shattered weapon, running his fingers along the edge. "Ah!" He cut himself, pulling his fingers away and smearing the pricks of blood across his thumb. "It's still sharp," he observed. Boromir turned to see Strider staring at him, watching his moves intently. He blinked, before carelessly returning the haft to it's place—and it clattered noisily to the ground. Boromir flinched slightly, but frowned down at it. "But no more than a broken heirloom!" The man hesitated, glancing back a Strider, before walking away, exiting the room without another look behind him. He bumped into another in the doorway, and the newcomer silently watched him leave.
Strider didn't pay the man any mind. He slowly stood up and reached for the broken, sword, carefully returning it to it's place in the Lady's stone arms, before stepping back and resting his hand above his heart. Viper watched this quietly, before speaking from his place just inside the doorway. "You look afraid." he observed, smooth voice cutting into the silence.
Strider stared up at the Lady for a few moments more, before turning to face the hooded man. He considered Viper, then seemingly deciding to throw caution to the wind. "I am Isildur's heir." he replied, voice weighed down heavily.
Viper raised his eyebrows, but showed no other form of surprise. He moved forward until he stood next to the Ranger, and looked curiously down at the shattered weapon. "Ah. But, you are not Isildur himself, correct?" He tilted his head and glanced over at his companion. Strider was stunned to catch even a flash of glittering green before it was swallowed by the shadows. "You are not bound by his fate."
"The same blood flows through my veins," Strider sighed despairingly. "The same weakness."
"Your time will come," Viper declared, and Strider looked back up, wishing he could spot that glimmer of color again in the shadows of the hood. But he couldn't, and Viper placed a hand on his shoulder. "You will face the same evil, and you will defeat it."
"A si i-Dhúath ú-orthor, Aragorn." A voice spoke, and the two men looked at the door. Arwen stood behind the entryway, observing them. "Ú or le a ú or nin."
She walked over and looked up into Aragorn's face intently. He stared back at her. "The shadows do not hold sway, yet." Viper mused, translating her words, and the two turned to him, surprised. He grinned.
"Aa. Not over you, and not over me."
Main element: Harry potter
Arc One: Lord of the Rings
First of all, this entire idea is dedicated to my goof friend Vanyalin(her username on this site), who was their throughout my planning of everything. She died just recently, hit by a drunk driver. The driver turned himself in later that day, and I expect he feels terrible, but I was pretty darn devastated when I was PMed by her friend, telling me of her passing. Since she was practically the co-author fir this idea(though she didn't write the chapters), and I bounced so many ideas off of her, I'm dedicating this arc, and all the ones that follow to her, and only her. I'll miss you, Mirage. You were an amazing person.
Speaking of this, the friend who contacted me(on here, his username is Raumoverca) has decided to take the ideas he'd found she'd left over and write them himself. She had so many amazing ideas, but never had to confidence to post them, or even write many of them out. He asked me if I was interested in taking over a few stories of her's, and I agreed. I really would love to. I plan on it, in fact.
I've decided to post this first chapter despite the fact that I had originally planned to not post this story until either it was complete or I was past chapter ten. However, due to Mirage's sudden death, I'm posting this first chapter to dedicate it and the following chapters and arcs right away. I will not start updating it until I'm finished or have reached chapter ten, so there's not need to rush through it and beg for new chapters. I'd love to hear your reviews on this first chapter; tell me what you liked, what you want to see, what I can improve, what should be changed or fixed. Did I mess anything up? Tell me that. Did I do anything you liked and want to see more of? Tell me that. I'd really love to hear what you guys think, so please read and review!
Now that I've said that, there are a few other points I need to put across to you guys.
This is going to be one of the biggest projects I have ever worked on. If any of you readers wish for me to add on another arc—which I will most likely be doing anyway—send me your ideas, which show/book/game do you want to see?
This is mainly a way to keep me busy, and I don't think I'll get bored with it, since I can always tack on more ideas whenever I want. I am determined to stick with this, so please don't get mad at me if I happen to ignore some of my other stories for this one, as I am coming to see this one as slightly more important(other than Vanyalin's stories, of course). If you wish to skip an arc, if you don't like the second category featured, or if you don't know it(in which case, I'd just recommend googling the fandom, then reading the plot and such on a few wikis—that's what I do ^-^), go ahead, but you might miss something important, is all I'll say.
I'd love it if you would review, and tell me what you think. This story is purely for my own enjoyment, and if you happen to like it, then that's great! If you don't, then that's fine too—though, if you go on to other chapters just for the sake of flaming them, then I'll have to ask you to stop, and why are you still reading it?
That's about it. I've had this idea stuck in my head for a long time, and it just wouldn't leave. Eventually, my mind kept adding in more shows and books for more chapters in the idea, and it became to much for me to bear. It seemed fun enough, so I thought I 'd give it a shot. Please tell me what you think! I'm also using this as a way to further my writing abilities, so I will be putting lots of hard work into this, and would be overjoyed to get some constructive criticism and advice.
Thank you for reading!