A/N: Hello! Sorry for the long wait. Honestly, the changes I am making are from chapter 13 onward, and I wanted to finish revising that before posting Chapter 12. Well... nevermind that. Here is Chapter 12 for your viewing.
Also I just want to say THANK YOU! to all the people who have reviewed. I'm really trying to do this for you because the time you've taken to write a couple of words have meant a lot to me. So ... THANK YOU!
Through the night, the remaining members of the fellowship moved quickly across the terrain, following the orc tracks on the ground. It was worrying to note there was still a large band of orcs to face if and when they caught up with the group. There also was no evidence of the hobbits, suggesting that they were being carried. Glorfindel could only hope that was the worst of it.
For some time now, he had been struggling to keep up. He kept his hands down to prevent himself from accidentally straining them. The chest wound was doing much better, but the blood loss still weighed heavily on his body. However he refrained from saying anything; instead he focused on the slow recovery of his inner energies. Once they reached a certain level, he used them to decrease his pain levels and increase the recovery rate. However because of the effort it took him, he could only do very little healing at a time. Glorfindel could only scold himself for not asking Elrond to teach him the healing arts.
An hour before dawn they took a brief break. By this time, Glorfindel's lungs felt they were burning. He collapsed on the ground beside Boromir, trying to get his body under control. Estel pulled up beside him, pouring energy into his body once more. "You didn't eat, did you?" Estel asked with a scolding tone. "The lembas was given to us for this purpose."
Glorfindel drew a tight smile. "Would you believe me if I said I forgot?"
Estel gave him a considering look before nodding. "You have been holding your pain in. I could have given you some temporary relief if you had asked. As it is, from now on when it gets unbearable, tell me. I cannot give you time to rest, but I can push the pain away."
Legolas handed Glorfindel a piece of lembas, which Glorfindel accepted with a grateful smile. Taking a bite, he almost moaned in relief as his body stopped shaking. Estel had been correct; he was slowly but surely getting his physical energy back.
As they each took a bite of the bread, Boromir asked, "Do we have any guesses where they are being taken? We could try to head them off."
Glorfindel and Estel exchanged a glance, trying to see if the other knew. Estel admitted, "I have a few guesses but no definite answer. Those strange orcs seemed to be wearing some strange badge with what looked to be a white hand."
"They call themselves Uruk-hai," Glorfindel added quietly. "They have a weird energy about them, which I can faintly recognize. However I would not be able to tell you conclusively if that energy was Sauron's or Saruman's. I haven't dealt with either in a long time."
"I don't suppose you elves can use your mysterious elven eyesight to see them," Gimli grumbled. There was no taunt in his words which made Glorfindel smile. Their fellowship had come a long way since Rivendell.
At Gimli's words, Legolas raised an eyebrow. "Does the terrain give you any indication we can see far ahead? If the land was completely flat, we could try to spot them. But with these hills and valleys, it is a useless endeavor."
They were all silent as the gravity of the situation seemed to hit them harder. These orcs were tireless and showed no signs of taking a break. All the fellowship could do was try to keep up at the orcs' pace until those fell creatures finally rested.
Glorfindel took a short nap before he was gently shaken away by Legolas. "We must move on. The sun is now showing over the horizon."
Seeing the faint light touching the sky, Glorfindel rose to his feet. He was feeling much better and could only thank the Valar that he would not slow his comrades down. Stretching his senses, he felt his inner energies were recovering quite nicely. Given a couple more days, he would be able to sense those creatures himself and lead the company straight to them. Until then, all he could do was conserve his strength. His injuries also seemed to be much improved, and thanks to Estel and the lembas, he would recover quickly.
They temporarily lost the tracks of the Uruk-hai but with a little guess-work from Estel, they found the tracks heading north and west up a tiny stream. With the path now apparent in front of them, they took a moment to look back. The sight of Gondor's mountains across the River made both Estel and Boromir pause.
"My heart wishes to step into Minas Tirith once more," Estel admitted with a hint of longing in his voice.
"Then you have seen the white city before?" Boromir asked with curiosity. Glorfindel noted with pleasure mixed with guilt that without the presence of the ring, Boromir was more open with the rest of the fellowship.
Estel turned to the inquisitive man with a calm smile on his face. "Long ago I visited the city. Then though, I did not reveal my ancestry for it was not time for Isildur's heir to step into the role of king. Now with Sauron pressing forward, my responsibilities will eventually lead me there again."
Continuing on after the orcs, it was only around mid-afternoon when they received good news. Estel, having found an anomaly in the tracks, forced the rest of the company to stay back as he examined and followed some sort of track on the ground.
He came back quickly with a broad smile on his face. "Look at these tracks here." As they followed him, Estel continued, "These tracks a hobbit, probably Pippin, deliberately walked out here. And here," Estel pointed to the ground, "I found this." Estel held out what looked to be a leaf but was the familiar broach of an elven cloak. "The leaves of Lothlórien do not betray their bearers. One of our hobbits deliberately left this."
They all heaved sighs of relief. "Then they are alive and well enough to move around with their wits about them," Legolas commented. "That is good news."
"But for how long, we do not know," Glorfindel reminded them. "We must catch up quickly before they suffer anything more damaging." With that, the company continued their run forward, a glimmer of hope renewed in their hearts.
They followed the orc tracks until the light of day completely disappeared. "Why have we stopped?" Boromir asked, breathing heavily.
They could hear the doubt creeping into Estel's voice. "If we had the cover of moonlight, we could continue to follow the tracks. However, in this darkness, we may lose them altogether if we try to continue."
Gimli added, "My race is strong and hardy over a short distance. I cannot run continuously though. If we cannot see the tracks, this would be the best time to rest."
Silent behind them, Glorfindel contemplated their options. They were already further behind then they should be because of the necessary rest breaks for Glorfindel and Boromir. Every one of those breaks, while proving to be beneficial and oftentimes necessary for the two, only increased their sense of guilt and despair at the thought they wouldn't reach their friends within their limited time. If the orcs moved on tonight and they did not, they would never be able rescue Merry and Pippin. Hesitantly he spoke up, "I do have one suggestion, if Gimli can continue moving after a temporary break."
He had their attention now, and he could only hope he would not be providing a hopeless solution. "I am sure you are aware of my ability to sense and oftentimes track other presences. I haven't said anything until now because I needed to focus such energies on healing to keep up. However if it is a question of whether we are forced to take a break or can move on, I may be able to help us move on."
Gimli gave a hearty laugh. "Laddy, if you can guide us, I do not need much rest. We dwarves are known for our endurance."
"Laddy?" Glorfindel asked in disbelief. "I'm physically several centuries older than you, if we do not include my previous life."
Estel chuckled, "Is now the time to focus on such things, Glorfindel? Can you guide us forward in this darkness?" Smile fading away, Estel added, "We must keep moving this night or we may never find them. And the direction we have been moving in, they are mostly definitely heading to…"
"Isengard?" Glorfindel smiled wryly. "I'm not so tired that I could not draw that conclusion. Just give me some time to see if I can." As the others sat and inspected their gear, he drew into himself, searching for his power. It was fainter than normal, but for a task like tracking, it would be enough. Slowly but surely he stretched out his senses until they brushed against the evil of the Uruk-hai, who were headed in a straight line to Isengard. "I can lead you, but let us eat and rest for a time."
After a short break and a couple of bites of lembas, they continued to move forward, fighting against their exhaustion with their thoughts concentrated solely on Merry and Pippin.
As the sun rose above the horizon, both Legolas and Glorfindel flinched. Legolas cried to the others, "A red dawn rises. For good or evil, blood has been spilt this past night."
Glorfindel pushed forward once more, the others catching up when they realized he was still moving. He was troubled by the fact he could only sense faint traces of the Uruk-hai, yet Merry and Pippin were clearly moving further and further away. At least, until their presences vanished completely from his mind.
He couldn't tell the others why he needed to stop leading them, only saying he had exhausted his inner energies once more. Glorfindel could only hope that was the truth because if it wasn't, their two friends were dead, possibly with the band of Uruk-hai that had taken them.
They were able to quickly find the Uruk-hai's tracks as they had forsaken stealth for speed. With Estel leading them once more, they moved into the land of Rohan, empty hills and fields surrounding them.
Traveling many miles, Estel suddenly stopped them and dropped to the ground, placing an ear to listen to it. He called out, "I can hear the sound of many horses heading towards our location. Legolas?"
Legolas, looking off in the distance, confirmed, "Many riders on horses are coming towards us. What should we do?"
"The Riders of Rohan are honorable men who I have met before," Boromir said. "They may know something useful about our quest."
Estel added, "They are coming from the direction the Uruk-hai went. As it is, our hunt to catch those foul creatures is becoming more hopeless as time passes, and these riders may carry news."
"So then it's decided," Glorfindel spoke with a faint smile, sitting down on the ground. "Tell me when they're closer, and I'll put on my 'dignified elven lord' façade."
Snorting, Estel said, "Be grateful Ada isn't here or those words would have gotten you into trouble."
"And that's exactly why I said them," Glorfindel retorted. He was pleased to note the light exchange between Estel and himself had minutely relaxed Legolas, Gimli, and Boromir. Grimly he reminded himself this may be the last moment where their hopes of the hobbits being alive still existed.
As the group of riders approached and passed their location, Estel cried out, "Riders of Rohan! What news do you carry with you?"
Glorfindel hopped up to his feet and joined the rest of the group. As they waited, the riders turned and headed back. Before they could protest, the riders surrounded them in a ring, their spears pointing out right at the fellowship. "Very pleasant place, Rohan," Glorfindel commented.
While observing the threatening formation of the riders, Glorfindel noted with a combination of hope and despair the fresh orc blood on the armor and spear of the warriors surrounding them. Was this from the very same Uruk-hai they were hunting or another band of orcs altogether? Was Saruman's presence in Rohan so strong that orc packs felt free to ride and plunder through these lands?
One rider separated from the rest to ride forward, pointing the tip of spear directly at Estel's heart, making Glorfindel inwardly bristle. "Who are you traveling into our lands?"
Estel answered calmly, "I was not aware the Riders of Rohan questioned every stranger crossing through their lands. I am Strider, and we are looking for a pack of strange orcs that passed this way."
The rider eyed the man before looking at the rest of the fellowship. "You have a strange company following you. Elves?"
Boromir stepped forward from behind Estel, saying, "Éomer son of Éomund, it is strange you cannot recognize friend from foe. It has not been that long since I travelled west through Rohan."
Recognizing Boromir, Éomer took off his helm, a faint smile alighting his face. "Boromir son of Denethor, I had started to wonder if a fool's errand had taken you westward. You at least are known and welcome, but I would still ask for you to introduce your companions and your reasons for traveling here."
As the conversation unfolded, Glorfindel's focus turned away to the last direction he had sensed the Uruk-hai before their existence disappeared from his senses. The faint hint was still there, though it was in the same location as before. Saruman's power? Did he hide these orcs and the hobbits under a veil of power under which Glorfindel couldn't see? Glorfindel did not know if Saruman had an ability like that, but he wouldn't doubt the traitor had been hiding several secrets.
His attention turned back to the conversation when Estel introduced him, "Glorfindel of the House of the Golden Flower."
Glorfindel gave a regal nod, trying to imitate Elrond's stuffiness. "Éomer son of Éomund, well met."
Éomer seemed to be appropriately deterred from engaging Glorfindel in conversation, signaling that Glorfindel had succeeded in his impersonation. Inwardly smiling, he wondered if he should ask Estel later for an wasn't that he did not want to befriend the Rohirrum, but he could not find it within himself to slow down and make niceties while Merry and Pippin were lost to them.
Though Eomer seemed to trust Boromir, he still eyed the rest with suspicion. "Who do you serve? Rohan faces many enemies, and I am loathe to let any more enter these lands."
A strange light entered Estel's eyes, Glorfindel noticed with great interest. Estel replied with a strong voice, "I am no one's servant. We hunt a pack of Uruk-hai who took two of our companions. If I must convince you further, then I will say this." Throwing back his cloak, Aragorn revealed the hilt of his sword. "This is the sword of Elendil. I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, the heir of Isildur. Will you help us or hinder us, son of Éomund?"
While the other members of the fellowship had shocked looks on their face, Glorfindel felt something akin to glee welling up inside him. If nothing else, having the opportunity to watch Estel grow into his position as king made the whole journey, with its pain and grief, worth it. Glorfindel could only hope he was there every step of the way: when Estel steps into the white city, when he undergoes his coronation, and when he weds the love of his life. If Glorfindel could see such sights, he knew he would be forever grateful to the Valar for giving him the opportunity.
With the vision of the proper king in front of him, Éomer could only look down and submit to the questions. "There is no longer any need to track those orcs down. We annihilated them last night by the edge of the forest."
Boromir asked urgently, "And did you see two Halflings among them? They would have looked like children."
Eomer looked at the fellowship grimly. "We killed indiscriminately. I did not see any such Halflings, but we did not leave anyone alive either."
Glorfindel saw anguish fill the faces of his companions. This long chase from the Falls of Rauros till now had only ended in grief, it seemed. The only face that hadn't changed was Estel's. "Eomer, if you could point out where you defeated them, I would appreciate it. I do not doubt your words, but I must see for myself before I can accept them."
The younger man nodded, gesturing for three horses without riders. "The smoke rising over there is where we burned their carcasses. You may take these horses with you, and I can only pray you find the hope you seek. However I would have you know hope has long left these lands; you may wish to leave quickly before you are destroyed by our enemies. Also be cautious. They say the white wizard moves through these lands, going and coming at his own choosing."
Glorfindel replied, "We will take your advice to heart. Thank you for your aid, Éomer son of Éomund. May the light of the stars shine upon the faces of yourself and your men."
Éomer didn't seem to know how to respond to the elvish farewell and merely nodded his respectively before turning his horse away to depart.
The Riders of Rohan left them as swiftly as they had come. Eyeing the horses, Glorfindel asked, "How do you think we're going to manage this?"
Gimli nervously suggested, "I'll just run behind you. Dwarves aren't particularly suited to ride these blasted things."
Laughing, Glorfindel replied, "And here I thought dwarves could do anything. I'm afraid, Gimli, you don't have a choice in the matter. We must move on quickly, and you will never be able to keep up with the horses of Rohan."
Legolas patted Gimli on the shoulder, saying, "You can ride with me. I will not let you fall." Gimli grumbled under breath several different curses in the Khuzdul, a few of which Glorfindel recognized and had to turn away to hide his grin.
Recognizing the discomfort on Boromir's face, Glorfindel turned to Estel, inquiring, "May I ride with you? I've still been feeling a little out of sorts." When Estel looked like he was going to question that statement, Glorfindel gestured towards Boromir.
Catching on, Estel replied tauntingly, "Ah, so you are finally admitting to your old age then. Don't worry, I won't let you fall, you old elf."
Glorfindel frowned at the man but chose not to respond. At least Estel had caught on before Boromir could feel further embarrassment.
Though the conversation remained light, there was a dark undercurrent of doubt among the group. While they all wished to believe Merry and Pippin were alive, Éomer's news had been discouraging to say the least. As Glorfindel mounted the horse behind Estel, he made a plea to the Valar for his little friends to be alive.
Thanks for reading! Yes, I didn't change much here. But I promise that starts from Chapter 13. Because... well let's just say Glorfindel will not be deterred ;) by anyone... Yeah, I'm barely holding it back, but I smiled when I wrote that chapter. You'll just have to wait and see.