The Fellowship was three nights out from Rivendell. The day was overcast, with occasional showers of rain, causing several of the Walkers to stir restlessly in their sleep. As the hazy sun reached midday, Aragorn rose from his seat and crossed to Lîngalad. He touched her shoulder gently, and she snapped instantly to wakefulness.
"Thank you, Lord Aragorn," she said, sitting up and running her fingers through her hair. "What news?"
"None," Aragorn told her. "The day is quiet – nothing more than a wood-pigeon and a roving badger has passed us."
"Then get some rest," Lîngalad told him. "Gandalf will hardly delay simply because little Estel didn't sleep well."
Aragorn laughed softly. "Not so little any more," he said, a hint of nostalgia in his voice. "But your advice is still excellent. I-"
"Wait." Lîngalad held up a hand for silence and tilted her head, listening. Aragorn held his breath and stretched out his hearing. Close by, Sam and Gimli were both snoring softly, and Merry turned in his blankets. Further out, a squirrel leapt through the trees, and-
It was barely more than a leaf moving in the wind – but there was something. Aragorn rose, and felt Lîngalad touch his hand.
"We cannot both go," she whispered. "It is not orcs – they never move so silently – but it may still be a danger. Someone must guard the camp."
Aragorn hesitated, then nodded his assent. "Your hearing surpasses mine," he said, and rested his hand on Andúril's hilt. "I will stand watch a little longer – even if it means I am unrested come nightfall."
Lîngalad grinned. "The sacrifices you make, Estel…" Then, her tread so light as to not even bend the grass, she was gone.
It was some time before she returned, and Aragorn began to grow concerned. Even the sharpest ear could not hear an elf moving through the forest, but the silence was so total that he feared she had been ambushed, taken silently captive – or slain. He rose, sat down again, then stood abruptly and strode towards Gandalf. At that very moment, a branch moved, and Lîngalad stepped into the camp – with a very familiar figure in tow.
Aragorn felt an urge to bury his head in his hands. "Peregrin Took," he said, his heart heavy, his tone forced lightness. "I was under the impression we left you in Rivendell."
Pippin folded his arms. "Before you left, I told Lord Elrond he would have to tie me in a sack and ship me home if he didn't want me to follow you," he said, his voice stern, his eyes hard. "Is it my fault he didn't believe me?"
Continued in Chapter 6
Disclaimer: The Lord of the Rings and all characters and locations from it belong to J.R.R. Tolkien. I'm just borrowing them.
Author's Note: On a forum I frequent, the question was recently asked: Can a Tenth Walker fanfic be done well? The vast majority of these stories seem to consist of the author's self-insert joining the Fellowship in order to simultaneously upstage the canon characters, sleep with one of the Walkers, and do absolutely nothing to affect the plot.
It's my belief that Tenth Walkers can be well done. In this set of scenes - not a continuous story, don't expect continuity of characters or events - I will explore things that I think could happen in a good Tenth Walker fanfic. Some will be my own ideas, some will be suggested by others.
This one is my own. Lîngalad (Sindarin for 'Lake-light') is an elf of Elrond's household (and is an original character, or OC). In the books (this is bookverse), Elrond planned to send elves like her instead of Merry and Pippin - or, as he said to Gandalf, at the very least Pippin, who he considered too young for him to send. This is set in an AU where Elrond holds to that plan - and where Pippin doesn't play along.