One Geek To Rule Them All

Chapter 7

I own nothing but my OC.

Flight to the Ford

In the afternoon they went on down the woods. They were probably following the very track that Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarves had used many years before. After a few miles they came out on the top of a high bank above the Road. At this point the Road had left the Haarwell far behind the river down in its narrow valley, and now clung close to the feet of the hills, rolling and winding lastward among woods and heather-covered slopes towards the Ford and the Mountains. Not far down the bank Aragorn pointed out a stone in the grass. On it roughly cut and now much weathered could still be seen dwarf-runes and secret marks.

"There!" said Merry. "That must be the stone that marked the place where the trolls' gold was hidden. How much is left of Bilbo's share, I wonder, Frodo?"

Frodo looked at the stone, and wished that Bilbo had brought home no treasure more perilous, nor less easy to part with.

"None at all." He said. "Bilbo gave it all away. He told me he did not feel it was really his, as it came from robbers."

The Road lay quiet under the long shadows of early evening. There was no sign of any other travellers to be seen. As there was now no other possible course for them to take, they climbed down the bank, and turning left went off as fast as they could. Soon a shoulder of the hills cut off the light of the fast westering sun. a cold wind flowed down to meet them from the mountains ahead.They were beginning to look out for a place off the Road, where they could camp for the night, when they heard a sound that brought sudden fear back into their hearts: the noise of hoofs behind them. They looked back, but they could not see far because of the many windings and rollings of the Road. As quickly as they could they scrambled off the beaten way and up into the deep heather and bilberry brushwood on the slopes above, until they came to a small patch of thick-growing hazels. As they peered out from among the bushes, they could see the Road, faint and grey in the failing light, some thirty feet below them. The sound of hoofs drew nearer. They were going fast, with a light clippety-clippety-clip. Then faintly, as if it was blown away from them by the breeze, they seemed to catch a dim ringing, as of small bells tinkling.

"That does not sound like a Black Rider's horse!" said Frodo, listening intently. The other hobbits agreed hopefully that it did not, but they all remained full of suspicion.They had been in fear of pursuit for so long that any sound from behind seemed ominous and unfriendly. But Aragorn and Devin were now leaning forward, stooped to the ground and listening carefully, with a hand to their ears, and a look of joy on their faces.

"It's an elf." Devin said knowingly in a low voice. This had to be the part where they met Glorfindel.

The light faded, and the leaves on the bushes rustled softly. Clearer and nearer now the bells jingled, and clippety-clippety-clip came the quick trotting feet. Suddenly into view below came a white horse, gleaming in the shadows, running swiftly. In the dusk its headstall flickered and flashed, as if it were studded with gems like living stars. The rider's cloak streamed behind her, and her hood was thrown back; her raven hair flowed shimmering in the wind of her speed. To Frodo it appeared that a white light was shining through the form and raiment of the rider, as if through a thin veil.Kitty noticed Devin's brow was furrowed slightly and there was a troubled look on her face. She didn't really remember too much of what was supposed to happen before Rivendell, but obviously some part of the story had changed again.

Aragorn sprang from hiding and dashed down towards the Road, leaping with a cry through the heather, but even before he had moved or called, the beautiful rider had reined her horse and halted, looking up towards the thicket where they stood. When she saw Aragorn, she dismounted and ran to meet him calling out: Ai na vedui Dúnadan! Mae govannen! Her speech and clear ringing voice left no doubt in their hearts: the rider was of the Elven-folk. No others that dwelt in the wide world had voices so fair to hear. But there seemed to be a not of haste or fear in her call, and they saw that she was now speaking quickly and urgently to Aragorn.Soon Aragorn beckoned to them, and the girls and hobbits left the bushes and hurried down to the Road.

"Mae govannen, Arwen Undómiel." Devin greeted the gorgeous she-elf courteously in heavily accented Sindarin. Aragorn raised his eyebrows at her while Arwen tilted her head slightly and glanced between them. Arwen began to ask her something in Sindarin, but Devin had to hold up a hand and stop her. "Sorry, but I'm afraid that was the full extent of my Elvish."

"You know of me?" Arwen asked.

"Your reputation precedes you." Devin replied calmly. It was easy to guess considering her good looks and the look in Aragorn's eyes when he beheld her.

"And who is this?" Kitty asked, feeling a bit left out.

"This is Lady Arwen, daughter of Elrond, lord of Rivendell." Devin explained for Kitty's and the hobbits' benefit.

"Oh. I see." Kitty said as she and the hobbits stared at the radiant she-elf appreciatively. "No wonder she's so ridiculously beautiful."

"Thank you, …?" Arwen said with a somewhat bemused smile.

"Devin and Kitty." Aragorn introduced the girls, gesturing to each in turn. "And this is Frodo."

"Hail, and well met at last." Arwen greeted the ring-bearer. "I was sent from Rivendell to look for you. We feared you were in danger upon the road."

"Then Gandalf has reached Rivendell?" Frodo cried joyfully.

"No. He had not when I departed; but that was nine days ago." Arwen answered.

'Nine days?' Kitty thought. Nine days out here, and she still looked this fabulous? What was her secret?

"My father received news that troubled him." Arwen went on to explain. "Some of my kindred, journeying in your land beyond the Baranduin, learned that things were amiss, and sent messages as swiftly as they could. They said that the Nine were abroad, and that you were astray bearing a great burden without guidance, for Gandalf had not returned. There are few even in Rivendell that can ride openly against the Nine; but such as there were, my father sent out north, west, and south. It was thought that you might turn far aside to avoid pursuit, and become lost in the wilderness." Devin furrowed her brow slightly. No offense to Arwen, but where was Glorfindel? Even if she had not read the books, she would have found it very strange that Elrond would rather send his own daughter out on such a dangerous mission instead of a certified elf-warrior. "It was my lot to take the Road, and I came to the Bridge of Mitheithel, and left a token there, nigh on seven days ago. Three of the servants of Sauron were upon the bridge, but they withdrew. I came also upon two others, but they turned away southward. Since then I have searched for your trail. Two days ago I found it, and followed it over the Bridge; and today I marked where you descended from the hills again. But come! There is no time for further news. Since you are here we must risk the peril of the Road and go. There are five behind us, and when they find your trail upon the Road they will ride after us like the wind. And they are not all. Where the other four are, I do not know. I fear that we may find the Ford is already held against us."

While Arwen was speaking the shades of the evening deepened. Frodo felt a great weariness come over him. Ever since the sun began to sink the mist before his eyes had darkened, and he felt that a shadow was coming between him and the faces of his friends. Now pain assailed him, and he felt cold. He swayed, clutching at Sam's arm.

"Mr. Frodo is sick and wounded." Sam said angrily. "He can't go on riding after nightfall. He needs rest."

Arwen caught Frodo as he sank to the ground, and taking him gently in her arms she looked in his face with grave anxiety.Briefly Aragorn told of the attack on their camp under Weathertop, and of the deadly knife. He drew out the hilt, which he had kept, and showed it to her. He did not want her to have to touch the wicked thing. Arwen shuddered slightly, but looked intently at it.

"There are evil things written on this hilt," she said; "though perhaps your eyes cannot see them. Keep it, Aragorn, till we reach the house of Elrond! But be wary, and handle it as little as you may! Alas! The wounds of this weapon are beyond my skill to heal. I will do what I can—but all the more do I urge you now to go on without rest."She searched the wound on Frodo's shoulder with her delicate fingers, and her fair face grew graver, as if what she learned disquieted her. But Frodo felt the chill lessen in his side and arm; a little warmth crept back down from his shoulder to his hand, and the pain grew easier. The dusk of evening seemed to grow lighter about him, as if a cloud had been withdrawn. He saw his friends' faces more clearly again, and a measure of new hope and strength returned.

"You shall ride my horse." Arwen said to him. "I will shorten the stirrups up to the saddle-skirts, and you must sit as tight as you can. But you need not fear: my horse will not let any rider fall that I command him to bear. His pace is light and smooth; and if danger presses too near, he will bear you away with a speed that even the black steeds of the enemy cannot rival."

"No, he will not!" Frodo protested. "I shall not ride him, if I am to be carried off to Rivendell or anywhere else, leaving my friends behind in danger."

"Frodo, Frodo, Frodo. Frodo." Kitty said smiling wryly as she shook her head. "That's really very sweet of you, but do you really think we'd be in any danger if we weren't with you? If you took off, they'd probably chase you and forget all about us. We're like chopped liver to them compared to you and what you carry."

To that Frodo had no answer, and he was persuaded to mount Arwen's white horse. The pony was laden instead with a great part of the others' burdens, so that they now marched lighter, and for a time made good speed; but the hobbits began to find it hard to keep up with the swift and tireless feet of the Elf. On she led them, into the mouth of darkness, and still on under the deep clouded night. There was neither star nor moon. Not until the grey of dawn did she allow them to halt. Pippin, Merry, Sam, and the two girls were by that time nearly asleep on their stumbling legs; and even Aragorn seemed to by the sag of his shoulders to be weary. Frodo sat upon the horse in a dark dream.They cast themselves down in the heather as few yards from the roadside, and fell asleep immediately. They seemed hardly to have closed their eyes when Arwen, who had set herself to watch while they slept, awoke them again. The sun had now climbed far into the morning, and the clouds and mists of the night were gone.

"Drink this!" Arwen told them, pouring for each in turn a little liquor from her silver-studded flask of leather. It was clear as spring water and had no taste, and it did not feel either cool or warm in the mouth; but strength and vigor seemed to flow into all their limbs as they drank it. Eaten after that draught the stale bread and dried fruit (which was now all they had left) seemed to satisfy the hunger of the hobbits and girls better than any good breakfast in the Shire or at a Waffle House had done.

"Wow! This stuff is even better than Red Bull!" Kitty exclaimed. Who knew Elves could be so good at making energy drinks!

"Especially since there are no weird side-effects, like heart palpitations." Devin added.

They had rested rather less than five hours when they took to the Road again. Arwen still urged them on, and only allowed two brief halts during the day's march. In this way they covered almost twenty miles before nightfall, and came to a point where the Road bent right and ran down towards the bottom of the valley, now making straight for the Bruinen. So far there had been no sign or sound of pursuit that the girls and hobbits could see or hear; but often Arwen would halt and listen for a moment, if they lagged behind, and a look of anxiety clouded her face. Once or twice she spoke to Aragorn in the elf-tongue.But however anxious their guides might be, it was plain the hobbits could go no further that night. They were stumbling along dizzy with weariness, and unable to think of anything but their feet and legs; and the girls were not much better off. Kitty and Devin were active and ate their Wheaties, but even they had their limits. Kitty couldn't help but wonder what Aragorn was made out of since he was supposed to be human, too, and yet he was still a whole head and shoulders above them stamina-wise. Meanwhile Frodo's pain had redoubled, and during the day things about him faded to shadows of ghostly grey. He almost welcomed the coming night, for then the world seemed less pale and empty.

The hobbits and the girls were still weary when they set out again early next morning. There were many miles yet to go between them and the Ford, and they hobbled forward at the best pace they could manage.

"Our peril will be greatest just ere we reach the river," Arwen said; "for my heart warns me that the pursuit is now swift behind us, and other danger may be waiting by the Ford."

The road was still running steadily downhill, and there was now in places much grass at either side, in which the hobbits walked when they could to ease their tired feet. In the late afternoon they came to a place where the Road went suddenly under the dark shadow of tall pines and then plunged into a deep cutting with steep moist walls of red stone. Echoes ran along as they hurried forward; and there seemed to be the sound of many footsteps following their own. Normally this was the kind of natural phenomena the girls would have been delighted to discover and would have had to stop for a few moments to play around and enjoy the effect, but with to the knowledge that they were being pursued by deadly wraiths, they found the echoes they normally would have laughed at somewhat unnerving. All at once, as if through a gate of light, the Road ran out again from the end of the tunnel into the open. There at the bottom of a sharp incline they saw before them a long flat mile, and beyond that the Ford of Rivendell. On the further side was a steep brown bank, threaded by a winding path; and behind that the tall mountains climbed, shoulder above shoulder, and peak beyond peak, into the fading sky.

"What view." Kitty said with a whistle of appreciation.

"Yeah." Devin said softly. It was one of the most beautiful sights she had ever seen, and it was made all the sweeter by the knowledge that they were so close to safety, a hot meal, and a real bed after everything they had been through to get there. There was still an echo as of following feet in the cutting behind them; a rushing noise as if a wind were rising and pouring through the branches of the pines. One moment Arwen turned and listened, then she sprang forward with a loud cry.

"Fly!" She called. "Fly! The enemy is upon us!"

Devin's and Kitty's eyes widened in realization as the white horse leaped forward; they didn't need to be told twice. The two girls sprang after the elf-horse, and the hobbits followed after them. They ran down the slope while Aragorn and Arwen followed as rear-guard. They were only half way across the flat, when suddenly there was a noise of horses galloping. Out of the gate in the trees that they had just left rode a Black Rider. He reined his horse in, and halted, swaying in his saddle. Another followed him, and then another; then again two more.

"Ride forward! Ride!" Arwen cried to Frodo.

He did not obey at once, for a strange reluctance seized him. Checking the horse to a walk, he turned and looked back. The Riders seemed to sit upon their great steeds like threatening statues upon a hill, dark and solid, while all the woods and land about them receded as if into a mist. Devin skidded to a halt and turned to look back when she realized what was happening.

"Don't listen to them, Frodo!" She cried, snapping the dazed hobbit out of his trance. Suddenly he knew in his heart that they were silently commanding him to wait. Then at once fear and hatred awoke in Frodo. His hand left the bridle and gripped the hilt of his sword, and with a red flash he drew it.

"Frodo!" Devin shouted while Kitty reached back and grabbed her hand, pulling her forward with her.

"Ride on! Ride on!" Arwen cried, and then loud and clear she called to the horse in the elf-tongue: noro lim, noro lim, Asfaloth!

At once the white horse sprang away and sped like the wind along the last lap of the Road. At the same moment the black horses leaped down the hill in pursuit, and from the Riders came a terrible cry, such as Frodo had heard filling the woods with horror in the Eastfarthing far away. It was answered; and to the dismay of Frodo and his friends out from the trees and rocks away on the left four other Riders came flying. Two rode towards Frodo: two galloped madly towards the Ford to cut off his escape. They seemed to him to run like the wind and to grow swiftly larger and darker, as their courses converged with his.

"Mr. Frodo!" Sam cried as the white horse bore Frodo and the ring ahead swiftly out of sight, and the five Black Riders overtook he rest of their group, running straight through without pausing for so much as a second look at any of them. Their only concern now was capturing Frodo and the ring.

"Crap!" Kitty cursed.

"We'll never catch them on foot!" Merry cried in dismay.

"Calm yourselves!" Aragorn urged the panicking hobbits. "There is still hope that he may be able to outrun the Riders."

"If Frodo can make it across the river then the power of my people will protect him." Arwen said calmly.

"If we by some miracle we do catch up to them, we'll need a little fire." Devin said, swinging her bag around so she could pull out the can of hairspray again. "Get some branches!" She told the hobbits. "The longer the better."

"What is that?" Arwen asked.

"A weapon." Aragorn said as he left to help the hobbits fetch the wood.

"Actually, it's just hairspray." Devin said as she pulled the lighter from her pocket and flipped it open. "It's normally used as a beauty product, but it's highly flammable, so when you spray it near an open flame..."

"You get an instant blowtorch!" Kitty finished, grinning like a Cheshire cat. "And you said it would be a waste of space when I said I wanted to keep it." Devin rolled her eyes.

"I have never seen such an object before." She said as Aragorn and the hobbits returned.

"They have many strange objects in their possession." He said. "I shall explain in more detail, but now is not the time."

"I don't know how exactly much hairspray is left." Devin began to explain as she took a stick from Pippin and gestured for them to all hold their sticks angled down towards the ground. She started spraying the ends with hairspray. "But putting some on the end of these sticks should make a quick substitute for pitch. We'll get more mileage out of torches than we would using what little is still in the can as a blow torch." She light the lighter and set the torches aflame.

Frodo looked back for a moment over his shoulder. He could no longer see his friends. The Riders behind were falling back: even their great steeds were no match in speed for the white elf-horse of Arwen. He looked forward again and hope faded. There seemed no chance of reaching the Ford before he was cut off by the others that had lain in ambush. He could see them clearly now: they appeared to have cast aside their hoods and black cloaks, and they were robed in white and grey. Swords were naked in their pale hands; helms were on their heads. Their cold eyes glittered, and they called to him with fell voices.Fear now filled all Frodo's mind. He thought no longer of his sword. No cry came from him. He shut his eyes and clung to the horse's mane. The wind whistled in his ears, and the bells upon the harness rang wild and shrill. A breath of deadly cold pierced him like a spear, as with a last spurt, like a flash of white fire, the elf-horse speeding as if on wings, passed right before the face of the foremost Rider.Frodo heard the splash of water. It foamed about his feet. He felt the quick heave and surge as the horse left the river and struggled up the stony path. He was climbing the steep bank. He was across the Ford.But the pursuers were close behind. At the top of the bank the horse halted and turned about neighing fiercely. There were Nine Riders at the water's edge below, and Frodo's spirit quailed before the threat of their uplifted faces. He knew of nothing that would prevent them from crossing as easily as he had done; and he felt that it was useless to try to escape over the long uncertain path from the Ford to the edge of Rivendell, if once the Riders crossed. In any case he felt that he was commanded urgently to halt. Hatred again stirred in him, but he had no longer the strength to refuse.Suddenly the foremost rider spurred his horse forward. It checked at the water and reared up. With a great effort Frodo sat upright and brandished his sword.

"Go back!" he cried. "Go back to the Land of Mordor, and follow me no more!" His voice sounded thin and shrill in his own ears. The Riders halted, but Frodo had not the power of Bombadil. His enemies laughed at him with a harsh and chilling laughter.

"Come back! Come back!" they called. "To Mordor we will take you!"

"Go back!" he whispered.

"The Ring! The Ring!" they cried with deadly voices; and immediately their leader urged his horse forward into the water, followed closely by two others.

"By Elbereth and Lúthien the fair," said Frodo with a last effort, lifting up his sword, "you shall have neither the Ring nor me!"

Then the leader, who was now half across the Ford, stood up menacing in his stirrups, and raised up his hand. Frodo was stricken dumb. He felt his tongue cleave to his mouth, and his heart laboring. His sword broke and fell out of his shaking hand. The elf-horse reared and snorted. The foremost of the black horses had almost set foot upon the shore.At that moment came a roar and a rushing: a noise of loud waters rolling many stones. Dimly Frodo saw the river below him rise, and down along its course there came a plumed cavalry of waves. White flames seemed to Frodo to flicker on the crests and he half fancied he saw amid the water white riders upon white horses with frothing manes. The three Riders that were still in the midst of the Ford were overwhelmed: they disappeared, buried suddenly under angry foam. Those that were behind drew back in dismay.With his last failing senses Frodo heard cries, and it seemed to him that he saw, beyond the Riders that hesitated on the shore, a shining figure of white light; and behind it ran two tall and several small shadowy forms waving flames, that flared red in the grey mist that was falling over the world.The black horses were filled with madness, and leaping forward in terror they bore their riders into the rushing flood. Their piercing cries were drowned in the roaring of the river as it carried them away. Then Frodo felt himself falling, and the roaring and confusion seemed to rise and engulf him together with his enemies. He heard and saw no more.

"No! Frodo!" The others shouted when they saw him slip from the elf-horse's saddle and fall onto the bank beyond the rushing waters.

"No, Sam!" Aragorn said sternly, stopping the stout hobbit before he could try running across the high waters. The current was still to swift. He would and the other hobbits would be swept away. "We must wait for the waters to settle."

"Oh, no." Arwen breathed softly as she stared across the river at Frodo's prone form. "He… Frodo is no longer breathing!"

"What!?" Devin and Kitty shouted in alarm, whipping their heads around to glance at her. No, it couldn't be. That wasn't supposed to happen…

"Are you sure?" Aragorn asked gravely. Arwen nodded.

"I can no longer see the rise and fall of his chest." She replied sadly.

"No." Devin said, staring across the river at Frodo's unconscious body while the hobbits began to weep. "No. It's not supposed to end this way—it can't! Kitty!" She shouted, turning to her friend. Kitty glanced between her friend and the river and nodded in understanding.

"Aragorn, come here and give me hand." Kitty said, moving closer to the bank. "We're going to throw Devin as far across the river as we can."

"She will never make it." Arwen said with concern. "The current is still too strong."

"Do you want to save Frodo or not?" Devin asked while Kitty instructed Aragorn on how to stand and hold his hands for the stunt they were about to pull. "I've been a lifeguard for the last three summers in a row. I can do it." she said determinedly, taking a deep breath, before getting into position. The hobbits held their breath and watched in awe as, on the count of three, Aragorn and Kitty launched Devin into the air up and over the river. She made it about three thirds of the way across before plunging into the cold water. They were all relieved when her head broke the surface again and she gasped for breath, swimming for the opposite shore at a diagonal rather than wasting energy by trying to swim straight across against the current. Panting and breathing heavily, Devin pulled herself up onto the steep riverbank and paused for a moment to catch her breath once she was out of the water. The moment she was good to go, she picked herself up and scrambled over to the unconscious Frodo; tilted his head back, pinched his nose, and gave him two rescue-breaths before stopping to check his pulse.

"Okay." She said, relieved to feel one. It was weak, but it was still there. His heart was pumping. She just needed to get him to breath again. "Come on, Frodo!" She whispered, taking deep breath before continuing her ministrations. She gave him another two rescue breaths and held her ear close to his open mouth, waiting to see if she could hear or feel him breathing. Nothing. She checked his pulse. Still weak. She gave him two more rescue breaths, and paused to check his breathing. "Oh, thank God!" She exclaimed with tired relief as she sat back on her heels. He was finally breathing on his own again. She took a moment to collect herself before standing up and turning back to face the others.

"He's okay!" She shouted, feeling a bit light headed. "I got him breathing again. His pulse is weak, and his breathing's shallow; but he'll live!" Now they just needed to get him to Elrond.

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