Chapter 13 – Moving On
We reached the open gates of Rohan. I charged through ignoring the shocked expressions of the soldiers. The horse snorted as it came to a stop behind me.
"Here, let me take him."
Legolas lifted the boy out of my arms. I nodded gratefully and turned my attention to the little girl. She still looked terrified, and she shied away as I stood by the horse.
"Do not be afraid, henig. I will not let any harm come to you."
She stared at me, her bottom lip trembling. Slowly, she slid off the horse, and in to my waiting arms. She clung t me, arms around my neck, head buried in my shoulder. I hugged her to me, whispering reassuring words. Making sure the horse would be taken care of, I started off towards Theoden's home, Legolas close behind.
I sat at a table in the throne room, the girl on my lap, and the boy next to me. They were tucking in to a meal, singularly focused on their food. Éowyn stood with me, anxiously watching the children. She had been affected as I was by their state, and we had worked side by side to make them comfortable and set them at ease.
Théoden was again sitting in his throne, his face brooding. Gandalf sat on a chair, to his right, smoking his pipe, looking thoughtful. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli stood, their faces pensive.
"They had no warning. They were unarmed. Now, the wildmen are moving through the Westfold, burning as they go. Rick, cot and tree."
Éowyn's words burst out of her. One look at her expression told me she was furious. Her eyes blazed as she looked at her Uncle, who merely stared back.
She was referring to the story the boy had told after getting him inside: an army of Orcs, Uruk-Hai and wildmen were marching on the villages, burning and slaughtering as they went. Soon, they would reach Rohan. Just as the Nazgul said. I clenched my teeth, biting back a frustrated sigh. When would things ever be straight forward?
I lifted the little girl of my lap, and set her on the bench. I left the table, but turned back as she spoke.
Her voice was petulant, and quiet. I met Éowyn's eyes. We both knew the answer, but could not bear to tell the children. The boy had stopped eating and was now waiting for an answer. Without another word, Éowyn sat between them and started talking in a low voice, calming the girl's increasing cries for her mother.
"This is but a taste of the terror that Saruman will unleash. All the more potent for he is driven now by fear of Sauron. Ride out and meet him head on. Draw him away from your women and children. You must fight."
I looked on as Gandalf rose and placed a hand on Théoden's chair. He looked at it warily, as if it would suddenly strike him. I watched him, sadness filling me. These were dark times indeed when even old friends started to distrust each other.
"You have two thousand good men riding north as we speak. Éomer is loyal to you. His men will return and fight for their king."
Aragorn spoke up, his voice clear. I crossed my arms as Théoden stared at the floor, lost in thought. The way forward was clear: we had to meet the army head on. The warrior in me stirred at the thought. I looked over at the children, noticing how they huddled close to Éowyn, seeking comfort. I swallowed the lump in my throat. The little girl looked like my own daughter: same honey-coloured hair, same light blue eyes. I quickly turned away before my tears were noticed.
"They will be three hundred leagues from here by now. Éomer cannot help us. I know what it is that you want of me. But I will not bring further death to my people. I will not risk open war."
Théoden spoke finally, already sounding defeated. He paced the hall, and I followed him with my eyes, not missing the tiredness that surrounded him.
"I can find him. With the number of men he took with him, they will not be hard to follow. I can make it back in time."
Everyone looked at me in disbelief.
"No-one can ride that fast!"
Théoden scoffed at my claim and I raised my eyebrows.
"You can if you ride one of the Mearas. Luckily, I do."
A hint of pride crept in to my voice. Legolas smirked, but quickly sobered.
"You are too weak to undertake that sort of journey."
I started to argue but he cut me off.
"Do not argue with me. I will keep you under lock and key, if I must, to keep you from going."
I looked at Legolas in awe. He had never spoken to me in that way before. I walked slowly towards him. I stood beside him and took his hand.
"I seem to constantly underestimate you, Legolas. I will stay, since you wish it so."
I bowed my head in submission and he chuckled and squeezed my hand. Everyone was silent again, as we waited for Théoden. Suddenly, Aragorn spoke up, eyes staring at Théoden.
"Open war is upon you! Whether you risk it or not!"
His voice was hard and cold. I looked at him, shocked. Such outbursts were not like him.
"When I last looked, Théoden, not Aragorn, was King of Rohan!"
Théoden answered back, tone level but there was an underlying tension that could not be ignored. Aragorn stayed silent but the flash in his eyes told me his anger was rising. The two continued to look at each other and the tension became unbearable. I shifted uncomfortably, and Legolas squeezed my hand gently, trying to calm me down.
"Then what is the King's decision?"
Gandalf broke the silence, walking towards Théoden. The King of Rohan stayed silent for several long moments, eyes staring at nothing. Finally, he spoke, turning to face us all.
"We make for Helm's Deep."
I glanced at Gandalf, who closed his eyes and turned away. Murmuring sprung up in the Throne Room before the people moved in to action, walking out to deliver the news and to begin preparations. Wanting desperately to be out of the tension-filled room, I extracted my hand from Legolas and slipped from the hall.
I climbed the steps that led up to the battlements. I reached the top, and ventured out on to the battlements. I walked down a bit, so I was standing alone. The wind stirred my hair, blowing tendrils around my head. I pulled my cloak tighter around me, staring out at Rohan's lands with blank eyes.
A familiar presence appeared beside me, standing close enough so our arms brushed together. I continued to stare out at the land, my thoughts elsewhere. After a moment, he spoke, voice quiet.
"You have been distracted since you spoke with the Nazgûl, and even more so when the children arrived. What is it? What troubles you, my love?"
I looked up at him, deciding whether to tell him what was on my mind. He looked back, his eyes calm, but curious.
"There is an army marching on Helm's Deep. Thousands strong. They come from Isengard. Orcs, Uruk-Hai and wild men make up their ranks. That is what the Nazgûl came to tell me."
I stated my thoughts flatly, tearing my gaze away from him. Legolas did not speak, instead letting out a sigh. I felt him catch my wrist and he turned me to face him, staring down at me.
"You are no stranger to war. This army is not what is troubling you. Tell me the truth. Do not shut me out again."
Legolas' words were commanding, his eyes burning in to mine.
"The little girl. She looks just like Eirien."
I whispered my words, voice cracking. He let go of me in shock, and stepped back. I let my head hang down, my hair creating a curtain around my face. I slowly crumpled to the ground, back against the stone battlements. Legolas still stood, frozen. I looked up at him as he knelt down beside me.
"I too noticed that. I did not wish to point it out to you."
I nodded mutely, reaching out to him. He gathered me in to his arms, and I buried my head in his chest, focusing on him. I felt his cheek rest on the top of my head, and his arms tighten around me. We stayed on the battlements until night fell, silently sharing our grief for our daughter.
The little girl skipped through the open doorway, face alight with excitement.
The Elf looked down at her daughter, smiling at her obvious happiness.
"Look what I found!"
The girl opened her palm to reveal a delicate white flower. The petals were snowy white, outlined with purple. A short, thin stem extended from the flower. The mother grinned at her daughter. Gently picking up the flower, she placed behind the girl's ear. The flower stood out against the girl's honey-coloured hair. The little girl giggled. She opened her mouth to say something, but a cough came out instead. The girl coughed again. Embarrassed, she covered her mouth with her hand, but the coughing continued. Her body shook with each cough as they became harsher. With a last hacking cough, the girl crumpled, only to be caught by her mother's arms. The girl whimpered slightly. The mother laid a hand to the girl's forehead and withdrew it sharply. Her skin burned, as if on fire.
"No! It cannot be!"
The mother whispered, cradling her child in her arms as she stood in one fluid movement.She ran out the door, calling out for help. The sounds of footsteps, and alarmed cries rang in the empty room.
On the floor, the white flower lay forgotten, its petals smattered with delicate drops of bright red blood.
Rohan was alive with movement, and sound. People scurried to and fro, preparing to move for Helm's Deep.
I walked hand in hand with Legolas towards the stables. Aragorn, Gandalf and Gimli were just ahead, deep in conversation. I remained silent, as did Legolas. We were still raw from last night, as we remembered our daughter and the events that had followed.
We entered the stables, heading for Fëa. She whinnied in welcome. I stroked her nose, and talked to her in a low voice. I looked up as Gandalf's voice filled the room.
"There is no way out of that ravine. Théoden is walking into a trap. He thinks he's leading them to safety. What they will get is a massacre. Théoden has a strong will but I fear for him. I fear for the survival of Rohan. He will need you before the end, Aragorn. The people of Rohan will need you. The defences HAVE to hold."
Aragorn nodded shortly, leaning on Shadowfax's stall.
"They will hold."
Aragorn answered simply, his posture calm. Gandalf sent him a hard look, and mounted Shadowfax. The beautiful white stallion chucked his head up, eager to get going.
"The Grey Pilgrim... that's what they used to call me. Three hundred lives of men I've walked this earth and now I have no time. With luck, my search will not be in vain."
He briefly closed his eyes, as if remembering past events. He opened them and looked down at Aragorn.
"Look to my coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East."
Aragorn nodded, and opened Shadowfax's stall. The stallion snorted, and shot out.Fëa neighed, and reared up slightly, her hooves striking her own stall. I turned around alarmed. She continued to neigh, getting more and more agitated. I suddenly understood what she needed. I ran over and opened her stall. She looked at me for a moment, and then stretched out her neck, nuzzling my chest.
"I cannot come with you, Child of the Stars. I must go with my brother. You will see me soon enough."
I smiled as her voice entered my mind. Giving her one last pat, I stepped back, allowing her space. She reared up, her mane billowing out, the early morning light making it shimmer. As soon as her front legs touched the ground, she raced off after her brother.
I noticed the silence, and looked around. Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn were staring at me with bemused expressions.
"You cannot tame one of the Mearas. They do what they will. She will return."
I explained her actions and exited the stables.
I stood by the open gates of Rohan, waiting for Théoden and the rest of the party . The people of Rohan were filing out, carrying the possessions they deemed too precious to leave behind. A dejected air hung about them. I understood their depression. Leaving your home was hard enough when you did not have an army to outrun.
I looked up at the sky, letting the breeze blow across my face. Everything seemed to be falling apart. The Fellowship had broken apart, and its members were drifting further and further away from each other every day. I had no idea where Frodo and Sam were, or even if they were still alive. I rejected the thought immediately. Of course they were not dead. I was certain that if they were, I would know.
I still felt guilty about Merry and Pippin. I knew they were alive, but I felt only fear when I thought of them. Fangorn Forest was not the friendliest of places, even at the best of times.
A light hand touched my shoulder. I started to walk forward, Legolas beside me. Behind me, I heard the hoof beats of the horses that carried Aragorn, Théoden and his most loyal men.
Of one thing I was certain: we had to defend Helm's Deep at all costs. Otherwise, we were all doomed.
I'm sorry it took so long to update – I've been busy.Also, I may not update for a couple of weeks because I am off to Portugal in two days, so try not to go too crazy waiting for an update ;)Thank you again and again for all your support – you guys are great and I love you all.
Henig – My child
Nana - Mum