|About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search|
A/N: I'm so sorry for the long delay getting this chapter up, as an apology—or maybe because I revised it four times—it's the longest one yet! Though I've made every effort to follow the book as closely as possible, the Fellowship's circumstances are very different from canon as they enter Lothlórien. Some of the original dialogue is said by different people, and the elven response to their arrival is changed in various ways by the events in my story.
Pippin's knees quaked in terror as he stumbled backward, running aimlessly in the opposite direction of the orcs rushing toward them. He tried his hardest to distract himself from the danger, but now it was unavoidable. He would have to face it. True, he'd faced orcs in Moria, but there they'd had Gandalf. There he'd still thought they were all invincible.
Even though Boromir and Strider stood between them and clearly meant to defend them, Pippin wasn't stupid. Eventually the orcs would slip past, he could see their shadows swarming all around. He could hear blades clashing and grunts and cries of battle.
Merry unsheathed his sword, and after a few moments, Pippin realized he should do the same.
Boromir glanced back at Merry, and Pippin was taken aback to see the anger in his face. He'd always been so lighthearted with them. The man's voice was hoarse and breathless. "Don't fight! You can't win. You cannot help. Run!"
There was no reply from Merry, but at last Pippin found his voice. "You cannot mean to stand alone!"
Who was he kidding? His sword was mere knife to anyone bigger than a hobbit, and it felt strange and unwieldy in his hands. Still, abandoning one's defenders wasn't the Took way.
The tall grasses around them were quickly becoming trampled. Aragorn and Boromir's attention was almost completely taken with repelling the hoard of orcs that threatened to overwhelm them at any moment. They had slowed, no longer able to break free so easily. Pippin glanced behind him, and he felt a glimmer of his usual optimism returning.
"Merry—the trees! I think we've made it!"
Frodo and Sam were at his right, Sting's soft blue glow giving him a good glimpse at Frodo's face. "Please hide!" Merry pleaded to their cousin. The grasses were falling away, but if they crawled, there was a good chance they could conceal themselves until it was safe, as they had done before.
"Not if you don't!" Pippin rolled his eyes. Typical Frodo, loyal and far too humble to realize his own importance, of course he and Merry couldn't hide. It was a thing of honor—and Frodo was the reason they were all here.
A shadow loomed over him suddenly and Pippin gulped. An orc had slipped around Boromir and had almost walked right over them in the grass. "Pay attention, Pip," he admonished himself. A mighty whoosh sounded, and he brought up his sword. He was shocked when his parry wasn't instantly knocked aside. He'd learned very quickly in Moria that locking swords with an orc was futile. His chance lay in avoidance and careful jabs. A grunt sounded behind him, and he finally realized that Merry had taken the opening to stab the beast. It slumped forward, its crude sword scraping limply off of Pippin's and almost crushing Merry as he struggled to free his sword. Pippin rushed forward to brace the falling beast with his shoulder, grunting and straining with his legs so that Merry could get free.
"Just leave it!" He ground out.
"I…need…it!" And then it was loose and Merry was wheeling backwards. Pip dove away, avoiding the crushing deadweight by inches. With the immediate danger passed, he found himself gagging at the stench. Orcs truly were foul in every sense.
He wasn't sure whether to thank, praise, or scold Merry, but his cousin just gave him a knowing nod, breathing heavily, before jerking back upright as another threat loomed. He leapt away just in time and the stupid beast lost sight of him in the grass.
"This is useless, Pip. We're no help against these."
But not as useless as the men seemed to think, remained unsaid.
"Do you want to do something useful, Merry?" He had to shout to be heard.
Frodo looked over at him sharply. Pippin knew his cheerful question had roused thoughts of their spying and scheming with Fredegar-cunning that had kept Frodo from leaving without them at the beginning of this whole mess. His gaze shifted to Sam and an unspoken decision seemed to pass between himself, the gardener, and Merry. The stocky hobbit squared his jaw and gave a small nod, but there was worry and sorrow in his eyes. Poor Sam...pessimism was a heavy load to bear.
"Something foolish, you mean?" Merry returned with a wicked grin, cutting Pip's musing short.
"Very foolish." The cheer was a bit false.
"We can't win. Not here, but we're not going to stand here and wait for them to cut us down." Merry always had been able to read his mind, even if he was older and usually several steps ahead. Where Pippin wanted mischief and fun, Merry knew the best way to achieve both the latter and the former.
The swarm was going to encircle them any moment, and without a distraction Pippin didn't see how the men would hold them off any longer. It had to be now. "Who knows?" He shrugged merrily, before adding cheekily, "Maybe we'll live!" At least, he hoped they would. He'd like to be Thain someday, and he had some legendary pranks he'd like to live to be known for.
Ducking underneath and breaking through at almost the last moment, he heard Merry shout from beside him, "Hey! You great black hulk! Over here!" Once they'd created more distance between them, they began to shout. They jumped up and down a bit to make sure they'd been spotted and clashed swords with each other to make sure they were heard. It was easily the most reckless thing he'd ever done, and that included letting Merry talk him into using the tunnel gate in the Hedge to venture into the Old Forest. Still, he supposed that had turned out alright…eventually. An orc horn sounded right behind them.
"Merry? Pippin?!" Boromir sounded frantic and sad—and very, very angry. He found himself a bit perplexed at all the fuss, and Frodo's anguished wail, even, stirred little guilt. They were doing this for him, after all. Not for the Ring—for Frodo. Sam would know what to do. He'd never shied away from it. Besides, they'd die for sure if they stayed, and it seemed silly to him that they would be expected to abandon the others to save their own skins.
The host following them was immense and far faster than they'd anticipated, and for a moment, Pippin's heart pounded with dread, but Merry tugged at his arm. "Come on, you great statue."
"Merry—I think we might have gotten in over our head."
"They can't see us behind those great trees. They won't know we're back there unless they watched us go there." Merry seemed to sense he had unfrozen, and with a burst of speed, they made a mad dash toward the tree line. Such speed definitely would have ensured the top prize at the Midsummer Fair on the White Downs. Pippin slammed the door on his distracting musings. He was sure he was going madder than Bilbo. The orcs seemed so very close, now. One swipe and they'd be well and truly caught.
They dove for the nearest tree, skidding into it with a jarring thud before dashing to the next nearest tree without pausing. Pippin panted, trying to catch his breath, ready to leap away again. Peering carefully around the great gray trunk, he saw, to his surprise, that the orcs had halted in confusion. They couldn't find them! And there were so many of them—more than he'd expected. He felt both alarm and satisfaction that half of the orcs had pursued them. Aragorn and Boromir surely had a better chance now.
This could actually work! He found himself grinning stupidly in the darkness before frowning in dismay. How quickly the orcs had given up the search! They couldn't let them return to the others, not if they were to maintain any hope of surviving. The fear that had gripped him before had faded now that their odds were improved.
He thought he heard Aragorn shouting something, but the man's words were drowned out by the fight, and his footsteps, and his breath in his ears. His stomach clenched in worry, and he jumped when Merry laid a hand on his shoulder.
"We can't change what's happening back there, Pip."
He nodded and straightened up. "Well then, let's lead them on a merry chase. Perhaps we'll meet some friendly elves who will help us out a bit."
Merry's eyes danced in agreement, and he took a deep breath before shouting, "Hey you ugly idiots! Over here! Can't catch us!" Pippin moved in step with his cousin as he darted behind one tree, then another. The orcs roared when they spotted their quarry. It was in that moment that Pippin decided that orcs might just be the stupidest creatures he'd ever seen. Dangerous, but stupid.
"It's working, Merry!"
"A little too well," his cousin puffed back.
It wasn't all fun and games and there were several close calls, especially at the beginning while the trees were sparse. They had to maintain their head start, and for once Pippin desperately wished for a low hanging branch so they could climb to safety, but he couldn't even make out any branches, so great and tall were the trunks of the strange silver trees. Legolas, he suspected, would have had a lot to say about them if he'd been able to come with them. Leaving him behind left his stomach sour, and gave him a feeling of guilt and doom he couldn't quite shake. Worse, the orcs were slowly regaining their lead.
Pippin's ankle twinged as he stepped on a tree root, but they kept on, both frantically running through the brush, crushing leaves underneath their feet and stumbling over many an unexpected hole. They ran until their feet throbbed and stitches stabbed in their sides, still making great effort to be as noisy as possible as they drew the orcs more deeply into the forest, creating just enough distance to keep the orcs on the hunt and themselves out of reach.
They had gone little more than a mile into the forest when they came upon another stream flowing down swiftly from the tree-clad slopes that climbed back westward towards the mountains. The orcs all but drowned out the sound of it splashing over a fall away among the shadows on their right. Its dark hurrying waters ran across the path before them, and joined the Silverlode in a swirl of dim pools among the roots of the trees.
Despite the danger behind him, Pippin felt a bit of trepidation at the water and slowed down instinctively. Any hobbit would, he reasoned—except Brandybucks, apparently, he revised, as Merry, dashed forward and without hesitation climbed down the deep-cloven bank and stepped into the steam. He wasn't even sure they were going the right away, and it seemed hasty to cross a stream without need.
"Follow me!" Merry cried, turning and calling to him from the mid-way point, "The water is not deep and it's better than being a tasty orc-treat!" Taking a fortifying breath, Pippin clambered down behind his cousin. It was cold but its touch was clean, and as he went on and it mounted to his knees, he felt that the stain of travel and all weariness was washed from his limbs. For a moment, he wished he could just stand and let the water flow over his tired feet, but the orcs were too close. He came out on the opposite bank energized and ready to start the chase once again.
He fancied that he could hear a voice singing, mingled with the sound of the water, but was sure it must have been a figment of his imagination, for the roar of the orcs' pursuit was loud in his ears. He dashed after Merry as he went into the shadows of the deeper woods, westward along the mountain-stream away from Silverlode.
They stopped to catch their breath in a cluster of trees, some of which overhung the stream. Their great grey trunks were of mighty girth, but their height could not be guessed.
Just as Pippin was beginning to wonder if they'd put more distance between themselves and the orcs than they'd realized, they appeared suddenly in the darkness on the far side of the stream. To his surprise, they paused, grimacing with distaste. Pip held his breath. Would they really just let them go? He knew they could see him. Though only a sliver, the moon shone brightly now overhead. The pause broke in an instant and the orcs came hurtling across, though they hissed and stepped quickly, as though the pleasant water burned their feet.
"Run!" Pippin shoved Merry forward, ready to set off again, when out of the trees came a sudden glint of gold in the starlight. A gray-cloaked elf dropped out of the trees and directly in front of them, bow in hand. Merry stopped so suddenly that Pippin plowed right into him, almost sending them both to the ground.
Pippin was paralyzed with shock, though he was gratified to see that Merry was similarly slack jawed. It took him a moment to realize the elf was speaking.
"Up! Up! Into the treetops!" Just as he was about to retort that they were no elves to be swinging branch by branch up into the treetops, he perceived that, a few paces beyond, out of the shadows a ladder was being let down: it was made of rope, silver-grey and glimmering in the dark, and though it looked slender it proved strong enough to bear many men. Arrows were already reigning down at the orcs, flowing in little breezes much closer to Pippin's face than he found to be entirely comforting. The two hobbits did not hesitate as they might have done if not so pressed, instead sheathing their swords and dashing for the ladder, beginning a hasty scramble to an unknown height above. Pippin resolutely refused to look down.
The arrows continued to fly relentlessly downward as they climbed, and Pippin felt the ladder jostle behind him. "Faster!" He wasn't sure if the elf intended to come up behind him, or if he was only trying to keep the orcs from going up. Only a moment had passed, but it felt like an hour. His stomach rumbled unhappily at the reminder, but he shushed it and did as he was told. There were more dire things at hand than another missed meal.
The climb seemed to go on forever, and the higher he got, the harder he found it not to cling to the ladder in sheer terror. Or to vomit. Movement on either side of him caught his eye and he paused in awe as two more elves slid by rope from the treetops. They were fierce and graceful, and so very unlike hobbits. He thought perhaps this was how Legolas had fought for centuries in his forest.
The ladder jerked a bit as the elf below him leapt back down, and Pippin came to himself again, realizing he'd stopped and that Merry was far above him. He still dared not look down, but he could hear the sound of blades clashing directly below him as the warriors engaged in hand to hand combat. When at last the ladder passed through a wooden platform, Merry was there waiting for him. The branches of the great tree grew out nearly straight from the trunk, and here, which must be near the top, the main stem divided into a crown of many boughs, and here had been built a flet.
It made Pippin nervous. He felt as if he would fall through the floor—or dislodge the platform from the tree if he made the slightest movement, and he didn't get to his feet. It had no walls, not even a rail; only on one side was there a light plaited screen, which could be moved and fixed in different places according to the wind.
Eventually, curiosity overtook him, and he told himself nothing elven made could possibly as flimsy as all that. Compromising, he and Merry scooted on their bellies to a far edge and peered down. To his disappointment, he couldn't see much of what was happening beneath him, and the dizzying height didn't encourage him to lean out any farther. Instead, he stared down in the darkness and tried not to think about everything that had happened.
"Pip!" The younger hobbit's head jerked upright. Merry's voice had come from farther away than he'd expected. He looked over his shoulder, surprised to see that his cousin had returned to the hole they'd climbed through and was peering down.
"They're trying to climb the tree!"
Indeed, several orcs had skirted the main skirmish and were aiming for the ladder. Another two had leapt up onto a low hanging branch. That the elves hadn't yet noticed told him more than he'd like to know about the precariousness of the situation.
Merry seemed to read his mind and pointed them out, "There are only three."
The cloaked elves were in constant motion, around them the shadowed corpses of the orcs had begun to accumulate like boulders encircling them. Between arrow and blade, they'd acquitted themselves admirably. Indeed, the arrows alone must have dispatched over half of the force that had followed them. He watched with relief as one elf finally leapt up and dispatched the orcs swinging from the lowest branch, while another broke away to deal with the ones climbing the ladder. Their movements were so swift and synchronized that it looked like they'd rehearsed them for centuries. Perhaps they had, but it was quickly becoming obvious they weren't moving with the same lightning speed they had at first.
"Pip." Merry said urgently, "I think we ought to raise the ladder. We're making access to the tree a bit too easy, and I don't think they'll be able to keep breaking away to take care of it."
"We'll trap them down there!"
But Merry was already pulling the rope ladder up hand over hand. "No we won't! We've seen Legolas climb a tree. They'll manage just fine. Now help me!"
Pippin grasped the edge of a rung where it met the side of the ladder and heaved. It was heavier than he expected for a thing so delicate looking. The orcs farthest from the fight noticed the shortening immediately and made a sudden lunge, taking Pippin by surprise. He found himself jerked straight out of the hole in the platform as the weight of the ascending orcs overpowered him and Merry, causing the slack in the ladder to vanish instantly.
Pippin's hands tightened around the tope, and he held on for dear life as he hurtled upside down. The seconds of freefall ended almost as abruptly as they'd begun as the ladder snapped taut, almost wrenching from his hands as his body righted itself. His arms shook and burned from holding his weight, and his hands slid down to the next rung despite the strong hold he had on it. His hands stung as the skin was peeled off, but in his fear, he felt little pain. His feet flailed madly until they found a rung. Once he realized the danger of falling had passed, he clung trembling to the ladder, his breaths coming in shaky bursts and his heart in his throat.
"Pippin?!" Merry was calling in from above panic, but Pippin couldn't seem to get his mouth to form words. Relief rushed through him that his cousin wasn't lying on the ground below. Collecting his wits, he looked up to find he'd only fallen six feet or so.
He'd yet to find his voice to reassure his cousin when there was a snarl of glee from below. He forced himself to look down and saw an orc climbing quickly toward him, and another below it-he was the prey. Their yellow eyes pierced him and their teeth were bared in a menacing growl. Pippin's mind raced with panic. What to do? He felt dreadfully off balance on the swaying ladder, and the fear of heights was difficult to overcome. All his mind and body seemed willing to allow was for him to cling to the ladder and breathe.
The jostling below him grew more forceful, and he peeled his eyes open once more to see an elf casting the orcs from the ladder. He hadn't even thought they'd noticed! For a moment, his muddled mind thought Legolas had come, and the illusion was so strong he was almost able to overcome the shock of his close brush with death. Happiness began to overcome the haze of panic, but the elf just looked at him and shouted something in elvish before leaping back down and rejoining the fray. Disappointment weighed on him. Pippin wasn't sure what had been yelled at him, but he didn't need to be told twice to get back up to safety.
"You've done it once already, Peregrin Took. Now do it again." His hands burned and protested at the climb, too slick and stiff to get a grip that felt entirely secure.
Upon reaching the platform, he all but collapsed against Merry, who cleared his throat suspiciously and gave him a tight hug.
A sharper and louder ring of steel drew their attention below them once more. Pippin blinked in surprise and promptly forgot his new fear of heights as he looked down. A smile split his face.
"It's Strider!" Merry pointed with excitement.
"They've made it!"
Pippin frowned. Where were Frodo and Sam? If they were hiding, the two hobbits could not be seen, and it was impossible in the darkness and constant motion even to tell how the two men fared.
The joy of seeing their companions alive had rekindled Pippin's optimism, and he thought the men would make short work of the remaining orcs, but it seemed even more had followed. What ensued was a pitched battle, just as frightening as the one of the plain—no longer due to the numbers of orcs, but to the weariness of those fighting. Pippin loathed his helplessness, but he couldn't look away. Five against what—he counted as best he could-twenty or thirty weren't great odds for tiring defenders, but they were better than they had been. He was a bit awed that they'd felled so many, and that they still seemed to be holding their own.
As suddenly as if lightning had struck, both parties of orcs seemed to realize that their quarry had been joined by a set of formidable warriors. A cry went up, and they turned tail and fled, apparently no longer willing to engage in a losing battle. Pippin almost let out a cheer, but kept his mouth shut for fear they would change their minds. It was over at last.
Swords and knives were wiped down and sheathed below. Aragorn was inquiring frantically in elvish. With the orcs gone, the sound carried quite well, thought to his frustration, Pippin couldn't understand a word exchanged. An answer came, and then one of the elves pointed straight at them.
With the gesture, Pippin understood. "Hi, Strider!"
The Ranger looked up at Pippin and waved. Even at this distance, he could see the relief on the man's face as it was split by an unguarded smile.
"Are Frodo and Sam with you?" Merry called down.
Aragorn shook his head and must have heard the fear in Merry's voice, because the man hastened to call up, "They hid, we think, and then we didn't see them again."
Pippin refused to give thought to the worry unfurling in his gut. They were safe. They would return for Legolas and Gimli, and if Sam and Frodo evaded Black Riders in the Shire before they even knew what they were, they could certainly evade orcs.
Had they been caught with Legolas or on the open road, results would have been far worse. The three elven warriors aided them considerably, especially with their archery, but despite fortune having favored them, Pippin perceived as Boromir came nearer up the ladder, that he was in a foul mood.
The group was climbing in silence, men first, and then the elves. Boromir wasn't even fully on the flet before his poorly contained fury burst out of him. He looked so angry that Pippin almost forgot to be scared of the wall-less platform and scrambled backward as the Gondorian swiftly stepped toward them.
"What were you thinking?!"
The man seemed unfazed by the height of the flet and hardly paused in his tirade. "Your actions would have been foolish even for a warrior of Gondor—which you are not." There was anger there, yes, but the worry beneath it drove away any fear of the man. Pippin joined Merry in giving him a most deserved glare.
The younger hobbit just shrugged and offered icily, with a hint of false cheer. "Maybe we were thinking we didn't want to die a useless death in a field, or run away like cowards."
Boromir opened his mouth to retort, then promptly shut it again. Pippin noted with some satisfaction that a flicker of chagrin had crossed the man's face. Strider's head of dark hair appeared through the hole in the flet, followed quickly by the rest of his body. Aragorn wore a bemused expression as he stepped onto the platform beside the man, who stalked a few paces over from them and sat down heavily, his head in his hands.
When they were all up safely in the flet, the elf who had spoken to them earlier lit a small lamp and gave a stiff little bow. They gathered around it and sat down wearily as he joined them, addressing them formally despite his obvious exhaustion.
"Welcome, Aragorn, son of Arathorn—you and your companions." the Elf then said in the Common Language, speaking slowly. He seemed to realize how halting was his speech, for he went on to explain apologetically. "We seldom use any tongue but our own; for we dwell now in the heart of the forest, and do not willingly have dealings with any other folk. Even our own kindred in the North are sundered from us. But there are some of us still who go abroad for the gathering of news and the watching of our enemies, and they speak the languages of other lands. I am one. Haldir is my name. My brothers, Rúmil and Orophin, speak little of your tongue." He gestured in turn to each of the other two elves.
"We have heard rumours of your coming, for the messengers of Elrond passed by Lórien on their way home up the Dimrill Stair. We have not heard of—hobbits, of halflings, for many a long year, and did not know that any yet dwelt in Middle-earth. You do not look evil!"
Here the elf called Haldir paused and offered Pippin and Merry a rather sheepish smile, before continuing thoughtfully, "Since your companions slew orcs alongside us, we are willing to befriend you, as Elrond asked; though it is not our custom to lead strangers through our land. The days grow ever darker, and dangers from abroad grow ever closer. Wolves have been howling on the wood's borders, and we have been keeping watch on the rivers ever since we saw a great troop of orcs going north toward Moria, along the skirts of the mountains, many days ago."
"I suspect we have now met them many times over," Aragorn commented flatly. How tired he looked, Pippin thought.
Boromir seemed tense and distrusting, but held his tongue despite his scowl. Or perhaps the needle and thread a silent elf had handed Aragorn were the cause of his expression. For the first time, Pippin took note of the hastily wrapped gash in the man's right arm.
A hand touched his shoulder, and Pippin flinched before looking up to see one of Haldir's brothers—Rúmil, he thought-motion to his hands. He'd almost forgotten. He held his palms up for the elf to inspect. Beside him, Merry let out a soft gasp.
In the lamplight, he could see now that his palms were flayed and missing the top layer of skin. He winced. Climbing back down was going to be quite the chore. Aragorn looked up at them quizzically from his stitching, but Pippin could only shrug. Injured hands were a small price to pay for being up in the flet instead of broken on the ground.
He let the elf rub an ointment onto the raw skin and hardly paid attention as they were gently wrapped. At first, he dozed, but the whispered conversation between Boromir and Aragorn was increasing in volume until it became so heated neither bothered to conceal it. Why was the man so ill-tempered lately?
"What other fairer way would you desire?" Strider was hissing incredulously.
"A plain road, though it led through a hedge of swords," Boromir shot back. "By strange paths has this Company been led, and so far to evil fortune. Against my will we passed under the shades of Moria, to our loss. And now we must enter the Golden Wood, you say. But of that perilous land we have heard in Gondor, and it is said that few come out who once go in: and of that few none have escaped unscathed."
Pippin shifted his eyes first to Rúmil, and then over to Haldir. Yes, definitely offended. "Wonderful," he muttered to himself. And Gandalf accused him of being juvenile. His eyes pricked at the thought of the wizard, and he quickly re-immersed himself in the men's argument.
"Say not unscathed, but if you say unchanged, then maybe you will speak the truth," said Aragorn. "But lore wanes in Gondor, Boromir, if in the city of those who once were wise they now speak evil of Lothlórien."
Boromir fell silent at that final jab, seeming to accept their road now that he'd said his piece. Aragorn was silent for several moments, gazing up at the night sky before he at last said softly, lost in thought, "Glad I am to hear again the wind in the trees!"
"I do not know what your business is in our forest," Haldir said quietly, apparently choosing to ignore Boromir's words, "but we will not allow the orcs to go unchecked." The elf who had fetched the needle and thread for Aragorn stood. "We are still little more than five leagues from the Gates, but Orophin will go in haste back to our dwellings to warn our people. None of the Orcs will remain uncaught to return to either Moria or Mordor. And there will be many Elves hidden on the northern border before another night falls."
Orophin, who truly did resemble his brothers, gave a nod of goodbye and leapt out into the night. Pippin could see him no longer, but the trees swayed gently as he leapt from branch to branch.
In the next chapter we'll either check in with Legolas and Gimli or Sam and Frodo. I keep changing my mind. Please review and let me know what you think of the story so far! It's so encouraging and motivating to know my story is being read and enjoyed!
|<< Back||Next >>|
|Home Search Chapter List|