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Look, it's Another Hard One to Write. The passage that inspired this is one of my favorite passages in the book, for it says so much and leaves a lot to our imagination. Trying to find a canonical place and time for it, however, was a challenge. I hope I did it justice.
Also, if you are interested in stories with only certain characters, I'm adding which characters are in the ficlet on the chapter title. "A", of course, stands for Aragorn.
Prompt 36: Fear
‘They will come on you in the wild, in some dark place where there is no help. Do you wish them to find you? They are terrible!’
The hobbits looked at him, and saw with surprise that his face was drawn as if with pain, and his hands clenched the arms of his chair. The room was very quiet and still, and the light seemed to have grown dim. For a while he sat with unseeing eyes as if walking in distant memory or listening to sounds in the Night far away.
Mirkwood, 28th March, 3018
Aragorn tensed as his horse started to dance in nervousness. He saw that he was not the only one having difficulties with his mount; the few elves of Thranduil that made up his escort through the forest started to speak quietly to the animals, but were as tense as he. While he could sense that something was amiss, the Dúnadan could see that whatever was nearby troubled the Eldar greatly.
“Yrch?” he asked the captain of the escort, Thranduil’s younger son Legolas. He had met the elf in a border patrol outside of the king’s realm but ten days ago, and had taken a liking to him. The elf seemed to enjoy his company as well, and had volunteered to lead the escort out of Mirkwood.
“Yes, but there is another presence,” the elf replied in the same language, frowning. “It is darkness not unlike the evil surrounding Dol Guldur. Even with the spiders close by... it is unnatural.”
“We should hurry, lord,” another elf put in. “It is difficult to discern their number, and they are yet far enough that we may outride them.”
“Aye,” Legolas nodded. “They are not our priority, and we are beyond help until we are closer to the Forest Gate. There are few patrols on this side of the Enchanted River.” With that said, the company increased their pace.
As night fell, the few beams of light that made their way through the thick branches disappeared, and the complete darkness of the forest made Aragorn glad for the company. While he was no babe afraid of the dark, he knew of the evils that crept through all parts of Mirkwood, and he doubted he would get any rest by himself.
While the elves set up camp and a watch, Aragorn sat by the fire, deep in his thoughts. Legolas soon joined him.
“You look troubled, friend Dúnadan,” the young elf said without preamble. “Does the forest lie heavily on your spirits?”
“I will admit that it does,” the man replied. “Your own realm, lord, is beautiful in itself, but the rest of the forest is filled with darkness.”
“None of that, now!” Legolas said. “I did tell you before that it is simply Legolas to you, unless you wish me to return the favor, Lord Aragorn.”
“No, I am no lord of you,” Aragorn said with a smile, “and I will remember that, Legolas. I would ask, however, that you not use my name where unfriendly beings may hear. It is not the time for it to be revealed- though I deem that the time is approaching soon.”
“Dúnadan it is then, as you introduced yourself to me,” Thranduil’s son said with a nod. “The day where I may utter your name without cause for fear will be a joyous day, indeed.”
“Indeed,” Aragorn said absentmindedly, his eyes turned away from the fire and to the horses, which were more nervous now than before. “Unfortunately, Legolas, it seems we were unable to evade our dark pursuers.”
“So it would seem,” Legolas replied, standing up and readying his bow. His men needed not to be told to do so; they too had sensed the enemies now coming onto their position, and had their own weapons ready. Aragorn stood and drew his own blade, turning his back towards the fire.
The first orcs were dead before the lone mortal could even see them. Glad for the superior eyesight of the elves, Aragorn waited with a learned patience for his enemies to come to him.
As the creatures started appearing in the firelight, the elves soon dropped their bows and brought out their swords and knives, the melee combat useless with ranged weapons. Aragorn stepped up as well, slaying the orcs that managed to get by any of the elves. Even as his allies moved forward, however, Aragorn opted to stay closer to the fire, knowing his eyesight was greatly limited in the dark against these beasts. He could observe, however, that the orcs were dropping quickly and that the elves were still at their best. At this rate the horde would soon be dead and all of his companions unscathed.
Suddenly a foul chill filled the air. Aragorn turned to his left and found himself facing a tall, cloaked being but feet away from him. His heart froze inside of him, and while he had never encountered one of these beings before, he remembered Elrond’s old texts that he had read long ago.
He could not move, and he could barely discern the cries of terror coming from his elven companions. The elves moved further away from him, busy dealing with the orcs and avoiding the dread of this new threat.
This creature was unlike anything Aragorn had ever encountered before, and the man had never had such fear take over his body as it did now. He was not sure if the being could see him, but it did seem to sense him, and it slowly came over to the Dúnadan. The wraith stopped right in front of him, and he heard a strange sounds come from his hood, as if it were sniffing for something. His mind screamed at him to lift his sword and to be prepared to defend himself, but he could not move. After a moment of this strange sniffing, the Nazgûl stopped and without a word lifted his sword to strike the man down.
Suddenly regaining his senses, Aragorn parried the blow that would have taken his life, and took a swipe at the creature. He seemed to easily evade the mortal's move and quickly the wraith lashed against him. A few short, swift blows sent the man's sword flying from his hand, and a quick strike from the hilt to the side of his head brought Aragorn to the ground.
A stream of Sindarin flew from Legolas' mouth, and though Aragorn could not make it out completely, he did hear the elf call for Elbereth's aid. The shout for the Vala made the wraith recoil slightly, which the Dúnadan noted immediately.
"Elbereth Gilthoniel!" The Ranger panted out, keeping the wraith at bay for a moment longer. Searching for a decent weapon, Aragorn grabbed the nearest thing that would serve for the moment, which happened to be a long branch sticking out of the campfire. He climbed to his feet even as the creature came back towards him, and before it could kill him with a final blow, he shoved the fire brand into the black hood.
A long, shrill shriek filled the area, causing Aragorn to drop the torch and stumble backwards, but the damage had been done. The Nazgûl turned and fled off the path and into the forest. The orcs, seeing the wraith flee from the battle and their own number quickly dwindling, turned and ran from the elves one by one. Most were shot down in their path, and the few that did make it out alive would not bother them again for a long time.
Legolas ran over to his mortal companion as soon as the last of the orcs were gone. "Are you well, Dúnadan?" he asked, glancing about the forest.
Aragorn nodded, running a hand through his hair. "Yes. The sudden onslaught of dread, it- it was unusual, and caught me off guard."
"Such terror surrounds the area near Dol Guldur in the south and we rarely venture there, but we know it well," the elf replied. "The Nazgûl, however, have never ventured so far north. It is unsettling."
"The name of the Star-kindler seemed to perturb the creature," Aragorn pointed out.
"Aye, Elbereth's name is ever our hope and ever their dread, which we already knew. I did not realize, though, that the wraith had such a fear of fire. That knowledge may come to further use."
"Aye," Aragorn nodded grimly. "It is said that no man can kill the Nazgûl, yet fire will do well enough, if the time comes need for it again." Even as he spoke those words, the man repressed a shudder. The unnatural darkness that overtook his heart feared him greatly, and he fervently hoped that he would not encounter one of these wraiths ever again.
‘There!’ he cried after a moment, drawing his across his brow. ‘Perhaps I know more about these pursuers than you do. You fear them, but you do not fear them enough, yet.’
Tolkien really gave me a hard time with this. According to Unfinished Tales, Aragorn captured Gollum on Feb 1, 3018, and then reached Thranduil 50 days later on March 21st. What a miserable 87th birthday he must have had. Gandalf managed to get news of Gollum’s capture from Lorien elves, and then skedaddles up to Mirkwood and manages to get there on the 23rd (I suppose he had a horse, unlike poor Aragorn). But on May 1st, a mere 39 days and 800 or so miles away, he meets up *again* with Gandalf at Sarn Ford, southeast of the Shire. Wow, that’s some fast riding (I cannot imagine he walked that whole distance in such a time after what he already went through). I’m then going to assume that Aragorn left Mirkwood before Gandalf, and did not see one another until May 1st.
Also from the Unfinished Tales, it is assumed that spies of Dol Guldur learned of Gollum being in the hands of a Man sometime when he entered Mirkwood (mid March, most likely). It’s also assumed that the Nazgûl (Khamul and his few buddies) did more research on Gollum’s whereabouts before reporting to Sauron, who got the info about all this in late April. Thus, the best time for Aragorn to have an encounter with one of the Nine would be as he is leaving Mirkwood, after Gandalf arrives and before Gandalf leaves on March 29th.
I am of the opinion that neither Aragorn nor Legolas would have had the time to get to really meet one another until Aragorn brought Gollum to Mirkwood, thus the formality. And these notes are almost as long as the ficlet itself. *g*
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