by Frodo Baggins
Chapter 30: Riding Northwards
The Rangers rode northward nearly without
stopping, pausing only briefly to give the horses a rest and eat a
small meal of dried meat and fruit. Aldamir and Lindir ate lembas
instead; dried meat was fine for Men but Elves subsist best on lembas
when on a journey.
The first time they stopped was shortly
after noon. For the last couple hours they had more or less been
following the winding way of a river running southwards; now, reaching
a place where it ran quietly chuckling through some rocky hills, they
stopped to give the horses a brief rest. Aldamir, who had been wrapped
in his own thoughts through most of the journey, watched the river’s
waters rush past for a moment, and turned to Lindir.
“Lindir, shall we climb the hill?” he asked,
wishing for a better view of the lands around them. Lindir nodded, and
they scaled the hill fairly quickly. It was steep and very rocky, but
because of the rocks footholds were easily found and they had no
trouble reaching the top.
Once up there, they could see a great deal
further than before. The land they had been traversing was wild and
varied; here and there it was flat and grassy, other places it would be
rocky and hilly, yet others there would be long stretches of pine woods
with a soft mossy floor carpeted in pine needles. The grass, rather
short, was brown with a slight beginning of green underneath; Aldamir
thought longingly of the lush green forest of Lórien and the tall,
grey, golden-leafed mallorns.
To the south they could see spread out the
land they had covered since that morning, split by a silver-grey ribbon
of water, and to the north lay the land they had yet to cover. To the
West rose the towering White Mountains, dark and beautiful in their
grey, cloud-wrapped majesty. To the East lay the Anduin, its normally
bright and sparkling surface dulled to a deep blue by the cloudy
overhang. Aldamir could only see it by straining his eyes hard, and
after a moment he gave up and turned away.
“Look,” said Lindir softly, and raised his hand to point in a south-east direction. “One can almost see Mordor from here.”
Aldamir followed the line of his hand. “The darkness there - is that what you mean?”
“Yes. It has grown a great deal darker of late, or so it seems to me.”
Aldamir did not answer, but his eyes gazed
unwaveringly at the darkness. He thought of Haldir; he saw him standing
beneath the trees of Lorien, gazing upwards, and then he saw him lying
cold and pale on the stones of Helm's Deep, lifeless and limp, his
cloak stained with dark blood.....
He turned away, trying to think of other
things. Far north hung a great heavy mass of clouds, and he pointed
them out to Lindir. “We're going to see some rain before long, unless
my eyes deceive me,” he said cheerfully.
Lindir nodded. “That cloud mass, you mean?
It's moving this way at a steady rate. Do you think we can outrun it?”
he asked with a grin.
Aldamir chuckled. “Outrun the rain, my
friend? You might as well try to climb an Ent without him noticing. But
sometime we should - outrun the rain, I mean. I'd rather let the Ents
Lindir laughed softly. “Aye, I think I agree with you there.”
They fell silent and watched the sky in the
quiet way that Elves do. It had not been longer than a few minutes,
however, before they heard Halbarad call to them from below.
“Aldamir? Lindir? Are you up there? We’re riding again!”
Aldamir shook himself out of his reverie, and the two Elves climbed down.
They rode nearly without stopping until
nightfall, and yet they still had not caught up with Aragorn. Halbarad
reckoned that they would reach the Gap of Rohan sometime in the night,
and, providing Aragorn had not ridden a great deal faster than they
thought, they would reach him early the next morning.
As night fell with velvety darkness, and
stars began to show their brightness in the sky, Halbarad called for a
short halt while he plotted the next step of their ride. The Rangers
reined in their horses, most dismounting for a short rest.
Aldamir remained on his horse for a few
minutes, watching the activity about them. The Rangers spoke in eager,
low voices among themselves, and though Aldamir could not catch more
than a few words, those few were enough to tell him that the men were
restless to be on again. He knew they were eager to strike but still
wary of moving too quickly, and he wondered as he listened to them. He
knew most men as headstrong and stubborn, often having too little
patience. Yet these men here were wise, almost like unto the Elves...
His thoughts were broken off as Halbarad
rose from a short consultation with two othe Rangers, and the company
once again rode away into the night. The stars above them shone with a
white, piercing brightness; their beauty seemed to be made somehow
terrible by the prospect of looming war. Yet the sight gave him a
strange sort of courage; the stars would always shine, regardless of
how dark and heavy the clouds of Mordor grew; there would always be
light above the darkness....
Later that night two riders, who had been
ahead scouting, joined the company, and Aldamir learned to his great
surprise that they were Elves. Not only that -- they were Elladan and
Elrohir, sons of Elrond. They too were riding with the Rangers; their
aim was the same as that of Aldamir’s. They wished to go to war against
Mordor, even if all others of their kin stayed away.
Elladan and Elrohir were delighted to see
Aldamir and Lindir; they knew both of them well from their days in
Rivendell. Aldamir had lived there for most of his life as a younger
Elf, and Lindir had dwelt in Rivendell his entire life except for the
short time he had spent in Lórien. Now the four rode together to war,
and each was comforted by the fact that there was three more of his kin
riding to war with him; riding to a war in which they would most likely
be the only Elves fighting....
Chapter 31: Rohan
Towards early morning, at the time when the
horizon is just beginning to glow lighter than the rest of the
inky-black sky, the Dúnedain and the Elves came to the Fords of Isen.
None of them knew the river, but they found it on Halbarad’s worn,
much-used map, and discovered that they were not so far from Isengard
Reining in his horse, Halbarad called for a short halt to water the horses.
As Aldamir stood by the river’s edge and let
Fearán drink of the clear water, he thought he heard, faintly and far
ahead, the soft thudding of many horses’ hooves, as of a small army.
Frowning slightly, he listened again, intently, but this time heard
Dropping Fearán’s reins, he knelt and
pressed his ear to the earth. Immediately he could hear it, soft but
distinct; a large company of horses and men riding away from them.
“What is it?” asked a voice above him. “Can you hear them?”
He looked up into Lindir’s face, and nodded
as he got to his feet. “We’re not too far away now. I do not know if
Aragorn is with them, but they are likely a company of the men native
to this land. They would most likely know where he is.”
“Good,” said Lindir.
Aldamir nodded, and filled his water flask
from the river. Cupping his hands and dipping them into the cold water,
he drank several mouthfuls and stood up refreshed. The men were
mounting and crossing the river, and fastening his flask by his belt,
he swung easily onto Fearán’s back. “Noro lim, my fine one,” he
Fearán rode into the river, the water
splashing merrily about his hooves, and Aldamir looked up for a moment.
The sky was still jet-black with small glittering stars; the moon was
sinking low, and the eastern sky was slowly lightening. A think streak
of orange was beginning to gain a foothold, a forerunner of the vivid,
fiery colors that would blaze out when the sun rose. But as yet it was
only a streak, licking at the horizon like fire licks at the twigs and
dry grass before it becomes a blazing fire...
They caught up with the riders ahead of them
an hour later. It was still dark when a man hailed them from about
fifty paces off. “Halt! Halt!” he cried, and they knew that the company
had their weapons at the ready. “Who rides in Rohan?”
Halbarad lifted his hand and the Rangers
halted. “Stay here,” he said to them. “I will go and speak with them.
It is better that one walks to them than many ride up as if in war.”
Dismounting, he handed the reins to one of
the Rangers and went forward, his hand held up, palm outward, in a
token of peace. “Rohan, did you say?” he called. “That is a glad word.
We have been seeking that land for many long days...”
“You have found it,” came the reply. “When
you crossed the fords yonder, you entered it. But it is the realm of
Théoden the King. None ride here save by his leave. Who are you?”
“Halbarad Dúnadan,” answered Halbarad, “I am
a Ranger of the North. “We seek one Aragorn son of Arathorn, and we
heard that he was in Rohan.”
“And you have found him also!” cried another
voice which Aldamir recognized instantly. Aragorn himself ran forward
and embraced Halbarad. “Of all joys you are the least expected!” he
cried in delight.
Aldamir was relieved and glad, and the hand which had been warily on his knife-hilt fell away.
“All is well,” Aragorn assured the man who
had challenged them. “Here are some of my own kin from the far land
where I dwelt. But why they come and how they be, Halbarad shall tell
“I have thirty with me,” replied Halbarad.
“That is all of our kindred that could be gathered in haste; but the
brethren Elladan and Elrohir, and Aldamir and Lindir of Lórien, have
ridden with us, desiring to go to the war. We rode as swiftly as we
might when your summons came.”
“But I did not summon you,” said Aragorn,
“save only in wish. My thoughts have often turned to you, and seldom
more than tonight, yet I have sent no word. But come! All such matters
must wait. You find us riding in haste and danger. Ride with us now, if
the king will his leave.”
Théoden was glad of the news, and welcomed
the Rangers and Elves warmly. “It is well!” he said. “If these kinsmen
be in any way like to yourself, my lord Aragorn, thirty such knights
will be a strength that cannot be counted by heads. And I know the
strength of these Elves; even four of them can make a great
From there they rode to Edoras; but Théoden,
Éomer, and the Rohirrim left them soon after the Rangers had joined
them. They rode southwards to Gondor, to give them aid in the war that
would soon be upon them. Aragorn, however, had decided to take a
different road. The Paths of the Dead, it was called, and Aldamir
shivered when he heard the name from Lindir.
“Why does he wish to set foot on such a road?” he asked, distressed. “None have ever come through there alive.”
“He has struggled with Sauron in thought,”
answered Lindir. “Elrohir told me of it; he has come into possession of
a palantír, one of the seven, and as he gazed into it he saw many
things, also Sauron. But he spoke of a great peril to Gondor which will
come from the South, and if it is not averted very soon it is likely
that the city will be taken in ten days. What the peril is I do not
know, but he has chosen his road. Elrohir spoke to him of it; his
father Elrond sent Aragorn a message referring to the Path. If you are in haste, he said, remember the Paths of the Dead.”
Aldamir frowned. “Then indeed there is need
of haste, but a man must be desperate indeed to venture those accursed
Paths. The Dead reign in those shadows; I fear if he sets foot in them
he will never return.”
“I have no great wish to go there,” said
Lindir. “But we have chosen this road, and if Aragorn will take those
paths, we must follow to whatever fate awaits us.”
Aldamir sighed. “You are right, Lindir; I
will not shy away now. Maybe the Heir of Isildur has the strength.....I
do not know.”
They spoke no more of it.
Late that day they reached Edoras, a city of
the Rohirrim, built onto a great, stony hill. It rose majestically from
the middle of a wide plain, and at its very summit was built Meduseld,
the Golden Hall of Rohan. The sun glinted on its golden roof as they
rode forward, and Aldamir gazed at it in awe.
Passing through the gates, they rode through
the dusty streets toward the Golden Hall. Aldamir looked about him as
they went, and saw that the people drew back in fear as they passed.
Women called their wide-eyed, staring children to them, and men gazed
with distrustful and suspicious eyes. At first he was startled, and
then, as he realized why, he smiled to himself. Of course..... these
people were not accustomed to seeing a company of tall Rangers of the
North and Elves in bright armour ride through their midst, out of the
blue as it seemed. No wonder they reacted as they did...
But at the Hall they were welcomed warmly by
a tall lady clad in white, and they learned that her name was Éowyn,
and that she was the princess of Rohan. Her hair was of a slightly
pale, shining gold, and her eyes, which were deeply blue, seemed to
mirror Rohan’s sky in their depths. She bore herself regally and
proudly, every inch a maid of the Rohirrim. Looking upon her, Aldamir
saw a great courage and a strong spirit within her; but he also saw
that it was as if her wild, adventurous spirit was bound and placed
behind bars. Through her smiles of welcome he saw a great frustration,
and knew that she was forced against her will to curb her spirit and
remain at home; and he pitied her.
But she showed no sign of her feelings and
ushered them inside with warm words of welcome. “Come, my lords, and
eat! You must be weary and thirsty from long riding; come and eat of
the king’s table.”
They bowed and thanked her, and that evening they dined in the Golden Hall of Meduseld.
The tables were laden with food and drink;
none went hungry from that table. Smoke rose from the crackling fire in
the hall’s center, and torches glowed and flickered in their brackets
on the wall. Richly colored tapestries, depicting great scenes of
Rohan’s history, hung upon the four walls of the hall, silken banners
bearing the White Horse and other emblems hung from the beams above
them, and coats-of-arms of Rohan’s many kings decorated the wall behind
the throne. The pillars which rose from the floor and supported the
high, beamed, arching roof were heavily carved with ornate golden
patterns, intricate designs of intertwining beasts and vines; and at
the top four horses’ heads were carved from the wood. No corner of the
hall was without some fantastic design wrought by the smiths and
builders of old who had crafted the hall with skilled, loving hands.
Aldamir shook his head in wonder. Accustomed
to the light, simple flets of the Galadhrim, the ornate, heavily carved
Hall of Rohan filled him with awe. Never before had he seen such wild
beauty crafted from wood. It must have taken them many weeks and months to build a hall of such magnitude and magnificence, he thought to himself, wondering.
Tearing his eyes from Meduseld’s beautiful
interior, he turned to the food; yet he ate but little of it. He did
not have need of much food, depending mostly upon lembas for
nourishment, and gazed about at his surroundings as he ate a small
portion of the repast before him. Looking to the head of the table, he
saw that the Lady Éowyn sat by Aragorn’s side and spoke long with him.
He could not hear their words, but her eyes were shining as they
conversed, and Aldamir guessed that he spoke to her of the victory of
Helm’s Deep. But then he saw suddenly that she grew pale and
distressed, and seemingly sought to dissuade him from something, and he
knew that he had spoken to her of his resolve to take the Paths of the
They rested that night in Edoras, and early
in the morning Éowyn came to bid them farewell as they readied to
depart. She was clad in shining mail, as a shieldmaiden of the
Rohirrim, and a long sword was girt by her side. Her golden hair flowed
down her back in a thick braid, and she was beautiful like a lily, but
she was sad and troubled, and Aldamir could see upon her that she had
not slept that night.
But she bid them farewell and gave Aragorn
the stirrup-cup. He drank of it and wished her well, but she was full
of grief and begged him to let her ride with him, yet he refused. And
when he kissed her hand, leapt into the saddle and rode away without
looking back, it seemed to Aldamir that he bore a great pain.
Away from Edoras they rode, and into the
dark shadows of Dwimorberg, the Haunted Mountain, where the Paths of
the Dead lay. As they rode the light was still grey about them, for the
sun had not yet risen above the jagged peak of the mountain before
them; the Door of the Dead. Passing through the lines of ancient
stones, they came to a place where black trees loomed over them, their
branches twisting together above their heads. Dread fell upon them all.
None spoke as they passed through the trees.
A chill swept over Aldamir. He could feel the breath of the Dead
hanging about them; the dark, hungry shadows seemed to want to entangle
them and draw out their life. The subdued wind blowing through the
black, leafless trees seemed to whisper of death; and he shuddered in
And so they came to the Dimholt; and they
found a hollow opening which led into the mountain’s black depths. A
great stone lay in the pathway, a finger of doom, as it seemed. The
horses would not go past it until they dismounted and led them. Passing
it, they entered into the deep glen, and so came to the Door itself, in
a great wall of sheer stone. It loomed before them like some evil
mouth. Signs and writing too ancient to read were carved in the archway
above it, and skulls had been set into the stone around it.
“This is an evil door,” said Halbarad in a
low voice, “and my death lies beyond it. I will dare to pass it
nonetheless; but no horse will enter.”
“But we must go in,” said Aragorn, “and
therefor the horses go too. For if ever we come through this darkness,
many leagues lie beyond, and every hour that is lost there will bring
the triumph of Sauron nearer. Follow me!”
With a firm and steady step he went forward,
leading his mount Roheryn, and passed through the Door. The Rangers
followed him, as did Legolas and Gimli the Dwarf.
Then Aldamir dismounted and laid his hand on
Fearán’s bridle to lead him through the darkness. But the horse
trembled and shied away, terrified. Aldamir stroked him and spoke to
him in Elvish; words that fell quietly on the horse’s ear and faded
into the shadows. Then Fearán hesitantly stepped forward, and Aldamir
passed through the Door of the Dead and into the black shadows