Black and Gold

by NorthStar

Part I

“Find the halflings! Find the halflings!”

Lurtz’s hoarse voice boomed through the clearing, penetrating the din of clanking swords and thumping shields into the ears and brains of all the Isengard orcs intent on destroying the four beings; two men, a dwarf creature and hated elf, no less, that had engaged them in battle here near the river.

Hours had they traveled, days and nights melding as one. “You do not know pain, you do not know fear,” their white master had told them. “You are my fighting Uruk-Hai, greater than any others of your kind. You will prevail in any battle. You will taste man flesh!!” And they had roared their approval, their blood hot with thirst, their brains swarming with hate for all mankind.

Their first battle; they smelled the humans, their senses animal, and now they converged, two columns of monstrosities of nature, to the top of the ridge, near the ancient stone seat of long dead kings of men; only to be met by one man.

He faced them so calmly, though outnumbered by hundreds. He smiled at them as they stared at him in wonderment, and touched his forehead with the haft of his sword in greeting. Agog, they stood rooted to the spot, until roused by a scream of rage from their leader.

“Uruk-Hai, attack! “

They swarmed towards the man, blood pumping, weapons raised and ready.

They fell upon him.

On the shore, where he readied the boats for the next leg of the journey, Legolas’s head jerked up sharply. That smell…what was it? It was nothing like he had ever smelled before. Heavy, thick, insidious…menacing.More a feeling... A shiver ran down his spine. “Gimli!” he turned to the dwarf, who was sharpening his second-best axe on a small whetstone. “Do you feel that?” The dwarf looked up at the elf, and saw fear in those normally inscrutable eyes. He concentrated and…yes, there was something. Something was terribly wrong. He got to his feet hurriedly, knocking over a pile of provisions Legolas had been counting and looked up the bank.

“There,” he grunted. “Near Amon Hen.” Legolas nodded and slung his quiver onto his back, the bow of the Galadrhim leaping into his hands as though invested with life itself. Both hunters made for the steep path that wound upwards towards the stone statues of old.

Forgotten, Merry and Pippin looked at each other fearfully. Now they were alone, and something was close. Strider was gone, as was Boromir. Sam had disappeared when Strider had gone to find Frodo. It was just two small hobbits left…and they were afraid. “Merry?” Pippin’s eyes were wide, and his tone was shaky. “What are we going to do now?”

Merry looked at his cousin, who suddenly seemed smaller than ever, swathed in his elven cloak. He felt a fierce surge of love and protectiveness wash over him. “We hide, Pip,” he said after a moment. ‘We can’t stay out here in plain sight. The Lady said these cloaks could hide us from most anything. Time to put ‘em to the test.” He pulled his own cloak more tightly around him and held out his hand to his cousin, who grabbed it and held tight. Merry squeezed it back. Together they scampered as fast as they could for the dense patch of trees behind the boats, there to stay until they saw Strider again.

From his spot in the brush, where he had hidden at the first clash of metal on metal, Frodo shivered under his cloak. His hand closed instinctively around the ring, as though it was his savior, rather than the bane he knew it to be. Boromir had come so close to taking it from him, ripping it from his neck in triumph; then in the space of a moment, Frodo had felt his fear turn to hatred of this big man who was trying to take what was not his…and in those last moments at the stones, he had been surprised to feel a savage sort of glee at being able to strike out at the big folk, invisible, invincible. He had left Boromir fallen, still cursing the Baggins name, and run.

What was happening to him? All he could feel was the ring, pulling at him, causing him to feel suspicious and angry. He had even lashed out at Strider, who had done nothing except protect him from those first moments in Bree. He owed Strider his life, and still he had felt so threatened…closing his eyes, he felt salt tears slide down his cheeks. He was so afraid, and so tired. Mordor was far away still, and home even farther.

What was that noise? The horn of Gondor! Frodo felt the ground shake as the Uruk Hai pounded past him, their heavy feet sinking into the earth, only inches from where he cowered. The blue light of Sting cast a pale glow around him, but still he remained hidden from their sight. He barely breathed.

“Frodo, Frodo!” A loud whisper. He raised his eyes and met the entreating eyes of Merry and Pippin, just across the path. They gestured to him. “Quick, over here!” Frodo’s heart ached as he looked away. “Frodo, here, with us!” He shook his head. “Whats he doing?” Pippin wondered. “He’s leavin,’” said Merry, and his tone was sad. Pippin looked at his cousin, not understanding. Merry stood up, pulling Pippin with him. “Go, Frodo…go on.”

Then he turned to the orc herd and yelled out, “hey, over here!” Pippin echoed him, calling “hey, hey, we’re here, over here!” By the time they looked back at the hiding place, Frodo was gone.

And the Uruk-Hai were coming.

Frodo ran, his cape eclipsing him from sight. If he could get to the boats, he could get away, and…go where? Back to the Shire? No…he must go on to Mordor. He had made a promise and it could not be unmade. He must go on, alone. He said a silent prayer that Sam would be able to hide and escape the black masses on the banks behind him.

He tripped, and fell, rolling down the steep hillside, unable to stop himself. He grabbed futilely at branches and roots, to no avail. Sharp whippets of trees slashed his cheeks and he felt blood trickle into his mouth, and then his small body hit something hard and there was darkness…