The One Hour Fellowship Writing Challenge

Strider's Skill  by The Foe Hammer

As they walked onward Gandalf began to rely more and more on Aragorn's knowledge of the terrain. He continued to seek out for them valleys to shelter them from the cold wind wherever possible, but the course they were taking required them to walk on path's that left them exposed more and more. And this caused him great concern.

"This wind is not an innocent act of nature, I fear," he said quietly to Gandalf when they camped.

"I fear you are correct, but speak not of it to our companions," Gandalf said, "their burdens are heavy enough without fear of the source of this wind."

"Will you debate me again over my chosen course, master Gandalf," said Aragorn.

"Nay," said the wizard. "I will trust to your skill. It has done me and our companions great service until now and shall in the future I would warrant."

Aragorn stared at the dark, wondering whether his friend and leader's trust was well-placed or not. This foul wind was more than a change of season to winter. The enemy was behind it. If that were so, what would they find in the passes? Doubt crept into his mind and fear for his companions. He was roused by the wizard's hand upon his shoulder.

"You should take rest, Dunadan" said Gandalf. "Let others watch tonight, even a ranger's eyes need closing from time to time. Soon enough they shall see what lies ahead."

Aragorn nodded and walked to his bedroll near the others. He unbuckled his sword belt and started to lie down and then thought better of it. Buckling it again he strode into the woods, planning to make one last check for danger.

He was out of earshot of the camp when the doubt hit him again. What would happen if they could not make the passes? They could not head south, past Saruman. They were a hearty band of warriors, but they would be no match for the White Wizard if he had fully turned as Gandalf reported. No, he knew where Gandalf would council them.

Moria.

The very thought sent shivers through his spine. He remembered his last journey through the dark gates. His skill of wood and battle gave him the ability to sense many manner of foe. But the evil he sensed there was greater and more ancient than any he had encountered in his travels.

But his fear was not for himself. He did not know why, but from the moment Gandalf had mentioned this course, a new fear had arose in him. It was as if the wizard sensed a course that could not be turned back. And Aragorn feared that this ancient evil lie at the end of that course for his friend.

But prophecies and courses could be turned. Couldn't they? At least that was what Aragorn believed. He spoke not of his fears to any, especially Gandalf, who would just deny as always any knowledge of the future. But whatever part he could play in it, he would use all his skill to save his friend from this course.

He just hoped it would be enough.