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Sep 27 2013, 8:11pm
LOTR Fan Fiction: The Witch of Angmar #8
Hi everyone - for those of you who are enjoying the story so far - here is the next installment. Love to hear what you think!
The Witch of Angmar
Legacy of the Fellowship
Barandur looked down at the runes on his palm; nine smooth, engraved river stones that could tell him of the future.
Rose watched the seer curiously, and not without a large measure of suspicion. Hobbits, being practical and straight-forward folk, did not use runes, or visit seers. Their approach to the future was pragmatic. What would come, would come – that was what her parents had taught her – what was the point of going looking for it?
Rose glanced across at Peri and saw the scepticism on his face. In contrast, Salrean leant forward intently, her features tense with expectation. Ignoring them all, Barandur closed his eyes, murmured something under his breath and cast the runes across the top of the table before him.
The stones rattled and clicked as they scattered; some landing on their front, some on their backs, and some on their sides. Barandur’s face creased in a forbidding frown as he leant forward and studied the runes.
Despite that Rose shared Peri’s disbelief, she found herself holding her breath all the same.
Barandur studied the runes for long moments before he eventually straightened up. His gaze swept over each of his three visitors, resting briefly on each face as he measured, scrutinised and deliberated. Then, he shook his head.
“What do you see?” Salrean’s voice was barely above a whisper. “Anything that could aid us?”
Barandur’s gaze fastened on the young female ranger and Rose saw, for the first time, a hint of tenderness and real concern there.
“If the runes are to be believed – which they are – then ‘tis folly to continue on this path. I suggest you end your journey at Farnost. Let the hobbits see your city and then send them home. Only darkness awaits you in Angmar.”
Silence followed Barandur’s proclamation – a heavy, chilling hush.
Rose slowly let out the breath she had been holding and glanced over at Salrean. Rather than appearing cowed by Barandur’s words, she was frowning, visibly irritated.
“I didn’t come here for vague words that mean nothing,” Salrean snapped. “I want the kind that can help us – like the secret way into Carn Dûm you’ve just told us about. Darkness of what sort exactly? I am aware that travelling to Angmar, retrieving the Red Book and slaying Morwyn won’t be easy. However, I plan to enlist help from my father’s rangers. We will not travel unprotected.”
Barandur shook his head, unmoved by her scorn.
“The runes say that only four of you shall enter Carn Dûm. Two shall enter via the front door and two by the back.”
Salrean’s frown deepened at that. “What else do they tell you?”
Barandur smiled thinly. “You are indeed your father’s daughter. Stubborn to a fault – and foolhardy.”
It was obvious to Rose that he had not meant his observation as a compliment.
When Salrean did not respond, Barandur glanced back at the runes, as if checking that he had read them correctly.
“The Red Book,” he spoke cautiously, weighing each word, “does indeed contain a secret… although ‘tis not what Morwyn, or your father, hope for. Nothing is what it seems. The book holds the key; history that has passed into myth; and things that should never have been forgotten, that have been – even by those who have kept the stories safe and listened to them at the fireside.”
Barandur’s gaze shifted to Rose then. She wilted under its intensity.
“In the end Rose Fairbairn of the Shire – ‘tis you who will play the greatest part in what is to come.”
Rose awoke to the sound of Barandur moving about the darkened room. Groggily, she sat up and glanced over at where Peri was already stirring. Even in the dim light, Rose could see that Peri’s face was rumpled with sleep, his eyes barely open. Nearby, Barandur was heating an iron griddle over the fire, while Salrean stood at a clay wash basin, splashing water over her face.
Getting to her feet, Rose stretched stiffly. They had bedded down on the floor on sacking, near one of the hearths, but the cold flagstones were little better than sleeping rough on the ground. Despite that she had been exhausted, Rose had slept fitfully – her thoughts dark and fearful.
She did not want the responsibility for the success of this quest on her shoulders. She wanted only to find her father’s killer and impale him on Sting’s blade, before bringing the Red Book home to the Tower Hills, where it belonged. She was only one female hobbit, and certainly not capable of stopping the Witch of Angmar, or the wars of goblins and men.
For the first time since the journey had begun, Rose truly regretted leaving the Shire. She was not made for adventures such as these.
Despite the fires burning in the hearths at opposite ends of the stone chamber, it was bone-chillingly cold inside. Barandur had rolled up the window’s leather covering, revealing a grey windy morning beyond. Rose sat on a crate, hunched in her cloak, brooding; her mood only improving when Barandur placed a string of sausages on the grill.
As the aroma of frying sausage filtered through the tower chamber, Rose slowly felt her thoughts drift from worries of what lay ahead, to her rumbling stomach. Like most hobbits, she found it difficult to dwell on her problems when anticipating a delicious meal. When Barandur started cracking eggs onto the griddle, Rose found her attention entirely focused on breakfast. Likewise, Peri had perked up. He gratefully received a mug of hot broth from Barandur, his gaze searching the seer’s rugged face.
“How do you survive here?” he asked. “If you don’t mind me asking?”
Barandur gave a grim smile before turning back to tend his frying eggs.
“A man with my skills can always make a living. The wealthier folk of Annúminas pay well to know what the runes say about their past, present and future.”
“But you didn’t charge Salrean anything.”
Barandur glanced back at Peri over his shoulder, and gave him a quelling look. “I’ve known Salrean since she was a babe. It would be like asking payment from family.”
“You are like an uncle to me,” Salrean admitted with a smile as she took a seat next to the fire. “A cantankerous one nonetheless.”
Barandur grunted before flipping the sausages and eggs onto wooden dishes.
“Better that than honeyed words used to hide foul thoughts and deeds,” he replied. “There are far too many folk like that in the world already. Why do you think I keep myself apart?”
With that the seer handed them their breakfasts and let his guests eat.
Later, Barandur accompanied Salrean, Rose and Peri as far as the outskirts of old Annúminas. The wind gusted across Lake Nenuial, rippling its dark surface, and drops of rain splattered against the dusty cobblestones. They made their way east, through a tangle of ruins, overgrown with shrubbery and encrusted with lichen.
Finally, the ruins drew back and the party reached the edge of dense woodland.
“Do you remember the path that leads east?” Barandur asked Salrean, pointing to a gap in the trees. “If you take it, it will save you at least a day’s journey.”
Salrean nodded wordlessly before smiling.
“Yes, I know it well.”
She turned to Barandur then, and he took her hands, squeezing them gently. His face then softened, making him appear at least a decade younger. Rose could see the affection in his gaze, though he tried to hide it.
“Good Salrean. I sometimes forget you know these lands almost as well as I do.”
“Better, I’d say.” Salrean replied, her voice teasing.
“Take care girl,” Barandur’s face grew serious. “The runes do not lie. I saw darkness and death. You are taking the hobbits to a place you may never return from. But remember, if you do travel to Angmar, the Red Book holds the key.”
“My father also believes the Red Book has the answer,” Salrean replied.
Her comment was a mistake, for at the mention of Rendur of Farnost, any softness vanished from Barandur’s face.
“Rendur, like Morwyn, seeks a way to dominate and rule, but they are both wrong in believing that the Red Book holds such secrets. It is a history written by hobbits that recounts the tale of how the One Ring of Power was found, kept safe and then destroyed by the most unlikely of individuals,” Barandur then turned to where Rose and Peri stood. “Hobbits,” he managed a tight smile, although his anger still simmered. “Once again, you are playing a part in the history of this world.”
“Nothing like Bilbo or Frodo did though,” Peri piped up, brushing his shaggy hair from his eyes as he tilted his chin to meet Barandur’s gaze. “This time our part is much smaller. In many ways, Rose and I are just bystanders.”
Barandur shook his head at this. “Hobbits will never be bystanders Pericles Took – you least of all.”
His gaze then swivelled to Rose. Despite herself, she cringed under his intensity. After last night, she wished only to be left alone.
Yet, Barandur had no such intentions. “You heard what I told you Rose. Of what is to come, one thing is certain – much will depend on you.”
“I don’t understand,” Rose blurted. “I didn’t come on this journey to do great deeds. I don’t think I’m capable of them. I’m doing this for my father – for my family.”
Barandur listened, his dark gaze unreadable.
“You’re capable of much more than you think,” he said quietly, “and there is much more than you realise at stake. Morwyn poses a great danger to Middle Earth, and she must be stopped,” the seer glanced at Salrean then, his dark gaze glittering. “Yet, it is folly to walk in to her den unprepared. The runes speak clearly. Darkness awaits you all in Carn Dûm.”
“I tire of hearing you repeat the same phrases,” Salrean cut in angrily, surprising them all with her vehemence. “If you have no further wisdom to impart, we must be away.”
The three companions set off east, along the narrow path through the forest. Barandur’s words hung heavily upon them all, but upon Rose the heaviest. Her shoulders felt bent over with the weight of it. Overhead, the spattering of rain drops increased to a steady drizzle, carried in by gusts of wind that caused the trees to creak and groan. It was the kind of weather that set one’s nerves on edge; the kind that makes you jump at the slightest noise in the undergrowth and causes you to constantly glance over your shoulder.
They had been travelling for just under an hour when Rose ran to catch Salrean up. The ranger strode ahead, her body tense with purpose. She had not spoken to Rose and Peri after she had snapped at Barandur. Rose decided it was high time she did.
“Salrean,” Rose panted, reaching the ranger’s side and jogging to keep up with her long stride. “Slow down a moment, I need to speak to you.”
Salrean glanced down at Rose, her face momentarily distracted, as if she had been lost in her thoughts. It was unlike the ranger Rose had observed on their journey from Hobbiton to Annúminas, who was always sharp and alert. For the first time, Rose had caught Salrean unawares – and caught a glimpse of the troubled woman beneath the cool façade.
Then, the mask snapped back into place and Salrean composed her features.
“Of course Rose, what is it?”
“Barandur’s warnings. Are you sure they haven’t made you rethink your plans? I mean, about our journey north?”
Salrean’s dark gaze held Rose’s for a few moments before the ranger shook her head.
“No, it hasn’t,” she replied firmly. “I cannot force you and Peri to travel with me. You can both turn back at any stage and I will not think any less of you.”
Rose was silent for a moment, as she continued to jog at Salrean’s side. “I might have done so before,” she admitted, “if the road became too dangerous and I lost all hope of finding my father’s killer, but I cannot now.”
Salrean’s gaze narrowed. “Why not? I wouldn’t be surprised after Barandur’s scaremongering, if you and Peri decided to return home…”
“Have you forgotten what Barandur said?” Rose replied, forcing more bravery in to her voice than she actually felt. “If I am to play an important part in what is to come – the way is not behind me, but ahead.”
'All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'