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Aug 22, 12:12pm
The Witch of Angmar
LOTR Fan Fiction: The Witch of Angmar #5
Legacy of the Fellowship
Into the Wild
“Don’t tell anyone I’m here, even your parents.”
“Why?” Peri frowned, opening the door to a room at the back of the inn, and motioning for Rose to enter.
“I don’t want my mother knowing I’m here,” Rose whispered urgently. “One of my neighbours is bound to be travelling to Hobbiton. They’ll be looking for me. Someone will remember seeing me in the Green Dragon earlier in the day, but I want them all to think I have left.”
Peri’s frown deepened.
“If anyone asks, I came to see you at lunchtime and then I left – you don’t know where I went.” Rose sat down on the narrow bed near the window of the tiny room Peri had ushered her into. “Please Peri,” she said, the fight going out of her. “You promised you would help.”
Peri gazed back at her, his brow smoothing.
“Very well, I won’t say anything. Keep out of sight and I will bring you something to eat later.”
Rose nodded. “Thank you.”
He shook his head and gave her a worried look before slipping out of the room, gently closing the door behind him.
Rose lay back on the bed and stared up the low wood-beam ceiling. Her eyes burned; they were dry and sore from all the tears she had shed. She had cried herself out. Now, she felt as if there was a ragged hole in the middle of her chest; a piece of her was missing that could never be replaced.
Rose felt a wave of exhaustion sweep over her. She had spent the entire journey to Hobbiton ruminating over the events that had thrown her life into turmoil. Here, stretched out on a soft bed, she could not keep her eyes open.
I’ll just have a short nap, she told herself, closing her eyes. Moments later, she had fallen into a deep sleep.
Rose awoke to find the room drenched in muted lamplight. Peri stood, with his back to her, rummaging through the contents of his leather satchel. He was dressed for travel, in a hard-wearing long-sleeved shirt and well-worn leather waist-coat, and had strapped a cloak to his satchel.
“What time is it?” Rose croaked, sitting up groggily and rubbing sleep from her eyes.
“‘Tis almost midnight,” Peri replied, turning to face her. “You were exhausted so I let you sleep. Are you hungry?”
Rose nodded, feeling her stomach growl. Peri passed her a cheese and pickled onion sandwich and she ate hungrily, watching him finish checking his belongings.
“I’ve packed some food that should be enough for the next few days at least,” Peri continued, before glancing her way. “You should know that there’s a search party out looking for you. My parents are furious with me for letting you leave. We’ll need to be careful making our way up to the Party Field.”
Rose nodded, her mouth full. She had not realised she was so hungry. Finishing her sandwich, and brushing crumbs from her lap, Rose climbed to her feet and stretched.
“I’m sorry you had to lie to your parents,” she finally replied to Peri’s comment, “but ‘tis better this way.”
Peri reached for his satchel before pausing. Worry lined his sensitive face.
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“I haven’t changed my mind.”
“You do realise we may not come back.”
Rose shrugged, attempting to hide her apprehension with the same bravado she had seen Peri himself use on occasion. “We’re not trekking to Mordor to cast the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom,” she reminded him with more levity than she felt. “We are merely accompanying Salrean north to aid her people – and to gain retribution for my father. They’ve already stolen the book, there’s nothing else we have that they want. I don’t think it will be that dangerous.”
Peri smiled then, although there was little humour in the expression, and raised an eyebrow. “Famous last words. If you knew what lay beyond our borders, you would be a little less confident.”
Rose Fairbairn and Peri Took slipped from the rear entrance of the Green Dragon and kept to the shadows. The night was cool, still and moonless. It was so dark that had Peri not known the way, Rose would have easily have wandered in the wrong direction and risked falling into Bywater Pool. Yet, the darkness was also their ally. Rose could hear the voices, some near, some far, of those searching Hobbiton for her, or for any sign of the man who had murdered her father. Peri easily avoided being seen, skirting the edge of the Inn like a cat, and slipping through the deep shadows up the hill towards the Party Field. Rose followed close at his heels.
Although she had not voiced her thoughts on the matter, Rose was hugely relieved that Peri had agreed to join her. On her own, the whole undertaking seemed overwhelming; with his company she would find it easier to keep her purpose.
A short while later, they reached the old oaks, where Rose and Pepper had slept overnight on the eve of the fireworks, and slipped under the welcoming boughs.
“Salrean,” Rose whispered. “Are you there?”
Silence followed, but Rose suddenly had the sensation that someone was indeed waiting in the darkness; she could hear the faint whisper of breathing.
“I’m here,” the woman replied; her voice was low but there was a hard edge to it. “I did not think you would come.”
“I had to,” Rose replied, careful to keep her voice quiet. “Have you not heard? They killed my father.”
Silence followed before Salrean eventually spoke once more. “I know, and I am sorry for your loss. Yet, ‘tis a pity that it took a tragedy for you to listen to me. If you had returned straight home and taken the book, your father’s death may have been avoided.”
Rose drew back, anger rising. “Are you blaming me for this?
“I’m disappointed in you both,” Salrean replied, avoiding the accusation. “You should have heeded my words. Your father is dead and the Red Book taken – this bodes ill for us all. I have a mind to leave you both here and travel north on my own.”
Anger momentarily rendered Rose mute.
“You only care for that book,” she eventually managed between clenched teeth. “Even if I had believed you, I would not have taken the Red Book till this morning. I could not have stopped this.”
Silence stretched between them before Salrean eventually spoke.
“Perhaps you’re right,” Salrean’s voice was gentler now, as she realised she had spoken out of turn. “I apologise Rose. I am angry at myself more than anything. I thought I was days ahead of Morwyn’s servant, but in reality he was at my heels. I have failed my father – and I have failed you.”
Rose did not reply. She still seethed with anger, and even Salrean’s humility could not soothe her. Moments passed, and when Rose had gained control of her temper she finally spoke.
“We’re coming with you,” she told Salrean firmly, her tone brooking no argument. “You owe us that, at least. Yes, we will help you, if we can, but I travel north to find the man who killed my father – and to make him pay.”
Salrean stepped forward, her cloak rustling. It was so dark, she was merely a black outline against the night. Yet, Rose could feel the ranger’s intense gaze settling upon her.
“‘Tis not like a hobbit to seek vengeance so,” she commented. “‘Tis wise?”
“I seek revenge, not wisdom,” Rose replied, folding her arms across her chest stubbornly. “By killing my father, Morwyn and her servant have made this personal to me and my family. I would know what is written within the Red Book that is worth murdering an innocent hobbit for.”
Rose could feel Salrean’s disapproval, but she did not care. She was too raw with grief to take anyone else’s opinion into consideration. “Salrean, would you not seek the man who murdered your father to the ends of earth?” she pressed.
Salrean sighed and Rose knew she was softening. “I would – but my people are not filled with good hobbit sense. And we have a blood-soaked history to prove it.” Salrean paused then, shifting slightly to the right, her shadowed gaze resting on Peri. “What of you Master Took? Will you join Rose on her quest and be her protector?”
“I doubt I could protect Rose from anything that she couldn’t deal with herself,” Peri replied shortly, “but yes, Rose has asked me to come with her, and I will.”
“Very well,” Salrean replied, lowering her voice further as she stepped close to the hobbits. “We have talked long enough. Hobbiton is thick with patrols so we will not speak again until we are clear of them. We will make our way north, through Overhill and into Bindbole Wood.”
“And then?” Peri asked.
“I will take you north-east to Farnost, where my people reside,” Salrean replied, “but first, we travel due north to Annúminas in the Lost Kingdom of Arnor. An old family friend lives in the ruins of Annúminas; I think we could use his advice.”
Rose did not argue; they were now leaving the only world she had ever known. Despite that she barely knew Salrean and had no reason to trust her, Rose knew she would have to put her faith in the female ranger from now on. She was confident that Peri would look out for her at least.
“Very well,” Rose replied, her voice more resolute than she actually felt. “As long as this detour doesn’t cost us precious time. Let us be on our way.”
When the first light of dawn stained the eastern sky, Salrean, Rose and Peri were deep within Bindbole Wood. The sun filtered through the trees, promising a warm day to come. They kept off the road, for Salrean worried that patrols looking for Rose would be using it; instead weaving through the tightly-packed trees.
Rose glanced around her with interest as they walked. Bindbole was much darker and wilder than the woodland she was used to. They had already seen a boar crashing through the undergrowth and a few deer flitting through the trees like sprites.
Salrean walked a few strides ahead of the hobbits; her long legs covering ground much faster than her companions. She was dressed in brown leather breeches and a jacket, with a travel-stained green cloak wrapped about her shoulders. On her feet she wore supple leather boots that moulded to her calves.
“These woods are not safe these days,” Salrean warned them. “Goblins prey on travellers here.”
“Are you sure?” Rose looked around nervously, glad that Salrean had not mentioned this till now. She would have spent last night jumping at shadows, if she had realised that goblins lurked in the darkness.
“I was attacked by two of them on my way to Hobbiton,” Salrean replied. “In these parts ‘tis safer if you travel off the road.”
“There are goblins in the Shire?” Peri piped up, his eyes huge. Like Rose, he now glanced about him warily.
“There have been for many years,” Salrean replied with a tight smile. “We are on the edge of the Shire here, far from your comfortable hobbit holes and tended fields. Life is harsher out in the wild. See those hills up ahead,” Salrean motioned to where a rugged silhouette rose to the north against a pale sky. “Those are the Dim Hills; once we reach them we will no longer be within the Shire.”
Rose’s stomach clenched at this news. Naively, she had thought they would travel for a couple of days before leaving the Shire behind. The rest of the world was closer at hand than she had thought.
“What happened to the goblins who attacked you?” Peri persisted, frowning.
“I killed them,” Salrean replied, her tone matter-of-fact, before she patted the hilt of the sword that hung by her side. Then, seeing the hobbits’ horrified faces, she shook her head. “It was either that or die upon their blades. There are no half-measures out here Pericles.”
End of Part #5