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Nov 23 2013, 6:02pm
The Witch of Angmar
LOTR fan fiction: The Witch of Angmar - Part #12
Legacy of the Fellowship
Into the North
A grey dusk settled over Farnost. A chill mist hung over the grasslands surrounding the city, obscuring the North Downs. Rose stood on a terrace, on the flat roof of Rendur’s tower, and gazed north.
She had come up here to think; to clear her mind. But the sight of the approaching night, and the grimness of her surroundings, only made her stomach twist in dread. Her skin prickled as she imagined the goblins, lurking around the base of the city, ready to pounce upon the unwary.
Soon, she would be out there once more.
“There you are!” Peri, out of breath from the climb up to the roof, appeared at Rose’s shoulder. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”
Rose tore her gaze from the mist-wreathed Downs and looked at Peri, her companion during the last couple of weeks. As usual, his youthful face was bright, although there were grooves around his mouth that had not been there before they departed the Shire.
“Sorry, I just needed some time to think over things,” she forced a smile.
Peri nodded and cast his eye over the gathering dusk. “I never fully appreciated the beauty of the Shire,” he said quietly before glancing back at Rose, “until we travelled far from its borders. It seems the further north we travel, the more bleak the world becomes.”
Rose sighed and pulled her cloak close around her.
“I’m glad you’re with me, Peri,” she said. “I could not have come here without you.”
Peri chuckled at that. “Oh I think you could have,” he replied. “You’re the strong one.”
Rose shook her head and looked down at her feet. “I don’t think so. Peri – I want to go home.”
His warm hand took hers and squeezed gently. “Then, let’s go.”
Rose shook her head, blinking back tears. “You know we can’t – we’ve gone too far to turn back.”
“Of course we can turn back,” Peri replied sharply. “No one can stop us.”
“But Rendur has ordered us to go north with Salrean.”
“Rendur’s mad,” Peri replied, his voice tinged with bitterness. “Since when did he become our master? To send us alone into Angmar is folly. It’s as if he wants to see us dead – and I’d believe it if he wasn’t sending his daughter with us.”
“But, The Waters of Skellith told him…”
“I know what we heard – it’s Rendur’s interpretation of it that I don’t trust.”
“But I saw her,” Rose shuddered, remembering that ghostly visage in the vortex. “And I saw the ruins of Angmar surrounded by armies of goblins and hill men.”
“I don’t dispute that,” Peri answered, letting go of Rose’s hand and turning his back on the foggy dusk. Then, he folded his arms over his chest and regarded Rose coolly. “However, Rendur’s taking this to extremes. I can’t believe that Salrean has agreed to it. Has she said anything to you about our departure?”
“We leave tomorrow morning,” Rose replied, her voice dying away as the enormity of what they were about to embark upon hit her. “Into the North.”
“You remember what Barandur said,” Peri reminded her. “He warned us about undertaking this journey. I’d trust him before I’d believe anything Rendur of Farnost tells me.”
Rose did not reply, although Barandur’s words still rang in her ears.
Only darkness awaits you in Angmar.
Salrean handed Rose a linen sack filled with food – bread, cheese, salted pork and apples. Then, she turned back to where her own leather pack sat, open, at her feet. There, in the centre of the cobbled stable yard, she busied herself with stuffing the last few items into her pack while the hobbits looked on.
Rose and Peri stood silently, although it was not Salrean who had subdued them, but the intimidating presence behind them.
Rendur, Chieftain of Farnost stood outside the great oak doors to his tower, at the top of the steps. He was wrapped in his black, fur cloak and hunched against the morning’s chill. His grey-threaded hair spilled over his shoulders as he looked down at the three he was sending to Carn Dûm.
They were alone in the stable yard, for only Rendur was there to see them off. Only he knew of the journey they were about to embark upon.
It was early. Dawn was just breaking, although the heavy bank of fog that had rolled in overnight before still hung over Farnost in a dense blanket. The light was watery and the air chill.
Rose packed the food away and slung her leather satchel over her front. It was heavy, but she knew it would lighten soon enough – as they ate their way through their provisions. She just hoped it would be sufficient to see them there and back again.
She was grateful for the heavy woollen cloak that she wore over her shoulders. Salrean had given the hobbits warmer clothes the night before; clothes that would fit a child in this city. Sting hung around her waist and Peri now carried a short sword, although he had been reluctant to take it.
“You will need a sword for what lies ahead,” Salrean had told him sternly. “Don’t worry, I will teach you how to use it.”
Salrean finished checking her pack, buckled it tight and swung it up onto her back.
“You should take horses,” Rendur finally spoke. “You will travel faster that way.”
Salrean shook her head, her expression unreadable. Torchlight illuminated the ranger’s face as she turned to face her father – and Rose could see the strain there. Salrean’s eyes were red-rimmed, as if she had been crying.
“Horses are faster,” she agreed, “but where we are going, they will draw too much attention to us. I would prefer to travel on foot, even if it takes us longer to reach Carn Dûm.”
“I hope Barandur did not lie about that secret way in,” Rendur rumbled, his expression darkening when he spoke the seer’s name. “He is sly and would tell you falsehoods just to wound me.”
“He spoke the truth,” Salrean replied. “I’m sure of it.”
Rendur’s face darkened further and his mouth pursed, as if he had just tasted something bitter. Yet, when he spoke, he did not mention Barandur.
“You have two goals, Salrean,” he fixed his daughter in an intense stare. “What are they?”
Salrean held her father’s gaze, unwavering. “Retrieve the Red Book and slay Morwyn,” she replied.
“What about come back alive,” Rose muttered under her breath. Rendur cast a baleful glance in her direction before turning back to his daughter.
“Do not disappoint me – you are my last hope.”
Silence fell then in the courtyard. Rose felt Salrean’s grief; raw and unspoken. It was better to have no father at all than a cruel, hard man like Rendur who used his kin to further his own ambitions. After just two brief meetings with this man, Rose could see why Barandur loathed him.
“Excuse me,” Unable to hold her tongue any further, Rose timidly spoke up.
Rendur’s hard gaze seized upon Rose. His intensity, almost made her cower before him.
“What is it she-hobbit?”
“The Red Book,” Rose began. “It was written by hobbits – by Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, to be exact – of their adventures many years ago. My father has read it to me many times, but I have never heard him speak of a ‘secret’. Are you sure you are not sending Salrean after something that will be of no use to you?”
Holding Rendur’s gaze took all Rose’s will. There was something about this man – a naked hunger for power and dominance – which made her fear him. He looked at her now as if she were barely worth acknowledgement.
“I do not expect a hobbit to understand of such things,” he ground out, biting off each word. “You are simple folk, not capable of deciphering subtleties.”
“Since the Red Book was written by hobbits, I’m surprised you will be able to bring yourself to read it,” Peri exploded, his face contorted in fury.
Rendur dismissed him with the wave of a ring-encrusted hand, before turning towards the oaken door behind him.
“I do not need my decisions questioned by half-witted halflings,” he growled. “Salrean – take your leave now. Be wary on the North Downs, for at this hour there may still be goblins about.”
Salrean gave a curt nod before turning to the hobbits. Her pale face was taut, her eyes angry. Yet, she did not question him.
Rose also turned her gaze from Rendur, her stomach curdling. Like Peri, the Chieftain of Farnost’s words had deeply insulted her. She never wanted to set eyes on this man again.
The hobbits followed Salrean out of the stable yard, without a backwards glance, and down the narrow, winding streets to the city gates. There was no one about at this hour; just the odd shaft of light coming from the occasional latched shutter and the aroma of baking bread from the bakeries.
The cobbles were slick with damp and the street lights were starting to flicker as they consumed the last of the oil that had kept them burning all night. The three travellers, dressed in grey, hooded cloaks, moved like shadows through the streets. However, when they reached the gates, the guards did not appear surprised to see them.
They acknowledged Salrean with nods; their faces stern, their gazes worried. Yet, they did not question the chieftain’s daughter. Instead, they pushed the gates open so that there was a three-foot gap for the travellers to pass through, and stood back to let the group pass.
Unspeaking, the three companions slipped out of Farnost and into the grey dawn.
As soon as they had left the safety of the city, Rose felt her pulse quicken. Her breathing became shallower and panic fluttered in her stomach. It was a cold, monochrome world beyond, and a dangerous journey before them.
Rose followed at Salrean’s heels, jogging to keep up with the ranger, while Peri brought up the rear. They skirted the city walls towards the northern side of Farnost. From there they would strike out into the wilderness.
They had almost reached the northernmost point, when Salrean glanced over her shoulder at Rose. Even in the half-light, Rose could see the strain on her face.
“I’m sorry, Rose,” the ranger said, her voice barely above a whisper. “My father had no right to speak to you like that. When we return, I will make him apologise to you.”
Rose nodded, not sure how to respond. “Thank you,” she eventually whispered.
“If we return,” Peri whispered in her ear when Salrean moved on. “Right now, I’d say the odds are stacked against us.”
The first fingers of light probed through the heavy bank of cloud when a group of four men slipped from Farnost. They were rangers, dressed in dark, hooded cloaks, each wearing a sword at the hip. They moved with the long-limbed stride of men used to travelling on foot rather than on horseback. Their gazes darted keenly from left to right as they skirted the edge of the city.
When they reached the northernmost edge of the high wall, the man at the head of the group knelt and quickly examined the footprints on the dew-covered ground. The travellers he was tracking had only recently departed, and in conditions such as these, they would be easily to follow.
“They struck out from here,” Ethorn, ranger of Farnost, pushed back his hood and peered out into the murk, at where stunted trees hunched like trolls in the mist. His dark eyes gleamed with intensity, before he glanced back at his companions. “We will need to hang back for a day or two though. Salrean may retrace her steps to make sure she’s not being followed.”
“We trained her well,” one of the other rangers replied, not without a trace of wry humour in his voice.
“In that I am glad,” Ethorn answered, “for where she is going she will need everything we ever taught her and more.”
Veldur, the ranger who had spoken, nodded, while the other two rangers, Gonthorn and Nathil looked on silently.
Ethorn regarded his three friends for a moment, grateful that they had agreed to join him. They had defied Rendur, Chieftain of Farnost, in doing so – but had not hesitated when Ethorn had asked for their help.
The punishment would be banishment upon their return. However, Ethorn cared not. He had stood by long enough, watching while Rendur made ever more outlandish decisions without consulting his people. The time for dogged obedience had long ended. Ethorn could not let Salrean travel to Angmar on her own. Even if she made it into Carn Dûm undetected, she would never be able to reach Morwyn through the goblin-infested ruins.
He had to help her.
'All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'