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In Aragorn's Safekeeping
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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14
The River

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the recognizable characters; I am only borrowing them for fun for a little while. They belong to J.R.R. Tolkien.

Many thanks to my Beta Readers – J and Marsha.

Author Note: Words in Italics are elvish and are translated at the end of the chapter.


~~~

After three days in a boat, Thomas longed for the days they had spent walking. Sitting in a cramped space for endless hours was almost unbearable. The Fellowship spent much of the time drifting with the rapid current, though Aragorn had them on the water from sunrise until late into the evening.

Trees had lined the shores on both sides of the river the first couple of days. But Thomas noticed the landscape gradually changing as they continued south. Trees were becoming sparse and bushes and grass lined the western shore. The eastern shore was becoming brown and desolate.

Few words passed between Thomas, Legolas, and Gimli for most of the day. In fact, everyone on all of the boats were quiet, each lost in their own thoughts. Thomas thought mostly about Rebecca, wondering how she was doing all alone in Lothlórien. He hoped that she was adjusting to being the only human in the midst of the elves. He also thought a lot about the future - praying that he would be able to return for Rebecca, that they might be able to make a life together somewhere.

“Thomas,” Legolas gently shook his shoulder, pulling Thomas from his thoughts. Thomas glanced back to see Legolas pointing to the west. “That is the land of Rohan.”

Thomas straightened up to see further. “Is it a large country? Are there many people?”

Legolas looked thoughtful for a moment. “It is a large country, though not so big as Gondor. From what Aragorn has told me most of the people live far from here.”

“Are there cities, like Minas Tirith?”

“The only one that I have heard of is Edoras, there may be others,” Legolas shrugged.

“It’s a dry looking land,” Thomas commented.

“It is here,” Legolas agreed. “I have heard that there are rich grasslands and rolling hills where they run their herds of horses. Edoras is said to sit upon a high hill near the mountains.”

“Hmmm… well, when we are done with our little adventure here, you, Gimli and I will have to go and visit it.” Thomas’s quiet chuckle was joined by Legolas as Gimli jerked awake as he heard his name and he immediately reached for an axe. He grumbled under his breath about elves and men and their foolishness before slipping back into sleep. Thomas gave Legolas an amused glance over his shoulder and silence descended on their boat once again.

--

“Boromir,” Thomas suddenly asked as they were quietly eating supper that night. “Are there cities in Gondor besides Minas Tirith?”

Boromir lifted his head and looked at Thomas with eyes that were dark and shadowed. The expression on his face was anguished, Thomas realized. Boromir quickly lowered his gaze and when he raised his eyes again he seemed normal.

“Oh, yes, there are several other cities. Why do you ask?”

“Legolas and I were talking about Rohan today and I just wondered because you hadn’t mentioned any besides Minas Tirith.”

Boromir looked at Thomas for a moment before replying with a sigh. “The second largest city is Dol Amroth down on the coast. My uncle, Imrahil, is the prince of that city and the whole area.” Boromir smiled briefly. “He is a good man and Faramir and I spent many holidays there in our childhood.” He seemed to shake himself from his thoughts. “Then there is Pelargir, which is a large shipping port further down this river. There is Linhir…” Boromir paused, “there are others, but those are the larger ones and of course there are many villages scattered across my land.” He sounded wistful and a strange gleam was in his eye as he glanced quickly at Frodo then away into the woods.

Thomas nodded this thanks, but was startled at the look in Boromir’s eyes and he glanced around to see if anyone else had noticed it. Aragorn was watching Boromir with hooded eyes as he leaned back against a rock smoking his pipe. The tension between the two men had settled into sort of an uneasy peace. Although Thomas didn’t know what was causing their conflict, he did realize that it had more to do with Boromir than with Aragorn. He was restless, and irritable - even with the hobbits.

“We need to get some rest. Thomas, you take the first watch, then Sam, Legolas, and I will take the last one.” Aragorn’s voice spoke quietly in the growing darkness. Thomas listened to the others settle down for the night while he perched on a rock overlooking the river. Things have changed so much in two months, he laughed inwardly, thinking back to his first time on watch. Thomas put his hand on the hilt of his sword and half turned at the slight movement he felt behind him.

“Aragorn?” he whispered.

“Very good, Thomas,” Aragorn’s voice was laced with amusement.

“Why are you up? The night is calm.”

“Yes, it is,” Aragorn agreed. “If you will remember I am often awake at night when we travel.”

Thomas snorted softly, “That’s true. How could I forget?” He laughed quietly, “So, you are not just checking up on me?”

Aragorn clasped his shoulder, “No, Thomas. I was then, but not now.” Aragorn could see Thomas grin even in the dark.

“Aragorn,” Thomas’s voice dropped even lower, “what’s the matter with Boromir?”

Hesitating briefly, Aragorn folded his arms and leaned back against the rock Thomas was sitting on. “He is feeling the lure of the Ring, Thomas. It is calling him and he is struggling against it.”

“The Ring,” Thomas mused, “that’s why he looks at Frodo like that.”

“Yes.”

“Why… I mean… what would he do with It?”

“He thinks It would help him save his people… his land,” Aragorn said softly, a hint of sorrow in his voice. “It is a powerful temptation."

Thomas’s mind raced as he considered what Aragorn was telling him. “Does It call to you?”

“Oh, yes, quite often,” Aragorn said dryly.

“Are you not tempted?”

“No one is above temptation. However, I know the Ring lies and cannot give what It promises. I remember that and focus on the truth that nothing in life is as simple and easy as the Ring would like me to believe. If anything is worth having, it usually takes hard work and sacrifice to achieve.” Aragorn looked towards Thomas, “Have you felt the Ring tempt you, Thomas?”

Thomas blinked, “Me? Why would It do that? I’m not anyone special.”

Aragorn laughed hollowly, “The Ring does not care, It just wants someone to take it back to Its master. Have you?” he asked sharply.

Thomas slowly shook his head, “No, Aragorn, I haven’t, maybe because I’m not from here.”

“No, Rebecca told me in Lothlórien that It spoke to her once,” Aragorn shrugged slightly. “Well, be on your guard. Tell me if you hear It… talking about it can help.”

“All right. I wonder how Rebecca is doing. I hope she’s all right.” Thomas’s voice held a trace of longing that couldn’t be missed.

“I am sure she is well, Thomas. Rebecca is strong and the elves will take good care of her.” Aragorn slapped Thomas on the back bracingly.

“I know, I just… miss her,” Thomas sighed.

“It is hard to be away from the one you love,” Aragorn acknowledged.

Thomas opened his mouth to ask if Aragorn had someone special, but he had already turned away with a whispered good night. Thomas gazed after him, surprised at his abrupt departure, I guess he didn’t want to talk about that, he thought with amusement. He smiled and turned back to watch the river.

--

Rebecca was slowly adjusting to her new life without the Fellowship, but it was very, very difficult. There were few elves she could speak with as most of the Galadhrim did not speak the common tongue. Her world was reduced to Brethil, Haldir, and Lord Thalion.

She had spoken with Celeborn and Galadriel at supper the night the Fellowship departed. They wanted her to know how welcome she was and to feel free to come to them if she needed or wanted anything. Rebecca had been relieved to know that there were others she could turn to with her friends gone. Galadriel had read her heart and reminded her that many in Lothlórien would be willing to help her even if they were not humans. Rebecca had blushed and stammered her thanks.

Rebecca avoided the lawn area where the Fellowship had been camped, it was just too painful. Mealtimes were also difficult. That was when she felt the absence of everyone most keenly. They might all have been off doing various things during the day, but the Fellowship had always gathered for breakfast and supper. Brethil now took her to eat in a dining hall with a group of her friends. Rebecca knew the elleth was worried about her and didn’t want her to eat alone, but being surrounded by all the elves made it harder for her. None of Brethil’s friends spoke a word of common so it just increased Rebecca’s sense of isolation.

Lord Thalion had graciously welcomed her back for further study and Rebecca spent many long hours with him furthering her knowledge of the healing arts. While he remained stern and demanding with her as a teacher, she noticed that he was much kinder to her before and after her lessons, a fact for which she was immensely grateful.

--

Rebecca sat on the stream bank, absently caressing the pendant Thomas had given her. She missed him desperately. If she had had any questions about her love for him before, she didn’t now. It’s only been four days, she thought with something akin to despair. She wondered how she could do this for months and if she would know if something happened to him. Thoughts of the others passed through her mind and she longed to see them too, but her thoughts always came back to linger on Thomas. Rebecca sighed wearily as she stared out at the stream, watching the rays of the sun dance along the surface of the water.

A long shadow fell across her and a deep, kind voice asked, “May I join you, Lady Rebecca?”

Startled, Rebecca looked up to find Lord Celeborn standing next to her.

“My lord,” she gasped and started to scramble to her feet.

“Be at peace, child,” he motioned for her to stay seated. Rebecca sank back to the ground, watching with wide eyes as he joined her.

Lord Celeborn smiled, gazing at her intently. Rebecca dropped her eyes almost immediately and then looked up and past the elf-lord.

“How do you fare, Lady Rebecca?” he asked, concern evident in his voice.

Rebecca hesitated. Her physical needs were all being met, but somehow she knew that was not what he was asking. She bit her lip in thought as she looked at him with a slight frown. “Your people are very kind, Lord Celeborn.” He smiled faintly in acknowledgement. “I-I miss them, my lord. And-and I worry about them.” Rebecca stared at the ground, sighing deeply. “I’m lonely,” she whispered.

“Look at me, child,” Lord Celeborn commanded softly. He paused until she met his eyes. “You will continue to miss them, that hurt is something that only time will lessen. It will diminish.” His eyes clouded briefly in pain. “I cannot tell you not to worry, for you will not heed me. However, think on this. Does your worry help them in any way? Does it help you? Find a way to let it go and be at peace, child. It helps neither them nor you.”

Rebecca nodded, “I will try, my lord. It will be hard though.”

“Yes, it will be, child,” his voice was soft and gentle and his eyes were full of compassion as he studied her. “As for being lonely, that is another choice you will have to make. You have to draw on your own inner strength now that they are gone. There will always be times in your life when you are alone. You must be able to stand firm in those times and choose to live and not withdraw. Your life must go on,” he stated firmly.

Rebecca looked at him wide-eyed, slightly startled at the passion in his voice. She blinked and looked away, thinking about his words. She rubbed her forehead worriedly, trying to understand all that he was telling her. It was just too much and she hoped she could remember it all to think about later.

‘He will tell you again if you ask,’ Rebecca suddenly heard Lady Galadriel’s amused voice in her head.

*Oh, thanks,* Rebecca shook her head.

‘You are welcome, child.’

“Are you well, Lady Rebecca?” Lord Celeborn inquired, touching her gently on the arm.

“I’m all right, my lord. I was speaking with your wife. It’s always an… interesting experience,” Rebecca said wryly.

Celeborn smiled, “For most mortals it can be difficult. You seemed confused by my words.”

Rebecca nodded slowly, “Somewhat, my lord. I think I just need some time to think about what you’ve said,” she paused briefly. “I may have questions for you later.”

“I would be surprised if you did not, child,” he smiled. “You are very young.” Rebecca ducked her head in embarrassment. Celeborn laughed merrily, “I often say the same to Aragorn, Lady Rebecca.”

“Really?” Rebecca’s eyes sparkled with amusement. “I’ll have to remind him of that sometime.”

Celeborn laughed again, “Yes, you will. If you do have questions about what we have discussed or anything else, you will come and ask, will you not?” he gazed at her searchingly.

“Yes, my lord, I will,” Rebecca promised with a smile.
“Good,” Celeborn gracefully stood to his feet, pulling Rebecca up with him. “I believe it is time for your archery lesson, is it not?”

Rebecca glanced at the sun, “Yes, I think so.”

“If you do not mind, I shall escort you.”

Hannon le, my lord.”

--

The Fellowship was traveling at night now. Aragorn was concerned that orcs were patrolling the eastern shore and felt it was safer to travel at night and rest during the day. There was no more drifting with the current either, they all paddled hard. Gollum had been seen and Aragorn wanted to try and pull away from the foul creature.

Thomas glanced ahead to Aragorn’s boat hoping they would be stopping soon. The sky was lightening in the east so he knew it wouldn’t be too much longer. He sighed wearily.

“Tired, lad?” Gimli asked gruffly.

“A little,” Thomas admitted. “I didn’t sleep much yesterday.”

“Ground too hard, eh?” the dwarf snorted.

“Well, of course,” Thomas responded with a grimace. “No, I was thinking about…”

Gimli glanced back at him, “She’s fine, lad.”

“What? Yes, I know she is,” he agreed quietly. “It was… other things that kept me awake,” not elaborating any further. The truth was every time he had closed his eyes he’d heard a voice whispering in his head, promising him things he desperately wanted if he’d only take the Ring. Ever since he and Aragorn had spoken, the Ring had started calling to him. It was as if their talk had opened a floodgate. The things It promised were so enticing - Rebecca for his very own and to send him back to his home. Even now he could faintly hear the whispers and Frodo was many yards away from their boat. Thomas shook his head angrily.

“It lies to you, Thomas,” Legolas said quietly.

“I know it does,” Thomas agreed, not even pretending he didn’t know what the elf was talking about, nor was he surprised that Legolas sensed his struggle. “It’s still hard to hear and… and to know this thing knows my deepest desires,” he sighed.

“What does it promise you?”

“To go home. Rebecca… as my wife.”

“Would you want Rebecca that way? Or, do you want her to give her love freely?” Legolas asked gently.

Thomas shot him an irritated glare over his shoulder. “Freely, of course,” he retorted. “I know It can’t send me home if these Valar you keep talking about sent me here, but it’s hard, Legolas, to hear that and wonder if its possible.”

“It would be,” Legolas agreed. “It promises to restore my homeland to its former glory.”

“You hear it too? An elf?” Thomas turned and stared at Legolas, who only nodded grimly.

“I hear It too, lad. It promises me wealth in mithril and jewels,” Gimli spoke up.

“I thought only men were affected,” Thomas muttered.

“No, all can hear It’s voice, though men might more easily succumb,” Legolas said thoughtfully. “You must resist Its call, Thomas. Think about trying to take It from Frodo and what it would do to him… and to you. Hold on to your friendship, your loyalty and your honor.”

Thomas paled. While he had never seriously considered taking the Ring, just the thought of taking It from Frodo made him feel ill. “That helps, Legolas. I could never hurt Frodo… or any one of you.” He paused, “Well, except maybe Gimli.” He laughed quietly as Gimli turned and glared at him, though there was a glint of amusement in his deep brown eyes.

“Just you try, lad,” he growled menacingly.

“I would tread cautiously around Master Gimli,” Legolas advised. “I saw him sharpening his axes yesterday and I would not want to run afoul of him.”

“Then I shall heed your warning. Forgive me, master dwarf!” Thomas grinned as Gimli just shook his head and muttered under his breath.

Aragorn’s boat turned toward the shore and Legolas and Thomas swung their boat in to follow it. Gimli leapt out and dragged the boat up the bank as Thomas and Legolas started unloading the supplies they would need. Thomas stretched his sore muscles carefully as he moved. He glanced up briefly when he heard the patter of approaching feet. Here they come again, they don’t give up easily, Thomas thought with amusement.

“Thomas, Merry and I were wondering if we could help you,” Pippin asked eagerly.

“Help me how?” Thomas looked at the hobbits with a puzzled frown and a slight sparkle of amusement in his eyes.

“We thought we could carry the food up to the camp for you,” Merry said with a bright, cheerful smile.

Thomas considered this as he gazed at the hobbits. Aragorn had put him in charge of the fresh food for this leg of the journey. Merry and Pippin had appeared every evening… or morning to try and sneak a few extra bites. This was a new tactic in their ongoing battle.

Thomas smiled, “Yes, I have just the thing for you two to carry.” The hobbit’s eyes lit up with anticipation. Thomas bent down and picked up his bedroll which he tossed to Pippin and his pack which he handed to Merry. “If you two will carry those, it will free my hands to carry the food,” he smiled at their disappointed expressions. “Thank you, master hobbits!” He walked up the bank to the camp laughing quietly, followed by two grumbling hobbits.

--

Aragorn sat on a rock staring broodingly out at the river. The others were still sleeping, he could hear them tossing and turning restlessly. His thoughts wandered to the days ahead. Another five days should bring them to the Falls of Rauros and then their paths would split, Boromir to Minas Tirith, the rest to Mordor. Aragorn shuddered. He did not relish the idea of going there again. Especially taking so many people with him, people he deeply cared about. It was hard enough for one person to slip in unseen, but eight? He shook his head.

Still, it must be done… attempted at least. What other choice did they have? He wished again that Gandalf were here to give him guidance. He wondered about sending Merry, Pippin and Thomas with Boromir. Aragorn frowned slightly as he thought. It would leave him with a smaller group and help Boromir on his way home. Though, he would have the two hobbits to protect. It was something to ponder. Maybe when they neared Amon Hen he would try and talk with Boromir about it.

Aragorn knew Boromir was struggling mightily against the Ring, but he did not know how to help him. Boromir would not talk to him about it, he just got angry. Aragorn sadly watched as his friend withdrew into himself, pulling away from everyone. Thomas was also hearing the whispers, however he was talking to him as well as to Legolas and Gimli. As long as Thomas talked about what he was hearing, Aragorn felt he would be all right.

Sighing softly, Aragorn absently tapped out the remains of the pipe he had been smoking. His eyes snapped into focus as he saw movement across the river. He quickly glanced at Legolas, who was on watch, and saw that he was already alert. He had an arrow nocked and ready, though the distance was too great, even for Legolas. Aragorn crept soundlessly to Legolas’s side.

“Can you see what it is?”

“Orcs. A small party…eleven.”

“Scouts,” Aragorn said grimly.

Legolas nodded, not taking his eyes off the far shore.
“This is a long way north for them to patrol. Yet, I feared it.”

“They may be down from Dol Guldur,” Legolas spat out bitterly.

Aragorn clasped his friend’s arm briefly. “They might be, Legolas. When the Ring is destroyed, that place too will be destroyed and your forest will be renewed.”

Legolas nodded, a fierce and terrible gleam in his eye. “I will see it destroyed, Aragorn, every stone torn down and crushed.” Legolas stared at the ground for a moment and then stared back across the river with a sigh. “No, that is not my task,” he whispered. “Others will bear that burden… and will pay a terrible price,” he added sadly.

Aragorn nodded and again clasped the elf’s arm. “I am sorry, Legolas. Let’s wake the others. We need to move on as soon as it is full dark.”

They woke the others quietly, telling them of the orcs across the river. They ate quickly before silently slipping their boats into the water and disappearing into the night.

---

Rebecca took a deep breath and waited for Haldir’s command. She stood alertly, watching him from the corner of her eye while she gripped her bow with her left hand, her right hand poised to grab an arrow from her quiver.

“Now.”

She swiftly pulled an arrow from her quiver, nocked it, drew it back and released it in one smooth motion. Rebecca repeated the action until all fifteen arrows were in the target sixty yards away. She lowered her bow with a smile and looked at Haldir.

He looked at her blankly before turning and walking toward the target. Rebecca hurried after him, a look of confusion on her face. “Did I do something wrong, Haldir?” she asked worriedly.

“No, your form was… adequate, but not perfect. Three times you did not bring the draw back far enough. That will cost you some distance on your shots. Twice your arrow caught on your quiver and that slowed you down,” Haldir looked down at her and this time Rebecca caught the faint sparkle of amusement in his eye.

She smiled at him, “I think it was better than yesterday, wasn’t it?”

“Yes it was, Lady Rebecca,” Haldir bowed slightly. “Now we will check your accuracy. Do you notice anything?”

Rebecca looked at the arrows sticking in the target. “Well, except for these two here,” she pointed at two that were stuck down in the lower right corner, “all of these are grouped in the upper left side of center. I think I need to adjust and aim a little further down and to the right.”

“Good, I agree. Those two arrows were the two that caught in your quiver… it threw your timing off. That is why they are not grouped with the other arrows. It is so important to be able to do the little things correctly – it is all part of the whole.”

Rebecca nodded and started pulling the arrows from the target. “There are so many things that go into this. A lot more than I ever realized, it looked sort of easy.” Haldir laughed lightly. “I know it’s not, Haldir. I’m just saying how it looked. I mean it’s a bent piece of wood, a sting and another piece of wood. How hard could it be?” She laughed with him. “Well, anyway I learned it’s a lot harder than it looks!”

Haldir nodded. “Indeed it is.”

As they walked back to the edge of the field, Rebecca thought of a question she had wanted to ask earlier, “Haldir, that giant bird…”

“Eagle,” Haldir corrected.

Rebecca nodded, “Yes, the eagle that landed here this morning. Are there more of them? Are there other giant birds in Middle-earth? Other giant animals? Other…” she stopped as Haldir laid a single finger lightly on her lips.

“Lady Rebecca,” his eyes sparkled with amusement, a faint smile gracing his lips, “You sound like an excited elfling!”

Rebecca ducked her head in embarrassment for a moment before looking up at the elf steadily with a smile. “I’m sort of an elfling, Haldir, both in age and in experience in your world.” Her eyes twinkled mischievously, “Though, I don’t have pointed ears,” Rebecca fingered her ears thoughtfully as she watched Haldir.

Haldir’s smile widened and he bowed slightly, “I stand corrected, Lady Rebecca. Shall I treat you as one?” he raised an eyebrow questioningly.

Rebecca sighed, “No, Haldir. I really just wanted to know about the eagle.”

“Very well,” Haldir nodded. “There are many giant eagles that live in the northern parts of the Misty Mountains. They are messengers used by the Valar and do not usually involve themselves in the affairs of elves and men.”

“Messengers, huh? I wonder why it came here.”

“I know not. Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel will tell me if I need to know. As for other ‘giant’ animals, the only one I can think of would be a mumakil.”

“What’s a mum-mumakil?” Rebecca stumbled over the unfamiliar word.

“I have never seen one,” Haldir replied. “I have been told that they are grey animals that stand sixty to seventy feet tall. They have a long nose and six horns around their mouths.”

“Hmmm, sounds sort of like a really big elephant with more tusks,” Rebecca said, thinking fondly of the elephants she had often seen at the zoo.

“Now, Lady Rebecca, you need to return to practice,” Haldir motioned for her to continue.

“Yes, my lord,” she bowed slightly and turned to resume her practice with a grin.

--

“That was beautiful, Brethil! I’ve never heard music like that before,” Rebecca looked at her friend in awe.
“Thank you,” Brethil smiled. “I am glad that you enjoyed it.”

“You have a beautiful voice,” Rebecca continued, gazing up at the elleth as they walked home. “And the way you played that harp was… incredible. The sound was so… I don’t know… pure and perfect.” She shook her head in frustration at her inability to describe Brethil’s musical talent.

“Again, thank you. The Valar have blessed me with these gifts. Would you…” she stopped as Haldir stepped into their path.

“Excuse me, Lady Rebecca, Brethil,” his tone was formal, his gaze intense.

“Am I late?” Rebecca cried, stealing a glance at the sun.

“No, you are not. The Lord and Lady have requested your presence.” Haldir swept his arm out to the side indicating she was to come immediately.

Rebecca gave Brethil a nervous smile and headed off with Haldir at her side.

“Do you know why they want to see me, Haldir?” Rebecca asked, glancing up at the tall elf from the corner of her eye.

“No. They do not usually tell me these things, Lady Rebecca.”

“Oh.”

“No messengers have arrived except for the eagle a week ago,” Haldir said quietly as they ascended the stairs.
Rebecca breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you. I was afraid maybe they had bad news.”

Haldir took her hand and squeezed it gently, “I know you did.”

They finished the climb in silence. Reaching the platform where she had first met them, Rebecca saw Celeborn and Galadriel waiting for her. She smiled nervously as she approached, “Lord Celeborn, Lady Galadriel,” she bowed. “Haldir said…” she turned slightly to glance at him. As she did Rebecca stopped, stunned at who was standing just beyond Haldir. She blinked rapidly and all the color drained from her face as she grabbed Haldir’s arm to steady herself.

“Gandalf?” she whispered. She frowned in confusion and disbelief. What kind of a joke was this? Gandalf was dead. This person looked like Gandalf only he was dressed in white not in grey.

‘Peace, child, all is well,’ Galadriel’s soothing voice spoke in her head, but Rebecca shook her head angrily. “Haldir, what is going on? I saw him die. Is he a ghost?” She wrapped her arms around Haldir and buried her face in his chest. Rebecca felt his strong arms embrace her.

“I do not know how it happened, Lady Rebecca, but Gandalf has returned to life! It is a time for celebration. Do not fear this,” Haldir’s voice calmed and soothed her.

“Will you not greet a friend, young lady?”

Rebecca swallowed hard at the sound of Gandalf’s voice and she slowly raised her head to look at him. His voice sounded the same and as she looked she realized his eyes were the same piercing blue as before, though somehow they seemed as if they could see into her very soul much like Galadriel’s. Rebecca looked him over carefully from the security of Haldir’s arms and she noticed that everything about him was white – hair, beard, robe and staff. Haldir released her and she gazed at Gandalf uncertainly. “Is it really you, Gandalf?” she whispered.

“Yes, it is,” he nodded with a very faint smile.

“How? I-I saw you fall,” Rebecca’s eyes filled with tears at the memory.

“I did, young lady, but my task was not yet completed, so I was sent back.”

Rebecca nodded, still too stunned to say much. She glanced up as Celeborn and Galadriel joined them. Galadriel caressed her cheek gently and Rebecca felt a sense of peace wash over her. She smiled at her gratefully. Celeborn gazed at Rebecca gravely for a moment. “Gandalf has things he needs to discuss with you. Are you able to listen now, or should we wait until later?” he inquired.

“I’m all right now, my lord,” she gave him a small bow. “I was just a tiny bit surprised.”

Celeborn laughed softly, “Indeed. Come, then.” Rebecca followed him to a small alcove off the platform. Galadriel, Gandalf and, to her surprise, Haldir also joined them, taking the seat next to her. Rebecca gave him a sheepish smile as she sat down, but he just bowed slightly. When all were seated, Gandalf gazed at Rebecca intently for a long moment and she met his eyes steadily.
“You have changed much since last I saw you, Lady Rebecca,” Gandalf said. He sounded strangely pleased.

Rebecca furrowed her brow thoughtfully. “Well, many things have happened since we last talked, Gandalf. One of which was watching someone you care about falling to a fiery death. I’ll never forget that, Gandalf, never.” She closed her eyes and shook her head to try and drive the image from her mind.

“I imagine not.”

“Being here among the elves,” she smiled at Celeborn, Galadriel, and Haldir, “has been wonderful. They have taught me many things. I’m learning to be a healer and Haldir is teaching me archery.” Rebecca paused and looked at the wizard with a sad smile, “A-Aragorn and Boromir taught me to use a sword. I learned a lot from all of them,” she added quietly.

Gandalf reached over and clasped Rebecca’s hand. “It sounds like you are well prepared for what we have ahead of us.” He smiled at her confused expression.

“What do you mean?”

“You are coming with me, young lady.”

“What! Where?”

“I mean to meet up with the Fellowship.”

Rebecca pulled her hand away from Gandalf and simply stared at him. Finally, she shook her head, “I can’t go,” she whispered. “I want to, but I cannot.”

“Why not, Lady Rebecca?” Celeborn looked at her questioningly, though Galadriel’s eyes were full of understanding.

“Because Aragorn left me here to keep me safe, my lord. I didn’t agree with him… I still don’t, but it doesn’t seem right to leave now. I think… I think it would disappoint him.” Rebecca laughed hollowly. “I can’t believe I’m even saying this,” she muttered.

Gandalf chuckled, “Eru chose you well, Lady Rebecca. You have a good heart, full of courage, honor and loyalty. Aragorn had his reasons for leaving you here; Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel have told me much of his thoughts on the matter. However, Aragorn did not have the benefit of my counsel, though your staying here may indeed have been part of the plan of Eru. I learned many things while I was away and one was that you need to be with Aragorn. It was not an accident that put you and Thomas with the Fellowship. There is a purpose, though the full purpose was not revealed to me and what I do know I may not share with you.” A hint of sorrow briefly filled his eyes.

Rebecca listened eagerly, her heart growing lighter as Gandalf spoke. “When are we leaving? I can pack quickly!”
Gandalf smiled, “Probably in a few days. I have scouts out looking for them now.”

“How will we catch up? They took boats and are days ahead of us.” Rebecca asked with a puzzled frown.
“Let me worry about that. Get packed and be prepared to leave at a moments notice.”

Rebecca’s eyes sparkled, “Thank you, Gandalf.” She stood and bowed to Celeborn and Galadriel, smiling brightly as she headed for the door. “Oh, Gandalf,” she said, turning around briefly, “you have to explain this to Aragorn.” Laughter followed her out the door.

Lost in thought, it took Rebecca several minutes to realize Haldir was escorting her. She stopped abruptly. “Haldir, I wanted to apologize for… umm… clinging to you like that.” She looked up at the tall elf uncertainly. “I just needed someone to hang on to right then and you were there. I’m sorry if I offended you.”

“I was not offended,” he responded quietly. “You needed a friend at that time and I am glad that I was there.” Haldir smiled briefly as he gestured for her to continue walking.

“Hannon le, it meant a lot to me.”
“It was my pleasure, Lady Rebecca.”

--

“Watch out!” Sam’s voice cried out just as the edge of the boat hit the rock. Aragorn back paddled as hard as he could and tried to swing the boat around the rock. He could hear the sound of rapids and realized they were approaching Sarn Gebir. How did we get here so fast, Aragorn wondered with despair.

“Legolas, Boromir,” he called urgently, “we must make for shore. There are rapids ahead!” The current pulled at the boats, dragging them downstream as they tried to paddle back up and across the flow of the river.

The first arrow struck Boromir’s boat, lodging near Merry’s hand. He cried out in surprise, almost dropping his paddle. Suddenly, arrows filled the air around the three boats.

“Orcs!” Legolas hissed.

“Get down!” Aragorn pushed Frodo down, but an arrow struck him in the back, bouncing off harmlessly when it hit his mithril shirt. Another arrow passed through Aragorn’s elvish cloak before falling into the water.
Arrows continued to fall around them as they struggled to get out of the rapids and across the river to the western shore. The elven cloaks and boats helped shield them from the eyes of the orcs, for no arrows caused any damage to the Fellowship.

Thomas concentrated on paddling the boat and ignoring the sounds of the orcs and the whoosh of the arrows. The screeches of the orcs brought up images of Moria. All of his training in Lothlórien couldn’t prepare him for the sounds of orcs. Or the sight and smell of them, he thought shuddering.

Gradually they pulled out of range of the eastern shore and the arrows stopped. As they pulled into a small cove, Legolas leapt from the boat and strung his bow. Thomas looked at him in surprise wondering if he could shoot that far with the bow that Galadriel had given him.
Silence fell on the group as they felt an eerie presence emanating from the far side of the river. Thomas huddled with the hobbits and laid his hands comfortingly on Merry and Pippin, though he too was shaking from the sense of evil that he felt.

Aragorn and Legolas peered through the bushes, trying to see if they were being followed and to figure out what was causing the evil they all felt. A large shadowy winged figure flew across the sky, dimly lit by the moon. Legolas swiftly lifted his bow and with a cry of Elbereth Githoniel! released his arrow. There was a wail, a distant thud and then the night fell still.

“What was that?”

“Did you kill it?”

“Are there more?”

The hobbits all spoke at once, breaking the stillness that had fallen.

“Be silent,” Aragorn hissed harshly. He and Legolas moved silently past the hobbits to join Boromir and Gimli. “Have either of you seen anything like that before?” Aragorn whispered softly. Gimli shook his head. Boromir started to speak and then paused before continuing. “I have not seen anything like that, Aragorn. Though, I have felt a similar evil presence before.”

“When? Where?”

“Last June, when-when,” Boromir paused and took a deep breath, “the black riders crossed the bridge at Osgiliath. It was horrible.” He shuddered and rubbed his hand across his eyes.

“Black riders?” Aragorn murmured. “It did have that feel, Boromir. He glanced at Legolas who was watching the eastern shore. “Do you see anything, Legolas?” He shook his head. “Then I suggest we all take what rest we can and see what the morning brings.”

Aragorn spoke reassuringly to the hobbits and Thomas. Soon everyone, except Legolas and Aragorn had settled down to try and sleep for the remainder of the night.

Dawn found the Fellowship in their boats slinking along the edge of the river avoiding the rocks. They kept an eye on the eastern shore watching for signs of the orcs, but it remained unnaturally still. Past the rapids they were able to move swiftly and Aragorn kept them on the water until full dark. They rested uneasily in and near the boats before pushing on early in the morning. They passed the Argonath, the giant statues of ancient kings, in early afternoon.

Near nightfall they reached the Falls of Rauros and could go no further. In the morning they would go their separate ways. Boromir on the western side of the river to Minas Tirith, the rest would cross the river and head east into Mordor.

They camped at Amon Hen.

~~~

Elvish translations:

Hannon le - thank you


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