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3
III. Some Dark Place (Aragorn)




Aragorn could not stop shaking.

He was safe now, riding behind Halbarad on the broad back of his kinsman’s sturdy mare, within the protected bounds of Imladris, in full daylight. Soon they would reach the House of Elrond, and be welcomed with food and care and warm beds where they could sleep in peace.

The Riders had found him the night before, alone on a wooded hill high above a creek. Only three Riders had attacked, which was why he still lived today. He was Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Heir of Isildur, Chieftain of the Dúnedain, rightful King of Gondor, and though he had weathered skirmishes with Orcs and even trolls, known the sharp tang of battle-alert, he had never felt terror until the wraiths had appeared, dark shapes barely divisible from the night that cloaked them. Their chill had frozen the very breath in his lungs. He had forced himself to move, to duck and roll and then hurl firebrands at them as he fled. . Fortunately, he knew that hillside well, better than did the wraiths. He had run, dodged like a hare between rock and tree, finally reached the stream and stumbled through the current.

But he might well have died from the fear they brought, his heart hammering to break his chest wall, if not for Halbarad. Coming early to their meeting, Halbarad had heard his cries, seen the light of the brands he had thrown, and rode round and round in the dark trying to find him. Then Aragorn had staggered out of the water to collapse in his kinsman’s very path. Halbarad had pulled him up and borne him away on the fleet-footed mare. The wraiths had lost two horses, and the one they had left could not carry them all with sufficient haste to catch her.

Aragorn let out a deep, shuddering breath. He was grateful that it was his kinsman and friend who now sat close before him. Halbarad would not reveal how the fear still, shamefully, gripped him. Hopefully, Halbarad had not noticed that Aragorn had soiled himself like a lad in his first battle. He remembered that moment, when the foremost wraith had advanced, reached out for him with night-shrouded gauntleted hands. The water had soaked Aragorn so thoroughly that the smell must have lessened by now. And the mare, whose nose was better than Halbarad’s, did not seem to care.

“Easy now, Aragorn,” Halbarad said. “See, they are opening the doors. We’ll sleep soundly tonight, eh?”
“Indeed,” he answered wearily, and forced himself to sit up straight, clasping the other’s shoulder as the only show of gratitude he could manage for now.

Aragorn could speak no more. He was safe. He had escaped the Riders of Shadow, through Halbarad’s aid and the mare’s good speed. But what still set his heart racing and his hands to unmanly trembling, what brought a cold sweat to his brow was the certainty that sometime, somewhere, he would have to face the Riders again.


***



‘…They will come on you in the wild, in some dark place where there is no help. Do you wish them to find you? They are terrible!'

The hobbits looked at him, and saw with surprise that his face was drawn as if with pain, and his hands clenched the arms of his chair. The room was very quiet and still, and the light seemed to have grown dim. For a while he sat with unseeing eyes as if walking in distant memory or listening to sounds in the Night far away.



The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter 10: Strider

~~~

Author's Note: As far as I could tell, Aragorn normally refers to the wraiths as "Riders", rather than "Ringwraiths" or "Nazgűl", etc. I place this encounter at about 2954-2955, after Sauron sent three Nazgűl to occupy Dol Guldur and before Aragorn began his great journeys.

This ficlet originally written in honor of the birthday of Gandalf's Apprentice.


Author's Note: As far as I could tell, Aragorn normally refers to the wraiths as Riders, rather than Ringwraiths or Nazgűl, etc. I place this encounter at about 2954-2955, after Sauron sent three Nazgűl to occupy Dol Guldur and before Aragorn began his great journeys.

This ficlet originally written in honor of the birthday of Gandalf's Apprentice.


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