Written by Tanith
"Strangers from distant lands, friends of old, you have been summoned here to answer the threat of Mordor. Middle-Earth stands upon the brink of destruction. None can escape it. You will unite or you will fall. Each race is bound to this fate, this one doom..."
The travelers from outside of Middle Earth sat quietly as they listened to Elrond's familiar speech. They were painfully aware of the absense of Frodo from these proceedings. And each wondered what Elrond would say now as he could not ask Frodo to bring forth the ring.
"...You will hear today all that you need in order to understand the purposes of the Enemy. There is naught that you can do, other than to resist, with hope or without it. But you do not stand along. You will learn that your trouble is but part of the trouble of all the western world. The Ring!..."
Tanith, in her seat between The Watcher and a tall elf that she was sure was Glorfindel, started at that change. That wasn't in the movie... but sounded like it was from the book.
Elrond was still speaking.
"That is the purpose for which you are called hither. Called, I say, though I have not called you to me. You have come and are here met, in this very nick of time, by chance as it may seem. Yet it is not so. Believe rather that it is so ordered that we, who sit here, and none others, must now find counsel for the peril of the world..."
CBY absently nodded along with these words. The mysterious workings of fate... or the Force... was no stranger to him. He, for one, already knew that he was here because it was the right time and place for him to be.
Elrond's eyes swept across his audience, as imperious as any high king. His gaze lingered as it met Gandalf's, and a quick, silent exchange seemed to take place.
"Now, therefore, things shall be openly spoken that have been hidden from all but a few until this day. And first, so that all may understand what is the peril, the Tale of the Ring shall be told from the beginning even to this present. And I will begin that tale, though others shall end it."
With his last words, Elrond had turned his eyes upon the various outworlders among the Council. His meaning was quite clear.
As he spoke of the tale that all many of the Net Eventers had already known of before, Tanith made sure to let her gelsuit record the whole proceedings as she listened intently to Elrond's words. It wasn't as much that she thought there was any new information there. But to listen to a Loremaster like Elrond recite the history of the Ring was not a casual occasion either. And besides... such a recording may well be received with the same enthusiasm as Tolkein's books back home...
All too soon, Elrond finished his part of the tale, with the triumph and loss of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. Then, to Tanith's surprise, Gandalf took up the story, and told of the events of the Hobbit.
That wasn't in either the book or the movie, Tanith mused. She looked over to Boromir, who was staring at Gandalf with an intense look upon his face. He hadn't interrupted Elrond's account with a recitation of his brother's dreams... so does that mean that Faramir never received a prophecy about the awakening of the Ring and the involvement of Hobbits? Another look showed that Bilbo, who had been present in the book, was not in the Council now.
Or maybe this world was more like the movie version, where that was never mentioned. She took another glance on the blond elf sitting on the other side of Glorfindel. He was the only elf there dressed in forest green traveling clothes instead of the rich robes and brocades of all the other elves. That could only mean that he was the messenger from Mirkwood, Legolas.
He doesn't look cheerful like the book makes his personality as... Tanith couldn't help but think. Gah. All these contradictions are giving me a headache. It's either a different version from the movie or book, or we've caused a whole lot of divergences from the original timeline with our presences...
Meanwhile, Gandalf had gotten to the part of the search for Gollum. She noted that he spoke of the capture of Gollum by his and Aragorn's efforts after the creature had been tortured for information on the Shire. And after their own questionings, had left the creature in the custody of the Wood Elves...
Chalk up another similarity with the book.
"Is Gollum still in the custody of the Elves then?" she heard herself ask. Inwardly, she crossed her fingers in the hope that this would be one difference from the canon versions. They would be able to save a lot of time if they didn't have to look for the creature; and just skip directly to using Gollum to track the Ring.
But that was not to be. For Legolas was the one who answered. "Alas, the tidings that I was sent to bring must now be told. Smeagol, who is now called Gollum, has escaped. We guarded this creature day and night, at Gandalf's bidding, much though we wearied of the task. But Gandalf bade us hope still for his cure, and we had not the heart to keep him ever in dungeons under the earth, where he would fall back into his old black thoughts."
"You were less tender to me," muttered the dwarf who sat further down.
Legolas pointedly ignored him and continued on to tell of Gollum's escape in the midst of an orc attack. The circumstances in question was clear to all that Gollum had been specifically rescued by the forces of Mordor. When he finished, Gandalf was about to take up the retelling once more when yet another elf spoke up, and asked for proof that the ring that had been spoken of was indeed the One Ring.
Tanith bit her lips. Here it comes...
"Ash nazg durbatulūk, ash nazg gimbatul Ash nazg thrakatulūk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul!" The Black Speech of Mordor rolled off Gandalf's tongue as he took up the challenge made to him by reciting his findings in the archives of Minas Tirith, and the markings he had later seen on the ring. Immediately, a shadow covered the meeting. The elves were visibly pained. The in-suit sensors of Tanith's gelsuit noted down the extreme metaphysical readings that it had suddenly detected.
"Never before has any voice dared to utter the words of that tongue in Imladris," Elrond chided the wizard.
Gandalf remained unapologetic, though, and continued his account. His revelation of Saruman's treachery incited gasps of shock from his audience. Several elves, and even the previously silent Boromir, interrupted the tale to discuss the consequences of such a betrayal.
Finally, after the others had quieted down somewhat, Gandalf described in startling conciseness his very unorthodox rescue from Saruman's tower. He turned then to the outworlders, who had been sitting quietly while the information that they already knew had been recounted.
All the eyes of the Council turned to the small group of metahumans.
Tanith cleared her throat and forced herself to take up the conversation. All of the intense looks directed at her made her feel uneasy. Another reason why I hate public speaking, she thought glumly to herself, before lauching into the speech that she had prepared for their cover story the night before.
"My companions and I come from a land far, far away. A land of miraculous things and hidden dangers. And in our land, there is a book... a story... that tells of the lands of Middle Earth and the histories of the speaking races upon it, from the very beginnings of the world itself to the end of the Third Age. Whether that book is a work of history, of prophecy, or just a simple tale, I do not know. But I do know that it was the discovery of this land, the land that shared the names, the places, the people... and the things of that story, which led to our recent disaster.
"A thief, arrogant of his own abilities, or perhaps foolish of the consequences of his actions, ventured forth into this land. He stole himself into the Shire where the Hobbits live, with nothing less than the intention to steal this terrible weapon that was told of in the story. This One Ring.
"In his escape, however, by chance or by fate, he crossed the path of a good friend of mine, one Z-man by name, who captured this known thief. Out of curiousity did Z-man look to see what precious thing the thief had stolen. And even as he recognized the Ring from the story he had read early in his youth, he was taken by the evil of the Ring.
"What dark promises that wretched thing made to him I do not know. I only do know that my dear friend, who before could not even stand the thought of blood and death, was now willing and capable of slaying four innocent hobbits of the Shire..."
She was interrupted then by a rough voice of the same dwarf who had interrupted Legolas' report.
"Why did he kill the halflings? And why those four? The Hobbits are neither mighty warriors nor wise advisors. They pose no threat to anyone!"
Tanith sighed. "While I do not know the exact whyfors of Z-man's action, I believe I might have a possible reason. For in the story that is told of the One Ring in our land, it tells of a Fellowship of nine walkers who set out from Imladris. One of them, Frodo Baggins, was the ringbearer, who with the help of his eight companions, though fate would separate their paths, succeeded in bearing the Ring to Mordor itself, and destroying it in the fires of Mt. Doom.
"Of the Hobbits in that fellowship, the same four were the only ones slain in Hobbiton. And also, he attacked Lord Aragorn himself at the village of Bree, as well as Gandalf at the Tower of Orthanc. In both, he would have succeeded were it not for the intervention of some of us here, and the hands of fate.
"Thus, we fear that Z-man may see the tale as a work of prophecy, and means to prevent it from coming to pass by slaying all nine members of the Fellowship."
Tanith then turned the floor to Writerboy, who described the events that took place in the village of Bree. He spoke of Z-man's attack on Aragorn, of the strange girl who wielded incredible powers, and of the death of the Witch King of Angmar. He continued until he came to the part where he and a wounded Aragorn met up with Tanith and The Watcher before arriving at Rivendell.
CBY went next, speaking of his investigations in the Shire, of his own views on what happened at Bree, and of the events at Orthanc. He confirmed of the forces that Saruman had been gathering there, and of the large numbers of soldiers that he and Mg had disposed of during their raid. He also told of the strange circumstances surrounding their rescue of Gandalf, and of Z-man's attempt on the wizard's life (or that's how it seemed to him) there.
Meta declined to describe his adventures, for it had little bearing on the matter at hand and the time was already growing late.
There was a small lull in the conversation then. Concerned murmurs broke out among the gathered members of the free races. Finally, it was Glorfindel who spoke up.
"What do you intend to do for your friend's fall into darkness? For I feel that none of you here would be satisfied with only the lending of words to our troubles."
Tanith gestured to Watcher and Mg. "For myself and others who are Z-man's friends and colleagues, we hope to find and stop him from doing falling further into darkness. Just as Gandalf hoped that Gollum could be cured of the Ring's taint, so do we hope to cure our friend.
"But now that we are also painfully aware of the danger that the One Ring poses to all free beings, we are also committed to offer all the help that we can in destroying it and in defeating the Dark Lord. If the tale that Z-man now fervently believes in is truly a work of prophecy, then we would correct the damage he has done by seeing to it that the final happy ending to the book would still come true.
"To put it shortly: We mean to destroy the Ring and keep him from killing any more innocents that were of the Fellowship in the tale."
"Just who are these walkers that this prophecy speaks of?" Asked Aragorn. "We have heard of the four Hobbits; myself and Gandalf. That makes six. Yet nine was the number spoken of. Who were the other three?"
"Each of the free races was represented in the Fellowship," replied Tanith. "For the race of Men there was Lord Aragorn and... Lord Boromir of Gondor."
Boromir started at this, and frowned. He made as if to speak, but Tanith continued on before he could say a word.
"For the race of Dwarves was a Lord Gimli, son of Gloin."
A rough grunt came from one of the dwarves, which was the extent of the reaction that she got from them. Her more sensitive gelsuit, however, picked up the low audio mutterings of Gimli under his breath. "Let 'im try an' attack a dwarf. Aye I'll give 'im a surprise..."
Shifting a bit in her seat, Tanith ignored Gimli's mutterings. "And for the race of Elves was Prince Legolas of Mirkwood."
In his seat, Legolas stiffened at the mention of his name, surprise flashing across his eyes. But he too, remained silent.
As Tanith fell silent, Boromir took the chance to leave his seat, pacing as he spoke. "I care not for the intentions of madmen and the cryptic words of prophecies. I only want to know what will be done for Gondor. The Enemy is upon us!"
Aragorn spoke up from his seat. "As long as the One Ring endures, so does the Spirit of Sauron. To defeat the Enemy, we must destroy the One Ring. Else all the armies of Middle Earth would do naught but prolong the toll of war."
Boromir whirled on the ranger. "Trust to the heir of Isildur to think only of the One Ring over the welfare of his Kingdom!"
Anger and insult flashed across Aragorn's features as the exiled King of Gondor also surged from his seat. His tone was level, but his words struck true and sound. "I but speak the words of one who values the foresight of wisdom, and seeks for the lasting peace of the land instead of a temporary reprieve for his lifetime."
Before the argument could escalate, they were interrupted by the calm voice of The Watcher.
"If I may offer a solution to your dilemma, milords..."
Startled by the interruption of a stranger into the midst of their tension, the two lords of Gondor fell silent as they stared at the outworlder. The Watcher was unfazed by the intensity of their scrutiny as he began outlining his suggestion as soon as he perceived that he had their attention.
"It does not take so many people to track the One Ring. In fact, having an entire army along would defeat the purpose of finding Z-man before he becomes aware of us. It would seem to me then that only a small number of us need to seek Z-man and the Ring. That would still leave ample resources to come to the aid of the southern kingdoms."
Boromir seemed appeased by his sentiments, though skeptical. It was Elrond, though, who replied to Watcher's words, a frown set upon his brow. "If 'tis the resources of numbers that you speak of, I must withdraw the Elven kingdoms from that offer. The Last Alliance was just that, the last of the alliances that was and will be between Elves and Men. Our people are leaving these shores, and those who remain need all of our numbers to defend our very homes."
"Ah. You misunderstand me, Lord Elrond," replied Watcher. "I didn't mean the resources of the Elves. I meant the resources that we bring."
Boromir snorted. "You? You are but few in number. What can you do?"
But this time, Aragorn spoke up on the side of the outworlders, having already seen some of them in action. "They may just be of help. I would not underestimate them, Boromir. They wield powers that I have never seen before."
Boromir still looked skeptical. And it looked like he was about to disagree with the heir of Isildur just on general principle. Across the Council floor, WriterBoy rolled his eyes and decided to defend Aragorn, whom he had formed a tentative friendship with during their escape from Bree. He surreptitiously took one of the pokeballs from his belt and closed his hands around it.
"Then maybe we should just give you a little demonstration." He pushed the button on the pokeball. "Go Golem!"
A flash of red light arced from his hands, and a giant rock creature appeared in the middle of the Council floor. There was a loud crash as Golem landed, its heavy weight creating cracks on the floor itself.
The two men who were standing up both took a step back. Golem strod toward them, each step shaking the ground below them and inducing cracks on the floor.
"Enough!" Boromir cried. "I see there is more to you than appearance. Banish your creature!"
Another red flash, and Golem disappeared back into his pokeball.
"There's far more from where that creature came from," Tanith spoke up quietly, recapturing the two men's attention. "Each with different powers and abilities. In fact, Z-man used one of his own, a dragon-like creature, in his attempt to kill Gandalf."
That bit of information caught the attention of the entire council. To be able to match an Istari in power... and at the very stronghold of another Istari too...
"Then I suppose you will send these... creatures to help in the defense of Gondor?" Boromir asked.
WriterBoy shrugged. "Why not? I'll go to Gondor if I'm not needed elsewhere."
Tanith nodded. "That would be fine, I think. Mg should go with you and Boromir to Gondor as well. He is a soldier, and much more confortable with the matters of war than with seeking a single man who does not wish to be found."
Inwardly, she added, And with his psychological troubles before this happened, I would not want him exposed to the One Ring either.
"But what of the Ring?" Legolas spoke up. "Who would seek it and it's bearer?"
"I will be dead before I see the Ring in the hands of an Elf." Gimli muttered quietly under his breath.
Not quietly enough, though, in a room full of elves. Legolas immediately leapt to his feet in anger, along with several other elves in the room. "Mind your tongue, dwarf!"
Undaunted, Gimli too rose from his seat, swinging his axe with both hands as he did so as he stepped toward the son of the Elf King who had imprisoned his father. "I speak but the truth you--"
He wasn't given a chance to finish when a single Word of Power rang through the room.
With a rough invisible force, Gimli and Legolas were thrown back into their respective seats. All eyes turned to Tanith once more, who was now standing with one hand outstretched. Lowering her arm, Tanith continued to speak as if she had never been interrupted.
"There are two ways that we know of to track the Ring, though it hides itself and its bearer from our arts. One is through the Nine... ah... the eight remaining Nazgul, who are bound to the Ring. And the other would be through the creature Gollum, whose long years of hoarding the Ring binds it even closer to the Ring than even the Ringwraiths."
"Courting the Nazgul is a dangerous thing," Gandalf said quietly. "Any who would attempt to seek them must be able to stand strong against the Black Breath. And there are not many who have that power."
"I would give my services in this, if it were asked of me," volunteered Glorfindel calmly from beside Tanith.
"I have some skill in the healing of those afflicted with the Black Breath..." began Aragorn.
Letting go of her hold on the dwarf and elf, Tanith slowly shook her head. "Your leadership will be needed more in the kingdoms of the South, Lord Aragorn. The race of Men need leadership in the face of war more than we need healers for the victims of the Nazgul. And you, Lord Glorfindel... pardon my words, but the light that surrounds you would make it difficult for you to approach Z-man without him seeing you first and taking flight."
"I can go with Gandalf then," Watcher volunteered. "My powers make me immune to the effects of the Black Breath, and I can also shield our movements from Z-man's Sight." He met Tanith's eyes. "Aside from you, Tanith, I've worked with Z-man the most among us. I've got a good chance of talking some sense into him, if only for a few moments."
Tanith nodded. "That would work." She looked toward Gandalf inquiringly.
"Yes. I suppose that would be for the best," murmured Gandalf. But he wasn't looking at either of the outworlders as he said this, but rather at something far beyond mortal ken.
"Then I would go on the search for Gollum." Legolas, having regained his composure and dignity. "Our people lost Gollum when Gandalf first gave him to us. Honor now demands that we repair that loss."
"And I would insist on going with the elf," Gimli all but spat. "I would not trust him with such a task--"
Tanith cleared her throat and gave him a meaningful glare, silencing the dwarf in mid-insult. Seeing that Legolas, though angry, was not going to take the bait, she frowned at the both of them.
"You two do realize that as members of the Fellowship, both of you will be targetted by Z-man just as you are targetting him, don't you?" Not letting either reply, she went on. "But if you insist on going, then two of us should go with you to ensure you don't get ambushed by your very prey."
She took a short glance over the people not native of Middle Earth at the Council. "I think I would best go with you. As Watcher said, I'm the closest to Z of all of us, and I am the most concerned about his fate also. CBY, I think, should come with me, for he's capable of blocking Z's Sight as well."
"That's cool with me," CBY piped up.
"That just leaves me, then," prompted Metaphysician.
"You should probably go with the party to Gondor," Tanith told him. "You have the ability to keep Z from teleporting into much larger areas than Mg's vest can. It wouldn't be hard for you to keep Z out of Minas Tirith and the battlefields that our two human Fellowship members might need to fight on."
Meta nodded. "Will do."
There was a short silence then. A lull in the voices of the Council. Aragorn broke it first, seeing that the subject of who goes where had been more or less resolved.
"There is one thing that I would like to know," he addressed Tanith. "Your people have shown to have strange powers beyond that even that of the ancient men of Numenor. What, then, are the powers of this Z-man that you seek? You have only hinted at his powers so far, something about a Sight and teleport, but those words are not clear to me."
Tanith chose her words carefully in reply. "Ah. Well by Sight we refer to an ability called clairsentience from our homelands. It... well, it's much like the Eye of Sauron, in that it lets Z-man see anywhere in the world, through stone, shadow, flesh... all but those barriers that are specifically warded against it. The only difference is that there is no Eye for those being perceived to perceive the perceiver.
"Another abilities of his is to speak the tongue of any speaking race that he comes across, even if he has never heard of it before that first time.
"The last, teleportation... there's no real comparison for it in Middle Earth, as far as I know. I allows him to travel from any one place to another in a single instant, provided that he has either been there before or can see the place he wishes to go. By itself, this power is partly limited... but coupled with his clairsentience, it becomes very powerful indeed."
Aragorn nodded as he assimilated this knowledge. It was WriterBoy who spoke up then, as if he just realized something. "Say... if the Ring's going to be trying to pressuring Z to go for Mordor, what's gonna keep him from just teleporting right into Sauron's clutches?"
Tanith smirked. "The Andromeda." Seeing the puzzle looks around her, she clarified. "Blocking out teleportation is much simpler than blocking out clairsentience or most other powers. Sometimes, even protections that aren't specifically aimed toward teleportation can make it unsafe for transport... like the protections around Orthanc, for instance, or that of Imladris itself.
"Right now, I have the Andromeda focusing a wide-beam low-level jamming field around the entire area of Mordor and its surrounding countryside. After his first teleportation into Mordor fails or backfires, Z's smart enough not to try more. If he wants to get into Mordor, he'll have to move on foot... or on one of his poke-- er... his summoned creatures, which the Ring can't hide and the Andromeda can easily detect.
"And the best part of this is, as soon as any of us catches up to Z-man and subdues him, the Andromeda can immediately drop the jamming field, allowing us to directly teleport the Ring into Mt. Doom without risking anyone into close physical contact with its evil."
"The jamming fields would cut down on our mobility as well though," Watcher murmured.
Tanith shrugged. "It's a fair compromise. We still have faster modes of transportation than he does. And if things do get desperate, Rom-- the Andromeda still has the capacity to go through its own jamming field and to teleport us about."
"If you can do that also..." Boromir suddenly realized, "then you can bring us directly to Gondor! We would not have to spend the long months on the road south."
"Are you sure you want to do that though?" Asked Tanith. "With the reports coming in from Rohan and with Isengard's treachery, it might be better to teleport you inside the Gap of Rohan. So that you can be sure that Gondor won't have to face a war on two fronts when the time comes."
"I would not rather pass close to Isengard if given the choice," Aragorn spoke unhappily. "But I agree that it would be wise to test the state of the Rohirrim while on our way to Gondor."
Boromir was unhappy with this choice as well, but he too grudging accepted Tanith's offer. It still cut down on half of their travel time.
"My own clairsentience can give us the general location of Gollum and the Nazgul," offered The Watcher. "It's not going to be exact, lest we startle our targets, but even teleporting directly into the general area should aid our cause."
CBY nodded. "My Force senses can handle it from there. Ah... or the keen skills of my companions."
There was one more that needed to be discussed at that point, and it was Glorfindel who drew attention to it. "Let us return for a moment to the matter of Isengard. Although our new allies have done much damage there, Saruman's power can still reach far."
"I say we let Rommie do some orbital bombardment of Orthanc on the hour," offered CBY half in jest. "If an intergalactic warship can't keep his attention, nothing can."
"Rommie? Integalactic warship?" Aragorn was not the only one puzzled by those terms.
"Ah.. he means the Andromeda," Tanith clarified, "which is a starship... um... a vessel that sails between the stars. The closest analogy in Middle Earth would be... Earendil."
Before the others could wonder over this new tidbit of information, she returned to the topic at hand. "The Andromeda can keep an eye on Isengard, but I'd feel better if someone was actually down there to keep an eye on Saruman. Even as we don't want him to go around meddling with our affairs, we wouldn't want for him to escape either."
"In the book..." Watcher began. "That is, the prophecy, Saruman had been sequestered by the Ents, who were quite angry with him from tearing down the trees in the area to build his orc-pits."
"The Ents?" Elrond raised an eyebrow. "That is a name I have not heard for a long time. They are still to be found in Middle Earth?"
"I belive they live now deep in the forest of Fangorn, milord" Tanith replied. "If I recall correctly from the story, they have not yet forgotten their friendship with the elves. Perhaps if you could spare a messenger to tell them of what Saruman has done, and rouse them against Isengard. They would be able to sequester him in his tower until the Ring is destroyed and the Dark Lord defeated."
Slowly, Elrond nodded. "Yes, that I can do. My sons shall ride east and south through Fangorn forest on their way from Lothlorien to Gondor." He smiled wryly at the two dark haired elven youths beside him. "I know they would rather be at their brother's side when the battle comes."
"You can also have Elizabeth lead some Serra Angels to guard the tower." Mg spoke up for the first time. "She's well trained and knows when to back off."
Tanith nodded. "That works too. They can keep an eye on the place before the Ents arrive. I'll make the call up to Rommie as soon as Council is over."
Another silence fell across the Council. It seemed that all that needed to be discussed was said. And there was now a feeling of satisfaction that permeated the air. A feeling of hope.
"Then it is decided," Elrond announced finally. "Four parties shall set out from Imladris on the morrow. One to Gondor, one to Lothlorien and Fangorn, and two into the wild. Imladris will provide any supplies or mounts that you would need of us." He paused as he remembered CBY's fightercraft, and then qualified, "for those of you that need such."
And with that dismissal, the Council was over.
Written by Locke 11-25-2002 02:29 PM
(Note: This is a followup the assassination of Locke on 2.0. The scene takes place during an interlude of the Council)
"Ah...thank you...Lord Aragorn...this is a priviledge to see the chapel."
The young lady known to her many friends as Tanith, stood wide-eyed in a building in the House of Elrond in Rivendell, taking in a scene she knew only from a long ago theatrical release. Nearby, her frinds who included Watcher and Writer Boy, tried hard not to gawk as they examined a magnificent mural depicting the final struggle against Sauron in the last waning moments of the Second Age. Beside her, the Heir of Isildur, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, weather beaten and worn as his well-used Ranger's garments, contemplated the statue before which only a short while ago, the shards of the Sword that was Broken, Narsil, had lain in honor.
The finest Elvish smiths who yet remained upon Arda, laboured now to pour their combined millenia of skill and craft into the reforging of that blade which would henceforth be known as Anduril, Flame of the West. Tanith and her comrades had decided not to request leave to witness the reforging, reluctant to impose furthur upon their hosts. Surely though, to watch the Elvish craftsmen at work would have been a tremendous educational experience to say the least. Still, no invitation had been offered, and the outworlders had taken this as a gentle hint Lord Elrond wished at least some secrets of Elvish lore to, in fact, remain secret
Tanith looked patiently at her host who stood reverently with bowed head before the statue. He who had borne no few names himself turned from his dark haired companion, and nodded somberly.
"Welcome, my friends. Be at ease in the House of Elrond. Perhaps...perhaps you might know me best as Strider. I am Lord of nothing and boast of no kingdom beyond the ground on which I stand."
Tanith returned his wane smile. She had not truly anticipated a hero of legend, of fabled story and song might be so shy and diffident, so at ease in his plain huntsman's garb, so dismissive of his imperial heritage...
Gotta remember....he's not a king yet...not decided on whether or not he'll seek his throne....
"What did you want to tell me...Strider?" asked Tanith curiously.
"You will think me no friend, dear lady," said the exiled King, "but you must know the truth. I have been moved by a grim foreboding that must be heeded. I fear deep sorrow shall seize upon you and your comrades when at last, you return home"
"I...don't follow," murmured Tanith with a frown. This did not bode well. "Has something happened?"
Tanith was frowning now. Her comrades likewise fell silent. For the first time, Aragorn's companion spoke, in an ethereal lilting voice. Ghostly lustrous she seemed, bathed in starlight as she gazed upon the outworlders.
"It is the gift of Aragorn's line and blood to have some measure of foreknowledge of that which may be," said Arwen. "And mayhaps a burden as well, for these tidings are seldom pleasant. None who carry the Doom of Men gladly hear such redes as he speaks in such moments. Yet with such courage as you possess, you must bear with good grace, what ill- fortunes may seem by chance to befall you."
"There's...nothing more you can tell me?" Tanith pursued, "...that's it?" She bit her lower lip, anxious not to seem argumentative. Aragorn took a moment before he replied. When he did so, confusion still remained.
Aragorn began speaking again: "Perhaps, perhaps not. Long ago, in my youth, I sought out lands beyond even Rhun and Harad, to realms where even the very starry circles of the heavens were unknown to me. Even Mithrandir has not wandered so far as I, even in all the numberless years since he set foot upon the Grey Havens, and departed from the great white ship that carried him out of the West to the shores of Middle Earth. I stood upon a stairway hewn from stone, drenched in the light of the full Moon and saw a sight so strange, even now, I scarcely credit it. To a pale city in the sky I ascended, and in ghostly streets I walked in the very heavens, amongst towers that might have been home to Manwe and Varda themselves. I cannot name the Powers who dwell in the realm that cast this reflection in their sky where a man might walk....their very names were not given to me. I know not how I came to this place, nor why, nor how I came to find my road home again.
"She who I met there, and spoke to, was herself passing strange. I thought her nearly a Vala, like unto Ulmo, and those of the Ainur and Maiar who serve him in the waters of the Deep. She spoke but briefly, only of a small deed that must be done, that might play a small part in the righting of a wrong yet to come. These odd boons she gave me upon that night, to be handed over to those who would have need of them...and I ken, my friends, that the need be yours."
Tanith remained puzzled as Strider handed over what she took at first to be playing cards. One of them, slick and bright, cold to her touch. Alive somehow...vibrant with power. Whoever had drawn this card had not merely been an artist of remarkable skill, he was a mage as well, reeking of power that she had felt only in the Istari, Gandalf the Maia. More power then he, if that was even possible. She looked upon the card...the eldritch woman of the sea Aragorn had spoken to.
A fragment of a line once read ran through her mind...incomplete and taunting, pricking her memory...
..whose hair matched her jade-colored eyes, dressed in shimmering gray and green with a lavender belt, and looking moist and sad. for some reason, I knew she was not like the rest of us. But she too was my sister...
She looked at the other card...no...this was a photograph of some sort...color...decades old....a boy scarcely more then a toddler...straw blond and pale, with a yellow, dirtied shirt who was clearly enjoying his romp in the front yard of a modest home. Tricky and mischievous he appeared, heedless of grief. Smiling broadly in a fashion the man too seldom did. She inspected the photo more carefully, in an effort to glean some inkling of who he might be. Eyes and crooked nose both were familiar to her, and known. She knew him, or someone very much like him...Rommie would give her a flawless image of the man the child would become, and she would know, beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Well...this mystery I can solve easily enough...
In truth however, she feared she already knew too well of whom Aragorn spoke so gravely.
What Rommie would tell her would be a sad, bitter confirmation, and nothing more...
Tanith looked again at the Ranger, Strider, pressing for more, for even a tiny shard of more concrete data with which to work. He shook his grey flecked head sadly, as his companion, the Lady Arwen, Elrond's daughter lay a soft hand on his shoulder in quiet support.
"Alas, my friends, that must be your burden, and not mine to carry. Alas, for the moment, however, it is a burden to be laid aside for more pressing concerns. I thank you for your aid in our desperate plight. I would beg thy forgiveness for the tidings of grief I lay upon thee, for there is naught I can do to aid thee, as thou have so selflessly aided all that is dear to me. I fear I am a poor friend indeed to so reward such courage... but honor demands truth, however cold and unwelcome a guest she may be. I ken that the Gift of Man hath befallen one near to you, and harried him off to the Halls Of Mandos from which no souls save Beren and Luthien ever returned."
And to this sorrow draped statement , neither Tanith nor her crestfallen comrades had the words with which to reply..
Written by Yeoman 11-17-2002 10:46 PM
CBY: Tanith, I would appreciate if the Andromeda could store my fighter for now. I'd rather not leave it here, and it is unlikely to be of use where we are going.
Tantih: Can't you just move it back to Terra-Mars?
CBY: I. . . would. . . rather not. I am trying to avoid attention right now. And the fighter itself did not actually come from Terra-Mars. I have several small safe houses in the multi-verse. It came from one of those.
Tanith: Alright, but if Rommie senses anything dangerous to her on it...
CBY: Hmph. Have no fear. For now, I must tell Bilbo of his nephews demise. I will see you in the morning.
Written by WriterBoy 11-18-2002 11:35 AM
He telepathically sensed someone approaching him. Turning, he found Boromir.
"Hail, Lord WriterBoy."
WriterBoy grimaced. "Just Michael or Mike will be fine. The WriterBoy thing is sort of a trade name for back home. Hell, I'm in my 30s now; 'Boy' is the last thing I should be calling myself."
Boromir didn't follow most of this, and so ignored it. "What do you think of the Council's decision to delay in Rohan? Should we not move directly to Minas Tirith and prepare for the coming war?"
"I understand your desire to proterct your home, Lord Boromir, but the decision of the Council is wise. In the version of events I read, the Rohirrim played a key role in overcoming the Siege of Gondor. While events have changed greatly, the Riders of Rohan are still worthy allies. Plus, King Theoden is under the influence of Saruman, and the dark veil cast over his eyes must be lifted."
"Ha!" Boromir sneered. "Such a weak man has no right being king of a people! When we reach Minas Tirith, you will meet my father, Denethor, and see what a true leader of men is like!"
WriterBoy grunted noncomittally. It looked like the Stewards of Gondor would be as much a problem here as in the original history. He silently thanked whatever gods might be watching that, at the very least, Boromir would come nowhere near the Ring this time.
"Is it done?"
"Almost. The metal is hard to work with, and the damage is old."
"Why did the strangers insist on this course of action?"
"Something about maintaining a prophecy. They all seemed quite adamant that the sword be reforged."
"I'm not entirely sure about them. But if Lord Elrond trusts them, it's good enough for me. How much longer?"
"It will be done by nightfall."
Written by Yeoman 11-17-2002 11:00 PM
Bilbo: I have a favor to ask of you.
Bilbo: I want you to make sure the ring is destroyed. Make sure no one esle suffers over the cursed thing.
CBY: Well that is the point of this. If we fail, none of us are likely survive anyway.
Bilbo: Please, humor an old hobbit, promise me.
CBY: Sigh, very well, I promise you that I will ensure the rings destruction.
Bilbo: Thank you. And please, take these with you, they may come in handy.
*Bilbo presents CBY with Sting and his mirthril shirt.*
Written by The Watcher 11-18-2002 01:55 PM
Concened about the situation, he tried to peer ahead and see likely possibilities which lay ahead, only to find mists of uncertainity. He frowned at this unacustomed failure of his vision. Just then Gandalf strode up behind him.
Gandalf: You seem upset, my friend.
Watcher: I am. I have the power to see beyond now, to what may be. I tried to look ahead, to see what might happen on our quest, but for some reason my vision is clouded.
Gandalf: Do not be too concerned. Even the wisest can not see all ends. Not all that is to come can be revealed, for what may be is the province of a greater power than ourselves.
Watcher: True, and if he doesn't want me to see, then there must be a good reason. Still, I can't help but worry.
Gandalf: And so you are in the same boat that we all are in, men, dwarves, wizards, and elves alike. That does not seem so bad now, does it?
Watcher: No, not when you put it that way.
And with that they walked back to eat dinner, unsure of the road which lay before them but still determined to walk it.
Written by Yeoman 11-17-2002 11:10 PM
Outside Tanith's Quarters
CBY Knocks on the door and waits. After a few moments the door opens.
Tanith: What do you want now?
CBY: Here, Bilbo gave these to us to help. I really don't see anyway they can, and they arn't really my style.
CBY hands Tanith the Mithril shirt and Sting and walks off into the night of Rivendell.
Written by Yeoman 11-18-2002 01:30 AM
CBY: Andromeda, if you would, one to beam up.
There was a brief moment. And then CBY dematerialized from Rivendell, reappearing in Andromeda's transporter room, facing the ship's avatar.
Rommie: What do you want?
CBY: It struck me that in all the times I've crossed Tanith's path, I've never actually been aboard you.
Rommie: And so you thought you'd do a tour in the middle of the night? Shouldn't you be resting?
CBY: The Force sustains me mostly. I rarely sleep. And my dreams are of little comfort either.
Rommie: I'll be monitoring your position the entire time you are aboard. And I *will* be notifiying Tanith of your visit as well.
CBY: As you wish.
*Some time later CBY finds his way to the mess hall.*
CBY: Hmmm... Nice. No wonder her crew is so loyal. Heh.
Kasumi: Oh, Mr. Yeoman, I had no idea you were back on board again so soon.
CBY: Close. But no.
Kasumi: Oh. Mr. Chaos Bringer. What are you doing on board?
CBY: Just a fancy that struck me. Tell me, do you have anything to drink on this ship.
Kasumi: Oh, yes. With Mr. Scott aboard, we have to.
CBY: Heh. Well then, pour me a stiff drink, and I'll tell you a few stories.
Half an hour later
CBY: So there I am, reappearing a good fifty feet in the air, as a panda, over the springs. And I'm thinking, oh good, least I'll be human. Or course what I didn't know at the time. . .
An hour after that
CBY: And then. . . and then, Jo picks this moron up and just tosses him across the bar. Man that was a great time.
And so on into the night
Written by Tanith 11-18-2002 12:57 PM
"Chaos Bringer Yeoman requested a beam up and is currently taking a tour of my facilities," came Rommie's voice.
Tanith blinked in puzzlement. She didn't mind CBY visiting the Andromeda, and seeing the non-secure areas, but... "That's fine Rommie, but how did you beam him up? I thought Imladris was protected from direct teleportation effects."
"It is," came the ready reply. "However, I am using the various tranceivers located on the PaDT equipment that you, Watcher and Mg carry to boost my displacement signals through the interference."
"Ah. I see." Tanith nodded to herself, even though Rommie couldn't see her. As long as it's something that Z can't duplicate on his own, she didn't mind the small convenience. And since she was on the comm channel... "In the mean time, Rommie, there's a few items that I'd like you to beam down to me... well, not in my room. Let me get outside first."
So saying, she made her way to the archery field area between the gardens and stables of Imladris. There didn't seem to be anyone around at the moment.
"You can beam down the... ah... transportation I ordered now."
With a shimmer, a small group of horses stood before her. Most were ebony black, but one was steel-like. A couple of pokeballs appeared at her feet.
She picked up the pokeballs and put them into her subspace pocket. One contained a trained Rapidash, which Watcher will need to be able to keep up with Gandalf's Shadowfax... well, as soon as they get Shadowfax in the first place, which shouldn't be hard for a clairsentient gater.
She herself was already planning on riding her own pokemon, a Stantler. Since they were not planning on going into any cities, she didn't think it mattered if her mount looked out of place.
The other pokeballs contained pokemon that she had worked with before, but did not usually bring along on her travels. Either due to power or temperament, they usually worked at the PaDT division on the Pokeworld. She wanted them along now just in case Z-man lets loose with his own pokemon. While she was sure that her usual pokemon could do well against his, her's had been chosen for versatility, not sheer power, and she wanted to keep all possibilities covered.
The rest of the horses were all MtG artifact creatures, most of which looked just like horses. The special abilities of the Ebony Horse weren't very important, but she figured that Mg might find some use for the abilities of the Clockwork Steed.
"What manner of creatures are these?" A rough voice suddenly interrupted.
Tanith whirled around in surprise, and found herself confronted by a dwarf who was staring at the horses, and the Clockwork Steed in particular, with an intense fascination.
"Master Gimli," she said, surprised, "I'd thought you'd be in bed by now."
"I could not sleep, Lady Tanith," said Gimli, still staring at the metal horse. "It was by chance that my meanderings crossed your path. But, I would dearly like to know what manner of creature or contraption is this."
"It is called a Clockwork Steed, Master Gimli," replied Tanith, "a creation of magical artifice."
"Who shall be riding it?" asked Gimli.
"Mg will, most likely," Tanith said as she started to herd the various equines toward the stables. "It has several abilities that only those who wield the same kind of magic that created it can call forth, and Mg is one who can."
"And I suppose these other fine horses are for the rest of those who are leaving Imladris?" asked Gimli. "I would think that Lord Elrond would have happily provided any horses for you all."
"True, but they would be Elven horses," replied Tanith. "Not all of us--indeed, most of us--do not have the skill to ride or command one of them. I suspect that only Legolas and Aragorn would be leaving astride an Elven horse."
"That is true," admitted Gimli. "All they have are these wild beasts that tower and trot in foolish fancy. None are of the size to serve the mount of a dwarf." There, he paused as Tanith gave over the steeds to the Elven stablemaster, along with some low voiced orders on how to ready them for the morning.
When she was done, Gimli began speaking again as the two of them walked down the path away from the stables. "Do you perchance have a mount that would befit me, Lady? It seems that you have the intention to proceed forth on horseback and not foot."
Tanith considered for a moment to call for a Ponyta, when another idea sprang to mind. Since her group would not be traveling through Lothlorien, Gimli would not have a chance to meet Galadriel and reconcile with the Elven race through her. So she needed some other way to force... er, help... his friendship with Legolas along.
"I fear I do not, Master Gimli," she told him. "For none of our people are quite your size either. But do not worry, Master dwarf. I am sure that you can ride double with another of our group."
Gimli muttered something unhappily, then sighed. "I suppose that shall be so. That CBY seemed like an fine fellow..." In his preoccupation, he did not see Tanith's quickly-stifled smirk. After walking quietly along for a few more moments, he suddenly turned to her. "I should best be going now, Lady. And you should rest for the morrow as well. Good night, milady."
"Good night, Master dwarf," Tanith called after his departing form.
Written by Mg_knt 11-18-2002 07:46 PM
*There was a loud knock on Writerboy's door. A voice shouted through the door.*
"Time to get up."
*Writerboy rolled out of be and stumbled to the door. He opened the door and was greeted by Mg.*
Mg:"Rise and shine. You have thirty minutes to get ready to leave."
Writerboy:"The sun isn't even up yet...."
Mg:"It will be when we are ready to leave. By the way here is the stuff you will be taking with you."
*Mg dropped a saddle bag in front of Writerboy.*
Mg:"Inside are waterproof clothes, riding boots, a military grade .357 magnum with four clips and a box of bullets, a survival knife, a sword, waterproof all weather sleeping bag, first aid kit, matches, and a emergency beacon."
*With that Mg turned and headed off to where the horses were being loaded with goods for the journey.*
Written by WriterBoy 11-18-2002 07:53 PM
He stopped by the forge. "Is it ready?"
The five met at the stables: WriterBoy, Boromir, M_g, Aragorn, and Metaphysician. WriterBoy held a wrapped package out to Aragorn. "I had the smiths whip this up for you."
Aragorn unwrapped it. Both Middle-Earthers caught their breath. "The Blade that was Broken..." Boromir whispered.
"Keep it covered until it's time to reveal yourself. When we get to Rohan and Gondor, you'll need a symbol of your power."
"Thank you, friend," said Aragorn. " He sheathed the sword.
Mg looked down from atop his horse. "If this vaguely homoerotic scene is done, let's ride. We have a long way to go."
WriterBoy eased himself into the saddle and smiled. "The road goes ever on and on, eh?"
Mg just muttered something unprintable and spurred his horse. The others followed. The First Fellowship rode out of Rivendell and into the early morning.
Written by Tanith 11-18-2002 09:29 PM
Thank goodness for caffiene. And those other nice Culture-biotech goodies.
Looking around once more to make sure that she hadn't left anything behind, she left her suite. As she walked down the corridor, she was joined by The Watcher, who had also left his room at the same time.
"Have you checked to see where Shadowfax is?" she asked him.
"I looked for him last night, and I think I found him," Watcher replied. "I plan to tell Gandalf about it and have him be our first stop."
Tanith nodded. "Good. And Gollum?"
Watcher frowned a bit as he replied. "It's harder to keep track of him. He moves around constantly, never in the same area for long. And I can't gate you guys directly on top of him, as you don't want to startle him from his tracking the Ring. But I do have the general area he's in."
"Where are you planning to drop us?" Tanith asked as the two of them stepped out onto where the preparation for their own groups were being made.
"Just a bit beyond Rauros Falls," said Watcher.
"Where the original Fellowship had broken up," supplied Tanith with a hint of resignation. "Joy." So saying, she took out two pokeballs. With a red flash, a dark brown Stantler and a blazing Rapidash stood before her.
"Hullo Han-mei, Antares." she greeted the creatures. Han-mei, the Stantler, playfully bumped her with its nose in greeting, and Antares the Rapidash whinnied in response.
"You'll be riding Antares, Watcher," Tanith said to both Watcher and the Rapidash. "He should be able to keep up with Shadowfax's pace."
Tanith took out a strange looking halter from her subspace pocket and put it on Antares. "This is a low grade holo-generator," she told Watcher as she pointed out the various buttons places sublty on the halter. "It'll keep Antare's bright fires from being noticed by Z-man or the Nazgul... until it's too late, of course."
Watcher nodded as he took the reigns with one hand and place another onto Antares' back. Unlike most other Rapidashes, Antares tolerated the touch of a relative stranger fairly well, as long as they were introduced by its owner. His sweet temperament was why Tanith usually had him assigned to carrying tourists around for PaDT.
"I've also had Rommie insert a mild psi-blocker behind his ears," Tanith continued as she began to lead her own ride toward where the other horses were. "It won't be enough to totally block out the physical aspects of the Black Breath, but I'm hoping that it'll be good enough to leave him enough wits to raise a bonfire to protect himself before the Nazgul can get close to him."
They were both distracted then, by the various details of preparation. Prepared bags of equipment, weapons (for the native Middle Earthers), food, and other things were put on the horses. Both pokemon mounts also carried a small bag of pokemon-specific healing potions.
It was then that another "problem" arose...
"I'm sorry Gimli," CBY shrugged as he told the dwarf, "but it looks like my horse will be carrying too much stuff to fit another person on it."
Gimli frowned. "Surely you can move some of those baggage onto another horse. The elf's perhaps, as he doesn't seem to be carrying much."
Before either Legolas or CBY could reply to that, Tanith broke in. "Uh... that won't work, I'm afraid. Some of the stuff that CBY's horse is carrying need careful handling that the horse he's riding is trained to carry." She wasn't *technically* lying, as there was some rather delicate equipment there, and the horse was trained. "I would offer to have you ride with me, but Han-mei does not like strangers and cannot carry much more than my own weight and the packs that he already has. Perhaps you could ride with Prince Legolas..."
"WHAT?!" Twin exclamations of surprise and outrage sounded from both elf and dwarf. The two glared at each other.
CBY raised his hand to his temple. "Please, not so loud. Tanith, never challenge Kasumi Tendo to a drinking contest."
"I? Allow a dwarf on my Lanthir?" Legolas looked angry and dismayed as his horse seemed to whinny in agreement.
"I would not ride with you if it were my choice either, elf!" Gimli growled right back.
"Come now!" A new voice interrupted their fight before it could begin. All turned to see the disapproving face of Gandalf the Grey. "Surely, in this dire hour, the conflicts of the elves and dwarves can be put to rest for the better good of all Middle Earth! How else can we withstand the Dark Lord, if we cannnot stand with each other!"
Thus chastised, and not wishing to anger a wizard, Legolas and Gimli could do little but accept the arrangement with sullen silence. As Tanith mounted her Stantler, she caught a knowing look from Gandalf, and returned a mischeivous grin of her own.
As soon as her group was ready, The Watcher opened up a gate to the lower banks of the Rauros Falls. The motely group of four made their way through the gate, before it rippled shut behind them, leaving them to their quest to find Gollum.
Written by Yeoman 11-18-2002 09:52 PM
CBY: I have something else for us to use. The pounding in my head has reminded my of the one resource I always keep with me.
The Chaos bringer handed each of the others a small silver triangle with a large button placed in the middle, and one end painted red.
CBY: If we become seperated, and you find Gollum, and you believe it may be impossible to find him later, point this at him, and push the button.
CBY: And I can't stress this enough, do *not* use it unless you are sure we would never be able to find him again. And, after you use it, I suggest running. Quickly. And cover your ears.
Tanith sweatdropped as she took the button.
Tanith: Thanks CBY, but wouldn't a simple tracer do the job without the bang?
CBY: A tracer can be lost, fall off, be found. And this isn't anything as crude as an explosive. No, Gollum will never get rid of this. And it will make him quite easy to find. These are Holo-GIR generators.
Written by Tanith 11-18-2002 10:19 PM
Tanith put the button away.
"Besides, my tracers are the cutting edge of hi-tech. It's shot through a gun and will stay nice and subcutaneous on Gollum. He won't be losing it. Heck, it's so small that he probably won't even notice it in the first pace.
"But never mind that right now. We've still a long way to go before we find the creature. Can you sense which general direction he's in?"
Even ask she asked him, Tanith raised a hand to the side of her temples and tapped lightly on the invisible layer of her gelsuit there. Immediately, a transparent visor appeared over her eyes, with data readings scrolling across it.
Written by Yeoman and Tanith
Tanith shrugged. "Well? Which direction then? My scanners can't tell the difference between Gollum and your average orc without getting more information."
CBY points to his left. "There, he should be in that direction."
"That way leads to Mordor," said Gimli unhappily from where he sat behind Legolas.
"Joy." Tanith spurred Han-mei on in the direction indicated. "Well, might as well get started. Don't forget to obscure us with the Force, CBY. I'll keep a scanner lookout for any unwelcome visitors."
CBY followed. "I must warn you, my ability to hide us from prying eyes, is both imperfect against methods not derived from the force, and is derived from the Dark Side. It may draw undue attention from the forces of Mordor. And from Sauron himself."
Written by Tanith 11-18-2002 11:28 PM
Besides, as soon as Saruman reports to him of the movements of the Gondor party, or when a certain Steward of Gondor is freed from his palantir's spell, Sauron will be too busy raising his forces there against what he sees the be the sign of his doom, the reforged Narsil, than to pay any attention to us.
In the meantime, I'll turn on the teleportation scramblers. And for you two..."
Tanith tossed what seemed like three tiny silver sparkles at Legolas, Gimli, and their mount. The tiny devices seemed to disappear as it touched their skin.
"These transmitters will keep track of you as well, in case we get separated or in the event of extreme danger. I don't expect too much trouble, but 'tis always better to be prepared."
Legolas and Gimli, utterly perplexed by the entire conversation that had taken place, merely kept silent. And so it was in silence that the group started their long journey.
Written by Tanith 11-19-2002 11:49 AM
They moved southeast, through the thinnest part of Emyn Muil, and thus emerged not directly in front of the Dead Marshes, but on its edge, with another marshland to their south. There, they stopped for a short lunch break.
Although Legolas and Gimli still occassionally threw barbs at one another, the prospects of getting ever closer to Mordor had cooled their antagonism. Now, they mostly ignored each other in hostile silence. Tanith supposed that it was one small step to getting them to tolerate one another.
The elves of Imladris had provided packets of lembas, Elvish waybread, for their journey. They would not be pressed for food anytime soon. Tanith thought that water might be more of a concern, knowing the georgraphy of the regions around and in Mordor. Which was why she had taken care to have Rommie provide an ample source of it using the convenience of spatial folding technologies.
Upon finishing their short break, the small group moved onwards. Their general direction was southeast, toward the corner of Mordor proper. After discussing their path over lunch, the group had decided to go through the Dead Marshes. Although the place was foul and treacherous to move through, there would be less chances of them coming across any orcish patrols.
They had thought a-right. As they neared the marshes, but before they had reached it, CBY suddenly tilted his head as if he heard a far off sound. "I feel a disturbance in the Force. Something draws near..." he murmured.
Tanith ran through her sensor readings. "Many somethings. Non-human, so it can't be a patrol force from Gondor. Somehow, I don't think they're friendly." She looked around. "I don't suppose we have anywhere around here to hide, I could try to set up an illusion--"
"Bah! Gimli runs from no servant of Sauron! We fight!" announced Gimli from behind Legolas. He sounded almost happy about the prospects. "As soon as I get off this blasted horse!"
Legolas was all to glad to oblige, pausing his steed to let the dwarf jump off. He was also scanning the distance with his keen elvish senses, trying to sense what the two humans had detected. "Yrch!"
CBY jumped off his horse as well. He didn't mind a short round of exercise, as he thought of it, with the cannon fodder, and the approaching orcs were close enough for him to sense as not much of a threat to the group. But he also wasn't about to fight on horseback. Tanith followed suit, calling CBY's horse to her as well. She whispered a command to Han-mei, and the Stantler began to lead the Ebony Horse to a short distance away.
"Have your steed go with them, Legolas," she told the elf. "Han-mei can keep them safe behind his illusion."
Relunctantly, Legolas did so. As soon as his elvensteed joined the other two, Han-mei's antlers began to glow. A small ripple appeared in the space between them and spread outwards, creating an illusion that where the three mounts had been, there was only a large rock.
Turning back to the others, Tanith checked her readings once more. The partrol force was small... well, small when compared to what damage her group could do, and she didn't doubt that they'd be quickly defeated.
Just then, the orcs came into sight. With a roar, they rushed toward the group of four travelers...
Written by Yeoman 11-19-2002 12:03 PM
Gimli: What sorcery is this?
CBY smiled, and as the orcs drew close broke their ranks with a blast of telekinetic force. With their foes confused the fellowship attacked.
This is what I'd hoped to avoid here. The Dark Side can only attract more of these things. And I can sense my end drawing closer the further we go down this path. I should not have come here.
Written by Tanith 11-19-2002 12:34 PM
Just then, a group of a dozen orcs rushed toward her, thinking her to be easy prey. Legolas, who was closer to her than the two others, turned to give warning, but was cut short when a barrage of blaster-bolts downed the front ranks of the orcs that rushed her. With a sweep of her arm, the rest of them suddenly found themselves standing, or rather sinking, on quicksand.
The elf blinked in surprise, but quickly had to turn his attention back to the fight. Tanith smirked to herself as she took aim with her blaster once more. So much for a harmless maiden in distress...
Written by Tanith 11-19-2002
Saruman the White sat inside his inner sanctums, his hand held aloft over a round crystal orb. Just moments earlier, he had sensed an intrusion into his lands, and had hurried to see what new portents now entered the game. He had been able to get a glimpse of a small party of travelers before something suddenly obscured his vision. But no matter; he had seen enough.
He recognized three of the men in the party of four. One had been the soldier who had succored Gandalf from his very tower while he had been busy elsewhere. Another he'd recognized for the son of the Steward of Gondor, Denethor's younger son. The presence of the Heir of Isildur particularly disturbed him. If Aragorn would reach Minas Tirith and unify the south...
Nay. He would see to it that that would never happen. Already, his ally, the Dark Lord, is in full awareness of the complications caused by these strangers to Middle Earth. Sauron would see to it that his forces would be raised in time to crush the armies of the west.
And he, Saruman, would put his own touch on the occasion. Reaching out with his sight and his mind, Saruman used the palantir as a foci to bespeak his servant in Rohan.
Grima Wormtongue! Thy master commands thee!
In a tiny simpering tone, the answering voice came.
I hear, my lord. Grima hears. What orders for Grima, my lord?
In but few days hence, five travelers shall pass through Edoras. One among them shall be Boromir of Gondor, and another Aragorn the Heir of Isildur. Three strangers shall come with them. They shall rest at Theoden's halls.
Should I refuse them entry, my lord? Turn the eyes of Theoden-king from all thoughts of strangers?
Nay. You are to allow them within the city, as a spider weaves a net for its prey. But do not let the three outlanders before Theoden, for I do not trust their ways. For the two sons of Gondor, you shall see to it they do not leave Rohan alive. Let news of their death reach the towers of Gondor. Let Denethor avenge his son by warring upon Rohan.
Grima hears your orders, lord. Grima will see to it that the sons of Gondor shall be no more. But what of the strangers, my lord? What shall be their fate?
Saruman smiled a sinister grin, even though his servant could not have seen him.
Have you not oft wished for the hand of Eowyn the fair, and wished that her meddlesome brother stood not in your way? Then have care that Eomer the sister-son of Theoden falls also on that day, and cast the blame of his death upon the strangers. Within the city of Edoras, Theoden shall exact his vengeance upon them.
Grima understands. Eomer shall not live for long.
Good. See to it that my orders are carried forth.
Saruman dropped the link then. 'And if even if Theoden could not execute the strangers,' thought Saruman to himself, 'then at least the they would not have sanctuary in Rohan or Gondor anymore. Perhaps they could even cause as much damage there as they did upon my tower.' Satisfied with his own cunning plans, Saruman turned his attention back to his communications with Grima.
Written by WriterBoy 11-19-2002 01:29 PM
About midday, they stopped by a stream to water the horses. WriterBoy glanced up at the sky. "We should move faster. We're being watched."
"How can you tell?" asked Mg?.
"My telepathy. I keep a constant psychic awareness of my surroundings. Something is watching us, probably with a palantir."
"Saruman? asked Aragorn.
"Possibly. Or it could be Sauron, although his attentions are probably more on Gondor at the moment. And the other four palantir are unaccounted for, even to my world."
"Four? I only know of two, Saruman's and the Enemy's. Where is the third?"
WriterBoy bit his tongue. Stupid! he thought. "I'd rather not say, for fear of alerting whoever may be watching us. Suffice to say it is in a safe place." That's close enough to the truth, and still enough of a lie not to let on to Boromir what I have to do. Suddenly, he sensed something else.
"Riders approaching, from Edoras. Everybody put on your happy faces."
Written by The Watcher 11-19-2002 04:09 PM
Suddenly, before the great horse, three beings suddenly appeared. Using his dimensional manipulation, the Watcher had displaced Gandalf, himself, and his mount Antares to where he sensed the legendary stallion roamed.
Watcher: There he is Gandalf. The mount that our tales say carried you swiftly and surely across the land. Now all you have to do is tame him.
Gandalf: That shall not be difficult. Shadowfax, please come.
The Istari called the horse with the tone of an old friend, and Shadowfax answered by galloping toward him. Halting before Gandalf, he let himself be mounted by the wizard.
Gandalf: Now that we both have steeds, let us be on the trail fo the Nine.
And with that The Watcher reached out with his senses and located the Nazgul. Opening a gate to a reasonable distance behind the dark riders, Gandalf and he rode through. Using his powers to keep track of the Nazgul while obscuring any attempt of others to scry them, he and his companion followed in their wake, hoping they would be lead to their real quarry.
Written by Mg_knt 11-19-2002 05:36 PM
"Who are you, and what are you doing in this land?" said the Rider, using the Common Speech of the West...
Mg rose to his feet: his hand drew his pistol, and his dark eyes flashed. "Give me your name, rider, and I will give you mine, and more besides," he said.
"As for that," said the Rider, staring down at Mg, "the stranger should declare himself first. Yet I am named Eomer son of Eomund, and am called the Third Marshal of Riddermark... Now tell me your right name."
"First tell me whom you serve," said Aragorn. "Are you friend or foe of Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor?"
"I serve only the Lord of the Mark, Theoden King son of Thengel." answered Eomer. "We do not serve the Power of the Black Land far away, but neither are we yet at open war with him; and if you are fleeing from him, then you had best leave this land. There is trouble now on all our borders, and we are threatened; but we desire only to be free, and to live as we have lived, keeping our own, and serving no foreign lord, good or evil. We welcomed guests kindly in the better days, but these times the unbidden stranger finds us swift and hard. Come! Who are you? Whom do you serve?..."
"I serve no man," said Aragorn; "but the servants of Sauron I pursue into whatever land they may go... I am not weaponless."
Aragorn threw back his cloak. The elven-sheath glittered as he grasped it, and the bright blade of Anduril shone like a sudden flame as he swept it out. "Elendil!" he cried. "I am Aragorn son of Arathorn and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dunadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil's son of Gondor. Here is the Sword that was Broken and is forged again! Will you aid me or thwart me? Choose swiftly!"
Mg, Boromir, Meta, and Writerboy looked at their companion in amazement, for they had not seen him in this mood before. He seemed to have grown in stature while Eomer had shrunk; and in his living face they caught a brief vision of the power and majesty of the kings of stone. For a moment it seemed to the eyes of Writerboy that a white flame flickered on the brows of Aragorn like a shining crown.
Eomer stepped back and a look of awe was in his face. He cast down his proud eyes. "These are indeed strange days," he muttered. "Dreams and legends spring to life out of the grass."
Being rather late in the day and Writerboy was complaining of being saddle sore the party decided to take camp in a spot not far from the spring. Boromir, Aragorn,Eomer, and his companions marveled at the laptop computer which was playing Braveheart. Meta watched over the the group to make sure they didn't try to break it. Writerboy was out tending his pokemon and Mg was off at the edge of the campfire staring up at the stars.*
Written by WriterBoy 11-19-2002 07:19 PM
So focused was he on feeding his friend was he that he almost didn't notice the psychic stench until it was too late. Venusaur did, though, and let out a low roar. WriterBoy turned just in time to see the orc axe come falling at his head. He let out a yell as Venusaur used its vines to pick him up and throw him out of the way, then threw itself at the orc, a primal "SAUR!" escaping its throat. It seized the orc with two more vines and crushed it against the ground with brutal strength, sending black blood spattering about the small clearing. By the time WriterBoy threw up a TK shield, the battle was in full swing.
Written by Tanith 11-19-2002 07:19 PM
A sudden gust of wind brought her out of her reverie. The breeze brought with it the sickening dead fumes of the marshlands. Tanith felt her stomach turn, and was hard pressed to keep back her gag reflex. Immediately, with a thought, she commanded her gelsuit to filter out all the contaminants present in the air.
She looked around to see how the others were faring. From the pale, and somewhat green faces all about her, she could tell that she was not the only one affected.
"The air reeks of foulness and death," muttered Legolas, and coughed.
Pausing Han-mei's pace, Tanith slid off her mount and walked over to the many packs that she had arranged for CBY's horse to carry. The others stopped also and watched her with mild curiousity. Reaching into one of the bags, she pulled out several portable oxygen/filter masks, some of them strangely shaped.
She handed one to CBY, who immediately put it on. Legolas and Gimli, though puzzled, followed suit, and breathed in relief as the filtered air came through. The last two strangely shaped masks were especially made for horse-like animals, which she put onto Legolas' steed and her own Han-mei.
"Do you not need one of these masks yourself, Lady Tanith?" inquired Legolas as Tanith mounted once more.
"I have no need for them, master elf," she replied. "An invisible suit covers all of me, which serves that purpose already."
Legolas nodded, though he didn't quite fully understand what she was speaking of. He and Gimli had come to be used to the cryptic words of their outlander companions. So instead, he turned his attention back to their task at hand.
"We ride then through the Marshes of the Dead?," he asked. "That would not be wise. Legend tells of the fell dead whose spirits remain restless therein."
Tanith sighed. "It's the most likely path that Gollum would take."
CBY nodded. "I'm more concerned about one of us accidentally stepping into a bog or quicksand."
Tanith took out one of her pokeballs. "My scanners and your senses should be enough for that, but I suppose we'll need every advantage we can get. Go Eos!"
With a flash, a fluffy Eevee appeared before Han-mei.
"Go into your Umbreon form, Eos," Tanith commanded. "We'll need a guide through this place. Watch our road for us, won't you?"
In a flash, the fluffy kittenish Eevee was replaced by a jet black Umbreon, with bright rings slightly glowing on his pelt.
"Umbreon." With an almost human nod, Eos turned and began to walk. The bright rings on its body glowed slightly, so that the others could follow his path effortlessly in the gathering gloom.
Silently, the riders followed the dark pokemon into the miasma of the Dead Marshes.
Written by Metaphysician 11-19-2002 07:45 PM
"Writerboy!!" Meta yelled. "I thought you were keeping an eye out for attackers!!" he said, as he sent several orcs flying away at mach 5.
"Shift the Riders away from the orcs; that will give us time to reorganize," Mg_knt yelled.
"I can't. My spatial manipulation is too unpredictable here, and the Riders are too mixed with the enemy. If I tried a mass teleport, half of us would be shredded."
Writerboy: "Damn. We'll have to do this the hard way. . ."
Written by WriterBoy 11-19-2002 07:56 PM
Boromir, Aragorn, and Eomer had formed points of an impenetrable triangle, slaying orcs right and left. None made it through them. Even for the outlanders, experienced as they were in superhuman combat, the sight was breathtaking.
WriterBoy turned his attention to more important matters. Telepathically, he sent a command to Venusaur. The plant Pokemon let out a fearsome roar, then charged right into the attackers, crushing several of them beneath its feet. It let loose with a massive Razor Leaf attack, pinning orcs to treeswith the sheer force of the gale. WriterBoy focused on telekinetically slamming orcs into the ground and reinforcing the Middle-Earthers' defenses where he could.
Glancing around, he saw a particularly fierce orc slip through the whirl of blades and slam Boromir to the ground. Cackling, the unholy creature prepared to pound a mace against Boromir's skull.
Suddenly, the creature's head went flying, landing a good five feet away. Its corpse was dashed aside by Aragorn, who extended a hand to bring Boromir to his feet.
"The battle is not over yet, my friend, and we have much work to do before we see the Western shores." Boromir smiled, accepted the hand, and rose to his feet. Both men let out a fierce cry of "Elendil! Elendil!" and plunged into the fray.
Written by The Watcher 11-19-2002 08:04 PM
Now they were only eight, but only temporary. For their Dark Lord held the rings which bound them, and soon another would be chosen to reinforce their ranks. For now rode forth, chasing after the Ruling Ring, waiting patiently for it to be worn again, so that they may follow its call.
And unknown to them, two more riders followed in their wake, one tracking them with his mind's eye. They too sought the Ring, but for a far different purpose. Lacking the means to find it themselves, they were content to use the Ringwraiths like an unwitting stalking horse. When the time came they would make their presence felt. Until then, they pursued patiently.
Written by Tanith 11-19-2002 11:50 PM
It was perhaps late afternoon of the next day that the motely group neared the edge of the swamp. Their mood was somber, for a night spent on the Dead Marshes was not conducive to a good night's sleep. But now, as the marshes began to thin out, they approached the dry sun-baked desert that stretched until the mountainous walls of Mordor.
But the bright sun, which had been perpetually hidden by the miasma of the marshlands, brought no warm sunlight. Rather, it was a sinister heat that rained down upon the group.
There were no words exchanged among them. Nor any need for words. The mounts walked closely together, shielded by an illusion effect produced by Han-mei's psychic power from the orcish patrols that might cross the desert paths.
And so it was as the darkness of night descended on the land that they finally reached the foothills of the walls of Udun. But there, they were met by a mystery. The Black Gate of Cirith Gorgor stood sealed and well guarded before them. There was no way that Gollum could have passed beyond them without attracting notice. But neither had they noticed any sign of the creature, no matter how hard they looked.
It was then that they were distracted by the blasting of trumpets. Or some twisted version thereof. From their vantage point, the group watched with intent curiousity as a large armed force approached the Black Gate, which swung open for them with a loud noise.
"What manner of creatures are these?" muttered Gimli as he stared at the far off moving figures.
"They are men," replied Legolas as he looked forward with his keen elven vision. "But not like the men of the west. They must be Easterlings, known allies of the Dark Lord."
Tanith frowned. From what she remembered of the LOTR trilogy, the Easterlings weren't supposed to be amassing at Mordor until Frodo and Sam reached Cirith Gorgor, which was still months away from the current timeline.
"Mordor is preparing for war more quickly than I'd thought," she murmured. "I wonder why?"
"It probably has something to do with the changes we've made to this timeline," offered CBY. "But whatever the reason, this is bad news for Gondor and its allies."
"We must warn them then," replied Tanith as she took out her communicator. "Rommie, come in."
"This is the Andromeda," came the clear reply. "Is something wrong?"
"Not with us, Rommie," Tanith told the Mind. "But we've seen signs that Sauron is gathering his forces far sooner than expected. Could you inform Mg and his party that Sauron might well be prepared to fight the War of the Ring by the time they get to Gondor?"
"Acknowledged. Is there anything else?"
"No Rommie. We're fine. Tanith out."
With a click, Tanith put away the communicator. "So. Where to now?"
"Look here." The soft voice came from a bit behind them. The group turned, to see Legolas a small distance away, peering under a large rocky overhang. The rest of the group joined him and looked to where he pointed. Mired among the sandy dirt there was a small collection of fishbones.
"Is it... Gollum?" asked Tanith, even as she recalled that fish was Gollum's favorite food.
"It must be," replied the elven prince. "The forces of Sauron have not the need to conceal their meals as thus, and I oft recall of Smeagol's love for fish, even as he refused the fare of the elves."
"Well that just shows he's been here," gruffed Gimli, though no longer with the usual antagonism as he spoke to the elf. "Where could he have gone from here?"
"There are tracks..." began Legolas hesitantly. "They are faint to the untrained eye, but I believe I can track them, unless it be across water or marsh."
Tanith, who had been intently scanning what little traces of Gollum remained on the fishbones, nodded. "Then lead the way, Legolas. And let us hope we catch that creature before the trail fades."
And so, the group began to move once more; southwards this time, leaving behind the Black Gate of Cirith Gorgor.
Written by Yeoman 11-20-2002 12:08 AM
CBY: Legolas. I have something I would ask of you.
Legolas: What is that?
CBY: I fear more and more that I will not survive this journey. That whatever the reason The Force has brought me here will include my death. I would not have those I leave behind wonder what became of me...
CBY: Should I die, I want you to give this to Tanith, have her pass it along to my people.
Before walking back to his makeshift bed CBY pressed a small device similar to the holo-GIR generators into Legolas' hand.
Written by Tanith 11-20-2002 06:08 PM
Saruman the White paced his inner sanctum like a caged lion. Every once in a while, he would pause and glare out of the high balcony windows as a white winged form streaked by.
Whence the creatures came from, he did not know. But they seemed endless in number, with human features and large white wings, and seemed steeped in purifying magic. His already crippled forces inside Orthanc proper hadn't a whit of a chance to defend themselves from the flaming swords as the flocks had descended upon them.
And now... now he was as surely sequestered within his own fortress as he had sequestered Gandalf the Grey but days ago. The only lines of communication left to him was the palantir, for even the most innocuous of creatures that he sent from his tower were indiscriminately hunted down and slain.
He could only assume that these were more machinations of those cursed meddling strangers. Not a plan of his had gone aright since he had first laid eyes on them.
But he was not without hope.
A sneer made its way to Saruman's rage-filled features.
Oh no... he was far more than just limited to this one tower, to just Orthanc. Already, the forces that he had been gathering throughout the West were preparing for war - forces which he had wisely not invited to Orthanc, both for lack of room to hold them and for the need of keeping secret his treachery from the Wise. From the swarms of orcs that infested the Misty Mountains, to warg packs from as north as Eregion and Eriador, to the wildmen of Dunland, to even those of the Rohirrim who had chosen to side with side of victory...
Oh yes... Even if the heir of Isildur and his allies could escape Grima's trap, they would find Edoras and all of Rohan under seige. An in one fell swoop, he would have his revenge.
Then, unwillingly, his thoughts returned to his "jailers" outside of Orthanc. And to the nigh-effortless way how only two - TWO! - of those strangers had laid waste to his forces at Orthanc. Doubt returned, but also a certain surety. Even if the outlanders could escape the Sacking of Rohan, they would find little rest in Gondor. The Dark Lord was already moving; faster than he had planned; building an army that would rival the days of the Last Alliance.
Let those outlanders try to thwart Sauron, the thought with smug satisfaction. They will taste defeat and worse then.
Written by Tanith 11-20-2002 06:25 PM
It was upon rounding the edge of Mordor that the group finally caught sight of Gollum, for the first time. And much to the slight chagrin of the two outworlders, it was neither the vaguaries of the Force nor the information-dependent readings of high tech scanners that first caught sight of the prey. Rather, it was good old fashioned tracking, and the natural keeness of elven sight, that spotted the creature lurking about the bank of a small river.
It was a good thing that Legolas had not immediately pull out the device that CBY had given him. At least, that was in Tanith's opinion; she didn't know what Gir had to do with tracking Gollum, but she didn't really want to find out.
All in all, the whole thing was rather anti-climatic. A simple touch of the Force was enough to keep the creature still, as Tanith shot the small nano-transmitter at Gollum. A flicker of silver was all that could be seen as the nano-bot buried itself unnoticed into its target's flesh.
In fact, Tanith wouldn't be surprised if Gollum had remained oblivious to the entire ordeal, done silently from afar as it was. That was for the better, she supposed, as she wasn't sure if knowing that he was followed would influence Gollum's search for the One Ring. Right now, though, they could effortlessly follow the creature, even from outside of sight, without worrying about loosing track of him.
More slowly now, the group began to make their way south.
Written by Mg_knt 11-20-2002 08:11 PM
"I think we should make haste to Edoras." Aragorn stated. The rest of the group agreed. Soon they were riding to Edoras at full gallop.