Shadow of Tyranny
End of the Middle, Beginning of the End
The Fellowship watched as the One Ring plummeted into the burning inferno of Mt. Doom. It plunged into the fiery abyss and at that point ceased to exist completely and utterly. A sigh of utmost relief arose from those who had carried the burden over hill and valley. The horrific task had finally been completed, they separated and each returned home.
Legolas to Rivendell, Gimli to his caverns, Strider to his wanderings and the little hobbits returned to their holes in Hobbiton. All was at peace since the threat of second darkness had passed thanks to these heroes. Unfortunately, in their eagerness to get home, the travelers failed to notice a raven, with a malicious glint in its eyes, take flight towards the dark pits of Mordor.
* * *
Months and soon years passed quickly by, wiping many memories of the Fellowship from the minds of its members. Mordor lay dormant, nothing daring to enter the darkness still held in this desolate land. It eventually left the worries of the inhabitants of Middle Earth and lay all but forgotten. If only perfection and harmony could really last.
* * *
"Come back you rapscallions! I told you blighters to stay off my land!" an outraged cry echoed throughout the cornfields of a farm.
"Hurry up Pip, move!"
"I'm going as fast as I can right now."
"Right now? What's that supposed to mean?"
"My speed varies depending on many factors such as mood, weather-"
"I don't care just run!"
Two squat figures scampered from amidst the stalks of corn and dashed into the surrounding forest. After a few minutes of fervent running, the pair slowed to a prancing walk. A cozy village of Hobbit holes lay ahead of them in the distance.
"We did alright eh Merry?" Pippin inquired cheerily carrying an armload of fresh vegetables.
"Sure did! This will make a grand side to our supper," he replied rounding a bend in the path.
"And what have you two been up to?" another voice interjected from behind. They turned to see Frodo's jolly face smiling at them.
"Oh just you Frodo, thought you might be, well never mind. We were just off getting some things for supper."
"Really? And I suppose these ingredients just happened to be in the farmers field."
"Well they were once we found them-" Merry jabbed Pippin sharply in the ribs, "-yup they were."
"Better get going then I suppose, don't want to get caught by the never mind!" he joked while returning to Bag End.
Pippin and Merry promptly hurried to their holes to prepare for supper and perhaps brainstorm about dinner. A raven lit from a branch of a gnarled birch tree cawing forebodingly.
The lives of the Hobbits had hardly changed aside from a few memories and daydreams about their adventures to Mt. Doom.
Deep within the unfathomable reaches of Mordor, a small pitch raven landed amidst the ruble and ruin of the great battle raged there. Upon touching the ground, the bird took the shape of a human man. He glanced around as if looking for watchers before walking into a murky chamber. The shadow born figure seated himself on a ragged seat and began mumbling into the gloom. His rambling abruptly ceased and he looked skyward. "The beginning of the end has begun, finally. Soon I shall take my place in destiny to end this, exciting, end," he murmured softly. "No one shall resist, no being walk unnoticed and no happiness shall dwell during the eternal supremacy of the Shifter!"
* * *
Across vale and mountain, Gandalf the Grey jerked awaked to an ill voice borne upon the breeze. Promptly, he arose from bed and gathered his traveling gear. His dwelling lay empty as Gandalf rode away to investigate the strange goings on, most importantly, the voice.
* * *
Legolas, King of the Elves in northern Mirkwood, gazed out on the happenings of the mighty city of Senturinal. He watched with a heavy heart and a clouded mind. It had been many years since he had taken the throne in his fathers place. The situation, which had forced this change, remained fresh in his memory. It replayed as he stared into space.
* * *
Legolas returned to the sanctuary of Rivendell for only a brief moment before departing. He had gone back only to thank Elrond for his hospitality and generosity during the journey of the Fellowship. When courtesies had been completed, the elf began his trek to Mirkwood, his true home. Several weeks of travel later, Legolas set foot within the boundaries of the dark forest. He traveled unmolested through the brush and growth until finally arriving at a splendid city etched into the very woods. Elvin peoples moved in the structures and corridors of the metropolis. Many bowed as they passed and spoke warm words of greeting. Legolas made his way to the heart where he cleaned up from the journey. Upon finishing two Elvin maidens entered humbly.
"Prince Greenleaf, sorry for the intrusion but your father wishes a word with you."
"I was about to see him anyway, thank you. You are free to go." He exited and strode upwards on elegantly crafted stairways. His travel ended upon reaching the topmost platform where a majestic person stood.
"It is good to see you have returned safely Legolas, my son. I trust your quest was successful."
"Yes, the Hobbit Frodo was able to cast the dark ring into the fires and destroy it forever." He paused before speaking again, "However, I have been feeling a shadowed danger and threat growing in my mind. It is both similar and quite different from the sense I received during the expedition."
"Hmm, I see. I have been experiencing dread and foreboding myself. No doubt many others, sensitive to such things, have the same worry."
At that moment, another Elf rushed into the room, slightly panicked. "Sorry for the intrusion, King Thranduil, but there is something urgent I wish to discuss with you," he glanced at Legolas, "privately."
The King nodded, consenting to the wish of private discussion. He gestured for Legolas to leave. He did so slowly, an uneasy feeling growing in his heart. Turning back to the new arrival, Thranduil urged the Elf to start, "Alright Endrelian, what is this important matter?"
Legolas waited patiently outside for the conversation, between his father and the captain of the guard, to end. He could hear snippets of dialogue due to extraordinary hearing capabilities that all elves had. His thoughts shattered as a cry of outrage echoed from inside. Legolas sprung to his feet and charged to the source of the shout.
"Now Ill be rid of the King of Mirkwood, a threat not to be handled lightly. Your successor shall be dealt with in due time as well. Trust me, the elves in this forest shall not stand against me!" Endrelian spat, standing over Thranduil with a serrated dagger.
"No!" Legolas yelled desperately while rushing forwards.
"Stay ba-" the Kings words cut off as the blade plunged deep into his heart. Blood gushed from the wound and Thranduil crumpled like a sheet of parchment.
"You, you traitor!" Legolas slammed into Endrelian, knocking them both close to a banister. The murderer simply smiled and shoved him away.
"Enjoy ruling, your majesty. Take pleasure in it while you can, I assure you it will be short," he turned, vaulted the banister and dropped downwards at startling speed. Endrelian vanished amid the leaves of dense foliage below.
"Guards!" Legolas shouted desperately as he approached the fallen King. In the blink of an eye several armed defenders appeared. "Search the forest for the traitor, the murderer Endrelian. He is to be executed for the slaughter of King Thranduil." The sentinels swiftly departed leaving Legolas holding his dead father.
The memory faded slightly bringing Legolas back to reality. Soon after that day, he had ascended to the throne. The burden of the crown weighed heavily on his heart, for he knew that the assassin was still lurking. His troops had found Endrelian dead soon after his command to search. They had concluded that someone masqueraded as the captain in order to get close to the target. Legolas knew that the same person or creature could just as easily imitate someone else to kill him. He was not taking any more chances. The dark force behind the attack had made the mistake of underestimating Legolas and revealing itself in the light.
Gandalf slowed his stallion to a walk as he neared the realm of the Lady of the Wood. He dismounted hurriedly and tethered his mount to a tree. Turning to enter, he came face to face with an arrow ready to fire upon command. An elf stepped forward to address him.
"Why have you come, Gandalf the Grey? What business do you have with the Lady?"
"As I'm sure youve noticed, strange things have been happening. King Thranduil perished at the hands of an imposter posing as his captain. No living thing has touched Mordor, as if all creatures are afraid of something that dwells there. In addition, just this morning I heard a foul voice on the wind. I have come to seek council from your patron on these matters."
"Very well, Gandalf. You may speak to her but be quick for as you have mentioned, evil is brewing and we cannot trust many."
The party of elves escorted Gandalf to their city and to the hall of Galadriel. He spoke briefly of the dangers and what may be causing them. The two talked long into the day and through the night. When morning approached, the pair separated to get the rest that they had missed during their discussion. Two glinting eyes pursued the entire chat and departure with intense interest. Once both had faded from view the eyes diminished into the murk of the forest.
* * *
Morning arrived bringing a chorus of sweet melodies into audibility. As the great city was just beginning to stir, Gandalf rapidly departed. Words that the Lady had spoken reverberated inside his psyche. "Gather the Fellowship once more, grey wizard, for only they can know about this peril. Nine are essential to complete this task. Be sure to re-name them as well, since there are forces which still hate the members who stopped the Dark Lord." He galloped over a burbling brook. "Watch yourself Gandalf, for when this menace has been unmasked, one of the participants will fall eternally into the forever dusk." Gandalf proceeded for Hobbiton, for in its boundaries lay the most important and major former members of the Fellowship.
* * *
"Ah, what a grand second breakfast."
"You said it Merry. One of the finest during this week."
Pippin and Merry lounged contentedly before a crackling fire. The rest of Hobbiton was quiet as the other inhabitants finished their second meals. Soon, though, it would return to being a bustling modest town. The two hobbits jerked from their sated dreams to the sound of rapid hoof beats. A weary figure appeared in view. Everyone in sight of the horse recognized the rider to be Gandalf.
"I wonder why hes in such a hurry," Merry commented as Gandalf neared.
"Maybe hes coming to throw another party for us!"
He pulled his mount to a prancing halt and swung down from the saddle. "Where are Frodo and Sam?"
* * *
"So you see it is quite important that the Fellowship is gathered again. I hope you will lend your aid in defeating this new enemy," Gandalf concluded. He had been explaining for the last half-hour once Frodo and Sam had been located.
"No. I will not take part in this pursuit. I have had my fill of adventure and will not leave the Shire again," Frodo refused tersely. "Our last expedition was hazardous and you wish us to repeat it? I am sorry Gandalf, but I shall not join you this time."
"I'm not fond of departing either Mr. Wizard. Besides, I'm not much help any way," Sam agreed.
"I quite understand. The last journey was hardest on you two. It looks like it will just be the troublemakers on this trip."
"Um, wait a minute. What makes you think well come with you huh?" Merry cut in.
"Yes, were happy right where we are."
"Well you don't have to come with me"
"I think that farmer you pilfered from will be more than delighted to entertain the pair of you."
The smirks on Pip and Merry's faces vanished. "Wait, you'll need some hobbits to help out with the food. I think the job is perfect for us. Were coming with you and there isn't a thing you can do to stop us!"
I wouldn't dream of it. However, nine is no longer," he muttered and no one heard his words.
All Together Again?
The wizard left his two companions to forge ahead and, perhaps, find some of the other associates from the past. He made sure the Hobbits headed towards Mirkwood, which is the meeting point as well as the home and kingdom of Legolas. His skills are needed for this.
* * *
"Well mighty Gandalf, it looks as though youve caught on to my work. I shall have to watch you closely in case I am discovered. The witch Galadriel will pay for her meddling and your friend Elrond will not help you this time."
* * *
Strider cautiously moved through the forest, listening carefully for any sounds of movement. He had heard about the death of Thranduil and knew something or someone is coming. An evil had been encroaching in the domains of many races and creatures within Middle Earth. Even the hidden people, whom few knew about, are in danger. Strider was watching for any sign nearby.
"Great, I was tricked again by those conniving, thieving dopes. I hate being lost in the woods. It is so demeaning," a masculine voice cursed while tromping in leaves.
Strider tensed and, in a blur of motion, drew close to the mystery figure placing the tip of his blade against his throat. "What is your business within these woods? Is it fair or foul?"
"Whoa! Hey! Easy there ranger! Down boy! I suppose if I said foul youd kill me right?" he stammered quickly, hands above his head.
Strider shot a look of poison while preparing to lunge forward.
"Just kidding, I come with fair intentions. No really, I am telling the truth. Stop looking at me like Im breakfast," he cautioned. "Step away from the sword."
"You tread a fine line in such treacherous times as these. I suggest you bite your tongue in the future or you will find yourself without it."
"Um, I apologize I guess, sorry. I would prefer to talk."
"No doubt. Who are you and why are you wandering unprotected through here?"
"My name is Dryden and Im just, um, taking a stroll around this pleasant glade, that's it," he replied.
"I'm sure you are doing just that since you are lost."
"Yeah, WHAT? How did you know that?" Dryden exclaimed.
"Elves are not the only ones with good hearing," he smiled.
"Da dabble ba," he spluttered trying to find the right words of frustration.
"Indeed. Your city is that way," Strider pointed. "I suggest you make haste, it is not safe in the wilderness at this time."
"Uh, right I knew that. Thanks anyway though." Dryden turned and began to stomp towards the city. A horse's hoof beats echoed through the forest. "What the heck?"
Strider turned quickly towards the source, eyes narrowing in an attempt to see the rider. Within a few seconds, a blurry shape could be distinguished. He relaxed slightly and made way to intercept. He smiled warmly as the horse drew up. "Hello there white rider, what may I do to assist you?"
"Hello yourself! I've been looking for you Aragorn," Gandalf smiled.
Dryden, who was not too far away and listening to the conversation, whirled around when he heard these words. He promptly burst upon the two spluttering and rambling things about Gondor and kings. "Aragorn? Aragorn as in son of Arathorn?"
"Yes, I am that particular Aragorn," Strider mumbled in reply.
"My king," Dryden spoke softly as he bowed low.
"There is no need for that, honestly. I am traveling indiscreetly and do not wish to be discovered."
Dryden hesitantly rose to his feet, not meeting the eyes of his king. Instead he looked to the rider who sat patiently in the saddle. "Hello."
"Hello yourself Dryden," he smiled at the stuttering. "Oh don't worry so much". Gandalf turned to Aragorn. "There is dire news which I wish to discuss with you. No doubt you have felt the threat?"
"Aye, I have indeed. We must start off at once."
"We make for Mirkwood, that is where the others are headed." He began to move out with Strider. Pausing, Gandalf looked back to Dryden, "coming?"
* * *
Merry and Pippin sat in Mirkwood awaiting their companions. Pippin was asleep and Merry was beginning to drift off when a mighty steed and two on foot travelers appeared. Merry rubbed his eyes and looked again to make sure what he saw was real. They remained so he jolted Pip out of slumber.
"Hello there Gandalf! Glad to see you made it!" Pippin shouted while waving fervently.
"Of course I did young Took, what did you expect?" Gandalf replied gruffly.
"Welcome to our happy group Aragorn! Who's your friend there?" Merry inquired as Pippin tried to find the right words to answer.
"I am Dryden and you should address the king formally" Dryden cut in before Strider could answer.
"Please, I do not wish to be addressed as king. Name me as Strider," he turned to the befuddled Pippin. "How was your trip little hobbit?"
"Oh, well enough but theres one small unaccounted for detail that happened after Gandalf left..."
Gandalf sighed and dismounted. "What, pray tell, is that?"
A small figured appeared from nowhere and tackled Merry to the ground with a thud.
"Her. Everyone this is Rosie Took, a cousin of mine."
"Hello everyone, sorry for the intrusion," Rosie smiled up as she got off Merry.
Several apprehensive glances exchanged between the group members, except for Gandalf who smiled back.
* * *
The group sat in council with king Legolas.