1: Into the Dark
~~~Chapter One: Into the Dark~~~
The Fellowship, soaked, grouchy and nervous, all climbed back down the stairs, stepping over long rotted corpses of dwarves and orcs, and gathered around the fallen stranger. No one spoke for a moment, waiting to see if Gandalf would take the lead. When it became clear that the wizard was keeping his own council, Aragorn knelt down and placed his fingers on the side of his neck.
“Well, it appears that our interloper is still alive.” He tilted the head to get a look at the slightly bleeding lump on the back of the brunette’s scalp and frowned. “He seems to have hit his head upon landing, but there’s nothing to be done until he wakes up.” Suddenly his eyes widened and he pulled down the collar of the dark charcoal shirt. “Do you see this?”
Gandalf lowered his staff to better illuminate the shadows and Boromir gasped, “He should be dead! That kind of wound would kill a man in minutes.” He reached out and traced the scar lightly with one finger, mirroring the man’s own action minutes before. “How could he survive having his throat sliced all the way through?”
Gimli growled out. “It’s witchcraft. Leave him and let’s get on with this!”
Aragorn shook his head. “We can’t just leave him here. And we know nothing about the world he comes from. What may be impossible here may be common place for his world. Look at his clothes; they’re nothing like we would find here. They’re so smooth, even if this looks like wool.” He held up a limp wrist encircled by a heavy silver watch, blue face gleaming in the faint light. “And this? The workmanship similar to only what the elves could produce.” He shook his head. “No, we can’t say witchcraft, but it may be wise to exercise caution. Anyone who can withstand such an attack… well, we should be careful.”
Legolas peered down, his blonde hair falling forward over his shoulders. “He feels different. Not like a normal mortal.”
Gandalf finally spoke, “Hmm, you noticed that too? He’s not like men from our world, but he is decidedly mortal. I could be wrong, but he may have some experiences in magic. Or we could just be feeling the after effects of the portal.”
The hobbits all crowded around, edging the larger people away. “Even if he is magical, he needs our help,” Sam said firmly. “What kind of heroes would we be if we left him here to die? Maybe if we give him some water, he’ll wake up.”
A calmer Frodo unhooked a water bottle from the outside of Sam’s pack and handed it to the portly hobbit. Sam leaned close and dribbled a bit of water onto the stranger’s mouth. At first there was no reaction; then he moaned slightly and coughed, spraying water in all directions. Everyone leaned back to give him some room to breathe, and obligingly, the man opened his eyes.
He made no move to harm them, merely blinking his startling blue eyes a few times, but what alarmed the Fellowship was that he showed no fear. His expression was clear and hard, the face of someone who had seen too much. He struggled to a sitting position against one of the steps and brought his hand to his head, feeling the lump. He said something, but none understood and looked at him blankly.
Gimli grumbled. “Oh, no, you didn’t find someone that can’t talk.”
The stranger tried again, obviously asking something, but only received concerned shrugs in response.
Legolas nudged the dwarf. “No, he can talk, you just can’t understand him.”
“Well, neither can you!”
“Neither can any of us. This may be a problem.” Aragorn offered his hand to the man who accepted it, swaying a bit as he stood. “How are we supposed to indicate the danger of this place without a way to communicate?” He shook his head in apology when the man said something else. “Well we can always do this old fashioned way.” The ranger pulled his sword from its scabbard and held it in front of him. The man arched an eyebrow warily but made no move to either run or attack. Aragorn gestured slightly with the weapon, miming battle, and waved his hand to indicate the corpses littering the large room. The man’s eyes followed where Aragorn pointed and he nodded wearily.
“That’s it? You wave around a bit and it's all clear?” Pippin shook his head. “And you’re supposed to be a king. Here, try this.” The young hobbit bounced forward tapping at his chest. “Pippin.”
The man broke out into huge grin, obviously laughing at some joke the others couldn’t understand, and mimicked the hobbit. “Wesley Wyndam-Price.”
Pippin turned back to the company ringing them. “See? That was easy. Introduce yourself.”
One by one, they took turns. “Merry.”
“Frodo.” As the ring bearer said his name, the stranger got a queer look in his eye and moved just a bit further away.
“Legolas.” The man, Wesley, looked at him sharply and said something, touching his ears. The blonde nodded. “Elf.”
Wes repeated the strange word back, “Elf,” and nodded.
Gimli came next with a grudging, “Gimli the dwarf.” At the puzzled expression, the dwarf rolled his eyes. “Gimli,” he said, tapping his chest. He then waved the axe around. “Dwarf.”
“Just brilliant, Gimli son of Gloin. Now he’s going to think the word for axe is Dwarf.”
“Well, what did you want me to do, mime being short?” He glared at the man of Gondor. Boromir shrugged and tapped his own chest.
“Gandalf.” At that the wizard spoke to the company at large. “Well, since it seems Master Wesley Wyndam-Price has grasped that at least we all have names and that there’s carnage littered about, perhaps we can continue the language lessons as we walk. It’s a four day journey to the other side, and I, for one, want to get out of here as soon as possible.”
The company of hobbits, men, a dwarf, an elf and a wizard, turned back up the stairs. Gandalf was in the lead, followed closely by Frodo. He had no thoughts that he stranger wished them harm, but he had reacted when introduced to Frodo. The only thing that Gandalf could think was somehow he was able to feel the power of the ring, and it made him uneasy. Frodo didn’t complain and walked along, exhausted.
Aragorn gestured after the others and Wes nodded, falling into line after Merry. Pippin stood beside him, determined to begin showing the new addition the ropes. Wesley couldn’t suppress a smile.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
When Wes felt the first dribble of water on his lips, he tried to ignore it. It was so much more peaceful in the oblivion, away from all the chaos and pain that had been his existence recently. There was no haunting face of Angel as he tried to smother him, there was no knife at his throat when Justine took Connor, and there were none of the horrid looks of betrayal from his friends when they’d found out what he’d done. There was nothing at all.
But persistence dragged him awake and he sputtered, opening his eyes. There was a ring of people peering down at him but he couldn’t find it in himself to be all that concerned. What ever it was couldn’t be that bad since he wasn’t dead already. It was dark and gloomy, rather uncomfortable, and he seemed to have found his way into a Renaissance Reconstruction from the looks of the apparel. As far as he was concerned he could care less. He wasn’t in the belly of some inter-dimensional demon, and that meant life was looking up. He rubbed his eyes and said, “If you don’t mind me asking, where are we?”
They looked at him. Wes didn’t know if it was a lack of communication, or these… people… didn’t speak. When the short, bearded man rattled something back, Wes had a sinking suspicion that this wasn’t going to be another trip to Pylea, where even the restless natives had no problem issuing orders in a language he could understand.
“I suppose it’s too much to ask if you speak English? Or maybe one of the other eleven languages I happen to know? Granted, seven of those are demon, but you never know who you’re going to meet in my line of work.”
Nope. Nothing. He sighed and accepted the hand the black clad man offered him. "Thanks."
He seemed to be a leader of sorts, or at least had the largest sword, and when he drew it out, Wes watched with interest. He was either going to get run through the gut, which he sincerely hoped not, or the man was trying to indicate something. He looked around. Oh, that would be all the death and destruction; he nodded. It appeared to be another day in the office by the shapes of some of the deceased; they were obviously not human.
Demons or not, he wasn’t sure, but the host of men in front of him looked sufficiently apprehensive that Wes didn’t think it was something to be taken lightly. There was some discussion going on that he tried to follow, but it went too quickly. A detached part of the former watcher was excited. He was first trained as a linguist and translator when he joined the Council and had never had any real hopes of being assigned an active slayer. His first love had been languages, so he was actually looking forward to learning how these people spoke. Unfortunately without a written example, or some sort of primer, it was probably going to be the ‘Me Tarzan, you Jane’ approach to learning.
He couldn’t help his grin as one of the smaller men stepped forward, as if reading his mind, with the universal indication of name and uttered brightly, “Pippin.” The other names followed rapidly. A few caught his attention. The small person, Frodo, was cloaked in an evil that made Wes’ skin shiver. He’d been around enough dark magics in recent days to know the feel, and it was a surprise coming from such a sweet and innocent looking young man. One look into his haunted eyes, however, indicated that it was perhaps not Frodo himself who was tainted, but something on his person. That would fit with the protectiveness that the others showed him.
He was genuinely delighted at Legolas, recognizing him as a High Elf, something he’d only read about. He noted their word for it with a nod, but was a bit confused at the bearded fellow. He was obviously a different race from the other small persons, but when he waved his axe around, Wes wasn’t sure if he was indicating the weapon or his species.
All too soon, the white haired man indicated they should keep moving. Wes was inclined to agree. The air was close and stale, and he wanted nothing more than to be out in the open again. When Strider indicated he was to follow Merry, he fell into line.