2: Of Rocks and Swords and Other Things
Elvish is indicted by /text/.
~~~Chapter 2: Of Rocks and Swords and Other Things~~~
Wesley was tired of the dark. It was sort of cold, and oppressive, and really rather gloomy. The caverns they traveled through were vast and awe inspiring, but in the end he knew he was just in a large hole in the ground, wandering on in search of something that no one managed to explain very well.
Granted, his language lessons were going much better than he could have hoped. The young hobbit, for that’s what the smoothed faced, furry footed little persons were called, named Pippin was very enthusiastic, and kept up a running commentary about everything they saw. By the end of the first day of their march, he’d learned the names of about fifty types of cave features, the names of all the types of weaponry that the company carried, and different designations of the people around him. This morning’s projects were verbs and other words to indicated intent or description. Wesley was impressed at Pippin’s dogged instruction; he would not have been so patient. He certainly hadn’t been when it came to his own charges years ago.
He also had to admit he was becoming rather exhausted. His head was throbbing, and though he ate what was provided him last night, he had a hard time keeping it down. He’d been hurt worse before, but had always been able to rest. There was a faintly frantic energy in the company that impressed on him the urgency of speed, and he couldn’t complain even if he wanted too. They moved as quietly as possible, and Wes knew that whatever caused the destruction he’d seen in the ‘lobby’ wasn’t gone.
No one except for the hobbits, or the hobbits barring Frodo, had any interest in attempting to communicate with him. The dwarf was borderline hostile, the white haired old man that Wes was pretty sure wasn’t human, was lost in his own thoughts. There was some discussion about something called Mithril when they passed a vein of incredibly shiny metal embedded in the rock, but most of the group kept silent.
He knew that he was a burden, but he was also fairly sure he wasn’t a prisoner. The leader, Strider, regarded him as an obstacle to be gotten around, a hassle he hadn’t expected. Wes couldn’t really blame him. If someone had dropped out of the sky, or however he’d arrived into the destroyed cave mouth, while he was working on a case, he was pretty sure he’d have been a bit abrupt as well.
Maybe the fellow was just wary that Wes couldn’t take care of himself. He had no obvious weapons that the others could see, but no one had made any overtures to find out if he could fend for himself. Wes had kept an eye out for discarded weapons as they walked, looking for a war-axe preferably, but hadn’t found one that suited his needs. When he did, however, he wouldn’t hesitate to pick it up.
Wes was slowly catching on to the dialect, as well as the differences in the way those around him spoke. He’d also discovered that two of the party, Strider and the elf, Legolas, used an entirely different language when speaking to each other, which they were doing now, a few people behind him in line. Wes cocked his head to listen. Without any real direction, he couldn’t figure much out, but he could pay attention to cadence and inflection, which was useful in and of itself.
Aragorn bent his head to Legolas’ and said, /He seems to be handling himself fairly well./
/Yes./ The elf frowned. /But there is still something that worries me about him. Why is he so calm? He hasn’t tried to get away from us, or even expressed that much surprise at the goblin corpses./
/I have no idea, but I don’t think he’s evil./
The elf thought for a moment. /No, not evil./ He took in the man’s appearance. He was tall, taller than almost everyone in the fellowship, and lean, with short cropped dark hair and faint stubble on his cheeks. His clothes were all dark, and hung close to his body, though they didn’t look to be terribly practical for fighting. He moved with a wary, easy grace of someone used to watching his surroundings, and took in everything around him carefully. /Pippin seems to be making progress./
The king nodded, /He does. Thank heavens he’s with us./
Legolas hmmd a non committal noise. /I think he’s looking for something though./
/It could be anything. He’s a stranger in a strange land, he’s bound to be curious./
/What do you think he is?/
Aragorn smiled wryly, stepping over a pile of loose stones. /A knight perhaps? Defending his lady until the end?/ He shrugged. /Until we can ask him, we really can’t know./
They stopped talking then as the man in question peered over his shoulder, watching them with his bright blue eyes. Legolas fell back to take the rear guard as Aragorn moved through the company to talk more directly to the visitor.
“And how are you finding Moria?”
Wesley thought for a moment, searching for the words. “Moria… dark.” His lips twisted up into an approximation of a smile. “And…” he sighed. “Apologies. I am…” A snarl passed over the usually handsome face.
Aragorn nodded. “It must be hard not to communicate. I’m sorry for not being more attentive.” Wesley just arched an eyebrow. Aragorn shrugged. “And you probably didn’t catch half of that. I’m glad Pippin can help.”
At that, the hobbit decided to add his two cents worth. “Of course you’re glad! Who else is better suited with this type of intellect… thing.” He beamed. “Besides, this is much more fun than thinking about what’s out there waiting to eat us.” He shuddered.
Wes looked puzzled for a moment then grinned. “Yes, much… better? Than… Orcs?”
Aragorn was surprised. He had no idea that the language lessons had progressed so much. “Yes, orcs. They’ve taken over this mine.”
The brunette frowned. “Orcs are… demons?”
The ranger shook his head at the unfamiliar term. “Demons? I don’t know this, but they are an abomination. Created by Sauron; corrupted from elves.” Wesley nodded. “They feast on the flesh of man, and live in the dark places. Cruel and heartless, they are the bane of civilized peoples. In the coming fight, orcs and the armies of Sauron will fight against mankind.”
Wesley indicated the non-human members of the party. “Elves and dwarves?”
The king nodded. “Them as well. I don’t know how much Pippin has told you, but these are dark times for Middle Earth.” He frowned, grey eyes downcast. It was one thing to go through the motions with people who knew the score, but explaining the plight of the land he loved to a stranger made it awful in its reality. He was fighting; they all were, for a future unknown, a future to secure the rights of this world for generations to come. He sighed bowing his shoulders.
Wes tilted his head. He could only understand parts of the conversation, though much more than he could speak, but he understood the weight of responsibility. Holding the fate of others in your hands was a terrible chore, and one he had failed at in the past. Connor had been taken because of him and his misguided beliefs of unshared responsibility. He unthinkingly reached out and laid a hand on the shorter man’s shoulders.
Aragorn turned to him, surprised. The stranger’s eyes expressed such depth of understanding that he was brought up short. This wasn’t a man who stumbled onto things; this was one who had obligations to a higher purpose. The ranger half heartedly smiled a thanks. The stranger nodded.
They continued on in silence for a few moments until Wesley suddenly brightened. With a faint cry of delight, he dashed over to a pile of corpses at the edge of a rope bridge. He tumbled them carefully over each other until he found what he was looking for, a broad bladed axe with a long handle.
Immediately the company heeled to a halt, watching him warily. Gimli roared a muffled outrage. “What is he doing?!? Those are my kin! How dare he disturb the dead!” He ran forward, axe raised.
Wesley spun around, the new weapon gripped in his hands as if it had always been there. The dwarf attempted to barrel into him, but he stepped neatly out of the way, swinging the axe experimentally.
Though wary, Aragorn grabbed the irate dwarf around the waist. “Hold, Master Dwarf. Look.”
The whole company was watching now as the newcomer swung the axe around a few times experimentally. He moved with a grace that bespoke a lifetime of practice and more than a few hours of experience. When he noticed his audience, Wesley nodded formally, touching his hand to his forehead. Aragorn nodded back.
“Gimli, I am sure he meant no disrespect to your dead. Look around you. All of us are well armed, and it is unfair to expect him not to wish to arm himself.”
The dwarf snarled, ripping his arm out of Strider’s grasp. “Then he can arm himself with orc weapons. He has no right to the weapons of my kin.” The stranger came forward, his hands extended in peaceful supplication, the axe laid across them. There was a cold glint in his eyes, and Gimli hesitated. This was a warrior, for all he knew a warrior fighting the same war he was, and he did nothing to earn disrespect. The dwarf grunted. “Fine. Keep the axe, but you had better do a dwarf proud. You owe me that.”
The man thought for a second and then nodded. He straightened and leaned the axe over his shoulder. Pippin was at his side in a moment, Merry right behind. The hobbits eyes were bright with curiosity, and Wes was flattered. “I didn’t know you could fight! What else can you fight with?”
Most of the company had set down their packs. Gandalf was leaning on his staff, watching closely, Frodo at his side. The elf was back there somewhere; Wesley could feel his gaze. The remaining hobbits had come closer, and Boromir sat on a rock outcropping. The future steward of Gondor called out, “Yes, what else can you do? Yesterday we were all wondering if you could talk at all. Today, you showed us you can, as well as your ability with an axe. What about a sword?” He drew his own from his scabbard, holding out in front of him.
Wesley winked and handed the axe to Pippin, who nearly fell over until Merry caught the other end. The former watcher stood loosely, hands down at his sides, Borormir stood, sword extended and parried forward for show. Wes took a step to the side and flicked his wrist. Out of the sleeve of his jacket flowed a multi hinged blade. Once fully extended, it locked and became a solid sheaf of metal. He mimicked the parry, laughing out loud as Boromir nearly dropped his own sword in shock.
“That’s… impossible!” All of the fellowship crowded around. Boromir grabbed the other man’s wrist, huffing at the complex system of attachment and housing. “How did we miss that yesterday?”
Aragorn peered over his shoulder. “I didn’t even know to look.”
Gandalf chuckled to himself. “I believe there is more to this stranger than we could ever have thought.”
Wes smiled sadly. “Yes.” He flicked his wrist again and the thin sword retracted, folding away invisibly along his arm.
Gimli grumbled under his breath, “Magic; I told you.”
Wesley repeated the words softly. “Magic?” He shook his head. “Not… magic.”
“You understood that?” Legolas came closer into the light of Gandalf’s staff.
“I… understood magic.” He pulled up the sleeve of his pea coat and revealed the spring mechanism on his arm. “Not magic.”
“But you do know about it. I can feel it on you; the ripples in moral energy that tell me that you exist in that world as well.” Legolas frowned. “How is that so? Mere men here have no magic of their own to speak of.”
Gandalf chewed thoughtfully on his pipe. “No, they don’t. But again, this could be a difference in worlds.”
Wes knew what they were discussing, but he didn’t have the words to contribute to the conversation. Frustrated he shook his head. Gandalf nodded. “Master Wesley may need a bit more of Pippin’s instruction to be able to answer us properly. We should continue on.” Reluctantly the others nodded; their curiosity about the newcomer was only growing.