Disclaimer: Buffy and all related characters are property of Joss Whedon and some other people. All Lord of the Rings characters belong to J. R. R. Tolkein.
A rustling of leaves.
A treading of feet.
The army moved stealthily through the thick underbrush, barely making a sound. He paused for the first time since their arrival, surveying their surroundings with increasing contempt. This world, inhabited by humans and other filth, was the epitome of pitiful. These lands were soiled by the weakness of men, the incompetence, the emotion. He pitied them, though he chuckled at heart. Their lives were meaningless, annoying flies on the backs of true warriors like himself. Yet here they were, rulers of this vast land, controllers of themselves. He would have been impressed, had their fate been anything but defeat. Yes, their time had come.
“Night is falling.”
He turned towards the soft voice behind him. “Indeed it is, my sweet. Indeed it is.”
“We’re behind schedule.”
“I know,” he said, sighing. “I’ve been trying to get them to move faster, but they won’t listen.” He almost whined, an action one would never expect from him. “It shouldn’t make too much of a difference, though.” He waved his hand as if dismissing the idea.
“We’re behind schedule,” she repeated, moving to stand beside him.
“Don’t worry, my love. We’ll vanquish all that walk this land, and men will cease to exist.” He smirked at the thought.
“They had better, because if you fail me, I shall be upset.”
He took the hint immediately, promising again and again how well the plan would be carried out. He could only hope it would work out in the end, for her sake… and his own.
Aragorn sat at the head of the long table, his expression weary from all of the stress he had been experiencing. He had put together a council, who currently sat before him, and now he was thankful that he had. At the beginning of his rule, things had been easy. Everyone’s efforts had been focused on rebuilding all that had been destroyed during the war. But now, five years later, there was yet another stir in the air.
“You’re probably all wondering why I called you here,” he said, addressing the small group. There was a small murmur of agreement. Aragorn sighed. “The problem is I’m not so sure. I expect you’ve heard of the new threat that currently takes residence on our borders.” Another murmur. “We cannot allow them to scourge our towns as they are doing now. We have to decide on a plan of action.”
A young man, probably only about 18 years old, stood up asking for permission to speak. When he received a nod from Aragorn, he jumped right to the point. “Who are they?”
Aragorn sighed in mild frustration. “We aren’t sure. Some of our sources seem to think they have sailed here from the south, but no one has ever seen anyone quite like them. I have spoken with a few survivors from the attacks, but their descriptions seem too farfetched to be true. However, if they are indeed correct, we are dealing with smaller versions of trolls with twice the strength.” A collective gasp filled the room, then turned into urgent whispers. Aragorn waited a moment before silencing them with a raised hand.
“We cannot be sure until we see them for ourselves, although, that does not seem wise at the moment.”
“What should we do for the time being?”
Aragorn pondered the question for a moment. “We have sent small armies out to defeat them, but none have returned.” That was not entirely true. Every single soldier had come back, but their manner of return had not been of the living. Whoever this new enemy was, they were taunting them with their strength. “I fear we may be in over our heads. It seems fit that we should call for aid.”
“From whom?” one man called out. “The Rohirrim have troubles of their own, and we have few other allies.”
“I’ve sent word of our situation to and old friend,” Aragorn replied. “He has agreed to come and help us fight. I also understand that he’ll be bringing along a few friends.”
“A few? How will that help us? We need an army!”
Aragorn regarded the young man who had spoken earlier. “We will need much more than an army, Hallas. I am confident that my friends will have enough strength and cunning to help us. Have faith.”
Gandalf stepped off the boat carefully, his staff in front of him as he descended down the ramp. This place was as he remembered it to be so very long ago, before the time of war with the ring. New walls had been erected around Osgiliath, helping it relive its former glory. So much had changed since Frodo’s trial with the ring and, for the most part, life in Middle Earth had been better. Gandalf had been in contact with Aragorn for quite a while, keeping tabs on everything that had been happening of both sides of the sea. It had been a while since Gandalf had felt needed by those who lived on this land, who looked to him for guidance and support. Whether he would admit it or not, he had begun to feel a bit insignificant. Yet here he was, answering a call sent specifically to him. Despite the circumstances, he was glad to be back.
People looked upon him and bowed as he and his companions traveled through the city. Many were shocked to see his face again, but even more had never seen it. Since the number of soldiers had been depleted some years ago, there were a great many new recruits, most no older than eighteen. He was glad now that they did not have to fight, but with the looming shadow he knew that was not true. They would soon face that of which they could not begin to fathom, begin to grasp. It was one of those things he could not prevent, and he just hoped he was there to help them when the time finally came.
When they reached the border of Osgiliath, Gandalf could clearly see the white kingdom of Minas Tirith. To see it again, the place of a great struggle, stirred up something inside of him. It was almost a reluctance to be so close to where thousands had died, because that was what it had been, a graveyard of those he knew and cherished. But everyone needed him to be strong now, so he walked over to the horses without a word.
Gandalf and Shadowfax looked upon each other like old friends reunited once more, and in truth they were. They nodded to each other in acknowledgement before Gandalf mounted him ceremoniously. The others had all gotten on to their horses as well and were now looking to him for the command. With a finalizing sigh, he gave Shadowfax a quick pat and bound forward.
Staring out the window had become her number one activity. Since their move to Rome, Buffy hadn’t done much besides. She was left alone with her thoughts as everyone around her busied themselves with the reconstruction of the Watcher’s Council. Taking part in it had at first been her intention, but it seemed like she was being swept to the side. She was a Slayer among many, so what use was she now? Sure, having others who knew what it was like to be a Slayer was nice, but it just didn’t feel right.
Nothing was right.
Everyone around her seemed to leave, bouncing from place to place, visiting her only when it was convenient. Dawn seemed to be the only one around these days. She had been there for her through everything that had happened since the destruction of the hellmouth. She had been there when the loss of Spike had turned her world irreversibly upside down.
Lately, he was all she thought about, all she dreamed about. She hadn’t let him go yet, and she had no plan to. It was like he had never left, but she was painfully reminded of his status every time she went to tell him something. Every time it would hit her like cold rain; Spike wasn’t here, and he wasn’t coming back. Then she’d feel like crying, but it seemed like she was beyond tears, beyond grief. No, she had not cried for him because that would mean he was really gone, and she wasn’t ready for him to not be there. In her mind, he was with her always, holding her tight when she felt like shattering into a million pieces. He kept her going, even though he was the reason for her sorrow. He had been right all along. He was always there when she was miserable.
They stood facing each other, neither party making a sound. Aragorn had not seen his old friends for five years and seeing them there brought forth memories that he had not recalled for some time. If it weren’t for the reason of their return, he would have rejoiced. Instead, he strode toward his guests, his arms open and welcoming. Gandalf, who had not expected this show of affection, stood baffled for a moment before chuckling and hugging him back. When they parted, smiles graced both of their faces. Aragorn stood there and beamed for a moment before regarding the small man to his right.
Glad he had not been forgotten, Frodo gratefully accepted Aragorn’s hug. He was very fond of Aragorn; he always had been. Seeing him now brought back many wonderful memories and, unfortunately, twice as many horrifying ones. In fact much of the time they had spent together was for ill reasons, and it couldn’t be said that many of their experiences were enjoyable. However, they had been given a chance to start anew, and Frodo gladly took it. Unfortunately, the current circumstances were not exactly the perfect environment for bonding.
Aragorn’s face turned grim once more. “I regret to have called you here with such ill tidings, but such is the nature of war, and indeed, I am afraid that is what it has come down to.” He motioned for them to sit at the small table to the right of the throne. “I suspect I should just get straight to the point. There are… it is difficult to say what they are, but a strange force has been sighted near our borders. Reports have shown that these creatures closely resemble Uruk-hai, but that is not possible. These beasts cannot and do not serve the late Sauron, but it seems they share similar purposes. Some have said that they saw them near Osgiliath, so they may indeed be traveling to Minas Tirith.” He paused for a reflective moment. “We have sent small armies, but each one has been destroyed with ease. I fear for our country, for our people.”
Gandalf’s heart went out to him at that moment. Aragorn had been through so much, and he still continued to bear the burden of leadership. Such stress was never meant to be felt by one person alone.
“We don’t have many allies left,” Aragorn continued, “and Rohan has troubles of their own. These beasts have been seen all over Middle Earth, even as far as Lothlorien. Their numbers are increasing, their arm extending, and all we can do is watch.” Aragorn was visibly angered and upset by his inability to stop the impending danger. “We are powerless.”
The rest of Gandalf’s party chose that moment to enter the hall. Aragorn raised his head, eyes widening at who stood before him. Galadriel and Elrond he recognized, but the young brunette he did not. As if understanding the reason for his confusion, she introduced herself.
She was greeted with a smile and a few warm words from Aragorn that instantly made her feel a little more welcomed. She was, after all, in the house of a great king, something that did not occur very often. Yet new things always seemed to be happening to her of late. Her death in one life had brought her here to another, though she still grieved for the loss of her old home, her surrogate family. Unexpected was her chance to live once again, a warrior for the common good. Although she regretted being denied the chance to be in heaven, she decided that the wait would make the reward so much sweeter. At least now she would be able to help others like she always had, even if it wasn’t with the ones she loved.
Her thoughts traveled to the past. Death hadn’t been as gruesome as was expected, quite the opposite really. Yes, there was the pain of the wound, but it left as quickly and suddenly as it had come. In one moment an ageless wisdom was bestowed upon her, opening her eyes to things long forgotten. All time lost meaning, thoughts lost purpose, and troubles drifted away with the silent wind. She opened her eyes but a minute later, although she could have sworn her sleep lasted an eternity. Vision had returned slowly to her, having left with her other senses some time before. Smiling faces had welcomed her, and all else after that sped by in a blur. Her adjusting, learning, and training were her top priorities, never really having time for leisure. She hadn’t minded much, her previous lifetime having given her the experience to deal with solitude. She only wished she could have had her true friend, her lover, her Willow. Things always seemed to be so much brighter with her around, so much easier to deal with. When Tara had been going through her first stages of coping with her new life, all she could think about was Willow and how things had finally been going right. But fate had other plans, and right now this was where she should be. She only hoped that she’d have the chance to see Willow again.
Aragorn sighed, something he had been doing quite a bit lately. “I know I sound most repetitive when I say this, but our forces are too weak to even defend ourselves against our new enemies, let alone lead an attack. None can spare any of their men for us, so what are we to do for our numbers?”
Gandalf closed his eyes for a moment of thought. There was a last resort tucked away in the back of his mind, one that had been bothering him for quite some time now. But desperate times called for desperate measures, and it was time to bring in their only hope.
Giles paced the wide expanse of his office, mulling over details with meticulous care. He had just received a distress call from one of his old friends, one that both upset and frightened him. He realized the depth of the situation and the importance of time, but there was doubt present as well. Were they truly ready for something of this… this magnitude? Had he prepared them enough to send them out of the safety of their homes and into an unfamiliar world? He chuckled when the thought of safety came to mind. Merely being a slayer condemned a girl to a life of inescapable danger, whether she accepted the call or refused it. But deep down he knew he had no choice. His refusal of coming to aid could and would probably lead to the destruction of Middle Earth, a responsibility he was most unwilling to bear. As much as it grieved him to do so, there was no other way. He would have to send his girls to Middle Earth.
His legs began to tire from his pacing, forcing him to sit down at his desk. He wasn’t as young as he once was when he had started it all eight years ago. While he was not as old as would appear, the years of stress and misery took its toll on him, the light in his eyes dimmer than before. And now he finally knew what Buffy had been feeling for so very long: the burden of leadership. So much was at stake now, no pun intended, and he was the one calling most of the shots. If he were to make a mistake or let someone down, it would hurt him more severely than it had in the past. He just hoped his decision was not faulty, and that he would not take the brunt for it in the future.
Buffy fidgeted in her chair as she sat before Giles’ large oak desk. He hadn’t said why he wanted her there, and she was starting to feel a little wiggy. ‘It’s probably nothing,’ she told herself. ‘Another slayer must have turned up or something.’ Slayers were popping up so frequently now that it was no surprise to her when she found one on her front doorstep. Buffy continued to sit before Giles’ scrutinizing gaze, avoiding his eyes altogether. She scrunched up her nose at him. “Uh, Giles?”
Apparently, he had been lost in thought rather than staring her down, which made her feel marginally better. “Right,” he said, after clearing his throat. “I suspect you’re wondering why you’re here.” She didn’t say anything, just looked at him pointedly. “It appears we have another apocalypse on our hands,” he managed to say, although not without great difficulty.
Buffy just blinked at him, holding back her bitter laugh. Of course the calm had lasted for a suspiciously long time, it was no wonder the world was going to end. Such was the story of her life. “And you want me to stop it,” she stated rather than asked.
“Great,” she said, leaning back in the chair. “Nothing like the sweet smell of future hell suckage.”
He looked flustered for a moment, stuttering on his next words. “W-well, that won’t exactly be happening. Not, not here at least.”
Again she gave him a look.
“Our dimension is safe for the time being,” he continued quickly. “It’s another that I’m worried about.” He rose from his seat and resumed his pacing. “I was contacted earlier by a friend of mine. His name is Gandalf the White, a resident of the Grey Havens.” He put his hand up as he saw Buffy open her mouth. “You may ask your questions when I am finished,” he declared, ignoring her pout. “He informed me of an upcoming war in a place called Middle Earth, an area with the equivalent advancement of our medieval times. There have been sightings of a newly risen evil, which my resources identify as Havnic Demons. It seems the occupants of Middle Earth are having immense trouble handling them, so much so that they fear their own destruction. There is a shortage of men, which is where you come in.”
“You’re turning me into a man?” Buffy asked, not even bothering to sound sarcastic.
Giles gave her a pointed look, but ignored her remark nonetheless. “I have already chosen a small army to accompany you there. All preparations will be discussed tomorrow after I get some more things settled.” He returned to his spot at the desk, her cue to leave.
Buffy nodded and rose from her seat, anxious to go back home and brood some more.