In my first entry for this series, I focused on a passage I found to be beautifully written. For this article, I wanted to call attention to an important event which was totally removed from the movies, but should be quite important in an upcoming release for LOTRO. And we players can take new pride in this passage as we had a role in two of the plot elements mentioned.
The story starts just after the quarantine of Saruman in Orthanc as Gandalf, Aragorn, Theoden and company are returning to Edoras to discuss their next move. Pippin looks into the Palantir late one night, and Gandalf rides off with him at great haste to Minas Tirith. The remaining company had just passed the Fords of Isen when a rider of Rohan reports horsemen approaching; they challenge them in the dark…..
‘Rohan? Rohan did you say? That is a glad word. We seek that land in haste from long afar.’
‘You have found it,’ said Éomer. ‘When you crossed the fords yonder you entered it. But it is the realm of Théoden the King. None ride here save by his leave. Who are you? And what is your haste?’
‘And you have found him also!’ cried Aragorn. Giving his reins to Merry, he ran forward and embraced the newcomer. ‘Halbarad!’ he said. ‘Of all joys this is the least expected!’
Merry breathed a sigh of relief. He had thought that this was some last trick of Saruman’s, to waylay the king while he had only a few men about him; but it seemed that there would be no need to die in Théoden’s defence, not yet at any rate. He sheathed his sword.
‘All is well,’ said Aragorn, turning back. ‘Here are some of my own kin from the far land where I dwelt. But why they come, and how many they be, Halbarad shall tell us.’
‘I have thirty with me,’ said Halbarad. ‘That is all of our kindred that could be gathered in haste; but the brethren Elladan and Elrohir have ridden with us, desiring to go to the war. We rode as swiftly as we might when your summons came.’
‘But I did not summon you,’ said Aragorn, ‘save only in wish. My thoughts have often turned to you, and seldom more than tonight; yet I have sent no word. But come! All such matters must wait. You find us riding in haste and danger. Ride with us now, if the king will give his leave.’
Théoden was indeed glad of the news. ‘It is well!’ he said. ‘If these kinsmen be in any way like to yourself, my lord Aragorn, thirty such knights will be a strength that cannot be counted by heads.’
Then the Riders set out again, and Aragorn for a while rode with the Dunedain; and when they had spoken of tidings in the North and in the South, Elrohir said to him:
‘I bring word to you from my father: The days are short. If thou art in haste, remember the Paths of the Dead.‘
‘Always my days have seemed to me too short to achieve my desire,’ answered Aragorn. ‘But great indeed will be my haste ere I take that road.’
‘That will soon be seen,’ said Elrohir. ‘But let us speak no more of these things upon the open road!’
And Aragorn said to Halbarad: ‘What is that that you bear, kinsman?’ For he saw that instead of a spear he bore a tall staff, as it were a standard, but it was close-furled in a black cloth bound about with many thongs.
‘It is a gift that I bring you from the Lady of Rivendell,’ answered Halbarad. ‘She wrought it in secret, and long was the making. But she also sends word to you: The days now are short. Either our hope cometh, or all hopes end. Therefore I send thee what I have made for thee. Fare well, Elfstone! ‘
And Aragorn said: ‘Now I know what you bear. Bear it still for me a while!’ And he turned and looked away to the North under the great stars, and then he fell silent and spoke no more while the night’s journey lasted.
The night was old and the East grey when they rode up at last from Deeping-coomb and came back to the Hornburg. There they were to lie and rest for a brief while and take counsel.
Merry slept until he was roused by Legolas and Gimli. ‘The Sun is high,’ said Legolas. ‘All others are up and doing. Come, Master Sluggard, and look at this place while you may!’
‘There was a battle here three nights ago,’ said Gimli, ‘and here Legolas and I played a game that I won only by a single orc. Come and see how it was! And there are caves, Merry, caves of wonder! Shall we visit them, Legolas, do you think?’
‘Nay! There is no time,’ said the Elf. ‘Do not spoil the wonder with haste! I have given you my word to return hither with you, if a day of peace and freedom comes again. But it is now near to noon, and at that hour we eat, and then set out again, I hear.’
Merry got up and yawned. His few hours’ sleep had not been nearly enough; he was tired and rather dismal. He missed Pippin, and felt that he was only a burden, while everybody was making plans for speed in a business that he did not fully understand. ‘Where is Aragorn?’ he asked.
‘In a high chamber of the Burg,’ said Legolas. ‘He has neither rested nor slept, I think. He went thither some hours ago, saying that he must take thought, and only his kinsman, Halbarad, went with him; but some dark doubt or care sits on him.’
‘They are a strange company, these newcomers,’ said Gimli. ‘Stout men and lordly they are, and the Riders of Rohan look almost as boys beside them; for they are grim men of face, worn like weathered rocks for the most part, even as Aragorn himself; and they are silent.’
‘But even as Aragorn they are courteous, if they break their silence.’ said Legolas. ‘And have you marked the brethren Elladan and Elrohir? Less sombre is their gear than the others’, and they are fair and gallant as Elven-lords; and that is not to be wondered at in the sons of Elrond of Rivendell.’
‘Why have they come? Have you heard?’ asked Merry. He had now dressed, and he flung his grey cloak about his shoulders; and the three passed out together towards the ruined gate of the Burg.
‘They answered a summons, as you heard,’ said Gimli. ‘Word came to Rivendell, they say: Aragorn has need of his kindred. Let the Dunedain ride to him in Rohan! But whence this message came they are now in doubt. Gandalf sent it, I would guess.’
‘Nay, Galadriel,’ said Legolas. ‘Did she not speak through Gandalf of the ride of the Grey Company from the North?’
‘Yes, you have it,’ said Gimli. ‘The Lady of the Wood! She read many hearts and desires. Now why did not we wish for some of our own kinsfolk, Legolas?’
Legolas stood before the gate and turned his bright eyes away north and east, and his fair face was troubled. ‘I do not think that any would come,’ he answered. ‘They have no need to ride to war; war already marches on their own lands.’
-The Passing of the Grey Company, The Return of the King
And so it was that Galadriel sent us to marshal the Dunedain, and Arwen charged us with the delivery of Aragorns standard to Halbarad. We also discover Aragorn’s troubled thinking on what path he must take. Ultimately, he does decide to take the Paths of the Dead, but unlike the movie, 30 Dunedain and the sons of Elrond go with him.