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Heroes in Middle-earth

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Steve winced as he regained consciousness. He realized he was face down. He rolled over and opened his eyes but then closed them immediately due to the blazing sunlight. The light then faded and he opened his eyes again.

He got up and looked around. He was in some kind of wild plain. The terrain was flat but there were low lying hills and boulders dotting the landscape. He then heard a cough and turned to see Sara staggering up.

"Easy." Steve said as he helped her up, "Sara?"

"Steve." She said as she shook her head to clear it up, "Where are we?"

"Not New York." He said dryly when they heard loud groans behind them. They turned to see Oliver and Natasha on the ground.

"Ollie!" Sara said as the two ran up to them and Sara helped Oliver up as Steve helped Natasha up.

"Nat! You all right?" Steve asked.

Natasha checked her own pulse and said, "I think I'm alive."

The two chuckled as Steve helped her up while Sara helped Oliver up.

"What is this place, Sara?" Oliver said as he looked around.

"I have no idea." Sara said, "We just woke up here."

"The device malfunctioned." Steve said.

"When we get back, me and Cisco are going to have a conversation he is not going to like." Oliver said.

Suddenly, the four of them sensed something and Natasha narrowly avoided an arrow from hitting her.

The four turned around to see some really disgusting creatures looking at them, aiming their weapons. One of those creatures was green-skinned with pointed ears that reminded them all of Yoda. It had a heavy club in its hand. Another had blotchy, black skin and had a spear. A third one, which was also greenish, was lowering its bow.

"That's really gross." Natasha snarled.

"Who are you?" Oliver asked them.

"What do we 'ave here?" One of them said to the other, "Manflesh."

"Never feasted on a maiden before." Another one of those creatures said as it looked at Natasha and Sara and smacked its lips in a disgusting manner as the two glared at him.

"What the hell are you?" Sara asked.

"We're Orcs! And we're going to feast on yer flesh!" A large one said as it stepped up.

"Why does this always happen to us?" Oliver muttered.

Steve stood firmly, staring at the Orcs, and ordered, "Attack!"

Much further to the north a group of nine companions of varying heights and their baggage pony walked south at a steady pace. The group was comprised of a number of representatives of the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth. Walking at the head of the company was the Grey Wizard known by many names, but perhaps most commonly as 'Gandalf'.

Gandalf held his well-known wooden staff in his knolled right hand and pondered recent events. He and his eight companions set out from the hidden Elven refuge of Rivendell just under a month ago on their journey. A Council of the Free-Peoples had convened in Rivendell and had tasked the nine companions with arguably the most important quest in the history of Middle-Earth. He and his companions were heading to the distant land of Mordor, the realm of the Dark Lord, Sauron. It was only in Mordor that the One Ring, Sauron's greatest weapon, could be destroyed.

The One Ring was currently in the possession of one of his companions. If Sauron were to reclaim the Ring, the Free-Peoples would be powerless to stand against him. All Middle-Earth would be plunged into darkness with Sauron's reign lasting even until the world's end. Elrond, the Master of Rivendell, had dubbed the companions the "Fellowship of the Ring" in recognition of their task.

Gandalf was comforted that the other members of the Fellowship were noble representatives of all the Free-Peoples. Aragorn the Ranger and Boromir of Gondor represented the race of Men; Legolas Greenleaf for the Elves; and Gimli, Son of Gloin for the Dwarves. But Gandalf's thoughts often centred on the remaining four members that made their race have the highest representation in the Fellowship. Representing the short in stature, big hearted, peace loving race of Hobbits were Samwise 'Sam' Gamgee, Meriadoc 'Merry' Brandybuck, Peregrin 'Pippin' Took (Gandalf had a quiet grumble at this name) and most importantly, Frodo Baggins.

It was Frodo who was the bearer of the One Ring. Frodo had received the Ring as a 'gift' from his Uncle Bilbo who had found it on his travels many decades ago. Both Bilbo and Frodo were unaware of the significance of what they held in their keeping until Gandalf discovered it was indeed the Ring that Sauron sought to claim above all else. Even if the rest of my Order has strayed from our original purpose I shall not Gandalf thought. If only to relieve Frodo of a burden that he and Bilbo should have never had to bear.

In order to avoid the attention of Saruman, the traitor White Wizard, the Fellowship had tried to cross the mountain range known as the 'Misty Mountains', which could be seen to the east of them, over the Pass of Caradhas. As the Fellowship climbed its icy heights, it was forced to retreat due to an unnatural blizzard that Saruman had conjured. To continue its journey, the Fellowship was now heading towards another 'pass' that Gandalf had originally hoped they would avoid. He remembered Saruman's mental communication to him on Caradhas; taunting him about the dangers he was leading the Fellowship into. What troubled him was that Saruman's taunts were solidly based on fact.

Gandalf was interrupted in his thoughts by noticing a bright white light that flashed for a few moments to the distant south. The rest of the Fellowship noticed the flash and suddenly stopped at the sight. After their shock had subsided, the remaining eight Fellowship members moved themselves to stand either side of Gandalf.

"Durin's Beard, what was that?" Gimli asked to no one particular in the Fellowship.

"I am not sure." Gandalf replied in a puzzled tone, "It could not have been lightning as the skies are to the south are clear".

"Maybe it's another trick of Saruman's." Boromir thought aloud.

"Possibly." Gandalf admitted, "But I do not think Saruman would engage in such a blatant display of power. If he wanted to harm us, he'd directly unleash it upon us as he did on the mountainside".

Legolas did not take his eyes off the southern horizon and spoke in a prophetic manner, "Something has come to Middle-Earth. Something great and from somewhere else, for good or ill I know not. But I sense it approaching us".

Legolas' words cast a pall of creeping dread over the majority of the Fellowship. Aragorn noticed Gimli rolling his eyes and about to release an insult that would be added to the many that made up the renowned rivalry between Elves and Dwarves. Gimli was prevented doing this by an interruption from the Ring-bearer.

"Gandalf, look!" Frodo pointed to the south, "Can you see the rising smoke ahead of us?"

The rest of the Fellowship looked to where Frodo was pointing and they all noticed the thin trail of white smoke to the south that was closer in distance to them than where the bright flash occurred.

"Such a trail of smoke isn't from a natural blaze." Aragorn commented from long experience, "I would suggest it is from a camp site".

"Maybe they know what happened." Merry ventured.

Inwardly Boromir smiled at the innocence contained within the Hobbit's remark before speaking, "It's not just the Free-Peoples that set up camp in this part of the world, Master Merry".

Gandalf hummed his consent, "I agree that the source of that smoke bears investigation. But Boromir raises a good point. We should be especially cautious. That smoke lies directly on our destination's path."

"I would recommend Legolas takes front." Aragorn suggested, "The senses of the Elves are keener than any."

Aragorn looked at Gimli in quiet challenge to see if he would dispute his observation. Gimli narrowed his eyes but made no comment.

After accepting Aragorn's suggestion, the Fellowship proceeded towards the source of the smoke with caution.

Back near the camp site of the Orcs, the battle was in full force.

Steve caught an arrow before it hit him and leaping into the air, stabbed the Orc with it through the throat, killing him. He narrowly avoided a sword strike from the one behind him and gave him a powerful bone-breaking kick, sending him flying off by a few feet before lifting up a third and throwing him down with all his strength, breaking his back.

Natasha used her staff to deflect swords from two Orcs before tripping them simultaneously and gave one of them a powerful electric shock, killing him. The other one got up and attacked again but in a rotatory motion, she slipped behind him and grabbed him in a chokehold with her staff and then snapped his neck brutally.

Oliver deflected a club with his bow and smacked the Orc's hand, disarming him before kicking his face in a rotatory motion, sending him back. He ducked to avoid another strike from the Orc and grabbing his neck, snapped it. He then dodged another sword strike from behind in a rotatory motion and deflected the Orc's sword strikes before flipping in the air and shooting an arrow through his throat point blank.

Sara deflected a few arrows with her sword and in a spin motion, threw a shuriken at an Orc. It hit the Orc right in the jugular. It choked on its own blood and fell on the ground, dying painfully. She then blocked another Orc's attacks and in a spin motion, drove her sword through his gut.

Natasha and Sara both took vindictive pleasure in the fact that the Orcs were now feeling threatened by them, having wanted to feast on both of their fleshes a while ago.

"Watch out boys! These men and women ain't like the others!" One of the Orcs spoke up before Natasha killed him with an electric shock to the throat via staff.

The Fellowship had picked up its pace since seeing the light and smoke, curious to determine their cause. As they drew closer to the source of the smoke, Legolas sensed blood was being spilled. At this remark, Gandalf and Aragorn silently looked at each other with the same concern. They had hoped that the Fellowship could avoid conflict this side of the Misty Mountains. While it had a number of skilled warriors, the Fellowship's success depended greatly on remaining unnoticed in their travels.

The source of the smoke seemed to be just beyond a low rising hill to the front of them. Beyond the hill came many cries, screams and noises that the non-Hobbits in the Fellowship recognized immediately.

"Battle is joined!" Legolas exclaimed quietly before running quickly and silently to the crest of the hill.

"Wait here." Aragorn calmly commanded the rest of the Fellowship as he chased after his Elven friend.

Aragorn ran about hundred yards towards Legolas who was already in a prone position, making himself inconspicuous as he peered over the crest of the hill. Aragorn moved as quietly next to him, copying his position. Both the Man and Elf were taken aback by what they saw.

The smoke source was easily revealed as a campfire. However, as if to underline Boromir's earlier warning to Merry, this was an Orc camp. But the area close to the camp was littered with the corpses of many of its inhabitants who had appeared to have been crushed, stabbed or decapitated. The surviving Orcs – Aragorn guessed about fifty – had surrounded a group of two men and two women dressed unlike any he had seen in Middle-earth.

A blonde man with a short beard in blue livery was attacking the Orcs with his bare hands and killing them brutally. Maybe he was Rohirrim, based on the beard. But he wasn't dressed like them. A young, blond headed woman who wore a dark suit was battling the Orcs with some kind of staff which unleashed a blue colored magic from it. At least that's what it looked like to Aragorn. After that, there was an archer clad in green, as if to match color of the forests. He also had a short green beard like the man in the blue livery and he was shooting down Orcs with his arrows. His archery seemed to be better than any Man Aragorn had seen in the 87 years of his life. The only better archer than him would be Legolas himself. And even if he wasn't using his arrows, his fighting skills were good enough to defeat the Orcs. Aragorn's attention finally fell on the remaining blonde woman in a white suit who used her sword skillfully to deflect the Orcs' attacks and kill them.

"The four of them fight quite well." Legolas quietly commented, "But they are getting surrounded. One mistake and it could lead to the downfall of the four of them."

Aragorn nodded his agreement to his friend's observations. The other odd sight was that there were no bodies of any other Men around the camp. Aragorn wondered if the four had attacked the camp themselves. To have taken down half the Orcs by themselves clearly indicated they were warriors of enormous skill or mad or both.

Aragorn whispered to Legolas, "Keep watch. I'll tell the others."

The remaining members of the Fellowship had witnessed Legolas and Aragorn lying in observation. They all moved forwards when they saw Aragorn running back towards them. Although the sounds of battle swirled, Aragorn did not want to risk drawing the battle participant's attention by raising his voice.

"It's an Orc camp." Aragorn said plainly as soon as he reached the Fellowship, "They do battle with two strangely garbed men and two strangely garbed women. They appear be holding their own. But they are surrounded and greatly outnumbered."

"Men are doing battle with Orcs. And women too, even though it is not their province." Boromir stated firmly before unsheathing his sword and taking his shield, "As fellow Men I will aid them, strangely garbed or not."

Gimli appeared to follow Boromir as he held his two handed axe as if ready for battle. The pair momentarily halted as Gandalf sharply commanded them, "Wait!"

Gandalf looked to the four Hobbits. He saw the worry on their faces as soon as Aragorn had said the word "Orc".

"Good Shire-folk." Gandalf addressed them almost apologetically, "I'd hoped to have avoided battle this early in our journey. But it would appear our aid is needed".

After they had taken in Gandalf's words, it was Sam who spoke first.

"Mister Gandalf." Sam customarily addressed him, "We're on a quest to save the world. If the world needs saving here, we're willing to do our part."

Sam then drew his short sword and his fellow Hobbits followed his example. Bill, their pack pony seemed to snort his consent as well. Frodo noticed the blade on his sword 'Sting' glow light blue just like his uncle said it would when orcs were close. The other Fellowship members smiled at the courage and spirit displayed by the Hobbits.

"Well-spoken, Master Samwise." Gandalf replied raising his bushy eyebrows in approval. But all levity left his voice as he quickly issued warning, "However until I say, stay behind this hill."

The Hobbits nodded in understanding as the Wizard addressed the others.

"Come, my friends." Gandalf said to them as he turned to climb the hill, "Let's hope those brave men and women are still standing."

Steve dodged another Orc's strike before breaking the same Orc's face with a powerful sharp kick.

He then mentally took stock of the battle. The good news was that the four of them were fighting as a single unit. The bad news was that these savage creatures had now surrounded them and still outnumbered them by a wide margin.

Rogers turned to his right to face another Orc. Before he could engage it, Rogers saw the Orc roll its eyes before tumbling lifelessly to the ground. The cause of this Orc's demise was an arrow with yellow fletching sticking at the back of its head.

Two more Orcs near Rogers fell in quick succession by arrows of this type as well. At the same time, Natasha, Oliver and Sara witnessed an Orc killed by an arrow that entered its throat sideways. For a moment Natasha had thought Clint had joined the battle. The heroes and Orcs halted their combat and looked at the summit of the low hill to the north of them.

Rogers saw three men dressed in what he could only describe as medieval style clothing. Two of them were armed with longbows. Both men were long-haired, but one had black hair and a beard while the other's hair was golden and appeared to have a clean, youthful complexion. Standing between the archers, the third man had a long grey beard and held a wooden staff.

'Why is the old man wearing grey robes and a pointy hat?' Rogers wondered, 'Is he supposed to be some kind of magician?'

Rogers' last question was answered when the said old man firmly tapped the ground with his staff. A light shone from the top of his staff a light like sunlight reflecting off a mirror. None of the heroes found the light uncomfortable to look at. The Orcs were another matter.

All of them either turned their backs or dropped their weapons as they threw hands to cover their eyes. Their screams confirmed the blinding pain the light caused them.

Natasha, Oliver and Sara did not hesitate to make the most of the advantage that presented itself. Dividing her staff into batons, Natasha hit two Orcs simultaneously and killed them with electric shocks. Taking Natasha's lead, Oliver tripped the Orc closest to him and plunged his arrow into him. Sara avoided another Orc's strike and cut off his hand followed by a swift strike that separated his head from his body.

Rogers was about to join them when he noticed the light from the staff receding. Four men now charged down the hill, announcing their arrival with a strong battle cry.

Two of the men were the archers, although the black haired one was now wielding a two-handed sword. One of the new men was about the same height as the dark haired one, though his hair and beard were of a fairer color. This man held a broadsword and used a round shield.

Although similar in shape to Rogers's old shield, this man's shield appeared crafted out of steel with a leather hide. Rogers also noticed that a white horn, possibly crafted from ivory, hung around his belt.

It was the appearance of other new man that Rogers was taken aback by. He looked to be just over four feet in height with thick facial features on which hanged a think red beard. Rogers wondered if this short man suffered from one of those 'genetic abnormalities' that Banner once explained to him. The short man took down two of the creatures in rapid succession with the two handed axe he carried. Whatever the case, the short man's stature did not diminish his ability as a warrior.

The old man seemed to be following just behind the other four men at a speed that belied his age. The old man was now carrying a sword in the opposite hand to the one that held his staff.

An Orc covering its eyes with both its hands blindly bumped into Rogers. Berating himself for losing focus, Rogers grabbed the Orc and snapped his neck. Introductions could wait. For now, Rogers was glad he could finish the battle with the odds in his favor.

Boromir cut down another Orc that stood in front of him. He admitted to himself that Gandalf was right to have restrained him from entering the battle immediately. After Legolas and Aragorn had got the Orcs' attention with their arrows, Gandalf's spell proved to be a great aid. However Gandalf warned the Fellowship that the blindness his spell caused the Orcs would quickly dissipate. With that warning in their minds, Boromir and his fellow warriors had to kill as many Orcs as possible while they had the advantage.

Boromir noted that the members of the Fellowship who joined him in this battle were just doing that with their various weapons. Seeing no Orc was in his immediate vicinity, Boromir quickly assessed the men and women they had aided.

The bearded man in blue's clean, flowing movement left little doubt he was a soldier of some kind. However, he moved at a speed and stamina that only Elves and Men from the First Age could match. The way he fought was what interested Boromir the most. He used his speed to simply avoid or block any strikes and killed his opponents with strong blows. He was clearly stronger than any Man Boromir had ever seen before.

Boromir gasped when he saw the woman with the short blonde hair. Her weapon was what interested him most. A very special kind of staff, the likes of which he had never seen before. It could separate into two batons and then reattach into a staff. But the blue magic she casted from it was what shocked him. At least he thought it to be magic.

The green clad bearded man also moved just as cleanly as the one in the blue uniform, but slower. His speed was more akin to the Men Boromir knew. His archery skills were a different matter entirely. Even his brother Faramir wasn't this good and definitely not this fast when firing arrows. His archery skills might be a match for Legolas himself. The bow itself seemed very different from any bow he had seen and the arrows were also of a shape he had never seen before.

The last woman was also blonde and wore a white suit. Her sword fighting skills left no doubt that she was as good as, if not better than, most of the soldiers of Gondor. She also threw some kind of small, star-shaped pointed weapons that took down the Orcs.

A shout from Gimli grabbed Boromir from these thoughts.

"They're getting away!" The Dwarf warned.

The remaining Orcs had regained their sight as Gandalf predicted. Seeing their numbers were much diminished, and given the skill of the enemies they faced, they decided that this battle was no longer worth fighting. They routed towards the group of boulders and rocks to the south.

Legolas knew the danger the Fellowship could face if even one Orc got away to warn others of its kind. He began to shoot arrows at in rapid succession. Oliver aimed and fired his arrow at the routing Orcs. It multiplied into four and took down four of them. An arrow from Legolas cut down the last surviving orc.

Legolas turned to his right where Oliver stood and gave him a single nod with a small smile. A pleased Oliver returned the gesture only to pause at the sight of the 'young man's' pointed ears. The riddle behind his appearance and that of the short man with the red beard could wait. Oliver did not want to appear to be ungrateful to them or the other three men who had helped them.

With the Orcs dealt with, Gandalf turned around and faced the hill.

"It's alright, Frodo!" He shouted, "You and your friends can come down now!"

Natasha took it upon herself to address their allies of the moment.

"You all have our thanks for your help." She said politely.

"We are grateful we were in a position to offer you our assistance, my lords and ladies." Gandalf replied, guessing this woman was some kind of spy by the way she spoke and carried herself.

Steve, Oliver and Sara walked a few steps to stand beside Natasha. Aragorn was still stunned by witnessing the magic that came out of Natasha's weapon and the magical arrows of Oliver that could multiply when fired but decided not to pursue it for now. He, Boromir, Legolas and Gimli gathered closer around Gandalf.

Pointing at the bodies strewn around the campsite, Sara asked, "What kind of creatures are these?"

"I'm pretty sure they called themselves Orcs." Oliver remembered.

'All of these men and women are warriors' Boromir thought. 'How can they not know what Orcs are?'

"Before we discuss what Orcs are, perhaps introductions are in order?" Gandalf politely suggested.

The heroes introduced themselves separately – "Steve Rogers", "Natasha Romanoff", "Oliver Queen" and "Sara Lance." At their replies Aragorn thought all of their accents were unlike any he had heard in his travels across Middle-Earth.

Noting the men's and women's names Gandalf replied, "I am the Wizard known as Gandalf the Grey. To my right are Aragorn, son of Arathorn; Boromir, son of Denethor and to my left are Legolas Greenleaf of the Woodland Realm; and Gimli, son of Gloin".

All four of the heroes assumed that, as he did much of the talking, this 'Gandalf' appeared to be the leader of the group. The other thing they thought was that the five individuals had unusual names.

Steve's attention was focused on Legolas and Gimli. Thor had much more experience than any of the Avengers with races other than humans. And he had told the Avengers tales about his experiences with all of them. Steve still remembered some of them, along with the descriptions Thor used to give.

Given their physical characteristics, Steve assumed Legolas and Gimli were an Elf and a Dwarf respectively.

"Mister Elf, are you not from Alfheim?" Steve asked Legolas before turning to Gimli, "Mister Dwarf, is not Nidavellir your home?"

Legolas shook his head, "Alas, I am unaware of any realm called 'Alfheim'. I'm a Prince of Mirkwood".

Sensing an opening to rile Legolas, Gimli responded, "Unlike my pointy eared friend here I've no royal title. But unless 'Nidavellir' is another name for the Lonely Mountain, it is not my home."

Oliver and Sara shared a look as the result of the conversation between Steve, Legolas and Gimli. Until now, both had thought that 'Elves' and 'Dwarves' were creatures that existed only in fairy tales and myth or populated the worlds in the fantasy novels. But here in this world they existed in flesh and blood.

The heroes heard the sound of footsteps coming from just behind Gandalf and his companions. Hearing the noise, Gandalf stepped aside to introduce the four individuals who stopped just behind him.

"And if I can introduce the final members of our Fellowship." He began, "From the Shire I present you Masters Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took."

The Hobbits either nodded or waved as Gandalf introduced them. If the Elf and Dwarf puzzled Oliver and Sara, they were utterly mystified by the latest introductions. Even Steve and Natasha were. They'd initially thought that Gandalf and the others had children accompanying them.

One was even guiding a pony carrying what appeared to be gear for camping. But the faces of these individuals had adult features even if they were of child height. Sara had medical knowledge due to her time with Ivo so she was aware of the symptoms of adults who had Dwarfism. However these individuals did not seem to possess them.

Gandalf gave a knowing smile. He immediately recognized Steve's, Natasha's, Oliver's and Sara's reaction as the one that many gave when they met Shire-folk for the first time.

"I know Halflings are often thought of as legends across the lands." Gandalf happily instructed to the four heroes, "But as you can see with your own eyes, they are quite real."

Steve was the first to reply, "I mean no offence to you and your friends, sir. But I don't think any of us have even heard of 'Hobbits.' To be honest, we don't even know what this land is."

"You are currently in Eregion, which is one of the lands of Eriador." Gandalf informed them without the slightest puzzlement.

"Never heard of these places." Natasha said.

Pippin, the youngest Hobbit, could not contain his curiosity about these strange men and women any more.

"Surely you've heard of Middle-Earth before?" He piped up.

"Well, Earth's the name of the world where we come from." Oliver cautiously answered, "But it's never had 'Middle' as a prefix."

Gandalf hid his annoyance of Pippin's interruption. He was very fond of Pippin. But Pippin's natural curiosity sometimes lead him say and do things (usually with his cousin Merry) that exhausted even Gandalf's seemingly limitless patience. However, Pippin's question seemed to prompt other members of the Fellowship to ask their own.

"Maybe you can tell us how you got here?" Aragorn suggested.

"We were with some of our friends in New York." Steve recalled slowly, " A friend of ours called Cisco had lost his powers so him and Tony had made a device to return them. But just after they had used the device, there was a vortex that dragged the four of us here."

Steve and Oliver then talked about their encounter with the Orcs before the arrival of the Fellowship.

Except for Gandalf, the blank looks on the rest of the Fellowship indicated to the four that they were dumbfounded by many if not all aspects of his story. Merry whispered to his fellow Hobbits, "What's a vortex?"

Gandalf's face remained neutral through and after Steve and Oliver told their tale.

"That's very interesting, Steve Rogers and Oliver Queen." Gandalf replied in a thoughtful manner, "Could you please excuse us for a moment?"

Two separate huddles formed only a few yards apart, one consisting of the Fellowship and the other of the heroes. Both began talking among themselves in hushed tones.

Oliver came straight to the point, "I have no idea what happened. And I have no idea what this place is."

"I don't know." Natasha replied, "And there is nothing familiar about this place either."

"I don't remember any time period that had any creatures called Orcs." Sara said.

"If you're right." Steve said, "We could be stuck here for a while considering we've no means of communications."

"That also means the amount of dangers we face here is increased." Oliver added before nodding his head in the direction of the Fellowship, "If these guys offer to join them, I think we should do so. Despite that we don't know anything about them, I sense all of them to be decent types and they appear very knowledgeable about this world. It also goes without saying that more than half of them are skilled warriors as well."

"Oliver has a point." Natasha said, "With no way back, we're stuck. Better remain stuck with skilled people who know about the place."

"Yeah. No harm done." Sara agreed too.

"Alright." Steve made it unanimous, "But if they don't make the offer, let's ask for directions to the nearest settlement so we can figure our next move."

Gandalf opened discussion in the Fellowship's huddle.

"I think their story beyond even the most imaginative spy and nor do they look like mad men." He quickly ruled out two possibilities, "What does everyone else think?"

In situations such as this, the Fellowship's members were equals. Gandalf had no complaint when Pippin spoke first. The Took always tried to see the upside in things. His ability to provide this simple cheer made him as valuable to the Fellowship as any of its greatest warriors.

"Well, I didn't understand a lot of what they said." Pippin admitted, "But they seem nice enough."

"Appearances can be deceptive, Master Took." Legolas cautioned, "The Enemy has servants of many guises."

"Nonsense, Elf." Gimli scoffed earning a withering look from Legolas, "Would servants of the Enemy fight for life and limb against a band of Orcs just to gain our attention and trust? If four of them were the 'something great' you supposedly sensed, I say that we should try to have them on our side."

"Peace, Gimli." Boromir gently chided, "But in a sense, I agree with you. If the four of them wished to harm us, they could have simply set an ambush with the Orcs. Given their battle prowess, we would've been quickly overwhelmed."

Gandalf noted Boromir's sound reasoning but he did not voice his agreement with it. The reason was that in the end this quest was the Ring-bearer's and Gandalf did not want to unduly influence his decisions.

"Frodo." He asked, "What do you want to do?"

For Frodo, it was the second time that Gandalf has asked him to make a decision for all the Fellowship. The first decision resulted in their retreat from Caradhas to their current route. He still felt very uncomfortable about it, as there were other Fellowship members more knowledgeable about Middle-Earth than he. Like that decision he simply had to trust his feelings.

"I think we should ask them to come with us if all of you agree." Frodo cautiously decided, "I think this encounter shows we'll need all the help we can get."

As no dissent was expressed, Gandalf said with simple finality, "So be it."

"Nonetheless, Legolas has point." Aragorn warned, "While the four of them seem honorable, there's still much mystery that surrounds them. I witnessed the blue magic that the woman's staff expelled and the arrows of the green clad archer also have some kind of spell on them as they can produce many others. Until we know more about them, I suggest we say nothing of the Ring to them."

The Fellowship huddle broke up after they all agreed to what Aragorn had said.

Steve, Natasha, Oliver and Sara were already waiting for the Fellowship after it had concluded its deliberations. It was Gandalf who spoke to them.

"My lords and ladies." He addressed them, "While trying to find a way back to your homes, you'd be most welcome to join us. While I am sure we all have a lot of questions, I'd suggest we start moving in case any more Orcs are in the vicinity."

"Gandalf the Grey." Oliver replied on the heroes' behalf, "We accept your offer."

"And we thank you for it." Steve added.

The Fellowship of the Ring resumed its journey with four new and very different members.

Chapter Text

The Fellowship, now having four more members, continued its journey southwards towards its destination. Steve, Natasha, Oliver and Sara were offered decent food from which included bread, dry meat and fruits, for which they were grateful. Sam was a pretty good cook. Oliver and Sara wondered if he could have trained Laurel to cook nicely.

As the journey continued, Gandalf and Natasha walked at the head of the column.

"So you're a spy for the organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D.?" Gandalf asked.

"I was." Natasha said, "But it was revealed an evil organization called Hydra had taken over it so we had to expose them."

"I think I understand your reasons, Lady Romanoff." Gandalf said, "You're a shield-maiden in a sense."

Natasha simply nodded, finding Gandalf to be a pretty intelligent fellow.

"May I see your staff?" Gandalf asked politely.

She nodded and took it out with a twirl, handing it to him.

He examined it, "I have never seen a weapon like this before. It seems finely crafted for the art of war."

"And it can detach into batons too." Natasha said as Gandalf did just that.

"A fine weapon, Lady Romanoff." Gandalf smiled, "And I heard it discharges some kind of blue magic."

"Oh! That's just electricity." Natasha said.

"I'm afraid I have never heard of that term." Gandalf told her apologetically.

"Electricity is something used to power things up." Natasha explained the best she could, "It is like a smaller, less powerful form of lightning. My staff discharges that in small doses. Enough to stun and knock out. It's not magic. It's technology."

"Never have I seen such fine craft." Gandalf stated as he joined the batons back into a staff and handed it to Romanoff, "Not even by the Elves and Dwarves. You possess true courage and very unique weapon to channel it, Lady Romanoff."

"Thanks." Natasha smiled, flattered at Gandalf's genuine praise.

"And I can understand being betrayed and finding out everything you know is a lie." Gandalf said about Hydra taking over SHIELD, "The head of our order- Saruman the White. He was very wise and more powerful than me. I considered him my friend. But he has strayed from his purpose. He now believes that he should use his power to rule the Free-Peoples instead of guiding them. He even held me prisoner atop his Tower of Orthanc. I only escaped because of luck and an old friend."

"I'm sorry." Natasha said simply, though she didn't ask about details. For some reason, she had a feeling what Gandalf and his group was doing was related to Saruman's treachery.

A few steps behind them were Steve Rogers and Boromir. They were getting along pretty well due to the fact that both of them were military men.

"So you used to be a soldier for the land of 'America?'" Boromir asked just to be sure.

"I did." Steve said, "Until I found out that the organization I was serving had been taken over by an enemy organization of ours called Hydra. Made me lose my trust in the government."

"Such acts of treachery have never happened in Gondor before." Boromir said.

"I have no doubt of that Boromir." Steve told him, "If you and your friends are anything to go by, this world seems to be an honorable one."

Boromir smiled at the praise as Steve then asked, "So these Orcs are enemies of the people here?"

"Yes. They serve Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor." Boromir said, "His reach has grown longer. He seeks to dominate all the Free-People of Middle-earth with his foul creatures."

Boromir then explained his own predicament that had risen due to Sauron's threat, "My own country of Gondor faces the threat of Mordor. We are right at its border. As the Captain-General of Gondor, I'm charged with leading her defense."

Steve seemed very surprised at what Boromir had said, "If you don't mind me asking, why are you here instead of in Gondor, leading her defense?"

Boromir shook his head, telling him he didn't mind, "My father sent me to Rivendell to meet the representatives of the Free-Peoples to secure their aid in the war against the Dark Lord."

"Is your father the King?" Steve asked.

"No. He holds the office of Steward of Gondor." Boromir informed him, "The last King vacated the throne more than a thousand years ago. In the absence of the Kings, the Stewards have ruled Gondor and will continue to do so until the Return of the King."

"Are there any descendants of the King left?" Steve asked.

"Maybe there are. Maybe there are not." Boromir said as he glanced at Aragorn for a few moments, confusing Steve, before turning back to him, "But I feel they do not want the throne. Not surprising, as many believe Gondor is doomed in the face of Mordor's onslaught."

Steve could tell how stressed Boromir felt due to the dire situation of his country.

"Do not think like that, Boromir." Steve assured him with a smile, "As long as one man stands against Sauron, he will never be able to claim victory."

Normally, Boromir would dismiss what Rogers was saying but there was something about him. Maybe it was the fact that he was a fellow soldier. Or that he seemed to be carrying the scars of struggles long past himself. But Boromir believed him.

"Steve Rogers." He smiled, "I think you're a man I will be proud to fight alongside of."

"I can say the same about you, Boromir." Steve said.

Further back walked Oliver Queen with Legolas and behind them was Gimli. Oliver didn't need any telepathy to know that the two had some sort of quarrel. But it wasn't his business.

"I have never seen any archer as skilled as you, Master Queen." Legolas said in a respectful tone, "No Man has ever displayed that amount of skill in archery. I daresay even Elves will be envious of your archery skills."

"Does that include you?" Gimli piped up from behind but Legolas didn't give any reply. He was one person who could stay calm and be very angry at the same time. And that made him dangerous.

"Perhaps we can have a game of some sort." Legolas suggested, "Whoever kills the highest number of enemies is the victor."

"A challenge huh!" Gimli said, "Well, my pointy-eared friend, you have made the biggest mistake in your long life."

"I actually like the sound of that." Oliver said with a smile, "Just don't kill each other."

"You have my word I will not touch the Dwarf." Legolas said.

"I won't kill an Elf. It won't be much of a challenge." Gimli spoke up.

Oliver shook his head in amusement and asked Legolas, "Can I see your bow?"

"May I see yours then?" Legolas asked.

"Of course." Oliver agreed as the two master archers exchanged their bows.

Oliver looked at Legolas' bow. Its base was made of dark wood which could only be found in a forest. The string was at least 550 paracord. It reminded him of his own first bow on Lian Yu.

Legolas too admired Oliver's bow. It was a complex piece of metalwork with black limbs. It almost seemed like an Elf had made it as it seemed lightweight as well as strong.

"Those arrows of yours." Legolas said as the two returned their bows to each other, "Have you casted some kind of spell on them? They seem to multiply."

"No." Oliver explained, "I have simply designed them like that. Some of them have incendiary materials on their end and others have bits of others stored with them which is why they multiply."

"You are a fine craftsman Master Queen." Legolas complimented and got a chance to get back at Gimli, "I do not believe even a Dwarven smith would be able to replicate what you did to your bow."

The two could hear Gimli's snort coming from behind them and Oliver chuckled in amusement.

"If I let you call me Oliver, can I call you Legolas?" Oliver asked.

"I accept your offer, Oliver." Legolas agreed. This was the start of a very great friendship as well as rivalry.

At the back of the column was Sara with the four Hobbits. The innocence and friendliness in them reminded her of Laurel and herself when they were kids. Maybe that is why she found them to be good company.

"If you don't mind me asking, Lady Sara, where did you learn to use a sword?" Pippin, who seemed to be the most talkative of them all, asked her.

"Pippin!" Merry, his equally humorous but slightly more serious cousin, scolded him.

"It's all right Merry." Sara assured him with a smile, "I was once lost at sea and found by a group known as the League. They took me in and taught me how to defend myself."

"I don't think I have ever heard of any League." Sam said.

"You wouldn't have." Sara told him when she noticed Frodo was rubbing his chest.

"Frodo! You all right?" She asked gently.

"Yes I am all right. Thank you." Frodo said politely, "I just have a few things in my mind."

The Halfling is lying to you, Sara Lance. He carries something that can be of great use to you and the one you loved.

Sara's eyes widened in horror and she shook her head to get the strange voice out of her head. She wondered what that was. It had sent a chill down her spine. She had never felt this terrified in her entire life except when in Ivo's ship. And the source of the voice seemed to be….. Frodo?

Sara shook her head, trying to get the voice out of her head. Maybe it had just been a long day.

By sunset, everyone had gathered around the campfire as Sam put chopped vegetables into the pot.

"You could have taught my sister how to cook." Sara smiled.

"I will if I ever meet her." Sam said and Sara winced.

"What is it, Lady Sara?" Sam asked politely.

"Nothing." Sara said, "It's just that- she died."

"Oh!" Sam said, looking sad, just like the other Hobbits, "I am so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you with my question."

"Don't apologize. You didn't know." Sara told him with a sad smile as she remembered Laurel.

Sara then looked at Frodo who was resting his arms on his thighs while he spoke to Sam about something. Sara spied a gold chain around Frodo's neck peeking out from under his shirt.

What lies on the Hobbit's chain can send you home, Sara Lance. As well as bringing your sister back.

Sara felt a shiver run up her spine as the evil inner voice she heard earlier again spoke to her. She snapped out of it upon feeling a firm hand on her shoulder from the person sitting to her left.

"Sara, what happened?" Oliver demanded quietly but firmly.

Sara thought Oliver deserved to know the truth after everything they had been through together.

"I heard a strange voice in my head today." She said, "Twice. It seemed to be coming from Frodo. And both times, it told me to hurt him."

Unbeknown to both Oliver and Sara, Pippin had been listening in on their exchange. He remembered what had been said at the Council of Elrond when he, Merry and Sam were spying on it. Perhaps the voice Sara was hearing came from what Frodo was carrying? Wanting to help, Pippin unintentionally forgot Aragorn's warning.

"The voice you hear could be the ring, Sara." The Took quietly speculated to her and Oliver, "I don't understand exactly how, but apparently it can say things that drive people mad."

The two heroes of Earth-1 were both confused by Pippin's reply.

"Ring? What ring?" Oliver asked Pippin.

As soon as they heard Oliver's question, the original members of the Fellowship ceased all conversation. They first stared at him and then at Pippin. After joining the dots, some looked at Pippin stunned and others in exasperation. Gandalf shot up from where he was sitting.

"Confound your loose tongue, Peregrin Took!" Gandalf scolded Pippin. "When we agreed to keep the ring a secret, I knew I should have cast a spell on you making you a mute!"

"I'm sorry, Gandalf, I just forgot," Pippin replied cringing before Gandalf's displeasure.

Oliver leapt to Pippin's defence feeling guilty that he had gotten him into trouble.

"Look, Gandalf," Oliver began owing up. "It's my fault as I asked the question. But I've still no idea what ring Pippin's talking about."

"I do not know about this Ring either." Steve said, "But my friends and I are now travelling with your Fellowship. I understand if you don't want to tell us about whatever you're doing, Gandalf. It might be a top secret mission. But considering we're stuck with you, I think we should know."

"We meant no offence when we decided not to tell you." Aragorn moved to assure the heroes, "Please understand that the Enemy's bent on finding us. We must be careful to whom we trust."

"We can understand." Natasha said and Steve nodded, both of them having experienced the exact same thing when SHIELD had fallen.

"And we respect that." Steve continued, "But you might be stuck with us for a while yet. If you let us know what you're up to, we might even be in a position to help."

Frodo decided that Steve, Natasha, Oliver and Sara had a point. Both him and Aragorn nodded their assent to the silent question Gandalf asked them both with a look. After releasing a sigh, Gandalf spoke.

"Very well then. We shall tell you about the ring and our purpose around it. But I suggest we discuss these things after dinner. If we tell you before, you might lose your appetites." Gandalf then gave a sideward glance to Pippin before saying with mild sarcasm, "And none of us would want Master Samwise's cooking to go to waste would we, Pippin?"

Dinner was a fairly muted affair. A sense of nervous anticipation built in the Fellowship due to their promised explanation of the One Ring to their new companions. After finishing Sam's soup, the Fellowship either smoked their pipes or drank tea as Gandalf indicated he was ready to begin the tale. Looking each at of the heroes, Gandalf drew deep on his pipe and exhaled.

"Three thousand years ago," The Wizard commenced, "in the Second Age of Middle-earth, the great Rings of Power were forged. Three were given to the immortal Elves. Seven were presented to the Dwarf Lords. And nine were given to great kings of Men. Within these rings contained the strength and will to govern each race. But what they did not know was their rings were controlled by a master ring, the One Ring."

Gandalf then turned his gaze into the campfire as he recited one of Middle-earth's most famous and fearful verses.

"One Ring to rule them all. One Ring to find them. One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them."

"I'm sorry, Gandalf." Steve interrupted, "I'm not quite following you."

The Grey Wizard turned to Frodo and simply said, "Show them, Frodo."

After a moment's hesitation, Frodo pulled out the chain he wore from under his shirt. Hanging on the chain was a gold ring resembling a wedding band. Frodo cushioned the ring in his hand.

Oliver had a little trouble following the story till now as none of them had experienced things this mystical before. Even Dahrk's magic didn't unnerve Oliver as much as this Ring here. This Ring seemed to have a sinister will of its own that it wanted others around it to follow. It seemed more sinister than the Kushu Idol itself.

Sara too found it more unnerving than any of the Demons faced by her team. If she could, Sara would bet her life that this Ring was the source of the voices she was hearing. Considering everything she had seen as a Legend, it wasn't far-fetched. The Spear of Destiny was not very different from this Ring. A sinister object of great power which could corrupt anyone with its power. But unlike that, this Ring seemed to be actively trying to corrupt everyone around it.

Steve looked at Boromir to his left. The Gondorian swallowed a nervous lump as he went pale in color. Steve was quietly surprised to see a seemingly noble man such as Boromir looking at the Ring with a mixture of repulsion and coveting.

Natasha looked at it emotionlessly, feeling unnerved. For some reason, it was reminding her of Loki's mind control of Clint, which had left him scarred for quite some time. And this Ring seemed just as sinister.

Noticing the rising tension within the Fellowship, Gandalf said, "You can put it away again, Frodo."

Frodo ignored this. All his focus seemed to be consumed in looking at the ring he held in his hand. The seconds began to drag by.

"That's enough." Boromir audibly whispered. Dismayed that Frodo ignored him too, Boromir began raising his voice. "I said that's en-"

"Frodo!" Gandalf's firmer repetition of his name snapped Frodo out of his trance. He quickly tucked the chain and ring under his shirt again. Several members of the Fellowship let out an audible sigh of relief when he did so.

Gandalf then looked at each of the heroes before continuing his monologue.

"Frodo has in his possession the One Ring. It was forged in the land of Mordor by the Dark Lord, Sauron, in the fires of Mount Doom. He poured into it his cruelty, his malice and his will to dominate all life. One Ring to rule them all.

"With the power of the Ring, Sauron launched his conquest of the lands of Middle-earth. He was resisted by an alliance of Men and Elves who drove his forces right back into the heart of Mordor. The final battle was fought at the very slopes of Mount Doom.

"Sauron himself fought in this battle, the Last Alliance stood powerless before him and the Ring. When all hope had faded, Isildur, the King of Gondor cut the Ring from Sauron's hand. With its loss, Sauron was defeated but he was not destroyed. Seduced by its power, Isildur kept the Ring. The spirit of Sauron endured, allowing the Dark Lord to slowly recuperate his strength."

As Gandalf told this part of the tale, Steve and Oliver noticed Aragorn look away ashamed for some reason. Natasha was reminded a bit of Phase 2. While it wasn't the most ethical, she could understand why it was done.

"Why was Isildur wrong to keep the Ring?" Natasha asked, "There's some very powerful weapons on Earth. It's not ideal. But, sometimes, they're the only effective defense you've got."

Rogers heard a quiet snort from Boromir indicating agreement with Natasha's observation. Gandalf heard it too but opted to ignore it. He instead voiced what he'd hinted to Frodo earlier in the day.

"You remember how the Ring spoke to you, Sara?" Gandalf knowingly put to her, "And how you felt?"

Sara shifted uncomfortably upon remembering and Natasha realized why this Ring was an even more unethical defense than Ultron or Phase 2.

"As Mithrandir, Gandalf, says," Legolas intervened, "Sauron poured his very life force into the Ring. It can be used for nought but evil".

"If someone besides Sauron attempts to use the Ring," Aragorn further explained, "At best, they would become completely obsessed by it, driven into the depths of utter madness. At worst, they would rise to be a Dark Lord equal in evil and power to Sauron."

Legolas agreed with a nod, "Sauron and the Ring are one."

"I acknowledge the importance of what you've shared with us," Oliver prefaced before turning to Gandalf, "But Gandalf, the events you've described took place centuries ago. How did Frodo end with the Ring in his possession?"

"Legolas is right," Gandalf replied, "Because the Ring contains Sauron's life-force, it possesses a will of its own. It is a will, Oliver, that you and your friends have only experienced a taste of."

Gandalf then connected this to the Ring's history, "The Ring betrayed Isildur to his death. It fell into the River Anduin, settling on its floor for two and a half thousand years. Except for a handful, all knowledge of the Ring passed from memory. Then, five hundred years ago, the Ring was found by the creature Gollum.

"Gollum took the Ring into the tunnels of the Misty Mountains. It poisoned Gollum into the type of madness Aragorn described earlier. When the Ring sensed its master's power growing, it abandoned Gollum in an effort to get back to Sauron's hand." Gandalf paused a moment before finally answering Oliver's question. "But it never planned upon being picked up by a hobbit. A hobbit named 'Bilbo Baggins'."

Noticing the heroes staring at Frodo, Gandalf nodded at the connection they were trying to make.

"Yes," Gandalf softly confirmed, "Their sharing of the same surname is no coincidence. Bilbo is Frodo's uncle. For three score years Bilbo kept the Ring in his possession, delaying old age in him. Some months ago, after a great deal of persuasion, Bilbo relinquished the Ring to Frodo who has had it in his keeping ever since.

"The Dark Lord has rebuilt his fortress in Mordor and greatly replenished his forces. Sauron now only needs the One Ring to bring all Middle-earth to his will. With the Ring his victory shall be so total, his power so absolute, that his reign of darkness over Middle-earth shall last until the ending of the world."

Rogers tried comprehending all the information that Gandalf and the others had provided. He compared it to the old saying of trying to drink water coming out of a fire hose. One part of the Fellowship's story particularly didn't make any strategic sense.

"Just to be sure I understand," Rogers began prefacing his argument, "The Ring is all powerful. And it's too dangerous for you to use. And if Sauron gets it back, he'll be Middle-earth's eternal dictator."

Seeing the confirming nods he was getting, Rogers then said, "So why not just destroy it and rid yourselves of Sauron in one quick move?! Why does Frodo have to carry it?"

"Destroying the Ring is no simple task, Steven," An understanding Legolas replied.

"At the risk of astonishing everyone else," Gimli dryly added as his first contribution, "But the Elf's right. In Rivendell, I learnt the hard way that the Ring can't be destroyed like some common trinket."

"If Gimli is agreeing with Legolas, then I think they're right." Oliver prefaced to Steve, Natasha and Sara.

"The Ring was forged in the heart of Mount Doom, only there can it be unmade," Aragorn explained, trying to use his foster father's words at the Council verbatim, "The Ring must be carried deep into Mordor and cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came. As the Ring-bearer, Frodo has volunteered to undertake this quest. The rest of us as representatives of the Free Peoples have resolved to guide and protect him as he completes his task."

"We've witnessed your skills as warriors," Oliver began to avoid offence at what he followed up with, "But your Fellowship's numbers appear very small next to its purpose. Wouldn't an entire army seem better suited to this task?"

A veteran of Gondor's long struggle against Mordor, Boromir answered on the Fellowship's behalf.

"Even if all the forces of the Free Peoples fought as one army under a single banner, in open battle Sauron's forces would overwhelm us with numbers alone. Mordor's protected by long, impenetrable mountain ranges with the exception of its eastern border. But even that is protected by nations of Men allied to Sauron.

"The only approaches from Gondor are two narrow passes that are heavily fortified and guarded by orcs, trolls and even greater evils. With his Great Eye, Sauron is ever watchful for any would be trespassers into his lands."

"Aside from the reasons Boromir has stated, there's another reason for our small numbers," Gandalf added, "An army would certainly attract the attention of Sauron's most powerful servants. They're charged above all else to find the Ring-bearer."

"Who are they?" Rogers asked.

"The nine kings of Men were corrupted by their rings as Sauron planned," Aragorn explained as he had done to the Hobbits in Bree, "One by one they fell into darkness, taking on an existence neither living nor dead. When close enough they can sense the presence of the Ring. They are the Nazgul, the Ring-wraiths."

"Damn right nasty buggers those Black Riders!" Sam interrupted.

By the looks he received, Sam sought to clarify his remarks to heroes.

"Sorry, for my strong language," Sam apologized, not realizing that his adjectives would barely raise an eyebrow on any of the two Earths, "But after the way they hurt Frodo at Weathertop, any hurt they suffer is too good for them."

"They were washed away at the Bruinen Ford, perhaps they won't be bothering us for a long time," Merry observed with a hope he did not really feel.

Natasha wanted to know more about 'Weathertop' and Frodo's injury. However, she felt there was an important loose end that needed to be tied.

"Where does this 'Saruman' guy fit into what you have told us?" She asked.

The Grey Wizard allowed himself a moment of private grief before explaining.

"Saruman needs the Ring in order to challenge Sauron for dominion of Middle-earth," Gandalf advised, "We are currently coming very close to Saruman's lands. He'll not be idle in trying to secure the Ring before Sauron can."

"Is there anything else you need to tell us?" Sara asked the group.

"I hope not," Pippin commented, "Ever since bumping into Frodo and Sam, there's been too many nasty surprises for my liking."

Seeing that Steve, Natasha, Oliver and Sara had run out of questions at least for now, Gandalf summarized what they and the Fellowship had just spoken of.

"So now you know the task our Fellowship is embarked on. By accompanying us, the four of you face the greatest dangers that can be faced by the Free Peoples in these dark times. We can give you no promise that by travelling with us, you shall find a way back to your homes. If you wish to leave us because of these risks we'll understand. Our only request is that you do not divulge our location to anyone else, even those claiming to be our friends."

The Fellowship's members looked intently at their four new companions as to how they would answer.

After a few moments of consideration, the heroes answered individually. Oliver spoke first.

"I think we learned earlier danger can exist anywhere in Middle-earth. Even if there wasn't, it's no guarantee we'll get back home sooner. And I've met a madman who wanted to destroy the entire world and rebuild it in any way he saw fit." Oliver said as he remembered Damien and then shrugged his shoulders in conclusion, "So, I guess my vote is continuing to go with you."

"We're the Avengers." Natasha said, "Our job is to protect people from any evil threats that might come after them. On any world now that I think about it. So we are with you. Plus, like Oliver, I and Steve have also been in conflict with such people."

"My team has handled one artefact that is almost as dangerous as the Ring." Sara said passionately, "I can see how it divides people. And I will not let that happen to this world. I'm in."

Finally it was Steve's turn to speak.

"Earlier today, you risked your lives and your mission's secrecy even though you knew nothing about us." Rogers looked at his fellow Avengers before continuing, "My government had an Initiative that created a team – a 'Fellowship' you could say - of extraordinary individuals to fight the battles that Earth's people couldn't. On Earth, our team's known as the 'Avengers'. The government eventually betrayed us but we know that we have to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. In the Battle for Middle-earth, the Avengers fight alongside all who oppose Sauron."

The original Fellowship smiled at the words of the four heroes. Its most important member finally broke his long silence.

"We felt you were honourable from when we first met. But we were still unsure how much we could trust you." The Ring-bearer felt the will of the Ring weaken at this unexpected aid, "Thank you for rewarding our faith in allowing you to accompany us."

The heroes acknowledged Frodo's compliment with smiles of their own.

"Heroes of your world indeed." Gandalf warmly concluded, "The Free Peoples would be comforted to know that, against the growing darkness, both our fellowships shall be standing as one."

Exhausted but uplifted, the original Fellowship enjoyed their best sleep since setting out from Rivendell.

Chapter Text

The next day, the Fellowship set out for their destination and reached it before sunset. Gimli pointed at a cliff in front of them and proclaimed happily, "The Walls of Moria!"

Steve, Natasha, Oliver and Sara saw a structure protruding out of the cliff face. Gandalf and Gimli led them south along a narrow path that separated the cliff from a dark water body to their right.

"How're we supposed to get through this place?" Oliver asked.

Gimli tapped the cliff with his ax and said proudly, "Well you see Master Oliver. Dwarf doors are invisible when closed."

"Yes Gimli." Gandalf agreed, "Even their own masters cannot find them when they are forgotten."

"Why does this not surprise me?" Legolas said dryly and Gimli grumbled as Steve, Natasha, Oliver and Sara rolled their eyes.

The path was so narrow at times that Frodo's feet almost slipped into the water because of a slight stumble.

Eventually, they reached a smooth section of the wall that had two trees to flank it.

Gandalf brushed at this part with his hand and murmured to himself, "Well, let's see. Ithildin. It mirrors only starlight and moonlight."

That was when the clouds slowly drifted away, revealing a full moon whose light fell upon the part of the wall, revealing a white, shining outline of an archway. This was enough to awe Steve, Natasha, Oliver and Sara. In the world of the former two, even magic had scientific explanation at least. But not here. The design also had two columns and a crown along with strange markings.

Gandalf pointed at the runes with his staff and said, "It reads, "The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. -Speak, friend, and enter.""

"What do you suppose that means?" Merry asked.

"I'm pretty sure it means that if you're a friend of the people living here, you speak the password and the doors open for you." Natasha explained to him.

Gandalf nodded and then spoke two passwords in a language no one from either of the two Earths recognized. Whatever he had said though, the doors remained closed.

"Bummer." Sara said.

"Nothing's happening." Pippin stated the obvious.

"Thank you Captain Obvious." Sara said dryly.

Gandalf then tried to push them with Steve's help but nothing happened as he murmured, "I once knew every spell in the tongues of Men, Elves and Orcs."

"What are you going to do then?" Pippin asked.

"Knock your head against these doors Peregrin Took!" Gandalf replied in exasperation, "If that does not shatter them, and I'm allowed a little peace from foolish questions, I will try to find the opening words."

Oliver decided to give a better option, "Maybe I can use one of my arrows on this thing. I'm sure they can work."

"No Oliver." Steve said, "I don't think we need that here. Guests do not break down host's door, do they?"

No one could stop themselves from quietly laughing at Steve's joke to lighten the mood.

Later, as Gandalf tried to figure out the password Aragorn, Sam and Sara together set Bill free and removed his baggage.

"Mines are no place for a pony." Aragorn gently told Sam, "Even one so brave as Bill."

Sara patted Bill's head lovingly, "You were a good boy, Bill. But where we're going is too dangerous for you."

"Bye-bye, Bill." Sam said.

"Go on, Bill. Go on." Aragorn said as Bill started walking away back to the direction they had come from.

"Don't worry, Sam, he knows the way home." Aragorn assured him.

"I'm sure he does." Sara said, having some knowledge about horses. She then noticed a pendant hanging from Aragorn's neck. It looked very beautiful. It was an exquisite design of sparkling crystals arranged like a star set in finely engraved silver.

"I love your pendant, Aragorn." She said, "It looks like it belongs to royalty."

Aragorn flinched on hearing that as he said, "It was a gift from someone before we set out."

He then walked away, leaving Sara puzzled as to why he had such a negative reaction to the word 'royalty.'

"You did not offend him." Legolas said as he walked up next to her along with Steve, Natasha and Oliver. She was surprised Legolas could sneak up on her like that.

"The jewel Aragorn wears is a gift from his beloved." Legolas said, "Aside from being a token of her love, it is also symbolic of her pledge to forsake the immortal life of her people to bind herself to him. It is a great sorrow to my people that one of our fairest maidens ever will not be journeying to the Undying Lands."

"What does that have to do with what Sara said?" Oliver asked.

"Aragorn's father was killed by orcs when he was but a small child." Legolas began explaining the connection, "His mother wanted him to be raised in safety, so she took him to the Elven refuge of Rivendell. Elrond, the Lord of Rivendell was a friend of Aragorn's father and he helped raise Aragorn as if he was his own son.

"When he entered manhood, Aragorn first met Elrond's daughter, Arwen Evenstar. Despite being of different races, they fell in love and pledged themselves to each other. It was not the first time this had happened between a Man and an Elf Maiden. But their relationship is doomed to follow all previous ones.

"More and more of my people are leaving Middle-earth for the Undying Lands to continue their immortal lives unbound by weariness. Elves are the only race of the Free Peoples allowed passage there. Arwen would never be able to take Aragorn with her should she choose to depart with her kin. But by staying with him in Middle-earth, she will become mortal and be unable to rejoin her people even if Aragorn dies before her."

"Sounds horrible and tragic." Sara said sadly, feeling moved, "But why did my remark make him react like that?"

"Elrond has told Aragorn that he shall never accept his daughter giving up her immortality and will never give her in marriage to him." Legolas answered, "Not unless he proves himself worthy by claiming his inheritance."

Seeing that Steve, Natasha, Oliver and Sara were now looking at him, Legolas firmly returned their gazes, "Aragorn is descended from the line of Isildur. He is the current and sole heir to the throne of Gondor."

At Legolas' revelation, all four of them snapped their heads in Aragorn's direction and their jaws dropped. To Steve and Oliver, a lot of what they had seen about Aragorn that puzzled them now made sense! For one, the way Aragorn looked ashamed last night during the telling of Gandalf's tale.

They realized Aragorn considered the failure of Isildur his own.

Then there was way Steve saw Boromir look Aragorn on the march yesterday. If their ancestors had been in charge for the last 1,000 years, Boromir's family wouldn't be human if they considered themselves 'caretaker' rulers of Gondor. Especially after what Boromir told him what they'd bled and sacrificed in Gondor's defence over the time.

This was going to be a huge political mess if they ever found themselves in Gondor with the rest of the Fellowship.

Unaware of the conversation about him that had taken place, Aragorn walked up to Merry and Pippin who were throwing rocks into the water. Pippin was about to throw another when Aragorn grasped his hand firmly and warned, "Do not disturb the water."

That moment Aragorn, Boromir and Steve noted some ripples in the water.

"Oh, it's useless." Gandalf threw away his staff in frustration as he sat down on a rock.

That was when Frodo got up and looked at the door.

"It's a riddle." He said in understanding, ""Speak 'friend' and enter.""

"I think I know what you're getting at." Natasha said in realization as she turned to him, "The word to speak is 'friend.'"

"What's the Elvish word for "friend"?" Frodo asked the Grey Wizard.

"Mellon." Gandalf spoke. As soon as he spoke, the doors released a heavy grinding sound as they opened outwards.

"Finally!" Oliver said as Gandalf got up from where he was sitting along with the others. They looked at the doors and slowly started marching inside.

"Soon, Master Elf, you will enjoy the fabled hospitality of the Dwarves." Gimli boasted with laughter as they walked inside, "Roaring fires, malt beer, ripe meat off the bone!"

Gandalf added a small crystal to the top of his staff as Oliver lighted a few glow sticks. Gandalf gently blew on the crystal and the lights together illuminated the darkened area for the Fellowship to see.

"This, my friend, is the home of my cousin Balin." Gimli said before adding in amusement, "And they call it a mine. A mine!"

Before anyone could comment, they were silenced by what the light revealed.

"I don't think this is a mine." Oliver said in horror as they looked at the many skeletons lying around, with arrows stuck in them.

"Oliver is right." Boromir said, sounding as horrified as Oliver, "This is no mine. It's a tomb."

"No…." Gimli gasped as he ran around and stared at the tragic scene. He stopped to examine the armor of a skeleton and howled in misery, "NO..."

Steve and Oliver saw Legolas tear an arrow out of a skeleton. He looked at it for a second and said in disgust, "Goblins."

He threw the arrow away, as if holding it any longer would contaminate them.

With that, he drew an arrow as Aragorn and Boromir drew their swords. Their reactions were enough to let Steve, Natasha, Oliver and Sara know that these goblins were not the Gringotts type. So Natasha, Oliver and Sara drew their weapons too.

"We make for the Gap of Rohan." Boromir concluded darkly but firmly, "We should never have come here."

"I think anywhere is better than this place." Natasha said.

"Now, get out of here. Get out!" Boromir commanded everyone.

The sight of the skeletons had made Aragorn, Boromir and Steve forget about the ripples from a few seconds ago as that very moment, Frodo was pulled into the water.

"Frodo!" Sam screamed as he, Merry and Pippin rushed to him. A large, black tentacle was trying to pull Frodo inside.

"Help!" Sam yelled, "Strider!"

Aragorn, Steve and Oliver turned to the scene and their eyes widened in horror as their jaws dropped.

Sam hit the tentacle with his shortsword a few times, managing to make a few light cuts as the tentacles retracted. But the reprieve was short-lived as moments later, about a dozen more tentacles sprang out of the water, knocking the Hobbits down as one of them wrapped around Frodo and hauled him into the air.

Aragorn, Boromir, Steve, Natasha and Sara rushed out as Legolas and Oliver both fired a shot at the creature. Legolas' arrow hit the tentacle holding Frodo while Oliver's hit another one. The tentacles twitched but Frodo was still in the creature's grip.

Steve grabbed a tentacle and with all his might, pulled, managing to actually rip it open as blood poured out but the creature retracted it as Aragorn, Boromir and Sara used their swords to chop the tentacles off.

It tried to hit them with one of them but Natasha hit that one with her staff and stunned it, making the creature scream in pain due to the electricity, which caused it more pain than the loss of its limbs.

The creature alternated Frodo between its tentacles to confuse everyone. It's face finally came out of the water and Frodo screamed in pure terror as he was held above its gaping jaw, ready to be its food. Boromir and Sara chopped off two more tentacles as Natasha stunned another one. Aragorn finally managed to chop off the tentacle holding Frodo and he plummeted into the water but Steve caught him.

"Into the mines!" Gandalf commanded as he reached the entrance.

Aragorn, Boromir, Steve, Natasha and Sara quickly made their way into the Mines with Frodo. The same place they wanted to get away from a few seconds ago seemed like a safe haven now to protect them from this hellish creature.

"Oliver!" Boromir yelled at the archer. As Legolas watched, Oliver fired an arrow at the creature. It hit the center of its face and exploded, making it roar in rage and pain as it staggered back.

"Run!" Aragorn said firmly and desperately as everyone ran inside.

Everyone rushed inside as the creature struck the Doors of Durin with its tentacles. The Fellowship and the heroes ran deeper as the force of the creature's attack caused a section of the roof to tumble down. The boulders fell down and blocked the way out, along with any light that could pass through it.

For a few seconds, there was only darkness and silence until Gandalf's voice spoke, "We now have but one choice."

The crystal on his staff lighted up again as he tapped it on the ground, illuminating all the members of the Fellowship and the heroes as he started walking further, "We must face the long dark of Moria."

"I can use some arrows of mine to get us out of here." Oliver said.

"And risk running into that creature again?" Steve asked and Oliver nodded, conceding his point.

"Be on your guard." Gandalf warned them, "There are older and fouler things than the deep places of the world."

"What can be fouler than that?" Oliver wondered.

"I have no idea." Sara said.

"Quietly now." Gandalf said, "It's a four-day journey to the other side. Let us hope that our presence may go unnoticed."

"I hope so too." Natasha sighed, still shaken from the encounter with the creature.

They all continued moving through the stone passages and steep stairways of the mine, passing intricate carvings along the way. In addition to Gandalf's crystal on his staff and Oliver's glow sticks, they also used two disused flaming torches they found at the entrance. Aragorn held one and Steve held the other.

Eventually, they found themselves on a pathway that had a wall to its left and the edge of a large pit to the right.

Gandalf touched the wall and said to everyone, "The wealth of Moria was not in gold or jewels, but Mithril."

He then shone the light of the staff on the pit to their right. Everyone looked at the remains of large veins of the metal called 'Mithril', reflecting a silver color from Gandalf's light.

"I don't think we have that." Steve said before turning to Oliver, "Do you?"

"Nope." Oliver said.

"What is Mithril?" Natasha asked.

"Lady Natasha." Gimli said with typical dwarvish enthusiasm about craftsmanship, forgetting his earlier grief momentarily, "Mithril is the most prized metal in all of Middle-earth. It can be polished like glass and its beauty does not tarnish like common silver. It can also be beaten like copper and crafted into armor that can withstand any blow."

"Sounds like Middle-earth has its own Vibranium." Steve commented with a smile.

"Prometheum for us." Sara said.

"Armor that can withstand any blow." Natasha said, "I think we have that already."

"We do too." Oliver said.

"Mithril armor is especially hard to find these days." Gandalf told them, "In fact, the last piece I remember seeing was a coat of Mithrli rings that a great Dwarf king named Thorin presented to Bilbo decades ago."

"That was a kingly gift!" Gimli remarked.

"Yes." Gandalf agreed, "I did not tell Bilbo that its worth was greater than the value of the Shire."

"Our friend would love to get his hands on some of it." Natasha joked about the Mithril and Tony.

They all continued along the winding stairs before Gandalf brought them to a perpetual halt in front of three different doorways, all of which were carved in stone. He looked at all three of them, twitching his staff and finally said, "I have no memory of this place."

"So we're lost." Sara said dryly.

Once again, the Fellowship and the heroes from two worlds found themselves sitting around. Gandalf sat cross-legged on a rock in front of the three doorways.

"I'm sorry, Gimli." Oliver said to the dwarf as they sat closely.

"I apologize for my foolish optimism from earlier." Gimli said.

"Don't." Oliver assured him, "You couldn't have known."

Steve was in conversation with Aragorn.

"So you've been here too?" He asked him.

"Yes." Aragorn said, "But I do not have memory of these doorways either. I apologize."

"Don't." Steve said, "It would probably have been a long time ago."

"It was." Aragorn agreed.

"It's that way!" Gandalf suddenly said, pointing at a doorway, as he got up after a conversation with Frodo.

"He's remembered." Merry said.

"No." Gandalf said as they all walked towards the doorway, "But the air doesn't smell so foul down here. If in doubt, Meriadoc, always follow your nose."

"Pretty good advice." Natasha agreed.

"Will keep it in mind." Steve said.

They walked down a narrow pathway and reached another large cavern.

"Let me risk a little more light." Gandalf said as he held up his staff, illuminating the cavern even more than before, "Behold...the great realm and Dwarf-city of Dwarrowdelf."

Everyone's jaw dropped at what the light revealed. It wasn't a room. It was a city like Gandalf had said. With buildings. Ornate columns stretched from ceiling to floor, with designs carved into them. In all of her time travel adventures, Sara had been to quite a few great medieval cities, but none of them compared to Dwarrowdelf. While it wasn't even remotely close to Wakanda in terms of technology, Steve and Natasha found it to be every bit as grand and majestic.

Sam spoke for all of them at the sight before them, "There's an eye opener, and no mistake."

Gimli suddenly gasped at something and ran off as Gandalf called out after him, "Gimli!"

The dwarf ignored him and ran into a nearby room that had sufficient light in it.

The others ran after him and found him shaking in front of a stone coffin.

"No!" He moaned as they all noticed several skeletons lying around, "Oh, no."

He fell to his knees at this point, moaning and crying. Steve, Oliver and Sara could all feel his pain.

Steve, Natasha, Oliver and Sara looked at the coffin and saw something written on its lid but couldn't read it.

Gandalf walked up to the coffin and read, "Here lies Balin...son of Fundin...Lord of Moria."

"He is dead, then. It's as I feared." Gandalf said as he took off his hat while Gimli moaned in grief. Boromir and Steve quickly grasped his shoulders as a show of support, allowing him to grieve.

Gandalf gave his hat and staff to Pippin and saw a dwarf-skeleton with a book grasped in its hand. He carefully pried the bone-hand away and removed the book.

Standing up, he opened the book and blew the ancient dust off.

Standing between Aragorn and Oliver, Legolas told them, "We must move on. We cannot linger."

"We will." Oliver said, "Just let him mourn a bit."

Gandalf began reading the book, "They have taken the bridge and the second hall. We have barred the gates... ...but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes. Drums...drums in the deep."

He looked up at them briefly to see their shocked reactions and turning the pages, continued, "We cannot get out. A Shadow moves in the dark. We cannot get out. They are coming."

That was when Natasha turned to see Pippin reaching out to touch the arrow embedded on a skeleton on the edge of a well.

"Pippin, stop!" She said in warning but it was too late as Pippin touched the fletching and the head suddenly fell off, clattering down a well. The rest of the skeleton tumbled into the well as well, dragging the bucket chain with it. They all clanged all the way down to the well, echoing in the vast mine.

A full minute passed and then there was silence again. Everyone was tense and silent as Pippin looked horrified. He shut his eyes to avoid Gandalf, who slammed the book shut at that very moment.

"Fool of a Took!" He snapped as he snatched his hat and staff back, "Throw yourself in next time, and rid us of your stupidity."

That was when they all heard a rhythmic pounding that seemed to come out from the well and echoed throughout the chamber. The pounding was heard at the entrance to the chamber as well.

"Drums in the deep." Sara realized.

They then heard several high-pitched screeches which caused the ears a lot of irritation.

"Frodo!" Sam gasped as he looked at the older Hobbit's scabbard.

Frodo withdrew his sword Sting to reveal it was glowing blue. Steve, Natasha, Oliver and Sara wanted to ask more about it but decided it could wait.

Legolas listened to the screeches and answered what was producing them, "Orcs!"

Boromir ran up to a set of doors but suddenly halted and jerked his head back as two arrows embedded themselves into the rotting door.

"Boromir!" Steve cried out in concern as he ran towards his friend.

"I am all right." Boromir assured.

"Get back! Stay close to Gandalf!" Aragorn ordered the Hobbits. Gandalf threw off his hat and gathered all the Hobbits behind him.

Boromir and Steve shut the door as Aragorn and Oliver ran up to them.

"They have a Cave Troll." Boromir said wryly to Aragorn.

Legolas tossed some axes to the four of them and they slammed them into the door handles, forming a makeshift lock.

Gandalf unsheathed his sword Glamdring and the four Hobbits followed his example. Sara too unsheathed her sword and Natasha took out her staff as the two of them prepared for what was coming as the doors were rammed into from outside.

Gimli leapt on top of Balin's tomb with a roar and proclaimed, "Let them come! There is one Dwarf yet in Moria who still draws breath."

They all then stood in a line from left to right- Steve, Aragorn, Legolas, Oliver, Boromir, Sara and Natasha. Gimli stood on top of Balin's tomb while Gandalf, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin stood behind Aragorn.

Legolas, Oliver and Aragorn had their arrows strung to their bows. The doors jerked as swords and spears poked through them, forming cracks.

A small crack was enough for the Prince of Mirkwood. He let his arrow loose and a shriek was heard as it hit one of the creatures on the other side, killing it. He was quickly followed by Oliver who felled a second creature with his arrow. Aragorn fired the third arrow through a slightly larger crack, killing a third.

The doors then burst open and fell down as multitude of Goblins rushed in. They were misshapen, ugly and hunched with poor quality armors.

Legolas felled two more of them with his arrows as Aragorn got a third. Oliver fired another arrow and it was a flashbang one. It exploded and the Goblins screeched angrily and shit their eyes momentarily due to the pain it caused them.

Taking advantage, Aragorn and Steve rushed forwards. Aragorn effortlessly sliced two of them down as Steve broke another's neck and kicked another on the throat, killing it.

Boromir pushed one back with his shield and struck it down as Sara decapitated another and Natasha shocked another while Oliver grabbed one in a chokehold with his bow and snapped his neck. The Goblins soon recovered and there was chaos everywhere as Aragorn, Legolas, Boromir, Steve, Natasha, Oliver and Sara fought the Goblins in close quarters combat.

Gimli used the height advantage afforded to him by Balin's tomb and dual-wielded his axes, taking down some of them.

Gandalf charged with a roar and in spite of the fear they were feeling, the four Hobbits also charged with screams that were a mix of horror and bravery.

Frodo and Pippin avoided strikes as Sam and Merry actually managed to stab two of them in their uncovered regions, killing them.

Legolas and Oliver shot two more down as Aragorn roared and decapitated an opponent while Steve picked one up and threw it down, breaking its back. Natasha swept one's feet from under it and shocked its throat with her staff, killing it. Sara deflected one's attacks and in a rotatory motion, sliced its throat.

The ground then shook as a massive creature was lead stomping into the tomb by a Goblin that held it with a chain, breaking the remainder of the door. The Fellowship looked at it in horror while the heroes from two worlds looked at it in disgust.

"Well", Oliver said dryly, "At least now we know what a Cave Troll looks like."

Chapter Text

Legolas was the first one to attack the Cave Troll as he fired an arrow at its chest. It roared and staggered back slightly but was unaffected. Raising its club, it was about to bring it down on Sam but Steve rushed it and grabbing its foot, actually managed to push it back.

It tried to bring down its club on him again but he flipped behind it and grabbing its chain, yanked with all his might, managing to pull it back, snapping the chain as it came crashing on the ground, temporarily out of the fight.

The entire Fellowship gapped at the strength he possessed. They had simply thought him to be above Men, but here he was overpowering a Cave Troll, something even Elves would struggle to do.

Natasha killed two more Goblins with her electric shocks as Steve rejoined the bigger fight. The Cave Troll slowly started staggering back up as Gimli threw a throwing ax at it. It hit its chest and it staggered back again but then brought its club down on Gimli, who barely avoided with a leap as the tomb was shattered.

Frodo, Merry and Pippin hid behind a huge column as the Cave Troll tried to swing its club at Gimli twice but unfortunate Goblins came in the way both times, dying in his place.

That was when Oliver fired an arrow at it from higher ground. It hit its shoulder and exploded as some blood flew out while the Cave Troll fell on the ground, clutching its shoulder. Gimli killed a Goblin during that time. The Cave Troll roared in agony and rage as it started staggering back up.

Gandalf dual wielded his staff and Glamdring, taking down some Goblins.

Legolas was also on higher ground. Swing his knives perfectly, he took down two Goblins before seeing the Cave Troll get back up. Oliver smacked a Goblin down and crushed its throat with his foot before seeing the Cave Troll himself.

It swung its chain at them but they both ducked. It tried to do so again and they ducked again as it hit some columns, slightly breaking them. It then swung again and they both moved out of the way. As it swung a fourth time, the two dodged again and the chain tied itself around a column.

Taking the opportunity, Legolas put his foot on the chain and then, to Oliver's shock, ran up the chain's length right onto the Cave Troll's back. Oliver then put his own foot on the chain to prevent the Cave Troll from moving. As the Cave Troll tried to throw him off, Legolas took out an arrow and fired. It hit the back of the Cave Troll's neck, making it roar and screech as Legolas jumped down while the chain snapped just as Oliver let go.

Down below, Sam was fighting alongside Natasha using a frying pan. He wacked two of the Goblins with his frying pan as Natasha then finished them off with her staff's electric shocks.

"Think I'm getting the hang of this!" Sam said wryly.

"Which makes you an even more valuable member of this team due to your stealth." Natasha smiled happily, seeing the Hobbit shared her own strength in a way, using his stealth to his advantage. She resolved to teach all the Hobbits how to use stealth effectively if they got out of this mess. Not if. When.

With that, Sam wacked another Goblin and Natasha finished it off.

The Cave Troll was back up and raising its club, brought it down on the other three Hobbits but they all avoided as Merry and Pippin jumped to its right while Frodo jumped to the left to hide behind a column.

"Frodo!" Aragorn yelled as he stabbed a Goblin, deciding to help the Hobbit as he had vowed.

"I'm coming!" Sara said too as she decapitated a Goblin.

Frodo moved to the other side of the column as the Cave Troll tried to look for him.

Aragorn deflected a Goblin's attack and punched it out before slicing another's throat in a rotatory motion.

Sara ducked to avoid a Goblin's strike and made a cut on its knee, throwing it down before slicing its throat and then stabbing another one in the gut.

Frodo once again moved to avoid the Cave Troll as it tried to come at him from the other side. Frodo avoided again and sighed in relief, thinking the Cave Troll wasn't coming after him anymore. Big mistake!

He heard a roar directly to his right and fell down in horror as the Cave Troll looked at him.

Aragorn slammed a Goblin into a pillar as Sara snapped another's neck.

Frodo backed into the corner as the Cave Troll advanced upon him. It grabbed his foot, pulling him off the ground as Frodo yelled in fear, "Aragorn! Sara!"

Aragorn saw the scene and yelled, "FRODO!"

Frodo hit the Cave Troll's hand with Sting, making it let go as Aragorn leapt between them, holding a spear. Before the Cave Troll could react, Aragorn rushed forward and drove the spear into its chest with a mighty roar, making it back off.

But in the very next second, the Cave Troll swatted Aragorn away with its hand. He hit a column and was knocked out.

Sara then leapt behind it and drove her sword deep into the Cave Troll's left ankle. With a roar of pain, the Cave Troll batted Sara away with a flick of its left hand and she was knocked out too. It then pulled itself back to its feet, though its stance was a bit wobbly due to Sara's sword remaining stuck in its ankle.

Frodo crawled up to Aragorn, trying to wake him up as the Cave Troll ripped out the spear from its chest and stood over him. It tried to hit him but Frodo avoided as the spear was stuck on the wall. Frodo tried to run off but it ripped out the spear and hit the column in front of Frodo, blocking his way. Ripping the spear out again, it pushed Frodo back.

Merry and Pippin furiously threw rocks at it but it ignored them. And with that, it thrust the spear into Frodo's waist. Everyone heard Frodo's cry when the spear struck him. Gandalf, Sam and Natasha even turned to see Frodo's pained expression.

The Cave Troll ripped the spear out and Frodo fell on the ground, face first.

"Frodo!" Sam called out. And when he got no response, him and Natasha shared a look and with angry roars, both of them renewed their assault as Sam wacked a Goblin with his frying pan and then stabbed it with his sword as Natasha shocked another one violently with her staff.

Gandalf too continued dual wielding his staff and sword furiously, dispatching Goblins while Gimli took a few down with his ax and Boromir took them down with his sword and shield.

The Cave Troll turned its murderous attention to Merry and Pippin but before they could fight back, Steve leapt at it with a roar and grabbed it in a chokehold. The two struggled as Steve put his feet on its shoulder and flipped into the air, kicking it back. He then landed on the ground and with a flip, kicked its chin, staggering it back again.

The Cave Troll then tried to strike him but he rolled behind it to avoid as both Gandalf and Gimli struck its leg with Glamdring and ax respectively, staggering it back before it knocked Gimli down. Steve leapt at it with a mighty roar and grabbed it in a chokehold again, trying to hold it in position.

Legolas and Oliver found an exposed spot on its neck and aiming simultaneously, fired their arrows. The two arrows streaked in to slice right into the small of the Cave Troll's throat. The creature stumbled forward as Steve leapt off its neck and landed gracefully on the ground.

As Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, Steve and Oliver backed off, the Cave Troll finally fell face first on the ground, breathing its last.

They realized the rest of the Goblins in the room had fallen as well. Aragorn's and Sara's eyes snapped open as they both raced towards Frodo while the others did the same.

"Oh no." Aragorn gasped.

"Wake up." Sara said as she shook the Hobbit a little. Together, they turned him over and to everyone's shock, he groaned. Sam and Natasha gasped and got down next to Aragorn and Sara.

"He's alive." Sam sighed in relief.

"Thank God." Natasha sighed too.

"I'm all right." A dazed Frodo said as Aragorn and Sara looked at him in bewilderment, "I'm not hurt."

"You should be dead." Aragorn whispered, "That spear would have skewered a wild boar."

"I think there's more to this Hobbit than meets the eye." Gandalf said as he leaned on his staff. Frodo quietly pulled aside his jacket and shirt to reveal a shiny, silver-white metal coat underneath.

"Mithril." Gimli said softly as everyone put two and two together, "You are full of surprises, Master Baggins." He then turned to Steve, still awed by his strength, "You as well, Master Rogers. No Dwarf, Man or Elf has ever overpowered a Troll."

"I think we all know what happened to Bilbo's coat." Oliver pointed out matter of fact.

Sara pulled out her sword from the Cave Troll's body as they heard more screeching noises and saw shadows moving in the dark.

Gandalf hastily commanded, "To the Bridge of Khazad-dum!"

With Gandalf in the lead, The Fellowship and the heroes dashed out of the Chamber in the direction of the exit. Hundreds of Goblins chased them from behind, screeching and howling. And then more Goblins appeared to their left and right from cracks in the floor and a myriad of them crawled down from the ceilings as well via columns. They were all hoarding around them like cockroaches.

And then they were surrounded from all sides with no opening to escape. Back to back, the company drew their weapons and faced the Goblins, ready to fight to the end.

And then a deep and ominous rumble echoed through the entire hall, bringing all activity to an abrupt halt. They all turned to a doorway that had an eerie, orange-red glow coming from it. A second rumble sounded, louder than before, and this time, the Goblins let out panicked screeches and to everyone's surprise as well as relief, bolted, crawling back into the cracks where they had come from and climbing back up till there were none left in the hall. Gimli let out a triumphant laughter.

Gandalf stared at the orange-red glow, looking graver than ever before. Even graver than when he had told everyone the tale of the One Ring. Legolas aimed an arrow in the glow's direction but Natasha noticed something.

"Are your hands actually shaking?" She whispered, unable to believe it as Legolas, the epitome of perfection, had never lost his composure even slightly. She was ready to believe he was perfect. Until now.

"What is this new devilry?" Boromir asked in a low, solemn voice.

Gandalf bowed his head and closed his eyes, deep in thought. Saruman's taunts about coming to Moria had been based solidly on fact. And now he was proven right.

"Gandalf?" Oliver called out to snap him out of his thoughts.

Opening his eyes, he finally answered the question, "A Balrog. A demon of the ancient world. This foe is beyond any of you."

He turned to the direction of the hall's exit and commanded, "RUN!"

With that, everyone ran for their lives across the hall, reaching a narrow doorway that led into an equally narrowed downward flight of steps. Boromir raced down them first and exited another doorway that led to a landing. They had reached a vast chasm that could only be traversed by a narrow stairway.

Boromir moved down the stairs but halted abruptly as they ended before a bottomless drop. He struggled to regain his balance but Legolas and Natasha both grabbed each of his arm, steadying his dangerous teetering and pulling him back as Gimli stopped behind them. The four Hobbits and Sara also stopped there.

Gandalf was leaning on his staff he as he stood near the narrow doorway.

"Gandalf." Aragorn said as he put a hand on his shoulder.

"You all right?" Steve asked.

"We need to go." Oliver said.

"Lead them on, the three of you." He said, sounding like he was giving his final orders, "The bridge is near."

The three followed his gaze to look at the chasm below as he said, "Do as I say! Swords, arrows and strength are no more use here."

They all hurried down the narrow, winding staircase towards the pit. That was when they came across a gap in the stairs.

Legolas, due to his natural athleticism, jumped across first, followed quickly by Oliver. Turning around, Legolas beckoned to the Grey Wizard, "Gandalf!"

The Wizard heard the Balrog's roar coming from behind and turned to see the doorway smashed as the orange-red glow was at the end of the Hall. Refocusing on the task at hand, Gandalf turned around and leapt across the gap, landing on the other side as the two master archers supported him.

That was when an arrow whistled overhead and hit the edge of the gap. They all looked up to see a company of Goblin archers firing at them from above. The Hobbits backed to avoid as the Goblins continued firing.

Legolas notched an arrow and fired. It hit a Goblin right on the forehead and it fell down into the chasm through the arrow which was stuck to the column behind it.

Boromir and Sara exchanged a look and grabbing Merry and Pippin respectively, leapt across the gap. Just as they did, the part of the stairway they had stood on crumbled and fell into the chasm below. They managed to land on the other side safely though.

The Goblins continued firing down as Legolas took down one with his arrow and Aragorn took down another. Having had enough, Oliver fired his own arrow. It stuck to a column and in two seconds, exploded, causing it to crumble on top of them as many of the Goblins were crushed while the remainder fled in fear, thinking him to be some kind of magician.

Natasha then took a run-up and leapt, managing to barely land on the other side.

"Sam!" Aragorn called out and grabbing the Hobbit in question, tossed him across the gap carefully. He was caught by Natasha on the other side.

He moved to do the same with Gimli but he raised a hand and said, "Nobody tosses a Dwarf."

With a mighty roar, Gimli leapt across the gap. But in this case, his pride was literally about to lead to his fall as he only managed to barely land on the edge and was slipping already till Legolas grabbed him by the beard.

"Mind the beard!" He said as it was painful for the beard to be pulled, even if it was to drag him to safety.

"Do not give in to pride next time." Oliver told him firmly.

Then the stairs on the other side crumbled again and Frodo, Aragorn and Steve had to jump back to avoid falling with them.

"Steady!" Aragorn gasped. The gap was now impossibly wide for either Man or Hobbit to jump across. But not the Super Soldier.

As Frodo and Aragorn looked at the gap, a plan began to form in Aragorn's mind. But he never got a chance to execute it as Steve backed by a few paces and then ran forward, grabbing them both with his hands and then leapt across the gap, managing to barely land on the other side as Legolas, Oliver and Sara steadied them.

Shaken but not out, the Fellowship and the heroes sprinted down the stairs as the middle section fell away. They reached a wide-floored hall and saw an incredibly narrow bridge ahead. The Bridge of Khazad-dum!

"Over the bridge! Fly!" Gandalf bellowed to them all as they ran past him. Flames emanated behind him. Natasha was about to call for him when a giant creature, that looked like it was made of darkness and flames, shot out of the fire. It had gigantic horns on its head and a wide, gaping mouth with molten rock for teeth and lava in its throat. The Balrog stood at its full 24 feet height.

Natasha actually froze. And so did Steve, Oliver and Sara.

Natasha had seen a lot of magic and science in her life. Loki, the Scepter, Ultron, the Mind Stone, Wakanda, MODOK, his mythological creatures. But none of them came close to this Balrog she was now seeing.

Steve thought for a moment that the Devil himself was on the side of the Dark Lord and was trying to take down the Fellowship.

Oliver found this Balrog to be more terrifying than all of his previous foes combined, meta-humans, aliens and magic users included. Diggle would definitely faint at this sight and probably wake up a week later.

Sara had fought demons recently, but the Balrog seemed to tower over all of those and the aura of dread and malice around it surpassed them all, even Mallus, who was far shorter than this Balrog.

"FLY!" Gandalf yelled as he pushed all four of them towards the Bridge of Khazad-dum. Shaken out of their horrified daze, they ran across the narrow bridge as steadily as they could. Considering there were no railings on either side, it was clear the Dwarves had made it to trap the invaders in a chokehold. Bu unfortunately, it was a pain in the ass for them all.

The Balrog chased after them, creating an earthquake with each step. They all dashed across the Bridge, focusing on the center and not on the sides. But when they reached the other side, they realized that there were only 12 people on this side.

"GANDALF!" Oliver screamed as he saw the Grey Wizard was still on the bridge.

"You cannot pass!" Gandalf declared to the Balrog. It responded by standing at its full height and momentarily igniting its whole body in an inferno before pulling out a long sword from under its wings.

"Gandalf!" Frodo called out in alarm, concerned for his old friend's safety, fear written on his face.

"I am a servant of the secret fire." Gandalf announced to his foe, casting a spell, "Wielder of the flame of Anor."

His staff emitted a bubble of blue-white light that covered him.

"The dark fire shall not avail you, flame of Udun!" The Wizard spoke in defiance to the Balrog of Morgoth.

The Balrog brought his flaming giant sword down on Gandalf. The sword clashed with Glamdring from within the bubble. The Balrog's sword and the bubble of light disintegrated at the same time.

All of the Fellowship and the heroes were dumbfounded by the epic clash in front of them. Steve and Natasha found even the Chitauri Invasion and the Battle of Sokovia mundane in comparison to the dual unfolding before them. Likewise, Oliver and Sara found the Dominator Invasion rather mundane to this sight.

Enraged by the loss of its sword, the Balrog stepped forward, wielding a fiery whip now.

Gandalf remained steadfast and told the Balrog, "Go back to the shadow!"

Gandalf raised his staff and Glamdring and declared to the demon- "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"

As soon as he finished, he slammed his staff down on the bridge and a loud cracking noise was heard. The Balrog snorted at the Wizard's display of power and took a step forward. Suddenly, the bridge under its feet crumbled and it plummeted below.

The Balrog fell into the abyss while a huge gap was formed between the bridge and the corridor to which it was connected. Gandalf gave an exhausted grunt and turned to walk away.

All of the Fellowship were in awe of the power he had displayed as none of them had seen him like this before. The heroes from two worlds were in awe too, finding him to be the equal of the most powerful superheroes and supervillains they knew, if not better.

Then they heard a loud 'snap' and Gandalf stumbled as the tail end of the Balrog's whip caught the Grey Wizard's ankle.

The staff and Glamdring slipped from Gandalf's grasp into the abyss below as Gandalf held on with his fingertips.

"GANDALF!" Frodo yelled as he tried to rush to Gandalf but Steve held him back.

"No!" He said firmly.

"The bridge is unstable." Oliver said as they all watched the scene, their earlier awe replaced with horror and disbelief.

"Fly you fools!" Gandalf gasped at them and then lost his grip, falling into the abyss with the Balrog.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Frodo screamed in pain and sadness. The Goblins came back and began to shoot at them all from all directions.

Boromir grabbed Frodo and dragged him along as Natasha and Sara restrained the other Hobbits and dragged them back too.

Aragorn, Steve and Oliver were glued to their spots, their gazes transfixed where Gandalf had fallen.

"ARAGORN! STEVE! OLIVER!" Boromir called out to all three of them, finally snapping them out of their dazes as they rushed after the Fellowship and reached the exit of Moria.

Soon, they were out of Moria and on the eastern side of the Misty Mountains. The sunlight was blinding after so many days in the darkness. Arriving in a valley composed of rocks, they all collapsed as soon as they were away from the door.

Gimli roared and tried to rush back into Moria, wanting to kill more Goblins for the loss of Gandalf and his kin but Boromir and Oliver held him back.

Sam sat down and covered his face with his hands as tears started flowing out. Sara was standing with her head bowed, wiping some tears from her own eyes.

Pippin lay on the ground, crying. Merry lay on his side, trying to comfort both himself and his cousin.

Legolas and Natasha simply stood with disbelief written across their faces.

Aragorn glumly wiped the blood from his blade as he observed everyone. Steve was reminded of Bucky's fall and found himself angry at his inability to prevent either of the two falls.

Despite the gap Gandalf had created, Aragorn knew the Goblins would repair it soon enough. As he finished wiping his sword, he turned to the other two people who Gandalf had chosen to lead the Fellowship alongside him and his old friend as well.

"Steve, Oliver, Legolas." He said to the three of them, "Get them up."

The three individuals in question knew Aragorn was referring to the Hobbits. Legolas was disbelieving for a second but then he moved towards Merry and Pippin along with the other two. Oliver moved towards Sara who wiped her eyes and nodded at him simply. He nodded back. They carried out an entire conversation with their eyes.

Letting a resigned Gimli go, Boromir was incensed by Aragorn's apparent insensitivity.

"Give them a moment, for pity's sake!" He retorted angrily.

"By nightfall, these hills will be swarming with Orcs." Aragorn said as he used his sword to point at the hills around them, "We must reach the woods of Lothlorien."

"We can all mourn for Gandalf when we reach these woods Aragorn is talking about." Oliver said.

"Before that, we must honor his dying wish." Steve said.

"Which was for us to escape." Natasha finished.

Aragorn nodded at the three of them in appreciation and said, "Come, Boromir. Legolas. Gimli. Steve. Oliver. Natasha. Sara, get them up."

Boromir's anger faded away as he realized they were right.

Aragorn walked up to Sam and helped him up, "On your feet, Sam."

Patting Sam's shoulder, Aragorn saw Frodo gazing towards the horizon. Walking towards him, Aragorn called out, "Frodo? Frodo!"

The Hobbit turned around, gazing at them all as a tear fell out of his eye. A tear of guilt.

Chapter Text

The Fellowship and the heroes ran for at least half a day with Aragorn, Legolas and Steve in the lead due to them being the fastest runners. They eventually ended up in a large field of grass and then found themselves in a forest which had trees with bright, golden leaves.

"Stay close, young Hobbits!" Gimli hissed to the Hobbits as he beckoned them closer, "They say that a great sorceress lives in these woods."

He raised his ax and said, "An Elf-witch...of terrible power."

"Witches? Really?" Oliver asked in a whisper.

"After demons, nothing really surprises me." Sara whispered.

"All who look upon her...fall under her spell." Gimli continued as his eyes darted around, "And are never seen again."

Natasha, Oliver and Sara actually found themselves a bit shaken by what Gimli had said. To be honest, everything they had seen once they were on Middle-earth had shaken them.

That was when Sara heard a voice in her head.

Sara Lance. Beware of the Ring. It tries to corrupt the vulnerable. You are not of our world. And neither are your friends.

Sara darted around nervously, something which both Natasha and Oliver noted.

"Sara?" Natasha asked.

"You okay?" Oliver asked too.

"Well, here's one Dwarf she won't ensnare so easily." Gimli chuckled dryly, "I have the eyes of a hawk and the ears of a fox."

That moment, three arrows appeared a few inches from his face, as if to mock him.

All of them realized they had arrows pointed at them by the Elves that surrounded them. Legolas and Oliver both pointed their arrows at the Elves but had more arrows pointed at them in turn.

A tall, blonde, majestic looking Elf stepped up. To Sara (the only one in the group who had seen all the Harry Potter movies and hated them all) he looked like a good version of Lucius Malfoy.

"The Dwarf breathes so loud, we could have shot him in the dark." The Elf said. Gimli growled but Oliver put a hand on his shoulder to restrain him.

"Haldir of Lorien." Aragorn nodded at the Elf respectfully, "We come here for help. We need your protection."

"Aragorn, these woods are perilous." Gimli said, "We should go back."

"You have entered the realm of the Lady of the Wood." Haldir said firmly, "You cannot go back."

He then started leading them away.

"So, we're going to be put under the witch's spell?" Natasha asked dryly.

"Based on how Aragorn was talking to Haldir, I don't think so." Oliver said.

Hours later, they were all on a leaf-shaped platform on the trees. Haldir said something formally to Legolas, who responded back in kind. The same thing happened with Aragorn too.

"So much for the legendary courtesy of the Elves!" Gimli snarled, "Speak words we can all understand!"

"We have not had dealings with the Dwarves since the Dark Days." Haldir said as he turned to Gimli, his voice a little bitter.

"And you know what this Dwarf says to that?" Gimli spat out something in Dwarvish. Aragorn shut his eyes in annoyance and gripping Gimli's shoulder, hissed, "That was not so courteous."

It was obvious Haldir had understood every word the Dwarf had said as he regarded him coldly.

Oliver was out if patience with Gimli now, "Enough Gimli!"

Everyone turned to Oliver, startled at his outburst, "I know you Elves and Dwarves have some beef with each other but you know what? I don't care! Your pride almost cost you your life in Moria, so I thought you'd let it go. But you still haven't. So treat the Elves decently, or just go back!"

Gimli was taken aback by Oliver's outburst and so was everyone else. But deep down, Gimli knew, just like all the others in the moment, that it he needed to hear that.

Haldir nodded at Oliver in appreciation and regarded all of them in turn. Steve, Natasha and Sara all returned his gaze, which finally fell on Frodo.

"You bring great evil with you." He said to Frodo and it seemed like his eyes were piercing into Frodo's soul. He turned back to Aragorn and said, "You can go no further."

Aragorn sighed and went after Haldir, talking to him in Sindarin as Steve said, "And he said to come with him."

"This is why you don't piss off the host!" Oliver said to Gimli. Obviously the Dwarf didn't understand what Oliver said as he wasn't familiar with the modern Earth's colorful vocabulary but he knew Oliver was rebuking him for his earlier words.

Natasha noticed Frodo was simply sitting and no one was returning his gazes. So she sat down next to him and put a friendly hand on his shoulder, "Don't blame yourself."

Frodo didn't say a word and Natasha said to him, "I have a friend who also carries a burden like you do. And it terrifies him. Whenever he gets angry, he can transform into a creature that looks like a Troll but is far stronger."

Frodo's eyes widened in disbelief at this point, "I don't think I have heard of anyone in Middle-earth who can do that. Not even skin-changers."

"It was a freak accident." Natasha told him, "Anyways, he used to carry the burden alone until he met me, Steve and our other friends and we have helped him carry it since. And you should do the same. Right now, they may not talk to you but it is temporary. They are your friends. We are your friends. And we will help you carry your burden."

With that, she patted his head and got up with a smile as he nodded at her in appreciation.

Haldir then came back and said, "You will come with me."

Next day, they all reached a high hill from which a large gathering of enormous trees could be seen.

"Caras Galadhon." Haldir smiled, "The heart of Elvendom on Middle-earth. Realm of the Lord Celeborn and Galadriel, Lady of Light."

All the heroes exchanged odd looks at the title. They wondered if Haldir was being literal or figurative.

They all trekked onwards into Caras Galadhon, their paths illuminated by glowing crystals. Spiraling, amazing staircases wound around the trees, leading to platforms and other things.

Soon, night fell and the wood was illuminated by blue and white light, creating an ethereal scene. The heroes from two worlds almost regretted their technologically advanced worlds as while the technology had helped them a lot, it had robbed them of such beauty.

Haldir led them to a platform in front of a small flight of stairs and they stopped there to wait for something.

And then, two Elves descended the stairs, hand in hand. The light around them made it hard to discern their features but eventually, it faded and the two could be seen. They both appeared to be of almost equal height- 6 feet tall.

Lord Celeborn looked tall and regal, with blonde hair and a robe of silver and grey. But Lady Galadriel captured all of their attention. She too had long blonde hair and clear blue eyes. She had a long white dress that reached her ankles and a golden circlet around her head.

Aragorn and Legolas had told Steve she was over 8000 years old. Right now, Steve thought she put his 70 years in the ice to shame.

"Twelve there are here, yet nine there were set out from Rivendell." Celeborn observed and asked the Fellowship, "Tell me, where is Gandalf? For I much desire to speak with him."

Aragorn's eyes were all that Galadriel needed to find the answer to her question.

"He has fallen into Shadow." She said sorrowfully before turning to Gimli, "Do not let the great emptiness of Khazad-dum fill your heart, Gimli, son of Gloin. For the world has grown full of peril."

Gimli looked up, shocked that the first words the Elf-Queen had spoken to him were those of comfort.

Her gaze then fell on Natasha.

I feel you have a part to play for the fate of Middle-earth, Natasha Romanoff.

Natasha simply acknowledged what she had said with a respectful nod as her gaze fell on Oliver.

I fear some in Middle-earth will need your harsh but true advice again in the future, Oliver Queen.

Oliver locked eyes with her and like Natasha, nodded respectfully.

"What now becomes of this Fellowship?" Celeborn asked after what his consort had said registered, "Without Gandalf, hope is lost."

"Mithrandir's loss is indeed a grievous one." Galadriel agreed before turning to the heroes from two worlds, "But we are fortunate that strangers from worlds unheard of have come to the aid of the Free Peoples."

She then spoke to the entire Fellowship, "The quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail... the ruin of all."

Her gaze fell on Boromir, who seemed to sweat heavily.

"Yet hope remains while the Company is true." She then said to them all before gently advising them all, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Go now and rest...for you are weary with sorrow and much toil. Tonight, you will sleep in peace."

Chapter Text

That night, all of them slept on a ground under a tent and some very large roots. Legolas's head tilted up as he listened to something the Elves were singing in their tongue and he could obviously understand.

"A lament for Gandalf." He said finally.

"What do they say about him?" Merry asked quietly as he listened.

"I have not the heart to tell you." Legolas said as he turned around, "For me, the grief is still too near."

"It is for everyone." Natasha said sadly.

Gimli had unpacked and was asleep by now while Aragorn was sharpening his sword next to him. Sara was trying to sleep but found no success as Oliver simply stood, having unpacked already.

"I bet they don't mention his fireworks." Sam said, "There should be a verse about them."

With that, he stood up as Oliver asked, "He had fireworks?"

"The finest rockets ever seen

They burst in stars of blue and green"

Natasha and Sara smiled at Sam's sincerity.

"Or after thunder silver showers,

Came falling like a rain of flowers"

Gimli gave a particularly loud snore and Aragorn whacked him in annoyance.

Sam sighed and sat down again, muttering, "That doesn't do them justice by a long shot."

"I found it touching and sincere." Sara smiled at him and he nodded in appreciation.

Steve was walking around when he saw Boromir sitting on the grass, looking downcast.

"Take some rest." Steve said to Boromir but got no response, "You all right?"

He walked up to Boromir and sat next to him.

"I will find no rest here. I heard her voice inside my head." Boromir said softly, "She spoke of my father and the fall of Gondor. She said to me, "Even now there is hope left." But I cannot see it. I know you said that Sauron won't be able to claim victory even if one man stood against him, but it is long since we had any hope."

Steve listened and nodded at Boromir who continued, "My father is a noble man. But his rule is failing... ...and our people lose faith. He looks to me to make things right, and I would do it. I would see the glory of Gondor restored."

Steve was going to tell him to not place the burden of his entire country for himself but he turned to him with a gleam in his eyes, "I hope I can take you to Minas Tirith one day."

"I'd love to come there, Boromir." Steve told him.

Boromir continued with enthusiasm in his voice, "The White Tower of Ecthelion. Glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver. Its banners caught high in the morning breeze."

Behind them stood Aragorn. Like Steve, he had been looking for Boromir but had seen the Super Soldier and Gondorian conversing with each other so he just listened.

Boromir grasped Steve's shoulder and said, "One day, our paths will lead us there. And the tower guard shall take up the call: "The Lords of Gondor have returned.""

Aragorn thought over what Boromir had said as he turned around and walked away to rejoin the others.

Oliver's eyes suddenly flung open as he wondered what had awoken him. The others still lay asleep as Gimli continued to snore.

He then saw a pair of delicate, beautiful feet passing him and lifted himself up. The feet belonged to Lady Galadriel who walked between his slumbering companions. But unlike him, none of them woke up.

For some reason, he started walking after her cautiously, away from the Fellowship and the heroes. She eventually led him to a clearing where water flowed into a depression in the rocks from a spring. A silver basin sat on a stand of stone in the middle.

Lady Galadriel picked up a stone pitcher and dipped it into the water of the depression. She then walked towards the basin and asked, "Will you look into the Mirror?"

"What will I see?" Oliver asked her warily.

"Even the wisest cannot tell. For the mirror...shows many things." Galadriel said as she started pouring water from the pitcher into it, not taking her eye off Oliver, "Things that were...things that are...

Oliver's eyes lifted from the pitcher to her face as she finished pouring the water and slowly stepped back, "…..and some things...that have not yet come to pass."

"No straight answer then." Oliver shook his head before walking towards the Mirror and peering into it.

At first, there was nothing except his reflection but the water turned black with a series of ripples from the center and soon, the image changed.

His heart jumped to his throat as he saw Robert shooting himself in the head, followed by Fyers executing Yao Fei. Then there was the image of him jumping in front of Sara as Ivo shot Shado instead and he screamed in despair.

Struggling to keep his calm, he watched as the image changed to him jamming an arrow into Slade's eye, followed by him standing over a tortured Shrieve, his hands covered in blood, and then him snapping Taiana's neck at her request.

The image changed and he was then weeping over Tommy's corpse, a rebar in his chest and then there was Slade stabbing Moira through the heart, followed by Roy hugging him and leaving, and then Laurel dying on the hospital bed.

The next image made his blood boil as he saw himself chained up and 'confessing' to Adrian after being tortured brutally and finally, the image of William in his phone, begging to be helped.

But what he saw next horrified him even more than the images he had just seen. For what he saw not things that were or things that are but things that were yet to pass.

A beautiful place filled with pristine fields and meadows was shown. Little people the size of Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin were walking around, leading normal lives. He realized they were Hobbits in the Shire.

And then the next image was of the Shire burning as Orcs more disgusting than the ones they had met on their arrival to Middle-earth slaughtered the Hobbits. He saw dead bodies of the Fellowship- Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir, even Merry and Pippin, and then Steve, Sara, Natasha, and- himself!

Oliver wiped the sweat off his brow as the Hobbits were chained up and led away by the Orcs. Sam was among them as one of the Orcs whipped him hard. The entire place was in ruins. Then he saw black flying creatures that resembled dragons and on their backs were riders cloaked in black. They were Nine in number.

Oliver realized these were the Nazgul as the image changed to a huge orange cat's eye wreathed in flame that seemed to be glaring right at him. The Eye of Sauron!

Unfortunately for him, this was not the end as then he saw New York in the Avengers' Earth, crumbled and ruined. Tony Stark starved to death in a dark, metallic place as Constantine, J'onn, Cisco, Rhodes, Sam, Bucky, Wanda and T'Challa all lay dead. Vision was there too but was pale in shade as the stone in his forehead had been ripped out. Logan lay on the ground, roaring in pain as a red giant foot crushed him. Oliver's eyes widened in horror as a red giant appeared and roared like a maniac.

A monstrous, golden armored being stared down at all the dead heroes before looking up to reveal he was purple-skinned with powerful and heavy facial features. There was a golden gauntlet in his hands with several stones in it. He appeared to lock glares with Oliver as he stared back at him with malicious eyes and gave an evil grin.

The image then changed again to show Barry running and Kara flying but both disintegrated as many Earths were shown clashing together and getting destroyed.

A bluish being with glowing yellow eyes stood there with blue gauntlets to cover red hands and a silver armor with golden linings across it. The being locked eyes with Oliver as it continued destroying Earths.

The Mirror then went black again as ripples formed in it and he saw his own reflection again.

He staggered back, gasping and sweating, finding the images to be worse than any of the nightmares he had from his PTSD. Which said a lot about the images.

"I know what it is you saw." Galadriel spoke in a neutral tone as she had her neutral gaze fixed upon Oliver, "For it is also in my mind."

"What were the images?" Oliver exploded, still horrified by them.

"They were of events that can or will come to pass if you should fail." Galadriel said, still sounding neutral, though what she had seen of Oliver's past had her astounded. How could one man survive so much and still be sane? The men who had killed his loved ones and caused him great pain seemed to be more twisted than even Orcs.

"The future?" Oliver rasped, "Why? And why was it showing my past?"

"Sometimes the Mirror shows us what we do not want to see." Galadriel said, "It is a testament to your will that in spite of everything you have gone through, you stand here, ready to fight for what is right. You are a true warrior on the side of good, Oliver Queen. Not a monster."

Oliver couldn't help but smile in appreciation at what Lady Galadriel said about him.

"I won't let that future come to pass." Oliver said firmly and she smiled at his resolution.

"Before he fell, Gandalf tasked you, Aragorn and Steven Rogers to lead the Fellowship." Lady Galadriel said, "Aragorn because he is born to be the Leader of Men. Steven because he too shares the same quality, inspiring everyone around him to never lose hope and fight for truth and justice. But you, he chose you because you can step into the darkness when needed to fight for the downtrodden. And you are not hesitant to speak harsh truths when the time comes, even though it appears you have lost that quality of yours for some time."

Oliver realized she was right as for almost 3 years, he had let his team walk over him and disobey his orders because they thought they knew better, when before that he could lead them properly.

"I will follow your advice, Lady Galadriel." Oliver said sincerely, sensing this audience was coming to an end.

"You shall depart Caras Galadhon soon." Lady Galadriel told him, "Many trials await you, Oliver Queen, in this world, the world of Steven and Natasha, and your own. Go back and rest now so that you have the strength to face them all."

Oliver gave her a firm nod and remembered Aragorn had bowed to her so he did the same and departed. He knew why Lady Galadriel had been so cryptic.

It was because her powers were balanced somehow in what she could exactly tell people. Nevertheless, he vowed to himself to not let any of the futures he saw come to pass, though he knew little of what he had seen beyond Sauron. He walked back to the pavilion and lay on the floor. This time sleep came to him. Perhaps because of Galadriel's assurances. And Oliver slept soundly.

At the heart of Isengard was the Tower of Orthanc, 500 feet high, made of obsidian rock that was indestructible. At the pinnacle of the Tower were four rock piers honed to look like horns.

And inside the Tower was a man in white robes with long white hair and a long beard of the same shade. He was Saruman the White, head of the Order of the Istari, ranking higher than Gandalf in power and authority.

He had recently joined with Sauron to dominate all of Middle-earth, betraying the Free-Peoples, and he had imprisoned Gandalf atop his Tower before he had escaped. He had not joined Sauron to rule alongside him though.

He wanted the One Ring for himself, so he could challenge Sauron and become the ruler of Middle-earth himself, industrializing it with machines never seen before. To that end, he had created a new breed of Orcs that were better than the ones seen in Middle-earth so far in every way.

They were stronger, faster, could master the basic knowledge of weapons in a few hours and were more resistant to sunlight than the Orcs and Goblins. But the biggest advantage they provided Saruman was that they were all loyal to him till the end. The Uruk-hai they were called.

And right now, Saruman circled around the very first Uruk-hai that had been created. Lurtz was the name given to him. Within moments of his birth, he had strangled the first Orc he saw to death.

"Do you know how the Orcs first came into being?" Saruman asked Lurtz as he stood within inches of his face. The only response he got was a low growl so he circled Lurtz and continued, "They were Elves once. Taken by the Dark Powers...tortured and mutilated. A ruined and terrible form of life."

Looking at Lurtz, he then declared, "And now...perfected. My fighting Uruk-hai."

Testing the first Uruk's loyalty, Saruman asked, "Whom do you serve?"

"Saruman!" Lurtz hissed as the White Wizard smirked inwardly at the loyalty these Uruk-hai had for him. The Free-Peoples were going to be destroyed by them and ruled by him.

Saruman stood in front of a group of Uruk-hai, all of them giving him their full attention. Lurtz stood right next to him, clearly their leader. They all had a white hand imprinted on their foreheads and fitted with strong armor of steel. They wore visored helmets. In their hands were falchions and shields that had long metal spikes underneath resembling fangs.

Saruman gave his orders, "Hunt them down. Do not stop until they are found."

He exhorted them further, "You do not know pain. You do not know fear. You will taste Man-flesh!"

All of the Uruk-hai raised their weapons and roared in approval.

Saruman turned right to Lurtz and told him privately, "One of the halflings carries something of great value. There are also four strange people. All have golden hair. Two men and two women. Bring them to me alive and unspoiled."

Lurtz snarled in disappointment, not wanting to suppress his killer instincts but Saruman gave another order that placated him, "Kill the others."

Later, Saruman watched from his balcony in the southern face of the Tower of Orthanc as the Uruk-hai ran out of the gatehouse, a roaring Lurtz in the front.

Chapter Text

Two days later, the Fellowship and the heroes finally had to leave Lothlorien. They were given three elegant rowing boats to leave. Aragorn, Natasha, Frodo and Sam were in the first rowing boat. Boromir, Sara, Merry and Pippin were in the second one. Oliver, Steve, Legolas and Gimli travelled in the third. All of them had supplies distributed among themselves equally.

One of those supplies was the Elvish way-bread known as "Lembas." According to Legolas, one bite of it could fill a grown man's stomach. Oliver and Sara commented on how they would have loved it if some of it was found on Lian Yu.

They had also each been provided with a grey cloak fastened with a green, silver-veined leaf brooch. Lord Celeborn had said these cloaks would help them remain unseen to unfriendly eyes. Celeborn had also told Aragorn, Steve and Oliver privately about the Orcs that patrolled the eastern banks of the Anduin River.

And he also told them about the new breed of Orcs on the western banks called the 'Uruk-hai' who bore the white hand of Saruman. Oliver realized these Uruk-hai would definitely pack a punch due to being a totally fresh breed and the three leaders agreed to complete the journey down the Anduin with speed.

As they paddled southwards, each of the Fellowship thought of the unique, individual gifts they had been given by the Lady of Light.

"To you, Steven Rogers, I give this shield."

Steve was handed a fair-sized golden shield. He looked at it curiously and held it in his hand as Lady Galadriel said, "It was forged with the finest Elven Steel and with what Mithril we can spare. It may be a poor substitute for the one you used to wield, but it will still deflect almost anything thrown at you. And with your mind's prowess, I believe you can do some of your old shield's tricks with it."

"I thank you Lady Galadriel for gifting it to me and the smith who made it for me." Steve said humbly as he bowed to her out of respect and gratitude and she smiled at him.

"To you, Natasha Romanoff, I give this dagger."

Natasha was handed a fine, beautiful and smooth dagger with Elvish inscriptions on it. She held it up and examined its surface closely as Lady Galadriel said, "This knife doesn't make a sound when unsheathed and will help you in your task."

"Thank you, Lady Galadriel." Natasha said graciously with a bow.

"To you, Oliver Queen, I give this enchanted quiver of enchanted arrows."

Oliver took the quiver and looked at it and the arrows as Lady Galadriel said, "This quiver has been enchanted by our magic to never run out of arrows and some of its arrows have the magic of my people. However, you should use those arrows only if you see no other way."

"Thank you, Lady Galadriel, for everything you have done for me." Oliver said gratefully as he bowed to her, grateful to her for helping him rediscover who he truly was.

"To you, Sara Lance, I give Ciris the Dawn-splitter, an Elven Blade of the First Age."

Sara took the Elven Blade and looked at the Elvish inscriptions on its surface. She sheathed it as Lady Galadriel said, "This blade can cut through any armor of any foul creature that walks Middle-earth. May it serve you well in the battles to come."

"Thank you, Lady Galadriel." Sara said with a bow.

The Fellowship rowed past Lady Galadriel, who had a white cloak over her head and shoulders and her right hand was upraised in farewell and blessing.

As Lothlorien was finally left behind, Gimli said, "I have taken my worse wound at this parting, having looked my last upon that which is fairest. Haugh, henceforth I will call nothing fair unless it be her gift to me."

"What was it?" Legolas asked.

"I asked her for one hair from her golden head. She gave me three." Gimli revealed and Legolas smiled as he continued rowing.

"I think your opinion of the Elves has gone up. So no more insulting them then." Oliver smirked.

"So, still believe she is a witch?" Steve asked jokingly.

"No." Gimli said, "But I believe I am under her spell."

Steve and Oliver chuckled, unaware of the significance of Gimli's actions, which would one day be considered a historic act of rapprochement between Elves and Dwarves.

Unbeknownst to the Company, the Uruk-hai led by Lurtz were running in their direction via foot, headed to the same destination as them. It would take them a lot of time to catch up, but they would eventually. Lurtz gave off a roar.

Legolas looked in the direction of the forest on the shores, having felt something due to his keen Elven senses.

Aragorn, Boromir, Steve and Oliver heard the roar but due to the huge distance, it sounded more like a sound an animal produced so they chose to ignore it for now.

They stopped their journey at nightfall on a small island in the middle of the wider section of the Anduin. The only things on the island were boulders, stones and sand. The Company set camp for the night.

Natasha lay on a rock trying to sleep, and noticed Frodo and Sam conversing.

"I am here to help you, Mr. Frodo." Sam said desperately with concern in his voice, "I promised Gandalf I would."

"You can't help me, Sam." Frodo said in a resigned voice as he looked down, "Not this time. Get some sleep."

Sam walked away, feeling a bit dejected as Natasha realized there was something clearly different about his demeanor.

Boromir and Oliver stood behind a large boulder and looked at a large log floating in the river. The two could clearly see thin, malnourished hands gripping the log as large round eyes peeked over it, blinking at them.

"Who is that?" Oliver asked.

"It's Gollum."

The two turned around as Aragorn and Steve walked up to them.

"He's tracked us since Moria." Aragorn told them.

"Wasn't Gollum the creature Gandalf had said went mad due to the Ring?" Steve asked and Aragorn and Boromir nodded in confirmation, "Why does he still want it?"

"I guess his attraction to it is like the attraction addicts have to drugs or alcohol." Oliver said, "They know deep down it is harmful for them, but they want it anyway."

Steve said, "Well Oliver, pardon my pun but I think you hit the mark perfectly."

The two chuckled, though Aragorn and Boromir were confused as they had no idea what drugs were.

"I'd hoped we'd lose him on the river. But alas he's too clever a waterman." Aragorn said.

Oliver found Gollum so pathetic that he couldn't even bring himself to kill the creature.

"And if he alerts the enemy to our whereabouts it will make the crossing even more dangerous." Boromir told him

"How about an alternative route?" Oliver suggested.

Boromir stood up and turned to Aragorn, "Minas Tirith is the safer road. You know that. From there, we can regroup. Strike out from Mordor from a place of strength."

Oliver gave Steve a look that said 'Here we go again.'

"There is no strength in Gondor that can avail us." Aragorn said in a low voice.

"You were quick enough to trust the Elves!" Boromir said in a slightly raised voice, "Why do you have so little faith in your own people? Yes, there is weakness. There is frailty. But there is courage also. And honor to be found in Men."

Boromir gestured to Steve and Oliver, "Two men and two women who knew nothing of Middle-earth or its conflicts agreed to help our quest and yet you refuse to concede nobility in the Race of Men!"

Aragorn turned away, intending to end the one-sided argument, but Boromir grasped him by the shoulder and not caring if anyone else heard him or not said, "You are afraid! All your life, you have hidden in the shadows, scared of who you are, of what you are!"

Aragorn coolly shook his arm from Boromir's grip and told him "I will not lead the Ring within a hundred leagues of your city!"

He then turned around and walked off.

"And what if it is the only way?" Steve asked. Aragorn stopped for a moment, considering, but then walked away without saying a word.

Next day, they all travelled in the boats again. Almost everyone had heard Aragorn's and Boromir's argument but no one had brought it up for good reason.

Boromir was in a foul mood and it was obvious why. He spoke to no one and kept his boat as far from Aragorn's as possible.

They paddled on for hours, until they came upon two gigantic statues, carved into the stone of the surrounding cliffs.

"Wow!" Sara said, "They look magnificent!"

And she was right. Steve, Natasha and Oliver found the two statues magnificent as well. Both the statues gave gestures with their left hands as if to warn travelers that the waterfall was very close and their expressions also seemed defiant.

"Frodo." Aragorn said, attracting his attention towards the statues, "The Argonath. The statues of Isildur and Anarion, sons of Elendil, the first King of Gondor. Long have I desired to look upon the kings of old. My kin."

'Maybe accept the responsibilities they had as well' Natasha muttered in her head.

Just past the Argonath was a giant waterfall, split in two by a tall, wide rock. The Falls of Rauros. The boats would be of no more use after this. They set up a temporary camp, and settled down for a quick rest.

Gimli, Pippin and Natasha tended to a small campfire.

"We cross the lake at nightfall." Aragorn told everyone, "Hide the boats and continue on foot. We approach Mordor from the North."

"Oh, yes?" Gimli asked sarcastically as he smoked his pipe, drawing Aragorn's attention, "Just a simple matter of finding our way through Emyn Muil... impassable labyrinth of razor-sharp rocks. And after that, it gets even better."

Everyone looked at him in alarm as he said, "Festering, stinking marshland as far as the eye can see."

Pippin stopped chewing the piece of Lembas bread he had in his mouth.

"Well, looks like you killed some people's appetite." Natasha said dryly.

"That is our road." Aragorn told Gimli calmly but firmly, "I suggest you take some rest and recover your strength, Master Dwarf."

"Recover my—?" Gimli puffed up and grumbled, as if a Dwarf was always at anything other than full strength!

"Maybe enhance it." Natasha joked dryly.

That was when Legolas approached Aragorn, Steve and Oliver.

"We should leave now." He told them.

"No." Aragorn said.

"Lord Celeborn told the three of us that Orcs patrol the eastern shore." Steve told him.

"I don't think even all of us together will pass them unscathed." Oliver agreed.

"We must wait for cover of darkness." Aragorn said.

Legolas looked towards the forest with a worried look, "It is not the eastern shore that worries me. A shadow and a threat has been growing in my mind."

He looked into the eyes of the three leaders directly and said, "Something draws near. I can feel it."

"Can you tell us what is it?" Oliver asked, aware of the Elves' keener senses.

Merry had gone to collect some firewood and returned at the moment. As he put down his bundle, he heard Gimli saying to Pippin and Natasha, "Recover strength? Pay no heed to that, Lady Natasha, young Hobbit."

As he looked around, he noticed some people were absent, "Where are Frodo and Sara?"

Aragorn, Legolas, Steve and Oliver stopped their discussion and looked around, realizing those two were missing. Sam woke up at that very moment too as Gimli, Pippin and Natasha looked around.

Oliver's gaze suddenly fell on Boromir's shield. But Boromir was not around, "Those 2 are not the only ones missing."

Sara was wandering around alone in the forest. Unbeknownst to the others, the Ring had tried to talk to her a few more times after the night Gandalf had told them all the tale of the One Ring. It had been a bit tame in the presence of Gandalf and then Lady Galadriel, but after that, it had returned in full force.

She had always been considered a bit of wild child by her family and while she had her own talents like ballet dancing, Laurel had always been the golden child due to her intelligence which helped her pass examinations with flying colors.

She loved her sister dearly, more than she loved herself actually, but she always felt the need to live up to her as well. Which is why when she had accepted Oliver's offer to accompany him at the boat, she had felt horrible. She knew Oliver had a playboy attitude at the time and tried to warn Laurel to snap her out of her delusional dreams of having a family with him, but had been called a bitch in response, which had prompted her to accept Oliver's invitation.

And she felt she had let Laurel and her entire family down because of it, and then unfortunately, her life had turned into a nightmare on the Amazo, and then the League, though Nyssa had made it bearable enough. And when she had returned, Laurel had still been angry with her, though Sara knew it was because of the drugs. Still, both the sisters had forgiven each other in the end and Sara had also started her relationship with Oliver.

And she still considered breaking up with him her biggest regret. She had darkness inside of her, but he could help her through it. Yet she had refused his help and gone back to the League, which was just a mistake. And then a drugged Thea had killed her, ending her life which according to her, had been full of bad choices.

But Laurel couldn't move on at all, so she had dug her up and had made Malcom lower her into the Lazarus Pit, which had revived her. Of course her soul was still trapped so she was like a feral animal at first. But then John Constantine had returned her soul and she was back to normal.

And once again, she made the same mistake of leaving to figure herself out instead of letting Oliver and Laurel help her. She had also seen how sloppy Laurel was as the Black Canary. She should have stayed and trained her but she didn't and then she ended up on the Waverider, where she found herself attracted to Leonard Snart, and like all good things in her life, she lost him too.

As if that wasn't enough, when she returned to Star City, Quentin told her Laurel had been murdered, which was enough to break her spirit. Even Rip had refused to bring her back, giving a convoluted explanation which she still couldn't wrap her head around. Of course the real explanation was that he was a manipulative hypocrite, which was why she had stopped talking to him after the entire anachronism mess.

After learning of Laurel's death, she had made the same mistake again, of leaving in the Waverider. She knew Quentin needed her and that she needed him, but she didn't stay, because she decided to take Quentin's words at face value, which she knew she shouldn't have. In her depression, she started randomly sleeping with men and women in various timelines, even though it could cause a lot of damage.

She had even tried to kill Damien Dahrk a few times in the past to save her sister before stopping herself due to the change in timeline it might cause. She didn't even use the Spear of Destiny to bring her back, another big regret of hers.

And now the Ring was telling her that it could help her correct all her mistakes. She could have Laurel back. She could have her relationship with Oliver back. And she could be more powerful than she ever was. She would never be weak and helpless again. And she would never make mistakes again. And honestly, it was tempting. And she was pretty vulnerable emotionally due to everything she had gone through.

That was when she heard the sounds of two people struggling. Following the directions, she saw Boromir had pinned Frodo to the ground. He was yelling repeatedly, "Give it to me! Give it to me! Give it to me!"

That scene snapped Sara out of her trance as she realized what Boromir meant by 'it.' While the Ring's allure was strong, her recent but strong bond with the Hobbits was stronger. And seeing Boromir struggling with Frodo made her realize she was about to make another mistake. But not anymore.

She rushed in their direction and pouncing on Boromir, tried to push him away. But in his anger, Boromir was unnaturally stronger and threw her against a rock, dazing her. She got back up and tried to push Boromir off again. Her desperation gave her the needed strength and she managed to push Boromir off.

"Run Frodo!" She yelled as she looked at him, "Ru-"

She was cut off by a blow to her head which made her fall down. She rolled over to see Boromir unsheathing his sword.

He brought it down on her but she rolled away and got back up, unsheathing Ciris. She felt saddened that the first time she was using this was against a friend. But it was necessary.

She blocked a slice of his sword with the Elven blade as a 'clang' rang out before flipping back. He tried to slice again but she flipped away. She then ducked to avoid a blow that would have otherwise decapitated her as Boromir's sword hit a tree trunk instead.

"Boromir!" She shouted desperately, trying to stop his mad onslaught. She brought up Ciris again to block Boromir's rapid blows.

But because she was only defending, not attacking, she got a little sloppy and Boromir managed to land a cut on her shoulder.

Her cry and the sight of blood was what brought Boromir back to his senses. The bloodied sword fell from his hands and he staggered back in horror.

"What have I done?" He whispered, staring at his own hands in horror as his eyes seemed frightened, "What have I done? FRODO, I'M SORRY!"

He then looked to Sara, "Sara, I'm sorry. What have I done?"

Sara put a hand on her wound. While blood was flowing, the wound wasn't fatal and she didn't pay much attention to it. Boromir fell to his knees, burying his face in his hands as the tears started falling out.

"Boromir." Sara said softly as she knelt next to him.

"Please….forgive me….I'm sorry…I didn't mean to….." Boromir sobbed incoherently.

"Look at me." She said in the kindest tone she could.

"I didn't mean to. It made me do it. I wanted it so much….." Boromir sobbed.

"Look at me." She said more firmly this time.

Boromir shook his head.

"Boromir, it tempted me too." Sara told him, "I forgive you."

This time, Boromir lifted his head to meet the younger Lance sister's eyes. There was no anger or blame in those blue eyes, only compassion and understanding.

"Thank you." He said at last for a lack of better words, "I…..I hope we can be friends."

"We already are." Sara smiled as she held out her hand and he grasped it firmly.

While Sara and Boromir had been fighting, Frodo had put on the One Ring, even though it was a foolish move. He climbed upon a broken bone structure, which was actually the ruins of the Seat of Seeing.

He then heard a sinister voice speaking to him in a language he didn't recognize as he was granted a vision of the Eye of Sauron on the top of Barad-dur. He stumbled back in terror and fell off the structure, pulling the Ring off. He landed with a thud on the soft turf.


He turned around to see Aragorn and Steve standing there.

"It has taken Boromir." He informed the two of them, "Sara tried to stop him."

He clenched the Ring tightly, ready to run if these two men proved to be as dangerous as Boromir.

"Where is the Ring?" Aragorn demanded, more forcefully than he had intended to.

Frodo darted behind the structure, "Stay away!"

Aragorn and Steve were both confounded, realizing the Hobbit doubted the two of them too. They both raised their hands as Aragorn said, "Frodo! I swore to protect you."

"Can you protect me from yourself?" Frodo asked as he unclenched his fist to reveal the Ring. Looking back at the two, he asked, "Would you two destroy it?"

Aragorn's gaze was fixed on the Ring as he slowly walked towards Frodo. He could hear it calling to him. Steve could as well. It told him it would undo all the damage that had been done to Bucky and would give him the peaceful life he knew he couldn't have. But Steve wasn't tempted. After the Scepter, he knew not to trust such things. And his integrity and kindness managed to defeat the Ring's allure for now.

He clenched his fist, ready to knock Aragorn out if he tried to take the Ring from Frodo. To his relief, Aragorn knelt down in front of the Hobbit and put his hand on his, closing it over the Ring.

"I would have gone with you to the end." He said with a soft expression, "Into the very fires of Mordor."

Frodo nodded with relief on his features, "I know."

He took a deep breath, making a decision, "Look after the others. Especially Sam. He will not understand."

Steve nodded in understanding, "We will."

He knew stopping Frodo was in vain because the Hobbit was as stubborn and brave as him.

Aragorn suddenly stood up and unsheathed his sword, "Go, Frodo!"

Frodo looked confused until Steve pointed at his scabbard. There was a bluish glow coming out of it.

Frodo unsheathed Sting and saw it was glowing blue. Steve, Natasha, Oliver and Sara had been told that Sting glowed blue whenever any kind of Orcs were nearby.

"Run." Aragorn urged the Hobbit, "Run!"

"Get out of here!" Steve said too. Frodo looked at them one last time and turned to bolt in the other direction.

Aragorn and Steve marched towards the Orcs that swarmed up the hill to fight them. Unlike the ones they had encountered on arriving in Middle-earth or the ones in Moria, these ones were at least 2 inches taller than Steve.

'So these are the Uruk-hai.' Steve said to himself.

Aragorn seemed pretty calm as he raised his sword to his face, marching towards them. Steve raised his shield as well, knowing now was the time to test how good of a substitute it was for his original one.

One of the Uruks swung at Aragorn but he narrowly avoided before slicing it down and hit another one the head, putting it down too. He then rapidly sliced two more down before blocking another's strike and cutting it down as well.

Steve put his shield in the way to block a Uruk's sword and a 'clang' sounded as Steve then bashed its face with his shield using all his strength. It fell on the ground, dead.

"Pretty good." Steve said as he kicked another Uruk away in a rotatory motion. While they were stronger than Orcs and Goblins, they were still weaker than Steve, who had the strength to overpower Cave Trolls. He threw the shield in a rotatory motion. It managed to fly a small distance and hit a Uruk, putting it down before returning to him.

"Okay. Doesn't fly far. I can live with that." He said as the two continued fighting the Uruks.

Sam and Natasha were looking for Frodo together as Sam called out to him, "Mr. Frodo!"

She was about to tell him to look for Frodo discreetly but they heard the sounds of swords clashing and knew a fight had begun.

"We need to find Frodo and keep him safe from this." Natasha told Sam and he nodded as the continued looking for him.

Aragorn and Steve ran up the stairs of the Seat of Seeing. He blocked another Uruk's strike before kicking its knee, sending it down. He then clashed swords with another one before hitting its head with his sword, sending it down too. He blocked three strikes from another one before striking it down while Steve punched one so hard he flew into two others and all three crashed to the ground, breaking the line of the Uruks. Now only a few of them were on the top as the two continued battling them.

"Find the halflings and the golden haired men and women!" Lurtz roared at full volume.

Aragorn and Steve shared a look as they realized who Lurtz was talking about.

Frodo was running as some Uruks ran after him.

Steve leapt down with his feet pointed at a Uruk and kicked its face so hard its skull shattered. He landed and avoiding another Uruk's strike, turned it around and snapped its neck.

"Elendil!" Aragorn yelled as he leapt down too onto some Uruks, throwing them down before turning around and holding his sword upright, allowing a Uruk to fall into it.

That was when two of the Uruks were hit by arrows and one by a throwing axe. Legolas, Gimli and Oliver had arrived.

As Aragorn pushed the dead Uruk off himself, Legolas yelled, "Aragorn, Steven, go!"

He fired an arrow that went into a Uruk and protrude from behind him. Another Uruk ran into it and ended up ramming its head into the arrow.

"Two birds with one arrow." Oliver commented as Gimli took one down with his ax while Oliver smacked another with his bow and flip kicked it away before shooting it down.

Legolas stabbed another Uruk with his arrow before retracting it and shooting another down with it.

Frodo was running when he tripped and fell on the ground. As the Uruks advanced upon him, Aragorn suddenly arrived and sliced one's feet, tripping it while Steve leapt and bashed another on the head with his shield, killing it.

Frodo hid behind a tree as Aragorn stabbed a Uruk with his knife and punched it out while Steve kicked another on the throat, killing it.

Frodo was still hiding from some Uruks that ran past the tree when Merry and Pippin emerged from a bush adjacent to him, "Frodo! Hide here. Quick!"

"Come on!" Pippin said.

Frodo simply shook his head with determination written on his face.

"What's he doing?" Pippin asked.

Merry, while as mischievous as his cousin, was wiser. He realized what Frodo was doing.

"He's leaving." He told him.

"No!" Pippin yelled as he ran out of the bush.

"Pippin!" Merry called out to him as he ran after him.

They heard the roars of the advancing Uruks and Merry said to Frodo, "Run, Frodo. Go on!"

He then waved his hands at the advancing Uruks and said, "Hey! Hey, you! Over here!"

"Over here!" Pippin said too as he started waving.

"This way!" Merry said and the Uruks then ran at the two of them. They ran off as the Uruks continued chasing them.

Frodo wanted to help them but he knew they had done this to allow him to escape and he was not going to let their efforts be in vain so he continued running.

"It's working!" Pippin said as the Uruks chased them.

"I know it's working! Run!" An agitated Merry said.

Legolas ducked to avoid a Uruk's strike before slicing its throat with his dual knives. In a rotatory motion, he then stabbed another Uruk as Gimli blocked a Uruk that was attacking Aragorn and pushing it back, hit its stomach.

Aragorn stabbed another Uruk with his knife and grabbing it by the back of the head, slammed it on the ruins. Gimli disarmed another Uruk and struck it down as Aragorn stabbed a Uruk behind him without even looking back and retracting his sword, turned around and punched it down.

Oliver avoided a Uruk's strikes and struck its hand with his bow, disarming it before stabbing its throat with the arrow. H then retracted it and fired at another Uruk, taking it down too. Steve punched a Uruk in the abdomen, making it kneel before upper-cutting it out. He then kicked another one on the throat, slamming it into the ruins, killing it too.

Merry and Pippin were running around when they noticed more Uruks running up to them in the front. They froze in horror. As one of them tried to bring its sword down on them, Boromir arrived and blocked it, before kneeing it in its region. He then stabbed it with his sword as Sara cut off another Uruk's hand before cutting off its head.

Boromir threw his knife at another Uruk, killing it, while Sara threw her shuriken at another.

Aragorn was pinned to a tree by a Uruk. He kept punching it but it didn't let go as Legolas fired rapidly at 6 Uruks who were running in the other direction, killing them all. Oliver grabbed the Uruk that was struggling with Aragorn. It struggled with him before Legolas fired at it, killing it as well.

That was when they heard a horn being blown and turned to its direction.

"The horn of Gondor." Legolas said.

"I think only one of us carries a horn." Oliver said.

"Boromir." Aragorn said as he rushed in the direction with Oliver and Legolas following. Steve and Gimli had gone off in another direction to fight off some more Uruks.

Boromir ducked to avoid a Uruk leaping at him and it fell down as Sara stabbed it through the throat.

He blew the horn of Gondor again.

Aragorn leapt out of a bush and punched a Uruk away before stabbing a second. He retracted his sword and clashed with a third before slicing its side, putting it down. He then sliced its throat just as Oliver fired two arrows simultaneously, killing two Uruks.

Boromir cut off a Uruk's hand before cutting it down while Merry and Pippin leapt at a Uruk, managing to pin it down before stabbing it in various areas. Sara clashed against a Uruk before kicking it, making it stagger back. She then stabbed it through the throat, killing it.

"Run! Run!" Boromir yelled at Merry and Pippin and they ran away a little bit. Boromir and Sara continued dueling with and killing Uruks as Merry and Pippin picked up rocks and threw them at the Uruks, staggering some of them back, giving the two opportunities to kill them.

That was when Lurtz arrived and looked down at the scene. He saw the wound on Sara's shoulder and not knowing about the earlier fight between her and Boromir, got angry at the Uruks, thinking they had harmed her. He decided to take matters into his own hands.

Nocking an arrow on his bow, he aimed at Boromir just as he started fighting another Uruk.

Sara looked up to see Lurtz aiming at Boromir. Just as he took down the Uruk he was fighting, she yelled, "Boromir, look out!"

Lurtz fired just as Sara pushed him out of the way and the arrow hit her right where Boromir had wounded her. She cried out in pain as Boromir, Merry and Pippin watched in horror.

"You saved me." Boromir whispered.

"What are friends for?" Sara said through gritted teeth before passing her sword to her other and stabbing another Uruk with it. The three were amazed by how she could fight in spite of her wounds.

Boromir too sliced another Uruk down but when he turned around, Lurtz fired again. This time, Sara couldn't save him and the arrow hit him near the chest, staggering him back. Merry and Pippin both watched in horror as Boromir fell to his knees.

But with determination in his eyes, he got back up with a battle cry and managed to take two down as Sara took another down too. That was when a Uruk punched him on the face, making him spit out a wad of blood as he fell to the ground. Sara looked at him in concern when another hit her from behind, making her fall down.

Seeing Boromir and Sara were both down, Merry and Pippin let out battle cries and taking out their weapons, charged at the Uruks. But they didn't even break stride as they disarmed the two and slinging them over their shoulders, carried them away.

Boromir looked up as Lurtz pointed an arrow at him. But before he could let it out, Sara staggered in the way, "Don't!"

"Sara, move! He will kill you!" Boromir said but she didn't move.

Lurtz snarled angrily. His orders were to bring her alive and unspoiled. The second order had already been defied. He didn't want to face Saruman's wrath by defying the first one as well. He snarled at some more Uruks.

They arrived and slung both of them over their shoulders. If she didn't want her friend to die, she could watch him be a prisoner among them.

Sara panted heavily as the Uruks carried both her and Boromir away as well.

Lurtz suddenly felt a presence and looked up to see Oliver pointing an arrow at him. He raised his own and both of them fired at each other as the arrows were deflected off.

Lurtz tried to fire another but Oliver rolled away to a side to avoid and aiming again carefully, fired. The arrow hit Lurtz's bowstring, shattering it. Lurtz angrily threw his bow down and picked up his falchion but Aragorn leapt at him from a side, throwing him down.

The two clashed blades but Lurtz used his superior strength to throw Aragorn into a tree, making him drop his sword. He then threw his shield at him. Aragorn was pinned to the tree as the bottom spikes caught his neck between them. Lurtz then ran at Aragorn to decapitate him as he tried to free himself.

Oliver tacked Lurtz away at the last moment and punched his face repeatedly.

"You son of a bitch!" He roared angrily as he continued punching, worry for Sara filling him. Lurtz managed to push him off and got up. He tried to bring his falchion down on Oliver but he rolled away and kicked him, staggering him slightly. He then stabbed him in the leg with a fletchette. Lurtz roared angrily and punched Oliver before grabbing him by the throat and head-butting him. He then threw a dazed Oliver off before ripping the fletchette out.

To Oliver's disgust, he licked his own blood off of it and threw it at him. Oliver managed to deflect it with his bow. Lurtz picked up his falchion as Aragorn freed himself and the two clashed swords again. This time, Aragorn used his skill and speed, overwhelming Lurtz and finding an opening, chopped off his arm and then stabbed him.

But Lurtz wasn't going to give up. In a last-ditched effort to kill Aragorn, he grabbed the sword with his remaining hand and started pulling it further in, pulling Aragorn with it to bite his head. But Aragorn managed to pull the sword out and chopped of his head. It dropped at the same time as his body.

"They took Sara, Boromir, Merry and Pippin." Oliver told him, "I saw them running off when I arrived."

Aragorn nodded with a heavy sigh.

Frodo stood in front of the water. Remembering Gandalf's words, he put the Ring in his pocket and wiping off his tears, walked towards a boat with determination in his eyes and started rowing away.

"Frodo, no!" Sam yelled as he arrived at the shore with Natasha behind him, "Frodo! Mr. Frodo!"

"Sam wait!" Natasha said.

"No, Sam." Frodo whispered before saying, "Go back, both of you! I'm going to Mordor alone."

"Of course you are. And we're coming with you!" Sam said as he ran into the water.

"You can't swim!" Frodo yelled as Sam tried to swim after him but sank.

"Sam! Sam!" Frodo yelled in horror. Natasha dived into the water and grabbing Sam, swam up. Frodo held out his hand and the two of them helped Sam onto the boat before she climbed up as well.

"You idiot!" She said to Sam, "Do not go into the water if you can't swim!"

"Sorry." Sam whispered before looking at Frodo.

"I made a promise, Mr. Frodo." He said emotionally, "A promise: "Don't you leave him, Samwise Gamgee." And I don't mean to. I don't mean to."

"I'm not leaving you either to do this alone. We're friends, and I am a spy. I am going to help you till the end." Natasha smiled at him encouragingly.

Frodo looked like he was on the verge of tears and hugged both of them. They were off to Mordor now.

Aragorn, Gimli, Steve and Oliver stood on the shore as Legolas pushed a boat into the water, "Hurry! Frodo, Sam and Natasha have reached the eastern shore."

He then looked up and saw that they made no move to join them.

"You mean not to follow them." He realized.

"Frodo's fate is no longer in our hands." Aragorn said as he looked up.

"Then it has all been in vain." Gimli said, "The Fellowship has failed."

"Do not talk like that, Gimli." Steve told him, "Natasha will protect both Frodo and Sam with her life. We can count on her."

"The Fellowship will not fail if we hold true to each other." Aragorn repeated Galadriel's words as he put his hands on both Legolas' and Gimli's shoulders. Gimli grasped his hand back firmly. To Steve and Oliver, Aragorn looked like a King in this moment.

"We will not abandon Merry, Pippin, Boromir and Sara to torment and death." Aragorn said, "Not while we have strength left."

He then sheathed his dagger and said, "Leave all that can be spared behind. We travel light. Let us hunt some Orc."

"Can't wait to do that." Oliver said as he held up his bow.

Aragorn rushed into the woods, followed by Steve. Legolas and Gimli gave each other a mock glare.

"Want to fight again?" Oliver asked dryly, "Maybe we can finally start our competition."

Legolas and Gimli burst into smiles before the latter proclaimed, "Yes!"

The three then charged into the woods behind Aragorn and Steve. This was the moment when the Five Hunters were born.

Frodo, Sam and Natasha stopped on a hilly area and looked into the distance.

"Mordor." Frodo said ominously, "I hope the others find a safer road."

"Strider will look after them." Sam said.

"Steve will as well." Natasha said, "He always takes care of everyone."

"I don't suppose we'll ever see them again." Frodo said.

"Don't talk like that Frodo. There is always hope." Natasha said before muttering, "Looks like Steve is rubbing off on me too much."

"We may yet, Mr. Frodo. We may." Sam assured him too.

"Sam...Natasha..." Frodo smiled as he turned around and touched both of their shoulders.

"I'm glad you two are with me." He said genuinely before they continued on their path.

Chapter Text

A month ago

In the Mines of Moria, a clash of great powers was taking place.

"You cannot pass!" Gandalf declared to the Balrog. It responded by standing at its full height and momentarily igniting its whole body in an inferno before pulling out a long sword from under its wings.

"Gandalf!" Frodo called out in alarm, concerned for his old friend's safety, fear written on his face.

"I am a servant of the secret fire." Gandalf announced to his foe, casting a spell, "Wielder of the flame of Anor."

His staff emitted a bubble of blue-white light that covered him.

"The dark fire shall not avail you, flame of Udun!" The Wizard spoke in defiance to the Balrog of Morgoth.

The Balrog brought his flaming giant sword down on Gandalf. The sword clashed with Glamdring from within the bubble. The Balrog's sword and the bubble of light disintegrated at the same time.

All of the Fellowship and the heroes were dumbfounded by the epic clash in front of them. Steve and Natasha found even the Chitauri Invasion and the Battle of Sokovia mundane in comparison to the dual unfolding before them. Likewise, Oliver and Sara found the Dominator Invasion rather mundane to this sight.

Enraged by the loss of its sword, the Balrog stepped forward, wielding a fiery whip now.

Gandalf remained steadfast and told the Balrog, "Go back to the shadow!"

Gandalf raised his staff and Glamdring and declared to the demon- "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"

As soon as he finished, he slammed his staff down on the bridge and a loud cracking noise was heard. The Balrog snorted at the Wizard's display of power and took a step forward. Suddenly, the bridge under its feet crumbled and it plummeted below.

The Balrog fell into the abyss while a huge gap was formed between the bridge and the corridor to which it was connected. Gandalf gave an exhausted grunt and turned to walk away.

All of the Fellowship were in awe of the power he had displayed as none of them had seen him like this before. The heroes from two worlds were in awe too, finding him to be the equal of the most powerful superheroes and supervillains they knew, if not better.

Then they heard a loud 'snap' and Gandalf stumbled as the tail end of the Balrog's whip caught the Grey Wizard's ankle.

The staff and Glamdring slipped from Gandalf's grasp into the abyss below as Gandalf held on with his fingertips.

"GANDALF!" Frodo yelled as he tried to rush to Gandalf but Steve held him back.

"No!" He said firmly.

"The bridge is unstable." Oliver said as they all watched the scene, their earlier awe replaced with horror and disbelief.

"Fly you fools!" Gandalf gasped at them and then lost his grip, falling into the abyss with the Balrog.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Frodo screamed in pain and sadness as Boromir carried him away, "GANDAAAAAAAAAALF!"

As Gandalf fell after the Balrog, he saw Glamdring falling down as well and raising his hand, managed to catch it. He then landed right on top of the Balrog's chest and struck it with Glamdring, making it roar in pain. He struck it two more times to the same result before stabbing it with Glamdring, making it roar even louder.

The Balrog eventually smacked him away and smacked him again, making him grunt in pain. It hit a boulder and tried to catch him but he avoided but the second time, it caught him in his grip. But then it hit a boulder and let him go as he grabbed one of its horns.

It tried to shake him off but Gandalf didn't let go as it hit another boulder and he climbed on its head, stabbing it with Glamdring again. The two eventually fell down into a large cavern and plunged into the water.


Frodo's eyes snapped open as he woke from his nightmare, "Gandalf!"

Sam and Natasha woke up next to him.

"Frodo?" Natasha put a hand on his shoulder, "You all right?"

"What is it, Mr. Frodo?" Sam asked.

"Nothing." Frodo said as he lay back down, "Just a dream."

"It's not a dream. It's a nightmare." Natasha said as he looked over at her, "I've had a lot of those. They are hard to forget. But don't let them eat away at you."

Frodo had a contemplative look on his face.

Emyn Muil did require a lot of climbing due to the cliffs and rocks. Sam had been gifted an Elven rope by Lady Galadriel. It had been tied up to a rock on the top and they were using it to climb to the bottom. But it was pretty dangerous as they had no idea how far the bottom was.

"Can you see the bottom?" Sam asked as he looked down.

"No!" Frodo said.

"Don't look down, either of you!" Natasha told them, "It would be pretty frightening for you both if you do! Just keep going!"

Sam shut his eyes and leaned against the rock when something fell out of his pocket.

"Sam!" Natasha yelled as she saw it.

"Catch it!" He cried, "Grab it!"

Frodo missed barely but Natasha stuck out her hand and managed to catch it, "I got it."

Sam sighed in relief as Natasha continued climbing for a few seconds before her feet touched the ground, "I think I've found the bottom."

She let the rope go as Frodo and Sam eventually climbed down too.

"Bogs and rope, and goodness knows what." Sam whispered to himself, "It's not natural. None of it."

Natasha held up the box Sam had dropped and noticed it had a leaf-like symbol.

"What's in this?" She asked Sam.

"Nothing. Just a bit of seasoning." Sam said, "I thought maybe if we were having a roast chicken one night or something."

At this point, Natasha couldn't stop herself from bursting out in laughter as Sam looked a bit embarrassed.

"Roast chicken?!" Frodo asked in amusement.

"You never know." Sam said.

"Sam. My dear Sam." Frodo said.

"Well, Sam, never change." Natasha said as she stopped laughing and returned the box, his optimism reminding her of Steve. She wondered if Sam had been a candidate for Project: Rebirth, Steve would probably still be a scrawny kid from Brooklyn.

"It's very special, that." Sam said, "It's the best salt in all the Shire.

"It is special. It's a little bit of home." Frodo smiled as Natasha touched her arrowhead pendant she wore in honor of her friendship with Clint to remind herself of home too.

"It is special then." She said to Frodo and Sam, "If I find a chicken, I'll let you both know."

"We can't leave this here for someone to follow us down." Frodo said as he looked at the rope.

"Who's gonna follow us down here?" Sam asked.

"You never know." Natasha told him.

"It's a shame, really. Lady Galadriel gave me that. Real Elvish rope." Sam sighed as he put the box back inside, "Well, there's nothing for it. It's one of my knots. Won't come free in a hurry."

He gave the rope a little tug and it all came tumbling down in a second. The spy and the two hobbits stared.

"Real Elvish rope." Frodo shrugged.

"No muss, no fuss." Natasha muttered.

They hiked further and continued and managed to reach a certain height where the fog had dissipated. They saw a red glow and dark clouds above it far off on a horizon.

"Mordor. The one place in Middle-earth we don't want to see any closer. And it's the one place we're trying to get to." Sam then shook his head, "It's just where we can't get."

He turned to Frodo and Natasha and said, "Let's face it, we're lost."

"And there is now way to find out how to get on the right track." Natasha said in frustration, wishing she had some of modern Earth technology right now which could help them through this mission.

"I don't think Gandalf meant for us to come this way." Sam said.

"He didn't mean for a lot of things to happen…..Sam…..but they did." Frodo told him.

Suddenly, without warning, Frodo's breath became shallow and he sat down.

"Frodo?" Natasha said as she leaned in front of him, "What is it?"

"Mr. Frodo?" Sam asked, "It's the Ring, isn't it?"

"It's getting heavier." Frodo said wearily.

"I guess that happens the closer we get to Mordor." Natasha said before asking Sam, "What food have we got left?"

"Let me see." Sam said as he sat down and started searching his bag. "Oh, yes. Lovely." He said sarcastically, "Lembas bread." He pulled out a hunk of Lembas, "And look! More Lembas bread."

Natasha chuckled and said, "I think that would be good enough."

"I don't usually hold with foreign food. . .. . .but this Elvish stuff, it's not bad." Sam said as he threw off two pieces to Frodo and Natasha while taking a bite himself and they ate too.

"Nothing ever dampens your spirits, does it, Sam?" Frodo asked him.

"No. He is like Steve so nothing can." Natasha joked and Sam sighed.

"Those rain clouds might." Sam said as he pointed to the dark clouds that came above them.

The three huddled in their cloaks as best as they could while the rain poured around them. None of them could sleep. Natasha thought she heard something like heavy breathing from the hill above them and a guttural snarl. But when she looked up, nothing was there. However, she was not going to simply abandon what she had heard as a 'gut feeling.'

Next day, the three stumbled through more rolling fog and sharp rocks.

"This looks strangely familiar." Sam said as he looked at a particular outcropping of rock as Frodo moaned.

"It's because we've been here before." He said.

"Damn it! We're going in circles." Natasha said in frustration.

"What is that horrid stink?" Sam asked as he turned to them, "I warrant there's a nasty bog nearby. Can you smell it?"

"It is hard to miss." Natasha said dryly.

"Yes." Frodo said as him and Natasha walked up next to Sam, "I can smell it."

"We're not alone." Natasha said.

That night, the three were sleeping under the cloaks again. Or at least it appeared they were. Natasha heard a raspy breath above them as it said in a harsh, guttural voice, "The thieves. The thieves. The filthy little thieves."

It sounded evil and cold as it continued, "Where is it? Where is it? They stole it from us. My preciousssssss…"

Natasha found the long hiss annoying as it came closer, "Curse them, we hates them! It's ours, it is, and we wants it!"

A long, malnourished hand so bony it would make pre-serum Steve look healthy reached down. But it never got the chance to do whatever it intended as Natasha grabbed the hand and threw the creature off.

It had a large head and a few thin strands of hair hanging off of it. It had large, blood-shot, crystal blue eyes. For some reason, it looked to Natasha like a malnourished version of Ulysses Klaue.

It snarled angrily and rushed her again as Frodo and Sam got up too but she kicked it on the face, sending it down before picking it up and grabbing it in a chokehold as it struggled and screamed violently.

"Stop struggling or I will break your neck." She snarled at him as he stopped while Frodo unsheathed Sting and pointed it at his throat.

"This is Sting." He snarled at the creature as it let out an irritated hiss, "You've seen it before…...haven't you, Gollum?"

Gollum then let out a scream of anguish.

The next day, the three friends continued their journey with a new addition- Gollum. Sam had tied its neck with the rope he had gotten from Lady Galadriel and was tugging it along.

"It buuuuurns! It buuuuuuuuurns us!" Gollum shrieked, "It freeeeeeezes! Nasty Elves twisted it."

"Oh God! And I thought soap operas were overdramatic." Natasha shook her head.

"Take it off ussssss!" Gollum hissed.

"Quiet, you!" Sam said as Gollum wailed pitifully at the sky.

"It's hopeless." Sam said to Frodo and Natasha, "Every Orc in Mordor's going to hear this racket. Let's just tie him up and leave him."

"No!" Gollum shrieked again, "That would kill us! Kill us!"

"Weren't you trying to kill us last night?" Natasha asked pointedly.

"It's no more than you deserve!" Sam agreed with her sentiments. But Frodo had some pity and compassion in his eyes.

"Maybe he does deserve to die. But now that I see him", He said as Gollum writhed on the ground, "I do pity him."

Gollum stopped wriggling and slid into a sort of crouch, "We be nice to them if they be nice to us."

His expression turned to one of pain as he held out a piece of rope to Frodo, "Take it off us."

He then spread his arms and bowed down, "We swears to do what you wants. We swears."

Natasha put a hand on Frodo's shoulder, "He is a very good actor and let's not forget, he wanted the Ring."

Frodo nodded in agreement.

"There's no promise you can make that I can trust." He said to Gollum.

Gollum looked up and said, "We serve the master of the precious." He looked down, "We will swear on...on…." He looked up as his eyes lit up, "The precious."

He then choked out, "Gollum. Gollum."

"The Ring is treacherous. It will hold you to your word." Frodo said.

"Will it?" Natasha asked him.

"Yes...on the precious." Gollum said as he walked closer and looked up, "On the precious."

"I don't believe you!" Sam shooed Gollum away as he climbed back up on the rocks and he started pulling him down, "Get down! I said, down!"

"Sam!" Natasha restrained him, shocked that he could be so brutal as Gollum tumbled down the rocks

"He's trying to trick us!" Sam said, "If we let him go, he'll throttle us in our sleep!"

Gollum rubbed his throat where the rope had pressed as Frodo regarded him warily. He then knelt down in front of him and asked, "You know the way to Mordor?"

"Yes." Gollum nodded.

"You've been there before?" Frodo then asked.

"Yes." Gollum nodded again as his eyes looked fearful.

Frodo then reached up to Gollum's neck and removed the loop of rope. Sam looked disapproving while Natasha looked wary, though she could understand Frodo's reasoning and from Gandalf's story, she knew he was speaking the truth.

"You will lead us to the Black Gate." Frodo finally told him as he froze for a moment but then his eyes lit up.

"And if you trick us, you will regret it." Natasha said with a glare and he was intimidated.

"To the Gate, to the Gate! To the Gate, the master says. Yes!" He then said as he began to lope up the path while Natasha, Frodo and Sam followed him quickly, maneuvering around the rocks.

"No! We won't go back." He then said as he leaned against a rock, "Not there. Not to him. They can't make us. Gollum! Gollum!"

He then staggered away and said, "But we swore to serve the master of the precious. And the womanses has her eyes on us." But then he said, "No. Ashes and dust and thirst there is, and pits, pits, pits. And Orcses, thousands of Orcses. And always the Great Eye watching, watching."

He covered his head in his hands and looked behind to see Natasha, Frodo and Sam. He suddenly roared at them and ran off.

"Hey! Come back now!" Sam yelled as they lost sight of him and there was no noise either, "Come back!"

He turned to Frodo, "There! What did I tell you? He's run off, the old villain. So much for his promises."

"This way, Hobbits and womanses!" Gollum popped up from behind a rock, "Follow me."

He then continued running as the three followed him while Natasha said, "Maybe we should try to be a bit nicer to him. Though we should keep an eye on him too."

Chapter Text

The Uruks that had taken Merry, Pippin, Boromir and Sara hostage were still running, having left Amon Hen behind. Merry's and Pippin's wrists were bound to the front with rope, allowing the Uruks to carry the Hobbits in a rough piggyback.

But Boromir and Sara were too large to be carried this way so while their hands were bound, two large Uruks carried them over their shoulders.

Their weapons had also been removed. So the Noldor daggers that Merry and Pippin had been gifted by Lady Galadriel were with the Uruks now, and so was Ciris, Sara's shurikens and Boromir's sword.

With Lurtz dead, the Uruks were now commanded by a Uruk called Ugluk, who was the same height as Lurtz and had deep grey skin and dirty blonde and white hair.

Sara and Boromir were both partially awake and could see that Merry was drifting in and out of unconsciousness due to a large gash on his forehead. He had hit it on something, or been hit by something.

After both of them, he was the worse off because of the gash. Pippin had a few scratches but he was pretty much unharmed.

"Merry!" He called out to his cousin in concern, "Merry!"

As the company reached a group of boulders, Ugluk raised his fist to bring them all to a halt.

And then a small group of Mordor Orcs crawled out from behind a boulder. They were significantly smaller than the Uruk-hai.

"You're late." Their leader, whose name was Grishnakh, told Ugluk, "Our master grows impatient. He wants the Shire-rats and the blonde men and women now."

The Uruls growled at being scolded by the inferior Orcs.

"I don't take orders from Orc-maggots." Ugluk grunted, baring his teeth threateningly, "Saruman will have his prize. We will deliver them."

Grishnakh stepped back, feeling intimidated as a satisfied Ugluk turned back to his group.

"Merry!" Pippin called out to him again, "Merry? Wake up."

Panicking, he turned to a nearby Uruk who was drinking from a flask and unwisely said, "My friend is sick. He needs water. Please!"

Ugluk cackled mercilessly and said, "Sick, is he? Give him some medicine, boys!"

The drinking Uruk then walked up to Merry with the flask which had a liquid with a strong, unpleasant odour. Sara's nose twitched as she sniffed it. The Uruk began to pour the flask's liquid down Merry's throat and he began to choke sickly.

"Stop it!" Pippin angrily said, immediately regretting his decision.

"Can't take his draught!" Ugluk mocked as all the Uruks laughed.

"Leave him alone!" Pippin said.

"Why?" Ugluk asked him, "You want some?"

A scared Pippin shook his head and Ugluk threatened him, "Then keep your mouth shut."

"Feeling big huh? Bullying two helpless little Hobbits." Sara spoke up as Ugluk turned to her.

"Sara." Boromir whispered hoarsely. He was far more dazed than her as the arrow had hit him near the chest while she had been hit on the shoulder.

"Sara!" Pippin exclaimed too.

Ugluk walked up to her and said, "Hold your tongue, woman, or I shall cut it off!"

"I will break your wrist first." Sara snarled through gritted teeth.

The Orcs laughed at the fact that Ugluk was being threatened by a woman. He angrily walked up to her and grabbing her by the hair, snarled, "You are fortunate that Saruman wants you alive and unspoiled."

"Well, considering my shoulder is damaged, he would be pretty disappointed then." Sara said through gritted teeth as he let her go.

Ugluk then walked to the front as Pippin called out, "Sara? Are you all right?"

"I think I will be." Sara said.

"How is Boromir?" Merry asked.

"Not good." Sara said, "The arrow hit him close to the chest."

Pippin then called out to Merry again, "Merry."

"Hello, Pip." He said in a daze tone.

"You're hurt." Pippin said.

"I'm fine." Merry said, "It was just an act."

"Really?" Sara asked, though she knew he was just saying it to assure his cousin.

"An act?" Pippin asked.

"See?" Merry said, "I fooled the two of you as well. Don't worry about me, Pippin."

One of the Uruks called Mauhur suddenly sniffed something.

"What is it?" Ugluk asked him, "What do you smell?"

"Man-flesh." Mauhur replied.

"They've picked up our trail." Ugluk cursed.

"Aragorn." Pippin whispered with a smile as he realized the Ranger and the others were coming for them.

"Ollie." Sara whispered to herself with a smile of her own, wondering how concerned he probably would be for her.

"Let's move!" Ugluk ordered and both the Uruk-hai and the Mordor Orcs started running towards Orthanc.

Pippin removed the leaf brooch around his Galadhrim cloak with his teeth and spat it on the ground. He was relieved that none of the Uruk-hai or Mordor Orcs noticed his actions.

Aragorn lay at the top of a small rocky hill. His eyes were closed as his ear was placed to the ground. He could hear the movement of the Uruks echoing through the ground.

"Their pace has quickened." He said as he opened his eyes and got up, "They must have caught our scent."

He then called out to the others, "Hurry!"

Steve was just behind him. He had both his shield and Boromir's shield strapped on his back, "Come on guys!"

He then ran past Aragorn as they continued running.

Legolas stopped on the hill and turning around called out, "Come on, Oliver, Gimli!"

He then continued running as Oliver ran too. While he wasn't as fast at running as Aragorn, Legolas and Steve, his worry for Sara managed to give him the will to run after them. He couldn't let anything happen to her now. Not after she had promised to come back to Star City.

"Three days and nights pursuit." Gimli said behind him as he used his ax to support himself, "No food. No rest. And no sign of our quarry, but what bare rock can tell."

"Comment later, run now." Oliver said as he ran and Gimli managed to run after them.

And then they continued running across the downward slope with Steve, Aragorn and Legolas in the lead, Oliver in the middle, and Gimli at the far back.

Aragorn only allowed two or three hours rest, and that was needed by Oliver and Gimli as Aragorn, Legolas and Steve could move without rest for a few days. The only other times they rested was if Aragorn stopped to examine evidence and Oliver helped him with that due to his experience in the area.

The only food they had was a bite of Lembas bread.

Aragorn had given their group a name- The Five Hunters. Oliver found it pretty fitting as they were basically hunting Uruk-hai based on clues they found.

Aragorn eventually stopped by the boulders where the Uruk-hai and the Mordor Orcs has rendezvoused. He immediately saw the brooch Pippin had spat and kneeling down, picked it up and held it in his right hand.

"Not idly do the leaves of Lorien fall." He remarked as Legolas and Steve stopped next to him.

"There is hope." Steve smiled.

"They may yet be alive." Legolas realized.

Oliver managed to stop just behind them, "Isn't that the brooch on our cloaks?"

"Left here by one of our friends to give us a sign that they are alive." Legolas said.

"They are pretty smart." Steve said too.

"Yeah." Oliver said as he panted, "We will find them now. We're on the right track."

"They are less than a day ahead of us." Aragorn said as he got up and the four of them slowly started running again, "Come."

Then they heard a loud crash behind and except Aragorn, they all turned to see Gimli stumbling over some rocks.

"Come, Gimli!" Legolas encouraged as he ran, "We're gaining on them!"

"Less than a day ahead of us." Steve said as he ran too, outrunning Legolas and Aragorn.

"I'm wasted on cross-country." Gimli panted, "We Dwarves are natural sprinters. Very dangerous over short distances."

"Basically the opposite of me." Oliver said as they all continued to run.

They eventually reached a wide plain full of hills and rocks.

"Rohan." Aragorn told them, "Home of the Horse-lords."

Steve thought of some old horse riding nations such as the Scythians, Huns and Mongols and hoped the Rohirrim weren't like them.

"Are Rohan's people nomads?" He asked Aragorn.

"No, Steven." Aragorn explained to him, "They may have love for steeds but they reside in farmlands and wooden settlements. The largest is the crown city, Edoras."

"Good to know." Oliver said, "How will they react to us?"

"There's something strange at work here." Aragorn told warily sensed, "Some evil gives speed to these creatures. Sets its will against us."

Legolas hopped onto a particularly tall hill and gazed out over the hills.

"Legolas!" Aragorn called out to his Elven friend, "What do your Elf-eyes see?"

"The Uruks turn northwest." Legolas said and after a pause, spoke up, "They are taking the Hobbits, Master Boromir and Lady Sara to Isengard."

"Saruman." Aragorn muttered grimly.

"The White Wizard?" Oliver asked and got nods, "Damn it! We need to stop them!"

This was the first time any of them had seen Oliver this unnerved. They wondered why.

"Oliver, is everything all right?" Steve asked in concern.

"No Steve!" Oliver snapped, "They are taking Sara, Boromir, Merry and Pippin to a powerful wizard. Last time I went up against someone who could do magic, he killed Laurel, the woman I loved, Sara's sister."

Everyone's eyes went wide at this as they realized how traumatized Oliver still was from that incident and how worried that made him for Sara, whom he also loved.

"I'm sorry, Oliver." Steve said in sympathy, "But I promise you we won't let what happened to Laurel happen to Sara."

"I promise you here and now, they will never reach Saruman." Aragorn assured him too and he nodded, though he wasn't entirely listening.

"So Saruman wants the Ring but he is not sure which Hobbit has it." Oliver said as he looked at everyone and they nodded, "But why take Sara?"

"I heard their leader shout that he wanted the halflings and the golden haired men and women." Steve said and Oliver got to thinking.

"Do you think he somehow knows that we are from other worlds?" Oliver asked and everyone looked horrified as they thought of the implications.

"That's why he wanted us." Steve realized, "To ask about our worlds. Get more information."

"And considering he managed to cross-breed Orcs and Goblin-men to make the Uruk-hai, I think he may have ways to pass on your strength to his troops, which is why he wants you too." Aragorn said to Steve who looked even more shocked.

"We need to stop them at any cost." Steve said and with firm nods, they all recommenced running.

As the Uruks ran, the Five Hunters ran after them. Steve was in the front. Sometimes, Legolas was the one behind him, other times Aragorn, as they both could run at almost the same pace. Oliver was behind them both and at the back was Gimli.

"Keep breathing." Gimli panted, "That's the key. Breathe."

"Yes, keep breathing." Oliver said as he panted a little too, "We need to be at full strength to save the others."

Legolas commented, "They've run as if the very whips of their masters were behind them."

"Probably why they packed a punch." Steve said as he increased his pace and the others were hard-pressed to match.

The entire day they ran till it was dusk. But the distance was too much to cover, even for Steve.

Night had fallen across the Wold. Oliver would have been comforted to know that Uruk-hai and the Orcs were as exhausted as him and Gimli were.

"We're not going no further...until we've had a breather." Mauhur panted out.

"Get a fire going!" Ugluk ordered.

Some of the Uruk-hai and Orcs chopped the trees that formed part of a large forest just north of them. It was called Fangorn Forest throughout Middle-earth.

Pippin crawled on his stomach to where Merry, Boromir and Sara lay still.

"Merry! Merry!" Pippin urgently whispered.

To his relief, his cousin's eyes opened and he stirred.

"I think we might have made a mistake leaving the Shire, Pippin." Merry said with black humor as he gave his cousin a smile.

"Trust me, I get the feeling." Sara said hoarsely as she remembered going onto the Queen's Gambit which had now resulted in this life for her.

"Sara." Boromir suddenly spoke up as his eyes opened.

"Boromir!" She said as she turned to him, "You all right?"

"I…..I'm…..fine." The Gondorian murmured, though he was anything but fine.

"At least all of us are alive." Sara said. Things could have been much worse.

As the Uruks and Orcs continued hacking at the trees, some odd noises echoed across the area.

"What's making that noise?" Pippin asked.

"Animals." Sara said, "Forests have a lot of wild animals."

"It's the trees." Merry said as clarity shone in his eyes.

"Trees?" Boromir whispered.

"What?" Pippin asked.

"You remember the Old Forest, on the borders of Buckland?" Merry asked Pippin, "Folk used to say there was something in the water that made the trees grow tall...and come alive."

"Alive?" Sara and Pippin asked at the same time, the former in an incredulous tone. In spite of all the strange stuff she had seen as a Legend, trees that were alive were too much.

"Trees that could to each other...even move." Merry said hoarsely.

"You sure you didn't hit your head very hard?" Sara asked incredulously.

"I don't expect you to know, Sara. You are not from this world, but this is the truth." Merry said firmly and Sara wondered if it was true.

"I'm starving." One of the Uruks said as he threw down a loaf of bread, "We ain't had nothing but maggoty bread for three stinking days."

"Yeah!" An Orc named Snaga said in a rare show of agreement with a Uruk.

"Why can't we have some meat?!" He said when his greedy eyes fell on Merry, Pippin, Boromir and Sara and he licked his lips sickeningly, "What about them? They're fresh. And I have never tasted a maiden before."

Sara glared at him as Merry and Pippin looked afraid.

"They are not for eating." Ugluk said angrily as he stepped in the way, reminding everyone who was in charge.

But the Orcs won't back off so easily.

"What about their legs?" Grishnakh asked as he looked at them, "They don't need those."

"What makes you think that?" Sara asked with a snarl.

"They look tasty." Grishnakh said as he started moving towards them.

"Get back, scum!" Ugluk roared as he pushed Grishnakh back roughly. He was fed up by both, the Orcs' insolence and his own hunger pangs.

Merry and Pippin were hauled up by a Uruk while Boromir and Sara were hauled up by two others.

"The prisoners go to Saruman. Alive and unspoiled." Ugluk said. A brawl not threatened to break out between the Uruk-hai and Orcs.

"Alive? Why alive? Do they give good sport?"

"They have something." Ugluk said, "An Elvish weapon. The master wants it for the war. And Saruman wants to question the golden haired ones about something."

Snaga was sneaking up on the four of them now.

"They think we have the Ring." Pippin whispered shakily to the others.

"As soon as they find out we don't, we're dead." Merry told him.

"Saruman knows I'm from another world." Sara realized with dread as she sensed Snaga coming at them.

"Just a mouthful...a bit of the flank." He said as he raised a dagger above Pippin. Before he could bring it down, Sara kicked him in the abdomen, making him kneel down in pain.

"Now you know why I need legs, asshole." She snarled when there was a blur of movement and a splash of dark blood landed on Sara's face. She spit it out immediately. It was the worst thing she had ever tasted.

"That is really gross." She said.

Ugluk had cut off Snaga's head for his insolence. As his falchion dripped with dark blood, Sara kicked the body away. Ugluk said, "Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys!"

The four hostages were shoved aside as the Uruks and even the Orcs feasted on the flesh of Snaga. Sara, Merry and Pippin all felt nauseous.

"Wonder how MasterChef will react to them." Sara said in disgust.

Merry sensed an escape opportunity.

"Pippin. Sara. Boromir. Let's go." He hissed to them.

The Uruks and Orcs were too preoccupied with the meal to notice their captives wriggling away.

"Boromir, can you move?" Sara asked.

"I…..suppose…." Boromir said sluggishly. Sara realized he was on his last reserves of energy. This was pure willpower he was using.

He forced himself up and the four started crawling away. Sara winced as her shoulder flared up in pain due to the crawling but she didn't care.

That was when a boot fell on Merry's back. It was Grishnakh, He rolled both the Hobbits over as he tightly pressed Merry's face and pointed a dagger at Pippin.

"Go on." He taunted the Hobbits, "Call for help. Squeal. No one's going to save you now."

"They're not the ones that need saving." Sara snarled as she got up and kicked Grishnakh hard on the face, breaking his nose as he fell back. He got back up with a snarl when something large and sharp slammed into his back. He roared in pain and fell down as the Uruks and Orcs looked up in fear.

A large group of men on horses had arrived. All of them were in heavy armor and weapons. The Uruks and Orcs were being attacked by them.

Unfortunately for the hostages, being bound and on the ground at night during such a fight wasn't in their best interests.

The riders threw spears at the Uruks and Orcs, shot them with arrows, or simply struck them down with their swords.

"Pippin." Merry called out as they continued crawling. Pippin screamed in terror and then rolled out of the way as a large horse almost stomped on his head.

They crawled away frantically, looking for anything.

"Guys!" Sara called out as she pointed at a discarded Uruk blade. She rubbed the ropes frantically across the blade, managing to finally cut them off. She then picked it up and used them to undo Merry's, Pippin's and Boromir's ropes.

"Let's get out now!" She said. She then quickly put Boromir's arm around her shoulders to support him and they started hobbling away, following the two Hobbits as quickly as possible. As they avoided the horses and falling bodies, one of the horses managed to knock them away onto the ground.

That was when Sara noticed Ugluk lying dead and Ciris, a few shurikens, Boromir's sword and the Noldor daggers were lying near him. Picking herself up, she rushed the area, ducking to avoid a swinging sword and threw herself to the ground. Picking up the shurikens, she put them in her pocket along with the Noldor daggers and held onto Ciris before picking up Boromir's sword. She ran back to him and helping him up, handed it to him. He nodded in appreciation and they continued staggering away, following the two Hobbits.

"Ah!" Merry gasped as Grishnakh, who was still alive, clung to his belt.

"Lose the belt!" Sara yelled as she kicked Grishnak down again. Merry did as commanded and Grishnakh fell back, holding the belt. He threw it down with a snarl and crawled after them.

"Run!" Merry yelled as the four of them ran away from the battle site towards Fangorn Forest. While it looked dangerous, right now, it seemed a safe haven from the battle.

They all ran/staggered to the forest, sliding down under the branches and the cover of foliage. And then they continued running to save themselves.

Chapter Text

The Five Hunters were still in pursuit of the Uruk-hai, unaware of the fate that had befallen them the previous night. Legolas then looked up at the sun.

"A red sun rises." He said, eyes wide and sad, "Blood has been spilled this night."

"That doesn't even make sense!" Oliver snapped.

"Pay no heed to it, lad." Gimli said to him as the running continued. Once again- Steve, Aragorn and Legolas were in the lead, Oliver was in the middle, and Gimli was at the back.

Aragorn then crouched down to examine a patch of grass. Oliver crouched with him to help when both of theirs and Steve's head jerked to the side.

Aragorn motioned for them to get behind a large group of rocks. They quickly hurried behind them as Steve said, "Looks like the Rohirrim are coming."

"Right you are, Steven." Aragorn agreed.

"I'm guessing they are not the friendliest bunch." Oliver said.

"They do not suffer incursions to the land- not even by supposed friends." Aragorn told him.

"Not that different from me then." Oliver commented as the ground rumbled and pebbles shook. And then a large group of riders on horses charged up and over the hill with spears high in the air. They charged by the hiding place of the Five Hunters without noticing any of them.

Once they had passed though, Aragorn slid off the rock and onto the field.

"Has he gone crazy?" Oliver asked.

"He merely wishes to speak with them." Legolas told his fellow archer.

Aragorn then cried out at the top of his voice, "Riders of Rohan...what news from the Mark?"

The leader of the Riders turned his spear to the side, signaling for the column to turn around. As Legolas, Gimli, Steve and Oliver joined Aragorn, the Riders precisely and expertly maneuvered around the Five Hunters, not leaving any gaps to escape, with spears pointed at them.

Aragorn held up his hands in a placating manner. Steve followed suit. Oliver knew they didn't need to break out in a fight here. If they did, the odds wouldn't be in their favor anyway so he raised his hands too.

The leader of the column slipped into the inner circle to face them all.

"What business does an Elf, three Men and a Dwarf have in the Riddermark?" He asked and when he got no reply he commanded, "Speak quickly!"

"Give me your name, horse-master, and I shall give you mine." Gimli said in a challenging tone. Oliver rolled his eyes as Aragorn put a hand on Steve's shoulder.

"You really need to work on your people skills." Oliver commented to Gimli as the rider glared at Gimli. Handing his spear to another rider, he dismounted from his horse and moved towards Gimli, anger shining in his eyes.

"I would cut off your head, Dwarf...if it stood but a little higher from the ground." He growled at Gimli.

"You would die before your stroke fell!" Legolas threatened as he whipped out an arrow and pointed it at the man as all the Riders immediately raised their spears.

"Lower your bow!" Steve commanded with authority in his voice and Legolas lowered his bow. Aragorn nodded at Steve in thanks.

"I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn." He introduced himself to the leader before introducing his companions, "This is Gimli, son of Gloin, Legolas of the Woodland Realm, Steven Rogers and Oliver Queen."

As the rider regarded them warily, Aragorn said, "We are friends of Rohan, and of Theoden, your king."

The rider relaxed slightly and said in a sad tone, "Theoden no longer recognizes friend from foe. Not even his own kin."

He then took off his helmet, revealing himself to be a man with long dirty blonde hair and a beard of the same shade. All of his men lowered their spears at the same time.

"Are you related to him?" Oliver asked.

"I am Eomer, nephew of the King, and Third Marshal of the Mark." The man introduced himself.

"Saruman has poisoned the mind of the king...and claimed lordship over these lands." Eomer informed regretfully, "My company are those loyal to Rohan. And for that, we are banished."

"Is he in Rohan?" Oliver asked.

Eomer shook his head and said, "The White Wizard is cunning. He walks here and there, they an old man hooded and cloaked. And everywhere, his spies slip past our nets."

As he said that, he gestured to Legolas unwittingly and the Elf looked like he would put an arrow in him for that.

"We are not spies." Steve said, "We have never even visited these lands till now."

"We track a party of Uruk-hai westward across the plain." Aragorn told him, "They have taken four of our friends captive."

"The Uruks are destroyed. We slaughtered them during the night." Eomer told them, shocking them all.

"But there were two Hobbits, a man and a woman." Gimli said, "Did you see two Hobbits, a man and a woman with them?"

"The hobbits would be small. Only children to your eyes." Aragorn told him, "The woman's hair resembled that of a woman of Rohan. And you may have heard of the other man- Boromir of Gondor."

"Boromir?" Eomer questioned and got nods, "I have met him a few times. Long has he gone seeking answers to the dark words, and the horse that we lent him came back riderless."

He then said regretfully, "We left none of the Uruks alive."

Oliver's face lost all of its color as he felt numb. He couldn't move or feel a thing. Sara was dead! Killed accidentally of all things, so he didn't even have anyone to take out any anger on.

"We piled the carcasses and burned them." Eomer said as he pointed at a plume of smoke in the near distance. He was unable to face Oliver after seeing his reaction, feeling guilty for being the cause of the death of his loved one.

"Dead?" Gimli managed to let out in horror.

"I am sorry." He said regretfully as Oliver started shaking in grief. What would he tell Quentin? That because of him, he has lost his other daughter too? And what would he do without her? He still loved her after all this time and letting her go was the hardest thing he had ever done. Her death had broken him, which was why he had been making bad decisions for some time.

He then whistled softly and called out, "Hasufel! Arod!"

Two horses, one white and one brown came trotting up to them.

"I apologize, for these two are the only horses we can spare." Eomer said regretfully.

"It's not a problem." Steve assured him.

"May these horses bear you to better fortune than their former masters." Eomer said as he replaced his helmet and remounted his horse, "Farewell."

He retrieved his spear and nodded at Aragorn, "Look for your friends. But do not trust to hope." He took a deep breath, "It has forsaken these lands."

He then ordered his men, "We ride north!"

With that, they all rode away, leaving the devastated Five Hunters behind. Oliver was still numb until Steve shook him, "Oliver? Do not lose hope yet, she might be alive."

Oliver didn't say a word at all. Legolas got on the white horse with Gimli behind him. Aragorn got on the brown one.

"You sit behind Aragorn." Steve told Oliver kindly, "I can run fast enough to keep up."

"Considering you could overpower a Cave-Troll, I won't be doubting your word." Gimli said and Steve nodded.

Oliver wordlessly climbed behind Aragorn and with that, they started riding towards the direction of the smoke as Steve ran with them, easily keeping up with the horses.

The Five Hunters arrived at the pile, still smoldering from the fire. A head of one of the Uruks was rammed onto a pike as a sign of defiance.

Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Oliver dismounted and along with Steve, began examining the battleground. Gimli and Oliver examined the pile, removing some of it with ax and bow respectively. And that was when they came upon a grim sight.

"Oh no!" Oliver said in despair as he fell to his knees and a few tears fell out.

"It's one of their wee belts." Gimli said as he held out the remains of a belt that belonged to Merry or Pippin.

Legolas was looking down with his eyes closed, muttering a prayer in Elvish. Oliver got up and in a rage, let out a roar and hit the rammed head of the Uruk hard, throwing it down with the pike.

Aragorn angrily kicked a helmet of a fallen Uruk and with a cry of rage and despair, fell to his knees.

"After the battle was done, couldn't they tell the FUCKING DIFFERENCE?!" Oliver roared in anger as Steve looked at him in sympathy.

"We failed them." Gimli whispered sadly and Steve closed his eyes, feeling grief.

But Aragorn's eyes were then focused on something.

"A Hobbit lay here." He said as he looked at an imprint on the ground, "And the other." He moved his hands over the ground where it was compressed, "And a man and a woman."

"Trying to tell us how they died?" Oliver growled as he let himself up. But Aragorn seemed intent as Legolas, Gimli and Steve watched with him and seemed interested in whatever he was showing.

Last night

Pippin screamed in terror and then rolled out of the way as a large horse almost stomped on his head.


"They crawled." Aragorn said as he followed the tracks with the other four looking along with him and listening to him.

Last night

The four hostages crawled away frantically, looking for anything.


"Their hands were bound." Aragorn said as he got up and looking down, followed the tracks.

Last night

"Guys!" Sara called out as she pointed at a discarded Uruk blade. She rubbed the ropes frantically across the blade, managing to finally cut them off. She then picked it up and used them to undo Merry's, Pippin's and Boromir's ropes.


"Their bonds were cut." Aragorn said as he stepped on the ropes and picked them up, exchanging a look with the others.

Last night

Merry and Pippin ran around as Boromir and Sara were knocked down by a horse. Sara saw their weapons and ran over to them and threw herself to the ground. Picking up the weapons, she ran back to Boromir and helped him up as the four ran.


"They ran over here." Aragorn said as they followed the tracks before seeing a compression, "Two of them fell here."

He then looked at the tracks and compressions, "One of them ran over there and fell down, before coming back here, and they ran."

As he looked at the tracks, he continued, "They were followed."

Last night

Merry was grabbed by Grishnakh who clung to his belt. "Lost the belt!" Sara said as she kicked him down and he did as commanded. Grishnakh fell back, holding the belt. He threw it down with an angry snarl and crawled after them. "Run!" Merry yelled as the four of them ran away from the site of battle to Fangorn Forest.


"Tracks lead away from the battle..." Aragorn said as they all looked up at the ominous, dark forest they now stood at the border of, "…into Fangorn Forest."

"Fangorn?" Gimli whispered, "What madness drove them in there?"

"Uruk-hai chasing them." Steve said matter-of-fact and Gimli sighed.

"I don't care what you all think but I'm going in there if it means getting Sara back." Oliver said.

"We are all going, Oliver." Aragorn said, "But we shall need to secure our steeds as Fangorn is best traversed on foot."

"Well then, let's go." Oliver said.

Last night

Merry, Pippin, Boromir and Sara were still running but finally stopped and sat down to catch their breaths.

"You two all right?" Sara asked and got nods from both of them.

"Did we lose him?" Pippin asked.

"I think we lost him." Merry said.

Sara then turned to Boromir, about to help him, when out of the bushes sprang Grishnakh.

"I'm going to rip out your filthy little innards!" He roared as he charged them, "Come here!"

"Of course, why am I not surprised?" Sara snarled as she held out Ciris, "Climb the tree both of you."

Merry and Pippin complied as they started climbing. Sara easily blocked Grishnakh's strikes with Ciris, though her unhealed wound was a problem. She kicked Grishnakh in the gut, making him double down before head-butting him, staggering him back. She was about to cut off his head when he suddenly brandished a knife and stabbed her shoulder right where she had been sliced and shot.

"Ah!" She cried out in pain as she dropped Ciris and staggered back in pain. Grishnakh then ran past her and climbed the tree, grabbing Merry's ankle.

With that, he pulled Merry down and the two struggled as Pippin called out, "Merry! Sara!"

Pippin then looked at the tree's eyes before looking down again. Wait what?! Eyes? He looked back and screamed in shock, disbelief and fear as he saw the tree now had eyes. He let it go as he screamed but the tree caught him in its giant hand.

"Let's put a maggot hole in your belly!" Grishnakh snarled as he raised his blade on Merry. But Merry was looking behind Grishnakh in confusion and terror.

Before Grishnakh could turn around, Sara ripped out the knife and kicked him hard on the throat, making him gasp in pain as he fell back. And then the tree stomped on him.

"Run, Merry! Run Sara!" Pippin yelled but the tree scooped up the two of them and Boromir in its other hand.

"So you didn't hit your head too hard then." Sara commented to Merry as the tree observed them for several long seconds and said, "Little…Orcs…..hmmmmmm…"

"It's talking, Merry." Pippin said in shock, "The tree is talking."

"Tree?" The tree harrumphed, "I am….hmmmmmm….no tree! I…..hmmmmm… an Ent."

"Now what the hell is an Ent?" Sara asked.

"A tree-herder." Merry said automatically, "A shepherd of the forest."

"Don't talk to it, Merry!" Pippin said, "Don't encourage it!"

"Treebeard, some call me…..hmmmmm…" The Ent said, ignoring them all.

"A-And whose side are you on?" Pippin asked nervously.

"And now you're talking to it." Sara said dryly.

"Side? Hmmmmmm…..I am on….hmmmm…. nobody's side...because nobody's on my side, little Orc." He sighed a deep thundering sigh, "Nobody cares for the woods…hmmmmm….anymore."

"Is it just him or do all Ents 'hmmmm' a lot?" Sara wondered.

"We're not Orcs! We're Hobbits! And they are a man and woman!" Merry said.

"Hobbits?" Treebeard wondered, "Men and women…hmmmmm….I know of. Hmmmmmm….never heard of a Hobbit before….Sounds like Orc mischief to me!" He let out a soft grunt and went on, "They come with…..hmmmm….. fire. They come with axes. Gnawing, biting, breaking…..hmmmm, hacking, burning! Destroyers and usurpers! Curse them!"

"No!" Merry gasped as Pippin nodded, "You don't understand. We're Hobbits! Halflings! Shire-folk!"

"Why would men and women travel with Orcs?" Sara pointed out.

"Hmmmmmm…You raise a good point….." Treebeard said, "But…..hmmmm…..Not all men and women are good…..Hmmmmm…..Maybe you are...and maybe you aren't…hmmmmm…The White Wizard will know."

Pippin froze, "The White Wizard?"

"Saruman." Merry whispered in horror.

"Damn it!" Sara said in frustration, "Just when we thought we escaped him, we run into another lackey of his."

Treebeard then graciously lowered his hand and dropped the four of them to the ground. The four looked up at the figure in front of them.

Sara was the first to say, "Damn! And I thought me and Elektra were the only ones!"

Chapter Text

In Emyn Muil, Frodo, Sam and Natasha were still following Gollum. The three of them were pretty fast the malnourished little creature had some surprising vigor with which he led them. Not that it made Natasha trust him. She was going to keep an eye on him. Both eyes actually.

"See? See? We've led you out. Hurry, Hobbitses. Hurry! And womanses too!"

Frodo and Sam went ahead as Natasha glared at him and then walked past him as he said, "Very lucky we find you. Nice Hobbit. Nice womanses."

As they continued walking, Sam's feet fell into dirty mud, "It's a bog. He's led us into a swamp."

"I'm pretty sure that's where we were heading anyway if we hadn't got lost." Natasha said dryly as she walked up to him.

"A swamp, yes, yes. Come, master. We will take you on safe paths through the mist. Come, Hobbits! Come, womanses! Come! We go quickly."

The ground was too squishy and soft. It seemed like even a light step would make them sink in if they lingered. The path was just unreliable.

They weren't even walking. They were stumbling really.

"I found it. I did. The way through the marshes." Gollum said.

"When did he go from 'we' to 'I'?" Natasha asked dryly and the two Hobbits chuckled.

"Orcs don't use it. Orcs don't know it." Gollum continued, not having heard her, "They go around for miles and miles."

He beckoned to them and said, "Come quickly. Soft and quick as shadows we must be."

"That won't be a problem." Natasha said as she looked at the evil orange-red glow in the distance.

"I hate this place." Sam muttered to Frodo and Natasha, "It's too quiet. There's been no sight nor sound of a bird for two days. "

"I think most of this area is too quiet." Natasha said, sensing something horrible must have happened here to make it uninhabitable.

"No, no birdses to eat." Gollum whined sadly, "No crunchable birdses. We are famished! Yes! Famished we are, precious!"

Gollum then plunged his fist into the water and pulled out a worm.

Natasha and Frodo exchanged a disgusted look as the former said, "Back to 'we' again."

And then Gollum put the worm in his mouth and swallowed it. Sam, who had been about to take a bite of Lembas, lowered it back into his bag and swallowed hard.

"You're so disgusting." Natasha muttered about Gollum.

Frodo tore off a piece of his Lembas and tossed it to Gollum, "Here."

Gollum's eyes nearly popped out of his head.

"Oh, so you're trying to do a Nicolas Cage impression." Natasha said dryly, confusing all the three individuals with her.

"What does it eats? Is it tasty?" He inquired.

"Depends on your taste." Natasha told him.

Gollum put it in his mouth, chewed, and then gagged as he spit it out, "It tries to chokes us! We can't eats Hobbit food!"

"It's actually made by the Elves." Natasha corrected him, more amused by his antics than anything.

"We must starve!" Gollum said.

Sam had little sympathy for him, "Well, starve, then. And good riddance!"

"Oh, cruel Hobbit." Gollum said as he crawled towards them, "It does not care if we be hungry. Does not care if we should die."

He stopped and turned to Frodo and Natasha, "Not like master and womanses. They cares. And master knows."

"I don't care." Natasha said simply as she took a bite of her bread, the image of Gollum eating a worm at the furthest corner of her mind.

"Yes. Precious." Gollum said as Frodo reached up and felt the Ring through his shirt, "Once it takes hold of never lets go."

To Natasha's alarm, Gollum's hand reached out shakily towards Frodo's chest. Before she could swat it away, Frodo snapped back to reality and swatted his hand away himself.

"Don't touch me!" He said firmly. Gollum looked shocked and sunk away, dejected. Natasha was concerned. The Ring had reduced Gollum to this. And right now, Frodo had started showing signs of the same behavior.

'I won't let that happen to you.' She promised him mentally.

They travelled to darker, boggier areas of the swamp. Natasha observed small fires lit here and there in parts of the bog, lit on the weedy grass.

"There are dead things!" Sam suddenly said, "Dead faces in the water."

"Yeah I noticed." Natasha said, having already noticed them, though she wasn't affected much. She had to admit though, they did look creepy.

Gollum said, "All dead. All rotten. Elves and Men and Orcses. A great battle long ago."

"The Last Alliance." Natasha realized.

"Dead Marshes. Yes. Yes, that is their name." Gollum said before beckoning to them, "This way."

He then said about the small fires, "Don't follow the lights."

Sam ended up stumbling and almost falling. Natasha helped him up as Gollum said, "Careful now! Or Hobbits go down to join the dead ones...and light little candles of their own."

"Don't want that now do we?" Natasha asked dryly as she helped Sam up and they continued walking cautiously.

Frodo ended up looking down at the body of an Elf. He seemed to be in a trance now as he didn't look away from it.

Sam and Natasha turned around.

"Frodo!" Sam screamed in alarm.

"Don't look down!" Natasha said but it was too late as Frodo tumbled into the water and a 'splash' was heard.

Natasha immediately ran to where he was and leapt into the water. But what she saw was enough to terrify even the fearless Black Widow.

Green, spectral wraiths with sharp, uneven teeth and malicious eyes were reaching out to them, trying to grab them somehow. Natasha ignored them and swimming towards Frodo, grabbed him. That was when Gollum's hand shot down and she grabbed it too as he pulled them up.

Both of them gasped and panted wildly, having choked on the water.

"Natasha?" Frodo asked as he looked at her before turning to Gollum, "Gollum?"

"Don't follow the lights." Gollum hissed as he glared at them and went off.

"Gollum!" Frodo called out.

"Mr. Frodo! Lady Natasha!" Sam said as he ran up to them and helped them up, "Are you both all right?"

It was night and the mist had dissipated enough for the night sky to be seen. Thunder could be heard cracking in the distance and the evil orange-red glow over Mordor was visible. Natasha tried to sleep but failed, which wasn't surprising considering what she had seen in the Dead Marshes.

Frodo was awake too, the Ring in his hand as he ran his hands over its surface.

"So bright. So beautiful." Gollum's voice was suddenly heard, "Our precious."

Natasha decided to lie still with eyes wide open, her hand on the Elven dagger in its sheath which Lady Galadriel had gifted to her. If Gollum made a move on Frodo, it would be the last thing he ever did.

Frodo got up, "What did you say?"

"Master should be resting." Gollum said in a voice that sounded- concerned, "Master needs to keep up his strength."

Frodo lifted himself off the ground and moved towards him, "Who are you?"

"Mustn't ask us. Not its business." Gollum said before choking out, "Gollum. Gollum."

Frodo sat behind him and said, "Gandalf told me you were one of the river-folk."

Gollum suddenly sang, "Cold be heart and hand and bone. Cold be travelers far from home."

Frodo moved in front of him and said, "He said your life was a sad story."

Gollum continued his song, "They do not see what lies ahead. When sun has falled and moon is dead."

Frodo wouldn't give up now, "You were not so very different from a Hobbit once. Were you? Smeagol."

Gollum's eyes seemed to light up at that word as he looked at Frodo and asked, "What did you call me?"

"That was your name once, wasn't it?" Frodo asked with a smile, "A long time ago."

"My name." Gollum muttered and suddenly started smiling as he remembered, "My name."

And for the first time in centuries, he remembered and spoke his own name, "Smeagol."

That was when an ear-splitting shriek rent the air. While Natasha didn't recognize it, it was definitely terrifying. And irritating.

The Hobbits seemed to know what caused it though.

"Black Riders!" An awakened Sam said in alarm.

"The Nine?" Natasha asked in horror and Sam nodded.

"Hide! Hide!" Gollum said as Frodo clutched his shoulder where he had been stabbed by the Nazgul. He was in pain now and remembered the injury as he had visceral flashbacks of being stabbed. He seemed to be incapable of movement.

"Come on, Frodo. Come on!" Natasha said as she lifted him over her shoulder and ushered him to a nearby bush, along with Sam as Gollum panicked wildly nearby.

"Quick! They will see us! They will see us!" Gollum said as he reached the bush too where they all hid, waiting.

"I thought they were dead." Sam said.

"Dead?" Gollum whispered solemnly, "No, you cannot kill them. No."

"What is that?" Natasha whispered as she pointed upwards. A large, evil-looking creature that looked like a mix between a dragon and a serpent with large black wings was flying. On its back was a hooded figure, riding it like a horse. What was unnerving about the figure was that there was no face inside the hood. Just an abyss of darkness. The Nazgul.

"Wraiths! Wraiths on wings!" Gollum said in a panic as the Nazgul flew around on the creature, screeching. Natasha was very irritated by the screech as it sounded like a thousand chalks scraping a blackboard.

For a moment, the creature flew dangerously close to their hiding spot but then it swooped back into the air.

"They are calling for it. They are calling for the precious." Gollum said as Frodo convulsed violently and his hand grabbed the Ring.

Natasha grabbed his hand and restrained it, "Don't Frodo!"

"Mr. Frodo! It's all right." Sam assured him as best as he could, "We're here."

The flying creature gave out one last roar and flew away with the Nazgul on the top. Gollum seemed to relax.

"Hurry, Hobbits. Womanses." He said as he beckoned to them, "The Black Gate is very close."

"That is very good to know." Natasha said as she recovered herself.

Chapter Text

Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Steve and Oliver ventured further into Fangorn. By now, the tracks of their friends were almost non-existent. The sunlight didn't penetrate the interior either. They all had spread out a bit now.

Gimli swiped a finger across dark liquid on a leaf and touched it to his tongue before spitting it out in disgust, "Orc blood."

"I'm pretty sure you can recognize it from a distance." Oliver said dryly, "Unless you're in the habit of tasting it."

"Do not test your luck with me in a forest, lad." Gimli said as he gave Oliver a withered look, "I am in my element in the caves. This is a forest, the element of pointy-ear over there."

Legolas smirked as Oliver said, "I lived for three years on a forested island. I think I'm element too here."

"I'm sure an entire lifetime beats three years." Steve said with a chuckle.

"How old are you, Legolas, if you don't mind me asking?" Oliver asked.

"I am 2931 years old." Legolas said and Steve and Oliver had dropped jaws again.

"That is older than even Thor!" Steve gapped.

"Older than all League members combined I'm sure." Oliver said.

"I am a little young for my kind." Legolas said.

"Then what is old?" Oliver asked.

"Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn constitute old." Steve realized and Oliver nodded in agreement.

The Five Hunters jumped across a small water body and ran for a bit until Aragorn knelt down to examine some kind of tracks, "These are strange tracks."

"What could have made those?" Steve asked as he knelt next to Aragorn.

"I do not know, Steven." Aragorn said.

"The air is so close in here." Gimli said.

Legolas slipped into a monologue, "This forest is old. Very old. Full of memory...and anger."

As soon as he finished his monologue, a wooden groan echoed throughout the surrounding trees. Gimli instinctively raised his ax at the threatening sound while Oliver simply looked around warily.

"The trees are speaking to each other!" Legolas exclaimed before noticing Gimli's reaction.

"Gimli!" Aragorn swiftly grabbed his attention and moved his arm in a downward direction, "Lower your ax."

Gimli did as Aragorn told him while Legolas explained, "They have feelings, my friend. The Elves began it. Waking up the trees, teaching them to speak."

"Wait what? You taught trees to speak?!" Oliver asked incredulously, "I don't think even Sara has seen one of those!"

"How could trees even understand anything you said, let alone talk?" Steve asked too, sharing Oliver's incredulousness.

"Talking trees." Gimli huffed, "What do trees have to talk about? Except the consistency of squirrel droppings."

A nearby tree groaned and Steve said, "Your insulting comments perhaps."

"Stop making them angry." Oliver said to him.

Legolas froze as his eyes were fixed on something in the distance.

"Aragorn, nad no ennas." He said in an urgent tone as he moved forward sharply.

"What is it?" Oliver asked as Aragorn followed Legolas and whispered something in Elvish.

After a moment's hesitation, Legolas said calmly, "The White Wizard approaches."

He then subtly gestured to the direction from which he was approaching.

"Saruman." Oliver snarled.

"Do not let him speak." Aragorn warned everyone, "He will put a spell on us. We must be quick."

"I can do that." Steve whispered, "On your mark, Aragorn."

Steve had his shield in his hand and gripped it tighter as Oliver ran a hand across his bow. Aragorn unsheathed his sword slightly as slowly as he could while Legolas fingered the fletching of his arrow and Gimli had his throwing axes at the ready.

After a few seconds, Aragorn gave out a loud war cry and they all turned to face their foe who stood on a boulder, having surrounded himself in a blinding white light that made it impossible to make out his features. He seemed to be leaning on a staff he held in his right hand.

Gimli threw a throwing ax but it shattered into pieces as it flew at him. Legolas and Oliver fired arrows at the same time but he effortlessly swatted them away. Steve threw his shield with all his might but even that was effortlessly swatted away. Aragorn held up his sword but it became red hot in his hands and he was forced to drop it to the ground.

The Five Hunters were now blinded by the light and unarmed as they shielded their eyes from the sight. Oliver thought even Damien Darhk hadn't beaten him and his team this easily. This Saruman made Damien Dahrk look ridiculous in comparison with how effortlessly he had beaten them all.

"You are tracking the footsteps of two young Hobbits, a man and a woman." The White Wizard said in a deep voice.

"Where are they?" Aragorn asked desperately.

"Tell me or I'll make you." Oliver snarled.

"They passed this way the day before yesterday." The White Wizard said in a deceitful tone.

But then his voice seemed to change. At least to Steve. He seemed almost cheerful when he said, "They met someone they did not expect. Does that comfort you?"

"No it doesn't." Oliver snarled, "Now tell me where they are or I'll give you a lot of discomfort."

Steve's eyes widened as he realized something. 'That's impossible!' He said to himself in his head.

"Who are you?" Aragorn demanded, "Show yourself!"

The White Wizard passed the staff from his right hand to his left hand. This action seemed to dispel the blinding light around him. And there stood not Saruman…..

….But Gandalf!

The Five Hunters were stunned beyond any words as their eyes widened in disbelief.

"It cannot be." Aragorn whispered in disbelief as he summed up everyone's reactions.

"Forgive me." Legolas said apologetically as him and Gimli kneeled before Gandalf, "I mistook you for Saruman."

"I am Saruman." Gandalf said in a comforting voice, "Or rather, Saruman as he should have been."

Gandalf did not have his grey robes or hat now. He was now clad in white and his staff was also of the same color. He seemed more powerful than before.

"You fell." Aragorn said, still astonished.

"Not everyone stays dead forever, Aragorn." Oliver told him as he thought of Sara as well as Elektra.

Gandalf's eyes focused on the darkness of Fangorn as he recounted to the Five Hunters, "Through fire...and water. From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak...I fought with the Balrog of Morgoth. Until at last I threw down my enemy...and smote his ruin upon the mountainside. Darkness took me...and I strayed out of thought and time. Stars wheeled overhead...and every day was as long as a life age of the Earth. But it was not the end. I felt life in me again."

He then hopped down from the boulder and nimbly landed in front of them. Legolas and Gimli rose and joined Aragorn, Steve and Oliver in walking up to Gandalf with barely restrained joy.

"I've been sent back...until my task is done." He told them.

'Like the guy from Nazareth.' Steve, always a man of faith, thought, making the comparison in his head.

"Welcome back." Steve smiled, "It is good to see you. It really is."

"I normally don't say stuff like this, but I am happy to see you." Oliver said with a smile, looking genuinely happy for the first time in days.

"Gandalf." Aragorn whispered in delight.

"Gandalf?" He repeated before recalling with a smile, "Yes. That was what they used to call me. Gandalf the Grey. That was my name."

"Gandalf." Gimli said with joy as Legolas smiled.

"I am Gandalf the White." Gandalf revealed his new title with a raised eyebrow, "And I come back to you the turn of the tide."

Gandalf walked in the front as the Five Hunters walked behind him. He now wore a grey cloak that was identical to the ones the Fellowship had received in Lothlorien. They realized that they weren't the first people Gandalf had met after his return.

"One stage of your journey is over. Another begins. We must travel to Edoras with all speed." Gandalf told the Five Hunters.

"Edoras?" Gimli said in surprise, "That is no short distance!"

"We hear of trouble in Rohan." Aragorn told Gandalf, "It goes ill with the king."

Gandalf agreed grimly, "Yes, and it will not be easily cured."

"What about our friends?" Oliver asked.

Gimli agreed, "Then we have run all this way for nothing? Are we to leave those poor Hobbits, Master Boromir and Lady Sara this horrid, dark, dank tree-infested-?"

The trees growled loudly. And the growls seemed angry.

"I mean, charming...quite charming forest." Gimli corrected himself in a lighter tone as Oliver rolled his eyes.

"Please, stop insulting a forest that has feelings of its own." Steve said.

"It was more than mere chance that brought Merry, Pippin, Boromir and Sara to Fangorn." Gandalf told them all, "A great power has been sleeping here for many long years. The coming of Merry, Pippin, Boromir and Sara will be like the falling of small stones...that starts an avalanche in the mountains."

Aragorn smirked and whispered to Gandalf, "In one thing you have not changed, dear friend."


"You still speak in riddles." Aragorn said and they laughed.

"A thing is about to happen that has not happened since the Elder Days. The Ents are going to wake up...and find that they are strong." Gandalf said cryptically.

"Strong?!" Gimli asked, sounding worried, when a growl made him shiver, "Oh, that's good."

"What did Steve just tell you?" Oliver asked him in annoyance.

"So stop your fretting, Master Dwarf. Merry, Pippin, Boromir and Sara are quite safe." Gandalf said as they continued down the path, "In fact, they are far safer than you are about to be."

"They are all safe?" Oliver asked, thinking about Sara again.

"Yes, Oliver. I have left them in the care of an old friend. He will look after them until they are back to full strength again." Gandalf assured him and Oliver breathed a sigh of relief.

"Thank you, Gandalf." He said gratefully.

"This new Gandalf's more grumpy than the old one." Gimli commented.

"Don't let him hear you say that." Steve told him.

"Come on now, all of you." Gandalf said before remembering, "Oliver Queen, I have some messages for you."

Sensing what Gandalf was saying was for Oliver alone, the other four walked further down the path.

"What is it, Gandalf?" Oliver asked him.

"Do the names Tommy Merlyn and Shado Gulong mean anything to you?" Gandalf asked. Oliver's dropped jaw was enough confirmation for him.

"I saw things that defy explanation." Gandalf told Oliver, "Some things I saw that I would call 'curious.' These two were among them. They asked me to tell you that they do not blame you and that you are not a killer. That is all I remember."

Oliver had never told anyone in Middle-earth about Tommy or Shado because that just caused him too much pain. He blamed himself for the two of them. But after everything he had seen in Middle-earth, he knew what Gandalf had seen could not be a coincidence.

"That does comfort me, Gandalf." Oliver finally said as he looked up with a smile which indicated a great burden had been lifted off his shoulders, "A lot. Thank you."

As they went out of the forest, Gandalf put his lips together and let out a long, melodic whistle that echoed over the plain. And then out of nowhere, a magnificent, white stallion galloped where Gandalf stood. There were no bridles or stirrups on it. There seemed to be an aura of strength, nobility, grace and magnificence around the stallion.

"That is one of the Mearas...unless my eyes are cheated by some spell." Legolas said to the others in awe.

The stallion approached Gandalf as though he was an old friend, tossing his head playfully at the Wizard and allowing him to stroke his mane.

"Shadowfax." Gandalf revealed his mount's name, "He is the lord of all horses...and has been my friend through many dangers."

He then turned to Steve, "Steven Rogers, you will ride with me. I know you can outpace even one of the Mearas, but with all the spies in Rohan, I suggest you keep your abilities hidden."

"I think you're right, Gandalf." Steve said with a nod, understanding his reasoning.

And then Legolas sat on Arod with Gimli behind him. Aragorn sat on Hasufel with Oliver behind him. And Gandalf sat on Shadowfax with Steve behind him.

Then they took off for the Meduseld, the Golden Hall of Rohan in Edoras.

"O rowan mine….hmmmm…..I saw you shine…..Upon a summer's day…hmmmm….Upon your head…How golden-red…hmmm…..The crown you bore aloft….Such a beautiful verse."

Sara was perched on one of Treebeard's…shoulders. Yes. It was a shoulder. Gandalf had managed to heal her injuries, though he had told her not to move the arm much for a day or two so that the healing process finished.

But Treebeard's song was, in her mind, worse than the injuries. If she heard him singing for five more minutes, it would be her slow death.

Boromir was passed out on an odd branch that stuck on Treebeard's back. While Gandalf had healed him too, he had lost a lot of blood and the arrow had hit him on the chest. So he was drifting in and out of consciousness. Though Gandalf had said he would recover his full strength in about two days.

Merry was on his other shoulder and Pippin was on his head.

"Is it much further?" Merry asked, hoping his voice wasn't desperate. He was as bored of Treebeard's song as Sara.

"Bru-ra-hroom. Don't be hasty…..You might call it far, perhaps….hmmmm…..My home lies deep in the forest...near the roots of the mountain…..I told Gandalf I would keep you safe…..hmmmm…And safe is where I'll keep you…..hmmmm….I believe you will enjoy this next one too…..hmmmm…..It's one of my own compositions…..hmmmm…Beneath the roof of sleeping….hmmmm….leaves…And the dreams of trees unfold…..When woodland halls are green and cool…hmmm…..And the wind is In the West…..Come back to me…..Come back to me…hmmm…..And say my land is best."

Treebeard glanced at the Hobbits, the man and the woman. All of them were fast asleep now. His song had done that to them, along with their exhaustion.

"Oh!" He said.

When they arrived at his home, he carefully placed them on the soft dirt floor of the forest, "Sleep, little Shirelings….and little man…..and little woman…hmmmm…Heed no nightly noise…Sleep till morning light…hmmmm….I have business in the forest….There are many to call….Many that must come….hmmmmm….The Shadow lies on Fangorn…The withering of all woods… drawing near…."

Midnight had fallen on the plains of Rohan. Gandalf and the Five Hunters had ceased their travel just after nightfall. Oliver and Gimli welcomed sleep. They needed it after all the running they had done and the worry they had for their friends. Even Legolas and Steve closed their eyes for a brief respite.

Gandalf was looking at an evil orange-red glow in the far eastern horizon. Aragorn walked up next to him and stood to his right.

"The veiling shadow that glowers in the east takes shape. Sauron will suffer no rival." Gandalf informed Aragorn, "From the summit of Barad-dur, his Eye watches ceaselessly. But he is not so mighty yet that he is above fear. Doubt ever gnaws at him."

He looked at Aragorn and said, "The rumor has reached him. The heir of Numenor still lives. Sauron fears you, Aragorn. He fears what you may become. And so he'll strike hard and fast at the world of Men."

As the Heir of Isildur listened, Gandalf explained to him, "He will use his puppet Saruman to destroy Rohan. War is coming. Rohan must defend itself, and therein lies our first challenge...for Rohan is weak and ready to fall. The king's mind is enslaved, it's an old device of Saruman's. His hold over King Theoden is now very strong. Sauron and Saruman are tightening the noose."

He then smirked and said, "But for all their cunning...we have one advantage. The Ring remains hidden. And that we should seek to destroy it...has not yet entered their darkest dreams. And so the weapon of the enemy is moving towards the hands of a Hobbit. Each day brings it closer to the fires of Mount Doom. We must trust now in Frodo. Everything depends upon speed...and the secrecy of his quest."

Seeing Aragorn's expression, he said, "Do not regret your decision to leave him. Frodo must finish this task alone."

Now it was Aragorn's turn to surprise the White Wizard.

"He's not alone." Aragorn told him, "Sam and Natasha went with him."

"Did they?" Gandalf asked and Aragorn nodded, "Did they, indeed? Good. Yes, very good."

Chapter Text

The climbing was pretty difficult. They had to climb some really sharp, steep rocks until they reached a high ledge.

Gollum was in the lead with Sam just below him. After him, it was Frodo and at the bottom, it was Natasha.

As they reached the top, Gollum said, "The Black Gate of Mordor."

The Black Gate was unbreakable black stone and iron about sixty feet in height and two hundred and fifty feet long. Each half of the gate was ninety feet wide and set on stone wheels. Behind it were gigantic circular stone ramparts. Two pairs of Mountain Trolls tethered to some really huge beams pushed their way around their rampart's track when it needed to be opened. And right now, it looked pretty vicious to the two Hobbits and the spy.

"Oh, save us." Sam whispered in horror as him, Frodo and Natasha watched it from behind the huge rocks, "My old Gaffer would have a thing or two to say if he could see us now."

"I think this place warrants about a hundred words." Natasha said dryly, "I wonder how we will get past all the Orcs and Trolls though."

"Master says to show him the way into Mordor. So good Smeagol does, master says so." Gollum, or Smeagol, as he now called himself due to it being his real name, said as he hopped next to them.

"I did….." Frodo trailed off, nodding faintly.

Sam looked at all the Orcs and said regretfully, "That's it, then. We can't get past that."

A column of soldiers passed below at that very moment, marching towards the Black Gate. The four of them hunched down to remain hidden.

Natasha was shocked when she realized the soldiers weren't Orcs.

"They are humans!" She whispered wide-eyed, "Gandalf did say Sauron had evil Men working for him. So not just mindless Orcs and Trolls then."

"I am afraid not, Lady Natasha." Sam said, agreeing with her sentiments.

A horn then blew loudly and the Mountain Trolls on the bridge pushed their way around their rampart's track to open it up.

"Look! The gate." Sam said as he pointed at it and went up to a further ledge to look down better, "It's opening! I can see a way down- AH!"

"Sam!" Natasha called out in alarm.

"Sam, no!" Frodo called out at the same time.

The ledge Sam was on was unstable and the foundation crumbled away, sending Sam flying down the side of the sandy wall.

Frodo slid down after him and Natasha slid too, sliding better than him due to her training. Frodo hid behind another small ledge as he looked at the soldiers and Natasha stopped behind him and hid with him.

"Master!" Gollum called out from above.

Two soldiers sensed something was not right and looked up at the ledge, though Gollum was already hidden now. They broke rank and started walking away as Natasha said, "We need to not alert them."

The two slid down together to see Sam waist-deep in soot and gravel. Frodo tried pulling out Sam from all the gravel but he wouldn't get free.

"Wait!" Natasha said and then drew her cloak over the three of them. Frodo had the exact same idea but his cloak would only cover him and Sam, not Natasha due to her size. Natasha's cloak however, would cover all three of them.

The three stayed down, not making a single sound as the two soldiers stood right above them, looking around to determine any threat.

Normally, Natasha would easily kill them without making a sound but if they went missing, someone was bound to notice sooner or later and Sauron would be alert to their presence.

After a few tense minutes, the two soldiers marched back to the line and fell in rank with their comrades. That was when Natasha removed the cloak. From the outside, it actually looked like a rock, so the soldiers had failed to spot them.

The two managed to pull Sam out as Natasha asked, "Are you all right?"

"Over here, I do not think anyone can be all right, Lady Natasha." Sam said as he lifted himself up while Frodo looked at the last of the soldiers matching into the Black Gate.

He turned to Sam and Natasha, "I do not ask you to come with me, Sam, Natasha."

"You didn't ask us to come with you till here either." Natasha said with a shrug, "We did anyway. It would be stupid and selfish to leave you at this point."

"I know, Mr. Frodo you won't ask us to come with you but we are in this together." Sam told him, agreeing with Natasha, "I doubt even these Elves cloaks will hide us in there."

"So, on my mark, we run like hell and we don't look back." Natasha said and the two Hobbits nodded.

"I think that works just fine." Frodo agreed.

This was it. The moment of reckoning. They were so close to just doing away with the One Ring. Frodo nodded and paused, waiting for Natasha's signal.


"NO!" Just as the three lunged forward to run to the Black Gate, the two Hobbits were yanked back sharply, tumbling into the gravel.

The voice was enough to make Natasha turn around in annoyance, "What the hell are you trying to do, Gollum?"

"No! No, master!" Gollum/Smeagol moaned violently as he shook his head, "They catch you! They catch you!"

Frodo tried to run to the Black Gate again but Gollum yanked him back, "Don't take it to him!"

With wide and terrified eyes, he said, "He wants the precious. Always he is looking for it. And the precious is wanting to go back to him."

His voice and demeanor darkened all of a sudden as he said, "But we mustn't let him have it."

"We won't." Natasha said as Frodo made to run to the Black Gate again but was yanked back a third time by Gollum, "No!"

The last of the soldiers were almost finished going inside as Gollum suddenly said, "There's another way. More secret. A dark way."

"Wait what?" Natasha asked as she glared daggers into Gollum and he shrank back under her gaze.

"Why haven't you spoken of this before?" Sam asked angrily.

"Because master did not ask." Gollum said in his defense.

"That is a pathetic excuse." Natasha told him with a snarl.

"He's up to something." Sam said in agreement.

"Are you saying there's another way into Mordor?" Frodo asked Gollum and he nodded, shaking nervously.

"Yes. There's a path...and some stairs. And then...a tunnel." Gollum said, clutching at Frodo's cloak pleadingly. The last of the soldiers were in now and the Black Gate was closing.

He turned to Sam and Natasha, "Natasha, Sam. He's led us this far."

"Mr. Frodo, no." Sam begged to discourage him.

"He's been true to his word." Frodo said.

"No!" Sam said again.

Natasha weighed the options and Gollum's actions so far. He had led them this far without trying to kill them again or take the Ring. Though that could also be attributed to her. And right now, he seemed genuinely concerned about them. Or at least Frodo. Or he might just want the Ring and the three of them going into Mordor would mean he wouldn't have it, even if they failed to destroy it as then Sauron would have them. Something wasn't right. But better safe than sorry.

"Look." Natasha said as she seized him gently but firmly, "You haven't betrayed us this far, but that doesn't mean I trust you. Take us to this other more secret path. But if I sense anything wrong, you die."

Gollum nodded nervously as she let him go with a warning glare.

"Lead the way, Smeagol." Frodo said and he started crawling away.

"Good Smeagol always helps." Gollum said as he crawled away. Frodo and Natasha turned to the Black Gate as it finally shut itself. The two then looked at each other and Sam, who still looked disapproving.

"I know you disapprove and I do too." Natasha said, "But if there is a secret path, maybe we should go there. It would be safer than this."

Sam nodded, understanding her reasoning, and the three followed Gollum to this new path.

Chapter Text

Sara woke in a small clearing which was clearly Treebeard's home. She was surrounded by logs and oddly shaped trees. There was no sound. As she pushed herself up, she realized there was little to no pain in her shoulder.

"Thank God." She said in relief.

Merry woke up too at that very moment.

"Good morning, Merry." She said to him.

"Morning, Sara." He said to her. They saw Pippin drinking something from a trickle of water nearby.

Merry then looked around, "Hello? Treebeard?"

He turned to Pippin and Sara, "Where has he gone?"

"No idea. I was sleeping when he left us here." Sara said, "All of us were. At least my arm's fine now."

"I had the loveliest dream last night." Pippin spoke up randomly, "There was this large barrel, full of pipe-weed. And we smoked all of it. And were sick."

He nodded to Merry who chuckled as Pippin said, "I'd give anything for a whiff of Old Toby."

"Are you addicted or something?" Sara asked, "It's not healthy."

"Maybe." Pippin said cheerfully.

Merry and Sara suddenly heard a strange sound as the former asked, "Did you hear that?"

"I think I did." Sara said. And then the sound came again.

"There it is again." Merry said as him and Sara looked to the distance.

"I wonder where it is coming from." Sara said.

"Something's not right here." Merry whispered, "Not right at all."

Pippin then belched and the oddest sound came out.

The two turned to him as Sara said, "It's coming from you."

Merry agreed as he said to Pippin, "You just said something...treeish."

"No, I didn't. I was just stretching." Pippin said but then made those strange noises again.

"It is definitely coming from you." Sara said.

Merry circled his cousin, looking confused as Pippin continued to drink the water from the stream.

"You're taller." Merry finally gasped to Pippin, looking horrified.



"Than what?"

"Than me!"

"Wait. Let me see!" Sara said as she circled them too and realized Pippin did seem taller than before.

"I've always been taller than you." Pippin scoffed at Merry.

"Nice lie." Sara said, giving Pippin a mock glare, though she was really just amused.

"Pippin, everyone knows I'm the tall one. You're the short one. Isn't that right, Sara?" Merry asked her.

"Sounds about right to me." Sara said as Pippin scoffed again.

He said cockily, "Please, Merry. You're what? Three-foot-six? At the most? Whereas me, I'm pushing 3'7''." He suddenly made the odd tree sound again and straightened with a grin, "Three-foot-eight."

He grinned at Merry and Sara who seemed amused.

"Three-foot-eight?" Merry wondered, "You did something."

He then looked at Pippin as he put the jar from which he was drinking down. Sara gestured to it with an amused smirk.

Merry suddenly picked it up and started drinking as Pippin said in shock, "Merry, don't! Don't drink it!"

Merry smirked at Pippin and ran around as he continued drinking while Pippin said, "Merry! No, Treebeard said that you shouldn't have any."

"I want some!" Merry said.

"It could well be dangerous!" Pippin said, "Give me it back. Merry!"

"Good to see those two are behaving like themselves again."

Sara's head jerked backwards to see Boromir pushing himself up.

"You're awake, Boromir!" Sara smiled as she walked towards him and helped him up, "You all right?"

"I think I am." Boromir groaned, "Gandalf healed my wounds. I was so happy to see him alive again."

"Yeah." Sara said.

"But the Ent, Faramir would love to see it." Boromir smiled, "Where is he though?"

"I don't know. I woke up and he was gone." Sara said.

Merry and Pippin tripped on a tree which suddenly groaned and came alive, trapping their feet in its roots.

"What's happening?!" Merry asked.

"It's got my leg!" Pippin said, "Merry!"

It dropped leaves on them as it showered them with leaves to cover them and they screamed.

That was when Sara and Boromir heard them but they couldn't see them until Pippin yelled, "Help!"

Both of them picked up their swords and rushing to the tree, slammed their swords into the roots. The result was not what they expected as the tree swatted them both away with branches.

As they got up, Treebeard arrived.

"Treebeard." Sara said in relief as she pointed at the tree, "I think that tree has got Merry and Pippin."

"Please help them." Boromir said.

Treebeard pointed at the tree and strongly commanded, "Away with you. You should not be waking. Eat earth. Dig deep. Drink water. Go to sleep. Away with you."

As Treebeard spoke, the tree relaxed its roots and Merry and Pippin staggered out, shaking.

"Best timing ever!" Sara said.

"Why was it trying to eat us?" Boromir asked.

"Come, the forest is waking up…hmmmmm….It isn't safe."

He picked up Merry and Pippin and put them on their shoulders. He then picked up Boromir and Sara and put the former on his head and the latter on the odd branch behind him before he started walking.

"The trees have grown wild…hmmmmm….and dangerous. Anger festers in their hearts…hmmm….Black are their thoughts. Strong is their hate….hmmmmm…They will harm you if they can. There are too few of us now….hmmmm….Too few of us Ents left to…hmmm…manage them." Treebeard spoke about the trees of Fangorn.

"Why are there so few of you when you have lived so long?" Pippin inquired curiously, "Are there Ent children?"

"Bru-ra-hroom. There have been no Entings for…hmmm….a terrible long count of years." Treebeard spoke.

"Why is that?"

"We lost the Entwives." Treebeard said and everyone blinked.

"Oh, I'm sorry." Pippin said, "How did they die?"

"Die? No. We lost them. And now we cannot….hmmmmm…find them."

The four exchanged odd and confused looks.

"I don't suppose you've….hmmmmm…..seen Entwives in the Shire or anyone else?" Treebeard asked.

"Can't say that I have." Merry said as he shook his head, "You, Boromir? Seen any in Gondor?"

Boromir shook his head and Merry asked Sara, "Sara?"

"I didn't even know 'Ents' was till now." Sara said.


"What do they look like?" Pippin asked Treebeard.

"I don't remember now." Treebeard said.

"I'm sorry to hear that." Sara said dryly.

Gandalf and the Five Hunters finally reached their destination later that day. Edoras was built on a lone foothill with a mountain range to its south. It was encompassed by a tall, wooden fence. There were houses throughout the hill and a large building on the top.

"Edoras and the Golden Hall of Meduseld." Gandalf told the Five Hunters, "There dwells Theoden, King of Rohan...whose mind is overthrown. Saruman 's hold over King Theoden is now very strong."

"So the King's mind is overthrown, his heir is incapacitated, and his nephew is in exile. So who holds power here?" Steve asked Gandalf.

"Power lies with the King's Chief Counsellor Grima Wormtongue." Gandalf told everyone, "Who himself is nothing but a puppet of Saruman as he ensures the Uruk-Hai and Wild Men pillage the Westfold."

"A traitor then." Oliver snarled, looking forward to meeting Grima, "I think his surname is enough of a red flag in itself."

Gandalf looked at them all and said, "Do not look for welcome here."

They rode towards the gates. As they did, a flag tore itself loose from the Hall above and came floating down to the Plains.

Immediately, Steve jumped off the horse and grabbed the flag before sitting behind Gandalf again. As they passed through the gates, Steve returned the flag to a sentry who nodded in appreciation.

They rode past the city then, which had many houses which had straw, thatched roofs. They were all made of wood. The people stared at them warily. Most of them seemed to be in black robes. Their looks reminded Steve of the countries ravaged during World War II.

"You'll find more cheer in a graveyard." Gimli said grimly.

"No kidding." Oliver agreed.

Eventually, they arrived outside the Golden Hall and five men arrived to meet them. Four of them had helmets but the leader didn't. He seemed to have dirty blonde hair and a beard of the same shade that almost looked red. Gandalf seemed to recognize him.

"I cannot allow you before Theoden King so armed, Gandalf Greyhame." He said stiffly and added, "By order of Grma Wormtongue." He seemed to spit the name of Grima out with distaste. Clearly, everyone knew whose side Grima was on but they could nothing because of the power he held.

Gandalf nodded to the Five Hunters. One by one, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Steve and Oliver unhooked their weapons and handed them over to the guards. Gimli relinquished his ax with great reluctance and the same could be said for Oliver and his bow.

"I have never seen a bow like this before." The guard said as he examined it.

"I made it myself. You won't find the materials to do it here." Oliver told him.

Gandalf had already handed over Glamdring. Aragorn finally handed over his knife. That was the last thing to be handed to the guards. They were about to move inside when the lead guard gestured to Gandalf's staff, "Your staff."

Gandalf's face suddenly took on a pitiful expression, "You would not part an old man from his walking stick."

The man's expression flattened while the Five Hunters struggled to contain their snickers. Everyone knew Gandalf was one old man who didn't really need a walking stick. But the guardsman decided to let it pass and he signaled them to go on. Gandalf winked at his companions and Aragorn smirked.

Legolas then took Gandalf's arm to add to the act. The guardsman bowed to someone and moved out of the way to allow Gandalf and the Five Hunters to pass. The doors shut behind them.

The Golden Hall was nothing like the name suggested. It was dark and dull. The people looked unpleasant and even hostile. They looked at the throne in front of them on which sat King Theoden. But he didn't seem to command any power. He was a withered old man with withered skin and his eyes seemed to be blinded. Oliver found it fitting to compare him to a 'zombie.' He looked like he was just a few days away from death.

And to his right sat a pale man wearing a black robe. He had shoulder length hair and cold blue eyes. They didn't even need to be told that this man was Grima Wormtongue. He whispered something into Theoden's ear and he did nothing.

"The courtesy of your hall is somewhat lessened of late...Theoden King." Gandalf said loudly.

Grima whispered something to Theoden again and he said in a voice that was almost dead, "Why should I welcome you...Gandalf Stormcrow?"

Gandalf released his arm from Legolas' grip and continued walking on his own. Oliver noticed five burly men on either side of them approaching and whispered to Steve, "Wormtongue has thugs."

"We will deal with them." Steve whispered back.

Grima said to Theoden, "A just question, my liege."

He then sneered as he rose up, "Late is the which this conjurer chooses to appear."

He then walked towards Gandalf and sneered, "Lathspell I name him. Ill news is an ill guest."

"Be silent!" Gandalf sternly rebuked, "Keep your forked tongue behind your teeth. I have not passed through fire and bandy crooked words with a witless worm."

And then he held out his staff, horrifying Grima.

He gulped nervously before raging at the guardsman who had disobeyed his orders, "His staff. I told you to take the wizard's staff!"

That was when Grima's thugs rushed to disarm Gandalf. Aragorn and Legolas grabbed the hands of two of them and punched them out. A man next to the guardsman who had let them in tried to take out his sword but the guardsman stopped him.

Steve knocked a thug out with one blow and flip kicked another out. Oliver punched one's nose, breaking it before elbowing him out and grabbed another's head between his feet and flipped him down before kicking him out.

Grima watched in horror, seeing them taking his thugs down effortlessly. Aragorn and Legolas punched two more out while Aragorn grabbed another and punched him as Steve knocked the last one out.

Gandalf continued marching towards Theoden, "Theoden...son of Thengel...too long have you sat in the Shadows."

Grima tried to run off but bumped into someone and fell down. He looked up in horror as Oliver glared at him. He grabbed Grima by the collar and lifting him up sneered, "Grima Wormtongue. You have failed this city!"

"Hearken to me!" Gandalf commanded Theoden who glanced at him.

Gandalf closed his eyes and raised his left hand, "I release you...from the spell."

Everyone was unnerved by the maniacal laughter Theoden now unleashed.

"You have no power here...Gandalf the Grey!" Theoden gloated. But the voice coming from him wasn't his own.

Gandalf then threw back his Galadhrim cloak in response and a blinding white light emanated from him. Thedoen was thrown back against his throne at the display of power.

Gandalf pointed his staff at Theoden, pinning him to the throne, and said, "I will draw you, Saruman, as poison is drawn from a wound."

A blonde woman in white then came dashing forwards but Aragorn and Steve held each of her hands.

"Wait." Aragorn said.

"Let Gandalf help him." Steve told her.

"If I go, Theoden dies." Saruman's voice hissed from Theoden's mouth.

Gandalf pinned him to the throne again, "You did not kill will not kill him."

"Rohan is mine." Saruman snarled from Theoden's mouth.

Gandalf thrust his staff forward again and Theoden was slammed against the throne, "Be gone!"

With a roar, Theoden leapt off the throne and charged Gandalf. Gandalf thrust his staff forward again and Theoden was thrown back towards the throne. He moaned as he then began to slump in his chair. Aragorn and Steve released the blonde woman who rushed at Theoden to prevent him from falling forwards. Steve saw Gandalf seemed exhausted from freeing the King and put a hand on his shoulder for support. Gandalf gave him a smile, indicating he was fine.

The blonde woman, who was none other than Theoden's niece and Eomer's sister- Eowyn, gently touched Theoden's face. That made him raise his head and in front of the entire Golden Hall, the white hair on his head receded and color returned to his skin. His hair and beard were now blonde in color and of normal size. Clarity and recognition returned to his eyes. He looked at Eowyn in front of him and touched her face.

"I know your face." He whispered, "Eowyn….Eowyn!"

Eowyn broke into a happy, tearful smile. The nightmare was over. Her uncle was free of Saruman's spell. That was when Theoden noticed Gandalf and the others.

"Gandalf?" He questioned.

"Breathe the free air again, my friend. Gandalf told him simply.

He stood up from his throne and the courtiers were all overjoyed. The guardsman and the man next to him whom he had stopped exchanged smiles of joy. Their King had returned.

"Dark have been my dreams of late." Theoden said as he noticed his fingers shaking.

"Your fingers would remember their old strength better...if they grasped your sword." Gandalf told him.

The guardsman walked up to Theoden and presented him his sword in its sheath. Its name was Herugrim. Theoden wrapped his fingers around the hilt before unsheathing the sword. With the sword in his hand, he seemed to grow in stature.

That was when his gaze fell on Grima who was still in Oliver's grip and it turned murderous.

The guardsman who was called Hama and the man next to him who was called Gamling dragged Grima out of the Golden Hall and threw him down the stairs. He cried hard as he hit the ground while blood poured out of his split lip. Theoden approached him menacingly.

"I've only...ever served you, my lord." He cried out as Theoden stood over him.

"Your leechcraft would have had me crawling on all fours like a beast!" Theoden sneered.

"Send me not from your sight." Grima begged. Theoden raised Herugrim to deliver the killing blow but Aragorn grabbed his hands.

"No, my lord! No, my lord." He said to him. Oliver wouldn't approve of what Aragorn was doing. But Theoden was a great King and nothing like the corrupt politicians of Earth-1. And extracting vengeance in front of the entire city wouldn't be wise for him. So he agreed with Aragorn stopping him.

"Let him go." Aragorn whispered to Theoden, "Enough blood has been spilt on his account."

Theoden seemed uncertain but pulled back as he eyed Grima with disgust. Aragorn offered him a hand but he spit at it. Aragorn retracted his hand and wiped the spit on his clothes as Grima ran off and pushed through the crowd, "Get out of my way!"

He dashed to the stables and rode away on a horse.

Oliver walked up to Aragorn and said, "That was stupid but I understand why you did that. We will have to be prepared for whatever Saruman does now."

"We will." Aragorn told him.

"Hail, Theoden King!"

Everyone in the crowd bowed down to Theoden. Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Steve, Oliver and Eowyn bowed too. That was when Theoden noticed something and turned to Gandalf.

"Where is Theodred?" He asked as he then turned to Eowyn, "Where is my son?"

Chapter Text

King Theoden's son- Theodred, had been wounded gravely in a battle with the Uruk-hai at the Fords of Isen. And he had died that very morning. His funeral was held a few hours after Theoden had been freed. The grief in the air was clear. He had been a much loved prince.

Some of the people of Rohan were actually crying. The soldiers of Rohan had to bury him in the funerary mound as Theoden watched. It was clear that he was in grief. But he had to present a façade of strength to comfort the people. Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Steve and Oliver were right behind him. As the burying process started, a grieving Eowyn sang a lament-

Nú on théostrum licgeth Théodred se léofa

hæ´letha holdost.

ne sceal hearpan sweg wigend weccean;

ne winfæ´t gylden guma sceal healdan,

ne god hafoc geond sæ´l swingan,

ne se swifta mearh burhstede beatan.

Bealocwealm hafað fréone frecan forth onsended

giedd sculon singan gléomenn sorgiende

on Meduselde thæt he ma no wære

his dryhtne dyrest and maga deorost.

Even though Steve and Oliver didn't understand the language, the grief was evident and they felt their hearts going out to her.

Theoden later stood at Theodred's grave as he dropped flowers at it, "Simbelmyn."

He then turned to Gandalf, who stood close, "Ever has it grown on the tombs of my forebearers. Now it shall cover the grave of my son."

Steve and Oliver still hadn't gone to Edoras and walked up behind Gandalf as Theoden said, "Alas that these evil days should be mine. The young perish and the old linger. That I should see the last days of my house."

Steve and Oliver didn't say a thing. Because there was nothing comforting they could say in this moment. Oliver could actually feel Theoden's pain to an extent. When Samantha had lied to him that she had lost the baby, he had felt broken because he had felt love for the child and had decided to even become responsible for the child's sake.

Gandalf said kindly, "Theodred's death was not of your making."

"No parent should have to bury their child." Theoden said as he sunk to his knees and sobbed bitterly.

"He was strong in life. His spirit will find its way to the halls of your fathers." Gandalf said comfortingly as Theoden continued sobbing.

Gandalf then whispered, "Westu hal. Ferðu, Théodred, ferðu."

Turning to Steve and Oliver, he gave a nod. They were about to move away when they noticed a horse carrying a boy and a girl. The boy fell from the saddle.

Steve and Oliver sprinted towards the two children. Steve reached first and checked the pulse of the boy. To his relief, the boy was alive. Oliver finally stopped behind as Steve said, "Just exhausted."

Oliver nodded as Steve gently lifted the boy up and they looked at the little girl.

The boy's name was Eothain and the girl was his sister- Freda. Eothain was at least as old as Oliver's son William. Their village was one of the many in the Westfold that had been attacked by Uruk-hai under Saruman and several Wild-Men, who were bandits that had been driven from Rohan by the Rohirrim.

The children were eating meal of hot vegetable soup and bread.

Theoden sat on his throne as Gandalf sat next to him on the chair which used to be occupied by Grima.

Aragorn, Gimli and Steve sat on chairs as Legolas and Oliver stood next to them.

"They had no warning. They were unarmed." Eowyn said as she stood up from where she was sitting next to the children, "Now the Wild Men are moving through the Westfold, burning as they go. Rick, cot and tree."

Aragorn and Legolas and Steve and Oliver exchanged looks on hearing that.

"Where is Mama?" Freda suddenly spoke up. Eowyn wrapped a shawl around her and gently shushed her as Oliver looked at her in sympathy.

"This is but a taste of the terror that Saruman will unleash. All the more potent for he is driven now by fear of Sauron." Gandalf told Theoden firmly but gently, a sharp contrast to when Wormtongue occupied the seat as the words he said were poisonous whispers, while what Gandalf said was council loud and clear for everyone concerned to hear, "Ride out and meet him head on. Draw him away from your women and children. You must fight!"

"You have 2000 good men riding north as we speak. Eomer is loyal to you." Aragorn added, "His men will return and fight for their king."

Theoden stood up and walked up to Aragorn, "They will be 300 leagues from here by now. Eomer cannot help us."

"But we ran into him almost two days ago." Oliver said, "He hasn't gone that far."

"And him and his company haven't neglected this country's defense. They slaughtered a company of Uruk-hai near Fangorn Forest." Steve added.

Theoden released a sigh and firmly stated, "I know what it is you want of me...but I will not bring further death to my people. I will not risk open war."

Aragorn and Legolas and Steve and Oliver exchanged looks again. Theoden seemed to be in denial. Maybe his ordeal under Saruman and Grima and his grief over his son's death had gotten to him more than they had thought.

"Open war is upon you", Aragorn said matter-of-fact, pointing out the cold reality, "Whether you would risk it or not."

Eowyn gave Aragorn a look and it was clear to Steve and Oliver he had crossed a line.

Theoden responded, "When last I looked...Theoden, not Aragorn, was king of Rohan."

Gimli gave small burp from the mead he was drinking, annoying Steve and Oliver.

Gandalf got up from his chair and approached Theoden, "Then what is the king's decision?"

After a few seconds of thought, Theoden told them what his decision was.

"We make for Helm's Deep."

Next morning, Hama announced to all the people of Edoras, "By order of the king...the city must empty. We make for the refuge of Helm's Deep. Do not burden yourself with treasures. Take only what provisions you need."

The entire city was in a flurry of activity as people loaded provisions onto carts and wagons for the journey to Helm's Deep.

Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Steve and Oliver walked towards the stables as Gimli huffed, "Helm's Deep! They flee to the mountains when they should stand and fight! Who will defend them if not their king?"

"What is Helm's Deep?" Oliver asked.

"It's the great fortress of Rohan, Oliver." Gandalf told him, "Named after their King Helm Hammerhand. The fortress is built into the side of a mountain. Its deepening wall has said to never have been breached by an enemy so long as men defend it."

"And if we run out of food during siege?" Steve asked, "Other supplies?"

"He's only doing what he thinks is best for his people." Aragorn told everyone, "Helm's Deep has saved them in the past."

"There is no way out of that ravine. Theoden is walking into a trap." Gandalf said, "He thinks he's leading them to safety. What they will get is a massacre."

By now, Gandalf had reached Shadowfax. He told the three people to whom he had passed on the leadership of the Fellowship, "Theoden has a strong will, but I fear for him. I fear for the survival of Rohan. Aragorn, Steve, Oliver, he will need the three of you before the end. The people of Rohan will need you. The defenses have to hold."

After a pause, Aragorn said, "They will hold."

"We will do everything we can." Oliver said.

"But still Gandalf, bring back Eomer as fast as you can." Steve said.

Gandalf replied with raised eyebrows, "The Grey Pilgrim. That's what they used to call me. Three hundred lives of Men I've walked this earth, and now I have no time."

He then mounted Shadowfax and said, "With luck, my search will not be in vain. Look to my coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East."

"We look forward to it." Oliver said.

Aragorn opened the stall gates and simply said, "Go."

Shadowfax bolted out at full pace as the Five Hunters moved out of the way to let him pass.

Later, Aragorn was walking out of the stables when he saw the men struggling to control a horse.

"That horse is half mad, my lord. There's nothing you can do. Leave him." A man told him.

Aragorn gently walked up to him as the men struggling with him backed off. Aragorn gently held the ropes and said in Rohirric, "Fæste, stille nú, fæste, stille nú. Lac is drefed, gefrægon. Hwæt nemnað ðe?"

With that, he gently removed the ropes as Eowyn told him, "His name is Brego. He was my cousin's horse."

"Brego." Aragorn said before saying to the horse, "Ðin nama is cynglic."

He then patted Brego's head and asked gently, "Man le trasta, BregoMan cenich?I"

Eowyn walked up to Aragorn and said, "I have heard of the magic of Elves...but I did not look for it in a Ranger from the North. You speak as one of their own."

Aragorn turned to her, "I was raised in Rivendell...for a time."

Aragorn then walked past her and taking a saddle from a man, said about Brego, "Turn this fellow free. He's seen enough of war."

In the Tower of Orthanc in Isengard, Saruman walked around his Palantir and said angrily, "Gandalf the White. Gandalf the Fool! Does he seek to humble me with his newfound piety?"

"There were five who followed the wizard." Grima said as he nursed his split lip with a cloth, "An Elf, a Dwarf and three Men."

"You stink of horse." Saruman told Grima bluntly as he sniffed the air. Grima moved away.

Saruman turned around and asked, "Tell me about the Men."

"Two of them looked like the Rohirrim, though their garb indicated they were not. One of them was clad in blue, the other in green." Grima said, "The one in blue was stronger than any Man I have seen and the one in green was very skilled too. And very threatening."

Grima shuddered as he remembered Oliver's line to him and said, "There was one from the North. One of the Dunedain Rangers, I thought he was. His cloth was poor. And yet he bore a strange ring. Two serpents with emerald eyes. One devouring, the other crowned with golden flowers."

Saruman recalled images of the two Men he had seen in his Palantir. And he realized who the third one was.

He pulled out a book and flicked through the pages until he found a sketch that resembled what Grima had described.

"The Ring of Barahir." He remarked to himself, "So Gandalf Greyhame thinks he has found Isildur's heir. The lost king of Gondor. He is a fool. The line was broken years ago."

He snapped the book shut, startling Grima, and placed it back where he had found it, "It matters not. The world of Men shall fall. It will begin at Edoras."

At Edoras, as people moved away, Theoden told Gamling, "I am ready, Gamling. Bring my horse."

As Gamling walked past him, Theoden assured him, "This is not a defeat. We will return."

Gamling walked out with a bow as Theoden whispered to reassure himself, "We will return."

Eowyn was packing royal effects to be taken to Helm's Deep when she found a sword in its scabbard in one chest.

With a gleam in her eye, she pulled the sword out and ran a hand along its blade. She then started swinging it around.

"You know how to handle a sword."

Eowyn turned around to see Oliver standing there.

"Women of this country learned long ago: Those without swords can still die upon them." Eowyn said, "I fear neither death nor pain."

"What do you fear, my lady?" Oliver asked, adding 'my lady' in the end due to the etiquette of this world he had learnt.

"A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them. And all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire." Eowyn said.

"I don't believe that will happen to you." Oliver said, "I have a lady friend called Sara and she is one of the most skilled people with a sword I have seen. She might even be better than me at using a sword, as I prefer a bow. She was gifted an Elven sword called Ciris the Dawn-splitter."

"I would really like to meet her." Eowyn said, already liking Sara from what Oliver described, "That bow? Is it of Elven make?"

"No. I made it myself. You won't find the materials to make it here." Oliver said, "I can even use it for close quarters fighting."

He offered, "If I'm not breaching any protocol, would you care to test your sword on it?"

Eowyn's eyes lit up. Normally, she would have to beg for a sparring session and here, a skilled warrior was offering her the chance to spar.

Getting into position, she struck. Oliver blocked her strike and continued doing so for a while. She was skilled and could hold her own against Orcs easily. However, the idea of women in combat wasn't really something the rulers liked. The kingdom was depriving itself of skilled warriors.

Oliver noticed they had the attention of the entire Golden Hall and decided to end it. As Eowyn struck, Oliver avoided and struck the blade, causing it to clatter to the ground.

"You need a bit more work in your follow through, my lady." Oliver said, "But I am impressed. Sara will be too."

"Oliver's right, my lady, you have some skill with a blade." Aragorn said as he arrived. Eowyn simply sheathed the sword as Aragorn gave her a bow and walked off. Following what Aragorn had done, Oliver gave her a bow and walked off too as she had a contemplative look on her face.

Later that day, the march to Helm's Deep began. Theoden was on his horse. He looked back at the people. Most of them were on foot, with their provisions in wagons or carts. Some of them who could afford horses rode on them or put their younger family members on them as they walked along. Eothain and Freda were on their horse too.

Aragorn was on Brego now with Oliver behind him while Legolas continued riding Arod with Gimli behind him. Steve had chosen to walk alongside them. Theoden then turned to the front and rode as the march continued.

"Theoden will not stay at Edoras. It's vulnerable. He knows this." Grima told Saruman, "He will expect an attack on the city. They will flee to Helm's Deep...the great fortress of Rohan. It is a dangerous road to take through the mountains. They will be slow. They will have women and children with them."

Saruman rose from his seat and grabbing his staff, walked out of the chamber. The two eventually reached the caverns of Orthanc.

An Orc-chieftain called Sharku had been recruited by Saruman into his service. Sharku sat on a rock overlooking a deep pit where wolf-like snarls and shadows emanated from.

Saruman ordered him, "Send out your Warg-riders."

Chapter Text

"Hey, stinker, don't go getting too far ahead!"

Gollum was scrambling around on the rock-filled stream on his hands and knees, chasing a fish he had seen. Natasha could only shake her head in amusement at his antics.

"Why do you do that?" Frodo asked Sam.

"What?" Sam asked.

"Call him names." Frodo said, "Run him down all the time."

"Yes. While I do like you, Sam, and trust you much more than trust him, you're being too harsh on him." Natasha said.

"Because." Sam started as he glanced at Gollum and looked back at them, "Because that's what he is, Mr. Frodo, Lady Natasha. There's naught left in him but lies and deceit. It's the Ring he wants. It's all he cares about."

"You have no idea what it did to him...what it's still doing to him." Frodo said as he walked past his gardener and loyal friend, "I want to help him, Sam."

"Why?" Sam asked.

"Because I have to believe he can come back." Frodo said as he looked at Gollum.

"You can't save him, Mr. Frodo." Sam said.

Natasha had been called out to by the Ring a few times but she had managed to resist. However, it still did affect people around it. And Sam's comment made her momentarily snap.

"How can you say that?" She asked in a raised voice, shocking Sam who had never seen her act this way, "How can you say he can't be saved? I used to be nothing but a cold-blooded murderer once! I was saved by my friend! Why can't he?"

Frodo would normally be as shocked as Sam by Natasha's outburst but right now, he too was stressed by the Ring, "What do you know about it? Nothing!"

Sam shook his head and walked past them and that was when they came back to their senses.

"I'm sorry, Sam. I didn't mean it. It just came out of my mouth and I have no idea why. I had no right to speak to you like that." Natasha said apologetically.

"It's all right, Lady Natasha." Sam said as he turned around, forgiving her immediately as that was what the Hobbits were known for, "The Ring always tries to affect the people around it."

"I'm sorry, Sam." Frodo said, "I don't know why I said that."

"I do." Sam said to him, "It's the Ring. You can't take your eyes off it. I've seen you. You're not eating. You barely sleep. It's taken hold of you, Mr. Frodo. You have to fight it."

"Yes. Do not let it take control of you." Natasha agreed with sam.

"I know what I have to do, Sam, Natasha." Frodo snapped, "The Ring was entrusted to me. It's my task. Mine! My own!"

He then walked past the shocked Sam and Natasha as the former asked, "Can't you hear yourself? Don't you know who you sound like?"

"He does. He is just in denial right now." Natasha said and Sam sighed.

That night, the three companions tried to sleep at the foot of a cliff. Sam was asleep. Frodo was trying and managed to fall into an uneasy sleep. And Natasha too had fallen into an uneasy sleep, plagued by a nightmare.

The Eye's pupil of never-ending darkness bored into her, and she stared right back. Someone was muttering in the uncouth tongue of Mordor, a dark chant, an evil song. She felt fear, yes, but also defiance.

Next to her was Frodo Baggins, shaking heavily in fear and anticipation as his gaze was transfixed on the Eye.

"Frodo! Fight it! Don't give in! Not now!" Natasha urged him.

Then, to her horror, the Ring was wrenched from the Hobbit's closed fingers, and he felt as though a piece of his very being was ripped away…Someone was laughing, deep and menacing, but the voice was growing higher as the flames dimmed and the Eye turned into dark smoke in the shape of a Man or an Elf… They saw Sauron's back. Towering and strong and fair as an Elf-lord was he, though much more terrible…And then his cold laugh rang out, a sound that chilled Natasha and Frodo even as they stood there, silent and defiant…

"You are a thief, Frodo Baggins. Did you not realize that you had taken what was mine?" Sauron raised his hand and Frodo saw the Ring upon the middle finger, glinting in the strange light of the chamber. The Lord of the Rings did not turn as he continued speaking, "It was always mine. Only I have the power to control it; any lesser being would be controlled by it, driven mad by the very desire to hold it." He paused, "Why do you remain silent, thief? For that is what you are. Nothing but a filthy thief."

He then turned his attention to his other victim, "You are nothing but a murderer, Natasha Romanoff, trying to fool yourself into thinking you are anything more. You can never be free of your sins. Never. They will always be upon you. This bravery and defiance you are showing will be ripped out of your soul. Your courage, it will leave now and never come back!"

"Leave now and never come back!"

Natasha's eyes snapped open as she looked around and then she saw Gollum appear in front of her, dancing happily, "Gone! Gone! Gone! Smeagol is free!"

"Free from what?" Natasha asked but he was too busy dancing to pay any attention so Natasha sighed and lay back down, trying to sleep again.

Next day, Smeagol seemed in a very jolly mood and Natasha liked him more this way, though he did pretty strange stuff when he was happy. Like right now, to her disgust, he spat out two dead rabbits in Frodo's lap, waking him up.

"Look! Look! See what Smeagol finds!" He said and did his spinning dance while Frodo smiled weakly. Natasha looked at Sam who seemed nauseated and she simply shook her head at Gollum.

Smeagol cackled as he finished his dance, "They are young. They are tender. They are nice!"

He snapped the spine of one rabbit, "Yes, they are. Eat them. Eat them!"

He dug his teeth into the dead rabbit.

Sam had much less patience than Natasha as he picked up the two rabbits to Smeagol's shock, "You'll make him sick, you will...behaving like that."

"I'm pretty sure he already has." Natasha said.

"There's only one way to eat a brace of coneys." Sam said.

Minutes later, Smeagol was howling as Sam made a soup of rabbit meat (whatever meat there was that is).

"What's it doing? Stupid, fat Hobbit. It ruins it." Smeagol said as Frodo stood up and walked up to the bags.

"I had no idea being civilized meant ruining." Natasha said dryly.

"What's to ruin? There's hardly any meat on them." Sam said, "What we need is a few good taters."

"What's taters, precious? What's taters? Eh?" Smeagol inquired.

"Po-ta-toes." Sam said as he rolled his eyes, "Boil them, mash them, stick them in a stew. Lovely, big, golden chips with a nice piece of fried fish."

Gollum made a sound as Sam said, "Even you couldn't say no to that."

"I have a feeling you're wrong about that." Natasha said.

"Oh, yes, we could. Spoil a nice fish. Give it to us raw...and wriggling." Gollum did a wriggling motion right in Sam's face, "You keep nasty chips."

He crawled away as Natasha said, "But they're rabbits."

Sam had been about to take a sip and after Gollum's comment, he put it down and said, "You're hopeless."

"At least you two are bickering instead of hating each other." Natasha commented.

Sam was about to sniff the soup when Natasha realized something, "Where did Frodo go?"

"Mr. Frodo?" Sam looked around in concern. He was gone again!

"Why does he keep doing that?" She wondered as the three dashed down the path, following Frodo's footsteps.

Frodo wasn't that far really. He was on his stomach on the edge of a cliff watching something.

"What the hell?" Natasha muttered as the three looked at the sight before them.

Lines of men in dark clothing marched through the thick underbrush of the ground below. They were clearly a military unit. They carried many weapons of wood and steel, covered in spikes. They also covered their heads except the eyes and nose.

"Who are they?"

"Wicked Men." Smeagol said, "Servants of Sauron. They are called to Mordor. The Dark One is gathering all armies to him. It won't be long now. He will soon be ready."

"Ready to do what?" Sam asked.

"To make his war." Smeagol said, "The last war that will cover all the world in Shadow."

"A second darkness to engulf Middle-earth." Natasha said in realization.

"We've got to get moving. Come on, Sam." Frodo said as he was about to get up.

"Mr. Frodo." Sam stopped him, "Look."

The ground shook and they looked to their left. Their eyes widened so much that would look like children in the moment.

"It's an oliphaunt." Sam whispered, awe-struck, "No one at home will believe this."

"What is that thing?" Natasha wondered. They would make fully grown elephants looks like babies and they were larger than mammoths too. They had four curled tusks and two smaller ones behind the large pair. Small war towers were on their backs.

"Tony and Fury would never believe this." Natasha whispered. And it looked like even the two residents of Middle-earth with her had not seen an oliphaunt.

"We've only heard tales of it in the Shire." Frodo said.

A soft bird call then went out but Natasha realized a human was making it. Smeagol looked afraid and started to back away, stumbling down the slope.

Natasha turned around, "Smeagol? Where're you going?"

She rushed after him, leaving Frodo and Sam behind, "We have to stay together with Frodo and Sam!"

"We must go, womanses! We must go now!"

She then heard loud sounds from the ground and saw the men falling to the ground on being hit by arrows as one of the oliphaunts let out a pained trumpet and stumbled towards the cliff as the war tower on its back came crashing down. Natasha turned around and continued running after Smeagol when a hooded man with a sword came at her. He tried to catch her but she avoided and tripped him before continuing her chase.

She needed to catch Smeagol. Right now, she could only hope Frodo and Sam had escaped the area. If they hadn't, she'd come to rescue them later too.

Chapter Text

The line of refugees was still on their way to Helm's Deep. A small military escort of a hundred cavalry and infantry protected the column. Some of the residents had wagons and carts to carry belongings or the elders of the family while others carried their belongings on their backs.

Oliver rode back with Aragorn while a few yards ahead, Eowyn held the reins of her steed and Gimli rode on its back. Steve walked alongside her to her right. Legolas was the scout of the column this day.

"It's true, you don't see many Dwarf women." Gimli was telling Steve and Eowyn, "And in fact, they are so alike in voice and appearance...that they're often mistaken for Dwarf men!"

Eowyn giggled and then glanced back at Aragorn who whispered, "It's the beards." He gestured to his chin as he said that.

Eowyn and Steve both had to turn their heads away so no one noticed their laughter while Oliver just seemed incredulous.

"This, in turn, has given rise to the belief...that there are no Dwarf women...and that Dwarves just spring out of holes in the ground..." Steve and Eowyn were laughing loudly at this point as Gimli did gestures with his hands, "….which is, of course, ridiculous."

Gimli accidentally spurred Eowyn's steed with his legs and it took off into a canter. Gimli let out a cry of surprise and fell off the horse, hitting the ground with a thud.

Eowyn ran to check on Gimli while Steve ran and managed to catch the horse's reins.

"It's all right. Nobody panic." Gimli proclaimed, trying to save face as Eowyn helped him up, "That was deliberate. It was deliberate."

"I'm guessing he always does things deliberately." An amused Steve said.

Aragorn and Oliver chuckled at the scene as Theoden rode next to them and said, "I haven't seen my niece smile for a long time. She was a girl when they brought her father back dead. Cut down by Orcs. She watched her mother succumb to grief. Then she was left alone, to tend her king in growing fear. Doomed to wait upon an old man who should have loved her as a father."

As Theoden said that, Eowyn looked at Aragorn and there seemed to be something about that look. Oliver knew that look very well now. It was the same look Felicity used to give him.

'Things just got complicated.' He said in his head.

Later, Eowyn was walking around with her stew when she chanced upon Gimli and Oliver. She offered it to them, "Gimli. Oliver."

"No, I couldn't. I really couldn't." Gimli said as politely as he could while Oliver politely shook his head and both walked off.

"She makes Laurel look like Sam when it comes to cooking." Oliver whispered to Gimli who chuckled, having heard tales of Laurel's cooking from him and Sara earlier.

She then saw Aragorn and Steve sitting together, examining their sword and shield respectively.

"I made some stew." She said as she walked up to them.

"Thank you. I'm not hungry right now, Ma'am." Steve said politely. Unlike Gimli and Oliver, he hadn't even tasted Eowyn's cooking so this wasn't an excuse.

"It isn't much, but it's hot." Eowyn said as she offered it to Aragorn then and the poor soul took it from her.

"Thank you." He said politely. He then ate a small bit of it. It tasted really bad but he was a pro at hiding it.

"It's good." He told her.

"Really?" She asked happily and he nodded. She turned around and started walking away.

Aragorn then discreetly started throwing the stew away as Steve asked, "That bad?"

"I won't even give it to an Orc to eat." Aragorn said when Eowyn suddenly turned around and Aragorn put the bowl back in his lap, though some of the soup splashed on the ground but Eowyn didn't notice while Steve whispered to him, "Tough luck."

"My uncle told me a strange thing." Eowyn said as she walked back to Aragorn and Steve, "He said that you rode to war with Thengel, my grandfather. But he must be mistaken."

"King Theoden has a good memory." Aragorn told her, "He was only a small child at the time."

Eowyn's wide eyes made it clear how shocked she was as she sat down, "Then you must be at least 60."

Aragorn shook his head.


Aragorn shook his head again.

"But you cannot be 80!" She gasped.

"87." Aragorn said to both hers and Steve's shock.

She got up and realized what was going on, "You are one of the Dunedain."

Aragorn nodded.

"A descendant of Numenor, blessed with long life. It was said that your race had passed into legend."

"There are few of us left." Aragorn said, "The Northern Kingdom was destroyed long ago."

"I'm sorry." Eowyn smiled before gesturing to the stew, "Please, eat."

Aragorn started eating it as Steve said, "I'm not too young myself."

"How old are you, Steven?" Aragorn asked.

"98." Steve revealed to both of their shock.

"Are you a Dunedain too?" Eowyn asked.

"Are Men in your world also blessed with long life?" Aragorn asked.

"I wouldn't really call it a blessing." Steve shook his head.

"How are you that old then?" Eowyn asked.

"Long story." Steve said, "I was once frozen in ice but it didn't kill me. When I was found and thawed out, I was told that I had been frozen in it for 70 years. Everyone I knew and cared about was dead, except one."

Aragorn and Eowyn felt their greatest sympathies going out to Steve.

"I am sorry to hear that, Steven." Aragorn said.

"But where I am now, it is home." Steve said, "I used to want a family back then. Now, I don't know what I want."

"Maybe you do deep down." Aragorn said, "You just need to look for it in yourself."

"Thank you." Steve said before whispering to him, "You too need to look within yourself. You know why."

Steve walked off as Aragorn considered what he had said. It was clear Steve was talking about the fact that he was Isildur's Heir. But could he lead Men to victory? Could he defeat Sauron without succumbing to his evil like Isildur had?

He pondered over all of that as he ate Eowyn's stew, which added to his predicament because of how bad it tasted.

Next day, the column was marching again as Aragorn walked next to his horse this time while Eowyn walked next to hers and Steve was on the other side of Aragorn's horse. Legolas and Oliver were scouting this time.

"Where is she?" Eowyn asked Aragorn all of a sudden as Aragorn looked up at her, "The woman who gave you that jewel?"

Aragorn and Steve realized she was talking about the Evenstar and Aragorn seemed to be lost in thoughts and old, happy memories. Steve could feel Aragorn's pain again. When he had woke up, he had wanted to go back to his time and be with Peggy again if he could. But unfortunately, that was not going to happen and he would now have to live with that. He had moved on now. He hoped Aragorn's situation turned out better.

"My lord?" Eowyn inquired again.

"Aragorn?" Steve called out too in concern.

Aragorn finally looked up and said in slightly sad tone, "She is sailing to the Undying Lands with all that is left of her kin."

Hama and Gamling rode ahead of the column in that moment as Aragorn and Steve looked after them.

Legolas and Oliver watched them too and Legolas seemed to sense something, though he wasn't sure what it was.

Hama and Gamling were a few yards ahead of the column as Gamling asked, "What is it? Hama?"

"I'm not sure." Hama said when suddenly from the top of the cliff, a creature that looked like a wolf but was much, much larger leapt down at him with an Orc on top of it. Hama was sent flying off his horse and screamed as the creature opened his mouth on top of him.

Aragorn, Steve, Eowyn, Gimli, Theoden and the rest of the column heard the screams too.

The creature mauled Hama and threw his battered corpse away as Gamling took out his sword and clashed it against the Orc's. Unfortunately for him, he had not one opponent but two as the creature tried to bite his horse's neck while it backed off.

That was when Legolas and Oliver leapt down from the cliff and the former fired an arrow which hit the creature's neck, killing it instantly while the Orc toppled from its back. The two rushed the downed Orc which screamed and Legolas slit his throat with his knife.

That was when Aragorn and Steve came upon the sight as Legolas told them, "A scout!"

He kicked the dead Orc away as the two ran back.

A riding Theoden saw the two running back up and asked, "What is it? What do you two see?"

"Warg! We're under attack!" Aragorn said.

"What are Wargs?" Steve asked.

"The creature you just saw. It is a giant breed of wolf and they are as evil as the Orcs that ride them." Aragorn said as the distressed people started screaming in terror, clearly terrified by the word 'Warg.'

The people were all in panic and a stampede would have occurred had Eowyn not started calming them down.

"Get them out of here!" Theoden was heard saying.

"All riders to the head of the column!" He then ordered.

"Come on. Get me up here. I'm a rider." Gimli said as some of the Rohirrim tried to get him up on Arod, "Come on!"

The people were running to their destination in a line as Theoden told Eowyn, "You must lead the people to Helm's Deep, and make haste."

"I can fight!" Eowyn protested.

"No!" Theoden said, "You must do this, for me."

Eowyn seemed she wanted to protest more but then she realized the people needed her so she started evacuating them to lead them to Helm's Deep.

Legolas and Oliver reached the crest of the hill and looked down at an entire army of Orcs riding on Wargs coming at them.

"What are those creatures?" Oliver asked.

Legolas gave the same description Aragorn had had given to Steve a few seconds ago, "Wargs. A giant breed of wolf and they are just as evil as the Orcs who ride them."

"Forward. I mean, charge forward." Gimli was saying to his steed as it started moving, "That's it! Go on!"

"Follow me!" Theoden ordered the Riders as they all started riding behind him.

"Make for the lower ground!" Eowyn commanded the civilians, "Stay together!"

She exchanged one last look with Aragorn as he rode away with Steve behind him. He had noticed and wondered how that would play out.

The Riders neared the slope of the hill, passing the mauled body of Hama. At the crest, Legolas fired two arrows in quick succession, taking down two Wargs and crushing the Orcs underneath them. Oliver still had some trick arrows left.

He fired it down below and it stuck to the ground before emitting a sonic wave, making the Wargs fall down in pain as the Orcs toppled off them and were crushed while the Wargs whimpered in pain.

"That was a good arrow." Legolas said as the Riders came charging. Legolas effortlessly stopped Arod and vaulted himself onto its back, impressing Steve with his reflexes. Oliver simply moved to the side, deciding he would have to fight on the ground.

And then the Riders and the Wargs charged into each other. There was chaos as the Rohirrim used their spears and swords to battle the Orcs.

Legolas took down another Warg with an arrow, toppling the Orc as the Warg crashed on it.

The Wargs attacked the horses, toppling the Riders as their steeds crashed on them. Gimli fell off Arod, Legolas looked back in concern but his attention was diverted when an Orc rode up to him so he fluidly used his knives to kill it.

Gimli got up and stood in a defensive stance as a riderless Warg looked at him, having mauled a horse and the Rider to death.

"Bring your pretty face to my ax." Gimli challenged.

The Warg leapt at him but an arrow from Legolas killed it.

"That one counts as mine!" An indignant Gimli said before turning around to defend himself another Warg. He struck it with his ax, killing it instantly but to his shock, it fell on top of him, pinning him under its weight.

Aragorn decapitated an Orc as Theoden took down another. Steve saw a Rohan archer taking down a Warg with a shot. He was about to fire another when a Warg started running at him.

Steve effortlessly leapt off Brego and lunged at the Warg with his shield out. His shield bashed the side of the Warg's head, making it roll away as the Orc fell down. The Warg roared in pain and Steve bashed its face hard, killing it before picking up the Orc and snapping his neck.

Gimli was removing the Warg on top of him.

"Stinking creature." He groaned when an Orc with a knife came upon him. Before the Orc could do anything, Gimli snapped his neck and it fell on top of the Warg. Gimli sniffed it and groaned at the unpleasant odor.

A Warg was about to leap at Theoden from behind when an arrow took it down. Theoden turned to see Oliver lowering his bow and nodded in thanks. Oliver nodded back as he fired another arrow, taking down another Warg.

Gimli was removing the Warg and Orc again when another Warg came upon him. This time, Gimli was afraid as he had no way to defend himself. Fortunately, Aragorn saw his plight and rode up to a dead Orc, ripping out the spear that was plunged into it. He then threw the spear at the Warg, killing it and it fell on top of Gimli too, increasing the pile's size as the Dwarf gasped.

Theoden parried an Orc's attack and stabbed it before stabbing an attacking Warg in the mouth, killing it too. He was pretty agile for his age and it seemed he was venting out his anger at Saruman by killing his minions.

Steve and Oliver found themselves side by side. Oliver took down another Warg with an arrow before avoiding an Orc's swing and grabbing it from behind, snapped his neck.

"No more Rohirrim will fall now." Steve declared before rushing some Wargs. With a roar, he bashed a Warg on his side with his shield, sending it flying off. Almost everyone in the field looked at Steve in awe, not believing his strength. Steve kicked another Warg in front of him, sending it flying off too to everyone's shock.

He then leapt into the air and gave a backwards kick to an Orc on top of a Warg while hitting another Orc on the face, taking both of them down before throwing his shield. The shield flew a small distance and took down another Orc a few yards away. He then caught it and bashed the Warg to his left on the face, killing it before kicking the Warg to his right away. He then kicked an Orc in front of him in a rotatory motion, sending it flying off too.

While this had been going on, Aragorn was struggling to free himself from a Warg that was blindly charging towards the edge of a cliff. It had built up too much momentum to stop as Aragorn and the Warg disappeared over the side.

By now, the threat was ended as Gimli had finally managed to free himself from the pile. He sliced at a Warg's legs, taking it down before slamming his ax on its skull, killing it. He then looked around to see the remaining Wargs being neutralized.

Legolas looked around and realized something.

"Aragorn!" He called out as he looked around, "Aragorn!"

Gimli, Steve and Oliver realized Aragorn was missing too and called out his name, growing more and more nervous each time he didn't answer them.

Suddenly, they heard a snicker from a fallen Warg-Rider. It was Sharku himself. Gimli and Oliver walked up to him as the latter nocked an arrow, "Tell me what happened to my friend and I will kill you right now."

"He's...dead." Sharku chortled, "He took a little tumble off the cliff."

Gimli, Steve and Oliver backed off in horror and disbelief as Legolas angrily yanked Sharku up by his collar.

"You lie!" He hissed as Theoden made for the cliff and Steve followed. Sharku expired in Legolas' grip and that was when the two archers noticed something in Sharku's grip. Something shining.

The Evenstar! Aragorn's pendant!

Legolas took the Evenstar from Sharku's dead grip as the three moved towards the cliff's edge to join Steve and Theoden.

Legolas refused to believe it. A Man as great as his friend Aragorn couldn't be killed by a simple fall from a cliff when Middle-earth needed him most.

The cliff was steep with its face bottoming out at a rocky riverbank. The river flowed to the West at a great speed. There was no trace of Aragorn on the land or in the river. Theoden released a said sigh and turned to Gamling.

"Get the wounded on horses." He ordered him, "The wolves of Isengard will return."

With great reluctance and sorrow, he added, "Leave the dead."

Legolas turned to him in shock. The four could see empathy and sorrow in his eyes but he had to be practical right now.

"Come." He said as gently as he could, clasping the Elf's shoulder. He then walked off while the four remained frozen for the longest time.

"Aragorn would not want us to stand here." Steve finally said, momentarily suppressing his grief.

"Yes." Oliver agreed, trying to suppress his grief, "He would want our highest priority to be the defense of Helm's Deep."

The four finally moved towards their steeds with heavy hearts.

The refugees finally reached their destination as some said, "At last!"

"Helm's Deep."

"There it is, Helm's Deep."

"We're safe!" Eowyn turned to the woman next to her who smiled happily, "We're safe, my lady. Thank you."

They moved into the fortress as some Rohan sentries stationed there opened the doors for them. Many refugees were already there, having made their way due to the attacks on the Westfold.

Eothain and Freda saw someone familiar.


Both the children to their mother in joy as she held out her hands, "Eothain! Freda!"

The children ran into her arms as she held them tightly. No power in the world could separate them now.

Eowyn looked at the food supplies they had and asked, "Where is the rest?"

"This is all we could save, my lady." The man said.

"Take it to the caves." She ordered and he did as commanded.

"Make way for the king! Make way for Theoden. Make way for the king!"

Eowyn rushed into the courtyard as she looked at the forces that had stopped around the statue of Helm Hammerhand. The wounded ones started being moved to the infirmary as Eowyn looked at all the Riders in shock.

"So few. So few of you have returned." She remarked to Theoden.

"Our people are safe." Theoden grimly told his niece, "We have paid for it with many lives."

He moved away as Eowyn saw Legolas, Gimli, Steve and Oliver dismounting their steeds. But one person was missing.

Gimli walked up to her sadly, "My lady."

"Lord Aragorn...where is he?" She asked, dreading the reply.

With a sad sigh, Gimli finally said in a voice choked with sorrow, "He fell."

A shocked Eowyn backed off and sat down as Steve put a hand on her shoulder for support. There was nothing he could say to make her feel better.

"Now we have to get ready." He told the others and they nodded.

Theoden, Gamling and some other soldiers looked down at the surrounds from the wall as Theoden gave his orders, "Draw all our forces behind the wall. Bar the gate. And set a watch on the surround."

He started walking away with the others following as Gamling asked, "What of those who cannot fight, my Lord? The women and children?"

"Get them into the Caves." Theoden ordered before commenting, "Saruman's arm will have grown long indeed if he thinks he can reach us here."

Gamling smirked at Theoden's comment. Though it was clear to everyone deep down that he was trying to reassure himself more than the others.

"Helm 's Deep has one weakness." Grima told Saruman as he poured some kind of black powder into a bowl, "Its outer wall is solid rock...but for a small culvert at its base...which is little more than a drain."

Saruman finished pouring the powder. Grima, with a candle in his hand, moved towards the powder, "How? How can fire undo stone?"

Saruman grabbed the hand with the candle and shook his head, signaling him to not go near the powder with any kind of flame.

"What kind of device could bring down the wall?" Grima asked as Saruman lifted his staff and walked out.

"If the wall is breached, Helm's Deep will fall." Saruman said.

"Even if it is breached, it would take a number beyond reckoning...thousands, to storm the Keep." Grima told him.

"Tens of thousands." Saruman said confidently.

"But, my lord, there is no such force." Grima said as they reached the balcony and that was when they heard a war horn being blown.

The two looked down to see a huge army of Uruk-hai armed with all varieties of swords, spars, axes and crossbows. Some of them were carrying banners that had the white hand of Saruman on them. They were exactly 10,000 in number while the Rohirrim at Helm's Deep numbered less than 300.

"A new power is rising. It's victory is at hand." Saruman said, addressing his legions as they roared in approval, "This night...the land will be stained with the blood of Rohan! March to Helm's Deep! Leave none alive!"

The Uruk-hai roared again as Saruman raised his hands and ordered, "To war!"

The Uruk-hai roared again as Grima felt a tear drop from his eye to his own shock.

"There will be no dawn for Men." Saruman said firmly as the Uruk-hai marched out of Isengard towards Helm's Deep.

Merry, Pippin, Boromir and Sara were carried by Treebeard to the south-west of Fangorn.

Merry and Pippin were on the shoulders again while Sara sat on the odd branch and Boromir sat on the head.

"Look!" Pippin suddenly said, "There's smoke to the south."

"There is always smoke rising...from Isengard these days, hmmmmmmm….." Treebeard said as if it was of minor importance.

"Isengard?" Merry asked as the Hobbits and Sara climbed higher on Treebeard's head where Boromir helped them up.

"There was a time...hmmmmm….when Saruman would walk in my woods….hmmmmm…..But now he has a mind of metal...hmmmm…and wheels….hmmmmmmm…He no longer cares for growing things…"

To the south, the four could see the tower of Orthanc with several plumes of smoke rising from it. Sara found the design of the tower unique in itself. But their attention was taken over by a long, thick black line of movement heading in a southerly direction.

"What is it?" Pippin asked.

"It's Saruman's army." Pippin whispered.

"The war has started." A horrified Boromir said.

"Where're they going?" Sara asked.

"Rohan." Boromir realized with wide eyes and then remembered the Oath of Eorl, "We need to go there right now!"

"Don't be hasty, Master Boromir…hmmmmm…..Rohan is well aware of what is coming…..hmmmm….We will decide what to do…hmmmmmm…"

Boromir shook his head, wishing he could go help.

"You're still not fully well, Boromir." Sara pointed out to him, "You won't be able to do much."

Boromir reluctantly nodded, conceding her point.

"I want to go there too." Sara said, "That's where Ollie and the others are."

"Our friends are fighting this war. They need our help." Boromir agreed as Treebeard continued walking.

Chapter Text

It had been days since Natasha and Smeagol had been separated from Frodo and Sam. Smeagol knew the land pretty well but she didn't trust him fully because of all his random stunts which is why she tried her best not to let him out of her sight at all.

This part of the forest was dark and leafy and every now and then a shadow could be seen. Animals probably. Or maybe Men. Who knew? She was on her guard at all times though. She was the Black Widow after all. And an Avenger.

Smeagol didn't talk much but he twitched a lot and choked on 'Gollum' a lot too but Natasha didn't bother. Her only concern was not losing him as losing him would mean she would be lost too and without modern technology to help her, it was impossible to get unlost any time soon.

They traveled mostly during day and a little during night because stuff was really hard to see without the light. Even moonlight was limited in the forest so trying to travel would only be harmful. But she was as determined as ever to find Frodo and Sam. They were under her care and she wouldn't fail them.

And she found both of their optimism (or just Sam's optimism as Frodo was being affected by the Ring) a huge breath of fresh air for herself. While Steve was an optimistic guy, he wasn't the most cheerful ever since the entire Avengers Civil War mess, for which he blamed himself and didn't consider himself worthy of his shield. Which is why he hadn't taken it even when they had returned to the Compound after beating MODOK, Grim Reaper and the mythological demons.

Natasha personally thought both Steve and Tony had made grievous errors in their judgement. Her head was aligned with Tony's way while her heart was aligned with Steve's. At the end though, she decided Steve was the one she had to stand with.

Tony wanted to do the right thing, but his ego prevented him from seeing the big picture and his 'double agent' crack had hurt her deeply. Steve would never do that to her even if something she did or said made him angry at her. As for not telling Tony about his parents, it wasn't like Steve or her knew the entire truth. All they knew was what Zola had told them and he was stalling as well, so it could have been a lie.

Eventually, she had concluded that Hydra was responsible for the deaths of Howard and Maria but she had never looked deeper into the matter. And neither had Steve. She simply didn't have the time but Steve wanted to spare himself as well as Tony from the grief. He blamed himself for everything Bucky had done since becoming the Winter Soldier as he had failed to stop Hydra and that is why he never looked into the matter, out of loyalty to both his friends. But secrets, even if kept for a good reason, will eventually have consequences. And this secret had grievous consequences for Steve, Tony and Bucky.

While she understood why Steve had kept it (and she herself had kept it), it was a personal failing on his part (as well as hers). But at least things were better them all now. Being imprisoned by MODOK had made them all reconcile with each other.

Though the issue of the Accords was still there. Tony had only supported them out of guilt and if he was thinking clearly, he would have seen how bad the Accords were. At least this version of them. So while they were friends again, the Accords would still prevent them from staying in New York. So they'd have to go on the run again. At least Ross was in Hell, paying for his crimes against Bruce and the rest of the Avengers so that was a comfort.

But all of that was in the past and return wasn't something Natasha was expecting right now. That was when Smeagol suddenly said, "Womanses! Smeagol hears water, we does!" He happily ran further as Natasha followed him.

She knew why he was so happy. Water meant fish. And a fish-filled Smeagol was a cheerful Smeagol. And a disgusting Smeagol.

They found themselves at the beginning of a mountain. A high wall of rock stood there as a thin, clear waterfall streamed down.

At the base of the wall was a pond. Smeagol happily leapt into the pond and swam around, searching for fish. Natasha realized she was a bit tired right now. She hadn't slept much ever since being separated from Frodo and Sam. Finding them was still her priority. But a little rest wouldn't hurt.

And if Smeagol tried to throttle her, well then it would be the last mistake he made. Gripping the dagger Lady Galadriel had gifted her tightly, Natasha shut her eyes for some quick rest.

Smeagol found a fish after all and broke into song, "The rock and pool Is nice and cool so juicy sweeeeeet!" He smacked the fish on the rock and continued, "Our only wish to catch a fish….." He grunted as he smacked the fish against the rock again, "So juicy sweeeeeeeeet!"

Natasha suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder and grabbing it, flipped the intruder to the ground, the dagger at his throat. She cleared her vision to see not Smeagol-

But Frodo!

"Frodo?" Natasha asked, her voice heavy with exhaustion as she removed the knife from his throat.

"Natasha." Frodo whispered, "There are Rangers above us, ready to shoot. I promised them I would come down here and bring you and Smeagol up."

He motioned to the path behind them, "Can you please go up that way? A Ranger is there. I promised him that you wouldn't resist or hit them if they didn't try to bind you. Can you please go while I get Smeagol?"

Natasha considered her options again. If both Frodo and Sam were here, she would have taken them both and Smeagol and escaped while avoiding the Rangers which would be moderately difficult for her at best.

But only Frodo was here. No Sam. And the Rangers were ready with arrows as well. She could fight them, but moving for days with little rest had exhausted her too so she would end up losing a fight unfortunately.

These Men were not on Sauron's side thought. That she could tell. If they were, Frodo wouldn't be here either. He had said they were Rangers. She knew Aragorn was one too. Maybe they had some kind of connection to him. Perhaps she could reason with them so they would let them all go. After all, that seemed to be the best solution right now.

"All right. I will go." Natasha said and Frodo nodded as she made her way up the path. She sensed a presence and whipping out her dagger, aimed it to her side.

And there stood a tall man with brownish, shoulder-length hair with a small goatee. For some reason, he resembled Boromir a bit.

She slowly lowered her dagger as the Man asked, "So you are their companion?"

"Yes." Natasha nodded.

"My Men did say they had seen a woman with the Hobbits." The Ranger said, "Are you from Rohan?"

"No." Natasha simply shook her head. The Ranger seemed to believe her. Her hair were the same shade as that of a woman of Rohan but her attire clearly wasn't Rohirric.

Natasha then heard a shriek from below and looked down to see several Rangers grabbing Smeagol and putting him in a sack. Frodo looked up at both of them with sadness in his eyes as the Ranger directed her to follow him.

He eventually led her into some kind of cave where she was made to sit on some kind of a seat as the Ranger directed two Men to watch her. He then walked off as Natasha looked around.

Taking out the Men and escaping on her own would be easy. But then the security would undoubtedly be increased so rescuing Frodo, Sam and Smeagol would be harder. Or she could knock out these Men and threaten the Ranger to free the other three. But it wasn't the easiest thing to do.

These Men, while not as skilled as her, were still undoubtedly skilled. And all of them together would end up overwhelming her. And she remembered one of them had hit an Oliphaunt from a good distance and killed it. So they were good shots too. All she could do was wait for now. And think of a plan. Something would come up for sure.

Though something about this Ranger did seem familiar. He resembled Boromir. And that was when she remembered that Boromir had mentioned a brother. What was his name- Faramir! That was it! Maybe she could reason with him after all.

About half an hour later, Faramir arrived and the two Rangers went away as he took his own seat and sat in front of her.

"So what can you tell me about this Quest of yours, Lady Romanoff?" He asked with a slight edge to his voice.

"Only that it's a secret, Faramir." She smirked, taking him aback, "Boromir mentioned you."

"So you know him then." Faramir said.

"Yes. He is a good Man." She said, "And very honorable."

"What do you know about the One Ring?" Faramir suddenly asked, taking her aback. He smirked a bit this time.

"Gollum?" She asked and he nodded, "He talks a lot. To himself mostly."

"I have seen him." Faramir said.

"So what do you want?" Natasha asked simply.

"The Ring will go to Gondor to help with the war." Faramir said.

"Did you try to take it from Frodo?" Natasha asked but got no reaction, "Did he shout at you? Did he recoil?"

No answer.

"Well let me tell you, whoever you give it to, he will be like himself at first, but over time, he will behave just like that." Natasha said, trying to get under his skin, "He will shout at you for simply questioning him. He will recoil from you. He will keep the Ring for himself. And he might even end up looking like Gollum."

"Enough!" Faramir snapped as he got up, panting a bit, "Do not try to trick me!"

"I'm simply telling the truth." Natasha shrugged, "Boromir attacked Frodo to take the Ring from him. He would never do that if the Ring wasn't affecting him."

"The Ring will go to Gondor." Faramir simply said as another Ranger walked up to him and said, "Osgiliath is under attack. They call for reinforcements."

Faramir shot her one last look and walked off with the other Ranger as the two guards from before came back to look at her.

She considered her options again. Osgiliath under attack. And that's where they were going to take them too. In a fight like that, it was easier to escape. So that was the final plan then! Escape from Osgiliath. She definitely had a long day ahead of her now.

Chapter Text

Legolas stood at the highest point of the fortress with a smile on his face. With his keen eyesight, he was able to see a lone rider across the plains.

"Legolas?" Oliver asked as he walked next to him, "What are you doing?"

"Hope is coming." The Elf simply said with a smile, as if that explained everything. Oliver squinted as he looked at the rider and that was when he realized why Legolas was smiling.

"Dying is a joke at this point." Oliver quipped as the two ran down.

"He's alive!" Voices were heard saying.

"Where is he? Where is he?" Gimli said as he pushed through the crowd, "Get out of the way! I'm going to kill him!"

He reached in front of the crowd to see Aragorn getting off his horse. He looked half-dead but he was alive.

Gimli couldn't contain his joy as he said, "You are the luckiest, the canniest...and the most reckless man I ever knew."

Gimli hugged him happily, "Bless you, laddie."

Aragorn hugged him too before pulling back and brought the focus to what was important, "Gimli, where is the king?"

Aragorn patted Gimli's shoulder and walked to where the King was, only to see Legolas and Oliver in his way.

"Le ab-dollen." Legolas said with a smile.

"I'm guessing you fell into the water and floated away." Oliver said and Aragorn nodded, "It's good to have you back."

"You look terrible." Legolas said as he looked at Aragorn's condition. The three smiled as Aragorn put his hands on their shoulders.

Eowyn looked up from what she was doing and seeing Aragorn, smiled happily.

Legolas handed Aragorn the Evenstar. Aragorn took it and thanked him, "Hannon le."

Aragorn then walked up to the hall doors and creaked them open with Legolas, Gimli and Oliver behind him. Theoden, who had been discussing war plans with Steve, Gamling and his men, looked up in shock and surprise.

"Looks like everyone here has a habit of coming back from the dead." Steve quipped.

"A great host, you say?" Theoden asked after Aragorn had finished telling everyone what he had seen while returning.

"All Isengard is emptied." Aragorn said.

"How many?"

"Ten thousand strong at least." Aragorn said as Theoden turned to face him. His expression indicated he had not heard Aragorn correctly.

"Ten thousand?" He asked in worried disbelief.

Aragorn gave his assessment of the army's objective, "It is an army bred for a single purpose: To destroy the world of Men."

"When will they get here?" Steve asked grimly.

"They will be here by nightfall." Aragorn said even more grimly. Steve and Oliver exchanged a look. They needed to get everyone ready for this fight as soon as possible.

After a few seconds, Theoden walked out and defiantly said, "Let them come!"

"I think he is still in denial." Oliver whispered to Steve who nodded in agreement. Oliver recognized denial when he saw it. Last time he had seen it was when Quentin had refused to believe that Laurel was dead.

They all followed Theoden as he walked out with Gamling. They reached the ramp that led down to the main gates. Theoden stopped at the inner entrance and putting a hand on Gamling's shoulder said, "I want every man and strong lad able to bear be ready for battle by nightfall."

Gamling bowed stiffly before leaving to carry out his orders.

"Is he conscripting children to fight for him?" Oliver asked with a dangerous edge to his voice.

"I believe he is." Steve said sadly, remembering when Tony had brought the Spider-kid to fight them at the airport.

They walked past the main gate and stopped on the causeway in front of the Gatehouse.

"We will cover the causeway and the gate from above." Theoden said before stating confidently, "No army has ever breached the Deeping Wall...or set foot inside the Hornburg!"

"There is a first time for everything." Oliver said as everyone turned to him.

"This is no rabble of mindless Orcs." Gimli said in Oliver's support, "These are Uruk-hai. Their armor is thick and their shields broad."

Theoden walked up to them and stated firmly, "Master Oliver, Master Dwarf, I have fought many wars. I know how to defend my own keep."

He walked past them as Oliver shook with rage. Steve patted his shoulder while Aragorn patted Gimli's as the two and Legolas walked past them. Gimli and Oliver followed them.

Theoden now lead them along the top of the Inner Wall as Theoden detailed what he thought of how the battle would play out, "They will break upon this fortress like water on rock. Saruman's hordes will pillage and burn. We've seen it before. Crops can be rebuilt. Within these walls…...we will outlast them."

At this point, everyone knew Theoden was in denial and was being arrogant as well.

"They do not come to destroy Rohan's crops or villages! They come to destroy its people…...down to the last child!" Aragorn said in exasperation.

"Aragorn is right, my Lord." Steve supported his Co-Leader, "Saruman's plan isn't war but genocide! Me and my team once fought someone who planned to drop a city on the ground to kill everyone! We had to evacuate the city and destroy it to stop him!"

"And people like that, they stop on nothing to kill everyone and rebuild the world in their image!" Oliver agreed with his Co-Leaders as he remembered Damien Darhk, "Your plan won't work!"

Theoden felt the three of them were undermining his authority in front of his soldiers so he angrily walked closer to the three Leaders.

"What would you have me do?" He growled quietly, "Look at my men. Their courage hangs by a thread."

The three realized Theoden understood the real situation after all and he was just trying to keep up the morale. But then his next words proved to dash any hopes they had, "If this is to be our end, then I would have them make such an to be worthy of remembrance."

"So you're going to sentence all your Men to death instead of trying?" Oliver asked incredulously.

"Send out riders, my lord." Aragorn suggested before Theoden could react to Oliver's question, "You must call for aid."

"And who will come?" Theoden asked in a cynical tone before gesturing to Legolas and Gimli with his chin, "Elves? Dwarves? We are not so lucky in our friends as you. The old alliances are dead."

"Gondor will answer." Aragorn said and it seemed like a reasonable suggestion to both Steve and Oliver.

"Gondor?!" Theoden's temper flared again, "Where was Gondor when the Westfold fell?! Where was Gondor when our enemies closed in around us?! Where was Gon-?" Theoden stopped and composed himself, "No, my Lord Aragorn...we are alone."

"Children? Really?" Oliver asked, unable to control himself any longer, "You have women who can fight. Your niece is as skilled as your Royal Guard."

"Do not make that suggestion ever again, Master Oliver!" Theoden sneered as he pointed at him before walking off while Oliver shook with rage at Theoden's decision to conscript children. Steve was pretty angered by it too but couldn't say anything.

Theoden walked to the Main Hall as Gamling and his soldiers followed him, "Get the women and children into the caves.

Gamling started, "We need more time to lay provisions—"

"There is no time. War is upon us." Theoden said as they all walked inside, "Secure the gate."

No one noticed the crebain overhead due to the tense atmosphere.

"We Ents have not troubled...hmmm…...about the wars of Men and wizards...hmmmmm….for a very long time."

Treebeard entered a gigantic clearing with healthy, green grass and a rock jutting out from the ground. Merry, Pippin, Boromir and Sara were still with him.

"But now, something is…hmmmmm…..about to happen...hmmmm…..that has not happened...hmmmm….for an age." Treebeard gestured to the sky, "Entmoot."

"What's that?" Merry asked.

"'Tis a gathering." Treebeard answered enigmatically.

"A gathering of what?" Merry asked.

"A gathering of Ents?" Boromir asked to be sure.

That moment, a dozen or so more Ents emerged from the trees. Some were as tall as Treebeard while some were shorter but all of them were giants.

"Beech….Oak….Chestnut…..Ash…..hmmmmmm…Good…Good…hmmmm…Good…..Many have come."

"I hope they don't try to eat us." Sara whispered to Boromir who shook his head in amusement.

"So this is an Entmoot." Boromir said in realization.

"Now we must decide if the Ents...hmmmm…..will go to war."

"Decide quickly!" Sara said as she exchanged a look with Boromir while Merry and Pippin looked around at the other Ents.

"Move back! Move to the caves! Come on, people! Quickly, now!"

The entire fortress was a flurry of activity as women and children were moved into the Glittering Caves.

Aragorn, Legolas, Steve and Oliver walked together as the former looked up and said, "We'll place the reserves along the wall. They can support the archers from above the gate."

"Better than having them die on the frontlines." Oliver sighed as he exchanged a look with Steve. There was nothing they could do about Theoden's orders except minimize the casualties.

"Aragorn, you must rest." Legolas said to the Ranger in concern, "You're no use to us half alive."

"Aragorn! Steve! Oliver!"

They all turned to see Eowyn walking towards them, looking angry.

"I'm to be sent with the women into the caves!" She said incredulously.

"That is an honorable charge." Aragorn said soothingly, trying to comfort her without offending her.

"To mind the children, to find food and bedding when the men return." Eowyn said, "What renown is there in that?"

"I argued with your uncle to let you fight." Oliver told her, "He wouldn't listen."

"There is no honor in not being on the frontlines, my Lady." Steve said comfortingly.

"My lady, a time may come for valor without renown." Aragorn agreed with Steve, "Who then will your people look to in the last defense?"

"Let me stand at your side." Eowyn insisted.

"It is not in my power to command it." Aragorn pointed out.

"You do not command the others to stay!" Eowyn snapped, "They fight beside you because they would not be parted from you! Because they love you!"

Steve and Oliver exchanged a look. They had a feeling it would come to this. Aragorn looked at the ground and then back at Eowyn.

"I'm sorry." She huffed before leaving abruptly.

"Aragorn." Steve said as the Ranger turned to him, "Please take Legolas' advise and go rest for a bit or I will knock you out and put you on a bed."

Aragorn chuckled a bit, "If you say so."

He then walked off to follow what Legolas and Steve had said.

"As for the children, I will stay with them." Steve said to Oliver, "I will take care of them."

"Thank you." Oliver said with a grateful nod.

About an hour later, the Five Hunters stood in the armory. Aragorn was well-rested now.

They observed as a handful of Rohirrim soldiers distributed weapons and armors to old men and young boys who had been conscripted as defenders. The contrast was clear in them all. The boys looked uncomfortable and afraid while the old men seemed to struggle due to weakness of their age.

While Theoden wasn't listening to them about how to fight, he had still listened to Steve regarding food supplies. Before Aragorn had returned, Steve had suggested to Theoden to have the people with their own food rations surrender it to the Quartermaster and divide it fairly between everyone. That was a pretty good suggestion and Theoden had implemented it.

They would have built some ballistae and siege engines too but they did not have the materials to build those unfortunately.

"Farmers, farriers, stable boys." Aragorn shook his head, "These are no soldiers."

"Most have seen too many winters." Gimli said uneasily.

"Or too few." Legolas said in a bitter voice as he gestured to the people, "Look at them. They're frightened. I can see it in their eyes."

The room went quiet as everyone stared at Legolas. What he had said had touched a nerve among the Rohirrim because it was true.

Seeing everyone staring at him, Legolas switched to Sindarin, "Boe a hûn: neled herain dan caer menig."

"Si beriathar hýn. Amar nâ ned Edoras." Aragorn argued calmly as everyone wondered what they were talking about.

"Aragorn!" Legolas snapped, "Men i ndagor. Hýn ú-... ortheri. Natha daged aen."

"Then I shall die as one of them!" Aragorn snapped. That was when everyone realized what these two had been arguing about.

Legolas flinched as Aragorn turned and stormed out. Legolas made to follow him to make peace but Gimli put a hand on his shoulder, "Let him go, lad. Let him be."

Steve was reminded of the argument the Avengers had had on the Heli-carrier and their disagreement on the Accords. At least this argument was nowhere close to being as disastrous as those.

Oliver wasn't pleased with Legolas, reminded of the times his team had questioned his authority, though Legolas had far better reason than any of them ever had and was actually telling the truth.

"We should give these people a good example as well, Legolas." Steve told the Elf who nodded in repentance.

"So no talking about how they will die." Oliver said and he nodded again apologetically.

Theoden stood still as Gamling arrived behind him, holding his armor.

"Every villager able to wield a sword has been sent to the armory." Gamling said but got no response, "My lord?"

"Who am I, Gamling?" Theoden asked introspectively.

"You are our King, sire." Gamling assured him.

"And do you trust your King?" Theoden asked.

"Your men, my lord will follow you to whatever end." Gamling said in an assuring tone as he started strapping Theoden's armor onto him.

"To whatever end." Theoden muttered. Deep down, he knew he was wrong. He wondered if his people would follow him to their deaths.

"Where is the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?" Theoden asked, lost in thought and memory, "They have passed like rain on the mountains. Like wind in the meadow. The days have gone down in the West...behind the hills...Into Shadow."

Finally, he asked, "How did it come to this?"

In Fangorn, the Entmoot was still going on. Merry, Boromir and Sara were observing from a distance.

Pippin had dozed off and woke up in that moment.

"It's been going for hours!" Merry hissed.

"They must have decided something by now." Pippin said as he picked himself up.

"Decided?" Treebeard had overheard, "No….hmmmmmm…..We only just finished saying...good morning….hmmmmm…."

"What?" Boromir asked incredulously, "You spent so many hours just greeting each other?"

"But it's nighttime already!" Merry snapped, "You can't take forever!"

"Hmmm…..Don't be hasty….."

"Hasty?! Hasty?!" Sara snapped, "Hasty would be me storming out of here and going to Isengard alone to fight Saruman!"

"We're running out of time!" Merry snapped.

"We're going to stay here till we get old." Sara said in dark humor.

"Treebeard. There is a time for caution and a time for action." A frustrated Boromir said, "This war has started. Armies are moving swiftly. We have to be hasty!"

"Move! Move to the outer wall."

The fortress was a flurry of activity again. And this time, it was happening ever faster than before as the defenders were placed on their posts.

Aragorn was brooding on the stairs when he saw a teenage boy awkwardly holding a sword.

"Give me your sword." He called out to the boy. He walked up to him without hesitation and gave Aragorn his sword.

"What is your name?" Aragorn asked gently.

"Haleth, son of Hama, my lord." The boy introduced himself. He was the son of the guardsman Hama who had confiscated the weapons of Gandalf and the Five Hunters when they had arrived but let Gandalf keep his staff because he had a feeling Gandalf had come to save the King.

And during the journey to Helm's Deep, he had been the first one to be mauled by a Warg. And now here stood his son, holding his sword, being conscripted into battle.

"The men are saying we will not live out the night." Haleth said forlornly, "They say that it is hopeless."

Aragorn gave the sword a few practice swings before commenting, "This is a good sword, Haleth, son of Hama"

Aragorn returned the sword to him and placing a hand on his shoulder said firmly but gently, "There is always hope."

The first defender had been rallied for the night.

Aragorn dressed up in the armory, fitting himself on a chainmail vest across his tunic. He strapped his dagger and was about to pick up his sword when he saw a hand holding it out to him. It was Legolas.

"We have trusted you, Steve and Oliver this far. You have not led us astray." Legolas said in repentance, "Forgive me. I was wrong to despair."

As Steve and Oliver arrived, Aragorn smiled, "Ú-moe edhored, Legolas."

The two friends grasped each other's shoulder firmly as Steve and Oliver watched with smiles.

That was when Gimli arrived, struggling to fit the chainmail he had been issued.

"We had time, I'd get this adjusted." Gimli grumbled as he released it from his grasp, letting the entirety of it fall on the floor below, "It's a little tight across the chest."

That was when a high-pitched but melodious horn was heard by everyone in Helm's Deep.

"That is no Orc horn." Legolas said. Gimli quickly discarded the chainmail as he, Aragorn, Legolas, Steve and Oliver ran out of the armory.

The two sentries watched from outside as one of them said to the other, "Send for the king."

He ran to do as told as the sentry commanded loudly, "Open the gate!"

"Open up the gate!"

A company of 200 blue-cloaked Galadhrim marched into Helm's Deep with precision. Some of them carried banners with a familiar tree on them. All of them were finely armored and along with their longbows, they carried long-handled two-handed sabres. The Rohirrim felt their spirits rise at the sight of these legendary warriors.

And at their forefront was none other than Haldir himself, wearing a red cape. He wore no helmet as his silver-blonde hair glowed in the night. Approaching King Theoden on the steps, Haldir bowed to him. Theoden was shocked but not displeased.

"How is this possible?" He said aloud.

"I bring word from Elrond of Rivendell and Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel of Lothlorien." Haldir announced, "An alliance once existed between Elves and Men. Long ago we fought and died together. We come to honor that allegiance."

That was when the Five Hunters arrived and were overjoyed on seeing Haldir and the Galadhrim.

"Mae govannen, Haldir." Aragorn said as the two gripped forearms. Aragorn then suddenly hugged Haldir. Haldir was surprised but returned the hug.

As they parted, Aragorn said with a smile, "You are most welcome!"

Legolas gripped forearms with Haldir too as Steve said, "We're honored that you're here to help us."

"The honor is ours, Captain Rogers." Haldir said.

"Well, me and Legolas are happy to have some company." Oliver said dryly as Haldir smiled respectfully.

Haldir gave a signal to the Galadhrim under his command and they all faced left before pivoting to face that direction followed by a single loud clatter as they stood at ease. Steve knew this was an elite military force.

"We are proud to fight alongside Men once more." Haldir declared as Legolas broke into a smile.

Steve nodded and said, "Today, all of us fight as one!"

Chapter Text

The sky was darkened as the defenders of Helm's Deep waited for the attackers with bated breath. The Galadhrim had all been placed along the Deeping Wall. The remaining ones were placed in reserve on the dead ground between the Deeping Wall and the cliff face. Aragorn and Haldir had agreed to lead the Galadhrim together so the forces could be coordinated better. Along with Aragorn, the other Fellowship Members on the Deeping Wall were Legolas, Gimli and Oliver.

Steve was with the Rohirrim defenders who had been tightly packed along the Outer and Inner Walls. They were mainly going to defend the Gatehouse and the Hornburg. The forces defending the Gatehouse were going to be commanded by Steve. Quite a few of these were conscripts.

The clouds had gathered now and were blocking any light from the moon or stars. The sound of the Uruks relentless marching was heard and it grew louder every single second as they closed in on the fortress, holding up their falchions, shields, banners and torches.

Steve looked at the defenders close to him. Most of them were conscripts, including several young boys. Haleth and Eothain were among them. Steve had promised Oliver he would look after the children. He could understand Oliver's concern for them. Some of them were just as old as his son William.

Steve was going to do his best to protect all of the conscripts, the children included.

"I know you are all afraid and I'm not going to tell you that you're going to be all right because that would be a lie." Steve said as they all gave him their undivided attention, "But there is more to us all than just that. Something the Uruk-hai will never understand."

With that, he declared firmly but gently, "Our spirit! We never surrender! We never give up! Ever!"

With that, Steve gave them all his salute. They all copied it the best they could. The boys did it imperfectly but some of the older ones managed to copy it perfectly. Their eyes were all lit up now and Steve noted that fear wasn't the only emotion on their faces now. There was determination too.

They all smiled at Steve and turned their attention back to the oncoming Uruk-hai.

At the Deeping Wall, everyone was silent as they stood in position. Except one person.

"You could have picked a better spot!" Gimli huffed. The Dwarf was unfortunately a tad too short to see over the Deeping Wall. Legolas simply smirked in response as Oliver gave a grin.

Aragorn came up behind them, eyes boring into the approaching Uruk-hai.

"Well, lad", Gimli muttered to him, "Whatever luck you live by, let's hope it lasts the night."

Thunder rolled overhead as a flash of lightning illuminated the sky as well as the Uruk-hai underneath momentarily. Oliver watched with steely eyes. All of them resembled a huge black sea. These were clearly the worst odds he was going to face in his life. Worse than Lian Yu. Worse than Chase. Worse than Slade. Worse than anything he had ever faced before.

"Your friends are with you, Aragorn." Legolas said to Aragorn in determination.

"Let's hope they last the night." Gimli said.

"We will have to." Oliver said as lightning cracked in the sky again while Aragorn walked off. It started raining at that point.

All eyes were focused on the approaching army which seemed to create a miniature earthquake with every step they took.

And then the Uruk general climbed onto a large rock and raising his large sword high in the air, he let out a guttural, frightening war cry.

"Dail] ú chyn Ú-danno i failad a thi; an úben tannatha le failad." Aragorn commanded the Galadhrim as he walked between their ranks.

"Show them no mercy, for you shall receive none." Legolas translated to Oliver.

"I wasn't planning to." Oliver snarled.

The Uruk general raised his sword again and let out another war cry. Following their general, the other Uruk-hai also started releasing cries and howls of their own.

"What's happening out there?" Gimli asked anxiously, hopping furiously to try to see over the Deeping Wall.

"Shall I describe it to you?" Legolas asked lightly as he looked down at Gimli, "Or would you like me to find you a box?"

Oliver couldn't stop himself from chuckling as Gimli laughed sarcastically.

The Uruk general released a third war cry and the Uruks followed suit again, howling and roaring madly while also hitting their chestplates with their fists and tapping their pikes on the ground repeatedly.

The archers all aimed their arrows, aiming for the front line while Aragorn drew his sword.

The conscripts, while rallied by Steve, were still nervous and this show by the Uruk-hai had increased it tenfold. An old man next to Haleth was shaking with fear. The atmosphere and tension was too much for him as he released his arrow accidentally. It hit one of the Uruks in the neck and a whimper was heard as the other Uruks stopped roaring. That was followed by a thump as the Uruk that had been hit fell on the ground and died.

"DARTHO!" Aragorn commanded loudly for every single defender to hear. It was clear he was telling them to hold, as an uncoordinated volley was the last thing they needed.

The Uruk-hai howled angrily at the defenders.

The Uruk general on the rock let out one final, enraged war cry as he pointed his sword at the Deeping Wall and the entire army of Uruks began charging at it.

"So it begins." Theoden said from where he was standing with Gamling and his Royal Guard.

At Aragorn's commands, all the Galadhrim, Legolas and Oliver nocked their arrows on their bows, prepared to fire them.

The Uruk-hai were charging with pikes raised at this point.

"Hai ... di na lanc a nu ranc!" Legolas said to the other Galadhrim before translating for Oliver next to him, "Their armor is weak at the neck….and beneath the arm."

"Thanks for the tip." Oliver said.

Aragorn then commanded loudly, "Leithio i philinn!"

And then all of the archers released their arrows as several of the Uruks fell. Oliver was impressed with the speed and precision the Galadhrim had in firing their arrows.

"Did they hit anything?" Gimli asked randomly.

"I did." Oliver said.

"We are only going to count those killed at close quarters combat, right?" Gimli asked.

"Yes. That's what we will do to make it fair." Oliver said in amusement.

"Give them a volley." Theoden said to Gamling.

Raising his hand, Gamling commanded, "FIRE!"

"FIRE!" Another commander continued his call.

Steve looked around at all the Rohirrim defenders as they fired their arrows, killing more of the Uruks.

Aragorn raised his sword and commanded the Galadhrim on the dead ground between the Deeping Wall and the cliff face to fire. They did as commanded and more Uruks were felled.

Oliver still had about 10 more trick arrows. He was going to use them wisely. One of them could slow the advance of these Uruks. He fired an arrow and it hit the ground before sending off a sonic wave, making the Uruks howl in pain as several of them fell on the ground, covering their now bleeding ears while several others tripped over them.

"That was a good one." Legolas said to Oliver.

"Thank you." Oliver said.

The Galadhrim looked at him almost reverently. If all of them had arrows like him, they could have stopped this entire army on their own.

"Send them to me! Come on!" Gimli roared as the Uruks started recovering and resumed their charge, this time, to Oliver's horror, holding out crossbows. He was reminded of Helena for a moment as he looked at the crossbows.

The crossbows had been loaded with iron bolts that had sharp steel arrowheads on the top. The Uruks released their crossbow bolts as they got closer.

Several of the Galadhrim soldiers were hit and sent flying back as they cried out in pain and surprise. One of them fell into the dense mass of Uruks below. The defenders had suffered their first casualties now.

The Uruk-hai then started swinging up ladders to the walls.

"LADDERS!" Aragorn roared loudly for all the Galadhrim to hear him.

"Good!" Gimli proclaimed as he was finally going to fight now.

"SWORDS! SWORDS!" Aragorn commanded as all the Galadhrim brandished their two-handed swords.

At the top of each ladder was a new breed of Uruk-hai called Berserkers. They stood about six-and-a-half feet tall and weighed an estimated three hundred pounds. Before they were sent into battle, the bowl of their small, tight-fitting helmet was filled with the blood of their enemy, and then pushed onto their heads. The intoxicating smell had awakened a blood-lust that drove them to a battle-frenzy and made them immune to pain. Berserkers had no regard for personal safety, wore no armor except their helmets, and were expected to fight to the death. This army consisted of about 30 of them.

As a ladder came up, Gimli embedded his ax into the Berserker's abdomen, spraying its black blood everywhere as it died. Oliver fired at another Berserker as it came up on its ladder and the arrow hit its throat, killing it as it fell off the ladder.

But all the Berserkers were not so easily stopped as several Galadhrim fell to their deadly blades and their superhuman strength and stamina which would only be surpassed by Steve.

Aragorn ducked to avoid a Berserker's swing and before it could bring its sword down on him, Aragorn drove his sword into its abdomen, killing it before retracting the sword.

Haldir sliced one Uruk's throat as Aragorn jumped to the ground to avoid another Uruk's swing and chopped off its foot, making it roar in pain as it fell down. He then delivered the finishing blow.

One Berserker swung its blade around wildly, taking down a pair of Galadhrim before Gimli slid and emerged from underneath him. Before it could react, Gimli embedded his ax into its…region.

Oliver backed to avoid a Berserker's swing and kicked its abdomen in a rotatory motion, staggering it back before it angrily smacked him away. He rolled away to avoid its blade before firing another arrow that went through its throat, killing it.

Aragorn deflected another Uruk's attack and killed it.

"Legolas!" Gimli called out and held out two fingers, "Two already!"

"I'm on seventeen!" Legolas said casually with a smirk.

"I'm on five!" Oliver said as he shot down another Uruk, "Six!"

"Huh!" Gimli huffed, "I'll have no pointy-ear or golden-hair outscoring me!"

He hit another Berserker coming off a ladder on its region, making it fall down and then embedded his ax onto its back.

Legolas swiftly shot down to Uruks trying to jump at the Deeping Wall from ladders, "Nineteen!"

Gimli took down another Uruk and dodged a Berserker's swing as Oliver shot it through the throat from behind.

"Kill your own Uruk-hai!" Gimli complained as Oliver chuckled while Legolas shot down another Uruk on top of a ladder.

Aragorn kicked one Uruk about to jump off from a ladder, kicking the entire ladder down with it as several Uruks were crushed underneath it.

So it had begun indeed.

"Merry. Boromir. Sara." Pippin called out to the three in Fangorn as Treebeard walked up to them and stood there.

"We have just agreed…..hmmm…" Treebeard seemed to nod off.

"Yes?" Merry prompted him as the four waited for what he was going to say with bated breaths.

"I have told your names to the Entmoot...hmm…..and we have agreed...hmmm…you are not Orcs."

There was a moment of silence.

"Well, that's good news." Pippin finally said.

"Didn't we establish that like three days ago when Gandalf introduced us?!" Sara cracked, "You spent two hours saying 'good morning' and then about eight more discussing if Merry and Pippin were Orcs or not! Are you ever going to talk about something useful?!"

"And what about Saruman?" Merry asked too, "Have you come to a decision about him?"

"Now, don't be hasty…hmmmmm…Master Meriadoc."

"Hasty?" Merry snapped

"I told you we need to be hasty for this once!" Boromir said, trying to control his anger.

"Our friends are out there! They need our help! They cannot fight this war on their own!" Pippin snapped.

"War? Yes….hmmmmm…It affects us all…hmmmm…Tree, root and twig….hmmmm….But you must understand, young Hobbit...hmmmmm… takes a long time...hmmmm…to say anything in Old Entish...hmmmm…and we never say anything...unless it is worth taking...hmmmm….a long time to say."

"This is war!" Sara said, "Our friends are out there fighting in it! Ollie is out there, probably risking his life to beat Saruman's army along with Steve and the others. This is not worth taking a long time to say! This is worth not saying anything at all and attacking!"

"This war will affect you too." Boromir warned too. They had to convince the Ents to march to war.

"Seventeen! Eighteen! Nineteen! Twenty! Twenty-one!"

Gimli was standing between two ladders, alternating between the Uruks on top of each of them.

Oliver was running around, fighting Uruks in melee combat left and right as he either kicked them or simply smacked them with his bow or shot them down with arrows. As he struggled to run through a few of them, he yelled, "KICK THAT LADDER DOWN BEFORE WE ARE OUTNUMBERED!"

A Galadhrim soldier close to the ladder did as ordered.

Steve stood atop the Gatehouse as he looked down at several Uruks organized in a formation. It was a tight column with ranks five across. The first rank placed their shields in the front while the Uruks behind them that formed the left and right of the column raised their shields head-on and the three middle rows raised their shields above their heads. The shields were all overlapped to prevent any missile form hitting them.

Aragorn punched one Uruk down and managed to drive his sword through it before noticing the formation.

"CAUSEWAY!" Aragorn screamed as he pointed at it, attracting the attention of nearby Galadhrim. They all fired at it as several of the Uruks were taken down by the arrows.

"On my command…!" Steve said to the defenders around him. He leapt on the parapet and withdrawing his hand, threw his shield with all his might. His Vibranium one would cut through the ranks left and right but this one couldn't so he had a different plan.

The shield flew down and hit the column in the front. The strength with which it had been thrown actually managed to make the Uruks at the front of the column trip and the Uruks behind them tripped on them and fell off the Causeway itself. The columns were exposed.

Steve caught his shield on return and ordered, "FIRE!"

The defenders all fired. Most of the conscripts missed but the Rohirrim sentries didn't miss their marks as several of the Uruks were hit by the arrows and fell off the Causeway. The children threw down some rocks and several of the Uruks were dazed enough to fall off the Causeway too.

Theoden had witnessed most of the action from where he was standing and confidently taunted his absent enemy, "Is this it? Is this is all you can conjure, Saruman?"

A narrow file opened in the Uruk-hai ranks leading up to the Deeping Wall and a pair of Orc sappers placed something where the culvert was located. They were followed by a second pair of Orc sappers shortly.

That was when lightning lit up the battlefield and Steve's eyes widened in horror as he realized what the sappers were carrying.

And then one Uruk-hai Berserker ran up to the culvert like it was running in a marathon, holding up a burning torch.

"SHOOT THE TORCHBEARER!" Steve screamed.

On the Deeping Wall, Aragorn relayed the same order, "Togo hon dad, Legolas!"

Oliver tried to fire but one Uruk was dangerously close to him so he fired at it instead, taking it down while Legolas fired at the Berserker. It managed to turn its head and the arrow hit its shoulder instead.

"Dago hanDago han!"

Legolas fired again but the Berserker once again turned its head and got hit in the other shoulder. Feeling its life slipping away, it leapt into the culvert with all its remaining might just as Oliver pushed off a Uruk.


Oliver was thrown through the air and then he fell on the ground with Aragorn next to him, both unconscious. Several pieces of the debris flew around, killing Galadhrim and Uruk alike as several of them fell into the breach that had now been made in the wall.

For the first time in the history of Middle-earth, an explosive had been used in a war.

Aragorn and Oliver were lying in the debris-strewn courtyard below just as several Uruks rushed in.

Theoden was horrified as he realized his pride was leading his people to doom. He looked down at the Uruks on the Causeway. They parted ranks to reveal that they were holding a battering ram and several of them charged at the gate.

"BRACE THE GATE!" Theoden ordered loudly as the Uruks charged. Several of the Rohirrim soldiers pushed themselves to the gate as the Uruks hit it. They were sent staggering back but they held firm.

"Hold them! Stand firm!" Theoden ordered.

"Hit them with all you've got!" Steve ordered the Rohirrim defenders, hoping his friends were fine. The children threw down rocks while the men threw spears, halting some Uruks. Steve leapt on the parapets again and just as the Uruks charged with the battering ram, threw his shield. It hit one of the Uruks on the left and it fell off the Causeway as balance was lost and the Uruks on the left tripped, dropping the battering ram on top of them and being crushed under it.

Steve caught his shield on return and looked down with a steely gaze. He would defend these people with everything he had got.

Aragorn and Oliver groaned as they woke up. They staggered up to see the Uruk-hai charging at them.


Gimli leapt down from the wall with the Dwarves famed battle cry, "BARUK KHAZAD!"

He fell right into the middle of the Uruks and the impact made them all fall down.

"Gimli!" Aragorn called out.

"And I thought I was stubborn!" Oliver said as Gimli got up and smacked a Uruk away with his ax but was smacked away by another and fell into the flowing water.

"Hado i philinn!" Aragorn commanded the Galadhrim behind him and they fired at the oncoming Uruks, taking down some of them.

"Herio!" Aragorn ordered and all of them charged at the Uruks as Aragorn held out his sword while the Galadhrim held out their sabres. As they reached closer, the Uruks in the front held out their spikes.

Oliver quickly fired an arrow which exploded in their midst, killing several of the Uruks that were armed with pikes.

"TASTE OF YOUR OWN MEDICINE!" Oliver roared as he, Aragorn and the Galadhrim charged into the Uruks, cutting into them. Due to Oliver's explosive arrow, several of the Galadhrim had been saved from being impaled upon the pikes.

Aragorn deflected a Uruk's attacks and decapitated him as Oliver leapt into the air with an arrow nocked and fired it through the throat of another.

Up on the wall, Legolas threw a discarded Uruk shield on a flight of stairs and skated down with it, rapidly firing arrows at several Uruk-hai and killing them with each shot. As he reached the bottom, he leapt off the shield and it embedded into the neck of one Uruk, making it scream in pain as it died while Legolas fluidly stabbed another Uruk through the face with his Elven dagger, killing it before kicking it away.

Down below, Aragorn lifted Gimli from the water while Oliver looked up, having seen Legolas' unbelievable stunt.


The battle continued around them as the Galadhrim held back the Uruk-hai charging through the breach in the wall. It was still just the beginning. They had to last for the entire night. And right now, it seemed next to impossible.

Chapter Text

Merry, Pippin, Boromir and Sara looked at Treebeard and the Ents incredulously as Treebeard said, "The Ents….hmmmm… cannot hold back this storm."

"You look to me like you can!" Sara tried to urge them.

"We must…hmmmmm…. weather such things as we have always done."

"How can that be your decision?!" Merry snarled. This was the first time Sara had seen him angry.

"This is…hmmmmmmm….. not our war."

"When will it be then?" Boromir asked, "When Saruman burns Fangorn to the ground for more weapons? Because he will do that once he has taken down Rohan."

"You're part of this world!" Merry snapped as he looked around at the Ents who exchanged looks with each other, "Aren't you?! You must help. Please. You must do something."

"Saruman's plans aren't affecting you now but they will very soon." Sara said matter-of-fact.

"You four are young and brave." Treebeard said softly to the four of them as they seethed, "But your part….hmmm…. in this tale is over. Go back to your home."

"As if it is that easy." Sara hissed.

Later- Merry, Pippin, Boromir and Sara were preparing themselves, still seething with rage.

"Maybe Treebeard's right." Pippin suddenly said to soothe the feelings of the other three.

"Why do you think that?" Sara asked him.

"We don't belong here." Pippin said, "It's too big for us. What can we do in the end? We've got the Shire. Maybe we should go home. You can come with us, Sara, and stay there if you do not find a way home."

Sara was saddened by the Took's innocence as Boromir said, "I admire your optimism, Pippin, but you are forgetting that Sauron and Saruman will not stop till they have conquered the entire Middle-earth."

"The fires of Isengard will spread...and the woods of Tuckborough and Buckland will burn." Merry said as he turned around to face his cousin, "And...And all that was once green and good in this world will be gone."

He put a hand on Pippin's shoulder and said, "There won't be a Shire, Pippin."

He walked off as Sara said, "Middle-earth as you know it will never be the same."

She walked off too as Boromir said, "Maybe all of us can have Treebeard take us near Ithilien."

"Ithilien? Why?" Sara asked.

"My brother Faramir is a Ranger there. He can inform us of enemy movements." Boromir said, "It is clear Treebeard won't take us to Rohan. We don't even know where the others are. I feel we might cross paths with them there someday."

"That does make some sense." Sara said, "Better than being left out at least."

"Fine." Merry said, still icy about Treebeard's verdict.

At Helm's Deep, the battle was still raging between the defenders and the attackers.

Legolas fluidly used his dual knives to dispatch one Uruk as Gimli cut one down with his ax while Oliver brandished an arrow and drove it into one Uruk's mouth and Haldir sliced one's throat as Aragorn took one out.


Aragorn looked up as Theoden's voice ordered him, "FALL BACK TO THE KEEP! GET YOUR ELVES OUT OF THERE!"

Hearing that, Aragorn ordered the nearby Elves, "Am Marad! Am Marad!"

"Does that mean 'retreat?'" Oliver asked as he avoided a Uruk's sword and shot him down.

"It means 'To the Keep.'" Aragorn said as he cut another Uruk down.

"Haldir!" He called out and the Marchwarden looked at him from above, "Am Marad!"

As Legolas and another Elf dragged a struggling Gimli away, Haldir ordered his Elves, "Am Marad!"

Oliver looked up as Haldir covered his Elves' retreat. Oliver's eyes widened as he saw that one Uruk was about cut Haldir from behind while he was fighting another Uruk.

Just as Haldir cut down the Uruk, Oliver fired an arrow that hit the other Uruk just before it could cut into him from the side.

Haldir looked back in shock as the Uruk fell down and looking at Oliver, nodded in appreciation as Oliver nodded back. Haldir then turned around just as the commander of the Uruks tried to attack him but Haldir parried and sliced his throat, killing him too.

Aragorn and Oliver rushed up the stairs as Haldir said, "I owe you a great debt, Master Oliver."

"Don't think of it." Oliver assured as the three continued retreating.

Back at the Causeway, the Uruks managed to finally smash a hole in the gate in spite of Rogers' best efforts.

"Brace the gate! Hold them!"

The Uruk marksmen brought forth their crossbows and fired, killing a number of Rohirrim soldiers. Two of the Rohirrim fired back with their bows, killing two of the Uruks.

"To the gate." Theoden ordered Gamling and his Royal Guard, "Draw your swords!"

Theoden drew Herugrim as Gamling and the Royal Guard also drew their swords and they walked up to the gate.

The fighting near the gateway was very chaotic as a Uruk started choking Gamling but Theoden cut off his hand with Herugrim. Another Uruk pierced his right shoulder with a spear and he cried out in pain before lifting up another spear and stabbing the Uruk in the throat, killing it. He ripped out the spear as Gamling supported him away from the battle, "Make way!"

He led Theoden to the corner and said, "We cannot hold much longer!"

Up above, Steve looked down at the fighting and said to the ones under his charge, "Can you hold them for a few minutes while I'm gone?"

The boys all nodded and Steve gently said, "Stay down and throw some rocks. But stay down."

The boys nodded as he said, "Fighting alongside you all has been a great honor."

They were all flushed by his praise as he said, "Be careful."

They nodded in determination as Steve made his way down and passed Theoden and Gamling, leaping up and killing a crossbow wielding Uruk by hitting his neck with his shield.

He caught another bolt that was fired and threw it back with such force that it seemed like it had been fired from a crossbow as it went through the Uruk's throat. He was then joined by Aragorn, Gimli and Oliver as Aragorn cut one down while Oliver shot another and Gimli also hacked one.

"Hold them!" Theoden said.

"How long do you need?" Aragorn asked.

"As long as you can give me." Theoden said.

"I think we can give him as long as he wants." Oliver said as he looked at Steve.

"Oh we can give him much more than that." Steve smirked.

"Gimli!" Aragorn called out to the Dwarf as the four started making their way out of a side exit. That was when Haldir arrived and Steve requested, "Haldir! Can you please go up and see how the boys are?"

"I will take care of them in your stead, Captain Rogers." Haldir assured with a smile as he went up and Steve nodded in appreciation.

The Rohirrim all formed a shield wall in front of the door as Theoden ordered, "Timbers! Brace the gate!"

Aragorn, Gimli, Steve and Oliver reached a side passage that led to a small outcropping of rocks near the bridge.

It was not visible to the Uruks so they were unnoticed. Aragorn slid forward first, then Gimli, then Steve and finally Oliver.

"The rain has made this slippery so be careful." Steve said and they nodded.

Aragorn peered around the edge of the wall. The Uruks were few yards away, hitting the door with their swords.

"Come on!" Gimli whispered eagerly, "We can take them."

"It's a long way." Aragorn said as he turned to Gimli and calmly raised his eyebrows.

Gimli examined the distance and became still.

"Toss me." He finally said.

"What?" Aragorn asked, sure he had misheard.

Steve started, "Am I misheari-"

"I cannot jump the distance! You'll have to toss me!" Gimli said.

"I thought nobody tosses a Dwarf." Oliver snickered.

Gimli glared at both Steve and Oliver before turning back to Aragorn who was about to lift him.

"Ah, ah, wait!" He looked pleadingly to Aragorn, "D-Don't tell the Elf." He turned to Steve and Oliver, "You two won't say anything or I will take away your beards and add them to mine to make it longer!"

Steve and Oliver chuckled as Aragorn said, "Not a word."

With a grunt, Aragorn picked up Gimli and tossed him to the bridge as knocked the Uruks away with a battle cry. Then Aragorn leapt with a cry of his own, followed by Steve, who kicked a few Uruks off the bridge as he arrived. Finally, Oliver leapt there too.

The Uruks were caught off guard by the four as Aragorn and Gimli took down some of the Uruks back to back while Oliver shot them or pushed them off the bridge.

"Better catch up, Oliver!" Gimli said as he hacked at one Uruk's legs and embedded the ax into his neck.

"Tell that to Legolas." Oliver said as he shot down another Uruk and both chuckled.

Steve leapt up and flip kicked one Uruk away. It fell into another and both fell off the bridge as Steve rushed some and pushed them off too before bashing another down with his shield and punching another so hard his neck broke. He grabbed another and snapped his neck as well before leaping and kicking another down the wall.

"Shore up the door!" Theoden ordered behind them.

"Make way!"

The soldiers carried the barricades to the hole of the door.

"Follow me to the barricade."

"Watch our backs!"

Down below, the Uruk-hai were preparing to shoot grappling lines onto the walls.

"Throw another one over here!"

"Higher!" Theoden ordered.

"Hold fast the gate!"

The Uruk-hai managed to fire grappling lines onto the walls and started anchoring up huge ladders that carried several of the Uruk-hai.

Two of the ladders reached up, increasing the pressure on the defenders.

Legolas took out an arrow and aiming carefully, fired at a rope, sending one ladder down as the Uruk-hai on it and several others were crushed brutally.

But this was just one. There were several more.

"Gimli! Aragorn! Steve! Oliver!"

The four turned to see Theoden. Now the huge hole had been reduced in size due to the barricades and only a tiny hole remained.

"Get out of there!" Theoden urged before covering that opening with a plank, barricading the entrance again.

Aragorn and Gimli were held in a chokehold by one Uruk but Aragorn elbowed him and he fell off the bridge as Oliver killed two more with his arrows while Steve kicked another away in a rotatory motion.


The four looked up to see Legolas holding out a rope. They could see the wall was being overrun by the Uruks and the Rohirrim were struggling to hold them.

"You three go!" Steve told them, "Tell Legolas to leave the rope for me!"

"Have you gone mad, Steven lad?" Gimli asked incredulously.

"He doesn't go mad." Oliver said.

"I believe you have a plan." Aragorn said.

"I do." Steve told him as he threw his shield at a nearby Uruk, taking him down before catching it on return, "Besides, even Legolas won't be able to pull up all four of us."

They nodded as Aragorn grabbed the rope with one hand and Gimli with another while Oliver grabbed it from below and Legolas started pulling them all up. Steve rammed into some more Uruk-hai, throwing them off the bridge easily as more ran up the gate.

Steve bashed one's face with the shield so hard some blood splattered here and there before he twisted another's hand and elbowed him out. He swept another's feet from under him and crushed his throat.

Steve then saw that Aragorn, Gimli and Oliver had been pulled up and the rope was still there for him. He grabbed it and looked to see Haleth killing one Uruk. He gave a proud smile but the pride turned to horror when another Uruk was about to cut him down from behind.

Before he could though, Steve hurled the rope and trapped the Uruk's neck, pulling him to the edge of the wall and holding him there as he struggled to free his neck. Steve swung away from the bridge and put his feet on the wall. With the rope still holding the Uruk, he ran up at a rapid pace and leapt onto the wall, breaking the Uruk's neck with his strength.

As he reached there, he attacked the Uruks, bashing them with his shield, kicking them away or simply breaking their necks.

Theoden was still behind the barricade and in a resigned tone told Gamling, "Pull everybody back. Pull them back."

"FALL BACK! FALL BACK!" Gamling roared.

"They have broken through!"

"The castle is breached."


"Fall back!"

"Retreat! Hurry!"

"Inside. Get them inside! Into the Keep!" Aragorn told some soldiers as they rushed into the Keep. Some more Uruks charged them from the side before Steve threw his shield, cutting down one and then grabbing another, kneed him on the head, killing him. He twisted another's hand, disarming him and threw his sword at another Uruk's throat, killing him.

"Aid Steve The Valiant!" A Rohirrim called out and a few soldiers helped him in fighting off the Uruks as Oliver fired a few arrows, killing some more.

"And now you've got a title." Oliver said dryly while Steve kicked another Uruk away into some more, knocking them all down. And then they all ran back up the stairs into the Keep. In spite of the efforts of Steve, Oliver, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Haldir and everyone else, it was getting harder every second to delay the Uruks.

"Your path is…..hmmm….to Ithilien yes?"

"Yes Treebeard." Boromir said.

As Treebeard walked, Pippin suddenly said, "Wait! Stop! Stop!"

As Treebeard stopped, everyone looked at Pippin who said, "Turn around. Turn around. Take us south."

"South?" Treebeard huffed, "But that will lead you past…hmmmm…. Isengard."

"Have you gone mad, Pippin?" Boromir asked, "It's too dangerous!"

"We'll get caught if we go south." Sara said.

"Yes. Exactly." Pippin told them with a conspiratorial gleam in his eyes , "If we go south, we can slip past Saruman unnoticed. The closer we are to danger, the farther we are from harm. It's the last thing he'll expect."

"Uhhhhhh…..did anyone understand any of that?" Sara asked.

" That doesn't make sense to me. But then…...hmmmm….you are very crafty. Perhaps you're right….hmmmmm…. South it is, then."

Sara suddenly realized Pippin had a plan and gave him a wink as he smiled.

"Hold on, little Shirelings, Man and Woman." Treebeard said as he started walking south, "I always like going south. Somehow it feels like…hmmm…. going downhill."

"Are you mad?" Merry asked Pippin incredulously, "We'll be caught."

"No, we won't." Pippin said with determination in his eyes that reminded Sara of Oliver, "Not this time."

"He has a plan." Sara said.

"I trust that he does." Boromir agreed.

"And those little family of field mice...hmmmm…that climb up sometimes, and they tickle me awfully!" Treebeard was telling his passengers, "They're always trying to get somewhere where they..."

He abruptly stopped at the sight in front of him. They had reached the end of trees. And unfortunately, there were supposed to be many more trees here. But because of Saruman, they weren't.

"Many of these trees…..were my friends….." Treebeard whispered sorrowfully, "Creatures I had known….from nut and acorn…They had voices of their own…."

"I'm sorry, Treebeard." Pippin said genuinely. Part of him was pleased that the manipulation had worked but he felt guilty that he had to do this to get Treebeard to act. He felt awful that he had broken Treebeard's heart.

Boromir and Sara also felt bad about their earlier criticisms of Treebeard. In spite of his age, in many ways, Treebeard was perhaps as innocent as Pippin and was incapable of believing that anyone but Orcs could do evil.

"Saruman!" Treebeard gasped as his gaze turned to Orthanc.

"A wizard should know better!" He said, now feeling angry, unnerving his passengers. With that, he released a ferocious roar full of grief and rage. The roar echoed throughout the entire forest as the four passengers shook in some fear.

"There is no curse in Elvish...Entish or the tongues of Men...for this treachery."

"Look! The trees! They're moving!" Pippin suddenly said. The others turned to see where he was pointing and the trees were moving indeed. The edge of Fangorn was creaking forward, moaning loudly in rage.

"Where are they going?" Merry asked.

"They have business with the Orcs." Treebeard said.

"Those Orcs better watch out." Sara smirked.

"I believe we are going somewhere else." Boromir said.

"My business is with Isengard tonight...with rock and stone." Treebeard declared and that was when several rumblings were heard from the forest behind them. Dozens of Ents marched up to them after having heard Treebeard's call to arms.

"Yes!" Merry said happily.

"We're gonna kick Saruman's ass." Sara said.

"He really should have known better." Boromir said.

"Come, my friends!" Treebeard said, "The Ents are going to war. It is likely...that we go to our doom. Last march…...of the Ents."

And with that, nature marched to battle Man. Or Wizard and Orcs in this case.

Chapter Text

At Helm's Deep, the Uruks had gained the upper hand against the defenders by now. Steve was doing the best he could to barricade the fortress with help from the Rohirrim and the remaining Galadhrim but the Uruks were too many. Outside, the Uruks had replaced the Rohan flags with flags bearing Saruman's symbol: The White Hand.

"The fortress is taken." Theoden said in a defeated tone, having given up, "It is over."

"You said this fortress would never fall while your men defend it!" Aragorn yelled as him and Legolas lifted up a bench. He stood there as Legolas carried the bench away, "They still defend it! They have died defending it!"

As the Uruks pounded again really hard, Oliver tried to snap Theoden into action by pointing out the reality, "They're close to breaking in! They're almost past the door!"

Seeing their words had no effect on Theoden, Aragorn spoke to Gamling instead, "Is there no other way for the women and children to get out of the caves?"

When he didn't get a reply, both him and Oliver asked at the same time, "Is there no other way?"

"There is one passage." Gamling said finally, "It leads into the mountains. But they will not get far. The Uruk-hai are too many."

"Tell the women and children to make for the mountain pass." Aragorn urged Gamling as he put a hand on the Man's shoulder, "And barricade the entrance!"

As Gamling moved, Theoden spoke again, "So much death. What can Men do against such reckless hate?"

"Fight it." Oliver told him, "A few days ago, your son unfortunately died. But what he stood for didn't. It lived on in the Rohirrim who took up his responsibilities: People who believe that Rohan should never descend into hopelessness, who believe although life is full of darkness, that darkness can be defeated by light, and tonight, I am declaring my intention to stand with them, to fight for Rohan!"

Everyone in the vicinity who heard Oliver's speech was inspired by it as Theoden also now had determination flashing in his eyes. Steve had heard it too and was pleased that Oliver also knew he could inspire people and was using this quality of his at the right time.

Aragorn nodded at Oliver gratefully and urged Theoden in a hopeful tone, "Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them."

The determination in Theoden's eyes increased as he said, "For death and glory."

"For Rohan." Aragorn told him, "For your people."

"The sun is rising." Gimli muttered as he gestured to the light that as streaming through the windows.

"How many days has it been since Gandalf left?" Oliver asked.

"Five." Steve said as he walked up to them all and they remembered his words from that day he had left.

Look to my coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn. . . . . . look to the east.

"Mithrandir works in mysterious ways." Haldir said.

"Yes!" Theoden said as a passionate fire burnt in his eyes, "Yes! The horn of Helm Hammerhand. . . . . .shall sound in the Deep. . . . . .one last time."

"Yes!" Gimli agreed as he left from a side hallway.

Theoden put a hand on Aragorn's shoulder and gesturing to him, Steve and Oliver, said, "Let this be the hour when we draw swords, shield and bow together."

As the pounding continued for a few more minutes- Aragorn, Legolas, Steve, Oliver, Haldir, Theoden, the Rohirrim and the remaining Galadhrim all mounted horses. Steve sat behind Aragorn while Oliver sat behind Legolas.

"Fell deeds, awake!" King Theoden announced as he withdrew his sword and put on his helm, "Now for wrath. . . . . . now for ruin and a red dawn!"

And then from above, a horn sounded in the fortress and everyone realized what Gimli was up to.

The Uruks finally broke through the gate with their battering ram and were about to run through the door.

"Forth Eorlingas!" Theoden bellowed, Herugrim held high.

They charged across the room, slashing, stabbing, punching, kicking and smacking any Uruk within their reach as one Rohirrim proudly held up the banner of Rohan.

The horn continued to blow as they charged to the bridge and riding down the ramp, swept the Uruks off the bridge and down to their deaths until they reached the bottom. Now they could see the entire valley was filled with Uruk-hai, many having intruded the fortress' walls.

Aragorn stabbed one as Steve kicked one so hard on the face his neck broke while Legolas sliced one down with his knife and Oliver stabbed one through the mouth with his arrow. Theoden himself cut down one Uruk with his sword while Haldir chopped off one's head.

Aragorn suddenly looked up and said, "Look Steve!"

Steve looked up to where Aragorn was looking to the East. On top of a steep incline to the left of the fortress was a White Rider on his steed. It was Gandalf the White! As the light of the sun shone behind him, he looked like an Angel from the Heavens. He stared down at the battle going on and even the Uruk-hai turned around to look at him.

"Gandalf." Aragorn whispered.

"He is back when he said he would be." Steve said happily as Theoden also looked up.

From where he was sitting on Shadowfax, Gandalf said, "Theoden King stands alone."

That was when another Rider arrived on his right. Eomer!

"Not alone!" Eomer said as he raised a sword, "Rohirrim!"

And then, many men on horseback came behind the two, joining them. Eomer and his Riders had returned to fight for Rohan.

"Eomer!" Theoden gasped happily from where he was.

"To the king!" Eomer cried as all the Riders charged down the slope with heartfelt and determined cries, holding up their swords and axes.

The Uruk-hai all held up their pikes at the end of the slope in panic.

Through his staff, Gandalf channeled the light of the sun as it rose over the hill while the Rohirrim charged. The Uruks all dropped their weapons and covered their eyes as the light blinded them.

And with that, Gandalf and the Rohirrim crashed into the Uruk-hai, cutting them all down swiftly as Eomer stabbed two Uruks with his sword Guthwine while Gandalf smacked them all hard with his staff.

During this time, Theoden and the others were also riding down, cutting down the now panicked Uruk-hai.

The Uruk-hai were already unnerved when they had faced Steve Rogers, who was strong enough to throw a bolt so hard that it seemed like it had been fired from a crossbow, and also Oliver Queen, whose arrows unleashed terrifying spells of destruction on their army. But facing the White Wizard as well was too much for them all.

They all started routing northwards, feeling fear, proving Saruman's statement of 'You do not know fear' wrong.

"VICTORY!" Theoden boomed, "WE HAVE VICTORY!"

The Uruks were driven into the ravine and the forest beyond.

Wait what? Forest?!

"Stay out of the forest!" Eomer said as he rode in front of the other Riders, "Keep away from the trees!"

"Where did that forest come from?" Oliver asked in confusion.

"It wasn't here when we arrived, right?" Steve asked.

"I do not think so, Steve." Aragorn said.

"It looks too much like Fangorn Forest." Legolas said and suddenly, all of their minds clicked as they realized what it was.

And in that moment, loud shrieks and cries of pain were heard along with stomping and slapping. The trees were moving! The very nature Saruman was destroying for the war was now unleashing vindictive fury upon his Uruk-hai. Everyone watched in amazement as the forest continued swaying and groaning, slaughtering the Uruk-hai. And when the last Uruk-hai was slaughtered, it stilled.

"Sara would have loved this." Oliver muttered, not knowing what she was doing currently.

In Isengard, another battle was raging on right now. More of a slaughter really.

The Ents lifted boulders and threw them at the Orcs, crushing them brutally. They also used other debris that was left after smashing through the wall around Isengard.

Boromir and Sara were on the ground, fighting the Orcs themselves.

Boromir blocked one's strike with his sword and chopped off his head before ramming his fist into another while Sara flipped to avoid one's swing and kicked him on the face, staggering him back, before flipping down and driving her sword into his throat, killing him.

"Well, frustration is going out now." She muttered. It had been a while since she had been in a fight.

Boromir sliced another Orc's throat as Sara swept one's feet from under him and drove her sword into his throat before wrapping her legs around another and flipping him down. As they both got up, she grabbed him and snapped his neck while Boromir chopped off another's leg, throwing him down, and drove his sword through his heart.

One Ent picked up a piece of wood and swung it around like a bat, throwing Orcs away in all directions. Some Orcs threw ropes around another Ent from behind and pulled him down as several other Orcs climbed on top of him.

Sara threw her shuriken at one of the Orcs, killing him. And then Treebeard lifted a boulder and threw it at the other Orcs, knocking them away and saving the Ent.

Treebeard crushed another Orc as all the Ents around him destroyed all the crevices Saruman's forces had made for war.

Pippin threw a rock from Treebeard's shoulder, hitting an Orc on the head and sending him down to the pit below.

"Yes!" Treebeard said happily as Pippin tossed Merry another rock, "A hit. A fine hit."

Merry threw the rock, hitting another Uruk and sending him down a pit as Treebeard cheered happily.

"The Orcs won't be able to stand against us!" Boromir said as he sliced another one's throat.

"Look!" Sara said as she pointed up and they saw an old man with long, white hair and beard and white robes looking down in shock and horror.

"I believe that is Saruman, our nemesis." Boromir snarled angrily, "His pride has led to his downfall."

Another Ent ripped out a huge crevice and sent several Orcs tumbling down a pit while another one smashed two of them together.

Some Orc archers fired at an Ent with arrows that had fire lit at their tips and that Ent was set on fire as he staggered around in confusion. Some of the Ents were pelting the Tower of Orthanc itself with boulders but it was unaffected.

Sara rushed the archers, leaping into the air chopping off one's head with Ciris in a twirling motion before flip kicking another to the ground and stabbing him through the throat while Boromir punched one with his fist and cut off another's head before slicing the throat of the one he had punched.

"BREAK THE DAM!" Treebeard roared like a military commander, "RELEASE THE RIVER!"

Another Ent pulled down the wood and the dam broke as water spout out with a burst, rapidly overwhelming all the Orcs and crevices as they drowned in it.

"Up, Man and Woman!" Treebeard said as he lifted up Boromir and Sara to protect them from being swept away by the flooding River Isen.

"Pippin!" Merry yelled, "Hold on!"

"Hold on, little Hobbits, Man and Woman!" Treebeard said as the wave crashed into the Ents, reaching up to their shoulders. If Merry or Pippin had fallen in this moment or if Treebeard had accidentally dropped Boromir or Sara, they would have drowned. But nothing of that sort happened fortunately. The poor Ent that had been lit up by the fire arrows rushed to the wave and dunked his head into it, putting out the fire.

"Now that was effective." Sara said as the wave flooded all of Isengard, sweeping away all the Orcs and crevices. And soon, there was zilch left of the Orcs and machines in Isengard. All that remained was the Tower of Orthanc.

At Helm's Deep, Aragorn walked back to the fortress as Eowyn looked at him happily and touching his face, hugged him.

Steve saw Haleth and happily patted the boy's head who looked up at him with a smile.

"Tales will be told of this battle years from now." Haldir told Steve, "All of them will not fail to talk of Steve Astaldo in high regard."

"Astaldo?" Steve asked.

"It means 'The Valiant.'" Haldir said and Steve nodded in appreciation with a smile, feeling flattered.

"They will also mention Oliver Sairina Quinga." Haldir said, "It means 'Magical Archer.'"

Legolas walked up to where Gimli was sitting on top of a dead Uruk into which he had embedded his ax and was smoking a pipe.

"Final count. . ." Legolas held up his bow, ". . .42."

"Forty-two?" Gimli said mockingly, "That's not bad for a pointy-eared Elvish princeling. I myself am sitting pretty on 43."

That moment Oliver arrived as Legolas suddenly fired an arrow at the dead Uruk on which Gimli was sitting, "Forty-three."

"He was already dead." Gimli said in shock.

"He was twitching." Legolas countered.

"He was twitching" Gimli moved the ax on the Uruk's head, making his body make jerky motions, ". . . . . .because he's got my ax embedded in his nervous system!"

"So this place has Biology." Oliver muttered before saying, "Legolas, Gimli, we survived. I don't think such petty displays should be what we do."

"Aye, that's true." Gimli sighed as he released smoke from his pipe.

"I grieve for the fallen." Legolas said, "But if I think about it all time, it will overwhelm me."

"I understand." Oliver said.

"Still, how many did you kill Oliver lad?" Gimli asked.

"Well…I got forty-seven."

Both the Elf and the Dwarf gawked.

"You lie!" They said in unison.

"No I don't!" Oliver said, "I got a lot of them when we were defending the breach and I killed more than any of you there as I was there first and I also killed several with you, Aragorn and Steve on the Causeway."

He smirked and walked off as the two sputtered.

In Isengard, Merry, Pippin, Boromir and Sara admired their handiwork as the entire place was a flooded mess. The water came a little past Merry's and Pippin's waists and Boromir's and Sara's hips. Saruman was still looking down in shock with Grima next to him.

"He doesn't look too happy, does he?" Merry asked mildly.

"Not too happy at all, Merry." Pippin said in amusement.

"Still, I suppose the view would be quite nice from up there." Merry joked.

"Oh, yes. It's a quality establishment." Pippin joked back, "I hear the staff are very good."

Boromir and Sara chuckled hysterically as Merry picked up his hand drew a line through the air from the top of his head to Pippin's. Sara looked at that and struggled to stifle her chuckles, giving Merry a wink.

"What are you doing?" Pippin asked, noticing.

"Nothing." Merry said as he started ruffling his hair as cover-up, "The world is back to normal, that's all."

Pippin sighed, "No, it isn't. I'm starving."

"Well now everything is back to normal." Sara quipped and both her and Boromir chuckled.

"Good luck trying to find something decent around here." Merry said glumly as he threw away a basket, "Probably dead rats and moldy bread."

That was when Pippin saw an apple floating nearby and looked up, remembering when one had fallen near him during the journey to Rivendell with Aragorn. And then another apple floated near them. The four followed the trail of the apples, finding an upside down basket and soon found themselves in a rectangular storeroom.

There was a table in the middle with more baskets of apples and several loaves of bread, cheeses, casks of wine, and dry meat and fish.

"Well, I believe the problem of hunger is solved." Boromir said.

"Saruman's storeroom!" Merry gasped.

"I don't believe it." Pippin whispered as they noticed a barrel labeled 'South Farthing.'

"It can't be." Merry whispered.

Soon they ripped off the top of a barrel, finding what they wanted and Pippin said, "It is!"

"Longbottom Leaf." Merry happily said as he sniffed it, "The finest pipe-weed in South Farthing!"

"It's perfect." Pippin said as he handed it to Merry, "One barrel for each of us. You two want it?"

"No." Sara shook her head, "Where I'm from, we don't smoke much."

Boromir shook his head as well.

"You two have no idea what you're missing out on." Merry told them.

"Wait!" Pippin said, "Do you think we should share it with Treebeard?"

"Share it?" Merry whispered and shook his finger, "No. No. Dead plant and all that. Don't think he'd understand. Could be a distant relative."

"Good point." Sara shrugged.

"I get it." Pippin smiled, "Don't be hasty."

"Exactly." Merry said as he put the pipe in his mouth and trying to sound like Treebeard said in his best Treebeard impression, "Bar-hrum."

Hysterical laughter from all the four echoed in the storeroom as Treebeard listened from outside in confusion.

At Helm's Deep, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Steve, Oliver, Haldir, Theoden, Eomer and Gamling rode out and looked to the East as lightning could be seen roaring there with an eerie evil glow.

Gimli sat behind Legolas, Oliver behind Aragorn and Steve behind Gandalf.

"Sauron's wrath will be terrible, his retribution swift." Gandalf announced to them all, "The Battle for Helm's Deep is over. The Battle for Middle-earth is about to begin."

"The fight of our lives." Steve said, "All of us must stand together to combat Sauron and his forces."

"All our hopes now lie with two little Hobbits and a young Woman. . . . . . somewhere in the wilderness." Gandalf finished as Steve looked concerned due to Gandalf's reference to Natasha, wondering how she was faring. Was she all right? Were Frodo and Sam with her? Such questions roamed around in his head.

"I believe it is time for us to return to Lothlorien." Haldir said as he rode up to Gandalf and Theoden, "Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel await our return as they fear the forces of darkness will soon knock on our doorstep. It was an honor to fight alongside all of you."

"This is farewell for now, Haldir." Gandalf said gracefully.

"We thank Lothlorien for its aid." Theoden said too in a grateful tone as Haldir nodded with a smile. His horse started walking away as he shared another knowing look with Oliver and both of them nodded at each other with smiles.

And then he rode away with the Galadhrim on the horses that the Rohirrim had provided as a gesture of gratefulness. Once the Galadhrim would reach Lothlorien, they would leave the horses which would return to Rohan as they would remember the path well.

"Now what?" Oliver asked.

"Now we will have words with Saruman." Gandalf said.

"He almost destroyed my people." Theoden said, "I will meet him as well."

"I believe all of us should go together." Aragorn said and Gandalf nodded.

"Saruman is the only one who can tell us where Sauron will strike next." Gandalf said before looking at the Five Hunters, "And I believe we all have old friends awaiting us there."

Chapter Text

Frodo, Sam, Natasha and Gollum had all been bound for Osgiliath. The sun was hidden underneath clouds that day.

"Look!" A Ranger called out, "Osgiliath burns!"

"Mordor has come." Faramir muttered.

"The Ring will not save Gondor." Frodo said pleadingly as he looked at Faramir while Natasha looked between the two, "It has only the power to destroy."

Faramir didn't reply as Frodo begged, "Please...let me go."

After a few moments of tense silence, Faramir ordered his Rangers, "Hurry!"

Frodo was led away as he pleaded, "Faramir! You must let me go!"

"Taking the Ring would make this even worse." Natasha told Faramir as he simply walked off.

As they walked into the city, it was clear this was a total mess. Natasha could now see why Boromir was always so tense. It was because of Osgiliath's condition.

The buildings were crumbling and there was debris littered all around. Soldiers of Gondor, all heavily armored with swords and shields in their hands, ran around in lines.

At the center of the city, someone was hurling gigantic rocks at them via catapults, though all of them fell into the River Anduin. Some of the soldiers were also firing arrows.

"Faramir!" A Ranger called Madril called out as he walked to Faramir, "Orcs have taken the eastern shore. Their numbers are too great. By nightfall we will be overrun."

Frodo was almost in a daze at this point. Sam and Natasha looked at him in concern.

"Mr. Frodo?"


"Sam. Natasha. It's calling to him. His Eye is almost on me!" Frodo gasped.

"Sauron?" Natasha asked and he nodded.

"Hold on, Mr. Frodo." Sam assured, "You'll be all right."

"I'll get you out of here." Natasha promised but at this point, Frodo was too dazed to even hear them. All he could see was their lips move. That was it.

"Take them to my father." Faramir said flatly to his Rangers, "Tell him Faramir sends a mighty gift. A weapon that will change our fortunes in this war."

"Your brother is one of the best Men I have met and this Ring almost drove him to do something he would never do!" Natasha snapped at Faramir, "You really think this will help you? You are mistaken!"


A rock slammed into one of the towers, bringing it crashing to the ground. Everyone else looked at the tower while Sam and Natasha looked at Frodo, who seemed disoriented and disorganized at this point.

"Mr. Frodo?" Sam called out.

"They're here." Frodo hissed in an odd tone that seemed faraway as Faramir looked at him, "They've come."

And then a terrifying screech went up in the air which Natasha immediately recognized. The same sond of chalks scraping on a blackboard, only a thousand times amplified. But everyone here knew what this was.

"NAZGUL!" Faramir roared at the top of his voice as Natasha looked up to see that evil creature that looked like a mix between a serpent and a dragon with the Nazgul on top.

Faramir grabbed Frodo and pulled him away as Sam and Natasha ran after them. Frodo's eyes were half-closed and unseeing. Or all-seeing maybe.

"That Nazgul must be affecting him." Natasha told Sam.

Faramir pulled Frodo into a destroyed building and ordered, "Stay here. Keep out of sight."

"Take cover!" Faramir then roared to his soldiers as he ran out.

As Natasha looked around for a way to escape, Frodo suddenly started moving away from the destroyed building in a zombie-like state.

"What are you doing?" Sam asked as Frodo walked out into the thick of the fighting, "Where are you going?"

"Frodo stop!" Natasha called out as she ran after him with Sam. Frodo's almost seemed like he was sleepwalking as he walked up a set of stone stairs and stood there, motionless.

As Sam and Natasha rushed towards him, the flying creature suddenly rose in front of Frodo, the Nazgul staring at him. Frodo suddenly held up the Ring.

Natasha flipped into the air and taking out her Elven dagger, slashed at the creature's face, making it roar in pain as it backed off while Sam rammed into Frodo, pushing both of them down some stairs to save him.

Frodo ended up above Sam and with a savage cry, drew Sting and put it right above Sam's throat.

"No Frodo! It's Sam!" Natasha said as she grabbed Frodo and pulled him off the gardener, "I know this is hard but I promise in my life, I'll get you out of this!

"It's me." Sam whispered as he stared pleadingly at Frodo and staggered up, "It's your Sam. Don't you know your Sam?"

The words of Natasha and Sam reached through to him as recognition flashed in his eyes. He was horrified at what he had almost done as he crumbled against a pillar and Sting dropped from his hand, hitting the floor with a 'clang.'

"You all right?" Natasha asked Sam.

"Yes I am. Mr. Frodo would never hurt me." Sam said.

"I can't do this." The two looked at him as he seemed horrified and confused.

"I know." Sam said with tears in his eyes as he got up, "It's all wrong. By rights, we shouldn't even be here!"

He stared at the fighting that was taking place and said, "But we are."

"There is no going back now." Natasha said.

"It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo." Sam said as the two looked at him, "The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end...because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was...when so much bad had happened?" But in the end, it's only a passing thing...this shadow."

Natasha was transfixed at Sam's speech at this point.

"Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer! Those were the stories that stayed with you...that meant something. Even If you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories...had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going...because they were holding on to something." Sam said passionately.

"What are we holding on to, Sam?" Frodo asked.

"The Shire." Natasha reminded him, "Your home. Your family. Everyone who cares about you."

Sam's speech was true. The Avengers had been torn apart by the Accords, Ross, Zemo and their own poor choices. And then another group of heroes from another Earth had been trapped in their world forever at the same time MODOK had launched his offensive. But that brought them back together and mended most of the fences between them.

Even in her own life, the Red Room had made her into a monster but Clint and Fury had given her a chance to turn it all around and now she had a family too. Bucky, her lover, Clint and Steve, her best friends, Wanda, her student, and everyone else including Tony and now Sara too. Plus, the two Hobbits were family too now. Darkness had passed in her life. It could pass in Middle-earth too.

"Sometimes darkness can show you the light." She said.

"There's some good in this world." Sam said as he walked up to Frodo and helped him up, "And it's worth fighting for!"

Natasha nodded in agreement.

"Right now it looks hopeless, but one day, everything will be back to normal again." Natasha told him.

The determination returned in Frodo's eyes.

That was when they saw Faramir approaching. But his expression was soft and gentle this time, full of compassion. He knelt down in front of Frodo and said, "I think at last we understand one another, Frodo Baggins."

"You know the laws of our country, the laws of your father!" Madril said behind him, "If you let them go, your life will be forfeit."

Faramir looked Madril in the eyes and finally said, "Then it is forfeit."

"Steve would get along well with you." Natasha said with a smile, realizing now Faramir reminded her of him to an extent.

"Release them." Faramir said to the Rangers who did as commanded.

Faramir led them through Osgiliath quickly and safely with Smeagol rejoining them. He stopped at a tunnel.

"This is the old sewer." Faramir said, "Runs right under the river through to the edge of the city. You'll find cover in the woods there."

"It leads back to Ithilien?" Natasha asked and he nodded.

"Captain Faramir. . ." Faramir looked over at Sam who now looked at him with respect shining in his eyes, ". . .You have shown your quality, sir. The very highest."

Faramir smiled, "The Shire must truly be a great realm, Master Gamgee...where gardeners are held in high honor."

Sam blushed as Natasha said, "Sam's right. You are just like another Captain I know."

"What road will you take once you reach the woods?" He asked them.

Frodo informed him, "Gollum says there's a path...near Minas Morgul that climbs up into the mountains."

"Cirith Ungol?" Faramir muttered as he then turned to Smeagol who was crawling away and grabbing him by the throat, slammed him to a wall, "Is that its name?"

"No! No!" Smeagol gasped when Faramir's hold tightened slightly, "Yes."

"Frodo. . . . . ." Faramir turned to the three, "They say a dark terror dwells in the passes above Minas Morgul. You cannot go that way."

"What're you planning?" Natasha asked Smeagol, having never stopped suspecting him.

"It is the only way!" Smeagol protested, "Master says we must go to Mordor, so we must try!"

Faramir looked at Frodo who said in determination, "I must."

Faramir released Smeagol and said genuinely, "Go, Frodo. Go with the goodwill of all Men."

"Thank you." Frodo said gratefully as he and Sam moved into the sewers. Smeagol made to follow them when Faramir suddenly grabbed him again and slammed him to the wall.

"May death find you quickly if you bring them to harm." Faramir threatened Smeagol who paled.

"Oh it will." Natasha said as she glared at him and he shrunk down under their gazes. Faramir then let him go and he crawled away, looking back at both of them fearfully.

"Thank you." Natasha said as she raised her hand, "And I mean it- Good luck. You'll need it."

"I believe you need it much more than I do, Lady Romanoff." Faramir said as the two shook hands.

That moment, Natasha took off the arrowhead pendant she wore in honor of her friendship with Clint and handed it to him, "I have three friends. All golden-haired. Steve Rogers. He has a shield and is dressed in blue. Oliver Queen, an archer dressed in green. And Sara Lance, a woman in a white suit who carries a blade. They are with Boromir, so I feel you'll meet them sometime. If you do, please give this to them. They need to know I'm all right."

"You have my word, Lady Romanoff." Faramir assured and she smiled gratefully. He then nodded at her and walked away as Natasha walked into the sewers, catching up with Frodo, Sam and Smeagol.

"Come on, keep up." Sam said to Smeagol as he fell down in exhaustion.

"Mr. Frodo didn't mean for them Rangers to hurt you." Sam told him, "You know that, don't you?"

As Smeagol looked up, Sam said, "He was trying to save you, see?"

"Save me?"

"Yes. And he did actually." Natasha said.

"So there's no hard feelings." Sam told him, "Forgive and forget."

"No, no, no hard feelings." Smeagol said and choked out, "Gollum, Gollum."

He crawled past them as he said, "Yes, master. Nice Hobbits. Nice woman. Very decent of you. Very decent, indeed, Gollum."

After some hours, they were back in Ithilien and on their path.

"I wonder if we'll ever be put into songs or tales." Sam mused out loud.

"What?" Frodo asked as he turned around to face them.

"I wonder if people will ever say, "Let's hear about Frodo and the Ring." And they'll say, "Yes! That's one of my favorite stories." "Frodo was really courageous, wasn't he, Dad?" "Yes, my boy. The most famousest of Hobbits. And that's saying a lot""

"Well, you've left out two of the chief characters: "Samwise the Brave" and "Natasha the Selfless."" Frodo said to both Sam's and Natasha's surprise and appreciation, "I want to hear more about Sam and Natasha."

"Selfless? Really?" Natasha chuckled.

"Oh you are selfless. You are here with us even though you don't have to." Sam said.

"Frodo wouldn't have got far without Sam and Natasha." Frodo whispered to both of them gratefully.

"Now, Mr. Frodo, you shouldn't make fun of me." Sam said, "I was being serious."

"So was I." Frodo smiled.

"You are very brave Sam! You invented your martial art, remember? The one with the frying pan!" Natasha told him and he seemed flattered.

Frodo walked in front of them as Sam muttered, """Samwise the Brave.""

Frodo had a smile on hearing that.

"Smeagol?" He then called out.

"We're not going to wait for you." Sam said.

"Come on." Natasha called out too.

"Hey, Gollum! Where are you?" Sam called out.

"Smeagol?" Frodo called out again.

And then Smeagol appeared in front of them from behind a tree, "Come on, Hobbits and Womanses. Long ways to go yet. Smeagol will show you the way. Follow me."

He then started leading the three on their path again as Frodo, Sam and Natasha walked after him.

In the Far East, Barad-dur and Mount Doom had eerie glows emanating from them as the Nazgul flew on their Fellbeasts and lightning cracked in the sky.

Chapter Text


Natasha ducked as the man wearing the white cowl and skull mask flew at her with a jetpack attached to him, trying to hit her with his sword.

Natasha ran across the collapsing bridge and as her opponent flew again, she leapt into the air and with a flip, landed on his back, grabbing onto him.

As he tried to shake her off, she punched him on the back of the head thrice. He almost flew her into the collapsing bridge but she elbowed the back of his head, making him fly down instead as she avoided the bridge.

"Been a while, Taskmaster." Natasha sneered as she held onto him.

He flew around and they both rammed into the side of a truck, slightly damaging them both but he kept flying and she didn't loosen her grip one bit, continuing to punch the back of his head as he avoided a falling cat, inadvertently saving her too.

As they reached the top of the bridge again, she rammed his face into the ground as he continued flying, damaging it. He stood back up straight, hovering in the air as she held him in a chokehold, "How do you like that, comrade?"

She then snatched a detonator from his pocket, "I'll take this."

She flipped off his back and landed on the bridge as he hovered in the air.

"You know, I have been looking forward to facing you." Taskmaster said as he held up his sword and shield.

"Funny. I never gave you a second thought." Natasha mocked as he flew at her and she ducked again.

She then took out her gun and fired but he blocked with his shield and flew at her, kneeing her away and flip kicking her before punching her face. She then grabbed his fist and kneed him before grabbing him and throwing both of them off the bridge as they landed on a lower level and he rolled away, crashing into a car.

He realized his jetpack was broken and angrily pushed the car away with his shield.

"What's the matter? Lost you jetpack?" Natasha mocked.

"Doesn't matter." He said as he held up another detonator, "I have this."

"Damn it!" She said as his sword lit up in flames and leaping up, he slammed it on the ground, the small fiery blast knocking her away.

She got back up and brandishing her batons, hit him twice in rotatory motions before flipping and grabbing his head between her legs, throwing him down. Both got up at the same time and he twirled his sword, trying to hit her as she barely dodged with her batons but was kicked away. She got back up and rushed him but he grabbed her fist and turning her around, pushed her back.

She tried to attack again but a gunshot hit her in the abdomen, making her gasp as she staggered back and slowly fell down. As her visions faded, she saw a blonde Russian woman dressed in another Black Widow suit looking down on her.

"Wake up! Wake up! Wake up, sleepies! We must go, yes! We must go at once!"

Natasha opened her eyes at Smeagol's voice. She wondered why she had seen her recent conflict again in her dream. Perhaps the Ring was trying to get to her again.

Their shelter was part of a ruined statue. As she managed to sit up, Sam, who had woken up next to her, asked Frodo, "Haven't you had any sleep, Mr. Frodo?"

Frodo shook his head as Sam said, "I've gone and had too much."

"I don't think I'd be sleeping again for a while." Natasha said.

Frodo looked pretty terrible to her. Of course the Ring was having an infinitely worse effect on him than on her. He was the Ringbearer after all. She was just in close vicinity to it.

"Must be getting late." Sam said as he looked out.

"No." Frodo said, "It isn't. It isn't midday yet. The days are growing darker."

"Closer proximity to Sauron does that I guess." Natasha said, "He is powerful even without this Ring. Which means he would be impossible to stop with it."

Suddenly, the ground rumbled around them and they all looked around in shock, looking for the source. Fortunately, it stopped in a few seconds.

"Come on!" Smeagol said in panic, "Must go! No time!"

"Not before Mr. Frodo's and Lady Romanoff had something to eat." Sam protested.

"No time to lose, silly." Smeagol said.

"I am fine, Sam." Natasha assured but he wasn't convinced.

He moved to the bags and pulled out some Lembas bread wrapped in the leaves, handing both of them pieces, "Here."

"What about you?" Frodo asked.

"You should eat too." Natasha told him.

"Oh, no, I'm not hungry." Sam shook his head, "Leastways, not for lembas bread."

Natasha chuckled as both she and Frodo took bites from their breads.

"Sam." Frodo urged.

"All right." Sam gave in, "We don't have that much left. We have to be careful or we're going to run out. Mr. Frodo, Lady Natasha. You go ahead and eat that. I've rationed it. There should be enough."

"For what?" Frodo asked.

"The journey home." Sam said and Natasha felt a pang in her again. Home? How would she get there once they were finished this? Would they even be in one piece? Because things weren't looking good for any of them right now.

Soon, the three of them were walking again, following Smeagol as he crawled and hopped around, guiding them to their destination.

"Come, Hobbitses and Womanses. Very close now. Very close to Mordor. No safe places here. Hurry."

"If we don't hurry, this entire world won't be safe." Natasha said, sending chills down everyone's spines, including her own as they continued on their way.

Chapter Text

Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Steve, Oliver, Theoden, Eomer, Gamling and the remainder of the Royal Guard rode to Orthanc the next day. Gimli sat behind Legolas as Steve sat behind Eomer while Oliver sat behind Gamling. The ride was mostly uneventful.

The memorial for the fallen had taken place a day ago. The defenders had all been laid in a mass pit together after the Uruk-hai corpses had been cleansed from the fortress. The Galadhrim had been laid with the Rohirrim as well due to their bravery in defending the Deeping Wall from the assault.

Eowyn and Legolas had both sang laments for the dead. The children who had been conscripted had hugged Rogers goodbye due to how kind and inspiring he had been for them.

The ride to Orthanc itself was fairly uneventful as the part of Fangorn that had arrived in front of the fortress had removed itself already. The forest was dark and gloomy as always. Some groans were also heard. But as long as they didn't insult it they'd be fine, the company mused.

"Is that Isengard?" Oliver asked and except Gandalf, all of them stared in shock.

Isengard was a wreck.

The area was completely water-logged and the remainder of some broken crevices were still visible. A massive tower with what looked like horns on its pinnacle stood at the center of the wreckage.

"I believe that is where Saruman hides." Steve said and Gandalf nodded in agreement.

"Who could have done this?" Theoden asked as he stared at the gaping hole in the stone wall surrounding the land.

"I think the gatekeepers will tell us." Oliver said as a smile formed on his lips and they noticed who were sitting on the remains of the Gatehouse.

"Welcome, my Isengard!" Merry said as he sprung up happily, holding a mug of ale in his hand with a pipe in his mouth. Next to him were Pippin, Boromir and Sara, all enjoying some of the meat, bread and cheese they had found. Pippin also had a mug of ale in his hand and a pipe in his mouth.

"Sara." Oliver said with a smile as he got off his horse and she got off the remains.

"Ollie." She said as the two rushed each other and to the surprise of everyone, kissed each other on the lips passionately.

"I was worried. Are you all right?" Oliver asked as he held her face to assure himself she was there.

She simply nodded happily, "I'm not going anywhere. I never will."

Now Oliver's emotional outbursts since Sara's abduction made even more sense to Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Steve.

The others decided it was best not to comment on that. Gimli was as glad as the others that Merry, Pippin, Boromir and Sara were safe and sound but he was envious of the enjoyment they appeared to be having.

"You young rascals!" He exclaimed, "A merry hunt you've led us on...and now we find you feasting and... and smoking!"

"We are sitting on a field of victory...enjoying a few well-earned comforts." Pippin said with a smile that was infuriatingly calm, "The salted pork is particularly good."

"Salted pork?" Gimli asked with a smirk.

An exasperated Gandalf rolled his eyes, "Hobbits."

"We're under orders from Treebeard...who's taken over management of Isengard." Merry explained.

"Boromir. Did you tell them looting is a war crime?" Steve asked Boromir jokingly with a smirk.

"I was planning to after I finished my ale, Steve." Boromir replied with a smirk of his own as the two soldiers renewed their bond.

"Well, I believe we all need one." Oliver said as him and Sara finally stopped gazing into each other's eyes.

"Do we have to confront the traitor now?" Gimli asked.

"I'm afraid so, Gimli." Gandalf said, "But we all can partake in our friends' bounty afterwards."

"Before we go, I have something for you, Boromir." Steve said as he got off his horse and walked up to Boromir. He then unstrapped Boromir's shield, which he had strapped with his own, and handed it to him, "I had it for safekeeping till we found you."

"I appreciate it, Steve." Boromir said happily as the two friends hugged each other.

"Are you all right, Boromir?" Aragorn asked, riding close to him.

Boromir avoided his gaze for a second as Steve said, "We know. Frodo told us. But it is nothing to be ashamed of."

"I gave in to the Ring's power." Boromir said in shame.

"I almost did too." Sara said, "The only reason I didn't is because you did first by one second."

"Frodo, Sam and Natasha escaped without any problem. You two saved Merry and Pippin. Whatever you did, you have redeemed yourself. Don't be ashamed." Oliver told Boromir.

"They saved me!" Boromir said, "In spite of the fact that I injured Sara, she pushed me out of the way of the first arrow and refused to move when the Uruk leader threatened to kill me. They helped me cut my bonds. And they supported me till Fangorn."

They all smiled at him in appreciation as Steve told Boromir, "This is Sauron's One Ring, Boromir. Magic like that isn't what you were trained for. Whatever you tried to do to Frodo and Sara wasn't on you. What you did to save Merry and Pippin and your role in the attack on Isengard is on you. You're one of the best Men I have met, Boromir."

Boromir smiled at him in appreciation as Aragorn got off his horse and putting a hand on Boromir's shoulder said, "Do not hold your head down on our accounts. Hold it high with pride because you are a brave Man."

Boromir smiled back and grasping Aragorn's shoulder vowed, "I will follow you to the end my brother, my captain, my King."

The two Men grasped each other's shoulders firmly as an understanding passed between their eyes while Gandalf couldn't help but feel proud. Everyone who had heard their argument on the way to Amon Hen now knew they had made up for it.

"I believe time is of the essence." Gandalf said and they all nodded. Pippin sat behind Aragorn as Merry sat behind Theoden himself. Boromir and Sara both got a Royal Guard respectively.

As they rode further in, a voice boomed, "Young Master Gandalf….hmmmm…..I'm glad you've come…..hmmmm…..Wood and water, stock and stone….I can master….But there is a wizard to manage here...hmmmm…...Iocked in his tower."

All in the company except Gandalf, Merry, Pippin, Boromir and Sara gave Treebeard odd looks, having seen an Ent for the first time. The awe on seeing him surpassed their awe on seeing the trees kill the escaping Uruks.

"You get used to it." Sara said simply.

"I do know one person who never will." Oliver told Sara and both snickered, knowing who he was referring to.

"Oh he would faint for a week probably." Sara said and the two snickered a bit more while the others wondered who he was talking about.

Steve had always considered Thor to be the more knowledgeable one about trees due to what he had told him of Yggdrasil the World Tree that held the Nine Realms together but he was sure even Thor would be surprised by the Ents of Middle-earth.

"Show yourself." Aragorn whispered to an absent Saruman.

"Be careful." Gandalf cautioned them all, "Even in defeat, Saruman is dangerous. His voice is dangerous to all of you."

"Well, let's just have his head and be done with it." Gimli suggested.

"Makes sense." Sara shrugged.

"No." Gandalf vetoed the idea, "We need him alive. We need him to talk."

As if on cue, Saruman appeared on the top of Orthanc, leaning on his staff.

"That's him?" Steve asked.

"That's him." Legolas confirmed, "He is an old man with a long face and high forehead, with deep darkling eyes which are hard to fathom, though the look they bare right now is grave and benevolent, and a little weary. His hair and beard are white, yet show strands of black on his lips."

"So like Mithrandir in appearance and yet so unlike." Gimli muttered.

"Sounds about right to me." Oliver said.

"Welcome, my friends." He said in a seemingly gracious voice, "Why do you disturb my rest? Will you give me no peace at all by night or day?"

His tone made him sound like he was the aggrieved party.

"But come now." Saruman's voice then spoke, "Two at least of you I know by name. Gandalf I know too well to have much hope that he seeks help or counsel here. But you, Theoden Lord of the Mark of Rohan are declared by your noble devices, and still more by the fair countenance of the House of Eorl. Oh worthy son of Thengel the Thrice-renowned! Why have you not come before, and as a friend? Much have I desired to see you again, mightiest king of western lands, and especially in these latter years, to save you from the unwise and evil counsels that beset you! Is it yet too late? Despite the injuries that have been done to me, in which the men of Rohan, alas! have had some part, still I would save you, and deliver you from the ruin that draws nigh inevitably, if you ride upon this road which you have taken. Indeed I alone can aid you now."

Theoden opened his mouth to speak but then said nothing as he first looked at Saruman and then Gandalf. The Riders of Rohan seemed to mutter in agreement before they too fell silent. Right now, they felt Gandalf was driving them to darkness and Saruman was the ray of light who would save them.

"Do not listen to him!" Steve spoke suddenly, remembering how the Ring had spoken to him and this was exactly how it had sounded. He also remembered Wanda's mind games back when she was very unstable due to the Mind Stone, remembering how wrong sounded right, "He is trying to trick you all!"

"In the language of Orthanc, help means ruin, and saving means slaying, that is plain." Gimli said in agreement with Rogers, "But we do not come here to beg."

"Peace!" Saruman said, and for a fleeting moment his voice was less suave, and a light flickered in his eyes and was gone, "Steven Rogers of America and Gimli Gloin's son. I do not speak to you yet."

Steve was shocked that Saruman knew this much about him as the former White Wizard continued, "Far away are your homes and small concern of yours are the troubles of this land. But it was not by design of your own that you became embroiled in them, and so I will not blame such parts as you have played, valiant ones, I doubt not. But I pray you, allow me first to speak with the King of Rohan, my neighbour, and once my friend."

Turning his full attention to Theoden, Saruman then spoke, "You have fought many wars and slain many men, Theoden King...and made peace afterwards. Can we not take counsel together as we once did, my old friend? Can we not have peace, you and I?"

"So that's the voice we were warned about." Oliver said as he looked up at Saruman, now deciding to take out his anger at the fallen Istari for abducting Sara, "You are nothing more than a liar with a suave tongue. No different from Merlyn, Ra's, Dahrk and Chase. And I am not going to let anyone be controlled by you any longer."

"If we speak of poisoned tongues what shall we say of yours, green serpent?" Saruman hissed, mocking Oliver's vigilante name as the anger in his eyes flashed visibly for a second, "You are a monster who slays anyone he thinks to be wrong and calls them enemies, and remain content. I believe you would understand such policies as you head your city now."

Oliver was horrified by how much Saruman knew about them as he continued, "So believe me when I say, the friendship of Saruman and the power of Orthanc cannot be lightly thrown aside, whatever grievances, real or fancied, may lie behind. You have won a battle but not a war and that with help on which you cannot count again. You may find the Shadow of the Wood at your own door next: it is wayward, and senseless, and has no love for Men."

"If killing those who gain power by stepping on others means we are monsters, then that is a good term." Sara spoke back to Saruman on Oliver's behalf, "Ollie never killed anyone if he had any other choice. He gave them a way out. Only if they didn't listen did he kill them. And the number of kills he has probably isn't even half as close to yours."

"Sara Lance. The woman who always flees due to the darkness inside her heart." Saruman smirked, making a chill run down her spine, "Tell me, if you cannot recognize your own self, how do you believe you know your friend so well?"

"Because we know each other better than we know ourselves." Oliver spoke to him this time, "You will never understand because you are the real monster."

"We shall have peace." Theoden then spoke thickly with effort and everyone feared Saruman had him under control again. But the anger flashing in Theoden's eyes proved what he thought of Saruman's 'friendly counsel.'

"We shall have peace when you answer for the burning of the Westfold and the children that lie dead there!" Theoden began listing Saruman's crimes as his Riders cheered happily but he held up his hand, "We shall have peace when the lives of the soldiers whose bodies were hewn even as they lay dead against the gates of the Hornburg, are avenged! We shall have peace when you tell my why your Orcs slew my son in a cowardly ambush!" He paused for a moment and finally said, "When you hang from a gibbet for the sport of your own crows, 'old friend', then we shall have peace!"

"Gibbets and crows?" Saruman hissed angrily, realizing he won't be able to control Theoden like before, "Dotard!" He spat out.

His anger then turned towards the individual he knew was responsible for his voice not working as it usually would, "What do you want, Gandalf Greyhame? Let me guess. The Key of Orthanc. Or perhaps the Keys of Barad-dur itself along with the crowns of the seven kings and the rods of the Five Wizards?!"

"Your treachery has already cost many lives." Gandalf said to Saruman calmly, "Thousands more are now at risk. But you could save them, Saruman. You were deep in the enemy's counsel."

"So you have come here for information." Saruman said, "I was wondering why you had to endure such company, grieving for you and feeling your shame. I have some information for you."

With that, he held up the Palantir in his left hand.

"Is that a crystal ball?" Steve asked.

"It is a Palantir, Steve." Gandalf told him, "A seeing stone. A dangerous tool even a Wizard shouldn't use lightly."

If Saruman had heard Gandalf, he didn't reply as he looked into the glowing Palantir, "Something festers in the heart of Middle-earth. Something that you have failed to see. But the Great Eye has seen it. Even now he presses his advantage. His attack will come soon. You're all going to die."

He then looked down at them all and said, "But you know this, don't you, Gandalf? These heroes from other worlds won't save you, even with all their power."

He then looked at Aragorn and said, "You cannot think that this Ranger will ever sit upon the throne of Gondor! This exile, crept from the shadows, will never be crowned king!"

He then looked at Boromir and said, "I'm sure you remain committed to your father, Lord Boromir. With Gondor sliding towards doom, I am sure you agree this exile is the last thing she needs."

Boromir flinched and Saruman was satisfied by the reaction.

He then looked at Steve, Oliver and Sara and said, "Or you believe them to be your saviors, Gandalf!"

He then spoke to everyone, "Gandalf does not hesitate to sacrifice those closest to him...those he professes to love. Tell me, what words of comfort did you give the Halflings and the Woman before you sent them to their doom? The path that you have set them on can only lead to death."

"Do not speak her name." Steve said to Saruman, slightly angered by his mention of Natasha.

"Captain America. Pretending he can live without a war." Saruman snorted in disgust and Steve felt chilled to his core as he remembered Ultron saying the same thing to him.

"I'VE HEARD ENOUGH!" Gimli boomed, "Shoot him. Stick an arrow in his gob."

Legolas was about to take out an arrow when Gandalf said, "No."

"You want to listen to my counsel still, don't you Gandalf?" Saruman asked with a smirk.

Gandalf asked, "What do you have to say now which you did not say in our last meeting? Or do you have to unsay what you said?"

"Unsay?" Saruman asked, seeming puzzled, "Unsay? I endeavoured to advise you for your own good, but you scarcely listened. You are proud and do not love advice, having indeed a store of your own wisdom. But on that occasion you erred, I think, misconstruing my intentions wilfully. I fear that in my eagerness to persuade you, I lost patience. And indeed I regret it. For I bore you no ill-will; and even now I bear none, though you return to me in the company of the violent and the ignorant. How should I? Are we not both members of a high and ancient order, most excellent in Middle-earth? Our friendship would profit us both alike. Much we could still accomplish together, to heal the disorders of the world. Let us understand one another, and dismiss from thought these lesser folk! Let them wait on our decisions! For the common good I am willing to redress the past, and to receive you. Will you not consult with me? Will you not come up?"

Saruman has used great power in his voice as he said that. Everyone in close vicinity was actually believing what he said. Gandalf would go meet him and then they would be punished.

Then Gandalf laughed and the fantasy vanished like a puff of smoke.

"Saruman, Saruman!" Gandalf said still laughing, "Saruman, you missed your path in life. You should have been the king's jester and earned your bread, and stripes too, by mimicking his counsellors. Ah me!" He paused, getting the better of his mirth as everyone else in the vicinity burst into mocking laughter, "Understand one another? I fear I am beyond your comprehension. But you, Saruman, I understand now too well. I keep a clearer memory of your arguments, and deeds, than you suppose. When last I visited you, you were the jailor of Mordor, and there I was to be sent. Nay, the guest who has escaped from the roof, will think twice before he comes back in by the door. Nay, I do not think I will come up."

He then said, "But I ask you one last time. Come down, Saruman and your life will be spared."

A shadow passed over Saruman's face and then it went deathly white, just like the color of his robes. This time when he spoke, his pride and hate were clear for all to hear.

"Save your pity and your mercy. I have no use for it!" Saruman roared as he released a jet of flame from the end of his staff. The jet engulfed Gandalf and Shadowfax as the others backed off a bit due to the intensity of the jet, in spite of wanting to help Gandalf.

"If you wish to treat with me, while you have a chance, go away, and come back when you are sober! And leave behind these cut-throats and small rag-tag that dangle at your tail! Good day!" Saruman spoke from above as he turned to leave.

Then, to everyone's amazement, the flames cleared and Gandalf was there on Shadowfax, both unscathed.

"Saruman!" Gandalf now intoned in a voice of doom and judgement, "I did not give you leave to go."

And then everyone was even more amazed as Saruman turned, looking like he had been dragged against his will by an invisible hand, and stood back on the top of Orthanc, holding his heavy black staff like a claw.

"You have become a fool, Saruman, and yet pitiable." Gandalf spoke to him, "You might still have turned away from folly and evil, and have been of service. But you choose to stay and gnaw the ends of your old plots. Stay then! But I warn you: you will not easily come out again. Not unless the dark hands of the East stretch out to take you, Saruman!" He cried, and his voice grew in power and authority, "Behold, I am not Gandalf the Grey, whom you betrayed. I am Gandalf the White, who has returned from death. You have no color now, and I cast you from the order and from the Council."

He then raised his hand and spoke in a calm, cold voice, "Saruman, your staff is broken."

There was a crack and then Saruman's staff split asunder in his hand as he clutched it reflexively with the other to soothe his cuts. The head of the staff fell at Gandalf's feet as Oliver said, "You still have anything to say, asshat?"

"Language!" Steve said this time with a smirk and both chuckled.

"Looks like things are getting back to normal." Sara said.

"Saruman, you have failed your duty!" Oliver announced to him as everyone nodded in agreement while Saruman fumed.

"Go!" Gandalf then cried and Saruman left the scene, seething with anger.

"I had hoped he would talk." Gandalf said before telling the others, "Send word to all our allies and to every corner of Middle-earth that still stands free. The enemy moves against us. We need to know where he will strike."

That was when something blue and heavy fell on the ground from the window on the balconies above. It fell just a few feet from Gandalf as water splashed around.

Pippin ran after it and picked it up as Aragorn called out to him, "Pippin!"

"The murderous rogue!" Eomer cried.

"I do not think this was thrown by Saruman or even at his bidding." Gandalf said, "A parting shot from Master Wormtongue, I fancy, but ill-aimed."

"It was ill-aimed I believe because Wormtongue could not decide who he hated more, you or Saruman." Aragorn told him.

"Evil always betrays evil." Steve said, "Though if any of them somehow come out of Orthanc alive, it will be more than they deserve."

"The filth of Saruman...hmmmm… washing away." Treebeard spoke, "Trees will come back to live here…..hmmmmm…..Young trees….hmmmmm….Wild trees."

That was when everyone noticed what Grima had actually thrown. It was in Pippin's hands still.

"Bless my bark!" Treebeard said.

"Isn't that the Palantir you talked about?" Steve asked.

"It is not a think he should have cast away." Gandalf said before Shadowfax walked up to Pippin, "Peregrin Took! I'll take that, my lad. Quickly, now."

Pippin seemed a little reluctant but he gave the Palantir to Gandalf who wrapped it under the folds of his robe.

"He may have other things to cast!" Gimli said, "If that is the end of the debate, let us go out of stone's throw at least."

"If they throw anything else, they will just prove themselves to be the sore losers they are." Sara said truthfully.

As they started moving back to the ruined Gatehouse, Treebeard said, "You must go ere nightfall."

"What about the ale?" Gimli asked.

"I believe it is better we have it in Edoras now." Gandalf said.

"Right you are, Gandalf. I do not wish to stay here as long as Saruman resides." Theoden said.

"Apologies, Your Majesty. We could not fulfill our promise." Merry said regretfully.

Theoden laughed for the first time in days at Merry's touching innocence and said, "You have nothing to apologize for, Master Meriadoc. You and your friends have taught Saruman a great lesson."

"He needed one really." Sara shrugged.

"We must go now." Gandalf said before telling Treebeard, "I fear that I must take your gatekeepers from you. But you will manage well enough without them."

"Maybe I shall." Treebeard said, "But I shall miss them. We have become friends in so short a while that I think I must be getting hasty….hmmmm…growing backwards towards youth, perhaps…hmmmmm…But there, they are the first new thing under Sun or Moon that I have seen for many a long, long day…hmmmm….I shall not forget them. I have put their names into the Long List. Ents will remember it…hmmmm…Fare you well! But if you hear news up in your pleasant land….hmmmmm…in the Shire, send me word! You know what I mean: word or sight of the Entwives. Come yourselves if you can!"

"We will!" Merry and Pippin said together.

"If we spot one near Gondor, you will know." Boromir said too.

"Same." Sara said for now, "We will miss you as well, Treebeard."

"Yes, you are a good friend to us." Boromir said in agreement.

"Goodbye, Treebeard." Merry and Pippin said together again as they, Boromir and Sara waved to him.

He waved back, "Fare you well, my friends."

They turned and rode away, one by one, and soon, only Gandalf was left.

"Saruman wouldn't leave then?" Treebeard asked him.

"No." Gandalf said, "But you have not plotted to cover all the world with your trees and choke all other living things. But there it is, Saruman remains to nurse his hatred and weave again such webs as he can. He has the Key of Orthanc. But he must not be allowed to escape."

"Indeed no! Ents will see to that…hmmmm…" Treebeard said. "Saruman shall not set foot beyond the rock, without my leave. Ents will watch over him…hmmmmm…"

"Good!" Gandalf said, "That is what I hoped. Now I can go and turn to other matters with one care the less. But you must be wary. The waters have gone down. It will not be enough to put sentinels round the tower, I fear. I do not doubt that there were deep ways delved under Orthanc, and that Saruman hopes to go and come unmarked, before long. If you will undertake the labour, I beg you to pour in the waters again; and do so, until Isengard remains a standing pool, or you discover the outlets. When all the underground places are drowned, and the outlets blocked, then Saruman must stay upstairs and look out of the windows."

"Leave it to the Ents!" Treebeard said, "We shall search the valley from head to foot and peer under every pebble. Trees are coming back to live here, old trees, wild trees. The Watchwood we will call it. Not a squirrel will go here, but I shall know of it. Leave it to Ents! Until seven times the years in which he tormented us have passed, we shall not tire of watching him."

Gandalf nodded and then he rode away as well, parting ways with Treebeard and the Ents finally.

And with that, the company rode away from Isengard.

Chapter Text

With Saruman and his Uruk-hai defeated, there was a celebration at Edoras.

Eowyn stood in front of Theoden and presented to him his goblet. He took it from her and raising it rumbled, "Tonight we remember those who gave their blood to defend this country. Hail the victorious dead!"

"HAIL!" Everyone echoed with raised goblets and drank together.

"I would also like to welcome out guest, Boromir, Captain of Gondor's forces who helped in the assault on Isengard itself." Theoden said with raised glasses and all cheered for Boromir who raised his own glass.

This part was more formality really as Boromir was son of Gondor's Steward.

As the festivities continued, Legolas, Gimli and Steve were introduced to a good new game by Eomer- the drinking game!

"No pauses. No spills." Eomer laid out the rules as a crowd of Rohirrim surrounded them all.

"And no regurgitation." Gimli added as he lifted his mug.

"I trust you're a fair judge." Steve said to Eomer.

"Don't worry about it." Eomer said.

"So it's a drinking game?" Legolas asked as he looked at all the stacked ale.

"Aye!" The men said.

"Last one standing wins." Gimli said.

With that, the drinking game began as the three drank from their mugs.

Oliver was sitting in a corner, having declined to be part of the drinking game. Sara arrived next to him and took a seat.

"You seem….gloomy." Sara commented.

"Wouldn't be me if I wasn't." Oliver joked and they chuckled.

Sara then started, "About the-"

"I know." Oliver said, "What about it?"

"It felt…"


"Yeah. Really good." Sara said.

"I let you face your darkness alone twice." Oliver said, "I have never regretted anything more than that."

"And I have never regretted anything more than making the same mistake twice." Sara said, "My life has been full of bad choices, Ollie, but you were not one of them."

Oliver smiled, "Even when you left, I never stopped loving you. My feelings for Felicity…..they weren't really feelings. I just wanted a connection, so I transferred my feelings for you to her."

"I never stopped loving you either. It was just myself I was afraid of." Sara said, "But now that I managed to barely resist the Ring, not anymore."

"I was worried for you." Oliver said, "I couldn't bear to lose you again."

"I can take care of myself." Sara said and both chuckled, "Even if I couldn't, Merry, Pippin and Boromir are capable people."

"So if we get back home, you'll stay in Star City?" Oliver asked.

"Yeah. Yeah." Sara said, "The Legends can do without me. It's my home that needs me."

With that, the two kissed each other passionately, resuming their relationship which was among the few good things in their life.

At a small distance from Oliver and Sara, Eowyn presented Aragorn with a goblet from which he drank. Aragorn nodded at her with a smile and walked off as Theoden arrived next to her.

"I am happy for you. He is an honorable man." Theoden said to his niece.

"You are both honorable men." She assured him.

"It was not Theoden of Rohan who led our people to victory." Theoden said as Eowyn looked at him interestingly.

Noticing her expression, he said, "Don't listen to me. You are young. And tonight is for you."

Legolas, Gimli and Steve were still continuing their drinking game, having downed several mugs of ale by now.

"Here, here. It's the Dwarves that go swimming with little, hairy women." Gimli said after downing another mug.

"I feel something." Legolas said as Gimli, Steve and Eomer shot him odd looks, "A slight tingle in my fingers. I think it's affecting me."

"What did I say? He can't hold his liquor." Gimli laughed before slumping off his chair due to his drunkenness.

"Well, you win Legolas." Steve said.

"But you're still standing." Legolas said.

"I don't get drunk." Steve said.

"I can see that." Eomer said, "You seem to be a man of great temperance."

"No, due to my physiology, I cannot get drunk." Steve said and they both gapped.

"What?" Eomer asked, "Then why were you part of the game?"

"Just like the taste of your ale. It's good." Steve said before turning to Legolas, "You're the winner."

"Well then." Legolas said, "Game over."

Merry and Pippin were dancing together on the table and singing with gusto as a drunk crowd watched them, clapping and laughing.

"Oh, you can search far and wide

You can drink the whole town dry

But you'll never find a beer so brown

But you'll never find a beer so brown

As the one we drink in our hometown

As the one we drink in our hometown

You can drink your fancy ales

You can drink 'em by the flagon

But the only brew for the brave and true."

Pippin stopped and looked at Gandalf for a moment, annoying Merry a bit.

"Pippin!" Merry called out to his cousin and Pippin realized he had stopped so they continued the song.

"But the only brew for the brave and true

Comes from The Green Dragon."

They knocked their mugs together as the crowd cheered and Gandalf chuckled and clapped.

Steve, Oliver and Sara arrived next to him.

"They seem to be good at being jesters." Oliver joked and they all laughed.

"Certainly not forced jokes like Felicity." Sara said and her and Oliver laughed again.

"Well, we all need some humor in our lives." Steve said.

That was when Aragorn arrived and stood next to them.

"No news of Frodo, Sam and Natasha?" He asked.

"No word. Nothing." Gandalf said and the mood turned somber again.

"We have time." Aragorn said, "Every day, Frodo, Sam and Natasha move closer to Mordor."

"And closer to danger." Steve concluded too.

"If we want to win this, we'll have to let them get closer to danger unfortunately." Oliver said.

"Do we know that?" Gandalf asked them.

"If Merry and Pippin are anything to go by, I think Hobbits are persistent enough in the face of odds." Sara said.

"I agree." Steve said, "If Sam was a candidate for Project Rebirth, I'd still be a scrawny kid from Brooklyn."

Everyone snickered a bit but they knew Steve meant what he was saying.

"What does your heart tell you?" Aragorn asked Gandalf.

"That Frodo, Sam and Natasha are alive." Gandalf said, "Yes. Yes, they're alive."

"It'd take much worse than this to do anything to Natasha." Steve said, "She's alive. I don't know but I can just…feel it."

A few hours later, the feast had wound up. Most guests were dozing within the main hall and whatever floor space they got.

Aragorn found Eowyn sleeping but her blanket had come off a bit and the fire near her was almost out. Aragorn adjusted the logs and covered Eowyn with blankets again as she asked in a whisper, "What time is it?"

"Not yet dawn." Aragorn said and turned to walk away when she grabbed his hand, making him turn back around.

"I dreamed I saw a great wave..." She trailed off, "Climbing over green lands and above the hills. I stood upon the brink. It was utterly dark in the abyss before my feet. A light shone behind me...but I could not turn. I could only stand there, waiting."

Aragorn knelt down as a tear rolled down her cheek.

"Night changes many thoughts." Aragorn told her, "Sleep, Eowyn. Sleep...while you can."

She closed her eyes as he held her hand for a bit till she went to sleep again.

Aragorn walked into the front porch of the Meduseld where he found Legolas and Steve. The former was wearing his Elven hood.

He walked next to them with his pipe in his hands as Steve said, "We came here so as to not wake the others."

"Wise choice my friend." Aragorn said, "I heard you couldn't get drunk."

The two chuckled as Steve said, "That's why Legolas won."

"I hear Gimli is still down from all the drinking." Aragorn said and they laughed for a bit.

"The stars are veiled." Legolas suddenly said as if in a trance, "Something stirs in the east. A sleepless malice."

He turned his gaze to Aragorn and Steve, "The Eye of the enemy is moving."

Pippin got up in the Main Hall and passed over the sleeping guests, walking to where Gandalf was.

"What are you doing?"

A startled Pippin turned around to see Merry was awake. Pippin walked to where Gandalf was sleeping as Merry called out to him, "Pippin! Pippin?"

Pippin gasped as he saw Gandalf's eyes were wide open but he didn't seem to notice him. Pippin waved his hand in front of him and got no response. He realized Gandalf slept with his eyes open. The only ones in Middle-earth who could were the Istari and the Elves.

Pippin was about to take the wrapped up Palantir under his arm when his lips moved but Pippin realized he was just mumbling in his sleep.

"Pippin." Merry called out again.

Pippin picked up a round vase and taking away the Palantir, put the vase underneath Gandalf again.

"What, are you mad?" Merry asked as Pippin unwrapped the Palantir.

"I just want to look at it." Pippin said, "Just one more time."

"Put it back." Merry warned as Pippin touched it with a smile, "Pippin."

As Pippin looked at it, a flame lit up inside. At first, everything was normal but then the flame revealed itself to be the Eye of Sauron and Pippin gasped in horror and shook violently.

"No! Pippin!" Merry called out in concern as Pippin stood up with the Palantir still in his hands, unable to free himself as the Eye of Sauron tortured him through the Palantir.

Legolas' eyes widened, alarming Aragorn and Steve.

"What is it?" Steve asked.

Legolas looked at them ominously and said, "He is here."

Merry watched in horror as the Palantir threw Pippin to the ground while he convulsed violently.

"I see you." Sauron's voice spoke.

"Pippin!" Merry called out in concern before shouting, "Help! Gandalf, help! Someone help him! Pippin!"

Gandalf woke up at that moment and so did Boromir, Oliver and Sara while the door burst open and in came Aragorn, Legolas and Steve.

Steve dashed towards Pippin and effortlessly pulled the Palantir from his grip. But then his vision was drawn into it. He could see only the Eye of Sauron just like Oliver had when he had looked into Galadriel's mirror. But he had only seen a vision while Steve was seeing the actual eye. No matter how hard he tried, he failed to let it go.

"You think you can lead the Free Peoples to victory?" Sauron's voice mocked, "You are nothing but a liar who broke his team selfishly. The Free Peoples will lose their trust in you and you will be broken."

Steve gritted his teeth hard, trying to not let Sauron's words get to him.

"You…are…wrong!" Steve said with gritted teeth as he wrestled with the Palantir, "As long as one man stands against you, Sauron, you will never be able to claim victory."

He fell back but Aragorn and Legolas jumped to his aid while the Palantir slipped from his hand and rolled away. A terrified Merry stepped out of its way as it rolled towards Boromir, Oliver and Sara but Gandalf threw a blanket on it just as the Eye of Sauron vanished.

"Fool of a Took!" Gandalf said angrily.

"You all right?" Oliver asked as he rushed Steve who was supported by Aragorn and Legolas. He seemed shaken from his battle of wills with Sauron, which seemed to have ended on a draw.

Steve perspired and panted but managed to nod, "I will be."

Seeing Steve didn't need his attention, Gandalf ran to Pippin and pushed Merry away. Pippin seemed to be prone and unmoving. But Gandalf held his hand and said, "Look at me."

Pippin suddenly moved and whispered, "Gandalf, forgive me."

He looked away.

"Look at me!" Gandalf said more forcefully and he did this time, "What did you see?"

"A tree." Pippin said as his eyes shut for a moment, "There was a white a courtyard of stone."

He then said in a horrified tone as he stared up at Gandalf, "It was dead."

A look of horror came upon Boromir's face.

"The city was burning." Pippin said.

"Minas Tirith?!" He asked, "Is that what you saw? The White Tree was burning?"

But Pippin was unhearing as he said in a scared tone, looking like he was about to cry, "I saw...I saw him. I could hear his voice in my head."

"And what did you tell him?" Gandalf asked gently, though his tone was urgent, "Speak!"

"He asked me my name." Pippin said, "I didn't answer. He hurt me."

"What did you tell him about Frodo and the Ring?" Gandalf asked as Pippin shuddered and looked at him with his wide blue eyes, all of his honesty showing.

Gandalf sighed and got back up, "We need to hold a council as soon as the sun shines."

Chapter Text

Frodo, Sam, Natasha and Smeagol were sleeping in a swampy area surrounded by several twisted trees and rocks and covered in moss. Nearby was a small stream and pool of water which reflected the full moon on its surface.

Natasha once again had trouble sleeping, though she had noticed this time Frodo had managed to sleep, thankfully.

She had managed to close her eyes and sleep for some time until Smeagol's voice had woken her up. He seemed to be muttering something to himself. She couldn't make it out properly.

And then his voice seemed to get even quieter as he moved to a distance and muttered random things to himself which she couldn't make out.

And then he said loudly in an irritating tone, "And take it for me!"

What? Take 'it' for himself? What was this thing? He was up to something. She turned and with eyes open, looked at him as he said, now a bit louder, "For us."

He then seemed to change his tone, "Yes. We meant "for us." Gollum. Gollum."

He then threw a stone into the water and said, "The precious will be ours...once the Hobbitses and womanses are dead!"

He meant to kill them?! She knew it!

But before she could do anything, she saw Sam, who had now woken up, run up behind Smeagol, "You treacherous little toad!"

He decked Gollum hard across the head, sending him to the ground as Natasha got up, "Sam wait!"

"No! No! Master!" Smeagol shrieked as Sam wrapped a hand around his throat in a rage.

That was when Frodo got up and ran at them, pulling Sam off of Smeagol, "No, Sam! Leave him alone!"


"I heard it too." Natasha said as she moved towards them, glaring at Smeagol.

"Never!" Smeagol lied, "Smeagol wouldn't hurt a fly."

"Yeah, good acting, but I'm not falling for your bullshit." Natasha sneered as Smeagol touched his head and then looked at his hand, seeing a small drop of blood. He screamed in horror and pointing at Sam and Natasha said, "He's a horrid, fat Hobbit... and she is a horrid, evil woman….who hate Smeagol...and who makes up nasty lies!"

"You miserable little maggot!" Sam roared as he ran at Gollum who backed off and hid, "I'll stove your head in!"

"Sam!" Frodo pulled him back.

"Call me a liar? You're a liar!" Sam roared as Gollum screamed.

"You scare him off, we're lost!" Frodo said as he pulled Sam back.

"I don't care!" Sam said, "I can't do it, Mr. Frodo. I won't wait around for him to kill us!"

Sam's outburst was now a strain to the credibility of his statement unfortunately, Natasha mused. Normally, Frodo would be reasonable enough to know Sam was speaking the truth. But the Ring's hold over him was growing stronger day by day.

And Sam hadn't really treated Gollum well right from the start. So these two factors, combined with this outburst, worked against him.

But even if Gollum could fool Frodo, he won't fool her. Now she knew what he was up to. And she would expose him.

Of course they would still need him till Mordor, but when he would be exposed, Frodo would for sure not believe anything he says. Which was what she needed.

"I'm not sending him away." Frodo told Sam.

"You don't see it, do you?" Sam asked, "He's a villain."

"We can't do this by ourselves, Sam. Not without a guide." Frodo said.

"Frodo's right about that." Natasha said.

"I need you on my side." Frodo requested Sam.

"I'm on your side, Mr. Frodo." Sam assured.

"I know, Sam. I know." Frodo told him, "Trust me."

He then beckoned to Gollum, "Come, Smeagol."

Gollum hopped back towards them as Frodo held out his hand. Gollum grasped it and Frodo led him away. He looked back at Sam and Natasha and smirked.

Sam smirked back as Natasha gave him a glare which made him turn away in fear.

"I know you were telling the truth, Sam." Natasha told the Hobbit, "But the Ring's hold over Frodo is growing strong so he is not as reasonable as he'd normally be."

"What should we do then, Lady Natasha?" Sam asked.

"You don't need to do anything." Natasha told him, "But now that I know what he's up to, he won't be doing anything."

Sam smiled and nodded, knowing Gollum trying to fool Natasha would be a disaster for him.

"In that case, I can't wait to see what you do." Sam said as the two followed Frodo and Natasha.

Just a few days later, the four of them were stumbling through a thick underbrush near Mordor.

"It must be getting near teatime." Sam mused, "Leastways, it would be in decent places where there is still teatime."

"We're not in decent places." Smeagol said as Sam rolled his eyes.

"Thanks for the reminder." Natasha said sarcastically.

The two then noticed Frodo's expression was vacant.

"Mr. Frodo?" Sam called out.

"Frodo?" Natasha called out too.

"What is it?" Sam asked.

"It's just a feeling." Frodo said, "I don't think I'll be coming back."

"Why do you think that?" Natasha asked curiously in concern.

"I…I just think that." Frodo said.

"Yes, you will. Of course you will." Sam assured him, "That's just morbid thinking. We're going there and back again...just like Mr. Bilbo. You'll see."

"You sure will." Natasha said, "We won't leave you behind! Never! Tony thought he'd never come back when he flew up with the nuke to defeat the Chitauri. Steve never thought he would come back from the destruction of the Helicarriers. Tony and Thor never thought they would come back from destroying Novi Grad to save the world. I thought I'd never come back from fighting Taskmaster and Yelena one last time. Yet, all of us came back. And you will too."

Later, after they had all climbed from the underbrush, they came upon a tall statue that looked a lot like the pair at the Argonath. Except this one had been vandalized by Orcs. Its head had what appeared to be a steel, crudely made bear-trap. The Orcs had replaced the actual head with that. There were red scrawls all over this statue too.

"Anyone else reminded of the Argonath statues?" Natasha mused.

"Yes." Frodo said, "I think these lands were once part of the kingdom of Gondor. Long ago, when there was a king."

As they walked, the sun suddenly started shining, which was a rare thing these days.

"Mr. Frodo, Lady Natasha look!" Sam suddenly said as he pointed at something.

They turned to see the actual head of the statue lying on the ground. But now, this head had been covered in flowers bathed in sunlight.

"The king has got a crown again." Sam said.

"It's beautiful." Natasha smiled.

Then the light dimmed and faded away. The path was dark again and the flowers bathed in sunlight seemed to disappear too.

"Come on, Hobbits, womanses!" Gollum said as he appeared in front of them, "Mustn't stop now. This way."

He crawled in the front as the three walked after him, Natasha still thinking of the right moment to catch him in the act.

Chapter Text

After the events of the night, a war council was held in the main hall. In attendance were Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir, Steve, Oliver, Sara, Merry, Pippin, Theoden, Eomer, Eowyn, Gamling and some high ranking Rohirrim.

"There was no lie in Pippin's eyes." Gandalf told everyone present, "A fool...but an honest fool he remains. He told Sauron nothing of Frodo and the Ring."

Pippin looked down in shame but Sara put a supportive hand on his shoulder.

"We've been strangely fortunate." Gandalf told everyone, "Pippin saw in the Palantir a glimpse of the enemy's plan. Sauron moves to strike the city of Minas Tirith. His defeat at Helm's Deep showed our enemy two things."

Gandalf directed his attention to Aragorn and spoke, "He knows the heir of Elendil has come forth. Men are not as weak as he supposed. There is courage still, strength enough perhaps to challenge him."

He then looked at Steve, Oliver and Sara, "And he knows he underestimated the visitors from another world. He knows that a person like Steve Rogers can inspire hope in others and him and Aragorn together will be a threat."

He then brought his analysis to a conclusion, "Sauron fears this. He will not risk the peoples of Middle-earth uniting under one banner. He will raze Minas Tirith to the ground...before he sees a king return to the throne of Men."

He turned to Theoden and said, "If the beacons of Gondor are lit, Rohan must be ready for war."

"Tell me..." Theoden shot Boromir a look for a second. "...Why should we ride to the aid of those who did not come to ours? What do we owe Gondor?"

Boromir looked angry but bit his lip.-

"I will go." Aragorn said.

"No!" Gandalf dissuaded him.

"They must be warned!" Aragorn protested.

"They will be." Gandalf said.

"Aragorn, I told you I would follow you to the end and I will. But I must go to warn my father." Boromir said.

"Yes, you will be the one to go." Gandalf said, "And I will come with you."

Gandalf then walked up to where Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Oliver stood and whispered to the Heir of Isildur, "You must come to Minas Tirith by another road. Follow the river. Look to the black ships."

He then said to everyone, "Understand this: Things are now in motion that cannot be undone. I ride for Minas Tirith with Boromir...and we won't be going alone."

He looked at Pippin as he said this.

"Of course you aren't." Steve said as they all turned to him, "With Sauron's power growing and Gondor being his target, I believe one of us should be there too."

He looked to Oliver and Sara, who seemed to agree with him.

"I will go." Steve said to them, "Is your invitation still open, Boromir?"

"Of course it is, Steve." Boromir said with a smile.

"May Rohan choose wisely when the time comes." Gandalf said.

"Be careful, Boromir." Sara said as she hugged him and he hugged her back.

"I will. I look forward to meeting you there." Boromir said and she smiled.

Oliver walked up to Steve and the two shook hands.

"I had no idea the vortex would send me to your world and then this." Oliver said, "But I'm glad now that it did."

"So am I." Steve simply said, "Though I hope we find a way back soon."

"Are you all right?" Sara asked him, remembering his battle of wills with Sauron the previous night.

"Shaken, yeah. But I'll be better." Steve said, "Sauron will soon know that I can do this all day."

Gandalf later led Steve, Boromir, Merry, Pippin and Sara towards the Royal Stables. Merry and Sara were only there to see them off.

"Of all the inquisitive Hobbits, Peregrin Took, you are the worst." Gandalf said in annoyance, "Hurry! Hurry!"

"Where are we going?" Pippin asked.

"To Minas Tirith, Pippin." Boromir told him gently.

"To keep Rohan safe." Steve said.

"Why did you look?" Merry asked his cousin, "Why do you always have to look?"

"I don't know. I can't help it." Pippin said.

"You never can." Merry said bitterly.

"Curiosity can kill the cat you know." Sara said, "Looking into dangerous things always puts your life in danger."

"I'm sorry, all right?" Pippin said as the rest walked further, "I won't do it again."

"We know you won't." Sara said in a soft tone, "But doing it right now had consequences."

"Don't you understand?" Merry asked him, "The enemy thinks you have the Ring. He's going to be looking for you, Pip. They have to get you out of here."

"And you...? You're coming with me?" Pippin asked as Merry and Sara walked further.

"Merry?" He called out.

"Come on." Merry said.

"I think we should to try to be softer." Sara said to Merry, "He did suffer last night."

"How far is Minas Tirith?" Pippin asked as Gandalf put him on Shadowfax.

"Three days' ride, as the Nazgl flies." Gandalf said before whispering, "And you better hope we don't have one of those on our tail."

He stepped back as Boromir prepared his own horse, "Will you ride with me, Rogers?"

"No. I will run." Steve said, confusing him. Of course Boromir still hadn't seen him keeping up with horses.

"Here." Merry said as he handed something to Pippin, "Something for the road."

"The last of the Longbottom Leaf." Pippin said in shock as he looked at it.

"I know you've run out." Merry said before joking, "You smoke too much, Pippin."

"But... But we'll see each other soon." Pippin said, "Won't we?"

"I don't know." Merry said as he stepped back while Gandalf climbed Shadowfax, "I don't know what's going to happen."

"Goodbye, Pippin." Sara said in a sad tone.

"Merry. Sara."

"Run, Shadowfax." Gandalf said, "Show us the meaning of haste."

"Steve will redefine it." Sara joked.

"Merry! Merry!" Pippin called out as Shadowfax galloped away and behind them Boromir's horse galloped away with the Steward's son on it. And then Steve ran after them at full speed, effortlessly keeping up, shocking Boromir.

Merry stared at the stable doors for a moment before dashing up to the gates of Edoras!

"Merry wait!" Sara said as she dashed after him.

"Merry!" Aragorn suddenly called out as he appeared on the scene and dashed after the two.

Merry stared out at the plains, watching the riders and Rogers until they were out of sight.

"He's always followed me...everywhere I went...since before we were tweens." Merry whispered fondly and sadly, "I would get him into the worst sort of trouble...but I was always there to get him out. Now he's gone. Just like Frodo and Sam."

"He will be all right. Gandalf, Steve and Boromir will protect him." Sara said, feeling Merry's pain as she remembered losing her own sister, "You two will be reunited."

"One thing I have learned about Hobbits:" Aragorn said, "They're a most hardy folk."

"Foolhardy, maybe. He's a Took!"

For 3 days and nights, Gandalf, Pippin and Boromir rode for Gondor while Steve ran with them. They had very little rest at best, though fortunately for Pippin, he could afford to sleep during the ride as well. They passed through forests, plains and hills.

On the dawn of the third day, they crossed a shallow and slow-moving part of a river as Boromir grinned while Pippin woke up.

"We've just passed into the realm of Gondor!" Gandalf said.

"We just passed the Mering Stream- the northern border between Gondor and Rohan!" Boromir said.

"I believe we will reach soon." Steve said.

Just after noon that very day, they came upon the city at the base of the mountains. Minas Tirith was built on seven levels, each delved into the hill, and about each was set a wall, and in each was a gate. But the gates were not set in a line: the Great Gate in the City wall was at the east point of the circuit, but the next faced half south, and the third half north, and so to and fro upwards; so the paved way that climbed toward the citadel turned this way and that and then that across the face of the hill. It truly was the White City.

"Minas Tirith." Gandalf said, "City of kings."

"It is beautiful." Steve said and Boromir smiled in appreciation.

"I believe you should share Boromir's steed, Steven." Gandalf said, "The Steward doesn't know what you are capable of."

"I understand." Steve said as he then sat behind Boromir on his horse.

Boromir said in good humor, "I do not want anything to draw away Minas Tirith's attention from my glorious return to it."

The four laughed as they continued riding.

The Great Gate was the entrance to Minas Tirith's first level. The sentries had recognized their Captain—General and excitedly opened the gates to see he also had with him Mithrandir the White Rider. Though they did know what to make of the Halfling and the man dressed in blue.

Boromir had instructed to send word to the Steward his father that him and his companions requested an immediate audience.

The four passed the first six levels, passing alleys, marketplaces and passageways as Gandalf said in one particularly crowded area, "Make way!"

The entire citadel was something else entirely. Soon they reached the top level and the courtyard, which was neat and clean. As they got off, Pippin noticed something.

"It's the tree!" He gasped as the others looked at what he had seen, "Gandalf! Gandalf!"

"Yes, the White Tree of Gondor." Gandalf said, "The tree of the king."

He then looked at Boromir apologetically and said, "Lord Denethor, however, is not king. He is a steward only, a caretaker of the throne."

Steve remembered Boromir had told him about the Downfall of Numenor on their way to Minas Tirith. This White Tree a symbol of Gondor and the fallen Numenor now. Destroying it would be the best way to break the will of the entire nation of Gondor.

"Now listen carefully. Make no mention of Frodo or the Ring." Gandalf said.

"Yes, I believe it is best to make no mention of them to my father." Boromir said, "He sent me to retrieve the Ring for Gondor. But I know now Gandalf that the Ring can only be used for evil like you had said."

Gandalf nodded and told them, "And say nothing of Aragorn either."

"Yes. That sounds disastrous." Steve agreed.

"In fact, it's better if you don't speak at all, Peregrin Took." Gandalf said.

"Basically, leave the talking to you and Boromir." Steve said.

The door then opened to a massive hall that made the Meduseld look tiny in comparison with black and gold pillars on either side. Between the pillars were man-sized marble statues of Gondor's now deceased kings. Steve found each of them resembling Aragorn to an extent.

At the end of the hall was a throne upon a platform and at its foot was another throne, this one smaller. On it sat a man with long gray hair and black robes.

Unlike Theoden, he still seemed authoritative. But Steve could make out that there was something off about him as well. His eyes seemed sorrowful. But that changed when he saw who had entered. A smile broke out on his face.

"Boromir…..My son!" He greeted with joy as he stood up with arms wide and hugged his son, who hugged him back with a happy smile of his own.

"Father!" Boromir said happily as the two broke apart and looked at each other with smiles, "I bring with me friends. Peregrin Took of the Shire, Steven Rogers, one of the best strategists I have ever met who is here to help us, and Gandalf."

Denethor's pleasant demeanor seemed to disappear on seeing Gandalf. His smile turned into a frown as he regarded Gandalf.

"Hail Denethor, son of Ecthelion, Lord and Steward of Gondor." Gandalf said humbly, "I come with tidings in this dark hour, and with counsel. War is coming. The enemy is on your doorstep. Your son is the Captain—General. But as Steward, you are charged...with the defense of this city. Where are Gondor's armies?"

He then calmed himself and gently counselled Denethor, "You still have friends. You are not alone in this fight. Send word to Theoden of Rohan. Light the beacons."

Denethor sneered at Gandalf, "You think you are wise, Mithrandir. Yet for all your subtleties, you have not wisdom. Do you think the eyes of the White Tower are blind? I have seen more than you know!"

Boromir's face seemed to become uncomfortable as Denethor continued, "With your left hand you would use me as a shield against Mordor. And with your right you'd seek to supplant me."

They all listened as he said, "I know who rides with Theoden of Rohan. Oh, yes. Word has reached my ears of this Aragorn, son of Arathorn. And I tell you now, I will not bow to this Ranger from the North...last of a ragged house long bereft of lordship."

"Authority is not given to you to deny the return of the king, Steward." Gandalf sneered.

"The rule of Gondor is mine!" An enraged Denethor spoke, "And no other's."

Steve sighed sadly as he looked at Boromir in sympathy, knowing how bad his situation was now.

"I wish to speak to my son in private." Denethor said and Boromir sighed as Steve gave him a nod of good luck.

"Come." Gandalf said to Steve and Pippin in a disgusted tone as they walked out together.

"Tell me, did you return from Rivendell with the might gift that would change our fortunes in war?" Denethor asked and Boromir looked down for a second.

This was the moment he had been playing in his head for days. And now that it was here, it terrified him. However, he had to face it. Looking up, he gave Denethor his report.

Gandalf, Steve and Pippin walked out as the former fumed, "All has turned to vain ambition!"

Steve noticed on the horizon, in direct view of them, was Mordor itself. It was a set of black mountains with red light glowing. And it seemed ominous even from this distance. Steve closed his eyes, praying for Natasha. He wished he could be with her right now if that was where she was going to go with Frodo and Sam. But there was nothing he could do right now.

"He would even use his pride in his son as a cloak." Gandalf said, "A thousand years this city has stood! Now, at the whim of a madman, it will fall! And the White Tree, the tree of the king...will never bloom again!"

"Why are they still guarding it?" Pippin asked.

"They guard it because they have hope." Gandalf said, "A faint and fading hope that one day it will flower. That a king will come and this city will be as it once was...before it fell into decay. The old wisdom borne out of the West was forsaken. Kings made tombs more splendid than the houses of the living...and counted the old names of their descent...dearer than the names of their sons. Childless lords sat in aged halls, musing on heraldry...or in high, cold towers, asking questions of the stars. And so the people of Gondor fell into ruin. The line of kings failed. The White Tree withered. The rule of Gondor was given over to lesser men."

"The guards clearly don't know of Denethor's plans." Steve mused to himself.

"Of course not! He is a vain man." Gandalf said, "There was a time he used to be mighty and reasonable. But that is long past now."

They reached the embrasure and looked at Mordor at the eastern horizon.

"Mordor." Pippin said in horror.

"Yes, there it lies." Gandalf said, "This city has dwelt ever in the sight of its shadow."

"A storm is coming." Pippin observed as he looked at the dark clouds.

"This is not the weather of the world." Gandalf said, "This is a device of Sauron's making. A broil of fume he sends ahead of his host. The Orcs of Mordor have no love of he covers the face of the ease their passage along the road to war."

"I have a friend who can control the weather." Steve said, "He was part of the Avengers. Though it has been a few years since we met."

Gandalf then announced, "When the Shadow of Mordor reaches this will begin."

"Well...Minas Tirith...very impressive." Pippin said, "So where are we off to next?"

Steve knew Pippin knew the answer deep down. He was just afraid to say it out loud.

"Oh, it's too late for that, Peregrin." Ganfalf told the Took, "There's no leaving this city. Help must come to us."

"Boromir is our friend and he won't leave his home." Steve said, "We must stand with him here and now."

Chapter Text

Gandalf and Pippin together stood in their quarters during night. Steve had joined them for a bit.

Boromir's conversation with his father had gone horrible. Denethor was furious Boromir hadn't brought the Ring back even though Boromir had tried to tell him his argument had been flatly rejected by the Council of Elrond, he hadn't listened and furiously dismissed his son. Boromir had lied by omission and said he wasn't aware of the Ring's current whereabouts.

But Boromir was still Captain-General and in demand which is why he didn't have much time to talk to Gandalf, Steve and Pippin, and they didn't blame him. He was stressed out.

Pippin had been given a sword and a small armor by Boromir which had belonged to Faramir when he was younger.

Suddenly, an eruption from Mount Doom rumbled and Pippin walked to the balcony where the other two stood.

"There's no more stars." He said, "Is it time?"

"I believe it is." Steve said.

"Yes." Gandalf agreed.

The three looked in the distance as Pippin commented, "It's so quiet."

"The calm before the storm." Steve said.

"It's the deep breath before the plunge." Gandalf said in agreement.

"I don't want to be in a battle...but waiting on the edge of one I can't escape is even worse." Pippin said, his nerves showing.

"Courage never meant absence of fear. Just mastery of it. And that is what you have to do. Master your fear." Steve gently counselled Pippin.

Pippin nodded at Steve in appreciation.

He then turned to Gandalf and asked, "Is there any hope, Gandalf, for Frodo, Sam and Natasha?"

"There never was much hope." Gandalf said, "Just a fool's hope."

"Really?" Steve asked, shocked, "Unless you've planned something else?"

Gandalf nodded and Steve realized what he meant, "All these battles are just some distractions, aren't they? The war can only be won when the Ring is destroyed."

"Yes, Steven." Gandalf said.

"Our enemy is ready. His full strength's gathered." He then told them.

"What else does he have aside from Orcs and Trolls?" Steve asked.

"Not only Orcs, but Men as well." Gandalf said, "Legions of Haradrim from the south...mercenaries from the coast. All will answer Mordor's call. This will be the end of Gondor as we know it. Here the hammer stroke will fall hardest."

"If Thor was here, the hammer stroke will fall on Mordor the hardest." Steve joked and Gandalf chuckled, having been told of the other Avengers by Steve.

"But on more serious matters, this won't just be the end of Gondor as we know it but Middle-earth." Steve said, "No matter who wins or loses, nothing will be the same."

"A war of this sort was fought in Arda once long ago." Gandalf said, "Against Morgoth."

"Sauron's former master?" Steve asked and Gandalf nodded.

"Yes." Gandalf said, "The War of Wrath sunk Beleriand under the ocean."

He then brought their attention back to the present, "If the river is taken, if the garrison at Osgiliath falls...the last defense of this city will be gone."

"But we have the White Wizard and the strongest man in Middle-earth." Pippin said innocently, "That's got to count for something."

The two didn't answer as Pippin asked, "Gandalf?"

Gandalf looked at the two ominously and said, "Sauron has yet to reveal his deadliest servant...the one who will lead Mordor's armies in war. The one they say no living man can kill."

"Who is he?" Steve asked.

"The Witch-king of Angmar." Gandalf revealed before telling Pippin, "You've met him before. He stabbed Frodo on Weathertop."

Pippin's head jolted in memory as he remembered Weathertop where the Nazgul in the front had drawn a Morgul Blade and stabbed Frodo. He was still haunted by Frodo's scream of pain.

Gandalf said, "He is the lord of the Nazgul...the greatest of the Nine. Minas Morgul is his lair."

"Is this 'no living can kill him' only for the Witch-King or all the Nazgul?" Steve asked.

"Only for Witch-King, Steven." Gandalf assured him.

Suddenly, without warning, a great green stream of light shot out from the mountains in front of Mordor, striking the clouds above.

Pippin gasped in horror as Gandalf put a hand on his shoulder, "We come to it at last. The great battle of our time."

"The battle that will determine the fate of Middle-earth." Steve said, "It is about to begin."

"The board is set. The pieces are moving." Gandalf agreed as the light finally died down.

"So they have chess here." Steve mused, not having known that till now.

"Of course we do. I used to have chess matches with Saruman when he had not fallen." Gandalf said.

"I'm just a pawn in this game." Pippin said.

"Pawns can make or break a game." Steve told him.

"Steven is right, Peregrin Took." Gandalf agreed, "In fact, you are going to make the game tomorrow morn."

Next day, Gandalf led Pippin to a corner. Steve wasn't with them as Boromir was giving him a tour of Gondor's military.

"Peregrin Took, my lad, there is a task now to be done." Gandalf told him, "Another opportunity for one of the Shire-folk to prove their great worth. You must not fail me."

And soon, Pippin was climbing a high rocky ledge and a tower atop it. The rock had many footholds and he managed to climb. Once he reached the top, he saw there were guards there but they weren't paying attention. A stack of wood was there.

And Pippin knew just what to do. He tried to reach the lantern and the oil stash above in the basin but accidentally broke the rope, making the basin fall and spilling the oil on the wood. With that, there was just one thing left to do. He lifted the lantern and threw it down. And soon, the wood was on fire.

With that, he backed off and climbed back down.

Boromir and Steve were talking to some soldiers when they noticed the fire and Boromir excitedly called out to the soldiers of Gondor, "Amon Din! The beacon! The beacon of Amon Din is lit!"

"I believe that's Middle-earth's version of texting in a group." Steve joked to himself before saying genuinely, "Good job, Pippin."

Gandalf saw the now lit beacon from where he was standing and whispered softly and optimistically, "Hope is kindled."

But then something attracted all of their attention.


Steve and Boromir ran to the Great Gate to see what the commotion was. They a cavalry a few dozen in size galloping towards Minas Tirith.

"That Osgiliath they're coming from?" Steve asked.

"Yes." Boromir said.

Their attention was attracted by the three Nazgul on Fell-Beasts that were swooping down and attacking the cavalry. Several of the soldiers were grabbed by the Fell-Beasts' talons and killed.

"My brother is among them!" Boromir said in alarm as he prepared to run and get a horse, "I'm going!"

"No!" Steve said as he grasped his arm.

"I can't let my brother die!" Boromir said angrily.

"He won't." Steve assured.

"Archers!" Boromir called out.

"There won't be anyone left to protect by the time they get in range." Steve said, "I'm going."

Boromir started, "I know you can run faster than horses bu-"

He was cut off when Steve took a run-up and ran to the base of the Othram and leapt off.

"STEVE!" Boromir called out in concern as he ran to the base with several other soldiers. They were all as shocked as Boromir when they saw him running towards the riders at speeds even Shadowfax couldn't match.

Boromir smiled in relief, "You continue to amaze my friend."

Steve ran towards the riders as fast as he could while the Fell-Beasts swooped down. With his Vibranium shield, he could just throw it at the Fell-Beasts to make them back off.

So he had another plan in mind. He rushed towards the retreating riders as fast as he could. All of them thought he was mad.

Steve leapt into the air and landed safely on a horse that had lost its rider and then he leapt from top of that horse into the air with his shield raised. And with that, he bashed one Fell-Beast on the face with all his strength, making it roar in pain as he landed on the ground and rolled before getting up.

That was enough to draw their attention to him instead as they glared at him. As they swooped down on him, Steve raised his shield, prepared to fight.

But before they could do a thing, a beam of white light shot out and sharply drove the Nazgul back. Steve turned to see Gandalf riding on Shadowfax with Pippin. He wasn't surprised to see the staff was the source of the light.

The Nazgul fled back towards Mordor in the East due to Gandalf's power. Gandalf terminated the light with a command and joined the retreating riders in galloping back to Minas Tirith as Steve ran after them, managing to outrun them.

Once the last rider was through, the Great Gate was closed. Steve looked at the soldiers as they got off their horses. Some of them wore heavy armor like the soldiers he had seen in Minas Tirith. Others wore green cloaks with jackets and trousers brown and grey in color. Steve noticed one of them seemed to resemble Boromir and was only slightly shorter than him.

"Mithrandir!" He exclaimed to Gandalf, "They broke through our defenses. They've taken the bridge and the west bank. Battalions of Orcs are crossing the river."

"It is as the Lord Denethor predicted." A man called Irolas said, "Long has he foreseen this doom."

"Foreseen and done nothing!" Gandalf snorted in disgust. He then noticed Faramir was staring as Pippin.

"Faramir?" Gandalf asked and then realized, "This is not the first Halfling to have crossed your path."

"No." Faramir shook his head as a smile of joy burst on Pippin's face and he looked between Gandalf and Faramir. Steve smiled too, realizing what this meant.

"You've seen Frodo, Sam and Natasha?" Pippin asked.

Faramir nodded.

"Where? When?" Gandalf asked as Steve walked closer.

"In lthilien." Faramir said, "Not two days ago."

"Where are they now?" Steve asked, feeling more hopeful than he had in days.

Faramir inwardly felt guilty that he was about to kill the joy of the three, "Gandalf, they're taking the road to the Morgul Vale."

Gandalf's brow immediately furrowed as Pippin looked at him in confusion while a pit formed in Steve's stomach.

"And then the pass of Cirith Ungol." Gandalf said in realization.

"What does that mean?" Pippin asked in shock, "What's wrong?"

"Faramir, tell me everything." Gandalf said, "Tell me all you know."


They were interrupted as Boromir arrived with a smile on his face and the two hugged.

"Boromir." Faramir said happily as the two hugged each other lovingly, "When did you return?"

"Just yesterday." Boromir said as they parted.

Steve now realized many of the men were looking at him. Not that he blamed them. A man who could run faster than horses and leap high enough to strike flying creatures was bound to raise eyebrows.

"I'm sorry brother. I lost our defense at Osgiliath." Faramir said.

Boromir sobered up on hearing that. Though he didn't blame Faramir for that. A force that large would overrun Osgiliath even if he was there instead of Faramir.

"Do not blame yourself brother." Boromir said, "But in whatever other battles are to come, I will fight alongside you."

The two smiled at each other and then Faramir finally turned to Steve, "I have never seen a Man do what you can do. Not even the Great Men of the First Age have deeds like yours."

"Thank you." Steve said simply and humbly.

"Are you Steve Rogers?" Faramir asked, remembering Natasha's descriptions.

"They told you about me?" He asked.

"Yes." Faramir said and then took something out of his pocket, holding it out for him, "Natasha told me to give this to you."

Steve took it from him and looked at it emotionally. It was the arrow pendant Natasha wore in honor of her friendship with Clint. She was alive! And she wanted to reassure him of it!

A happy tear came to his eye as he looked up at Faramir and said, "Thank you for giving this to me. You have no idea how much it means to me."

"It's the least I could do after you and Mithrandir saved my Men." Faramir said.

"Lord Faramir!" A Tower Guard said as he arrived, "Lord Denethor requests your presence."

Faramir later stood in the Tower Hall, giving his report, which angered Denethor even more than Boromir's had.

"This is how you would serve your city?" He sneered, "You would risk its utter ruin?"

"I did what I judged to be right." Faramir said firmly.

"What you judged to be right." Denethor scoffed, "You sent the Ring of Power into Mordor in the hands of a witless Halfling. It should have been brought back to the Citadel to be kept safe. Hidden. Dark and deep in the vaults...not to be used. Unless at the uttermost end of need."

"I would not use the Ring. Not if Minas Tirith were falling in ruin and I alone could save her." Faramir stated to his father. He very well knew of his father's dislike of him but didn't care because he kenw this time he was right.

"Ever you desire to appear lordly and a king of old." Denethor scoffed and then used his everlasting habit of comparing his younger son unfavorably to his older one, "Boromir would have remembered his father's need. He would have brought me a kingly gift."

"No father. I would not have brought the Ring."

The two turned to see Boromir walk in. He gave Faramir and encouraging nod of support and said to Denethor, "I would have stretched out my hand to this Ring and taken it. I would've fallen. I would have kept it for my own. And when I would not have known your son."

"What are you talking about?" Denethor asked, puzzled.

"I was part of the Fellowship tasked to take the Ring to Mount Doom and destroy it. I swore and oath to protect the Ringbearer." Boromir said, shame filling his voice, "Yet I tried to kill him. The Ring almost drove me mad. A friend of ours tried to stop me and I attacked even her in a rage and injured her."

Faramir and Denethor were both shocked on hearing that. Faramir because Sam and Natasha had been right when they had said the Ring almost drove Boromir mad. And Denethor because Boromir had betrayed him.

"You were loyal to me!" Denethor said as he got off his chair and raised his rod, enraged, "Not some wizard's pupil!"

"I am not anyone's pupil, father." Boromir said, "I am my own man. And I know now the Ring only has the power to destroy. It serves Sauron alone. No one else. You would try to use it for the good of the realm but it can only be used for evil."

"What do you suggest we do then?" Denethor asked angrily.

"Fight against the forces of Sauron under one banner." Boromir said, "The banner of the King of Gondor!"

Denethor stepped back in horror as Faramir's head snapped in Boromir's direction. What had caused this change in him, he wondered. Boromir used to say, "Gondor has no king. Gondor needs no King."

And now he was talking about fighting under the King's banner? Really?

"You have betrayed me." Denethor moaned, "My firstborn has betrayed me. Instead of me, you speak in favor of the last of a ragged house long bereft of lordship."

"Aragorn has proven himself worthy of being King." Boromir countered, "He, with help from Steve, led Rohan to victory against Saruman's forces. Sauron fears what he can become. He is kind and compassionate. Even after we had a falling out, he told me not to blame myself for what I had done to Frodo and Sara. He told me to remember my actions in saving Merry and Pippin, telling me to hold my head high with pride for I am a brave man. I swore an oath of fealty to him, to follow him as he is my brother, captain and King."

"You dare to defy my orders?" Denethor asked.

"Can't you see father what you have become?" Boromir asked, "Authority has not been given to you to deny the return of the King. The oath by the Steward of Gondor is to watch over the throne until the King returns to reclaim it. You may be Steward but you are not above the law, father, not matter how much you believe you are. Why are you doing this? How can you be so obtuse?"

"OBTUSE!" Denethor roared in anger and charged at Boromir with his rod raised, only for Faramir to grasp his hand firmly.

Denethor turned to him in anger as Boromir said, "Now you see it? You see what you were about to do?"

Denethor looked between Boromir, Faramir and the rod and his eyes widened in horror as whath e was about to do. He was about to strike his own son whom he loved and praised beyond anything. He dropped the rod in disgust, as if holding it would contaminate him and fell down, tears now coming out of his eyes as he started sobbing bitterly.

"My sons!" He said in between sobs. He now started realizing what they were trying to say. He had argued with his sons yes. But never tried to strike them. And they had never been this disrespectful of him either. They had actually been very respectful, until now. What would his late wife Finduilas think of his behavior? It was her death that had eventually made him such a grim and cold individual and led him to the Palantir. But she would not have wanted this for him or her children. She would be ashamed of his behavior right now.

Boromir put a hand on his father's shoulder in support as Faramir looked at him in concern. He looked up at them, tears in his eyes as his throat had a lump in it.

"I'm not trying to disrespect you." Boromir said gently, "I'm trying to help you."

Denethor sobbed again as Boromir and Faramir both hugged him, trying to offer comfort.

"I'm sorry!" He simply said as he tried to calm himself down.

On the top of a ruined building on the Eastern bank of Osgiliath sat a Fell-Beast and on top of it was the Witch-King of Angmar.

Alongside his black robe he wore an iron crown to symbolize his status. An Orc lieutenant called Gothmog walked up next to him.

"Send forth all legions." Witch-King commanded, "Do not stop the attack until the city is taken. Slay them all."

"What of the wizard?" Gothmog asked.

"I will break him." Witch-King sneered.

"And the Man?" Gothmog asked.

"I shall deliver him his fate." Witch-King said.

Chapter Text

Frodo, Sam, Natasha and Gollum made their way through a rocky tunnel near the mountains. It was soon shaping into a wall. And then they saw it!

A massive, evil looking fortress with ominous green light shining inside it. It was like a deep gulf of shadow. This was Minas Morgul, the lair of the Nazgul.

"The Dead City." Gollum said as the four looked at it from their hiding place, "Very nasty place. Full of enemies."

He then started crawling away as the three walked after him, "Quick. Quick. They will see. They will see. Come away. Come away."

They looked at two frightening statues of monsters outside the gates of Minas Morgul. Both of themh ad their tongues out and their eyes were full of malice, as if any who looked upon them would meet a fate worse than this.

Very few things existed in any world that could frighten the Black Widow. Minas Morgul was added to that very short list now. Frodo seemed to stare at it for a while.

"And I thought castles in Disney movies looked creepy." Natasha joked to herself to calm herself down.

"Look, we have found it. The way into Mordor. The secret stair." Gollum said and they looked at a thin, ridiculously steep staircase carved into the mountainside.

"How do we know there are no Orcs there?" Natasha asked.

"We don't but we'll have to take the risk." Sam said.

"Climb." Gollum said.

With that, he started climbing up and Sam followed. Natasha was about to follow when she turned around to see Frodo, now in a trance like he was in Osgiliath, staggering towards Minas Morgul itself. Sam and Gollum had noticed it too.

"Frodo stop!" Natasha said.

"No, Mr. Frodo!" Sam called out.

"Not that way!" Gollum said too.

Natasha ran towards Frodo as Sam and Gollum climbed down.

"What's it doing?" Gollum said as Natasha grabbed Frodo and the other two grabbed his hands.

"No." Sam said.

"They're calling me." Frodo said, not in his senses now.

"To take the Ring." Natasha said as the three pulled him away just before he could pass the statues. It felt like he'd never come back if he had passed those.

"No." Sam said too.

And then, a green swirling mass of light shot out of Minas Morgul into the sky, piercing a hole in the clouds as Frodo grasped the Ring to his chest.

"Hide! Hide!" Gollum squealed in terror as Natasha watched in horror with wide eyes. The four managed to scramble behind the rocks, crouching down low.

And then the creature that was a mix of dragon and serpent flew out of the fortress, pounding the air furiously with its wings as it sat on the walls of the fortress. Natasha could see a Nazgul on its back. But it was different from the others. It wasn't just a hooded creature with an abyss of darkness instead of a face. This one had an Iron Crown on its head. Clearly, he was different from the others. She did not know this was the Witch-King of Angmar.

The creature roared and then, the Witch-King screeched.

All four of them covered their ears in pain at the annoying as well as terrifying noise. All of them could feel an aura of fear around them.

"I can feel his blade." Frodo moaned. To their relief, the screeching stopped. But then the gates of Minas Morgul opened and out marched thousands of battalions of Orcs. They held torches, flags, swords, axes, spears, pikes, bows and several other crudely made weapons. But they were huge in number.

The four remained crouched in their hiding places to avoid detection. Natasha so wished that Thor, Bruce, Tony, Wanda, Rhodes, Vision, Scott in his giant form, Kara, Barry, J'onn and that Dr. Strange guy were here. This army would be stomped brutally by them all together. But unfortunately, they weren't and so she had to help Frodo and Sam in destroying the Ring while keeping an eye on Gollum.

By some miracles, the army didn't notice them as they passed and the creature flew away as well.

"Come away!" Gollum urged, "We must climb!" He was climbing up already.

"I don't think they look up." Natasha said, "Their helmets are too much."

With that, she climbed after him and so did Frodo and Sam. The stairs became easier to scale as they moved on and soon, they were so high that even Orcs that did think of looking up won't notice them.

"Up, up, up the stairs we go. And then it's into the tunnel." Gollum said.

"You seem too eager about this tunnel." Natasha muttered suspiciously to herself.

"Hey, what's in this tunnel?" Sam asked, having an ugly feeling. Gollum made to keep moving but Sam angrily grasped his neck and pinned him to a rock, "You listen to me, and you listen good and proper. Anything happens to him, you have me to answer to. One sniff something's not hair stands up on the back of my head, it's over. No more slinker. No more stinker. You're gone. Got it? I'm watching you."

Natasha noted that Gollum didn't look scared of Sam this time. In the past, he had cringed, begged, even moved away. This time, he actually smiled.

Sam climbed back up as Frodo asked, "What was that about?"

"Nothing." Sam said, "Just clearing something up."

Frodo looked a bit suspicious as Gollum smirked underneath.

"I think it is almost cleared up." Natasha said.

The climb only got worse and worse as it continued. One wrong step and they'd fall to their deaths, their bodies making a 'splat' sound.

Frodo suddenly slipped for a bit as Natasha cried out, "Frodo!"

"Careful, master. Careful. Very far to fall." Gollum said in a voice full of concern, "Very dangerous are the stairs."

Gollum was on a flat outcropping by now and Frodo was struggling to climb.

Gollum saw the Ring slipping out of Frodo's shirt with the chain and held out his hand, "Come, master. Come to Smeagol."

Sam noticed and brandished his sword, "Mr. Frodo."

He roared at Gollum, "Get back, you! Don't touch him!"

"Sam, put your sword inside!" Natasha said in concern. His short temper would only make the situation worse. Gollum looked at Sam and now instead of the Ring, grasped Frodo's hand, pulling him up slowly, "Why does he hates poor Smeagol? What has Smeagol ever done to him?"

"Tried to throttle him in his sleep maybe." Natasha said dryly.

"Master?" Gollum whispered to his ear, "Master carries heavy burden. Smeagol knows. Heavy, heavy burden. Fat one cannot know. Smeagol look after master."

Gollum looked at a still climbing Sam and said, "He wants it. He needs it. Smeagol sees it in his eye. Very soon he will ask you for it. You will see. The fat one will take it from you."

Frodo looked back at Sam who was still climbing, with Natasha under him, and grasped the Ring firmly.

Later, the four of them were asleep on the outcropping. Or two of them. Natasha's eyes were barely open. She had kept it that way because she was alert enough to know Gollum might be up to something.

Sam too was suspicious of Gollum and was trying not to fall asleep. But then Natasha watched as his eyes finally shut and he went to sleep in that moment.

Then, Natasha heard soft breathing right above her. Gollum was awake. He wouldn't alert the Hobbits of course. But she was a feared spy and one of the most skilled fighters on Earth.

She still kept her eyes barely open, enough to see what was happening but not enough to be detected by Gollum. She watched as he opened Sam's bag behind him and took out the Lembas bread, wrapped in leaves. His face contorted to one of disgust as he looked at it. He dropped some of the crumbs on Sam Some pretty large ones.

He then moved towards the edge, raising the Lembas into the air. This was it! This was the moment!

"What are you doing?!" Natasha shot up as Gollum was startled and she was loud enough to wake both Frodo and Sam.

Gollum breathed erratically as Frodo and Sam looked between them in confusion while Natasha glared at Gollum.

"What's going on?" Frodo asked. He seemed to be almost in a zombie-like state for a few days now, but right now he was alert.

"Tell me Gollum, why do you have Lembas bread in your hands?" Natasha asked Gollum, "You didn't eat it, did you?"

"We wants to try it." Gollum lied pathetically.

"Then you could have just asked me." Frodo said.

"Why are you sneaking around in the night?" Sam asked.

"Sam. Do you have any bread crumbs on your clothes?" Natasha asked. Sam looked at himself and sure, there were large crumbs on his clothes. He dusted the off and asked, "Where did they come from?"

"You dropped it on him. I saw it." Natasha said as Gollum paled "Tell me, what were you planning?"

"Tell her!" Frodo said, now suspecting Gollum was up to no good again, after a long time.

When Gollum didn't answer, Natasha grabbed his throat, making him drop the bread on the ground and pinned him down, a knife on his throat, "Tell me!"

"We wanted fat Hobbit and womanses to go away!" Gollum confessed finally, "Their eyes are always watching. Always watching, precious."

"Why did you want us to go away?" Sam asked angrily, clenching his hands into fists.

"You still want the Ring for yourself, don't you?" Natasha sneered and Gollum paled.

"Why?" Frodo asked, "You're still drawn to it aren't you?"

"You never changed! This was all just an act, wasn't it?" Natasha asked.

"We asked precious to go away and away it went!" Gollum said, "But cruel Men hurts us. Master tricks us. Precious returned."

"I didn't trick you." Frodo said, "It was the only way to save your life."

"Jumping into that pool was forbidden." Natasha said, "The Rangers were going to shoot you. Because of him, they didn't. If you're going to be that sour about some beatings, then maybe you should recheck your feelings."

"What's in the tunnel?" Sam asked, "Tell us!"

When Gollum didn't answer, Natasha brought the dagger a little closer as he gasped, "Clearly, you were planning to send us away and kill Frodo in the tunnel for the Ring. How?"

"She would do it." Gollum said, "She would do it!"

"Who's 'she?'" Natasha asked.

"She would do it." Gollum said. Natasha let him go and looked at the two Hobbits.

"Forgive us! The precious made us do it!" Gollum begged as the three looked at the pathetic creature.

"We should just let him go back!" Sam said.

Frodo seemed to nod when Natasha said, "No! Clearly, there is something up there. And only Gollum knows the way."

She then glared at him, "But I have my eyes on you, and me and Sam were right about you. Your sneaking days are over now. You even look at them the wrong way and I will slice your throat."

Gollum paled and nodded as Natasha said, "We should go now. The faster we destroy the Ring, the quicker we're rid of him."

"Yes. We must go now." Frodo agreed.

Sam put the Lembas bread back inside and said to Gollum, "You do anything to Mr. Frodo, you have me to answer to."

Natasha shoved him to the front, "Lead the way. And I'm right behind you so don't try anything funny."

Gollum groaned and led them up as Frodo and Sam climbed behind Natasha, who glared into Gollum's back. Whatever he was going to do, she won't let him do it.

Chapter Text

An elderly man with a bright smile and bushy moustache whose duty was to light the beacons saw that the beacon was lit.

"Oh! Looks like hope from all worlds is here." He said cheerfully before lighting the beacon he was assigned to.

Aragorn was sitting in a spare house in Edoras, looking into the distance. He had been like this ever since Gandalf, Boromir, Steve and Pippin had departed for Minas Tirith. He was waiting for Gondor to call to aid. And that was when he noticed a small, red and orange dot in the distance. The beacon!

Aragorn immediately got up and ran back towards the castle. He pushed the doors open as everyone in the Meduseld looked up from their discussion.

"The beacons of Minas Tirith!" Aragorn said, almost like an excited child, "The beacons are lit! Gondor calls for aid!"

Theoden was silent as all eyes turned to him. The fate of Middle-earth now depended on his next few words. And he finally gave his response.

"And Rohan will answer." Theoden ordered, "Muster the Rohirrim."

Eomer and Gamling bowed and immediately moved to carry out his orders.

"Looks like we're going to war." Oliver said.

"Just like old times." Sara smirked.

A bell was rung in Edoras which was a flurry of activity by now.

Theoden walked out with Eomer and other soldiers and said, "Assemble the army at Dunharrow. As many men as can be found. You have two days."

Eomer made to move when Theoden grasped his shoulder, "On the third, we ride for Gondor and war."

Eomer moved away as Theoden called out to Gamling, "Gamling."

"My lord." He said.

"Make haste across the Riddermark." Theoden ordered, "Summon every able-bodied man to Dunharrow."

"I will." He said as he moved away.

Aragorn was saddling Brego while Eowyn was saddling her steed. Oliver and Sara stood with them.

"Will you ride with us?" Aragorn asked Eowyn.

"Just to the encampment." She said, "It's tradition for the women of the court to farewell the men."

"Nothing more?" Sara asked and Eowyn shook her head.

"Unfortunate." Oliver said.

Aragorn removed Eowyn's saddle a little and saw a sword there. She covered it back as Oliver and Sara gave her nods of approval.

"The men have found their captain." Eowyn said to Aragorn, "They will follow you into battle, even to death. You have given us hope."

She turned to Oliver, "You as well."

She moved away as Sara said, "She has a fire inside her. But no one will let her fight."

"If she is anything like you, I don't think she can be stopped." Oliver said and Sara smirked with a nod, agreeing.

Theoden was looking over at Edoras which was still a flurry of activity when someone got his attention with a polite, "Excuse me."

He turned to see Merry holding his small sword. Humbly and politely, Merry said, "I have a sword. Please accept it."

Merry kneeled down respectfully and said genuinely, "I offer you my service, Theoden King."

Theoden walked towards the Hobbit, touched by his humility and courage.

"And gladly I accept it." Theoden smiled at him, "You shall be Meriadoc, esquire of Rohan."

Merry smiled happily as he rose.

As the Riders started moving away, Gimli muttered, "Horse-Men. I wish I could muster a legion of Dwarves, fully armed and filthy."

"Your kinsmen may have no need to ride to war." Legolas, who was sitting on front of him said, "I fear war already marches on their own lands."

Theoden looked at all the Riders getting ready to ride. The number they needed to muster was larger than any that had fought in any battle of Rohan or of Gondor. This was going to be the greatest battle of the Third Age.

'So it is before the walls of Minas Tirith...the doom of our time will be decided.' He realized.

"Now is the hour!" Eomer called out as Aragorn sat on Brego with Oliver behind him and Sara took her seat behind Eowyn, "Riders of Rohan, oaths you have taken! Now, fulfill them all! To lord and land!"

With that, the Riders of Rohan rode away from Edoras, with Theoden, Eomer, Gamling , the Royal Guard and the Five Hunters in the lead, Merry somewhere in the middle, having finally managed to ride his pony, and the others at the back, including Eowyn and Sara.

By next noon, Theoden and his cavalry arrived at Dunharrow.

"Make way for the king!"

"Make way!"

"The king is here!"

"My lord!"

"Hail to you, sire!"

"Grimbold, how many?" Theoden asked a man of Rohan called Grimbold.

"I bring 500 men from the Westfold, my lord." Grimbold informed as they passed him.

"We have 300 more from Fenmarch, Theoden King." Another Rohirrim General said.

"Where are the riders from Snowbourne?" Theoden then asked.

"None have come, my lord."

"Well, shit." Oliver muttered.

Later, Theoden stood on a plateau's edge, looking down at the armies that had assembled as Aragorn, Oliver and Sara walked next to him.

"Six thousand spears." Theoden said regretfully, "Less than half of what I'd hoped for."

"How many do Mordor's armies number?" Oliver asked.

"I'm pretty sure they will be larger than Isengard's." Sara said.

"Suffice it to say, six thousand will not be enough to break the lines of Mordor." Aragorn said.

Theoden looked at him and assured, "More will come."

"Every hour lost hastens Gondor's defeat." Aragorn said, his desperation showing, "We have till dawn, then we must ride."

"We will." Oliver said as Theoden nodded at the three. Suddenly, they heard the horses neighing erratically.

They turned around to see some horses behaving a little wildly as the men struggled to control them.

Legolas and Gimli looked around, the former noting the horses' behavior.

"The horses are restless...and the men are quiet." Legolas said to his friend.

"They grow nervous in the shadow of the mountain." Eomer said as he walked up to them and twitched his head to his right. The Elf and the Dwarf turned to see a narrow pathway that cut through the rock and led deeper into the mountain.

"That road there...where does that lead?" Gimli asked.

"Some place unpleasant I'm sure." Oliver said as he arrived with Sara. The pathway seemed unnerving to them both. There was something…off about it!

"It is the road to the Dimholt, the door under the mountain." Legolas said.

"None who venture there ever return." Eomer said ominously, "That mountain is evil."

He walked off as Sara wondered, "After Fangorn, I can believe mountains being evil."

"I don't think it's the mountain." Oliver said, "It's what lives in the mountain."

"What's up with Aragorn?" Sara asked as she gestured to him. He seemed to be looking at the pathway, his gaze transfixed to it.

The four walked to him as Gimli called out, "Aragorn!"

Aragorn turned to them, a bewildered look on his face.

"You hungry?" Sara asked and he nodded a bit erratically.

"We're too." Oliver said.

"Let's find some food." Gimli said and the four walked off as Oliver noticed Aragorn looked at the path strangely one more time before walking after them.

It was night time now. And Sara found her unable to sleep due to the eeriness of the path under the mountain. So here she was with Eowyn in her tent, watching as she helped Merry dress up for battle. Eowyn put a helmet on the Hobbit's head and stepped back with a smile, "There. A true esquire of Rohan."

"I'm ready." Merry said and brandished his sword, nearly slashing Eowyn's stomach by accident as she squeaked and stepped back while Sara shook her head.

"To perform friendly fire?" Sara asked and chuckled, "Or friendly skewering."

"Sorry." Merry apologized lamely as Eowyn and Sara laughed lightly, "It isn't all that dangerous. It's not even sharp."

"Well, that's unfortunate." Sara said, "And pretty useless."

"Yes, that's no good." Eowyn said in agreement with Sara, "You won't kill many Orcs with a blunt blade. Come on."

She ushered him out of the tent as Sara giggled and followed her. Merry swung his sword around a bit as Eowyn urged, "To the smithy. Go!"

"Don't be hasty, Master Merry…..hroom." Sara said and burst out into laughter with Merry, confusing Eowyn who was left out of the joke. Merry then quickly ran to the smithy's tent.

Nearby, a fire was lit and Eomer and Gamling were eating.

"You should not encourage him." Eomer told his sister.

"You should not doubt him." Eowyn replied back.

"I do not doubt his heart, only the reach of his arm." Eomer said and shared a chuckle with Gamling.

"He may not have reach, but he is too short to be seen." Sara defended him, "Orcs can't fight what they can't see."

"Which means they will move onto other soldiers." Eomer said as Eowyn glared at him.

"Why should Merry be left behind?" She asked, "He has as much cause to go to war as you. Why can he not fight for those he loves?"

Eomer stood up and remarked, "You know as little of war as that Hobbit. When the fear takes him...and the blood and the screams and the horror of battle take you think he would stand and fight? He would flee. And he would be right to do so. War is the province of Men, Eowyn."

"Really?" Sara asked as he looked at her, "My city was attacked by an army of Men with skins as thick as the Uruk-hai's shields. And I fought them with my friends. We didn't flee. I was trained long before that to fight and kill my enemies. Merry may not have training, but he has the survival instinct. I have seen it. In Moria, he was the one most skilled with a blade out of the four Hobbits. And he can do it."

That shut Eomer up as Eowyn shot Sara a grateful smile.

Oliver was trying to sleep and having trouble because like Sara, he too was unnerved by the pathway.

He was then shook by someone and turned to see Sara standing there.

"What?" He asked as he got up.

"Can't sleep?" She asked and he nodded.

"The King wants to see us." Sara said and the two walked out towards Theoden's tent. There was a Roayl Guard on sentry duty on each side of the tent. They walked into the tent to see Aragorn standing there with Theoden. An individual in a black hooded cloak was seated with them.

"I take my leave." Theoden said to Aragorn, Oliver and Sara before leaving the tent. The hooded individual then stood up and removed his hood, revealing himself to be a tall, male Elf, with long black hair and blue eyes full of wisdom.

"My lord Elrond." Aragorn said in respect as he bowed to the Elf. Oliver and Sara had remembered Aragorn telling them about Elrond and bowed along with him.

"It is an honor to meet you, my Lord." Oliver said as he raised his hand and Elrond shook it, followed by Sara.

"The honor is mine, Master Queen and Lady Lance." Elrond said, "Word of your deeds is spreading through Middle-earth. But I come here with purpose."

"What purpose?" Sara asked.

"You all have already been separated." Elrond said, "Natasha Romanoff has gone with Frodo and Sam to cast the One Ring into the fiery chasm of Mount Doom from whence it came so that it can be unmade. Steve Rogers has gone to Minas Tirith alongside Mithrandir, Lord Boromir and Pippin. And now Lady Galadriel has foreseen the two of you must go separate paths for a time."

Oliver had nothing but respect for Lady Galadriel ever since she had convinced him to embrace his light and darkness in equal measure again. Because of that and her powers, he did not doubt her wisdom and decision.

"What do you mean?" Sara asked.

"You will continue with the Rohirrim." Elrond said, "But you, Oliver, will have to go on a different path with some others in the Fellowship."

He then turned to Aragorn and said, "I come on behalf of one whom I love. Arwen is dying."

Aragorn's face turned to one of shock as Elrond continued, "She will not long survive the evil that now spreads from Mordor. The light of the Evenstar is failing."

Oliver and Sara shot a look at the Evenstar on Aragorn's neck as Elrond said, "As Sauron's power grows, her strength wanes. Arwen's life is now tied to the fate of the Ring."

He then said ominously, "The Shadow is upon us, Aragorn. The end has come."

"It will not be our end, but his." Aragorn said firmly.

"And we will follow you to the victory." Sara told Aragorn with a smile.

"You ride to war, but not to victory." Elrond pointed out as he walked further, "Sauron's armies march on Minas Tirith, this you know. But in secret he sends another force which will attack from the river. A fleet of Corsair ships sails from the south. They'll be in the city in two days."

The three were horrified to their core on hearing that as Elrond said, "You're outnumbered, Aragorn. You need more men."

"Where will we get them?" Oliver asked.

"There are none." Aragorn said.

"There are those who dwell in the mountain." Elrond said and immediately, a chill ran down the spines of all three of them. Aragorn seemed appalled.

"Murderers...traitors!" Aragorn spat out in disgust, "You would call upon them to fight? They believe in nothing. They answer to no one."

"They will answer to the king of Gondor!" Elrond proclaimed regally before sweeping aside his cloak and pulling out a sword in its scabbard, presenting it to Aragorn.

He spoke the name of the sword, "Anduril, the Flame of the West, forged from the shards of Narsil."

"Sauron will not have forgotten the Sword of Elendil." Aragorn said before withdrawing it from its scabbard.

Oliver and Sara both gasped at their sight of Anduril. It was just over four feet in length with a 40-inch blade that had Elvish runes running down its length. The hilt had a solid metal cross guard and pommel with gold and silver plated fillings. The pommel was inscribed with Elvish runes as well and was connected to the guard by a black leather grip. It was the most beautiful sword Oliver and Sara had ever seen. And it was fit for a King.

"The blade that was broken shall return to Minas Tirith!" Aragorn said firmly. These words were going to be a turning point in Middle-earth's history.

"The Man who can wield the power of this sword...can summon to him an army more deadly than any that walks the entire Middle-earth." Elrond said before urging Aragorn to accept his destiny, "Put aside the Ranger. Become who you were born to be. Take the Dimholt road."

"Ónen i-Estel Edain." Elrond said to Aragorn.

"Ú-chebin Estel anim." Aragorn said before sheathing Anduril and walking out, "Come! We must away."

"I take my leave now." Elrond said to Oliver and Sara, "I wish you good fortune in the war to come and in the paths you two have to take."

The two nodded at him and bowed as he left.

"Well, this is kind of ironic." Oliver said.

"Yeah, you can say that." Sara said.

"Be careful." He told her with concern in his voice, "This is going to be the biggest fight ever. Bigger than Slade. Bigger than anything you've faced as a Legend or League member. Bigger than Isengard and Helms's Deep."

"I will. And you too. You're gonna go ghost hunting." Sara said and the two chuckled, "Wonder how long John will faint now."

"A month." Oliver said and they burst into laughter before holding hands and kissing passionately. He then let her go and walked off as she watched after him.

Aragorn was saddling Brego when a shocked Eowyn walked up to him, "Why are you doing this? The war lies to the East. You cannot leave on the eve of battle. You cannot abandon the Men."

"Eowyn..." Aragorn trailed off as he walked past her.

"We need you here." She said.

"Why have you come?" He asked her.

"Do you not know?" She asked in a voice that was barely a whisper.

Aragorn looked at her sorrowfully. He knew this moment would come. And he didn't like what he was going to do.

"It is but a shadow and a thought that you love." He told her with regret in his voice, "I cannot give you what you seek."

Tears formed in Eowyn's eyes as realization dawned on her face and she backed. Aragorn walked closer and gently touched her cheek, "I have wished you joy since first I saw you."

With that, he turned around and walked away with Brego as Oliver joined him. He had heard the entire exchange but chosen not to comment. He could feel Aragorn's pain at breaking Eowyn's heart right now. He had also broken Felicity's heart when he had decided he couldn't be with her.

As they walked, Gimli asked, "Just where do you think you're off to?"

"Not this time." Aragorn told him, "This time you must stay, Gimli."

"Will he though?" Oliver wondered.

"Have you learned nothing of the stubbornness of Dwarves?"

The two turned to see Legolas standing there with his horse saddled, a smirk on his face.

"You might as well accept it." Gimli said with a smirk, "We're going with you, laddies."

"I had no doubt you would come." Oliver said as the four moved away.

As the four sat on their horses which walked to the pathway, the Royal Guards were shocked.

"What's happening?"

"Where are they going? Where're they going?"

"I don't understand."

"Lord Aragorn! Lord Oliver!"

"Why does he leave on the eve of battle?"

"He leaves because there is no hope." Gamling told them all.

"Really? I highly doubt that." Sara said to them.

"He leaves because he must." Theoden said as he arrived. Elrond had already told him why he had come.

"Too few have come." Gamling said, "We cannot defeat the armies of Mordor."

"No...we cannot." Theoden said, "But we will meet them in battle nonetheless."

"And that is how they will know we will not be beaten." Sara told them.

Dawn was approaching as Eowyn stood, watching.

"I have left instruction." Theoden said as he walked to her, "The people are to follow your rule in my stead. Take up my seat in the Golden Hall. Long may you defend Edoras...if the battle goes ill."

"What other duty would you have me do, my lord?" Eowyn asked as calmly as she could.

"Duty?" Theoden shook his head as he walked to her, "No."

He gently held her hands and said, "I would have you smile again...not grieve for those whose time has come."

They touched their foreheads as he said, "You shall live to see these days renewed...and no more despair."

What Theoden did not know was his words had the exact opposite effect of what he had intended.

Sara returned to her tent to get Ciris and some Rohirrim armor for protection when she saw Eowyn there, having changed into a battle armor herself. She looked at Ciris.

"That was gifted to me by Lady Galadriel. It may not be suited to you."

Eowyn gave a startled yelp as she turned around, "Sara! I have no ill intent."

"I know." Sara said, "But why're you dressing up for battle?"

"I am a Shield-maiden of Rohan, equal in skill to the Men. But unlike your world, Rohan does not know one's skill is not related to gender." Eowyn said.

"I can see that." Sara said, "Oliver told me about your skills. If you're fighting for your people, you can come. But if you're fighting to prove yourself, stay."

"I will not let my people die while I take refuge in the Golden Hall." Eowyn declared in response.

"In that case", Sara smirked as she picked up her own armor, "Ride close to me."

The two women burst into smiles.

The path Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Oliver were traversing on their steeds was a narrow gorge with solid granite cliffs on either side. A chilling wind seemed to blow and what sounded like humans moaning could be heard. Their steeds seemed rather nervous.

"What kind of army would linger in such a place?" Gimli asked.

"One that is cursed." Legolas said in a soft voice, "Long ago, the Men of the Mountains swore an the last king of come to his fight."

"Considering they're cursed, I think they didn't." Oliver said.

"But when the time came...when Gondor's need was dire...they fled...vanishing into the darkness of the mountain." Legolas said, "And so Isildur cursed them...never to rest until they had fulfilled their pledge."

The Elf then recited a verse of the song about the Oathbreakers.

"Who shall call them from the grey twilight? The forgotten people. The heir of him to whom the oath they swore. From the north shall he come. Need shall drive him. He shall pass the door to the Paths of the Dead."

"You can be a scary story-teller during camping." Oliver commented dryly to Legolas.

Soon, they arrived at their destination. It was the entrance to the Dwimorberg. There were skulls embedded into the rock on either side of the door and above were black runes of warriors fighting on foot and horseback. They dismounted from their horses, holding their reins.

"The very warmth of my blood seems stolen away." Gimli said.

"You're not the only one." Oliver said, remembering when he had found out the man wearing Prometheus' suit he had killed was actually Billy Malone, an innocent cop who had been set up. He felt like that. Only a thousand times worse.

Legolas read the warning on the ruins, "The way is shut. It was made by those who are dead. And the Dead keep it. The way is shut."

And then a blast of icy cold shot out from the entrance. The horses panicked and bolted as the four tries to stop them, "Brego!"

But the horses were too scared or too smart to return or both.

"I do not fear death!" Aragorn said defiantly and walked into the dark entrance. Legolas watched and after some hesitation, walked with him.

"Well, this is a thing unheard-of." Gimli commented, "An Elf will go underground where a Dwarf dare not?"

"Well, Legolas doesn't seem afraid." Oliver said and the two moved in together.

"Oh. Oh, I'd never hear the end of it." Gimli commented before telling Oliver, "Do not tell the Elf what I just said."

"I promise I won't." Oliver said.

Theoden and the Rohirrim were getting ready to ride to war.

"We must ride light and swift." He told Eomer, "It is a long road ahead. And man and beast must reach the end with the strength to fight."

Eomer nodded and moved away as Theoden sat on his own horse and then noticed Merry saddling his pony.

He had made the Hobbit an esquire of Rohan out of kindness. But he still did not think the Hobbit could go to war, just like his nephew.

"Little Hobbits do not belong in war, Master Meriadoc." He said.

"All my friends have gone to battle. I would be ashamed to be left behind." Merry said.

"It is a three-day gallop to Minas Tirith. And none of my riders can bear you as a burden." Theoden told him firmly but not unkindly.

"I want to fight!" Merry protested.

"I will say no more." Theoden said as his steed moved away.

Merry stood there, dumbfounded, disappointed and ashamed while other Riders moved on horses around him. All his friends were going to fight while he would be alone and left behind in Rohan. That moment, a hand grabbed him and he was swooped up on a horse.

"Ride with me."

Merry realized who it was. It was Eowyn, wearing the garb of a soldier of Rohan to disguise herself as a man.

"With us."

He turned to see Sara riding next to Eowyn, also wearing the garb of a Rohirrim for protection in the battle.

"My ladies." Merry said happily.

"I am Dernhelm, esquire of Rohan." Eowyn said, trying to sound deep.

"Let's not talk about that voice again." Sara said as they all rode.

"Form up! Move out!" Eomer ordered, "Form up! Move out!"

"Ride!" Theoden ordered, "Ride now to Gondor!"

With that, the army of Rohirrim rode away to Minas Tirith.

Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Oliver found a torch on the entrance and the former held it in his left hand while Anduril was gripped tightly in his right. Oliver himself lighted a few glow sticks.

A thick fog as high as Gimli's chest traversed the tunnel whose walls had wide cracks full of human skulls. Legolas looked as if he had spotted something.

"Legolas?" Oliver asked.

"What is it? What do you see?" Gimli asked.

"I see shapes of men. And of horses." Legolas said.

"I don't." Oliver said, "But I'm not an Elf."

"Where?" Gimli asked as he looked around.

"Pale banners like shreds of cloud. Spears winter-thickets through a shroud of mist." Legolas said as the three followed Aragorn, "The Dead are following. They have been summoned."

"Following? Us? Why?" Oliver asked as he continued looking around. He had seen hallucinations of loved ones many times yes. But those were hallucinations. Whether they were actual ghosts or not he did not know. But they were loved ones. While these sounded like malevolent spirits from movies like 'The Exorcist' and 'The Evil Dead Series' which he had seen when he was younger.

"The Dead?" Gimli asked, "Summoned?"

He then tried to sound calm and said, "I knew that. Very good. Very good!"

He then realized the others had gone further and ran after them, "Legolas! Oliver!"

The surrounding mist then took on shapes of skeletal arms and hands, trying to reach out to the four. Aragorn, Legolas and Oliver waved their hands around, causing the misty limbs to dissipate. Gimli blew at the mist comically, trying to keep it at bay.

"The more you blow, the more they come at you." Oliver said and Gimli stopped blowing, waving them away as well.

Aragorn stepped on something and looked down for a second before looking back up, "Do not look down."

But Gimli did and there were many more skulls lying there. He closed his eyes and opening them again, walked further with Legolas and Oliver.

Soon, they came to a large cavern that had a large, stone edifice on the Eastern surface.

"Who enters my domain?" A bone-chilling, disembodied voice echoed in the caverns.

And then a green, ghostly figure appeared in front of the edifice. The King of the Oathbreakers he was. The rotting flesh and beard on the King's face was luminous and could be made out. His eyes were putrid and he wore a ghostly crown. A cloak of pure red was on his back.

Oliver actually shuddered. This was the first time he had met a ghost. And he thought his world was strange with meta-humans and aliens.

"One who will have your allegiance." Aragorn responded to the King's challenge.

"The Dead do not suffer the living to pass." The King said.

"You will suffer me." Aragorn countered.

The King released a maniacal laughter. The laughter was a signal as many other Oathbreakers revealed themselves. All of them looked just like their King but had no cloak. Some were mounted on spectral horses like Legolas had said earlier. Several ghostly buildings were there too. It was an entire city of dead people!

"The way is shut." The King said what was written on the entrance, "It was made by those who are dead. And the Dead keep it. The way is shut. Now you must die."

"I summon you to fulfill your oath!" Aragorn said, trying to keep his own dread under control.

"None but the king of Gondor may command me!" The King scoffed.

Legolas and Oliver both released arrows into the King at that moment. Legolas' arrow passed through his head and Oliver's through his chest. Nothing happened to his spectral form.

That was when the King raised his blade to strike down Aragorn. Aragorn then brought up Anduril and to the shock of everyone, blocked the King's spectral blade as a clanging sound was heard. Aragorn lowered the King's sword.

"That line was broken!" The King gasped in disbelief.

Aragorn then grasped the King by the throat, actually choking him, "It has been remade."

With that, he pushed the King back. The Dead had long given up hope of being freed. But now the Heir of Isildur had come.

Oliver was still struggling to believe what he had just seen. Malevolent ghosts existed. And apparently Aragorn could touch and even choke them.

Pointing Anduril around, Aragorn said, "Fight for us...and regain your honor. What say you?"

The Oathbreakers shuffled nervously and exchanged uncertain looks as Aragorn asked again, "What say you?"

"You waste your time, Aragorn. They had no honor in life, they have none now in death." Gimli said. Oliver gave him an approving smile. He knew the Dwarf was trying 'reverse psychology.'

"I am Isildur's heir." Aragorn revealed his heritage proudly, accepting who he was, "Fight for me...and I will hold your oaths fulfilled. What say you?"

Then the King released a loud and bitter laugh and all the Oathbreakers slowly disappeared from the presence of the four.

"You have my word!" Aragorn said desperately, "Fight, and I will release you from this living death! What say you?!"

"Stand, you traitors!" Gimli roared but they were all already gone.

"Well, looks like those traitors want to remain cursed." Oliver sneered.

Then the mist around them blew everywhere and the cavern shook. The edifice crumbled and limitless skulls poured in its wake.

"OUT!" Aragorn commanded. The four ran, trying to get to the other side of the cavern without getting crushed by the skulls. Soon, they were literally swimming through skulls, trying not to be crushed. Legolas was covered by them but Oliver pulled him out, "Legolas!"

Soon, they managed to swim out and ran while Aragorn commanded, "Run!"

They exited by a tunnel that exited by south-east of the Dwimorberg. They were atop a slope where Southern Gondor stretched eastwards.

The Corsair ships could be seen sailing as well. Aragorn sunk to his knees in despair, feeling he was a failure. For the first time he had accepted his heritage, and this was the disastrous outcome. Even if they somehow managed to win, the losses would be huge and the will of the Free Peoples would be broken. He glanced at the Evenstar, apologizing to Arwen for failing her. Legolas sensed his friend's grief and put a hand on his shoulder for comfort.

That was when they felt an icy wind on the left and turned to see the King of the Dead walking through the rock and stopping near them.

Oliver sneered, "What? Come to mock us?"

In a determined tone, the King gave his response to Aragorn's offer, "We fight!"

Aragorn rose up and nodded gratefully as Oliver asked, "Then why the hell did you have to collapse the tunnel?"

"We have use of the Dead City no longer. So we have destroyed it now." The King said.


Just next day, the Corsair ships were sailing down the Anduin towards Minas Tirith. Umbar had been a part of Gondor but during kin-strife had sided with rebels. Most of them were pirates and mercenaries. During the War of the Ring, Sauron had secured their aid against Gondor. They were pillaging Southern Gondor to their content to prevent it from aiding Minas Tirith.

Right now, they reached the city of Pelargir. But to their shock, they saw two Men, an Elf and a Dwarf standing on the docks, ready to confront them.

"Halt!" Aragorn said, "You may go no further. You will not enter Gondor."

"Who are you to deny us passage?" The Captain asked as all of them laughed at what they thought was false bravado.

"Legolas, fire a warning shot past the bosun's ear." Aragorn told him.

Legolas nocked an arrow as Gimli whispered, "Mind your aim."

He tapped Legolas' bow with his ax lightly and that shook his aim as he fired. Instead of past the bosun's ear, the arrow hit his heart directly as the Corsairs sneered angrily while Gimli gasped and Legolas glared at him. The bosun fell down dead.

"Gimli you idiot." Oliver sighed.

"That's it." Gimli said to the Corsairs, "Right. We warned you. Prepare to be boarded."

Mocking laughter echoed in all the ships as the Captain asked, "Boarded? By you and whose army?"

Oliver nocked an arrow and fired. It landed in the midst of the ship. And it was a trick arrow. Soon, a flame erupted from it and spread to the ship as they all screamed in terror.

"This army." Aragorn then said coldly.

There was a roar as the King of the Dead passed through Aragorn and the Army of the Dead came charging. If Oliver's trick arrow had terrified them, the Army of the Dead had driven them into blind panic.

The Corsairs all screamed as the Army of the Dead sucked the life out of them. Some of them jumped into the water to avoid them and the flames but that was of no use either as their lives were sucked out. In a few minutes, the massacre was over.

"We have ships." Oliver smirked "The Orcs are gonna need bigger guts now which they don't have."

Chapter Text

Denethor had taken a leave of absence following his emotional breakdown and Boromir had become Acting Steward as well as Supreme Commander of Gondor's forces with Gandalf, Steve and Faramir all his second-in-command.

Together, they had managed to strategize a very good defense for the entire city, which would work long enough to keep it safe from Mordor's forces until Rohan arrived.

Steve, Boromir and Gandalf stood on the Othram with most of the professional soldiers. Gandalf was mounted on Shadowfax and was a mobile unit and commander. The frontline of the city's defense was heavily armored infantry as well as archers. There were several crews to operate trebuchets as well.

Gondor's Rangers led by Faramir were on the second level along with several retired veterans who could still use a bow. They were to provide support to the Othram's defenders and also against any aerial attacks from the Nazgul.

The veterans with melee combat experience were all deployed on the first level and Pippin was among them. Other volunteers had been placed throughout the first three levels to provide assistance against attacks.

The city had already been evacuated of civilians the previous day for their own protection.

Boromir was confident the founders of the city would be proud of the defense, no matter the outcome.

Steve and Boromir looked down. The latter wore his battle armor along with a cape as well as a helmet that had a small, white feathered crest at the nose-guard to distinguish him as Captain. He carried his shield as well. Steve wasn't dressed in any other armor though. His strength, speed and reflexes were all the defense he needed.

The day of the assault had come. Down below was an entire army of Orcs like a sea. Sauron's fume had covered them so they looked even more menacing. The Orcs numbered at least 200,000. They carried all kinds of crudely made weapons as well as banners displaying the Eye of Sauron. Siege towers were being pushed towards the Othram as well. Easterlings were present too, wearing their armors and armed with their spears. Steve could see some of the Orcs riding on Wargs for mobile communication like Gandalf on Shadowfax. Several Trolls were there too. They were called Mountain Trolls. All of them were bigger than the Cave Troll in Moria and far more intelligent. Some of them operated siege equipment while others beat drums that hung around their necks to impose discipline in the ranks. There were another kind of Trolls that wore heavy armor and carried large swords and clubs to attack. Attack Trolls they were called. Steve could tell that this army had at least 300 Trolls, both varieties combined.

But the Nazgul weren't visible right now. Clearly, they were holding themselves back. Steve had gathered as much info on all of them as he could. The Witch-King wasn't just a powerful sorcerer but a cunning military commander as well based on what Steve had discovered.

Down below, Gothmog, the Orc lieutenant who had spoken to Witch-King few days ago got off his Warg. Another Orc tried to help him but Gothmog pushed him back so he simply stood in attention. He was missing one eye, his left arm was crippled and he had a limp in his foot. Orcs had been created by Morgoth as a mockery of Elves when he had tortured and mutilated them.

Unlike Elves, they weren't immortal. But all of them were long-lived. Few lived to be as old as Gothmog though. These wounds he carried had been delivered to him by Isildur himself in the War of the Last Alliance. He had foolishly tried to attack the Prince and had lost his eye in the process as well as received a permanently broke arm and a limp. The Prince had been thwarted from killing him by having to defend himself from other attack, so Gothmog had survived. And today was going to be his day of vengeance when he destroyed Gondor's seat of power.

Gothmog turned to another Orc commander called Guritz who reported directly to him. Guritz had a scar across his face that split his nose in two and on his head was a skull impaled on a spike.

"Fear." Gothmog said to Guritz, "The city is rank with it. Let us ease their pain. Release the prisoners."

"CATAPULTS!" Guritz ordered and the catapults started releasing their payloads.

The soldiers all avoided the stones being thrown at them. Or what they thought were stones.

"HOLD!" Steve commanded them. Their ammunition for the trebuchets was limited and needed to be used wisely.

Then his disgust increased as he, Boromir, Gandalf and the other Men on the Othram saw what the 'stones' actually were. They were the severed heads of the soldiers that had been slain during the Siege of Osgiliath. Witch—King and Gothmog had planned this strategy to instill fear into the hearts of the defenders.

And it was working. In spite of the horrors of war the Men had seen, several of them gasped in horror on seeing the heads as they recognized them as comrades or male relatives in the army.

Steve found these Orcs as cruel and depraved as the worst of the Third Reich.

Boromir knew the morale was down. Bringing the Horn of Gondor to his lips, he blew it and soon, all the Men turned to him as he announced, "Today we face the enemy who has threatened our country ever since it was born! But we know just like our ancestors did that against the forces of Mordor, there can be no surrender. The greatest soldier I know said to me that as long as one man stands against Sauron, he'll never be able to claim victory. And today, not one, but all of us stand against him. We are the Men of Gondor!"

All of them cheered at Boromir's speech, the morale uplifted again as Steve gave Boromir a smile and gave a speech of his own, "I fight the kind of the Orcs every time I'm in a fight. They mock freedom and say that free Men are weak! Well today they will feel our strength- it's the strength of Men who love liberty! They will look into the eyes of their foes, and know that they will die for their freedom! "

The clapping and cheering increased as this time, Boromir gave Steve a smile. Gandalf watched from behind them, pleased by their actions. Boromir had certainly changed a lot from when he had advocated the use of the Ring in Rivendell. Now even in the face of Mordor he declared he wouldn't surrender to them. And Steve was a huge reason for his change. The man sure could help anyone find hope, just like Aragorn. Gandalf knew that they were the reason Oliver had found his balance between light and darkness, along with Lady Galadriel's advice, and because of that, he was pleased with all of them.

That was when the Mordor catapults released stones weighing almost twenty pounds. They hit the buildings, damaging them and also scattered dozens of Gondor Soldiers away, killing them. Those who weren't scattered were killed by the debris from the damaged buildings.

"Send these foul beasts into the abyss." Gandalf said.

"FIRE!" Boromir commanded.

And then the trebuchets placed throughout Minas Tirith released counter-fire. Several hundreds of Orcs were flattened as they were crushed by the heavy bits of masonry that landed on them.

Gothmog looked up with a sneer. His master had told him of the heroes from other worlds. He did not know which one was here but part of him felt that hero, along with the White Wizard and the sons of the Steward was responsible for all of this.

"Stay where you are." He commanded his troops as some of them were frightened by the counter-fire. One of their catapults was about to release a stone into Minas Tirith when a heavy piece of masonry released from a trebuchet in the city destroyed it instead. Gothmog snarled angrily.

Steve watched as several of the soldiers were scattered by the rocks thrown on them. He got a plan then. He backed up by quite a few paces and set his eyes on a rock that was coming down on the Othram.

Running with all his might, he leapt into the air and bashed the rock with his shield. As he landed, the rock flew back to the direction it came from and destroyed a Mordor catapult, crushing several Orcs underneath it and forming cuts on the Mountain Troll that operated it.

The Men of Gondor all cheered at Steve's display of strength, "Hail Steve The Valiant!"

The cheering increased even more when a piece of masonry shot by their trebuchet destroyed an entire siege tower on impact.

Gothmog looked up and saw a piece of masonry headed straight for him. He roared and side-stepped, barely avoiding it. He angrily spat at it to spite Isildur.

And then a screeching sound was heard as the Nazgul made their first unwelcome appearance in this battle, riding their Fell-Beasts.

They attacked from the skies, ripping out some of the trebuchets to weaken the city's defenses and counter-fire measures. Witch-King swooped down on his Fell-Beast and some defenders on the second level were picked up. The Fell-Beast wrapped them in his talons and then threw them down to the first level to their deaths.

The screeches of the Nazgul struck fear into hearts of the soldiers, making them cover their ears and gasp in pain and horror. The only ones immune to this were Gandalf and Steve while Boromir and Faramir seemed to resist it just well.

"Hold them back! Do not give in to fear. Stand to your posts! Fight!" Gandalf commanded as the archers fired at the approaching siege towers as well as the Fell-Beasts above. His presence seemed to uplift the hearts of the Men.

Steve felt this was the time to deploy the aerial defense. Turning to an archer behind him, he ordered, "Send the signal!"

The archer dipped his arrow into a brazier before shooting it in the air. That was the signal for the aerial defense. Bundles of thatching materials had been placed at several locations throughout Minas Tirith. Those bundles of thatches were then lit and black columns of smoke were produced.

Some of the Nazgul on their Fell-Beasts encountered these columns fortunately. The Fell-Beasts veered away as their lungs were filled by the smoke. Some of the Nazgul decided to attack at the gaps between the smoke columns. Little did they know that was a trap for them as well.

In between the columns were the Rangers and bow-armed veterans who fired their arrows at the Fell-Beasts as they swooped down, making them roar in pain and fly back up. One such Fell-Beast had to retreat after an arrow from Faramir himself hit it near the throat.

The Witch-King, however, was not going to be thwarted even by these methods. As the archers prepared to fire at his Fell-Beast, he moved his hands and suddenly, their bows shattered. His Fell-Beast then swooped down and caught the archers in its talons, throwing them down to the first level to their deaths.

The siege towers were coming closer as the soldiers fired at them, trying to penetrate the gaps.

"Not at the towers! Aim for the trolls! Kill the Trolls! Bring them down!" Gandalf commanded and they started firing at the Mountain Trolls instead. Two of them were hit by many and they stopped pushing their siege towers. Instead, they collapsed and died.

But one siege tower managed to reach the Othram and opened up as several Orcs jumped out to fight. The archers fired, taking some of them down as the soldiers fought them, slowly but surely defending the Othram from them.

"Fight them back!" Gandalf commanded.

Steve looked down and saw the Orcs trying to break the Gate of Minas Tirith with a wooden battering ram. The gate didn't budge even slightly because that was how strong it was.

During that time, about three more siege towers reached the Othram. They were quickly about to be joined by a fourth one. Thinking quickly, Steve looked around and found a boulder that had been launched by Mordor. Well, time to return their property to them.

He lifted it and with a grunt, threw it at the fourth tower, shattering it completely as the Orcs within it died and the soldiers cheered as the boulder had been thrown in such a way it looked like it had been launched from a trebuchet.

As one of the siege towers opened, Steve held up his shield and running closer, threw it. It flew as far as it could and hit two Orcs before returning to his hand. He leapt into the air and kicked another Orc hard, breaking its neck before flip-kicking another, breaking its neck as well. After landing, he bashed another with his shield hard in a rotatory motion, breaking its nose before pushing it down. He then grabbed another's head between his legs and flipped it off the Othram too.

Using all his strength, he punched an Orc into another, pushing them both off the Othram too. Any that got past him were shot down by the archers.

He looked to see Boromir's company was doing well against the Orcs as well. The Captain-General himself sliced an Orc's throat before bashing another's face with his shield and stabbing it through the gut.

He then looked to see Gandalf's company fighting the Orcs and decided to help them as they were struggling a bit. Rushing at the Orcs at top speed, he leapt high into the air and kicked one of them so hard it fell into three others an all of them toppled off the Othram.

Gandalf noticed Pippin on a set of stairs that led to the Othram. The company of veterans had been called above as reinforcements but the Witch-King himself had struck fear into their hearts with a screech as they were bombarded by Mordor's catapults. Most of them had been killed but Pippin had managed to escape, unharmed.

"Peregrin Took!" Gandalf called out to him, "Go back to the Citadel!"

"They'd called us out to fight." He said.

Suddenly, two rampaging Orcs ran towards the Hobbit who backed in fear.

Gandalf leapt at them with a roar, smacking one with his staff before swiftly slicing its throat and then smacked the other away too before slicing its throat as well.

"This is no place for a Hobbit." He said before noticing another Orc running up to him. He hit it with his staff, dazing it before hitting its throat with Glamdring, killing it. In a rotatory motion, he sliced another Orc's throat before twirling his staff and hitting an Orc so hard its neck broke.

Like that, he smacked away two more Orcs before twirling his staff and in a rotatory motion, hit a third, taking it down too.

Steve noticed he was close to being surrounded and rushed to his aid, though his way was blocked by too many Orcs. His eyes widened as he saw one Orc about to attack Gandalf from behind. But finding his courage in the moment, Pippin withdrew his sword and stabbed it first just as Gandalf turned around and Steve reached them.

The Orc grunted as Pippin pulled out the blade, now coated with its black blood, and died.

"Very good, Pippin!" Steve complimented him with a smile. Before the parting of the Fellowship, Natasha had told the Hobbits a way or two of sneaking and fighting their opponents.

"Natasha would be proud." He said and Pippin smiled in pride.

"Guard of the Citadel, indeed." Gandalf said as well, now knowing how Thorin would have felt when Bilbo had saved him from Azog's Orc pack, "Now, back, up the hill. Quickly. Quick!"

Pippin nodded and ran back up, his fear and confusion replaced with courage and confidence.

Down below, the Orcs were still hitting the Gate with their wooden battering ram and were being shot down brutally.

"What are you doing, you useless scum?!" Gothmog asked Murgash angrily. Murgash was a Black Uruk of Mordor and like Guritz, was his second-in-command.

"The door won't give. It's too strong." Murgash informed him.

"Get back there and smash it down." Gothmog sneered.

"But nothing can breach it." Murgash said.

Gothmog turned around and smirked. The first Dark Lord responsible for creating their kind had wielded a feared weapon with a feared name. And now, the second Dark Lord had named his most fearsome siege machine the exact same name.

"Grond will breach it." Gothmog said, "Bring up the wolf's head."

Gandalf, Steve and Boromir heard some chanting as they looked down.

"Son of a gun." Steve said in horror as the three looked down.

Giant beasts of war were walking into the battlefield along with several Mountain Trolls. But what they were carrying was the real surprise. A huge ram, great as a forest-tree a hundred feet in length, swinging on mighty chains. Long had it been forging in the dark smithies of Mordor, and its hideous head, founded of black steel, was shaped in the likeness of a ravening wolf; on it spells of ruin lay. Grond they named it, in memory of the Hammer of the Underworld of old.

The Orcs all chanted its name like a mantra.

"Grond! Grond! Grond!

Grond! Grond! Grond!

Grond! Grond! Grond!

Grond! Grond! Grond!

Grond! Grond! Grond!

Grond! Grond! Grond!

Grond! Grond! Grond!"

"What is Grond?" Steve asked as they looked at the ram in horror.

"It was the Hammer of the Underworld, wielded by Morgoth himself in the First Age." Gandalf explained to him, "This battering ram with a wolf's head has been given the same name."

It was night time now. The great beasts and the Mountain Trolls had finally managed to carry Grond up to the gate as the chanting of Grond had continued.

The trebuchets of the city had almost run out of their ammunition while Mordor still had plenty. And now they had been lit on fire so they set the levels they struck on fire.

The smokescreens from the thatches had almost run out now. So the Nazgul had unleashed brutal vengeance on the archers, brutally scattering them with their Fell-Beasts.

Boromir had ordered a general retreat and told them to defend the Gate now.

"Back to the Gate!" Gandalf urged as he rode on Shadowfax, "Hurry!"

The soldiers and Rangers were all at the Gate now lead by Gandalf, Steve, Boromir and Faramir.

The Gate then budged heavily and everyone knew Grond had struck it once. Then it budged again and it was obvious it had been struck a second time.

"Steady!" Gandalf commanded, still mounted on Shadowfax, "You are soldiers of Gondor. No matter what comes through that gate, you will stand your ground."

And then Grond struck the Gate a third time, causing the unthinkable to happen. The upper portion of the door shattered into pieces, revealing the wolf's head of the ram. It was then pulled back and let go again as this time, the impact opened the doors, revealing 3 huge Attack Trolls.

They slammed their clubs and war hammers to the ground, killing several soldiers and also sliced them to half with their giant swords.

"VOLLEY!" "Faramir commanded.


The Attack Trolls were hit by several arrows as one of them was hit in vital spots and fell down, dead.

The Orcs charged at them and Boromir raised his sword, holding up his shield as the Gondorians held out pikes. The two sides rammed into each other as the Gondorians killed several of the Orcs with pikes while Boromir killed any enemy within close range of them. Faramir joined them in melee combat too. While not as strong and skilled as his brother, he was very good, killing any Orc that dared to face him.

Gandalf rode on Shadowfax, slicing the throat of an Orc before riding to an Attack Troll. Before it could strike him, he sliced its guts with Glamdring and rode away as it fell down, dead.

Steve ran, punching Orcs in the way and killing them. He then leapt at the remaining Attack Troll and kicked its throat with his feet, making it stagger back as it held its throat in pain. He then rolled away to avoid its club and leaping on its hand, leapt back up, holding out his hand. With that, he grabbed the Attack Troll's throat and with all his might, pulled hard, ripping it out. The Attack Troll gargled as blood gushed to its mouth and then it died, choking on its own blood. It crushed some Orcs as it fell down while Steve grunted.

The two brothers were still helping the soldiers fight the Orcs, skewering them with their blades. Faramir noticed one of them running at Boromir from behind as he engaged two Orcs simultaneously. Faramir ran at the Orc and stabbed it through the throat just as Boromir sliced his opponent's throat before blocking the other and stabbing it in the heart.

He turned to Faramir and the two brothers smiled at each other. But Boromir's smile turned into horror when a stray arrow hit his brother right near the abdomen and he grunted in pain as Boromir ran up to him.

Steve pushed some Orcs off and noticed what had happened. One Orc in their immediate vicinity lowered its bow and Steve knew who the culprit was. Leaping up angrily, he bashed the Orc right at its throat, breaking its neck as it died on the spot.

Faramir was on the ground now, his eyes closed as Boromir held him and shouted, "Someone help him!"

Gandalf stopped Shadowfax near him and said, "Help him up! Quickly!"

Boromir did as Gandalf rode away while Steve walked next to Boromir, "We won't let anything happen to your brother."

"We must fight now." Boromir said, managing to table his feelings for the time being. Steve noticed one of the boulders that had been thrown was almost out of fire by now. As Boromir struck one Orc on the back of the neck, killing it, Steve picked up the boulder.

With a mighty roar, he threw it at many more Orcs and it crushed them. But that wasn't the end as Steve leapt up and kicked the boulder, making it roll towards the Orcs that were trying to run in. They screamed and tried to run back but it crushed any in its path as the soldiers cheered. Steve had managed to turn the tide single-handedly, if only for a few moments.

Then there was a flash of searing lightning and the remainder of the Gate of Gondor broke, tumbling to the ground in river fragments.

In rode the Witch-King of Angmar, the Lord of the Nazgul. All the soldiers screamed and fled before his face as he screeched loudly while his Fell-Beast roared. Only two of them did not flee.

Steve stared at him resolutely while Boromir stood behind him, his teeth gritted as he tried to resist the Witch-King's aura of fear.

"Fools!" Witch-King sneered, "Do you not know death when you see it?"

He raised his sword skywards and flames danced upon its edges. A short, high-pitched whistle sounded and Boromir's shield immediately shattered as he clutched his hand reflexively.

"The world of Men will fall. And I shall bear thee to Mordor where your flesh will be devoured and your shriveled mind will be left naked before the Lidless Eye." Witch-King said to Steve, announcing the fate that the Dark Lord had decided for the First Avenger. The other hero for whom this very fate had been decided was Oliver Queen due to his defiant actions.

"Not today." Steve said as he held his shield. He needed to keep the Witch-King at bay as long as he could.

With that, he ran forward with all his speed as Boromir called out, "Steve!"

Steve leapt up into the air with his shield raised and bashed it on Witch-King's face, making him fall down due to his strength as his crown fell off too.

He got up and said, "Fool! You cannot defeat me!"

With that, he picked his crown up and flung back his hood just as he put the crown back. And behold! The crown was not set upon any head visible. The red fires shone between it and the mantled shoulders vast and dark. From a mouth unseen there came a deadly laughter.

"Takes more than that to scare me." Steve said as he kicked Witch-King in a rotatory motion, staggering him slightly before he struck with his sword. Steve blocked with his shield but his opponent's unnatural strength sent him staggering back. If this was the Vibranium shield, he was sure he could defend himself from Witch-King's weapons, but with the Galadhrim shield, he was not so sure. Especially as it did not seem to have any magical qualities in it.

Steve knew the prophecy about the Witch-King's demise. But that wasn't going to stop him from trying.

He threw his shield at Witch-King but he swatted it away with his sword but during that moment, Steve reached close and punched his opponent, staggering his invisible face slightly. Witch-King glared at him with his red fires and hit him with the flat of his blade, sending him flying off.

As he moved towards him, Steve got back up and with a flip, kicked Witch-King, staggering him back again. Before he could punch again, Witch-King swung his sword in a rotatory motion and Steve's shoulder had a cut on it. Steve flipped to avoid another strike and rolled towards his shield, picking it up.

He rushed Witch-King with it. Witch-King lit his sword on fire and struck. And that strike shattered the shield into pieces as Steve staggered back.

"Now I shall deliver you your fate." Witch-King said as he Fell-Beast moved towards Steve from behind. But before it could do a thing, Boromir, now finally managing to overcome the aura of terror Witch-King had cast, ran towards it and sliced its talon with his sword, making it roar in pain as he backed and threw himself to the ground to avoid its talon.

Witch-King moved towards his Fell-Beast and climbed back upon it, trying to calm it down as took off his crown and put the hood back on before putting his crown on again.

The Fell-Beast roared at the two as Witch-King made to attack again when Gandalf finally returned, still mounted on Shadowfax.

"Go back to the abyss." He said as he raised his staff, "Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your master."

"Do you not know death when you see it, old man?" Witch-King sneered as he raised his sword again and it was lit on fire, "This is my hour."

And then, in a courtyard behind the City, a cock crowed shrill and loud, welcoming the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.

Then came the sound of a multitude of horns blowing in the North.

"The world of Men will fall and this city shall come to ruin." Witch-King boasted before his Fell-Beast took off.

"How is Faramir?" Boromir asked in concern.

"I have left him in the House of Healing." Gandalf said, "He is not conscious but alive."

He noticed their shields were shattered and asked, "Did you two fight him?"

"Steve did." Boromir said, "I simply attacked his Fell-Beast."

"Lead the Free Peoples with that example then." He told them.

"What was that horn though?" Steve asked, "I don't think I have heard that one before."

"In Mindolluin's sides are the horns echoing." Gandalf told the two, "Great horns of the North are wildly blowing. Rohan has come at last."

Chapter Text

The Riders of Rohan had finally arrived at Pelennor in full force. A Wild-Men chieftain known as Ghan-buri-Ghan had guided the army through a safe path through the Secret Pass of Stonewain Valley to avoid attacks by Orcs.

In return, Theoden had promised to make peace with the Wild-Men once the war was over.

And now here they all were at Minas Tirith, facing the horde of Orcs besieging the city. The Orcs themselves had turned their attention to the Rohirrim now.

Eowyn felt her heart beating faster and realized what Eomer had said was true. She could feel Merry shaking too and wrapped her left arm around him protectively.

"Courage, Merry." She whispered to him, reminding him of a private conversation they had had on their way here, "Courage for our friends."

One such friend was to their right. Sara was there on her own horse, wearing some Rohirrim armor for defense, though she didn't have the cape. She wore a helmet as well. Ciris was drawn out, ready to face battle. Because she wasn't a subject of Theoden, he couldn't command her to not fight.

"We're a team." She whispered to the two of them, "We will take care of each other."

"Form ranks, you maggots. Form ranks!" Gothmog angrily ordered his Orcs as he walked with Murgash, "Pikes in front! Archers behind!"

The Orcs with pikes moved into the front as the archers moved to the back.

Theoden rode to where his Marshals were and began issuing orders to them loudly.

"Eomer, take your eored down the left flank." He said to his nephew who rode away.

"Flank ready." He called out a few moments later.

"Elfhelm, Gamling, follow the king's banner down the center." He said and those two rode away to take their positions.

"Grimbold, take your company right after you pass the wall." He said and Grimbold rode away to his position too.

"Forth, and fear no darkness!" Theoden then announced bravely. He then sprang suddenly erect, seeming tall and proud, and cried in a loud voice which sounded like no mortal could achieve:

"Arise, arise, Riders of Theoden!

Spears shall be shaken!

Shields shall be splintered!

A sword-day, a red day...ere the sun rises!"

"Whatever happens, stay with me." Eowyn whispered to Merry, "I'll look after you."

"I'll look after both of you." Sara assured them. They were skilled but inexperienced and she was going to protect them.

Theoden rode in front of the company and clashed his blade with their spears before standing in front of them again.

"Ride now!



He then stood in front of his army with Herugrim raised and called out, "DEATH!"


Sara also screamed with them, "DEATH!"

Theoden called out again, "DEATH!"


And then Theoden called out a third time, "DEATH!"


And this time, Merry raised his blade and roared too, "DEATH!"

"DEATH!" Eowyn cried out behind him as Sara smiled approvingly.

Directing Herugrim at the Orcs in front of them, Theoden ordered to start the charge, "FORTH EORLINGAS!"

And then the charge started as the horns were blown. The speed of the horses increased to a trot, then to a canter, and then to a gallop. Now Theoden knew where the horse and rider were exactly. The Rohirrim charged with swords, axes, spears and banners raised.

"Fire!" Gothmog commanded as the archers took positions. They fired and managed to fell about three or four Rohirrim with their horses.

"DEATH!" Merry roared again to increase his courage.

The Orc archers fired again and three more Rohirrim were taken down.

"CHARGE!" Theoden then ordered as the speed of the charge increased.

"FIRE AT WILL!" Gothmog ordered and they fired again but this time, all of them missed due to the fear they were feeling.

Then finally the Rohan army crashed into the Orcs, trampling them under the horses or simply skewering them with spears and swords. Sara herself raised Ciris and decapitated the first Orc she could while Eowyn roared next to her.

They could see the Orcs backing away in fear due to the charging Rohirrim. Clearly, they had never faced this country before and such bravery and discipline was striking fear into their hearts.

Sara could make out Theoden in the distance, killing an Orc with Herugrim as Eomer roared and continued charging.

The Battle of the Pelennor Fields had begun.

With the initial momentum of the charge spent, the Rohirrim were now using their swords to hack the Orcs. Sara made out Eomer stabbing one brutally while Theoden killed quite a few with swings of Herugrim.

She herself chopped off the heads of two of them or sliced their throats from horseback. Next to her Eowyn killed her first Orc with a swing to the head as Merry managed to stab one through the throat.

"Good work both of you." She complimented as the battle continued. The Orcs were still afraid of the Rohirrim right now as they were hacked down brutally. Their main strength was in numbers still. In spite of the glorious charge, the Rohirrim still hadn't killed a particularly huge number unfortunately.

But due to the Orcs' cowardice, they still hadn't suffered any big losses. The Orcs were sent fleeing away by the Riders.

Sara killed another with a downward swing of Ciris. Then blew a series of horns. The Rohirrim, Sara and Merry all looked up to see what had come now. And in front of them, there was another cavalry, charging right at them.

"Who are those?" Sara asked.

"Men of Harad." Eowyn said in horror, "Sauron's mannish allies."

"Looks like snakes need to be dealt with everywhere." Sara joked on seeing the standard of the Haradrim, "Come on."

"CHARGE!" Theoden commanded again and the Rohirrim cavalry charged at the Haradrim cavalry.

The chieftain of the Haradrim was called the 'Black Serpent.' On seeing the King's banner, he was filled with a red wrath and displaying his standard, was charging directly at him.

The two cavalries met in a clash as several Men from both sides were thrown down. Sara sliced the throat of a man and quickly passing Ciris to the other, sliced another's throat as Eowyn managed to drive her sword through one while Merry struck another's head with his blade, killing him.

The Rohirrim were outnumbered but their fury burned hotter and their Knighthood was greater. Theoden himself cried to Snowmane and charged to meet the Black Serpent, intent on ending him.

Sara cut off the hand of a man holding a spear before slicing his throat and caught the spear before it could fall on the ground. As Eowyn killed another man, Sara threw the spear. It hit the man holding the Harad standard right in the throat and he died. The Black Serpent roared furiously but Theoden hewed him with Herugrim.

With the loss of their leader and standard bearer, the Haradrim cavalry turned and fled away.

"That is exactly how you deal with a serpent." Sara quipped.

"Me and Pippin have never met one in person, unless you are going to count that thing the Wraiths fly on." Merry said as he drove his sword through another one.

It looked like they were winning after all. The Orcs were fleeing. The Haradrim cavalry was fleeing.

"Drive them to the river!" Eomer cried and they all cheered.

"Make safe the city!" Theoden cried too and more cheers followed. Then another horn of the Haradrim sounded from the East side.

Every soldier fell silent and looked at the direction with horror and anticipation. Gigantic figures could be seen walking through the smoke. The Orcs and cavalry were all fleeing behind them. Then they appeared in plain sight and Sara's eyes widened in horror and disbelief. She had never seen creatures like these even as a Legend.

They looked to be built like elephants but they would make even the biggest of those look like babies. And even Mammoths didn't look that big compared to these. They had four curled tusks and two smaller ones behind the large pair. On their backs were war towers which had archers sitting upon them.

"Shit!" Sara said, "What the hell are those?!"

"The Oliphaunts." Eowyn whispered as all the Riders gathered together. The Oliphaunts were moving towards them slowly. They seemed to be at least 20 in number.

"What will we do?" Merry asked.

Theoden wasn't deterred though.

"Re-form the line! Re-form the line!" He screamed to the shaken Riders who quickly reformed the lien to face the Oliphaunts, "Sound the charge! Take them head-on!"

The horn was blown and Theoden commanded, "CHARGE!"

Then the Riders rode towards the Oliphaunts just like they had towards the Orcs. They hoped to get under them and shoot arrows to take them down. But it wasn't that easy.

The Oliphaunts swung their heads around, their large trunks sending several Riders and horses flying off into the air as several of them were crushed under their gigantic feet.

But several of the Riders avoided that fate as well, riding past the giant creatures and giving their feet small cuts with swords. Sara, Eowyn and Merry were among them. But they couldn't avoid the archers on the top unfortunately who fired arrows, taking down some Rohirrim.

Sara herself had to deflect a few fired at her from Ciris.

The Rohirrim archers fired back too, taking down a few archers on the top. Sara, Eowyn and Merry rode away as Sara looked back to see Eomer stop in front of an Oliphaunt. Gamling was riding under that very one, trying to get away.

Eomer threw his spear at the man sitting on top of that Oliphaunt. He was the same man who had blown the horn. He was hit on the chest and as he went down, the rope that was hooked to the Oliphaunt's left ear was dragged down with him.

The Oliphaunt felt a tug at the ear and painfully stumbled to its left, letting Gamling escape. It then crashed into another Oliphaunt and fell down. The other Oliphaunt roared and fell on top of it. Two of them were down now.

"Nice one." She quipped before riding with Eowyn and Merry again.

"Take the reins. Pull him left!" Eowyn commanded Merry who complied. He struggled a bit and she commanded again, "Left!"

He managed to pull them left as Sara rode with them. They went right under an Oliphaunt whose legs had already been severely weakened by several arrows and spear penetrating them as well as several cuts. Sara and Eowyn decided to add the final touches.

As Merry rode Eowyn's horse, she struck a weak point at the right hind leg while Sara struck one at the left hind leg, holding the reins with one hand and Ciris with another. They rode further and did the same to the two front legs. This was the last straw for the Oliphaunt which roared in pain and collapsed to the ground as the three rode away.

"Aim for their heads!" Eomer called out as he, Gamling and several other Rohirrim aimed at one Oliphaunt and kept firing arrows at its head.

"Bring it down! Bring it down! Bring it down!" Theoden was screaming.

Sara chopped off the head of an Orc running past her horse and took its spear before throwing it at the Oliphaunt's foot just as one arrow hits its eye, finally taking it down. But it fell very close to them and Sara had to steer her steed away to avoid being crushed by it as well as the dust around. When she was a safe distance away, she realized something.

"Merry?" She called out in horror, "Eowyn?"

Eowyn and Merry had fallen off their horse while trying to avoid the falling Oliphaunt and the steed had perished unfortunately. Eowyn got up and realized to her horror that Merry wasn't anywhere close to her.

"Merry!" She called out as she looked around and then spotted her uncle fighting some Orcs on horseback. She rushed to help him.

Raising her sword, she struck one Orc from behind, killing him before slicing another. Theoden stopped to observe her. He couldn't make out that it was his own niece but the skills were impressive. He watched as she gutted another's stomach and then struck down one Orc himself before riding away.

Merry coughed as the dust entered his throat and lungs. He had fallen right near the Oliphaunt. Picking up his sword, he started walking when a Harad soldier who had fallen off the war tower on the Oliphaunt's back attacked him with a spear. He avoided and inflicted a deep gash in his stomach, taking him down before taking down another in the same way.

Another attacked him but he stabbed that one in the foot, making him kneel as Merry dealt the finishing blow.

An Orc grabbed him and lifted him into the air, giving him flashbacks of when the Uruk-hai had lifted him up along with Pippin, Boromir and Sara. Screaming in rage, he sliced that Orc's throat.

Sara had been proven right about him after all.

Eowyn managed to take down three more Orcs before turning around to block a blow from Gothmog himself. She kept blocking his blows. He used to be a very skilled Orc but his permanent injuries had made him a rather easy opponent.

She pinned his sword down and punched him on the face, making him stagger back. She ducked to avoid another swing of his sword and stabbed him in the foot, making him fall down as she retracted her blade and continued fighting other Orcs.

Sara chopped down a Harad archer before he could fire at her and sliced an Orc's throat before bringing her sword down on another Harad soldier, killing him. The entirety of Ciris was drenched in the blood of Orcs, Haradrim and Oliphaunt by now.

"Rally to me! To me!"

She turned to see Theoden rallying several Riders to him. She then looked up in horror to see a Fell-Beast flying at him at full speed. Without thinking, she charged towards the two and taking out a shuriken, threw it in the air.

By some miracle, the shuriken hit the eye of the Fell-Beast and it crashed on the ground near Theoden, roaring in pain. The impact still unhorsed him and several other Riders nearby. Theoden's foot was broken as his beloved steed Snowmane collapsed on it.

The Fell-Beast continued roaring in pain before its other eye fell on Theoden who lay with a helpless foot. On top of this Fell-Beast was none other than Witch-King himself.

"Feast on his flesh." He commanded his Fell-Beast. If the leaders of the Free Peoples died in heroic fashion, they would only inspire the others to fight more. But an unceremonious and violent death would sure break the spirits of the Free Peoples, especially if it involved their King being feasted upon.

As the Fell-Beast moved its head towards Theoden, Eowyn stepped between them, still disguised as Dernhelm.

"I will kill you if you touch him." She said, trying to sound brave in spite of the feat that had gripped her throat and hands.

"Do not come between the Nazgul and his prey." Witch-King said.

The Fell-Beast moved its head at her to bite off her head but she stepped sideways to avoid and struck the head with her sword twice, managing to separate it from the body, which collapsed on the ground, throwing the Witch-King off unceremoniously.

She quickly picked up a discarded Rohirrim shield to defend herself as Witch-King got back up, rising to his full height of seven feet. In his left hand he had the sword which he had used to battle Rogers. And in his right he now carried a spiked flail. While Eowyn couldn't see any face inside the hood, only an abyss of darkness, she had a feeling he was furious.

He then swung his flail at her and she managed to barely avoid as she dodged to her left. He swung it again in a rotatory motion and she ducked to avoid. He swung it at her again and once again, she ran to the right before ducking to avoid another swing. He could have killed her effortlessly of course but she had made him furious by standing in his way and preventing him from killing Theoden, which was why he was toying with her, increasing her fear of death before doing the deed.

He struck her again as she backed off to avoid. But the next time, he struck at such a speed even Steve would struggle to avoid. The flail hit her shield and shattered it into pieces while the bones in her left hand all broke as well. She clutched that hand with her right one respectively, dropping her sword in the process as she fell on the dead Snowmane in front of Theoden.

He then grabbed her by the throat and lifted her into the air, her feet dangling above the ground. He brought her face closer to his, trying to subject her to his Black Breath.

He sneered, "You fool. No Man can kill me. Die now."

Then that hand was struck by a spear and he dropped her more in shock than in pain as the spear disintegrated. He turned to see Sara on her horse, holding Ciris, ready to fight. She spurred her steed forwards right at him, Ciris raised.

However, he side-stepped at the last moment and hit the horse's feet with his flail, making it flip over as Sara fell down while it lay on the ground in unimaginable pain, its front legs twisted at an odd angle.

Sara rolled away and grabbing Ciris, got up with a groan. She had heard the Witch-King's earlier taunt to Eowyn.

Taking off her helmet, she threw it down, revealing her face, now with dirt stuck on its surface due to the fighting.

"I am not a living Man." She said to him, "You look upon a woman. I am Sara Lance, the White Canary."

"I know who you are." Witch-King said, "You will fall before me."

Sara could feel dread in her due to his presence but she roared like a lion and charged. Witch-King raised his own blade and the two clashed as sparks flew out from it. Sara's blade was no normal blade. It was an Elven blade of the First Age. Which meant it would not disintegrate even by striking Witch-King. But unfortunately, she couldn't strike him.

Her offensive ended quickly as Witch-King was too fast, forcing her back. She found it impossible to force an opening. He tried to swing his sword but she backed and it cut her armor instead into two. The lower half fell down so she threw the upper one off as well, revealing her White Canary outfit inside.

Like against Eowyn, he was toying with her too, trying to increase her fear of death before he could finish the deed.

Sara was tiring slowly, wondering how long she could hold out against this infinitely superior foe. The very air he breathed was a toxic vapor and whenever he came close she could feel the fatigue in her muscles deepen. Her breaths were coming in coughs at this point.

And then he hit her foot hard with his flail, making her kneel to the ground as she screamed in pain. He tried to strike again but she put Ciris in the way. The blow was still powerful enough to send her flying back and fall flat on the ground right next to Eowyn.

He then marched towards her slowly, "You were a fool to face me in combat."

Suddenly, he screamed in pain and fell to his knees. Sara was puzzled by that. Surely Sauron's most powerful servant wasn't going to beg for mercy.

Nonetheless, she took the opportunity presented to her. Staggering up slightly, she threw Ciris with all her might. It struck Witch-King in the abdomen and he screamed even louder than before at the pain. The Elven Blade of the First Age was powerful enough to weaken him badly.

Then, Eowyn finally got back up and staggered towards him, holding her sword in her right hand. Taking off her helmet, she finally revealed her face and long flowing hair.

"I am no Man either." She said and with a roar, drove her sword into where his face was supposed to be. A green light flashed from there and then her hand was pushed back along with the blade, which slowly disintegrated.

She held her hand in pain as Witch-King contorted violently and shriveled. The only thing left of him now were his black robes. And now Sara and Eowyn saw the reason for him falling to his knees.

Behind him lay Merry, holding his hand in pain and his blade lay there too, slowly disintegrating. He had stabbed Witch-King's feet from behind when he had been marching towards the two Women.

Lord Glorfindel's prophecy had come true at last. Not by the hand of a Man had the Witch-King fallen but at the hands of two Women and a Hobbit.

Sara lay on the ground, panting heavily as she eyed Ciris which lay near the Witch-King's robes. Eowyn crawled from there back to her uncle whose eyes were wide open now.

"Eowyn." He whispered, holding her face, "I know your face."

"Uncle." She smiled with happy tears.

"Stubborn child." He said, "I told you to let me go."

But Sara heard no more as her exhaustion, injuries and exposure to the Witch-King made her pass out.

Chapter Text

At the Southern Gate of Gondor was the port of Harlond which was used by the southern regions of Gondor for river traffic. The Hosts of Mordor had seized it already and it would be where the Corsairs of Umbar would dock before fighting against Gondor and Rohan.

Some 2000 Orcs now stood over Harlond and were very angry that the Corsairs still hadn't arrived. The leader of these Orcs was none other than Guritz who had been sent by Gothmog to oversee the Corsairs once they arrived at Harlond.

At mid-morning the Corsairs finally arrived, slowly progressing North up the Anduin. They were seething nonetheless due to the late arrival.

"Late as usual, pirate scum!" Guritz berated as he walked in the front to look at the gathering ships, "There's knife-work here needs doing."

The ships decreased speed as they docked and the lead one eventually docked. But there was no movement and the anger of the Orcs increased.

"Come on, you sea rats! Get off your ships!" A frustrated Guritz roared.

All of them were surprised when a standard broke on the foremost ship and the winds displayed it. It was the White Tree of Gondor with Seven Stars about it with a high crown above it. It was the sign of Elendil that no Lord had borne for years beyond count.

And then, instead of the pirates, two Men, an Elf and a Dwarf leapt over the deck and landed on the dock with roars.

They were all shocked, wondering how 4 people had defeated all the pirates and captured these ships. Nonetheless, they were going to dispose of these 4 easily, slowly moving towards them to accomplish that task.

Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Oliver slowly marched towards the army of Orcs led by Guritz. Oliver could not wait to see the looks on the faces of the Orcs once they would see what was coming for them. Aragorn had Anduril held up high.

"There's plenty for the both of us." Gimli said as he held up his ax while Legolas and Oliver nocked arrows, "May the best Dwarf win."

"May the best blonde win." Oliver joked as he looked at Legolas and the two smirked, Oliver having told the Elf what 'blonde' meant.

Aragorn then released a loud war cry as he, Legolas, Gimli and Oliver charged at the Orcs. Then all of the Oathbreakers poured from the hulls of the ships they had been hiding in.

The Orcs were all paralyzed in fear, not knowing which enemy to flee from. Then they routed the scene. Aragorn cut through them with Anduril, now filling the hearts of the Orcs with black dread. Legolas, Gimli and Oliver began enthusiastically counting their kills as the Army of the Dead rolled over the Orcs like a deadly cloud of green vapor, draining them all of their life forces. Guritz was the first Orc the King of the Dead himself killed in this way.

The tides of fate had turned against the Hosts of Mordor and their doom was at hand.

The fighting now continued as the three competitors continued counting for their contest.

"Fifteen! Sixteen!" Legolas said as he swiftly shot two Orcs down.

"Seventeen! Eighteen! Nineteen!" Gimli roared as he hewed Orcs with his ax.

"Twenty! Twenty One!" Oliver said as he also continued shooting Orcs down.

Aragorn sliced the Orcs down too rather easily. They were no match for the four of them or the Oathbreakers, who were still slaughtering them by draining their life forces.

Theoden had lost consciousness by now and Eowyn was coming close. She heard a roar behind her and turned to see Gothmog getting up with a roar, slowly limping towards her.

"Merry! Sara!" She called out. Sara was unresponsive and her weapon lay close to where the Witch-King had died. She crawled closer to that area as Gothmog limped after her angrily.

Aragorn slaughtered Orcs effortlessly before punching one towards Gimli who killed it with dual axes as Oliver shot two down swiftly.

Eowyn was very close to Ciris and tried to reach out to it as Gothmog lifted a mace behind her. But Ciris slipped out of her grasp and she lost consciousness in that moment.

Gothmog raised the mace and was about bring it down on Eowyn when Aragorn, who had simply spotted him, chopped off his arm with Anduril, making him fall down. Then Gimli sliced his stomach with his axes, with Aragorn following up by stabbing him through the back. Anduril protruded from Gothmog's abdomen. Aragorn retracted the blade and Gothmog died.

He had unknowingly done two things. First, he had saved Eowyn's life without even meaning to. And second, he had finished what his ancestor had started.

He then spotted Legolas and Oliver slaughtering Orcs. But his attention was grabbed by the two Oliphaunths moving at them both.

"Legolas! Oliver!" He called out in warning to them both.

The two turned towards their respective Oliphaunts.

Oliver nocked an arrow and fired. It multiplied into several other arrows and all of them hit the Oliphaunt at different spots on its face, front legs and back. And then all of the arrows produced sonic waves and the Oliphaunt roared in pain as its body was wounded fatally by the sonic waves.

It fell to its knees and slowly died while the war tower on its back collapsed and the Haradrim archers on it were slaughtered by the Oathbreakers.

In contrast, Legolas was much more spectacular. He ran up to the Oliphaunt and avoiding a swing from its trunk, grabbed one of its tusks and leapt at left front foot, holding onto it via the tied rope that secured the war tower up above. As the Oliphaunt moved further, Legolas leapt at its left hind leg and used the arrows embedded in its thick hide to climb up until he was facing the war tower.

The Haradrim archers tried to fire at him but he was much quicker.

"Thirty-three, thirty-four." He counted as he shot two down. And their dead bodies dropped out. Another one holding a spear leapt at Legolas but the Elf archer shot him and his body dropped to the ground.

Another one leapt at Legolas but he grabbed the Man's spear and tossed him to the ground as well. Then another leapt at him but he jumped away as the Man fell to the ground and died.

Legolas grabbed the rope that held the war tower and as the Oliphaunt moved further, he cut off the support of the rope, making the war tower slowly collapse. Legolas used the rope to jump up as the war tower collapsed, killing the Haradrim. Those that didn't die were slaughtered by the Oathbreakers.

Then Legolas ran up to the Oliphaunt's head and nocking three arrows, fired them all. They managed to penetrate its skull and it roared in pain as it fell down and died. Legolas jumped off its head and slid off its trunk, landing neatly on the ground.

Oliver was gaping at him. And Gimli was gaping at them both.

"That still only counts as one!" Gimli gruffly remarked before hewing more Orcs with his ax, "Come on, then! Come on!"

"You are a show-off." Oliver said to Legolas who smirked.

Aragorn slaughtered more Orcs in the vicinity, decapitating Murgash as well. One of the Orcs grabbed his hand to stop him but he snapped the Orc's neck with one hand. He looked around as the Oathbreakers took down all the Hosts of Mordor.

Then he noticed people riding out of Minas Tirith, dressed in armor. He could make out that they were Swan Knights. Boromir was with them in the lead, wearing his helmet and armor. And another Man rode alongside him. This was Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth, the younger brother of Denethor's deceased wife Finduilas. And Aragorn also made out Gandalf riding on Shadowfax alongside them, Pippin sitting with him. Steve was with them too, running and effortlessly keeping up with the horses.

They had planned this counterattack when Rohan had attracted the attention of the Hosts of Mordor. And now they had launched it.

With his Hosts defeated, Gandalf knew Sauron's fume won't be much use. He performed the same spell he had at Helm's Deep and channeled the light of the sun into the eyes of the Orcs, blinding them as they roared in pain.

Steve, Boromir, Imrahil and the Swan Knights slaughtered the remainder of the Hosts of Mordor with help from the Riders of Rohan and the Oathbreakers. Sauron's army had been defeated at last.

Then Gandalf, Boromir, Imrahil, Pippin and the Swan Knights got off their horses while Steve stood next to them, all watching the Army of the Dead in awe and fear.

"Release us." The King of the Dead reminded Aragorn of his earlier promise.

"Bad idea." Gimli spoke up, "Very handy in a tight spot, these lads, despite the fact they're dead."

The King of the Dead glared at him angrily.

"If Aragorn doesn't free them, he'd be a two-faced liar which he isn't. He is one of the Best Men I know." Oliver spoke up and Gimli sighed, conceding his point.

"You gave us your word." The King of the Dead reminded.

"I hold your oath fulfilled." Aragorn told the King humbly, "Go. Be at peace."

The King and the rest of the Oathbreakers immediately felt Isildur's curse lifting as they closed their eyes and smiled in relief. Their ghostly forms were dissipated by an unnatural wind.

Aragorn then turned to Gandalf, Steve, Boromir, Pippin, Imrahil and the Swan Knights. Gandalf, Steve, Boromir and Pippin bowed to him. Seeing that, Imrahil and the Swan Knights followed their gesture. Aragorn accepted with a humble nod.

Pippin then ran off to search for his cousin and friend, "Merry. Sara."

He then looked around and saw something familiar in the grasp of a dead Harad. Merry's cloak with the Galdhrim brooch. And that horrified him.

"No! No!" He said in disbelief as he continued looking around.

Eomer ran to see his sister on the ground and lifted her up sadly, crying while Aragorn and Gandalf watched from a distance.

Gandalf walked up to Eomer gently and put a hand on his shoulder, "She is not dead, Prince Eomer. But wounded gravely. We need to take her to the Houses of Healing."

Oliver was looking for Sara, "SARA?! SARA?!"

"Over here." Legolas suddenly said and the two archers ran to where she lay. Her knee was broken and there was dirt on her face but she seemed alive, if wounded.

"Sara? Open your eyes!" Oliver said desperately, fearing for the worst. Gandalf examined her and said, "She has been exposed to the Black Breath. Come! We must take her to the Houses of Healing."

During that same time, Gimli and Pippin found Merry.

"Merry!" Pippin exclaimed anxiously.

"Don't worry, Pip. I feel better than I had when I stabbed the Witch-King." Merry said and Gimli gasped. A foe considered untouchable had been stabbed by this little Hobbit.

And so the wounded were borne to the Houses of Healing including Theoden, Faramir, Merry, Sara and Eowyn.

"The Hands of the King are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful King be known." Gandalf had said.

And so Aragorn had used athelas found by the people at his request to heal all the wounded, who all woke up a few days later.

But everyone knew the fate of Middle-earth won't be decided by this battle but the outcome of the quest Frodo, Sam and Natasha were on.

Sara woke up to see Oliver next to her.

"Welcome back." He smiled.

"How long was I out?" She groaned.

"Two days." He revealed to her shock, "You were brave. You, Merry, Eowyn, all three of you. You beat the Witch-King."

"It was part of the job." Sara shrugged.

"How's your foot?" Oliver asked.

"Been better." Sara said, "But I think it'll be fine. How're the others?"

"Well, Merry is doing better than you all, only his arm is cold. King Theoden is walking with a cane for now but he will get better. Eowyn is still out but Aragorn says she will get better. And Boromir's brother Faramir was hit by a Morgul arrow so he is out too for now but he'll get better too." Oliver summed up, "The other soldiers are being treated as well."

"In spite of all this, the only way to win is if Frodo, Sam and Natasha destroy the Ring." Sara sighed.

"They will." Oliver said, "They will."

Chapter Text

Gollum lead Frodo, Sam and Natasha to the opening of some kind of cave. A bad smell was around in the air and was growing stronger every second.

"This is the way in." Gollum said, "This is the entrance to the tunnel."

A foul stench came from within.

"Is this the only way in?" Frodo asked.

"Yes, yes, we must go now." Gollum said.

Natasha pinned him to a rock with her foot and he shrank down under her glare, "If anything happens to them, I'll kill you in ways you haven't even thought of."

She let him go as Sam asked, "You've been through this hole before?"

Gollum nodded and then walked inside. Natasha followed him and then behind her were Frodo and Sam. Not since Moria had Frodo, Sam and Natasha known such darkness and here it was even deeper and denser. At least air was moving in Moria and there was a sense of space. Here, air seemed stagnant and sound fell dead.

But they could still feel at least for a while. Their feet and fingers seemed sharpened almost painfully and the walls were smooth. Even the floor was straight and even except for a step every now and then. The tunnel was high and wide, so wide that even though the three walked abreast, only touching the side-walls with their outstretched hands, they were separated and cut off in the darkness.

Gollum seemed only a few steps ahead and they could hear his breathing and gasping for some time. But as they continued, their senses go duller, and their touch and hearing seemed to grow numb. Natasha had a feeling some foul play was involved here. She had come because she knew this was the only way. But considering how eager Gollum was to bring them, it sounded like a mistake to her. Perhaps the One Ring had warped her better judgment as well.

But they still walked through due to their will. Natasha suddenly felt an opening on the right with air less heavy and they passed it by.

"There are quite a few passages here." Natasha muttered.

"It's as Orc-like as a place could ever be." Sam said.

They passed some more openings like this but didn't lose the straight way which didn't turn and went steadily up. The breathlessness of the air was growing as they climbed and they felt thicker resistance than the air in the blind dark.

Natasha's eyes widened as she realized what it was.

"Oh no!" She whispered when Frodo came upon a void and suddenly fell sideways into the emptiness. This was an opening wider than any they had passed and a foul reek came out of it, along with a sense of lurking malice. Frodo reeled when Sam and Natasha too lurched and fell forwards.

Natasha and Frodo both fought off the fear and sickness and got up as Frodo gave Sam a hand, "Up!"

Natasha helped Frodo in dragging Sam to his feet as Frodo forced his own limbs to move. Sam stumbled behind them.

And then the tunnel forked and they couldn't tell which was the wider way and which was nearer to the straight path.

"That stinker has gone off again!" Sam said angrily.

"He planned to lose us in here." Natasha said as she looked around, "But there has to be more to this. How could I not have thought of it?"

"It's the Ring." Frodo said, "It is good at playing with the minds of people nearby, making them lose their better judgment."

"If I ever lay hands on Gollum again, he'll be sorry for it." Sam snarled.

They groped further and found the opening on the left was blocked by something.

"This isn't the way." Natasha said.

"We must go right." Frodo said.

"And quick! There is something worse than Gollum about! I can feel it!" Sam said.

"I can feel it too." Natasha said as they moved further. Then a startling and heavy noise came from behind them. It was a gurgling, bubbling noise and a venomous hiss. They turned around but saw nothing. Still as stones they stood, waiting for something they didn't know.

"It's a trap!" Natasha said as she put a hand on her dagger while Sam had one on the hilt of his sword.

Frodo stood, feeling despair in his heart. Then he saw a light in his mind, almost unbearably bright at first until it became color: green, gold, silver and white. Then he saw Lady Galadriel standing on the grass of Lorien, giving him her enigmatic and encouraging smile.

"And to you, Frodo Baggins, I give the Light of Earendil, our most beloved star." She said though her lips didn't move.

The bubbling hiss drew nearer and there was a creaking as some great jointed thing moved nearer with a foul reek.

"May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out." Frodo remembered the Lady's words as he slowly held aloft the Phial of Galadriel.

"aiya Eärendil elenion ancalima!" Frodo cried and a dazzling light began to burn from it, as though Earendil himself had come down from the high sunset paths with the Silmaril upon his brow. The darkness receded due to the light as Frodo gazed at this marvelous gift, not having known its worth and potency till now.

Then the three felt a great malice bent upon them. They found themselves aware of eyes growing visible, two great clusters of many-windowed eyes. The coming menace was unmasked at last. Monstrous and abominable eyes they were, bestial and yet filled with purpose and with hideous delight, gloating over their prey trapped beyond all hope of escape.

The three backed away, numb with horror, having never seen such a thing before as the dreadful stare of the baleful eyes held their gaze. Natasha had never seen such a thing in her entire life. Frodo's hand wavered and the Phial dropped down before the three sprinted together.

Then Natasha turned to see the eyes leaping behind and stopped, "Running is no use!"

Frodo stopped with her, "She is right."

Gathering his courage, Frodo lifted up the Phial again and the eyes halted. Then Frodo took the Phial in his left hand and Sting in his right, a blue fire flickering at its edge. He walked steadily to meet the eyes.

"Frodo wait!" Natasha said but he didn't stop so she drew her dagger and walked alongside him. The eyes wavered as doubt came into them. No brightness so deadly had ever afflicted them before. As Frodo and Natasha moved closer, the former holding up the Phial, the eyes began to quail and went dark one by one. They turned and a huge bulk beyond the shadow's reach heaved in the dark. They were gone.

"Mister Frodo! Lady Natasha!" Sam cried as he came behind them, his own sword drawn, "We must leave now!"

Then they ran up the path and found a flow of air to meet them. The opening was close. They flung themselves forward but were then thrown back by some barrier. This wasn't a rock but something soft and yielding.

Frodo held up the Phial again and they saw a vast web which was so orderly it looked like a large spider had spun it. It was woven densely and was great, each thread as thick as rope.

"Cobwebs!" Natasha said as she took out her dagger and Frodo Sting. Together, they hacked at the cobwebs, tearing them like a scythe tore grass. Stroke after stroke they made until all of it was cut. The trap was broken. During this time, Frodo accidentally dropped the Phial and Sam picked it up.

"Come!" Frodo said as the three leapt out. And up above them in the distance was Cirith Ungol itself.

"We're on the pass!" Natasha said. The three then ran further until Frodo's blade glowed blue.

"Orcs are close!" Natasha said.

"We'll never rush in like this!" Sam said, "Orcs and worse things than them are close!"

As the three ran, Sam and Natasha turned to their left and saw suddenly issuing from a black hole of shadow under the cliff, the most loathly shape that they had ever beheld, horrible beyond the horror of an evil dream. Most like a spider she was, but huger than the great hunting beasts, and more terrible than they because of the evil purpose in her remorseless eyes. Those same eyes that they had thought daunted and defeated, there they were lit with a fell light again, clustering in her out-thrust head. Great horns she had, and behind her short stalk-like neck was her huge swollen body, a vast bloated bag, swaying and sagging between her legs; its great bulk was black, blotched with livid marks, but the belly underneath was pale and luminous and gave forth a stench. Her legs were bent, with great knobbed joints high above her back, and hairs that stuck out like steel spines, and at each leg's end there was a claw.

As soon as she had squeezed her soft squelching body and its folded limbs out of the upper exit from her lair, she moved with a horrible speed, now running on her creaking legs, now making a sudden bound. She was between Sam and Natasha and Frodo. Either she did not see Sam and Natasha, or she avoided them for the moment, and fixed all her intent upon one prey, upon Frodo, bereft of his Phial, running heedless up the path, unaware yet of his peril. Swiftly he ran, but Shelob was swifter; in a few leaps she would have him.

"Mister Frodo!" Sam cried out when something stifled his cry. It was a bony hand. Something wrapped itself around his leg and he toppled backwards into the arms of his attacker.

"Got him!" Gollum hissed, "At last, precious, the fat one is in our grip!"

"Not for long." Natasha snarled as she grabbed Gollum and lifting him off Sam threw him off.

"What did I tell you about what I'd do to you?" She snarled as she kicked his face, sending him back. Sam ran at him with a roar and grabbing him by the throat, started punching him angrily. But Gollum managed to wheeze out of his grip and jumped away on all fours like a frog.

Sam made to chase him when Natasha stopped him, "No Sam! Frodo needs us!"

They turned around and gasped in horror and shock at what they saw. The giant spider like thing was upon Frodo, who was lying with his face upwards. She wound him in her webbing from ankle to shoulder and started carrying away.

"Who is that?" Sam wondered.

"Sauron's cat who kills intruders for him." Natasha sneered as Sam picked up Sting that had fallen nearby.

Holding out the Phial of Galadriel, he snarled, "Let him go, you filth!"

The spider-monster finally looked at the Hobbit and Woman before her as Sam roared, "LET HIM GO!"

"You want to fight spider, fight another spider." Natasha said with a smirk, her eyes having a deadly glare.

The giant spider dropped Frodo as Sam said, "You will not touch him again."

"Come on and let's finish it." Natasha said as Sam charged with Sting and tried to strike but was pushed back. He fell down and the Phial fell out of his hands.

The spider moved the Phial away with one leg as Sam got back up but Natasha stood between them. She grabbed the two pincers at the spider's front, trying to hold it back but both of them were pushed back. Natasha still had the pincers in her hold when Sam helped her by kicking the eyes and the spider staggered back.

They ran and tried to climb up but were grabbed and pushed back down. They got up as Natasha held out her dagger while Sam held Sting. The spider leapt back down but Sam thrust Sting forward and managed to stab one of her eyes, making her roar in pain as Natasha said, "Well done."

Sam tried to fight with Sting but she blocked with her pincers as the two struggled while Natasha hit one of her legs with her dagger in a rotatory motion, making her roar in pain as a huge gash was formed. The spider then pushed both of them down as Sting fell out of Sam's hand.

She was then upon them with her stinger out, trying to jab them. Both of them rolled around, avoiding it a few times until Natasha lifted Sting and handed it to Sam. The spider was about to try to jab them again when both of them stabbed her in her great belly. She roared in agony like she had never known before.

They retracted their weapons as she staggered back, her legs all moving wildly due to her pain while her body jerked. Sam held up the Phial and said, "Back! Back!"

The two moved further as she backed off due to her pain and fear. She disappeared into the darkness as her eyes disappeared one by one. She was gone and what would happen to her later no one knew.

The two ran to a limp Frodo as Natasha tore off some of the webs, revealing his pale face which didn't move one bit.

"Mr. Frodo!" Sam called out.

"Frodo!" Natasha called out too.

"Oh, no. Frodo. Mr. Frodo. Wake up." Sam said as the two shook him.

"Frodo you can't give in, not now! We're so close!" Natasha said.

"Don't leave me here alone." Sam said as he held Frodo up, "Don't go where I can't follow. Wake up."

Natasha touched his neck and her worst fears were confirmed. There was no pulse. And in that moment, she broke down, allowing the tears to fall, "Oh no."

"Not asleep." Sam cried as he cradled the dead Frodo, "Dead."

Natasha had always wondered what it would be like to have children. The one thing she regretted more than killing was losing the ability to have children. But these Hobbits, while older than her, were younger in heart and mind and much more innocent. She had felt protective of them from the start, caring deeply for them because of their innocence, not wanting them to suffer. They had been like the children she could never have. And now she had failed one of them. Which is why he was dead.

Then they noticed Sting glowing blue, brighter than before, and their grief was replaced by horror. They scrambled away, picking up Sting and the Phial and hid behind rocks.

"You get back, you scum!"

Some Orcs and Black Uruks came upon the scene, looking at the dead Frodo.

"What's this?" One of them wondered.

"Looks like old Shelob's been having a bit of fun." Another one with dirty yellow skin and thin strands of hair on his head said.

"Killed another one, has she?"

"No. This fellow ain't dead." The dirty yellow one said.

"Not dead?" Sam whispered in shock as Natasha felt a weight being lifted off her shoulders.

"The venom slows down the heart rate." She realized, "Like the drug Fury took to fake his death."

"She jabs him with her stinger, and he goes as limp as a boned fish." The dirty yellow Orc said, "Then she has her way with them. That's how she likes to feed. Fresh blood."

Pointing at Frodo, he ordered, "Get him to the tower!"

The other Orcs and Black Uruks lifted him as Sam whispered, "Samwise, you fool."

"This scum will be awake in a couple of hours." The Orc said, "Then he'll wish he'd never been born."

With that, they all moved away, up on some stairs and were out of sight soon.

"I'll make you all wish you'd never been born." Natasha sneered as the two got out of their hiding place, "Come! We must save him!"

"I won't let those filthy Orcs touch Mister Frodo." Sam said as they ran up the stairs.

'I won't fail you. Not again.' Natasha said in her head as they continued following the Orcs and Black Uruks.

Chapter Text

After helping heal the wounded, Aragorn had left the city hooded and cloaked but the people had followed him as they had heard rumors of the Return of the King. But Denethor was still in-charge of Gondor based on law so next they wondered if the Return of the King was just a dream.

However, next day, he had decided to hold a Council with his trusted companions and other leaders of Gondor. In attendance were Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir, Steve, Oliver, Sara, Theoden, Eomer, Denethor and Imrahil.

Faramir and Eowyn still hadn't fully recovered from their wounds so they were resting while Merry and Pippin had decided to take care of them and on seeing the spark between the two, were also playing matchmakers.

Sara and Theoden were both using canes to help themselves walk.

Denethor was casting glances in Aragorn's direction every now and then, an action that had been noticed by everyone, including the former Ranger, not that they blamed him.

While Aragorn had proven his worth, the Stewards had looked after the throne for ages so they won't just give up their seat because a descendant decided to show up and claim it, even if his reasons were unselfish and for the greater good.

"Frodo has passed beyond my sight." Gandalf stated regretfully, "The darkness is deepening."

"If Sauron had the Ring, we would know it." Aragorn countered firmly.

"What if he has it already and is just waiting for the right moment to use it?" Oliver asked, remembering how Malcolm had hidden a second Markov device after his defeat.

"I believe Sauron is like Loki in a sense." Steve said, "They are both masters of lies and deceit. But like Loki didn't hide the Teserract, Sauron wouldn't hide the Ring if he has it."

The Fellowship and the people of Rohan had heard tales of the exploits of the heroes in their worlds from them and seeing what they were capable of, didn't doubt them one bit.

Everyone present agreed with Aragorn's and Steve's reasoning. But Gandalf still seemed troubled.

"It's only a matter of time." Gandalf told everyone, "He has suffered a defeat, yes... ...but behind the walls of Mordor, our enemy is regrouping."

"Let him stay there." Gimli said as he released a puff of smoke, "Let him rot! Why should we care?"

Legolas, Steve, Oliver and Sara rolled their eyes. Gimli had many positive traits but assessing the situation properly wasn't one of them.

"We should care because they are in our friends' way." Sara told him.

"Because 10,000 Orcs now stand between Frodo, Sam, Natasha and Mount Doom." Gandalf said and Gimli coughed nervously while all others were unsettled by his analysis.

"I've sent them to their deaths." Gandalf said regretfully and the mood plummeted even more. Gandalf looked ashamed of himself and guilty.

"You said we must trust in them. They need it now more than ever." Sara said.

"There is still hope for Frodo. But we can give him more than just that." Aragorn said as all eyes turned to him, "He needs time and safe passage across the plains of Gorgoroth. We can give him that."

"How?" Gimli asked guardedly.

"Me, Aragorn, Boromir and Oliver had a discussion earlier." Steve revealed as the four exchanged looks and at nods from the other three, Aragorn spoke.

"We will draw out Sauron's armies. Empty his lands." He said, "Then we gather our full strength and march on the Black Gate."

"Death of our Men." Denthor asked incredulously, "That is what you have planned?"

While Eomer found Denethor a distasteful Man in comparison with Aragorn, he still agreed with him in this situation, "We cannot achieve victory through strength of arms."

"Like Lord Denethor says, all it will lead to is death against reckless hate." Theoden agreed.

"Not for ourselves. But we can give Frodo, Sam and Natasha their chance if we keep Sauron's Eye fixed upon us." Aragorn said, "Keep him blind to all else that moves"

"If he is looking at the army that is trying to fight him, he won't think of anything else." Oliver said.

"Because he would think we are trying to overthrow him that way." Steve concluded.

"Which is exactly what we need." Boromir said. Denethor looked at him a bit incredulously, not convinced of the strategy still.

"A diversion." Legolas summed up what Aragorn, Boromir, Steve and Oliver had decided upon.

"Will you join us, my Lord, for this battle?" Sara asked Theoden.

Theoden was silent for a few moments and everyone who had been in Edoras that day were reminded of his silence after the beacons had been lit. Like then, he made the better decision.

"Rohan will honor the Oath of Eorl and march to battle the forces of Sauron." He said.

"Gondor will not march." Denethor said and all looked at him incredulously. While he was no longer delusional, he still didn't believe that Gondor should march against Sauron like that if his forces were still strong, "I will not allow it."

"You are still on a leave of absence, father." Boromir pointed out and he deflated, "Gondor will march in this war and help the Ring-bearer and his companions."

"Are you sure a Halfling has the wits to finish this task that was appointed to him?" Denethor asked him.

"Even if they don't, which is not true because they are very intelligent, Natasha is with them. They will succeed." Steve said firmly and all nodded.

"So Gondor will ride to war as well." Imrahil said.

"We will march in 2 days when your legs have fully healed." Aragorn told Theoden and Sara and they nodded.

"I got no plans anytime soon." Steve joked like he had before the Battle of Novi Grad and all chuckled.

"I will go too." Denethor said as all turned to him.

Boromir tried to discourage him, "But father…."

"Do you think I will be happy to sit behind these stone walls while my people march to a battle from which they may not return?" Denethor asked as he held up his hand, "If this is to be our end, I will be a part of it. I have feared Sauron and his army for years. But no more."

Everyone felt their respect for the Steward grow in this moment, especially Steve. He had gone from a delusional, broken Man to his old self in a matter of days due to the aid of his sons.

Aragorn nodded to him respectfully, "I will be honored, my Lord Steward."

Gimli was back to his boisterous self by now, "Certainty of death... ...small chance of success... ...what are we waiting for?"

Gandalf, while in agreement, still had some misgivings. He moved towards Aragorn to discuss those misgivings.

"Sauron will suspect a trap." He said, "He will not take the bait."

"Oh, I think he will." Aragorn said confidently before announcing to everyone, "Sauron needs to know the Heir of Isildur has returned to challenge him for power. And that will be how we fix his eye upon us."

"That is not so difficult." Denethor said as all turned to him, "Have you ever wondered why I have known so much?"

And then it hit most of them.

"You used the seeing stone of Minas Anor." Aragorn said and it went quiet, "But why?"

Before Denethor could respond and escalate the conflict, Gandalf asked, "Where is it now?"

Denethor led Aragorn to a heavy wooden door with iron bands across it. The wood was dark with age. No one came to this part of the Citadel it seemed as cobwebs hung there. From the folds of his robe, Denethor produced a key and inserted it into the keyhole before turning it. The door unlocked and opened without even creaking. Clearly, he was the only one who came to this place often.

Aragorn entered as his eyes adjusted to the dim interior. Denethor stood outside simply. Aragorn could see faded tapestries and dust all around the room along with some chipped statues. But there was one pedestal in the center with no dust on it. A dark velvet cloth was upon it, covering the seeing stone. Aragorn's heart beat faster on seeing the Palantir's shape and he clutched the hilt of Anduril even tighter to give himself strength.

He remembered everyone else who had looked into a Palantir. Pippin was an innocent Hobbit whom Sauron had tortured through it. Even a Wizard like Saruman did not have the strength to look through it. Denethor had been driven to despair by it. Even Gandalf had confessed to him before this that he feared to look into it. Steve was the one who had resisted it the best and his battle of wills had ended on a draw with Sauron, though he was a super soldier beyond even the great heroes of the First Age.

Gathering all his courage, Aragorn removed the cloth, revealing the Palantir. He lifted it up as it flared up and the Eye of Sauron appeared.

"Long have you hunted me. Long have I eluded you." Aragorn said, "No more."

He lifted up Anduril, "Behold the Sword of Elendil."

The Eye of Sauron glared at it before Aragorn saw an image of Sauron himself in his physical form, holding a Palantir. And then an image appeared before him which shook him to his core. Arwen, his beloved, lying dead and pale.

His face turned to one of horror and despair and he almost dropped the Palantir. But he didn't let go.

"This is a trick!" He said, his voice booming with authority, "I will not fall for these, Sauron."

In that moment, he accepted his destiny at last as he held up Anduril, "I am the Heir of Isildur! Rightful King of Gondor! I am the Master of this Stone and have both the right and the strength to use it."

The image disappeared and the Eye of Sauron was flaring in a rage during that moment as Aragorn wrestled against it in a battle of wills. His right was not to be doubted. His strength was enough just barely. And in this battle of wills, he used those to win barely.

The Eye of Sauron disappeared at last from the Palantir as Aragorn put it back on the pedestal and covered it with the cloth.

His plan was about to be set in motion now.

Two days later, the plan was finally set in motion. Rohan and Gondor had a sum total of five and a half thousand Men.

One thousand Gondorians were left at Minas Tirith under the command of a still recovering Faramir to prevent the White City from being ransacked.

A detachment of one thousand cavalry under the command of Elfhelm and Imrahil rode to Rohan to protect it from any assaults by Mordor. Rohirrim comprised half of the force and the Swan Knights of Dol Amroth the other half.

The rest of them were going to march to the Black Gate and Aragorn had dubbed them 'Army of the West.'

Aragorn rode in the front, wearing a full suit of metal mail with steel pauldrons. Greaves and boots were engraved with elegant Gondorian motifs. A rich, red sleeveless robe was over the mail and was covered by a robe of black leather. The outer robe had the symbol of the White Tree of Gondor. A fine black cloak was at back of the outfit, attached to his robe by two gold and silver brooches. But he did not wear a helmet.

Boromir had the same armor as he had during the Siege of Minas Tirith but he did not wear a helmet either this time. He had a new shield to help him in this battle. Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli and Steve were dressed as usual. Steve also had a Rohirric shield this time to replace the broken Galadhrim one, though this one wasn't as useful. But he'd make do with what he had. His strength, speed and reflexes were his best defense.

King Theoden's leg had mostly healed but he was good enough to ride and fight so he was riding, wearing the same armor as during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields along with Eomer.

Merry and Pippin were dressed in Rohirric and Gondorian armor respectively.

Sara too wore a Rohirric armor like at Pelennor but without a helmet this time and no cloak either. Oliver knew they would fight in closed spaces this time so he won't be able to maneuver much. Which was why he was wearing Gondorian armor minus the cloak and helmet.

Denethor wore a fine coat of steel mail that covered his chest and thighs.

Several of them shared rides. Pippin rode with Gandalf like before while Gimli rode with Legolas. Merry was riding behind Eomer while Oliver rode behind Sara. Sara had joked how they looked like Robin Hood and Maid Marian in reverse.

King Theoden had allowed Steve to ride with him as repayment for his deeds during the Battle of Helm's Deep.

Boromir rode directly behind Aragorn with Denethor next to him and carried the Standard of Elendil.

They were marching to war. And likely, to doom.

Eowyn looked down at the departing army as Faramir approached her.

"The city has fallen silent." She said, "There is no warmth left in the sun. It grows so cold."

"It's just the damp of the first spring rain." He said as she turned to him, "I do not believe this darkness will endure."

And then the two grasped each other's hands and smiled. She rested her head against his shoulder and he ruffled his cheek against her hair.

Even if this was the end, they had each other.

Chapter Text

Frodo woke up on hearing creaking behind him. He felt tightness in his hands which were joined together and saw they had been bound while there was a sticky substance on his head. Webs! He heard snarling behind him and knew there were Orcs. He was naked as they had stripped him of his clothes and belongings.

And he was soon about to learn first-hand that the Servants of Sauron had no love lost for each other.

"Hands off!" He heard one of them say to the other behind him, "That shiny shirt, that's mine."

Shiny shirt? His Mithril armor! They had taken it along with everything else.

"It's going to the Great Eye, along with everything else." Another one said.

Everything else? He realized the Ring wasn't on his neck anymore. Oh no! Had they taken it from him? He had to do something or they would give it to Sauron.

"I don't take orders from stinking Morgul-rats!" The first one said and Frodo heard someone being slammed against the wall. This one had pushed the other one to the wall.

Then he heard metal scraping against ground for a fraction of a second.

"You touch it, and I'll stick this blade in your gut." The other one said and Frodo realized he had pointed a sword at the other and that was what he had heard scraping against the ground.

He then heard the two fighting along with a metal clang and knew the blade had fallen to the ground. He struggled against his bonds as he heard one of them punching the other down somewhere and then kicking him.

He then heard the sounds of the one who was kicked falling away. He had fallen down some kind of hole. Then he heard more growls and he realized others in the tower had been alerted to this petty brawl.

"The scum tried to knife me!" The one who was still in the room yelled and Frodo realized he was the one who had been threatened with the blade, "Kill him!"

Then he heard punching, kicking and metal hitting metal. The forces of Sauron were fighting each other. He then heard another growl of someone falling away followed by more growls. If they were going to amongst themselves, this was the opportunity for him. He tried wriggling to get the ropes off.

From a distance, Sam and Natasha watched Cirith Ungol, moving towards it cautiously. They reached closer as they heard growls from inside.

Sam had Sting in one hand and his own blade in another while Natasha held her dagger.

"Whatever happens, stay with me. I'll protect you." Natasha promised. She could not fail again. She won't.

They reached the entrance, passing the two statues outside. Then they saw several Orcs and Black Uruks lying dead.

"They don't love each other." Natasha said sarcastically, "How surprising!"

They ran further, reaching the bottom of some stairs and then started moving up slowly on seeing Black Uruks moving down from the distance. Then Sam started growling angrily, screaming at the top of his lungs.

Several Black Uruks were up there on the stairs but from that angle, all they could see were large, distorted shadows that made them step back in fear a little. Then Sam and Natasha stepped up and their fear turned to anger as they realized they had prey now.

They charged as Natasha dodged the strike of the first and punched his arm, making him groan before kicking his feet in a rotatory motion, throwing him down and then sliced his throat with her dagger before leaping on another and grabbing his head with her feet, flipped them both to the ground but he fell off the stairs. She rolled to avoid the strike of the last one and threw the dagger. It hit his neck, killing him as she got up and retracted it while his body fell down the stairs.

During this time, Sam was killing the Black Uruks too.

He stabbed the first one deeply after ducking to avoid his attack, "That's for Frodo!

He then sliced the other one and he fell down the stairs, "And for the Shire!"

He then dodged a swing from the last one and getting behind him, pushed him off the stairs, "And that's for my old Gaffer!"

"None for me?" Natasha joked and he looked sheepish.

"The next one will be for you." He said.

From another exit, the Black Uruk who had picked a fight with the Orc over the Mithril coat ran out. His name was Shagrat. Holding the Mithril coat, he escaped Cirith Ungol and ran away.

Frodo had managed to get the webs off and was struggling against his bonds when the Orc who had fought Shagrat appeared, startling him. It was the same one who had picked him up with his friends. He had thin strands of hair. Gorbag was his name.

"Stop your squealing, you dunghill rat." He snarled as he raised a blade to kill Frodo, "I'm gonna bleed you like a stuck pig."

Before he could bring it down, he gasped and coughed blood to Frodo's shock. Then Sting erupted from his chest, glowing blue and Sam stood behind him

"Not if I stick you first." Sam sneered.

"Sam!" Frodo said happily, with a smile on his face.

Then Natasha appeared behind Gorbag and grabbing him asked angrily, "What? Afraid of an opponent who isn't a tied, helpless Hobbit?"

She then sliced his throat as Sam retracted Sting and he died on the spot.

Then they turned to Frodo and their expressions softened.

"Let's get you out of here." Sam said.

Natasha cut off his bonds with her knife swiftly but carefully and with a happy smile touched his face, "You're all right, kid."

Frodo nodded with a smile of his own as he sat up before saying, "It's too late. It's over."

"What do you mean?" Natasha asked.

"Sam, Natasha, they've taken it...they took the Ring." Frodo revealed, a shocked and guilty expression on his face.

"Begging your pardon, but they haven't." Sam reveal to his shock.

Natasha turned to him as he reached into his pocket and took out the Ring, still attached to its chain.

"We thought we'd lost you." Sam explained as he held it out, "So I took it. Only for safekeeping."

"Give it to me." Frodo said as he held out his hand.

"You sure you want it back?" Natasha asked.

"Yes. Please." Frodo said.

"Give me the Ring, Sam." He then called out to Sam, "Sam. Give me the Ring."

Sam looked as he retracted his hand for some reason while Natasha looked at him in concern, "Sam?"

Sam was about to keep it back before he held out his hand again and Frodo took the Ring from him.

Natasha wrapped an arm around Sam protectively, proud of him for not giving in to the Ring's temptation.

"You must understand." Frodo said as he put the Ring around his neck again, "The Ring is my burden. It will destroy you, Sam. You too, Natasha."

"I know." Natasha sighed, "I know when I'm out of my depth. This thing would want me for sure."

"Come on, Mr. Frodo." Sam said as they helped him up, "We best find you some clothes. You can't go walking through Mordor in naught but your skin."

Natasha chuckled, "Especially as it will defeat our mission."

Later, the three walked out, having thrown some Orc armor onto themselves with large helmets that completely covered their heads so no one would recognize them as not Orcs.

The path came to a steep hill that gave them an eerie and encompassing view of Mordor.

"We did it, Mr. Frodo, Lady Natasha." Sam said, "We made it to Mordor."

Mount Doom was still far off and spilling ash and dust while the path was covered in soot and ash and was rocky. At the left of it was a tall, dark tower with a fiery orb on its top. Barad-Dur! It spun like a searchlight, sweeping back and forth.

They looked down to see several fires glowing and knew battalions of Orcs had encamped there.

"There are so many of them." Frodo said, "We'll never get through unseen."

"I'd worry more about that." Natasha said as she gestured to the Eye.

"It's him, the Eye." Frodo gasped.

"We have to go in there, Mr. Frodo." Sam said, "There's nothing for it."

"We can't give up now that we've come this far into enemy territory." Natasha said, "Come on."

"Come on." Sam said too, "Let's just make it down the hill for starters."

And with that, the three starting walking down the hill, the last phase of their Quest finally starting.

Chapter Text

For hours and hours Frodo, Sam and Natasha moved through Mordor, with as little sleep as possible. A lot of climbing needed to be done by them though thankfully, it didn't require ropes of any sort.

The dirt and soot were pretty bad for the Hobbits, but only a minor irritant for Natasha. The smell inside the Orc armor was another matter entirely.

They hadn't been spotted by any Orcs so far. That was when Sam said, "Look, the Orcs...they're moving off."

Frodo and Natasha looked into the direction he was pointing at and sure, the Orcs were moving into different directions.

"You see, Mr. Frodo...some luck at last." Sam said with optimism that would make Steve blush.

"Don't jinx it." Natasha whispered to him. Then they noticed a column of Orcs marching towards them, "You jinxed it."

They quickly hurled themselves down to the rocky side of the path, adjusting their helmets to cover their skins. This was the best hiding place they could find in these few seconds.

"Move it, you slugs! Come on! Faster! Come along, you scum... I'll whip you down to the bone, you... Come on! What have I told you?!"

The column passed by them and they were unnoticed so far, until the whip master saw them and was furious. He would have hit Frodo with his whip but Natasha was in the way and took the blows to protect them, not that she was hurt much due to the armor.

"Get up!" The whip master roared, "Come on, you slugs!"

They got up as he pushed them into the marching column, "You three are going straight to the front line! Now, move it! Go on! Fall in! Move it! To the Gate, you slugs! Now, move it!"

He then roared, "Don't you know we're at war?"

'War? Against who?' Natasha wondered.

The marching continued for a few minutes as some Orcs played drums too and then the whip master called out, "Company, halt!"

They all stopped as he roared, "Inspection!"

The three saw a huge, fat, bald Orc who started giving cursory inspections, pushing the Orcs around.

"Sam, help me." Frodo was sinking to the ground, his eyes spinning.

"Mr. Frodo!" Sam said as he held him for support while Natasha wondered what to do. Then she remembered the loathing all servants of Sauron had for each other and got a good idea.

"Stand up, Mr. Frodo." Sam begged, "Stand up!"

"It's so heavy." Frodo gasped as Sam and Natasha saw red markings on his neck where he had hung the Ring.

These Orcs were generally witless and couldn't differentiate a deep human voice from that of their own kind. At least not for a few minutes.

Deepening her voice as much as she could, Natasha also twisted her nose a little to give herself a nasal voice to add to the effect. No one would notice under her helmet.

"You missed one there!" She said and pointed at the whip master.

He was furious immediately, "You dare to speak against the whip master ya scum?!"

But the inspector seemed to have gotten an idea from her and actually walked to inspect the whip master as well.

"You will not touch me, ya filthy scum!" The whip master screamed at the inspector.

The inspector roared and pushed him back, "Shut yer trap ya filth!"

In a rage, the whip master pushed the inspector back too and soon the two started fighting while the other Orcs started cheering at the sight.

"Come on, let's get out." Natasha said to Frodo and Sam and the three ducked, running out of the vicinity of the cheering Orcs. She felt some vindictive pleasure as she had gotten back at the whip master as well.

They dove into a tent made of parchment black and ran off, hearing a bit more cheering behind them before it died down. Then they heard a horn and stamping feet. They had escaped for now.

They walked further for almost half an hour, with Mount Doom getting closer with every step they took. The terrain was flatter and the rocks bigger but numbered less when Frodo collapsed near a rock, gasping.

"Frodo!" Natasha cried out as she kneeled near him and he threw off his helmet.

"I can't... I can't... I can't manage the Ring, Sam. Natasha." He gasped, "It's... It's... It's such a weight to carry. It... Such a weight."

"Don't you worry." She assured as he looked up at her and she looked down with compassion and understanding, wrapping her arms around him protectively, "You don't have to worry about it after a while. We're very close now. We'll get rid of it and I swear on my life you never have to worry about that goddamn Ring ever again!"

She then let him go as Sam pointed at Mount Doom, "We're going that way. Straight as we can."

Natasha then said, "There's no point carrying anything we're not sure to need."

The three then sat down and threw off the Orc armor. Natasha was relieved to be rid of that horrid stench now.

"Mr. Frodo. Lady Natasha." Sam said as he pointed up at the sky, "Look."

There was a small star there, close to being covered by clouds.

"There is light...and beauty up there...that no shadow can touch." He said.

He looked down to see Frodo with his eyes closed, leaning his head on his shoulder. Natasha stroked his head gently as she exchanged a concerned look with Sam.

Soon, Frodo opened his eyes with gasps and drank the last bit of water he had, fumbling for more.

"Here." Natasha said as she offered him hers just one second before Sam could, "Take mine. There's a few drops left."

Frodo took it and said, "There will be none left for the return journey."

Natasha was stunned as this was Frodo's most positive expression in days.

"I don't think there will be a return journey, Mr. Frodo." Sam said as he gazed sadly at Natasha who didn't flinch one bit, knowing Sam was right. Perhaps this was a one-way trip after all. But Steve had done it. Tony had done it. She would too if that was what it took to finish this. She just wished she could see those she cared about one last time. Bucky, Clint, Steve, Wanda, Sam, Tony, Sara or Oliver.

They continued on as Frodo started to sink into delirium at this point, waving is hands around wildly for a bit. They reached the foot of the mountain where the limb was surprisingly level.

Then a bright orange light swept over them and both her and Sam pushed themselves down. Frodo was standing, stunned.

"Frodo, get down!" Sam yelled as the Eye of Sauron started turning to him, "Hide!"

"Frodo! Get down!" Natasha yelled too.

And just before the Eye could see him, Frodo collapsed to the ground, feeling weakened and exhausted as Natasha and Sam watched him in concern.

The Black Gate was located to the North-west of Mordor and was a direct entrance into the Dark Lord's lair.

It was unbreakable black stone and iron about sixty feet in height and two hundred and fifty feet long. Each half of the gate was ninety feet wide and set on stone wheels. Behind it were gigantic circular stone ramparts. Two pairs of Mountain Trolls tethered to some really huge beams pushed their way around their rampart's track when it needed to be opened.

The terrain in its front was barren plain of dust and gravel. Two large slag hills were on its north. The plain was surrounded by a number of low-lying rocky hills. There really was no space to maneuver so Oliver and Sara had made the right call by wearing armor. And they had no clear line of retreat if they'd be surrounded.

Steve remembered Colonel Phillips' words to the Project: Rebirth recruits back when he was just a skinny kid from Brooklyn.

'I may not have Adolf Hitler with me, but I sure have come to the Gates of Hell.' He mused to himself.

The mounted leaders of the Army of the West were all in the front now while the remaining formed into ranked lines. Banners of both Gondor and Rohan were raised.

"Where are they?" Pippin whispered in anticipation.

Aragorn spurred his horse further towards the Black Gate. The rest of the Fellowship, Theoden, Eomer and Denethor were a pretty sizable delegation. They stopped just short of the Black Gate.

"Let the Lord of the Black Land come forth!" Aragorn called out to Sauron, "Let justice be done upon him!"

Then there was a grating sound and the giant gates opened slightly- enough to let one rider pass through.

He rode a skeletal black horse which looked so bony Steve, Oliver and Sara wondered how it was alive. Or maybe it was a zombie. Two of them had seen the Witch-King's sorcery and all three of them had seen ghosts, so it wasn't an unreasonable conclusion.

The rider was wearing all black with a peaked black helmet that covered the upper half of his face. He was the Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-Dur.

He was no Nazgul however but a living Man. Rumor was that he was a Black Numenorean who had entered Sauron's service when it had first rose again and he had learnt great knowledge and sorcery, with his skills making him very useful. Sauron had noticed him and given him his current position.

Because he was Sauron's herald and messenger, he had been given the name 'Mouth of Sauron.' His mouth was horribly disfigured and diseased and his lips were twice the size of a normal Man.

"My master, Sauron the Great, bids thee welcome." He said and then the real horror began as his black and bloodied oversized teeth were revealed. Sauron's words had been so evil that simply repeating them had cause his mouth to decay and bleed, "I am called the Mouth of Sauron."

He looked at the entire delegation up and down and laughed, "Is there any in this rout with authority to treat with me? Or indeed the wit to understand me? Not thou at least!"

He had aimed the last remark at Aragorn and he continued his mockery, "It takes more to make a King than a broken Elvish blade."

Aragorn said nothing and instead held the Mouth's gaze firmly. He didn't stir one bit. Oliver was angered by the insult to his friend and gripped his bow firmly. The Mouth had heard of what his bow could do and that, combined with Aragorn's firm gaze, made him back down.

"I am a herald and an ambassador, I cannot be harmed!" He cried.

"Where such laws hold value." Gandalf said, "It is also custom for the ambassadors to use less insolence. But no one has threatened you. You have nothing to fear from us until your task is done."

The Mouth now decided it was time to be arrogant again.

"Ah! So you are the spokesperson, old Greybeard." He said condescendingly as Legolas, Oliver and Sara glared at him, "We have heard of your wanderings and plots but this time you have stuck your nose too far. Treating with Sauron the Great was the last of your follies."

"We do not come to treat with Sauron...faithless and accursed!" Gandalf said and the Mouth snorted angrily, "Tell your master this: The armies of Mordor must disband. He is to depart these lands, never to return."

The Mouth was angered by this and needed something to put this rabble in its place.

"Old Greybeard." He sneered as his mouth opened in a gasp, "I have a token I was bidden to show thee."

He reached into his lap and took out something. What it was made the entire delegation freeze as horror and grief swept through their veins. Frodo's Mithril coat!

He held it high for all of them to see as clearly as they could.

"Frodo!" Pippin involuntarily released out of grief.

"Silence!" Gandalf ordered.

"No!" Merry cried out.

"Silence!" Gandalf rebuked sternly again.

Their reactions were all the confirmation the Mouth needed to know that they knew the wearer of this.

"The Halfling was dear to thee, I see." He said as Steve shook with rage while Gimli's face was red with fury. Legolas was glaring at him, looking like he might snap and shoot at any moment. Sara had a tear running down her cheek, having gotten know Frodo before the breaking of the Fellowship while Oliver was giving the Mouth his 'Hood' glare. Boromir looked saddened too, believing he had failed the Ring-bearer utterly.

"Know that he suffered greatly at the hands of his host." The Mouth said to add to their grief as Pippin looked up at him, enraged, "Who would've thought one so small could endure so much pain? And he did, Gandalf. He did."

Steve was numb with grief when he realized he had overlooked something. The Mouth had mentioned only one Halfling. And nothing about a woman. So where were Sam and Natasha? Had they not been captured? Or had they been ki- No! He would not allow himself to believe this.

The Mouth had noticed Merry and Pippin and said, "Ah! More of these imps! I do not know what use you see in these. But to send one of them as spies into Mordor was more foolish than I would expect of you."

Oliver would have loved to just shoot him in his oversized mouth, and judging by the looks everyone else was giving him, it was obvious they wanted to as well. But if they had Frodo, then they might hurt him more if he was killed. So Oliver gave the Mouth a taste of his own medicine.

"You're all bark and no bite!" He said and the Mouth sneered at him, "That's why you're just talking here. When the fighting begins, you will hide behind one of those Orcs, who, by some miracle, are braver than you. These Hobbits actually bite if you piss them off!"

The Mouth opened his mouth in a gasp as response to the insult which had infuriated him. This Man who had the nerve to insult him and compare him to Orcs unfavorably was going to pay.

"If you speak to me in this tone again, the Halfling dies!" He snapped.

"That is if you have him actually." Steve said as everyone turned to him in shock while he gave the Mouth a firm gaze, "Sauron the Great must be really desperate if he wants to negotiate with the likes of us."

"Your insolence is no match for the might of the Dark Lord." The Mouth said condescendingly.

"What might?" Sara asked in a similar tone, "The Witch-King? One of the two imps standing here stabbed him so badly he fell on his face."

Now of course he hadn't fallen on his face but embellishing the tale could still work wonders. And it did as the delegation gave amused smirks at the insult.

"We will kill the Halfling if your tongues are not stilled!" The Mouth snapped angrily, the negotiations slipping out of his hands.

"Bring him to us then." Gandalf said, realizing what Steve had been getting onto, "Such threats will hold merit only if he is standing here."

"Do not bandy words in your insolence with the Mouth of Sauron!" The Mouth cried, "Surety you crave! Sauron gives none. If you sue for his clemency you must first do his bidding. These are his terms. Take them or leave them! Your hopelessly outnumbered force leaves you little choice."

He was angered further when Sara laughed at him, "First of all, you need to use Colgate. It cleans your breath while it cleans your teeth."

At this point, Steve and Oliver joined in her laughter too, infuriating him further while Sara added, "We were outnumbered in all of the fights. Yes your Great Master is the one who lost badly."

The Mouth roared angrily, "My Master will make the Free Peoples suffer once he g-"

He stopped himself at that, realizing what was about to slip out but the delegation caught onto it.

"He can make the Free Peoples suffer all he wants." Steve said with a smirk as he realized Frodo, Sam and Natasha hadn't been captured. And then, to his own shock, he used one of Stark's comebacks, "But if we can't protect Middle-earth, you can be damn well sure we'll avenge it."

The Mouth was at a loss of words at this point while Oliver said a variation of his most popular line to strike fear into his heart, "Mouth of Sauron! You have failed Middle-earth!"

At this point, his horse backed off as he gasped angrily while Aragorn said, "If your Master does not want to accept our terms, we have no reason to treat with you."

"You offered us to take them or leave them." Gandalf said, "This, we will take!"

And then he raised his hand high as a white light shone from him. Before his upraised hand, the foul creature recoiled as Gandalf rode up to him with Pippin and seized the Mithril armor, "This we will take! But as for your terms, we reject them utterly. Get you gone, for your embassy is over and death is near to you. We did not come here to waste words in treating with Sauron, faithless and accursed; still less with one of his slaves. Begone!"

This was the breaking point for the Mouth of Sauron as his face was twisted with amazement and anger to the likeness of some wild beast that, as it crouches on its prey, is smitten on the muzzle with a stinging rod.

Rage filled him and his mouth slavered, and shapeless sounds of fury came strangling from his throat. But he looked at the fell faces of the Captains, the Heroes and their deadly eyes, and fear overcame his wrath.

He gave a great cry, and turned, and on his steed galloped madly back to Mordor through the Black Gate

"I guess that concludes negotiations." Gimli remarked to Legolas as both gave smirks at how the Mouth of Sauron had failed.

Then the Black Gate opened to its full width and they saw the Mouth of Sauron at the forefront of Mordor's armies. Orcs, Trolls, Haradrim and Easterlings were all there, numbering in thousands. This force was far larger than the one that had assaulted Minas Tirith. They began marching forward as the Mouth waved his sword angrily.

"Aragorn!" Theoden said, "We need to pull back!"

"Fall back! Fall back!" Aragorn commanded and the Fellowship and the rest of the delegation rode back to the head of the Army of the West. The final battle was about to begin.

The Eye of Sauron turned away from where Frodo, Sam and Natasha were hiding to gaze at his marching army which was about to battle the Army of the West.

"It's gone, Mr. Frodo." Sam said in relief as Frodo sighed, still lying down, "The light's passed on, away towards the North. Something's drawn its gaze."

"War has drawn its gaze." Natasha said as she and Sam helped him up, "Come on! We can do it!"

Frodo looked stunned still which was to be expected. But he still continued marching with them.

As the delegation rode back, the Gondorian and Rohirrim soldiers shuffled nervously and uncomfortable amongst themselves as the Hosts of Mordor moved to surround them. Steve would have given a speech but he knew it was not him they needed to hear in this moment.

"Hold your ground!" Aragorn loudly rallied the Army as he held Anduril high, "Hold your ground!"

The Army stilled as all of them gave Aragorn their undivided attention. Aragorn then rode back and forth as he spoke to ignite a fire inside of them.

"Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day! An hour of woe and shattered shields when the age of Men comes crashing down. But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!"

There was no cheering. But the eyes of all the soldiers had the fire Aragorn had wanted to ignite in them. And all of them had drawn their swords simultaneously in response to his words.

Anduril raised, Aragorn turned his steed around to face the approaching Hosts of Mordor.

In a minute, they all made their final preparations as Shadowfax led the other horses away at Gandalf's behest before the Army of the West could be completely surrounded.

Once the horses were gone, the Hosts of Mordor finally surrounded the Army of the West as all of them stood in anticipation.

"Never thought I'd die fighting side by side with an Elf." Gimli muttered.

"What about side by side with a friend?" Legolas asked with a smile as he looked at Gimli.

Gimli looked up at Legolas with respect and appreciation of this friendship shining in his eyes.

"Aye." He said, "I could do that."

This unlikely friendship had started healing the ancient rift between Elves and Dwarves.

Frodo, Sam and Natasha continued their long climb. The exhaustion was weighing on them now, especially Frodo. Sam sat down for a while as Frodo actually fell down while Natasha stopped to help them.

But Sam got back up and crawled to Frodo, helping him onto his lap as Natasha stopped near them.

"Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo?" He asked, "It'll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they'll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields...and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?"

"Yes." Natasha said, having eaten them at times while celebrating over victories with her teammates, "They are the best."

"No, Sam." Frodo rasped, opening his eyes slightly, "I can't recall the taste of food...nor the sound of water...nor the touch of grass. I'm...naked in the dark. There's... There's nothing. No veil between me and the wheel of fire. I can see him...with my waking eyes."

"You're not alone." Natasha said, holding his hand lovingly, "Not alone in the dark. And there is a veil. I am that veil. Nothing will happen to you."

"We must be rid of it!" Sam growled, "Once and for all!"

Sam shook his head, tears coming to his eyes, "Come on, Mr. Frodo. I can't carry it for you...but I can carry you!"

And then Sam slung Frodo over his shoulders, intending to carry him up to the mountain, "Come on!"

Natasha put her hand on Sam's back to help him keep the balance, pushing him up the rocky slope.

"We can do this all day!" She said.

The Army of the West was fully surrounded now. Aragorn stepped forward, Anduril now swung down to his side as he felt the gaze of the Eye of Sauron directly upon him.

"Aragorn." Sauron called out, "Elessar."

Aragorn turned back to face them and each and every one of them looked back at him. But his words were for the Fellowship only as he reminded them of their quest's purpose.

"For Frodo."

With that, he raised Anduril and charged alone at the approaching army. A moment later, Merry and Pippin roared their battle cries and followed. Then Steve, Oliver and Sara roared and charged after them, followed swiftly by Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir, Theoden, Eomer and Denethor, and then the entire Army of the West, all roaring at the top of their lungs.

Steve outran all the defenders and leaping high into the air, rammed down into the Hosts of Mordor, throwing down several of them as he landed and then punched an Orc so hard its teeth fell out before he brutally crushed his throat with a powerful punch, followed by hitting another Orc on the neck with his shield in a rotatory motion, killing him too.

Legolas shot an arrow, killing one of the Orcs.

Oliver fired another trick arrow, the last one he would probably fire. It flew high into the air and landing in the midst of the Hosts of Mordor, released a host of bombs, all of them detonating as they killed scores of Sauron's armies. But this wasn't enough.

Aragorn finally came level to level with the Orcs and killed his first with Anduril just as all of the Army of the West plunged into the sea of Sauron's armies.

The battle for the fate of Middle-earth had begun.

After a long climb, they had made it finally.

Sam was carrying Frodo as Natasha supported him from behind. In front of them was the entrance to the volcano.

"Look, Mr. Frodo." Sam smiled in relief, "A doorway. We're almost there."

"We made it." Natasha said as she walked ahead of them for a bit.

After months of journeying and trekking, they were here at last.

"Clever Hobbits and woman to climb so high!"

Natasha froze as she recognized the voice. She turned around to see Gollum leaping at Frodo and Sam from a high rock, tackling them both to the ground.

He tore Frodo away from Sam and that was the moment she chose to attack. Leaping high into the air, she wrapped her feet around the pathetic creature and flipped him down the stairs. He tumbled down painfully as three of his nine teeth broke and fell out, making him scream in agony.

She then helped Frodo up as Gollum started staggering back up. But Sam roared and rammed into him as both of them rolled down the stairs.

"We must go!" Natasha said. Sam could handle Gollum. Frodo needed someone with him. She quickly shoved Frodo to her front and the two ran up while below them, Sam drew his small sword and formed a cut on Gollum's stomach, sending him down before following them up.

The momentum the Army of the West had enjoyed from their initial charge had been spent and now they were fighting in an all-encompassing melee.

Theoden, Eomer and the Rohirrim had quickly forgotten the discomfort from fighting on foot as they fought Orcs alongside the soldiers of Gondor, defending themselves from attack and hewing their enemies.

Steve fought alongside Aragorn, Boromir and Denethor. Steve could see where Boromir and Faramir got their warrior genes from. In spite of his age, Denethor was quick and agile.

One of the Orcs rushed him but before Steve could counter, Denethor chopped off his head with a swift swing of his sword, killing him.

Steve picked up an Orc and threw him into several others before breaking another one's neck and then tripped one before crushing his throat with his foot. Near him, Aragorn and Boromir sliced down enemies swiftly.

Oliver was fighting alongside Legolas and Gimli, their contest continuing. Due to the flow of the battle, Legolas had to switch between his bow and fighting knives often.

"Thirty three. Thirty four." He said as he shot down two Orcs before quickly switching back to knives and sliced one down, "Thirty five."

Gimli killed more with his ax, his strength and skill helping him out, "Twenty two."

"Better keep up." Oliver said as he stabbed an Orc with a fletchette before shooting another down swiftly.

Sara was alongside Merry and Pippin, killing Orcs left and right with Ciris as the two Hobbits killed any Orcs attempting to sneak up on her.

"Great job." She complimented them as she struck another on its head, killing it.

Then there were roars and a troop of Attack Trolls streamed out of the Black Gate. They were dressed in armor and helmets. And then Steve, Oliver and Sara remembered. The creature MODOK had summoned with his technology had been dressed exactly like these Trolls. He had summoned an Attack Troll from Mordor itself!

They were glad he had been stopped now or he could have pulled more dangerous creatures from worlds far off.

The Attack Trolls broke cohesion of the Army as they killed several of them.

"Rally to the King's banner!" Boromir called out.

That was when one of the Attack Trolls was directly upon him. Before he could fight back, the Troll's foot was stabbed by Denethor, "You will not take my son from me!"

The Troll roared and punched Denethor in the chest, sending him back. While strong for his age, Denethor still couldn't withstand the punch as it crushed all of his vital organs brutally.

"FATHER!" Boromir screamed in grief as he kneeled close to him, not minding the battle around him.

"My son…" Denethor rasped.

"Father, please don't go." Boromir cried.

"I have to go sooner or later." Denethor said and coughed out blood.


"Gondor is safe now." Denethor said, "I love you, my sons."

And in that moment, Boromir knew that he was not the only one loved of his father. His father did love Faramir. He had now come to know it before the end.

"Finduilas…" He gasped and then said no more as his eyes stared without seeing. Boromir began crying. The Troll was about to kill him from behind.

But before it could, Aragorn blocked its blade with Anduril. He blocked all of its strikes swiftly while it blocked one of his. As it raised its blade again, Aragorn thrust Anduril through its armored abdomen. His blade was made of stronger metal than the armor and the Troll coughed out blood as Aragorn retracted Anduril and it fell down, dead. The Steward of Gondor had been avenged by the King who had returned.

Boromir wiped his tears as Aragorn helped him up. He looked at Aragorn with determination in his eyes. There would be a time to mourn. But it was not now.

Gandalf had finally defeated all the Orcs accosting him and had noticed Denethor's demise.

"So passes Denethor, Son of Ecthelion." He said sadly before shining a bright light from his staff. The Trolls roared as they were blinded by the light.

Steve leapt into the air and bashed one's face with his shield, breaking a tooth as it staggered back. He leapt up again and hit its throat hard with his shield, crushing its wind pipe as it gasped for air and died.

Sara stabbed another Troll's foot with Ciris, making it roar in pain as it turned its murderous attention on her. Before it could bring his sword down on her, an arrow passed through its wrist. Oliver lowered his bow from a distance. The Troll made to attack again when Pippin thrust his blade upwards. Being an Elven Blade of Lorien, it pierced through the hide and went deep into the vitals of the Troll. The black blood gushing out. It toppled forwards and would have fallen on him and Sara when Steve jumped in the way and held it up long enough for them to get out before throwing it back down.

Legolas blinded another Troll by shooting arrows into its eyes, followed by Gimli striking its feet with his ax, bringing it to its knees. And then Boromir thrust his sword into its neck, killing it.

Oliver ducked to avoid a sword swing from behind and growled as he turned around. It was the Mouth of Sauron.

"What did I say?" Oliver sneered, "Even more cowardly than an Orc."

The Mouth roared as he brought his blade upon him but Oliver blocked with his bow. The two were in a deadlock before jumping back as the Mouth struck again but Oliver ducked to avoid the swing and kicked his face in a flip motion, staggering him back.

He made to strike again but the Mouth ducked and hit his stomach, making him stagger back and struck with his blade again but Oliver blocked with his bow. The two gritted their teeth, trying to overpower each other.

Having lived for as long as he had, the Mouth was as skilled as Ra's himself and that made him a tough opponent. Oliver was glad he was putting up a far better fight than he had against Ra's on the mountain.

The two jumped back again when Merry stabbed the Mouth from behind like he had to the Witch-King. And unlike then, he didn't hurt himself.

The Mouth roared in pain as Merry retracted his blade. Oliver brandished an arrow and stabbed the Mouth in the throat, making him gasp in pain and cough blood. Considering he had already used his most popular line, Oliver decided to give him the same advice Sara had.

"I recommend Colgate too." He said before ripping out his arrow as the Mouth died while he gave Merry a nod.

Then there were screeches above them and they looked up to see the Nazgul flying down on them on their Fell-Beasts. They were only 8 now as the Witch-King had been deceased.

"Damn it!" Oliver said and aimed an arrow when he saw the tip of Gandalf's staff blocking it. He turned to the White Wizard in confusion.

Then he saw Gandalf's gaze was fixed upon a moth flying in the air. Then they heard another series of cries in the air but these were noble.

Just before the Fell-Beasts could descend, another set of massive winged creatures tackled them away in midair and drove them back. Everyone watched with dropped jaws as gigantic eagles, larger than any species of Eagles on any of the two Earths, descended from the clouds and attacked the Fell-Beasts with their talons and beaks, making them roar in pain.

"The Great Eagles, led by Gwaihir the Windlord." Gandalf said with a smile as the Free Peoples felt their hopes rise.

"The Eagles!" Pippin cried out in joy, "The Eagles are coming!"

"Eagles fighting alongside me." Steve muttered as he killed another Orc, "If I was still Captain America, it would be considered iconic by many I guess."

The doorway into the volcano was tall and jagged black, having a wicked appearance. An ominous fiery light burnt inside. Frodo and Natasha stumbled into the interiors of Mount Doom.

Natasha looked around, seeing streams of lava wherever she looked creeping down the sides. She looked in the front to see Frodo standing at the end of the narrow strip of path. Then she felt someone stop next to her and knew it was Sam.

"Frodo!" He called out.

"He's here." Natasha said.

"I'm here, Sam." Frodo said as he looked back at them. But now there seemed to be something different about his eyes.

"Destroy it!" Sam urged.

"Go on Frodo!" Natasha urged too, "Throw it away and then we can all get out of here! Just do it!"

Frodo held up the Ring by the chain it was fastened on, and held it by an arm's length from his face.

"Go on! Now!" Sam yelled, "Throw it in the fire!"

Frodo just held the Ring away.

"What are you waiting for?" Sam screamed, "Just let it go!"

Frodo turned back to them, his face dark as he held the Ring.

That was when Natasha realized why Frodo's eyes were so different.

"He can't." She whispered to Sam.

"What?" He asked incredulously.

"The Ring is mine."

Natasha didn't have time to cry out as Frodo tore the Ring from its chain and held it to his chest. He brought his left hand up, ready to slide the Ring on his finger and disappear.

"No. No." Sam shouted, tears in his eyes.

"Fight it." Natasha urged, her voice quivering.

Then Frodo gave a terrifying smile and jammed the Ring onto his index finger, disappearing into thin air.


Both Sam and Natasha yelled at the same time. It couldn't be! Frodo had given into the Ring's pull at the last moment. But alas, while the Ring could only be destroyed where it was forged, this was also where its pull was the strongest.

Sauron had always prided himself on being a master manipulator and deceiver. In the Years of the Trees, when the Valar had captured his master Morgoth, then known as Melkor, they had failed to find him.

In the First Age, he had assailed a tower which had also been called Minas Tirith like the White City and turned it into a watch tower for his now returned master who had started being called Morgoth by then.

He had abducted one of Barahir's companions and made him betray his own companion's hiding place, and thus Barahir had been slain.

He had captured Beren, Finrod Felagund and their 11 companions in spite of them being disguised as Orcs and fought Finrod in songs of power, winning eventually due to his greater strength.

After the defeat of Morgoth and the fall of Thangorodrim, he had taken fair form and repented in front of the Valar. Eonwe had ordered him to return to the Valar but he was not willing to suffer such humiliation so he had hidden in Middle-earth.

In the Second Age, he had given himself a fair visage and calling himself Annatar, befriending Elven smiths. He had taught Celebrimbor, the grandson of Feanor, much of his knowledge and they had forged the Rings of Power, making them believe it was to give them the strength and will to govern each race. He had then forged the One Ring To Rule Them All to control all others.

When he had realized he could not beat Numenor with strength of arms, he had allowed himself to be taken hostage by King Ar-Pharazon and had soon turned from captive into his chief advisor, being known as Tar-Mairon. He had converted many Numenorians to the worship of Morgoth, becoming High Priest of the Cult of Morgoth, convincing the King to rebel against the Valar itself.

However, Eru Ilúvatar The One Above All, had directly intervened and drowned Numenor under the sea, though his spirit had survived and fled the destruction. But he had lost ability to take fair form and had built a dark form terrible to look upon.

After his defeat in the War of the Last Alliance, his spirit had taken shape again in T.A. 1000 and inhabited the southern border of Mirkwood the Great, building the fortress of Dol Guldur while the Wise had thought it was a Nazgul.

When Gandalf had entered to investigate, he had fled, till his return in 2460 when he had taken up residence again in Dol Guldur as the Necromancer, capturing Dwarf King Thrain II and taking one of the Seven Rings of the Dwarves from him.

Gandalf had entered again and been captured by him. However, the White Council had been alerted and Lady Galadriel, Lord Elrond and Saruman the White, then still on the side of good, had arrived to battle him while Radagast the Brown had saved Gandalf.

Lady Galadriel had banished him back to Mordor with her power where he had then stayed in Barad-Dur and openly declared himself in T.A. 2951.

And now, he was cursing himself for his foolishness. He had believed Aragorn, the Heir of Isildur, had the One Ring and was using it to challenge him while the Halfling was just a spy, when in truth, the plan of his enemies had been to destroy the One Ring once and for all while the army was just a distraction. This was the second time he had been surprised in the Third Age. The first was when he had discovered other worlds and heroes from those had arrived on Arda.

He mentally commanded the Nazgul to fly to Mount Doom, feeling fear for the first time in the Third Age.

Sam and Natasha saw movement on the ground, displacements in the red dirt of the path. Frodo was invisible and moving.

Then Sam cried out next to her and she saw he was on the ground. She turned to see Gollum standing there, holding a rock. He leapt at her with it but she grabbed him and threw him to the other side instead.

Big mistake!

Gollum recovered and looking at the footprints an invisible Frodo was making, leapt at him instead. Gollum appeared to be floating in midair but it was obvious he was on Frodo now.

Natasha whipped out her dagger and would have attacked with it if not for the risk of hitting Frodo. She immediately regretted the decision as she witnessed Gollum pulling something with his teeth and then Frodo screamed, pain like he had never felt before coursing through him as he became visible again.

Gollum had bit the finger on which he had the Ring to pull it off and had bitten off his finger in the process. He spit the Ring out into his hand as Frodo gasped and looked at the stump that was in place of his missing finger.

Gollum held up the Ring, looking at it with barely restrained joy. At last he was reunited with his Precious.

"Yes! Yes!" He began dancing in joy, "Precious! Precious! Precious! Precious!"

Natasha saw red in that moment and with a roar, struck with her knife. Next moment, instead of dancing happily, Gollum was screaming in pain as the entire arm in which he had held the One Ring had now been chopped off and fallen near the edge.

He fell to the ground, gasping in pain as he tried to crawl towards his chopped off arm. Natasha was about to kill him when Frodo leapt at Gollum and lifting him up, threw him near the edge.

The two got up and struggled, Frodo having the upper hand due to not losing an entire arm. And then they both toppled over the edge of the cliff and the chopped off arm that was holding the One Ring fell with them.

"NO!" Natasha screamed as she leapt to the edge. Natasha's heart stopped as she saw that by some sort of miracle, Frodo was there. He had managed to catch on a few feet down, clutching it with his uninjured hand.

"Hang on!" She said.

"Give me your hand!" Sam said as he arrived next to her, "Take my hand!"

Frodo tried to reach up but missing one index finger, his hand slipped back down. He looked down at the lava and back up at them helplessly.

"Don't even think about it!" Natasha snapped, "I promised you that you would walk out of this! And you will!"

"No!" Sam said as both him and Natasha reached down, "Don't you let go. Don't let go. Reach!"

And then Frodo did as both of them grabbed one hand each and pulled him back up.

Gollum had fallen down and managed to catch his falling arm when before dropping into the lava below. Just as Sam and Natasha had managed to pull Frodo up, Gollum had sunk into the lava with his arm that still clutched the One Ring. And thus the One Ring had finally been destroyed.

No! Sauron couldn't believe it. His worse fears had come to pass at last. He looked down at his physical body as it started glowing white, like it had when Isildur had chopped off the One Ring from his finger. He screamed and his manifestation, the Eye of Sauron flared up, screaming just like him.

Every single combatant paused, turning to look in the direction of Barad-Dur on hearing the screech coming from the Eye itself. They looked up at the Eye wailing and shuddering as the tower started crumbling with a thundering noise, the Eye falling to the right as it toppled.

The Eye grew smaller and smaller and then exploded into a huge shockwave that covered the entire battlefield.

The Dark Lord Sauron had been defeated at last.

Sara could feel tears of joy running down her face as Oliver smiled next to her.

"FRODO!" Merry cried happily as he raised his sword, "FRODO!"

"They did it." Steve whispered happily.

The Orcs all fled, terrified as the ground crumbled under them, collapsing in on itself. Most of the Orcs fell into the abyss while the Orcs that had surrounded the Free Peoples from behind fled.

"Sauron's a good guy."

Oliver turned to Sara in shock.

"He doesn't want his troops to face unemployment after his death."

Both of them burst into uncontrolled, hysterical laughter. But the laughter abruptly turned to horror as Mount Doom erupted in a massive display, shooting lava and rock into the air as the ground shook. The explosion killed the other 8 Nazgul that had flown there to try to stop Frodo, Sam and Natasha.

But the three were still there. Sara pressed her hand to her mouth as Oliver watched with his jaw gaping while Steve felt tears drop from his eyes at Natasha's fate. Merry and Pippin were sobbing by now and Gandalf had a tear running down his cheek while everyone else was watching in horror.

They had won the war but lost something precious in return.

Natasha noticed large cracks appearing under their feet and lava rising at an alarming rate. She pulled the Hobbits wildly and they ran.

As the ground shattered under them, they jumped further until they were back at the doorway. A torrent of lava chased them and they leapt off from the ground to take shelter on an outcropping of rock. It stood high and alone and there they would be safe from the lava at least. They looked around at Mordor coming apart as a result of their actions.

"It's gone." Frodo said and Natasha could actually sense the hope and relief in his voice, "It's done."

"Yes, Mr. Frodo." Sam said as the three sat down, "It's over now."

"Everyone is safe." Natasha whispered, "We saved them."

The three laid back warily as Frodo rested his head against a rock. And now he was smiling. Not the terrifying smile inside of Mount Doom but one of relief.

"I can see the Shire." He whispered joyfully, remembering Sam's question earlier, "The Brandywine River. Bag End. Gandalf's fireworks. The lights in the Party Tree."

Sam shook his head sadly, "Rosie Cotton dancing. She had ribbons in her hair."

As his eyes watered, he said, "If ever I was to marry would've been her. It would've been her."

Natasha smiled wearily as she closed her eyes, remembering home. Home was where the people she cared about were at. If Steve could see her now, he would be smiling in relief as well as pride. And Bucky, while proud, would be trying to take care of her to an absurd degree, which was one of the many things that made him endearing to her.

She then looked up into the eyes of Frodo as tears of joy appeared in her eyes.

"I'm glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee, and you, Natasha Romanoff, here at the end of all things."

"I'm glad to be with you two as well." Natasha said as she sat in the embrace of the Hobbits. And then darkness took her.

Chapter Text

Natasha felt something soft under her. And warm. It was a bed! When she opened her eyes, it was too bright for a few seconds so she had to shut and open them again a few times before finally getting used to the light around her.

But where was she?


She sat up straight in bed and shook her head to snap herself to reality. The walls of the room were silver with two windows that were open to allow a warm breeze to enter. Her bed was covered in white sheets and her dagger and baton lay on the table beside the bed. She realized she was wearing a white dress.

Then she blinked a bit and looked in the front. The one standing on her bed was someone she cared about a lot and had never thought she would see again. Steve! And he was grinning. In relief.

"Steve?" She asked.

And then without question, Steve wrapped her tightly in his arms, happily kissing her cheek and forehead.

"You're all right." He said, "You're awake."

She hugged him back and kissed his cheek too, "You won't be rid of me anytime soon."

They were like that for a few minutes before finally letting go.

"Frodo and Sam?" Natasha finally asked, "What about them?"

"Asleep in their rooms. Frodo is the most exhausted so he will sleep the longest." Steve said, "I can't believe it. You're here, in front of me. I never thought I'd see you again. You three gave us quite a scare."

"I never thought I'd see you either." Natasha said as the two smiled at each other, "What happened?"

"Turns out the Great Eagles of Middle-earth are friends of Gandalf." Steve said, "So when Mount Doom exploded, he rode their on Gwaihir, who he says is the Windlord and I couldn't leave you alone so I rode with him on another eagle."

"He rode….." Natasha trailed off before her eyes lit up in surprise, "Gandalf's alive?"

Steve smiled and nodded and her lips formed a smile of relief. They had finished their quest and Gandalf had not died either. He was still there.

Then she realized something else, "You rode to save me on an eagle?"

"Yeah." Steve nodded.

"Oh my God! Captain America on an Eagle." Natasha clapped a mouth to her hand, "Looks like something in my head. Really awesome, but kind of ridiculous."

"Aw come on!" Steve said as he sat on the edge of her bed, "I'm not Captain America anymore."

"That's why it looks ridiculous in my head." Natasha chuckled, "Because you're the former Captain America."

The two laughed and held hands, remembering all of their funny moments together as friends and everything they had been through, from the Hydra uprising, to Ultron, to the Avengers Civil War, to stopping terrorist cells from selling alien technology while on the run, to MODOK and now their adventure in Middle-earth.

"I have something for you." Steve then said and took out the arrowhead pendant, holding it out to her, "Faramir gave this to me. He said you'd asked him to give it to me."

"I had." She said as she took it, "You all needed to know I was alive."

She then put it around her neck once more.

"Where are we?" Natasha asked.

"In Gondor." Steve replied, "Everyone else is here too."

"And they would very much love to meet you."

The two turned to the doorway to see Gandalf standing there with a smile on his face as he moved inside. Natasha got off the bed and in a rare moment of showing emotion, hugged him tightly, having missed him. Gandalf returned the hug.

She then looked Gandalf up and down, "What happened to you? The Balrog had killed you!"

"The Balrog had." Gandalf said, "But I was sent back to finish my task. And I am Gandalf the White."

"No matter what color, I'm so glad to see you again." Natasha said.

"We are happy to see you too."

Oliver and Sara appeared in the doorway with smiles on their faces.

She shared a happy nod and hug with them both.

"Where're the others?" She then asked.

Gandalf's expression turned a little grim, "Denethor, the Steward of Gondor was killed in battle. He is the father of Boromir and Faramir. They are preparing for the funeral."

The Rath Dinen or the 'Silent Street' led to a walled area where the tombs of nobles and of Kings were kept. And now Denethor's body was borne on a funeral bier by Boromir, Faramir, Aragorn, Steve, Theoden and Imrahil. He had been cloaked in his Steward robes and his dead hand gripped the pommel of his sword.

Behind the bier were the other mourners- the Council of Gondor, the rest of the Fellowship, the Tower Guard, Eomer, Eowyn and the Rohirrim.

Denethor's body was placed in a marble sarcophagus close to his father's as Boromir turned to speak to everyone. He could see Eowyn holding Faramir's hand, trying to offer comfort as there were tears in his eyes. Aragorn, Steve and Sara, the three Fellowship members he was closest to were giving him sympathetic looks which were followed by nods of encouragement.

"There is a lot we can say about my father." Boromir said, "But he would only want us to remember his last deeds. He bravely met his end as a warrior, helping in the final battle against Sauron's forces to give the Ringbearer a gave his life for the city, his people and his sons."

At the last remark, Faramir looked up at Boromir with tears in his eyes. Tears of grief and bittersweet joy. His father did love him.

"May we all honor him." Boromir said before turning to where his father lay. He spoke his last words to his father, loud and clear for all to hear.

"Be at peace, Son of Gondor."

A day had passed since Denethor's funeral. Natasha had been happy to see Sam up and running again. She had also met Eowyn, who had heard a lot about her from Steve and was already admiring her. The two had gotten along pretty well.

Gandalf had said Frodo would wake up this day and was in his room to wake him up.

The rest of the Fellowship were sitting together and sharing stories. Boromir was mostly silent, only nodding occasionally. Steve and Sara sat on either side of him while Aragorn sat next to Steve. They comforted him every now and then.

Right now, Sam and Natasha were telling everyone how Gollum had been the hero and villain simultaneously in Mount Doom. That was when they heard loud laughter of happiness from Frodo's room.

Merry and Pippin were the first one to run into the room.

"Frodo!" They cried happily. He was awake, wearing a white robe. And he was laughing with Gandalf, the two having seen each other for the first time since Moria, and Frodo having believed Gandalf dead.

The two jumped into the bed and hugged him happily as he hugged back, all three laughing while Gandalf laughed merrily as well.

Then Gimli entered and clapped happily before running up next to Gandalf, watching the three cousins play on the bed.

"Gimli!" Frodo said happily as Gimli laughed merrily too. Then he was followed by Legolas and Frodo spoke his name in joy as Legolas smiled. After him came Oliver and the two exchanged a smile with each other, Oliver having a lot of respect for Frodo for what he had accomplished along with Sam and Natasha.

Then came Sara and happily walked up to the bed, reuniting with Frodo in a hug. This was the first time they had seen each other since Amon Hen when she had tried to save him from a corrupted Boromir.

Then Aragorn came in and Frodo spoke his name in awe and relief as Aragorn laughed a little and moved to join Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, Oliver and Sara.

Then Steve came in and gave Frodo a smile of pride, one he usually gave Wanda whenever she accomplished something new with her powers. But Frodo had done much more than that.

He was followed by Boromir, who looked ashamed still because of his actions at Amon Hen. Aragorn, Steve and Sara gave him nods of encouragement and Frodo actually had a smile on his face.

Boromir walked to him and the two reunited with a heart-felt-embrace as Steve shed a little tear at the sight.

Then Natasha came in and Frodo looked her up and down, more than happy to see her once more as he remembered everything she had done for him. Natasha had a tear of joy running down her eye and running up to Frodo's bed, wrapped him in her arms, kissing his forehead. That reminded Steve of whenever his mother used to comfort him. He smiled happily, shedding another tear. Natasha had discovered what it was like to be a mother after all in the most unlikeliest of places to the most unlikeliest of people.

Sam entered last and stood at the doorway, him and Frodo exchanging smiles that spoke more than words.

The Fellowship of the Ring had been reunited at last.

It was a glorious day in Minas Tirith a month after Frodo woke up. Thousands of residents of Minas Tirith were present in the Citadel for a truly historic moment while banners of Gondor were unfurled proudly.

And they were not the only ones there. Representatives of all the Free Peoples of Middle-earth had come too. King Theoden, Eomer, Eowyn and several Rohirrim soldiers stood amongst the crowd with the Gondorian soldiers. Eowyn stood next to Faramir as both exchanged loving gazes every now and then.

The Dwarves of Erebor had come too to witness the event with Gimli. Lady Galadriel, Lord Celeborn and the Galadhrim had come as well led by Haldir. Many people were murmuring amongst themselves on seeing the mysterious Lady of the Golden Wood whom they had only thought of as a legend till now.

The White Tree had miraculously bloomed again in the month leading up to this day as petals growing from it fluttered around the Citadel.

Steve, Natasha, Oliver and Sara stood side by side with the four brave Hobbits.

Aragorn and Boromir stood side by side at the foot of the stairs leading to the Tower of Ecthelion, dressed in full regalia. A Tower Guard solemnly strode towards them and held out a casket to Boromir. Instead, Boromir knelt before Aragorn.

"The last Steward of Gondor begs leave to surrender his office." Boromir said and he held out the white rod of the Steward.

But Aragorn took the rod and gave it back, saying, "That office is not ended, and it shall be yours and your heirs' as long as my line shall last. Do now thy office!"

Then Boromir stood up and spoke in a clear voice: "Men of Gondor hear now the Steward of this Realm! Behold! One has come to claim the kingship again at last. Here is Aragorn son of Arathorn, chieftain of the Dunedain of Arnor, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, whose hands bring healing, the Elfstone, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur's son, Elendil's son of Numenor. Shall he be King and enter into the City and dwell there?"

And all the host and all the people cried 'yea' with one voice.

Boromir took the casket and then he and Aragorn climbed up the stairs together where Gandalf waited for them. Boromir stood to the Wizard's left as Aragorn stopped before him. Gandalf gently opened the casket. Inside was the ancient crown of Gondor, all white with a pair of wings on either side. The wings were wrought of pearl and silver in the likeness of the wings of a sea-bird, for it was the emblem of the Kings who came over the Sea, and seven gems of adamant were set in the circlet, and upon its summit was set a single jewel the light of which went up like a flame.

This was another task Gandalf knew he had to do before his return to Valinor.

Picking up the crown, he held it high as all watched with wide eyes and gaping jaws, not blinking one bit or they would miss a historical moment. Then the White Wizard gently placed the crown upon Aragorn's head. The Man looked up at him and Boromir and smiled. Gandalf had known him since he was an infant. And now he had accepted his destiny at last. Gandalf had no doubt he would lead the Free Peoples to greatness in the Fourth Age.

"Now come the days of the King!" Gandalf loudly proclaimed and they all applauded. Gandalf then softly spoke to Aragorn as a friend, "May they be blessed."

Aragorn took a deep breath, accepting the mantle he had been given in this moment. He then turned around and faced the crowd, many of whom were his subjects now. Once again, his humility was shown by the words he spoke next.

"This day does not belong to one Man...but to all." Aragorn told the entire crowd, "Let us together rebuild this world...that we may share in the days of peace."

Applause broke out in the crowd again.

King Elesssar stood tall and proud and sang the song Elendil had sung when his feet had first touched Middle-earth. It was in Quenya the ancient Elven tongue.

"Et Earello Endorenna utulien. Sinome maruvan ar Hildinyar tenn' Ambar-metta."

Aragorn then walked amongst the crowd as they parted for him. On the way, he was curtsied by many. Faramir and Eowyn were the first. Then Eomer. And then Theoden. He returned the gesture to them all. To Theoden, it was one King to another.

Aragorn soon reached Legolas, who wore a white robe befitting of an Elven prince. He was the only representative from Mirkwood who had come. The two placed a hand on each other's shoulder to acknowledge their close bond.

"Hannon le." Aragorn thanked his friend.

Legolas gave no response. He just smiled and stepped aside. Standing behind Legolas was Lord Elrond of Rivendell. To his left was a herald holding a White Tree banner that covered their base. Elrond now bowed before Aragorn with a smile. Aragorn was too surprised to even respond. Little did he know an even bigger surprise awaited him.

The herald slowly moved the banner from their face. Aragorn looked in shock and disbelief as the herald was revealed. It was a beautiful female Elf with long black hair and deep blue eyes. She was dressed in an exquisite green dress. It was Arwen Undomiel- Aragorn's betrothed.

Aragorn's face was a mix of surprise and disbelief, as the last time he had seen Arwen was in the image conjured by Sauron. He gently touched and caressed her face. The pair then shared a look of deep love before embracing each other with a joyous kiss. Elrond gave a bittersweet smile, accepting that his daughter's happiness lay in choosing a mortal life.

The crowd broke into uncontrolled applause with the exception of two people.

Steve was stunned on seeing Elrond as his mind tried to process what he had just seen. How was Johann Schmidt here? Had the Teserract thrown him into Middle-earth? Had he been secretly in league with Sauron the whole time to take over Middle-earth? How could someone as noble and kind as Aragorn be blind to the evil of the Red Skull?

He looked at Natasha, who looked equally shocked. She had never met the Red Skull in person, having been born decades after the Teserract had killed him, but she had seen his pictures at SHIELD. Not the picture of his red face which did not exist at all as he had rarely revealed himself to the outer world minus his troops that way, but his fair visage.

Lady Galadriel had sensed their thoughts. She had looked into the Mirror and seen many things about all the four heroes because of which she had anticipated this reaction from them.

'Captain Rogers. Lady Romanoff. Be calm!' She spoke telepathically, 'The Lord of Imladris is not the individual you think he is. He only bears an unfortunate resemblance to him.'

Steve and Natasha shared a look at hearing those words.

'My words cloak no ill purpose. Why they look the same is something even I do not know.'

The pair calmed down on hearing that. Lady Galadriel was among the wisest people they had met. The mystery of why the noble Lord Elrond and the evil Johann Schmidt looked the same could be put aside for now.

They realized Aragorn and Arwen had stopped in front of them.

Steve, Natasha, Oliver, Sara, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin bowed to the High King of Gondor and his consort.

Aragorn noted the respect he was receiving from the four heroes of other worlds and the four Hobbits, who had all aided the Free Peoples in extraordinary ways. Their actions had been instrumental in the downfall of Sauron. He felt he could never fully repay the debt the Free Peoples owed to these eight. But that wouldn't stop him from trying.

"My friends." He said softly as if unworthy of their respect. Everyone present heard him regally remark to the eight, "You bow to no one."

And then King Elessar knelt in homage and respect before Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Steve, Natasha, Oliver and Sara. Arwen and the rest of the crowd quickly followed. The eight took a heavy breath at this unprecedented honor the Free Peoples were bestowing upon them.

They had helped win the war. And they had won the love and respect of every single person in Middle-earth.

Chapter Text

Once the formalities of the coronation ceremony were over, a grand feast was held for everyone in the city.

Most of the Citadel had gone away for merry making but the dignitaries were still standing to witness the wedding of Aragorn and Arwen.

The guests, including the heroes, simply observed as the wedding ceremony was conducted in Sindarin, though Legolas gave the four translations to help out.

At the end of it, Elrond gave them blessings for the marriage and the two had returned the silver rings they had given to each other at betrothal and given each other gold rings of marriage instead. And after, they had kissed even more passionately than at their reunion.

All present applauded at the scene in front of them where true love had finally triumphed.

When that was done, the merry making increased even more as this time Oliver joined Legolas and Gimli in a drinking game, feeling much more cheerful than before. Natasha and Sara were conversing with Eowyn, Natasha getting to know her as well.

"May I speak with you?"

The voice sounded like the soft ringing of harmonious bells. Steve turned around to see Arwen standing there.

"Sure….Queen Arwen." Steve stammered.

Arwen had been told of the four heroes ever since her recovery and had been very intrigued by what she had heard about them, their extreme selflessness included. And Steve was someone who fascinated her a lot as what she had heard of him reminded her of her own beloved.

"I'd like to thank you and your three other friends on behalf of everyone in Middle-earth." She said, "You chose to help this world in spite of not knowing anything about it. All four of you. And being from the Race of Men, this sacrifice holds more merit as it is made within the confines of a mortal life. You helped save us all. From now on, the four of you can consider me as close a friend as Elessar does."

Steve nodded with a smile. Arwen's grace, humility and beauty made her a natural counterpart to Aragorn and he could see why they were made for each other.

"Thanks, Ma'am." Steve responded a little awkwardly, "It was an honor for us to help save this world and we did what had to be done."

The two were interrupted by laughter as they turned to see Gimli and Oliver sputtering about how Elves could hold their liquor very well. The two burst into laughter at that as well.

There was one more event at the feast. But this one was much more private as the only ones attending were the Fellowship and their other friends currently in Minas Tirith.

Aragorn and Arwen both wore crowns for this one while the four heroes from other worlds stood in a row before the steps leading to the Tower of Ecthelion.

Aragorn presented the four of them with scrolls and announced:

"Steve Rogers. Natasha Romanoff. Oliver Queen. Sara Lance. The four of you are among the most selfless people the Free Peoples have seen. In recognition of your actions during the war, you two, Steven Rogers and Oliver Queen, are hereby ennobled as a Baron in both Gondor and Rohan, and you two, Natasha Romanoff and Sara Lance, are hereby ennobled as a Baroness in both Gondor and Rohan."

"Whatever the length of your stay in Middle-earth is, know that our hospitality will always be open to you and if we can, we will aid you in finding your way back to your homes."

The four were at a loss of words at this point. Except Steve himself, none of them had been formally honored for things they had done like this. Steve had won several medals of course but that was when he was selling war bonds as a dancing monkey and he hadn't deserved any of them. Oliver and Sara had been thanked by the President herself after the Dominator Invasion but no one had known who they were. This time, everyone knew.

The just smiled at Aragorn and Arwen in thanks, not knowing how to respond to such an honor. They were noblemen and women now in this world. But they also felt worried now by the second part of his sentence. Due to everything that had happened, they had never really discussed how they would get back to their homes and if they really could.

The crowd happily applauded at them though and they felt better at that. Even if they were stuck in this world, they had people they cared about who also cared for them deeply.

Their thoughts were interrupted by a strange light appearing next to the heroes. The vast majority of the crowd gasped when the light formed into a blue circle of some kind, huge enough for a man to pass through.

Oliver and Sara couldn't control laughs of happiness on seeing that. And then out of the portal stepped Tony Stark in his Iron Man Armor: Mark XLV. Behind him was Cisco in his Vibe outfit. And then Barry sped out happily.

"Miss me?" Stark asked sarcastically.

"Halt and state your purpose!" Beregrond, Captain of the Tower Guard commanded as he raised his spear along with several guards.

"Never thought I'd see Shakespeare in the Park again." Tony joked.

"Please put down your weapons." Aragorn commanded them, "Let Tony Stark, Barry Allen and Cisco Ramon come."

The heads of the four snapped to his direction.

"I paid attention when you were telling us all about them." Aragorn smiled.

Tony then flipped open his visor to reveal his face.

"Cap." He greeted, "Nat."

"Tony." Steve smiled with barely restrained joy and to Tony's shock, actually hugged him. Tony was taken aback by the hug and rather embarrassed by it. He gave Romanoff a look which said 'no one can know.'

She smiled in amusement and shook her head. She was definitely going to tell everyone about this.

But Stark did return the hug and soon the two parted.

Oliver walked up to Cisco who had a smile on his face, happy to see him again. Cisco was about to say something when Oliver punched him to everyone's shock and he staggered back a little.

"Next time when an all-powerful Wizard who can open portals to anywhere in the Universe offers to take us home, TAKE THE FUCKING OFFER!"

Cisco winced, "Sorry about that. I deserved it."

"But thanks a lot for coming." Oliver then said genuinely and held out his hand, which Cisco shook.

Then he turned to Barry who hugged him, "Ollie! It's so good to see you're all right."

"Hey Barry." Oliver said with a smile as he then shared a hug with Sara as well.

"The last one week has been a huge mess." Tony said, "With us trying to find you and all. And the public finally found out Ross is missing after what the exorcist guy did to him."

"Wait what?" Steve asked, "One week?"

"Yeah!" Tony said, "Time flies by fast while performing Richard III. I know."

A man in a suit of armor that could fly and another who could open these pathways through different worlds would have amazed the residents of Middle-earth but now they knew the time had come for their friends to return.

Sara crouched down to hug Merry and Pippin who had run up to her.

"We'll never forget you!" Pippin said, "We had so much fun together!"

"I know. Best loot ever." Sara gave a watery chuckle as the three remembered looting Saruman's stores while Boromir walked up to them, "I won't forget anything about our time together."

"We'll miss you." Merry said, "You can always visit the Shire if you want."

Sara and Boromir looked at each other and hugged, remembering everything they had gone through together.

"Good luck." She said as they parted.

"Good luck." He said too.

"Thank you." Eowyn said as she arrived, "For showing me what I can do."

"You already knew it. You just needed to be told." Sara said as the two Women hugged each other.

Oliver was in front of Legolas and Gimli.

"Well, this is the end….for now." Oliver said, "All of you are among the best people I have ever met. And I shall now count how many enemies I have slain in honor of our friendship."

The two chuckled and hugged him as he hugged back.

"You are the best archer I have met and one of my best friends." Legolas said as the two then shook hands, "Farewell, Oliver."

"Grow that beard a little longer laddie, and you might have a line of Women to court you." Gimli said as the two laughed.

"Oh you have no idea." Oliver said, remembering his playboy days before glancing at Sara, "But I don't need a line."

He then walked up to Lady Galadriel and gave her a respectful bow, "Thank you, Lady Galadriel. For everything. You have helped me rediscover who I am."

The Lady simply smiled enigmatically.

"When threats arise, you will have a part to play in thwarting them." She said, confusing him a little but her smile was encouraging, "Yet hope remains as long as all of you are true to each other."

He nodded.

Natasha was talking to Gandalf, "Thank you. For believing in us."

"Thank you." He said, "For aiding this world."

She crouched down to Frodo and Sam, "I'm going to miss you two so much."

The three had tears in their eyes. Tony would have teased Romanoff for crying had this scene not been so emotional.

Considering the bonds between everyone, he could tell that it had definitely been more than a week for the four. Much more than a week.

"Thank you, Natasha. We couldn't have done it without you." Frodo said as the two Hobbits hugged her.

"Oh no you don't." She smiled, "Even seemingly insignificant people can change everything. Like you two did."

She then kissed them both on the foreheads and Tony was reminded of when his mother Maria Stark used to kiss him every time he was saddened by Howard not noticing him. He could only smile that his friend had at least experienced some of what she had wanted.

Steve stood in front of Aragorn, Boromir and Gandalf. He and Boromir gripped arms firmly.

"Thank you. For showing me there is hope still. And for being the greatest soldier and one of the best Men I have known." Boromir said.

"People like us, we look out for each other." Steve said and the two smiled.

Oliver then walked up next to him as the three co-leaders of the Fellowship faced each other.

"I never expected that an accident would send us here." Steve said, "But I'm glad it did."

"We have now met some of the best people we know." Oliver said as Aragorn and Boromir nodded at his compliment before holding his hand out to Aragorn, "It's been a pleasure."

Aragorn shook it, "It's been a pleasure for us too."

Steve and Aragorn then shook hands too as the latter said, "I hope you one day find what you are looking for, Steve."

"Thank you, Aragorn." Steve said, "And I am really happy you did."

The two Men smiled as Aragorn then said, "If any of you ever need help, then do not hesitate to open a pathway. We will aid you in whatever manner we can if you face any trouble."

Steve and Oliver acknowledged his sincere promise with a nod and turned to Gandalf who said, "We part ways now. But a day may come when we will meet again. Until then, farewell, heroes."

Everyone watched as Steve, Natasha, Oliver and Sara followed Tony, Barry and Cisco into the breach which closed soon. None of the four looked back to prevent emotion from clouding their judgment.

Silence reigned among the crowd as they tried to process the fact that the four were gone now.

"We had a light feast arranged in honor of our friends." Aragorn finally said, trying to reign in his emotions, "Let us remember the times we had shared with them instead."

Soon, most of the crowd walked inside with the exception of Frodo and Gandalf.

"I don't suppose we will ever see them again." Frodo said, remembering when he had said the same words to Sam and Natasha at Emyn Muil.

"Never say never, Frodo." Gandalf assured him, "A day may come when they require our aid or we require theirs again. We may meet them again."


Steve, Natasha, Oliver, Sara, Tony, Barry and Cisco exited the breach and were back in Stark Industries where Bucky, Wanda, Sam, Clint, Rhodes, Vision, Logan, Pepper, Kara and J'onn stood, waiting for them.

Within moments, Bucky and Natasha were on each other's lips, kissing passionately, not wanting to let go as Sam, Logan and Rhodes shook hands with Steve. When Bucky and Natasha finally parted Clint hugged her tightly and the two kissed each other's cheeks while Bucky and Steve hugged.

Kara gave Oliver and Sara a hug while J'onn simply nodded at them both.

"Why're you hugging them?" Tony asked sarcastically as all rolled their eyes, "I brought them back with assistance from Cisco."

"What's with the scrolls?" Clint asked.

"Well, we are noblemen and women now." Natasha said and everyone's jaws dropped at that while the four snickered at the reactions.

"I'm sure that's a long story." Bucky said.

"I want to hear it too." Barry said, "You people seemed to have to become very good friends with the people in that world. Even you, Ollie."

Oliver rolled his eyes at the joke Barry had made at his expense as Cisco asked, "It was only a week for us. How long was it for you guys?"

"Almost one year." Steve revealed to their shock, "But we're glad to be back."

"Yeah. We're back." Sara smiled.

"I'm guessing this world pulled a Narnia on you." Tony joked and all laughed at that.

"So you said the public finally knows Ross is gone." Natasha said and Tony nodded, "I'm guessing it's not safe for us here."

"No. It's not." Sam agreed.

"It was good to see you guys again though." Tony said, "And thanks for helping out against MODOK."

"Thanks for bringing us back." Steve replied and the two nodded at each other. While things weren't the same as before, they still cared about each other and were friends.

That was when Oliver noticed something, "Where's Constantine?"

Cisco's expression turned grim, "We were hoping he got thrown into the same world as you all. But looks like he fell somewhere else. We don't know where he went yet."

The atmosphere plummeted as all worried for Constantine. While he annoyed them a lot, he was still a friend and ally.

"I'm sorry." Cisco said regretfully as it was his idea to try to return his powers after all. He and Tony had worked non-stop the entire week to return his powers properly this time and they had. Cisco worked faster on being scolded by Bucky who was pissed his best friend and girlfriend had been sent to another world due to his stupidity.

"So, you guys gonna go?" Tony asked.

"Yeah." Steve said in a heavy tone, "We can't stay as long as the Accords are still in effect."

Tony gave a disappointed but understanding nod.

"Good luck, Cap." He said as he raised his hand.

"Good luck to you too, Tony." Steve said as they shook hands then.

"Well." Cisco said, "I made extrapolators for us all."

He then took those out, "You people can come to our Earth whenever you want and we can go to yours. And if you want, I'll make extrapolators for this new world as well."

"Thank you, Cisco." Oliver said gratefully, "That'd mean a lot."

"Whenever we meet again after this, I will give you the extrapolator." Tony told Steve and Natasha and they nodded gratefully.

"Well, guys." Cisco said as he opened a breach, "This is the way back to Earth-1. From there, Kara and J'onn can return to their Earth."

"You're not coming?" Barry asked in shock.

"Constantine is still out there somewhere." Cisco said regretfully, "That's on me. I'm going to stay here and get him back before returning."

The others nodded in understanding as Barry and Cisco hugged tightly, "I'm gonna miss you, man."

"Oh don't worry. I'll visit sometimes and I'll be back once we get Constantine." Cisco said and the two smiled as Oliver shook hands with Cisco.

He then looked at the others, "Well guys. It was great to meet you all."

"Same here." Rhodes said.

He then shook hands firmly with Steve while Natasha and Sara hugged. They had grown closer than the others due to being stuck in Middle-earth together.

Kara and J'onn nodded at the others and soon, with the exception of Cisco, everyone who wasn't from this Earth walked into the breach and then Cisco closed it.

"Now let us get out before someone else throws us into the Raft." Wanda said after two full minutes and shuddered, remembering how the sadistic guards used to shock her with her collar for even breathing wrong,

Clint put an arm around her to comfort her as Vision said, "Goodbye, Wanda."

"Goodbye, Viz." She said with a smile.

"I'm gonna make the mess with the Accords, right." Tony said, "I promise."

"I know you mean well, Tony." Steve said, "But even you don't have the power to amend the Accords."

"Won't know unless I try, right?" Tony asked.

"Well, good luck with that." Sam said.

"So, Buck? Wanna come with us?" Steve asked him.

"You don't have to say yes if you don't want to." Sam said on seeing his hesitance.

"Is there a reason for me to?" Bucky asked as he shot Natasha a look, silently asking her. He loved Steve, but he was the one in control of his life at last after so many decades.

"There might be. If you're patient." Natasha smiled softly and Bucky understood. Both of them had difficulty letting people in. But they were both going to try.

"All right then, let's get out." Bucky said.

"I'm coming too."

All eyes turned to Logan as he looked Steve in the eye, "I'm a soldier and I've been in hiding for too long. I was supposed to get off my ass and do something 5 years ago but counting out helping Fury out in London after the entire Hydra mess, not much. Now I will."

"All right then. Welcome aboard, Logan." Steve said and the two Men out of time shook hands with smiles, perfectly understanding each other. And just like that, the Avengers had two new members now.

"Bye-bye, guys." Pepper said as she waved to them and they waved back and one by one, went out of the building and sitting in the Quinjet, flew off.

"I'm gonna miss them." Tony said before saying to Pepper, Rhodes, Cisco and Vision, "Don't tell them I said that."

The four chuckled at his antics as Cisco said, "I better get to work now."

"If you need anything, feel free to ask." Tony said.

Earth-1, Central City

Caitlin was working overtime in the lab, still not over the loss of Barry, Cisco and Oliver when the alarm from the breach room beeped.

"What the hell?" She said as she ran there, a science gun in hand, with Killer Frost on the call if needed. What she saw made her drop her gun in shock. And then a relived smile burst across her face.

Barry, Oliver, Sara, Kara and J'onn were all standing in front of a now closed breach. And based on their expression, they were as happy as she was.

The first thing she did was kiss Barry on the lips, which he returned passionately while the others walked past them.

"You're back." She said.

"I'm here." Barry said as the two hugged each other.

"Where're Cisco and Constantine?" She then asked.

"Constantine got sent to some unknown world so Cisco is staying to find him." Barry said and she nodded, "He'll visit though. And he'll be back once Constantine is found."

"Well guys, we need to get back to our Earth. A lot can happen in a week." Kara said as she opened a breach with her extrapolator which worked now.

"The DEO would need our help for sure." J'onn said and she nodded.

Barry gave her a goodbye hug and a protesting Oliver was dragged into it as well to the amusement of the others before Kara and J'onn went into the breach.

"I think it's time for us to go back to our city." Oliver said as he held hands with Sara, which Barry and Caitlin noticed.

"Are you guys…..?" Barry trailed off and they nodded, "That is awesome. I'm happy for both of you."

They smiled in thanks as he said, "Let me drop you back to your city."

"Please do." Sara said and he sped them to Star City before returning to S.T.A.R. Labs.

Star City

Earth-2 Laurel, John, Rene, Dinah and Curtis returned to the lair after a fight against some drug dealers as Thea, Quentin and Felicity waited for them in the lair. It was hard without Oliver but they were trying their best.

That was when the elevator opened and to their shock, Oliver and Sara walked out.

"O-Ollie?" Laurel trailed off as emotions welled up in her, "Sara?"

"We found a way back home." Oliver simply said with a smile as she hugged them both, having grown close to them both during her time redeeming herself.

"I missed you so much." Thea said as she hugged her brother tightly, not wanting to let go, "I knew you'd come back."

"Of course I would. You're my sister." Oliver said.

During that time, Quentin hugged Sara and kissed her forehead, "Oh my baby girl."

"Daddy." She said happily, her face buried in his chest.

"Hey man." Dig said as he shook hands with them both along with Rene, Curtis and Dinah while Felicity, cheerful as always, gave them 'welcome back' hugs.

"I have so many questions to ask." Felicity said, "Like where were you all and how did you get back and…"

"We will tell you." Sara said, amused by her quirky behavior like always, "Especially since I'm staying here now. I'll tell the other Legends tomorrow."

"Seriously?" Laurel asked.

"Seriously." Sara said as she smiled at her and Quentin and they seemed happy.

"So", Oliver said, getting back into business mode, "What have you got for me?"

"Well, that Vigilante guy is back in town and is brutally killing criminals." Dig said.

"All right." Oliver said, making him the priority.

It was good to be back.

Chapter Text

He no longer had his staff and had lost most of his powers yes. But his enemies had also forgotten that he used to be a Maia of Aule which meant he was as crafty as one could be and was one of the best builders himself. And his voice still worked.

For four years he had been locked in this tower with his vile servant who had lost him his most treasured tool. But no more. He had researched more in his library and had finally created a new staff, and through this one, he could exert more power than before. He had learn a new spell as well, one that would be very helpful to further his goals.

He held up the staff in his right hand when the pathetic servant arrived. Now he was going to get exactly what he deserved.

"My lo-"

He was cut off when he was lifted telekinetically by the staff and launched out of the tower. He looked down to see the pathetic Man, no, creature had fallen on a spiked wheel which was rotating now. As the Ents walked up to investigate, he closed his eyes and chanted a spell. A very powerful one. He had to exert a lot of power for this one. But it worked. And soon, he wasn't standing in the tower.

He had vanished from the face of Middle-earth. And not just Middle-earth but the entire Arda. He had gone to parts of the Universe unknown to most in Arda except the Valar themselves. He was going to find the other heroes and have his vengeance.

The Silmaril upon Eärendil's brow shone brightly as he steered the Vingolit across the heavens of Arda. As the magical ship approached the Door of Night, the slayer of Ancalagon was unexpectedly threatened for the first time in millennia.

The fabric of space ripped open above the Vingolit's bow. Eärendil unsheathed his shining blade as an intruder stepped on deck.

"Identify yourself!" Eärendil fearlessly demanded.

The intruder gave a bone-chilling grin.

"I'm Thanos of Titan." He declared before glancing at the Silmaril, "That's a nice gem…"

Constantine looked around at the orange background. How long he had been here, he did not know. But he knew wherever he was, the relic that had sucked him in was sentient. It wasn't malevolent, but it wasn't benevolent either. And it was hungry. For souls.

It had taken the form of a golden man to speak to him and had said it won't let him go unless he fed souls to him. Constantine had tried but at first, his proposition and way had been refused. Eventually he had managed to convince it though. However, it was going to take time. A lot of it. He was actually close to doing what the entity had said. He was opening a permanent portal to Hell itself so that tortured souls could find their way here. He could have done it faster but his powers worked slower in here for some reason and he was weakened so it took time to regain them.

This entity would keep them while it would be better for those souls as this entity would simply keep them but they would not be tortured. That was when the world around him flared up.

"Blimey!" He said as he looked around, "What the Hell is going on?"

"To have me, one must lose what they love most." The entity said, "A soul. For a soul."

"Wait what?" Constantine asked, "You're telling me someone is sacrificing someone to get you?"

"Yes, they are. And if that happens, the person will be dead forever."

Constantine knew he had to do it fast. Whoever was after this relic couldn't be up to any good considering how powerful it was. And an innocent life was at stake. He had to finish his job.

"Attenrobendum eos, ad ligandum eos, potiter eos, coram me."

And then everything flared up more as a blinding white light shone around him.