Forgotten Allies: part vii
by: McJen


The history of one man is the history of all men, a lengthened trial, more or less. Bitter and sorrowful. The voice of human nature is nothing but one prolonged cry." -- Dumas


History was written in stone, and many of those stones stood tall throughout the farmlands of southern England. Ancient signposts reminded the world that some histories would not be so easily erased. Despite excavations and research by historians, the true nature of these stones had yet to be revealed. The only people upon Middle-Earth who knew the true stories behind them were the occupants of the car that drove along the roads of Wiltshire County, England.

Kate had hoped to spend her last summer of university exploring these roads. Some of the oldest and most interesting archeological sites in Europe were found along these highways. Stonehenge was the most famous, but they were not headed to Stonehenge. In fact, Kate was not sure where they were headed, except deeper into the agricultural communities west of London.

An oasis of trees broke the monotony of the farmland. In the midst of a field of crops, a small grove of trees stood, several hundred feet across at the widest, surrounded by open country on all sides.

"Stop here." Gandalf said.

Kate pulled off the highway and cut the engines. She looked across the fields to the trees about a quarter of a mile away. Though it had been a while since her classes, she recognized the place immediately. "The East Kennett Longbarrow?" she asked.

"Longbarrow?" Elrond said. "You compare the Rath Dinen of Gondor to a barrow?"

Kate made no attempt to respond, and Elrond simply shook his head in amazement, as everyone got out of the car. "Mortals. Foolishly, naming things they have no knowledge of," he said.

Gandalf climbed over the fence and the rest of them followed, as he walked across the fields towards the trees.

"What is the Rath Dinen?" Kate asked.

Legolas' eyes did not stray from the stand of trees as he walked. A look of both dread and anticipation was on his face. "The Rath Dinen. The Silent Street. It is the resting place of the great of Gondor."

Kate mentally reviewed what she knew about the place. The barrow was a long ridge of dirt, beneath which was found ancient burial chambers constructed of stone. This one was unusual because of the trees that surrounded it, and its size. It was among the largest in England, though no formal excavations had ever taken place here.

She said as much to Gandalf, who simply said, "Yes, but it's the informal excavations I'm worried about."

An unspoken reverence descended upon the group and they approached the trees in silence. No place upon Middle-Earth still held onto the past as this place did. Elrond hesistated a moment before stepping beneath the branches, words of Elvish spoken softly upon his lips. As Kate followed him beneath the canopy of trees, even she could feel the past whispering softly in the branches. She heard Legolas' sharp intake of breath as he walked behind her. Within these trees, the past seemed a living breathing thing.

Upon the mound of earth that made up the barrow, wild bushes and flowers grew, covering it, and almost obscured it from view. The entrance to the burial chamber was marked by two half-broken standing stones. Behind them, was a small rectangular entrance, like an open door leading into the side of the mound of earth. Pulling a flashlight out of his pocket, Gandalf disappeared into the man-made tomb.

The inside of the barrow was constructed entirely of stone. Kate stumbled down several steep steps behind Elrond, until she stopped and gaped in wonder. The low entrance gave way to a ceiling of unimaginable height. Nearly 20 feet above them, the arching stone ceilings stood.

The passageway was narrow but long, and extended under the earth for the entire length of the small grove of trees. The stone walls were unadorned, the grandeur of the elvish runes that onces graced the stones had long since been worn away by time.

As they walk up the length of the passage way they were greeted by deathbeds on either side. Skeletons were all that remained of the Rath Danin, where the great of Gondor had once lay in splendor. Even the clothes they had worn had long since crumbled to dust.

No one spoke as they slowly made their way up the length of the barrow. Kate glanced at the skeletons as she walked by. Most were the tall skeletons of men. However, Kate stopped when she saw two smaller skeletons. They lay upon the same stone bed, side by side, holding hands. Gandalf and Elrond disappeared in front of her. She stepped closer to examine the bones and shined her flashlight on them.

"Children." she said.

"Not children." Legolas said, softly from behind her. "Here are the halflings you wanted to see." Kate turned to face him and was shocked to see his eyes filled with tears.

"You knew them?" Kate asked.

Legolas nodded. He had walked this path too many times. Both Gandalf and Elrond had long since passed beyond the seas into the west when Merry and Pippin and finally Aragorn had fallen into eternal rest. None but he and Gimli were left of the fellowship to honor their fallen comrades.

"I laid them to rest here." Legolas said. He reached out a hand and placed it over the clasped skeletal hands of the small hobbits. He stood silent for a long moment as if seeing them the way they were in life and waited for Kate to walk forward.

A few yards ahead of them, they caught up with Elrond and Gandalf. They stood beside a another stone bed, the skeleton tall and the shoulders broad. But there was no sword within his hands, or pendant around his neck.

"It's gone." Gandalf said.

"There were swords and armor upon all of these men," Elrond said. "Who are the grave robbers now?" He cast his glance at Kate.

"If you have a description of these things. There are ways of finding them." she said.

"You think you can find one pendant among the thousands of antiquities upon the earth?" Elrond said.

"If it's still within the antique community. I can find it." she said.

"This quest seems to fall further and further into folly." Elrond said.

Kate stepped closer to the stone bed. "This is Aragorn?" she asked.

"It once was. Where he walks now, it is not within these bones." Gandalf said.

"The sleep of mortals contains little hope." Elrond said.

"That is not what Aragorn believed. Even on his dieing breath, his last words to Arwen were of a great hope." Legolas said.

"What were those words, Legolas?" Gandalf asked.

"In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. We are not bound forever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory." Legolas said.

"I hope that is true." Gandalf said. As they walk out of the barrow, Gandalf put his arm around Kate's shoulders. "I have never lost hope, my dear. No matter, how dire things may seem, there is always hope of success. Promise me you will remember that."

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