By San Antonio Rose
When the flash faded this time, Dean noticed first that they were outside at night on what appeared to be the outskirts of some sort of tent city, then that there were horses behind them, then that his hair was tickling the back of his neck and that he was wearing something that felt uncomfortably like chain mail. He looked down at himself, taking in the travel-worn leather trousers, linen tunic, mail shirt, drab leather surcoat, grey woolen cloak, and tall boots, plus the sword at his left hip and the dagger at his right. Then he looked over at Sam, who was dressed the same way and had about two weeks’ growth of beard to boot, and cursed quietly.
He knew exactly where the Trickster had dropped them.
Sam frowned. “What?”
“Just where do you think you’re off to?” they heard a gruff Scottish voice say from around the corner.
“Not this time,” came the reply. “This time you must stay, Gimli.”
“Have you learned nothing of the stubbornness of Dwarves?” asked a third voice.
Dean raised an eyebrow at Sam, whose eyes had gone wide as he mouthed a curse of his own. They’d both forgotten that TNT was showing Return of the King that night.
“You might as well accept it,” said John Rhys-Davies—er, Gimli. “We’re going with you, laddie.”
Sam looked down at himself in a panic. “But these aren’t Rohirric clothes,” he hissed. “Who are we supposed to be?!”
Before Dean could answer with his best guess based on the star brooches on their cloaks, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli rounded the corner of the tent and spotted them.
“Manwendil! Halbarad!” cried Aragorn, and each brother found himself being hugged by a very sweaty, horsey Ranger (who was, quite surprisingly, shorter than both of them). “Kinsmen, you are most heartily welcome!”
“Hey,” Dean managed.
“But what brings you here? Why have you come?”
“Galadriel sent us,” Sam replied, and Dean managed not to snicker at the thought of what the Trickster’s reaction to that would be. “She thought that since you were... y’know... headed for the Paths of the Dead, you could use some backup.”
Aragorn sighed. “That road is dangerous, cousins. They do not suffer the living to pass their door.”
“We will dare to pass it nonetheless,” growled Dean, ignoring the odd look Sam shot his way.
Aragorn nodded slowly. “Then you are indeed most welcome. But tell me, why have but two of you come?”
“Spiders,” was Sam’s contribution. “Wargs and goblins, too. Mirkwood’s gone crazy, and most of the Rangers have their hands full trying to help Thranduil keep the worst of it contained east of the Misty Mountains.”
Aragorn nodded again as he processed this news and once more decisively. “Come, then. Our path lies this way.”
Gimli and Legolas nodded to the brothers as they passed, and Sam and Dean mounted their horses and fell in behind them.
“Dude,” Sam whispered.
“What?” Dean whispered back.
“You stole my line.”
Dean snorted. “If you remember that, you remember that Halbarad dies on the Pelennor.”
Sam shrugged. “This is movie-verse. We’re not even supposed to be here in this version.” He paused. “’Course, this could be that AU where Halbarad lives and he’s married to a surgeon....”
“Nah, the brother’s name was Thalguron,” Dean replied before realizing that he had just admitted to knowing not only both the book and the movie but also a damn fanfic to the point of being able to distinguish trivia and actually cite lines.
Sam gave him a knowing look.
Sam snickered and turned his attention back to the people they were supposed to be following, ignoring the murmurs of the Rohirrim behind them.
It was Chuck’s fault, Dean decided. If it weren’t for those damn Supernatural books, he’d never even have heard of fanfiction, never mind being curious enough to read some from other fandoms. There was no way he was admitting to Sammy that he’d actually bookmarked Henneth Annûn, Stories of Arda, and The Last Ship. It was bad enough that Sam knew he read Vonnegut; there was no way he’d live down reading “Miss Dora Baggins’ Book of Manners” or some of the really cracky stuff Grey Wonderer wrote, and forget Bagenders or “Lord of the Sporks” (or Lord of the Peeps, for that matter). Sammy probably went in for the heavy stuff like Nilmandra’s History Lessons series, Thundera Tiger’s “While the Ring Went South,” and San Antonio Rose’s “Der Erlkönig.”
Then again, for all he knew, Sam’s favorites were The Official Fanfiction University of Middle-earth and Boz4PM’s “Don’t Panic!” and “Okay, Now Panic!”—in fact, liking “Don’t Panic!” and The King’s Surgeon might explain why Sam got tagged as Halbarad as much as his height did....
So boring and uneventful was the ride up the Dwimmorberg that Dean had very nearly finished mentally composing a crackfic of his own involving Bill the Pony and a pink donkey before he realized that they were getting close to the actual Dimholt. He hadn’t expected it to feel much different from any other haunting they’d faced in reality. But he’d been wrong.
It felt like Cold Oak.
“Think we should light a torch?” Sam asked as they dismounted in front of the door.
“Nah, not yet,” Dean replied. “Wind would blow it out.”
As if to prove Dean’s point, an icy gust of wind burst from the door, spooking the horses.
“Brego!” called Aragorn, but the horses fled.
Dean was suddenly glad that he and Sam seemed to be carrying most of their provisions on their backs. They hadn’t even secured their scabbards to their saddles as Aragorn had, which meant that they didn’t have to carry around naked swords as he did.
Suddenly grim-faced, Aragorn turned back to the forbidding door. “I do not fear death,” he snarled and strode into the darkness.
Sam and Dean exchanged a look and followed, and they could barely hear first Legolas, then Gimli follow them.
Once they were well past the door, Aragorn found a fallen torch and lit it with his flint and steel. While he was doing so, Sam nudged Dean and pointed to his pack. At Dean’s frown, Sam reached back into the top of his own pack and pulled out first a package that looked like salt, then a thoroughly anachronistic sawed-off shotgun. Dean blinked and reached into his own pack and found the same things. The shotgun was loaded, too, and Dean surmised that they’d be salt rounds. Sam had apparently made better use of the boredom than Dean had.
He and Sam shared a grin. This they could do.
“Ach!” said Gimli. “I see you’ve got one of Dain’s pop-guns!”
Aragorn turned to look and raised an eyebrow at the sight. “Such weapons will not avail us.”
“It’ll keep ’em from swarmin’ us,” Dean replied and tossed his packet of salt to Gimli.
“Had much practice with the Houseless, have you, lad?” Gimli asked skeptically.
“All our lives,” said Sam.
Aragorn chuckled and held the torch out to examine the skull-lined passage in front of them. Legolas, meanwhile, seemed to be ignoring all of them and keeping his focus on the spirits.
“Okay, that’s just gross,” Dean stated, looking at the bones on the floor.
“Dean,” said Sam quietly.
“Dude—we have to walk on that.”
“Alas, poor Yorick,” Sam murmured, and Dean had to look back at Gimli to restrain himself from hitting his brother.
Gimli tasted the salt, nodded, tucked it into his belt, and turned to Legolas as the group began moving forward once more. “What is it? What do you see?”
“I see shapes of Men,” the Elf said. “And of horses. Pale banners like shreds of cloud. Spears rise like winter-thickets through a shroud of mist. The Dead are following. They have been summoned.”
The book was better, Dean thought, not for the first time, and braced for the first onslaught.
It came as they rounded the next turn in the passageway: spectral hands rising out of the mist. It lasted just long enough for the Winchesters to fire one shot each, the report echoing far into the mountain. Gimli had been trying to blow the hands away as if they were smoke, but the combination of gunsmoke and salt in the air apparently made him realize why Dean had given him the salt packet, and the next hand that grabbed at the Dwarf got a fistful of salt for its trouble. The Dead backed off, though they didn’t leave, and Dean smirked at Aragorn, who rolled his eyes and kept going.
Once they got past the skulls, Aragorn picked up the pace and led them into the large open room where the showdown with the King of the Dead was to take place. Dean wanted to be bored, given the number of times he’d seen the movie (perils of hiding your own nerd tendencies while living with your geek brother!), but really... knowing the story didn’t help that much when it came to living through it. He could ignore the dialogue, but he couldn’t help shivering as the Dead King’s laugh echoed through the chamber and the Dead visibly blocked the passage behind them. There was real evil here, even if it was a Trickster-constructed alternate dimension.
“Witnesses,” Sam whispered in his ear, and Dean nodded his agreement. It was worse than Cold Oak, much closer to the Rising of the Witnesses—and Cas seemed to think they wouldn’t have survived that one without his help. Now Cas was stashed who-knew-where, and they were stuck with an Elf, a Dwarf, and a Ranger, none of whom had any experience with fighting ghosts.
But dammit, Halbarad made it as far as Minas Tirith in the book; Sam was not dying in the Dwimmorberg if Dean had anything to say about it.
“The way is shut,” the Dead King was saying as he strode toward Aragorn and the Dead began to close the circle around the five intruders. “Now you must die.”
Legolas fired an arrow at the specter, but it passed harmlessly through and clattered to the floor. The Dead King didn’t even break stride. Sam and Dean nodded to each other and each shot at one of the ghosts to either side of the Dead King—and that made all of the ghosts pause while the two who were shot dissolved and reformed. Clearly, none of them had ever been shot with a salt round before... for obvious reasons.
“I summon you to fulfill your oath,” Aragorn said sternly, and Dean tuned him out to stay focused on the ghosts surrounding them. He knew how this scene went, but it wouldn’t do to let the Dead think his guard was down, and he didn’t remember which way to run once the skull avalanche started.
“Dean,” Sam suddenly whispered as the Dead began to disappear. “Run to the right.”
“Thanks,” Dean whispered back.
They held their positions a moment longer until the earthquake started.
“Right!” Sam yelled.
“Out!” cried Aragorn, and the skull avalanche began.
Dean cursed Peter Jackson all the way outside, especially when a skull knocked the gun out of his hand. But despite losing his own gun, Sam was no worse than bruised by the falling bones, so that was a bonus.
Then they had a chance to catch their breath and look down to the corsair ships approaching Pelargir, and even though Dean knew how the story went, he couldn’t help empathizing with Aragorn. Until Zachariah had sprung the whole destiny spiel on him, he’d hated the emo-princess movie version of Aragorn, too afraid of failure to man up and actually be the king of Gondor until circumstances forced his hand. But now, seeing the defeated slump in Aragorn’s shoulders, the evident belief that he’d bet everything on the only gamble he could make and lost, that final defeat was inevitable... Dean had been there himself far too often lately, and if they couldn’t find the Colt or if (God forbid) it didn’t work, he imagined he’d be as stunned and defeated as Aragorn was at that moment.
... The book was still better, dammit.
And then, of course, the Dead King came out of the mountain and agreed to fight for Aragorn, and Sam and Dean exchanged a relieved look, and they were off to Pelargir to gank some corsairs.
Once the ships were underway, Gimli lit his pipe and leaned back against a mast to try both to forget that there were only four other living creatures on board with him and to solve the riddle of Manwendil and Halbarad, who had gone off to spar for a bit. They were Dúnedain, that much was plain from their demeanor and their height, but they didn’t call each other by typical Ranger nicknames; instead, they spoke much more like Hobbits. And as much as he missed his friends from the Shire, he was glad they weren’t present because Manwendil calling Halbarad “Sam” would just get confusing.
Not that Aragorn seemed to have noticed anything amiss. Perhaps these kinsmen of his had always been a bit odd.
“They fight each other so that they will not fight the Dead.”
Gimli looked up at Legolas, who had managed to sneak up on him and was leaning against the mast as well. “Manwendil and Halbarad, d’ye mean?”
“Sam and Dean. I do not believe they are who Aragorn believes them to be.” Legolas frowned slightly as he continued, “Dean’s fëa is older than his hroa, as if he had been rehoused—but the Secondborn are not rehoused. And his fëa bears the marks of great torture, not the light of Aman... at least, not like those who have been there themselves. I think perhaps he knows a minor Ainu. But his fëa is only shadowed from without, not darkened from within. The same is true of Sam... his fëa bears a taint, but not one of his own choosing. And he too shows signs of having been rehoused, though not after so long a time as Dean.”
Gimli blinked and frowned in confusion. “How can you tell?”
Legolas smiled a little. “I may be Sinda, but there are some signs that are visible to any Elf. And they are... not quite transparent the way Frodo is, but nearly so.”
Gimli hummed thoughtfully and took a few puffs on his pipe. “Why is it, do you think, that Aragorn hasn’t noticed anything wrong? He’s of Lúthien’s line; I wouldn’t think he could be so easily fooled—or enchanted.”
Legolas shook his head. “That is a question more for Master Elrond or Lady Galadriel. But there does seem to be strong magic about those two.” He paused. “I am not entirely sure that they are from Arda.”
“Of course they’re from Middle-earth. Where else would they be from? Númenor drowned an Age ago, and they don’t allow mortals further West.”
“I did not say Middle-earth. I mean that they may not be of this world at all.”
“Talk sense, Legolas. Again: Where else would they be from?”
Legolas shook his head again. “I know not. But perhaps... perhaps Eä is not the only World That Is.”
Gimli muttered something uncomplimentary about Elves in Khuzdul.
Legolas ignored him, lost as he was in contemplation of those two strange brothers. “Would that I had the gift of foresight! Dean looks at Aragorn as if he understands the doom that lies upon him, as if as heavy a doom lies upon both Sam and Dean. But I can discern no more than that.”
“Are ye certain, though, that they are friends?”
Legolas smiled. “Oh, yes. Of that I am most certain. They will ever hunt the servants of the Enemy, I deem, wherever they might be.”
“Right, then. Let’s let them keep their mysteries and find something else to talk about, shall we?”
Just then a sea gull cried overhead, and the color drained from Legolas’ face as he looked up at it. “Yes. That may be wise.”
Sea-longing. Gimli had heard of such a thing in Rivendell, of Elves compelled to take ship and leave Middle-earth for good, but he’d never expected it to hit Legolas, never mind coming on so fast. Yet it plainly had just done so, and Gimli worried for his friend. “Shall we go below?”
“Yes,” Legolas nodded, still watching the gull. “That might be best.”
Elf and Dwarf turned just in time to catch De—Manwendil and Halbarad glaring at a shade who dared to stick his own sword into the brothers’ sparring session. Gimli could sense that they had quite the audience.
“D’you mind?” Manwendil growled. When the ghost just looked at him, he added, “Or would you rather get shot?”
The shade and his compatriots fled. Manwendil grumbled and sheathed his sword.
“We’re not gonna get there until tomorrow morning,” Halbarad noted as Manwendil grabbed their gear and stalked away.
“I don’t care. We need to find us a cabin and get away from these damned ghosts.”
“Dude, what are we gonna do below decks? It’s not like we brought cards.”
“Will you just come on?”
Halbarad rolled his eyes and followed Manwendil to the hatch. Gimli and Legolas exchanged a look and followed Halbarad.
Once Manwendil located the captain’s cabin, he threw open the door to it and announced, “Every ghost in this room has exactly fifteen seconds to leave before I’m comin’ in and lockin’ the door so you can’t cross it. You don’t wanna get locked in, you leave now.”
There was a gust of wind, and the temperature suddenly jumped several degrees.
There was no response from the Dead, but Halbarad glanced inside and said, “Seems clear.”
Manwendil’s hands twitched like they itched for his pop-gun, but he entered the cabin warily, followed by Halbarad, who joined him in examining the room carefully. Then he nodded for Legolas and Gimli to follow, and once they were inside and had closed the door, he drew a package of salt from his pack and emptied it in a thick line across the threshold.
“So now what?” asked Halbarad.
Manwendil glanced around the room again before looking at his brother. “Shoot you for the bed?”
Halbarad shook his head. “It’s too short for me.”
“Shoot?” Legolas asked.
“It’s a game—parchment, rock, scissors,” Halbarad explained. “Parchment beats rock, rock beats scissors, scissors beats parchment.”
Gimli wondered whether it were a Hobbit game—and if so, why parchment and not paper—but Legolas simply nodded and told Manwendil, “I know not if I shall sleep this night, and I daresay Gimli would prefer the floor.”
Gimli did not prefer the floor, but neither did he prefer to take the only bed from someone who he suddenly realized seemed exhausted to the core. “Go on, lad.”
Manwendil flopped gracelessly onto the bed. “We got any food left?”
Halbarad rolled his eyes and started digging through his pack. “No pie or cheeseburgers, if that’s what you mean.”
Manwendil snorted and looked over at Legolas and Gimli. “So. We’ve been kind of busy up around Angmar... how’s the war goin’?”
When Sam woke the next morning, he concluded that on a ghost ship should go somewhere near the top of his list of least pleasant ways to spend a night. The fact that they were real pirate ships and only manned by ghosts didn’t change his opinion when Dean pointed it out. The main thing, they both agreed, was getting off as soon as possible.
Not that jumping over the side of the ship and down to the dock was exactly the kind of quick exit they preferred, but they both knew the movie well enough to know that was what Aragorn had planned. And they agreed to leave their packs on the ship so they wouldn’t get thrown off-balance.
“Just don’t twist your ankle,” Dean cautioned as they got into position. “Don’t want you gettin’ killed just ’cause you can’t land on your feet.”
“Oh, like you’re part cat,” Sam groused back.
Dean just smirked, though the effect was ruined by his beard.
Then they were pulling up to the dock at Minas Tirith, and on Aragorn’s cue they all jumped over the side together, Legolas and Gimli to his left, Sam and Dean to his right. Sam did land on his feet just fine, but he didn’t spare a triumphant smirk at Dean; he knew Dean was worried about him making it through the battle in one piece and didn’t want to give Dean cause to think that he wasn’t taking this seriously.
Dean had already gotten shot himself back in Dr. Sexy. There was no reason to get complacent just because they were in a movie and knew the outcome.
Hand-to-hand combat was more Sam’s thing than Dean’s, though, and his sword was better balanced and easier to swing than the machetes Dad had taught them to use for beheadings. Plus, it didn’t take a special blade or a special cut to kill an Orc; sure, they were wearing armor, but that didn’t mean Sam couldn’t cut their legs out from under them.
Sam got a chill as the Dead swept past, and then they had their hands full, running and slicing their way through the Orcs. But they hadn’t gotten more than a few hundred yards inland when Sam heard a shriek and felt a small shockwave and knew Éowyn had just killed the Witch-king. And his heart skipped a beat; Éowyn and Merry were two of his favorite characters when he first saw the movie a lifetime ago, and knowing they were in trouble... well, he had to do something.
So he stuck with the group until Aragorn and Gimli and Dean took down Gothmog (really, whose idea was it to name an Orc captain after the chief of the Balrogs?) and sent Legolas after one of the last mûmakil, and then he peeled off to scoop Merry up and carry him to the relative shelter afforded by the nearby body of a dead mûmak.
“Who... who are you?” Merry rallied enough to ask.
“Name’s Halbarad. I’m here to help. Just rest here; I’ll make sure you get help when the battle’s over.”
“All right.” Merry relaxed but kept his eyes on Sam.
When Sam straightened, he saw that Éowyn had dragged herself over to hear Théoden’s last words, and he knew better than to try to interrupt. He turned back just in time to see a squad of Orcs making a break for the river and heading right toward him. Some of them ran past; others he killed, though it was a harder fight than he’d expected. Sam took some good hits himself, and he found himself nearly backed into a corner against the mûmak trying to defend Merry. But finally, one threw a pike that caught Sam just inside the left shoulder and pinned him to the mûmak. Sam’s vision whited out as he screamed, and when he could see again, the Orcs had fled.
Given the location of the pike, Sam thought it had managed to miss both his lungs and his shoulder blade, so all he had to worry about were severed arteries. Lovely. He cut the pike to a decent length with one sword-stroke. Then he tried to pull the head out of the mûmak without pulling the whole thing out of his shoulder, but it didn’t take much to discover that that wasn’t going to work. So as carefully as he could, he swung the sword behind his head and managed to cut himself free. The remaining piece of pike didn’t go flying out of the wound as he fell to his knees, as he’d feared it might. At least this way he wouldn’t bleed out before help arrived.
“Halbarad?” Merry asked weakly.
Sam made one last effort and got himself lying on his right side, stretched between Merry and the mûmak’s stomach, before pulling Merry against his chest. “Hey. Can you do me a favor... hold that piece of wood still for me? Left hand?”
Merry swallowed hard and nodded. “I’ll try.”
“Awesome. Pippin... and my brother... they’ll find us.” Sam managed to tug his cloak over both of them before he passed out.
Now that the battle was over, Dean could finally work out what that pain in his left deltoid was. The sheer weight of the chain mail had been chafing at Cas’ handprint. That was going to be fun to explain when they got to the Houses of Healing—“Oh, yeah, a Maia pulled me out of a goblin nest”? But otherwise, he was relatively unscathed, and the blood he was wearing wasn’t his own. Hell, it wasn’t even human—it was black, which meant Orc. It was in his hair, too. Gross. He really needed a bath and some clean clothes.
He shielded his eyes against the sunbeams breaking through the diminishing clouds and looked up toward the top levels of the city, trying to figure out where they were heading once Aragorn finished dismissing the Oathbreakers. “Hey, Sammy, which circle are the Houses of Healing in?”
But the figure that had walked up beside him wasn’t Sam. It was Legolas, whose quiet “My lord?” made Dean jump.
“Spiders, Legolas! You ’bout gave me a heart attack!”
Legolas’ near-smile reminded Dean way too much of Cas. “My apologies.”
“I have not seen him, my lord. We are going to the citadel so that Aragorn may aid the healers; will you come?”
Dean felt a sick sense of dread in the pit of his stomach as he looked around and saw Pippin about to pick up Merry’s cloak. If Sam had already made it to the Houses, chances were that Aragorn could do more for him than Dean could, and Pippin could use Dean’s help in looking for Merry; but the last time Dean remembered seeing Sam was just before Aragorn sent Legolas after the oliphaunt, which meant....
“My lord Manwendil?”
“No,” Dean replied. “No, I’ve... I need to look for Halbarad.”
Legolas bowed slightly and withdrew, and Dean sprinted after Pippin.
“Hey!” he called as he got close, but the Hobbit didn’t hear. “Peregrin Took! Hey!”
Pippin looked up, startled. “Aye?”
“Hey. Name’s Manwendil. Need your help.”
Pippin glanced down at the cloak and back at Dean. “But....”
“I’ll help you find your cousin if you help me find my brother. I think they might be together.”
“Aye. Thank you.”
Just then Éomer started screaming over what he thought was Éowyn’s body, and although it took Dean a moment, he finally spotted the distraught king of Rohan through the smoke. If that was where Sam was, Dean didn’t want to gamble that the stretcher-bearers would find him while they were tending to Éowyn; they’d managed not to find Merry in the original, and Pippin hadn’t gotten to him until well after nightfall. And Dean was just sure Sam didn’t have that kind of time.
“How fast can you run?” he asked Pippin.
“I’ll keep up,” Pippin replied solemnly.
Dean nodded. “This way.”
But they made it maybe a hundred yards through the obstacle course of fallen Men and Orcs and horses before Dean stopped, scooped Pippin up, and set him on his shoulders. Pippin had been trying valiantly, but Dean’s legs were almost twice as long, and he didn’t want them getting separated.
“If I’m right, they’ll be near a dead oliphaunt,” Dean told him. “You can watch better from up there.”
“Right. Are we going towards Éomer?”
“There’s one just past him.”
“That’s the one. Keep your eyes on it.”
And they were off again, with Pippin serving as a talking compass of sorts, plus giving updates on the search-and-rescue efforts in the area. “What does your brother look like?” Pippin finally asked.
“Taller’n me,” Dean panted. “Brown hair, hazel eyes, ’bout 220—dunno what that is in stone, sorry.”
Pippin sighed. “No, looks like they’re only finding men of Rohan so far. Nobody that tall, nor as short as Merry.”
“Aw, spiders.” Dean picked up the pace as best he could and tried not to think about the fact that he was suddenly swearing like a Dúnadan, whether that meant he’d be stuck here if Sam died.
They might have made faster time if they hadn’t both been wearing chain mail, but they definitely got there in under half an hour, so Dean counted it a win. He set Pippin down by the oliphaunt’s tail and tried to catch his breath, and Pippin immediately started looking on the ground and calling for Merry. He only had to call twice to elicit an answering groan that could only have come from Sam.
Pippin ran to the source and then craned to see over the oliphaunt. “Manwendil! They’re here!”
“Oh, thank the Valar.”
Dean hurried around the oliphaunt’s legs just as Pippin hauled a dead Orc off two familiar forms that were curled up against each other. And they were both still breathing, although Sam had a piece of spear stuck through his chest and assorted other blade marks elsewhere, as Dean saw when Pippin pulled Merry away from him.
Sam managed a wan smile as Dean knelt beside him. “Hey, Dean. Forgot to duck.”
“More like forgot to dodge, idjit. You been usin’ Merry as a pressure bandage or somethin’?” Even as he spoke, Dean looked for tolerably clean material to use for temporary bandages but couldn’t find anything that looked useable; even his undershirt, he knew, was too soaked with blood and sweat to be safe.
“Did a pretty good job,” Sam confessed, “considering he’s in shock.”
“Well, so are you. Hang on and I’ll try to find us a ride up to the city.”
“I knew you’d find me,” Merry was saying to Pippin. “Halbarad said so. But I knew.”
Pippin nodded vigorously. “Yes.”
“Are you going to leave me?”
“No, Merry. I’m going to look after you.”
As Pippin scrabbled for Merry’s Elven cloak, which he’d dropped on finding his cousin, Dean yelled, “MEDIC!”
It took five or six tries, but he finally succeeded in catching the attention of a couple of teams of stretcher-bearers, who loaded Merry and Sam up and carried them into the city. But no sooner did they pass the city gates than the flash of transition hit again...
... and faded into the noises of a twentieth-century American hospital as Sam, still in his Ranger garb, was pulled away from Dean on a gurney, EMTs shouting statistics as they ran.
“Mr. Winchester?” asked a female voice beside him. “Can you tell us what happened?”
As he turned to the nurse, Dean reached up to tug at his long hair, which came off in his hand. A wig, naturally; probably meant the beard was fake, too, but he’d find out later. “Uh, yeah. We were... LARPing, y’know, and I guess some of the guys got a little too into it, forgot they had real weapons or somethin’.”
The nurse frowned. “Larping?”
“I see. Well, Dr. Sloan is one of the best; if anyone can save your brother, he can.”
Diagnosis Murder. Better than M*A*S*H, Dean supposed. “Um, yeah. Thanks.”
“Would you care to sit down? This might take a while.”
“Sure, yeah.” Dean paused. “Could you tell me where to get some coffee, maybe get cleaned up a little?”
The nurse gave him directions, and as Dean followed them, he wondered what the point of that excursion into Middle-earth had been. Proving to Dean that he wouldn’t be able to save Sam? Proving that he, like Aragorn, had to quit dodging destiny and become who he was born to be? If so, the Trickster had another think coming. And Dean still thought the book was better.
He wouldn’t mind keeping the sword, though.
Manwendil = Devoted to Manwë (who is Middle-earth’s version of
Halbarad = Tall Tower
Dúnadan (pl. Dúnedain) = Ranger of the North-kingdom (lit. "man of the West")
fëa = soul
hroa = body
Arda = Earth (Middle-earth is the continent roughly equivalent to Europe-Asia-Africa)
Númenor = island that was granted to the Three Houses of the Elf-friends (humans) at the end of the First Age, destroyed during the Second Age (LOTR takes place at the end of the Third Age)
Eä = the World That Is, the universe
Ainu (pl. Ainur) = Holy One, angelic spirit
Sinda (pl. Sindar, adj. Sindarin) = Grey Elf
Khuzdul = language of the Dwarves
mûmak (pl. mûmakil) = oliphaunt (giant elephant)
Maia (pl. Maiar) = second-tier angel
Valar = the Lords of the West, angels that rule Arda as God’s regents
Notes for SPN fans who’ve seen only the movies:
- In book canon, Narsil is reforged as Andúril before the Fellowship even leaves Rivendell, and Elrond’s sons and the Rangers bring Aragorn a standard embroidered by Arwen after Helm’s Deep and ride with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli on the Paths of the Dead. Halbarad is Aragorn’s kinsman and standard-bearer; Manwendil was the name of the second son of Elros Tar-Minyatur, Elrond’s brother and Aragorn’s ancestor, so it’s a plausible name for another Dúnadan who is somehow related to Aragorn. Also, while the Grey Company is en route from Pelargir to Minas Tirith, Legolas first hears sea gulls and is stricken with the Sea-longing, the desire to leave Middle-earth and sail across the Western Sea to Elvenhome (which is where Frodo and Bilbo go at the end of the movie).
- If the term “Halfling” means that the average Hobbit (who is 3'6") is half as tall as the average Dúnadan, Aragorn ought to be at least 7' tall. Viggo Mortensen is 5'11"; Jensen Ackles is 6'1", and Jared Padalecki is 6'4".
- In The Hobbit, Gandalf uses the simile “open the door like a pop-gun,” which implies that such a device was known at least among Dwarves and Hobbits. It’s not likely that the Dúnedain used them, but since “Manwendil” and “Halbarad” aren’t exactly normal Rangers anyway....
- Remember the song about the Elf-maiden Lúthien that Aragorn sings in Fellowship of the Ring? Lúthien’s mother was a Maia, and her great-grandsons were Elrond and Elros. That angelic and Elven lineage is responsible for Aragorn’s gift of foresight and his superhuman abilities as a healer, and one would assume it would also make him resistant to magic intended, say, to disguise two random strangers as Dúnedain.
- The Elves are the first race of incarnate beings specially created by Eru Ilúvatar (Yahweh); Men are the second. Thus, among the Children of Eru, Elves are the Firstborn and Men are the Secondborn.
- There’s a lot of secondary material in The Histories of Middle-earth about the relationship between fëa and hroa in both Elves and Men. Generally speaking, because Elves are tied to Arda, the soul of an Elf who has been slain may be rehoused in a newly-formed body identical to the one that was killed, as opposed to reincarnation (being reborn to different parents in a different body) or resurrection (being returned to life, like Christ, in a body that cannot die). There are hints that certain Dwarves can be reincarnated, and Tolkien did toy with the idea of Elves being reborn rather than rehoused. With the exception of Beren, however, Men do not return to life in Arda but leave Eä altogether to face either eternal reward or eternal punishment in the Timeless Halls, where Eru dwells. Then there are the Houseless or the Unhoused, vengeful spirits that are capable of possessing the unwary; these are mostly spirits of Elves who refused to go West when they died, though magic can sometimes prevent the spirits of Men from passing West as they ought.
- All of the fics and fic archives mentioned are real (and please pardon the self-rec—it’s the only piece of mine that’s on Henneth Annûn); “Lord of the Sporks” and Lord of the Peeps have both unfortunately been abandoned. “Bill the Pony and a pink donkey” is a plotbunny dreamflower02’s husband keeps asking her to write and one I think Dean might actually have fun with, since he’s got a crackish sense of humor. And for all his harassment of “Geek Boy” Sam, Dean does seem to be the one who makes all the Tolkien references.
- The “part cat” crack is a nod to Dark Angel, in which Jensen played a transgenic with cat DNA.