The Blizzard

Title: The Blizzard

Author Name: Linda Hoyland

Prompt: A blizzard rages outside and makes travel impossible. Two or more characters are trapped indoors together until the storm passes.

Summary: Aragorn and Halbarad are caught in a blizzard.

Rating: PG

Beta: none

Author's Notes: Short story, should appeal to fellow angst h/c fans

Aragorn stamped his feet to warm them and looked up at the darkening sky. “There will be snow ere nightfall, I warrant,” he said. “The wind is blowing from the east.”

“We should find shelter,” said Halbarad. “ Alas, the nearest settlement is many leagues from here.”

“There is a ruined village about two leagues away,” said Aragorn. “The surviving villagers abandoned it after an Orc attack and moved to the Angle where they felt safer. We will make for there.”

“I hope we are in time,” said Halbarad. “I can smell snow in the air.”

Although it was only just past midday, the sky darkened ominously and the east wind grew increasingly bitter, sometimes snatching the breath away from the two Rangers. They had had not gone more than a league when the heavens opened and the snow began to fall, at first just a few flakes and then with increasing intensity until Aragorn and Halbarad could hardly see the way ahead of them.

“Fine Rangers we are to get caught out in a snowstorm,” said Aragorn, shouting to hear himself heard over the howling wind.

“A few more years in the wilds will show you that even the most experienced can sometimes be caught out by the weather,” Halbarad replied.

The two trudged wearily onwards. They ceased to converse. Speaking took up too much energy, which was better spent battling against the elements.

After what seemed like an age, a small cluster of buildings came into sight. Halbarad quickened his footsteps until he reached a cottage with its walls and roof intact. “This will suffice,” he said. He stumbled through the doorway and paused for a minute to get his breath back now he was out of the wind. The shelter seemed perfect for their purposes. There was even some broken furniture left by the former occupants that would serve as kindling. Once they had a fire going, they could make themselves quite cosy until the storm passed. There were provisions enough in their packs to survive for several days if need be. “This should serve us well enough, Aragorn,” he said. There was no answer. The Chieftain seemed to have vanished into thin air.

Halbarad forced down the sense of panic that welled up within him and tried to force himself to think clearly. When he had last seen Aragorn? They had been together when they had passed a great tree. He recalled they had both almost knocked into it, as visibility had been so poor, they had hardly been able to see their own feet.

The Ranger knew he must retrace his steps and as swiftly as possible before all traces of his previous tracks were obliterated by the driving snow. Halbarad set out again to face the elements. Going back was easier than going forward had been. The snow was not blowing into his face and he did not have to fight the wind for every breath he took. It took all of his Ranger skills, though to find the trail. Then he had to find Aragorn. He frantically called his name. He was beginning to despair of ever finding his Chieftain when he almost stumbled into a ditch. There at the bottom of it, lay Aragorn, almost buried in the fast falling snow. It seemed he too had lost his footing but been less fortunate than Halbarad and fallen in. The Ranger leapt down into the ditch and knelt beside Aragorn. The young chieftain lay motionless and did not respond to his kinsman’s pleas to wake up. Halbarad’s heart lurched. Was the carrier of all his people’s hopes and his dearest friend, destined to perish in a blizzard?

Pushing his dark fears aside, he somehow pulled Aragorn from the ditch, and half dragged, half carried him back to the ruined cottage, all the while battling against the wind and snow. By the time they reached the shelter, Halbarad was panting from the exertion and felt as if his back would break.

He carefully laid Aragorn down in front of the hearth. His fingers were too numb to examine Aragorn for a pulse, so he busied himself in making a fire and lighting the tallow candle that he had in his pack.

Once it was blazing, he felt the side of Aragorn’s neck and managed to detect a faint flicker of life. Halbarad almost wept with relief. He rummaged in their packs for blankets then swiftly divested Aragorn of his outer, snow – sodden garments and wrapped him in the blankets, all the while talking to him and begging him to wake up. Aragorn neither moved nor stirred and remained deathly cold to his touch. Halbarad was no healer. He wished fervently that he were able to take Aragorn to Rivendell and place him in Master Elrond’s skilled care. That was out of the question, though. They were many leagues from Rivendell, their horses were at their base camp and the weather was impossible to travel in. it was likely they would have to stay in this deserted hovel for several days. It was up to him and him alone to save his Chieftain.

Halbarad threw more wood on the now blazing fire and pulled off his outer garments. He then lay down next to the prone form of his chieftain and held him close, then pulled the blankets around them both.

Halbarad recoiled as Aragorn felt like a block of solid ice in his arms. He was soon shivering, but his heart soared when Aragorn began to shiver too. After what seemed an age, Aragorn gave a groan and his eyes flickered open.

“Welcome back!” said Halbarad.

“Where am I?” muttered Aragorn.

“We are sheltering from a blizzard in a ruined cottage,” said Halbarad. “You fell down in the snow.”

“Head hurts- so thirsty,” Aragorn muttered.

“You must have hit your head when you fell down the ditch,” said Halbarad. ”I will make you some tea.” He crawled out from beneath the blankets and pulled his tunic back over his head. He took a pan and some herbs from his pack, then opened the door a little, letting in an icy blast of air. He managed to fill the pan with snow to melt on the fire for tea. Once it was ready, he poured the tea into a pewter mug and held it to Aragorn’s lips.

The Chieftain had to wait for his teeth to stop chattering before he could drink. “I feel weak as a kitten!” he complained once he had ingested some of the warming drink.

“You are lucky to be alive,” said Halbarad. “I feared I had lost you, the hope of Middle-earth! You will have to rest and recover for a while.”

Aragorn sighed. “We should be on patrol.”

“Even if you were in perfect health, we can do nothing but stay put in this weather. We are snowed up here together.”

Aragorn sighed again then settled back into the blankets. “I could do far worse for company, I suppose,” he said. “You could be an Orc!”

“Be thankful I am not,” Halbarad retorted.

“Your pardon, kinsman. I believe you saved my life and I have not yet thanked you.” Aragorn reached out his hand from under the blankets and feebly gripped that of his kinsman.

“My pleasure,” Halbarad said gruffly. “Now get some rest and try to regain your strength.” He stretched out by the hearth the other side of Aragorn so that the Chieftain could enjoy more of the fire’s heat.

The blizzard continued to rage unabated outside, but the two Rangers slumbered safe and warm by the fire.

On the fourth day, a wintry sun broke through the clouds and the wind changed direction. Halbarad and Aragorn were finally able to leave the ruined cottage and rejoin their comrades who were becoming anxious concerning their whereabouts. The next day they resumed their patrols protecting their people from danger.

A/n Written for the 2014 BTMEM Challenge.

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