In the second chapter of The Return of the King, a grim message reaches Aragorn, and he takes Gimli and Legolas on a dangerous detour. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.
CHAPTER TWO: THE PASSING OF THE GREY COMPANY
Lords and Stuff
[MERRY watches as GANDALF leaves with his best friend, PIPPIN. As they pass out of sight, he returns to ARAGORN.]
ARAGORN: Well, it’s time for us to be off. Who’s coming with me?
[LEGOLAS and GIMLI both affirm excitedly.]
MERRY: Well, don’t forget about me! I would like to come.
ARAGORN: I will never forget about you, Merry! I promise.
ARAGORN: It is physically impossible for me to forget about you, dear hobbit.
[As the group prepares to leave, a RIDER gallops upon them.]
RIDER: Sooooooooo there might be a bunch of horses coming behind us, and there’s no way we can outride them.
THÉODEN: Fucking hell. Can I catch one break?
MERRY: Well, I feel useless right now. I suppose I’ll just stand here with my sword.
LEGOLAS: You’re not useless! You’re just not useful right now.
MERRY: Wow, I feel so much better.
[A group of thirty riders arrive, and HALBARAD is the first to speak up.]
HALBARAD: We are seeking someone who might be in the land of Rohan! Is there an Aragorn with you?
ARAGORN: SWEET BABY GANDALF, HALBARAD. IT’S ME, BRO! HOW ARE YOU, BRO?
HALBARAD: OH, BY ISILDUR’S BANE, IT’S YOU! LET US HUG UNTIL WE FALL TO THE GROUND AND THEN LET’S ROLL AROUND SOME, TOO.
ARAGORN [To THÉODEN]: These are my own kin, king! We aren’t going to be slaughtered where we stand! [To HALBARAD] Wait, why are you here?
HALBARAD: Dude, didn’t you summon us? We all got the message, man!
ARAGORN: Well, I mean I thought lots of manly and totally heterosexual thoughts about y’all, but it’s not like I can make wishes come true. So no, that has nothing to do with me.
THÉODEN: Well, this isn’t suspicious or weird at all, so let’s all just go together to Helm’s Deep instead of figuring out how this is possible! This is a good plan, no?
ARAGORN: I couldn’t agree more!
[They group has arrived at Helm's Deep, and we cut to MERRY, who is waking from a short bout of sleep. LEGOLAS and GIMLI are rousing him.
LEGOLAS: Wake up, Master Sluggard!
MERRY: I hardly think three hours of sleep is deserving of that nickname.
GIMLI: It has a nice ring to it.
MERRY: So what's going on? Where's Aragorn?
LEGOLAS: You know, he's off talking about the fact that his kin were summoned by someone other than him. Which isn't weird at all.
MERRY: Yeah, I thought that seemed odd. Who do you think sent the summons? Gandalf?
LEGOLAS: Probably Galadriel?
GIMLI: I want to marry her.
GIMLI: What? She's spectacular.
LEGOLAS: But what about us?
GIMLI: Fine, I'll marry you, too.
[MERRY, LEGOLAS, and GIMLI arrive at the hall of the Burg for midday meal.]
THÉODEN: Merry, come sit with me! We have much to discuss.
MERRY: Wow, I’m flattered! Thank you!
THÉODEN: I even got you a pony you can ride on later! No riding alongside someone else. Can we get this goddamn hobbit a weapon?
MERRY: No, it’s okay, I have my own! [MERRY draws his sword and offers it lovingly to THÉODEN.] May I offer this to you to pledge service to you?
THÉODEN: Yes, you may! Rise, good sir!
MERRY: As a father you shall be to me.
THÉODEN: For a little while.
THEODEN: I said, “For a little while.”
MERRY: That’s a really awkward thing to say. Like, do you mean you’ll tolerate me for a little while? Or that one of us will die in a little while? Or are you just placating my excitement?
THÉODEN: I have no idea. It really is a weird thing to say.
MERRY: Let’s pretend it never happened.
THÉODEN: Yes, let’s.
[The entire group prepares to depart Helm's Deep.]
THÉODEN: So, uh, where’s Aragorn? Can someone go get him? We have a war to fight.
[ARAGORN arrives minutes later with LEGOLAS and GIMLI. MERRY watches ARAGORN as he gets closer and realizes the man is forlorn, aged, and weary. Something is wrong.
ARAGORN: So. Change of plans, my lord.
THÉODEN: You're kidding me.
ARAGORN: I won't make it to Minas Tirith in time if I follow you. So I'm going to take the Paths of the Dead there.
[Everyone gasps except MERRY.]
THÉODEN: How dare you even speak the name, Aragorn! No living man can pass through such a place.
MERRY: What the hell are the Paths of the Dead? Can someone explain this to me?
THÉODEN: Well, I am not following you on such a folly. I guess this is where we part ways.
ARAGORN: I suppose so. Farewell, my lord! Oh, and we’re ditching you, Merry. Have fun!
MERRY: Wait, what? But you said –
[THÉODEN makes a motion and all the horses, including the one MERRY is on, take off.]
MERRY: HEY CAN SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON.
[MERRY disappears, and we focus on the remaining characters.]
LEGOLAS: So, why the change in heart?
ARAGORN: I may have used the Stone of Orthanc.
GIMLI: WHAT THE FUCK.
LEGOLAS: You better have a good reason for this.
ARAGORN: It’s sort of complicated.
HALBARAD: Bro, you better believe we will sit here and listen to the whole thing right this instance.
ARAGORN: Okay, so… [ARAGORN takes a deep breath.] I used the Orthanc to confront Sauron. In the process, I was able to use my own mental strength to wrestle the stone away from Sauron’s power. Did you even know I had this power? No. But Sauron saw me, and despite that I didn’t speak a word to him, he knew I existed and he knew that I was Isildur’s heir to the throne of Gondor. This was all done as a way to hopefully trick Sauron into releasing his soldiers sooner than he planned on it, exposing a possible weakness. Also, it’s really not that clear why me being Isildur’s heir is all that important, but I’m sure it relies on some minuscule detail from 450 pages ago.
GIMLI: This seems like a bit of a disaster. Like, a huge disaster.
ARAGORN: I haven’t even told you about the Paths of the Dead yet.
HALBARAD: There’s more?
ARAGORN [Taking another deep breath]: So, long ago, Isildur but a great big stone on top of a hill called Erech, and all the Kings of the Mountains swore their allegiance to Isildur there. Years later, when Sauron came back, Isildur called on his allies to assist him; unfortunately, they’d all turned on him and started worshipping Sauron. So Isildur cursed them, making it so they could never rest until they fulfilled their oath. Well, it just so happens that I am Isildur’s heir, and I can activate the Stone, so we are going to pass through the Paths of the Dead and call back the original allies.
GIMLI: Wait, if only the heir of Isildur can pass through the Paths of the Dead, how are we going to be exempt from that?
ARAGORN: Shhhhh, it’s time to leave.
[ÉOWYN, THÉODEN's daughter, greets the riders in Eldoras. She has been basically running the city since they all left many days before.]
ÉOWYN: It is good to see you, lord Aragorn. I am glad you have returned.
ARAGORN: I trust you have been well.
ÉOWYN: I have. I have heard of the many battles you have survived.
ARAGORN: That’s cool. So tomorrow I’m passing through the Paths of the Dead.
ARAGORN: Yeah, it’ll work. I’m positive of it.
ÉOWYN: You know it’s called the Paths of the Dead, right?
ARAGORN: Yeah, I’m sure it’s just an exaggeration.
ÉOWYN: So take me with you.
ÉOWYN: I’m sick of being worried here in Eldoras. I want to fight. Take me with you.
ARAGORN [who laughs first]: Your duty is heard to take care of Eldoras.
ÉOWYN: I piss on my duty. Well, not literally, but you know what I mean. I’m sick of waiting.
ARAGORN: But you agreed to govern while the men were away.
ÉOWYN: Will I always be stuck here while the men go off and fight? They get the best of both worlds, and I don’t see a reason why I shouldn’t go.
ARAGORN: Look, one day we may need you, but for now, your duty is in –
ÉOWYN: THE KITCHEN.
ARAGORN: No, I was –
ÉOWYN: YOU WERE GOING TO SAY IT. I KNOW YOU WERE. YOU BIGOT.
ARAGORN: No, I swear –
ÉOWYN: I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear pain or death. I fear living life in a cage and accepting that the world is just passing me by.
ARAGORN: Didn’t you just try to convince me not to do that?
ÉOWYN: Touché. But the point still stands. I want to go.
ARAGORN: No. You have no business going.
ÉOWYN: Oh, like Gimli and Legolas do. They’re only going because they loooovvvvveeee you.
ARAGORN: YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH ABOUT MY FRIENDS.
ÉOWYN: Aragorn and Legolas and Gimli, in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G…
ARAGORN: BY GANDALF’S BEARD, YOU BETTER SHUT IT.
ÉOWYN [She turns to walk away]: You mad, bro? ÉOWYN OUT.
[It is the following day, and the Riders are preparing to leave.]
ARAGORN: Farewll, Lady of Rohan! May we see you again.
ÉOWYN: Are you going to let me ride with you?
ÉOWYN: Your face is butts.
ÉOWYN: Seriously, you’re a butthead. Don’t talk to me.
[The group leaves ÉOWYN behind.]
[Arriving at the Dimholt, the riders disembark their horses at the sight of a stone that none of the animals will pass.]
GIMLI: This idea is a fucking foolish waste of time, by the way.
HALBARAD: I’m inclined to agree with you. Exactly how is it that we’re allowed to pass behind you?
ARAGORN: Just follow me and don’t talk.
[HALBARAD and ARAGORN walk in immediately. After some coaxing, LEGOLAS gets his horse inside, leaving GIMLI alone outside the entrance.]
GIMLI: I hate all of you. You will pay for this one day, I swear.
[The passageway is so dark that only the torches can be seen. They slowly trudge along until they come upon a space so wide that it doesn't seem to have an end. There, ARAGORN finds the bones of a huge man.]
GIMLI: Why the hell is he just wandering about? Surely, this place gives him the creeps, too?
[ARAGORN inspects the body before speaking]: I summon you to the Stone of Erech.
LEGOLAS: Wait, is that one of the King of Mountains?
[He receives no answer. They instead continue slowly through the Paths of the Dead; GIMLI constantly fears that someone or something is going to grab him out of the darkness. After some time, though, they finally pass out of the mountain. At one point, as they descend down the chasm, LEGOLAS turns back to see what look like ghosts pouring out.]
LEGOLAS: Should we be concerned that there are a bunch of dead spirits following us?
ELLADAN: No. They were summoned.
GIMLI: Who the hell are you???
ELLADAN: I’m Elrond’s son! Duh. My bother Elrohir is over there.
LEGOLAS: Oh. Right. I should know that.
ELLADAN: Our introduction was kind of rushed.
GIMLI: Dude…, there are ghosts following us.
[Finally, the riders arrive at the Hill of Erech. ELROHIR hands ARAGORN a silver horn once they find the black stone at the top, and ARAGORN blows the horn. Everyone else is shocked to hear unseen horns respond nearly immediately. A great host of spirits surrounds the hill.]
ARAGORN: Oathbreakers, why have ye come?
GIMLI [to LEGOLAS]: WAIT. ARE THESE SPIRITS THE OATHBREAKERS?
LEGOLAS: HOLY SHIT THAT’S SO COOL.
GIMLI: I KNOW.
ARAGORN: You will find peace if you serve me and rid this land of the servents of Gondor.
GIMLI [to LEGOLAS]: I mean, it kinda sucks when you think about it. They haven’t been able to rest for a long time. But I suppose I don’t feel bad for them. They did betray Isildur.
LEGOLAS: Are we seriously going to have ghost allies on our team? Oh, we are going to destroy Sauron.
GIMLI: Hey, you realize we just ditched Merry, right?
To be continued….