4. The Hitting of the Mark...
I dedicate this chapter to ShinElrond, one of my favourite Elrond/Celebrían fic writers (and because I am probably doing to her fav elven king what she thought I was) <grin>
During the three-day ride to the road, Elrond did not seem particularly optimistic about their chances to keep a party of seventeen Elves and their horses hidden from attention. He reacted curtly on Findor's proposal on the second day, to keep off the roads.
'We might be easier to distinguish on the road, but that does not mean we are a target. Staying off might be interpreted as unquestionably suspicious in the case of detection.' After that he had turned silent again, not speaking to a soul.
The woods in these parts were depressing, dark and dense, the predominant colour a light brown, instead of the moist green they had left behind.
That evening he had sat by the fire the entire night, declining the requests to tell stories, or riddles, not speaking much altogether.
Seeing the light of the fire reflect on faces, Gil-galad couldn't help dreaming away. Malthon's words had evidently struck some chord, deep down, for they kept echoing through his head. However much she has hurt you, she experiences it back threefold… Would that work the other way round, Gil-galad wondered, had she experienced the happiness she had given him threefold back as well? If Gondolin had not fallen, if Turgon had not been betrayed by Maeglin… If he had not become High King… All would have been different, perhaps…
It was his own voice he heard, as eyes rested on him. Images as they had probably been, he could not be certain, appeared before him in the fire. Words came as by magic.
'… In the end, Fingon stood alone, his guard lying dead about him. And he battled the Lord of the Balrogs, who had slain Fëanor his uncle. Assailed by fire from behind, Gothmog hewed him with his black axe, and a white flame is said to have sprang up from Fingon's helmet as it was cloven…'
Gil-galad's face was pensive, and Elrond studied his face, not sure whether the High King was dreaming or awake.
'And there fell the High King of the Noldor…'
All were silent as Gil-galad seemed far away. None spoke for the remainder of the evening.
Upon reaching the road the following day, the clouds had begun to darken, and in no time at all, the heavens had opened; rain hammering down. It had quieted all in their company, cloaks and hoods drawn closely about them.
Except maybe Elrond. In his opinion, rain meant less travellers, narrowing the chance of detection. Subsequently, he was overall more enjoyable to be around, Gil-galad reflected, watching the Lord of Imladris refill his water flask by holding it out in the persisting downpour.
So for now, they were staying on the road.
They had followed this path for over a day now, not resting at night, speeding up during the morning, and returning to a footpace during the rest of the day. All the while, the rain was unrelenting.
It was close to sun-down that Elrond began to turn restless. Gil-galad noticed it as the son of Eärendil turned in his saddle for the second time in a short while. Reaching a bend in the road, Elrond turned towards him.
'Something is amiss…'
Gil-galad watched him turn his horse and slowly make his way to the rear of the group, where he seemed to exchange some words with Brin, still cautiously observing something in the distance behind them.
A message swiftly reached Gil-galad, as Elrond seemed unwilling to relinquish his place at the back.
'Lord Elrond lets you know he believes we are being followed. He wishes you to ride in the middle of the group, instead of the front.'
Gil-galad nodded and motioned his horse to slow, as those riding behind him did the opposite, admitting him in their midst. His horse picked up the pace of its companions, and Gil-galad turned towards one of his guard riding next to him.
'Tell Elrond from me that we shall pretend to rest in an hour, to see if they will pass us.'
He watched the message being orally passed back, hoping it would not arrive as distorted as those in a childhood game he had once played.
Basically, one was to give a message, which would be relayed to another person and another, until it had gone around the circle, and was received back. It had taught him, so many years ago, that it was a flawed way of communicating important messages. But, of course, the smaller the amount of people going-between, the less the message was misshapen. Until now, there had only been one that had ever been allowed to carry such a message…
Elrond's voice was a hiss when he called to the others, riding from the back to the front, his eyes flashing something that made the High King uncomfortable.
'Raise your hoods…' Then he looked directly at Gil-galad. 'Keep your face hidden, there are Elves… Not ours.'
For once in his life, Gil-galad regretted the dark hair and clear grey eyes, since it made the Noldor so easily recognisable. As the sound of hooves turned louder, Gil-galad stole a look from under his hood. The riders seemed to intently study the group.
The Men were dark-haired, their eyes light. As he counted ten, Gil-galad considered Elrond had been mistaken; surely this were not Elves…
Then they came, five of them, tall and lean, everything about them dark. Their faces were not visible, their hoods pulled far over their eyes, but Gil-galad recognised them anyway.
Gil-galad glanced at Elrond, very aware he had known beforehand, recognising them even more quickly. But the Halfelven was not looking at him, as he rose his hand at the captain of the group. If anyone could speak to them and not be found out, it had to be Elrond. Just as elven-fair as the rest of them, Elrond had a strong side none of the others possessed. It was heritage, the strength of Men imbedded in his face, not in any way crude, but if anything, making him even more impressive. And more acceptable to the Men…
Gil-galad was careful not to look away when one of them looked straight at him, even giving back a smile. The High King knew that if he kept his gaze down, it would raise suspicion far quicker. The Dark Elves talked amongst themselves, apparently not interested in a company of wandering riders.
Nothing happened. They just rode on, not looking back. As they removed themselves, Elrond returned to the place alongside him again.
'I am relieved they did that.' His eyes still stayed on the rapidly disappearing group. 'Do you still want to stop in an hour?'
Gil-galad slowly shook his head.
'No, I'd rather we pick up the pace and leave the road.'
The unexpected arrow, penetrating Gil-galad at the shoulder, practically knocked him clear out of the saddle. As he hit the muddy road he uttered a smothered cry; the air being forced out of his lungs. Elrond's reaction came quick, as he lunged deeply in order to get a hold of Gil-galad's clothing; dragging him along, making sure he and his horse were positioned between his overlord and the archers.
As he did so, Findor and Brin were already making a semi-circular movement, to take out the archers, as several new arrows all hit inanimate objects. The rest of their group, having pulled their swords, were al busy either pursuing the remaining attackers, or forming a wall to protect Gil-galad from further injuries.
Malthon's face was too pale for comfort, as he stretched his hand out to Gil-galad, who had been pulled onto his feet by Elrond, still seated on his horse. Elrond nonetheless would not release the High King's collar, the delicate clothing crumpling under his desperate grasp. His voice was urgent and louder than usual.
'We have to find a safe place where we can assess the damage.'
Gil-galad looked up at Elrond, the expression on his face grim.
'Assess the damage… Just get off that horse, in Elbereth's name, and first take this thing out. I feel like I'm going to… Get it out and give me something to press against it.'
Elrond listened to brave words, with an even more deliberate undertone, as his eyes tried to judge his surroundings.
He was aware Gil-galad had seen other arrow wounds, and that the High King was consequently fully aware of the fact that it wasn't exactly that easy.
First, you couldn't simply pull out the wooden shaft without causing more injury with the arrow's iron point.
Second, not even Ereinion Gil-galad could merely hold a cloth to a wound and move on. But Elrond also understood that he could better be done with it now.
Having assured himself that they were reasonably covered by the riders and horses around them, he dismounted with a quick jump. Catching his Lord under the shoulders with both arms, Elrond guided him unto the ground. A quick inspection of where the arrow had met its mark made him smile feebly.
'You're lucky,' he commented, trying to keep his tone light. 'This kind of shaft doesn't leave too many splinters.'
'Yes, our luck certainly seems to have stayed…' Gil-galad mumbled up at Elrond, who dared not meet his eyes now, and instead, carefully began to unbutton the High King's tunic.
Then he looked up, searching and finding Jarin. 'Get my equipment from my saddlebag.'
As Jarin scurried off, Elrond watched Gil-galad, his hand seizing Elrond's arm, eyes begging for more information.
Elrond reluctantly turned away, instructing Jarin to bring him as clean a cloth as possible. When he looked up at Malthon, he noticed two Elves of their company had joined them.
'Hold him, very very tightly.' Elrond implored, his eyes commanding.
Gil-galad's breath was uneasy when he spoke a puny warning.
'Just don't break it. We are a long way from home. And I'm not particularly looking forward to having you poke around for the arrowhead.'
Trying to muster as comforting a smile as possible, Elrond nodded.
Placing both his leather riding gloves around the shaft of the arrow, to give him more grip, their eyes met again.
'Are you sure you are ready?'
'Is there something else you feel I need to take care of first?' Gil-galad returned, his sense of irony becoming a shield for his anxiety.
Gathering force with every muscle in his body Elrond made ready to pull the projectile from its embedded location, ready to ignore any stifled moans that would come from his patient. His eyes flashed to Jarin, who had returned and whose face was as pale as that of Malthon.
'Have you got it?'
Not waiting for the answer to an unnecessary question, Elrond made a single wrenching movement, and felt the arrow leave its position. Grabbing the cloth from Jarin, he pulled Gil-galad's tunic away and pressed the material forcefully to the wound, which indeed bled as incessantly as he had suspected. He felt Gil-galad's hands clutching his arm.
'Is it out, Elrond?'
'It is, my Lord, it is…' Elrond replied, feeling the grip loosen; consciousness lost. He was relieved he had succeeded in removing the object without too much damage. But the possibility of poison worried him. He looked at the cloth under his pressurizing hand before meeting Jarin's eyes.
'You couldn't find anything else?'
Jarin seemed nervous as he looked at it.
'I didn't notice, my Lord, I…'
Elrond shook his head.
'It doesn't matter. Go and find something else…'
As Jarin sped towards his horse and rummaged through the saddlebags, Malthon looked at Elrond.
'What do we do now?'
Elrond narrowed his eyes, as he removed the cloth and inspected the wound before replacing it again.
'We take him out of sight from the road, preferably as far removed from here as possible.'
Elrond gave Malthon a piercing look, reproachful, distinctly recognisable as one of Gil-galad's.
'He rests, Lord Malthon, and we wait.'
Malthon was silent for a while, and watched Jarin hand Elrond a new cloth.
When the Lord of Imladris spoke, it was to no one in particular. 'Hand me that vial.' Meanwhile he moved his hand to Gil-galad's neck, feeling pulse and temperature simultaneously. Malthon handed him the cylindrical glass container, and watched him uncork it.
'It's better he is not conscious.' Elrond muttered under his breath, as he transferred some of the content unto the cloth. Exchanging one cloth for the other, he carefully but tightly dressed the wound. Hopefully it would hold for a short journey to… Anywhere but here…
Malthon rested his hand on Elrond's shoulder.
'How can you stay so cool?'
Elrond narrowed his brow, fastening the bandage and buttoning up Gil-galad's shirt again, which held a large bloody stain.
'It does not help him if I panic.'
Brin joined the group surrounding the High King and looked at Elrond.
'We are ready…' He and four other Elves had constructed an improvised stretcher from two long branches and a blanket.
Lifting Gil-galad's unconscious body onto it, Elrond was left on the forest floor, still holding the initial cloth Jarin had presented. Looking at it in his hand, both covered in blood, he shivered. One of the pennants he kept in his saddlebag.
'Once more, there is blood on the blue and silver banner…'
Glorfindel stood in the middle of the now deserted camp. This had been where all had gone wrong. Taking some strides, he observed the spot where over a week ago some of the arrows had still been sticking in the ground, when he had first come here. Arrows, but no Lords, not of Lindon, nor of Imladris…
Celeborn came towards him from the opposite part of the site. He halted before addressing the other.
'You have to make up your mind about this.'
Either they would get on their horses and return to Imladris, and rely on others. Or, they would mount and ride into the forest, attempting to find what hundreds had not been able to locate.
'How could they have let them go?' He said, too grave for Celeborn's liking. He shook his head.
'No one can forbid Gil-galad to ride against the enemy. And if they do, he does not listen.'
Glorfindel's next question was more or less the same compared to the last time he asked, and Celeborn's answer was too.
'Are there search parties in the vicinity?'
'Yes, there still are. If they find anything, we will know it.'
Celeborn rallied a smile from deep inside.
'Imagine if they had succeeded. They would be celebrating and singing their heroic tales, the two of them… I believe we shall see that day, as soon as they have returned…'
Glorfindel breathed in deeply and let the air escape from his lungs.
'It will be an interesting story. One that I would love to hear…'
From afar they could distinguish the sound of horses approaching. If it had come from the other direction, perhaps the two Elves would have rushed out of sight within seconds. But these came from their own side. These were to be trusted.
Danhelm watched Glorfindel as he dismounted, Lord Brougham not far behind, insisting on coming with him.
Glorfindel came towards them with an expecting expression on his face.
Danhelm shook his head, catching the hand Glorfindel offered, before casting down his eyes.
'I am afraid not, my Lord.'
Brougham stepped forward.
'We must, and I regret saying this, sincerely hoping I am wrong, consider the possibility that my Lord High King Gil-galad has been captured and killed.'
Celeborn watched Glorfindel, his eyes darkening. The remark had been overly polite, almost making it offensive. He shared Glorfindel's feelings concerning the matter, but would not allow his worries to lead his decisions. Under normal circumstances Glorfindel would not either. These were not normal circumstances.
'Bodies, Lord Brougham,' Glorfindel spoke, calming himself. 'The only way to convince me.' Turning from the two, walking over to where his horse waited, he left Celeborn who gave the Elf and the Númenórean a short nod.
'I hope you bring news, next time we meet, Lord Danhelm. Good or bad.'
Celeborn followed Glorfindel, who had already mounted. Placing his foot in the stirrup, Celeborn swung over his other leg and once seated, spurred his horse, at the same moment Glorfindel did.
Watching them ride off, Brougham caught Danhelm's sleeve, a little too anxious for the Elf's liking.
'If the High King is dead, there must be a new one, that is how it always has been.'
Danhelm pulled his arm free, trying to stay respectful, and positioned his hands behind his back.
'If what you say would be true, that Gil-galad has indeed gone to Mandos… Assuming the Lord of Imladris is alive, he would be ruler.'
Brougham stepped closer, his voice only audible for the ears of Danhelm.
'With all respect to Lord Elrond, he is not entirely Noldor, halfelven even… Would that be wise?'
Danhelm narrowed his eyes, suspiciously scrutinizing the Númenórean.
'With all respect to you, Lord Brougham, he might not be Noldor, but you are not an Elf. And moving fast is not always prudent. It is not our way.'
Danhelm stayed as Brougham left, his eyes following the horse and rider long after they had disappeared from sight.
Only after arriving back at the main encampment, having entered his own tent, Brougham caught the sound of hooves outside, stopping at the front. This had to be news, or they wouldn't be in such a hurry. He rose from the chair he had taken and moved to the entrance of the tent.
One of the men who had gone out over a week ago.
Brougham could read the news from his face, but motioned the man into the tent anyway. His eyes lighted up.
'You got him? How did it happen?'
The man was straight away infected with his master's enthusiasm.
'Our comrades spotted him and over a dozen others on the eastern road. They hit him splendidly, right out of the saddle. Sadly, the archers as well as the riders were all killed or captured. Only the one that brought the message escaped.'
Brougham's eyes grew large for a moment.
'But you are sure he is really dead?'
A grin crept across a thin pair of lips.
'They used poison, sir. Even if they had only scraped him, he would have felt the effects.'
Brougham sat down and folded his hands.
'I will wait a couple of days, and then I will travel to Imladris. You solemnly assure me he is dead?'
'I have great trust in it, sir.'
The light in Brougham's eyes faded for a moment.
'And what of Lord Elrond?'
The man shrugged, his wet hair moving in the process.
'I heard nothing about him, sir. He might not even be with them.'
'Very well.' Brougham replied, waving him away. 'Go get some rest, you've deserved it. But ask your men to try and find a body.'
The man bowed deeply prior to exiting the tent.
A whisper, ever so convenient at this time of emptiness, came into his mind…
What is it you remember?
I remember the singing of the mourners… Those of my grandfather…
I thought the Elves did not sing of it…
He wounded Morgoth seven times, each time rewarded with a cry of pain, echoing through the Northlands. It made the men of the Enemy shake in terror.
But perhaps he forgot the power of The Black Enemy…
Thrice down, and up again… But then finally stumbling, yet giving one last crippling strike, as his neck was broken… Thorondor saved his body… Turgon built the shrine…
Your father sent you to the havens…
A vision of a small Elf-child, his dark hair tucked behind the ears, emerged from the void. Its dark eyes piercingly observed someone approaching.
'Ereinion!' It sounded again.
The child turned and ignored it, apparently still much offended.
Well aware he was too young, even before it had been repeated many times. By his father, his uncle, even his mother. But his mother's objections were to be expected, somehow of a different nature. She didn't want him to go anywhere that took him away from her.
He whispered to the waves before him.
'Nan ni mer-lá tulë…*'
And what of your father…?
If successful, one who acts courageously without the council of others is quickly seen as a brave man, if he fails, he is branded a fool…
Yes… What of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad?*
Even after death, they pounded the Valiant* into the dust with their maces, the blue and silver forever mired in his blood…
You feel anger?
I do not know…
Tell me of the one so closely guarded in your heart…
His father was my uncle's grandson… I knew his mother well… My years did not yet cover a century when I heard of his birth, and rejoiced in it… But I knew him not back then…
Tis not the one I meant, but continue…
I heard of his capture and that of his brother, the tragedy of their mother… I vowed to find both of them… When I did, I vowed to protect, and I never broke any of those…
Why such responsibility?
Perhaps I saw myself in him… He was as I had been as a child; old too early, beyond his years… He gave me something of what I had lost so long ago… I loved him greatly… I do still. He is one of those that shall stay until the end, I know it… He will know more of the marring in Arda than any other…
I taught him all I know… I taught him well. He possesses all of me I wish to see brought forth into the world. He is my heir… He has good judgement, wisdom and strength… Compassion and love…
Tis good you know this… But tell me of the other…
I know not of whom you speak…
Oh, but you do… Tell me of her…
Gil-galad's story of the death of Fingon has been slightly rephrased, but most of it comes directly from the Silmarillion.
Moriquendi: literally: Elves of the Darkness, those who had never seen the Light of the Trees. It is said they were therefore more susceptible to side with the Enemy
'Nan ni mer-lá tulë…': Quenya, 'But I did not wish to come…'
Nirnaeth Arnoediad: War of the Unnumbered Tears
the Valiant: nickname of Fingon
(I hereby lay claim on little Ereinion, because I love the way he tucks his hair behind his ears… aaaw, please? Can I?)
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.