6. Chapter Six
Gil-galad jerked his spear from the corpse of the slain orc and looked for the next prey. Most orcs tried to avoid his fury, but few of them succeeded, pushed forward as they were by those behind them. He thrust again. From the corner of his eye, he saw an arm with a blade rise and descend. Tárion, he knew, but in battle the distinction between wielder and blade was blurred. Fighting reduced you to a weapon - yet it had to be done, and it brought a heady satisfaction, like guilty lovemaking could do.
Aiglos plunged down once more. This orc screeched. The piercing sound rose above the din, assailing his ears and mind, making his hatred blaze again. Another orc, through the throat. In the nick of time, he yanked away his mound from the scimitar lounging at its belly. Too little space. Too many foes. Further away, the ranks of the corrupted Men were closing in now. The King pointed ahead, barking a command. His Captain relayed it, and they pressed on, riding down more yrch than they skewered.
The last of them fled left and right, making way for the Men. The foremost of this company was in black, from helmet to feet, his eyes invisible behind a visor. That would make it more difficult to kill him but at the same time easier. It was unnerving to slay Men, for even the evil ones bore the faces of Eru's children. But this one was just a metal device on horseback. Gil-galad feinted and waited for the other's great axe to swish past, if only by an inch. He thrust, and on impact wrenched his spear-tip upward between breastplate and helmet. Blood gushed, red as his own, not black as an orc's. There was another difference. Orcs fought in a horde, but never as a body. Men had comrades-in-arms, even those who had sided with Sauron, and the warrior next to Gil-galad's victim rushed in to avenge his fallen comrade. Expecting this, the King was prepared, and he raised his shield to block the blow. But, though he also saw the second attacker coming from the other side, it was too late to swerve, to avoid the double-bladed axe descending on him.
Tárion did not hesitate. Kicking his horse hard in the flank, feeling a brief pang of regret, he threw himself between the King and the axe. This was what he lived for, and Gil-galad had never begged him to survive. His blood rang in his ears when the vicious blade crashed into his armour, cutting through the steel and digging into his left shoulder. Losing his balance, he toppled sideways from his horse. He vaguely expected to hit the ground, though he could not see it, blinded as he was by agonising pain.
The impact came too soon and was not nearly jarring enough. He was being pulled up and hitched onto something moving - by a pair of arms, onto the back of a horse. From far away, a keen note pieced his ears, as if Mandos had taken to calling the fëar of the death with a trumpet. Last time, there had been no sound, just an awareness. But then, last time, the call had not been final.
Suddenly, all about him people were shouting loudly, hurting him with the clamour. 'Cover my back!' a great voice above him cried, making his body reverberate painfully. The horse started forwards.
It was Gil-galad, Tárion realised, who had caught him when he tumbled from the saddle. His arms enclosed him on both sides, feeling like a haven.
Then, a thought struck him. Was the High King leaving the battlefield to carry him to safety?
'Can't do that,' he muttered.
His vision, blurred already, darkened a little more when Gil-galad bent over him and said: 'What?'
'King mustn't... leave field. Looks like... flight. Arto... just let me...'
'Shh,' Gil-galad soothed him. 'I can leave without seeming to flee. The Enemy is withdrawing. The watchman in Mithlond has blown the horn.'
'Númenor?' Tárion whispered.
'Very likely. I think we can look up now, Valanya.'
The Captain smiled wanly. Then, something was pressed hard against his shoulder to stem the flow of his blood, and he lost consciousness.
Everybody seemed to be underfoot, searching for a vantage point from which they could see the Númenorean fleet approach. As Celebrian's room did not offer her the slightest glimpse even when she stepped onto the window sill and leaned as far out as possible while clutching the frame with one hand, she hurried down to the quays. She felt slightly guilty: she ought to be relieved because delivery was nigh, not because no one would press her to leave Middle-earth now.
In the harbour, shipwrights were standing on the yards of their vessels, the wood groaning under their weight, despite the elven-craft that had gone into their making. Celebrian was reminded of autumn trees crowded with noisy birds of passage. Círdan was perched in the crow's nest of the largest vessel, his light hair flowing in the breeze.
Inhaling the scent of salt and pitch and stain, she climbed a pile of crates to gaze west between two of the ships. And there it was, the war fleet of the Dúnedain, dark and large in the mouth of the Gulf. A reassuring sight, but at the same time imposing enough to be slightly disconcerting. She had expected something different, something - more elegant? Brighter? The shadows of these vessels were rippling into their direction. But that, she told herself, was merely because the sun was in the West.
The sound of hoof beats made her turn. A lonely rider came galloping from the East, a limp figure in his arms. His white stallion, unguided, headed straightly for the palace gates. The rider was Gil-galad, she saw, but he was no longer a star of radiance. There was blood on his armour, on his helm, on his chin - and on Nimroch, too, and on the body he was cradling. Scrambling down the pile of crates she jumped to the ground and hurried to the palace, her heart thudding wildly long before she ran out of breath.
The King reached the Forecourt first and was shouting orders when she caught up with him. He was looking grim. Two servants helped him ease the limp body down from the horse's back, and now she saw it was Tárion the Captain.
'Is he dead, my lord?' Celebrian asked.
'No. But he may die when he is not tended to right away,' Gil-galad snapped.
Though she was taken aback by the fierceness of his reply she ventured: 'And you - are you wounded?'
'Only my -' He checked himself. 'I am unscathed, thank you, my lady.' He dismounted and knelt beside the injured Noldo, mumbling something too soft for even her keen ears to catch.
Only his pride? she thought. Or did he mean something else?
Two Elves hurried towards them carrying a hurdle. The Captain was carefully laid on it, lifted, and carried away, accompanied by the King.
Celebrian's eyes followed, but when her feet made to follow as well a hand on her arm held her back. She wheeled, the spell unbound.
It was her mother, in a grey gown that was mostly covered by a linnen apron. Celebrian had not noticed her approach. Galadriel cast a brief glance at the disappearing group and shook her head. 'There is nothing you can do about it.'
A peculiar way of putting it, but Celebrian knew better than to ask questions, to try and fathom the sea of time and space and knowledge that was Galadriel's mind. At times, it was a trial to have such an awesome mother. 'I could help,' she suggested, 'I learned all that I need to know about dressing wounds when we tended to the survivors from Ost-in-Edhil.'
'Soon, there will be more wounded to take care of.'
She was right: the first of them were already trickling in, though none of them as badly injured as the Captain. Galadriel immediately took the lead, calling others to assist them, and for a while Celebrian was too busy to think of more than the nearest basin of clean water and the next bandage. It was not until both the work and the day were done, that she looked around again and discovered that her mother was gone.
When she asked if anyone had seen her mother leave, she was told that Galadriel had gone to take a look at the wounded Captain, whose life seemed to hang on a thread.
Why she, but not I? Celebrian wondered.
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.