‘So it was Degil who took Arathorn’s place as Chieftain until Aragorn could take up his father’s mantle?’ said Celinn.
‘Yes,’ said Rumil, glancing back to his second-in-command, Heleghen, and his brother Haelon, whom he had posted to the rearguard of the two companies. Heleghen nodded once, indicating that all was well, and Rumil turned back to Celinn.
‘And he will be waiting for us at Anduin with reinforcements from the Dunedain. Two hours should take us there, don’t you think?’ he said.
Celinn nodded. ‘Unless we are delayed,’ he said. Rumil heard something in his voice.
‘What is it, Celinn?’ he asked.
Celinn shook his head. ‘Maybe nothing,’ he said. ‘But…it is what the Lady said before we left…about what may be behind this threat.’
‘The Dunlendings?’ said Rumil quietly.
‘Partly. They have always taken the side of the Shadow, and now that we know that some of them have joined with the outlaws, even letting them winter in Dunland, it seems there may be more to these men than simple destructiveness.’
‘You think they are sent by the Shadow?’
‘Not sent, but used, as the Dark One will use any who are willing to do evil. And…’
‘Yes?’ prompted Rumil, when Celinn hesitated.
‘I have had a dream. I had it first on the day of my braiding, but last night it came again. It concerned our meeting with the outlaws.’
‘Well, what was it about?’ said Rumil impatiently.
‘Oh, it was unclear,’ said Celinn vaguely. ‘It is just that I think we must be prepared for…things that we have not planned for.’
‘That is what we are trained for,’ said Rumil.
‘Indeed,’ said Celinn. ‘Take no heed of me, Rumil. Maybe I have spent too long on holiday under the sun.’
He stooped down and picked up a couple of long russet feathers banded with black and twisted them into his hair.
Rumil gave him a piercing look, then, satisfied that there was nothing more he could worm out of Celinn, he said,
‘Shall we stop here for a while? We are making good time.’
A few minutes later the two companies were taking their ease beside the last guard post before the Anduin. It was untenanted at present and Celinn had sent Sirion up to the watch talan, but so far there was nothing to report. Luinil passed his flask to Celinn, looking over at where Gwirith sat, a green velvet bag in his lap.
‘How goes the work, Gwirith?’ he asked.
Gwirith looked up, a small knife in his hand. ‘It is nearly finished. The Lady may have it when we return home.’ He held up a tiny piece of carving in the shape of a tree, fine and delicate and light. ‘It is the last piece,’ he said.
‘May I see?’ asked Celinn. He held out his hand and Gwirith laid the ornament in it. Celinn looked at it, turning it round gently with his little finger so that he could examine it from every angle.
‘It is marvellous work,’ he said at last, smiling at Gwirith, palm extended for him to take it back. Gwirith took the wooden tree, his fingers brushing Celinn’s skin as he did so.
‘I am glad you like it,’ he said, his eyes meeting Celinn’s for a moment in a swift intense glance.
Some of Rumil’s company were sitting on a log pulled from the wood pile which was kept by each watch talan.
‘Gwirith,’ said Heleghen, ‘my sister’s binding day is coming soon. Maybe you could make me something to give her?’
Gwirith nodded. ‘Once this is done, I will have some time for other work,’ he said.
‘Better still,’ said Heleghen, ‘lend me your knife a moment, Gwirith. I have a stone in my shoe. I have walked on it for some miles already.’ He pulled off the shoe and Gwirith saw the stone embedded in the leather. He reached across and handed Heleghen his knife, handle first. Heleghen took it in his left hand and began to work at the stone.
‘Do you fight left-handed too?’ said Gwirith.
‘Left-handed and right-handed also,’ said Rumil, ‘and he is one of our most valuable fighters because of it.’
‘Heleghen, is the lembas in your pack?’ said Haelon, who was sitting beside him on the log.
Heleghen nodded, engrossed in his task. Haelon got up quickly and the log tilted suddenly, freed of his weight. Heleghen lost his balance and fell sideways against his comrade Gwaerindal, and they rolled together onto the grass. The other elves found this hilarious and there was much laughter and ribald comment, but then Heleghen cried out,
‘Enough, by Elbereth! I am hurt!’ And when he held out his hand they saw the long deep cut across his palm where he had inadvertently squeezed the knife as he fell. Gwaerindal was swift-footed no more after receiving a ragged gash in his ankle from the point of the blade. Rumil was furious.
‘Already we are not many, and because of your foolishness we are even fewer,’ he said angrily. ‘Why your parents named you wise, Haelon, I fail to understand.’ Already he was unwrapping his scrip and taking out salves and bandages, but when both wounds had been dealt with, he sighed deeply and said,
‘Gwaerindal, you can barely walk; we cannot delay the whole raiding party because of you. You will both have to wait for us until we come back. We will make a stretcher for you and carry you home tomorrow.’
‘Captain,’ cried Heleghen. ‘Take me with you! Even though I cannot use the bow, I can fight right-handed with my sword!’
‘And who will wait with Gwaerindal, who will be unable to defend himself against any enemy who might find him, Heleghen?’
Heleghen looked down at the ground, shamefaced. ‘Of course, Rumil. I did not think of that.’
‘No, but I did,’ said Rumil. ‘Do you have food and water for the night?’
When Heleghen and Gwaerindal had been helped to climb up to the watch talan, the raiding party set off again, subdued and quiet.
‘Are you sure there is nothing else you wish to tell me about your dream, Celinn?’ said Rumil.
Celinn glanced at him. ‘You sound just like Haldir,’ he said.
‘Aragorn did what?’ said Rumil, incredulous.
Degil sighed and looked out over Anduin. He was tall and broad shouldered with deep blue eyes which seemed to have looked without surprise on all there was to see in Arda, and thick untidy greying hair. ‘He is young, and he wishes to prove himself, to the Dunedain and to the elves. We have tracked these men for months without success. He thought it was the only way we could know their movements, and be sure we could trap them.’
‘I am not surprised that Aragorn has infiltrated the outlaws’ band. It is exactly what I would expect of someone of his courage and resourcefulness,’ said Celinn quietly. ‘I know he will do his best to bring this operation to a successful outcome.’ Degil and Rumil turned and looked at him with a mixture of respect and wonder.
‘Of course, I do not doubt that,’ said Degil. ‘He is brave and honourable, but he is inexperienced. He would not have been my first choice for such a duty.’
‘Well, it is done now,’ said Rumil, irritably. ‘What is the plan?’
‘Now that you are here, albeit fewer in number than we had hoped,’ said Degil, catching the frown of embarrassment and anger that Rumil tried to hide, ‘our aim is to wait until moonset, then enter the camp under cover of darkness. Aragorn will deal with Adanwath himself, and we will apprehend the other men. Once that is done, your part will be over, and we will ride south to meet a company from Rohan who will take them to Edoras to face justice.’
‘Why not just kill these outlaws and be done with it?’ said Rumil.
‘Because it is wrong, and because Aragorn does not wish it,’ said Degil, and his mouth closed like a trap.
‘Very well,’ said Rumil, not at all chastened. ‘Has Aragorn been able to communicate with you since he joined the outlaws?’
‘Yes, we have trailed them for half a month. I have spoken to him twice in that time, when he was able to leave the camp on a pretext.’
‘What intelligence do we have?’ said Rumil.
‘The camp is made up of nearly forty men, about a quarter from Dunland, the rest disaffected men from Rohan and the vale of Anduin. Including myself and Aragorn, we are eight Dunedain, and with your companies we number twenty two in total. Since we plan to surprise them, I think our force is large enough. They have a good store of weapons and some horses. They have made contact with some other travelling bands and are planning to join with another such band in the next few days. That is why we must act at once. The Rohirrim are tracking the other band, and will do what they can to apprehend them before they are able to join Adanwath.’
‘What kind of men are in Adanwath’s band?’ asked Celinn.
‘They have some discipline, though you would not think so to look at them.’ They all glanced over at the untidy camp that was sprawled out half a mile away in a bend of the Anduin, partly sheltered by a thick stand of beeches. ‘But Adanwath knows how to bind them together to do what he wants. If only things were different, he would make an excellent general. I understand you have met him,’ he said, turning suddenly to Celinn.
‘Yes,’ said Celinn, hoarsely. After a long pause, Degil said,
‘So, tell us, what kind of man is he?’
Celinn did not answer at once, but at last he said,
‘He is single-minded. What he wants, he must have, whatever the cost. He is cunning and intelligent. He is cruel and desires power, and he is changeable and given to fitful moods. He hates the elves and the orcs equally.’
Degil turned again to the distant camp. ‘If all goes to plan, he will have no chance to exercise his hatred,’ he said.
Celinn’s mind was suddenly filled with an image of a violent and disastrous conflict, punctuated by cries and screams of men, elves and horses. Rumil’s hand was on his elbow, shaking him.
‘Celinn! What ails you?’ he said sharply.
Celinn turned to him, and the image faded as suddenly as it had come. ‘It is…it is nothing,’ he stammered, but Rumil was not so easily convinced, and at last Celinn described what he had seen.
‘What does this mean, Celinn?’ demanded Rumil. ‘Have you had such a seeing before?’
‘A few times,’ said Celinn, avoiding his eyes. ‘It may be just a memory of the place, or of someone near. It is not always a warning of what is to come.’
Rumil and Degil glanced at each other. ‘But this time you think it is,’ said Degil.
‘I don’t know,’ said Celinn. ‘Maybe.’ His eyes seemed to clear then, and he said, ‘Do not be caught by the vision. If we fear it, it may weaken our resolve, and we must act, whatever is ahead. Aragorn has committed us to this task, especially now that he is within the camp. We have no choice but to go on.’
Degil sighed deeply and braced his shoulders. ‘You are right, Celinn. There is no more to be said. Stand down your companies and let them rest. The moon will set about three hours after nightfall, and then we will attack.’
About an hour before moonset, both companies were ready for action. The time before an engagement was always difficult, and the strain of waiting was clearly marked on some faces, of men and elves alike. Celinn stood calm and still looking out at the camp, the hood of his cloak pulled up over his bright hair. The tip of one of the kite feathers stuck out over his ear, and he felt a hand tucking it under the cloth.
‘What is the matter, tithen muindor?’ asked Aiglin, standing close to him.
Celinn put his arm round Aiglin’s waist. ‘Nothing, Aiglin,’ he said. ‘Why do you ask?’
‘Because you have been playing that bowstring like a harp, and soon it is like to break under your tender care.’
Celinn looked down, surprised to see that he had unknowingly frayed his bowstring as Aiglin had said. Quickly he replaced it with a fresh one, then Aiglin handed him an open pot of wax and he started to work the damaged fibres back together. Gwirith was engaged on the same task and their glances met for a moment. Gwirith’s eyes were dark and preoccupied but he acknowledged Celinn silently before turning away.
‘Celinn, their numbers are greater but with our skills we should overcome them easily,’ said Aiglin. He leaned closer, and spoke softly so that no one else could hear. ‘Why do you worry so? He will not remember you, brother. He will not even see you. Only the children of men ever sense our presence, and that camp is certainly not a place where you will find one of them.’
Celinn sighed deeply. ‘Of course you are right, Aiglin. I will put it from my mind.’
‘Do so, and think instead on what gift you would like for your begetting, for it draws near.’
Celinn smiled at him. ‘Thank you, brother. You have eased my mind.’
The moon was low in the sky. Degil crouched behind a low ridge close to the camp, an untidy arrangement of tents and shelters which was illuminated by a large camp fire in the centre of a clearing. The rest of the raiding party were grouped around him, invisible from the camp.
‘They have some guards on watch, but of the others, many are sleeping or drunk,’ Degil said, soft and contemptuous.
‘Is there any sign of Adanwath?’ whispered Rumil.
‘No. Some of the camp is obscured by the trees. Wait, is that him?’
Celinn watched the man who had just emerged from a tent, followed shortly after by Aragorn. The man appeared about thirty years old, taller and broader than Celinn remembered him; his dark hair was longer now, and hung sleek and loose on his shoulders, but the handsome, cruel face was the same, as were the big capable hands and the swaggering stride. Celinn watched him make his way towards the fire, his arm round Aragorn’s shoulders.
‘It is Adanwath,’ he said, his throat suddenly dry.
‘Good,’ said Degil. ‘Now we wait.’ They watched in silence as the two men stopped by the fire, laughing together companionably. For some time they spoke together with every appearance of concord. Degil yawned deeply and arranged his body more comfortably against the cold earth.
‘Maybe you are right, Celinn,’ he whispered. ‘I was too harsh on him. He has done well.’
Adanwath’s laughter rang out again, and then they watched Aragorn walk away and enter a tent nearby. He was inside for a few moments, then emerged carrying a bottle of wine and two goblets.
Celinn glanced up at the moon, reckoning how much longer they had to wait before moonset: maybe a quarter of an hour, he thought. He turned his attention back to the camp, and saw Aragorn holding out a goblet as though to offer Adanwath some wine. His offer must have been accepted because he began to pour it out, talking all the time. If he could keep Adanwath talking, it would make their job a great deal easier.
Without warning, the vision flashed again before Celinn’s eyes, more vividly than before. This time it lasted for several seconds, and when it was over, he had to cover his face with his hands and shake his head to clear away the memory of it. He looked around surreptitiously to see if anyone had noticed, but it seemed that everyone’s attention was on the camp. He sighed with relief, not wanting to cause a distraction when they were just about to embark on the raid.
A hand touched his arm and a moment later a voice said quietly,
‘Is something troubling you, captain?’
Celinn turned to look into Gwirith’s blue-grey eyes, watching him seriously.
‘No, it is nothing, Gwirith. My head aches a little, that is all.’
Gwirith looked at him steadily, and Celinn knew the lie had been detected. Gwirith said nothing, but his look pierced Celinn, and he said, without volition,
‘I have seen something…disturbing. It is not the first time.’
‘A seeing?’ said Gwirith.
Celinn was silent, feeling he had already said too much.
‘It may mean nothing,’ said Gwirith. ‘A memory of the place, or of your last meeting with Adanwath.’
‘Yes,’ said Celinn. ‘That is very likely the case. Gwirith, forget what I have said. All is well, and soon we will seize these men as we have planned and they will be delivered up to justice.’
Gwirith nodded, but it seemed to be he who was reassuring Celinn rather than the other way round. Celinn turned away, not wanting to reveal himself further, and his eye fell on Aragorn who was standing spear straight and motionless, his back to Adanwath, the goblet full of wine in his hand. The outlaw leader seemed completely relaxed, his legs stretched out in front of him, propped up on his arms.
Celinn’s gut ached painfully. ‘Something is wrong,’ he said urgently. Degil and Rumil turned to him sharply.
‘Look at Aragorn,’ insisted Celinn. ‘Something has happened!’
They watched Aragorn turn slowly to face Adanwath, and though his face was completely impassive, there was something rigid and shocked in the way he moved. The wind whipped round them, and Celinn shivered suddenly as he watched Aragorn walk towards Adanwath, extending the goblet to him with what seemed to be astonishing calm.
Adanwath reached out and took the goblet and drank deeply from it, his eyes never leaving Aragorn’s face. Aragorn stood transfixed, full of hopeless courage, staring his impossible defiance at his enemy.
Then Adanwath was on his feet, the goblet flung aside, his eyes blazing with fury. Aragorn tried to defend himself, but Adanwath was too quick for him, and struck him hard in the face. Aragorn cried out, and it took all the watchers’ discipline not to cry out with him. A moment later Adanwath’s hand was round Aragorn’s throat, walking him backwards until he was sprawled against a tree.
‘By all that is holy,’ whispered Aiglin, ‘he is in mortal danger.’
‘He is in danger,’ said Degil, quietly, ‘but it is not yet mortal.’
Adanwath shouted to his men who roused themselves with surprising swiftness, obeying his order to bind Aragorn to the tree.
‘We must help him! What are we waiting for?’ came Aiglin’s voice again.
‘Sedho, Aiglin,’ hissed Rumil.
They watched in anguish as Adanwath strode over to where some horses were hobbled and took an unpleasant looking flail from one of the saddles. Many of the watchers turned away when he began to use it on Aragorn, but Celinn and Degil did not.
‘He will hurt him, to try to get what information he can from him,’ whispered Degil, and Celinn nodded in agreement.
‘We will get him out safely, then we can deal with the men afterwards,’ said Celinn clearly, his eyes bright with anger and determination. Degil turned to him, frowning.
‘Once we have lost the element of surprise, our chances are much reduced.’
‘We will not lose it,’ said Celinn. ‘We will create a distraction and remove him while they are occupied elsewhere. Then we will take them.’
‘If you can do this, we will still achieve our objectives. But it will not be easy.’
The vision flashed again before Celinn’s eyes. He ignored it and turned to Rumil.
‘I will take my company. From what we can see, we may need two to carry him out, and three of us to cover our escape. The rest can distract the men.’
‘Celinn, Adanwath may remember you. If anyone is to carry out this plan, you are the last to do it.’
‘Aragorn is my friend,’ said Celinn. ‘I am willing to take the risk.’
‘If you are caught, there will be too few of us to come for you,’ said Rumil. ‘I will have to send to Haldir for the last company of the pellarim, and he will be reluctant to leave Lorien guarded only by those who will not leave the forest.’
Celinn took hold of his arm. ‘Rumil, we cannot leave Aragorn, and if we don’t seize these men tonight, they may join with the other band of outlaws and become twice the threat they are now. What choice do we have?’
‘We have the choice to withdraw,’ said Rumil quietly. ‘Do you really want to take your company into danger for the sake of men?’ Degil turned slowly and looked at him, and after a long moment, Rumil said, shamefaced,
‘I am sorry. We are allies, and I should not have spoken as I did. Celinn, we will attempt your plan, if you wish it, but warn your company of the risks before you go.’
Celinn knelt behind a half-grown beech tree at the edge of the camp, his sword drawn. The others of his company crouched nearby, similarly armed, all but invisible in the darkness. The moon had set, and they were feet away from a short, stocky man with a straggly black beard who appeared to be on guard duty at this corner of the camp. Celinn watched calmly as Aiglin stepped silently behind the man and made his way among the tents. Luinil followed, then the others, and then Celinn himself made his way noiselessly past him. The man had noticed nothing.
Celinn took the lead, guiding the others between the tents and rough shelters. Occasionally they came across men, alone or in small groups, but usually they made so much noise that the elves had ample time to hide themselves, and once or twice they were able to step round sleeping or drunken guards. At last they came to the edge of the stand of beech trees into which the untidy camp had spread.
‘He must be somewhere within the trees,’ Celinn whispered to Luinil. ‘It is the only place that is not visible from our own camp, and we saw them take him out of sight before we left.’
‘I wonder whether he will be able to walk,’ whispered Luinil. They exchanged a pessimistic look. Aragorn’s limp body had been carried away from the fire by two of Adanwath’s men
Celinn gave a sign and the elves moved forward silently among the trees. After a while they heard the sound of raucous laughter, and they saw Adanwath talking to two or three other men seated round a small fire. Nearby, a few feet away from Celinn, a couple of tents stood, and low voices could be heard inside. Celinn nodded a warning towards them, and after watching for a while, he gave the familiar signs and Luinil, Aelindor and Caranfir got up and moved away.
‘We will go in when they have created a distraction,’ whispered Celinn to the others.
The men by the fire had fallen silent and Celinn felt his body tense as he endured the enforced stillness of waiting in the midst of danger. He knew that Gwirith was just behind his left shoulder, a strong and comforting presence, and Aiglin a little further away. The silence stretched out, becoming thin and painful. Celinn repressed a sigh, wondering what Luinil and the others were doing.
All at once a high, childish voice cried out, ‘No! I won’t!’ Celinn’s eyes met Aiglin’s in disbelief and a moment later a small fair-haired girl no more than three or four years old burst out of the tent a few feet away and stood, rubbing her eyes with her fists. The elves shrank back against the trees, but the child had seen the soft light that surrounded and outlined the elves, and came slowly towards Celinn.
‘Are you an angel?’ she said, timidly. ‘I am, because of my hair.’
For a moment Celinn stared at her, speechless, but then he recovered his composure. ‘I am an angel,’ he said gently. ‘But you mustn’t tell anyone I’m here, because otherwise I’ll have to go away and I won’t be able to do what I came for.’
‘What did you come to do?’ the little girl asked.
‘To give you a present,’ he whispered, and he reached for one of the red kite feathers in his hair and put it in her hand. The child looked down at it, and her face broke into an enchanting smile.
‘An angel feather!’ she breathed, then turned to go back to the tent. ‘Mama, the angel has given me a feather!’ she called out.
Celinn took her arm gently and pressed his finger to her lips. ‘You mustn’t tell anyone,’ he said softly. ‘It’s a special gift, just for you.’
‘But I want to show mama! Please,’ she begged.
Celinn felt Gwirith and Aiglin leaning close to him on either side. ‘Sing to her,’ whispered Aiglin urgently.
The child was nearly at the tent when Celinn began to sing, and the sound of his voice stopped her in her tracks. Slowly she turned and came back to him, listening enraptured until he had finished, when she threw her arms round his neck and kissed his cheek.
‘Sing more!’ she cried. ‘Sing more, angel!’
There was a rustle of canvas and a woman appeared at the entrance of the tent, carrying a candle.
‘Linnet?’ she called. ‘Come back to bed, my sweetheart. It’s cold outside.’
‘Mama, an angel is singing to me!’ cried Linnet.
‘Linnet, where are you?’ called out the woman again, holding out the candle in front of her. Its pale light shone out into the darkness, illuminating the child with her arms round Celinn’s neck. The woman’s face grew pale with shock.
‘Celinn?’ she whispered in disbelief.
‘Mama, it’s an angel!’ said Linnet again.
The woman dropped the candle and gave a high, surprised cry, immediately cut off, but it was enough to alert the guard who stood a little distance away beside the fire. Not waiting to see what he would do, Celinn stood up quickly, pushing Linnet towards her mother, and he and the others melted into the trees.
‘What about Luinil and the others?’ said Aiglin.
‘They will lure the men away from Aragorn, and then they will get back to safety,’ said Celinn, talking and running at the same time. ‘We will free Aragorn, as we planned.’
‘It is madness, we are too few,’ said Gwirith. Celinn ignored him and signed to the elves to crouch down in the shelter of some trees.
‘The last thing they will expect is for us to try to rescue him now,’ said Celinn. ‘We still have a chance. If we are outnumbered, we can retreat and they will never see us. But at least let us try to help Aragorn while we still have a chance.’
The elves crept closer to Aragorn, who lay unconscious at the foot of a tree, his wrists and ankles tied and bound to the trunk. All around they could hear the sound of men blundering through the forest, and lights glimmered here and there, but there was no-one within sight. Linnet’s voice could be clearly heard inside the tent, still insisting that she had seen an angel, and that they were not to hurt him. Her mother was weeping incessantly, brokenly.
Celinn stepped out of the shadows and knelt beside Aragorn, leaning down close to him. His face was swollen and bloody, and his clothes torn where he had been beaten by the flail. Already the skin below was blackening into bruises and welts, and there were larger bruises which looked to have been made by blows with hands or feet. Celinn tilted his cheek and could just feel Aragorn’s faint breath on it, and his fingers found the light pulse in his neck. He gave a shuddering sigh
‘By blessed Elbereth,’ he whispered, ‘he lives.’
He took his knife out of his belt and began to saw through the thick rope that bound Aragorn’s wrists. It was slow work, and he had scarcely begun when Aragorn stirred and began to struggle against him, half conscious though he was. As he worked the sounds of pursuit became louder, and before he had cut even halfway through the bonds, there came a sound of shouting and running feet very close by, and a group of men burst into view, carrying lighted brands.
‘Engage them!’ commanded Celinn, and the rest of his company emerged calmly from behind the trees and went into battle with the men with sword and bow while Celinn struggled to free Aragorn, whom the noise had finally roused from his unconsciousness.
‘Who is it? Celinn? Is that you?’ he muttered.
‘Yes, Aragorn, it is me,’ said Celinn. ‘Stay still while I cut your bonds.’
The plan seemed to be working remarkably well when Celinn felt a blow to his back and turned to see the green and black fletchings of an arrow protruding from his left shoulder. Before he had time to feel the pain he reached over and snapped off the shaft and, turning back to Aragorn, sawed through the last fibre of the rope which bound his feet. Aragorn shrugged his wrists and ankles free of their ropes and Celinn helped him to rise unsteadily to his feet and began to move him away from the conflict.
Celinn had opened his mouth to speak the command to disengage when the air was suddenly filled with the sound of a horse shrieking in pain. Celinn turned and saw a large grey, its eye rolling in terror and fury, with Adanwath on its back, digging his spurs into the horse’s flanks, which were already torn and bloody. More riders were following Adanwath, and Celinn knew that the odds had suddenly shortened greatly in favour of the enemy. Shoving Aragorn towards Sirion and hopefully out of the way of the horses, Celinn drew his sword.
His shoulder was beginning to ache, but he straightened his back and shouted, ‘Drego! Drego!’ At once Silivren and Gwirith, fighting side by side, began to give ground steadily until they had nearly reached the edge of the trees. Celinn saw that Sirion and Aragorn were struggling to free themselves from the press of horses and men and he began to cut his way through to them to give them what help he could.
‘Where is Aiglin?’ he shouted above the din of battle, holding his sword with both hands to compensate for his weakening shoulder.
‘Here!’ cried a voice, and turning, he caught a glimpse of his brother, beset on all sides but defending himself valiantly. ‘Go!’ shouted Aiglin in Sindarin. ‘I will follow you!’
Celinn hesitated for no longer than a breath, but in that instant he began to be overcome by the weakness of the wound he had already taken, and as he began to move towards the trees his foot seemed to slip on something so that he fell heavily on to his injured shoulder. He felt the arrowhead drive deeper into his flesh and, suppressing a cry, he struggled to get to his feet, but then Adanwath’s horse was directly above him and he saw its wild rolling eye as the weight of its hooves came down on him, trampling him beneath them. Celinn shouted with the pain of it, bringing up his arms to protect himself, but the hooves came down on him again and this time he was struck a glancing blow on the head. Dazzling darkness exploded before his eyes and he felt suddenly sick and disorientated. Strange cacophonous sounds howled and clanged around him, and for several moments all he could do was curl up tightly, his hands pressed to his ears.
At last he was able to get to his knees but it seemed as if his body was moving with the impossible heaviness of a dream. Someone was groaning nearby and he tried to turn his head to see who it was, but there seemed to be no-one near him, and then he became aware of pain rising in his body like a tide, beginning to overwhelm him.
Moved by some deep impulse to find his company, Celinn tried one last time to get to his feet, but his vision began to fragment and then it was suddenly so dark that he could scarcely see. Strangely in the midst of danger he felt himself drifting into sleep, and his eyes became so heavy that he no longer had the strength to keep them open. His mouth was filled with a salt and bitter taste, and just before he finally surrendered to the need to sleep, Celinn saw Gwirith’s anxious face above him, but though his lips were moving, Celinn could not understand what he was saying.
He wanted to reassure Gwirith that he was all right, that all he needed was to rest for a while and then he would take command again and lead them out of this place. He hoped Gwirith understood and though he could not speak he tried to communicate wordlessly with him, and he thought he felt Gwirith’s mind touching his. But he was so very tired that despite all his efforts to stay awake a little longer, his vision was blurring and spinning. His last thought as he fell into the darkness was that it was strange that, when everything else had become so shadowy and indistinct, he could still see Gwirith’s deep blue-grey eyes so clearly.
Sedho = quiet
Drego = retreat
I am assuming for this story that the Galadhrim would find it acceptable to work alongside the Dunedain, in view of the long connection of Elrond and his sons with them, and Elrond’s connection with Celeborn and Galadriel, his parents-in-law. Rumil shows something of the suspicion the Galadhrim might have had for them.
I have invented Degil, but I suppose it could have been Aragorn’s kinsman Halbarad who might have stood in as Chieftain while Aragorn grew up at Imladris.
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