28. The Second Siege of Lorien
Plans were well under way, positions had been assigned, defences almost all completely in place – the question now was, 'Would it be enough?' Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel did not for one moment underestimate the might of Dol Guldur, or the pitiless spite that would be unleashed on the golden woods of Lothlórien. Far to the south, the mountains shielding Mordor were wreathed in foul smoke belching forth from Mount Doom. Even though that dreadful storm-wrack obscured the skies, Galadriel knew the assault on Minas Tirith had begun.
Sauron chose to strike simultaneously, knowing that without help, Gondor would fall; if Lorien fell too, there would be little left to stop him from claiming Middle-earth. The orcs and goblins of the north would besiege Thranduil in Mirkwood; Imladris would be isolated and cut off, and a campaign of attrition would dwindle those remaining elven forces to nothing more than pockets of futile resistance – pockets that could be crushed at his leisure when he turned the full force of his victorious armies against them… when he had regained his Ring.
It was easy enough to read this from Sauron's thoughts – these were notions of power and malice he was happy to broadcast, to bring his enemies to the brink of despair. Galadriel exerted her own influence within Lothlórien; Melian had taught her the secrets of empowerment and will, and of supporting those within her influence to survive and struggle on with hope in their hearts. Closeted in her glade, she gathered her magic about her, drew on her strength and the strength of Nenya, a power as yet invisible to Sauron, and cast over her realm an all pervasive emanation of fortitude against the threat of duress, and valour and hope to combat the despair that the Dark Lord sought to inflict upon them.
Lord Celeborn, meanwhile, masterminded the assembled elves; he took his position on raised ground under trees that his look-outs climbed to search the horizons. They did not have to strain their eyes to see the huge column of dark filth that crawled across the plain towards them, contaminating the ground with its very presence. The orcs forded the river to the north of Lorien with boats that they lashed together to form floating bridges. Too numerous and too far off to be reached by fiery arrows, the captains had to bite their lips and watch, since Lord Celeborn would allow none to race out on a suicide mission in an attempt to destroy the bridges. Celeborn calmly received messengers and gave instructions to his captains, dispatching orders and issuing commands.
There was never a good time for battle, and a number of his warriors were already lost and others wounded… Today, he must have faith in his own courage and the courage and valour of those about him. The very young and the vulnerable were hidden in their most protected glades, with instructions that, should things go ill, they should make their way to the mountains and hopefully to Imladris – though many among them carried blades that would take the lives of those with them should they become trapped and all hope lost. Rather become kin-slayer than fall into the hands of Sauron and his evil spawn. All those able to fight had access to weapons. The healers had racks of bows placed near at hand should they be overrun and forced to join the battle; likewise the farmers and animal-keepers who would act as stretcher-bearers had their places to reinforce should the present defenders fall. Every able-bodied elf, male or female, that could pull a bow or wield a knife had a role to perform; from water-carrier to supplier of arrows to reservist should the front-lines fail. They had done their best to prepare. Now they would see if it was sufficient.
The army of savagery spread itself out in ranks of death-dealing terror, inexorably moving down the west bank of the Anduin to take their position well out of bow-shot of the Galadhrim. But as the army massed behind them, the first-comers were edged nearer and nearer, until a ranging shot from an elf found a mark. The sky hazed with grey-fletched arrows, a cloud of death that descended to pierce necks and thighs and any exposed faces, creating a growing stain of liquid black, as blood seeped across the green fields now humped and strewn with writhing wounded and unmoving corpses. The orc army cared for neither, but marched or stumbled over them, trampling the still living and the dead beneath steel-shod boots.
Siege-weapons were also advanced, pushed by harnessed trolls in spiked collars, great catapults to fling missiles into the woods and the defending ranks of elves. Perhaps what the besiegers had neglected to imagine was that the Galadhrim were capable of constructing such weapons themselves. Soon after the first great grey mists of arrows rippled across the sky, the trebuchet of the elves fired to get their range; launching a fusillade of bombs – stone orbs filled with oil that exploded when they hit the ground, spattering the orcs with liquid that ignited when fire-arrows were aimed at the drenched mass. The front lines wavered but were beaten forward by the whips of their captains, archers were deployed and ugly black arrows found targets. Elves screamed. Elves died. More took their place.
Boromir shivered with fear, with excitement; clad in elven armour hastily altered to fit him, he stood among the warriors of Lord Celeborn's personal guard. Tasarion was among the archers in the trees behind them. From their elevated position he could see much of the rapidly approaching battle. The rising piles of orc corpses were proving advantageous to their archers with their powerful black bows; they were able to shelter behind them – something would have to be done… Celeborn ordered pitch-laden arrows and fire be distributed to the elven archers – they would fire the front line of the orcs.
Barely had the first arrows kindled among the grotesque fuel, than the orc archers shifted, fleeing before the coming onslaught despite the cruel whips of their overseers, but with the press of the army behind them and the elves in front, they could only move sideways, extending the besieger's line. The corpses flamed with an evil stench that reduced several of the defending elves to vomiting, as black, oily smoke rose from the burning flesh and leather. The fires rid the front positions of orc archers, but the heavy, screening smoke allowed the enemy army's own siege engines to be brought up with little opposition.
The elves' attention was split to either side of the first encounter by more gathering archers, fresh and fully armed, whose arrival bolstered the wavering orcs, making them stand fast and re-commence shooting into the trees at the unseen elves. Massed arrows will always find targets; both orcs and elves fell beneath the whistling shafts of each side. The ground shuddered as the harnessed trolls lumbered into position, towing the siege-tools. The nearest Elven archers were directed to fire blindly through the smoke in the hope of finding targets, and the screeches and harsh, garbled shouts of the trolls told them they were successful.
Abruptly the dragon's breath whisper of whirling catapult baskets launched fearsome missiles into the woods – hideous and disgusting, the orcs were loading the carcases of their own dead to be flung against the elves. The jagged armour and bleeding body-parts hurtled down, bowling over, or, even worse, impaling the Galadhrim they fell amongst. Screams were mixed with howls of outrage; the watching Elven captains clamoured to be allowed to avenge this degraded attack against them.
Lord Celeborn would not be swayed by rage and disgust, but he did order that the lines of waiting infantry should advance to attack the siege engines from the sides. The frontal assault, he ordered made with sling-shots of more oil, hoping to destroy the wooden engines with fire. The catapults burned. Some trolls, driven berserk by the searing flames, turned on their own forces and trampled over them in a bid to escape. The first ranks of armoured elves descended with wrathful hearts. Two hundred ran forward, wielding deadly blades to slice and slash their way through the orcs, but it was no easy task. Knowing this fight was to the death made the beasts vicious and gave them the false courage of desperation; they met the attacking elves with hammers of iron, and saw-toothed blades, with fearsome spiked maces, long knives and spears. The carnage was great. Battle-lust bore the avenging elves forward; they scattered the trolls and their masters, but the pressed masses of the lumbering army surrounded them – and none returned again to their golden woods.
Celeborn could only watch with growing rage and biting sorrow as the fires of the orc's arrows made crackling pyres of the trees nearest the borders. He had to steel his heart against the agonized screams of his own kind and order more of them forward to their deaths. Boromir voiced his feelings without restraint; he wept openly, screamed, cursed and begged to be allowed to fight, but Celeborn would have none of it – not yet.
Beyond the Anduin there were no more dark masses waiting to cross: the huge army was here. Celeborn sent singing-arrows in flight, messengers of pre-arranged instruction. From the north, Haldir led a large mounted force across the plain towards the bridgehead, not huge, but enough to move swiftly and strong enough to attack and destroy the virtually unguarded crossing. Celeborn took a risk and sent another force westwards to wait in the hope of turning the orcs and trapping them between a two-sided attack, with a possible third from Haldir's force sniping at their rear. But, to make this move successful, he would have to engage their commander's eye to the front and to a single field of battle. He himself would lead that attack and make himself the prize. A risky strategy, but with huge odds against them, he could not afford to let the enemy wear them down by attrition; he must attack first and make the ferociousness of that attack count!
The archers laid down covering fire with their fast-depleting store of arrows as his armoured warriors marched forward to the brink of the trees. They would attack in three blocks and two waves, seeking to break the front line of the orcs. That done, his flanking troops from the west would sweep in, and Haldir's mounted elves should be able to pick off retreating orcs and put them to flight. Plans were made… plans may go awry… but now it was too late, but to trust in his own strategies. The armoured elves marched forward in disciplined lines bearing lethal steel, and as their pace quickened and their weapons were swung ready for the first strikes, the fell-fire of their wrath entered their faces.
Terrible and beautiful, they shouted as they came, long notes of pure rage, issuing from steel-clad throats, hands wielding shining blades that swung down into the waiting orcs like pitiless scythes among grain. Bright they were, too bright for the orcs to look upon, and those beasts that covered their faces were dead before they hit the ground. Boromir ran forward with the second rank, directly behind Lord Celeborn. He ran forward, screaming unfamiliar battle-cries that his throat already knew. He ran alongside the shining elves and his own face shone from within, as he snarled and slashed and spitted any foul creature within his reach.
After the first shattering impact the orcs rallied. They attempted to reform into deep ranks, to push forward and overwhelm the shining, deadly elves with sheer force of numbers, but then, unexpectedly, another force of elves attacked their flank. The lines wavered back and forth. Some of the evil spawn had had enough and tried to escape in retreat, but they were forced back by whips and knives turned on them, until some threw spears and brought their own captain down. Those that could, fled, either back the way they had come or along the line of trees that edged the forest. Once beyond the elven attackers from the flank, they might have turned to mount another attack, but orcs being cowardly by nature chose to run on, gathering in small groups to make their escape when they could.
Many of them were brought down by arrows from the trees. Those reserve archers, among them many she-elves, held back to defend the city at the last, but now, seeing where their arrows would find targets, they came forward to make them count. Several larger groups of orcs made brief stands, firing back, and some females, even companions of the Lady Galadriel, were wounded or killed by thick, black shafts barbed with poison. The Galadhrim's righteous anger spurred them on to revenge their companions, to stand and fight and face the journey to Mandos' Halls if that be their end.
Lord Celeborn flared into a brilliant silver flame, an Elf-lord of old revealed in all his blazing anger. Almost too eager, he ran ahead of his warriors screaming for wrath and for ruin. The orcs ahead of him either fled or died beneath his blade. Blind to any danger, a fell battle-lust was on him and nothing existed beyond death and killing, sending this foul demon seed into oblivion. Few of Dol Guldur's army could stand against him. The last thing the orcs saw was his rictus grin and his dreadful shining eyes, and the last they heard was the whisper of his sweeping sword and his terrible laughter.
But Boromir could see the dangerous gap growing between Celeborn and his warrior. One orc nearly speared Celeborn in the back, but another dying beast fell beneath its feet and unfooted the orc. Boromir raced forward the best he could, grabbing up an axe, throwing at the beast as it took a second aim. The jagged blade caught it square in the back and it dropped to the ground, the spear un-thrown. Lord Celeborn whirled then, to see Boromir flying towards him, and realised the growing gap his path of fury had carved in the orcs' fast disintegrating ranks. Just then, a heavy, iron-shafted quarrel took the elf-lord in the shoulder, spinning him round as he fell beneath its impact. Boromir screamed with rage, not even seeing the two orcs his blade slammed into and through as he ran to stand over Celeborn's prone form. The elf was motionless beneath him. Boromir hacked at orcs, suddenly aware with a pang of grief that the terrible elf was laid low – if he were killed, the battle would be over! The man fought on.
"To me!" he shouted, "To me!"
The elves of the guard, aware their lord had fallen, renewed their efforts to come to him, their weapons blackened now with gore, spraying black blood with every swinging stroke.
Suddenly, the Lady Galadriel's power was made manifest - the very earth began to rumble beneath the feet of the attacking orcs that were still massed together. The ground shook and shivered, quaking faster and faster until it seemed to soften and they found themselves mired. Many abruptly stopped fighting, struggled to free themselves, dropping their weapons as they sank to knee, to thigh, to waist… trying to flounder out of the deadly quick-sand that had opened beneath them.
Celeborn groaned at Boromir's feet.
"My lord!" Boromir shouted, "Lord Celeborn lives!"
The elves rallied to him, ringing the pair with flashing steel, but the orcs had no stomach for more. They found themselves sucked into the surrounding earth, drowning in the once-solid ground they'd fought across. They clawed at their comrades, shrieking for aid, but few received it, more were frantic to escape the treacherous land and the deadly blades. Those cornered between the new quagmire and the terrible elves with their bared teeth and ferocious swords fought on in desperation, but their spirit, such as it was, was broken. As many as could, fled; those who couldn't fought like trapped rats, and without pity were overcome and slaughtered.
A lone horseman galloped ahead of his cohort through the retreating mass, recklessly driving forward, unerringly heading for the spot where Lord Celeborn had fallen. Boromir knelt inside the encircling elves and grasped Celeborn's shoulders to turn him, the elf muffled a cry, but struggled up with Boromir's aid. The quarrel was lodged in the pauldron of his armour, the black shaft an obscene addition that the elf grabbed and tore away. Celeborn shouted aloud and sank to his knees again, pulling the man down with him. Boromir threw down his sword and scrabbled beneath his own armour to haul out what shirt he could free, hacking at it with a knife until he'd torn a strip to push under the elf's shoulder armour in an effort to staunch the flow of blood
"Enough. Help me rise," said the elf-lord.
The horseman leapt from his steed before the animal had fully skittered to a halt. Haldir ignored the remnant of fleeing orcs, his only concern – Celeborn, now upright, but leaning on Boromir's shoulder. Haldir ran through the elven guard to throw his arms round Celeborn with a gasp that could as easily have been pain as pleasure. Celeborn hissed in discomfort and Haldir instantly loosed his hold.
"You must ride away!" he said.
But Celeborn demurred. "I walk from this field in triumph. This is but a scratch the healers can stitch in a minute. Walk with me, though, for I would not stumble on the way," he added softly so only Haldir and Boromir could hear.
They made their way slowly across the field, the guard bolstered by more warriors who came to surround their lord. Halfway back to the safety of the trees, Boromir suddenly sank to his knees, almost falling forward to the ground on his hands. It was fortunate that Haldir had his arm around Celeborn's waist or the elf-lord would have fallen as well.
"Hold!" commanded Celeborn, "Let me see him."
Haldir sank to one knee allowing Celeborn to kneel beside Boromir. He placed his hand on the man's shoulder.
"What is it? Show me." He spoke gently to the stricken man.
Boromir swayed up pushing himself to his knees, his eyes closed, face twisted in pain. In his mind, all he could see was an anguished face, shouting his rage and pain at the sky in the midst of a furious battle, the man's long, tangled hair blowing across his tortured face, spattered with crimson blood…
"He hurts," the lord of Gondor murmured, "He hurts so much…"
Celeborn placed a hand behind the man's neck and brought Boromir's forehead to touch his own.
"He fights, but the injuries are not his own…" he murmured. "His pain is grief for his loss…"
They knelt in silence for several moments. The surrounding elves were restive, eager to remove their lord safely from the field, even if the very few remaining orcs had no fight left in them.
"We will ease his pain," murmured Celeborn softly. "We may, between us."
"We remember him… he made us a promise…" whispered Boromir.
"And he will return to fulfil his oath. Come."
Celeborn let the man go and Haldir helped his lord to his feet. Celeborn grimaced.
"On your own… On your own! You should know better!" grumbled Haldir, angry, anxious, relieved…
"It is not much…"
"But it could have been!" Haldir shook his head. 'What might have happened was unthinkable, unthinkable…'
As they neared the trees, healers rushed forward, but Lord Celeborn waved them away to care for the more seriously hurt. Only at Haldir's insistence would he allow his wound to be dressed while the reports came in. Boromir was silent, aware of the sharp discomfort in his own shoulder, but nothing else. Wind-banners had been hastily hung to make curtained areas for discussions and planning. Haldir unbuckled Celeborn's armour, helped by the attendant healer. Celeborn winced, but his attention was on hearing the reports of his captains as to casualties and damage. His chamberlain brought a fresh shirt and tunic, scratching at the fabric to obtain permission to enter. Haldir directed him to enquire after the archer Tasarion, and have him come to them.
Under the armour, Celeborn's padded leather buff-coat had taken most of the force. The healer efficiently examined the wound, pronounced it un-poisoned and in need of just a few stitches. Haldir handed his lord a flask of miruvor from the healer's basket and insisted his lord took a deep draft, waving away the captains, telling them Lord Celeborn would see them immediately his wound was stitched and refusing to allow the elf-lord to gainsay him. Boromir sat on a bench nearby, one hand pressing his shoulder over the point of the healed wound, eyes unseeing.
"The sooner it's done, the sooner you can get on, but I'll not have you bleed to death!"
Haldir's frown brooked no argument. Lord Celeborn smiled and even found a moment to hug his Marchwarden to him and plant a brief kiss on his lips while the healer's back was turned preparing a needle and thread.
"What would I be without you?" Celeborn whispered with a smile.
Haldir was barely mollified, "Do not you ever be so foolhardy again!"
Celeborn shrugged – which made him wince.
Haldir clasped his lord's hand briefly, releasing it as the discretely unobservant healer turned back with cleansing medicine and his needle.
Boromir sat quietly but more aware of his surroundings, one hand still pressing his shoulder. The quarrel had struck Celeborn in much the same place as he had been wounded at Parth Galen. While the healer did his work on Lord Celeborn, Haldir took a pull at the miruvor himself, and then urged Boromir to drink some. The man accepted gratefully, the pain in his chest eased now. Haldir eyed him critically, noting the rents in the sleeves of his buff-coat and a thin line of dark blood right across the thigh, superficial wounds, not enough bleeding to be a cause for concern, but…
Celeborn smothered a smile, as the healer turned, seized Haldir's hand and pulled off the glove to clean the knuckles that Haldir had not noticed were skinned raw, even through his gauntlet. The elf hissed in surprise as water was poured over the scraped and bloody flesh. The astringent cleansing medicine made him yelp as it stung, a sound hastily bitten back as the healer bandaged it tightly. Another discreet scratch at the fabric announced Tasarion's presence.
"Come" said Haldir, "Lord Boromir has some rents to his coat; I'd like you to help the healer check the wounds beneath are of no consequence."
Tasarion turned sharply to Boromir, who looked down at his arms, and seemed surprised to see the cuts in the padded leather.
"You can stay here; Lord Celeborn and I will be meeting the captains outside before we return to Caras Galadhon. You will accompany us, as before."
Tasarion nodded, aware Boromir was again deemed to be solely in his charge. He turned to the man and began to help him out of the armour and leathers. The slashes across his arms were superficial, deep enough to bleed, but not enough to need stitching. His leggings he refused to have removed; his leg, Boromir assured the healer, he would wash later himself. Tasarion nodded, and the healer left him a small stoppered bottle of the lotion to put on the wounds 'after washing each morning and evening'.
"How do you feel?" ventured Tasarion.
"Well enough. And you?"
Tasarion nodded, not caring to elaborate any further. This was the first pitched battle he had been involved in, the first with major casualties, siege machines that pelted fire and grim death… deaths that at this moment he did not care to recall. He would make his lament later. At present he knew that if he brought the faces of his comrades to mind he would break down to weeping, and was frightened by the thought that he might not be able to stop.
But Boromir continued, his brow furrowed as he sought to force himself to recall events that seemed to curl like tendrils of mist at the corners of his mind, tangible until one tries to grasp them… then the hand comes away empty…
"…More and more as I fought… I remembered… other battles, battles with men at my side. Now… the memories drift, but there are questions I must put to Lord Celeborn. When there is the opportunity, we must talk…"
The man drifted into silence, lost again in his own thoughts. The Elf sat close by, equally silent, trying not to get lost in his, until he found distraction in listening to the man's deep, regular breathing, and was strangely soothed by the slow rhythm.
Outside, the initial reports coming in were reasonably favourable. They had sustained losses, but not perhaps as bad as they had feared. Fires had been contained, and although many old trees had been destroyed and the area nearest the Anduin ravaged, it could be replanted. Areas where the Lady's magic had turned the earth to sucking quick-sand… the ground had swallowed many orcs. The captain giving this report shrugged – he had not seen the like before and had no idea whether the land would ever regain its wholesomeness.
Celeborn nodded; perhaps the most disturbing news was the estimate of the numbers of orcs that had run away – sufficient to still constitute a large army. He wanted to return to the city for further consultations. Before he departed he left instructions, 'care for the wounded, give rest to those that need it – ignore the orcs, they could be disposed of later. Haldir rounded up some mounts from his troop so that they could return with greater speed, and Lord Celeborn, his Marchwarden, Boromir and Tasarion, along with an escort of elves, returned hastily to the city of trees as night fell.
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.