38. Under Siege
But desperate times called for desperate measures; the elves were sorely out-numbered by an enemy that counted death as nothing among its minions. Their lives were cheap and easily disposed of. Lord Celeborn knew only too well that many eternal elves would be greeted by Mandos that day, and he did what he had to. To save his Lady and save his land, he acted out of love and duty, but duty had to be stronger. Preparations were made, instructions given, tasks assigned to be completed in all haste – they had a few hours grace before the black army completed its monstrous assembly, but only very few.
Boromir could hear indistinct voices speaking softly from the next door chamber, Celeborn and Haldir, taking a few moments of private time together, something which might be running desperately short. Boromir lay back on the bed and tried to calm himself. A long silence fell, and gradually into that silence crept growing warmth, and Boromir felt, rather than heard, himself called to rise and come to them. He entered the adjoining room; the two elves, stripped to shirt and leggings and bare-footed, stood shoulder to shoulder facing slightly inwards, each holding out an arm, hand spread in welcome. The very air was charged with an intensity that almost crackled around them. He saw, as he stepped forward into their embrace, their eyes, at first downcast… glowed like molten silver under the half-veiling lids. They wound their arms about him and each other, and he took hold of each of them as, stooping slightly, the elves leant to rest head to head with the man.
Boromir took a deep breath, an involuntary gasp as he felt their touch through his thin shirt and all of Arda seemed to move while they remained a pool of stillness at its centre. Deeper and deeper Boromir sank into the whirling brightness behind his closed eyes. At first he thought he must have struggled, but the elves supported him. He felt their arms about him, felt their warm bodies press against him at rib and hip, felt the sheer ancient power of one, the deep, calming reassurance of the other… and was unable to tell which came from which… Finally secure, he gave himself to their union without thought, or fear, or holding back.
And all at once… he was free! He knew their intertwined bodies stood firm, leaning into each other, a cradle of warmth and flesh, but his fea leapt on high and whirled up and up, for it seemed he saw for the first time with such clarity, and far, far above were Varda’s lights, bright as diamonds on velvet… and oh, he longed to touch them! But in the instant he felt that keen, vaulting joy, he also felt the weight of years beyond his ken. They did not weigh him down, but he looked back and back and back as if through an avenue among ancient trees. Where before his vision would have blurred and become hazy, not allowing him to perceive the far off details, now he saw, still sharp and clear, events that happened before the Stone Lords had raised their city below the ship-walled mountain, before the star-shaped isle was inundated, before its ruined people claimed the southern lands and sailed up the great river. Boromir was curled up and sleeping somewhere distant, and his dreams were strange – ‘They’ were a new being… and their thoughts were one….
The luminescent air danced around them, charged and sparkling, as they slowly dropped their arms and stepped apart. This three-bodied lord glowed brilliantly, his pale fire a new star, his birth a new dawn – he/we looked at ourselves… and we/he smiled. One thought now controlled them, but control was too strong a word… ‘our bodies’ moved as one impulse occurred to all three… for words were no longer needed.
They/we dressed each other, with their/our helping hands, in Lord Celeborn’s padded shirts and armour; the man being smaller wore older armour, hastily retrieved from almost forgotten storage, armour that had been new before first our Lady, so young and beautiful, filled with fire, looked on a young lord barely come to his full growth. Inlaid with mithril and of curious design, nevertheless… it soon felt comfortable on our back, and our body remembered its weight and contours as our arms flexed inside the overlapping sheets of shaped steel on leather. We were to wear identical cloaks of Lorien’s grey, and our helms bore our insignia – the silver tree. Buckling on our swords, we left the chamber and strode out to the long stair, descending to what may yet be our last battle…
By the time the base of the great stair was reached, Celeborn had adjusted and refined his thoughts so that one was still ‘one’, but three moved separately, Lord Celeborn, Lord Haldir and Lord Celebmir, for Boromir watched as though at a far distance. They now moved and spoke without that uncanny unison that had made three hands reach for each buckle as they dressed. Now they were one, but distinct and able to make choices, while still knowing thoroughly and absolutely the mind of the others. Words were not needed, for what one saw, the others could also see, even hear and feel, but Celeborn made them conduits, not slaves. Three groups of trusted wardens waited for them, three guardianships for their Lord, all knowing the desperate subterfuge with which they hoped to confuse their enemy. The Master of Lorien took his place before them, his soul-mates at either shoulder.
“We will each take charge of a portion of our line. We know the enemy has given word that our destruction will bring swift victory and will secure reward and riches to the one bearing our head to their commander – this will not happen!”
The waiting wardens smiled grimly.
“We will confound his plans, but – should one of us fall, bear his body away if you can in the hope of prolonging our subterfuge. We must stand. Lothlorien must stand – lest all that’s good and fair be swept away into horror and blackness. And there is one final instruction we give you – should any of us be utterly overwhelmed by the yrech, with no hope of escape – you must dispatch us, though it takes your own life… We must not be captured alive – it would be the downfall of all.”
The wardens glanced at each other, shifting uncomfortably. Haldir spoke.
“We do not give this order lightly. It must be obeyed. You all know us, but our faces will be scarved and our Lady’s glamour upon us – note our helms and armour. Only at the very last resort will our Lady’s husband come among you…” He broke off abruptly, and the three Celeborns paused in stillness for a moment.
“We will fight, but we will be in the position of command in the rearguard,” Lord Celeborn announced finally.
The honour-guards of elves nodded, whispering among themselves as they stirred and gathered their weapons to readiness. From across the glade Lady Galadriel approached with her most trusted ladies around her. Gone were their silks and embroidered gowns; all were clad in plain grey skirts and supple leather coats, some with bows slung at their shoulders, the Lady's own guardians. The gathered marchwardens bowed in greeting. Lady Galadriel stepped forward and greeted each of her lords with a filial kiss on both cheeks, before pausing before Celeborn.
“We will all do as we must this day. Know that I understand your pain…”
He kissed her lightly on the lips to silence her. “There will be no pain. Unless all fall away to utter ruin… and even then, we will finally meet in Mandos, even if the sojourn there is with no hope of return since our Golden Wood is no more.”
Haldir’s eyes gazed straight ahead at some distant place, his softly glowing face without expression, carved of illuminated marble; Celebmir watched, detached, as if from some few steps away, though he stood near enough to smell her perfumed hair. Lady Galadriel nodded.
“I love you,” Celeborn whispered, “I love you for who you are, for what you are, and even if this day our parting comes earlier than we might have thought or hoped… “
“Hush!” She spoke without words, “We two know what we are to each other. Our feas have danced together among the stars… I would not ask for this sacrifice were it not that this may be our final stand against the Dark One. If this day our light should fail and go out… there will never again be brightness in Lothlorien.”
Celeborn raised her hand to his lips, clasped it in his two hands and kissed her fingers.
“We know,” he said out loud.
Time slipped into a haze of orders given, of lines of archers, armoured elves with long swords, ranged helms and upright lance-heads, leaf-shaped and glinting in the light from fires lit by the healers for heating water to clean knives, and wounds… The sun, shrouded in ominous clouds, slipped down the sky. Finally, the horns of the lookouts blew with clear, trilling notes– the enemy was advancing.
Doom, doom, doom, doom… the black drums of Dol Guldor muttered a death knell for Lorien’s elves. Doom, doom, doom… until the sullen mutter became a roar as the advancing tide of filth blotted out the ground under a seething, unholy darkness as far as the eye could see. Lines of waiting elves stood shoulder to shoulder beneath the trees. Over their heads the first flight of arrows arced across the sky, silver-grey threads that whistled and thrummed, eager to find their targets. The leading rows of orcs wavered. Many fell, but the momentum did not waver; the army trod its dead and dying into the earth beneath it. DOOM, DOOM, DOOM... thundered the war-drums, now joined in the chorus of despair by the dull hooting of brazen trumpets, and the screaming mass of the front ranks erupted towards the Golden Wood in a running wave of malice, driven like scum on the water before a black wind.
The defending elves poured arrows into the air until the darkening sky dizzily resembled a streaming waterfall of deadly, shafted steel. The orcs fell, or stumbled, or tried to flee from the raining death, but their task-masters cracked whips, forcing them to face the trees and keep running. Some very few that were fool-hardy enough to run berserk and shrieking into the sheltering woods were cut down by the waiting lines of sword-wielding warriors. Behind the first lines of fear-maddened berserkers, row upon row of snarling orcs strode forward, emboldened by the presence of huge trolls pushing siege-engines forward.
Celebmir signalled the archers among the trees to bring down the trolls in front of his position. Howls and screeches showed where the elvish arrows found the mark. Abruptly, fearsome drawn out animal howls filled the air, over-powering the thundering drums – ‘wargs, they had warg-riders!’ The evil stinking beasts galloped clumsily but swiftly along the line, flinging smoking pots of fire that broke and sent flaming, sticky oil over the trees. The foul conflagration consumed green leaves and branches like bone-dry tinder. Soon whole trees were ablaze and elves had to leap for their lives to escape the roaring flames.
The lines of elves had to withdraw or risk being consumed by the fires. A young, leafy beech tree below Celebmir’s vantage point fell sideways with a sickening sound of tearing wood, taking another tree down with it that also caught alight. A brazen horn blew, and ugly helms twitched to see where a warg-mounted commander pointed – at Celebmir and his guard standing on a grass knoll. The flow of the enemy faltered as they turned to concentrate their advance on him. Some distance along the wooded border, another angry horn blared and the army wavered, unsure whether to contradict the first order.
‘We have been seen,’ thought Celebmir.
‘We too…’ thought Haldir, ‘though they hesitate to choose between us.’
“Attack!” breathed Celeborn, his eyes glowing silver under half-closed lids.
From his vantage point Lord Celeborn could see some distance along his border, but his ‘other’ selves made his vision even broader. Archers strained to send arrows high over the heads of their advancing warriors, hoping to cut off the next ranks of orcs and halt their progress so their comrades could fight unhindered. The elves marched forward, only dividing their lines where fire made it impossible to pass. At a run they descended on the front ranks of the orcs, their weapons flashing bright in the gathering darkness. The elves had the desperation of the threatened and the anger of the affronted, their faces blazing with pale fire. The clash of arms rang shuddering into the air as the two forces met, light to dark. Some of the black horde tried to seek protection behind the corpses of their comrades, but they were goaded forward by their sergeants’ whips, or cut down by the bright wrath of the elves.
A squadron of heavily armoured axe-wielders elbowed aside the orcs sheltering around the siege-engines and lumbered forwards to smash into the scattered lines of elves before Celebir,
“Pull back,” he shouted to his ensign, who bore a horn.
Silvery notes called the elves to edge back and reform. Some distance below him Celebmir could see Gwindor among the leading group of attacking elves; in his wroth he shone brightly with inner-light and the orcs fell back before his deadly, swinging blade. His comrades urged him back and reluctantly he retreated, but too slowly, allowing a gap to come between them. A warg-rider spotted the opportunity and spurred his mount forward to sling-shot a fiery pot at the elves. It broke on the ground nearby and flung a spray of oily flames that soaked and clung to their leathers and armour. They screamed, high-pitched and anguished as the fire bit into them. Their comrades rushed forward to grab them as they staggered wildly, engulfed in flames, rolling them to the ground to smother the fire as best they could while others held off two dozen crowing orcs emboldened by the elves’ screams. All the orcs died.
Lórindol and Lindir were amongst Celebmir’s guard. They too recognised Gwindor leading the elves out to battle, but they couldn’t see him among the retreating warriors carrying their wounded with them, though the dead had to be left where they fell.
Above their heads, a huge rock slammed into a mighty oak and brought the upper branches shuddering down with a rending sound that scraped the nerve-endings. One of the trolls had wound up the siege-engine and let rip against the wood. Surrounded by orcs, the beast lumbered to wind the mechanism again. This time they had a huge iron pot that doubtless contained more of the evil sticky oil.
“We must stop him – save the archers, the trees!”
Celebmir raised his sword and the charge gathered around him and launched itself forward, weaving through the remaining trees and skirmishing elves to attack the group surrounding this engine. Other trolls at a distance down the attacking line cowed under the hail of arrows from determined archers, straining shoulders and arms to launch deadly shafts as swiftly as they could. Celebmir and his elves pressed forward, their great two-handed swords slicing a path of glittering destruction before them.
The man knew the sword should feel awkward in his hands, but he swung it with practised ease and with each swinging blow his ardour for battle grew and his form glowed. The avenging elves poured out of the wood screaming challenges. Incandescent in form and rage, their bright eyes glittering with righteous anger, they swept away the orcs, terrifying the troll into fleeing before them.
“My Lord, my Lord! Mind we don’t advance to far!” shouted Lórindol.
“We must destroy the engine!” commanded Celebmir, “Set it afire!”
Lindir stooped quickly and grabbed a still smouldering torch from the dead hand of an orc and tossed it towards the trail of greasy oil leaking from the pot in the siege-engines cradle.
“Back! Reform!” yelled Celebmir, and the elves sprinted away for the cover of the trees as another wave of orcs surged forward to repulse them.
The engine exploded, showering the advancing orcs in flames and burning splinters. Howling, the blazing orcs ran among their fellows setting more alight until barbed arrows and blades were turned on them by their comrades and they were hacked down.
The retreating elves ran through the strewn forms of their fallen comrades.
“Bring all those you can!” commanded Celebmir.
The wounded were helped to struggle back, but the dead could not be treated with respect; still, rather their bodies should be piled within the screening trees than left for the ravaging orcs to desecrate. A number of elves stooped to gather the bodies of their dead comrades, defended by encircling swords who fought off the enemy, howling its displeasure at being deprived of its prey. Not all could be retrieved, but they did what they could. One corpse, his clothing in blackened tatters, his face hideously burned beyond recognition, groaned aloud as he was dropped to the forest floor to roll on his side. His burnt helm fell off and dark hair tumbled out onto the scuffed ground. Voices shouted for water and healers as those nearest struggled to gather him up and take him to safety.
His head lolled over the back over the arms of the two carrying him.
“Eru! It’s Gwindor!” gasped Lórindol,
“What? How can you be sure…? His face…” Lindir winced.
“His hair… the mourning plaits. I did that myself! It’s him!”
Lórindol raced to Celebmir’s side where he stood purposefully scanning his surroundings.
“Lord,” blurted Lórindol, “It is Gwindor – he is terribly hurt.”
Celebmir’s gaze followed the pointing hand to where the blackened elf was being tended with cold cloths by a newly arrived healer. Celebmir strode across, his breath hitched to see the raw, ruined elf.
"Will he survive?"
The healer glanced up and shook his head.
“Take him straight to my Lady’s tents. Go! As swiftly as you can!” commanded Celebmir.
Two elves with the healer brought a stretcher, placing the fallen elf onto it as tenderly as haste allowed, and set off at a fast trot into the deeper woods.
Beyond the trees more orcs trudged forward, and behind them lumbered the giant kine pulling wagons filled with yet more devilries.
‘So many…’whispered the thought in Celebmir’s mind, and he saw with other eyes the destructive force that bore relentlessly down on them. ‘So many…’
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.