39. The Siege Continues: A Light Falls
Lórindol paused for breath, his shoulders heaving with the effort to control his tortured lungs. Black blood spattered his armour, his face; he wiped his eyes on his sleeve, but merely smeared the gore into streaks of darkness across his pale skin, joined by trickles of red from the spear tip that had nicked his cheek-bone leaving a bloody furrow up to his temple. Beside him Lindir smashed his sword hilt into the helm of an onrushing orc before sweeping the blade around in one supple movement to back-slash the head from the body.
“You are hurt?” he gasped.
Lórindol shook his head, scattering drops of blood.
“A scratch – and you?”
Lindir’s sleeve under the overlapping steel plates was soaked with streaks of blood.
He shook his head, “A shaft – but only the tip penetrated.”
Lórindol saw now where the other elf’s shoulder armour was buckled and torn.
“Nothing is broken – only the skin tore when I wrenched it free.” Lindir gasped.
Celebmir wielded his blade with dazzling speed, sending another orc back to the foul pit that spawned it.
Among the enemy hordes there was a sudden, ominous silence, passing as a ripple, subdued by stagnant water. All at once a foul breeze wafted over the elves – and a sudden terrible dread came over them, an invisible fog of despondency that hung almost palpable in the night sky. On the back of a screaming fell-beast, Khamûl, the Black Easterner, flew out to command his forces. Not able to fly over Lorien’s protected trees, he skimmed along the boundary as his beast shrieked its own unease and fear of the unseen, impenetrable barrier created by the Lady’s magic. The direful presence unsettled the elves, but from the very ground beneath their feet, the lady’s power seeped up to give them succour and reassurance – ‘He cannot pass!’
Spiralling upwards, the Nazgul, tested the bounds of Galadriel’s power, but there was no way that he could circumvent her borders. Lorien’s golden woods were protected by the Lady, and to successfully breach her defences, she must fall! He hauled the reins and the fell-beast veered away, keening horribly, to the pain and distraction of those below.
Beast and wraith flew the length and back of the onslaught, judging where next to move. Bright shapes of pale fire shifted on the ground below, blurring into lines as the elves formed themselves to attack, though here and there some flamed brighter with their mighty wrath. Again Khamûl circled, probing the air, feeling the buffeting of the winds that made him shy away from the impassable space above the trees. Then he spied a particular brightness at the very edge of the hazardous forest. ‘The Elf-Lord – He would have him!’ Khamûl spiralled down, the beast slipping through the air with great sweeps of its foul wings sending gusts of noxious air over the battlefield below. His slaves listened to his wordless call: ‘That way. Kill him!’ and turned their focus onto the shining elf-lord, his form coruscating with pale fire.
Haldir, his own innate strength enhanced with his lord’s ancient power, battled on. He and his marchwardens led a phalanx of stalwart elves against the dark forces their attackers still mustered. Deep into the fray, consumed by the white-hot fever of combat - suddenly, Haldir realised in his fury he had over-reached; the orcs who had fought furiously had unexpectedly fallen back… he had fallen into a trap! Warg-riders closed in behind him and his guards, axe-wielding goblins trooped up from the other side… he was corralled and away from the protective shield of the Lady. The instant he realised this, Celeborn and Celebmir also knew.
“Noooooo….!” Celeborn’s shout echoed through their minds.
“You cannot!” cautioned Galadriel, her thoughts a command not a request; not made by his wife and consort, but by the most powerful Elf-queen, the last of the great Noldor in Middle-earth: “You can not go t…!”
Her thoughts boomed through his head, but were abruptly cut off from Celebmir, and he knew Celeborn censored the rumbling power that they all still felt shivering the air. She would not be disobeyed – that life might be precious, but there was much more than one life at stake in this battle… Celebmir knew where Haldir was besieged, knew what he must do – his lord had turned his thoughts momentarily from him and now he made his own decision. Celebmir shouted a command to the captain of the archers:
“Draw back Erellont. Falathar - hold the line!”
Then he signalled his ensign, and the horn trilled the notes to rally his guard to him. Pointing his sword, they set off at a run. The orcs to their fore set up a triumphant howl, thinking themselves the victors. They fell upon the elves with renewed vigour but as storm-lashed water on ancient rocks, they might wear them away, but could not smash them. The orcs did not break the elvish lines. More archers came from behind them, grey ladies with strong, slender bows; their aim was deadly and true. Not a one of Galdriel’s companions, having spent so long at the practise butts during peaceful times, missed her mark – every arrow lodged in flesh, every shaft killed an attacker.
Haldir and his valiant guard were beleaguered on all sides under fierce and unremitting attack. From under the trees elves tried to beat their way to him, but were driven back by the warg-riders, scything their way through the warriors who attempted to storm the backs of the encircling goblins wielding battle-axes. Archers who climbed trees were shot at, or the trees fired beneath them by the slingshots of oil hurled by great trolls, while nearby, two of the giant beasts wound up a mighty siege machine to catapult more missiles into the ranks of the elves. Desperately Haldir fought on with his wardens, back-to-back in a lessening group as his comrades fell prey to the many ruthless, bloody axes surrounding them.
The Marchwarden was not diminished, and yet – he could not feel his lord’s thoughts, either of them. Though he felt his strength, there was a mask between them. Desperation edged towards despair, when suddenly he saw a brilliant white light hurtling through the trees – he was come! Renewed, Haldir steeled himself to fight on: though help was at hand, the mounted Nazgul returned to wheel overhead, casting gloom and piteous despondency in a sinking black cloud that sapped the will of the near-exhausted elves. Now they fought with tears on their cheeks, their pale fire dimmed in the night.
Celebmir fought his way through the goblins; the wargs cringed before the brilliance of his flame. Though whipped on by their riders, they would not attack the screaming white fiends who ran full pelt with their long swords high, hacking all down in front of them. Even the great Khamûl, second in command of the Ring-wraiths, covered his eyes before this second sun, and his beast veered away into the night. Celeborn poured his fea into the man’s body, casting aside any thoughts of damage – the man had thought ‘take me’ and the elf-lord had not hesitated. Celebmir snarled with Celeborn's unchecked wrath, his body glowing, livid with unnatural fire as his eyes blazed with the fell-light of the elf-lord’s rage. Nothing stood before him and lived – nothing! Haldir was in his sight, separated by a few dozen steps; the Marchwarden paused, looked at the rushing figure, and smiled briefly… then dropped to his knees, a look of utter surprise on his face. He swayed for a moment, gazing around seemingly in appalled disbelief, and then fell forward - a battle-axe embedded in his back.
“Aaaggghhhhh…!” Celeborn screamed aloud in horrified anguish at what he saw, and what he felt, his own back seemingly hacked by fire. Celebmir covered the distance between them, the goblins falling back before the mighty elves, blazing with fell light, screaming as they ran. Celeborn sank to his knees and spread his arms wide, howling his wild despair to the night sky. Celebmir sank to his knees and spread his arms wide to gather up the fallen lord – and then, in that instant… it was Lord Celeborn who cradled his beloved. All thought, but that he put from him, all notion but that Haldir should not, could not, would not die… Haldir would not leave him… He would not allow it!
Celebmir was detached, thrust aside by the elf-lord; it was as if he had stepped back a distamce. He watched his own body move, but it seemed as if it was from a place behind his own shoulder, as Celeborn gathered his lover fiercely to his chest. The Master of Lorien stood, lifted Haldir in his arms, and strode back towards the trees, taking his heart, his soul-star to safety.
And for a long dangerous moment the elves wavered. The battle had unaccountably shifted and unconsciously they shifted too, taking first one step back, then another. The circling Nazgûl felt their fear and capitalised on it – his slaves heard his command ‘let the trolls attack’. One by one their overseers received the command; they goaded the beasts forward to gather up great iron-studded clubs from the siege-carts. The trolls slouched forward with huge clumsy strides, and as they gathered in twos and threes to move towards the elvish lines, their stamping feet made the earth shudder underfoot – and the elves unconsciously fell back another step.
On his vantage point on the hill, Celeborn’s body knelt silently, head drooping, arms at his side; at a distance away near the border it was Celeborn’s fea that cradled Haldir’s now sleeping spirit within him and refused to let it go. It might have been an illusion, but Celebmir seemed to have grown in stature; now he was Lord Celeborn. Commanding a swift horse bought to him, he vaulted onto its back, had Haldir’s still, limp body passed up to him, and spurred to his Lady's tents.
The trolls advanced, brushing aside the sharp arrows that pained and distracted them, goaded on by the whips and cruel spears of their overseers. Behind them the ugly mass of slavering orcs crept nearer.
Lady Galdriel was there to meet him, her hair streaming in the unnatural wind that crackled around her in a whirling vortex.
“Give him back to me, and I will give you Lorien!” Celeborn’s demand thundered in her thoughts.
“He is not mine to give!” she rumbled back, her thoughts ringing through his mind
The ground between them shivered. Crackling air wheeled about them, raising their hair into streaming banners that lashed around the forms of the two contending elves as they sought to dominate the interchange.
“Find a way! If you love me, find a way!”
“And how much do you love Lorien?” She demanded.
“Not enough if he is not in it!”
The ground shook. Nearby elves stepped back from the power that scintillated around them, straining the air so they felt it run through their bodies to sink down into the ground.
“You have the Ring of Adamant – use its power to heal him.” Celeborn’s light blazed through the man’s body, and that of the elf held across his arms.
“He is not Lorien.”
“No, but I am – through me, you can channel the power of the Golden Wood. Raise it. Bind me to Arda, and I will stay forever!”
“And what of the man?”
“I agree.” Celebmir pushed the thought to the fore. “Use us.”
The Lady nodded slowly. She reached out to join her forearms with Celebmir’s in supporting Haldir’s body, and together they slowly knelt, placing the limp, still bleeding elf on the ground between them. She spread her arms wide, passing her hands palm down back and forth over the Marchwarden’s body. After a few moments soft, golden-green light shimmered up from the ground as a blue-white light glowed from the finger of her hand. In complex patterns the two interwove, dancing and swooping, widening until all three were encased inside an intricate web, a cage of light that brightened, brightened, brightened until none could gaze upon it. Then with a great rushing noise, the light plunged down, through Haldir’s body and on back into the ground – the elf gasped in agony; his eyelids fluttered.
“See that he sleeps…” Celeborn murmured as his fea withdrew, slipping back to his own body a league away at the border.
Galadriel muttered a spell of healing and Haldir immediately relaxed into mercifully deep sleep. At a signal some of her maidens rushed forward, both to catch Celebmir as he slumped to the ground and to ease Haldir onto a stretcher to be carried into the healers' tents. Galadriel knelt, passed her hand over Celebmir’s face, her thoughts probing to find the essence of Boromir deep inside him.
“That was well done, prince of the Stone-land.”
“I… I am no prince,” his thoughts faltered.
“You are to he who loves you. You are to the Elf-stone…”
“But… Before… You read me… you know I am not worthy…”
“You were always worthy. It was you who did not know your worth… or rather you doubted it… Sleep now, little one, rest in dreams and be soothed.”
Boromir sighed… and Celebmir, utterly exhausted, every muscle screaming with fatigue, opened his eyes to stare into the eyes of the Lady of the Golden Wood.
“Ah… I see you have been graced with a remembrance of this encounter. My Lord has left an accidental mark.”
She stroked the man’s brow lightly in wonder, for now in his hair was a white blaze, a shining lock of pure silver-white, a piece of Silver-tree that would never leave him. Galadriel offered him a cup of the water drawn from her well; he felt the energy subtly ripple through him as he drank the icy draught. She stood up, resting a hand on his shoulder for him to remain seated.
At a distance, Celeborn too stood upright, and his anxious guardians gasped in relief. Swiftly he took in the scene: the trolls were doing terrible damage. They had come together to focus their attack towards the knoll where he stood above the battle. Elves fought valiantly, but were being forced back, leaving behind the crumpled, fallen bodies of their slain.
“My Lady – now is the time!”
“My Lord – I am with you!”
A deep, resonant rumble, which started far below the ground jangled through their bones; too deep a note to hear, though it could be felt in every sinew. The trolls hesitated, their masters paused; the wargs whimpered and turned to bolt, cringing backwards no matter how cruelly their riders hauled on their bridles - until they too were chilled by the powerful resonance that rattled their teeth in the gums, and they let the beasts have their head to carry them away from the combat.
Celeborn and the elves stood. Galadriel held up her arms, fingers spread wide. Her face grew grim and fell and she seemed to grow hugely in stature. Mighty and terrible she was, filled with dread, and all who looked upon her drew back, or looked away in despair, for none could meet her baleful eyes.
The once solid earth beneath the trolls shifted as water seeped up to flood the ground, turning into a sodden quagmire under their feet. Suddenly, a great, powerful jet of water erupted from a newly gaping fissure, blasting a troll into the air with its force. Rocks, soil, boulders cannoned out of the ground, propelled by fearsome blasts of water – Nenya, working its wroth within its element. Fearful now, the orcs checked their advance, and then began to shuffle backwards despite the bellowed curses and flailing whips. More jets of water, raised from the springs beneath the ground of Lorien by the Ring of Adamant, bowled them over, rolling them back in disarray. Rocks and boulders, their water-borne flight from the earth exhausted, fell unforeseen among the confused and terrified hordes, flattening, breaking, crushing without warning, save the sudden ghastly thud of landing on cringing bodies, splattering black blood over the ripped and riven earth.
Celeborn had his horns signal the advance; out of the trees his archers came forth to fire into the terrified marauders. Those that could escape fled, only to be picked off by archers as they passed across the tree-line. Those who tried to stand were cut down, either by rocks, or the engulfing slides of mud and earth that rolled forward even though there was no slope to guide them. The orcs wavered; then fled before the relentless waves of mud and rocks that gathered strength and rose above their heads to crash and crush them.
Those that got as far as the Anduin were seized up and taken by the roaring water that surged over the banks to drag them back into the now murky depths, bowling them along the bottom to drown and bury them at one and the same time. The air cracked with thunder, lightening lanced across the sky, and the black army drained away from Lorien’s borders like water from a broken cup.
It was not long before the dimmed sun rose, and later, rain fell to wash away the black blood of orcs and the red blood of elves from the trampled grass and ruined earth.
Celeborn’s forces strode out to finish any skulking orc they found hiding among the soaked and smouldering ruins of the siege-machines. The army sent against them by Dol Guldor was defeated and scattered; the Black Easterner, Khamûl, was fled with the morning light. Now they could survey the carnage of the assault, now they could count the cost and find it high, far too high in lives of elves lost. Now their hearts sang, first in lamentation, and then for revenge. Dol Guldor could be left to stand no longer! They would have it torn down stone by stone, if they had to do it with their bare hands!
Among the tents of Lady Galadriel and her healers, Haldir was tended. His dreams were troubled and fevered, but his back was healed, the still fevered flesh unmarked save for a jagged white line as though of an aging scar. Celebmir slept deeply, exhausted beyond the endurance of men. A lathered horse, ridden hard and long, arrived, skidded to a halt in a flurry of sparking hooves, but before it stood still, an elf with a scarred throat leapt from its back and ran through the wind-curtains of the encampment calling a name. A healer grabbed his arm and guided him to the one he sought – Gwindor. Alive by the Lady’s own skill, his damaged face bandaged in healing silk with her own hands; he lay still, in a drugged sleep, kept away from awareness by heavy doses of poppy. Aerandir had come when Gwindor’s fea had called out to him in anguish – now they would be together, as one.
Celeborn looked down on Haldir’s as he stirred fitfully in his sleep. His lady touched his shoulder lightly, and he turned to her. They walked away under the trees before speaking mind to mind.
“You know I will go,” she murmured.
“You were always going to leave – sometime.”
She nodded, “If the Valar allow – I will return to Valinor…”
“Where I have never been, nor wished to…”
“I would have saved him…” she said.
“And I would never have let you fall.”
They smiled at each other and kissed, embracing both with their arms and their hearts. They stood entwined for many moments before slowly stepping apart.
“We still have much to do,” she said aloud.
Celeborn nodded, “We will lament those who have passed, see to the healing of our injured, and then…”
“And then – we will march to break the power of Dol Guldor once and for all!”
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.