Haldir led the Elves from the Keep down the long
stone ramp to the cashel behind the Deeping Wall. By now the sky was covered
with cloud, neither moon nor stars was visible but by the flickering lightning
the Elves could see the Rohirrim streaming down the stone steps and across
the bare rocky ground, flowing past them to the safety of the Keep, more
like a rabble than an army in their ill-fitting armour and ancient weapons.
Then Ríoga took his arm and pointed towards the caves.
‘Look, Haldir; there is the Black Company…’
And so it was, standing guard at the top of the slope, the Rangers who had once taken refuge in Lothlórien and won the protection of Lady Galadriel. As they watched Ruán and his second in command Scafa hurried down the hill to greet them.
‘Well met, Haldir!’ said the Ranger and to the man’s surprise Haldir embraced him warmly and said;
‘Very glad am I to see you too, Ruán! It seems we will draw swords together after all….’
Ruán nodded and said;
‘Críonna is not with us any more….’
‘I know.’ Haldir said, interrupting him. ‘All that has befallen you since leaving Lórien is known to us…’
‘How?’asked Scafa in astonishment. Haldir nodded towards his Elves, and standing with them beside Rosc was An Bruadar, looking ill at ease.
‘An Bruadar!’ cried Ruán, striding over to him and embracing him. ‘We thought you were dead!’
An Bruadar smiled sadly and replied;
‘All but dead, Ruán. The Elves saved me…and in return I have sworn to fight with them. I am no longer of the Black Company.’
Ruán stared at the man, then at Haldir, who said;
‘In payment for our bringing him here he will take the place of one of the Elves we lost.’
Ruán bowed slightly and said.
‘You honour him….’
An Bruadar shot a glance of relief and gratitude at Haldir; above everything he had wanted to avoid the shame of the Rangers knowing he had struck an Elf and drawn blood. Haldir caught his eye and smiled. His secret was safe…
At that moment Ruán observed the Elves taking their places in ranks behind him. He looked at Haldir and said;
‘Can the rest of The Black Company not also stand and fight with the Galadhrim, my lord? We owe a debt of honour to your Lady…’
Haldir gazed at the Ranger and his grey eyes were dark.
‘There will be no flying or turning back, Ruán. We will stand here till death or victory sets us free. I would not ask it of you….’
His voice was calm but the words chilled Ruán. Beside him Scafa paled and said something under his breath. Ruán glanced at the motley warriors crowding the battlements of the Keep. What chance for any of them, Elves or men, when the army of Saruman breaks through? He said;
‘Yet for all that we would stand with you, Haldir, for Lórien and Arnor.’
‘For Arnor and Lórien, then….’
The Elves lined up behind Haldir and the Rangers took position in their ranks. The wind had died slightly but slivers of hail were beginning to fly about the stone cashel. The Elves’ bright mail and dark red tunics shone against the grey stone of the mountainside. They unslung their bows and held them ready, the flashes of lightning glinting on the polished wood of the bow staves. Among them the grey cloaks and dark tunics of the Rangers seemed sombre as ravens amongst songbirds. Haldir stood in front of the ranks. He drew his sword, a great curved Elven blade with a long handle. The pommel was of mithril wrought in a pattern of leaves. Haldir swung the blade in an arc and pointed up the hill past the Elves, and spoke;
‘From this line there will be no retreat, unless you are given the order by me, or by Ríoga, or by King Théoden. Within these caves are gathered the people of Rohan, and we stand to keep the wolf from the fold.’
Haldir walked closer to his Elves; ‘Galadhrim!’ he said, then began to speak in a changed voice. He seemed to draw his words from that infinite realm of memory gifted to the Elves by virtue of their long lives, and to summon in the darkness all the brightness they had taken from the world at that time when it was young and unspoiled.
‘Behind you lies Lothlórien, the green leaf and the gold, and before you the hosts of Saruman. You stand within the stone crown of the Hornburg behind the walls of men but in your thoughts are sad reflections of our fair woods and the sunshine on Caras Galadon. Still under the stars, even in this black night, shine the elanor and the nephrandil, and still they shine in our hearts also. Gently flows the Silverlode, and soft grows the grass on her banks! Let the moon and sun shine on the mallorns of Lothlórien, and on all Middle Earth, for there we may never go again, until our task here is done.’
Haldir’s tone grew stern.
‘On no stones of black marble is it recorded, but in our hearts, that once we fought and fell with Men. Now as once before all the land is threatened by shadow, so once again we must fight alongside the armies of men. This fortress we hold for our Lady and for the King. For if we do not hold the mountain, we will surely lose the forest’
He raised his sword in a gesture of salute to the Elves and cried;
‘Our foes are the darkness, but we are the morning!’
And the Galadhrim raised their bows in reply and gave a mighty shout, and the Rangers with them. Then Haldir turned and taking half his force he led them to the Deeping Wall and up the steps to take their places on the battlements. With him he took Rosc and An Bruadar and Lasán with his silver trumpet, and left in the cashel Ríoga and Ruán and the Rangers. Then Ruán took from his tunic the long black silk banner made by Galadriel for the Black Company in Lórien and fastened it to a javelin and set it to fly over the ranks of men and Elves.
With apologies to The Rose Of Mooncoin and Carrigfergus.