by Frodo Baggins
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Chapter 16 -- The Shadows Deepen
Thus the Elves in Haldir’s command spent many days; guarding the Southern
border of the Golden Wood and watching the shadow grow in the East. New,
taught strings were crafted for their bows, and arrows carved and fletched
in anticipation of the attack that all knew would come sooner or later. Swords
were sharpened, and scabbards cleaned.
War was very close.
It was late morning on a cloudy day, and Aldamir was once again sitting
on the River-point, absentmindedly fletching an arrow as his mind wandered
elsewhere. His clear, grey-blue eyes were gazing far off into the distance
as his fingers worked with the feathers and the grey wood; his dark hair
was stirred by a gentle breeze. But in his eyes there was an unhappy shadow.
As of late matters had been growing serious. Reports came of frequent
attacks on Rohan, and the orcs of Saruman were becoming increasingly bold
and dangerous. Orcs, and other foul creatures were also issuing from the
Morannon and falling upon unguarded places in Gondor. It was no longer safe
to go alone into the wild.
Sighing, the Elf set the finished arrow down and fingered a little
fern growing out of a patch of moss. The tender, green, wispy little plant
slid against his fingers, and he warmed to its small life. Glancing up at
the sky, he scanned the grey clouds covering and frowned slightly. A silver
little drop splashed onto his cheek, and he took up the arrow quickly. “No
use to let a good arrow get spoiled,” he said to himself, getting up and
walking back into the forest.
Adding the new grey dart to his quiver, he climbed to his flet and
chose a spot where the gently falling rain penetrated the shadowy, leafy
canopy and fell onto the flet. Sitting down, he rested his back against the
mallorn’s strong trunk and lifted his face to the rain. He closed his eyes
as the cool drops hit his face, taking comfort from their wet caress. Even
though all else seemed to be turning dark, rain was still the same; wet,
cool, life-giving, comforting.
A footstep beside him alerted him to Lindir’s presence, and he opened his eyes. “Suilad, mellon,” he greeted him.
“Suilaid,” responded Lindir. “Have you nothing better to do than to sit in the rain?” he teased, but with little mirth.
Aldamir smiled; then the smile faded. “Why do you look like that?”
Lindir sighed softly. “We have been recalled to Caras Galadhon; the
Lady wishes to speak with the Galadhrim,” he said, gazing off into the trees.
“I’m certain it has to do with the Shadow, and the wars. It’s something serious,
but I don’t know what.”
Aldamir looked down at the patterns carved into the grey wood beneath him. “Are we leaving now?”
Lindir nodded. “We’re to be in Caras Galadhon tomorrow morning.”
Aldamir stood up and watched the silver raindrops fall among silver and green mallorns. “Well, let us be off then.”
It took only a few minutes for the Elves to gather up their weapons
and ready themselves to leave the border. But before they left, Aldamir saw
Haldir in close conversation with the Elves who had brought the message,
and wondered at it. Haldir seemed worried, and the other Elf seemed to less
troubled. He waited with the other Elves until their captain was ready to
go, and then fell into step beside him as they left for Caras Galadhon.
“What is happening?” he asked. “Is it serious?”
Haldir nodded. “I believe it is. Ríndir said it had something to do
with Rohan; what, I do not know, but it seems that the country is weakening
under the harassment of the accursed orcs of Saruman. More I do not know,
and neither does Ríndir.”
Aldamir fell silent. What was happening in Rohan that was so serious as to make Galadriel call upon her warriors?
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Chapter 17 -- Galadriel Speaks
Galadriel stood on a small green hill which rose from the floor of
Caras Galadhon and looked over the Galadhrim before her. Four hundred stood
there, all strong and skillful warriors. She sighed and closed her eyes,
remembering what she had seen in the Mirror.
Fire and death, ruin and sorrow...maurading orcs...the White Hand.
Rohan was falling.
Opening her eyes, she raised her hand, and spoke to the Elves in her
clear, commanding voice. “Galadhrim, warriors of the Golden Wood! I have
called you here to ask for your aid in a country’s hour of need. War is on
the horizon; it has already begun. You know this. The Dark One is stretching
out his black hand, bent on swallowing up all of Middle-earth. His power
is growing; already he is attacking the lands of Middle-earth.
“The time of the Elves is over; even now we are beginning to leave these
shores. We no longer have a part in the shaping of this world. The time of
Men is at hand, and whether now or later, each of us will leave for Valinor.
The wars of these times involve Men, not us.
“But the country of Rohan is in great need. The accursed creatures
of Saruman are ravaging the land, burning, killing, and plundering as they
go. Most of the people have fled to Edoras, where Théoden King of Rohan dwells.
Long had he lain in darkness, his mind poisoned by Saruman’s venom. But now
Mithrandir, no longer Grey, has awoken him, and he has seen his people’s
need. Théoden is not going to stay in Edoras, for the city would fall under
a concentrated attack. He will empty Edoras, and take his people to Helm’s
Galadriel sighed. Aldamir, gazing up at her, saw images of what she
described forming before his eyes, and he shuddered slightly at the ruin
and death the orcs were wreaking in Rohan. So much sorrow and ruin...and
it will spread over Middle-earth, starting from Rohan...
She spoke once again, and he listened.
“Helm’s Deep is a mighty fortress, but the defenders have no way out of
it. It is a trap, though a formidable one. It has been said that while Helm’s
Deep is defended, it cannot fall. But I fear for Théoden and his people.
Saruman has a vast army, one which he has hidden until now. If his army falls
upon Helm’s Deep, which I believe it will, he stands no chance.
“That war is Rohan’s, not ours. Yet Middle-earth is threatened. Shall
we leave them to their battles against Sauron, to conquer or to fall on their
own ground? Do we remain here in Lórien as they fight and die, and merely
look on? Long ago we stood by Men, in an alliance of friendship between the
two kinds. Is that alliance dead?”
She looked into the eyes of the Elves gathered before her.
Aldamir had listened to every word, his thoughts first following what
she said, and then swirling about. Do we leave them to their wars, to die
or to conquer? Should I stay here to protect Lórien, my own country? Or...
The Elf lifted his head. No, the alliance is not dead. If you ask it of
me, my Lady, I will fight for Rohan. Calm and resolved, he waited.
Galadriel spoke once again. “I have seen in your eyes that the alliance
is not dead. Then, Galadhrim, I ask you to march to Helm’s Deep, to fight
alongside Men once more. We will not stand aside while Men struggle against
the Evil One. The alliance of old will be renewed, one last time.”
She lifted both of her hands, and a star flashed out between her fingers. “To Helm’s Deep!”
The Galadhrim raised their bows, and many voices rose up in answer to hers. “To Helm’s Deep!”
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Chapter 18 -- Farewells
“Here is Lórien, and here is Helm’s Deep.” Haldir and Aldamir were
bending over a map, studying it closely and trying to decide which was the
best and quickest way to Helm’s Deep. Galadriel had chosen Haldir to be the
Elf-company’s captain, and he had elected Aldamir to be his second-in-command.
“The most direct is to go on foot from Sírmentë, through Fangorn,
and then on to the fortress,” said Aldamir, tracing the route with his finger.
Haldir nodded. “It is the most direct, but is it the quickest? We
could also sail down the Anduin, until we reach a point somewhere above Sarn
Gebir, and then turn west.”
“But that route is nearly twice as long,” objected Aldamir.
“I know,” answered Haldir. “But we will be sailing half of the way,
and that is quicker. And is it safe to go through Fangorn? You know the tales
that have been told of that wood. And that road will also take us close to
Isengard; too close, perhaps.”
Aldamir studied the map in silence for a moment, following the line
of the Anduin on the parchment. “We are pressed for time, Haldir,” he said.
“If we go with the Anduin, I do not know if we will be there in time. The
route through Fangorn is more direct. I know what has been said of Fangorn,
and if there was another way just as quick I would take it. I have no great
desire to become tangled in the mossy depths of Fangorn. But I think that
way is the fastest.”
Haldir gazed thoughtfully at the map, weighing the advantages and
disadvantages of both routes. “I believe you’re right, Aldamir,” he said
at last. “The road through Fangorn is risky, but quicker.”
“The road down the Anduin is no less risky,” pointed out his companion.
“Orcs patrol the Eastern shore, and who knows but that they have spread to
the Western as well? No road is safe in these times.”
Haldir nodded. “I do not know what awaits us in Fangorn, but we will chance it,” he said. “We will go through Fangorn.”
Rolling up the map, he put it away and turned to Aldamir. “We must
make haste if we are to make it in time to help them,” he said. “I do not
know how fast the army of Saruman travels, but we can take no chances. We
will leave tonight, under cover of darkness. Go and make yourself ready,
for you only have a few hours.”
Aldamir nodded. “I will be ready, captain,” he grinned.
Aldamir went slowly to find Uruviel. He didn’t want to say farewell
to her; didn’t want to see the look in her eyes when he said it...but he
knew he had to see her again before he left. Leaving without seeing her was
unthinkable... yet his heart sank at the thought of goodbye.
She was standing on their flet, her back to him as he silently entered.
He stopped for a moment and gazed at her. A simple, blue gown flowed from
her shoulders, drawn in about her waist with a cream-white sash; her light,
gilded hair fell softly down her back like a muted sunray.
Sensing his presence, she turned, and the look of mingled pain and love wrenched at his heart. “Uruviel...”
She held out her hands, and he took them in his, twining his fingers
about hers. Her soft voice sent a shaft of light into his unhappy thoughts. “Aldamir, dearest, don’t look like that...”
He grasped her hand tighter. “I’m sorry, melda nin. My heart is sorrowful
at the thought of leaving you...my dear star-maiden. Without you the sun
and the moon and all the stars would hold no light for me.”
She smiled gently, though there was the trace of tears in her eyes.
“I know, dearest. I don’t want you to go either...I wish I knew that you
would be safe...I wish I could go with you.”
“No, no!” he implored. “Please...stay where you are safe. The knowledge
that you cannot be harmed will comfort me when I go.”
“I won’t come...I can’t. But...” The golden head drooped, and Aldamir
took her into his arms, holding her, feeling her heartbeat align itself with
his. She buried her face in his shoulder, and he stroked her hair softly.
“I have not the gift of foresight,” he said softly, “so I cannot tell
where this path will take me. I daresay very few can see the future now,
if any. But you must not give hope, my star-maiden. This path may lead into
deep unending darkness, and yet again it might emerge again to light and
victory. We do not know. All we can do is trust to hope...soon it will be
all that we have left. If we don’t; if we abandon even hope itself, then
there will be no way out for us; the darkness will truly have defeated us
then.” He slipped his fingers under her chin, and gently lifted her face.
The starry eyes were dimmed with tears.
“Uruviel, promise me that,” he whispered. “Promise me you won’t lose hope.”
A single tear slipped down her cheek. “I promise,” she said softly,
slipping her fingers through his. “But Aldamir...please...watch out for yourself.
I love you...I don’t want to lose you...”
“And I love you, dear one,” he answered, kissing her tenderly. She clung
to him, and he folded her into his arms, locking the moment away in his heart.
For all he knew it could be their last moment together.