Aldamir's Journey

by Frodo Baggins

22  23  24

Chapter 22 -- Dark Moments

  Uruviel sat in melancholy silence in her flet, her fingers working listlessly at a weaving on a loom. Her eyes were sad and far-away as her hands worked the many-coloured threads in and about each other; her mind was far from her work. At last she got up, unable to weave any longer, and walked to the edge of the flet.
Placing her hands on the slender grey railing, she gazed off into the myriad mallorn leaves rustling about her, and a soft sigh escaped her lips. Her hand crept to her throat and drew out a gilded chain, upon which hung a pendant. The pendant, crafted of pure gold, had been wrought carefully into an intricate design, and set with small, twinkling blue sapphires. Just before he had left, Aldamir had hung it about her neck.
“Blue as the sea which washes on the shores of Valinor; blue as the depths of your eyes...”he had said. She fingered it longingly, wishing to be near him again. Closing her eyes, she tried to see him, tried to feel where he was and touch his mind with hers.
“Aldamir, where are you?...”

She saw him suddenly as if in a vision, standing alone in a dark, deep wood. He was walking, looking about as if he feared something, and then suddenly he vanished among the trees. She gasped, but did not move.
Next, she saw him walking straight ahead through a strangely foggy place, as if he were walking through shadows. His jaw was set determinedly, and he did not look aside; his eyes were set on some invisible goal ahead of him...
Then with a gasp, she saw that his cloak was stained with blood, and he faltered as he walked. Then he fell into the swirling mists, and she saw him no more.
“Aldamir!” she cried wildly, but he did not reappear. She felt as if the world was falling to pieces, and then she was running, running through the swirling mists that had enveloped her beloved, searching desperately for him. Her breath came in gasps, and her lungs hurt. Her hair flew wildly about her face, whipped by a foul wind which had come suddenly out of was choking her...she could not find him...
She came back to the presence with a gasp, breathing hard. A hand was gripping her shoulder. “Uruviel? What is it?” asked Náriel, one of her friends.
“Oh, Náriel,” she gasped, trying to catch her breath. When she had regained her composure, she told the dark-haired maiden what she had seen in her vision. Náriel looked anxious, but tried to comfort her friend. “Uruviel, it'll be all right...” she murmured, but her voice faltered and her eyes darkened with fear.
“I wish it was so,” said Uruviel, trying to keep calm. “I wish I knew he was going to be all right... I wish I had never seen that vision...”

Aldamir stopped for a moment, his face distressed.
“What is it?” asked Lindir.
“Uruviel,” he answered. “She’s frightened...I can feel it...” He closed his eyes and tried to touch her mind with his. Uruviel...are you all right? What is it?
I’m all right, he felt her answer, but he sensed that she had just been through something frightening. Don’t worry about me...
Dearest, please... he pleaded. Keep yourself safe...I don’t want to feel you afraid like this...I love you too much for that...
I love you too, Aldamir...please trust me - I’ll be all right. Go on...don’t give up hope, like you told me.

I won’t, he promised. You mustn’t either.

I won’t... she answered.

Uruviel bowed her head. “I won’t,” she murmured softly, “I promised you...but oh, it’s going to be hard...”    

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Chapter 23 -- A Grey Dawn
    The Galadhrim left Fangorn in the early dawn. As they stepped out of the tangled, mossy forest, only the rounded, red-gold rim of the sun was visible, sending out its first rays as if to peek at the world before showing itself. Haldir lifted his face to the sun and raised his hand, calling out a greeting. “Utulie’n aure! Mae govannen, Arien!”
Aldamir let the golden light stream onto his face and sighed in pleasure. After the long hours of traveling through the stiflingly close depths of Fangorn, it was a delight to feel the sun’s light again. Now and then they had come upon a splinter of moonlight piercing the heavy foliage, but pure light in there was rare. Ents or no Ents, he was glad to be out again.
Haldir had been incredulous when he heard of Aldamir’s experience with one of the tree-shepherds. He almost hadn’t believed him, but when Aldamir described the meeting to him, he gave in. “One of the Enyd, you say! So they still wander the earth, herders of trees. The tales tell of days when there were thousands of them. What a magnificent sight that must have been. Alas that they are oppressed by the wicked Saruman! I would dearly love to meet such a creature.”
Aldamir had smiled. “Nothing is impossible, Haldir my friend. You may yet meet an onod! Their ways are strange, and I would not be too surprised if one day we saw one, wandering about.”
Haldir chuckled. “Let us hope so,” he said. “I hope they do not ever die out, for they are powerful beings, and incredibly old.”
“Indeed they are! I felt very young for all my many years in the presence of Bregalad. He has lived for hundreds more years than you and I, and yet there are older Ents than him.”

The Elf-company traveled steadily throughout the rest of that day. The sun shone upon them through the morning, but as noon passed clouds began to creep across the sky and by late afternoon the Elves walked under a grey roof of clouds. Lindir sniffed the air and studied the clouds intently.
“There looks to be the beginnings of a storm in those clouds,” he said to Aldamir as they walked near the edge of the company. “Whether it will break upon us, or just fly away, I cannot say.”
Aldamir looked up. “The beginnings of a storm? Do you mean a rainstorm, or something a little stronger?”
“As of yet I don’t know. It could be either, or nothing.”
“I would welcome a bit of rain,” said Aldamir. “I used to sit near a quiet stream in Lórien when it rained, and listen to the raindrops patter on the water. I didn’t mind getting wet; I still don’t.”
“I love the rain,” said Lindir softly. “I love all of it, but when it comes from the West I love it most. It bears an indescribable sweetness then, and sometimes I can hear, very faintly, the songs of the Eldar in the Blessed Realm.”
Aldamir was silent, deep in thought. He no longer thought of rain, or songs of Eressea, but Uruviel. Her fear and unease when she had spoken to him in thought puzzled him greatly. What could have created such fear in her? She was safe in Lórien; nothing could harm her there. It could only have been something she had seen or heard of. Yet she would not tell him. Was it something pertaining to his journey to Helm’s Deep? How could that be?
Yet what else could cause her fear?
Aldamir offered up a silent prayer to Elbereth, asking for her protection of Uruviel and himself. Grant that I may sometime return to her, that I may once again look upon her fair face...

It was twilight when they came in sight of Helm’s Deep. The sky was a deep, soft, purple-blue, blanketed with grey clouds. Great mountains of stern grey stone rose up from the wide, grassy land, pale golden-green in the gloaming. As they halted on a hill which rose above the rest of the landscape, the fortress of Helm’s Deep was laid out before them.
It was built where a deep, steep-sided valley clove the mountains. The fortress was built on the right side of the valley; a rounded, strongly built keep from which a four-sided tower rose, thick at the bottom and becoming slenderer toward the top. From the keep’s left side, a wall ran all the way across the valley, closing it off. A wide, sweeping causeway led up to the heavy wooden gate.
“It is well-built,” observed Aldamir.
“That it is,” answered Lindir. “It has been said that while Helm’s Deep is defended, it can never fall. Let us hope it will not be different this time...”
“Galadhrim!” called Haldir. “We have reached the fortress in time, though I do not think it will be long before an attack is made. Let us go to them now and bring them the Lady Galadriel’s greeting, and give them our aid. To war we march once more, to fight by the side of men as our fathers did long ago!”
The Galadhrim raised their bows and cried, “Na ohta!”
The Elf-company fell into formation and the banners of Elbereth were lifted high. Led by Haldir, they descended the hill and marched toward the fortress. The Elves no longer spoke among themselves, but walked silently with determined hearts. War was upon them.
As they drew nearer, and the grey stone keep and tower rose up before them, Haldir turned to Lindir. “Sound a call upon the horn of the Elves,” he commanded. “Let them know that the Elves are once again going to war.”
Lindir lifted the horn Galadriel had given him at their departure, a fine, slender horn inlaid with gold and small precious stones, and put it to his lips. A clear silver note rang out through the twilight, echoing through the narrow valley. Almost immediately Aldamir saw signs of activity on the fortress walls; men of Rohan peering out in wonder.
Haldir lifted his hand, and led the Galadhrim up the wide stone causeway. As Aldamir set foot on it, he had a sudden feeling of doom, as if something, fate perhaps, was drawing itself tight around him. A shadow of fear darkened his heart, but he thrust it away and lifted his head high. Stern determination filled his heart, and he stepped forward. Whatever his fate was, he was going to meet it fearlessly.
Even if it was death.    

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Chapter 24 -- The Calm Before the Storm

“Open the gate!”
An urgent cry above the Elves’ heads caused the great gate to be unbarred, and as it swung open they marched through, in long lines four deep. As they entered the courtyard, Théoden, Rohan’s King, came down the steps which led to the keep. He was fully armed, but not wearing his helmet, and on his face was a look of incredulous wonder.
“How can this be possible?” he asked, and Aldamir could see that he was scarcely able to believe the sight before his eyes.
“I bring word from the Lady Galadriel of Lórien, and Elrond of Rivendell,” said Haldir, bowing slightly. “An alliance once existed between Elves and Men. Long ago, we fought and died together. Now, we come to honor that allegiance.”
Théoden was speechless. Behind him, a delighted Aragorn came running down the steps. “Haldir!” he exclaimed joyfully, and threw his arms around the Elf. “You are most welcome.”
Aldamir almost chuckled to himself at Haldir’s surprise, and then tentative smile as he returned the enthusiastic hug.
“We are proud to fight alongside men once more,” he said, smiling at Aragorn.

When the formal greetings were over, and Haldir and Aragorn and the king were talking in low voices about their battle strategy, Aldamir went over to Legolas. The Mirkwood Elf stood near the wall, close to the dwarf Gimli. His face lit up when he saw Aldamir.
“Aldamir! You are here too?” he exclaimed in delight.
“That I am,” answered Aldamir, giving the Elf a warm hug. “You wouldn’t expect me to stay at home when there was a battle to be fought, would you now?” he said merrily.  Legolas laughed, and then became serious. “Thank Elbereth you and Haldir have come,” he said. “Before you did, I had almost no hope of winning. I thought we were doomed. We were mostly old men and young boys, as the best of Rohan’s enemy is riding far away from here.”
“How can that be?” asked Aldamir, frowning.
“They are under the leadership of Éomer, Rohan’s prince,” Legolas answered. “He was banished from Rohan by a certain Gríma Wormtongue, a slithering ally of Saruman. How long ago he infiltrated the royal house of Rohan, I do not know, but with his help, Saruman was able to poison the mind of Théoden. If Mithrandir had not come when he did and saved the king, Rohan would almost certainly be in Saruman’s possession now.”
“Thank the Valar,” breathed Aldamir. “But where is he now? We will be in need of his help in this battle.”
“That we will,” said Legolas. “The enemy numbers ten thousand.”
“Ten thousand!” gasped Aldamir. “I am not surprised you despaired of victory!”
“Don’t give up hope before we’ve begun!” A gruff voice startled Aldamir and he looked down to see Gimli looking up at him from under the brim of his helmet. “I have my axe, and Legolas his bow, and Haldir his company of Elves. I daresay we might win yet.” He thumped the base of his axe on the stone and turned back to watch the courtyard. Legolas smiled.
“No, Gimli, we will not give up yet,” he said. “But Mithrandir is far from here; he rode to find Éomer’s company and bring them back here in all haste. Nothing has been heard of him yet, and I fear we will have to fight this battle alone.”
Aldamir looked straight into Legolas’s eyes and put his hand on the Elf’s shoulder. “Then let us do so, and hope!”

The greater part of the Elf-company was stationed on the wall, while a smaller garrison stood below in the courtyard with bows at the ready. Haldir stood near the center of the wall, and Aldamir was next to him. Lindir stood at his side. Legolas was stationed a bit farther down the wall, with Gimli at his side. Théoden and his warriors manned the keep wall and guarded the gate.
Evening fell, and darkness came upon them; eerie silence filled the valley. Few stirred, and none spoke for a long while. Not even the faintest of breezes stirred the waiting Elves’ hair.
Aldamir stood at the front of the wall, with a clear view of what could be seen in the darkness. Thick, heavy clouds hung low in the sky, ominously dark. The silence and the foreboding in his heart weighed heavily on him, and he gripped the leather binding on his bow tighter. This waiting is worse than anything else, he thought restlessly. I’d rather fight, even in a hopeless battle, than stand here without knowing what’s ahead of me.
Then, far away, but heading straight toward the valley, his keen eyes saw several very small red lights approaching, like eyes of death. A far-off but steady thumping of many iron-shod, heavy feet could be heard by the sharp-eared Elves, and ever so faintly, the stone beneath Aldamir’s feet shivered. He drew in his breath sharply, and glanced over at Haldir. The Elf-captain stood tall and motionless, his eyes fixed on the approaching lights.
Steadily the army drew nearer, and the thumping became a clearly audible pounding.
Aragorn walked along the wall, and spoke in a hard, low voice. “A Eruchin, ú-dano ii faelas a hyn, an uben tanatha le faelas.”
Aldamir’s eyes were gleaming like steel in the moonlight. Mercy for these mud-like brutes? Never...
A low rumble sounded from the stormclouds, and a sudden flash of lightning illuminated the valley. In that split second, Aldamir saw rank upon rank of heavily armed Uruk-hai, carrying long, cruel spears of iron. The ground shook under their heavy tramping, and his heartbeat quickened.
At last the army drew to a stop, several yards from the wall, and their leader climbed onto a large rock projecting sharply from the ground, just out of shooting range. For a moment the two armies stood in silence, looking each other in the eye.
A single, wet drop hit Aldamir’s cheek, and he glanced upwards. Rain fell, soft at first, and then harder and harder, finally turning into a fierce downpour. Within minutes his cloak was soaked, but he did not mind. Here in this fortress of stone, where no tree could be seen and not even the smallest blade of grass dared to grow, rain was a welcome reminder of the warm, living beauty of Lórien. He tasted a few drops on the tip of his tongue, and felt somehow slightly refreshed.
At a signal from their captain, the orc-army began stamping the ground with the butts of their spears, a heavy thumping which shook the wall upon which the Elves stood. Aragorn drew his sword with a ring, and the Elves set arrows to their strings and drew the nocked tips back to their ears. Aldamir drew in his breath. I am ready...

Suddenly an arrow whizzed down from the keep, striking an uruk-hai in the chest. For a moment there was utter silence.
“Dartho!” cried Aragorn, but it was too late.
With a groan, the uruk fell dead to the ground, and the army became enraged. They snarled, and stamped their spears wildly. Their leader drew his sword, and lifted it high. He roared a command, and the black army lowered their spears and charged.
“Tangado a chadad!” shouted Aragorn, and the Elves took aim.
“Faeg i-varv... dîn na lanc an nu ranc!” called Legolas as he leaned slightly forward.
“Leitho I philinn!” cried Aragorn, and a storm of arrows was released into the uruk-hai.
Aldamir loosed his arrow with a steady hand and deadly precision. And so it begins, he thought grimly. Sweet Elbereth, protect us...