The Dragon and the
Chapter 101: Comes a Dark Rider
The day after
his coronation, the Rangers of the Black Company sought and were
granted an audience with King Elessar, formerly their lord Aragorn.
The company filed into the Great Hall of Minas Tirith, the Rangers clad
in grey-green and the Galadhrim Elves in shimmering cloaks that caught
the sunlight slanting in the high windows and seemed now grey, now blue
and now green. The Company had been fortunate during the last battle
and although many of their number had been wounded none had been slain.
When all were assembled their leaders Crionna and Callanach stepped
forward, bowed to the King and presented him with their black banner.
Only this was not the torn and singed flag that had flown above them on
the field of battle. It had been repaired and cleaned and lined with
black silk and on it was now embroidered in silver the white tree and
stars of Gondor, all surmounted with a golden crown. Aragorn rose to
receive it, and bowed in his turn. Then he spoke;
‘Rangers and Elves of the Black Company, you have served me well, once
as your lord in Arnor, and then as your king in Gondor. Whatever you
wish to do in this time of peace, I give you leave. Yet tell me what
your hearts desire.’
There was a moment’s silence, then Callanach stepped forward and bowed.
Half turning to his men he said to the King;
‘Lord Elessar, we thank you for your generosity. You above all know our
story, and that we have long striven to rise above a heavy burden of
ill fortune and revenge. But now in this time of peace we believe that
we have put our dark past behind us. Some of us now yearn for our
Northern homeland, and will if you permit it they will return to Arnor,
there to oversee the rebuilding of our ancient kingdom. The Galadhrim
of the Black Company will also return to their home in Lorien ...’
Here Callanach paused and looked at Liofa, Crionna and the leader of
the Elves, Rosc. Then he said;
‘...others for their own reasons wish to stay in Gondor, at least for
Gimli leaned forward, his bushy eyebrows knit together in
concentration. His thick, gnarled fingers made an adjustment with
surprising delicacy to a tiny silver fastening on a metal finger, then
he sat back and blew out his cheeks with relief and satisfaction.
‘My Lord Rosc, leader of the Galadhrim of the Black Company....’ he
said solemnly ‘..I wish to present you with your right hand, only now
it is not made of flesh and blood, but of silver and steel. Such did I
promise to make for you, and we Dwarves keep our word. May it serve you
well, and may you once more fill the groves of Lorien with the clear
sweet music of your harp!’
Standing behind his friend Gimli, Legolas could not suppress a smile.
Rosc was silent, but slowly he rose from the seat where he had sat
patiently as the Dwarf had placed the new metal hand on his forearm.
The chamber in the Houses of Healing was high-ceilinged with a tall
arched window through which streamed the spring sunshine, warm and full
of golden motes of dust. Rosc stood bathed in the light, his hand
raised, and cautiously he moved one finger, then another, and then all
five. His fair, pale face broke into an expression of wonder and joy.
‘Master Gimli!’ he exclaimed. ‘When you promised to fashion a metal
hand to replace that which I lost at Helm’s Deep, I was deeply
grateful, for a harpist with only one hand is a poor weaver of music.
But I thought then that your words were merely a gesture of kindness.
Now I see that the Dwarves are indeed a people of their word, and also
a race of magical skill. My silver hand will seal a bond between all
the Galadhrim and Durin’s folk!’
Gimli, beaming with pleasure, bowed low. But as he gazed at the tall
Elf in his bright Galadhrim armour, a shadow passed over his face and
he said in a voice that was tinged with sadness;
‘In return for this gift, lord Elf, do me one favour if you please.
When you once more dwell in Lorien, remember me to that fairest of all
ladies in Middle Earth, the evening star of Lothlorien, Queen
Galadriel. Remind her of our speech together, and thank her for her
kindness to me at our first meeting...’
The Elf Rosc looked long at Gimli, seeing in his deep-set eyes the
glitter of tears. Then he bowed low and replied;
‘Lord Gimli, I will remember you to my Queen, have no fear....’
Springtime in Rivendell was always beautiful, but in the year that the
King returned it was fair beyond anything even the Elves could
remember. Nature herself seemed to be rejoicing in the removal of the
darkness of Mordor. Their hearts free of its shadow for the first time
in many ages, the Elves of Lord Elrond’s household walked in the
gardens or sat talking and laughing in the sunlit courtyard from which
the Fellowship of the Ring had departed only a few bleak months before.
Into this sunny courtyard however on one of these spring mornings there
came a dark reminder of the great war that had just ended.
The Elves were sitting talking and listening to the harp when they
heard the ring of horses’ hooves under the archway through which Frodo
had departed on his quest to destroy the Ring. Two white Elven steeds
entered bearing the sons of Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir. Before the
last battle, they had begged their father’s leave to go and fight with
the army of the West, and Elrond had reluctantly given them his
The news that the battle had been won and that the sons of Elrond had
both survived it had of course long before reached Rivendell. But it
was still a great joy for the people there to see their Princes return
safely and it was some time before they realised that there were others
accompanying the Elven princes; mounted on tall swift horses of Rohan
were two figures clad in the grey-green cloaks and silver seven-pointed
star brooches of the Rangers of the North.
One of these riders was indeed a Ranger but little more than a youth,
with a lock of pure white running through his black hair and with a
face aged by some great illness or trial. The other figure was no
Ranger but an Elf of Mirkwood. The two riders were Callanach and Liofa.
But a third horse followed them through the archway, and as it did so a
dark cloud crossed the spring sun. This horse was black and its rider
was also clad all in black, a colour forever associated with Mordor. As
the Elves stared, the figure raised a skeletally thin, pale hand and
pushed back the hood of his cloak.
The Elves gasped and gave exclamations of horror and anger. Some even
ran to collect their bows.
For the stranger was Marfach. He was known and hated by all Elves, but
by the Elves of Rivendell above all the rest.
But Marfach was greatly changed from the enemy that had been so feared
by the Elves. His hair, once red, was now streaked with white like the
hair of Callanach beside him. His face was thin and pale but what
differed most was his eyes; once red as his hair, they were now grey as
the eyes of Elves or of the men of Gondor. And in those eyes there was
no recognition or awareness; Marfach gazed about at the Elves of
Rivendell as if he had never seen them, or any Elves, before. Certainly
he saw the hatred in their eyes, but after glancing at them he
listlessly returned his gaze to his bony white hand and took no further
interest in where he was, or who was with him.
The Elves however were not as unconcerned; some nocked their arrows and
raised their bows. But at a signal from Elrohir they halted.
‘Stay your hands, and do not fear!’ he cried. ‘You know this creature
as Marfach, and you justly hate and fear him. But he is not the servant
of Mordor any more; we owe him our lives, Elladan and I, for he saved
us in the last battle. We have brought him to Rivendell in hopes that
our father can heal and restore him. For our sakes, treat him as a
guest of our house, and do him no harm.....’
There was some murmuring amongst the Elves, but at last they bowed to
their prince and some stood forward to take the reins of the black
horse and carefully lead him forward. Meanwhile Liofa and his friend
Callanach dismounted and walked forward quietly into the courtyard.
As they did so a figure clad in blue and russet robes and wearing a
silver circlet on his long black hair appeared at the top of the steps
leading into the hall. All the Elves at once turned and bowed to their
The master of Rivendell swept the courtyard with his gaze, taking in
the strangers, then lingered on Marfach. His face clouded for a moment,
but then his glance moved to his sons, and it lightened again like a
sky after storm. Descending the stone steps he held out his arms to the
two princes and they in turn hurried forward to receive his embrace.
‘Elladan! Elrohir!’ Elrond cried. ‘All is well now you are returned! My
heart was heavy with fear until the moment that I received news of
Aragorn’s great victory. But now my eyes see you in truth, my heart
knows an even greater joy! Welcome home, both of you! A great feast
will be prepared for you. Come, enter again into your home....’
And Elrond again embraced his sons, and they wept with joy to see their
father again. But as Elrond turned to enter the hall, Elladan hung
‘Father...’ he said ‘We sent you word of what befell us on the field of
battle. We have brought home with us the one who saved us. We look to
you to try to heal him, for we owe Marfach our lives.’
Half-turned on the steps, Elrond looked at Marfach and his face grew
dark. Long ages ago he had fought against this foe, made even greater
than the ordinary slaves of Mordor by the great powers he had formerly
enjoyed as a lord amongst Elves favoured by Melian herself. Then Elrond
shook his head; that was the past. A new age had been born with the
fall of Sauron. It was for him to find some healing for those who still
lived on even broken and scarred by that evil time.
Elrond said aloud to his people;
‘So be it. Take Marfach to my quarters, I will attend him there
Then Elrond looked at Callanach and Liofa and his stern look softened.
He smiled and said;
‘To you, our brother of Mirkwood, we extend our welcome, and to any
Ranger of the North the gates of Rivendell are always open. But for
those who fought at the side of my sons a special honour will always be
reserved. So come, enter and take your rest. Soon a great feast will be
laid and you will be our honoured guests....’
It was dark outside, and the Hall of Fire was lit with a myriad of
silver lamps when Lord Elrond quietly withdrew from the feast held to
honour the return of his sons. Unobserved by even the Elves he made his
way down a wide cool corridor, past his lofty study to a room that had
three windows looking out on the waterfall.
Turning the handle, Elrond opened the door and slipped inside.
For some moments he stood in the darkness, sensing more than hearing
the headlong rush of water outside the window and the wind sighing in
the trees on the valley slopes. He was aware too of the room, circular
with a high vaulted ceiling and a floor of amber coloured marble. The
windows had been thrown open during the day but now richly embroidered
hangings kept out the chill night air. A bird cried in the darkness and
memory rushed into Elrond’s mind.
He remembered the night that Frodo Baggins, the Ringbearer, had been
brought to Rivendell.
‘This was where I ordered him to be taken....’ thought Elrond.
‘....that night of darkness and fear, with Gandalf ordering my people
to and fro and all in chaos and uncertainty...’
And Sam. ‘I won’t forget Sam!’ thought Elrond with a smile, recalling
the sturdy hobbit’s stubborn refusal to budge from his master’s side,
even when the time had come for Elrond to draw out the poisoned tip of
the Morgul knife that was working its way to Frodo’s heart.
‘I do believe that Sam suffered as much as Frodo that night...’ thought
Elrond. The deathly pale face of Frodo and the anxious face of Sam came
into his mind and the Lord of Rivendell felt a strange longing for that
time. Certainly, all was dark and full of fear for what the future
held, but hope shone like a star in the evening sky and amongst the
folk that were with the Ringbearer, Aragorn, Merry, Pippin and later on
Gimli and Legolas and Boromir, there was such loyalty and steadfast
friendship as Elrond had never seen before, nor would ever see again.
‘It was our greatest hour, even if it was not our happiest....’ he
thought with a sigh.
‘Nothing will ever match that time....’
Against the far wall stood a wide bed adorned with a wooden headboard
carved in the shape of leaves and boughs in a pale honey coloured wood.
It was the bed in which Frodo had awoken after his ordeal. Now someone
else wounded by Mordor lay on the same bed; Marfach.
The ancient enemy of Elves and men no longer looked dangerous. He lay
as if sleeping, his eyes closed and his face gaunt and tired, worn by
long illness. Under his black cloak his frame seemed wasted to nothing.
The long red dreadlocks lay on the pillow tangled and shot with grey
and despite himself Elrond felt a stab of compassion, remembering what
Marfach had been before Sauron had captured him.
But as Elrond gazed at him, Marfach suddenly opened his eyes and looked
straight at the Elf-lord. Those eyes which had been grey were now red
once more, glowing in the darkness of the room like angry coals. The
blank expression on Marfach’s face was also transformed, from that of
someone who had forgotten everything to that of a malevolent and
all-knowing enemy. In a movement that had nothing in it of weakness and
fatigue, Marfach sat up and said to Elrond in a deep grating voice that
conveyed all the chilling emptiness of Mordor;
‘So Lord Elrond, we meet at last’
Elrond had always known that Sauron could not be destroyed completely.
As a great power, an entity governing armies he had, perhaps, been
defeated and could never take shape again. But if there was any evil in
the world, any void in the fabric of Middle Earth or in the hearts of
its inhabitants, there would the formless spirit of Sauron find a
portal into the world.
And in the wounded shell that was Marfach, Sauron had found such a
Elrond closed the door behind him and said;
‘Yes, Sauron. We meet at last.....’