The Dragon and the
Chapter 102: Edge of Darkness
As the early
rain cleared to a bright morning the Black Company and their friends
gathered in the front square of Minas Tirith. The spring sunshine lit
up the smoke-stained statue of Isildur that dominated the Square and
all around workmen were busy repairing the damage done when the orcs
burst through the city’s defences with their massive ram Grond. The
great gates were being repaired and the air was full of the sound of
hammering and sawing. It was a merry bustle which gave joy to the
hearts of the townsfolk.
Despite this renewal of Minas Tirith a small number of the Black
Company found no peace in the city and yearned for their Northern
homeland, Arnor. And so the giant Ranger Teagar, Fior the youngest of
the Company and the Ranger once known as An Bruadair but now renamed
Ardu, had obtained leave from the King to return to their home in the
North. There amid the still meres, lonely peaks and gorse-clad uplands
would their hearts ever dwell and King Elessar was sending them back to
rebuild the Northern Kingdom of Arnor.
The King had appointed Teagar to be governor of the new realm and Ardu
to be his scribe. Their saddle bags bulged with rolls of parchment and
bundles of quills to set in order the governing of the reborn kingdom.
The Rangers were glad to be returning to their beloved homeland but
equally determined not to disappoint their king in the execution of
their new duties.
Rosc and those of the Black Company who were staying in the city bade
the small group farewell. Fior looked them over and said;
‘Where is Crionna? I thought he would be here to see us off...’
Everyone looked uncertainly at each other. At last Ardu said;
‘I think he had business in the city early today...’
‘He said nothing of it last night’ pondered Teagar. Ardu smiled
mysteriously and replied;
‘That was because he did not know about it last night...’
An awkward silence fell on the Company; they all knew that Ardu had
once been called The Dreamer and although he no longer dreamed of the
future still he had the power to see things invisible to others. They
had changed his name to Ardu, meaning one who has risen again after a
fall. But they could not change what he was. Seeing Ardu’s pinched,
sallow face go red with embarrassment. The Elf Rosc hastily moved to
break the silence;
‘I am sure he has good reason’ he said cheerfully. ‘...and wishes you
well on your journey! Now we will say farewell, brothers and comrades,
and may you reach your Northern homeland quickly and safely, and
restore Arnor to what she once was!’
The small group of Rangers were mounted on swift steeds of Rohan, the
very same that they had stolen from the Rohirrim camp so long ago. King
Eomer had given them the horses to keep as a sign of peace between
Rohan and the renewed kingdom of Arnor. Now those horses bore the
Rangers quickly across the Pelennor fields, where green shoots of new
grass were already sprouting up in the blackened ground where the great
battle had raged.
They crossed the river at Osgiliath over a makeshift pontoon bridge the
building of which had been overseen by Gimli, then turned North towards
the river garrison of Cair Andros. On the road they met many people
making their way home to their villages and saw others working in the
fields or labouring to rebuild their homes. Everyone smiled and waved
at the travellers and Teagar thought to himself how completely the land
had been transformed by the return of the king.
‘At least, for all our trials...’ he sighed ‘..we played our part in
The fortress of Cair Andros on its island had been overrun by orcs late
in the war, just before the battle of the Pelennor. The castle was
ruined and offered no shelter, so the Rangers made camp beside the
river, where a wide bend formed a quiet pool edged with whispering
The evening sun cast shadows on the blackened walls of the fortress and
dragonflies skimmed the dark water. Ardu walked to the edge of the
still pool and stood gazing into its depths. From time to time there
was the glint of a fish as it rose to feed. Ardu found himself falling
into a reverie. Once, it had been predicted that if he dreamed again,
he would not wake up. But the ending of the war had taken that peril
away and he dreamed no more. And yet this night he sensed something
waiting just beyond the border of his waking mind, like a dim shape at
the very edge of darkness.
Suddenly he started; a large hand had descended on his shoulder. Ardu
turned quickly to find the giant Ranger Teagar standing over him.
‘We will take no chances...’ Teagar said. ‘..we will post guards
tonight. You get some rest and I will take the first watch....’
Ardu wanted to protest; he was aware that the others felt he was still
not strong enough to fulfil all his duties and wished to spare him. But
he merely sighed and nodded his assent. They lit a fire and ate their
meagre evening meal, then Ardu wrapped his green Ranger's cloak around
him against the damp chill of the river meadow and lay down. Certain
that he would not dream he was not afraid to let sleep take him.
Almost at once, he started to dream. He found himself standing on a
cold, bleak hillside, between a forest of black pine trees and a steep,
stony mountainside. Far below he saw the lights of a city, but what
city it was he had no idea. Overhead a moon like a sick swollen face
shed a poisonous yellow light on the barren landscape.
‘I am in a dream!’ he thought to himself with horror. ‘This should not
be! I am lost.....’
Just then, Ardu became aware that he was not alone. Twenty paces or
less from him a tall, cloaked figure stood with its back to the Ranger.
Ardu stared at the figure with apprehension. There was something
menacing about its shape, tall and broad and shrouded in a black cloak
that was ragged and stained with mud and dust. Fearful yet knowing that
he encountered this being for a reason, Ardu spoke.
‘Who are you, and why have you brought me here?’
At first he thought the figure had not heard him, because it did make
any response. But then it turned, very slowly, and directed its hooded
gaze at the Ranger. A thrill of fear clenched his heart.
‘Who are you?’ he said again.
Marfach threw back his hood and stared at Ardu with his red glowing
‘I am one of the dead’ he replied in a cold voice. ‘And if you are here
then you too are dead.’
Even in dream Ardu felt his throat go dry with fear. He stared at the
being in front of him, aware of something tugging at his memory. He
knew this creature....
‘This is not the land of the dead..’ he replied with a conviction he
did not feel. ‘It is a dream, and you are not real....’
Marfach gave a bitter laugh.
‘Ranger...’ he said ‘I am all too real, and this is the land where the
dead dwell, or those of Elf-kind who have been slain. For why else
would I be here, having died to the world of mortal men?’
Ardu, remembering at last, cried;
‘I know who you are! You are Marfach, known once as Croga. You are not
dead! You were wounded at the Last Battle and you have been taken to
Rivendell to seek healing. I know this, for the Ranger Callanach and
the Elf Liofa brought you there, and they are my friends as well as
yours. Croga, I do not know why you are here, but you are not dead!’
Marfach stared at Ardu and the red glow in his eyes seemed to come and
go. At last it vanished and his eyes were as grey as those of the
Elves. He said uncertainly;
‘After the battle the Lady Melian led me here and told me to seek the
world of men. But a black cloud of doubt settled on my heart and I was
convinced that all was over and I had died on the battlefield...’
‘That was some evil thought sent by your former master Sauron!’ cried
Ardu. ‘Marfach while you wander here, someone or something has taken
your bodily form in order to enter Rivendell!’
Marfach, the truth dawning at last, said grimly;
‘It can only be Sauron, the deceiver.....’
The creature that had been Marfach advanced on Elrond with its red eyes
glowing in the dark. The Elven prince instinctively took a step
backwards and like an evil shadow in the moonlight, Marfach moved
quickly to take up position between Elrond and the door, blocking his
Marfach had undergone a startling transformation. When he entered the
gates of Rivendell only a few hours before he had been a hunched, dazed
creature. Now, drawing himself up to his full height, he was as tall
and formidable as when he had been the greatest Elf of the Company of
Melian. The long red hair flowing down over his broad shoulders was no
longer shot with silver and his bearing was proud and dangerous. The
red eyes glowed like fire and he towered over even the tall Elf-lord.
Elrond realised with dismay that all the power Sauron still retained
had been poured into this creature so that it could live, move and work
whatever evil The Dark Lord desired.
Then Marfach spoke in a deep voice that cast a chill more profound than
the icy waterfall thundering past outside the window.
‘It has been a long time since we last met, Elrond Half Elven! I pay
homage to your cunning survival. You made sure to outlive your master,
Gil-Galad, and take what was rightfully his.’
Elrond appeared unmoved by Sauron’s taunt, but under his calm demeanour
he was desperately trying to think of a way out of this peril. For the
Elf Lord knew that if he did not stop this new incarnation of Sauron
here and now, before he could escape out into Middle Earth, all that
they had fought for in the great war of the Ring would be lost and
darkness would return to the world...
‘You have passed from great wisdom to great folly, Sauron...’ he said
‘With the destruction of the Great Ring, into which you poured all your
malice and power, your dominion was broken in Middle Earth. Now you are
no more than an evil ghost. If you were to take shape anywhere you
would invite your own destruction. But to dare to come here, to
Rivendell, is merely to ensure that destruction will be final....’
A roar of laughter interrupted Elrond’s words. Marfach bowed low.
‘Lord of Rivendell, I salute your bravado!’ he cried. ‘To threaten one
who is still so much more powerful than you takes courage...’
Then the smile vanished and Marfach’s face became terrible as Sauron
revealed himself in his wrath.
‘It also takes insolence, such insolence as you ever possessed, half
breed! You always were a trickster, Elrond. But the time for games is
over. You know well enough why I am here; you must have been waiting
for me. I have come to claim the great ring of power that you still
possess, Vilya, the Ring of Sapphire. It is the greatest of the three
Elven rings and it was made by me and it belongs to me. Two others
there are, but Nenya the Ring of Adamant is concealed in Lorien and
that traitorous sorcerer Gandalf guards Narya the Ring of Fire.
So now, Half-Elf, give me back the Ring of Sapphire!’
On Elrond’s finger Vilya, the ring given to him by Gil-galad, began to
grow warm. Soon it was hot, uncomfortable to the touch. And then it
started to burn....
Elrond bit his lip, but resisted the temptation to tear the ring from
his finger. Instead he said;
‘You are mistaken, Sauron. This ring is not yours. It was forged by the
Noldorin of Eregion. It belongs to the Elves and always has....’
‘It is mine, half-breed!’ roared Sauron in reply. ‘The Elves made it
but I gave them the power to endow it. I made all the rings, and then I
made the One to rule them all....’
‘This Ring has never been subject to the Great Ring...’ objected
Sauron replied in a voice that was calm, almost icy.
‘You are right, Lord Elrond. The rings of the Elves were never obedient
to my Great Ring. And yet for all that they were made by me and are
mine. All that they built was created by the power I bestowed on them.
Now, give me back what is mine!’
Elrond’s heart sank like a stone in a deep pool. For he recognised that
there was a truth in what Sauron said, like a black speck on a white
shroud. The Elven smiths had indeed been assisted by Sauron, although
then he had not been known as the evil he later became. Suddenly the
bright fountains and green glades of Rivendell seemed to Elrond to fall
into shadow, and his heart grew sick.
But he took a deep breath, raised his head and looked into Sauron’s
eyes. On his finger the ring was now burning into his flesh almost to
the bone, but he shut out the pain. He said;
‘You too are right, Sauron. The rings were indeed made by you and their
power was once yours. But you gifted them to the Elves, as you gifted
rings to the other races, Men and Dwarves. A gift freely accepted
carries no shame, even if darkness lurks in the heart of the one who
gives it. We have used the power of these rings only for good, and they
have never been stained with war or dishonour. Even though its power is
waning, you ask for Vilya in vain. Now leave Rivendell, before you are
Elrond fell silent, and there was no sound in the chamber except for
that of the waterfall. Marfach threw back the folds of his black cloak.
Underneath he bore a sword, although how he had managed to carry it
inside the house of Rivendell without alerting the Elves Elrond had no
idea. With a long metallic rasp Marfach drew the sword from its sheath.
‘If you will not give me the ring, I will cut it from your hand, even
as Isildur once cut the Great Ring from my own hand...’