The Dragon and the Fox

by Varda

Chapter 14: The Shadow Elves

As night gathered under the Mallorns the brightness of Queen Galadriel seemed to dim. She cast down her eyes and began to withdraw from those around her and to listen to a music inaudible to all the Galadhrim, although Celeborn caught an echo when the Queen turned her dark eyes towards him. At last she rose from her throne of grey-silver wood set with amber and amethyst and soundlessly departed from even Celeborn, and all the bright throng of her court faded away into the trees.

Alone then except for the silent company of the stars over Lothlórien she took up a silver pitcher and filled it from her fountain, and poured the sparkling water out into her basin.

In this mirror she had seen the slaughter of the Galadhrim at Helm’s Deep; in this mirror she had seen Haldir struck down and that noblest of all her Elves die. No longer could she look into this glass without sorrow; even the Queen of the Golden Wood grieved, for none now were untouched by war….

Yet still she poured the water, and sought to gaze upon those things that were passing, or past, or to come. She sighed; so great was her pride, so great her desire for knowledge….no wonder it had to be Frodo, small and weak and unaccustomed to power, who bore the burden. She would eventually have used the Ring..

The water suddenly became agitated, darts of light flickering in its depths. When it grew clear Galadriel saw a battle scene, and suppressed a cry of fear; had it come to the last conflict at last? But then she closed her eyes with relief; this was not a battle of the present, or of the future, but of long ago.

It was Gil-galad; she knew him by the insignia on his armour, even though smeared with orc-blood. She knew his silver Elven-spear Aeglos and the blue fire of Vilya the Elven-ring on his hand. She knew Elrond, his herald, at his side. But then she shivered; she knew too what had befallen Gil-galad, and she did not want to see it acted out again…

‘Why must I see this vision ….?’

The water rippled. Not, as she thought at first, from her breath on the
mirror. The image dimmed and grew clear again, and Galadriel saw another
part of the battlefield. She recognised another herald of Gil-galad’s; it
was Aralt, her own friend and healer. She knit her brows and gazed deep into
the water; she had never seen what she saw now, what had become of Aralt’s
Elves in the great battle with Sauron ….

When the two armies drew back from their first onslaught, and rallied, Cróga awoke in the wasteland between them, stunned but unhurt. The very ground smoked and flames still rose from the desolation. Cróga looked for his lord Aralt, and for his friends. Some he saw had been slain, but the rest were missing. He got to his feet. The battlefield was lit by rays of sun as red as blood, struggling through the thick black cloud. Where were Deis, Tuar, Duairc and Súgach who never lost heart or allowed his friends to despair? Gone, but not dead; Cróga could not count them among the slain. They had been captured by Sauron.

Cróga looked to the West; there on the hill was the blue banner of Gil-galad and there was Aralt his lord. But Cróga looked to the East, and knew that his friends had not been slain, but taken, and he made a choice that would cost him dear. He began to walk across the smoking ground towards the hosts of Mordor…

The mirror dimmed, and Galadriel caught her breath with relief; she did not want to see the fate of this Elf, drawn by Sauron into the burned land. But then darkness fell on the water and for some time nothing could be seen. Then it cleared again to a dark sky full of stars. No battlefield smoke obscured it. The stars were reflected in a river, dark and wide, and Galadriel knew it was the Anduin. On its bank a figure lay in sleep, wrapped in a tattered cloak which the Queen recognised to be of Elven weaving. She frowned. Surely this was the enemy. A hand curled round the cloak was branded with the sign of a Red Dragon, mark of their foes. But as Galadriel looked into the water she suddenly gasped; the face was very different from that of the brave young Elf who had fought under the Blue Banner. But even wasted and scarred she would know Cróga, the Brave….

She stretched out her and on her finger Nenya, the Ring of Water, blazed with sudden white fire in the darkness. She closed her eyes and her lips moved. After a few minutes she let her hand drop to her side and opened her eyes to see the mirror gone dark and cold. She said to herself almost wearily;

‘Such help as I can give to the lost I give you, Cróga....Marfach.’

‘Get up, Elf scum! I am not carrying you all the way to Barad-dur! Get up!’

Greim was furious; he had thought luck was at last running his way when their brainless leader had been slain by the Rangers and command of their band fell to him. But an order had come from the East, from The Eye; bring back the Elf alive. None that ever were sworn to the service of Mordor could be allowed to escape; for if they got away, what was to stop the others deserting as well?

‘Get up!’ Greim kicked the unmoving figure, wondering why Sauron bothered to try to tame Elves when he had orcs. Some called them The Scáthanna, the Shadow Elves. But however Sauron twisted them they would still be Elves. And you could never trust an Elf.

Around him Greim’s orcs stood watching uneasily. They had run most of the night to outpace the Rangers but now as dawn stood in the Eastern sky they were beginning to weary of dragging and carrying the captive. They resented being brought into danger just to hand over the wet and wounded she-Ranger in exchange for this poisoned creature that had once been an Elf…

Deep in a dark dream Marfach did not feel the blows of the orcs. The strength Sauron had given him in return for obedience had almost entirely ebbed away and only death remained. But then through his unending nightmare a light fell, and he thought he saw a forest glade, and in it an Elf-woman clad all in white. She turned to him and held out her hand, and on her finger a star shone.

‘I give you such help as I can, Cróga….’