The Dragon and the Fox

by Varda

Chapter 30: The War has only Just Begun

Galadriel’s harpist Rosc had a brother, Siansach, whose name meant ‘sweet harmony’ for he also was clear-voiced and skilled with the harp. After the three hundred Galadhrim departed for the fortress of Helm’s Deep, a gloom settled on the court of the Lady of the Golden Wood. Few had any inclination to sing, dance or compose verses. The Queen often shut herself away with her mirror, or took lengthy counsel with Celeborn and the other lords of Lothlórien. Siansach was seldom called for to play the harp or sing. Instead, like most of the Galadrhim, he spent much of his time guarding the borders of Lórien from attacks by orcs and other creatures of Sauron.

Yet from the North, and the fastnesses of the Misty Mountains, and even from the dark line of Mirkwood visible from Lórien, no orcs appeared for many days. The last that had been seen were the ones that had pursued the Fellowship from Moria, and those had all been slain by Haldir….

Spring was awakening early in Lórien, as if the trees and the earth, held in its bright spell, wished to defy winter and the war raging so far away….. The Golden Wood was home to every kind of tree, not just Mallorns, which grew only in the depths of the forest. Light-filled groves of beeches and cool silent glades of low-branching oak skirted Lórien as if to protect her and deepen her seclusion. Through these outlying woods Siansach and the other Galadhrim ceaselessly patrolled, scouting for inroads by the Enemy. Yet they found none….

Siansach halted beneath a great beech tree, its silver-grey bark mottled with lichen and scored by time. He knew he should continue on his scouting, but could not resist reaching out a hand to touch the rough wood of the great tree. In his heart a tune ran, a harp song for this very tree, an ancient friend…..a laugh came from behind him and he turned. It was his cousin, Ligthe, the Swift.

‘Put down that harp you are carrying in your head, and attend to war’ he said half-jokingly. Siansach laughed guiltily, and nodded.
‘It is hard to concentrate, Ligthe. Every day we walk the same glades and find no trace of the enemy, and spring is tempting me to song….’
Then he looked southwards and his smile faded;
‘ my heart I know my brother is in great danger, amid war that is for real, not this false game of shadows.’
‘Not as false as you think’ said Ligthe, and his face was solemn.

The two Elves stood without speaking for a moment. Unlike the Galadhrim who had marched to Helm’s Deep they wore no armour, only jerkins of soft russet doeskin and tunics of moss-green velvet. Over their clothes were thrown the silver-grey cloaks of the Galadhrim, which could bestow near-invisibility on the wearer. And in their hands, ready to draw, they bore the great bows of the Galadhrim, their red polished staves entwined with a gold pattern of vine leaves….

‘Not false….’ Repeated Ligthe, and his voice trailed off as he looked towards the North. Cold crept over Siansach.
‘What do you feel?’ he asked him.
‘Evil, yet I see nothing…..’ replied Ligthe. ‘For days it has been the same. I sense evil, yet no sign of the enemy appears. Either they have become more cunning at deception or my skill grows less….’

Siansach did not reply but he knew what Ligthe meant. Day after day, the Galadhrim patrolled, and kept watch, and knew some dark was creeping upon their woodland realm. Yet nothing appeared. They began to think that the Enemy had devised some way to shield his advance. Yet the Mirror showed all things, did it not…..?

‘Fire!’ said Ligthe, seizing Siansach’s arm. In the same moment, Siansach smelt the reek of burning wood and leaves. Both Elves unslung their bows and hurried forward, towards the smell…

Soon the trees were wreathed in a blue haze. Someone was burning the forest!
‘We must report back at once….’ said Ligthe. ‘although the whole forest will cry out for this outrage and the Galadhrim will hear them….’
A sound of crackling reached them. Siansach said desperately;
‘But what of the trees? We must do something now…’
‘No! We must summon help, and raise the guard…Siansach!’

But it was too late. The Noldor were never famed for their obedience, and Siansach’s heart loved the trees too much. Heedless of his friend’s cries he ran towards the source of the smoke….

‘Are the tar barrels in place?’ asked Smúr, showing white teeth in a face otherwise blackened by oil. He reeked of coal tar and his clothes were so soaked by oil that had a spark landed on him he would have gone up in flames in a second….he could be smelled a mile downwind. Lucky for them all, then, that the Boss had concealed their advance on the Cursed Forest of Lórien with powerful spells. Hundreds of orcs, with tar and oil and armed with pike and bow and axe, waited in the long grass beyond the furthest groves of the Golden Wood…
‘Yes, I placed them myself!’ answered his second in command, Téarc.’but the Elves won’t be so foolish as to rush out just for a burning tree….’
‘Oh no?’ sneered his captain. ‘Look!

Siansach ran through the trees cautiously, bow in hand, stooping to read the ground, Tigthe not far behind him. When he had left the cover of the deep wood he saw clearly the burning beech, its upper branches already raised like torches to the morning sky. With a cry Siansach darted forward. With a scream of triumph and hatred the orcs sprang to their feet and surged across the glade….

‘Orcs! orcs! Help him….orcs….’ But he could do nothing. The Elf was surrounded too quickly, and abandoning his great bow he drew his sword and laid into the ragged filthy horde that fell on him. The first were easily laid low, but behind them came orcs of Dol Guldur, with horned helmets and well-wrought scimitars and black armour emblazoned with the Eye. He felled one but two more took its place. A cunningly aimed scimitar blow caught Siansach on the elbow and his sword fell into the leaves and he tried to scramble back but with a scream the orcs rushed forward and he was cut down….

‘Stop them! Orcs, someone aid him! The trees are burning, the trees are burning…..’

‘Wake up! Wake up! You are rousing the whole camp, wake up!’

An Bruadar sat up, dazed and sick. He looked wildly round, and saw a ring of anxious faces watching him. It was night, and he realised he was in the caves of Helm’s Deep. Through the cave entrance he could see the torches flaring along the Deeping Wall, and faintly he could hear the sound of pipes and hand drums; the people of Rohan were celebrating their escape from the forces of Saruman. Yet here, in the Caves, the Galadhrim stood or sat in silence, thinking of their slain comrades or of Lórien far away…

He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Dearfa bending over him. The tall dark-haired Elf was gazing solemnly at him.
‘Are you well…?’ he asked. An Bruadar looked up in terror and incomprehension at him. The Elves murmured to each other. Then suddenly Rosc spoke, for the first time since Gimli and Legolas had left them to return to Aragorn and the King of Rohan..
‘Dreamer, come back to us…’ he said softly, and as if his words held some calming power An Bruadar felt his panic recede and the nightmare terror leave him. He began to breathe more easily. Then Rosc said;
‘This was some dreadful vision, I think…’
An Bruadar nodded, still bathed in a cold sweat of fear.
‘What was it?’ asked Dearfa. ‘You called out the name of Lórien, and spoke of fire and burning trees…’

The Elves were watching intently; in a shaking voice An Bruadar told his dream and at once consternation spread through the surviving Galadhrim. Rosc held up his hand for silence. He asked;
‘Did you hear the names of the two Elves in your dream?’ An Bruadar nodded.
‘One was called Ligthe. The other, pulled down and slain by the orcs, was Siansach….’

A gasp ran round the Galadhrim. An Bruadar looked up in bewilderment. Rosc’s face had gone white. An Bruadar looked questioningly at him and at last Rosc said, in a low strained voice;
‘Siansach was my brother…’

At that, with anger in his face, Dearfa turned to the other Elves and said;
‘We must return to Lothlórien without delay! Our woodland realm is threatened on all sides, while we linger here among Men….’ He turned to Rosc, his head bowed with grief and said; ‘We have done our duty and carried out our orders from Queen Galadriel. Our path now lies back to Lórien, to defend her in these last days….’
‘No!’ said Rosc, in a voice so vehement all the Galadhrim ceased to talk among themselves and turned to listen. Tears caught at his voice as he said;

‘We have indeed performed what we were ordered to do, to aid the King of Rohan in the defence of Helm’s Deep. We have been all but destroyed in this struggle, and have lost many dear to us….’ he paused, and every Elf there thought of Haldír and Ríoga, and their fallen comrades…then he went on;
‘It is true, Lothlórien now needs us to defend her borders. But we are far from Lothlórien, and can’t reach it for many days. Here, the battle that we have joined goes on still, between Men and the forces of Mordor. Our task is not done; we will offer to the Dunedain our swords, to follow him until the Enemy is defeated, or the world comes to an end…..’

There was silence. For a heartbeat it seemed to An Bruadar that the Elves would not obey, that they would demand to return to Lórien….

Aragorn turned the wine goblet in his battle-scarred fingers, visions of the day’s slaughter still before his eyes. Beside him Gimli was talking about his tally of orcs, but Aragorn for once was not paying attention. Legolas was answering in his soft, melodious voice, but he did not heed the Elf either. He wished at this moment to be alone with his thoughts, and those thoughts flew now to the eaves of Rivendell and a fair Elven princess with skin the colour of pearl and rose…..

‘Aragorn!’ it was King Théoden’s voice. Aragorn looked up quickly. The King, his right arm bandaged and stiff, gestured with his drinking horn, and Aragorn saw with a start two Elves and a man in the clothes of a Ranger approach the King’s table. Around the hall of Helm’s Deep the Rohirrim set down their cups and half-rose from their places at the feast-table, in respect and awe and curiosity….

The Elves bowed to Théoden, who got stiffly to his feet to reply, and then to Aragorn, and the Ranger saluted him. Aragorn rose hastily to his feet and returned the courtesy. Almost before he could greet them one of the Elves, whom Aragorn recognised as Rosc, their new leader, said;
‘My Lord Aragorn, forgive our intrusion on your celebrations, but we, the Galadhrim, wish to inform you that we place ourselves under your command, and will follow you till you give us leave to return to Lórien. For we know….’and the Elf swept the feast hall with his keen grey eyes.

‘..that the battle is over, but the war has only just begun….’