The Dragon and the Fox

by Varda

Chapter 46: The Fellowship of Three

It was after midnight and above them the stars glowed in a black velvet sky unlit by any moon. In the silence Callanach gazed at Líofa as if unable to believe they had at last, after all their dangers, been reunited. He put an arm round the Elf’s shoulders as it to reassure himself Líofa was real and not just a dream…

Líofa returned the embrace, laughing and studying Callanach’s face, noticing his pallor, his wasted appearance and the darkness of his grey eyes. He could not help wondering if Callanach had brought back some shadow from beyond the gates of death. He thought bitterly that he alone among all Elves would also one day know death like any mortal…

Just then Grimbold’s son Tiarna came up and seeing Líofa and Callanach together he grinned and slapped Callanach on the shoulder.
‘You two are friends! I’m glad, for King Théoden has ordered us to ride together tomorrow when we leave for Gondor….and for battle.’
‘But I am in the King’s bodyguard’ protested Callanach.
‘Aye, Ranger, I know you have been given that honour’ said Tiarna patiently.
‘But Théoden has ordered some of his household riders to join my father’s éored, the men of Grimslade, to strengthen our right flank when we attack the hosts of Mordor….’

Callanach turned to Líofa and said;
‘Then we won’t be separated again!’
Líofa gave a sad smile and Tiarna, looking from one to the other said;
‘I see you two have much to tell each other…I will leave you now…’
But Líofa turned to the young lord of the Mark and stopped him.
‘No, Tiarna, if you want, come with us and hear our tale, for we three will ride to war together in the morning, and if the battle goes ill dead men tell no secrets….’

Tiarna looked delighted.
‘I cannot wait to hear how an Elf and a Ranger out of the North became such friends! Let us go to my father’s tent. He is in council with King Théoden and is like to be gone for some time. We can talk there in peace ….’

As they made their way through the camp Tiarna quietly gathered up a leathern flask of ale.
‘Talking is thirsty work..’ he muttered.

Grimbold was a Marshall of the Mark and his tent was large and lit by braziers set against the chill March night. Before it stood the banner of the Grimslade, a rayed sun on blue silk and also Grimbold’s clan battle standard of a black boar on red silk, the legendary boar hunted by Eorl in the dawn of Rohan’s history. Tiarna seemed a mild-mannered lad to bear such a fiery standard. He was tall and thin with long straight fair hair, a slow, languid manner and a frank, direct gaze. He was easy-going and quick to laugh but a hardy warrior who had won renown among the greatest champions of the Riddermark.

Now he lifted the flap of his father’s tent for the others to enter and after filling three horn cups with ale he flung himself down on the bearskins, stretched out his long legs in front of him and settled himself to listen to the story of Líofa and Callanach.

The sky was beginning to pale with dawn when Líofa, last to tell his story, fell silent. Tiarna sat with his forgotten ale cup in his hand, his face fixed in an expression of amazement and disbelief. Starting as if out of a dream, he raised the cup and took a long draught of the ale, then set it down and said to Líofa and Callanach in a low voice that shook slightly;

‘This is the story of the Harpist and the Ranger, then. One of you is the only Elf in Middle Earth who will taste death as we men taste death, and you, Callanach, are the only man who has already died and returned, by the power of the great Queen Galadriel. Perhaps you are both chosen by the fates for great deeds, for your path has led you beyond your peoples….and yet such friends you are that not even death can separate you!’

Callanach smiled, and Líofa nodded. On impulse Tiarna got to his feet and drew his sword. The blade rang and the steel glinted in the red light of the dying brazier.
‘You have both travelled a long way from your homelands in the North to fight for Gondor and for my people. If it is your will, let us here swear to all be friends, a fellowship of three, Arnor, Rohan and the Woodland Realm!’

Callanach’s face brightened in an astonished smile and he looked at the Elf. Líofa got swiftly to his feet and said;
‘Gladly will I swear, we will ride to war as friends and brothers….’

And before the two men could make any movement, Líofa placed his long slender harpist’s fingers on the blade. Callanach put his sword-calloused right hand over them and Tiarna laid his battle-scarred left hand on top.
‘To the very walls of Minas Tirith!’ said Tiarna.
‘To the gates of death, and beyond..’ said Callanach in a sombre voice.

And finally Líofa the Elf said;
‘To love and serve each other as friends from this day forth unto the ending of the world….’