DISCLAIMER: Most of the characters and places in this story are the property of JRR Tolkien and his estate.
Shadowy figures appeared in the depth of the smooth, stone orb.
“The Elven City shall be next,” whispered a cruel and ancient voice.
“But what of the mighty Lord who dwells there?” asked a second voice, deep and gravelly but no less ancient.
“The Palantír shows that he will be leaving his dwelling on the eve of the next full moon. There will be none powerful enough to resist an attack.”
“So, we will strike the heart of Elvendom on Middle Earth,” said the second voice with awe.
“And why should we not? We are more powerful than the Eldar and their numbers are dwindling. There is little they can do to stop us. We must give the orders for an attack and send word that as many as possible are to be taken alive. I shall accept no more failures from the Easterling Captain.”
The moon shone delicately through the leaves of the mellyrn of Lothlorien. Náriel walked barefoot through the glade of niphredil and elanor, the hem of her dark blue gown trailing along the grass. She held a small red flower in her hand and softly sang a song to Elbereth. Suddenly, she felt arms encircling her waist from behind. She smiled as a well known and much loved voice whispered into her ear.
“I thought I had strayed backwards through time, melamin.”
She turned around to face her beloved; Haldir, Captain of the Galadhrim. She kissed him gently and pushed his fair hair back from his face while he traced the outline of the red stone she wore at her throat. “I shall always remember the night I first beheld you, Carnimirië,” he said. “You stood in this very clearing and captured my heart with your song.” She laughed and he pulled her closer, so that her head rested on his chest. “My Lady Lalaith,” he murmured into her ear. From the sound of his voice she could tell that he was smiling at the same happy memories that filled her mind. She pulled out of his embrace and looked into his eyes, which danced with the light of the stars above. Her heart swelled with emotion.
“Haldir, a’maelamin,” she began before suddenly breaking off. The sound of horns rang out shrilly from Caras Galadhon and Náriel could hear voices crying out in fear and pain. They stood still for a moment, shocked by the abrupt intrusion.
“What evil is this?” muttered Haldir, as he drew his sword. He kissed the top of Náriel’s head, before turning towards the source of the commotion. Impulsively Náriel caught hold of his arm. “Do not go! I fear that some hurt might befall you.” The shadow of a vision had crossed her mind and doubt had struck her heart. Haldir gently disengaged himself and clasped her hand briefly. “My love, I must go, as well you know. In Lord Celeborn’s absence, I must protect the Galadhrim. Fear not, Náriel vanimelda , I shall return. Now, keep yourself hidden. I would be much happier to know that you are safe.”
Náriel watched him leave the clearing, longing to cry out with all her heart and soul. As she stood there, a number of Elven maidens ran past, wide-eyed with fear.
“What is happening?” she demanded. One of them stopped long enough to reply, “Men! There are Men in Caras Galadhon! They bring swords and searing pain!”
Náriel saw that the Elf maiden’s clothes were torn and her lip was bleeding. She spoke urgently. “Then flee! Cross the Silverlode and then draw the rope-bridge. You should be safe on the other side!” The maiden looked at her with bemusement. “Are you not coming, My Lady?”
“No, I cannot! I must find Haldir!” Nariel started to follow Haldir’s path, first at walking pace and then at a run. She drew her own sword and came into Caras Galadhon. What she saw made her blood run cold. Many Elves lay injured on the ground and Easterling men swarmed around. The clashing of iron on iron, as the Elves defended their home with their swords, rang in Nariel’s ears. Multitudes of arrows flew through the air, and many Easterlings fell down dead yet more and more appeared, overrunning Caras Galadhon. Náriel herself slew one large Man with a deft sword stroke, grimacing at the act. She looked around, desperate to find Haldir. At last she glimpsed him, furiously battling a tall and heavily-built foe. Haldir had the greater sword skills but the Easterling had him beaten in sheer brute strength. Náriel tried to fight her way towards him but received a nasty blow to the cheek. Too many people, involved in their own skirmishes barred her way. She cried out when she saw Haldir stumble to his knees, his fair head dropping out of sight.
“Haldir!” He wearily looked up at the sound of his name and struggled to his feet. He drove his sword deep into the Easterling’s stomach but as he was pulling his sword out, a second attacker came from behind and struck him in the back of the head, with the hilt of a cruel curved sword. Haldir fell senseless to the ground.
“No!” screamed Náriel as the Easterling lifted Haldir up, clutching him under the arms, and dragged him away. The last thing she remembered was seeing Haldir slumped in the arms of his attacker, a thin trickle of blood seeping from his hairline. Then everything went black.
Sometime later, perhaps hours, perhaps days, Náriel came to. She was lying on a talan, covered with blankets. She could hear the faint noise of flowing water from far below. She struggled to sit upright but a cool hand pressed on her forehead gently pushing her down. Her handmaiden, Morcotulce, knelt at her side. Rúmil and Orophin, Haldir’s brothers stood at the edge of the talan, looking down at the ruins of Caras Galdhon.
“Do not rush to stand up, my Lady. You are still weak.”
“Morcotulce? What has happened? Where is Haldir?” A tear trickled down Náriel’s face. She winced as it stung an unhealed cut on her cheek. The handmaiden’s face was sorrowful and she took Náriel’s hand as she spoke.
“We do not know what has become of him, my Lady. He was taken by the Easterling hordes. So were many of our people. They bore off Berendil, Lorindol and Calandil, and many other great warriors. They slew Thôrorn at the foot of Lord Celeborn’s seat.”
Náriel closed her eyes. The pain that seared through her body almost caused her to black out again. She cast her thought eastwards, seeking Haldir’s presence, although the effort put her under great strain. A weak flicker of hope arose in her heart.
“He lives, Morcotulce. Haldir lives,” she whispered.
Morcotulce remained silent, unsure whether Náriel truly believed her own words or was just clinging to a faint hope. The Lady’s injuries were serious but she was recovering slowly; more slowly than would normally have been expected of an Elf as old and powerful as Náriel. Morcotulce suspected that Náriel bore a great burden of grief which impeded the healing process.
She had seen Náriel fall during the battle. An Easterling with a scarred face and a twisted sneer had punched her in the side of the head. He had leered menacingly and pulled her up by the hair, his large hands hidden in Náriel black mane of hair. Morcotulce had watched his actions with horror from a talan high above the ground. She grabbed a bow from one of the Lothlorien guards, much to his surprise, and rapidly fitted an arrow to the string. She barely paused to take aim before loosing the arrow which flew straight into the Easterling’s neck. He released his hold on Náriel and collapsed to the ground on top of her. Morcotulce screamed out to Rúmil, who fought nearby, to pull Náriel out of the fray. He ran forward and kicked the Easterling aside before carefully picking Náriel up off the ground. He slung her over his left shoulder while still fighting off opponents, wielding his sword in his right hand. Morcotulce helped him to pull the injured Lady onto the talan. She had tended her for two nights, never leaving her side. There had been a great deal of concern among the Elves of Lothlorien during that time. A heavy gloom settled in Lothlorien, and the news of Náriel’s illness hung over them like a pall. She was much loved in Lorien, being a kinswoman of the Lady Galadriel, who had departed Middle Earth a few years previously. The tidings of her recovery would be welcome among the Elves, who had suffered many losses, through injury, death and the abduction of their friends and family.
After a few moments of quiet breathing, Náriel struggled upright. “No, do not stop me, Morcotulce. I must see what has befallen our land. She limped over to Rúmil and Orophin and peered over the edge. The bodies of the Elves and Easterlings had been removed; the Elves to graves and the Easterlings to a pyre built beyond the bounds of Lorien, but the ground was still black with blood. Náriel shuddered and hid her eyes, clinging on to Rúmil for support.
“Lord Celeborn must be informed,” she said.
“But he is on his way to Minas Tirith, my Lady. It will be at least two moons before he returns.”
“Then the message must be brought to him,” Náriel said decisively.
“Who would you trust with such a task?” asked Orophin. “There are few who are willing to stray outside Lothlorien despite the tragedy that has occurred in our own land.”
“I will go.”
The three other Elves looked at Náriel with astonishment. “My Lady, you are far too weak to attempt such a journey” cried Morcotulce.
“That is for me to decide, though I thank you for your concern, my friend,” responded Náriel, “but I am quite insistent. I shall travel to Minas Tirith. These tidings must be related to the other rulers of Middle Earth, for fear that they might face a similar attack and be ill-prepared.”
“I offer myself to you as a travelling companion,” said Rúmil. “I will take it on myself to protect you until the return of my brother.”
Náriel smiled sadly, “My thanks, dear brother. I accept your offer wholeheartedly.”
“You shall not leave Lothlorien without me at your side, my Lady,” said Morcotulce emphatically. “I too will accompany you”
Náriel looked at her handmaiden and friend with wonder, for Morcotulce had never been beyond the borders of Lothlorien. She could not refuse such an offer so she took Morcotulce’s hand and said, “Your presence shall help me bear this burden.”
It was decided that Orophin would also travel with them, to protect and guide them, for he was the most widely travelled among them. Berendil, of the House of Galathil, was to remain in Lothlorien. He was related to Celeborn and was highly regarded among the Elves. He would see to the healing and purging of Lorien.
As twilight settled over the mellyrn, four shadowy figures departed Lorien on horseback, bound for Gondor, the realm of King Elessar.