Warning: Impending Battle scene, violence, death.
Disclaimer: Tolkien owns his characters and I use them with great respect and admiration for only the pleasure of seeing them continue in life and love.
Morning Has Broken
A short foray in the woods of Lorien
The wind rustled softly the faintly glowing leaves that surrounded him, the iridescent moonlight gleaming on the gilded foliage. Haldir bent his head, angling his ears to catch the faint sound that traveled on the wind. A whisper, barely heard, spoke to him and sent the tall March Warden to his feet in an instant. A brief flutter of gray cloak and the elf was gone, with only the rustling of leaves to mark his passing.
He leaped gracefully from branch to branch, progressively dropping lower through the canopy, his ears still attuned to the faint whisper on the wind. Time was tantamount, his steps unhurried, yet driven as he made his way through the forest through a path amid the trees. Bow lay strapped upon his back, and sword upon his hip as he lowered himself down past the last branch to drop lightly to the forest floor. A keen whistle echoed through the wood, returned in like kind in the distance.
Time pressed on, and the warden ran, leaping the obstacles that would have foundered those not graced with the night vision of the elves, his steps sure upon ground well remembered. Ground that would soon become a battleground. The March Warden pressed on, his silver hair fluttering past high cheekbones, gray eyes of steel intent upon his path, lips held in a tight line of displeasure. Long legs ate the distance, his steps soon followed by others of his kind, their goal a border that was soon to be threatened.
Before him a stream sparkled in the moonlight, its melodic course through the wood unhindered by rock or branch, its song a soft murmur as he hurtled over the wide expanse. Another leaped and yet another, their footfalls as they landed leaving no mark. Silent they ran, shadows of gray passing through the trees, wisps of silver and gold.
The forest thinned, the Mallorns grew smaller, mingling with pine and oak, yet still holding rein in grace and beauty. The wind grew brisk, finding its way unchecked by leaf and tree, bringing with it the smell of danger and hate.
The elves drew up, slipping in amid the shadows, climbing into the trees that would bear their weight, while others melted into the blackness of trunk and bush. Haldir slowed, then stopped, flipping aside his cloak to rest a hand on his sword. His glance searched the wood around him, his keen eye missing nothing, the faint signal from his fingers moving warriors into precise lines of battle.
The enemy would find their entry into the Golden Wood denied, as they did time and again. But it would not matter. The elves as they had always done would deter the creatures of shadow, defending a home that lay amid few left of elven realms, defending a wood held hostage by time.
Haldir felt a hand touch his shoulder, the presence reassuring, known before the gesture. One brother near, the other soon to arrive, the three would be once again a force to reckon. A glance over his shoulder, met with a blue-eyed gaze and a determined lift of chin.
“How many do you guess?”
“Does it matter?”
Orophin’s lips curved slightly. “Only so I know how many I need to mark to keep abreast of my brother.” The younger elf grinned faintly, his eyes gleaming with the light of the moon. “Rumil will be hard-pressed to keep up this night, his arrows are new and untested.”
Haldir only cast his brother a raised brow. “A fletcher unrivaled among us. I have no doubt his arrows will fly true.”
Orophin shrugged elegantly thin shoulders, his strength hidden beneath the seemingly slight frame. “Indeed, but your arrows fly further than most, and my own delve deep into orc heart with glee. The number does not matter.”
“It matters only that they do not cross the boundary of wood, none will desecrate the soil of Lorien.”
Orophin’s hand pressed lightly on Haldir’s shoulder again. “Were it only you, brother, they would still as yet find no foothold on our sacred lands. You would tear them limb from limb, had all your arrows been spent and your blade broken. It is this determination that holds us together and motivates the wardens to prove they are as capable. No orcs will pass the night alive.”
Haldir’s nod was the only answer and the elf faded from sight, hidden quickly among the shadows. The wind fluttered the march warden’s cloak, flicking a strand of hair over his cheek to tickle his mouth and he reached up gently to tuck the offending strand behind a finely pointed ear. The smell grew stronger, greeting by a flare of nostrils and a brief flash of distaste upon the normally controlled expression.
Another touch upon his arm, a low-voiced greeting and then the second elf was gone, finding purchase above the March Warden in the boughs of the tree above him. Rumil’s smaller frame and lighter weight made the selection of foothold easier for him, his sharp sight and ears a welcome addition, assuring the captain waiting patiently below that the enemy would be seen and heard far before they saw their opponent. If they even would.
Lorien arrows, reputed the finest in the lands of Arda would decimate many before they drew within a hundred yards of the gray-barked Mallorns and Oak. Orc arrows could fly true and with deadly accuracy, but their range was half of the elvish missiles. An orc’s standard weapon of defense was leather armor and a rare shield, but even those devices could rarely withstand the piercing of slim mallorn-made arrows slung by bows six feet in length.
Haldir’s lips curved at one corner, a mocking gesture as the first of the creatures was heard, a gruff barking order for silence.
The elves shifted, bows drawn, arrows nocked in silent readiness.
The sound of booted feet, the dull jangle of metal armor and the heavy breathing most orcs could not control grew louder to the elven ears. The gleam of the moonlight on the gray steel armor glanced off like a bright pinpoints of light, giving the archers specific targets and arrows whispered from the trees to impale upon the startled orcs like rain falling from a spring storm.
Screams of pain and shouts of anger, fear flooded the wood, as more arrows twanged from long bows of the elven rangers. Hidden high above the orcs, nearly invisible in gray tunics and cloaks the elf advantage was well marked.
Orcs clambered for cover, shield useless at closer range, returning fire with arrows far heavier and thicker, their range nearly pointless as the targets were unseen. Death met those who curried favor with the Orc leader, finding rank a detriment as they were the first to go down.
Haldir drew another arrow from the quiver on his back, long fingers holding the thin shaft as he nocked it carefully, string drawn back effortlessly to his cheek. He held the pose as he found his target then relaxed his fingers, allowing the string to roll free, launching the long arrow swiftly into the air. An arcing path and the arrow struck true, impaling the hapless orc through leather chest armor, driving him back into the companions clustered around him. Another arrow, only seconds after the first, impaled him yet again and the creature was shoved aside as the others scrambled out of range.
The melee was over in seconds, the raid defeated before it began. Haldir shouldered his bow, frowning to know his sword had not left his hip. Too easy. There would be more. He whistled a note of warning, alerting elves of impending danger and then turned as the second wave of orcs swept out from the surrounding terrain, hidden as their companions dropped before them.
Arrows spent the elves now resorted to the long narrow elvish blades, born from years of practice and perfection, they met the black steel of the orcs with a clatter, strength driven by creatures of shadow to find their ease of defeat not so easily won. Battle raged as orcs and elves fought, their passions equal for love of land and hate of enemy.
Rumil swept out his sword, bow tossed aside as a creature intent upon him leaped forward, and the elf turned to his right, his blade whipping out forcing the creature to hurl aside to avoid the blade. The orc rolled to his feet instantly, sword leading as he lunged toward Rumil, only to find the slim elf rotating around the lunge to arrive behind the creature, his own sword finding its purchase in the orc’s back. A swift jerk and the orc fell to the ground but Rumil could only turn to deter the next attack.
Orophin ducked a blade whispering narrowly over his head, sword held in both hands as he whirled, using his weight and speed to fling his blade toward his opponent only to find it met with a clang as black steel met silver. Locked together for an instant, Orophin glared into red eyes of hate, and then stepped back, spinning his sword in one hand to backhand the parry of the other. Swords met yet again, clanging then separating with a hiss of fury as Orophin turned to the side, cloak flaring to distract. The orc, thinking the elf would spin brought his sword up a fraction too late, as instead Orophin reversed his stroke, slicing across the orc’s chest, through leather padding to decimate yet another enemy.
The moonlight waned, night drawing back as the last of Elbereth’s glitter faded from the oncoming glow of morning. Elves drew back, resistant to the advance of the enemy to the very edges of their forest, determination and stubborn defiance holding them in their stead. The orcs met the resolve and were broken, finding their intentions tattered, their numbers weak and few. Some thought to flee to fight another day, but their flight was soon grounded and the few left, desperate now in the face of defeat knew that their lives were over. The elves held no mercy for those who thought to despoil the land of the wood, and so they fought until the end, not in bravery but in despair, with hate their only motivation.
The morning rose, the sun’s rays slicing through a sky emblazoned red, shafts of gold gilding the yellow leaves of the Mallorn. Silent were the elves as they dragged the remains of their enemy far from the edges of the wood, to a pyre of black smoke and death.
Another day, another battle won, and Haldir drew alongside a sapling of oak, resting his hand against the rough bark. How many more, how much time would pass before they too would fade, gracing the lands of Arda no more. He sighed softly, his gray eyes welcoming the bright glare of morning. No matter, however many days would come, how many mornings broken by the shills keening cries of enemies to Lothlorien, he would be there to guide his wardens, defending tree and leaf against the shadow.