Starry Twilight – Chapter Six – Attack
I know I promised I would get these out faster, but I’m experiencing a rather busy school year. Again, I will do my best, but you will have to be patient with me. This story is going to change gears a little bit, but its always been in the plan, so I hope you still enjoy it.
A touch on Tinel’s shoulder jolted her awake. She reached for her knife, and opened her mouth to cry out for help, only to find her arm pinioned, and a strong hand stifling her cry. She opened her eyes to see Elrohir standing above her. He released her knife arm and motioned for silence. He then loosed her and indicated that she should follow him from the room. She slipped from the covers fully dressed, as had become her habit in recent days, expecting just such an event as was now occurring.
Elladan stood in the hallway, and also motioned for silence. Tinel would ordinarily have been indignant, but the current situation was enough to make her simply nod in response, her heart hammering painfully in her breast. She had been dreading this day for some time now, or so it seemed.
Swiftly and silently the three remaining residents of Imladris sped through the delicate archways, the Last Homely House seeming to echo with emptiness, as it had now for many years.
Celeborn had left nearly eighty years before, his longing for his Lady at last overcoming his love for Middle-earth. Tinel would not have recalled the time period, but Elladan, who did remember such things, had recently remarked on the eightieth birthday of Eldarion’s eldest son, who was born just before Celeborn had left.
Though she had missed him immediately, and quite dreadfully, Tinel was now glad that Celeborn had not stayed to see how the world had digressed in so short a time.
Her heart ached as they fled through the final arch, the same one through which the Ringbearer had entered so long ago. The same one through which the ringbearers had left Imladris behind forever. And now perhaps this was the final departure of the Elves from that place.
Rather than heading West, towards the Ford, the trio circled around to the North. Once they were amidst the trees near the waterfall, which would muffle their voices, Tinel asked, “Where are they now?”
“Directly above us,” Elrohir said, more than a hint of frustration coloring his tone.
“There is no longer any doubt they are marching on Rivendell,” Elladan concluded.
Tinel voiced the reason for Elrohir’s visible frustration, “And there’s nothing we can do.”
She looked back towards the valley. Tears stinging her eyes. When she had decided to stay rather than sail West, she had fully intended spending time hunting down Orcs, and they had. She had become quite adept at sighting them down the shaft of her arrows. But she had not intended that Orcs should march on what had become her home in full force, numbers which had not been imagined since the War of the Ring.
It had taken them a long time to realize that the Orcs were again gathering in the mountains. Indeed, it had taken much longer than it should have. Tinel pondered back to when she had discovered Elladan sitting in his father’s study, gazing pensively at the maps that still hung from the walls, marked here and there with the movements of the armies in the War of the Ring.
Elladan had disappeared the day before, but as that was not an unusual event, she had not worried. She had crept up behind him, and flung her arm s around his waist,(she couldn’t reach much higher) giving him a strong hug before releasing him. He did not start at all, telling her she had again not managed to surprise him.
“Where have you been all yesterday?” she asked cheerfully, circling to stand beside him, looking up into his grey eyes. She was taken aback by the combination of emotions she saw there: anger, confusion, grief, and even a hint of fear.
“They are gathering again,” he said woodenly, pointing at the High Pass of the Misty Mountains. “One thousand of them, and coming this way.”
Tinel was confused, “What do you mean? Who is gathering?” she asked, feeling stupid.
“Orcs.” He turned finally and looked down at her. “A robin came to me while I was walking in the canyon. It warned me not to continue.”
“Well,” Tinel said slowly, “One thousand is not so many. It was kind of the robin to warn you, for you would not have wished to walk into their midst alone, but I don’t understand . . .”
“Three against one thousand is no better than one against one thousand,” Elladan cut her off.
“Three . . .” Tinel repeated, feeling remarkably stupid for her lack of understanding, “Surely they would not dare to come here!”
He smiled at her incredulity, though he swiftly grew grim again, “Ah, Shining Star, if only it could again be true. If there are enough Orcs above ground for the robin to estimate one-thousand, there are many times that many still within their caverns.”
Tinel paled as she finally understood the fear in his eyes, and Elladan turned and strode again to the window, looking out on the mountains.
“What I cannot understand is how they became so numerous again without our having even an inkling of their activities. Can we have become so complacent?” he ground out at last.
“We thought there was no chance of their increasing again since Sauron was destroyed. With no guidance they ordinarily slaughter themselves, and their numbers have no chance to increase.” Tinel instinctively comforted him.
Elladan whirled on her, his eyes narrowed in concentration. He spoke slowly, as though continuing her though, “And with larger numbers their fighting should have quickly come to our notice . . . Twilight, I think you have hit upon a clue, may Eru help us all.”
Horror filled Tinel, followed swiftly by a heavy dose of fear. Someone was again leading the Orcs. But with Sauron gone, who could it be?
Now, a week later, though it felt more like a year, they were no closer to an answer, but much closer to losing Rivendell, perhaps forever.
It had been a difficult decision, Elrohir was still not resigned to it, wishing to stand and fight for his home. Tinel did not like running, but neither did she wish to die, and there was no chance of their doing anything else if they remained.
The immediate question was what they were going to do now. It went sorely against the grain to leave now for the Grey Havens, fleeing at the first hint of trouble, when they had remained for so long.
But could they stay in Middle Earth once the Orcs had despoiled their home? For that was the way of Orcs when they were confronted with anything of beauty, and they did not have the numbers, nor the time to recruit numbers, to stop them.
Tinel felt like weeping when she thought of the things which had become so dear to her, the gardens, the sculptures, the graceful archways.
Her musings were interrupted by their arrival at the waterfall. They had deemed this the safest place to move while they decided what course to next pursue. They had removed everything they could, including Elrond’s maps, as well as a good supply of food.
Elladan led the way behind the waterfall. Just before she moved to follow Tinel heard the first battle horn of the Orcs, swiftly followed by the roars of a thousand Orc throats. Elrohir, who was just behind her, whirled about, his eyes aglow with fury. Tinel laid her hand on his arm frantically, terrified that he meant to return to the valley, despite the hopelessness if he did. He stiffened at her touch, as though he would jerk out of her reach, but he then whirled and strode into the cave. Tinel cast one last glance down into the valley, then she followed.
Elrohir flopped into one of the chairs they had brought, watching sullenly as Elladan skillfully lit a fire. Tinel moved another chair close to him, and laid her hand upon his arm comfortingly. Almost immediately he captured her hand with his, and clasped it tightly, though he continued to stair into the now crackling fire.
Elladan did not move from where he sat by the fire, and for the time being, no one spoke.
Elladan’s mind was a whirl, and what disturbed him most was that it was not the attacking orcs which most occupied his thoughts, but rather than two people that sat across from him, their hands interlocked. The sight filled him with an odd ache in the region of his chest, despite the fact that he had seen them holding hands many times before. Indeed, Tinel had held his own hand on more than one occasion, and each time he had wanted to never let her go.
He could not tell when it had happened, for he had sworn to let Elrohir have her, but inexorably, like the Call of the Sea, she had called his heart to her. His lips twisted into a grimace at the irony, for she did not even realize it. Nor did Elrohir, or so Elladan hoped. For Elladan was determined that he would not stand in their way.
If not for his promise to his brother, Elladan would have departed for Valinor with Lord Celeborn. Indeed, as Tinel wished to remain in Middle Earth, Elrohir would have had company, and leaving would have eased the pain Elladan felt at being around her without being able to express his feelings. But when he mentioned the idea to Elrohir, his twin had protested angrily, reminding Elladan of his promise.
So Elladan resigned himself again to remaining, fighting against the Call of the Sea, and trying to build a wall between himself and Tinel, a task which became increasingly impossible. She did not allow distance to form between herself and those she considered her friends, seeking them out, and asking what was wrong at the slightest hint of standoffishness, and since he could no more hurt her than he could cease to breath, his love for her continued to grow.
He dragged his gaze from the painful scene before him, and stared determinedly into the fire, focusing his attention on the beat of the marching drums of the Orcs.
Elrohir gripped Tinel’s hand tightly, clinging to her as though to his sanity, fighting to keep control. It was difficult when his every instinct drove him to return to the valley, to fight for his home with all his might, though he perish in the attempt. It was only the pleading in Tinel’s eyes that prevented him, and the knowledge that if he went, she would follow. That he could not permit to happen. He could sacrifice his own life, but he could not allow Tinel’s light to be extinguished, even with the assurance of eventual release from Mandos’s Hall.
The thud of the Orcs’ marching drums had insinuated itself into the rhythms of his body. If not for the tension of waiting for the moment the Orcs would arrive in Rivendell, Elrohir might easily have blocked them out by now. But as it was, they grew ominously louder as they drew nearer, echoing in his mind, and seeming to alter the rhythm of his own heart to match their insistent pace.
The horns gave a final blast, and the pounding stopped. The harsh voices of a thousand orc throats roared into the night, calling their challenge to the valley. Then for a long moment silence echoed in the chilly air, before a single commanding voice cracked through the atmosphere, and the Elves heard the rushing charge as the orcs attacked the empty valley. There were a few crashes as the orcs overturned tales and statuary in an attempt to find something to kill. With each crash Elrohir tensed, wondering what beloved item was being destroyed: his bed? . . . the desk in his father’s study? . . . his mother’s favorite statue? . . . Arwen’s bookcase?
It took an agonizingly long time for the orcs to realize there was no one there. However, the Elves could tell the moment it happened. The crashes grew progressively fewer, as did the taunting roars of the orcs. Then there was a moment of near silence before all Angband broke loose. The orcs howled in frustrated fury, glass shattered, wood splintered, and stone crashed to the ground.
At last they must have run out of things to destroy, for the sounds of destruction lowered to the crackling roar of a large fire. No doubt they are burning the gardens, Elrohir thought bitterly.
At this time the sky was lightening, and the command was given for the orcs to retreat. Their march was much less rhythmic now there was no one to intimidate, and was punctuated periodically by a small crash.