This chapter contains graphic violence and indications of character rape.
Nimrodel stood with her back to Amroth’s messenger. “The ship my lord has ordered built is ready, you say?” she murmured.
“Yes, my Lady,” he said respectfully. “I am to be one of those who accompanies you south to Edhellond, and will serve as primary guide to the party.” When she did not reply he assayed, “Unless, of course, you do not wish to leave Middle Earth after all, Lady Nimrodel?”
“Do I have a choice in the matter?” she muttered to herself. She shook her head and turned to face the Elf. “No, Galadorn,” she told him, “I do not wish to remain separated from the one I love, and will not seek to tarry here in Middle Earth when he would prefer to take the Straight Path to Elvenhome if it be open to him. I do not believe that this will prove the best time to take the road south, however. Since the defeat of Angmar, many of the evil creatures that were driven out of Eriador roam the valley of the Anduin and the mountains south of Khazad-dûm, as well as the Great Road through Calenhardorn and Anórien. I cannot see any safe path to the Havens where my beloved awaits me.”
“There are a number of roads open to us, although in this case the Great Road might prove the best. There have always been more patrols from Arnor guarding the road south from Bree to the gap west of Orthanc, and thus fewer fell creatures that will assault travelers that take that way. You are correct about the dangers of seeking to follow the river, of course. Orcs from Dol Guldur have been seen on both banks of the Anduin, and Haldir tells me the Wardens have repulsed at least four assaults on the borders of our land in the past sun-round alone. It is said that the people of the Éothéod are considering going further north toward the headwaters of the river to escape their depredations and to protect their horse herds.”
“But how many patrols has Aranarth been able to field since the fall of Arnor?” she asked.
That question gave the Elf pause. He finally admitted, “I do not doubt they are far fewer than one saw in times past. But, as you say, at this time all roads are beset. We will do our best to seek the one that offers the least threat.”
She nodded. “I am certain that this is your intent. I must make ready, then. Will you send to summon the Lady Galadriel from Caras Galadhon, then? The sooner I speak with her, the sooner we will face what dangers the road chosen will present to us.”
“I surrender the rule of this land to Celeborn and to you,” Nimrodel told Galadriel. “My beloved summons me southward to join him, that we might sail West together.”
Galadriel’s face was white. “And if that is indeed how you in truth come to the West…” she began.
Nimrodel’s expression was filled with a strange peace as she reached out to toy with a lock of her friend’s hair that seemed somehow to marry mithril and gold together. “One does not require a ship to reach the West, you will remember. One way or the other we will come where we might look upon the faces of the Valar. Do not grieve for us—Amroth and I will come there together, that I vow.” She looked deeply into the far-seeing eyes of Galadriel Artanis. “I cannot and will not allow them to take me—they will wish to do so, and to make of me the greatest of horrors to inflict upon the rest of the world. They will find that although I am no warrior maiden, still I will fight their will as I can, and I will do so effectively.
“Keep well this land and its people until the power you wield is finally shorn, and regret it not when that day comes. Then come and join us, and you can regale us with the tales of your deeds and exploits.”
With that Nimrodel kissed the forehead of the new Lady of the Galadhrim and took her leave, followed by those who had chosen to accompany her.
There was an ambush laid for them upon the Stair, but Nimrodel’s party fought it successfully, unexpectedly aided in the end by a number of Dwarves who fell upon the mixed troop of Men, orcs, and two trolls from behind, driving them over the edge of the defile to fall into the far valley below.
“You leave this land?” asked the leader of this group, the grandson of the King of Khazad-dûm. “Do not do so, my Lady,” he said, bowing low in honor to her. “I do not have a good feeling about your proposed journey. And it appears that the Enemy seeks to take possession of you.”
“He has shown that this is his desire,” she agreed. “But I swear to you that he will not have me in the end.”
“We will see to her safety,” the captain of her guard announced stiffly.
She gave the warrior a pitying look before returning her attention to the Dwarf. “Do not worry for me. I swear again that the Enemy shall not turn me from what I am to what he would have me be. And I shall indeed come to the West with my beloved lord. Blessings be upon you for your desire to aid me, grandson of Durin.”
He flushed as she bent to kiss his forehead in blessing, and watched in hopeless confusion as she and her guards and those who traveled with them turned to continue their journey. As the last of the party of the Eldar passed him, an Elven maiden with hair dark as ebony paused and pressed into his hands a small box. “My lady would have you take these, in remembrance of the former Queen of the Galadhrim,” she murmured. She smiled upon him and turned to follow the others, a single guard left now to follow after her. The Elves melted into the pass above and were not seen again in those lands.
When the Dwarf later opened the box in the privacy of his own chambers he found it to contain six great opals, stones of craft rather than natural in origin, filled with a fire he could not help but marvel at. “An heirloom of my house these will be,” he vowed to himself. The first of the stones he set in the comb he crafted for the woman he loved, the one he had chosen to be the mother of their children. The others he set by for those he might sire by her.
Gandalf came south from Arnor accompanying Celeborn as he and his warriors returned from the war against Angmar, followed by a stay in the valley of Imladris where he visited with his daughter and her family, and his men recovered from the final battle against the Witch-king.
“It will be good to return to the side of my beloved,” Celeborn admitted as they turned toward the pass of the Redhorn Gate. “What Galadriel has seen from afar I am uncertain, although it is most likely most of what happened. But she and our Lady Nimrodel will be pleased to hear the reports I bring of what was experienced upon the ground, I know. If only Amroth were here to receive the news directly.”
“Then he still lingers in Edhellond?” asked the Wizard.
“Yea, even so,” Celeborn answered. “He has indicated he will not remain longer in Middle Earth once the ship he has been building for so long is finished. I doubt not that the folk from Edhellond and those who have dwelt near him about the hill of Cerin Amroth will for the most part accompany him, as will most of those who live about Nimrodel’s retreat toward the mountains. Not that I look forward to that day.”
Gandalf nodded his understanding.
As they passed through Hollin and approached the western doors of Khazad-dûm, however, they were met by a mixed patrol of both Elves from Lothlórien and Dwarves from beneath the mountains. These reported that at least three mixed troops of foreign Men, orcs, and trolls had been caught climbing the pass and menacing those on the Dimrill Stair, and that one of these groups had assaulted the party in which Nimrodel traveled south in answer to Amroth’s call to join him.
“She did not wait for my return from Arnor?” demanded Celeborn, his face gone pale at the thought of the Lady of the Galadhrim under attack by such enemies.
“No, my Lord Celeborn,” responded the border warden Haldir. “When word came to us from the son of the Dwarf King that those who had climbed the Stair had been assaulted, we hurried to search for other enemies, and some of us came over the pass into Hollin, where we have found tracks of their passage northward along the feet of the mountains. Now it appears one group has turned southward again, following the path taken by our Lady Nimrodel and those with her. But other enemies hover near—we can sense them, even if we have not yet seen them or found out their hiding places.”
“I suspect that some are massing on the eastern slopes of Zirik-zigal,” grunted the leader of the Dwarves. “The mountain groans at their presence.”
In the end Gandalf went southward with a company of seven Elven warriors, hoping to come even with those enemies who followed Nimrodel’s party before they could in turn catch up with their prey.
For seven days they followed the trail, seeing nothing of orcs, Men, trolls, or wargs. Now and then dark birds could be glimpsed far to the south of their position, once circling ominously over a particular spot; but when those with Gandalf finally approached the area they found only hints that perhaps orcs might have camped there in the shadow of a thick stand of scrub and a rocky outcrop. It took some searching to find that a boar had been caught by the orcs and had been eaten largely raw. A single large crow stood over the small amount of flesh still clinging to the head of the carcass, flapping its wings at them to protect its prize. At no time did they find any signs of the Elven party the orcs were pursuing, for which the Wizard was glad.
On the eighth day they entered the northern reaches of Fangorn Forest, and Gandalf felt a dark shadow of disapproval toward some presence that had recently passed through it. For three days they carefully picked their way amongst the trees, which appeared to watch after them with a level of concerned tolerance and even a degree of impatience, as if it was wondered why they hadn’t been swifter to come this way. Late in the night of their third day within Fangorn they felt a terrible anger suddenly loosed ahead of them. Toward morning, as the sky greyed in the false dawn, they noted movement ahead of them, and recognized it as the arrival of one of the Onodrim at some point in their path. The Ent bowed low over formless shapes upon the ground, speaking in a low, reassuring rumble to the trees about him. It straightened to watch their approach, its gaze keen. “Do you know why these were abroad within our forest?” it asked them, pointing to the flattened corpses of two wargs and three orcs, an axe with a shattered haft lying near the hand of one of the latter.
“We have been pursuing them,” the leader of the Elves told him. “In their turn, they followed after our Lady Nimrodel as she traveled southward to join our Lord Amroth, for it is told to us that he sent to call her to join him at Edhellond where at long last the ship intended to carry the both of them and many of our people who would leave Middle Earth at this time lies ready for that voyage.”
The Ent raised its great head and stared uneasily southward. “Hoom. A party of your people passed through our woods some days ago, going with great swiftness. Our trees and the huorns grieved that they would not tarry among us, but did all they could to see their way clear before them.” He returned his attention to the bodies of the slain creatures at its feet. “This group entered five and a half days ago. Most went swiftly enough and gave our trees but little attention, but these lingered behind, quarreling amongst themselves, intent it seems on turning from their fellows and perhaps striking out on their own. Complaining of the cold, they thought last night to make themselves a fire, and the huorn they attacked took—exception—to their attentions to it.” It gave a ponderous shake of disapproval. “Their fellows were more careful, and have cleared our borders as of this time. They will undoubtedly move the more swiftly now that they have reached the clearer ways beyond the eaves of our land, although they will most likely seek to take shelter from the Sun soon.”
Gandalf nodded his agreement. “Orcs do not like sunlight, after all. At least there are this many the fewer to possibly attack the lady’s company.”
The Ent met the Wizard’s eyes. “That is true, Mithrandir. And it is to be hoped they fail to catch up with their quarry, for they do evil things to those of Elf-kind they capture.” He straightened. “I shall have the huorns of this portion of the forest dispose of this carrion that it not foul our land. And I wish you good hunting of your own!” He indicated the best route for the hunting party to follow, and turned his attention back to the trees about him, reverting to the rolling tones of Entish to direct the huorns in their task as the Elves and Gandalf sped away.
They found where the orcs were sheltering late in the afternoon, and slew all in the party—twelve goblins from the depths of the Misty Mountains, five Uruks apparently from Dol Guldur, and three orcs of a sort seen on occasion in the White Mountains, along with four wargs and seven Men who appeared to be from Rhudaur.
“A troubling confederacy,” commented the captain of the Elves to Gandalf as four of his fellows saw to the burning of the bodies.
One of the others, who’d been scouting the route it appeared Nimrodel’s company had followed, returned. “There are signs that three Men left this group some hours ago, and were met by four mounted Men a half mile to the west of here,” he reported. “Two of those who went out returned here, while one joined the mounted Men, riding double behind one of the others as they headed south and west at speed. The signs indicate these riders are allies, and it is likely they are heading for wherever the others are camped to carry word of the movements of the Lady’s company.”
His fellow returned even as the first scout finished his report. “I have found which route our people take. They head toward the defile that leads to the entrance to the Keep of the Oath-breakers. There are several passes our Lord Amroth has taken at different times, and there are three such routes over the Ered Nimrais that lead from that valley, as well as two not far east of it.”
“They would not follow the Great Road through Anórien and south past Minas Tirith?” the Wizard asked. Once they’d indicated this would not be done, he asked further, “Do you know which route would be preferred by whoever was sent to guide the Lady to Edhellond?”
“Galadorn has always preferred the central pass from the defile as it is the lowest of the three there. And as he guides several ellith I suspect he will wish to take them by the route where there is the least climbing.”
“Which of the passes they might take is most open and the easiest to detect enemies lying in wait?”
“The most open is actually fairly far to our east, near Firien. It leads into the valley of the River Ciril, as the Men of Gondor name it. But the route to it leads along the feet of the Ered Nimrais, and there are many places where enemies might set up an ambush amongst the lower mounts and hills and outcrops of stone ere they come to the pass itself.”
“So, the sooner they come to whatever pass is chosen, the less chance they will be set upon?” Gandalf probed.
“So it is to be hoped.”
The Wizard sighed. “Lead on, then.”
The mouth to the vale was narrow, and Nimrodel, standing by the side of her guide, shook her head as she surveyed it. “And there is no better road than this, Galadorn?” she asked. “It would seem that more of the Dark One’s slaves and allies might have secreted themselves anywhere along the way, and so might seek to fall upon us at any point.”
“My beloved Lady, what else might we do? No matter which route we choose there are places where orcs and other enemies might hide themselves! No road is safe.”
She sighed. Mithrellas, long one of her handmaidens as well as a confidant whose wisdom she respected, leaned forward. “Perhaps we would do best to turn back. We have seen signs of yrch, wargs, and evil Men all along the way, and have been beset twice already. I sense that we are most closely followed by our own people.”
Nimrodel looked southward beyond the mountains, and then west. “The season of storms is nearly upon us. Already it grows dangerous to set sail upon the Sea. If we do not come soon unto Edhellond I fear we shall not be able to depart for several months, not until the spring comes again.”
“I am not comfortable with this journey,” said Mithrellas’s brother, one of those who had intended to follow his chosen Lord and Lady to Aman. “The Men of Arnor have won a great victory against the creatures of darkness, aided as they were by the forces sent by Gondor and those of our people sent from Imladris and our own land. Yet, in spite of the fact that the Enemy’s slaves must have been much depleted still we have seen so many of the orc-kind coming after us from all directions. This ought to be a time when it is fairly safe to traverse the road southward. Why are so many apparently set in our path?”
Nimrodel shook her lovely head. “You know how they say it was that orcs were first created, when the Dark Hunter took as many of our people as he could and tortured and corrupted them until they lost their Light and must hate what they once were. Do you not think that the Necromancer seeks to emulate those who preceded them? And the greater the power in those captives he is able to take, the more implacable he believes the resulting orcs will be. Or perhaps he feels he would be able to harvest a greater amount of power for himself should he manage to take and slay us in whatever way it is he strengthens himself through the deaths of his victims.”
Mithrellas paled. “Then he will wish you taken of all of us, Mistress,” she murmured. “For you have been the Lady of Laurelindórenan, and are rich in fëa.”
Nimrodel’s laugh held little humor. “Indeed. Can you see me amongst his Uruks, do you think?” She again shook her head, her expression growing fixed. “Nay, I will seek above all to come to Amroth’s side and sail with him as he intends, if it can be done. But I will not allow the Enemy to take me—of that you can be certain. I will not lose myself as he would intend. Nor do I advise any of you to allow yourselves to be made prisoners.”
The warriors loosened their swords in their sheaths and saw their bows strung, while those ellith who carried weapons made certain that they could draw their blades easily, their faces pale but as determined as was their Lady. At last, at Nimrodel’s nod, Galadorn drew a deep breath, and led the way into the valley. “We will take the second pass to the left,” he said to those who served as scouts. “Go forward and see to it that our way is clear.”
Quietly the scouts indicated their understanding and melted into the rocks.
“Two bands of orcs have shadowed them,” one of the scouts reported to Gandalf and the captain. “You saw two leagues past how one such band was slain by the warriors who accompany our Lady. But the other has scattered into the folds of the land, now that they are within the vale leading to the Keep of the Oath-breakers. Yea, they flee before us, but I fear they will seek to take as many as they can from the Lady’s company.”
Gandalf sighed. “Such a fear is in my heart as well,” he murmured. “But she has assured me that she will not allow herself to be taken by the servants of the Necromancer. She has no wish to strengthen him through the tortuous death he would offer her.”
“If,” the captain said, “it is merely her sacrifice to himself he wishes.”
Gandalf raised his chin, his forehead wrinkled in grief. “Yes, there is that,” he admitted. “He might well wish to turn her to his own service, if it can be done.” He shook himself. “We are close behind them now. Let us hurry forward to offer them what aid we can.”
All prepared themselves, and at a nod from their captain they began to run down the valley, heading for the entrance to the second pass.
But within an hour a thick fog obscured the path before them, and they were forced to go more slowly that they not miss the right path and perhaps end up in a blind canyon rather than following the lowest pass. It was one of the younger warriors who gave warning of the ambush, but all were ready. The battle was short but intense. Twelve orcs lay in wait for them, and all of the creatures were dead within minutes.
As he stood panting slightly, looking down on the last orc he’d killed, Gandalf commented, “It appears that we are upon the right path—and that these were warned that a second party followed the first.”
“So it would seem, Mithrandir,” agreed their captain. “Let us hope that the party closer to the Lady is as small as this, and that the fog hampers them as well as it does us.”
“But orcs have a keener sense of smell than do we,” one of the scouts pointed out. “They might have difficulty seeing our peoplein the fog, much less hearing our footfalls, but they will have little difficulty following their scent.”
They shared concerned looks, and again turned to the task of finding the proper path amongst the riven rocks of the pass, a task made even more difficult as dusk fell, further obscuring their vision.
They’d traveled less than a few rods, however, before they heard the sudden clash of weapons from somewhere above them and to the right, and bellows of outrage made by an orc. “The Lady’s company is under attack!” announced the captain. “Let us go to their aid!”
But they apparently went too quickly, and one of the scouts gave a cry of dismay as he found that the path they now followed disappeared over a steep cliff even as his toe found no earth or stone under it. “We took the wrong turn!” he cried as one of his fellows grasped at his arm to keep him from overbalancing and falling.
It took some time to come to the site where the orcs of the White Mountain had begun their assault on Nimrodel’s party. The bodies of two orcs and one Elven warrior lay across the path. Not much further on they found the body of an elleth, one arm severed from her trunk, and nearby an orc who lay even now dying of a gut wound, a narrow poniard flung upon the ground nearby a shapely hand that lay far from its former body. “Dúngilien,” murmured one of the warriors, his tone filled with grief. “She used the knife I gave her….”
Gandalf leaned over the orc and gave it the mercy stroke, then hurried after the Elves as they sought to come even with the rest of the combatants.
A cluster of five warriors was found next, and then two maidens who again had obviously fought for their lives, six orcs lying near the two ellith and sixteen about the ellyn. They found seven orcs scattered over the next bit of the path, each of them bearing at least one arrow, and heard a terrible cursing from behind a wall of rock and low brush. There they found a single orc, an arrow transfixing its knee, barely risen up on its sound upper leg, clearly having suffered its own death wound, hacking desperately at the remains of one of the archers of the Galadhrim, having already reduced the Elven bow to splinters. “Keep me from keeping up with the rest, will you, you maggot?!” the orc was gasping out when the captain’s arrow pierced its heart and quieted its tongue.
And so it went. A cluster of ellith were found still alive some way off the main path, although the single warrior with them had died and was being wept over by his beloved. Galadorn had apparently fought valiantly to allow that group to find safety, for he lay at the entrance to the path they’d taken, surrounded by a large number of enemies.
A second party of orcs and at least two Men had apparently secreted itself further along the pass well above the path, and had rolled boulders down upon those Elves who’d managed to evade battle so far. Two of the ellyn were yet alive, pinned in place by boulders no one else had known the leisure to roll away as yet. Four other warriors had obviously survived the initial stoning and had fought desperately to protect those who’d been caught in the assault, and the bodies of their foes formed a near wall about them.
“So many!” exclaimed one of Gandalf’s party. “They sent so many! I have counted more than three score dead orcs and two edain already!”
“And these are not of the Dunlendings,” murmured Gandalf, examining the corpses of the Men closely. “Nay, these are Rhûnim! Note their swords and knives.”
“They were seeking to take prisoners,” one of the injured warriors said. “Two ellith and three archers they dragged away, clearly still alive. The orcs took them!”
One trail showed that at least six orcs were intently following what appeared to be a small party of Elves, even though gouts of black blood indicated that at least one of the pursuers had been badly injured. A larger group, however, had sought to climb over the shoulder of a nearby mountain back in a northeastern direction, and it appeared that they might indeed be carrying prisoners with them. One of the warriors in Gandalf’s party remained to minister to the two injured ellyn, and the other six and Gandalf set out to follow this group.
They found the entrance to a cave, and grim with purpose they twisted some of the dried scrub growing nearby into makeshift torches and followed the tracks of the marauders into the depths of the earth. They’d been picking their way through the shattered stone that littered the floor of the cave for some time when Gandalf held up his hand.
A glimmer of light was reflected from the turning ahead. A gasp of intense pain could be heard, accompanied by a cry of mixed dismay and outrage and a female moan of despair and a sudden slap, then unbelievably coarse crows of laughter. “Do her again! Let her know what it’s like to be with a real ’un!” The voice grated on the nerves.
Nothing could have held the seven intruders back after that. They poured past the next obstructions, four of the Elves with bows readied, the other two and Gandalf with swords and staff raised.
A wounded orc, huge beyond belief, half lay against a portion of a stalactite that had fallen and shattered, breaking off the stalagmite below it as if it were the stump of a dog-tooth in the mouth of an ancient personage. He held the rags of a woman’s skirt pressed tightly against his side, the cloth stained with his black blood.
The unfortunate elleth from whom the cloth had been taken was stretched across another portion of fallen stone. Three orcs turned their heads from their doings of her, their eyes widening to realize they’d been joined by warriors capable of endangering their sport. Four others held an ellon against a pillar, forcing him to watch the violation of the woman, while two other orcs and a Man held a second elleth, the Man’s fist grasping her hair so tightly that her head was at an unnatural angle, forcing her also to watch what was being done to her companion. The orcs holding this woman looked down, amazed to find that each was now pierced through the chest by an arrow, while a third archer slew the naked orc who’d risen from between the thighs of the object of their lustful actions. The Man appeared shocked to realize they were under attack, but when he sought to flee he found his fingers were too entangled in the hair of his own victim to easily leave her behind. Gandalf took great pleasure in striking him alongside the temple with his staff before he turned to deflect a knife aimed at the Elf nearest him by the great Uruk pressed against the fallen stone.
None of the orcs escaped the vengeful Elves and the Wizard who companioned them. Soon Gandalf was kneeling by the pale figure who still lay upon the stone, although at her release she’d drawn into herself, curling tightly about her violated body. When he sought to touch her shoulder she screamed in terror and anguish. Her eyes were wild, and her face disfigured by a myriad of cuts and bruises. Both fists and weapons had been used upon her. And the same was true of the rest of her body as well. One wound near her left shoulder was especially irritated, and when Gandalf laid his hand upon it his face blanched at the cold emanating from it.
“They used a blade upon her upon which fell enchantments have been laid!” he said. “I do not know if they can be countered!”
The ellon who’d been held captive had slid to the ground, leaning back against the pillar against which he’d been held. His face was masked with his own blood, which had poured from wounds over his brows and from a broken nose. He had lost a foot—Gandalf suspected that this wound had been inflicted deliberately to keep him from fleeing, and his right hand had been viciously crushed. “They spoke of it,” he managed to whisper past battered lips. “The big one there,” he waved his injured hand toward the lifeless Uruk lying with the small of its back against the stone, “said that a Nazgûl gave him the knife, and it was to be struck into her shoulder and twisted.”
One of the warriors found a knife lying nearby on the floor, discarded once it had been used. A great notch was missing from its blade, about a half inch from the point. The Elf who found it swiftly passed it to Gandalf with a cry of mixed discomfort and disgust, after which he repeatedly wiped his hand against his leather leggings as if to wipe them clean of some deadly stain.
Gandalf’s face was fixed as he examined the thing. “Yes, this is the evil blade.” Finding more remnants of the stricken elleth’s garb, he swathed the weapon with it before he stashed it in the bag he carried over his shoulder.
One of the warriors who’d accompanied him removed his own cloak, one woven by the Lady Galadriel and her maidens, and covered the nakedness of the orcs’ victim, murmuring softly to reassure her, and slowly she stilled and went limp with his hand upon her shoulder.
The other two captured Elves were found dead in a shallow alcove to one side of the chamber. Soon they had the three found yet alive and the unconscious Easterling carried out of the cave and back to the pass, where a growing south wind had begun dispersing the fog. The member of their own party and the one of those who’d been held by the boulders who could stand were facing along the pass toward the southeast. “Our Lady Nimrodel is yet alive,” the one who’d stayed behind murmured, glancing over his shoulder at those who’d joined them. “They pursue her even now.”
In the far distance they heard the shrill cries of orcs, although no words could be discerned. Two of Gandalf’s party remained with the injured and the rescued ellith they’d found before, and Gandalf accompanied the other five as they set off to succor the former Lady of the Galadhrim. As they came to the crest of the pass, they could see a great storm to the south. “It would appear,” the captain remarked, “that Ossë has raised a great torrent, perhaps hoping that the winds he spawns will aid those who seek to rescue our Lady Nimrodel. I only hope that it does not do damage to our Lord Amroth’s ship!”
Near dawn Amroth, who’d slept aboard his ship in the cabin he intended to share with his beloved, awoke. Out upon the decks he could hear cries of dismay and hastily begun songs addressed to Uinen. The pitching of the ship indicated that the swells beneath the hull were far greater than they ought to have been were the ship properly fastened to the stone quay of Edhellond. He rose and dragged a robe about his body as he quitted the cabin as swiftly as he could and rushed to the deck.
“A storm, my Lord Amroth!” called one of his sailors needlessly above the roar of the wind and waves. “It arose rapidly, and the ropes parted as if struck by a sharp blade! We are already far out to sea!”
“Nimrodel!” Amroth cried. “She is not yet come!”
“We cannot go back, not in this wind!” his appointed captain warned from his place by the great tiller. “We will be driven back upon the rocks, and the ship will be crushed!”
“I will not leave her!” Amroth vowed desperately. “I will not leave her behind!”
None could reach to stay Amroth as a fey mood took him. He stood now by the stern rail, looking back with haunted eyes. “I will not leave her!” he cried again, dropping the robe he’d been pulling about himself upon the deck, and suddenly he stepped up and dived overboard, striking out toward the harbor out of which the ship had barely cleared.
They felt it then—the sudden absence that indicated that their beloved Lady Nimrodel had fled her body, that her fëa even now was answering the call of Mandos and would soon enough find itself in Námo’s halls. They heard a great bellow of despair from the water, and the white form of Amroth stopped swimming purposefully, the head and shoulders alone to be seen now as he realized that his beloved was no longer able to come to him, that instead she had gone ahead of him into the West.
A great wave took his body and drove it toward the stones of the sea wall. For a moment they thought they could see his arm reaching for purchase, and then the receding swell swept it away and into the depths.
Those upon the ship could only watch disbelieving as their Lord Amroth was taken by the Sea. It was growing lighter behind the clouds of the storm, but about Edhellond those who lingered in the Elven settlement who stood upon the stones of the great pier and those upon the deck of Amroth’s ship felt only darkness.
Some days later Gandalf stood at last alone upon the quay of Edhellond as twilight fell. The tumult of the storm had caused great damage. The sea wall had been breeched in two places, and roofs had been borne away from several buildings, while some of the brilliantly colored windows of the Elven halls had been shattered. The remnants of dories and lesser ships littered the shore, along with further wrack of seaweed and drifted logs and other litter swept up from the deeps of the water.
Amroth’s ship is safely away, and has already found the Straight Path, Uinen told him consolingly. No other died that night other than Amroth himself.
“He could have come there still alive!” Gandalf objected.
At this Ossë raised his head above the surface of the Sea. Nay, he would not have done so. He would have faded ere they reached the boundary, or he would have thrown himself into the Sea in his attempt to reach her.
“They say he reached for the sea wall!”
Uinen’s voice was gentle. Nay, Olórin, she assured him. Once he knew his lady was gone, he sought only to join her in death, to come home with her, or not at all. We sought to set him upon the sea wall, but he pushed himself back into the waves.
I took him then, as gently as I might, Ossë added. They are together now as they make their obeisance to our Lord’s grim brother.
“Ah, if only their bodies might lie together as well,” Gandalf said. “We found where the orcs pursued Nimrodel into the mountains, and where she threw herself over a cliff with a stream that fell across the face of the rock. They search even now for where the water might have carried her body.”
Do not worry for that, brother, Uinen told him. Our Lord Ulmo gave word to his naiads and nymphs of the fresh waters to bring to his realm her hröa as swiftly as might be managed. My beloved here had already taken under guard that of Amroth, and I caught hers as soon as it came to us last even. We bore them to an undersea grotto beneath a coral reef. There they shall lie until they are deemed ready to be rehoused.
The Istar sighed. “I thank you for that,” he said, bowing deeply. “I shall rejoice to tell Artanis and her beloved that their bodies will not be despoiled by the Enemy’s creatures.”
I rejoiced to dance in triumph over the shattered dome of Sauron’s temple he had built in Armenelos, Ossë said in bitterness. Almost I think to seek permission to set myself under Aulë’s rule that I might help to bury Dol Guldur and Barad-dûr when the time comes.
The Wizard could well appreciate the sentiment.