And it is also said, ‘Go not to the elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.”
- Frodo Baggins
The orcs stomped violently through the beautiful forest of Lothlorien, numbers lessened by the elves but still numerous enough to put up a fight on the return journey to Dol Guldur. They had just lost the battle with the Golden Woods and were retreating quickly at the call of their master. Behind them, they could almost hear the rustle of leaves and the twang of bows as the elves of Lorien pursued them, shooting them down like game. Here and there, orcs and wargs fell squealing, penetrated with white feathered shafts. Their comrades growled at the frustration of having to stumble over dead bodies and at the fact that they were forced to run away from the cursed archers. A few stopped to turn around and shoot blindly into the trees in the hope that at least one arrow would catch an elf, but they ended up embedded with three more upon halting.
“Daro [stop],” the elf in front whispered, too low for any orc to hear.
The pursuing elves halted immediately upon hearing their captain’s order, and watched the orcs continue to trample east through the forest. Although the orcs noticed the elves had stopped shooting, they dared not stop to look back.
“Why are we stopping Haldir? We can easily kill many more of those horrid creatures. Our arrows are plenty,” one elf inquired, glaring at the retreating orcs’ backs with his piercing eyes.
“It is not the arrows I am concerned about Rumil,” said Haldir. “The orcs are almost out of our borders, and it is unnecessary to follow them any further unless you wish to go all the way to the dark fortress with them. Instead, we should go back to Caras Galadhon and inspect the damage they have done.”
Rumil hated the idea of having to allow the orcs to continue fouling the air with their presence, but he knew the captain was right. The forest had suffered greatly from Dol Guldur’s assault that night.
The attack was so sudden that they would not have been prepared had a patrol not spotted an orc hurrying from one place to another. Probably a lone scout accidentally spotted. When the orc army finally attacked, they came in such strong torrents that the warriors had a hard time keeping them from coming into the golden city. The trees screamed from the fire that was consuming them from the roots. Elves were falling from their positions high up in the trees, shot by black arrows laced with poison. It was horrible to look at, but the warriors desperately defended their home despite the overwhelming number of orcs. It was almost hopeless, but before the foul beings could completely taint Caras Galadhon with their fire and dirty feet, Galadriel descended from her tree and used her ring of power, Nenya, to drive away the beasts. The orcs had not heard of Nenya, a ring so powerful that only Sauron himself could hope to overthrow it, so they scattered like cockroaches in fear of whatever sorcery the elf queen was conjuring. It was a sure victory, but the elves also had lost a lot of lives in the process.
When the wardens returned from their pursuit, they were dismayed at what they found. Golden leaves lay blackened on the ground and many more were falling down along with ashes from withering trees. Here and there elves rushed about carrying the wounded or the dead. It was a pitiful sight and it broke all hearts to witness it.
“Captain Haldir, you have returned. What news do you bring?”
Haldir turned toward the speaker and bowed before the Lord of Lothlorien. The Lord looked tired and disheveled. His blond hair had a grayish tint from the snowing ashes, and his hands and clothes were stained dark-red with the blood of the wounded.
“Lord Celeborn. We have chased away the remaining orcs out of the borders of our lands and killed many more along the way. Fortunately, no more casualties were made on our side.”
“That is good to hear. Unfortunately the damage has already been done. Many are suffering from wounds and loss. Luckily, if I dare say so, only the surrounding woods have been badly damaged and the main city remains almost untouched.”
Haldir looked around sadly at his ruined, once beautiful home. “How does the Lady fare?” he asked.
“She is tired, but she will be all right after rest. Using the ring takes a great toll on her.”
Haldir nodded, wished the Lord and the Lady well, and took his leave to help clean the mess. His brothers Rumil and Orophin followed after.
Haldir had a lot on his mind. Something wasn’t right, but he couldn’t point out what was so strange about the assault. It was horrible, but they had gained relatively easy victory overnight. Over just one night. Haldir didn’t think Dol Guldur would have launched an attack so recklessly only to have it beaten back so quickly. In fact, there was only one wave of attack throughout the whole assault. There were no reinforcements, new weapons, or even a new breed of orc. Orophin noticed his brother’s distress and confronted him about it.
“What troubles you brother? You’ve been quite silent since we parted with Lord Celeborn.”
“Am I that obvious? I thought I hide my emotions well. Actually I was just thinking about last night…”
Orophin gave Haldir’s shoulder a sympathetic squeeze and said, “We all are. Don’t worry, the woods will be back to its original beauty soon enough. We just have to be strong and endure.”
Haldir smiled back and squeezed Orophin’s hand on his shoulder. “I am not worried about the woods never regaining their beauty. I was actually confused by the assault itself. Did you notice, Orophin? Rumil? The assault ended fairly quickly. Look, the moon hasn’t even gone down yet. The orcs attacked at dawn yet dawn is still upon us.”
“That is because the Lady used her powers to repel the foul beasts,” said Rumil.
“Yes, that is so. But do you really think that the enemy underestimated us so much that they would send only one wave of assault to bring down all of Lorien? The orcs may be mindless servants, but their masters are not. That force was only big enough to cause some destruction, but was not really meant for a siege.”
Horror dawned on Orophin’s face. “Do you think that they were trying to weaken our defenses then? Will there be another assault?”
“Maybe so, but I think they were testing us. Testing our defenses. Our strengths, our weaknesses. Trying to see what they are up against. Preparing for a bigger battle perhaps,” Haldir said.
“That is ill news. We must report it to the Lord and the Lady at once,” said Orophin.
“That, I will do. Do not worry for it is just a hunch. Scout the area once more in case there are any lurking orcs nearby.” And with that, Haldir hurried off toward Celeborn and Galadriel’s chambers.
Galadriel called him inside even before he knocked.
“Something troubles you captain.” It was a statement, not a question. Haldir inclined his head in acknowledgement.
“My Lady. I am suspicious of the motives for tonight’s assault. The orcs were,” he hesitated, “easily pushed back.” He could not push away the images of the burnt mallorn trees and the fallen bodies of elves and call the battle ‘easy.’
Galadriel looked at him with knowing eyes. She did not look surprised, but although she looked serene, Haldir could see the worry that lingered.
“I have contemplated that myself as well. I did not want to use Nenya for fear of revealing too much to the enemy,” Galadriel gazed at her ring and Haldir glanced over to where the ring would be on her finger, but for him, it looked like nothing more than starlight, “but I was forced to do so,” she looked back into Haldir’s eyes.
“You suspect that the enemy was testing us.”
Haldir nodded. “I believe they were trying our strengths and defenses in preparation for a bigger battle or whatever plan they hold for the future.”
“I too thought it was odd that no darker force than orcs attempted to breach our defenses. Alas, I am not certain of the exact motives of the enemy, but I know this: a shadow is stirring in Dol Guldur. It is becoming darker and more active. I fear the enemy is planning something. I keep feeling that something is amiss though I do not know what,” Galadriel sounded almost frustrated.
“Send a message to Elrond and Thranduil. They should be warned of whatever darkness approaches,” she told Haldir.
Haldir nodded and immediately went to look for two messengers he could send.
A tall, black, cloaked figure stood looking out into the night on
the topmost tower of the dark fortress Dol Guldur. He was one of the nine, the
Nazgul; second in command to Sauron after the Witch King of Angmar, and was
sent back to Dol Guldur to revive the fortress. He was so shrouded in shadow
that it was difficult to tell whether he was not a part of it. He didn’t turn
or move as the Uruk-hai captain in charge of the Lorien assault came stomping
“What have you to report?” The Nazgul asked menacingly to the captain, Barash, who stood behind him. Barash stood stoically but that didn’t mean that his master didn’t terrify him. He wanted to get away from this spot as quickly as possible.
“The Elf Witch. She used some kind of sorcery. My men were almost inside the gates when she came and used her power on us. The Witch!” Barash growled at the memory. “The light burned and we couldn’t go no further.”
His master didn’t answer right away so the uruk proudly continued, “But we burned many of the accursed trees the elf dogs love so much, and killed many more of those filth. They will have a hard time fixing the damage.”
The Nazgul stood silent for a few moments, almost making the orc wonder if he had heard him. When Barash’s thin patience was starting to wear the figure answered.
“Good. So the Elf Witch possesses great magic as the dark lord suspected. What do the northern scouts say?”
As if on cue, another orc ran into the room. His name was Tarburz, the captain of the Uruk-hai in charge of scouting northern Mirkwood. He was a giant Uruk-hai with sharp fangs and claws. Even among the orcs, he was known for being brutal.
“Master. I got news from our scouts,” he started. But then he noticed Barash standing not too far from him, looking extremely annoyed at being interrupted. He smiled smugly knowing that he had just irritated him.
“Well?” The Nazgul was starting to lose his patience at the delay.
“The scouts say that the water is treacherous and the walls hard, but the elf scums only used arrows and knives in battle, not magic.”
“No magic you say?” Barash asked.
“None,” Tarburz retorted, and looked back at the Master. “Our scouts also found something interesting that you might enjoy.” And Tarburz turned toward the entrance and barked orders in the black tongue to bring in the prize. There was a scuffle, and two orcs came in dragging behind them a badly beaten elf. The Nazgul finally turned around to face the two captains and the elf, whose hands were bound behind his back, and was breathing heavily from the beatings and the fear of coming face to face with one of the Nine. The elf looked like he was trying to shrink into himself, overwhelmed by the darkness of the fortress and the Nazgul himself. The Nazgul did not speak immediately, but merely studied the shaking elf. He knew it unnerved and terrified the elf with its silence, and he was relishing every moment of it.
“He was carrying this, my lord. We think it’s a message.” Tarburz handed his master a piece of rolled parchment. “But we can’t read their filthy words.” The Nazgul took the parchment and swiftly skimmed it. He walked toward the messenger elf. He towered over the elf threateningly and in a low, raspy voice that hurt for the first-born to listen to asked, “What is this message for?” The elf, although trembling violently, kept his eyes to the ground and stayed silent.
“Staying silent are we?” The Nazgul nodded ever so slightly to one of the orcs holding the elf. The orc took his jagged sword and plunged it deep into the side of the elf, twisting it to get extra effect. The elf’s agonized scream rang throughout the fortress and was music to the orcs’ ears. He hung limp against his captors, blond hair curtaining his face. He was panting hard, but otherwise quiet. Blood was dripping freely to the floor and it was the only sound along with the elf’s breathing that could be heard in the room. The Nazgul looked unusually calm despite the elf’s defiance. This unnerved the orcs as much as it did the elf.
“Answer the Master elf scum!” The orc cuffed the back of the elf’s head. The elf was unresponsive at first, but after a few deep, shaky breaths, he slowly held his head up. A billion thoughts passed through the elf’s head and when he finally looked up at the Nazgul, his eyes were of one who has accepted death.
“You want to know what the parchment says?” He took a deep breath as if it were his final breath and said, “It says, ‘Go die and rot somewhere while beasts feast on your remains.’ I do not answer to servants of Sauron!” The elf spat. The orcs roared with fury and moved forward to beat the rebellious elf. However, they were stopped by a raspy sound that sounded like scraping two rocks together. The Nazgul was laughing.
“No matter. You are no longer needed.” He waved his hand and the orcs cheered and dragged the kicking elf from the room.
“So it’s not a message?” Barash asked. Tarburz looked angry at Barash’s attempt to bring down his glory.
“It is a message,” the Nazgul confirmed, “a message to Thranduil of Mirkwood. The She-elf is warning them of ‘impending danger.’” The Nazgul smiled and the orcs could see his wickedly sharp teeth. “So the Mirkwood elfling didn’t get the message. This is very good. Prepare the armies. We strike the Golden Wood.”
The two captains looked confused as to why they were to attack the Elf Witch’s realm when they had failed just a few days ago.
“Why do we strike the woods again?” The Nazgul became angry that the orc captain would dare question his motives, but he kept calm.
“Thranduil does not possess the power the Elf-witch possess. This is your chance to seize the northern forest while the Golden Woods are weakened and unable to send aid.”
“But..we can’t get through the gates.” Barash pointed out.
“You don’t need to. Take your force and distract the She-elf. Take her eyes off of the north,” The Nazgul said. Then addressing Tarburz he ordered, “You will take your force along with the rest of the army, and march north to Thranduil’s gates. Take the king alive. Kill all the others.”
“Sha!” Tarburz was not happy that he couldn’t kill the elf king. He was looking forward to that. “Why keep him alive?”
“The Witch will dare not attempt to bring the place down as long as they know their kin survives. The king is not a threat as a prisoner unlike her because he possesses no ring. Do not worry of failure. This time, I will accompany your army. Now go! No more questions!” The two orc captains immediately left the room to gather their armies. The Nazgul called out to his winged pet with what sounded like something between a shrill whistle and a shriek. The great winged creature flew down toward its master and rubbed against his hand, purring softly. The Nazgul stroked the chin of his pet almost lovingly.
“My pet. Soon, you will feast on elf flesh.”