Standard Bearer, The
8. Of Elves and Men
From nowhere an arrow felled the second-in-command. Its quivering flights a redemptive gold against the black. A horseman flashed in from the left, quickly followed by two others. Elven cavalry. The leader, tall and dark, faced the Orcs with his sword drawn while the others flanked him with bows taut and arrows notched.
The Captain reined his horse savagely, his henchmen milling behind him.
“I want the girl, Elf-Lord!” he snarled.
“You may not have her.” The voice was soft and resonant, almost amused.
The Orc looked down the field. More reinforcements were on their way.
“Another time!” he spat, and wrenching his mount around, headed his ghastly band back towards their lines.
Gildinwen sank to her knees beside Tom, shuddering with relief. He gripped her hand, “It’s alright. We’re safe now!”
She wiped her face with the least soiled edge of her shirt, and managed a shaky smile.
“What are his injuries?” The dark-haired Elf had dismounted. He came over and knelt on one knee to examine Tom.
Gildinwen took a deep breath to steady herself. “He has a sword thrust to the right shoulder, and his left leg is broken.”
He inspected the wound. “Is this your dressing?”
“Yes, my lord, it was the best I had available.”
“It is good.” He stood up smoothly and looked down at her. His gaze was very direct. “Are there other injured in your party?”
“Yes,” she scrambled to her feet and led him over to where Will lay, very white and still. “He has had a bad blow to the skull.”
“It is serious. I will instruct the healers to be vigilant.”
The party of healers were quickly with them, and soon had Tom and Will securely strapped to stretchers.
Tom looked worried. “What’re they going to do to me?” he whispered to her, “I mean, Elves….well they’re strange.”
“Don’t worry Tom. You’ll be safe with them,” She glanced involuntarily at the Elf-Lord who gave a single nod, a small smile about his lips. “I promise.”
“You’ll come and see me?”
“Yes, of course. Go now.”
She watched thoughtfully for a minute as the Elves gently carried her companions off the field, accompanied by the mounted archers. Then recollecting herself she turned to face her rescuer.
“Forgive me, my lord. My concern over my companions has led me to neglect my manners.” She took a deep breath, and spoke formally in Sindarin, “I, Gildinwen of the House of Amarnon, do thank you for my life.” She bowed deeply.
A smile of delighted amusement passed over his face, and he returned her bow, “I, Elrond the Peredhil, Master of Imladris and Herald to Lord Gil-galad, do bid you welcome.”
Elrond Half-Elven! Gildinwen was suddenly terribly conscious of her dishevelled and blood-stained appearance. Great first impression Gil!
He was looking at her again. Discomfited, she used the excuse of retrieving her sword to break eye contact.
“Where is your horse?”
She looked around sadly. “I don’t know. I think he must have run off.” Poor Loreglin, he would have been terrified.
Elrond mounted neatly onto his horse, which had neither saddle nor bridle in the manner of the Elves, “Come. I will take you to Lord Gil-galad.” He held out his hand for her. It was strong and fine - and very clean.
She looked down at hers, sticky with dried blood, the nails encrusted with dirt, and back up at him. He did not withdraw. Shrugging mentally, she grasped his hand, pushed off hard with her foot, and swung up behind him.
Pausing for a moment to allow Gildinwen to snatch up the Banner, the smoke-grey slipped easily into a fluid canter, heading across the field to the centre of the Elvish host, where Gil-galad’s battle standard snapped proudly.
As they rode towards the ranks of the Alliance, Gildinwen could see that the battle had been fierce. A great number of dead, both friend and foe, lay still on the field. Healers ferried the injured back to their lines.
“So many lost.” She whispered, not realising she had spoken aloud.
“Indeed,” Elrond answered her, “It was a great and terrible battle, and I fear only the first of many.”
Gildinwen turned her attention from the death-strewn plain to study the Elf-Lord. Sitting so close up behind him she could see that he also bore the marks of the day’s battle. Flecks of blood spattered the delicate plates of his close fitting armour, and there were rents in the blue cloak. Through the long, dark locks, casually knotted with a scrap of cloth, she could see sweat and dust marring the fine skin of his neck and...
She pulled herself up short. Woah there Gil! She shook herself inwardly, perhaps it was some sort of delayed battle shock. She forced her eyes to look away. They were coming up on the lines of the Alliance, crossing in front of the first flank, through whom she had ridden that morning, that lifetime ago.
She was startled to hear cheers, and to see soldiers stand and wave as they rode up.
“They shout for you.” Elrond called back to her, above the noise.
“For me?” she was amazed, “But how do they know who I am?”
“I doubt there is a being on this field who will not know who you are, and what you carry, after today.” His voice became more serious, “Both on this side, and the other.”
She felt a touch of fear, “Was that why the Orcs came out?”
“Then the soldiers must cheer as much for you, for you saved me today.”
He looked thoughtful, “If it helps to strengthen the bond between Men and Elves during this war then that can only be considered a good thing.”
Their reception in the ranks of the Elves was less effusive, although many of them raised their weapons in salute.
Looking at the faces of the warriors as they rode through, Gildinwen saw curiosity mixed with suspicion.
“Do Elves mistrust Men also, even as the humans mistrust them?” she asked Lord Elrond.
He nodded, “Yes, the rift has been many slow years in the making, but that does not make it easier to bridge.”
The Elf-lord slowed his mount to a walk as they reached the Elven camp. Many tents and pavilions adorned the hillside behind the battlefield. At the doorways, horses were tethered and arms placed at the ready, while flapping pennants proclaimed the identity of their occupants. At the front of the camp, a large, flat terrace gave a view of the surrounding land, and it was here that Gil-galad had his headquarters. A long avenue of tents led up to a large, beautifully embellished pavilion, outside of which several chairs and tables had been set up under an awning. Men and Elves sat and stood about the tables, looking at maps and discussing the reports laid there.
Elrond eased his horse to a halt, and they dismounted. He left his mount in the care of a waiting page, and turned to her.
They walked up onto the concourse, and as they approached, the talk ceased and every eye was turned upon them. On both sides the Men and Elves drew back leaving a clear passage, at the head of which the reknowned Lord Gil-Galad stood to greet them. A powerful Elf-Lord, both in mind and body, he stood tall and strong. His gaze noble, his eyes searching, arrayed in glorious battle armour, the fabled spear Aeglos at his side.
Gildinwen’s step faltered as her heart quailed within her. She felt Elrond touch a gentle hand under her elbow, and taking strength she drew herself up and walked on, gripping the Banner tightly in front of her.
It seemed like both the longest and the shortest walk of her life. All around was silence, save for the crunch of her footsteps, and she could feel herself scrutinzed from every side. Looking up at the face of Lord Gil-galad, he seemed to draw her on, at once both kindly and forbidding. When she reached him, she knelt and placed the Banner at his feet.
“I, Gildinwen, Daughter of Amarnon, do bring you this Banner in fulfilment of the oath of my House, and pledge you my service as long as you shall have need of it.”
He reached down and placed a palm on her head.
“I, Gil-galad, Lord of Lindon, and High King of the Noldor, do accept you.”
Beneath his hand the band of mirthril shone, and for a moment Gildinwen appeared not as a battle weary mortal, dressed in her dead brother’s clothes, but as a maiden of the House of Amarnon, in whom the blood of the Faithful flowed strong and pure.
Gil-galad withdrew his hand and took his seat once more, gesturing to her to sit on a stool nearby, as around them the chatter resumed once more. He motioned to one of his pages, who came and took the Banner from Gildinwen, and with great reverence placed it outside the pavilion of Lord Gil-galad beside those of his own house.
“So, tell me,” Lord Gil-galad’s voice was deep and sonorous, “ Is it that there are no more sons of Amarnon, that a daughter comes to fulfil this duty.”
Gildinwen nodded sadly, “Yes, my Lord. My brother died before we left, and my father,” she swallowed, “just after we passed Linhir.”
“That is grevious news, your House was ever Faithful.” He looked at her critically, “You have the Amarnon spirit as well as the countenance. You did a great service today. You turned the tide of battle in our favour.”
“Oh no my Lord,” she shook her head, “I played but a very little part.”
“Sometimes only the smallest weight is required to tip the scales.” he replied. “Your father would have been very proud of you today.”
Gildinwen felt the tears well in her eyes and she bowed her head, “Thank you my lord. I can wish for no higher accolade.”
Shouts from the edge of the perimeter drew their attention to the arrival of a group of knights. Two detached themselves from the others and strode up the field towards Gil-galad, their shadows long in the late afternoon light. The elder was tall and broad, with fair hair just starting to fade to silver and a dignified countenance tempered by smiling eyes. The younger, darker and bearded, was shorter, with an intense look.
“Elendil!” Gil-galad stood up and walked out to greet his guest. “Welcome.” The two leaders embraced. “Isildur.” He clapped his hand to the younger man’s shoulder.
“So Gil-galad,” cried Elendil, “Not a bad first day, eh?”
Gil-galad indicated chairs set out, and the new arrivals sat, stretching themselves comfortably with groans.
“No, indeed, my friend.” He replied, “Let us hope it can continue.”
“Ho ho!” said Isildur, his eyes alighting on Gildinwen, “I see you found your standard bearer my lord!”
She looked up uncertainly.
“Is she really of the Amarnon?”asked Elendil, looking round at her. “I thought that House had long since passed into memory.”
“She is the last of them.”
“But how can you be sure?” said Isildur, “Might she not be an enemy spy?”
Gil-galad laughed. “No indeed! She wears the mithril band, the very one I myself placed on the head of her forebear. Only one of the house of Amarnon whose heart is true can wear it, and none can take it from her while she lives.”
“I see,” the son of Elendil replied, looking more closely at Gildinwen.
A steward whispered in Gil-galad’s ear.
“Come, my friends,” he rose from his chair, “Food has been prepared, eat with us.” He led them off through the dusk to where a large fire was burning and tables had been laid with food.
“You too, my lady.” The steward smiled at her, “I’m sure you must be hungry.”
The moment she thought about it, she was – ravenously hungry.
Having filled her plate, she found an agreeable spot, near enough to the fire to be warm, but far enough from the others to be private, and sat down to eat. The food was simple but delicious, the best she had tasted for a long time. After she had eaten she sat back to settle herself more comfortably. A lump in her pocket dug into her side, and she fished it out. It was the last apple. She felt her face crumple. Oh Loreglin, where are you now? It was as if everything suddenly came to a head all at once. Losing her home, Argilin, the death of her father, the battle, her friends dead and injured, and now Loreglin lost. She clamped one hand over her mouth as a despairing wail rose in her throat, and clenched her eyes shut but she could stop neither the tears spilling down over her fingers, nor the silent sobs that shook her.
After a minute or two she became aware of a presence, and opening her eyes saw Lord Elrond kneeling in front of her, a hand gently placed on her shoulder, and a look of concern in his grey eyes.
Her sobbing receded but despite all her eyes continued to weep. He looked down and lifted her hands, gently opening them to reveal the apple. He picked it up and looked at her quizzically. She felt her mouth twitch. It was ludicrous, crying over an apple.
“It was for my horse.” She wiped a wet cheek, “but he’s lost, and I don’t know where he is.”
“Is he a good horse?”
“No,” she smiled tearfully, “he’s a very bad horse, always trying to bite people.” She sniffed, “But I love him, and he’s the last I have of home.”
He placed the apple back into her hands and softly closed them over it again.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I’ll be fine. It’s been a very long day, and I just need to get some rest.”
“I’ll fetch Luinil, he will know where you are to be billeted.”
She looked up to meet his eyes, catching a fleeting shadow of old sorrow, “Thank you.”
After a few minutes, during which time she managed to collect herself, the steward arrived and showed her to a small tent, a few rows behind Lord Gil-galad’s pavilion.
“This has been set aside for your use, my lady. I trust you will find everything you need.”
It was dark inside, but she easily found the sleeping pallet on the floor, rolled onto it, and was quickly asleep.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.