They're Taking the Elves to Isengard!

'Welcome home, musicians!' Lady Galadriel greeted us. 'Lord Celeborn and I became gravely concerned when we learned of your capture, and now greatly rejoice at your return. We desire, if it is not too painful for you to recount, to hear of your ordeal.' Seeing our apprehension she turned to the most lighthearted member of our company. 'Thalinras, you are an fine storyteller, will you not share with us this tale?'

'I would indeed, Lady,' Thalinras replied with a bow, 'but perhaps it is best that Thibinoriel tell her portion of the tale first?'

I glanced at Thalinras, nodding my consent, before I turned to Galadriel. 'I am willing, Lady,' I said with a courtsey, 'if we may be fortified with draughts of wine from your vineyard.' Lady Galadriel knows well that I am very fond of this vintage.

'As you wish,' the Lady consented with a smile. She motioned for wine to be brought.

I spoke briefly of our soujourn to Imladris where we performed for Lord Elrond and his guests during the celebration of Turuhalmë, an Elven celebration during midwinter similar to Yule among Men. It is a very joyous occasion.

Lady Galadriel enjoyed hearing of the festivities, and inquired about the welfare of her granddaughter. 'Lady Arwen was very well,' I was happy to tell her, 'although she greatly missed her betrothed who, as usual, was absent.' 

'Elessar has many trials that he must undergo before they may be wed,' she explained. I nodded my understanding, vague though it may be.

When the time of our departure neared Elrond's scouts reported that snowfall was unusually heavy in the mountain passes. We decided to take the long route home to the Golden Wood, travelling south beyond the tip of Hithaeglir, turning east through the Gap of Rohan. We would cross the Entwade, but turn north before reaching the Anduin. We were unfamiliar with this land, but Lord Elrond's mapmakers provided us with detailed plans.

We knew well that we would travel through some rough country but my husband. Celebthondir, who served Gil-Galad during the War of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men against the Dark Lord of Mordor, would more than capably lead us past any potential difficulty. In hindsight, perhaps it would have been better to stay in Imladris until the change of season came to Eriador. However, we were anxious to return home, and would not be deterred by inclimate weather.

Our journey began well enough. We passed through the Trollshaws and Eregion without incident. Memories of the time we dwelt in Ost-in-Edhil, both joyful and mournful, were kindled by the sight of the bright red berries of the holly trees. Our passage through Enedwaith was similarly incident free.

We warily passed through the country now known as Dunland. In the previous Age these once heavily forested lands were ruthlessly harvested by the seafaring Men of Númenor for the building of their ships. The forest-dwelling folk of these lands understandably became hostile to these invaders.  I can certainly sympathise with their plight. The Galadhrim would not stand idly by if invaders began felling trees in the Golden Wood! The Dunlendings' enmity for trespassers has not abated through all these many years. Fortunately for us, however, these wild folk fear the Eldar--or so we've been told.

As we approached the Ford of Isen my sister Calentauriel, whose vision is most keen, cried out, 'A blockade of Dunlendings! A score at the least!'

'Halt!' commanded Celebthondir, followed immediately by 'Turn!'

When we turned, however, we saw another large party following us. 'It is an ambush!' cried my sister. 

'Remain calm, nossë,' my husband instructed us in a quiet yet firm voice. 'Dismount, and do not lay hand on your weapons. We do not want to provoke a battle.'

We all agreed in the wisdom of this course of action, holding our ground as the Dunlendings approached us.

When the Dunlendings drew within earshot Celebthondir greeted them in the common tongue of Men. 'Hail, good people of Dunland. I am Celebthondir of the Golden Wood.'

'Greetings,' said their leader, a large Man of sly countenance. 'I am Bolgi, leader of this warband. We do not tolerate trespassers on our land.'

'Forgive our trespass,' said Celebthondir humbly. 'We our mere travellers on our way home.'

Bolgi cleared his throat, an indication that he was dubious of our intentions. 

'Fortune smiles on you, Elf,' Bolgi replied with a wicked grin. 'For we have not come to fight, but to extend an invitation.' I disliked his voice even more than his appearance, but we had no choice other than to listen.

'An invitation?' Celebthondir asked with surprise. 'An invitation from whom?'

'An invitation from Saruman, who is now lord of these lands.' the Dunlending answered. 'He desires to greet travellers such as yourselves, and magnanimously extends his hospitality to you.'

'Who is Saruman?' Thalinras asked us in a whisper. 'Curunír,' I replied softly. 'He is the leader of the Istari, and a member of the White Council. He is well-known to the Lady Galadriel.'  

Celebthodir quietly advised us, 'It would be wise to accept this offer.' 'Agreed,' we all replied.

Celebthodir answered the warband leader saying,'We accept this gracious offer, Bolgi. Your lord is friend to Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel whom we serve.'

'Good, good,' Bolgi answered. 'Saruman will be pleased to see you.' He looked us over, appraising our ability to flee one presumes.

'Your horses look tired, Elf-folk. They may rest while we transport you in our carts.' He waved his arm to signal his folk to bring forth two horse-drawn carts. The Dunlending motioned for us to climb aboard them. We were suspicious of this offer, but under the circumstances we had little choice but to accept.

We three--my sisters Eregiel and Calentauriel and I--rode in one cart while the lords Celebthondir and Thalinras rode in the other. I had an uneasy feeling about this, as did the others, but we chose to let events play out as they would.

As we approached Isengard we looked upon the lands about it in wide-eyed dismay.

Isengard, built in the Second Age by the Men of Gondor, had once been a place of beauty filled with trees, shrubs, grasses and piping birds. The Steward of Gondor, since his people could no longer safeguard it, had placed it into Curunír's care some two hundred and fifty years ago. Apparently it had recently become a place of indescribable decay, filth and stench, a veritable landscape of horror filled with yrch and other foul things. Evidently, it had pleased Curunír to emulate the Dark Lord of Mordor. For what purpose one can only imagine.

'Perhaps Thalinras will now share his portion of the story?' I said.

'I will,' answered Thalinras, 'but first I must defer to Celebthondir' he said with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

'Will you now tell us your part?' Galadriel asked my husband.

'I will,' he replied. Celebthondir is a lord of few words, but when he speaks people almost invariably listen.

'As we rode towards Isengard I began to consider our escape. I snorted loudly in imitation of the driving horse. The beast immediately began to swerve off the road. The right hind wheel broke as the cart careened off the paving stones. Thalinras and I rolled off the cart to brace our fall as it came crashing to a halt.  Fortunately, our captors were slow to react.  Thalinras and I leapt to our feet and dashed through the brambles and briars lining the path. We slipped into the frigid waters of the Isen and swam for the opposite shore.'

'The Man driving our cart hastened in an effort to prevent our escape,' I interjected.

Celebthondir continued. 'Once ashore Thalinras and I ran in an easterly direction. When he realized where we were headed, Thalinras cried out in warning--'

'We're headed towards Fangorn, are we not? Lord Celeborn has cautioned us about that forest!' said Thalinras.

Celebthondir inclined his head towards Thalinras, who smiled with delight after having finally gotten to add his part.

'We are indeed,' Celebthondir answered. 'But given the choice between the unknown danger of the forest and a legion of Curunír's soldiers within Isengard I choose the former.'

'And wisely so!' said Thalinras. 

I then spoke. 'It seems that here would be a good place to continue my part of the story.'

Celebthondir inclined his head in acknowledgement.

'Your menfolk have deserted you, ladies,' Bolgi mockingly said. 'Have no fear, fair ones, for my warriors shall soon reunite you, if only with their corpses.' He chortled wretchedly. The guard on us was doubled to discourage any thoughts my sisters and I might have of attempting an escape. 'Away with them!' Bolgi angrily bellowed.

We were driven though the gate in the ring of Isengard, and disembarked before the stairs of the tall tower of Orthanc. A servant led us inside, and up several fights of steps. Curunír did not greet us with the hospitality one usually expects of a host, particularly one of his stature. We were served neither food nor wine, nor were we provided a comfortable place to sit. Instead we were left standing and waiting, waiting for Curunír to finally make an appearance.

'Welcome, my good Elves of the Golden Wood,' Curunír began. 'You are most fortunate, for very few are invited to visit me in Orthanc. Now that I have seen to every comfort that a guest could desire, I ask that you return my hospitality.'

My sisters and I glanced at one another in amazement, but only briefly as we did not wish the wizard to be alarmed by our reaction. We said nothing, of course.

Curunír continued his speech. 'You are very close to Lady Galadriel, are you not? We converse on important subjects during the meetings of the White Council, however, she favours Mithrandir with her closest confidences. As the leader of the Council, it is important that I know all her thoughts on these most important matters. Our mutual welfare depends upon it.'

He appealed to our empathetic natures, portraying himself as a powerful yet neglected figure. He promised we would be rewarded for our candor. Curunír grew very angry when we did not provide him with the information he desired.

'So this is how you repay my courtesy?' he raged. 'Remove them!' he shouted to his guards.

We were hustled into a dressing room where we were instructed to change into more "appropriate garments" for those of "our status". We very soon learned what that meant. We were given the rags of the wizard's slaves to adorn ourselves in.

My sisters and I discovered that we were not the only prisoners in Curunír's dungeon. Men of Rohan, tribesmen of Dunland, and even a few of Curunír's own servants who had displeased him. However, we had no sign of Celebthondir or Thalinras. 

'What has become of them?' I wondered. 'Were they injured or slain when their cart crashed? Were they executed for attempting to escape? Or were they captured and being held in another part of Curunír's dungeon?' Our guards would not divulge what they knew, if anything, of the Elf lords' condition.

During our captivity we were kept in a dank dungeon cell both by day and by night, being given only a short exercise period during noonday where we were allowed to walk in a large circle on the path around Orthanc. We were under very close guard, of course, and were not permitted to speak to one another. I wondered why Curunír chose this area for our walking. Were we supposed to gaze upon the tower in its magnificence, and come to the realisation that our only hope was to concede to the wizard's demands? One can only guess the thoughts of the demented mind.

One evening as we sat in our miserable cell an idea came to me. 'Why should we not use the power of song to aid the cause of our release?' I asked my sisters. 'What do you have in mind, Thibinoriel?' Calentauriel asked. 'I am also curious,' added Eregiel, 'for we have not the power of Lúthien to bend a Maia to our will.' Calentauriel giggled. 'Perhaps not,' I said with a smile, 'but we shall endeavor to soften the wizard's resolve.' 'I suppose it is worth a try,' Eregiel answered. Calentauriel nodded her assent.

As we approached the front of Orthanc during our exercise period the following day, we seized the opportunity to break away from our guards. We dashed towards the doors, stopping just short of the steps. Our guards followed in pursuit but halted when they heard us begin to sing.  Standing back-to-back-to-back we sang a hymn of praise to Elbereth. The hard stone of the tower echoed our song. Calentauriel sang first, then I and Eregiel in turn. Finally, we sang together in harmony. 

A Elbereth Gilthoniel
silivren penna míriel
o menel aglar elenath!
Na-chaered palan-díriel
o galadhremmin ennorath,
Fanuilos, le linnathon
nef aear, sí nef aearon!

There was no answer from the tower. Evidently, the stone-hearted Curunír was unmoved by our song. Fearing the wrath of their master, our guards hastily rushed us to our cells.

'It was worth a try,' Calentauriel said in an effort to cheer me. 'It was an excellent idea, Thibinoriel,' Eregiel added. 'Thank you, sisters,' I said attempting a smile.

Late that evening we were awakened by one of Curunír's servants. 'Pssst!' he hissed. 'Ladies of the Golden Wood!' he said a little louder. 'Yes?' I said softly. 'What can Curunír possibly want at this hour?' I asked.

'I am Acca, Steward of Isengard,' the servant said. 'I heard your song.'

'Did you like it?' Calentauriel asked cheerily. Eregiel laughed to hear such an absurd question.

'I was greatly moved,' Acca said solemnly, adding 'I am resolved to aid your escape.'

My sisters and I looked at each other in wonderment not daring to become too excited just yet.

'I have a plan,' he said, 'but you must follow my instructions explicitly. Failing to do say will likely result in our execution.'

Calentauriel, Eregiel, and I again looked at each other, nodding our silent assent. We detected no attempt to deceive us.

'We understand, Acca,' I told him. 'We will do as you ask.'

He placed us in manacles, explaining, 'If asked I will say that Saruman demanded that I take you to the tower. Once we are above we will stealthily move towards a culvert that leads beneath the ring of stone. It is the stronghold's weakest point.'

We nodded our understanding.

Thalinras then spoke to our audience, 'You may be wondering what Celebthondir and I found in Fangorn.'

'Were we?' giggled Calentauriel. She enjoys teasing her husband to no end.

Eregiel and I looked at her crossly.

Abashed, Calentauriel meekly said, 'Please continue, dear Thalinras.'

'After running for several miles, Celebthondir and I finally came upon a verdant area that contrasted greatly with the desolate ruins of Nan Curunír. Standing amid the glade was a single rowan tree.'

'Our storyteller has finally found his voice!' laughed Lady Galadriel.

'So I have, Lady,' said Thalinras blushing.

'Pray continue,' said Lady Galadriel encouragingly.

Thalinras bowed respectfully then continued, 'As we drew closer we saw that it was not a rowan at all, but what must undoubtedly be an Onod. Celebthondil must have come to this realisation before me, for he slowed his pace as we approached it.'

'Indeed, I did,' said Celebthondir. 'I recall seeing them in Beleriand ages ago as I roamed the highlands in the north with Lords Angrod and Aegnor.'

A look of sadness momentarily came upon Galadriel's fair face as she thought upon her valiant brothers whose lives in Middle-earth were cut short by the fires of Morgoth. It began to slowly pass as Celebthondir continued his portion of this tale.

'I greeted the Onod and introduced myself, "Aiya! Nánye Celebthondil."'

"It has been been a very long time since I have heard that tongue," said the Onod with a laugh. "I am called Bregalad. Where is it you are headed with such great haste?"

"We have narrowly escaped the thralls of Curunír, and seek refuge in this forest," I answered him.

"Fangorn is seldom sought as a place of refuge for Elves or Men, but you are very welcome to stay and converse with me until the danger has passed," the Onod said.

"You are most gracious, Bregalad. However, we cannot stay long for we must rescue our wives and their sister who are being held captive within the ring of Isengard," I told him.

A look of great concern came upon Bregalad's face. He thought for several minutes before his features finally brightened, an indication that he had hopeful news for us.

"There is great evil within that fortress, but I have spied a possible weakness in its defence."

Rather than telling us Bregalad quickly led us to Isengard. At first Thalinras and I were concerned he'd lead us into the arms of our enemy but the Onod stayed far from the heavily guarded gate.

"There it is!" Bregalad said triumphantly.

"What is it?" asked Thalinras.

"It is a culvert," I informed him. "It channels water from within Isengard. Fortunately, it appears to be large enough for us to pass through."

"Through to what?" Thalinras asked.

"That we shall find out!" I answered. Turning to Bregalad I asked whether he could destroy the iron grating.

"I can do as you ask, although I cannot accompany you within," the Onod sadly replied.

"And we would not ask you to," I consoled him.

"He rushed with great strides to the culvert then quickly destroyed it with alarming strength. I was very glad that we had not roused his anger against us! Then, much to our surprise and delight, we beheld a great sight..."'

It was then that I, Thibinoriel, resumed my portion of the this tale.

'As we approached the opening of the culvert within Isengard we heard a great crash that alarmed us greatly,' I said. 'When the dust and debris settled we passed through. Much to our surprise and delight...'

Then in unison Celebthondir and I said--

'It is them!'

Unless I am mistaken, I saw the Lady wipe a tear from the corner of her eye.

'Bregalad was greatly pleased to see us reunited,' observed Celebthondir.

'And our joy was boundless!' I said.

All those at court teling and listening to the account of adventure took a deep breath--and a draught of wine--before I resumed the story.

Celebthondir then warned us, 'We must not tarry here so close to danger!' 'Indeed!' we all agreed. 

Bregalad led us to the glade where he was standing when Celebthondir and Thalinras first met him. There we briefly considered our journey home. Curunír would doubtless pursue our escape, so we thought it best to stay hidden beneath the dense canopy of trees where it would be difficult to find us. Bregalad offered to lead us through the forest.

Along the way Calentauriel wanted to examine every tree, shrub, and flower that was new to her, but we urged her to keep moving. 'What are those?' she asked, motioning towards some Ent-like creatures. 'Those are huorns,' answered Bregalad. 'They are wild and dangerous. We do not want to rouse them! Let us press on.'

We travelled north of the Entwash, leaving the forest not far from Thornhope, a remote village of Men of the Riddermark. We bade farewell to Bregalad, thanking him greatly for aiding us in our time of need.

'Bregalad was greatly pleased to have been of service,' added Celebthondir, 'and, I think, a little sad to part from us.'

'Thalinras and I entered the village as unobtrusively as two Elves possibly could, which is to say not very,' Celebthondir resumed. 'The stares we received! Regardless, we would not be daunted from our task. Our first priority was to acquire food and drink, as well as clothing for the ladies. Being winter, foraging for food in the forest would have been a fruitless task. Fortunately, Thane Wulfrad  was most sympathetic to our predicament, not allowing prejudice or superstition to prevent him from aiding strangers in need.'

'Was that a joke?' Thalinras asked.

'Pardon?" Celebthondir asked.

'"Fruitless",' Thalinras explained.

Celebthondir laughed. 'I suppose it was, albeit unintentional.'

We all laughed at that.

'Fortunately,' Celebthondir continued, 'I had not yet been stripped of everything of value, so I possessed a few silver coins to exchange for the goods we required. However, the ladies would have to content themselves with unfamiliar clothing.'

'After wearing the rags that Curunír provided,' I interjected, 'the coarsely woven fabric of the garments sewn by women of the Horse-lords seemed like the finest of silk.'

'Indeed!' said Eregiel and Calentauriel in unison, vigourously nodding their heads for emphasis.

Lady Galadriel turned her head and covered her mouth with her hand in an effort to hide her amusement.

'Having been clothed and fed,' I said, 'Our next priority was to find transport through these lands of Men.'

'They have very fine steeds here,' Eregiel noted. 'Perhaps we can tame a few wild horses to ride?'

Celebthondir and I discussed this matter at some length. Finally we decided that it was our best recourse given the circumstances, but that we must be sure to free them before our journey ended. The Men of Rohan are very fond of their horses. It would not do well to take them without consent, which they would be most reluctant to grant.

Fortunately, finding small herds of wild horses in not difficult in the Riddermark. Elves have a natural way with horses, and Eregiel's rapport with them is exceptional even among our kind. Therefore, it was natural that she lead the efforts to tame them, which was accomplished expeditiously.

Celebthondir led the discussion of journey through Rohan. 'We are now come to the lands that we planned to travel before we left Imladris,' he began. 'As is our practice in lands populated by folk other than Elves, we will travel during the hours of twilight so that we may remain unseen. Early morning hours before and just after sunrise, and early evening hours just before and after sunset are our allies. We will stay on the plain, avoiding the areas abutting the foothills where the Men have villages and fortifications. The strip of land closest to the Anduin is impassible, so we will have to travel closer to the road than we would prefer. It is then we must take extra care. The region north of the Limlight is a frontier, being far less densely populated than eastern Rohan where we are currently. There we can travel closer to the River Anduin until we reach the eaves of the Golden Wood.'

'When shall we release the horses?' Eregiel asked. It was an interesting question. 'We are likely to find a small encampment or two before we reach Thinglad,' answered Celebthondil. 'It is there we shall make a gift of the horses we have tamed. Are there any other questions?'

'Your plan is clear,' said Thalinras.'We shall rely on your leadership to bring us home.' We all agreed that this plan was sound.

Onward we moved. Eregiel noted how excellent the plains were for horseback riding. 'It is no small wonder that the Rohirrim value their steeds so highly,' she said. The going was less easy once we reached the region known as the Wold. Here we had to slow our pace, at times dismounting and leaving the road to avoid encounters with mounted soldiers. We used an old stone bridge to cross the Limlight. There we could ride freely once more.

'This is Parth Celebrant,' I informed the others. 'Nearly five hundred years ago Eorl and the Men of the Éothéod came from the north to aid Steward Cirion and the Men of Gondor, helping them to defeat invading Easterlings called the Balchoth. In reward Steward Cirion granted the Men of the Éothéod the land of Calenardhon to dwell in and call their own. The ancesters of Eorl call this land the Riddermark, while the Men of Gondor call it Rohan.'

'Hearing the name Celebrant means that we are near our home, of which I am exceedingly glad,' said Thalinras. 'I for one will not rest easy until we are once more beneath the canopy of the majestic mellyrn,' added Calentauriel. 'You speak for us all, nésa,' said Eregiel.

'Thibinoriel,' Calentauriel softly addressed me, 'how do you remember all this history?' 'I listen to the lore-masters, and I read the accounts of history, not just our own but of other peoples,' I replied. 'I find their long discourses rather tedious,' she said. 'But you have great skill with the bow,' I replied. 'I have no facility at all with that weapon. I'm as likely to strike friend as I am foe!' 'To each her own, I suppose,' she replied with a laugh. I laughed right along with her.

True to our intention we left the horses of Rohan behind, quietly guiding them within the walls of one of the Rohirrim encampments in Parth Celebrant. The horses were loathe to be parted from us, and Eregiel from them. 'It is the right thing to do, nésa,' I told her. 'I know, Thibinoriel, but that doesn't make it any easier to do.' She shared a last moment with them, then we turned and parted.

As we drew near to Thinglad just south of the Golden Wood we could see that something was terribly wrong. 'The mellyrn!' Calentauriel cried. 'They are decayed and dying. How can this be?' 'It is the power of our Enemy in Dol Guldur,' said Celebthondir coldly. 'Only the power of the Lady keeps Lothlórien from becoming the same.' 'I suppose I knew that,' Calentauriel lamented, 'but I did not know that it was so dire.' 'It is,' he replied grimly.

This last vision made us all the more grateful for our beautiful home, and so very joyful to return to the safety and security we are privileged to enjoy.

The End