Shadows and Shades
To the southernmost side of Farthen Dûr, Gandalf sat amongst the children, distracting them as best he could with epics and grand tales. He regaled them with the story of Bilbo, the littlest person you might imagine, accompanying a troop of dwarves on a quest to reclaim their home. Having made a variety of potions for the healers to use, he convinced Ajihad that he'd be of no further use, and to send him to take care of those who would not fight.
Throughout the long wait, he ever sent power forth from Narya, strengthening the hearts of those who sat there, and giving words of wisdom and encouragement. And when he wasn't telling tales, he was blowing smoke rings for the children to play with, sending them all over the place, changing them from white to green to blue to yellow to red. He turned them into little birds and butterflies that would dart all over. He made little dragons of all kinds.
Though he spent his time amusing the children, his mind worried ever about when Elrond or Eragon would send for him; he wondered ever when the shade would arrive, and if Eragon would remember to contact him or Elrond, or whether the fiend would even show up. Perhaps the Twins saw past his ruse.
He sighed. It was useless to worry about it now. Events had been put in motion, and what Eragon did now was out of his control. Turning to a small dwarf child, he smiled, and made a delicate smoke rose.
The elf-lord frowned, and suppressed a sigh and the urge to move from where he stood. This was ever the most loathsome part of wars and battles; to wait on the edge of the storm as it gathered to burst. In planning, in battle, even in mourning and rebuilding, there is much to do, much to occupy the mind. But in the final hours, there is naught but talking to be done. And there were none he were eager to speak with, not even Arya.
His only comfort, if it could be called comfort, was the knowledge that he had faced terrible odds and battles not unlike these before, and prevailed, and that his presence was a source of hope for the men and dwarves. All about him he heard soldiers speak.
"A mighty lord of the elves has appeared to aid us," they whispered among themselves. "But how and why?" some would ask. "Had the queen not cut off contact with the Varden after the egg-couriers kidnapping? Has he come of his own accord?"
So they spoke, and some dwarves spoke fondly of Elrond to each other, for Orik spoke amongst them and spread word of Elrond's knowledge and skill in crafting, and that he thought fondly of dwarves.
But Elrond heeded them not, for they spoke amongst themselves, though the news of the queen he kept in mind for later. He turned his gaze to where the invading Urgals were to come. They had not arrived yet, and he suspected that they may not arrive for many hours more. But he knew that they would come suddenly, like a hammer blow.
His mind turned briefly to Gandalf, who had persuaded Ajihad to let him keep the ones who could not fight safe. It came as no surprise to Elrond, for that was one of the traits he admired most in Gandalf: his pity. His desire to protect those who could not protect themselves. Pity was oft sorely lacking in the world.
"Have you been in many battles, Elrond?" asked a familiar, if colder, voice behind him. Turning, he saw the egg-courier Arya.
Her face was harder now, a cold light glinting in her eyes. She wore dwarven mail, and a curved, elegant blade was by her side. Her hair was tied back once again.
"Indeed, Arya," said Elrond. "Against worse foes than these, I assure you. These are mortal and under the influence of another's will. When Durza falls, the Urgals shall flee."
Arya looked at him. "You sound certain that Durza shall be slain. Few have managed to slay a shade, and fewer still have lived. They should not be underestimated."
"Certainly not, but I have defeated many fell enemies," replied Elrond. "I am not new to the realm of spirits. Indeed, the Calaquendi – the light elves – those who have lived in Blessed Realm, under the light of the Two Trees, and those who are descended from them, live in part in the spirit realm, and have great power and authority in it."
"I see," said Arya, her gaze turning to where the Urgals would come. "And Gandalf? Does he live in the spirit realm as well?"
"Yes, and he is a bane of the servants of evil," nodded Elrond. "He has veiled himself, however, and his might and authority in both realms is hidden, save in times of great need."
Arya took this in, before saying, "If… when Durza comes, then there shall be great need."
Elrond did not answer, and Arya moved away.
The thunderous rumble that heralded the arrival of the Urgals came sooner than Elrond at first expected. All about him, men and dwarves stirred from their restless watch, and the thunder roused those who wandered into fitful dreams. Far to his right, he saw the red glint of Eragon's blade, Zar'roc. Saphira rose to her full height, blue scales reflecting the firelight.
"I hear them," called a man, as the thunder grew steadily.
A command was ordered, and scalding pitch was poured down the tunnel. Harsh, painfilled cries emanated from the tunnels, growing quickly to shrieks as torches were cast down into the tunnels, and the pitch was set alight. At the other two battalions, the same was happening.
But the Urgals soon trampled the fire into nothing, and pouring out of the tunnels formed a massive wall, charging against the Varden with vicious war cries. The archers loosed their arrows, and Elrond let loose his own, watching as rows of Urgals fell to the deadly missiles. Thrice more he loosed his arrows, but to little avail. The Urgal army continued to swarm from the tunnels.
They charged into the stakes, skewering themselves, their inertia tearing them apart. They fired arrows of their own, and Elrond raised a shield, covering him and the horse.
The Urgals continued on, pushing past the stakes, straight into the pikeman. Elrond watched grimly, and continued to fire arrows. The pikeman struggled for a time, but the tide of Urgals would not be halted.
To his right, Elrond heard a terrible roar, and a glint of blue. But he had no time to think about it, for he was besieged by Urgals and Kull. He spurred Starlight on, cutting through the Urgal forces.
"Lacho calad! Drego morn!" he cried out in Sindarin. Flame light! Flee darkness!
Terrible was Elrond to behold in those hours, a high elf-lord revealed in his rage; his sword shone with a cold, deadly light. No Urgal, Kull or not, could withstand him, and many ran before him in fear, and he was a light to the Varden and the dwarves, a beacon of courage and valour.
Elrond cut a path through to where Saphira and Eragon were. He saw Murtagh on one side of the dragon, and Orik on the near side. The dwarf was occupied with a Kull, and did not see the other about to strike him down with an axe.
Elrond grabbed a spear from a fallen soldier as he ran past, and threw it at the Kull, striking him in the heart. Orik managed to finally gain the upper hand, and slew his foe. He moved on to the next. There was no time for thanks.
Elrond saw Eragon leap from Saphira after his sword, and there was a burst of power from the boy, and a Kull fell back with a broken neck. But he was parted from his dragon, and would soon be overwhelmed, Elrond saw. He hurried over, slashing and stabbing.
"Lacho calad! Drego morn!" he cried again.
He heard Murtagh pull Eragon up onto his horse, and nodded to himself. Then he saw that Saphira was stuck, being needled by twelve spear wielding Kull. Murtagh and Eragon were on their way, but he decided his help might be needed.
Charging towards the dragon, slaying Urgals as he went he. He cut of the head of the nearest Kull, even as Eragon leapt of Murtagh's horse in a rage, stabbing another. Saphira kicked on of the distracted Kull, and Elrond stabbed two more. Eragon leapt on Saphira, and they flew off.
"Hello again, Elrond," said Murtagh, coming up beside the elf.
"This is no time to for talking, Murtagh," warned Elrond. He delimbed a charging Kull, before stabbing its heart.
"True," said Murtagh, as he cut off a head. "But I may not get another chance."
"Such is war," said Elrond. He turned, and frowned. "Now, I must be off. Orik needs my help once more."
He spurred his horse onwards, to where the dwarf stood, swinging the heavy battle axe with ease. But there no less than ten Urgals, and he was almost surrounded. Elrond cut a path to the dwarf, and Starfire kicked one of the Urgals to the ground, crushing its skull. Elrond and Orik made swift work of the remaining fiends.
Orik gave him a thankful nod, and hurried off to find more foes.
Far to the right, Arya sped through her foes like lightning, her blade whistling. No blade could catch her, and she cast spells which slew a dozen enemies.
The battle drew on throughout the night. Elrond knew it was going poorly. The defending forces were being slowly driven back to Tronjheim. He managed to rally the defenders wherever he went, driving back the Urgals, but it was only a temporary matter.
The elf lord stuck his sword through a Kull's neck, and found a brief respite upon the edge of the battle. He surveyed the battle. The Urgals were still swarming from the tunnels, and the forces were still being driven back. It seemed fruitless. Nevertheless, he charged once again into the fray.
But he felt something, something on the edge of his mind. He was missing something, or forgetting something.
Whatever it was, if it were important, would come back to him. He hoped it came in time.
Then something familiar brushed against his mind. He let it in.
It was Eragon! 'Lord Elrond, lord Elrond!' he cried in his mind.
'The Twins have sent me back into Tronjheim!' the boy reported.
'Where are you now?' he asked.
'The dragon hold,' Eragon answered. 'I'm going to slide down Vol Turin. Sorry, I forgot to tell you.'
Elrond nearly cursed. That's what he had missed. Eragon and Saphira had flown from the battle.
'I see,' replied Elrond. 'No matter. I shall contact Gandalf, and then we shall hurry. Be careful! Do not fight Durza unless it's absolutely necessary.'
'Alright,' said Eragon, and he cut off the link between them.
Elrond hurried out of the battle, dismounting his steed. He cast his mind to Gandalf.
'Mithrandir, the shade has arrived,' he explained. 'We must hurry. Eragon is nearly there already.'
'Fool of a rider,' thought Gandalf to himself, as he ran through the tunnels back to Tronjheim. How could he have forgotten to tell them? He'd have stern words about it later on.
But first he needed to ensure there was a later on.
He finally made his way to the marble city, the dim red lights giving the abandoned city an eery, dead feel. He continued, hoping, and praying that he arrived soon enough. He pushed himself to greater speeds.
At last he made his way to the door of the main hall. He thrust his staff forth, and the doors swung open before him. Glamdring burst from its sheath even as he burst into the hall. The white blade glimmered with a cold and deadly light. He was dismayed at the sight. A ring of Urgals stood there, watching two figures wrestle on the ground.
They spun at the sound of the doors, and snarled at the sight of Gandalf. The Istar wasted no time, and sprang forth with a cry. He smote the first Urgal with Glamdring, and the next with his staff. They fell, dead, but more came.
"Lacho calad! Drego morn!" cried a voice behind him.
In a flash, lord Elrond crashed into two Urgals, sending them flying back in four pieces. The two made short work of the Urgals, Glamdring and Hadhafang blazing as though with white flames.
Gandalf, removing his sword from the last foe, turned to the brawling two. They had managed to come apart. Both were bleeding. Then Eragon cried out and sank to one knee. Durza leapt, too fast for either Gandalf or Elrond to stop him. Eragon was distracted by something, something Gandalf could not see, and Durza smote his back, cleaving through mail and skin.
Gandalf and Elrond leapt forth, but the shade spun and cried out. They were pushed back, but only momentarily. They pressed on, and engaged the shade in a duel. The shade, fast and deadly though he was, would have been ordinarily outmatched by the two, for Elrond was a mighty elf-lord of a noble lineage, and was crowned with many winters beyond mortal count, and Gandalf was one of the chief of the Istari for a very good reason. But Durza's rage drove him on, and he cared little for the wounds he suffered. But he was pushed back, slowly.
All of a sudden, Gandalf felt a tremor above him, followed by a great piercing, shattering noise. The three looked up, stepping back. It was Isidar Mithrim! It had burst asunder, and in the centre dove Saphira, a great jet of yellow and blue flame burst forth from her maws; Arya was astride her, her hair billowing in the wind, her palm uplifted and suffused with green energies. Gandalf could see her holding the shards of the broken sapphire. It gave off a stunning effect, as though time had stopped.
Gandalf turned his attention back to Durza – whose hand was raised at the dragon – ready to fight once again, when he heard a cry from behind the shade.
A blade, red as blood and burning with blue flames, shot through the shade's heart.
Durza looked down at the blade, dropping his own sword, and Gandalf saw the spirits that dwelt within him. They moved inside him, agitated, as the shell grew thin. Durza began to scream, his voice piercing, full of agony. The spirits grew more and more agitated, until at last they rent their host asunder, and with a final, ear-piercing shriek, the spirits flew out, leaving behind Tronjheim.
Durza was no more.
Gandalf wasted no time, and hurried to the young boy, catching him as he collapsed. He put him gently down, laying him on his stomach. He sheathed Glamdring, and took a look at the wound. There was a veritable cocktail of curses upon him; the blade was wound with curses, designed, no doubt, to inflict as much pain as possible. Elrond hurried over.
To their left, Arya and Saphira landed, and Saphira let loose a roar, tinged with fear and anguish and pain. Arya jumped off of the dragon and hurried to the fallen Rider.
Elrond hunched over the boy, speaking softly and quickly. The blood staunched, but the wound was far from healed.
"We must take him to the healers," he said urgently. "Arya, can you raise him with magic, so he stay's as he is?"
She nodded, and did as Elrond asked.
"Take care of the boy, Elrond," said Gandalf. "I shall make certain that the Urgals have routed."
Elrond nodded, and followed after Arya. Gandalf turned to Saphira.
"Lady Saphira, may I ride on your back?" he asked. "I want to be certain that the Urgals have dispersed."
She looked towards the three left, hesitant.
"Lord Elrond is the greatest healer in Middle-Earth, my lady," he said. "If anyone can save Eragon's life, it is he. But there is naught you can do now for him. So please, help me. When the hard work is finished, there will time to watch over him. But if the Urgals are not dispersed, then the Varden may yet be overrun without you and I."
Saphira looked at him for a moment, her face a mystery. For a moment, Gandalf believed she might not let him. But at last, she lowered her neck.
'Thank you for trying to help my rider, Gandalf,' she said in his mind.
'I am only sorry I did not arrive sooner,' he replied, climbing upon her neck. 'Perhaps this might have ended differently.'
She took off, saying, 'Perhaps. But it is hardly your fault. Nor, I think, is it wholly Eragon's. He had never been in such a battle before. And he feared for my own safety, for I was injured.'
'I see,' said Gandalf. 'Alas that such woes should befall two so young! But it cannot be helped, not anymore.'
They soon came to the battlefield. It was vastly different to what Saphira had left, but it was just what Gandalf had hoped for. The Urgal army had routed, and some were killing each other. The rest disappeared through the large tunnels. The Varden and the dwarves were cheering, chasing the retreating forces.
Gandalf asked Saphira to return them to the outskirts of the city, where Ajihad stood on his horse, looking out onto the battlefield. His face was grim, but relieved. He looked at the oncoming dragon and wizard.
"Gandalf? Where's Eragon? What has happened? Is Durza dead?" the leader of the Varden fired off a list of questions.
Gandalf dismounted Saphira. "Eragon is being taken to the healers room. Durza was slain, but at a terrible cost. The shade cut open his back, and his blade was strewn with curses, which now afflict Eragon."
Ajihads face fell. "This is grievous news. If Eragon dies—"
He was stopped by Saphira snapping her jaws loudly. "Eragon will not die," assured Gandalf. "He is being tended to by lord Elrond."
"I see," said Ajihad. Then he let out a long sigh, one of the few signs that he was remarkably tired. "Well, if there's nothing else to be done, would you like to make sure, in a few hours, that the Urgals have left the tunnels entirely? There're sure to be some who just won't leave."
"Perhaps," muttered Gandalf, surveying the grim scene. "But I think I shall first try to find the Twins." He went back and climbed back on Saphira's neck. She took off with a leap, and flew off.
Thank you for reading. This was a little more troublesome for me to write, having never written a battle scene before. I hope I've managed deliver well.
I was uncertain of how to play the issue with Durza. I decided that, being so young, and never having been in a battle of this size before, Eragon's mind would have been in freeze-flight-fight mode, and wouldn't be working as well. Not to mention Saphira's armour being crushed would have distracted him.
Please review. Constructive criticism is always welcome.