A TALE OF MIRKWOOD - Chapter Twenty-nine - The Battle for Rohan
Sorry this took so long! I hope everyone will enjoy this one. It's been called one of my best. Lot's of violence too, for those who love Orc hacking! Thanks again to everyone to commented on Chapter 28!
The company had departed Edoras, and with Gandalf's counsel, ridden onward to Helm's Deep, Rohan's great fortress of yesteryears. Never before had an enemy set foot inside the Hornburg, and it was every man's hope that this battle would prove no different. However, when seeing the numbers before them, a host so large that swarmed like veracious insects, the men of Helm's Deep grew fearful and prepared for their deaths.
Legolas stood at the great wall of the parapet, bow in hand, a sleeping, snoring dwarf at his feet. Dark was the night, despite a moon and stars.
At length, Aragorn approached, his eyes straining to see into the blackness of the night. In Elvish he whispered, "Legolas, your eyes are far keener than my own. See you anything in this nothingness?"
"I see movement. They cover the land like a carpet of putrid wretchedness," Legolas replied in his native tongue, his hatred for the orcs growing.
"How many?" Aragorn appealed softly.
Shaking his head, Legolas replied, "Thousands. Perhaps eight, or perhaps ten. I cannot be certain without more light."
Just then, thunder rumbled far off to the east. Aragorn found this comforting and patted his friend on the back. "A storm! With luck, it will blow this way, and light up this gloom."
Gimli snorted in his sleep, rolled over, and snored ever the more loudly on his back. Legolas and Aragorn exchanged glances.
"Think the enemy can hear his thunderous noise?" Legolas asked, a wry grin upon his face.
"If they can," Aragorn replied, stepping away, "perhaps it will frighten them away."
Legolas laughed and turned once more to the oncoming enemy. Rohan men around him whispered, pointing out into the gaping void with fearful faces. A low rumble began to rise up from the valley which made not only boys quiver in their boots. A man stood beside Legolas, his leathery, old face watery with tears he was not ashamed to show.
"Why do you weep?" Legolas enquired gently.
"Long have we lived in these lands," replied he, "only to see it destroyed by a treacherous ally. We are all going to die here, and everything we hold dear shall burn as well."
Legolas was touched greatly by this old man's grief. Though Legolas was unwilling to admit it, there was truth in what the elderly soldier said.
"Never mind," the old man continued, shaking his head. "You would not understand."
"Of what have you said that an Elf could not understand?" Legolas inquired."
"With Elves, everything lasts forever. How fortunate for you," the old man said bitterly, "not to see your loved ones shrivel and die, or be taken by some childhood illness. I am certain that in your home, Rivendell bears many soldiers, strong and stout and ready to contend with any enemy they deem worthy. However, I see none here. All that we, the Rohirrum, have loved and held dear for centuries will at last be destroyed this wretched night. How long will our villages survive without its soldiers? Can our women and children rival this army if we cannot? You see, Elf? You simply could not fathom our circumstance."
Legolas had no time to reply, for in a flash Gimli rose, charging at the old man. "You should watch your tongue, Greybeard, and speak not of things you know nothing about!"
"Gimli," Legolas said softly, of which Gimli took no notice.
"For instance," Gimli continued, "this Elf comes not from Rivendell, but from Mirkwood, near my home, The Lonely Mountain. The soldiers that you spoke of, and yes, there are many, are busy defending their own homes from the armies of Mordor, you foolish old goat! If they are destroyed, all that they love and hold dear will be ravaged as well, won't it?" Gimli said, his fists firmly placed on his hips.
The old man knew his contender had been met. "Perhaps my remarks were too swift," he said.
Gimli saw that this was nearest to an apology as they were going to receive, so welcomed it forgivingly. "Think not of it! The Elf excuses your confusion. Little is known of their way of life, I understand, except for me as my own father was once held captive at his father's hands."
"And yet you are friends?" the old man asked, his suspicions of Legolas returning.
"Aye," Gimli continued, "for that is long passed, and he is a particularly peculiar Elf. Come, let us find some food and some ale, and I shall tell you about it. As I said, it was long ago," Gimli began as the two walked away, the old man looking somewhat confused.
It was an hour or more before Gimli and the old man returned from their quest for beer. "Well, Legolas, the dwarf said, burping, "Are those Orcs any closer? My axe is impatient."
"Closer, indeed, but closer still must they come for battle. I would think your axe need only wait an hour hence," Legolas said, smiling down ruefully at his friend.
"Good! And for that hour, I will rest even more. Wake me when they have come," Gimli said before laying down on the cold stone and falling swiftly to sleep.
The old man glanced at Legolas warily. "I am sorry for saying those things to you. I had no right."
"Think naught of it. The time has come when we each have something to lose in Middle Earth. It matters not where you live. Mordor's threat is still the same," Legolas said as he stared out into the black expanse, listening to the pounding of the soldiers feet coming ever closer.
"What is your name?" the old man asked.
"I am called Legolas. And you?"
"Hadas they call me. I would be pleased to call you friend, Legolas from Mirkwood."
"As I would you, Hadas from Rohan."
* * *
Gimli, who had slept soundly, awoke when the Uruk-hai announced their arrival at the fortress with fierce, ear-splitting cries. Legolas had seen the slow, hazy approach of the army, and at last, they stood beyond the outer wall, thousands upon thousands, when suddenly, the rain began. At first scattered droplets, and then a wall of rain poured over everything in the valley. Legolas' hair clung against his skin as he armed his bow.
"Ugh," Gimli said, axe in hand. "In this weather I am thankful for my helmet."
Legolas smiled as he searched for a target. Suddenly his eyes began to define shapes in the black mass as the figures of Orcs appeared. One he saw quite clearly and aimed cautiously at the beast's neck. A fierce roar came from the Orc captain, and Saruman's Army let loose their arrows. In response, Legolas redirected his aim, shot and hit his mark with lightening speed. The Orc Captain was dead before his body hit the muddy earth.
"One. . ." Legolas whispered to himself.
* * *
With his unerring aim, it was not long before Legolas' arrows were spent. Great ladders were hoisted against the Deeping Wall, which the Orcs were quick to climb. Drawing his long sword, Legolas cut through Orc after Orc in a flash of blood and groaning, screaming bodies.
"Eighteen. . .Nineteen. . ." he said to himself as he slew each beast down, leaving a trail of foul corpses wherever he went.
A giant Uruk-hai climbed the ladder and stepped over the wall, scanning about him for victims. A great knife he held in his hand, dirty and stained with blood. Men about him fought with desperation, but it was an elf that caught his eye. He watched as the slender elf swung at his combatant with effortless fluidity. Finding a source worthy of a fight, the Orc strode towards the duelling pair.
Legolas had been battling ceaselessly. His current rival, a great oaf of an Orc, swung his cumbersome blade at Legolas missing by a great distance. Suddenly, a larger and more powerful Orc stepped behind, slicing off the smaller Orc's head. Both body pieces fell to the ground in a heap. Legolas' surprised eyes rose to the full height of the menacing creature.
"You are too competent a coney for that buffoon," the Orc snarled showing his rotted teeth. "But you're not for me," it added, smiling savagely.
Legolas replied by thrusting his knife toward his target, clashing with the great brute's blade. The Orc's hammer-like fist flew at Legolas which missed him by mere slivers. Dropping suddenly and rolling on the stone floor away from his attacker, Legolas stood up briskly, knife ready for another assault. The Orc charged, bearing his whole weight against Legolas. Grasping his blade handle with both hands, Legolas sliced deep into the savage's belly, his sword becoming lodged in the beast's bones.
Looking up from it's wound, oozing thick with black blood, the Orc raised his head staring deep into Legolas' crystal blue eyes. "Well done," it gurgled, blood trickling out of it's mouth before promptly pounding a massive fist into Legolas' ribs.
Legolas crashed into the granite parapet, his ribs screaming with pain. The Orc approached him, his filthy blade raised for the kill when suddenly Hadas attacked, brandishing his sword. To Legolas' horror, Hadas, though a strong and valiant soldier, was no match even for the dying Orc. It took two stabs to slay the old man, but he did not die completely in vain. In his last dying effort, Hadas tossed Legolas his sword who quickly grasped it, and watched his friend fall into a lifeless mound on the cold, stone floor.
Wasting no time to strike back, Legolas charged, roaring, and powerfully stabbed the beast straight into it's heart. It fell down, dead. Legolas had not the luxury of saying goodbye to the man, Hadas, as Orcs were quickly spilling over the sides of the Deeping Wall. With a great tug, Legolas pulled his sword out of the Orc's corpse, and joined his comrades again in the thick of the fray.
"Twenty-two," he said as he ran his last Orc through.
He was about to tackle one of the many ladders next, but heard some desperate cries for help. Stopping and searching for the source, he discovered a boy, appearing not yet twelve years of age, cornered with an Orc twice his size toying with him as a cat toys with a mouse. Legolas wasted no time in decapitating the beast. Picking up the boy's short sword, Legolas handed it to him, saying, "Come boy, this is no place for you. Will you not go into the citadel?"
"I was ordered to stay here and fight," the boy answered, scared and shaking.
"You cannot stay here," Legolas said firmly. "The Deeping Wall will not last. Pray, go to the citadel or perish."
Those last words proved most effective, for the boy nodded and stepped quickly down the stairs toward the stronghold. Legolas turned, welcoming further swordplay with the onslaught of Orcs.
Gimli appeared shortly, as they fought, and the two compared their kills; Gimli at twenty-one, Legolas at twenty-four. Gimli grumbled to himself and fought valiantly on while Legolas went in search of more arrows.
It was a vile business, pulling arrows from the dead, but Legolas pulled only from the Orcs, leaving the bodies of men untouched. His search proved fruitful, finding nearly enough to fill his quill. On down toward the citadel he scoured where some Orcs had brazenly attempted entrance. While withdrawing an arrow from an Orc corpse, Legolas made a gruesome discovery. A small hand stuck out from neath the foul creature's body. Rolling the beast over, Legolas' heart wept at the sight of the boy he had saved but a while before. He had a large slice in his small belly, yet his face appeared peaceful and at rest. Placing a gentle hand on the boy's brow, he said, "Sleep well, little child. For no matter how the storms rage now, they will not frighten thee."
In his anger, Legolas stepped back to the Deeping Wall, withdrawing each arrow in his quill, firing them at will, avenging the death of a young boy whose name he had not even known. He shot so quickly that his arrows were soon spent again.
Aragorn was briefly seen, and only woe did he have to tell. Gimli was not to be found, and how Legolas feared for his safe return.
Legolas resumed his search for arrows, often plucking some from his newly killed the same arrows used twice before. However, in a short space of time, the assault of Orcs continued to spill over the wall, creating a wave of unstoppable evil which could not be contained by the few remaining soldiers. They retreated within the citadel, baring the doors. The elf went in search of Aragorn, finding him, eventually, discussing matters of strategy with Théoden. Off Aragorn went again, this time with Legolas by his side, both wielding swords in their strong hands.
"What do you intend?" Legolas asked as they walked briskly along the wall.
"I shall ask them to leave," Aragorn replied.
"And do you expect them to comply with such a request?" Legolas asked, equally candid.
"Expect them, nay. But I shall do so just the same."
"And if they refuse?" Legolas asked.
Aragorn and Legolas reached their desired position and stood at the wall which had not yet been taken, and gazed out over the thousands of Orcs still waiting to enter the Deep. The sky began to lighten. Daybreak was at hand!
"If they refuse," Aragorn said, smiling, "we shall make them leave."
* * *
It had been long, indeed, since Mithryn dared attempt the use of her powers. She had feared any such attempts would drain her strength, thus making her weaker. Yet with the onset of spring, her courage rallied. Choosing this day for it's warm air and bright sunshine, she stepped into the vale, where she and Legolas used to linger, as her place of experimenting.
Mithryn's belly had been steadily growing as she was now in her sixth month of pregnancy. Nine months appeared an eternity, and twelve longer still, for Elves require a full year of gestation prior to birth.
"Something small," she said to herself, as she looked about her, searching for something to test herself on. Eying a dried leaf, she picked it up, and set it on a large boulder. Holding out her nervous hand, she concentrated with all her will and might. Slowly at first, as if yet unsure, the leaf began to twirl and rise up into the air. Mithryn released it when the wind suddenly caught it, making it float out to the tree tops. She laughed delightedly. "That had not hurt a bit!" she thought to herself.
"Now for something slightly larger. . ." she thought, surveying the ground. She espied a small stone, less than half the size of her fist and promptly picked it up. It weighed little, and was cold and smooth to the touch. Without hesitation, she placed it on the boulder, and prepared herself again. Stretching out her arm, she closed her eyes, concentrating on the stone as it rose higher and higher.
Tarnil stepped close, watching her with astonishment. "Mithryn," he whispered. His sudden presence was such a surprise, her connection failed and the stone plummeted back to the earth skipping into the nearby brook.
"Mithryn, what. . .I. . ." Tarnil stammered, "Legolas said you had powers, but. . ."
"Pray, Tarnil," Mithryn said, interrupting his broken speech, "it is nothing, I assure you. In truth, I have not exercised my powers in many months. Not since. . ." But there she broke off, thinking back to the fight in the forest, and the Orc who had stabbed her so fiercely in her back.
"Not since that night," Tarnil finished for her. "Aye, I heard the stories. Spheres of flame? Your powers are impressive, they say. But, why the stone?"
"It has been a long time, and I have been weak."
"And thought the better of charging wholly and blindly in. Very wise, indeed! How does your practice progress?"
"Very well. I am able to lift a leaf, and just now a stone."
"And how do you feel?" he asked, skeptically.
"Very well," she answered cheerfully. "I feel as though I could fly!"
"Yes, well, thank Elbereth you cannot. Well, I had best resume my duties," he said, about to walk away.
"Tarnil," Mithryn said pleadingly, reaching out her hand to pull him back, "I have noticed as of late that Haldof and Galamed always seem to come in search of me, to see if I am well. And just now, you appear. I am merely curious as to the reason of this."
Shrugging his broad shoulders Tarnil replied, "We search not for you. It is not our concern what you do in our kingdom. I assure you we are far to busy to constantly worry what you are up to."
"Good," she said, though unconvinced, "because it would be totally unnecessary. Long have I been able to take care of myself. No matter what Legolas may think."
"Legolas?" Tarnil said smoothly. "What does he have to do with it?"
"Nothing I am sure," Mithryn said, smiling. She knew well of the promise her husband bade his brothers take, and had daily proof of it. No matter where in the Kingdom she went, one of Legolas' brothers was sure to follow.
"Well, I must be off. Farewell until tonight's banquet, Mithryn." Tarnil then turned and moved just beyond Mithryn's sight. With sprightly mastery he climbed a tree, until he sat comfortable on a thick bough, watching her from afar.
Mithryn, now feeling quite alone and confident in her abilities, decided to take a giant leap forward with her practicing. She had facetiously expressed the wish to fly, but now she had decided to attempt to do so. In preparation, she filled her heart with love and warmth, and as the sun caressed her smooth face, she spread her arms wide, staring up into the heavens above. Smiling and full of hope, she slowly began to rise off the ground, turning ever so slowly as she rose meters off the earth.
Tarnil sat, awestruck, for never had Legolas or rumored whispers described Mithryn of being able to do such before. Yet his heart jumped into his throat when he saw her suddenly fall, landing violently on the ground. She crumpled to the earth, and Tarnil jumped effortlessly from his branch, and with several long strides was by her side.
"Mithryn! Oh, why did you do anything so foolish?!" Tarnil said, though only out of concern.
"It is alright. I have merely sprained my ankle," she said, massaging the throbbing flesh, already beginning to swell.
"Come, I must take you to Armenil. She can at least give you something for the pain or to reduce the swelling."
Coming to no better conclusion herself, she finally relented, but flatly refused his carrying her. "I am not an invalid, Tarnil, and I refuse to be treated as one!"
"You cannot walk on the ankle; it is quite swollen already. You will only cause further damage to the wound."
She was about to give further protest when he quickly scooped her up and said, "Legolas would never forgive me if your ankle did not mend, and so from fear of my brother's wrath, I shall carry you. If you wish to argue with anyone, argue with him," he said as he strode away carrying her uncomfortably in his awkward grasp.
"Believe me when I say, I would if I could," she said, grumbling.
* * *
"How is she?" Thranduil asked. A group of Elves stood apart with their horses, for the King had been about to embark on a hunt when news had come of Mithryn's fall.
"Her ankle improves, sire," Armenil said, "but she is much fatigued." She shook her head, fretfully. "However, her wound of months past lingers on."
"It has never healed?" he whispered.
"Nay, sire. It has closed, of course, but is red as flame and hot to the touch. The poison is spreading, I fear."
"Thank you, you may go," Thranduil said.
Armenil bowed and strode away, but the King did not join his party instantly. He stood for a prolonged time, his face contorted in thought. "If she should die before Legolas' return," thought he, "never would he forgive me."
Tarnil suddenly approached him, running quickly. "Father, I am glad you had not yet gone. Pray, a word with you."
"Only a word?" he asked. "I am about to go on the hunt."
"Father, it will but take a moment."
"Oh, very well, but be brisk. What is it you wish to discuss?"
"Why, Mithryn of course!" he said, exasperated. "Honestly, Father, I wonder at you! Mithryn was attempting her magic and look what has happened!"
"But of this you have already told me, Tarnil. I admit it was a little reckless of her, but mortals are always so, I believe."
"Haldof, Galamed and I have been talking, Father, for she seems to grow weaker every day!"
"Nonsense. Why, I have only just finished speaking with Armenil, and she tells me her ankle is of little concern."
"Father, I speak not of Mithryn's ankle."
"Then, of what do you speak, Tarnil?" Thranduil asked, still playing ignorant.
"Why, of her wound, of course! The Orc wound. It never has healed, has it?" Tarnil inquired, eyes staring intensely into those of his father.
Thranduil stood staring at Tarnil before replying, "Need I respond to this, for you already seem to know the answer. Do you not?"
"I do not deny it. Haldof told me, as well as Galamed. We had a right to know, Father."
"Nay, you only have a right if I say you have a right," his voice and anger rising. "Of this you have no business, Tarnil."
His tone was such that Tarnil dare not argue further. He felt his point had been made. "Just as you say, Father," he replied before striding away.
* * *
It was a nervous walk for Haldof from his chamber to his Father's study. Not long, but from the time of his summons, a queasy feeling had taken hold of his stomach. Suddenly he felt as though he were a mere child, an Elf of no more years than a tree, and he was about to be scolded.
His footsteps echoed in the empty passageways as did the hallo sound of the knock as he rapped on the ancient door. A soft entry was given and Haldof entered the dim room.
"I know why you have called for me, Father," Haldof said, his voice trembling slightly, which unnerved him.
"Indeed," Thranduil replied, placing a pressed leaf into his book, and setting it on the table. "Why?
"Because I told Tarnil and Galamed about Mithryn's condition," Haldof said. His courage was building now, as he further recalled the reasons for his actions.
"Oh? You did that did you?"
"Aye, against your command."
"I commanded you not to do that, did I?"
"Aye, Father, and I would wish you not continue speaking in this manner. You never forget anything, and I'll not have you speak to me as though I were a child."
"Then perhaps," Thranduil said, coldly, "you had best stop acting like a child." He rose and stalked about the room.
Haldof promptly swallowed the words in his mouth, but could not banish the lump in his throat.
"When I give my command," the King continued, "I expect it to be obeyed! You of all people should know this, Haldof. Why, I ask you, after I had expressly ordered you not to speak of this, did you defy me?!"
Haldof thought a moment before quietly replying, "Because it was wrong. It was wrong, Father, and I could not defy you completely and tell Mithryn, but Tarnil and Galamed. . .they are not fools. Their questions continued, and it slipped out. I am sorry," he said, hanging his head guiltily.
Seeing his son thus, so full of remorse, Thranduil's heart softened immediately. "Nay, I am sorry. I have been too hard. Indeed, this has been a dreadful secret for us both to bear. Perhaps it will be better with the help of Tarnil and Galamed. I am sorry I chastised you so," he said, sinking back into his chair.
Haldof stood still a moment, unsure what to say. "How is she?"
"Not well. Her ankle is sprained, nothing more, but her back is what caused the fall. No injury to the child, thank Elbereth!"
"That is relief, indeed!"
"Yes, however," Thranduil said sadly, "in the end, it may not even matter."
"I do not understand."
"Mithryn is not expected to survive the delivery, Haldof."
Haldof stood, shocked. How he wished Legolas were here, but what Legolas could do, he knew not. All he knew was that never before had he wished for his brother so much. "And the child?"
It was too much for Thranduil. No words could he utter, the pain in his heart was so profound. He merely shook his head, nay.
End of Chapter Twenty-nine