Fallen Leaves - Chapter 2; Solemn Duty
Lost in his grief, Legolas was unaware of the few remaining Galadhrim which had steadily gathered around him, drawn as they were to the body of their Captain. Leaderless now, they looked to the young Prince.
Soon his eyes caught the subtle movements of their billowing cloaks and he gazed up at them, their faces mirroring his own grief and anguish at such terrible losses.
Respectfully, he rested Haldir's body back onto the broken battlement, tenderly supporting the limp head until it lay on the cold stone once more. He wiped his eyes, smudging the tiny clean tracks the tears had made on his face and then he stood to meet the gazes of his kin.
So few had survived, the Goldenwood had sacrificed much during the night and many of her children would not be returning home. He looked to each of them, his expressive eyes offering silent thanks and condolences, though it seemed so painfully inadequate a sentiment and so he bowed humbly before them in honour of their selfless deeds.
Higher up near the Keep Gimli's eyes took in the destruction all around him. The losses were great and much damage had been done but they had endured, Rohan had endured and many of her people had been given another chance at life thanks to those who now lay motionless on the ancient stones.
It had not been long since the son of Glóin had witnessed such similar ruination in the vast halls of Khazad-dûm. There his own kin had suffered horribly at the hands of evil, only none had lived to tell the tale, only a few scribbled words in an ancient book remained.
At least this time there had been survivors and yet strangely, it seemed to him as if this made the losses all the more heartfelt, as he watched women and children crawl amongst the fallen bodies, searching for their loved ones. He could not help the lump from forming in his throat, nor the tears that misted his eyes.
For the first time, he felt trully weary and yet the battle was not yet over, there was much hardship and toil ahead.
At least I have my friends, he thought, as he removed his heavy helm.
They would help him to carry on. As his thoughts turned to his companions, his eyes sought one of them out, he knew Aragorn was inside the Keep, in council with Gandalf and King Theoden but it had been sometime since he had seen the elf.
He was curious to know what the lad's final score had been and he hoped that the pointed-eared Princeling had not bested him. He had been thankful for the macabre competition which had developed between them during the night, in a strange way it had helped him to remain focused on his duty, when all about him the people of Rohan were being slaughtered, it had helped him to distance himself from these horrors as he did his best to send as many of the foul creatures back to hell.
Soon he spotted the elf in question on the battered outer wall. He watched as his new friend sank to his knees and cradled a body in his arms. Gimli moved to get a better look, it was then that he realised whom Legolas held in his rocking arms.
The red cloak had been unmistakable.
So, he thought, the proud Marchwarden has fallen.
Gimli sighed through tightly pursed lips and hung his head. He had no great love for the Lórien Captain but he recognised a fellow warrior when he saw one. He had witnessed the elf fighting during the night, before he had lept carelessly, according to Aragorn, into the foray below. Haldir had become like death himself, slicing his way through countless uruk-hai, dipatching the filth with skill and a firey passion.
But now it seemed as though that passion had been spent forever and Gimli couldn't help but feel shame and guilt at the harsh words he had uttered to the Marchwarden in Lothlórien.
But that could not be helped now, no, now it was his friend that would need his support. He had witnessed first hand the grief born by the Mirkwood elf at the supposed fall of Gandalf, at the death of Boromir and again when they had believed Aragorn to be lost. Gimli had never before witnessed such dispair and confusion in a being's eyes and it had troubled him greatly. Knowing that the seemingly aloof creature was capable of such deep feeling was one of the things which helped to break the tension between them.
Gimli berated himself for not seeking out the elf sooner, he should have known that Legolas would be deeply affected by the death of so many of his kin.
And so, with all thoughts of their 'game' forgotten he made his way to the outer wall to be with his friend who was soon disappearing amongst the few remaining Galadhrim gathering silently about him.
"What would you have us do my Lord ?" one of the Galadhrim asked wearily.
Legolas looked to him, the elf was young, younger than himself but his fea would be forever marked by the recent events.
Taking in a deep, calming breath, Legolas spoke quietly.
"Go now and gather your fallen brethren, I shall find a suitable place within the Keep where we can prepare them............ we owe them that much," he added in a mere whisper.
And so the elves quietly dispearsed amongst the ruins, hearts heavy from the solemn duty they had been tasked with. The young warrior remained, however, his eyes fixed on the body of his Captain, a warrior he had looked up to, a warrior he had believed invincible.
Legolas rested his hand on the elf's shoulder and squeezed it slightly, the subtle pressure drew the Galadhrim's eyes to his own. He saw the unvoiced question that lay there.
"Go with your kin, do not worry, I shall take care of him," the Prince promised.
The Lórien elf looked once more to the body of his Captain, loath to abandon him, yet he knew he could trust the Prince with this grave task and so he nodded wordlessly in obedience and joined the rest of his kin in their search.
By the time Gimli arrived, Legolas was alone once more on the wall. The dwarf advanced slowly on his friend but his heavy steps were easily heard.
The elf smiled weakly at his companion, though his eyes remained troubled.
"I am glad to see you hale Master Dwarf," he announced earnestly, for he had become extremely fond of the stunted creature since there time in the Goldenwood.
"And I you," came the equally honest reply.
Gimli's eyes were drawn to the body of the Marchwarden, he looked peaceful, almost at rest, had he not recently learned that elves rest with their eyes open.
"I am sorry," he added softly, his gruff voice gentle for once, it was all he could think to say, at times like this meagre words are often found wanting.
Legolas looked to his companion and saw the sadness and honesty within their swirling brown depths.
"I know," was all he could bring himself to say in return, then he reached down once more and lifted the broken body into his arms.
"Would you take his sword, friend Gimli ?" Legolas asked.
"Yes, yes ofcourse," the dwarf replied, eager to help his friend in any possible way, and so he reached down and drew the blood stained weapon from the debris.
"I must find a suitable place to prepare them," he said with a strange conviction, though more to himself than to the dwarf, then he began to make his way through the tangled mess around their feet.
Gimli followed silently behind, he would not leave the elf's side now, he would be there for him whenever he was needed.
And so the two companions made there way to the Keep unaware of the surviving Rohan soldiers clearing a path before them, bowing respectfully as the passed.