Fallen Leaves - Chapter 3; Farewells (story now complete)
The Houses of Healing were overflowing with injured Rohirrim, some of the wounded lay on wooden cots in passageways, some made do with a simple worn blanket as they lay on the cold stone. It seemed as though every nook and cranny were filled with the victims of the recent battle.
Their agonising groans filled the air, mixing with the tearful choked back sobs of loved ones standing nearby who offered support and comfort as best they could. Some held slightly chipped mugs of water to their dry, parched lips, others tasked with placing pressure on wounds that bleed far too freely, while others simply held on tightly, offering a comforting hand to cling to during the pain and confusion as they whispered soothing words into anxious ears.
Over-worked healers, assisted by some of the women and soldiers, rushed about from patient to patient, trying to assess who could be saved and who was beyond hope. It was a difficult task and some would say cruel but supplies were running short and they could not be wasted on those for whom death waited on in the shadows.
It was a scene of barely controlled chaos.
Yet that was not the case in a large emptied out armoury a short distance away.
Here, the beings moved about with controlled silent steps and spoke to one another in hushed whispers. Here, the loudest sound to be heard was that of cold water as it splashed onto the ancient stone floor. Water that ran red and black as it washed away the filth and bloody stains of battle from the bodies and armour of the fallen Galadhrim.
Some lay on crude wooden tables while their brethren tended to them, preparing them for their final journey, while others waited patiently all about the floor, rows and rows of lifeless bodies, it was a most difficult sight for any elf to witness.
Legolas returned his weary gaze to the body before him as he carefully poured the pitcher of water through the Marchwarden's hair, cleansing it as best he could, returning it to its former golden glory and yet he couldn't help but notice that much of the lustre was fading away just as the iridescent glow had seemingly abandoned the pale skin.
The young Prince swallowed hard.
All that Haldir had been was truly gone, only the shell remained.
And yet these empty vessels would be treated with the utmost care and reverence, the remaining elves would not stand to have their kin rest forever in the earth while tainted in any way by the foul filth of Saruman's creations and so they worked meticulously to rid the bodies of such evil contamination.
Legolas then took a clean piece of linen and soaked it in a basin of cold water. Tenderly, he used the cloth to rid the Captain's face of any traces of grime. As he was washing away all evidence of the battle, he noticed a dark string made from fine leather about the elf's neck, carefully he reached for it and freed it from beneath the clothing and armour.
Hanging from the thong, in shining mithril, was a delicate mallorn leaf, flanked on each side by two similar yet smaller leaves. Realising the probable significance of the piece he sighed with renewed sadness as he closed his eyes tightly, refusing to allow the escape of further tears.
On opening his eyes he discovered that he was being watched by the young Galadhrim warrior that had spoken to him earlier, he wordlesly beckoned the elf, inviting him over.
"What is your name friend ?" the Prince enquired.
"Maldathar, my Lord," came the warrior's hushed reply.
"I have a duty for you to preform Maldathar, would you see it done ?" he asked.
"Ofcourse my Lord, what would you have me do ?" the younger elf answered, as he willingly offered his services.
Legolas gently freed the personal token from about Haldir's throat and eased it over his head, he held it tightly in his grasp for a moment before passing it to the Lórien elf.
"See that his brothers receive this Maldathar," the Prince softly instructed.
Understanding the importance of the task he had been entrusted with, caused the young warrior's heart to constrict in pain once more, he could not trust himself to speak and in truth he knew not the words to say so he simply nodded in acceptance and bowed before the Mirkwood elf before he turned away to help the rest of his kin.
Outside the broken wall of Helm's Deep, other preparations were underway. Many of Éomer's éored had been tasked with clearing the earth for the burial of the dead. None would be taken back to Edoras.
A group of the riders had been asked to help prepare a resting place for the fallen elves. A handful of the few remaining Galadhrim worked with them and they had chosen a place near a small hillock covered with trees, they wanted their brethren buried away from the fortress of stone.
It grieved them greatly to leave their fallen here, far from home and loved ones but there were simply too many and the distance back to Lothlórien, too great.
Gimli had also offered his services, he toiled away gathering the many small rocks that would be required to cover the burial mound.
It was good to keep busy, earlier he had helped to clear out the armoury that was being used to hold the bodies of the elves but once it was ready, he understood that his elven friend needed to be alone with his own kin for the next few hours. As he helped to collect the stones and break some of the bigger rocks, a thought occurred to him, but he would need some help to see it through and so he sought out one person whom he knew could help........Aragorn.
It was late in the day before all the bodies had been placed in their respective burial sites. There would be no burial however for the hordes of foul creatures that had littered the ground, they had been dumped in large mounds far from the fortress and would be burned once their victims had been seen to.
The Galadhrim carried their fallen on wooden biers to the small tree covered hill and lay each one gently in the prepared earth. Much care and attention had been paid to them and as each elf was laid on the ground a mallorn leaf, taken from the supplies of lembas, was placed between their cold hands, so that they would forever have with them a piece of home, then their cloaks were wrapped about them.
Last to be placed was the body of Haldir.
Legolas and Maldathar carefully positioned him in the centre so that his body would forever lie with those he had served with for countless years, as he fought beside them in life, he would now sleep beside them in death.
Once they had all been placed in the ground, Legolas and the surviving Galadhrim worked tirelessly once more to cover the bodies with the damp earth and the protective cover stones.
The sun had set and a curtain of darkness was slowly being drawn across the heavens by the time they had finished. The faint glimmer of distant stars twinkled overhead, soon they would become like dazzling jewels in the night sky and all about in the distance, torches were being lit to offer comfort to the living.
As the elves stood in silence before the fresh burial mound, their attention was drawn to the sound of an approaching horse drawn cart. It carried three large warriors of Rohan and a sturdy dwarf.
They knew of this dwarf and of the strange but close relationship he shared with the Prince of Mirkwood and they had appreciated his efforts in helping to prepare the burial site but they were curious now as to why he was here.
Gimli jumped down from the cart and merely nodded solemly to the company of elves, sparing a quick glance at his friend before uttering some gruff whispers of instruction to the riders of the Mark. They moved to the back of the cart and slowly removed a large and apparently heavy object. It was covered in a long, dark cloth. The men struggled with the object and began to move closer and closer to the burial mound, causing the elves to move out of the way. Gimli guided them to the right spot and then signalled them to lower the object. As it fell to the ground with a heavy thud that reverberated through the earth, it was clear now that the object was a large rock.
Their task done, then men quietly returned to the cart and left, they felt uncomfortable being around the grieving elves and wished to give them their privacy.
Gimli looked up at his friend and at the elven warriors, feeling a little unsure and uncomfortable himself, he hoped he was not about to make a fool of himself. And so after a deep calming breath, he finally spoke.
"I thought it might be fitting," he announced cryptically, as he pointed to the covered rock.
Tilting his head to one side in slight confusion, the Prince stared at the covered object while his delicate brows began to steadily knit together.
He looked questionlingly at his dwarven friend, who simply nodded back and gestured to the object once more.
Legolas slowly advanced towards it, as did many of the remaining elves. He hunched down before it and began to pull the covering away. What was finally revealed took his breath away.
It was no ordinary rock but a large rectangular stone from the structure of Helm's Deep, all about its edges were carved bold geometric designs, similar to those he had witnessed in Moria, they were clearly of dwarven origin.
But it was the words they framed that caused a tumultuous mix of emotions to swirl about inside him. His long fingers slowly traced the words meticulousy carved in both Sindarin and again underneath in Westron...........................
'To Those That Have Sacrificed Forever'.
The Prince swallowed the large lump that had formed in his throat but could not stop the warm tears that swelled up in his blue eyes.
Legolas looked to his companion once more and Gimli saw not just sadness but also amazement and deep appreciation. Relief swept through him for the gesture had been taken well.
"I have not the words elvellon," was as much as the Prince could say and so he simply joined the rest of his kin as they bowed in thanks and mutual respect before this special child of Aulë.
Gimli, unsure of what to do, bowed back in return.
"I shall leave you now Master Elf and return later with Aragorn," Gimli began, not wishing to intrude.
"Nay Master Dwarf, I wish you to stay," Legolas stated earnestly.
And so he did, a single dwarf standing amongst a group of creatures he had yet to fully comprehend and yet for the first time in a long time, he did not care. There would always be vast differences between his folk and these strange elves, mayhap there would always be disagreement but tonight he began to realise that in many ways they were the same.
Just like his own kin, these elves had fought the Shadow, they had suffered, they had bleed.................they had died...........and now as their haunting voices filled the air in song, they grieved.
He would stay and offer comfort to his friend and he would be there for him in the days and nights to come when the grief threathened to overcome him.
Yes, for as long as the lad needed it, he would be there.
Author's note ; Well that's it folks, short and sweet, hope you enjoyed it, as always , please do let me know what you think ! Thanks ! and much Thanks & hugs to those who have been kind enough to comment on it already !!
Bye for now !