Lady From Beyond the Sea - Chapter 18 - Helm's Deep
*****Sorry for the long delay, I had a terrible bout of writer's block, and had to fight for every word, so it took me much longer than usual. Don't worry though, I have finally conquered it, and there will be a chapter every week from now on. Thank you everyone who is reading this for not boycotting me for taking so long.********
Zandra stood silently before the breastwork on the Deepening Wall, gazing into the dark sky, drawing comfort from the air that was heavy with the promise of rain. Down below the Dike would soon be filled with an enemy that would only stop when destroyed. She knew this with grim certainty. It was not something that could be questioned, and she felt no regret when killing orcs, but still her heart quailed at the thought of the bloody days ahead.
She knew her skills were considerable when it came to fighting, but the memory of the relatively few battles she had seen filled her with horror. Though Eowyn envied her the opportunity to win glory in battle, she herself wished she could lay aside her weapons and never fight again. How she hated war, hated fighting, hated killing. There is no glory in this,[/] she thought, Why did I come? I could have stayed with Eowyn. I didn't have to see the horrors that always accompany war.
But even as the thought ended she knew the answer, she came because that was her fate, she could no more resist it than she could stop breathing. She knew that despite the horror of it all it was necessary, and she would fight as long as was necessary. It was a heritage that she could not deny, even if she couldn't remember from whence it came. We are Dae Kular, if we don't fight who will? her mother's voice told her again.
"But what is Dae Kular?"
"What?" Gimli asked. Zandra started, she had not meant to speak aloud. The Dwarf and Legolas were standing not far away talking.
"Nothing, I was just thinking out loud," she replied.
"Dae Kular," Legolas said puzzledly, "Is this another riddle?" he asked, "relating to your past?"
"Yes," she admitted, then laughed in bitter self-mockery, "That is what I am, Dae Kular, but I don't know what it is."
"Dae Is shadow," Legolas said, "but Kular, that is a strange word."
"No, I . . . I don't think, no, I know it is not Elvish, but some other tongue." She sighed dejectedly, "I know I should know it. It feels tantalizingly familiar, but the meaning dances beyond my reach."
"It will . . ."Legolas's words were cut off as yells and screams, and the fierce battle-cries of men broke out suddenly from the Dike below them. The three companions turned swiftly to the ramparts and watched as men came galloping back over the field, and up the ramp of the Hornburg.
"The enemy is at hand!" they cried, "We loosed every arrow that we had, and filled the Dike with orcs. But it will not halt them long."
No it won't halt them long Zandra thought, fingering the knife she had hung in her belt. Fear began to bubble within her. What did she really know of war? The largest battle she had been involved in was the Battle of the Five Armies, and she knew that, though terrible, it had been relatively bloodless compared to the Great Wars that had been fought during her imprisonment.
It was now past midnight. The sky was utterly dark. Suddenly the clouds were seared by a blinding flash. Branched lightning smote down upon the eastward hills. For a startling moment all the space between the Hornburg and the Dike lit with white light: it was boiling and crawling with loathsome black shaped, some squat and broad, some tall and rim. Hundreds and hundreds more were pouring over the Dike and through the breach. The dark tide flowed up to the walls from cliff to cliff. thunder rolled in the valley. Rain came lashing down.
The effect of that rain on Zandra was surprising. The fear fled, replaced by grim determination, mingled with an odd sense of detachment. She knew suddenly what she would do. Arrows thick as rain came whistling over the battlements, and fell clinking and glancing on the stones. Not far off she heard strangled cries as some found their mark. Tears came, but she pushed them away. Later. she thought, I will feel later. The assault on Helm's Deep had begun, but Zandra made no move, and the Deep seemed to echo with stillness despite the roaring of the rain; no arrows answered those of the assailing host.
The halted, foiled by the silent menace of rock and wall. Zandra quietly began preparations for her assault. She sent thin questing tendrils of her awareness away from her body, and up through the pounding rain into the thick roiling clouds above.
Swiftly, but very carefully she probed the masses that crowded the sky. As she had once told Legolas, weather work was very intricate business, first she had to map out all the particles of water in the clouds, and become aware of each, then she could begin to control them.
As she worked, ever and again the lightning tore aside the darkness. The orcs screamed, waving spear and sword, and shot a cloud of arrows at anything that stood revealed upon the battlement. Brazen trumpets sounded. The enemy surged forward, some against the Deepening Wall, others towards the causeway that led to the gates.
At last Zandra finished mapping the storm. She was as aware of it as if it were herself. It almost seemed to her that she was two beings, one standing ready on the battlements, the other high above, sending lightning to rend the sky, and torrents of rain to scour the ground. This was where she had to take the most care. She had to be careful not to lose herself in the power of the storm.
Slowly she fed threads of power though the clouds, creating an intricate web that would allow her to direct the movements of the storm with precision.
"Now," she whispered, "That rain is as much of a hindrance to us as to the Orcs, so . . ." A slight twisting of the threads that bound her to the sky, and the rain ceased.
A moment the Orcs and wild men hesitated, surprised by the abrupt surcease in the torrent, and then on they came. Zandra allowed one more flash of stray lightning, which revealed the ghastly hand of Isengard on every helm and shield. They reached the summit of the rock; they drove towards the gates.
Then at last the moment Zandra was waiting for came, the defenders sent their answer; a storm of arrows flew from the keep, and Zandra sent a surge of power into the clouds. Lightning flashed and arched down, branching out, and finding its targets. The attacking hoard wavered, broke, and fled back, while Zandra mustered her strength for another strike. They would assume that first one was chance, but, she smiled grimly, she would give those foul creatures reason to fear the sky.
"Zandra what are you doing?" she heard Legolas mutter, her hearing augmented by the power that was thrumming though her body.
Focus girl she told herself, as the Orcs regrouped and charged again. If you attack indiscriminately you will be useless within the hour. You must watch for strategic attacks. With that thought she drew an arrow, and moved to join the archers at the wall.
Suddenly she heard a cry from the direction of the gate. "Anduril! Anduril goes to war. The Blade that was Broken shines again!" She turned and saw that the group that had gone up the causeway had carried two great trees, and were ramming the gates. Aragorn, Eomer, and a small group fell upon them, and they dropped the trees in dismay, but the wall of their shields was near impenetrable to the men. With a swift lighting strike the wall was broken, and they were swept away, hewn down, or cast over the Rock to the stream below. Zandra turned away, as she saw that the swordsmen had all in hand, and scanned about for the next place to strike, shaking of the moment of weakness that followed such great expenditure of power.
Legolas sat whetting his long knife. There was a lull in the assault, since an attempt to break in through a culvert had been foiled. He looked up at another flash of lightning, his worried gaze seeking out Zandra, he could not see her at the moment.
She was pushing her limits, he could tell, but he knew she would not welcome his interference if he told her to stop, despite her recent wound, and subsequent draining of her power. His heart clenched in pain at remembering those moment when he had thought she was going to die. This loving was a very uncomfortable thing.
"Twenty-one!" Gimli called, and Legolas looked up to see his friend rejoining him after going down to fight in the culvert.
"Good!" said Legolas, "But my count is now two dozen. It has been knife work up here."
Even as he spoke there came a blare of trumpets. Then there was a crash, and a flash of flame and smoke, the keep shook beneath them. Legolas looked from whence the sound came and saw a gaping hole blasted in the wall; a host of dark shapes poured in.
"Devilry of Saruman!" cried Aragorn, "They have crept in the culvert again, and have lit the fire of Orthanc beneath our feet!" He leapt towards the breach, and Legolas moved to follow, but he was stopped by an anguished cry that froze hi blood. Zandra! Time slowed as his gaze was drawn in horror to a pair of figures huddled before the breach, seemingly unaware of the foes that rushed towards them. Cradled in Zandra's arms was a boy, his head flung back, his eyes staring unseeingly at the sky. Legolas recognized the boy, Gallin. He was dead. Legolas's heart thudded painfully as he watched, in petrified horror as over the wall and under the wall the assault came sweeping like a dark wave upon a hill of sand.
"Run," he whispered, the words a prayer, "run Zandra." To his relief Zandra stood, but she did not run. She raised her arms above her heard, and he heard her give a scream filled with fury, pain, and despair. Then her cry was drowned out by the roar of thunder as several flashes of lightning split the sky, scattering the first ranks of the enemy, killing dozens with each blow, but still they came.
She can't keep this up Legolas thought desperately, finally forcing his limbs to move. He leapt onto the stairway that led down to where she stood.
Zandra stood silhouetted before a blinding wall of lightning, and the constant claps of thunder were deafening. Legolas saw the moment when she began to falter, her body swaying, and then she crumpled to the ground. He fairly flew towards her, he drew his final arrow, ready to shoot the first to draw near to her. Aragorn was before him, scooping up her limp form, and fleeing back up the stairs to the Hornburg. Legolas stopped partway down, his last arrow drawn, the feathers kissing his cheek, to shoot the first to set foot on the stair. As Aragorn ran he stumbled, and at once the horde leapt forward. The foremost fell with Legolas's arrow in his throat. Legolas rushed down the stairs, taking Zandra from the weary Aragorn, and turned. Together they gained the door, and swiftly it clanged to behind them.