Lalaith Elerrina--Ward of Rivendell - Chapter 29
Frodo continued to scamper ahead, but Lalaith gasped and ground to a stop when the sound of metal ringing on metal echoed down at them through the trees. A sharp pain throbbed in the back of her shoulder. She turned back, searching the trees above her, gripping the bow Legolas had given her, tightly in her fist. From the sound of fighting, she could discern that Aragorn was vastly outnumbered, and though she knew how skillful of a swordsman he was, he could not last for much longer against as many as were coming at him.
"No! Aragorn!" She cried, and almost started back up the hill, feeling herself torn painfully. He needed help, but she remembered the charge he had given her, for her to keep the orcs away from the Ringbearer. At last, she turned, and continued in her rush down the hill.
Frodo had continued to fly ahead, his frightened footfalls noisy amongst the fallen, dead leaves scattered down the slope of the hill. Glancing upward over his shoulder, he stumbled over a young sapling, and a muffled grunt burst forth from him, as he sprawled onto the ground.
Scraping to a stop beside him, she hooked her hands under his arms and hoisted him to his feet.
"Frodo, are you hurt? Do you still have the Ring?" She asked breathlessly.
"I still have it." Frodo gulped, squeezing his fist in answer.
"Good-," Lalaith was interrupted by a noise coming from above them, a thrashing pounding noise, as of many feet rushing through the undergrowth, accompanied by heavy, pig-like grunting and panting.
"Yrch!" She gasped. She could not see them yet for the growth of the forest. But they were drawing close, and would soon come into view between the trees.
"Frodo, come!" She ordered, snatching his shoulder and pulling him along, as she ducked behind a tree with a wide trunk. It was one that was slightly indented on the downhill side, where they could hide, and with any luck, remain unseen by anything coming from up the hill.
She gripped her bow even tighter, and pressed herself as close against the bark as she could. She checked her breath as the heavy stomping feet and the grunted breaths broke through the nearest trees.
Lalaith's eyes widened in horror and fright, and the pain in her shoulder burned as the orcs streamed passed, and pounded down the hill. These beasts were nothing like any orcs she had ever seen. The orcs she remembered from two centuries before had been small, weakly looking things, though tenacious and dangerous in their own right. And the orcs of Moria had been much the same, though more hunched and scurrying with larger eyes to see in the darkness of the mines. But these orcs were a new breed entirely. They were at least as large as Men, and if possible, larger. Their dark, oily skin was stretched tightly over vast, sinewy muscle, while the dark black hair that grew from beneath their helmets hung long and matted down their backs.
They were armed with frightfully long swords, hooked just at the end, and shields as well. And their bodies were sheathed in dark, heavy armor. She had not seen their faces yet, nor did she want to. Of the orcs that had hustled past their hiding place, huffing and snorting, none had turned, and she and Frodo, were for the moment, undetected.
"Hey! You two!"
At the hushed, grated voice, she turned her head in surprise, to see two familiar faces peeking out of the shadows of a hollow log, gesturing wildly at them.
"Hide here, quick! There's enough room for you, too, Lalaith!" Pippin rasped.
"Come on!" Pippin insisted when neither of them moved.
The urgent expressions on the faces of the two Hobbits slowly changed to looks of confusion.
"What're they doing?" Pippin hissed, turning to Merry.
Lalaith dropped her gaze to Frodo as he slowly shook his head back and forth, pleading silently with his eyes.
"Frodo's leaving." Merry muttered with finality, slowly realizing the truth.
"And Lalaith too?" Demanded Pippin. Merry didn't give him an answer, but Pippin didn't need one.
"No!" He insisted, scrambling out of the log, and into the open.
"Pippin!" Merry gasped, hurrying out, after him.
"Pippin, Merry, what are you doing?" Lalaith hissed demandingly. She could not see behind her, but she could hear the huffing and the grunting of more orcs coming.
Merry glanced over at her, his large round eyes darting from her to Frodo, and back again. "Run!" He hissed. "Go on!"
Turning back to look up the hill, Merry pointed and shouted, "Hey! Hey, you! Over here!"
Pippin looked at Merry mutely for only a moment, before he too, took up the cry, waving his arms madly at the orcs. "Hey!"
"Over here!" Merry cried.
"This way!" Shouted Pippin as he and Merry turned and ran madly away.
"You heard him, Frodo." Lalaith said in a low voice. "You'd better go."
"What about you?" Frodo gulped, as if not believing what she was saying.
"Aragorn's charge was to keep the orcs away from you." Lalaith answered, as she snatched an arrow from her quiver, and set it to her bowstring. "So that is what I will do." And with one last glance back at the small, frightened looking Hobbit, she stepped away from the trunk and darted after Merry and Pippin as they scampered away.
Lalaith barely paused as she turned, took aim at the nearest orc, and released the string. She felt a small portion of satisfaction as the arrow struck true in the foul creature's neck, bringing it down with a squeal of rage and pain. But more orcs were coming at them, pouring down the hill through the trees like a vile, oily flood. Huge monsters, their ever snarling mouths lined with rows of cruel, jagged teeth, their eyes narrow, and yellow, filled with hate, and a thirst for blood. Each creature had a mark on its face of a white hand. The symbol of their master, no doubt, that had created this foul, fearsome breed.
As Legolas and Gimli darted through the trees at the peak of Amon Hen, he drew back the string of his bow, and sent an arrow into the nearest orc, which fell with a high pitched squeal, as Gimli threw one of his smaller axes and took down another. If he had the luxury of time, Legolas would have allowed himself to be surprised at the number of dead and dying orcs that lay strewn over the cracked and aging stone at the base of the high seat. One would have thought that an army had killed them, not the one Man who was throwing the weight of a slain foe off of him, drawing out his sword that had pierced the creature clean through, the blade smeared black with orc blood.
"Aragorn, go!" Legolas shouted as Gimli lay into the nearest beasts with his ax. Once again drawing his string back to his cheek, he released it just as an orc was closing the last narrow distance before him, and the arrow pierced through its hideous body, catching also, another orc coming from behind the first.
Where is she? His mind screamed as he continued the grisly work of slaying his foes. He had not seen Lalaith since she had hopped out of their boat at the shore. Nor had he seen Frodo or Boromir. Where were they? Where was she? Was she with them? Oh, Elbereth, let me find her!
His questions raced around, unanswered in his brain as he turned at last, satisfied that Aragorn and Gimli had retreated to a more defensible position, and sprinted after them.
"Aragorn!" Legolas shouted, as he again came upon the human and Gimli, surrounded by many orcs at the edge of a steep slope of the hill, where more of the ancient ruins of Men lay. He drew his white knives, spinning and slicing with a vengeance into the orcs that came at him. "Where is Lalaith?"
"She has gone with Frodo." Aragorn cried in answer, breathless as he fought, unable to say more.
Gone with Frodo? Gone with him, where? Was Frodo setting out for Mordor alone with none but Lalaith? This thought brought him small comfort. Legolas would have preferred to know she was with Boromir. For though he had long suspected Boromir's feelings toward Lalaith, Legolas also knew that the Lord of Gondor was a seasoned warrior, more capable of defending her than a small untrained Hobbit. As it was, Lalaith would be the one defending Frodo, and the possibility was great that she might even sacrifice herself to keep the Ringbearer from falling into the hands of Sauron's servants.
This thought fell like a heavy painful weight onto his heart, and spurred great fear and rage in his blood. What was he doing here? He should be with her, wherever she was! He wanted nothing more now, than to race madly through these woods, seeking her until he found her. But these vile creatures, these foul beasts whose creation had been inspired by the evil thoughts of Morgoth, were barring his way. The frustration that gnawed at him gave him strength, and Legolas flew into the orcs that came at him, determined, if it were possible, to cut them all down.
Lalaith skipped backward, struggling to keep even with the fleeing Hobbits, as she fired arrow after arrow into the oncoming hoard, littering the forest floor with their dying corpses, and still more came, snorting and growling, to replace those she brought down.
"Lalaith! What're you doing here?" Shouted Pippin noticing her as he and Merry scampered over tree trunks and dodged trees.
"We thought you were going with Frodo!" Merry cried.
"Aragorn's instructions-," Lalaith said, pausing again to snatch an arrow from her quiver, and let it fly into the nearest orc which let out a piggish squeal as it tumbled to the ground and lay still, "were to keep the orcs away from Frodo. That is what I intend to do."
Pippin watched her as she did her best to scamper backward, and shoot another arrow into an orc who had drawn menacingly close. "Well, I think it's working!" He hollered.
"I know it's working!" Merry added. "Run!"
In spite of Merry's cry, Pippin actually slowed, waiting as Lalaith came along behind him.
"Keep running!" Lalaith growled, pushing the youngest Hobbit along in front of her.
"You shouldn't be last of all!" Pippin argued, picking up his speed in spite of his spent breath. "You're a lady!"
"Confound it, Pippin! Stop being so chivalrous!" She shouted. "I'm the one with the arrows!"
Before them, an old stone footbridge spanned across what must have once been a small stream, but was now no more than a dried out dip in the forest floor. Merry and Pippin rushed across this, and she dashed along behind them to the other side, only to skid to a stop beside the two Hobbits who had also stopped in their tracks, for their escape was cut off. Somehow, some of their foes had circled around in front of them. Orcs were coming from everywhere now it seemed, fearless in their rage, snarling, their razor teeth barred as they leaped the fallen bodies of their fellows already taken down by Lalaith's arrows. And though she snatched arrow after arrow from her quiver, each shaft striking true to its target, still more orcs came. The bodies of the creatures she killed, lay strewn grotesquely about where they had fallen, only to be hurdled by those coming from behind. And the moment came when Lalaith's hand reached back to her quiver, and found nothing there. A chilling feeling of helpless doom settled upon her like a pall. Her arrows were spent.
Boromir stumbled slowly along, not caring where his feet were taking him, lost in the jumbled confusion of his thoughts. He was missing his shield, for he had left it behind, at the edge of the water. But he did not care. He barely noticed.
His mind fumbled over the events of the past few minutes, sickened and troubled that he would so violently try to take the One Ring away from Frodo. That itself, was proof enough that he had been wrong all along. Proof that he was not strong enough to wield it. That no one was. That indeed, it possessed a mind of its own, an evil mind, strong enough to subdue and possess the will of anyone foolish enough to think himself able to use it for his own purposes. Someone like himself. Oh, why had he not listened to Gandalf? To Aragorn and Lalaith, who had told him it could not be used for good?
The fear he had instilled in the small Hobbit's eyes still haunted him, even now. The One Ring had truly gained almost full possession of his mind. He understood that now, for he had not been himself then, especially so when Frodo in his blind haste, had stumbled into Lalaith, and she had let the Hobbit go. That which he had felt then, had been a blind, unseeing rage. And he had almost struck her, the maiden who meant so much to him.
Boromir paused and put a hand to his head, thinking of her, of the look in her eyes when he had shouted at her over her release of the Hobbit. She had been terrified of him, and the thought of it had jarred him back to himself, crushing him beneath a wave of shame and pain. And when she had spoken, sorrow heavy in her voice as she asked why he had done what he had, it had served to remind him of all that he had done to disappoint her from the moment of their first meeting. But when he had spoken of his failings, she had done something that had surprised him. He had partly expected her to rail into him with angry words, though he had hoped her to say nothing, agreeing with his self deprecation by her silence. But she had done neither. Instead she had gently reminded him of all that he had done right. The sweetness of her words and the forgiveness in her eyes had been a soothing balm to his wounded and tormented soul, and had allowed him to find the courage within himself to at last admit to her the truth of his love.
And she had let him kiss her. And for those few moments, when she had allowed his mouth to linger over her own, he had experience joy unlike anything he had ever felt before. Still, in the midst of his own happiness, he was unbearably aware that her warm, supple lips, tender and excruciatingly sweet to the taste as they were, did not return his longing.
She cared for him. She wept when he spoke of his willingness to die for her. But she did not love him. She could never love him. Her heart had been given to Legolas centuries before Boromir had ever been born.
Legolas. The name richoted about in Boromir's head like an angry wasp. He well remembered the first moments when he had come to Elrond's counsel, and had seen the Elf rise to greet the maiden Lalaith. And in that moment, Boromir knew that this was the one of whom she had spoken, the one she had loved for over a thousand years. For while they had greeted each other with the restraint and formality which Boromir had come to expect from Elves, he could see in the eyes of both, great tenderness, and deep longing, that which could only be felt by those who had nurtured such emotions for as many years as the race of Elves had been blessed with. As such a pathetic mortal as himself could never hope to comprehend.
Yes, Boromir confessed to himself, the love that existed between Lalaith and Legolas was something he knew he could not match. And for that, though he admittedly felt envy for Legolas' possession of her heart, Boromir could never feel bitterness. He could never wish ill upon the Elf. Legolas was a true comrade, and a worthy ally, and far more deserving of such a maiden as Lalaith than Boromir was. He could not fathom it, but Boromir knew of the strength of Elven love, and he understood that were Legolas ever to meet such a violent end as he almost did in Moria, Lalaith would never be whole again, never able to love again, if she were to survive the loss of her lover at all. And Boromir, from the moment he had seen the beauty of the fair Elven maid, had desired nothing short of her happiness. Even if that happiness meant a life with Legolas at her side, rather than himself.
Lost in his musings as he was, Boromir did not notice the body of the dead orc until he nearly tripped over it. Seeing its inert oily body at his feet, he started and stumbled back. He drew his sword forth from his sheath with a harsh metallic rasp, his senses now tuned and alert, for though the orc was dead, it would not be alone.
His eyes darted about through the trees and back again to the dead orc. He stepped toward it again, and prodded it with his foot. It was larger than those he was used to seeing. Upon its feet, it would have been at least as tall as himself, if not, a half handspan taller. A long, hooked sword lay at its side, a shield still strapped to its left forearm. Upon its head was a helmet, and, thick dark armor had been girded about it. Kicking the foul thing onto its back with his boot, Boromir ignored the hideous, dead face, marked with the symbol of a white hand, to see an arrow buried almost to the white feather fletchings, where it had pierced through a weak chink in the armor fastened across the beast's muscular chest. Boromir's heart jumped into his throat. An arrow of Lorien. One of the fellowship, most likely Legolas or Lalaith, had slain the thing.
Once again, his eyes darted madly about, and came to rest on another inert orc, sprawled upon the ground many dozens of paces away to the north. Gripping his sword tightly, he ran toward the creature, only to spot two more, almost side by side, further ahead.
A black shroud clouded his heart as he sprinted on, and found another body again pierced through with a Lorien arrow. And he noticed now, how the ground and the low lying growth about the corpse had been crushed down and tramped over by many heavy feet. Deep footprints were left behind, not the light, almost weightless prints of Elven feet. Whoever had slain these creatures, was being hunted down by a veritable army.
He did not stop any more to inspect the dead orc corpses as he passed them, but sprinted along, his sword clutched in his fist, following the trail of bodies left in the wake of the archer who had felled them.
He could hear the orcs now, over the next rill, snarling and growling in their thirst for blood, their voices deep and hungry. There were many dozens, perhaps hundreds, from the din they created as they thrashed through the forest. And as he bounded over the crest, he saw them through the trees. Hideous, and fearsome, these massive orcs, clearly bred for war, were swiftly closing in upon their prey. And as Boromir rushed onward, and the object of the orcs' fury came into view, his heart gave a great, painful leap within his chest.
Lalaith stood, her bow within her hand, a cool, concentrated light in her eyes as arrow after arrow hit its mark, bringing death instantly to every orc she struck. And at her feet, stood Merry and Pippin, clutching their little swords in their hands. The Hobbits were glancing this way and that, unable to help, for they had not bows as Lalaith did.
But then he saw Lalaith's hand reach back to her quiver, and pause. The calmness in her eyes was replaced by uncertainty and swiftly mounting fear as her hand withdrew empty, and he knew she had no more arrows. Doubling his efforts, he continued forward in spite of the fear that almost choked the breath from his throat.
Lalaith glanced down at the frightened faces of Merry and Pippin, before she looked up again, into the yellow angry eyes of the closest orc, drawing ever nearer, a large, black bladed ax clenched in its massive fists. It narrowed its cruel yellow eyes, and a hideous grin spread across its face, showing more of its sharp teeth, dripping with threads of saliva. It could see that her arrows were spent, and a guttural chuckle gurgled from its throat as it bounded nearer. Lalaith drew in a sharp breath, knowing she was making a poor effort of hiding her fear as she tossed her bow aside, promising herself she would retrieve it later, and snatched her two knives into her hands.
It drew nearer, closing the distance rapidly and time seemed to slow as it raised its fearsome black ax. And then suddenly, a flurry erupted in the corner of her vision, and Boromir was there, diving between the orc's descending ax, and Lalaith. He caught the orc's massive fist in one hand, twisted the ax fiercely from its hands, and turned the weapon on its owner, burying the black blade firmly into the orc's body.
Boromir turned and flashed Lalaith a brief smile, but there was no time for words, for the other orcs were upon them. Merry and Pippin were making good use of their little swords, and Lalaith tried not to flinch as she slashed her knives into the nearest orc and the rancid stench of their thick black blood assailed her nostrils.
"Where are they all coming from?" She cried, ducking the swinging blade of yet another orc, and burying her knives deep into its abdomen. She jerked them free, hating the feel of black oily blood covering her hands. "We cannot take them all, Boromir!"
Boromir, his sword clenched within both hands, swung the blade into the unprotected flesh of an orc's throat, before he shot a glance at her, and nodded, breathless. In a momentary lull, he snatched at the gilded horn he kept always at his side, and placing it against his lips, blew three quick blasts that echoed long through the trees before he dropped it, and turned just as another orc came upon him, slashing its weapon at him like a scythe, as if attempting to sever his body in half. But Boromir blocked the swinging blade with his own sword, beat its shield aside, and plunged the point of his blade home in the creature's chest.
Three rapid blasts from a horn echoed through the trees, bringing Legolas' head around sharply. The clear sound had come up from below the side of the hill where Legolas and Aragorn stood within a clearing, littered now with the bodies of orcs, each pierced through with one of Legolas' arrows. "The Horn of Gondor." He breathed.
"Boromir!" Aragorn cried, darting past him toward the noise. But his forward flight was cut off by another orc. There seemed no end to them. Setting his expression hard, Legolas snatched another arrow from his quiver, took calculated aim, and felled another orc, dead the instant his arrow struck it clean through.
Where is she? Legolas wondered again as he snatched one of his knives, and thrust it into the unprotected throat of an orc that pounced at him, furiously swinging its black blade. Have they crossed the lake? Is she safe from all of this?
But as much as he allowed himself these tortured thoughts, he knew he could not find the answer.
Lalaith glanced up the side of the hill, fighting the heavy sickness that was weighing her heart, which only served to grow heavier as more and more orcs came pouring down toward them, a fearsome, overpowering wave, ready to crush them all beneath it. There was not a friendly face to be seen but for the two Hobbits nearby, and Boromir beside her, who again placed his horn to his lips, and sent out three more quick blasts. Surely Boromir's horn had been heard. Where were the others? Where was Legolas? A tight fear gripped her throat as she realized that wherever he was, he was most surely as trapped as she by these orcs. Had he found Aragorn? Was Gimli with him, or was he fighting these hideous creatures, alone?
"Oh, Elbereth, mother." Lalaith muttered, allowing her concentration to lag for a small moment. "I could not continue if anything happened to him! Do not let him be hurt."
"Lalaith!" Boromir shouted, leaping toward an orc coming at her from the side. He struck the thing in its face with his fist, his blow so fierce that the creature's helmet dented inward from the blow. The creature twitched and fell to the ground, unmoving. But Boromir, his rage at the creature uncontainable that it would dare to try and harm Lalaith, plunged his sword into the orc's chest, once and then twice. He straightened, and snatched at the horn again, though this time, the echo of his horn was cut short as an orc jumped at him, and he was forced to let his horn fall back to his side as he contended with the huge creature.
Another darted in, hoping to get at an unprotected spot on Boromir's side, but Lalaith stepped in its path, ducking its swinging blade, and spinning her knives into its stomach. It staggered back with a wounded howl, and Merry and Pippin dove in. Pippin jumped for its head and Merry dove at its legs, the deceptively small Hobbits taking it by surprise as the points of their short little swords cut short its grunt of angry disbelief.
"Run!" Boromir was shouting, and Lalaith glanced over at him, the desperation she felt inside, mirrored in his eyes. "Go, Lalaith!" He ordered as he parried an orc's blow, and stabbed his own blade home. But Lalaith was unwilling to obey him, and stayed at his shoulder, spinning and ducking out of the way of swinging blades as orcs came at her, and plunging her blades into exposed flesh between the unprotected spots in the orcs' armor.
Merry and Pippin did not run far either. A rock sailed past her, clanging noisily into an orc's helmet, and Lalaith was surprised to see the creature's legs buckle, as it collapsed limp, to the forest floor. Another rock flew over her head, having the same effect on yet another orc. For as small as they were, the two Hobbits were surprisingly strong. She allowed herself a small grin.
The pain came from nowhere, lancing into her just beneath her ribs, punching her backward several steps, and forcing a small cry to escape her lips. She shook her head fiercely, trying to understand what had happened, confused as to why her legs were suddenly weak. She dropped her eyes downward, gazing in befuddled wonderment at the thick black feathers protruding from the end of the long wooden shaft now jutting out at an odd angle from her body. Warmth was beginning to seep onto her skin. And as she touched a hand to the dark spot collecting around the black wooden shaft where it had punched through her jerkin, it came away wet and crimson.
Lalaith glanced upward at the crest of the hill, hoping for a lull in the endless stream of orcs coming at them, or perhaps, for a glimpse of Legolas' face, or even Aragorn's or Gimli's. Even Sam's round, honest little Hobbit face would have been a welcome sight. But instead, her glance met the cold yellow eyes of the fiercest looking orc she had yet seen. This orc wore no helmet, showing its long matted hair, and its fierce, snarling countenance all the more. Within one hand it carried a bow, nocked with a black feathered arrow. The sight of this orc filled Lalaith's heart with a sick dread, more than any of the others, but what made it so fearful was not its muscular stature, its thick dark armor, or the sharp teeth set within its cruel, snarling mouth. What frightened Lalaith most, were its eyes. Its eyes, yellow and filled with hate like the other orcs, contained something else that the others had not. Something that chilled Lalaith's blood as its gaze met hers. Intelligence. Calculated, cruel intelligence. While other orcs streamed madly past it, mindless in their hunger for blood, this creature strode along, coolly, its wits contained. Its eyes met hers as it paused at the crest of the hill, and offered her a harsh snarl of a smile. Its eyes spoke clearly enough. It wanted to see her dead.
She blinked her eyes, trying in vain to clear her blurring vision. She had-, she had dropped her knives. She needed to retrieve them. She lowered herself to one knee, gathered the haft of each knife where they had fallen to either side of her, but as she tried to raise herself up again, her legs would not obey. Her knees buckled, and she fell again, collapsing heavily onto her elbow.
"Lalaith!" She heard a small familiar voice shriek from behind her. "Merry! Lalaith's hurt!"
Beside her, Boromir, with a sickening chop, cut cleanly through the sword arm of the orc he had been fighting, and with a quick stab, ended the creature's wild shrieks of anger and pain. But he spun at Pippin's frantic scream, his face written now with horrified desperation.
"Lalaith, no!" He cried, turning and beginning toward her.
"Boromir, look!" Shrieked Merry in warning, pointing. And Boromir came back to himself, spinning and slicing his sword up into the abdomen of the orc coming from behind him. And more were coming.
Lalaith pushed herself back up, rising shakily to her feet as a wave of pain threatened to crush her back down.
She glanced down at the wooden feathered protrusion, her mind at last accepting the reality of what it was. It was an arrow, the head of which was buried deep inside her own body.
"Legolas-," she choked. Her eyes shot to Pippin's. "Pippin, where is Legolas? Where is he?"
Pippin shook his head helplessly just as a jarring thud, as painful to her ears as the pain in her side, brought her head up, though her whole body felt as if it were weighted with lead.
Pippin turned as well, and Merry froze, mid throw, a rock clenched within his fist.
"Boromir-," Lalaith whispered, seeing a black feathered arrow now quivering in Boromir's left shoulder. Boromir caught a painful breath as he dropped roughly to his knees.
"No!" Lalaith cried. She clenched her knives in trembling fists, and staggered toward the orcs that came bounding toward them, gleeful to see their prey wounded.
Lalaith stepped into the path of the closest orc, ducking its swinging blade, and slashing her knives toward the thick oily flesh of its throat. But her wound had slowed her, and the orc stepped easily out of her way. Her knives, instead of finding the beast's flesh, scraped gratingly along its armor.
She turned and spun her knives, trying again to find exposed flesh, but the orc dodged her blades, uttering a piggish grunt of a laugh. She cried out in pain as the creature, with a hideous mocking grin, snatched the black fletchings of the arrow buried beneath her ribs, and jerked on it, cracking the arrow in half, leaving but a ragged broken splinter poking through her blood soaked jerkin. A dizzying wave of pain tore through her, sending her down to one knee, her hands, without her willing, dropped her knives. And though she scrambled backward, trying to escape the foul creature's wrath, she was not quick enough. A huge, muscled fist came crashing into the side of her face, sending stars dancing in front of her vision, and a black shapeless cloud blotting out all she could see. Numbness overtook her, and she collapsed heavily to the leaf strewn ground, her mind floating away into black dreams as the cruel laughter of the orc echoed above her.
Seeing this, Boromir burst back upon his feet with a shout of fury that surprised the orc, slashing aside its furtively raised blade, and stabbing the point of his sword into the beast's body, jerking it free as the creature shrieked and fell writhing to the ground beside Lalaith's unmoving body to convulse wildly, and then lay still.
Another orc swung its blade at his neck in an effort to slice his head from his shoulders, but he ducked, slicing his sword upward, cutting into the creature's side. It shrieked once, then fell.
Boromir spun, seeing now the orc whose fierce yellow eyes were filled with malice, its bow drawn, it glare fixed upon Lalaith where she lay, crumpled within a bed of leaves, looking almost serene except for a long gash upon the side of her head where the orc had struck her. A slow stream of blood trickled down her otherwise unblemished face. Pippin and Merry had rushed to her side, and Pippin knelt close, gently shaking her shoulder, his little face pitiful in its expression of pleading. But she did not respond. Was she even breathing?
"Lalaith." Boromir ground beneath his breath, staggering near. He stepped in front of her and turned just as the arrow, meant for Lalaith, punched into his stomach. The force of this blow staggered him backward, and he stumbled again to his knees.
He cast his eyes about, seeking Lalaith where she lay, crumpled upon the ground, no less fair to him now as when they had first met all those months ago, in Rivendell. His eyes traveled from her to the two Hobbits, his friends, usually so happy and blithe, who knelt beside her, gaping at him in numb horror. The sight of the three of them lent him a last measure of strength, and he again managed though weakly, to stagger once again to his feet, his teeth set in grim defiance as more orcs came at him. From somewhere, not of his own, the power came, and he dashed their weapons aside, cutting through them fiercely, slaying one, then another, and at last a third. And though the blade of this last foe smashed into the horn at his side, cracking it in two, he managed to strike the foul beast to the ground before he stabbed his sword down, letting its weight slice through the creature's thick skin. Straightening, he drew in a ragged breath, just as a third arrow flew from nowhere, and slammed into the center of his chest. It brought nothing but numbness now, for he could feel no more pain, but it shattering the last remaining vestiges of his strength, and he collapsed, defeated at last, to his knees.
Merry and Pippin stared in horrified disbelief a moment longer, before they too snatched up their swords and with vengeful shouts, they lunged at the flood of oncoming orcs, only to be swept helplessly up by the vile torrent as the creatures snatched them around their necks yanking their small swords from their hands, heedless of their angry cries, and their flailing fists as they flung the Hobbits over their shoulders and ran, snorting and huffling like wild pigs, ignorant of the wounded human and the Elf who lay nearby, whether alive or dead, he could not tell.
"Lalaith," Boromir choked. Pushing himself shakily onto his hands and knees, he struggled through the forest of running orc legs, stumbling as they kicked angrily at him, his strength almost entirely depleted when he at last reached her side. He reached out, seeking her hand where it rested limply across her narrow stomach, her fingers stained with her own blood flowing from the wound where the ragged shaft of the broken arrow still jutted out of her. He found a small measure of comfort in the touch of the cold unresponsive hand as he took it within his own. From the pouch at his side, he withdrew her golden ring, and ran his thumb once more over the sapphire etched with the crest of Elrond's house. "This is yours. I should not keep it any longer." He choked, as he put it into her palm, and closed her fingers around it. But her hand, limp and cold, fell open once again, and the ring tumbled down into the leaves beneath her, stained now with Lalaith's blood.
"Lalaith." Boromir moaned, grasping her limp hand. "Open your eyes! Show me that you live! Please, I beg of you. That is all I ask." His voice grew faint and sad. "I want you to live. To be happy. To love him well. And to think of me, if only from time to time." He paused, choking on a sob. "Please. Lalaith?"
The maiden did not stir, though a slight breeze brushed a stray lock of golden hair across her face. He could not see even the faintest sign of breath, nor could he feel the rhythm of a pulse in her cold, limp wrist.
"I thought to save you." He moaned, tears clouding his already dimming eyes. A sob wracked his weakened frame. "I have failed you."
"Wot'ss `isss?" A pair of orc feet had stopped running, and stood before the Man who knelt beside the maiden's body. Boromir glanced up to see an orc, smaller than the others, but still fearsome looking. Aside from a scraping of limp gray hair, its wrinkled green head was otherwise bald. Its eyes were cold and yellow, and a row of tarnished metal rings marched down its face, pierced through its skin from its forehead to the end of its nose. "A sshe elff?" The hideous creature spoke in a sucking, hissing whisper that made Boromir's skin crawl. It paused and gnawed on its thick purple tongue as if forcing its brain to think.
"Leave her." Boromir hissed from deep within his throat, though there was an unmistakable rattle as he spoke.
"Oh ho!" Laughed the orc, turning its eyes on Boromir. "Ssshadup, ya half dead Manling!" It scowled fiercely, and struck Boromir hard across the face, breaking his hold on Lalaith's hand.
"No, Lalaith!" Boromir groaned as the orc snatched her by her wrists, and yanked her into the air, flinging her like a bagged deer over its shoulder.
Boromir choked on a half sob as he weakly reached after Lalaith, only to have his hands batted down again by the orc.
"Ssshadup, I sssaid!" The orc grumbled as if swatting at an annoying fly before it turned and jogged along behind the last of the armor clad orcs.
Lalaith floated in a numbing cloud of black, unaware and unfeeling, but as the orc's stiff shoulder dug into her stomach and jostled the broken shaft of the arrow, jerking it painfully about, she came again for a brief moment, to the harsh pain of the waking world as the forest about her came into focus.
Boromir knelt upon the ground, pierced by several black feathered arrows, and gasping in ragged breaths. His eyes had turned to follow her and the thing upon whose shoulder she was carried. And before she succumbed entirely to the black fog that swirled up once again to claim her, she lifted her head one last time, and gazed fleetingly into Boromir's pleading, grieving eyes before the blackness overpowered her, and she was enveloped back into the sweet bliss of oblivion.