Lothriel of Lórien - Chapter 10
Upon the wall, Haldir had not heard Aragorn's cry after he had ordered Haldir and his Elves to the Keep. He was not going, after all. Lothriel was dead. There was no reason for him to continue to live. That one fateful explosion had killed his reason to live, for with it, his bride, his lover, the woman who should have been the mother of his children, had been slain.
In his mindless fury, as he had cut through orc after orc, he had not seen her body disappear from where it had fallen. But it was gone now. Doubtless, the orcs had dragged her away and despoiled the body, he thought darkly as he dashed aside another orc's blade as it came at him where he covered the retreat of his men.
He drove his blade hard into the orc's throat, not seeing another orc came at him from the side. He flinched writhing in sudden shock at the pain that slashed into his arm as the beast jammed its blade beneath his shoulder guards, cutting deep into the flesh of his arm.
With a furious thrust of his good arm, he rammed his own blade beneath the orc's breastplate, feeling the soft tearing as his blade cut through skin and intestine. Black bile spilled out upon the stone as the dead orc fell, but he hardly noticed as he looked down, examining his wound with detached curiosity. Orcs were swarming the walls now. His comrades, who had not been slain about him, had all fallen back. He would not survive, but he did not want to.
"Lothriel." He whispered softly beneath his breath, clenching his eyes shut against the pain he knew was moments away as he felt a snorting, growling orc lumber up behind him. But he did not even bother to turn.
Lothriel hurdled a cluttered lump of dead orcs as she scrambled toward the stone steps. But as her foot caught the lowest step, she felt a jerk on her ankle, and glanced down to see an orc, mortally wounded. An arrow had cut through its chest and out its back; black blood speckled its lips, spouting forth at every hacking breath it took. Its fist had caught onto her ankle, and though weak, it hung on tenaciously.
"Marr kurv." The orc coughed in its own tongue. It wrenched in an attempt to pull her back, but with a swift swipe, Lothriel slashed her blade down, slicing through its wrist. The orc's severed hand fell lifeless from her ankle, and the creature whined as it crumpled forward on its face to move no more.
Lothriel turned away, sprinting up the steps, leaping two and three steps at a time as she flew upward. Orcs were swarming over the balustrade, like black shining beetles in their armor. But Lothriel did not care. Her heart felt little fear. For the last moments she had seen Haldir, he had been on the wall. And she had not seen him among the others who had managed to fall back at Aragorn's order.
Her lungs were burning as she leapt the last distance, scrambling to the top of the parapet, and her eyes shot to the one bright spot of color upon the wall. Haldir's crimson cloak, in the moments before an orc lumbered near and brought its axe down, striking with a dull thud, into Haldir's back.
Lothriel's mind froze as she saw him stiffen from the pain, and fall heavily to his knees. She heard a scream of fury, and realized with deadened senses, that it had come from her own throat. Conscious thought left her.
She could hear Lord Aragorn's voice somewhere down on the ground below, crying out Haldir's name as well. But she paid it no heed. She watched in numb fascination through her own eyes as she plunged toward the creature as it growled and turned toward her. The violence of her attack caught it off guard as she swung her sword into its exposed throat. She felt the soft resistance as her sword punctured the skin and the rough grating as the blade scraped along the bone of the orc's spine. With its head half severed, the vile creature tumbled heavily over the balustrade to fall beyond the wall.
And as it disappeared, feeling returned to her in a wave of wrenching, tearing grief.
"Haldir!" She cried out, as, half slipping upon the blood covered parapet, she scrambled to her husband, where he had fallen to his knees from the strike of the orc's blade.
"Haldir." She repeated, weeping as she reached him, and collapsed to her knees before him. Her sword fell beside her with a hollow, rattling clang upon the stone.
His eyes set with in a blank mask of pain, blinked at her.
Her hands found his face, his skin, supple and warm as it had always been. "Haldir." She sobbed.
"Lothriel. My little flower." He breathed. He tried to lift a hand, to touch her, but the effort was too great, and it fell back to his side. "I thought-, you were dead."
How weak his voice was! Yet how filled with glad emotion.
"No. I am alive. I am here now, my love." She choked, brushing his strong brow and his smooth cheeks with trembling hands. "I am with you. I will not leave you."
"No." He protested in a weak, despairing voice. "Get away. Flee. To the Keep."
"Not without you." She breathed gently.
"It is too late for me." Haldir murmured weakly. He blinked his eyes, loving her with his gaze. "I am sorry. I cannot fulfill my vow."
"No, Haldir." Lothriel gasped softly. As the meaning of his words entered her reluctant thoughts, she spoke louder, "We were to be together for all the ages of this world. Without you, I will die! I love you!" Her last words were an almost accusatory cry.
"You are strong, Lothriel." Haldir muttered pleadingly. "Live, for my sake."
He drew in a weak breath, as he slowly blinked his fading eyes. "I love you." He breathed.
"I am yours forever, Haldir." She whispered in return, answered only by a fading smile.
The scrape of boots entered her thoughts, and she became aware of Lord Aragorn pouncing to the top of the near steps, behind Haldir.
He scrambled near and caught Haldir's shoulders in his arms just as the last of the light in his eyes, focused lovingly on her, sparked and faded.
Lothriel stared with disbelieving, tearless eyes as Haldir's head fell back upon Aragorn's arm, his eyes gazing sightlessly up at the starless sky.
"Haldir?" She breathed, unable to comprehend what had happened as Aragorn with a low sigh, clapped his hand upon Haldir's shoulder in a mournful farewell. She could not fathom this. They were meant to return to Lórien together. He had promised her that they would. And that they would spend many more warm, passionate nights together, wrapped in each other's unbreakable embrace. They were to have a child together. This-, this could not be.
She could not feel anything, did not see anything but her husband's face as Aragorn, seeing something behind her, leaped up, roughly dropping Haldir from his arm as he did.
"My lady!" He shouted, grasping her arm, and pulling her back with him.
"No!" She screamed suddenly, coming to herself. She jerked her arm from his hold, throwing herself across Haldir's unresponsive form. "I cannot leave him! Let me stay!"
Aragorn though, paid no heed to her pleadings, and forcefully ripped her away from Haldir's body as dark snorting creatures, orcs, her mind barely registered, rushed toward them, swarming from both sides, and clambering up the stairs toward them as well.
Snatching her around the waist with one arm, he lunged toward a ladder that had clapped up against the parapet, and shot his arm through two of the rungs, slamming his fist into the face of the orc that clambered to the top. With a mighty kick, Aragorn, clinging to Lothriel with one arm, and the ladder with the other, thrust away from the wall as orcs swarmed near, swinging their cruel swords at the pair as the ladder plunged in a downward arch.
Lothriel felt herself falling, saw the ground, swarming with orcs, rushing up to meet her. But in the last moment, Aragorn, still refusing to release her, leaped from the ladder, dragging her along with him, and the two plowed hard into a knot of orcs.
Lord Aragorn, Lothriel understood now, in the back of her numb, unfeeling mind, would not go without her. If she were to fight him, and allow herself to be slain as she wanted, Aragorn would die as well, trying to save her. For his sake, she decided, she should cooperate. For the moment.
"Come, my lady!" Aragorn shouted. And at last, she did not resist as he snatched her arm and pushed her ahead of him toward the stone stairs that led steeply upward into the Keep. Obliging the young mortal, she ran ahead on the heels of the other retreating Elves as Aragorn's sword cut down orcs as they came lunging upward at them. Her sword, she realized, she had left behind her on the wall. But that was a small matter, considering what else she had left there. They ran on, ever upward, and the orcs began slowly to fall behind, cut down by the arrows flying from the bows of Elves already within the shelter of the Keep, covering their retreat. She ran, not out of any desire to live, for that was gone. But only to save Lord Aragorn. For he would fight to save her, she knew. Whether she wanted him to, or not.
"This way." Lord Aragorn commanded breathlessly when at last, they past beneath a stone archway, and arrived on a level parapet, high against the walls of the cliff, washed still by the cold winds, and the trickling remnants of the sky's tears. He snatched her arm and tugged her behind him as he ran on into the shelter of the Keep, and into a great hall of stone, great smoking torches lining the walls. Many of the wounded had been lain here, their wounds hurriedly being treated. Rumil and Orophin were both here. Orophin, his face pale, almost white, sat heavily against one wall, wincing as Rumil hastily wrapped a long bloody gash on his leg in a long strip of cloth.
Both brothers had been wounded. A bandage of white cloth had been wrapped hastily around Rumil's right shoulder. He was clearly out of the fighting, though he was not as seriously wounded as his brother.
"Stay here, my lady." Aragorn ordered hastily before he turned away.
"No! I am uninjured!" She barked, striding after him. "Lend me a sword, or a bow and quiver of arrows, and I can fight. I will come with you."
"I will not have you in the thick of the fighting." Aragorn commanded her, fire in his eyes, as he turned, grasped her arm and shook her. "You would not come with me to help, but to be slain. No, my lady." He hissed, as she began to shake her head. "I know it, as well as you. I would keep you from that." Turning to Haldir's younger brothers, he barked, "See that she stays here."
Rumil turned toward Aragorn and studied his sister-in-law's red, empty eyes as he cradled his limp arm, and softly queried, "Where is Haldir?"
Aragorn glanced about, almost as if seeking for some sort of escape, before he answered quietly, "Dead."
Rumil and his wounded brother took the news with stiffened countenances as Aragorn ordered again, "Keep her here."
Wordlessly, Rumil nodded.
Lothriel flung her back against the wall with a howl of frustration as Aragorn turned and dashed off, his sword clenched tightly within his fist. Slowly she sagged down to the ground, tucking her knees in close to her chest, and wrapping her arms around her legs. She buried her face against her knees and closed her eyes. And slowly, the grim heat of battle faded from her veins. Like a great painful weight, the full of her pain, unfettered, unrestrained, fell upon her, and she began to weep.
Haldir, my beloved. Her mind cried as she sobbed, catching the mournful, sympathetic eyes of those about her. You are gone from me. Gone, and I am to blame. Had you not thought I was dead, you would have retreated with the others. It is all my fault.
With these thoughts, her strength failed her entirely, and she collapsed to the rough stone beneath her. She curled herself against the wall, and continued to sob, hard wrenching inconsolable sobs, as she pictured Haldir's face again. Not his dead sightless face as Aragorn dragged her away from his body, but as he had been when he was alive, shining with life and love upon their wedding day. And then later, in the warmth of the night, beneath the silver moonlight that seeped through the branches overhead, through the fluted screens of their flet. His eyes had been dark with desire for her, a desire she had eagerly shared.
He had been shy at first, sweetly and endearingly so. As she had been. But as the night had deepened, their shared trust, and their yearning for each other had taken claim, and they had cast their fears aside, each tender, passionate encounter more beautiful than the last. It was not until the early morning hours that they had at last succumbed to an exhausted sleep in the warmth of one another's embrace.
She had nothing now. Nothing. The emptiness of her future opened up before her, like a dark, cold pit, bottomless, into which she was doomed to fall. She could not live with the emptiness. Perhaps, tonight, in spite of Lord Aragorn's efforts, her fate would claim her anyway, as her mother's had, when her father died.
A warmth, though, within her stomach, a churning little ball of warmth, brought her thoughts away from her doom, and she put a hand to her belly, wondering what was it was. It was not uncomfortable, but yet, its presence was unignorable. What was it?
Slowly, the memory of the words she and Haldir had exchanged in their flet returned to her mind, and her choking sobs eased as their words slowly filtered through her mind.
"What if you are carrying our child?" He had pled, desperately seeking for a reason to keep her safe.
"I have not conceived after one night." She had scoffed in return as thanks for his anxiety to protect her.
But what if she had? It was possible, after all. Oh, if she indeed carried his child, then perhaps it would give her a chance to redeem herself before she gave in to the blackness of her doom. If she had a child to live for, she could find the strength to last long enough to give Haldir's child life, a child who carried the blood of her beloved in its veins, who would live when she had failed to save its father.
Lothriel clung to this thought, desperately, pleadingly, where she lay curled upon the cold stone as her sobs faded slowly, and a reluctant sleep claimed her at last.