Rage - Final Chapter
The brilliant light of the moon was turning the velvety skies above to silver, even as the darkness in the trees was nearly absolute. It seemed as though the very earth was trying to present an air of comfort, the gentlest of breezes caressing the faces of the gathered, trying the tears as they fell. Here and there, a voice sang out softly, a few lines of the ancient words of mourning and loss echoing into the shadows before the singer lost heart and allowed their voice to fade away.
There was only one voice that remained constant and steady. Lady Galadriel stood amongst the mourners, one white hand gently gripping a quietly sobbing she-Elf’s shoulder as her haunting voice rang out, guiding the hearts and minds of the survivors through the memories of their deceased beloved ones. One by one, the bodies were being carried past, borne by those who loved them most to the heart of the forest. This slow, heartbreaking procession had been occurring since the very start of the moonrise. Now, the shining orb hung directly overhead, bathing the world in a heavenly silvery glow.
But the ceremony was almost complete now. There were only two bodies left to be carried out. Prince Legolas stood in silence by King Thranduil’s side, watching as they passed. The old healer Réyis, and little Lucy. Legolas had almost completely forgotten about her in the vents of the past few days. How strange it had seemed, when he had found her soaked and sobbing in the forest. Never would he have believed she would bring with her the monster that had taken so many lives, stolen so many of his people. It was still hard to comprehend, even now. It was easy to try and believe this was all a terrible nightmare, and that he would wake up in the morning to see old Réyis wandering the halls, to hear his mother’s gentle laugh.
Amalindë had been the first to be carried into the forest. He and Thranduil had done it, and both had maintained some sense of composure until they had reached the sacred place where they were to leave her behind forever. Then, the mighty King had broken down into tears, cradling his wife’s body for several minutes while Legolas had leaned against him, allowing his own grief to possess his heart. Maida had tried to sing the ancient songs as they had passed, but her voice had cracked almost immediately. Galadriel had taken up the task, her voice smoothly gliding in to where Maida’s had faltered. And Legolas was grateful to the Lady for it. Sad though the songs were, they offered some measure of comfort.
Galadriel continued to sing until the bearers of Réyis and Lucy had appeared once more. Then, as if on some unspoken cue, everyone turned and slowly made their way back inside the palace. Nobody lingered for long in the main hall, however. Legolas remained standing by his father’s side as the crowd dispersed back to their chambers. In the morning, his people would assemble together to comfort one another. But tonight was a time for private mourning, of gathering thoughts and coming to terms.
Nobody spoke until only he, Thranduil, Maida, Galadriel, and her Marchwardens remained in the hall. Then, the King turned.
“Thank you, Lady Galadriel,” he began, his voice steady despite the continued sorrow in his eyes. “You have honored my people by singing for us.”
“Your grief is mine, Thranduil,” Galadriel replied quietly. “It was the least I could do.”
There was silence for a few moments. Then, Maida spoke.
“What are we going to do now?” Her voice was tremulous, betraying her exhaustion.
“Tonight, we will all try to rest,” Thranduil said. “Tomorrow, we will begin to rebuild our lives.”
For a moment, Legolas saw the look of fear on Maida’s face, and knew immediately that she feared spending the night alone. However, Galadriel spoke before he could react.
“Come with me, Maida,” she said gently, offering her hand. “I do not wish to be alone tonight.”
Slowly the two she-Elves left, followed by Rumil and Orophin—Orophin leaning heavily upon Rumil, minding his broken leg. When they were gone, Thranduil turned to Thendril, who was still gazing after them.
“Do you love my niece, Marchwarden?” he asked pointedly.
“More than my own life,” Thendril replied.
There was another pause. Thranduil eyed Thendril for a moment, his expression suddenly stern. Then, unexpectedly, he stepped forward and placed his hands on the Marchwarden’s shoulders.
“Then I put my trust in you, Master Thendril,” he said. “I can see her love for you in her eyes. She will go with you when you return to Lórien. And she will be happy there.” He released Thendril. “I only ask for one thing in return.”
Thendril nodded solemnly.
“I ask that you allow your firstborn child to come and serve in my court for a time when he or she comes of age.”
“As you wish, King Thranduil,” Thendril said, bowing. “Nothing would please me more.”
Thranduil smiled for a moment. Then, the stern expression returned.
“The Dark Lord has dealt our people a terrible blow,” he said. “We must never let him become aware of this. We must never speak of the creature to anyone outside our own people, or of the unfortunate child that brought it to us. Our stories will say that our loved ones died by an act of the Nazgul, and we will someday see ourselves avenged for it.”
Legolas nodded his grim agreement, as did Haldir and Thendril.
“Do you think we will ever know what that creature was?” Thendril asked after a moment.
Haldir shook his head.
“It was just another example of the continued existence of the darkness and its legions,” he said. “A creature our world has never before seen.”
“And with the grace of the Valar,” Legolas added, “one that our world will never see again.”
* * * * * *
This was the end. The warrior could feel nothing. No pain, no rage. Just the emptiness of death that was beckoning to it. It could not move, did not breathe. Did not feel the currents that had carried it miles from the place where it had fallen. The sky through the trees above was clear and glistening with stars. And the softened flow of the river around it was a quiet song that whispered into the night. Like a final lullaby. For the first time, the warrior could feel a sense of welcome. Death was more than ready to accept it, to embrace it. To let it forever rest in a place that was as warm as the finest crèche.
But something was holding it back. The warrior was not alone in the physical world. It could not see or hear or smell it, but there was something in the darkness watching it. An invisible presence that pushed on the edges of its dying mind in a way that was strangely familiar. As though the warrior had sensed it sometime in the past, before it had grown aware of its own being.
When it had still been in the shell.
The warrior did not know the current had washed its body into the shallows of the river. Nor did it know that a dark cloaked figure was approaching it. All it could sense was a fiery presence intruding into what was left of its living self.
The force was more painful and punishing than the warrior had ever felt before, even among the enemies. It tried to struggle, to retreat into the release of death. But the presence had a stranglehold on its mind.
You failed. Those who fail do not deserve peace.
The warrior did not know that its physical body was moving. Did not realize that it had raised its long serrated tail, nor that the figure had not noticed the movement. It was reacting on instinct alone. And its instincts caused its tail to whip around one last time, the bladed tip plunging through the chest of the figure. All it knew was the moment when the presence vanished, its own physical form broken by the warrior’s final attack.
I deserve peace. I did a good job.
And with that, the warrior sank into oblivion.
The river was quick to reclaim the creature’s body. As the moon slowly faded behind the stray wisp of a cloud, the broken form vanished below the surface, Khamûl’s empty cloak still tangled in the blade of its tail.