The night was growing older, yet but for the stars wheeling overhead, time hardly seemed to be passing. There was little change in the booming swaying speech of the Ents, and the confidence that Lalaith had felt earlier was beginning to wane. Would Treebeard not help them?
Lalaith sat upon the jutting tree root at the edge of the clearing as Pippin and Merry paced back and forth in front of her. Within her hands, she held the short shining knife that Galadriel had given her, and that had saved her life down at the eaves of Fangorn. The short slender blade shone in the light of the stars, almost glowing as it rested lightly in her hands.
She smiled down upon the shining blade as she went over again in her mind the day it had been given to her. Though they were leaving Lórien, it was a happy day for her. Legolas had begun to call her again by her own name that day. He had begun to touch her again. Lalaith bit her lip softly and closed her eyes as she remembered the impress of each lean finger, warm against her skin through her jerkin and tunic, and the sturdy warmth of his shoulders beneath her own hands as he had lifted her down into the boat, barely rocking beneath their light feet.
The only other time he had touched her since then, was when they had danced, alone in the flower filled glade along the edge of the Anduin. But it had only been a brief touch, for-,
Lalaith’s slender smile faded. Boromir. She breathed a sigh, closing her eyes as she touched a finger lightly to her lips, remembering her last moments with him. The memory of her shared dream with Legolas was still warm in her thoughts, as was the heat of his embrace, and of their kiss. But her last kiss in the waking world had been from Boromir. Her friend, whom she cared for as no more than a brother, in much the same way she loved Aragorn. But Boromir’s love for her had been far deeper than the love of a brother for a sister. In spite of the curse Sauron had placed on her. In spite of his knowing he could never have her, for her heart belonged to Legolas. And now, her friend, the brave warrior of Gondor, was gone. She knew it as well as if she had knelt at his side and watched him die.
She drew in a ragged breath. Dear Boromir. He had faltered, yes, but he had not fallen. He had redeemed himself in the end. And now he had his reward, wherever he was, beyond the stars, or in the Halls of Mandos, as Manwë her father had decreed, when he countered Sauron’s curse.
“May you have peace, my friend. Wherever you are.” She murmured softly, lifting her eyes away from her knife, and to the stars.
As the light of the distant pinpricks found her eyes, her thoughts returned again to Legolas, and her sobered spirits slowly lifted. She touched a hand to her throat, and slowly drew the medallion forth, running her thumb slowly over the jewel encrusted disk. What would he think, were he to know of Boromir’s kiss? She had not encouraged Boromir, nor returned his kiss, but she had not resisted it, either. Would Legolas forgive her?
At the thought, she smiled self-reproachingly. Need she even ask such a question? Legolas had borne Boromir no ill will, even when he had guessed at the Man’s feelings for his betrothed. And it was not his nature to be jealous of so small a thing, especially after her foolish rejection the first time he had asked her for her promise of marriage. Boromir’s one small kiss had been nothing compared to what she had so childishly done then, and Legolas had easily forgiven her for that.
She closed her fist around the medallion, and stared deeper at the stars, willing her thoughts away, wanting to see him, wherever he was, whether safe or in danger. She wanted to know. But her mind’s sight was blocked now, as if by a great fog, and she could not see him.
Where is he? She cried out in her mind. I must see him! I must know!
My dear child. Elbereth’s voice echoed in her mind. Now is not the time.
Why? What has happened that I cannot be told of it? She demanded.
Thou art needed here, my child.
I cannot be needed here more than Legolas needs me. Lalaith insisted. The Ents do nothing! I have done little but wait, and pace about! What is there for me to do?!
Peace, my child. Elbereth’s voice soothed. It is true that Lady Yavanna’s subjects are slow to act in anger or in calm. But they can be roused. Thou hast been placed among them, to help them understand that they are needed, desperately, in this struggle against evil. When they understand this, they will act. And little if nothing, will stop them, then.
Legolas lifted his face from the hard, unforgiving stone of the parapet where he had been thrown when the horrific blast that was still ringing in his hears had blown the once solid stone beneath his feet up around him. What on Arda had just happened?
Coughing out a mouthful of dust, he pushed himself shakily to an elbow to see Gimli crumpled nearby, still alive, thankfully, for he was moaning softly.
Shaking his head to clear it of the dizzy confusion that still lingered, Legolas pushed himself up, finding his feet beneath him again.
Other Elves, up and down the parapet were slowly, unsteadily rising after being shaken off of their feet. But Haldir several paces away, still knelt upon the stone, his hands resting helplessly, heavily in his lap as his eyes, set within a blank face of disbelief, scanned the inner ground below. He seemed, for the moment at least, entirely void of any desire to protect himself, or even to do anything at all. If orcs were to come over the walls now, he would be able to cut them all down in a matter of moments. But the power of the blast appeared to have been something even they had not reckoned.
Glancing away from the stunned Elf, Legolas surveyed the blasted cavity where the wall had once been. Water poured in a wild rush through the suddenly open drain, blocking, but only for a moment, the forward surge of orcs rushing through the gap, not many paces from the fallen form of Aragorn where he lay upon the rough pebbly ground where he had been thrown down from the parapet by the unearthly blast that had blown the wall apart.
He was alive, though, as he lifted himself up on his elbows, and shook his head to clear it of the dizzy confusion that was still reeling through his mind. Another Elf lay nearby in the wet pebbly sand, unmoving, a bow still clutched in her fist.
Oh, Great Eru, please no. Though the fair, brave lady below him was not his own Lalaith, Legolas still felt a stab of numbing grief, far worse than the reeling blackness and confusion the explosion had brought on. Her cloak had been torn halfway from her narrow armored shoulders, and her helmet had been ripped completely off. Her long hair lay about her, damp and dirty, and the side of her face that was not pressed against the damp ground, had a long narrow burn mark, slashed black and fierce from her temple down to her jaw. The offending shred of iron lay near her, still glowing hot and red from the wild cacophony that had sent it spinning away from the grating, striking her in the face as it flew. She could not have been far from the explosion then. The chance that she was still alive, were slim, if there was a chance at all.
Sickened, Legolas glanced back at Haldir who had not moved from where he knelt, his eyes unblinking, fixed upon the lifeless form of his lady where she lay lifelessly upon the damp ground as the orcs came slogging nearer through the water logged gap. But that was not the only way they were coming.
“Haldir!” Legolas shouted in warning as orcs, recovered from their own shock, began scampering up their ladders once again, to pounce flat footed to the parapet, their teeth bared, and weapons raised. One orc, scrambling over the balustrade behind Haldir saw the kneeling Elf, helpless, unwilling to fight, and released a deep throated guffaw, as it raised its blade for the easy kill. But at Legolas’ shout, Haldir’s eyes blinked, as if recovering from a trance, and his hand snatched his blade that had fallen near his hand. As the orc’s long, notch edged sword descended, Haldir turned, lifting his blade and spinning to his feet in the same motion.
The face of the March Warden of Lórien was alive again, burning with a mindless fury that had not been his before. He blocked the orc’s blow, and in the same motion, swung his own blade back around, decapitating the beast with one smooth stroke before he moved onto another thick uruk that had lumbered over the balustrade. Haldir lashed furiously into the orc and more that came behind it, and a cry of fury and loathing tore from his lungs.
In that one ragged cry, Legolas could hear the agony of Haldir’s grief, and sensed his desperate desire to slay every last orc here. Yet, there had been something in Haldir’s eyes that made the grief in Legolas well even stronger. The Lórien Elf no longer fought to preserve his own life, but only to destroy the orcs. For in his eyes, Legolas could no longer see a desire to live.
Beneath the parapet Aragorn lifted his head from the damp ground and glanced back at the approaching orcs, his eyes flashing over the still from of the Elf that lay not far from him.
He gaped in disbelief as he recognized her, still fair in spite of the black burn mark that sliced across the side of her face. If he was not mistaken, this was the friend of Lalaith, Lothriel, betrothed to Haldir, married to him now, he guessed, for the planned day of their marriage had not been far away when the Fellowship had departed Lórien.
“My lady?” He gasped, reaching out and clapping his hand upon her arm, and jostling her anxiously. What was a woman doing here? But she did not move. “My lady!” He cried.
But she did not hear. She did not move. Was she even breathing? Scrambling over to her side, he gathered her limp form up in his arms, surprisingly light in spite of her ragged, water logged cloak, that hung half torn from one shoulder the armor she wore, and struggled to his feet as the orcs came slogging through the muddy water pooled within the ragged gap in the wall.
“Aragorn!” Came a deep cry from the ragged edge where the parapet had been ripped apart, and he glanced up to see Gimli making a running leap off of the edge and out over the forest of orc spears thrust upward into the sky. By some miracle, the Dwarf was not impaled, and instead came slamming down on several orc heads, his axe at the ready as he clambered up in the waist deep muck, thrashing into the bodies of orcs with his axe blade.
“Gimli!” Aragorn cried. But the Dwarf hardly seemed to hear, slashing back and forth with his axe, taking down one orc, and then another.
“Take her.” Aragorn cried, running and half slipping toward one of the Elves waiting behind him, their swords ready. It was Orophin he addressed, the younger brother of Haldir, and thus Lothriel’s brother by marriage. “Get her away from here!” He ordered as he thrust the drooping form of the woman into the Elf’s arms.
“Lothriel?” The startled Elf blurted back, as shocked to see her here as Aragorn had been. He shoved his sword back into its scabbard and gathering her limp, sagging form into his own arms. “Of course!” He cried, and turned to dart away with her as Aragorn turned back to face the intruding orcs.
Gimli was still swinging his axe tenaciously about, the blade clanging hard off of the orcs’ armor, striking down one and then other as they came at him until his feet slipped beneath him, and with a wild cry, he fell backward into the water, sinking quickly beneath the surface.
“Fire the arrows!” Aragorn screamed now, and at his command, hundreds of bows twanged, hundreds of arrows darted from the string and shot past him, over his head and to the right and left of him, stirring the air about him as they did, to fly with scattered thumps into the encroaching horde.
Tightening his sword within his bloodied fist, his mind once again pictured the motionless face of the lady, Lothriel, where she had fallen, unconscious, perhaps dead, he did not know. Her fate would be shared by the children and the women of the Rohirrim if they failed to defeat the orcs tonight.
With that thought, he screamed, “Charge!” And as one body, he and the Elves behind him, their swords at the ready, flew swiftly down the gentle slope of sand and pebbles toward the angry fuming mass of orcs that awaited them.
Shouts and the high sharp sound of weapons clashing below him brought Legolas’ head around. There were more orcs scrambling up the ladders, but he could see Aragorn and the narrow line of shining Elven armor clashing against the darker wall of orcs. He was needed more upon the ground. But how to get down swiftly? Further down the wall, another orc, its arm wielding a shield, rose to block yet another of Haldir’s enraged blows, but the creature misjudged, and instead of the blade crashing into the shield, Haldir’s elven sword sliced with terrifying ease cleanly through the creature’s arm.
The severed limb flopped heavily upon the ledge, then tumbled away into the darkness but the shield that had once been attached to it, came skittering away along the edge of the parapet to where Legolas clamped his foot upon it, stopping its forward movement before it could continue on and clatter away down the slick stone steps. He popped his boot down upon the bowed edge of the shield flipping it up into the air, and caught it easily by one of the two sharpened prongs upon the narrow end. And as his eyes darted from the shield in his hand toward the shining, rain drenched stone it had almost tumbled down, a somber look gripped his face.
With a running start, Legolas flung the shield forward where it landed upon the parapet with a clap, and continued to slide forward easily over the rain wet stone. For two steps Legolas dashed along behind it until he leaped, his feet landing lightly with the upward curving inner part of the shield just as the orcish weapon hit the top most steps. And then with the Elf riding sideward upon it, the shield began its clattering descent toward the surging cluster of orcs. Legolas, his knees bent to absorb the impact of each unforgiving, hard edged stone that slipped swiftly beneath the metal shield, drew arrow after arrow, firing each shaft true into the throats or chests of orcs as they came surging through the deep slog behind those who raged against Aragorn and the Elves beside him.
The bottom of the steps drew swiftly closer, and in the last moment before he would have tumbled into the very midst of the invading orcs, Legolas jumped clear of the orc shield with a final kick, ending his swift, yet wild ride, and it flew away, driving its forked end through the armor and into the chest of another orc.
Legolas landed lightly upon his toes and turned, snatching yet another arrow from his quiver, and shoving it hard through the exposed neck of an orc that came lunging at him with a snarl. Keeping his fist wrapped tightly around the now bloody arrow, he shoved his foot into the stiff chest of the orc, and kicked its now dead body backward as he withdrew his arrow with a fierce tug.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Gimli come lunging up out of the water with a deep angry snarl as Aragorn snatched him up, and pulled him back away from the line of orcs. Legolas drew the blackened arrow to his cheek, and released the string, sending the arrow piercing clean through an orc that pounced at him with a wild screech, its cry cut off as his arrow rammed through its armor, and knocked it backward, dead before it struck the water it had been slogging through. Legolas backpedaled until he reached the line where the Elves and orcs clashed the most fiercely, and there he stayed, his jaw set firm as he snatched arrow after arrow, cutting down orcs as they came at him, slowly emptying his quiver.