Chapter 14 – To Helms Deep
The low buzz of conversation drifted back to me as I walked beside Legolas. We had been walking for a couple of hours now. The people of Rohan were hardy; I had heard no complaints, yet I knew that they were not at all happy with their situation.
Théoden and Aragorn were walking just behind us, on their horses. Gimli was ahead, being led by Éowyn.
I had been watching the Shield-maiden over the past couple of days. I had not missed the way she looked at Aragorn, nor the way she lit up whenever he stepped in to the room. I had wanted to speak with her but had not the chance. I liked the woman and did not wish for her to have her heart broken.
"It's true you don't see many Dwarf women. And in fact, they are so alike in voice and appearance, that they're often mistaken for Dwarf men!"
I smiled as I overheard Gimli talking to Éowyn. Even with the threat of a war hanging over us like a cloud, Gimli could always be counted on to make everyone smile. Éowyn smiled at him and turned, looking at Aragorn.
"It's the beards!"
He whispered loudly, grinning at her. She giggled and turned back to listen to Gimli again.
"And this, in turn, has given rise to the belief that there are no Dwarf women! And that Dwarves just spring out of holes in the ground!"
Éowyn laughed, and I joined in, unable to keep a straight face. I looked up at Aragorn, who was staring at her.
"You seem quite enchanted with Éowyn."
Aragorn didn't answer for a moment, and his face grew troubled.
"Enchanted? No. I do not deny that she is beautiful, but my heart belongs to Arwen and Arwen only."
I nodded in approval; I had respect for Éowyn, but I did not want Aragorn's affections to change, no matter how much a certain Rohirric lady would want them to.
I looked up as Éowyn gave a little shout of surprise. Gimli's horse had spooked and yanked the reins out of her hands. It cantered off a way. Gimli wobbled and fell off, landing with a resounding thud. Laughter sounded behind me, from Aragorn, Théoden and his men. Legolas merely grinned, his eyes shining with amusement.
"It's alright, it's alright. Nobody panic. That was deliberate. It was deliberate."
Éowyn had rushed over, and was helping him up. She brushed him off, laughing. She looked back over at Aragorn. The wind fanned her hair out, and the sun lightened her brunette hair to copper, making it gleam. Her face had momentarily lost all the cares that it had carried the past days; she looked youthful and vivacious. As she continued to stare at Aragorn, I caught the look in her eyes, and drew in a breath. I had seen that expression before; it was how Arwen looked at Aragorn. Although I knew she had grown to have affections for Aragorn, I had not realised just how strong they had become.
"You cannot interfere. Let her affections burn out. It will be better that way."
I caught Legolas' hard look, and sighed.
"How do you know I was going to interfere?"
He merely raised an eyebrow, eyes sparkling.
"I know you too well. I can see the look on your face. Let it be."
I sighed again, and Legolas chuckled, shaking his head. I opened my mouth to say something when a commotion near the front of the procession caught my attention. Without saying anything, I started sprinting towards it, Legolas close behind.
I reached the scene, and froze for a second. A Warg stood over the dead body of Háma and his horse, and it began to advance on Gamling. It's rider turned its attention to us, but an arrow flew in to the Warg's chest before it could attack anything. Legolas sped past, his knife glinting in his hand, quickly dispatching the rider.
"Argh! A scout!"
Legolas spat, yanking his knife back. I spun around, searching for Aragorn's face. I spotted him running towards us, and called out.
"Wargs! We are under attack!"
The villagers close to us began to panic; mothers clutched their children close, men surrounded their wives. Others began running in different directions, too blinded by fear to see where they were going.
"All riders to the head of the column!"
Théoden's voice rose above the chaos, strong and authorotive. He appeared in front of me, several of his men behind him. The others were trying to get through the heaving throng of villagers.
"Come on, get me up here, I'm a rider!"
I noticed Gimli trying to mount his horse again. I ran over and boosted him up. He nodded in thanks, and managed to spur his horse on to join the other riders. I made my way back to Théoden. Éowyn was standing next to his horse, clutching the reins of her own horse with a mutinous expression on her face.
"You must lead the people to Helms Deep! And make haste!"
I could hear the urgency in his voice as he talked to Éowyn.
"I can fight!"
Her feisty spirit came through clearly and I had to admire her defiance.
"No! You must do this…for me."
I turned my back on them, allowing them a moment for a goodbye. Leaving family to fight was a hard decision. I glanced back, expecting Éowyn to have walked away, but was met by her furious glare.
"And will you be fighting with the others? Or will you be joining me in leading the villagers?"
I was surprised at the venom in her voice.
"I have to fight; I need to. Now, you must get the villagers out of here!"
Instead of leaving, she stood her ground, hazel eyes blazing. I tensed automatically, sensing just how angry she really was.
"And why can you go in to battle, when I cannot?"
I suppressed a shriek of impatience; could she not see the differences?
"Our situations are completely different. You have a duty to your people; you cannot abandon them. My people have left these lands."
The fire in her eyes dimmed a little, but she still stood in front of me. I noticed Aragorn cantering towards us, after the other riders.
"You are a good warrior, but I have experience in battle, and you do not. You would be killed within minutes. Now go!"
A hurt expression flashed across her face, but she turned and ran off, calling the villagers to her.
"Make for the lower ground! Stick together!"
The villagers swarmed to her, comforted by the fact someone was taking charge. Hoof beats made me spin around. Legolas had joined Gimli on his horse. Aragorn had extended an arm. I reached out and grabbed it, allowing him to swing me up behind him. Once seated, Aragorn spurred his horse on, towards the Wargs that were appearing over the hills.
"Keep your mount steady!"
I yelled to Aragorn and I saw him nod. Carefully, I brought my legs up until they were resting on the saddle. I pushed myself forwards until I balanced on the balls of my feet.
Wargs snarled all around us as they engaged the Rohirrim. The terrified shrieks and whinnies of the horses as they fell beneath the Warg's teeth made my heart ache. A Warg ran towards us from the side. I waited until it was close enough and then sprang forward. I collided with the rider, and we tumbled off, rolling over and over. I quickly unsheathed my dagger, stabbing it in the chest, wincing as my nearly-healed injuries flared up.
I spotted the rider-less Warg, sniffing at something on the floor, trapped underneath a body of a dead Warg. I sprinted forward, praying that the creature wouldn't sense my advance. I vaulted forwards, landing neatly in the saddle. The creature howled and shot forwards. I struggled to control it, the reins slipping in my hands. Finally finding a grip, I yanked hard on them. The Warg whimpered and stopped. Satisfied that, at least for now, I was in charge, I drew one of my blades, holding the reins in my left hand.
I kicked the Warg in to action, charging at an Orc advancing on a rider from behind. I swung my blade, decapitating the creature. We swerved round the rider, circling back to survey the scene. Without warning, an Orc collided in to the side of my unorthodox mount, knocking us over. I was thrown off, and I landed in a heap. A growl made me instinctively shift in to a crouch. Another Orc and its Warg had appeared. I slowly reached for my other blade. Somehow, I had managed to keep hold of the one in my right hand. One of the Wargs snarled and stepped forward, saliva dripping from one of its yellowed fangs.Without warning, both the Wargs bounded forward, the Orcs shouting out. I swung my blades out sideways, catching each Warg. They yelped and jumped to the side. I spun and ran forwards, catching hold of the back of one of the Orcs. I pulled myself up, and knocked the Orc sideways towards its comrade. Their heads collided, and they fell back, momentarily dazed.
The Warg I was standing on came to a sudden stop, keeling over, and squashing its rider underneath it. I jumped off and saw a spear had been thrown in to its side. I looked up, and saw Aragorn grinning. I smiled back and began to run to help another rider, when he was knocked off his horse. The horse squealed and galloped off.
I watched in helpless horror as Aragorn battled with the rider, as he was dragged along the ground. The Orc grabbed him by the neck, throttling him. I started to run forwards – I would not lose Aragorn.
The two struggled together, as I battled my way closer. Aragorn dealt the Orc a blow, causing it to fall off. I relaxed slightly, thinking Aragorn to be safe, but immediately saw that he was tangled in the stirrup straps. He fumbled with them, trying to disengage himself as the Warg ran closer to the cliff edge.
I dodged an attempt at an Orc trying to cut me in half, hardly noticing the rider that cut it down a moment later. I was focused entirely on Aragorn as I sprinted towards him, trying to reach him. I felt the bottom of my stomach lurch as I watched Aragorn and the Warg tumble over the edge.
I screamed out his childhood name in my anguish. My voice echoed over the quiet field. I had not noticed that the battle had wound down. A few riders were dispatching the last few Orcs.
I continued on to the cliff edge and stared down. A raging river, its waters frothing and swirling over rocks and debris, showed no signs of its being disturbed by a body landing in it.
Gimli's voice interrupted my silent searching. I turned round and saw that both Legolas and Gimli were scanning the area for Aragorn. A wheezing laugh sounded a few feet away from me. I stalked over to the Orc, recognising it as the one who had knocked Aragorn off.
"Tell me what happened and I will ease your passing."
Gimli growled at the Orc. Legolas and he had noticed the Orc as well.
"He's dead. Took a little tumble off the cliff."
The Orc began to laugh but it turned in to a cough. Legolas glanced towards the cliff edge. His eyes hardened and he grabbed the Orc by the front of its armour.
The Orc started laughing again. I couldn't bear to listen. Drawing my dagger, I plunged it through its head. Blood splattered my hands and a few droplets sprayed on to my face. I drew it out, carefully wiping the blade on the grass. When I had sheathed it, I finally looked at Legolas. He cradled Aragorn's Evenstar pendant in his hand; I guessed that the Orc had ripped it off when he had fallen. I slowly walked forward, and took the pendant. Carefully, I placed it over Legolas' head. The pendant hung slightly lower than his own. It looked dull, and unclean. Legolas caught my hand as I drew it away. I walked closer, and rested my head on his shoulder. Gimli had walked over to the cliff edge, and stood, staring down.
Such moments of intimacy this close between Legolas and I were rare, especially these days: the intimacy where neither of us had to speak, but we knew what the other was feeling; where we simply stood close and held each other. I only wished that this moment was of love, rather than grief. There had been too much grief of late.
A hand appeared on Legolas' other shoulder. I drew away slightly to see the solemn face of Théoden.
"Come. We must reach Helms Deep."
His voice was calm, yet commanding. I felt an irrational surge of anger. How could he just leave? How could we leave when Aragorn was not with us? Did he not even care?I felt Legolas sigh, and he pulled away, but still held on to my hand.
The dwarf turned. His face was a mask of sorrow. His eyes normally held a spark of defiant mischief, but now they were blank, much as they had been when we had lost Gandalf. He slowly trudged back to us, his head down. He reached us and we began to walk off together, following Théoden to Helms Deep.
I hung back by the gates, unwilling to go in. I watched as Éowyn rushed out to greet her Uncle. The sorrow on her face when she learnt of Aragorn's fate was almost too much to bear.
Legolas turned back to look at me as he stood with Théoden. We locked eyes and I conveyed a silent message to him. He nodded, and I turned and walked back out the gates.I made my way down the stone path. I reached the end and the plains stretched out before me.
I stared out at them, willing a lone figure to appear on them. A figure with wild, raven black hair; with dark eyes that could see right through you; who could be at once a warrior and a gentle giant. It was a foolish wish, but I could not stop myself. I could not accept that he was gone. I could feel myself shaking, but the tears wouldn't come. My throat burned and my eyes stung, but I remained dry-eyed.
I continued to stare out at the horizons, and a memory surfaced: a memory of long ago when Aragorn was just a child and I had found him with an injury.
The sound of a child's wailing filled the air and Seraphina dropped the book she had been reading. Lifting her skirts, she hurried towards the sound, rushing to find him. She found the boy underneath the apple tree that grew by the fountain. Broken branches littered the ground around him.
"What happened, pinig?"
Seraphina picked the boy up in her arms, gently shushing him. Tears streaked his face and his bottom lip trembled as wide grey eyes looked up at the Elf.
"I wanted an apple from the tree but-but-but I fell!"
His crying started again and Seraphina cuddled him closer, rocking him back and forth. After a while, his sobs subsided and he nestled against her chest contentedly.
"Now, where does it hurt?"
Slowly, he stretched out his palms and Seraphina saw that he had grazed them both pretty badly. Setting him down, she guided him over to the fountain and placed his hands in the water. Gently, she washed the dirt and blood from the wounds, humming softly to distract him. Once she had finished, she crouched down so she was level with him. She glanced over his palms. The grazes were not too bad now the dirt was gone; she would only have to put a balm on them to help with the sting. Standing up, she took one of his hands gently in hers.
"There, now. All better. Come, Estel – I should think you can get an apple from the tree."
Seraphina looked down at the small boy, a little surprised to see tears once again in his eyes.
"What if the tree hurts me again?"
The Elf felt her heart swell with a sudden rush of love for the boy. Crouching down once again, she cupped his face in her hands, and pressed a kiss to his forehead.
"Whenever you are in trouble; whenever you are injured – I will be there."
The boy sniffled slightly, grey eyes holding so much innocence it almost hurt to look at them.
Seraphina smiled tenderly at the boy and drew him in to a hug. His little arms wound round her neck and he cuddled close to her, burying his face in to the crook of her neck.
I pulled myself back from the memory, my chest tight. I had broken that promise – he had been in trouble and I had failed to help him. I slowly collapsed to the ground and lay there in silence for a moment and then my barriers broke.
My mouth opened and a scream came out. I tried to stop it, but it turned in to a crying wail, that wavered and shook as all my grief and sorrow came pouring out. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I buried my face in my hands, yet the wail did not stop, and I continued to break apart.
Legolas stopped talking to a soldier and looked towards the gates. Something tightened his chest, and he instinctively knew it was Seraphina. All of a sudden, he heard it. Everyone stopped and listened.
"What is that noise?"
Eowyn came up to Legolas, a stricken expression on her face.
"It is Seraphina."
Her wail rose higher. It was high, like a bird call, but at the same time as deep as a dragon's roar. It sounded like music, the way it undulated and rolled, but it made Legolas want to weep. Glancing around at the people, he saw their stricken faces and knew that they the noise was hurting them.
He sprinted out of the gates and down the path. He looked around wildly, and spotted a crumpled form a way off to the right. He ran over to her, and crouched down. He lightly touched her on the shoulder, and she turned over.
Her eyes were dulled of the light that usually shone from them. Tear tracks stained her face, and more drops hung to her eyelashes. Her shoulders heaved with the sobs that she could not control. Wordlessly, he gathered her in to her arms, and stayed on the ground with her, gently rocking her, his grief at losing his closest friend mingling with hers.
He buried his face in her hair, allowing a few of his own tears to slip out. Losing Aragorn was almost as bad as losing Seraphina; he felt like he was not whole.
Night fell like a blanket over the valley. Seraphina's body finally stilled, and when she raised her head, her eyes did not glisten with unshed tears.
Her voice was hoarse, and she whispered, as if the noise hurt her ears. Legolas helped her to stand, but still held her close, unwilling to let her go. She pushed away slightly, but held on to his hand, and together they walked back to the stone path and in to Helms Deep, their united grief lightened but not lifted.
I always cry at this part, even though I know what happens.
A shout out to Certh who kindly reviewed my chapters for me, and offered some advice. Thank you! It has certainly helped me and the changes I made were based on your suggestions so thank you! And of course, thank you to all my lovely supporters!
Pinig – Little one
Gwestog? – Do you promise?
Gweston – I promise
Hannon le – Thank you