Chapter 15 – Reunited
I did not know how much time had passed since I had let my grief explode. I forced myself to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Helms Deep had to be prepared for the coming army. I spent my time running to and fro, shouting orders, arranging supplies and generally helping Théoden to organise everything. I hardly saw Legolas, and when I did, I could barely mumble two words to him. I saw the sorrow and pain in his eyes, but for once, I could not make it go away. I was too wrapped up in my own grief to help him through his. I could feel him slipping away from me, but I couldn't reach out to him: I didn't know how.
Aragorn rode hard, hearing his horse, Brego, panting underneath him. He urged him on, and Brego obliged, managing to put on a little more speed.
He had awoken to find himself lying on a beach, the water lapping at his feet. A muzzle had rolled him over, snorting and nickering softly. He had lain there for a moment, wondering whether he could actually move. His injuries blazed with pain, but after a while, they faded. Aragorn had managed to haul himself on to Brego and make for Helms Deep.
The army he had come across caused a spike of fear. Not for himself, but for the defenceless women and children. He had to reach Helms Deep before them. Up ahead, he could see the faint outline of the giant fortress. A tiny shred of hope rose up, before he pushed it down. It was foolish to hope.
As he drew nearer, Seraphina's face flashed through his mind. She was the last thing he had seen as he had tumbled over the cliff. The distress on her face made him feel sick. He could only imagine what her, Legolas and Gimli must be feeling.
He crossed in to the shadow of the fortress. Patting Brego's neck, he rode in to Helms Deep.Whispers sprung up around him, and amazed eyes turned his way.
"Where is he? Where is he? Get out of the way! I'm gonna kill him!"
Gimli's baritone voice reached Aragorn's ears. He slid off Brego, giving his faithful mount one last pat. Gimli came barrelling through a crowd of people, delight on his grizzled face.
"You are the luckiest, the canniest and most reckless man I ever knew!"
He fell silent, anger briefly flashing in his eyes before he charged forward, almost making Aragorn stumble with the force of his hug.
"Bless you, laddie!"
Aragorn smiled and patted him on the back, before pulling back.
"Gimli. Where is the King?"
Gimli gestured towards the hall, and Aragorn strode forward, only to come face to face with Legolas.
Aragorn and Legolas grinned widely at each other. Legolas cast his eyes over Aragorn's wounds.
"You look terrible."
Aragorn opened his mouth to say something but stopped as Legolas held up Arwen's pendant. Aragorn reached out a hand, and took it, clutching it tightly for a moment before placing back round his neck. The pendant burned his skin, the crystal shining and clear.
He placed a hand on Legolas' shoulder. The two men stayed silent for a few minutes, simply allowing each other to calm their emotions. With a nod, Legolas stepped aside and followed Aragorn to the hall. Before Aragorn could go in, Legolas caught his arm.
"Seraphina is with Théoden. Be careful what you say. She may have been grieving for the time you have been gone, but you know what she is like: her grief can be quickly forgotten in the heat of her temper."
Aragorn nodded, slightly nervous, and pushed open the doors.
I quietly counted weapons, dividing them in to separate piles: swords, spears, bows. Théoden was off to one side talking to Gamling, his second in command now that Háma was dead. The sound of the hall doors opening made me stop and turn.
My eyes did not believe what was in front of them. Aragorn was standing in the doorway. His hair straggled down to his shoulders. Shallow scrapes and cuts adorned his hands and face, and a larger wound covered his right shoulder. Apart from that, he looked as if he had only got in to a scuffle with another soldier.
I blinked once, making sure that what I was seeing was true. My chin trembled as he walked forward. I clenched my teeth, forcing myself not to burst in to tears. Of their own accord, my feet began to run to him, my heart beating wildly. I flung myself at him, feeling his strong arms catch me. I wound my hands around his neck, holding him tightly.
His chest shook as he laughed at my actions. He smelt the same: like the earth after rain. He showed no intention of letting me go and we stood, entwined, for what seemed like eternity, before I let him go.
I stared at his face, and reached out a trembling hand to cup his face. His dark eyes locked on to mine, and in them I could see a tumult of emotions that I did not want to read. I let my hand drop, still staring at him. He grinned, his teeth flashing white.
Quick as lightning, I slapped him hard across the cheek.
Legolas allowed Aragorn to go first in to the hall, hanging back by the doors. He looked up as he heard the sound of two bodies colliding. Seraphina had thrown herself in to his arms, and the two were holding each other close, not saying anything.
A stab of jealousy went through Legolas' heart. She never showed such public displays of affection with him, so why should she do it with Aragorn? Immediately, he had an answer: he had not been presumed dead, and then re-appeared, relatively unharmed. In truth, he was immensely happy that his close friend was alive. The joy he had felt at seeing him was indescribable.
Legolas also felt relieved. Seraphina had been pulling away from him, and turning in on herself. Nothing he did could get her to confide him. It was like a repeat of what had happened after their daughter had died. She buried herself in preparations. He knew that she silently blamed herself for causing Aragorn's supposed death. The look in her eyes everyday – that hollow, bleak look that leached all the colour from her face – told him all he needed to know.He had been grieving too, and felt a little hurt that she had not seen it. However, Legolas knew that she did know how much sorrow had come over him, and that she had tried to reach out to him, but he had not responded. Both of them had no idea what to do – they had never lost such a close mutual friend before.
Now that Aragorn had returned, maybe their relationship would mend.
As he watched the two, he saw a stiffening in Seraphina's posture. He straightened immediately. He knew what that meant. Her temper was rising, and the consequences would not be good. He began to stride forward, and flinched as the sharp crack of Seraphina's slap rang out in the hall.
Aragorn stared at me in shock, one hand holding his face. I glared at him, my hands balled in to fists.
"I nôl gîn lost!"
My voice was cold, and low. Aragorn looked at me in confusion, his eyes hurt.
"You never help someone in a battle without checking around first. I taught you that. I thought you would remember it."
Aragorn's confusion cleared and his eyes started to burn with fury.
"If I had left you, you would have been killed."
I did not truly know why I was raging against Aragorn but I had a feeling it was my way of releasing all of my grief, and my anger towards myself. He did not deserve my sharp words but I could not stop them as they tumbled out.
"I can look after myself. I have been in many a battle, some before you were even born. Or did you forget that?"
The atmosphere in the room had grown icy; I was surprised there were not icicles hanging from the ceiling. Legolas appeared beside Aragorn, amusement and shock flitting across his face before it smoothed in to a neutral mask. He put a restraining hand on Aragorn's shoulder but he shook Legolas off.
"Would you rather I had left you to be slaughtered?"
His words slashed through me, hurt colouring his words. He had saved me and I would have done exactly the same thing. Yet, the lingering grief over his disappearance made my tone harsh and words hurtful.
"I would not have been. I had everything under control. If you had not tried to be a hero, then we would not be in this position. Do you realise what you put everyone through, trying to be a saviour?"
My voice had risen to a shriek, all my grief, my pain, my sorrow over losing him, coming tumbling out.
"I did not plan to get knocked off that cliff, Seraphina, but I am sorry to have caused you such pain. Now, if you'll excuse me, I came to talk with the King."
I stepped to the side, looking past him as he stalked to Théoden. The low murmur of their voices filled the room seconds later. I saw Gimli walk in to the hall, his face still shining with joy. He continued on to Aragorn, giving me a strange look as he passed.
I shook all over, not believing that I had slapped Aragorn – and after all that he had been through to get here. I continued to shake even when Legolas led me out of the hall, and in to the open air, holding me close. He never said a word, but understanding flowed from him to me. My shudders stopped after a while, and we simply stood and waited for Aragorn and Théoden to emerge, anxious to hear news of the army.
"Send out riders, my Lord. You must call for aid."
Aragorn pleaded with Théoden as we walked towards the battlements. Helms Deep was a flurry of activity as soldiers and civilians scurried to prepare for the oncoming battle.
"And who will come? Elves? Dwarves? We are not so lucky in our friends as you. The old alliances are dead."
Théoden sounded bitter, and my heart twisted. Despite what I had done to keep the alliance between Elf and Man, the relationship was strained.
"Gondor will answer."
Aragorn answered quickly, his voice certain.
"Gondor? Where was Gondor when the Westfold fell? Where was Gondor when our enemies closed in around us? Where was Gon…No, my Lord Aragorn. We are alone."
Théoden strode off, calling out orders.
"Get the women and children in to the caves!"
Gamling rushed towards him, a slight panic about him.
"We need more time to lay provisions for a siege, lord – "
Théoden cut him off, his tone harsh.
"There is no time! War is upon us!"
He continued to stride towards the battlements. Aragorn and Gimli rushed after him. I stood still, watching the chaos around me. Legolas touched my hand, and walked towards the battlements. I knew what he wanted: he wanted to find a good spot, so his arrows would fly straight and true.
I suddenly spotted a flash of familiar honey-blond hair. The little girl and her brother who had come in to Rohan were standing with a woman, who looked like an older, more lined version of the girl. I walked over to them, keeping my eyes on them. I reached them, and smiled at the woman. She widened her eyes, but smiled back.
"Is there anything I can do to help you, my lady?"
I touched her shoulder, my voice kind.
"You helped my children. You have done enough. Thank you."
Tears filled her eyes, and she pulled her children close. I nodded, and touched each on their forehead.
"May you be blessed by the Valar. Hurry. Get to the caves."
They rushed off without a word, the mother pushing her children in front of her.
"Secure the gate!"
A Rohirrim Captain called to his soldiers. I heard the clunk of metal on wood as they began to shut the gate and bar it. A sense of dread crept up my spine: now the war would begin.
I helped a young boy strap armour to his chest. He was no more than around thirteen years; his eyes were wide, fear and anxiety flashed in them.
"Farmer, farriers, stable boys. These are no soliders."
Aragorn's disgusted voice sounded in my ear. I finished helping the boy and sent him off to choose a weapon. I said nothing, but clasped his shoulder.
"I truly am sorry for what I did in the hall. I wasn't thinking. Forgive me. I acted improperly."
My voice wavered, and I squeezed his shoulder.
"I understood why you did what you did. Even the greatest of us do things we regret. It is not such a big thing."
His voice was kind, and he laid a hand on mine. I knew I had been forgiven.
"Most of seen too many winters."
Gimli had walked over to us, surveying the assorted men and boys in the armoury. Théoden had lost many good soldiers in the ambush on the way to Helms Deep. As a result, he had called all men and boys able to fight to arms. Even if they were too young or too old.
"Or too few. Look at them. They're frightened. I can see it in their eyes."
Legolas stood with us too. His eyes had a hard edge to them, but his expression was too neutral, too calm. I knew then that he was truly furious. The men around us fell silent as they heard his words. Legolas turned to Aragorn, speaking in Elvish to hide his meaning.
"Boe a hûn: neled herain dan caer menig!"
Aragorn replied in kind, but I sensed he was angry.
"Si beriathar hýn. Amar nâ ned Edoras."
Legolas shook his head, his frustration clear.
"Aragorn, nedin dagor hen ú-'erir ortheri. Natha daged dhaer!"
Suddenly, Aragorn's face twisted and his voice rose to a shout, forgetting to speak in Elvish in his frustration.
"Then I shall die as one of them!"
He stalked off. Legolas began to move after him, but Gimli held him back.
"Let him go, lad. Let him be."
I shot a grateful glance at Gimli, and he grimly smiled back.
"Come. We should prepare on the battlements."
I brushed past Legolas, stroking his hand lightly. I heard him let out a choked sound before he started to follow me. I continued to walk out of the armoury, before I noticed they Gimli and Legolas had disappeared. I sighed and continued walking, heading towards the battlements. Men. In all my long years on Middle-Earth, I had never quite come to understand them.
My feet pounded along the ground towards the gate. I knew that sound; I knew who that horn belonged to.
I skidded to a halt as an army of Lothlórien Elves marched up the Causeway in to the Hornburg. I started to grin, when the Elf leading them turned so his face was on show. My grin faded, and was quickly replaced by horror. I didn't notice the others appear behind me, or Théoden speaking.
"How is this possible?"
Théoden's voice was amazed.
"I bring word from Elrond of Rivendell. An alliance once existed between Elves and Men. Long ago we fought and died together. We come to honour that allegiance."
Haldir inclined his head. I stood frozen as Aragorn pushed forwards and enveloped Haldir in a tight hug, grinning from ear to ear.
"You are most welcome."
Haldir smiled a little at Aragorn, eyes shining in the light of the moon.
"We are proud to fight alongside Men once more."
I continued to stare at him, when he turned to me. His smile widened, and that was enough to unfreeze me. I stalked forward. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Legolas shoot a warning look at Haldir, who wisely adopted a defensive stance.
"What are you doing here, muindor? Did you not heed my advice to leave for the Undying Lands?"
Haldir shook his head at my hissing tone, and tentatively touched me on the shoulder. I began to draw away, but stopped. Haldir was still my brother, however foolish he was.
"Why would I leave when I knew you would be in this battle? I could not leave you to fight alone. Besides, I itch to fight. It does me good to let out my frustrations in battle once in a while."
I threw my hands up, letting out a frustrated cry.
Haldir laughed, as did Legolas and Aragorn, and a reluctant smile curved up my mouth. A distant roar made us all look up. Théoden broke the silence that had fallen.
"They are not far. Come. We must be ready."
I stood at the front of the battlements, next to Haldir. The Elves stood in a line on other side of us, their bows all ready in their hands.
Night had fallen, and rain lashed down, lightning splitting the sky. The darkness in front of us was lit by the thousands of torches carried by the advancing Orcs, the blurry orbs of fire bobbing as they marched.
"A Eruchîn, ú-dano i faelas a hyn an uben tanatha le faelas!"
Aragorn's cry echoed in the stillness. The make-shift soldiers looked petrified, while others merely remained blank.
A boy behind me lifted a hand and wiped his eyes. I instinctively knew that it was not the rain that he was wiping away. He looked up at me, his eyes shining. I stroked the hair away from his head, trying to instil a sense of ease in him. He leaned in to my hand. I touched his cheek, smiling down at him.
"Be brave, child. You are one of the Rohirrim. Whatever happens, remember that. In my eyes, you are already a hero of Rohan."
The boy straightened up, and resolutely stared forwards, even though he could not see over the battlements.
"What's happening out there?"
I turned back to see Gimli jumping up and down, further down the line.
"Would you like me to describe it to you? Or would you like a box?"
I could hear the grin in Legolas' voice. I laughed softly, and he looked up. He caught my eye. I looked at him for a couple of seconds, my eyes boring in to his, conveying a silent message. He nodded once, and broke the eye contact.A sick feeling settled in my stomach. The scene before me looked eerily familiar, except that the previous one had been in Mordor – and I had been on the other side.
The Uruk-Hai below us started roaring, stomping their feet and banging their shields. The Uruk-Hai leader stood on a rock, encouraging them. I glared at him, silently vowing that he would not survive this battle.
Suddenly, an arrow whizzed down, and struck an Uruk-Hai at the front. They all stopped roaring and fell silent. The wounded creature clutched the base of the arrow, embedded in its neck, and fell to the ground, a strangled choking floating up. With a cry, the Uruk-Hai leader thrust his sword in the air and the army charged forward, screaming and growling.I breathed in, and unsheathed my blades.
It had begun.
I'm so mean! You have to wait for the next chapter for the battle! Hee hee!
TranslationsBoe a hûn: neled herain dan caer menig! – And they should be: three hundred against ten thousand!
Si beriathar hýn. Amar nâ ned Edoras. – They have more hope defending themselves here than at Edoras (Edoras is the place in Rohan, for those of you who don't know.)
Aragorn, nedin dagor hen ú-'erir ortheri. Natha daged dhaer!– Aragorn, they cannot win this fight. They are all going to die!
Le abdollen – You are late
Hannon le – Thank you
I nôl gîn lost! – Your head is empty! (She's basically calling him stupid.)
Muindor – Brother
Ci ben-ind! – You are insane!
A Eruchîn, ú-dano i faelas a hyn an uben tanatha le faelas! – Show them no mercy, for you shall receive none!