Chapter 17 – Picking Up the Pieces
The past few hours had been a complete blur to me. Aragorn had found me, slumped on Fëa, not moving. I had been whisked in to Helms Deep to one of the many harassed Healers, trying to deal with the influx of wounded. I had crept away as soon as the Healer's back was turned and retreated to the room I had been in before the battle. It was near the back of Helms Deep, and had remained unscathed.
A thoughtful servant had left a basin and water in my room. I dipped my fingers in the water: cold. It had been here before the battle. I had stripped and bathed hastily, getting the worst of the mud and dried blood off me. I had been forced to put my soiled clothes back on. I had just managed to bind my hair in a tight plait, before everything caught up with me and I sank to the ground at the end of my bed. It was there that Legolas found me.
I looked up as the door to my room opened. There, looking magnificent despite the cuts and scrapes on his face, was Legolas.
I scrambled to my feet and launched myself at him, not caring that I was breaking all the rules of etiquette. I need to feel his arms around me; to hear his heartbeat, steady no matter what. Legolas caught me, his arms tight around me. We stood in the doorway for a moment, my head buried in his shoulder, when he lifted me up. I instinctively wrapped my legs around me. He walked forward, and kicked the door shut behind him. He set me on the bed, forcing me to let go of him, and lay down beside me.
I snuggled closer to him, and lay my head on his chest. Our boots and clothes were leaving smudges on the sheets, but we didn't notice. I listened to his breathing, not speaking, simply absorbing his presence. He was everything to me. I knew that if he had died, I would have too. I had not known it before, but I was absolutely certain that I now could not contemplate my life without him.
I never really showed how much I loved him. We never kissed, or showed displays of affection in public, aside from occasionally holding hands, or a hug when we had been apart. He had always been there for me, no matter what happened, or what I did. There had been no other woman in his life: just me. The depth of his love knew no bounds, and neither did his faithfulness and his trust.
I raised myself up slightly and looked at him. His eyes had closed, and his breathing deepened. He looked at peace with everything when he was asleep; I envied him that.I lay back down, head in the same place. I felt his arms tighten around me more as he shifted in his sleep.
I had to tell him what I truly felt for him. It was now or never.
"Legolas. I do not really know where to begin. Maybe by saying that I love you. I did not tell you enough when were together – I thought that you did not need to hear it. Perhaps I was wrong.
Before I met you, I was lost. I had lost myself to the darkness. I thought I would never be able to get out. Then you appeared. You saved me. You didn't have to. By the Valar, you didn't even need to – I was just a childhood friend; a friend you had outgrown. Yet, you fought so hard to save me during the War of the Last Alliance, and you succeeded. I was so broken – but you fixed me.
You helped me to understand there was more to me than my past mistakes. That if I was truly repentant, I would step up and face my responsibilities. So, I did. You were with me every step of the way, guiding me with your never-ending wisdom.
I loved you before you loved me and I do begrudge that for one second. I had resigned myself to never finding a One in Particular, so imagine my surprise – and my utmost joy – when you revealed you returned my feelings.
Our wedding is one of the most happiest memories, and one I shall hold dear for eternity. I felt complete for once in my long life – I knew that I belonged at your side. Then, Eirien was born. It was a blessing to have her in the first place, but it was made even more special that she was yours. She had your eyes, your mouth. She certainly had your steely resolve. I fell in love with you more and more every time I saw you with her: it was like a fire had been lit within you, and your love for her blazed like a beacon.
Eirien fell ill with the Black Fever when you were visiting Lothlórien. We tried everything to save her. I tried, but to watch your own daughter dying in front of you is one of the worst things a being can be put through. The look in your eyes every day after her funeral killed me all over again. Eirien was gone. The light within you had faded away. Every day I blamed myself. It was my fault she died. She found my old sword from my dark days. She touched it; the Black Fever must have been transferred from there. I still cannot forgive myself. Our daughter is dead because of me. I hope that one day you can find it in yourself to forgive me.
That was why I pushed you away so completely – my utter self-loathing caused me to see everyone as enemies. I imagined seeing blame in your eyes every time you looked at me; I imagined you turning to someone else for comfort. I put you through hell, Legolas, and I cannot express how sorry I am. When you left, my heart ripped in two. I knew I had caused you to go, and that knowledge was the most exquisite torture.
After I left the Greenwood, I put on an armour; an armour of cold, hard steel. I let no-one get close enough to see my true self. All the while, I waited. I waited for you. I held on to a shred of hope that you would return to me.
And you did. You came back to me, despite all that has happened. Nothing can change what you mean to me. I will not let you go, not again.
Le melin, Legolas. Le melin."
Seraphina trailed off, her last words hanging in the air. Legolas listened for a moment more, and heard her breathing slow. When he was sure she was asleep, he opened his eyes. He brushed his lips across the top of her head and pulled her closer to him.
He had heard every word Seraphina had whispered to him, and, just like always, knew that she meant it. He closed his eyes again, and fell asleep to the simultaneous beating of their hearts.
A loud knocking on the door woke me. I blearily raised my head, only slightly surprised to find myself entwined with Legolas. The knocking sounded again, more insistent this time.Grumbling, I extracted myself from the still sleeping Legolas and made my way over to the door. I straightened my clothes before opening the door.
Éowyn and her hand maiden stood on the other side. The two women were dressed entirely in black, and looked solemn. The hand maiden was carrying a dress, whilst Éowyn had a jug of water.
"What is all this?"
Éowyn said nothing but pushed past me in to my room. She stopped short at the sight of Legolas sprawled across the bed.
"I shall wake him."
I walked over to him and gently shook him. His eyes opened instantly. He looked up at me, and a smile lit up his features. He stretched and heaved himself off the bed. He tensed as he caught sight of the white dress the hand maiden was smoothing out.
"I had forgotten."
His voice was barely above a whisper. He caught sight of my confused look.
"After you were taken to the Healers, we started to collect the dead. We decided to hold a funeral for all of them today. As tradition dictates, the Elves will be wrapped in white cloth and burnt. I forgot to mention this. Forgive me."
I bowed my head. I was not angry at Legolas for not telling me. It was better for me to know as late as possible. It gave me less time to give in to my grief.
"Indeed. Aragorn mentioned that your mourning colours are white, rather than black. We are here to help you dress, Seraphina."
Éowyn spoke softly, her eyes kind. I nodded, my head still bowed.
"Aragorn is waiting for you, Legolas. He is in the main hall."
Legolas said nothing but spun me round to face him. I looked in to his eyes. Love and grief, understanding and worry, all flowed from him to me. I stroked his cheek with one hand, trying to calm him. He leant down, and pressed his lips softly to mine. I kissed him back, drawing comfort from him. He pulled away, and with one last look, left the room. I turned back to Éowyn, who was busily pouring the water in to the basin. I silently began to pull my hair out of its plait, and tried to prepare myself for the emotional turmoil ahead.
I stood completely still, apart from everyone else.
I had been dressed in a white dress that flowed down to my feet. Lace sleeves hugged my arms down to my wrists, and a rounded neckline was inlaid with mother of pearl. Simple boots adorned my feet. My hair had had to have several inches cut off the bottom; there had been too much blood dried in it. It was tied back in to a plait again. White ribbons weaved in and out of it, making my silvery-blonde hair seem even lighter.
The Elves had been laid out in a line, all wrapped in white cloth. Only five had survived. They stood behind me, silently weeping. Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf stood with them. All were silent; Gandalf and Gimli looked grave, and silent tears streaked down Legolas' cheeks. Aragorn stood with Théoden. I understood his decision: he had known most of the men laid out on the pyres.
A small, silver leaf marked out the body that was Haldir's. I had no idea who had come up with the idea, but I was grateful. The soldiers of Rohan were in a line too, but there was a gap between the Elves and Men. I stood at one end of the line of dead Elves, by Haldir's body. Théoden stood right at the other end, at the line of his soldiers.
We both held lit torches, the flames flickering and dancing in the afternoon breeze. We looked at each other, and Théoden nodded. He let his torch fall to the bottom of the pyre, and the flame caught. A line of fire sprung up, each body lighting up one by one, until the end.
I stood frozen, my hand clutched around the torch. I could not bring myself to drop it. To drop it, to let the elves catch fire, would mean they would be gone forever. My hand trembled as tears began to drip down my cheeks.
Suddenly, a hand wrapped around mine. My fingers were gently pried from around the torch. It dropped. A spark caught the timber, and a line of blazing orange and yellow sprang up, racing along the line until it reached the other end.
It was done.
The tears started to fall faster now. Around me, I could hear the stricken wails and cries of women as they watched their men burn. Behind me, the softer weeping of the surviving Elves got louder. I couldn't breathe as tears poured down my face. I had never felt grief this raw. It was like it was eating me up from the inside.
Arms wrapped round my waist and pulled me in to a body. I knew it was Legolas. I linked my fingers with his, and, safe in his embrace, let my true grief be released.
A terrible, screaming wail erupted from my mouth. My shoulders heaved and shuddered as sobs wrenched my body. The elves behind me instinctively drew closer, their mourning intensified by my cries.
I had not known about Haldir until six hundred years ago. When I had met him, when he had come to Imladris, I knew that he was my brother. To see another member of my family, my real family, when I had thought I had none left, had made me feel pure, undiluted joy. We had talked to each other almost non-stop during his stay in Imladris, wanting to know everything about each other. We hated to be parted, even if only for a few minutes. I felt linked to him in a way that only family members could be.
We had promised to visit each other when he left – a promise neither of us was very good at keeping. For many different reasons, we had been kept apart, only managing a few hundred visits between our first meeting when we had been re-united after the Fellowship's escape from the mines.
Waves of anguish fell over me. I had been so wrapped up in my own affairs, and that of others, that I had not taken the time to spend with my own family member. Now, I would never get that chance. The tears refused to stop, but I managed to clamp down on my wails. To let them carry on would only cause more pain to people around me.
As I stared at the flames that engulfed Haldir's body, a shape took form. I stared at it harder, before I realised what it was. It was Haldir. His arm was raised in farewell, and other, more indistinct shapes surrounded him. As one, they turned and walked off, disappearing as the flames licked upwards. I knew then that they had made it in to the Halls of Mandos. They were at peace now.
The sobs of the Elves around me had quietened down as my composure started to return. Legolas still held me against him; he knew that if he let go, I would collapse to the ground. A hollow feeling had settled in my chest; my heart had been shattered. The wind blew harder, causing the flames to jump and climb a little higher. Legolas' arms around me trembled as he struggled to keep a check on his grief.
"Do not hold back. Allow yourself to mourn."
I talked to him, in a low voice so only he could hear. After a moment, I felt his head bury itself in the back of my neck. My hair muffled his weeping, but I could feel the sobs that racked his body.
Unbidden, words filled my head, in the ancient language of Quenya. Haldir and I were royalty, and to sing these words would give him the respect he deserved. Both Elrond and Galadriel had made sure I was schooled in the language. Taking a deep breath, I let out the lament for my brother.
"Ar sindanóriello caita mornië,Ar ilyë tier undulávë lumbulë."
As I finished, a bird swooped across, above the flames. It hung there for just a moment, and all eyes were on it. Then, it flapped away, its feathers gleaming in the sinking sun.
There was silence now. Nothing stirred and all that could be heard was the crackling and snapping of the timber as the flames consumed them, and the sweet, sickly smell of burning flesh.
We were all still mourning: Elf and Man side by side. Our grief had lessened, but we would forever remember those we had lost. Now, we all had to figure out how to pick up the pieces.
This war may have been won, but the next one was only just beginning.
Oh my goodness. That took a lot out of me.The lament for Haldir is simply gorgeous – I had to include it.Thank you to all who have continued to support and review. I love all you people.
Le melin, Legolas. Le melin. – I love you, Legolas. I love you
Lament for Haldir:
Ar sindanóriello caita mornië,Ar ilyë tier undulávë lumbulë.
Out of a grey country darkness lies,And all paths are drowned deep in shadow.