Chapter 26 – Blood, sweat and tears
The Witchking contemplated the warrior before him. He was slighter than most men, and was lithe, rather than muscular. There was a quickness in his eyes, more akin to a cat than to a warrior, but no matter; he would die, none-the-less.
"I will kill you if you touch him."
If the Witchking still contained emotions, he would have felt surprised at the defiant words. As it was, he merely answered back, knowing the outcome already. So many had come before, and like those before this one, they would fall before him.
"Do not come between the Nazgûl and his prey."
The beast moved to feast on Man-flesh, but the warrior turned, swinging his sword. He swiftly decapitated the beast, causing it to flail and slump sideways. The Witchking, not particularly caring about his dead mount, dismounted his fell beast, letting his mace drop to the floor. The warrior's eyes widened and the Witchking saw a flicker of fear, a terror that he knew would paralyse. He swung the mace, striking the warrior's shield. The warrior swiftly ducked from the whirling mace, rolling out of the way. He stood again, defending the fallen King. The Witchking struck again, and this time succeeded in shattering the shield. The warrior cried out, stumbling backwards, and falling against the dead horse, holding his broken arm in pain. The Witchking stepped forward, sure of his success in killing this troublesome warrior. After all, he had never failed before.
"Pippin! To me! Run!"
I shouted to Pippin, as he cowered against a wall, two Orcs bearing down on him. With a terrified whimper, he threw himself forwards, sliding through a gap between them. He scrambled up and sprinted forwards, almost crashing in to me. I pushed him behind me, facing the Orcs. I was tired; so very tired. My blades dripped with black blood, and scrapes and shallow cuts adorned every exposed inch of skin. Sweat rolled down my face, mingling with my tears of exhaustion. The ache in my abdomen had grown stronger and I prayed desperately the children were unharmed.
The Orcs charged forwards, and I struck, but my blows were weaker than usual. My grip slipped on my right blade, and as I spun to catch the Orc behind me, it flew out of my hand, clattering in to the wall. The Orc growled, swinging his sword up and over at the same time as the other Orc struck his blade forward. Doing the only thing I could think of, I ducked just in time for the Orcs to meet each other. Blood splattered in to my hair and I rolled away as they collapsed on top of each other. Retrieving my fallen blade, I looked around for Pippin, finding him crouched by a wall. I hurried to him, mindful of the Orcs all around us.
"I can't do this, Seraphina. I'm going to die here."
His broken voice struck a chord as I hauled him up. The same thought had occurred to me only a few moments before. The numbers of Orcs seemed endless, and our own soldiers were growing thin.
"Courage, Pippin. You must have courage. We WILL make it out of this. I will get you through this safely."
The words sounded false even to my ears, and Pippin's eyes showed me he knew me to be lying. Not allowing myself to answer, I returned to defending Pippin as Orcs came from every which way. Occasionally, the Hobbit would strike out, aiding me in fighting, but he was unsure, and his sword shook as he faced down the creatures. I became aware of a silence, and a gentle pounding. Cutting down one last Orc, I looked to the gate that had been broken. Nothing came through, and I began to wonder what was going on, when a Troll burst through, its mouth opened in a gargantuan roar. The remaining soldiers around us shrank away, eyes wide with terror and despair. I looked around for Gandalf but he was nowhere to be seen. Looking down at Pippin, I knew then that this could well be my last fight. If it was, I would not go quietly. I would die defending the White City and most importantly, I would die defending Pippin, who had shown true courage in the face of enormous adversity.
Merry crawled from beneath the dead Oliphaunt, ears ringing and head pounding. He spat out a mouthful of dirt and blood, getting unsteadily to his feet. He had lost Éowyn, and as he looked around, he saw that the battle raged on. Ice cold fear gripped him as he realised he was alone; so alone. As he sunk in to despair, that same iron hardness he had felt when they were charging rose up and cleared the panic that clouded his mind. He was one of the Rohirrim, and he needed to fight. A shriek caught his attention and he turned his head, seeing Éowyn being choked by a Black Rider. He ran forwards, hearing its words.
"You fool! No man can kill me. Die now!"
Suddenly, it became clear in his mind. He knew what he had to do. He stopped just behind the Black Rider, and pulled back his sword arm. With all his strength, he plunged it in to the back of its knee. Agonising pain shot through Merry's arm and fell to the ground, watching his sword burst in to flames and dissolve. The Black Rider was screaming, but had released its hold on Éowyn. She stood, removing her helm, allowing her golden hair to flow free. She brandished her sword, such determination and defiance in her face that Merry felt a stirring of hope.
"I am no man!"
Éowyn struck, her sword seeming to sing, stabbing the Witchking through his helm. She dropped her sword, arm throbbing dully with pain. The Lord of the Nine began to writhe, crumpling from the inside. A bright light flashed outward and then his empty armour clattered to the floor, the evil that held it together finally banished.
Éowyn dropped to her knees, catching Merry's eyes. They said nothing, both their visions hazy, but an invisible chord bound them together, thrumming with their vitality and honour. There were some things that you could not go through without making a friend for life, and defeating the Witchking of Angmar was one of them.
Panting, I jumped to the side, slicing at the Troll's leg. A deep gash appeared, blood spewing forth. It roared in pain, swinging its club blindly. I dodged, going forward and slicing again, just below the previous cut. Running back, I hastily wiped the sweat from my eyes, and noted that my hand was shaking. I could not keep this up for much longer.
The soldiers had rallied and fought bravely, but many had been crushed or trampled, and now only a few remained. Along with the Troll, more Orcs had poured through, further straining us. Pippin was beside me, his sword glinting as he sliced an Orc, bringing it to its knees before hacking off its head. He had found some new found strength, and was fighting alongside me, his face grim but determined. I pulled Pippin back as the troll charged forward, steps thunderous. We sprinted to a broken wall and knelt behind it, both of us catching our breath. I looked around when I spotted something. A low slope ran up to head height just to the side of us. Standing at the top, it was the troll's head height. I looked back to Pippin and a memory of our fight in Moria surfaced; in particular, the moment I had flung Merry and Pippin at a similar troll.
"Pippin. We must defeat this troll, and we must do it now. Whatever I ask you to do, you must do it and without hesitation. Do you understand?"
Pippin nodded, and after a moment, we stood. I ushered him forwards and up the slope, keeping an eye out for any Orcs following us. Luckily, they were engaged with the soldiers, who seemed to be getting the upper hand. From atop the slope (which was made out of a fallen statue) I could see the devastation. Rubble was all around us, and blood pooled in frequent puddles. Men and Orc clashed swords everywhere, and the battle raged on below, the Pelennor Fields awash with the essence of battle. A growl returned my attention inwards and I noticed Orcs heading towards the end of the slope. Hurriedly, I lifted Pippin, making sure he had a grip on his sword. The troll had its back to us, busy with cornered soldiers.
"When you land, you stab in to the skull. Do not pause; do not think. Just act."
Pippin nodded, and I shifted him. Aware that the Orcs were getting closer, I leant my weight backwards, and with a grunt, launched the Hobbit towards the troll. He landed nimbly on its back, clinging on around its neck. The troll reared back, flailing, as Pippin clambered up. With a great cry, he plunged his sword in to the top of the troll's head. Pulling it out, he struck again and again. The troll's roar was cut off and it swayed, before falling sideways. Pippin clung on until the last moment and then jumped off, rolling sideways as the troll hit the ground. I only had a moment to feel a real hope before a blinding flash of pain sliced across my back and I fell forwards.
Legolas jerked his head up, eyes instantly going towards the ruined White City. Down on the fields, the tide of war was turning in their favour, and the enemies were being slaughtered. The Oath-breakers were killing everything in their paths, and Legolas was glad to have them. Now, though, his competition with Gimli was forgotten as heat burnt his skin where his necklace was. A pain shot through his back, and he stumbled. Gimli steadied him, concerned, his brown eyes wide. Legolas brushed him off with a shrug, returning to the fight, but his heart started breaking. He needed to be in the White City. He knew what that pain meant. Seraphina was injured, and she needed help. He wasn't there. He wasn't there!
His only hope was to keep fighting and pushing his way in to the White City. He prayed that she found the strength to hold on until they were reunited. He prayed that his children, their children, were unharmed, but most of all he prayed that his One in Particular would stay alive.
Pippin rushed to Seraphina's motionless body. A large cut ran across her back, oozing blood. Miraculously, it didn't look deep but a gash on her head told the Hobbit that she was unconscious. Trembling, he dropped his sword. What would he do without her to protect him? How could he possibly fight? Heavy steps sounded behind him and he turned, standing slowly, coming face to face with several Orcs. He glanced down and noticed on of Seraphina's blades. He quickly picked it up, noticing how light it was. As soon as he closed both hands around the hilt, a voice sounded in his head. It was not Seraphina's; he could pick hers out from anywhere. This one was infinitely older, wiser. With a start, he recognised Lady Galadriel's voice.
"Even the smallest person can change the course of the future."
His palms tingled as strength rushed in to him. Merry's face appeared in his mind's eye. His best friend; his other half; his brother. Something in Pippin told him Merry was still alive and that was all he needed. He would fight a thousand Orcs if it meant he got to see Merry again. With a cry, he charged forwards, not noticing the light that shone from the blade or the way the Orcs seemed to shrink away from it. As he engaged them, his muscles screaming in protest, he did not notice that there were only a few Orcs left. He did not notice the White Rider coming up behind him, staff held aloft. He did not notice anything except the blade in front of him and the strength in his heart. He was a Guard of the Citadel and he would do Gondor proud.
My eyes fluttered open, and I narrowed them as light hurt them. My surroundings came in to focus and I realised I was lying on a bed. I sat up quickly, hissing in pain as a quick flash of fire raced across my back. Looking around, I took in the numbers of wounded, and the bustling Healers. I was in the Healing Houses, but how did I get here? With a gasp, I remembered the faithful Hobbit that had fought alongside me, and the wizard that had taught me so much.
I shouted out, not caring that people turned to look at me. A pattering of feet alerted me and I turned my head, seeing Pippin running towards me. I hopped off the bed, and knelt down, allowing him to run in to my outstretched arms. I ignored the throbbing pain in my back as I held him to me. He was alive. He had made it. He pulled away, a small smile on his face. I cupped his face in my hands, breathing heavily.
Words failed me as I struggled to find the words of gratitude. He shook his head, and hugged me again, his arms tight around my neck. Silent tears slipped down my cheeks as I clutched him to my chest. Without a shadow of a doubt, I knew who had saved me. It was Pippin, the youngest of the Hobbits. The one who always asked questions; the one who always thought of food first and sensibility second; the one who saw the good in everyone. He had been so strong, so resilient to the evil that had spread across Middle Earth. I owed him my life, and the lives of my unborn children. With that thought, I pulled away, hands going to my stomach. Pippin grinned suddenly, his former self breaking through the sombre shell that he had grown.
"I wouldn't worry, Seraphina. A Healer by the name of Halina tended to you and she checked the children. They're fine."
I smiled down at my stomach. They had their father's tenacity, it seemed. I slowly got to my feet, looking up as familiar footsteps approached. Gandalf stood before me, looking tired but joyful. We stared at each other for a moment and then he gathered me in to an embrace. I hugged him back, too over-joyed to speak. They had both survived. I had not lost anyone else. I pulled back, smiling. Gandalf nodded, and looked down at Pippin. There was a tenderness in his eyes that spoke volumes; Gandalf loved this Hobbit as much as I did. I began walking to the door of the Healing House when Gandalf called out.
"Where are you going? You need to rest!"
I turned back, knowing that he was right but I wouldn't listen.
"Not now. There are other people that need the attention of these wonderful Healers more than I do. I must go to the Pelennor Fields. I must find Legolas."
Gandalf sighed, but nodded. Pippin ran over, taking my hand. I looked down in surprise but then nodded. Merry was probably out there too. Together, we walked out in to the sun, both of us on the hunt for the ones that made us whole.
Sweet Jesus - this took a lot out of me.
I wanted to make Pippin a hero because he is so amazingly cute and brave and funny and sweet and he just deserves to be a hero. Seraphina kind of had a meltdown. She's not invincible, ya know! Also, I wanted to get what was happening with Éowyn and Merry in because that is my all time fav part. Éowyn's line is just so bad-ass I literally cheer every time she says it ;)
Thank you all for the lovely reviews and reads. And thank you again for sticking with this!