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LOTR 1: Caran Amrún: Red Sunrise

Apacenya Nienor: Foreseeing Sorrow

"Caran Amrún" (Red Sunrise)

Chapter Two

Apacenya Nienor (Foreseeing Sorrow)

Mary hung back in the shadows of the great hall, watching as all left to watch the king chase after Grima, who ran from him like a hare runs from a wolf. She had received several strange looks, but mostly the men's attention was on their king. When all had gone silent, Mary peeked out from behind a pillar. At the same moment there was a great wail of grief, and she bit her lip. Théoden must have just learned of his son's death.

Eventually Gandalf and the three companions returned to the hall, where they spoke with Théoden– explaining their purpose there, and who the companions were and why they were with Gandalf. Mary hung back, suddenly frightened. She looked down at her pants, worn and dirty from travel, and rubbed her dirty hands on their rough blue weave. She looked at her white short-sleeved shirt, and the open, grey-checked button shirt over it. How would she appear to Théoden? How would she act before him? Here, in Edoras, the extent of her strangeness compared to the world around her was suddenly painfully noticeable.

She realized that the hall was quiet. Looking up she saw that all eyes were on her, and she swallowed, shifting. Gandalf held out his hand, offering her a reassuring smile. Slowly she stepped forward.

"This is the lady Mary." Gandalf said, presenting her to Théoden.

The king studied her, one hand held to his chin in thought. "You are the lady that fell from the sky?" he asked.

Mary nodded. "I am, My Lord."

"I have heard from some that you know things."

Mary tried to keep her face neutral. "I'm not sure I understand, My Lord."

"A rider, who had been traveling with my sister's son, Éomer, returned this morning to tell of a young lady who knew of Éomer before ever he identified himself. And that this same lady knew that he had seen and aided three companions."

Mary suddenly felt four pairs of eyes boring into her from all sides, besides the king. Swallowing– and finding herself unable to– she finally nodded.

Théoden stood and descended the steps from his throne. His face was grim. When he stood before her he studied her for a moment. Then he placed a hand over his heart, and bowed. "Welcome to Edoras, Lady Mary." Straightening he smiled, and he took her hand in his. "It is an honor to have you in my home."

The rush of relief was so great that for a moment Mary felt light-headed. Locking her knees, she tipped her head. "Thank you, Sire."

Théoden nodded. Then his eyes became grave, and he addressed the whole company. "This afternoon we bury my son." He said. "Until then, if you would like to cleanse yourself from your journey, there are rooms set aside for you."

Gandalf nodded. Behind him there was a pleased sigh from Gimli.

Théoden held out his hands. "Come. I will lead you to your rooms." He looked at Mary. "My sister's daughter, Éowyn, shall lead you, my lady."

Éowyn stepped forward from where she had stood, hidden from Mary's sight, behind her uncle's throne. Though her eyes were weary with grief she smiled, and held out her hand. Glancing back at Gandalf, and then at Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli in turn, Mary stepped forward to follow her.

The room was dark, lit by a few candles, which danced along the intricately carved wood that lined the walls and the ceiling. A basin of water was brought in, with a clean towel. As Éowyn sent the servants away she glanced at Mary, taking in her soiled clothes and tangled hair. Then she went to a large chest and opened it, sorting through the contents. "I hope the room is to your liking." She said. Her voice was soft, yet strong and noble.

Mary nodded, pulling the grey button shirt off and laying it across a chair. "Yes. Thank you."

Éowyn stood and smiled, clothing draped over her arm. She laid it on the bed, then turned, her eyes still studying Mary. "Your clothes are strange." She finally said, albeit hesitantly, as though afraid she might offend.

Mary glanced down. "Yeah, I guess they are." She chuckled slightly.

Encouraged by her answer, Éowyn stepped closer, her head tilted in curiosity. "Do all women dress as you do in your land?"

"Yes," Mary said. Éowyn's calm manner helped to soothe her earlier fears. "Well, not always. We do wear dresses. Sometimes."

Éowyn nodded, and smiled. "I will leave you to wash." She said. Turning, she headed for the door, but then she paused and turned back. "Would you like me to return when you are dressed?" she asked. "To help with the laces, and your hair."

Mary nodded with relief. "Yes. Thank you."

Éowyn smiled once more, and left.

Mary pulled off her shirt, and slid her pants to the floor and stepped out of them. When she was completely undressed she stood at the basin and washed her arms and her face and her neck. It felt so good to rinse away the dirt and the grime! When she was done she took the towel and dried herself. With it wrapped around her body she went to the bed, and looked at the garments laid out for her. There were two separate outfits, one for regular wear, and the other apparently for the funeral. Reaching for the latter, Mary let the towel fall, and she slid over her head the white under-dress that fell, straight and simple, over her. Then she took the funeral dress itself, and slid it over her head. It fell to her feet, heavy and dark, with winged sleeves that were lined with red. There was a soft knock at the door.

"Come in." Mary called.

The door opened, and Éowyn entered, carrying several things in her hands. "Here," she said, smiling. "I will tie the back for you." Setting the items on the bed she gently gathered Mary's hair and laid it over one shoulder, then quickly tied the laces on the back of the dress. Then she lifted a brocaded belt of gold and red flowers, the cloth the same as the dress, and fastened it around Mary's hips.

"Thank you." Mary said, running her hands across the fabric.

Éowyn smiled, and patted the bed. "Sit here." She instructed, and settled herself behind Mary. Picking up one of the items she had brought in– a comb– she began to brush through the dark tangles. As they loosened, one by one, she spoke. "Do you really know the future?"

Mary tensed. For a moment she said nothing. "I know some things." She finally answered.

Éowyn continued to work with her hair. It felt as though she were braiding it. "I overheard your companions speaking of you." She said quietly. "Some people claim you are a prophetess."

"I don't know about that." Mary said under her breath.

Éowyn heard, but did not comment. She pulled the braids back, twining them into one long braid that knotted and twisted together, laying smooth against the rest of her hair. "There." Éowyn said. "You are ready." She smiled as Mary turned. "Your companions are in the Hall should you wish to join them."

"Thank you."

Gathering the comb and Mary's old clothes, Éowyn left the room. Mary stayed for a moment longer, her eyes roving over the room itself and its sculpted woodwork. Finally she went to the open door and stepped out into the corridor, slowly finding her way to the Hall. She found it interesting how one moved in certain clothes; wearing the dress, her steps became smaller and more graceful, and she stood straighter.

Legolas turned from the conversation as soft footsteps approached and entered the hall, hesitating at the door. There stood Mary, in a long black dress with a matching embroidered belt, her hair braided at the sides and pulled back. He stared, watching her look about the room, her dark eyes large with uncertainty and her fair skin flushed from the warmth of the Hall. Forgetting for a moment about his companions Legolas stepped towards her, offering a small smile when she turned and noticed him.

"Veduí, Héri Mary." He said, tipping his head. Greetings, Lady Mary.

"Veduí, Haryon Legolas." Greetings, Prince Legolas.

"Manen nalyë?" How are you?

"Im maer." I'm well. Mary tucked a strand of stray hair behind her ear, glancing to one side. "How long until the funeral?"

"I do not know." Legolas offered his hand. Mary glanced at him, then laid her hand on his. As they walked to their companions he noticed how small her hand was compared to his.

Late that night, after the funeral, Legolas wandered the halls. Sleep would not come to him, his thoughts ever moving and winding through dark paths and into deep places that were darker still. He found himself outside, and he stood there a while, staring out across the blue plains, his hair blowing softly around him and against his cheeks. He could feel an evil approaching, black on his mind yet too far for him to see clearly. In a low voice, he began to sing:

"The year has changed his mantle cold

Of wind, of rain, of bitter air;

And he goes clad in cloth of gold,

Of laughing suns and season fair;

No bird or beast of wood or wold

But doth with cry or song declare

The year lays down his mantle cold.

All founts, all rivers, seaward rolled,

The pleasant summer livery wear,

With silver studs on broidered vair;

The world puts off its raiment old,

The year lays down his mantle cold."

Soft steps reached his ears, pausing a moment behind him, then continuing to stop beside him. Mary shivered, pulling her cloak tight about her. She was dressed now in grey leggings, a white under-dress that split lengthwise in four places and a grey surcoat laced together along her sides. Legolas had to smile at that; her style of riding like a man had not gone unnoticed by the lady Éowyn, who had then, it seemed, provided Mary's clothing accordingly.

"N-le mae, Legolas?" she asked softly. Be you well, Legolas?

"É." He replied. Indeed.

There was quiet. "Baw." She said. "Ú-le." No. You (are) not.

He glanced at her. "An mana thel-ceri-le maquen nin?" For what purpose (then) do you ask me?

"Im maquen, an-esse her-lí pen na treneri-nin." I ask, for in your own words to tell me.

For a moment Legolas was silent. "Manen ist-im prest-n-esse nin elu?" How know you trouble be in my heart?

"Im tur-óre han. Ha na ve ur nor uin naur." I can feel it. It is like heat roll(ing) from the fire.

Legolas sighed, gazing out across the darkened plains. "Le cen-nin mae." You read me (too) well.

For a moment, neither said anything. "There is a darkness stirring." Legolas finally said, his voice quiet. "A great darkness. I fear it shall ride across this land and devour Rohan like a wild beast."

Mary stared into the darkness, her hair black in the moonlight and blowing against her cheek, her eyes blacker still. She seemed to search for words. "As long as there are men to fight," she said, "The beast shall know only hunger."

Legolas looked at her, and her eyes lifted, and she smiled. Then she turned and left him. A moment later there was a sound to his right, and Aragorn stepped from the shadows. He stood beside Legolas without a sound, closing his eyes to better feel the breeze on his face.

"Some say she is a prophetess."

Legolas looked at him from the corner of his eye. "What do you think?"

Aragorn opened his grey eyes and looked out at the vast landscape. "I believe they speak truth." He admitted quietly. "For what else is a prophet, but one who knows what is to happen?"

"Perhaps." Legolas turned back to the expanse of night.

"She spoke as one."

Legolas did not answer, knowing Aragorn expected none.

The ranger turned to him. "It is late, mellon nin." He said. "Rest." Then he turned, and quietly left.

The arrival of the two children from the destroyed village was a shock to all at Edoras, yet it only served to confirm the fears of Gandalf and the three companions. Théoden commanded that his people retreat to the safety of Helms Deep, an action that disturbed Gandalf greatly, as they would be trapped there. So the wizard left, to search for Éomer and his company.

As they traveled, Aragorn and Gimli walked with Éowyn, leaving Legolas to walk alone. Yet by and by he became aware of soft steps joining his, and he smiled. "Veduí, Héri Mary." He said. Greetings, Lady Mary.

"Veduí, Haryon Legolas." Greetings, Prince Legolas.

"Manen nalyë?" How are you?

"Im maer." I'm well.

They walked for a moment then, in companionable silence. Then Mary took a deep breath. "What are some of the customs of your people?"

Legolas glanced at her in surprise. "I thought you knew."

She shook her head. "Tolkien wrote down your history and your language, but nothing about your customs or culture." The corner of her mouth lifted in a teasing smile. "You are still a mystery to me, though perhaps not as much as to others."

A soft laugh, clear as a bell, surrounded her. "What would you like to know?"

She paused and thought for a moment, her face becoming grave. "How do you bury your dead?" she finally asked.

A sharp glance turned to her. Then he faced forward again. "Why do you wish to know that?"

Her hands fisted in the front of her surcoat, lifting it to make her steps easier. "We are going to battle, and in a war. Death is on my mind."

Legolas pressed his lips in a thin line, yet his eyes softened. "When an elf dies," he said, his voice low and quiet so that others would not hear. "Their body is washed clean, and they are laid on a tall pyre. Then all through the night, from sunset to sunrise, we stand vigil, keeping watch with song and music to honor them. When the sun rises, the pyre is burned."

Mary nodded, her eyes on the ground. "Are there any prayers you say over them?"

Legolas glanced at her, curious as to her pointed questions. "There is one, said over them after they are washed, and again when they are laid on the pyre."

"What is it?"

"Lothron in Valar galad cin mé minna e annún. Lothron le túv sídh-esse Valinor." May the Valar light your way into the West. May you find peace in Valinor.

Mary whispered the phrase to herself, several times, as though memorizing it. Legolas looked at her sharply. "What do you know?"

Mary looked up, her eyes wide. "What?"

"You speak as someone who is preparing for death." His eyes were intense as they held her. "Tell me true," he rounded in front of her, stopping. The long line of people moved on past them. "Do I fall?"

Mary stared at him. Slowly she shook her head. "It is not you that falls." she whispered.

"Then who?"

She shook her head, moving around and walking on.

"Mary!"

"I cannot say!" she declared, refusing to look at him as he fell in step beside her. "It may not even happen– I don't know."

"I thought you knew everything that is to happen?" he asked, his blue eyes narrowing with his intensity.

"There was another version of the story, with a few details changed– I can't be sure which one is true, which one will happen." The distress was high in her voice, though she hid it well.

Legolas suddenly relaxed. "Forgive me, mellon nin." He said quietly.

She looked up at the term of endearment. My friend.

"I did not mean to cause you distress."

She smiled. "I know." She said. "And I did not mean to cause you alarm."

Legolas returned her smile. "I know."

Once more they fell into companionable silence, walking steadily along the grass. "Legolas," Mary said.

He looked at her.

"What about elven birthday parties?"

Aragorn glanced back at the sound of elven laughter, and saw Legolas and Mary walking together and talking. The elven prince seemed to be answering questions, laughing sometimes at something she would say or ask. Aragorn smiled; it was good to see his friend in good spirits.

"So what of your home?" Legolas asked. "What waits for you when you return?"

"Nothing."

Legolas glanced at her in surprise.

Mary refused to look at him, her gaze locked firmly forward. "I grew up an orphan. I had few friends– not many could understand why I immersed myself into Tolkien's writings, or learned a language that no one else spoke."

"Why did you?" his voice was soft, watching the movement of their feet walking in sync.

"It felt like I was reading history, like it was real."

The elf's mouth curved in a small, amused smile. "É." Indeed.

Suddenly he tensed, his eyes flickering to the front and the rocks beyond.

Mary looked at him. "What is it?"

Legolas didn't answer. "Stay here!" he ordered, his voice a hiss. Then he was running, passing the line quickly and disappearing over a rocky rise.

For a minute there was silence. Then there were horrible screams and roars, and Aragorn running to the front. A moment later he came back, and she heard Théoden call to him: "What is it? What do you see?"

"Wargs!" Aragorn shouted. "We are under attack!"

Around her people began to panic, children beginning to cry as some women screamed. As she tried to calm those around her, Mary heard Aragorn shout something else, and then Théoden calling his riders to the front. She saw him speak with Éowyn, and then the line was moving, people jogging and running, led by the Lady of Rohan. "Make for the lower ground!" Éowyn yelled. "Stay together!"

As they left, behind them they heard the terrible roars and shrieks of the wargs and orcs, and the battle cries of the men.

It seemed an eternity before they arrived at Helms Deep. As they entered the gates there were cries and shouts as families were reunited. Mary smiled as the two children– the ones who had come from the destroyed village– found their mother and ran to her, crying. A moment later there was a call from without.

"Make way for the king!"

Mary ran forward as the rider continued to announce Théoden's return, leading the company of weary men. Éowyn rushed forward, holding up her skirts, to greet her uncle, and they spoke quietly.

Watching the train of men enter the gates, Mary quickly spotted Legolas and Gimli riding in on Arod. The dwarf dismounted awkwardly, then slowly made his way to Éowyn's side. Legolas remained on his horse a moment longer, staring at something in his hand, his face held in a carefully neutral expression. Then he seemed to jar himself from his thoughts, and he dismounted lightly, handing the reins to a young boy who offered to take them– a stable boy. Legolas nodded at the boy, then turned, and glanced at Gimli and Éowyn. The lady had a shocked expression on her face, which was quickly changing to one of grief. The corners of his eyes tightening, Legolas strode through the crowd, entering the Keep and disappearing through a dark doorway.

Finding an abandoned turret was easy enough. Standing high above everything else, the high wind blowing his hair back from his face, Legolas felt his anger and grief start to rise. Yet as it did so there was the soft clearing of a throat behind him, and he turned. Mary stood in the doorway, watching him.

"I'm glad you're alright."

Legolas nodded, smiling. "It will take more than a warg to fell me." he said. Hidden in his hand the Evenstar bit his palm, clutched within tight fingers.

Mary returned the smile, then stepped out into the open, looking out across the plains. "What troubles you?"

Legolas followed her gaze, his expression closing off. "What makes you think I am troubled?"

From the corner of his eye he saw her glance at him for a moment, her expression patiently disbelieving. "You hold something in your hand." she said. "What is it?"

Legolas caught up the chain hanging between his fingers, tucking it in with the pendant.

Mary sighed. "I know you don't want to talk about it. You don't have to. But it would be easier if you did."

Legolas rested his fists against the short stone wall, leaning against it with all of his weight. He did not want to tell her. He wanted to be left alone, in peace! Yet she did not leave. Nor did she speak again.

How long they stood there Legolas did not know. Finally the silence and the grief in his heart became too great. "Aragorn has fallen."

Mary looked at him then.

"Pulled over a cliff by a warg." Anger laced his tight voice.

To his surprise, Mary bit her lip to suppress a smile, and turned back to gaze away. He looked at her with narrowed eyes.

"You laugh at his death?"

Mary shook her head, her eyes dancing. "I laugh at his luck."

Legolas stared at her, then slowly the anger was replaced with realization and shock. "He survived."

"He what?!"

They turned at the roar. Gimli stood in the doorway, his black eyes wild like a crazy man, ax held as though ready to do battle.

Before Mary could answer there were cries from the people below, and shouts of amazement.

"He's alive!"

Gimli and Legolas looked at Mary, who gestured with her hands. "Go! Go!"

With another roar– this time of delight– the dwarf turned and disappeared down the stairs. Legolas paused to grace Mary with a small smile, one that barely changed his face yet lit up his eyes. Then he, too, was gone.

Mary smiled to herself, hearing the yell of the dwarf below.

"Where is he? Where is he? Get out of the way. I'm gonna kill him!!"

Legolas stalked through the halls, moving up through the keep to an abandoned turret. There he leaned his hands atop the cold stone wall and gazed out across the plains, and in his mind's eye he could see the black swarm of Saruman's army spreading across the green fields. He knew that Aragorn was right to encourage the men as he did, to fight and make the orcs pay a dear price for their victory, but the thought of the coming death and defeat was almost too much to bear. The women and children, huddled together within the caves, came to mind, and Legolas growled. When the men fell, who would protect them from the cruelty of the orcs? Helplessness and despair weighed on the prince like a heavy cloud.

Footsteps sounded on the steps behind him. They were soft, but the person was not trying to hide them– in fact, they meant to be heard, to let him know they were approaching. A familiar scent reached his nostrils. "Veduí, Mary." he said, not turning. Greetings, Mary.

"Veduí, Legolas." Greetings, Legolas.

The prince waited. He knew she would ask how he fared; she was somehow able to read him, able to tell when he was troubled or sad. So he waited. There was movement beside him, and Mary rested with folded arms against the stone wall with a sigh, her eyes surveying the land before them. A soft breeze picked up, this high above the Keep, and her dark hair blew gently across her face.

Legolas waited.

Mary said nothing.

Left in the silence, his thoughts began to stray back to their original path, and he stared without blinking out across the vast landscape, his mood darkening. Left to their own devices, his thoughts strayed to dark places full of doom and despair. After a while Legolas frowned. Though he had dreaded her asking questions he did not want to answer, he now found her silence worse, and he began to resent her not asking the questions.

A low sound started, very faint, its tone rising and falling. Mary was humming. Legolas' frown deepened, glancing at her, his resentment growing as she continued to ignore him, humming while she did so.

A few moments later she stopped, and stared quietly, her eyes unfocused. "Ni cen-vinya taurë." I see young woods. Her voice, though faintly spoken, was loud after the silence.

Legolas did not look at her, but the back of his neck suddenly tingled.

"I lai olassie sil-mi anar, ar lilt mi hwesta. I vilya na-quanta as telerin lalaith ar lira, ar lí óma na-óre ro i sére." The green leaves shine in the sun, and dance in the breeze. The air is full with elvin laughter and song, and your voice is rising above the rest.

All dark thoughts and resentment fled. Legolas looked at her, listening intently.

"Lí limbe otorno rinde le, ar ninque nimloth lotse-esse nif-eva sarna rondasse." Your many brothers(sworn) circle you, and (a) white tree flower(s) in front of (a) stone castle.

Mary looked at him. Her brown eyes were warm, and she smiled. "There's always hope, Legolas Greenleaf."

Later, after Legolas had gone to Aragorn and made amends, and the elves from Lorien had arrived, he thought back to her words, and smiled. Yes, there was always hope.

Mary paused, looking around at the caves that were quickly filling with the wounded. Cries and groans surrounded her, women rushing around trying to tend to the many injuries. A young boy was carried in, crying for his mother, an arrow protruding from the side of his lower stomach. Laid on a makeshift bed some women surrounded him, joined by the boy's mother. Suddenly one of the women grabbed the arrow while the others held him down, and Mary caught the words "push it through."

"Wait!" Mary ran to them and caught the woman's hand, stopping her. "What are you doing? You'll kill him!"

The woman, her hair starting to grey, looked at her as though she was crazy. "He will die if it is not removed."

"It needs to be removed, yes," Mary insisted. "But if you push it through you will kill him for sure."

"The arrow is caught; it cannot be pulled."

"You will pierce through his vital organs if you remove it this way." Mary looked around desperately, trying to ignore the child's pained cries. "Where is a surgeon?"

"There are no men left!" the mother looked at her with a tear-stained face. "They have all gone to the battle!"

Staring at the faces around her, realization widened Mary's eyes, and her stomach knotted and twisted within her. Swallowing, she nodded, her mind racing. "Fine. I will be your surgeon. Okay, you!" she pointed at two of the women. "Boil as many pots of water as you can! Leave one empty of anything but the water. In another boil rags and bandages. In yet another boil the surgical instruments; knives, needles, all of that. You," she turned to another woman. "Is there wheat bread here?"

The woman's brows drew together. "My lady?"

"Is there any wheat bread here? Yes or no?"

"Yes, my lady, but…"

"Find any that has mold and bring it to me. No rye bread with mold, wheat bread only! Understand?"

"Yes, my lady, but…"

"Go!" Turning to another woman, Mary pinned her with a stare. "Do you have any alcohol here?" she asked. "Any hard drink?"

The woman nodded.

"Bring it. All of it." After she had sent the last woman– the one with the greying hair– to fetch the herbs and medicines they had, she sat beside the boy and laid a hand on the mother's arm. "He will be fine." Mary said, offering an encouraging but shaky smile. "I will do my best for him. I promise."

Leaving the mother for a moment to watch him Mary found a bloodied and torn shirt that had been discarded, tossed in a pile to be thrown away. On this she drew, with a burned piece of stick, a human torso– front and back. Within this she drew, with some difficulty as she tried to remember, all the organs, and named them. When she felt she had done it accurately she returned to find everything as she had ordered, with the bread and the newly boiled knives waiting for her. Washing her hands she lifted the boy's shirt. He blinked at her, his eyes glazed from the drink they had given him. Mary smiled. "You are brave." she said. "Be brave but a little longer, and I will be as quick as I can."

He nodded.

Washing the blood from his stomach, Mary felt around the wound, and found that she could feel a point of the arrow under the skin where it had caught. Taking a scalpel she carefully cut from the arrow shaft out, on either side, ignoring the small cries of the boy and the tears that ran down his cheeks. Then, her incisions made, she took up a pair of forceps and ever so carefully inserted it into the wound, grasping at the arrowhead. Moving slowly, she began to lift it out, careful not to let it catch on anything or tear any tissue. At first it did not want to move, but then it began to slide out, with great resistance, until suddenly it came free.

As blood began to well up in the wound Mary quickly washed it clean with hot water and with alcohol, then she carefully took some of the mold the woman had scraped from the wheat bread and packed it in, before sewing the wound closed.

"What good will mold do that makes us ill when we eat it?" the mother demanded.

"Where I come from, we make a medicine called penicillin." Mary said, carefully wrapping a clean, boiled bandage over the wound. "It is made from this mold." she looked up, her eyes reassuring. "It will protect him from infection– I mean, corruption."

Confusion, then understanding lit the mother's eyes.

"What if it is poison?" Another woman demanded. "What if he dies because of her witchcraft?"

"My son would have died anyway if she did not help." The mother hissed, rising to her feet. "Leave her be!"

Chagrined, the woman stepped back.

The hours passed. As the newly appointed surgeon Mary was kept rushing from man to man, cutting and sewing and cauterizing and bandaging. She was amazed, time and time again, that– little as she knew about medicine– compared to their medieval knowledge, her little bit seemed like brilliance and great skill.

The night passed. Mary felt ill many times, yet she held herself steady, numbing herself to what she saw. She packed the worst wounds with the bread mold, sending the water in the pots to be thrown out and filled with clean water, trying to keep things as sanitary as possible. Still she ended up splattered all over with blood, her arms stained up to her elbows, her face smeared. At one point a man was brought in whose belly had been cut open from one side to the other. The others marked him as a hopeless case, his guts starting to spill out. Yet his woman started to sob, and clutched at Mary's arm, begging her to do something for him. So Mary had him laid on a table, and had more fresh water brought and heated. She washed her hands over and over again, until they were free of grime. "Give him drink." she said, her mouth thin and grim. "Until he is past the point of remembering this night."

Finally, with everything set, she took the clean, hot water, and– with women holding him so he could not move– she cleaned and cleaned and cleaned his wound and his insides until all was washed of dirt and grime. Then she carefully pushed everything back inside, silently breathing a prayer of thanks that it was only the muscle wall that had been cut. Taking the catgut someone had found for her, she slowly and painstakingly began to sew the muscle back together from within, working her way out to finally pull together the skin, after she had packed more bread mold into the wound.

When all was said and done she wrapped him in clean bandages, and charged one of the women to stay with his wife and watch him. "Keep him quiet," Mary said. "Give him a few mouthfuls of water every hour or so, and watch him for fever and his wound for corruption. If you see any sign of either one, come and find me."

They nodded, and the wife looked at her with tear-filled eyes. "Thank you." she whispered.

Mary nodded, offering a weak and weary smile.

When she was away from them she glanced around, noting with some relief that no more wounded had been brought in.

The grey-haired woman she had met earlier– Mildryth– came to her side, then. "They are starting to bring in the dead." she whispered. "Men and elves alike."

Mary looked at her sharply. "Where are they putting them?"

"In one of the western rooms, to be washed."

Mary took her arm, and nodded her thanks. "I will return." she said. "Watch these men while I'm gone."

Mildryth nodded.

Finding the room, Mary pulled to an abrupt stop, pressing the back of her hand to her nose, forgetting that she was smearing her face once again. The smell was horrendous, and seemed almost to seep into your very flesh. Mary looked around, spotting the old man who seemed to be directing things. "Excuse me!" she ran to him and touched his arm. "Sir!" he turned and looked at her, his worn and wrinkled face weary beneath his beard. "Have any elves been brought in yet?"

He shook his head. "None."

"What is your name?"

"Oeric."

"I am Mary. I need…"

His eyes lit with recognition. "The prophetess? Who arrived with Gandalf and his company?"

Mary nodded.

He turned to her eagerly. "What can I do for you, My Lady?"

"I need the elves to be brought to a separate room." Mary said in a low voice. "Is there one available?"

He nodded. "This way."

Going out a door across from the one she had entered he led her down a short hall and into a room empty of all but a few low tables. "Will this be satisfactory?" Oeric asked.

Mary nodded. "Are there any who could help prepare the bodies?"

Oeric shook his head. "Naught but the very old, but they cannot do much…"

"That is fine." Mary assured. "Can you have them sent to me here?"

He nodded. "I will do so right away, My Lady."

"Thank you."

After he left Mary went and found some tubs, which she had some of the very young children fill with water and carry into the room, setting them by each table. Then they scattered, sent to look for any rags that were not in use. Within ten minutes all had returned, holding up their quarry triumphantly. Mary smiled at their upturned faces, their eyes very large amidst the dirt, and she thanked them all.

As the children returned to their mothers, people began to arrive carrying the first of the dead elves. Twelve. Mary's chest constricted, then she swallowed, and had them laid on the tables. All but two; these were laid by the wall, to wait their turn. Then the old began to arrive. There were not many, only eight, three men and five women. All walked stiffly, some with limps, their white hair thin upon their heads and their faces lined with many years of hard work and care. Yet their eyes were bright, glad of the chance to help.

"Thank you so much for coming." Mary said in relief, and they smiled at her.

"What would you like us to do?" One of the old women asked.

Mary walked to a table, and gently set her hand on the arm of the elf laying there. "These are but the first of many," she said, looking up, her voice choked. "The first of two hundred. They must all be completely washed of any blood or dirt." Turning to the elf she swallowed yet again, feeling her eyes grow hot. She clenched her jaw, and gently removed his helmet, letting his golden hair spill across the table. Then she removed his armor, one piece at a time, and set them aside. Picking up a rag she soaked it in the tub of water at her feet, and proceeded to wash his skin until it was as pure as marble. She then washed the armor, and put it back on him, and then she washed his sword and set it in his hands. The old men and women gathered around, then, and lifted him all together and carried him to the wall, where they laid him– very gently– on the floor. They then picked up one of the two elves waiting, and laid him on the table. Mary nodded. "Do this for each elf that comes in here." she said quietly.

Some of the old women, taking their place at a table, looked down at the elf laying there and began to cry, touching the golden hair and the pointed ears.

Mary swallowed back a hard lump in her throat. "When you have finished with all two hundred," she said. "Please come and get me. I will be with the wounded." She turned to leave, but then another thought came to her. "The Mirkwood prince, Legolas, will come by sometime after the battle is over, and he will look for his kin."

They all nodded.

Mary looked at them, her eyes misting. "Thank you." she said again. Then she left.

When she arrived in the makeshift infirmary she found Théoden in the process of sitting down upon a cot, helped by Éowyn. The lady of Rohan looked drawn, as she had been running all over the Keep, helping wherever she was needed.

"Ah," Théoden said. "Lady Mary. How do you fare?"

"I am well, my lord." Mary said, crossing her fingers behind her back.

"It seems he rode out to battle with a spear wound uncared for." Éowyn said, giving her uncle a reproachful, yet worried look.

"I am fine," Théoden said, waving his hand. Then he winced, grabbing his shoulder. "I have had worse."

Éowyn looked up at Mary. "It has been so long– I fear for corruption."

Mary approached and bent low, checking the king's shoulder. "It is a clean wound," she said, almost seeming to talk to herself. She stood. "If it is cleaned and bound right away you should be fine."

Théoden laid down upon the cot, breathing a heavy sigh. "It is well, then."

The wound was, indeed, a clean wound– no ragged or torn edges, for which Mary was glad. As the surgeon, she washed it, anointed it with alcohol, and then used the last of the mold. Then she sewed it and carefully bound it with bandages made from a shirt that had been boiled and cut into strips, as they had run out of regular bandages. When she had finished she made a sling for his arm, so that he would not jar the wound, and he thanked her– though he did question the merits of the mold, which Mary patiently explained. Then he left with Éowyn to his own quarters.

Mildryth approached her. "Forgive me, Lady Mary."

She turned. "Yes?"

"Some of the injured have died." Mildryth frowned in sympathy as Mary's face went white. "The man who had been stabbed in the chest– you were right, his lungs had been punctured. And two children."

Mary felt the room spinning around her.

"There is another young man, one who has no family. I believe that he, too, is dying. He calls for you."

Mildryth led her to the side of the young man, the stump of his leg still weeping blood. "He had already lost so much blood when they brought him…" Mary whispered.

Mildryth nodded. "Go to him."

Kneeling beside the mat, Mary laid a hand on his forehead, which was burning, despite his waxen complexion. At her touch his eyes opened, and he looked up at her. "Lady Mary…" he rasped.

She smiled, searching for his name out of the many she had learned. "Wulfric. I am here."

He smiled weakly. "You remembered my name– out of everyone here–" He coughed, pulling in a dry, hard breath. "Forgive me."

"For what?"

"I know that others need you more than I. But I just– I did not wish to be alone–"

"Hush, Wulfric." Mary stroked his hair back from his face. "My place is where I am needed most, and right now, that is with you."

He smiled again. Lifting his arm he reached for her hand, and she gave it to him, and he held it tightly. "Westu, Mary, hál." Be thou, Mary, well.

Mary nodded, smiling gently. "Westu, Wulfric, hál."

Wulfric smiled widely, then he looked to the ceiling, gasping for breath, his grip on her hand tightening. Then he relaxed, and his eyes stared into nothing.

Mary swallowed, and swallowed again, blinking hard and fast. With a trembling hand she reached out and laid it over his face, her fingers running gently down over his skin, closing his eyes. "Westu, Wulfric, hál." she whispered, her voice catching.

Looking up, she found Mildryth standing with two teenage boys beside her, waiting. The older woman's eyes were bright, gazing at her in sympathy.

Mary stood, releasing his hand, and she nodded at them. As the boys bent to take up their load, Mary turned and fled.

The halls were filled with the groans and cries of the wounded, and the voices of the women calling out to one another as they rushed around tending to the injured. Legolas made his way through the chaos, to check on King Théoden. He found the king, not with the other wounded, but back in his own chambers, siting in his chair with his shoulder bound tightly and his arm held in a sling.

"Master elf." Théoden greeted him, his eyes weary, yet strangely rested.

Legolas bowed. "King Théoden. How do you fare?"

"Very well." A bemused expression filled the king's face. "My wound was tended to by your companion, Mary. She sewed it, bound it– after washing my wound with heavy drink and packing it with bread mold."

Legolas tipped his head, his dark, blue eyes questioning.

"She said it would protect the wound from corruption." Théoden said, and he raised his eyebrows. "We shall see. Although," he continued as an after thought. "I do feel better after her care than I ever have with any other wound."

"I am glad to hear it." Legolas said sincerely.

Théoden nodded. "And how do you fare?"

Legolas' face held its carefully neutral mask. "I am well."

"And the others?"

If one were not closely watching the elf's face, one would have missed the momentary falter– the slight glimmer of sorrow that appeared in his eye, before his mask slid into place once more. "None have survived, my lord, save myself."

Lines of care and experience drew themselves on the king's face. "I am sorry." He said quietly. "The battle could not have been won without the aid of the elves." He added, after a moment's pause.

Legolas tipped his head.

"What now will you do?"

A hint of a weary, careworn smile touched the elf's lips. "I will go and help bury the dead."

Théoden nodded. "And then?"

"My pledge was to the Fellowship, or what now remains of it." Legolas said. "That pledge still holds true."

He left Théoden's chambers then. Following the halls he took a back passage, to escape the flurry of activity and chaos that pervaded everywhere else. Here there was quiet, and emptiness. As he made his way down a sound reached his ears. At first he could not tell what it was. Then, as it became clear, his jaw tightened with sympathy. Someone, somewhere down the hall, was retching, thought it was apparent they had nothing left to be rid of. As he drew closer it stopped, and for a moment there was silence. Then a deep, keening sob filled the air, and grew in intensity and volume. A door suddenly came up on his left, and it was open. Pausing, Legolas peered in, remaining in the shadows to keep his presence hidden. What he saw made his gut clench within him.

Kneeling on the floor, far in the corner before a small window, was Mary. Her dark tresses hung about her face, and her hands – pressed tense and desperate against the floor – were red with blood up to her elbows, some old and dried and beginning to crack. Her shoulders rose and fell with her sobbing, heavy and harsh.

Legolas could only watch as she wept, her voice rising every once in a while in a wail grief and anger, raging against something unseen with indiscernible words. At one point she laid her head against the floor, and her hands held her head, pressed to her hair. Her fingers worked their way into her hair until it was tightly fisted, pulling against her scalp.

After a few minutes her sobbing subsided to heavy breaths, and she sat up and lifted her face. Her eyes opened, and her teeth bared as she pulled herself back together. She muttered to herself. Then she set her hands to the floor and pushed herself up to her feet, pausing a moment to run her hands on her cheeks and smear the tear tracks away.

Her steady steps brought her out the door and into the hall, heading in towards the center of Helms Deep – the center of the chaos. Legolas stepped from the shadows, his eyes drawn. He had wished to go to her, to comfort her, but she had sought solitude – he could not intrude upon it. Yet he vowed that, when it was all over, he would seek her out, and offer what little comfort he could.

Weary both in body and in mind, Legolas stepped through the dark halls of Helms Deep, rock and stone echoing with the cries of the grieving and the cries of the wounded. The last of the dead had been gathered, and their bodies burned on a pyre that still smoldered. He had wished to tend to his own kin, but until now had helped the people of Rohan with theirs. The deed done, Aragorn had touched his shoulder and looked at him with his piercing grey eyes, impossibly ageless and wise despite his mortality. His look spoke all that his voice could not, and Legolas had grasped his shoulder in turn, his eyes speaking what his heart could not convey.

He had left then, knowing that the ranger and his dwarven friend would follow when they were able. They would come to aid him in his task, one that must now be hurried. One that would now have to be left incomplete. He did not relish it, but he continued to stride forward with a grim face and determined step. Many people looked to him as he passed, their eyes wide with wonder at the sight of one of the First Born. Legolas remained a mystery to them, a being from tales and myths come to walk among them, shrouded in a distant nobility and magic that whispered in their hearts like a passing breeze.

Of the two hundred elves that had fought, only Legolas remained. Even Haldir, the marchwarden of Lothlorien, had perished. A sense of emptiness and numbness filled him, isolated now from all of his kin and cut off from those who knew and understood him as Legolas, not as the Elven Prince. Now he was faced with burying his own dead, and he could not even observe the customs of his people as they deserved.

As he approached the room where the dead had been brought to be kept and washed before their burning, he slowed, his eyes narrowing. The room was empty of all, save for some women who were bent to the ground, washing away the blood and the grime. They looked up as he entered, their eyes betraying their surprise and slight fear. Except for one. Her eyes fell on him, and reflected only sympathy. It was her Legolas approached, bowing in respect. "My lady," he said, his voice low. "Where have they brought my kin?"

Straightening, the old woman rubbed her hands on her rag, her eyes dull with weariness. "She said to expect you." She answered.

Legolas frowned. "Who?"

Tipping her head, the woman motioned for him to follow. "Come."

As they walked, the woman spoke gently to him. "She had them brought to a separate room, where she had some of our old wash them, after she showed them the right way. All had to be clean– their skin, their armor, and their blades. When it was done she went to each, and spoke in strange words– your language, I believe– the same words to each one, all two hundred. A prayer, I think. Then she had them brought to the Eastern courtyard, and laid them all together upon a pyre. She wrapped them in their cloaks and folded their hands, saying the same words again to each." They had crossed into an unfamiliar, abandoned hall. A breeze began to caress their faces. "That was last eve, before the sun went down." They came out of the hall to a balcony, with great stone steps leading down the one side into the courtyard below. A strange sound– one that Legolas had been hearing faintly in the halls– now filled the air clearly and forcefully, as pure as a ringing bell and as rhythmic as the beating of drums. It was like to the tapping of a bird's beak upon stone, yet it was stronger and heavier and echoed throughout the walls of the courtyard up into the mountains and the sky beyond. For a moment Legolas paused, closing his eyes, losing himself. The taps rose and fell, some like soft rain and others like hard thunder, some slow like a gentle breeze and some fast like the darting of arrows. Opening his eyes Legolas saw the small crowd that had gathered upon the balcony, their stance timid, unsure that they should be there, feeling somehow that they were intruding upon something sacred. Yet they stayed all the same, transfixed by the source of the sounds below in the courtyard.

The woman who had led him had moved forward, the people making room for her at the wall of the balcony, and she looked down, her eyes shadowed by some emotion of sadness and admiration. Legolas followed, looking over the wall to the courtyard below. There he saw the pyre, and his kin lay upon it, two rows of twenty, laid five warriors deep. Before it, dressed in her leggings and grey riding tunic– which was stained all over with blood– was Mary. She was dancing, her feet moving in rhythm with the beating taps– and then Legolas realized that she was creating the beating taps.

"She stood before them for a while at first, like she was unsure of what to do. Then she found pieces of metal, and somehow attached them to her feet." The woman said quietly, so that only Legolas heard. "I don't know what she said at first, because it was in your language, but then she said: 'I cannot sing, and I have no instrument to play music. But I can do this. I hope it's enough.' Then she waited, watching the sky, and when the sun disappeared she started this, and she hasn't stopped."

Legolas stared at the moving form below, wetting his throat tightly, his eyes misting. That she would do this… without rest, all night, keeping vigil with music as was the elven custom… Light began to tinge the sky pink, its rays peeking over the edge of the horizon. The tapping quickened, growing, her movement almost a blur. Then the sun rose over the top of the mountain with a thunderous clap of sound, and then all was still.

The figure below remained frozen for a moment. Then she sank to her knees, her hands touching the ground to catch her, and her head hung low, dark tresses hiding her face.

Legolas descended the steps and crossed the grey courtyard, his footfalls silent upon the stone, yet still she raised her head as he approached. Her eyes were framed with weary shadows. "I did not know your death-song–" she began, her skin pale with exhaustion.

Legolas knelt beside her and set his hand to her shoulder, and felt the trembling of her body.

"I hope it was enough."

"It was." Legolas whispered. His eyes were deep with heartfelt meaning. "It was more than enough."

Her eyes relaxed slightly in relief, and she nodded, a ghost of a smile touching her lips. Then she gathered her strength and pushed herself to her feet. Legolas helped her, offering his support when she lost her balance and almost fell. At her nod he turned, and saw the torch in the wall beneath the balcony where the people waited, holding their breath. Stepping forward he retrieved it, a metallic rasping sound filling the silence as it pulled from its place. Then he turned to the pyre, and his eyes grew black, the blue in them nothing but a thin sliver of brilliant color. "Lothron in Valar galad cin mé minna e annún. Lothron le túv sídh-esse Valinor." he whispered. May the Valar light your way into the West. May you find peace in Valinor. Then he walked, slowly around the pyre, touching the oil-soaked wood here and there with the torch, all around till the whole pyre was ablaze, the flames reaching up into the sky. Standing once more beside Mary he watched, the firelight dancing in his eyes like a living thing.

There were soft footsteps behind them, followed by sure, heavy ones, and the scent of herbs and of earth carried to him on the breeze, his golden hair brushing against his cheek. Aragorn and Gimli stood behind them silently, watching. He did not know how long they had been there, on the balcony, before joining them. The fire cracked and popped, consuming all. It's light and heat washed over them, bathing the courtyard in a red, unearthly glow that danced across the stone.

There was a swaying beside him. Legolas turned to place a hand on Mary's shoulder and steady her. She glanced at him, her eyes dull with weariness. "You have done enough," Legolas said gently. "You should rest."

"Are you sure?"

She would stay with him, if he asked. He nodded. "Thank you." He whispered.

A slight smile touched her lips, and she nodded in return. Then she turned, and with slow steps began to make her way to the stairs. Despite having metal attached to her heels and toes her steps were amazingly quiet. At the steps she paused, leaning one hand against the wall, and she lifted each foot in turn and pulled the leather ties open, removing the metal from her feet. Then she mounted the steps, keeping one hand on the wall to keep herself steady. As she reached the balcony the older woman that had led Legolas met her and took her arm, gently leading her inside.

Turning, Legolas focused once more on the dancing flames, watching as his kinsmen were consumed. As the sun rose the fire burned lower and lower, until all that was left was a smoldering, glowing pile of coals and ash, and then there was nothing.

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