LOTR 2: Caran Annún: Red Sunset

Eruanna A Cuil: Grace and Life

Cuisse: Plate armor worn to protect the front of the thigh.

Cuirass: A piece of armour designed to protect the torso. It comprised both breast and back armour, sometimes shaped to the contours of the chest and back muscles (muscled cuirass). Variously made of laminated linen, leather, sheet-bronze, or iron, or scales of horn, hide, or metal

"Caran Annún" (Red Sunset)

Chapter Three

Eruanna A Cuil (Grace and Life)

Mary sat high upon the wall, with the greensward of the Houses of healing behind her, and before her was the Anduin glittering in the sun, as it flowed away, out of the sight of even Legolas, into the wide flats and green haze of Lebennin and South Ithilien. The hobbits and Gimli sat before her on the wall, and Legolas stood leaning against the wall, gazing out across the great river, watching the gulls as they flew overhead with their strange, lonely cries. They had spent the day together, and Legolas and Gimli had told Merry and Pippin of their adventures through the Paths of the Dead, and how Aragorn had taken up his heritage and commanded the ghost army. Then Pippin, who had first to see Mary, was told of how she had arrived and the part she had played in the Fellowship's adventures and deeds to this point. Yet now they had fallen silent, one and all, lost to their own thoughts.

At length Merry and Pippin began to talk quietly to each other, while Gimli drew long and deep from his pipe, exhaling the smoke with a sigh of contentment. Mary sat against the wall on her side, knees drawn up and hands laced around them. Her head rested against the stone, her eyes staring out at the setting sun, bursting into a thousand fiery diamonds upon the water, and she began to sing, ever so quietly, to herself.

"Home is behind

The world ahead

And there are many paths to tread

Through shadow

To the edge of night

Until the stars are all alight

Mist and shadow

Cloud and shade

All shall fade

All shall fade."

Merry and Pippin had stopped talking, and stared at one another with wide eyes. Then Pippin spun around, and Merry looked over his shoulder. "You know that song?" Pippin exclaimed in surprise.

Mary looked at him quickly, and her cheeks colored, realizing she had been heard. "Yes." She said.

Pippin frowned. "But– how? Ye've never been to the Shire before."

Merry slapped at his friend's shoulder until Pippin turned around. "Because, Pip," he said, tapping his temple. "She knows things, remember?"

"Ya, I know," Pippin insisted. "But I sang that song to the Steward, just now!"

"I know." Mary said, smiling in amusement. "And you sing beautifully, Pippin."

The hobbit's eyes widened, his mouth opening to ask yet another question, then the second part of her response hit him, and his cheeks colored. "Thank you."

Legolas glanced down as Gimli gave a low, chuckling huff from his pipe, and watched as the hobbits turned their complete attention to Mary and peppered her with question after question. Mary answered as best she could, till finally she gave up trying to satisfy their curiosity and just tipped her head back against the stone in resignation, laughing. Legolas smiled, watching her dark eyes sparkle with mirth. He noticed how, when she laughed, her shoulders would shake, and that first her laughter would ring through the air, and then grow silent, and yet her head would drop forward onto her knees and her entire body would continue to shake. Then, when she had gained control, her face would lift, and it would be flushed and her eyes wet from her mirth, and she would have to wipe away the moisture with the back of her hand.

At one point her eyes suddenly flashed to his, and for a moment he saw an ember of something burning brightly within them, so hot and fierce that his breath caught, her eyes almost on fire. Then it was gone, leaving behind a gentle warmth that made the dark of her eyes glow like amber. Then she turned back to the hobbits, and Legolas was left to himself again. Yet it appeared that the ember had left her eyes only to embed itself in the center of his chest, and Legolas returned his gaze to the glittering river, with it smoldering within him.

Aragorn and Gandalf stood outside the tent, letting the cool of the night air blow across them. "Think you that Frodo shall succeed?" Aragorn asked, his voice in a low whisper lest the wind carry it to unwanted ears.

Gandalf at first did not answer, his clear eyes looking up through the bushiness of his brows into the stars above, his mouth pursed. "I do not know." He admitted. "There is a shadow in my sight that prevents me from seeing him."

Aragorn sighed. "I did not wish for this responsibility, yet I have know all along that it was inevitable."

Gandalf looked at him. "Those who do not wish for power are quite often the ones who most deserve it, who are best able to wield it with wisdom."

"It is a heavy burden."

"Yes." Gandalf agreed, looking again to the stars. "It is indeed."

There was a soft step close by, and from the darkness of the night Mary approached. Upon reaching them she crossed her hand to her shoulder, and tipped her head. "My lord, and Mithrandir."

Aragorn returned the gesture. "My lady."

Mary looked up. "I want to ask for permission to accompany you."

Aragorn's brows drew together, for as yet he had sent no word into the city of the plans he and the Captains had made, to challenge Sauron before his own black gate. Then he laughed at himself. Of course she had known. "It is too dangerous, my lady. You should remain in the city."

In the darkness her eyes suddenly narrowed, blacker than the sky, and they burned. "I would be there." She said, her voice low, trembling slightly with a deep anger and hatred. "All I have done, all I have allowed to happen– it has all been for this, this last stand, this last battle. I would be there to see it. I would be there; at the end of all things."

There was silence upon the field, yet the wind blew through her dark hair and brushed it across her face, and the moon cast her skin in a blue light, so that she looked like some strange spirit with burning eyes.

Gandalf simply turned to Aragorn, to wait for his response.

Aragorn heard her words, saw the meaning behind them, and understood. He nodded. "Very well," he said. "We ride in two days."

A smile curled her mouth, and it was almost feral. "I shall be ready."

The two days went by both slower than expected, and faster than wanted. For all both anticipated and dreaded the day of departure, knowing that most likely none of them would ever return. Mary found for herself a leather cuirass of a small size, and leather bracers for her forearms, and leather cuisses for her legs. With Gimli and Legolas, when one of them had the time, she would train with her sword, and was commended for her natural talent as she quickly learned some of the basic techniques.

When she was alone in her room, Mary practiced by herself to calm her nerves. For though she did not show it, she was afraid. For the others she was confident; she knew none of them died or suffered harm. Yet for herself she had no such guarantee, and the threat of injury and death was very real and very great.

When finally the day came she rose from her bed before the rising of the sun, for she could not sleep. She washed herself with water from a basin, letting the cold of it cool the heat of her skin. Then she slid over her head a white shirt, and over her legs dark leggings, and then over her feet knee-high boots. Then she pulled on a grey surcoat, its length hanging to just below her knees, and split on both sides and front and back– as her previous surcoat had been. With shaking fingers she braided her hair, letting it fall down her back away from her face, and then she went to her armor. The leather was thick, and heavy to her hand, and she put the cuirass over her shoulders and around her body, lacing it snug against her ribs, and tied the bracers to her forearms, and set the cuisses to her thighs, lacing and tying them tightly to her legs. Her sword she belted about her waist, and felt its weight on her hip like a heavy burden. Then she stood for a moment, feeling the armor upon her, and the sword against her leg, and the strength and hardness in her limbs gained from the travel and battle of the last weeks. She was not who she used to be, a young woman who had just moved out on her own, whose only care was how much time she would have to paint her pictures or read her books, or play her violin. She had been soft and innocent then. Now she was hard, and her hands callused. Would any man– would any elf– look at her and still see her as gentle? Or was she too weathered?

"It doesn't matter." She whispered. "It never did."

With those words she reached for her grey cloak, given to her by Legolas with a clasp like an oak leaf, and settled it about her shoulders. Then she left her room.

Ædelstan whickered as she drew close, groomed and saddled for her. His dark eyes looked at her gently; already he had grown attached to her, a bond growing between them. Mary rubbed his nose, and held up her hand for him to nuzzle her palm with his lips, seeing if she had brought him a treat. "Well, Ædelstan," she said. "Are you ready? Shall we have one last ride together?"

His head bobbed, and he bumped her shoulder with his nose, chuckling deep in his throat as horses sometimes do.

Mary set her foot in the stirrup, and swung her leg over, settling comfortably on his broad back. Taking the reins she clicked her tongue and her heels, guiding with her hand, and together she and Ædelstan made their way onto the field to join the gathering men. Pippin and Merry were together, happy that both could go, for they wished to never be separated again.

Legolas sat before Gimli on Arod, the white horse dancing beneath them in anticipation; he could smell the coming of battle. Seeing Mary approach on Ædelstan Legolas turned Arod and approached her, bring the two horses together.

"Well, lass." Gimli greeted her. "And how do you fare this morning?"

Mary looked at him a moment, then said. "I am well, Master Gimli. And you?" Yet Legolas noticed the momentary pause before her answer.

"As well as can be expected riding one of these animals. They never stand still." The dwarf answered, a teasing light entering his eyes as he glanced at the elf.

Legolas merely smiled. "The horse would not dance so much if he did not bear the weight of a dwarf."

Gimli narrowed his eyes, then he gave a deep, wry chuckle.

Legolas looked at Mary. "N-le mae é, Mary?" Be you well indeed, Mary?

Mary glanced down at the reins in her hand. "Sui mae sui pen tur-ambir." she answered, looking back up at him. As well as one can hope.

"Le sinte le avá gar-na hótule-as mín." You know you don't have to come away with us.

The corner of her mouth twitched upward. "É. Im ceri." Yes. I do.

Mary had discarded her cloak and now stood side by side with Legolas and Gimli, down at the front facing the open Black Gate, watching as hordes upon hordes of evil creatures poured towards the gate to spill through and onto them. She felt her heart pounding within her, and her hands opened and closed time and again on her sword, her body trembling, all worse the closer the creatures got.

"I have been through battles before this and still I shake." She said. Gimli made a sympathetic noise, raising his ax. Mary glanced at Legolas, his face stern and like marble. "Does it ever go away?"

His narrowed blue eyes turned to her. "Nay, fair Mary." He whispered. "It never goes away."

Mary swallowed, and turned back to see the black hordes ever closer. She did not see Legolas still watching her, nor the flash of fear that entered his eyes, nor did she hear the silent vow he made to stay by her side, to protect her at all costs.

"Ilya-o – le ceri-u-nan sí." he whispered. Of all– you do not belong here.

Mary did not hear the whispered words, but as the black army drew near she forced her shaking nerves to channel their fear into adrenaline and desire– desire to see the end this war. Focusing on that her eyes flashed, and she thought of the pride in Sauron's attack– and how it was all in vain. Suddenly she set her feet apart, holding her sword before her, and her smile was feral. "Do not give in to despair." She said to her companions. "I see a light breaking through the darkness!"

Then the enemy crashed upon them.

The battle was fierce and bloody, a confusion of screams and shrieks and terrible cries and roars. Mary spun this way and that, barely able to keep up with the blades of the orcs that surrounded her. She thrust into the belly of one, then spun, drawing the blade out to cut in a downward arc to fell another. She was aware of Legolas fighting close behind, his elven blades glinting and flashing in the dim and pale light. Then the Nazgûl swept down upon the battlefield, and the cries of the doomed men were terrible to hear. As Mary brought up her sword to block the blade of an orc she struck out with her foot, colliding with the center of the orc's chest and driving him back and into the ground where he was quickly trampled. At the same time there was a strangled cry and gurgle behind her, and she turned, sword raised, to see another orc falling dead at her feet, and Legolas with his two knives, newly stained with black blood. Their eyes met for a moment, and then they turned as new enemies attacked.

Suddenly there was a heavy rumble, and all of the black army stopped their attack, confused and bewildered, for the evil power that had driven them on was distracted and failing.

"Stand and wait! This is the hour of doom!"

In answer to Gandalf's cry the earth trembled and rocked beneath them, and a great black cloud flickering with fire rose from the land of Mordor into the sky. The great black towers shook and then groaned, and great cracks appeared in it, and the Black Gate rumbled as it fell in ruin, and then the towers followed.

As the black towers crumbled, and the eyes of all were fixed upon its ruin, a single orc – dying from the white elven blade in his belly – raised himself and his black sword, intent on taking his revenge on the elf before him, who had turned to see the destruction of the Dark Lord. Legolas did not see, transfixed by the sight of the crumbling tower that groaned as it fell. Then a desperate cry reached his ears, and he turned to have Mary fly into his arms, her eyes wild. He could not understand her panic until – as she reached for his arms and he for hers – her eyes suddenly grew wide and her mouth opened in shock, the end of a black blade shoving out from her chest. Legolas' cry hung in the air as she stood, balanced upon the sword, the color draining from her face as she stared at him with wide eyes.

With a screech of rage at being denied his revenge, the orc roughly pulled his sword free, ignoring the pained yell of the woman he pulled it from, and raised his arm to strike once more. His dying gurgle was the last sound he made as an arrow found its mark, a soldier of Gondor seeing the threat to the elven prince and acting.

With the support of the metal blade gone, Mary fell with a keening sound, the strength leaving her legs. Legolas caught her close in his arms, and lowered her gently to the ground. Her dark eyes were wide and unblinking, staring into his with perfect clarity as she fought for breath. Legolas held her face in his hands, pushing back the dark hair and wiping away with his thumbs the scarlet that rose up and ran from the corners of her mouth. Grief clenched his chest with an iron fist. "Ai," he moaned as blood pooled in the wound in her chest and soaked her clothing, running in rivulets down her leather cuirass. "Why?" he begged, eyes dark with distress as they rose to hers. "Why would you do this? Why for me? I am but one soul."

Mary could only stare at him, her skin pure as white marble, and she opened her mouth to speak but could not, the words held back by the wound in her chest and the blood in her throat. Yet in that moment she bared her soul, leaving nothing in her eyes to shutter Legolas from herself.

Then she trembled, and her hands gripped his arms as though by doing this– with him as her anchor– she could hold herself within the world. Seeing the fire dying in her eyes, the light growing dim, Legolas' fair features grew taut with pain. Then her eyes closed, and her hands– a moment ago clinging to life and to him– fell to the ground like wilted flowers.

Behind him there was a soft step, and then a hand on his shoulder. "I am sorry, mellon nin." Aragorn said, his brows dark with sorrow.

Legolas shook his head, his hands tightening their hold on her face, his thumbs still wiping away the scarlet that still ran from her mouth.

"Legolas, come."

"Dain, Firen!" Silence, Human! The command came in a hiss, as the elf turned on Aragorn, his eyes narrowed and black, his features suddenly sharp with a dark storm. Aragorn pulled back, frowning at the sudden change. "Ego." Go.


"Ego! Hi!" Go! Now!

Turning back to the woman in his arms, ignoring Aragorn, Legolas focused deep within himself, seeking his light. It was an act born of desperation, one void of rational thinking, an act of madness, yet he clung to it as his last hope. Gathering her into his arms, Legolas opened his eyes and stared into her marble face. "Manna eruanna a cuil im gar," he whispered. "Hain her-li!" What grace and life I have, they (are) your own!

Aragorn had turned, walking away towards the white wizard who had gathered with Gimli and the hobbits. Yet faint, whispered words were carried to him on the wind, and he turned to see a great, piercing white light rise up from within the elf himself, and as Aragorn watched Legolas arched, throwing his head back as if with great pain, and the light seemed to pour from him and into Mary's body. All around there were shouts and calls as men saw and gathered in amazement. Yet the wizard's voice rose above the others, and it rose in alarm. Aragorn turned, and saw Gandalf running across the field, his white robes blowing behind him, shouting something in elvish. Aragorn frowned.

"Dár! Ho-uva gwann! Dár hon!" Gandalf yelled, waving his hand frantically. Stop! He will die! Stop him!

Aragorn ran. Realizing now what Legolas was doing, though he could hardly believe such a thing was possible, fear clutched his heart. There was a sudden roaring, like that of a great wind, and a horrible cry of pain rose above it– the voice of a spirit being torn from its body.

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