Axe & Bow Archive Entry


Fallen Leaves

by Laiquendi eire


Everywhere could the mournful sound be heard.

Mud covered children with glassy eyes, wide with fear, wailed as they clung to the tattered remains of their mother's clothes. Their playful innocence extinguished in the cruelest manner only to be replaced by the horrors of battle. It would be a long time before they would find solace and comfort in their sleeping hours, for their dreams would be plagued with nightmares of monsters and death in the many nights to come.

Women wept fearfully as they searched frantically amongst the mangled corpses, praying silently that their search would be fruitless and that their loved ones would be elsewhere, alive and well. Others cried out in anguish, rocking back and forth over the bodies of their husbands, their sons, kissing their lifeless features one last time.

Cries from the wounded and dying filled the smoky air, they called for help, they called for loved ones, some cried for their mothers, long since passed.

Men, stoic in the aftermath of the horror, shed silent tears for fallen comrades as they thread carefully and respectfully amongst their fallen brethren, counting the cost of their freedom. Some searched for the wounded, for those who could still be saved, others assigned to salvaging weapons and armaments should they be needed again, while others claimed the solemn task of gathering the bodies.

And all the while, the sound of wailing echoed off battered stone walls. It would be a long time before Legolas Thranduilion would ever be free of that haunting sound.

He stood atop the wall once more, alone. Helm's Deep, this once mighty stronghold, its wall now breeched, like a gaping wound from which the very life blood of Rohan spilled. But it was not just the blood of men that had flown freely during the night. His kin had suffered too and now the horrors of the night were made all the more stark and gruesome in the waking morn. Huge scattered stones lay amongst the scattered limbs of men, elves and uruk-hai.

Amongst the sea of bodies, banners and arrows he could see the still forms of his kin, their bronze armour glinting in the rising sun. They appeared like the fallen, strewn leaves of their beloved mellryn, trees they would never see again, their unique song lost to them forever. That so many of the first born had died this night grieved him greatly. Elves were immortal, not destined to die, yet here so many of the Galadhrim had met this most cruelest fate. It was death on a scale he had not witnessed before and he found himself unprepared for its effects.

As he gazed about him, his eyes caught sight of something he had prayed to be spared. There on the battlements, fluttering gently in the morning breeze, the remains of a red cloak. He recognised it instantly, rushing to its owner, he carefully lept over the many fallen. He caught the cloak in his grasp and pulled it back, to reveal a familiar face. Blue eyes gazed up at him, yet they did not see him, their light was gone and would never return. The young Prince could not help himself, his exhaustion and despair finally won out and he slumped to his knees beside Haldir's body. The proud March warden lay slain amongst the foul bodies of countless uruk-hai, many of them killed no doubt by the warrior himself. His body was stained with blood and grime and tainted with the black blood of the filth surrounding him. His once golden hair, hung limp and wet about him, coloured crimson now with his own life's blood.

Legolas reached out, fingers trembling as he reverently closed the sightless eyes, forever wiping away the look of surprise and confusion that had frozen in their depths. And then something happened that he did not expect, silver tears began to silently flow down his own face, making tiny tracks in the grime until they too fell to their deaths and landed on the fallen elf's body. He watched, stunned as the little tears were absorbed by the red cloak, forever mingled with the bloodied stains.

The grief overwhelmed him and his heart cried out in pain, he felt cursed that he should survive to witness this, this sacrifice. How could such a debt ever hope to be repaid ? Without a care as to who would see him, he reached down and tenderly grasped the cold body of the elf he had recently come to call friend. He held on to it tightly for all his worth as if his very existence depended on it.

Soon the tortured cries of a Mirkwood elf joined the wailing chorus of the morn.

Chapter Two: A Solemn Duty.

Lost in his grief, Legolas was unaware of the few remaining Galadhrim which had steadily gathered around him, drawn as they were to the body of their Captain. Leaderless now, they looked to the young Prince. Soon his eyes caught the subtle movements of their billowing cloaks and he gazed up at them, their faces mirroring his own grief and anguish at such terrible losses.

Respectfully, he rested Haldir's body back onto the broken battlement, tenderly supporting the limp head until it lay on the cold stone once more. He wiped his eyes, smudging the tiny clean tracks the tears had made on his face and then he stood to meet the gazes of his kin.

So few had survived, the Golden wood had sacrificed much during the night and many of her children would not be returning home. He looked to each of them, his expressive eyes offering silent thanks and condolences, though it seemed so painfully inadequate a sentiment and so he bowed humbly before them in honour of their selfless deeds.

Higher up near the Keep, Gimli's eyes took in the destruction all around him. The losses were great and much damage had been done but they had endured, Rohan had endured and many of her people had been given another chance at life thanks to those who now lay motionless on the ancient stones.

It had not been long since the son of Glóin had witnessed such similar ruination in the vast halls of Khazad-dûm. There his own kin had suffered horribly at the hands of evil, only none had lived to tell the tale, only a few scribbled words in an ancient book remained. At least this time there had been survivors and yet strangely, it seemed to him as if this made the losses all the more heartfelt, as he watched women and children crawl amongst the fallen bodies, searching for their loved ones. He could not help the lump from forming in his throat, nor the tears that misted his eyes.

For the first time, he felt truly weary and yet the battle was not yet over, there was much hardship and toil ahead. At least I have my friends, he thought, as he removed his heavy helm. They would help him to carry on. As his thoughts turned to his companions, his eyes sought one of them out, he knew Aragorn was inside the Keep, in council with Gandalf and King Theoden but it had been sometime since he had seen the elf.

He was curious to know what the lad's final score had been and he hoped that the pointed-eared Princeling had not bested him. He had been thankful for the macabre competition which had developed between them during the night, in a strange way it had helped him to remain focused on his duty, when all about him the people of Rohan were being slaughtered, it had helped him to distance himself from these horrors as he did his best to send as many of the foul creatures back to hell.

Soon he spotted the elf in question on the battered outer wall. He watched as his new friend sank to his knees and cradled a body in his arms. Gimli moved to get a better look, it was then that he realised whom Legolas held in his rocking arms. The red cloak had been unmistakable.
So, he thought, the proud March warden has fallen.

Gimli sighed through tightly pursed lips and hung his head. He had no great love for the Lórien Captain but he recognised a fellow warrior when he saw one. He had witnessed the elf fighting during the night, before he had leapt carelessly, according to Aragorn, into the foray below. Haldir had become like death himself, slicing his way through countless uruk-hai, dispatching the filth with skill and a fiery passion. But now it seemed as though that passion had been spent forever and Gimli couldn't help but feel shame and guilt at the harsh words he had uttered to the March warden in Lothlórien.

But that could not be helped now, no, now it was his friend that would need his support. He had witnessed first hand the grief born by the Mirkwood elf at the supposed fall of Gandalf, at the death of Boromir and again when they had believed Aragorn to be lost. Gimli had never before witnessed such despair and confusion in a being's eyes and it had troubled him greatly. Knowing that the seemingly aloof creature was capable of such deep feeling was one of the things which helped to break the tension between them.

Gimli berated himself for not seeking out the elf sooner, he should have known that Legolas would be deeply affected by the death of so many of his kin. And so, with all thoughts of their 'game' forgotten he made his way to the outer wall to be with his friend who was soon disappearing amongst the few remaining Galadhrim gathering silently about him.

"What would you have us do my Lord ?" one of the Galadhrim asked wearily.

Legolas looked to him, the elf was young, younger than himself but his fea would be forever marked by the recent events.

Taking in a deep, calming breath, Legolas spoke quietly.

"Go now and gather your fallen brethren, I shall find a suitable place within the Keep where we can prepare them... we owe them that much," he added in a mere whisper.

And so the elves quietly dispersed amongst the ruins, hearts heavy from the solemn duty they had been tasked with. The young warrior remained, however, his eyes fixed on the body of his Captain, a warrior he had looked up to, a warrior he had believed invincible.

Legolas rested his hand on the elf's shoulder and squeezed it slightly, the subtle pressure drew the Galadhrim's eyes to his own. He saw the unvoiced question that lay there.

"Go with your kin, do not worry, I shall take care of him," the Prince promised.

The Lórien elf looked once more to the body of his Captain, loath to abandon him, yet he knew he could trust the Prince with this grave task and so he nodded wordlessly in obedience and joined the rest of his kin in their search.

By the time Gimli arrived, Legolas was alone once more on the wall. The dwarf advanced slowly on his friend but his heavy steps were easily heard.

The elf smiled weakly at his companion, though his eyes remained troubled.

"I am glad to see you hale Master Dwarf," he announced earnestly, for he had become extremely fond of the stunted creature since there time in the Goldenwood.

"And I you," came the equally honest reply.

Gimli's eyes were drawn to the body of the March warden, he looked peaceful, almost at rest, had he not recently learned that elves rest with their eyes open.

"I am sorry," he added softly, his gruff voice gentle for once, it was all he could think to say, at times like this meagre words are often found wanting.

Legolas looked to his companion and saw the sadness and honesty within their swirling brown depths.

"I know," was all he could bring himself to say in return, then he reached down once more and lifted the broken body into his arms.

"Would you take his sword, friend Gimli ?" Legolas asked.

"Yes, yes of course," the dwarf replied, eager to help his friend in any possible way, and so he reached down and drew the blood stained weapon from the debris.

"I must find a suitable place to prepare them," he said with a strange conviction, though more to himself than to the dwarf, then he began to make his way through the tangled mess around their feet.

Gimli followed silently behind, he would not leave the elf's side now, he would be there for him whenever he was needed. And so the two companions made there way to the Keep unaware of the surviving Rohan soldiers clearing a path before them, bowing respectfully as the passed.

Chapter Three: Farewells

The Houses of Healing were overflowing with injured Rohirrim, some of the wounded lay on wooden cots in passageways, some made do with a simple worn blanket as they lay on the cold stone. It seemed as though every nook and cranny were filled with the victims of the recent battle.

Their agonising groans filled the air, mixing with the tearful choked back sobs of loved ones standing nearby who offered support and comfort as best they could. Some held slightly chipped mugs of water to their dry, parched lips, others tasked with placing pressure on wounds that bleed far too freely, while others simply held on tightly, offering a comforting hand to cling to during the pain and confusion as they whispered soothing words into anxious ears.

Over-worked healers, assisted by some of the women and soldiers, rushed about from patient to patient, trying to assess who could be saved and who was beyond hope. It was a difficult task and some would say cruel but supplies were running short and they could not be wasted on those for whom death waited on in the shadows.

It was a scene of barely controlled chaos.

Yet that was not the case in a large emptied out armoury a short distance away. Here, the beings moved about with controlled silent steps and spoke to one another in hushed whispers. Here, the loudest sound to be heard was that of cold water as it splashed onto the ancient stone floor. Water that ran red and black as it washed away the filth and bloody stains of battle from the bodies and armour of the fallen Galadhrim.

Some lay on crude wooden tables while their brethren tended to them, preparing them for their final journey, while others waited patiently all about the floor, rows and rows of lifeless bodies, it was a most difficult sight for any elf to witness.

Legolas returned his weary gaze to the body before him as he carefully poured the pitcher of water through the March warden's hair, cleansing it as best he could, returning it to its former golden glory and yet he couldn't help but notice that much of the lustre was fading away just as the iridescent glow had seemingly abandoned the pale skin. The young Prince swallowed hard.
All that Haldir had been was truly gone, only the shell remained.

And yet these empty vessels would be treated with the utmost care and reverence, the remaining elves would not stand to have their kin rest forever in the earth while tainted in any way by the foul filth of Saruman's creations and so they worked meticulously to rid the bodies of such evil contamination.

Legolas then took a clean piece of linen and soaked it in a basin of cold water. Tenderly, he used the cloth to rid the Captain's face of any traces of grime. As he was washing away all evidence of the battle, he noticed a dark string made from fine leather about the elf's neck, carefully he reached for it and freed it from beneath the clothing and armour. Hanging from the thong, in shining mithril, was a delicate mallorn leaf, flanked on each side by two similar yet smaller leaves. Realising the probable significance of the piece he sighed with renewed sadness as he closed his eyes tightly, refusing to allow the escape of further tears. On opening his eyes he discovered that he was being watched by the young Galadhrim warrior that had spoken to him earlier, he wordlessly beckoned the elf, inviting him over.

"What is your name friend ?" the Prince enquired.

"Maldathar, my Lord," came the warrior's hushed reply.

"I have a duty for you to perform Maldathar, would you see it done ?" he asked.

"Of course my Lord, what would you have me do ?" the younger elf answered, as he willingly offered his services.

Legolas gently freed the personal token from about Haldir's throat and eased it over his head, he held it tightly in his grasp for a moment before passing it to the Lórien elf.

"See that his brothers receive this Maldathar," the Prince softly instructed.

Understanding the importance of the task he had been entrusted with, caused the young warrior's heart to constrict in pain once more, he could not trust himself to speak and in truth he knew not the words to say so he simply nodded in acceptance and bowed before the Mirkwood elf before he turned away to help the rest of his kin.

Outside the broken wall of Helm's Deep, other preparations were underway. Many of Éomer's éored had been tasked with clearing the earth for the burial of the dead. None would be taken back to Edoras.

A group of the riders had been asked to help prepare a resting place for the fallen elves. A handful of the few remaining Galadhrim worked with them and they had chosen a place near a small hillock covered with trees, they wanted their brethren buried away from the fortress of stone. It grieved them greatly to leave their fallen here, far from home and loved ones but there were simply too many and the distance back to Lothlórien, too great.

Gimli had also offered his services, he toiled away gathering the many small rocks that would be required to cover the burial mound. It was good to keep busy, earlier he had helped to clear out the armoury that was being used to hold the bodies of the elves but once it was ready, he understood that his elven friend needed to be alone with his own kin for the next few hours. As he helped to collect the stones and break some of the bigger rocks, a thought occurred to him, but he would need some help to see it through and so he sought out one person whom he knew could help...Aragorn.

It was late in the day before all the bodies had been placed in their respective burial sites. There would be no burial however for the hordes of foul creatures that had littered the ground, they had been dumped in large mounds far from the fortress and would be burned once their victims had been seen to.

The Galadhrim carried their fallen on wooden biers to the small tree covered hill and lay each one gently in the prepared earth. Much care and attention had been paid to them and as each elf was laid on the ground a mallorn leaf, taken from the supplies of lembas, was placed between their cold hands, so that they would forever have with them a piece of home, then their cloaks were wrapped about them.

Last to be placed was the body of Haldir.

Legolas and Maldathar carefully positioned him in the centre so that his body would forever lie with those he had served with for countless years, as he fought beside them in life, he would now sleep beside them in death. Once they had all been placed in the ground, Legolas and the surviving Galadhrim worked tirelessly once more to cover the bodies with the damp earth and the protective cover stones.

The sun had set and a curtain of darkness was slowly being drawn across the heavens by the time they had finished. The faint glimmer of distant stars twinkled overhead, soon they would become like dazzling jewels in the night sky and all about in the distance, torches were being lit to offer comfort to the living.

As the elves stood in silence before the fresh burial mound, their attention was drawn to the sound of an approaching horse drawn cart. It carried three large warriors of Rohan and a sturdy dwarf. They knew of this dwarf and of the strange but close relationship he shared with the Prince of Mirkwood and they had appreciated his efforts in helping to prepare the burial site but they were curious now as to why he was here.

Gimli jumped down from the cart and merely nodded solemnly to the company of elves, sparing a quick glance at his friend before uttering some gruff whispers of instruction to the riders of the Mark. They moved to the back of the cart and slowly removed a large and apparently heavy object. It was covered in a long, dark cloth. The men struggled with the object and began to move closer and closer to the burial mound, causing the elves to move out of the way. Gimli guided them to the right spot and then signalled them to lower the object. As it fell to the ground with a heavy thud that reverberated through the earth, it was clear now that the object was a large rock. Their task done, then men quietly returned to the cart and left, they felt uncomfortable being around the grieving elves and wished to give them their privacy.

Gimli looked up at his friend and at the elven warriors, feeling a little unsure and uncomfortable himself, he hoped he was not about to make a fool of himself. And so after a deep calming breath, he finally spoke.

"I thought it might be fitting," he announced cryptically, as he pointed to the covered rock.

Tilting his head to one side in slight confusion, the Prince stared at the covered object while his delicate brows began to steadily knit together. He looked questioningly at his dwarven friend, who simply nodded back and gestured to the object once more.

Legolas slowly advanced towards it, as did many of the remaining elves. He hunched down before it and began to pull the covering away. What was finally revealed took his breath away. It was no ordinary rock but a large rectangular stone from the structure of Helm's Deep, all about its edges were carved bold geometric designs, similar to those he had witnessed in Moria, they were clearly of dwarven origin. But it was the words they framed that caused a tumultuous mix of emotions to swirl about inside him. His long fingers slowly traced the words meticulously carved in both Sindarin and again underneath in Westron...'To Those That Have Sacrificed Forever'.

The Prince swallowed the large lump that had formed in his throat but could not stop the warm tears that swelled up in his blue eyes.

Legolas looked to his companion once more and Gimli saw not just sadness but also amazement and deep appreciation. Relief swept through him for the gesture had been taken well.

"I have not the words elvellon," was as much as the Prince could say and so he simply joined the rest of his kin as they bowed in thanks and mutual respect before this special child of Aulë.

Gimli, unsure of what to do, bowed back in return.

"I shall leave you now Master Elf and return later with Aragorn," Gimli began, not wishing to intrude.

"Nay Master Dwarf, I wish you to stay," Legolas stated earnestly.

And so he did, a single dwarf standing amongst a group of creatures he had yet to fully comprehend and yet for the first time in a long time, he did not care. There would always be vast differences between his folk and these strange elves, mayhap there would always be disagreement but tonight he began to realise that in many ways they were the same.

Just like his own kin, these elves had fought the Shadow, they had suffered, they had bleed...they had died...and now as their haunting voices filled the air in song, they grieved.

He would stay and offer comfort to his friend and he would be there for him in the days and nights to come when the grief threatened to overcome him. Yes, for as long as the lad needed it, he would be there.

Author's note ; Well that's it folks, short and sweet, it's been done before I'm sure but I hope you enjoyed it anyway. Lai.

Disclaimer ; I own nothing, except for my little LOTR action figures & they will have to be pried from my twisted dead hands !

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