Title: The Marshes of the Dead
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Lord of the Rings
Era: Fourth Age of the Sun
Genre: Drama, AU
Rating: T / FRT
Characters: Gimli, Legolas (, OCs)
Summary: “There are dead things. Dead faces in the water!” “All dead. All rotten. Elves and Men and Orcses. A great battle long ago. Dead Marshes. Yes. Yes, that is their name.” Who are those dead warriors in the water, whose lights call the living to join them? Only few truly know. When visiting Legolas briefly in Ithilien, the Three Cousins recall some of their worse memories, and the battle of Dagorlad is only a part of them…
Part of the history of “The Last Journey”. Complete.
Warnings: References to violence and death¬. The rating could also be PG, but let’s take no risks…
The next morning was a misty one, smell of bog heavy in the air. It seemed that the Cousins were not too pleased by the atmosphere, and the company continued their way quickly. Even Asthaldo was quiet. Thalión walked like a ghost, his eyes shadowed. Legolas watched them worriedly, walking beside subdued Dínnor. His own mood wasn’t too good, and his companions’ behaviour made his skin crawl.
Legolas’ mind was running in circles. Yesterday, the question of his father’s early years as a King had made Thalión upset, and then his strange behaviour at night… Legolas decided he needed answers. And he was going to have them this time.
“We need to talk.”
“We know. Thalión…” Dínnor said, somewhat tiredly. Legolas wondered if the warrior had rested at all last nigh. Most likely not.
“You could tell him. It is not like it would matter any way…” Thalión replied, his eyes never leaving the invisible trail he was following.
Dínnor, letting out a frustrated sound, grabbed Thalión’s arm none too gently, and halted his cousin abruptly. “You started this. Whatever you talked about on Amon Hen, and your behaviour yesterday… it is more than enough to earn you the right to tell him.”
“What am I suppose to say to him!?” Thalión shouted, desperation in his voice.
“I don’t know! Whatever he wants to know. He is old enough to bare the truth… any truth…”
“Most of our people cannot bare the truth, Dínnor,” Asthaldo added bitterly, joining to the argument.
“What truth?” Legolas asked, more coldly than he had intended. They all had halted on their marks, and the Cousins were glaring at each other darkly.
“The truth of your grandfather, of the Battle of Dagorlad, of the Dead Marshes. What do you want to know!?” Dínnor turned at Legolas, his dun eyes burning with fire Legolas had never seen there.
But then suddenly Dínnor remembered his place, and clasped Legolas’ shoulder apologetically. “I am sorry. I wasn’t supposed to say it like that… Forgive me. I’m loosing my patience.”
“You never had much patience in things like this, Dínnor, and I do not blame you,” Legolas said softly. Then he turned to look at Thalión, his eyes serious. “Truth about the Battle of Dagorlad? Of Dead Marshes? I think it is better you tell me this is chronological order.”
Thalión nodded, sighing. “You better help me with this,” he said to his cousins, and the turned back to Legolas. “We had better find a place to sit down, because this will be a rather long account.”
They walked to the side of the river and seated themselves on a rocks warmed by sunlight. Thalión gathered his thoughts for a moment, and then started, his voice rather uncertain in the beginning. “We could start from the end: of my behaviour last night.” There was a pause, and for a moment Legolas wasn’t sure if Thalión would even continue. But he did. “Memories are the plague of Elves: we remember everything that has happened to us during our years in this world, as many as they may be. Memories are as clear to us as the memories of yesterday. And dwelling in… certain memories it is not wise. They drag you down to the shadows, and hunt you both in your dreams and in waking life.”
“Certain memories?” Legolas encouraged.
“You know we fought beside your grandfather – and father – in the Battle of Dagorlad.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Your grandfather never returned from that battle,” Thalión continued, awkwardly. “The death of Oropher was a great loss for all our people… And the way of his passing is a thing… a story told in various forms.”
“What do you mean with that?” Legolas asked, his eyes narrowing. “My grandfather died in the battle against an enemy far greater in both number and strength.”
“Indeed,” said Asthaldo somewhat bitterly. “But you have been told that ‘perspective’ of the story that suits the Elves better. If you ask some other race, or Noldor, for example, you get a far different account of those events of a battle.”
There was exchanged looks between the three elder Elves that greatly bothered Legolas.
“Your father was a Sinda with both wisdom and pride. And his pride sealed the doom of his people,” Thalión said, acrimony in his voice. “He led the forces of Greenwood to war alongside a smaller group from Lothlórien. We joined to the forces of Gil-Galad, but when the battle began, it was obvious that Oropher wasn’t going to take any orders from any eldar of the West. Before Gil-Galad gave his order to attack, Oropher ran forward.” Thalión halted, his eyes distant, no doubt seeing the battlefield before his eyes.
“Our weapons and armoury where nothing compared to those what the eldar in the west used,” Dínnor continued. “Even if the Silvan Elves of Greenwood fought bravely and obstinately, they were all killed.”
“Slaughtered,” Asthaldo muttered, his eyes rising to find those of Legolas. “We were hacked down, line after line. And we were alone. The Lórien Elves fell, and forces of Greenwood were driven apart from the main group…”
“Driven to the Marshes,” Thalión said, his voice choked. “Only a third of the Elves of Greenwood returned back home with Thranduil after the battle, and he was made King.”
Legolas was quiet, his mind absorbing this new point of view. “So my grandfather…”
“He was a great King, but his pride took better of him. He refused to take any commands from Gil-Galad. I know: I was there. Right behind him when he gave the order to attack the enemies. I will never forget it, the screams around me, the faces of my fellow warriors as they realised that we were alone – that we were all going to die, their blood upon my skin,” Dínnor said, his voice low. “I remember how we fought. Backing up and fighting again. The ground turned to moss, and the moss into water and deceiving ground. To a bog. Many who fell into the deeps never came up again. ”
They all were silent for a while, staring at the ground at their feet. “I never was there,” Asthaldo said. “I got hit by an arrow to my leg, and I was left behind. I never reached the Marshes… Not then.”
“But we went there later, years after,” Thalión continued. “Before we knew you, Legolas. You were only few years old then. We were sent to a scouting mission to the Black Land. We passed through the Dead Marshes then, thinking it was the best way to approach Mordor. We never took that path again.” Thalión’s eyes gazed at the north-east again, sorrow filling them. “There were dead faces – corpses – in the water. The bog had spread out, no doubt Sauron’s work, as you think it later. The bog had swallowed the graves of the dead. At night, there were lights, calling us closer. But more horrified we were by the voices. I am not sure if the mortals hear them – Gods to bless them if they do not. The howls, screams, whining… Calling us to join them, to look at them. And then you see the faces: faces of Men and Orcs, and Elves. You remember the ones you fought with that last day of their living, and then you have to face them again. They lay there, in the water, and they are all dead and rotting, calling for you… ” Thalión pressed his head to his hands, his breath swallow.
“You saw the lights last night?” Legolas asked carefully. “Heard their voices?”
“Memories deceive the Elves, Legolas. They are your worse enemy, if you let them take over you,” Dínnor said, his eyes resting upon Thalión.
“Thalión went too near the lights. I think he felt their call differently than we, sensitive as he is,” Asthaldo spoke. “He fell into the water. It was nearly… too late… before we got him back up. He saw the dead ones. Felt their touch upon his skin. He will never forget.”
“If Oropher just would have stayed with the main group,” Dínnor sighed, shaking his head. “But we paid the price of our stupidity.”
‘We paid the price.’
The words echoed in Legolas’ head as he rose up, turning away from his friends, and walked away, wishing to be alone with his thoughts for a while.
to be continued…