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The Last Journey; Chapter 38: Heart Versus Duty (1/2)

Story Info

Title: The Last Journey
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Lord of the Rings
Era: Fourth Age of the Sun
Genre: AU, Action/Adventure
Rating: M / FRM
Main characters: Aragorn, Celeborn, Elladan, Elrohir, Elrond, Éomer, Erestor, Faramir, Gandalf, Gimli, Glorfindel, Haldir, Legolas, Meriadoc, Nazgûl, Pippin, Thranduil (, OCs).
Pairings: Legolas/OMC (brief Aragorn/Arwen, Éowyn/Faramir)
Summary: After many peaceful years that have followed the war against Sauron, everything changes. Evil returns, striking without warning, and it is stronger than ever before. It is time for the final fight, but who shall achieve victory?
Work in Process.
Warnings: Characters’ death (major, OC), violence, torture, slash, mild sexual content (het and slash), plenty of evil, etc.

~ ~ ~

Author’s Notes: Hello everyone (supposing someone is reading this, and has not given up on me – or this story)! It has been long time since TLJ was updated. Yet now I am about to release one more chapter, before going on with other stuff for a while again.

In this chapter, we shall have some… intense torture. So beware! At least I was not attempting to make it under “suitable for children” –license. The rest, stay comfortable in your chairs and enjoy – while you still can.

The next update will take place within the next few months – I hope. I wish to see you all along when that happens! Do not get annoyed with me, please.

Chapter 38: Heart Versus Duty

Helm’s Deep

“We lost Rafél.”

Dínnor’s words were like poison. A swiftly spreading one of that, paralysing everything in a matter of seconds. It also seemed to affect the comprehension, as the people around him kept staring at the newcomers as if they did not understand what had just been said. A hushed, oppressive silence hung above them like the shadow of the Dark One himself, making the Rohirrim halt around them in alarm.

Then all eyes turned to Legolas.

“How?” Aragorn was the first one to recover. “How is that possible?” When Legolas showed lack of any reaction, his eyes shifted from confusion to worry.

“Did you make it to the Woodland Realm?” Gandalf asked, his brow furrowed with thought.

“Nay,” Gimli answered. “We had just crossed the Mountains when we spotted an army moving south. We followed them – and met a group of Elves,” he cast a glance at Thénandu and Shannai. “We agreed to follow the army, and even did so… but they divided, one part turning to south – here – and the rest continuing to east. We decided to head south, to warn you. Another group attacked us, however…” The Dwarf shifted in obvious distress. “We were trapped in a forest, and made a mad dash out of there, in hope to reach our horses before the enemy caught us. Some of the Elves got wounded, and Rafél fell behind to help them.”

“Why couldn’t he just stay by Legolas’ side, as he is supposed to?” Shannai muttered. Immediately after the words left his mouth he shot a frightened glance at Legolas – who was not paying attention the slightest. To an Elf, this was something completely unnatural.

“Rafél was wounded,” Dínnor whispered.

Legolas’ head shot up, his previously empty eyes turning cold like frozen steel, completely directed at the eldest Cousin. His eyes were cold and emotionless. Almost threatening.

Dínnor met Legolas’ eyes with bravery that many did not possess. “He got an arrow to his leg. It was probably poisoned, or it would have not hindered him so.”

“And you left him behind, wounded,” Legolas’ voice turned into a hiss. The air around them turned suddenly cold, as if some evil presence was hanging near, swirling closer... Gandalf took an alarmed step towards the Prince, lifting his staff slightly. Legolas flinched back, something akin to a shadow passing in his eyes and fading. Yet the anger was still there, radiating from him and making his Elven kinsmen shift with unease. On their way here, Legolas had told he did not hold any of this against Dínnor. Now, as he had thought about it and dwelled in his agony for a while longer, it seemed he had changed his mind. And no one blamed him. “You should have stayed with him,” Legolas finally stated, his eyes no longer meeting Dínnor’s – he countered none of the gazes directed at him, his blue eyes lowered at the stones beneath his feet.

“He told me to go after you – take you to safety. It mattered most to him, even in the end,” Dínnor replied, feeling Thalión inch closer to him in silent support. What was done was done.

“It was his task, and nobody else’s,” the Prince whispered. “There will be no other to complete what he began…”

Silence fell over them again. Gandalf’s eyes met Celeborn’s, and something seemed to pass between them. “There is no time for further delay. All our lives are at stake here, today.” All eyes moved to the enemy army gathered outside the walls. For a moment, most of them had forgotten why they really were here. Gandalf’s words perhaps seemed cruel, but there was truth in them: if they did not make their plans now, it would be too late to try to do so later.

“Do we have a plan of action?” Gimli asked carefully.

Aragorn sighed, sharing a look with Éomer. “What do you think?” Aragorn finally asked from Gimli. “Your people live here: is there something we could do to bring us victory?”

Gimli seemed thoughtful, then shook his head resolutely. “Their number is great. Far more greater than ours. Any attempt would be a suicide. Plus, I cannot make miracles,” he shook his head again, then cast a dark look at the Istari clad in white. “Miracles and magical tricks are Wizards’ territory.”

“You do not expect him to make the whole lot of enemies vanish in the air, do you?” Erestor huffed. He had been silent until then, like a spirit following everything that happened around him. The fair features were calm – like every Elf’s around him – but there was tenseness in his voice that could not be mistaken as anything else but fear.

“They cannot get in,” Éomer began.

“But we can get out!” Shannai chided. “We came inside, and the same way can be used again. And I am sure there are more caves like that,” he directed bright eyes at the Dwarves. No one else seemed to join his enjoyment, and he crossed his arms over his chest, almost pouting.

“We cannot get all the people out of here, not along the caves,” Gimli explained patiently. “Plus, we would abandon the Deep by doing so.”

Shannai lifted an eyebrow. “You think that a momentary loss of a citadel is the same as losing hundreds of lives?”

“Not all think like Elves,” Asthaldo said with a hushed voice. “The Mortals do not possess enough time to do so.”

Some of the Men looked ready to disagree, knowing how hard Elves used to hold on to their dwelling-places, but said not a word when Aragorn merely smiled sadly. Been raised among the Elves, he had grown to understand their way to see the world – and especially the way the Eldar viewed the Mortal. He perhaps didn’t always agree with the Elves, but tried to see the logic behind their thoughts.

“If we are not going to leave, we must make sure we are prepared for battle at least,” Glorfindel spoke out calmly, gazing at the enemy lines, then at their own battlements, and finally returned his eyes to his companions. “In number, we lose greatly; but we have the advance of holding a citadel that is almost impossible to be invaded.”

“In the case they brought no exploding stuff with them, we should be just fine…” Gimli muttered.

“Is your group capable to fight?” Celeborn asked from Thalión, more out of courtesy than need for an answer; any of these warriors would have given an affirmative answer, whether in fighting condition or not.

“Are we?” Dínnor repeated the question, turning to Legolas. He was rewarded with a look full of cold fury. “I know you are very disappointed with me at the moment, my Prince – rest assured, you are not alone with that line of thought. But it cannot be helped! However, I made a promise to Rafél that I am about to keep: to keep you safe. Wished it or not, I am going to look after you. And what I want to know now is are you able to fight? Can you concentrate on the matter at hand? Because if you cannot…” he paused, taking a calming breath, “I am not going to allow you to fight.”

“And what else there is to do than fight?” Legolas spat. He clearly saw the reason behind the other’s words, but challenged him anyway.

“There is plenty of space in the caves, and I am sure the women and children would take delight in you joining them,” Dínnor retorted. There was obvious threat in his tone – he was not playing games. Not with Legolas’ life, that everyone knew.

Holding the dun eyes for long moments, the Woodland Prince made everyone shift nervously around them. They all knew Legolas was stubborn when need be. “I am able,” Legolas finally answered, loud and clear. There was no hesitation, no tremble in his voice. The pain in his eyes still remained, but he seemed far less distant than a minute ago.

“Good,” Aragorn nodded, moving to clasp his friend’s shoulder, hoping that Legolas spoke the truth. Not that he doubted Legolas would lie on such a matter – or would get away with it with the greatest of his kin around them – but he knew that hearts sometimes betrayed their owners to believe they were well. The King of Men knew many would be watching Legolas very closely during the battle, he among them. If there were any signs that made them doubt Legolas’ capability to fight… “Let’s get ready, then,” he said aloud. “I deem you might use something to eat, and we need to make our plans…”

“What plans might those be?” Merry pondered as they moved inside the citadel.

“I do not honestly care, as long as it involves food,” Pippin replied and hurried along. He knew that hungry Dwarves were almost as bad as Hobbits.

Well, almost…

Some hours later

“My Lord!”

A Rohirrim warrior came rushing in, making his Lord among others to lift his head from the silent discussion of tactics. Gandalf kept sucking on his pipe, eyes on the approaching Man. Aragorn was pretty much like him, though his features revealed a lot more emotions than the Wizard’s. All of the Elves were fully alert now, even if some were not looking directly at the arrival. Everyone could sense something was about to happen.

“What is it?” Éomer asked, dreading the answer but knowing he had to make the question nonetheless.

“The leader of the enemy has stepped forth,” the soldier explained, watching from foreign leaders to his own.

“Very well,” Gandalf muttered. “Let us go outside and hear what he has to say.”

There was no objections as they all stood and marched to the outer battlement. While walking down the long stairs to reach a place on the Deeping Wall from where the enemies could be best seen – close to the same location where the Uruk-hai blew their way in, long years ago – Gimli stepped next to Legolas.

“Just stay calm, lad,” the Dwarf whispered to Legolas, fingering the jewel beneath his armoury. “Keep yourself together.”

“Do I look like someone falling apart to you, son of Glóin?” Legolas shot in return.

“Honestly, I do not know,” the Dwarf replied, looking up at the shocked blue eyes staring at him. “You never know of Elves,” he continued with a shrug.

“That is not even relatively funny, Gimli.”

“Am I laughing?” the Dwarf asked.

Legolas seemed to think of this for a while, his eyes searching the army before them. “I will make it. For Rafél.”

Gimli nodded, squeezed Legolas’ hand and then they moved to join the others. Aragorn gave them one, long look, but turned back to the matter at hand, as he decided that Gimli could handle his Elf.

The group halted on the Deeping Wall, spreading out on the passage. Careful eyes watched the dark mass of Eastern Men and their allies, immediately spotting that there was indeed a single Man standing before his forces. The Man stood boldly within an arrow’s range, as if waiting for something. It was not hard to guess that his wishes had just been fulfilled when Aragorn and Éomer settled on their places high on the battlement, right before him.

“Lords of the West, finally we meet!” rang out a clear, deep voice. Both armies stood hushed, listening to the conversation, knowing it would condemn all their fates. “Why don’t you step forth from behind your deep walls of stones, so we shall have a decent discussion face to face, like Men.”

“And what should make us believe that the moment we open our gates, you do not take advantage and attack?” Aragorn returned sceptically.

“The bastard is actually grinning,” Elladan muttered.

“Let him – it won’t last long after he has knocked his head at these walls for days,” Éomer commented.

“Very well, let us speak like this, then!” the enemy commander replied. He did not sound a bit surprised that his request had been denied.

“Wouldn’t it be more practical to talk down there?” Pippin asked with a hushed voice. “I mean, if he promised not to attack…”

“This Man is evil,” Celeborn answered, to the Hobbit’s slight shock. “He would deceive us, and we cannot risk opening the gates…”

“We rode forth to the Black Gates,” Merry muttered, agreeing with his cousin’s logic.

“Back then we had an army behind us, and enemies on the other side of those gates,” Gimli chuckled dryly. “It was quite a different arrangement, my dear Hobbits.”

“What are your intentions here?” Éomer shouted out the question most of them wanted very badly answered.

“I want Rohan to surrender – and the leader of Gondor, likewise” the Man answered.

“And who are you to request such a thing to occur?” Aragorn asked rather hotly. Either the Man had more guts than was healthy, less sense than was normal – or then he had something to back up his words.

“I am Tzórag, leader of the Men of East. Long I sought to unite all the tribes and races from their meaningless skirmishes, until I found one thing that brought anger in all our hearts, made the anger boil, and awoke blood-lust in our minds; the West. Rohan and Gondor rule over our people, thinking of us as nothing but cattle Sauron used to operate for his own benefits. But these are free people, and they have now been roused to fight against you, their oppressors…

“I, on the other hand…” The Man who called himself Tzórag fell silent, then spoke again, his voice full of malice: “You perhaps remember the Battle of the Field of Celebrant? Where the mighty armies of Gondor and Rohan annihilated people called the Balchoth from the face of Arda. Fierce warriors they were; ruthless and powerful, until you in your fear destroyed them. I am the last of that kin! I was born with the news of my people’s death, and even if slight amount of Easterling blood in me stains my roots, I still bear the strength of my people, the mighty Balchoth! And I shall not rest in peace before I see the downfall of the Western people.”

Aragorn shifted slightly, casting a look at Gandalf. The Wizard was frowning intently, his eyes glued at the lone form before the walls. “He speaks the truth,” the Istari finally said. Aragorn let out the air he had been holding.

“Whatever you reasons are for being here, and frightening my people – not to speak of threatening me and my fellow leaders – I assure you: the end of the world shall come sooner than I open my gates to you willingly!” Éomer shouted to the Man. His face spoke of hatred, eyes blazing.

Aragorn said nothing, but merely clasped his friend’s shoulder in compassion. For now, it would be Rohan that felt the impact of this attack the hardest. If none of them survived – which was not certain yet, at any rate – Gondor would be next. Who would stand to defend that land, he did not dare to guess.

“What is he doing now?” Pippin asked from his place where he had climbed to see over the battlement. “He is walking away.”

“Perhaps he has a plan,” Elladan suggested, “and as we do not have one…”

“Let’s prepare,” Thalión ended the debate firmly, his gaze landing on Legolas who suddenly stood very still, his brows knit up in a frown. “What is wrong? Legolas?” the Cousin asked. He hesitantly touched the other’s shoulder, as if afraid he would interfere.

Legolas shook his head. “I am not sure. It was… As if for a moment… As if I felt something.” He did not clarify this, and no one pushed him on the matter.

Most because they did not want to know what that “something” might be.

- - -

Tzórag walked though his lines, Men pulling back from his path. His jaws were gritted together in frustration. He had to think of something so he would have an advantage over his enemies behind those strong walls. Or else he might find himself standing here when the end of the world came, as King Éomer of Rohan had promised. Helm’s Deep was not a citadel you broke into – especially when it was viciously defended. Saruman had used some kind of sorcery to gain access, years ago, but even that gap in the wall was now perfectly sealed…

“My Liege!”

With an annoyed look, Tzórag turned to look at the advancing soldier. “What is it?”

“My Lord,” the Man swiftly bowed, “a final group of reinforcements arrived a moment ago. Their leader sent forth a word to you that they might have something in their possession that could bring us victory – or at least improve our chances.”

“Truly?” Tzórag asked. “And what might that something be?”

“An Elf.” Both the Easterling soldier and Tzórag turned to look to a small party that halted beside them. Three Men, two Uruk-hai following behind, dragging the said creature between them. There was little glory left in the Firstborn that was cast down on his knees to the ground, but one could still outright tell that this was, indeed, an Elf. One of the Men stepped forth, his companions standing still and quiet, as if not knowing what they were supposed to do. The man bowed to Tzórag, and then turned to look at the Elf as he spoke again: “This one might open us a chance to break our enemies’ defence. Or at least lessen their will to fight.”

As Tzórag did not seem to understand, the small Man continued, his eyes dark and full of knowledge. He clearly knew what he was talking about. “It is well known that King Elessar – formerly called Aragorn – was raised by Elves. He has close tidings to the Firstborns and he respects them greatly. Beyond that, he befriends many of them – Prince of Eryn Lasgalen among them. Which leads us to this creature here. I spent many years in Dale, and we had often dealings with the Woodland Realm and its Elven people. I have learned to know most types of Elves that dwells in those forests, but this mark,” he halted, grasping the Elf’s hair and drawing his head back to reveal the blood-stained collar of his tunic, “is rarely seen anywhere outside the former Mirkwood. It is a royal mark, either worn by those in high position of the realm, or by the royal family itself. I cannot tell the difference between the two, but this one shall surely be important to the Men inside those walls.”

“The scouts have told there are Elves, too!” the Easterling soldier added excitedly from Tzórag’s side.

The small Man nodded and allowed the Elf’s head to fall again. Tzórag gazed at the defeated, broken creature, and smiled. “Well done. You shall be rewarded for this.”

Rafél, on the other hand, did not pay much attention to the discussion around him. There was little he could do to improve his situation as it was, beyond fighting the poison still working in his body. The journey here had not been the most comfortable one – not that he had expected to survive in the first place. Yet here he was, alive, and seemingly he would be used as a weapon against his friends.

The mentioning of Elves drew Rafél from his hazy state and for a slightest moment, he reached out with his spirit. A smile caressed his lips as he drew back swiftly, locking his fëa with a will of iron discipline. His beloved Prince was here. It had taken less than he thought before his soul had instinctively reached for its mate, and he could only hope Legolas had not noticed the short distraction. He will find out soon enough that I am alive – for now. The grim thought did not banish his joy, however, and he drew deeper from the conscious world to cherish the feeling. Bless you, Dínnor. You took him to safety. Now you only have to make sure that he endures through the battle…

Rafél’s thought were interrupted when he was yanked up and dragged forth again. He had been treated worse by Orcs and their kinsmen; at the moment all this was like pampering compared to the pain he had endured in the past. When they halted, Rafél could see the tall, familiar wall rising before them.

“Lords of the West!” Tzórag called out boldly.

Rafél could only calm his racing heart and wish for the best. They cannot yield. Whatever this Man proposes, they cannot…

On the walls of Helm’s Deep, all eyes turned to the foreign leader. Éomer, who had been busy planning with Aragorn and Gandalf, looked back to his enemies. He could feel the air freezing around him immediately. Elves fell silent.

Aragorn gazed at the immortals in alarm, then back down to the ground, and drew his breath in sharply. “Valar, no…” the King of Men muttered.

“What is it?” Éomer asked, taking another look at the small group before the Deeping Wall. Then he saw it too, a form held between two large Uruks. Grinding his jaws together, Éomer shook his head in dismay.

“I have something that might belong to you,” Tzórag went on, probably realising what the sight of this Elf had caused in his enemies. He couldn’t help but smile.

“Rafél.” Legolas’ whisper broke the spell of unnatural silence upon the Elves. As the Prince turned pale as the winter moon and pushed forward, half dozen bows were lifted to the air, arrows notched.

Aragorn caught Legolas in his arms, afraid his friend would actually jump from the wall, and turned to Celeborn. “Master your people. We do not help Rafél in any way if we shoot a few leaves in the forest. This Man wants something: let us hear it out before acting out our anger.”

Celeborn nodded and said a few sharp words in Elvish. Haldir’s bow lowered immediately, the others following his example with more hesitation. Aragorn smiled his gratitude to the Lórien Lord, then turned back to Tzórag on the ground. His arms around Legolas’ body did not loosen their hold, the livid shaking of the others body a simple sign that the Prince was not dealing well with this new situation.

“Indeed, it seems you have captured one of the Elven kin. But what has this to do with us?” Aragorn asked when no one else spoke up. It would do them more harm than good to reveal that Rafél was more than important to them. In time, they might play this game to their advantage…

“I am certain the life of this being in my possession has some value to you. Why don’t you let me inside the citadel, and we shall discuss of his fate?” Tzórag suggested.

“And the moment we open our gates, there is nothing to stop you from attacking,” Gandalf boomed in return, his eyes blazing. “Do not take us as such fools as your previous opponents must have been! I can see beyond your words to the darkness of your heart.” Legolas shot a frightened look at the Wizard, but Gandalf merely shook his head sadly. “We cannot sacrifice all these people, Legolas,” he continues with a hushed tone. “And if we were to open the gates, they would still kill Rafél before we reached him.”

“Mithrandir speaks true words,” Thalión whispered, startling Aragorn with his sudden closeness. “Stay strong. That is what your Guardian taught you.”

Tzórag seemed to be just as unhappy about the answer as Legolas – though for entirely different reasons. Rafél himself found the situation almost funny in its irony, and hoped his young beloved would stay reasonable through whatever followed. Or that the others would do so for him…

“Fine,” Tzórag hissed. “Bring a cross!” he barked, and several strong Men in the front line immediately moved to obey. A dangerous smile played on the Balchoth’s lips as he turned to look at Rafél, his hand idly caressing the pale hair. “Let’s see how long your friends wish to allow me to enjoy of your company…” Then he turned away, to summon a servant to bring him something with his own language. “I deem it will not be long, Firstborn,” he told Rafél calmly.

“What are they doing?” Gimli asked from his place on Legolas’ side, frowning deeply.

“Nothing good,” Shannai replied. His eyes were distressed and haunted, like an animal caught in a cage without a chance to escape. “Are we truly going to stand here and wait them to… To…” he ended stammering and shut his mouth when he could not bring out the words.

“Do we have a choice?” Elladan groaned, leaning against the cool stone. His brother kept watching at the Cousins, who had a close eye on Legolas – still safely in Aragorn’s arms. Suddenly Elladan stood up straight, his grey eyes intent upon the future battlefield before them. “What are they doing?” he asked, now frowning himself.

The Men were setting up two strong trunks of wood, digging them to the ground and tied them together so they formed a crude form of “x”. After the construction was steady enough, Rafél’s was brought forth and tied up on to it. Tzórag stepped forward again, a strong bow in his hands. He tested the weapon carefully, walking absently before the bound Elf. “You know, my hand is not all too steady with a bow. I admit I need a lot more practise with it.” He glanced up to the wall. “They say Elves can master any bow, and no other race can surpass their skill with a bow. Therefore, I believe you must appreciate my humble attempt to learn more of this fine tool of death.”

Legolas made a jolt forward when Tzórag took an arrow from his quiver, settling the shaft slowly against the bow. Lifting the weapon, the Man took a careful aim toward the bound Elf. Eternal brown eyes stared back at the shaft without fear, calmly waiting for the missile to plunge into his heart.

“No, no, let me…” Legolas whispered fervently, no longer struggling against Aragorn’s hold. It was as if he was not speaking to him altogether.

Rafél’s eyes moved from the arrow to the Elf on the wall. He could feel it, through the pain and mist in his mind; Legolas’ fëa desperately struggling to break through to him. Do not, Las. This one time, stay away. You do not want to be here when… But the younger Elf was relentless, and using their already strong bond, Legolas cast Rafél’s control ruthlessly aside. “This is not the end,” Rafél told the other with resignation, the idea paining him that Legolas would witness this.

Indeed, it was no end.

A moment later, the arrow was released. The cross shivered from the impact as the shaft drove through Rafél’s left arm to the wood. A gasp left the Elf, but other than that, he showed no outward reaction. Tzórag smiled, notching another arrow.

On the Deeping Wall, sharp Elven eyes followed every movement of the Man. Had it been up to them, the eastern Man would have lain dead long before the first arrow hit their companion. Nevertheless, Gandalf had determinedly told them to leave their arms unoccupied: an army without a leader might be unpredictable. With Tzórag, they had some kind of chance to negotiate with their enemies.

One look at Legolas, though, and every consideration of friendly a debate died in the Elven hearts.

When another arrow pierced Rafél’s forearm, Legolas flinched as if been hit. The unseeing blue eyes were locked at the bound Elf before them, unblinking and shining. His inner light had turned inwards since Rafél had been brought forth, and every Firstborn knew exactly what he was doing; Legolas was sharing every second of this with his Guardian.

The pattern of arrows was repeated on the other hand, and with a satisfied smile, Tzórag halted enough to allow his men to cut the ropes binding the Elf. When the soldiers stepped back, he lifted the weapon again and tried to decide where to shoot next. On the back of his mind, he wondered how much longer the people on the wall could endure the torment of their friend. Or then this Elf is not one of them. I might be wasting my time here… Either way, I still prove them that my mercy is limited…

As Rafél’s weight fell on the arrows pinning him to the wood, he couldn’t keep a pained groan from escaping. The wood made a small creak, but the arrows held fast. His vision turned blurred and grey as his body tried to adjust to the injuries. All the time, his mind was focused on the familiar voice calling out for him. At the moment, Legolas’ tone was getting frantic. “Be at ease, Little Leaf, I live still…” he tried to calm the other, though he knew Legolas could feel his pain as his own. That knowledge made his situation even worse.

“He is lifting the bow again,” Legolas’ thoughts hit Rafél like a spring storm in its whole glory. “Why won’ he stop? He is gaining nothing through this!”

“He is gaining a mental upper hand of you as we speak,” Rafél replied. “Stay calm and…” Another arrow hit him before he could finish, his side flaring up with unbearable pain. “Draw back, Legolas. Please.”

“I won’t leave you alone,” came a desperate answer, and Rafél knew Legolas must have been shaking like in throws of a seizure by now.

“I know, and I do not want you to, but you must draw back from my mind,” Rafél tried to reason. It was as if Legolas had turned into that stubborn Elfling he had been years ago… “I cannot focus with you disturbing me.” It was not kindly said, and not entirely true, but he could not think of anything else. He had to drive Legolas back from him somehow.

Another arrow hit him, a little above the previous one. He could feel Legolas smile through their connection, a sad, empty smile. “That is a lie. I can tell.”

“I do not want you here. Not now.”

“Rafél, please, do not push me away. I want to be with you – even in pain.”

In his mind, Rafél smiled, despite the new arrow sinking to his flesh. “Would I posses the power to block you, I would have already done that. Please, Legolas, allow me to endure this in peace. A warrior’s way.” There was a long silence and Rafél hoped Legolas had finally drawn back. This was the first time Rafél truly cursed the depth of their bond: he could not really tell if Legolas blocked his thoughts and feelings or not. Legolas had become such a constant part of him during the years that he could not tell where he ended and the younger Elf began. Especially since their confrontation in the Shire…

After another long moment passed, Rafél slowly opened his eyes and forced his senses to cooperate. Tzórag was no longer holding his bow, the Man’s gaze one of intense fury. Seemingly, the man had decided that he could kill the Elf, and the defenders would not yield.

“Attack!” Tzórag commanded, and his army moved swiftly forth after the long wait. This time, arrows flew from the walls to answer, killing several dozen of warriors before the first made it to the edge of citadel. Watching the event from his place, undisturbed, Rafél decided that his death would have to wait a little longer. Allowing the world slip away, his head leaned back and body succumbed to healing the state it so badly craved for.

- - -

When the command for attack sounded, the Elves jumped into action with such joy that Aragorn thought the world had turned mad. Elves never took joy in killing – the Orcs and other unnatural beings as an exception, and still it was no true act of delight. Yet the Man himself was ready to commit murder after the long agonising moment they had been forced to endure. He maybe did not know Rafél very well, but knowing the Sindar was dear to Legolas, probably in more ways than one… He shook his head and turned to look at the pale couple of Hobbits. They had not uttered a word for a long time, and he was worried.

Before the fight would get out of control, Aragorn urged Merry and Pippin to return to the caves: he had no time to watch over the small people, and where they stood, lack of height was not an advantage – quite the opposite. With sulking but horrified faces, the Hobbits ran back up to the citadel. The past hour had not done any good to their already strained nerves. The Small Folk had tried to act bravely and carelessly since they had arrived to Helm’s Deep – to be merry as they always were – but some were not meant to be warriors… Aragorn regretted the day when he had been part of the decision to take these two out to the War of the Rings.

There was no need to tell the Men of Rohan that they were allowed to attack. Arrows rained down on the advancing enemies, making the still running ones stumble on the fallen. Elven arrows were directed to the most strategic places, or then focused beyond the range of Rohan’s Men, trying to take down the approaching Easterling archers.

Even as hooks were thrown against the high walls and ladders lifted, none of this proved a real threat to the defenders. As long as the people in Helm’s Deep did not tire of fighting and their losses did not grow greatly, their refuge was almost impossible to be conquered. Like waves splashing to the rocks of the shore, the attackers could try to move the stones, overcome the defences; but like it took a long time for water to shift the rocks, long it would take to defeat the Deep.

At some point of the battle, Legolas began to realise that he was not paying enough attention to his actions. Gimli, who fought by his side, had taken down many advancing enemies that he would have normally taken care of. Irritated, the Elf re-focused on his movements, attempting to keep his mind from sliding. As he turned, sliced open a chest of an enemy and met Gimli’s eyes, there was silent appreciation in the brown depths. Seemingly, the Dwarf was also aware of the sudden change.

It was not easy to stay focused, however, his heart constantly with the one he loved. Legolas could not resist glancing at the direction of the wooden cross now and then, every time dreading what he would see. As a short pause from the fight presented itself, the enemies for a while fought off from the passage, Legolas turned his eyes to the direction of Rafél. It seemed the older Elf was left alone, and hope bloomed in his heart. A fraction later, a plan was formed, and without stopping to hesitate or think it over, Legolas dashed off. At the same time, another wave of enemies hit, and he used it on his advantage to slip past his fighting companions. All of them would have tried to stop him, to force him down to the caves with women and children if they knew what he had in mind…

Running up the stairs and past Men towards the Hornburg, Legolas moved with silent grace only Elves possess. No one noticed his passing, probably thinking he was a messenger, or otherwise on an important errand. In general, no Man dared to ask about Firstborns’ doings.

Back on the lower battlement, Shannai suddenly halted his shooting and glanced around. Worried eyes immediately sought Gimli, urgent voice alarming all around him. “Gimli! Where is Legolas?”

Gimli looked around confused, muttering something beneath his breath. “He was just here!”

“Well, he isn’t anymore,” Dínnor groaned. “Did anyone see him leave?!” His voice was filled with dread: one could only imagine what Legolas was planning to do… and what he was capable of.

“Easy, cousin,” Thalión soothed, his eyes narrowing. “He is nearing the gates, fast, but I think that is not the way he is going to use.”

“Use? For what?” Shannai sputtered. “They are trying to break down the gate from the outside as we speak. There are plenty of Men keeping the enemy at bay there. What would Legolas want to do there?”

“To get out,” Thalión whispered, then headed off. His Cousins followed swiftly.

“Keep fighting, we shall fetch the missing Prince,” Asthaldo patted Gimli’s shoulder as he passed.

The Dwarf moved to follow anyway, but Aragorn stopped him. “I need you here, my friend. They shall find Legolas much faster on their own, rather than with us to slow them down. And I am positive they will not let Legolas out of their sight for a long time.”

“They had better not…” Gimli growled deep from his chest, then heaved his axe towards the nearing enemy with a mighty battle cry, the blade sinking fully to the other’s chest.

Aragorn shook his head as Gimli moved forth like an enraged wild boar and then put his own sword on to a move again. Perhaps fighting for his own life would shortly make him forget that Legolas was in danger… His eyes moved to the place in the middle of the swirling mass of enemies, finding the tortured form almost too easily. What fools have we been while believing Legolas could deal with this. He is an Elf! He is bound to act, to do something, to save his… Aragorn frowned, for a moment stopping to think what exactly Rafél was to Legolas. Because of late, they had seemed to be much more than a Guardian and his protégé…

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Story Info / Part two...