Legolas slipped to the short passageway that led to a hidden door on the wall. He had learned of this “exit” from Gimli, on one of his visits to Aglarond. The door led to a narrow ledge, which ran against the stone wall, ending a few yards before it would meet the causeway. The distance between the two was too long for most to jump, yet Legolas knew he would make it easily.
Yet it was not his intention to attack the causeway that was at the moment filled with Easterlings trying to bring down the gates of the Helm’s Deep.
Closing the door behind him, listening intently as he could not see behind the corner and tell if any enemy was paying attention, Legolas glanced down. The rocky earth met his eyes several feet below. It was a deadly distance – to a mortal. Bracing his body, Legolas jumped from the ledge. The impact with the hard ground was painful, but Legolas refrained from making a sound, the pain vanishing as soon as it had appeared.
He moved forward in the shadows of the wall and stones, edging closer to the causeway. When he could see the Men before and above him, he halted. Had anyone looked to Legolas’ direction, his presence might have been passed; his unmoving form attracted no attention to itself.
A moment later, an Easterling tumbled down from the causeway, falling to his death. Legolas waited a moment longer, his eyes moving between the dead and his living companions. No one paid attention to the ground, all intent on breaking in to the citadel. With all the grace he could muster, Legolas crept forward to the dead, all the time keeping an eye on the causeway. He stripped the corpse of its cloak and some of its weapons, then drew behind the curve of the wall to dress.
He knew he would never reach Rafél in his current outfit. Dressed up to the cloak of the Easterling, and bearing some of his weapons, it might do the trick. It was still risky, but he was ready to gamble. The life of his heart’s chosen one was at stake.
Preparing himself for the dash of his life, Legolas’ entire body tensed in concentration and alertness. He was just about to spring up when someone grasped his shoulder and he jerked around, one of his white knives immediately in his hand. His wrist was caught before he could sink his blade anywhere, dun eyes meeting his. “Dínnor, for Valar’s sake! Do not ever scare me so!” Legolas exclaimed as loud as he dared. With the sounds of battle around them, he might have shouted his words and no one would have paid attention, but he was not about to risk it.
“Be at peace, little one,” Asthaldo chuckled, walking close the edge of the wall to join them. He, too, crouched to the ground. “I am sure that he would have deserved your attack…” He did not finish, as they all knew what he was talking about.
“I never claimed to be perfect,” Dínnor muttered, letting go of Legolas’ wrist – but not his shoulder. “You forgot to mention you were about to leave us all the sudden.” His tone was not as light as his words, and his eyes darkened in barely suppressed anger.
Legolas’ eyes shifted to Thalión who appeared to stand behind them. The silver-haired Elf did not seem to care if he was spotted or not – even if they were not on the line of sight to the causeway just then. His hands were folded across his chest, his eyes locking with Legolas’ blue ones. A silent discussion took place between them.
“Are you sure?” Thalión voice asked in Legolas’ mind.
Legolas smiled, grimly. “I have no other choice.”
The Cousin nodded slowly, his eyes narrowing slightly. “You know this attempt might lead to the death of you both. And he certainly won’t approve any of this.”
“He is not here to look over me. If he was, I would not have to do this.” Legolas shifted a little, sliding the knife back to its sheath. “You do not have to take his place. He will either return to his place beside me – or then it shall ever remain empty.” That one phrase could be taken in many ways, but Legolas knew that Thalión understood.
“Very well,” Thalión said aloud. “Prepare yourselves. We have to wait for a few more corpses, and disguise ourselves as Legolas here,” he spoke to his Cousins, even if his eyes still remained on the Sindarin Prince.
“You do not mean –” Dínnor began.
“You can return to the citadel just as well,” Thalión hissed. “Legolas has made his decision, and I shall do my part to help him.”
“You do not owe me anything,” Legolas said softly. “Just go back, all of you.”
“And miss the real fun?” Asthaldo gasped in mock horror. “No way. After all, it was us who taught you all you know about the real fun,” he winked, then moved forth to look beyond curve of the wall. “We do not have to wait so long, Thalión; it seems that our dear enemies are in such a hurry to break in that there is some serious crush on the causeway… Or was.”
When the others joined him near the bend, they could all see several dead Men lying on the ground. Dínnor smiled. “Well then, let’s get dressed for the party.”
“You are not seriously thinking about coming along?” Legolas asked for the last time.
“Four is better than one,” Asthaldo shrugged. “Better odds.”
“Four is also easier to notice than one,” Legolas countered.
“And how exactly you thought to get him out of there?” Asthaldo replied. “There is a lot of commotion about, in the case you haven’t noticed.”
“I will find a way,” the Prince muttered.
“I am sure. And we will help you,” Thalión said with a soothing voice, his hand settling tenderly on the younger Elf’s shoulder. “Let’s get going.”
When they all had cloaks hiding their features and some new weaponry was attached to their gear, they moved towards the causeway. They kept in the shadow of the wall as long as possible, and then moved out to the open, trying to appear normal, like messengers or just soldiers on some business of their own. In battle, no one normally stopped to ask about the others’ doings, but they were not about to risk it. Moving along in the mass of enemies, they kept an eye on all and everything around them, trying to sense if they were spotted.
It seemed almost too easy at first, as they made their way to the area before Deeping Wall. Legolas’ eyes kept dragging towards the place where he could see the wooden cross stand, his heartbeat quickening. He wanted to reach out and reassure his guardian, but knew it would be too early. Soon, he would have the other safely on his side again, and nothing in the world would drive them apart… Not even death.
An arrow shot over them, almost hitting Dínnor on the shoulder. “Bloody archers,” he chuckled darkly, recognising the Lórien design on the shaft. “They should take more care where they shoot those things…” Then he fell silent again, and they crept forward.
Suddenly, a great Easterling collided against Asthaldo. The Elf let out a small gasp, and then looked up at the tall Man. The hood covering his features had slipped back, revealing the golden hair and fair face. The Man gaped at him in shock, and Asthaldo gave the giant his most charming grin. Then, quicker than any eye could catch, he moved his hand, grasped on of his own short swords, and beheaded the Easterling. The cut was so clean that no blood spattered on him when the body went down before him.
Men around them turned to look, and with a groan of frustration, Dínnor threw back his own hood. “Well now, this suddenly got far more interesting.” Before the Men could attack, the two Cousins were already on the move, fighting back anyone on their reach, dead falling to their feet.
Thalión nudged Legolas as a sign, and they moved forward. Now they all ran. Most of their enemies were still trying to get closer to the wall, but many turned to see what the commotion was about. Those further from the Deep had a perfect idea what was happening, and masses pushed closer to the Elves from both sides.
Dínnor and Asthaldo fought side by side, experience making them move like one; the other stroke then dodged, directing his next blow backwards when the other reached over the first. Asthaldo’s shorter weapons matched Dínnor’s sword’s length perfectly, and they did not stumble once, nor stopped to hesitate or talk. They knew the other’s next move, planning their next along it, trusting their years together to guide them.
Thalión stayed next to Legolas, their battle as fluid and perfect as the other couple’s. They perhaps did not share the same experience together, but Legolas had been schooled by these three for the most of his life. Thalión and his Prince had fought back to back enough to know that they did not need to worry of their partner getting on the way.
On the Deeping Wall, the fight was just as ferocious. More and more enemies managed to climb up to the passage, and swordfights erupted here and there. News told that the gate was still standing, but not for long. Éomer had returned to Hornburg to oversee the struggle on the gates, leaving Aragorn to the lead of the Wall.
Haldir halted his own fight for a moment, eyeing his companions and checking no one was hurt. Then he notched one more arrow to his bow and let is loose. It was then that his eyes caught the other battle – in the middle of the enemy lines. “Well now, it seems that the Cousins have a funny way to see for their Prince’s safety…” he murmured to himself, shooting down an Uruk-hai advancing on the four fighting Elves. “Glorfindel!” he called out, catching the other Elf’s attention. He pointed at the field before them, knowing that explained the events just fine.
“They were making pretty good process before the fight broke out,” Elladan joined their company, eyeing the Cousins and Legolas in the midst of enemies. “Now they have stopped completely, defending themselves rather than attacking.”
“Well, they are quite outnumbered,” Haldir sighed.
“What is going –“ Gandalf joined them, alarmed by the sudden lack of action on their part, then realised the matter at hand. “Aah. It seems we have a bit of a problem here.”
“If you wish to put it that way, Mithrandir,” Elladan grimaced, turning to kill an advancing enemy. His brother immediately appeared to his sight, taking care of the fight while Elladan turned back to the conversation. “We have to go to help them. They will not survive for much longer.”
“Any ideas?” Glorfindel asked.
Elladan lifted his sword suggestively.
“They need more than arrows from our side,” Haldir joined the Peredhil’s opinion.
“Then it is decided,” Glorfindel said, even if he did not sound overly happy about all this. “Haldir, take your kinsmen – if you think your Lord will approve, that is. Elladan, seek your brother. You are going out to play.”
“It is hardly a game,” Haldir said with a smile on his own as he ran off, fighting down enemies as he made his way to his Lórien warriors.
Gandalf smiled secretly, shaking his head, and then lifted Glamdring as a salute and joined the war raging around them. “There are certain things that Elrond will never forgive you. Sending his sons to a certain death is surely among them,” a voice said behind Glorfindel, and the Elven Lord turned to find Erestor standing there, stained in blood.
Glorfindel smiled, nodding. “That is why I expect them to return alive.”
A moment later, five Lórien Elves sprang past them, joining the Twins on their way. They did not waste their time trying to reach the gates, however, but merely attacked one of the ladders leaning against the wall, and slid down along it. When they finally reached the ground, aided by archers on the battlement, they made their way straight to the four fighting Elves. It was not an easy way to proceed, but their boldness, fury, and skill helped a lot.
Glorfindel watched them go for a while longer, wishing them luck, and returned to his own fight. It was not utterly safe to stand in the middle of the brawl of this size, lost in thought, but he had seen worse places in his life.
“Is there a reason why my brothers are fighting in the midst of enemies, rather than on the wall where they are supposed to be?!”
Glorfindel grimaced as he bumped against Aragorn, his eyes carefully meeting the burning ones of the Man. “You know I couldn’t have let you go there,” he answered calmly.
“Legolas is out there,” Aragorn grounded.
“And so should we!” Gimli shouted from his place some dozen feet away.
“Just keep fighting, stunted one, and leave it for the Elves to look after their own,” Shannai chided, sending another arrow flying.
“Why don’t you get a hold of your sword instead; I have heard you are a rather miserable as an archer. You might hit someone of our own,” Gimli retorted. Shannai cast him a murderous look, making the Dwarf back off with a deep laugh.
“Just focus on your own battle, my friends,” Gandalf’s voice boomed over the noise. “Aragorn, Gimli.” The way the two names were addressed told the stubborn warriors they had better to keep themselves in the Wizard’s line of sight – and on the Deeping Wall. Neither of them had a true desire to tests Gandalf’s wrath.
“I am going to get them for this,” Aragorn muttered as he plunged his sword to the chest of an Orc that had managed to climb over the wall. “Each and every one of them. And they had better be alive after this!” If Aragorn hated something more than worrying for ones he cared deeply about, it was being left behind. And right now, he felt very much like an outsider…
Legolas spun around, killed a Man, then rolled down to the ground to avoid Thalión’s powerful strike. He rose again to deliver his own assault to an Orc that had crept behind the Cousin’s back. His body was shaking slightly, of excitement and weariness. It was not like he had seen Men shake in battle, but somehow he could connect his own state with that of exhausted Men. Yet Legolas was nowhere near a need to stop. He could go on for hours still, before he would have to look at his state critically and find a way to be able to rest.
Collecting his thoughts again, knowing he would endanger both himself and his companions by straying too far from battle, Legolas swung around to deliver a lethal blow to an enemy he knew was there. When he thrust his knife through the Easterling’s chest, another blade sank through from the opposite side. Lifting his gaze, Legolas met the grey gaze of one of the Peredhil twins.
“Elladan,” Legolas nodded to the other.
“How can you always tell us apart so easily?” Elladan pouted and yanked his sword free, allowing the dead Man fall to the ground between them.
“Practise,” Legolas smirked, then dashed forward. Elladan bent in half, allowing Legolas to roll over his back to meet another opponent. “Besides, Elrohir never does that with me,” Legolas chided as he turned to wink at Elladan.
“True enough,” Elrohir joined them, eyeing Legolas for a moment. “You know, you can drop it. We all know you are not that cheerful.”
Legolas’ eyes lost their mirth, but the smile remained. “Perhaps so, but at least allow me to enjoy the pleasure of faking it.”
“Youths!” Dínnor roared, throwing a spear snatched form someone through the form of an Uruk-hai that had been creeping closer to the three. “Would you mind to pay attention?” the eldest Cousin commented as he passed by, Asthaldo on his heels. “We are at war here.”
“Aye,” Elladan laughed, and moved to follow the two.
The Elves drew together, saluting each other and then took their places to fight their way forward again. Absorbing each other’s fighting styles and preferences, they switched places and rotated once in a while, so one would not tire more than another.
“I might say you are doing pretty well,” Khai noted as she took her place beside Legolas, defending the back of their companions, who in turn attacked the enemies with determined accuracy.
“And you believe in what you see?” Legolas replied darkly. He refused to look at his friend.
“I do, when I do not dare to look closer,” Khai noted. “I am not alone with that opinion. Promise me that once this fight is over, you and Rafél shall talk over it all. And then perhaps you might talk to us. We need to know – something.”
Legolas nodded, his eyes focused on the fight. He knew that one wrong thought could lead to a fatal mistake, but all he could think of was the Elf hanging on that wooden cross. As much as it pained him, Rafél had been right: he should have pushed back from their bond in time. Now the agonising moments kept repeating themselves in his mind, filling him with anger barely kept in control. Losing self-control can be just as bad as giving up altogether, Legolas knew, and forced his mind to concentrate only to the blades in his hands, the enemy, and how to kill his next opponent…
“Legolas,” drifted Thalión’s voice from the head of the group, and Haldir moved to protect Legolas’ blind side as the Elf moved to look at the Cousin. The younger Sindar’s heart jumped when he realised they were just beside the cross. All caution fled from Legolas’ mind as he rushed past his friends, killed four Men standing on his path and stopped before the sight he both loved and dreaded.
Sheathing his twin-blades, Legolas carefully lifted his hand to his guardian’s face. “Rafél…” he whispered with a small, broken voice. The smell of blood and pain assaulted his senses, making his fury flare yet again.
The brown eyes opened slowly, gazing at the sight before them in disbelief. A small, sad smile tugged Rafél’s bloodied lips. “What took you so long?” he asked with a hushed voice when the rest of the Elves reached them.
“You know, there was this little hindrance of several thousand Easterlings…” Asthaldo explained.
Rafél smiled at the joke. Asthaldo – and probably Shannai – were the only ones able to joke in a situation like this, and still be believable. Legolas’ hand pressed lightly against his chest, above his heart, as if trying to keep it beating. Rafél tried to remain still, knowing every movement would cause more pain and tear the wounds even more. Yet, he did not hesitate when Legolas suddenly leaned upwards and sealed their lips together. The kiss was one of despair and fear, and the older Elf would have wanted it to be otherwise, but for a moment, he would have to give in for Legolas’ needs.
“I thought I lost you,” Legolas whispered when he drew back. When he looked up at Rafél, there were tears in the blue eyes.
“Did you ever look into your heart to know for sure?” Rafél asked softly. When Legolas shook his head, a sad smile passed his features. “Then you knew all along that I lived.”
“I feared for the answer,” Legolas gasped, pushing away the wetness on his cheeks.
“As much as I would love to watch the two of you until the world ends,” Dínnor interrupted, “we have to get Rafél free and ourselves back to the citadel.”
“Defend us; I shall help him free,” Thalión stepped forth from his place in the battle, Dínnor immediately moving to replace him. Thalión was an archer, and knew best how to deal with these injuries.
They were hard pressed from all sides, but while this close to their goal the Elves had decided not to lose. Legolas watched the fight go on, but was relieved that he was not ordered to join to the battle. He turned back to the two Elves beside him, moving his hands to support Rafél’s body when Thalión grasped the first arrow.
“I am afraid this will hurt,” Thalión muttered as he prepared to snap the shaft with a knife in his hand, and the arrow in the other.
“Just get me rid of them,” Rafél hissed, and made no further sound, as the arrow was cut in half between his body and the cross. This was not maybe the best way to do this, but there was no time for more careful measures. Thalión worked all the arrows like this, yanking them free as they were cut loose from the wood, then helped Legolas to lower Rafél to the ground.
Rafél groaned when his feet touched the solid earth, leaning heavily against his companions.
“Take your time,” Thalión encouraged. “We have very little time, and I do not think that binding your wounds would do much good.” Elven healing would deal with the bleeding until they got back to the Deep.
Legolas pressed his face to the other’s neck, closing his eyes. He allowed his fëa to touch Rafél’s again, feeling the hidden joy of the other’s soul. With a smile, he allowed his power to drift forth, giving strength to Rafél as he had once given him. For a while, the older Elf tried to deny his attempts, but in the end surrendered to his fate and welcomed Legolas’ advances.
“Alright, little one, I am ready,” Rafél whispered after a moment, pulling himself to his full height. He gently pushed Legolas’ fëa back, his hand tracing the Prince’s face slowly. Thalión stepped back, and for a moment, none of them remembered they were in the middle of a fight.
“Time to get going, then,” Legolas smiled, his hand closing around the hilt of his blade.
“Wait,” Rafél said suddenly, his hand stilling Legolas’. Seeing the confusion in the other’s eyes, he leaned down to kiss the lips he had yearned for. Legolas shifted closer to him, the trembling hands clutching onto him as hard as they dared. Rafél knew they both would be smeared with his blood, but he did not care the slightest when the pure delight rushed through him. There had been a time, not long ago, when he had feared he would never see Legolas again – not before they would meet in the Halls of Mandos. As his fears vanished before the burning love, Legolas kissed him back with equal favour, allowing their spirits to join for a moment.
The sounds of battle grew more hectic, and reluctantly, Rafél drew back. Legolas’ hand shifted beneath his, making him fold his fingers around the hilt of one white knife. “You will need it,” Legolas told his guardian matter-of-factly. Rafél nodded and unsheathed the familiar weapon.
“If we are ready to go…” Elrohir coughed, looking at them with a slight blush on his blood-stained face.
Legolas nodded, his free hand taking Rafél’s. “One more time, Edhil,” he raised his voice, to encourage the others. Various battle-cries followed, making the enemies step back in alarm.
But soon it was clear that it was not the Elves they were stepping back from.
An eerie silence fell upon one half of the battlefield, and the dark ones cowered back as if in fear. Behind the enemies, something was approaching, and the Elves felt their hearts grow cold. Like a freezing breeze of winter, it pained their souls.
“What is it?” Elladan asked.
Everyone but Legolas shook their heads. He stood with his eyes wide, watching the enemies part to allow a lone rider come through upon a great black horse. It was not a Dark Rider, though all clad in black. Rafél’s arms tightened around his body, and he could feel blood seeping through where his clothes were cut or broken.
The rider stopped before the sunned Elves, regarding them coolly. His features were completely hidden to the shadows of his hood, but all of them could tell he was smiling. Orcs and Uruks came nearer, whereas the Men drew back in terror.
Rafél shifted Legolas behind his body, blocking direct view to the rider.
“That will not help you this time, Guardian,” the smooth voice of the dark one informed him.
With a fluid movement of his hand, the enemy stirred the air around him. Something like shadows erupted out of nowhere, hitting the standing Elves like a giant wave of the sea. They all fell to the ground, unmoving and their eyes closed, only Legolas and Rafél remaining where they stood.
Neither of them demanded to know what had happened.
Rafél had seen dark magic used before, in it rawest form, but had thought all who possessed the skill to wield Morgoth’s power were long gone. He drew a dragged breath, feeling the rest of his barriers go down. He was too weak to fight this one.
The rider guided his steed forward, his gaze fixed on the two Elves. Legolas stepped from behind Rafél even if the older Elf tried to stop him. Rafél cursed beneath his breath, feeling the dark presence of the other eat away the remains of his strength. He fell to his knees on the ground, watching in growing horror as the dark one leaned to place his pale fingers on Legolas’ forehead.
Legolas flinched away, but not enough to dislocate the other’s touch. “Perfect. Such fear,” the dark one praised. Legolas’ eyes darkened in surreal anger, and the enemy allowed a soft chuckle pass his lips. “So defiant… And so ours,” he finished, his fingers twitching. Legolas’ eyes grew wide, and he collapsed to the ground, eyes growing entirely black before they slowly slid close.
An Orc rushed forward, stripping the unconscious Elf of his weapons and then gently lifted the limp form to his arms, presenting Legolas like a sacrificial to the dark one. The rider took the unresponsive Elf onto his horse, covering the lean form with his cloak. The hooded face turned to look at Rafél, the voice silky and pure as he spoke again. “You have done well, Guardian. After all the…unfortunate event you have come across, believe me, you have done your very best. But today, it was not enough.”
With that, the horse turned and he rode back the way they had come. In the distance, shrill cries of the Nine Riders echoed. The army moved to fill the space immediately, but none dared to approach the area where the Elves lay. Shadows lingered there, and Rafél knew the immense feel of darkness kept even the Orc away. It did not make him feel any better, though, and with a cry of despair, he drove his bloody fist to the ground and succumbed to the darkness, too weary to resist.
Before the army, near the Deeping Wall, Tzórag’s eyes narrowed as he watched the dark rider do his business and leave. This had been unexpected, but then again, so were always the affairs of this one. Deciding his work here was done – he would not waste his time here in Rohan when seemingly the true events were now taking place elsewhere. He could deal with the King of men later. With a loud cry on his own language, Tzórag commanded his army to pull back.
He was very interested to hear what she could tell him of all this…
to be continued…