A Few Leaves – Epilogue
Incredulous, Legolas stared at Eówyn. "He sleeps?" he repeated cautiously, wondering if he had misunderstood her. "He lives?"
Smiling, she nodded at him. "He lives," she told him. Then her face grew grave, sorrowful, again. "He is one of the few. So many of your kindred fell. I'm sorry, my lord Legolas – I grieve for your losses."
Slowly, he acknowledged her words. Yes, the elves of Lothlórien and Imladris had fought valiantly, but so too had the people of the Rohirrim. Yet they had still perished, falling like leaves in autumn. There had been too much death here to be grieved overmuch by one more, too much suffering to find joy in one survival. Yet despite that, he felt his heart lift a little at her words. "He lives," Legolas repeated again, seeking confirmation. The despair that gripped his soul, despite their so-called victory, eased a little. If even one of the elven host – unlooked for, unafraid – had survived, he no longer felt quite so alone. And when, at star-kindling, he sang the laments for the fallen, then Haldir would be with him, in spirit at least.
He dropped to his knees at Haldir's side, noticing the thickly swathed bandages around his torso, a tinge of blood staining the whiteness. He saw the shallow rise and fall of the chest, the faint pulse beat at Haldir's throat. He saw the closed eyes, though that was no longer so unusual. Legolas knew that he too had slept with eyes closed for at least the last two nights, pushed almost beyond endurance by exhaustion, battle fatigue, and grief.
Tentatively, he extended his senses to touch Haldir, wishing again that he had the skills of Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir. What he was able to find reassured him, and he realised that Haldir would indeed survive to return to the golden wood of Lothlórien. Finally he rose wearily, and smiled at Eówyn. "Thank you for your care of him, Lady Eówyn. You have fought your own battles this night, and done great deeds. These warriors will live to thank you."
She did not seem to agree, but acknowledged his words. "My thanks, my Lord. And what of your companions? Lord Gimli, and – and Lord Aragorn." A slight flush stained her weary, grimy face. "I have not seem then since the battle."
"Aragorn is unharmed," he reassured her. "And Gimli – " he stopped, realising he had not seen Gimli since riding out from the gates of the Hornberg. His friend had stayed behind, helping in the eradication of the orcs remaining in the keep. Knowing the dwarf, he would have been wherever the fighting was fiercest. Where was he now? "I have not seen him," he admitted. "I must seek him out – there is the small matter of a wager I have with him."
"Aye. On which of us could kill the most orcs. My final tally is ninety five. I doubt that he will better it!" He spoke lightly, both to hide his own concern, and to erase the strain he saw on her face.
In that, at least, he was successful. She smiled, then laughed. "You remind me of my brother and me," she told him. "I was always trying to compete with him, to keep up, no matter what he did. He must have found it intensely annoying, but was always patient with me. I knew I could never best him, but sometimes, just sometimes, he would let me win. Go, and find Master Gimli. I hope he is well."
"As I do," Legolas thought, as he left the caverns and the wounded. He returned to the wall, looking out over the coomb. He had already overseen the removal of the fallen elven warriors, and they lay together. The soil of this rocky fastness in the mountains was hard and stony, too harsh for elven warriors to rest in peace, although graves and mounds were being dug in the Deeping coomb for the children of Rohan. Instead, two pyres had been built – squat towers of wood, layered with straw from the stables, the whole drenched with oil. The elves from Lothlórien had been placed on one, those from Imladris on another. Pennants, signifying the houses and lineage of those slain, fluttered in the breeze.
At twilight, when the stars were kindled, Legolas would sing the laments and prayers to Elbereth and light the pyres himself. The task would have fallen to him in any case, as the elf of highest rank among them, but as it was, he was the only one left to perform the ceremony. He walked slowly down the causeway towards the towering pyres, looking at the pennants. He recognised far too many. There was one with an emblem of a swooping eagle – he had not even realised that Ashia's brother had been among the warriors from Lórien; now he too was dead, and they had not even spoken. Yet another link with the past had been broken.
At the foot of the slope, men of Rohan laboured to remove the last of the slain, sorting orcs and uruk-hai from elves and men. And there, sitting at ease on a fallen uruk, smoking, was Gimli. He looked remarkably unscathed, apart from a rough bandage around his head. He glanced up at Legolas, then jumped to his feet. "Forty two, Legolas! Forty two! How about you, laddie?"
Legolas stared at him for a moment, and came to a sudden decision. The game was unimportant, he was just relieved to see the dwarf in one piece. He bowed, hand to heart, feigning defeat. "Alas! You have passed my score by one," he replied. "But I do not grudge you the game, I am so glad to see you on your feet!"
Together, they worked with the remaining warriors and folk of Rohan to clear the dead. The orcs were heaped in great piles of carrion. "Leave them," Gandalf advised. "Let the orcs lie. We shall see what the morning brings."
The last fallen warrior was removed and laid with his comrades as dusk was falling. Then, as the first star appeared in the sky, Legolas began the lament for the fallen, a slow, haunting tune, full of grief and sorrow. His voice, soft and clear, cut through the thick twilight, and the Rohirrim paused in their tasks to listen.
Gimli felt once again that he did not know Legolas at all. He had changed from the cheerful companion of the quest, the steadfast warrior, to this fey, eerily beautiful, rather ethereal creature. He felt tears pricking at his eyes. Although he could only understand a few words here and there – his grasp of Sindarin was still sketchy – they seemed to cut into his heart.
There were no others to sing the counter-part, so Legolas sang the responses as well. As he drew near to the end, his voice rose in volume, the tone changing to a paean of joy and hope. "Sí na i veth naid bain." As Legolas paused momentarily, he heard behind him a weak, faint voice completing the final plea.
"Sîlo elin bo men lín." Turning, he saw Haldir, swathed in blankets and bandages, supported between Aragorn and Eówyn, at the top of the causeway. Aragorn swept Haldir into his arms and carried him to where Legolas stood, a lighted torch in his hand, ready to light the pyres. As Haldir was set on his feet once again, Aragorn steadied him, then stood back as Legolas and Haldir, holding the torch between them, touched it to the oil-soaked wood, igniting the pyres.
Flames caught and flickered, leaping into the windless air as the pyres burned.
Translations: Sí na i veth naid bain – Here at the end of all things.
Sîlo elin bo men lín – May the stars shine upon your road.