And Moon Rides High
*Movie-verse. Taking place just as the TTT ends.
*Sequel to "When Day Comes Down," a short story of Aragorn's despair after the Battle of Helms Deep. This story belongs to the elf. This is Legolas' perspective the day after the battle. Overlaps in time and event with "When Day Comes Down," but it is its own story. Followed by "The Answer is in Dawn," Éowyn's story.
*Disclaimers: Not mine, and I'm not making any money. And that's sad for me, but fair enough I guess.
~"Let this be the hour when we draw swords together. Fell deeds await. Now for wrath. Now for ruin. And the red dawn!"
Part I: Sunrise
When Swords are Sheathed
As he walked among the dead, the bloody ground passing slowly beneath hesitant feet, Legolas had never known such turmoil of thought. What was one to make of a scene such as this? When the innocent and the evil alike lay still and cold beneath rising sun, when mortal and immortal had fallen together in the bitter watches of black sky?
The sun had come to them, finally, but Legolas feared it too late, feared they would all walk in darkness for the remaining days of Middle Earth, in sorrow and grief and desperation.
At his side, his fingers still twitched restlessly, as if they had so long plucked and hurled arrows that his hands could not comprehend the finish to the unending killing. The unending dying.
He had been of some use in the fighting. He knew how to do battle. He understood it. What he did not know was how to face the aftermath, once the swords were stilled and the arrows grounded deep in their targets.
Death. It was a foul thing indeed, and despite the long ages of his life, he'd never imagined it in such mass. He'd seen death. Yes. Had been touched by it before, but even in the beginning of the quest, it had been so unfamiliar, so uncommon and unnatural to him, as he watched the world fall away beneath Gandalf. As Aragorn had knelt over the broken body of Boromir, kingly head bent in defeat and grief.
He still did not understand it, not really. Not in the way Aragorn seemed to. There was, however, a new gnawing of loss in his chest; loss of friends, loss of innocence, loss of peace, and loss of hope, and he would have gladly paid any price to have foregone this novel and vulgar feeling.
He watched now as Aragorn kneeled beside the dying, grasping their hands in his, giving them words of thanks for their valor and their honor, looking into their eyes so that they would not go alone back into the darkness. Theoden, Gandalf, and even Gimli were doing the same, and he saw the cost of it on their faces, in the tremble in their hands.
He did not know what words to give the dying, or what words would ease the ones who mourned them. He was unsure of the appropriate words to say over the dead. He did not know anything at all, felt unfamiliar in the role of ignorance. It frustrated and frightened him, for he had little doubt that he was about to learn such lessons.
He had never given much thought to dying, nor to losing those he cared for. Had never had reason to. He did not fear death so much for himself, but he was coming to feel the bone-deep dread of parting from those he cared for, of watching them suffering, of watching them stilled for all eternity, of walking away without them.
He looked back at Aragorn and Gimli. They both bled from wounds they had suffered. And his love for them both, however great, however strong, however enduring, would do nothing to save their lives should they spill too much of that blood.
Aragorn seemed to have bet set upon by the very teeth of despair when morning revealed the sins of the dark. Legolas watched the last hope abandon the tall Ranger as he went from one dying boy to the next, watched his empty, great eyes as he rose to help the next one pass from the world. It was as if all the years of evil had been set upon the man who would be King, as if his sorrow and his helplessness had bent his shoulders in the space of a sunrise.
Aye, Legolas knew the sorrow and the helplessness, too. That he understood. But death had taken him much differently than it seemed to take Aragorn.
He felt as if he had been turned to ice, as if rage had boiled to such heat in his veins that it had circled back to a deep freeze. Wrath was frozen within his body, expanding and pushing outward until he thought that he might shatter directly down his center, into thousands of sharp, brittle pieces.
He was furious and there was no longer an enemy to strike down, and there was no one to answer to this pointless destruction. This madness. He walked the battlefield of men, and he hated them for living and for dying and for being weak and mortal. He hated man for allowing this evil to endure, to wake anew.
And he hated himself more for caring that they fell so easily, for fearing the knowledge that Aragorn's blood ran the same color as that which stained his hands and the ground below him.
He stayed on the fields as Aragorn went forth to the infirmary where the wounded had been taken. Legolas had never learned much of medicine and had already shown himself to be incapable of comforting the dying or the living. He was of no use anywhere, not in the company of the grieving, not in the company of the wounded.
Éowyn met Aragorn on the steps of the keep, and from far down below, Legolas watched as the White Lady took Aragorn into her arms, clinging to him tightly. He hoped Aragorn found some comfort in the embrace, but as he watched his friend's bowed head as he stepped away and continued, Legolas knew he had not.
"He needs you, Arwen," Legolas said softly. "I think we all do." He closed his eyes as a warm wind whispered over him.
At least Aragorn was still alive to try and find comfort where he might, Legolas thought, and that was enough. He went back to burying the dead. This he could do and do well, breaking the earth with shovel, striking at it again and again in redundant fury.
He kept at it for some time. At last, Éomer lay a hand on his shoulder, startling him out of his mindless assault upon dust and rock. "You have need of food and drink. Come with me, Legolas, take some now."
"Nay. I could not let food pass my lips after such a day," Legolas shook his head. "I have no desire or will to eat."
"We have a long, hard road ahead, Master Elf. We must keep our strength for the two Kings. They will look to us for encouragement."
And so it was that Éomer convinced Legolas to walk back to the keep with him and Gimli, and so it was that Legolas' sharp eyes caught the glint of sunlight off of gold and mithril armor at the base of the fallen wall. And learned where many of the Elven dead had fallen after the wizard's devilry had undone the stone.
They were scattered and broken along the inside of the ruin, beautiful and terrible even in death. The orcs that had been on the battlement had fallen with them, and many were tangled with the elves in a profane last embrace. Something in seeing them there, as such, seeing the filth that the Uruk-hai left upon the fair, still faces of his kindred, seeing the twisted, horrible faces of the monsters cheek to cheek with the Lady's warriors was finally more than Legolas could bear.
He paused, staring, even as Éomer and Gimli continued on.
He felt parts of himself coming undone, felt the ice melt away completely, as anger, in its hottest and purest form, came flowing through him like the fire rivers of Mount Doom. All the world seemed to go red before his eyes, and revenge and bloodlust filled him anew. Yes, he understood battle.
Never before had emotions taken him over so completely, not even when he'd been very young. Vaguely, he wondered if this was what it felt like to go mad.
He felt the rocks and rubble crunch beneath his flying feet as he ran to the place the fallen elves lay and with a raw cry of war he began dragging at the lifeless bodies of the armored orcs, determined that they should not touch his brethren. He would not have these soldiers of Lorien, some of whom he had known for thousands of years, dirtied by drying orc blood. They had survived battles with worthier foes than these.
The Uruk-hai were too heavy for one to move alone, and yet he did so, clawing and kicking at them, and screaming, though he was unaware he produced the wild shrieks he heard as if from a great distance.
The full knowledge of death came down upon him, and he thought he would break beneath it.
He had no concept of how long he'd been tearing at the orcs, trying fruitlessly to drag them away, but he became aware of other voices, shouting his name, became aware that there were hands upon him, pulling, tugging, half-lifting, and dragging him backwards, away. His split fingertips stretched still toward the fallen and his voice had gone hoarse, but he continued to howl.
He was placed upon the ground and pinned there. He struggled wildly, though he did not know why, kicking and twisting hard for several long minutes. He yelled and thrashed in fury and in vain as a heavy weight placed itself across his chest and he at last was forced to lie still or lose his breath.
When he opened his eyes, hot tears ran from the corners of them, tears that he had unknowingly been shedding since he touched the broken elves. Legolas gasped for air, as one who has just woken from nightmare of suffocation. His heart crashed repeatedly into the front of his chest, as if in flight from the agony centered there. Overhead, birds of carrion wheeled and dove.
It was Gimli who pinned him down hard to the rocks, Gimli who now looked at him with pity.
"We will have them tended to, Lad. They will be treated with honor." Gimli assured him, and though he was older than Gimli by ages, Legolas took comfort from his authoritative tone and fatherly concern.
"I have regained my senses," Legolas murmured at last in a shaky voice. "Let me to my feet."
Gimli got up and extended a hand down to the elf to help him stand. Legolas surprised him by accepting it. Éomer stood away, eyes downcast as Legolas pulled his dignity back around him.
At last they started toward the keep again, but Legolas knew that he would not eat now, if there had been hope of it before. He still desired to escape the fields for a brief time, to gather his thoughts and try to find his peace.
As the blood faded from his head and the rushing of it left his ears he became aware of a faint, distressed cry from the direction where the elves lay. He looked to his companions, but neither Gimli nor Éomer seemed to hear anything amiss.
It was a voice. A young voice, crying out from the wreckage. There was life. There was life in the carnage. Weak, but persistent. Without warning, Legolas again started toward the walls.
"He has gone mad!" He heard Éomer shout. "He has come apart from his senses!"
There were six dead men of Rohan between Legolas and the boy underneath, but he quickly moved them aside. Even as he heard Gimli and Éomer running to drag him away again, he was reaching down through the dead and his hands touched warm flesh, and a small hand came from below to grasp his arm tightly.
"Do not leave me here, Sir! Do not leave me!" The weak voice begged.
As his friends reached him, Legolas pulled the boy, a boy of no more than ten summers, free from those who had put their bodies between him and death.
The child sobbed in his arms and latched himself tightly about Legolas' neck with encouraging strength.
"There, young one," Legolas whispered, "you are well. You are well. It is over, child. You have fought bravely and you are safe now."
Legolas hurried to the infirmary, the boy weeping in his arms, and Gimli and Éomer followed.
"A child Aragorn! This boy has survived!" Legolas called, breaking the harsh silence of the sick house. Aragorn straightened from the man he'd been tending and came forth hurriedly, as did Éowyn. Legolas saw Aragorn's speculative eyes pause upon his face, his expression full of instantaneous understanding of what Legolas had seen, but the Ranger said nothing, and his eyes slid to the boy.
"I know this child! This is Haleth! Where did you find him?" Aragorn asked incredulously, checking the child. "He looks as if he has nothing worse than a few scratches."
"I found him under the bodies of the warriors, who perished protecting him," Legolas answered softly so that the boy might not hear the words over his own sniffling.
"He has been spared!" Éowyn cried and reached for the boy, who Legolas reluctantly parted with. Something in feeling that steady heartbeat against his own had been reassuring after the stillness of the world this day.
Aragorn moved to stand by Éowyn, reaching out to take the child's face between his hands, sweeping the boy's tears away with his thumbs. "You are very brave, Haleth. And the battle has been won. You see, there is always hope, and against the odds, you have lived out the night. Let us care for you now and you may then rest. You have earned it."
He nodded to Éowyn, encouraging her to take the dazed child to an empty bed, and for a moment Legolas thought that perhaps Aragorn's hope was restored. But he caught Aragorn's eyes after the child was carried away, and understood then that his words of encouragement had been to ease the boy, and that he took no assurance himself.
He glanced at Legolas. "Such horrors for a boy to endure," he said bitterly. "He is too soon made a man."
"But he is alive," Gimli reminded him quietly as Aragorn turned back to the dying men.
"He is among the few," Aragorn called back, shaking his head, as if in great bewilderment.