by Argenteus Draco

Fatshe leso lea halalela

(This land of our ancestors is holy)

Fatshe leso lea halalela

(This land of our ancestors is holy)

With the battle won, new work was begun on the walls of Helm's Deep. Elves, Men and Dwarf labored side by side, removing rubble, treating the wounded, and clearing the rest of the dead. All of them worked silently, lost in their own thoughts.

All of them except a young she-Elf standing alone on the eastern wall. When Merkanárë WildFlame had left Lothlórien with her brother, she hadn't dreamed the day would end the way it had. But then again, she hadn't known her people would be marching to war when she returned home. No one had. Not even Haldir, who she had always been able to turn to for answers.

A fresh tear slid down her face as she thought of him. Baby, she scolded herself, standing here crying when you should be helping the others. It's what he would have done. But thinking of what his actions would be only brought on more tears, falling down her otherwise flawless face to land where her hands rested on the wall. She tried to stop herself crying, even though she knew it was useless, and that, she was almost shamed to admit, she didn't want to. Haldir had been more than her brother; when they'd been growing up, he'd been more like her best friend. He'd taught her everything she knew about fighting and weaponry. He'd comforted her when things went wrong. You have a right to tears. Yes, that would have been what he'd say if he saw her crying there. It's all right, you can cry.


The leaves have fallen

This shadowed land

This was our home

And she would have leaned into his shoulder, and cried. Because he made her feel safe. Because even though she'd loved all her brothers with all her heart, it had always been Haldir she was closest to. That was why she'd followed him there, to Helms Deep, when she knew he'd rather see her safe in Lorien.

"Stay here, Kaná," he'd told her. "Rúmil will look after you; he's already promised he would."

"No," she replied firmly. "If you march, I march."

"This isn't your war," he bent his bow and placed a new string on it, pulling it taut.

"Nor is it yours, Haldir."

"I go because it's my duty. Your duty is to your captain, not to me." He started to walk away then, but Kaná caught his arm, preventing him from moving.

"Faramir gave me no orders to stay here; he knows I may receive other duties. While I am here, you are my captain. I won't let you march alone." Kaná released his arm; her fawn-brown eyes held his blue ones for a long moment, during which neither of them said anything. Finally, Haldir broke the silence.

"Get your bow," he said, "and a spare bow-string. Bring at least double the supply of arrows you usually do, more if you can carry them." He handed her the dark green cloak he'd been about to put on himself. "Take this, I have my red one," he added when she opened her mouth to protest. "And I hope you know I'm only doing this because we don't have the time to argue."

She threw the cloak over her shoulders, and lifted her hood against the rain she knew was coming. "I know."

The river's dry

The ground has broken

So I must go

Now I must go

The company assembled outside, near the glade that held the mirror. Kaná stood next to her brother as Galadriel addressed them, fingering the pendant the lady had given her years ago, when she'd first set out for Gondor.

"You carry with you more than just the hopes and prayers of those you leave behind tonight. In the battle you go to fight lie the hopes of all of Middle-earth. Remember this as you stand on the battlements. Remember this when you are called upon to do your duty. Do not be troubled. Look around you, and remember what you see. Remember all of this, and I know you will do well."

"We will do our best by you, my Lady." Haldir spoke for the entire company in his reply.

Galadriel bowed her head – were there tears in her eyes? – and at a hand signal from Haldir, the company set out, following him out of the forest. Kaná marched just behind her brother, Orophin on her left, lost in her own thoughts. The farther they got from the forest, the more a darkness seemed to fall around Haldir. That was the best way to describe it really, a sort of darkness. She felt a need to warn him, but how could she warn him against something she didn't really know. It defiantly wasn't a feeling she was familiar with; she could only remember feeling something similar once before, around Boromir, before he'd set out for Rivendell. She was so deeply immersed in trying to figure out what it meant that it took her a moment to realize Orophin was talking to her.

"What?" she asked. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that."

"I said, I thought you were staying in Lorien, Kaná. I'm actually surprised Haldir let you come."

"The only reason I didn't tie her to a chair," Haldir's voice held tinges of both annoyance and tension, "was because we all know it's like murder to stop her doing something she has her mind set on doing. And we need all the help we can get."

"That's two reasons," Kaná pointed out.

"Be quiet, Kaná!" Haldir snapped. He looked over his shoulder at her and, noticing her slightly hurt expression, added, in a much calmer tone, "I'm sorry, I'm just-"

"Tense," Kaná finished for him. "I can tell. If you were a bow, you'd be able to shoot an arrow clear over to Valinor."

He smiled at her before he turned around again, but she could tell his heart wasn't really in it. Maybe he feels the darkness too.

And where the journey may lead me

Let your prayers be my guide

I cannot stay here, my family

But I'll remember my pride

Another two hours of marching brought the company to Helm's Deep. Had Kaná known what awaited her past the gates, she wouldn't have gone through. As it was, she pushed the feeling of foreboding back in her mind, and busied herself checking that the extra string she'd brought was still dry in its oiled case while Haldir spoke to the King of Rohan.

"I bring word from Elrond of Rivendell. An alliance once existed between Elves and men. Long ago we fought and died together. We come to honor that allegiance. We are proud to fight alongside men once more." Kaná looked around at those who had come with them as he spoke. A small smile touched her lips; fighting for a cause like theirs filled her with the same sense of pride.

Hand signals split the company into two groups, one going to the western wall, the other to the southern. Kaná and Haldir followed the group that positioned themselves on the south battlements, where the main rush would be met. And they waited.

They spent at least an hour standing on the wall waiting, and the feeling of darkness grew all the time. Kaná inspected those around her, trying not to think about it. Several young boys – they couldn't be older than 10 – stood along the wall, all wearing grim expressions, a few looking as though they were holding back tears. She couldn't say she blamed them entirely. Further down she saw a pair of elves, both of whom were wearing Lorien cloaks over their shoulders, although they couldn't possibly be from her home, who were arguing heatedly in Silvan. She couldn't catch most of it, but she defiantly heard something about "I can kill more Uruk-hai than you and the Dwarf put together." Haldir followed her gaze, and rolled his eyes.

"They were in Lothlórien not too long ago, if you're wondering about the cloaks," he explained. "And they'll be doing that all night."

"Eru, give me strength," Kaná muttered, half to herself.

"Give us all strength," Haldir added. "We'll need it."

Just then, the rain Kaná had known was coming all day started. A crack of lightning illuminated the sky, followed by the roar of thunder. She grouped in the darkness for her brother's hand, just like she had when she was five and storms had come to Lorien, while her other hand flew to the pendant that hung around her neck out of pure instinct. The gem at the bottom was glowing a steady red - enemies approaching. She let go of Haldir, and brought her bow up, putting an arrow to the string. Haldir did the same, drawing back to his ear.

Another flash of lightning lit the sky, and showed, on the horizon, the approaching army of Uruk-hai. Kaná drew her bow, waiting, aware of dozens around her doing the same.

Please, Eru, she prayed, protect us all. See us safely though the night.


My land


Dry land

Take this

Take this prayer

With you

What lies ahead?

Fatshe leso

Kaná knew it took only minutes for the Uruk-hai army to reach them, but those minutes seemed to stretch into hours. She felt sweat forming on her forehead, and she was gripping the arrow so hard her knuckles were turning white. Doing her best to take deep, calming breaths, Kaná waited, listening for orders.

The Uruk-hai stopped not thirty feet from the wall. Kaná picked a target among the first row, focusing entirely on the shot. She formed a void in her mind, the way Haldir had taught her, feeding all her fear, worry, and the darkness she'd sensed since leaving into it. She was barely aware when an older man down the line loosened his arrow early, but she did hear the order to hold. As if from far away, she saw the Uruk-hai charge, and she heard the order to shoot. Almost as soon as the first arrow was gone, she had another one to the string, pulled back to her ear, and another shot selected.

"Fire!" Aragorn's shout rang through the void. The arrow flew from the string, hitting its mark. A third flew before Kaná had even registered that no order had been given.
"Pick your shots carefully, Kaná!" Haldir cried. "Don't shoot unless you're sure of your mark!"

Kaná didn't even bother to answer him; she wasn't sure she trusted her voice at the moment. She'd shot three more Uruk-hai before the cry of ladders cut the air. Haldir drew his blade, facing the rushing Orcs with a grim expression on his face. Kaná angled her bow downward, choosing a shot from the Uruk-hai climbing the ladder. Two fell before they reached the top of the wall, the last continued climbing with an arrow stuck in its shoulder. Beside her, Haldir was slashing at the Uruk-hai who made it over; she caught the flashes of the blade out of the corner of her eye.

Then the wall to her right exploded, throwing men and rubble everywhere. Uruk-hai poured inside the ruined wall. Screams filled the air, but she barely heard them.

"Fall back to the keep!"

"We can't hold them!"

"Kaná, fall back to the keep!" Her brother's voice finally broke through the void. She turned to follow Haldir, looking over her shoulder every few steps to take another shot. Then she felt the darkness that had been growing all night suddenly close in. And she knew, somewhere deep in her heart, what it was. She turned around again in time to see Haldir take down an Uruk-hai that had stabbed him in the arm.

"Haldir, behind you!" she cried, seeing what he couldn't. He didn't hear her, he was staring at the wound as though in disbelief. As if in slow motion, she saw an Uruk-hai come up unseen behind him and slash him in across the back of his neck. "HALDIR!" Kaná ran to her brother's side and caught him as he fell. She heard someone scream; it wouldn't be until later that she realized it had been her.

Someone, a girl, judging by her voice, grabbed her by the shoulders. "Come on, back to the keep, lets go!"

Kaná didn't respond, just clutched harder to her brother's lifeless body. The hands on her shoulders tried to pull her away. "Come on! You can't stay here! Damn it, Aragorn, come help me!"

A second pair of hands gripped her arms, pulling her away, guiding her back to the keep. No! she screamed inside. No, I can't leave him! I can't!

And where the journey may lead you

Let this prayer be your guide

Though it might take you so far away

Always remember your pride

Kaná allowed herself to be led back into the keep. The girl who had tried to pull her away first took the place of Aragorn, leading her to an area where another girl, long blond hair pulled up in a knot at the back of her head, was sitting, tending a long gash in the shoulder of the elf she'd heard arguing earlier. Both of them looked up when the pair approached.

"Picking up strays, Celeb?" Legolas asked. He winced as the girl started winding a bandage around the wound. "Not so tight, Cassie, that hurts."

"If you held still it wouldn't hurt as much," Cassie replied. She pulled a pin from her hair and used it to secure the material before she looked up. "Who's your friend?" Cel shrugged her shoulders, so Kaná answered for her.

"Merkanárë WildFlame." She was surprised by the calmness of her voice.

"Are you hurt? I have medicines if you are," Cassie said.

"I'm fine."

"You don't sound fine," Legolas got up, putting a hand to the bandage on his shoulder.

"I told you, I'm fine!" Kaná regretted the words almost as soon as they were out of her mouth. The three Elves stared at her. She took a deep breath to steady her voice, and then added. "I should be with my people."

Kaná walked away, afraid to turn around and look at them again. She didn't seek out the other members of her company though, but tucked herself away in a dark corner of the keep, with her knees pulled up to her chest, and buried her head in her arms and cried. She wasn't sure how long she sat there, just like she had as a child, when Haldir had always been there to comfort her. Only he wasn't here this time. She wasn't crying with him, she was crying for him.

Some time later she became aware of someone watching her. She lifted her head, to see Legolas. His clear blue eyes regarded her with a look of concern and sympathy. "I've been looking for you," he said quietly. "We've won. I thought you should know." Kaná didn't say anything. Legolas rose, and stared into the distance half lost in his own thoughts. "They're starting to build funeral pyres for the dead; there isn't time to bury them. I just thought you should know."

Kaná stood up, wiping her eyes on her sleeve. "Thank you for telling me. I should be there." To honor him. He'd have done the same for me, not sat around crying like a little child.

As if guessing her thoughts, Legolas met her eyes, and said, "He died nobly. They all did."

Kaná nodded, and Legolas made to leave with a muttered apology. So Kaná moved on alone toward the doors that would lead out of the keep. At the base of the wall, a makeshift platform had been erected out of tables and other wooden objects that could be replaced at a later date. The dead were being placed along it in rows. Those who weren't helping to place the bodies stood around the platform, some crying, others joining together in lament. Kaná felt the words form on her lips, but wasn't really aware of speaking them. Near the end of the platform she spotted Orophin. The left sleeve of his tunic was badly ripped, and he had a small gash on one cheek, but he seemed all right otherwise. When he saw Kaná, a slight smile touched his lips, though it didn't quite spread to his eyes.

"Merkanárë," he sounded sad, and there was a touch of something else she couldn't name in his voice. "Haldir is… he's…"

"Dead," Kaná finished. "I know. I was there." She cast her eyes downward, suddenly unable to look at her brother. "He died in my arms." Both of them lapsed into silence then, finding nothing else to say.

When the fires were lit, Kaná averted her eyes again; she just couldn't watch it. They waited in silence, the breeze and the soft voices of those around them the only sound. When the flames died down, leaving only ashes and a small wisp of smoke, Orophin broke the silence.

"His journey will end here," he turned to look at Kaná, "But I feel yours is just beginning."

She looked up at him, question in her eyes, but he said nothing further on the subject. "I need to assemble the rest of the company. Merkanárë, are you all right? Do you need anything?"

"No," she said quietly. "I… I just need to think."

Orophin put his hand on her shoulder for a moment, searching her eyes, before turning and walking off. Kaná looked around, realizing that only two other people remained by the pyre, both of whom were crying to themselves, paying no heed to the Elven girl who stood there. Quietly, Kaná bent down and picked up a handful of ashes. They felt slightly warm to the touch, as did the tears that had been flowing down her face without her realizing.

And where the journey may lead you

Let this prayer be your guide

Though it might take you so far away

Always remember your pride

Kaná had wandered aimlessly around the keep for ten minutes after that, barely hearing the voices of those around her, looking for a quiet place where she could be alone with her thoughts. She finally stopped on the eastern wall. The sun had started to rise an hour ago; it still turned the trees and clouds a bright, vivid red. Slowly, her tears stopped. The light was more orange than red when she finally felt able to do what she'd come to the wall for in the first place.

Slowly, she uncurled the fingers of her right hand, feeling the light morning breeze lift the ash and carry it away. It was what he would have wanted. She knew that. To have all of Middle-earth at his feet, just waiting to be explored. As she watched the trail being led away by the wind, a snatch of song escaped her lips. Barely more than a whisper, she probably wouldn't have recognized her own voice if she'd heard it at a later time.

"And where the journey may lead you

Let this prayer be your guide

Though it might take you so far away

Always remember your pride."