True to Legolas' words, both Elves were awoken an hour before dawn by a smirking Aragorn. When their eyes had cleared from the bleariness of sleep they both settled their gazes on the Man who crouched by their sides, his grey eyes gentle. Blushes immediately rose to their cheeks which caused Aragorn, and Gimli and Gandalf who stood by their own bedrolls, to grin. Kail grumbled something and twisted so that her head buried itself into her palms in a poor attempt to hide her blush while Legolas chuckled and patted her arm gently while lifting himself to a sitting position.
"Arise, my friends," Aragorn said, his cheeky smile still in place. He shifted to stand even as Kail let out a long groan of annoyance.
"I swear you guys have something against sleep," she mumbled moodily after a bout of chuckles. Sitting up beside the blonde Elf she immediately felt inadequate compared to his perfection. His hair, as always, was straight and without tangles whereas hers was bushy and puffed on the side she had lain on. His clothes looked like they had just been ironed and hers were littered with wrinkles despite the fact that they were Elven made. His eyes were bright and awake while hers were droopy and out of focus. All and all she looked like she had just been hit by a bus and given the worst noogie of her life and he looked good enough to be on the cover of a magazine.
Despite all this, he still slung and arm around her shoulders to lean in and place a warm kiss on her heated cheek causing her to smile. His other hand rose up to gently run his fingers through her matted hair and smooth out the tangles there. While their three companions went off to prepare for the journey, Legolas and Kail still sat on their bedrolls.
When her hair was free of knots her lover made quick work of putting a few braids in its dark tresses and when he finished he gave her another soft kiss on the cheek before standing and pulling her up with him. She stretched with a long yawn then bent to strap her weapons back on that she had removed the night before as she spoke to Legolas while he did the same.
"I think I'll check on Haldir before we leave so I can clear him to go back to Lothlórien with the other Elves. I'm pretty sure they can't wait to head home," she said as she fastened the buckle of her belt around her hips. Beside her Legolas gave a nod, but a grim look was on his lips.
"Indeed. They will be eager to return their fallen comrades to their families," he replied. Kail stopped for a moment in what she was doing to frown at the ground, her hands moving to fiddle with the bow and quiver of arrows that Haldir had given her in the heat of battle.
She remembered clearly the faces of all the dead Elves and men strewn about the walls and grounds of Helm's Deep. She tried to tell herself that that was what war was: death. People died for the right for freedom from evil and malice, but she still felt bad that she was unable to save them. She was only one woman and most of them died of wounds that would be untreatable in this time, but she still felt her heart clench with guilt. Legolas saw this and paused in his work of strapping his weapons to gather her into his arms in a gentle hug.
"Do not dwell on those that have passed, meleth nin," he whispered as she sighed sadly into his green clad chest. "Death is as much a part of life as life itself. Songs will be sung in lament of their time on Middle-Earth and indeed they will be mourned, but you must remember that it is not your fault. You cannot save everyone from death."
"I know," she mumbled against him. "I just wish there was more that I could have done to save them. All of them. At least then I could say that I tried."
She felt his hand gently run over her hair and his soft voice vibrate against her cheek. "You did try," he said softly, his hand pausing only for a moment to give her a reassuring squeeze on the back of her neck. "You fought in the battle just as fiercely as they." He tilted his head then to plant a long kiss on the crown of her head. "But, think no more of it, meleth nin. We will see more death before this war meets its end."
Nodding, Kail pulled herself out of Legolas' arms to plant a soft kiss on his lips before offering a smile to him that he returned. "I guess I'll just have to get used to death really fast then," she sighed then pulled herself completely from his grasp to strap Haldir's quiver to her back. Legolas tried his best to smile reassuringly at her, but he was afraid it did little good. As an Elf, he saw very little death and it pained him to see so many dead, but for Kail, who had told him of the medical miracles they could perform back in her world, it was hard to grasp. As well as the fact that she was a Healer, it was hard for her not to think she could have done more to save the lives of those who had fallen. He pitied her for it yet also understood that she would have to learn to accept it if she wished to survive the remainder of the war unscathed. He was more than willing to be there for her whenever she needed.
Quickly after readying herself, Kail made her way back to the Healing Ward to see Haldir. It was still early, but she hoped the Elf wouldn't be too angry with her disturbing his sleep. Upon entering the Ward she was met with deep snores of the Men occupying the rest of the room and smiled when she approached the March Warden of Lothlórien who lay motionless on his cot with a scowl on his flawless features. When she had reached his bedside, his blue eyes flew open to land on her and offered a weak smile.
"How are you feeling?" she asked gently as she moved to unwrap the bandage she had placed the night before.
"Better, though I do think I could have done with a little more rest," he replied. Just then a loud snore from one of the other patients was heard causing Kail to laugh at the frown that settled on the Elf's face. "I was awoken to that sound. I feared it was a Balrog."
When his bandages were removed, Kail used the cloth from the basin of water at his bedside to clean away the old Ethelas and take a look at his stiches. True to Legolas' word, Elves did heal quickly. What would have healed in a week for a regular Human had already taken place overnight for Haldir and Kail nodded in approval as she reapplied more of the icky paste to his wound and rewrapped it.
"It seems to be doing fine," she told him when she was done. "You'll be fit to head back to Lothlórien whenever you like. Just remember to take it easy and no galloping."
Haldir gave a tired smile. "Thank you, Lady Kail."
"It's just Kail. I think we know each other well enough by now," she said with a smile in return. "And it was no problem. Get some more rest if you can. I have to join the others to head to Isengard at dawn."
The blonde Elf gave a consenting nod. "Very well, Kail. I wish you the best of luck then. May the Valar be with you and your companions," he said, his hand rising to place itself over his heart. As Kail stood, she returned the gesture with a bow.
"And with you and yours."
Leaving the Healing Ward she rejoined her friends, the King, Éomer and their small company of soldiers in the throne room. Legolas greeted her with a tender kiss to her temple and handed her the reins to Hasufel before mounting Arod in front of Gimli. Gandalf, Aragorn and the two Rohanian royals offered her nods of greetings before she too mounted her chestnut steed and they were off.
Down the steps of Helms Deep they went, carnage from the battle being seen clearer in the light of day. Although Kail had witnessed it first hand and when she had rode in that early morning after it was over, seeing the women and children picking away at the mess and lamenting songs of their fallen family members tugged at her heart strings. Elves, those that had survived, helped the soldiers of Rohan retrieve their men and either brought them to the Healing Ward where they would be tended to or to the section of the castle that had been prepared for the dead to be wrapped and awaited to be buried or taken back to Edoras. Kail couldn't imagine herself as being one of the women hauling her mangled teenage son from a fallen beam, she couldn't imagine herself being the child that would wonder for the rest of her life why she did not have a father there to teach her what kinds of boys to avoid lest her heart be broken.
… She couldn't imagine pulling Legolas' lifeless form from the destruction of battle, those warm blue eyes that always glinted with hidden mischief or amusement staring up at the pale sky never seeing her again; those lips never kissing her again, those hands never holding her again…
She felt a sudden pain in her chest; the pain was so intense that her gaze was ripped from the sight around her as she squeezed them shut, forcing out hot tears as she hunched over in her saddle clutching at her chest. The feeling left her breathless, her heart quickening to a rapid pace and her limbs shaking. But as soon as the feeling had come, it passed, leaving her disoriented and confused. She gulped in the stale air greedily and her eyes slowly opened again only to stare at the black mane of Hasufel's neck as he lazily walked along with the rest of their small group.
Legolas' voice startled her and she gasped as she straightened in her seat. Turning her head the slightest bit to her right she found his and Gimli's concerned stares. Attempting to regain her composer, she offered a tense smile and let out a shaky breath. "I'm fine," she replied, but the lie of it sounded foul even in her own ears.
Both gave her disbelieving stares and she read the one on Legolas' face as clear as if he had spoken aloud. 'We will speak of this later' it said and she nodded, her lips forming a thin line. The Elf Prince returned the gesture before reaching across the distance between them, having to lean to the left in order to do so, and took her hand to give it a gentle reassuring squeeze then released it again and returned his gaze ahead of them. Kail let out a shaky sigh as she ran a trembling hand through her dark hair, her mind buzzing with the confusion on where such a sudden shock of pain had come from.
As she was an Elf, illnesses such as heart attacks were not possible, but that is what she believed it to feel like without the characteristic pain in her left arm. It seemed as if the most intense pain she could ever imagine had centered in one area, right where her heart beat steadily beneath her ribcage. Perhaps speaking with Legolas later would give her some insight.
The small company rode in silence as they descended the steps once more and picked their way through the dead marring the hard earth. Most of them were Uruks, their mangled corpses being more in abundance than the rare patches of brown grass beneath them bathed in blood from both sides, but there were also a few more of their own. Kail tried not to look at them for too long or else her depression would resurface and she'd feel the sting of guilt once again.
When they finally crested a hill Gandalf, who rode in the middle of the small company, came to a slow stop and the rest followed suit. Kail, who was sandwiched between Legolas and Gimli and Aragorn, lifted her gaze finally when the old Wizard began to speak. "Sauron's wrath will be terrible, his retribution swift," he said ominously. The Elf looked to the Wizard and the others, but when she saw their gazes were trained ahead of them over the plains, she followed their line of sight and had to hold back a gasp.
To the East were vast plains as far as her Elvin eyes could see, bare and desolate and seemingly void of life. Out of the corner of her eye she could still see a few mountains that came off of the same expansion where Helm's Deep had been carved out of and if she looked behind her she would have seen the great stone structure. But that wasn't what had her gasping.
Far across the plains was dark due to the great grey clouds that loomed overhead. Thunder boomed in the distance, but it did not sound like the regular thunder Kail was used to. This thunder was dark and menacing, if she could believe her ears, but that is what it sounded like to her. She had always been fond of thunderstorms, but this only sent a shiver of fear down her spine.
For this was no regular storm. Just beyond her sight was a dark mass, rising up from the ground in what she was sure was looming black mountains. An imposing red glow emanated just beyond its borders as if a great fire had been lit and burnt the world with its terrifying light. It was so bright that it shone right into the dark cluster of clouds above it, tendrils of itself piercing through the less thick masses as if they were veins running through them. Were it not for its immense size and brightness, Kail was sure that it would have been very hard to spot even with her improved eyesight, but that was not the case. The light coming from such a terrifying place seemed to even outshine the sun whose rays struggled to penetrate the heavy cloud cover.
Kail knew what this place was the moment her eyes landed on it; Mordor. Only a place as dark and foreboding as that which belonged to Sauron's Eye could have held such malice. She guessed the light was the direct byproduct of Mount Doom and the Eye itself for as with every rumble of thunder there came a bright flash of light as if a Volcano had just erupted and lightning struck endlessly.
"The battle for Helm's Deep is over," Gandalf continued, breaking Kail out of her thoughts. "The battle for Middle Earth is about to begin."
Kail was vaguely aware that her hands were shaking after Gandalf's words and she jumped slightly when a hand was suddenly placed over hers. She nearly cried out in surprise, but looked up in time to see Legolas giving staring at her, those wonderful blue eyes of his giving her comfort. She breathed a sigh of relief and nodded in thanks before he released her hand.
"All our hopes now lie with two little Hobbits… Somewhere in the wilderness." She looked over at the Wizard at this and could see the reverent smile on his lips and a twinkle in his eye. She could see as clear as day that Gandalf had the utmost confidence in Sam and Frodo. As nervous as she was about the two little beings fulfilling the quest, she decided that if Gandalf believed in them then so would too.
Everyone in the small company was silent after that and continued to stare at the looming threat of Mordor, but it wasn't long until Gandalf urged them on down the hill and back West towards Isengard, putting the red glow at their backs. Aragorn soon moved to the front to converse with Théoden, Éomer and Gandalf in hushed tones leaving the King's men in the middle of the company and the two Elves and Dwarf in the back. None of them said a word, but they all kept a sharp eye for any Uruks that may have escaped the battle at Helm's Deep or with the Ents. Luckily, they didn't run into any trouble at all and soon it was coming on to nightfall when they were called to a halt and dismounted to make camp for the night. They had foregone lunch, much to Gimli's displeasure, to cover more ground, but they had no want to travel at night when even the Elves' sight was greatly diminished.
Kail had just lain out her bedroll when a pair of hands were placed on her hips and a kiss was dropped to her shoulder. She smiled and twisted in Legolas' arms to wrap her own around his neck as she leaned forward to kiss his lips. His hands moved to the small of her back, applying pressure so they were closer together, their bodies pressed flush against one another. It was only a chaste kiss, nothing like the heated one they had shared the night before, but it still warmed Kail's chest and sent butterflies free in her stomach.
When they parted, she opened her eyes to see her Elf Prince grinning. "I have been waiting all day to kiss you again, meleth nin," he mumbled and placed another two kisses to both her cheeks as a blush turned them a dark shade of red. He really was too corny, but she loved him for it.
She couldn't help the slight giggle that escaped her as she ducked her head to avoid his intense gaze and instead placed her burning cheek against his chest and snuggled into him. "I'm not complaining," she said and he chuckled, the sound vibrating against her as she felt him place another kiss on the top of her head and one of his hands rose to pet at her long dark hair.
They stood like that for some time just listening to the others prepare their bedrolls and start a small fire for some dinner. But it was ruined when Legolas slowly pried her from his chest to hold her at arm's length. She pouted, but the moment she saw his stern glare she grew serious again. "What's wrong?"
"I should be asking you that," he said and Kail blinked in confusion. His one hand left her shoulder to brush a strand of her hair away from her face. "Does your wound trouble you?"
"My wound?" she asked, still confused, but then remembered the arrow to the thigh she had received at the banks of the Andúin River and she looked down at the offending limb. She wasn't sure how it was faring really; she hadn't checked it or redressed it for a few days now as her mind had been preoccupied. It's not like it had been giving her any trouble though. "Um, no, I don't think so."
Legolas gave her an exasperated look, something that reminded her of a father scolding a child. "Sit. I will tend to it for you," he ordered while pointing to her bedroll. Kail's brows rose to her hairline at this, but she decided it was no use arguing and plopped down onto the cloth obediently. Legolas held out his hand to her as he crouched much more gracefully at her side and she huffed before untying the small bag of Ethelas she had on her belt and handed it to him.
"You should not have neglected your injury, Kail," he scolded with a sigh as he began undoing the makeshift bandage on her leg. The female Elf rolled her eyes at her lover.
"I had more important things to worry about," she replied then hissed slightly when she looked down at the days old wound the bandage uncovered that was seen through the hole in her leggings. It didn't hurt or anything, but it wasn't a pretty sight either. The skin was puckered and still slightly red around a large angry scab that was still covered with flaking Ethelas mush.
"It does not look as if it is infected," Legolas commented as he gently brushed away the old Ethelas. "At least now you won't have wear a bandage." He tossed away the dirty strip of cloth over his shoulder then looked up at her as she gently prodded at the scab. "But if it was not your wound that caused you pain earlier then I must ask what did."
She paused in her prodding and looked up at the other Elf whose eyes shone with concern. She suddenly felt foolish about making Legolas worry so much and blushed again as she avoided his gaze. What was she supposed to tell him? That it felt like her heart had been torn to pieces just at the thought of him dead? And it wasn't figuratively either, it was real. It felt like she had been stabbed repeatedly for that split second, but that was ridiculous wasn't it? A thought couldn't cause physical pain, especially not to an Elf… could it?
She opened her mouth to reply, but they were then being called over by Aragorn to the fire. She cast Legolas an apologetic look and he nodded, disappointment showing on his features even as he stood and took her hand to help her up as well. She placed a tender kiss on his cheek when she was standing and squeezed his hand gently. "I promise I'll tell you later, ok?"
Legolas nodded and with his free hand he cupped her cheek and brought her closer to place another kiss on her forehead lovingly. "I will hold you to that," he mumbled against her skin and Kail smiled.
"I don't doubt it."
Oh my god I am so sorry to all of you faithful readers! Please don't shoot me! I know it's been a LOOOOONGGGG time since I updated, but I had huge writer's block and school and work and of course all my other things I always like to write on the side. I'm not going to lie and say I didn't get distracted, but I got my ass in gear and finished this chappy for you lovelies :) I hope you really enjoyed it and I wish I could say that the next one will be out soon, but I'm not sure if I can't keep that promise, but I will try. Thank you again to all of you for being absolutely WONDERFUL!
P.s. I'm sorry to those of you who have reviewed recently too and that I haven't answered; like I said it's been very hectic around here lately. But of course they are always MORE that welcome!