Sometimes wondering about my favorite fandoms makes for interesting tidbits
In the Beginning, There was Only One
Rain, mud, blood. He stood for a moment on the stone stairs and let the enormity of the night take him. So many of his contingent lay dead and dying among the men who had fallen. For a fatal second, he let his mind be overwhelmed by the battle raging around him.
Pain. Something cold and sharp slashed across his arm. Incomprehension held him as he stared at his wound and then at his assailant. Another warrior took the orc down and still he could not get his senses to stop reeling at the carnage around him, at the indifference of man and orc to the loss of life. The men here knew it was hopeless. He knew it was hopeless when he came. Yet, still they fought on for a final brief glorious moment in hell.
Agony. Struck from behind he knew he was a fool and that he was dying. The unseen weapon sliced through his armor, through his back and into his body doing unimaginable damage. For a brief moment, only the weapon killing him held him on his feet. Such pain. Such incredible pain. Then the metal was gone and he was falling. Odd, his eyes were still open, still processing what he saw. Then someone was touching him, pulling him out of the mud, holding him, yelling his name through the cacophony around them. He focused on the face above him. Aragorn.
Estil. Why did it have to be Estil who found him? Why did his death have to become such an immediate burden on Isuldur's heir? Vaguely he tried to smile, to soften this blow to the man who gave so much and would give so much more. Darkness took the careworn face from him. Black swallowed all sight, all pain, all thought. He was done.
Aragorn closed the sightless eyes of his friend and laid him down. There was no time for grief now, only anger and the need to kill more of the enemy. Two, three, four, five and more for every man and elf that fell here; Aragorn raged through the enemy like a hungry flame.
Much later, warmth on his face caused his eyes to open. Sunlight. No clouds. No rain. No battle. Odd. Did he not but blink the rain from his face? He sat up and looked around. No battle raged. He lay between two of his fallen archers. His senses told him they were dead, as were the rank upon rank of bodies lying to either side of them. Memory returned. He died.
There was a sudden cold in his belly and heart as he tried to think this through. Smoke blew across the drying plain. So far, no one had noticed his recovery as they tended the basic funeral pyres of the Rorrhim. Here there were no formal barrows in which lay the remains of the valiant. At Helm's Deep, all who fell in the battle would be honored with burning pyres. All those who remained dead, that is.
Swiftly, silently as only an elf could be silent, he worked his way across the field and into the shadow of the citadel. There were cooking fires going as well. Hunger made itself known to him. Where was his cloak when it would do him some good? How was he to explain his resurrection? How indeed? He looked down at the slash in his sleeve and checked his arm. There was no trace of the wound inflicted by the steel that bit through to the bone and stunned his sword arm. He knew that his back would be similarly healed. This was not the work of the Enemy, it did not stink of Mordor and the evil there. Yet he shied away from letting those who had survived the battle know of his own survival.
There was nothing here of Mithrandir's survival after his fight with the Balrog. He felt no contact with the powers of the universe. He felt only cold and hungry and confused.
Haldir, March Warden of Lothlorien, felt more lost and alone than he could recall having ever felt. He had known little fear in his long life, yet now it rolled over him and held him in its cold grasp. He knew that his fate now lay away from the Gray Havens and the West. Just as Arwen Udomiel would remain in Middle Earth, so would he remain.
With a stealth that hid him from his own people, as well as the Men, he slipped into the fortress to retrieve his cloak, his bow and his sword. Luckily, no one had sorted through the items belonging to his fallen kinsmen, most being to taken up with mourning the dead and the relief of being alive when all had seemed lost. Clad in his cloak, he became "just another elf" to the Men around him. He accepted a bowl of stew from a curly haired young girl and bread from a boy still looking shocked from his first battle.
"It will pass," he murmured only for the boy to hear. The wide eyes met the shadowed gaze and the boy nodded.
He found a place to sit and eat, wondering why he did not go to Aragorn. Estil would understand. Then the face of Theoden came to the fore. No. It was for the best that he stay unknown, that he leave Helm's Deep and …. And what? What did he do now? Where did he go? What was he and who did he now serve?
Only one answer came to him. He was Haldir of Lothlorien, as he had always been. He would return to the wood. Perhaps the Lady Galadriel would have an answer for him. Was he certain he wanted her answer? No. He returned his empty bowl to one of the women tending the cooking fires and set out on his new journey.
Some days later, Celeborn caught his consort looking odd. He inquired into the cause. She smiled her most inscrutable smile and brushed his cheek with her lips. "Something neither evil nor good has entered our place. I must see that it is not destroyed out of fear or foolishness."
Well, that was about as inscrutable as it got. He nodded wisely and let her go. He was beginning to think their journey to the West would be a relief.
On the edge of the wood, the Lady found what she sought. There Haldir, late March Warden of the Wood, sat waiting for his liege. He stood as she approached, his clear blue eyes meeting hers, unflinching but tinged by worry.
"You have changed."
He swallowed and nodded. "I do not understand what has happened to me."
Galadriel smiled at him, a gentle smile, a knowing smile. Men found that smile irritating. Haldir waited for her to speak. "Just as my granddaughter has changed to remain among Men, you have been chosen as the first of many to become legend, and thus changed as well."
Not being a Hobbit, he didn't ask for her to please try that in words of one syllable or less. "What kind of legend?"
"In future days there will be prize to be held by the final survivor. For now, you are immortal, not in the way of elves and wizards. No blow can fully end your existence unless it separates your head from your body. None but you and I are aware of this. There will be others to follow, those who fall to hazardous or terrible deaths, who die by the hands of others and then return, unmarked, unscarred. They too will be immortal. It is decreed that in the end all will fight until only one stands victor. To the victor will go a prize beyond reckoning by mortal minds."
Although a simple question of "why me?" kept fluttering around his mind, Haldir did not ask. He knew his place now, to teach those who came after him, to impart the legend. "The prize?"
"Dominion over the world."
Haldir blinked. "The prize is that we denied the Evil One?"
"Not entirely. The prize is only taken when there is only one."
Haldir took in the surprisingly sly look Galadriel gave him. In the end there can be only one. Yet what if there was a fly in the ointment and there was never "only one"? It was a burden, a very heavy burden. He nodded in acceptance. "Then I will remain …as I am needed. Tell ..."
"Haldir of Lothlorien fell in battle at Helm's Deep honoring the alliance between Men and Elves. He is mourned by all his kin. He will be greatly missed from our company. Know this; he will be honored long after the last of us has passed." She gave him her hand and most uncharacteristically touched his cheek with her lips rather than he kissing her hand. "We take your memory with us, cousin," she breathed in his ear.
He stood until he could no longer hear or sense her.