Dark Horizons: 21. The Weight of Duty

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21. The Weight of Duty

A cool breeze swept across the land, bringing with it the fresh and brisk scent of approaching autumn.  The late afternoon sun shone brightly, tipping the high peaks of the Ered Nimrais with golden light and causing shadows to dance and shift upon the lower foothills of the mountain.  High, wispy clouds drifted across the bright blue sky, and the cheerful sound of birdsong filled the air. 

This wonderful display of nature went for the most part unnoticed by the inhabitants of the besieged city of Calembel.  Instead, soldiers raced up and down the city streets or out onto the short plain leading up to Calembel’s high walls, doing what they could to prepare for the coming night’s battle.  The large fire before the city had lost most of its ferocity and was beginning to die down considerably, though it still emitted plumes of foul black smoke.  A loud buzz of activity filled the air and the city was alive with movement.

However, there was at least one spot, deep within the heart of Calembel, where the noise did not penetrate and little movement could be seen.  Instead, silence hung heavy in the small room where Aragorn had been taken after being brought back to the city.  The king had finished relating his tale, and as all those within the room digested what they had just learned, each face showed a different reaction.

Aragorn looked drained and exhausted, his face pale and his eyes sad, his hands balled into fists that gripped the blankets upon his bed.   His eyes kept drifting from face to face, as if attempting to gauge the reactions of the others to what he had just told them. 

Above him, Gandalf stood with a worried frown, his shoulders slightly bent as if a great weight had settled upon him, his brow wrinkled with thought.  Next to the wizard, Faramir looked sorrowful and sympathetic, as he too, glanced around the room. 

Arwen stood near Aragorn’s bed, one hand resting upon his shoulder, her face hard to read as a series of expressions flashed across her smooth features.  Her eyes were bright with unshed tears, and the hand upon Aragorn’s shoulder trembled slightly.

All three of the hobbits stood in shock and dismay, their faces showing their disbelief and grief. Merry looked as if he was desperately trying to wake from a bad nightmare, shaking his head slowly as if he could shake away the horrible news he had just received.  He was as white as a ghost, and a silent flow of tears ran down his face. 

Sam had a hand upon the distraught Brandybuck’s back, and he looked as if he was struggling against his own tears.  Frodo wore a distant and bleak expression, one that he had worn during much of the last leg of his journey through Mordor little more than a year ago.

Yet perhaps most surprising of all, was Gimli’s reaction.  The dwarf’s face was completely expressionless.  His body remained totally motionless, not a twitch or blink of an eye revealing the inner turmoil that raged through him.  His eyes stared straight forward and one hand gripped the haft of his axe so tightly that his knuckles turned white.  Despite their own shock and grief, all those in the room watched him closely, waiting for what would happen next.

Gimli felt as if he was in a dream, a nightmare, in which he could not escape.  Despite his outward tranquility, inwardly he was a wreck.  His tattered thoughts and emotions fluttered through him like the elusive flecks of light that used to dance and shimmer on the hard stone floor in his favorite cavern within the Lonely Mountain.  When he was a child, he had chased and attempted to catch the tiny pinpricks of light, just as he now attempted to catch and hold on to a single thought in the flood that raged through him.

Aragorn’s words kept echoing over and over within his brain; ‘I’m sorry Gimli, I was too late.  Too late.’   He was not angry with Aragorn.  His mind was too numb to feel anger, too numb to feel much of anything except confused disbelief.  Besides, he knew that the ex-ranger had done everything he could for Legolas.

‘Why do I feel this way?’ his mind kept questioning him.  ‘Why do I feel so empty and lost?   Until a year ago, I did not even like elves.  Why does the loss of one now so affect me? 

He knew the answers, knew them as clearly as he knew his own face.  It was true, until recently he had not cared one whit about the elves.  He had thought them all too arrogant and proud, thinking themselves better than his own people.  Gimli had not even liked Legolas at first, containing a strong distrust and suspicion of him when the elf had been chosen to accompany them on the quest to destroy Sauron’s ring of power.  Yet that had all changed, and the truth of the fact was, Legolas was different.  Different than all the other elves Gimli had ever known, or thought he had known.  It hadn’t taken Gimli long to see this difference, and his own curiosity toward Legolas had been the first step toward bridging the gap between the two races. 

Gimli was not sure how it had happened, yet he and Legolas had formed a strong bond of friendship that even the long feud between their two races could not break.  Legolas had given so much to Gimli, been so much a part of his life, and now that he was gone an empty void seemed to fill the dwarf.  He could not seem to bring himself to accept the fact that Legolas was dead.  Aragorn’s story had been anything but conclusive on this point, and Gimli soon realized that he would not, could not, believe it until he was given proof.  From the moment Legolas, Pippin, and Aragorn had failed to show up the previous evening, Gimli had expected and dreaded the worst.  Now that the worst seemed to have truly come to pass, he refused to believe it, convincing himself that Aragorn had somehow made a mistake. 

‘Legolas would not dare die without permission from me, for he knows I would kill him!’  Completely ignoring the irrationality of the thought, Gimli at last raised his head and looked squarely at Gandalf, determination shining in his dark eyes.

“We have to go after them,” he stated firmly, breaking the blanket of silence that had covered the room.  His voice was perhaps more low and rough with emotion than he would have liked, yet the resolve in it was unmistakable.

Gandalf stared back at him, his bushy eyebrows rising slightly.  “Them?” he asked quietly, his voice gently questioning.

“Yes, them.” Gimli replied rather forcefully.  “I do not believe Legolas to be dead, nor shall I until I have proof.”  He continued to stare at Gandalf, ignoring the small murmur that swept through the room at his announcement.  He knew what the others were thinking, and he found he could not really blame them.  Surely they thought he was merely denying the truth because it was too painful, and perhaps he was; yet he could not bring himself to care.  He was filled with a new determination, and he would not allow his thoughts or reason to interfere, for he feared the conclusions they would bring to him.

“We all heard Aragorn’s story,” he continued, “and you must all agree that there is no way to know for sure the fate of either Legolas or Pippin.  I myself, have found elves to be very hardy, and I believe he could have survived a fall such as Aragorn describes.  I shall not give up on him until I learn the truth, one way or the other,” he repeated firmly, turning to look into the eyes of each member in the room one by one.  He had been right, for each face shone clearly with a sad sort of pity.  However, Gimli refused to allow himself to see their sympathetic looks.

“And what if he did survive, Gimli?” Gandalf questioned softly, his voice no more than a whisper.  “What do you suppose has become of him now, for surely Malek and his orcs would not allow him to go free?  If he is not dead, then surely he is captured, and what do you suppose that means for him?”

The wizard’s question stabbed into Gimli like a knife, causing him to wince inwardly, though he showed no reaction outwardly.  “All the more reason why we must go and search for him, and immediately,” he retorted, his voice slightly angry and desperate.  “If he is captured, then we shall rescue him, along with Pippin!”

Gandalf gave a sad shake of his head, a small sigh escaping his lips.  “And you would go immediately?” he questioned, “With night fast approaching and the enemy on his way?”

“You would have me wait?” Gimli replied hotly, realizing that he was taking out his frustration and anger upon an undeserving source, and yet unable to stop.  “Every minute that is spent wasted in not looking for them is another minute that we leave Legolas and Pippin to suffer at the hands of our enemy!  I will not allow this!”  Gimli distantly realized that his voice was nearing a shout.

“Suppose we do go and search?” Gandalf responded, his voice still completely calm.  “Suppose even that we find Legolas and Pippin and rescue them from the orcs, and then return to find the city fallen, destroyed by Malek?”

Gimli opened his mouth, and then realized he had no response.

Gandalf continued.  “I understand your wish to begin an immediate search, my friend.  Yet we hold responsibilities that go beyond that of our missing comrades, no matter how we mourn their loss.  We are responsible for each and every soldier within this city, and I will not allow them to face Malek and his army alone.”

“Then I shall go alone,” Gimli stated, his voice ringing with desperation.  “Or with any that would choose to accompany me!”  At the foot of the bed, Merry shifted slightly, his expression desperately hopeful. 

“We have already attempted this,” Gandalf explained slowly, his voice holding the first hint of frustration, “and look what became of that.  If we separate again, we shall be playing directly into Malek’s hands.  It is too big a risk.

When Gimli opened his mouth to argue once more, Gandalf quickly forged ahead, effectively cutting off the dwarf’s protests.  “Peace, son of Gloin.  I do not ask that you give up hope for either Legolas or Pippin, nor do I ask that you not search for them.  I merely ask that you wait until morning.  Help us tonight, and come dawn, if we still live, we shall all go and aid in the search.  I merely ask you to be patient.”

Gimli gritted his teeth, attempting to come up with any argument against Gandalf’s request, yet Aragorn suddenly reached out and gripped his forearm, speaking up for the first time.

“Please, Gimli.  Think of what Legolas would have you do.  I, too, yearn to go and search, and yet the city needs us.”

Gimli stared down into Aragorn’s pleading eyes and had to fight down a tidal wave of emotions that threatened to overcome him.  He swallowed hard several times, dropping his eyes so the others would not see his face. 

Several minutes of silence passed before he raised his head, his expression once more stony and unreadable.  “Very well,” he whispered hoarsely, his voice gruff and filled with the emotion absent from his face.  “I will wait.  However, come morning, I shall begin my search, whether I be alone or with companionship.”

With this final statement, he gently pulled from Aragorn’s grasp and strode from the room, praying that his decision would not come back to haunt him later.

 

*******

 

After the door shut firmly behind Gimli, silence once more filled the small room, and it was Sam who finally broke it.

“I almost feel sorry for any orc who attempts to attack him tonight,” the hobbit whispered softly as he stared at the closed door through which Gimli had just exited.

The others stared at him incredulously, and Sam shrugged uncomfortably under their scrutiny. 

“I don’t,” Merry replied forcefully, his short frame straightening to its full height, his hand reaching to grip the hilt of the short sword he wore at his side.  “I hope he destroys them all,” he stated angrily, “and I shall help.”

Gandalf and Aragorn exchanged sad looks, and it was Sam and Frodo’s turn to stare at Merry in surprise.  Merry looked completely unaware of the scrutiny of his friends, his eyes hard and his hand caressing his sword hilt.

“There is still much to do,” Faramir said lightly, when the silence in the room once more became too much to bear.  He rose and bowed gracefully to Aragorn.  “With your leave, my lord, the other half of the army has arrived and needs to be positioned for tonight’s battle.”

“Of course,” Aragorn responded, his eyes still on Merry and his voice sounding slightly distracted.  Faramir walked to the door and opened it before Aragorn called out to him.  The steward turned with a questioning look, and Aragorn gave him a sheepish smile.  “Thank you,” he said simply, thinking the simple phrase was somehow not enough to express his gratitude.  Faramir seemed to read his thoughts, and he bowed low, returning Aragorn’s smile before turning and striding from the room

“How fare you, Frodo?” Arwen suddenly spoke up from beside Aragorn, her eyes perusing the small hobbit.  “You seem weary.”

Frodo shrugged and attempted a smile.  “I’m alright,” he answered, shifting his weight and glancing down at his bandaged leg.  “I hardly feel any pain now, thanks to your excellent healing skill, my lady.”

Arwen smiled at the compliment.  “Your dressing probably needs changing, and I will see to that now.”  She glanced worriedly down at Aragorn, but at his encouraging nod she turned and left the room with Frodo.  Merry and Sam followed after, leaving Gandalf and Aragorn alone in the small room.

As soon as the door had shut, Gandalf released a loud sigh and sank onto the hard wooden stool next to the bed.  Aragorn watched him worriedly, thinking that the wizard looked far more weary and downcast than he had ever seen him.

“Faramir is right.” Gandalf said softly, “There is still much to do, and perhaps I should leave you now so that you may rest and recover your strength.”  Despite his words, the wizard remained seated, his eyes distant and sad.

“Tell me, Gandalf,” Aragorn said softly, watching the wizard from the corner of his eye.  “Tell me of the battle last night, and how the city fared against Malek and his army.”

Gandalf glanced at him and shook his head slightly.  “I shall tell you,” he responded with yet another deep sigh, “and yet I fear you shall not like the tale.”

Aragorn listened carefully to Gandalf’s every word as the wizard began relating all that had transpired within the city from the moment he and Legolas had left.  When Gandalf at last finished his tale, it was Aragorn’s turn to sigh deeply.

“It seems we had a very close call,” he said somewhat shakily.

Gandalf let out a raw laugh.  “You have a knack for stating the obvious, my friend.”

“How long do you believe the city can hold out?” Aragorn asked seriously.

Gandalf took his time responding, and his eyes once more took on a distant look.  “With the other half of the army, we should be able to withstand Malek’s attacks for two, maybe three more days.  Our time is swiftly running out, and the sooner we find a way to lure out Malek and destroy him, the better.”

Aragorn nodded.  “He braved the day while hunting Legolas.  Perhaps we can convince him to try once more.  Maybe when we go in search of Legolas and Pippin tomorrow?”

Gandalf did not look convinced, yet he nodded slowly.  “If only I could find a way to restore my powers,” he muttered softly, his voice sounding frustrated and angry.  “And yet I fear it shall be a long time ere my full strength returns to me, and we do not have the time.”

“We will find a way,” Aragorn said with more conviction than he truly felt.

“Yes,” Gandalf replied with a sad smile.  “We shall, for we must.”  He stood then, turning to Aragorn one last time and squeezing his shoulder gently.  “Rest,” he ordered sternly, before turning and striding to the door.

“Gandalf,” Aragorn cried out, just as the wizard opened the door.

Gandalf turned back to him and raised a questioning eyebrow.

Aragorn seemed to struggle with what he wanted to say, but at last he blurted out, “Do you think Gimli may be right; do you believe Legolas may still be alive?”

“It is a possibility that I have not rejected,” the wizard answered carefully, “yet as I said before, what would that truly mean for Legolas?”

Aragorn nodded, his face full of understanding.  “And yet I cannot keep myself from hoping,” he said quietly.

Gandalf smiled sadly. “Nor can I.”

 

****

 

“Please let me help!” Dar’s small voice was loud and anxious.  “I promise I won’t get in the way!”

“We have already been over this, son,” Kenson replied firmly, pulling on his boots and adjusting the straps of his armor.  “If you truly wish to help, you can do so best by remaining here.”

“But I want to go with you,” Dar protested, his voice nearing a whine.  “I can take care of myself, and I’m not scared of orcs.”

Kenson sighed deeply, weary of the arguments he had been hearing for nigh on a quarter of an hour.  “You are too young, Dar,” he said resolutely, pinning his son with a look that clearly stated the discussion was at an end.

Dar’s small shoulders slumped, and the utter dejection upon his small face caused Kenson to sigh heavily once more. 

“The lady Arwen asked for you specifically, if that makes you feel any better,” he told his son, relieved when he saw a spark of interest ignite in Dar’s young face.  “You will have plenty of opportunities to help here, aiding the healers.”

Dar looked anything but happy, but he at last gave up his hopeless pleading. 

Kenson straightened, then bowed low as he spotted the lady Arwen approaching them.  The elf princess nodded regally to him, then smiled down at Dar, receiving a return grin from the boy.

“Are you ready to help the other healers and I?” she asked Dar softly, squeezing his shoulder gently.

Dar glanced once more at his father before sighing and nodding his head.  “Yes,” he replied somewhat sullenly, then quickly added, “my lady,” at a sharp look from Kenson.  Arwen merely smiled.

“How fares the king, my lady?” Kenson asked with genuine concern, noticing the way the elf princess’s eyes clouded slightly at his question.

“Not well enough to join the defenders upon the wall, as he insists upon doing,” Arwen replied hotly, her tone heavy with frustration.  “Gimli is with him, yet I fear in the dwarf’s condition he will be unable to help should something go wrong.”

Kenson was not sure what Arwen meant by ‘in the dwarf’s condition’, yet he realized that he had obviously broached a sensitive subject. 

“His presence brings courage to the men,” he said slowly, watching Arwen’s reaction.  “I am sure that he will be just fine, my lady.”

Arwen looked at him, a slight smile lifting the corners of her lips, yet she did not respond.

Turning back to Dar, Kenson knelt before his son, gripping the boy's shoulders tightly and forcing the lad's eyes to meet his own.  “I want you to listen and obey everything the lady Arwen tells you,” he commanded, waiting for Dar’s nod before continuing.   “And I don’t want you to set foot outside of this building.  Not for any reason, do you understand?”  Once more Dar nodded, and Kenson pulled him forward into a tight embrace.  “I love you, son,” he whispered gruffly before rising and striding from the room, his heart torn by the well of unshed tears brimming in Dar’s eyes.

He let out a relieved sigh as he strode out the door, closing it firmly behind him and allowing the cool evening air to wrap itself around him.  Several of his men stood waiting for him outside and they closed in behind him as he made his way down the stone street toward the city wall.

As Kenson neared the wall, he allowed his eyes to travel up and down its long length until he spotted what he was looking for.  Mounting the stairs up to the wall he quickly made his way to a point almost directly over the north gate, bowing low as he neared the spot where Aragorn stood.  His sharp eyes quickly perused the king, noticing his slightly pale features.  Beside Aragorn, Gimli stood like a stone statue, his eyes staring out in the direction of the Ered Nimrais.

“Welcome, Kenson Brantz,” Aragorn called out as he approached, reaching forward and grasping his arm in a tight grip.  “Gandalf has told me of all you have done for the protection of this city, and you have my deepest gratitude.”

Kenson bowed once more at the king’s words, shrugging his shoulders slightly.  “Calembel is my home, my lord,” he replied evenly, “and even though there is some less than desirable aspects that go along with that fact, still I would protect it.”

Aragorn smiled understandingly at this statement.  “Is there something I can do for you, Captain Brantz?” he asked earnestly, searching Kenson’s face carefully.

“Nay, my lord,” Kenson answered softly.  “I merely ask that my companions and I be allowed to stand with you during this night’s battle.”

Aragorn’s smile grew wider, and he slowly began shaking his head.  “Did the lady Arwen send you, perchance?” he questioned lightly, eyeing Kenson up and down.

“No, my lord,” Kenson answered truthfully.  “I came on my own, though it is obvious that the lady worries for you.”

Aragorn’s smile faded, his eyes becoming serious once more.  “You are welcome to stand at my side this night, Captain, and I will be glad of your company.”

Kenson opened his mouth to reply, but he was abruptly cut off by the gruff voice of Gimli.

“We should not be here,” the dwarf stated flatly, turning to face Aragorn.  “We should be out there with Faramir,” he waved his arm toward the field before the city where soldiers were positioning themselves into two different defense lines.  “That is where the battle shall begin, and I do not like the thought of standing here waiting while others fight.”

“Nor do I, Gimli,” Aragorn responded gently.  “Yet I am afraid that I do not have the strength to join the front lines, and if you were to go alone, you would be too easy a target for Malek.”

Kenson watched as Gimli mumbled something noncommittal under his breath, turning away to once more stare at the mountains.  The merchant captain remembered Arwen’s words, and though he was anything but an expert on dwarves, he was certain that something was definitely bothering this one.  He was curious as to what it might be, yet from the look on both Gimli and Aragorn’s faces, he decided it would be best not to ask any questions right at the moment.

Kenson turned to his men, motioning for them to take up a defensive ring around Aragorn.  He hoped the king would not notice, or would at least not object to the extra protection.  When he turned back around, he found Aragorn watching him with an all too knowing expression, yet the man said nothing, and Kenson breathed a sigh of relief.

Several hours passed in relative silence except for the nervous shifting of the defenders upon the wall.  All eyes carefully watched the darkness leading up to the field, and weapons remained close to expectant hands.  Kenson had un-slung his own bow from his back and now held it ready before him.

It was around three hours after midnight, and Kenson was quickly becoming impatient, wondering why the orcs were waiting so long to attack. The thought had barely entered his head, when the first horns began to sound, echoing off the mountains and filling the valley with their eerie cry.  Aragorn straightened, his eyes vainly attempting to pierce the heavy darkness before the city.  “They come,” he whispered softly, raising his own bow slightly.

A few minutes later, the horn calls intensified as the first wave of orcs broke from the surrounding darkness and began to form into long lines in front of the city.  The light from the fire pits along the wall and also from the still burning fire on the field cast eerie shadows up and down along the line of orcs, making them look even more hideous than before.

The city defenders, both those on the field and up on the wall, drew their weapons and prepared themselves to meet the orcs first attack.  An unnatural silence fell upon the valley as the orc horns suddenly grew quiet, and the two armies faced off across the wide field.  A tense expectation filled the air, a sense that something was about to happen.

Suddenly, a low murmur swept through the soldiers upon the wall, and many began to point toward a certain spot in the line of creature’s facing the city.  Kenson followed the pointing fingers, his eyes searching for any clue as to what might be causing the commotion among the soldiers.  What he saw caused his breath to catch in his throat and his body to stiffen.

There, standing directly before the front rank of orcs, the light clearly silhouetted the form of an elf, long golden hair waving slightly in the breeze and a long bow held firmly in his hands.

“Legolas!”  The cry came from Gimli, as the dwarf stumbled forward to the edge of the wall, gripping the stone rim tightly, his face pale and shocked.

Beside him, Aragorn’s entire body had stiffened, a horrified expression filling his face.

Kenson felt his own shock making it hard to breathe as he stared down incredulously at the elf he had first met on a rainy morning three days ago.

“That is not Legolas, Gimli,” Aragorn spoke up softly, his expression still showing his horror.

Kenson glanced at him, wondering what the king was speaking of.  He knew that many elves looked alike, but there could be no mistaking the tall and proud form of Legolas standing before the orc army.

“He is merely toying with us once more,” Aragorn continued softly, his eyes now turned toward the distraught dwarf.  “It is not Legolas,” he repeated again, his voice firm and steady.

Kenson was still confused, and several minutes passed before Gimli at last ripped his gaze from the form standing upon the field.  “He shall pay for this,” the dwarf said simply, his voice ringing with a cold promise that made Kenson shiver.  Aragorn met Gimli’s eyes, and a sort of understanding seemed to pass between them.  Kenson opened his mouth, unable to contain his curiosity any longer, but he was given no chance to speak.  The figure upon the field raised its hand and let it drop, and the orcs surged forward with a roar, straight toward Faramir and the first line of defense.

All those upon the city wall tensed as they watched the wave of orcs swarm forward, crashing into the first line of defenders.  Amazingly, the orcs were thrown back, and soon the air was filled with screams and the angry clashing of swords.  The orcs obviously had not been expecting such fierce resistance, for the defenders had been reinforced with new, fresh soldiers, and they fought bravely. 

With a howl, the orcs pressed forward once more, their sheer number slowly and inevitably pushing back the first line of defense.  The defenders gave slowly, making the orcs fight for each step.  Those upon the wall watched with bated breath as the first and second defense lines fused and once more brought the orcs' advance to a halt.

Kenson shifted impatiently, watching the fierce battle rage beneath him and strangely wishing that he were down there, fighting against the foul creatures that would take his home.  He knew that his chance would come all too soon, and yet he could barely refrain from racing down from the wall and into the wild struggle.

After what seemed like several hours of intense fighting, the defenders on the field once again began a slow retreat. As the battle drew closer to the city wall, Kenson lifted his bow and expertly notched an arrow, dimly aware of others doing the same around him.  Suddenly, the high clear note of a horn could be heard, calling for the retreat of the defenders on the field back into the city.  At the sound, the soldiers immediately broke away from the orcs and began racing toward the open gate.  The orcs let out a howl and charged after, but the defenders upon the wall were ready, and a hail of arrows rained down upon the orcs, effectively covering the soldiers' retreat and slowing the enemy's advance.

Kenson fired arrow after arrow, distantly aware that the last of the field defenders were making a break for the gates.  He could make out Faramir, mounted upon a tall white horse, the last to retreat and closely hounded by several orcs.  He abruptly shifted his position, aiming his arrows at the orcs that surrounded the Steward and giving the man the precious seconds he needed to break free and gallop full speed into the relative safety of the city.

The freshly mended gates slammed shut with a loud clang, and all those upon the wall let out a shout of victory.  The orcs, however, were not finished.  They swarmed against the city like a tidal wave against a rocky shore, appearing like small ants as they attempted to breach the wall.  Kenson and the other archers continued to fire volley after volley down into the mass of orcs as Faramir and the other defenders joined them upon the wall.  Yet for every orc that fell, two seemed to replace it.

Kenson was dimly aware of the loud clatter of grappling hooks and siege ladders falling all about him.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Gimli leap forward, swinging down with his axe and effectively cutting loose one of the ropes.  Minutes later, the distant clang of sword upon sword proclaimed that some of the creatures had managed to gain the wall. Hours seemed to pass in a matter of minutes, and as the number of orcs upon the wall grew, Kenson was forced to abandon his bow and draw his sword.  He glanced around and found Aragorn fighting a few feet away, the king showing no signs of weakness as he slashed and cut at several orcs attempting to reach him.  Several of Kenson’s men still surrounded Aragorn, fighting off even more orcs, and the Captain allowed himself to turn away with a satisfied nod. 

He slashed out, his sword biting deeply into the belly of an overanxious orc.  The creature fell with a howl, as Kenson’s blade found the throat of the orc behind it, dropping that creature as well.  Time seemed to slow, as one orc after another threw themselves at the warrior, and were quickly dropped by his sword.

A loud roar caused Kenson to start slightly, and he turned to find Gimli madly fighting off nearly a half dozen orcs that had converged upon him.  The dwarf’s face was alight with a fierce battle rage, and Kenson watched in astonishment as the orcs either fell or fled before his wrath.  He was still watching the dwarf, when a large orc slipped past Gimli’s axe and slammed the hilt of his heavy blade down upon the dwarf’s shoulder.

Kenson heard Gimli let out a cry, releasing his axe as the force of the blow dropped him to the ground.  He began to race forward to help, watching in horror as the orc prepared to deliver his killing blow.  Suddenly, an arrow whizzed past Kenson’s head and buried itself deep within the creature’s chest.  The captain glanced over his shoulder just in time to see Aragorn lower his bow.

“Help him,” the king called out, as several orcs converged upon him once more.

Kenson nodded and quickly fought his way to Gimli’s side, reaching down and hauling the shaken dwarf to his feet.  He grabbed Gimli’s fallen axe, and then slowly began to fight his way back toward Aragorn, dragging Gimli after him.  He was not sure how badly hurt the dwarf was, but about half way to their destination, Gimli broke free from his grasp and reached out for his axe.  Kenson was only too happy to give the heavy weapon back, and together, the two fought their way to were Aragorn stood.

“Are you alright?” Aragorn called to Gimli once they had reached him.

Gimli nodded, though his face was pale and his left arm hung limp and useless at his side.

“Stay together,” Aragorn shouted, as the three warriors formed a triangle, backs to each other and facing the attacking orcs. 

Kenson looked around for any sight of his men, but in the wild melee upon the wall, it was impossible to see anything but madly struggling bodies.  He quickly abandoned his search as several large orcs charged them, forcing him to focus all his attention on fighting the brutes back.  He slashed at the wrist of one, causing it to drop its weapon, then quickly dispatched the creature with a smooth thrust of his sword.  He turned just in time to block yet another sword thrust aimed at his belly, sweeping the blade out wide then coming in sharp with his own sword.  The orc hadn’t even hit the ground before Kenson stepped toward his next target, only to find that Aragorn had beaten him to it.  The king yanked his sword free of the creature’s chest, smoothly stepping back to avoid the black spray of blood. 

The Captain’s eyes met Aragorn’s, and Kenson raised his sword in a salute.  He was just turning away when he felt the ground beneath his feet give a sudden shudder, and a loud boom filled the valley.  The first shudder was quickly followed by another, and Kenson realized that the orcs still on the ground were attacking the newly mended gates.  He had no chance to react to this new development, for suddenly a fresh wave of orcs sprang over the wall and charged toward him, their howls filled with the lust for blood.

 

*****

Dar gripped the edge of the window tightly, peering out into the dark night and listening to the distant sounds of the battle.  A frown of pure frustration covered his young face and his teeth worried his bottom lip unconsciously. 

Throughout the night he had been kept very busy running errands for the healers; fetching water and bandages, helping prepare beds for the flow of injured expected after the battle, and overall attempting to keep out from underfoot.  Now, however, things seemed to have at last settled down as the healers tended to the wounded already in their care and waited for the chaos that morning would surely bring.

During this lull, Dar had managed to slip off to a distant window looking out onto the streets leading down to the city wall.  He had remained here for close to an hour, his avid imagination coming up with all sorts of terrible things that must be going on down at the battlefront. 

He was so caught up in his own thoughts that he failed to notice the approach of Arwen until the elf princess laid a soft hand upon his shoulder.  Dar started violently, then immediately flushed in embarrassment.

“Do you worry for your father?” Arwen asked gently, kneeling down until she was eyelevel with the boy.

Dar nodded, glancing down at the floor and swallowing the sudden lump forming in his throat.  He didn’t know what it was about the lady Arwen, yet every time she looked at him it seemed that she saw right through him, reading his thoughts and understanding his deepest emotions.  One look into those light, clear eyes, and Dar felt like sharing all his deepest fears and frustrations.  He also felt like bawling, and that scared him the worst.  True warriors did not cry!

“I wish he had let me go with him,” he muttered sullenly, still staring at the ground.

“Your father seems like a very fine warrior,” Arwen answered softly, reaching out and gently brushing away a stray strand of hair from Dar’s forehead.  “I am sure that he will be just fine.”

Dar again merely nodded, turning once more to stare out the window.  “When do you think he will be coming back?” he asked in a whisper.

“Dawn is but a little over an hour away,” Arwen replied softly.  “I am sure the battle is nearing an end even as we speak.”

The words had barely left the elf’s mouth, when the distant sound of horns drifted up the city streets.  Arwen smiled at the sound, gripping both of Dar’s shoulders.  “You see?” she whispered excitedly, “even now the orc horns call for their retreat.”

Dar returned her grin.  “May I go and find my father now?” he begged.

Arwen shook her head slightly.  “I promised him that I would keep you here until he could return for you,” she answered firmly.  “However,” she continued at his crestfallen look, “he also promised to come for you as soon as possible.  I am sure he will be here very shortly.”

“Can I stay here and watch for him?” Dar asked, motioning toward the window.

Arwen nodded.  “They will be bringing in the injured soldiers soon, and it will be best if you remain out of the way.”  She squeezed his shoulder one last time, then rose and walked away.

Dar watched her go, and then turned back to the window expectantly.  It seemed like hours to the impatient boy before he at last made out the shadowy forms of soldiers walking up the street.  Many of them were limping or being supported by others, and a wagon followed soon after, filled with soldiers too badly hurt to walk. As they drew nearer, Dar studied each face for some sign of his father, his heart beating wildly.

As it was, the first tinges of dawn were already beginning to lighten the horizon when Dar at last spotted his father wearily making his way up the stone street toward the house of healing.  Dar immediately darted away from the window, racing to the door and out onto the street to meet his father. 

Kenson stopped and dropped to one knee when he spotted his son racing toward him, opening his arms in welcome.

Dar threw himself into the open embrace, unable to stop his flow of tears at the sight of the bright stain of blood covering one side of his father’s face.  He buried his head against his father’s strong shoulder, attempting to control the sobs of relief that shook his frame.

Kenson held his small son tightly, stroking Dar’s back and murmuring soft words of comfort.  At last, Dar pulled away and looked up at him, his body still jerking with an occasional hiccup.  His eyes widened in surprise when he saw the unmistakable glint of tears reflected in his father’s own eyes.  He stared in wonder for a few seconds before once again collapsing against the firm strength of his father, smiling slightly and thinking that perhaps true warriors did cry sometimes after all.

 

*****

 

Gimli walked slowly through the wreckage of the battlefield, his mind barely digesting the horror around him.  He wandered without any true purpose, watching as the first rays of the sun lit up the horizon.

He was unsure exactly why he had slipped away from Aragorn, unsure why he had chosen this area to walk and attempt to sort through his thoughts.  Perhaps the wreckage and death that surrounded him somehow fit with his tattered and stretched emotions.

At last, he came to a stop, lifting his head and closing his eyes.  He pulled in a deep breath, hoping that some fresh air would help to clear his muddled thoughts.  However, the air was anything but fresh, instead smelling of death and fear and causing him to cough and choke.

With a sigh, Gimli lowered his head, opening his eyes to the sight around him once more.  He stood motionless for several seconds before at last turning and beginning to make his way back toward the city.

He had taken no more than three steps when something to his left suddenly caught his attention.  He stopped short, staring at the spot several yards away and wondering what it was that had caught his eye.  He could see nothing, and yet something seemed to be drawing him toward this area.  With a shrug of his shoulders, he began carefully making his way toward the spot, surprised at the wild pounding of his heart. 

Once he reached the area, he once more came to a stop, looking around him and trying to still the near frantic pounding within his chest.  He could see nothing, and he was confused by the strange reactions of his body to this one area.  His eyes locked with the staring gaze of a dead soldier, and suddenly he found it difficult to breath.

Carefully kneeling beside the dead man, Gimli hesitantly reached out and rolled the body to the side.  His heart stopped its heavy beating at what he saw.   In fact, it stopped beating completely, and his breath caught in his throat.

He knelt for what seemed like hours before he slowly reached out with a trembling hand and touched the object that lay before him, almost as if testing to see if it was real.  The smooth brush of wood against his fingertips seemed to jerk his body back into reality, and his heart once more began beating jerkily. 

The faint light of morning danced and shimmered among the delicately carved leaves and smooth flowing elvish runes, and Gimli felt as if he was somehow dreaming as he lifted the beautiful bow of Lorien from where it lay upon the ground. 

He cradled the weapon against his chest, continuing to kneel upon the ground for several long minutes, staring at the towering peaks of the Ered Nimrais.  At last, he rose, and still holding Legolas’s bow cradled against his chest, he turned and made his way back to the city.


This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: littlefish

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Action

Rating: General

Last Updated: 10/11/02

Original Post: 06/26/02

Go to Dark Horizons overview

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