Aragorn straightened up, pushing his hair out of his eyes,
wiping the sweat from his forehead with his forearm. His eyes stung, and he
wondered vaguely if it was from the perspiration dripping into them, or from
the tears he was desperately trying to keep at bay. Sighing deeply and stretching
the cramp from his back, he pulled another body into the long line of them
already stretching across the plain. The golden hair was matted with blood,
the blue eyes open and unseeing, the armor covered in black orc blood. Aragorn
smiled humorlessly. Whoever this elf was, he thought to himself, he took
out a great number of the enemy before being felled himself.
Wordlessly a young Rohirrim working to his right handed him a clean, wet
cloth, and Aragorn carefully wiped the blood from the elf's face. Pushing
the hair back off the forehead, he took the offered bowl and ran the water
over the golden locks, rinsing out as much blood as he could. Another young
boy had brought the elf's bow from where it had been found next to its slain
owner, and Aragorn closed the elf's eyes, laying the bow on his chest and
crossing his arms over it. "May your spirit find its way safely to the Halls
of Mandos." He whispered softly in Elvish, the prayer for the firstborn now
so automatic he barely even noticed he was saying it.
The Battle of Helm's Deep was now more than a day past, and though a victory,
had been bought with the lives of many immortals. The Rohirrim had been working
side by side with the surviving elves to give at least a somewhat fitting
memorial to the fallen elves. Though mass graves were not the norm in elven
burials, they knew they had little choice. When word reached Sauron about
the failure at Helm's Deep, the viciousness of his retaliation would be like
no other. The next stage of the war would take place in Gondor, and Aragorn
knew they needed to be on their way to Minas Tirith within a few days. But
neither was anyone willing to just leave the fallen to the scavengers. It
was quickly decided a mass grave would be better than no grave at all, and
he hoped the dead would understand.
Glancing up from his work, he looked down the line of perfectly lined up
bodies, to see Legolas, his hair plastered to his sweaty face, trying to move
a rock far too large for himself, refusing the help several Rohirrim were
trying to offer. Though everyone had worked through the day after the battle
was won, most had taken at least a short break to rest when night fell. But
Legolas had insisted on working through the night, working by torchlight,
dragging bodies, saying prayers, moving rocks over those who had been prepared
for the journey. Though elves could go far longer without rest than mortals
could, Aragorn could see Legolas had reached the end of even elven strength,
the loss of so many of his kin pressing down on him, a killing weight.
Moving to his side, Aragorn gently removed Legolas' hands from the rock
he was trying to move, noting with dismay the bleeding cuts and bruises all
across his fingers and hands, the normally perfect nails jagged and torn.
The elf had clearly been pushing himself far beyond his body's endurance to
stand, and was paying the price.
He tried to pull away from the man, but his strength was quickly fading.
"Aragorn, I must...."
"The only thing you must do is rest, Legolas." He interrupted, motioning
to a young Rohirrim. The boy moved closer, handing Aragorn a bowl of clean
water. Pulling his friend down to sit on the hard packed ground, the man lowered
Legolas' hands into the warm water, gently rubbing the dirt and blood off.
Legolas for once did not protest, staring across the lines of bodies blankly,
seeming not to see them.
"So many...." He said softly. "So many were taken from us."
Aragorn said nothing, continuing his attentions on the elf's battered hands.
Those were the first words he had spoken in hours, and Aragorn knew his grief
was like no one else's. Gently drying off the soft skin, he took a small jar
from a pocket in his tunic and rubbed the soothing ointment into the elf's
hands. Legolas said nothing else, glancing at Aragorn, his blue eyes wide
The two friends sat side by side for several minutes. Legolas seemed unwilling
to speak any further, and Aragorn did not know what to say to him. What kind
of condolences can be offered when a friend has just witnessed the slaughter
of hundreds of his kin, many of which were his friends?
Finally he stood, and lifting the elf to his feet, gently pushed him toward
the wall. "Take some rest, Legolas. We shall continue on without you."
"Yes you can. If you refuse to rest, at least get away for a few minutes.
Get something to eat, you have eaten nothing all day."
Legolas looked uncertainly at the elves still awaiting their turns, then
at Aragorn. Sighing deeply, he nodded, heading toward the Deep. It would be
hours yet before their task was completed, and he knew he would not last that
A Rohirrim girl ran up to him and offered him a plate of food. With a strained
smile, he took it, finding a quiet corner just inside the ruined walls to
sit and eat. He had no appetite, the smell of death still lingering in his
nose, but so as not to hurt the feelings of the girl who was waiting to take
away the empty plate, ate mechanically. With a muttered thanks, he handed
the empty plate back to her and leaned back against the wall.
He closed his eyes into the half-lidded rest of his people, but with a start,
saw the bodies more clearly than when he was next to them. Cursing softly
to himself, he picked his way through the littering of arrows, discarded swords,
shields, pieces of armor that had been left where they fell from their owners.
The smell of death was pungent even here, for though the Rohirrim had removed
and buried their own as well, blood still stained the ground, the red of
human and elf, the black of orc mixed in an obscene palette.
Walking slowly up toward the keep, Legolas' fingertips brushed his long,
ivory handled knives, now hung from his belt, suddenly realizing he had not
cleaned or cared for his weapons since the battle. He glanced around, wondering
what had become of his bow and quiver. The last time he remembered having
them was when they began to prepare the dead elves. They were not where he
had left them just inside the wall, and he assumed the discarded weapons had
been gathered up and returned to the armory. He headed that way, avoiding
the gazes of the Rohirrim he passed on the way. He found he could no longer
endure one more useless platitude about how brave, how unselfish, his people
He glanced around the room, seeing his suspicions were correct. Several
young men were there, cleaning the blood off the swords, sorting out the
salvageable weapons from the ruined ones. One of them looked up when he entered.
"Looking for your bow and arrows?" Legolas nodded, scanning the room. "Over
there." The man indicated with an outstretched hand. Legolas moved that way,
carefully stepping around the scattering of weapons on the floor. "Fine looking
bow." The man continued as Legolas reached the object of his search. "Too
bad the string is broke."
Legolas glanced sharply at the man, but when he lifted the quiver, saw he
was telling the truth. The bow itself was undamaged, but the string had been
cleanly severed close to the middle. It had not frayed, elven bow strings
did not fray. Instead, it appeared a sword had sliced it, probably when it
was moved, as the string was undamaged when Legolas set it on the ground.
He found he did not have the strength to be angry, simply walking from the
room without another word to the men working there.
He walked several steps down the hallway, finding a quiet corner to sit
in, to examine the damage. The quiver itself held several slashes and marks
on it that it had not had before, and he suspected his first thoughts were
correct. Someone had obviously taken a cart out and collected the weapons
after the battle was over and not knowing the importance of the Lorien weapons,
had carelessly tossed them on the pile with the rest. A sword had shifted
and sliced the bowstring.
Legolas fingered the bow, thinking back to the excitement he had felt when
the Lady Galadriel had presented him with the weapon. A gift from the Lady
was never to be taken lightly, but he doubted if more than a few understood
the significance of a Lorien bow. They seldom left the confines of the Golden
Wood, and were almost never given to outsiders. The fact that she had this
time spoke volumes for her respect for his skill, her belief in what the Fellowship
was trying to accomplish.
He drew his fingers down the string, seeing immediately that the damage
was irreparable. Setting the bow aside with a deep sigh, he leaned back against
the hard stone wall, feeling the tears that had threatened all day pushing
their way forward with increased demand. He found he still could not feel
angry, instead resigned that in that awful day, it was just one more thing
that had been taken from him.
"Legolas?" He started from his rest when he heard a coarse voice in front
of him and opened his eyes to see Gimli. "You all right, lad?"
Legolas attempted a smile, standing and clasping the dwarf's shoulder. "I
have been better Gimli, that I can tell you."
Gimli glanced at the bow Legolas was still holding, frowning as he saw the
broken string, his frown deepening when Legolas set it aside and turned to
walk away. "What happened?"
Legolas glanced back at the bow, clear longing showing in his fair features.
"It was damaged. I do not know how."
"You will not fix it?"
"I cannot, Gimli. Elven bows are strung with elf hair. No other material
The dwarf looked skeptically at his friend. "Hair? Bah....You'd think they'd
come up with something more practical."
"It is practical, Gimli. For the thickness, no other material is as strong
as elf hair."
Gimli reached up, fingering the end of the elf's long golden tresses. "So
fix it. You have hair."
Legolas glowered at the dwarf, about at the end of his patience. Grabbing
the bow and holding it up near his head, he stepped closer to the shorter
being. "Does it look like my hair is long enough to string this?" He snapped,
but after a moment, his irritation cooled, realizing Gimli was not deliberately
trying to aggravate him, he simply did not understand. "Only female elf hair
is used for stringing bows." He continued, his tone more calm. "The males
of my kind do not have hair that is strong enough, and we seldom grow it long
"Females?" Gimli asked, fascinated at the story.
Legolas nodded. "Most often a bow is strung with the hair of the warrior's
mate. If he is unmarried, the hair will be given by a female close to him,
a sister, or his mother."
"What if he has no one?"
"Then any available female will donate hair, but the bow is much more special
if the hair is given by someone close to the warrior. He feels he has a piece
of his loved one to take with him into battle, to keep him safe from harm."
"Hmmmph. Elven magic." Gimli muttered to himself. Legolas looked at him
sharply, but said nothing. "What's wrong with another bow? Surely one of
the elves who were killed would not mind you taking their bow. Not that they
have much use for it now."
Legolas shook his head quickly. "No. A warrior must be laid to rest with
his weapons. The path to the Halls of Mandos is long and treacherous. He must
prove his worth before he will be admitted. If he cannot fight his way in,
he may be denied entrance and will wander lost for all eternity." He again
laid the bow aside and started off toward the armory, Gimli trailing behind.
The men still working there said nothing when he entered, keeping their
eyes to their work as if ashamed of what had happened to his weapon. Though
they may not have understood the significance of a Lorien bow, they were
aware of the special bond a warrior developed with his weapons. Glancing
over the store of weapons, Legolas chose a bow that was not too poorly made.
Compared to the delicate elegance of an elven bow, the Rohirrim weapon seemed
heavy and awkward, and when he pulled the string, it felt coarse and uncomfortable
against his fingers. But better a heavy, awkward bow than no bow at all. With
another deep sigh, he turned and headed from the armory.
Gimli could see the displeasure on the elf's face, and the idea he had been
mulling around since Legolas had told him of the bowstrings being made from
elf hair finally came to the forefront. "Legolas?" The elf turned and looked
down at the dwarf.
"How many strands of hair are used on a bowstring?"
"About ten is ideal, but in an emergency, a serviceable bow can be strung
with as little as three or four. Why do you ask?"
Gimli fidgeted, his thick fingers stroking something in his pocket. With
a quick motion, he pulled it out and thrust it toward Legolas. "Would this
Legolas stared for a long time at the small stone Gimli held, three golden
strands of hair carefully wrapped around it. For several seconds, his exhausted
mind was not comprehending what the dwarf was offering, but finally he looked
into Gimli's eyes. "The hair of Galadriel." He said softly, understanding
exactly what the dwarf was offering. "Yes, it would work, but....I would have
to use all three strands. Two would not be enough, for they must be braided
Gimli nodded, gently stroking the soft hair for a moment, looking longingly
at it before thrusting his hand further forward. "Take it, elf. It is of no
use to me."
Legolas stared incredulously at the dwarf, a smile forming on his lips at
his friend's brusque manner. "Of no use?"
"Well, it's not like those knives she gave the little ones, or the rope,
or these fancy elvish cloaks. Wont help me out in this war none. But if it
will fix your bow, better than just going to waste hanging around in my pocket."
Tentatively, Legolas reached for the stone, still not sure Gimli was truly
willing to give it up. But the dwarf willingly relinquished it, with only
a slight sigh and a wistful look. Carefully unwrapping the golden hair from
around the stone, Legolas pulled it through his fingers, feeling a slight
tingling, a hint of Galadriel's power even in her hair. He glanced up at the
dwarf, who was trying to quietly edge away, and stretching out a hand, clasped
his shoulder. "Thank you, Gimli."
Gimli shrugged nonchalantly. "More use to you than it would be to me. Just
mind that bow, now, lad. Don't want to be seeing it mistreated."
In spite of himself, Legolas almost smiled at Gimli's forced air of indifference.
He knew how taken with Galadriel the dwarf had become and knew exactly the
sacrifice Gimli was making. "You have my word, Gimli. And for your unselfishness,
I would add Elf-friend to your name."
"Bah!" Gimli spat. "No need for that now. I'll be off." He walked quickly
away from Legolas, but just before he was out of sight, the elf could see
a tear in the corner of his friend's eye. Gently stroking the hair once again,
he returned to where he had left his damaged bow.
Elf-friend indeed, he thought to himself, feeling his heart lighten slightly
at knowing his gift from the Lady would not have to be left behind. Your gift
was priceless to me, Gimli.
Gimli Elf-friend, he corrected himself with a slight smile. Friend of Legolas.
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