Disclaimer: I do not own any of the recognizable characters; I am only borrowing them for fun for a little while. They belong to J.R.R. Tolkien.
Many thanks to my Beta Readers – J and Marsha.
Author Note: Words in italics are elvish and are translated at the end of the chapter.
Many thanks to my Beta Readers – J and Marsha.
Author Note: Words in italics are elvish and are translated at the end of the chapter.
It was still an hour before dawn and the courtyard in front of the stables was a swirling mass of men and horses as the Riders of the Riddermark prepared to leave Edoras. Men were yelling, boys were running errands and horses were being saddled and led from their stalls to join the host gathering in a nearby field.
Rebecca stood with Gimli, leaning against the outside wall of the stable, staying well away from the darting hoofs while they waited for Aragorn, Legolas, and Thomas to return with their horses.
“I don’t know what’s taking Legolas so long, he doesn’t even have to saddle Arod,” Gimli grumbled.
“Maybe Thomas needs help,” Rebecca laughed.
Gimli snorted with amusement just as Legolas exited the stable followed docilely by Arod. Aragorn followed with Hasufel while Thomas brought up the rear holding tightly to the reins of a restless Baldor. Rebecca glanced quickly at Gimli, trying to suppress a smile while he winked and looked away.
Éomer suddenly trotted up on his large bay horse looking them over with a grin. “We ride together this day as companions and not as strangers.” He gazed at Rebecca briefly before fixing his gaze on Gimli. “Master dwarf, when first we met we spoke harsh words to each other and I would not go into battle with words between us. I ask your pardon for speaking ill of the Lady of the Golden Wood.”
Gimli bowed slightly, “Of course, Éomer, you spoke thus because you have not seen her. I, too, would have denied her beauty mere weeks ago.”
“Then will you ride with me this day and tell me of her beauty?”
“It would be an honor, but I insist that Legolas ride alongside us.”
“Of course,” Éomer laughed, “he shall be on my left and Aragorn shall ride on my right.” He sobered quickly as his eyes fell on Thomas. “But,” he hesitated, “I would have Thomas nearby as well,” he said. “I have seen he is, in truth, a man and not the boy I thought when first I saw him. I would ask his pardon as well.”
Thomas nodded slowly. “You have it, Éomer… for your words, but not for this horse.” He grimaced as Baldor once again tried to pull away from him. “I wish you had given him to Aragorn or Legolas.” He grinned at Éomer, “I bet you didn’t think I could handle him!”
Éomer laughed as he shook his head, “No, I didn’t,” he admitted with a sly smile. “Though, you handle him well.” Éomer turned to Rebecca, “Lady Rebecca, with whom will you be riding?” he asked with a wide smile.
“Oh, I ride with Aragorn. He doesn’t trust Baldor enough for me to ride with Thomas,” she smiled shyly back.
“Ah, I thought perhaps you rode with Gandalf.”
“I’ve done that, too,” she replied. “I imagine he’ll be busy with your king today.” Rebecca looked across the stable yard to where the two men were talking.
“Rebecca,” Aragorn called, “bring me your pack.” She crossed to him, handing him her things so he could attach them to the saddle. “How do you fare?” he asked quietly. “You seem to be moving well in your hauberk,” he noted with a faint smile.
“I’m getting used to it,” she admitted, pulling at the heavy metal sleeve that stuck out from under her tunic. “It doesn’t seem quite so heavy now. And I’m trying not to think about where we’re going and what we’ll be doing when we get there.”
Aragorn nodded as he finished tying the bedroll in place. “It will be real soon enough; it does you no good to worry about it.”
“Yes, I’ve been learning that worrying doesn’t help,” Rebecca said with a trace of amusement in her voice. He glanced at her questioningly, but she just smiled. “Aragorn,” she said, her voice suddenly serious, “I… if anything happens…” Rebecca looked up at him with a slightly furrowed brow. “I wanted to thank you for all that you’ve done for me since I was, literally, dropped into your life. I-I know it hasn’t been easy for you.” Aragorn smiled faintly as his eyes never left her face. “But I do appreciate your care for me… even if it doesn’t always seem like it.” Her voice dropped off to a whisper as she stared at the ground.
Reaching out and lifting her chin until he could see her eyes, Aragorn regarded her steadily for a moment. “Rebecca, I will admit that finding you on the trail during the middle of the quest to destroy the Ring has added some complications,” he stated dryly. “However, having the chance to get to know you has been a pleasure and I only wish that the circumstances were different.” He took her hand and squeezed it gently. “We need to mount up, Théoden is ready to leave.”
Aragorn helped her into the saddle, the weight of her armor dragging her down somewhat. “Well, this is comfortable,” she muttered as he settled in behind her.
“Armor is for protection, not comfort,” Aragorn laughed briefly in agreement as he pulled Hasufel alongside Éomer. Rebecca smiled at Thomas who was riding on their other side.
The Rohirrim set out quickly, headed north across the plains of Rohan, skirting the edges of the White Mountains. It was 120 miles to the Fords of the Isen River and they pushed the horses hard, slowing only occasionally from the steady ground-eating canter to rest them. The men were mostly quiet, though fierce sounding songs would sometimes fill the air as the morning wore on. Scouts were sent out in all directions and reported back to the king at regular intervals to keep him informed of any sign of the enemy.
Thomas kept glancing over at Rebecca as he rode, wishing that she was riding with him on this day at least. They had only spoken briefly over a hurried breakfast and he wondered now what she was thinking about. He patted Baldor absently as he turned his eyes forward again, thankful that they were riding with Éomer in the front of the column instead of in the rear in the choking dust. He deliberately kept his mind off of the upcoming battle, his mind instead drifting to thoughts of home for the first time in many days.
As the horses slowed to a walk once again, Gandalf looked back, beckoning Aragorn forward. He complied, looking from the wizard to Théoden questioningly.
“Aragorn, tell me of these Uruk-hai that Gandalf mentioned yesterday. I’m sure that Éomer or Théodred told me of them,” Théoden frowned slightly, “but I don’t remember.”
“They are large, half again as tall as an orc,” Aragorn said. “They are quicker as well and seem to possess more intelligence than an average orc.” He felt Rebecca tremble slightly as he spoke and he patted her knee.
“Do you think Saruman has many of these creatures?”
“I know not. At Amon Hen there were perhaps one for every five orcs, but that was a long way to send them, he may have many more at Isengard.”
“Yet that was an important mission,” Gandalf reminded him. “He would have sent his best.”
Aragorn nodded in agreement, “Probably.”
“He has also stirred up the hillmen of the Dunlands against us,” Théoden said.
“The conflict between those people and yours goes back to the founding of your kingdom, Théoden King,” Aragorn said. “It would not take much for Saruman to incite them to war against you.”
Rebecca blinked and leaned further back against Aragorn. She had not realized that they were fighting men and she wondered how she could shoot a man. But if they were on the side of Saruman they must be evil… still to shoot a man, she sighed and stared blankly out at the horizon. Yet, she knew they would try and kill her, or Thomas, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf, or any of the other men, so how could she not try her best to… kill them. Rebecca swallowed hard and sighed deeply as she remembered back to the time she had begged to be allowed to help and she realized that she had had no idea what she was really asking.
“Are you all right, Rebecca?” Aragorn leaned down and whispered in her ear. He had noticed her unconsciously trying to get closer to him and had heard her deep sighs.
She hesitated before half turning in the saddle so she could see his eyes. “I-I didn’t know there would be men there, Aragorn,” she whispered. “But I’ll be all right, I was just surprised.”
“Yes, there will be. There are many men are in the service of Saruman and Sauron.”
Rebecca nodded as she faced forward again.
Aragorn exchanged a brief glance with Gandalf who was gazing at Rebecca with compassion.
The horses were soon kicked back into a canter and the Rohirrim rode on.
In the middle of the afternoon they took an hour-long break to rest both the horses and the men. Thomas watered and rubbed down Baldor before joining Gimli, Legolas, and Rebecca under a small tree for some food. “Where’s Aragorn?” he asked as he sat down next to Rebecca.
“Talking with Théoden and Gandalf,” Gimli pointed.
Thomas squinted in the bright sunlight before nodding, “Isn’t he going to come and eat?” he asked as he chewed on some dried meat.
Rebecca shrugged, “Aragorn said he’d be back. I’m surprised they’re still talking, it seems like they’ve already talked about everything you could think of.”
Legolas smiled, shaking his head, “Kings never tire of talking and planning, Lady Rebecca.”
Aragorn finally joined them just as they were getting ready to depart. He ate standing, his eyes gazing into the distance as he chewed. When he finished, he called Rebecca over. “I would like you to ride with Legolas.”
“Why?” she looked at him in confusion.
He shrugged slightly before answering, “Because I think it would be better for you not to hear some of the things Gandalf, Théoden, and I might be discussing.”
“Oh.” She stared at the ground for a moment. “That might be for the best,” she admitted. “But Aragorn,” she grabbed his arm, “could I ride with Thomas instead of Legolas?” She bit her lip nervously as she waited for his response.
Opening his mouth to say no, Aragorn paused when he saw Rebecca’s pleading eyes. Though he knew she would ride with Legolas if he insisted, Aragorn realized that he was worrying about her riding a nervous horse when he was leading her into a battle where she could be killed. Where either or both of them could be killed he thought with an inward sigh and stab of pain. They both deserved some time together and, if were honest, Thomas did handle the horse well. “Let’s go see if Baldor will behave with you riding him, Rebecca.”
Rebecca’s eyes lit up. “Thank you, Aragorn,” she smiled as she led the way to where Thomas was preparing to leave. “Thomas, Aragorn is going to let me ride with you!”
“Really?” Thomas looked at her for a moment and then over her shoulder at Aragorn with an eyebrow raised in question.
“I suggested Legolas, but for some reason she prefers you,” Aragorn replied. Thomas smiled. “Take good care of her, Thomas. It is liable to be a long night and we may run into orcs.”
“I will, Aragorn, you know I will.”
Aragorn nodded before turning and walking away. He had only taken a few steps when he stopped and turned back. “Oh, and Thomas? Take good care of yourself as well.”
“I will if you will, my lord,” Thomas grinned.
Shaking his head and biting back a smile, Aragorn headed back to his own horse.
Holding Baldor steady, Thomas watched the horse carefully as Rebecca mounted. She swung aboard easily, even with her armor as Baldor wasn’t as tall as Hasufel. The horse stood stock still once she was seated and Thomas quickly mounted behind her. “He seems to be on his best behavior knowing a beautiful lady is riding,” Thomas breathed into her ear, sending shivers down her spine.
Rebecca noticed that the lighter spirit of the morning had worn off and she was now surrounded by grim, stern-faced warriors and it made her shudder. She didn’t realize that her own face looked almost identical. She took Thomas’s hand that was resting on her knee, intertwining her fingers with his as they set off again at a canter.
The Rohirrim continued their rapid pace as the sun started sinking in the western sky. A smoky haze was settling over the land, turning the sky a fiery red in the rays of the setting sun. Gandalf dropped back to speak with Legolas during one of the periods of walking the horses.
“Legolas what can you see in the distance, towards Isengard?”
Narrowing his eyes and shielding them from the sun, Legolas looked long and hard. “There are shapes moving like a dark stream, but what they are I cannot say, Gandalf.”
Gandalf nodded grimly, “Saruman’s forces no doubt; he is emptying Isengard,” he rejoined Théoden.
A scout came riding swiftly from the north, pulling to an abrupt stop in front of Théoden, bringing the column to a halt.
“Théoden King,” he cried, “the Fords have fallen and our men have scattered across the Westfold. The enemy comes in great numbers. You must flee, my lord.”
“Where is Erkenbrand?” Théoden demanded.
“I know not,” the scout shook his head. “He may have gone back to Helm’s Deep, my lord.”
“Théoden, if the Fords are taken, you must ride hard for Helm’s Deep,” Gandalf spoke up. “Wait there for my return.” He sped off on Shadowfax across the plains of the Westfold, quickly lost in the twilight.
“Where is he going?” Théoden turned to Aragorn in bewilderment.
Aragorn shook his head, “Gandalf has his own purposes and keeps his own counsel, Théoden King. Look not to me to tell you the plans of a wizard. Yet we should heed his advice and make for the stronghold of Helm’s Deep,” he said with urgency.
Théoden nodded, turning to motion Éomer forward. “You heard the scout and Gandalf?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Tell the men of the change. We must ride even more swiftly.”
Éomer whirled his horse around, Gimli hanging on tightly, riding back through the column, yelling out the change in plans.
“Legolas,” Thomas asked, “what is Helm’s Deep?”
“It is one of Rohan’s places of safety in the mountains. A fortress made of stone. I have never seen it, but from what I have heard it is a strong, defendable place.”
Rebecca gripped Thomas’s hand tighter, “Sounds better than fighting out in the open,” she said nervously.
“It depends on the situation, Lady Rebecca.”
Éomer galloped back to the front of the column and after speaking words to Théoden and Aragorn that Rebecca couldn’t hear, the Rohirrim took off again. They headed almost due west now into the mountains. Dark was upon them quickly as the mountains loomed above them.
Rebecca wondered how they could even tell where they were going as they pressed on into the night. She leaned further back against Thomas with a weary sigh. He responded by bending down and saying, “I love you, Rebecca,” loud enough that she could hear it over the hoofbeats of the horses. She squeezed his hand tightly.
Slowing to walks became even less frequent and in the distance to the north Thomas could see what appeared to be fires scattered here and there across the plains.
“They are burning and plundering the Westfold!” Éomer’s angry voice rang out in the darkness.
“We must reach Helm’s Dike before they cut us off,” Théoden called back.
They rode on.
The Rohirrim reached the mile-long protective dike that fronted the Deep sometime before midnight. Théoden and Aragorn brought the column to a stop as Éomer pressed forward to listen.
“What news, Gamling?” Théoden demanded. “Is Erkenbrand here?”
“No, Théoden King, he hasn’t yet returned from the Ford.”
“Have you seen Gandalf?” Aragorn asked.
“No, my lord.”
“How many men do you have here,” Éomer asked.
“Perhaps a thousand, my lord, but many of us are old or too young and many are farmers that are escaping from the burning of the Westfold. There are also women and children in the caves back in the Deep.”
“Have you supplies enough?” Théoden asked sharply.
“Yes, my lord. Erkenbrand has been stocking supplies and repairing the walls against such a time.”
“Good, we shall have need of it I fear.”
“Come, Théoden, let’s get the men in and our defenses set,” Aragorn urged.
They rode on the last six hundred yards up to the causeway, leaving Gamling and his men to defend the Dike. The causeway led up to the Hornburg, crossing the small stream that flowed down from the mountains and through the Deep. Thomas hopped down, reaching up and helping Rebecca down as well. They clung to each other briefly before leading Baldor up the causeway following Legolas and Arod. Inside the Hornburg, their horses were taken and stabled with the king’s horse and others of his guard. The rest of the horses were taken back up into the furthest areas of the Deep past the caves.
Rebecca tried to stay out of the way of the men running here and there about the courtyard in front of the Keep. Thomas was talking with Legolas and Gimli nearby and she watched as Thomas gave Legolas his quiver of arrows and she suddenly remembered her own bow. She reached for it with trembling hands intending to string it when a firm, yet gentle hand clasped her wrist.
“Not yet, Lady Rebecca,” Legolas said, surprising her with his sudden appearance.
“Shouldn’t I be getting ready to shoot?”
“There is time yet, let your hands and body rest for awhile. It has been a long day.”
Nodding, Rebecca glanced at Thomas briefly as he approached with Gimli.
“Aragorn looks every bit a king, doesn’t he?” Thomas remarked as he watched Aragorn and Éomer directing the men to their places out along the Deeping Wall or on the walls of the Hornburg above them.
“Aye, lad, he does,” Gimli grunted in agreement as he leaned on his axe.
“Legolas, Gimli, Thomas,” Aragorn suddenly barked at them, “I want you out on the Deeping Wall. Just on the other side of the culvert. I will try and join you later.” He turned to answer a question from one of the men.
“I-I guess I stay here then,” Rebecca said, looking at each of them in turn.
“It appears so,” Legolas replied. “May Elbereth watch over you this night, Lady Rebecca,” he smiled gently before walking swiftly away.
“Aye, lass, take care,” Gimli nodded as he followed Legolas.
“You-you too,” she called after them.
Thomas stared at her for a moment before he pulled off his helm and kissed her hard. He backed away without saying a word before turning and running to catch up with the others.
Rebecca touched her hand to her lips as she watched him leave.
“Rebecca,” Aragorn’s commanding voice startled her.
“Yes, sir?” she asked, her fear causing her to slip unconsciously back to the words she had spoken all her life.
Aragorn paused, but then hurriedly continued, “I want you up there,” he pointed to a spot up on the wall of the Hornburg above them that overlooked the causeway on one side and the courtyard the led into the Keep on the other. Rebecca nodded. “When your arrows and these,” he thrust another quiver into her hands, “are spent, I want you off the wall and into the Keep. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir,” she looked at him steadily, though Aragorn could see she was trembling.
“Good, may the Valar protect you, Rebecca,” he said fervently, clasping her hand briefly. And then he was gone.
“You, too,” she whispered
Thomas stared out into the black night from his place on the stone wall next to Legolas. He could see scattered moving torches in the distance as the uruks, orcs and hillmen approached.
“I wish we had some of my kinfolk here. Their axes would cleave off a head or two,” Gimli growled as he restlessly paced.
‘I would rather see a hundred elven archers, Master dwarf,” Legolas replied as he checked his bowstring one more time. “Though, dwarfs would do well in this cold, stone fortress.”
“Some Marines with rifles would be handy right about now,” Thomas muttered under his breath.
Legolas looked at him questioningly, but Thomas just shook his head, “You wouldn’t understand.” He sat, leaning wearily back against the parapet wondering how Rebecca was doing and wished more than anything that the battle would start. The endless waiting was hard to endure.
Rebecca walked up the steps to the place Aragorn had pointed out scanning the area around her. There were few men along this section of the wall, though more were quickly filling in the gaps. She found a spot she could shoot over and set down the quiver Aragorn had given her before grabbing and stringing her bow. Checking the bowstring for defects, she looked it over with a practiced eye before deciding it was sound. Turning her attention to the new arrows, she looked them over closely noticing some minor differences in the fletching, but otherwise they appeared serviceable. She decided to leave the quiver at her feet until her own arrows were gone.
Watching the men around her, Rebecca wondered how many of them had fought before and if they were as scared as she was. Remembering back to the time they had fought the wargs and Aragorn telling her that even he got scared, she decided that all of these men must be as well, no matter how well they hid it. The men were talking quietly as they waited, though Rebecca could not understand what they said as they were speaking Rohirric. She felt so alone. She kept her thoughts off of Thomas and her friends, except for brief prayers asking for their protection. Her thoughts turned to her mom and home as she stood staring out into the black night at the approaching lights.
Shaking her head, Rebecca tried to focus back on the present. She tried to remember all the things Haldir had taught her - that she could only control the things that she did, not what else happened. She closed her eyes and ran through her list again. Her eyes popped open when someone jostled her. She looked up at a tall man who said something that sounded like an apology. Shrugging, she replied, “I don’t speak your language.”
“You’re a woman!” he said in surprise and in the common tongue. Several men looked around curiously at his words.
“Yes,” she responded warily, glancing around at the men.
“Why are you not in the caves?” he asked, staring at her in disbelief.
Rebecca stared back unflinchingly, “Because I can use this very well,” she replied, holding up her bow.
The man looked her up and down, slowly shaking his head and muttering in Rohirric. “Well, I guess we can use all the help we can get against those foul beasts. My name is Renward and that’s Lyfgast,” he pointed to the man standing on Rebecca’s left.
“I’m Rebecca,” she said with a slight bow to each man.
“It’s always good to know who you’re fighting alongside,” Lyfgast said with a grim smile.
“Who taught you to shoot?” Renward asked idly, as he leaned against the parapet staring into the darkness.
“An elf named Haldir.”
Both men turned back to her sharply at that. “An elf?” Lyfgast exclaimed.
“Yes,” Rebecca looked back and forth between the men in confusion, wondering at their response.
“How do you know elves?” Renward asked.
Rebecca thought furiously, trying to figure out if she should say something about Rivendell, ‘her home’. “Well, I’m here with an elf, aren’t I?” The men looked at her blankly and she realized that not all of the men knew of Legolas. “Do you know of Lord Aragorn?” They shook their heads and she wondered how they couldn’t know about him. “Didn’t you ride with us from Edoras?” she asked, puzzled.
“No,” Renward responded, pointing into the darkness. “My home is in the Westfold. I’m sure it’s burned to the ground,” he said bitterly.
“I’m sorry. Is your home there, too?” Rebecca asked, glancing at Lyfgast.
He nodded, his jaw clenching in anger. “At least my family is safe,” he whispered. “I have a wife and three children up in the caves,” he smiled briefly at Rebecca.
“Do you have a family too?” she asked glancing at Renward.
“A wife and a son; my mother also lives with us.”
“What about you, Lady Rebecca?” Lyfgast asked.
“My parents are dead.” Both men stared at her, their faces expressing their pity. “I’m the ward of Lord Aragorn,” she turned to look for him. “There he is with Lord Éomer and King Théoden,” she pointed to him standing below in the courtyard. Aragorn was gesturing out to the Deeping Wall while Théoden was nodding.
“Who is he?” Renward asked, “I mean, who is he that the king listens to him.”
Rebecca hesitated and then shrugged. “He’s the heir to the throne of Gondor.” She watched Aragorn for another minute, and then turned back, looking out into the darkness with a sigh.
“Heir to the throne of Gondor,” Lyfgast muttered, leaning on the wall next to her.
Renward braced his hands against the wall on Rebecca’s right, saying nothing.
“We have three quarters of the men along the Deeping Wall, my lord,” Éomer said to Théoden. “The rest are here in the Hornburg.”
“When the men pull back from the Dike, we will put most of them out along the wall,” Aragorn continued. “The wall appears to be the most vulnerable,” he gestured to it.
Théoden nodded, “It is, though we are fortunate that Erkenbrand has kept it in good repair. I’ll remain here in the Hornburg. Éomer, I want you on the wall. Aragorn, where will you be?”
“I will be on the wall with Éomer, my lord.”
“Good,” Théoden gazed around the Hornburg and out to the Deeping Wall. “We must not fail,” he said, locking eyes with Éomer and then Aragorn.
“We will not, Théoden King,” Éomer stated, a fierce gleam in his eye.
“Your people are strong, Théoden. They will not let you down.” Aragorn bowed slightly to the king before striding swiftly off toward the Deeping Wall.
“I’ll join you in a minute, Aragorn,” Éomer called after him.
Aragorn jogged lightly down the steps that joined the Hornburg to the Deeping Wall scanning the placement of the men and the area behind the wall as he went. He frowned slightly as he saw the stream that moved through the Deep and the culvert that ran under the wall, though he knew it was well protected. He continued along the wall, moving a few men and encouraging the young ones, until he reached Legolas. He paused, giving the elf a look that showed his friend his true weariness and concern before his confident, kingly mask slipped back into place.
Legolas met his gaze steadily as he spoke, “You have done all that you can do, mellon nín. It is out of your hands now,” he said quietly.
“I know,” Aragorn admitted, “and yet it seems I should do more.”
Aragorn shrugged, “If I knew that, I would do it, mellon nín,” he said with a wry smile before continuing down the wall, encouraging the men and boys along the way.
Screams and shouts suddenly broke into the heavy brooding silence that had settled over the fortress. The sounds of fierce fighting could be heard by those sitting and standing along the walls.
“They have reached the Dike,” Lyfgast murmured.
Rebecca grabbed an arrow, nocking it swiftly in readiness. She bit her lip nervously as she tried to see, wondering how she could shoot anything in the darkness. She glanced up to see that clouds now covered the moon and what light there was came from burning torches scattered around the Hornburg. The men around her were also preparing their bows and she noticed absently that none of them were as fine as hers.
The sounds of battle were drawing closer. Rebecca could hear the screams of terror and pain, some of which stopped abruptly. There were battle cries in what she recognized as Rohirric and in some other language that she assumed came from the hillmen. But over it all were the growls and roars of the uruks and orcs. She took a deep breath and gripped her bow tightly, her eyes widening in fear.
“Our men have reached the causeway!” Rebecca heard someone down the wall yell. Soon men were pouring in through the gate beneath her and she watched as Éomer directed them to either the Deeping Wall or up on the walls of the Hornburg. The wounded were helped into the Keep.
“Shut the gates!” The huge wooden gates creaked and groaned as they slammed shut. Rebecca could now dimly see the shadowy mass of man-shaped figures in the fields beyond the stream and causeway as she crouched down peering over the wall. She guessed the distance to be eighty to ninety yards, too far for her to accurately shoot.
Thomas watched the enemy approach with narrowed eyes. He heard the screams of the wounded and dying and thought briefly of Boromir. He drummed his fingers nervously against the edge of the parapet as he squatted down waiting for something to happen now that the men had retreated within the fortress. He glanced down at the sword he held, hoping it would hold its edge throughout the night.
Shaking his head in disbelief, Thomas listened as Gimli and Legolas jested about the number of kills they would make during the battle. He didn’t know how they could be so casual about killing, and facing death, though he supposed it came with long experience. He sighed, glancing up when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“You will do well, mellon nín,” Legolas said. “You are well trained and experienced.”
“I just wish it would start,” Thomas said in frustration. “The waiting is…”
Suddenly, arrows filled the air around them. Most of them passed over the wall and fell harmlessly into the Deep, but Thomas could hear the screams of the men who had been hit. He flinched at the sound. He looked to Legolas to see if the elf was firing back, but he was evidently waiting for some signal.
The arrows kept coming, but still none were returned from the fortress. A loud voice from down near the Hornburg rang out and the twang of hundreds of bowstrings filled the air as arrows were finally released. Now cries and screams of pain and rage came from the enemy as they had nowhere to hide. They rushed forward in their anger, heedless of the danger they faced from the Rohirrim on the walls. The exchange of arrows continued furiously and while Saruman lost a greater number of his force, the loss for Rohan was dearer as they had fewer men to spare.
Thomas waited impatiently with Gimli for the ladders they knew were coming that would bring the battle to them.
Taking deep breaths to calm herself, Rebecca watched as the enemy moved closer. Lyfgast and Renward had been firing, but she hadn’t shot yet as the distance was still too great and she didn’t want to waste a single arrow. It was so hard to block out the screams of the wounded and the sounds of the uruks and orcs and she grimly remembered the warnings that Haldir had given her. As the enemy moved within range, Rebecca raised her bow quickly and loosed her first arrow, mumbling under her breath when it fell well short and far left of where she was aiming. She grabbed another arrow, slowing down to focus on what she was doing before she released it. This one flew true, hitting something – man or orc, she couldn’t tell – dropping it to the ground. Paling at the sight of what she had done, she slowly took out another arrow and repeated the process. Rebecca shook her head to clear it as another being fell and then pushed her feelings to the back of her mind and let her training take over.
Rebecca knew she missed with some of her arrows, but as the enemy drew closer to the wall, it became easier to hit them. As she bent down to grab the quiver Aragorn had given her, she heard the whistle of arrows close overhead. A strangled, gurgling noise caught her attention and she looked up to see Renward clutching at an arrow that had pierced his throat.
“Renward!” she screamed, trying to grab him as he fell over, but his weight knocked her down and he landed sprawled across her, his hands still pulling futilely at the arrow. He choked, spewing blood on Rebecca’s tunic. Rebecca looked at it in horror, pushing herself out from underneath Renward as he died. She sat there, panting hard and staring at him for a moment before she tried to wipe his blood off her tunic, but it just smeared, staining her hands. Rebecca looked at her hands, back at Renward and felt nauseas. She quickly crawled to the edge of the wall overlooking the courtyard and retched violently. She lay there for a moment with her eyes closed and tried to block out the screams while she re-gathered her courage. Finally, she took a deep breath and pushed herself to her knees. She wiped her hands off as best she could on her leggings, trying not to think about the fact that it was blood she was wiping off.
Glancing around, her eyes grief-stricken, yet determined, Rebecca spotted her bow and she grabbed it before creeping back to the wall. She crouched down, peering over the edge and saw the enemy advancing up the causeway with a battering ram. She readied an arrow and then stood quickly and shot before ducking down again.
“Good,” Gimli growled to Thomas, “I need to catch up with the elf.”
Thomas just nodded, tightening his grip on his sword.
All along the Deeping Wall ladders were being shoved against it, and orcs began to swarm up them. Some of the ladders were heaved back down, but many of their foes reached the top and fierce hand-to-hand fighting broke out atop the wall.
Gimli took the first orc off the ladder nearest them and Thomas the second. Finally able to do something, Thomas eagerly thrust his sword into the black belly of the creature before him. Pulling it out, he locked blades with another orc before sliding his sword up and away, neatly slitting its throat. Thomas moved sideways as he felt something behind him and he turned in time to block a sword aimed at his head by one of the larger uruks that were now streaming up the ladders. It roared at him menacingly, but Thomas just watched it warily as he looked for an opening. The creature lunged to his right and Thomas easily deflected it, slicing the uruk across the sword arm before moving back out of range. The uruk stomped forward and Thomas saw the opening he was looking for as he took advantage of the wounded beast. He moved to its right, quickly knocking the sword from its wounded arm and then plunging his blade into the creature’s heart. It collapsed in a heap as Thomas turned to face his next foe.
Thomas soon found himself standing back to back with one of the Rohirrim and fighting became easier for a time. He saw and heard Legolas and Gimli occasionally and was relieved to know they were alive, but he had little time to spare for thoughts of others. All of his energy was being spent to save himself. Everything around him was becoming a blur of black and red, mixed with the screams and howls of the wounded, the dying, and those trying to intimidate the men of Rohan.
Thomas fought on.
Aragorn and Éomer fought side by side near the steps that joined the Deeping Wall to the Hornburg. Aragorn was graceful and measured as he fought, never wasting any energy as he killed anything that he faced. Andúril glistened in the light rain that had begun falling as he danced along the top of the wall.
Éomer fought with reckless abandon, yelling at the foes he encountered. His sword never stopped moving as he darted from orc to hillman to uruk as the night progressed.
“Éomer!” Aragorn yelled, “They are coming up the causeway!”
Éomer slit the throat of the orc he was fighting before glancing over the wall. “They have a battering ram.”
“They cannot take the Hornburg,” Aragorn kicked the body of the uruk he had just killed off the wall and into the Deep.
“No,” Éomer grinned fiercely, “let’s go stop them.”
Aragorn nodded and the two of them rushed up the steps, grabbing a few other men on the way. They pushed open the small postern door on the side of the Hornburg and snuck around on the rocks until they were overlooking the causeway. Crouching down, they watched the uruks approach.
“There are a lot of them,” Aragorn observed.
Aragorn glanced over the edge down to the stream below. “If we can get the battering ram away and over the edge, I do not think they can recover it.”
Éomer shrugged, “They may have another, but I see no other options.”
Éomer nodded and they sprang off the rock and onto the causeway. Aragorn immediately rushed the uruks at the front, while Éomer and his men split, attacking both sides. The uruks fell to the ground, dead, dropping the front of the battering ram and causing those in the back to stumble. Aragorn, Éomer, and the men pushed forward, swords swinging to bring down the rest of the uruks carrying the large tree trunk.
Surging past the battering ram, Aragorn and Éomer held off the stream of uruks and orcs running up the causeway while the other men struggled to roll the log over the edge.
“Éomer!” one of them yelled, “It’s done, pull back, my lord!” The men rushed back up the rock and around towards the door.
Aragorn and Éomer started slowly falling back a step at a time, slaying any of the orcs who were foolish enough to get within reach of their blades. Éomer suddenly stumbled as a not quite dead uruk grabbed his leg and tried to pull him down. Taking his eyes off the advancing orcs, Aragorn quickly stabbed the uruk through the heart while grabbing Éomer by the collar and jerking him to his feet.
Uruks leapt towards Aragorn and Éomer, taking full advantage of their distraction. They pressed them furiously until even Aragorn started to feel overwhelmed by the sheer numbers as the causeway widened near the gate and more uruks were able to attack them at one time. Arrows suddenly started raining down from the wall above. The arrows drove back the uruks closest to them, killing two, giving them just enough space and time to scramble back up and around the rock and through the small postern door. As they slammed it shut behind them, they leaned against it for a moment, panting.
“Where… did… those arrows come from? I thought all were spent long ago.” Éomer asked in a puzzled tone.
Aragorn looked up on the wall already knowing who he would see. “Rebecca,” he said, nodding towards her.
Stunned, Éomer looked up to see Rebecca peering over the wall with her bow nocked and ready to shoot. He shook his head slowly before grabbing Aragorn’s arm. “We need to get back down to the wall.”
The next time Rebecca looked over the wall she was shocked to see men fighting the uruks on the causeway and she wondered where they had come from. The men around her had used all their arrows and were now crouched down with swords drawn waiting to see if ladders would be able to reach the much higher walls of the Hornburg; or if the gate would be breached. All along the wall, Rebecca and the men watched as the battle for the battering ram took place. As the man below tripped, Lyfgast exclaimed, “That’s Lord Éomer!”
Rebecca stared down at the men intently, “Aragorn,” she breathed as the uruks started to overwhelm the two men. Without a second thought she jumped to her feet, drawing back, aiming and releasing the arrow she already had nocked. She continued firing, her whole focus on the uruks around Aragorn and Éomer until they made their escape. Rebecca ducked down again, resting her head on the parapet with a deep sigh.
“Well shot,” Lyfgast murmured, patting her on the back.
She nodded weakly before grabbing the last arrow in her quiver and looking over the wall. After this one arrow she would be free to leave and return to the Keep. Rebecca aimed and released her arrow, watching as one of the hillmen fell over. She slumped to the ground trembling, knowing that this time she had for certain killed a man. She took a deep breath to calm herself and she looked up, letting the rain, which had steadily increased, wash over her face for a moment. Finally, Rebecca arose and made her way shakily down the stairs and into the Keep.
Thomas stood fighting alone, the man of Rohan having fallen some time ago. He had no idea where Gimli or Legolas were, it seemed like it had been hours since he had seen either of them. All he could do was face each orc or uruk that he came across as he fought desperately to stay alive. That’s all he thought about now – killing whatever creature appeared around him and staying alive.
“Orcs! Orcs are in the Deep!” A loud cry was heard over the noise of the battle, distracting Thomas for a second. The orc he was facing reached out and slashed Thomas across the face. Only Thomas’s helm and his quick reflexes, which jerked his head back at the last moment, saved his life. He received a long gash that stretched from his left ear to near his chin and a broken helm. He staggered back from the force of the blow, almost falling and dropping his sword. He shook his head to try and clear the dizziness that suddenly enveloped him, but pain instantly shot through his head and he stopped.
Thomas squinted, trying to keep an eye on the orc as he desperately tried to recover his bearings. The orc charged him and he managed to bring up his sword in time to deflect the blow, though the force cause him to stumble and fall. Thomas watched in absolute terror as the orc raised his blade to kill him, knowing there was nothing he could do to stop it. As the sword started to descend, the orc suddenly stiffened and fell to the side gasping for breath. Stunned by his sudden reprieve, Thomas saw one of the Rohirrim pulling his sword from the creature’s back before the man turned to face another orc.
Getting unsteadily to his feet, both because of his pain and his shock, Thomas moved to help the man as he was beset by another orc. Horrified, he watched as the man was cut down before he could reach him. Frustrated and angry, he attacked the orc from behind and quickly killed it.
Pulling off the broken helm and tossing it aside, Thomas looked warily around for more of the enemy while he tried to take in the fact that he was not dead, but he should be. That a total stranger had saved his life, then had fallen to his own death not a minute later.
“Come on, Thomas.” Gimli came out of nowhere and grabbed his arm. The dwarf ran down the steps into the Deep, joining the others who were fighting the orcs and hillmen that had snuck in through the culvert. Thomas followed him cautiously as the dizziness and pain threatened to overcome him. He was determined, however, not to give in to the pain and he joined the others in attacking the enemy who had infiltrated the Deep. The rain had stopped, the clouds moving off and the moon now shone over the battlefield. Thomas fought fiercely and while surprised when he faced his first hillmen, he attacked as he had been taught, finding that the man had no more training or skill than the orcs. He quickly knocked the crude sword from the man’s hand before killing him and moving on without a second glance.
Slowly and steadily they pushed the orcs and hillmen back through the culvert. Before returning to the wall, they pushed large stones in front of the culvert to keep out any more of the enemy and stationed guards there. Thomas finally took a moment to try and wipe away the blood from his painful, throbbing gash, but it kept seeping slowly from the wound and he had no means to stop it.
“You’re still alive,” Éomer commented as he joined Aragorn resting on the steps leading down into the Deep during a lull in the battle.
“I appear to be,” Aragorn replied, glancing up as he continued to sharpen his sword.
“They’re planning something, Aragorn, I can feel it.” Éomer removed his helm, wiping the sweat from his face with his shoulder before putting it back on.
“Yet dawn is near and hope comes with it,” Aragorn looked to the east, though no sign could yet be seen of the sun.
“Uruks and the hillmen won’t be stopped by the sun,” Éomer pointed out.
Aragorn looked at Éomer intently before replying, “Still, I will look for hope with the sunrise.”
Legolas quietly walked up and crouched down beside them, “Truly your father named you well, Estel,” he commented.
“Have you seen Gimli or Thomas?” Aragorn asked, while absentmindedly flexing his battered fingers and wrists.
“They are coming up now,” Legolas nodded down the steps. Aragorn looked to see the two of them slowly trudging towards them.
Gimli stopped a couple of steps below Aragorn, placing one foot on the step above as he leaned heavily on his axe. Thomas sat down on the step below the dwarf, staring back down into the Deep before dropping his head into his hand with a weary sigh.
As Legolas and Gimli started bantering back and forth about their kills, Aragorn went to check on Thomas who had lost his helm and appeared to have a gash on his face, though it was hard to tell with all the blood that covered him.
“Are you injured, Thomas?” Aragorn asked as he bent over trying to get a look at his face.
“Yes, sir, I am.” Thomas didn’t look up, though he shivered slightly.
Aragorn crouched down carefully on the step. “Let me see,” he tilted Thomas’s chin, stopping instantly when the young man hissed in pain as Aragorn touched the open wound. “Forgive me,” he murmured before turning Thomas’s head carefully to inspect it. “It is still bleeding.” Aragorn tore off a piece of his shirt and gently wiped away the blood, pressing on it lightly to stop the flow. “It is a good thing you were wearing a helm, Thomas.”
“I know, sir,” Thomas’s eyes glistened with unshed tears and he lowered his head to avoid Aragorn’s steady gaze.
“You are doing well, Thomas Morgan, you are still alive,” Aragorn said quietly. He laid his hand briefly on the uninjured side of Thomas’s head.
Thomas just nodded once in acknowledgement and Aragorn turned to rejoin Éomer at the top of the wall.
Entering the great entrance hall of the Keep, Rebecca paused briefly, relieved to be away from the chaos of the battle. She started as she realized that some of the screams and moans she could hear came from inside the Keep. Looking around she saw bodies through an open doorway to her left and she hesitantly moved in that direction. The floor in the room was littered with men and the assault on her senses was overwhelming. The moans, screams, sight and smell of blood, and just seeing the sheer agony of the wounded and dying all confined in this small space was something too terrible to comprehend. Rebecca stopped in the doorway, trying to absorb it all.
“Get out of the way,” someone growled as he none too gently elbowed her aside and carried in a wounded man and gently laid him on the floor before rushing back out.
Rebecca finally noticed there was a man at the far end of the room working on the injured men and she gingerly stepped over the bodies and made her way to him.
The man asked her something in a harsh voice, not looking up from where he was applying a bandage.
“I don’t understand you, my lord,” she replied.
The man sat up, looking her over carefully. “You’re the girl who rides with Gandalf and Lord Aragorn.”
“You have been fighting.”
“Yes, my lord,” she shuddered slightly as she looked down at her clothes covered with Renward’s blood. “But I’m out of arrows and Aragorn told me to come into the Keep.”
“Good, I need help.”
“I can see that. Why are there no more healers?”
“They are all on the walls. Surviving is the important thing. I am Théoden King’s personal healer and Lord Éomer allowed me to stay and do what I can for the injured. I can use you to fetch things and maybe I can show you some basics skills.” He sighed as he looked around at the number of wounded.
“I-I have training as a healer.”
He looked at her in shock before saying dubiously, “You are young.”
Rebecca nodded in agreement, “I am, but the elves trained me anyway, sensing I had a gift.” She shrugged. “It was only the most basic of trainings and I have not used it much.”
“Still, it will be useful. My name is Sigebréoht.”
“Rebecca. I have healing supplies with my pack in our room.”
“Get it,” he ordered tersely, turning back to the injured man.
Hurrying from the room, Rebecca quickly ran to where their packs had been stored, grabbing her healing kit and returning to Sigebréoht. As she ran she realized that she didn’t even notice the weight of the armor anymore.
“Where do I start?”
Sigebréoht quickly looked through her kit and then set it aside. “We will save this for later when we have more time. For now all we can do is try and stop the bleeding.” He paused and gazed at her intently, searching her face. “Lady Rebecca, many, if not most, of these men will die. We have to make decisions on who we think has a chance to live… and who will not.”
Rebecca’s sunken, dark-circled eyes widened and she glanced around the room at all the men. “How do I… how can you tell if…”
“You will learn,” Sigebréoht said shortly. “Come.” He moved to the next man who was writhing in pain from deep gashes to both arms and another across his chest. Blood seeped steadily from all three wounds. Sigebréoht briefly examined the man’s arms before checking the chest. He glanced up at Rebecca and shook his head.
“Why?” she whispered, gazing down at the wounded man. “It doesn’t look that bad.”
Sigebréoht motioned her closer. “Look, the blade struck too deep.” He pulled back the shirt and Rebecca could clearly see the damage to the chest. She drew in a sharp breath and nodded in understanding. Sigebréoht moved on to the next man, indicating that Rebecca should examine him and make the decision.
Swallowing hard, she checked the wounds on his legs, thinking back to things Lord Thalion had told her about leg wounds. She noted that though the wounds were still bleeding, neither was life-threatening. However, the man was unconscious, so she carefully removed his helm to check his head. Rebecca found a large knot on the side of his head, but there were no signs of blood. “He will live, my lord, if we can stop the bleeding.” Nodding his approval, Sigebréoht handed her a stack of bandaging material.
“Do we clean it first?”
“There is no time. Tie on a bandage to stop the bleeding and move to the next man.”
Rebecca swiftly and efficiently applied the bandages as Lord Thalion had taught her. She glanced up to meet Sigebréoht’s approving eyes.
“You will do, Lady Rebecca. Start over there.”
Nodding, Rebecca slowly got to her feet, wondering how she could make such life and death decisions. If she made a mistake then men would die and she would be responsible for it. She finally realized that if she didn’t help they would die anyway and she would just have to do the best she could and rely on the training she had received. Sighing deeply and wearily, she crouched down next to her first patient.
A huge explosion rocked the Deeping Wall, tearing open a huge gap near the culvert. Thomas and Gimli tumbled down the steps, landing in a heap at the bottom. Holding his head, Thomas got unsteadily to his feet pulling Gimli up with him. Men that had been thrown from the wall lay moaning around them. Éomer came charging down the far steps leading a large group of men to fight the orcs pouring through the breach in the wall.
Gimli and Thomas joined Éomer, fighting fiercely with axe and sword. Ignoring his pain, Thomas fought without restraint, trying to avenge the man who had saved his life. His eyes were dark and angry as he faced the enemy.
The Rohirrim were heavily outnumbered and were slowly being pushed further back into the Deep near the caves. The men fought harder as they were pressed closer and closer to their families. Going backwards up a rock-strewn hill was difficult at best, and some men were lost just from tripping over the ground and not getting back to their feet in time to avoid the orcs.
“31!” Gimli shouted.
“You’re still counting?” Éomer asked incredulously.
“Of course, no elf prince is going to beat me! 32!” Gimli growled, swinging his axe at another orc.
Éomer laughed, while Thomas just shook his head slightly, grimly killing another of the hillmen.
Legolas pulled Aragorn through the door into the Hornburg following the last of the surviving men from the Deeping Wall. The gate slammed shut behind them, keeping out the enraged uruks and orcs who had almost overtaken them.
“That was close, mellon nín,” Aragorn commented as they strode swiftly across the courtyard to Théoden.
Legolas nodded before saying, “Dawn approaches.”
Aragorn glanced up swiftly, his eyes finding the faintest tint of pink on the mountains to the east. “So it does,” he murmured.
“Where’s Éomer?” Théoden demanded as they approached.
“I know not, my lord. I last saw him leading men into the Deep after the explosion, trying to hold back the enemy,” Aragorn answered.
“They were being pushed back up towards the caves. He was still alive a short time ago,” Legolas continued. “Gimli and Thomas were with him,” he added, glancing at Aragorn, who nodded slightly.
Théoden sighed deeply as he ran his hand across his face. “I have failed my people,” he said, despair evident in both his voice and face.
“This battle is not over, Théoden King. We are not defeated.” Aragorn glanced up at the walls were men were preparing for the next attack. “Your men are still fighting for Rohan… for you.” He fixed his gaze intently on the king.
“Ladders!” someone screamed.
“They come again,” Théoden muttered. “Will you ride out with me before the end, Lord Aragorn?”
“We shall ride out with the coming of the dawn.” Aragorn turned and hurried to the wall, taking the steps two at a time, Legolas on his heels.
Aragorn and Legolas waded into the battles taking place along the wall, trying desperately to keep the Hornburg from being overrun. Aragorn moved up and down the length of the wall, fighting in places where the battle was fiercest at the moment and then moving on, encouraging the men as he passed.
Time after time the uruks and hillmen scaled the high wall and again and again the Rohirrim threw them back. A heavy toll was starting to be taken as more and more of the Rohirrim fell to injury and death. Looking over the wall, Aragorn saw the approaching battering ram and he frowned slightly. Glancing to the east he saw the sun would be up in less than a half hour and his heart was lightened. Calling to Legolas, he ran back down to prepare their horses to ride out.
Rebecca had long since lost count of the number of men she had tended during the endless night. She just crawled from one injured man to the next, quickly making a decision and then either bandaging wounds or moving on. At first, it had been so difficult to leave men to die, but now she just moved on without thought or feeling. She was too exhausted to feel. Her world had been reduced to trying to save those that she could; trying desperately to reach them in time.
“What was that?” Rebecca looked up at the sound of an explosion, glancing over at Sigebréoht.
He shook his head, “Some weapon of Saruman’s,” he said with a frown. “We will be seeing more wounded men,” he paused briefly. “Though I suppose it will depend on where the explosion took place,” he turned back to the man he was bandaging.
Nodding, Rebecca did the same, knowing there was nothing she could do out there, but these men here needed her help. Realizing how thirsty she was, she wondered how long it had been since she had had a drink and where she had put her waterskin. She yawned, rubbing the back of her hand across her eyes as she moved to the next man.
The next sound of which Rebecca was aware was the sounds of heavy, booted feet running and hoofbeats of horses in the hall. She looked to Sigebréoht who was across from the door. “It appears some of the men are riding out,” he said, giving her a small, sad smile.
Rebecca looked down for a moment, wondering where Thomas, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli were, if they were even still alive. It seemed impossible to believe that all of them could still be alive. She had seen too much death this night to have any such hope. Looking back at Sigebréoht, she asked, “Have we lost?”
Sigebréoht shrugged, “I know not, Lady Rebecca.” He glanced back out the door, “Though we may get some more help now,” he commented as he returned to his work. Rebecca followed suit.
Not many minutes later a handful of men came in and after talking briefly with Sigebréoht, set to work on the injured. Crossing to Rebecca, Sigebréoht crouched down beside her, handing her the healing kit. “We have enough help now that we can slow down and take proper care of the wounds. There is water…”
“I’m so thirsty,” she interrupted.
He peered at her closely, “Do you not carry a waterskin? When did you last drink?”
“I think maybe it’s with my pack, but I’m not sure and I don’t know when I last drank anything. Maybe this afternoon sometime,” she said tiredly, scrubbing at her eyes.
Sighing, Sigebréoht handed Rebecca his waterskin, “Drink all of this; I do not want to add you to those I need to care for. After you drink, clean the wounds and stitch them.” He patted her shoulder and slowly walked away, muttering in Rohirric.
Rebecca closed her eyes as she drained the last of the water. She started as she almost fell over and she realized she had nearly fallen asleep. Quickly looking around to see if Sigebréoht had noticed, she was relieved to see he was looking the other way. Rebecca was embarrassed that she could have fallen asleep when all of these men still needed her help. She pushed herself to her feet and carefully walked to the water barrel, trying not to stumble. Drawing a small bucket of water and returning to the injured men, she went back to work.
Concentrating on stitching the injured man’s shoulder, Rebecca ignored the man who silently crouched beside her. As she finished the last stitch and cut the thread with her small knife, he said quietly,
“Good morning, Lady Rebecca.”
Rebecca sat back on her heels and gazed at Legolas, looking him over carefully. “You’re alive at least,” she said. She reached out to touch his cheek to make sure he was real and not just a trick of her tired mind, but pulled it back when she saw how it was stained with blood.
Legolas clasped her hand gently. “I am really here and Aragorn is in the other room.”
“There were fighting further up in the Deep.”
She nodded, bowing her head for a moment. “Are-are we going to die, Legolas?” Rebecca looked at him questioningly from dark-rimmed, exhausted eyes.
“I know not,” he admitted, rubbing her hand soothingly. “Dawn is near and Aragorn intends to ride out with the king and his men.”
“And you are going,” she stated, staring at him.
“Yes. Aragorn and I wanted to know if you made it off the wall safely before we rode out. I came as I do not need to saddle Arod.”
“Oh, sure, I’m safe here, Legolas. I need to get back to work now,” Rebecca whispered. She pulled her hand away, rubbing her eyes briefly. “Good luck.” She started to turn away.
Legolas grabbed her arm and turned her back to face him. “Do not give up, Lady Rebecca,” he admonished her gently. “I know you are weary and things look grim, but you must cling to hope. Do not give in to despair at this late hour. Aragorn senses something, though I know not what. I trust him and his gift of foresight.”
Rebecca stared past him, unsettled by the intensity of his gaze. Finally, she met his eyes and saw only care and concern there. “I will try, Legolas.”
Getting gracefully to his feet, Legolas squeezed her shoulder gently, “Navaer, híril nín.”
Rebecca smiled weakly, “Navaer, hîr nín.” She watched him walk swiftly from the room before returning to the injured man.
Now Gimli was talking about the beauty of the caves while he killed the orcs that had pressed the Rohirrim back into the semi-darkness. Only the scattered torches left by the women and children as they fled deeper into the caves illuminated the darkness. But the torches reflected off the natural crystals that covered the walls and high roof, casting an eerie glow to the spacious cavern.
Thomas stood with Gimli, beyond exhausted, somehow still on his feet and somehow still able to kill the orcs that came near. He knew he was fortunate that the uruks and hillmen had either all been killed or had turned back to the fortress. Killing one of those was beyond his strength and capabilities at this point. The smaller, almost mindless orcs were all he could manage.
“Gimli!” Thomas suddenly shouted as he tried to deflect a sword aimed at the dwarf’s head. He was only partially successful and the sword opened a gash above Gimli’s right eye. Thomas quickly killed the orc and jumped in front of Gimli to try and protect him. “Are you badly hurt?”
“No, but I can’t see, the blood is dripping into my eye,” he growled in frustration.
Fueled by a sudden spurt of adrenaline, Thomas killed the orcs around him, desperately trying to think of a way to help. “Tear off a piece of my tunic, Gimli,” he said in a strangled voice. He felt the dwarf tugging on the back of his tunic and assumed he was cutting off a strip to use as a bandage. “What else can I do?” he asked as the orcs started pressing in around them trying to take advantage of Gimli’s injury.
“I’m fine now, lad,” Gimli said as he darted out from behind Thomas and started killing orcs again with a dirty looking bandage tied around his head. “40!”
Thomas smiled in relief, if Gimli hadn’t lost track of his kills, he would be fine.
The sounds of horns could be faintly heard echoing through the cave. “The horn of Helm Hammerhand!” the men of Rohan cheered and resumed fighting vigorously while the orcs paused uncertainly. Gimli and Thomas exchanged puzzled looks as they continued their bloody work.
Looking around at the men on horseback, Aragorn wondered if they were really doing the wisest thing. The king had chosen this course of action and while he was not under his command, he still felt he needed to accompany Théoden. Legolas rode up on Arod, leaning over and speaking quietly, “Rebecca is helping with the wounded, Aragorn.”
“Good,” he nodded, pulling his horse around to join Théoden. “Théoden King, I believe your men are ready.” Aragorn drew his sword and Legolas his knife.
Théoden looked around at his riders. “Men of Rohan, remember the women and children, the families you are fighting for. Remember our lands that have been plundered and burned. Do not let evil prevail in this fight. Make this day a day worthy of song, worthy of remembrance, a day that will not be forgotten in the tales of all free peoples. Men of Rohan, we go forth to win the victory!”
The king gestured to the men at the door and they swung them open as the great horns of the Hornburg sounded. The men and horses surged out the door mowing down all in their path and slashing any creature standing in their way. Galloping across the courtyard and through the broken gate, the sun finally rose above the mountains, bathing the battlefield in glorious light.
Sweeping the enemy in front of them down the causeway, the Rohirrim came to a halt as they reached the grass. Saruman’s army was swirling in confusion as a large forest had appeared during the night, blocking off any escape back over the Dike. Turning to the west, they sought to escape up the ridge when a great host of men on foot appeared led by a white rider.
“Gandalf!” Aragorn and Legolas cried.
“Erkenbrand!” the men of Rohan yelled.
Trapped between the two forces of Rohan, the uruks and orcs were either slaughtered or driven into the trees and never seen again. As they were finishing off the last few, a cry sounded from the Deep. Éomer and his men pushed the last of the orcs from the caves and were chasing them back down towards the wall. The orcs were met and quickly dispatched by the Rohirrim outside the walls.
Gandalf, Aragorn, and Théoden met in the middle of the field as the men were starting to take care of the wounded, while Legolas went in search of Gimli and Thomas.
“Your arrival was timely, Gandalf,” Théoden stated dryly.
“So it appears, Théoden King. Though it looks as if the victory was costly,” Gandalf glanced at Aragorn.
“We lost many men from the Deeping Wall, especially when it was breached.” Aragorn turned in his saddle to look up at the wall, his eyes full of sorrow.
“Yet we have destroyed the might of Saruman,” Gandalf reminded him.
“I know, Gandalf, I know,” Aragorn nodded.
“What do you plan to do now?” Théoden asked.
“Ride to Isengard as soon as possible. I need to speak with Saruman.”
“I will accompany you; he has attacked my lands and killed my people. He must answer for that,” Théoden said with a scowl.
“Gandalf, we cannot leave until late this afternoon at the earliest. There are wounded to care for and people need to eat and rest,” Aragorn said.
“Who is wounded?” he asked sharply.
Aragorn looked at the wizard in surprise. “Well, there are many men wounded, but I think you probably mean among our companions.” Gandalf nodded impatiently. “Assuming Thomas is still alive, he will need a lot of stitches on his face.” Gandalf frowned. “I have not seen Gimli for a long time so I do not know about him. Rebecca is helping with the wounded right now.” Aragorn smiled inwardly at the look of relief that crossed Gandalf’s face, knowing that Rebecca had wormed her way into his heart, much as the hobbits had done.
“You are right; they will need some rest before we depart.” Gandalf looked at the king, “I imagine you could use some rest as well.”
Théoden nodded, “I do, and I’ll also be taking twenty of my men with me and they’ll need rest as well.” He turned and rode away, calling out instructions to his men.
Aragorn and Gandalf sat for a moment in quiet contemplation before urging their horses towards the causeway.
“Rebecca may have saved Éomer’s and my life last night, Gandalf,” Aragorn said, glancing sidelong at the wizard.
Gandalf pulled Shadowfax to an abrupt halt, “What? How?”
Aragorn quickly explained what had happened on the causeway. “We may have escaped on our own, Gandalf, but she certainly made it easier.” Aragorn shook his head. “I am glad she was there,” he admitted.
“Hmm,” Gandalf pondered Aragorn’s words, “As I told you before, we may never know their full purpose. It may have been that,” he shrugged and they moved on into the courtyard.
Gimli, Legolas, and Thomas were near the entrance to the Keep. Thomas was sitting on the ground, leaning against the wall, his hands wrapped around his pulled knees, staring vacantly into space. His wound had stopped bleeding, but it was hard to tell with the dirt and blood that covered him.
Aragorn slid off Hasufel and crossed swiftly to Thomas, dropping to his knees beside him. “Thomas?” he shook his shoulder gently, afraid he had gone into shock.
Thomas gazed at him, “Yes, Aragorn?” he asked, rubbing his blood-shot, dark-rimmed eyes.
Leaning back on his heels, Aragorn looked him over carefully. “Besides your face, are you hurt anywhere else?”
Thomas held up his hands which started shaking with exhaustion and he quickly lowered them. Aragorn gently picked them up one at a time and examined the numerous cuts and gouges. “Several of these wounds need to be stitched.”
“I know. The longer I’m here, Aragorn, the better I get at telling which sword cuts need stitches,” he laughed hollowly.
Aragorn frowned, before nodding sadly, “I am going to stitch these and then you are going to get some rest. We are riding out tonight.”
Thomas shrugged. At this point he didn’t really care about anything… except… Rebecca. He reached out and snagged Aragorn’s sleeve as he had turned to speak with Gimli. “Aragorn, where’s Rebecca? Is she all right?”
Aragorn nodded, “She is in the Keep helping the injured men. I am sure she is just as exhausted as the rest of us.”
“You don’t act tired,” Thomas said, though Aragorn’s eyes had the same dark circles as Thomas’s.
“I am, and so are the others,” Aragorn gestured to Gimli, Gandalf, and Legolas.
“I am not tired,” Legolas protested.
“The elf is not tired,” Aragorn amended. “However the rest of us are, but we have been doing this for a very long time, and we know ways to deal with it. We are all going to get some rest as soon as possible. Now, I want to get your stitches done.” Aragorn helped the young man to his feet, pausing when he saw the slight dizziness standing caused. Thomas leaned heavily on Aragorn as they went to the room that had been set aside for them and he sat down carefully.
“Sit over there, Gimli,” Aragorn directed, “I will stitch your wound next.”
Aragorn turned back to Thomas to find he had fallen asleep leaning back against the wall. He glanced up at Legolas as the elf handed him a basin of heated water, “Thank you.” He gently cleaned Thomas’s face, wrists, and hands before stitching each wound. He took extra time on the gash on Thomas’s cheek, knowing it would leave a scar, but wanting it to be as small as possible. He quickly bandaged him and laid him on a pallet before turning to Gimli.
“Were you too busy counting your kills to see the orc that did this?” Aragorn asked as he cleaned the cut.
“No,” Gimli said shortly, shooting Aragorn a nasty glare, “though I did win by one. The beast came out of nowhere. Thomas partially deflected the blow and then held off the others long enough so that I could clear my eyes.”
Aragorn paused, turning to stare at Thomas. He shook his head slightly, wondering how both he and Rebecca had managed to save someone else during the battle when both of them had little or no experience in battle. He resumed his stitching of Gimli, lost in thought.
Legolas looked at Aragorn in concern, “Is everything all right, mellon nín?”
“Yes,” Aragorn glanced at Legolas, “I just need to think about some things.” He smiled faintly at Legolas’s dubious look. “Will you bandage him while I get Rebecca?” Legolas nodded.
Scooting her bag of healing supplies in front of her, Rebecca crawled to the next man. She almost moaned when she saw the number of bandages that covered him, indicating all the places that would need stitches. Methodically she set to work, stopping occasionally to steady her trembling hands.
Rebecca knew the battle was over, she could hear men running in and out of the Keep. Yet no one came for her and she knew it meant that all of them were dead or wounded and Rebecca decided she might as well stay and be useful. She couldn’t stand the thought of leaving and possibly seeing one of their bodies lying somewhere. Legolas had told her to have hope, but too much time had gone by and almost all of it was gone. The thought of being alive and alone here was too horrible to imagine, though… maybe Gandalf would return for her. Spurred on by that thought, Rebecca was able to finish bandaging the man in front of her.
Rubbing her arm across her eyes and forehead as she stretched her sore and tired back, Rebecca was reaching to grab her bag when she saw Aragorn stride through the door. Tears that she had held in check all through the long night suddenly filled her eyes. He crossed quickly to her, kneeling down beside her.
“Rebecca,” he smiled gently, looking her over carefully.
“You came back, you’re not dead,” Rebecca choked out brokenly, tears now spilling down her cheeks.
“Everyone is safe, Rebecca. Thomas, Legolas, Gimli, even Gandalf has returned.” Aragorn carefully removed her helm from her matted hair and pulled her into his arms, embracing her tightly.
“I-I thought… no one came and the battle was over and…”
“I had to stitch Thomas and Gimli first. I am sorry that it worried you. Are you injured?” Aragorn looked down into her exhausted eyes.
“No… just…” she glanced away and wiped away the tears from her dirty face, “just very, very tired, Aragorn.”
Aragorn nodded, though he could tell there were things Rebecca was not telling him. But he also knew both of them were too exhausted to deal with it now.
“We have a place where we can rest. We are riding to Isengard this evening.” Rebecca’s eyes widened. “You will be quite safe with me,” Aragorn said.
“What about these wounded men? Shouldn’t I stay and help them?” Rebecca whispered.
Aragorn smiled, touched by her willingness to help others even in the face of her utter exhaustion. “It is well thought of, but there are enough healers here now and they will not be riding with us today.”
Rebecca quietly sighed in relief, she was willing to help, but her body desperately needed rest.
Helping her to her feet, Aragorn grabbed her bag and helm and they started for the door. After two steps Aragorn knew Rebecca would never be able to walk to the room. “Hold these,” he handed her the bag and helm. Scooping her into his arms, Aragorn walked swiftly towards the door.
“I can walk,” Rebecca protested.
“Not right now, Rebecca, just rest.”
She was asleep before he left the room.
Reviewers: Many thanks to everyone who is reading this story and especially to those who reviewed. I appreciate the encouragement.
Mellon nín – my friend
Navaer, híril nín – farewell, my lady
Navaer, hîr nín – farewell, my lord
Mellon nín – my friend
Navaer, híril nín – farewell, my lady
Navaer, hîr nín – farewell, my lord