Dwarves and Elves
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When You Are With Me: 1. Retreat
as a launch for the story and to anchor my work to the actual book.
And my apologies for any errors I make in my vague references to the layout
of Helm's Deep. I seem to have lost all my maps and blueprints and am
going by memory.
(That's the LAST time I leave my pack in the care of Merry and Pippin....)
There came a blare of trumpets, then a crash and flash of flame and smoke.
The waters of the Deeping-stream poured out hissing and foaming: they were
choked no longer, a gaping hole was blasted in the wall. A host of dark
shapes poured in.
"Devilry of Saruman!" cried Aragorn. "They have crept in the culvert again
and have lit the fire of Orthanc beneath our feet. Elendil!" he shouted,
as he leaped down into the breach; but even as he did so a hundred ladders
were raised against the battlements. Over the wall and under the wall the
last assault came sweeping like a dark wave upon a hill of sand. The
defense was swept away. Some of the Riders were driven back, further and
further into the Deep, falling and fighting as they gave way towards the
caves. Others cut their way back towards the Citadel.
Gimli hewed a two-handed stroke and laid an Orc before his feet. "Twenty-
one!" he shouted to Legolas, who was whetting his long blade upon the wall
above him. "Good!" the elf cried. "But my count is now two dozen. It has
been mostly knife-work up here." The dwarf approached him and stood
leaning against the breastwork.
"There are so many," the elf sighed. "Our count is only a few leaves in a
forest. It is disheartening."
"Aye. But this is ground which I could defend and be content. There is
good rock here," Gimli said, "and this country has tough bones. I feel it
beneath my feet. Give me a year and a hundred of my kin and I would make
this a place that armies would break upon like water."
Legolas smiled grimly, still staring out at the vast horde clamoring beyond
the wall. "I do not doubt it, my friend. But I do not like it here. It
is too confined and the greyness of it does little to lift my spirits. Men
build their fortresses and towers to last, but I do not see how they can
find them habitable. This is a bleak place."
Aragorn's voice echoed down from far along the battlements. They heard the
men take up his cry for retreat and all took to their heels, leaping from
the heights to get to safe ground. Those with them were the last to
withdraw, standing as long as they could at their posts to buy time for
their comrades to get to safety. The trumpets sounded and they knew that
the game was up, and it was time to give way and fight later. The men of
the Mark raced back, some battling their way for the Rock, some cutting
their way to the caves, stumbling over shadowy shapes and dispatching
enemies as they went.
Legolas stood still at the wall, an arrow nocked in his bow, firing at the
orcs who would trip up the heels of the retreating Rohirrim. Gimli stood
beside him, his axe held high. Men darted past them, momentarily pausing
to look at the two warriors who were oddly out of place amongst the
horsemen of the Mark, but danger and death were nigh and there was no time
Legolas fired one last arrow into the breach and caught an orc through the
throat. "Come, Legolas!" Gimli tugged at the elf's sleeve and lowered
himself down onto the parapet. "All who can have now got safe within. It
is time for us to follow!"
Legolas nodded and slung his bow over his back.
Even as he turned, there was a great shout from outside the walls and the
evening sky lit up like a frozen sunrise. Sheets of harsh white light shot
through the air, crushing rock and foundation where they struck, drawing
screams from orcs and men alike who had hesitated and were lost.
"Gimli! Legolas's voice rose with alarm. An orc lying motionless among
the slain had crept behind Gimli as he gazed in horror at the forces of
Orthanc tearing into the Helm's defences, and it now grappled fiercly with
the dwarf. Gimli twisted, trying to break its hold, but the thing had
grabbed him from behind and he was having an difficult time shaking it off.
He twisted and turned, growling as the orc snarled and snapped at his
neck, seeking a firmer grip on him. With a fluid motion Legolas unsheathed
his knife and cast it, burying it deep within the orc's back. It fell
limply over Gimli and he heaved it off in disgust. He kicked it once in
the face and bent to retrieve the elf's blade, then lifted his head to
shout up at his companion.
His words never came.
A flickering shaft of light blew away a piece of the wall above Legolas.
The elf jumped lightly from under the crumbling stone, but even as he moved
the white fire shattered and flared out from the wall's surface behind him,
striking the elf, flooding through him.
He stiffened with a wordless cry. His body arched. He was engulfed by the
unwholesome light and he disappeared in a blinding flash.
"Legolas!" Gimli's deep voice boomed. There was no answer, or if there
was, it was drowned out by the rushing noise of the sorcerous blasts and
the sound of distant horns. The dwarf cursed fervently, and kicked aside
corpses and debris in a frantic effort to reach his friend's side.
The light gradually faded and Gimli blinked, trying to see past the
afterimage lingering before his eyes. He picked his way towards where he
had seen Legolas go down, clenching his axe so tightly in his fist that he
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