Field of Battle, The: 8. Chapter Seven: The Choices of Legolas Greenleaf

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8. Chapter Seven: The Choices of Legolas Greenleaf

The Field of BattleChapter Seven
The Choices of Legolas Greenleaf

The retreat from Lossarnach was not even past the hour when Haradrim riders set
out upon their fastest mounts to the encampment of their Easterling comrades.
Since the destruction of Lebethron, the army responsible for the destruction of
the small township had marched quickly to South Ithilien, taking refuge a good
distance away from the colony of Eden Ardhon to avoid discovery whilst they
awaited further orders. The orders from their leader during their last council
of war before departing their lands had been clear. Once the destruction of
Lebethron was complete, they would do nothing further until the word was given.

To this end, they had been forced to wait in secret and it was no easy feat to
accomplish because elves were known to be of keen eye and senses. Yet remain
hidden they did, mostly in part because they were far enough away from the enemy
to assure anonymity. Taking refuge in the hills flanking the Harad Road, they
waited there patiently by the banks of the Poros, using the great river to
sustain them and their mumakils. The beasts could have easily turned the tide
of the battle in Lossarnach but their supreme commander had a better use for
them to which every Easterling agreed once they understood his plan.

Three riders set out from the Haradrim refuge at the foothills of the White
Mountains. The journey would see them travelling along the flow of the Anduin
before crossing the river into South Ithilien. They would avoid at all costs,
the great wood where the elven folk of Eden Ardhon held dominion and continue to
the camp of their Easterling brothers to give them the orders they had been
awaiting for so long. The Easterlings were burning to fight and though their
purpose in South Ithilien would be anything but a battle, the outcome meant as
much as any great conflict fought between armies since the beginning of time.
This had been a contingency planned since before they had set out from their
homelands and it felt strangely satisfying to be finally given leave to set it
in motion.

Of the three that embarked upon the journey, only two were able to reach their
destination some days later. It was anticipated that they might encounter
difficulties along the way, which was why three had been sent instead of one.
However, when one had failed to arrive at their destination, it mattered little
because they care not who knew the content of the message carried. Time was
with them and they knew that the armies of Gondor, Ithilien and Rohan were too
preoccupied with concerns of their own to give them opposition when it came time
for the Easterlings to move.

The message spoke only a few words but it was more than enough. Orders and plans
of attack had been formulated and issued long before the Easterling and their
Haradrim allies had parted company. This occasion was no exception. Of all the
attacks they had planned with elaborate devices set in place to deceive, this
one in truth was the hardest and perhaps the greatest gamble of them all. How
the Easterling attack was perceived by those who mattered, would decide the
course of the war and the future of the Reunified Kingdom.

They wasted no time once the message reached them, pausing long enough to
familiarize themselves and their warriors with the plan of attack. Some had
serious misgivings about what they were about to do. It was one thing to rape
and pillage a small community of humans but quite another thing entirely to
launch an offensive against an elven city, even a fledgling one. Far worse than
the attack was the brutality that they were required to dispense once the attack
was underway. The Easterlings were not by nature a barbarian race and while
they viewed the destruction of Lebethron as a necessary evil, not many were
entirely happy that they were driven to such savagery.

The dawn’s light saw them setting out from their hiding place and knew that it
would only be a matter of days before they at their destination. No longer
afraid of moving in the light, these army would make great haste in its journey
and arrive there well ahead of any other force, in the unlikely event there was
any to be spared in these troubled times. They anticipated opposition but had
sufficient numbers amongst them to overwhelm the enemy when they arrived. They
knew their opponents well and had taken no chances with their ability to defeat
such effective warriors. It had been almost three thousand years since the
Easterlings had faced the enemy and the tales of their skill in battle was not
to be underestimated. However, the Easterlings had ensured that this time,
there would be no defeat.

Because it would be the numbers that decided how the battle would play.


**************

Following the victory at Lossarnach, Aragorn had allowed for little more than a
day of rest for himself before he embarked upon the business of dealing with the
Haradrim army who was still roaming freely through Middle earth. The arrival of
Faramir and the Rohirrim cavalry had turned the tide of the battle and though it
took most of the night, they were finally capable of bringing the rampant fires
under some kind of control. The toll upon Lossarnach however was considerable.
There was not one corner of the city that had not been ravaged by destruction
and as Aragorn found himself surveying the destruction when the last embers of
flame had finally cooled, he knew that it would be a long time before the city
could take its place as a centre of beauty once again.

However, not all news was bad. They received word from Rohan that King Eomer had
returned to Edoras safely and that a Confederacy inspired attack by Dunlending
tribesmen had been thwarted with the wild men being annihilated by the Rohirrim
warriors. There was also some unexpected assistance from the dwarves of
Aglarond. Aware that their lord would approve of their actions, the dwarves had
offered military aid in ridding the Rohirrim of the goblins who had slain Bowen
and his army in the White Mountains. The dwarves, who were aware that the safety
of Rohan was as much their business as the Rohirrim, had elected to join the
conflict and ensure that no other race of the Black Speech took refuge in any
mountain of Rohan.

This news was a source of great pride to Gimli who was rather surprised that
they would undertake such a course on their own volition but quickly claimed
that dwarves were a sensible lot and they knew when they were needed in a fight.
Meanwhile, Imrahil had taken the army towards Gondor, fortifying the defences
around the White City in the event the enemy chose to make an attempt to invade
Minas Tirith after its failure at Lossarnach. Faramir and the Rohirrim however,
would be remaining Lossarnach and join the king in his hunt for the Haradrim
enemy who appeared to have vanished from sight.

“Well at least Rohan is safe,” Aragorn declared over the table that belong to
the great hall of what was once Lord Fenreg’s castle. The young Steward was now
one of the many hundreds that had been buried over the past days in the wake of
the attack. “However, it concerns me greatly that the enemy was able to gain
the support of the goblins of Moria.”

“Their number is still large despite our best efforts to vanquish them,” Gimli
frowned. He had led a party to expunge their infestation of Moria but like all
vermin, they were difficult to exterminate completely. With so much dead already
in Moria, the dwarves had chosen to abandon it to the ages rather than attempt
to tame it. “Fortunately with the end of the Balrog, their desire to expand
their borders seemed to have disappeared.”

“I fear that will change,” Aragorn sighed. “This Haradrim king is no fool. He
has drawn support from all our enemies, even the goblins of Moria. It is a good
thing that your people had chosen to aid the Rohirrim Master Gimli. They could
use the help.”

“It is true,” Faramir agreed. “The Rohirrim are not mountain folk, they fight
better in on plains. With the aid of your people Gimli, they can defend
themselves a good deal better and you will be afforded their protection as
well.”

“Yes,” Gimli nodded. “A decidedly sensible arrangement for everyone concerned.
My people are often reluctant to get involved in such battles but if we are to
live in Rohan then we should be neighbourly about it.”

“I am certain that Eomer will appreciate it,” Aragorn replied, taking a deep
puff of his pipe. “I am glad to hear that he was unhurt.”

“If his sister is anything to go by, they breed them tough in Rohan.” Gimli
smiled as he downed a goblet of wine.

“I will concur,” Faramir laughed and then become slightly reflective as he
thought of Eowyn and wondered how she fared. A pang of longing surfaced inside
of him for his golden haired shield maiden and hoped there would be opportunity
to return to Ithilien to see her. “Imrahil was terribly grateful that Lothiriel
was unharmed.”

“Shouldn’t they be married by now?” Gimli asked.

“That is better answered by my wife than I,” Aragorn replied with a little
smile. “I confess when the conversation falls to gossip about who is to wed who,
I think it is time to retire for the evening.”

“Their strategy is clear however,” Faramir said making a move to a more serious
subject. “They are attempting to scatter the council.”

“Agreed,” Legolas stated firmly. “Your nemesis in this is a crafty one Aragorn.
He seeks to divide us by attacking each of our realms. In my case, it was a
warning but there can be no doubt as to his intentions.”

“I wish we knew more about him,” Aragorn frowned easing further into his chair
as he thought about his encounter with Haradrim leader. “He appears to be a man
of the Sunlands but he was a Haradrim. It takes a formidable man to unite all
those disaffected voices. We must be doubly on our guard after this.”

“He was certainly formidable when we fought,” Gimli replied, stroking his beard
as he recalled their battle and how close he had come to losing his life at the
man’s hands. “His people are willing to die for him Aragorn and that is
something I have never seen before. The Haradrim underling took his place
beneath my axe without question. I do not think even Sauron commanded that much
loyalty.”

“Perhaps he does not command them with the fear of the sword but rather with
respect,” Legolas pointed out. “You of all people know how fiercely soldiers
will fight for a king that they love greatly. If this king has engendered this
kind of affection then we are looking at entirely different war. Aragorn,”
Legolas met the king of Gondor’s eyes, “this may take years and it will never
stop until one side wins.”

“I know,” Aragorn nodded sadly. “I wished with all my heart that it had not come
to this but it has and you are right old friend. There will be no peace unless
it is enforced by a final and complete defeat of the Easterling Confederacy.”

The mood became as sombre as the dead and for a few minutes no one spoke until
Gimli reached across the table and poured himself more wine from the flagon
before them.

“Let’s us not discuss this any further tonight,” the dwarf said with all the
cheer he could muster, which was quite considerable when he put his mind to it.
It was almost impossible to keep from being affected. “We cannot do anything
about it and it will do us no good dashing our heads against the wall over
troubles we cannot repair until the morrow.”

“For a dwarf, you make an uncommonly good deal of sense,” Legolas teased.

“Well more than a damn elf can that’s for certain,” the dwarf retorted.

Aragorn and Faramir rolled their eyes in resignation, more than accustomed to
the bantering by the members of two supposedly ‘older’ races.

“And they say men lack maturity,” Aragorn snorted in Faramir’s direction.

Faramir was about to respond when suddenly, bursting through the door was
Nunaur. The march warden of Eden Ardhon appeared positively ashen as he entered
the room and sought immediately to reach Legolas’ side. In his hand, he
clutched a small scroll of paper. His grip around it was so tight that it was
almost a fist and the parchment was crushed under the weight of his fingers.

“What is it?” Legolas demanded, his heart starting to pound at the foreboding he
could see in Nunaur’s face.

“We intercepted a rider while scouting for the Haradrim,” Nunaur spoke, quite
out of breath. It was quite obvious that he had rode hard from where he had been
to reach them and had barely paused for rest. “The rider was heading southwards,
carrying this. I managed to pry the truth from him and learnt that he was but
one of three carrying the same message.”

“What message?” Aragorn spoke, becoming just as anxious as Legolas.

The lord of Eden Ardhon took the crushed parchment in his hand and read the
contents. His eyes widened slightly and the aloof mask that they were so
accustomed to seeing upon his features dropped completely and in its place was
nothing less than blind panic.

“GET MY HORSE SADDLED!” Legolas shouted as he tossed it away and started towards
the door.

“I ordered it as soon as I arrived,” Nunaur answered, following his lord with
complete ignorance of the fact that they were not alone.

“Legolas!” Aragorn cried out but neither elf was listening as Legolas strode out
of the room with Nunaur following close behind. Their footsteps could be heard
breaking into run as they drew further and further away. Aragorn reached the
scroll of paper first when it appeared that no answer was forthcoming. He picked
it up and registered the same horror as Legolas.

“Faramir,” Aragorn said softly, but his voice was cold as ice. “Get the men
ready, we ride within the hour.”

Faramir knew the look in his king’s eyes well enough to make no effort at
questioning the request. “As you will.”

“What does it say?” Gimli demanded, his patience able to bear it no further.

“It says,” Aragorn managed to speak through gritted teeth. “Show no mercy to
Eden Ardhon.”

************

Life in Eden Ardhon continued in much the way it had since the colony was
established, despite the conflict beyond its borders. The business of
establishing a new elven kingdom in the woods of South Ithilien continued and
though it had been many months since they settled here, there was still so much
work to be done. For many of the elves led here by Legolas from the kingdoms of
Lothlorien and Mirkwood, Eden Ardhon was a chance to accomplish something that
elves rarely had opportunity to do, something completely new from start to
finish. Most of the elves that had journeyed with Legolas to this distant realm
had been born after the establishment of elven kind in Middle earth. They
existed in cities already built and there was little that could be contributed
that would echo with their distinct voice.

Here in Eden Ardhon was a chance to create some unique in the face of their
diminishing presence in Middle earth. It was no surprise that many of the elves
that had chosen to remain instead of sailing into the Undying Lands were
relatively young, being no more than three millennia old. While to men and
dwarves, this may seen like an age, for the elves this was still a time of youth
and the ability to express it without the eye of their elders reminding them of
how it was all done before was a wonderful opportunity indeed. Of course, this
did not mean that they were immature in any way or lacking good sense. Three
thousand years had given them a good deal of experience in all things and there
was just enough jaded essence in them to walk on the side of caution.

It was the scouts who first caught sight of the Easterling army in all its
terrible strength. The elves had suspected that there might be enemies in their
midst but not even they had anticipated the true volume of their enemy’s number.
Only a small force had attacked the village of Lebethron because a small force
was all that was needed for such an insignificant target. Unfortunately, the
same could not be said of the invaders who quickly surrounded the wood of Eden
Ardhon and began a process of burning that enclosed the community in a wall of
flame.

The gift of foresight had allowed the elves to sense that some peril was drawing
close. In these troubled times, they were quick to dispatch scouts beyond the
boundaries of their territory to determine the exact nature of this so far
unseen threat. As they drew closer to the edge of the great wood in which Eden
Ardhon had made its home, the greater the sense of urgency became until it was
so palpable that they could choke upon its fumes. Its potency was thick as it
was completely encompassing. It surrounded them on all fronts, like a ring of
fire contracting around them with each passing second.

Upon the scouts’ return to Eden Ardhon, the order for evacuation was given
though all were still somewhat astonished that it had come to this. Not for
three millennia had the race of men attempted to war against the elves so openly
and the time had lulled the Eldar into complacency. Lothlorien, Mirkwood and
Imlardis had protection of its own, ensuring that an enemy could never breach
its borders to cause its people harm. Eden Ardhon was too new for such
enchantments and the prospect of invasion was so new to many of them, that
coping with it was not easy. Nevertheless, there was presence of mind to make
an effort at evacuation though the enemy quite effectively severed their routes
of escape. The only way left to them was by river and there were not nearly
enough boats to facilitate the evacuation of everyone from the colony.

By the time it became clear to the elves they would have to fight, half of their
number were sailing down the River Poros, away from the danger. What remained
was the entire arsenal of warriors in Eden Ardhon who had elected to positioned
themselves around their home in a defensive perimeter and hold the line against
the army that hopelessly outnumbered. The rest hid where they could, using
their skill as elves to mask themselves in the trees, hoping that would be
enough to save them from the onslaught of what was becoming inevitable.

**************

Melia could not find Anna.

The child had fled when news had returned from the scouts of the eminent
Easterling invasion. As evacuation became necessary, Melia had desperately
searched the community for the child, enlisting a number of elves to her cause.
The little girl had an almost elvish ability to remain hidden and it was more
than frustrating to a Ranger of her skill to be unable to discern where the
child had taken refuge. Melia was under no illusions as to why Anna would behave
in such a fashion, not when the same enemies who had ruthlessly murdered her
family and her entire village were close to wreaking the same destruction upon
the Eden Ardhon. The little girl probably thought that she was safer finding
her own hiding place then any that could be found by an adult.

After all, it had served her well enough before.

“I cannot find her!” Melia told Miriel and Vienne who had been helping her with
the search. Time was running out. They could hear the rumbling approach of the
mumakils all around them. Melia, who had been raised since childhood to know how
formidable these beasts were in battle, was painfully aware of how little time
they had to find Anna and hide, if hiding was at all possible.

“She must have hidden in the woods,” Miriel declared, sweeping her gaze across
the length and breadth of Eden Ardhon, as if this effort would be more
successful than the last dozen attempts. “We may have to widen our search to the
forests.”

“I do not know that is wise,” Vienne returned with overt fear in her eyes. The
approach of the enemy was growing louder in their ears, more so to an elf with
far better hearing that a human. “The enemy appears to be close. We may not be
able to reach her in time if she is wandering in the wood.”

Melia took a deep breath, debating what to do. Part of her was torn by her
responsibility to Miriel, Vienne and the other women who were still in Eden
Ardhon who had not managed to escape because they had run out of boats. While
most were now sailing down the Poros to safety, there was still enough remaining
in Eden Ardhon to give the enemy their brutal sport. Melia herself was carrying
her crossbow, prepared to join the elven warriors presently doing battle beyond
the perimeter of the city. They were conducting their battle from the trees but
with the advent of the mumakils, it was not going to be easy to defend Eden
Ardhon. The other part of her however, wanted to find Anna before the tragedy
that had encompassed the little girl’s family claimed her as well.

However, she was also wife to Legolas Greenleaf, Lord of Eden Ardhon and in his
stead, she would have to do what was best for the all despite her need to save
the one.

“We have to find shelter. The trees are our best recourse at the moment,” Melia
swallowed thickly, making the anguished decision she prayed she would not face.
“We must ensure that we are hidden before the enemy arrives.”

”Do you think they will breach out defences?” Vienne asked anxiously, her fear
beginning to override her experience.

“Almost certainly,” Melia nodded grimly, reaching for a bolt from her crossbow
and promptly arming the weapon. “Our warriors may be able to slow down the
Easterlings but they will not stop them. Their numbers are to great in warriors
and in mumakils.”

“What about Anna?” Miriel asked, staring at her.

“I will find her after you are all safe,” Melia answered while trying to hide
just how much she loathed making the choice to abandon her search for the child
for now.

Miriel’s expressions softened, showing Melia sympathy but the Ranger would have
none of it. Instead, Melia directed her attention to gathering the remaining
populace of Eden Ardhon in order to find safe hiding places for them. The enemy
was closing in from all directions and while the elves knew the woods well, they
could not hide indefinitely from the warriors and beasts flooding the forests.

“We go to the river,” Melia suggested as she led a large group of women towards
the River Poros. “I know we cannot sail away but those who can, should try and
swim across. The waters of Poros may be deep enough for the mumakils to avoid.
These beasts can swim but it will make ferrying warriors across difficult and
that is a disadvantage we dare not ignore.”

The Poros was a deep river with strong currents. Part of the reason Legolas
established his colony here was due to the proximity of the River Poros. The
Poros was deep enough for ships to sail its waters and its path took it to the
Anduin and to the sea. To the elves for whom the call of the sea was strong;
access to it was an absolute necessity. When it came time for Eden Ardhon to
see the departure of the elves, it would be from here that they would sail to
the Undying Lands in their grey ships.

Melia did not like the idea of anyone trying to swim across but it was risk some
of them had to take. She knew her people better than anyone present despite
their long spanning existence. She knew that Easterlings could be brutal and if
she did not succeed in sending away as many as possible to safety, then
Lebethron’s fate would truly be their own. Reaching the waters of the Poros,
the river was surging ahead with its usual vigour. The Poros saw its origins in
the mountains of Ephel Duath and built the strength of its flow from those lofty
heights.

“It is to strong!” Vienne exclaimed. “Surely we cannot swim across it!”

“Some of us have to try!” Melia returned, addressing all the women present.
“Those of you who think you can make it across, do so. The current being what it
is ensures that the mumakils will be reluctant to follow. However, their size
may make up for that advantage.”

“Look!” Miriel shouted, capturing their attention immediately.

Melia turned around and saw what Miriel was pointing at with such fear. Columns
of smoke were rising into the afternoon sky. Thick, black columns were maligning
the blue sky and tainting the air with the stench of cinders. The elven ladies
watched this destruction with horror as did the wife of their lord, who knew at
that moment how determined the enemy was to ensure that none of them escaped.

“They’re burning the forests!” Someone shouted. “They’re going to raze it about
our ears!”

Unfortunately, there was little Melia could say to refute this statement because
it appeared that was the truth. The Easterlings had considered their prey well
and knew that the trees would offer the elves protection if they were forced to
fight. With a ring of flame surrounding them on all directions, they would be
herded against the river, penned with a wall of water behind them.

“Swim!” Melia turned around and barked furiously. “Those who can make it, go
now!”

Her sharp demand sent a few women, including Vienne, hurrying to the water’s
edge, divesting themselves of their shifts until only their underthings kept
them from being completely immodest. Unfortunately, there was no other
alternative for their weight had to be light in order to make the crossing. It
would be difficult enough without the added burden of too many clothes,
diminishing their efforts. Melia watched a good number of them cross with a sigh
of relief.

“You should go,” Miriel remarked as Melia turned on her heels and started down
the path towards the woods once again.

“I cannot,” Melia frowned and noted that the others were following her. Her
thoughts were racing because she did not know what else to do. No doubt the
elven warriors had difficulties enough battling the rampaging forces closing in
Eden Ardhon without the added worry that a gaggle of women were still trapped
with no means of escape.

“You are Lord Legolas’ wife,” Miriel said firmly, “you should think to your own
safety!”

“I cannot!” Melia returned sharply. “I cannot swim!”

“What?” Miriel stared at her in disbelief. For a human, Melia was one of the
most capable people that Miriel had ever met. Despite her short life, the Ranger
who had captured the heart of Legolas Greenleaf was one of the most experienced
people she knew and commanded respect from those who knew her, even if they had
first deemed her unworthy of their prince. “How is it you cannot swim?”

“I come from the Sunlands where water is not entirely available in large enough
quantities. What there is, we use to bathe and drink. To use water as a form of
recreation is wasteful. So I never learnt,” Melia frowned, remembering how she
had been forced to break that bit of news to Legolas the first time.

“That is unfortunate,” Miriel frowned, still rather surprised that Melia was
incapable such a simple thing. “It appears we are going to have to fight if we
cannot leave here.”

“I refuse to believe that,” Melia declared and thought quickly. There had to be
a way to remain safe. Eden Ardhon was not forests and trees. She thought quickly
of all the maps that had been charted, the paths that she had committed to
memory out of sheer habit when the forests was being surveyed. She remembered
the winding paths, the glen of great oaks, and the meandering streams that saw
its life from the Poros. There had to be something in the wilderness that could
offer her a refuge!

“Wait,” Melia de when it suddenly came upon her, a slim hope at best but it was
better than nothing. “Did not Gimli say that there was a quarry of rocks nearby
when we were building the gathering hall?”

“Yes,” Miriel nodded remembering the fanfare it had required to move the stone
slabs to Eden Ardhon. “But it is hardly a quarry, more a collection of large
rocks. I do not even think that there are caves there.”

“It is better than nothing!” Melia declared seeing some light at the end of
their dark tunnel of circumstance. “Come everyone! Follow me, we go westward!”

There was little choice but to latch upon this slim hope and Melia hoped that it
would provide enough them with enough shelter for her to decide what they had to
do next. The path back to the quarry required their journey through Eden Ardhon
and Melia hoped the enemy was still being kept at bay. Smoke was so thick in
the air that it was difficult to see anything with clarity as clouds of grey
drifted past them with its noxious fumes. A poisonous fog of ash had settled
over the colony and though the forests were far from being completely engulfed
in flame, the damage was starting to become noticeable.

They were moving through the buildings when Melia noticed the elves stiffening
in fear. Most of the womenfolk were armed although not many could wield a weapon
with great skill. Elven women rarely found themselves in a position of
vulnerability and only a handful ever learnt how to further their ability to
fight. Arwen had been one of these exceptions because she had grown up with the
spectre of Celebrian’s abduction by orcs. The queen of Gondor had sworn that she
would never be so vulnerable and had with Legolas’ aid taught herself to fight
though initially it was a matter of great consternation to her father. More than
anything, Melia wished Arwen were here. The Evenstar had more than skill at her
disposal, she had a sharpness of mind that Melia felt was sorely needed at this
moment.

Melia knew how to fend for herself, not for a whole.

“What is it?” Melia asked, though she had an idea what it was that had captured
the elven women’s attentions so completely.

“We are not alone,” Miriel whispered, drawing a dagger from the belted sheath
around her waist.

“Everyone stay close!” Melia ordered.

A blanket of silence fell over them that seemed to drown the cackling of the
fires in the distance, the thunderous approach of the mumakils and the voices of
men and elves battling fiercely for this smoke filled domain. The elven women
were deathly afraid, she could see it in their eyes and while she possessed none
of their senses, she could feel the reason for this anxiety. It was pressing up
against them like the walls of a cage, trapping them.

The Easterlings were in Eden Ardhon.

When they came out of the smoke, there were so many that Melia could not keep
track of them. She reacted immediately, amidst the screams of fear as the
Easterling warriors closed in on the women of Eden Ardhon. Melia aimed her
crossbow at the enemy and began releasing steel bolts through the air with more
speed than she thought herself capable. She saw one elven woman being attacked,
Nóriëinya, Melia recalled briefly before she sent a bolt from her crossbow
straight into the skull of Nóriëinya’s attacker. The maid squealed in fright as
blood splattered over her but her cries were cut short when one of her more
sensible sisters grabbed her hand and dragged her away from danger. Melia loss
sight of them when she saw something approach from the corner of her eye and
dealt with it.

However as she staved off one attacker, she could hear the screams of her
companions who were not so successful. Miriel was slashing wildly with her
dagger at an Easterling warrior and Melia was almost ready to believe that she
was safe when another reached out of the fog behind the elven women and grabbed
the arm holding the offensive weapon. Once trapped, Melia could only watch
helplessly as the other Easterling struck the elven maid hard, knocking her
almost unconscious.

“Miriel!” Melia shouted and prepared to shoot when she felt something slam into
her shoulder. The pain was beyond belief as the arrow speared the space where
her arm met her body. Melia staggered, unable to hold her crossbow with the
strength she needed. The archer of this attack soon made his appearance and
though she appeared weakened, Melia was far from helpless. Kicking her foot out,
she connected with his knee and brought him to the ground. Gritting her teeth
against the pain, she swung the crossbow against his face, ensuring there was
enough force behind the weapon to shatter bone. He felt backwards bleeding and
Melia finished him off swiftly by impaling him through the chest with a bolt
still waiting to be ejected.

When she looked up, she could no longer see Miriel but she could hear the
screaming. The terrible screams, full of pain, despair and anguish as the women
who had been subdued were forced to endure a torture far worse than any death.

“Miriel!” Melia screamed again, tears running down her face because the smoke
was so thick, she could see little ahead of her and losing sight of her
companions now held the worse possibilities. Miriel did not answer her but
Melia could hear her cries.

Suddenly, something else caught Melia’s attention far more acutely than the
horrific screams of her violated companions. A sharp, shrill cry that could only
come from one person in all of Eden Ardhon. Bleeding and in pain, Melia forced
herself to pick up her crossbow as she ran towards the direction of the helpless
screams. It was easy to distinguish the terrified cried amidst of so many
others because Melia knew the difference between them. She ran forward, blood
still frothing from her wounded shoulder, the arrow cutting deeper into her
flesh with every step she took. Its intensity forced her to grit her teeth and
ignore the agony of it because the screaming did not abate but grew more frantic
and desperate.

“Anna!” Melia cried out when she saw the young girl being dragged out of her
secret hiding place by an Easterling warrior. She had crawled into the hollow of
one of the large trees and had remained there as she had done so when Lebethron
had been attacked and destroyed. Anna had probably thought that the same hiding
place would suffice this instance. Perhaps it was the smoke that had forced her
to give herself away, Melia could not be certain but it was enough for the
Easterling warrior to notice the child and take to pulling her out of her hiding
place by the legs.

“LET HER GO!” Melia ran straight into him and send him sprawling. He tumbled
away like a loose rock tumbling down the side of a hill. Briefly, Melia turned
to Anna who was still trembling in fright from her ordeal and hissed sharply,
“Anna! Run!”

Anna nodded wildly and bolted from the tree, determined to do as she asked. The
little girl cast a glimpse over her shoulder to catch sigh of the woman who had
saved her life when suddenly, she ran straight into someone else. Anna froze and
looked up, seeing the Easterling warrior, his body covered in armour staring
down at her through the eye slit in his faceplate. She recoiled almost
instantly butt thick, gloved hands clamped around her arms.

“Melia!” Anna squealed in terror when she realised that the Easterling grip
around her was firm and that she would not be able to escape him.

Everything seemed to slow for Melia at that instant. The rising smoke, the
clouds of grey rolling around her and above them. Only some things were clear in
the vagueness of grey, the stinging smoke was not. The screams of everyone else
faded away, the pain in her arm was forgotten and the weapon in her hand,
useless when the last of her bolts had been exhausted.

What was clear was Anna in the hands of the Easterling. Anna whose eyes were
wide with terror, pleading at her to help. The Easterling’s gloved hands shifted
position with an intent Melia knew all too well. A hand travelled across the
little girl’s chest, holding her to him across the breastbone and the other hand
that dug its fingers into her skull, past the hair until the grip was firm and
final.

“Don’t!” Melia pleaded meeting his eyes and pleading with that one word.

Melia saw his eyes narrow and knew that he had not heard. The child’s neck
snapped cleanly in his grip, bone breaking so hard and fast that Anna probably
never knew what had happened and she went slack where she stood. The Easterling
released her then, allowing her small body to fall upon the ground, proving once
and for all that no one survived the massacre of Lebethron, even days after the
fact.

Melia may have screamed. She did not know, nor would she have had chance to
remember because she was tackled to the ground almost immediately after her soul
had died a little watching Anna’s life squandered away so brutally. The
Easterling murderer, Melia could not call him a warrior after what she had
witnessed, the one who had found Anna in her hiding place had barrelled into her
and knocked the Ranger off her feet. Melia rolled across the ground, snapping
the arrow embedded in her shoulder and driving the point deeper into her flesh
with such excruciating agony, she could do little but scream.

When he raised himself to throw a punch in her face, Melia kicked out her foot
and connected with the side of his body, causing him to stagger slightly on his
knees and give her time to straighten up herself. She struggled to an upright
position and threw a fist in his face as her crossbow was no longer in her grip.
He reeled but slightly and threw his out his own fist but did not strike her.
Instead, he grabbed a hold of the jagged shaft of the arrow and twisted hard.
Melia screamed involuntarily but earned another blow across the cheek for her
trouble. This one, which she was completely unprepared for, dropped her back on
the ground.

She recovered just enough to see another shadow towering over her and realised
that Anna’s murderer stood over her. She tried to move but she was not quick
enough and his boot met her side, breaking ribs in the process. Melia cried out
again, hating her weakness, hating the outcome she could see in his eyes. The
screams of the others were surfacing in her consciousness again and as another
boot landed in her stomach and the pummelling fists of both warriors reduced
whatever resistance she had into a bloody mess of bruised flesh, Melia knew a
worst indignity was yet to be visited upon her.

She stopped looking at them when the pain became to great because her eyes were
fixed upon Anna, who lay not far from where she was about to be defiled, the
child’s sightless eyes staring at her. Melia wept and though her attackers may
have been forgiven into thinking that her tears were born out of their violation
of her body, in truth she was weeping for the child she could not save. A part
of Melia’s mind closed itself to the physical horror her body was enduring and
wrapped itself around the guilt of failing Lebethron’s last survivor.

It was difficult to say which was worse.

**************

Preoccupied by the battle with the Easterlings, the elves of Eden Ardhon
remained unaware of what was taking place within the colony itself. Fire was
raging through the forests with unabated ferocity and there came a time when the
defenders considered that it may become necessary to abandon the wood altogether
and do the unthinkable, flee. However, elves were a hardly lot and they managed
to throw a formidable defence despite their numbers. They were aided by skill
and artful cunning that cost their enemies a sizeable portion of their number..
They used what natural advantage they had to kill as many of the mumakils as
possible and force their enemies to the ground.

At least five of the great beasts were felled, killed by arrows piercing their
most vulnerable places, the mouth, the eyes and the ears. A phalanx of arrows
had to be deployed to bring down one of these formidable war oliphants but the
elves were determined and a race who had been alive when Balrogs terrified the
earth would not shirk facing the less fearsome beasts. The fires disadvantaged
them of course, forcing the elves to fight in a confined area but after awhile,
the Eldar learnt how to use the flames to their advantage for they had better
endurance to smoke and fire then a human. In the end, their stamina was as much
a deciding factor in the Easterling retreat as their well-aimed arrows.

However, it appeared fortune was with them in some small fashion because grey
clouds of rain soon joined the clouds of grey smoke. Although the preceding wind
whipped the fires into a frenzy for a brief time, the rain that came down soon
after quashed it completely. A storm that could have been sent by Manwe
himself, quickly stamped out the fires surrounding Eden Ardhon and spared its
forest from any greater destruction. With the cleansing rain, the elves spirits
were somewhat raised though they sensed some deep dread they could not yet
address because of their present peril.

The Easterlings too, realised that they could not afford to linger and in truth,
they need not do so. Their intention was to show the elves how vulnerable they
were and in the ravaging of South Ithilien’s wood, the partial destruction of
Eden Ardhon and the crimes against its women, the Easterlings believed they had
accomplished much. With the dawning of a new day and their intention to save
their resources for more strategic targets, the Easterlings withdrew, satisfied
that they had made their point to the Lord of Eden Ardhon.

***************

It was a drop of water on her cheek that reminded Melia that she was alive.

Until then, she had been lying where they left her, the pain from a dozen wounds
suffusing into one black pit of despair. Her skin was bare in places, she could
feel the cool air against her shoulders, around her thighs but she did not wish
to open her eyes. Not that she wanted to. Her eyelids were difficult to open. If
anyone had been there to describe her appearance to her, Melia might have
understood why. She could feel the swell of blood in at least one of them but
the dull throbbing of her jaw and her head made it very difficult to care.

By the time the water had evolved from droplets to a teeming shower and finally
to a fully fledged downpour of rain, Melia could no longer take refuge in the
blackness of her unconscious state. The water’s insidious invasion brought
coherence to her mind and the fluid stung painfully the wounds across her body.
The most brutal pain was the one she did not wish to think about, even though it
made itself felt most acutely each time she moved. It felt as if she were torn
apart inside and while she knew that her injury was nowhere as grievous as it
could be, the world still felt as if it had ended for her.

When she opened her eyes as best she could, Melia saw nothing but pouring rain
descending from a grey sky. She felt the water penetrate her clothes and knew
that it would not be enough to wash away the stench she could still feel against
her skin. She could still smell them. Through the rain and blood, she could
still smell their stink upon her. The memory of them surfaced so quickly and
savagely for an instant that Melia felt her stomach clench into a fist. It was
the pain that kept her from doubling over and retching. She looked at her
shoulder and saw the arrow still embedded in her flesh but the pain of it had
dulled. It was her broken arm and ribs that took most of her attention. Melia
could taste blood in her mouth but she did not know if that was from her split
lips or the gash bleeding down her cheek.

She rolled over onto her stomach and immediately groaned at the pain that arose
from that action. Closing her eyes, she forced it away though not very well
because she was still gasping with every movement. The lower half of her body
ached whether or not she moved and once again, Melia was compelled to force away
the memory of what caused it. Somehow, she managed to pull herself to her knees
and with one hand covered the parts of her that had been exposed by the
Easterlings during the ordeal at their hands. Breathing was hard. Her chest
felt heavy and when she remembered that it had to do with being held down by the
neck during the point of penetration, the memory forced another surge of bile to
rise up in her throat.

When she saw Anna, all that was forgotten.

Melia crawled forward, ignoring the pain that coursed through her body as she
made her way to the child’s side. In death, Anna appeared peaceful, the only
sign of violence being the terrible ring of purple flesh around her throat. Her
eyes still stared into nothingness and Melia wondered if the last thing she had
seen was Melia’s inability to help her. What had she felt at that moment knowing
that she was going to die? Did she know that it would end that way or was fear
all she felt? Melia supposed she would never know and brushed her palm across
the girl’s eyes, closing them at last.

For a moment, the lady of Eden Ardhon did nothing but kneel before the dead
child. Staring at this poor life that fate had decreed would never see past this
day. Melia had felt a little part of her die when Anna’s life was taken from her
and knew that every day from this one forward, she would never be truly free of
that image. Her shoulders shook when the first sobs escaped her and it was not
long before she was crying so hard that it felt as if she might break into a
thousand pieces. She had not wept in this way since she was forced to tell
Legolas to kill her mother after the insidious spell by the Istar Alatar had
turned Ninuie into a monster. Yet this felt worse, a thousand times worse.

“I am sorry,” Melia whispered through her tears. “I failed you little one. I
failed you.”

Anna was in no position to refute the statement and Melia had little strength to
do nothing but kneel there in the rain, wondering why she should have survived
when she had failed to protect this child. Why did she deserve life? It was a
question Melia did not have long to ponder because she saw Miriel walking past
her in the distance. Until now, Melia had not taken too much stock of her
surroundings. Grief had shrunk her perception of things to the child that was
lying on the ground before her. She had not noticed anything else.

Some of Eden Ardhon was burned away but a good deal remained intact. It was the
woods that had suffered the worst of the fire but rain had quenched this angry
demon before too much was destroyed irrevocably. Trunks still stood tall and
proud and the nurturing touch of elves would ensure the promise of life
returning to their aged limbs and branches. It was fortunate that time was
capable of healing some things with ease and others, not at all. As she swept
her gaze over the ruined parts of Eden Ardhon, she supposed that in time the
destruction of this dark day could be forgotten in time. However, the injury
done to the people who dwelt within the colony was another thing entirely.

Even though she would have been quite content to remain where she was, allowing
her misery to soak her up whole, something compelled Melia to her feet. She
wiped the blood from her mouth and tried to take a step forward, the pain
spearing through her as she made the effort. Drawing a deep breath, Melia needed
to steady herself and accustomed her body to the exertion of moving.

”Miriel!” She cried out but the elven maid showed no indication that she had
heard Melia’s call. As Miriel moved out of sight, Melia saw the blood that
stained the white of her dress and the torn sleeves. The lady’s remarkable
golden hair was tangled and her fair flesh was smeared with dirt. She walked not
with her head held high but like a wraith compelled to walk in a place it had
once done in life.

“Miriel! Stop!” Melia tried again to no avail.

Concern compelled her forward and Melia fought against the pain as she followed
Miriel through Eden Ardhon. Through the rain she could hear the weeping of
others and knew that she was not alone in her ordeal. They too wore expression
of desolation and while Melia wanted to comfort them, something compelled her to
keep after Miriel. None however, struck Melia’s heart with as much anxiety as
seeing Miriel drift past everything as if it were not there. Melia soon
realised that calling to Miriel would not halt the lady’s progress and the only
thing to do was to follow her to her destination.

It was difficult to keep walking for Melia knew she was losing blood from her
injured shoulder. She was light headed and becoming shorter of breath but she
had to continue moving. Anna’s death was a crushing weight upon her soul and she
knew that if she allowed Miriel to get past her, she would regret it as much.
After some time, it was not difficult to discern where Miriel was headed and the
realisation made her hastened her pace even more.

The Poros’ rushing waters could be heard as Melia lost sight of Miriel when she
cleared the trees before the shore of the embankment. Melia quickened her step,
uttering a soft wince of pain because the insides of her body felt as if it had
been rubbed raw. Tears ran down her cheeks as she controlled the pain of not
only her violation but also the broken arm she was clutching limply to her side
and the jagged bones of ribs protruding deeper into her organs. Brushing past
the branches that shook as she emerged, Melia’s breath caught when she saw
Miriel wading towards the shore.

“Miriel no!” Melia exclaimed and broke into a run, her whole body heaving in
collective protest as the Ranger forced herself forward.

The elven maid waded into the great river, her dress immediately rising up
around her body, carried by the water swirling about her. Miriel seemed not to
notice and continued this march, not even when Melia waded in after. Her hair
began to splay out the farther out she went and Melia knew that if she did not
reach her soon, the Ranger would not have the strength to drag her out of the
river against the power of the current. It did not even occur to Melia that she
could not swim and if they were swept too far out, she would drown far quicker
than Miriel could manage.

“Stop!” Melia finally grabbed her arm in water that was shoulder deep. “What
are you doing?”

“Leave me be!” Miriel cried out. “I cannot live with this shame!”

“This shame is upon all of us!” Melia declared, refusing to let go and tried
hard to pull Miriel back before both of them were imperilled. Unfortunately,
this was not easy to do when one was injured and the other was an elf determined
to die. “You are not the only one who suffered this disgrace but to end your
life is to give them even more power over you! They will kill you without even
needing to draw the sword!”

“I cannot bear it!” Miriel wailed in anguish, her face streaked with tears. “I
smell him on my flesh. His stench is branded into my soul! I cannot live with
this stain upon my honour!”

“I will not let you kill yourself!” Melia shouted in fury. “Not you or anyone
else! You think I cannot smell what was done to me? You think my senses are any
less because I am human! I could retch thinking what has happened but I will not
allow them to win this way! Why do you think they use us in this manner! Not for
their pleasure but to break our men! This is not because of us! This is to
break the spirit of the men who care for us, a testimony to how they will always
be less because they failed to protect us!”

“I do not care!” Miriel wept. “I want to die. I do not want to live with this
shame! It will curse me for all time and I cannot bear it! He took so much
pleasure in what he did! I heard his cruel words! I shall not forget it even if
I go to the Undying Lands.”

“At least he was one!” Melia retaliated, her own emotions unleashed. It was like
a dam inside of her, even worse than when she had knelt at the child’s dead body
and wept. Then it had been merely tears, this was guilt and black despair, far
worse than any physical violation could ever be. “I have been used by both and
if that were not enough, one of them killed Anna! Murdered her right in front of
my eyes. This child that I was supposed to protect! She looked to me to keep
her safe and I promised her I would! I did nothing of the kind! I failed her! I
failed her so completely and they took her from me! A child!”

Melia’s grip upon Miriel slackened and her whole being seemed to lose its
strength for she shook where stood in the water, body wracked with large sobs
that shuddered every fibre of her being. She looked away then, feeling her
spirit bleed out of her like the blood oozing from her shoulder.

“Anna is dead?” Miriel looked at her, eyes filled with sorrow for suddenly,
something far worse than her own wretched state penetrated her heart.

“Yes,” Melia nodded weeping, barely able to say more than that for her sobs. “I
failed her, Miriel! I swore I would guard her, I promised to keep her safe and
yet I failed her.” Melia’s voice broke completely with that tormented
confession.

Miriel saw Melia’s profound grief so much like her own and suddenly felt that
despite her despair, she pitied this human who had become her friend since her
arrival. The power to feel sympathy and empathy for Melia’s sorrow and her
ordeal allowed Miriel to gain some strength of her own. If a human could prevail
in light of such terrible guilt added to the burden of the horror they had both
endured, then an elf should be able to endure as well. She did not know if this
new found resolve would endure past the moment but Miriel supposed that it would
be a coward’s way not to even try. Taking Melia’s uninjured arm, the elven maid
led the broken Lady of Eden Ardhon back to shore with the hope that perhaps
their solidarity in pain might be able to mend them both someday.




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

Story Information

Author: Scribe

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Action

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 04/07/03

Original Post: 04/03/03

Go to Field of Battle, The overview

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