The orcs yelled and jeered. "Come down! Come down!" they cried. "If you wish to speak to us, come down! Bring out your king! We are the fighting Uruk-hai. We will fetch him from his hole, if he does not come. Bring out your skulking king!"
"The king stays or comes at his will," said Aragorn.
"Then what are you doing here?" they answered. "Why do you look out? Do you wish to see the greatness of our army? We are the fighting Uruk-hai."
"I wait for the dawn," said Aragorn.
"What of the dawn?" they jeered. "We do not stop the fight for night or day. We come to kill, by sun or moon. What of the dawn?"
"None knows what the new day shall bring him," said Aragorn. "Get you gone, ere it turn to your evil."
He leapt down from the wall, and the orcs laughed with loud voices. A hail of darts and arrows whistled through the air behind him, mocking him.
"The end will not be long," said Theoden as Aragorn strode into the Citadel. "But I will not end here, taken like an old badger in a trap. I will bid men sound Helm's horn at dawn, and I will ride forth. Will you ride with me then, son of Arathorn? Maybe we shall cleave a road, or make such an end as will be worth a song - if any be left to sing of us hereafter."
"I will ride with you," said Aragorn.
Taking his leave of the king, he returned to the walls and passed round, rallying the men, lending aid wherever the assault was hot. Blasts of fire leaped up from below shaking the stones. Grappling hooks were hurled, and ladders raised. Again and again the orcs gained the summit of the second wall, and again the Riders cast them down.
Aragorn leaned on his sword, surveying their defenses. This night seemed to last forever. He looked at the pale stars, and at the moon, now sloping behind the western hills that enclosed the valley. He watched the men of the Mark marshal their strength, weary and downhearted, but still with heads high and swords raised. Pride swelled within him, even as he sighed for them all. And always, his eyes swept the battlefield for a glimpse of a flashing battleaxe or the glint of an elven bowstring.
There had been no sign of Gimli or Legolas when he had returned to the Citadel. The last he had seen of them, they were upon the defenses at the Deeping Wall. The men who were there who had escaped Saruman's hellfire and the fierce fighting at the culvert could tell him nothing certain as to the fate of his two companions, and he only hoped they had managed to keep together and had fled to the caves. His heart was heavy, but there was work to be done and he could not afford to let his appearance betray his emotions.
"This is a night as long as years," Aragorn said softly. "How long will the day tarry?"
"Dawn is not far off," said Gamling, who had now climbed up beside him. "But dawn will not help us , I fear.
"Yet dawn is ever the hope of men.," said Aragorn. His shoulders lifted and his eyes grew hard. "We will make them rue the light, Uruk-hai or no. Come! Let us see to the preparations."
Legolas awoke. He remained still for a moment, recalling where he was, letting his dreams melt away to reality. He rose quietly, extricating himself from Gimli's arms without waking the dwarf. He tentatively took a few steps, testing himself, feeling still a great weakness he had not known before, and a strange heaviness of heart, but to his relief, no pain. He swiftly dressed, taking a draught from the store of water, then walked noiselessly to Gimli's side to sit cross-legged by him.
With nimble fingers, he tickled the dwarf's beard. Gimli stirred and moved his hand to ward away the unwelcome intrusion into his sleep. Legolas smiled and studied his friend as he slumbered.
Gimli's face was peaceful. The elf absorbed the details of every line in the scarred and weathered face, the thick brown hair, the heavy brow, the long beard. Not fair, the elf thought. A face that had seen too many dark caves, too many sorrows, too many battles, and all the hardships mortals bore. But it was a profoundly comforting face and good. There was a strength there that touched the elf's soul.
Then with great deliberateness, Legolas tipped the cup in his hand and emptied what was left of the water over the dwarf.
Gimli came to with a sputter and shout. He sat upright with an outraged expression, and his eyes fell upon the elf. Legolas had thrown himself backwards and stood at a safe distance laughing merrily, quite aware of the peril of a rudely awakened dwarf with an axe within reach. "Good morning, Gimli. The sun has not yet fully graced the sky, but I did not think you would want to miss the fun the dawn may bring." The earth trembled beneath them as if in response and a thunderous blast echoed in the distance.
The dwarf cursed and shook himself from sleep, casting disgruntled looks at his friend. "It seems you're feeling in better spirits this morning."
"Much better." Legolas gave a slight, mocking bow.
"I am very glad to see you on your legs again, but I would ask that you let a dwarf fully awaken before plaguing him with an overabundance of elven cheerfulness," he grumbled. He yawned mightily, and reached for his clothes and armor.
Legolas clasped his cloak over his shoulders, tucking his knife into its sheath, moving slower than was his wont, but steadily. Gimli shrugged his chain mail over his shirt and tugged his boots on his feet. He gingerly fit his helm over his head, trying not to aggravate his wound. He fetched his battleaxe from the corner, and also Legolas's bow and quiver. He approached the elf.
"Have you recovered, Legolas?" he asked seriously. "Do not play games. Are you truly well?" He felt somewhat awkward, faced with Legolas standing before him, his bright eyes sparkling as if he had never suffered, as if last night were but a fading dream. But still there lingered a weariness about the elf's shoulders and upon his face.
Legolas sat upon the storage chest before the door. He took his bow from Gimli's hand, then strapped his quiver of arrows to his back. He watched Gimli, noticing the slight flush that had risen to the dwarf's rough face and his concentrated efforts not to look directly at the elf. Legolas paused with a disapproving frown. Then he stood and retrieved Gimli's cloak from the pallet on the floor, shaking the dust from it. He swept to the dwarf's side and hurled it over his companion's shoulders.
He knelt before him and delicately fastened the leaf brooch at Gimli's throat. He looked up, forcing Gimli to reluctantly meet his gaze.
"Do not doubt, beloved." Legolas smiled gently. He lifted the dwarf's hand to pressed it to his forehead, then to his lips. "I know not what today might bring for us, whether it be death or darkness or light and triumph, but if you will have it, my heart is yours, Gimli."
Gimli looked downcast. He closed his eyes as if steeling himself, and when he spoke it was with a heavy voice. "I cannot ask it of you, Legolas. I will not. I will not bind you to me."
He couldn't look at the elf, couldn't bear to see those penetrating eyes before him, but he heard Legolas draw in a deep breath, and his stomach clenched painfully. "You are beyond my grasp, Legolas, and I will not let you pledge yourself to someone as I. Our differences are great. Love between a mortal and immortal could come to naught but grief; we are not meant to be. Nay, I will not let you. Do not ask me to do this."
There was silence for an uncomfortable instant , then Legolas rose to his feet.
"You will not let me? It seems to me you have very little say in the matter, Master Dwarf." Gimli jerked up his head, taken aback by Legolas's suddenly commanding tone. The elf rose to stand before him, tall and fearless, every inch an Elven Lord, and his pale face shone.
"You do yourself an injustice, Gimli son of Gloin. I threatened the Lord Eomer when he would have insulted your honour and struck you down, and yet now I am to stand by and allow you to disparage yourself? Do you think I would pledge myself to anyone but the worthiest of friends, the bravest of comrades, the brightest soul I have ever known? And yet you would belittle he whom I love more dearly than my life, and would deny me the happiness of standing by his side, to share his sorrows and his triumphs as if they were my own." The elf lifted his chin willfully and in a stern voice said, "I will not give you up that easily, Gimli, to the doubts that complicate your mind. Set aside your pride and misgivings, child of Durin. I have not yet known a dwarf to lack courage."
Gimli's dark eyes blazed. He drew himself up and made to speak, but Legolas cut him off. "If you refuse me, that is your choice and I shall leave you. But you make that choice out of fear and uncertainty and cowardess."
"Enough!" Gimli barked.
"Does the truth of the matter upset you?" Legolas demanded. "For I speak naught but the truth, lest it be you truly do not care for me and my heart means nothing to you. If so, speak it! I shall leave this place and find death upon the battlefield, if that be my fate."
Gimli stepped forward, shaking with emotion, and stood before the elf. Legolas remained still and unwavering, his expression defiant, as if daring Gimli to strike him. Gimli struggled for a moment, hands clenched into fists, and then he cast his helm from his head to the floor with a smash.
They stood silently staring at one another for a long moment. And then Gimli snorted and shook his head.
His mouth twitched, then the dwarf roared with laughter. "Master Elf, at the very least, my life is not dull when you are with me." He tossed a surly glance at Legolas and then turned to retrieve his helm, plunking it back on his head. "Very well then! We are not given to know our destiny, nor what paths our feet must travel, or who we may meet along the way. I have been given companions upon this journey who have become dearer to me than I should ever have guessed they would when we set out from Rivendell. And you, it seems, Legolas, will be either the life or the death of me. So be it! Though you may come to find it a cruel jest that you are bound to one such as I."
He lifted his head slowly and somberly looked up at the elf. "I will grow old, Legolas," he said. "I will age, and though my life is not as brief as these men around us, you will still be young and fair when my time has come to leave this earth. Would you be as passionate about your devotion to me even then? Even as you walk the lands still in your prime, bound to a dwarf in his dotage, decrepit in body and mumbling nonsense?"
Legolas arched a delicate eyebrow. "Moreso than you do now? That would be a marvel indeed," he quipped.
Swift and sure, he stepped to Gimli and knelt once more before him. He traced the deep lines running from the edge of Gimli's eyes with light fingers, admiring his weathered face, then bent close and kissed him. "With my heart and my soul, I choose you, Gimli. Will you deny me?"
Gimli swallowed, then answered gruffly. "The Valar protect me from elves and their blasted persistence. I cannot deny you, Legolas." He took the elf's hand in his, and held it to his heart. "I am and always shall be yours."
Legolas laughed merrily, blinking back tears. Then he sprang away and swept up his bow. He donned his silver helm and nodded. "Come, Gloin's son. The morning awaits, and we have a game to see to its finish. I feel a little more up to the challenge this day. At this moment, in truth, I believe I could face the forces of Saruman alone and triumph."
Gimli shouldered his axe and pack. "I have no doubt you could, Master Elf, but if you would not mind the company, I think I should rather benefit from trying my axe on a few more orc necks myself. Leave us go. If we tarry longer we will arrive too late and miss the excitement. Let us see what trouble Aragorn has managed to get into without us."
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.