31. Chapter Thirty-One
It took almost an hour until all were free of the tunnels. The spiders in the main cavern had been killed; the bodies of their captives brought down from the high ceiling. The cocoon-encrusted bodies lay upon the floor in neat rows. Haldirriel wept as she walked past, holding her brother's wasted body in her arms and knowing that, given another few days or perhaps hours, he too would have been lost. How he had ever held on for so long, she had no idea, but she raised her heart to Elbereth in silent thanksgiving.
It took every fiber in her being not to pass Singollo's body over to Mahtan, for she fought the urge to run back into the cavern and find Haldir. She knew if any could find him, it would be Legolas. She had to trust he would save their bond-mate.
At last, they were at the empty place where Gimli had fallen. She looked about in horror and called out his name. An Elf stepped forward. "The Dwarf has been taken to our camp. It is only a half furlong from this entrance."
They followed the Elf and found Gimli, still unconscious, being tended by another of the Silvan Elves. The healer looked up and motioned for her to lay her burden upon a cloak. There were no cots, only cloaks lain about to hold any that yet lived.
Mahtan helped her lay Singollo down. Haldirriel covered him with her own cloak. She quickly knelt at Gimli's side. "He will recover?"
"He will. This is the Dwarf that traveled with our prince?"
"It is. Keep him well. Bring him back to us as quickly as you can."
The Elf nodded. She stood and turned back to Mahtan. "Let us go back..." There was a cry and many of the Elves ran towards the tunnel's entrance. She tried to push her way through them, but Mahtan held her back. A sudden premonition filled him; the Orch had taken Haldir for a purpose. Searching for Legolas, he saw the Elf and recoiled at the look of horror on Greenleaf's face. He held tightly onto Haldirriel's arm and pulled her back.
"Let me go!" she screamed. "Let me go!"
"I cannot. Haldirriel," he cupped her face in his free hand and forced her to look at him. "Something is amiss. Do you not feel it? Legolas is afraid." He shivered. "You must wait until your mate brings Haldir to you. Do you understand?"
"Nay. If something is amiss," she sobbed, "then all the more reason for me to be at his side."
"I agree. But first, I think you must prepare yourself - for both your mates' sakes."
She swallowed. "Prepared? Oh! It is not only a wounding of his hröa? His fëa? That is why I cannot feel him. He has been.... Oh!"
Mahtan caught her before she fell. "Be strong, my Lady. He will need you strong. Now, take a few breaths. You are ready?"
She nodded and clutched his arm. "Thank you."
"I will walk with you."
They reached Legolas just as he gently laid Haldir upon a cloak. She bit back the cry at the look of the Lórien Elf. 'I will not faint,' she told herself stubbornly. 'It is as Mahtan said, he will need me strong. As will Legolas.' She knelt next to the Silvan Elf and held his hand.
Legolas looked up at her in grief and horror.
Immediately, her fears were confirmed; an Orch had violated Haldir. She touched Legolas' face and whispered, "I am here now. We will be strong together and keep him with us. He will not fade, sweet Legolas. He will not fade. We will not let him."
The Prince of Eryn Lasgalen nodded. "He is sorely wounded besides, but we must tend to his 'other' needs."
She nodded and turned to Mahtan. "We will need salves. You know the kind."
The warrior turned and ran towards the center of the camp. He returned within minutes, two jars in his hands. "The healer says these are the best." A crowd had gathered round them, mostly the Galadhrim warriors that Haldir had commanded all these long years. Mahtan gave the jars to Haldirriel and then spoke to them. "Haldir will live. Now, let him be. Let them tend him in privacy." The Elves slowly stepped away. The camp quieted; only the sounds of moans from those wounded and the sobs from the freed captives filled the air.
Legolas and Haldirriel worked as quickly as they could, cleaning their lover, sewing what needed sewing, and then slathering the affected areas with the salves. Haldir did not wake. After some time, Haldirriel became anxious. "Why does he not wake?"
"Would you, if you lay in this state? Give him time, Haldirriel. He will come back to us. He must be allowed time to begin to heal. When he realizes he is with those who love him, he will come back to us."
"Is the Orch dead?"
"Good," she whispered. "Though I wish it had been my blade that took its life."
"Is my blade not enough?"
"Yes," she kissed him gently. "More than good enough. Thank you."
"I cannot tell you what happened."
"I know it, Legolas. In time, he will tell us all, but not now, not yet."
Mahtan stepped forward. "Haldirriel, your brother calls for you."
She looked up in dismay. "I cannot leave him."
"Trust me, Haldirriel," Legolas touched her arm, "I will care for him till you return."
Tears streamed down her cheeks. At last, she nodded and stood. She followed Mahtan to her brother's side. Singollo smiled up at her. "I knew you would come," he whispered, tears in his eyes. "I told those about me that you would come, but they lost faith, after a time. I did not. I knew you would come."
"Oh! Singollo! I am sorry it took so long. They said you had died at Ravenhill. I did not know."
"Do not sorrow, Loselleth. You found me."
"Yes. And I will take you home and make sure, this time, you stay put."
He smiled. "To be in Thranduil's hold once again."
"You will heal and once again be a part of the King's guard."
"Yes," he smiled and slept.
"Will you take Haldir to Thranduil's palace?" She looked up in surprise; Mahtan had followed her.
"Nay. I will take them both to Lórien, to the Golden Wood. The journey north is too far. Mahtan, ready the boats. We will leave here within the hour. The wounded should not be allowed to suffer further in this primitive setting. Send a rider to Lady Galadriel. Tell her we are coming and to make preparations for the care of the wounded."
"I will, my Lady. Litters?"
"Yes. We must make litters. Mahtan, how many?"
"Only six prisoners survive, Haldirriel, including Haldir. There are close to thirty of our warriors wounded. Probably, another thirteen Silvans wounded. Will you take the Wood Elves to Lórien also?"
"Nay. They will not come, even if they felt Mandos' breath on their necks. They are a stubborn lot. But thirty of our own and six survivors. That is many to carry."
"Easily done. Their comrades will gladly carry them."
"Then put out the word that thirty-six..." She stopped. "Thirty-seven. We have forgotten our Dwarf. Thirty-seven litters must be made. Then, we leave here. The cavern and tunnels have been cleaned out?"
"They have. Thranduil's Elves claim this land as their own and insist we leave the maintenance to them. They will set fire to the caverns and fill up the entrances. None will be able to use this place again. For good or ill."
"Very well. Let us get started." She walked back to Haldir's side and knelt. Quietly, she spoke to Legolas. "Our warriors are making litters. We will take the Lórien Elves and Gimli back to the Golden Wood. The Silvan Elves will return to Thranduil's halls. Will you go with them?"
Legolas looked at her in surprise. "Would you?"
She leaned against him, totally exhausted. "I would not. And I will not ask that of you. We three are one now. Our home is yours."
He nodded and watched as she sat on the ground. Gently, she lifted Haldir's head and placed it on her lap. Legolas sat next to her and held Haldir's hands.
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