1. Signs of Life
"No pulse here," whispered Legolas, his fingers pressed against the bloody neck of a fallen soldier.
"Nor here," Gimli grunted, pushing aside a body to move to yet another.
"Keep looking." Aragorn's words were both encouragement and command.
For hours, the three had carried out this ghastly business, enlisting whatever help they could from the assorted able-bodied: a small group of women fortunate enough not to have lost sons or husbands; soldiers with injuries minor enough to allow them to treat their fallen brothers; boys too young for such work but who participated out of necessity, nonetheless. Precious few lives had they saved with their gruesome and tedious work, for most of the warriors at Helm's Deep lay already dead, not dying.
Aragorn wondered just how many consecutive bodies he had checked, failing each time to receive that dear signal: a pulse. How many since the last meager sign of hope? Ten? Twenty? Fifty? He paused to survey the grisly scene, finding it far too silent, eerily so. Absent were the usual screams of horror and pain—sounds disturbing, yet preferable to the overwhelming stillness of death.
The Man shifted his gaze from the fortress's rubble to the surrounding land. Although the rain had lifted and the sun now shone, a cloud of gloom still shrouded the valley and her adjoining mountains. Sauron's evil seemed to oppress the land, and it occurred to Aragorn that Middle-earth herself lay dying. Healer though he was, how could he possibly resurrect a dying land?
Aragorn closed his eyes and shook his head, clearing desolation from his mind. He could ill afford to lose hope now! Sauron had poisoned Middle-earth and killed far too many of her inhabitants, but Aragorn would not allow the Dark Lord to warp his spirits as well.
Yet when the Man reopened his eyes, the same horrific scene welcomed him. What had he expected? That the corpses had sprung to life and now patted one other on the back, congratulating themselves on wiping all traces of evil from Middle-earth?
He turned to face the pile of bodies, and as he moved closer, his eyes beheld a welcome, though commonplace, sight: a rebellious flower had pushed through the tiniest crack in the fortress's stone, daring to grow in the midst of this inhospitable environment. Although he had witnessed this phenomenon time and time again, never had Aragorn appreciated it as he did now.
Just then, a voice roused him: "Aragorn, come!" Legolas's voice carried a current of hope. "This one here, he lives!"
The Man rushed to the injured warrior. There was work to be done—not the dreadful work of counting corpses but the blessed working of healing.
Aragorn welcomed the change.
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.