1. Come the Morn
As the outnumbered ranks filed onto the solid stone wall, Aragorn felt the fear in the air as sure as he sensed the coming rain. He tried in vain to catch the eyes of the huddle of men nearest him, hoping to infuse some bit of confidence into their waning spirits, but the unholy blackness enveloping Helm's Deep left him unable to make out more than armored outlines.
The Dúnadan knew the moments leading up to combat to be the deadliest part of battle. If he let his anxieties get the best of him now, his life was forfeit. To appease his inner turmoil, he had, throughout the years, sought odd rituals to occupy his mind during these final moments of assembling the troops. Tonight, the lightning, refusing to be extinguished by the night's dreadful darkness, cooperated with him by searing into his mind an image that became the point of distraction he craved: face upon face—some weathered, some fresh—ready to meet whatever terrors this black night held.
When the moment of light receded, leaving only its ghostly after-image, Aragorn struggled to keep the memory of each face alive, haunted by the thought that if he allowed their images to fade from his mind, he sealed their fate. The belief was irrational, he knew, but it served its purpose of occupying his restless mind when he could do naught but wait.
One by one, he visited each face in his mind's eye, recounting its details. First, the boy with the golden hair and splash of freckles; next, the old man with a droopy left eye and bony, hooked nose. On and on, he went down the line, until another flash of lightning broke his concentration, branding his brain with a different image: the forces of Sauron, an odd and evil blend of Men, Orcs, and other fell creatures, marching with ill-intent toward the fortress.
Aragorn dared not dwell on wickedness now, so he willed his mind to return to the faces of his comrades. But a question, freshly fed by the evil image he had just witnessed, grew from niggling thought to brash intrusion, until it could no longer be ignored: "Who," dared ask the doubter in his mind, "will yet stand come the morn?"
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.