31. Severed Bond
Chapter 31 – Severed Bond
Rhavaniel sat on the ground, her legs tucked up under her and Haldir's head in her lap. She tenderly brushed the hair from his face. Tears filled her eyes and fell to her chest. "Haldir. Please. Please do not leave me." she cried.
Haldir's eyes slowly opened and she saw his light diminishing. She looked around her and saw some Rohirrim soldiers passing by. "Please! He needs help. Send a healer right away. I cannot move him."
The soldier looked down and saw the blade in the elf's back. He looked to Rhavaniel and saw the despair in her face. "I will find the closest one and send them here." Looking again at Haldir's face he asked. "Is he an elf?"
"He is the Marchwarden of Lothlorien and the captain of this elvish army." she said still staring into Haldir's eyes. "He is my soul mate in war." she whispered and his distant stare came suddenly into focus. Rhavaniel did not notice when the man left to find help.
She laid her hand upon his forehead. "You are cold. Oh Haldir. How did this happen? I should have been there. I should not have left your side."
He lay completely still but for his eyes. "You were exactly where you should have been." he whispered in a staggered breath.
"You must hold on. Someone is bringing a healer right now. It won't be…"
"I am beyond the help of a healer now."
Rhavaniel shook her head. "No. No, you will not leave this world. Not like this. You will sail and live in the Undying Lands."
Haldir managed a smile. "That is your future not mine. My time is over. It was a privilege to fight by your side Lady Rhavaniel, but I'm afraid our bond is about to end."
Tears flowed freely down her face as he spoke. She could deny it all she wanted to but in her heart and in her soul, Rhavaniel knew Haldir was not long for this world. These would be their last moments together.
Ignoring the pain, Haldir went on. "You are complete now my dear. The battle-lust will always be a part of you but it no longer controls you. Even without our bond, you will be a fierce warrior, though you may not crave it now. That part of our warrior bond is broken. You will never feel the connection like what we had with anyone else, but you are different. Your will is the strongest I have ever seen. Do not give up the fight. There is a lot of it still in you, but fight for a different reason. Follow your heart."
"I did follow my heart and it led me to Lorien. It led me to you. It is because of you that I even had a chance to become a warrior. Without you what will I do?" she said sadly.
Haldir coughed and laughed at the same time. "So it took me dying for you to admit that you needed me?" She started to speak but he stopped her. "Rhavaniel, I know you could never feel much for me. I always knew where your heart belonged. Just as he could not keep you from becoming a warrior, I could never keep you from loving him. You must go to him now. I believe you were destined to be with Prince Legolas. He loves you."
"I cannot think about him now. Why would you even…"
"You are a stubborn elleth. You shall always be wild but you must learn to tame this stubbornness. You will see. One day your heart will let him in again and you will see. It is the one thing I wished for but knew I could never have." Haldir slowly and with much effort, raised his hand and took hers in his. He looked deep into her eyes with the last of his inner light. "Rhavaniel, I… I love you." he whispered with his last breath.
Then Rhavaniel watched as his light completely extinguished. His fair skin no longer glowed. His silver- grey eyes were not bright but dull and lifeless. His soul was gone and she felt it leave her, breaking their warrior bond forever. She still cradled his head in her lap. "Haldir, no. Oh Haldir… why… please come back." she cried out of desperation. Then she became angry. "Damnit Haldir. Why did you have to say it? Not now. Not like this." Unable to contain herself, Rhavaniel burst into tears and wept for the Marchwarden as he lay lifeless in her lap.
Legolas came upon them just as the Marchwarden passed. He stood back and watched as Rhavaniel cried. His heart hurt as he watched the scene in front of him. Other Lorien warriors came around and surrounded their captain. Healers ran up but stopped suddenly for they knew their skills were no longer needed. There was a lull in the action around them, as if an invisible barrier went up to allow the surrounding elves a moment to honor the deceased. Quietly they all began to chant a prayer for the Marchwarden's safe journey into the unknown. It was times like this that they realized immortality could not save them from a timeless death.
After a while, but not long enough for Rhavaniel, a small group of four Lorien soldiers approached her. "We will take him to the keep and find a safe resting place for him until we can safely bring him back to our beloved Golden Woods." one said.
She looked up with a tear-streaked face. "I know he is gone but I find that I cannot leave him."
The others did not know what to do. It was not their place to take her away from him. It was only natural for her to want to stay with him until he could properly be buried. The Lorien elves stood still, glancing between one another. Finally, Legolas stepped forward. "Rhavaniel. Please, you must let go now. War still beckons and we cannot linger here. It is only by the will of the Valar that you have been given this one moment. I'm afraid you must let them take him to the keep. Go with him if you must but you cannot stay here."
Legolas' calming voice and soothing words rang true in her head. She could not stay here or the orcs would be upon them in their vulnerable state. "Alright, I will go." she reluctantly said. Rhavaniel waited until the others came and picked up Haldir's lifeless body before she stood up from her spot. Legolas helped her steady herself.
"Come, I will go with you to the keep." he said holding her arm.
"No." she said shaking her head. "Haldir would not have me weeping for him while war is being waged outside. I will still fight this night. My skills are needed. My troops will look for me. There is still much to do."
"But you are not in the right frame of mind." Legolas countered and was met with a pair of eyes cold as steel.
"I will fight. I fight not for myself or even Haldir. I fight for all who wish to be free of this evil. No more Legolas. There is no more hiding, no more safety. No one is safe now, not as long as I still have at least one breath in my body." She turned to face the other warriors. "I have said it once and I will say it again. Tonight we will have victory. Let not our friends' deaths be in vain. To war and to victory. This is over. Evil must die." And with those few words, the Galadhrim's faith was renewed.
Legolas knew there was nothing he could say or do to change her mind. Why did he always want to protect her? Why couldn't he support her as Haldir had? It was obvious to him now that this was the reason they were no longer together.
"You will be our captain now." said a familiar voice. Rhavaniel turned to see Antien approaching them.
Seeing her best friend was more than her heart could handle. All of her emotions mingled with the relief of seeing that he was still intact, uninjured, strong and willing to continue into the dark night. She turned from her fellow Lorien warriors, pushed past Legolas and ran to Antien. He caught her in his arms and held her tight. She buried her face in his chest and wept. Antien closed his eyes and kissed the top of her head.
"I am so sorry mellon nin. As soon as word reached my ears, I came in search of you. Haldir was a renowned warrior. He will be greatly missed. I know how close you both were." he said soothingly in her ear.
Legolas watched her cry into her friend's chest. Again, his heart broke for it was not his arms that she looked to for comfort. Feeling as if there was nothing he could do, he lowered his eyes to the ground before him and turned away. It was time to return to his friends, his fellowship companions.
Antien, looking over Rhavaniel's head, watched as the forlorn Prince walked silently off. He wondered to himself how wrong he could have been about these two. He was so sure they were made for each other. Nothing could be farther from the truth now. Rhavaniel had grown close to the Marchwarden. Had she even loved him? Was there nothing left in her heart for Legolas? Now was not the time of course. She was grief stricken. Haldir had passed. Legolas was gone to keep his oath. All roads led in separate directions.
Rhavaniel looked up to her friend. "Glandur, how is he? He is the only one I have heard nothing about."
"He is fine. He commands a group of Mirkwood archers from the second level. He sends word from King Théoden to retreat and join the rest there. The wall is too far breached. It will do no good now to fight here. Come Rhavaniel. Gather your troops. We must go."
Rhavaniel released Antien and turned to see the four Lorien soldiers carefully carrying Haldir's body to the stairs. They had found an old board and turned it into a makeshift litter. "Wait." she yelled running to them. They stopped briefly. She looked once more to Haldir's fair face, now cold and lifeless. "I will carry on in your place now. Your death will not be in vain. Goodbye Haldir of Lorien, Captain of the Galadhrim. I fight for you, for your honor. I will not let you down." She leaned down and kissed his forehead, then nodded to the soldiers. Rhavaniel went back to Antien. "It is time." she said then looked to her troops. "Retreat! Retreat to the Keep!" she yelled. "Replenish your arrows along the way. This is not over. We must hold the fortress. The King awaits us."
The others knew they would follow Rhavaniel wherever she led them. She had proven herself to them. She was as well respected as the Marchwarden and they naturally followed her orders. They made their way to the second level, killing any orcs that got in their way. A second wave of enemy troops was not far behind.
Lorien and Mirkwood elves stood upon the battlements of the second level. The orcs were now trying to break through the main entrance to the first level. The elves fired upon them, killing many but more replaced them. "King Théoden calls upon all forces." Rhavaniel called. "The doors must hold. Should the enemy breach the gate, we must stay and fight."
They fought well into the night. Many soldiers were slain, men and elves alike. All that fought alongside Rhavaniel were renewed in energy and spirit. There was nothing on her mind but the kill. She was not free of injury, sustaining cuts and bruises. It only fired her spirit and made her more ruthless, but she was beginning to wear down. This was the longest she had ever fought. There was no time to rest, no time to grieve. Her companions relied on her to command them, something else she hadn't had time to think about.
The night was never ending and the orcs kept coming. All hope seemed to be lost. They were outnumbered and losing more and more soldiers. During a lull in the fighting, she looked out to the horizon. "The sun rises soon. It is our only hope for a reprieve." she said to herself. Then as if the Valar themselves had answered her, a bright light shown in the distance. It was not the sun, which was orange as it rose. This light was white and filled with hope. It glowed brighter with every moment that passed. An unexpected silence spread throughout the land. Men, elves and orcs alike seemed to hesitate and watch this alien light glow in the east.
The light showed brighter than any star. Great hope emanated from it here in this darkest hour before the dawn. Hearts were restored as well as strength. Rhavaniel felt her own body renewed. She had claimed victory early in the night, but questioned her own belief. Not anymore.
Suddenly, like a whispering wave, a single name rolled through the crowd. 'Mithrandir' they claimed and Rhavaniel knew whose light it was. The wizard Gandalf came and not a moment too soon. A sly smile escaped her lips as she turned to her Lorien company. "We shall meet the wizard on the field. Be filled with his energy and his light." And with that, the war resumed. This time all fought fiercely. The enemy felt their renewed strength and began to flee only to be surrounded and killed. Soon the rays of the sun joined Gandalf's light. Even the dark looming clouds could not withstand this new day and soon the war had ended.
* * *
The next day, Rhavaniel stood on the wall of the second level of the fortress looking out at the devastation below. She was numb. She could feel nothing. How did it come to this? Why did so many perish? As she pondered these thoughts, a firm but gentle hand touched her shoulder.
"There is no answer to these questions." said a deep but comforting voice.
Without turning, she reached up and laid her hand over the others. "Gandalf. I fear what might have become of us had you not showed when you did."
Gandalf moved forward and came to stand by her side, looking off into the distance. "I am sorry for your loss my dear. The Marchwarden's death will have a great impact on Lothlorien."
"I should have been with him. I could have done something. We were supposed to fight together. Had I been there, he may still be alive." she said in a distant voice.
"Rhavaniel, you are courageous. Long years has it been since I have seen such a warrior as you. There is no doubt you saved many lives tonight, but you cannot save everyone."
"I could have saved him." she whispered. "It should have never happened."
She heard Gandalf take a deep breath but he did not answer. He would not argue with her knowing he could not change her mind. Instead, he placed his hand on top of hers. "You need to take some rest. The war is over. There is nothing more you can do now."
Rhavaniel looked up at the old wizard. He looked different somehow but she couldn't put her finger on it. Wiser, brighter, gentler… whatever it was she did not know. "I did not believe my ears when I heard you still lived Mithrandir. I saw Legolas not long after Moria. He was so distraught.
The old wizard smiled in a way that brought her much comfort. "It's simply because my time here is not done yet." Then he looked over Rhavaniel's shoulder. "Ah, it seems your reprieve has just arrived." he said watching Antien approach. "Now is the time to contemplate. Find some rest Rhavaniel. Take comfort in your friends." He gestured for her to look behind her.
She turned back to Gandalf. "Thank you Gandalf."
Gandalf nodded and smiled at her, the crow's feet at the corners of his eyes quite prominent. Then he went on his way leaving Rhavaniel with her friend.