The sun beat down upon the dried fields of the Westfold Vale like a mallet hammering shiny steel into dull metal. Helm's Deep was a place of refuge, of protection and pride. It stood as a last bastion of the Rohan against all who would see its peoples defeated. And yet it also thrust up from within the barren lands like the headstone of a mass grave. Helm's Deep was where they had fled. It would also be where they would die.
Legolas climbed the stone steps that carried him to the top of the Deeping Wall. A figure already stood there, one who was now the symbol of the strength they needed to fight this battle. Aragorn. The Man who would willingly stare down the maw of the Uruk Hai army and dare to thrust his sword down its throat. A Man who held no fear that Legolas could tell. He wondered why.
"We fight amongst children and those too infirmed to raise the sword," Legolas said, coming to stand beside the rugged Man. He did not let his eyes follow Aragorn's out to the fields. He kept it upon the noble, determined features that had taken a firm stake within his heart. "We are not equipped with either men or weaponry for this battle, Aragorn. Helm's Deep will fall within an hour."
"And what is our choice?" Aragorn replied, his deep voice sounding soothing amidst the steel-bright clang and clatter of urgent preparations being made behind them. "If we do not resist Saruman's forces, then the entire land falls to them. It is death either way. I would rather face mine courageously."
Somewhat shamed by his questioning, Legolas made to turn away. But his eyes alighted upon the silver gleam of the pendant Aragorn still wore about his neck. Legolas paused.
"You have nothing more to lose, do you?" he asked softly. When steel blue eyes fastened upon him in surprise, Legolas nodded towards the keepsake lying against the Man's heart. "The love that would give you a reason to fear, that is lost to you. You think you have nothing survive for, and thus lies your courage."
Pain flashed in the eyes that Legolas admired too often. The emotion was quickly shuttered away as Aragorn turned from him. "You know nothing of what I feel, Legolas."
Legolas smiled sadly. "I dare to argue, Aragorn. The bittersweet torture of unfulfilled love is not yours alone to suffer. There is no reason for me to survive this night, either. We will fall together."
He felt Aragorn's startled gaze upon him as he descended the steps, but he did not turn back to look.
Sadly, it was easy to lose faith when the men you would fight with were not men at all, but mere children. Weapons were not swords or arrows, but pitchforks and kitchen knives clenched within fingers that could barely curl around them. Despair and fear shone painfully bright from within every human face that Legolas beheld.
It beat upon his consciousness like the storming feet of Uruk Hai. It sought to break him.
Unable to stand the misery any longer, the Elf sought the quiet near the caves. There, he sat upon the ground and thought of the hours that he had left to him.
Memories flitted through his head like wind-blown leaves; some too quick to catch and savor, others too fragile to withstand close scrutiny. All of them were memories of Aragorn: A touch that may have been intentional. A look that might have held greater meaning. To his regret, Legolas realized he would never know for certain. So much more would be lost here at Helm's Deep than mere lives. Memories and hopes would be buried along with them.
A familiar footfall made Legolas raise his head. Aragorn looked down at him, stunned.
"You weep," the Man whispered.
Legolas dried his tears with the sleeve of his tunic. "I did not mean for you to see me thus," he murmured. He attempted a smile. "Despite what I have said, my courage is not as great as yours."
Aragorn neared him and to Legolas' pleasure and dismay, knelt upon the dirt by his side. Rough fingers gently traced the drying track of a tear on the Elf's face. Legolas sucked in his breath. Aragorn's eyes shot to him.
"You tremble," Aragorn said, his fingers still upon Legolas' skin.
"Fear has made me weak," Legolas replied breathlessly.
Aragorn touched Legolas' quivering lip and watched color bloom across the pale cheeks. "Nay, I think you tremble for something else, for I have never seen you weak, dear Legolas."
The warm rush of Aragorn's voice made Legolas shiver. "There are many things that may leave one weak," he whispered.
Water dripped steadily down the walls of the caves. Aragorn's searching gaze swept Legolas' face and Legolas wondered what the Man saw. A part of the Elf was eager for discovery. Another part was resigned to the crippling fact that, in the end, it was simply too late.
"Be strong for me," Aragorn said at last. It wasn't the same bolstering speech he had given the men of Rohan earlier. These words for Legolas were intimate, lined with a curious softness as much as steel. "Perhaps there is some measure of hope that may be found in this yet, my fair friend." Aragorn stood and hesitated. "Perhaps -- perhaps we may find a reason to want to survive this, after all. I bid you look for it, Legolas, before you count all as lost."
Legolas had no response. The Man's footsteps had long faded before Legolas touched his lip with shaking fingers. The memory of Aragorn's touch haunted his skin.
Shadows lengthened upon the ground. The earth shivered with the approach of that which held no fear.
Legolas had never bemoaned his fate before. But like a Man who knew no better, he railed against it now.
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