Later, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli toured the battlements together. As preparations for the battle continued, Legolas’ spirits fell again. Relieved as he was that Aragorn lived, it made no difference to their situation. He watched as a young boy, no more than a child, tried on a helmet for size. He looked terrified. Others were fitted for mail shirts or short swords. Old men, doddery on their feet at the best of times, staggered under the unaccustomed weight of armour. Their faces were frightened, or resolute, or scared, or terrified, or determined, or bewildered, or steadfast, or anxious, or confused, or baffled. Or sometimes everything at once.
He turned to Aragorn. “Look at them! These are no warriors!”
“I know. They have seen too many winters.”
“Or too few.”
*They are frightened. I can see it in their eyes*
It was only when those nearest stopped and stared at him that he realised he had spoken aloud. He tried to stop himself, but it was too late. Anger welled up in him, and he rounded on Aragorn, the words spilling out. “And they are right to be frightened! What hope have they? Old men, and children. A few hundred, set against tens of thousands. They will fight, and they will die! All of them!” At least, he reflected, he had had the wit to speak in Sindarin. These pitiful fighters did not need to hear the odds against them. But there was a real hostility in the glances being cast his way.
Aragorn looked at him coldly. “Then I will die with them!” he snapped, in Westron. These ‘warriors’ needed to know he stood with them, no matter what. He turned his back on Legolas, and strode away into the depths of the Hornburg.
Immediately, Legolas regretted his outburst. He could destroy what fragile confidence these people had. And every one of them was prepared to fight, no matter what. They were not giving in to despair. His anger was misdirected, it was not targeted at Aragorn at all. It was aimed at the injustice of this, at the waste of life, at the betrayal he felt from his own people. And the heavy weight of dead stone all around him was oppressing his spirit. Aragorn needed his support, not depression and self-doubt. He started after Aragorn, but Gimli stopped him.
“Leave him, laddie.”
*Laddie? From a dwarf many centuries his junior?* Legolas fought the urge to smile. Instead, he sighed.
“I feel the need for more of my kindred here. What I would give for a hundred good archers of Mirkwood! But my father has more than enough trouble in his kingdom.”
As he spoke, he felt the sharp gazes of Gimli, …owyn, and Théoden on him. He looked puzzled, then realised what he had said.
“Kingdom? Your father is King of Mirkwood?” Gimli sounded astonished.
Legolas nodded. “Yes. Did you not know?” But he knew they didn’t, it was not something he tended to mention, finding that mortals treated him strangely if they knew he was prince. “I need to find Aragorn. I should not have spoken so.”
He left them, then, with Gimli still staring after him in disbelief.
He found Aragorn inside the fortress, checking armour and testing his sword. As Aragorn reached for the scabbard to sheath Andúril, Legolas picked it up and handed it to him. Aragorn took it without surprise.
“My apologies. I should not have given into despair. There is always hope - Estel.” He used Aragorn’s childhood Elvish name deliberately.
Suddenly there was the clear clarion call of a trumpet, that echoed even inside the fortress. Legolas’ head went up like a hound’s.
“That is no orc war-cry!”
Turning, he ran to the wall above the gate, closely followed by Aragorn. There, they watched in amazement as reinforcements arrived. An army of elves, over a hundred strong, lead by Haldir of Lorien.
Legolas wondered why he felt so joyous. Even this was little better than a few leaves in the forest. But his people had not forsaken them. They had not forgotten the old alliances. Now, he could face the forthcoming battle with renewed hope.
By the time the Elven army was inside the Deeping wall, Legolas was waiting for them.
As Haldir dismounted, Theoden greeted him courteously.
“Haldir of Lorien, you are most welcome. Thank you for coming to our aid.”
Haldir looked a little surprised to be recognised, but then saw Legolas and Aragorn standing immediately behind the King.
“Theoden King, I bring greetings from the Lords Celeborn and Elrond. And I bring archers and warriors from Lorien and Imladris. We will do what we can in this fight. We have not forgotten we were once allies.”
Legolas stepped forward, smiling in welcome. “Mae govannen, my friend.”
Maybe he had misjudged Haldir. He had not forgotten their bitter words when the fellowship arrived in Lorien, and had been denied aid. But they had come. His gaze went past Haldir, and he saw familiar faces from Lorien and Imladris.
There was no one from Lasgalen. He had not expected it, but felt obscurely disappointed. But Thranduil would have his hands full - he would not have abandoned the search for Gollum, or the orcs who had freed him, and the shadow of Dol Guldur would be strengthening. Yes, Thranduil would have more than enough trouble to be able to spare any of his warriors - especially with his army commander absent, and both seconds slain. But there was no time for regrets.
Gimli had also appeared, now. He looked amazed at the sight of yet more elves. He stalked straight past Legolas, muttering, ignoring him for the most part, but throwing occasional glares over his shoulder at his friend. Aragorn wondered what troubled the dwarf.
Suddenly Gimli turned, and Aragorn found himself on the receiving end of one of Gimli’s scowls.
“I suppose you knew about it all the time?” He demanded. “You didn’t think to tell me?”
“Tell you about what?” Aragorn was bewildered. “Gimli, what are you talking about?”
“Him! His father!” He gestured wildly towards Legolas. “His father’s King of Mirkwood!” He never said a word! Blasted elf!”
Aragorn hid a smile, not wanting to infuriate Gimli even more. He wondered how Gimli had found out - it was not like Legolas to mention the fact. He must have been agitated indeed to let it slip.
Théoden was organising the defences, making full use of the arrivals. The elven archers were deployed along the top of the wall, Haldir’s reinforcements making a vital difference here. Legolas stood among them, and beside him was Gimli, trying in vain to see over the wall, which rose above his head.
As he looked out, he could see only a sea of darkness, the whole host of Isengard seemed there. There were more orcs than he had ever imagined, thousands upon thousands of them, filled with hatred and clamouring for their destruction.
An angry voice broke in on his reflections. “What’s going on out there?!”
Despite the army outside, Legolas found himself smiling. “Would you like me to tell you, or shall I find you a box to stand on?”
Gimli glowered at him, then suddenly gave a shout of laughter. The elf on Gimli’s other side also laughed, unsuccessfully disguised as Gimli transferred his glare to him, fingering his axe longingly.
A few short weeks ago, Legolas would never have dared to make such a jest - Gimli’s response would likely to have been to take his knees off, bringing them both down to the same height - but they had come a long way since Rivendell, in more ways than one.
“I challenge you!” Gimli said suddenly. “A match! Which one of us will kill the most orcs?”
Legolas looked down disbelievingly. In the midst of all this, a game? Then he suddenly laughed. It was the sort of thing Tirnan would have said. “Very well, master dwarf. I accept your challenge!”
Then there was no time for further debate, as with a mighty clap of thunder, the battle burst upon them.
To Be Continued