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The Black Tide - By Topaz

The orcs filled the valley to the horizon, so many of them their torches were like stars in the sky. This night, there were no stars, no sky, only black clouds and the foreboding rumble of thunder. As the darkness grew, the Uruk-hai drew closer and their chants of death and destruction were louder than the storm. The rain began, as the battle began, with fury and terror.

Helm's Deep, fortress of Rohan for an Age. Its defenders feared, by morning light, it would be no more. They made their stand on the ancient stone walls, man and elf, sword and bow. Fear, and defiance. If they were to end like this, Théoden King told them, they would make it an end worthy of legends to be told in the next Age.

Then the wall exploded, and the black tide of orcs filled the void. Wave after wave scaled the walls. Hundreds fell, thousands replaced them. Táraregwen stood her ground, a company of elves on either side of her as she shouted orders to them. She had volunteered, she knew she would never return to Lothlórien. None of them would.

The rain made it difficult to see their targets until the hulking creatures were upon them. The corpses of the orcs grew five deep, then ten. There was no count of the dead. She glanced up, at the tier above her. Haldir and the legions with him were already fighting the orcs by sword. They were being over-run far faster than they had anticipated. No one could have known how many there were. He met her gaze for a moment, one last moment. Both knew it.

Lost somewhere in the rain, the call came. Aragorn? Was it him, she wondered or was it Théoden King. A man, yes. He was shouting for them to fall back. Too soon! If they retreated to the Keep, all the warriors at the bottom of the wall would be lost. It was Aragorn, he was calling for a retreat. Táraregwen told her archers to hold, to wait for Haldir's word.

The pain was sudden, white-hot, coursing through her like fire through dry grass. Seeing only rain on her armor rather than blood, she knew it must be him. Haldir. Her love. He would be the first to cross the river into the Undying Lands. Táraregwen wanted to scream, to go to him, to wish the enemies of Man were not the enemies of Elves. She dared look again to where he had stood. An orc had struck him, forced him back but many arrows had taken the beast down. Ten replaced the foul thing. She called for her archers to fall back while she held ground. The wall was lost. A handful moved away. Many more stood with her.

Shouting and cursing, Aragorn pushed towards his friend. Táraregwen was too far . . . so was Aragorn, he just didn't know it. Aragorn called out. Another orc struck Haldir from behind. Táraregwen felt the blade - they were bound to each other, of course she would feel such pain. She turned to look again, cursing the coward that would strike even an enemy in the back. Aragorn reached him, too late. The life in his eyes faded. Haldir was gone.

Táraregwen renewed her onslaught, firing almost randomly at the orcs. No longer could she think, or feel, or care. Her quiver was down to a handful of arrows and she would soon draw swords against the Uruk-hai. Haldir waited for her in the Halls of Mandos, but he would not wait long. She ordered the archers to retreat. If they could hear her or not, they remained, some already fighting by sword. The rain masked her tears. She met the Uruk-hai, sword in hand.

There was pain, her own this time, and noise like the rushing of water over falls. She could feel rain on her skin, but not the warmth of her own blood. She heard the song of a bird somewhere over the glades of her home. There was light and clear skies.

Haldir smiled back, and offered his hand. Táraregwen took it.

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