Author’s Note: Review, please?
The Gift of Death, part 22
Boromir thought he’d seen every manner of terror and fright; he had, after all, slain countless numbers of orcs, Uruk-hai and crazed Wild-men just that morning alone, and that was not counting what had gone before at Helm’s Deep, and Moria. If he hadn’t seen fit to wet his trousers at the sight of the Balrog, then it was fair to say that there was little that could reduce him to a blubbering heap.
Until, that is, he saw the slight, still form of his betrothed being borne into Minas Tirith on the tall scutum-shield of a soldier from Dol Amroth. His heart stopped beating for a long moment, he was sure of it, and then resumed its customary behaviour with a painful, right thump that made him quiver from the force of it. “Dawn…”
“Hey, punkin,” she murmured, lashes fluttering from the effort of trying to open her eyes. “We got him.”
“We?” he asked, clasping her hand and pressing it to his lips, trying hard not to weep. “We who? Got who?”
“Eowyn, and Merry and I,” she replied sleepily. “We got the big invisible guy, the one who knocked down the gates.” Her head rolled a little as she passed out again, and he stepped back, dashed the tears of relief and pride from his cheeks with the back of his hand.
“Bring her right away to the houses of healing,” he said, trying to infuse his voice with authority instead of the weak, scared-sounding whisper that came from his mouth. “And care well for the other lady, and the Hobbit.” They three were carried away, and Boromir took a moment to breathe deeply and compose himself.
Dawn was injured, aye, but still alive and with excellent chance for recuperation. But the battle was far from over, and though he longed to sit by her side until she woke again, he knew he could not. The valiant Timon had fallen to an orcish sword, and Boromir had been forced to return for another mount if he were to remain as effective as he had been—on foot, he was a mighty warrior, but astride he was a true angel of death, and death was what counted on a day like today.
Choosing another horse from the stables, he led it forward and mounted, casting a last look back toward the sombre procession of Dawn and the others toward the houses of healing before wheeling round and launching himself back into the fray.
He sliced, he slashed, he stabbed and hewed and carved. Over and over, death without end. In the distance to the north, he saw Eomer beneath the banner of Rohan, and to the south was the Prince. Hacking his way to those of Dol Amroth, he glanced toward the river and felt the blood leave his face at what he saw.
For coming round the bend in the mighty Anduin was a fleet, black-sailed and ominous. Pointing his sword with a trembling hand, he drew the Prince’s attention to it. To his credit, the Prince merely nodded and looked even grimmer, allowing no trace of fear to show on his regal face.
“We press back to the west, against the walls of the city,” the Prince announced. “We cannot become trapped between the orcs and the Corsairs.”
And so they moved back, and sent their forces out to the north a bit until their men on that end joined with the most southron of Rohan’s, and like a long, broad wave they began to surge forward, pressing down toward the approaching ships. The horns of Rohan, of Gondor and of Dol Amroth blared a constant fanfare of calling to all men to fight, and Boromir fixed his attention to it as his arm worked automatically to exterminate the vermin flocking before him.
“That’s… interesting,” came the Prince’s calm comment from beside him, even as he beheaded an orc, and Boromir looked up to find that instead of the infamous skull-and-crossbones flag, another banner entirely was flapping and furling from the tallest mast of the fleet. In the centre of it was the White Tree of Gondor, but around it were stars that glittered and sparkled in the clear sunlight, and there was a golden crown sparkling above the tree.
“Holy crap,” Boromir breathed, unconsciously borrowing Dawn’s favourite expression of shock. “It’s Aragorn.”
Strength and courage renewed, he flung himself once more into the battle, always keeping one eye on the ships. It was not long until they weighed anchor and large ramps were extended to the shore, and with a mighty blast of a horn, riders came thundering down the plain toward them.
There was Aragorn himself, and on his right was Legolas with Gimli behind. To his left was Dagnir, long braid flying behind her as she rode hell-for-leather, crouched low over her horse’s neck and grasping the reins with one hand while the other clutched a rather large axe. Just behind was a sizeable group of tough-looking men, and a smattering of elves. They looked like the very incarnations of death, but more noble a sight Boromir had never seen, and he felt his spine go weak with relief and gratitude that his friends had arrived.
The river was to the East; Boromir and the Prince pushed East, Eomer moved South, and Aragorn worked his way North until the enemy was hemmed in on all sides.
“How do you feel about taking down that group of orcs over there?” Aragorn asked Buffy, pointing with his sword while she swept her axe around her in a flurry, chopping off limbs and heads willy-nilly.
“I feel pretty good about it,” she replied with a grin, and took off in the direction he indicated. She didn’t have to look behind her to know that both Legolas and Haldir were following. She felt a surge of energy, of power, and smiled grimly. How many times had she gone into battle with Giles, and Xander and Willow? Sometimes there had been Oz, or Riley, or Cordelia, or Angel, and that last time Spike had been ally instead of enemy, but the core group of Scoobies hadn’t changed.
She had new Scoobies here in Arda, she thought with amazement. For all the times she’d fought and killed, in these last moments as she faced death, barrelling across a war-torn plain surrounded by beloved allies with a massed horde intent on killed them in front of her, she’d never felt so completely, gloriously alive, and Buffy knew finally why she no longer wanted her Gift.
The moment stretched, lengthened, and sounds seemed to fade away… the howl of the wind, the lapping of the waves, the thud of the horse’s hooves, the shouts of the men. The was nothing but her breath and her heartbeat, and she glanced to her right to see Legolas with a matching expression of exhilaration on his beautiful face.
He looked to her then, and smiled his blinding, pure smile. Behind him, Gimli gave his axe a happy little wave. To her left was Haldir, his movements fluid as he controlled his horse effortlessly with only his legs, both arms occupied with his bow. In the distance was Aragorn and his foster-brothers, all three looking so regal that she felt her heart swell with affection. Buffy didn’t know what was going to happen after this, but in that moment, there was perfection, and she found herself grinning back.
And then they reached the orcs, and with a jarring shock time sped up again, and all her senses rushed back, and then there was just chaos. Aside from the occasional death-scream of a horse, the cries of Man and Orc blurred together into a dull roar in the background, and after her mount was killed from beneath her, Buffy found herself once more wielding two weapons at once, the more efficient to decimate the enemy.
For hours she fought, occasionally catching a glimpse of the others. There were the twins, fighting back-to-back as they took on a host of Wild-men; there were Legolas and Gimli still astride Arod and keeping score of their kills (“forty-two!”); there was Haldir with a few of his elves, somehow managing to keep that arrogant eyebrow quirked even as he took down opponent after opponent; and there was Aragorn, holding no less than four orcs at bay while Narsil flashed in the sunlight.
She fought her way to his side, barely sparing a glance for those she felled, and was rewarded with his grim but pleased smile.
“Ah, Dagnir, we fight together again,” he greeted her, and ran an orc through. “And here I was thinking we would not share in the joy of bloodshed this fine day.”
She squinted at him through narrowed eyes, and sliced off the sword arm of a Wild-man. “You’re a very complex man, aren’t ya?”
He only smiled blissfully, and Buffy turned back to her fighting with an eye-roll and a smile of her own. He was a nut, but he was her nut, that crazy Aragorn. “Eomer is up to the north, Strider, did you see?”
“I did not,” he admitted, “but Boromir wends his way from the west.” He lunged and slashed an orc across its beefy chest, then knocked it soundly on the forehead with the pommel of his sword. It dropped like a stone. “I do not see Theoden, or Gandalf.” His tone was worried.
“I don’t see Dawn, either,” Buffy said. “I’m thinking that Boromir locked her in a cellar somewhere, because that’s the only way she’d stay out of a fight like this.” She could feel Aragorn’s gaze on her, and refused to meet it; she was pretending that Dawn was perfectly safe and whole, because she couldn’t bear anything else.
“So! What goes on with you and Legolas, Dagnir?” he asked as he came up against a particularly large orc, and spun in a circle as he swung his sword in order to get maximum momentum. Unsurprisingly, he cleft the creature almost in half when Narsil connected.
“I have no idea,” she replied over the din, then flinched when a particularly enthusiastic Wild-man got right in her face. “Ugh,” she groaned, and shoved him away. “Your mouthwash just ain’t cutting it.” To prove her point, she cut his head off. “Ever think that maybe there’s something wrong with us?”
Aragorn looked at her oddly. “How so?”
“Well, you know,” she said, frowning, “this whole cavalier attitude we’ve got going for us… We’ve killed almost a hundred today each, and we’re cracking jokes while we do it. Is that wrong?”
He seemed to give it some thought even as he engaged an Uruk-hai in combat. Stronger, faster, and smarter, this one required more of his attention than your standard garden-variety orc. “I think that it is the only way we can accept the destruction we cause,” he said at last. “And it is not as if we do Arda a great disservice by removing orcs and the like from it. These are not exactly fine, upstanding citizens that we slay.”
“Ow,” Buffy said by way of a response, as she’d been paying more attention to Aragorn’s engagement of the Uruk than her own opponent, and he managed to slip his sword past hers to score a long cut down her arm. “Dammit.”
“You are injured?” Aragorn inquired, not looking away from his foe.
Already the blood was beginning to course in rivulets. “Just a little,” she told him, wiping the exultant expression from her attacker’s homely face when she lobbed her axe at him, lodging it firmly in his chest, “but I’m going to fall back a little so I can bind it.”
Aragorn nodded and she began to hack her way toward the knot of Rangers and elves fighting toward the rear, knowing they would surround and shield her while she bound her wound. Halfway there, she found Gimli blithely swinging his axe to and fro like a child swinging a basket, and was not at all surprised to realize he was humming a jaunty tune.
“Where’s Legolas?” he asked her, not seeming terribly concerned. “We have been separated almost an hour now.”
Buffy, however, became very concerned, and forgetting how her arm bled, began scanning the crowd around them with increasing intensity. “I don’t see him, Gimli!” she exclaimed, aware her voice was shrill with worry. “I don’t see him!”
The dwarf’s brow creased in a frown, and he opened his mouth to speak when a Ranger battled his way over to them. “Do you speak of the Mirkwood elf?” he asked, shouting over the noise. When both nodded, he continued. “Not ten minutes ago, I saw him surrounded by a fierce band of Southrons over there. He pointed in the direction. “We tried to reach him but he went down beneath their weapons before we could.” He smashed his sword sideways into the skull of an orc, then jabbed it deep into the creature’s belly.
Buffy felt like her very soul was draining from her, and spots of all colours danced in her vision. Gimli howled wordlessly, and in his sorrow redoubled his efforts against the enemy, sending one after another flying, dripping blood and gore as they died in mid-air, but Buffy blinked and whispered, “No.”
And then she grabbed up a sword that lay discarded on the ground, and began a whirling maelstrom of destruction as she wove, leapt, ducked, and simply bashed her way toward where Halbarad had said he’d seen Legolas last.
“Come to claim his pretty corpse?” grunted an Uruk-hai blocking her path, twirling his club in a menacing way. “You will make a fetching carcass yourself, Dagnir.” And he grinned at her, revealing blackened, bloodstained teeth.
“Ooh, scary,” she told him, unimpressed. “There are a lot of scarier things out there, though.” She swung her borrowed sword, slicing his head off effortlessly. “And I’m one of them.” Not even watching as his body fell to the ground, she strode past him to where Legolas lay crumpled on the ground.
His bright hair was like a beacon, drawing her to him. So incongruous, so beautiful even lying in the muck and blood and offal, his fair face exquisite in repose. “No,” Buffy whispered, dropping a sword and taking his hand in hers. Somehow he’d managed to remain spotlessly clean with the sole exception of the sword wound in the middle of his chest, and it seemed so very wrong to dirty his hand with her grimy one. “Please, no.”
The world seemed to recede, and her vision narrowed to a pinpoint: there was nothing else in the universe except Legolas, and the fact that he was dead. For the first time since becoming Slayer twenty years ago, Buffy Summers forgot to pay attention to the danger around her.
And so it was no real surprise to anyone when an orc realized one of the enemy was crouched on the ground, crying over a dead elf, and with a hoot of elation, ran her through. She didn’t cry out, only let out a sigh, and tumbled forward onto Legolas, her face coming to rest in the crook of his throat and shoulder. His delectable scent surrounded her, and it was the last thing she was aware of as she died. Again.