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Fate and the High King's Falcon  by Baylor

"Then Pippin stabbed upwards, and the written blade of Westernesse pierced through the hide and went deep into the vitals of the troll, and his black blood came gushing out. He toppled forward and came crashing down like a falling rock, burying those beneath him. Blackness and stench and crushing pain came upon Pippin, and his mind fell away into a great darkness.

"'So it ends as I guessed it would,' his thought said, even as it fluttered away; and it laughed a little within him ere it fled, almost gay it seemed to be casting off at last all doubt and care and fear. And then even as it winged away into forgetfulness it heard voices, and they seemed to be crying in some forgotten world far above:

"'The Eagles are coming! The Eagles are coming!'

"For one moment more Pippin's thought hovered. 'Bilbo!' it said. 'But no! That came in his tale, long, long ago. This is my tale, and it is ended now. Good-bye!' And his thought fled far away and his eyes saw no more."

-- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King, The Black Gate Opens

Day Two of the New Year (March 26 SR)

The dwarf's roar of anguish rushed over the battlefield, and Legolas nearly dropped the end of the litter he was carrying. He knew that sound of uttermost grief -- he had heard it once before, at the discovery of Balin's tomb. It was a dwarf's cry of mourning, of sorrow at the loss of a loved one, close as kin, and it could mean only one thing -- their long hours of searching were over, and Pippin was dead.

Legolas saw the wounded soldier he was helping to carry delivered safely to the healers, then turned to sprint across the corpse-strewn field toward the source of the agonized cry, now faded away. It had come from the foot of the foremost hill, before the evil place where the Black Gate itself had stood, the place where Prince Imrahil's picked men had fallen heavily in the Dark Lord's initial brutal onslaught. They had searched here first, where their friend was last seen, fighting valiantly in the very first rank of the king's warriors, but could not find him amidst the piles of carcasses, severed body parts and pools of muddy gore. Beregond of the Guard Legolas himself had discovered, insensate but alive, but no where among the mighty soldiers of Gondor and the foul carrion of Mordor did he or Gimli discover a small hobbit of the Shire. 

The sun had been setting on the first day of a new Age when Legolas found Beregond. Through the long night, Legolas and Gimli had continued their labors, bearing the wounded to the healers, closing the eyes of the dead, dealing out mercy or swift death to still-living enemies as was warranted, but never ceasing their search. The dawn brought light but little hope, and passed into late morning with no reward for the friends' pains. 

Gimli must have returned to their starting point. The field was finally somewhat clearer, and as the wounded and the dead were taken away, easing the search, Legolas' heart had grown ever heavier. He feared they cleared a path to their own loss. Cresting the hill in long, leaping steps, the elf looked down with unwilling eyes upon the scene he both dreaded and expected. 

Gimli son of Glóin, dwarf of the Lonely Mountain, hero of Helm's Deep, chosen of the Council of Elrond, one of the Nine Walkers, and favored one of the Lady Galadriel herself, knelt among the bodies in the muck and the filth and the refuse, weeping heavily. In his arms was a small, broken form, coated in black blood, still and lifeless. 

Legolas approached more slowly now, starting to feel his own anguish threatening to overwhelm him. He had been overcome with joy and wonderment yestereve when Gandalf had led them to Frodo and Sam's small healing tent, but now he was choked with grief to think Frodo must meet the new world he had brought into being with this bitter blow. He could not yet think of telling Merry the news.

A small cluster of men stood about the dwarf, grief and awe warring on their faces. One of them hailed Legolas as he approached, bowing his head respectfully.

"The Master Dwarf rolled the carcass off him alone ere we could come to his aid. He will suffer none of us to take the perian from him to a proper resting place," the man said, nodding to the massive body of the troll-chief nearby. Legolas blinked in surprise and uncertainty for a moment -- Gimli had turned that mighty beast alone? It did not seem possible. Then he sickly understood that Pippin had lain, crushed, for a day and a night beneath that foul body, and anguish tore through the elf's body like a physical wound.

"The Ernil i Pheriannath's sword was still in his hand, and the beast has been pierced through the heart," the man continued in awe. "He must have slain the creature only to be trapped beneath it as it fell."

Legolas was dizzy with this news, his mind as yet unwilling to fully process the horrific image of their little Pip meeting his end in such a gruesome and lonely manner. Had their little one died quickly, or, as was more likely, had he lingered long in agony before finally giving up his fight and allowing the Valar to take his bright spirit to the Overheaven? "I will attend to them both," Legolas heard himself saying as from a distance. "Leave us for now, but later, burn that foul carrion." 

The men bowed and respectfully retreated, and Legolas could finally draw near the dwarf, could fall to his knees beside him and place an arm about his friend's shoulders, could let his own tears fall on the dear face, recognizable still through the grume and the crushing.

"We are too late, too late," Gimli cried in agony, rocking the inert body as if it yet could be comforted. "He slew the troll -- did you see, Legolas, my friend? He slew that mighty beast, but we never saw his little foot and now we are too late." With that, the dwarf buried his face in the dead hobbit's shoulder and wailed and rocked and would not be consoled.

To Legolas, it seemed they stayed in this tableau of grief for the length of an age, but finally he dried his own tears and resolved to lead his friend away. Neither of them had rested or eaten since the previous day, and though he could do naught for Pippin, he would see Gimli cared for. And he would take the small soldier's body to his king, and to Gandalf, and see it attended to as befitted a hero of this grim battle. 

"Come, my friend," he said gently to the dwarf, "leave off your grief for now. Let us take him to Aragorn, and then you must rest." He tried to pry Gimli's face from the body, but the dwarf was too immersed in his grief and would not pull away. Legolas did not want to force Gimli, but felt this lamentation was perhaps more harmful than healing for his friend, so, finally, after several failed attempts to get the dwarf to rise and relinquish Pippin's body, he regretfully moved to pry the little form from Gimli's cradling arms. 

Oh! the shock! Legolas recoiled in astonishment. He had touched but a limb, yet how could he be mistaken? Blood had thrummed under his fingers, life faint but dogged had met his touch. This could not be! He had not perceived any breath, any movement that would indicate it. Was it his own desperate wish that it be so causing his heart to mislead him?

Tentatively, Legolas reached his hand back out and placed gentle fingertips upon Pippin's brow. There. There it was -- that familiar lifeforce that burned brilliant blue, that sang in tripping, happy plucks and chirrups, that rushed along like a brisk autumn gust. Trembling, fading, sinking, yes -- yet, for the moment, clinging tenaciously to this world with all its unseen strength.

Gimli sensed the elf's shock and it drew him from his despair. He raised his head to look into his friend's stunned face. "What?" he demanded, startled. "Why do you look so?"  

In the next second, Legolas snatched the hobbit from Gimli so quickly that the bewildered dwarf had no opportunity to react or stop him. Before he could gain his feet, Legolas was speeding off, calling over his shoulder in a voice that brooked no argument: "Find the king! Send him to the healing tents! Tell him this smallest soldier of Gondor yet lives and has great need of the healing hands of Elessar! Go! Now! He is yet alive!" 

Gimli staggered to his feet and stared after the swiftly disappearing form of Legolas. He swayed for a beat as his mind tried to put meaning to the elf's words, but then everything fell into place and a roar of triumph and hope issued from his lips. Moving with the shocking speed of Durin's Folk, he rushed toward the captainry to find the king. 


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