Haldir's Last Battle

by Froda Baggins

Haldir stood silent and alert on the parapet of the Deeping Wall, tall and straight as a mallorn tree. In his blue eyes there was peace and no fear; only a watchfulness and a waiting, but they glinted at the thought of the coming battle. His sword, sharpened only an hour ago, hung ready at his side; his Lórien bow in his hand. Under his palm he could feel the slender vines curving about the bow pressing into his skin, and thought of the vines twining about mallorn-trees in his home. Lothlórien! When will I see you again, land where my heart dwells forever?

Over all a heavy silence lay; an uneasy peace. Few stirred. The thought of the battle looming on the horizon, and the large possibility of being destroyed completely weighed on the minds of all.

Distant but audible, he heard the steady tramp of many feet marching in rhythm toward the fortress, and the stone beneath his feet shook imperceptibly. He lifted his head slightly. Even in the dark, his Elf-sight was keen and sharp; he could see many small, red lights making their way across the plains like so many evil little eyes in a tide of doom. Under the flickering light were black, armoured figures; no men, but Uruk-hai. Stronger, taller, and thicker than normal orcs; bred by Saruman in the pits of Isengard; sent to Helm’s Deep to destroy all life that walked its passageways and stood on its walls. Haldir’s eyes gleamed coldly.
Steadily the lights drew nearer.

The tread grew louder; now all could hear it and see the red lights approaching. The softest of murmurs ran through the ranks of Men and Elves, but Haldir was silent, surveying the army with the cool hatred which Elves carry for orcs. Accursed creatures! Not one of them deserves the spark of life he has been given. They are nothing but a twisted imitation of life...

Several meters from the Wall, a large, jagged rock rose from the ground. As the uruk-hai streamed steadily and purposefully around it, a captain, taller than the others and wearing armour but no helmet, mounted it and surveyed his army. On his black chest a dirty white mark stood; the White Hand. In his hand he bore the crude, spiked blade classic of his kind, and raising it, he called to his army; a deep-throated, snarling call which fell gratingly on Haldir’s ears.

A sudden flash of lightning lit the skies with a stab of fire, and the true expanse of the orc army was revealed to all standing in Helm’s Deep. Haldir momentarily started in awe. It was a massive army, numbering ten thousand at least, filling the space between the mountain walls and extending out behind that into the plains. The Elf gripped his bow tighter. The glance of Saruman’s army was not enough to frighten him, but a thrill of uneasiness went through him and it was a comfort to feel the smooth surface of the bow nestling against his palm.

The army came to a halt. For a moment longer than time, the two armies gazed each other in the eye; the clear, fearless eyes of Elves and the determined eyes of men looked into the yellow, flickering eyes of the uruk-hai.

A few minutes later, as if the lightning had signaled for it, drops of rain began to fall; slowly and only a few at first, but then swiftly increasing to a grey downpour. Haldir could hear the Men of Rohan muttering unhappily, but he welcomed the rain, a sign and reminder of life in this fortress of stone. Tilting his head back slightly, he looked up into the slanting grey droplets and tasted their damp sweetness on his lips. He remembered rains in Lórien where he had stood like this as well; Haldir loved the rain and the fresh feeling of renewed life it brought. Now, standing on the parapet of a stony fortress threatened with utter destruction and far from the home he loved, he welcomed the falling raindrops. In Lórien they would glitter like diamonds on the soft white or golden petals of the elanor and niphredil growing among the swaying grasses; here, far from the Golden Wood, they fell with a tinkling patter on the armour of the defenders, or splashed dully onto the cold stone underfoot.

At a signal from their captain, the army of uruks began pounding the ground with the butts of their spears and roaring hoarsely; the sound was enough to set the stone beneath Haldir’s feet shaking as if it itself feared the impending attack. But he stood steady and fearless, offering up a prayer to the Valar.

Aragorn was walking along the wall, giving a last word of advice to the ranks of Elves before the battle commenced. “A Eruchîn, ù-dano i faelas a hyn an uben tanatha le faelas!”

Haldir’s gaze hardened. Mercy? For these creations of mud and twisted life? No.

“Tangado a chadad!”
cried Aragorn; the afore-silent Elves stirred into action. Long slender arrows with gleaming silver tips were set on taught bowstrings; strings were pulled back in readiness. Reaching back, Haldir took the notched end of an arrow between two of his fingers and with one fluid movement flicked the arrow onto the string and coolly drew it back to his ear. Holding it there, he waited for the command that would unleash the arrows.

Suddenly an arrow flew loose – but the command had not been given. “Dartho!” cried Aragorn, but it was too late. As far as Haldir could see, one of the warriors had not known to wait but had shot immediately. Silence fell as the arrow whizzed through the air; it found its mark in the broad chest of an uruk warrior. Wavering for a moment with a groan, the uruk fell dead.

Fury swept over the ranks of uruks. They roared and snarled, pounding the ground with their spears; Haldir shivered slightly in spite of himself. The orc-captain atop the rock lifted his blade and roared a command; unleashed, the tide of black orcs swept about the rock and on toward the fortress.

“Hado i philinn!” called Aragorn; and the Elven arrows were released. Like a silver, slanting rain they shot downwards; dozens of uruk-hai fell and Haldir noted with satisfaction that his arrow had felled one of the creatures.

Undeterred, the black tide pressed onwards, until it foamed about the very foot of the Deeping Wall. With deadly accuracy, Haldir drew and fired again and again, taking careful aim with each arrow and not missing one single target. For a dizzying moment, all he was aware of was rain pelting down and the uruk-hai swarming below him as he sent arrows winging into their midst; then he was called back by a shout of Aragorn’s. “Pendraith!”

Long ladders were being raised and set against the wall; as soon as one was in place the uruks swarmed up it. Setting aside his bow, Haldir drew his sword and in response a hundred other gleaming blue blades flashed out in the rain. The Elves stood ready, a line of glittering swords.

The two top stubs of a ladder landed right in front of Haldir; in a moment an uruk came into view and clambered down. He never got further; one swift stroke of Haldir’s blade sent him tumbling. More and more came; the exhilaration of battle gripped Haldir suddenly and the next few minutes were a blurred whirl of dodging, slashing, parrying, and stabbing.

This continued for a while; Haldir found himself in the thick of battle, and it was all he could do to keep alive. The uruks were like an ever-increasing swarm of black ants; when he had cut one down two others appeared. The tall Elf’s blade flashed and swept as if possessed; indeed, it seemed possessed by some uncanny magic as it went sweeping about, never missing a beat, parrying, countering and bringing death with swift accuracy. Haldir never knew how he lived through that part of the battle, but he seemed to be in some sort of dream where he knew what was going to happen in the next moment, or at least guessed, but the guesses were always right and his blade’s flashing speed increased as each stroke hit home and an uruk fell dead at his feet.

Suddenly, with a lightning swiftness that made Haldir gasp in shock, a tremendous explosion rocked the wall. Shaken, Haldir saw an enourmous column of fire, white smoke and rock burst from the ground and rocket into the air; he found himself gasping with shock and fear. The same moment, an incredibly forceful blast threw him to the ground and he lay there trembling, the breath knocked out of him. Rocks of all sizes fell about him; he felt a heavy one strike his heel and he winced. His thoughts were in a whirl. What kind of devilry was this? A fire which could destroy rock? There was no such thing!

But as he fearfully and cautiously raised his head, he saw that there was.

A gaping hole had been blasted in the wall; where he had stood only minutes ago there was now a yawning, jagged gap. Orcs were now swarming through the opening; the regiment of Elves posted behind the wall were drawing their swords hastily. He had no more time to look about, though – an uruk loomed over him with a snarl. Rolling aside quickly, Haldir drew his knife and sent it flashing into the uruk’s chest. Wrenching it out as the creature fell, he struggled to his feet.

For a while more -- he did not know how long -- he was occupied with desperate, breathless fighting; then Aragorn’s call alerted him. “Haldir!”

The Elf turned quickly; Aragorn was waving to him. “Back to the keep!”

Haldir nodded breathlessly, and turned back to his regiment. “Nan arta! Nan arta!” he called, and they obeyed, running past him as he waved them on. The last one had passed him and he was turning to go when he was suddenly confronted by a tall broad orc, obviously in a blind rage. Snarling at the Elf, it swung its blade. Sidestepping quickly, Haldir evaded the blow, but stepped on a loose rock, and the ankle that had been previously struck by a stone twisted painfully. It threw him off his guard and he stumbled; the orc lunged and its blade swung in a low arc, biting into Haldir’s arm.

The blade went deep and the Elf cried out in pain, staggering in an effort to keep to his feet. His vision blurred; fiery pain coursed through his arm and his twisted ankle would not support him well enough. He felt his sword drop from his hand; gazing downwards, he saw his own warm, red blood welling up from the wound, staining his tunic and splashing onto the stone beneath him as it mingled with the rain. Gasping, he gripped his arm, trying blindly to stop the agony. Never before had he tasted pain like this; the pain and shock of the deep cut was something new and terrible to his Elven senses. Dizzy, he stumbled and reeled.

He did not see the uruk behind him raise his blade.

As the blade fell, Haldir felt its sharp edge bury itself in his back. Gasping and choking, he staggered, and fell to his knees. Searing fire burned through his back; assailed with pain, he closed his eyes.

With a shock that went through him like lightning, he realized suddenly that he could not survive this.

Not survive! His mind and soul cried out against the idea, but he knew it was true. Never would he see the Undying Lands....never again his home. Visions of Lórien flashed past his eyes: Lórien in spring, with tranquil golden light slanting down through the green, blossom-laden boughs, and twinkling elanor and niphredil nestled among the grass, like shining little stars. Tall, vibrantly living mallorns reaching high up toward the sun, wide green boughs spreading over his head, smooth, grey bark slipping like a piece of silk under his palm. Elves...his friends...his family...talking with him, laughing with him, sharing joy and sorrow. Dawn in Caras Galadhon...bright, life-giving light filling the city and glinting against the merry, softly laughing streams winding about the bases of the mallorns. Dusk falling like a purple-grey blanket, and then night; beautiful, shadowy night with white stars shining in the dark vaults of the heavens...shafts of silver moonlight falling through the branches with a peaceful glimmer...Earendil glittering among the other far-away lights...and the Lady Galadriel, with a frosty star among her fingers, raising her arms in blessing to them as they departed...

It was this he was losing...all that he had loved...

All this flashed by in a moment. Grief and pain overwhelmed the Elf; his head sank to his chest. He was losing blood; weakness was seeping through him and death was taking hold of him. Never again would he see the sun rise, nor watch it drop down into the West. Never would he set sail on a white ship bound for Valinor....others would, but not him. His life was draining out with the blood seeping from his arm and back...very soon it would all be over. His gaze roved over the floor of the parapet...bodies lay there, Elves and Men and Orcs...but all dead, white and still. Elves he had known since they were elflings lay there, pale and cold, lying where they had fallen alongside the Men they had helped and the orcs they had slain. And now he was to share their fate.


Then, as he wavered, weak and seared with pain, he saw a vision, or rather a clear, sharp glance of tall white figure not of this world; she came toward him through misty darkness and was clad in brilliant white and silver; gilded hair streamed down her back. A shining silver circlet crowned her hair and on her forehead glittered a star. She was like Galadriel, and yet not, for this figure was even more beautiful and shining than Galadriel.

Elbereth... breathed Haldir faintly. It was her; she was stretching out her hand to him, taking him into her realm.

At that moment an arm, a warm living arm, beating with life, gripped his shoulders, and Haldir fell back into the supporting embrace. He looked up into the grief-filled, unbelieving eyes of Aragorn. Only a few hours ago they had shared an embrace of welcome and friendship!

In some strange way, the vision of Elbereth and Aragorn’s embrace brought a sort of peace to Haldir. Though he did not want to die, he was able to accept it. He had died honorably...for a cause. Even if the Shadow won at last, he had withstood it to the end.

His breathing slowed; pain was disappearing; Haldir knew that this was the end. He felt his spirit fluttering away...

Sweet Elbereth...

Aragorn, gazing into the still, peaceful face, sighed deeply and closed his eyes, pressing back the tears which welled up. Placing his hand over the Elf’s heart, he murmured a prayer to the Valar. Take this noble spirit into your realm...

But the battle cut the farewell short, and he gently laid Haldir down.

Hiro hyn hîth ab’wanath, fëa hourë...