The Remnants of a Person
She made her way up the hill to where the remnants of Denethor’s people were searching through the remains of the dead to find their own.
Leaning on her axe, she spoke up. “Do you need aid finding your dead?”
The elf nearest to her looked up and shook his head, his hands shaking as he moved one of the orcs to the side.
“We will be fine. Surely the Dwarves have need of all their people to search for their own dead.” His voice was steady, no matter that his hands kept shaking.
“Dwarven armor stands out from the other dead. We have a fondness of shining metals, as I’m sure you noticed. They will find our dead without me.” She reached over and took hold of the orc’s head as the elf almost dropped it, discarding it to the side with the other orc bodies that had been sorted through. “Our King still stands, but if he had fallen we would have carried him off with all the dignity he is owed. I would help you find yours.”
“Why?” He looked at her, eyes wide, and she had never known an elf to look so young at a battle.
“Was this your first battle?” She lifted another orc to the side, revealing the body of an elf underneath, though not Denethor. Still, she wiped as much of the dirt and blood off as she could before pulling him out into the open.
“The King’s nephew,” the elf muttered to her as he knelt to help. “He was too young to be here, but he refused to stay behind. I came with him.”
“Then you were too young to be here as well, I assume.” She shot him a look as he continued to kneel beside the body.
“He was my friend,” he said. “I couldn’t let him fight alone.”
She nodded. “He wasn’t alone, in the end. He knew you were here.”
“But I didn’t save him.” He continued to sit on the ground by his friend’s body, as she moved other orcs to the pile and found Denethor nearby, half-hidden under another orc.
“You can’t always save your friends in battle,” she said. “And your King was nearby as well and couldn’t save his nephew, either.”
“You found the King?” He stood, making his way to the body she stood beside.
“Aye,” she said, closing her eyes briefly at the folly of these elves fighting with nothing besides the lightest arms. Denethor’s wooden spear lay broken in half beside him. “He and your friend made their final stands together.”
She let him stand in silence for long moments before his King, while she continued sorting through the other bodies and watched the elves working in silence further down the hill.
“You never answered my question,” she said, when the silence had stretched for too long and reminded her too much of the shock some dwarves entered when they saw their first death in the mines. “Was this your first battle?”
“My first and my last, hopefully,” he finally said, taking his eyes off Denethor’s body to look at her. “We do not have the armor to fight like this. Perhaps your people will think us cowards, but I do not think my people will enter another battle like this one.”
She shook her head. “You are wise to not wish to enter into battles that you are not prepared for, now that you know the end.”
He bent his head in her direction, as she heard the funeral songs start behind her, the other dwarves having found all their dead. “You should go join your people.”
She nodded, with a final look at the dead elves on the ground. “You will join your own as well before you move them, I hope.”
She waited until he had started down the hill towards the remaining elves before she turned to rejoin the other dwarves. Perhaps she could convince a few to remain behind with her and search for the rest of their ally’s dead.