A/N: I own nothing. Proper notes at the end of the chapter.
The Glittering Caves of Aglarond were breathtaking in their beauty, a majesty only slightly reduced by the sorry crowds of women and children cramped into the large open spaces that stretched far back into the mountain.
Veins of gems, crystals and precious metals glinted across the walls and flowed through perfectly smooth marble-like limestone. The high domed ceiling was supported by glistening columns that rose from the floor like frozen waterfalls and from high above were draped glittering sheets of sparkling stone. Below lay a lake of unsurpassed clarity and stillness that was so perfectly clear it seemed as if the cave began anew at the surface. Harry was left breathless for a moment at the sight.
Éowyn had shown Harry where they would be working, and introduced him to a few other women who would be tending the injured. Harry had asked for their expertise and quickly came to the conclusion that they were not far off being sawbones. This world had no real understanding of medicine at all, Harry felt that his presence here might go further towards helping the defenders than standing atop the surely impassable walls.
He was concerned that he would never be able to cut loose with his battle magic while surrounded by an army of superstitious medieval peasants, but he could do some miraculous healing. He was still loath to place himself at the centre of a new war. After seeing the walls and the army sent to assault them he felt that the men would probably be able to hold even without his help. They had no siege engines or catapults, their only option would be to scale the sheer walls, not a task to be undertaken lightly.
In talking to Éowyn, he had quickly realised why she did not wish to be down here. She was a warrior in her heart, or at least she believed she was. Much had been taken from her over her life. It had not been an easy one and Harry felt that she was far more attracted by the idea of a good death than a good fight.
Harry didn't know how to deal with that at all. His impression was that she wished for death, but that she was too proud and too dutiful to end it so simply. Instead she wished to place herself in a situation where she would die, but in glory. She wanted to be remembered in story and in song as a great warrior maiden. Harry had been in low places before and he could sympathise to an extent, but there was nothing he could do for her now. He merely decided to keep an eye on her as much as was reasonable, he had long ago learned and much to his pain that he could not save everyone.
As they talked a runner came to the caves, a young boy of just ten years. The battle had been joined and they were to make ready with their treatments for the arrows flew in clouds and already the casualties mounted. Not long after, the first of the injured was brought in; an emaciated old man with a cruel looking barbed arrow lodged in his gut. Harry immediately got to work. His abilities as a healer were nothing to write home about but mundane injuries like this were no challenge to any wizard.
There was a slight complication when he realised that many of the wounds had been poisoned and resisted mortal healing. Fortunately the poisons of the Orcs were unsubtle and possessed no magic bar the malevolence that created them. Harry was able to slowly draw the poison from the wound with a small application of his magic and then vanished the stinking blackness after it was collected. The man was almost as good as new within five minutes, but by then there were ten more awaiting his attentions.
Surprised shouts of alarm echoed through the caves from the entrance to the Coomb causing the gathered women and children to cluster closer together in fear. Harry looked up from his work on a man who had near lost his arm when the Uruks had made the top of the Deeping Wall in one of their attacks. Éowyn had moved quickly to the cavern entrance and was conversing urgently with an exhausted and harried looking runner, barely 12 years old if Harry was any judge.
She walked over to Harry quickly, grabbing the sword she had brought with her into the cave.
"Orcs are behind the wall," she said with quiet urgency, "they are among the horses and some have moved to the caves, what few guards we have will be in need of aid. Of those here only you and I have strength to fight this foe. Come, Harry, we must draw swords and meet the enemy before they come to us here."
Harry nodded quickly. The battle was obviously not going so well if the attackers were behind the wall. He would not stand by and let the defenders be slaughtered by the inhuman and savage Orcs assaulting them. They would soon see the wrath of a wizard.
As he and Éowyn moved towards the cave entrance he couldn't help but worry about her, clad as she was in a simple dress. It would hardly offer much protection against the swords and arrows of the Uruks. He would have to keep a close eye on her in the coming fight. He was sure her death at his side would do a lot to damage the goodwill he had garnered when he helped Aragorn.
In the hope that it would help he surreptitiously cast a couple of charms over her clothes. He hoped that she would not notice the fact that her simple wool garments were now as effective as tanned leather. He also used an ever favourite of his, the Notice-Me-Not Charm in the hope that he would bear the brunt of the Orcish assault.
As it turned out he needn't have worried. Only two Uruks made it past the guard at the cave mouth, both were quickly dispatched by Éowyn and himself. He saw that she really did know how to swing the sword she carried. In the absence of his magic he was sure she would easily best him.
After the brief excitement another runner came to them and told them the attack had been stymied and the culvert through which they had come had been blocked with great stones. The Dwarf Gimli had shown the artifice of his people in so quickly finding the material and equipment to block the path from the use of Uruks and Harry was happy that now the battle would surely go in their favour.
Though the Uruks pressed ever harder the great walls of Helm's Deep would not fall to mere flesh, blood and steel no matter what fell will drove them forward. While Harry did not wish to leave the men and women of Rohan to a cruel doom at the hands of the creatures of Morgoth he also knew this war was far beyond his powers or ability to win. Should he demonstrate the full scope of his offensive powers he felt sure he would be either vilified or expected to lead them to a bloodless victory.
He had long known that no victory was bloodless. He resolved to keep his abilities still to himself unless the defences looked about to fall.
He cursed again the fact that he had no time to erect wards nor the thought to charm magical defences beyond the wall yet now was not the time for he could do nothing more.
They both retreated back into the caves to tend to the ever increasing stream of wounded men.
The entire cave shook with the force of the explosion and screams rang out among those gathered there. The battle bad been going on for what felt like hours, a never ending flow of injured and dead men being brought for medical attention. Now, Harry knew, things had changed. Before, the news was that the walls were holding, that the culvert through which the last attack had come had been closed off and that the keep would be able to hold out the night.
Not any more. A runner came in a panic, the Deeping Wall had been blown apart by the fell magics of Saruman. Éowyn was to lead the women and children through the deep caves to a hidden way into the mountains while the men would hold the cave as long as they could. It was but a small hope for the path was narrow and could not be travelled at speed and the tides of Uruk-Hai would not be checked for long.
At this, Harry stood, his decision made. He had seen the cave's mouth, he knew he could hold it against any mundane foe. He looked to Éowyn.
"I will hold the caves, my Lady, no Orcs will be allowed to pass, if you give me leave."
Éowyn turned to him from where she was already gathering and commanding those about her to comply with her King's order. She regarded him for a moment in sadness before her face set into an emotionless mask. "We both shall hold the cave," she said with an air of finality before turning to one of the other women, "Hild, lead everyone down and out through the secret ways, Lord Harry and myself will hold the enemy in the narrow passages. Go. Now!"
All around her the womenfolk gasped and called for her not to go for they had no leader among them with her gone to the battle. Éowyn was not to be shifted from her now chosen path and she refused them for a light of battle was in her eyes and she could not be stayed from this course.
She drew her sword and flashed Harry a look that dared him to disagree. He had seen that look before on others many years ago and he knew that any argument would draw her ire and serve him little. He simply nodded to her and turned to run towards the fighting, knowing she would follow.
Early, far earlier than he'd hoped he heard the clash and clatter of sword and shield, the scream and shout of battle joined. As Harry rounded a bend a great shout went up, he saw a defender fall, an ugly length of metal having hewn his torso almost in twain. A small group of men yet held the tight chamber, among them where Gimli the Dwarf and Éowyn's brother Éomer. Harry wasted no time in joining the battle and he felt Éowyn at his side as he charged into the fray. Another great cry went up from the large force of Orcs now entering the chamber as they too joined in the bloodshed.
All about was battle and blood as Gimli and Éomer raised their battle cries to echo through the caves. "Khazâd! Khazâd!" cried Gimli as he set about him with his great axe and felled any Orc unwise enough to come within striking distance.
Still Harry kept his magic back in folly for fear of the reaction. That did not mean he was helpless though. He had charmed his sword to be lighter and much sharper than any normal blade. His own strength was bolstered by a fortitude charm and his light leather armour, again taken from an unlucky highwayman, was charmed to repel swords. Finally, a Supersensory Charm allowed him to mimic the preternatural awareness of a truly experienced swordsman. Together these made him almost unassailable on the battlefield, despite not quite having the skill displayed by Éowyn or Éomer.
For great skill both had. Though neither was the force of destruction that was Gimli son of Glóin. The brother and sister culled many orcs and took no wounds for the line of Eorl was far beyond the skill of mere Orcs.
He stayed close to Éowyn and stood shoulder to shoulder as the two of them threw back charge after charge, their battle was echoed in the melee surrounding Éomer and Gimli. Éowyn's blade flowed like water around her as she cut down Orc after Orc. Harry did not have her finesse, but his magical aids made up for his lack of experience, his blade cleaved through swords, armour, flesh and bone all with equal ease.
The assault did not last long. Soon the cave was choked with the corpses and the ground was black with the blood of the foul creatures. The glittering pools once so clear and pure corrupted by the darkness that ran in the veins of Morgoth's creations.
"Ha ha!" shouted Gimli. "That elf will have a hard time bettering my count now!"
Éomer was similarly ebullient and smacked the dwarf heartily on the back as he flicked black blood and gore from his blade. "Indeed master Gimli, I think our count shall be heard to beat!" His eyes drifted over to where Harry and Éowyn stood, the ground around them choked with bodies and the blood of half a hundred Orcs. "Sister! You were to lead our people to safety while we held the caves, for what reason did you come here to join the menfolk in the battle?"
Harry had to suppress a grimace at that, despite only knowing her a short time he knew that was unlikely to go down well with Éowyn.
She shot her brother a fiery look. "I will not cower in the dark and wait for death to take me nor will I flee when our King lies besieged. If these are to be the last days of the Mark then I will die with a sword in my hand and a curse on my lips."
Éomer looked annoyed and strode towards her. "We would have held the caves, sister. If now we do fall who will defend our people in your stead?"
"There is no valour in fleeing before the enemy!" Éowyn said. "Should we fall here then there is no defence to be had for us, only ignominy and death. I would not have you demand it of me. The time for that is past, I am here now and my charges shall be gone to the hills. Together we may push the Orcs from these caves entirely."
Éomer still did not look happy but further disagreement was waylaid by another wave of Orcs charging into the cave. All the few remaining fighters quickly moved into a defensible position and the battle continued anew.
"We should fight to the cave mouth, my Lady. We need to see how the battle progresses," Harry called in the next lull. "I fear it is not going well."
Éowyn agreed, the light of battle shone in her steely eyes. "You and I shall have glory this day, Harry! Surely that explosion was the sorcery of Saruman. The battle must go ill indeed. My brother will no doubt follow us if he can."
They battled on through the caves, cutting down many more Uruks. As they neared the mouth they found the corpses of many of the guards left to hold the way. Amongst them was the last young runner boy, his rusted and now broken blade still buried in the neck of an Orc as his eyes stared unseeingly at the pool of mixed blood before him.
Éowyn knelt by the boy for a moment when they found him and when she raised herself Harry could see the light of rage and despair in her eyes. The child was one she knew for he had come to Edoras with word of the burning of the Westfold. Scant hours ago he had been reunited with his mother whom he thought lost and now lay sundered from her for eternity. Tears burned in her eyes for had come to love the boy as a ward and the battle fury of her sires came upon her. She charged onwards and Harry followed hot on her heels as Éomer shouted to them in frustration behind.
They soon reached the entrance of the cave and there the battle took a turn. Harry's swordplay, which had been so effective in the confined space of the cave was not so effective here. He was nearly killed when an Orc managed to flank them both, his life saved when Éowyn leapt between them, sword in hand, to deflect what would have been a deathly blow.
His sensory charm proved more hindrance than help for the clamour of battle around him drove sharp spikes of pain through his mind and he was forced to drop the spell. So much death was about him that the charm only served to overwhelm him.
In the time it took Harry to turn to see his assailant Éowyn had already driven her sword through the Orc, leaving the beast to collapse to the ground with a guttural noise. His momentary distraction allowed the rest of the thronging Orcs to press closer and Harry was finally forced to press his magic into true service. Such was their peril that he knew it was either that or retreat and allow them all to fall before the reckless hate of the Orcs of Saruman.
He and Éowyn stood side by side at the cave entrance, hacking and hewing at the mass of bodies pressing towards them as he drew his wand into his hand. He blasted the closest group of Uruks back with a wave of his wand, earning a wide-eyed look from Éowyn that lasted a bare moment, she did not have the time for anything more. At that moment Éomer caught up with them, followed by a panting and displeased looking Gimli.
"I did not know we had a wizard in our midst, Gandalf did not mention your presence in these lands," he called suspiciously. "Surely you would have been better use on the walls at the fore of our defences!"
Harry understood that the Dwarf was right, a lot of death could well have been prevented had he helped lead the defence. "I thought the walls too strong to take, that I would not be needed. I have no liking for war nor bloodshed much as I am proficient at it."
"Your hands surely saved many lives during the battle," said Éowyn, seemingly less given to immediately telling him off. "But such magic would give the men heart they surely need."
Harry nodded in acceptance, his eyes weary with sorrow. "Then I shall bring my full strength to bear. I will not suffer any more death due to my unwillingness to take a part."
Around them the Orcs recovered from their terror at seeing his magic unleashed for they had thought the Wizard to be far from here. Yet though they feared the magic of their master and his once allies such was their rage and thirst for blood that they would not be cowed. Surely Saruman of the Many Colours was the greater and they were in his service.
Harry immediately began blasting at the newly closing host, though the closeness of the combat was far from ideal. His most destructive spells would surely injure himself or his companions if used at such close range. He couldn't Apparate away to open up the range as he couldn't allow any Orcs access to the caves. He merely fought with what he could. He was a whirlwind of steel and flashing lights and the very air screamed and warped around him as he claimed dozens of Orcs.
Beside him, Éowyn showed that the blood of her sires ran still true in her she wove in and out of the blades of attacking Orcs, quickly finding and exploiting weak spots in the heavy plate armour of the black beasts. Harry watched her from the corner of his eye as her hair streamed around her and she tore through the Orcs like a Valkyrie from Norse legend.
Éomer and Gimli were each like a force of nature, able to fight almost effortlessly. Gimli was counting as he fought, a headcount that was climbing rapidly. Éomer was just as exuberant when the blood lust was upon him and he was constantly trading jests with Gimli.
"If I did not know better I would say that you were glad of the breach blasted in our walls," Éomer called to the son of Glóin as they fought.
"Aye! I am for truth," cried Gimli. "For I could not hope to contest the count of the Elf while the battle was kept so distant and beyond the reach of my axe."
The fierceness of the attack began to dim, the Orcs unwilling to step closer to the vengeful wizard and his companions. Harry took the opportunity to try and get some impression of how the rest of the battle was going.
Not well it seemed.
All the land behind the Deeping Wall was black and crawling with Orcs, most were moving towards the Hornburg where it seemed the battle still raged. In the background, below the clamour of bodies, armour and battle, Harry could hear the rhythmic drumming of a ram against the great gates.
The keep was holding, but for how much longer, he knew not.
Looking back to the cliff at his back, he noticed that battle was still being joined in the mouths of some of the entrances to the caves.
The Orcish assault returned in earnest, and Harry saw that Éowyn would not be able to sustain another such battle looking exhausted as she did. She, however, merely raised her sword and chin high, ready to meet the foe with all the valour remaining to her. If Harry was honest, he was beginning to feel the strain too, a sword is a much heavier thing than a wand to be swinging about in battle, even with the additional charms.
Harry spun his wand around, throwing the nearest Orcs back twenty yards or more, he then raised his wand high over his head and chanted the words he'd learned from Dumbledore all those years ago. A great wall of flames sprung up between the beleaguered defenders and their assailants, a great cry erupting from the throats of the Orcs at the sight.
Now it was time for him to really flex his metaphorical muscle. Too many had died because of his willingness to step back. Enough was enough.
His wand traced intricate patterns in the air as he completed his complex spell. The wall of fire resolved into a force of towering figures wreathed in flame and wielding blades of shimmering light. Within moments of beginning their attack the Uruks and Orcs were fleeing before them back towards the breach in the walls. The warriors of flame pursued them slowly, as Harry directed them to shore up the breach. With his burning warriors guarding the gap the defenders would be able to mount a true defense of this part of the keep once again.
"Ai! Balrog!" cried Gimli and fumbled his axe in shock even while Éomer swore in his own tongue.
"What sorcery is this!" called Éowyn, "warriors of conjured flame? Never have I heard of such a feat even of wizards."
"It's complicated!" Harry called. "The explanation must come later, for now there's a battle to win. Keep the stragglers off me!"
"Much do I fear this may be folly," said Gimli as he turned to face the Orcs still behind the wall. "To summon so many Balrogs is a power greater than any of which I have ever heard, or care to hear." Yet still he followed the command.
Éowyn, Éomer and Gimli gathered around Harry as he prepared to stopper the breach in the walls for good. Desperate Orcs broke against them like waves upon immovable rocks and Harry was able to focus on repairing the wall. He saw Éowyn's eyes grow wide as huge chunks of blasted rock and masonry ascended into the air and reformed in the hole that had been blasted by Saruman's magics.
"That's a useful skill you've got there lad!" said Gimli in wonder, his fear of Harry's warriors for a moment waning at such extraordinary craft. "The Dwarves would give much to know such a craft!"
"How is this possible?" asked Éomer. "Long has Gandalf passed through Rohan and ever has Saruman dwelt upon our borders yet never have I heard word of such magic even in the old stories of the witch of the woods."
"It is not a complicated spell," explained Harry while he flicked his wand delicately and with care to direct the sundered stones together again. "Though I admit using it to rebuild a citadel wall would be beyond most."
As the wall reformed Harry's flame guardians stuttered and died, their form releasing a torrent of fire upon all the nearby Orcs. A great cry went up and the sickly smell of burning flesh blew briefly across the battlefield before being whipped and washed away by the wind and rain that fell heavily upon all who made battle there.
Around them a few surviving men cheered though the count of the dead was far beyond Harry's reckoning. The Hornburg was still under assault and even now he could see no men holding the walls any longer so heavily overrun were they by the tide that had come through the breach.
"The King lies besieged in the Hornburg," said Éomer. "We must fight to them with relief, we are with you Gledfréa."
Gledfréa they called him now, flame master in the old tongue of the Rohirrim. A master of flame he surely was and among the men there gathered few doubted that victory would yet come to them with such power in their midst.
"Ooooh, yes!" shouted Gimli in excitement as swung his much dirtied axe in anticipation.
Despite her obvious fatigue Éowyn refused to be bowed. "I also am with you."
Quickly they gathered up what men they could for a strike against the attackers in the beleaguered Hornburg.
Then it seemed as if the world took a deep breath, the fighting in the Hornburg slowed and a murmur spread through the Orcs. Then the great horn of the deeps sounded. The deepest bass of the huge horn of Helm Hammerhand rolled across Orc and Man alike. Those who heard it were given great heart of reduced to the pits of despair by the sound and all knew that the Rohirrim were in battle resurgent. The sound rolled off and between the mountains and echoed from the Deeps, a chorus of woe and doubt to beset the enemy.
From within Harry heard a shout. "Hammerhand! Helm has arisen and rides to war! Helm for Théoden King!"
"They ride out at the last!" cried Éomer. "We must join them and push the Orcs from our walls."
The men with them shouted in answer to the clamour within. "Helm! Helm! Helm and the Wizard!"
Together, and with Éowyn running at his side Harry led their small force atop the walls of the Hornburg, sweeping the parapets clean. Mere moments it took to gain and clear the walls, such was the despair of the foe and the wroth of the Rohirrim.
Harry looked out over the battle as the King and his riders cut a swathe into the wavering Orc army. Over them the sun was rising and with it came hope that the darkness of that evil night might be washed away. From under the light of the rising sun came more riders, thousands of mounted men rode to the aid of their King.
"Erkenbrand is come!" shouted Éomer in glee as he saw them descend upon the legions of Saruman putting them finally to flight.
Among the riders in the valley Harry could see a figure garbed all in white, power and wisdom was his raiment and from him issued a blinding light driving the Orcs from him in panic. He heard the riders below shouting "Gandalf!" and "The White Rider!" and know now of whom it was that Aragorn spoke.
The was much that Harry sensed in the power of Gandalf, for he had never before encountered such a brilliant power as was displayed there. Though an old man to his eyes within his magic he sensed such power that left him almost breathless. A smallest portion of that power now assailed the Orcs and they were beset.
In terror and madness the Orcs fled, from the valley they streamed through under the boughs of a dark forest, a forest that had not been present the day previous and that none had seen come. The dark wood swallowed the fleeing multitude of Orcs and of them no sight nor sound was ever heard again for the wrath of ancient Fangorn was fearsome indeed.
A hue and cry went up from all the men, Éowyn joining them enthusiastically and throatily. "Victory!", "Erkenbrand!", "Théoden!", "Aragorn!" and even, to Harry's astonishment, "Gledfréa!"
A/N: As I said before this will be a fairly short fic and there's a reason for it. Multiple reasons actually. 1) Much as I'd like to be, I'm not Tolkien and simply cannot compete with his command of language. 2) It's Harry centric. I wont be covering Frodo and Sam or Aragorn or Gandalf and their journeys except where they overlap with Harry. That means there just isn't that much content to cover unless I start to bulk it out needlessly. Sorry if the shortness is distressing (I love longer fics too) but I hope it will end up being exactly the length it should be. 3) Writing does not flow from my fingers like water and I don't yet have a completed fic under my belt. This is supposed to be a short toe-dipping exercise to get my foot in the door.
That said the 35-40k is the outline and the main events. It's currently a little short on character interaction and dialogue so I am returning to my already written content and adding more. Still, it's not going to morph into an epic any time soon I'm afraid. The story will also follow canon very closely though not in the form of a canon retread + Harry (I hope, your mileage may vary). This is because the scale of the conflict is by this point simply too large for Harry to do more than change a few small details. Harry may be good but it would take him months to kill all the Orcs of Mordor even if they formed an orderly queue.
This chapter didn't end up having much in the way of obscure references but I'll cover a couple.
Eorl was the leader of a tribe of horse riders who lived far in the north, they came to Gondor's aid in one of its wars and were gifted the lands now called Rohan. All the kings of Rohan descend from him.
Gledfréa means Flame Master or Master of Fire (or thereabouts) in Old English. Tolkien used Old English for the language of the Rohirrim when it was presented in his texts (almost always names). Éomer has a bit of a habit for bestowing names on folks at the drop of a hat ("Wingfoot, I name you!" Really?).
Very brief note; Glóin should really be pronounced more like 'Glowin'. It's not such a big deal for him but I think his father Gróin probably insisted upon it.
Reviewers: You're all terribly kind (for the time being at least). I should perhaps apologise to anyone who was waiting for me to update Harry Potter and the Sun Queen. It's not abandoned (I have another chapter and a half written) but it has taken a back seat. Mainly because I got a bit annoyed with the quicktime events and have stopped playing Tomb Raider for now. If you see any glaring errors, mistakes or omissions then I shall be happy to hear them.
MrShade - In the books Éomer was at Helm's Deep. When the Deeping Wall fell he and Gimli were pushed into the Glittering Caves (just as happened here) and thought lost until after the battle was won. In the books it was Erkenbrand who came to their rescue though I admit I get confused between the books and movies, I didn't realise the relief force in the books is infantry. I then decided to keep them as cavalry because I kinda loved that scene in the movie.