Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings and all characters belong to Tolkien. I am merely keeping Haldir alive at Helm's Deep.

Authors Note: I do not know too much about Éomer so I am going to make some stuff up.

A Mortal Love

Part 1 - Discovery

By Morgana


Elrond trembled, finding most of Celeborn's archers dead. Walking over the battlefield, he desperately searched for survivors, but finding none. By the Grace of the Valar, what had he done? Asking Galadriel and Celeborn to fight with Man one last time had been ill fated from the start.

But he had not foreseen Helm's Deep, its terror and death. Galadriel had asked him if Man was to fight this battle alone and when he had looked inside his heart, he realized he couldn't turn the other way. For much too long Man had fought the foul forces without the aid from Dwarves or Elves. This was one debt he had to repay... in person.

Unnoticed by Haldir he had joined the archers. He had fought alongside Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli, but they had never recognized him; the frantic pace of battle making it hard to tell friend from foe most of the time. One by one he had seen the Elves fall, and he had cut into the wall of Uruk-Hai with even more determination to avenge his fallen brethren. But there were too many Uruk-Hai and too few of them. Only when Gandalf had appeared with Éomer at his side had the tables turned.

Théoden had called out 'victory' but this victory was drenched in blood, Man's and those of the Elves. He pulled the hood deeper over his face, seeing Aragorn wander the battlefield as well. Aragorn looked defeated in spite of their victory and he understood only too well. The price was too high, much too high.

He spun around when a hand settled on his shoulder, ready to shrug it off, but then he recognized Glorfindel. The blond's face was tear streaked and his seneschal swallowed convulsively at the sight of the dead. "This is not right, my lord. They were not supposed to die like that. Some of 'Lorien's greatest have fallen and... I cannot find Haldir."

Elrond's eyes darkened. "Then we must search harder." Glorfindel nodded and they split up again, covering the rest of the battle field. From the corner of his eye Elrond followed Aragorn, who now disappeared into the stronghold again. "You fought bravely, Estel, but you were greatly outnumbered. Do not blame yourself for this." But he knew this sight would stay with Aragorn for the rest of his life, and haunt both their dreams. "I brought this upon them." He had asked for volunteers and 'Lorien's archers hadn't disappointed him and had stepped forward, but seeing Haldir lead them had upset him.

He owed a debt to Haldir, who had saved Aragorn and the twins when they had been toddlers. The children had lost track of time and had gotten lost. The muddy ground beneath their feet had given away and had taken them down with it, burying them and taking away their air. Haldir, on his way to Imladris with a message from the Lord and Lady of the Wood, had heard their muffled cries for help and dug them out. That was why he was searching for Haldir, hoping the Guardian had survived this slaughter.

Suddenly a muffled cry reached his ears. He instantly looked up and found that his seneschal was signaling him. Hurrying over to Glorfindel's side, he saw the blond go down on his knees, cradling a bloody form against his chest. "Do not let it be Haldir!"

When he approached, he heard Glorfindel's soft, reassuring murmur. He flinched, recognizing the features beneath the dirt and blood. "Glorfindel, is he...?" He was afraid to say the words. Haldir couldn't be dead!

Glorfindel met Elrond's gaze. "I feel a pulse, but it is very weak. His healing ability can no longer keep him alive and he is on his way to Mandos."

Elrond knelt beside them and took Haldir from Glorfindel's arms, holding him tightly. He hissed, seeing the blow that had been delivered to Haldir's back. "I am not sure I can heal this."

"We must try," said Glorfindel, already searching for shelter. "We cannot put this off any longer, my lord. We need to take him inside where you can tend to his injuries." Elrond glared at him, but that glare no longer intimidated him. "You do not want them to know we fought with them, but you have to put Haldir's need first."

Elrond took a moment to take in Glorfindel's battered form. The blond had sustained several injuries to his right arm and leg, but had not uttered one complaint yet.  They had covered each other's back, and that was probably the only reason they were still alive. "I never saw such slaughter before." The healer in him felt drawn to the pain and horror that would always cling to Helm's Deep. "But you are right. We must put Haldir's need first."

Glorfindel nodded relieved. "Do you wish me to carry him and announce our presence yourself?"

Elrond shrugged. "I do not wish to waste any time. We will walk in together." Elrond gently lifted Haldir. The injured Elf moaned softly, but did not regain consciousness. "His injuries are severe..." Elrond hoped he had been in time. "I might not be able to save him."

"You will succeed, my Lord. Haldir will live." Glorfindel refused to think otherwise.

Long moments later they reached the great Hall where Théoden was mourning his men's deaths. Glorfindel flung the door open and entered first.

Aragorn was talking to Legolas, but both drew their weapons, finding strangers in their midst. Aragorn's eyes widened, seeing Haldir carried in to the great Hall. "Ai, Haldir... Why do you bring the dead in here?" His heart went out to Haldir and he would gladly give his own life to bring the Guardian back. He studied the two hooded figures, wondering why they were so familiar to him. Beside him, Legolas lowered his bow, inclined his head and the blond waited patiently.

Glorfindel first removed his hood, revealing himself. He heard Aragorn's surprised gasp, but didn't pay it any attention. With one gesture he swept everything from the table so Elrond could place his charge upon it.

"Glorfindel?" Aragorn sucked in his breath. What was Elrond's seneschal doing at Helm's Deep? When had Glorfindel arrived?

Glorfindel briefly looked up and nodded once. "It is I."

Théoden, faced with strangers in his Hall, looked curiously at Aragorn. "You know him?"

"Aye, he was my teacher..." Aragorn's gaze shifted from Glorfindel to Éomer, who was approaching the seneschal with his sword drawn. "Peace, Éomer, they are friends."

Éomer's eyes narrowed. He didn't like seeing strangers in the great Hall of his forefathers and he had Théoden's safety to consider. Now that Théodred was dead, it was his responsibility to see the King safe.  "Do you know the other stranger?"

Aragorn felt fairly sure he did. "Elrond?"

Elrond pushed back his hood and nodded once at his foster son. "Haldir is still alive, Estel, but if we wish to save him we cannot waste any time."

Aragorn's eyes widened with surprise. "I watched him die!"

"Estel, you should know how resilient Elves are," said Glorfindel. He assisted Elrond when the healer started to remove Haldir's armor.

Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli approached, but then stopped, realizing Elrond needed some space to work. Aragorn's mouth suddenly felt dry, seeing Haldir draw in his next shallow breath. Why hadn't he noticed Haldir was still alive? "I left him out there! If I had known I could have tended to him earlier! What if we are too late now?"

"Take heart," whispered Legolas. "Lord Elrond knows what he is doing."

Gimli looked from Legolas to Elrond, hoping his friend was right. Some time ago a dead Elf wouldn't have mattered much to him, but since befriending Legolas and meeting the Lady of the Wood, he had developed a soft spot for all Elves. "I watched Haldir and he fought well... I hope he can be saved." Gimli felt a little shy, seeing Legolas' grateful expression at hearing those words. /Silly Elves.../

"Aragorn? Who are these Elves?" Éomer watched all three strangers closely.

Aragorn took Éomer by the arm as he explained. "The injured Elf's name is Haldir and is a Guardian from 'Lorien and led the army of archers that aided us. The raven haired one is Elrond Half-Elven, Lord of Rivendell, he gathered the archers and sent them here. He is a renowned healer and once fought with Gil-galad. Glorfindel is his seneschal."

Éomer nodded, signaling he understood. His gaze was drawn to the injured Elf. A pool of blood had formed beneath Haldir and he looked awfully pale. Aragorn had said that Elrond was a healer; could he heal Haldir's injury? "Is there anything we can do to help?" When Gandalf and he had joined in the battle he had seen the corpses of Man and Elves beside each other and Gamling had told him that the Elves had fought well. He figured he owed the Elves for fighting beside them.

Elrond and Glorfindel finished removing Haldir's armor and the healer's face contorted, rolling Haldir on to his side. The blow had gone deep and had ripped apart his back. Nervously he looked at Glorfindel. "I might have to let him go..."

Glorfindel shuddered. "My lord, try to save him. The Halls of Mandos are already filled with more than enough warriors who died last night. Haldir should not be among them.

Suddenly Legolas appeared beside them, carrying clean bandages and a bowl filled with tepid water. "Thank you, Legolas," muttered Elrond, dipping one bandage in the water. Cleaning the wound, he cast a worried look at Aragorn. Dread had appeared in his foster son's eyes.

"Can you save him?" Aragorn finally stepped up to them, and rested a hand on Haldir's brow. He flinched, feeling how cold the Guardian was.

Elrond briefly closed his eyes, concentrating. "Part of him is already at Mandos. Maybe we should not try to reclaim him."

Glorfindel unexpectedly placed a hand on Elrond's shoulder. "If you can save him, please do." He shuddered, recalling how cold and empty his existence had been at Mandos. "Haldir will fight..." He was certain that once Haldir felt the pull back to life the Guardian would fight to return to them.

"I am not sure I can do this," muttered Elrond. "His healing ability is weak and his mind... It is no longer complete. I fear bringing back only a part of him. His life force is too weak."

"You can draw from mine," offered Glorfindel. They had lost so many last night that reclaiming just one of them was become very important to him.

"Nay, Glorfindel." Elrond shook his head. "You already know the pull of Mandos and you would succumb to it and it would draw you back to its Halls. Drawing from you is too dangerous..." Elrond's brow grew knitted. "I am not even sure Haldir will survive this attempt. He might be left weak for the rest of his life."

Legolas stepped up to them and sought out Elrond's gaze. "I will do it. I offer you my life force freely. Take what you need to bring Haldir back."

"Elf, nay..." Gimli looked up at Legolas, clearly upset. "I want Haldir to live as well, but not when it means losing you..."

Elrond smiled. He had hoped the two would become friends. "Nay, Legolas. I cannot accept your offer either. You are needed on this quest and much depends on you." Seeing Aragorn look at him, Elrond continued. "And therefore I cannot accept you either, Aragorn. Your destiny lies elsewhere."

Aragorn, discouraged, shook his head. "But then you are condemning him to die, and you are taking away his last chance at life." Aragorn looked about; Legolas looked defeated as well, and Gimli's features were set in stone. Glorfindel was about to offer again, but Elrond shook his head firmly, stopping his seneschal.

"There is none who can do this for Haldir..." whispered Aragorn, defeated.

"I would give him of my life force," said Elrond, "but I must concentrate on the healing at the same time. I would fail." Gently stroking Haldir's golden hair, he swallowed hard. "We must let him go, there is no other way."

"Rohan owes the Elves a debt. I will do it." Éomer stared at Elrond. "That is, if a Man's life force is good enough for you."

/There is still some resentment there,/ realized Elrond. /We came to their aid too late. Too long did we look the other way./

Aragorn, startled, looked from Éomer to Elrond. Would Elrond accept?

"Before you offer again, let me explain this to you," said Elrond, turning around and facing Éomer.

Glorfindel immediately took Elrond's place and continued to caress Haldir's face, letting Haldir know they were still here.

Éomer met Elrond's stare head on, never flinching away when the piercing eyes probed his. "What is there to explain? You need someone to pull him back... I am strong and I can do that."

Elrond shook his head. "There is more involved than giving Haldir part of your life force. You will be bound to him. When he is in pain, you will be in pain. When you feel weak, he will feel weak. This bond can only be broken in death, for Haldir will live as long as you do and when you die, he will die."

A lump suddenly formed in Éomer's throat. "And what when he dies before I do?"

"You can always pull him back. He will draw from you as long as you live." Elrond wondered if this wasn't folly and he looked away from Éomer, sorting out his feelings. "Nay, we should not do this. Haldir would have to remain close to you for at least a few moons and I am not even sure he would consent to this." Elrond made eye contact with Glorfindel, seeing the pain in the azure eyes. "I am truly sorry, meldir, but we have to let him go."

Éomer grew angry. "It is because I belong to the race of Man! If I were an Elf, you would accept at once."

Ai, that hurt for Elrond knew part of it was true. "I cannot make this decision for Haldir and he is no condition to make it himself."

"Excuses," sneered Éomer. Aragorn tried to block his path, but he pushed Aragorn out of his way and marched toward Elrond. "I am offering. By refusing me you condemn your man to certain death. What do you have to lose by accepting my offer?"

"He is right, my Lord," whispered Glorfindel. "If he is willing, this might work." Looking at Éomer, he saw a strong spirit, one Haldir might even like.

"My heart advises against this," said Elrond at last.

"Put Haldir's needs first," whispered Glorfindel. He left Haldir's side and came to a halt in front of Elrond. After placing his hands on Elrond's shoulders, he whispered, "You can do this. You can reclaim Haldir."

Aragorn moved toward Elrond as well. "I care for Haldir as for a brother. I do not want to lose him." Memories flooded him and he was back in the mud, struggling for his life. Elladan and Elrohir's distressed calls had made it through the mud, alerting Haldir. "He dug us out single-handedly and it is because of him that you still have any sons. Give Haldir this chance. If he does not like the arrangements," and he looked at Éomer, "Haldir will take matters in to his own hands, but please give him this chance."

Elrond sighed. Glorfindel's eyes still looked at him pleadingly and Éomer seemed determined to do this. "You are not giving me a choice," he whispered, feeling cornered. "Aye, I will do this, but..." and he looked at Éomer, "you must realize you will be left weak after I brought him back."

"I accept that," said Éomer firmly, "and I will keep him close until he has fully healed. Rohan pays her debts in full."

Elrond cringed. /Is that all Haldir means to you? A debt repaid? What if you do not learn to appreciate him? You do not realize it fully yet, but the two of you will be bound to each other for the rest of your life. Once Haldir has recovered you cannot cut him out of your life... but you are young, too young to understand what you are about to do. Maybe that understanding will come when you grow older./

Aragorn, Legolas, Glorfindel, Éomer and even Gimli looked at him expectedly, hoping he would heal Haldir. Elrond sighed and then met their eyes, seeking out Éomer's last. "I will ask you one more time; do you really want to give Haldir part of your life force?"

"Aye," said Éomer, his eyes burning with life. "Rohan's debt will be paid."

Elrond shook his head. "This is folly."

"Elrond, please?" Glorfindel stared into his Lord's eyes, hoping to convince him. "Haldir is precious to each and every one of us."

"I will do it." Elrond gave in at last, but his heart continued to murmur a warning. "Éomer, I want you to sit down next to Haldir."

Éomer sat down and watched the injured Elf closely. His features were noble and spoke of strength and ancient knowledge. What he was doing was right; this one could be saved and he would do his part. "What do you want me to do?"

"Do not fight me when you feel your presence in my mind," said Elrond. He positioned himself near Haldir's head and placed his hands on each side of the Elf's head. One look at Haldir's back made him flinch. "It will take him a long time to recover, even with your life force to aid him, Éomer."

"I won't desert him," growled Éomer softly. "I might be a Man, but I do have a sense of duty and honor."

Aragon cringed at Éomer's tone. "It is not that Elrond does not trust you," he said, addressing Éomer, "He is merely worried for Haldir. It is nothing personal." At least he hoped so.

"Aragorn is right," said Elrond thoughtfully. "If it were personal I would never have aided you by sending you an army of archers."

"My lord, we are wasting time," said Glorfindel urgently. Haldir's breathing had almost stopped.

Elrond nodded once and concentrated once more. "His spirit is approaching Mandos. Éomer, I need you now."

Éomer placed his hand on Elrond's, hoping it was the right thing to do. He startled briefly, feeling Elrond's presence in his mind, but there was another one as well, weak and fragile. /That  must be Haldir.../

/Aye, it is./ Elrond reached deeply within Éomer's mind, drawing from the young warrior. Haldir almost slipped away from him, but he caught the Elf's mind and pulled it with him. /Éomer.../

Éomer squeezed Elrond's hand. /Take what you need from me.../  Suddenly something cold made him yelp softly.

Elrond released a strangled yelp and collapsed. Glorfindel moved quickly and caught the healer, holding him tightly.

"It is done," whispered Elrond exhausted. Gratefully he looked up at Glorfindel. "I need to lie down."

"Follow me," said Éowyn. "I will take you to the guest quarters."

"What about Haldir?" Aragorn pleadingly looked at his foster father.

"He will survive," said Glorfindel instead of Elrond. "Take them to a comfortable room and make sure they rest. Do not separate them."

Aragorn frowned, looked at Éomer and found that the young man had lost consciousness. Éomer's head rested on Haldir's chest and they seemed to breathe in unison.

"I will see to that. They will rest," said Théoden, uncertain how this would affect Éomer, who was his heir now. He wasn't thrilled that Éomer had bound himself to Haldir, but also realized that this debt had to be paid.

"We will take them to their rooms," offered Aragorn, seeing Legolas nod approvingly.

"Follow me then." Théoden watched Éowyn guide Elrond and Glorfindel to their rooms and he waited for Aragorn and Legolas to follow him.

Aragorn lifted Éomer in his arms and ignored the soft protest. "Let us care for you."

Legolas slipped his arms beneath Haldir's legs and back and gasped, finding that the wound was beginning to close. Carrying Haldir, he followed Théoden. The King led them to the guest rooms where they placed Éomer and Haldir on the bed. Elrond's warning not to separate them echoed in their minds. Aragorn pulled up the covers and watched them for a short while. Legolas' touch stopped his musings and he smiled at his friend. "Haldir will live."

Legolas returned the smile. "Aye, he will, but we should leave them now. They need to rest."

Aragon nodded. Reassured, he followed Legolas in to the corridor, leaving Haldir and Éomer to their rest.

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