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They made an unlikely trio, these bloodied brothers in arms, yet the blood, mercifully, was not their own. For all of the morning and the better part of the afternoon, the Man, the Dwarf, and the Elf had tended injuries, comforted the dying, and cleared carcasses. Now, they stood on what remained of a bulwark, surveying the work that had yet to be done in the aftermath of what would ever be known as the Battle of Helm’s Deep.
“So many fallen,” whispered the human. He neither expected nor received a response from his companions, yet he knew they shared his thoughts.
“He looks green, that one.” The Dwarf nodded toward a youth of no more than eleven by Aragorn’s best guess, trying his best to staunch the flow of blood pouring from the open chest of a fallen, make-shift warrior.
Although both Aragorn and Legolas knew that Gimli had been referring to the boy’s inexperience, his comment could have applied just as easily to the sickly tinge of the youth’s flesh.
As if on cue, the lad retched to the side of the body he had been tending, for blood and gore such as this, he had never seen. Yet to the boy’s credit, he rested on his heels for only a moment before turning back to his gruesome task. Aragorn observed the boy—his jaw set in determination, his hands moving quickly and accurately—and thought he had the makings of a fine healer.
Not wishing his words to be misconstrued as ill-timed humor over the boy’s sick stomach, Aragorn hesitated before speaking the words that came to mind. He quickly realized, however, that his friends would know the serious vein in which his statement was made: “It would seem, Master Gimli, that this particular boy is green no longer.”
His words, though reserved, were something of a lamentation, and for the briefest of moments, Aragorn wondered whether the loss of innocence to which he referred was the boy’s or his own; he remembered a day not too awfully long ago when the sight before him—blood, death, a child doing a man’s work—would have reduced him to tears. Yet years of unwanted practice had taught him to keep his emotions carefully cloaked, and he would not allow himself to indulge in useless sentimentality now. Forcing his attention away from the boy, he resumed scanning his surroundings, mentally prioritizing the work that yet remained.
“Down there.” Aragorn pointed to a cluster of lifeless bodies. “We tend to those next.” The words were spoken with quiet force and certitude, and the Man was off, leaving Elf and Dwarf to follow.
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