The sight of it tugs at some hazy memory; an afternoon spent with a tutor, his voice fading into silence as I become absorbed in my latest find, a tome of Rohirric song. I imagined myself a mariner then, seeking treasure amid the loneliest shelves and palpable doom of library dust.
I allowed my fingers to pass across the indentations of the page, savouring the absence and presence of each mark. So strange, so violent the letters seemed to me, like the slash of a dagger on pale skin. Mortality bound in the very language they speak, captured in the very words they utter.
She lifts the cloth, almost reverently, upon the bier; then stands in silence, her head bowed to her work. Her dress, I notice, is dark; her hair intricately woven, held in place by a delicate circlet. I have never seen her like this before, her beauty so restrained; and I resist the sudden urge to pull apart the silver rope, to see her hair fall, unbidden, down her back, like the early summer dawn across these foreign meadows.
She moves suddenly, and the cloth rises above her head like a plume of smoke. Her fingers trap it by its corners, forcing it down, finally releasing the cloth as it drifts, slowly, upon the bier. Her hands make quick work of the wrinkles that remain, tugging this way and that, smoothing the edges, her touch gentle and deft. Practiced.
Twenty-four, I think. She is but twenty-four. And it occurs to me, suddenly, that this is not her first burial. Her parents, cousin; now uncle. How many times, I wonder, has she prepared a bier for its passenger, passed her hands over the cloth and thought of her own death?
She turns abruptly, her eyes wide with recognition. The cloth, I notice, is now slightly askew.
The distance between us closes as she rushes to me. I feel her weight in my arms, and consider, with some amazement, how I had managed to live without her in them. Not well, I realize.
She looks up, her eyes shining. "You received it," she asks breathlessly, "My message…"
"More like a command," I say, smiling. It was but two lines, yet sustained me an entire fortnight's travel. "I had to obey."
She reaches up, holding my face in her hands, her gaze piercing and troubled. For a moment, she does not speak, though I can see the rush of thoughts in her eyes. I pull her to me more tightly, as though to quell the chaos, and she buries her face in my chest.
We stand there quietly, listening to ourselves remember each other; my heart betraying my happiness, her listening to its peculiar, accelerated rhythm.
"I am glad you are here," she murmurs finally, her speech muffled by my tunic.
I bend my head to rest upon hers. My cheek recalls the softness of her hair. I breathe again, it seems, for the first time since she left.
"I will always come when you call," I reply.
Later, we lie together, still listening to our bodies as they remember each other. My heart beating fast, her ear still bent to its strange music.
I let my fingers pass over her pale skin, feeling the indentations where her bones were broken, where death came but did not conquer. She shivers a little, then raises her face to mine.
I meet her lips, and tell them, wordlessly, of all the nights I dreamt of her. Of all the times my fingers passed over the pages of a book, and I wished it was her. Of the strange fire that consumes me when she is near, the unbearable void left in her wake.
She does not reply, but bends towards me, like a flower seeking sunlight.
And before all reason flees from my mind, I remind myself to speak with my uncle in the morning, to tell him I will stay behind when he leaves.
For I cannot abandon a language I have only begun to learn.
I base my assertion that the Rohirrim did, in fact, have a written language in Appendix E of LotR, which states that a variation of the Cirth was used by the Rohirrim. Since I could not find an example of it anywhere in the appendices, I have based my fiction on a composite derived from the Angerthas table in the appendix and images of Norwegian runes that I researched independently. I imagine the book as being written by one of Faramir's ancestors, after a visit to Rohan.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.