3. in mute witness stand
But here in this graveyard that is still No Man's land
the countless white crosses in mute witness stand.
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man
to a whole generation that was butchered and damned.
Eric Bogle, Green Fields of France
this song was written much later, and so this piece is set much later.
Beneath this mound lies a king's son. At the foot of the mound stands a king's son. The spears set about the mound rotted away years ago, but the mound remains to guard these fords.
The living king's son stands silently, looking up at the long green grass waving thick on the mound. His father has told him of this place, and he has heard many tales of the mound's most notable occupant.
It is hard now to believe, looking at this green place with the sun shining, that these men died in darkness, fighting a desperate rearguard action. Elfwine has heard the tales, has visited the places, and still cannot imagine what it must have been like. Rohan has, to him, always been a land of peace and plenty. They are warriors, to be sure, and his childhood memories of his father include plenty of a big laughing man in armor, his face tanned and his hair streaked by the sun, his hands callused from wielding sword and spear. He has learned to fight, and prides himself on his exceptional swordsmanship. He has even tasted battle, as his father's squire, and will doubtless face battle again as he grows into manhood.
But he cannot imagine Rohan wracked by war. He cannot picture the desperate action that must have happened here, though he has heard the tales. He turns, squinting northward to discern the place where Grimbold's rearguard held off the attacking Isengarders. He tries to imagine them, but he has never seen an Orc or a wolfrider. He stands at the foot of the mound, trying to imagine Theodred's men driven back onto it, straining as if he could still hear Theodred's great voice.
But it is silent, but for birdsong, and the soft sound of his horse on the east bank cropping the grass, and the purling of the water over the stones. Elfwine stands where he imagines Grimbold stood, over Theodred's body, and looks to the east and south, to see where Elfhelm's companies came to save Grimbold. The road is still, a breeze stirring the dust.
It was dusk then, growing dusk, the light fading, and that saved them, the songs say; Elfhelm's four companies seemed a great host coming out of the East, with Elfhelm at the head with a white standard to guide them, thundering through the dusk to the aid of the king's dying son. But dusk it was then, dusk falling, and they believed themselves the last stand. Their king was fallen into darkness, their allies dark, their old oaths fading, and darkness rising like a great tide.
Elfwine cannot imagine the despair. He cannot imagine this place as a place of death. The sun shines and the insects hum, the grass dances and the wind soughs. There is no cloud in the great blue bowl of sky stretching above him, pale at the horizons and fading to a blue as deep as his father's eyes at the crown. He has never known despair and he stands at the foot of the mound, disturbed by memories he does not have. How could they fight without hope?
He turns back to the mound, and the wind stirs the grasses with a faint sigh. Let me lie here, the grass sighs. Let me lie here. But it is not despair, it is peace. To keep the Fords, Elfwine whispers to the grass. Til Eomer comes.
To know defeat and death is not despair. There is hope in trusting to those who come after you. And suddenly there are tears on the king's son's face, free and hot.
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.