Working Life in Middle-earth

To Labor and to Wait

4. The Guardsman

“Do not look at it,” she tells me, and of course I have to look as soon as she says this. I let my gaze go to the table between us, where my hand rests limply, palm up. The girl’s dark head is bent over it. Her face, like mine, is impassive. She is intent upon her needle and her thread; a row of stitches is growing over the long gash in my skin. I would not call it pleasant, but I take a grim sort of pleasure in knowing I have borne much worse in the past without complaint—a soldier’s pleasure.

It happened this morning: my hand slipped as I was honing my dagger—a thing that has never occurred in all the years I have carried a blade. I clutched at my bloody palm with my right hand and cursed myself hoarse—cursed myself, and my weapon, and my aching limbs, and the dimness of the battlements at dawn, and the early spring chill that had seeped through my cloak. And above all else I cursed the Black Land itself, that it had found Gondor in her hour of weakness, and that now I must battle its minions with one hand maimed. It went on in this fashion until my brother gripped my shoulder and sent me to the Houses. “Get you some proper care, while you still are able,” he said, gently. “But first,” he added, “get you out of earshot. I do not care to listen to you howl all the morrow.”

And I suppose it is good to sit here, biting back my pain, and it is good to have a girl sit opposite me. Strange to see a girl, though, for we are at war, are we not? I let the cool air fill me, and now the black death-rotted wings graze at the edges of my mind, as they often seem to do when all else is still, just as the fell cries bloom in my ears when all else is quiet.

I suppress a shudder just as she is putting in the final stitch—or very nearly suppress it.

“I told you not to look,” she chides me. Ah, if only ‘twere so easy as that. There is a neat seam running down the center of my palm, like a newly mended garment. I wonder, does she believe she will live to see the ending of this war?

“Thank you,” I say.

“You are welcome.” She ties off the thread without meeting my eye, then swiftly lifts my wrist and places a light kiss on the edge of my hand. “Now get you gone, soldier.”

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.

In Challenges

Story Information

Author: Aliana

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Rating: General

Last Updated: 12/15/04

Original Post: 12/01/04

Back to challenge: Working Life in Middle-earth

Go to story: To Labor and to Wait

Keyword Search

Search for key terms in Challenge, Nuzgûl & Oliphaunt titles and descriptions.

Results are ordered alphabetically by title.