When we have shuffled off this mortal coil

Gift of Freedom, A

1. A Gift of Freedom

The wind was cold up there. Elladan and Elrohir felt it, but dismissed it, while on Elladan’s gloved wrist Breged clacked her beak and lifted her wings slightly in mock-bate. Elladan stroked her breast with the back of a finger.

“Ssh, mighty one. Soon, it will be soon.”

“I think she preferred her warm mews,” Elrohir said with a faint smile.

Elladan cast him the reproving look all brothers keep for each other and Elrohir grinned back. His sorrow was as deep as his brother’s was, but he would not let it lead them down into despair.

They moved lightly through the snow-covered landscape, leaving small mark of their passing. The world around them darkened to a jumble of grey and black patches as the moon sank in preparation for dawn, but still they climbed sure-footedly and swiftly up the steep mountain path. As the path steepened, breath began to come sharply, but they pushed on, welcoming the burn of muscle and sinew. Where great rocks roughened the path Elrohir steadied his brother who must climb one-handed. Hooded and jessed, Breged clung with grim fortitude to this man who was not her master. Occasionally she would let her head drift down in a waking doze against the feathers of her breast that were fluffed out against the cold.

The peak ahead of them was beginning to be stained with faint pinks and oranges from the sun that rose behind them in a great fiery ball when they paused. Carefully, they transferred ownership of the gyrfalcon and Elladan massaged an aching shoulder. Elrohir moved past a jumbled mass of rocks to look over the green fields and plains of the land below.

“Our brother’s land,” he said softly.

Elladan joined him.

“A part of it – never would he have forgotten the North.”

Elrohir nodded, “Yet he dreamt of this, although he never saw it.”

“Sharper eyes shall see it for him, now.” Elladan said and stretched out a hand once more to smooth the ruffled feathers on Breged’s breast.

“Aye, and one day his son.”

Elladan’s face darkened as he thought of the small boy they had carried to swift sanctuary in their father’s lands. So small he was still clad in skirts, he had not asked for his father since they had arrived with empty horse and sorrow-marked faces. Stoically he had born discomfort during their hurried flight, asking no more than a clutch on their clothing.

“I would that that will be many years delayed,” Elladan said slowly. “I would fain keep him safe at Rivendell until he is old in wisdom, if Father is right about what awaits him. I would not watch another ride to his doom.”

The light in his eyes was fey. Elrohir rubbed his arm.

“Come. The sun is all but up.”

Elladan turned and looked along the snow-capped range. Ice and snow shone in the warming light and the reds and golds of the sky were reflected in the sharp-edged peaks. With a faint smile and nod, he turned and followed his brother.

The colours were fading to leave only brilliant shining day when they reached the peak. To their left, faint red still steeped from a deeply cleft valley and for a moment both saw the red-stained snow of their brother’s death. Without words they drew closer, and Elrohir passed the knotted ends of the jesses to Elladan so both held the great bird. They stayed thus, watching, as the rising sun leached the last of the colour from the snow. Only when it was crystalline white again did the twins look at each other.

“The end of all things…” Again, Elladan’s look was fey and Elrohir leant against him and stroked Breged.

In the score of days since their brother had fallen to an orc’s arrow they had taken responsibility for all of his effects: rendering him a last duty in death. For his body a burning pyre, for his child a hurried flight to sanctuary. His horse left with the neighbour who had helped his wife pack or sell the goods of their household; his sword passed to the kinsman who would lead his people through his child’s minority. His bow and quiver laid by until that child should grow tall enough to lift it from the ground. Now all that remained was his falcon; the falcon they had gifted him with on his son’s birth; a falcon fit for a king.

Estel remains…” Elrohir whispered, face against his brother’s cheek.

For a few seconds, they stayed pressed together, then in unison rose and walked to the edge of their mountain peak that looked towards Minas Tirith. Gently they undid the bird’s jesses and Elrohir held his fist up. With a whispered blessing – fly well – he tossed her lightly in the air. For a moment, she seemed to hover – wings beating furiously – then she was launched and soaring upwards on a wind draft.

Louder, Elrohir repeated it, “Fly well!”

Elladan wrapped an arm around his shoulders.

“A king’s bird for our brother.”

*Breged is Sindarin for suddenness – thanks to Hiswelókë's Sindarin dictionary
*In Medieval England only a king could possess a gyrfalcon.
*Go here if you would like to see what Breged looks like
*My falconry knowledge is very slight so feel free to point out mistakes.
*This is very beta – just finished – and all feedback would be gratefully received.

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: Avon

Status: Beta

Completion: Complete

Rating: General

Last Updated: 01/08/05

Original Post: 01/08/05

Back to challenge: When we have shuffled off this mortal coil

Go to story: Gift of Freedom, A

Keyword Search

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

Results are ordered alphabetically by title.