On Far Fields
1. On Far Fields
Imrahil turned to find [Andrahar] upon his knees once more, sword offered up in both hands to his prince as before. "I have brought sorrow and disgrace upon your house, and stand ready to recompense you with my blood."
—Discovery, by Isabeau of Greenlea
We learned of Boromir's death upon our arrival in Minas Tirith, and Andrahar went directly into the siege and the battle afterwards with no time to grieve—other than that brief moment with Faramir before he rode out to Osgiliath. Admittedly, events were pressing hard and fast, and there was little time for the luxury of grief. And he would not have allowed himself the indulgence. But I could have made him stop and talk about it after the battles, given him the opportunity to let out some of what has been troubling him.
—Imrahil, Last Rites, by Isabeau of Greenlea
Something pierced the middle of Iskhandar's body. He felt almost no pain, so sharp Andrahar's blade had been, so quick his stroke, skilled and deadly. The kha-kan felt a strange weariness overcoming him. He looked up into those dark, unforgiving eyes, cold and hard like pieces of obsidian, and shivered.
"Finish it," he murmured.
And as the knights of Dol Amroth and what was left of the warriors of Bakshir watched in stunned fascination, Andrahar, Armsmaster of the Prince, took the face of the Haradric chieftain in his bloody hands, and throwing back his head he let out a long, keening wail. Calling the gods he no longer believed in and the forefathers he had denied decades ago, to witness the departure of his brother's soul – the brother who had never accepted him.
Then he loosened the ceremonial knife from the kha-kan's belt and rammed it into Iskhandar's heart with a steady hand.
Face of the Enemy, by Soledad Cartwright
Darkness had fallen over the land, and great fires burned as men were about the grim work of tending to the dead of Pelennor, when two figures, one bearing a torch, approached the well-lit encampment, there near the far steadings of that field.
"These are they, my lord." The young Swan-knight gestured to a paltry score of men, and Imrahil found himself thinking the man would do well to simply burn his tabard. There would be no saving it—hardly an inch of blue remained, but purple had never worn so poor. It bore witness to his skill, and to his luck, that he stood before his liegelord now to tell of his work in subduing the last holdouts among the Haradrim and Easterlings.
"So few," Imrahil murmured, and the young man's face went very still.
"We tried, my lord, but they would not put up—" he began, and Imrahil stilled him with a reassuring hand on his arm.
"Peace, Liahan. I doubt not that you made every effort to spare them," the Prince replied. Squeezing the other's arm in brief salute and thanks, he commanded, "Leave me. Go and take your rest."
Liahan shifted, clearly worried about allowing Imrahil to roam at large and unattended amid the prisoners' camp. The Prince, however, favored him with one of his intransigent expressions, and the other sighed, bowed to Imrahil and the inevitable, and made his way off towards the river, a bath, and a bedroll.
Imrahil, meanwhile, let his gaze drift over the camp's occupants. A few tents had been raised, and from the sound of it, there the surgeons worked still, although there were some other, junior healers making the rounds of the less desperately wounded. These sat or lay beneath the open sky, huddled against each other for what comfort was to be had. Haradrim all, in this camp, iron fetters bound their ankles, and vambraces had been replaced with manacles.
And all about, guards stood—some in Dol Amroth blue, but most in the black and white of the City Guard. Imrahil frowned, wondering whether that was wise, but after a moment's consideration, he let the matter go. For the moment, there was nothing to be done about the composition of the guards—his own men were exhausted and needed for the most part elsewhere, and of necessity, the City Guard were most plentiful of all the companies in Minas Tirith. Tomorrow would be soon enough to juggle rosters; for the time being, he would have to trust men's fundamental decency and adherence to convention.
The groans of the wounded were a constant chorus, but soft and often swiftly hushed. As the Prince walked the line of prisoners, occasionally, a pair of dark eyes would lift to mark his passage, and it needed no great wisdom to read what was in them: exhaustion, fear, loathing... abject humiliation. That last was no surprise. Imrahil had sailed often in his youth to far ports in Harad, even to Hurrhabi; he had walked among the Haradrim in Bakshir and Umbar, and he knew well the pride of this people, and the unrelenting (and often horrific to his mind) demands of southern honor. Hence he wondered: What welcome would these men find when they returned home? And even as he wondered, he feared he knew too well the answer.
Which was why he had come, seeking his familiar shadow in this unhappy place. Andrahar but rarely oversaw in any detail the handling of prisoners, and no one questioned this—it was hard enough for him to deal with his sundered kinsmen when they freely met in council halls or embassage, after all. But Imrahil had seen him on the field this day with the man who had been his half-brother, and then later with another stricken soldier of Harad—a captain, from the armor. A surreptitious, brutal mercy, his, but perhaps not unexpected. Desperate times and the shock of blood ties suddenly invoked by awful circumstance could shake even the most steady soul, and Andrahar had ever been ambivalent where his own people were concerned.
And so, Imrahil was not surprised in the end to find him here. He spied him at the edge of the camp, a still, seeming-slight figure in Dol Amroth blue and silver, arms crossed, leaning against the armory wagon in which had been piled helms, swords, mail, and a number of scarlet tabards. The Captain of the Swan Knights did not move as Imrahil approached, dark gaze fixed upon the forlorn company at the center of it all. "My prince," said he, and nothing more.
"Andra," Imrahil replied in a low voice. Silence fell, as both men watched the sad spectacle of the Haradrim before them. Comfort was hard to come by on the damp ground, and the palpable air of shame poisoned every least touch and look among the captives, so that in every least inch of distance yawned a gap broader than that of Rohan. Nor was the mood improved by the resentful stares of the few Haradrim chained to hospital wagons, far from their fellows and each other. The more spirited ones among them, they had tried to slay their injured companions, and failing that, the healers who attended them. Death before dishonor, and if they had not heart enough, as the Haradrim told it, to kill themselves or any of their more hale brethren, they were not above (or beneath, depending on how one viewed the matter) taking advantage of injuries to try to spare some of their number the shame of captivity.
But for the rest, they were beaten, and they knew it, and it showed. And despite the carnage of the siege, despite the Southron arrow that had felled his nephew and brought such grief to pass, Imrahil felt his heart go out to them. Young men, nearly all of them, and unready to die, and some of them no more than lads.
Younger than Boromir when he first joined the army, Imrahil reflected. Younger than I was when I became an esquire.
But not younger than Andrahar would have been had he remained in Harad, he thought, and tried to remember that even so young as some of the prisoners were, they were still men in their own eyes. Andra had certainly not thought himself some raw youth when Imrahil had happened upon him in a market square that long ago day, nor had acted one, and a boy in Harad might be called a man even at twelve if he were given to the army—a gift for the One, the Giver of Gifts.
Such were the thoughts that tumbled through Imrahil's mind, and he wondered what lay behind the mask-like expression his oath-brother wore. Wordlessly, the Prince reached and laid a hand on Andrahar's shoulder, squeezing tightly. But Andrahar remained tense, seeming unaffected—seeming, indeed, not even to notice.
Nevertheless, Imrahil did not let go, and for a time they stood together thus, as the night grew ever deeper, and to Imrahil's knowing eye, the tension in Andrahar seemed to coil ever tighter, as if in anticipation. It was on the tip of Imrahil's tongue to inquire what the matter was, but in the face of that intent, expectant silence, he held his peace.
In the end, he had not long to wait for his answer. As the sliver of a moon crept above the horizon, a high, keening cry rose up from among the prisoners, a wail of grief that brought some of the guards rushing forward. Imrahil blinked, startled, as the Captain of the Swan Knights slipped his grip, and ere ever the Prince could speak, intercepted one of the guardsman, holding him at bay with an iron hand, as he called out, "Hold!"
And despite the unfamiliar voice, such was its authority that none questioned the command, but all stilled, and stood staring, wide-eyed, as other voices now joined that first. But not in keening; rather, a sort of ragged, taut-voiced, wordless chant arose. Even Imrahil, who knew somewhat of Haradric song and had certainly heard and enjoyed it before, felt the hair on his neck stand up, as the keening died to be replaced by a single voice, chanting above the chorus.
No sailor's ditty, nor minstrel's epic, this, and as the song unfolded, he heard Andrahar beside him, his deep voice an out of step, oddly rough murmur, speaking in counterpoint—translating, Imrahil realized after a moment:
Ahaya! O my country, O my heart
Ahaya! O my brother, O my spirit
Ahaya! O my father, O my honor
Held in truth
Ahaya! O my mother, O my sister
Ahaya! O my lover, O my wife,
Lift up thine eyes
Ahaya! O my son, O my daughter
Hear my cry
Receive me, O my fathers
O my blood long gone before
Receive me, O my brothers
One for honor evermore
For I tread now the Long Way
For I tread now the Long Way
For I tread now the Long Way
Hear my cry O from afar:
Ahaya! Ahi paiyar dinh
N'ha hriri Ahn-hataru!
As the song ended, men fell utterly silent, and even the wounded made no complaint, unless it were a rather muffled sound of weeping that no one dared to remark. Whoever it was—The singer, perhaps?—his grief went unacknowledged, as the guards, realizing naught was afoot, slowly returned to their posts.
"Captain?" a voice ventured from nigh at hand, somewhat nervously, and Imrahil turned to watch as Andrahar stirred at last. His oath-brother glanced up at the guardsman who had spoken, then down, and seemed to realize only then that he still had the man in his grip.
Something like disgust flitted across Andrahar's face, and he swiftly released him. "My apologies."
"None needed, sir," the guard hastened to assure him, as he smoothed the front of his tabard. Then with a salute, and a glance at Imrahil, he made good his escape ere anything more could be said.
"Andra?" Imrahil asked, gliding to his side in the man's wake, and the other sighed before his evident concern.
"Imri," he asked, wearily, "what are you doing here?" That hardly deserved an answer, and Imrahil raised a brow. Andrahar looked away then, back towards the now-silent prisoners. And abruptly, his shoulders slumped and hands unclenched, but the Prince found no relief in that sudden relaxation. Rather, as Andrahar stared at his countrymen, Imrahil sensed a raw hurt in that dark regard. Thus:
"I think 'tis time we left now, you and I," Imrahil said carefully, and lightly touched the other's elbow. Somewhat to his surprise, Andrahar gave him no argument, but simply turned away and began walking, leaving him to catch up. Given Imrahil's longer stride, it took all of a moment, but it was amazing how worry could blossom in so short a space of time.
Not until the two of them were well away from the camp and listening ears did Imrahil tug his friend to a halt once more, and move to stand before him. He did not speak. Not only was there no need, but for times like these, there simply were no words to say. Instead, he waited, and it was a surprisingly short time later that Andrahar responded:
"I thought they might at least try once more. That a few of them at least might."
An oblique complaint—and it was a complaint, Imrahil realized—one that might have gone over the head of anyone less familiar with Andrahar's ways, or less well-acquainted with Haradric customs. But it took the Prince only a moment to realize what was meant, and he felt his throat tighten a bit. He meant to be there, should they try to attack—he meant to be there to kill those who wished to die. To give them their honor back. Even as he had sent his half-brother, a man who had despised him, to an honorable rest. Even as he had spared that captain the chains his men now endured. Ahaya! Ahi paiyar dinh, N'ha hriri Ahn-hatar—I follow them now, honored dead of the Giver of Gifts.
"Is that why you did not translate the last lines?" he asked after a moment. Andrahar nodded.
"I would not have given them away..." He lowered his eyes, staring down at the ground, and one hand strayed to the hilt of his sword, gripping it hard, as Andrahar swore softly, his voice bitterly self-recriminatory. "I would have let them try, and some of my own men standing by, heedless of what might have come!"
"You would have given them a chance to redeem themselves in their own fashion in a fight so far tilted against them they could never have imperiled anyone but themselves," Imrahil replied firmly, and laid heavy hands upon the other's shoulders this time. "And even that is untrue: they would have been in no danger, for being no threat themselves, no one would have answered them as if they had been."
"The more reason for me to have been there," Andrahar insisted, and shook his head. "I am a fool! I should have done what was needed when the chance was before me. Now 'tis too late. I should have—"
"Andra," Imrahil interrupted, in equal parts appalled and understanding—uncomfortably so, and he gave the other a little shake. "Stop this! You have done your duty by your half-brother, but there ends your responsibility. You are not claimed by every one of the Haradrim we faced today. Do not, then, go seeking this burden, which is not yours to bear—let them find their own way, if they must. For 'tis their honor to hold or to lose—leave them to it."
Andrahar closed his eyes a moment, seeming very pale in the new moonlight, and drew a deep breath. But at length, he took Imrahil's hands and removed them from his shoulders, stepping back. And he turned away, seeming to avoid Imrahil's eye as he gazed west and north, towards the tower beneath Mindolluin. "You are right, of course," he said gruffly, after a moment.
Imrahil followed his gaze a moment, and then looked back at his friend and brother. Andrahar's eyes were empty, unseeing as he walked the elsewhere of memory. Or perhaps simply elsewhere...
For there were other fields fatal as Pelennor, and whatever horror the Prince had felt earlier over the other's desire to see a few wretched prisoners to that end alone deemed honorable by the Haradrim, it but deepened as realization sank finally in.
'I should have done what was needed when the chance was before me,' Andrahar had said, and in the days following Boromir's unexpected departure had kept a brave face, though Imrahil had guessed that that apparent banishment had weighed heavily on him. Now, though... Vivid in Imrahil's mind flashed the image of Andrahar on his knees, sword offered up to him: the ultimate offer of recompense for his part in a tragedy that had come finally to fruition this day. And I told him, Imrahil thought, aghast, I just told him to leave them to hold their honor or to lose it. I told him... O, my brother!
"Andra," he began, fearfully, but got no further.
"You did not purchase my life only to slay me yourself. So you said that day." The Armsmaster turned then to him, dark eyes glittering. "Other oaths bind," he said harshly, then stopped, breathed in deeply once more, exhaled. The long years of a warrior's discipline let him master himself and leeched the severity from his voice as he finished quietly, "And so long as they compel me, I may not quit my post, for my life is not my own to dispose of."
Which said nothing of the desire to quit it, as a listening silence descended. Andrahar would not look at him now, and Imrahil realized that he was waiting. Waiting for a word—for my word, to tell him his course, or whether he has a course still to tread in this world. Valar! Between purpose without peace and peace so final as Andrahar's Haradric soul might wish, Imrahil knew which he was bound to choose for him, nevertheless he loathed the choice.
But there was nothing to be done about that, not now: though Imrahil had no desire to leave his brother in pain, it needed more time than they had to heal such hurt, for the many pressing tasks of war left no space for grief, let alone regrets, let alone... this. They both knew it. And if pain must persist, the Prince thought unhappily, Andra has ever been one to endure what cannot be changed.
Thus: "There remains much to be done." Imrahil held out his hand. "Come," he beckoned gently. Andrahar raised his eyes, staring at his brother's hand for what seemed an eternity, ere he reached and clasped it.
"Your servant, my prince," he replied in a low voice, and bowed his head, liegeman to lord. Imrahil laid his other hand over Andrahar's, squeezing firmly, and then, unable to bear it, slipped his arm about the other's shoulders, pulling a startled Andrahar close, into a tight embrace. The Armsmaster stiffened, but after a moment, Imrahil felt a hand upon his back, felt Andrahar press hard in return—beseechingly or reassuringly, Imrahil was uncertain which, 'til he heard the other murmur:
"Ahi paiyar dinh, n'ha tarkil-i Gondharoi."
Andrahar released him then, and mindful of the other's dignity, the Prince stepped back, though he looked searchingly at his brother. Andrahar gave Imrahil one of his wry, mirthless smiles—the sort reserved for such moments as these, and which required—nay, demanded—no response.
Thus in silence, they turned towards the City, and left the fields
Translation:Ahi paiyar dinh, n'ha tarkil-i Gondharoi—I follow them now, the people of Gondor.
Author's Rather Lengthy Notes: 1. Andrahar's backstory is worked out by about four different authors, in what I think of as two overlapping but distinct phases: the Imri-Andrahar phase when the major person in Andrahar's life was Imrahil, and the later Boromir/Andrahar phase, whose several stories are loosely held together under an overall story arc title of "Best-loved Son". Because of this rather tangled set of interrelations, I don't always go with the exact version of events told in any one story, so long as the whole thing plausibly holds together without directly contradicting anything.
This fic is one such instance of taking a bit of creative license. In the first place, it's oriented and informed much more by the Andrahar/Boromir arc, particularly "Discovery" and the later "Last Rites", than by Soledad's efforts to lay Andrahar's original cultural-familial bonds to rest, and so it rather ignores the sense of closure she had brought about for him by the end of "Face of the Enemy." I hope this doesn't disturb readers overly much, and I thank Soledad for her kind permission to snatch bits of her own story and run with them in different directions.
In the second, I am guilty of relying on and deploying a certain interpretive shift within the "Best-loved Sons" story arc in ways that cannot be justified within the story I've written. My hope is that it's hidden well enough not to break readers out of the story immediately, but it remains the case that I'm trying to cover it over, rather than push through a piece that would address that shift in a convincing manner. Apologies to all.
2. This fic came about in large part because of a comment Thundera Tiger had made elsewhere about "The Men of the South," that the defeated of Pelennor fields needed a song of their own, so that it wasn't only the victors who were mourned. I felt only the defeated could properly eulogize their fallen, so I went a bit AU and let a few survive the Pelennor as captives.
3. Happy birthday, Isabeau—once again, a rather angsty Haradric card from me.
4. Last but not least, thank you to my betas on this one: Thundera Tiger, Alawa, Altariel, and (more recently) Isabeau.
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.