Hope of Men
1. What Do You See?
This brought an even bigger smile to the girl’s face, and she bounced up and down happily. “Daddy will be home soon!” The woman was just as excited as her daughter, for she missed her husband greatly. He has been gone for over six weeks now!
Looking up, the girl’s gaze became focused on the well-worn path several yards away. “What do you see, Niri?” the woman asked, her confused face locking onto the stranger riding toward them. Arathorn should be back by now . . .
Gathering the small child, the woman took a few cautious steps toward the new-arrival, who dismounted from his horse, covered in dust and grime from long days of travel. What does he want? she wondered, worry beginning to work its way into her heart. In the few years she had been married to Arathorn, not once had he ever had important news delivered to her by a messenger. He always tells us himself.
The man walked slowly toward her, and sighed heavily. “I am afraid I bring ill news,” he said, looking at the woman’s daughter.
“What is it?” the woman asked. “What happened?
“Please, sit down,” the man urged, motioning to a near-by bench.
“I do not need to sit down. Just tell me!” The small child began to whimper, disturbed by the sudden change in her mother’s voice.
“Lord Arathorn is dead.” The man’s face became downcast, and he studied the small patches of grass that filled the ground.
“Dead.” The word sounded strange coming from the woman’s mouth, but she repeated it, saying, “Dead?”
“He was shot by an orc arrow . . . through the . . . eye . . .” The man stepped away, inching back toward his horse.
The woman did not notice, however. He is dead! her mind shrieked, screaming. Niri, Daddy is never going to come back, now.
The grave was typical of those of the Dunedain: simple as to not draw enemy attention, but still oddly beautiful in its simplicity. A small stone had been erected, bearing the name of the deceased, as well as his birth and death date. Toward the base of the monument, several flowers had been littered, further forcing the woman to accept that her husband was truly dead.
Strangely, though, it was not saying good-bye that had been the hardest part of the whole ordeal. Instead, viewing the body had put a horrible weight on both her mind and emotions.
”Are you sure you want to see him, Gilraen?” the woman’s uncle had asked her softly. He was badly injured . . .”
“I want to see him,” she answered, fighting back the tears. “I want to see him while I still can . . . before he is covered by layers of unmoving dirt . . .”
“Very well . . .” the man said reluctantly, leading his niece toward another room. He motioned toward the door, stepping away.
Studying the ground, Gilraen opened the door, shutting it softly once she had entered the cold room. Wrapped in several blankets, an unmoving bundle lay on a wooden table. It is him, she realized, feeling tears spill down her cheeks. The woman rested a shaky hand on the white blankets, and ripped them off.
Putting a hand to her face, she was unsure whether to weep or scream in disgust. It is not him, she told herself, backing away, sobbing. “It is not him!”
Looking at the body from the safety of the other side of the room, Gilraen muffled another sob. The thing lying on the table greatly resembled her husband, but it could not be him. The Arathorn she knew was comforting and kind, with grey eyes that were filled with life. The body on the table, however, was cold and unmoving, with red skin from infection. Its eyes had been closed respectfully by those who had found him, except for the left, which was a gaping hole surrounded by red, bruised skin.
“Gilraen?” a familiar voice called softly, opening the door. “I think we should leave, now.”.
“Good-bye, Arathorn,” the woman said softly, laying a flower near the grave. Picking up her daughter, she followed her child’s gaze into the distance. “I do not know what you see, Niri,” she said quietly, “but I am sure it is nothing happy.” As she looked out, her eyes locked onto two hooded figures riding toward them.
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.