1. Chapter 1
Was he healed enough for the task?
He called me back; he called my name and I could not refuse him. I opened my eyes and without doubt knew that I looked upon the face of my King; and I loved him, loved him for his nobility and compassion. I would serve him to my last breath.
When next I woke, the forces of the West were gathering before the gates preparing to march to the last battle, a final, brave, hopeless stand at the very gates of Mordor. I had them carry me to the walls that I might salute my comrades and honour their task. Proud tears clouded my vision, the banners’ hues blurring in the bright spring sunshine as the host marched proudly across the ruin of the Pelennor Fields to the sound of trumpets. I bade the healers carry me back to my bed, for I was too weak with that final grief to find my own way. I sought the quiescent oblivion of the healer’s herbs.
I awoke to the bright warmth of sunshine on my face and the tantalising smell of warm bread in the air. A Halfling was standing at my bedside offering me his assistance. He introduced himself as Meriadoc, cousin of Peregrin, but I would have known him without introduction from his cousin’s description. He too carried the physical wounds of battle and in his eyes I could see the pain of a gentle soul who had seen too much and who grieved still for those he had lost. But he was good company, quick to laugh and eager to share tales of his friends and his homeland far away. He helped me to wash and dress and with the assistance of the lad Bergil escorted me out into the garden.
On the second day after the Passing of the Host, I was resting in the garden when the Warden of the House of Healing came to me, accompanied by a fair and beautiful maiden, Eowyn, Lady of Rohan, she who had defeated the Witch King and fallen under his shadow. She too bore the injuries of battle and remained in the healers’ care.
I was moved by her beauty and by the sorrow she bore. Her beauty shone out like a beacon, but it was as sun on a bright winter’s day, sun that offered beauty and light but no warmth. Our conversation gave me an insight into her pain; she had sought valour and death on the field of battle: valour she had achieved but death had eluded her and she knew not how to face her newly kindled life.
Her company brought me pleasure and I believe she found comfort in my presence. We kept each other company and shared the endless daily wait upon the walls, our eyes ever turned north and east towards the shadow. On that final day we stood together, still nursing our griefs, our hands entwined as the cloud and shadow swept towards us; and then it fragmented before our eyes, bringing hope and joy even as the eagles flew towards us with news of victory.
Victory brought great joy and relief to the city, and the people rejoiced in those first few days as the reality began to sink in. Messengers came swiftly from the Captains with news and urgent requests for healers and supplies to be carried to the Field of Cormallen, where the Host would remain to tend to the wounded and suppress any lasting insurrection from the forces of the Enemy. Merry joined the wagons, eager to be reunited with his kinsmen, all of whom lay within the healers’ care. Lord Eomer, now uncrowned King of Rohan, begged his sister to join him but she declined; she stayed within the House of Healing nursing her wounds, both physical and spiritual.
I discharged myself from the healers’ care. Duty called me; with father and brother dead, I would fulfil the role of Steward if only for a little while, until the King came to claim his crown. My injuries were healing; the wound in my shoulder had closed and the healers reassured me that strength and use would return to my arm if I kept it rested.
I took up my duties and set myself a single goal: to set to rights, where possible, the damage done to the city and to prepare a suitable welcome for the King that I might hand over my badge of office with the honour of the Stewards intact.
The task was immense. A tour of inspection with Hurin, Captain of the Guards, and with the Chamberlain left me in no doubt that the city was in dire straits. The first two tiers of the city were so badly damaged by fire and blast that few dwellings were habitable. The city gates were sundered and offered no protection from further assault. The Pelennor and the Rammas still stank from the rotting bodies of the dead and the choking smoke of funeral pyres. The troops left to defend the city struggled with double shifts of duty, alternating guard duty and supervising the clearing of the battle field by the prisoners of war -- a bitter undertaking for troops long wearied of battle and toil.
Within the city, there were few citizens able to assist in the clearing and reconstruction. Long years of strife had taken most of the able bodied men, and the women and children had been sent away to safety. I was left with the elderly and the infirm. The House of Healing was still crowded with the wounded and dying; the walking wounded helped with their stricken comrades, but it was never enough.
The city coffers were all but empty and the storehouses and grain stores sadly depleted. There was no fresh meat and few dairy animals, and our access to fresh game was severely limited in the aftermath of war. It would take weeks or months to re-establish adequate trade routes and supplies, and I had no emissaries to send to speed the process. I ordered that all food supplies be gathered together in a central storehouse so that they could be rationed and distributed equitably, a task made more urgent as the flood of returning refugees placed greater demands on both food and shelter.
There were not enough hours in the day to begin to make an impact on the task in hand. I was kept busy till late into the night. I needed little sleep, my mind too busy struggling to comprehend the complexities of ordering and running a city; I was untrained and unprepared for the task and had only my father’s Chamberlain to guide my efforts. I assigned a young Ranger Cadet, Tamir, to be my squire. I struggled with many physical tasks; even dressing myself was difficult with only one useful arm. I submitted to his assistance and ministrations with a degree of impatience and frustration; fortunately he was of a gentle and placid disposition and endured my ill temper with a wry smile and a degree of maturity and discretion not found in many of his older colleagues.
I had seen little of Eowyn since we received news of the victory. My duties kept me busy and she remained within the healers’ care. I missed her company and held onto a memory of her presence, hugging it within myself as a promise for the future, a bright flame to light my days when cares and duties and buried grief threatened to overwhelm me.
When the Warden came to me and told me that she was ailing, I cursed myself for my neglect. I met with her in the garden; the pale spring sunshine warmed the air but she shivered within her cloak. I knew that soft words would not thaw her reserve or win her heart. I knew her to be bold and fearless and tempered with steel, and yet I saw within her eyes uncertainty and fear. I challenged her to accept my love and regard and to acknowledge her own feelings; I knew in my heart that she would rise up and answer my challenge and when she came within my arms and offered me her heart, I thrilled at the knowledge that I had at last found a home, there within the sanctuary of her embrace.
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.