23. The Last Farewell
Word went out, no one knew how, that she was dead: perhaps the mallorns themselves whispered it from branch to branch. The Elves who remained in Lorien found their way to Cerin Amroth to say farewell, including some few who had not shown themselves until now, but even so there were no more than a score of them all told. And the men of the Company who had been in Caras Galadhan set out at once when the messenger reached them, marching through the night so they were there at dawn, trampling grass and flowers underfoot while the cooks and their helpers scavenged for firewood under the trees.
Elladan emerged from Arwen's pavilion, his face drawn with grief and lack of sleep. "Where is the Commander?" he demanded, and one of the soldiers pointed. Canohando sat off to one side with his head sunk to his chest. On the ground beside him Malawen lay sleeping with his cloak tucked around her like a blanket.
Elladan paused for a moment, incredulous; in his anxiety for Arwen he had not observed how Malawen shadowed the orc; indeed, the little Elf was so withdrawn and furtive that he had almost forgotten her existence. He stepped around her to lay a hand on Canohando's shoulder, and the orc started and leaped to his feet.
"Queen's Brother –"
The orc had not slept either, apparently, unless he had been asleep as he sat there bolt upright, and Elladan was moved to pity at the misery in his eyes. "Your Company is here, Commander," he said gently. Will you take charge of them? I want a guard of honor for the Queen, and some men to dig the grave."
Canohando took a deep breath and nodded without speaking. He bent over Malawen. "Get up, Elfling, before someone steps on you."
She woke and instantly scrambled away from him, her eyes wide with terror. Canohando straightened and stepped back, but she had already recovered. "Is it morning? It's all right; I was startled, that's all, seeing you so close just as I woke up."
He led her over to one of the breakfast fires before he turned to his own duties. "Give her something to eat," he told the cook. "She is too thin."
He called out soldiers for the guard of honor and set a subaltern to drilling them, but he went himself, alone, to dig the grave. Some of the men saw him at the top of the mound, and came to help, unasked. He did not turn them away, but he worked like one possessed, squaring the corners and jumping down into the hole to smooth the sides and the bottom.
The day wore on. Canohando moved among the men with set face, ordering the Company, making them shine weapons and armor to mirror brightness, seeing that the tents they set up were far back against the trees, as nearly out of sight as they could manage. At last he called for water and ducked into a tent to wash away his dirt, but the soldier who brought him clean garments stood hesitating at the entrance, reluctant to come in: the orc sat on a blanket braiding his wet hair, weeping in harsh, strangled sobs.
As the sun fell behind the trees, they took their places outside the Queen's pavilion. The Company formed up before and behind, but the Elves went in and brought her out in a box of mallorn wood, polished and inset with designs of flowers and leaves, crystal and silver, and as they carried her up the hill to the waiting grave they sang laments in the ancient Elven tongue. And Canohando walked side by side with Elladan her brother, but those who watched could not have said whose sorrow was the greater. They were warriors, both of them, grim and parlous in appearance, yet tears ran unchecked down their faces.
They opened the coffin so everyone who wished might look once more on Arwen Evenstar, and Elladan and Canohando stood at her head and her feet as Elves and Men came one by one to pay their homage. But when all was done, Elladan bent to kiss her cheek for the last time, and the Orc knelt beside the coffin and lifted her hand to his lips. Then they drew her mantle over her face and fastened the lid, and lowered the box into the ground.
Afterward, when the grave was filled and all the songs were sung, as the light died they filed down the mound once more, silent but for the sound of shuffling footsteps. But in the meadow the cook fires were burning; food was ready and blankets had been spread on the ground where they could sit. The mourners gathered to the funeral meal.
Elladan sat with the Elves, picking at his meat without appetite, but willing to talk. "Are all the others gone over the Sea?" he asked.
"Over Sea, or into the East to join Thranduil's people in Eryn Lasgalen."*
"But you did not go. Why do you remain, when Lorien fades around you day by day? How can you endure it?"
The Elf he addressed was one of those who had come to serve Arwen, until she sent them all away. "We would not leave the Golden Wood utterly deserted, in case Undomiel returned to us at last. But I will seek the Havens, now she is laid to rest. There is no more to hope for in Lothlorien."
And as Elladan questioned the others, he heard the same answer again and again. "Now we will depart, before the mallorns stand dead around us, before they begin to totter and fall..." A few would journey to Thranduil's kingdom, but most were following the Straight Road to Valinor.
"And you also, son of Elrond," they said. "Come with us to the Blessed Realm." But he made no answer to them.
When he came to Malawen, however, she glared at him defiantly. "I will remain in Lothlorien! It is my home." And though he sought to reason with her, reminding her that she would be altogether alone in an empty land, she shut her mouth tight and would say no more. Finally he gave up and turned to Canohando, still bemused at finding them together.
"You are going on to the Shire? That was the Queen's wish."
The orc nodded. "To my brother's land, but first to Rivendell, as the Lady commanded," he said, and Elladan looked at him sharply.
"Rivendell? Now why, I wonder –" but the orc shrugged.
"She bade me go there, Queen's Brother."
But after Elladan had moved on to speak to someone else, Canohando reached out and took Malawen's hand in both of his. "Why do you not go to Valinor with your people? You will be all alone here, and you are free to travel that Road..." He was puzzled and concerned, but she turned her head away.
"I am Orc-marked. I am not fit for Valinor."
He frowned. "You are scarred, little one –" he began, but she jerked her hand away from him.
"I am outcast! Do you see any Elf seeking my company? And I am not a child; I am only stunted, deformed –"
He shook his head. "You are small for an Elf, if this is your full growth, but you are not deformed. I am scarred far worse than you."
She lifted one thin shoulder dismissively. "You are an Orc, you mean. But you are no worse looking than others of your kind and I have never heard that Orcs cared for beauty."
For answer he stood up and skinned his tunic over his head, facing her bare from the waist up. Even in the firelight she could see that his chest was criss-crossed with dozens of pale lines incised on the grey skin, some thin, some thick: marks of the whip.
"My captains gave me something to remember them," he said dryly, "and so did the fire also." He turned around then, and she gasped, clapping her hand to her mouth: his back from waist to shoulders was a mass of puckered scars, not red like her cheek but black, as if the skin had been charred.
"You are right in one thing, Elfling: Orcs had rather look fierce than handsome! But no one bears scars like these without pain."
He pulled his tunic back on and came to sit by her again. "Go with your people to the Bright Country," he urged. "It is your birth-right; why will you throw it away?" But he could not persuade her, and at length she jumped up and slipped away among the trees.
Canohando sighed and got to his feet. People were still sitting around the meadow, soldiers of the Company in little groups and the Elves off by themselves, talking quietly. He avoided them all, climbing the mound alone and sitting down next to the new grave. It was marked with a great boulder, uncarved, of some white stone that glowed faintly in the dark.
"Your brother will have your name set on it in letters of gold," he said as if the Queen could hear him. He unhooked his drum from his belt. "I will make a song for you, Lady." He bent over the drum, his hands almost caressing it, his voice soft on the guttural stops and hisses of his native tongue.
They did not linger in that place. The next day after the funeral the Elves stood with Elladan taking their leave, still exhorting him to go with them to the Havens.
"I cannot abandon my men all leaderless in the wild," he said at last, touched by their importunity even as he was torn by doubt at what his decision should be. "Besides that my brother awaits me in Minas Tirith. But he himself is eager to take the Straight Road, so it may be that I shall see you again." But when the Elves had left, Elladan sought out Canohando.
"March with us back to Caras Galadhon," he said. "We must get the horses and prepare for the journey home, and it is on your way." But the truth was that he was reluctant to part with the orc. He wanted his companionship a while longer, and he wondered at the desire even as he yielded to it.
So Canohando went with them, but if the soldiers marched in good order, he did not, walking now beside this man and now by that one, for many of them had become friends of a sort, although he was Commander of all. But after a few days at Caras Galadhon all was in readiness, and the parting could not be postponed longer.
"I should not fear for you, Orc, having seen you in battle, yet I hate to see you set forth without shield-brother into the wilderness," Elladan said. He held out a bronze pin to Canohando, the length of his hand, the metal twisted into an intricate knot at one end. "Stick this through your tunic -- there, at the shoulder. It is the badge of the Rangers, by which they know one another."
Canohando smiled grimly even as he took it. "You will get me killed, Queen's Brother. No one will mistake me for a Ranger, but they will easily believe I slew one of their comrades and took his ornament."
Elladan grimaced. "True. Very well, put it away, and I will give you a safe-conduct you can show, if you can stop them from killing you before you get the chance. The Northern Kingdom is well-guarded and you will need to be cautious. I would I could go with you, but Elrohir awaits my return and I gave him my promise."
There was humor in the orc's eyes, but liking also. "You are a good man, Queen's Brother. Gladly I would travel with you, if our paths led in the same direction, but do not be anxious about me. A lone warrior may pass unseen where a troop of men draws enemies from every side. Give me your token if you wish, and I have the Lady's map. I will come alive to my brother's land if my fate allows it."
But when he had tucked the safe-conduct into his belt, he took the Elf-lord by both shoulders, his fingers digging painfully into Elladan's flesh, and his gaze was fierce in its intensity.
"Go with your twin to Valinor! Go for my sake, if you will not do it for your own." Elladan nodded slowly, and Canohando let go, striking him an open-handed blow on the upper arm.
"Good! Farewell, Queen's Brother! Say to the Valar, when you see them, that there is one Orc in Middle Earth who honors them."
Elladan stared after him as he strode away, watching him out of sight before he turned to mount his horse. "Move out!" he shouted. "Let us go home, Men of Gondor!"
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.