1. Pelennor Aftermath
I got told by my man to go with the wains, head south to the sea, away from all the fighting. I told him no, told him that I would stay here, near my home, near the homes of my family. Yet all this has come to naught. He's dead, dead long since, in the battle of the Bridge at Osgiliath, and I've grieved my fill for his loss. Grieved, and been courted too, although it was all I could do not to spit in the faces of some of those who were trying to court me. As though I'd accept another man in place of my own. As though I'd accept a coward not even brave enough to stand up as a courier for the healers. The gall of them astounded me.
Lift. Lift carefully, for some of these corpses are already suffering from the exposure that they've been through. Search for signs of anything to identify who the man was, something that can be carried to a family to let them know whether the man they loved is alive or dead.
People asked me why I'm doing this, why I don't leave it to the soldiers. I explain that I'm no stranger to death, and that I'm not one to be put off by a few smells, or decaying matter. I grew up on one of the farms here, out on the Pelennor. If I look carefully, I can see where the house may have stood. Long gone now, of course, smashed down by the invaders. Easterlings, I think. I've not been out to see it. I've had enough pain in my life.
Carry gently. Lay him atop the logs. Pick up the bundle of rushes in pitch, and scatter some of the pitch over him. With so many to burn, and so little lumber available, we're having to make do. We may well have to start burying the poor souls, although that means a greater risk of disease for the living.
I wonder, sometimes, what's going to happen now. Folk talk of this new king, of the new golden age for Gondor. But how much of a golden age can we have, when most of the men are lying dead on the fields of Pelennor, or drowned in the river. What hope of a golden age when the men who remain in the city are either the cowardly, the crippled or those too old or too young to join the fighting? In the darkness of the night, I know that sometimes I weep for the loss of my husband, taken from me before we could even start a child of our own. I cannot be the only woman who feels that loss, misses the form of another in the bed beside her, misses the embrace of a pair of strong arms. I cannot be the only one who misses the slow, comfortable loving in the darkness of the night, the gentle celebration of youth and vigour. I cannot be the only woman who is alone. So many men went off to fight. So few returned. What shall we do now, I wonder?
The pitch is scattered, the bodies are piled high enough. This pyre shall be torched soon. I must go and hand over the identification markers that I have found to the captain who is supervising this. His face looks grim. He looks so tired, so beaten down and broken. This war has hurt too many people - even the soldiers who return from the war are not the men they once were. They are hurt inside, broken by the horrors.
As I went out this morning, I saw one of the women who lives near me sitting on her door step, weeping uncontrollably, like a lost child. I tried not to stare at her, but I could see the bruising on her face, on her arms. Her man had returned from the wars, yet I think he brought some of the war home with him in his mind. Would my man have turned out the same, I wonder? I shall never know. I must move on, to the next of the bodies on the field, to the next of the pyres.
There is a strange legend among the peoples of the Haradim, or so I am told. It is a tale of a beautiful bird, a bird of fire, which once every tenscore years lays a single golden egg. Then, to warm the egg, it sets itself alight, and dies in the flames. From the ashes, the egg hatches, bringing forth another such bird. Maybe this is what awaits for Gondor. Maybe this is what awaits for my heart. I wish I knew.
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.