42. Fields of Gold
A/N: The song to go with this chapter is Sting's "Fields of Gold"
Fields of Gold
"My lords, Éomer King and Lady Lothíriel," the servant announced, then bowed and stepped aside to allowing us to enter the tent.
The royal tent was large and comfortable. There was a deep blue carpet on the floor and at the sides of the tent were iron braziers filled with glowing embers, creating a warm and soothing atmosphere in the tent. The tent was filled with bright light from several polished brass oil lamps that were suspended from the ceiling. There was a large wooden table and several comfortable chairs with cushions matching the colour of the carpet.
Gathered around the table and a jug of wine were several people I knew. At one end of the table sat Haldir, and with him were the sons of Elrond. Gandalf, Prince Imrahil, Legolas and Gimli were engaged in a game of cards at the other end of the table.
As Éomer King and I entered the tent, all talk stopped, all eyes were suddenly directed at us.
I do not think that I blushed, after all, there was no reason for that. But I did feel discomfited by that sudden attention of kings, elves, warriors and wizard.
Kings: Aragorn sat in a comfortable chair away from the table, close to the brazier at the right hand side of the tent. He had his long legs stretched out before him and was smoking his pipe.
He looked relaxed and not all that different from the ranger I had known on the way from Bree to Gondor. His clothing had changed, though. He was dressed in expensive – and clean – clothes now. New black leather trousers hugging his lean, muscular legs, a silken grey shirt and a richly embroidered tunic, black with silver and gold. His hair was clean and held back at the nape of his neck in a silver brooch. Creature comforts for the king. But his face was just as it had always been. Clear cut, weather-beaten features, keen grey eyes, sensitive line of mouth. He smiled at me as I entered the tent and rose from his chair, walking forward to greet me.
Éomer released my arm and stepped to the side. Greetings, Lothíriel… a greeting that is fit for a king… I settled for bowing deeply. I may not be up to any graceful curtsies, but I do know how to bow. So I bowed deeply to the King of Gondor.
Warm, callused fingers gripped my hands. The nail was missing from Aragorn's right thumb, and three other nails were black and blue.
Aragorn drew me up from my bow. "That is not necessary, Lothíriel."
I raised my head to look up into Aragorn's face. I felt a smile spread across my face. To see him as the King! As the victorious king! I felt my heart leap with joy. How happy Arwen would be!
Out loud I said, "But you are the king, your royal highness."
Behind me I heard Éomer chuckle and the sound of his low laughter sent a shiver down my spine.
Aragorn raised his eyebrows. "I am not yet crowned. And even then, we've come too long a way together for titles and bows between us. So, please, just take my hand as you did before and call me Aragorn."
What was there to do but graciously accept the honour I had been awarded?
So I took the offered hand and shook it, my cheeks flushed with heat. "Aragorn, then. It's an honour to be here. Thank you very much."
Aragorn shook his head. "You have earned the right to be here just like everyone else in this room. If you had not ridden like the wind to summon the forces of the south-western provinces, the war might easily have been lost."
I felt my head would burst, so hot grew my cheeks at this praise. "'Twas nothing," I mumbled. "And you'd have to thank Mithril for that, not me. It was her speed that got me to Tarnost in time."
This reminded me of the other message I carried. I turned to the table and bowed again.
"My Lord Prince," I said politely. I know you should never interrupt a game of cards, but I had a message to deliver. Prince Imrahil laid down his cards and smiled. His pale golden hair had been braided down his back. His strange light grey eyes were piercing, his expression grave, but his gaze was friendly all the same. Now, with elves present for comparison the elvish blood in the line of Dol Amroth was all the more obvious, rounded ears notwithstanding.
"My Lord Prince, I ride to you with a message from your wife. She follows behind me with her entourage as soon as possible." I pulled out the envelope with Míriël's seal and signature and offered it to the Prince of Dol Amroth. His eyes shone like stars as he saw the signature.
"She will be so happy to find you well, my lord," I said.
Should I ask for his other sons? Elphir, Erchirion and Amrothos, who had fought with their father at Minas Tirith and at the Morannon? But looking at the sombre face of the Prince, I did not dare to ask.
Gandalf sighed and put his cards down, too. "I guess that's it then for our game. There's no way we will win that game with your mind on that love letter, Imrahil."
Imrahil gave the wizard a faint smile. "I'm afraid you are right, my friend. If you would excuse me? My lords, my lady?" The Prince of Dol Amroth rose, indicated a bow and left the tent, obviously eager to read his lady's letter.
Legolas and Gimli put down their cards, too, and came round the table.
Legolas extended his hands in the traditional greeting of the elves. He was quite disconcerted when I simply hugged him.
Gimli, however, had no such compunctions. I went down on my knees and was squeezed in a tight, hairy embrace. "It's good to have you back, Lothy," he said in a gruff voice.
Then I found myself in a completely unexpected embrace. White robes, white hair and the smell of pipe tobacco. "I'm proud of you, Lothíriel," Gandalf said in his scratchy wizard's voice. I felt tears well up in my eyes and blinked furiously. I was so happy to see them all, alive and well. All of them?
"Where are Frodo and Sam? And how are the sons of Prince Imrahil? I did not dare to ask just now," I whispered, my throat constricting.
"Frodo and Sam are well. Both of them," he answered calmly. "As well as they will ever be. But they are wounded and weak. They are in the care of the Lady Elaine, fast asleep, both of them. I don't think they will wake long before the feast. Now, don't worry, Lothy. They only need rest. The sons of Imrahil…" Gandalf sighed. "Elphir is alive and unhurt. The other two are dead. Killed at the Morannon."
"Oh, God," I whispered. I was relieved to hear that my friends were alive, but I felt devastated to hear of the death of the Lady Míriël' sons. In the short time I knew her, I had come to like her very much.
"I will not say, do not grieve, Lothíriel. But you should find comfort in the fact that their death was not in vain. Now I think there are some others who want to greet you, little one." Gandalf gave me a rather bristly kiss on my cheek, and then released me.
Elrond's sons and Haldir had been waiting patiently for their turn to greet me.
To my absolute surprise Elrohir embraced me. Now, being embraced by an elf is extraordinary, even if it is only a friendly greeting. They feel all silky and liquid; it feels almost as if they touch you inside your skin.
It was probably this strange feeling that made me blurt out the first thing that came to my mind just then. "Gods, I will miss you guys, when you go off for Aman."
Elladan and Haldir offered the traditional elvish greeting that, both hands extended, go for the elbows kind of greeting. It was Elladan who answered me, "It will be many years yet until we leave, Lothíriel. I don't think that you will have the time to miss us."
Elrohir turned to his brother, glowering. "You do realize what you just said, do you, Elladan?"
It was a rare treat to watch Elladan thinking, then blushing hotly right to the tips of his pointy ears. "Forgive me, my lady," he mumbled.
I suppressed a laughter that was bubbling up inside of me. "I don't mind, Elladan. It's only the truth, after all. And I am really glad that you at least will stay in Middle-earth for some time yet."
"Now that all feet are again out of the respective mouths and firmly on the ground, how about sitting down and having another jug of mulled wine?" Gandalf asked, looking expectantly at Aragorn.
Aragorn groaned. "Seeing that you won't go away without another round," he said, turning to the servant who was standing unobtrusively at the entrance. "Another jug of the mulled red Dorwinion, and perhaps some fruit, bread and cheese. If you see Merry and Pippin, tell them they are invited to come and join us."
The servant bowed and disappeared.
Suddenly Éomer was back at my side. "Would you grant me the honour and the joy to sit at my side, my lady Lothíriel?" Those dark eyes, I thought. And that voice.
"Just Lothíriel," I objected.
"Lothíriel?" he repeated softly.
"He is asking you to sit down at the table at his side." The voice of Gimli came from the vicinity of my right elbow, talking in an exaggerated slow manner, as if he was talking to a small and not too bright child.
Éomer glared at the dwarf.
I giggled. And allowed Éomer to lead me to the table.
When we were seated, the curtains parted again and Imrahil, Pippin and Merry entered the tent, followed closely by two servants bearing huge trays with wine, bread, cheese and fruit.
After hugging Pippin and being kissed soundly, and wetly, on both cheeks by the hobbit, wine was poured all around.
When every goblet was filled with warm wine, Aragorn raised his glass in a toast.
He only said one word. But this word was enough. I felt my eyes well up, and a few teardrops slowly slid down my cheeks. I did not care but raised my glass with the others, elves, hobbits, dwarf, men, smiling with happiness and gratefulness.
Clear voices, dark voices, bright voices mingled in that word, as they repeated Aragorn's toast:
The sixth and seventh of April was spent in a flurry of preparations for the feast.
The celebrations would begin with a parade with Frodo and Sam taking the salute.
Then a minstrel would sing their praise, singing and playing for the first time the ballad of "Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom".
I don't know who's responsible for that stupid title, but the song is very beautiful.
After the praise, there was to be a celebratory dinner for all of the three thousand surviving fighters from the Host of the West and everyone who had made it from Minas Tirith or even farther away in time for the celebration. After the dinner music and dancing would follow.
At midnight the lament for the dead would be held and afterwards there would be more singing and dancing, all night through.
At three o'clock in the morning the official celebrations would be ended with a firework by Gandalf.
No wonder that the field of Cormallen teemed like an ant heap.
At the centre of the field of Cormallen many smooth boards of wood were placed together to create a dance floor, with a small open pavilion put up at the wide end of the clearing for the musicians.
At the sharp southern angle of the field, in front of the pavilions and tents of the commanders and the nobility, a wooden dais was erected, and three thrones were placed on it. Behind the thrones three long spears were set into fixtures and below the spearheads banners were attached. The banner on the right showed a white horse in full gallop on a green field. The banner on the left was silver on blue and it showed a silver ship with a swan rising up from its bow. The banner above the highest throne was black with a design of mithril silver. It showed a crown and seven glittering stars. The colours of the king.
Around the dance floor enough space was left for the host to assemble if in rather tight lines.
From the branches of the culumalda trees, many lanterns with white candles were suspended, and underneath them open white tents were placed with many long tables and benches for the celebratory dinner. But they had a special table ready for the guests of honour that would be set up on the dais after the song of praise.
Thinking about that my stomach filled with butterflies. As Éomer's dinner partner and member of the fellowship, I was counted among the guests of honour.
At the end of the tables two richly carved, throne-like chair padded with exquisitely embroidered cushions would be placed for Frodo and Sam.
On one side of the table Míriël – who had arrived just in time for the celebration, riding with only two bodyguards from Minas Tirith – would sit next to Prince Imrahil. Then came Aragorn, Éomer and next to Éomer would be my place.
On the other side of the table, it would be Gandalf sitting next to Frodo, then Elladan and Elrohir, Haldir, Legolas and Gimli. Pippin and Merry insisted on serving as squires.
In the evening of the seventh of April, I collapsed on the bed in the tent I was sharing with Míriël, feeling exhausted. I had been running around all day helping with the various odds and ends of the preparations, taking messages, giving opinions about the arrangements of tables and menus, greeting dignitaries. Now my feet hurt and I felt quite dazed.
Then I jumped up with an oath on my lips that I will not repeat in writing.
I had realized somewhat belatedly that I had nothing to wear for the morning.
At least nothing appropriate.
"What's the matter, Lothíriel?" Míriël called from the second chamber of the tent.
I was to dine with kings and I had nothing to wear! I am really not a vain woman, but this was enough to make even me wail in desperation.
"I just realized, I have nothing to wear tomorrow, oh, gods, Míriël, I can't go to that dinner wearing jeans!" I pointed at my threadbare blue jeans.
Míriël had poked her head through the drapes and was now looking at my trousers with considerable interest.
"So that's what they are called," she commented calmly.
"You don't understand," I wailed. "I have nothing to wear! And I have agreed to be Éomer's dinner partner!"
Míriël entered my chamber of the tent and took me in her arms. "Shh, don't worry, sweet."
For a moment I allowed her to hold me, then I drew away, feeling suddenly ashamed that I had behaved so silly in the presence of a mother who had just recently lost two sons. She did not show her grief. If she had cried, she had done that alone, where no one had noticed. Today the only indication of the suffering she had to experience were faint dark shadows under her eyes, and a graveness to her clear, grey gaze. She looked at me and smiled.
In a soft, but nevertheless highly amused tone, she told me: "But you have something to wear. Don't you remember that I took your measurements in Dol Amroth? It's not very extravagant, but it is new. And I think it's an interesting style."
"What is an interesting style?"
"This." The lady of Dol Amroth placed a package of soft fabric in my arms. "Try it on. Let's see if it fits of if I have to make some last minute adjustments."
With trembling fingers I laid the clothes out on my bed and gasped.
They were beautiful!
There were tight fitting black leggings, a black silk shirt, and to wear above it a gown of a deep green fabric. The fabric was soft and heavy and shimmering subtly. It had no sleeves and was slit at the sides. It was embroidered at the edges in black with small green pearls worked in at regular intervals. A black leather belt, black leather slippers with green pearls at the laces, and a clasp with green pearls to tie back my hair went with the outfit.
It fit me perfectly.
Yes, I did bawl again.
The next morning Míriël helped me to get ready for the celebrations. Her assistance included body lotion, perfume and make up.
I was at least able to help her with her bodice. She wore a formal gown with a tight silvery bodice that had to be laced at the back and a wide flaring skirt. Her long black hair she braided only partly, then fastened it with silver needles to the back of her head, with enticing tendrils curling along her slender neck. She was beautiful!
But when I was ready, I did not look all that bad either.
That green gown, and the golden-green eye-shadow Míriël had put on me, brought out green-golden sparks in my eyes that I had never noticed before.
We were ready just in time.
It was a beautiful day.
The sun shone warm and golden. The air was soft and sweet with spring.
The Field of Cormallen was decked out with garlands of scarlet, white and pink blossoms. The ground of the clearing was covered with culumalda leaves gleaming golden in the sunlight. White and black streamers, the colours of Minas Tirith flowed above the tents all around the clearing. The banners above the three thrones moved lightly in the breeze.
Aragorn, Éomer and Imrahil had taken seat on the thrones. To the right of the thrones I stood in a line with the surviving members of the fellowship. Legolas wore the green livery of Erin Lasgalen, Gimli was clad in bright silver mail. Merry was dressed as a squire of Rohan and Pippin wore the black and white livery of the Citadel of Minas Tirith.
In the pavilion the musicians had gathered already. In front of the pavilion, three heralds in the black and white colours of Gondor stood with golden clarions in their hands, ready to sound the signal for the parade to begin.
In front of the Field of Cormallen, the Host of the West was assembled on the banks of the Anduin.
It was an awesome sight.
More than four thousand warriors were assembled there, the three thousand men that had survived the battle at the Morannon and a thousand fighters that had come from Minas Tirith for the celebration. They were clothed in the brightest mail, the colours of the various uniforms mingling in a kaleidoscope of blue and green and black and white and silver.
The companies stood in orderly ranks, all of them fierce and proud fighters, men and even some women. In front of their companies stood the captains with their squires and the standard bearers.
Many were the banners that streamed in the wind above the Anduin that day!
Closest to the Field of Cormallen was the company of elvish archers under the command of the March Warden, Haldir of Lórien. With them stood the company of the Dúnedain of the North, clothed in grey, but Elladan and Elrohir at the front of them were clad in silver mail. Elrohir carried the banner of Imladris and Elladan that of the Dúnedain.
Next to them were éored, the companies of the Riders of the Rohan on their proud destriers. Erkenbrand was their captain, his squire was Aelfriv, and Frohwein carried the standard with the white horse on the green field.
Then followed the foot-soldiers and knights of Dol Amroth in their uniforms of blue and silver, led by Elphir, the oldest son of Imrahil, who looked exactly like his mother and was seven years my senior. Next to them came the black and white companies of Minas Tirith, and then all the other companies and groups that had fought in the war.
On the opposite side of the encampment all the others had gathered, healers and servants, nobles and dignitaries, but also many wives and children who had somehow come here from Minas Tirith for the celebrations.
Everyone was quiet, and waiting.
The only sound was the rushing voice of the Anduin and the brighter sound of the falling water of the Andros behind the field of Cormallen, and the song of many birds greeting the sun and the spring in the culumalda trees.
We were waiting for Gandalf to lead Frodo and Sam to the Field of Cormallen.
Frodo and Sam had been in the quiet tents of the healers at the end of the encampment, in the soothing shadows of dark leaved trees with scarlet blossoms.
I strained my eyes to catch sight of the wizard and the hobbits.
They had to come forwards any moment now.
An old man clothed in white robes and carrying a tall white staff walked slowly through the encampment. Behind him followed hesitatingly two small figures dressed in black rags, but under the tattered clothing of the taller one gleamed the bright silver of a fine mail shirt.
The heralds put their instruments to their lips. Bright and clear the clarions sounded.
As one the warriors of the West drew their swords in salute. In glittering ranks the fighters of the Host of the West stood arrayed.
Colourful in their best garments were the men, women and children on the other side of the clearing that had gathered to cheer the two hobbits who had saved the world.
When Frodo and Sam approached the ranks of the gathered warriors and colourful crowd of onlookers, the clarions sounded again, and a great cheer of many voices went up all around.
Old voices, young voices, bright voices, dark voices, rough, beautiful, crying, screaming, shouting for joy, in Westron, in Sindarin, in Dwarvish and in German.
"Long live the Halflings! Praise them with great praise!"
Gandalf led the hobbits across the dance floor and onto the dais.
They still looked very frail and weary, but their cheeks were flushed and their eyes were bright.
When they had reached the centre of the dais, Gandalf walked over to the fellowship, taking up his position next to me.
The hobbits stood very still on the dais for a moment, looking bewildered back at the long lines of warriors and onlookers, then back at the thrones.
It was Frodo who first realized that it was indeed Aragorn who sat on the highest throne, I could see how his eyes widened in amazement, and his mouth formed a small 'o' of surprise.
Then he ran towards Aragorn, who had just barely the time to put his sword away that he had raised in salute with the other warriors. But then Aragorn was down on his knees and embraced Frodo with tears in his eyes.
And when Aragorn released Frodo, he took the hands of both Frodo and Sam and led them to his throne and made them sit down on it.
When they were settled, Aragorn walked over towards us and took his place as the leader of the fellowship he had become after Moria.
Again the clarions sounded.
The music struck up. Drums rolled and trumpets sounded.
In a parade of victory and glory, the companies that had fought against Sauron and prevailed marched across the Field of Cormallen to the dais. There they presented their weapons to Frodo and Sam and knelt down before them. Rising up, they closed ranks to the sides of the field, their leaders and standard bearers at the front of their rows.
Behind them the crowd of onlookers gathered and when the last small company of fighters from the hills of Lamedon had taken their place at the edge of the clearing, the onlookers, men, women and children, all and one, knelt down and bent their heads before the hobbits, too.
Then Aragorn called out, and his voice was so loud and clear that everyone could understand his words, even at the far end of the field.
"Now praise them with great praise!"
At this call a minstrel in the colours of Gondor stepped out on the floor.
He was an old man with a mane of straggling, grey hair and blinded eyes. His left hand had apparently suffered a grievous wound in the war, but he held his harp proudly.
The bard turned his blind eyes up to the sun and raising his harp, his voice rang clear and deep across the Field of Gold.
"Lo! Lords and knights and men of valour unashamed, kings and princes, fair ladies, people of Gondor, Riders of Rohan, archers of Lórien, and ye sons of Elrond, and Dúnedain of the North, Elf and Dwarf, Lothíriel of Erlangen and greathearts of the Shire, and all free folk of the West, now listen to my lay. For I will sing to you of Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom."
I looked over at the hobbits to see their reactions. Frodo looked stunned, but Sam was laughing with bliss and delight.
All over the field, warriors, men, women and children, elves, dwarf and hobbits were laughing and weeping and clapping.
Then the bard struck a chord.
At once the field was silent again.
The voice of the old bard rose like silver and gold, flying like an eagle high into the sky.
Never before and never after have I heard such a beautiful voice.
It was a voice beyond human ability.
Now mellow and soft, then metallic like a trumpet.
He sang now in Westron, then in Sindarin.
The Field of Gold was overflowing with the sound.
Picking up the shards of war and agony that still pierced the souls of many gathered round, the Harper reached out for the pain and moulded it into divine harmony.
The song went straight to the heart of even the hardest warrior on the field, and healed it.
The music swept us away, one and all, from the lowliest servant to the lordliest elf and the King himself.
His harp sang of sorrow and solace and carried us far away from this Field of Gold.
Far above this earth, the past war and all our fates, until our souls reached that intangible sphere somewhere over the rainbow, where pain and delight flow into each other and tears turn into blessings that may heal even the most broken hearted.
Finally the bard lowered his harp.
"Praise them with great praise!" he said one last time.
Then the old man knelt down and bent his head to the hobbits and with him knelt every man and woman on the Field of Gold.
The heralds sounded their clarions again.
Aragorn stepped forward and called out to the crowd, "Now let us celebrate! Let us toast our victory! Let us feast and be merry all through the night! With dinner and music and dancing! Now it is time for laughter and joy!"
In the pavilion the musicians struck up a lilting tune. Right on cue many servants appeared out of the trees and they carried large trays with beer, cider and wine, water and fruit juices, and great plates with spicy pasties to whet the appetite. Everyone sat down at the long tables around the field of Cormallen and while Gandalf led Frodo and Sam into Aragorn's tent to change into clothes better suited for the feast than the orc rags they had worn on their way to Mount Doom, the table of honour was put up on the dais.
"May I offer you a glass of wine?" Éomer asked, his voice low, his eyes full of warmth.
"Yes, thank you," I said and accepter gratefully a glass of sparkling white wine.
With a small sigh I sank into the blue cushions of my chair.
"The music was wonderful, but somehow I feel quite drained now, if you understand what I'm trying to say," I commented, sipping at the wine and enjoying the feeling of the cool fruity liquid in my mouth.
"Yes, I feel the same, exhilarated, but somehow exhausted all the same. As if my soul has been cleaned from the darkness that has fallen on it during the war. Purged, if you will."
"Yes," I exclaimed. "That's it, exactly, purged, by the music. How extraordinary! This bard was truly magnificent."
"He was, wasn't he?" Aragorn put in. "I have no idea where he came from, but when he offered to sing today I felt compelled to accept his song. He must have been sent by the Valar to make such a heavenly music."
"Maybe he was," Legolas said, his eyes still misted.
"It was great music, and fitting for the occasion, that's the important thing," Gimli added in a voice even more grumpily than his usual speech. But his eyes were shining with unshed tears, too.
"Here come our heroes," Gandalf announced. We rose to our feet clapping, as Gandalf escorted first Sam and then Frodo to their throne like chairs.
When they were seated, dinner was served. Merry and Pippin were acting as our squires, filling up our glasses with wine, cider, water or beer respectively. It took Sam quite a while, I think about three or four courses, to see through their guise of the Rohirric and Gondorian livery and their new height. He was more than astonished at that.
Aragorn had stools brought for them, so they could sit down at Sam's end of the table. Soon the three hobbits were deep in talk about the various adventures of the different members of the fellowship.
The red fire of the setting sun illuminated the clearing and the golden leaves of the culumalda seemed to glow like embers all around. All around the Field of Gold people were eating and drinking and talking. The music played as the sun faded at the western horizon and when the first silver stars appeared in the sky, the many lanterns that had been hung in the trees were lit because this night of celebration had only just begun.
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.