18. Day 18: Hope That Sustains (Imrahil)
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England…
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given…
-From The Soldier, by Rupert Brooke
It was strange, almost comical, Imrahil thought, the things that come to one's mind when one knows there is not much time left. He was thinking of the first time he tasted cinnamon from Harad; how he had been disposed to befriend any Haradrim who would give him cinnamon; remembered how easy it was to think of friendship then. He remembered cutting his finger with his father's letter-opener; the first time he had a real dream; seeing the starlight in his wife's eyes; the birth of his children. Imrahil son of Adrahil, of Dol Amroth, descended in direct line from Galador and Imrazor the Numenorean through twenty one generations. He was husband to Elwen; father of Elphir, Erchirion, Amrothos, and Lothiriel; grandfather to Alphros; uncle to Boromir and Faramir, brother to—
He sighed, deeply, and stretched himself on his cot. It would be easy to remain awake if he let his mind carry him off through the four-and-sixty years he had lived on Middle-earth. He had seen and done so much, but was it enough? They had finally come to the ultimate crisis where either outcome would be extreme: live to save the world, or die trying.
And with us, all of Middle-earth, he thought. I am not certain that I ever thought I would live to see such a day, and I am glad of that. If I had had all those years to anticipate what was coming, would I be here today? Instinctively, his hand went to touch the corded bracelets tied to his left wrist: Thiri's silver, Marien's blue, for Dol Amroth, he supposed; Thiri had been making him silver bracelets since she was eight whenever they would be parted for long, or whenever he went into battle. This time, added to his daughter's and his daughter-in-law's, there was a third: black, for Gondor, Tinuthel had said. That his austere Aunt-in-law had seen the need to provide him with a bracelet left him with little doubt that she was not as hopeful of their victory as she had been so many times before.
And with reason. I hope the girls are not quite so hopeless, though I cannot count on it, with Tinuthel so close by. Why he wished his family to hope when he himself knew the slimness of the chance that would save them, he could not say. Now that it came to what could be his final night alive, he realized that he did not mind dying. From the first time that he had put on his Dol Amrtoh blue uniform, he knew that this—death on the field—was a likely possibility, and even before then he had known that he would give his all for Belfalas, and for Gondor. But he had always hoped. Now, when it came down to the end of things, he realized that what had given him hope was the thought that his sacrifice would save his family. He did not mind dying if he did so knowing that his precious children would be secured a future. Tonight, he did not have even that.
And yet we must keep going. If hope cannot sustain a man, duty will have to do. Let my children sleep better tonight knowing that their father will give his all.
With those thoughts, he drifted off, uneasily, into sleep.
Imrahil woke up with a start and looked around him. No, he was not in—
Like a spring breeze, the images of his dream came rushing to him, engulfing him in all kinds of pleasant sensations. He had been sleeping on the most comfortable bed, in Rohan, of all places!
Rising to his feet, he paced the length of his tent and lifted the flap. He remembered falling asleep to the sounds of the rohirrim singing, but something within him knew that was not whence his dream had come. In it, he had been awoken to the laughter of a young boy calling his name.
"Alphros?" he had called back, but the boy at the window had laughed and shaken his head.
He was rohirrim. In the dream, Imrahil had been certain that the boy was rohirrim, but he looked so much like himself, up to the dark hair and the dimples. He had wanted nothing more than to go to him, to hold him in his arms and ruffle his hair, to tell him that he loved him and had been waiting for him. But, as he was making to rise, a man's voice called him away.
The boy smiled one last time, and left running in search of his—
"Father. He left in search of his father. I knew that in the dream."
He closed the flap and sat once more in his cot, uncertain what to do, what to think. Had he just had a dream, a vision, of his grandson?
"No, that was no vision. It felt warm and comfortable. It felt… right."
His fingers trailed back to the bracelets around his left wrist. Enveloped, as he was, by such tender feelings, he could not focus on all the questions attendant to the dream, but rather on its being sent to him at all, and tonight of all nights. For this child to be born, it meant that a future would exist, even if he was not there to see it. Clearly, Someone wanted him to know that his sacrifice was acceptable, that hope was not lost.
"A man cannot ask for more," he said to himself, humbled.
When sleep claimed him anew, his dreams were of green fields and light that pierced all darkness.
Exile of immortality, strongly wise,
Strain through the dark with undesirous eyes
To what may lie beyond it. Sets your star,
O heart, for ever! Yet, behind the night,
Waits for the great unborn, somewhere afar,
Some white tremendous daybreak. And the light,
Returning, shall give back the golden hours,
Ocean a windless level, Earth a lawn
Spacious and full of sunlit dancing-places,
And laughter, and music, and, among the flowers,
The gay child-hearts of men, and the child-faces
O heart, in the great dawn!
-From Second Best, by Rupert Brooke
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.