Banjoverse: The Full Epic
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Son of Harad: 7. Chorus III (Haradrim Loves)
But tell us of that love,
the red flower that blossomed so fierce
in strange, bright Harad lands
where all is yellow-orange gleaming white.
O, did we e’er imagine
our beloved good-bad son of Gondor in love?
Nay, impossible, we cried, threw up our hands, laughed!
Grizzled warrior, battle-hardened, knuckles all bloodied and cracked,
too clumsy and brutish to find
anything more than quick, animalistic penetration.
And yet, here he is,
here it is, as it was, a story of love,
a dark-black desert wife,
born from the earth itself
formed by the soil
with hair that mingles with the wind and sky,
sent from the Valar to love him.
So that he was soothed,
and for seven years
two lovers lay entangled
seeing only each other, yearning only for each other’s taste,
smell, feel of muscle and fat and calluses and strength
like blazing-hot sand through your fingertips
and sweat trickling down your neck.
Tell us of that love, Chorus.
She found him lying facedown in the desert, near buried in the sand. Scarred, coarse, burnt by the mighty sun, with tattered clothing, dragging shield and sword. A foreigner, a white man from Far North. From the cold, wet, dirty lands – never clean like the desert. Whoever ventured so far?
And in his burnt, ruined face, streaked with dried tears – eyes now sealed shut – she loved him and found him handsome above all others. She gave him water, washed away the grime, whispered to him and coaxed him to waking. Back to life. He spoke little, for his voice was scratched raw, but in his gestures and manners, he thanked her.
An exotic love grew. A child was born, a mixed child with the strength of his father, the beauty of his mother and the blood of two races. Ancient contrasts. The child was Qudamah.
Even though she knew her love’s name was Boromir of the cruel barbarian Northern realm, she called him Amir. Prince in her tongue. For when she found him lying facedown in the sand, she guessed him as he was: the good-bad Prince of a Northern city. Now old, hardened thick and roaming aimless.
And once he learned the tongue well enough – for the husband names his wife in Haradrim custom – he called her Munirah Zahrah: his illuminating star, his white flower, his light and beauty. It sounded like Munehrah with his accent.
Seven years, and the boy Qudamah grew. Seven years, and the dunes shifted, changed shape, brought rumors and news from distant lands. In the eighth year, the hot winds arrived, bringing the past with them. Awakening old, dormant ghosts. Amir became again Boromir in his relentless nightmares – waking cold, sweating in the darkness, crying out, remembering an evil long passed. He still felt it and still suffered from it.
Until one morning.
Munirah Zahrah was left a widow, for her husband abandoned her. He fled in the night, away further from the barbarian lands, away further from the land of rain and forest and mountain. Fleeing the shadow-whispers and old nightmares, leaving her and Qudamah alone.
Shame, abandonment, poverty, disease. The golden days passed, so that the sun grew painfully bright and exposed mother and son in their rejection. In the lands of Harad, a man who cannot support his wives and children loses all honor, and his family is left to ruin. Did Amir know this as he galloped away?
But hear this, readers
hear this, Valar-Gods
of kisses and an embrace
so fierce, so complete,
that Boromir once wished to lose himself in it
to swim through the desire and love
all beautifully laid out, promised by a Divine Dream
Boromir and Munirah
wanting only to feel the heat
of sunburnt skin pressing against skin
every part, everything, a tight embrace
arms wrapped around
face nestled in the shoulder
breathing in the sweet perfume of your love
of your heart’s secret medicine
soothe all the troubles and forget
about the past…
Tell us of that embrace, Chorus…
The taste of salt on his lips, as if he has been weeping. But a slight smile, cracked open. She smiles back. A knot in her throat. A knot – like her heart grinding against a brittle stone. She brushes the grey hair from his temple. And she feels the warmth of his bare chest and stomach pressed against her. The warmth of his breath against her neck. The strength in his shoulders. An aging warrior. She presses her lips against his shoulder, against a scar, a thick knot right beside the biceps.
Rumbling whisper. The desire is plain in his voice.
She sometimes fears him. His ungoverned strength, fury, lust. His sporadic bouts of intense drinking, when he stumbles into bed and desires her, but always falls asleep too soon, his face buried in the pillow beside her, his tunic still over his shoulder, so that she must pull the rest of it away. But this afternoon he moves slowly, leaning in, purposeful. They fall into a slow rhythm. His breathing – heavy, uneven. She runs her fingers through his hair. Chills in her stomach. Rushes of desire throughout. She grasps him by the neck. And that is enough, he cries out.
And then the embrace. He sinks down onto her. All the weight, all the strength. All tired. She loves him the most in these moments. He exhales long. And when their lips brush past each other – warm, dry – he sighs. She loves him the most in these moments. In the moments when the strength dissolves into frailty. Entangled arms and legs. And he will not let go, in these moments, he will lie with her and sleep and breathe against her neck and whisper tired and promise a world to her.
He lays his head against her bosom. Listening. The soft brushing of his blinks, the scratching beard. And the wind, drifting in, quietly, shifting the herbs at the open window. Her hand through his hair, letting the pale strands tickle the space between her fingers. And she can feel within her, a life blossoming. They always say a mother knows. And she is a mother now.
She wonders where this aging warrior comes from. She wonders who sent him to her.
The way the muscles in his back tense if her fingers graze the zigzag patterns of scars, white lines against his rusted brown. The strength in his chest, in his shoulders, and the relaxed stomach below, rounded wide, also scarred. The worst scar of all, on the stomach, almost grey. She never asks about it, because she sees his embarrassment.
Other features. The whitening of his patchy hair as it dips down his chest, trailing down over his stomach, disappearing at the scar and reappearing below, white. His long silences. His closed expression in the evenings, when he sits with his glass and bottle and thinks or listens or does not listen and simply stares. And how if she speaks to him, lovingly, it seems he is soothed – as if his invisible ache is eased.
She loves all of these things. She yearns for them when he is gone. And she jealously protects them when he is near. She will trace his jaw-line, run her fingers through his hair, lay her head against his chest, so that she knows every irregularity, every imperfection. And she treasures the imperfections, almost prefers them to his more conventionally handsome features – the regality of his nose, the clear, pale eyes; heavy-hooded. His smile, angular and broad. But no, she prefers the imperfections. The scar that runs the length of his leg, from mid-calf up to the thigh. The other scar that twists around his side and onto his back, curling up. The way he hides the trembling in his hands by holding hers, touching them lightly, just enough for the trembling to ease. She loves him.
And what does she taste, on his lips? In his breath, on his tongue? She has tasted salt, as of tears. Or the metallic taste of blood when he returns home at night. But most often it is the bitter warmth of a drink which coats his tongue. Mostly he drinks as any husband would, but sometimes it is too much. So that she must undress him, on those nights, as he lies sprawled asleep and murmurs in a language she does not understand. And as she loosens the belt and pulls away, she will study the scars – trying to understand. Where does it come from? What wound would leave such a mark? And he will awaken, in those moments, bleary, just enough to beckon for her to come to him. And she will lie against him, her head nestled in his chest, his arms folded around her, as he falls again into his numb sleep, his breathing hot and even.
Or sometimes, if he is awake enough, and has had enough to drink, he will whisper sluggishly and tell her that he wandered the desert in search of her, that he did not live before he found her, that he loves her so much as to wring envy from the heavens. And she treasures these words, for, during the day, he is guarded in his affections.
Now, after they have made love on this quiet afternoon, she knows he is not asleep. His breathing is light. He brushes his knuckles slowly up and down her side. And he hisses as she readjusts her position and presses against one of the old wounds. She has accidentally put pressure on his left shoulder, where the knotted scar is, and so he shifts to his other side, lays his head in the crook of her neck, so that he breathes into the thumbprint where the collarbone dips. Holding his breath as the pain fades, waiting, and then letting it out in a silent exhalation, warming her.
He will rarely admit it, but she can tell if the ancient aches return. The days when he will eat little to nothing, turning pale at the sight of food and instinctively grasping his stomach. The days when he will stretch and rotate his shoulder, massaging it with the other hand when he thinks she is not looking. The days when he is slow to rise from his seat, and his joints crack. He never admits these pains, and denies them when she asks. Causing her to wonder even more of their origin. To speculate. To imagine.
They kiss. The tongue running over the lip, tasting. The teeth. A slow, relaxed kiss.
Today is one of those days, however, because he is hesitant to let her lie against his chest. She can tell by the tight, closed expression, not entirely relaxed, that his shoulder, or his stomach, or his knees, or his right leg is hurting. And so he rises from the bed, stands, favoring the left leg, and is about to dress again, when she stops him.
“I will have something to drink,” he growls low. But his voice softens: “Do you desire anything?”
“No, Amir, come. Stay here with me, just a moment longer.”
She has done this before. Coaxed him back into the bed, away from the kitchen, away from the inevitable mirtem. Days spent dozing, the Month of Prayer. He pauses, sitting on the edge of the bed, looking back but not looking at her.
She leans over, runs her hand over his bare back. It sends a shudder through him, because her hand is cold, but he turns around with a smile. Wincing as he must place weight on his weak shoulder, he slips back into the bed next to her. And she moves close, desiring his touch on every part of her body, pressing her cheek against his and kissing the edge of his ear. He sighs, relaxes. A full-body exhalation. And so close, she can see the creases of worry and care on his brow, the thin lines of laughter around his eyes. She kisses these, and he murmurs something she does not quite catch.
Singing to the stars,
it has come to pass
Varda, the Star-Queen, long ago promised
a love like this…
Gauging naturally the divine reaction to said love:
“O, he does not deserve her.”
Manwë rolls His eyes.
Ever since the End, the great grand finish
when all of Middle-earth brightened
loosening the evil shackles and breathing free
the Valar-Gods have been little troubled
little excited –
almost never aroused, bah! –
by mortal machinations.
They sit, They talk,
They sometimes amuse Themselves
with miniature dramas
but such scrawny stories
they would not fill a child’s picture-book…
In short, the Valar are bored.
Leaning against ornate-wrought Taniquetil balcony
leaning precariously far,
watching ho-hum Minas Tirith politicking
a few straggling orc skirmishes in what-was-Mordor
nothing worth noting…
The Harad love story is interesting enough,
and the Valar-Gods have always enjoyed
(in the way a bard can enjoy his own composition)
good-bad son of Gondor and his twisting fate.
So They watch now,
as the two lovers embrace again,
as the Aging Warrior, the Wandering Drunkard,
the Scarred-Muscled-Heavyset Prince
delves, licks, kisses, groans
- which is amusing in itself –
but also with LOVE
burning pure fire
of all things, shocking!
Most Valar-Gods were under the impression
that love, love, love,
such a love, enough to wring envy from Them
was younger, long-suffering Faramir’s lot
certainly not good-bad Boromir the Mad…
But sometimes even the Valar are surprised.
“Do you know what they say?”
“They say it is carved from the mountain.”
“And it is all white stone.”
“So it is.”
“Have you ever seen mountains?”
“What are they like?”
“Amir, you are a very boring husband.”
“Stop, stop. Not now. I wish to talk.”
“Ai, Munehrah, come… We shall talk afterwards.”
“No. Tell me about the mountains.”
“They are large, cold things.”
“And this city?”
“The white one they speak of. The white man’s white city.”
“Have you ever been there?”
“Abu’l-haris! Stop it!”
“I teased you, I called you a lion.”
“It is a beast from the Southlands. Near Imbat.”
“What does it look like?’
“It is very large, like a large cat. With hair the color of sand. Like your hair.”
“More grey then.”
“Ha! Yes, more grey. And it is fierce, and ever growling, and bearded. That is the lion.”
“I am not ‘ever growling.’”
“You laugh like a lion.”
“Come, come, else I shall growl. What is the word?”
“They say it is a city carved from the mountain.”
“I care not for mountain cities and cold lands. Come, Munehrah, I suffer.”
“Then find some other pleasure… Ha! There! See, you laugh like a lion laughs. You frighten Qudamah with it.”
“Qudamah… He is a bold child, no?”
“And a loud child. You see him only asleep. During the day he is very loud.”
“What does he say?”
“He has spoken bapu and oma and has once tried Munehrah. As you say it.”
“Yes, so I had to tell him it is said Munirah, and that his Bapu is really a disguised abu’l-haris, with little command over the human tongues.”
“Perhaps I am… But you must admit I have great command o’er the tongue.”
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